Monday, April 4

As Promised (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 3D)

For the record: I have spent a few hours with Crysis 2. While it does appear to be quite a promising package, I must admit that I am thoroughly exhausted by first-person warfare at the moment. Whether it be science fiction-themed, based in an alternate reality or waged with modern equipment it matters not: I am sick of looking down the iron sights of a rifle. I'll return to the game at a later date because the multiplayer suite features a deep, satisfying progression system (even if it does play like Modern Warfare with a cloaking device), and the campaign seemed to afford a little more freedom than the standard "proceed to next checkpoint," affair. 

My Nintendo 3DS arrived on Thursday afternoon while I was in the midst of a heated battle with some flu-like bug of devilish design. While at first I may have entertained the thought that my insomnia, cold sweats and non-existent appetite were related to the anxiety and excitement that comes with participating in a console launch; this was quickly dispelled by the persistent feeling that my sinuses would explode at any given moment. Still, without further ado, behold my first foray into the game website ritual geekery referred to by my contemporaries as an unboxing:

The excitement stopped there. Sure I had a slick, glittery machine in my hands, but some home truths were quickly brought to bare. Specifically, 3D graphics will not change the way that I play games. As a matter of fact, after some observation of the modest effect in a game and the console's Home menu: the 3D slider has almost always been fixed to the off position. Why? Because viewing in 3D takes a fair bit of effort (for me anyway). My eyes have already been subject to years spent too close to the TV, and 3D only serves to exacerbate my lack of ocular capacity. Nintendo have delivered what they promised: glasses-free 3D; and they haven't delivered much else. At least not much that could not be achieved on other better-established platforms.

For an example, please take the wonderfully addictive Strategy RPG, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. Apart from the subtle 3D effect which can be seen in the game's menus and in-game maps, this game could possibly be rendered on the PSP or iOS. Sometimes I would flick the slider up to view some shrubs in 3D, but the game doesn't even use the new circle pad. Hell, there's barely any use for the touch screen in this game either. Regardless, it's sucked me in for just over thirteen hours so far and caused the alarmingly-bright battery warning to flicker a few times. I'm sure that you would have previously read about the console's poor battery capacity, and I'm afraid that I can confirm that it won't survive for much more than three hours worth of sustained play.     

Despite my trolling, Nintendo have once gain crafted a device which demands attention from non-gamers. My wife was sceptical about the device's capabilities, but then I showed her some 3D video. Her position changed instantly, with plenty of cooing to accompany the vision. She was even impressed by the 3D foliage in Shadow Wars. The 3DS will be sure to wow those who normally associate gaming with the brown and grey textures, blood and bullets found in the majority of titles that are consumed by core gamers (for example: Call of Duty: Black Ops, Medal of Honor, and most other games available on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360). It will not however, manage to win over the those cynical core gamers who view the use of 3D as a gimmick. Because honestly, for the moment that is all it appears to be. The extra dimension isn't changing anything in terms of the quality of launch titles, or the play mechanics for DS games. Save for the lack of a certain visual dimension and a higher resolution: any gaming experience I've had using the 3DS would be possible with the previous hardware iteration (actually two before it: the DS Lite).

All things considered however, Shadow Wars  is filling the "any game that isn't a first-person shooter," description pretty well, and given that it is also deep, enjoyable and harking back to the days of classics like Fire Emblem and Shining Force: I may just have to see it through to its end. It might also be worth noting that my critique of the console may be due in no small part to the fact that the Mii Maker (which can generate your Mii's facial features based on a photograph) has advised that I look somewhat similar to perennial loser (and one of my favourite Simpsons characters), Milhouse Van Houten. But surely I can't be that shallow.

I'm still looking forward to the arrival of Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition in the coming days; and while my view of the console itself may not change too drastically, as long as there are some gems released on the system it will be of little consequence.

Did anyone else pick up a 3DS? What are your thoughts on the system and its meagre launch line-up?

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