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.
Mass Effect 2’s post-launch content was among the best examples of the practice this generation. Not only did each flesh out the Mass Effect universe, they allowed custom built levels and their own cohesive story that could accentuate Shepard’s story while still existing outside of its confines. Leviathan is the first such piece of content for Mass Effect 3 but that games controversial ending hangs heavily over this even before you embark on its mission.
Journey opens with a red-robed figure sitting in the sand, the only immediate task climbing a nearby dune. Making way is slow, the footing gives way and the walking arduous. The view from the top reveals the mountain peak far in the distance and reaching it is the singular goal of the title thatgamecompany has crafted, one that utilizes every narrative convention afforded by videogames to create your own journey.
Since Mass Effect was first announced, skepticism about Bioware’s claims that choices made in its space opera would carry over its trilogy have given way to mounting pressure to make them a reality. Mass Effect proper introduced a dense universe of characters and races with real history and threw them into peril against an ancient race of synthetic life forms called Reapers who threatened to eradicate all life. But it also introduced us to Commander Shepard, the hero that took up arms to protect the galaxy. Mass Effect 2 was an incredible story of bravery set against impossible odds as Shepard once again fought against forces no one believed in.
Syndicate’s future world is about divisions; the divisions in the economic and political landscapes, between consumer and outcast where people are interfaced with the Datascape through neural chips that feed them a constant stream of data. That world is run by the mega corporations who plot, steal, manipulate and sabotage for the sake of patents, personnel and profit and each employs its own military and special agents to safeguard its bottom line. The original Syndicate from the mid-nineties offered a bleak, violent cyberpunk world- one perfectly suited to the brutal and creative skills of Starbreeze Studio’s.
Videogames attempts to marry gameplay to music have long suffered from a case of ‘this’ or ‘that’. Narrative or pure mechanics, simon says memorization or notes on cue. Music rhythm games have been largely forced to pigeonhole themselves into working with a single mechanic with little flexibility. None of those games are Rhythm Heaven Fever.
The aspects of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning that place it in everyone’s mind as an Elder Scrolls knock-off disguised in a bright, cartoonish atmosphere are probably the least important of all. Yes, you are in a rich fantasy world fighting typical fairy-tale type monsters. Yes, you can choose to play as a decent, upstanding individual or to roam the world looting what is not rightfully yours. In 2012, these are common facets in most great open-world games. It is the fully realized manner in which Big Huge Games offers these features here that make for a truly satisfying experience.
After he viciously slaughtered his way through the mafia family run by his Uncle Paulie, Jackie Estacado had vowed to never again use The Darkness. The demon had given him great strength, but had manipulated and twisted the young man. When we meet him again as he walks into a family run restaurant at the beginning of the Darkness 2, we see that he has prospered, the family is strong, its members loyal- and then they are attacked by an unknown group who want The Darkness for themselves. The scene acts as a well-designed introduction to the world and mechanics- Jackie’s leg is destroyed and he’s pulled to safety, nothing but a pistol to fend off his attackers. Where once he was an invincible god, he’s broken and dying, now just a man. It’s been two years since he’s given in to the Darkness.