14.01.2015 Views

download now (pdf file, 9mb) - Pixel Hunt

download now (pdf file, 9mb) - Pixel Hunt

download now (pdf file, 9mb) - Pixel Hunt

SHOW MORE
SHOW LESS

You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles

YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.

PS3 360 Wii PC MOBILE OPINIONS FEATURES<br />

www.pixelhunt.com.au www.twitter.com/pixelhunt<br />

Gaming<br />

Companions<br />

The digital shoulders<br />

we lean on<br />

Australia’s best gaming -zine<br />

FULLY INTERACTIVE magazine ISSUE 13 JANUARY 2011


looking forward to<br />

Marvel vs<br />

Capcom 3<br />

Capcom have done<br />

a great job building<br />

hype for this one with<br />

their gradual character<br />

reveals. I’m still holding<br />

out hope for Dead<br />

Rising’s Frank West, but<br />

either way this is going<br />

to consume the lives<br />

of fighting game fans<br />

come February.<br />

Developer Capcom<br />

Publisher Capcom<br />

Platform PS3 / 360 / PC<br />

Genre Fighter<br />

Release February 17<br />

OFFICIAL WEBSITE<br />

Letter from the editor<br />

Don’t Hold Your Breath<br />

My New Year’s Resolution To stop caring about getting an R18 for<br />

games in Australia. The SCAG meeting on 10 December 2010 felt like<br />

a <strong>now</strong>-or-never moment. Brendan O’Connor had stated that the Labor<br />

party were officially in support of the rating, Galaxy polls showed a vast<br />

majority of people in support of the rating. Even mainstream media<br />

outlets were being generally supportive. Everyone waited, everyone held<br />

their breath. But we were let down. No agreement was reached, except<br />

to consider guidelines of what the effect of an R18 rating might be on<br />

the MA and RC categories. In other words, more consultation and more<br />

delay. The next SCAG meeting will be in March. I expect that meeting<br />

to yield only further consultation, further delay, further inaction. I expect<br />

the same to occur again at the next meeting too. I hope I’m wrong, but<br />

won’t be in the least surprised if I’m right. As contributor Ken Lee predicted<br />

in <strong>Pixel</strong>Cast 29, don’t expect an R18 rating in 2011.<br />

And so I’ve decided to simply stop caring. My position will always<br />

be in absolute support of the rating, but the emotional investment<br />

and passion I once had in following the debate has dissipated.<br />

Others have responded with more optimism than I, saying that the<br />

December 10 meeting was a small but positive step. That we’ll get<br />

the rating eventually, it’s just taking a while. I have no doubt they’re<br />

right. But I feel sorry for those who have worked and campaigned<br />

so hard to promote and raise awareness of the issue, only to have<br />

it continually held up. I’ve come to accept that as much as we<br />

need this rating, gamers aren’t overly affected. It’s rare for a game<br />

to be refused classification, and even rarer for it to be a game<br />

anyone cares about. And when it does occur, importing is an easy<br />

option, as is making friends with a Kiwi.<br />

In the face of so much delay and inaction it’s hard to stay enthusiastic<br />

on the subject. The amount of articles I’ve read on the<br />

subject goes beyond saturation, and I’m sorry to contribute to that<br />

further with this editorial, but I promise it will be my last word on<br />

the matter. Until we actually get the rating that is. I’m thinking 2013<br />

looks pretty good. If we’re lucky.<br />

Michael Pincott | E-zine Editor<br />

2 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


contents<br />

ISSUE 13 JANUARY 2011<br />

Publishing Editor Dylan Burns<br />

E-Zine Editor Michael Pincott<br />

Website Manager Matthew Williams<br />

E-Zine Production Aaron Sammut<br />

Advertising Contact the Editor if you<br />

would like to advertise with <strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong><br />

dylanb@pixelhunt.com.au<br />

Contributors Dylan Burns, Anthony<br />

Capone, Tim Henderson, Annika Howells,<br />

Brendan Keogh, Jahanzeb Khan, Patrick<br />

Lang, Ken Lee, James O’Connor, Michael<br />

Pincott, James Pinnell, Alex Walker<br />

COVER: Daniel Purvis<br />

Subscribe: at www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

Follow: www.twitter.com/<strong>Pixel</strong><strong>Hunt</strong><br />

DONATE: If you’d like to show your<br />

appreciation for each issue, please<br />

donate via PayPal at www.pixelhunt.com.<br />

au. All proceeds will go back into making<br />

<strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong> the most up-to-date, honest<br />

and (we hope) fun gaming zine available.<br />

NAVIGATING THIS -zine<br />

WHAT IS A PIXEL HUNT<br />

<strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong> is actually a term that<br />

refers to video games that use<br />

a point and click interface like in so<br />

many adventure games. As such, <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

