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Entries in 360 (17)

Tuesday
Dec042012

Better late than never review: SoulCalibur V

The once venerable SoulCalibur series has lost its way. The series that swept into prominance on Sega’s ill-fated white box, gloriously representing the downfall of arcades with its stunning presentation and packed feature set, has struggled to find its way in the modern era. After a sophomore success that many fans still see as its pinnacle, Namco produced two sequels that each failed to live up to their predecessors in their own unique way.

SoulCalibur V is evidence of a series continuing to struggle with a serious identity crisis, the roots of which were planted as far back as the beloved SoulCalibur II. The zenith of SoulCalibur’s popularity also saw the introduction of guest characters that, while seemingly innocuous at the time, signaled a marketing-driven tone that hinted at the difficulty Namco would face balancing its desire to sell more copies with the necessity of keeping the game relevant among the passionate niche of fighting game players that make up the tournament community. The clash between the hardcore zealots and the casual button mashers has long been at the core of the series’ problems. 

SoulCalibur V wrestles these inner demons better than either of its two troubled predecessors. The obligatory guest character, Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio Auditore, fits SoulCalibur’s aesthetic and tone better than Namco’s own two bizarre newcomers, magic orb wielding Viola and pseudo werewolf Zwei. The gameplay is solid, with a well-balanced cast fighting with renewed enthusiasm thanks to the speed boost the combat has received. Solid ideas have been borrowed from other modern fighting games in the form of super moves and meter management. These won’t win points for originality, but they do more to change up the strategies and tactics of fights than anything in the series’ history since Soul Edge became SoulCalibur. SoulCalibur V feels fresh again.

But trouble lurks in the periphery.

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Monday
Mar262012

Alan Wake's American Nightmare review - A misguided misfire

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is an odd concoction built upon the weaknesses of its predecessor. A thin facade of Alan Wake has been spread over a foundation built with other goals in mind. The disconnect is evident. For fans of the universe, this morsel of campy absurdity will scratch the itch for more but stop short of satisfaction. The unfamiliar need not apply, as all they will encounter is an impenetrable fiction attatched to a game that struggles to justify even its bite-sized price. 

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Wednesday
Jun222011

Child of Eden Review: An Interactive Artistic Masterpiece

Child of Eden is one of the most fully realized instances of interactive art the gaming world has yet seen. Labeling it as simply a “video game” seems to do it an injustice somehow. It clearly strives to be something more; to convey a message, to impart a certain feeling upon the player unlike any lowly game they’ve ever played before.

However successful it may be in these attempts, Child of Eden’s artistic aspirations are also worthy of note for more pragmatic reasons. When viewed as a $50 piece of art that uses a controller, an HDTV, and a good sound system as its mediums, the experience is untouchable. There’s simply nothing else like it available today. Playing it transports you to another world, another mindset. It’s a magical experience that you can relive over and over again, just like getting lost in the depths of a good painting.

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Wednesday
Jan262011

Review - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

The apocalypse is all the rage these days. Blown up, devastated, ruined, and post-nuclear worlds are as inescapable as the inevitable doom these glorious nightmare scenarios envision. It seems there’s something about imagining humanity’s demise that has captured our collective attention of late.

We’ve squeezed the apocalyptic fruit of so much juice that it seems to have nothing left to give. The apocalypse has become boring. How’s that for strange?

Enslaved manages to infuse this overdone concept with new life by abandoning the bland brown grit traditionally favored as the end of the world’s color of choice. Instead, it opts for a greener palette, one that sees nature as regaining its rightful control over the land after humanity has made itself scarce. 

While Enslaved dazzles with its unique setting, it decidedly lacks a historical focus. Those hoping to learn the details of this world’s downfall will be disappointed. Enslaved plants its foot firmly in its fictional present and you learn little more than vague hints of backstory throughout the course of the adventure.

The game finds its true strength in its characters. The world sometimes seems a confusing jumble of disparate elements, full of lush greenery and sentient robots alike, but the characters you encounter along the journey, while few in number, will quickly endear themselves to you. By the end of the game, you’re sure to care far more about the people than the land. 

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Wednesday
Dec292010

Best of the Decade: Limbo

Limbo

Platform: Xbox 360

Release Date: July 21, 2010

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Developer: Playdead Studios

I think most who hold the hobby of gaming close to their heart would agree that the medium is perfectly capable of being considered art. When it comes time to decide which games constitute art, consensus is decidedly less clear. Outside of a few select titles that seem to pop up repeatedly in such discussions, such as Shadow of the Colossus, I’m not sure most gamers know what an “artistic” game is supposed to look like.

Should we look to games like Heavy Rain, which aspires as much as is possible to be a film, for our example? Should we turn to games like Flower, which dispense with most recognizable aspects of being a game at all in favor of being visually interesting and delivering a strong message? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

I think with Limbo we’re a step closer to knowing. Of course, as with any type of art, there isn’t simply one easy definition. Looking at games like Shadow of the Colossus and Limbo, however, it does become clearer what is required on a fundamental level to be both a game and art.

 

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