Thursday, May 19, 2016

Call of Duty: Ghosts review


    If you were going to buy this game, you probably have and if you haven't, you probably won't. Still, I'm going to talk about it anyway. Since finishing the Modern Warfare trilogy, I've been attempting to find a good replacement and have had mixed reactions. Advanced Warfare was just boring while Black Ops sullied itself by association with Oliver North.

    Call of Duty: Ghosts is a very frustrating game because it feels strongly like it's half of a very good game with several extremely annoying aspects. If they'd managed to show a bit more tonal awareness, this could have been every bit as enjoyable as the Modern Warfare franchise but instead it comes off as a disjointed half-finished mass of contradictions with a side-order of racism.

    Which isn't good.

I enjoyed the rappelling section.
    The premise is the Middle East has been destroyed in a nuclear war, only for this to somehow cause the rise of South America as a superpower underneath a ruthless evil military dictatorship. Already, the game has completely lost me as I have a dozen questions about this, none of which are going to be answered. It reminds me of when Tom Clancy had the Japanese attack the United States in his Jack Ryan novels.

    This only gets worse as "The Federation" proceeds to take over the United States satellite weapon, Odin, and uses it to destroy Los Angeles, San Diego, and a half-dozen other cities. We never really get a sense of why South America wants to eradicate the United States but that's a consistent theme throughout the storyline. The Federation possesses a furious hatred of America and will not rest until all Americans are dead.

The underwater mission is the best part of the game.
    In any case, this already extremely questionable scenario isn't what the game wants to talk about. Unlike Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which had at least the barest plausibility of realism until its Red Dawn-inspired second act, the game isn't interested in telling a story about geopolitics or international relations. Instead, it is far more interested in the fictional "Ghost" Special Forces unit. These fifteen survivors of a 300 man unit are, apparently, the only people in the world who can actually do anything against the Federation.

    The Ghosts are a group of super-soldiers who blow up battleships, super-oil refineries, seize particle satellites, and generally do all manner of awesome stuff because they're the protagonist's group. Hell, it turns out the two brothers who join the military at the beginning are the child of the Ghosts' leader and their archenemy is a former Ghost. The narrative bends around the heroes of the story even more so than usual in these sorts of games.

    Call of Duty: Ghosts wants to be an uncomplicated G.I. Joe-esque piece of fluff with the Good Americans vs. The Bad Federation. They even have a level where you travel down an (underwater) trench to launch a missile into the "thermal exhaust port" (actually called that) of a Federation battleship.

Riley is the best thing about this game.
    The problem is their desire to not have politics in their game is not equivalent to there actually no politics in the game. Suddenly making all of South America evil and out to slaughter all America is a political decision, no matter how they choose to frame it. Advanced Warfare may be an uninspired game but at least it's just an evil corporation trying to take over the world, no matter how ludicrous that may be.

    Despite this, Call of Duty: Ghosts is actually really fun to play. Indeed, much more fun than Advanced Warfare which got bogged down in ludicrous gadgets. It's a simple shoot, run, and get to cover game of fun. The missions are entertaining, varied, and there's a lot of enjoyable moments throughout. Even this marred, however, by the fact the story ends after roughly four-to-six hours of gameplay. It also ends on a anticlimax which doesn't provide a satisfying narrative ending despite the fact no one really wants a sequel to this game.

Maybe the next Call of Duty.
    I'm not a big multiplayer fan so I'm only speaking about the single-player but Ghosts really drops the ball throughout. The best part of the game is the addition of, I kid you not, a dog named Riley who has more charisma than the entirety of the other characters. I think they should somehow carry the dog into future installments of the game even as there's nothing else really worth saving here.

    In conclusion, Call of Duty: Ghosts is a pretty terrible addition to the franchise which removes all of the moving moral ambiguity and interesting tidbits from Modern Warfare. It's ludicrous Michael Bay-esque explosions and jingoism would be bad enough if not for the fact it also includes a hefty amount of xenophobia. Homefront was ludicrous but at least North Korea really is a bad regime and it's takeover is only slightly more ridiculous than "The globally dominant Venezuela decides genocide is the only answer to the USA."

5/10

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