Alright, I just finished Mass Effect 3‘s Citadel DLC last night and I’m still a little bit baffled so forgive me if I’m not altogether cogent while writing this. I’ve gone back and edited this thing about a dozen times, adding in further elaboration on plot points, plot holes, and general contrivances. I’m just posting as is now because at this point I’m not sure if I want to keep examining this thing very closely. It’s just going to continue to frustrate me, though whether that frustration will be greater or lesser than that I’ll feel when I realize I forgot to include a particularly biting criticism later remains to be seen.
What with the recent announcement of the PS4 there’s been a lot of talk stirring up again about “next generation” games and hardware. Between EA claiming that it will be narrowing its scope of development to fewer games this generation, Activision predicting that development costs will double (those two seem connected to me) and a dozen other theories, guesses, and rumors there’s a lot to talk about right now. But what I really want to focus on is a very old debate that’s seen a bit more attention ever since the Sony press event and the reveal of the PS4 a little while ago.
As part of the media blitz to let people know that the PS4 will have games and it’ll be able to do cool stuff with them, David Cage gave a short tech demo, showing us what the PS4 can do graphically. All fine and good, that’ll give people something to talk about over the water cooler for a bit, but I’m not interested in what was shown so much as I am the ideology that Cage demonstrated during the demo. In it, Cage posits that technology is the main avenue game creators use to reach players on an emotional level. He claims that with every advance in technology and visuals we get closer and closer to replicating real human emotion which can resonate with players much, much more than a graphically-inferior game could. To make this point, he talks about the early days of cinema and how actors had to over-emphasize every movement and action in order to convey the correct tone. He notes how with improved camera technology, advanced understanding of lighting and sound, and all around better production quality movies were able to convey much more subtle emotion with smaller, less grandiose gestures. Scenes from The Great Train Robbery play on the screen behind him to demonstrate his point, and he then displays the tech demo itslef, showing how with the technology available through the PS4 characters are able to make much more subtle movements, conveying a wider range of emotions. This, he says, is the foundation of all emotional storytelling within games.
So after 20 posts and a word count in the tens of thousands we’ve finally finished the Halo trilogy. And through all the questions, all the frustrations, all the mumbled curses, all the shouted curses and all the outright whining, if nothing else I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve finally finished this franchise. While you can debate the literary or intellectual value of a game like Halo it’s still a staple of the genre and it’s useful to have experienced just for frame of reference. And now with that experience under my belt I feel like I can finally give my own educated verdict on the franchise.
It’s somewhat anticlimactic then that that verdict is more or less the same one I had going in. Ultimately I still think Halo is an over-hyped, over-rated, bland and boring linear journey through the halls of mediocrity.
Can you imagine what the insurance premium on a SPARTAN is? Ouch.
Alright, so we’re on Deep Space 9 and we’ve gotta link up with Sisko so we can take down the Covenant.
But first, some repetitive exposition:
If I were to create a drinking game wherein I took a shot every time someone explains that the Halo array will kill everything in the galaxy, I would be incapable of writing this right now because my liver would have failed at this point. I just can’t shake the sense that the game is somehow talking down to me by constantly reminding me what the Halos are supposed to do. We know what they are supposed to do. The Halos are the central threat of this entire series, and it’s not a particularly complex threat: the rings were made to kill the Flood, but they’ll kill all of us too. That’s it. This is not a nuanced political drama where we need to pay very close attention to follow the plot. It’s an action/adventure story in space where we shoot things to save the day. Star Wars is basically the same in principle, and we only needed to be shown the threat from the Death Star once. After that the characters and the audience totally understood what they had to do and just went out there and did it.
But I guess they’re just trying to re-affirm our purpose in the game, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea at all. If we don’t have a clear vision of what we’re doing then we lose interest, so I’m pretty sure they’re just trying to keep the player focused on a central goal, which is fine. I just wish they’d done it in a way that wasn’t so obtuse.