Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Game reviews: Call of Duty: Ghosts v Battlefield 4

Chris Schulz fires up his assault weapons and aims them at Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4. And the winner is ...

Fans of Call of Duty are buying Ghosts for its array of multiplayer modes.
Fans of Call of Duty are buying Ghosts for its array of multiplayer modes.

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 accidently 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 mindboggling 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 mode. Many of the millions of people who have purchased it since its release won't even bother playing it. The reason you're buying Ghosts is for its staggering array of multiplayer modes - and rest assured, Ghosts offers more options for your killing sprees than ever before.

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 hoards of marauding aliens that resemble canine devil beasts.

Fans of Call of Duty are buying Ghosts for its array of multiplayer modes.
Fans of Call of Duty are buying Ghosts for its array of multiplayer modes.

Most of the multiplayer options are worth trialling till you find your favourite (mine's Cranked, in which you have 30 seconds to kill someone before you explode), but Extinction is so good, it could become a bigger cult hit than those zombie maps from previous instalments. And it almost makes up for the lacklustre campaign.

The kicker? In order to play Extinction, you'll need to unlock it by finishing several missions in the campaign. Bummer.

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 right 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. Brilliant.

It's that kind of humour, along with a completely interactive environment and crystal clear graphics that makes Battlefield such a joy to play. Defence barricades will get blown to pieces in front of you. Buildings will crumble around you. Helicopters will crash and wipe out entire platoons. But don't take in the view for too long or you may get a headshot.

Battlefield 4 ups the realism and the chaos at every turn. At one point, your platoon will be raked by bullets from a gunship, watch in despair as your rescue helicopter crashes and burns, then fall off a collapsing building.

In the aftermath, you'll have to cut off the leg of a pinned soldier, drag him to a car then drive erratically through ruins while missiles pelt the ground 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.

There just aren't as many - but those that are there are as reliable as ever. Conquest (capture the flag) and Rush (bomb station detonations) are the obvious favourites, but newbie Obliteration could soon top them.

Players have to defend their base while using respawning bombs to destroy the enemies'. It's super-fast, super-frenetic and super addictive. It may not by a nice clean headshot, but in the war between first-person shooters, Battlefield 4 does enough to deliver a critical body blow to Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Stars: 3.5/5
Rated: R16
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One
Click here to buy Call of Duty: Ghosts

Stars: 4.5/5
Rated: R18
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Click here to buy Battlefield 4

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