Posts Tagged ‘call of duty’

Bi-Pixel Reviews: Modern Warfare 2 – Part Two

November 18, 2009

Here is part two of the Bi-Pixel reviews. If you missed part one, click here.

Before we begin, I have tried my utmost to avoid spoilers. What appear as vague, sporadic statements are actually beautifully surmised acumen to help you, the eager reader. That and poor writing.

shite

“Hello narrative, how are you today?”
“I’m good thanks, how you been keeping?”
“Sorry, I can’t answer that.”
“Okay, how’s plot doing these days? The one I keep hearing about?”
“Sparta!”

This year’s summer blockbuster has been repackaged in the form of a video game. Modern Warfare 2 arrived last week under some heavy scrutiny brought on by its Arnie credentials and children’s attire. So what does one make of this spectacle? Let us begin.

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The game is not trying to portray a docudrama so I will forgive the ludicrousness; we are in it for the thrill, not the accuracy. The problem is when it you are able to fully comprehend it, it’s fully preposterous. The characters are just too flat and often indistinguishable. As a narrative, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 does not measure up to the best video games, including its predecessor. That is not to say that the original Modern Warfare was in any way realistic, rather, a plausible logical progression of real world military events that we have seen, read, heard or even actively participated in.

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Modern Warfare 2 seems to revel in its multiple protagonists to the point of self-parody – switching between the characters quicker than a Kyle moral stance. Four different characters get at least one full level a piece and for me that became a problem. Due to the small amount of time I had to spend in each character’s shoes, it diminished the impact of the events that take place around each character. When John Smith takes that inevitable bullet, John Smythe steps in to fill those unassuming shoes.

Remember the ‘holy shit’ moments from the original? Well, the good guys at Infinity Ward have taken that set piece and ran with it for 5 or so hours; one jaw dropping moment follows the next. The problem with the Schwarzeneggisms is that they lose their bite after a while, the game tries so hard to flummox the player that at times it feels like you are in an episode of 24 (season six, I would be okay with the Bauer 1.0). For a game that tries to stir such a vitriolic response through these set pieces it me left wondering why the game tries to place the character so specifically within their environment. Why was it that Soap in Durkastan feels more believable than Roach Sanderson in Afghanistan?

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That ambiguity of the previous instalment left the player to fill in the blanks. Unfortunately, this time round we haven’t developed the capacity for analogy. The script seems as if it were written by a 9/11 conspirator. The game over screens that recite ambiguous smuggery from Voltaire and Gandhi are now coupled with quotes from progressive forward thinkers like Rumsfeld and Cheney. The morality of conflict underpins the narrative of the franchise, I accept this, but what is more concerning is how Modern Warfare 2 revels in sheer delight at the despicable atrocities on screen. The game’s power lies in its perverse achievement – you actually feel bad for playing it. Take for example that controversial incident. The game slows down to absolute zero, while you walk through taking in the ‘scenery’. Infinity Ward should have put signs up around the terminals at this point.

“Look what you are doing!”
“Yes we designed it, but you are playing it, yes you……David!”

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I know i’ve defended the right for this particular scene, having not experienced it within a narrative context. Having now digested the scene within its context, I can safely say that it offered nothing to the flow of the game. It occurs far too early to hold any weight, we don’t know the character at this point and have only just dipped our toes into the plot when the onslaught proceeds. If it had come at a later stage of the game, when some emotional attachment (okay a bit far stretched) had been cemented, I would be the first celebrate. After all, the industry has had its fair share of critics since the first pixels blipped. A scene like this only supplies ample resources to the snobs who sneer, while divulging in subtitled, silent snuff films. I guess my main gripe with the single player campaign is that it feels like it has something to say about our political climate, it tries to shock and heckle, but it essentially hands you firecrackers for 5 hours then highlights what a bastard you are for using them. I must admit though, when done right those bangs are mighty impressive.

boom

Dré

Bi-Pixel Reviews: Modern Warfare 2 – Part One

November 11, 2009

After a year of hype, a dubious mark up and tabloid controversy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 finally arrived on shelves. You know the drill, part one good, part two bad. Here is part one of Bi-Polar Reviews, which I shall now refer to as Bi-Pixel reviews…See what we did there??

Yeah I know we could…a lot better.

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The new Modern Warfare is not so much a reinvention of the automatic, but rather, a refined scope to a more than substantial arsenal. As the tired saying goes, it’s the little things that make the difference. If you’ve played a significant amount of the first Modern Warfare, the game will feel dramatically different even though the core is essentially the same. For the developers Infinity Ward, this was a considered choice rather than simple economy. Why change a structure that many rivals have struggled to emulate?

