Archive for the Opinion Pieces Category

A Brief Retrospective on Ocarina Of Time

Posted in Opinion Pieces on June 17, 2011 by GameTacular

With the release (re-release?) of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the 3DS, I began thinking about why this game is as beloved as it is. And it all boils down to it being really, really fun.

This is some really bland box art...

Ocarina of Time is the perfect example of what video games can do as an art form. That is a pretty bold statement, especially since I’m using a 13 year old game as the prime example of an argument that has only become popular in recent years. By just looking at videos and clips of Ocarina, it doesn’t seem that special. It has puzzles, it has a simple story, it has one-dimensional characters, it has relatively good visuals, it has great music, it has a lengthy adventure, it has a large open world, and it has a unique style, just to name a few things. It makes for a decent game on the outside, but it would be missing the point. But like Citizen Kane or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Hamlet, experiencing only portions and samples of Ocarina of Time cannot, in any real way, do it justice. That is the problem with so many of the critics against calling games art; the only experience small samples out of context, and base judgements on that. To any who have ever played Ocarina of Time, especially those who played it around the time of release, it is a game that stands above all its peers because of doing what video games do best. Hell, it does what all forms of entertainment do best. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the epitome of entertaining. It isn’t pretentious, it isn’t complex, it isn’t thought provoking, and it isn’t incredibly emotional. It is simple, accessible, timeless fun.

Games want to become more and more like films, with jaw dropping visuals and compelling stories. It`s a noble goal, as many great games have been released over the years that are as good as they are because they were inspired by the film industry. The problem with that is fewer and fewer games are being made for the sake of entertainment. This surge of complex and cinematic games was caused by the desire for games to be recognised for their artistic and narrative qualities just as much as films or books. However, the best thing games can do is be fun, but so many people would like to think that they can achieve more than just fun. They can do that, but they can`t do it as well as they do fun.

It is odd that Ocarina of Time was one of the first games to inspire this focus shift to more a cinematic experience; the very best of the old inspiring the new. True, Ocarina was one of the first games to have cinematic qualities. However, unlike the games of today, the cinematic qualities of Ocarina of Time were there to enhance the gameplay instead of being there just for the sake of being there. Everything in Ocarina made it more engrossing and more entertaining, and it had no other ulterior goal. Fun for the sake of fun.

Back in the day, this is as big as it got.

I’m not trying to bash modern games or make it seem like games are getting worse, because they’re not. Many of my favourite games of all time have come from the past two generations of games. But I would like to remind people that, even though games can do so much, they will always be the ideal choice in terms of artistic entertainment. They can tell great stories, they can transport you to marvellous worlds, and they can make you think and feel. But they can make you have so much fun, fun that no movie or book can hope to emulate. That is what Ocarina of Time represents to so many gamers: It is the most entertaining experience they’ve ever had with any form of media. I think developers should look back at Ocarina just one more time, and realize that making others just have fun is one of the noblest goals a person can have.

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Halo 4 has been announced

Posted in Opinion Pieces on June 6, 2011 by GameTacular

We all knew it was coming, but I’m sure very few people expected a full sequel to be announced so early. Well, rejoice Halo and FPS fans; Master Chief has a new fight to finish.

Microsoft officially revealed Halo 4, the start of a new Halo trilogy, with an explosive teaser trailer at their E3 conference earlier today. Although Microsoft’s first party support still appears relatively weak for the rest of the year, especially when compared to Sony’s line up, this news will keep Xbox fans excited for quite some time.

It will be interesting to see how the new developers handle this much-beloved franchise. Bungie left some giant shoes to fill for 343 Industries, and fans are really hoping that they are up to the challenge. Hopefully, they decide to implement  many new features and concepts into this new trilogy, especially since Reach failed to add anything significantly new to the experience (even if it was a very fine experience).

From the trailer, it seems that the story is going to continue very close to where Halo 3 left off, but it is still unclear just how long the Chief has been out. It appears however that there is a new enemy to be fought, as the end of the trailer reveals a piece of technology that is very different from what has been seen in previous titles. It would make sense for them to have a new enemy, since there is a new developer at the helm and it is the start of a new trilogy.

Of course, most of this is just speculation. Hopefully the game turns out great. I’m still a bit skeptical as to whether or not 343 Industries can live up to Bungie’s legacy, but at the very least, I’m excited to see where they go from here.

Gears of War 3: Beta Impressions

Posted in Opinion Pieces on May 1, 2011 by GameTacular

The Gears of War 3 Beta has been out for a few weeks now, and whether through a pre-order or Bulletstorm, many people are getting an early taste of one of this year’s most anticipated releases. Gears of War has been a flagship series for the 360, and this is definitely Microsoft’s big release for the year, so there are high hopes for Gears 3 to be just as good, if not better, than the original two. So how does it hold up? Does it fix the connection and balancing issues found in the second game? Does it do anything worse?

            If the game is tweaked a bit before launch, Gears of War fans will certainly be ecstatic about this threequel’s multiplayer component.

