I’ve shot an awful lot of Russians in the past day or so. Not actual Russians you understand, I’m not admitting to being a mass murderer (at least not yet), I’ve just been trying to crank through Modern Warfare’s 3 campaign so I can decide just where I’d rank it on my Game of the Year list. I’m actually enjoying it a lot more than the second entry in the trilogy, mostly because the story seems to actually make some sort of sense.
I mean I haven’t quite worked out why Russia felt that a full scale invasion of the USA was an appropriate response to one terrorist attack, but then again the United States seemed to think it was the correct response in Afghanistan so perhaps the whole series is actually a clever metaphor for the war on terror. On the other hand it might just be an excuse to shoot at Russians who are, inexplicably, evil again even though the Cold War ended 20 years ago.[drop]That’s not actually what I want to talk about though, it’s actually the controls in Modern Warfare 3. See, it seems to have created a new genre, the ‘point and shoot’ adventure. The auto-aim was present in Modern Warfare 2, but it didn’t seem nearly as pronounced. However I don’t want to criticise it for that, it’s actually a nice bit of a change. Sure, it may be completely lacking in realism or any sense of achievement but it does keep the story moving forward. It really adds a drive and speed to the campaign, along with the other characters constantly nagging at you to push on.
It’s quite a difference from the shooting style of the Uncharted series, which feels nicely satisfying to me. I don’t know if it’s the ease of hitting head shoots that appeals to me or if it’s just the system in general, but it really clicks with me. Sadly the bullet-sponge issues of the series do sort of balance it out, I find the sheer amount of damage that a generic bad guy can take if you can’t hit them smack between the eyes to be intensely frustrating, and the ease with which enemies in Modern Warfare crumple to the floor actually felt pretty refreshing.
Here’s the thing, I like that Modern Warfare 3 has no desire to hide what it is. It knows that’s it’s going big and brash, and it quickly becomes clear that the shooting is dumbed down so much because they just want you to drive on to the next set piece, move forwards to the next explosion or building collapse.
I’m not sure I can say the same for Uncharted 3. There’s no comparing the stories, Uncharted 3’s is a lot better. It’s more refined, more character driven and feels far more thought out. It may not be quite as fast paced or as epic in scale, but so far it trumps Modern Warfare 3 easily.
However, it sometimes seems that the bits in between set pieces in Uncharted 3 are just there to flesh the game out, to try and conceal the fact that Naughty Dog had thought of all these amazing battles and chase sequences, and needed a way to stitch them all together. I never got this feeling in Uncharted 2, and the exceptionally low number of set pieces in the first game sort of discounts it, but it’s really what Uncharted 3 is all about.
That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but at least Modern Warfare 3 feels like it’s being honest about it. You know that once you’ve auto-aimed at a few guys and easily killed them something’s going to explode and you can look forward to it. There were points in Uncharted 3 where I knew that something would be blowing up pretty soon, but I had to slog my way through these enemies first.[drop2]I’m not sure which approach I prefer, does increasing the ease with which the player can get between whatever crazy scene Infinity Ward have set up make the game feel too lazy, or does it increase flow? Are Naughty Dog simply padding out the spaces between their set pieces and trying to disguise the game’s true nature, or are they making a more fully realised game by fleshing out the sections in between your last goal and your next one?
I’m not sure I can really say which is the developer’s goal or even which approach is better. Both are enjoyable experiences, and isn’t that really what matters at the end of the day?