NINE MONTHS! I haven’t updated this blog in Nine Goddamn Months?! Given that I basically live in a WordPress backend these days, you’d think I could spend a few minutes bashing out some sorry excuse for content.
I’ve been recording “daily” videos of PC Spelunky’sDaily Challenge mode, as part of an alternative leaderboard set up by Tom Francis and consisting of various friends, colleagues, and people also doing this thing I call a job now, I guess. You can read the reasoning behind our specific ruleset here, but to summarise: it’s about progress over prosperity. Players are ranked first by how far they got and, in case any die on the same level, by how much they’ve earned.
More than that, it’s a chance to compare how different people utilise and fall foul of Spelunky’s interconnected systems and random generation. The videos are now being published to the Spelunky Explorers Club, a blog collecting up our runs into a neat and easily browsable site. It’s probably a good place to visit if you love Spelunky to a near-obsessive degree.
If, for whatever twisted reason, you don’t like Spelunky, then you’re probably a bit miffed that my first post in nine months was about it.
Slightly missed the window for acceptable end-of-year round-up post timing, but you know how it goes. I’d planned to make “no procrastinating” one of my new year’s resolutions, but never got round to it. Etc.
It’s customary at this point to summarise 2012′s release quality in comparison with other years, and so: 2012 was a year in which games were released. I liked some of them.
Never let anyone tell you that industry analysis is difficult.
10 “Game of the Year” games, in no order, plus a bunch of runners-up, comprised of stuff that was interesting/brilliant, but not interesting/brilliant enough.
A game only counts if it was released on a platform I own this year. It’s a fairly arbitrary ruling, but also the easiest way to keep release dates straight and let me talk about Sword & Sworcery.
DLC doesn’t count. Unless it does. I dunno, I’m making this up as I go along.
I have not played every game released in 2012
I do accept that I’m probably wrong.
Games of the Year of our Lord Twenty-Twelve
I had Spelunky freely available for my PC for years and just never got into it. It took buying an Xbox and paying money for the game for it to click.
Once it did though… well, put it this way. This song is going to haunt certain friends for years:
Many of the funniest gaming moments of the year have arisen from watching Adam get to grips with it. Although, many of the funniest gaming moments of most years have arisen from watching Adam get to grips with something.
Did what it needed to do: resurrected X-Com, did it well, did it as a tactical strategy game and made it hard enough that the familiar sting of losing a trusted soldier really hurt. Also went further by making it accessible for non-strategy fans, and different enough from the original to make the more faithful looking Xenonauts a really interesting prospect. Yes, I’m aware it had some bugs.
HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL… wait, wrong hyper-violent revenge story.
I love sneaking about places far too much to not include this, despite the fact that I’ve still not finished it. Also it feels tighter and thus more replayable than last year’s stealth favourite DX:HR. I look forward to my inevitable “kill everything” run.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
It would have been nice if the PC version wasn’t quite so obviously an iPad port, but whatever, it was still brills. I’ve probably mentioned before how obsessed I can get with games that tie strongly with their soundtrack, so that’s basically what’s going on here. That soundtrack has followed me through most of the year – at least until its composer, Jim Guthrie, released the Indie Game: The Movie soundtrack, which was equally amazing. Basically, Jim Guthrie is the best.
Crusader Kings 2
I’d argue this was my overall game of the year, except I’m acutely aware that having only just clicked with it, I’m experiencing an especially strong case of “HOLY SHIT THIS IS THE BALLS!”
Tying the system driven strategy simulation into feudal family plotting makes for some very special campaign moments. And the antiquated laws of the era means that, more than blind territory wars, it’s the intrigue that pushes both the story of your game and the majority of your actions with it. It’s just a shame that it’s so bloody complicated to get to grips with.
Notepads full of scribbles! Any game that requires me to get out a notepad and take down notes, doodles, workings out, etc. is an instant favourite. Fez not only looks beautiful, but the layer of hidden secrets makes it a compelling world to get lost in.
