Besides a joyous bearing of free printer paper, the other intent, and message, of the script was a simple one. It was to make everyone take notice that “Beyond Two Souls” will be different.
It was the late Roger Ebert who famously raised the question if gaming could ever truly become art. Mind you he didn’t say it wasn’t art, and he didn’t say it couldn’t be art as is popularly cited, but rather it was more of a challenge to the medium to silence the doubters, himself included.
Now any gamer knows that storytelling in games is impressively unique and blazes its own path to create a quality that only the medium is capable of. To summarize the idea, think of “Bioshock.”
What gaming has lacked up until now though is a title that makes people who neither care about or respect video games (but very much do care about and respect films) to pause for a moment and consider the same growth that gamers have been seeing for decades now. Of course for that to truly work, the game must not just impact film lovers in that way, but gamers as well.
“L.A. Noire” came close, as did “Beyond Two Souls” predecessor “Heavy Rain.” Before that, “Grand Theft Auto IV” and as host of others.
However, “Beyond Two Souls” may be the first title that truly needs to be that game. It doesn’t want to be that game because it can, and it doesn’t dream about being that game because it may, but rather it needs to be that game to be considered a success by all parties involved.
And what a coup that would be if it was. While gaming doesn’t necessarily need that game to continue to exist, just imagine the world that would be left in its wake. Just imagine what the world of video games would be like if a game was released that would both satisfy the creative desires of the fans, the financial needs of the industry (like “Heavy Rain” did in a big way), and make people who couldn’t give a damn about either suddenly take notice, and be forced to really look at a video game with artistic respect.
It would be gaming’s Trojan horse. A rebel to even games themselves, under the guise of an expected appeal to the so considered higher authorities.
Then again, it may not be. It’s entirely possible that “Beyond Two Souls” will be a flop, or worse nothing at all. Even if it isn’t the game that shifts the perspective of video gaming though, it is a harbinger that a day is coming where even the most resolute of gamers must question their expectations regarding the capabilities of the medium. A day you could argue hasn’t been experienced sine “Grand Theft Auto III.”
Of course, much like that 2,000 page script, that day may come as soon as “Beyond Two Soul’s” October 18th release date when that very game will be delivered, to the amazement of all, right at the doorstep.
Yet I can tell you without shame in my heart, or doubt in my words that I love “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.” Truly love it.
While I realized this the moment that I heard “Long Tall Sally” blasting from a helicopter stereo in a glorious tribute to the greatest sci-fi action movie of all time (“Predator”), it’s not even the game’s love of everything sci-fi 80s that stirs these emotions in me. Rather it’s something deeper, more real.
It’s because “Blood Dragon” reminds me that add-on content doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but can actually be fun.
Too often downloadable content is seen as a necessity, or worse a money grab. “Blood Dragon” is the antithesis of that idea. It was the brainchild of a group of developers who saw the opportunity to release the necessary DLC content for “Far Cry 3” as something more than an obligation to bang out some new items, or a side story in the same environment, but instead they took the chance to take all of the original game’s well developed mechanics, and use them as the foundation of something that would not only be creatively satisfying, but that could be as enjoyable to make as it would be enjoyable to play.
In this case it just happened to be a tribute to the world of over the top 80s video games, science fiction, and cartoons. Every aspect of the game is dipped deep into the well of 80s nostalgia, as the cutscense are straight out of an 80’s NES game, there’s a VCR filter over most of the proceedings, and the amount of film references is nerdgasmic. Seriously, if you took a sip of watered down light beer for every “Terminator” reference in the demo, you’d die of alcohol poisoning three minutes in. It’s like the proper video game adaptation of so many franchises we never got, all rolled into one.
But again this isn’t about the content of “Blood Dragon” specifically. It’s about how all other developers need to take notice of “Blood Dragon,” and remind themselves that the moment they feel bored doing DLC, they are probably doing it wrong. Before I saw “Blood Dragon” I honestly never considered that DLC could be a good thing for gaming, but just like “Bioshock Infinite” did for sequels, “Blood Dragon” shows the benefit of preserving the mechanics of a great game, but changing everything else to produce something that doesn’t give you more of what came before, but something more original that reminds you why you loved that game in the first place.
So while the neon infused hyper retro world of “Blood Dragon” should be enough to get anyone to play it (especially as you don’t even need “Far Cry 3” to do so, making it more of a standalone add-on), the real reason you should pick it up when it is released on May 1st is to show developers that gamers are tired of downloads that just put armor on horses, and instead crave expansions that actually expand and explore the possibilities of a franchise.
Gaming and beer may be two of the finer things in life, and while you’ve probably combined the two in the past, my guess is it was done haphazardly by combining a case of the cheapest booze available with whatever you happened to be playing at the time.
