White Gold 4: from (near) Russia with bugs

, | Game diaries

We storm out of the landing craft onto the beach. German pillboxes are slaughtering soldiers left and right. The whole thing looks like something out of Saving Private Ryan. Probably because Saving Private Ryan came out only two years ago. Dying soldiers are everywhere, though they don’t seem to be suffering any bleeding. After we reach cover by barb wire, a sergeant yells “Go back down there, and grab those bangalores!”. Yelling to be heard over the din, I scream “What the fuck is a bangalore!?”

After the jump, shocking spoilers about the mystery of the white gold

The corridor shooter started with Half Life. There were narrow maps before then, but Half Life had to aggressively funnel you into the next big set piece, lest you break its little canned event with your bothersome free will. It was the Quake era, so they got away with it. But then came Medal of Honor, and Half Life 2, and Call of Duty. Since then, when you try the single player of the latest blockbuster FPS, you’re not a player so much as a stuntman hitting his marks during the big money shot. Or a Disneyland visitor on a tram ride watching the pyrotechnics go off on cue. But when it comes time to storm an enemy base in White Gold, it’s glorious back-to-basics slaughter. No rail gunning sequence from a vehicle (where you momentarily switch to the perspective of Senior Master Sergeant Who-Gives-A-Shit ), no canned event of a fighter jet crashing through a window. Just you and some foreigners who need to die.

The guy I gave 20,000 pesos rewarded me with a meeting with some hostile special ops guys, then skipped town. He’s holed up on a private cay, and Myers wants a word with him. Going by helicopter doesn’t work so well, I have to save scum to get rid of the three SAM units, and the machine gun is lousy for hitting infantry. On foot though, it’s surprising how good this game can be when it just focuses on the shooting. All that open ground gives me a great excuse to bust out the Dragunov and the 7.62mm I blew so much money on.

One dead private army later, the contact Pedro finally coughs up some info. I take the civilian reputation hit and blow him away. There’s three big islands left on the map, so — big surprise — Pedro points to me the northernmost one. The objective marker leads me to a clearing in front of a stone door, where a hanged corpse is left out as a sort of welcome mat. I hit a lever that doesn’t work and tribesmen materialize and chase me away. My radio support informs me I need to find seven ancient idols to open the stone door. What is this, a Zelda game?

An NPC from each faction has an idol, and except for the irredeemably evil faction you can either do quests and then buy it at a discount, or just kill whoever has it and grab it. I have no choice when it comes to retrieving the guerrilla idol, since we’re not on good terms. The worst quest by far is the one to find a native chieftain’s son. He’s gone to giant spider cave to pass his initiation rite into manhood.

I would have failed that rite, because I am the biggest pussy when it comes to giant spiders, and this cave is packed with ’em. My train of thought is typically “Okay I’ll just creep forward and OH FUCK ANOTHER SPIDER grenade grenade grenade!”.

They even included little crawl spaces so the smaller fuckers can come up on you from behind. I find the old man’s son’s corpse, so in retrospect I should have just shot the chieftain in the face the instant he mentioned giant spiders.

You probably thought that stone door I mentioned guarded a temple or underground lair. Ha ha! It just leads into a canyon you can fly into by helicopter. The only reason I had to get the idols was because I wouldn’t know what to do next without the objective markers. It’s video game self-parody. At the end of the canyon is a lever I could have tripped anyways if I had read a walk-through. Some more spiders are unleashed on me. Motherfucker. Myers finds a captive CIA agent who was going to be sacrificed, and then the special ops guys show up and apprehend him.

The plot and dialog is a little hard to follow, in fact it’s very hard to follow. Here’s my interpretation: Some indian cult is making the deadly cocaine that’s killing artists. A faction of the CIA is delivering the shipments, because the epidemic will increase the agency budget, and they’re old Cold War hardliners from the Vietnam era who don’t mind seeing counter-culture types dead. Myers was brought in to help them cover their tracks by finding individuals who knew about the operation. Seriously. Robert Ludlum would be proud.

Myers is taken to a tanker and put in a room near the bridge. He’s interrogated by CIA Agent Nixon. They exchange more non-seqituors, then Myers stabs Nixon in the eye with a pencil and breaks out. It looks like a you-get-captured-and-they-take-all-your-stuff scenario, but Myer’s stuff is actually in the next room. I somehow overlook the locker with my stuff, but all the CIA thugs are packing loads of grenades, ammunition, and mint M-16s. At least I assume they’re CIA. They all have nondescript black ops gear. Speaking of putting the covert in covert operations, the bridge of the tanker is blaring The Star-Spangled Banner. I don’t think these guys were exactly Langley’s finest.

Now I’ll just jump over the side of the ship and swim. Hold on, for some reason this is a separate level or there’s an invisible wall around this ship. Even though you can see the tanker in the regular game world. Oh wait, it’s because they want me to force me to fight my way through scores of bad guys. It’s another case of corner cutting, when anyone else would have given me a hostage or Macguffin to recover from the hold. And they had to use one of the blandest video game cliches around: the tanker level. At least I’ve finally found an FPS stage that doesn’t skimp on the grenades, or crowds of punks to throw them at. And thanks to White Gold, I’m pretty sure I’ve learned that “grenada!” is Ukrainian for grenade.

Myers hits a button next to a raft, then a loading screen spirits him away to freedom. He and the raft are teleported to an island near the ship. Still groggy from using the phase shift device, Myers is finally told to go the eastmost island everyone knew was the last level from the start. The customer’s been informed about the cult and wants the production of the deadly (well, deadlier) cocaine halted. Myers is to proceed upwind (the Caribbean wind always blew west in Pirates!, get it?), locate the cult’s HQ, and terminate the cult’s operation. Terminate….with extreme prejudice.

On Monday: the horror, the horror…

Sapper Gopher is a software developer who works mostly in Java. Appropriately enough, he was in Tahiti last month.