<strong>Hunt</strong> the magazine is also interactive.<br />

Try clicking on items, such as the icons<br />

to the bottom of the page to turn to<br />

the next or previous page, the arrow<br />

to the top of each page will take you<br />

back to the contents page where each<br />

individual story is linked. Give it a go.<br />

FEATURE<br />

STEAM<br />

12<br />

KILL DEATH RATIO<br />

ASSASSIN’S CREED<br />

BROTHERHOOD<br />

22<br />

IN CASE YOU<br />

MISSED IT<br />

NIER<br />

6<br />

COVER<br />

FEATURE<br />

GAMING<br />

COMPANIONS<br />

8<br />

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS<br />

WITH PROFESSOR PIXEL<br />

25<br />

WHAT WE’RE<br />

PLAYING<br />

WITH THE PIXEL<br />

HUNT STAFF<br />

26<br />

creative<br />

AN ALAN<br />

WAKE STORY<br />

28<br />

THE<br />

GAME<br />

DOCTOR<br />

16<br />

feature<br />

Wii Don’t Need No PS4<br />

18<br />

OPINION<br />

multiplayer<br />

levelling<br />

30<br />

OPINION<br />

WE GOT<br />

(TO MUCH)<br />

GAME<br />

32<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

3


PRESS START TO PLAY<br />

NOT THE<br />

NEWS<br />

The latest non-happenings in video games<br />

are brought to you by our intrepid reporters<br />

DYLAN BURNS and JAMES O’CONNOR.<br />

Rockstar Games Admits<br />

Bad Working Conditions<br />

In recent months it’s<br />

been uncovered that<br />

working at Rockstar is<br />

no walk in the park. In a<br />

frankly amazing admission,<br />

Rockstar big knobs have<br />

recently released a press<br />

statement admitting that<br />

times in the office can be<br />

tough. “There were days,”<br />

says an annonymous source,<br />

commenting on the release,<br />

“when you’d come into work,<br />

and that fat bastard Pierre<br />

from animation would have<br />

taken the last chocolate-iced<br />

donut. I mean… how were we<br />

meant to function”<br />

The release itself doesn’t<br />

name names, apart from<br />

listing possible bad things<br />

that future whistle blowers<br />

might whinge about on<br />

blogs. Here are some of the<br />

stand-out ones:<br />

The CEO would often<br />

come and stare over<br />

workers’ shoulders.<br />

Sometimes without saying<br />

anything and sniggering<br />

softly… or maybe playing<br />

with the employee’s hair.<br />

Brisbane Man Wins Prize for Saying “lol”<br />

Out Loud for the One Billionth Time<br />

Unbe<strong>now</strong>nst to most of us, both Xbox<br />

Live and the PSN network have secretly<br />

been keeping track of vocal patterns<br />

during online multiplayer sessions. It<br />

seems that one of the keywords being<br />

looked for is ‘lol’, short for ‘I’m a complete<br />

dickhead’. Brisbane man Glen Jackson<br />

got the surprise of his life when a local<br />

TV news crew knocked on his door<br />

and informed him that he was the one<br />

billionth person to utter ‘lol’ online.<br />

“I say lol all the time,” gushed Glen<br />

in the televised interview, “even in place<br />

Double parking did<br />

happen, but only that one<br />

time on Tuesday and that<br />

was because the dump<br />

truck was in the way.<br />

Dress Like a Cowboy<br />

Fridays did get cancelled,<br />

but only because several<br />

programmers refused to<br />

shave or shower over the<br />

space of weeks, and the<br />

word ‘cocksucker’ started to<br />

get used too much in office<br />

banter. The male members<br />

of staff, on the other hand,<br />

behaved wonderfully.<br />

of actually laughing. I think that this<br />

particular time Josh had farted while<br />

eating corn chips and I said ‘lol’. Either<br />

that or it was when I was fragging some<br />

noob’s arse and he was screaming like a<br />

stuck pig! Totally lol-worthy.”<br />

Glen’s prize for being awesome was<br />

a framed LOL statue with his name<br />

engraved on it, and a lifetime membership<br />

to Xbox Live. Rumours are circulating of a<br />

possible film project to do with Glen’s rags<br />

to riches story. Mark Wahlberg has denied<br />

casting rumours.<br />

4 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


Garbage<br />

Tips Around<br />

the World<br />

Appeal for<br />

People to<br />

Keep Plastic<br />

Drum Kits<br />

Only a couple of years after the<br />

emergence of plastic drum kits and<br />

guitars for Guitar Hero and Rock<br />

Band, garbage tips worldwide are<br />

experiencing a deluge of thrown<br />

away kits, as people grow tired of<br />

repeatedly hitting the multi-coloured<br />

pads for hours.<br />

“We just don’t k<strong>now</strong> what to do<br />

with them,” says Jerry, manager for<br />

a major city tip shop. “They’re in fine<br />

working order but we can’t even give<br />

them away. We tried donating them<br />

to homeless people but they ended<br />

up having nightmares about Green<br />

Day. Then there are the problems<br />

of guitars getting stuck in truck<br />

hydraulics. The publishers need to do<br />

something.”<br />

<strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong> encourages the<br />

