Stick to Your Guns
Ghosts of War comes to us from XDevs Ltd, a seasoned mobile game developer dealing exclusively in war-themed action games. In this style, Ghosts of War is a WWII free-to-play first-person online shooter. Heavily reminiscent of early Call of Duty or Medal of Honor titles, it attempts to bring this once hugely popular genre to the mobile market.
A Ghost Town
If nothing else, Ghosts of War certainly lives up to its name; no one is playing this game. While aiming to replicate early COD or MOH’s style, it skimps on the storytelling and polish that made those games classics. That’s not to say that Ghosts of War is without merit. In fact, it’s a perfectly serviceable online shooter, consisting of five-minute games of a five-versus-five team deathmatch. But online shooters are predicated on the idea that there is a healthy player-base available to fill up games. In my time with Ghosts of War I ran into maybe two dozen other players. The largest match I could find only had six. As a result, games end up being an exercise in self-confidence as you easily defeat wave-after-wave of enemy bots.
While the game boasts five playable maps, only three are visually distinct. There’s a Battle of Normandy inspired beach level, an eastern European factory level, and a desert-themed level. There’s also a redux of the beach and desert levels that are so similar they hardly offer additional variety.
Ghosts of War features some of the dumbest AI in recent memory, turning the experience into a glorified shooting gallery. Both allied and enemy bots move about the map without purpose or reason. These choreographed dances of stupidity are only resolved when one party suddenly flees or is mercifully slain by stray fire. And that’s only when the AI isn’t busy getting caught in the map’s geometry or running by the entire enemy team.
The core mechanics of Ghosts of War are solid. The gunplay feels and sounds good but there is a real lack of polish throughout the rest of the game. The smoke from firing a weapon obscures the iron sites, making them useless in most situations. Ghosts of War lacks any weapon balancing. It’s never worth it to use anything other than the starting machine gun. They’re also buggy. On more than one occasion I was forced to reload over and over after firing only a single bullet.
Weirdly, the game always spawns the player facing out of bounds instead of towards the rest of the map. This means every death forces you to one-eighty before you actually resume playing. All these issues could have been overlooked on their own. But when coupled with the lack of any discernable player base and dumb AI, it makes for an uncompelling final product. In fairness, the game is upfront about being unfinished. The initial loading screen informs us that this game is still a work in progress. Additionally, the developers ask for feedback so they can improve the experience. Admirable, but undermined by the rampant microtransactions that are thrust upon you from the moment you boot the game.
Ghosts of War greets you with a loading screen talking about the work-in-progress state of the game. The very next screen was asking me to buy a battle pass. In fact, this game is riddled with microtransactions. Firstly, there’s the aforementioned battle pass. Then keys you can buy to open lootboxes which yield weapon skins and charms a la CS:GO or Rainbow Six Siege. There are additional weapons and characters to buy that are largely cosmetic. And finally, an upgrade system for weapons that takes real time to complete. This, of course, can be sped up by using one of the three currencies found in game. All of which is relatively standard fare with this style of game.
The issue here is the developers are calling this game a work in progress, even asking players for constructive feedback. Doing so, while reaching into players’ wallets at every turn, screams of duplicity. This is particularly egregious considering the utter lack of a player base. Who would we to show off our fancy new Tommy Gun camo to? Can Bot_5150 appreciate our purchased golden pistol skin and skull charm as it runs haphazardly across the map? Ghosts of War serves its players extras only for the sake of extras, adding hollow extravagance before addressing more pressing concerns.
Ultimately Ghosts of War is an unfinished game that, while fundamentally sound, lacks anything novel to attract a player base. Coupled with its plethora of issues and rampant monetization, Ghosts of War is more shellshocked than it is war hero.
Is it hardcore?
Ghosts of War is a fundamentally sound but flawed experience which lacks a player base or unique mechanics to make games interesting or worthwhile, while pushing a plethora of meaningless microtransactions.