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

 
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Friday, Jan 14, 2011
Racing games still force players to start with the slowest cars and work their way up. Despite my frustrations, this system works for Hot Pursuit.

I hated Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit at first. I hated the handling, the fact that the cars had a sense of weight and seemed slow to respond. It seemed like bad design, why make it possible to crash into traffic then give me an unresponsive car? I hated how the specs for some cars were “classified.” I was afraid to use them, worried that I’d be tricked into using a slower car. I hated the shortcuts that weren’t actually shortcuts, and the lack of damage compared to Burnout. In short, I hated it because it wasn’t Burnout. But I kept playing.


Eventually it won me over. Once I reset my expectations and took the game on its own merits, as a Need for Speed game and not a Burnout game. Also, I unlocked faster and more responsive cars, so now the game actually does feel comparable to Burnout. It struck me as odd that Criterion would hide the best cars behind a dozen hours of lesser gameplay, hadn’t developers learned not to do this? Super Street Fighter IV had no hidden characters, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has a “short cut” pack that you can buy to instantly unlock all weapons and gadgets. Yet racing games still force players to start with the slowest cars and work their way up. However, despite my frustrations, the more that I think about it, the more that I agree that this system works for racing games or at the very least for Hot Pursuit.


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Friday, Jan 7, 2011
Pigsy was a great supporting character in Enslaved, but he can't support a game all on his own.

So much of what made Enslaved: Odyssey to the West a great game was its characters. Its story would be a close second, but the relationship between Trip and Monkey was easily the most engaging aspect of the game. It’s odd then, that the first major piece of DLC for Enslaved focuses on the only supporting character in the game, the junkyard mechanic Pigsy.


Tagged as: enslaved
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Friday, Dec 24, 2010
In 2010, a few big games seemed willing to take a risk and comment, directly and metaphorically, on current political events. Sadly, only one actually had something to say.

Gaming and politics is not an unusual combination when you think about it. Many games deal with politics, just not real-life politics; politics as a general idea remains oddly popular. Just look at how many games this year revolve around the idea of a revolution:


In BioShock 2, Delta must save Rapture from Sofia Lamb’s perverted collectivism. In God of War 3, Kratos fights to overthrow the monarchy of the gods. In Final Fantasy XIII Lightning and her crew fight against their corrupt government, as does John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. In Fable 3, we’re tasked with violently usurping the throne from our brother, and in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ezio must economically usurp Rome from the Pope.


But none of these plots play out as a meaningful discussion of modern politics. BioShock 2 at least touches upon some interesting political ideas, but even it stays as far away as it can from current events. These plots are really just narrative shortcuts used to make the hero an underdog because who doesn’t love an underdog? Players want to overcome great obstacles in games, and what obstacle is greater than a king, a president, a Pope, or a god?


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Friday, Dec 10, 2010
Metro 2033 creates a world that is both claustrophobic and empty.

Most of Metro 2033 takes place underground in the dilapidated tunnels of Russia’s metro system. Normally this would be a poor setting for a game since metro tunnels are by necessity a repetitive environment. However, while many big budget games take great pains to send the player all over the world during their single player story—to the snow level, the desert level, or the jungle level—Metro 2033 proves that such grand gestures aren’t necessary. Repetitive scenery isn’t repetitive if handled correctly, and Metro 2033 handles it correctly: The tunnels may stay the same but what fills those tunnels is very different; by contrasting the overpopulated metro stations with the desolate tunnels, the game creates a world that feels both claustrophobic and frighteningly empty.


Tagged as: metro 2033
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Friday, Dec 3, 2010
What puts Burnout ahead of other arcade racers like Split/Second and Blur is a single and perfectly implemented mechanic: the ability to ram cars.

I’ve always preferred arcade racing games over racing sims. I can’t bring myself to care about Gran Turismo 5; no matter how many assists it might add for beginners. The subtitle “The Real Driving Simulator” will always be a turn off. The same goes for Forza, Need for Speed: Shift, and Grid. Thankfully, this year saw the release of three high profile arcade racers back-to-back-to-back: Split/Second, Blur, and Mod Nation Racers.  While I admit that I haven’t yet played Mod Nation Racers, when I played the other two games I was so disheartened that I went crawling back to a perennial classic in a desperate attempt to reignite my love of the genre. I bought Burnout: Revenge, and was instantly hooked. Replaying it now, it’s obvious what sets Criterion’s masterpiece (personally I’m not a fan of the open world in Paradise) apart from its competitors. It’s a single and perfectly implemented mechanic: the ability to ram cars.


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