responsible disposal of unwanted<br />

gaming paraphernalia. If you have a<br />

spare drum kit or three taking up too<br />

much space, why not make a social<br />

event of it Gather some friends, stoke<br />

a bonfire and offer your kits to the<br />

gaming gods.<br />

Games<br />

Journalist<br />

Accepts Honourable<br />

Plaque for His Super<br />

Original Article on the<br />

R18+ Situation<br />

Super games journalist and all round nice guy<br />

James O’Pincott-Burns was last week awarded<br />

with a commemorative plaque by the Federation of<br />

Awesome Australian Games Writing for his groundbreaking<br />

research into the R18+ situation. When<br />

asked about his inspiration, he had the following to<br />

say: “Basically, I realised that there was this huge<br />

void in games journalism, the 300 pound white<br />

elephant in the room. No one was tackling the R18+<br />

issue and telling it how it is.”<br />

James’s piece, entitled ‘R18+ Gaming F***ing<br />

Rocks’, will be cast in gold and displayed at the<br />

National Museum of Literacy. His previous works<br />

include ‘Girls Play Games Too, You K<strong>now</strong>!’, ‘Why Indie<br />

Games Are Just Much Better Than All Other Games’,<br />

‘The Big Question: Are Games Art’ and ‘Guess What<br />

Everyone: Games Are Supposed To Be Fun!’<br />

Australia’s best gaming -zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

5


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT<br />

nIer<br />

enough<br />

is close<br />

enough<br />

TIM HENDERSON is so Nier and yet<br />

so far.<br />

You k<strong>now</strong>, for all of<br />

the horrible X-Factor<br />

snippets and terrible R&B<br />

music videos that litter the<br />

world of YouTube, I still love<br />

the place. You see, if you<br />

enter the words ‘Nier OST’<br />

into a search on YouTube,<br />

you will be greeted with a<br />

list of awesome, and really<br />

rather unique, music tracks.<br />

Mostly reworking a core<br />

theme in an amazingly varied<br />

number of ways, the music<br />

from Nier brings to mind<br />

sweeping adventure and lush<br />

green fields, ages of gentle<br />

Gods and towering temples<br />

made by men, water that<br />

sparkles like sand and sand<br />

that flows like water, battles<br />

as fierce as thunder and an<br />

embrace as soft as clouds,<br />

cliffs like wounds in the earth<br />

and bridges that cover them<br />

like bandages. It’s powerful<br />

stuff on its own, and it only<br />

becomes amplified in-game.<br />

Mixing a variety of<br />

instruments, stylistic<br />

inspiration, and sweetly<br />

sung lyrics of a fictional<br />

tongue, the music of Nier is<br />

a tightly-contained example<br />

of its host’s greater mission<br />

statement: to stack familiar<br />

ideas together in ways that<br />

nobody has thought of before.<br />

Nier’s soundtrack is far and<br />

away the greatest success<br />

born of this mentality. The<br />

only musical downside is<br />

that there’s not enough of it.<br />

Melodies blend and evolve<br />

beautifully, lyrics fading<br />

into the game’s hub town<br />

background music when Nier<br />

himself walks within earshot<br />

of a minstrel strumming the<br />

very same tune.<br />

But Nier is a game that<br />

has all the technical merit<br />

of a powered-up PS2 title.<br />

Any and all visual appeal<br />

can be attributed to the art.<br />

Stylistically, Nier’s sunscorched<br />

aesthetic borrows<br />

heavily from ICO, much of<br />

its world architecture from<br />

Panzer Dragoon, and the<br />

character designs appear as<br />

misfits from a Final Fantasy<br />

game – too restrained and<br />

imperfect in appearance<br />

to appease the tween<br />

demographic crossover.<br />

The limitations placed<br />

upon the engine are not<br />

just visual, either. Character<br />

movement and world<br />

interaction comes with<br />

familiar limitations; Nier’s is<br />

not a world where advanced<br />

physics are breaking open<br />

new gameplay boundaries.<br />

This is understandable: the<br />

aging father of a gravely ill<br />

daughter, Nier himself is<br />

hardly the most sprightly<br />

and youthful of videogame<br />

6 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


NIER<br />

Developer Cavia<br />

Publisher Square Enix<br />

Platform 360 / PS3<br />

Genre Action/RPG<br />

OFFICIAL WEBSITE<br />

While<br />

other games<br />

are happy to<br />

borrow ideas<br />

from outside<br />

genres, Nier<br />

is routinely<br />

bold enough to<br />

become them.<br />

protagonists. But let it not be<br />

said that you can’t teach an<br />

old dog new tricks.<br />

If there is one triumph to be<br />

found in the overall experience<br />

of playing Nier, then it must<br />

surely be the reminder that<br />

technology and innovation need<br />

not be exclusive bedfellows.<br />

Although it never fails to feel<br />

familiar, even dated, trying<br />

to pin Nier into a genre is<br />

troublesome. Predominantly<br />

a mixture of Zelda and roleplaying<br />

formulas, it nonetheless<br />

cherry-picks from multiple<br />

other genres, plucking and<br />

choosing as befits the mood<br />

of the narrative, to a point<br />

where it fundamentally defies<br />

classification. While other<br />

games are happy to borrow<br />

ideas from outside genres,<br />

Nier is routinely bold enough to<br />

become them.<br />

This is why you should<br />

check Nier out. Not because<br />

it was ever a realistic Game of<br />

the Year candidate for 2010,<br />

but because of its unfettered,<br />

almost flippant approach<br />

to experimentation: it sets<br />

out to provide an interactive<br />

adventure, and in order to do so<br />

it staples gameplay elements<br />

from bullet hell shooters,<br />

classic survival horror, isometric<br />

dungeon crawlers, and even<br />

text adventure games onto the<br />

core experience. The pacing<br />

flounders around at times,<br />

and the graphics, in particular,<br />

betray a modest development<br />

budget, but Nier is a game with<br />

a fierce heart – an imperfect<br />

yet ferocious experiment with<br />

Japanese role-playing concepts,<br />

complimented by a story and<br />

cast of characters stronger than<br />

many of its brethren.<br />

It’s a game that does<br />

remarkable things within the<br />

restraint of having one foot<br />

shackled in the past and, much<br />

like the recent Persona titles,<br />

radiates a conceptual beacon<br />

of light for what JRPGs may as<br />

yet become. It may not be a<br />

great game, but it is one of the<br />

most interesting ones of recent<br />

years. Better to be left only<br />

part-satisfied by something like<br />

that than by Final Fantasy.<br />

TIM HENDERSON<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

7


COVER feature<br />

A Player’s<br />

Best Friend<br />

BRENDAN KEOGH investigates the characters that accompany us in<br />

good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death do you part:<br />

