With Jon and James thoroughly incapacitated by the recent release of LittleBigPlanet, it appears that I can write about whatever the fuck I want and not get called out on it. I fully intended to take this opportunity to dole out some bitchslaps to the good ol’ games industry until my bile-dispensing organs dried up and crusted over, but then I had a better idea. Instead, I’d like to squirt some wisdom into your open eyes and gaping mouth, fresh from my knowledgableness glands. You’re welcome.
WISDOMITE NUMBER ONE
Never trust game reviewing websites to choose your games for you. Not even us, awesome as we are. The only thing keeping games from degenerating completely is the people who don’t just follow the crowd, and buy copy after copy of Gears Of Duty IV or whatever it is you crazy kids are playing these days instead of Boro Toro or Cortex Command.
Allow me to explain myself.
Almost all game reviewers work for a profit. They almost always earn more money for praising hot new releases, and they almost always have no fucking idea what they’re talking about; which confuses me to no end since they always seem really worked up about whatever they’re blathering on about at any given time. I’m always hearing reviewers talk for ages and ages about how an “incredibly innovative new combat system” or an “intuitive heads up display”are going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before and completely revolutionise the face of every game for the next twenty lifetimes. This is always, without fail, a method of avoiding having to talk about how they actually felt while playing the game. It’s also a LIE which they are probably being PAID to tell you by some company or another, and don’t themselves believe for a second.
Never mind the fact that they spend most of their time asking the developers whether their game is good (point of interest: they just might be slightly biased), never mind how it’s ridiculously easy to make a bad game sound good in text (see Hour of Victory and Turning Point) and never mind that almost every single motherfucking review on gamespot has a rating in between 7 and 8 (incidentally, using numbers to communicate an opinion is a retarded way of doing things – I give it a negative 4.12 on my scale of mathematical wizardry in game reviewing techniques). No, just look at how gamespot’s number 8 game of all time is Chessmaster 7800, while Breakdown lingers somewhere far below, an underappreciated jewel.
WISDOMITE NUMBER TWO
I think the best way of showing someone what you think of a game is by telling them what you felt while playing it. For instance, playing Halo 3, I would occasionally struggle out of my stupor to the jarring realisation that I was frustrated and confused because I couldn’t accept how little fun my favourite franchise was giving me. This, I hope, tells you that it wasn’t a noticeably bad game. However, it sure as hell wasn’t an enjoyable experience and close inspection of your own feelings will tell you the same. On the other hand, the Mirror’s Edge demo, which I have played about 20 times now, still has me on the edge of my seat every time; exploring the limits of this new sub-genre and the ways in which the incredibly consistent FPS formula is twisted into new and interesting shapes when you’re forced to approach age-old problems in such radically new ways.
Case-in-point: Two armed guards on a rooftop, aware of your presence. There is lots of cover around. In a regular FPS, you probably gun them down, zig-zagging between cover and making motions towards your goal. In Mirror’s Edge, your first priority is always to keep in motion. By stripping you of any long-range weapons, the action shifts and becomes much more frenetic and risky. Being capable of zig-zagging up and down as you go adds an extra dimension to what was previously just an obstacle. Blockades become routes, cover offers not only protection, but a chance to build momentum, stepping up the already frantic pace of the action. You could vault over anything in your way, on a direct route to the first guard, using your momentum to kick him clear off the side of the building, before climbing a succession of crates to get the drop on the second one, knocking him out from above. Conversely, you could stay low, ducking and rolling out of sight, until you’re close enough to take one of them by surprise, relieve him of his weapon, and use it to take out the other guard. Of course, you could always just outmaneuver them both, and their hail of gunfire, by weaving in and out, above and below, side to side in your desperate flight towards your goal.
Do you see what I mean? No? I’ll try to put it simply:
Great games are made when you seriously try something which has never been done before. Mirror’s Edge has done this, but not in the way everyone thinks it has. Parkour has been done to death in Crackdown, Assassin’s Creed and the countless Tomb Raider games. I couldn’t give a shit about another parkour game. No, what Mirror’s Edge has done is create a truly three-dimensional game. Up is now an option. Verticality provides new, more creative approaches to situations we’ve encountered thousands of times before. You’ll understand when you try to play another FPS in the same way. Dice, it seems, are the first to understand this in a long time. I will say just this – Mirror’s Edge has taken the next step forward, and it’s really fucking high up. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be there for the release, no matter how much shit I have to write to make the time pass quicker.
But I digress…about three or four miles off course, reading back. I hope hearing how I actually felt while playing provided a better idea of my opinion about it than if I’d just reeled off a list of features and how competently they were put in. Fuck that. Fuck gamespot.
All my love and bile
P.S – Fable II is alright.