I have, of late, been consuming a whole lot of video games. I got myself a PS3 a few months ago, and now I've been challenging my girlfriend's patience as I use the Force, steal cars and try to overtake the Earth.
For those who like this sort of thing, a rundown of my latest video game consumption:
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - This is why I bought my PS3 to begin with. For those who don't know, the Metal Gear series is primarily about stealth. It's also known for an impossible-to-follow storyline, grandiose set pieces, endless cinematic screens that you simply watch, and incredibly smart mission design.
This one was all I'd hoped for. Brilliant missions, heightened game mechanics, and its easily the best-looking game I've ever played. Octo-Camo is the coolest game device I've ever seen. The storyline, about a future driven by a military economy waged by private corporations, is quite engaging.
Still, Metal Gear Solid 3: Sneak Eater is the best of the series. This one is amazing, but it has no boss battles that match the ultimate battle with "The Boss" at the end of MGS3 or the two-hour Sniper Battle with "The End."
Grand Theft Auto IV - Yes, I'm working my way through it. I'm about 50% complete.
The game is famous for replicating NYC and the boroughs. It does an amazing job. I will say that actually living in NYC is an odd trick of scale: the game feels smaller than its predecessors, partially because I can see how much smaller it is than NYC. Nonetheless, it gets a whole lot right.
It's got the typically action packed mission design and an improved "cover" system that works beautifully. It's also got foul-mouthed stereotypes. What's new is an absolutely bleak tale, and a lead character that the game in no way glorifies. Niko Bellic (who you control in the game) is a nihilistic murderer who is deeply ashamed of his behavior. It's the oddest juxtaposition I've ever seen in an action game, and you can feel terrible things coming for the people he loves. It creates the oddest effect: every times you successfully complete a mission for some mob boss or drug dealer, there's a sense that you've just moved a little closer to sealing your fate.
Video games as tragedy? Why not?
Virtua Fighter 5 - Best fighting game ever made.
Soul Calibur 4 - Not the best fighting game ever made. It does, though, have online multiplayer, which Virtua Fighter sorely lacks. It's character design is famously insane, as well, and it features Darth Vader. So I certainly enjoy it. Plus, it's a game Pam happily plays with me.
Maybe she beat me once or twice.
Civilization Revolution - This is a version of Civilization made for consoles. It has a new cartoonish visual style and simplified gameplay. You can bang through a victory in an couple of hours. Those who are fans of the PC Civ games know that you can spend a few hours fiddling with the taxes in those versions.
I've played this game a fair amount. Once you get the mechanics down, its sort of repetitive, but so are board games. I do get a kick out of achieving cultural victory. It's my way.
The Force Unleashed - This is the newest Star Wars title, clearly fashioned after the God of War series. It's hero, Starkiller, is Darth Vader's "Secret Apprentice." The story line, which is not that bad so far, takes place between Episode III and the original Star Wars.
How is it? A lot of the basic ideas are fantastic and it's a blast to use the force to toss stuff around, tear open doors, kill Stormtroopers and battle the last of the Jedi. The problem is that the game mechanics are a little bit broken: there are plenty of times when simple things are made complicated by loose controls or a wonky camera. I'm not sure, but I think I've almost completed the game as well...and I've barely been playing it for 10 hours. That's not a LOT of game for $60.
Spore - I just picked this up yesterday for PC. It's the new Will Wright (The Sims) game, and it was much ballyhooed before its release. So far (and I've only gotten to the tip of the iceberg) the game is fantastic. Easy to play, but smartly constructed. You begin the game as a single celled organism, and slowly evolve legs, then tribal behavior, then a civilization, and finally space travel. There's free sharing of content among players, so the creatures, buildings and vehicles you create become a part of the larger Spore universe. All in all, I'm incredibly happy with it from the few hours I played yesterday.
There's been some contraversy about the DRM that EA is using for the game. Frankly, this argument would be more persuasive if so many people weren't stealing content as often as they are. I didn't have a big problem with it, and I don't love the software registration process, but its hard to take consumers seriously who take to the streets about the hoops they have to jump through, who clearly are happily using Bit Torrent in the next breath.
Below is an image of one of my first Spore Creations. It's called a Brox.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.