Bioshock http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/1417/ en Graphics Porn (January 2015): Other Places http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_january_2015_other_places <!--paging_filter--><h3 style="margin: 0px 0px 5px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 21px; vertical-align: baseline; letter-spacing: -0.05em; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-weight: normal; color: #990000; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;"><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;"><img src="/files/u162579/graphics_porn.png" alt="Other Places" title="Other Places" width="250" height="223" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">Andy Kelly's <a href="http://www.otherplaces.co.uk/" target="_blank">Other Places</a> is an homage to the beauty of video games. In fact, the PC Gamer writer calls the project: "A series celebrating beautiful video game worlds." We're inclined to agree and we've decided to showcase some of his greatest works in this month's <strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/graphics_porn" target="_blank">Graphics Porn</a></strong>. They're not exactly screenshots, but Andy's videos capture these places in a way that photographs cannot. The videos range from compilations to well-edited footage of specific locations like Far Cry 4's Kyrat.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><em><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">Whether you've been using&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-color: transparent; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/5047/" target="_blank">Steam's nifty screenshots feature</a><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">&nbsp;or simply print screening some beautiful wallpaper-worthy game moments, we want to be able to share your captured works of art with the world. If you think you can do as well as (or better than) the pictures submitted below, please email your screenshots to&nbsp; </span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-color: transparent; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="mailto:mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com</a><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent;">&nbsp;so we can show them off. Make sure to include the name of the game, a title for the screenshot, and a description of what's happening on-screen.</span></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_january_2015_other_places#comments Andy Kelly Bioshock dayz Dishonored Graphics Porn Other Places Skyrim Features Fri, 30 Jan 2015 19:12:35 +0000 Ben Kim 29138 at http://www.maximumpc.com 15 Games We Recommend for Halloween http://www.maximumpc.com/15_games_we_recommend_halloween_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u166440/zombie.jpg" alt="Zombie" title="Zombie" width="200" height="177" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>Turn off the lights and get scared with these games</h3> <p>October is finally here and it's time to consume enormous amounts of confectionaries without the usual guilt, even if it is accompanied by a bit of nausea. Leading up to Halloween, it is hard not to get into the mood by watching scary movies (<em>Exorcist</em>, anyone?), listening to spooky songs (how about the Marilyn Manson version of “This Is Halloween”?), or maybe reading a story or two by Edgar Allen Poe.</p> <p>Yet, while there are plenty of great books, movies, and music that suit the ghoulish atmosphere perfectly, we feel that nothing compares to the experience of playing a scary video game. Whether it's fighting off zombies, dealing with the paranormal, beheading zombies, fighting aliens, shooting zombies, encountering all kinds of monsters, and trying to survive zombies, there's a good selection of nightmarish games to choose from.</p> <p>Naturally, there are many MMOs and multiplayer games that will sometimes have Halloween events such as World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, and Dota 2, but for our list, we decided to choose titles that don't shoehorn Halloween elements into their gameplay.</p> <p>So here are 15 games, in alphabetical order, that we recommend you check out and play during the Halloween season.&nbsp;</p> <p>What games do you like to play during the month of October?</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/15_games_we_recommend_halloween_2014#comments 15 games for Halloween Alan Wake Alice: Madness Returns Alien Isolation Amnesia Bioshock dayz dead space Don’t Starve doom 3 F.E.A.R. 3 halloween left 4 dead 2 Metro 2033 Redux natural selection 2 October outlast Project Zomboid scary Features Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:22:59 +0000 Sean D Knight 28770 at http://www.maximumpc.com The 11 Best Videogame Water http://www.maximumpc.com/11_best_videogame_water_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Virtual water so beautiful, you'll be able to drown in it</h3> <p>Your fancy GPU maybe be able to render billions of pixels and triangles a second, but you’re not showing off its full technical power unless there’s something pretty to look at. You know what’s pretty to look at? Videogame water, specifically good videogame water.&nbsp;</p> <h3><img src="/files/u154082/crysis_water.jpg" alt="crysis water" title="crysis water" width="620" height="271" /></h3> <p>We’ve reached a point where videogame water is looking so wonderful and realistic, that it seems like you could drink from it, nay, drown in it even.</p> <p>Not all videogame water is created equal, however. To suss out which virtual H20 is worth your GPU’s rendering time, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 best videogame water. In addition to the pictures and descriptions below, make sure to check out the links for videos to see what the water looks like in action.</p> <p>What’s your choice for best videogame water? Let us know in the comments below!</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/11_best_videogame_water_2014#comments 11 best videogame water assassin's creed IV black flag Bioshock Brothers tale of two sons Crysis Dear Esther Empire total war Hydrophobia Prophecy The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim The Witcher 2 Tomb Raider videogame water water Features Mon, 11 Aug 2014 22:36:34 +0000 Sean D Knight and Jimmy Thang 28210 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (July 2014): Showcasing Screenshot Artist K-putt http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_july_2014_showcasing_screenshot_artist_k-putt <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/featuredkputt.jpg" alt="Kputt Crysis 3" title="Kputt Crysis 3" width="250" height="250" style="float: right;" /></span></h3> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">He's a hobbyist who's concerned with capturing the beauty of Crysis, Wolfenstein, Bioshock, and more</span></h3> <p>For some people, screenshots are just a way to capture a moment of hilarity, success, or good lighting. For others, screenshots are an emerging art form. <a href="https://secure.flickr.com/photos/k_putt/" target="_blank">K-putt</a> falls into the second category and has built up a huge body of work that spans games of all genres. This month’s installment of <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/graphics_porn" target="_blank">Graphics Porn</a> delves into the expansive archives of the 23-year-old German moonlighting as a screenshot artist.&nbsp;</p> <p>He won’t give his real name—and that’s probably not the worst idea considering the influx of <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/nsa" target="_blank">mass surveillance</a>—, but he’s happy to share some of his greatest screenshots of all time. K-putt traces his history as a screenshot artist back to a German-language forum where he uploaded what began as run-of-the-mill screencaps of gameplay. Everything changed when he first laid eyes on screenshots that weren’t just about capturing a particularly satisfying headshot or ragdoll gone wrong—see some of his own examples below.</p> <p>He transitioned to the, now defunct, Dead End Thrills group on Flickr and eventually the <a href="http://www.deadendthrills.com/forum/" target="_blank">Dead End Thrills forum</a>. It’s a community dedicated to capturing the jaw-dropping, GPU-killing screenshots that we highlight with Graphics Porn. The <a href="http://www.deadendthrills.com/forum/discussion/42/site-rules-and-guidelines-read-before-posting" target="_blank">site-wide guidelines</a> provide some sense of the &nbsp;lengths that these veritable artists go to ensure worthy results. Rules like: no HUDs, no ‘jaggies’, and even “Their art, your composition,” define the nature of the game for these hobbyists.&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite some of the spectacular shots he’s taken, K-putt is still running an AMD 7950 in his rig. The 2-year-old graphics card is supplemented by the substantially beefier Xeon 1230v3 and 8GB of RAM. He says that he’s waiting for 16 nm GPUs or DX12-ready cards before he upgrades.&nbsp;</p> <p>Enough with the words, it’s time to move onto the spectacular pictures that we’ve been talking about. Check out some of K-putt’s best shots in the gallery below and comment with your favorites! Make sure to click through to the Flickr pages to see the images in their entire high-resolution goodness.</p> <div> <p style="margin: 0px 0px 10px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><em>Whether you've been using&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none;" href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/5047/" target="_blank">Steam's nifty screenshots feature</a>&nbsp;or simply print screening some beautiful wallpaper-worthy game moments, we want to be able to share your captured works of art with the world. If you think you can do better than the pictures submitted below, please email your screenshots to &nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none;" href="mailto:mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;so we can show them off. Make sure to include the name of the game, a title for the screenshot, and a description of what's happening on-screen.</em></p> <p style="margin: 0px 0px 10px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><em>Follow Ben on&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none;" href="http://twitter.com/benjkim" target="_self">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none;" href="https://plus.google.com/+BenKimJ/" target="_blank">Google+</a>.