Review – Call of Duty: Ghosts – PC

I don’t get it.

Call of Duty: Ghosts (Ghosts) is a tired game from a tired series.  All of the ambition, intelligence, and cleverness that must have been in the earlier games has degraded into this messy slop.  So many aspects of this game are subpar and the base mechanics are a shadow of their predecessors.  Ghosts is a perfect example of a series that has passed its prime.

As I’ve already mentioned, the story is a mess.  The setup is totally contrived, the characters are flat, and the setting is completely drab and uninteresting.  You play Logan Walker, a member of a US special forces unit called the Ghosts, as he attempts to stop the former Ghost Rourke from assisting the Latin-America based Federation from invading the US.  That’s absolutely silly, and Ghosts only gets worse from there.  It never bothers to develop Logan or the other characters and, instead, relies on general positive feelings towards the military to see the plot through.  “We love soldiers” has definitely been abused by the FPS genre, but rarely is a game so totally reliant on it as Ghosts is here.  The hero is a solder, his brother is a solider, all his friends are soldiers, everyone who dies is a solider and, now that I think about it, only soldiers get any mention at all.  The opening cutscene has a few civilians, but that’s it.  Everyone else is a bland bot in a US army uniform.  Unless you burst into tears at the very thought of some generic gunman skinning his knee, Ghosts will hold little emotional heft for you.

Sadly, the gameplay is also heavily flawed.  Ghosts relies on the series staple of set piece battles, but doesn’t seem to know how to execute them properly.  Instead of creating a feeling of drama and excitement, Ghosts feels more like a curated tour of bombed out buildings.  From the very beginning, the game makes it clear that the player’s actions don’t matter.  The AI is constantly winning fights for the player and, when the computer controlled allies not mowing down every enemy in sight, they’re performing all of the quick time events by themselves.  The opening scene has the player and his brother jointly bashing open a door, but ultimately it is the AI controlled brother that completes the task.  This wouldn’t be so bad if there were solid gunfights in between, but Ghosts fails at that too.  From samey feeling guns to brain dead AI, Ghosts can’t conjure a decent shootout.  Fights quickly become gun whack-a-mole with little sense of tactics.  The game attempts to break it up with special game modes, but they are overly simplistic and serve to highlight how little the developers trust the actual gameplay.

The multiplayer improves the situation, but never really grabbed me.  The usual compliment of RPG elements are there to encourage the player to keep playing, but they do little to shore up the base gameplay.  Different loadouts do lead to some variations in play, but I never felt like I cared much about the multitude of guns.  For a casual player like myself, the tiny improvements did little to make me want to play more.  My experience, particularly as a new player, was greatly harmed by the low player base.  Most remaining players have maxed out their gear and memorized the levels.  The low base forces the game to mix newbies and these killers together with disastrous results.  It’s not fun to die repeatedly, even if the metagame RPG elements do add a small sense of progression.  When I found equally skilled matches, I had some fun.  Still, I never felt like Ghosts provided anything special.

It’s easy to see how the elements of Ghosts could have been a better game.  Unfortunately, they are all handled so poorly that it’s hard to eke out any fun.  If this formula is to work, the developers need to polish each piece so that they can all be enjoyed.  Instead, the game just feels like a tired attempt at the same old formula.

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