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What Call of Duty has taught me about the Wii

posted on June 19th, 2007 by christian

I’m just about willing to say that Call of Duty 3 is the most important game on the Wii right now. I couldn’t even finish it, yet it showed me a lot about the console that I never thought about before (or simply disregarded as false).

For instance, we’ve all heard the complaints from lazy gamers who are afraid of being active when playing the Wii, thinking they will get tired after only a few short minutes. Even before launch this was often mocked, and once people started playing, it seemed even sillier. But it isn’t silly at all. True, most games will not tire you out – even Wii Sports won’t unless you play it like a workout. In fact I’d say the Wii makes things much less tiring by allowing you to hold the controller in a variety of positions. But Call of Duty can tire you out.

Being a WW2 shooter, you are constantly at risk of being shot at, thus you must constantly be ready to aim. There is simply no downtime in the game aside from cutscenes, and so there is only one “good” position for the Wiimote: pointing at the screen, arm slightly extended so that your wrist can rotate freely. This is equivalent to extending your arm and holding a paperweight in your hand. You think you can do it at first, but after a while your arm wants to give out.

Christian’s just jealous this guy looks cooler when playing the Wii.

You can try playing the game with the remote in your lap, or with an elbow propped on your leg, but if you are playing it on hard you might find your aim is not up to snuff. The “good” position is the way to play, and you may find yourself with a tired arm and a painful wrist if you play for too long.

The funny thing about this is that it unintentionally echoes Nintendo’s desire for us to take breaks between our play. I’ve never liked this notion; how dare they tell me I can’t marathon through a game. But Call of Duty 3 seems to be a much better experience when playing it for no more than a level at a time. If that’s the way it should be played, then that’s the way it should be played. The only problem with this is that no one ever says there is a right way to play COD3. And so this gamer is torn between unlearning my play habits and cursing the Wii for trying to stop me.

Curiously enough, the fatigue I suffered from Call of Duty was absent when playing Red Steel. It didn’t take me long to figure out why. Red Steel plays like a Hong Kong action film. You can point at a mob of guys, aim (or just shoot at from the hip), and squeeze off a dozen rounds. Most of them are going to be dead. Long distance shots don’t always require pinpoint accuracy either, and the Focus ability allows you to dispatch the most pesky goons in short order. My arm was in mostly the same position, but the game caused much less strain.

Furthermore, the sword battles allowed a break from the gunfights, and while they were very much active in their own way, they gave my wrist a much needed break every so often.

I don’t want to give Ubi Soft too much credit for their goofy game, but Red Steel plays like I think a Wii FPS should. They don’t all have to be completely unrealistic, but they do need to have the right pacing and level design so that the player can focus all of their energies on a few well placed shots with some breaks in between, instead of an endless parade of enemy soldiers.

Christian is not jealous of how cool this Red Steel developer looks.

Of course, we shouldn’t expect Call of Duty to understand this, since it was never designed with the Wii in mind. This is a game in which enemies will continuously spawn until you advance to a certain point in the environment, and this is a series where your AI squadmates have gotten less useful with every new entry. The demands are high enough when you have a 360 pad sitting in your lap. Strapping Wii controls onto that same game is going to make it even worse.

Wii aiming is a great idea, as it gives the player a new sense of immersion and its own unique challenge. It cannot and will not work in games that weren’t designed around it from the ground up. If we get more Call of Duty style games on the console, I am going to be a very disappointed gamer.

I hope that in the future the Wii’s sales will warrant some extra quality and effort from third parties, because with the first batch of games they treated it like a dumping ground for quick ports and quick money.

Tell me again, how far have we come from the Gamecube?

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