Brains With Urgent Appointments
"Live Free Or Die Hard" is a movie where a man drives a car into a helicopter, and that may be all one needs to know about it. For some reason, regardless of what is present in the strip, I found myself quite able to place my brain in neutral and roll down the film’s gentle, sloping grade. I thought that Gabriel would be proud that I had done so, but he was not. He held the film to some higher standard, and on a very specific topic - its presentation of technology and technology culture. I know, right? Look out your window; there’s probably frogs and blood and shit.
When I sit down to each night’s electronic feast, the choice to play with people or without people is the first one - and solo experiences rarely claim victory in such assessments. It’s really that elemental. I can collaborate with others (which often increases the power, complexity, and unpredictability of game systems) or I can not. I’ve only played a couple levels into GRAW2 or Rainbow Six: Vegas, but the hours plowed into their multiplayer portions are innumerable. Chromehounds - with its multiplayer focus - yes. Armored Core, no. And I like Armored Core! I want to earn fake money and slam together savage battloids. It’s that doing so means actively denying this other class of experience. Raph Koster seems more and more like a prophet. We should probably get him out of those stocks.
This is why I’m shocked that I’ve plowed so much time into Overlord. I really thought I’d presented the mix succinctly - Pikmin and Dungeon Keeper - but in place, with the full range of levels and content, with the more intimate camera and your customized spire, it’s much more than some mathematical sum. Before I understood what had happened, nearly six hours had gone by. I play games constantly, and enjoy them, but this doesn’t happen to me anymore. I wanted to make a note of it.
Last week was fucked in terms of Demo volume, with heavy hitters like Blue Dragon residing alongside "The Bigs," which I think is a sports game, or it’s about a family a friendly giants, or something. I haven’t played it. I downloaded it to prove that I was open to new experiences.
Stuntman: Ignition is my favorite of the bunch. I tried a demo of the first one a few years ago while we were making our way through a coverdisc, and I loved the setup but never ended up consummating that love in a retail context. I’ve read a lot of comments to the effect that the game is monstrous, or was made by monsters, or is the product of a monstrous union, and it’s the sort of thing that makes me think I’m out of phase with the universe. Once you accept that this is not a racing game, and I will admit that the presence of cars and tracks can throw a person off, you’ll see that you’re sitting in front of something extremely unique.
In genre terms, platformer is probably the right fit - but it’s tied into the performance/timing elements you find in rhythm games. You are performing stunts in a series of fake movies - jumps, one-eightys, nudging cars, James Bond type shit, and so forth - all to create the perfect scene in real time. When you’ve completed a level, you’re rewarded immediately with a scored, cinematic replay that makes you feel like you have ascended the pimp throne, and rule there as the omniscient Ultrapimp. As a spectator’s game, there’s real enjoyment - and the challenge level is… considerable, so the controller is sure to be passed around in that more ancient form of co-op one sometimes sees upon cave walls. I expect almost anyone to get through the first level of the demo, and for each of the two successive levels to cull more players, until we’re left with only hardened stunt motherfuckers, men and women who jumped into heaven on some blasphemous Babel ramp and now constitute a burning pantheon.