I am half the gamer I used to be; this is a good thing. When I review in my head the time and money I poured into my early days (read: two years) of owning an Xbox 360 it makes me want to cry. I am not sure what I was thinking. No game ( save maybe “Rainbow Six: Vegas”) could hold my attention for that long. I was video game whore of the Kardashian kind, hopping from IP to IP.
That was long ago…
In the interim I found the NHL series with its EASHL a remarkable diversion. Soon that was spoiled by the cheesy glitchers who it seems try to poison almost every online game. Slowly my love for the game died with crushing check by a 180 lbs speedster who exploited the “99 glitch”—how the f did anyone find that one?—. Each “curve shot” that found the corner of the net everytime took a little piece of my heart….Then my NHL 10 disc cracked, and my brief flirtation with NHL2K10 began. Dark times…dark times indeed.
And then “Halo:Reach” happened.
I profess my love for the game having only really played one mode, the adverserial MP (multiplayer for you noobs, yo). The great story (or so I have been told ad nauseum by frequent MP running mate Cyprus Church) sits half completed. All thanks to what I believe to be the ultimate balanced MP shooter on the market. So you may hate Armor Lock and say it is for noobs? Put your money where your mouth is: the Armor Ability is available to all day one.
More than the game: the features pull me in. Bungie.net provides extensive stats, heat maps to let you know where you died, and access to video and pictures taken by each player. The latter is the part of the game that excites me most.
I have spent the better part of the past two years (starting with “Halo 3″) planning and plotting a machinima project using the “Halo 3″, then “Halo:Reach” video production capabilities. Though I now write daily I still have a profound ability to procrastinate and waste time, mostly while doubting myself. Even during those times of sloth, the idea has been gestating in my head.
I am almost at the point where I can start production; I am extremely excited. I believe the restictions of using “Halo:Reach” as a platform will help spur the creativity. I don’t want to give away too much now, but a big inspiration for this project is “Doonesbury”. I have no delusions…(no, well maybe few,) of grandeur here. Trudeau’s masterpiece only serves as the inspiration for the aspiration of quality storytelling I hope to reach…it is part of the delay. I want to be sure that I have my rows in a duck* before I put this out there.
I am close.
So if you see me wasting time on Facebook…call me out. Ask me if there is something else I should be doing. Chances are that there are at least a dozen. But please, don’t disrupt my time in game in “Reach”, that is field work. At least that is how I am spinning it.
*purposeful, an homage to a poorly spoken salesman from my past.
Last year “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2″ shattered all previous entertainment sales records for one day with 4.7 copies sold totaling 310 Million Dollars. Video game geeks everywhere cheered as if they were on the Moon of Endor when the Death Star II was destroyed. Now was the time of the gamer, more specifically the Call of Duty Gamer.
The Matrix aspect of “Call of Duty” is very powerful. It consumes hours in the way the Dude consumes Caucasians, with reckless abandon. Most gamers that play the game daily average about 3 hours a night on the game. It resembles a part-time job more than a hobby and often also consumes countless hours on forums, planning strategies and setting up play times.
Think about that for a second.
If you spend 3 hours a night on one game you are chewing up almost a full day playing video games each week. You will hear all sorts of reasons why, the “I work hard, I deserve it” to “At least I am not out at a bar”, as if that were the only other option.
This is classic Matrix thinking, and it is all too easy to slip into. I have had my time in there, I know it is tough to break out of. It is a place of solace with no real consequences. If you fail, no problem, a re-spawn is right around the corner. It is a comforting alternative reality to the difficult world we all live in.
I played the “Modern Warfare 2″, and while it was fun for a while it grew tiresome. The main problem being that I have a multiple jobs and make time for my family. I was frustrated. I average a little more than 3 hours of game time a weekend and could not complete with those who live in Call of Duty on a nightly basis. The field was shifted too far in their favor and this weekend warrior traded in the game. “I took my talents to NHL 10″.
This past week “Call of Duty: Black Ops” dropped in stores and broke the sales record of its forefather. “Black Ops” sold 5.6 copies and made 360 million dollars in 24 hours. Call of Duty Devotees were overjoyed again. I am punting on this year’s edition, “once bitten, twice shy” as Great White once opined.
That does not mean I have not stayed away from this phenomenon. I have read articles and reviews. What I found striking about the coverage of the newest edition was the gap between the headline and scores of the reviews and the content within that very review.
IGN gave “Call of Duty: Black Ops” an 8.5 score. The headline announced, “Treyarch’s latest is a white-knuckled action romp that doesn’t disappoint.” In a Twitter world where 140 characters equals a complete thought no matter the content, that is likely all that most people will read. Thankfully I still love content from my content providers, and the review is not so glowingly positive. In fact I would say that it contradicts the headline often.
Among the complaints the reviewer found that the AI was often just A ( as in Artificial with no Intelligence for the noobs). The big complaints that I found glaring and wondered how they could not be deemed disappointing are:
- “There are also a few design flaws and annoyances, not least of all was a game-ending bug in the first level that made me restart the entire mission.”
- “A word of warning: Multiplayer’s stability is suspect so far. A few matches dropped the connection, which is very strange at a review event where the online environment is under the almost total control of the developers. I’ve also heard from players who are being kicked from lobbies and matches, so don’t be surprised if there are a few hiccups on launch day.”
How does the game get a pass like that? An 8.5? With those issues? It is partially due to the fact that the Call of Duty Matrix demands a high mark. The anticipation helps dictate the response, even from critics. The writers from IGN make their living in the Matrix, they are not immune to its wiles.
Still, I am stunned that those two major problems are brushed aside. It lead me to wonder if Tommy Callahan did not nail the idea behind Call of Duty 17 years ago. When defending his auto parts decision not to have a guarantee on the box he said, (on why other companies marked the box guaranteed):
“‘Cause they know all they sold you was a guaranteed piece of shit.That’s all it is, isn’t it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it “guaranteed”, I will. I got spare time.
Based on what I have read about glitches galore in the latest and the fact that Activision promises a game a year no matter how quality may suffer it seems that they have bought in to that logic that Tommy mocked. You will get a box that says Call of Duty each year, just be wary of what is inside. Now it seems that even our critics are not there to help guide us. The Matrix wins again.