Don't make me play that!

World of Warcraft
Gamer: Tony Ellis

For the past three years I’ve witnessed the adventures of Tim’s disconcertingly attractive redhead on the desk next to me. I’ve wandered over to Ross to find his bearded dwarf battling giants. To finally play WoW for myself was an experience at once strange and familiar. The same overly vivid, paintbox colours, the same colossal trees and recklessly out-of-proportion, unfeasibly cartoon-like scenery I had seen a thousand times before, but now I was in it. That was my feisty lady-rogue running around in the world of Warcraft.

And what a smoothly running world it was. Was there anything for me to do? Why yes, that guy with the exclamation mark over his head has a quest for me. Will I have to journey far? Oh, just seven paces in that direction, then. Should I worry about that wolf gnawing on my arm? No, my character appears to be fighting it off all by herself. Ooh, I’ve leveled up! Ooh, it’s all gone grey. Oh no! I’m dead! Disaster! Will my lonely spirit ever find my corporeal body again, or will I be doomed forever to walk the - oh, there it is.

It’s slick. It all runs like clockwork. But it’s the clockwork of a wind-up novelty penis on the cluttered desk of a marketing executive. It dances, it jiggles, but it doesn’t really do anything. It’s just a way of tricking you into watching a spring unwind. I battle my way through a mine full of kobolds, I level up, and just for a moment it feels like I’ve achieved something. My next quest? Go fight more kobolds in another mine. Help someone bake a pie. Nothing has really changed, apart from the number next to my portrait. I’d hoped for something better from the game so many millions have sacrificed so many hours of their lives to. I feel no desire to be a part of this world. I already have one life in which I perform endless repetitive tasks for the least possible reward those in charge can get away with giving me. I don’t need another one.

Play it again?
Life’s too short.

Unreal Tournament 3
Gamer: Ross Atherton

I love first-person shooters. I mean - who doesn’t? In a sense, it’s the purest form of gaming: you’re inside the protagonist, moving through the game’s environments with the minimum of stuff to remind you you’re just playing a game. However, I just don’t get along with their online, multiplayer, competitive versions. Maybe I don’t like confrontation. Or maybe I don’t like being reminded that I’m not particularly good at twitch games, my reactions dulled by pub and age. I don’t do trash-talk. And I have an infuriating panic-reaction when I try to pull off an accurate shot, inevitably sending it high and wide. It’s why I always play as a Medic when I’m talked into a game of Team Fortress 2.

So that’s why I’m here, installing Unreal Tournament 3, the latest in a series I’ve personally disliked ever since it went multiplayer-focused. It’s also why I found it so easy to snigger at the ‘down with the homies’ dialogue in the little cutscenes that frame its contrived training missions. After ham-fistedly getting to grips with the weapons and powerups I had no excuses left but to venture online. A random server beckoned and... well, it wasn’t that bad. I actually managed to kill some people. The Flak Cannon makes my hopeless aim mildly effective. And God bless the near-instant respawn! It no longer really matters that my typical lifespan is about ten seconds. A muttered curse is all I have time for before I’m back in the action, and the weapons liberally sprinkled about the levels mean I’m soon kitted out ready for another fair contest.

And that’s the key here: UT is fair. It keeps everything simple, with no grossly overpowered weapons or abilities that’ll kill you from a mile away. I didn’t finish high on any server I graced, but I enjoyed the whole silly, frantic experience. Most usefully, it reminded me which games I really don’t enjoy playing in multiplayer: the ones that combine my basic dislike of online shooters with over-complexity and what seems to me to be unfairness: Battlefield 2142 and Enemy Territory Quake Wars.

Play it again?
Why not?