In the third and final part of the InRetroSpect ‘Comic Book Trilogy’, Sam Turner is once again joined by Thomas Percival to discuss the affect that video games have had on the comic book industry. For this edition Sam and Tom have been taking to the page for inspiration and have both been reading a selection of comic books that have been directly inspired by popular video games; Tomb Raider, Dead Space and The Last of Us. If you missed the previous two episodes then they are available on iTunes and the website – InRetroSpectPodcast.com
With a strict twenty minute time frame RAW challenges the team at InRetroSpect to debate and decide their top 5 of a certain gaming subject or theme. This time, Sam, Pete, Dan and Kris gather together to pick their most obtuse list yet. Is it possible to define the top five ladders and lifts that feature in games in just twenty minutes? Tune in to find out.
Since I last lifted up the pages of my diary for your nosey eyes to finger through, a lot of games have come and gone. Though their part in my life might be small, the histories of each of these games have all been inscribed for prosperity in my black book of bit reviews. As I’ve said before the main purpose of this diary is to provide a scaffold of scripture to my memory which is very eager these days to push out recollections without first consulting me.
So, having checked my diary to see what has passed in front of my eyes since we last spoke there appears to have been an interesting pattern developing between the games I’ve been collecting for completion. Here is a list of everything I’ve played and happily stayed for the credits since January of this year;
‘Lollipop Chainsaw, Killzone 3, Tomb Raider (2013), Gears of War 3,, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Guacamelee, Red Faction: Armageddon and the most recent entry, Resistance 3.’
Now as you can see I’ve highlighted those games which, unbeknownst to me, have created a correlation in their completion. Somehow over the last few months I’ve managed to sit through the credits of three separate trilogies. Even more surreptitiously I’ve also been slowly making waves towards finishing off one trilogy in the space of several months. I can’t say why I haven’t yet tied the yellow ribbon around ‘Mass Effect’. Maybe I have trilogy fatigue.
What has struck me though, reading my diary and reflecting on the conclusions of three successful gaming trilogies, is how I have judged their separate achievements as groups of three. With both ‘Killzone 3’ and ‘Gears of War 3’ I commented that neither title really took advantage of their numerical heritage. It’s a common fault of most trilogies in any medium. How do you manage to make the momentum and motivation of one game last over each three separate titles without it feeling stretched, and crucially improving on each game in turn?
Well, whereas ‘Killzone’ and ‘Gears’ relied on graphical and mechanical improvements to bring verve and inject relevance into their titles, ‘Resitance 3’ on the other hand is the best game in the series and remarkably more refined and realised than each other previous Resistance titles.
When it comes to making a trilogy I would argue that when a company, be it Guerrilla, Epic or Insomniac, start a new IP they don’t intend on it being part of a package of three. This must be a decision that is made after the success and financial merit of the first title has been proved when released. This method of design is probably what affects most trilogy arcs. None of the studios would have had a clear idea of how the story, mechanics or world would develop over three titles so when the series gets ‘green lit’ it can often have a negative impact on the through line of the game.
The original ‘Killzone, ‘Gears of War’ and ‘Resistance’ where all landmark titles on their particular consoles and it was difficult to image that neither of them would not get at least a sequel. For all three of the titles they all flourished in their second skin. ‘Killzone 2’ showed what the PS3 could do. It was deep, brown and utterly chaotic. ‘Gears of War 2’ also was a dramatic calling card for the development of the 360. It was…er…deep…er…brown and more chaotic than the last one. However, when both of these studios were tasked to apply that same formula to a third title, to round off the trilogy, it was clear that beyond slight graphical changes and a sharper understanding of mechanics, neither Guierrilla nor Epic really knew where to take or how to define their series.
Insomniac was different though. ‘Resistance 3’ is clearly the best title in the trilogy and it is a remarkable game that can stand as one of the best first person shooters I’ve played. The reason why ‘Resistance 3’ succeeds where others have failed though is unfortunately due to the pedigree of the titles that came before it. The original ‘Resistance’ was a linear and grey slog that only had one job, which was to show consumers the new world of console gaming. ‘Resistance 2’ was a sequel by the numbers and despite huge graphical improvements and the improved reach of the title, by the end ‘Resistance 2’ out stays its welcome.
So unlike ‘Gears’ and ‘Killzone’, ‘Resistance’ never had much of a heritage and after playing the second I was not really looking forward to the final entry in the series. However, ‘Resistance 3’ delivers on every aspect of what you consider a ‘third’ title to be. The ambition of the second title is grasped with both hands and pushed on through every ounce of the game. Their desire for making a bold and motivated experience is not hinted at and then forgotten after the first couple of hours, instead it’s obvious that the Insomniac team pushed themselves beyond what they thought they had achieved in ‘Resistance 2’. The narrative also attains for loftier heights and after the sulky visage of ‘Hale’ the new protagonist in ‘Resistance 3’ is inviting, engaging and there are times when I would find myself getting quite emotional.
