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Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure has been delayed for two weeks; mutants not to blame

BlizzCon 2014 will open its doors to orcs, zerg and even Kel'Thuzad on November 7th

The Weekly Playlist: the one where Jules spoils Bioshock: Infinite and Paul declares his love for Peggle

"No Jules, you're not spoiling this story as well!"

It's been a quiet weekend, but that's because the team have been stuffing themselves with chocolate. Everyone is winding down from PAX and GDC, our poor, event-ridden Rob goes back into hibernation. It's Easter though, and that means chocolate and time to play games. Here's what the teams been playing this week:

Julian Benson - Bioshock: Infinite (contains spoilers)

When I read in an interview with PC Gamer, that “there was a scene in the game at the end where one of our artists got to a point in the game, played it, turned off BioShock, opened up his computer, opened Microsoft Word, and wrote a resignation letter. It had offended him so much,” I'd put it down to hyperbole, one of those bollocks statements developers make in press junkets to big up their game. Then, before I even entered the flying city of Columba, I came across a scene I found profoundly uncomfortable. I didn't consider quitting the game but I spent a good while looking for an alternative to what the game was asking me to do.

To get into Columbia you must be baptised.

I don't want to be baptised. I've no desire to take part in that ceremony again, I certainly don't want to in a game, either. You have to initiate the baptism in Bioshock, too. Activating the priest (videogames, eh) lets you pass through to Columbia and all that fun stuff we saw in the trailers. I wanted there to be another way through. I tried to get out of the circle of acolytes, to see if there was another route past the priest, but you are trapped in by the white robed believers. Eventually, I asked him to baptise me into their church. 

I can't think of an action in a game that has made me have quite so strong a reaction, I was repulsed by what the game was making me do. Something of the strength of the reaction I think comes from the lack of choice - though, I could have chosen to quit the game. I'm still too early in the game to know how frequent a theme religion is to become - though I suspect 'very' - but from my reaction to this scene I wonder if I, too, will be firing off an email to Levine when I reach the end point that had his artist threatening to resign.

Jeremy Peel: Far Cry

About a month ago, Crytek king Cevat Yerli told me that when working on Far Cry, the dev team adopted a self-consciously B movie approach to storytelling. I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant until yesterday afternoon, when I watched crop-topped, pilotless-helicopter bound CIA agent Valerie Cortez kick protagonist Jack Carver in the face to save his life.

Ah. Less the 1940s Val Lewton definition of B movie, then - more the 2009 Megashark vs. Giant Octopus one.

Y’know, I suspect that Crytek have to bite their tongues very hard indeed when told that Crysis 3 isn’t half the sandpit their debut was. Evidently nobody remembers that Far Cry frequently funnelled its players through chrome corridors - there both to give its levels somewhere to get changed in private, and to make the intervening beaches and forests more meaningful places to play.

But I’m still loving Far Cry. Things are always moving about, which is nice. Trucks are loaded and unloaded, helicopters despatched and landed, mutant apes suppressed and succombed to by their former masters. And the AI is still really, truly impressive stuff, nearly a decade later. Actually, ‘impressive’ is an insufficiently aloof definition - ‘alarming’ is better, especially when a half a squad of grumpy mercs successfully flank and flush you out in the brush. Oh, sorry - you thought you controlled the space? The pushes and pulls, the how and whens? Well, be careful - this sandbox is quicksand.

Paul Dean: Peggle

I’ve played a few games this week, but if I’m going to be straight up, honest and undisguised, then I have to admit that I’ve played Peggle the most.

You might remember that, earlier this week, Peggle was released for free. I have a dim recollection of downloading the game and then nothing more. Suddenly, it was the next morning and I was very tired, having not slept nearly as much as I should have. These past few days I’ve played every level in Peggle several times over. I’ve unlocked every character. I’ve topped some of the scoreboards, though I won’t be satisfied until I rule them all.

It’s not much more than a modern reinterpretation of Arkanoid with something of a pinball twist and a few special powers thrown in, but that’s all it needs to be to give me endless hours of fun. The special powers are actually really rather clever, each of them providing a very distinct advantage that might or might not suit you depending on how you play. The levels are also quite deviously designed and, though the concept behind Peggle is extremely simple, many of them are very challenging. The game isn’t a jerk about anything, though, and if at first you don’t succeed, it’s quite happy for you to just try again.

