Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 5-19-10

Posted by nfinit on May 19, 2010

Alan Wake
Publisher:  Microsoft Games Studios
Developer:  Remedy Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360

Alan Wake may turn out to be a good game.  It may, in fact, turn out to be an outstanding game– Brad Shoemaker at is in love with what Remedy took five years to produce, awarding the game four of five stars. However, anyone who anticipated the game Remedy was selling the public on at E3 2005– a highly innovative detective story with a deep investigation element and day/night cycles– will be highly disappointed to learn that what we’re actually getting isn’t so much a detective thriller as it is Twin Peaks meets Resident Evil 4– which, I have to admit, isn’t a bad idea at all, it just feels like the game is massively pared down from what we were told to expect.

Okay so sour grapes aside– after all, its probably not fair to judge a game based on what was promised instead of what’s presented– Alan Wake has a lot going for it, even if Brad himself said that the combat wears out it’s welcome and it’s entirely possible to finish inside a weekend.  Reviews almost universally praise the storytelling elements and the writing, and the atmosphere is frankly incredible.  So it looks like it’s one of those games that really needs to be experienced, if not exactly for the gameplay itself.  And that’s fine; 360 fanboys need an answer to Heavy Rain.  While I look forward to playing Alan Wake there’s no way I’m going to do so for sixty bucks.

Attack of the Movies 3d
Publisher:  Majesco
Develoer:  Majesco
Platforms:  Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360

Gaming is a weird medium.

In pretty much any other worthwhile pursuit– movies, television shows, comics, drunken redneck adventures– if you start off with the premise of “let’s go out and shoot at some sharks with machineguns” you’d be guaranteed a fun couple hours of entertainment.

Gaming, though?  You wind up with shit like this:
Thanks, Majesco.

While this game makes perfect sense on the Wii– after all, pointing a cursor at a screen and watching things happen is pretty much the entire reason for the console to exist– it’s presence of the 360 confuses and angers me.  If we learned anything from post-Columbine Massacre Dreamcast games, waving around a cursor using an analog stick instead of using a light gun isnt’ fun in the least.  If you’re going to release a 360 game with horrible graphics and a shaky premise why not wait for the Natal launch?

Prince of Persia:  The Forgotten Sand
Publisher:  Ubisoft
Developer:  Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms:  Everything

Back before Price of Persia became an emo-tastic self-parody or a laughably easy children’s-first-3d-platformer, there was Sands of Time, which for my money was the absolute best 3d platformer of the last console generation, if not all time.  In an attempt to re-create some goodwill for Price of Persia leading up to this Summer’s Sands of Time movie, it would appear Ubisoft has decided to revisit the last fondly-remembered PoP game and came up with The Forgotten Sand, which plays more like a high-definition DLC pack for Sands of Time.

I don’t see anything wrong with that, but you may find this to be a regression in the evolution of the 3d PoP formula.  There’s also the inherent danger of a developer openly aping a previous game in order to recall some of their lost magic– it almost never works well.  Indeed, I’m sort of left wondering exactly what point Price of Persia serves Ubisoft anymore.  It’s clear that Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed series  has taken PoP’s throne as the go-to title for swashbuckling 3d platforming, leaving the Price of Persia games with no real direction or marketing budget.  That said, if Ubisoft would have done well to release big budget PoP games in between releases for Assassin’s Creed– but the summer appearance of The Forgotten Sands along with the upcoming release of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood makes it pretty obvious that Ubisoft considers PoP an afterthought.

Which is a shame.  The Price of Persia series deserves better than to be quietly shuffled out of the way for its own movie, and you have to figure the series can’t possibly have a lot of reboots left it in anymore.

Publisher:  Disney Interactive
Developer:  Blackrock Studio
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

At first I thought the Split/Second demo was going to be one of those rare demos that actively turns me off of a game I had previously been anticipating.  What’s more, it would be even more rare in that the demo itself is perfectly fine– there’s lots of Really Cool Shit going on at any given time, the racing model fun and arcadey, the game itself is fucking gorgeous– But it’s main problem was that while I was playing it, I wished I was playing the Blur demo instead.

