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. Bioshock is a great example of storytelling during play, it worked perfectly. I do like a good cutscene as well though, especially on games like uncharted, FF or metal gear where they are usually big, showy and impressive. Blops was okay, but I hate it when you have cutscenes that require some interactivity, but no sense of urgency or time limit. There is a bit when you take off in a plane, and it requires you to pull back the stick, except of you don’t you take off anyway. There is another bit where you are choking someone, and you have to click the sticks in. Instead of it feeling like you are struggling against them, if you don’t click the sticks you just sit and strangle them forever without them fighting back. I prefer the interactivity to be required, not just a gimmick to make sure you are still watching.

  2. as it is a driven path, the annoying yellow arrow is not needed (also spoils immersion)
    i mean its an 18, we’ll find our way

  3. I like the way the levels and cutscenes work in “blops” and would probably miss it if it did go more towards open world.

    saying that though, there is a time and place, like if say gta wasnt open then i wouldnt play it.

  4. I like a mixture of both I guess.
    If the game is fun and ‘awesome,’ then I don’t care how I’m taken through it.

    Great discussion by the way. However…
    “However last week I talked about Sonic twice, so I probably pissed of Mario fans then.”
    *I think it should be “pissed off Mario fans” instead*

  5. This is a good point about Blops. It is cool sometimes, but I think there are times in the game where it’s overdone, or not needed. Sometimes though, it can be used in place of a cutscene, which is far more exciting. Many of the moments in Uncharted 2 come to mind, mainly the one where the building collapse and you’re still in control and theres only 2 ways to do it. One of which is right and the other you die. But the fact that’s it’s happening and you can still choose the outcome and not be watching a piece of story is just awesome, if not groundbreaking!

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