It starts off as comically bad and ends as some kind of punishment from god. He has looked upon gaming and he has seen our endless parade of FPSs, our fetishisation of macho caricatures, and he has delivered this unto us. Look upon his judgement, mortals, and weep for your salvation.
This is Command & Conquer: Renegade, and it slew Westwood Studios just as it has slain your belief in a just and decent world.
Back in 2002, Westwood Studios were riding high. Their little strategy game had blossomed into a megahit with a star sequel, and a veritable chorus of voices were crying out for an FPS set in the universe. Sadly, every single soprano, tenor and baritone came from a studio executive, because this game fucking bombed.
It was dark. Very, very dark. I fiddled with the brightness until the symbol that should “barely be visible” was practically staring me down. But it was still dark. Not the kind of dark where you’re put on edge for fear of something pouncing out of the shadows, but the kind of dark where you can see fuck all and you’re bumping in to the zombies rather than killing them. It’s not helped by all six playable characters being cloaked in black, the weapons are black, it’s always night, and… everything’s black. We complain about Greybrown shooters, yet here I am, asking for a bit o’ brown.
Anyway, Operation Raccoon City – another four-person co-op romp given to the guy without even one friend who’d put themselves through this with him. You’re an Umbrella agent out to recover some research and eventually stop some classic Resident Evil characters you wish you could play as. Obviously your squad gets caught up in a few scraps along the way, but standard and set-piece battles alike are pretty uninteresting.
If I had to pick one sentence to describe Total Overdose, it would be ‘Oh, honey, no.’
You can tell that the devs really loved this game, but they did so in the manner of a newborn seal; all huge eyes and floppy incompetence. The music is lovingly chosen (if occasionally a bit ‘mexsploitation Yackety Sax’), the B-movie vibe speaks of hours spent watching Robert Rodriguez films, and ‘isn’t this wacky awesome cheesy fun? :D :D :D’ practically seeps from every pore. I almost feel bad for making fun of it. On the other hand, The Tay Bridge Disaster was a labour of love.
They wanted silly, addictive combat mechanics. Total Overdose combat is pretty fun. They wanted to make a ridiculous, campy game. Didn’t do too badly at that. They wanted their game to be funny…
At first I looked forward to the cutscenes, because they got me away from the combat. Then I looked forward to the combat, because it got me away from the voice-acting.
And then I stopped looking forward to anything.
Constantine: the Videogame is what the fans call an over-looked gem, the generous call a forgettable mediocrity, and I call proof that you can piss in a urinal and make it dirtier. The film was a desecration of the comics. The game, I am delighted to tell you, is a desecration of the film. It’s like we’ve got desecration squared up in this joint. If you ever looked at the film and thought ‘wow, they could not have shown that IP any less respect’, then this is your lucky fucking day, baby.
Sound effects are an underappreciated element of most games, really. I hold up my hands here, I’m as guilty as anyone, never taking note unless they’re exceptional or exceptionally recognisable stock sounds – my ears are attuned to Half Life’s hitting-metal clink and every-game-ever’s Wilhelm Scream, to name but a few – which Halo 4 is refreshingly devoid of.
Halo 4 really pulls you into its world in a way few other games do. Stepping out from Forward Unto Dawn – one foot still braced on unforgiving metal, the other pressing down into soft grass – into the bliss landscape of Requiem, triggers one of the game’s prettiest tracks. You hear the tones of discovery, of trepidation and amazement, and then the distant humming of Covenant Ghosts zipping away, the slight distortion of weapons firing. All resonating as one, you’re there, and it feels just spectacular.
Taking place twenty years after a pandemic ravaged the population, The Last of Us follows the story of Joel: an average survivor hired to smuggle 14 year-old Ellie from a military-run quarantine camp. Rather a generic zombie game, right? On the surface, yes, but its true depth and individuality is all in the execution.
The current market is plagued with post-apocalyptic survival games, a horde of indistinct titles with no real life. There is the occasional special release with a greater sense of humanity than its mindless companions, though even those fail to suspend my disbelief. Many try, and many succeed in the small details, only to stumble at the finish.
The past weekend, I had the opportunity to get hands-on with Sony’s upcoming Playstation Vita. In a pair of preview articles, I’ll be covering the hardware itself, as well as the games available at the preview event. This piece will focus on five of the available titles, and while only a portion of the launch releases, they are some of the most promoted and should provide an accurate impression of the full lineup.
The games I played at the event were: Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Little Deviants, Wipeout 2048, ModNation Racers: Road Trip, and Gravity Rush; all of which will be covered in this article. I instinctively opened with Uncharted: Golden Abyss, what might be considered the platform’s flagship release. I was ultimately disappointed.