Ben's Week In Review: December 20
There appears to be snow outside. A lot of it. And I have to go out tomorrow...thank goodness for AWD. ;)
Lookin' forward to the STORIES in 2010
After Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots blew me away with it's supreme storytelling ("supreme" in terms of video games, of course), I must say that 2009 wasn't exactly the year of excellent plot scripts and character development. I mean, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was extraordinarily well done; extremely well acted, decently written, and incredibly well paced. But beyond that, my favorite games of the year were Killzone 2, Assassin's Creed II, inFamous, and Dragon Age: Origins, and none really moved me from a story perspective. ACII's story was certainly better than what we had in the original but it's still a far cry from MGS, and let's face it, nobody is really playing Origins for the story. I love it but I love it for the addictive gameplay, like most everyone else. The other two are bad-ass but...well, this is why I'm looking for the stories in 2010.
Heavy Rain has such amazing literary potential, and I agree with David Cage when he says it might not even be a "video game" as we understand that definition today. I just know it's going to be an amazing story and remember, I loved Indigo Prophecy for that reason (obviously). Then there's Final Fantasy XIII and you can say what you want about the characters, but I have yet to play a FF that didn't feature an unbelievable story. FFXII wasn't so much for me - not a fan of the political angles in any story - but they're all usually head-and shoulders above the competition. So, I'm looking for the industry to take another storytelling step next year...
...and yet, I just don't care about Mass Effect 2
I really don't. BioWare's continual evasion may as well be a confirmation of a PS3 version, but I don't care one way or the other. I desperately tried to get into the first ME; I tried for a good six or seven hours and with each passing hour, I just continued to reach new levels of boredom. It felt a lot like a mediocre third-person shooter trying to be a deep, freedom-oriented RPG. I'm going to make this plain once again: the concept of "freedom" in RPGs is basically a joke right now, in that we're still only choosing different paths. You know, paths written by someone else. And when more paths have to be written to compensate for more "freedom," less effort goes into the writing of each path. On the other hand, when you have one story that encompasses the entire experience, complete with character development and well-devised plot twists and all that, that's a far greater achievement. "Freedom" is often a devs con..."instead of having to write the story, we'll let the player make his own."
Mm-hm. I've been on to that little ploy for a while. Heavy Rain is entirely different. There's no "open-endedness," really, in that we can dictate exactly how things happen. It's an entire story that simply has many different small branches within an existing plot. That really is more like freedom, and a hundred times more difficult to construct because everything has to continually make sense, even with deaths involved (no Game Overs, remember?). Besides, I also don't like ME so much because I've always preferred the old-fashioned mage-and-rod format to the sci-fi stuff. Maybe that's just why I like Origins so much more. Well, that, and the gameplay is way better, IMO.
Personal gaming update
I'm in sort of a holding pattern right now, awaiting Christmas to see what I might get. So I'm not really playing anything besides FFT and Suikoden (yeah, another RPG trip down memory lane), although I played PixelJunk Shooter today. The review is going up in just a minute here; I had fun with that. The only other thing I've been doing was trying to figure out what I might do for a personal editorial: Arnold is doing his car reviews now and I thought I might do something unique to me, but I can't really think of anything. I was thinking books as I'm a big reader but no offense to any of our fans, I don't think enough people here find reading literary classics (not sci-fi or Patterson or some such stuff) to be "fun." Then I thought about resurrecting the old personal editorials about my bachelor life but I won't be doing that for two reasons: 1. while maybe 95% of the readers liked them, a vocal 5% really didn't, and 2. ...uh, there ain't much to talk about right now.
So anyway, that's that. Guess you'll only have the Week in Reviews from me. Oh, and stay tuned for our Game of the Year Awards nominees, coming this week (awards go live on December 31 or January 1).
12/19/2009 Ben Dutka