Saturday, August 27, 2011

What I'd Like to See in Borderlands 2

The original Borderlands was apparently successful enough to warrant a sequel, and it sounds as though Gearbox is taking the effort to make Borderlands 2 a worthy sequel, and not just a "re-hash everything and put it in a new box" kind of affair. They're talking about learning from the original game, strengthening and expanding the game's core elements, while getting rid of or revamping the other aspects.

The first game was very entertaining, bringing me back for hundreds of hours hunting for better weapons and trying out new classes. But it felt really shallow and repetitive at times. So in light of my experiences with the original, and with what Gearbox is saying about the sequel, here are the sorts of things I'd like to see in Borderlands 2.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Worst Recent Game of All Time

Assassin's Creed sucks. Plain and simple. It showed a lot of potential, and got tons of marketing, but the thing is just terrible. Everything starts out interesting, but then it goes downhill for the entire remainder of the game. Further and further into the abyss of suckiness. Right up until the final stretch, at which point it buckles under the weight of sheer awfulness and turns into a black hole. It's hard to believe that a game from a reputable studio with a budget of over $20,000,000 could turn out so bad. But it did. So here's why Assassin's Creed is the worst game ever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Be Good or Be Better

Be Good is a free alpha project by Jake Spencer. It's basically a point-n-click adventure game done in claymation. You play through a montage of scenes from your life (growing up as Donald Martin) making binary decisions and reactions before your inevitable death. It's supposed to be somewhat thought-provoking, making you wonder if things would've been different if you'd acted differently yourself. It's an interesting way to spend some time, even if the gameplay is somewhat crude and doesn't quite reach its potential, but it's still worth checking out. More about Be Good after the jump.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More Games Need Borderlands-Style Multiplayer

A large part of the appeal in Gearbox Software's Borderlands is the multiplayer, which allows up to four players to join together in the campaign. Most of the game is actually pretty bland and repetitive, but the multiplayer makes it feel rewarding. Well, leveling-up and collecting loot is pretty rewarding in and of itself, but the multiplayer really seals the deal. There aren't a whole lot of games out there that allow for this style of multiplayer, dropping-in and dropping-out while working on the full campaign, upping the challenge and rewards with more players. Which is a shame because it's really fun.

I don't have much else to say besides that, but if you click the "read more" stuff you can watch an amusing trailer about how awesome Borderlands is and why it's not for mainstream sissies. Oh, and a sound file of some excellent in-game music.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Majora's Mask is Better Than Ocarina of Time

Majora's Mask has the unfortunate luck of being the younger brother to one of the most beloved, classic games of all time. Ocarina of Time gets all the love and attention, from GameCube re-releases, Master Quest re-makes, and 3DS releases, while MM sits alone in the corner, an under-appreciated gem. Which is sad, because MM is the better game, and deserves at least a little bit of attention. So let's break it down point-by-point to examine why Majora's Mask is better than Ocarina of Time.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Episodic Games: "Still Waiting"

Let's talk about them new-fangled "episodic games" for a bit. They first showed up on the scene in 2006 with Sin: Episodes, followed shortly by Half-Life 2: Episodes. The idea was to release a full-length game in smaller chunks called "episodes." They'd cost a fraction of a full-priced game, and would be released about every six months. It was a novel idea at the time, but look where it's gotten us. There's still a lot of potential yet to be tapped with episodic games, but so far the concept has been mostly disappointing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Happened to Guild Wars?

Two weeks ago I reminisced about how much I missed Guild Wars. So nostalgic was I that I reinstalled it with all of the expansions that I never got around to, and jumped back into the game that set a new standard for how online games could function.

And then I discovered that the game had changed rather significantly in the last five years. The sense of community seems to have faded, at least in the campaigns, and so the feeling of questing, adventuring, and monster-slaying no longer feels wholesome. What happened to Guild Wars?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Motion Controls Disrupt Immersion

When Nintendo was first unveiling the DS and the Wii, I was among many optimists thinking that these new innovations would revolutionize gaming. I thought we were one step closer to virtual reality, and that the new controls would put us closer to the action and make us feel a part of the game. But they did the exact opposite, putting an extra layer between me and the gameworld. It's harder to suspend my disbelief when I'm blatantly aware that I'm standing in my living room swinging a piece of plastic in front of my TV. So here's why motion controls disrupt immersion.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Video Games in TV: Warehouse 13

"Some TV shows just don't get it." Part of a periodical series: Video Games in TV

Tonight's episode of Warehouse 13, "Don't Hate the Player," was kind enough to synchronize precisely with my plans to write another article for Video Games in TV. This episode follows the tried formula of "players stuck in a virtual reality game," where the heroes play the game in order to save the day. Unlike most other episodes that show a completely inept understanding of the medium, "Don't Hate the Player" strives to be a respectful homage to video games. It's not a perfect tribute and comes off a little shallow, but there's no reason to hate this episode.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't Hide From This Review

I've just played through Hide, a free indie game by a fellow named Andrew Shouldice. It's something of a three-dimensional first-person survival-horror game with a very simple (if not entirely original) premise: survive. Your goal is to find five locations in a dark, snowy wood, reading the signs at each one while avoiding the certain death that stalks you in the night.

It's an interesting, atmospheric game that packs a lot into the experience, despite its limited content and simple premise. It's certainly one of the more engaging, immersing titles I've played in a while, dripping with melancholy, longing, and despair. All in the good sort of way that you'd expect from a survival-horror. So that's a fair bit of praise for it. Continue reading for the rest of my review of Hide.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Type Harder, Not Smarter

Type Hard is a free indie game that's actually pretty interesting, considering its only gameplay mechanic is typing. Words appear on screen and you type them. You earn points for not making mistakes, and for typing more words per minute. That's it. It's an extremely simple concept that shouldn't really be that interesting, but by golly does it get the adrenaline pumping. So here's my brief review of Type Hard. Continue reading to find out why you should play it. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Running Along a Mirror's Edge

Grab your running shoes, because we're jumping straight into Mirror's Edge, the 2008 running simulator from DICE. This first-person platformer was a fresh face in a market saturated with serialized franchises and dark, gritty shooters, but it wasn't without its problems. Disjointed flow, unpolished combat, an underdeveloped story, short length, and sometimes excessive trial-and-error hold it back from perfection, but the rest of the game is so good that it's still worth playing. If you've never played it, continue reading to find out why you should.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Singularity: Not As Cool As a Black Hole

Raven Software's semi-latest game, Singularity, would be great if only it were better. I know that's asking a lot, in a vague sort of way, but there's really not much else to say. There's plenty to say, actually, but the case with Singularity is that it has the framework to be excellent, but squanders its brilliance with blemishes. What could have been a fun, creative shooter turned out to be a rote, by-the-book FPS. It has a wonderful premise with promising gameplay elements, but it just doesn't capitalize on its ideas, and ultimately holds itself back with certain limitations. It's still an enjoyable game; it's just disappointing to realize that it could've been even better. Read more about Singularity after the jump.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The End is Hard to Find Via Search Engine

Preloaded have just released a new game for Channel 4 called The End, a sort of platforming/puzzle game that incorporates an interesting level of introspection. The End tries to tackle different aspects of life, death, and the afterlife, asking you to stop for a moment to reflect on your own life and principles, while considering a series of "yes or no" questions. It's a provocative idea that promises a lot of depth, but its impact is a little mired by the gameplay. More after the jump. (Link to play the game at The End of the article.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Video Games in TV: NCIS

"Some TV shows just don't get it."  Part of a periodical series: Video Games in TV.

When a mysterious death becomes connected with an MMORPG, the NCIS team has to investigate the nature of the game and the people playing it. In this first-season episode "The Immortals," we get a look at how delusional and obsessive someone can get over a video game. This episode actually isn't too bad--it doesn't do anything nearly as inept as in The X-Files episode "First-Person Shooter"--which is something of a compliment. The game footage doesn't make any sense, and certain aspects of the game community are over-dramatized, but it otherwise handles gaming culture fairly adequately. More about "The Immortals" after the jump.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making a Better Morality System

I'm sick of morality meters ruining games. They promise a lot of depth, choice, and replay value, but once your back is turned they steal your wallet and run off with your girlfriend. I find myself wary whenever I'm presented with a morality meter, because the pitfalls are too great for it to turn into a shallow, boring affair. As far as I'm concerned, only one game has ever delivered a truly remarkable morality system; the rest have all been kind of "meh." So what's so hard about making a karma system that actually adds depth and significance to a game experience, and why do they often turn out so shallow? What does it take to make morality actually matter in a game? More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More Online Games Need to be Like Guild Wars

I really miss Guild Wars. It was a fine game that, at the time, handled the MMORPG scene in a unique and interesting way. While other mainstream MMOs featured persistent environments with large-scale level grinding, Guild Wars used instanced zones with mission-based gameplay. Guild Wars proved to be a highly rewarding experience that didn't require the same kind of commitment as other MMOs, and blended single-player gameplay with massively-multiplayer gameplay.

I also really miss the feeling of playing an MMO, of being involved with a large community of players experiencing the same content and working together to accomplish common goals. But I don't have the time to commit to grinding hours a day for months at a time just to keep up with the in-game community. Which is why more online games need to be like Guild Wars. So I'm going to take some time to examine what Guild Wars did well and why it'd be nice for more games to be like it. More after the jump.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The PC is the Superior Gaming Platform

Any time a PC gamer makes a negative comment about consoles, people are quick to label him as a "PC elitist," thereby "discrediting" his opinion. Some PC gamers may in fact be elitist jerks who just want to bully console players, but the PC truly is the "elite" gaming platform. For objective, quantifiable reasons, no less. Put that in your console and smoke it.

Consoles are fun and enjoyable for what they are, but they really don't hold a candle to the kinds of things the PC delivers. Besides all of the stuff you've already heard a dozen times, I'm going to shed some light on different aspects that you might not have considered before. So let's jump right in, shall we?