There's so much great reading this week, I can't even come up with an introductory paragraph! Let's just get right to it.
-Simon Parkin, one of the class of superb British game journos working right now, wrote an excellent piece about the thought process that goes into a game review. The takeaway, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that it would be possible for an honest reviewer to write both a positive and a negative review of the same game. In my experience, most games have good and bad traits that are worthy of discussion. But I've never seen the point of including the token complaint in a review of a game that you otherwise love. Who cares if the merchant's voice gets annoying in Resident Evil 4? Part of being a good critic is remembering why you love games in the first place.
-Jeremy Parish has penned the first reasonable look at GoldenEye 64 that I think I've ever seen. The nut: "...what made GoldenEye so good was a fleeting, transient quality that can never be grasped again: it's not that the game was especially brilliant by modern standards, but rather that it utterly eclipsed its contemporaries." I've been trying to say this for years, but people get really angry when they hear it. I don't mean it to sound as dismissive as it does, but when GoldenEye hit, I was deep into Quake, and GoldenEye didn't seem to come close. I had good times with it. It was definitely the best console shooter around. But it just couldn't compare to what was happening on the PC at the time, not on any level. I think the reason why it's so beloved is because most people didn't have that frame of reference.
(I feel like Ed Borden right now.)
-Clive Thompson is talking about The Maw when he praises short games, but he could almost be talking about Wanted: Weapons of Fate. The difference, of course, is that one is a $10 downloadable title, while the other is selling for $60 and is being pitched as a blockbuster. Still, I agree with his central point. Nobody walks out of a four-hour movie feeling like they got their money's worth, or poo-poos The Great Gatsby because it's too short. Only video games have to deal with Consumer Reports-style criticism. It should stop.
By the way, I capped off my Wanted review with some Consumer Reports-style criticism.
-I'd like to get my hands on a copy of the current Game Developer magazine, which features a Far Cry 2 postmorterm with CLINT HOCKING. I can think of few games that deserve such treatment more. In the meantime, GameSetWatch ran a condensed version, which is illuminating in its own right.
-But L.B. Jeffries wrote an even better critical analysis of Far Cry 2 for PopMatters. It's great. Read it.
-Iroquois Pliskin shared his experience at CLINT HOCKING's presentation at GDC. (Hocking, by the way, has conveniently posted his slides online for your viewing pleasure. I hope to get to it myself in the near future). Far Cry 2 was a game that succeeded on more than one level. Iroquois comes as close as anyone to explaining why the gameplay was so great when he says "the developers found that the game was at its best when the players carefully-laid-out plans went haywire and they were forced to reformulate a strategy on the fly."
It's so true. One of the best dynamics about the game was how you'd spend 10 minutes scouting a compound, stalking through the tall grass like a lion, and map out in your head exactly how the assault was going to go. That always lasted about five seconds, until a weapon misfired, or something blew up and you caught on fire, or some dude drove up behind you in a Jeep. One of my fondest FC2 memories was taking aim at a fuel tanker with a rocket launcher, feeling very satisfied with myself, only to watch the rocket flop onto the grass a few feet in front of me, sputtering like a Fourth of July sparkler. I kind of had to improvise after that.
Like Iroquois says, you had to be there.