The Game's The Thing #1: 23rd September 2011

The first in Jim Cross' weekly summing up style features, looking back at new releases, top news stories and offering new mini-features. Basically everything the gaming aficionado would want in one place at the end of every week...

The week that was 17th - 23rd September 2011

Hello and welcome to the first ever 'TGTT' What Culture's weekly look back to all things video game. I'm Jim Cross your host and chaperone through this weekly vision quest of the highs and lows of all things hot, sticky and interactive. We'll be taking a look at the week's new releases, I'll be bitching about the news and you'll be getting regular topical features from the gaming team at large. So stick around if you like 'em pithy, light and with a splash of sass. But enough of the schmoozing, let's get to it €“ releases!

Basically, the section where you'll find a run-down of the week's new releases, as well as links to reviews.

Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)

Gears of War 3 . . . Gears . . . Of . . . War . . . The Third . . . Bro. Yes so believe it or not, love it or hate it, the bromance is back. As is the blood, gore and ill advised attempts at pathos. Five years after the release of the original 'meat heads versus aliens', the trilogy wraps up and the general consensus on the net is that, yeah . . . it's pretty good. F that noise! €“ as someone who's been quivering with a bitten lip in anticipation for this game, I can honestly say 'this is it' boys and girls. Horde 2.0; Beast Mode (that's you taking control off the uglies and crunching on the human AI); a revamped versus mode and the campaign that ends it all. To put it lightly, this is the Gears game that we've all been waiting for (dude, the Unreal engine finally accommodates colour . . . believe). So if you're: of age, at all interested in fun and perhaps just generally concerned for the mental health of wife butchering frat boys, it's time to get back to it. After all, it's clear from even a glance at this triple A powerhouse that there's just plenty here to get the teeth of your chainsaw into (apologies for the giddy fan boy wordplay there). But guff aside, for a more incisive and comprehensive look at the game check out Simon's review here.

The Gun Stringer (Xbox 360)

So do you own a Kinect? Did you really spend all that money, in the world's greatest recession, on that jazzed up web cam? Well never fear! Whether you regret the decision or not, here comes a game that may finally vindicate those looking for something a little bit more involved and intensive than a mini game collection. The Gun Stringer puts you at the finger tips (I'm sorry, I don't know why I keep doing it €“ I don't even work in PR) of an undead cowboy marionette. Run, gun, punch and party your way through this on rails adventure game from Twisted Pixel Games, the cats behind genuine gems 'The Maw' and 'Splosion Man'. Not owning a Kinect I can't vouch for the quality of the experience but since the game has gone from a download only title to full retail release, it's clear more time and money has gone into this already polished title. €“ In short, this may well be the genuine article.

Supremacy MMA (Xbox 360 & PS3)

Oh joy, another botched job of a UFC game. 'UFC 2010' is doubtless still the undisputed raining champ of the MMA sim and with 'UFC 3' set for release in 2012 there aren't many reasons to invest in this cheap imitation. Unless your desperate for some faster gameplay or 'grittier' (spit with me at the PR Bull) aesthetics, I can't see why you'd invest. An imaginably damning review is on the way.

F1 2011 (Xbox 360, PS3 & PC)

It's a driving game. Drive the cars . . . derive enjoyment. Any questions? (But in all seriousness a review will be up soon)

It's time to take a look at what's been happening out there in 'reality' this week. Sony asks you sue them one at a time (and in an orderly fashion) So interesting news this week in the wake of the Sony hacking scandal. The corporate giant has updated the Play Station Network (PSN) Terms of Service to include a clause that prohibits users from banding together to collectively sue them. What this means is that if you have accepted the updated agreement (and you need to play games over PSN) you cannot sue Sony with other PSN users in what's known as a 'class action lawsuit'. Why? Who knows what goes on at the top, but rest assured there is a get out for anyone who wants to keep there options open: If you take the time to write a letter to Sony expressing your wishes to opt out within 30 days of accepting the new Terms of Service you retain the right to take legal action as a group. Ominous, intimidating or am I just getting old? The real question is not what 'why are Sony doing this?', 'what does this mean for us?' or even 'what next?'. It's simply a question of will anyone bother to write a letter? 'On Live' Free for 3 months for BT Broadband customers Now I can vet this because my BT broadband is too slow (by BT's own admission €“ cheers gang) but the ideas is fairly simple. On Live; a service which allows you to stream (that's not download mindl) games from the net to your TV, PC or Mac using some exciting future tech; is now free to BT Broadband customer for three months. It's really as simple as that - free games, no discs. The idea is brilliant as it allows you to play games as much as you like on a subscription based service you play to On Live (think Spotify but with games). When the three months runs out you can stop using the service or sign up to continue enjoying as many games as you like whenever you like - mmm tempting. I would really love to try this out and okay it for you one way or another. However circumstance restricts that possibility currently and that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon. That said, if you're a BT Broadband customer in the UK you are eligible for this service which offers hundreds of games, such as 'Batman: Arkham Asylum' and 'Borderlands', for free! Try it out and let us know if it's any good.

