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“Call of Duty: Ghosts," the newest version of the highly popular military first person-shooter series, is out this week -- and arguably has one of the most right-wing premises in video game history.
The COD games are the video game equivalents of Michael Bay movies: loud, shouty, full of explosions, ever so slightly ridiculous, and outrageously popular in spite of the critics.
“Call of Duty: Ghosts” is very much the same, which is its strength as well as its biggest weakness. There's no denying the game excels at heart-pounding action, addictive multiplayer mode and stunning graphics. But the whole thing has an air of déjà vu that may irritate some gamers.
The background to “Ghosts” reads like a novel from the minds of domestic oil drilling supporters mixed in with some neo-conservative foreign policy, with a few sprinklings of pro-border security sentiment thrown in for good measure.
In the alternate reality in which the game takes place, America’s reliance on foreign oil has become its Achilles heel after the Middle East oil economy collapses. With the U.S.A.’s peace-keeping dominance crippled, the geopolitical situation destabilizes, and a shadowy group known as “The Federation” takes over South and Central American countries and begins executing North American nationals on the orders of their anti-American leader. America gets weak, bad things happen.
Despite the U.S.’s best efforts to keep those south of the boarder at bay by building an enormous wall across the border (sounds like comprehensive immigration reform was a bust in this reality), The Federation manages to hijack an American space weapon and obliterate a handful of major U.S. cities, launching their invasion in the process.
After his home is destroyed in the above obliteration, the American protagonist comes across the remnants of a band of elite soldiers known as “The Ghosts,” and joins them in fighting back against the forces at bay. Cue lots of “Oorah” Marine sentiment, tattered American flags waving defiantly against the foreign aggressors, solemn trumpet music and guns that make the AR-15 look like a water pistol.
Little features like your new canine chum “Riley,” who will prowl around the battlefield hunting for stray opponents, are nice little additions, but they are hardly game-changing developments. Although the environments are different in some ways (in the first 5 minutes you’ll find yourself in orbit fixing a space station), the meat of the Call of Duty gameplay is as it always was, and many of the set pieces feel like the same old thing wrapped up in a new environment. It’s still lots of fun, but you may have the unerring sense that you’ve played this mission before in a different world.
The single player will also struggle to last beyond 6 or 7 hours. That comes to about 10 bucks an hour. Worth it on its own? Probably not.
Yet single player has never been the selling point for COD; instead it’s the multiplayer that proves to be the draw. Like its predecessors, the multiplayer option in “Ghosts” is among the best of any on the market.
There are multiple ways to play, from traditional individual or team deathmatches to twists on capture-the-flag, to even fighting off hordes of alien invaders in the new “Extinction” mode.
These modes are strung together by the ability to upgrade your player’s rank by succeeding in battle, leading to a “just one more fight” addictiveness. These upgrades allow greater customization with loadouts and personalization, now even allowing you to create your very own squad of up to ten soldiers with which you can fight against other squads online.
There are a whole host of options, and everything runs deliciously smoothly, sliding you from game to game, and making the whole process highly addictive as you seek to level up and get cooler stuff.
Ultimately “Call of Duty: Ghosts” won’t satisfy those looking for a single-player only experience, nor will it convert those who have never worshipped at Activision’s altar. But then again, Activision and Infinity Ward don’t need to proselytize – millions play Call of Duty all over the world every day, and are eager for a new game even just a bit better than the last edition.
In this “Ghosts” does not disappoint, and fans will respond to the call of duty once again.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows and Wii U, and will be available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this month. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M – Mature.
Adam Shaw writes about video games for FoxNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Kupo1211.