IDL FEATURE – Day 5: 3rd Person Shooters – Spec Ops: The Line

The third category in this list is dedicated to, coincidentally enough, Third Person Shooters. Countless games have utilized this camera perspective to build their game mechanics around, while still focusing on their main protagonist. Going as far back as Mario 64 or Zelda, to Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider, even Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto. For this list, however, I have chosen games that primarily feature shooting as the defining mechanic, as I have a fourth and fifth category for platformers and story.

Some developers have done it well, others haven’t. Developers like EPIC Games, who made Gears of War for example, redefined 3rd Person Shooters by implementing a quick and seamless cover mechanic, and single-handedly moved Xbox 360s. Grand Theft Auto made the jump to 3rd person with its third iteration, and rocketed the entire franchise to the lofty house-hold name it is today (for better or for worse, in some views). Some games even tried to meld the two like the Tom Clancy Rainbow Six Vegas series. Be it exploration or shooting, platforming or melee, you’ll find a title that suits your need.

For this category I had the hardest choices and sacrifices to make, but I chose: Spec Ops: The Line, Dead Space, and Gears of War.

Honourable Mention: Mass Effect 2 (An RPG, I know, but I don’t really like RPGs. And the only reason I played this trilogy was because it was a shooter, so deal with it.)


Day 5 – Spec Ops: The Line

Developer: Yager Development
Publisher: 2K Games

Spec Ops: The Line is understatedly fantastic, and barely anyone seems to know about it, or has played it. It’s a game that remained under the radar, and was released without much fan-fare. But the reviewers out there loved it. Even myself, I only played it a year after it had been out. That’s not really saying a lot though, since I am slow to get to games.

Spec Ops: The Line is the Apocalypse Now of video games. It’s a war story with no happy endings, with terrible atrocities, and a game that’ll make you feel just terrible when you’re through. Why do I suggest it then, you ask? I answer your question with a question. When was the last time a game made you feel anything? Happy? Sad? Exhilaration, maybe. Stressed or scared? Sure. What about grief or disgust? Regret? Has Call of Duty ever made you think twice about the people that you’re slaughtering? Spec Ops does. Is it maybe the innocuous title, that made people overlook it?

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The true horrors of what men can do are put on display, and it’s not a pretty picture. As the “hero”, we’re dropped into the deserts of Dubai, after most of the city has been wiped out by sand storms and war. We’re here because a distress beacon brought us here. Former military teams thought lost have called home, and we’re here to get them. But things go sideways as they always do, and we find ourselves on foot with our small team, trekking across the sand city to find them. A long the way we come across bandit teams, and former soldiers gone rogue or gone mad. We come across small civilian groupings scrounging for food and water.

The game, and our “headset” commander, asks us to destroy certain points of interests, or groupings of enemies ahead with a little weapon called white phosphorous. And we play along, as the good soldier would, following commands. But then the game begs the question: Why did you just do that? As we then have to trudge through the smoking, screaming humanity. Was that really our only option? Were you sure those were even soldiers?

The mechanics of the game are like Gears of War. 3rd person view – obviously – with chest high cover. It’s the same game engine after all. And the level of destruction is a key point to mention, as certain destructible walls will unleash a wave of sand, taking out nearby enemies.

This game IS my #1 game of last generation, and would have almost been better served in the Story category, due to the lasting, haunting feelings. But it’s here, to kick off this one instead, and close out this week. Come Backwards Compatibility, I will re-play this game, and will do it better justice with a full Review, as I don’t think I really can in this format.

<– Yesterday – Colin McRae’s Dirt 2
Tomorrow – Dead Space –>

-iRogan

IDL FEATURE – Day 4: Driving – DIRT 2

The second category is Driving Games. Driving Games is another category with a plethora of games to choose from, and one that can share games with other categories. For this example however, I wanted games that were strictly driving, and what better companies to look towards but Codemasters, EA, and Turn 10. Even Rockstar has thrown their hat in from time to time with their Midnight Club series. There are the Forza’s, and Need For Speed’s, F1’s and Rally. Driving games, like first person shooters, can make you feel different emotions while playing, but these are mainly just different levels of exhilaration, and sometimes relief. Hitting the tarmac with tires screeching can feel glorious if done well, and fish-tailing around bends while climbing as thin dirt path can be terrifying. Some teams have managed to do it better than others.

For the driving category, for lack of more space, I was only able to choose one game: Codemasters’ Colin McRae DIRT 2.

With the Honorable mention going to Forza Horizons.


Day 4 – Colin McRae: DIRT 2

Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters

When Colin McRae Dirt came out, it wasn’t by any stretch, the first of its kind. At its most fundamental, you’ll find a rally driving game. It wasn’t even the first rally game by Codemasters, as they had done Colin McRae Rally games prior. But they had taken a break from the series, and come back to the next generation a little more invigorated.