About the highest compliment I can pay it is that it took me a good few hours before I realised the game had no combat. It felt complete enough without it.
Also: brilliant soundtrack, obviously.
Mass Effect 3
Three games and I didn’t think to take a screenshot of the REAL Shepherd.
Kind of pissed that you seemingly can’t praise Mass Effect 3 without mentioning the ending shitstorm. It didn’t matter. The whole Reaper thing was always stupid. It ended stupidly? You don’t fucking say.
Mass Effect 3 was a game of endings, and while one of them wholesale stole Deus Ex’s deus ex machina route, some of the others – the ones that mattered – were perfect. Mordin’s proud, sad, stoic exit was exactly the right way for him to depart the series. And Thane’s final moments… As the best character from the second game (and the one my Shepherd was sexing), it was emotional. For all the series’ AAA baggage, it hit some properly high notes when it was at its best.
But no, we should really be focusing on the giant robot space gods. Ugh.
Multiplayer was ace too.
The Walking Dead
Why was this the only screenshot I took of the whole game?
If the Mass Effect complaint was that the ending negated the player’s choices, then people really need to take a closer look at The Walking Dead – a game that, more than any other, plays to the “journey not the destination” adage. The most important decisions were exactly the ones that didn’t matter. The small moments.
Well written, with an admirably diverse cast of characters, it was certainly the most emotionally draining game I’ve played since To The Moon. The only problem I have is that the very fact its exceptional is proof of how shit most game stories are.
Er… To be honest, the tenth slot could have easily been filled by half of the games on the runners up list. So fuck it, let’s just have Sleeping Dogs. I’m probably just including it to make a point. I’m probably just including it because I’m an idiot. That and it was this or another indie game, and apparently indie games are mediocre shit now. What, didn’t you get the memo?
A lot of the reviews were, if not dismissive, critical of its generic open-world structure. I actually think it’s a more interesting game than many give it credit for. For starters, there’s the scarcity of guns, which if nothing else gives the combat a more personal vibe. More importantly the scale is right. Your character doesn’t feel too big for the city he inhabits. Scale is something I’ve been kicking around as a topic to explore in depth for a while, but – as you can see – I’ve not fully chewed through all the critical angles yet. Sleeping Dogs gets it right though.
Also, every time I spot a pork bun stand, I’ve taken to grabbing an NPC and slamming them face first into it while shouting “PORK BUNS!” to the chagrin of those in and out of the game. No, I’m not sure why I find this funny either.
The Runners Up
Thomas Was Alone
Strong contender for the shortlist, this.
Loaded it up the other month after a period in the unplayed wasteland. Completed it in one sitting. Charming puzzle-platformer, gets great characterisation out of a bunch of rectangles, and is both genuinely funny and somewhat touching. Proper ace, basically.
PS. This list can apparently also double as my Soundtracks of 2012. Time saver!
Rift: Storm Legion
Strong contender for the shortlist, this.
Currently the only MMO I’m subbed to, and really only getting a mention for two reasons. 1) I didn’t play enough Guild Wars 2. 2) I got a bunch of Level 50 characters for the review. MMOs are ace when you’re at the max level. Why do they even bother making you go through the other shit?
Strong contender… well, you get the idea.
This was probably the most downright lovely game of 2012. The cheery “yoohoo!” of your characters when you complete a puzzle and their cute scurry off screen absolutely made it. Plus, just listen to this:
Just the happiest of games.
Far Cry 3
Fuck this is a long list.
Still a bit unsure on this, hence its relegation to the runners up list. Still not played much of the actual campaign, hence its relegation to the runners up list.
Haven’t played it as much as the first. Suspect that I may be burnt out on Borderlands after the first. Still enjoying it when I do set aside the time though.
So, yeah. Pretty much refer to the million blog posts about why Journey was great. I will say that it’s been good to see the PSN store pursuing some of the weirder boutique titles that typified its first few years.
Papa & Yo
…Like this, which was a moving personal allegory about a drunk, violent father. The imagery totally works. The first time the “monster” rampaged I was genuinely angry at the situation.