NPC companions.<br />

Superheroes have sidekicks,<br />

comedians have straight men,<br />

and videogame protagonists have<br />

companions. They have accompanied<br />

us in our adventures to save<br />

kingdoms/mankind/the universe and<br />

to slay monsters/demons/aliens for<br />

as long as video games have been<br />

around. Link had Navi, Donkey had<br />

Diddy (and Diddy had Dixie), Ico had<br />

Yorda, Mario had Yoshi (and Yoshi had<br />

Mario), Master Chief had Cortana,<br />

Gordon had Alyx, Jade had Pey’j,<br />

Wanda had Agro, Marcus had Dom.<br />

The list goes on and on. There are<br />

good reasons why so many games<br />

rely on companions, and it is no<br />

coincidence that some of the most<br />

memorable, most critically acclaimed<br />

games are those that rely heavily on an<br />

NPC following the player around.<br />

When implemented properly, a<br />

companion can immerse you deeper<br />

into the game world and give you<br />

something within the game to care<br />

about, such as your trusty canine in<br />

Fable II. Conversely, a bad companion<br />

is at best forgettable and useless,<br />

such as B-Company in Battlefield:<br />

Bad Company, and at worst has you<br />

double-guessing the game’s logic and<br />

yelling at the screen in frustration, like<br />

when your party medic in Final Fantasy<br />

XIII refuses to heal you. Simply put,<br />

companions are capable of making or<br />

breaking a game.<br />

A good story-focused game will<br />

hide the game’s rules behind a layer<br />

of fiction. The simplest example: an<br />

impassable mountain range is more<br />

immersive than an invisible wall at<br />

the end of the map with the on-screen<br />

message, ‘You cannot go this way’<br />

(I’m looking at you, Bethesda). It is<br />

DIDDY KONG<br />

not so much about forgetting that<br />

you are playing a game as it is about<br />

participating in what feels like a<br />

complete, coherent world. Companions<br />

play a crucial role in forming this<br />

coherent fiction by tying the player to<br />

the world and giving them something<br />

to care about.<br />

Few seem to understand this as<br />

well as Fumito Ueda of Team Ico,<br />

responsible for the Playstation 2<br />

classics ICO and Shadow Of The<br />

Colossus as well as the upcoming<br />

Playstation 3 title The Last Guardian.<br />

Both ICO and Shadow Of The Colossus<br />

(and The Last Guardian if we can judge<br />

from the trailers) create minimalist<br />

worlds with little story and even less<br />

dialogue. Yet, Ueda’s titles are among<br />

the best-received and most critically<br />

acclaimed games of recent time.<br />

The critical success of Ueda’s<br />

NAVI<br />

LUIGI<br />

YOSHI<br />

8 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


YORDA<br />

If the player is to<br />

care about Yorda, she<br />

must be convincing as<br />

an individual entity but<br />

must also do exactly<br />

what the player<br />

wants.<br />

games comes down largely to the<br />

central relationship between the<br />

player and a consistent, significant<br />

companion. In ICO, you control a<br />

boy trying to escape a large castle<br />

prison. The gameplay is relatively<br />

straightforward platforming and puzzlesolving<br />

with one unique addition.<br />

Almost immediately after the game<br />

starts, you encounter Yorda, a girl also<br />

imprisoned in the castle. You soon<br />

discover that Yorda is in danger and<br />

needs your help. On the flipside, you<br />

cannot hope to escape without Yorda’s<br />

mysterious door-opening powers. The<br />

relationship between player and Yorda<br />

is one of co-dependence. As the skills<br />

of the player and Yorda do not overlap,<br />

neither steps on the other’s toes. Yorda<br />

will not rush off and do something<br />

the player doesn’t want her to do, but<br />

neither will she rush forward and do<br />

something the player was about to do.<br />

The relationship between Ico and<br />

Yorda is pivotal to the entire game.<br />

This is a ballsy gamble by Ueda. If she<br />

glitches up and gets the player killed<br />

even once, the player will be furious.<br />

There is nothing players hate more<br />

than feeling cheated by the game. If<br />

the player is to care about Yorda, she<br />

must be convincing as an individual<br />

entity but must also do exactly what<br />

the player wants.<br />

For Yorda specifically and all gaming<br />

companions generally, she can’t be<br />

god-like and invincible, but neither<br />

can she be stupid and placid. Instead,<br />

she must be humanly flawed and<br />

humanly intelligent; she must be smart<br />

enough to make mistakes; she must<br />

be imperfect and ‘real’. Yet, she also<br />

has to do exactly what the player wants<br />

her to do. If she shows too much free<br />

will, the player will get frustrated that<br />

the game is not doing what they want it<br />

to do. But if she just follows the player<br />

mindlessly, the player won’t be able to<br />

care about her as a human being and,<br />

by extension, won’t be able to care<br />

about the game’s fiction.<br />

So many conflicting conditions! So<br />

how did Ueda manage to balance them<br />

all With one very simple addition to<br />

the controls: press R1 to hold Yorda’s<br />

hand when she is close enough or to<br />

call her when she is far away. When<br />

left to her own devices, Yorda will<br />

wander around the map, run after<br />

birds, look over edges, and sometimes,<br />

if you watch her for long enough,<br />

maybe even discover a solution to a<br />

puzzle. Yet the moment you press R1<br />

and call her, she will come back to you<br />

and hold your hand.<br />

Instead of mindlessly following<br />

you, then, Ico pulls Yorda along in<br />

a charming, enthusiastic run, like a<br />

younger brother eager to show his<br />

older sister the fortress he built in<br />

the lounge room. By tweaking her<br />

animations and behaviours just right,<br />

Ueda has managed to balance Yorda<br />

perfectly between free-minded and<br />

obedient. It’s hard not to care about<br />

her and her plight as you play ICO.<br />

After not too long, you find yourself not<br />

being concerned about Ico or Yorda,<br />

but about Ico and Yorda.<br />

Later in the game, when the two of<br />

you are separated, it is akin to having<br />

all your weapons removed halfway<br />

through a first-person shooter: you feel<br />

naked, exposed, vulnerable, and most<br />

crucially, alone. So many emotions<br />

evoked just by the absence of a NPC!<br />

This is how you k<strong>now</strong> a companion has<br />

been done well: you don’t just notice<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

