Monday, 11 February 2008

Padthrowers Anonymous

Call Of Duty 4 (on Veteran)

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but I never spent much time playing videogames as a child. I was an active sort, never particularly good at sport, but always outside trying nonetheless. Games appealed to me for their character design, stories and the opportunity to "beat up and smash shit" without consequence. I was baffled and put off by their systems and the time so many of them required you to spend in order to succeed. I never really felt in control which always has, to this day even, led to a great amount of frustration.

The reason for so much harping on about gaming past is because, despite appearances, Call of Duty 4 is a very 'old' game. Online, it is fantastic, on regular and hardened, it is fantastic, but on Veteran, the cracks start to appear.

Now, many of you will be thinking at this point "you aren’t up to the challenge, so you decide to criticize the game, go play Animal Crossing, noob." Well, you'd be right. I do suck at Call of Duty and I do, very often, go play Animal Crossing. But, what you fail to see, is that sucking so hard at games gives me a unique insight into their flaws. If I am failing, it’s not my fault; it’s the game's.

Call of Duty 4 reminds me of the games from my past because its Veteran difficulty cannot be beaten by manual dexterity, or quick thinking, no, what you need is to understand how to beat the system. Finding cover and killing everyone is not good enough, no matter how well you do it, because at certain points, the enemies continually respawn. There is an unlimited stream of enemies, literally. The only time this stream is cut off, is when you reach a certain trigger point. What am I to do? I cannot reach the trigger point, for you see, every enemy that I kill respawns. By this point, I am at a total loss. My mind and body begin to separate and I react in the only way I know how. I want the system to know just how frustrated I am. The pad leaves my hands.

The problem is, you can’t tell a game what you think of it. I can shout at my TV all day long, but its never going to hear me. I can throw my pad forever, but it will never feel pain. Hell, I could even snatch the disc right out of the tray, snap it in half and take a shit between the two pieces, but that would just be silly.

The root of my frustration lies in the fact that to beat this difficulty, I have to trick and overcome the system, work out its patterns and use them against the game, much in the same way you would have to do in order to get a supreme Donkey Kong high score. It isn’t about thinking on your toes, or using your imagination, its about exposing and exploiting flaws or gaps in a system.

I'm sure that even some of my most loved games, Bioshock for example, can also be criticized for the same thing, it is after all just as much a game as any other. But the important difference is that Bioshock doesn’t force me to expose its inner workings in order to beat it, and it never made me throw my pad, not even once.

The Faux-Bot
Point of interest: typing 'shit on a disc' into Google image search yeilds poor results.

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