It was big news when Jason West and Vince Zampella, two of the three co-founders of Infinity Ward, were dismissed by Activision back in 2010. After all, the pair was instrumental in creating the Call of Duty series, and genre-defining entries such as Call of Duty 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Following their departure, they co-founded the aptly named Respawn Entertainment, and with a few dozen of their former co-workers, began development on Titanfall. The multiplayer-focused first-person shooter was highly regarded when it released in early 2014, and remains one of the noteworthy Xbox-platform exclusives of the generation. It wasn’t until the follow-up that Respawn captured my attention: they included a single-player campaign.
Half-Life is a game I’ve probably started a half-dozen times, yet never completed. It was one of the first video games I owned for a computer and I can still recall, quite vividly, when my mom bought it for me at a garage sale. Around this time – middle school – I had a burgeoning interest in video games, just as my enthusiasm for soccer waned. I had never heard of the game before but upon seeing the acclaim advertised on the big box Game of the Year Edition, I decided I needed to know about it.
Following an awkward period acquainting myself with mouse and keyboard controls, I assumed the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman and did my best to escape Black Mesa. At some point, struggling to overcome the odds, I burned out. Every now and then, as the years passed, I’d revisit the game, start a new save file, and proceed down the same path. Despite my inability to get very far, it’s remained on my to-do list ever since, especially considering its heralded status as a first-person shooter. Well, like I’ve done with many other games this year, I can finally mark it complete. Continue reading Half-Life [PlayStation 2] – Review→
Acting upon a sense of urgency for no particular reason, this year has seen me completing many of the games that have populated my backlog for ages. Singularityand Syndicate, a pair of narrative-orientated first-person shooters, each with unique gameplay hooks, are two such games. While it misses the mark on alliteration, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare otherwise fits the bill, scratching that itch for what I want in an FPS. Published by Activision on November 4, 2014, it was Sledgehammer Games’ second entry in the series, following their co-development of Modern Warfare 3 alongside Infinity Ward. Additionally, Raven Software (the studio behind Singularity, coincidentally enough) developed the multiplayer components while High Moon Studios handled the previous generation versions. Continue reading Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare [PlayStation 4] – Review→
The year is 2069. Once common forms of government now occupy historical archives on the dataverse, having been supplanted by mega-corporations decades ago. These mega-corporations, or syndicates, are few and amongst them Eurocorp is dominant, thanks to their invention of the DART chip: a neural implant allowing access to the dataverse. Unique syndicate specific versions are embedded in roughly half the world’s population, creating a societal divide between the haves and the have nots, metaphorically illustrated by the lush skyscrapers users live, work, and shop and the destitute “downzone” areas on the surface. As they’ve vied for control of the populace and protection of their intellectual property, corporate espionage and outright warfare have become standard, necessitating the need for bio-engineered agents enhanced with the latest in chip technology.
Towards the end of Breakdown, after a protracted fist fight against Solus, the game’s shirtless Sephiroth stand-in and resident antagonist, my amnesiac avatar Derrick Cole lie battered on the floor. Unable to save Earth from encroaching T’lan warriors, Derrick bore witness to humanity’s last best hope: a nuclear bomb to the heart of Site Zero, the very spot he rested. Twenty years later he woke up in someone else’s body, his memories having been transferred. The T’lan have overrun earth but he’s been given another shot. I, too, suffered a bout of amnesia with Breakdown. I played it years ago just up to completion and have always recalled it fondly. My memories failed me. Continue reading Breakdown [Xbox] – Review→
With Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest done and dusted, I thought I’d turn my attention to another game that’s been on my backlog for years: Singularity. Developed by Raven Software and published by Activision on June 29, 2010, it’s an alternate history first-person shooter centered on the Cold War and time manipulation. Accordingly, it has a few unique, and fun, time-based gameplay mechanics. The gunplay is solid but clearly intended for a mouse and keyboard in favor of a controller. Speaking of favors, I did myself none by playing on the hardest difficulty. Nonetheless, it lived up to my expectations and was a net-positive experience.
I’m a little late to the party on this one but I finally beat Portal. It’s an ingenious puzzle game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. In fact, I was befuddled that it was over as quickly as it was. Since I’d heard so much revelry and acclaim for it and witnessed the cultural impact it’d had in the gaming space I just figured there’d be more of it. What was there engrossed me though. The increasingly complex puzzles were mentally stimulating and the enigmatic GlaDOS’ darkly humorous speech had me chuckling well into the few hour experience.
The game is built around the portal gun which allows users to shoot portals on flat surfaces. The portals are connected and can be easily referenced as an entry and exit. At its most basic use, I could place a portal on ground level, shoot the other portal on a wall above a higher level and use the portal to reach higher ground without using a ladder. Through the game’s nineteen test chambers, the quandaries were rarely this simplistic. The way I had to manipulate the portals was fascinating and thought-provoking. Dropping into one and utilizing the momentum to fling myself across the room was always amazing.
As I mentioned the game has nineteen test chambers that lock progression behind increasingly difficult puzzles. There are no other lifeforms present although observation windows and empty chairs indicate there were at some point. Guiding the player through these chambers is GlaDOS, a disembodied mechanical female voice. Her statements are delivered with a sense of dry, deadpan seriousness that are made clear when her motivations are discovered. Things are not what they seem and while there is no narrative, there’s an abundance of environmental storytelling that allows the player to fill in the gaps themselves. It all culminates in an appropriate ending sequence that was riddled with GlaDOS’ hilarious interruptions.
For most I’ve probably revealed nothing new about this game. Portal sent shockwaves through the gaming culture when it arrived in 2007 as a part of The Orange Box and is still highly regarded and oft-discussed. I’m glad to have finally experienced it and would recommend it to those who have yet to do so. The game was brief but left me both fulfilled and wanting, in a good way. I can only imagine the impact the modding community had on this title and I’m excited to see the crazy stuff they came up with.