Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let's Talk Video Games

It's probably not too hard to believe that a lot of authors are also avid video gamers. Why, Richard Morgan has recently been hired to write plots for video games with (I think) EA? Someday, I, too, may ascend to such a lofty position. For the moment, though, I must be content to merely play them and talk about them.

I suspect, too, that if you're interested in my book, you might also be a fan of video games. To that end, you might find this post, detailing the best of 2009 and the most anticipated of 2010 to be handy.

Without further ado...

God of War Collection

I'm using Amazon for this because I can't find a homepage. Anyway, it may come as a less than shocking confirmation or a horrific surprise that I am a colossal God of War fan. I played both obsessively on the PS2 and, on the PS3, my lust for blood and quicktime events has been rekindled (largely because my PS2 died ages ago).

The gist of the game(s) is as follows: Kratos is a man who is not nice. He sold his soul to Ares, the ancient Greek god of war, in exchange for power. When he decided that this was too much to pay, he went on a rampage across Greece, slaughtering minotaurs, gorgons, skeletons and basically everything out of Clash of the Titans. In God of War 2, he decided that it wasn't the best idea to stop with Ares and swiftly declared war on the rest of the Pantheon.

What I really love about this game, beyond the fact that you can headbutt a minotaur, drive a pair of blades in his open mouth and rip his jaws apart, is the sheer lack of apology and bravado with which Kratos is depicted as a warrior. Yes, he rips off heads. Yes, he rips the eyeballs out of cyclopes. Yes, he impales giant hydra. But that's just what he does.

Did you never play God of War? You might wonder if you are a bad person for not doing so. It's not up to me to pass judgment (but yes, you are awful, play it now).

Dragon Age: Origins

Bioware is a company renowned for awesome RPGs, most of which involving wizards, goblins and the occasional cameo by a Forgotten Realms character. If you played Mass Effect, you're probably aware that they've moved onto somewhat more original and independent project. DA:O is their second project, returning to traditional fantasy roots.

It's labeled a "dark fantasy," and the most I can guess is that this means "there is a lot of blood and some of your group members are a-holes." There's a lot of the old fantasy tropes: elves, mages, dwarves, orcs. But they're done in a very interesting way: elves are second-rate citizens or angry xenophobes, mages are dangerous thrill-seekers, dwarves are underground Hindus, orcs are called something else entirely are born FROM A FOUR-BREASTED ABOMINATION WITH TENTACLES.

It's quite fun, all in all. The story is a little predictable (tell me if you can't spot the treasons coming), but that's not a bad thing, necessarily. The writing and dialogue is top-notch and the combat is very fun, being both great for those who enjoy a seat-of-the-pants playstyle and those who prefer a more tactical approach.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

This is easily my choice for Game of the Year. I can't say enough good things about this game (and this is coming from a man who knows next to nothing about the Batman universe).

The best thing I can say about it is that this is the only game I've seen in awhile that actually invents and brings together an entirely new style of gameplay, namely, predatory. Stealth games aren't new at all, it's true, but to call AA a stealth gameplay would be an understatement that would probably make me deck you. The sheer variety of tools, techniques and abilities with which you have to hunt and take down your enemies is mind-boggling. You have a lot of great methods, it's true, but none are so powerful that they overrule the use of others or make the situations any less tense. The fast, fluid combat is just a bonus on top of that.

Probably my favorite part, though, is the incredible atmosphere. I used to think of Batman's villains as being largely cartoonish caricatures of criminals. It took this game to drive home the fact that the Joker, Scarecrow and Poison Ivy are dangerous psychopaths who would kill you for reasons you can't even fathom. Add to this a decaying, overrun insane asylum with the same kind of tense, macabre wonderland feel that I felt in Bioshock and this game is tops.

I really can't recommend it enough. It is basically the only game I've ever played that made me sad to finish. You're doing yourself a huge disservice if you're not at least trying this game.

Most Anticipated for 2010

God of War 3

In fact, it is possible for God of War to be even better! You have to add the ability to ride a maimed cyclops through a horde of enemies and the pure fun of grabbing a guy by his guts and using him like a battering ram to bowl over your foes, but it can be done. Look for it in March.

Dante's Inferno

This game has proven quite controversial. No, not because of Visceral's attempts to generate publicity by staging fake protests by Christian groups. Rather, it's the fact that they've made a video game of the Divine Comedy in which the poetic observer is replaced by a blood-crazed, morally curious crusader with a giant scythe and a fireball crucifix and are expecting to be taken seriously. I just finished the demo and, for all respects, the gameplay is exactly like God of War. But the style is completely slick (I have a great passion for Renaissance depictions of hell) and God of War had shit hot gameplay, so I'll be giving this one a gander in February.


To be honest, I was severely on the fence about this. The style doesn't entirely jive with me (fire and brimstone demons are a bit passe, as far as I'm concerned) and there's only so much God of War-esque gameplay I can take. Recent developments have suggested it's more akin to a darker, apocalyptic Legend of Zelda than anything else, though. Given that I love the Zelda games and I also love ripping zombies apart, I think this January release will be worth a look or two.

That's that! I hope you find these suggestions useful!


  1. God I wish I had time for this. So so tempted by Batman: Arkham Asylum. No WAY I can do this and run a bookline.