</em></p> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_july_2014_showcasing_screenshot_artist_k-putt#comments Bioshock Crysis Graphics Porn K-putt maximum pc screen screenshot shot wolfenstein Features Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:26:04 +0000 Ben Kim 28202 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (June 2014): Skyrim, Legendary, Terasology, and More http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_skyrim_legendary_minecraft_and_more_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/skyrim_dragon_flame.jpg" alt="Skyrim Dragon Flame" title="Skyrim Dragon Flame" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p>For this month's <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/graphics_porn" target="_blank">Graphics Porn</a> round-up, we've got submissions from games that range from Legend to the ever-popular Skyrim. These screenshots are submitted by you, the reader. So we'd like to thank everyone who submitted.</p> <p>Whether you've been using <a href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/5047/" target="_blank">Steam's nifty screenshots feature</a> or simply print screening some beautiful wallpaper-worthy game moments, we want to be able to share your captured works of art with the world. If you think you can do better than the pictures submitted below, please email your screenshots to &nbsp;<a href="mailto:mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;so we can show them off. Make sure to include the name of the game, a title for the screenshot, and a description of what's happening on-screen.</p> <p><em>Follow Ben on <a href="http://twitter.com/benjkim" target="_self">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/+BenKimJ/" target="_blank">Google+</a>.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_skyrim_legendary_minecraft_and_more_2014#comments arkham origins beautiful Bioshock Dishonored fraps Graphics Porn gta 5 pictures screencaps screenshots Skyrim Terasology videogame Features Mon, 23 Jun 2014 20:18:22 +0000 Ben Kim 27868 at http://www.maximumpc.com Ken Levine Disbands Irrational Games, Studio Behind BioShock http://www.maximumpc.com/ken_levine_disbands_irrational_games_studio_behind_bioshock_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/bioshock_infinite_2.jpg" alt="BioShock Infinite" title="BioShock Infinite" width="228" height="239" style="float: right;" />Turn out the lights, the party's over</h3> <p>Talk about a (Bio)shock to the system -- <strong>Irrational Games, the studio responsible for the BioShock series, is officially closing up shop</strong> after close to two decades of game development. Co-founder Ken Levine delivered the sad news to the gaming community in a blog post today, saying he's at a point where he needs to refocus his energy on a smaller team with a more direct relationship with gamers.</p> <p>Irrational Games' parent company 2K Games, which is a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, is disbanding the team, save for around 15 people. The original team's last effort will be a DLC pack for BioShock Infinite that's about to be rolled out. Beyond that, the future of the BioShock series will be in the hands of 2K Games.</p> <p>"I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it. I’ll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two. That is going to mean parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team," <a href="http://www.irrationalgames.com/" target="_blank">Levine said today</a>. "There’s no great way to lay people off, and our first concern is to make sure that the people who are leaving have as much support as we can give them during this transition."</p> <p>Levine said he originally planned on going the "classical startup" route. However, Take-Two said it was willing to fund his venture and convinced him to stay within its walls.</p> <p>"If we're lucky, we'll build something half as memorable as BioShock," Levine said.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="https://plus.google.com/+PaulLilly?rel=author" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Paul.B.Lilly" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/ken_levine_disbands_irrational_games_studio_behind_bioshock_2014#comments Bioshock business games irrational games Ken Levine Software News Tue, 18 Feb 2014 19:43:04 +0000 Paul Lilly 27285 at http://www.maximumpc.com Scariest Video Game Moments http://www.maximumpc.com/scariest_video_game_moments__2013 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u160391/shodan-hackers.jpg" alt="SHODAN" title="SHODAN" width="250" height="164" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>21 spooky gaming moments to spice up your Halloween</h3> <p>We've all had moments during a particularly awesome <a title="scary pc games" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/top_13_scary_pc_games_2013" target="_blank">scary PC game</a> where we've been caught by surprise. We've had moments of sheer terror, when our hearts find their way into our throats and make a home there, and the sweaty, shaking hands to prove it. We keep going back though, because we want more.</p> <p>We can't wait to see what's coming up next. While there's a veritable cornucopia of examples of these moments, however, some stand above the rest as exemplary. We've rounded up twenty of those for you to peruse for <strong>Halloween</strong>, so in between candy breaks and horror-movie marathons, think back on these spine-tingling moments. Relive the fear. Take it all in, and remember -- they're just games.</p> <p>If you're interested in re-acting some of these scary moments, check out the <a title="steam halloween sale" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/Steam_Halloween_Sale_2013" target="_blank">Steam Halloween sale</a> that's going on now. Do you have a favorite scary game moment? Let us know in the comments below!&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/scariest_video_game_moments__2013#comments Bioshock feature halloween PC gaming scary game moments system shock thief video games Gaming Features Wed, 30 Oct 2013 19:22:06 +0000 Brittany Vincent 26597 at http://www.maximumpc.com BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1 coming Nov. 12 http://www.maximumpc.com/bioshock_infinite_burial_sea_-_episode_1_coming_nov_12_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/untitled-1.jpg" alt="Burial at Sea" title="Burial at Sea" width="200" height="113" style="float: right;" /></span></h3> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Return to Rapture with Booker and Elizabeth</span></h3> <p><strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/bioshock_infinite_review_2013" target="_blank">BioShock Infinite</a></strong>’s first story-driven DLC is hitting the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on Nov. 12. BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1 will give you the opportunity to explore Rapture “on the eve of its fall from grace.” Think of it as a prequel to BioShock and BioShock 2.&nbsp;</p> <p>It’ll be available for $14.99, or as part of the Season Pass which costs $35 and will include both <em>Burial at Sea</em> episodes and the already available challenge-based Clash in the Clouds add-on as well as the Early Bird Special Pack with weapon upgrades and skins.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/hSou7NmhOkg?rel=0" width="620" height="465" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>“This is a love letter to the fans, but it’s also the beginning of a story that will give gamers a new perspective on the <em>BioShock</em> universe,” said Ken Levine, creative director of Irrational Games. “With <em>Burial at Sea</em>, we built a Rapture not from <em>BioShock</em> and <em>BioShock Infinite </em>scraps and pieces, but with environments almost entirely crafted from scratch.”</p> <p>What makes <em>Burial at Sea</em> particularly interesting is that Irrational has moved away from the faster-paced combat of vanilla <em>BioShock&nbsp;Infinite</em> in favor of more stealth and resource management.</p> <p><em>Follow Ben on <a href="http://twitter.com/benjkim" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/bioshock_infinite_burial_sea_-_episode_1_coming_nov_12_2013#comments Bioshock BioShock Infinite Burial at Sea DLC episode 1 irrational games Gaming News Fri, 25 Oct 2013 21:45:35 +0000 Ben Kim 26574 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Game Boy: Headcrabs, Deathclaws, and Bears – Oh My http://www.maximumpc.com/article/gaming/game_boy_headcrabs_deathclaws_and_bears_%E2%80%93_oh_my <!--paging_filter--><div style="margin-top: 8px; margin-right: 8px; margin-bottom: 8px; margin-left: 8px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; "> <p style="text-align: center; "><img src="/files/u46190/halflife2.jpg" width="620" height="349" style="border-style: initial; border-color: initial; " /></p> <p>Gordon Freeman is a coward. Or at least, he is when I play him. It's those damn poison headcrabs. As soon as they start hissing – shrouded in darkness, probably fresh off the assembly line from some Nightmare Factory – I turn into an orange-and-black blur and beeline for the nearest corner to cry in. When Alyx is around, I push her into the poison headcrab's Terror Lair and hide until she makes the bad things that can kill me in two hits go away. Meanwhile, in real life, &nbsp;I lean away from the screen until my spine feels like it's recently been on the receiving end of a Mortal Kombat Fatality. If you haven't gotten the picture yet, I&nbsp;<em>really, really</em>&nbsp;don't like poison headcrabs. &nbsp;</p> <p>I love, however, that they exist. Half-Life 2's enemies in general are some of the most memorable I've ever encountered. In fact, I haven't experienced such a visceral reaction to any game enemy since.&nbsp;</p> <p>And that's a problem.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Iconic enemies can define a whole level – or even an entire game.</strong> The headcrab's a perfect example. Sure, it may (head) crib a few attack strategies from Alien's facehugger, but excellent art/audiovisual design and level placement elevated it far beyond a mere face-munching me-too. Among gamers, the cuddly-as-it-is-horrifying jumping bean&nbsp;<em>from hell</em>&nbsp;is basically a cultural phenomenon.&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, what's our hyper-advanced modern gaming scene bringing to the figurative dog show? Well, let's see: We've got the generic terrorist from Modern Warfare 3, the generic terrorist from Battlefield 3, the generic steroid-addled thug from Arkham City, generic zombies from&nbsp;<em>everything</em>, and inferior headcrab rip-offs from Gears of War, Halo, Resistance, etc. Remember that one guy from that one level of Homefront? Hey, me neither!</p> <p>So, what's the deal? <strong>Why have enemies suddenly taken a tumble in the whitewashing machine? And – more importantly – what&nbsp;<em>aren't&nbsp;</em>they doing that older-school baddies nailed so perfectly?</strong> Well, there are a few factors to consider. First off, there's the matter of mentality. Many of the enemies in today's big-name games are basically cannon fodder – and nothing more. They pop up, you wallop them with your whack-a-mole hammer (or multi-barreled rocket shotgun that also fires reminders that the Smurfs movie exists, as it were), and then you move on.