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10 Reasons You Should Be Playing Call Of Duty: Ghosts

It’s easy to hate the champ. It’s why you have revisionist historians still arguing LeBron couldn’t dominate the NBA’s “Golden Age” or backpackers losing their shit over a new Eminem album. Infinity Ward’s Call Of Duty: Ghosts has been out for a week now, and the reviews have ranged from mediocre to spectacular.

Your enjoyment of the new inclusion to the long-running video game franchise probably depends on a few things, but none more so than if you can give the series a pass for not reinventing the wheel. It’s like Madden or Drake in that sense: If you’re expecting something revolutionary, eh… this might not be the place. But if you’re expecting endless gameplay hours with your boys and more than a few online meltdowns where you threaten (mistakenly) to commit mass felonies, you’re probably enjoying this one as much, or more, than any CoD release of the past few years.

Activision hooked me up with a copy of the Xbox 360 version and I’ve spent the past week or so bogged down in front of my TV, controller in hand. Before we all dive into the next-gen phase, let’s take a minute to talk about the little things that make this year’s little brother game (Xbox 360/PS3) so good. Here are 10 of my favorites.

[RELATED: 10 Reasons You Should Be Playing NBA 2K14]

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The Single-Player Campaign
Right away, you’re thrust into an almost cataclysmic situation. Trees falling, ground shaking, fires, blasts, smoke mushrooms, birds circling… when all appears lost you end up in space, fighting off enemies while simultaneously floating away from Earth. Eventually, two and two go together and you suddenly feel like this is the plot for “This Is The End.”

The single-player campaign is set in a climate where the world as we know it has been destroyed and the United States is now struggling to pick up the pieces. Everything is falling apart, society is finished and human wolves hunt with no regard for justice or government. Playing as a character named Logan — and predictably, you go back in time as his father, Elias — the story weaves through multiple fronts, keeping the action versatile and unique. The pacing is awesome, taking you from scaling skyscrapers as if you’re Batman to hunting through the jungle with only a pistol to swimming through shark-infested waters (And yes! They attack!), and the atmospheric touches are probably the best yet in a CoD game. World-changing events, shootouts, stealth, it’s all here.

You’re fighting against a deadly South American force known as the Federation, and eventually you find you’re more closely tied to the “Ghosts” than you realized.

Character Customization
How long have we asked the CoD franchise for this? Finally, they’ve delivered… coming through with something that’s so deep and complex that it was nearly overwhelming. That’s probably a good thing. You won’t get bored after two weeks. In multiplayer and Squads gameplay, you can create 10 different characters — customization everything from their armor to their sex… yep, finally we have female soldiers — each with six different loadout options. It feels like you have thousands of different options (actually more than 20,000), especially when factoring in 35 new perks and 36 different kill streak options. It was a welcomed change for someone like me, who had resorted to using the same loadout setup for every game of the past six months in Black Ops II.

Confused yet? It gets better.

As part of the new Squads mode (which could’ve become just a training ground for multiplayer newbies but instead looks like it’ll be much more), you can basically outfit an army… your OWN army to come fight with you online against friends or randoms. You can give them names, their own loadouts, customize their appearance, tags, backgrounds and logos, and everything else in-between. Unfortunately you can’t command them during the games, but for the most part, they know what they’re doing.

Some longtime Dime readers might know me for being a massive Game Of Thrones fan, so I went about creating my own personal army that could survive in Westeros. Snipers. Run-n-gun specialists. Marksmen. It felt like I was building a team, which in reality, I was. Good times. If you see me online, just know that I’m coming to war with the Young Wolf, the Hound, the Laughing Storm, Blackfish and the Kingslayer. Come at me bro.

Squads
A new mode that takes the place of my beloved Spec Ops, the aforementioned Squads allows you to take your previously mentioned squad of soldiers and enlist to play solo, cooperatively with up to six players, or competitively. You can challenge other squads whether their leader is online or not. The rewards also count towards multiplayer XP (and everything you unlock in one mode is available in the other) so you can unlock weapons, perks and more.

