The Modern Combat Shooter: Practical evolution or evolutionary Cul-De-Sac?

Posted on: November 20th, 2011

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By Kevin Lenaghan


“Oscar Mike”, “Target Actual”, “Tango down”. All familiar phrases to anyone who has picked up a console controller or played a game on their PC in the last few years. Between Battlefield and the almost unimaginably popular Call Of Duty franchise it’s been hard to avoid these kind of games seemingly ripped from a Tom Clancy wet-dream which strive for military accuracy and supposedly real-world “This could totally happen man” situations. But has this genre pushed itself as far as it can go?

The first Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare cerainly captured by interest with it’s immersive story telling told through an almost constantly switching perspective of characters, involved with the unfolding and hugley expansive plot line to the point were I was genuinely upset and flabbergasted when a character I had been playing was horribly killed in a nuclear explosion WHILE I WAS IN CONTROL!

This was a real defining moment in gaming for me and really set the tone for all that was to follow. However, in some ways it seems this moment perhaps upped the ante a little too much. Despite the aforementioned intention of realism in these games, the desire to constantly out-do previous story elements and prioritise telling the story over making a game that is just as fun to play may be upsetting the balance somewhat.

Case in point: Modern Warfare 3.

In the spirit of upping the Ante once again, it seems as though throwing things at the player as frequntly and consistently as possible has become the main goal of the developers of these games. Modern Warfare 2 seemed to find a good balance between all of these elements by providing a game that controlled really well and eerily realistically, coupled with a story that was just about as ridiculous as you could get while still maintaining some element of believability and immersion. While making for a great single-player experience, albeit a short one, this begged the question “How the hell can they outdo this next time?”.

Unfortunately, the answer to this question turned out to be “Um… well, we can’t.”

Now, I know that MW3′s development cycle was plagued with problems, not least of all the implosion of the primary developer of the series Infinity Ward due to massive tension between Activision and the Ceo and president of IF Vince Zampella and Jason West, respectively, so it’s kind of impressive that the game turned out as good as it is. However, the problems I have with the game do, I believe, stem not from these tensions and a broken development but from the problems inherent in making a series that must constantly be doing something MORE!

As a result of attempting to elevate the story and set-pieces above previous efforts it seems as though the idea is now to concentrate on putting the player “on rails”, sometimes literally. While playing through the game you get a definite feeling that you are supposed to be moving a a certain speed. Move ahead too far, you die. Hang a around looking at thing too long, you die. Very often you’ll just be put in a vehicle with someone else driving and randomly firing in the general direction of assailantswhile the world essentially explodes around you. Which is really the crux of the problem.

Though these explosions are pretty and can certainly be appreciated by the action movie loving teenger who still lives inside me somewhere, I find it’s not enough. I want a great story and this game doesn’t really have it.

Now, you may say I’ve missed the point. You’ll say “Hey jackass! That’s not the point. It’s the best multi-player game around! What’s the matter? Don’t you have any friends? Ha, ha! Loser!”. These are all, of course, valid points and are certainly not without their merit. But my lack of social skills and personal likability (or lack thereof) shouldn’t be affecting my experience in the land of pixels and bullets. Also, I have a big problem with waling around with my nose glued to the GODDAMN IRON SIGHTS!

People look at me like I have two heads when I express this opinion, which isn’t due to a huge growth on my shoulder or anything (usually). They say thing like “Mew, mew, mew! But that’s what you have to do in a war, man! This shit is real!”. Well forgive me for having a little imagination and being able to suspend my disbelief for more than fifteen seconds at a time! Isn’t the whole point of videogames as entertainment? To provide a bit of escapism for a while? Realism is all well and good, but I can’t help feeling bored by this reliance on extreme accuracy.

Give me Left 4 Dead any day. There’s nothing quite like running around with three friends (yes I have three friends), shooting wildly at anything that moves and hoping it dies while screaming my deformed little head off, probably plugging the other players by accident as I do so!

But they don’t mind (much) because IT’S FUN! We all have a good time and, even as they angrily insult me for accidently blowing them into little bit’s with a shotgun a point blank range, they are often laughing as they do so.

Five minutes spent on a COD server is a different story. Packs of screaming eleven year-olds spewing the most vile abuse becaose you’re not following their arbitrary rules and actually trying to have a bit of fun with a game.

And that’s another thing! How the hell did these little maggots get so good! I’ve been playing videogames almost constantly for nigh on 18-20 years so I’d consider my hand/eye coordination pretty damn good. But I can walk five feet in one of these games without the screen turning red, followed immediately by the girlish cackle of some under-developed little parent-parasite who has too much time on his hands because he hasn’t got a goddamn job to go to. You know if they where dropped into a real war it would take about ten seconds for their insolent little brains to be splattered all over the dirt. DO YOUR DAMN HOMEWORK!…

…okay. Perhaps I have issues that would best be described to some kind of healthcare professional rather than vented here but thats besides the point.

As far is multi-player goes, Battlefield certainly has it’s priorities straight. There’s nothing quite lite seeing somone kamikaze themselves into a helicopter while flying a fighter jet. The same pre-adolesent hate targets still crop up in this environment, but the shear volume of players dilutes their rage-inducing prescnce to a minimum. Also, you can just drop a helipcopter on them if they get to you too much.

In summation, my point seems to have become lost beneath a thick layer of bile so, carreening back to sanity I’ll just say this.:

Games can be fun, games should be fun and realism is all well and good in its place. But, to quote a generic stoner from some movie I can’t quite remember through the red haze at the moment “Have a good time… all the time”.

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Author Info

Who Am I?: I like to think of myself as a great instigator of change, chisselling away at the world, knocking off all the bad bits until only the great and wonderful is left behind. The truth is probably more that I am like some kind of blood gorged little parasitic tick, feeding off imperfection and impurity until I become so full that all I can do is wretch and weep. These convulsions and tears generally come out of me in the form of venomous little diatribes, in which I whine about how things aren’t perfect and generally spit bile like a spoiled child who is threatening to hold his breath until he gets what he wants, and should probably go ahead and do it because the world is better off without hateful little goiters like myself. But you’ll just have to put up with me because I’m also terrifically stubborn and I fervently believe in my anger. I usually write about what I reckon is wrong with the world of videogames, which is weird because I really like them. It’s probably some kind of pathological condition that is yet to be diagnosed.

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