It’s not often I’ll criticise a specific review, but this one by IGN completely missed the mark.
“In every respect that matters, DYAD is the only video game you will ever play.”
Basically replaced the space that TF2 once held. Brief sessions of obsession, followed by not playing it for ages. This and Planetside 2 are the two shooters I really want to spend some time on this year.
Wins the award for most shouting caused by a video game in 2012.
I enjoyed it, but spent most of my time thinking how great it would be if combined with Flotilla’s random event system. Flotilla had some ace random events.
This was the perfectly executed, highly focused “worthy” indie game. Hotline Miami was the messier, more sprawling one. Both were great, Hotline made it into the top 10 because I prefer the mess. It’s the Zelda/Skyrim argument on a drastically smaller scale.
Mad, stupid, hilarious in co-op, technically a bit shit. Those first three points do a lot to override the fourth.
30 Flights of Loving
Brilliant story short, stripping away the action to leave disorientating cuts of plot. I’ve spent too long writing this list to even consider any in-depth analysis, so see here and here to read others do it better.
Also, Goldblum mode!
Probably my favourite free game release of the year. To be honest, I think I prefer its take on a pop-punk skating aesthetic to Jet Set Radio’s.
“Hey Phil, does it have an amazing soundtrack?”
Glad you asked.
God, just listen to that frantic chaos.
Brief, intense period of playing this around its initial release, but I’m basically just waiting for the standalone release now.
Picked this up around Christmas, so only played it a bit. Had I played much more, I’m convinced this would have made it into the top list. It’s basically the game Need for Speed: Most Wanted should have been.
Most of the missing games will be stuff I’ve not played but (briefly) here are a few that didn’t make it for legitimate reasons.
Spec Ops: The Line
It was fine. Good story (even though its cultural references weren’t exactly reaching for the stars). Off-puttingly generic third-person shooting. I think I know what exactly it is that turned me off about the game portion of the game, but I’ll save it for a future post.
Assassin’s Creed 3
UGH! To be fair, I’m enjoying it more now I’m sticking to the optional objectives, which tend to actually require some degree of stealth and panache. I am so fucking sick of Ubisoft’s infini-tutorials though, and what the hell is the crafting all about. Ugh.
Remember Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ubisoft? That was the good one. If we have to have annual releases, then just make them like that. Also it would be nice to assassinate a person once in a while.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Biggest disappointment of the year (note: I’ve not played Hitman Absolution yet). It was supposed to be Burnout Paradise 2! Burnout Paradise was great – absolutely amazing in online co-op. NfS:MW isn’t much fun and the online co-op is a mess of annoying playlist menus.
The Secret World
I wish they’d had the conviction to go the Guild Wars 2 route from the start. Cut the chaff, focus on the good stuff, release it as a one off payment with updates as DLC. It’s great that they’ve dropped the sub, but the chaff remains. So much chaff.
So… not done much blogging lately. In my defence, I’m working full time for PC Gamer now, doing the news updates for their website on a daily basis. Plus, writing blog posts takes ages – especially when compared to NOT writing blog posts, which takes literally no time at all. Still, we’ll soldier on.
Here’s some stuff that I have opinions about…
Dishonored: Dunwall City Trials
I’ve not finished Dishonored yet, mostly because I’m compelled to do each mission in one sitting. When you’re scouring every inch of every street, one mission can easily take around 2 hours, which is a not insignificant time commitment.
On the surface then, the City Trials pack was a great concept. It’s almost certainly not what most people wanted from Dishonored’s inevitable DLC, but short mini-missions make for an ideal counterpoint to a longer consequence-driven campaign structure. Plus it’s a great excuse to piss about with weapons and powers that don’t fit with the way I’m trying to play the main game.
It hasn’t quite worked out like that. I haven’t played all the challenges, mostly because one of them involves shooting raining whale oil tanks and who the fuck wants to do that? The others are hit-and-miss in their execution, which makes me wonder why they didn’t try something more focused.
