Cave Story (WiiWare)
It’s safe to say that since I originally previewed it long, long ago, I’ve been keen to be able to play this game properly on the Wii. After much delay and gnashing of teeth we finally got our mitts on it in Europe late last year and it’s definitely been worth the wait.
I’m not a big fan of platforming games unless they have an action-arcade feel, so Cave Story’s jump-and-shoot core gameplay satisfies. Even so, I probably wouldn’t be too impressed but for the quality of the storytelling and the care given to character and level designs. It has an interesting flavour of the adventure game around it, whilst the action is all about jumping and shooting.
My one complaint is that after playing through on easy difficulty none of the extras were unlocked, but that’s pretty minor considering the quality of the classic gaming experience on offer. It will take well under 10 hours to play (depending on how challenging you find the boss fights), but it feels epic in scope and keeps you engaged by revealing bits about the strange world your character inhabits as you go. Thumbs up!
Call of Duty: Black Ops
I’m a big fan of the original Call of Duty, which I recently re-played on my Mac. The combination of squad-based gameplay and a compelling narrative based upon actual military battles provides for an immersive experience that explains the lasting appeal of this franchise. Given my preference for Wii controls over keyboard and mouse for playing first-person action games I naturally picked up the Wii version of Black Ops and it’s been a mixed experience due to a combination of weak single-player campaign and strong online multi-player action.
Black Ops departs from the core formula in a couple of ways which I think hurts the single-player appeal. There’s very little squad-based action – at least not what you’d expect if you’re a veteran of Call of Duty 1&2. Stated objectives only exist in a handful of missions; most of them are simply “follow that guy in front of you” which takes away from the feeling of being on an assignment with designated tasks for your player and makes many missions more like fairground shooting gallery affairs.
The story itself isn’t too bad, but the decision to have one narrative built around a single character with only a couple of diversions played from the POV of secondary characters has limited the scope quite a bit. There are very few missions that actually feel like “black ops” as I would regard them: most of the time you seem to be trying to escape from various situations. This is especially true in the Vietnam section which sees you fighting in trench warfare during the Tet Offensive and then trying to escape from the collapse of South Vietnam in the face of the victorious NVA, with an interlude shamelessly lifted from “The Deer Hunter” that felt completely out of place.
I would have preferred the setting to jump around a bit more and deal with actual historic operations. We could have had British and American secret ops from WWII, American action in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War, US and Israeli operations in Central America and Lebanon in the 1980s, etc. This would have been more interesting and made more sense than some of the situations in Black Ops, like your character continuing to take orders from his old SOG commander in Vietnam after he’s been seconded to the CIA and supposedly carrying out an unrelated mission.
Whilst I did get sucked into the single player campaign after a while I definitely don’t feel like replaying it – especially after playing through the James Bond-style endgame complete with soldiers hanging around a sinking naval vessel apparently more interested in popping out to shoot people than save their own lives.
If single-player was all I was interested in, this would already have been traded in, but the main reason I bought it was for the online multi-player – something I NEVER use as a deciding factor when buying a game.
Being invited to join a clan of “older gamers” was the push I needed and I’m glad I did as it’s been the best online gaming experience I’ve had with the Wii since The Conduit. Although we in the UK have to wait until the end of January before we can get our hands on the offically supported Headbanger headset, use of Teamspeak has compensated for inter-team communication (it helps to have a computer in the same room, mind).
The online experience does have the odd glitch (just getting the first patch downloaded can take several attempts), but adding friends is a breeze, allowing you to send invites to players you’ve played with previously as well as manually entering codes. The wealth of perks, weapons, items, achievements and play modes means you can enjoy it for quite some time – and that’s not counting the separate Zombie mode! The Conduit has stronger control calibration routines thanks to the real-time feedback aspect, but Black Ops offers a comparable level of control tweaks and button mapping options – even if there’s more trial-and-error involved.
Let me finish by saying that it’s one of the stronger first-person action games on the Wii and well worth checking out for fans of the genre. See you in the trenches!