It’s-a me, Mario
Working full time and being a parent of three kids, including twins, can make it hard to fit in the same type of gaming schedule that I used to maintain in my youth. Still, I like a challenge and so it’s all about finding opportunities.
The week starts with a favour for a friend as our toy-filled, bomb site of a house welcomes an additional couple of kids. After a long week at work, not the ideal start to the weekend you might think but to be fair, they’re good kids, and it gives the first chance for a bit of gaming.
Now, my 5 year old loves a bit of Mario at the best of times and the addition of another player gives the chance to boot up Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. Plus having another kid in the house means I don’t get dragged into playing it.
To be fair, it’s a cracking game, for my money the best of the Mario series. The 3D perspective gives a great view of the world and allows for some fiendish level design whilst control is at its crispest, each character feeling unique, none of them feeling sluggish or bogged down with inertia. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I set up my own save file that the kids are strictly banned from loading and which I boot up on occasion when they’re in bed.
My biggest issue with 3D World is that I’ve seen it all. Partly because we’ve played it to completion, unlocking all the worlds as well as the extra ones after the end credits roll. Then we’ve played it again, going back to find the stars on each level. Then I’ve watched the kids play it, arguing about who just accidentally picked them up and lobbed them over the side when they meant to just press the run button.
But that’s not the worst of it. When we play it, my boy goes off down some rabbit hole to discover a secret I didn’t know anything about, or finds some trick to unlock 100 lives, having snuck on to YouTube when I’m in the kitchen making breakfast and he thinks I won’t notice, to watch playthroughs of the levels. And being something of an expert, he of course launches into the trickiest of levels, his partners in crime struggling to keep up, before inevitably going back to the first level because all any of them want to do is play as a cat. That and constantly jump off the side of the level because he finds the death scream funny. Yeah, might have some issues, that boy.
My own game time sees me dive back into some PS4. My beautiful Uncharted-themed console hasn’t had as much love as it should have done recently, my gaming appetite dulled by some real world health issues. Looking through my collection, I plump for Battlefield 4 for some good old fashioned FPS action.
I’ve never been much of an online gamer and so my focus is on the campaign mode. I do like a good shooter. From my days in the arcade playing Operation Wolf to Turrican on the Amiga, Timesplitters on PS1 or Uncharted on PS3 and PS4. The set up might change but the underlying appeal remains the same. And so my first port of call is the campaign mode to get to grips with the basics.
And it’s really annoying. Oh it’s perfectly competent. What else would you expect from a PS4 FPS? You have a wide collection of weapons to use, a globe trotting plot, variation in locations, vehicles to drive and a team to bond with. Weapons are, on the whole, satisfying to use and the plot has just enough to drive you forwards. But, but, but…
I find myself getting splatted left right and centre. Enemy grunts are absolute sharp shooters and take you out as soon as your toe pokes out of cover. Your squad meanwhile are a bunch of hopeless goons. You can send them into battle, targetting specific enemies, with a stab of R1 but they soon forget and go wandering off. I’m sorry, do you have something better to do? You are locked down in the heat of battle, trying to take out multiple targets when a call comes out saying, ‘hey boss, what should we do?’ Shoot them, you moron. I’ve seen enemies literally run past one of my team whilst he evidently picked his nose, steadfastly refusing to attack because I hadn’t told him to. On another occasion, one of my team and an enemy soldier stood yards apart taking pot shots at each other with neither finding their target like a scene out of Police Squad.
Enemies always seem so far away too, reducing fights to long range affairs and wasting the crispness of the game engine. Unless you have to battle a tank in which case you’re fine to just run straight in front of it, apparently. And don’t get me started on the ridiculous restart points or the graphical pop up. Actually do, but I’ll cover that off in a full review when I’ve finished the wretched thing.
Funnily enough I have actually enjoyed it to an extent, it just irritates me in equal measure. I was determined to play it though as I want to get to multiplayer, surely one of the reasons for having a PS Plus subscription. Which segues nicely to a major bone of contention; during the week, an e-mail popped into my inbox to tell me that my PS Plus sub was due for renewal at the princely sum of £49.99. Now over the course of a year, it’s not a bad price but I had to wonder at how much value I was getting from it. I add the ‘free’ games to my library as soon as they become available but haven’t played any of them in months and, as we have established, my use of multiplayer is virtually nonexistent. So what’s the point? Should I just let it lapse?
It is a worthy question but I rather fear that in so doing, I would be giving in to my mental demons. I have been avoiding game playing through a sense of fear and inadequacy; fear of the unknown and an erosion in my belief of being able to adequately write up my experience for the enjoyment of others. Sure, not renewing would save me some cash and, in a sense, relieve me of these burdens. But what of the games I added to my library that I would lose? What of the experiences I would be denying myself. What of the awful game downloads that Edd likes to send me to review?
Ultimately then I decided to stick with it, albeit at a discount price I find with a bit of Google searching. The onus is on me to make the most of my sub. No one ever overcome a fear by running away from it, so let’s tackle it head on.
Until next week.