Partly my problem is that I don’t care about races. Dishonored’s mix of blinking and rooftop clambering is great, but it’s in service to stealth – to be pulled off with panache – not something that lends itself to blindly rushing about like a magic Forrest Gump. The only one that really works is the combo drop-stabbing, precisely because time is less important than positioning. The natural route leaves you just short of a 2-star rating. To get more you need to increase your drop height, which means thinking through the surrounding area.
More troubling is that the mansion mission is just outright better than anything else. It’s pure Thief: you’re rated on the amount of tat you steal, and given bonuses for not killing or subduing guards. That gives the game a completely different flavour, and one most people aren’t going to bother with in the campaign itself. You could fill an entire DLC pack with this sort of thing and it would be far more consistent, enjoyable, and, at a guess, much more warmly received. I’m amazed they didn’t.
Far Cry 3
There are three brilliant things in Far Cry 3:
Outposts: large encampments of pirates that must be cleared out by sneaking around and OH SHIT THERE’S A TIGER!
Driving through the world, only to run into a patrolling car of pirates and OH SHIT THERE’S A TIGER!
Hunting, in which you stalk through the jungle looking for your prey – possibly a tiger – and suddenly OH SHIT THERE IT IS! THERE’S THE TIGER! QUICK, KILL IT STAB IT MAKE THE TIGER DIE!
Sometimes non-tiger things happen. They can also be fun… I guess.
It’s a great open world game – one that’s primarily system-driven, gives plenty of scope to tailor your play style and provides loads of possibilities for emergent shit to happen.
It really wants you to know that it’s a game though. It’s like it’s scared of you forgetting it’s a game, in case one day you tell all your friends how many tigers you’ve killed and they’re all, “man, you’ve been killing tigers? What a dick.” Man!
The systems all fit together too neatly. Everything is painfully transparent, and usually accompanied by ENDLESS FUCKING MESSAGES telling you exactly how it all works. There’s no mystery; there’s just a checklist. And as much as enjoy ticking things off of it, it still bothers me.
I don’t want to go to the Medusa, I want to watch tigers kill things. WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?!
Presumably Far Cry 2 has a lot to do with this. That game is, for some reason, deeply unpopular, and it’s clear that much of Far Cry 3 has been designed around the complaints made of its predecessor. They’ve gone too far. As much as I enjoyed FC2, I’ll admit the respawning road checkpoints where a pain. Thing is, it wasn’t because respawning baddies are a bad thing. It was because the frequency of checkpoints was slightly too high and, importantly, they didn’t make for particularly interesting fights. The number of guards stationed at each post was too few to require a tactical plan, but too many to be a quick bit of fun between whatever you were actually doing.
In Far Cry 3, you’ll encounter pirate patrols – a few enemies in a vehicle or out in the jungle – fairly regularly. They’re always in numbers small enough to not be a problem, but with the added danger that a firefight could attract more. It gives you the option to pick how involved in the battle you want to be. Ignore them, then lose them on the road; stalk them, using stealth takedowns to dispatch them without incident; or go loud, safe in the knowledge that there’ll be more things to kill soon. This is ace.
But clearing outposts – which is also ace – reduces the number of pirates in that area, and means your own people will start patrolling it too. It’s a direct response to the Far Cry 2 thing – now you’re creating a safe haven in which the pirates don’t respawn so frequently. You feel like you’re progressing, battling back the forces against you. How fucking boring.
There’s now a big chunk of the island in which I barely need to fight anyone. Even if some pirates do show up, there’s almost always some of my guys killing them before I can. Ugh. I’m starting to avoid capturing outposts – a thing I enjoy doing – just because the result will be a bigger area in which not much will happen. That’s pretty stupid.
It’s odd that Waves didn’t become another indie critical darling. It does everything right: hits its (admittedly narrow) scope, looks crisp, plays fluidly, stands out in a packed genre, has a soundtrack that’s… well, tolerable.
