Lunchtime Discussion: Control

So yesterday I finished Call of Duty: Black Ops. I had a lot of fun with it, mostly infuriating my friends by referring to it as “Blops” in real life, rather than on Twitter. Of course the game itself is a lot of fun, and the storyline is absolutely superb and way more compelling than I’d imagined it would be. However there was a small thing that I really didn’t like and that’s the lack of flexibility and control in some areas.

If you’ve played the game you probably know the parts I mean. There are levels in the game that are basically interactive cut scenes when you’re going from checkpoint to checkpoint without a single enemy in sight. From a gameplay perspective this is hardly amazing, it seems dull and uninteresting. However from a story telling and cinematic perspective it’s great and works really well.

It seems that most games make a distinction between telling the story and actually playing the game, and seeing the two mixed together in Black Ops was actually quite interesting. The best most games attempt is revealing information over the radio or having some NPCs talk to you as you move through the level. Whilst all Black Ops is doing is essentially giving you control over a cutscene, at least it’s actually more interesting than just having a cutscene and keeps you involved in the way that Call of Duty does brilliantly.

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Whilst I enjoyed the cutscene parts, there are other aspects of control in Black Ops that I wasn’t so fond of. Mostly it was the fact it feels exceptionally linear in some places, even when you’re above ground you frequently feel like you’re being driven down a tunnel. Compared to other titles like Halo: Reach where openness is embraced, Black Ops feels almost claustrophobic  in the way you’re driven through levels. Of course this was present to some extent in other Call of Duty titles, it’s just the way the games are built, but Black Ops feels like it’s taken this to new levels.

So I apologise for talking about Black Ops so much today, if you don’t like the title you probably hate me now. However last week I talked about Sonic twice, so I probably pissed of Mario fans then. Anyway, how do you feel about these control issues. Do you like the concept of being able to drive a cutscene to some extent? How about openness in games, do you prefer flexibility or being driven?

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30 Comments

  1. There’s an excellent bit whilst you’re walking across the Arctic level, obviously you’re just listening in to the back story for a character or the upcoming set-piece but you walk past a circle of soldiers on their knees being executed with a single shot through the head, if you walk over to them you get to hear their pleas as they are killed one by one, then the executor runs out of bullets and has to slit the throat of the final one.

    It’s pretty graphic and highlights the horrors of war, despite it not being part of the story thread it doesn’t seem gratuitous (which I’m normally critical of)

    • Yeah I remember that bit. I really felt like I wanted to intervene, quite emotionally effective.

      • It is very gratuitous in parts though isn’t it. I’ve never seen hands or legs blown off in a CoD game before & some of the throat slitting is fairly explicit.

    • Please? They were asking to be killed?

      Oh wait, am I asking to be killed by pointing this out?

      :-)

  2. I do like to be driven as i would spend hours searching every possible area. It doesn’t help when my family and friends laugh at my OCD tendencies at point out areas i may have missed.

  3. It totally depends on the game. I was a little underwhelmed by final fantasy 13s corridor crawling, as it purports to be an rpg, and as such i expect openness. The game didn’t become open until the very end, even then it was only a small open area. With fps though i expect to be guided down tunnel-like areas. The thing that got me most about black ops campaign, having completed it last night, was that the objective was always on screen as a dot, with distance away below the dot. I found myself focusing on that too much, almost a game of just running towards the dot.

    • Yup, it annoyed me too (hence mentioning it in my review). I wished it would only appear after a set amount of time or if you pressed a button/combo

      • This is where medal of honour got this totally right. Press up on d pad to display your hud. I honestly think medal of hootr is a better sp game than any of the cods, except for the bugs. Shame the multiplayer wasn’t quite as addictively brilliant.

      • Yes that little yellow thing can be helpful, but is largely annoying. Medal of Honor did do this very well, and I believe having as little screen furniture as possible makes a game a bit more immersive. This does depend on the title though….

  4. Well “Blops” is still sitting in it’s sellophane in my lounge, but the one thing that springs tom mind regarding this discussion subject is Metal Gear Solid 4’s cutscenes. While sometimes they pulled you away from any gameplay or interactivity, they were at times slightly interactive. I think perhaps this design choice was more to prevent the player from switching off a bit.

  5. If games have a strong plot then cutscenes like Uncharted 2’s are pure entertainment of the highest order. However, I’ve seen a few games dabble with the in-game narrative being continued and it can sometimes work. Heck, it worked for Half Life 2. Obviously it’s down to us to pay bloody attention :-) but if they’ve got away with it and kept the player suitably immersed then no problem. My only reservation is if there is a particularly strong scene where you simply MUST see an actor’s emotive response you might miss it. For those sort of moments, I’m happy letting go of the reins and giving them full control.

  6. I love “Blops”!

    • Every time I see that word I think of a video game where females play it once a month and get very, very moody.

      • Can’t believe you went there

      • I’m a dead man, aren’t I. :-)

      • All the men on this site (98% of members) are now cowering away from bunimomike!

        (But come on, we’ve all thought it)

      • He always goes there.

  7. I didn’t like the interactive cut scene’s in BlOps, appart from the snow level, as that’s more like just an intro into the level. The other ones just seem to distract you from what’s going on, they give you control but if you walk off you miss whats going on, which kind of defeats the whole object of having control.

  8. I enjoyed the CoD Story but didn’t think it was amazing or anything.
    I havge more or less come to terms with my disappointments with this game but the only one that really gets me is infinite enemies. Im trying to complete the story on veteran and its virtually impossible because the enemies are infinite. in that sense I feel I have no control over how the game plays because everytime I kill an enemy he is immediately replaced by another generic enemy.
    Im not sure thats the type of control you nwere on about but Im not exactly Bob Hoskins

    • I’ve never even bothered trying to complete any of the Cod’s on veteran as I just find it too frustrating getting shot at if I even think of popping my head out from cover. The favela level in MW2 is just ridiculous!

      • I thought MW2 veteran was just about perfect. Hard work and difficult but at no point did I ever feel like I was just grinding, more like I need tobe more careful and cunning. With Blops, its basically all about luck rather than judgement. Its just not fun, its grinding and it was the same with WaW. Infinite enemies are no fun because you just cant feel like your making progress when picking them off one strategically 1 at a time

  9. The game is very linear alright but all Call of Dutys have been the same. Still love it though, the best single player campaign since CoD4. Much better than World at War anyway. There were a few good single player levels in MW2 but the story was just all over the place.

  10. Seem to recall being amazed when the original Half-Life did that well over 10 years ago. The opening train ride where you can freely move round the carriage was a complete new thing to me, and a massive step from the Doom/Quake mode of story telling.

    • Yeah was great when Half_life did it. Would have mentioned it but I didn’t spend the whole weekend on it.

      • I’m leaving that underscore in to remind myself I’ve been coding too long.

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