            At its core, the Beta is just like previous titles; there are two teams of five, COG and Locust, that compete against each other in typical shooter game-types. So far, there are three game types available in the beta: standard Team Deathmatch, King of The Hill, and Capture the leader. TDM and KoTH has remained the same, but Capture the Leader is a new variant of the popular Guardian game-type from previous instalments. In this mode, players must protect a chosen leader from the enemy team, but at the same time they have capture and hold the opposing team’s leader for thirty seconds to win. It’s a fun game mode, and many people will see it as an improvement over Guardian. The other game modes are also fun, but they don’t showcase anything new within the game. If the retail follows this framework where one third of the game types are improved or changed and two thirds remains the same, it should be the perfect balance of old and new for fans.

            The Beta has four maps; a destroyed store (Checkout), a field resembling a football field (Thrashball), a vibrant aged village (Old Town), and a dusty mining area (Trenches). All of the maps are well designed, making sure that neither team has the upper hand depending on where they spawn. Most importantly, all the maps are fun to play on, and they offer multiple ways of taking out enemies. Whether or not they stand the test of time has yet to be seen, but Old Town and Trenches are sure to become crowd-favourites.

            The classic weapons from the Gears universe return, and they have been much improved. Each weapon has gone through subtle tweaks or alterations, and some have been renamed (the shotgun is now called the gnasher). Each weapon gets used more evenly than in previous titles, and games are no longer completely shotgun dominated. It’s nice to see a developer learn from their mistakes, and the fact that the classic weapons are balanced greatly improves Gears of War’s multiplayer.

            One of the coolest and best additions is the new weapons. All the new weapons are great and unique in their own way, but each of them needs to either undergo some tweaking or need to be balanced. Even though its name suggests that they are similar, the new retro lancer is vastly different than the regular lancer. It features a bayonet instead of a chainsaw, and it is used to charge at and impale unsuspecting enemies. It shoots just like the lancer, but it is much more powerful at the cost of being incredibly hard to aim and control. It is a great addition to the Gears arsenal, but it seems a bit too powerful, and it can often down an enemy quicker than a shotgun in close range. The new shotgun, the sawed off, suffers from a similar fate. It has one round per clip, a really long reload time, and it has horrible range. However, up close, it will kill anyone in one shot. Like the retro lancer, it’s a great new addition, but it needs to be a bit less powerful for the sake of balance. The new power weapon, the digger, is perhaps the best new addition. It shoots an underground bore of sorts and comes up and kills where you designate it to. It works well, it isn’t overpowered, and it is a blast to use. The new incendiary grenade is the worst new addition. It behaves just like an ink grenade, except it seems to be slightly stronger. There doesn’t seem to be a real point to it. All in all, the new weapons are awesome, and as long as they are tweaked a bit, Gears 3 could very easily have the best arsenal in the series.

            A huge problem with Gears of War 2 was the networking issues. Each game would have a host, and everyone else would have to suffer through lag, resulting in a very unfair multiplayer system. With Gears 3, Epic has completely improved the networking, making it one of the most fair and lag free multiplayer components on the market. No longer will anyone call “host!” at an unfair kill, nor will anyone who is bad at the game do better than actually skilled players. It’s satisfying to see Gears finally have its multiplayer at its full potential.

            The Gears of War 3 Beta has me sold. It has improved the game in every way it needed to be, and it has added enough new additions to give fans a reason to dive right back in. The game is more fluid, the maps are just as great as they used to be, and the game-types are both new and improved.  As long as Epic balances the new weapons, Gears of War 3 could have one of the most satisfying and fun online components in recent memory. Let’s just hope that they can make a campaign that is just as enjoyable as the multiplayer.

Here are some videos for those of you who can’t play the Beta. Courtesy of SixAMGames.

The RPG is back in Mass Effect 3

Posted in Opinion Pieces on April 8, 2011 by GameTacular

            Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were both brilliant games. Each had its share of faults, with the original having slightly more, but overall they were some of the best RPG’s to be released this generation.

            But Mass Effect 2 went a bit overboard with its streamlined mechanics. Yes the combat was better, exploring was more enjoyable, and everything was easy to understand and easily accessible. However, in this process, they forgot to keep some of the elements that made the original great; weapon mods were gone, choosing weapons was oversimplified, classes, although more unique and still better than the original, were too basic. Simply put, Mass Effect 2 took out too many RPG elements for the sake of a more enjoyable game. It worked, but it went too far.

            So the news that Mass Effect 3 would see a return of RPG elements is perhaps the greatest piece of news Mass Effect fans have been waiting for. Mass Effect 3 appears to be bringing the best of both games and moulding it together to create a sort-of Super Mass Effect. Although no gameplay videos have been released and we still know very little, it should come as a sigh of relief to anyone who was worried that Bioware would not listen to player feedback for the second time around. Especially after how poorly fan-reaction has been to Dragon Age 2.