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Eight games which define a generation | Opinion | Gaming

The seventh gen of gamingMany words have been written about the ‘blockbuster’ games of the so-called seventh generation of home games consoles, but, as we move into a brave new world in November, what will their legacy be?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 boasted the biggest launch day sales figure in history (now more than likely claimed by GTAV) and Skyrim undoubtedly boasted the most hours spent by borderline-obsessed gamers indulging their fantasy lives, but some games made a more definitive impact (for me, anyway).

The titles below are the ones which made a significant impact for me on either Wii, PS3 or Xbox 360. (Sorry Wii U owners, but the real party is still to come, and also since I never owned a PS3, apologies in advance).

Resident Evil 4 (Wii)

Resident Evil 4: Wii EditionUndoubtedly the most suitable and effective port of a game I have ever come across, Resi 4 had it all. There was a great, likeable protagonist, admittedly not the sort of guy you might want to go for a drink with, and an intriguing mysterious action/adventure (not survival horror) coupled with a drop of Japanese insanity to keep things interesting.

Whether it was the obsessive upgrading of my weapons – you never know when you might need an extra shotgun shell – or the cripplingly simple puzzles which I still couldn’t complete, there was fun to be had around every corner here, and on the Wii it took things a step further in terms of control and immersion.

Of course this wasn’t the arcade-machine-in-your-house that was Umbrella Chronicles, which was excellent, but flawed, but somehow there was something terrifying about the fact that you can’t move your character properly. It just added to the experience.

By the time you got to Resi 5 the magic had worn off, and the novelty of not fighting zombies but gunning down people infected by parasites unfortunately couldn’t sustain it through.

Guitar Hero III (360/PS3/Wii)

Guitar Hero IIIAs much as its predecessor pushed the envelope over the first in the series, it was this game which really made its mark and told the world was here to stay (well, for a bit…).

The inclusion of rock icons such as Slash for the first time attempted to bring an element of narrative to proceedings, with mixed success, and shook off the legacy of Harmonix, the first game’s developer.

Like many Guitar Hero titles, the tracklist was key to the game’s success, boasting classics such as Pearl Jam’s Even Flow, Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson and, most memorably, Through The Fire and Flames by Dragonforce – a fiendishly hard track unlocked at the end of the game during the closing credits.

There might not have been a huge jump forward from Guitar Hero II, but the style and execution was more polished, consistent, and fun.

The coop or head-to-head battles made for some entertaining late night entertainment, especially when arriving home at 2.00am at university, and there is the added benefit of being exposed to some excellent music from a variety of bands and years.

Rock Band 3 (360/PS3/Wii)

Rock Band 3Of course, by the time Rock Band 3 came along, the music game was on its last legs, but this title is as close to entertainment perfection as I think any game has ever been.

The addition of downloadable tracks, which began with the first game, reached a peak in this title as new songs were added every single week since launch for years after the game first came out. Plus there was the chance for content creators to share out their own music on the service, and often get more exposure than they ever could have any other way.

The implementation of the keyboard could have been smoother, but it was still fantastic, and opened up the possibility of you actually learning keyboard through a console, something for which I’m sure Rocksmith is most grateful.

The title gave the most diverse range of songs to date and became a classic party game overnight.

The notes runway, developed by Harmonix for the first Guitar Hero, reached its peak with every song playing out its own way – even including space for some improvisation.

The instruments were slightly hit and miss compared to rival title Guitar Hero: World Tour, but the travel version of the game’s cumbersome drum kit quickly made the entire package more accessible.

This game defined multi-instrument gaming to an extent that it has never been bettered since. Some might argue that it was the final nail in the coffin of the music game era, but to finish with an encore like this? Not too shabby.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360/PS3/Wii)

Call Of Duty 4: Modern WarfareProbably the most influential game on this list. It spawned an entire generation of modern military shooters, many of which carrying the COD moniker, and the twitchy-action and gritty fast-paced style of the game was aped just as often as the gameplay.

The nuclear destruction of the protagonist mid-campaign, a tragedy the player could do nothing to escape, was one of the most dramatic moments in video game history. To take such a bold step was something which, unfortunately they weren’t able to live up to in subsequent iterations.

