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Short Script: Mad Men (not a videogame)

This poster makes sense to me now. Same man, changing world.

This poster makes sense to me now. Same man, changing world.

So here’s a new thing I’m doing! There’s this website called TelePlayTime that does for television series what I do for videogames here on Playthroughline. I do enjoy the occasional television show over a snifter of port, so I figured I’d try my hand at snippy abridgements of AMC’s Mad Men. The second half of the final season is underway now and you can read my recaps of the first batch of episodes by following these links:

Now I can say I’m doing abridgements of three different types of media! And for those of you who now resent me for not focusing on the Short Scripts here on this blog, worry not. I have it on good authority there’s a new one coming very soon.

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Let’s compare Max Payne 3 to The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

Everything ripped apart in a Bikini Bottom minute.

Everything ripped apart in a Bikini Bottom minute.

Since we’ve just had some fun at Max Payne 3’s expense, I figured it was time to give the game its due and discuss some of the deeper themes and mechanics that drive the experience. Just kidding, you’ve already seen the title, this is where I compare the storyline of Max Payne 3 to that of 2004’s SpongeBob Squarepants movie.

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Short Script: Max Payne 3

Note: Craig has officially completed his first trilogy on Playthroughline! All three Max Payne games have now been lovingly bestowed with Short Scripts. We also had a little back-and-forth regarding our interpretations of Max Payne 3’s ending, which I have reproduced below. Take it away, Craig.

– Joannes

I don’t envy anybody the task of taking over a property from the people who created it. Especially when the creator has, for better or worse, invested the work with their own distinctive voice. Do you give the property your own voice and hope for the best, à la John Wells taking over from Aaron Sorkin on The West Wing? Or do you try to mimic the writing style of the creator, as I preemptively imagine will be Rhianna Pratchett’s strategy? Both of these approaches seem fraught with peril.

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Short Script: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Note: I am honoured to announce yet another contributor to Playthroughline! John Keefe is one of my fellow authors at The Editing Room and when I asked him if he wanted to abridge a game, he set his sights on Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. I’m not a fan of Lord of the Rings, so thank Ilúvatar someone else tackled this game. Please enjoy his glorious contribution and if you’d like to read more, there’s further thoughts from John below.

-- Joannes

Shadow of Mordor proves just how spoiled we are as gamers. It was not so very long ago that any game with even a whiff of movie tie-in was utter crap, that “open world” was just code for “big and padded,” where story came to you in walls of text and combat involved two buttons for attacking and one for a dodge. Fast forward to the glorious future of 2014, and Shadow of Mordor has fixed all of those problems and yet somehow feels weirdly B minus.

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Short Script: Red Dead Redemption

Note: I’m pleased to announce that Playthroughline has laid claim to another contributor. The inimitable Ed Smith first came to my attention with his sublime takedown of Watch_Dogs. When I asked him if he would like to contribute a Short Script, he kindly and voraciously put one together for Red Dead Redemption. His work makes for a great addition to Playthroughline and there’ll surely be more from Ed in the future! Below you can read his extended thoughts on Red Dead Redemption and how it compares to BioShock Infinite, which he announces in the first sentence.

-- Joannes

Red Dead Redemption has a lot in common with BioShock Infinite. Both games have something to say. Their remarks are obvious, and directed, adolescently, at a nebulous entity you could only really refer to as “the system,” but still, they each have higher narrative ambitions than most big-budget videogames. And ultimately, they are both ruined by the mechanical systems that they are tied to.

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Short Script: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

In this post about Call of Duty: Ghosts, I mentioned how it “must be frustrating to be a level designer meticulously [creating environments] only for it all to go unnoticed in the blur of a pair of ironsights.” For Advanced Warfare, I shared in that frustration. Sledgehammer Games have painstakingly created a futuristic sci-fi world, but it’s the kind of world I’d love to thoroughly explore in a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s difficult to take in the sights when there’s constantly someone bellowing in your ear to keep moving.

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Less than Interstellar

I remember time being a flat circle.

I remember time being a flat circle.

I am always interested in charting a game’s development path and looking at what could have been. Games are subject to a lot of iterations and sometimes go through an entire redesign (as was the case for Splinter Cell: Conviction). That’s why I would like to talk about Interstellar (which is not a game, bear with me) and how I was disappointed with what was eventually realised from the original script penned by Jonathan Nolan. You can read it in its entirety here and I’ll be comparing it to the finished product in this post. For the sake of convenience, Jonathan Nolan’s first version will henceforth be referred to as the script and the movie will be referred to as (wait for it) the movie. Also, spoilers.

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Short Script: Alien: Isolation

I like to think that games can be successful and meaningful in the story department when the experiences and motivations of the player character align with those of the player. In Spec Ops: The Line, the player’s experience of the game mirrors Martin Walker’s journey as he slowly comes to terms with the fact that everything he takes for granted is being called into question (as I’ve explained here). Far Cry 2 is a game in which the player character is prolonging a conflict so that the player can keep having fun (as Ed Smith point out here). In that regard, Alien: Isolation has a huge disadvantage and struggles to make the player feel Amanda Ripley’s plight. That’s not developer Creative Assembly’s fault and they’ve managed an effective workaround.

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Short Script: Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Chaos Theory isn’t just one of my favourite Splinter Cell games, it’s one of my favourite games of all time. The fact that I’m opening this post on Blacklist with praise for one of its predecessors should already be an indication that I’m not a big fan of this particular entry. Granted, Blacklist does do a lot of good things, especially in its gameplay approach. The game was touted by Ubisoft as being “a consolidation of all the best ideas from the series” and that rings true. Conviction went on a more action-oriented streak and stripped Sam Fisher of his ability to deal with his enemies non-lethally. Blacklist reintroduces non-lethal takedowns and layers the gameplay mechanics from Conviction into it, with the cover system and Mark & Execute on top. That makes Blacklist the most comprehensive Splinter Cell to date, but its storyline and characters are lacking in comparison.

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Short Script: The Last of Us

Note: Craig has already contributed two scripts to Playthroughline and last week he pleasantly surprised me by coming out of left field with one on The Last of Us. You may have noted that I only tackle PC games, so this addition marks Playthroughline going multi-platform! My humble thanks to Craig for widening my horizon for me.

-- Joannes

After a while of reading and writing parody scripts, you get used to one central concept: there are flaws and there are flaws. Which is to say, almost any piece of media can be picked apart to reveal plot holes, stupid character behaviour, unlikely coincidences and so forth. Maybe even extensively. But for every flaw, the question must be asked: does it matter? Sure it’s a flaw, but is it a flaw that actually makes the experience any worse?

What I’m trying to say is that The Last of Us may actually be perfect.

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