How do I love Call of Duty? Let me count the ways.
There’s an ironic joke we make in England about public transportation. It’s not about traveling on public transportation itself, which is, on the whole, remarkably good. In larger towns and cities, travel by bus is often the fastest and easiest way to get around because of the special clearways set aside for buses’ and taxis’ sole use. Our retired citizens also get free travel at off-peak times. The joke is about waiting for public transport. It always seems you wait ages for a bus to arrive, then two come along together.
As an ex-double-decker bus driver from when a career change 25 years ago saw me funding my way through college by driving buses, I understand the reason why they concertina together at busy times. It just doesn’t help on a wintry evening in the rain when you are waiting and waiting and waiting. Now, however, this joke has worn a bit thin because modern bus stops have arrival times displayed on LCD screens, linked wirelessly from stop to stop. Potential passengers know to within a minute or so when their bus will arrive.
Two coming along together is exactly what happened the first time my brand new potato peeler was used. It has a razor-sharp stainless steel blade. When peeling the very first potato, it took the tip off one of my fingers. 15 gallons of blood later and swathed in plaster, meal preparations continued. Unfortunately, with one finger wrapped awkwardly and stuck out at an odd angle, the knife slipped and cut another finger. Not the first time with this particular blade either; it has tasted my blood on more than one occasion. I once saw bone where it had sliced me so deeply as I slashed at a thick broccoli stem in the vegetable garden. Luckily, it was not serious this time, though I’d prefer not to dwell on the subject or I might faint from the memory.
It also explains another unexpected pairing—my two typing fingers just happen to be the same ones that had suffered cuts and also the same two used in Call of Duty to turn right or fire a weapon. That made the arrival of Call of Duty 2 a little less of an event, especially as five minutes after the postman delivered the package, a courier arrived with QuarkXPress 7.
To say I’m a bit of a Call of Duty fan is to describe Australia as an island. It has been noted by others as well, as is shown in SuperDuper.
The last two lines say it all.
QuarkXPress has been a major part of designers’ lives since 1989 and enabled a comfortable living for many. Only Quark’s tardiness at getting a Mac OS X version drove the rise of InDesign 2, followed by CS1—both of which many designers enjoyed using—but perhaps not the latest CS2, which has proved problematic. As a consequence, QuarkXPress 7 has the hopes of many riding on it. This is, of course, another pairing that is not completely warranted—keeping updated copies of the two major industry standards such as XPress and InDesign just in case they’re needed. At least Freehand and Illustrator have been able to open each other’s files for years. If only Quark and Adobe would agree on this, too.
It’s amazing to find that Call of Duty 2 and XPress 7 have a big thing in common. Both arrive with printed manuals, something of a rarity nowadays, and in Quark’s case, extremely welcome. What a disappointment to discover that while one of the packages is better than expected, the other is a big letdown. Both have been covered elsewhere (see above) so this is not meant as a review, just notes from the first week of using them alongside each other.
First, the good news. QuarkXPress 7, while slated by many reviewers, seems an upgrade worth having. It is, if you like, the program that QuarkXPress 6 should have been. The redesigned tools and palettes make using it easier and more pleasant, especially for those with dodgy memories whose hard-learned XPress keyboard shortcuts have become blurred with InDesign’s. New photographic controls make trips to Photoshop unnecessary for many effects, and XPress will open native Photoshop files as well. Any changes applied to images can also be saved as a workflow and/or only applied to the image at run-out time. Color control has had an upgrade, so it should mean the end of telephone calls from printers asking why the four-color job you sent has six additional spot colours because the logo supplied by someone else is not separating properly. The new soft proofing on-screen will also help this.
On the other hand, QuarkXPress 7 is still not fully Mac OS X–compatible so that Services and all the other useful little tools aren’t available. The printed manual leaves out some topics altogether, for example, “check spelling.” This one topic alone is a big weakness in XPress, in which spelling still has to be checked via a separate window, unlike true Mac OS X applications that have instant access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, and spell-check as you type. PDF creation is still via Jaws rather than a true Adobe engine, which probably means that XPress will export its own style of “nearly compatible” PostScript. There is, though, support for PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3, which are must-haves for working in a modern PDF environment.
The Web site creation tools have improved. I have never built a site with XPress, though it has been possible since version 5, and even before using Myrmidon. To a great extent, QuarkXPress’ Web tools have been surpassed by applications such as Freeway, which has commands similar to those in XPress to ease print designers into Web design.
Quark has also extended collaborative working tools, and this is where the basic version of XPress scores over InDesign. While both have special versions and tools geared for heavyweight users—such as newspapers and magazines—in their basic format, QuarkXPress is better for collaborative groups, while InDesign is more suited to individual designers working on their own. New Composition Zones return the control of page design to the designer. Now she can create a Composition Zone—such as a text box or story space—and send it to the editor to fill in. The editor will not misunderstand that “cut the length by two paragraphs” means the opposite and send 150 additional words instead. The editor will get a file showing the exact space his story has to fit into, complete with text and paragraph styles predefined.
Composition Zones are, in effect, miniature QuarkXPress documents that can be as simple as one text box or can be a whole page layout. One editor I work with insists on editing directly to the QuarkXPress document but has no understanding (or willingness to understand) style sheets, master pages, and the like. Now he can tweak the text to his heart’s content without ruining the remainder of the document.
Call of Duty 2, sadly, is the big disappointment. It’s like at Christmas when you asked for a Ferrari but end up with a Fiat. With Call of Duty 2, the graphics may be (slightly) better and gameplay a little different, but it is not a successor to Call of Duty United Offensive, the previous release in the series. The name itself gives the game away; it is an update to the original Call of Duty. For United Offensive players, gone are the broad arenas and burning rubber in a Jeep with a couple of tooled-up pals. There is a level with tanks (I haven’t finished the whole game so there may be more), but it is very easy to complete, and that describes the game in general: it’s a bit too easy and familiar. Each level is close combat and pretty much the same as the previous one. Grenades (yours and theirs) seem almost limitless and able to solve most scenarios that can’t be completed by running around while blasting away with a machine gun.
The online play is currently much the same small townscape arenas with no interaction with vehicles and big weapons. They are set in desert or Europe, but apart from the color of the buildings, land, and lighting, little else distinguishes one from another. In Call of Duty United Offensive, innovative designers have produced some evocative battlefields that even include working cable cars, submarines, and other features, as well as extending the weapons and vehicles. This is probably not going to happen in Call of Duty 2. Even the maps are similar to the ones in the original Call of Duty, and none seems able to conjure up the realism created by United Offensive.
The old saying states that the best things in life are free; in Call of Duty’s case that ought to be One and Three but definitely not Two. Quark’s new offering is another matter and a worthy upgrade from the late, great QuarkXPress 5…er…6.5. Be aware, though: old XTensions will not work with this new version.
Also in This Series
- What Trick, What Device, What Starting-Hole… · May 2012
- Do Androids Dream? · April 2012
- Our Macs Are Under Attack · March 2012
- The Best and Worst Christmas Presents · February 2012
- The Best Use for a Kindle · January 2012
- It’s Got No Blinking Light · January 2012
- Box-Shifting Causes Migration · December 2011
- The Best Thing About the iPhone 4S and How to Cope in Clink · December 2011
- Death of a Salesman · November 2011
- Complete Archive