Alternative Character Interpretation: For the Federation. As Dan Olson points out in his stream of the game, the implied reason for the Federation invading America (territorial expansion) makes no sense, because their use of O.D.I.N. renders large sections of the United States useless. However, their actions could be explained as preemptive self-defense, which wouldn't be completely unreasonable, given that the U.S. was flagrantly violating international law by secretly putting Weapons of Mass Destruction in space.
Author's Saving Throw: Due to the complaints about the standard game having many maps that are too big that slowed the pace of the game and encouraged heavy camping, Infinity Ward offered several small to medium-range maps in their DLC map packs. These map packs came too late as many players already abandoned Ghosts and went back to older CoD titles before the first map pack was released.
Awesome: Video Game Levels: One thing that is generally agreed is that the levels taking place in space and underwater are the most creative in the campaign, and introduce a welcome change of pace from the linear corridors that make up the majority of the story mode.
The overall increased size of the multiplayer maps compared to the previous Infinity Ward developed games in the series. Either this is a welcome change from Modern Warfare 3's lazer-tag-esque corridors, or they went too far in opening up the maps, removing the fast pace newer-generation Call of Duty is known for.
Snoop Dogg inbound fo'shizzle note as Mission Control DLC in multiplayer. Some of the base have no problem in paying 3 bucks for the DLC voice pack to have Snoop be Mission Control in Ghosts. Others see this as another money grab and further evidence CoD and the video game industry are spiraling toward death due to Infinity Ward using gimmicks rather than fixing long-standing series flaws. Of course, there are those who like Snoop, but wish he would do voice acting for video games that are not in the CoD franchise.
Assault Rifles are the dominant weapon type used in multiplayer. Their accuracy and high damage output mean just a few bullets can down a player, even in normal mode. In addition, all players take the grip attachment for their assault rifles. ARs are so effective that there is literally no reason to use any of the other weapon types.
In the realm of submachine guns, only the M-TAR and Vector are ever really used.
Critic-Proof: Initially advertised, as at first it appeared that all the negativity surrounding it as well as the lessened expectations for this entry, as Activision announced that Ghosts managed to pull off 1 billion dollars in retail sales on its first day. However as various sources have pointed out the 1 billion dollar figure is only how many copies retailers ordered, with the final day one figure being less than Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The figure Activision gave also included PS4 and Xbox One copies which weren't even available for sale at the time; the whole "1 billion" figure was a blatant lie for PR purposes so people would think they took back the sales record from Grand Theft Auto V. For some context on how significant it is that Ghosts' Day One sales are less than Black Ops 2, consider this: the last time a Call of Duty game sold less than its predecessor was World At War in 2008, and that was largely because gamers were disappointed to get yet another World War II game instead of continuing Modern Warfare's story, which they would need to wait a year for* Remember that in the mid-2000s, the FPS genre was incredibly oversaturated with WWII shooters; it was not until 2009 when Modern Warfare 2 proved COD 4 wasn't a fluke that the "Modern Military Shooter" took over the genre. Until Ghosts, every COD game had broken sales records annually.
Designated Hero: The Ghosts do some... rather questionable actions throughout the campaign. Perhaps the most noteworthy is when they destroy an Federation oil rig, along with likely hundreds of unarmed workers and the entire local ecosystem.
The United States government as a whole. The game expects players to be horrified when O.D.I.N. is hijacked and used against the U.S., but no mention is ever made of the fact that O.D.I.N.'s very existence represents as massive violation of international law.
Eight Deadly Words: This is part of the reason why it's considered by the fanbase to be the weakest game in the series: With no likable characters to speak of, villains whose motives are never elaborated on, and little Character Development for anyone, it's pretty easy to not care about the cast.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Riley (the dog). He was created to be a Breakout Character, and he ended up more popular than most of the humans in the game which led to Riley being kept alive after being wounded during the Sin City mission.
Franchise Original Sin: Ghosts is the game in the franchise that started the trend of nerfing kill/score/pointstreaks for future games even though the developers of those games intended these streaks to be weakened so that there would be less offensive streak-spamming and spawn-killing by offensive streaks. This had the unfortunate side-effect of making high offensive-streaks almost useless to go after. In Ghosts' case, most players just ran either the Support or Specialists Strike Packages instead of the Assault Strike Package due to many items in the Assault Package being too weak to run with (this also contributed to Ghosts' criticism for encouraging camping-style play in multiplayer).
Game-Breaker: On par for the course for any COD game, Ghosts has its share of these:
Marksman rifles in general are seen as overpowered, particularly the MR-28. They're the equivalent of Black Ops 2's FAL or SMR.
