Yes folks, it's that time of the month again when I get lazy to write and instead post trailers and gameplay videos to get you excited. This time round, we've got footage from Bioshock: Infinite, Bulletstorm, and a nifty trailer for a fan-made Half-Life animated short. All below the cut.
In other news, I'm playing Dead Rising 2, and it's pretty good fun. The first I've had in a long while.
The blogosphere was ablaze when Bioshock Infinite was first announced. The naysayers were all over the fact that Infinite was no longer doing the underwater thing, and Rapture was bye-bye. There are always going to be people who are unaccepting of change to their favorite game's sequels. Diablo 3 had crazy fools going apeshit over a change of lighting of all things, whilst Resident Evil 4 got flak for making the zombies look really not zombie-like. That game went on to win plenty of critics' hearts and minds. 2K's other big title in development, X-Com also got dissenters for the fact the reboot was a first-person shooter as opposed to turn-based strategy as the original X-Com was. We can't please everybody it seems.
My personal say in this is to trust 2K. They've never let us down before and I'm willing to bet the reason they can take the risk to make Infinite an entirely different setting and concept is because they've got some great ideas to follow through on. Besides, in my mind, Rapture is already like Atlantis, fully returned to the ocean, a reminder that humanity's attempt to escape the elements and reality has failed.
And, anyone still unconvinced of Infinite's awesomeness should just watch this gameplay video. The sheer scale of the world is mind-blowing.
I felt somewhat wronged when Epic never got their entire Gears of War trilogy on the PC. I'm a bit sulky about that, but Bulletstorm looks great. It's like Serious Sam with more serious attitude, more serious graphics, and more serious firepower. And definitely more serious comedy. I also quite like this sense of organic juggling of weaponry and skills.
Enemies will keep coming and it's up to you how you want to take them out. You could just shoot conventionally and they die, or you could lasso one, kick him in the butt, shoot a bouncing cannon ball, and kick that at enemies, etc. The possibilities for combos are endless, and that's what the game seems to be going for.
Unofficial fan-made Half-Life animated film trailer
Everyone wants to make this film. I think Valve has something planned too (they should be concentrating on making Episode 3!!!), but this guy beat them to the punch. It looks pretty good, and definitely something he's put effort into crafting, not just graphically but narratively. Whatever it is, the trailer's good fun. Looking forward to the final product.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Hear me out.
I've talked a fair bit already about my disappointment for Mafia 2's story. It's cliched and the protagonist remains largely unidentifiable. I'm also sick of the American gangster's story because that's all we ever get i.e. The Departed, American Gangster, Godfather, Mario Puzo's works, etc.
Then I also read a recent article about the new World War 2 RTS Ruse. The writer of this article considered it a wasted opportunity for the French devs of Ruse, Eugen Systems to make a war game from the American perspective because once again, that's already beaten to death. They could've instead dug deep into their own national history and done a story about the French resistance. Granted, it wouldn't have been as popular or accessible as the American story, but heck, it'd be something different.
They had an opportunity to expand our knowledge of a war that, in my mind, has been overused in video games to the point that it has lost its awesome mythical quality (and why everybody is now jumping on the modern warfare bandwagon). But I don't want to get into that debate right now. Anyway, if you're interested to read the article in its entirety, click here.
But my point is, in bringing up this Ruse story, 2K Czech should've also delved into their own history to tell a Czechian gangster story. And why not? Granted, the Czechian story may not be as peachy, shiny or as "Fergetaboutit" as the American Italian's, but brutality and grittiness worked well for Australian crime TV Underbelly and Russian mob film Eastern Promises. And the fact that very few gamers, other than perhaps Czechian ones or historians, know much about a mobster's life in the Czech Republic, I think that's good enough justification to tell a new story.
There's this funny story I was reading in the UK Daily Mail about Czechian mobs setting up sham weddings in order to beat immigration in Eastern Europe. We could have a mission in Czechian Mafia 2 where that was exactly what was happening - a sham wedding. It would be hilarious if the script was written right and then suddenly the cops bust down the church doors to break it up, and then it's shootfest that'll go down well with trigger-happy gamers.
