When From Software set out to make the thirteenth Armored Core title, they hired a creative director with a serious grudge against gamers. I’m not sure what Dudebro McFPS did – murdered his puppy? – but this guy wants revenge like a less emotionally stable Inigo Montoya. His master plan was to create a game the player could never fully grasp, that they struggled to make work, and that they weren’t sure if they were enjoying or not. Whether there were multiple people in on this scheme or whether the mystery director asked his team to make a good game and then pulled a Jason Jones, we’ll never know. All we know is that someone out there is getting sick kicks from knowing people are playing and have played this game, and if he knew that I inflicted this mess of convoluted controls and brown textures on myself for the sake of an eight-hundred word complaint, he would fucking wet himself.
Whilst you may expect a game like this to have a threadbare plot which justifies the shootbanging, it’s far worse. The game is written by somebody who cares. This rookie writer’s desperation for me to appreciate their self-proclaimed work of art is palpable. It leaks through the incessant babble of a ‘future voice’ (with obligatory slightly-robot-but-vaguely-human-tone) trying to establish an expansive backstory and complicated lore. The League of Ruling Companies, The National Dismantlement War, The LYNX War – three events and entities that create Armored Core’s lore, and three events and entities they cannot make me give a shit about.
Might and Magic VI is a game composed entirely of fetch quests. You go on six fetch quests for the items required to unlock another four fetch quests which will, eventually, allow you access to a fetch quest. I’d love to see the planning room for this project:
“Okay, Steve, we need you to go and get an old lady’s groceries. Then, with the money she gives you, catch a bus to the home of a guy who delivers The Yellow Pages for a living. If you bring him a newspaper he will let you look through a spare copy for a freelance programmer. When you get to his house…”
And then, after procuring the wine, flowers, French Chef and Barry White CD needed to make the programmer’s girlfriend forgive him for forgetting to feed her goldfish, Steve sat down and wrote the game plot.
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.
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.
Mass Effect 2 isn’t a particularly bad game; but it certainly isn’t a perfect one, either. After the almighty critical success of the first, people expected a follow-up that was practically perfect in every way. That’s what they got… or so they like to believe.
When you ask someone if they like Mass Effect 2, you’ll get one of two responses: that they love it unconditionally1, or that they liked it but it wasn’t amazing2. Seldom do you find someone who outright hates it, which is rare for a popular series.