&nbsp;</p> <p>Games like Half-Life 2 and BioShock, meanwhile, are so memorable because of the multifaceted manner in which they present their most frightening foes. For instance, Half-Life 2 initially flings you crowbar-first into a world ruled by the Combine. I mean, if you ask me what my first memory of the basic Combine soldier is, it's not even a difficult question. <strong>And no, the answer isn't “shooting one in the face.” Instead, it's a simple line: “Pick it up.”</strong> And when I refused to drop that tiny tin can in the garbage out of sheer, I'm-Gordon-goddam-Freeman defiance, he smacked me in the face. That moment – and not when I was facing down a small army of gun-toting space oddities – was when I understood how bad things had gotten in Gordon's absence. &nbsp;</p> <p>It's the little moments that count biggest. Similarly, there was also Lamarr the friendly headcrab and controllable Ant Lions to offset the sheer otherworldly terror of Ravenholm's special brand of headcrab zombies or retch-worthy clusters of ceiling-dwelling barnacles. They showed other sides to Half-Life 2's enemies. Somewhat paradoxically, I felt an attachment to the very things I was blasting.</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center; "><img src="/files/u46190/deathclaw_hug.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>BioShock, meanwhile, designed an entire ecology around Big Daddies, making them far more than diving-suit-clad foils for the business end of your shotgun. Over the course of the game, you discovered their origins, purposes, and – eventually – became one yourself. (Admittedly, however, it wasn't until BioShock 2 that the franchise really perfected that concept.) Sure, having a giant drill for a hand definitely gave the Big Daddy an upper hand... drill... thing in the memorability category, but a gradual trickle of information turned Big Daddy from a giant target into a crucial part of Rapture's existence.</p> <p>There's also the matter of smart, measured build up and the air of mystique it creates. <strong>Wasteland denizens in Fallout 3, for example, whispered of Deathclaws in frightened tones long before I ever met one face-to-face.</strong> And when I finally saw one loping toward me, gangly limbs flying like vital-organ-seeking missiles? I turned tail &nbsp;and fled for dear life while attempting to write out my last will and testament. Lamentably, I didn't exactly make it far.&nbsp;</p> <p>Indie horror hit Amnesia, however, really steals the show in that category. It's so terrifying not because boogie men pop out and shout “boo!” around every corner, but for the exact&nbsp;<em>opposite&nbsp;</em>reason: they don't. Instead, there's a constant sickening dread lurking in the darkness. Slight sights, unsettling sounds, perfectly placed shadows. Together, they create a mystique that other survival horror games simply can't match. And your character, of course, is hopelessly helpless, rendering the classic “fight or flight” multiple choice test fairly easy. The answer is D) Wet Yourself. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>There's another factor, though, that I think has played a major role in the shift away from interesting, well-designed enemies: graphical fidelity. Madness, you say? Well, consider this: <strong>The more realistic graphics are, the easier it is to design enemies that look and move like people. However, as humans, we naturally fear difference.</strong> My poison headcrab phobia? I bet it wouldn't be nearly as bad if I wasn't also violently afraid of spiders. Point is, we're pre-programmed to fear things that are unlike us, because nature's creepy crawlies have a tendency to, you know,&nbsp;<em>murder us with poison</em>. &nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier games, though, were perfectly positioned to take advantage of that. A lack of detail became creepy, &nbsp;inhuman abstraction. Awkward animations became herky-jerky, unnatural movements. Enemies like Legend of Zelda's life-sapping Re-Deads and dungeon-crawling (literally) Wallmasters were – on some level – a product of necessity. Technology was limited, so developers had to be creative.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ever played SkiFree? Yes,&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkiFree"><em>that&nbsp;</em>SkiFree</a>. Same idea. The yeti didn't trigger minor heart attacks just because it signaled insta-death. Its rapid, oddly terrifying movements gave Child-Me many a pixelated nightmare because it ambled ever forward in a manner that was downright&nbsp;<em>wrong</em>. Happily, Minecraft's enemies – Creepers, especially – carry that torch today to some extent today, but they're the exception, not the rule.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>By and large, it's all hyper-realistic terrorists this, hyper-realistic zombies that. </strong>Oh, and there's the occasional hyper-realistic giant spider in there – just to make me feel frightened in spite of myself. I want more than that, though. Give me a love-hate, life-death relationship for the ages – not another shooting gallery. Press start. Find me a new challenger.</p> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/gaming/game_boy_headcrabs_deathclaws_and_bears_%E2%80%93_oh_my#comments Amnesia: The Dark Descent Bioshock columns Gaming Half-Life 2 SkiFree The Game Boy Gaming The Game Boy Columns Features Web Exclusive Wed, 01 Feb 2012 23:24:11 +0000 Nathan Grayson 22401 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Game Boy: Why Bastion Succeeds Where Most Games Fail Miserably http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/game_boy_why_bastion_succeeds_where_most_games_fail_miserably <!--paging_filter--><p style="text-align: center;"><em><img src="/files/u46190/bastion_1_0.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></em></p> <p><em>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.&nbsp; </em></p> <p><strong>Bastion is about moving forward.</strong> 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.</p> <p>Bastion also offers flashbacks, but not in the traditional sense. The narrator attempts to spin a tear-jerker of a yarn while you stave off increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Before long, though, it becomes nearly impossible to do both. So, pick your poison: Will you listen to wistful tales of days gone by or fight to make sure you live to see another day? At first, this seems like a perplexing and fairly frustrating design choice, but – intentional or not – it drives home a point: Past or present, there's always a battle to be fought. And if you don't fight? Well then, you die – simple as that. The creatures you're killing all throughout your journey could very well be the last of their kind. But it's either them or you. You have to press forward.</p> <p>And then there's Zulf. When he discovers the true method behind the Calamity's seeming madness, he's driven to bury the Bastion, a device capable of re-weaving the very fabrics of time itself. He wants to move on. So Zulf decides it's necessary to strike down anyone standing in his way – you included. It's better, he thinks, than the alternative. But he fails utterly – just like the Calamity before him. Even so, more people die because of Zulf's choice. Many more. Out of all that, though, comes one incredible moment.</p> <p>Zulf is ultimately stabbed in the back by his Ura clansmen, and you can either charge in, stare them straight in the eyes, and send each and every one fearfully fleeing into early graves, or you can drop your weapon, pick up Zulf's barely breathing form, and carry him to safety. It's your call.</p> <p>Zulf, though, is heavier than a small, pale twig of a man has any right to be, and the Kid struggles to heft his apparently dense girth. So you stumble into a room full of Zulf's countrymen, muscles snapping, crackling, and generally doing their best impression of a bowl of Rice Krispies under the strain of Zulf's weight.</p> <p>The Ura immediately open fire. It's too late to turn back, though. You can only move forward. So you get shot. A lot. Swigging health potions like cool, refreshing water in a desert made of wasabi is the only way to stay alive – and even then, death's door is only centimeters away from slamming into your face. Still, you press forward. Nothing will stop you. Nothing <em>can</em> stop you. And that's when the Ura realize what's going on. Slowly but surely, they lower their weapons and watch as you limp past. One tries to fire again. His superior kills him in cold blood. You escape as the Ura look on in unison.</p> <p>You return to the Bastion. Finally, you can restore it. You can start over. You can kill the Calamaity before it harms a hair on anyone's head. Or can you? Rucks isn't so sure. Maybe&nbsp; you'll just drop the ball again. Maybe you're already stuck in one big, misery packed infinite loop. Suddenly, Zulf's motivations make sense. As the flashback segments revealed, Caelondia was wealthy, sure, but not the greatest place. Its people and social structures -- while not necessarily <em>evil</em> --&nbsp;wronged the Kid, Zulf, and Zia, and oppressed the Ura. Why bring back <em>that</em>?</p> <p>But the Bastion can burn out its battery with another feature. It can fly away. It can take your dysfunctional little post-apocalyptic family wherever you want to go. The answer, then, is obvious: You keep going. Away from all the violence. Toward a better future. Or maybe a worse one. It doesn't matter. You move forward. A lot of people screwed up. Now it's up to you to set things right.&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/bastion_art.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p><strong>Bastion is about looking back.</strong> For Rucks' sake, the game's <em>named</em> after a device created to take the entire world back in time. Tiles of all shapes and sizes rise up to meet your footfalls. They're chunks of the old world – pieces of the past deciding the destination of every step you take. Occasionally, you'll encounter former citizens of Caelondia – now frozen in ash, dead to the world in all but appearance. They're a sobering reminder of the thrumming society that you used to be part of. You smash them, because The Kid doesn't want to remember. But he can't help it. And all the while, the narrator fills in the blanks, ensuring that every little detail lingers in the front of your mind.&nbsp;</p> <p>About half-way through the game, the Kid falls into an extremely surreal flashback. Rucks' voice still comes through – albeit quiet and distorted – but it's finally the Kid's thoughts that are doing the talking. “He has the nerve to flash the shield <em>he stole</em>,” says the garbled narration. “Would you look at what he did to poor old Rondi the bartender?” And finally, the kicker: “The Kid succeeds were the Calamity failed.” The Kid doesn't want to be here. While obligation propels him forward, guilt and sorrow hold him back. Hell, for all he knows, creatures he's killing all throughout his journey could very well be the last of their kind. But he presses on in hopes that – ultimately – all of his damage will be undone.