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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 points 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.
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.
Note: Craig has already contributed twoscripts 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.
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.
I was really looking forward to Watch_Dogs, in part because it plays on a bunch of tropes that feature in a project I've had in the drawer for a while. There were equal parts curiosity and apprehension at the thought of the game approaching (and possibly preempting) those tropes. Turns out Watch_Dogs really doesn't have much to say about the questions and themes it raises (if it raises them at all). That gave me plenty to work with for the Short Script, which ended up stealing the title of the longest one on the blog from BioShock Infinite. That's either a meaningful commentary or I really suck at editing.
Last time I was here, doing a short script for the first Max Payne, I mentioned that I had a stock rant about linearity in games but wasn't going to bring it up because Max Payne provides a poor example. Now, however, I'm dealing with Max Payne 2, which fits much better, so hold on while I get this bee out of my bonnet. For a long time now, linearity has been regarded as something of a gaming sin. And there are certainly reasonable arguments to be made against it. After all, interactivity is supposed to be gaming's thing. If you remove player freedom and exploration, force the player to follow explicit directions every step of the way, you might as well just be watching a movie, right?
In the opening narration to the final mission of Call of Duty: Ghosts, David Walker says the following of his father: "Dad taught us many things, but one lesson always stood out. Good men are defined by the choices they make." That line feels like a slap in the face from a game that forgets the step forward that Black Ops 2 dared to take and just focuses on a painfully linear experience entirely devoid of choice. It doesn't even try to use that linearity to its advantage, like the first two Modern Warfare games did (at times). Above all, Call of Duty: Ghosts feels lazy.
Welcome to Playthroughline, the online home of writer/narrative designer Joannes Truyens. Together with a bunch of cool people, I made Neurocracy, a hypertext game that invites you to solve a murder in a near-future world by diving into the Wikipedia of that world.