December 18, 2015

Operation: Get Back Into Gaming (Report 3: Shooters!)

Apparently I lost my sense of schedule somewhere down the line. Fine then: posts detailing my experiences with video games will now be posted on Mondays, same as my weekly journal.

My story with FPS games is a funny one: The first shooter I remember playing was Soldier of Fortune. I was rather upset by the cruel violence shown towards innocent civilians, and had a suspicion that things would get worse as the game went on. (It later turned out that I was right.)

I asked my dad to uninstall the game, and resigned myself to playing strategy games and platformers, effectively giving up on the shooter genre after having tasted a small part of it. I bought into the whole story about video games causing violence, and as such, found another reason never to play shooters or any violent game for that matter.

Call of Duty 1 was quite possibly the most exciting
game I'd ever seen at that point in my life.
It didn't stop me from watching them, however. Back in the day, I watched my uncle play a lot of shooter games. (Which I wasn't really allowed to do, mind you.) The big one which caught my attention was the first Call of Duty. The intensity of the game was unlike any other video game I had seen at the time. The cinematic setpieces blew my mind, as I didn't consider it possible for games to have such amazing action setpieces. But nevertheless, as my dad forbade me from playing violent games due to our beliefs on the matter, I never could play it.

My interest in shooters faded over time, until one fateful day when I watched a friend of mine playing Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault. Once again, the intensity of the game captured my attention: It really felt as if you were in the midst of an intense war, and one could feel the desperation of the soldiers as they fought off the Japanese in the Pacific. The violence made me feel queasy, but nothing about it seemed out of place in the context of the game. In one day, I went from being an ardent sceptic, to being sold on the entire shooter genre.

As my appetite for shooters was raging, I decided to try and get my hands on a shooter game: I tried to communicate wanting the first Call of Duty to my uncle, but as I couldn't remember the game's name (and my explanation didn't make a whole lot of sense) he ended up lending me Battlefield 1942.

Which, as it turned out, wasn't a bad move: I ended up really enjoying the openness of the game, and the ability to ride in several kinds of vehicles. I only really played the singleplayer, which meant I had to contend with some horrifically bad AI most of the time. (The AI still hasn't figured out that grenades are able to ricochet in the opposite direction...)

Battlefield 2 came next, along with my Wii console. (A promising console which crashed and failed miserably in the end.) Battlefield 2 was an even greater timesink for me, and I even tried out the multiplayer this time around, but ended up vetoing it due to the bullying I was subject to online.

COD 4 succeeded in making the shooter genre
the big pull of the gaming medium at the time.
The first "serious" shooter I ever owned was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. As you can imagine, the game was massively exciting to me. The stakes were incredibly high, the action pulsating and violent, and the gameplay so addictive that I couldn't tear myself from the couch once I started playing.

As time went on, and I played more shooters, I noticed myself becoming noticeably apathetic when playing them. The same format was repeated over and over again. It became grating to play the same story when they were so lazily written, it was hard to care about the on-screen wars you fought.

While a good story is not always required for a video game, those which were story-driven obviously needed to have stories which you could sink your teeth into...or at the very least, actually care about the characters and their struggles enough to keep playing until the bitter end.

The first game which came along that revived my interest in the shooter genre was Wolfenstein: The New Order. The father of the shooter genre, the Wolfenstein series succeeded in making it fresh again with characters you cared about, a gripping and emotional story, and some good old-fashioned shooter gameplay, incredible difficulty spikes included.

Characters are important to a good story, and in that regard,
Wolfenstein: The New Order, is unparalleled. (Thus far.)

After that, all other shooters seemed rather bland in comparison. I did, however, resign myself to accepting that not all shooter games would be the most amazing pieces of art you could find. All they had to be, however, was fun.

Max Payne 1, an old classic, brought back the difficulty and depth I was craving. An astonishingly difficult game, Max Payne truly pushes you to the limit of your senses to avenge Max's dead family.

The resolution may be lacking, but it's a game which makes you care. Maybe not with all your heart, maybe it won't make you cry (at all), but at least it can make you push through the most difficult areas bring the troubled protagonist some peace.

Shooters may very well be the "junk food" of the gaming genre. It's greasy, it's oily, and it's only mildly satisfying until it's all over and left you wanting more. But here and there, amongst all the fries and ketchup, you find something skillfully prepared, ready to satisfy your hunger for just a little bit longer, making this expensive meal worth the money.

And sometimes, that's all a person really needs: A big plate of food, healthy or not, to calm your stomach for just a little while, so that you can manage to get up and move forward again. And that's quite alright with me.

...Good gosh, I'm hungry now.

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