I’m going to start off the articles here with a controversial one. We all love games, that’s why we’re here, and quite often we all love the same game. Except me, I hate the things you love, and you hate me for that. The world is a place of love and hate. Okay, so I don’t hate all the things you love, but chances are you love these things, and I hate them. You might hate me for it. And I love that.
Hate is a strong word though. I don’t really hate any of these games, but I don’t like them, and usually I won’t mention it because I’ll be shouted down and derided for it. I’m not just talking about the things millions of people love but that most serious gamers hate either, like every Call of Duty since they started numbering them again at 2, or console conversions. These are the games praised by my gaming peers but which never had any appeal for me.
Resident Evil is the original survival horror, but I have issues with both of those descriptives. The survival was only difficult due to a scarcity of ammo and very counterintuitive controls. The horror part was quashed for me by the disconnect I felt with my character for the same reason. I actually kind of like the concept of it – I thought the first movie was pretty good (the second was atrocious though) – but the whole experience of the game was marred by the fact that it always felt exactly like a game, and not a very good one. The threat I felt from any monster attack was as a result of my dreading having to piss about trying to shoot the thing. For more of the same see Dead Space, which also has a superior movie.
The problem I have with Goldeneye isn’t so much the game, which I really barely played, but the title it holds in many peoples’ minds as the best FPS ever. To a PC gamer it was like watching the monkeys pick up a bone club for the first time in 2001: A Space Odyssey, then claim to the viewer that the bone was better than any monkey beating implement known to man. And we all know if there’s nothing men know how to do better it’s to beat their monkey. Goldeneye was preceded by Duke Nukem 3D and Quake by a year earlier, and succeeded by Half Life and Rainbow Six a year later. In that family it really stands out as the ginger stepchild, and yet it is lauded above all of them by many. Worth noting also that most people who love this game do so because they enjoyed hiding in a corner in the multiplayer killing their unsuspecting mates with grenades in a tactic which would later become known as camping.
Okay, enough beating up old console games. Time to move to my home platform and do some beating up. Counter Strike has been hugely influential in online shooters for years, in its various forms, and I hate it for that. Any game I spend more time watching someone else playing because some bunny-hopping bastard who plays the game all day and night headshotted me before I could even react makes me think of Counterstrike. You could say I don’t like it because I’m shit at it, but I prefer to think that I don’t like it because it punishes me for being shit at it. Add into that the type of player it spawned – the smack-talking, elitist, angry internet kid – and it could be argued that it singlehandedly turned the world of online gaming into the cesspool it is today. The first online shooter I ever played was Delta Force, and it was a lovely, friendly experience. Those days are gone forever I fear.
The Elder Scrolls
I admit, the Elder Scrolls games I’ve played are good. I don’t like them though. You see, they promise so much; an open world with free choice to control your own destiny. They can’t match the promise though, and inevitably I’m bitterly disappointed. I hate them for making me want them to be something they can’t. In Skyrim I wanted to become a feared necromancer and conquer the world with an undead army, or die trying. To cross the world with a skeletal horde. burning everything I found, and then looking out over the blasted wasteland I could then claim to rule. Or attracting the hostility of every nation and ending the game by being captured and put to death. Both are fascinating and of my own design, both are utterly out of reach. Instead I have to wander around doing identikit dungeons against monsters of exactly balanced challenge until I feel obliged to continue the main quest. They’re the uncanny valley of roleplaying games.
Command & Conquer
Command & Conquer is the granddad of the RTS genre, although Dune 2 pioneered it. I’ve never liked it though, and the reasons why extend to modern games. I played C&C well before I actually owned a PC, while visiting mates who were at university. They had two computers back to back and played against each other constantly. So when I played against them I got demolished every single time. This was before I’d ever played the single player, and it took a long time for them to build a huge force to stomp me into the ground. It all felt like so much wasted time. And that’s how it’s been for every multiplayer RTS ever since. It’s not just that I’m bad at them, it’s that it takes so damn long to lose. I hate them because I’m not even bad at them from of a lack of tactical nuance, it’s because I’m a poor accountant. I’m no good at running the economy that allows people to churn out dozens of tanks to overrun my carefully produced force. They should be called Real Time Economics. Mind you, you can’t help but admire the originality of the Red Alert storyline of Einstein travelling back in time and assassinating Hitler.
It would be too easy to write Fallout 3 off for the same reasons as Oblivion and Skyrim, but I don’t think it was meant to be a ‘choose your own destiny’ kind of game. There’s always a clear direction to your post-apocalyptic adventuring, but the sheer scale of the thing is dazzling. Most people loved that dazzling scale, the huge expanse of desert pocked with interesting locations, but I was caught like a rabbit in the headlights. Rumours of the end of the main storyline coming unexpectedly and ending the game drove me to do everything but that, so I found myself playing dozens of little sub-games. Each location a tiny FPS adventure in itself, separated by lots and lots of walking. It left me underwhelmed and needing something grander. The whole feeling was exacerbated by the fact I loved Fallout 1 & 2. They seemed to manage to tag all the side quests into the main structure of the story so that I never really felt as though I was deviating too far. The series will remain forever changed, but at least I have Wasteland 2.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The much anticipated sequel to the legendary freeform, cerebral shooter that was Deus Ex was received with great praise from the media and players alike. I found it to be a long succession of compromises. I started the game with the intent of playing through multiple times to try different approaches, and my first would be to blast everyone who I considered to be a bad guy. However, I found myself railroaded into hacking, lock-picking, and sneaking about. It was just so obviously the way the game was designed to be played, and not to do so made me feel penalised. At first I enjoyed the sneaking, but later on it just became a game of trial and error, endlessly quick-saving and loading because I’d put a foot out of place. I don’t think I need to go into any detail on the UI either, which even people who liked the game considered to be an atrocity copy and pasted directly from the console version. Which is all a pity really, because I adore the neo-renaissance and transhumanity themes.
Dawn of War
I didn’t really hate Dawn of War. I know I don’t much like your average base building RTS, as do you if you read the part on Command & Conquer, so I never payed it much attention. What makes DoW stand out, though, is that I really liked the sequel where most people thought it was an atrocious betrayal of their beloved economy management game. So I dislike it for holding back its sequel. The Dawn of War 2 mechanics could be elaborated on so much to make a decent Warhammer 40k RPG or MMO, using squads instead of characters, but I feel like the stigma of being an RTS with no base building stuck to it because of its predecessor, when in fact it was a completely different animal. Tragically, the idea seems to have been killed in utero and we will remain doomed to play awful Space Marine action games and generic MMOs.
I’ve heard endless praise heaped on Tribes for pretty much the whole of last year, mostly by gaming journalists. Playing it myself though, I just find it to be a frustrating exercise in almost all the things I hate about online shooters. Nobody ever seems to die when I shoot them and everyone flies about like headless chickens. Now I realise that this opinion is almost certainly caused by the fact I’m rubbish at it, but I don’t even feel the inclination to learn. On the one occasion I did it kept demanding I re-downloaded the game every time I tried to launch it. However, at least it serves a purpose in that it attracts all the people who might otherwise be bunny-hopping and grenade spamming their way through Planetside 2.