I feel obligated to tell everyone I’m not a huge CALL OF DUTY fan (say whaaaaaaat!?) and have only really dabbled my way through the franchise over the years. I messed with (but never completed) a handful of the World War II themed games, played and beat CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE, and then just got lost in the annual installments and couldn’t keep up. That said, when I heard Infinity Ward (MODERN WARFARE Series) was crafting a new series set in the not-too-distant future starring new characters and new locations all on next generation hardware, I was sold. I was looking for an excuse to jump back into this action-packed series and GHOSTS was just the recipe I was looking for.
CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS is a familiar yet oddly fresh entry in the long-running CALL OF DUTY series. You mainly control a character named Logan who is thrust into a home-turf battle in the good ol’ USA that will have nerds fondly remembering the plot to RED DAWN. Instead of the usual “World War” setting or oversea adventure, we start things off in familiar territory with the main enemies being oil-rich South American nations vying for power! Basically, they are taking shit over until they get to America and it’s up to you to stop them! No big deal. Joining Logan in his adventure is brother Hesh, grizzled (yet loving) father Elias, and their trained for combat puppy pal Reilly. Woof! Soon the family must embark on a series of adrenaline-fueled missions (classic!) with huge set pieces (double classic!!) until they cross paths with the elusive “Ghosts” who are basically the worn down remnants of the US Military. Oh, and did I mention they are badass! And in all of this violent and political messiness, GHOSTS does feature a pretty great main antagonist called Rourke who has some ties to the main family and puts up one helluva fight! The Ghosts (along with their intriguing and mysterious past) blast their way through American soil and eventually venture off into other exotic locals such as Caracas and the Andes!
I’d say the strongest element to the story in GHOSTS is the family dynamic. Adventuring with your brother, father, and dog raises the emotional stakes a bit higher paving the way for some pretty great action and drama. You will constantly be fighting alongside your family, helping them kick ass, and may even be surprised at how much you care about them all once the story concludes. If that all doesn’t sound cool enough, you even get to romp around as your family dog Reilly a few times showing all those cat-loving baddies who’s boss! It’s a fresh new element for the series and I for one think it paid off in the end!
The best way to explain this game to the uninitiated is that it’s a lot like a summer movie. Not the best plot, fun (but kind of flat) characters, and a whole hell of a lot of spectacle and action. So much spectacle and action that the characters and plot don’t really matter after awhile when you find yourself just having a blast. I mean no one ever complains about the shit stories any MARIO game has. You know why!? Because they are just plain fun and that’s exactly what GHOSTS is…fun! The controls are fast and fluid, the weapons are a blast to use, and the set pieces and wide variety of locals is what make this game shine. You will find yourself rappelling down moon-soaked skyscrapers at night, deep-sea diving and avoiding sharks, and even find yourself on high-risk adventures in freaking space ala GRAVITY! Yes, part of this game feels like you are playing the movie GRAVITY. Come to think of it, GHOSTS really borrows a lot of cool ass action sequences from a plethora of action movies and bundles them all into one insane adventure. While not wholly original, it’s damn fun. Just when you think the craziest thing happened in GHOSTS, they up the ante and do something even more insane! It’s the kind of action my CON AIR loving ass craves and appreciates!
If this all sounds good so far I have a cherry to put on top of it all. This game is pretty damn beautiful to look at on next-gen consoles. My experience was on the Playstation 4 running smooth and at 1080p. Even though it’s mostly a port of a last-gen game, it looks damn fine to me. Everything is just polished up so nicely and turned out to be quite atmospheric. I’d say the biggest visual element here is in the small details and superb lighting. We all know this console is capable of displaying stellar lighting effects previously un-experienced on consoles. After a few minutes with KILLZONE: SHADOWFALL you will know what I’m talking about. GHOSTS is just a really great game to look at. Bullets fly, bombs go boom, underwater looks stunning, draw distances are as far as the eye can see, and some of the bigger moments (such as space fights and tank missions) just might make your Captain Crunch chomping jaw drop a few times. I don’t really know what that means, but it makes sense to me.
Nearing the end of this review I have a bit of a secret. I don’t really give a crap about the meat and potatoes of this game…the multiplayer. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying my 30-year old ass isn’t really keen on the idea of crapping away countless hours of my life blasting people in the face online just for a few experience points and weapon upgrades. However, I did spend my fair share of time getting my ass handed to me online with a few friends and overall it was pretty fun. Not “waste 80 hours of my life” fun, but ya know, fun. It was easy enough to jump in and try out a new mode or two. I dabbled in every mode possible and settled (like always) on the”Team Deathmatch” and “All for One” modes. A huge list of other modes are available (and are all pretty fun) so the variety IS there, but I just wanted to blast me some bad guys and upgrade some of my weapon choices. I think it’s safe to say that GHOSTS may have gone a bit too complex for the casual online gamer with weapon choices and upgrade options, but once you find a safe combination of equipment, there isn’t much incentive to mix things up. I only really got as bold as having a few different layouts for different scenarios such a an Assault-themed layout for close quarters and a Sniper-themed layout for the bigger maps. While I kept things simple, I can see diehards tweaking til the cows come home. Other than that, my only real gripe for multiplayer was that the player counts are pretty low (18 max) for a next-gen game (BATTLEFIELD has up to 64!) and some of the maps were just too big and spread out making some matches seem more like hide-and-seek for big boyz. Yeah, I spelled that with a “z” so eat it!
Finally, when I can give my thumbs a rest and think back on my experiences, I would have to say that CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS is a pretty great game. The solo adventure is meaty and features a handful of memorable moments that I will surely revisit on “Hard Mode”. The added family dynamic to the story adds a lot of emotion and depth to the usual flat characters in games of this ilk. And to top it off, the game looks stunning at times, the action is insanely huge and memorable, and a few of the staged set pieces will have you wetting yourself with glee! Sharks, trains, and space stations, oh my! While the multiplayer is not for me, I can see how it will please longtime fans willing to chip away their youthful years all for a few digital experience points and weapon bonuses. Suckers. In short, CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS is fun fun fun! I pretty much enjoyed every moment I had with this game, and not being a huge fan of the franchise, that surprised me. If you are new to the franchise or just looking for a way back in, I’d say GHOSTS is just the game for you. I will surely replay the solo campaign and knock around online for some time to come until the next big installment comes out. Great job Infinity Ward, you gained another fan…not that you needed one.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10