I’m not going to rant on about how the maps are too large on Multiplayer, or that the aliens levels are just a copy of the zombies in previous games, I’m just going to concentrate on the solo player campaign. I am a contrary Mary at times and I waited and bought Ghosts cheap solely to play the single player game.
The first thing to note about the single player campaign, if you can call something that only lasts between 4-5 hours a ‘campaign’, is that some serious Hollywood talent was brought to bear in the form of writer Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana, Rules of Engagement), director Sylvain Doreau (Shrek, Antz) and the voice talent of failed Superman Brandon Routh (Scott Pilgrim, Chuck) is not to be sniffed at. Seems like Gaghan and the game designers had a failure of communication and this what I reserve the option to rant about.
I think the best way to treat this is to use that ‘walkthrough’ format that all Gamerscore milkers will be familiar with. You know who you are. BTW if you want a good review of all the other stuff then you can do worse than look at Amazon’s most useful review (3 stars out of 5) or the Wikipedia article. I won’t provide links – you’ve got Google you do the leg work – and anyhow I want you to read this not go swanning off after two and a bit paragraphs.
So on with the show and what a right royal variety performance it is. I’ll go chapter by chapter and numbers in brackets indicate roughly how long it will take in minutes – real walkthrough style eh? By the way, there’s spoilers in them there paragraphs.
Ghost Stories (13) Your name is Logan, no not Wolverine that’d be silly, and you find yourself sitting on a hillside with your brother, Hesh (Routh), and dad (that old bloke out of avatar) Elias Walker. Elias has shared a seemingly bullshit story about the origin of the Ghosts which introduces some very nice black and white graphics that will recurrently feature milky stuff, fog effects and crystal effects. It’s all very stylish and organic and you feel a little let down when you get into the game graphics proper to see that it’s the same old stuff from MW2.
You go through the usual palaver of having to get used to the controls by crouching down, sprinting and jumping. However they don’t cover leaning and so all through the game I didn’t realise you could do it until I accidentally hit the appropriate button once while in a mad blood hazed moment. There’s no game booklet silly – they’re saving trees aren’t they.
There’s the equivalent of a volcano/earthquake scene ripped from any disaster movie you can think of, some random bird flocks, I think the introduction of the COD Marmite “hold x to…”, and then there’s a cut scene in space which is pretty much ripped out of ‘Gravity’ without the uplifting ending and while it is atmospheric exhibits the ‘forced path’ linearity which pervades the whole game. You’d like to explore the space station, but you don’t get the option. After playing GTA V for hours it’s frustrating.
Brave New World (14) Fast forward a few years and you’re a soldier in the army of good guys defending what’s left of the good ol’ US of A from those pesky Mexicans (or something like that). More linear duck-shoot gameplay ensues until you’re outside of the door to the good guys HQ. I spotted a surface to air rocket launcher in a box by the side of a conveniently placed piece of cover and realised that someone was going to shout ‘watch out choppers!’ pretty darn soon. Sure enough someone shouted ‘watch out choppers!’ TWSS and I shot them down. Disconcerted by the loss of two helicopters piloted by the crappiest AI of all time the enemy stops its seeming mass invasion and goes home for some burritos and tequila (maybe). This level is really nothing like the Aldous Huxley book.
No Man’s Land (18) Turns out your old place is now in enemy patrolled no man’s land. You get a remote controlled dog to play with. It’s a bit like Chop the dog in GTA V but not as funny and I was a bit confused about how you could control it using a ruggedized iPad. All very odd. There’s a wolf attack from a ‘Twilight’ movie featuring some button mashing until the cavalry arrives to bale you out.
Struck down (14) In this level your boss needs some Ajax to clean his bath, that or it’s one of these Ghost’s names and he’s been captured by the baddie. The baddie is called Rorke. There’s a collectible file about him in each level that you get some Gamerscore for if you find them all. The files add nothing at all to the story, some aren’t even about Rorke and they might as well be gnomes.
In this level another multiplayer option is introduced – first the dog now the Remote Sniper. I’m assuming that the solo campaign is just one long trailer for the multiplayer like they were in MW and MW2. That’s the point isn’t it? They’re surely not included to actual provide a robust back story to all the bullet hosing and testosterone-fuelled boy stuff? That’d just be silly, you silly!