The MSBS assault rifle was hated for being the best gun in the game with high damage, accuracy, and range. Worse yet the MSBS (with the right equipment) was able to be adapted into a variety of playstyles leaving little ways to counter it outside using your MSBS to fight off opposing MSBS users. Some competitive leagues banned this gun from being used in matches as a result which later led to the gun receiving a nerf in damage, range, and rate of fire.
Ballistic vests are generally hated because they nearly double a player's health, and being part of the support scorestreak package, you're almost guaranteed to get a few.
The Squadmate scorestreak gives you an AI-controlled squadmate with a riot shield and pistol, which essentially adds an extra player to your team. It's also part of the support package, making it relatively easy to unlock.
The Amplify perk, which amplifies the footsteps of enemies, even ones using the Dead Silence perk. If you have a good set of earphones, you'll literally never be caught off guard with this perk.
After getting a range buff in a previous patch, the Bizon was the most powerful SMG in the game, if not the most powerful gun in general. You could throw a muzzle brake on the Bizon and have the Steady Aim perk, and you had a gun that puts Black Ops 2's SMGs to shame. You could just hose everybody by the hip. The gun was immediately nerfed back to its pre-patch state in May 2014 after outrage from the community.
Quite a few people were not happy when Activision stated they were "annoyed that GTA V" had taken all their records for best sales. Because you can't at least wish your rival game companies luck...
Sadly, a few gamers have been negative in regards to female soldiers, and it's not just limited to having women in Delta or DEVGRU, which is fair enough. Outright sexism, misogyny and rampant Stay in the Kitchen attitudes from those who claim this one thing is what will kill the franchise.
Some fans have also criticized the game for not including any of the gameplay advancements from Black Ops 2 such as multiple-choice situations, optional missions and objectives, a voiced protagonist, and multiple endings. The single player mode is just as linear as a Modern Warfare gamenote If you're familiar with CoD's effects on other shooters, this isn't that surprising - most gameplay gimmicks and innovations in Treyarch's games are completely ignored, both by IW's games and the legion of copycats, not because they're necessarily terrible or badly-implemented ideas, but simply because they came from Treyarch's games.
During the unveiling of the Xbox One, there was a presentation about the new graphics engine in Call of Duty: Ghosts. The "Advanced Fish AI" was quickly joked about because Super Mario 64 did it a full seventeen years earlier in 1996. This one spread enough that even PAYDAY 2, which came out three months before Ghosts, had an achievement making fun of them for it.
The dog (modeled after a real dog!).
Most Annoying Sound: During the mission "Sin City", Riley gets wounded by a stray bullet and you have to carry him to safety. The "M.A.S" part is that Hesh constantly bitches at you to pick up Riley, and he won't stop until you do so. However, while you are carrying Riley, you cannot use your weapons, which would be fine if there weren't hundreds of enemies shooting at you. That forces you to put Riley down. Cue Hesh yelling at you again. It might actually make you want to mute the game.
Narm: How over the top the whole story is. The bad guys have not one single redeeming trait and just end up being so incredibly generic they make you wonder why they even bothered.
Older Than They Think: The developers had been hyping certain new features as "innovative", ignoring that other engines did them long before. For instance, "dual-render" scopes (only the scope's view is zoomed in, while your peripheral vision stays the same - Unreal Engine 2 and Source can do itnote without the massive framerate drop Ghosts tends to have when aiming, either) and "advanced fish AI" that moves out of the way when you swim towards them (Super Mario 64, and for that matter every other 3D game ever with fish that don't actively try to kill you, has this - this one, especially combined with the fact that it didn't actually work when it was demonstrated, became a meme, enough so that other games like PAYDAY 2 have achievements taking the piss out of them for it).
Player Punch: At the end of the level "Legends Never Die," the game forces the player to drop Rorke in the rushing waters so the rest of the team will be spared. And unlike most Call of Duty games, where the alleged victim is telling you to sacrifice them so you'll live, Rorke is begging you not to let him die.
Possibly one of the worst optimized games to come out on the PC in all of 2013, Ghosts has a seemingly limitless amount of frame rate issues, including in menus, a narrow field of view with no way to adjust it (with a fanmade utility having a cease-and-desist order placed against it), and uses far more CPU power than it has any right to. This is made even more insulting when you remember that Call of Duty's roots are on the PC; although if you've been following the series for a while, it's not surprising either.
