Finals are finally coming to a close for Ben, and for me, the busy season of work rolls on for a few weeks yet. Microsoft finally made a formal announcement of their announcement of the next Xbox, and Ratchet and Clank is getting a movie with a theatrical release. Hell of a week.
After finally getting an invite to SpyParty (thanks for putting in a good word with Chris Hecker, Colin!), a game I’ve been following for several years, I toyed around with the systems, trying to find a role that suited me best. Getting behind the scope of the Sniper was interesting, but I felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of information I was being asked to process at once. That guy is making a break for the bookcase; is he simply reading or is he planting a microfilm? And when eight people are conversing at once, which one whispered “Banana bread”?
Of course, stepping into the shoes of the Spy had its own incredible pressures, but it felt much more manageable. All I had to do was blend in while completing my objectives, and if I outsmarted that laser sight off in the distance, I would be just fine. Everything felt within my control; I could sit back and play a part, instead of peering madly into the room, wondering if the Spy had already completed his objectives and I was five seconds away from losing it all.
I have my appreciation for both sides of the coin, and the Spy is certainly a blast, as well as tense as hell. At the moment, it feels to me like there aren’t enough things you can do that would remove suspicion from you– you can do neutral things, and you can do suspicious things, but you can’t do many time consuming things that don’t benefit you, and thus cause the sniper to write you off. For me, that’s what would be needed to really make the Spy have as many layers of metagame as I’d like. No, I’ll take the Sniper, thanks.
As a Sniper, at first, it seems like it’s just a game of observation- just trying to spot suspicious things happening. But after a while, you realize that approach is far too simple. Yes, the Spy can always see where you’re looking because of your laser sight. So use that to your advantage! Point the laser across the room from your target, and then stare at the corner of your screen as you bait him into doing something dangerous. When you can’t get a good look, and you think something is about to happen, hold your laser on the spot you’re worried about so that any Spy that might be there freezes up in terror. That’s just to start with- I’m gonna gonna tell you all my tricks!
I’ve already spent an entire review talking about why Monaco is incredible, so why not take a closer look at the music? Unlike the orchestral pieces found in Journey, Austin Wintory’s only instrument is a piano, but he sure knows how to tickle those ivories. Rather than simply swinging upward or downward in tempo, the song morphs into a cascade of wonderful, violent notes whenever the police sound the alarm. There’s something sublime in its mixture of simplicity and complexity, like a lounge lizard pianist who learned a thing or two from the ghost of Beethoven. I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up buying it from the composer’s Bandcamp by the end of the week!
Far Cry 3
I know this is supposed to be the protagonist’s “vacation from hell,” but despite his transformation into a haggard, Rambo-esque warrior, I was having a blast. Everything is so colorful and vibrant, and everything has this wonderful weight; Jeeps can go tumbling through the sides of a bridge, the action is over-the-top in the best way possible, and there’s nothing quite like hang gliding over the blue water, taking in the sights.
As for the story, I found some sympathy for the “bratty” college students, even though the game clearly wants me to hate them. The inhabitants on the island are joyously campy, giving emotive performances and winning you over with their questionable grasp of sanity. Sadly, the game appears to have taken pages from the “Ways to Ruin Your Entertaining World” book, and it only feels like I’m 75-80% done with the story. This is one narrative that should have quit while it was ahead. Well, at least I can throw some darts, play poker, then send another pirate-infested base to kingdom come.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie
I gotta admit, I’m kinda scratching my head over this one. I’m not really sure what to think. On the one hand, it’s a pretty fun, mostly charming platformer with a bunch of variety, and short little missions well suited to replay optimization. That all sounds really good, right? But there’s something very unsettling about how attention deficit the game is, constantly introducing new vehicles and then ditching them before you can even get used to them. Ultimately, I think it’s a good game, but its complete lack of focus definitely hurts it in my eyes. Levels being short would be nice in a handheld, but I find that for a console release, I’m just starting to really get into the action when they end! So, definitely a quality game, but some really unfortunate lack of focus.
DmC: Devil May Cry
I know I wrote about it for my last Playlist, but I’ve beaten it now, and I just want to take a minute to talk about some of my thoughts upon completion. First and foremost, how sad I am to know that it won’t get a sequel: it doesn’t have a cliffhanger ending, in fact I enjoyed the ending a lot, but it certainly leaves some interesting indications as to what they would do in a future title. Capcom, however, has gone on record saying basically “I won’t name names but some recent western-developed titles haven’t sold well enough and we won’t be working them them again,” and they don’t really need to name names because DmC is the only western-developed title they’ve released lately. Ninja Theory deserves a chance to continue this.
A friend of mine suggested I do an article talking about which was the better game, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance or DmC. I didn’t want to do this because I feel like they’re both great games taking the genre in very different directions, and if you’re a fan of stylish action games you really should play both. DmC demonstrates how these games can work as a story with characters, which this genre has always suffered to handle well, and Rising shows an amazing, fresh approach to how combat could work for the next generation of consoles. If you did have to buy just one, buy DmC, because it’s an amazing product, but Rising is a pretty incredible glimpse at the future.
I’m a child of the 90s, as I’m sure you’ve realized through math if nothing else, but I grew up without TV– we had the physical device, but we had no cable or antenna. No channels. My parents thought it was a needlessly wasteful distraction, and as an adult, seeing what gets shown, I’m inclined to agree with them. Nearly everything on TV being trash is so widely accepted as to be cliche as a statement. Still, as a child there were shows that all my friends were watching, and I really wanted to be a part of. You grow up, you get over it, but there are some that even as adults, my peers swear were just good shows. One of these is Batman Beyond.
It’s on Netflix now, and I was curious enough to give it a spin. Let me start out by saying, sorry guys. It does not hold up like you think it does. The invented slang and the teenage drama is fairly wince-inducing. But it’s not bad, actually. The premise of the show, and the scenarios it invents, are all interesting enough to carry the action, and the new Batman is a fairly likeable character– acrobatic, cocky, and the right kind of practically minded. He’s not a genius, but you don’t find yourself slapping your forehead at his mistakes, he’s just dealing with villains and such that are of another level of planning and strategy.
It’s an entertaining watch, but what I really found myself thinking was how incredible a Batman: Arkham Beyond would be, or whatever. Rocket boots, cloaking, super strength, an extremely vertical city… it could be really badass. I think this IP is ripe for a revival.