Ooh, then you get to play with some sticky bombs (sorry ‘remote charges’) – remember them from back when COD was set in WWII and the solo campaign was longer than a World Cup quarter final? This time you get to plonk them on the vehicles with a grenade launcher because heaven forbid we put you anywhere near the action, next you’ll be having me fly a drone.
Next you get to sit in the passenger seat of a lorry driving really fast. You don’t get to drive silly! You crash into what I expect is a multiplayer map location and conduct another duckshoot with the remote sniper thing. Not sure who set it up for you just where you needed it, but we’ll gloss over that.
Tear gas (another multiplayer option? They’re coming thick and fast TWSS) is used on your enemies and then you do a slow-mo door breach much like in MW, MW2, Rainbow Six etc. Monsieur Remote Sniper comes to the rescue again before you hop on a chopper and fly off. This war stuff is really easy in the future.
Homecoming (11) The enemy has had their siesta and decided to have another go at the wall. Cue the mother of all duckshoots with a mounted machine gun and an A-10 (multiplayer option) which I assume is some form of gunship aircraft. I seem to recall something like that in Battlefield and previous CODs. Then it’s a charge into the trenches boys and it momentarily feels like the COD good ol’ days.
Legends Never Die (17) This one is a back-story mission featuring that man Rorke. Quite obviously he used to be a Ghost – it’s basic Storyline 101 – it’s either that or he’s secretly your dad – but we can’t use that one because we’ve already met your dad, oh and he’s a Ghost too. Seems like everyone’s a Ghost, everyone except Penry the mild mannered janitor.
Exploring the one street you’re allowed to walk along and picking off enemies felt like MW or Ghost Recon but with added linearity. There’s no option to use flanking manoeuvres you learned so well in Brothers in Arms.
The next bit’s like ‘Hard Rain’. Towards the end of the level you could use the water for cover – but it’s pointless when you realise it’s much easier to just stand up and shoot anything that moves. Let them dick about if they want I can do headshots all day long.
Federation Day (17) You start on the roof of a skyscraper with a couple of other Ghosts. The scenery is like something out of Splinter Cell, Crysis 3 or the modern day bits of Assassin’s Creed, and just like Splinter Cell you have a remote listening device thingy that lets you scan peoples face and cross reference them with a database of known faces.
There’s some zipline, abseiling stuff like Rainbow Six before you get to enter the building sneak around a bit, get to make an irrelevant decision, and then ‘go loud’ and do a little more duck shooting. The most useless ‘Up on the D-Pad’ gadget is then used – a strobe that I must have missed the small print about. Luckily I don’t suffer from epilepsy, but it still induced a fit – a fit of laughter. I guess it is supposed to disorientate your enemies, but it just served to disorient me so I kept banging into desks and wasting bullets shooting into the floor.
Later the building keels over like that one did in ‘Cloverfield’. It’s supposed to be exciting I guess, but I don’t have the mind of six year old so it didn’t work for me.
Birds of Prey (16) Finally I thought I’d get the opportunity for a little more freestyle open play action being in charge of an attack chopper. Unfortunately it still feels very scripted and way too easy. You basically have the same kind of controls as you did as a diver or an astronaut to pilot through three dimensions, but there was never that fear of crashing you usually get in flight simulators. Admittedly there is something really satisfying about hosing down ducks before they can fire rockets at you. The conveniently placed fuel barrels help in this respect – as everyone knows the best place to keep barrels of explosive materials in on the roof.
There’s another irrelevant decision when you’re on the ground and eventually you catch Rorke. As soon as this happened I thought, ‘hmm that was bit easy, I wonder if he’s pulling a Skyfall job…’ The answer I soon found out was that he was pulling a ‘Mission Impossible 3 / Dark Knight’ job and indeed the cut scene doesn’t work so good if you have been living under a rock and have not seen the opening bit of the Batman film where Bane IMAXes his way out of the hooked up plane.
