This is a good year for stealth games with Dishonored, Hitman: Silent Assassin, and kinda-sorta-maybe Assassin’s Creed III, if you still consider that a stealth game. But the best stealth game of the year just might be an XBLA game that flew under the radar for a lot of people. Mark of the Ninja is both complex and reductionist, trimming out all the complications of a 3D world for a 2D world filled with more visual cues than any stealth game before it, and in stripping away that extra dimension the game makes it easier to embrace its many complex systems.
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Walking is complicated. It only seems easy because so much of it is automated. Thanks to games like QWOP, which gives me direct control over the muscles I use when walking, I have a new appreciation for my ability to walk two steps without falling.
We turn the same blind eye to movement in video games or at least to the movement in most blockbuster games. Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, Borderlands, The Darkness, and any other shooter than came out this year all feel good to play. Most shooters feel good, and over time it’s become something I take for granted. That is, until I played a pair of Xbox Indie games that unintentionally revealed the many potential pitfalls and complications of simple video game movement.
In Borderlands you played as a true mercenary, someone with no home and no central base of operations. You were a traveler. As such, I loved the lack of any big storage container. The game forced you to keep only the things you could carry; everything else must either be sold or dropped. This worked well with the setting and even more so with gameplay, since the whole point of loot is that it gets replaced. But people complained and Gearbox added a storage vault in the game’a Moxxi’s Underdome DLC. The vault didn’t ruin anything, but it did undermine my role as a mercenary traveler.
Borderlands heavily hyped itself as a shooter-RPG hybrid. I still remember that first tagline: “The shooter and the RPG had a baby.” Since I played the first game as a mostly solo experience, I was able to take my time and embrace this mixing of genres. Boderlands 2 provoked a kind of zeitgeist among my friends when it came out; nearly everyone on my Friends List was playing it nearly every day. So this time I was able to play the four player co-op from the beginning and experience a side of Borderlands that I hadn’t seen.
At the risk of sounding misanthropic: I hated it. In my experience, groups of two or more tended to play Borderlands 2 as a shooter, while I still wanted to play it as an RPG. Suddenly the contrasts between these genres became obvious and detrimental. Borderlands 2 was no longer a shooter-RPG hybrid, but a shooter impeding on my RPG.
On Wednesday, fellow PopMatters writer G. Christopher Williams wrote about remembering to save often in Dishonored, a post that seemed oddly prescient considering my own experience with XCOM: Enemy Unknown (“Remember to Save Often”: The Meta-Game Tactics of Dishonored, PopMatters, 7 November 2012).
When beginning a new game of Enemy Unknown you’re asked to pick between four difficulties: Easy, Normal, Classic, or Impossible, but this list doesn’t do the game justice. Its difficulty is actually more varied than just those four general categories. The real difficulty level constantly fluctuates depending on how much time the player wants to invest in “save-scumming,” the process of saving and reloading constantly to ensure things go your way.
// Channel Surfing
"A busy episode in which at least one character dies, two become puppets, and three are trapped and left for dead in an unlikely place.READ the article