Monday, February 22, 2010

The crossroads of enjoyment and enlightenment

Firstly, I have never necessarily followed popular opinion for PC games. If I enjoy a title, its because I genuinely enjoy playing it with no amount of wonderful reviews or awards of 'Editors Choice' coloring my opinion.

Sure, they may loosen the wallet initially to buy the game, but once a few hours of in-game time have been put under the belt, my opinion is pretty much formed. And that opinion may, and usually does fall somewhere between 'awesome' and 'why did I even buy this?'.

Show me someone who swears a game is perfect and I'll show you a 'fan-boy'.

So it wasn't surprising that I stood my ground against the different detractors of Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising since buying the game when it was released late last year. Understanding the need to play the game on hardcore to get the gaming experience desired, I argued its positive points against those who claimed ARMA 2 was the Holy Grail of the easily thrown around title of 'military simulation'. The more extreme supporters of ARMA 2 would effectively claim anyone who owned OF:DR should delete the game, burn the disc and damn the very souls of the developers who dared to soil the hallowed name of Operation Flashpoint.

Indeed, they're passion flowed with such vehemence that they trolled OF:DR forums, responding to those who wanted tips on playing the games with helpful advice such as 'uninstall it' or 'why did you waste your money on this piece of ****'.

The game certainly has drawbacks, but no game comes to mind that I'm not playing but still takes me to the respective forums to lambast it further than an opinion when asked.

Interestingly, I own ARMA 2 as well and would point out that where as I could get into and fight my way through the different levels of OF:DR, the same couldn't be said about ARMA 2 which barely managed to collect an afternoon's worth of play time.

One of the complaints about Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising I couldn't understand was that of the distance detail. When first playing the game, everything appeared fine to me.

Now however, we can safely say I've run a mile in the complainers combat boots. The problem arose with a new monitor which took me from an old resolution of 1650 x 1050 to 1920 x 1080 and away my distant trees and foliage in OF:DR. Because the game is so badly designed in the options menu, I can't force it to show the distant detail.

Will this new view make me line up with the others upset at OF:DR? No. Will I stop playing the game? Nope. Where as I may have considered the game a 7.5 or 8, its now a 6 or 7. But its still great for a small squad based first person shooter with interesting missions.

But what is more interesting to this collection of events, is the new interest in ARMA 2. That too was bought when released, but the demanding game, both in hardware requirements and detailed game play kept this casual gamer away. Certainly my once high-end gaming rig can still handle the higher settings of ARMA 2, but the same can't be said for the aging gamer's brain trying to work through the complex controls and commands.

Patches have been released to address some of the annoying bugs and my tactics to get into the game have changed from a full-frontal assault on the campaign to a flanking manuever by working through the single player stand alone missions. Both of which have multiplied my time in the game over the weekend compared to the prior months of owning it.

My conclusions and comparisons between the two games?

Oddly enough, the AI in ARMA is dumber than that of OF:DR. And though commands can be issued while still moving in ARMA 2 compared to freezing the player in place in OF:DR, they are so multi-leveled in the former that you have to stop anyway to complete the order. So just as I get used to finding the right, safe spot to order my squad in OF:DR, I'll do the same for ARMA 2. Understanding the frustration of looking off into a single texture distance in OF:DR, the NPC faces reforming as they come into view in ARMA 2 kind of ruins the atmosphere just as much.

For a quick run through a small-based first person shooter, OF:DR for all its flaws will be booted up first. But when I want a challenging 'military simulator' with amazing terrain, ARMA 2 is a natural choice.

And sadly, its that reasoning and understanding that appears to be missing from those enthusiastic gamers trolling the forums to give their unabashed, positive feedback.

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