What first springs to mind when you think of The Lord of the Rings? The Hobbits of the Shire? Seraphic Elves with long flowing locks and pointy ears? That innocuous line from the first film that spawned one of the most infamous memes ever? Or, god forbid, Tom Bombadil?
Amid the surface high fantasy and all the piss-taking and parody that inevitably comes with it, it’s easy to forget The Lord of the Rings’ dark undertones. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor isn’t content to act as gentle reminder of these macabre themes. Yes Elves, Dwarves and the expected swordplay and sorcery are here, but developer Monolith is quick to signpost the bloody road that its game is heading down.
William ‘B.J’ Blaskowicz has changed so much and yet so little. Once barely more than a tiny pixelated face at the centre of Wolfenstein 3D’s HUD, he’s now a hulking high-def mass of polygons. Back in 1992 he was the embodiment of the shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude – or perhaps more accurately, shoot-first-and-never-ask-any-questions-at-all. Yet fast forward to 2014 and we’re treated to his pseudo-philosophical babblings about the nature of existence. These days good old ‘Blasko’ seems to be taking himself a lot more seriously. Of course the one constant, the tie that binds the two soldiers past and present together, is their love of shooting Nazis in the face.
Year of Release: 2003
Format: Playstation 2
Developer: IO Interactive
Price: £1 (Holloway car boot sale)
It’s always the way when starting an old game for the first time. The crisp, high definition world you’ve been comfortably living in melts away into a blurry, inhospitable realm. It feels like someone’s sploshed a murky bucket of paint over a painstakingly detailed drawing. Just looking at the screen is the most obvious but startling reminder of how far videogames have come. Yet while a graphical comparison between then and now is arguably the most pleasing measure of progress, it’s not always the most telling. For the record Freedom Fighters’ New York setting does look like an early Liberty City with several million buckets of brown paint sploshed over it. But it was when I started actually moving around the environment that it became apparent just how much I must take today’s improvements for granted; how ingrained in my mind modern mechanics are.