9


COVER feature<br />

Alyx Vance<br />

when they are beside you; you notice<br />

when they are not.<br />

A similar relationship also forms<br />

between Shadow Of The Colossus’s<br />

Wanda and his trusty horse, Agro. Just<br />

like in ICO, the player can call to Agro<br />

and he will come running, but he will<br />

wander off freely otherwise. Agro is<br />

a well-behaved steed, and the game<br />

can get away with making him more<br />

obedient as he is a tamed animal and<br />

not a free-willed human. But he still<br />

behaves convincingly, rearing when a<br />

colossus stomps nearby or refusing<br />

to leap over certain crevasses until<br />

pushed. The times that you must<br />

leave Agro behind, you really feel his<br />

absence. For me, it is in the echoing<br />

tap-tap of my feet compared to Agro’s<br />

hearty gallop that really rubs it in.<br />

A companion can still be convincing<br />

and meaningful without such detailed<br />

free-will, however. Alyx Vance in Half-<br />

Life 2 accompanies the player for<br />

much of the game. In Episodes One<br />

and Two, you could even argue that<br />

she is the main character and the<br />

player’s character, Gordon Freeman, is<br />

the companion.<br />

Alyx’s actions are more scripted<br />

than either Yorda or Agro. On every<br />

playthrough she will follow a practically<br />

identical path through the levels and<br />

will say the same things at the same<br />

times. Nonetheless, she is animated<br />

and written in a way that is both<br />

convincing and human. Instead of<br />

just following the player, Alyx has her<br />

own paths through the level, which<br />

means she will often be leading—a<br />

rare feat among gaming companions.<br />

That these paths are scripted hardly<br />

matter. Instead, they add to the game.<br />

Alyx can be shown to engage with her<br />

environment in a more convincing style.<br />

Instead of awkwardly running through<br />

a level like any old NPC, she will jump<br />

over guardrails and climb fences like a<br />

human being, making both her and the<br />

world more believable.<br />

Once the player cares for Alyx, her<br />

most important role is in justifying<br />

Gordon Freeman’s existence, and by<br />

extension the player’s. As Gordon is<br />

a silent protagonist, one of the main<br />

criticisms levelled at Half-Life was that<br />

he was practically a non-character—just<br />

a gun floating on the monitor. Alyx<br />

Vance changed this. By constantly<br />

ack<strong>now</strong>ledging Gordon, making eyecontact,<br />

having discussions, remarking<br />

on his actions, Alyx makes Gordon<br />

more real. We still never see Gordon<br />

ourselves, but we see that Alyx sees him.<br />

The actions are miniscule, but they add<br />

a significant level of detail that makes<br />

Half-Life 2’s story and world more<br />

accessible that Half-Life’s ever was.<br />

Sadly, though, there are occasions<br />

where Alyx tips the wrong way and<br />

becomes a frustrating NPC instead of<br />

a friendly companion. One particular<br />

stage in Episode One frustrated me<br />

immensely and shows how even the<br />

best implemented companions can go<br />

wrong and nearly break a game. You<br />

are underground and trying to get to<br />

the surface. In a pitch-black room, you<br />

must fight swarms of zombies while<br />

you wait for an elevator to arrive. The<br />

player has no weapons save a torch<br />

and the gravity gun, but Alyx has her<br />

pistol. However, she will only shoot at<br />

zombies that the player is pointing the<br />

torch at or has lit flares nearby.<br />

I couldn’t help but feel Alyx wasn’t<br />

pulling her weight. Why couldn’t she<br />

pick up a flare herself Why did I have<br />

to stand dumbly with my torch pointed<br />

at a zombie for her to shoot it Clearly,<br />

Valve were trying to strengthen the<br />

relationship between Alyx and Gordon<br />

by forcing you to cooperate to survive,<br />

but the result was the opposite. Alyx<br />

couldn’t look after herself and she<br />

was holding me back. Instead of being<br />

a companion I could work with, she<br />

became a bit of programming that<br />

I had to second guess and exploit.<br />

While her actions in the rest of the<br />

game added so much, it was almost<br />

all destroyed for me in this one stage.<br />

Using companions truly is a precarious,<br />

dangerous thing.<br />

There are more interesting<br />

companions—both good and bad—than<br />

could be covered in any one article.<br />

The more-or-less invisible companions<br />

10 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


like Cortana in Halo, the dependable,<br />

self-sacrificing buddies of Far Cry<br />

2, the bromance of Delta Squad in<br />

Gears of War. But where would a<br />

discussion of gaming companions be<br />

without a mention of Portal’s weighted<br />

companion cube<br />

Quite justifiably, many of you will be<br />

sick of hearing about Portal by <strong>now</strong>,<br />

but the amount of stuff that it just got<br />

so right can’t be denied. The weighted<br />

companion cube, while only a minor<br />

part of the entire game, works as the<br />

ultimate meta gaming companion.<br />

It does everything all good gaming<br />

companions must do.<br />

Firstly, the weighted companion<br />

cube’s abilities complement the<br />

player’s abilities, they don’t overlap<br />

and conflict. Just as Ico and Yorda<br />

rely on the other’s abilities, so do the<br />

player’s and the weighted companion<br />

cube. The weighted companion cube<br />

relies on the player’s portal gun, legs,<br />

and strong hands, and the player relies<br />

on the weighted companion cube’s<br />

stability as a stool, sturdiness to sit on<br />

buttons without flinching, and strength<br />

to withstand loose balls of energy that<br />

could vaporise the player on impact.<br />

Without the other, neither will get to<br />

the end of the level.<br />

Secondly, and more importantly,<br />

the weighted companion cube is<br />

a non-living object that the player<br />

k<strong>now</strong>s is not alive yet is still able to<br />

have feelings for. Just like Yorda, Alyx,<br />

Agro, and all other companions, the<br />

weighted companion cube is just a<br />

bunch of 0s and 1s somewhere inside<br />

the game. But unlike these other<br />

companions, on the outside, too, the<br />

weighted companion cube is just an<br />

inanimate object. Yet, largely through<br />

the words of GLaDOS, the player still<br />

cares about the weighted companion<br />

cube. When GLaDOS congratulates you<br />

for destroying the weighted companion<br />

cube in the emergency intelligence<br />

incinerator faster than any other test<br />

subject, it is darkly funny, but some of<br />

the guilt you feel is legitimate and taps<br />

into the same part of your mind as all<br />

gaming companions.<br />

And that is the ultimate contribution<br />

all gaming companions make: a<br />

legitimate reason to care about the<br />

world. The player’s reward for helping<br />

Yorda is not ten achievement points,<br />

but helping Yorda. When Yorda holds<br />

your hand, she pulls you deep down into<br />

the game’s world where your actions<br />

are their own reward. But if they don’t<br />

act the way the player expects, any<br />

immersion in the game world could be<br />

ruined as the player is forced to double<br />

guess what they must do in order to<br />

tempt the companion to action how<br />

they want. Just as your companions can<br />

pull you in to the game, they can just as<br />

easily push you out.<br />

BRENDAN KEOGH<br />

...where would a discussion of gaming<br />

companions be without a mention of Portal’s<br />

weighted companion cube<br />

COMPANION CUBE<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

11


FEATURE<br />

Going<br />

Up In<br />

Steam<br />

When it comes to pricing on<br />

Steam, different publishers take<br />

different approaches. JAMES<br />

PINNELL brings us a rundown on<br />

which publishers are the friendliest<br />

to your wallet.<br />

The Steam Christmas sale has<br />

been and gone, and many of us<br />

are playing catch up with quite a few<br />

titles that we otherwise would never<br />

have bought. While digital distribution<br />

is building in popularity, Australians<br />

still face some hefty mark-ups on the<br />

Steam store, due in part to regulations<br />

that prevent publishers undercutting<br />

brick and mortar competition. In an<br />

attempt to solidify our frustrations, we<br />

decided to take a stroll through the<br />

Steam Store and critique publishers<br />

on their ability to charge fair and<br />

equitable prices to Australian users.<br />

All prices are correct at time of writing,<br />

although things can and do change<br />

quickly online. (All prices listed are<br />

$USD).<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Bethesda<br />

FALLOUT NEW VEGAS<br />

Comments: The guys behind Fallout 3 and<br />

Elder Scrolls have picked up their game as of<br />

late. While their original Fallout 3 pricing was<br />

a little silly, they have moved back towards<br />

the centre and matched price parity for most<br />

titles between the AU/US stores. The main<br />

exception is Fallout: New Vegas, which sits at<br />

a rather expensive $89.95. Of concern is that<br />

New Vegas initially appeared on Australia’s<br />

Steam store at $49.95, equal to the American<br />

pricing, only to receive a $40 bump close to<br />

release. Bethesda’s two main upcoming titles,<br />

Brink and <strong>Hunt</strong>ed: The Demon’s Forge, are<br />

both $49.99 to pre-order. If you’re interested<br />

in either we’d suggest you pre-order them<br />

<strong>now</strong>, as the same price bump is likely to occur<br />

closer to release.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

2K Games<br />

BIOSHOCK 2<br />

Comments: 2K is one of the bigger players<br />

on Steam and takes full advantage of its<br />

market position, with some significant price<br />

differences. While Americans can purchase<br />

Civ V for $49.99, Australians pay $79.99.<br />

While Americans pay $29.99 for Mafia 2,<br />

Australians pay $79.99. While Americans pay<br />

a paltry $19.99 for BioShock 2, Australians<br />

pay $49.99. Discounts are few and far<br />

between, except during Steam-instigated<br />

sales. Release date differences are also a<br />

cause for concern, with those who purchased<br />

Civ V at retail in Australia unable to play the<br />

game until it was unlocked for Australians<br />

the next day. 2K is easily one of the worst<br />

performers on Steam. This kind of pricing<br />

gives the consumer little reason to lay down<br />

their credit card.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

12 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


TRANSFORMERS: WAR FOR CYBERTRON<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Activision<br />

Comments: Although <strong>now</strong>here near as<br />

bad as 2K Games, Activision won’t exactly<br />

have you running for your credit card. James<br />

Bond: Blood Stone sits at the same price as<br />

retail, whereas Modern Warfare 2 is still on<br />

$89.99, at least $20 above retail, more if<br />

you don’t mind buying second hand. Other<br />

titles like Transformers: War for Cybertron<br />

and Prototype thankfully match US store<br />

pricing. Despite being an unpopular player,<br />

Activision isn’t too bad. However, their<br />

offerings are slim, and they tend to hold<br />

onto higher prices for popular games.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Sony Online<br />

Comments: A Veteran MMORPG developer,<br />

Sony has released their entire set of still<br />

currently running MMORPG’s for <strong>download</strong> on<br />

Steam. Sony always group AU based accounts<br />

with their US counterparts, and as a result,<br />

there is no difference in price, or release date.<br />

Feel safe in your purchase of the upcoming DC<br />

Universe MMO, for you will not be ripped off.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Capcom<br />

