When I was playing Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I was so invested in the plight of Lee and Clementine that every choice felt intensely personal. So personal that I was unable to go back and replay the game. Making any other choice just seemed wrong, like a betrayal of the character and myself. It’s good that Lee and Clem are nowhere to be seen in 400 Days (unless that brief flash of a photo on the billboard of a girl with a backpack and hat was in fact Clem) because it allows me to forge a different kind of relationship with the game.
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The story is usually considered the most important part of a Silent Hill game, yet I’ve largely ignored the story of Downpour in my last two posts about the game. That’s not because it’s bad, but because the story really deserves its own post since it’s just as smart and subversive as the combat and level design.
As a kid, I loved miniature playsets. If I had a choice between a full-size action figure and something the size of my thumbnail, I’d take the mini guy every time, which is why I have a soft spot for games that feel like miniature playsets. XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Anomaly 2, Deadlight, and Civilization V are a few that immediately come to mind. What strikes me about all these games is that even though they belong to multiple genres, they’re all largely designed around how we look at things rather than how we interact with things, and that’s an important distinction for this diorama aesthetic. We’re meant to look, but not touch.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a bad game, but it should still be played by people who love this medium because it’s bad in some interesting and uniquely ludic ways. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the death scenes in Tomb Raider might have felt more gratuitous than they actually were because of the gameplay around them, and the same concept applies to everything in Colonial Marines/ It’s a fantastically flawed game in which every poorly implemented system helps bring down every other poorly implemented system.
The most common criticism of the Uncharted games is the dichotomy between the tone of combat and the tone of the cut scenes. In combat, Drake is a killing machine, able to wipe out hundreds of lives with a smirk and smile, and the cut scenes never acknowledge this penchant for mass violence. Such a dichotomy was dubbed “ludonarrative dissonance” in a blog post by Clint Hocking.
On one hand, we can argue that Drake was fighting in self defense since the bad guys usually do shoot first, but on other hand, he does kill so many people. Either way, the criticism went unanswered by Naughty Dog, as each Uncharted fell into the tonal trap. However, The Last of Us feels like a direct response to that criticism because unlike Drake, Joel represents the perfect synthesis of gameplay and character.
// Notes from the Road
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