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>And then there's Zulf. When he discovers the true method behind the Calamity's seeming madness, he's driven to seek out revenge against those responsbile – you included, if necessary. But he fails utterly – just like the Calamity before him. Even so, more people die because Zulf can't let go of the past. Many more. Out of all that, though, comes one incredible moment.</p> <p>Zulf is ultimately stabbed in the back by his Ura clansmen, and you can either charge in, stare them straight in the eyes, and send each and every one fearfully fleeing into well-deserved graves, or you can drop your weapon, pick up Zulf's barely breathing form, and carry him to safety. It's your call.</p> <p>Zulf nearly ruined your chances to fix everything once, and he'll probably do it again. Besides, what's one more despicable deed? The Kid's already got gallons of blood on his hands. It's all for the greater good, he tells himself. So he strides into a room full of Zulf's countrymen, muscles snapping, crackling, and generally doing their best impression of a bowl of Rice Krispies under the strain of a weapon thrice his size.</p> <p>At this point, it's a matter of same song, different verse. You or them. The Bastion or them. Even though the Ura have overwhelming numbers on their side, the Kid's gigantic new toy makes dealing with them seem like child's play. You kill them all in cold blood. You escape as glassy, frozen eyes look on in unison.</p> <p>You return to the Bastion. Finally, you can restore it. You can start over. You can kill the Calamaity before it harms a hair on anyone's head. Or can you? Rucks isn't so sure. Maybe&nbsp;you'll just drop the ball again. Maybe you're already stuck in one big, misery packed infinite loop. But you've come so far, hurt so many, destroyed so much. There's nothing left. Caelondia may have wronged and oppressed the Kid, Zulf, and Zia, but it's still better than <em>this</em>.</p> <p>The Bastion can burn out its battery with another feature. It can fly away. But where will you go? And why? The answer, then, is obvious: You press the giant “REDO” button. You've been chasing the past this whole time, but you could never quite catch it. Well, here you go.&nbsp; A lot of people screwed up. Now it's up to you to set things right.</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/bastionsplash.jpg" width="620" height="310" /></p> <p>So, which of those interpretations is right? Simple: both. I originally wanted to write a big analysis of Bastion, but instead, I wrote two. They're both equally valid for me, though, and that's key. For many reasons (narration, innovative usage of music, etc), Bastion is the type of story only a videogame can tell. However, the biggest of them – in my eyes – is that it can so effectively put me in two entirely different, largely opposite states of mind. Bastion can shift the ideals and motivations behind every action I perform, and – more importantly – it can make me <em>believe</em> in them.</p> <p>Plenty of other games provide multiple paths, moral choices, and all that&nbsp; – and some of them even let you be a freaking Jedi. So what makes Bastion better? Well, foremost, those other games do a remarkably bad job of making me feel like both sides of the coin are viable. BioShock's “saintly savor versus Hitler mixed with Satan mixed with Hitler again” approach to saving Little Sisters is the most infamous example, but other big names are equally guilty of choice-based laziness in their own ways. I mean, don't get me wrong: I love Mass Effect. But sometimes, it's a bit too easy to see BioWare in the background, tugging on the strings to make conversations and plot threads go in a certain direction regardless of your choices.</p> <p>What reallly makes Bastion work, I think, is its consistency. The game's by no means perfect, but I reached the end of both playthroughs, and everything added up. There was no “Now <em>waitaminute</em>...!” moment. Generally with these things, the devil's in the details. Something stands out as nonsensical or completely glossed over. Here, though, there was no devil – just tons and tons of attention to detail.</p> <p>In such a young medium, there's a lot to be said for that. Too many games hastily scrawl “consistency” at the bottom of their priority lists before breaking out the fancy calligraphy set for things like “bigger explosions” and “more totally rad slow-mo during the first level.” So we end up with games that are frontloaded with mind-blowing moments – mostly to draw players in –&nbsp;only to&nbsp;lose steam en route to typically miserable non-endings. (Think BioShock, Bulletstorm, Knights of the Old Republic II – the list goes on.)</p> <p>Bastion, on the other hand, feels as though it's been carefully crafted. It's deliberate and smart in almost everything it does. Narration's perfectly placed and almost never repeats, the game ends exactly when it needs to, and it leaves <em>just enough</em> open to interpretation. On top of all that, Supergiant avoided the temptation of throwing in a bunch of tiny, superfluous choices just for&nbsp;choice's sake&nbsp;in favor of two incredibly meaningful – and therefore, powerful – moments. So I guess what I'm trying to say is...</p> <p><strong>Bastion is about restraint.</strong> Modern game design is frequently about throwing in everything, the kitchen sink, and a moral dilemma that ponders whether or not the greatest kitchen sink of all... <em>is man</em>. More guns. More powers. More characters. More choices. More sequels. More, more, more. Bastion, though, does exactly what it needs to. Then it ends. Really, though, for all the time I spent on this article, I don't even think it comes close to doing Bastion justice. Go play it. Experience it for yourself. Love it or hate it, I guarantee that&nbsp;you won't find&nbsp;anything else quite like it.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/game_boy_why_bastion_succeeds_where_most_games_fail_miserably#comments Bastion Bioshock Bulletstorm columns Gaming mass effect Supergiant Games The Game Boy Gaming The Game Boy Columns Features Web Exclusive Wed, 21 Sep 2011 19:02:23 +0000 Nathan Grayson 20426 at http://www.maximumpc.com The 30 Must-Play PC Games of The Decade http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/30_must-play_pc_games_decade <!--paging_filter--><p>You know that stereotype of the total loser from high school – busted glasses, craggy acne canyon of a face, every spoken word followed by a refreshing mist of saliva – who goes on to become rich and successful beyond your wildest dreams? Well, that's the gaming industry's past ten years in a nutshell. No longer is gaming that shameful hobby you mumble in between “hanging out” and “...uh, other stuff.” Now, it's just something everyone does. With the exception of a few stragglers and the occasional re-emergence of Jack Thompson, gaming has finally arrived. &nbsp; </p> <p>In that spirit, we thought it'd be fitting to spotlight some of the games that helped put our favorite past-time on top of the world. So, without further ado, we present the 30 best PC games of the past decade!</p> <p>Also, check out our other Decade in Review features: <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/13_biggest_tech_blunders_decade" target="_blank">13 Biggest Tech Blunders of the Decade</a> and<a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/decade_review_25_most_important_tech_moments_2000_-_2010" target="_blank"> the 25 Most Important Tech Moments. </a></p> <h2>2001</h2> <h3>Max Payne</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="336"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Pgg3VG7Hug8?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="336" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Pgg3VG7Hug8?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>Oftentimes, the best games aren't the most polished or the most innovative. Rather, they're the ones that take established formulas, sprinkle in a couple new “I can't believe no one ever thought of this before”-type ideas, and mash the “blend” button until both old and new are inseparable. Max Payne's pioneering usage of scripted levels and cinematic storytelling techniques not only made it more than just another third-person shooter, but helped pave the way for today's tightly scripted shooter juggernauts. Along with a Big Gulp-sized dose of slow-mo, those things ensured that Max Payne was both an innovator and a damn fun game in its own right.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Black &amp; White</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/bandwhite.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Bless Black &amp; White's heart, it tried. It reached for the sun, only to come plummeting back down to earth. The end result was a god game not quite worthy of the divine praise it initially received. However, in spite of some repetition and less-than-stellar questing, Black &amp; White was still chock full of great ideas, from an almost-entirely gesture-based interface to what was, at the time, perhaps the most comprehensive morality system ever seen. Also, the game's cow people were only slightly terrifying, which is a pretty big accomplishment when you're dealing with cow people.</p> <h3>Civilization III</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/civ3.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Times change. Civilizations rise and fall. The game called “Civilization,” however, remains a constant. Keeping with this trend, Civilization III made small tweaks to an already fantastic formula, adding standouts like city zones, culture victories, and an in-depth transportation system.</p> <h2>2002</h2> <h3>Battlefield 1942</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="336"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/zu1cTJO9cbo?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="336" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/zu1cTJO9cbo?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>Games before Battlefield turned the clock back to WWII. Games before Battlefield did their fair share of multiplayer shooting. Battlefield, however, made those games look like 12-year-old birthday party paintball matches. With vehicles of all shapes and sizes, 64-player matches, and positively gigantic maps, the game lobbed a grenade at our previous conceptions of what war games could be and walked away from the explosion in slow motion. On top of that, it lacked just enough realism to still remain fun as all get-out, which is nice since it turns out that we take to actual plane flight like a duck to piranha-infested waters.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Grand Theft Auto III</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/gta3pc_001.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Sirens blaring. People screaming, The sound of your own heart pounding through your chest. Everyone remembers their first GTA rampage not only for all the excitement, but because GTA III <em>allowed </em>you to do it. You were the bad guy in a city where nothing was off-limits. The missions weren't bad either, but you're not even listening to us anymore because you're remembering the time when you outran the military going backward in a beat-up ice cream truck.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Warcraft III</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/warcraft-3-pic-490.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>With a single-player campaign that blurred the line between RTS and RPG, and Blizzard's trademark dedication to multiplayer excellence, Warcraft III was a fantastic game in its own right. However, it also served as the extremely fertile soil that nurtured a number of long-lasting mods, including the maniacally addictive Defense of the Ancients, which has been used as the basis for multiple full games including Demigod, League of Legends, and Valve's upcoming DoTA.</p> <hr /> <h2>2003</h2> <h3>Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="336"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/lBjxiUVJsu4?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="336" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/lBjxiUVJsu4?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>Licensed games are usually bottom-of-the-barrel scum. After all, who wants to waste time and money making a great game if it's a guaranteed cash cow no matter how you slice it? The answer: BioWare. Demonstrating both an extreme reverence for the source material and the writing chops that have made it one of the best in the business, BioWare crafted a story that rivaled – and in some ways, surpassed – the original trilogy. On top of that, your choices altered both your character and the story's outcome, meaning that conversations weren't just snooze-worthy verbal spew that you mashed your way through to get to the good stuff. And then there's HK-47, who single-handedly gave us back the ability to smile after the second trilogy froze our faces into ugly masks equal parts rage and sadness.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Call of Duty</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/callofduty.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Call of Duty didn't necessarily do anything new, but boy did it do things right. Massive cinematic action sequences and pacing that barely left time for players to catch their breath made other WWII campaigns look downright silly, and the multiplayer – while not quite as revolutionary as Modern Warfare's – had more than enough variety to keep players hooked.</p> <h3>Splinter Cell</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/splintercell.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>The more realistic rival to Metal Gear Solid's fat-men-on-rollerblades-and-oh-look-a-vampire zaniness, Splinter Cell encouraged precision and perfection, and – in the process –&nbsp; crafted a methodical hero who stood in stark contrast to gaming's gallery of increasingly trigger-happy meatheads.&nbsp;</p> <h2>2004</h2> <h3>World of Warcraft</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="258"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/dYK_Gqyf48Y?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/dYK_Gqyf48Y?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>World of Warcraft is a lot of things. Far too many to fit in this tiny space. Even when it first launched, It was accessible in a way other games only wished they could be – fun for everyone without being “dumbed down.” It was also smartly designed to encourage multiple playstyles, whether you wanted to pop in for 30 minutes or quest from sun-up to sundown. Emerging after an incredibly long beta period, WoW proudly bore Blizzard's standard of quality-over-quantity, yet still managed to be positively massive – a personality packed world full of things to see and do. Depressingly often, things become pop culture “phenomena” due to targeted marketing, bad taste, or the evil machinations of some blood-devouring devil that exists outside the realm of space and time (see Justin Bieber's success). WoW, however, is definitely an exception to that rule.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Half-Life 2</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/half-life-2-wallpaper.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Many would see the original Half-Life as a perfectly decent swan song, but for Valve, it was only a warm-up. Half-Life 2 topped it in just about every way imaginable with City 17's haunting believability, the pitch-perfect pacing of levels like Ravenholm, and characters like Alyx, who brought a human quality to the proceedings that&nbsp; the majority of games still struggle to match.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Sid Meier's Pirates!</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/sidmeierspirates.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>We're all for revolutionary titles that change the face of videogames forever, but sometimes we just want to have fun. If we had to describe Pirates in one word, it'd be exactly that: fun. Sailing the high seas in the game's brightly colored world was so effortlessly enjoyable that we spent days utterly absorbed in its charms. And all the while, we couldn't wipe the goofy, childlike grin off our faces.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <h2>2005</h2> <h3>Psychonauts</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="336"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/D6-z4tNRErY?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="336" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/D6-z4tNRErY?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>Judged purely on mechanical terms, Psychonauts was good – but not great. Its brand of brain-powered brain-teasing was enjoyable, sure, but nothing to write home about. Fortunately, that's not all there is to videogames, and that goes double for Psychonauts. The game was a vibrant, hilarious, and – most of all – completely original vision of what a videogame world could be. Its settings and encounters were brilliantly inventive, and to this day, you won't find anything even vaguely like it. Or, summed up in three words: the milkman conspiracy.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Civilization IV</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/civiv.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Newsflash: Yet another Civilization game is great. Shocking, we know. Sure, no one's stopping the presses here, but there's a reason many regard Civ IV as the best in the series to this day. Its interface was beautifully slick and streamlined, and it finally made Civ multiplayer more than just a pipe dream.</p> <h3>Battlefield 2</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/battlefield-2-1.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Despite a title that might lead you to believe Battlefield 1942 is the 1,940th sequel to this game, Battlefield 2 advanced leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor. More weapons, more levels, and more vehicles were merely icing on a surprisingly meaty cake (in a good, significantly less disgusting-sounding way) that included an RTS-like Commander mode, squads, and an addictive promotion system.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2>2006</h2> <h3>The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="336"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/nGyw_0IG5s0?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="336" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/nGyw_0IG5s0?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>Open air. Snow-capped mountains off in the distance. The bright morning sun glinting off a nearby lake. Green everywhere. Lush grass and trees as far as the eye can see. As far as memorable moments in games go, it's pretty hard to top your emergence from the sewers in Oblivion. It was all so beautiful that you almost didn't notice that irrationally angry mud crab attempting to devour your ankles. Even so, that moment encapsulated everything that made Oblivion great. Put simply, the game was mind-blowingly massive, and you could adventure wherever you pleased. The main quest in Oblivion was the faintest whisper of a suggestion, and forging your own path found you quickly rewarded with all sorts of interesting, epic sights and sounds.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Company of Heroes</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/coh_041.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>RTSes, right? You click on tiny men until your finger's a bloody stub and collect resources so you can get to the actual fun part in roughly 45 minutes. Wrong, says Company of Heroes. A thousand times wrong. The game placed an emphasis on fast-paced tactics and unit management above all else, creating a new breed of RTS that was streamlined yet still incredibly deep – just in different way. The game's stellar AI was also a breath of fresh air in a genre where the aforementioned tiny men were previously prone to happily jogging into enemies' streams of hot leaden death when left to their own devices.</p> <h3>DEFCON</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/defcon.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>Defcon matches typically ended with the entire human race dying a horrible nuclear death. Yeah, kind of makes all these other games look kind of silly, doesn't it? Beneath that chilling premise, however, was a highly cerebral brand of strategy that – true to its setting – all went kablooey in the final few minutes of each match.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <h2>2007</h2> <h3>Portal</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="258"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/5YoI1x0o_Xs?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/5YoI1x0o_Xs?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>Sure, it's only about two hours long, but we'd argue that Portal is the best two hours the gaming industry's ever produced. The game's beautifully paced in terms of both narrative and gameplay arcs. When you first laid hands on the portal gun, it blew your mind. And, of course, you immediately fired one portal at the ground and another at the ceiling and pulled a “Look ma! No space-time laws!” infinite falling gag. By the time you were squaring off with GlaDOS one-on-multiple-insane-cortexes, though, it was like you'd learned another language. Why? Brilliant level design that gradually turned you into a master of portal gun-fu. And then there was GlaDOS herself, who threatened to make us die of laughter nearly as often as she threatened to make us die.