Archive for the ‘What You Should Have Played’ Category


“Heavy Rain” Represents Everything That’s Wrong With Everything

February 15, 2010


If you’re in tune to video game news in any way, you’ve probably heard about the ambitious “interactive fiction” project Heavy Rain coming to PS3 later this month.  On the surface, the game is nothing all that new: It’s a faux-noiry detective procedural following the case of a Zodiac-esque serial killer told from several different viewpoints in a nonlinear way.  Adventure games had been doing this kind of narrative since literally before I was born, though they obviously didn’t have the lush visual accompaniment that modern games can afford.  But the graphics aren’t what people are getting excited for with Heavy Rain.  I mean, just look at it:



No, the real innovative aspect that’s making headlines, the whole philosophy behind the game is that you’re less “playing” it and more watching it happen while occasionally providing your relatively ignorable input. It’s sort of the inevitable conclusion to the trend that a certain “games as art” contingency has been pushing for the last several years, where in an effort to gain the legitimacy of film, certain studios have forgone everything that distinguishes the medium from film in the first place.  Rather than learning the story by exploring your environment, as has been basically the standard of video games for the past fifteen years, Heavy Rain strings you along through silly quick time events and pixel-hunting charades in order to get to the next cut scene which will tell you what’s going on.  It’s like a movie that pauses every couple of minutes and won’t start up again until you press the right button.

Which would be one thing if the movie you were watching was any good at all.  Every stupid teaser of this game makes it out to be unwatchable in every way: the story seems a cliched mashup of boring crimes, the voice acting is stilted and lifeless, and the motion capture looks like it was done with a Lite Brite.  Jesus Christ, just look at their mouths.  I’ve literally seen Muppets with more nuanced speech mechanics than these lock-jawed turtle-people.  Seriously, look at it in motion (horrible talking really gets started at about two minutes in)

I would be much more lenient with Heavy Rain, perhaps so lenient as to not say that it represents everything that is bad, if it put more effort into making its stupid story more enthralling, or even novel.  But it clearly doesn’t have that much interest in making something worth consuming underneath all the layers of banal polish.  Its supposed innovations are the opposite of progress, and its touted visual attraction is boring and plastic.  Other video games have done well because they realized the limitations of their medium and succeeded within it.  Heavy Rain, like some figure of myth, struggles against itself miserably to create a weird-looking garbage product that I hate.  Just like that one myth.

This kid’s face says it all:




What You Should Have Played: Disgaea

May 25, 2009
And Here... We... Go!

And Here... We... Go!

‘What You Should Have Played’ is exactly what you think it is: a weekly look at the kinda old or very good games that you either missed because of forgivable ignorance or repugnant character flaws. The idea being that after you read my amusing,  masterfully written columns, you’ll give these often overlooked games a try.

For my first post, I’ve chosen Disgaea, a hidden gem in the tactical role-playing game genre developed and published by Nippon Ichi Software. The first game in this series was originally released on the Playstation 2 in 2003. Since the original release there have been two sequels and a series of ports to other systems. Each one stars a prince of Hell that seeks to rule over all of the Netherworld while warding off the ambitions of traitorous servants and other devious would-be usurpers. At the prince’s side are a vast cast of fun and cheeky characters.

It sounds like the most derivative and hackneyed thing ever written. Hit the jump to see why it’s worth your time.

Click Here to Read On


Tee Eff Too

May 18, 2009

This might stir up some controversy among you nerds, but I’m willing to say right here, right now that Valve’s Team Fortress 2 is probably the best video game to come out in the last five years in terms of craftsmanship and charm alone.  For those of you who don’t know, the game’s mechanics are extraordinarily, brilliantly simple: you play as one of nine classes of fighter (such as the rocket-launcher wielding soldier, the headshot nabbing sniper, or the friendly healing medic) on one team, and attempt to complete objectives (such as capture-the-flag, territory control, or bomb-planting) against another team, with each team made up of people from the internet.

The beauty of the game, however, is in the details that the developers put into the whole project.  Team Fortress, the game’s predecessor, was a mod for Quake, and very much looked the part.  The distinct classes were there,  but they all just sort of looked like the same beige cubes running around with different insignias on their helmets.  The maps were workmanlike and utile, but their textures were dreary and grim.  Team Fortress 2, on the other hand, took the whole concept and put it through the lens of an early 1960’s magazine advertisement: the colors are bright and enjoyable, the landscapes have character and visual depth, and, best of all, the classes all have distinct personalities.  While other games like it (I’m looking at you, Call of Duty 4 multiplayer) barely make an effort to change the silhouettes of their different classes, TF2 has made each class a character all its own.

With this in mind, the design team has made — for no real reason other than extra publicity, mind you — small character introduction videos for 7 of the 9 classes, with promises of completing the other two some time before the heat death of the universe.  The most recent one is Meet The Spy, which you can (and should) watch here:

It’s excellent writing, beautiful animation (all done in the game’s actual graphics engine) and a prime example of Valve’s admirable commitment to their profession.  In other words, I’d like Valve to get me hell of pregnant.

More TF2 Meet The… Videos after the jump…