26 November 2008

Call of Duty - World at War

I've been bored completely out of my tree. I'm now unemployed - which is a story I may or may not divulge in a separate installment - for two months now and nothin much is expected to happen for a third month, for reasons also not appearing in this installment.

It is true that there are plenty of things that I should be doing. Many such tasks require disposable income. I could go all out in an ambitious campaign to clean my apartment, but I'm not insane, merely bored.

I purchased the above title to give myself a mindless passtime. I had been playing Bioshock, and finished that. I really ought to talk about that first, but I really need to get this out of the way first, or my head may explode. I need to begin with some context, though, to try to make sense to you (and to me as well) of what I'm feeling.

In the beginning - for my purposes - was Battlefield 1942. [The beginning really was a game called Codename: Eagle that came out maybe 2 years earlier, but I don't pick up every title that is out there, and certainly not without knowing something of it] BF1942 presented conflict on approximately 12 maps which covered the major theatres of war; Africa, Europe, and the Pacific. You select your role as a soldier (assault, sniper, medic, engineer, anti-tank) which determines what gear you will carry, pick a map and join about 60 computer-controlled friendly and enemy soldiers in solo play, or a blend of human and 'bot' in multiplayer mode. By far the most popular featured all human soldiers. In addition, you can operate vehicles from jeeps and tanks to P/T Boats, Stukas, Heinkels and B-17s - depending on the map.

Multiplayer had an interesting quirk. In a nod to realism, the less you move around, the better your aim is. Towards that end, lying prone is better than crouching, is better than standing. What ended up happening in application was players learned to dive prone when they sighted the enemy, fire their weapon, jump back to their feet, and keep going. The process could happen alarmingly quickly. This disturbed me for a number of reasons. Most of which was that diving onto your battle rifle should primarily give you a concussion. The battle rifle of that era was particularly heavy as it was also intended to be used as a melee weapon.

I came to terms with this glitch, eventually. BF 1942 made for enormously amusing games of Capture-the-Flag, since the flag carrier could jump in a jeep (or a tank), speed off and get picked up by a swooping Messerschmidt. [Ah the realism.....] BF1942 was followed by Battlefield Vietnam, or BFV, which I did not purchase, I expect I had a job at the time. The next iteration was Battlefield 2, and the glitch had developed a life of its own, grown tentacles, and eaten the game developer.

I was able to fly the planes in BF 1942, but I wasn't able to get as much agility from them as the majority of people whome I played with. So I lost dogfights, but had a good time. BF2 is in a contemporary setting, with jets and helicopters the order of the day. I have yet to be able to fly them successfully, but they seem to be heavily overpowered. Airstrikes can be delivered with great accuracy - and I have felt their effectiveness many, many times - yet anti-aircraft missile stations are few, far between, and nearly ineffective. And someone called me a cheater when I finally managed to shoot one down. This I could accept, air power is the mainstay of the modern world.

Not only are player still able to kill nearly instantly by diving on their rifles, now there is also some bizzarre ninja roll that can be executed while shooting. This manoever not only seems to gaurantee killing the opponent, but the player executing it can seldom be shot while he is doing it. I'd say the concept was staggering, but I don't stagger so much as fall stone dead. The ability to "bunny hop" has also been increased. Soldiers in full anti-tank gear can not only perform ninja rolls, they can effortlessly spring high into the air, and even change direction in mid-air. Perhaps I jave joined arms against Scotland Yard's Special Flying Squad. Those that regularly play this game learn to take advantage of these things to be more effective, and make the game more frustrating for me.

Enter CoD-WaW. Solo play, quite frankly, is painful. At the beginning of the single-player scenarios they run TV-quality graphics that set up the situation and explain how the future of the entire free world is hanging in the balance. And then show a cutscene featuring you.

I downloaded CoDWaW from Steam, and the only manual that I have is a 9-page PDF which doesnt explain nearly as much as I would like. I have found solo play baffling. The developers provided you with a squad leader to bark orders at you and tell you what to do. The reality is that what you are precisely supposed to do, and where you are supposed to do it arent nearly as obvious as the buffoon who is shouting at you. Sarge ordered me to go "use my knife on that barrel." Um.... but I dont have a knife? See? I got this Garand, and I picked up a Japanese SMG, but no knife that I can switch to...... Well, after trying a lot of different things I found that I was supposed to go up the the barrel and press the "use" key. Viola! I suddenly reach for the barrel with a hand that is holding a knife. Amazing. And not even slightly intuitive.

The majority of my solo play experience was spent in negative reinforcement training. Learning to run far away from grenades, which killed me about a hundred times in the first two hours. By the time I had re-played every scene multiple times until I had dodged all the grenades, nasty gunfire and banzai attackers, and actually achieved the mission objectives, I realised that I was in a cutscene. Not literally. What I mean is that if I have to do all these little moves (dont get killed by this grenade, shoot that guy or he will killl you) in such a very specific way in such a short span of time, they might as well past my face on the cutscene, because in the end, there wont be any difference. That bothers me a lot. Mostly because the game looks great; I'd really enjoy having some free will in such a beautifully hostile environment. There aren't vehicles that you can fly (the closest you get is being a PBY gunner) but the aiming mechanics are right on. CoDWaW avoids all the problems that I have with the BF series, and even one that I had not thought of; you cannot aim your weapon while moving forward in the prone position.

Multiplayer in CoDWaW is great. Perhaps I'm overstating my case. I should qualify that by saying it is the multiplayer experience which I had been wanting during the whole time I had been suffering at the hands of BF2. A limited arsenal is available at first, with more weapons and 'optional extras' (like suppressors, flash hiders and bipods) unlockable through scoring in online play.

Here endeth the lesson. I'm about to run off for a Bird Day weekend, and want to get my frag on before I go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What happened with you and Schnider, Karl? Sorry to hear that you are out of work. Now is not a good time to be looking for a job (though it could be argued that no time exists that is a good time to be out of work).