</p> <h3>BioShock</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/bioshock_big-daddy1.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></p> <p>“A man chooses, a slave obeys.” BioShock's mid-game twist was one of the most brilliant gaming's ever seen, literally calling into question your motivation for every action you've ever performed in an FPS. On top of that, the city of Rapture was one of the most imaginative places games have ever given us the pleasure of exploring. Equal parts beautiful and horrifying, the undersea utopia gone wrong introduced us to all manner of completely psychotic characters – from the mad artist Sander Cohen to the tyrannical yet well-intentioned Andrew Ryan to the iconic diving suit-clad Big Daddies. The game's almost unnecessarily painful arsenal of upgradeable plasmid powers was also a highlight, although – seriously – fire <em>and </em>bees? We know the guy tried to kill you and all, but we're pretty sure you just shot Hell at him.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Mass Effect</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/masseffect2.jpg" width="415" height="207" /></p> <p>Take away BioWare's Star Wars license and what do you get? Oh, not much – just the developer's most in-depth and fully realized universe yet. On top of that, a streamlined conversation system made for tense, fast-paced verbal duels while combat – though slightly janky – matched trademark BioWare tactics with the action of a third-person shooter.</p> <h2>2008</h2> <h3>Fallout 3</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="258"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/pAN0ByjSsV4?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/pAN0ByjSsV4?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>When Bethesda's take on the storied Fallout franchise was first announced, longtime fans cried blasphemy. That, however, didn't stop Bethesda from crafting a bombed-out husk of a world so absorbing that the prospect of nuclear apocalypse now legitimately excites us so long as Deathclaws are replaced by Super Bunnies. In Fallout 3, the world itself was the main character. Every location – from crumbling skyscrapers to secret underground cannibal societies – had its own story to tell, and every play session was its own unique adventure. Oftentimes, we'd just point our character in a random direction and walk – fully expecting to stub our irradiated toes on some excellent micro-tale we'd yet to uncover. We were rarely disappointed.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>World of Goo</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/worldofgoo.jpg" width="415" height="230" /></p> <p>You wouldn't think that helping tiny adorable blob creatures form a giant transportation Voltron would... aw, who are we kidding? World of Goo had the best premise ever. Better still, it lived up to the promise of that premise, throwing curveball after curveball at players with all manner of maniacally creative puzzles.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Left 4 Dead</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/left_4_dead_ea3.jpg" width="391" height="250" /></p> <p>Valve's entrant into the ever-growing horde of zombie games immediately positioned itself at the head of the pack with frantic team-based play, the ever-looming threat of powerful Special Infected, and a devious AI Director that gave the strings a tug every time you even thought about taking a breather.</p> <hr /> <h2>2009</h2> <h3>Dragon Age: Origins</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="258"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/FQ-oDGcykuw?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/FQ-oDGcykuw?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>As a pure RPG, Dragon Age is BioWare's finest work to date. Sure, the Mass Effect franchise may have it beat in terms of style, but Dragon Age's fascinating web of themes, characters, and lore makes it the clear winner when it comes to substance. Massive as it was massively fantastic, Dragon Age rewarded those who invested themselves in its world with an emotional attachment like none other. Tiny touches like characters casually conversing with each other during your adventures made the game's shockingly huge choices all the more difficult. Speaking of difficulty, the battle system was far from a cake walk, and the execution of a carefully planned strategy was met with a rush of satisfaction seldom matched by other RPGs. Dragon Age certainly made you work to squeeze out its tiniest morsels of enjoyment, but those were also its most delicious.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Borderlands</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/borderlandsnew.jpg" width="415" height="233" /></p> <p>How can you not love a game whose main selling point is “87 bazillion guns”? Borderlands' frantic mix of shooting and looting was enjoyable enough all by its lonesome, but then Gearbox had to go and pair it with a hilariously off-kilter world and online co-op. And so disappeared hundreds of hours of our lives. Thanks a lot, Gearbox.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Machinarium</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/machinarium.jpg" width="415" height="245" /></p> <p>You may not have heard about Machinarium when it first came out, but now you have no excuse. It was a wonderfully charming adventure game set in an absolutely gorgeous pencil-sketched world. Its robotic cast of characters, meanwhile, communicated purely through speech bubbles with pictures in them, adding yet another layer of uniqueness to the proceedings. Sure, the puzzles were occasionally a bit simple, but you don't play a game like Machinarium to be frustrated by nebulous puzzle design.&nbsp;</p> <h2>2010</h2> <h3>Minecraft</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"> <object width="415" height="258"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/MNxcxnKYPOc?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="415" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/MNxcxnKYPOc?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p> <p>Minecraft is the face of a new chapter in PC gaming history. Sure, it may not have its own multi-million dollar ad campaign starring Kobe Bryant and a Jeep, but Minecraft is simple, wildly inventive, and backed by an incredibly dedicated community. Its core concept – build to survive – has given rise to block-by-block recreations of just about everything you can imagine, from BioShock's city of Rapture to an entire working 16-bit computer. The game's amazingly versatile and frighteningly absorbing. On multiple occasions, we've sat down intending to build a tiny shack in five minutes, only to instead spend two hours creating a castle that God Himself might consider using as a vacation home.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Fallout: New Vegas</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/falloutnv2.jpg" width="415" height="233" /></p> <p>We'll say it outright: New Vegas is better than Fallout 3. The locations are more varied, the writing's absolutely fantastic, and the companion characters make Fallout 3's lack thereof all the more glaring. New Vegas strikes a brilliant balance between staying true to the spirit of the older Fallout games and leveraging Bethesda's best ideas from Fallout 3. It's the best of both worlds, and we can't recommend it enough – especially now that it's been patched up tight.</p> <h3>Mass Effect 2</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/masseffect2_stuff.jpg" width="415" height="213" /></p> <p>If you're looking to tell a story in a videogame, Mass Effect 2 is absolutely the game to beat. Its mix of convincing virtual actors, excellent voice-acting, great writing, and smartly streamlined pacing kept players hooked from start-to-finish. The only thing that was missing? An Elcor party member -- preferably with romance options. Come on BioWare! Make it happen in Mass Effect 3!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/30_must-play_pc_games_decade#comments Battlefield Bioshock call of duty Decade in Review features games Gaming Half-Life 2 World of Goo Games Gaming Features Web Exclusive Wed, 29 Dec 2010 19:07:25 +0000 Nathan Grayson 16231 at http://www.maximumpc.com 2K Takes To The Skies with BioShock: Infinite http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/2k_takes_skies_bioshock_infinite <!--paging_filter--><p>BioShock 2 was great and all, but if you couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu surge through your synapses as you electrocuted an unsuspecting splicer in a pool of water again <em>yet again</em>, you weren't alone. Enter <a href="http://www.pcgamer.com/2010/08/12/bioshock-infinite-info-screens-and-trailer/">BioShock: Infinite</a>. It's the next game from BioShock creator Ken Levine (who, as a matter of fact, was <em>not </em>involved with BioShock 2's development), and as far as we can tell, it's BioShock in name only. </p> <p> See, Rapture's completely out of the picture. In fact, Infinite's location is more or less the opposite of Rapture, floating atop the clouds instead of sinking to the bottom of the sea. Columbia, as it's known, is a steampunky testament to early 1900's American ingenuity – bright and optimistic as opposed to Rapture's thick fog of foreboding. However, all is not well. You play as an ex-detective named Booker DeWitt, who's snooping around Columbia in search of a psychic woman named Elizabeth. As previous Ken Levine games have taught us, however, don't expect things to remain that simple. </p> <p> As for how the game itself works, here's the gist, straight from game design legend's mouth: </p> <p> “When designing BioShock Infinite, we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if you walked into a room in this game and you didn’t necessarily know the dispositions of the people in it? Are they going to sit there? Are they going to attack you? What might set them off?’ We really wanted to have a notion that not everyone in the city was automatically hostile towards you. Instead it has more of that 'Wild West' feel where you walk into a bar with your hand on your pistol and you’re not sure what’s going to happen to you,” said Ken Levine. </p> <p> Elizabeth will also function as your constant companion – the psychic, intelligent, actually useful Robin to your Batman. The game will also feature the return of “Daddy”-like enemies, hulking monster men who want nothing more than to escort you off the premises – which, in this case, means a thousand foot freefall. </p> <p> Sound interesting? Well then, why not see it for yourself? Here's the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV_TDxl2UIo&amp;feature=player_embedded">first trailer</a>. Real gameplay footage, meanwhile, is still a few weeks out, according to Levine and co.. Here's hoping our crippling fear of heights doesn't keep us from enjoying it. Now then, we're off to spend two hours slowly working our way up one staircase, frequently pausing to cry and pray to the heavens for safe passage.