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Call of Duty: Ghosts – still full of memorable moments

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Call of Duty: Ghosts is one of the most maligned entries in the first-person shooter series, and for some, the first time when cracks started to appear after a string of rock solid entries that preceded it.

The first Call of Duty to be released on Xbox One and with Infinity Ward spearheading the game for the first time since Modern Warfare 2, Ghosts’ dramatic and sombre trailer hinted at a more serious and story-driven entry into the series, far different from what we had seen from any CoD before.

When it first went on sale in November 2013, Ghosts did not get as thunderous a reception as previous entries had; critics lamented its lack of innovation, online options and new ideas, while players found it unmemorable, too easy and gimmicky. To the faithful, this will always be remembered as the Call of Duty game with a level in space and where you can play as a dog.

That said, while there is not much here that hasn’t already been done before, Call of Duty: Ghosts does deliver a solid experience and may have suffered from the changing of player habits, coming from a time when more and more were focusing on the online multiplayer experience over more story-centric campaigns.

The story takes place in war-torn 2024, where the Federation of the Americas has invaded and occupied all of South and Central America, leaving the USA on the frontline. With resources dwindling to hold off the threat of invasion Elias Walker, leader of a former special ops unit known as the Ghosts, gets the band back together in order to bring down the Federation from behind enemy lines, along with his sons Hesh and Logan, the game’s playable character. 

By far the most jingoistic and overly serious backdrops in the series, the story of Ghosts has the distinction of being described as “one of the most right-wing premises in video game history” – by Fox News.

call of duty ghosts keyart
Remember Call of Duty: Ghosts?

With a script by Stephen Gaghan, acclaimed screenwriter of Traffic and Syriana, Ghosts has more of a focus on story than previous Call of Duty games, only it doesn’t quite achieve the emotional resonance it aspires to. While there is some strength in the relationship between Elias and his sons, it does not explore any emotional issues of him leading his only family into a war zone, while the plot developments are highly predictable. The game’s villain, Rorke, does cut a menacing presence but is still too generic to match other CoD antagonists – Makarov he is not.

Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn’t really play any differently from any other Call of Duty game, presumably Infinity Ward felt there was no need to mess with a winning formula, and in many cases they were right. In that way it can feel generic but may also mean players may be looking for innovation for other elements while gameplay remains solid – maybe why this game came under such scrutiny.

For the most part Ghosts’ campaign almost feels like Call of Duty going back to its roots; pure first-person gameplay. The first mission proper, Brave New World, is an effectively chilling start to the campaign as Logan and his brother emerge from underground to the ruins of Los Angeles, moving around the destroyed buildings underneath a sky sky full of ash clouds. 

There are other memorable moments such as in Federation Day, where you infiltrate a government building during a mass public celebration outside; and Atlas Falls, a race against time to blow up an oil rig. The highlight of the campaign is Legends Never Die, continuously tense and fast-paced with constantly changing locations and with an effective emotional core. 

call of duty ghosts 1
Shooty-shooty!

The action here begins with a firefight on the streets to a flooded tower block, where you can either shoot enemies out or sneak around them underwater, before the tension builds as you have to try and escape as an enemy dam collapses around you. The remainder of the campaign often falls into gimmicks – the helicopter level, an underwater stage – before becoming so straightforward the last four missions can all be completed within an hour.

A decade or so on and Call of Duty: Ghosts can feel a bit like a diversion in the series (A planned sequel was cancelled in the wake of its mediocre reception), but it does enough well with some memorable moments that deliver a unique experience in the series to still make it worth playing. For those who haven’t yet played, it’s available on the Xbox Store and Steam, while physical copies can be found affordably in all the usual places. 

You can play Call of Duty: Ghosts on Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S.

Jack Ford
Jack Ford
Jack Ford is from Somerset, where there's nothing to do except play video games and write. His works has appeared on Battle Royale With Cheese, Gender and the City, Flickside and SnookerHQ among others.
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