I was going to write this week's blog entry about the general topic of "gameplay" and how it's defined (exciting, I know), but instead I've decided to shelve that idea in favor of something much more topical: namely, the new Killzone 2 demo, which I just had the unexpected pleasure of downloading and playing, thanks to some PSN trickery. Here are my initial thoughts.
Yes, the graphics are very good. In fact, these might be the best graphics I've seen in a game. (Before people start bringing up Crysis or whatever other graphics-heavy PC game they like to jerk off to, just bear in mind that I don't play PC games, so that's not what I'm talking about here.) The gritty atmosphere, the wind and dust, the explosions, the sunlight breaking through the hazy sky, all of it looks fantastic. The visuals aren't so much a giant leap above competitors like Gears of War 2 and Call of Duty 4 as they are a small step. But it's definitely a noticeable step.
The NEC Foundation of America has awarded a $32,000 grant to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) "to support the dissemination and use of therapeutic video games to serve children with severe sensory and motor disabilities," according to NJIT's press release.
The website for NJIT's Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) says that:
The video game platform contains games with programmable graphics objects. Each game piece behaves in a preprogrammed fashion, following specified rules. These rules may alter movement pattern, changing shape, color or size and even disappearing altogether. Each game piece is capable of assessing its environment and calculating its distance from the nearest object in a specified direction.
It's not a good sign when a 2008 release date, slips to 2009 and now 2010. Making things worse is the exclusivity deal Square-Enix struck with Microsoft—FFXIII would be released simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 outside of Japan—Square-Enix has announced that development wouldn't even begin on the 360 version until the PS3 version was finished. How much does that add to development time?
Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. Someone or someones decided he or she or they didn't like playing Mirror's Edge in the first-person and hacked the game (PC version) so that it could be played from an over-the-shoulder viewpoint. That's all well and good as long additional steps were taken to fix any side-effects of the switch. But none were. Instead, we see a character model that was never made to be seen during normal gameplay instances and as a result looks pretty laughable.
Polished off Star Wars: The Force Unleashed this afternoon, and it was a pretty fun thrill ride from start to finish.
I have to admit that I had heard the gameplay had some problems before I started it, so I set the thing to Easy and I'm glad I did. The developers have a real over-reliance on snipers and people firing from a distance which wouldn't be so bad except that it's far too easy to get knocked down and fall into a gang rape as you bounce back and forth between enemies. There's nothing more frustrating than getting ping-ponged without the chance to really do anything, and even on Easy it happened to me more than I like.
I'm still catching up with games from 2008 that I never got a chance to get around to… this week, I'm trying Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on the 360. I'm definitely a Star Wars fan (although less so since the new trilogy ruined everything) but I've got to say that so far, this one fits into the canon pretty well and I really like the tone. Playing as Darth Vader's secret apprentice is a neat concept, and LucasArts nailed his character design—his costumes all exude a sort of low-level wraith-like quality, and although I'm sure that there are only a finite number of ways to carry a lightsaber, this new "behind the back" style is pretty hot.
Kanji is feared by the locals and maintains a confrontational machismo toward the other characters throughout the game. He is a loyal son and employee at his family's textile shop, and it's not until the debut of his alter-ego Shadow Kanji that we are made aware of his inner sexual turmoil.
Xu looks at how homosexuality is viewed in Japanese culture and interviews people at Atlus USA who worked on Persona 4, game journalists and Sex in Video Games author Brenda Brathwaite. Brenda likes many things about Kanji's portrayal, but one thing she dislikes is "the game's juvenile nature in dealing with his sexuality."
I've been noticing lately that I've developed a fairly strong preference for short, linear games over the more open world "sandbox" style ones. Taking a look at some of the games I've played recently (e.g., Call of Duty 4, Gears of War 2, Portal, Mirror's Edge, Grand Theft Auto IV, Far Cry 2, and Fallout 3), I can see a clear pattern emerging in terms of what games I'm more likely to go back to, or in some cases which games I'm simply more likely to continue playing through to completion.
I'm also starting to believe that the whole idea of the nonlinear, free roaming game as some sort of holy grail for the medium is a bit bogus. We've already seen some pretty damn amazing open world games, but what I'm discovering is that there doesn't seem to be anything particularly earth shattering about these games that, for me, makes them feel that much more profound than the more scripted stuff.
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