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Power Member - Level 10
Want to talk about a video game topic other than the scarce
details about the newly announced consoles while we count the days (15 not
counting today) until E3? Me too.
Last week Amazon featured a daily deal for BioShock Infinite
on all platforms for $35, the game originally released on March 26, 2013 with
the usual $60 day one price and currently costs about $40-$60 depending on your
video game shopping savvy. I am a
BioShock fan and will definitely play what is proclaimed by many as a
definitive game of this generation but I passed up on this deal. Why? I
just completed BioShock 2, I have plenty of already purchased games in my
backlog, but most importantly I am in no hurry to jump back into the BioShock
franchise. For me, criticisms that the
franchise gameplay is repetitive are accurate.
Even with new weapons introduced throughout the game along with weapon
upgrades and powers (killer bee hordes bursting from your hand is at the very
least creative) but over the course of the games the combat felt the same. Mowing down various splicer types with bursts
of electricity and a machine gun raking over any remaining splicers became the
norm despite the changing environments.
Even the camera/video recorder for research bonuses did not assuage the
same-ness nature of the combat over the length of the campaigns.
The other side of gaming combat, killer henchmen are shown in the trailers but not the killer seagulls.
Yet, all video games have repetitive combat. Many gaming hours are spent in the hack and
slash of countless enemies in nearly any given game but we all have preferences
for fighting that never becomes old whereas other combat controls lose its
I realized after I turned down the BioShock Infinite sale
preferring my current campaigns in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Half Life 2
that I enjoy first person shooters but I am simply not a rabid fan of the
genre. Shooting my way through an enemy throng
only to struggle at a chokepoint that requires 20 minutes of failed attempts
before achieving victory only to find myself immediately thrust into another
shoot out ends up with me turning off the game.
As someone who prefers narrative heavy games but recognizing that I
spend hours in any given game brawling with enemies I wondered what type of combat
kept me gaming for hours.
An obvious answer is cinematic combat. The stylized fighting and slow motion camera
sequences are a favorite of mine. This
combat type features multiple "mini cut scenes" for these sequences and I never
tire of triggering the slow motion fighting, especially nowadays with
developers investing time into creating multiple cut scenes for the same
scenario. There are two main variations
of cinematic combat, combat that slows time to a crawl for a slow motion
response and combat the completely pauses the game allowing a cut scene to take
control of the combat from the player.
Spittle included in a take down cinematic is a real labor of love.
Rocksteady's Batman franchise this generation reestablished
cinematic combat as a fan favorite.
Button mashing does not win the fight but intentional combinations
results in unconscious henchmen. The
ripple effect from Bathman: Arkham Asylum's 2009 release in gaming is
clear. Few games have mastered the time
slowdown in combat but many have returned to cinematic cut scenes in fighting
which differs from the frantic, real time combat that is popular this
generation. For example, 2011's Deus Ex:
Human Revolution features cinematic takedowns and the takedown videos are so
detailed as to include the enemy's spittle flying when punched in the face. With multiple videos created for the same
takedown trigger I enjoy awaiting which method Adam Jensen, the game's
protagonist, will use.
More recently, 2012's Assassin's Creed 3 fully embraced the
combat cut scene. Triggering the event
often felt haphazard with the franchise's "one button to rule them all"
approach to combat. Understanding the parameters required to
launch a combat cut scene was difficult but watching our assassin dismantle
multiple enemies' defenses with multiple weapons was a fun thrill.
Why that soldier in he background did not attack before his buddy was all but beheaded is beyond me.
There are is only so much time available even to the most
industrious of people. When playing
video games we can often easily see where the developers allotted most of their
game development time. In AC3 the
attention to detail in crafting multiple combat scenes for a variety of enemy
types and weapons is quickly evident. I
relished the hard work by Ubisoft in making a series of enjoyable scenarios of
Connor eviscerating his foes (no nonlethal approach available in this
Arrow to the face! Way better than an arrow to the knee.
Again in 2011, when Skyrim released we roamed the land
challenging every mud crab and dragon priest to battle. I leaned on an archery/magic combat
approach. However the update that
brought me back to the frozen land was the addition of a kill cam. The adrenaline rush of watching my arrow's
flight over an impossibly long distance to skewer an enemy just made me want to
fire that perfect shot again rather than zig zag running towards the enemy
unsure if my shot was fatal or not.
So many combo attacks available but they are all useless if you are dead.
