Boxes of Various Colors

Tue, Nov 27th, 2007 | 8:19pm

I have to keep my cranky old man quotient up by complaining about stuff. Fortunately there's a bunch of new games out!

Bioshock: The hype surrounding this game's impending arrival never swept me up, since most people seemed more inclined to sell it to me as "a game that's art deco!" and not "it's a successor to System Shock!" like they should have. I only finally played SS2 about a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed the exploration and wealth of interconnected things to do - the design was right up my alley. I didn't even mind the weapons constantly breaking. Now that I've installed Bioshock weeks after buying it, and started playing it after losing the disc again for another few weeks, I can say the real thing has also mostly failed to grab me. Mapper and kindred spirit Kell managed to crystallize my thoughts better than I had managed to thus far: pretty much the same "point at things and shoot them" gameplay and "science has gone awry and unleashed some deadly freaks that you are now trapped with" excuse of a story, while fun, do not represent an "amazing leap forward in storytelling" just because the game lives in an art-deco pineapple under the sea, and the fact that everyone thinks it does is probably the worst part of the game.

It's still entertaining enough thus far to be worth continuing, but has suffered from a painful prevalence of unnatural-feeling Doom3esque forced encounters, where I can feel the designer reaching in with some triggers and imposed circumstances just to fuck with me in some canned manner he feels is clever.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: I really can't say I'm too terribly impressed with this either, as it just keeps coming across like Halo Wii and also you occasionally turn into a ball. It hits on the two big negatives that have so far defined "next gen" games for me: levels that play like the designers phoned it in the whole project, with totally arbitrary "puzzles" that consist of scanning some interesting bit of art, then following the instructions that the designer wrote for me in the scan results; and levels that look like the level artists didn't know when to stop applying detail until the only thing saving the display from illegibility was to blur it all out again in post.

The Wiimote mechanics feel really good, however, and while playing Metroid 3 I'm dogged with the constant feeling that I'd love that very instant to be making a shooter for the Wii, and not be playing this one.

Portal: What kind of fanwanking can I really provide here that hasn't been covered by the whole internet already? I stopped trying to figure out how the inventors of the start-to-crate-time review system could allow a game they penned to feature a crate as an indispensably lovable "character", because it only made me mad to think about, and simply enjoyed everything else instead. Portal's strengths are its sense of humor, and its size: it has a small amount of excellent ideas and no shitty ones, and the package is scaled to fit. This could be a fantastic trend, since there's plenty of games that try to make a small amount of excellent ideas last a weekend by padding them with failure, because goodness knows there's such a dearth of fresh ideas going around the industry.

HL2: Episode 2: I remember when Episode 1 (then Aftermath) was announced, reading a comment from someone at Valve stating roughly that what people wanted at the time was more Half Life 2, and that was fortunate because at that point Valve was very good at making that. Three years and two episodes later, I want to complain that our appetites for "more" Half Life 2 are pretty much sated and maybe it's time to roll that production bus on down innovation lane again, but I feel weird because, well, it's not like Portal isn't there, it just doesn't have Gordon Freeman in it, and it's not like Episode 2 wasn't still a blast.

Honestly, I just wish they'd provide a little explanation for what the hell all these rockets have to do with all these ginormous portals, because while most of Half Life's science is pretty fictional as it is, it still makes its own kind of sense, whereas the constant launching of things into orbit as an almost completely unexplained major objective gives off a strong odor of phlebotinum.

Team Fortress 2: Actually, now that I think about it, what the hell is with all the rockets? This game's full of them. Do Valve just really like them? I only counted one giant raygun in TF2, and it was a medium raygun at best, certainly not fit for destroying Washington DC, or the sun, or whatever. See, in TF2 you can do that, just say "it's a big evil nefarious rocket for, you know, whatever. Have fun!" Poor rocket to raygun ratio is all I can fault it for, though, and perhaps also that you're required to play it with internet people, who have so far empirically proven themselves to be a bunch of twunts. I adore the art, however, and I hope it can prove to at least one developer that realism really is a tool, and not a goal.

Join us next week for "Beach Bowl Galaxy? More like the Pain in the Ass Galaxy!"


I can be said to have one of those lists of things I have to do before I die (of natural causes at least - the other list's quite a bit shorter), but it's rather quantum in that I don't really know what's on it until I've scratched at item off. Over Thanksgiving I discovered that the list includes seeing a live orchestra perform the Star Wars theme and Imperial March, conducted by John Williams himself. It is really something different altogether that way.