Spoiler Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Call Of Duty: Ghosts including the ending. Don’t read if you’re playing it.
The noble sacrifice occurs in many different games, books, and movies. Someone or something has to be sacrificed for the good of the majority, and most of the time the one who must die agrees to it. On the rare occasion though the sacrifice is unwilling, clinging to life because they want to be part of the majority who survive. This is the ignoble sacrifice, the one who was killed or lost against their wishes to save the majority. The story of Ghosts hinges of this as the events stem from the moment Elias lets go of Rorke’s hand, letting him plunge to the watery depths below.
In this latest entry to the Call Of Duty franchise the USA is no longer the superpower it once was, instead a ruined wasteland brought to its knees by The Federation. This new faction is made up of the oil producing nations of South America who manage to dethrone the traditional powers, and take the new role as global superpower. This leads to war and an eventual stalemate, with the US using their Ghost team to infiltrate Federation held areas and destroy them to weaken the alliance. The Ghosts are a highly effective team and were unequalled for quite some time, until Rorke was betrayed.
Rorke was the best Ghost who believed in the mission and helping the failing United States in their war. He did everything to bring the unit up as the very best not just in the US military, but all militaries. When he is dropped into the water he doesn’t see it as the necessary sacrifice to save the rest of the unit. No, Rorke sees this as a betrayal by the very group he essentially raised in his image, and the very country he swore to protect.
This seed of betrayal is planted in Rorke’s mind but only really flowers when The Federation manage to capture the Ghost, and break him. Maybe when Rorke was first being tortured he held on to some hope that the Ghosts would materialise in front of him, exact vengeance on those who hurt him and take him back. As each day passed without that happening Rorke’s seed of hatred flourished and he decided that it was The Federation’s fault he was in this mess. They were just an opposing army doing exactly what he would have done in their situation.
Rorke comes to see the Ghosts as an element that needs to exorcised and removed from the war, because in his eyes they are no longer an honourable group. The only way to make sure the Ghosts fall is by joining The Federation and doing whatever is necessary. Rorke doesn’t care about casualties because he was one himself, and he can always blame the US for any civilian collateral damage. This is why he embarks on a mission which encompasses using weapons systems that can cause mass destruction, as well as setting up explosive ambushes right in the heart of a major Federation city.
At one point Rorke sets up an ambush during Federation Day in Caracas, Venezuela at the top of a skyscraper, while thousands below appear to be attending a concert celebrating the founding of The Federation. The mission starts off quietly enough but by the end of it some soldiers have fallen from the windows, and a large explosion dislodges a huge sign from the top of a building, sending both of those elements into the crowd below. It’s not acknowledged by anyone in the mission but you have to assume that all the falling debris would have led to a huge number of fatalities, especially in such a crowded area where civilians were celebrating.
It’s here you can argue that Rorke has crossed a line, but he has taken all this training from The Federation, who years before decided to flood an entire city in an attempt to push back an invading army. In a way Rorke has taken the lesson from his own situation that the ignoble sacrifice is something very few will act to stop, as long as it see as the greater good by the bigger side. Rorke is winning this war and the civilian cost to him is negligible because it helps in sending a message to the Ghosts.
Both sides continue this open warfare, hitting factories, oil rigs and cities while racking up the casualty count until a final showdown occurs between Rorke and Elias’ sons. Rorke states he has respect for the Ghosts, the fallen and the living, but he can’t forgive the betrayal he felt when he was left to die. Elias’ sons, Hesh and Logan, try to end the reign of Rorke by making the noble sacrifice of themselves to finally rid the world of Rorke.
They’re all hit with a missile from the orbiting Loki weapons system, with Rorke once again sent to the depths. It appears that the monster who was born from the waves finds his finally resting place there, but if there’s one thing we learn from Ghosts is that the noble sacrifice means nothing.
And what was born in the waves can’t be killed by them.