Metacritical

Because games are about more than headshots

Archive for March 2010

Tales from the front: R.U.S.E Open Beta

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Imagine a war.

In this war, tactics are denounced and deception is spurned. Every sector of thr conflict has invisible forces being revealed by flawless spies. Every man on the battlefield has spurned caution, advancing with double speed, resulting in a world where everyone moves twice as fast and no one does. Where you must assume that every unit is a lie, yet none are. Where every unit has an ideal counter unit, yet all units are simply countered with greater numbers.  A war of frustrating ineffectiveness and nullifying countermeasures.

Yet inseparable from this ludicrous conflict are the brutally satisfying blitzkriegs punching through the weak point in an opponents battle lines. The chaotic struggle for aerial supremacy in which fights and bomber become indistinguishable amidst the chaotic dogfight. Where towns are torn apart by opposing artillery lines, locked in a deadly war of attrition on the town’s outskirts. Bases are rushed, supply lines are shattered and impregnable defenses scarcely last only fleeting moments before they’re overrun by a fearsome display of combined arms.

Appropriately, R.U.S.E is an enigmatic dichotomy, which frustrates the mind as much as it gratifies the heart. It’s spectacle is undeniable, it’s competitive elements spurned.  An odd result, for a game designed to deliver much the opposite experience.

PS: Opinion based on a single morning of play.

Written by Aonshix

March 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Faith and Immersion

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For all of the game’s faults Mirror’s Edge had an amazing approach to first person platforming, utilising the immersive nature of the viewpoint uniquely for a platformer. Faith’s heavy breathing accompanied every majestic jump, the screen shook violently whenever you fumbled her landings. Her legs and arms were an ever present companion on your trip through ‘The City’, animated with a fluidity and weight that created the tangibility that underpinned Faith as a character.

The game frustrated a great many people with it’s imprecise combat and occasionally arbitrary geometry, however the general consensus in the official NeoGaf thread was that the platforming was a genuine step forward for the first person perspective and that it should be ‘ taken out of this shitty game and built into a man’s FPS’. Reading this I figured it might be interesting to go back and see whether any recent first person games are actually utilising the refinements of Mirror’s Edge in their movement systems (as one and half years is probably long enough for such elements to be integrated into a development cycle or two).

Sadly, the only first person game which has since put an emphasis on platforming is the oft-maligned Aliens vs Predator (AVP) reboot, which does seem to integrate the elements of the movement which made Faith feel so real. When playing as an Alien players can see their own tail as they quickly turn around, creating the impression that they really are a long, awkward Xenomorph instead of merely a reskinned ‘floating gun’ or ‘bald space marine’. The game can also induce motion sickness (like Mirror’s Edge) which while obviously a negative point for people prone to it, is indicative of the immersive camera work in the title, although this was present in earlier AVP games so it can’t really be taken as a sign of the industry having integrated the lessons of Mirror’s Edge.

Which is a shame, as aside from merely adding believable physicality to a character opening up a world to free movement also helps to add a layer of depth and believability to the world, which often seem to be lacking in a vertical axis, in addition to being fun. Imagine pulling up to a ruined factory in Rage and being faced with a maze of fallen girders and collapsed walls which you had to run, jump and clamber up until you reached the raiders camping out up top, instead of merely heading up the building along an improbable series of flat surfaces and conspicuous ramps.

This month’s issue of Edge revealed that Crysis 2 had adopted a ‘three floors’ game play mantra, in that the majority of the environments have three levels to explore, in order to make New York feel a bit more like the vertical city that it is. Combine Mirror’s Edge style platforming with a ruined New York and the nanosuit.
The realistic environment interactions which comprise the platforming of Mirror’s Edge benefit almost any title, even if only used sparingly. While it makes no sense for Soap to be leaping onto buildings, it does make sense that he’d have a limited climbing ability or that he might slide into cover. It just makes the environment feel more real, the greater agency the player has within it. It’s essentially the opposite of realising that the knee high pile of rubble is actually an invisible wall, which is without a doubt one of the worst moments in gaming.
Immersion, it’s the benefit of the first person perspective. Get on it, developers.

Written by Aonshix

March 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm