A Pile of Word CaterpillarsPosted by Tom on 13th June, 2012
I’ve got all these opinions about all these recent things, but none of those opinions are the size of an article and I’ve been playing a whole bunch of games, but none of them have inspired an article’s-worth of writing from me, so instead of writing nothing I’m gonna just write everything.
Max Payne 3
I watched my flatmate play through Max Payne 3 the day after I drank far too much deceptively fruity punch and the day before I had to leave the flat and my student life in Aberdeen, forever. I was curled up on the sofa, tweeting about my hangover and avoiding movement as much as possible. It’s safe to say my perspective on the game may have been influenced by my slightly vulnerable state.
Despite those caveats: Max Payne 3 is a horrible game to witness. It relies heavily on Kane and Lynchian video effects to show you how tortured and drugged up Max is, but for the most part it was just a bit annoying. At the end of every single gunfight (and there are a lot of gunfights) the camera slows down, following the bullet that kills the last person as it explodes through the back of their head. As the player pulls the trigger again and again, you see chunks of eyes, bones and viscera fly out of the enemy in slow motion until finally the camera snaps back to just behind Max’s shoulder.
I’m not above violence in games. I thought MK9 was amazing, and pulling off the insane, grotesque fatalities is a big part of the appeal. However, MK9 wasn’t pretending it’s mature. In Fallout 3, you can get the “Bloody Mess” perk that will explode the limbs off of every enemy when they’re killed. It’s absolutely absurd but it’s clearly supposed to be absurd. The world of Fallout 3 is one of bobble heads and sarcastic robots, it’s not one about a man who’s suffering through a pill addiction and years of endless mourning. Max Payne 3 is far too self-serious for these endless displays of ultraviolence to read as anything other than gratuitous, for me.
The game also has other problems, but I’ll get to them in the next section:
Indentikit shooters of E3
I am done with these shooters where you walk down a preset path and kill every man between one cutscene and the next cutscene. I don’t care if the hero is a spaceman or a super spy or a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time or (gasp!) a woman . I don’t care if the baddies are non-white baddies from a different country to the last set of non-white baddies or “enemies of capitalism” or generic thugs standing around having a badly written conversation with identical generic thugs. I don’t care if you’re getting a lapdance. I don’t care if an explosion chases you down a corridor. I don’t care if you climb a wall or a falling plane or a mountain or a broken down building. I just don’t care.
I can’t bring myself to give a shit about any of these games. There are so many amazing things happening in games all the time, but E3′s just full of these identikit shooters which are doing literally nothing new in terms of mechanics. I’m not saying that every game has to reinvent the wheel, but it’s telling that the game which has the most positive buzz after E3 is Watch Dogs, because it did anything different.
So in a Kotaku interview, Ron Rosenberg, executive producer of the new Tomb Raider reboot said that players will want to “protect” Lara Croft. With a male character, players want to be the character. With a female character, players want to protect the character. It reminds me of the interview with Antti Ilvessuo of the Trials Evolution dev team, explaining that there are no female character models because it’s “somehow it’s not so much fun” if the rider is female. It reminds me of Fumito Ueda saying that The Last Guardian‘s protagonist was originally intended to be a girl, but they would have to worry about camera angles looking up her skirt and the fact that girls can’t climb as well as boys. It reminds me of this offensively bad armour design from Torchlight 2. It reminds me of Justicular_Knight in the Day Z forums arguing that players using the female skin should get less inventory space and a buff to their abilities to homekeep.
It reminds me that video game culture in general is still really bad at female characters.
Enough of the disillusion, let’s get to stuff I actually like!
Every now and then I replay this game, and I’m reminded of how smart it is. Golden Guy is a multiplayer mode where each player tries to hold on to the golden jacket power up for as long as possible, and the first person to 2 minutes wins. The jacket prevents its wearer from shooting, and is dropped when its wearer gets shot. The way that momentum and gravity effect all the different elements of the game mean that positioning is a constant struggle, and all the mechanics work really neatly together, making a really tightly balanced, well-designed multiplayer game. I dunno how the iPad version is (I imagine not as good, but who knows) but the XBLA version is still really good.
I like it when Free Indie Games posts games with Japanese descriptions, because it means that they’ll be so good at explaining their mechanics through the game itself that the language barrier isn’t a problem. Haitoumitu reminds me of Game and Watch games, in that there’s very little complexity, and most of the difficulty comes through execution and escalation. I like that you don’t get any points until you take the loot all the way home, and I really like that your controls get slower as your stash gets heavier.
I love the name, I love the simplicity in design and execution, I really really really love the sound effects. This is one of those games that’s so simple and so solid that it makes me enthused about design in all kinds of ways. It’s fantastic.
Brogue is still amazing. It is everything I love about roguelikes with none of the stuff I hate about most roguelikes.
Ok, I think that’s me done for now. I don’t know if this format is any good at all, if you absolutely hate it or absolutely love it, let me know! Hopefully by next time, a complete article will have formed in my braincocoon like a wonderful butterfly, unlike this pile of caterpillars I dumped in a pile.