There can be quite a lot of elitism about casual versus serious gaming, about the value of one compared to the other. Personally, I don’t feel any animosity towards casual games or casual gamers but, I have to admit, I do take sides: that casual stuff just isn’t my bag. I’ll be sticking with my Peggle, because that game is the most serious of serious business.

(Also, the screenshot above clearly demonstrates some of the best writing in any video game ever.)

Nick Wilson: Guild Wars 2

I'm still on my quest for my legendary longbow, Kudzu, slowly gathering all the ingredients. I'm over half way there now, finally getting the last of my 77 Mystic Clovers, and finishing the Gift of Kudzu. That coupled with my precursor weapon puts me at around four weeks until completion by my watch. 

The most recent patch included some nice additions to the Living Story, giving players some more adventures as the story progresses, soon to be concluded in late April.

But before that, there's something else on the horizon. All I can say is log in tonight between 11pm-midnight for something spectacular, and check the site tomorrow morning for more Guild Wars 2 news. 

A big thank you to the Going Postal guild on Desolation for letting me par-take in their Guild Rush event for some extra loot. Guild Leader "Hexdragon" and his followers are all nice chaps, feel free to whisper him for a friendly community. 

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I just finished Bioshock Infinite this morning and based on Julian's reaction so far I'll be interested to hear his reaction once he's finished it. I didn't have much of a problem with that scene myself since it seemed in character for Booker DeWitt to go along with it since it was necessary for the job. I mean if you're a cynical washed up character like DeWitt then I don't think you'd baulk too much at pretending to be baptised if it was necessary to get the job done even if you weren't comfortable with it.

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Pretty pathetic with the Infinite one that a "video game journalist" doesn't understand the concept of character development.

 

This Julian guy just needs to stick to shallow "beat the bad guy" stuff until he learns to play big-boy games.

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Julian Benson's picture

I think I'm going to need to write something further this scene in the future but, to clear something up, the scene doesn't offend me; it made me uncomfortable.

 

Also, I'm not angry at all that Irrational made me feel uncomfortable: I'm fascinated by it. I've killed thousands of NPCs as a gamer and that does nothing to affect me. Now, is that because I'm desensitised to violence? I doubt it but it's a possibility. What I think is more likely is that Irrational have realised that there are much more effective routes to evoking emotion than clicking on NPCs head to make them dead.

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I think the problem with violence, why it fails to evoke emotion, is how it is presented. I think that is actually a major problem with Bioshock Infinite. The casual murder doesn't fit well with the rest of the game. I think the game would have worked so much better if the total bodycount had been about 30 NPCs rather than the hundreds. DeWitt as a character should be willing to kill people but it shouldn't be so completely routine. I'd have much prefered it if he'd been able to, dare I say it, talk to the monsters, and bluff his way out of a lot of situations, run away or just come to areas of New Columbia where the guards just don't realise who he is unless they spot the brand on his hand or something. The are a couple of points where this is the case but it should have been so much more previlent. The actual combat should have been a rare and very bad thing, not his primary way of interacting with the world.

It felt to me like 95% of the shooting, and all the plasmids, were shoe horned in to satisfy the fans who desired a Bioshock sequel rather than a new experience. It is rather disapointing since I feel like everything is there in the game to make it truely brilliant but it has been padded out with unnecessary combat. All that really needs to happen is for some stuff to be cut which seems like it shouldn't be that hard. The addition of 1999 mode (which I confess I haven't played yet so I'm going of the marketing hype) makes it all the more frustrating since it sounds like Irrational have included a 'director's cut' of the game and cut it completely the wrong way, pushing the combat even further to the fore when for the sake of the rest of the game it really needed to be toned down.

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Julian Benson's picture

From what I've played, I completely agree about the shooting, it feels at odds with the rest of the game. I think the scene when the killing first starts best shows that: you go from having spent an hour walking about Columbia, enjoying the detail Irrational have painted into the game, to suddenly having waves of enemies running at you. It stops you from being able to examine the world and just start running through it.

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