Sociologically, it’s quite fascinating to see this year’s chest-beating, uber-macho, dude-bro first-person shooters both attempting to tackle fears of a changing world. Where Battlefield paints a picture of a USA terrified of China and Russia’s growth, Ghosts stays closer to home, the aggressors a militarised and economically powerful South America.
Yet while the former remains mostly po-faced, straining to impart on the player the gravitas of its scenarios, Ghosts almost gives us a wry grin. Its campaign is more sci-fi than anything, with orbital weapons devastating much of the south-western states and soldiers decked out with weapons that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in Star Trek. It’s so over the top in places that the whole thing almost borders on farce. Thankfully, the fun it has with its plot filters through to players.
Progression through the campaign is pretty weak though, a glorified corridor full of enemies to take down. Ratcheting difficulty right up and turning off aim assists will provide more of a challenge, but it does feel broadly like a shooting gallery, even more than its predecessors. For a game subtitled Ghosts, stealth plays a minimalist role at best. Riley, the much-publicised dog accompanying you into battle, gets the bulk of sneaky play, often darting through grass or small openings to avoid detection before savaging enemies. Clocking in at a meaty 9-12 hours and keeping the adrenaline pumping for much of that time, Ghosts remains one of the better solo offerings from the series in a while.
In the multiplayer arena, Ghosts offers up to ten customisable soldiers, each with six weapon load outs. The possible combinations of class and arms run into the thousands, providing a huge degree of versatility for creating an avatar that truly matches your play style, though the sheer breadth of options may be daunting. With thirteen match types on offer, there’s some overlap between them – a few too many variations on Team Deathmatch in particular – but all warrant some time. Both Cranked, which sees you having to maintain kill streaks within 30 seconds or risk exploding, and Extinction, an alien shoot out that finally drops the worn-out zombies, are great fun.
For those planning to hold off until the next generation hits, it’s worth pointing out that while both PS4 and Xbox One versions will run at a silky smooth 60fps, only the PS4 will do so in full HD, with Microsoft’s console relegated to an upscaled 720p. Weighing up, Ghosts’ single-player edges out Battlefield’s by virtue of the sheer outrageousness of its plot, though online players may prefer Battlefield for its larger maps and huge number of real players. Neither do anything spectacular to move their respective franchise forward though.