Let’s just put this right out here: Yes, I’m finally getting around to playing a PS4 game. Yes, I pre-ordered the system and so I’ve had it for the better part of six months. Considering that you can’t easily walk into a store and buy one right now, I’d say that pre-ordering WAS the better idea even if well uh can we just move on?
Call of Duty: Ghosts was pretty heavily advertised as It’s Like Call Of Duty, But This Time You Have A Dog Buddy, and I have to admit that – even though I’m a cat person – that was kind of a selling point. Riley exudes Dog Charisma and taps directly into the part of the male brain that wants to spend an entire afternoon in a park throwing an increasingly-slobbery tennis ball. There are some human characters but they’re, well, kind of indistinct. They’re brawny guys with short hair and a lot of black and white make-up and I’d be hard pressed to tell you which was which if they didn’t have names that helpfully pop up whenever you point a gun at them.
It’s a weird game for me to be talking about, because the part I played, which is the short single-player campaign, is the part that could arguably be dropped without most players actually noticing. It’s a multi-player shooter, mostly, and I’m thoroughly unqualified to judge those.
I am, however, going to judge the heck out of the single-player campaign. Not in a bad way, mind you. It’s a tremendously polished experience with all sorts of neat set pieces and in-world cutscenes and little minigames popping up to break you out of the monotony of walking forward and putting virtual bullet A into virtual Bad Guy B while avoiding being shot by virtual Bad Guys C through approximately U.
W, X, and Y represent your teammates, who as per tradition do just enough shooting so you don’t have to take care of C through W on your own but never quite SO much that you feel like you could just sit back and let them carry you through missions like this was Rainbow Six Vegas or something.
Z represents Riley, who you actually get to see for about 10 minutes of the game.
Anyway, it’s a fairly heavily narrative-driven shooter. North America is invaded by South America and there’s a guy who REALLY doesn’t like you or your dad and um you have to save the world (or at least the North American part of it) and try to kill that guy.
Look, I didn’t say it was a DEEP narrative. It kind of reminded me of Homefront, but with a slightly less implausible villain.
There’s enough there to justify the various urban and jungle and underwater and outer-space environments you get thrown into, at any rate, and “thrown into” is decidedly the right phrase because the game LOVES to switch things up on you without much notice, sometimes mid-level. You’ll be fighting your way through, oh, a massive industrial complex when suddenly the view changes and you’re looking at the same building from the POV of a helicopter pilot providing air support. Once you’ve done the needful, you zoom back into your old body to continue the ground assault. It seems pretty clearly designed to prevent you from getting bored and thinking about how you’ve got laundry to do and oh you should pick up some milk on the way home tomorrow or, you know, anything but the next set of mooks you have to gun down and the next minigame you have to play.
If I had any complaint about the story, it would be that you’re REALLY competent and fabulously well-equipped and that you and your squad kind of come off as bullies from time to time. While you are penalized in at least one instance if you deliberately shoot a non-combatant, you generate a ton of collateral damage and your squad mates have no compunctions about, oh, grabbing an unarmed foreman, breaking his leg, using his hand to activate a security scanner and then shooting him in the head. You’re not nice people and there’s really not much effort given to justifying it.
Oh, sorry. Second complaint. The game levels are REALLY detailed and the artists put a ton of work into them, so I tended to want to actually stop from time to time and just look around. This tended to get me killed – not because I was getting shot at, but because the game would decide that I’d stood in place too long and kill me automatically, usually popping up a “you died!” screen that included a message along the lines of “you need to keep moving.”
In the end, I feel like I got my money’s worth out of the campaign and it looked REALLY good on the PS4.
And Riley was pretty awesome, even if you didn’t actually see him much.