What follows is the bad guy missing his opportunity to properly kill all the main Ghosts like a stupid Bond villain and your character getting knocked out and blacking out for like the hundredth time. Perhaps Logan is Wolverine because he’d need an adamantium skull to avoid the multiple series of concussions all this getting thrown about would realistically induce.
The Hunted (18) Next you’re in the jungle with a previously unnoticed gadget to detect the motion of the Aliens, sorry dinosaurs, I mean ducks, no no I mean enemy soldiers (another multiplayer option I guess). Lots of disorientating fannying about hiding from the most shortsighted and deaf soldiers I’ve experienced in a long old time ends with hooking back up with your buddies just in time to ‘go loud’ on the enemy’s ass once more.
There’s a bit of time to wonder if the plant and water graphics are better on XBOX 1, but eye-candy graphics isn’t enough for me to fork out the squids for the console and on the evidence of the storyline and gameplay of this best-seller so far I’m not suddenly going to fall back in love with gaming anytime soon. In some ways the thought that this game isn’t going to take very long to complete is keeping me going through all the banality and of course there is this small twinkle of, admittedly dwindling, hope that something novel might occur. As I once more do my two shots and reload, despite the fact that I never ever seem run out of ammo,
I try to remember which one of my friends told me that the solo campaign was enjoyable so I can punch them in the arm next time I see them. More linearity, helicopters and sliding happens before you get your Gamerscore for not taking the game back to the shop.
Clockwork (19) Perhaps to compensate for the last mission this one was reasonably good, but maybe that’s because I love any chance to do a bit of sniping. I know you’re in a team but I would’ve liked to have done all the sniping myself. You shoot the driver of a jeep but you should know by now that you don’t get to drive. What do you think this is ‘Need for Speed’?
Inside the enemy base someone helpfully turns off all the lights so you can test out your night vision goggles, which is rather jolly. There’s a lot more shooting before you have to do a ‘defend the flag’ type exercise using the weapons you’ve been carrying in your satchel all this time. You can plant claymores, mines, a remote sentry gun and also pick up some gas grenades. Yes, multiplayer goodies. There are a few waves of enemies that seem to take turns in getting hosed and low and behold you might actually run out of ammo and have to scavenge a gun from somewhere – there’s plenty lying around so it’s no biggy. I almost felt tested at one point but then spotted more conveniently placed fuel barrels.
You have to stay put while Hesh downloads or uploads something or other for some reason. I have to admit by this point I was in the ‘if it moves shoot it’ frame of mind so wasn’t paying attention to the reason I was in the building in much the same way I had stopped worrying about why I was continually being prompted to press and hold X.
Then it’s a case of getting out as fast as possible which ironically involves walking quite slowly to begin with as you try to maintain the illusion that you’re enemy soldiers. Eventually the situation worsens to the point of being chased along a frozen river in a jeep. You’re not driving, but that’s okay because at least this time you get to fire grenades at vehicles or better still at the ice. I seem to recall a similar bit in a Tomb Raider or Bond game. Finally you get to your exfiltration point which after almost twenty minutes of quite good fun actually took me by surprise.
Atlas Falls (16) This level was quite good fun too. There’s an oil rig scene in one of the other Call of Duty games isn’t there, or I’m thinking of Just Cause 2 or Mercenaries 2? I like oil rig scenes so it’s okay and I guess this is a multiplayer level that’s being showcased. There are some good smoky scenes when things really go to crap and a nice cut scene reminiscent of another game I can’t quite put my finger on.
Into the Deep (15) This is a proper underwater level and includes everyone’s favourite hazard – man eating sharks. It reminds me a lot of the level in MW where you have to creep around the woods keeping out of sight of the Russian patrols so you can get to a spot to do some sniping mixed with lashings of ‘Thunderball’.
You find yourself in a sunken lighthouse. What the lighthouse is doing out there in water that deep is anyone’s guess. You get to blow up a big ship by aiming for its thermal exhaust like a nautical Achilles or the Death Star without the fun of piloting an X-Wing and using the Force. Then there’s more fun and games with debris dodging, duck shooting and shark avoidance. All the sharks seem to be have a bad case of myopia.
