31
Dec
11

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

Guitar!

It’s almost 2012, which means it’s almost time to talk about video games from 2011!

#2: Red Dead Redemption
Played on Xbox 360 / Rockstar San Diego / Release Date: May 18, 2010

Red Dead Redemption

My heart has always been in science fiction, not westerns, but Red Dead Redemption blew past the dumb expectations I placed on it because of the setting and showed itself as an engaging game in its own right.

What lies at the heart of Rockstar’s games for me are the settings.  Grand Theft Auto IV‘s Liberty City became one of my most favorite game worlds ever, and Rockstar San Diego’s interpretation of the American West coming off its wild years and coming to terms with encroaching modern society (with its trains, horseless carriages, and rotary machine guns) quickly joins Liberty City in my favor.  While not as dense as Liberty City, RDR‘s American West is just as detailed in its rolling landscapes teeming with flora and fauna.  Looking out over the horizon at sunset reminded me of the multiple times in my life on interstates through desert states like Wyoming, and the developers absolutely nailed it.  I knew I had a gem on my hands when I forwent fast travel a majority of the time in lieu of simply riding my horse down the area’s many trails.

Encapsulated in the world is the story of the player character, John Marston, a former outlaw looking for redemption for himself and a better life for his family. Marston meets many memorable and well-acted characters as he makes his way across the territory and Mexico as well as many twists, and for the most part the moment-to-moment experience hits very well, especially in deft use of music in some key spots.  The lengthy single player campaign hits some pacing snags here and there, but still tells a story that stands tall among its peers.

The action is just as exquisite as the presentation.  Shooting controls experience a refinement over GTA4 both in locking on enemies as well as actually aiming yourself with the sticks.  There’s also a slo-mo mechanic that represent Marston’s excellent sharpshooting skills that allows players to lock on and pick off targets in a blink of an eye.  A large arsenal of revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and explosives ensure that body counts skyrocket during the course of play (narrative dissonance once more!)  Getting around the gigantic world is also a pleasure, with a few methods of fast travel as well as setting out on your own atop your own horse.  Horse riding is an involved affair involving a bit of tapping if you want to get every single ounce of energy out of a steed while you can hold a button down if you just want to stride along at a good speed.

What Red Dead Redemption represents to me in the end, however, is an insanely detailed, engrossing world that shouldn’t be missed, whether you like westerns or not.  Great action and great story in a great setting; it’s as simple as that.

#1: Mass Effect 2
Played on PC and Xbox 360 / BioWare / Release Date: January 26, 2010

Mass Effect 2

The original Mass Effect title is one surrounded by ambition: BioWare’s renown RPG craft combined with real time action.  Both halves had its issues, but it did not tarnish the amazing universe they crafted for this game.  All the characters, races, world, ships, and technologies of the Mass Effect universe came to enrapture most who experienced it.  What Mass Effect 2 does is to propel Commander Shepard’s story in that universe forward while at the same time refining the action to a razor-sharp edge, producing a much more enjoyable experience and one I’ve gone through on three separate occasions.

Players will probably get the most out of ME2 if they played the first one beforehand, but even if you couldn’t, the story and the people introduced in ME2 would still stand as some of the most memorable ever made.  Interesting personalities come with interesting back-stories and situations that drive their action throughout the whole story of a universe placed in danger from a threat it still doesn’t widely recognize.  Most development houses would probably commit murder to work with a universe that fans are engaged with this hard.

BioWare made interesting decisions when it came down to the game, itself, however.  The RPG side of ME2 is toned down, with less choices for skill customization and the practical elimination of inventory management.  The various player classes still exist, and each feature a unique ability that stands out unique from the others in the massively improved combat.  As a Vanguard, I treasured getting up close and into the mix quickly.  As an Infiltrator I used a cloak to get into prime positions in a battle to headshot high-priority targets.  As a Sentinel I absorbed higher amounts of damage and took bigger risks in combat.  The general feeling of aiming your weapon and moving in a combat space take a giant leap from the first game while still retaining some of the tactical choices such as combining powers between yourself and your squadmates for maximum damage.  These changes didn’t play for everyone, especially those looking for a deep RPG, but I think all these changes still lead to a superior game.  I was engrossed in all the events happening for Shepard and her team and I didn’t view combat as an obstacle I need to overcome to get to the next story beat.

Mass Effect 3 is coming down the pipeline soon enough, and I hope BioWare continues to treat these games and its universe with the care its diehard fans deserve.  Just don’t ask me to mine for any more minerals.

Images: Giant Bomb

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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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