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Online gaming shaped the franchise, so understandably, it is this aspect of the game that has been given the biggest revamp. A lot of these changes come via expansions upon the perks concept that became a stable for the original game and a tablet for subsequent multiplayer games. The system of class creation has been expanded in spots and heavily reworked in others. Perks that got a lot of complaints in COD4, like Martyrdom and Juggernaut have been rebranded. The infamous Martyrdom is now a “deathstreak” bonus. If you die four times in a row without killing anyone, your next spawn will give you one instance of Martyrdom. This may not sound like much, but these minor adjustments will enable the gamer to have a more fluid experience – one not buried under several clouds of debris. Juggernaut is gone completely, but arrives in small doses in the shape of Painkiller, another deathstreak perk that will give you triple health if you die three times in a row, a bonus that will only last for ten seconds after spawning. Before I begin to sound like a reclusive Warcraft tactician (Leeeroy!), I will simply say that the new multiplayer experience is a streamlined affair that doesn’t lose the feel of the developers previous release in the process.

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The new mode, Spec Ops is a welcomed addition. A series of two player missions, built using chunks of the environment from the single player campaign – help bolster up replay value for the game. There are 23 missions that cover a lot of ground, from stealth missions that require you to snipe from one end of the map to another, to more grandiose battles that pit you against hordes of enemy troops in contrasting environments. All require a level of patience, strategy and skill. However, the ability to revive your fallen soldier makes the mode not nearly as taxing as it might sound.

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Then of course there is the single player campaign. Modern Warfare 2 picks up five years after Call of Duty 4 and deals with a conflict between Russia and America. The game is around 5-7 hours long on default depending on your skill level. It’s a tightly packed adventure full of elaborate set pieces and an overwhelming sound board. Missions range from the stealthy, to the vehicley to the ‘oh my god I just stabbed him in the face!’

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I’m deliberately talking around the story, but it is safe to say that like its predecessor, the campaign jumps between multiple perspectives. One minute you may be a grunt trudging through a decayed landscape of Afghanistan, and the next you will be member of Task Force 141, working an undercover operation that puts you into that pretty uncomfortable situation you’ve been hearing a lot about recently. The story feels like it’s been given the Bruce Willis stamp of approval. The events of the previous game felt plausible if a bit on the silly side, Modern Warfare 2 on the other hand aims to keep chins on the floor, and then work around that awe.

Modern Warfare subscribes to the more and better theories of sequel design. If you have played the original, a lot of it will feel familiar (possible like this sentence), but you are still in for good value for that hard earned stirling. If you haven’t played the series before, bad guy kills good guy, good guys kill bad guys friend, bad guy kills good guys friend, good guy kills bad guy – the end.

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Dré

Modern Warfare, Modern Hype

October 30, 2009

cod

There has been a furore of commentary recently over leaked footage of the highly anticipated FPS Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In the footage we see a terrorist attack taking place in a public airport, civilians duck and cover, bullets fly and bloody rampage ensues. The controversy with the footage stems from the participation the player takes in this mass culling.

Now, video games have always had their fair share of critics and campaigners calling for the destruction of the pixels, but their arguments were normally grounded on a framework of alienation and indoctrination rather than political commentary and taste. What makes this leak more harrowing, more personal and subsequent more tabloid worthy, is the direct comparisons that have been made between it and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year.

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There have been some perfectly level-headed articles about the footage in question, but there is a worry that this will be outweighed by the more draconian reactionary responses before the general public has had a chance to digest the scene within a narrative context.

It is the focus on interactivity that defines the very medium but is also the cause of most of its ills. How much is too much? Infinity Ward (the developer of the game) are revered for their video game immersion – utilising these bleak set-pieces to absorb the players within the fiction. The opening scene of the first Modern Warfare would be a perfect example of this,

This uncomfortable positioning is the very foundation of the franchise. We are very much aware of our own mortality and the antagonist who is in control of it. This is a developer with no track record of controversial publicity – only consistently compelling FPS’s. Understandably, the footage was vehemently discussed because of the placement of the player within the attacks. We are no longer the impassive president being dragging unwillingly to our slaughter, or the grunt grasping their last breath beneath the mushroom cloud. We are in the position of power now, the Cheney with acog. There is no doubting that the new Modern Warfare will be the biggest selling game this year. I just pray that the footage shown will be part of a narrative that doesn’t leave itself open to a hysterical media campaign.

prestige

We’ve already got the night vision goggles for that.

Dré