Inflection Pixel’s Ten Titles I Loved In 2010, Part Two

Rock history.

Welcome back!  Let’s talk some more video games, because I know all ya’ll like that.

As far as what I’m currently up to, I downloaded the original Mass Effect (’07 represent) from Xbox’s Games On Demand service and started a new game.  I played it back at the end of 2008 when it was on sale on Steam for $10 on PC and had a great time.  I played as a female Renegade on PC, and for whatever reason I can’t picture that game’s universe in any other way, so my 360 replay is also as a girl who is a total jerk.

The end of my playtime on the PC then transitioned smoothly into the release of its sequel, which I also played on PC and enjoyed. I think I’m setting myself up for the same deal by playing through the first Mass Effect and then buying Mass Effect 2 on 360 to satiate my excitement for the new installment later this year as well as pick up on all the DLC experiences I have missed in the past year.  Maybe when I finish Mass Effect 2 on 360, it’ll be when Mass Effect 3 releases and I can go straight in!  This franchise has to be among one of my favorites of all time.  Its universe is so well built and well realized.  Anyone who likes a good sci-fi experience should really give it a shot if they haven’t.

It’s a bummer about the Mako vehicle controls and the inventory UI with 360 controls, though.  The PC really masked the horrible experience players would usually have on the 360.  I might feel the impact of the streamlined mechanics in the sequel more on the 360 compared to the PC.  Also, my decision to play these games right now might be productivity suicide.  Ah well!

#8: Deadly Premonition
Played on Xbox 360 / Access Games / Original Release: February 23, 2010
“Confoundedly Entertaining”

Deadly Premonition

As a preface, I’m not a professional reviewer of games, so I don’t get to play every game under the sun, broken or not.  As such, I can choose to not play broken games.  So it might make a statement to know that Deadly Premonition is far and away the most broken game I played in 2010, both on and off this list.  I also played this game’s roughly 12 hour story to its completion.

As I’ve said before, I hesitate to recommend this game to everyone I know.  You might have to be a certain brand of broken, yourself, to appreciate what’s happening here.  There isn’t a single mechanic here that isn’t flawed in various degrees: open world exploration is an exercise in frustration as you combat bizarre vehicle physics and touchy controls, and you might never get used to the uniquely awkward combat the whole game.  That’s not nearly all that’s wrong with Deadly Premonition, but beyond that, there’s something I find admirable in it.

The developers dedicated themselves to build a complete world within the sleepy town of Greenvale and barely leave a badly textured stone unturned behind them.  A simulated 24-hour cycle with each NPC going through their own routine, the need to eat, shower, shave, and rest, and a large collection of stories wrapped in quests both essential and non-essential are a few of the traits of this game world that make me want to be in it and experience its story, no matter how badly rendered it may be.  While the characters are odd (both in their nature and in how they are written), they are not “bad” characters.  A large majority are enjoyable to see and hear (the quality of voice acting might be my pick as the most technically well done aspect of the game) and they are quite memorable to boot.  The main character’s oddities are a part of the main arc he experiences throughout the whole game and at its completion that arc might be one of the most entertaining stories you can have in video games.   A story like that might only be possible in the medium of games thanks to their extended length of time to tell that story as well as the feeling of ownership and camaraderie a player might feel when controlling and being with a character like that for an extended amount of time.

Deadly Premonition might go down in history as a bad game in the usual sense of the phrase.  I don’t disagree entirely with that, but I would put forth the argument that it is one of the most entertaining experiences you might have in video games.  If you can get past the “bad game” part, I guess.

#7: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Played on PC / Blizzard / Original Release: July 27, 2010
“A Pillar Of The Real Time Strategy Genre,  Refined”

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

I have to admit that back in 1998, I preferred Total Annihilation over the original StarCraft. I loved its no-holds-barred physics-based bazillion-robot mayhem over StarCraft‘s “paltry” 200 supply limit, 12 unit-max control groups, and other little quirks.  I didn’t have a hunch at what direction StarCraft would take then, but I got a hint of it when I visited family in the Philippines in 2000, when I stopped on a televised StarCraft match while channel surfing in a hotel room on a random rainy afternoon.  The Protoss zealot on the can of Pepsi I bought at the Seoul airport was also a good indicator.

Fast forward to now, where the StarCraft franchise is the premier game of choice in modern e-sports.  A trademark of a whole Asian nation is their people’s unmatched pursuit to perfection in these real time strategy titles.  It is in this day and age, then, that StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty comes along as an update to a rabidly popular game now over a decade old.

They were purposefully playing with fire when they dared to design a sequel to StarCraft, and their results mostly play it safe.  StarCraft II plays similarly, but combines smart tweaks to gameplay (bigger selection groups, multi-base selection) and modern updates (amazing graphics and sound, updated online capabilities on Battle.net) make this game more approachable to even games who are normally apprehensive towards real time strategy.  To the hardcore, Blizzard strays far enough from the original’s design to keep fresh, such as Protoss warp gates, Zerg queens, and other new units and abilities for all races, for example.  These changes are enough where a new zeitgeist is formed for this game separate from the original, with the player base developing strategy after strategy and then newer strategies to counter those just days after.  Battle.net’s new ladder system appeals to the player base’s competitive spirit as well as allowing lesser players to find their place in the world and find other similarly-skilled players to compete against.

StarCraft II‘s multiplayer suite might be the best thing in multiplayer out there right now, but the best part of StarCraft II is that it’s only one part of the game.  The game supports the creation of custom maps with an editor so outrageous that authors can go well beyond the RTS genre in their creations if they choose to.  Cooperative “comp stomp” against the AI with your friends is also a very viable option.  The single player campaign plays almost like a completely different game with consistent tech trees, branching mission paths, and story sequences in between missions that play out like a point-and-click adventure story.  The mission design of the campaign shoots for the stars every time, having players doing completely different actions from mission to mission instead of the old “build and kill” grind of the 90s.

The long and short of it is that there’s absolutely something for everyone in this package, regardless of interest or skill level in strategy games.  Any self-respecting PC gamer needs this game.  I await the next installment with a drool; I cannot wait to see what Blizzard can pull off next.

Images: Giant Bomb


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My name is Anthony Munar, a computer programmer in Utah. I also play a bunch of video games every now and then. I talk and think a lot about them, but I never really solidify those thoughts anywhere, and writing is something I like doing, so I thought I'd do it right here. I don't intend to be high-and-mighty authoritative about what I say and I don't really have any sort of standing in the games industry. This is just for me to muse about games when I want to.

Naming a blog these days was harder than I thought. In calculus, the inflection point on a curve is where its concavity changes between upwards and down. So, maybe, the inflection pixel is the pixel which represents something that turns my opinion around on a game, like the pixels representing a beam cannon firing in FreeSpace 2, the pixels representing a flying car wreck in Burnout, or the pixels representing my own sentry gun holding off an army in Team Fortress 2.

Using the word 'pixel' in naming something game-related seems clichéd, so sorry about that.


January 2011
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