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Friday, April 16, 2010

For Sunday: Classic Doom Done Doom 3

I. Must. Have. This.

For Sunday: That Imperial March Remix From Spaced

Happy Friday. Here's a little WTF for your weekend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Any X-Com Remake Needs (For Any Genre)

A subsection of the gaming world, the section old enough to remember playing games off floppies with nostalgia, woke up this morning to a sudden sense of excitement followed by a wave of dismissal.

I'm not saying it wasn't displaced. But for those not in the subsection, let me bring you up to speed:

X-Com was one of the best games ever made.

Period. By any standard. It was released in 1994 and I'd hold it up critically to games released last week.

And here's the second point: it's never really been properly remade. The sequel, Terror Of The Deep, essentially just reskinned it. Apocalypse swapped out so many mechanics as to essentially be a different game and after that we get ports to completely different genres. Successors like Aftermath trade out key elements - honestly the closest we get are the projects which keep all the core elements and just update the graphics ... but those are all small, independent releases (but hey, hats off to each and every one of them).

Few projects bother to focus on one of the things that really resonate with X-Com fans: the game was personal. Through micro-management, you nurtured rookies through the ranks and as they became hardened veterans they became key components in your strategy. You had to use your aces to punch through hard parts - but if you put them at too much risk, their death could brutalize your campaign.

Here is my first litmus test for any X-Com recreation:

Do my squad mates have first and last names? No? Then you failed.

And after that - do I have to make life or death decisions which might mean that James Smith, the American who just got promoted last drop after his first terror doesn't make it home to his kids? No? Then you failed.

That's X-Com. It's about deciding whether to jump in to save Paris from invasion knowing that half of your crew might not make it home, if any do at all - or let it fall while you gather your strength at the risk of international favor. That's X-Com.

I have very serious doubts about 2K Marin's potential on this project. Here are their words:

With BioShock 2, the team at 2K Marin proved themselves as masters of first-person, suspenseful storytelling, and with XCOM they will re-imagine and expand the rich lore of this revered franchise," said 2K president Christoph Hartmann in a press statement. "Players will explore the world of XCOM from an immersive new perspective and experience firsthand the fear and tension of this gripping narrative ride."

According to 2K, XCOM reimagines the original's "classic tale of humanity's struggle against an unknown enemy." But unlike the original, which saw you directing squads of super-soldiers, you play an FBI agent "tasked with identifying and eliminating the growing threat." Less Starship Troopers, more X-Files, in other words.
- BioShock 2 Creator Revives XCOM After More Than Decade

So, you're and FBI agent. Unlikely you're going to be in charge of bases, or making large tactical decisions, or possibly even getting to know a squad of soldiers. Sounds like you'll be going in alone, shooting up some aliens, and following some plot.

That doesn't sound like a new X-Com. That sounds like F.E.A.R. 2.5 to me.

You could do it as a shooter - but you have to break out of the Hollywood mentality that grips the FPS genre so hard. When I was modding Unreal, I was playing with a conversion that gave you a base mode where you needed to recruit new soldiers and head off to maps to track down powerful aliens. You could tell your squad to go places with a simple point and click interface. It was necessary to place people so that everyone was well-covered, to walk the map slowly, to provide lighting, etc. I never got it past what laughingly be called an alpha - but I think you could make a shooter that stayed true to the central themes of the original game. I know I'd like to play such a game.

I just doubt Marin 2k is making such a game. The fact that they aren't even bothering with the PlayStation 3 makes me wonder if it even has much of a budget and everything I'm reading sounds like it will be X-Com in name and name alone.

TV Watch: Lost, Everybody Loves Hugo

Indeed, everyone loves Hugo. This episode didn't do much for me in terms of moving the overall plot forward, but when it comes to delivering just great scenes overall - it hit all the bases. I mean, if you didn't have a bit of a moment with Hugo getting back with Libby in the "apparently love conquers all" LA X world, you've got a heart of stone.

Hurley on-island was a little more hit or miss - but thankfully we had big explosions to distract us. My first thought in seeing the Black Rock explode? Well, guess they didn't need that set around anymore. Ilana's Arzt moment was almost sadly cool - a reminder that the island is still dangerous (especially, as Ben noted, when it is done with you). At the same time, though - two things are sort of annoying me about last night's events:

OK, so Michael can't move on. But he also knows that "people will die" if they try to blow up the airplane. Death seems to bring this odd ability to know everything that's going on. Are they unstuck in time like Desmond was?

And more importantly - why can't he move on? The whole "I know what the whispers are" was the most anti-climatic reveal of the entire show. We kinda already knew they were the voices of the dead (Lost fans had uncovered Shannon's voice in the midst, if I recall correctly) - it is more about the why and how that we need to know. These are actually the kind of reveals I'm more afraid of as we get to the final episodes ... that it will be a "oh, Hurley knows" kind of thing.

Oh, and one more thing - the island is freakin' purgatory. OK, it may not be the Judeo-Christian style of purgatory ... but Michael died and he's a ghost and he can't move on so he's stuck here as .... that's purgatory. OK, so normally the living don't get to hang around all these purgatory types, so maybe it's more like purgatory's lobby. But how close were the early season one guesses about the show?

Desmond and The Man In Black brought us just a little more awesome though - especially with the climax of Desmond running over Locke in the LA X world. Locke is already living with the love he lost, so was this meant to remind him of falling out of the window? Will Lassie save him from the well? A well apparently dug by ancient compass-wielding power hungry island dwellers (Lost And Gone Forever points out that compasses are, in fact pretty ancient). This puts an interesting spin on the "Ancient Others" as it were .... did Jacob bring people to the island only for them to go digging into the island, creating wells and donkey wheels?

Speaking of - we have three front runners for Jacob's position. Jack is the most obvious - one of the major characters, always up against Locke in the past, etc., etc. Hurley is the fan favorite since, well, everybody loves Hugo. And Desmond - who is probably the most "Jacob" like. I'd love to nominate Sun for the job, but her sudden, writer-induced inability to speak English is already damn annoying.

Finally - I normally try to skip the promos for the next week's episode, but I'm glad I didn't. The tripped out Willy Wonka song was truly haunting. Another tip from the clue conscience producers? Wonka is often described as a Faustian character, offering deals of experience as a test of morality. Question is - is that Jacob or The Man In Black?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bizarre Meets Awesome: Star Wars Told In Assorted Clips

Chicagoist explains the following clip best:

One enterprising group of filmmakers has completed quite a project: remaking Star Wars using 15-second clips that vary by style. The kids put a call out to folks all over interwebz to call dibs on each 15-second scene and then film it; the filmmakers would then stitch together the result into the finished product. In the scene they've posted (below), the transitions are never jarring and their faithfulness to the original film is stunning. In short, we're totally geeked to see this film.

Star Wars Uncut "The Escape" from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.