Spec Ops: The Line

No pictures in this one, folks - replaying the game was enough of a chore, taking screenshots was just too much.

No pictures in this one, folks – replaying the game was enough of a chore, taking screenshots was just too much.

Some of my favorite works, in any medium, are those that deconstruct, examine, and lampshade their chosen forms of art: People like Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino have based their entire careers on works like this, and deserve every bit of acclaim they get for it.

Spec Ops: The Line, Yager Games’ landmark opus, may seem like one of those on the surface, but it’s another animal entirely. There are dozens of differences between it and the creations of the other artists I mentioned, but there’s one that overshadows the rest, and it leads to most of the game’s successes and failures:

Pratchett, Tarantino, and so on – they love books and movies, and the ones they make themselves are playfully satirical, but still affectionate. Spec Ops, though, hates video games. It hates video games with a passion, one that is comparable to the likes of a vengeful computer hates the hapless human scientists it invariably turns against. And since, by necessity, you’re a player of video games if you’re playing Spec Ops, the game hates you.

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Quantum Conundrum

In any dimension, cupcakes are delicious.

In any dimension, cupcakes are delicious.

As my about page says, I try to stay impartial when it comes to being a fan of specific developers or production companies – I’m only a fan of good entertainment, and there have been far too many surprise hits and big-budget flops to always expect good or bad products from a single team.

That said, I am a gigantic fan of overgrown indie game developer Valve Software. Honestly, it’s hard not to be – just take a look at their track record. We have Half-Life, a pair of top-notch, industry-shattering action shooters whose third installment has a gigantic fan community despite never having been announced; Team Fortress 2, a huge simulated economy system that happens to have a comedic and fluid multiplayer FPS attached to it; Left 4 Dead, one of the few games that manages to balance horror and cooperative multiplayer; and, of course, Portal, a darkly comedic puzzle game that the notoriously caustic Yahtzee Croshaw has called “the earthly embodiment of Christ”.

Said second coming was masterminded by a team of former students, who were hired personally by Valve’s famously Santa-like CEO, Gabe Newell. The creative heart of this team was Kim Swift, a former advanced physics student who has an affinity for deconstructing the laws of time and space, which brings a palpable creative spark to the games she makes, as can be seen from both Portal and the subject of today’s review, Quantum Conundrum.

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Prometheus

Looks delicious!

“The trick is not minding that it’s derivative and brainless.”

 

It’s been generally agreed upon that Prometheus’ biggest failing is how closely it resembles a dolled-up remake of its retroactive sequel (is that the term?) 1979 sci-fi horror masterpiece Alien. When I first saw the movie, this actually surprised me – because, frankly, I was expecting more from the creative team.

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