Online, there are four game modes: Squad Assault, Squad vs. Squad, Safeguard and Wargame. Squad Assault is where you invite friends (or jump on with others) to take over your created player loadouts and then go against another group of players. The cool aspect of this is that the opponent you’re playing doesn’t have to be online — you’ll simply face off against their created team. Squad vs. Squad is pretty straightforward — you’re taking your own army of soldiers and matching up with another team. Safeguard is basically a reinvention of Spec Ops: you’re fighting off waves of increasingly difficult AI teams. And then there’s Wargame, which features all of the standard Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed game modes yet also allows you to play cool features like Cranked, which forces you to string together kills to gain more points, and Hunted, which is one of the best modes I’ve ever played. I took my squad (yes… I’m calling them The Direwolves) online and tried as many as I could, finding it extremely beneficial since I didn’t know the maps at all.

I already miss Zombies, but I always loved Spec Ops and this is basically a blowout of that mode, featuring enough gameplay to keep even the biggest CoD fiend content.

Perks
I’m loving the new Perk system. In years past, how annoying was it to have to play up to a certain level in order to receive that specific perk you wanted? Now you don’t have to. Using points scored in both multiplayer and Squads, you can purpose any one of the perks at any time. It doesn’t matter how effective it is or how average — if you have the points, it’s all yours. Eventually you’ll automatically unlock all of them anyway, but this adds a degree of personalization that I felt multiplayer was lacking before. Now you’ll have to decide on grabbing a few of your favorite perks early on, or waiting a few days to unlock them and instead spending your money elsewhere.

Ghosts features more perks (35 in total) and add-ons than ever before, including really cool stuff like Deadeye (consecutive kills increases your weapon’s power), Gambler (spawn with a random perk) and Takedown (kill enemies without revealing their death location).

Map Dynamics
This is an obvious counterpunch to Battlefield 4‘s famed Levolution. It doesn’t work quite as well, but it still adds a dynamic that was noticeably absent in recent CoD games. The new Dynamic Map Events are meant to redirect the action and transform maps, forcing gamers to either alter their method of attack or completely change their game plans. In my experience so far, only one map has really done that: Strikezone.

Strikezone is basically a copy of the Dome map from Modern Warfare 3, and it’s the smallest multiplayer map in this game. Taking place in the lower deck of a baseball stadium, there’s always the threat of an orbital strike. When it finally does come, the map is completely obliterated and paths of stealth suddenly become nothing more than rubble.

There is also Stormfront, which rotates between heavy rain and clouds of sunshine; Whiteout, where a missile strike destroys an entire wooden area of trees; Octane, where a gas station can collapse and kill nearby enemies; and Tremor, where… ah, I’m guessing you can probably figure it out. And then there’s the bonus FreeFall map, which is played within a collapsing building in-between a couple of skyscrapers.

Most of the dynamic events are very centralized and you can play maps four or five times and never even notice them. That was the intention. They’re there to be used to your advantage if possible, but they won’t make or break you. Pretty dope improvement.

Multiplayer Sight Lines
Speaking of the multiplayer maps, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many catered to marksmen this year. Don’t get me wrong, there are times in this one — especially for newbies — where it’s incredible frustrating. EVERYONE wants to camp. (I have no problems with a few snipers here and here. It adds a different dynamic. When everyone is doing it, though?) But honestly, the last few CoD games have seemed to lean more and more towards run-n-gun small maps, creating a monopoly of sorts.

In Ghosts, there are plenty of unique maps (Stormfront, Siege, Freight, Flooded) that offer a mix of sight lines and gameplay, and some even provide a noticeable vertical aspect that really changes things. Outside of Prison Break and Stonehaven — two massive maps that’ll be boons for hardcore gamers and hated with a passion by anyone playing casually — Ghosts strikes the delicate balance needed to please everyone.

With the inclusion of the brand new Marksman Rifles class, which is bridging the gap between snipers and assault rifles, it’s obvious this was important to the developers. All of the maps just feel much bigger, and I can’t be the only one who finds close-quarter weapons have a reduced effect in this game. Those players who enjoy stealth now have the tools to be that in Ghosts.