I suspect the problem is that it’s so singularly high-score driven. That’s a hard balance to get right, and not one the game can do anything about. Global high-scores are essentially useless for all but the most committed, so continued enjoyment is entirely down to having a group of people to compete against. Certainly I’d only played around four hours before last week and, had I not noticed an upsurge in friends playing it, it’s unlikely I’d have gone back. Beating my own score is a bit too onanistic. Even for me.
But! Friends! Playing it! That meant my high-scores were in jeopardy!
They were – they are – and that’s great. There’s little as good as the challenge/response of a proper score attack game when matched with a group of people with a similarly improving skill level. It’s also pretty rare for me to find one I’ll commit to. I can think of a few Audiosurf tracks, me and Adam’s unhealthy Joe Danger obsession, and now Waves.
As twin-stick shooters go, it’s fairly simplistic, but elevated by constant tense risk/reward decisions. Killing things builds a combo, which increases your score and grants a bomb attack every 10 levels. But a charged bomb is fleeting, so to make the most of it, you need to be rushing head first into the enemy. This is a stupid thing to do.
Enemies killed by the bomb also increase your combo, creating more bombs in a chain that can – if you can sustain it long enough – ratchet up your score dramatically. Of course, this means tactically leaving things to kill, so that you can come back to them later in your chain. The best way to do this is to leave the Virus undisturbed. The green cells propagate quickly, and are your best source for a quick combo boost. The downside is they reduce the space in which you can manoeuvre, which can be a problem in a game that’s all about quickly dodging through tight gaps.
Then there’s your base multiplier, which increases as you level up. Except it only increases if you roll over the power-up, which disappears after a short time. Can you guess how many times it appears in the centre of an enemy pack? More score boosts can be had with the one-off x2 bonus you get for killing things at point blank range – obviously a bad idea – or if they die while you’re slowing time.
The time dilation – a limited buffer that slowly recharges – is the trickiest skill to get the hang of, but also where Waves gains the tactical edge needed for a lasting score attack game. Obviously it’s biggest use is to escape from enemies that are on a direct collision course. But use it during bomb chains and the score boost is significant. Do you drain your buffer for instant gratification, potentially sacrificing long term survivability, or save it and hope the extra dodging power will outpace the slower score gain?
Right now I’m topping the Survival leaderboard (which, let’s be clear, is the only one that matters) with 185 million to Craig Lager‘s 142. It was only last weekend that the top score was around 25 million. Shit is escalating. Elliot Metson‘s 9 million Crunch Time score is actually going to be the hardest to dethrone. My clever plan is to pretend that no-one gives a shit about Crunch Time.
Unlike Waves, I don’t really care about Super Hexagon’s leaderboards. The game already has a specifically defined challenge: survive 60 seconds without hitting a wall. Going beyond that just seems a bit redundant.
I also think I might have hit my skill limit. Neither the easiest mode, Hexagon, or it’s slightly harder variant Hexagoner seemed beyond reach. Once you’d learned the possible patterns they could throw at you, it was just a matter of refining, getting more consistent and linking them together in an unbroken run. Challenging, but never impossible.
Hexagonest, however, is a proper cock. None of my usual tricks work: your triangle moves faster than normal, which means looking at the peripheries of the screen, hoping to anticipate what’s incoming, can leave you overshooting the small gap of safety. Concentrate on the centre, though, and the next wave will catch you off guard. It seems pitched just outside of my potential reaction times. I threw myself against its geometric walls for half an hour the other day, and probably averaged a seven second life span. And that was an improvement.
Still, it was fun while it lasted. It proves there’s value in tightly executing something small and focused. Soundtrack’s good, too.
PROTOTYPE was brilliant. Yes, I’m aware that when it comes to open-world games, my definition of brilliant overlaps heavily with other people’s definition of really fucking stupid. But come on: you could run up the side of a building with a van, then throw that van thirty feet into a helicopter, then do other dumb shit for hours because video games.
Unsurprisingly, I bought [PROTOYPE® 2] pretty much as soon as it came out on PC. Here’s how the first hour went.
