One day while I was perusing my twitter feed to an astonishingly growing number of spam messages and mentions I came across a tweet by a user who couldn’t believe that I stuttered AND I had a brain. I guess his delusion that stutterers being mentally bull whipped were short lived by my existence and my twitter feed spat out that I was playing Call of Duty: Ghosts on the Xbox. Yes, some mechanic of thought is required to point and shoot, which was astonishing to him. After he asked me a series of stupid questions like how do I talk on the phone and the like he asked me a question that was either going to whisk me up to be video game president or turn my pole shaped body into a corpse. He asked me what my opinion of Call of Duty: Ghosts was.
One thing that I’ve noticed about how video games have been evolving is the importance on being the next “me too” icon, rather than thinking of something dynamic and chic. It’s like watching panda bears do a smashingly epic synchronized tap dancing routine only to have dolphins do the same exact smashingly epic synchronized tap dancing routine wearing different outfits. While both are definitely interesting and have a lot of content everyone’s doing what the beginners did now. It’s like a common trend and the uncool thing to do is to think outside of the box.
Keeping the “me too!” tradition alive, Activision brings us a new release that has the same outer layers, even the same Call of Duty trademark of eye-popping action, immersive sound effects, gorgeous explosion effects, and new weapons within the single player while touting a beefed up version of multiplayer adding in a menu with very small text and almost no helpful contrast within the menu’s Grey layout.
Playing the single player campaign is definitely immersive, but it’s different and cutting edge in the sense that porridge has different flavors in a brand new supermarket. It’s neat to see what’s there but upon diving into the astoundingly often quick time events, engaging battle locations, and taking orders from the non-mute characters it will soon slap you in the face that this is a different kind of copy and paste that would make a joke frown in pity.
The story, which takes on the role of every passively aggressive writer who just can’t let go that the world didn’t end in 2013, takes place in an apocalyptic future. 10 years after a devastating mass event, the nation’s borders and the balance of global power have been permanently changed. As what’s left of the nation’s Special Operations forces, a mysterious group known only as “Ghosts” leads the fight back against a newly emerged, technologically-superior global power. A group known as the “Federation” emerges as a dominant superpower and they are the ones behind the attacks. As a player in the game you are the underdog and you and your group of ‘Ghosts’ are fighting back against superior forces with a dog that only shows up for three levels and doesn’t even get a backstory.
The objectives are easy within each level, creep through the different sections taking down enemies with a verity of tactics and weapons. The guns sound utterly fabulous along with the ease of gameplay by the Xbox controls. The hardest thing you’ll be doing is planning the occasional stealth maneuver. Logan, the walking version of Simon Says, is the bullet-wielding protagonist who you’ll control as he is ordered to do everything within the levels. There’s a lot of verity in gameplay, and it shows as you will be doing such things as firing laser pointed rockets, manning turret guns, controlling Riley the dog, repelling down a skyscraper, controlling tanks, piloting a military chopper, and avoiding great white sharks.
There is combat that takes place underwater, on top of a futuristic train and even shooting sequences in space but all of that is dictated on a very linear path that could rival the inside of a bendy straw. Everything you’re ordered to do is dictated to you by wonderfully voiced side characters. This takes away from the personal player experience that a mute protagonist is supposed to instill especially when all the pulse pounding parts are replaced by a singular button press, in my case, X, or quick time events that leave a sense of unfair teasing. The true moments where I knew that I was supposed to feel like I really was inside the game didn’t happen because the game was literally yanking me out of action by pressing X and watching Logan perform the action expertly, taunting me and leaving me feeling like a self-conscious ninny because I didn’t do the action. Logan did.
One perfect example of this was a scene where I was repelling down the side of a building, having to break in. Wondering if I was actually going to become a part of this game by now I eagerly waited on the instructions that would have me feeling like a wicked spy. I pressed X to have Logan cut the glass. Riley the dog, the most promising aspect of the single player, only sports remote controlled segments where you’ll stealthily take down guards directed by a deep voiceover, sometimes whispering. The dog doesn’t even get a climactic moment or even a minor plot. After three appearances the dog disappears.
But relying on the single player to make Call of Duty a huge selling point is like making a nuclear bomb out of candy corn. It just won’t cut it. The meat of the enjoyment is the multiplayer. The multiplayer is the obvious gold put into Ghosts because it boasts so many options and selections it could rival an online dating site. There are over 20,000 possible combinations for soldier customization with the level up system we all know and adhere to along with perks, special abilities that have to be bought with points and can be equipped to aid people in combat.
I chose to have a female soldier looking like a teenaged rock star with the name Pokémon Twiddle who was a long lost soldier whose mastery skill was chess and pie baking but someone stole her board and Shake N Bake Chicken so she went lovingly insane and was on a revenge heist to kill everyone and regain the title of MasterChef. It was really immersive to level twiddle up to the point where she could just look at a player and manicure them. The leveling system is done via points and perks. Each skill point you earn can be spent on upgrading your class – medic, tank, engineer or assault – and your chosen perks, be they sentry guns, deployable ammo pick-ups, ballistic vests, grenade launchers, chain guns, or whatever.
Getting twiddle to kill a bunch of people and gain experience wasn’t hard either because I put her kinky hair through the gamut of gameplay modes and levels ranging from Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, Domination, Grind, Cranked, Hunted, and extinction, Search and Rescue and Blitz. The new game modes are all unique twists on classics. Cranked, for example, is a better execution on paper than actual gameplay where twiddle killed someone and then she had to kill another player before 30 seconds past and she exploded. Squads is a mode where bots rule one of the 15 new levels.
The levels range from small warehouses where rifles will dominate to openly atmospheric outdoor levels where twiddle was gunned down so fast by snipers you’d think that she wore a pink purse in the hood. Call of Duty: Ghosts has enough multiplayer content to keep casual gamers playing but for someone who has played so many games it’d rival the percentage of gangsters it didn’t glue me to the game, although it was fun making twiddle the tepidity of a doomsday machine that just happens to know how to bake cookies.
Despite my loyalty to twiddle and the endless hours I spent enjoying dominating people with my own customized regime, drowning in the excitement and verity, I still couldn’t help notice that there are games out there that do the same thing and offer different styles of gameplay and a single player that doesn’t play like someone sat on extremely yummy melted cheese.
What Call of Duty: Ghosts does, it does very well: gripping action that gets me shouting at the screen as if I’m an infantile, gorgeous visuals that would rival Denzel Washington, and a true style of multiplayer that definitely delivers and gives incentive to want to keep customizing your own female rock star who toads a gun. All of the brilliant things about it are out-shined by the glaring understanding that this has been done before, and in some cases, better while tossing in a new twist into the gameplay. Call of Duty: Ghosts is like a math teacher teaching a certain kind of algebra when there are a dozen variations of the same course in different formats. Laced down with the classic goods, it’s glaringly apparent that this perfect video game doesn’t bring new dimensions to enough areas to tout it as the best game ever. It’s a really good game that’s fun until a better game comes around.
Robert Kingett is a blind journalist specializing in audio description, adaptive sports, and disability news. His essays have been published widely in magazines, blogs, and read on radio stations across the country and abroad. He has been published in several anthologies. He’s the chief writer consultant for Americas Comedy as well as a columnist for Truth Is Cool. His most popular column has been Kingett Reads Fifty Shades of Grey. He holds several editing jobs. He is a strong supporter and advocate for LGBTQ rights and has raised a great deal of funds for HIV and AIDS research.