Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

This weekend marks my last snowboarding outing of the season. It's been a good one. When I first went out in December, I could barely get off the lifts, and now I can make it down the intermediate trails without hurting myself too badly. So one last hurrah tomorrow, and then I have to find something else to do for the next nine months. Two tempting alternatives: playing Resident Evil 5, and putting in a little more time with Killzone 2's multiplayer.

-The blogosphere is blowing up about Far Cry 2, a development I welcome with open arms. Duncan Fyfe wonders why even ostensibly realistic shooters so often elide the human cost of war. Nels Anderson suggests that FC2 uses its environmental verisimilitude to smuggle in some deeper symbolism. And Ed Borden says that by playing the emphasis on first-person instead of shooter, Far Cry is actually the future of games. Good reads, all.

-Steve Gaynor explains how Flower's handle on the basics of good game design make it more successful than many bigger-budget, higher-profile titles. I often think it's more important for a game to pick one thing and do it well, rather than to try to mix and match genres and play mechanics. Flower certainly fits that bill. Bears repeating: if you're a PS3 owner, the downside for giving this $10 title a spin is non-existent.

-Ben Fritz compares the critical reception to the film Watchmen to the critical reception for, well, nearly every video game that comes out. Says Fritz, "'Watchmen' has four 100's, three 20's, a bunch of 75's, a bunch of 50's, a bunch of 40's -- the critics are truly divided." Compare that to the Metacritic score for Killzone 2, which ranges from 100 down to 70. Ditto Resident Evil 5, save for a lone 60 from G4TV. When it comes to big-budget releases, game critics nearly always march in lockstep.

It's a bit different story with smaller, less commercial games. Scores for Puzzle Quest: Galactrix range from 90 down to 40. Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard has a 45-point spread, from 70 down to 25. Somehow, that makes me more interested in playing it.

-Speaking of which, this week's awesome GameSetWatch editorial was written by Christian Nutt, who wonders, vis-à-vis Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, if it's possible to make a "B" game. This is a conversation that Ryan and I have had a few times, in regards to games like God Hand and Godzilla Unleashed. As you can tell from those reviews, I've reached the same conclusion as Nutt. Since videogames are active and movies are passive, it's harder to ironically appreciate their faults.

When you watch Plan 9 From Outer Space, say, the dialogue is awful, the acting worse, and the direction abysmal, but none of that impedes your ability to watch the film from beginning to end. When a game isn't executed well, it does stop you from proceeding. Instead of laughing at a snafu and moving on, you have to actually fight against it in order to get to the next joke. That saps the humor fast.

More to the point, nobody ever sets out to make a bad movie (Ed Wood certainly didn't). We love B movies because they try so hard to be A movies. That's the distinction. And it may be where Eat Lead missed the mark for so many critics.

-This isn't gaming related, but how would you like to have your heart freaking melted?


Unknown said...

I think you may underestimate the appeal of "B" games. For example, consider intentionally "B" movies like Grindhouse. Isn't that a similar appeal to games like No More Heroes? No More Heroes innovation certainly wasn't graphical, narrative, nor stylistic. The tropes it relies on, both storytelling and interactive, are well-tested. Seemingly, its intention to occupy a "B" game space is its primary conceit. I love to play it.
I think Tycho from Penny Arcade agrees, even when he's referencing games that, like Plan 9 From Outer Space, didn't mean to fail:

Daniel Purvis said...

Have you ever played the game B-Movie from the old PlayStation? It played on the concept of B-rated alien/horror movies and succeeded in doing so, reminding me of a less complex X-Com game with a similar quality to Destroy All Humans! which I'd argue also plays on the formula.