'20/20 Look Back' So one of the features I'm going to push out their for your perusal is a regular look at games that have perhaps been out for a couple of weeks. Games that we've all played, reviewed and that we've taken the time to reflect on.This isn't that insightful, comprehensive look you want from a review €“ but more of a sunk-in arm chair ponder. A pipe smoking muse on the subject now we've all had a moment to reflect if you will. This is that at parental and discerning dressing down, necessary now that the dust and hype have cleared. You know what I'm driving at, the sort of perspective you can only get from having chewed the fat and ground out the last of the achievements. After all, and let's be honest with ourselves, when you first peel of the plastic and suck in that new game smell, it's nothing short of bliss. The first few minutes of exploring any new world is always fairly intoxicating and even afterward, whether you're there to review the game or not, opinions aren't ever as exhaustive or as astute as they become with time and distance. After all, like a messy break up you need your own space before you can make sense of the beast (she know's who she is). --------

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

So with that in mind let's take a minute, enjoy the clarity of vision granted by time and talk about that pile of steaming disappointment 'DE:HR'. Now the disclaimer here is that I was so excited about Human Revolution €“ choice, consequences, dialogue options, stealth, lethal versus non-lethal moral choices ready to be made. In short, everything a growing escapist needs. On reflection however, and having played the game through multiple times, I'm struck by how shallow it all was. Yes, you had choice but it was largely irrelevant. When all is said and done, the only outcome for investing in either end of the morality scale (kill or incapacitate) is the tone of the mumbled, inconclusive cut scene you get as an ending. No branching narrative path, no 'KOTOR' inspired dark/light side powers, no scorn or praise either way. In fact, it was all rather vacuous when you think about it. The game world was as reactive to you as if you were a fart in the wind. €œSorry!€ the game shouts €œWhat you're doing's lovely but we're decidedly plot driven here, do try and keep up darling€. Oh but then don't loose your rag just yet, you have a choice of four endings! Yes, arbitrarily chosen by a mouse click on one of four buttons. But four endings nonetheless! €“ Which, by the way, are all as dissatisfying and anticlimactic as each other. €œHey kids€ pipes up the game once more €œpick which gruff, pseudo-philosophical monologue you'd like to hear! Now that's choice gang €“ you've a choice of four!€ I mean what sense of satisfaction can possibly be gleaned from hours of action RPG development, only to piss it away on button click? Your choice of upgrades, weapon mods, performance of stealth €“ it's all utterly superficial. The game doesn't take a moment's notice to any of it. If anything, the end can only be a climatic realisation that all your choices of how to approach each scenario were irrelevant. However you play, you ultimately reach the same fork in the road, no matter how long or slick your journey getting there. In short, you're choices in the game do not effect the game's outcome €“ the only thing that does have an effect on what you see in the closing moments is the meta game of 'eenee, meanee, minee, mo' you play with yourself at the 'four button climax' . . . And the boss fight was naff. See point is, playing stealthily, using the dialogue skill €“ it's harder than run and gun but really what's your actual reward? More skills? An achievement? . . . So what? More praxis only equals so much more fun. Once you've played around with hacking, wall bashing, being invisible and the like, you realise it's all getting you to the same indifferent cut scene one way or another. The game sells itself on choice, on which it definitely delivers, but what is doesn't give you is meaningful or interesting reactions to those choices. The game doesn't react to your play style or choices narratively in the way that games like 'Fable' or 'Mass Effect' do €“ they're just token gestures on the treadmill of an action game. A choice of which Motorway Junction you wish to take on the road trip to ultimate disappointment. And don't even get me starting on the writing . . .What writing? - Exactly! Go-to sci-fi troupes, a predictable web of conspiracies, stock characters. No one wrote this game. Standard, uninspired expectations simply manifested themselves into a plot that pushes you from A to B (then back to A to save on the effort of creating C). There's really no character development and no depth to be found whatsoever here. Sure, there's a thousand emails hinting about things going on elsewhere but how can you spend a moment working on content that most players will never take an interest in, when your main plot motivation as Jensen is simply: €œMate . . . better find out WTF is going on€. Frankly it amazes me, considering the development cycle of a game like this, that someone couldn't take a moment out of whatever they were doing to try and put together some characters with a third dimension or an ounce of personality beyond 'grizzly, reluctant skeptic protagonist . . . and chums'. Oh but sorry . . . I forgot, they didn't have a moment to spare on anything as irrelevant and extravagant as dialogue or character development (in a game about transhumanism ). No instead they were all too busy writing a thousand notes to litter the game world with. You remember those notes, they all went just like this: €œHi Guard A, You silly tart! You only went and forgot your password €“ again! Wise up Terry, it's '1234'. Now don't forget it again and destroy this note in case it get's into the wrong hands. . Love and kisses, Guard 'Chauncey' B€ Weak. A lot's changed in the world of game development since the release of the original 'Deus Ex' and 'Invisible War'. Shame 'Human Revolution' chose not to take any notice. I'm only angry because it had so much potential. Angry because I so desperately wanted it to be reactive, dynamic and sexy to match it's art style. Though yes I did enjoy it, but only until the last few moments. It was then I started to realise that the only thing I was getting out of time spent from chatting up fools with my convincy-stink, was the popping sound from my TV as the empty gift of gamerscore was slopped onto my ungrateful plate. At the annual 'Dynamic Protagonists Dinner' Fable's orphan hero would smirk to Geralt over the soup as Jensen horsely whispers about 'hacking versus the front door' being real choice. Meanwhile Shepard takes a moment to weigh up a handful of pithy put downs, deciding finally (with a smirk and a wink) on a sarcastic €œrevolutionary€.