I couldn’t argue with the technique either, as I’ve done the same thing many times over. However, there’s at least one beer enthusiast out there who believes that beer and video games can be paired with the same careful consideration of wine and food, or drugs and nightclubs.
His name is Greg Zeschuk, and if he sounds familiar, it might be from this site where I mentioned he was leaving Bioware, a company he co-founded, to get into the world of craft beer. His passion for brewing is such that he recently worked on a miniseries called “The Beer Diaries” which examines the growing art of craft brewing.
Pursuing his other interests doesn’t mean that Zeschuk has forgotten his roots though, and in a recent interview with joystiq.com, he shared some his favorite beer and video game pairings. Among them include IPAs with Action-RPG’s, Adventures with a nice barleywine, and first person shooters with a good pilsner. One genre he doesn’t touch is racing, as you should of course never drink and drive.
Although I’m a little bummed out my go to combinations of PBR and “Team Fortress 2,” Arrogant Bastard and “Hotline Miami,” and Brooklyn Lager and “Far Cry 3” (a little of home, a little of an island vacation) aren’t mentioned, it’s still an interesting idea that drinking could be used to enhance the games you play in more ways than just getting hammered.
So what do you think? Can beers and video games be effectively paired and, if so, what are some of your recommended combinations?
Until very recently, the world of comic book video games have been an up and down realm of quality, as two mediums that you would think should work harmoniously, end up clashing when it comes to the final product.
The fields become even murkier when talking about comic book video games that aren’t based on existing properties, of which there are astonishingly few. Developers seem to be in no hurry to create super hero style games of their own design, making the sub-genre a near non-existent species. Don’t take that to mean there aren’t standouts in the field though as gamers have, on rare occasion, been granted some truly inspired comic book champions, based on no specific comic at all.
So true believers and gamers everywhere, here are the five best non-licensed super hero video games.
Ok, so the hero of “Comix Zone” isn’t your traditional super hero, but I could never forgive myself if I didn’t take his opportunity to talk about this Sega Genesis gem.
“Comix Zone” puts you into the role of comic artist Sketch Turner as he jumps into one of his own creations, and attempts to save the day, side scrolling game style. “Comix Zone” had a lot of fun with the concept, as stages are broken into comic panels that you actively traverse. The first time you see your character jump to the next panel is a thrilling moment in smart gaming design, and the feeling never goes away as the game continuously explores the better uses of the idea, and never stops having fun with it. This is especially evident in moments like the artist intervening to finish a drawing, power ups that let you manipulate the stages for attacks, or the ability to become an unstoppable traditional hero momentarily, and the general straight from the comics graphics.
“Comix Zone” is brutally difficult and cruelly short, but even over the years it has remained noteworthy for all the original reasons, and remains a must play for fans of super hero games.
City of Heroes
In a massively multiplayer online world filled with raging medival fantasy style hordes, darkness and uncertainty reigned, as the people searched for a beacon of originality. A champion of a new day. Along came “City of Heroes”, a liberator from the same old, same old.
Like so many other MMO’s “City of Heroes” was rough around the edges when first released, but still immediately presented an alternative to the more traditional MMO, that was accessible, wildly entertaining, quicker paced, and so damn fun, as you created a super hero to patrol a thriving metropolis with others. The hero creation process maybe the game’s best feature, as it allowed you to truly play a role that was uniquely yours (the whole point of the genre remember) and create a perfect facsimile of your favorite super hero, or something entirely unique. From there you could form super groups, demolish massively underpowered muggers, or just generally live out your super hero fantasies with a level of depth never before granted.
It was a sad, sad day when NCsoft dropped “City of Heroes”, as we will probably never see a game like it again. It still stands tall though as perhaps gaming’s greatest tribute to the golden age of comics.
Actually if “City of Heroes” isn’t gaming’s greatest comic tribute, it might be “Freedom Force”.
If you’ve never played it, think of it as “Baldur’s Gate” for super heroes. While not quite as grand and near flawless as that series, it does echo that franchise’s level of world depth as everything from character design to histories and motives are so detailed that it’s almost impossible to believe that it wasn’t based on one specific pre-existing long running comic series. It does, however, take cues from just about every single golden age comic, and the love for that source material is so glowing that it will make any comic fan uncontrollably grin while playing it. Comic game’s live and die by their sense of style, an “Freedom Force” thrives from it. Trying to summarize it all would be an insult to the work put into it.
“Freedom Force” took a novel concept and ran with it with such authority that it assured gamers no one could ever take a swing at the idea again, and certainly wouldn’t be able to do it with near the creative level of completeness that “Freedom Force” achieved.
A first look at “Infamous” doesn’t make it scream “Super Hero Game”. The first time you play it though, you realize that it is one of gaming’s most original super hero creations.
