The Soul in Nier: Automata’s Machine

Human consciousness required tools that let it produce abundant resources so people could transition from simple survival to prosperity, which allowed us to further discover our world and find a place in it. Tools advanced into machines given more sophisticated logic, motor, and communication systems through developments in electronics, networking, and artificial intelligence. But a world is like a person- the more it becomes one thing, the less it’s like something else. Nier: Automata examines how machines are becoming the new owners of our world but will continue a tragic human legacy, by giving us a glimpse at how machine logic is coding its own soul.

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Running Perfect Dark’s Training Program

Early first person shooters created virtual proving grounds filled with enemies for an emerging digital warrior class to test their combat skills, but as games became more intricate, new player archetypes branched out. By the end of the Nintendo 64’s life, Rare had learned to construct complex environments built with infrastructure stalked by reactive guards, while providing players with a large toolset to deal with them. The product turned them into versatile special agents rather than warriors, culminating in 2000’s brilliant Perfect Dark.

Perfect Dark’s intricacies are apparent as early as the first level. Your mission to smuggle the defecting Dr. Carroll from dataDyne is easy on the lowest difficulty, only asking you to reach the bottom of its tower, but adds more objectives that explain the whistleblower’s actions from there. The opening helipad leads down to the executive floors and this large office with two women. If you quickly knock out the tall blonde calling for security you’ll get Cassandra De Vries necklace, smartly introducing dataDyne’s CEO.

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Halo 3 And Completing The Modern Shooter Combat Model

Guarding the outskirts of the anti-air gun early in Halo 3’s campaign is a quadrupedal Covenant tank called a Scarab. Stepping its spidery legs around a circular complex lined with missile pods, a large crane, and enough foot space to let half a dozen vehicles unload their artillery, the scarab is the largest working unit in the series. A far cry from Master Chief’s scripted encounter with it in Halo 2, this AI controlled enemy has a giant laser cannon and its own hit points, and is transporting a squad of Covenant sentries laying heavy fire. As you stare at it in awe, a question forms: how am I supposed to take that thing down? A couple ways. Focus all your fire on the hull and blow it away, or shoot its legs until they lower, fight your way to the power core, and set off a chain reaction. Both answers are possible in the arena littered with tools of mass destruction.

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Treasure and Virtue in Sin & Punishment

Sin & Punishment’s single best setpiece captures the essence and versatility of its design. With your character Airan on a platform zipping around a naval carrier fleet, you evade the barrage of artillery fire from massive aircraft carriers, dogfight squadrons of enemy aircraft, and bat missiles back at their launchers, while unleashing a constant stream of shots to send them to the bottom of the ocean, all as the world soars and reorients in full cinematic splendor. It’s one of the most exhilarating action spectacles of the generation and combines the best elements of the classic shooter and brawler genres into one unique game. The scene ends with the freedom fighter chasing down a comet-sized missile shot from low-orbit as it hurtles at your ally-turned-monster Saki.

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Going Maverick: How X4 Upgraded Mega Man’s Hardware

Depending on whether you chose to play as X or Zero, the fight against Web Spider requires a different set of tactics. With his X-Buster, X can dash around the small jungle room until Spider descends from the canopy, wall jumping over the webs he shoots and firing from afar. With his Z-Sabre, Zero is forced to stay close to the bug on his line, dashing away from the web only to careen up and around over it in a circle and strike before your foe scrambles back to safety. The fight gets harder when the Repliforce member lays an electric grid and starts scurrying about the scene. Because of their different playstyles, the remaining seven robot masters will present X and Zero with a similarly different dynamic. Continue reading “Going Maverick: How X4 Upgraded Mega Man’s Hardware”

Resurrecting A Demon on the Altar of Doom

The first portal back to Mars is guarded by an army of hellspawn trying to rip you limb from limb. Agile fireball throwing imps and dual wielding Mancubus, burly Hell Knights and rocket-launching Revenants all converge on your location, employing a wide assortment of tactics while you unleash the concussive blast of your shotgun and unload mag after mag from the assault rifle and unleash its’ micro missile alternate fire. You weave between shots and sidestep claws barely missing your face, jump to the stunned body of a Cacodemon and tear out its eye only to be knocked down and witness the centaur-like Baron of Hell’s fatal finishing blow. The fight is an exhilarating and tense struggle for your survival.

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Hard Corps Contra

Contra: Hard Corps opens to a robotic army assaulting a sprawling future city only to be decimated by a charging tank that ejects your character guns blazing into an active warzone. Not only does this succinctly indicate where the games tonal priorities are, it’s also the designers giving you some honest advice: charge forward until every enemy is demolished. Hard Corps distilled Alien War’s brazen creativity down to its run and gun foundation, creating a single minded epic that is equal parts twitch shooter and blockbuster action flick.

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Halo 4 Has 343 Problems and Cortana is Definitely One

Videogames were changed forever when Bungie released Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001.  In that seminal release, the world met Spartan II cyborg Master Chief as he is awakened from cryo sleep to fight against the alien Covenant.  We also met Cortana, the AI that would accompany Chief and become the voice in his ear as he fights. Among many of its revolutionary ideas was its holy trinity of combat that mapped guns, grenades and melee onto an intuitive control scheme that provided a deep and flexible options and allowed players access to large maps and vehicles.  As the series progressed, it implemented a suite of online features and pared down gameplay into tighter design.  At the end of Halo 3, Master Chief re-entered cryo sleep aboard the UNSC’s Forward Unto Dawn as it drifts aimlessly through space with Cortana watching over him. The trilogy complete, Bungie flexed their creative muscles on Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, two games that would expand the structure with new modes and matchmaking options.

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Dishonored: An Atmospheric Example of Stealth-Action Done Right.

When I try to make a concrete decision as to what my favorite game of all time is, the answer tends to change from day to day. More often than not, however, Bioshock is the first thing that comes to mind. My initial arrival in Rapture was a swift kick to the face, forever opening my eyes to how it feels to be in an atmosphere so thick I could taste it. Not since that precious moment so many years ago had I experienced a world so fully realized and enticing as presented in victorian Dunwall.

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Resident Evil 4’s Silent Tutorial

Fifteen minutes into Resident Evil 4, Shinji Mikami and his design team test your comprehension of the mechanics they’ve been invisibly teaching you since you selected ‘New Game’. Former rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy had just fought his way through the Ganado’s Village and now finds himself catching his breath on an old dingy farm.  Stray slightly from the beaten path and you’ll find a radiant pearl necklace enticingly suspended above a barrel of putrid water, patiently waiting for you to find it.  Retrieving this necklace is your test.  You can’t just reach out and interact with it, so you draw your handgun and shoot it loose- and immediately fail as it falls directly into the barrel of sludge beneath.  When you pull it from the filth, your inventory lists the item as ‘Dirty Pearl Pendant’, its picture a grimy mess.  Looking back at the barrel, you notice the 2×4 propping up the lid, so you shoot that next and watch it create a cover.  Since you didn’t learn the lesson before, you do now: Resident Evil 4 rewards tactical gunplay.

Let’s study the notes:

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