Open world games have a certain flow of combat to them. We can’t just hide behind cover since the enemy can always circle around behind us. Instead, players must always be aware of their surroundings. But we can’t just “push ahead” to the end of the level either because there is no end of the level. Open world combat is defined by movement: moving around enemies, moving between obstacles, always making sure to keep something between you and the bad guys. Despite all the space in any open world, combat plays out in smaller arenas defined by the location of enemies; the arena is only as big as the farthest enemy. Red Faction: Armageddon mimics this combat structure of an open world game in an attempt to make up for its lack of a real open world, but in doing so, it misses the real reason why open world combat can be so fun.
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While games like Far Cry 2 or Minecraft create beautiful stories by leaving the vast majority of the plot and game dynamics up to the player, heavily-scripted games must convey their messages by carefully constructing narratives supported by their most basic components. Every decision, even ones that seem obscure or incidental, are integral in communicating a linear game’s rules as thematic elements. As an example, we can analyze God of War III’s camera and how it functions as both a tool to explain game systems and as a storytelling device.
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“There’s something I don’t understand going on here,” Theresa said. “I have my theories, but clearly there’s a lot I just don’t know. Yet. But from what I can tell, it’s something pretty extraordinary, does that sound right?”
They were in the cafeteria, getting coffee. She’d motioned for PB and Randal to follow her out of QA and they’d done it like they were her squad mates or something. Now she pointed them towards a table where they sat in two chairs, looking up at her as she stared down at them.
“That sounds about right,” PB said, sipping his coffee.
Theresa continued talking almost right over PB, as if his confirmation were of trivial concern at best. “It’s not a hacker. It’s not someone inside the building screwing with us, some rotten egg employee.” Again Randal couldn’t tell if she was asking questions or stating facts. “And it’s certainly not some run of the mill bug in the code.”
While a lot has been said about the infamous “No Russian” chapter of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (indeed, I had my say shortly after the game released in 2009), perhaps less has been written about some of the other sequences in the game, like the chapters that concern defending the homefront.
In large part, I am thinking of the “Wolverines” chapter but also a few of the others that concern defending suburbia from the Russian horde. What made me think of these chapters again was watching the E3 Microsoft media briefing, which featured some live gameplay of Modern Warfare 3. A brief moment in the playthrough featured the player surfacing off the coast of what I assume to be the United States and sighting the ruined skyline of a major U.S. city (New York, I think?).
It seems that the Modern Warfare series is interested in some way in “personalizing” the experience of combat for the player by placing him in environments that feel like home, both unsettling the player but also evoking a strong emotional reaction as a result of the realization that what he is doing is defending a space that, for most middle class Americans, feels normally pretty secure.
Thursday, 3:50pm. South Hall, Electronic Entertainment Expo.
“Like I said over Twitter,” a colleague tells me over the hack-and-slash din of the Square Enix fortress behind us, “Nothing says ‘first world’ like a job where you delete bad images from 4chan for a living.”
He’s got a point, and maybe I do complain about my job too much. There is indeed something distinctly “first world” about being a moderator for a casual MMO, or for that matter, a journalist for a gaming website, grappling with the noise and pulsating lights and body heat of a crowded expo floor. Even so, I’m gagging.