00.00 - Fuck. Opening scene and we’re already setting up some heavy Plot Motivation. Kid and wife, dad in the army, everyone misses everyone, Emotional Resonance. Bet the family cops it before the end of this cutscene.
02.00 - IT’S SO OVERWROUGHT WITH EMOTION.
03.00 - My eyes are rolling so hard right now.
03.30 - So, sit rep. Wife: dead. Kid: dead (Woo! Called it!) Soldier boy: PTSD. Get ready for some light-hearted entertainment people!
03.40 - The internationally recognised facial expression for “dude, I’ve got some problems.”
04.30 - It’s Mercer, protagonist of the first game! He’s chucking tanks about! Now we’re talking.
05.00 - Okay, so our guy Heller’s callsign is Ninja 3-3. That’s pretty badass I guess.
06.00 - “I’m not in Blackwatch.” WE’VE GONE ROGUE! Man, if this was a video game, I bet it’d be really fun to play.
06.30 - It is 2012, therefore stabbing.
07.00 – Assuming direct control. Sort of. I’m running a bit like I’ve pooped myself. Understandable, given the circumstances.
09.00 - Mercer just kicked a helicopter to death. Meanwhile, I’m stuck doing QTEs. Right now Prototype 2 is a fucking brilliant advert for playing Prototype 1.
10.30 - That is one big ass monster. So far, all I’ve had to do is press two buttons at the same time.
12.00 - The game got worried that I was becoming overstimulated. We’re back to moody cutscenes.
12.40 - Mercer has infected me. Not a euphemism.
12.45 – So, fun fact: Prototype 1 eventually revealed that Mercer died at the start of the game, and throughout you’d been playing as the virus that had colonised his corpse and consumed his memories. Basically, Mercer’s just killed this game’s protagonist. What I’m saying is, we can probably drop all this dead wife and kid bullshit. That’s just the latent human talking.
14.30 - First achievement. I’ve probably pressed buttons a total of nine times up to this point. Go me!
16.00 - Oh, for fuck sake. The Blackwatch PMC guys take me back to their military compound, decide I’m too dangerous, try to kill me, then act all surprised when the guy infected with the superpower granting virus THAT THEY KNOW ABOUT kills everything. Good work guys. Really earned your paycheck today.
18.00 - Escape cutscene.
19.00 - Can I punch a tank yet please?
20.00 - Achievement 2! At this point I’ve pressed buttons a total of maybe 30 times.
21.00 - There’s a virus man loose on the street, and the PMC at the centre of it all are worried about graffiti? Is this Blackwatch or LOCOG?
21.30 - One day this game will let me have a fight without pausing to tell me how to perform every single step of that fight.
23.00 - Yes! I am shapeshifting and picking up cars and punching men twenty feet! Now we’re getting somewhere.
25.00 - The game is asking me to do missions. LOL, NO.
26.00 - Whoops, I made a helicopter angry. I’ll be good now.
27.00 - Just dropping into church.
28.00 - Oh god, they’re all talking in serious voices again. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS I WANT TO RIP PEOPLE APART WITH TENTACLES!
30.00 - To drop the petulant child act for a second:
I seriously love running up buildings and gliding about. One of the great things about Prototype is that it’s so easy to slip into a natural rhythm of movement. Just the act of travelling between two areas is satisfying. More than the extreme violence and improbable weapons, it’s an enjoyable system for traversing the sandbox that keeps me coming back to games like this.
The chance release clash of the first Prototype with the PS3 exclusive Infamous became a great opportunity to compare drastically different approaches to making superficially the same game. Both had dumb plots, superpowers and an enjoyable way to get from A to B. But Infamous was more structured; you’d snap to surfaces and grind along rails, Tony Hawking between areas by way of a system that, while more technically adept, was also more obviously gamey. Prototype was more freeform. You could run up, along, diagonally across buildings, jumping, air-dashing and gliding, pulling whatever trick would take your fancy. It was such a seemingly inconsequential thing, but the ability to play, to stamp your own expressive quirk made such a difference. By every critical metric Infamous was a better game, but that never stopped Prototype being the better game.
