My review-writing process when it comes to video games has remained largely unchanged for as long as I can remember. It’s a simple system that I assume a lot of other writers use; it isn’t particularly imaginative, but it works for me and that’s all that matters.
First, I play the game. As I do so, I keep a notepad or a scrap of paper handy and scrawl rough shorthand notes with a pencil – not a pen, because I can’t remember the last time a pen didn’t run out on me when I needed it the most. When I’m done with the game, I type these barely-legible doodles into a Notepad file and expand them until I have a coherent summary of my experience. Then, I write the review. The lion’s share of what you’re reading in the finished piece is a final expansion of those initial, hastily-pencilled impressions.
Continue reading “Memory Trouble” – On 007: Blood Stone
I didn’t really know that I liked Spec Ops: The Line until the moment it ended. Often, the closing credits of a video game bring me a sense of relief. The names scroll upwards and I imagine them lifting the weight of the experience away with them. Sometimes I’m glad to be rid of it (I play a lot of bad games). More often, I just see it as the end. A conclusion. Another thing I’ve finished or completed or achieved – whatever you want to call it.
It wasn’t quite like that with this one. As the assorted names of the Yager development team rolled away off the top of the television, I sat in a stunned silence and thought about everything that had led me to that point. I thought about life and death, about war and peace, about right and wrong. It occurred to me these are all themes that games tackle often; that my real life almost never does. Then, when the names had all but disappeared, and the final chords of Jimi Hendrix’s “A Merman I Should Be” rang out with finality, I realized there was more. The true end of the story laid beyond one more obstacle. That was the moment I realized how much I like this game.
To understand that moment, we should go back to the beginning.
Continue reading “Blood on the Sand” – On Spec Ops: The Line
Whatever your girlfriend might think, bigger isn’t always better. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is big. The biggest the series has ever been, easily. But it’s far from better. Wildlands couldn’t hope to compete with the two Advanced Warfighter games from 2006 and 2007; and it’s even inferior to the stripped-down Ghost Recon: Future Soldier from 2012. It’s just big. Bloated. Unhealthy. If size matters to you, then so might Wildlands. I guess the heart of the series is still in there. But it’s covered in fatty deposits and it only beats once every few hours. Wildlands moves, but it never feels alive.
Again, and again, I’m reminded that not everything needs to be bigger; that not every video game franchise needs to expand outwards. Ubisoft’s death-by-a-thousand-icons design is wearing so thin these days that I can see straight through it. And to think that an open world used to mean something. Used to matter. It stood for things – possibility, freedom, fun. It was the kid’s toybox writ large; “play” personified. Now it’s a rote checklist of mundane distractions. Wildlands has all the usual suspects. You can sweep weapons, upgrades and skill points into your trousers like a cartoon bank robber, pester convoys and patrols, lead the toothless rebel populace around like sheep. Interrogate this guy, kill that one, capture the other. Blow this up. Defend that. Stop for a minute. Paint shark teeth on your gun, try on a new hat. Do these sunglasses go with this outfit? Remember, a tattoo is for life. Pick something artistic. There are outposts to capture. You want to look good while you’re warmongering, don’t you?
Continue reading Review – Ghost Recon: Wildlands