Monday, 7 January 2008

Over Christmas...

...I was mostly ill. Came down with a throat infection on Christmas eve and today is my first day back at work. It still hasn't properly cleared up. All the awesome-fun plans I had made for the holiday period were rudely snatched away, and the most I could bring myself to do was play on the 360. Even that felt like a chore somedays, when my throat was so bad it felt like I had a cactus permanently wedged down there.

I managed to get out of the house twice, and felt like crap the next morning after both evenings out. So, a complete bust really.

My illness did give me the opportunity to sample a couple of new 360 games. First off was Call of Duty 4. I've come to expect nothing less than a brilliant single-player campaign from the CoD franchise and wow, does CoD4 deliver. I was worried about the reports I'd heard regarding the length of the campaign, but the sheer quality of the content far outweighed that it only took me five hours to get through.

People that know me and my gaming habits will know that I'm a strong advocate of the single-player game, and rarely dip into multiplayer outside of co-op with friends. I'd heard that CoD4 had the best Live multiplayer experience thus far and so decided to just give it a little try to see what I was missing out on.

The sheer ease of getting into a game really helped me in the first couple of hours of play - being able to flit from match to match as players moved on and shut down their hosted games; the ability to see at a glace how many players are playing which gametypes; the ease of navigation of the menu system - all add up to an extremely usable experience.

With a ranking system similar to that of Battlefield 2(142), unlocking guns, perks and mods as you go - you always feel like you're achieving something. Which is good, as the multiplayer portion of the game offers no actual achievements. More games need to take note and do this. Whilst I will play the everliving shit out of a single player game for the achievements (at least, the ones that are fun to get!), making me play the multiplayer portion to get the other 500 points just isn't on. CoD4 gets it exactly right - 600 relatively easy points, 400 hard ones and a multiplayer portion that offers its own rewards system that engages me yet doesn't force me to play just to get points. Thank you, Infinity Ward.

I played Guitar Hero on PS2 at the beginning of 2007 at a LAN. In the short time I had with the game (one song, failed miserably on Easy), I decided that I would never play Guitar Hero again.

So when my sister's boyfriend bought GH3 round to my parents' on Boxing day, I convinced myself that I would hate it before the controller had even been assembled. I, of course, blame my weak-willedness squarely on being ill but we ended up spending most of the day unlocking songs in the co-op career mode.

Now, I'm in a band. I play onstage semi-regularly. I like to rock out. I know how absolutely badass playing a gig feels. What took me by surprise is how easily GH manages to re-create that feeling of badass-ness. When you nail a complex run; when you finally finish a song that's been driving you nuts for half an hour; when you activate that star-power at just the right moment. Guitar Hero does exactly what I initially hated the concept for: It makes playing fake guitar look cool.

And although playing real guitar and playing fake Guitar Hero guitar are two completely different skillsets (anyone that tries to convince you otherwise is a pillock), I can now see why the whole fad has got people going crazy in such numbers. It's F U N. And yes, it is a fad, and no, it's not real gaming. And if this is what gaming is going to become, shoot me now.

I bought GH3 as soon as my local independent game retailer was open the day after Boxing day.

And as if I hadn't already lowered my credibility as a gamer enough in this post - this weekend I started playing World of Warcraft again. From scratch. I promised myself I never would, but some real-life friends convinced me to go run around as Horde with them. So I did. I'm disgusted with myself. You should probably stop reading right now as I'm just a filthy hypocrite.

Go on, stop.

P.S. WoW is still as fun in the early game as I remember it. And I'm not likely to get anywhere near 60 70 this time, so it's okay. Okay?

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