You find yourself playing as Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger who, due to an accident, suddenly finds himself with the ability to manipulate electricity. Cole’s path from here is unclear as the player guides him on the path to becoming a great super hero or super villain, and watch his powers evolve and shape based on those decisions. It carried on the open world, task based super hero game idea that “Spider-Man 2” made popular, and, due in large part to some fascinating uses for the electrical manipulation powers of Cole, things rarely became stale as you were constantly uncovering new uses for the abilities and, thanks to the creative prowess of developer Sucker Punch (creators of the Sly Cooper series), constantly entertained by a strong plot and the comic book style story interludes that drove it.
“Infamous” was one of the first must have PS3 exclusives and, as proven by the eerily similar “Prototype” released around the same time, is a difficult to execute idea pulled off to near perfection here. It represents gaming’s most original stab at the idea of a modern super hero tale.
Taking its cues not just from comic books, but cartoons and film as well, “Viewtiful Joe” is an incredible sensory overload.
It was Capcom’s glorious big name return to the 2D action genre, and it paid tribute to just about everything the average gamer grew up loving, including video games itself. However, there is no doubt that “Viewtiful Joe” is a super hero, and his powers of time and distance manipulation are original, and uniquely used in ways like slowing down time to take out helicopters (their blades can spin fast enough). In any other developers hands, the amount of things “Viewtiful Joe” throws at you would become overwhelming, and may eventually lose the intended effect. In the skilled possession of one of the all time great developers in Capcom though, the game is a textbook example of how to properly implement the feeling of handling a super hero in a video game, and of the 2D action genre as well.
Considering it’s all time great pedigree, near flawless execution, and commitment to making every frame and moment an absolute and original blast of creative wonderment, I’m ready to call “Viewtiful Joe” gaming’s greatest original super hero creation.
If you ever hear someone drone on longingly about the “Sly Cooper” series, understand that it is because it’s one of “those games”. There wasn’t much hype around the first game, so anyone that played it usually did so under unique circumstances, and were met with a title that was simply charming. It may have been rough around the edges, but the mounds of charm that emitted from the title combined with some great stealth-lite gameplay to produce something that made you want to scream its praises to anyone within earshot
Clearly, that makes this a hell of a deal. In fact, considering that all we hear about is the rising costs of video game production, some are considering this usually joyful announcement of a cheaper AAA video game to be suspicious. The concerns are that this will somehow lead to a very short game, or one that the developers are somehow worried about going over well. This has led to a marketing manager at Sony assuring people that this is not a cover up or ploy, but rather a way to make sure as many people as possible get a chance to play the game.
Of course, even if it is somehow true that this price cut is a preemptive measure for something the developers know that we don’t, this is still a generous move that all PS3 gamers should take note of when Sly 4 is released on February 5th in North America.
However, they are working on a temporary mode that will still allow for player duels which should arrive with the next patch, and are also apparently designing an entirely new mode that will replace, and hopefully surpass, team deathmatch. The only details know about this new mode is that it will be a free addition to the game, available sometime in the new year.
Considering the numerous failures surrounding “Diablo III” at its release, it’s easy to look at this news as a further embarrassment, or a little more dirt on the grave. However, Blizzard is spot on that the mode just didn’t work in any entertaining or creative way, and even though the work on implementing team deathmatch apparently took up a sizeable amount of the development time leading up to “Diablo’s” release, its best that they admit their failures now and improve them, rather than skirt the issue entirely and rest on the laurels of some sizable sales figures. It’ll be exciting to see what they come up with instead, now that they have some more perspective on what works, and what definitely doesn’t.
The ongoing financial situation plaguing THQ Games has been well documented, and recently resulted in such actions as the company hosting a prolific, and somewhat successful, humble bundle sale, but still ultimately filing for bankruptcy and selling their assets to the Clearlake Capital Group for $60 million. It’s a sad situation not only for the employees of THQ, but for gamers as well, as THQ still has quite a few high quality franchises to its name, including “Metro”, the WWE games, “Darksiders”, “Company of Heroes”, “Warhammer”, and “Saints Row”. Now, though, the future of those titles, and more, is cast in serious doubt even as THQ seemingly remains active for the moment.
However, some hopeful news has emerged from the whole matter recently, as there is a rumor that Ubisoft is seriously interested in buying the properties of THQ. While the early reports suggest they will be waiting until THQ is a little more certain (and, frankly, desperate) that they will be selling their properties in order to get a better price, Ubisoft has been clear with their interest in the assets should they have the opportunity.
“We are always interested in good brands.” Says Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, “For sure, it’s something we can consider, but I can’t tell you more.”
While the option is out there for Ubisoft to snatch certain titles, it’s looking more likely they will be eyeing the entire line up. From an outside perspective, this would be a real win, win for all parties if the buyout happens, as it would not only save the reeling developer, but Ubisoft would add some substantial games to its already stacked repertoire. For gamers who are interested in THQ’s titles, there couldn’t be a better interested buyer than Ubisoft, as the two company’s philosophies concerning quality development are very similar, and Ubisoft has proved to be one of the most consistent developers and publishers of the last decade.
