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New Plot Devices Needed

I am sometimes often accused of being too critical when I judge gameplay mechanics. For example, while I understand that an invisible wall is sometimes the best way to limit a player’s movement, generally I find them to be a product of lazy game design. I also think it is cheap to temporarily take away a player’s abilities during an encounter just to make it more difficult (like removing Ezio’s ability to use “acrobatics” in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations or decreasing the player’s health in Bioshock).

I feel the same accusation mounting as I write this, but I cannot help it. For a while now I have felt that games lack a certain amount of creativity in their plots. It was difficult for me to put my finger on it exactly, but I felt like I encountered the same story in every game I played, even though they were very different at first glance. After I thought about it, though, I realized that there are two plot devices that are far too common: zombies and super weapons.

Open Letter to Clifford Bleszinski

Dear Mr. Bleszinski:

I am a big fan of the Gears of War series. It was one of the first games I purchased alongside my Xbox 360. I have very fond memories of playing through the cooperative campaign with a friend online, and I continued to happily play multiplayer games long after I knew every enemy spawn in the campaign by heart. The game was not perfect though. Glitches and exploits in the multiplayer games made the community grow very frustrated, and Epic took longer than most gamers felt was reasonable to fix them. I recall the frustration of being killed instantly by someone running up with a shotgun yet somehow using the chainsaw attachment on the Lancer. I recall enemies being beneath the map but still capable of killing those of us above them. Despite those frustrations, many of us happily continued to play. There are various reasons why, but most of the reasons hinge on the fact that we were still having a good time and felt like we had purchased a quality game.

A Criticism of Gears of War 3: Act 5

After an impromptu two week break, we finally close off the Gears 3 criticisms.  Not much to say about Act 5, though.  It’s relatively quick as it is mostly combat oriented.

Starting with Home Away from Home, storming the beach of Azura is a well-designed space.  It’s dark and stormy, but the lighting isn’t so bad that you need the headlights on the Silverback to see.  The layout of the overall space separates the area into multiple compartments, while the enemy placement feels much closer to classic Gears of War firefights; Locust are on one side of the area, you’re on the other, there is cover for each side and the middle is for the dead.  It’s very cathartic to play this chapter because of how it focuses back on the Locust and classic encounter design.  At the same time though, things are mixed up with newer elements like mortars, landing Reavers, and the Silverback.  Act 5 is already shaping up to be the grand finale of a great franchise.

A Criticism of Gears of War 3: Act 4 (Part 2)

Act 4 started with Marcus’ squad driving into Char on a truck and running out of fuel.  It began a long trek to recover some to make the trip to Endeavor shipyard.  Today, we cover the events at Endeavor.

We start with Chapter 4, Batten Down the Hatches.  Dizzy drives the pickup through a closed gate while the rest of the squad stands in the flatbed, completely unsecured.  At least one of them, preferably Jace, should have been ejected from the vehicle upon hitting the gate.  That would have been good.

A Criticism of Gears of War 3: Act 4 (Part 1)

Act 4 is an interesting beast.  Quite a bit happens, but there isn’t too much to say.  So this week, we’re trying something different with regards to layout.

Ashes to Ashes starts with Marcus being solemn, having just lost his brother.  His facial expressions, body language, and eye movement are all amazing.  Epic has some very talented animators.

We’re in Char, which is a city hit directly by the Hammer strikes.  The people evacuating from the city were instantly turned to ash.  For 15 years their remains have remained in the same place, depicting the final moments of these civilians.  It’s a mass grave, and Marcus recommends that respect is shown for the dead.  It’s chilling, but also somewhat beautiful.  We see people running in panic, some carrying their children, others huddling together in fear.  Some of the remains have flowers growing around them… life from death.

The atmosphere of this area could be a lot more solemn.  However, the music once again ruins the mood.  Unlike the rest of the times where the music could be changed to be less overtly eerie, this chapter could benefit from having no music.  In effect, a moment of silence for those who have died; not just the ash people we walk among, but for Dom as well.

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