The games industry is problematic in that it is, for now, still driven by sales, at which point, you either go indie or pander to the desires of everybody. Why doesn't anybody write a video game about being a citizen in North Korea trying to escape across the border? You can still have violence and gun play but at least that's a new story no one's ever told.
It's always the same archetypal heroes; people want their Anglo-centric Nathan Drakes and Prince of Persias with their sarcastic-slightly-cocky-attitudes-but-deep-down-are-nice-guys or the Vitos and the Scarlettis with their "Fergetaboutit" accents. And not the dirt farmer from outside Prague with 5 kids and a sick wife, who gets tangled with the wrong people in his attempt to earn a living for his family. Now THAT'S a mob story I'd like to play.
Friday, September 17, 2010
In Alice: Madness Returns, Alice is released from the asylum to a London psychiatrist’s care. As nightmarish hallucinations continue to haunt her and invade her reality, she seeks to understand her torment in order to recover herself. Her mind in tatters, she is unable to resolve the fear and neuroses prompted by her strange memories, dreams, and visions. Her relocation to London seems only to add to their number and intensity. Perhaps she’ll do better in Wonderland. She always has. She travels there, seeking what the “real” world can’t provide: security, knowledge, and the truth about the past. But in her absence, Wonderland too has suffered. Something has gone horribly wrong, and now a great evil is descending upon what once was her beautiful refuge. Can Alice save Wonderland—and herself—from the madness that consumes them both?
American McGee's Alice was a trippy, freakish take on the well-loved classic, and if people thought Tim Burton's 2010 reboot was psychedelic, they've not played McGee's game. And now the sequel Madness Returns is on its way out in 2011 promising to be darker, more horrific, and sexier than ever.
Crazy people sure have all the fun. You can watch the teaser trailer, read the official press release and gander at some juicy shots when you jump down the rabbit hole.
Eleven years ago a horrific fire took Alice’s family from her and left her terribly burned—and her mind terribly scarred. Afterwards she was confined to Rutledge Asylum, struggling to come to terms with her demons by slipping into her fantasy world of Wonderland. Now, after ten years, she has finally secured her release--yet she still bears the heavy psychological burden of that tragic event.Now for some concept art and screenshots:
You can check out more stuff on the official website here.
In Alice: Madness Returns, Alice is released from the asylum to a London psychiatrist’s care. As nightmarish hallucinations continue to haunt her and invade her reality, she seeks to understand her torment in order to recover herself. Her mind in tatters, she is unable to resolve the fear and neuroses prompted by her strange memories, dreams, and visions. Her relocation to London seems only to add to their number and intensity.
Perhaps she’ll do better in Wonderland. She always has. She travels there, seeking what the “real” world can’t provide: security, knowledge, and the truth about the past. But in her absence, Wonderland too has suffered. Something has gone horribly wrong, and now a great evil is descending upon what once was her beautiful refuge.
Can Alice save Wonderland—and herself—from the madness that consumes them both?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Valve is being cool again, shucks. They are giving us a free comic to enjoy.
You know how they promised a new DLC for Left 4 Dead (not number 2) eons ago? Well they are still planning to get that to us, The Sacrifice, which follows the original survivors up till and after one of the members die PERMANENTLY. For those of us who've invested a lot of emotional and gaming energy in L4D (as I have, writing my academic thesis on the game), the death of a well-loved character can be quite saddening.
I know, characters die all the time in video games but Valve manages to make theirs all that more real and identifiable. And this comic promises to do the same.
Part 1 is up. Explains what happened to the survivors after they get picked up by the APC at the end of Dead Harvest (the farmhouse level). Click here.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I was being a bit cynical and daft when I wrote two posts ago about how video game storytelling sucks! I still stand by my belief that conventional forms of plot and narratives are horrifically juxtaposed with the play element of those new titles mentioned.
But I cannot consider myself a gaming enthusiast if I didn't think about this a little harder. There are a lot of arguments to counter what I said in that post, a whole lot of them much more respectful of the notion of video games, and what they have to offer as a form of expression, separate from other mediums.
I guess I've lost my way a little in understanding games deeper than the flashbang of shiny graphics and exciting gun play. So I had a chat with a good friend, Dr. Thomas Apperley who is a lecturer at the University of New England in Australia. I've transcribed our discussion below as if it were a faux Socratic dialogue.
Read on if you want some truth bombs on gaming as a form of narrative.
Me: I stand by my point that the latest video games out there have really bad storytelling. I know you're all like "meh, storytelling is not the point of games" but man, I'm so sick of playing something that doesn't compel me on.
Tom: If you are playing video games for the story you have missed the point. That doesn't mean games should be allowed bad stories though.
Me: I think it depends on how some video games are sold to audiences. Take Mafia 2 for instance. You can't go into that title without expecting a damn good "Godfather"-like plot. Of course, how it plays is important too but that is an example of a game that is married heavily to its story. It's no Mario, where you can just go, "Okay, I don't really care that Bowser's kidnapped the princess. I've got to go eat me some stars."
Me: So I guess my point is, games that want to act like they've got a really important story to tell should tell a damn important story. Like Assassin's Creed 2, that game may have played well (although certain parts were unnecessarily pointless), but the story could've been a whole lot better.
Tom: It doesn't have to be a conflict, story vs gameplay. Think instead of gameplay as a mode of telling stories that has yet to be realized (fully).
Me: OMG I'm such a dumbass. You're right, I've been so caught up in storytelling as a completely separate element. This is like Gaming 101.
Tom: Right, people always tell stories. And storytelling adapt to the medium. But we've been very busy imposing current ideas about stories onto games which doesn't acknowledge the moves [games] have made towards being their own medium of communication.
Me: I feel stupid LOL. That's the fundamental point isn't it? It's because games exist as a separate medium, from the conventions we already know for storytelling through film, TV, books.
Tom: Yeah, games can use normative forms of storytelling but sometimes it doesn't work. It doesn't drive the game forward; think of gaming as de-hierarchizing narratives and foregrounding action.
Me: This is new. "De-hierarchizing". So what you're saying is narratives as not conventionally told.
Tom: Narrative is top dog. But in games, narrative is tied up with a bunch of other stuff. Or even deliberately suggested, e.g. multiplayer shooters. No narrative needed. Just weapons and environments.
Me: Or you could say the narrative is the whole "war story" in which you are placed.
Tom: Yep, the narrative is the world.
Me: Okay, then here's an interesting thing to consider. Kane & Lynch 2, a story about a bunch of gangster dudes causing a riot in Shanghai. I guess I'd LIKE there to be a plot other than just two guys who keep getting caught up in shit and having to shoot everybody that moves. But that's a kind of storytelling too right? It goes in line with the action which is all about running from one level to the next, and shooting things. But it fails only because the action is unvaried, therefore the plot is unvaried.
Tom: Right, but that sounds like a design flaw too.
Me: Yeah, exactly. Which is why Kane & Lynch 2 reviewed poorly amongst critics.
Tom: Because it's a poorly designed game.
Me: That, and also because the story really does suck. Okay, if I were to throw this ball out of left-field, what would you say is the best storytelling in a game you've seen in the last couple of years?
Tom: Half-Life 2, KotOR, Mass Effect, Bioshock...
Me: I would be most inclined to say that out of all those titles you've mentioned, Bioshock does it best. The first three compel a player to keep playing because of the immersive world, characters, and everything. Bioshock at first glance, does the same with Rapture. But there is that meta-narrative about "players playing video games and being blind sheep" that blows my mind. Which is why it's kind of a shame that Bioshock 2 didn't have anything new or profound to say. But then again, we can't expect it to pull as epic a concept as the first game.
Tom: How could it? The joke was revealed.
Me: Yeah exactly. But my point is, are there other jokes still to be told?
Tom: Sure, man.
Me: Just our brains are not as capable as Ken Levine's LOL.