Comments: Capcom have definitely improved<br />

their stock over the past year, dropping their<br />

pricing back to US standards, running fantastic<br />

periodic discounts and generally presenting as<br />

a poster child for a fair go. Almost all of their<br />

games match their US pricing, and are cheaper<br />

than retail – nothing in the store is more then<br />

$40, including games like Street Fighter IV,<br />

Resident Evil 5, Bionic Commando and Dark<br />

Void. Even the fairly recent Dead Rising 2 sits<br />

pretty at $39.99<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Lucasarts<br />

Comments: Lucasarts had a shaky<br />

start on Steam, with many of their games<br />

originally locked out to AU players. But,<br />

since a lot of publishers began re-evaluating<br />

their digital catalogue, all of their games<br />

have been released to users and price<br />

parity is spot on. They also offer some great<br />

periodical discounts and have some great<br />

packages available.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Codemasters<br />

Comments: A relatively large UK based<br />

publisher, Codemasters has a mixed record<br />

when it comes to fair pricing; F12010 is more<br />

expensive on the AU store, by about $20, but<br />

the majority of their popular back catalogue<br />

(GRID, Dirt Series, Overload, Op:FP2) are<br />

more fairly priced. Credit where credit is<br />

due, their AU levy is lower than most on new<br />

releases, but the fact it happens is still poor.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

Australia’s best gaming -zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

13


FEATURE<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Electronic<br />

Arts<br />

MASS EFFECT 2<br />

Comments: EA is one of the biggest<br />

games publishers in the world, and next<br />

to 2K and Activision, one of the worst<br />

performers when it comes to pricing. Almost<br />

every single major release is overpriced or<br />

has a significant AU levy sitting on top. For<br />

example, before the recent sales, Dragon<br />

Age, which came out almost a year ago, and<br />

Mass Effect 2, which came out in January,<br />

both included a $40US levy, same with<br />

C&C4 and Bad Company 2. Most of these<br />

games have dropped in price <strong>now</strong>, so it pays<br />

to be patient, but still, you shouldn’t have<br />

to wait so long to see depreciation seep<br />

through to the digital storefront.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Sega<br />

Comments: Almost all of Sega’s steam<br />

catalogue, from their console releases to<br />

their PC published fare, are subject to a price<br />

premium for AU. As with EA, there existed quite<br />

a few higher priced titles before the 2010 sale<br />

– Aliens Vs Predator smacked you with a $15<br />

levy, Napoleon: Total War a chunky $30, while<br />

the slew of old MegaDrive games had a small<br />

but still irritating 50c increase. Prices have<br />

dropped slightly in the new year, but the cycle<br />

is likely to repeat for their 2011 releases.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

NCSoft<br />

Comments: This MMORPG powerhouse,<br />

publishers of Guild Wars, Aion and<br />

City of Heroes, have always been very<br />

straightforward and upfront with their<br />

releases. Worldwide unlock dates, fair and<br />

equitable pricing, great pre-order incentives<br />

and regular discounts. If only a few other of<br />

the big boys followed their example.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Square Enix<br />

& Eidos<br />

Interactive<br />

Comments: Another publisher that has<br />

recently undergone some changes, this<br />

strange coalition has introduced price and<br />

catalogue parity across their AU and US<br />

stores. Let’s hope this stays in place with the<br />

upcoming release of the next Batman title.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Ubisoft<br />

Comments: Ubisoft’s case is surprisingly<br />

positive, considering the performance of the<br />

other major developers. Assassin’s Creed<br />

2,Prince of Persia: TFS, R.U.S.E, Settler’s 7,<br />

H.A.W.X 2, and Splinter Cell Conviction all<br />

carry price parity with the US store. They’ve<br />

been pretty good with lowering the price of<br />

older titles and tend to not separate release<br />

dates between regions. Well done for bucking<br />

the trend, Ubisoft.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

14 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


STEAM Report Card<br />

Paradox<br />

Interactive<br />

Comments: A strategy behemoth, Paradox<br />

pumps out the deeply detailed software that<br />

their legions of fans crave. They also don’t<br />

discriminate on pricing, all of their titles have<br />

pricing parity, fair release dates and there are<br />

a number of well priced packages available.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Valve<br />

Comments: The company behind Steam<br />

has always, and probably will always, stick<br />

to pure price parity and worldwide releases.<br />

Shame about the whole Left 4 Dead 2<br />

censored thing, though.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

LEFT4DEAD2<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

THQ<br />

Comments: Another giant willing to finally drop<br />

some of its 2010 mark-ups. Darksiders, Metro<br />

2033, and the Dawn Of War II expansion pack<br />

all came with a $20-30 levy, but have fallen to<br />

quite acceptable price points <strong>now</strong>. Surprisingly,<br />

some games were LOWER in price than on the<br />

US store, such as Saints Row 2, Company of<br />

Heroes: Tales of Valor and Titan Quest Gold.<br />

These strange price discrepancies are pretty<br />

confusing, but it’s encouraging to see lower<br />

prices in any case.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Warner Bros.<br />

