Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

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.


Julian said...

You're not the only one that feels that way about Goldeneye. At this point, it's basically unplayable. Even Doom and Duke Nukem have aged better. Not only is the framerate absolutely horrible in multiplayer, but the lack of an organic move-strafe/look-turn control scheme meant I had completely forgotten how to even interact with the world. At least the Turok games are controllable, even if the level design was second-rate.

Ed Borden said...

Wow, I feel dumb not knowing why you feel like me. Are you talking about the "How 7 Games Created the Modern Team MP FPS" piece?

Or are you just referring to the fact that I abhor all console FPS's ? :)

Mitch Krpata said...

Oh, just because I was railing on a console game and lauding the clear superiority of its PC contemporaries.

Ed Borden said...

Ah, so I have etched myself into your mind as the definition of a PC fanboy, sweet :)

Dominic said...

Just found out your corner of the web a few days back, am reading through pretty much everything and very much enjoying it. Bravo!

RE: GoldenEye, I won't dispute the fact that it wouldn't hold to modern standards, and maybe it has aged terribly (haven't gone back to it yet). But wasn't a strong part of its appeal in the fact that it was one of the first FPS in which you did other things than shooting, pressing switches and opening doors? That is definitely something that can't resonate anymore since that's likely taken for granted by younger gamers, but still. I'd say the reason GoldenEye had such an impact was that it wasn't a "pure" FPS, not necessarily that it was a better FPS than the others at the time.

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Michael Miller said...

But can't a game be too short - just like any other form of entertainment media? For better or for worse, there is an expected length for these things - we expect a film to be about 90-120 minutes. If you bought a cinema ticket and the film ended after 28 minutes, you'd feel pretty cheated.

John said...

Nice article and great blog!

Unknown said...

So... where does this ALL CAPS joke come from? Was I abusing all caps somewhere and this is my albatross now? Jeez I'd hate to be that guy....

Mitch Krpata said...

My understanding is that title case was deemed insufficient to communicate the full power of the Hocking drive, necessitating some sort of Michael Buffer-esque amplification.

I want to say it all started with Ben Abraham, but I'm not sure.