Portal 2 Review Part 2/2: The Negative Review

Any motion picture–such as 2001:A Space Odyssey; Demon Seed; Silent Running or Forbidden Planet–or Star Wars–in which the most identifiable, likeable characters are robots, is a film without people. And that is a film that’s shallow, that cannot uplift or enrich in any genuine sense, because it is a film without soul, without a core. It is merely a diversion, a cheap entertainment, a quick fix with sugar-water, intended to distract, divert and keep an audience from coming to grips with itself.” — Harlan Ellison

It is probably safe to say at this point that everyone loves Portal 2. Just look at Metacritic, just look at the sales charts, just look at what anyone, anywhere is saying about it.… Read the rest

Portal 2 Review Part 1/2: The Positive Review

The first Portal seemed so undeserving of its success. It was essentially a Half-Life 2 mod similar to Research And Development only with a new gameplay gimmick. The story was only added later in the playtesting phase because players were getting bored with room after room of puzzles. Since the developers didn’t have time to model and animate characters a disembodied voice was created from the same disembodied voice that appears in both Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2. The end result was barely marketed at all and distributed merely as a small bonus bundled with other “real” games. By all rights, Portal should have been enjoyed for what it was and forgotten afterwards, along with every other short puzzle game.… Read the rest

Portal 2, and Three Reasons Why I Don’t Like Sequels

This isn’t about how I don’t like Portal 2. Tomorrow (or perhaps earlier?) will be a historic day in my life. Not just because I’ll be playing Portal 2, but because it will be the first time in I-don’t-know-how-many years that I’ll actually play a game on its launch date. I barely ever pay full price for games anymore, much less preorder them. With that said, I don’t think I need to go into further detail how extremely excited I am for Portal 2.

I want to emphasize that fact so that the rest of this post isn’t misinterpreted as being critical of Portal, or any specific game.… Read the rest

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl Non-Review

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has been a game I’ve declined to review. There are some things I’m just not comfortable casting judgment on. A review implies that the reviewer has authority over the game, an intellectual superiority. I can tell you what I think about Stalker, but Stalker is a complex game full of loose ends; it calls upon a creative power within its players to piece them together. What I think about it is constantly changing the more I play and the more I learn. Any review of the game will say much more about the reviewer than the game itself.… Read the rest

Review – AquaNox 2: Revelation

The bottom of the ocean is a lot like space–both are dark and mysterious, both require special equipment in order for us to survive, and both appear as a peaceful shade of blue from our viewpoint. There are, however, some sharp differences between them. No one really goes to space (at least not outside of Earth’s orbit), whereas many people spend lots of their time living underwater. One reason for this is the fact that there isn’t much of anything in space. Every single book, movie, or videogame set in space is forced to make up a bunch of stuff to fill its multi-light-year spanning void.

Read the rest

Ken Levine’s Secret Notepad of BioShock Ideas

  • BioShock — A city under the ocean (not Atlantis) is populated by murderous psychopaths. Everyone here also has superpowers. A little girl and her dozen twin sisters wander around needing to be rescued. Andrew Ryan talks to you about why his city is so great. After you kill everyone in the city the moral of the story is that killing children is bad. (Chance to prove that videogames can have moral messages just like movies?) I think this game could give people a lot to think about, like how it’s dangerous to give everyone in a city inherently destructive superpowers.
  • BioShock Infinite–A city in the sky is populated by an evil Tea Party analog (to prevent moral ambiguity make sure their eyes burn and they roar like monsters so there’s no confusion over who the bad guys are).
Read the rest

Extra Lives Review

Tom Bissell’s latest work, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, doesn’t include much discussion on the subject of why video games matter. This has very little weight on the text itself, but I think every reader should be aware of that fact before opening a copy. Extra Lives is about Bissell’s fascination with videogames and videogame developers, and about his own experiences playing games. The basic point of the book is, well, I can’t really say. Any central thesis has gone far over my head because as far as my reading comprehension extends I couldn’t find any real point to the book.… Read the rest

Review – SSX Tricky

In the early days of the GameCube one of the first games I made sure to get was SSX Tricky. It was awesome and I played it endlessly until I had mastered every single trick of every single character on every single course. Eventually I got bored of it because, well, it stopped being fun after doing the same “über trick” for the umptillionth time. It burned out my brain and I couldn’t take it any longer. From whatever was left of those brain cells lingered a memory of an incredible experience. Sometimes SSX Tricky would wander back into my daydreams and I would reminisce about how much fun I had.… Read the rest

Art Can Never Be Games

Everyone loves discussing why games are or aren’t art. Even I can’t help it. The subject is just too hard to pass up. It exists just so intellectual jerkoffs can spill ink (do people even spill ink anymore?) over it and feel good. This is why I’m not going to write about it anymore. Instead, I’m going to write about “games can never be art.” And no, I didn’t quite contradict myself there. I’m not going to write about whether or not games can be art. I’m going to write about the literal sentence “games can never be art.”

I have a major problem with this statement.… Read the rest

Someday we’ll all look back at this and laugh

If you’re reading this blog then there’s a fairly decent chance that you’ve heard about Roger Ebert, his loud and controversial opinion about videogames, and its latest iteration which was posted last Friday. I told myself that I’m above falling into that cyclical argument, but the bait is too tempting for me to resist any longer. In case you actually had a life over the weekend, allow me to catch you up on the crux of his argument: videogames can never be art.

If you find that above statement infuriating and wish to express that rage via typing words in a box on a website, then the recommended course of action is for you to click your way over to Ebert’s blog and do exactly that.… Read the rest