Saturday, March 9, 2013

Movies That Should Be Games: Tomb Raider :B

     Okay, okay, I know this is a game, not a movie. However, it feels so much like a movie at some points that I felt justified giving my post this title. Not only that, but the first 30 minutes-ish of the game is minimally interactive compared to the rest of the adventure, which is when the thought first crossed my mind that "this would make a pretty good video game." *cue trollface*

     In all seriousness, I was personally swept into Lara's struggle by the painful first moments of the game, despite the heavy penchant for quicktime. However, watching a friend play, I realized HOW MUCH quicktime there is. I have to say, the implementation of the events isn't bad, but I pretty much always prefer no quicktime to some quicktime. Once that was past, however, the game settles into a comfortable relative openness( I'm not saying the game is truly open, however), caves and pits giving way to forests and cabins. At the same time, the game reveals its leveling system. There's nothing spectacular about it, and I think that's appropriate in a game of its type. After all, this is an action/adventure wrapped in a survival ribbon, and deep leveling isn't required. I'm not saying it wouldn't be interesting, but the game moves at a good clip as is, which actually supports the story and character development. Lara is constantly beset by difficult circumstance, which is at first silly in its abundance but leads into a rich adventure.

     More importantly though, the animation and graphical detail is fantastic in this title. Even on the 360, I was  wowed by the detail, Lara's constantly changing shades of disrepair, the likelike motion of the enviroment, and yes, Lara herself, moves with convincing trepidation. I feel like this game stands as one of the primary examples why motion capture is the best means of animation in games of this type, and her body language speaks volumes about the character. She's scared, but she knows what she has to do.

     Make no mistake-  this story is about Lara, and that's where it shines. Some of the outlying characters, while not poorly written, seem a tad too archetypical for me, particularly Mathias. If he was so creepy from the outset( and he WAS), why did Sam trust him so readily? *shrugs* Just a design choice I didn't care for. I particularly liked Alex as a character, I thought he was the one with the fewest noticable contradictions, and he was second only to Lara herself. :P
     All in all, a solid game, and true to the concept of character growth, Lara became noticably more skilled and it resounded in the gameplay. I'd love to see more of what Crystal Dynamics has to offer in the future, and I'm looking forward to even more ambitious titles with the same sensibilities.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


     So here's the thing: I have a thing. A thing for Japanese swords and dudes swinging them around. Also, I have a potentially even bigger thing for angular, mech-style design. Metal Gear Rising has both, so we all knew I was going to play this game. However, the point of this is not whether I played the game, but what I thought about it, so moving on...

    Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is one of the most unfortunately-named games I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. I say that intently, because I walked in expecting a poorly written script with same-y combat and a gimmick or two and instead got a tongue-in-cheek script with fantastic combat and the most entertaining inclusion to a combat system I've seen in years. Now, let's not jump the gun- I am aware that the game isn't perfect. AI is still par for the Metal Gear series, which means sophisticated cyborg soldiers will stare directly at you at not notice you while you impale their comrades... but the combat. THE COMBAT. It makes up for some of the outdated design choices and gaming norms that occasionally peek out from beneath the game's shiny exterior. Why, you may ask? Because the developer had the good sense to take a simple concept and run with it. 

     Swords. Y'know what's crazy? THEY CUT THINGS. When you're a cyborg and you have million-dollar enhancements to your body, THEY CUT MORE THINGS. Blade Mode, in which time slows and you have the opportunity to target and dice weakened points in the enemy's body, at first glance appears to break up the flow of combat and wrench your gears. In fact, it gives one a momentary breather and gives one the pleasure of watching whatever object you target turn into sushi. On top of that, it puts one up close, right in the middle of the battle. You feel connected to Raiden as you angle your slices to connect with exposed weak points.

     I'm not going to harp about the story, because it is standard Metal Gear fare, save one element: a refined focus on the main character, for better or worse. I mean, the advertising for this game was all raiden close-ups, so go figure. I really felt as though the events of the plot were of little consequence in comparison to what was happening with Raiden as a person, and maybe that was intentional. (SPOILERS) Everything served to get Jack the Ripper boiling to the surface. Although, once he did surface, the effect was basically "Now I win" and then that element of his personality faded somewhat and merely remained as a game mechanic. I was disappointed by that conclusion to his development, and that they didn't reveal more of Jack's backstory.

Also, a quick note since video game violence is a hot-button topic these days: the intense violence is actually addressed within the game, and I found it suprisingly poignant for someone who thinks fantasy violence to be a non-issue. Even though I don't feel regret personally for killing digital peoples, Raiden's reaction to the realization that the "scum" he justified killing were people struggling to make it just like him was a great moment, and I think is a great reminder of how easily people are swallowed by self-righteousness, even in war. 

*gets off soapbox*