Evolutionary dead end

It won’t come as a surprise to any of you that I’m not a hardcore gamer. I’ve never claimed to be. Don’t get me wrong, I know the difference between Black Mesa and Vice City, I know how to rocket-jump, I know what camping is and I know how to grind. I can appreciate decent graphics AND decent game mechanics and don’t always prioritise one over the other. I’ve played online FPS games over dialup, collected the D-U-K-E in the right order, and have the ethereal collection of mandatory credentials to be able to talk about the topic with some small expertise. That said, I’m not going to be queueing outside Gamestop on launch day or starting clans. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m perfectly happy to simply enjoy playing games as and when i feel like it. Do i pick them up, rapidly get bored, and leave them to gather cobwebs if the fancy takes me? Sure, why the fuck not? It’s my spare time, i’ll use it as i see fit. Do I occasionally spend months neglecting the long-suffering Blumpkette by fully immersing myself in something i’m really enjoying? Absolutely. Only with a handful of games over the years, but it’s happened. The platinum Fallout 3 trophy on my PSN profile is worn with pride, as is the pitiful 10% completion of Bioshock (both amazing by the way). Do I dare to even admit that i like incredibly uncool games? Yes, guilty again. Angry birds is just bloody good FUN. Fine. Neutrality established, right? Right.

I’ve always been a sucker for the Command and Conquer series. Maybe it’s the same megalomaniacal streak that drew me towards games like Civilisation and Spore (yes, I tried to take over the whole Galaxy. No, I didn’t manage it. I went and read a book instead. Bite me). For those who aren’t familiar, the CnC franchise is a real-time strategy game that allows the player to strategically build an army in order to defend their strategic base of operations which will let them strategically conquer their strategic enemies using a strategic mouse. Despite the best efforts of Westwood (and in later years EA) this has invariably translated to Sit your ass down and build an impenetrable base, gradually building an army so fucking gargantuan that your inevitable assault on the AI player looks a bit like Poland in 1939. The limitations of the game concept are such that this “strategy” is fairly foolproof. Back in the long-long-ago, the fight was between the Brotherhood of Nod and the Global Defence Initiative. If anyone hasn’t already worked out who were the bad guys from the names, GDI wore blue (FUCK YEAH!) and Nod wore red (BOOOOO). no problem. A sub-set of the main storyline in which an alternate timeline saw an invasion of the USA by – you guessed it – the Soviet horde led to even more “red army” versus “blue army” fun. Now, I’m not going to get drawn into picking favourites in the 10-odd game history of the series because, well, this is my page and you’re all entitled to my opinion. Red Alert 2 held more memorable moments than any other. For those of you that have played it, the phrases “Kirov reporting”, “Nuclear missile detected”, and of course “insufficient funds” will strike a certain resonance. Before we get stuck into nostalgia, please allow me a brief sidenote.

I’m no fool. Much like the above debate, I’m not fucking TOUCHING the “pc gamer” versus “console gamer” bloodfeud. This is in no small part because I own a Mac, and games are – technically speaking – none of my fucking business, you stupid hipster asshole. The PC devotees will point to things like better graphics, modifications, MMORPGs etc as proof that theirs is the superior vehicle for escapism. The console fans, on the other hand, will point to things like compatibility being removed as an issue, a wider range of top-drawer titles, more stable online play and all the rest. For the record, I’ve been both. I never owned a console during my younger years, and have owned a playstation for the last 3. The difference in purchasing games goes along these lines:

PC GAME :

  1. Find a shop that sells PC games labelled neither “warcraft” or “sims”
  2. Pore over the minimum system requirements
  3. Pray to god that there isn’t some other compatibility issue
  4. Take home game
  5. Fail to start game
  6. Wait for next PC upgrade
PS3 GAME:
  1. Walk into any game retailer
  2. Find section marked “ps3” (as opposed to the other half of the shop hanging under the sign saying “xbox 360”)
  3. Purchase
  4. Play
So again, without wanting to get dragged into a dogfight, the advantage for me is simple convenience. Maybe it’s the apple tattoo on my left forearm (no, not really), maybe it’s the substitution of disposable income for the relish of an assembly challenge of my formative years, but when I buy something i just want the fucker to work out of the box. Not a big demand if you ask me. Back to Command and Conquer.
After a hasty conference with the housemate that I see as the expert on such things, I was ready. The onslaught of big-name titles for the PS3 this Christmas has started already. There’s a new batman game. There’s a new Uncharted. There’s a new Elder Scrolls. There’s a new Battlefield. What to do? So much choice! Like an oversized child in an expensive toy shop, I took the only possible route with my precious annual gaming budget. I pissed it all away on the PS3’s built in content delivery service and bought a bundle of stuff from ages ago for a third of the cost of buying through retail (because really, who the fuck needs packaging when we’ve got digital distribution?). And then I saw it.
Red.
Alert.
Three.
My beloved franchise, thrust upon me again on a whole new platform! Oh the joy and trepidation as I loaded it up for the first time, well aware that there were really only two concerns
1. Is it as much fun as it used to be?
2. Will moving from mouse and keyboard to controller actually work on this kind of game?
Strangely the interface issue was the first resolved. Even though i loathe and detest using the analog sticks to select anything from a wheel, it was fine. If anything, the camera controls were actually better. Smooth UI? Sexy graphics? Silly fun manic ridiculous cartoony war between the Allies, Russia and Japan? Absolutely!
And then, just as I found my enemy in the first mission, the game froze. Seriously. First time play, froze. On a console. Frustrating doesn’t cover it. Fuck you, Sony.  The whole reason people use consoles is because they’re too fuck-stupid or slob-lazy to have to struggle with this kind of shit. Thank you for once again reassuring me that all technology is just waiting for its chance to thoroughly enrage by collapsing when most desired.
In fact, I’ll invite you all to share my frustration by not finishing this post.
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Evolutionary dead end

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