It’s that time of year again where I collate all of my articles together and encase them in the shell of a juicy, easily digestible word-nut. Next year I’ll probably start writing these posts monthly, otherwise my 2013 self-indulgent roundup will be absurdly long (he says hopefully). Anyway, to summarise this year’s events, I finished and passed my MSc, began writing a monthly article series in a proper magazine made of paper and everything, and learned how to fight with a sword.
For over a decade System Shock 2 has protruded from my pile of shame like a loose Jenga brick. I played my uncle’s copy when I was twelve, but never finished it on account of being a relatively sensitive child and of System Shock 2 being a deeply, deeply unsettling game. Then it masterpiece famously vanished through some legal wormhole and is currently floating helplessly in a red-tape galaxy far, far away. Fortunately, a good friend recently provided me with a copy, and about a week ago I finally managed to pull that loose brick out…more or less.
Basically, this play-through of Looking Glass’ Cyberpunk masterpiece culminated in one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve had in gaming. System Shock 2 emphasises choice in play, as opposed to choice in story like Mass Effect or The Witcher. There are three skill-sets, weapons, tech, and psionics, each of which has its own subset of abilities. There are standard weapons and exotic weapons, hacking and repairing, cryo blast and levitate and so on. What generally happens is you end up with some eclectic mixture of skills. In fact, it’s probably wise to have a basic grasp of all three and then specialise in one or two.
Rather than repeat the torture of last year by posting everything I’ve written individually on this site, I’m going to cobble all of my witterings together into one single, hardy word-boot. 2011 was a fairly good year for my various writing endeavours. Alongside finishing my degree, I wrote for several major publications, extensively experienced the weird world of videogame news, and even won a prize for something that had nothing to do with computer games.
The purpose of this post was to illustrate a point I made in an article for IGN about the price difference between PC gaming and console gaming. Just thought I should point that out.
Alice: Madness Returns
Aliens vs Predator
Assassin’s Creed II
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway
Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Dead Space 2
Dragon Age II
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Duke Nukem Forever (I know, I know)
Dungeon Siege III
Far Cry 2
Fallout: New Vegas
Grand Theft Auto IV
Just Cause 2
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead 2
Mass Effect 2
Red Faction: Guerilla
The Sims 3
Star Wars: the Force Unleashed
Street Fighter IV
To put it crudely, there are roughly two types of author. On the one side there are your genre specialists, the high fantasists, romantic novelists, horror masters etc. Then, on the other, there are those whose work occupies no particular genre other than that which can be categorised as “mainstream”, or, if you’re feeling suitably pompous, “literary”.
However Scottish maverick Iain M. Banks has consistently defied such stringent categorisation by being one of few novelists to have successfully written in two entirely separate strands of fiction. And yet, he seems remarkably nonchalant when asked whether he finds it difficult to come up with new ideas for the two genres within which he writes. “Fairly, I guess. No shortage but no glut, either.”
Kane and Lynch 2 contains so many uses of the word fuck I almost mistook it for punctuation. Imagine the infamous crime-investigation scene from the first series of The Wire, only stretched out over a period of several hours. And rather than mumbled passively under Dominic West’s faux-Baltimore breath, the F-bomb is screamed in your face, with added spittle, audible above the sound of gunfire and actual bombs.
Now, I’m hardly what you would call prudish, but I like variety in my swearing. Kane and Lynch 2, however, has an agenda in it’s monochrome cursing. It wants you, desperately, to believe it’s a game for adults, for mature people, who drink alcohol and have boring jobs and stuff. Sadly, it’s plain to see that Dog Days is really a six-year old girl wearing it’s mother’s make-up, and wearing it poorly.
This isn’t to say Kane and Lynch 2 is a terrible game. Actually it’s a solid shooter with a unique visual styling and the occasional inspired moment. But the equating of maturity with the number of fucks you can cram into a sentence (other swear words get a cameo at best) is just one of many instances where Dog Days falls short of its ambitions.
If you like Mafia, you will like Mafia 2. Normally you would see this line at the end of a game review, but I figured I would spare you any tedious preamble and get straight to the root of the matter. After all, that’s pretty much how the rest of the gaming community has pigeon-holed 2K Czech’s latest creation.
In fairness, it is quite understandable that so many reviewers have resorted to this lowest-common-denominator of conclusions. There’s no escaping the fact that Mafia 2 is very, very similar to it’s seven-year-old prequel.Yet games like Starcraft 2 have seen nothing but praise for their similarities to the original, so it seems odd that Mafia 2 has been so harshly criticised for following the exact same development outline.
One reason for this is that many people expected Mafia 2 to be GTA IV in a sharper suit, and were disappointed when they discovered that, rather than being a free-roaming experience filled with wacky side missions and absurd challenges, the city of Empire Bay turned out to be little more than a backdrop for an intensely linear, plot-driven experience. 2K Czech want to tell a story, and they’re not going to let you get sidetracked by an irony achievement for running over a hundred people in an ambulance.
No, I’m not going to go there. We all know what Tiger Woods did, and all the opinions that could possibly be held on the matter have been well and truly voiced, as have all the bad jokes that have surfaced since the incident. I’m as guilty as anyone else for participating in the worldwide mocking of one of the world’s greatest golfers, but right now I’m here to review a game, so let’s concentrate on that, shall we?
What I want to talk about is whether there’s any point whatsoever in buying this iteration of PGA Tour on the PS3. It’s been quite a while since I played a golf game other than the minigame on Wii Sports Resort, and I think this is somewhat understandable. After all, surely tapping the buttons on a gamepad pales in comparison to swinging a wii mote around.
Space Ark is so cute it verges on the point of being creepy. Imagine Iggle Piggle vomiting glitter and rainbows onto a giggling Tellytubby. That’s the scale of cuteness we’re talking about here. If the eyes of the Arkonauts were any bigger they would probably fall out of their sockets. Don’t let the fact that the game is aimed squarely at younger kids lead you to automatically assume it’s rubbish. While that might usually be the case, Space Ark is actually a decent chunk of (incredibly) fluffy fun.
Taking command of the sickeningly cute Arkonauts, it is your job to help them repopulate the galaxy by terraforming planets so that they are suitably luscious for the Arkonauts to reside on. So how is this terraforming process performed? A mixture of atmosphere engines, air purifiers, water generators and life-seeders? Don’t be silly, the best way to create habitable worlds is by playing a game that combines Breakout, Peggle and a sprinkling of space-invaders, of course.