I feel that I might have been a little hasty in my criticism of Duke Nukem Forever. That is far from an apology, and I’m in no way about to retract the majority of the statements that I made about it. It’s simply an admission. I always try to be objective and professional when I give my opinions, but the mood surrounding the game’s release felt so incendiary that I was compelled to rush. There are things I said that I perhaps shouldn’t have, and things I didn’t say which were worth mentioning. So, that’s what this post is for.
Full disclosure: When I wrote my last post about this game, I hadn’t even reached the end. That’s something that rarely ever happens, and when it does I clarify that I’m not in a position to judge the quality of the whole product. I didn’t do that in this case. On the one hand, that was pretty unprofessional. On the other, it is also what convinced me to return to Duke Nukem Forever and claw through everything the game had to offer.
Continue reading Final Thoughts – Duke Nukem Forever
For the fifth game in a series that has always been a beacon of excellent stealth design philosophy, Splinter Cell: Conviction is a surprisingly terrible stealth game.
In fact, I’m not even sure Conviction is a stealth game at all. As a man who has been referred to in various official media as “the greatest stealth operative in the world” for quite a while now, Sam Fisher is either being spectacularly misrepresented, has lost his touch, or simply doesn’t give a shit anymore.
Continue reading First Impressions – Splinter Cell: Conviction
There’s a scene in Demolition Man when Sylvester Stallone is first woken up after being cryogenically frozen for three decades and has absolutely no idea how to behave or what is acceptable in this technologically advanced, modern world. That’s the scene I kept picturing throughout Duke Nukem Forever, continually lamenting the lack of a plucky young Sandra Bullock to keep him in check and teach him how to behave.
Duke Nukem Forever is a throwback to a period of gaming history that many have largely forgotten – a time before regenerating health bars or cover systems or gravity guns. Duke himself is the kind of iconic character who rose to stardom on the grounds that he had a name and a voice and a personality, rather than being just another anonymous husk for players to move around. The fact he was a misogynistic, egotistical dick was, at the time, irrelevant.
The video game industry has matured since then. Unfortunately, Duke hasn’t.
Continue reading First Impressions – Duke Nukem Forever
[This review contains a big spoiler for the main story of Assassin’s Creed Unity. You’ve been warned.]
In my rambling analysis of Assassin’s Creed Unity, I didn’t mention anything about the game’s myriad performance problems. I didn’t talk about Arno getting stuck in the middle of a hay cart or hovering in mid-air. I didn’t complain about having to restart checkpoints or reset my console. That’s because I played a post-patch version of the game which had had most of those bugs and issues teased out. So I didn’t see any of that stuff. Aside from some rather glaring dips in framerate, and the occasional texture pop-in, Unity ran pretty smooth for me. No crashes, no lost progress – not much fun, admittedly, but for wholly different reasons.
Still, as compensation for shipping a game that was (allegedly, I suppose) thoroughly broken at launch, Ubisoft made a smart decision. They cancelled the game’s Season Pass and made the first planned piece of downloadable content, Dead Kings, free for everyone. I hadn’t even realized it had been released before my Xbox One had downloaded it, installed it, and thrown a little notification onto my screen with that all-too-familiar blip: “Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings is ready to play”.
Well, if you insist.
Continue reading DLC Review – Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings
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.
Continue reading Review – Resident Evil VII
It occurs to me that the vast majority of my time in the “new generation” of video game consoles has been spent replaying games I already owned one, two, sometimes three years ago. The terminology is starting to get confusing. Is this a reboot or a remaster? The Game of the Year Edition or the Definitive Edition? Is there a difference? They’re shinier, usually. Sometimes they have all the bells and whistles already attached; additional content you previously had to pay for now available right out of the box (which is where, some might argue, it should have been to begin with). That’s useful, occasionally, for games you missed or expansion packs you couldn’t justify buying. More often, though, it just feels exploitative, like a publisher wringing your neck until yet more coins plink out of your orifices.
2015’s Need for Speed is perhaps the most egregious recent example of the industry’s tendency to rehash old ideas and re-skin old games. It’s a reboot, technically, although one could reasonably argue that every game in this franchise has been a reboot of the one preceding it. There aren’t any recurring characters or sprawling narratives. Each game takes the fundamentals of the previous instalment and either builds on them or takes them in a slightly different direction. We’ve had direct sequels, in a sense, such as the two Underground titles, which is where the series began for most people; and the two Shift experiments, when Need for Speed veered away from the street racing microcosm and set off in a more simulation-based direction. But these are only really sequels in that they’re continuations of a specific style and theme; they’re hardly the next chapters of a riveting saga. This is, partially, what aggravated me about how EA marketed this latest edition – on false promises, and in answer to questions nobody was asking.
Continue reading Review – Need For Speed (2015)
The Lego games would typically be outside of my usual remit, but I’ve somehow managed to dip my toes into both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones incarnations without even realising it. The former was a nice go-to game when I was weirdly, worryingly into Xbox Live Achievements (even though I don’t remember playing it for long), and the latter came with my replacement Xbox when I somehow fucked the first up beyond repair (and I hated it). So, Lego Batman was a weird one for me; something I played out of general curiosity to see how DC’s most beloved hero would receive the shiny plastic treatment.
I honestly don’t have too much to say about the game. The Lego series has always been the quintessential casual game: easy to pick up and play, charming, fun, and ideal for short ten to fifteen minute sessions. Lego Batman is all of that, plus and minus a few quirks.
Continue reading Review – Lego Batman