The competitive multiplayer in Ghosts is pretty extensive, so much so that to fill a single review with it all would seriously detract from the other features in game. In fact some of us out there only plan on buying Ghosts for its multiplayer features anyway, which is more than reasonable. Playing with (or against) friends can be the best part of gaming. So whether you're buying CoD: Ghosts exclusively for the multiplayer or just want to know what all the fuss is all about, here's a helpful guide that will break down everything new you'll need to know about before stepping online.
Guns and character customization are a pretty big element to any FPS, but it's map design that draws the whole game together. Maps that are too large force players to hike more than they do compete, and smaller ones tend to remove skill from the equation while often punishing players with spawn points that never give them enough time to recover. As a franchise CoD has been more than guilty of this with levels like Shipment and Nuketown leading the pack in exasperating map design.
In Ghosts players will find that overall maps has been largely adjusted so that every level not only gives players multiple vantage points but so that no one part of a map can be choked down by a single location. Part of this is due to each level offering a multitude of indoor and outdoor locations in addition to ground cover, hidden passageways and environment features that can be interacted with. Maps can often be broken into several sections based upon building entry points and though smaller rooms may only have two doorways to move through all of the larger buildings offer a multitude of places for players to roam.
Another core feature to each map are Field Orders, which drop from the first player killed in a match. A single challenge is given to the player holding the orders which changes each time Field Orders are picked up. Killing an enemy from behind, with their own weapon, with a sidearm, while prone, with the knife, while crouched, or earning successive kills without the aid of a killstreak are examples of Field Order objectives; and completing it will immediately grant players a care package that has a random killstreak within.
Field Orders are also the only way to change the level for the map Strikezone, which has the added bonus of killing all enemy players before a flash of light transitions into an entirely new battlefield. Other level specific F.O.'s include pumping a factory filled with deadly gas, calling in mortar bombardment in small town, blacking out electronic communications and so on. Fourteen maps are planned for launch at this time, each with their own level-interactable features.
Arguably the largest change to CoD multiplayer comes in the form of killstreaks as Infinity ward has taken a significant look at the way these rewards change the shape of a match for better or worse. Gone are the days of a single jet or chopper dominating the ground with a hailstorm of bullets or missile fire, and the killstreaks we now have to work with offer a much wider range of options for players to customize their class and playstyle.
Killstreaks are broken into three divisions: Assault, Support and Specialist, each with their own unique features. Assault follows the traditional formula of netting successive kills in order to earn a device, kit, or tool that can be used to earn more kills; almost all of which must be manually controlled or activated shortly after being deployed. All save for the Loki satellite system are manageable to fight against, which is slightly offset by the Loki requiring 15 uninterrupted kills to use. Killstreaks that act independent of the player such as the Vulture drone or attack dog will never stray far and are easily dispatched with a few solid shots of just about any weapon. That being said their effectiveness isn't in how hard they are to kill but the element of surprise they add to any encounter, catching players off guard or successfully warning players when an enemy is near.
Equally important is that all aerial killstreaks can be dispatched with a clip or so of any assault rifle, perhaps less if using armor piercing rounds or an LMG. This means that those players who aren't interested in constantly running around with a launcher of any kind still have a means of handling what manned/unmanned airborne killstreaks do exist. Assuming of course, you have reasonable aim.
Support packages are far less aggressive but quite fun in their own right, supplying players with tools that assist the entire team rather than a single member. Ballistic vests and ammo kits can armor and resupply the team when everyone is trying to hold a single position and other tools include the Oracle, Night Owl, Air Superiority, and Juggernaut Recon; all abilities that either reveal enemy positions, interrupt enemy communications or do a combination of both. Support packages are somewhat easier to obtain as they build up since players earn kills over a multitude of lives, and although they may not be as satisfying to activate one or two players with Support loadouts can seriously swing the game for a team.
The Specialist is different from the others in that there are no killstreaks present, but rather players earn more perks as they continue to net kills which in a way makes you a more effective killing machine. Players can set which perks they would like in what order, so that their specialist build takes full advantage of whatever weapon they have in mind. It's the least fun of the three builds as it provides no immediate satisfaction, but getting even half of the specialist earned perks unlocked makes you feel pretty ridiculous.
Similiar to weapons, killstreaks, and attachments, perks are purchased through the Points system and more powerful/effective perks cost more points to use. Each perk is broken into a different tier depending on what it does and how similar it is to other perks like it. Skills oriented around speed, stealth, accuracy, and overall agility are then segmented into different bonuses such as faster reloading, radar invisibility or resistance to weapon sway. The better the perk the more it costs, and as perks are such a huge portion of CoD gameplay this is where the customization features really shine.
Players can either work with the preset space allotted for perks and slot in any combination they would like (9 slots in total), or they can choose to remove their sidearms, grenades and tactical projectiles to give themselves more perks. The exchange is only being effective with a single weapo, but for players who don't really take advantage of their other options anyway it's better than letting those devices go completely unused.
Seven overall tiers of perks combined with five perks per tier mean that there are over thirty-five perks to choose from, each with their own various combinations depending on what suits your playstyle best. One downside to all this customization means it may take some time for players to outright purchase everything, but perks are slightly more forgiving in that they unlock with both points and levels acquired.
Ghosts launches with a multitude of new and existing game modes, although quite slim on the Hardcore options. The most wildly different of these modes is Cranked, which gives players 20 seconds to live after killing a player before they explode; and of course the only way to reset the timer is simply to kill more people. Each kill buys players a reset on the timer (back to 20 seconds) and to compensate for this slim time players are given increased movement speed, agility and reload speed turning a normal team deathmatch into a frantic video game version of any Jason Statham movie.
Search and Rescue and Kill Confirmed join the list of new game modes in Ghosts, both making use of a rather simple but enjoyable mechanic of dog tags. The overarching theme between both modes is killing a player drops their tags, and picking up their tag will generally accomplish something helpful. In Kill Confirmed a tag is needed in order to earn points for the match, and grabbing a friendly dog tag will deny enemies points for their hard earned gunshot. S&R functions exactly like Search and Destroy only once a player is downed picking up their tag will knock them out of the round for good. Snagging a friendly tag tosses the player back in the game putting a high strategic value on removing both friendly and enemy dog tags from the battlefield.
All of this of course equates to a massive personal investment. Learning each map, adapting to the hidden locations, unlocking your weapons, perks, and attachments; the combined experience takes a lot of time and is made slightly worse by players needing to unlock everything all over again for each individual squad member they purchase to customize. It's a grind like most online experiences are, but the improvements to gunplay make it much more worthwhile than previous iterations within the series.
For more of an in depth look at the single player and co-op features and our official score be sure to hit up the full review.