For the first half of Activision’s four map packs for Call of Duty: Ghosts we were treated to one strong effort (Onslaught) and one lesser foray (Devastation). Now, Infinity Ward and Activision officially begin the stretch run with their third release, Invasion. As always, the standalone DLC will set you back $14.99 or is included in the Season Pass. Let’s shoot some stuff.
Set in a Mexican town during a Dia de los Muertos festival, Departed might just be the most colorful map ever seen in a Call of Duty game. Bright flowers are everywhere while multi-colored stenciled skulls hang between the buildings. An elaborate parade float, complete with a gigantic sombrero-wearing skeleton marks the midpoint of this map, which thrives on high-intensity gameplay with plenty of ways to surprise your enemies by cutting through buildings.
There’s a special killstreak reward in Departed that transforms someone into a “Death Mariachi,” who dual-wields pistols with an additional power. It’s a unique variant of the stuff Infinity Ward has been doing with Predator and Jason, and it helps make this a very distinctive locale.
It’s a testament (or perhaps an indictment?) of the countless hours I spent playing Modern Warfare 2 that some five years later I still knew every nook and cranny of Favela. Say what you will about Activision including a remake in each of their four map packs, but when it’s one of my all-time favorites I’m not going to complain. Favela remains an excellent, balanced map with loads of high spots to pick off careless opponents, and tunnels and tight corners for close quarters enthusiasts.
While Pirates of the Caribbean and Call of Duty seem like strange bedfellows, Mutiny does a damn good job of melding the two into a surprisingly enjoyable experience. One of the reasons for that is the map’s nighttime setting; something that’s criminally underutilized in the CoD universe. Naturally, a large ghost ship occupies the center of the map, operating both as a place to cross into rooms and hallways on either side as well as set up shop and try to mow down your foes.
There’s something about Mutiny that makes for a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t share the same layout brilliance of Favela or attention to graphical detail that Pharaoh and Departed. I can’t quite put my finger on it, I just know I found myself voting for it quite often.
It’s off to Egypt for Pharaoh, which takes place at an archeological dig. There’s definite shades of The Mummy here with a very detailed tomb that even features one of the film’s signature hazards: flesh-eating scarabs! The map feels larger than the others, though perhaps it’s just that there are more open spaces and less claustrophobic fighting. Skilled players can nab the Blessing of Anubis, a map-specific killstreak reward that fortifies the user with every perk for a fairly short time.
Although I’d consider Pharaoh to be a good map overall, it’s worth noting that I ran into an inordinate amount of spawn killing here. Watching the kill cams suggested that areas weren’t being camped, but rather that the game was simply putting me in harm’s way.
Awakening (Extinction Mode)
Extinction also gets its penultimate episode with Awakening, which moves the overall storyline forward (if, ya know, you care about that and not just killing aliens) while transporting us to the “Cortex.” It’s a much more alien location than we’ve previously seen, and there are some new baddies just waiting there to ruin your day. The addition of flying enemies (gargoyles and bombers) allows them to bring the fight to you in more ways than ever, resulting in the stiffest challenge to date.
Due to the heightened difficulty it’s more important than ever to find teammates on the same page, as the old Call of Duty staple of freelancing on your own just doesn’t work. So much so that I was even part of teams that never got past the second obelisk. In some ways that’s good, but if you don’t play regularly enough to have an established group and must rely on the competence of strangers it can get annoying to wait to get into a match only to die less than five minutes in.
Even without a signature crossover gimmick like the first two packs, Invasion sits as the best DLC offering for Ghosts to date. All three newcomers deserve a spot in the regular rotation, and Favela is one of the best maps in series history. If you judge individually before buying, this is one to pull the trigger on.