Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Sidebar: Is Co-op the new Deathmatch?

I am passionate about co-operative play. When it comes down to playing a game with friends, I am so much more enthused by overcoming an obstacle together, than by pitting myself against my compadres in a face à face that results in largely nothing. I garner such a deep level of satisfaction and pleasure from seeing a plan come together. Right now, I’m wearing an A-Team t-shirt that actually says ‘I love it when a plan comes together’. Do you know why? Because I really do love it when a plan comes together.
It is for this reason that I have been quietly, yet joyfully, noticing a significant development in multiplayer games of recent. A few years ago, your typical game contained a single-player campaign, and a multiplayer that would allow you to use what you had learned in a fight to the death against your friends, or even folks you had never met. Deathmatch was the traditional approach to a multiplayer component: an all-for-one, one-for-all high-stakes battle for honor among your peers. It is interesting to me how times are changing.
mass effect 3 multiplayer 300x168 Sunday Sidebar: Is Co op the new Deathmatch?
Mass Effect 3 will be the first entry with a multiplayer element.
Co-operative Play In The Spotlight
Two releases have been primarily in my gaming radar of recent: Syndicate, the Starbreeze reboot that was released this week, and Mass Effect 3, a little-known science-fiction action RPG made by a developer called BioWare. Both of these games feature a multiplayer option. However, neither of these titles offer the opportunity to defeat human opponents. Rather, players come together to achieve a common goal. There are rumors abound that Syndicate escaped a necessary Online Pass by not implementing competitive multiplayer, but there’s also a strong case to be made for the argument that many of the gameplay elements particular to it would start to over-complicate and even fall apart when employed against players who were performing exactly the same tricks on your team as you were on theirs. Instead, we are uniting humanity and pitching it against the machine. There is perhaps even something of a satirical element here, when we consider thatMass Effect 3 specifically has a main storyline concerning uniting humanity, and the rest of the galaxy, against a common oppressor that just so happens to be a race of sentient machines. Could BioWare be preparing us for the future?
syndicate co op 300x168 Sunday Sidebar: Is Co op the new Deathmatch?
The co-operative play in Syndicate has been described as more closely resembling MMO tactics than those of traditional shooters
There is definitely something important going on psychologically here, in my opinion. Or could it be economic? Has a climate of financial austerity encouraged us to team up, to work together and improve our situation? Are game developers doing nothing more than simply holding up a mirror to a contemporary society in the throes of improving its sense of community? It’s food for thought, at the very least. What I’m most curious about is where the split lies. How many players prefer facing human opponents to those blessed with artificial intelligence? I need your individual perspectives, dear readers. Do you prefer the feeling of victory provided by these Horde-Mode-style gameplay options, or the satisfaction of besting a human? Or do you eschew multiplayer in its entirety, preferring to play alone? Let’s indulge ourselves in a little sociological analysis. It’s the weekend!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Sidebar: All of the trial versions!

This week’s Sunday Sidebar is brought to you by the letter T. A couple of noteworthy demo versions saw light this week, and it seems prudent to give them some due care and attention. So boot up your Xbox 360, and let’s download ourselves some trials, huh?
warp Sunday Sidebar: All of the trial versions!
Oooh, shiny!
First-off, if you have an Xbox, and you haven’t checked yet out the Trapdoor/EA joint Warp, it’s worth a look-in. Available in trial form from the Xbox Live Marketplace right now, it will be coming to PC and PS3 around March 16. I remember playing it and chatting with one of the developers briefly at PAX East last year, and quite enjoying the cartoony visuals and laboratory atmosphere. As a puzzle game taking place in a scientific locale, the comparisons to Portal are quick in jumping to mind, although the feel of the game is much less cerebral than Valve’s much-loved release. Of course, it is likely that Warp may develop into something more significant or complicated than the demo suggests, though, so perhaps I’m too quick to de-cerebralize it before it’s had a fair chance.
Warp is also the opening gambit for Microsoft’s House Party promotion, with Alan Wake’s American NightmareNexuiz, and I Am Alive to follow in the weeks to come. Of those three, I Am Live is perhaps the most anticipated, and yet another survival horror game releasing this year! Hopefully our Jen Bosier will get a chance to enjoy a survival horror game this year after all? For what it’s worth, Ubisoft had previously scrapped development on the project, which at least gives hope that their is some variety of quality control in place, unlike a certain other release from this year. I’m quite looking forward to the next instalment of Alan Wake, given the pulpy look and feel of what’s been shown of it so far. The black sheep of the House Party is definitely Nexuiz, though. Starting out life as a Quake mod really doesn’t seem to give it much relevance or inherent value. The Xbox 360 is, as ever, still not particularly suffering from a lack of first-person shooters. You can check out some clips of the three here.
I suspect that I am not alone in having returned to the Mass Effect franchise this week. If not only for the brand-new demo (with multiplayer?!), then to get saved games and desired outcomes arranged and in place for the early March release of the closing chapter in a (so far) wonderful trilogy and excellent science fiction universe. So, the demo then. Opinions on it are suitably varied, which doesn’t generate a whole lot of confidence, but then, you know what they say about opinions. Mine? If you insist. What we are shown of the campaign feels lacking somehow, and having spent the last week re-completing the noir-y dreamboat that is Mass Effect 2, I was surprised to note how much more similar the demo felt to Mass Effect the First than its far-superior sequel.
The multiplayer is, so far as I can tell, Gears of War’s Horde Mode with some rudimentary effecting of masses. At the moment, I’m not convinced. I hope I can eat these words at a later date, but first impressions left me feeling that it is tacked-on, insignificant and not a huge draw. I was hoping for a much better outcome, I must say. All of the hype surrounding it, and my love for the first two games, have had me proverbially foaming at the mouth for the third and final entry, but after this week I feel just a tad cooled in that regard. Fingers crossed for a swift crossing-out of this mindset in under a month’s time.
Speaking of interesting multiplayer, I would direct any of those on the fence about Syndicate to try out its multiplayer demo offering. It’s not perfect, by a long way, but it’s a very intriguing, and it wasn’t until Jerry Holkins pointed it out that I realised that it replicates the playstyle of an MMO in a very interesting way. Also, it’s a super cyberpunk, tech-noir, corporate paranoia overdose. If you like that sort of thing, which I most certainly do.
Some other news is that, as a brief addendum to last week’s in-praise-of article on Double Fine, their Kickstarter campaign for Double Fine Adventure has led to a number of developers, particularly in the realms of nostalgia titles, to consider launching their own campaigns. If the whole thing kicks off, we could be in a very interesting world of business in the near future. Perhaps big corporations will fall, as gamers fund their own titles directly. This cannot happen. We need those big corporations so that we can fear them, folks. Please consult Syndicate for further information.
That about rounds it up for this week. If you’ve tried any of those games out, please let us know what you thought in the comments!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Sidebar: 2012 – The Year of the Martian Bear

Good morning everyone, and welcome to this week’s Sunday Sidebar. One of the concepts behind the creation of this weekly feature was not just to host a column-style musing on goings-on within the gaming scene, but to occasionally pause for reflection on more significant events. This week has been defined by one particular event, and if you missed it, then I’m happy to break it to you: Double Fine Productions are so hot right now.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Sidebar: PSA: XBLA A-OK

This week’s post was inspired by a conversation between my fiancée and I concerning the wonders of the Xbox Live Arcade. We were investigating the trial version of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes and we began almost lamenting the sheer breadth and quality of the variety of content present on the service. From time to time, Microsoft receives a low level of flak for some of its approaches to the Marketplace system, but one of the greatest aspects that they established was the necessity for all XBLA titles to be provided in trial form.