19 February, 2012

Pleasant Surprises

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 19 February, 2012

Call of Duty games rarely go on sale. But Amazon is trying to gain traction with their digital download service, so they're selling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (which registers on Steam) for $5.

WARNING: There is a major spoiler in the picture below.

FURTHER WARNING: If you care about the plot of this game, you're a silly goose.

I figured a game version of a Michael Bay movie would be fine for five dollars. And it was. It was especially fine when I turned off Depth of Field and could see the enemies again. I swear the only two words out of my mouth during the first two hours of playing the game were "FROM WHERE!?" with the "did I just get shot" implied. Turning off Depth of Field also drastically increased the frame rate, which made lining up shots much easier.

As for the game itself, it's good. People talk about the endless streams of bad guys and how heavily scripted the CoD games are, but I just played through FEAR and Half-Life, and I respect Infinity Ward for not making their enemies bullet sponges just to show off their fancy AI. If you shoot them fast, good! You'll be fighting enough of them that you'll still see the fancy AI sooner or later. My favorite behavior was seeing enemy soldiers taking two steps out of cover, getting shot at, and falling back instead of making a suicidal run for the next piece of cover.

Also on special for $5 (though this time from Steam) was Raven's 2009 version of Wolfenstein. I've already talked about enjoying Singularity (Raven, 2010), and Wolfenstein is unsurprisingly similar. But the hub areas of Wolfenstein make it feel like the more mature game. Though the geometry is constant, the different encounters you have make it feel like a changing place, as Nazi dominion and resistance determination increase.

The soldiers in Modern Warfare 2 are more interesting to fight. But Wolfenstein adds classic pulp elements (the occult and Nazi super science) to spice things up.

The one thing I would change about Wolfenstein is to add a New Game+ mode where you can go through the game again with all the upgrades you got in your first playthrough. There were a lot of weapons and upgrades I barely used and probably would have enjoyed, especially if I had enough extra money that I could blow it on the more exotic types of ammo without feeling irresponsible. Also, the whole mechanic of encouraging the player to scour the levels for Nazi gold hurts the pacing of the game and the feeling of being a freewheeling pulp action hero. New Game+ could have fixed that. Oh well.

UPDATE (2012 Feb. 25): I saw a pop-up after the credits that said you could start a new game with cheats enabled, but when I started a new game, there were no cheats. I finally noticed that when you select the difficulty for said new game, there's a small cheat option in the bottom right corner that defaults to disabled. So while it may be poorly implemented, the option to give yourself all the weapons, powers, upgrades, and money does exist. Also, you can turn people's heads into giant, featureless pumpkins for some reason, perhaps a reference to the ancient joke about id calling their follow up to DooM "Smashing Pumpkins Into Small Piles Of Putrid Debris".

I tried Star Trek Online and have had some good fun with it. I am Lieutenant Fiza, captain of the U.S.S. Moogie. (Regardless of rank, the person in charge of a ship is called captain by the crew.)

Being a female Ferengi Starfleet ship captain tickles my crazy bone. It's too bad I can't visit Ferenginar in the game. :(

Sillyness aside, I'm actually enjoying both the ship combat and away missions so far. The ship combat is the stronger of the two. Maneuvering to keep your weapons on the enemy while keeping up the fire and adjusting shield strength is enough to keep me occupied. And when I fired a last phaser blast to knock down an enemy's shield just before launching the decisive photon, I felt like I was having a classic Trek combat moment.

The away missions are more fighty than any Star Trek outside of the Dominion War, but so far I've enjoyed that. I've been using the squad controls to set up crossfires (since attacks from the flank actually do more damage) and beaming in mines to soften up patrolling enemies.

No comments: