Call of Duty - Collection Update

As I've mentioned on the show a couple of times, my relationship with Activision's Call of Duty franchise is very casual.  After the release of World at War, I have only picked up used copies of the games, often 2 years after release. I am not even console-loyal -- bouncing around between the various Playstation and Xbox systems.

I was therefore surpised that I've only missed out on five games in the series, the original, Black Ops 2 and 3, Infinite Warfare and 2017's WWII.

 Not quite in release order.

Not quite in release order.

The list for the main series so far:

1. Call of Duty (2003)
2. Call of Duty 2 (2005)
3. Call of Duty 3 (2006)
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
5. Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
7. Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
9. Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)
10. Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013)
11. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
12. Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015)
13. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)
14. Call of Duty: WWII (2017)

 Ghosts was the first Call of Duty game to not include a gun on the front cover. Tom and I used to have a segment on game covers called "Gun or No Gun". The joke was there was a gun on 99% of game covers.

Ghosts was the first Call of Duty game to not include a gun on the front cover. Tom and I used to have a segment on game covers called "Gun or No Gun". The joke was there was a gun on 99% of game covers.

It was leaked this week that the 2018 entry in the series will not feature a campaign mode, which is the only reason I pick up the games, so depending on how that experiment pans out for Activision WWII may well be the last Call of Duty game I buy, which will be a fitting capstone given my introduction to the series was the incredible Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360.

Call of Duty's players are mostly derided in gaming culture, with the games seen as being intended solely for the same narrow band of player that buys Madden every year, which is an easy and unfair categorisation. Despite the online braggadocio and bombastic style of the game, they are none-the-less enjoyable shooters with unmatched polish and can be a mindless, though engaging game experience.

I found Ghosts campaign to actually be thoughtful and reflective, and throughly playable and diverse (though not quite up to the standard of Titanfall II, which it was clearly emulating).

If WWII is the end of the road for Call of Duty as we have known it, I am completely at peace with that. It's been a very long and succesful run with relatively original take on the FPS genre.

- Phil Fogg

YakuzaKillzONE Decade

In this written installment of the YakuzaKillzONE Minute (but this time aproximately 4,734,720 minutes), Tom Towers offers his final thoughts on Killzone 2's multiplayer, after playing it for nine years. Yes, the servers finally shut down.

But what does this have to do with Yakuza? Well, Yakuza 3 came out in the same year as Killzone 2, and Yakuza 3 was the first Yakuza game he played. So, absolutely nothing, really.

But read it anyway; it's rare he writes about videogames these days, so it must be good, right? Here it is, linked again for your convenience.

Not Even Pataphysics Can Save the Internet

If you’ve been living in  a cave with a bear for the past century, then you may not know that Pataphysics is the imaginary solution to problems.* Like all art, its business is also the conception, gestation, and rearing of the future. The trouble is, any solution to a problem, unless discovered by chance (which many solutions are), must, by necessity, at some time be imagined. Indeed, a problem itself must be imagined in the first place; something cannot be a problem, without the imaginary classification of problem. It would still exist, but it wouldn't be a problem. After all, one person's problem is another's solution.

Wait a minute, wasn't Pataphysics originally just a way of writing hilarious French farces?**

Yes, but now Pataphysicists exist outside of an in-joke (or as part of a global, open in-joke) and sometimes they try to solve problems by doing the opposite of orthodoxy. Sadly, this sort of attitude cannot be creative, or particularly imaginative, because it may only imitate or innovate its original source; albeit in the form of a mirror image or reactionary opposite. 

But, what does this have to do with the internet?

Well, Pataphysicists have made a search engine, with the noble goal of making the internet a little more like it used to be, before it had to be indexed to be usable. (Or so we're told by the people who index it.)

Unfortunately—and unsurprisingly—they have only succeeded in creating a mirror image of Google and YouTube.

As you can see below, I used the search term "work" and the image source provided by the pataphysical search engine (if it isn't limited in such a way, it simply finds pornography) on Google and YouTube, as well as the pataphysical search engine, and the results are almost identical:

 A pataphysical image search for "work": all results are things directly related to, or assosciated with work.  Maybe people just work a lot?

A pataphysical image search for "work": all results are things directly related to, or assosciated with work.

Maybe people just work a lot?

 A google image search for "work" and "getty" which has not only turned up similar work-related themes to the pataphysical search, but its foremost image, like the Pataphysical search's, is of an exhausted woman with her head in her hands.  At least it includes the great idler, Prince Charles; 69 years of age, and still not a king. If anything, Google has given us a less relevant result than the Pataphysical search! 

A google image search for "work" and "getty" which has not only turned up similar work-related themes to the pataphysical search, but its foremost image, like the Pataphysical search's, is of an exhausted woman with her head in her hands.

At least it includes the great idler, Prince Charles; 69 years of age, and still not a king. If anything, Google has given us a less relevant result than the Pataphysical search! 

 Here the pataphysical search has found a bunch of music videos, some of which don't appear to be very related to work. Well done.

Here the pataphysical search has found a bunch of music videos, some of which don't appear to be very related to work. Well done.

 But a YouTube search also found a bunch of music videos, seemingly unrelated to work! Still, they all had work in their title or description...

But a YouTube search also found a bunch of music videos, seemingly unrelated to work! Still, they all had work in their title or description...

Maybe just try this map of the internet instead? You can find things you weren't looking for more easily (although, if I look up "work" on YouTube, I'm not looking for music, am I?); but you do have to wade through a lot of pornography websites. And it doesn't include GameUnder, the most interesting and unexpected site on the internet!

My own solution is that search engines allow you to tune the relevance of your results. Why not let us use the algorithm in reverse? Instead of the most related result, give us the least related. How about giving us the opposite of what we want? If we google "pizzagate", then give us websites on Russian collusion with the White House, and vice versa. Why not put everything into context? If we're googling "Ferguson", give us results on the LA Riots or the really scary original Red Scare. It won't have much effect on changing stupid beliefs (on the contrary, exposing an idiot to a poorly articulated argument against their idiocy is only likely to result in a greater devotion to their original idiotic belief), but it will make some people feel a little better.

It is another mirror solution...but at least I admit it's not very clever or creative. That's what people want, right?—mediocrity that admits it's mediocre, so we can all feel better about our own mediocrity.

*Originally it was a way for Alfred Jarry and his friends to make fun of their pretentious science teacher, and his made-up answers to their science-related questions.

**Download this and its subtitles now, as it's absolutely hilarious. Monty Python meets Macbeth. It's apparently the perfect time to watch it, as people say it's a great commentary on Donald Trump (just because Ubu is plump and likes fatty food?); but it isn't. I don't recall Donald Trump reaching the White House through a millitary coup (and it is a great commentary on military coups). Although, his debraining machine is as effective as Ubu's, but targets an entirely different audience.

Masculine "Chi"

While Phil Fogg is taking a break from posting quality, original content, I thought I'd post some second-hand bullshit in his absence.

I wrote this blog lamenting the present state of the internet. It features a Trump gif, and in the last comment I conclude that I am probably to blame, and not the internet. Nevertheless, it may be worth reading.

I also wrote a post in this thread about violence in videogames. I didn't like it much, and almost deleted it, but Phil liked it, so you may like it also. His taste usually aligns with more people than mine does.

But to prove this isn't just about cross promotion with our good friends at www.thevgpress.com, you can find something else to read at a much more reputable site below:

Specifically, this article on the internet's latest white saviour, Jordan (B.) Peterson, which made me laugh.

 Not only does he look this good, but he also promotes  Muscular Christianity!  ;) <3

Not only does he look this good, but he also promotes Muscular Christianity! ;) <3

I first encountered the good-God doctor of the internet when he was wandering around university campuses, displaying his superior intellect by arguing with groups of twenty-year-old toddlers (he’s now arguing with thirty-year-old toddlers on television; he’s come a long way). Elsewhere on his YouTube channel (which was already making thousands of dollars via Patreon), he spoke of the psychological similarity between the extreme right and left, his love for Nietzsche and Christianity, and had the decency as an unqualified literary theorist to take Pinocchio seriously; just as Nietzsche had had the decency to take Christianity seriously. (Actually, that makes them, respectively, better literary theorists and theologians than most people qualified in those areas.)

Then his day job came under threat, and very quickly he started spouting furiously about "cultural marxism" and "postmodernism" (the existence of which is, ironically, a postmodern myth), and began to speak (as a clinical psychologist, not an economic expertof the evils of the EU and its cultural marxism, displaying his utter lack of imagination and, therefore, his inability to accurately describe the modern world where archaic language is proving increasingly inadequate. The cherry on top of this cake of corruption was the promotion of his self-help system; it had even been positively reviewed by peer-approved studies!!!

In spite of all this, I can't help but like him. He is a man who earnestly claims to have dedicated his career to teaching his students how to fight "ideological possession", and is now doing his very best not to save the souls of silly Scandinavian supremacists, but to make as much money off them by taking advantage of their ideological possession as possible.*

…But my favourite contemporary (or recent) political figures include the likes of Alberto Fujimori, an eccentric Japanese man whose idea of a holiday is becoming the president of Peru and conducting a brutal campaign against “terrorism”, then returning home when the natives (sterilised and massacred, but not pacified) realise he’s a bit of a shit; and Radovan Karadzic, the poet king of Republica Srbska whose prophetic poems predicted the outbreak of the Bosnian war. An achievement no less impressive just because he himself was a principle figure in instigating it.

What can I say? The best characters are always villains. That’s why everyone loves Batman, right?

*But he probably is helping a lot of disillusioned people. The world is more complicated than that article I linked to would have you believe.

Hyperkin Smartboy

With Nintendo having released their mini-versions of the NES and SNES, there has been some discussion as to the value of releasing an original Gameboy shell with popular games pre-loaded.  Most of those rumours have been dismissed because it would involve Nintendo having to, not only come up with an even more miniture chipset, but also a display pushing it out of that "impulse buy" pricepoint.

I was thus interested to see Hyperkin's angle, with their Smartboy.

 This photo is from Hyperkin's site.

This photo is from Hyperkin's site.

At first appearance the Smartboy looks like an amazing merger of the classic original Gameboy casing and a sleek modern touch device. And that's because it is, unfortunately. The Smartboy requires an Android phone with a USB-C port (for best results they recommend using a Samsung Galaxy S8). The device works by sliding in a phone, and inserting an original game cart, which when combined with the installed application, downloads a dump of the ROM,  enabling you to legally play Gameboy and Gameboy Color games through an emulator.

Essentially, this is a $49 USD emulator for Android with a plastic accessory - albeit it a very nice one.

The data is deleted once you remove the cartridge, thus skirting piracy and infringement laws.

 Phone slots in the front, cart slots inthe back.

Phone slots in the front, cart slots inthe back.

Even with the rather significant handicap of having to use a specific phone, and having that phone connected to the internet, it is a noble effort and appears to be well designed. The device obviously also provides for a much larger and clearer display than the original Gameboy.

- Phil Fogg

Cathode Ray Tube

I've been searching for a cathode ray tube television for some time, with the belief that the older consoles in my collection were just not being properly represented on more modern sets.  By happenstance, I was reunited with a National TR602A "Delux" 12 inch television set from my childhood.

It was on the way to the municipal dump and had been left out in the rain for three days, so my hopes of getting it up and running were pretty low but, after taking some safety precautions, the almost forty year old set came to life.

 Ms. Pacman in fifty shades of grey (be sure to switch your Atari 2600 into B&amp;W mode).

Ms. Pacman in fifty shades of grey (be sure to switch your Atari 2600 into B&W mode).

After a couple of hours of searching through cables, and my extra Atari 2600's I had River Raid up and running and looking better than it had in some decades.  Although the television is limited to being black and white, the crispness of the pixels is immediatley impressive. The curvature of the screen, convex rather than the concave options available in the 21st century, also adds a long forgotten quirk of technology, much more obvious in a vertically scrolling game than say, watching the cricket.

It has been difficult to pin down the exact year of manufacture, but this "all transistor" model (charming) was made by Matshushita in Osaka around 1980.

It is made of modern plastics, with the white casing holding up extremely well -- this model was also available in red. In terms of inputs the set is limited to screw terminals on the back of the set (you can daisy chain more modern inputs from the screw terminals, but there is a loss of quality for every adaptor you add).  While I was able to get a NES, NES, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive and an Atari 2600 hooked up simultaneously, the video degradation was not worth the novelty, so I ultimately kept just the Atari 2600 attached.

 The Atari 2600 section is now as it should be, with a television from the same era.

The Atari 2600 section is now as it should be, with a television from the same era.

Other features include an earphones port (mono only) as well as brightness and contrast controls on the front with vertical and horizontal hold on the back.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your views), due to our regulators removing free over the air television programming the receiver now only picks up FM radio stations.

