Walking into the ruins of New York for the first time is a visceral experience. It’s a beautifully designed and well executed dystopia. Individually rendered grass, leaning skyscrapers, gorged and festooned with jungle.
I want to forgive Assassin’s Creed for getting so far away from its original, fairly flawed, but still rather fascinating first entry. Presumptuous of me I know, but as a guy who’s spent over $200 bucks (and as many hours) on this series, I think I’ve at least paid for the right to toss in these two cents about how Ubisoft would convince me to do just that.
For in this remixed rebirth of DMC, Dante’s brash attitude is retained, but it’s now speckled with the punk rock edge and reckless nihilism of Sid Vicious. His nemesis, the Demon King Mundus, is no longer cartoonishly summoning an army from Hell for the sake of capital “E” Evil, as he already controls the world through the far more sinister forces of leveraged debt, addictive energy drinks, and agenda driven 24-hour cable news.
This ability to win battles but lose the war, especially on the higher difficulties where the combat quickly becomes very unforgiving, creates tension for every decision you make, really nailing the sense that you’re managing a war effort. Combined with permanent death for your soldiers and you have a game weightier than a lead lined coffin and more engaging than a shotgun wedding.
With their licensed tie-in to Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, Telltale proves once again that worthwhile emotional experiences in gaming have nothing to do with fancy graphics requiring billion dollar budgets, but everything to do with well-crafted narrative and smartly written characters that you give a damn about.
This front of AC3’s story is thankfully stronger, weaving an interesting and refreshingly mature narrative about the nature of family, vengeance, and shifting allegiances during a time of great cultural tumult. It’s also set in the period when the Tri-Corner hat was at the height of its popularity, for all you lovers of 18th century millinery.
At some point, perhaps in the middle of a gun battle against bandits protected by shields reinforced with angry midgets or while firing your talking sniper rifle that guilt-trips you whenever you fell any of your disposable foes out for your equally disposable head, you realize that sanity was thankfully left off of the “things to include in our game” checklist. Every other mission presents you with a ridiculous goal or scenario of utter parody – a favorite being a mission to shoot an evil sheriff without killing her deputy – and if you tried counting the myriad pop-culture references and shout outs in the quest text, throw away lines of dialogue, and background art alone, you’d end up with a number higher than the national debt.
The premise itself is sinister; an elusive entity called the Leviathan proves all too tempting a lure for Commander Shepard, who believes that whatever it is, it can help the galaxy triumph in the war over the Reapers. To go into more detail would give away too much about the Leviathan’s nature; suffice to say this DLC ramps up the creep factor and provides a chilling entry to the Mass Effect canon.
Taking massive cues from Hong Kong action cinema, especially “Heroic Bloodshed” classics like City on Fire and Infernal Affairs (better known in the U.S. for its remake The Departed), Sleeping Dogs has players step into the shoes of Wei Shen, a modern Chinese supercop who fights like Bruce Lee, flips over display cases like Jackie Chan, and shoots like Chow Yun Fat. Wei’s been tasked with infiltrating the Sun On Yee Triad by going deep undercover and bringing them down from the inside.
In order to discover the secret of the house and escape the curse, you encounter and battle ghosts from the memoir and the house using the Camera Obscura – taking photographs of the ghosts at crucial moments leads to their untimely demise. You do battle with all sorts of unsavoury types, from staggering, bloodstained long-haired young girls to bodiless hands which reach out from the memoir’s pages to grab and tear at you.