Ghosts go all out on a killing spree
WAR, apparently, is hell. But in Call of Duty: Ghosts, it's also weird, wacky and wearisome.
Within the first 10 minutes of the game's wayward story mode, your forest stroll will have been ruined by apocalyptic explosions, after which you'll survive a bloody showdown in a spaceship and destroy an interstellar death ray - then run for your life as San Diego burns to the ground.
You'll probably accidentally shoot your new dog Riley, too. I did. Whoops.
The desperate grab for fresh ideas is a sign that after 10 instalments of the world-dominating first-person shooter, Activision may finally be running out of them. In comparison to previous Call of Duty games - remember Modern Warfare's morality-debating airport shooting spree - the best word to sum up Ghosts' story mode is, well, "tame".
As Sergeant Logan Walker, you'll kill an awful lot of Federation enemies with a mind-boggling array of weaponry.
And you'll do it in a variety of places, including the Amazon, the Caracas, Las Vegas and a bleak, burnt-out area called No Man's Land, with occasionally impressive set pieces. All of Call of Duty's boxes are ticked, and that's about it.
But here's the thing: You're not buying Ghosts for its story. Many of the millions of people who have purchased it won't even bother playing it. The reason you're buying Ghosts is for its staggering array of multiplayer modes and it offers more options for your killing sprees.
Favourites like Domination and Deathmatch are included, but ramped up with new weapons, impressive character customisation and a playable female character - a sign the franchise is finally acknowledging its reach beyond men. But the brand new Extinction mode is something else entirely: A four-player arcade-style game in which you're attacked by hordes of marauding aliens resembling canine devil beasts.
You're probably not buying Battlefield 4 - the second-biggest first-person shooter out this month - for its story either.
But unlike Ghosts, it's a near-essential part of the package.
It throws gamers into the action from the opening car crash that's set to Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart. "I don't want to die to this song," yelps an injured soldier during the commotion.
Battlefield 4 ups the realism at every turn. At one point, your platoon will be raked by bullets, and your rescue helicopter crashes and burns.
You'll have to cut off the leg of a pinned soldier, drag him to a car, then drive through ruins which fall all around you. It was so exhilarating I had sweaty hands afterwards.
Where Battlefield falls down in comparison to Ghosts - aside from those annoying ads for Premium content - is its multiplayer options.
CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4, Xbox One