The execution of the gameplay is undeniably one of the most well-produced of the generation, and still holds up well today. Campaign mission ‘All Ghillied Up’, a flashback featuring the player taking control of series regular Captain Price on a stealthy sniper assignment, remains one of the most tense and memorable missions for a first-person shooter.

Although the multiplayer wasn’t for everyone, it undeniably set the standard with its level design and perks system, even pushing the envelope in terms of Downloadable Content, something build upon significantly in later games.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360/PS3)

Battlefield Bad Company 2What Modern Warfare did for shooters in general, Bad Company 2 did for vehicle combat.

Battlefield has always been about team play and the epic scale of war, and this title created a feeling of immersion within vehicles which I had never experienced before.

Not that it was the height of realism, but the map design and balance of different vehicles made it an incredibly compelling multiplayer experience. Flying vehicles were tricky, and arguably are still a little fiddly even now, but definitely good fun.

More impressive than the gameplay aspects though, where what developers DICE did with their new engine, Frostbite 2, which offered destruction even more impressive than that seen in Red Faction: Guerilla.

Buildings and scenery crumbled under the might of tank shells, with wood splintering, concrete disintegrating and the ground developing huge holes.

On top of that you add some of the most entertaining game modes out there for online multiplayer and you had a fantastic game. The only thing which pushed it that little bit further was the DLC expansion, Vietnam.

More than just DLC, the addition added new maps, vehicles and weapons to completely change the tone of the game within its own digital playground. Most importantly of all, it pushed the fun factor up to 11.

Left 4 Dead 2 (360)

Left 4 Dead 2In terms of multiplayer re-playability, there’s little which stands in the way of L4D2.

Although the game came out a little close to its predecessor for comfort, it managed to bring most of that game along with it through a number of DLC updates (which, admittedly, took some time).

The AI is what really impresses me about this game, as each of the special infected act differently and never fail to catch you out, no matter how many times you have played a particular level.

The feeling of panic as the horde rush mindlessly towards you far outstrips that of your average horror game. The sheer number of infected is overwhelming, not perhaps in the way as they are in Dead Rising, but because of their speed and relentless nature you quickly find yourself flailing wildly to escape.

The AI director, who silently changes the game behind the scenes to make a different experience each time, acts as an evil torturer at times, gifting the odd health pack before hitting back with a world-ending Tank.

Being a Valve game, the attention to detail is excellent and the level design is second to none – every time you play a game you find a different aspect jumps out at you (not literally, mostly).

It might have taken some time to become the game it is today, but that’s Valve, and there’s no doubt that it is the crowning glory of asymmetrical multiplayer.

Grand Theft Auto IV (360/PS3)

Grand Theft Auto 4It might be the fifth iteration which is grabbing all the headlines for its billions of sales, but it’s the fourth instalment which really put the franchise on the map.

After swinging between realism and caricature for years with various games on the PS2, Rockstar decided to go all-out with the vast expansion of its world.

Comedy clubs you could visit, bowling, drinking, and a plethora of other sights were on show in what was the biggest and most detailed parody of New York City that has ever been created.

From the ‘GetALife’ building to the Statue of Happiness, the parody is flawless, mocking American culture at every turn. All to the effortless soundtrack of the Liberty City radio stations, which take things even further.

While the gameplay might not be the best aspect, in fact many aspects such as driving or combat are done far better by even similar games released around the same time, but it’s the overall convincing nature of the game’s world which makes the title truly compelling.

The story wasn’t anything ground breaking, but it fitted in with the game’s world well, offering insights into the life of Niko Bellic. How the player chose to make that character act is another story.

Mass Effect (360)

Mass EffectMass Effect undeniably has the greatest story of any game I have ever played. Not least because it’s a story I wrote (sort of).

As the first chapter in the most exciting and varied piece of interactive story-telling in history, Mass Effect claims the crown over other RPGs (or, later, ‘action RPGs’) by making the player the centre of that universe so completely that they believe it has been created just for them.

The decisions you make throughout the story continue to shape the universe for years afterwards, cutting out entire characters from the subsequent games or changing alliances between races.

The controversy of the ending was inevitable with so much scope, but I believe that, all things considered, developers BioWare did well.

