Seriously, have you seen those things? Those people say that they’re just breeding flowers, but they’re going to kill us all!

Check out my Halloween animation! I’m really pleased with this one… Although perhaps more accurately I should say that I’m disturbed by this one. I wrote it and I find it creepy! Three minutes of good, old-fashioned, Freud-a-go-go horror. Freud wasn’t just about phallic symbols, you know. He wrote some pretty cool stuff about where the sense of the uncanny comes from. He used the term unheimlich, which literally translates as ‘unhomely’, to describe the creeping sense of unease that is most often produced by the supernatural. He argued that the source of this was doubt in the rationality of the modern world, and the thought that the old stories may really be true. It’s quite an interesting way of thinking about things, because it makes you wonder whether people who are convinced of the irrationality of the world can feel the uncanny, or if people who were never been told stories about the dead coming back to life would be capable of feeling the uncanny… Still, it’s an interesting study and worth checking out if you’re into the psychology of the scary!

I’ve had a weekend of coughing and spluttering, but I think I’m finally improving (thanks for the good wishes!). I’ve also had to get myself a Xbox360. Why I ‘had’ to get one of these is a story that I’ll tell you if it happens, but until then it’s safe to say that it was necessary for my future. Anyway, I played through Call of Duty 2 on Saturday, and can safely say ‘meh’. It’s solidly built, with nice features and a couple of nice moments, but the level design is completely forgettable. There is a directional map with a big star on it to show you where to go, including a nice ‘friendly people/enemy people’ radar scanner thing (stolen from Halo), which all WWII soldiers were equipped with… Err… Without the star on the map, the objectives of each level would be very unclear. To me that says that the level design wasn’t up to scratch and so they needed some way to make sure players didn’t get lost.

I guess it was a deliberate choice to make the game a full-on, 100% fighting experience, but without a bit of peace occasionally the guns and the shouting become like an audio and visual ten-hour thrash-metal concert – it’s fun for a while, but you need to have the contrast for there to be any meaning. As in the yin-yang principle, silence is defined by noise, and vice-versa, but the designers of Call of Duty 2 appear to have wanted to make you feel like you were at war too. It’s just too much wham-bam and not enough variation in the tone to make the highlights easy to pick out.

There are highlights: running up Hill 400 with the rest of your squad is exhilarating, and clearing through an occupied French village is a satisfying bit of the game. They add in some tank battles in Africa to provide some variation, but it doesn’t really amount to more than its parts. From a level-design angle, they provide plenty of places to duck for cover, but there’s still that sense of disorientation that’s only saved by a big star on your map to head for. Graphically it’s very detailed, but there’s more to games than pretty pictures.
On the other hand, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best: Call of Duty 2 steals most of it’s first level (the defense of Stalingrad) from a superb WWII film called Enemy at the Gates (UK link US link). It’s about a war between Russian and German snipers for the streets of a destroyed city. The Russians were massively out-manned but fought off the invading forces through knowing the land and choosing their fights. It’s a great film and well-worth watching. I’m not a fan of WWII films, but this one is very good.

Have a happy Halloween, only play tricks on those that will appreciate them, don’t talk to anyone stranger than yourself, and remember, whatever else you do, don’t cross the streams!

See you Friday!