Just like with Call of Duty: Black Ops II on Wii U, the Wii U version of Ghosts never got all of the DLC and game patches the other platforms got. The only piece of DLC the Wii U version got was the multiplayer map Free Fall. With Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare released, Ghosts on the Wii U will not get any of the major DLC and game patches the other platforms got.
Saved by the Fans: Apparently, Infinity Ward was considering whether or not to kill Riley during the course of the game. The Memetic Mutation he received from the internet was one factor in their decision to just wound him.
Competitive players absolutely despise the Domination game type since Domination games usually devolve into flag camping.
Many players were not amused when they discovered it was possible to get a KEM Strike off a Care Package.
The spawn system in Ghosts is by far the worst of the series so far, with players being spawned in seemingly random locations, and all too often right in front of an enemy's gun. For example, one player managed to figure out how to kill the same player four times in just as many seconds.
So Okay, It's Average: Ghosts so far is one of the lowest scoring games after Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified in the franchise, with most reviewers giving the game middling review scores, mainly because it sticks to the same Modern Warfare formula.
That One Level: During the first real mission, no less. There's a point where you must use a laser-guided missile to shoot down a chopper. Unfortunately this isn't "set-and-forget" like a Stinger. Rather you must track the chopper until the rocket knows where to go, meaning you have to expose yourself and run around, trying to avoid getting blown up by the chopper's Vulcan cannons, all while carefully pointing at it with a laser (and it takes more than two shots to down, meaning you need to reload the rockets at least once to finally get rid of it, and those things don't reload quick). Even hanging out behind the armored vehicle near the steel doors doesn't provide nearly as much cover as you would really require to pull this off. Your squadmates aren't that helpful in shooting the foot soldiers on the bridge while you're busy with the chopper either.
Many did not like how Infinity Ward increased the multiplayer map sizes but kept the player limit the same, which resulted in the pace of the game slowing down. Neither did they like how Ghosts did not include either the traditional CTF game mode or the rather popular Hardpoint from Black Ops 2.
The idea of female soldiers, specifically that women can be in special forces, has some of the more backwards fans quite upset.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Many consider the Federation to be this as the secret files make the faction more complex and interesting with several of its member states being unwilling allies and the public unrest in the conquered Latin American nations. However, this is never expanded upon or referenced in the campaign since the focus is on the team either hunting Rorke or being hunted by Rorke.
Tough Act to Follow: Activision themselves admitted that they're not expecting Ghosts to beat Call of Duty: Black Ops II's sale records. Alongside that, BO2 had one of the best campaigns in the COD franchise, which worried people waiting for Ghosts - and sure enough, partly since the game refused to adapt any of the changes Black Ops 2 introduced, the game received lower scores.
The Un-Twist: Finding out that Elias was the leader of the Ghosts wasn't very shocking, in large part due to the trailers, and the fact that he knew so much about the Federation the moment they attacked.
Unfortunate Implications: As Ben Croshawpointed out, all of the protagonists are burly white men, bar three characters; a female astronaut who dies within minutes of her introduction, a nameless female helicopter pilot, and Ajax, the Token Minority who dies after about two lines, and nobody seems very concerned when he does.note To quote the review: "And, frankly, when that happened, the main characters displayed less emotion than when their dog got shot." All the other minorities are villains, often unsympathetic and just plain ineffective ones at that, relying entirely on Rorke to achieve their objectives. That's right: the only person out of the millions who work for the Federation who isn't portrayed as a weak, foolish coward... is the one white guy. Given the propagandic bent of the franchise, this was likely very deliberate.
Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The Ghosts can come across as a bunch of jingoistic, self-righteous killers who have very little respect for the Geneva Convention, blowing up civilians and surrendering soldiers multiple times throughout the campaign. Their unrelenting devotion to their country comes across less as "loyalty and patriotism" and more "indoctrination and Blind Obedience", as the combination of Offscreen Villainy and lack of any explanation regarding the backstory of the war beyond Elias just saying the Federation are evil gives us few reasons to consider them morally superior. Perhaps the most disturbing instance of this is when Elias retells the story of Logan following his brother's footsteps in the sand, essentially saying that he has no independence or the ability to think for himself- and this is portrayed as a good thing. As Hesh then states that the only reason Elias put them through training- described as Hell year after Hell year- was because he and Logan wanted it, it makes you wonder if Logan really wanted it or if he was just brainwashed into becoming a mindless follower. As for the other Ghosts, Merrick cares not a fig about actually making the world a better place, and admits that he just likes killing people.
The Woobie: The amount of physical and emotional anguish Logan and Hesh undergo (especially Logan, and some when they were teenagers) would be absolutely impossible to realistically survive, even if you were a Badass One-Man Army elite.