Sitting in between turn based combat and nonstop action is
the ability to pause and survey the battlefield. The original 2007's Mass Effect was one of my
first games on this generation and acclimating to the new game types on a new
generation was intimidating. In ME I was
thrilled to pause the combat but the pause did not result in getting lost in a menu
maze. Instead, the battle in my line of
sight was viewable which granted me the precious time needed to take a breath
in order to assign equipment and moves to myself and my party. The series moved more and more towards
enabling the nonstop combat but I always enjoyed the ability to pause even in
the most overwhelming battle and make decisions with the added luxury of time. However, I always appreciated the original
for introducing me to this generation with a game that ostensibly played as a
shooter but allowed me to fight in the style that I felt most comfortable with.
If that guard turns around that ninja is in full display, good thing we can pause while we pursue our items at our leisure.
More recently, the 2012's Mark Of The Ninja featured a
similar option to pause the onscreen combat while allowing the player to set
traps or otherwise plan their attack.
Entering into item placement whether chucking a bear trap or firing a hallucinogenic
dart paused the entire screen except for the player's ability to decide exactly
where to set off the device. The leisure
of time allowed for the entire viewable area to be assessed for guards and
other enemies such as the infuriating and constantly sniffing dogs. Unlocked outfits bestowed different bonuses
but also only grant a perk by removing one.
The Path Of Might costume grants more hit points and replenishes health
upon a successful assassination but removes time freezing when locking onto
targets for using an item. I did try out
this outfit and I very quickly switched outfits at the next available supply point.
Naturally, we have the combo combat. Action games co-opted the arcade combination
style fighting. The arcade style button combo memorization combined with action
game play is a fun hybrid. I am no combo
memory expert but such games provide many options. Button mashing may eventually complete the
level but the rush of mastering the appropriate attack that results in a boss
takedown is a thrill the fuels gameplay through the next level.
The original Mass Effect, memories, this summer I will definitely replay the trilogy. Ashley or Kaidan?
Most recently, I played Castlevania: Lords of Shadow in this
genre. Combat is multifaceted with long
and short range, ground and air attacks, as well as light and dark attacks. All three core fighting types combine in
different ways for a seemingly unending list of combo fighting options that
feel impossible to memorize each and every one.
Special moves are unlocked with new gear and areas in levels are only
open for looting after an item or attack is discovered in a later level. The constant introduction of new
powers/items/attacks coupled with purposeful attacks necessary to take down
different enemy types kept combat fresh and entertaining. Along with puzzles and platforming interspersed
in the combat based gameplay I felt rewarded when triumphing over difficult
areas with a new gameplay mechanic rather than the sense of an unending fight.
A pick axe has many uses in the Lara Croft universe including but not limited to using squeaky valves, rock climbing, and stabbing thugs in the eyeball. Handy.
Another recent game that I place in this category is the
Tomb Raider reboot. Yes, the game is ostensibly
a third person shooter in its combat but it features many items used for combat
and exploration. Her pick axe is a last
resort melee weapon, used for climbing, and breaking open doors. Her bow shoots regular arrows, rope arrows
for stretches of rope to reach other areas, fire arrows for roasting marshmallows
on the bodies of her enemies, and explosive arrows for making that "BOOM"
sound. Taking down enemies with either
the bow, pistol, shotgun or any other weapons is as much as a riddle solver as
is choosing the right fighting combinations in a traditional action game. Additionally, Tomb Raider features an open
level design of levels that can be revisited with "item gating" that requires
backtracking for unlocked secrets upon later discovering the necessary item. Tomb Raider plays much more like an action
RPG, but with guns, than as a traditional shooter. Environmental puzzles and the actual tomb
raiding itself breaks up constant combat and each new area is a jaw dropping panoramic
setting complete with the camera's slow crawl reveal of the new environment.
We all approach combat differently and in this generation we
witnessed a push in games for allowing the gamer to choose their fighting style. Although, to the boss battle designers of
Deus Ex: Human Revolution I dropped into the first boss battle with a 2 hit kill boss armed with only
a tranquilizer rifle, a 10 mm pistol, and a single grenade so thank you for
that unnecessarily difficult fight. Perhaps
it is my older gaming roots but I never fully mastered the first person shooter
combat style and I am only now able to throw grenades with even a semblance of accuracy. Luckily, there is a game out there that suits
What is your favorite
When given the option,
stealth versus guns blazing?
What do you think will
be the favorite combat style of the next generation?
Many thanks to all of you for reading, I write because I
love gaming and I love expressing my thoughts on the topic to those who are
interested but I also appreciate you all stopping by to read these thoughts
too. As the summer approaches make sure
come up with a gaming plan to prepare for this fall's insanity.