Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Red Faction: Armageddon trailer has too many aliens, not enough property damage

One of my favorite games of this generation, Red Faction: Guerrilla, is getting a sequel entitled Red Faction: Armageddon. To be honest, the trailers that have been released so far don't have me that enthusiastic, since it appears that the open world hit-and-run gameplay of Guerrilla has been replaced by a rather claustrophobic-looking underground setting, and this time the antagonists are aliens. The original Red Faction on PS2 was also set in a pretty constrained environment, and there's plenty of games I like that are too, but this seems like it's losing a lot of what I loved about Red Faction: Guerrilla.

The cool thing about Red Faction: Guerrilla, aside from the fact that virtually every structure you encountered (some of which were quite large) could be demolished, was how it was different from most third-person action games. You had to pick your battles, use the element of surprise, think about things like escape routes, and know when to fight and when to run away. Despite that, it still revolved around action rather than stealth: lots of bullets flying, vehicles slamming into each other or crashing through walls, wrecked buildings coming down in rains of debris. (I'm generally not a fan of games focused on stealth. If lurking out of sight to evade an ever-present threat of detection and hostile confrontation was something I enjoyed, I'd just spend more time around my family instead of paying $60 for the privilege.)

Hence my annoyance at the complaints I occasionally heard about how, once you did something to cause an enemy alert, the game would spawn endless waves of enemy reinforcements until you escaped to a safe house or hid outside of the populated areas: You're not supposed to stand your ground mowing down wave after wave of enemies as if you were playing Gears of War or Call of Duty. The hero of Red Faction: Guerrilla is a guerrilla. He exploits mobility, stealth, surprise, and the ability to conceal himself in the wilderness or among the civilian population to launch sudden strikes against the enemy, destroy his objective, and then get the hell out of there, as opposed to sitting immobile out in the open so that he can get into a slugging match with a numerically superior enemy army. That's why the game was called Red Faction: Guerrilla and not Red Faction: Napoleonic Infantryman. I'll miss that style of gameplay if it's gone in Armageddon.

I'm not enthusiastic about the introduction of aliens, either. The story of Red Faction is not particularly deep or the focus of its appeal, but I liked the fact that it was a science fiction setting where all of the antagonists were human. The crimes of the antagonists- robbing Martian workers of their livelihoods, making dissidents "disappear" during the night, murdering noncombatants to terrify the populace into submission- are human crimes. The conflict was based entirely on fighting back against the brutality, oppression, and exploitation perpetrated by and against human beings, and that just has a different feel for me than fighting some inhuman subterranean horde. Neither is inherently better, but I find Red Faction: Armageddon's apparent switch from the former to the latter jarring.

Plus, there's just something inherently cool about a hero who uses his work tools to strike down his oppressors, especially when the principal tool in question is a giant miner's sledgehammer you can smash through solid walls with. It's like being Wat Tyler and The Mighty Thor at the same time. Or perhaps the Kool-Aid Man, if the Kool-Aid Man crashed through the walls of houses in order to kill people with repurposed mining equipment rather than distribute Kool-Aid.

Still, I'm going to try to keep an open mind about this while I wait for more to be revealed. You can check out the website for Red Faction: Armageddon here.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Pointless Side Quest turns 1

It's hard for me to believe, but this past Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of Pointless Side Quest. From its humble beginnings Pointless Side Quest has become a colossus of the blogosphere, drawing threes of readers each and every day.

At times like this, it's only fitting to take stock of the past. Cue up the schmaltzy romantic flashback montage ballad of your choice as we look back on a year that brought us:

My groundbreaking proposal for what promises to be the hottest game yet in the ever-popular "God of War clone based on Macbeth about fighting an army of genetically engineered monstrosities in a steampunk alternate-history 19th-century Scotland" genre!

A chilling look into Mario's secret world of underground blood sports, drug smuggling, medical fraud, and gangland brutality!

The most terrifyingly evil artificial intelligence since Ro-Man!

Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and the phrase "time-traveling Otacon in drag," in the same sentence at last!

The day Fist of the North Star opened my eyes to a new world of crudely pixelated, ludicrously violent entertainment!

Ill-fated attempts at legitimate commentary!

Final Fantasy brings us an epic saga of childhood orthodontia-related emotional trauma, those obscenely expensive bags of nuts sold at hotels, and Cloud Strife's dark and tragic history of minimum wage recreational facility employment!

Sentient talking birds who sell insurance and challenge our rigid binary conceptions of gender!

A cavalcade of middle school-level jokes about topics including, but not limited to, porn, women's sanitary products, venereal disease, constipation, sexual aids, and much, much more!

My inexplicable recurring fixation on regicidal 17th-century statesman Oliver Cromwell!

My ability to enjoy Christmas, Star Wars, or Bea Arthur is destroyed forever!

Illegal drug use!

Subtle, tasteful discussion of EA's subtle, tasteful marketing for Dante's Inferno!

Crude sexual objectification!

Crude 19th-century anti-Irish propaganda!

A ten-year PlayStation 2 retrospective that degenerates into a distasteful anecdote about the time I became violently ill playing Half-Life!

Quite a year, indeed.

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