The Japanese ad for The Saint’s Flow Energy Drink shows Pierce, the hip and youthful face of the Third Street Saints brand division, being mercilessly beaten on a basketball court by armed punks. The situation looks bleak, until an anthropomorphized purple can of Saints Flow descends from heaven and gives him the strength to throw off his attackers, unleash a savage volley of fists, kicks and a clothesline before shooting a Ryu-style fireball from his hands and closing out the performance by atomic dunking a basketball that appeared out of nowhere to a shower of neon stars. The Third Streets Saint’s lifestyle has been canned and is ready to be swallowed.
The first time we see Wei Shen is through the monitors of a Hong Kong PD drug sting as he tries to conduct a transaction. When the sale goes bad, we take control as he charges through a densely packed fish market chased by a squad of uniforms. Unable to elude arrest, he gets thrown into lock-up and reunites with his childhood friend Jackie, now a low-ranking member of the Sun On Yee, one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the city. Jackie promises to make an introduction. When Wei’s pulled into interrogation, we learn the setup for the story, and the linchpin connecting the game’s mechanics, systems and narrative; Wei Shen is an undercover cop, just back from fifteen years in America, trying to take down the triads. Sleeping Dogs is a bloody saga of betrayal and loyalty as Wei Shen takes down the Yakuza from the bottom up.
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.
Why All We Needed Was More Dark Souls
If there even is a proper word for the confusing mixture of emotions I felt in the first 30 minutes of booting up the long-awaited add-on to last year’s utterly exhilarating Dark Souls, it’s not in my repertoire. What I do know, is I was immediately struck with a very profound childlike excitement that had me giddy, all due to the fact I was simply doing something new. Having spent well over 200 hours exploring the dense, beautiful and wholly unique world FromSoftware had granted me last year, I pretty much knew everything you could about Dark Souls proper. Every pressure-plate triggered trap, every well-hidden enemy, every nonsense attack a boss could throw at me. Every single obstacle the game could lay on me I had painfully experienced, triumphantly overcome, and gloriously mastered.
Hotline Miami wants you to hurt people.
With its over saturated neon colors aesthetic and ambient synth rock, Dennaton Games title wants you to think of violent action flicks such as Scarface and Drive, films rebelling against their own perceived places in the world with blood, guns and brutality. It’s 1989, a time of VHS cassettes and answering machines. When you check yours, you’re given a cryptic message with a location and a time. You’re going there to kill everyone.
The stealth action genre has long been an echo chamber unto itself. While many games have integrated its core ideas, its pure form hasn’t evolved much since Metal Gear 2 on the MSX. It’s a genre that many critics have argued relies too heavily on trial-and-error, exists as puzzle games in action-game skin. Mark of the Ninja shrugs these distinctions off while living inside them. It’s a smart title that promotes a different kind of stealth: action not patience; the hunter, not the prey.
A child’s eyes see a simple world. For centuries, fairy tales have been tools to give those eyes a view on the world they might not see on their own. They are a means of teaching lessons and giving metaphors, to see villainy and sorrow overcome by heroism and bravery. In Bastion, Supergiant Games has crafted a new fairy tale in videogame form, one that allows you to revisit your youth while celebrating the games you loved when you were small and the world was big.