Friday, June 12, 2009

Wide open spaces

It's been far too long since I've written one of these.  Fortunately, things have been slowing down at work, so here I am.  Hooray.

Lately (as in the last few weeks), there have been a bunch of open world games released.  An open world game, as defined by Chucker's Dictionary, is a game where instead of levels, the player is plopped into the middle of a big city/planet/galaxy/Sea Monkey farm, and allowed to do whatever they want.  Usually a number of different missions are available, but those can be undertaken in any order, at any time, and usually allow the player a lot of options in how to do them.  The poster child for open world games is called Grand Theft Auto.  Perhaps you've heard of it?

Now, not all open world games involve hooker killing.  In fact, none of the games I referred to earlier have any hookers at all, yet they don't suck (see what I did there?).  In fact, they all wind up being very different games. 

The first is Fuel.  This is an offroad racing game, and takes place on a map that is literally the size of Connecticut, weighing in a 5,000 square miles.  The map is crisscrossed with roads and trails, and covered with races and new vehicles and paint jobs to find and collect.  One of the downsides of most open world games is that while you explore them, you're usually being attacked periodically.  Fuel does away with this, letting you just wander around if you want, or go run a race while avoiding a tornado.  It's a good feeling.

The second one is Prototype.  This takes place in Manhattan.  The gist is that you wake up with no memory, but with the new ability to leap 30 feet, run up buildings, transform your arms into Wolverine claws from hell, and consume other beings.  This is all due to an experimental mutagen virus that was being tested out on you.  As these kinds of things are wont to do, things go wrong, and while you set out to find out who did what to you, and kill them, the virus starts spreading in Manhattan.  As you progress, you gain new abilities, like being able to glide like a flying squirrel or transform your hands into giant hammers, which allows you to elbow drop tanks.

Let me restate: YOU CAN ELBOW DROP TANKS.  Obviously, this is the best thing ever.  You can also do all manner of other incredibly violent things like charge down the road, do a flip over a cab, grabbing it on the way over, and throwing it at a helicopter before you land, but really why would you do anything besides the elbow dropping tank thing?

The third game is called Red Faction Guerilla.  In this one, you arrive on a terraformed Mars, and are greeted by your brother, who turns out to be working for the Red Faction, an insurgent group fighting against the Earth Defense Force, the military organization that came in to liberate Mars from the oppressive Ultor corporation, and who are now violently repressing the people in the name of social order.  Note that this has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation in Iraq.  NOTHING!

Thinly-veiled political commentary aside, the game's hook is that every building can be destroyed.   The game starts you out with a sledge hammer in one hand and a fistful of remotely detonated sticky bombs in the other.  Virtually every mission can, if you're creative enough, be accomplished by destroying a building.  Need to take out a building? Make the smokestack next to it collapse onto it.  Or maybe you'd prefer to simply drive a mining truck through it.  Or plant a bunch of bombs on said truck, park it next to the building, then blow up the bombs.  Need to eliminate some snipers? You could plant a bomb under their position on the ceiling of the floor below them.  You could also knock a hole in the ceiling above them and fall on their head.  Or just plant a singularity bomb, sucking the building and all of its contents into a single point before exploding it back out.

There's also a multiplayer mode where everyone has to cause as much destruction as possible with limited time or ammo, highest score wins.  There's also Aliens-style walking loader things.  Awesome.  We will be playing this at the next movie night.

So after many months of role playing games, I feel the time for conversation, leveling, and careful battle strategy is over.  If I can't run it over, slash it in half, or blow it up, I don't care.  At least for the time being.

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