To categorize cinematic action games as intrinsically shallow or lacking in value would be the worst sort of genre-as-pejorative thinking. Their approach to game storytelling has produced many strengths, but one central characteristic of the genre is also a critical weakness. The great artistic limitations of cinematic action games come from their disinterest in the player as a creative force.
Uncharted represents not a new kind of game unto itself but an exemplary actualization of certain values in game design. Here I intend to put a name to those values and show how they relate to the characteristics of games in this group, which I think of as "Cinematic Action" games.
As anyone who has the misfortune of following me on Twitter will know, I've been engrossing myself in Phoenix Wright for the past few days, and the game has pretty much been riding solo in my newly acquired DS. I'm just about at the end of episode 5, so not totally done yet. However, unless the game suddenly turns into Mega Man X7 within this last case, I can safely say that Phoenix Wright will rocket straight to the top of my "late to the party" list. And as a bonus, I have the correct spelling of "Phoenix" memorized after years of always relying on spellckeck.
I've been going through some of my gaming backlog recently, partially due the to the magical appearance of a Nintendo DS Lite in my closet. I have no idea where it came from, I don't remember buy and none of my old roommates reported losing it. I've approached it somewhat apprehensively, lest it be the focal point of a plot by some supernatural force. Enough about The Lost DS though. I'm here to talk about something much different.
Why do so few video games have truly great stories? We have some suggestions for developers and share some of our favorites. Plus: Roger Ebert breaks our hearts, and Chi and Tim finally have a reason to talk about Wing Commander. Brad is thrilled! Featuring Chi Kong Lui, Brad "Likely Going To Hell" Gallaway, Richard Naik, and Tim Spaeth.
Jim Sterling gave Deadly Premonition a score of 10 points out of a possible 10, easily the highest score the game received among major gaming review sites. In his review, he makes it plain that this game does not deserve that score in any "objective" sense. The graphics are dated, the gameplay is limited, and its systems pay too much attention to irrelevant details. This is to say nothing of its absurd plot and characters. In comparison to almost any other game, Deadly Premonition is awful, but within the bounds of a certain kind of sensibility, that does not preclude it from also being good. Sontag identifies that sensibility as Camp, and it's an idea worth thinking about in connection to games.
It's been suggested by critic emeritus Gene Park, staff critic Matthew Kaplan and others outside of the GC community, that adding more interactive choices/decisions to the popular PlayStation 3 title, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, would change the very thrill-ride nature and universal appeal of its gameplay. The argument is that the inclusion of such choice would result in something that was "not the point of the game".
Gene insists that: "...I've followed the game's development through media and it's been said time and time again (even in the game's in-game documentary) that the purpose of the game was never going to be about player choice, but providing the same experience for all players."
I disagree with this logic of thought for multiple reasons.
I recently had the pleasure of playing Machinarium, a fantastic adventure title from indie developer Amanita Design. Currently available on Steam and on their website, Machinarium has received accolades from many critics, myself included. Their CEO, Jakub Dvorsky, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the game his company, and his team.
Stephen Totilo of Kotaku provided a fascinating look at Zach Gage's Lose/Lose, a curious statement-game (I would call it an "art game," but that label comes with its own baggage and may obfuscate the analysis below) that posits players in a pretty lousy situation: Get "killed" in the game, and the application running the program is deleted from the computer. Destroy "enemies," however, and a file on your computer—represented graphically in the game as a blurry mess of pixels scrolling down the screen in true Galaga fashion—gets deleted. That's right. The game deletes your files. Of course, that's only if you choose to play the game as a game... and not experience it as a question of will and complicity.
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