Posted on Saturday, February 1st, 2014 at 1:30 PM by Drew Pontikis
Having moved house over Christmas, there was an uncomfortable period of time where I had no internet connection. In an attempt not to let this get me down, I rolled back the years and decided to play through the campaign modes of my most favourite presents from Santa; Call of Duty Ghosts and Battlefield 4. Whilst we could quite easily let this descend into an ‘oh what a sorry state of affairs it is that you can complete both games in two weeks’ article, that’s a stupid point very easily dismantled by anyone with half a brain and quite honestly I can’t be bothered. So instead, a spoiler laden comparison of two surprisingly good campaign modes it is.
Call of Duty Ghosts
Call of Duty was first out the wrapper and for those who are unfamiliar with my opinions on the matter let me lay down a marker – I’m not much of a COD fan. The last time I properly enjoyed a COD game was World at War, and the last time I felt one was worth purchasing was Black Ops. Since then it’s been re-hash after lazy re-hash, my overriding sentiment being of watching an average action movie for the fifteenth time. Ghosts threatens to be more of the same, Infinity Ward again choosing not to revamp the game engine and instead paint over the last one.
Bearing this in mind, I was quite surprised by how much fun it was. It still has the same COD quirks we’re now all used to – sniper rifles just lying around with no reason to be there, enemies nailed to their positions until you shoot them, team mate AI which is basically there as part of scenery; all part of the model since Call of Duty 3. What’s interesting though is that the fresh coat of paint applied to Ghosts gives it the feel of something different. I mean yes it’s on rails, but it doesn’t feel like it’s on rails. A good example is the flooding levels; you’re running around flitting between cover as it collapses around you, and then all of a sudden a bit of wall falls down and forms a bridge over the rising waters. You realise that this was all by design and this was the only place you could end up, but how you get to it feels much more organic and unrestricted.
Obviously this is Call of Duty, so you get a lot of hugely dramatic plot points that have been overplayed so much now that they are of hardly any interest any more. The first time you died in the nuke in COD 4 was biblical, by now you hardly even notice.
What I really like about Ghosts though is there is quite a lot of variety in terms of levels, the remote .50cal in the stadium possibly being my favourite. The space levels are quite special as well, and the underwater level is different and tense to the extent that its almost disappointing when it descends into standard shoot and cover mode. What is not interesting in any way however, is Riley the dog. Much was made about the dog, none of it worth being interested in. For the record, if I remember correctly Riley appears in two levels; one in which he is either playable (boring) or can be used to remotely attack enemies (different but nothing new), the other he’s been shot and you have to awkwardly carry and put him down in between shooting. I’ve speculated before about how many thousand man hours Infinty Ward may have used to perfect the fur on the dogs backside, frankly I wish they hadn’t bothered.
Now then. Battlefield 3 was the epitome of a modern game; awesome online, dreadful campaign. Dice have chosen to throw a big chunk of resource at the campaign mode this time in the hope of changing that balance and in my opinion, it really shows. Many have levelled the accusation that they have copied Call of Duty too much and ruined it, but I disagree. The best way I can describe Battlefield 4 is that it is the campaign that Call of Duty should be, having chosen progress and innovation over ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. It is spectacular, intuitive and enthralling; the plot sucks you into its clutches in a way that Infinity Ward can only dream of. The variety of level is intense, one moment you’re in a wasteland being shot at by a helicopter, then next you’re stalking through a rain soaked metropolis trying to lay C4 on a tank, the next you’re rushing through the passageways of a sinking aircraft carrier. You may have noticed, but it completely blew me away.
I would like to tell you about all the other things that I love about Battlefield 4′s campaign at this point, however there is a problem. Battlefield 4 is, without a shadow of a doubt, the buggiest, glitch ridden game I have ever played. It’s so bad in fact that it comes very close to ruining the whole experience, and at times it is almost unplayable. For a start, your team mate’s AI seems to be set on the ‘I’m not going out there! They’re shooting at us you know!’ option. Countless times I’ve taken up a position of cover and fired and, whilst they are firing and taking out enemies, my team mates were not prepared to budge until I’d killed everyone. And this isn’t me being Rambo either; if there’s one enemy left and he’s hiding at the other end of the map, you have to move forward.
Then it gets worse. I mentioned before that you find yourself sneaking through and escaping from a sinking aircraft carrier, and by rights it should be one of the most spectacular levels you’ve ever played. Having done so, you jump in a boat and head back to your home ship waiting for you on the horizon, now being attacked by Chinese Zodiac boats and helicopters. On this one level alone, I experienced the following:
For a AAA title this is absolutely ridiculous, it’s almost like they lost a page from the bug checklist and never bothered to check it again.
There’s something else as well. Having moved house I don’t have much money right now, so both titles were played on an Xbox 360 (the next generation will have to wait I’m afraid). With Call of Duty, you looked at the world around you and thought ‘wow this looks awesome!’ With Battlefield, you look at the world around you and think ‘Wow this looks awesome! I better it would look even better on a PS4 or Xbox One’. And there’s the problem. Initially you’re blown away how good it looks, but as time goes by you sort of notice everything looks a little, dare I say it, rubbish. It’s like in some places they’ve simply turned off the surfaces for the 360 version, leaving dull plain grey where there might once have been a beautiful textured surface. It’s a sense of disappointment that you just don’t get from Ghosts, which is a real shame as it deserves so much more.
All this leads me to make a final comparison, so let’s look how things stack up. For variety, it has to be Battlefield. It has a dynamism and excitement that Ghost can’t even get close to. For realism, despite the Michael Bay leanings that have crept in probably its Battlefield again, but in defence of Ghosts it is set in the future and it’s hard to be realistic when you’re shooting each other with space guns. Robustness obviously goes to Call of Duty; ignoring the glitchy mess of Battlefield, the reason the ‘if it aint broke’ mentality works is very simply because it isn’t broken. Fun? Dare I say it but I think it’s Call of Duty again – I can’t explain it but it has a sort of Time Crisis feel to it, whereas Battlefield has strived for fraught and tense realism.
But which one is the most enjoyable? For the first time in a while it’s been a really tough call but I think I’m going to go with Battlefield 4. When it’s bad it’s dreadful, but at the same time when it’s good it’s so very very good. Despite the glitches the levels are some of the most enjoyable I’ve played in any first person shooter, the controls are so intuitive it genuinely feels like an extension of yourself, and the tension it induces is palpable. For the first time in a while I would definitely advise you to go and get a copy of a Call of Duty game as Ghosts is very enjoyable, but if you have to choose, go for Battlefield. Dice came so close to making something perfect, and whilst they haven’t, they came very close.