Comments: Our last candidate is one<br />

of the worst performers of the lot. Not<br />

only are almost all of their games more<br />

expensive, but by such a significant amount,<br />

considering their age. F.E.A.R. 2, Terminator<br />

Salvation and Wanted: Weapons of Fate all<br />

released over a year ago but sit at $44.99,<br />

$25 more than the US store. While the<br />

dollar levy figure isn’t significant, other<br />

developers are selling titles that old for<br />

almost half the price.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

... & The Rest<br />

1C Company, Big Fish Games, City Interactive,<br />

Epic Games, Focus Home Interactive, Her<br />

Interactive, Id Software, Interplay, iWin, JoWood/<br />

Dreamcatcher, Kalipso, Majesco, Meridian 4,<br />

MumboJumbo, NovaLogic, Prima Games, Popcap,<br />

PlayFirst, RailSimulator.com, Sandlot Games,<br />

SouthPeak Games, Strategy First, Tilted Mill,<br />

Topware. While the companies listed here are<br />

generally casual, indie or back catalogue based (no<br />

new titles, just a depot of their Good Old Games),<br />

all of them share the same principles: price,<br />

release date and catalogue parity. Good prices,<br />

packages and extras provided by this bunch show<br />

that you don’t need to rip off a vulnerable section<br />

of the market to make money.<br />

Grade: A<br />

JAMES PINNELL<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

15


THE GAME DOCTOR<br />

One Man’s Quest to Earn A PhD By<br />

Wanking On About Games He Likes...<br />

The Doctor<br />

Is (Almost) In<br />

JAMES O’CONNOR takes a stethoscope<br />

wherever he goes. No, we haven’t had the heart<br />

to tell him yet…<br />

...the praise Enslaved attracted in<br />

2010 baffled and saddened me.<br />

‘ ou don’t propose to offer an<br />

Yanalysis of scholasticism,<br />

then, I take it’<br />

The question illustrated exactly<br />

why Dixon felt he had to keep<br />

Michie out of his subject. Michie<br />

knew a lot, or seemed to, which<br />

was as bad. One of the things he<br />

knew, or seemed to, was what<br />

scholasticism was. Dixon read,<br />

heard, and even used the word a<br />

dozen times a day without k<strong>now</strong>ing,<br />

though he seemed to. But he saw<br />

clearly that he wouldn’t be able to<br />

go on seeming to k<strong>now</strong> the meaning<br />

of this and a hundred such words<br />

while Michie was there questioning,<br />

discussing and arguing about them.<br />

-Kingsley Amis, ‘Lucky Jim’.<br />

This is – at least, I hope it is –<br />

the beginner academic experience,<br />

boiled down into a single paragraph<br />

of comical frustration and seeming<br />

incompetence. All this year, I’ve used<br />

terms with definitions that terrify me. If<br />

I say ‘cognitive poetics’ I can more or<br />

less get away with admitting I need to<br />

do more research (because even my<br />

basic k<strong>now</strong>ledge puts me well ahead<br />

of most people in this area, although<br />

potentially not you, my beloved reader),<br />

but other terms are a hassle. I can tell<br />

you the difference between narrative,<br />

story and plot, but two sentences in I’m<br />

out of words. For some people, higher<br />

research is an easy fit, but many of us<br />

spend our days dreading the moment<br />

when something clicks and the higherups<br />

realise that the smartest thing<br />

we’re able to do is convince other<br />

people that we’re smart.<br />

I recently had to justify my ‘PhDabout-games’<br />

project, which I’m<br />

ostensibly ten months into, through<br />

a 5000 word document, a 20 minute<br />

presentation and a similarly long Q&A<br />

session. I got what is apparently the<br />

most common response: ‘things are<br />

going well, but it’s too big, you need to<br />

clarify stuff in your written proposal,<br />

etc.’, along with about 2000 words of<br />

notes on what to fix. It’s a terrifying<br />

process, and I’ve been drinking more<br />

than I usually do lately.<br />

I tend to write and discuss largely<br />

on instinct. Aside from the occasional<br />

misguided mention of Lacan’s ‘mirror<br />

phase’ or citing of proper literary<br />

theory, most of what I hypothesize<br />

comes from playing games and<br />

reacting to them. It’s the same when<br />

I digest literature and cinema. My<br />

Twitter and Facebook feeds abound<br />

with academics who are always linking<br />

to new research, and my e-mail inbox<br />

is filled with chain discussions on all<br />

sorts of crazy game-related topics, with<br />

familiar faces popping up and offering<br />

reading advice to anyone who will<br />

listen. The idea of backing everything I<br />

say up with meticulous research, not to<br />

mention absolute certainty, is difficult<br />

to comes to grips with.<br />

But you didn’t <strong>download</strong> <strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong><br />

to hear me whine about my First World<br />

Problems - I’d like to awkwardly segue<br />

16 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


Always call<br />

‘shotgun’ in<br />

MAFIA II<br />

into some game discussion <strong>now</strong>.<br />

First up, let me just say as someone<br />

who loves great narrative and story<br />

in big blockbuster games, the praise<br />

Enslaved attracted in 2010 baffled<br />

and saddened me. Please, people<br />

– simply not hating characters<br />

doesn’t immediately make them good<br />

characters. Solid facial animation<br />

doesn’t equate to personality. The<br />

characters here manage to be both<br />

illogical and yet utterly predictable at<br />

the same time, and the three primary<br />

protagonists are as archetypal as they<br />

come. The Journey to the West riffing<br />

was weird and undercooked, beyond<br />

the initial ‘I see what they’re doing here’<br />

phase. Enslaved is an awful example of<br />

‘OMG games CAN tell stories!!!!’, and<br />

I’m damn sick of reading half-baked<br />

arguments on the contrary.<br />

I’d also like to briefly discuss an<br />

interesting moment from Mafia II:<br />

a game with great ambition and<br />

design, but so-so (or bad) writing and<br />

incredibly awkward racial stereotyping<br />

(the game’s portrayal of the Chinese<br />

is flat-out disgusting). Mark Smith<br />

called it “the best and most immersive<br />

interactive cinematic experience (he’d)<br />

had in 25 years of gaming”, which<br />

is an insane statement that cannot<br />

possibly be true. There’s one moment<br />

in the game that really sticks out to<br />

me, though, in terms of awful narrative<br />

design. Mild spoilers follow, but I’ll<br />

avoid being specific.<br />

Late in the game, a character dies.<br />

That’s expected – mafia fiction, no<br />

matter how good it is, has a bad habit<br />

of never letting anyone live. The setup:<br />

your character, Vito, and his best friend<br />

Joe, are on their way to meet up with<br />

this character. When you reach them,<br />

you’ll presumably all get into the car<br />

and drive to a second location, such<br />

is the game’s structure. But from the<br />

moment you meet up with Joe and get<br />

into the car, you k<strong>now</strong> the guy you’re<br />

about to meet won’t be coming with<br />

you – that his death is but a cutscene<br />

away. Why Because the mission gives<br />

you a two-seater car for the mission.<br />

There’s no room for your friend to<br />

come along – so obviously he’s about<br />

to die! What a terrible piece of scripting<br />

that was – and yet so obvious, and so<br />

easily avoidable!<br />

It’s shit like this that makes the<br />

road ahead of me both difficult and<br />

interesting. My studies are focusing<br />

on big blockbuster games – exploring<br />

narrative in a big-budget explosionfests<br />

seems to me far more worthwhile<br />

than explaining how games that are<br />

primarily narrative focused succeed.<br />

And yet these are the games people<br />

are going crazy over, while the games<br />

I’m interested in are dismissed as<br />

Michael Bay handjobs and constantly<br />

called ‘overrated’ because of this<br />

industry’s bizarre case of Tall Poppy<br />

Syndrome.<br />

And <strong>now</strong>, I need to go and replay<br />

Grand Theft Auto IV.<br />

JAMES O’CONNOR<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

17


FEATURE<br />

Wii Don’t Need No PS4<br />

DYLAN BURNS and MICHAEL PINCOTT look at the state of the seventh generation of video game<br />

