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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 3 Review

Call of Duty - Modern warfare 3 is the eighth instalment in what is undoubtedly the biggest franchise in computer gaming history.  Massively hyped over the past few months it finally released yesterday to massive acclaim and was also massively flamed.  However, after playing the game for myself, I don’t understand what all the hate is about.

The game itself delivers exactly what was expected of it.  It is both engaging and compelling and the scale of playability that it has to offer is immense.  Whilst it is not as innovative as its prequel Modern Warfare 2 it has certainly brought a lot more into the world of killing the f*ck out of pixels.  Let’s start with the single player campaign.

Carrying on from where we left off in Modern Warfare 2, the world is at war and you are all that stands in total annihilation.  The Russians have invaded the USA and New York’s gone to hell in a hand basket.  The opening cut scenes explain what has previously gone on and what is unfolding at the present moment in time.  You’re then plunged into the middle of a pitched battle in New York and have to fight your way to through the Stock Exchange to complete your objective.  I won’t go too much into the story line, but I will say it is exactly as is to be expected.  You shoot.  A lot.

Combining successful elements of the previous games give you an intense experience as you have to fight your way through city streets, buildings, jungles and tube stations.  A lot of the locales are places we all know and recognise and it seems the developers (Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games), utilised this to bring home the scale of what they have created.  The game is still visually impressive even though the engine is becoming out-dated now and the way the games looks only adds to the scale of it.

The gameplay is not all run and gun though.  There’s plenty of sneaking about with silenced weapons, avoiding sentries and patrols and the like.  The storyline flows very well and does leave you wanting more when it’s finished.  It seems the emphasis on single player gaming these days is based on quality and not quantity which is both positive and negative.

There are fantastical set-pieces which make you feel like you’re playing the lead in an action movie but there are also frustrating elements to this.  The main issue I have is how heavily scripted and linear these single player campaigns have become.  I remember the times before multi-player gaming really took off, where the huge amounts of missions and puzzles to solve would keep you going for weeks with a game before you could finally say that you had completed it.  Sadly that’s not the case anymore and the single player will only take around 3-4 hours to complete.

I also took issue with how dumbed down the game was.  Honestly, it’s a shooter designed for people aged 18 and over and yet it tells you what to press and when to complete the obviously near impossible task of climbing down a ladder.  It’s become quite prevalent now and I find it patronising personally, just because I’m playing a computer game doesn’t make me a simpleton.

There is one scene in the game designed to be massively controversial along the same lines as the airport massacre in Modern Warfare 2, but as a good friend said to me before “it’s crass”.  It really is bad.  It’s poorly scripted, poorly executed and completely unnecessary.  Other than that, I found the single player to be quite enjoyable.

Another element that has been developed upon and expanded is the Spec Ops, these were arguably one of the best things about Modern Warfare 2.  Team up with a friend or waste some time by working through them on your own there was a lot of fun to be had with them.  Now they come with their own ranking system similar to multiplayer and the addition of a survival mode doubtlessly taken from Treyarch’s successful Nazi Zombies addition to Call of Duty – World at War and Black Ops.   The survival mode comes with its own ranking system too and I’m sure there will be a lot of hours spent with a friend trying to get to as high a level as possible.

Now we move to the meat in the sandwich and that is the multi-player.  Online gaming is huge with millions of people playing all sorts of games with and against each other online and shooters are particularly popular.  The only game with even a remote chance of overtaking the Call of Duty series is the Battlefield series and having recently released their own epic, Battlefield 3, it meant the two games were destined to go head to head.  For me though, there’s no comparison between the two, both have their own particular strengths and weaknesses.

Multi-player is a core aspect of the Call of Duty series and this edition certainly delivers.  I’ve only played it for a short time, but I’ve found it to be a lot more balanced than any of the previous instalments.  There is a huge amount of weapons to choose from which has become one of the hallmarks of these games.  I’ve not played with easily 90% of the guns so far giving you the scale of choice that’s on offer.

It’s very apparent that in developments they took a serious look at the flaws seen in earlier instalments and have addressed them extremely well in my opinion.  Not everyone’s a skilled player with reactions that can be measured in milliseconds and the way the multi-player has been designed means you don’t need to be one any more. 

There are different strike packages offering different types of air support and rewards for both yourself and your team as well as some nasty surprises for the enemy.  I really like the fact that each different class you create can have its own set of killstreaks too leading to really being able to optimise your own customizations.
Each weapon also has the addition of proficiencies now to go along with attachments and perks which means that the level of customisation has gone a lot deeper and the options available to player.  This means that for every individual class you create, the more you rank up your weapons the more options you will have at your disposal giving you literally thousands of available combinations.

The match making system that was detested by a lot people when it came out with Modern Warfare 2 has been significantly improved with games suffering barely any noticeable lag or failing host migrations.  Even the integrated theatre mode doesn’t affect the performance of the game the same way that it did in Black Ops (take note Treyarch).

However having tried out the theatre mode before, I found that the interface wasn’t very good (being keyboard controlled) and the system for using it was a bit confusing.  It could use a guide or something to that effect being produced letting you know exactly how to use it instead of the trial and error method of figuring it out I had to undertake.    The file types it produces are not very good either.  They are saved as .AVI files, but are actually motion J-PEGS and it took a friend of mine a lot of time and effort to get the file types working in a way that was supported by a video editing program.

On the whole though that’s a reasonably minor flaw and the game as a whole delivers what it promises.  It looks good, it sounds good and it plays very well and that’s enough for me.

The best kill I've gotten so far!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Bear Grylls - Mud, Sweat and Tears Review

Whilst watching the Discovery Channel a while back I saw an advert for Bear Gryll’s new autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears.  Now, I’ve not really been into reading much over the past few years, entertaining myself with other forms of escapism/procrastination but as soon as I saw this I knew I had to get it.
So the next time I was in Waterstones I picked up a copy, not only did I pick up a copy but it was 50% off as well, so it only cost me £9.49.  Bargain.  So in the heat of last weekend I thought I’d read it whilst getting a tan in the garden.  It was worth the accompanying (slight) sunburn.
The book starts of by mentioning the histories and traits of some of his ancestors in interesting detail about the lives they lived and what they accomplished.  The stories were moving tales of tragedy and heroism mixed in with some romance and heartache to boot.  Bear’s bloodline is an interesting one with ancestors who accomplished much and lead very interesting lives both in and out of the public’s eye.
Then the book focuses on his life, the adventures he got into whilst growing up and the impact his family had on him.  He tells of growing up on the Isle of Wight and how he got into the whole adventuring lifestyle by going on expeditions with his father, some fraught with danger.
I don’t want to go into too much detail from here on, needless to say the rest of the book is indeed a grand tale of school life, going through the SAS(R) selection process and a hell of a lot more.
He talks of when he broke his back in a parachuting accident in South Africa and the trials he went through on the road to recovery which culminates in him climbing Mount Everest (one of the youngest ever climbers to do it).
The book was massively inspiring and I could empathise with him immensely with the emotions and contrasting fortunes that the man has had to endure.  I would highly recommend anyone to read it as it is both a tale of enlightenment and fulfilment.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for the man and hope he lives a long and productive life with his family.  I’d hate for him to do a Steve Irwin (another hero of mine) and pray that he doesn’t.