Short Script: Deus Ex: Invisible War

Note: as before, this post was featured on GamaSutra. Also, my tendency to let incidental thoughts between parentheses meander into entire paragraphs has now been remedied through the use of footnotes. Throughout Deus Ex: Human Revolution's development, Eidos Montréal has joked that "we all played Deus Ex, and some of us were even forced to play Deus Ex: Invisible War".

It is a fairly flawed game, even when considering its near-impossible task of following and rivaling an iconic predecessor. My thoughts have already been mentioned in this post, and they were only affirmed by a recent playthrough. It occurred to me that there is a very specific way in which Deus Ex: IW fails to engage the player, beyond some of the more obvious shortcomings that the Short Script picks up on.

Short Script: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Note: this post was featured on GamaSutra, so I am reproducing it here with a few minor changes to accompany the Short Script of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, the game that really made me consider stylised visuals and what they are capable of. I'm not going to lie. If its demo wasn't enough to discourage me from picking up Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, its critical response was. The game hasn't fared particularly well, with official reviews citing its short and lacklustre single player campaign as a primary flaw. Despite those misgivings (or perhaps, because of them), I wanted to write a Short Script for it, so I waited for its appearance in the local bargain bin. And even then I felt cheated, because it's just a really poor game. I mentioned before that I was looking forward to its "YouTube aesthetic", because it provides a unique and consistent level of stylisation. But that's unfortunately lost on a fundamentally broken game. In essence, it plays just as bad as it wants to look.

Short Script: Dead Space 2

Some games clearly show the effort and dedication that their development teams have poured into them. Dead Space felt like one such game, and Visceral Games has managed to take that up a notch for its sequel. They are so comfortable with this intellectual property that they can include crawling baby mines and get away with it. It's been said that this game is the Aliens to Dead Space's Alien, and in some ways that comparison is apt. Dead Space 2 is focused a lot more on cinematic action and overt humour, and in both those aspects it's Isaac Clarke who underwent the most significant evolution between games.

Short Script: Dead Space

Dead Space 2 is about to hit store shelves, and initial reviews would indicate that it's a worthy sequel. I plan on picking it up, because I thoroughly enjoyed the original. I'm not the only one who thinks that, since Dead Space has now been turned into a whole franchise, expanding its fictional universe in other media. Dead Space hits all the marks of an aftermath story, which presents an initially confusing situation that is gradually explained through exploration. It also classifies itself as a survival horror game, but fails to make the player actively feel underpowered. There is one exception, but we'll get to that.

Short Script: Condemned: Criminal Origins

As I was reading this article about the ill-advised comparison between Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and movies, I couldn't help but pick up on a line of thought that I had already drawn myself when playing Condemned: Criminal Origins. At the time the game hit me out of left field (I played it sans expectations a couple of years after it was released), so I decided to give it another quick playthrough. Along the way it naturally got the Short Script treatment, but it's also a good case study for the point I'd like to make.

Inception: a game changer

Next we'll dream you up some facial hair, okay darling?
Next we'll dream you up some facial hair, okay darling?

Inception. A great movie by a great many standards. It gleans elements from a wide variety of genres and skillfully combines them into something that carries enough weight to become more than the sum of its parts. Its far-reaching appeal has naturally led to an enormous outpouring of articles and discussion, not in the least geared towards theories about what it all means. A subset of such articles focuses on the relation between Inception and videogames. It should therefore come as no surprise that Christopher Nolan himself has announced an intention to craft a game based on/in the Inception universe, and this post looks at the way in which it lends itself exceptionally well as a blueprint for a (certain type of) adaptation.

Short Script: Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty: Black Ops has now set the record for the largest entertainment launch in history. Selling 5.6 million copies within 24 hours of being released and pulling in $360 million, it's clear that this is a defining product. It's a shame, because it's a game that wants to be a movie so much that it hurts. More so than the previous games, Black Ops completely hobbles the player's agency and interactivity to the point where his presence is rendered moot (not mute, given that the game now features talking protagonists and not simply a developer painfully breathing into a microphone). It's perfectly pointed out in this video, which shows that the game robs even the player's main mode of communication with the world (i.e. a gun) of all meaning.

Short Script: Mafia 2

So yeah, Mafia 2. As an avid fan of the original game, I was very much looking forward to its sequel. It's received some very mixed reactions, with both story and gameplay alternatively praised and criticised. My overall impressions are accurately reflected in this review, which bottomlines to a striking juxtaposition of Mafia 2's story and the mechanical setting used to tell it in. It's not that the two aren't meaningfully connected, it's that the former doesn't measure up to the strengths of the latter. What the original game lacked in technical prowess, it more than made up for with a compelling story centred firmly around its well-rounded protagonist, Tommy Angelo. Mafia 2 does a 180° and lets down its solid gameplay mechanics and visual presentation with a story that meanders along without any significant cadence or ambition. And as is specifically stated to his face at the end, it's all Vito Scaletta's fault.

Eurogamer Expo 2010

E3's lesser known cousin, E2.
E3's lesser known cousin, E2.
I am currently located in Belgium, which has a relatively small game development community (focused more on games for portable phones and social networking sites). Besides my efforts to expand my experience locally (like this), I've recently been travelling abroad to places that play a larger role in the game industry. One such excursion led me to both attend and volunteer at this year's Eurogamer Expo in London. It was a marvellous experience and a definite recommendation for anyone trying to break into the business, whichever aspect thereof is one's focus.

Script: BioShock 2

It took a while, but the BioShock 2 Short Script is finally up. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and while its story wasn't quite as engaging as that of its predecessor, its gameplay mechanics felt a lot more solid and worked out (the story does get points for not forcing a big reveal on itself just because BioShock had one). This once again underlines the importance of putting gameplay before story. BioShock 2 has been called "a most unnecessary sequel", but I think 2K Marin did an admirable job. Had it been the original game, the enthusiasm of 2007 would have been no lesser.

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