Shellshock 2: Blood Trails
Picture the scenario – a small portrait of imagination, a proverbial mise-en-scene of hypothetical musings – you’re a games developer who has the ambition and resources required to design a new video game, a first person shooter. It’s 2007 and you’ve just bore witness to Halo 3, BioShock, Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Call of Duty 4 in the same remarkable year. Your head is spinning; the gears inside your mind are grinding with your own fantastical ideas of adventure and action. Who will you fight? Where will you fight? What weapons do you want to use? What weapons can you invent? The set pieces that you’d always dreamed about experiencing are now ready to be shared with the rest of the gaming world. So you make a game set amongst the conflict that was the Vietnam War, set your bullet fodder dial to something wholly original and a bit ‘out there’ – like zombies for instance – before giving the project a look and feel that reminds us of the last time a game set in Vietnam was attempted – five years ago, back in 2004, and on last generation hardware. Now, ask yourself – what’s wrong with this picture?
We thought there was something wrong with our picture, until we quickly realised that it wasn’t a faulty television that was to blame for Shellshock 2’s smudgy mish-mash of tepid colours, or the horrific almost-single-digit frame rate; the game really does look this bad. It put the frighteners on us more than any zombie ever could and it almost offends us, our intelligence seemingly undermined, that Rebellion thought that this would be adequate.
We’re not asking for revolution every time we play a new game, but what we wouldn’t mind seeing is the medium continuously move forward, one baby step at a time. Games like Shellshock, on the other hand, conspire to trip us up at every conceivable opportunity. It’s the videogame equivalent of that nasty trick your mates used to play on you at school, where someone was crouched on all fours behind you, waiting for that one small nudge from a cohort that would see you invariably crash to the ground.
What becomes rather handy when playing shooters is, amazingly, the ability to actually shoot – to fire straight and true, to deliver pinpoint accuracy and authenticity. We must question, then, the bizarre decision which was surely inadvertently made by Rebellion to make the gunplay as imprecise, unconvincing and uncomfortable as possible. A suitable case in point would be to observe the inclusion of iron sights to facilitate aiming – unfortunately in doing so the process becomes harder. In most cases the gun will fill up about two thirds of the screen and will offer you a sight to look through the size of those offered by a hole punch. To make matters worse, the enemy are undeniably difficult to spot amongst the drab and lifeless backdrops that make up the embarrassingly short missions. Whether this is due to their stellar camouflage skills, or just by being of as dull a colour as everything else in the game, we’ll leave to you to decide. Here’s a clue – it’s not the first theory.
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