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The lampshade

Rogue Warrior Screenshot

When I wrote a post about the Camp aesthetic in games a few years back, I suggested that one of the greatest areas of camp potential in games lay in violence. A commenter suggested I take a look at Rogue Warrior, a universally-panned game inexplicably starring Mickey Rourke as real-life SEAL team commander Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko. The game did not disappoint: Rogue Warrior is a great example, perhaps the best example, of a game that in its violent excess becomes unintentionally comic.

The Preacher Loop

Half-Life 2: Episode One Screenshot

In a recent commentary on Valve's Half-Life 2 Episodes, Marsh Davies criticizes much of Episode One for its "failure to make your navigation comprehensible, either spatially or narratively." He goes on to praise Episode Two for remembering to provide the player with an overview of its regions, so that the spaces allow the player to see the places he has been, or is going to. As I was reminded in my own recent replay of the original Half-Life and its companion games, this is not a recent improvement by Valve, but a return to form.

The invisible hands

Spec Ops: The Line Screenshot

In Spec Ops: The Line, the natural forces that oil money has so far kept at bay have struck back against the city, burying the modern towers in the red sands of its desert. In the shattered metropolis, a new society has been built, one that breaks the game's protagonists and shows the foolishness of their heroic pretensions.

Poo Dragon

Blue Dragon Screenshot

Released in 2006-07 as an Xbox 360 exclusive, probably with the goal of helping establish the console in Japan, Blue Dragon has inexplicably spawned sequels and a minor multimedia empire. It's reasonably fun, if you like turn-based role-playing games, but Blue Dragon is clearly a bad game.

Cage Kane Payne

Max Payne 3 Screenshot

In a short period of time I have played three games that may not seem to be similar or related. The co-op shooter Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, the straight-up cover shooter Max Payne 3, and the thriller Heavy Rain share a third-person perspective, though, one that reflects their central cinematic aspirations. Although their critical reputations vary, each of these games is an interesting failure in the project of creating a playable movie.

A night on Valak Mountain

Xenoblade Chronicles Screenshot

The almost universally laudatory critical reaction to Xenoblade Chronicles has heaped ambitious praise on the project. Not content to appreciate Xenoblade's design on its own merits, many critics have asserted that it points the way towards "saving" the JRPG. There are good reasons to be dubious of this assertion. For the moment, though, I want to focus on something Xenoblade gets right, and the best way to do it is by focusing on something it gets very wrong: Valak Mountain.

To clear the crowded sky

Mass Effect 3 Screenshot

Early on, Mass Effect establishes that the Citadel Council forced humanity to establish colonies in dangerous parts of the galaxy, then refused to offer aid when those colonies were inevitably attacked. The existing power structure is only interested in humanity's ability to serve as a buffer against its enemies, not in helping us thrive. Despite all this, humans get a comparatively sweet deal.

Fear and need

I Am Alive Screenshot

I Am Alive clearly wants to be a serious, adult take on post-apocalyptic survival, and in some respects it is. Unfortunately, the game's treatment of women, among other things, seems to devolve back to the attitudes of a teenaged boy. In I Am Alive, women are helpless objects to be fought over and protected by men.

PAX East 2012: The Games

Mark of the Ninja Screenshot

The simple truth is that if you spend your time at PAX waiting around in line for a demo you'll play on Xbox Live in a few months anyway, you are a chump. There are so many awesome games from smaller publishers and indies on the floor that you might not get exposed to anywhere else. So, if you were being a linefool, here's some of what you missed.

PAX East 2012: The Panels

Hitman: Absolution Screenshot

The convention's stealthy aspect kicked off with a great panel on the subject featuring Nels Anderson, Andy Schatz, and Dan Silvers, chaired by Matthew Weise, also featuring the con's largest single-room concentration of guys in suits.

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