Dirt 1 was raw and dirty. It was also true to the sport. The cars were beautifully rendered and realized, and sounded real. Almost guttural. When doing the hill climbs, you felt the speed and the desperation of the vehicles as you expertly corner the next bend, dirt scattering everywhere behind the tires.

At the end of each segment or portion of the race, knowing you were leading the pack, felt like an achievement, as the game wasn’t easy. The main difficulty was the damage mechanic. The realism and realization that your car was literally falling apart around you was its selling point. Each rock, poorly landed jump or tree ripped components of your car away and with some of the rally segments – and damage – carrying over to the next day or 3, each car component is vital. A poorly judged corner and subsequent smashed rear brake might make the different between 1st and 10th tomorrow.

Rally wasn’t the only mode either; there were buggies, trucks hill climbs, and rival races.

Now, Dirt 2 took all this, added a festival feel to the campaign, and tacked on Gymkhana modes and tournaments.

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Dirt 2 understandably had to make some sacrifices with the sequel by toning down the damage a bit, but adding a rewind feature and some water physics with matching windshield wipers. OH! They also added the option of hanging your own Xbox Avatar as a rear-view mirror ornament, to my child-like amazement – me, stupidly clapping and laughing dumbly as little iRogan hangs on, upside-down, for his life. A feature that no other game – to my knowledge, has replicated. Not even subsequent DIRT or GRID games sadly…

Dirt 2 was a cleaner, sportier version of Dirt 1, but this made it more fun all the same. It stepped up the visuals by making everything brighter and more colourful, but the rewind function did take away some of the difficulty curve that the first one had no problem reminding us of.

<– Yesterday – RAGE
Tomorrow – Third-Person Category: Spec Ops – The Line –>

-iRogan

IDL FEATURE – Day 3: FPS – RAGE

For the First Person Shooter category, I’ve chosen 3 games: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1, Halo: Reach, and RAGE.

Honorable mentions to: Far Cry 3, and Homefront.


Day 3 – RAGE

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Software

The last game on the list of my favourite First Person Shooters from the last generation is RAGE. From the team that gave us Doom, id Software. You could argue that this game never belonged on the last generation, but it did push the consoles to their stops, and kept pushing.

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RAGE introduced us to a post-apocalyptic world, not unlike any other post-apocalyptic world. The world of RAGE is very barren, and rocky, and sandy, but it has plenty of blue skies. It is a time where most of humanity is now gone, perished. And the few that remained have to fight to survive. It is like the Wild West, outlaws around every corner, many dangers lurking.

Humanity is split into 4 different groups:

The locals – who are fighting just to survive, they grow food, and are just trying to make a life of it. This group sticks to the towns, or live off their own little dwellings and land.

Then, there are the bandits who roam the wasteland and have their own secluded portion of the land. This group picks off anyone who dare venture out of the towns. They’re a pointy, prickly bunch.

Next up, there are the mutants. This group is relegated to the sewers. They occasionally venture to the surface to make sure their presence isn’t forgotten. They come in all sizes, mostly small, but an odd, mountainous giant comes up for fresh air.

And lastly, there is the law. This group has a very large station in the sky and sends militants down to keep the peace, or for their own nefarious purposes. As the protagonist, we have to deal with all groups as we navigate the world and story.

The game tells a very interesting story at that, and introduces us to a lot of unique characters as we progress from town to town, sewer, to wasteland and then towards the stars, and back.

The world is gorgeously rendered, and this is the main proponent of the game, arguing its quality. Character design and vehicles are beautifully brought to life, and animations spot-on. But it’s the world design. Every part of the land, towns, and sewers is painstakingly hand-crafted by the artists. No reused textures and all the lighting and shadows are pre-baked. It’s still hard to still believe that this game was made available last generation.

The large mutant fights are still one of the satisfying highlights of gaming for me, and watching a pyro soldier slowly spin and launch away with his propane tank strapped to his back, one of my most sinister. The game strove to change what a first person shooter was, as id Software has done on many occasion in the past. They make it a point to change the mold, and introduce new mechanics; this time with the boomerang, spider-bot, and different ammunition types for all weapons – changeable on the fly.

The game also features a crafting system. Built by scrap parts, you can create the alternative ammunition for the weapons, handy turrets, or spider bots. These help in all situations, as the firefights can be quite frantic.

The game slowly did lose its path and pacing as it went on, and sadly ended without any real bang, but the journey is still a spectacle.

<– Yesterday – Halo: Reach
Tomorrow – Driving Games: Colin McRae’s Dirt 2 –>

-iRogan

IDL FEATURE – Day 2: – FPS – HALO: Reach

For the First Person Shooter category, I’ve chosen 3 games: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1, Halo: Reach, and RAGE.

Honorable mentions to: Far Cry 3, and Homefront.


