Chaos Theory isn't just one of my favourite Splinter Cell games, it's one of my favourite games of all time. The fact that I'm opening this post on Blacklist with praise for one of its predecessors should already be an indication that I'm not a big fan of this particular entry. Granted, Blacklist does do a lot of good things, especially in its gameplay approach. The game was touted by Ubisoft as being "a consolidation of all the best ideas from the series" and that rings true. Conviction went on a more action-oriented streak and stripped Sam Fisher of his ability to deal with his enemies non-lethally. Blacklist reintroduces non-lethal takedowns and layers the gameplay mechanics from Conviction into it, with the cover system and Mark & Execute on top. That makes Blacklist the most comprehensive Splinter Cell to date, but its storyline and characters are lacking in comparison.
Note: Craig has already contributed twoscripts to Playthroughline and last week he pleasantly surprised me by coming out of left field with one on The Last of Us. You may have noted that I only tackle PC games, so this addition marks Playthroughline going multi-platform! My humble thanks to Craig for widening my horizon for me.
After a while of reading and writing parody scripts, you get used to one central concept: there are flaws and there are flaws. Which is to say, almost any piece of media can be picked apart to reveal plot holes, stupid character behaviour, unlikely coincidences and so forth. Maybe even extensively. But for every flaw, the question must be asked: does it matter? Sure it's a flaw, but is it a flaw that actually makes the experience any worse?
What I'm trying to say is that The Last of Us may actually be perfect.
I was really looking forward to Watch_Dogs, in part because it plays on a bunch of tropes that feature in a project I've had in the drawer for a while. There were equal parts curiosity and apprehension at the thought of the game approaching (and possibly preempting) those tropes. Turns out Watch_Dogs really doesn't have much to say about the questions and themes it raises (if it raises them at all). That gave me plenty to work with for the Short Script, which ended up stealing the title of the longest one on the blog from BioShock Infinite. That's either a meaningful commentary or I really suck at editing.
Last time I was here, doing a short script for the first Max Payne, I mentioned that I had a stock rant about linearity in games but wasn't going to bring it up because Max Payne provides a poor example. Now, however, I'm dealing with Max Payne 2, which fits much better, so hold on while I get this bee out of my bonnet. For a long time now, linearity has been regarded as something of a gaming sin. And there are certainly reasonable arguments to be made against it. After all, interactivity is supposed to be gaming's thing. If you remove player freedom and exploration, force the player to follow explicit directions every step of the way, you might as well just be watching a movie, right?
In the opening narration to the final mission of Call of Duty: Ghosts, David Walker says the following of his father: "Dad taught us many things, but one lesson always stood out. Good men are defined by the choices they make." That line feels like a slap in the face from a game that forgets the step forward that Black Ops 2 dared to take and just focuses on a painfully linear experience entirely devoid of choice. It doesn't even try to use that linearity to its advantage, like the first two Modern Warfare games did (at times). Above all, Call of Duty: Ghosts feels lazy.
Hello, people visiting Playthroughline! My name is Craig and I'm an author of abridged scripts on The Editing Room, where Joannes’ movie parodies are published. Joannes has kindly allowed me to contribute a Short Script to his site, and I have chosen the classic third-person shooter Max Payne. I was originally going to use this space here to go through one of my recurring video game rants, to be specific, a defence of linear gameplay. After all, games don't come much more linear than Max Payne. But the thrust of that particular rant is the idea of tight narrative focus, and in abridging Max Payne, one thing I realised was that "tight narrative focus" is not a term you'd use to describe it at all. If it were to focus on its story, it'd probably last about half an hour. Instead it rambles, inventing an endless series of feeble justifications for action set pieces which have nothing whatsoever to do with the central story. The restaurant fire, the robbery of the Charon, the parking garage showdown, the hotel drug deal, all of these things and more could be lifted right out and you'd hardly notice the difference.
And the more I thought about it, the more this little diatribe changed its topic to the bewildering question: why in the world do I like this game so much?
Thanks to the Steam Summer Sale, I finally got to play Spec Ops: The Line, the 2012 takedown of the military shooter genre. There's a reason it's now the shortest script on the blog, and it's not that I needed a breather after writing the longest. Spec Ops: The Line is anything but a breather and finding a workable angle for its Short Script proved to be quite a challenge.
I figured the BioShock Infinite Short Script would be a sizable one and as it turns out, it's officially overtaken Deus Ex: Human Revolution as the longest one on the blog. There is evidently a lot to say about the game, which is obvious from even the most cursory search for critical articles. I reviewed the game for BeefJack and declared it a masterpiece, which it really is. The imagination and the production values to back it up are palpable and I was more often than not flat-out amazed during my playthrough. That said, there are some problems with the union of story and gameplay in Infinite. Much like Columbia itself, you'll find plenty of things wrong with it once you peel back the shiny veneer.
When talking about Dead Space 2, I mentioned how it focused more on cinematic action when compared to its predecessor. Dead Space 3 turns that evolution up to eleven and goes all-out on the bombast. With the addition of (among others) co-op functionality, microtransactions and weapon crafting, Dead Space 3's kitchen-sink approach waters down the constituent elements that made the first Dead Space stand out from the crowd. While at times an entertaining shooter in its own right, it has been transformed to exactly that: a shooter.
And we're back! Again! With a Short Script of a game that came out last October! The game did take away the BAFTA for Best Game last week, so I am on top of things! Anyways, I've had great fun with Dishonored, as it's a game that places player agency front and centre. As a result, a hell of a lot has been written about its themes, mechanics, and approach to morality. I think you'll have gathered from this blog that I pay special attention to narrative, which I find lacking in Dishonored, but understandably so. Dishonored's story is really an easel, there to support a blank canvas which you can paint how you like (i.e. with blood or not).
Welcome to Playthroughline, a personal blog focused on the implementation of stories in games. In addition to general musings about narrative design, you’ll also find a collection of Scripts that basically do for videogames what The Editing Room does for movies.