The quiet victory of Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer

16 Nov

I make no quarrel with the many who, after six years of peering down red dot sights, have abandoned Call of Duty in incredulous frustration (or fatigued disappointment) at repeated missed opportunities to try something new. When it comes to COD: Ghost’s campaign, they’re pretty much spot on: with a single exception of the fantastic tank-driving level, a riotous and gleefully kinetic armoured assault on a sprawling satellite uplink facility, it’s hard to find a set-piece that hasn’t been lifted almost verbatim from a previous entry. Shuffling around unaware foes while tracking them with a heartbeat sensor? Hey, it’s just like that bit in Modern Warfare 2! Dressing up like the enemy to infiltrate then shoot up a secret base? I remember that bit in Black Ops!

Yet there’s one area where Ghosts isn’t receiving its due credit; it’s a small, not even terribly innovative tweak to the online portion’s unlock system that has quietly made it the most accessible, least infuriating COD multiplayer in years. It’s called Squad Points – whenever you a) level up or b) complete challenges, you receive a shiny golden hexagon. These can be amassed and used to buy almost anything you’d normally need to unlock by levelling: guns, perks, attachments, equipment and the like.


What usually happens in a COD game is that new players pick a gun, choose from a basic selection of perks and march to their inevitable and repeated deaths at the hands of six to eight heavily-armed god-men. With perseverance, they too could wield an assault rifle with nine million dollars’ worth of electronics hanging off it, or sprint around with upgraded perks that let you do literally everything with superhuman speed and power. But until they’d spent enough time in the killing fields to unlock these precious upgrades, they’d suffer a system with a broadly similar attitude towards parity to that of the Republic of Chad.

In Ghosts, you just buy shit. Within a couple of hours I’d earned enough Squad Points for a silenced rifle with sight and grip attachments, a superior pistol with extended magazines, a set of killstreaks customized to my liking and a perk loadout I didn’t change for over a hundred subsequent matches. In Modern Warfare 2, such a ludicrously comprehensive loadout would take days of sustained brutalising by undereducated twelve-year-olds to acquire. I’m still an underdog, but it’s because I’m terrible, rather than my gear. As it should always be.


Squad Points don’t even undermine the point of the system in the first place, which is to reward play and discourage the lonely, XP-deprived lifestyle of corner-dwelling. You still have to earn them, they just come faster and in greater quantities than a new level. I’m at rank 30 at the moment – halfway to the level cap – and already posses more points than I’m ever likely to spend, even after largely ignoring or failing bountiful challenges. They’re also faster, if relatively pricey, method of gaining extra loadout slots – a bonus previously granted only to those with the time for and inexplicable dedication to multiple Prestiging, which always seemed weirdly hostile to the idea of experimenting with multiple loadouts between deaths.

It’s a little bit of a shame, then, that even folks who managed to tolerate the series’ most fetid bullshit – MW2’s omnipotent killstreak rewards, the dull FAMAS dominance of Black Ops – are leaving Call of Duty behind. Because without very much fanfare at all, Infinity Ward have smartly fixed one of its most enduring flaws.


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