31.00 - “I’ve got viral sonar.” I think you can get a cream for that.
35.00 - The level to which this tutorial assumes you are a fucking moron is astounding. “Notice how the return pulse is coming from the right.” I had already noticed this! That’s why I was looking to the fucking right! You know, before you forcefully took control of the camera, turned it ninety degrees to the left then told me I should look to the right.
35.05 - In fact, fuck it: new rule. From now on all games have to include an option called “I’ve played games before… I’ll probably just figure it out by pressing buttons until stuff happens.” This rule counts double for Assassin’s Creed games, which have a habit of showing tutorial prompts throughout the entire game.
40.00 - Oh god, I did start pressing things randomly, and now I’ve found the gore surf. You jump on the back of some guy, then ride him along the ground in a shower of blood. Look, we might as well just end this here, because I know what I’m going to be doing for the next twenty minutes.
42.00 - Wait! A BLACKBOX is nearby. Apparently a few will trigger a MUTATION that will make HELLER extremely POWERFUL. This game REALLY loves to all-cap words. Still, don’t want to pass up extreme POWER.
42.30 - Found it. Back to gore surfing.
45.00 - Fine, I’ll do a mission now.
45.05 - My quest giver is a priest. He’s intercepted a transmission from Blackwatch. How is that a thing a priest can do?
46.00 - Oh snap! Blackwatch are releasing monsters to chow down on the populace. I’d be appalled, but I’ve just spent five minutes grinding people’s faces into the pavement.
47.30 - CLAWS!
49.00 - Okay, in my haste to slice up everything in the goddamn world, I seem to have lost my mission objective. This is kinda embarrassing. I’m meant to slice up a specific guy, which means I haven’t sliced up all the guys. That seems like a massive failing on my part. Oh well, I can just reload the checkpoint.
52.00 - Um, something isn’t right here.
58.00 - So I stopped playing Prototype 2 a few minutes ago. I’m now playing How The Fuck Do You Fucking Fix Prototype. It turns out I did slice up the right dude, but was meant to do it in another stupid tutorial bit which never triggers, so the game never updates the objective. The only suggested fix I can find is dropping the game’s affinity down to a single core – because it’s 2012, so obviously you can’t expect a game to run properly on multi-core processors. It seems to work for some people. It doesn’t work for me.
1:00.00 - Er… This is a slightly more despondent ending than I’d hoped for.
My review of Sniper Elite V2 went up on PC Gamer’s website last week. Normally I’d leave it at that, but because of my tendency to hammer the screenshot button when anything vaguely interesting happens on the screen, I inadvertently created a full photo diary of the game’s campaign.
Here then, is the full Sniper Elite experience. Um, sort of.
A relatively muted start. Cold, clean, professional, and only light skeletal gore. I am doing excellent sniping.
OK, there it is. This man’s entire head appears to be disintegrating. Hooray?
Damn, missed the headshot! Luckily humans have loads of other parts vital for their continued operation. What I’m learning from this extended trip through Nazi innards is that Germans obviously didn’t smoke.
This shot was so awesome that I got an achievement. Deadeye, geddit? Because I shot him in the eye. And he’s dead.
That I find it so hard to resist making some sort of broken heart joke clearly shows that months of coming up with crap puns for review titles and screenshot captions has ruined me. Also: ugh, gross.
This picture is all about the anticipation. You’ve got the tiny blood spurt at the point of incision, but you just know any second his entire face is going to explode in a shower of organic debris. Yeah, that’s what you like, isn’t it gamers? Admit it.
So it seems like I shot this guy in the teeth… God I’m a dick.
Well this shot’s got it all. Old buildings, moody lighting, a soft focus around on skull fragments. Eat your heart out Dead End Thrills.
Sniper Elite V2 is set in the last few days of World War 2. All I’m saying is that this guy was probably one day from retirement.
Huh, another guy helplessly vomiting up blood. Seems to be an epidemic around these parts.
Peel back that troublesome muscle and tissue to the locked grin of the skeleton beneath, and they seem almost serenely accepting of their fate. I’m sure that isn’t a worrying subconscious message or anything.
It’s finally happened. I’ve been completely desensitized to skeletal violence. I’m a monster.
This guy was auditioning for the part of Zombie Extra #32 just before he was shot. An acting career cut tragically short.
SEV2 was released too early. A video montage of killcam violence would have made a fine crescendo to this year’s E3. Instead we had to settle for Kratos repeatedly stabbing an elephant man in the brain.
This is one of those moments where the game shrugs its shoulders and says, “yeah, you killed him I guess. Oh, where did you shoot him specifically? I dunno, in the body somewhere. Whatever.”
Never bring a pistol to an asshole fight.
Just when you think SEV2 has nothing left to offer, half a man’s skull falls off and you get a nice look at the brains inside.
We’re about halfway through. If it hasn’t already become obvious, the game isn’t cherry picking the “best” of your shots for the killcam treatment. It happens all the time. I’d estimate at least half my kills were part of its slow-mo production of Goretasia. Which means, as well as being morally reprehensible, it’s also really boring.
This whole thing is starting to seem like that bit from The Day Today. Is this cool? Is it cool? Does it really look cool?
A surprising message of unity begins to emerge. Russian? German? Doesn’t matter, we’re all the same in the end. Full of soft flesh and fragile bone.
I think… I think I shot this dude in the armpit. Is that fatal? How the hell did we become this advanced if we can die from a broken armpit?
This guy’s not even armed! He was having a pretend gunfight in the street with his friend when bam! Some bastard shot him.
More teeth shots. YAWN. Shooting a man in the face is no longer enough to sate my blood lust.
It is! The armpit is a confirmed kill point! What the fuck is in there that is so essential? Sweat glands?
I can’t figure out what Rebellion were trying to do with this camera thing. Depressingly, I suspect that someone thought it would be “awesome,” in which case, serious guys, what the fuck? I suppose there’s an outside chance that they thought the gratuitous, lingering violence would somehow speak to the depravity of war. If so, they missed the mark spectacularly. They should have used my idea of displaying a short synopsis of each soldier’s life on each kill. “This man had a wife and two children.”
A rare kidney shot. “Luca had adopted an orphaned puppy he’d found wondering the streets of Berlin. He had named her Lena, after his sister, who had died three years earlier during the Allied bombing of Lübeck. When the war ended, he planned to move back to his parents’ countryside farm to care for his ailing mother.”
“This guy enlisted because he really hates the Jewish. He was a complete prick, and was having an affair with that first guy’s wife. This one’s a freebie. You can feel good about killing this arse.”
I don’t remember where in the game this happened, but I like to think this soldier was cowering in a cupboard under the stairs, hoping to avoid the crazed gunman that was systematically killing his friends. Then Bang. His eyes fall out.
So I’m pretty sure that the soldiers on the turrets were respawning. I had something like nine other screenshots of turret-based head explosions before I decided to press on to the objective.
I’m not generally a squeamish person, but I have a definite thing about eyes. So yeah, the occasional display of them dislodging from people’s heads definitely didn’t make me want to throw up on myself.
Hooray, more brains! I am doing well at a video game!
I wonder if in Sniper Elite 3 they’ll have improved the engine to the point that we can see what that soldier had for dinner.
Come to think of it, this was basically the World War 2 equivalent of Happy Slapping.
The last level. Clearly I’d gotten good by this point. Ugh.
Incidentally, the full game had the option to perform a “nut shot“. In the review copy, you could kill a man by shooting him in the plums, but as far as I know there was no X-Ray reward for doing it. On the one hand that feels like some small mercy. On the other, with a DLC level that featured Hitler himself, I missed a spectacular opportunity for a one ball gag.
And we finish with a full facial. So to speak.
Here’s to you, Karl Fairburne! A true American hero.