Devastation is the second DLC pack to get dropped into the fray for Call of Duty: Ghosts, bringing with it four ballistic new maps, a brand new level for extinction and the chance get predatory with this pack’s cameo appearance from Schwarzenegger’s pal of old, the dreadlocked space hunter, Predator.
The payload delivered has a reasonable amount of meat on its bones; new maps Ruins, Behemoth, Collision and Unearthed making up the bulk of the package and the new extinction level, Mayday, bringing with it a host of new Cryptids, including the mighty Kraken, to frustrate players to the brink of insanity aboard an alien-infested ship.
First, to the maps:
Here we’ve somewhat of a blend of influences from the indigenous tribes of South America. Whether the ruined temple environs is supposed to be based around Inca, Mayan or Aztec architecture and mythology is unclear, though with the level of bombast present in this map, it hardly seems to matter which it is.
Over the shattered, mossed-over stones of an abandoned and collapsing temple, bodies shall sprawl; as if the storm of hot, sharp metal wasn’t enough death will make its way to all through an additional two channels. The new KEM strike for this map is delivered via an erupting volcano, earned as a field order, raining down fire and magma upon the unsuspecting combatants below. In addition, following in the footsteps of the Michael Myers player reward from the Onslaught DLC pack, completion of a certain field order will reward players with a Predator drop. Delivered much the same as a maniac, the Predator implements thermal imaging, auto lock-on shoulder rockets, a stealthed active camouflage and, of course, those famed wrist blades, perfect for shredding flesh and shearing bone.
While these two features are amusing, the map itself can prove chaotic, its many-tiered construction making for uneasy play and leaving the player eminently vulnerable to being snuck upon. Visually, however, Ruins is an absolute treat, the richness of the texture design making it one of the most detailed that players of Ghosts have yet seen.
Behemoth centres the action around a giant earth-excavating saw, providing long corridors and plenty of vantage points for snipers. There’s another special field order to be fulfilled here, which blesses the player with access to a Blackhawk chopper, armed to the teeth with a devastating minigun to rain death from above.
The theme and surroundings of the map make for some awe-inspiring views, if it’s possible to take a few moments to absorb them. The chaotic network of nooks, crannies and high points that entangle the middle of the battlefield makes for some frantic close-quarters combat, but there’s a sense of style over substance. Visually it’s stunning, as with Ruins, but functionally Behemoth slips into the realm of the mediocre, one of the weakest features of the Devastation DLC pack.
A symmetrical map sat featuring two ends of a bridge astride the chaos and destruction left in the wake of a marauding container ship’s ill-fated journey, Collision is all twisted rust and savage close-range gunplay. Fastest trigger fingers will win the day. A few vantage points are thrown in with fairly substantial sightlines, but the containers strewn over the map provide ample cover for those wishing to avoid taking too many slugs to the dome.
On Domination, making a play for the centre flag seems initially appealing as an exuberant show of Call Of Duty heroism, but too often my attempts at being the team player went up in smoke repeatedly, the position being far too exposed and far too vulnerable to sneaky probes from the enemy. The flanks of the container ship provided the most amusement, reminiscent of the Wetwork map from Call of Duty 4, though death, as is often the case, comes relentlessly and far too swiftly. This can make for a frustrating experience.
To counteract the frustration, we’re given a special field order granting access to two A-10 strafing runs, so those with their eyes on the little blue briefcases may be those with their eyes on the prize. It’s handy that this is on offer as on such a tightly packed map, securing killstreak airdrops can be a risky business.
The fourth and final multiplayer map included with Devastation, Unearthed, is effectively a reskin (PR-friendly term: “re-imagining”) of Modern Warfare 3’s Dome map. Whilst this feels a little cheap on the part of Infinity Ward, the running trend of reviving old maps makes room for the return of fan favourites from throughout the series – we saw a similar “re-imagining” in the first Ghosts DLC pack, Onslaught with the resurrection of Modern Warfare 2’s Scrapyard map in its new guise as Ignition.
