My Gaming History ‘Part 18’
Back in 2013 I decided to start a fortnightly gaming club with my best friends, l called it ‘Game Over’ because we play video games, when they come over my place…fucking clever huh?
It’s been a breath of fresh air from all of the time spent online, alone, without people to really laugh and interact with. Over the years we’ve lost something very special in gaming and that is the real interaction between friends, sat around a screen. Sure, we’re all older now, some of us have children, wives, mortgages and other impediments in life but once a fortnight, we get together and have a bash at new and retro games.
Gaming is what you make it, it doesn’t matter if the game is a simple platformer or a complex RPG, the rules can be bent and the challenges can be made up on the spot. We have a number of games that we have played since the beginning of our fortnightly meet. EA’s Sports boxing master piece, Fight Night Champion, being one of them. EA have since shelved the boxing series in favour of the no necked, grunty, sweaty, crotch grappling world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The UFC used to be pretty extreme and could certainly be classed as the ‘ultimate’, but now in favour of saving careers and ensuring a rounded entertainment experience, the Americans have developed a more controlled environment. Perhaps now they could change the name of the tournament to the CFU, or Controlled Fighting Union.
A real ‘ultimate’ fighting championship would be to pitch two angered men against each other and then perhaps throw in one or two predatory mammals. Add to that a table upon entry with a selection of weapons to choose from. Ring the bell and watch the sparks fly. You can’t really claim the word ‘ultimate’ unless you have something like a four on one mega match where three average size men have to take on a ‘man mountain’ on ‘roids.
For those who don’t know, EA developed a decent ‘Game Face’ program for Fight Night, which takes a photo of your face and generates a 3D model of it, you then use the character builder to create your boxer.
Obviously as with any character creation software that is online, it only takes a number of weeks before you see the likes of Hitler, 2-Pac and Ghandi uploaded to the roster.
The six of us are now all modelled as accurately as we could, forever immortalised in a boxing game. By adding small details to the overall look, my best friend and I sorted the back stories and the end result was surprisingly good. We started a boxing tournament, complete with tournament board, weigh-ins and a trophy for the overall winner. We always play Fight Night last, so the rest of the games prior to it are like the warm up to the big fight. The tournaments take a long time because one fight happens every fortnight. Sometimes one of us won’t show up, so the ‘in’ jokes started there. After a while I started making highlight reels, which in time turned into a complete storyline. It’s been around two years now, there’s a lot of history, great competition and laughs. Check out one of the videos here…
In 2006 I had bought myself another Xbox 360, I picked up the latest Need For Speed, as I always have and several other titles. I felt like I was starting again, I do regret selling on my past machines but I knew that in time I would be able to play all the old titles again, even though I didn’t have the hardware. But there is something even more nostalgic than the games themselves, it’s the magazines of the era, the games cases and the instruction manuals with the ‘note’ pages in the back, that no one ever used. When you can see and touch these, it adds a very deep layer of sentimental value, along with the visual references of course. I can remember where I was and what was happening at the time in my life to, It’s like your own little memory cues to the past.
It took me awhile to warm to some of the new titles being released, I didn’t want to play Gears of War, I’m not entirely sure why….I just didn’t like the art work and the conceptual designs, I thought the combat was pretty innovative but overall the fat necked protagonists and gargoyle enemies, didn’t do much for me.
A friend suggested I have a go at God of War, he explained that “It’s like Devil May Cry, with swords on chains”. I personally loved the DMC series because of the hilarity of the Japanese translated voice acting and the over the top innovative fighting system, which made everything look fucking cool.
In the story of God of War, which is loosely based on Greek mythology (and when I say loose, I mean it’s like saying Jurassic Park is a documentary) you play the role of Kratos, a man, a Spartan warrior, who is tasked to kill Ares, the god of war. Ares had tricked Kratos into killing his own wife and child, which, if that wasn’t enough, Kratos is then plagued by relentless nightmares and his skin is turned white when the oracle of the village bonds his families ashes to him, earning him the name ‘Ghost of Sparta’.
I seem to remember within the first fifteen minutes of the game, you are thrown into a battle, flailing wildly with two swords, which are permanently chained to Kratos’s arms by Ares. After killing around two hundred beings aboard a ship, you find two naked maidens below deck, on a bed, which you can ‘pleasure’ in order to gain more power points. Already leagues above the depressing world of sausage fest, Gears of War.
God of War is yet another reminder that the best parts of human ‘history’ never happened, but certain stories become some of the best things to fuel an imagination and subsequently create a damn good video game. From beginning to end God of War impressed me with its attention to detail, level design and boss fights. You feel like you are actually beating a game down, taking the AI through its paces and finishing on a high, even though Kratos never really finds his inner peace (partly to do with the fact they could squeeze a sequel or two out).
2007 was a pretty slow year for gaming, well for me anyway, as I have said previously I’m incredibly picky nowadays when It comes to games and if I think a title is being made well, I’ll follow it. We were pleasantly surprised by the following twelve months, when several titles appeared on the shelves that would change the landscape of the console market forever.
Every virtual maniacs dream, Grand Theft Auto, returned again after the huge success of San Andreas. GTA IV was debated amongst gamers the world over for months before its release, ranging from the fairly standard requests and rumours, to the completely absurd. In the end what we were given was a very solid game, with an equally strong story line and with an excellent new engine. The only thing that fans of the earlier titles were disappointed with, was the lack of ‘mayhem and fun’. Sure, there was the usual dry wit & humour throughout the game, the violence was as controversial as always but the entertainment value lacked a little slapstick, which we had been treated to in the bucket load in San Andreas.
The Eastern European main protagonist certainly made previous titles appear plain comical but anyone who stuck it out witnessed some very cleverly woven story lines with a gripping plot and memorable finale.
I would probably say this was the quiet before the storm, the online storm that is. It was about this time I got my ass into gear and started playing with players all over the world. To my surprise I found it to be far more entertaining than first thought.
In the next instalment of the gaming history, I sit down for the equivalent of twelve days playing what I consider is one of the greatest video games ever created. I play, with my best friends in one of the most engaging first person shooters of all time.