As bad as this whole ordeal has been for THQ, it’s good to know that it may not be game over for the company just yet.
Every developer naturally hypes up their releases. Most of the time though, the hype is just that, and ends up being completely unjustified (see Molyneux, Peter).
When it comes to the developers of the “Crysis” series hyping the graphical prowess of their next title though, you can usually take that guarantee to the exceptionally well rendered bank, as the series continues to produce the most jaw dropping titles available. True to form then, Crytek’s CEO Cevat Yerli is promising that “Crysis 3” is going to be stunningly beautiful. How good looking? Apparently they have maxed out the capabilities of the current generation of consoles, and are promising that no game released in the current gen will look as good as “Crysis 3”. He goes on to stay that the consoles will still have nothing on the PC version, which at max specs will supposedly rival or exceed the early batch of next gen titles for graphical prowess.
Do we believe these impressive claims? Well considering “Crysis 2″ is over a year old and looks like this:
I’d say they have a pretty good chance. And while it would have been more intriguing if we were promised the most incredible gameplay of the generation, I can’t wait to see what the peak of the current hardware looks like in motion, and maybe even a preview of what to expect from the true debut of the next generation.
So Valve has been busy updating some games recently to include support for their “Big Picture” mode that will allow Steam to be used on TV. It’s a welcome update for those with the capabilities and, for most games, is taking nothing more than a 70 MB update to help incorporate.
Except for one game though. For some reason “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” is requiring a 400 MB update. This being the internet, suddenly everyone started having a theory of how this would lead to “Half-Life 2: Episode 3” or even “Half-Life 3”. Nobody has any real idea about how this works, but hey, since 400 is a way bigger number than 70, it can only mean the release of one of the most anticipated games of all time right? The madness surrounding the update is so consuming, that a completely unrelated video from Machinima featuring a series of binary code, and vaguely “Half-Life” music playing throughout, was thought to be part of the conspiracy, and players are now feverishly scouring “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” to find any changes.
The “Magic Bullet” Of the “Half-Life 3″ Conspiracy
Of course, the whole thing is nonsense to the sane mind, but it does bring up a very real problem for Valve, in that the next “Half-Life” (in whatever form it may take) is slowly reaching some pretty unrealistic expectations. Whenever an extra 330 MB of unspecified, probably insignificant data can bring the entire PC gaming community to a furor, the hype meter has definitely spiked, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Valve’s exhibited an uncommon level of craftsmanship over the years, but even they are setting themselves up for a scenario where gamers are having years to craft their own game in their minds that even Valve might not be able to match. While this doesn’t mean they should rush the development of a game, it may be time to give gamers something (anything) regarding the next title in the beloved series before the hype machine claims another victim ala “Diablo III”.
I usually try to avoid the mass hysteria of Black Friday, but in the case of video games, I too fall victim to the beautiful deals and throw myself into the madness with open wallet, and little regard for common financial sense.
Luckily when it comes to games you can find a lot of great deals online that don’t require you to arm yourself and push some fellow human being on the ground to take advantage of. In that spirit, here is just a small sampling of the best online deals available right now.
*Note: Don’t be surprised if some of these are gone by the time you get to them as deals move and sell out quickly. Be sure to act accordingly then and as always consult the great Dealzon for the best finds.
Grand Theft Auto IV Complete Edition, GTA: San Andreas, and LA: Noire Complete (PC Download) – Amazon – $14.99
Have you ever eaten a food that was too rich and decadent? Same thing with this deal. Countless hours of Rockstar Gaming greatness for under $20 is almost too good a deal, as you’re basically forfeiting your life by buying it.
Dishonored (PC Download) – Green Man Gaming -$22.50
Anytime you can get a game that’s barely a month old for under $25 it’s a deal worth checking out. When that game is one of the best of the year by a mile, you should probably stop what you’re doing right now (including reading this) and pursue it.
Mass Effect Trilogy (PC Download) – Gamefly – $23.99
I once bought a Rolex watch in Chinatown that was an absolute perfect knock off, but broke later that day. It was a valuable lesson on something being too good to be true, and is the only reason I wouldn’t recommend jumping on this deal. It’s so mind-blowingly cheap, there almost has to somehow be a catch.
Xbox 360 250GB Bundle with “Skyrim” and “Forza Motorsport 4” – NewEgg – $189.99
If you were somehow waiting to buy a 360 until just the right moment, then getting one for under $200 with one of the best RPG’s and one of the best racing games of all time, would finally be that moment.
Finally it is once again time for the Steam Autumn Sale, which is running until 11/26. With almost too many good games to list, and deals rotating constantly, as well as mark downs of some kind on pretty much everything, it’s the first place any PC gamer should go.