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Black Ops? No thanks - I'm off Duty

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis will be in bed by midnight...

I wouldn't have queued for six hours to get in a nuclear bunker had the real Cold War kicked off. So I'm sure as heck not doing the same for a video game based on its events.

Yet that's how long some people stood outside retailers in anticipation of the Modern Warfare 2 midnight launch - and there's no doubt we'll see similar determination from FPS fans at the midnight launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops tonight.

They're not even the worst cases, either. Two blokes in Baltimore armed themselves over the weekend and stole more than 100 copies of the Treyarch shooter.

Come on now, no matter how good a game is you only really need one copy. Jeez.

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The wave of Black Ops-mania is no surprise, but I struggle with it. Why get so hyped up, when the game itself is bound to be every bit as predictable as its rabid reception?

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's going to be brilliant. It's going to "raise the bar"; it'll "blow you away" and be "built from the ground up". I bet Treyarch "has really listened to the fans" this time. If we're lucky, we might even find some evidence of Black Ops being a truly "visceral" shooter.

Problem is, all of that doesn't describe Black Ops per se - it describes Call of Duty, and pretty much any FPS with a few million Dollars behind it in the last few years.

My beef isn't with Treyarch; it's with the FPS genre in general. It's getting prettier, it's getting bigger - but is it really getting better?

The way I see it, publishers putting out an FPS probably have the same checklist pinned to their walls:



  • Is there a war on?
  • Are you part of a small but elite team?
  • Is there an AK47?

  • Have you remembered the sniping section?
  • Have you remembered the bit where you tag a tank/building for an air-strike?
  • Have you remembered the bit where you shoot a helicopter with an RPG lying on a roof?
  • Have you remembered the bit where you sit in a helicopter and shoot RPG infantry standing on a roof?

  • Do your locations cover jungle, sand, snow and streets?
  • Those streets have ripped flyers and blown-out buildings, right?

    If you answered yes to all of the above your FPS is ready for dispatch.

I'm tired of following my squadron leader, I'm tired of hitting the right stick for the same melee attack I've used for years and I'm tired of standing behind a wall while I wait for an enemy to stick his head out. Again.

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It's the modern FPS mechanic that's the problem - it's limited from the off. Think about some of the best third-person action adventure games out there, and you've got some far richer gaming experiences in terms of depth and variety.

You can be an assassin clutching, climbing, jumping and swinging your way around renaissance Italy, or an electrically charged bald bloke gliding and blasting his way through a modern day metropolis. You can be The Dark Knight himself, for Pete's sake, swinging from rafters and kicking the humour out of clown-faced goons in a beautifully dingy asylum.

Make a game third person and you've instantly got more movements at your disposal. For me, not being able to see the way my character stands, the way he walks, the badass things I'm making him do, is a loss.

I loved seeing Sam Fisher smash heads through urinals in Conviction and making Batman expertly dismantle a room of Arkham nut-jobs. Blocking, kicking, butting, throwing; it offers a cavalcade of nuanced animation every time.

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