Metal Gear Solid 4


MGS reminds me a lot of the Xenogears/Xenosaga series in terms of cultural impact; it was made after someone’s mucht too grand vision of a good story that – while starting out from a good idea – was destroyed by too many over-the-top or ridiculous elements. The story and cutscenes take up a too large part in both series, but there is still a lot of fans claiming that it’s the best story ever written – and by extension the best game ever produced – and if you don’t like it you just don’t understand it. I much prefer Xenosaga, though, the unlikeable characters with “quirky” antics were more or less the same but the actual game parts were longer and there was a really interesting battle- and leveling system in place that made the game interesting, MGS 4 just has a rather poor 3rd-person action game tacked in between cutscenes.

I wonder a little why this is. Technically, MGS 4 delivers some of the best cutscenes I have seen, face and body animations are near flawless and it throws great scenes with dozens of characters in one after the other. The basic concept of the world evolving to a state where we depend on warfare since it’s the only thing keeping the economy going is very interesting, but it’s not about that at all but rather what sci-fi elements made it happen so the story feels banal. I can’t sympathize with any of the characters, and the overexplaining of everything just bores me since the elements of slapstick comic relief and Kojima’s trademark breaking of the fourth wall constantly destroys immersion and makes the story silly and trivial, even when it’s somewhat believeable. But I did like the first MGS to some degree, and had I played all of the others I might not have seen the story as banal due to the sheer familiarity of it, so (at the risk of sounding condescending) I can sort of understand why people like it.

Yahtzee described another game, “Too Human”, as having the “stink of the auteur, a pet project, something that made for the designer’s sake rather than the players“, this might not be the most articulate or best describing definition of a game where someone high-up has garnered enough of a cult following not to have to kill his darlings, but seeing as I revert to the kind of condescending view he projects in his videos when thinking about said cults, it feels close to heart. It is also eerie in a way, since there are almost certainly people assigning the same phenomenon to, say, Shigeru Miyamato, Fumito Ueda, Rieko Kodama (though I doubt it) or Gunpei Yokoi – designers I have a lot of respect for. I suppose we all need to like some big ideas to have visions and decry others to be independent, and this could be why individual opinions matters so little in matters of taste.

Posted on Nov 28/08 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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Blind Hero

A couple of nice chaps over at the University of Nevada has used the open-source project Frets on Fire to create what they describe as “Guitar Hero for the blind

Back in school, one of the toughest design challenges we had was to create a game without any visual stimuli. That might be just because I generally don’t think about interactive sound, and the idea of a music game for blind people might not be that far-fetched, but I get a kick out of seeing people create games with the severe limitations sometimes present when designing for handicapped people. And as always, broadening the target audience of videogames as a whole is a worthwhile pursuit.

Posted on Nov 19/08 by Saint and filed under Meta-blog, Moral panic | No Comments »

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Mirror’s Edge


Mirror’s Edge is one of those games I like a lot more than I should, like Shadow of the Colossus it takes a familiar concept and does something new and interesting with it to create a fully new experience (also like SotC it has a very distinctive and fitting visual style). It attempts to be sort of an acrobatic first-person platform game; the terrain traversals of the 3D Prince of Persia games seems vagely similar, and when it succeeds in doing this it is an absolute joy to play.

Problem is it doesn’t always succeed – much of this can be attributed to the fact that it is the first game of it’s kind, which is why I may be overly lenient in my liking of it. It is often very hard to judge what moves are actually possible, and combined with a poor sense of where you are supposed to go this gets infuriating at times. Checkpoints are occasionally very sparse, forcing you to replay mundane parts of a level. The worst part of Mirror’s Edge, though, is the combat. You are told to try and avoid confrontation which makes sense since you can take very little damage and it seems more or less random how often enemies hit you, but in far too many places you don’t have a choice but to fight a multitude of enemies at once – leading to many respawns and much frustration. But while these things provide the occasional tedious part, I liked most of Mirror’s Edge very much.

As for the presentation part, Mirror’s Edge is a stunningly beautiful game as far as aesthetics go, but it is not technically advanced. None of the effects really pop, and the character models/animations look downright poor at times. I am not too fond of the cartoony cutscenes between missions – seems kind of odd to go to such lengths to keep the player immersed in the game by shaking the camera and removing UI, and then destroying it with contrasting intermissions, but from what little of it is handled in first-person I am not sure the engine could’ve handled them. I had some worries about the story before and while it is very run-of-the-mill and sort of predictable it is executed well.

I have heard there are plans for a trilogy – DICE certainly sets upp the scene for sequels – and I am very anxious to see if they decide to listen to what people are saying about the game (as my complaints have been voiced before) and try to improve it. It is a good game, but with some great ideas that feel under-utilized.

Posted on Nov 19/08 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »