What We’re Playing – June 15
We’re back from E3 and back to videogames. Here’s what we’ve been playing in the wake of the show.
Max Payne has always been in my top five for awesome video game characters, so I eagerly picked up Max Payne 3. Despite my excitement, I only very recently started the game’s third and final act. While Rockstar’s take on Max Payne is certainly a well-made game, polished and entertaining, it just doesn’t feel like the Max Payne that I was personally hoping for. Maybe I was a victim of my own lofty expectations, but this just doesn’t play like I want it too. The game relies far too heavily on cover mechanics, making the diving bullet-time mechanics practically useless.
It’s become a Gears of War style game that too heavily relies on moving from one piece of cover to another, clicking on the bullet-time and and popping off a few shots. In an effort to retain the graphic novel style of the original game, Rockstar incorporates lots of camera effects that, toward the end of the game, just start to get in the way. I still love Max, and the writing is very good, but this is probably the first game in the series that I won’t replay once I finish it.
A funny thing happened on the way to Duke Nukem Forever‘s release: I was actually beginning to look forward to it. This was mostly due to its advertising campaign, portraying the game as a throwback to the halcyon days of first-person shooting when all you really needed were some cool guns to play with. Sadly, this was a case of blatant false advertising. Duke Nukem Forever is every bit the horrible patchwork critics have claimed it to be.
Duke’s arsenal hasn’t changed one iota since 1996 and the graphics are so horribly dated it would barely have squeaked by in 2005. As for Duke himself, he has become a completely unlikeable caricature of himself (and considering he already was a caricature, that’s saying something) with a messiah complex and is constantly surrounded by bimbos and idiots whose sole purpose in life is to pay him homage. The actual gameplay of DNF is a hodgepodge of various mechanics popularized over the last decade by much better shooters, including the curious limitation of only having two weapons at a time.
There’s also an achievement for Duke grabbing a stinky, wet log from a toilet bowl and flinging it around. Duke bemoans this and says “why am I doing this?” It becomes a fourth wall-breaking plea to the player and accurately sums up the entire experience. Duke is aware of the depths he has sunk and is begging us to put him out of his misery by doing the right thing and playing something far worthier of our time. You’re absolutely right, Duke. Why are you doing this? You used to be cool, and now you’re stuck throwing feces like an ill-behaved monkey.
To say Radiant Historia has a unique story progression would be a severe understatement. The White Chronicle, which Stocke is given at the beginning of the game, has the ability to rewrite history to its ‘true’ incarnation. Effectively, this means whenever Stocke’s mission ends in failure he can conveniently travel back in time to change his decisions on the battlefield and thus alter history.
Time traveling isn’t exactly an original game mechanic in video games, and of course the White Chronicle is given a set of arbitrary restrictions regulating when history can be rewritten (only certain moments are “significant” enough). Radiant Historia encourages the player to supposedly explore both ‘true’ and false incarnations of history. However, to this point, exploring the wrong version seems to always end with you blindsided by an untimely death.
The point is, you have no actual control over the game’s history, at least not yet. The White Chronicle is nothing more than a story gimmick and a bit of window dressing for a mechanic almost every game has: a Game Over.