I’ve had both Call Of Duty 4 and Call Of Duty 5 on rental, so it’s been nice to compare the two. They’re both essentially the same game, and both excel simply with the feel of the gunplay – it just intrinsically feels right when you’re moving and shooting with a gun in your hand. As a Counter-Strike veteran I can’t see a whole lot to really attract me personally to the multiplayer online in the long-term, but I can see how many players have spent months and years on that feature.
Both games have a short-ish but perfectly formed single-player campaign. The level of polish on these is absolutely superb – little things like the almost total absence of ‘clipping’ on the models is impressive. I found both enjoyable, though my criticism is that the game essentially is another “fire and dodge” shooter – the basic mechanic hasn’t really changed since Space Invaders thirty years ago. And there’s the merest skeleton of a story to pique the interest beyond that. I’m not sure how long I can simply keep playing this same game.
I think Call Of Duty, as a series, is totally average in every way. It does a bog-standard experience better than any game I can mention. And I think that is why it’s such a bestseller. It offers multiplayer for the ‘hardcore’, and a polished single-player campaign for the ‘casuals’. There’s nothing radical here, nor need there be. (I've written a longer piece on Call Of Duty 5 on my blog)
Speaking of distinctly average FPSs, I am trudging through Fear 2. Actually it’s a pretty shocking game in my opinion, and the story is absolutely woeful – incredibly confusing, impossible to follow, and deeply uninteresting. The draw in this game for me is the little horror-inspired moments – a flashback that flicks onto the screen, an apparition here and there, and lots of environmental effects that really work well. The game is really good at knocking you off balance, often physically – don’t play this if you get motion sickness. It is doing just enough to keep me playing, but never doing enough to really impress me.
On a totally different level in every way is Windosill, a flash game that to many would barely qualify as a game at all. There’s about 10 connected screens filled with weird and wonderful contraptions, shapes and creatures, and you interact with them with the mouse and watch them do beautiful little animations. Each screen is also a little puzzle, where you need to find a small wooden block so that you can proceed. If it sounds weird that’s because it is, but it’s one of the finest half-hours I have ever spent on a game.I’m still playing The Sims 3 – I think it’s a great game with a lot of hidden delights. While playing with my daughter we discovered a mausoleum – you can send a Sim in there and it turns into a vintage “Choose Your Own Adventure” style adventure, and you decide whether to turn left or right at the fork, whether to drink the potion etc. Your Sim comes out of it covered in soot, usually having been mauled by a bear, but with a little treasure to show for it.
I think it’s a much more open-ended game than the previous versions. In the Sims 1 or 2 I felt rather trapped into sending my Sims off to develop a career, which then got boring, but there simply are more options now. You can busk, fish, cook or paint for a living. You can get a part-time job. You can become a partner in one of the local businesses. And if you choose to ignore work altogether there are still aims to fulfill, whether it’s running a well-tended garden with rare plants, or travelling about the town looking for bodies of water with rare fish to catch. The game still has its faults – it’s too safe, and it’s simply much harder to fail than to succeed, and your sims always default to conventional mode. But it’s still a unique experience – there is no other game that is like The Sims.
I’m still trying to play through Mass Effect, but it’s frustrating me more and more. Any section where you have to drive the BigTrak just drives me mad. I hate the save system. I find all the equipment tinkering fiddly and unsatisfying. You have to forgive the game continually for glitches. And the basic combat just ain’t that good. Even worse, I think I must have skipped the infamous sex scene for some reason - story of my life!
I think this is a game that everyone feels goodwill towards, simply because it looks so damned good and was really very ambitious. But it’s a game I’m endurng rather than outright enjoying. But I do think I’ll get to the point with Mass Effect where I’m so invested in the characters that I start really caring about what happens, and a game with that capacity is simply a step above most of the competition.
Windosill is my game of the week though.
Plans for the next week? I want to finish Valkyria Chronicles. I’m going to buy Zeno Clash when it’s cheap on Steam at the weekend. At some point I want to start going through the Final Fantasy games in order. And just a week to go until Tiger Woods 10 and the motion-plus here in the UK – I can’t wait.