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Call of Duty: Ghosts

14:0005/11/2013Posted by Sean Evans9 Comments

Within the first ten minutes of checking into the Call of Duty: Ghosts campaign, I sighed a heavy sigh. At that moment, I felt I knew – more or less – what the next five or so hours had to offer me. Was I proved wrong by the time the credits rolled? No. Was the experience terrible? Not exactly. But without question, the rollercoaster ride is more boring now than it’s ever been: the highs and lows are far too predictable, the group I’m with is far less fun than older ones, and the whole thing could really use a new lick of paint. It’s not just a journey I’ve taken before, but it’s one that looks increasingly weak in the knees in its old age and – dare I say – is more than deserving of a proper reconstruction.

It’s easy to feel this way in light of what feels like a game rooted in bare-naked cynicism. Remember that guy Ghost from Modern Warfare 2? You know, the one with the “cool”/dumb mask and whacky cockney accent? It turns out a boardroom of crusty suits thought a similar ‘mysterious-but-consistently-efficient-military-man’ vibe was sufficient enough to fill another duff year for the series. Except now, there’s a whole gang of the fellas.

The campaign’s narrative exercises the same level of subtlety by destroying most of the civilised Western world so the underdog (who could that be?) can steadily climb its way back to dominance – a dance you already know. Speaking of which, the half-cyborg German shepherd occasionally at your side is arguably as interesting as the rogues gallery of shadowy government/special forces types amongst it all – much like our four-legged friend, they’re either killing, barking or sprinting around intently with their tongues proudly wagging. There’s also a character named ‘Kick’ – do with that as you will.

Undoubtedly, bombast is key to the Call of Duty song, and always has been to varying degrees. Expecting deep characterisation or even plausible plot twists from this series is a fool’s errand, for sure. For years, its campaigns have thrived with lunacy very blatantly at the helm, and God bless them for it. In Ghosts however, those outlandish popcorn moments feel continually unearned and are more tiresome than impressive. Without a good gimmick to trade on – like jumping between eras in Black Ops – it’s become really hard to give a damn.

This is especially true when you pre-empt a story beat by reaching a critical pathway or door that team-mates deem useful long after you’ve worked it all out for yourself. Not that such a task is hard, of course – run straight-on at all times and you’ll always get to where you’re going sooner or later. Oh, and remember to pull the left trigger to look down the sights, then use the right trigger to shoot the guys shooting at you. If you see a grenade coming, you should probably move out of its way so you don’t get blown up. And even though it initially seems like you’re piloting a vehicle with a tad more independence, you’re really just boxed in and fixated on bee-lining to that objection marker as usual.

Quiet or loud, the game can’t do right for doing wrong in this regard. Leaping from a collapsing skyscraper should be feat to revel in and not merely endure. In its senility, the series can’t quite make these scenes count like it once could, reducing the heroics to one-way busywork. The brilliance of the Call of Duty 4 nuke scene seems a million miles away at times like these.

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