Among other things, Cliff Bleszinski is known for creating one of Xbox 360′s biggest franchises – Gears of War. In addition, he was the figurehead at Epic Games, the studio responsible for the Unreal Engine 3, which had big problems with the PS3 in its early days. Even so, it seems like Bleszinski is far more pleased with Sony than Microsoft these days.
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Epic Games, People Can Fly
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Microsoft can’t possibly be in a good mood now, seeing as pirates can already snatch Epic Games’ latest project, a full month ahead of its release date.
Does exclusivity really matter? This question has become a hot topic over the past week when two titles that were originally exclusives on Nintendo’s Wii U console, made the move over to multi-platform.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razors Edge was to be the ‘definitive version of Ninja Gaiden 3′, providing gamers with a slew of improvements, though only improving its Metacritic average from 58% to 69%. Providing gamers with bonus playable characters, problems from the original game being repaired, an assortment of new moves and the big change lacking from the original version, the ability to dismember your foes. Razors Edge will now be appearing on all consoles this April, the upcoming version however doesn’t affect the RE version already accessible on the Wii U system, fans still had first opportunity to play the superior version of the final product.
If anything has become apparent to me this year, it is that gamers have developed the need, or the want, for choice in the video games they play. Choices, in video games, are usually made in the form of speech options (e.g. Mass Effect 3), choosing whether to go via the roof or along the streets (e.g. Gears of War 2), or simply just how you approach and complete an objective (e.g. Crysis 2). I recently finished The Walking Dead: The Game and it got me thinking, why do we want choice?
A lot of video games try to tell a story. They tell us this story not by showing us, but putting us in the middle of it. We don’t just see countless Nazi’s getting killed by a bunch of soldiers in a WW2 setting, we ARE one (sometimes the whole bunch) of those soldiers killing countless Nazi’s. Although gamers are, essentially, being told a story, we end up wanting to control how that story ends, and everything in between. When developers let us choose, we feel like we are controlling how that story ends. But are we?
What happened with Mass Effect 3′s ending is one great example of gamers wanting control. Throughout 3 games, gamers made hard choices relating to Commander Shepard’s life and mission. When it finally came time to choose the end to Shepard’s story, many fans weren’t happy with the endings Bioware gave Shepard. There was consumer backlash, and you know what followed. Gamers were given a few choices at the end of Mass Effect 3 and some didn’t like any of them. This is the risk with trying to give gamers control of the story. Would there have been backlash if Bioware didn’t allow players to control Shepard’s actions? Probably not, but because players had control through 3 games, they became attached to Shepard. The only reason the backlash occured was because consumers were given the illusion of choice.
Choice doesn’t just come from speech options. Spec Ops: The Line took gamers on a journey and also presented them with choices. These choices weren’t about controlling the narrative of the game, however, they were moral choices. Do you save some innocent civilians or save a military officer who says he has valuable information? These choices didn’t change the narrative completely, but still gave gamers control of certain situations- an illusion of choice.
So what’s better, the illusion of choice via speech options or the illusion of choice via actions that won’t necessarily effect the outcome of the story? How about both? The Walking Dead: The Game does a great job of giving players choice, while still controlling how the overarching narrative flows. It presents both moral choices, and narrative choices that can ultimately lead to whether or not someone lives or dies. But, once again, we are presented with the illusion of choice. Throughout The Walking Dead, you can make decisions that effect certain people or things, but there are several key moments you don’t have control of. For instance, you can’t actually change who survives at the end of the game. Furthermore, there are several parts in the game, no spoilers, where people you save are going to die anyway.
Choice, being an illusion, can fail. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is one example of how choice did not work. Reckoning had speech options, but few, actually no, options actually changed anything. They were basically just there so you could build your character to be a nice person, or angry person, but it didn’t have any effect on how people reacted to you long term. In this case, the illusion of choice becomes a let down. The only reason it was there was to try to make gamers think they were actually doing something. Another way in which choices fail is when you think your character is going to say something one way, but instead they say it in other way. This isn’t so much a big deal in most games, but in The Walking Dead, where characters remember how you speak to them, it is important. Once, I thought I was going to say something good about something, but the response came out sarcastically. To further improve the effectiveness of speech relate choice, maybe developers could include emotional reactions along with speech choices.
Choice, or the illusion of it, is something gamers want. We want choice so we can feel like we are in control, but, just like real illusions, some might not be as foolproof as others. So why would developers want to take the risk of tricking gamers into thinking they have control? It comes down to a couple of things, the first being attachment. When you make choices about a character’s life, you tend to grow more attached to them- that’s how video games work. So if developers give gamers plenty of choices to make, surrounding a character, they will grow more fond of them. This could lead to a sequel, which leads to more choices, which leads to a sequel, etc.
The second reason is replay value. Think about it, if you finish a game with choices you might want to go back and play through the game again with some different choices. This keeps you immersed in the game and could even lead to the possibility that you might buy a piece of DLC farther down the track.
