Friday, 24 May 2013

The Xbox One Reveal in Stupid Sound Bites

Don Mattrick, President of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, probably wasn’t expecting such a poor reception when he revealed Xbox One to the world on Tuesday. Coverage of the system, and the event at which it was revealed, has been mostly negative so far. Plenty about Microsoft’s vision for the console, and the way it’s been communicated, deserves to be criticised. It’s largely the overblown and empty language used to introduce Xbox One that I plan to talk about here, and I want to point out that I’m reserving judgement on the console itself at least until E3. When you read the quotes below, remember that they were said by straight-faced men and women, without a hint of irony. On reflection, this may be the most impressive thing about the entire event.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

PS3 Review: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

I've decided to try to make my reviews more critical, coming at games from a particular angle rather than simply evaluating their visuals, sound, story, and so on. This look at 'style over substance' in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is my first attempt.

‘Style over substance’ is a phrase I often see in video game reviews. I came dangerously close to using it in my own review of Metal Gear Rising: Revenegence, and can think of scores of other games I’ve played that it could apply to. But what does it really mean? To me, substance refers to a game’s controls, systems, and mechanics, whilst style covers sound design, art direction, and narrative. A game that prioritises style over substance, then, is one where attention has been lavished on the game’s aesthetic and the expense of its gameplay, or at least one where the selling point is the former rather than the latter. Since the vanilla version of Far Cry 3 is near identical in substance, it’s clear that Blood Dragon’s main selling point is its distinct, 80s throwback style.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

PS3 Review: Guacamelee!

There’s an on-going debate amongst video game critics about whether or not games need to be fun. It’s my opinion that they don’t. There are plenty of games that I didn’t find fun, but that I found worthwhile for other reasons, Spec Ops: The Line, for example. Drinkbox Studios’ Guacamelee!, however, aims to be nothing but fun – unashamedly so, and its singular dedication to this goal is difficult to fault.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Video Game Controls as Standard Language

Anyone watching me play through the first few hours of BioShock Infinite would have had a painful experience. When I tried to swing the Sky-Hook, I would inevitably find myself staring up an enemy’s nostrils, having forgotten that zoom, not melee, is mapped to R3 in the game. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences when a game didn’t control how you expected it to. I think my failure to grasp Infinite’s perfectly simple controls results in part from me expecting the game to adhere to the established ‘standard’ shooter control scheme.

Friday, 12 April 2013

EA Responds To Bad PR With More Bad PR

Once again, EA has received the Golden Poo, the prize given to the ‘winner’ of the Consumerist’s ‘Worst Company in America’ poll. Voted for by the site’s users, it marks the second time EA has topped the poll in as many years.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

PS3 Review: BioShock Infinite

Many big budget games rely on the player overcoming violent opposition to progress. Taking place in the floating city of Columbia during its yearly fair, BioShock Infinite’s first hour makes a compelling argument that this needn’t be the case. Columbia is mysterious. Posters bear cryptic references to prophecies you don’t yet understand; ambient dialogue and seemingly innocuous fairground games hint at a culture where racism is rife; stalls show off curiously advanced technology for a game set in 1912. Everywhere you look in BioShock Infinite, scraps of Columbia’s backstory are incorporated organically into the landscape, and each one you discover pulls the curtain back a little further. This process of discovery is so tantalising that you’ll never find your trigger finger itching. When the curtain comes all the way back and the extent of Columbia’s prejudice is laid bare, it’s one of the most incredible scenes in gaming to date.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Performative Utterances (Or Not) in Chris Hecker's 'Fair Use'

Fair Use, Chris Hecker’s hilarious Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) 2013 rant, is essential viewing for anyone sick of video game developers making unsubstantiated claims. Hecker’s rant skewered the worst tendencies of spokespeople in the gaming business, just by giving a few of them enough rope to hang themselves with.  If you haven’t seen it already, you can check it out at Chris Hecker's personal website.

Let’s have a closer look at the clips in Fair Use.