As winter rolls on, grab a hot chocolate and sit down for Worth Reading, our weekly roundup of the best games writing around.
Hey, You Should Read These
If people asked me in person, I might tell them I watch the credits scroll on the video games I play, as a way of showing appreciation for the people who spent long hours building it for me. In reality, that rarely happens — I exit and move on. But as Matt Sayer points out, perhaps that's an issue of presentation; like him, I did watch most of the credits for id Software's DOOM reboot because they were so damn stylish. It's a sharp contrast to Mighty No 9, which take four boring hours to scroll through every backer.
DOOM achieves this by presenting its credits inside levels from the game. The camera sweeps across the scorched plains of Hell where the names of level designers lie like bones, and pans past specimen tubes of dead demons while calling out the artists responsible for them. It's top-notch cinematography, and it kept my eyes glued to the screen.
Even better, each set of names tends to match the scene it's in. Weapons designers are credited during a shot of DOOM's high-tech arsenal. AI programmers feature in a scene showcasing the tactical variety of enemy attack patterns. Visual effects artists receive their due in a swoop down a gloomy, smoky, spark-riddled corridor.
I couldn't stand Resident Evil 5, and it's as the only major Resident Evil game I never finished. Though playable solo, it blossomed as a co-op game and that frustrated me. Rich Stanton does a great job looking at RE5 as a follow-up to RE4, a game which profoundly shifted the design balance of the series. The fifth game doubled down on what worked in RE4, part of the reason I pushed off the game in the first place. (I did love RE4, though.)
With a human partner, however, Resident Evil 5 does transcend beyond being a Resident Evil 4 tribute and — for better or worse — changed the course of the series. It is a truism that co-op makes everything better, but with Resident Evil 5 the benefits are momentous because the design embraces it. All of a sudden the larger environments make more sense, new mechanics like proximity healing feel right, and crowd control becomes a sheer joy. What is lost is that fingerhold Resident Evil 4 still had on horror, but what is gained is a new kind of tension. You both have to survive, and so if one of you is in trouble the team is in trouble.
Resident Evil 5's ultimate rhythm is here, a push-me pull-you series of engagements where a well-oiled team can be undone by a single lapse in concentration. The temptation to divide and conquer is ever-present, and the benefits are obvious, but moving too far from your partner risks it all — the Capcom touch is how enemies don't hesitate to finish off a wounded partner. When a certain amount of damage is taken Chris or Sheva will bleed out, at which point the other can revive them, but the massed Majini allow only a few seconds' grace before moving in to finish the job. Certain tougher enemies will do it immediately. It's a tough lesson to learn but learn it you do, to the extent that being too far away from your partner becomes its own source of tension. Co-op may make most games better, but it's a rare one that so guides players towards fluid teamwork.
If You Click It, It Will Play
Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Gabby DaRienzo ruminates on death after exploring cemeteries using Pokemon GO.
- Mart Virkus illustrated the difference between game mechanics and gameplay using the most cute infographic you've ever seen.
- Lisa Rabasca Roepe showed how Pokemon has improved her family life.
- Bo Moore explored how DOOM, old and new, gives players an easy onramp to making their own games. (Side note: It seems SnapMap is more powerful than I gave it credit for?)
- Bec McKenzie pointed out how games could easily cater to disabled players with small tweaks.
- Droquen tried to figure out why games like Dark Souls are particularly tarnished by sequels.