The final, and maybe the most far-fetched, reason is discussion. In a game where choices are to be made, chances are someone you talk to will have made a different choice to you. This sparks discussion. What was the right choice? Why did you choose that option? Questions like these will appear not only in the real world, but on internet forums and social media. That means the game is getting more publicity and is being seen and heard by more people. It may even lead to the purchase of a few extra copies. Of course, a good game without choices will also cause this.
As story telling in games starts to improve, I think more developers will find ways to add choice and player control into their games. The tricky part will be creating a story and options that give the player the greatest illusion of choice or control. If players really feel like they are changing events and contributing to the outcome of the story, the risk and illusion of choice was successful. If players can see through the illusion, it might take away from the experience. Choice is a great thing to happen to video games, but developers should be careful to choose which illusion is best for them and their game.
Nathan loves making choices and being in control of his video games. He is also on the Editorial Staff at Analog Addiction, a choice the founder (Jamie Briggs) had to make. If you want, you can choose to follow him [Nathan] on Twitter.
First Bioware, now Epic. Cliff Bleszinski, the design director of Epic Games famous for their over the top shooters featuring hulking giants of men and many uses of the phrase “hell yeah” has left Epic Games. After 20 years of service to Epic Games and being at the company since he was 17, Bleszinski announced his departure via an Epic Games blog post.
Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney had this to say about the departure of the famous designer: “In 20 wonderful years with Epic, Cliff Bleszinski has grown into a true design luminary, and his contributions to the ‘Unreal’ and ‘Gears’ series have helped shape the game industry into what it is today. Cliff leaves Epic with our gratitude for his many contributions, and our wishes for continued success in the next chapter of his life!”
“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager, and outside of my sabbatical last year, I have been going non-stop. I literally grew up in this business, as Mike likes to say. And now that I’m grown up, it’s time for a much needed break.
I will miss the projects, the playtests, the debates, and most importantly, the people. Epic only hires the best of the best, and it has been a joy working with each and every one of you on a daily basis, whether you were hired weeks ago or decades ago. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with a variety of disciplines, from code to art to marketing and PR – it’s been one big, rewarding learning experience. I’m confident that each project that is being built, whether at Epic, Chair, PCF, or Impossible will be top notch and will please gamers and critics alike.”
Bleszinski is perhaps most recently known for being the creator of the Gears Of War franchise but you’ll also know him from his massive contributions to the franchise that started in 1999, the Unreal Tournament and the engine Unreal Engine amongst contributions to 2011′s Bulletstorm, Fat Princess, Lost Planet 2 and many more with one of his oldest being Jazz Jackrabbit.
So as gamers, we at Analog Addiction bid farewell to Cliff and wish him the best of luck. We’ll miss you buddy.
George Sinclair is an editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest reviews, previews and news. George likes to take long strolls on the beach and read poetry…..not really. You can follow George on Twitter and his blog on IGN.
Since Emergence Day the COG army and the people of Sera have been fighting off the ever powerful Locust horde, trying to stay alive daily has been a constant challenge, then came the Lambent. Enemies of the Locust and human alike, the situation looks bleak for the human population. Gears of War 3 tells the final chapter of this on-going full scale war that has developed on Sera, we are introduced to new characters including Jace, Sam, now combat-ready Anya and of course our band of merry men Baird, Cole-Train, Dom and Marcus. This is no fairy-tale story where everything will end with rainbows and smiling puppies, this is a tale of survival, men will die, people will be scarred and Epic Games has been able to emphasize this struggle to survive with perfection. From the lack of ammo throughout the levels, to the emotional story elements, Gears of War 3 is able to hook you in and take your through one of the best rides of last year.
Gears of War 3 is a third-person shooter, you take control of Marcus Phoenix (Sometimes other characters) in order to hunt down you “supposedly” dead father, and he knows a way to finally stop the Locust and Lambent for good. Even if you have zero knowledge of the Gears franchise, Epic Games has added a trailer to the pre-campaign menu filling you in on the major plot points of the original games, this is a nice touch and more games should follow suit. The main campaign should take you about 8-9 hours to complete, which feels like a good length for a game of this nature.
The great difference between Gears 3 and past iterations is the gameplay, it feels much more refined, and the smooth controls definitely shine. Moving from cover in the first two personally felt clunky at times, but everything in Gears 3 feels sleek and in-turn becomes a better experience. The cover system works brilliantly, it really does set the standard when it comes to sticky based cover, and is something games like Spec Ops: The Line could really benefit from.
The AI has also taken a great leap, with the enemy providing one hell of a challenge, especially in the new Lambent variants. Luckily the AI of your teammates has also increased, they will risk their lives and dive over cover to save you and I would have struggled through many levels had they not been there to pick me up. Epic Games has also added a mechsuit that you will take control of at certain points during the game, called the Silverback it provides an impressive sense of empowerment whenever you enter, although your speed is greatly diminished due to its bulky nature.