So I was ready to write off Split/Second as yet another perfectly acceptable racing game to fall victim to unfortunate timing (the same fate befell most of the racing genre in 2007)– Yes, Split/Second is mindless arcade racing fun, but Blur is sitting right there and actually feels like a proper videogame instead of a string of largely unrelated explosions set about a racetrack.  The fact that Bizarre Creations released a proper multiplayer beta for Bur didn’t help matters, whereas Split/Second is a demo in the truest sense– one track, one car, and you’re instantly booted back to the menu screen upon completion.

Then came the point where the game tried to land a careening, spark-spewing, flame-lit 747 on top of me and I jumped back aboard the Split/Second bandwagon quicker than Bill Simmons became a Celtics fan following game five of the Cavaliers series.

That said– of the two high-def, big-budget, multiplayer arcade racers to be released in the next two weeks, Blur’s probably going to be the better game.  But it’s going to pull this off mainly by being an Audi-licensed Mario Kart, whereas Split/Second looks like it’s trying something intriguing and new, even if you don’t really get the feeling you ultimately have much control over what’s going on.

Red Dead Redemption
Publisher:  Rockstar Games
Developer:  Rockstar San Diego
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Fair warning for what you can expect here for the next few weeks at Big Red Coat:  I have fully and irrationally bought into the Red Dead Redemption hype train and I full well understand that I will go to unreasonable lengths to justify my love for this product based on gameplay videos alone.

I mean I’m about to pay sixty fucking dollars for this thing– I don’t think I’ve paid full MSRP for a retail game since Bayonetta, and I wouldn’t shut up about that stupid thing for a solid month.

A lot of comparisons have been made between Red Dead and Grand Theft Auto IV, most of them by Rockstar itself, and I can’t help but imagine these comparisons do a disservice to Red Dead.  GTAIV was by necessity a very constrained game.  You were stuck within the confines of Manhattan Island Liberty City, surrounded by a watchful and fearful populace.  You didn’t really have a lot of freedom to do much of anything without instantly arousing the suspicion of local law enforcement– and while the ensuing car chases and fire fights were exciting, it made experimenting sort of a hassle.

Red Dead Redemption isn’t like that.  It’s set in the wide open frontier of the American Old West.  You want to rope up a nun and tie her to railroad tracks?  Not a problem.

And also you’re not going to be bothered every five minutes by a growing collection of lifeless losers looking to play darts while you’d rather be off racing bikes through Queens.

I’m starting to form an opinion that there’s a quantitative difference between open world games like Grand Theft Auto 4 where you’re confined to an almost linear set of corridors and the pure chaos of stuff like Just Cause 2 and Red Faction Guerrilla.  The problem with massively chaotic open world games is that while they’re far superior games than the tightly controlled narratives of Grand Theft Auto or Infamous, they’re by their very nature impossible to control as an actual story, and wind up more a set of loosely related side missions scattered around a map.  I’m curious to see if Red Dead Redemption can straddle these two extremes, providing the boundless freedom of an open world game set in the Old West with Rockstar’s superb storytelling acumen.  If so, we could be looking at the definitive open-world game.

Regardless, what we know we’re looking at with Red Dead Redemption is the first decent– if not downright good– Old West game since… well, I don’t want to say ever, because I know someone will come along and mention some godawful obscure PC game from 1996 or whatever, so I’m going to say the first good Old West game since Sunset Riders, and that’s sort of cheating in that Sunset Riders was basically Contra with Horses, and you can combine 2d sprite-based Contra with anything and wind up with a good game.  It’s baffling why the Old West setting has proven so barren for games– You’d think the combination of wide-open spaces where you don’t have to draw a lot of art assets and horses and general lawlessness would make for a classic game developer destination, but the only games that really seem to visit the idea to any great degree is the Fallout series.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: