You burn with us: PAR plays the single player campaign of Call of Duty: Ghosts
There is a moment in Call of Duty: Ghosts where your character is rappelling down the side of a massive glass building in some exotic location. “The lights are on inside, they can’t see us,” your squadmate notes before calling out a target. You line up the shot, your gun silently spits a chunk of metal through the glass, and the virtual life at the other end of your shot is extinguished.
This moment is everything perfect and terrible about the Call of Duty single-player campaigns. There is no real risk of failure since, as you’re told, they can’t see you. They won’t fire back. There is no danger and very little risk to the gameplay, but you still feel capable, nasty, and able to reach around the world and snuff out a life. The trigger and the scope give you a sense of power, and that ability to get things done with a high level of efficiency is what makes these campaigns so attractive.
The world of Call of Duty is stylized to the point of absurdity. This is a land where might makes right, where the highest possible calling a man can have is to pick up a gun and make that his religion. This land of armed militias being likened to superheroes often reads like the masturbatory fantasies of the lost men you meet at gun shows, who argue endlessly about fully automatic weapons they will never need in their day-to-day existence; like car enthusiasts who dream of going 200 miles an hour while driving in suburbia.
This is the game for people who don’t dream of flying, but instead find excitement in the idea of controlling a drone as it rains destruction on remote targets. During an early scene, I assumed that there would be not be gunfire because that part of the game takes place in space, but of course everyone involved has space machine guns. I’m curious about whether such a thing exists, but Call of Duty presents military technology as wish-fulfillment. If it sends you to space, of course there will be a trigger to pull.
You’ll swim underwater, through amazingly realized wreckage of ships, and you’ll dodge sharks, and you’ll sink massive ships. If you move slowly and take out each target as its presented the game won’t be difficult unless you increase the difficulty settings, but you will be made to feel as if you can do anything, to anyone, at any time. I’m a man in his 30s who is dealing with raising a family and the nearly infinite amount of intricate problems that come with that territory. Being shown a linear world in which every problem can be solved with a knife shoved through someone’s eye is seductive.
The game is linear, and there is limited replay value, but for that one playthrough you’ll feel as if you’re on a rollercoaster of the best military fetishism, and that is something I enjoyed immensely. There is not a single moment where the game shows restraint, or pulls back. The space machine guns are only part of it, as you’ll also see an attack dog that can take down a helicopter. You’ll travel to amazing places to meet kind of interesting people and then try to kill them.
This may sound terrible on paper, and there will be players that aren’t captivated by what is being offered, and that’s perfectly fine. This is the best of what this sort of game wants to offer, the apex of a sort of gameplay that fuels a large part of what is arguably the most popular game in the world. We enjoy being tourists to war, and the wicked snap of bringing up the iron sights to take down an enemy soldier always feels wonderful.
Ghosts would be repetitive if the core feeling of combat wasn’t so perfect, and if the artists behind these setpieces didn’t go to such insane lengths to show us so many amazing things. This is a guided tour of a world on fire, and your job is to move from place to place and throw gasoline everywhere you land.
I absolutely adored it.