'Call of Duty: Ghosts' is the latest instalment in Activision's long-running and squillion-selling military FPS series. It's out for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on 5 November, and Xbox One and PS3 at launch.
"Call of Duty: Ghosts is an extraordinary step forward for one of the largest entertainment franchises of all-time. This new chapter in Call of Duty features a new dynamic where players are on the side of a crippled nation fighting not for freedom or liberty, but simply to survive."
- Customisable squads let you go into multiplayer battles as a team - even when you're fighting one-on-one.
- More immersive and realistic level environments.
- 'Create a soldier' lets you build a new warrior from scratch - including female fighters for the first time
- Realistic and dark single-player campaign
- Next-gen graphics on Xbox One and PS4
At this point, Call of Duty might as well be FIFA. Both now follow the same annual pattern of small technical and mechanical upgrades, coupled with a renewed marketing hard-sell and - it has to be said - boundless public enthusiasm. Both also purport to represent something extremely complex, and often quite dull, in short, action-packed bursts.
As a result, it's difficult to approach a new CoD game with anything like an open mind. Most gamers have not only played variations on this formula before - most will have played almost precisely this exact game, with the same rhythm to the single player campaign, the same level of graphical fidelity (our review of the next-gen version is still embargoed) and the roughly the same balance of strategy, action and co-operative teamplay in mutliplayer matches.
But that's not to say that it's bad. Before getting into what's new, it's worth restating that Call of Duty is popular for a reason. It's a precise, fast, extremely addictive and engaging take on the traditional military FPS. It knows how to balance close-quarters fighting with a sense of scale and chained objectives. It has a sense of humour and knows not to take itself too seriously, while still providing experts Football Manager-style depth. There are big guns, quick deaths, humiliation and surprise. It's really, really fun.
This time around the single-player campaign isn't massive, and has many flaws. Bad voice acting and dialogue is again the norm. The Bond-like tradition of featuring multiple locations (snow, forests, towns, factories) for no very good reason is present and correct. But that said, the actual story - that of a few lost soldiers 10 years after the apocalypse, trying to hold out and survive against the odds - is at least a bit more engaging than usual. The range of action and missions is still head-spinning and exhilarating. And some of the set-pieces are brilliant. The mission set in the space station is an obvious highlight, while 'Federation Day' also provides a few really spectacular moments (and sort of eats Battlefield 4's skyscraper-toppling lunch).
In multiplayer there are also some key innovations. The addition of a true 'Create A Soldier' mode plus the 'Squads' option lets you build a team of soldiers to take into each battle - even if you're only playing one-on-one, and provides a nice level of consistency and flexibility. New gear like attack dogs freshens things up, while being able to play as a female soldier is also welcome and overdue. Mechanically the addition of contextual leaning is welcome, as are the new Kill Streaks, level-evolution events and 30 new weapons.
The overall effect is of a game which is definitely playing it safe - and which will likely be blown away (on Xbox One) at least by the upcoming Titanfall. That said it's still a nice and welcome update for established players, and remains one of the most fun experiences you can have on a modern console -- if you're one of the last three people alive who have never played it.