As of today I was able to find a single set, slightly newer than mine, on E-Bay for $130 AUD, but given the perils of shipping and handling, I've found that for vintage electronics it is best to source locally.

I throughly enjoyed setting up the Atari 2600 in it's own area of the collection, and even if I did come across a colour set, I'd be hesitant to "upgrade" given the moderne stylings of the National Deluxe.

- Phil Fogg

 

Advisory: If considering working on a CRT yourself please remember that according to ifixit.com "A CRT can hold several thousand volts of electricity in its flyback circuitry. If you do not have the necessary experience and tools to properly discharge and make safe a CRT, you should not even take the plastic cover off. There is also the chance of physically damaging the fragile neck of the CRT, leading to a violent implosion as the vacuum is released. This could spray poisonous, phosphor-covered shards of glass all over the room." 

Cat Person and Cibele

Recently, a short story published in the New Yorker caused a lot of people on twitter to say some things (in 140 characters or less), and a lot of journalists to say some things (in 1,400 words or more) about the people on twitter saying things (in 140 characters or less). The most notable thing about the short story itself, is its description of romantic texting as being "like dancing"; this sort of language in describing the act of texting instead of some shitty typographical gimmick to depict texting itself, is probably why so many people found it to be such a revelatory description of their own experiences of awkward sexual encounters.

 The titular Cat Person from the short story in mentioned above.

The titular Cat Person from the short story in mentioned above.

Not at all recently, I wrote some bullshit about Cibele; a game which deals, sort of, with similar themes. I wrote about it, unlike most people on twitter, not because it recounted in ways I could not some awkward sexual experience I had had (nor because it reinforced my belief that awkward sexual experiences were the sole domain of my own sex, due to only having friends of my own sex, and being utterly incapable of empathising with people of the opposite sex), but because it managed to describe the way people now interact using technology without the videogame equivalent of a typographical gimmick*; something literature, and most other mediums, were incapable of doing (until now, apparently). 

Now that my bullshit is out of date, I thought it would be a good time to publish it.

If you want, you can read it here.

You can also read Phil's review of the same game here.

Be sure to tell us who succeeded in writing the "plainer" review.

*If you think the structure of cibele is equivalent to a typographical gimmick, you're wrong. It's entirely prosaic, because it represents such things literally, in a medium where representing them literally does not contradict the other aesthetic principles of the work.

Game Under Podcast Episode 101.5

After our first official "Lost Episode", our show 102, Tom and Phil drown their sorrows by taking on a completely non-gaming related topic, that of Shakespeare, and his place in literature. (Click Here for Episode 101.5)

 A scene from Shakepeare's most recent game, King Lear.

A scene from Shakepeare's most recent game, King Lear.

No, seriously, there is not a smidgin of gaming discussion in this episode (well, there is some Kojima talk), we made sure to edit it all out (thus the diminutive ".5" added to the show title. But if you have any interest in Shakespeare (and if you read english, you should) please listen in to this short show before we recreate podcast magic in Episode 102.

If you are interested in this type of content you may also want to read Tom's article covering English Renaissance Plays on Youtube.

- Phil Fogg.

Carol Shaw

It was great to see Carol Shaw recognized for her lifetime achievements at the Game Awards last week.

I've admired Carol Shaw from before I was ten years old, as her visage and name was prominently promoted in the colateral materials for the Activision game River Raid, which I consider to be the best game for the Atari 2600 and is enjoyable today as it was when I first played it in the 80's.

 Some of my River Raid stuff. Commodore 64, Atari 2600 cart and the Atari 5200 box (still in original shrinkwrap. I have a couple of manuals for the game as well.

Some of my River Raid stuff. Commodore 64, Atari 2600 cart and the Atari 5200 box (still in original shrinkwrap. I have a couple of manuals for the game as well.

Game Under Podcast Episode 101

Gagandeep Singh of the Endless Backlog Podcast joins Tom Towers in Smugcast 2, to discuss the Wonderful 101 (get it?), Horizon Zero Dawn, Super Mario Oddessy, Killzone Vs. Halo, GTA III through V, Platinum Games Studio and much more.

However, just in time for the announcement of Bayonetta 3, they debate which is better, Bayonetta or Bayonetta 2; and whether Gagan and his bros simply suck at Metro and Killzone.
Listen Here.

One's Gagan, one's Tom