Tag Archives: First-Person

Review – What Remains of Edith Finch

The Finch family home – a bizarre, sprawling estate that has housed several generations of the family which the media once declared America’s “most unfortunate” – is like a lot of video game spaces, in that it’s an interesting place to visit, but you’d never want to live there. The building is a warren of memorials; all its bedrooms, studies, basements and secret passages sealed to preserve the memory of their previous occupants. Its architect, Edie Finch, was playful, and possibly mad. The house loops around and back into itself, builds atop itself, and spirals down within itself. All its odd protrusions and extensions jut from the main building like spidery limbs; a teetering Jenga tower of memories and lives, abandoned and forgotten.

The Finches came to the Pacific Northwest from Norway in 1937, and since then almost all of them have died, most either in or close to the house. So plagued are they by unexpected bereavement that people – including their own kin – believe the family to be cursed. In 2016, Edith, a 17-year-old girl who has recently inherited the property, returns to it six years after its abandonment. Back then, Edith’s mother had believed the curse to be localised, confined to the house itself. She swept up her children and left. Whatever she left behind – the locks, the secrets, the family’s sad past – has been held in stasis ever since, waiting for an intrepid visitor to unravel the tragic mysteries of the Finch family and their clan’s surrealist homestead.

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Review – The Town of Light

The town is Volterra, a sun-dappled rustic swatch of Tuscany. The blue sky is streaked with cottony clouds, and the rolling hills, here the green of a snooker table’s felt, there the amber of a traffic light, they extend to the edge of sight, lost eventually in the shade of gnarled trees that reach and clench from the ground like arthritic hands. At the top of such a hill is Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, a real-life, once understaffed and overcrowded asylum that has fallen into disuse and disrepair. Now it lies abandoned and unoccupied, rusted over and scrawled with graffiti. But it’s once again about to open its doors to a patient.

Her name is Renee. As a young girl she was committed to the asylum shortly before World War II; as an adult she has returned to revisit the now-empty rooms, hung heavy with misery and rot. Many games have been set in asylums, and we’ve been taught what to expect from them. But The Town of Light is not really that sort of game, and so we get something different from it. The beds are still fitted with thick leather straps, and the mangled wheelchairs and gurneys still screech in the quiet, but the ghosts here don’t float along the corridors – they’re suffused into every brick, and the memories of every patient who was committed to a system that, at best, profoundly misunderstood their problems.

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Review – Prey

What’s this?

Weirdly enough, it’s absolutely nothing to do with 2006’s Prey, a topsy-turvy sci-fi shooter that, if memory serves, had an arsenal of weaponry comprised of living extraterrestrial organisms that would belch gelatinous projectiles at the player’s foes. It also had a wrench, which means that, as a matter of fact, 2006’s Prey does indeed have something in common with 2017’s Prey, and it’s newer, shinier wrench, as well as 2007’s Bioshock, with its underwater, objectivist wrench, and even 1999’s System Shock 2, which had a blocky, pixelated wrench, and is a game to which all of those listed above owe a rather significant mechanical and thematic debt.

It’s another first-person sci-fi quasi-horror wrench-swinging RPG, is what I’m saying.

Could have just said that.

I could, yes, but – let’s be frank – these creatively-bankrupt titling practices are really starting to get on my fucking nerves. The old Prey isn’t even that old. And it hardly cemented itself as an iconic brand; it doesn’t seem to me that there’s much sense in slapping the name across what is, for all intents and purposes, a perfectly serviceable new IP. That’s Bethesda for you though, isn’t it? Never a thought spared for the lowly consumers like me who write themselves in knots trying to review the thing. It’s not even enough to specify that it’s another – all together now – “spiritual successor” to System Shock 2, because so is Doom 3 and Dead Space and, if we’re being honest, every sci-fi horror game released in this millennium. You also have to clarify that’s its set on a spaceship and it’s about an alien invasion and there’s a wrench in it.

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Review – Resident Evil VII

The problem with Resident Evil isn’t that everybody dies, it’s that nobody ever stays dead. The series has never treated mortality with any kind of permanence. In the first few games, which were fairly traditional zombie stories, that was fine. It was mostly the point. But throughout many, often ill-advised sequels, Capcom started to apply the same logic to their major characters and plot beats. Albert Wesker has been the recurring series villain for 20 years, and he was killed in the first game.

The reason for Wesker’s implausible resilience is the T-Virus – a zombie-brewing superweapon that is also responsible for all of Resident Evil’s other unanswerable narrative quandaries. Sometimes they call it the G-Virus, or the C-Virus, and sometimes it’s a parasite called Las Plagas, but functionally it’s always the same thing: Bottled contrivance. Whatever you need, story-wise, the T/G/C-Virus Parasite can provide it. Monster outbreaks in Midwestern America, rural Spain, Africa? Done. Games set on luxury cruise liners and multicar locomotives? No problem. Villains and supporting characters dying grisly but ultimately unimportant deaths? Easy. Everything that has ever happened in a Resident Evil game can be explained by this, insofar as anything that has ever happened in a Resident Evil game can be explained at all.

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Review – Dying Light

Video games sure are weird. I mean, only in this bonkers industry could something like Dying Light even exist. It is, for all intents and purposes, the sequel to 2011’s Dead Island in all but name: it’s developed by the same team, it has the same kind of zombies, it has the same pseudo-RPG first-person gameplay, and it even has the same ridiculously stupid weapon degradation mechanic. It isn’t Dead Island 2, though, because that’s being developed by Yager (those’re the guys who made the excellent Spec Ops: The Line) and will be released later this year. So I hope for the sake of both games that they’re not as similar in reality as they look to be on paper, because otherwise the most oversaturated genre in media today will be further saturated by two versions of the exact same game.

Still, Dying Light does indeed exist, so as a fun little exercise let’s try talking about it without mentioning Dead Island every couple of minutes.

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Review – Dishonored

Ah, Corvo Attano. I remember our first meeting like it was yesterday. He was returning home; to the bubonic city of Dunwall, and to the side of its Empress and her daughter, Emily, whose lives it was his job to protect. I remember my first few tentative steps in his boots, how his head bobbed as I steered him along. I remember the Royal Spymaster, peering down at me from atop his beaky nose, and I remember thinking how suspicious he was. Had nobody else noticed? I remember the Empress, how she seemed exactly halfway between cartoon and live-action. I remember the first of the hooded assassins teleporting into frame. Were they wearing… gas masks? No time to ponder. There was suddenly a sword in my right hand and a gun in my left, but I had no idea how to swing one or fire the other, and before I knew it the Empress was dead and Emily was gone. I remember the Spymaster’s nose bobbing back onscreen, and wondering, again, how nobody knew this guy was bad news. He promptly accused Corvo of murdering the Empress. Betrayal, I thought. Dishonour. Oh, of course. The last thing I remember is the hilt of a sword rushing towards Corvo’s face, and then nothing at all.

Corvo is the hero of Dishonored, Arkane Studios’ first-person, semi-open-world assassination game. He doesn’t speak and we never see his face, but we know he’s the hero because there’s a camera in his head and he wears a mask that looks like half a clockwork skull. Dishonored loves that mask. It adorns the box art and the title screen and the installation thumbnail. There’s even a loving, extended animation of it being removed and replaced between missions. Most people, quite justifiably I think, don’t remember Corvo. Why would they? But they remember that mask.

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