Entries in valve (10)


Dear Esther review - A mesmerizing journey

I crest the top of the hill slowly. A distant lighthouse comes into view, dirty white against a grey sky. Seagulls cry and a brisk wind disturbs the overgrown foliage on this forgotten path. The sun is slowly sinking behind the cliff, the last of its rays reflecting off of the water that spreads endlessly in every direction. A large radio tower, out of place amidst the remote desolation, beckons me with its soft pulsating light.

As I continue to make my way forward, always at a measured pace, I stop frequently to take in the incredible details of the landscape surrounding me. Never before have I encountered such an enchanting locale. Its sheer beauty is nothing less than stunning. Without saying a word it manages to be powerful and descriptive.

My journey tells me the story of a man who has long been lost.

Click to read more ...


Best of the Decade: Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2

Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows, Mac OS X

Release Date: November 16, 2004 (Windows version)

Publisher: Valve Corporation

Developer: Valve Corporation

When I sit down to write something about a game, I’m usually struggling to contain the veritable torrent of words that spill forth from my fingertips and onto the screen. I love to talk and write about games and am rarely at a loss for words when it comes to discussing them in any form.

So it has been with my Best of the Decade list so far. Entries I thought would be quick and easy have turned out far longer than expected. I started with the intent of creating short blurbs for each game and have quickly slipped to writing a gushing review-length article of every pick. 

But I honestly can’t think of anything to add to what’s already been said about Half-Life 2. I have no unique angle or compelling personal drama framing my experiences with it. This is one of the most loved games ever created and I simply don’t feel I can meaningfully add to the discussion. 

It is, quite simply, the best first-person shooter ever made.

Click to read more ...


Best of the Decade: Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead

Platforms: Xbox 360, Windows, Mac OS X

Release Date: November 18, 2008 (360 and Windows)

Developer: Valve Corporation

Publisher: Valve Corporation

Few competitive games manage to grab my attention. While I may like the idea of hardcore competition on paper, it kind of falls apart in the long run if you don’t practice. I don’t tend to stick with single games that long, so my dalliances with competitive play tend to be either fleeting or relegated to more accessible multiplayer setups (read: Nintendo). 

In the early part of the decade, this meant I was out of luck for multiplayer. The gaming scene was competitive or nothing. So I had the occasional fling with Halo and mostly stuck to playing by myself.

What I yearned for was more opportunites to work with friends rather than against them. Beating your friends into the ground can be immensely satisfying, even I know that. I’ve played my share of Smash Bros. and Soulcalibur matches. Playing a game along with a friend can be just as gratifying however, and the Playstation 2 era seemed to forget this. I was thrown a bone every once in a while, such as with the surprisingly fun Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks, but was mostly left wanting.

Luckily this problem has been thoroughly rectified with the most recent console generation. Developers are finally creating more and more fantastic ways to play along with your friends, instead of against them, and co-op is finally an expected feature rather than a rare bonus. 

I can now happily join friends in Halo matches, beat up Yoshi with them in Smash Bros., rock out with them in Rock Band, and, of course, shoot zombies with them in Left 4 Dead.

Click to read more ...


Best of the Decade: Portal


Platforms: Windows, Mac, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Release Date: October 9, 2007 (PC and 360 versions of The Orange Box)

Publisher: Valve Corporation

Developer: Valve Corporation

The phrase “short but sweet” isn’t often applied to video games. Most of the time there’s a perfectly good reason for this. Retail games tend to be expensive investments and most gamers expect a certain amount of length for their money. This doesn’t leave much room for those that wish to experiment with conciseness, but it’s an understandable concern. Spending $60 on a game that lasts two hours is rarely fun.

Portal slightly predates the downloadable game revolution that has made it possible for games such as Limbo and Costume Quest to experiment with providing less length for less money, but perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the movement.

Originally debuting as part of The Orange Box, Valve threw Portal into the mix as an experiment. Valve knew they had something good on their hands but didn’t know what to do with it. Downloadable games certainly existed at the time, but hadn’t quite proven themselves like they have in the last couple of years. They decided to stuff it into a compilation of proven successes as an added bonus and see what happened.

What happened was it turned into a verifiable phenomenon and solidified its place in the hearts of gamers everywhere.

Click to read more ...


Mass Effect 2: An Examination of Character

Defining what makes a “good” character is relatively easy as long as you stick to useless generalities. It is someone that feels like a realistic human being. It is when you dive into the details that things become decidedly muddier.

Games are not a medium known for creating believable characters. This is somewhat perplexing considering that games have more untapped potential for this than any other medium in history. They can combine great writing, acting, and visuals with the unique element of interactivity. It is only recently that we are beginning to see games scratch the surface of what is possible.

Bioware has led the way in this area. Playing Mass Effect 2 makes it abundantly clear how far games have come. They continue to top not only most every other developer in the industry, but also themselves, in creating interesting, believable characters time and time again.

Yet, when I try to figure out exactly what makes their characterization so good, I can’t quite come to a solid conclusion. I know that they’re steadily getting better by examining my gut reactions to their characters. I enjoyed spending time with the Dragon Age cast more than most of Mass Effect’s crew. I don’t even remember Jade Empire’s characters. Mass Effect 2 seems on track to be their best effort yet.

Click to read more ...