Thursday, 26 May 2011

Crossing platforms with Portal 2

Cross-platform play is cool. I finally got around to going through the Portal 2 co-op campaign and I must say, I’m very impressed by the way I did not notice any odd behaviour or glitches caused by my partner who played on his Steam enabled PS3, while I sat at my faithful PC. Obviously then it must work exactly as intended, but I can’t help but ponder why this co-operative black magic isn’t employed more.

I know that I will open a big can of angry, opinionated and juicy worms when I say this, but cross-platform play might not be as widespread as a perfect world would allow due to the superior speed and accuracy of the computer mouse. I know there are probably those out there that could beat me in a mouse versus gamepad duel with one thumb gnawed clean to the boned, but it’s a simple fact the mouse is better.

Camera control might be better suited to the precious right thumb stick, but aiming and shooting accurately is a whole different story. It’s even been suggested that Microsoft killed Windows to Xbox cross-platform play because the console gamers “got destroyed every time”.

So that puts a hole in the hope for competitive games getting more cross-platform functionality, but I can’t see why it can’t happen with more co-op focussed games. Portal 2 has proven that it can work near seamlessly. Okay, there are a few arguments that the PC version has been slightly ‘consol-ised’, but aside from the “Do not turn off console” warning you get when saving the game, it’s not abundantly different from what I’d expect from a PC interface. There are certainly more obvious console ported PC titles out there.

With Steam now on PS3, it would be great to see more cross-platform titles emerge that can bring gaming communities closer. It’s a positive step towards the one console solution. Of course that’s probably an argument that the major hardware manufacturers would argue against, but for consumers it’s a good thing.

My faith in Valve keeps on growing, probably not quite as fast as Gabe Newell’s wallet girth does, but pretty damn close.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The return of Agent 47 is finally official

It may have taken five years, but the moment I have been avidly chewing my socks for has finally come. Hitman: Absolution has been officially confirmed and revealed. Well, I say revealed, but I actually mean that it has been cruelly teased. IO Interactive has waved a shiny token through the bars of my metaphoric cage of ignorance, like a drunk prison warden dangling keys in front of a prisoner. I’ll only find out more when they let me.

All we’ve really seen of the game is the teaser trailer, and even that reeked of cock tease. All we got to see was Mr 47 tightening a suppressor onto one of his trademark Silverballers, followed by a barcode that illuminates six digits that indicate the first day of E3. So basically what IO has done is reveal the reveal date. I’d much rather IO Interactive teased me about my height or jawline, rather than the game I’ve wanted for years.

Hitman: Blood Money ranks as one of my favourite games ever. No other game has let me put a dog to sleep with a sedated sausage or kill a man and then make it look like suicide. If they just take the formula that was perfected with Blood Money and simply build on it in Hitman: Absolution, then I will be a happier than a bunny watching Firefly (before he realises that there are only 14 episodes of it).

That’s not to say that I am completely without my concerns at the moment. Since the release of Blood Money, IO Interactive has made two messy third person shooters. Whilst I did enjoy bits of the Kane & Lynch games, I can’t exactly say with great enthusiasm that I am likely to revisit them anytime soon. The critics were nowhere near as passive in their dislike for the game, with both titles receiving reviews that were harsh enough to make Simon Cowell wince. It’d be nice to see some of the lessons learned from Kane & Lynch included in Absolution, mainly the ones that taught the bods at IO what not to do when making a good game.

My other concern came in quote form from IO game director Tore Blystad. He said, “For the first time we are taking Agent 47 on a personal journey which allows us to explore other parts of the Hitman fantasy.”

I don’t want my favourite bald headed cold killer to go on a personal journey. I want to guide him through anonymous assassination jobs that he deals with efficiently and with a disturbing lack of emotion in his face. Hitman has never been about personal journey; it’s been about getting the job done in the most creative and stealthy way possible. The random assignment aspect of the game gave the perfect excuse to go to different locations and environments. As soon as some kind of personal structure is introduced, this gets lost and there has to be a reason invented as to why he is going places.

I won’t even get started on the rumour I think I read, but frantically hope was a fevered nightmare: Hitman as an open world game. That would be the complete opposite of good and worse than the word “bad” can adequately describe. That would be shit.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Why Brink is going to be awesome

I really don’t understand how people get addicted to the point of neglected loved ones over multiplayer games like Halo and Call of Duty. I understand the temptation of playing through a ringing telephone or putting off a spot of form filling until you’re finally happy with the pixels that represent a good kill/death ratio, but I don’t understand how people have the enthusiasm to play them for hours on end, week on week.

My problem with these games lies with their heavily repetitive nature. I will more than happily materialise with my hands around a man’s neck before cracking it to one side for that last gurgle of virtual life that sends someone back to the respawn screen, but after a while it all feels the same. I’m just tired of games where it’s one team against another, with the one force driving everyone forward being the frag count.

Sometimes things will get spiced up with the addition of a capture the flag or hold the zone objective, but nothing that really takes away from the overbearing message that really, at the end of the day, it’s your personal kill counter that gauges how well you’ve done. Not to say that I’m one for peace in videogames; not at all. I just want something a bit more meaningful. I think that the best thing in Team Fortress 2 is the fact that the scoreboard keeps track of all positive actions you have performed while publically displaying none of the individual actions of each player. This castration of the frag tracking e-peen is a real sign of progress for games. Not that many others followed its example.

Then I spotted Brink on the horizon. I’ve been terrible and not really followed it until recently, but the more I see it now, the more I want it. The objective driven gameplay looks like it will offer the exact variety in an online shooter that I have been clawing the imaginary walls of my satisfaction over for years now. It’s from the guys that gave us Enemy Territory, the World War II shooter that had players building bridges, fixing machine gun nests and trying to blow through doors over an intense, multi-map campaign of attackers versus defenders. It worked well and looks like a few of the same tricks have bled their way into Brink.

I suppose the multiplayer mode I am really craving after is something akin to Unreal Tournament 2004’s Assault mode. Now that was a brilliant time for all. In a crushed up, instagibbed nutshell, it was a collection of attack and defend objectives that offered huge diversity between each map. In one you’d start off in a spaceship, strafing a space station to take out its shields before boarding and taking down everything inside. Another had you restoring a junked vehicle for use in a daring prison break. So much variety. So much awesome.

I’m really looking forward to Brink, mainly for the objective lead gameplay, but also because it just looks a bit different. Throw in the Mirrors Edge like level navigation and I really can’t see how the critics will have anything overwhelmingly bad to say about it tomorrow, when the review embargo lifts.