The World Cup has started, which means Sunday are for the same thing as every other day: waiting for the football games to begin, then watching the football games. But I suppose we can find some time in between to round up a little of the week’s best games writing.
What soon becomes evident is that the MacFarlane ranch has a Marston-shaped hole in it. When Marston leaves Bonnie for the last time near the end of the game, he is riding off to meet a tragedy that is grounded in his dual nature. Through Bonnie – and the future that she wants for him, but that it is impossible for him to have – the game intimates an inaccessible third option. Redemption binds him to a destiny that is always just out of shot, and it’s this that makes him a Western hero rather than a shooter protagonist with a cowboy hat on.
You can see why. One of the unintended consequences of an open world can be a kind of blandness creeping in, especially as open-world systems continue to calcify into rituals. Ubisoft, as is so often pointed out, leads the charge here. Ubisoft’s open-world games are increasingly fixated with controlling the map, section by section – screwing around with guard towers and then cleaning up all the nearby quest icons. Are you exploring these spaces, or are you just lawnmowing them?
Early Access existed to help games that couldn’t get made any other way exist and thrive. Over time we’ve changed that to paying for beta access to larger games, we’ve changed it to paying to test a game, paying large amounts to keep people out, paying large amounts to match Kickstarter tiers and all manner of corruptions of the original idea and after all these years in the games business it should come as no surprise to anyone that it’s something that would also be co-opted by big box in some way. And this is it. EA are bringing their own EA. (Handily, having Origin in the wings means they don’t have to worry about how they’re going to work this too, right?)
The next few shots (0:17) show a lumber mill, a stone quarry, and a factory, with workers going about their daily lives: nosing through clipboards, driving dump trucks, and taking coffee breaks. The variety of pedestrians in the world is dizzying, and you can interact with all of them—hikers, bodybuilders, drunks, pensioners, bikers. I spent a good few hours just wandering the streets talking to people. Insult a group of gangbangers on a street corner in the rough part of town and they’ll pull their guns. Do the same to a yuppie downtown and he’ll fling his coffee in the air and run away shrieking.
Realising you can call an objective “Cargo Controls” rather than “Container Controls” can genuinely make your day because it saves you four characters. As can recalling that if you give your games’ objectives, vehicles and weapons names with Latin or Greek roots, they’re less likely to change or require more characters when translated, at least in Western languages, and how in hell are you going to know what they’ve changed in the languages you can neither speak nor read?
Waiting in the wings for E3 2014, it turned out. Nintendo has had a very good week. It has done more than answer critics like me that innovation still runs in its blood, and reassure fans like me that the next Zelda will be totally awesome. It has shown fussy old Nintendo starting to think and act like a 2014 video game company. It has addressed the gaming community directly in a way that made its rivals and their noisy live stage shows look old-fashioned and wasteful. Last year, Nintendo’s retreat from the annual press conference popularity contest seemed like an admission of defeat. This year, it looked like tactical smarts and forward thinking. Nintendo has come bang up to date.
Sunny weather demands hip hop, so music this week is Bonita Applebum.