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What We’re Playing – December 30th

The weekend is upon us and it’s time to play some videogames. Here are a few games we’ve been playing away from the office this week. What’s on your agenda? Share what you’re playing!

Modern Warfare 3
Calvin Kemph

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Modern Warfare has risen to the status of a household name. It’s the thing that defines our hobby and the public face of the industry. We should only be so lucky to have a developer of Infinity Ward’s caliber attached and while the latest iteration is simply yet another iteration, it’s a good iteration on an already tight formula. There’s some untapped potential there still and from here, an opportunity to move things forward in a meaningful way and re-shape the FPS landscape just as the developer did with the original Modern Warfare.

This go-around’s qualitatively ‘more Modern Warfare’ and so going into it with that expectation, it proves solid in the ways the series always has. And this time it actually ends. This is perhaps the most significant thing – in a time when so few videogames are self-contained, it’s just nice to see a game reach a full stop. That’s where Modern Warfare 3 takes up the torch and fulfills Infinity Ward’s rightful role as the leader in FPS design. It brings a close to the trilogy in a nice way and the ending actually feels impactful.

Otherwise I found the whole experience slightly underwhelming but perhaps I came into this ready to take on that perspective. As much as it’s become a popular thing to get on the Call of Duty bandwagon, it’s becoming just as popular to jump off at full speed. About half of my time spent with Modern Warfare 3 was admittedly in looking for any reason to refuse the game in favor of other shooters. If I’m being honest, I don’t know that it exactly ever happened. It’s not my favorite entry in the series and it doesn’t set any new precedents but it’s still Modern Warfare and there’s a reason the games sell. They’re all right.

Perhaps that’s where I’m most frustrated. I went in either expecting the downfall of Call of Duty or some kind of messiah for the genre as a whole. What I got is more Modern Warfare. And now there’s still room for improvement and the opportunity to begin an exciting new franchise; something every bit as fresh and forward-thinking as Modern Warfare. I only hope Infinity Ward capitalize on that.

Football Manager 2012
Ashley Wilkinson

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I have a much greater sympathy for professional football coaches after playing Football Manager 2012 for a few hours.

In the past, I have been critical of the direction Sports Interactive have taken with their management simulator. In their quest to create the most immersive, detailed, true-to-life football experience available on the market they have alienated those players who were happy to sign players, set out a basic 4-4-2 and only change their tactics when absolutely necessary (i.e. me).

I wasn’t hopeful when I first loaded FM12. Even following the admittedly useful in-game tutorial gave me a headache as I tried in vain to fight my way through the various menus, sub-menus, widgets, sliding bars and diagrams to reach the tactics screen. I tried to set up an orthodox 4-4-2 but FM12 isn’t happy with their managers choosing formation: they want to know exactly what every player is supposed to be doing at any given moment on a football pitch.

Then Sports Interactive wants you to set up every training schedule for every player according to their position, fitness and likely response to training intensity. Not before you’ve met all your staff and gone through every single player on your books, deciding who to keep, who to release, who to loan out, who to choose as your free kick taker, who should be captain, who your scout should keep an eye on and who should be coaching your goalkeepers. Just like a real football manager.

Unlike FM12’s predecessor however I soon found myself warming to this year’s instalment. Sports Interactive may have added a raft of new features which require additional menus and sub-menus, adding more confusion to the already cluttered interface, but the layout is easily customisable. When finally getting around to your first game of the season you feel the instant relief that, although there may well be enough menus, words, diagrams and tactic boards to give Sir Alex Ferguson a mental breakdown, the core of the game still hasn’t changed.

Ultimately, Football Manager 2012 is still a hugely satisfying experience, continuing a trend of good feeling that Sports Interactive have provided for close to two decades now. It’s a bloody fun experience. And best of all, according to my scout Billy Sharp is willing to sign for Derby County. Premiership, here we come.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Richard Murphy

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As the console enters its twilight years and the graphical capabilities no longer have the ability to cause palpations within the expectant masses, we forget the impact that Liberty City Stories had when it was released back in 2005. A full Grand Theft Auto experience on a handheld would be the crowning achievement for any development house, and the game became a major selling point for the PSP on its release.

More than anything, Liberty City Stories was Sony delivering its promise of console quality gaming on the move. The game was as handsome as the PS2 iterations and as adult and uncompromising as we had come to expect from the franchise. It highlighted the potential of the console to other developers and led the way for some time in terms of graphical punch.

Replaying the game now does not stimulate the same emotions as it did all those years ago. The basic gameplay mechanics for 3rd person shooters has been irrevocably altered by the cover-based shooter logic found in Gears of War and refined by the likes of Uncharted. Liberty City Stories feels old, tired even. It’s become a museum piece and a part of portable gaming lore that will be fondly remembered but left on the shelf.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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