I know I usually write about movies, but every now and then you have to branch out. And with not a lot going on in the movie world right now, I thought it would be fun to revisit some old video games. So I dusted off my PlayStation 3 and began perusing my collection of games.
Grand Theft Auto IV was my first choice, followed quickly by "The Ballad of Gay Tony" expansion, and I must say they didn't disappoint. The Liberty City/New York setting is a lot of fun all on its own. Populated with plenty of colourful characters, it's actually a pretty accurate - if not a little extreme - depiction of city living. GTA IV benefits from an interesting protagonist. Nico Bellic is a complicated individual, dealing with his past and a little conflicted over his criminal career, he wants to be a better person. But it's his way of dealing with the criminals he works for that makes him so compelling; he doesn't buy into their bullshit, and he's not afraid to call them on it either. Although they tend to get back at him by sending him on increasingly insane missions, most of which make pretty good use of all the vehicles, weapons and terrain this vibrant city has to offer. If you get tired of all the posers in Vinewood, I suggest take a trip back to Liberty City.
Next on my virtual trip down memory lane was Max Payne 3. As a massive fan of the first two games, I was excited to see where events would take Max after his own personal saga had come full circle. Unfortunately, it turned out that his journey into this new pit of misery was nowhere near as interesting as what came before it. Although James McCaffrey does his level best to help us see it through Max's eyes with his own unique brand of narration. That said, the gameplay is very good with its many shootouts, as are the graphics (and the gore). The developers really nailed the extreme contrast between the rich and poor neighbourhoods - it's amazing how they could give even the most bright and colourful locations that grungy, dark perspective that only Max Payne has. And now that I've completed it - finding all of the golden gun parts along the way - at least I can go back and play it the way it should be played... with infinite ammo.
Which brings us to the real reason I'm writing this. After Max Payne 3, I moved on to Battlefield: Bad Company 1&2, two of the best titles in one of the best first-person shooter franchises. Whereas Call of Duty continued down the more serious/hardcore/uber military route, DICE took a more comedic approach with Bad Company - certainly with the single-player campaign anyway. The characters are quirky, even a tad bumbling, they feel more like real people than the Hollywood super-soldiers seen in Call of Duty.
Bad Company's single-player campaign places the player within massive, open environments - in which everything is almost completely destructible - granting them the ability to explore and approach every objective how they choose. Seeing these bumbling misfits go AWOL in search of gold is hilarious, especially when it involves Haggard running into combat screaming "there's gold in them thar hills!" This degree of fun is carried over into the game's multiplayer, where players have to be mindful of their surroundings, because they might not offer the level of protection they hope for. The new 'Rush' mode offered something a little different in terms of gameplay, without sacrificing what makes a Battlefield multiplayer so great... massive maps and plenty of vehicles to explore them. If Bad Company does suffer from any flaws, it is an odd button configuration for the controller. A co-op mode for the single-player campaign would have been a nice touch too.
Two years later - or five minutes in this case, long enough to switch disks - Bad Company 2 arrived, the graphics had improved and a lot of the buildings could now be completely destroyed. The game also features a much more user friendly control configuration. Multiplayer benefits from a whole host of new maps, as well as couple of familiar ones too, and was essentially an improvement on something that was already awesome. Fair to say, it's probably the best game of the franchise, in my humble opinion anyway. However, the single-player is impeded by a significant change to the gameplay. Whereas Bad Company utilised big, open maps in its single-player campaign, Bad Company 2 was relegated to mostly linear maps in which the player has a very obvious path to follow. Now you could argue that Battlefield has always been more about the multiplayer experience, and of course you are right, but that doesn't explain the drastic shift in design. Luckily the storyline is just as fun and interesting as in the first instalment, and it's great to see the boys of Bravo One Charlie back in all their glory.
By returning to this epic franchise, I was very pleased to learn that many people are still playing the Bad Company 2 multiplayer. Maybe I've been living under a rock, but in revisiting Bad Company 2 I have discovered entire communities dedicated to the classic game. Like the Battlefield Bad Company 2 (Meet & Greet) Facebook page, whose members are not only still playing, they are also holding out hope - much like I am - for Bad Company 3.
Of course this renewed interest in older games had to lead me to the other high-ranking game in the Battlefield franchise; Battlefield 3. BF3 represents a major change in direction, especially for a game that came out only a year after its predecessor. Gone is the humour of Bad Company - not to mention the charm - and in its place we find a much more serious, Call of Duty-esque story. Lets face it, the single-player campaign is disappointing, neither the story nor the characters are particularly interesting. However, the multiplayer is fantastic! The classes have been re-jigged a little, things like the medic kits are now part of the 'Assault' class, and you can now customise the look of your avatar to an extent. There are a multitude of maps, on which you can play a multitude of different game modes. Add to that 'Destruction 3.0', and the five epic expansions - including the legendary 'Back to Karkand', which brought back 5 maps from Battlefield 2 - all of which introduced new weapons, vehicles and environments, and you've got yourself an excitingly chaotic first-person shooter experience. Even today, it's as much fun as it was back in 2011, especially with so many people still playing it.
Which could be the reason why we are hearing rumours of a BF3 remaster for next-gen consoles.
I have always been more of a fan of Battlefield than Call of Duty, certainly where multiplayer is concerned. But my enjoyment of these games began to wane somewhere around the Hardline/BF1 period (after Modern Warfare 3 in CoD's case). Maybe I'm just getting old, but they started to lose their appeal, and Battlefield V was the first game since Battlefield 2142 that I didn't pre-order. In fact I only just got around to buying it a couple of weeks ago, and after an 8 hour update I finally started to play it. I'm not sure about the whole contemporary hipster image of World War 2 - including World War 2 era 'Maverick' - or some of the ridiculously pretty looking guns. Battlefield used to stick closer to a more realistic depiction of historical events, but this seems to be in a world of its own. But underneath all that crap it is still Battlefield; 'Capture', 'Rush', big destructible maps and plenty of players tearing them apart. It's just not as fun as Bad Company 2 or Battlefield 3.
I will however, be following the PlayStation 5 and any new Battlefield games with keen interest. But until then I'm quite happy hanging out with the older generation.
You can check out my coverage of the PlayStation 5 reveal.
What games have you been playing in lockdown? Are you more of a Battlefield or Call of Duty fan? And are you eagerly awaiting the release of the next-gen consoles? Leave a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also email us at email@example.com.