Call of Duty: Ghosts Review
The enemy is the EVIL Federation, who are EVIL because they're South American, and South America is the wrong America. They do EVIL things like torture people to breaking point and have vast spy networks, which the USA would never do. Opposing them are the Ghosts, a mythical special forces group who are all that stand between the Federation and the destruction of the USA. Except, that is, for the USA's massive army which abruptly pops up from time to time to blow the absolute shit out of the Federation, undermining the entire concept of the US being the underdogs.
Worse, the Ghosts are the series' least interesting protagonists yet; robotic Tier One operatives whose only defining characteristic seems to be an irresistible urge to die in the most noble fashion possible. They wouldn't go out to do the grocery shopping unless there was an opportunity to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the vegetable aisle. Furthermore, the plot twists are entirely predictable, and the primary antagonist is strangely one-dimensional despite the effort made to explain his reasons for being EVIL.
That's the campaign, fleeting moments of ingenuity strung together by numbing spectacle and stagnant shooting. The multiplayer is better, although still a long way from the strongest entry in the franchise. Its small maps and low player numbers can't compete with the scope and scale of the Battlefield series, so it attempts to offer variety instead.
It succeeds to some extent, with a wide array of game modes on offer, although they use the same maps and aren't vastly divergent from one another. Alongside staples such as Team Deathmatch are modes like Search and Rescue, which apes Counter-Stirke in its one life, rounds-based structure. The twist is that you can collect the dog-tags of fallen comrades to respawn them. More compelling is Hunted, in which everyone starts with only a pistol, and both teams must scramble for ammo crates dotted around the map which provide randomly generated weapons. Both modes provide a more thoughtful, less frantic experience, which is something you may not expect from a Call of Duty game, and is all the better for it.
The maps are fairly well designed, the twisting streets of the various urban maps such as Warhawk and Stormfront allow for plenty of opportunities to ambush and be ambushed. Although they're all intelligently laid out, only a couple stand out conceptually. Whiteout is a rocky arctic fishing village strewn with wooden shacks and labyrinthine cave networks. But by far the most impressive is Stonehaven, set in a sprawling ruined castle surrounded by undulating moorland dotted with little farmsteads. It's stunningly designed, but its open nature could easily become a sniper infested hellhole.
There are a couple of other unique modes worth mentioning. Squads is a curious hybrid of single, cooperative and multiplayer gaming. Characters levelled up in multiplayer are arranged into AI teams which can then be led into battle against other Squads in a variety of scenarios. But the weirdest of all is Extinction, which tasks you with eliminating a race of alien creatures that look like a cross between a dog and a beetle, by shoving an automatic drill into hives dotted around the map and defending it while it drills stuff. While certainly novel, it pales in comparison to the fantastic Spec Ops Mode of Modern Warfare 2.
Ghosts' multiplayer has plenty to keep you occupied, but none of it is radically new or particularly gripping. Compared to the epic, multi-tiered combat of the Battlefield series, or even the more gritty, tactical conflicts featured in Tripwire's Pacific World War II game Rising Storm, Ghosts is seriously lagging behind. It's also worth noting we experienced a couple of distracting glitches, specifically an issue with crackling sound that would intermittently occur when launching the game, and some rather unsightly flickering shadows on a few of the multiplayer maps.
Ghosts is an appropriate title for the latest entry in this tired franchise. It bears the shape and structure of the Call of Duty games we're familiar with, and does occasionally reach those same highs. But it's a pale imitation of former glories, a shadow blasted into a wall after an atomic explosion, futilely struggling to escape as it treads the same ground over and over. It desperately needs something new to invigorate it, or an exorcism so this tortured soul can finally be laid to rest.