03
Sep
11

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

In harmony.

And now, without any further delay, the continuation of a series of blog posts I had intended to finish months ago.  Shameful.

#4: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Played on Xbox 360 / Ubisoft Montreal/Annecy / Release Date: November 16, 2010
“Most Improved Murder Simulator Of The Year”

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

There are few video game franchises that can be represented with strictly positive slopes like Assassin’s Creed could.  The first installment in 2007 came bristling with amicable ambition and promise packaged in the unique backdrop of the 12th century Crusades (and the modern day science fiction stuff, I guess), but hamstrung by a pace-killing, repetitive gameplay structure that broke your will to endure through its winding and weaving story.  While I managed to experience that really weird ending it had, I could see where the game fell quite short for others.  Assassin’s Creed 2 then went on to become an exemplary model for what a sequel can be, refining what worked in the first title and building on top of it with expanded ways to play and even more grandiose, classical Italian settings to bound around to become a more fulfilling experience.  They installed a more linear structure to deliver the main plot yet simultaneously implemented more activities for the player to pick and choose from, letting players pick and choose how fast or how intimate they wanted their experience with the game to be.  The modern day setting of the story even became tolerable!

While Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is less of a  jump in quality from Assassin’s Creed 2 than it was from the first game to the second, it’s still very much a jump and is very much an amazing and, at least to myself, superior experience.  This is going from “lobster dinner” to “lobster dinner, now with more lobster”.  It’s hard to believe that only one year separates their release dates.

The same, mostly linear main plot structure from the second game remains and delves further into the confounding yet somehow intriguing story of a centuries-long secret war.  That comes coupled with an even further expanded repertoire of side activities to build up your murderous arsenal and slaying skills.  It all takes place in a thorough, breathtaking reconstruction of 16th century Rome.  Exploring the cities of the earlier games was a fine way to spend time, but the absolute scale of the city here almost sent my mind into meltdown.  The franchise’s signature parkour style of travel allowed me to investigate up and down each alleyway and plaza while allowing me to investigate and execute on any encounter from any feasible angle.

Then, there is the brotherhood aspect.  The earlier games were strictly lonely experiences in assassination, but in Brotherhood the main character begins to build his own private crew of upstart killers from the ground up.  What’s fitted here is a light RPG experience where you send your assassins across the continent on missions to further your cause as well as bring back money, loot, and the experience to become even more ruthless killing machines.  You then have these assassins respond to your beck and call in practically any situation.  If half of my game time was spent simply loitering around rooftops, the other half was watching the assassins of the brotherhood sweep down and smoothly eliminate a guard patrol and disappear into the back alleys with a tap of a button.  Building up your own brotherhood of like-minded assassins was one of the most rewarding experiences of the year.  Seeing them in action at your command is the most empowering experience of the year.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood put the expectations of a sequel with a shorter-than-average turnaround on its head and delivered one of the finest action adventures of 2010.  With yet another entry into the series coming just as fast in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and it’s hard not to get excited about how the franchise could get even better than this.

#3: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
Played on Xbox 360 / Criterion Games/ Release Date: November 16, 2010
“Carnage On Wheels, Familiar, Yet Fresh”

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

As far as arcade racing goes, no other franchise of games have robbed me of hours upon hours of my time like the Burnout series.  Burnout Revenge delivered their own brand of nerve-wracking car combat and regular racing in a straightforward series of events.  It was so gratifying that I played it twice, across two different generations of Xbox consoles, to 100 percent completion.  With Burnout Paradise, they took a risk of taking their action to an expansive open-world city with seemingly a million nooks and crannies to drive through.  Actual knowledge and experience racing in Paradise City led to the player being more capable of navigating their way through the city in terms of how to take turns in certain intersections and where to enter and exit shortcuts, both in and out of race.  Criterion also supported Paradise well past what one would expect a developer to support their titles, with new cars that operate in wildly different ways, motorcycles, day and night cycles, new modes to play, and even new chunks of city to explore.  My rough estimate of my time spent in Paradise City is around 20,000 hours.

People expressed disappointment that Criterion’s next project was their take on Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit instead of more Burnout.  Instead, Criterion took real exotic cars and a much heavier sense of steering versus Burnout‘s turn-on-a-dime style of handling and applied nearly a decade of experience in cinematic action racing.  The output was that this Hot Pursuit played host to some of the best arcade racing of the year as well as being one of the best Need For Speed titles in a considerable stretch of time.

The game highlighted a rivalry between cops and racers in a fictional county on the California coast, providing players a path of progression for each side that weaves between a long series of single player events and hectic multiplayer events.  Cars available start innocently enough with Dodge Chargers, Subaru hatchbacks, and BMW convertibles, while the end-game stable of hypercars (McLaren F1, Bugatti Veyron, and so on) with top speeds north of 260 MPH provide the trademark Criterion sense of speed where every 30 seconds you feel that you have no business going that fast on these roads and that you will disintegrate taking the next turn way too tight.  It is also hilarious seeing rare, expensive cars sport cop liveries (such as the Lamborghini above!) There are a range of modes to wield these cars including races and time attacks, but the most combative and my personal favorite would be the Hot Pursuit mode, where a team of racers attempt to get away from a team of cops using equipment like spike strips, road blocks, and a weird… EMP… thing.  I did not do a lot of public matchmaking in games in 2010, but playing Hot Pursuit mode online with strangers would have been the thing I did the most online.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is not a Burnout game.  It’s not even close to being a total package like Burnout: Paradise is.  I could go as far as saying it’s not as good a game as Paradise.  Still, Paradise is an insanely high watermark for arcade racing, and Hot Pursuit got very close to being as dear to my racing heart as Paradise did.  Fans of Burnout and arcade racing in general shouldn’t be ignorant to the amazing action available here.

Also funny, both these games came out at the same exact date.  Funny!

Images: Giant Bomb, official Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit site (image generated by me)

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intro

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.

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