Gears 3 looks gorgeous in every sense of the word, Epic have been able to accomplish a sense of “unnecessary detail”. One of the missions places you on a bridge overlooking an on-going battle, making my way slowly across I noticed a hole in the bridge, possibly created by a stray grenade. Taking a look down I was astounded to notice the extreme detail, the water was rushing below, and the mountain in the distance had trees moving in the breeze, it was breathtaking. This wasn’t needed; many players will miss this sense of detail, but the extent of effort that has been placed into the game is absolutely phenomenal. In a later stage of the game you will venture underwater, this is graphical erotica. It looks absolutely stunning; the surprising colour pallet for a Gears game looks gorgeous in the Unreal Engine.
The new enemy variants also look extremely detailed and really encapsulate that the Lambent are the true beasts in this war for Sera. Another piece to this beautiful puzzle is the score, the musical tracks that accompanies the game fits perfectly, adding a greater sense of atmosphere that gameplay alone wouldn’t be able to accomplish. One moment in particular casts one of the strongest senses of emotions, sadness. The use of Gary Jules ‘Mad World’ was very fitting for fans of the series. Gears is known as the bro-shooter, but it has a way of reaching into the emotional well and when it does, Epic does it superbly.
The characters in Gears of War are known for being cheesy; they provide some of the best cringe-worthy lines in gaming. But even so, their back and forth banter feels real as they deal with situations as a team. Baird personally steals the show for me, producing some hilarious lines and some great conversations with Marcus. These guys may not be the more in-depth group on the planet, but they have some of the most entertaining things to say, no matter how pointless they might be.
Gears of War 3 is also known for its loyal multiplayer base, the multiplayer of the original games never felt right to me, the clunky control scheme was something that just didn’t feel like it worked for online play. However Gears 3, with its refined controls feels like taking the helm of a brand new Ferrari. Once you have mastered the gameplay mechanics through the campaign you will be able to transfer your skills to online play easily, modes within Gears are all team based, which makes for a very team oriented gameplay style. Healing your downed teammates is just as important as taking down your enemy, this sense of brotherhood amongst players is welcoming.
Add in the extensive tower defence mode known as Horde Mode, where you go through waves of enemies earning money and enhancing your defences to stay alive, plus the ability to earn XP to level up and unlock new weapons and player skins. You have yourself a multiplayer suite that rivals the best in the business.
The campaign is Gears has a great story behind it, but it does feel quite directed, very linear at times. With a handful of on-rail shooter segments, some may find the experience too linear for their own good. The game usually runs very smoothly, but towards the later sections of the game there were very brief moments of slowdown when the screen become extremely hectic, it doesn’t considerably affect the gameplay, but it was experienced. Also remember that beautiful underwater segment I mentioned earlier? This was very frustrating, being entirely on-rails it felt so controlled and the tasks you were asked to do seemed mundane, yet extremely difficult. This was one of the most frustrating segments in the game and felt completely out of place.
Gears of War 3 is an absolute pleasure to experience, from the excellent attention to detail, amazing musical score and some of the sleekest gameplay around. The narrative may have some small plot holes and feel directed at times, but it makes sense and it provides a fun experience. Producing an array of emotions to the player is no easy task, but Epic does it with class, bringing true laughter and some real tear-jerking moments. Though the campaign is only around 9 hours, the robust multiplayer and Horde Mode offer a great deal of extra content for those looking for more Gears fun.
This is a truly fitting end to one of the best shooters available, but Gears fans be warned. Cole Train runs on Whole Grain, baby.
- Attention to Detail
- Refined Shooter Experience
- Graphically Stunning
- Robust Multiplayer
- Sense of Atmosphere
- Linear Campaign
- Brief Slow-Down
- Many On-Rail Segments
Jamie Briggs loves a good cry in front of bulky men, he also runs Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and his videos on YouTube.
Gears of War multiplayer has always been team based, up until now. Gears of War: Judgment, will be the first in the franchise to receive a Free-For-All style multiplayer mode. This is a 180 move from their usual team-based competitive modes, Gears of War has been known for.
Developed by People Can Fly (Bulletstorm) Gears of War: Judgment is definitely getting a fresh coat of paint when it comes to online multiplayer. Announced earlier this year was the mode OverRun. Combining old Gears of War modes, Beast and Horde, to add a brand new kind of two-team based game mode. Along with the original announcement that this prequel to the Gears of War trilogy will center around Baird and Cole, People Can Fly are adding their own style to the franchise.
Judgment will be on show at PAX Prime later this week, where the Free-For-All mode will be on show to the public. It was also recently announced Epic Games has decided to purchase the studio People Can Fly.
Gears of War: Judgment will be released exclusively to Xbox 360 on March 19, 2013.
Jamie Briggs looks after Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and his videos on YouTube.