A more serious look at video games

Posts tagged xbox 360

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Resident Evil 6 trailer.

Looks like the series is packing in more frenetic action and kinetic energy than ever. I personally kind of hated RE5, but this game looks like a no-holds-barred adrenaline rush of deliciously horrific proportions. Might as well go all out now; there ain’t no going back to the olden ways. And the music kind of reminds me of RE2, which is a good thing.

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Jonathan Blow’s ‘The Witness’ could reach consoles

He previously stated that it would not be possible due to a confluence of factors like the small team-size he had, cost-benefit considerations, RAM limitations on the 360 and PS3, and the annoying certification process required for console releases. Now, after hiring a few more programmers, all those hurdles seem to have dissipated.

The 360 and PS3 are getting quite ancient, at least in computer years. If the human-to-dog years ratio is, as they say, 1:7, then computer technology is probably triple that. I’m definitely noticing the ‘limitations’ first-hand playing through Skyrim on the PS3, and then seeing how it looks and plays on a PC.


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Commentary: Borderlands


While bordering on the banal, there is no denying that the bombastic barrage of bullets across barren wastelands known as Borderlands is crafted with a magnitude of polish indicative of a high-level understanding of fun-filled first-person shooter mechanics. That it achieves a mechanically sound and relatively enjoyable first-person shooting experience on a visceral level is somewhat surprising given that it attempts to merge that with many MMORPG elements in a mostly single-player paradigm. This merger is something of an experiment to me, and it provides glimpses into the future regarding how a MMOFPS might look like if it were crossed with World of Warcraft or something similar. However, I don’t think this path is an exalted one for first-person shooters, a path defined generically by rote grinding, quests and crawling through a myriad of dungeons (or, in the case of Borderlands, post-apocalyptic trash megastructures and wide-open wastelands).

The luster of Borderlands shines through its art direction. The game world is a somewhat meticulously realized vision of a post-apocalyptic future, littered with wastelands and mountains of litter and waste, based on various source materials that have come before it. The game employs a nice cel-shading graphical effect, though towards what end besides to visually distinguish the game I’m not sure. Maybe you could argue that the cel-shading is a function of some of its cartoon-like flourishes.

Though great attention and energy was devoted to the construction of the game world, it is disappointing that most of the narrative was embedded in the game’s quest system in static text boxes. First-person games have a proud history of rich, environmental narratives (e.g. Metroid Prime or Bioshock). The developers of Borderlands really didn’t leverage the power of this tool; most of the environments are devoid of unique and impactful narrative attachments. The priority was clearly on designing environments first to appeal to the digital tourist in gamers and second to serve as a functional container for the numerous, repetitive MMORPG elements. 

It’s my belief that in order to successfully immerse gamers, more has to be done than just create a unique and visually-detailed world. For any primarily first-person game, this is paramount, a natural inclination for game designers. It’s an automatic concession that the player-character is less some fictional character and more the person him or herself. The challenge is in the balance of creating a world with deliberately immersive properties to simultaneously draw the human player in and merge or map the fictional characteristics with the player’s. A key ingredient to achieve this is the narrative details and how they are presented interactively. Borderlands ultimately doesn’t succeed at achieving this balance because it has more or less eschewed narrative for shooting stuff.

Still, the underlying first-person shooter mechanics are sturdy and inviting, creating a bridge throughout that many fans of the genre will want to cross perhaps once into those junk-filled borderlands. As they say: one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

EVALUATION: 2 / 3 — Some worthy qualities

Filed under borderlands ps3 commentary xbox 360 xbox 360 fps first person shooter post-apocalyptic