It's the end of the year, and you know what that means: awards! Awards for everyone, from everyone! Best graphics, best game featuring Nolan North as a ruggedly handsome scoundrel, worst “arrow in the knee” joke (answer: all of them), etc, etc, etc. Honestly, though, most of the teary eyed, speech-blabbing winners are kind of boring. For example, Portal 2: An undeniably great, but ultimately safe update to a revered franchise. Arkham City: An undeniably great, but ultimately safe update to a revered franchise. Skyrim: An undeniably great, but blah blah blah. You get the point. The following, then, are games didn't land with such a huge splash -- perhaps because they weren't so great, or maybe because they're not even new -- but will almost certainly send out ripples for years to come.
Note: This week's entry contains major Bastion spoilers. If you haven't played Bastion, I recommend that you skip to the third page. Also, while we're at it, warning: This week's entry is three pages long. I may have gotten a bit carried away. If you hate words, I recommend that you skip to the part where you buy Bastion.
Bastion is about moving forward. With every step you take, tiles of all shapes and sizes rise up to meet your footfalls. What lies ahead may be uncertain, but one way or another, you'll make it. Occasionally, you'll encounter former citizens of Caelondia – now frozen in ash, dead to the world in all but appearance. THOCK. The Kid's hammer reduces them to powder in an instant. The Kid presses on – without remorse, as though his old friends and neighbors were no more important than a random crate, shrub, or similarly minor impediment. Meanwhile, Rucks – the narrator – doesn't bat an eyelash, instead opting to list off a factoid or two about the deceased-turned-dust-clouds before dispassionately sweeping the whole incident under the rug. It's all in the past now, and the past only gets in the way.
You there! Yes, you. We can see it: you're glowing. Are you about to give birth to a brand new bouncing baby rig? That sounds terrifying. We usually build ours. Regardless, you can't just put that thing on your desk and let it gather dust. You need to show it off to everyone within a two-mile radius with an audiovisual assault that sends small woodland animals fleeing for higher ground. But where to start? There are so many games and so little time before your machine becomes completely obsolete.
Fortunately, we're here to help. So, without further ado, here are 12 games that'll have your friends going green with envy at your bleeding-edge PC's bulging Technology Biceps. Jump past the break to see them all.
Rare is the man who can look on the bright side after a major media outlet accuses his game of – among other things – causing rape. In fact, until now, we didn't think such a person existed. Enter Epic Games president Mike Capps. With Bulletstorm selling at a steady clip in spite of its status as a risky, unproven new IP, Capps is on top of the world. And who does he have to thank for the newfound spring in his step? Er, well, Fox News, actually.
We wanted to avoid covering this story altogether – our logic, of course, being that Fox clearly wants attention, and it's pulled very similar game-demonizing stunts in the past. But the outlet's misinformation-packed article is everywhere now, and we'd be remiss if we didn't attempt to drop a kernel of actual truth into the mess. So we're not going to talk about Fox or its alleged “experts.” We're not even going to link to its article. Instead, we're going show you some excellent investigative work by the fine folks over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
Epic and People Can Fly may not be giving us a PC demo of their latest over-the-top blast-'em-up, but damn it, this may be better. In order to promote the zany shooter's mix of large guns and larger heaps of profanity, People Can Fly has released Duty Calls, a fully playable riff on... well, you can probably guess which game.
Without spoiling too much, let's just say it's pretty darn spot-on. The “game” is basic and rudimentary, sure, but it's one giant middle-finger-shaped punchline – not the next big blockbuster. And believe us, Duty Calls has it all: random bouts of slow-mo, enemies that pop out of nowhere and stand stock-still, and the best arbitrary ranking system this side of Scientology.
Click here to give it a download, and then have a good laugh. Oh, and People Can Fly, we've gone ahead and saved you some trouble by providing our own fictional back-of-the-box review quote for your fictional game: “The next big blockbuster... Duty Calls has it all... [It is a] game.”
Itching to get your hands on Epic and People Can Fly's upcoming mix of sweet shooting and spicy language? Well, buy a cream or something, because you'll be sitting on the sidelines until the game's February 22 release date.
Xbox 360 and PS3 players' forecasts, meanwhile, see a full-to-bursting storm system on a January 25 collision course with their consoles. So, why are they getting a demo a month early while you have to make a blind purchase almost a month later? Epic's Mark Rein wouldn't say. He did, however, tell Blue's News that there are no plans for a PC demo at this time.
Still though, seems like a rather unfortunate move on Epic's part. We're hardly businessmen, but putting a tangible piece of your new, unproven IP into as many gamers' hands as possible as quickly as possible seems like a no-brainer. Also – while we definitely don't endorse it – too many PC gamers tend to have a “No demo? Ok then, piracy!” policy. Bulletstorm may have gained a reputation for being goofy and somewhat mindless, but that doesn't mean its pre-release build-up should follow suit.
“The money’s on console,” according to Epic president Mike Capps, but the Unreal Engine developer’s heart is still on the PC, says vice president Mark Rein.
“But I think that’s a myth that we’ve abandoned the PC, it’s just not true. I mean, Bulletstorm is coming out on three platforms; we’ve just been in this situation where our biggest franchise [Gears of War] has been published by a console-holder, and was a very console designed-IP,” Rein told Rock Paper Shotgun.
“I wouldn’t want people to mistake that for our intentions or our interests, because we’re very much into the PC game business… Don’t confuse Gears of War with everything we do. There’s a tendency to think that because we wanna do one thing really, really well and not a hundred things really poorly or just okay that we’re less committed. Bulletstorm is PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and you’ll see when it comes out, it will be a full-blown, oh-my-god amazing PC game. I wouldn’t draw the comparisons there.”
Epic, of course, used to be a PC kingpin, using the ever-evolving platform to show off its flashiest tech. Despite Rein’s reassuring words, however, recent years have seen a definite shift in Epic’s priorities, with games like Gears of War 2 and low-priced, incredibly high-quality sidescroller Shadow Complex conspicuously absent from the PC.
The reality of the situation, of course, is that between rising development costs and a rapid upsurge in piracy that makes Mount Vesuvius blowing its top look slow and entirely avoidable, triple-A developers cannot live on PC alone. Epic didn’t sell out, so much as it decided not to commit financial suicide. Rein’s definitely right about one thing, though: Bulletstorm looks fantastic. Could it be a bit prettier if it was a PC exclusive? Sure. But we’re not too broken up over the whole thing. Meanwhile, some of the best , most creative indie devs and modders in the business carry the PC-exclusive torch that Epic once bore, so we win no matter how you look at it.
Videogames have come a long way over the past decade. Nowadays, they can evoke all kinds of subtle, nuanced emotions and convey powerful experiences that have the potential to change the ways we think and feel. They can reveal shocking truths about the world around us, and maybe – just maybe – teach us a little something about ourselves along the way.
Or they can shoot a bunch of burly dudes in slow-mo before coming to the aid of a nearby, nearly dead ally and screaming, “You nearly scared the dick off me!” right in his face. They can definitely do that too.
Yes, Bulletstorm is loud, rude, and proud of it. Everything’s best in moderation, you say? Try telling that to Bulletstorm. It’ll yank you 20 feet into the air and then proceed to juggle you with a series of shotgun blasts, kicks, and unnecessary profanities before letting its good ol’ pal gravity impale you on a nearby cactus. It’s over-the-top. It’s gruesome. It’s ridiculous. It’s far and away one of the best things we saw at E3.