Monthly Archives: November 2009

Modern Warfare 2 – beaten!

I caved in and rented “MW2” after my initial misgivings over a jacked-up price and some more dubious political undercurrents in the story telling.  And? I liked it.

The political undercurrents of the story are just that – in the background and probably not of interest or note to 90% of the audience for the game.  In actuality, this is a Michael Bay movie that you can play and has all of the wit and sophistication that this might imply to you.

It’s a smidgeon of “Red Dawn” (the dastardly Russians are invading the USA!), a pinch of post-“Bourne” spy-fi paranoia (the military/governmental complex will use you and then double-cross you without compunction) and even a direct sampling of Bay’s cinematic high-point, “The Rock” (there’s a shower room breach with SEAL teams pitched against mercs which is clearly a direct homage).  It’s a playable action movie – and that’s enough for me, at this point.

As for the much-discussed (not least here) “No Russian” level – it’s very much out of place.  Whilst I admire that Infinity Ward find it important to provoke a response from the content of this section (a terrorist atrocity which you are complicit in walking through or participating in, with the other, non-player controlled characters committing mass murder in a Moscow airport as you follow or assist them ), I found the eventual game play and the section’s place within the game somewhat at odds.

As I say, it is possible to walk through the section passively, letting the game play itself and watching an airport terminal full of passengers, security guards and staff be indiscriminately murdered (on-screen options allow to skip the section entirely and avoid content which you might regard as troubling).  The very fact that you can skip this section surely robs it of a point in the game – if you can progress without playing it, and if you never have to see it, why is it there?

It’s certainly a provocative level, with something to say about how we as gamers can cheerfully plow through myriad shooters and untold digital carnage and not have it affect us in any major way.  To play “No Russian”, with it’s horrifying violence, funeral Hans Zimmer score and terrorist themes is to be confronted with subject matters and experiences that few similar, AAA games would attempt.  I just wish that Infinity Ward had enough confidence in their audience (or less input from Activision PR and Corporate) and made this section mandatory for the (mostly) adult gamers who should be the demographic for this title.

The story telling could be better – but the gameplay is fairly solid.  If you’ve played “COD 4”, you’ll be comfortable but reasonably challenged, especially if you hop straight into ‘Hardened’ mode, which will up the ante considerably – translation? Your butt will be handed to you, but you’ll never be so frustrated that you’ll want to bail on the experience.

My own crucible in this regard was the Brazilian-set “Favela” level.

Think multiple enemies, on multiple pathways, shooting from every which direction, with better aim than you have, popping up out of nowhere, seemingly impervious to point-blank headshots from shotguns – think “Gaa-aahh-dd!” and other expecterations being emitteed from your humble correspondent every thirty seconds or so, until by the grace of the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, I was permitted to trigger a checkpoint and get the hell out of dodge.

Difficult?  I should coco.

Click below for multiplayer madness via the You Tubes

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Avatar – $300 million bucks and Fox can’t buy James Cameron musical taste

"Avatar" image (C) 20th Century Fox/Lightstorm EntertainmentThe mind boggles.

As reported by the BBC and the lovely Idolator music blog, James Cameron’s epic 3D Sci Fi adventure “Avatar” has found a theme song.

And it’s sung by Leona Lewis.

As much as I abhor cultural snobbery, is this really a good idea? I can understand that this power ballad gambit worked last time Cameron directed a film – you may well shudder to remember “My Heart Will Go On”, Celine Dion’s Oscar-snaffling uber-epic from “Titanic” – but I find myself wishing that all concerned would move past such safe aural wallpaper and find somebody a bit more interesting than the apparently nice but utterly unremarkable “X-Factor” grad and Simon Cowell SKU, Leona Lewis.

Seems very safe to me – somebody send James Cameron an Imogen Heap album, for the love of Pete!

Here’s the thing – I bow to nobody in my Cameron fandom:  I’ve booked my tickets for “Avatar” on the weekend of release, committed myself to seeing it multiple times over the Christmas holidays in 3D, 2D and maybe even Imax if I can get to Manchester (my nearest decent Imax theatre).  I’ll probably be picking up the game when it comes out and I have a real soft spot for James Horner’s movie scores – this development, though, doesn’t sit well with me, and smacks of overwhelming conservatism.

Conservatism which hopefully won’t intrude into the film itself…



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Sunday Games Musings

Modern Warfare 2

Suggested by Dan Amrich on his Twitter page, check out a fantastic video blog on the moral issues emanating from a play through of the  “No Russian” level from “Modern Warfare 2” by Anthony Burch at Destructoid.

As I’ve not played “MW2” yet, I can’t make an informed judgement on the now infamous scene when viewed out of the narrative context of the game, but seeing the footage in isolation is a very troubling experience.

For the main part, my shooter gaming tastes lean toward the “Halo”/”Gears” Sci-Fi end of the FPS/Third Person scale – I prefer to blast away at ravenous alien beasties and monsters rather than recognisable human avatars.  I don’t know that this makes me in any way morally superior, as the argument about resolving conflict through violence still remains, but I can happily plow through “ODST” and not feel that the events on screen are going to be repeated on the nightly news any time soon – the divorce from reality in an SF FPS is more or less total and allows for a retreat into fantasy which is in sync with the way that many of us play games.

That said, I played and really enjoyed the first “Modern Warfare” iteration of the “Call of Duty” series and found it a visceral, urgent and undeniably compelling experience.  In terms of fairly loathsome right-wing politics and self-justifying narrative, it left something to be desired – these guys are allied, somehow, with these other guys who want to do something fairly genocidal and nationalistic to America, so they’ve got to be stopped – but it went a lot of the way towards bridging the gap between the game space and action cinema (seen an action movie recently with any of the build and release tension of the ‘All Ghillied Up’ level in “Modern Warfare”?  Didn’t think so).

The “No Russian” footage from the sequel is certainly difficult to watch, but I find myself wondering if it bothers me chiefly because it seems to be asking questions about the way that we play games today, about the way that technology allows us to have realistic game avatars, perpetrate horrible acts, in realistic environments in a scripted narrative that we can’t circumvent if we want to progress in the game, all in the ultimate service of home entertainment.

Is a play through of “Modern Warfare 2” really what I want to do with my leisure hours?  And if it is, what does that say about me?  I’d never want to kill another person or sign up for military service, so why do people gravitate towards game experiences which offer a virtualised, interactive perspective on conflict and terrorism.

Is it the modern equivalent of crusing the wrong side of town, looking for trouble and the darker side of life but knowing that at the end of the day you can just quit back to the main menu and forget about what you’ve just encountered on screen.  After all, it’s only a game, right?

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Whatcha been playing (NeoGaf love in the house)

With props to NeoGaf, 1Up and whomever first came up with the idea – Fluffrick’s first of many “What You Been Playin’?” updates…

The Borderlands crew - I'm the dude with the goggles and the rifle...

Gearbox Software’s very splendid and very gory Role Playing Shooter, “Borderlands”.  Get in!

An ODST, bringing the hurt...

Bungie’s last(ish) sojourn into the “Halo” universe for the near future, “Halo 3: ODST”.  I love me some Master Chief ass kickery, and I’m confident this should fit the bill nicely.

Finally, for now?


The Audi R8, as approved by Tony Stark, in Turn 10's "Forza Motorsport 3"

“Forza Motorsport 3” – Race with assists on, or try and beat the game on it’s own terms?  Decisions, decisions…

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