It’s one thing to create characters people love and care about, it’s another thing to feel like you really know them, love them, miss them when they are gone.

Garrus remains one of my favourite characters of all time, in any media, purely because of the journey he has joined my version of Shepard on. The emotional investment with this franchise, for me, is something which I haven’t experienced since Star Wars.

Is this what it's all about, or is there more to it?
Is this what it’s all about, or is there more to it?

In the end, it is the experiences we have all had with these games, more than the games themselves, which will ‘define the generation’.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration or a grandiose statement to make to suggest that this is the most variety we will ever see in any generation of gaming ever.

The difference between the games which began it, like Perfect Dark Zero, and ended it, the likes of Watch Dogs and plenty more still on the horizon, is vast. The one thing which they do have in common, is the player, and for me, this next chapter of gaming remains just as interesting and exciting because of the new types of experience it will inevitably bring.

So there you have it, my not-quite-top-ten. Which games would you choose?

James Michael Parry

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Escapism vs Realism: What is Entertainment? | Film and Gaming | This Is Entertainment

Some people might insist that entertainment as an entity exists as a ‘way out’ from the stresses and hardships of everyday life, but why then do games and films so often strive to be ‘realistic’?

Surely if we just wanted to escape from reality (without turning to hallucinogenic substances), then the most attractive prospect would be to jump into something completely different from our everyday lives.

Take Super Mario for example. One of the quintessential platformers, there aren’t many of us who navigate pits of lava, turtles throwing hammers and flatten grumpy-looking, mushroom-shaped creatures on a daily basis.

Later Mario titles have arguably become even more unrealistic, adding talking fire extinguishers and intergalactic flight, and the titles sell in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps this argument is a foregone conclusion then?

Not quite so simple in 2012. According to vgchartz.com, role-playing epic Diablo III takes the top spot, a clear point for the escapism camp, and three different Mario titles are in the top ten. On the other hand Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 remains at sixth and eighth on the multi-format global sales chart after a massive 39 weeks on sale.

MW3 is a game which seeks to immerse you into a world of guns, shooting and slow-motion breaching (before more shooting). While this isn’t the sort of thing the average person would get up to on a day to basis (we hope), it is presented in a highly detailed and ‘realistic’ way. From here it’s easy to begin to appreciate how blurred the lines between escapism and realism are.

In the first days of console gaming there was no chance of you mistaking Pac-Man for a real person just wandering down dark alleys looking for pills and trying to avoid his dealers – the poor guy was made up of about 12 pixels and didn’t have any legs – but now with the level of detail capable my modern technology you can very nearly almost be lured into thinking there really is such a thing as dragons from the likes of Skyrim.

In film too the harsh realities of the past decade or so have bled through into Hollywood’s presentation of much-loved characters. Batman successfully shed its campish past for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005. British institution James Bond followed suit and underwent a gritty reboot the following year with Casino Royale. Spiderman too returned to his more ‘real’ comic book roots for Andrew Garfield’s turn as the webslinger only this year.

Clearly escapism for escapism’s sake still exists, exemplified by the mere existence of The Expendables 2, but the new normal seems to be geared towards giving consumers a dose of reality.

There is a flaw in this plan though – people don’t like it when things get too real.

There has been a lot of fan backlash from the reboot or Devil May Cry: DMC. Undoubtedly the ‘new look’ Dante is grounded in a much more ‘real’ universe, albeit with crazy demonic stuff going on. Many fans of the original games took objection to the re-imagining of the character of someone more grounded and supposedly relatable, while others were just averse to change in the first place.

Tomb Raider too has his the ‘realism’ button pretty hard and there has been plenty of discussion whether it is necessary or appropriate to tackle the issue of rape – even in the context of the development of the character.

Undeniably though, horrible things do happen, and for gaming and films to be taken seriously as artistic mediums, they have to tackle sensitive issues. Film has a clear head start, having delivered countless classics over the years revered as taboo-breakers and genre-definers.

With games, it’s more of an uphill struggle, since the medium already has a long way to go to be respected by fellow industries as more than just ‘something kids and teenagers do’, let alone by the public in general.

Could tackling ‘real’ issues help? Perhaps, but it’s only worth doing if that’s what gamers actually want, which brings us back to the debate in question.