'Party Pick'

A quick look now at a current game you may not have your grubby mitts on, but that is a must for anyone who enjoys couch co-op or just fun in it's purest form. You remember 'fun' €“ that neanderthal pre Achievement/Trophy motivation thingy that made you boot up your SNES. Well here's where you can find some of it in the postmodern Twitter-book-bay world. ---- Rock of Ages (XBLA, PC) Rock of Ages is a simple mix: Super Monkey Ball + Tower Defence + Monty Python. Roll your boulder (sounds like a saucy euphemism doesn't it) down a hill towards the gate of your enemy's castle, meanwhile defending your own with catapults, wind traps and Mammoths. Simple. This light hearted pocket of joy actually translates into one of the most tense and exciting experiences you can have with a friend. 'Skee Boulder' is a two player race down a hill, smashing targets that increase score along the way, in the eventual hope of reaching the score multipliers at the bottom. You may be well behind in terms of score but get one choice run straight down into the times six multiplier and the game is yours. Magic. Cheeky, tightly packed and delightful. 'Rock of Ages' captures the competitive accessibility of a Wii game and throws that snowball down one a 'hill' of a good time. (How is your gag reflex by the way?) The campaign is as frivolous but engaging as any Gilliam animation making this bite size beaut well worth a look. It's as simple as it sounds but ultimately more engrossing than you might dare admit in public. (Don't forget, there's always the trial true believers.) -------- Until next time So there you have it. The fledging flight of this weekly foray into the ever spinning world of video graphic gaming. I've been Jim Cross, vitriolic and silly. You've been good enough to check us out and so thanks for taking the time. Though please do let us know what you thought in the comments. If you hated it then we want to know why €“ what do you want to see from us? More features? Pretty pictures? Less complex sentence structure? Tell us what you need man! And if the answer is more boobs . . . Then I'm with ya brother.
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Jim is a writer from south London. @Jim12C