The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Video Games of 2014

2014 was the year of the failed AAA launch. Many games from major publishers turned out to be abysmally awful, completely unplayable, or totally overhyped on release – DriveClub, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and Destiny, to name a few. However, there were a number of gems too, and I’m going to list 10 of them. Included among them are a couple of AAA titles, a smattering of indie games, and at least one weird experiment in interactive fiction.

I’m also going to list the 5 worst games of the year, because it’s fun to mock terrible games. Continue reading “The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Video Games of 2014”

DLC Review: BioShock Infinite – Burial at Sea, Episode 2

As is the case with all game reviews on the blog, this review assumes that you’ve played the game in question. As such, it contains spoilers for both the main game and the DLC. You’ve been warned.

Episode 2 of Burial at Sea opens with Elizabeth enjoying a lazy afternoon in a fantasy version of Paris. Children frolic in the streets, while artists and shopkeepers joyfully hawk their wares. There’s a bright sun in the sky, and flowers line the windowsills. This fantasy not only represents an indulgence for Elizabeth, who has always wanted to visit Paris, but also for the player, who could spent a good half-hour just soaking in the sights and sounds.

Of course, this indulgence isn’t real, and the fantasy soon gives way to grim reality: Elizabeth is passed out, hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface, and she’s no closer to finding Sally than she was before. Thus, episode 2’s introduction serves as a recap of one of the messages of the main game: a constructed reality is nothing but a temporary indulgence; it can’t last.

Given the game’s warnings against indulgence, it’s ironic that episode 2 ends up feeling quite indulgent, as if it’s just as interested in amusing the devs as it is in entertaining players. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it holds the DLC back from its full potential. Continue reading “DLC Review: BioShock Infinite – Burial at Sea, Episode 2”

2013 in Video Gaming

2013 was an interesting year in gaming. It saw the launch of two new consoles – three if you count the Ouya1. More and more independent titles came onto the market, many of them achieving a great deal of both critical and commercial success. There were more options than ever before for gamers, and there was no possible way I could play every single release I wanted to.

But I did manage to play enough games to compile a list of my 10 favourite games of 2013, along with some honourable and dishonourable mentions. Also, since I don’t currently own a console, all games on this list are PC games. Without further ado, let’s dive in. Continue reading “2013 in Video Gaming”

DLC Review: BioShock Infinite – Burial at Sea, Episode 1

This review contains spoilers for both the main game and the DLC. You’ve been warned.

BioShock Infinite was a good game. Not a fantastic, generation-defining game, mind you, but a very good game. It featured engaging gameplay, gorgeous visuals, fantastic sound design, an engrossing narrative (at least for the first three quarters), and stellar acting from Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper as the game’s main characters, Booker and Elizabeth. Say what you will about Infinite – it was an undeniably well-made piece of interactive entertainment.

On the other hand, the first episode of BioShock Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC is not a good game. In fact, it’s a bad game. An embarrassingly awful game, even. Burial at Sea combines the worst parts of the BioShock games in awkward ways and wraps them up in a buggy, unpolished package. Continue reading “DLC Review: BioShock Infinite – Burial at Sea, Episode 1”

Some Thoughts on “Keep Your Politics Out of My Video Games”

Chris Franklin’s ironically titled “Keep Your Politics Out of My Video Games” video has been making the rounds of the Internet recently, and I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about it. The basic message of Franklin’s video is that games are inherently political creations, like any other cultural objects, and as such, discussing them in a political context is a worthwhile endeavour that should not be prevented. On that point, I fully agree with him. But in making that point, he makes a couple of other points that I don’t think he intended to make, and they’re indicative of some problematic attitudes that I’ve noticed coming from the more progressive members of the gaming community. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on “Keep Your Politics Out of My Video Games””

The BioShock Infinite Backlash

The following piece may contain spoilers for BioShock Infinite. You’ve been warned!

So, BioShock Infinite, eh? For better or worse, it’s still part of current critical conversations about video games, a month after its release. Usually, I enjoy participating in such conversations, but the discussion surrounding BioShock Infinite has taken somewhat of an odd turn that has made me wary of wading in. At the risk of over-simplifying, players have roughly split into two camps: people who loved almost everything about the game and people who were incredibly disappointed, which correspond roughly to mainstream gaming sites and the less mainstream blogosphere. I find myself in neither camp, so maybe this blog post is just a way of reconciling my feelings on the game with the player reaction I’ve perceived. (However, if I were capable of that level of self-reflection, I would probably question why I’m writing this blog post instead of doing something productive. *sigh*)

There are three possible responses to my wariness at participating in BioShock Infinite discussion: 1) Ignore it and participate anyway. 2) Ignore the conversation entirely. 3) Take a step back from the conversation and attempt to identify and explain the causes of the wariness. Option 1 inevitably leads to Internet shouting matches, so for a while, I had settled with option 2. But a recent post by Kirk Hamilton on Kotaku and Cameron Kunzelman’s round-up of BioShock Infinite links motivated me to switch to option 3. After reading a lot about what other people thought about BioShock Infinite, I think I’ve figured out why so much of this discussion seems problematic to me, and it has to do with how people are examining the game in the context of the medium of video games as a whole.
Continue reading “The BioShock Infinite Backlash”

Game Review: BioShock Infinite

As is the case with all game reviews on this blog, this review will assume that you’ve played the game, i.e. it will contain spoilers for BioShock Infinite. It may also contain mild spoilers for BioShock and BioShock 2.

I had high praise for last year’s Hong Kong open-world adventure, Sleeping Dogs, which I’ve heard described as “Grand Theft Auto with an editor.” Though a mishmash of mechanics, it knew exactly what it wanted to be from start to finish: a semi-serious thriller and a homage to Hong Kong cinema. As a result, despite its open-world design, Sleeping Dogs ended up being a tightly focused and refined experience, engaging from start to finish.

On the other hand, BioShock Infinite is clearly the baby of creator Ken Levine. It’s the work of an auteur without an editor peering over his shoulder, a piece of mad genius that dazzles and delights, but also frustrates. It’s a fascinating look inside Levine’s brain, bursting with intelligent ideas and thought-provoking concepts. But does it all hold together as a coherent, unified work? I’m not so sure. Continue reading “Game Review: BioShock Infinite”