Call Of Duty App
The first of its kind, this app is a must-have for hardcore gamers. Designed to work hand-in-hand with the actual game, the app allows fans to stay connected on the go with their multiplayer experience while offering all-new features like Second Screen functionality and the new Call Of Duty: Clan Wars metagame.

Remember Call of Duty Elite? This is basically a revised and improved version. It’ll keep track of your career stats and will allow you to compare them to all of your friends. The Second Screen experience allows you one-touch access to edit your squad in the pre-match menus and change your loadout during the action.

As of now, I found some bugs with the experience, but it provides all of the Elite experience (which I enjoyed) in an easier format that you can carry with you. And it’s free.

Riley
The story involved in the single-player campaign is somewhat cliche at times, and it stays within the boundaries the franchise has already set for itself. But the family aspect between Logan, Elias and your brother Hesh centralizes the conflict and makes it more real in a way that past games haven’t. Then there’s Riley, your pet dog that is at your side for parts of the conflict. Syncing up with the dog is pretty cool — he’s like a moving sentry gun that can’t be killed. During long shootouts, you can simply command him around the map and he’ll take out enemies with no problem. Gimmicky? Somewhat, especially once you realize he is virtually unstoppable. But it’s a cool bonus to have.

Dogs are also involved in the multiplayer aspect, where a killstreak reward can give you a guard dog that’ll alert you to enemies and get you kills from the grave. If you’re a camper, it’s not the best thing in the world to have a guard constantly looking for attention, but for the run-n-gun experts, this’ll be satisfying.

Extinction
For the longest time, I HATED zombies. Hated them. I didn’t get it, didn’t understand it and didn’t want to play it. Spec Ops was always better to me. But at some point during Black Ops II, it took over my life. Now that zombies went to the next level with addicting maps like Buried and Origins, I’m finding I really, really miss it right now. Thankfully, Extinction is here to cure my ailments.

While Zombies is much more streamlined and simple, and includes the mystery box (always a good thing), Ghosts‘ newest game mode does beat it in some ways. With a classic leveling up and unlocking system, Extinction gives you a reason to keep coming back without feeling like you’re starting over. During gameplay, you can customize and beef up your soldier by upgrading things like ammo type, weapons, and team support or strike packages, and there’s also a scavenging system that’ll never be as great as the mystery box but it does serve the same purposes.

Then there are the aliens, which are much smarter and more engaging than waves of brain-dead zombies. The gameplay is much more chaotic. Aliens can jump 25 feet in the air. They can surround you from out of nowhere. Some, like the scorpions, can even climb up and down buildings. With differing levels of difficulty in the unique aliens types, they’re a more worthy opponent than most of what you’ll find in Zombies.

My biggest disappointment with the new mode was the lack of options. There’s only one map, and you’re limited in what guns you can use. I’m expecting advances in this regard in upcoming downloadable content, but for now that was a deterrent.

New Animation System
One of the first new things you’ll learn how to perform in Ghosts is the slide, a simple yet effective tool that’ll benefit you in every game mode and at the same time make you feel like you know what you’re doing. It’s a part of the game’s new animation system that’s been juiced with tiny improvements to create a more mobile and fluid experience.

And lastly, even though this doesn’t really fall in any category here, I’m sort of an animal nut and was hyped to see some of the unique little twists this game brought to the table. Want to get attacked by wolves? You do in this game. Want to get killed by a shark? Yep, it’s entirely possible here. Want to spend hours shooting at a fish to see if you can take it home and cook up a nice dinner? You can try it if you’re crazy enough.

Overall, the game isn’t redefining anything but if you’re saying it’s an old, stale and lazy edition to the franchise, I think you’re wrong. Between additions like character customization, Squads, Extinction and new subtleties like Riley, Ghosts takes more risks and connects with more improvements than you might expect. I’ll probably spend more time playing this game than any other this year.

Call Of Duty: Ghosts released on November 5 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC, and will be releasing for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Hit page 6 for more photos of CoD: Ghosts gameplay…

What do you think?

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