End of the Line (15) This level is a real Bond set piece – infiltrating the secret base where they build the superweapon. There’s some thermal vision action that the enemy finally gets wise to and they try to bugger up your plans with flash bangs. There’s also some chaps with those annoying shields out of MW2. At the end of the level you get to ride in a truck, but it’s kind of lost its novelty by now. There’s a bit of shooting but I bet you can just lie flat in the bed of the truck and you’ll still complete the mission.
Sin City (19) This level starts with a supposedly shocking but very predictable cut scene and if I recall correctly yet another bout of fainting. Really should see a doctor about that. Once all the conversation’s done is time for a little more action. Cue a ‘Rainbow Six: Vegas’ inspired level and another multiplayer level I guess. The mind-controlled dog needs a vet and it becomes your job to carry it around while you dispatch enemies and choppers, rather than just leave it where it is, kill everyone and then go back and fetch it when the coast is clear. No-one bleeds white and at no point does Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, or a yellow bloke appear.
All or Nothing (9) Boat sinks, you’re on it, get off it. Simple. At times the gameplay feels like the battle for Helm’s Deep and there’s a bit of fun controlling an Osprey – but don’t think at any time that you get full control – doing intermittent strafing runs with rockets and bombs, and an on-board rocket launcher that you use to shoot down a big plane that helpfully flies just where you want it to a couple of times.
Severed Ties (17) A lovely tank level. I like tank levels as much as sniping and so I was initially glad. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so easy – the addition of guided rockets that take down enemies even if you miss them was a game changer, and not in a good way, and boy are these tanks fast.
There’s a bit of driving around an airbase knocking out enemy weapon positions and mowing down the little stick figures that get in the way. Enemy tanks put up a token defence but it’s like shelling peas and then you’re back in a helicopter to hose more tangoes with the onboard mingun. It’s like ‘Nam in ’72, but you wouldn’t know because you weren’t there man!
You jump out, kill some more people, release a missile (you’ll never guess which button on the controller you have to press!) and then disobey orders to go and look for Mickey Rourke. There’s a countdown going on for something, but there’s plenty of time and it’s not like there’s anywhere to go except where the designers want you to – the usual collection of blockages and locked doors indicate your path nicely. Seems like the countdown is for a train leaving the base that you hop onto – they might be bad buys but at least the trains run on time.
Loki (9) We’re back in space, but it feels suspiciously like the underwater level from earlier because it involves shooting fish in a barrel. It’s like ‘Moonraker’ without the big guy. In fact a lot of the game felt like a Bond film to me but with more gadgets and no girls or humour. Once stuff’s stopped blowing up you can fire some big things at the enemy and you get to pilot a drone – see I told you.
The Ghost Killer (18) This level provides an explanation as to why you fire on the train even though there are Ghosts aboard. To me it signifies how the wellspring of re-used ideas has finally run dry for the game designers. It plays out, literally on rails, pretty much like the end level of ‘Gears of War’ except that it is infinitely easier.
The Credits Watch out for extra bits of story during the credits – I almost missed them because the World Cup final had started, but my controller vibrating alerted me to fact that some form of addition gamer interaction was required. It’s all quite illogical how you survived and so I guess it’s not a big stretch to expect that Rorke has also survived. What’s more surprising is that he leaves your bro’ alive. It’s almost as if there’s going to be a sequel or something…
Conclusion Well done Infinity Ward for moving away from the success of the world of Modern Warfare and MW2; it’s a bold step to take in much the same way as taking the step away from WWII was. But at approx. 4-5hrs (allowing for a bit of dicking around and piss breaks) gameplay you might as well have not bothered with campaign mode and saved yourself some time and money which could have been invested in the Multiplayer mode, which is why everyone (but me) buys the game.
I have rarely got 450 Gamerscore so easily and I really don’t feel as though I earned it. No amount of slick loading graphics and cutscenes will make up for boring gameplay and next time let’s have some characters we can care about please – where’s that Scottish bloke with the funny hat and the tash got to – you know the bassist from Spinal Tap – he was cool?
PS: For those expecting a review of Lego Marvel Avengers it’s not going to happen – I played it for about half an hour and then ditched it off. There was something oddly soulless about the game in comparison to all the other Lego games.