In conclusion, I think a lot of gamers take for granted, as I have done, the capability for video games to combine interactivity with storytelling. Which is why Starcraft 2 is not about some dude who is trying to save the galaxy. The narrative is about your Protoss play, the strategies you employ, or my Zerg rush or how I won despite being outnumbered and outgunned. Just as Left 4 Dead is about everyone's personal horror story with zombies, with teammates, or how you survived a crazy onslaught at some shopping mall just a hair's breath away from death.
In other news, if you like what Tom spoke about up there, he's written a whole book on video games which is available for download here.
TOD #6: Gaming Rhythms: Play and Counterplay from the Situated to the Global by Dr. Thomas Apperley. I command you to read it, you'll learn something.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
In space, no one can hear you hang out with your buddies.
Dead Space 2 has a new trailer (under the cut) showing off some splendiferous 4-player cooperative romp through an alien-infested space place (they always are infested, aren't they?). Reminds me a bit of Alien Swarm (recent Valve remake) 'cept in third-person, shinier graphics and featuring power tools as opposed to your standard military arsenal. Looks fun.
I like that the trend is shifting towards making cooperative experiences part and parcel with plenty more video games. It's no longer just some inaccessible mod. Everyone can play together now, yay!
Friday, September 10, 2010
As you know, I'm a big fan of GTA. Number 4 especially. But what's cooler than shooting people, stealing cars and cruising round a big city in third person? Doing all that in first!
Some modder turned Rockstar's masterpiece into a first person romp, and it works very well from the looks of the Youtube clip (posted after the jump).
Driving will probably be harder in first person, but heck, anything to increase immersion is stellar in my books.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I'm having a crisis of faith in video games.
Yes, I have not blogged for a month, but let me explain.
1. I just graduated from university.
2. I've been caught up with looking for jobs
3. I've been writing
4. Making a short film
5. The games that have come out of late has sucked real bad
Wait, what was that last one again?
That's right, you heard me, the games that have come out of late SUCKS.
Kane & Lynch 2 disappointed me so much. I confess I must've gone nuts when I set hands on the demo. In demo form, the hyper-tension of action setpieces were thrilling, and the gaming world hadn't seen anything so brutal in a long time. But the game in its entirety is a farce; born of stupidity, tactlessness and little care for a well-written story. It's just one endless violent ride with no respite. And it is so grim I don't feel like I'm having fun playing at all. Kane and Lynch just keep getting into "Oh f*ck" moments, people just keep wanting to kill them. The shooting works fine for awhile and then it just goes on without stopping or having any variation.
Starcraft 2 is for the drones. Sure, the fanatics will say it is a return to form for Blizzard and all that hyper clicking will not only improve finger dexterity for other uses in real life, but truly we just like old Starcraft but need new graphics for it. I'm fine with all that hullabaloo but when Blizzard pours gazillions of dollars into this epic video game that will make them even more money (because of South Korea alone), they could have at least written a story to blow the mind. Instead, we have a dull story about a dull captain trying to save a dull universe. And man, is the dialogue horrific.
Mafia 2. I wanted very much to like this game. The first was stellar, a contrast to GTA back when GTA was still lame-brained. But now Rockstar has produced a classic in Red Dead Redemption and Mafia 2 in comparison is a regression. The protagonist is horribly unidentifiable: he only wants shortcuts in life, has no qualms about doing bad deeds and looks too stupid to be really heroic, and it's a cliched story if I saw any. A man trying to make it but comes to terms with the dark underbelly that is the American gangster way. And ohmygawd, have developers not learnt that no one wants to spend half the game chauffeuring themselves or other people around, especially not in old automobile rustbuckets. And as shiny as the cutscenes are, they are really quite empty of any real revelations or profound stories.
I think the underlying problem with all these latest releases is that none of them have a story that really matters. I know that games should first and foremost be about the gaming as opposed to the storytelling, but as a writer myself, I believe that the most compelling games (outside of Mario and Tetris) are the ones that can move you with a plot and characters.
If we want video games to get out of loserdom (I just watched Glee) and join the popular kids TV, film, and music, they've got to keep up their interactive qualities but also strive for excellence in storytelling. A bad story ruins the illusion, a bad story doesn't keep us playing. That's all.