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/columbia.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="233" /></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/2k_takes_skies_bioshock_infinite#comments 2k games Bioshock BioShock 2 BioShock: Infinite Gaming Gaming Software Ken Levine news Software Software News Gaming News Sun, 15 Aug 2010 03:35:31 +0000 Nathan Grayson 13966 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Game Boy: Why Immersion's Dying, and No One's Even Coming to The Funeral http://www.maximumpc.com/article/columns/game_boy_why_immersions_dying_and_no_ones_even_coming_funeral <!--paging_filter--><p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/alan-wake-pic.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="246" /></p> <p>It's pitch black, and your teeth are chattering so loudly that you barely even notice the three simultaneous heart attacks you're having as you creep through the tall grasses of an open field. Suddenly, the bushes behind you rustle. You jerk your head so quickly that your body nearly doesn't get the chance to follow, as the hulking, foreboding figure of a baby bunny hops out from the bush. Phew. Heart attack number four averted. For now. You wipe the sweat from your brow – which, at this particular moment, is the world's most accurate model of what would happen if the polar ice caps actually melted – and continue onwards. </p> <p> For about two feet. That's when you see <em>it</em>. Yep, there it is – <em>right in front of you</em>. Oh sweet mother of mercy. No, no – not the sprinting, groaning gray guy who's licking his unhinged chops and eying your neck. I'm talking about the thing behind him. That's right: a thermos full of coffee! Finally! Awesome! Sorry Mr. terrifying zombie man; just a second. You see, I need that coffee for an achievement.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p> The game in question? Alan Wake, a game quite capable of keeping you on the edge of your seat right up until the moment it spills hot coffee all over your lap. And it's certainly not alone. For the longest time, triple-A games polished their graphics and tweaked their ambient bunny-in-a-bush sounds in pursuit of a holy grail known simply as “immersion.” Gamers wanted it; game developers wanted it – for everything around the player to just melt away. To be utterly, hopelessly, and completely lost in the game world, without even the thinnest bread crumb trail back to reality. <strong>These days, though, immersion is about as prized as an airplane seat surrounded by screaming babies with no nearby emergency exit to fling yourself from</strong>. Or at least, it certainly seems that way.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /> <strong><br /> Instead of drawing you into the game world, many of today's games focus on everything but</strong>. You've got achievements, collectible thingamajigs scattered all about, RPG-like level-up systems, and motion control – to name a few – all of which are designed to keep you hooked until you finally rub your eyes, blink, and realize you've spent 300 hours of your life on this darn game. Unfortunately, if you used today's games as a reference, you'd think these two goals – immersing players and hooking them – were mutually exclusive. After all, if you were being stalked by a cold-blooded killing machine or playing a tense game of cat-and-metaphorical-mouse-that's-actually-a-loaded-machine-gun in real life, would you go out of your way to snatch up a jug of coffee? And would that coffee even be lying there, probably miles away from its natural habitat at the nearest Starbucks? Of course not.</p> <p> And that's only the tip of the iceberg. There was a time when it was perfectly natural for enemies to magically morph into fully cooked steaks seconds after having a stake driven through their hearts, but that was also back when Mario's mustache was made up of roughly three very blocky pixels. Times have changed, and weird “gamey” tropes stick out like ugly sore thumbs against many modern games' realistic backdrops. <strong>On top of that, collectibles, achievements, and the lark reek of an immaculate, deliberately designed world</strong>, which – when you think about it – runs incredibly contrary to the way the real world works. The non-virtual world is chock full of pointless nooks and crannies that serve no real purpose, while most game locales feel artificial and confined precisely because – hilariously enough – they're <em>so well designed</em>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p> For some reason, though, even the developers behind today's most potentially immersive experiences seem to think their games absolutely <em>must </em>have distracting, out-of-place collectibles, asinine achievements, and what have you. And that expectation has trickled down to gamers. Or maybe gamers started it. Regardless, if a shooter doesn't give you a thousand unlockable guns to lust after or bloat itself with multiple achievement and experience currencies – essentially, additional games within the game – reviewers and gamers alike pile aboard their waaaaambulances and valiantly attempt to diagnose the non-existent disease that's ailing that game. It's a shame, too, because many of those “flawed” games have it right; those collectibles, achievements, experience systems, and infinity-hojillion other external elements add up. The end result? <strong>Today's games – from Modern Warfare to Alan Wake to StarCraft II – feel bloated and weighed down by unnecessary fat</strong>. If someone just had the guts to strip it all away, we might actually get somewhere.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u46190/metro-2033-the-last-refuge-ss-8.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="234" /></p> <p> Instead, however, the cream of today's immersive crop tends to be largely ignored, with games like Metro 2033, STALKER, and Homefront getting the press equivalent of a participation ribbon: a preview or two, a short review, and then a quick mention on some podcast ten years from now. Meanwhile, I'm deeply saddened to say that, with a couple notable exceptions (BioShock foremost among them), <strong>immersion's most recent watershed moments – the ones that made us stand up and shout “Holy shit, a videogame can do <em>that</em>?” – occurred years ago</strong>, with Half-Life 2 practically writing the book on atmosphere and world-creation way back in 2004, and The Darkness bringing to light one of videogaming's <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/columns/game_boy_mundane_new_epic">most memorable (and sadly ignored) moments</a> back in 2007. </p> <p> Clearly, recent years have seen immersion take a backseat to “gamey” elements like achievements, collectibles, and whatnot, and I'd be a pretty crummy armchair analyst/soothsayer/Time Lord if I said things were looking up. <strong>Yeah, the advent of motion control may seem like immersion's endgame – the thing that finally makes us one with the games we play – but until we've got a holodeck to go with it, color me unconvinced</strong>. Motion control only makes me more aware of my body, which – as it turns out – exists outside the game, and looks pretty darn silly flailing around like a seizure victim who's also being attacked by bees<em>&nbsp;</em>. Hey, immersion and sense of “there”-ness, where are you guys going? To jump off a very tall building? Huh. You don't say.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p> There is, however, one shining hope during these dark times. Can you guess what it is? Did you guess 3D? Did you then go “No wait, are you serious?” Yep, our obnoxious new neighbor from North Gimmicksville may very well end up saving the day. Not on its own, though. <strong>See, 3D's a nice incentive for developers to start trying to design more convincing worlds again to take full advantage of that extra dimension – or at least, it is on paper</strong>. The tide could easily turn the other way as well, with developers using 3D's “Wowee, did you see that tree do absolutely nothing <em>in three dimensions</em>” appeal as a substitute for real immersion. </p> <p> Regardless, immersion's on life support – or in a coma, at very best –&nbsp; and the worst part is that it doesn't even have to be this way. Collectibles, experiences systems, and even motion control aren't intrinsically poisonous to immersion. <strong>It's when they're flung haphazardly at every game in sight – when they're there just because developers feel obligated to include them – that things gets ugly</strong>. So come on, everyone. Let's look before we leap on the bandwagon.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/columns/game_boy_why_immersions_dying_and_no_ones_even_coming_funeral#comments Alan Wake Bioshock columns Gaming Gaming Software Half-Life 2 Modern Warfare Software StarCraft II The Darkness The Game Boy Gaming The Game Boy Columns Web Exclusive Tue, 10 Aug 2010 19:08:43 +0000 Nathan Grayson 13904 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Game Boy: No Use Reloading Your Last Save Over Spilt Milk http://www.maximumpc.com/article/columns/game_boy_no_use_reloading_your_last_save_over_spilt_milk <!--paging_filter--><p>I’m a few loose ends away from wrapping up Mass Effect 2, and that terrifies me. </p> <p> I know, I know. I shouldn’t be so frightened. I’ve turned the galaxy upside-down, shaking loose its roughest, toughest customers and sweeping them right onto my ship. My crew and I have fought back-to-back time and time again, leaving robots, aliens, and entire mercenary organizations battered and bloody in our wakes. But it’s not my crew I’m worried about. It’s me.</p> <div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u46190/masseffect2_stuff.jpg" width="415" height="213" /> </div> <p> I mean, let’s be honest here: the term “suicide mission” doesn’t inspire much optimism. And here we are, betting the whole space farm on those abysmal odds anyway. But whatever, right? Mass Effect 3’s already been announced. Unless the game’s actually a bouquet of colorful Game Over screens, I’m pretty sure we’ve got this one in the bag. We may as well be running a victory lap at this point. </p> <p>However, we’ve got one more major factor working against us – one that not even the great, no-longer-late Shepard has taken into account: I, the player, am not reloading a previous save if things go awry.