CFP: The Legacy of Radiohead's 'The Bends' 20 Years On [Deadlines: 29 Jan / 12 Feb]

 
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Friday, Jun 24, 2011
Alice's hair says a lot about her character.

This post contains minor spoilers for Alice: Madness Returns


Alice: Madness Returns is not a technically impressive game. The landscape is blocky, filled with sharp edges and screen tearing. Textures don’t load properly, turning what should be a stylized rock into a brown/grey blob. Amongst all this poor quality, Alice herself shines. Her dress is always detailed, its every stitch and fold noticeable, and it flutters with every gust of virtual wind. But it’s her hair that stands out most. It looks like every strand is modeled separately, and based on how realistically it moves, one might assume that every available programmer was working on hair physics, ensuring that every strand would fall over her shoulder rather than through it. Their attention to detail is commendable; in a level that takes place underwater, Alice’s hair floats around when you stop moving.


However, what’s most interesting about Alice’s hair tech is how much it supports the gameplay and character development in this title.


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Friday, Jun 17, 2011
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.

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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Friday, Jun 10, 2011
L.A Noire is a rare game that doesn’t let us into the head of its protagonist.

Avatars must be honest with their players. No matter who they lie to over the course of the game, they’re always honest with us. We know our avatar intimately but are also limited by what they know. If they don’t know that they’re a secret villain or hero, then we won’t either until the big reveal. It’s very difficult to have an unreliable avatar in games because he/she is our only connection to the game world. If they are not to be trusted, then what is? No matter what persona they put on for others, we know their true self. We play as their true self.


Consider John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. In the beginning, Marston is a mysterious cowboy, but over the course of the game, we learn about his wife, his son, and his desire to live a peaceful life. Marston says he wants to leave his violent past behind him, but during all the moments that we’re in control, he’s surrounded by and causes violence. This disconnect between his words and his actions reflects the core philosophical question that Red Dead Redemptions asks its players: Can we leave the past behind? The game clearly answers “no.” Marston is not actually a family man—that’s just a persona he puts on among family. The real John Marston is the man we control, the man of violence. The player sees the avatar for who he really is; there are no secrets between them.


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Friday, Jun 3, 2011
The puzzle parts of Clash of Heroes allow the strategy parts to be shrunk down so they fit on a single game board.

All strategy games are puzzle games at their core. Even if the former are more mechanically complex, you’re still always faced with a specific problem and have to figure out the best solution to overcome it. So it makes sense that both genres would eventually be combined in an explicit way. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is hardly the first game to combine blatant puzzles with an overarching strategy, but it takes a very clever approach to the issue. This is a strategy game through and through, but on a very small scale, that’s only possible because the puzzle mechanics replace the large scale elements of most strategy games.


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Wednesday, Jun 1, 2011
Forget trying to read Wikipedia for the articles. The real story of the human condition is found in their behind-the-scenes creation.

I should establish right up front that it’s not that I don’t seriously value Wikipedia. Quite the contrary.


Those that do not—I suspect—are mostly people not old enough (or perhaps not trivia-loving enough) to remember back when gathering info on the most picayune of subjects involved a race to see if you could get to the library card-file drawers before the mice did. At least, you hoped it was mice.


If you didn’t actually feel like playing “name that mystery stain” that day, and you wanted more than the most cursory People profile on your latest pop-cult obsession, you had to go inquire of a person whose body language totally blared “I just got out of the convent, and what do you want?!” in giant neon letters. Then, of course, it turned out—once the first computerized catalogues sputtered into greenish pixilated life—that the convent had not offered IS courses.


Trust me, kiddies, it was awful.


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