Thoughts from Under a Lethargic Fog
Some scribblings while I delay other scribblings.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
I downloaded the single-player demo for the PS3. It’s significant to note that playing first-person shooters with a joypad is like sitting on an old spiked Stahlhelm helmet: evil, and more than a little uncomfortable. But perhaps the squillion-selling FPS would make me forget how enormously inferior to a mouse-and-keyboard set-up the DualShock was by being this thing: great.
It was not great. It was a slightly more interactive version of a game I’ve just invented in my mind where you’re pulled by a hydraulic zip-wire – attached to a special metal band which wraps around your head – through a bunch of decently rendered set-pieces, and not just because it was a drag. Also, if you fail to hit a specific button on the band at specific times throughout the journey, the band explodes magnificently, erupting your skull and frustrating your comrades. It’s also the most egregious use of auto-aim I ever care to see. It’s like playing through with cheat codes activated by default – it’s nigh-on impossible to miss, or to die, or to stop moving forward for anything other than some interjecting expository nonsense.
It’s also the most insultingly obvious game I can imagine. Everywhere you look, there’s another HELPFUL REMINDER YOU’RE PLAYING A VIDEOGAME.
“Ooh, a powerful shooter.”
PRESS SQUARE TO PICK UP GUN.
“Hey, a prime rappelling oppportunity.”
PRESS SQUARE TO RAPPELL.
“Okay, I have to blow this machinery to bits.”
PRESS SQUARE TO PLACE EXPLOSIVES. WHY AREN’T YOU PRESSING SQUARE YET? THE NEXT WAVE OF ENEMIES WON’T SPAWN UNTIL YOU PRESS SQUARE.
Remember when you had a “use” key, and a functioning brain, and were relied upon to use them judiciously without fourteen million infuriating prompts popping up to remind me how utterly incompetent the game presumes me to be?
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Sufficiently irritated by the lobotomised shooting gallery that was CODBLOPS, I downloaded the Clone Wars demo. (INCIDENTAL SIDE NOTE: why does no one release demos for the PC anymore? Here’s a tip: if you stop treating PC gamers like melted lepers, perhaps I might occasionally buy a game at full price instead of waiting for a Steam sale or a concussed shopkeep handing me a copy in a daze or something. And to prove I’m not bluffing, I just pre-ordered The Witcher 2 from Good Old Games, except, in a cunning double bluff, I’m gaming the gog.com system of allowing you to pre-order without actually paying down any money at any point. (But because a man in my position cannot afford to be made to look ridiculous, I’ll stump up the $50 (€12) when the time comes.))
For what is, ostensibly, a children’s game, it offers far less hand-holding, far more sophisticated and interesting gameplay, and far more charm than CODBLOPS ever did. (Admittedly, that isn’t a very grand accomplishment, but it was still refreshing. It had something of a headstart, of course, being based on the wonderful Clone Wars animated series, instead of some gloomy ridiculous “Tom Clancy presents MEDAL OF WARFRONT” crossmedia globu-entertainment franchise. We have now found a franchise more stifling to a video game than Star Wars. Wonders never cease, &c.)
But because it’s very much focused on co-op, and I am STOICALLY ISOLATIONIST, I will never buy this game.
Hurrah! A PC demo at last!
Bah! It’s dreadful.