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 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.
The game’s main protagonist, zombie hunting high school cheer leader Juliet, is, like, totally blonde and sugary sweet. She wakes up and it’s so lame because like, it’s her birthday and there are zombies everywhere. Not cool! Out comes the heart-patterned chainsaw and the pom-poms and soon zombie heads are flying, with flips and flourishes galore as Juliet twirls around the battlefield with elegance and grace. So totally, like, awesome!
Herein dwells the problem. The treatment of your combatants as mere faceless fodder makes gameplay as compulsive and mindless as your average stint in Azeroth – all that is required of the player is to keep on clicking until everything around them is dead. There is nothing skilful about taking an enemy down in Diablo III – if you have the time to sit and click, click, click, you’ll get it done.
What was once iconic – big hair, slender waists and massive…uh…assets – has become a laughable stereotype as developers refuse to push forward and innovate with their designs. Japan used to be a trendsetter in terms of game design, and it’s a shame to see things descend into mere mimicry of what has already been. In terms of aesthetics, Pandora’s Tower suffers deeply from this refusal to move on.
A few nights ago, I finished Mass Effect 3. As the credits scrolled I again sat silent in the dark, dumbstruck by what I had beheld. Not out of the bittersweet satisfaction that comes with the conclusion to any story, but in the confusion and anger that occurs when you’ve witnessed a crime you could do nothing to stop.
No, what truly hurts is that AMY squanders more potential than a philosophy student. Especially to me, as the game combines a favorite genre, Survival Horror, with a favorite game, ICO, and adds a dash of novelty by using a character you don’t often get to play as: an average woman ill-prepared for combat using her cunning to get by.
Improbably well-informed terrorists, led by an improbably super villainish man named Vladimir Makarov, have initiated World War 3 by installing a war ready Ultranationalist party to take control of Russia (MW1), and then used false flag terrorist attacks to goad them into invading the United States ala Red Dawn (MW2). Now it’s up to the player to take control of various soldiers (some of whom will perish) in order to wrest Soviet control of America’s eastern seaboard and traipse around the world trying to prevent the war from going all-out nuclear while it still rages throughout Europe.
With all these issues aired though, Batman Arkham City can still be summarily broken down to one simple fact: it’s more Batman Arkham Asylum, with improvements across the board, more characters, and a better plot. Considering that game is deservedly hailed as one of the greatest things to come out of England since The Beatles, that’s not only an endorsement for you to simply go and enjoy it for yourself, it’s also my guarantee to end up as “Best Game of the Year” barring some sort of “Second Coming of Samus.”