As somewhat of a golden oldie; it certainly suits the purpose, retooled to set forth a dig site home to an alien discovery. The usual sniper spots on the elevated walkway are present, with a tunnel snaking around one side of the map the perfect staging ground for traps and ambushes. Unearthed continues the crossover of Extinction’s themes into the main game, a conceptual leap that goes further than previously seen with this map’s exclusive field order that summons 3 Seeker Cryptids to unleash hell on unsuspecting enemies.
In addition to the Cryptids is the presence of the Venom-X gun from Nightfall, unlocked as an Easter egg and accessed by blowing three supports running along the neck of the crane. There’s only one per match though so if you want to take things xeno-tier, get there quickly.
Extinction Episode – “Mayday”
There’s somewhat of a division prevalent in the COD series wherein players have an affinity either for the core multiplayer action or for the more nuanced, cooperative experience on offer in Extinction. Whilst Infinity Ward may have deviated from the magic of the past Zombies modes in Treyarch’s productions, striving for originality in their formulation, Extinction has taken the fundaments of the experience Zombies represented and evolved from it a fairly complex game mode, requiring not only a commitment to cooperation but also to coordination; the presence of one without the other will rarely deliver success.
Extinction is the perfect platform for expanded content, and with Nightfall come and gone along with the release of Onslaught; it’s time for something looking to notch it up even further. Enter Mayday.
The initial waves give immediate access to Devastation’s new exclusive weapon, the hybrid SMG/AR known as the Ripper. Combining an insanely accurate SMG with something beyond a rapid-fire rate, the Ripper can be swapped into assault rifle mode by pressing in the right stick whilst aiming down sight. This reveals a new sight and reticule, glowing menacingly in luminous green, extending the range and slowing down the rate of fire. Effective in both forms, the Ripper is spectacular at extremely close range and whilst deadly and widely used in online multiplayer, it really comes into its own against the Cryptids in the earlier waves.
The titanic Kraken joins the Cryptid host, an abomination of enormous scale clearly derived from the mythological bane of sailors and fishwives, appearing alongside the Seeder, which fires jets of acid similar to the Scorpion but also fires pods which spawn mutated plants acting as alien turrets.
New to Mayday are schematics, which can be found in various areas around the ship. These provide the means to craft traps and modifications for the Venom-X from crafting items picked up amidst the melee. Efficiently collecting the schematics and all necessary parts takes care and planning against the backdrop of bloody alien carnage, making voice chat a must in coordinating these attempts to better equip your team, the Tesla trap making for a particularly worthwhile venture.
Advancing through each wave, from hive to hive, your team is charged with rescuing Dr. Cross from Nightfall’s antagonist Captain Archer. This narrative eventually leads your squad to a final showdown with the Kraken, which boasts being the biggest foe yet seen in COD.
The linked narrative shared by the Extinction episodes really fleshes out the experience and once all the DLC has been released, there’s no doubt that a marathon session through each episode in succession will be on the cards. The Extinction slice of the pie is truly becoming a bona fide game in its own right.
As a package, Devastation brings a fair amount to the table, though it smacks of “quantity over quality”. A little more attention and innovation in the multiplayer maps might have justified including one less in the DLC. Behemoth is a particularly nondescript multiplayer experience, and whilst the reappearance of an old face in Unearthed may cause some rose-tinted spectacles to twinkle over the nostalgia, Infinity Ward really ought to focus on bringing out some eye-wateringly intense maps that set themselves apart from the ones we already have.
What’s being done with Extinction is far more impressive and really feels as if it’s adding substantial, tangible bulk to the package, and for fans of this mode Devastation is unreservedly worthy of purchase. For multiplayer addicts, this pack will slowly become a necessity, with serious competitive clans sure to increasingly demand the new maps for their members. For the casual user however, who finds little amusement in the endless slaying of aliens, this might be a chance to save some cash.