Reality is huge, but imagination is limitless, so with nothing but technical stumbling blocks to hold developers and directors back, entertainment should be striving to push the boundaries and show us things we have never seen or experienced before.

Whether that is something relatable, intimate and personal or off-the-wall, crazy and just good fun is up to us. If we as the people enjoying these products don’t give things which are a bit different a chance, then there will be less chances taken by the big studios, and we’ll miss out on things like Inception on the big screen and Bulletstorm on the small.

In the end, escapism and realism aren’t as much at odds as you might assume from first glance, and there is certainly place for both in the entertainment world – it all depends on what you feel like.

James Michael Parry
YouTubery lovingly embedded from original source. Images courtesy: popchassid.com and setlol.com

Gaming: E3 2011 the aftermath for Microsoft

Go greenSo the Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went once more and with a shiny new Xbox design in 2010 it was going to be difficult to top Microsoft’s press briefing.

…and sure enough it didn’t. In fact the whole spectacle was a collection of fairly obvious announcements and some more detail of the games we already know something about.

The big M got the obvious Call of Duty piece out of the way early, and luckily the negative rumour surrounding the possibility of having to pay for Call of Duty Elite was dispelled quickly as we were taken through the service’s suitably simplistic titled features: Connect, Compete and Improve.

Largely it boils down to a very similar service to that offered by Halo Waypoint, combined with a few nifty things lifted from Bungie.net (the true Lords of the Halo Rings) such as kill heatmaps for deathmatch games.

Other big franchises flexing their muscles included Gears of War, which was a fairly standard affair compared to the later released details of Horde Mode 2.0 (which you should definitely take a look at in the latest OXM).

One franchise TIE is eagerly looking forward to is the climax of Commander Shepard’s adventures in Mass Effect 3. After the tragic news of a delay to the release date until 2012, fans, including myself, were understandably upset. The reason for the move became clear a few days before E3 when this packshot leaked out:

It hits the fan...epically

The box’s shiny purple logo said it all: Kinect will be energising Mass Effect 3. There isn’t a complete breakdown of how it will be implemented yet, but from what was shown at E3, it will allow you to select dialogue options verbally (slightly obvious), but more interestingly it allows simple commands of your teammates such as ‘move up’ or ‘use overload’.

Presuming that these functions are implemented correctly, and BioWare’s care and consideration over the series to date, combined with the slipped release date would suggest that is the case, then it could prove to be the most engaging RPG/shooter ever released on the platform.

It may all sound like Pip Dreams, but after so many hours invested by players over years, BioWare will be making sure their loyalty pays off once the final game hits shelves in the first half of next year.

No E3 would be complete without children being trotted out on stage to perform and Massivesoft obliged in its usual style, getting some kids to show off some new kid-orientated Kinect titles, before some burly men played American football on stage and messed it up on their first try, though the entire show began with a ‘Please recconect controller’ message so it was a case of start as you mean to go on.

The ‘shock’ reveal was the completely predictable Halo 4, which sees Master Cheif return, though it will be created by 343 Industries, which leads us to wonder what Bungie are getting up to, they have been remarkably quiet since Halo Reach launched with rumours of RPGs and other exciting possibilities so far revealing nothing, we’ll keep you posted.

There was also news of 100s of more partnerships between Xbox and other outlets this year, but the only one which was actually named was YouTube, which itself is surely in decline compared to a few years ago. Come on Xbox, hurry up and get iPlayer on there so I can justify getting a new TV!

All in all a slightly underwhelming show, not the usual crash, bang, wallop you might expect from possibly the biggest gaming platform at the moment. Conspicuous by their absence were things like Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which debuted last year and has not been heard from since, as well as the likes of Grand Theft Auto, surely not a franchise Rockstar are ready to leave well alone…and in fact there have been whispers but no concrete facts, it would seem E3 would be the best place for a big announcement?

And finally after the show is over, Microsoft hints that a lot of Xbox features may be stored online as part of their new Cloud service, which could see gamertags, saved games and even the games themselves stored online and streamed to you, read all about it here.

In the meantime, take a look at Red Faction: Armageddon, it might not be the greatest game ever but the single player is infinitely more playable than its predecessor and the Magnet Gun is an experience every destruction-lover should have in their life.