</p> <p>Oh, sure, if I slip up and take a headlong dive right into a red, pulsating Game Over screen, I’ll restart a combat scenario, but that’s just assumed. No – I’m talking about story-altering consequences here. Crew members can – and depending on my actions, may very well – die permanently during Mass Effect 2’s final hours. It used to be that, when this kind of thing happened in games, I’d simply hit the reload button and roll back the clock a couple of minutes as a quick, clean necromantic ritual. Then I’d do things the “right” way. No unnecessary blood or tears shed. </p> <p>Now though, I’ve realized something: Undoing my in-game mistakes robs my actions of all meaning. In videogames, we can make mistakes. Sure, other mediums have filled tome-upon-tome, tape-upon-tape with tearful tales of regret and guilt, but only in games can we truly <em>own </em>those feelings. If I accidentally lead my exceedingly loyal teammates right off a bridge, that’s on me. And one of my favorite aspects of Mass Effect 2 – or BioWare’s recent works in general, for that matter – is that it leaves room for those sorts of game-changing mistakes. That, in my opinion, is a big step in the right direction for story-based videogames. </p> <p>Take Dragon Age, for instance. I’ll try to keep this as vague as possible, so as to minimize spoilers, but here’s how it went: My party could have made it through the game’s final encounter fully intact. It didn’t. It was my fault. And before I knew it, I was saving my own hide at someone else’s expense. As I witnessed one of my companions selflessly charge through death’s gates, warm tears streamed down my face, uncontrolled – partially because I was saddened by my party member’s passing, partially because I was ashamed of my own cowardice, and partially because <em>I could have done something to stop it</em>. </p> <p>If only I’d known what would happen. <br /> <hr />And now, I do know. But I refuse to tarnish that moment with a do-over. Because I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so strongly about a videogame in my entire life.    </p> <p>Mass Effect 2 expands on this by allowing for quick moments of Paragon/Renegade action – or, often more importantly, inaction. Hesitate just long enough on stopping that gung-ho Quarian captain from going out in a blaze of glory and it’s too late. Then your stomach sinks, and you’re hit with the always slobber-knocking one-two combo of guilt and regret.<br />Too many games, I think, subscribe to the idea that there’s a “right” and “wrong” way of experiencing their stories.<br /> <div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u46190/bioshock_2.jpg" width="415" height="239" /></div> </p><p>Take BioShock, for instance. If you harvested a Little Sister early on – because, let’s face it, Rapture’s a kill-or-be-killed kind of place, and it was either you or her – you were locked out of the “good” ending. But that panicked “I have to harvest her or else I’m fish food” mentality and the mistake that arose from it are what makes the whole encounter so interesting. Your back was against the wall, so you lashed out. Later, once you got your footing (and a Plasmid or three), you decided to repent for your sins by freeing every brittle, barefooted Little Sister you laid eyes on. </p> <p>In the above hypothetical playthrough, then, your early flirtations with the “wrong” path eventually strengthened your commitment to the “right” path. You made a mistake and you felt awful about it. The game, however, saw things differently. The second the game’s own excellent atmosphere and scene-setting drove you to whip up some delicious, nutritious Little Sister soufflé, you were judged guilty. Your actions after that initial mistake simply didn’t matter. “Bang, bang,” slammed the gavel. And just like that, you were either mostly evil, or mustachio-twirlingly, cape-sportingly evil. No middle ground.   </p> <p>Whereas Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age make these sorts of internal struggles viable, BioShock and many other big-name games brusquely shove them out of the way as they barrel toward the finish line.  Videogames are interactive. Our actions within them should mean something. I say it’s time to finally make good on that particular promise. </p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/columns/game_boy_no_use_reloading_your_last_save_over_spilt_milk#comments Bioshock bioware columns Dragon Age Gaming Gaming Software Mass Effect 2 Software The Game Boy Gaming The Game Boy Columns Web Exclusive Fri, 12 Feb 2010 04:47:36 +0000 Nathan Grayson 10872 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Game Boy: Show Me A Gimmick And I’ll Show You Red Faction’s Giant Hammer http://www.maximumpc.com/article/columns/game_boy_show_me_gimmick_and_i%E2%80%99ll_show_you_red_faction%E2%80%99s_giant_hammer <!--paging_filter--><div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u46190/redfactionyo.jpg" width="415" height="223" /></div> <p>“Never bring a knife to a gunfight” – a wise saying that’s kept Cowboy duels the world over interesting for years. That cardinal rule doesn’t say anything about stone-shattering mining hammers, though, and there’s a very good reason for that. To quote an enemy from Red Faction: Guerrilla: “Snap! Crack! Sounds of brain splattering like wet spaghetti against a wall.” Hey, I never said I was quoting something that came from the poor guy’s mouth. </p> <p> Battering EDF goons into Mars-flavored space-paste isn’t the only thing my hulking steel hammer does, either. It can render years of architectural progress futile in a few powerful blows, taking chunk after chunk out of buildings until all that remains is splintered scrap. As you can imagine, the practical applications for this futuristic form of Building Neutralization are endless. Wall in my way? Knock it down. Gun emplacement in my way? Knock it down. EDF fortress in my way? Well, you get the idea. But aside from the novelty of being able to run through walls screaming, “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch,” the ability to homerun-swing the entire environment around me into chalky dust – to never be impeded or have to take “the long way around” – is incredibly liberating. In fact, other shooters now feel limited and strange to me because they lack that feature.<br />  <br /> Clearly, Red Faction developer Volition is onto something here. Completely destroyable structures give me all kinds of new options, keeping missions endlessly fresh. What Volition created, then, is a good, well-implemented game mechanic. It brings me endless amounts of joy and – even more importantly – I can’t imagine playing other games of its variety without it. As much as the game’s destructible environments have been pushed and marketed, they aren’t some big gimmick. In fact, interestingly enough, Red Faction: Guerrilla’s also a perfect example of how to both define and <em>avoid </em>cheap gimmicks – lessons that, if cranky, keyboard-bound gamers are to be believed, are quite important. </p> <p> Usually, I dread the very beginning of a new game. Blah, blah, blah long-winded story intro blah, blah, blah tutorial that you have to gulp two Monsters to stay awake through blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. Red Faction, however, doesn’t make that mistake. The rundown: You’re on Mars. Your brother gets killed by the EDF. You have motivation. You also have a big hammer. And that’s it. The game immediately introduces you to its central gameplay conceit (destroying everything) and turns you loose. No muss, no fuss, no convoluted cut-scene. </p> <p> Fortunately, the game proceeds along that same minimalistic path. Missions are introduced through quick, entirely optional briefings and cut-scenes are kept to a minimum. Or, if you’d rather not bear the heavy yoke of commitment, you can simply choose to rampage about, kicking down EDF buildings like a bully in the big red sandbox this is Mars. </p> <hr /> <div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u46190/portal.jpg" width="415" height="250" /></div> <p> In this case, story never gets in the way of fun. Volition knew what would attract players to its game and designed it accordingly. Unlike many games of its ilk (inFamous and Prototype, I’m looking at you), Red Faction doesn’t attempt to shoehorn “Powerful, emotionally involving storyline” onto the back of the box of what’s clearly a summer blockbuster. After all, if it did, its story would merely be a gimmick, perhaps initially interesting, but ultimately detracting from the overall game experience. <br />  <br /> And that, I would say, is the dividing line between gimmicks and legitimately excellent new game mechanics. A gimmick may be – and, in fact, should be, if it wants to succeed – fascinating at first glance, but eventually, it grows tiresome. Meanwhile, a high-quality game mechanic begins just like a gimmick – luring players in with its loud cries of “New!” and “Different!” – but never makes players wonder what they ever saw in that good-for-nothing game. So, for instance, compare my love affair with Red Faction to gamers’ quick and ugly burnouts on many waggle-centric Wii games, quick time events ala God of War, and tacked on stories in games that didn’t need them. </p> <p> Unfortunately, many of today’s games are quick to make a deal with the devil that is gimmickery in search of the almighty dollar. Multiplayer modes are popping up like zits on the backs of single-player games that could easily succeed without them, “edgy” stories now serve as black clouds over many potentially great gaming experiences, and, well, I could write a whole series of editorials about my thoughts on motion control as it’s being applied in today’s games. And these are only a few examples. </p> <p> If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that we already have tangible evidence that great games don’t need gimmicks to compete in a crowded marketplace. Portal was only two hours long, Crackdown chose to focus on Big Ups instead of force-feeding us a convoluted plotline, and BioShock passed on a half-baked multiplayer mode in favor of adding extra spice to its single-player proceedings. As always, by and large, good games sell. People are naturally curious about gimmicky things, sure, but there’s a reason we don’t like reality TV anymore. Believe it or not, consumers are actually pretty smart.<br />  <br /> So come on, developers, don’t bloat your games with gimmicks when you can instead – knowing your game’s limits – streamline experiences to highlight what makes them great. Really, seeing a good game unable to achieve greatness because some lame gimmick is weighing it down makes me want to break things – mostly out of anger, but also because I really just want to play Red Faction. Such a great game. <br />          <br /> <em>Note: Red Faction: Guerrilla is only available on Xbox 360 and PS3 right now, but will be PC-bound in August. Please don’t scream at me because I discussed a game that isn’t on the PC… yet. </em><br /> </p><p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/columns/game_boy_show_me_gimmick_and_i%E2%80%99ll_show_you_red_faction%E2%80%99s_giant_hammer#comments Bioshock Gaming Gaming Software news portal Red Faction: Guerrilla Software Software News The Game Boy Gaming Columns Wed, 24 Jun 2009 18:00:00 +0000 Nathan Grayson 6704 at http://www.maximumpc.com