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The Computer Gaming Vaccuum

I seem to be well and truly in a computer gaming vacuum. I’ve not really noticed this for a while, probably about a year, as certain things just aren’t practical when you’re working away. It’s true though. PC gaming continues to be something I’m not willing, though can’t be arsed may be more the truth, to plunge back into and the console situation is just a bit ‘meh’ at the moment.

I do have some games on the shelf, the product of the last trade-in. The trouble is they are cheap side products as the main goal was to get Arkham Asylum, now completed. So, I could play Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Alpha Protocol or Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising? The trouble is they’re just not connecting with me. They aren’t the most engaging of experiences.

I did try Dragon Rising, but that is one damned weird game.

It’s a simulation of modern, squad infantry combat, I realise that. It’s why I purchased it. I am not expecting it to be a jump around, twitch-based FPS by any stretch of the imagination. I was expecting it to draw me in though, rather than being mind-numbingly boring. It’s the most dispassionate, disconnected and surreal experience I’ve had in computer gaming. The vast majority of the time you’re just walking about. Then when combat starts you can’t see who you are shooting at. Eventually you may succeed at the mission because all your team mates killed enemies off over the horizon. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it’s not far from the truth.

All this wouldn’t be that bad if you just got a better feel for the tactical side. Yes, the actual engaging with the enemy might not be that visceral but you get your kicks from giving orders, manoeuvring and making great tactical decisions. That seems to be missing as well. I certainly don’t feel like I’m making great and worthwhile decisions to keep my troops alive or get them out of the fire when things go wrong.

Realistic? Possibly. Boring? Certainly. Strangest game ever. In order to like this game I think you have to be the modern infantry version of the Microsoft Flight Simulator fans who will, realistically and in real time, fly from UK to Singapore just for kicks. Awesome.

Having failed on that I pulled Alpha Protocol down off the shelf. A cinematic spy role-playing game what more could you ask for?

I didn’t get that far into it before the ‘old school’ sensibilities that Mass Effect slowly ground out of the computer RPG set-up started to irritating me. This is a pity, as there is a lot to like about Alpha Protocol. It starts well. I’m told the story is quite good and the way it weaves your choices into the story is supposed to be its stand out feature. The problem is it just makes it so hard. The graphics are bland. It’s an old game but I suspect they were bland even when the game was originally released. This isn’t the main problem though. The main problem is the mechanics. It’s incredibly annoying to have to perform a spacial puzzle every time you encounter a locked door. This is a locked door you have to progress through to continue playing! Why do that? Stupid.

So, Alpha Protocol also didn’t stay the distance.

In desperation, I started haunting Google Play for a mobile game. This is an act of desperation because mobile games have never been something I’ve stuck to for long. It hasn’t mattered if they’ve been iOS, Android or Nintendo DS games, they’ve always fell by the wayside no matter how much I’ve tried to stick with them. The game was Great Big Wargame for the grand total of 0.67p as it was on offer. It’s a turn-based war game. It has high production values and is has the feel of a great game. I dabbled with it and then I’ve not clicked on the icon since.

The bigger problem is the console market at the moment isn’t that inspiring if you’re not in the market for the big shooter franchises.

This will hopefully change in the first quarter of 2013 with the release of two big adventure titles: The Last of Us and the Tomb Raider re-boot. That’s two games landing in a relatively short space of time that I’m very interested in. That might create a bit of a PS3 renaissance.

About Ian O'Rourke

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