In 2017, U.S. Army officer Elias Walker tells his teenage sons Hesh and Logan the legend of how the Ghosts, an elite coalition of all U.S. Special Operations units, first appeared. Meanwhile, in space, the “Federation of the Americas” hijack the Orbital Defense Initiative (ODIN), an orbital superweapon that utilizes kinetic bombardment, and use it to destroy several cities in the southwestern United States.
American astronauts Baker and Mosley sacrifice themselves to self-destruct the space station and prevent ODIN from launching other payloads further inland. The Walker family narrowly escape the destruction of San Diego, California.
Ten years later in 2027, the war between the United States and the Federation has been a bloody stalemate along a front that comprises the destroyed cities (known as “No Man’s Land”), which has become a war of attrition as more Federation forces attempt to break the frontlines. However, the Americans stand their ground, fighting near the former United States-Mexico border. Hesh and Logan are part of a U.S special unit under the command of Elias and are accompanied by Riley, their loyal military-trained German Shepherd. During a mission into No Man’s Land, they spot American Federation agent Gabriel Rorke interrogating Ghost member Ajax. The brothers meet and join Ghost members Thomas Merrick and Keegan Russ (who are aiming to rescue Ajax), but he is killed.
The brothers return to Santa Monica, California, where U.S forces hold out against an assault from Federation forces, and reunite with their father, who reveals himself as the leader of Ghosts. Recruiting his sons into the Ghosts, Elias tells them about how Rorke was the Ghosts’ previous commanding officer until Elias was forced to abandon him during a successful mission in Caracas to assassinate former Federation leader Diego Almagro. The Federation captured and brainwashed Rorke, who is now hunting down members of the Ghosts.
The Ghosts capture Rorke, but Rorke’s men attack their plane and rescue him. The team lands in the Yucatán Peninsula, where they witness the launch of a Federation missile. The Ghosts then make significant gains against the Federation, successfully raiding a Federation laboratory in the Andes, destroying the Federation’s Atlas oil platform in Antarctica to lure their fleet away, and sinking a destroyer guarding the Brazilian coast. The team discovers that the Federation reverse engineered ODIN into their own orbital bombardment system named LOKI. After destroying a Federation factory in Rio de Janeiro, the Ghosts regroup at a safehouse in Las Vegas, but are captured by Rorke, who murders Elias.
In a last-ditch effort, the U.S. pools all its remaining forces in a synchronized all-out assault. While a team of soldiers board a shuttle and take over the Federation space center in the Atacama Desert, forces in space take over the Federation space station, seize control of LOKI, and turn its weapons on them, decimating Federation forces. Hesh and Logan then disobey Merrick’s orders and pursue Rorke to avenge their father. They are seemingly successful, but the effort proves futile as Rorke survives the encounter. Rorke captures Logan, impressed by him and wanting to brainwash him into a fellow Federation agent.
In a post-credits scene, Logan is seen being kept inside a pit in the jungle, presumably going through the same torture methods that Rorke went through.
Call of Duty: Ghosts received generally positive reviews from critics. It was praised for its multiplayer gameplay and introduction of the new game mode “Extinction”, but was criticized for its single-player campaign, rehashing of familiar concepts, and general lack of innovation. IGN praised the sequel for introducing “sweeping changes that breathe new life into the multiplayer experience” and called the campaign “lengthy, challenging, and varied”. GameSpot went even further regarding the campaign calling it “impressive” and “a terrific collection of shootouts and set pieces”. Both also welcomed the new character customization feature and game types in multiplayer, particularly Extinction which was called “tremendous fun” and “an interesting strategic dynamic”.
The game has also received a great deal of criticism, despite getting favorable ratings. Many critics claimed that its campaign mode lacks a compelling story and fails to connect emotionally. Many also agreed that while it is a solid game overall, Call of Duty: Ghosts does very little to reinvent the franchise and instead relies on a proven formula by offering more of the same familiar concepts from previous installments. PC Gamer dubbed the campaign as “exciting but only passively entertaining” and criticized the “whack-a-mole” feel in the game’s multiplayer. VideoGamer.com praised overall gameplay, saying it “seems more refined and enjoyable than Black Ops 2” but criticized the campaign calling it a “po-faced, nonsensical rehash of greatest hits long past”. Eurogamer was less critical of the campaign, commenting that “the Ghosts campaign can’t help but feel like a step backwards”, but that “it’s still capable of being devilishly entertaining” and “moment-to-moment thrills are still there, if muted by expectation”. Joystiq disparaged both types of gameplay, saying “It layers a fresh coat of paint over a tired design document; a document that brings players down a rote campaign path before landing them in a multiplayer mode that abandons many of the creative advancements seen in Black Ops 2”.