Day 2 – HALO: Reach

Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Around the time that the Call of Duty war game train was starting to pick up speed, another little title, a very different title, called Halo, came out. This was Microsoft’s exclusive baby, designed by a team called Bungie. Originally released on the first Xbox, this game has now sparked, as of this coming October, four sequels and two side story games, along with many other publications, stories, two episodic – for lack of a better word – TV shows, and continuous movie talks. It’s not just a game anymore, but a household name.

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The Halo games are very different from the Call of Duty’s out there. The game is a space fantasy, with humans in battle armour fighting aliens. You’ll be shooting with human guns and alien guns, and driving a plethora of different vehicle types. The game is also co-op from mission one, onwards.

The game is more colourful, the enemies and enemy types more plentiful, and the story much grander in scale. It is a space epic.

After the first trilogy was done, and a side-story out of Halo 3, in ODST, completed, Bungie decided to part ways with Microsoft and venture out into the world and make something new. Before doing this however, they released one final Halo game – Halo: Reach. A prequel, of sorts, as the game took place on the Spartan planet of Reach, the story focusing on a group of Spartans, and not Master Chief.

Reach was Bungie’s swan song. It was their best designed game from the ground up. Their best story-telling, and a venture into newer territory, before leaving the comfortable Halo universe behind, with larger battles, new abilities, and even venturing out into that eerie emptiness with spaceship battles.

The game really just felt like the complete package, and honestly, the best designed game from the Bungie team. From here, the reins would be handed back to Microsoft, and their 343 Studio, to run with a new Master Chief trilogy.

<– Yesterday – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Tomorrow – RAGE –>

-iRogan

IDL FEATURE – Day 1: FPS – Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

First category of the next two weeks is the First Person Shooters. The FPS genre is probably the most popular genre, if not the most prolific. Every year we get dozens of new titles, each competing for popularity. The FPS genre is also one of the oldest in gaming history, with Doom, and Quake, and Wolfenstein 3D. At points it’s been funny, with the Duke Nukem’s, or gorgeous, with the Crysis’i. The genre has been used to tell many stories, from war in the World War 1 and 2 days, battles with demons on Mars, cities under water or in the sky, or used to tell no story at all, but simply made to press the technology borders farther, and just have people compete in an arena till their death, like Unreal Tournament.

For the First Person Shooter category, I’ve chosen 3 games: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1, Halo: Reach, and RAGE.

Honorable mentions to: Far Cry 3, and Homefront.


Day 1 – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision

Looking back now, one of the most well-known franchises, and most popular today, are the Call of Duty games, but it started over a decade ago with their World War 1 and 2 games. Call of Duty popularized the FPS genre on the PC and console by dropping us in a war environment, in the shoes of a soldier and asked us to fight in a war. The game glorified war, but showed the true nature and harsh realities behind it. We lost comrades left right and center as we fought our way through each battle, and it didn’t give us a lot of time to grieve.

Call of Duty became most well-known for its single player campaign, story-telling and scripted events. Head long into each firefight, every instance of the game was a little over the top, and urged the player to press forward, be it your comrades who sit beside you until you advance, or the enemies up ahead flushing you out with well-placed grenades. You never stop moving.

Year after year of the World War 1 and 2 games, the Call of Duty franchise made a sudden, if not relieving, jump to the modern era, with the introduction of COD 4: Modern Warfare. This is also the game that jumped into the new generation of consoles, with a spiffy new engine.

This game changed the landscape of FPS, and is still revered as one of the most popular Call of Duty games to date, and sparking the ignition to what is now the most popular annual franchise.

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The game told a great story, following multiple leads, each connected, as they trotted the globe fighting terrorism. The story was kept compact though, a small group making big changes, and dragging the player through it at a ferocious pace.

The game starts as we try to escape a huge freighter ship that is sinking in the ocean, slows everything down and puts us in the shoes and gullies suit of a sniper in Chernobyl, and then ramps it back up without apologizing.

The mechanics of the game were its best attributes. The shooting mechanic was so precise and so fulfilling. The shots felt like they had real impact, the guns so realistically designed. And getting shot also felt punishing, the screen getting covered with blood. The enemies’ deaths felt natural as well. A mainstay of the franchise, the deaths were animated, and not delegated to a physics engine, making the bodies perform unrealistic ragdoll tumbling maneuvers.

The game also reinvigorated the online FPS world, and this is now the most popular feature of the annual versions. People don’t even play the single player campaign. These are terrible people though. The way the online mode was designed encouraged continuous play. You earned unlocks and new guns the more you played, through XP, and you didn’t even need to do well. The game rewarded time and dedication. And then if/when you reached the cap level, you could prestige to Rank 2, and do it all over again, sacrificing all your unlocks and starting from scratch. Why, to show dedication and time, of course.

Modern Warfare, and the Infinity Ward team behind it designed every facet of the game to perfection, and it can be argued that the eight Call of Duty games that have since followed, and the sheer popularity of the annualized franchise, is thanks to the success of this title.

Tomorrow – HALO: Reach –>

-iRogan