Video games have certainly come a long way. They originally started with the simple ball, two sticks and synthesized metal beeps of the earliest games of the seventies, through to Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Pac Man of the eighties; and later Ultima and Doom of the nineties. We now have the utterly immersive, endlessly customizable first player shooter that is the multi million dollar media phenomena, “Modern Warfare 3” console game.
Modern Warfare 3 was launched earlier this month with reports that the first 5 days of sales exceeded US$775 million. Compare this with an opening weekend gross of US$470 million for the latest Harry Potter film, and one can see that these types of video games are no longer the exclusive preserve of teenage boys hiding in their “caves”, but are a mainstream and accepted choice of entertainment for all.
Computing power has come along just as far. It is commonly said that the standard home console game machine has more computing power than was available on the Apollo rockets that flew to the moon. This certainly shows in the depth of the computer graphics of the Modern Warfare series. The latest version has graphics that move realistically and smoothly. Sound comes with real depth. Explosions will even cause the hand controller to vibrate and shake.
Modern Warfare 3 comes with three different modes. There is firstly, the campaign mode, in which the player essentially follows a story dictated by the game. This takes about 9 hours to complete. There is a “Special Operations” mode, where one or two players on a split screen have a number of set scenarios of increasing difficulty to complete. These scenarios are based on the main game and play like an arcade game as opposed to the main campaign mode, which follows a narrative, like a movie. In the third, multi player mode, it is possible to join across the net to play in competitive teams in various scenarios and scenes from the game.
I have completed the campaign mode and am presently going through the special operations mode together with my beloved husband. Traipsing across a war torn Paris in body armour and calling in airstrikes on vicious paramilitaries may not have been my idea of a weekend in Paris, but it certainly beats Jamie Oliver on the satellite for an evenings’ entertainment.
I have not really played the multi-player mode, as the idea of being machine gunned by a teenager across the net in Finland has never appealed to me. However, I understand that it is in this mode in which the game comes into its own, where it is possible to upgrade, up date and individualise the game endlessly.
Campaign mode, is the one that most people will play. In it, you simultaneously control and follow the exploits of, variously, a US Marine, a Russian Member of an International Special Forces outfit called “Task Force 141”, a Russian Security Officer, a member of the SAS, a gunner in an AC-130 flying gunship and finally as one of the stars of the franchise, as Captain Price a former SAS commando, who heads “Task Force 141”.
The action takes place in various locations, invariably war torn and uncomfortable. The protagonist starts in New York City, shooting your way into a familiar looking stock exchange building against an invading Russian army. It moves on to a Russian submarine in New York City harbor, then to Northern India, the Horn of Africa, the London Underground takes a pounding, as does the Eiffel Tower. Other locations include a Presidential Airbus, the city of Prague and finally, the bloody denouement takes place on the rooftop of a familiar looking luxury hotel in the Middle East.
There are parts that are certainly immersive, like when you are creeping around on your belly trying not to be detected, in a hostile Prague. At times you have to play dead, when the enemy is just a breath away. You can imagine smelling their body odour. This part concludes when your player has to breathlessly escape hordes of angry soldiers, carrying a wounded comrade. Am I jaded? Is it sensory overload? I have not come away from a movie with the same elevated heart beat and sweaty palms as when I have completed this stage.
If you think there is nothing for the girls, think again. Motion capture technology has given my favorite character - Captain Price, a cat-like grace and agility which sets off well against a rather tough and gruff exterior.
It is a shame that this may be the last of the present series of the Modern Warfare games, but as each one has gotten better than the last, I can’t wait for whatever next is to come.
Illustration by Cuboi Art.
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