I realise that there is a chicken and egg scenario going on here. Essentially my argument to making a successful trilogy relies on the previous two titles not being ‘that good’. In this day and age it would be tough for a studio to make a trilogy if their previous games failed to make a spark. What is crucial though for a successful trilogy is that each game should improve on the last and Insomiac are the only team to have done this. They could’ve easily rested on their laurels and produced a so, so ‘Resistance 3’ but instead they redeveloped the whole game and showed that they are a studio who can embrace change and deliver on their ambitious experiments.
Step 1. Go to shop and buy a game
Step 2. Open game box
Step 3. Insert cartridge into console
Step 4. Switch on console
Step 5. Play game
Gaming used to be simple; you had a cartridge, a console and a plug socket. Put them together and blam! You were gaming!
As years go by, technology tends to improve, streamline and become easier to use. A perfect example of this is the mobile phone, I remember getting a new phone 10 years ago and I remember the two features on it that I was desperate to have. Was it the ability to access my emails on the move? No, it couldn’t do that. Was it being able to store my music on my phone? No, it couldn’t do that either. Did it have a camera? No, this phone was still a generation away from camera phones. The key things I wanted were a) A colour screen and b) The ability to hold more than 15 text messages. Now, 10 years on, I have a phone which holds the entire internet in my hand, has a stunning HD display and the ability to hold a seemingly infinitesimal amount of text messages. And it’s all still so simple. So why isn’t gaming simple anymore?
If I now want to purchase a game I have many choices to make: Which console? Physical copy or digital download? With DLC or without? What about the Game of the Year edition?
However, my biggest bugbear now is the final obstacle thrown up in front of you to stop you gaming. The Update.
I recently purchased the Crystal Dynamics title Tomb Raider. I decided that because of a sale I’d heard about on the PSN store I would purchase it via digital download, so I powered up my PS3 ready to raid some tombs…
Step 1. Switch on console
So far so good, but hang on…
Step 2. Install Updates
Updated firmware needs to be installed or else I can’t get online. Obstacle number 1.
Step 3. Restart Console
Step 4. Open Store
Back up and running, let’s find me some tombs, but…
Step 5. Check for updates
Step 6. Install Updates
Oh. I can’t open the store unless I install more updates, I’m sensing a pattern. Obstacle number 2.
Step 7. Open Store
Step 8. Download Game
Woo Hoo! The game is purchased and is downloading, nearly there! The download will take a long time but it’s a big game and I’m still sat on the sofa in my pants so I’ll accept that.
Step 9. Install Game
Boom! Here we go. It’s a full PS3 game and will take a long time to install but that’s the price you pay for the convenience of digital downloads. (note: I’ve now put trousers on)
Step 10. Check for Updates
Step 11. Install Updates
Wait a minute! This is a brand new game, why is it not up to date? This isn’t good, especially as the updates are not installing properly and keep resulting in an error! It looks like those tombs will go un-raided for quite a while yet! Obstacle number 3.
After 4 & ½ hours (literally!)
Finally it lets me update!
Step 12. Open Game
Step 13. Play Game
Now I’m sure some of you reading this will think I am exaggerating my experience but I can assure you I am not and I have a number of annoyed text messages to my fellow InRetroSpect companion Sam Turner to prove it.
Also, I would like to point out that this complaint isn’t specific to this game, developer or even console, it has almost now become expected for launch day updates or patches to be released to fix bugs that weren’t fixed before release. The most high profile example of this came from when Bethesda first released their 2011 title The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and players found major game-breaking issues once they had clocked in a certain amount of game time. This was of course subsequently fixed and the title has gone on to earn many deserved plaudits, however it was undeniably tainted by this issue.
I will never and have never claimed to have any knowledge of the development of modern gaming. However it strikes me that the desire to get new games out into the public domain, where they can start recouping their investment, may be forcing some developers to reduce some of the time taken to play test these games. In a world where games can be fixed by releasing a patch immediately after its release, perhaps the need for intensive play testing no longer plays such an important role. Until this current generation of consoles, a game breaking glitch meant for the majority of the time, the game would remain broken. In that sense the update is one of the best additions to our current gaming landscape. However, has the convenience of modern gaming meant that it is now more acceptable for a customer to purchase a theoretically faulty product?
The other major issue which arises from this subject is that the more reliant a game or a console is on updates then as a result it becomes more and more reliant on a strong internet connection. More and more, in order for gamers to enjoy their passion, they need to invest in a strong internet connection. It used to be that if you were not much of a multiplayer fan then you did not need your console online, however gamers in areas of weak internet coverage are now beginning to be left with games or hardware that contains faults that they cannot fix.
Games and consoles have undoubtedly taken huge leaps forward over this generation. However, with current and future generations existing in an environment where the rumours of an ‘always-online’ console persist and where each time you switch on your console you face delays, I have to ask the question “Why can’t I just switch on and play anymore?”
Used to entice and sell every Triple A title in recent memory the Pre-Order Bonus is now a common tool in Video Game marketing. However, this month Sam argues that these methods employed to get us to drop money on a game before it has even been released are slowly being ignored by those selling them in store. Could it be that you would be better off not spending any of your cash up front at all? Find out in the latest edition of Through the Reticle.