What Are You Playing At Present, Good Chap? (2-25-2012)
These days? It’s probably better to ask what I’m not playing. See, I’ve been grabbing AAA holiday titles left and right, as their publishers shift their target audience from clueless Christmas shopping parents to “deal-demanding” hardcore gamers. I know, I know. Some of you have that “if you aren’t willing to pay full price, then it’s not worth buying at all” mentality, and wonder why I don’t share it. Well, that’s because I believe that gaming isn’t about excluding oneself from merely good/average gaming experiences because the title in question isn’t raking in “Game of the Year” awards. After all, we need to be able to lend context to our criticisms of games. You can say that a game does something “well”, but even this suggests a mode of comparison by which something else struggles in the same respect. When one views all video games as constantly (at least, hopefully) learning from and correcting the mistakes of others, it suddenly becomes very important to be familiar with the “imperfect” titles out there. But that’s a discussion for another time.
For starters, I made the mistake of charging up my overshield once more, reloading my assault rifle, and charging headfirst into a little place I like to call the Forerunner Library. Or, as many of you likely address it, “the place I stopped playing the first Halo game”. See, the funny thing about Halo: Anniversary is that because a “new coat of paint” is the main attraction of this “rerelease”, one’s forced to face, untouched for a decade, what they loved and hated about Halo. I mean, I love the tactical gameplay that Halo brought to the console shooter…and if you’re struggling to understand my point that’s likely because you’re so embroiled in modern FPS titles that you’ve forgotten how revolutionary Halo’s gameplay was. Clearly you’ve forgotten that nearly every FPS protagonist before Master Chief somehow managed to carry eleven or twelve weapons sans duffle bag, rucksack, or sherpa. Or the fact that the majority of shooters preferred narrow interior corridors of generic industrial buildings as their local of choice. Perhaps you overlooked that old shooters had you scrounging around the level for a half hour for a health pack because nobody had caught on to the “regenerating health” dealio. Sure, that last one has been overdone and exploited the last couple years, but that’s not Bungie’s fault.
Now yes, I’m aware that Link fits everything inside a tunic….and that doesn’t bother me any less.
Other than taking my turn in milking Bungie’s “cash cow”, I made the mistake of assuming, against all odds, that the third installment in the F.E.A.R. series could actually be atmospheric, chilling, or at the very least, capable of the “cheap scare” that even Resident Evil can manufacture. Hell, maybe you were hoping this would be the case too. Well, since the previous sentence used the word “mistake,” I think you can surmise that F.3.A.R wasn’t going to reinforce any of that “third time’s the charm” nonsense. See, when you’re a “one-trick-pony” on your third installment, your (quite literal) “scare tactics” aren’t going to do the job. Yes, Alma, fresh off her appearance in The Ring, did frighten me on two or three occasions, but after those eerie encounters, she was more of the “control” than the “variable”. In fact, F.E.A.R psychologically conditioned me to ease up whenever said undead lady in red made an appearance, because at least with her I knew I didn’t stand a chance of being sent back to the previous checkpoint. I was much more afraid of being caught by Armachem’s firearm-laden hit squad with my pants down…which I guess makes it no different than any other shooter. Which really is the core problem with F.E.A.R.: it does nothing to distance itself from your average shooter: the weapons, the cover-based combat, the locales…they all follow genre-conventions without any intent of breaking them.
Oh, and if there’s anything that’s even remotely scary? It’s because they just cribbed it from their (likely) dead franchise: Condemned.
I’ve also been “playing” Dungeon Siege III. I use “playing” loosely, because said verb doesn’t adequately express the “hand-holding” that Dungeon Siege III engages in. There’s really only about 50 side-quests, and 90% of those have you hunting down the members of the local bandit gang, and expediting their journey into the afterlife. That’s right, even if you play as the scholarly professor of a mage college (as I did), you’ll still be tasked with the “to-do” list of a bouncer named “Muscles”. It’s probably for the better that the quests are so simple, as the game designers didn’t construct them as a “just come back whenever you want to do this” event. Namely, if you progress the main storyline to a point where your “hub town” changes…well, several dozen bandit guilds will likely leave several gift baskets on your front doorstep. So yes, that’s right, Dungeon Siege III is a game where “side quests” function much like “main quests”. Oh goody. Also, the game’s two camera perspectives: the “CSI magnify” and the “satellite from space” are equally annoying, forcing you to choose between ignoring all of the intricate details Obsidian put into the spell effects (which are nothing short of “snazzy”) and backdrops, or being incapable of spotting the eighteen ranged enemies pouring arrows/lightning bolts/electrified arrows into your rectum because you’ve got “front seat tickets” to your right shoulder blade. Was there not one playtester that went, “Just give me one perspective that falls in-between these two, and we’ll be in business”?
Well, there probably was. It’s just that nobody likes somebody else shitting all over their (albeit flawed) work. Or a smartass.
You’re probably wondering if I’ve enjoyed anything I’ve played lately. That is a valid inquiry.
But once Silent Hill HD Collection comes out, and I’m shitting my pants at a truly prolific rate, perhaps I’ll change my mind.