So my last couple of entries have more or less been about games. I would apologise for not writing about what’s happening in my life, but you probably don’t want to hear about the trivial minutiae anyways. Needless to say, the following entry will hold no value for you if you don’t play games.
So Halo 3 is already receding over the horizon – the Zero Punctuation review is up, and it’s spot-on accurate. The people throwing it perfect scores are indeed rather misguided.
This is a rather disturbing trend – two of the games which made my list of most anticipated games of the year were good, beautiful and well-crafted adventures, but lacking that crucial spark that sets the great apart from the merely good.
With any luck I can rely on Valve to buck this trend. As the tantalising countdown in Steam tells me, Episode Two and Portal will be released in about 7 and a half hours as I write this. By the time anyone actually reads it, it’ll probably be out. Their companion game, Team Fortress 2, is already out in beta and it’s The Shit.
It’s a finely-honed brilliant game, and on top of that it’s probably one of the best looking games of the year. It’s scary that the graphics shown in the “Meet the…” series of videos (which are very worth watching, incidentally) are actually representative of the in-game experience – the art style is simply breathtaking. It’s the perfect antidote to the “realism” dross that’s been infecting the genre for years. None of this annoying burst-fire-to-control-recoil nonsense, just the unashamed, glorious spin-up of the Heavy’s chaingun, his wondrous bullet-hose, the ever widening grin on his face as enemies are chewed up by the pain-stream. It’s good. Really good.
A reminder of why Valve is probably the best developer in the world – they understand a worrying wealth of things that most developers just don’t, like the importance of excellent writing and pacing, of using art to tell a story, or push an effect you’re going for. They excel in almost every area of game design, and they’ve got it down almost to a science rather than an art. You play something Valve’s done, and you know that almost every design decision they’ve taken is based on experimental evidence. It’s like that because they know that is the most fun.
Anyways, I’m kinda gutted that I have to be in lab tomorrow morning. I’m getting back here asap after lab finishes to play. The only question is which of the games to hit first, Portal or Episode Two.
PS. I’ve got a copy of each of HL2 and Ep1 to give away! So please ask if you want.