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PlayStation 3 Review: ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’

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Sylvester Stallone began his action career as a sullen John Rambo, a traumatically disturbed Vietnam veteran unleashing a torrent of bloodshed against ruthless townsfolk. Two films later, he was shoving a tank turret down the cockpit of Russian helicopter in a reprehensibly stupid game of wartime chicken. Rambo films were exhausted, turning from sensible “guy” films, which explored a backlash of cerebral instinct, into something kids would adore.

So too has Call of Duty fallen. What marched into retail stores riding high on a litany of WWII shooters came something eclectic, if considerable, in its merit. Call of Duty 2 asked how anyone could have survived the insidious Russian landscapes as the Greatest Generation earned their title.

Ghosts, in comparison, asks what would happen if terrorists hijacked space. Commandeering satellite weapons systems, a group known as The Federation launches an aerial strike outside of Earth’s atmosphere, igniting World War III. But, don’t worry. We have Ghosts. They can shoot people. In space.

Ghosts, so we’re told, “always finish the mission.” That would parallel most military jargon. Ghosts have camaraderie. They shoot terrorists. They stealthily pursue their targets. They fight… because, America.

They sound remarkable because they are our military, much like Seal Team Six, Tier 1, or Black Ops. Their definition and differentiation ends there in this series. Call of Duty: Ghosts is too concerned with being moronic to further lock down who and/or what “Ghosts” are.

Character and derived emotion is secondary to proving how disgracefully ludicrous military shooters have become as they dredge up bottom level scenarios. So afraid of terrorism is America, we now arm our astronauts with assault rifles. You know, just in case. As it stands, Ghosts puts forth the question of how one man could call upon 20,000 trained soldiers to ransack America’s coastlines, and ensure some of them have degrees in space engineering or satellite operation.

Call of Duty has gone beyond the serendipitous blending of first-person shooter and summer blockbuster. It has turned into Rambo III or even Armageddon, which flip up the American flag in a display of empty Patriotism. This is not support for country or glimpse of what may have been (or be) so much as it is soulless rhetoric. This aptitude for malignant shooters has created a culture around the maiming of intruders which we continue to digest even without change.

Call of Duty has been retrofitted via Ghosts. It’s flat sound design mimics elements considered top tier in 2005. Graphical engines run ragged into a visual stupor. Point and shoot mechanisms have hit a free fall of diminishing returns. We have entered a familiar, rugged downward spiral crafted in Activision history by Tony Hawk gimmicks and plastic instruments laid to rest at family garage sales. And worst is the draw to all kinds, creating a community which represents a living, breathing example of YouTube’s vile comment section.

Typecasting remains poor form, but personal Ghosts experience has created an equivalency of Star Wars’ Mos Eisley space port. In a rush to extend their reach and dominate online playfields, Activision has done nothing to police its fan base. The admirable inclusion of female soldiers has proven crushingly painful, adding to a list of already ingrained sexist, racist barbs and reasons to use them. Mute buttons are not a solution. This is not steering criticism toward an entire player base so much as it is lambasting Activision toward their indifference and profit motivation. Offenders still spend money and their removal means dinging quarterly reports. Player satisfaction is secondary.

Rushing Call of Duty into stores with urgency has created an insufferable landscape of needless entitlement. Players can now customize a solider they will never see. It becomes a means to show off, a game of high school-level have/have nots, and with immediacyeven before Ghosts hit storessomeone breached fairness to find hacks. The quicker you are to embrace superficial labels, the higher you are in this crumbling community.

Developer Raven Studios seems lost in multiplayer. Having performed background work for map packs prior, Raven comes up with the mode “Cranked,” a reference to the 2006 Jason Statham film. Players have 30 second life spans and need to kill in order to live. Call of Duty’s relentless bullet fest suits such framework, breathless insanity based on increased pressure to twitch-shoot anything that moves.

“Cranked” is but a blip. Ghosts seems terrified to alleviate the sameness, lest Activision lose its core franchise in the midst of a console transition. Certainly, a “better” Call of Duty on PlayStation 4/Xbox One would have allure for console makers. With embedded commercialism ideals based on bragging, having the best edition could move systems during a traditionally tumultuous upgrade period. As such, Ghosts takes no risks. While its campaign is bold enough to breach Earth’s atmosphere, multiplayer fears removal from stability. Brown maps coated in sand clash with jungles (urban and otherwise) with spawn points that need immediate readjustment. This pattern of patching and eventual map packs is ubiquitous to the franchise, now officially a tired charade devoid of quality control for the sake of virtual wartime profiteering.

Call of Duty Ghosts (302x380)In some sense, Call of Duty remains the peak of military shooters. It stands as a testament to the blistering pacing and generous satisfaction of direct reactionary kills. Battling amongst crumbling cities or aboard sinking aircraft carriers is guided interactive cinema. While Battlefield leans toward tacticians, Call of Duty sticks to the direct hallmark of video gamedom: if it moves, you kill it. None do it better. The lack of control over patience-draining online vitriol and those thinly-draped layers of frivolous status symbols have ultimately botched something simplistically pure.

It’s now more important whether you have “Prestiged” (entered “Prestige” mode, only attainable after reaching highest rank in multiplayer), and how you look in getting there. That isn’t a call to duty so much as it is a call to wear a hat before the other players.

Call of Duty: Ghosts is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, PC.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for His current passion project is the technically minded You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • Demokraut

    Uh, ok. What did I learn about Ghosts from this article? I gathered more that our cheery author would rather spend more time espousing cynicism towards patriotism and our military in faux-intellectual fashion, than tell us anything substantial about the game. Forget people looking for cheap thrills out of a dimple video game. No, video games must now also cater to our philosophical needs in the utmost of complex Nietzschean ways….

    • Matt Paprocki

      There is a way to handle this content and make it work. Simply putting terrorists in space isn’t the way to do it. There needs to be some context. Ghosts takes itself seriously with a family bloodline integral to the plotline while trying to wring emotion from these idiotic sequences.

      Modern Warfare 1 & 2 and World at War had SOME sensible grounding. World at War was like a throwback to COD 2. Ghosts is rising the stakes for the sake of rising the stakes. It’s desperation to create new sights where the gameplay itself is slowly failing the franchise.

      I don’t know what exists here that IS substantial. We’re what, nine main games deep now? It’s changes have become miniscule. It’s time to dig a bit deeper and hope the series can grow. Terrorists in space is not growth, it’s just preying on some asinine paranoia.

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