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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Call of Duty: Ghosts.

TranscriptEdit

There was a recurring Monty Python sketch where a group of middle-aged women would announce that they were going to reenact some famous historical event, but every single event was represented by a hilarious speeded-up handbag fight in a muddy field. I find myself reminded of it with the Call of Duty series; every time I think it's gonna do something else for once, it blows a whistle and everything descends into squeals and handbag-slapping.

Case in point, CoD: Ghosts. Not only is it not a game about the vengeful spirits hanging around English chip shops, but it's also not the game it purports to be in its own intro sequence. The Ghosts, as the name might imply, are ostensibly a legendary stealth unit that specializes in taking down larger forces through sneaky guerrilla tactics. So obviously, one of the first things you do in the game is ram-raid an enemy base in a burning truck and start gunning down every living thing from the dandelions on upwards. Yeah, that's some good ghostin' there, lads! Truly, thou art akin to the flicker of a candlelight shadow as you waddle around an open field being shot at from nineteen different directions.

The other thing I gathered ahead of time was that the plot would be about a weakened U.S. fighting a superior foe, which would make a nice change from the usual case wherein the heroes jump all over vastly inferior foes for floating the idea that maybe the U.S. could stop eating all the pancakes for five minutes. So here's the sitch: the U.S. has been invaded by all of South America. OK, gonna have to stop you there, Call of Duty: Ghosts; I get that all of your plots are birthed from the fantasies crossing the mind of a paranoid, xenophobic fuckwit as he has violent grunting sex with a pile of damp moss, but at least you used to stick to foreigners who potentially are enemies of the U.S., and South America has better things to do with its time than sit around shaking its fist at your freedoms all day, at least as long as association football exists!

Anyway, they attack America by hijacking America's orbital missile weapon. OK, gonna stop you there again, Ghosts! Firstly, so much for the enemy being "superior" if they can't make their own superweapons and gotta pinch 'em like safari park baboons nicking the windscreen wipers. And secondly, orbital fucking missile weapon!? This invasion is sounding more justifiable by the second! 'Cause not only is the U.S. outsourcing their weapons development to fucking Megatron, but they also appear to have exterminated every single member of their population who isn't a burly white dude.

Just for fun I kept a running tally of all the characters in the story campaign who aren't burly white dudes and you are under no obligation to shoot. The final total was three: a female astronaut right at the start who immediately dies, a helicopter that spoke with a woman's voice, and a black member of the Ghosts unit who immediately dies. And, frankly, when that happens, the main characters displayed less emotion than when their dog got shot. "Dammit, the black guy died!", they seemed to say, "Now we can't claim to have tons of black friends while arguing on the internet!"

You are one of two burly white brothers whose burly white dad has been secretly testing them over the years to make them worthy of joining the Ghosts, it never having occurred to him that they might prefer to become pastry chefs or something. The main baddie turns out to be a burly white friend of the burly white dad who was captured by the enemy and turned to their side.  Damn South Americans! It's not enough for them to steal our orbital doomsday satellites, they have to start harnessing the power of our burly white dudes as well!

Also, there's a dog. A German Shepherd, the burliest and whitest of all the dogs, who was a bit of unique selling point in the lead-up: he'll run out and savage South Americans at your command because he's been fed on an exclusive diet of neck-shaped burritos. And there are missions where you play as the dog, and finally get to do some fucking ghosting as you sneak around the long grass internally debating the choices at the throat buffet. I was gonna bring up Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, but that might be too cosmopolitan a reference for this game.

All of which would have had more of an impact if the dog got to be in more than two levels before the game goes "Right, hope you got your money's worth!" and sends him to the time-out kennel forever. Not that I was expecting him to tag along for the scuba diving bit, fucking amazing as that would've been, but the fact is his role in the game is just another momentary gameplay gimmick. It would've been nice if he'd had some kind of personality besides being just another piece of military hardware for the armchair generals to masturbate over. Although, the same could be said of the human characters!

Speaking of hardware, there are the standard apocalyptic coffee break sequences, where you pull out a remote from the arse dimension and rain predator drone death down on an enemy unable to in any way defend themselves or fight back. And d'you know what? I don't see how I'm supposed to have any grasp of the relative enemy threat when we may or may not be packing armfuls of superweapons we forgot to mention. Like after the enemy base ram-raid, I'm told to pick off the stragglers with the robot sniper. Hold on a second, when did we set up a fucking robot sniper? What did we bring it here in? How did we set it up without the enemy noticing; did we disguise it as a badger-watching station?

Incidentally, the Ghosts are well-fucking-equipped for a guerrilla unit. "Oh, no, America has been attacked and is weakened and there's no defenses except an inexhaustible supply of tank battalions and an army of killer robots. And we would've had a doomsday satellite if the rest of the world hadn't gotten all weird about it!" Which they were entirely right to be because when the player wrestles control of the satellite back at the end, they immediately use it to wipe hundreds of thinking, feeling blips off the map as casually as one were to use a windscreen wiper on a rainy day!

Yet again, it seems like they cut out every moment in the story that could've built context but didn't have any explosions in it. And if they hadn't added voiced plot-dumps to the loading screens, the experience would've been as coherent as scrambled porn intercut with the fantasies of Tea Party members. And "fantasy" really is the word; the vehicles all handle like turbo-boosted magic carpets, lest anything requiring actual skill get in the way of your unpleasant paranoid battle-glory daydream, so divorced from reality it might as well be taking place in fucking Narnia!

So however you might have expected a game called Ghosts to differ from the modern shooter routine of meaningless violence and empty spectacle, you were wrong, ya idiot! But somehow it's only getting worse! Black Ops II actually came across as at least slightly self-aware, and Modern Warfare (One) went so far as being profound, such as in that bit where you die slowly and horribly in a nuclear blast. If that happened in CoD: Ghosts, you'd probably just fart all the radiation out in one big heroic guff, pull the broken glass out of your eyeballs and then use it to shiv the Ayatollah.

AddendaEdit

  • Race traitor: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Of course the only thing that can stop a bad guy with an orbital doomsday satellite is a good guy with an orbital doomsday satellite
  • Even I know firing machine guns in a space station isn't going to end well

Jam: The AudiobookEdit

"I woke up one morning to find that the entire city had been covered in a three-foot layer of man-eating jam."

Jaaam...


"Last night we were nothing; a freelance musician and an unemployed. But you know what we are now?"
"...Both unemployed?"

Jaaam...


"Unlike you people, I have no illusion as to my usefulness in an actual apocalypse. The most I can hope for is to die in a pose that confuses future archaeologists."

Jaaam...


"How can you be a secret government agent when you're so bad at lying!?"
"I'm not a secret government agent." said X, lying badly.

Jaaam...


"You think you're so great, don't you? Sitting around in your tall building, with your offices and your... windows. Well! ...You're not!"

Jaaaaaam... The Audiobooooook...

[Available now on iTunes and Audible.com]

ScreenshotsEdit

Ghosts1

"Yeah, that's some good ghostin' there, lads!"

Ghosts2

"So much for the enemy being 'superior'."

Ghosts3

"The Ghosts are well-fucking-equipped for a guerrilla unit."

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time

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