So Just Cause 2 Is Quite Pretty, Then.

(More pics after the jump…)

Brainthoughts – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Do people still use the phrase “Killer App”? I remember it being the term of choice when foaming-at-the-mouth games writers were using Halo to justify buying an X-Box. As far as I can tell, though, it’s gone the way of “talking to the monsters” and “Tomb Raider… with pirates” – a phrase used only as an ironic preamble to a more salient point (much like this paragraph). I think it’s for the best, really. “Killer app” always sounded more like an angry kettle than a ravishing vidja game.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was the PS3’s angry kettle for a long time: one of Sony’s few early, must-play exclusives. The console’s line-up has strengthened considerably since then (probably – I stopped paying much attention fourteen years ago), but since I’m cheap and rubbish, I only just bought a PS3 and Uncharted this past weekend. I understand it’s recently spawned a superior, prettier sequel, but alas, my steadfast morals refuse to allow me to spend more than €30 on a game. Because, like I said: cheap and rubbish.

Either way, since I’m not playing it under the intimidating banner of “THE ONLY GOOD REASON TO OWN A PS3”, the question of whether Drake’s fortunate enough to be considered a Killer Ape matters not. All that matters is whether the game is wonderful. Or not.

It is, of course. But not quite as much as I might have hoped.

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Brainthoughts – Tomb Raider: Underworld

Despite appearances, there's actually a gigantic chasm in between Lara and that door. If I was her, I'd turn around and go home.

It seems to be bug season here in sunny (rainy) Kildare. My house has come under attack: I’m constantly beset by new and frightening sizes of spiders, crawling around in the dark undergrowth that is my bedroom. Inevitably, they end up crawling along my arm, which means, for the next hour or so, any slight breeze or sensation that causes my arm hairs to tingle even remotely becomes an embarrassing ordeal of flailing arms as I attempt to brusquely slap away the invisible spider that’s eating my skin. Earlier this week, myself and Coyote Trax observed a spider methodically wrapping a tiny fly up in its macabre web-o-death – I wasn’t sure which of the insects repulsed me more (I eventually decided it was Coyote Trax, natch). All of this pertains to this one unflappable truth: bugs are awful.

And another truth: Tomb Raider: Underworld is a mostly wonderful game, partially crippled by bugs.

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Kurt Sings Bon Jovi: Nevermind, Eh?

Nothing screams "punk credibility" like having a cartoon avatar in a rhythm action game.

If you ever needed proof that people, as a rule, are horrible creatures, the ongoing furore over Kurt Cobain’s presence in Guitar Hero 5 would probably suffice. Some idiots are getting bent out of shape because their treasured grunge icon can be used to – GASP!!! – sing some pop songs. Before the game even launched, videos surfaced of people using Cobain’s likeness to sing some Bon Jovi songs. Judging by the internet’s reaction, this is somehow tantamount to drawing a cartoon of Kurt licking a diseased, prostrate porcupine in unusual ways.

Let’s be very clear. Punk credibility, as a concept, should go die in a fire. It’s a hideous thing. But: any kind of punk credibility that Kurt may have had evaporated the instant his likeness appeared in the game, full stop. It’s a rhythm action game you play with plastic instruments – admittedly, it’s a fairly legitimate way to be exposed to some good music, and a damn fun game, but “punk” it is not. On top of which, Cobain famously mocked Pearl Jam for having guitar solos in their songs, because that made them the enemy of punk – now here he is appearing in a game designed to glorify twelve-minute guitar solos.

So for silly people to make a fuss over their silly icon singing some silly songs is… well… silly.

I realise there might be a legal aspect to this. Courtney Love, who sold Kurt’s likeness to Activision for the game, is claiming the contract states he can only be used to play Nirvana songs. No one knows except the two parties who signed the contract, really, and choosing sides is hard. On one hand, you’ve got Activision, who have somehow managed to surpass EA as the skankiest of the publishers. On the other, you’ve got Love, who is equal parts “troubled” and “repulsive”, like an escaped mental patient sitting in the corner of a train, repeatedly wetting herself.

The real wretchedness in this ridiculous, pointless scandal comes from – surprisingly enough – Cobain’s old bandmates, Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic. They don’t even have the legal standpoint that Love has when she attacks the game’s use of Cobain; rather, they’re trying to make Cobain out to be somehow “above” pop music. They don’t think people should be able to use Cobain’s likeness to sing some songs they enjoy – they’re basically just opposing joy. Their statement:

While we were aware of Kurt’s image being used with two Nirvana songs, we didn’t know players have the ability to unlock the character. This feature allows the character to be used with any kind of song the player wants. We urge Activision to do the right thing in ‘re-locking’ Kurt’s character so that this won’t continue in the future.

Forget the larger implications of Kurt being “re-locked” – that it would lead to avatars and personalities becoming bigger than the franchise, and would probably lead to the publishers placing more emphasis on the list of guest stars and celebrity likenesses than on the song lists and gameplay. Forget that. Instead, focus on how awful and wrongheaded it is for Grohl and Novoselic to make that demand. Presumably, anyone who’s using Cobain as an avatar is doing so because they’re a fan of Nirvana; equally, anyone using Cobain to sing Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name” is probably doing so because they’re also prone to enjoying Bon Jovi, even if it’s just in a fun, party game kind of way. No one’s trying to defame Cobain by making him sing pop songs: they’re just trying to have some fun.

Anyway, my proposal is this: if Activision do legally have the rights to use Cobain however they wish within the game, they should have some fun with it, and release videos of him singing the kinds of songs that will make a few hundred thousand credibility-clutching idiots have pant-staining panic attacks. My suggestions?

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Skulls and Arms and Torsos Squelching Noisily Underfoot Like Pillows Stuffed With Runny Porridge: And other children’s favourites

Isaac Clarke: the single least interesting protagonist in a videogame, ever.

Due to a combination of factors – mostly not having to save for a life-changing trip, being done with college, and also denying my body most of its vital nutrients – I’ve had a bit of disposable cash lately, to burn away on some kind of pointless frippery. Married to an RPS-and-Steam-inspired resurgence of interest in video games, this aberration has resulted in me buying a frankly stupid amount of games in the last two months. It’s also led to me becoming a pallid, palsied, semi-arthritic, RSI-afflicted, withering husk of a human being, but hey – that’s not all that different to usual.

Admittedly, most – nay, all – of these games were on the cheap: I bought Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis for €4, Call of Duty 4 for a smidgen over €20, TOCA Race Driver 3 for €3, Mirror’s Edge for €8, Dead Space for €9, and The Longest Journey and its sequel, Dreamfall, for €25. (To put into perspective how stingy I am, the most recent of those games is about 6 months old, and Fate of Atlantis is 16 years old. It’s beyond being a cheerful bargain hunter, and into the territory of “wretched, miserable miser”.)

Playing Dreamfall and Dead Space in such a short span of time made me realise something about how I’ve changed as a gamer in the years since my obsession last peaked. Dead Space is the kind of game I’ve always loved: going from room to room, shooting the living bejesus out of everything that moved, in the goriest manner possible. Dead Space, in particular, emphasises the gore; rather than aiming for a single shot kill, or a headshot, the game requires you to systematically dismember your targets, hacking off their limbs with mining lasers and pulse rifles, until your avatar is literally wading through a vast sea of inhuman detritus, skulls and arms and torsos squelching noisily underfoot like pillows stuffed with runny porridge. It’s a stunningly visceral experience, punctuated with the odd bit of effective horror, reminiscent of walking around a particularly dark bit of Lucan on a Saturday night.

Dreamfall, on the other hand, is a story.

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