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Ars Technica tackles games with serious issues

Ars Technica closely examines some recent games that raise controversial themes and issues.

On Super Columbine Massacre RPG!:

Essentially, SCMRPG! is a psychological examination of Harris and Klebold. It attempts to put the player into their mindset, exploring how and why they came to do what they did. The subject matter itself questions what a game is meant to be. Though people normally play video games for sheer enjoyment, there is none to be found in SCMRPG! Instead, I found myself actively dreading entering the game world, unwilling to perform the actions necessary to progress.

On Metal Gear Solid 4:

In the world of MGS4, war has become a business, and PMCs are in the center of it. The new war economy means that the world is in a constant state of battle, locked in perpetual proxy wars fought for business purposes. But while this is an interesting concept to contemplate, unfortunately it is not covered with real depth.

As a Kojima game, MGS4 spends much more time tackling strange philosophical debates than it does real world issues like PMCs. And given the fact that the existence of these corporations only came to light recently, it's a topic that is at the forefront of many people's minds. The game is wonderful, but the opportunity for a serious look at the subject was squandered.

Soul Calibur IV Review

The tale eternally retold... with more muscles, mammaries and licensed characters

Read review of Soul Calibur IV

HIGH I'm not what you'd call a Star Wars fanboy, although I grew up with the series. However, whoom-ing a lightsaber while playing as a menacing Darth Vader was a strangely satisfying experience. Did I mention that Darth Vader is cool (PlayStation 3 only)?

LOW Realizing that I'd rather be playing Soul Calibur I or II, where the characters flowed slightly faster (in my memory) and there were more interesting learning/adventure modes.

WTF I miss the days of non-hulking characters. Kilik and Ivy are seriously bulked, in their respective fashions. And Ivy is beginning to remind me of a drag queen.

Soul Calibur IV

Game Description: Return to witness the epic struggle between the spirit sword, Soul Calibur, and the cursed sword, Soul Edge, in Soul Calibur IV. Warriors from far reaches of the galaxy battle to control the powerful swords and use them for their own goals. Should these fighters succeed, they will face the ultimate judgment. The ongoing story continues with new revelations, exciting new gameplay features and stunning visuals. And perhaps most exciting of all, a character from the Star Wars universe will also make an appearance.

"Life as a Disabled Gamer"

Life as a Disabled Gamer is a guest editorial at Game|Life by Andrew Monkelban, a gamer with cerebral palsy who plays one-handed. His piece covers a lot of important issues, but what most interested me was the kinds of games he likes and doesn't like to play, and why:

Up until recently, I've played predominately roleplaying games, with some focus on fighters. However, with the inclusion of online multi-player and other networking features in games and consoles, I've been able to try different titles and genres (i.e. Devil May Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto 4, and Mass Effect).

One example of a genre I can't play is shooters. Mass Effect is in this genre, and I had trouble playing it, due to the controls being too complicated for one-handed gaming. When you need to hold the controller a certain way, it causes problems when needing to reach some buttons.

Gamers are an incredibly diverse group of people, and I don't think most game developers or publishers (or indeed, most gamers, myself included) fully realize just how diverse we are. Can controllers with sensitive analog sticks and lots of little buttons be adapted for someone who needs a larger, simpler setup? Are there certain games and genres that gamers with certain impairments can't play because of the barriers involved? If so, are these barriers truly "just the way things are" or can we fix them? For instance, can we make audio cue-intensive survival horror games and first-person-shooters accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing gamers? (See the Doom 3 closed-captioning/transcription mod).

By blogging about gaming and disability, I hope to examine these and other questions. And, of course, alert readers to some really cool technology and people.

Spectral Force 3

Game Description: Spectral Force 3 delivers challenging strategy RPG gameplay, a classic fantasy story, and tons of character and item customization options. The ten kingdoms of the land, seizing the opportunity provided by OverlordJanus's death, are attempting to unify the continent under their own banners. This is the beginning of the Great Neverland War. In order to bolster their defenses, kingdoms have begun hiring mercenary units. As new members of the Norius Mercenaries, you and your friend Diaz are eager to prove yourselves. When the squad's commander Judo is mortally wounded in battle, the mantle of leadership is entrusted to you, and so the adventure begins.

Spectral Force 3 – Review

Read review of Spectral Force 3Despite being a game that appears on a gaming console that can put out some amazing graphics and support gameplay that couldn't be done on older hardware, Spectral Force 3 looks like a game that could have been developed for the PlayStation 2 and features play mechanics that were "fresh and new" back in the days of the Sega Genesis. This mediocrity serves to make it only more ironic that the title was developed by Idea Factory—because this is a game that is woefully lacking when it comes to anything resembling an actual idea.

Spectral Force 3 – Consumer Guide

According to ESRB, this game contains: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol

Dark Sector

Game Description: Dark Sector is a third-person Action/Shooter that thrusts players into a sci-fi flavored nightmare scenario set in the post Cold War era. Playing in the role of Hayden Tenno, an unscrupulous covert operative sent on an assassination mission into Lasria – a fictional Eastern European city on the brink of ruin and rumored to be contaminated by a mysterious and frightening plague, Hayden takes out his mark, but before he can escape is attacked by an unknown enemy. Not killed outright as expected, he is instead infected with the virus that is causing the plague.

Dark Sector – Second Opinion

Having worked with Dan here at GameCritics for so long, sometimes it feels as though we think with the same brain. More often than not, we champion the same underdogs and see value in titles that others don't. However, there are rare occasions reminding me that as often as we agree, it's still a fact of life that we will occasionally take entirely different positions on things. Case in point: Dark Sector.

Rock Band – Review

Read review of Rock BandCelebrity culture and status seem to be at an all-time high in pop culture right now, and musicians are often seen in this sweeping spotlight of fame. Kids have always fantasized being pop stars; the likes of Disney keep pumping out fantasies of fame through musical vehicles like High School Musical, Hannah Montana and Camp Rock; and American Idol chugs along season after season. Harmonix rides that wave to produce the next vehicle in the musical fame fantasy-land: Rock Band.

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