What We’re Playing - February 18
The weekend is upon us and itís time to play some videogames. Here are a few games weíve been playing away from the office this week. Whatís on your agenda?
It wasnít the bouncing breasts or short skirts that sold me on SoulCalibur V, though maybe they didnít hurt. It was ultimately the customization that stuck out like a sore codpiece and inevitably won me over.
Having finished the vapid story offering Ė while sitting in the lobby for a fight Ė I watched as Darth Maul took on a man with a soul patch and a large afro to boot. Following this were fights featuring a procession of quirky characters, spanning a range of everything from furry abominations to a sequence of further afro fighters.
And while this lobby chat area in-between my own fights isnít the core of what makes it a good fighting game (in the end, itís all about the fighting) it provided the proper venue to experience other peopleís creations. Thereís something good about that. Apart from the expected slew of returning series favorites and the inclusion of Ezio and some guy from Tekken, this provides the main reason to continue playing this year’s iteration.
Although the series has become a bit of a bloated, meandering cash cow nowadays, Call of Duty 4 was a revolutionary title. To say that Iíve been playing it this week is stretching the truth a little; in all honesty Iíve been replaying one particular level of COD4 for about four years now and donít plan on stopping any time soon. Charlie Donít Surf comes early on in the campaign and gives a glimpse into the workings of an American military operation. More that that though, the level displays the tight and elegant design that would soon become lost in all the tango talk and Generation Kill-esk whooping and yammering of subsequent releases.
Charlie Donít Surf passes in a shock of muzzle flash and grenade burst but the imagery stays with me for at least a couple of months before I go through it again. Itís a strange way to play a game but Iím sure we all have similar tales to tell; I figure it to be the gaming equivalent to having a favourite guitar solo or picking out the marshmallows from a bowl of Lucky Charms Ė just with more splash damage.
On my shelf there’s a copy of Final Fantasy XIII lying about collecting dust. I’ve already played it for much too long and still haven’t beaten it. There’s a story there that’s interesting, but there’s also gameplay that’s so boring it makes me not want to play it. And Square Enix decides that game is the one that needed a sequel.
A long time ago the Japanese RPG was King, and playing through Chrono Trigger, a game I also neglected to complete, is the kind of thing that shows where it once excelled. And JRPG’s didn’t just present amazing stories, though the story of Chrono and his attempts to stop a future gone wrong makes for an intriguing plot. They also advanced their gameplay, slowly but surely, instead of dumbing it down.
Chrono Trigger did have an oddity it shares with Final Fantasy XIII in its battle system. There are attacks, usually ones that affect a small area, that depend on where people are standing. There are no movement controls in battle. It throws off tactical decisions, but for Chrono Trigger there were more than enough ways to work around simple flaws. In XIII the majority of tactical decisions were solved by letting the battle run automatically, thus making no decisions at all.
I’d never really got to grips with Peace Walker upon its initial release aside from a few stolen moments on a mate’s PSP. The recently-released Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection however allowed me to experience properly for the first time the game that Hideo Kojima considers to be the ‘true’ MGS5.
For a game released on a handheld device, it struck me just how massive Peace Walker is. From searching for prisoners in the jungle to battling giant AI enemies (including the final boss which can last well over half-an-hour), Peace Walker doesn’t let up for a minute. The main story is as in-depth as any MGS title and there are a large number of challenging side-missions, ensuring that you always have something to do or somewhere to go in the game.
The backstory to the actual game surrounds Big Boss forming “Outer Heaven”, a haven for soldiers without a country willing to fight for hire. Capturing a soldier in the main story essentially recruits them into Big Boss’s “Militaires San Frontieres” and they can then be assigned to combat duty, medical duty or even to develop new weapons. Seeing my deserted base in the middle of the ocean expand and thrive as I delved further into the game addicted me and I began to enjoy running “MSF” almost as much as playing through the actual story.
On a personal level, playing through Peace Walker properly for the first time let me breathe a great sigh of relief. I was worried that, with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots neatly tying up every loose end in the story’s canon, that Peace Walker would prove to be a disappointing and unnecessary spin-off. On the contrary, Peace Walker represents one of the best stories seen in the Metal Gear series to date and assured me that, despite any reservations I may have had to the contrary, there is still life in the series for a long while yet.