This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Codblops 2.
What heartens me is that eventually everyone currently over 40 will die and video games will be as legitimate as all other entertainment media. Sitting down to play through Spec Ops or Uncharted will be thought of as just like going to the theatre; playing online shooters will be like going out and actually interacting with other human beings; and playing spunkgargleweewee games like Codblops 2 will be regarded the same as drunkingly lying sprawled over the couch half-watching Top Gear because that was the first thing that came on when your head's smashed on the remote and also someone is slowly emptying a jug of cold porridge onto your head.
But I must say that Blops 2 really breaks new ground in this genre of games for paranoid right-wing gun-nut shitheads who have become quite literal armchair generals now that their body fat has fused with the upholstery by telling the inspiring story of a determined Nicaraguan freedom fighter and his quest to find justice for his murdered family as he is hounded at every turn by the American military as represented by a small cabal of fucking mental white dudes. Perspective really does count for a lot, doesn't it? The game tries to paint the villain as evil by showing him shotgun the legs off his unarmed foes, but all I could think was that the intended audience would be guffawing clouds of inexpensive beer if it had been Jack Bauer doing that.
The story switches between Generic O. McCracker the First in the past and Generic O. McCracker the Second in the future as they struggle against this one terrorist bloke who is hatching a plot to hack all of America's unmanned military drones. Aw bless, is the mean old foreigner trying to take away your infinite supply of poor innocent remorseless kill-droids? Boo hoo, Doctor fucking Doom! Meanwhile the best argument they have to persuade you against Foreign J. Furious is that "He a turrist" like just saying the fucking word will activate your pre-programmed berserker mode Manchurian Candidate style.
Actually to be fair, the morality is portrayed more evenly than I'm making out. There's even a brief chapter where you play as the villain and yeah, you spend the whole time running about screaming and chopping people's heads off, but everyone in this game is fucking nuts! If they're not kill-crazy, they're hallucinating floating numbers like Count from Sesame Street's off his meds. But that just raises the question: If we're trapped on the Planet of the Arseholes, which one are we supposed to take shelter in during the Fart Storms? Or more pithily, who are we supposed to root for? Fucking no-one is my take!
This really is a game for absolute cretins. If you play through Blops 2 and legitimately didn't immediately figure out who the guy with the bag on his head actually was, then I will send you money 'cos I'm pretty sure I could write you off as charity work. It also helps if you're a white absolute cretin. It's a bit creepy how the only characters who remain consistently trustworthy are all white Americans with the same haircut, because everyone with an accent and/or dark skin is obviously just totally fucking jealous of our freedom, guys! The one exception is the black American commander played by Tony Todd who merely comes across as really weird!
I'm growing to hate these spunkgargleweewee habits of appealing to the attention deficit crowd by randomly jumping the plot around time and space, skipping to a whole new location every half-hour with a gun fight already underway. It's like they carefully worked out the whole plot then cut it up, shuffled it around, removed all the bits where there wasn't any murder going on and we're just left to pick up the story from what remains.
"Well, I'm white, paranoid and stupid, so this game sounds ideal so far," says a nearby cunt. "I'm just worried the gameplay won't also cater to my many neurological difficulties- Whoops, my brain fell out again!" Worry not, Blops 2 continues the genre tradition of smacking you like a disobedient mule in blinkers if you attempt to veer from the linear succession of setpieces. Sometimes it appeals to your implied desire to masturbate over top-of-the-range military hardware by handing you shiny toys that you use once and discard like McDonald's Happy Meal boxes and it's like a thousand tiny glimpses of infinitely more interesting games.
You use wingsuits and jetpacks and grappling hook guns, all of which are concepts that would make for far more interesting core gameplay but each one is used precisely once at a predetermined moment to move to the next objective marker essentially in a cutscene. It's like buying an entire roast chicken to take one bite and then throw the rest in a sewer, except you're doing it in front of a really hungry dog, and the gadgets you can use in organic gameplay are largely useless like the cloaking suit. I put it on, ran out into the battlefield and was immediately shot. Bang-up job there, R&D! Perhaps I was given away by the dirty great assault rifle floating three feet off the ground like it's in a Serious Sam game.
But before I could start writing off Blops 2 as circling the creative drain like a little paper boat folded from an issue of Guns & Ammo, one major new gameplay addition materialized: a semi-optional tower defense mode! Remember, like Assassin's Creed: Revelations had a semi-optional tower defense mode and it was fucking dumb then too. Is this a new thing? Is tower defense some kind of draw card in the great game of Magic: The Gathering that is the industry, +1 defense against gameplay stagnation?
Anyway it's pretty fucking tedious. With the console controls, switching between units is like looking for your favourite congealed lump of oats in a bowl of week-old porridge. They take half a decent-sized sandwich break to get to where you want them to be and their usual strategy once they get there is to mill around trying to catch bullets in their mouths for nourishment. You can control individual units and turrets directly and you'll pretty much have to do that because they couldn't outwit a spider with seven legs pulled off. I'd call the whole concept lurchingly crowbarred in, but since every chapter in this game feels completely disconnected from the one before it, it manages to actually be quite fitting.
People fortunate enough to have randomly been born white in the first world are the most privileged motherfuckers on this unequal fucking planet and modern warfare games are basically those people complaining about how tough life can be when everyone's jealous of you. It's like when white dudes complain about being victims of racism because all the people they used to enslave are making fun of them, or when Christians cry about being persecuted because the government wants to recognize that men can be into the cock. Just to underline it, the villain is behind an organization of the world's underclasses so you can add the poor to the growing list of people the audience of Black Ops 2 feels threatened by.
But perhaps I shouldn't dwell on the politics. The occasionally sympathetic portrayal of the villain and that whole chapter where you're called upon to defend a repulsively decadent future city for rich people does show a degree of self-awareness on Blops 2's part. I honestly can't be arsed to speculate what level of irony we may or may not be operating on, so let's just judge it by the gameplay:
It's boring and stupid, give it a miss. Fuck, that could have saved a bit of time!
What a load of cods blollops: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
The number of times Tony Todd's character said 'cocksucker' in this game just illustrates how rarely his mind drifted from the subject
So was naming the sinking ship the 'Barack Obama' one of those quaint election jokes