consoles and why we don’t need an eighth generation any time soon.<br />

TIME OF THEIR LIVES<br />

SONY<br />

1994 Sony Playstation<br />

2000 Sony Playstation 2<br />

2006 Sony Playstation 3<br />

We live in an interesting gaming<br />

age. For so many years, the<br />

industry has been growing at an<br />

exponential rate. As more people<br />

came to gaming, demand has fuelled<br />

the development of new consoles,<br />

new technologies and has allowed<br />

new companies to try their hand at<br />

jumping into the development and<br />

publishing pool.<br />

Where once you could analyse<br />

the industry and chart specific<br />

development timeframes –<br />

particularly in relation to console<br />

life cycles – we face, with the<br />

360, PS3 and Wii, an era of<br />

elongated shelf life, with no side<br />

truly ready to invest in a new<br />

console. The reasons for these<br />

are varied: games are still selling<br />

well on these systems, graphics<br />

and the technologies behind them<br />

have reached a certain level of<br />

fidelity and stayed there, and,<br />

predominantly, the sheer cost of<br />

developing and marketing a new<br />

console in an established market<br />

is almost unimaginable. Indeed,<br />

Microsoft and Sony are still<br />

recouping the costs of developing<br />

and manufacturing the 360 and<br />

PS3. Only Nintendo can claim<br />

to be making a profit on every<br />

console unit sold.<br />

Then there’s the PC, once<br />

considered a lofty, exclusive peak<br />

of quality gaming, upon which PC<br />

gamers could look down at their<br />

console brethren like ants below<br />

and laugh heartily at the fact<br />

that their games looked better,<br />

ran faster and were generally<br />

superior. Undoubtedly, the PC<br />

is still considered the ultimate<br />

gaming platform by many, but<br />

the gap between PC and console<br />

has shortened considerably.<br />

The current generation of<br />

consoles have adapted to mimic<br />

the PC, sporting large hard<br />

drives, capable online play and<br />

robust communities. The online<br />

connectivity of consoles <strong>now</strong><br />

easily facilitates updates, patches<br />

and extra content. Consoles are<br />

even attempting to match the PC<br />

as a media hub. What once was<br />

exclusively the realm of the PC<br />

is being hotly contested. Console<br />

gaming is still PC gaming’s little<br />

brother, but it’s growing up fast.<br />

The need for consoles to catch up<br />

is greatly reduced; some might<br />

even say negated completely.<br />

18 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


Only Nintendo got it right, offering total<br />

compatibility for Gamecube titles and ensuring<br />

that the Wii had ports for both Gamecube<br />

controllers and memory cards.<br />

NO GAME LEFT BEHIND<br />

Does a new console generation<br />

mean that the current generation<br />

of games get left behind as those<br />

before them did The precedent<br />

is poor for both Microsoft and<br />

Sony, thoroughly botching their<br />

opportunities to support their<br />

strong back catalogue. The 360<br />

would play some Xbox titles with<br />

a patch, but eventually Microsoft<br />

simply stopped providing them,<br />

leaving plenty of games either<br />

unsupported or broken. They then<br />

started offering Xbox titles as<br />

<strong>download</strong>s on the Marketplace<br />

but, due to high prices and low<br />

sales, this was short-lived.<br />

The Playstation 3 shipped<br />

with more substantial backwards<br />

compatibility, supporting most<br />

PS2 titles without issue, until<br />

Sony made the mind-boggling<br />

decision to no longer include the<br />

Emotion Engine chip that made<br />

backwards compatibility for PS2<br />

titles possible. We’re <strong>now</strong> seeing<br />

an interesting consequence of<br />

that, with Sony releasing a spate<br />

of HD collections of PS2 series<br />

like Prince of Persia and God of<br />

War. Only Nintendo got it right,<br />

offering total compatibility for<br />

Gamecube titles and ensuring<br />

that the Wii had ports for both<br />

Gamecube controllers and<br />

memory cards.<br />

FUTURE SHOCK<br />

Which brings us to the topic of<br />

the NEXT generation of consoles.<br />

The very cogent question being, do<br />

we even need them Simply put,<br />

developers, publishers and gamers<br />

all seem rather content exactly<br />

where they are. A level of mutual<br />

TIME OF THEIR LIVES<br />

NINTENDO<br />

1983 Nintendo<br />

Entertainment<br />

System (NES)<br />

1990 Super Nintendo<br />

Entertainment<br />

System (SNES)<br />

1996 Nintendo 64<br />

2001 Nintendo<br />

GameCube<br />

2006 Nintendo Wii<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

19


FEATURE<br />

The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 still, it seems,<br />

have unexplored power left to tap.<br />

TIME OF THEIR LIVES<br />

MICROSOFT<br />

2001 Xbox<br />

2005 Xbox 360<br />

satisfaction has been reached<br />

where everyone’s demands are<br />

being satisfactorily met. Incremental<br />

improvements in visuals have been<br />

gradual but consistent. Uncharted<br />

2 lifted the bar for console graphics<br />

in late 2009 and, arguably, no other<br />

developer has reached that bar<br />

since. The Playstation 3 and Xbox<br />

360 still, it seems, have unexplored<br />

power left to tap. Even the Wii is<br />

turning out some very pretty games,<br />

such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 and<br />

Donkey Kong Country Returns.<br />

Developers are still playing catch-up,<br />

finding ways to squeeze more out of<br />

each console, while new technologies<br />

such as Euphoria and Digital<br />

Molecular Matter are still being<br />

explored and hesitantly implemented<br />

– the Force Unleashed titles didn’t<br />

exactly send a shock wave through<br />

the industry, although GTA IV’s use of<br />

Euphoria was much more impressive.<br />

Each consecutive console generation<br />

offers a bigger, deeper sandpit for<br />

developers to dig through. We haven’t<br />

hit the bottom of this generation’s<br />

just yet.<br />

With graphics somewhat levelled<br />

out (particularly in terms of a small<br />

number of engines such as Unreal<br />

Engine 3 being used across many/<br />

most titles) and the upgradeable<br />

nature of online connectivity, the<br />

current console generation is in a<br />

position to extend their lifetimes<br />

far beyond what was previously<br />

possible. A rather encouraging trend<br />

has emerged of gameplay becoming<br />

a renewed focus. The video game<br />

industry has an unfortunate tendency<br />

to pay more heed to the prettiest<br />

games, but increasingly we’ve<br />

seen art direction take precedence<br />

over graphical power. With most<br />

developers on a level playing field<br />

in terms of visuals (see our Unreal<br />

Engine boxout) gameplay is again<br />

becoming king. The likes of Minecraft<br />

and Super Meat Boy have proven to<br />

be popular not because they look<br />

good but because they offer excellent<br />

gameplay.<br />

NOT TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT<br />

The question of the successors to<br />

the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii<br />

has barely been raised, despite the<br />

fact that we have the 3DS coming<br />

20 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


For our money, this console<br />

generation has plenty of life in it yet.<br />

Cell Shaded Masterpiece<br />

BORDERLANDS<br />

and, apparently, the PSP2 in the<br />

works. In a way, we’ve already got<br />

our new generation. Microsoft has<br />

treated Kinect as almost a console<br />

unto itself, while Sony to a lesser<br />

extent has looked to expand with<br />

Move. If the Wii can get hold of a<br />

magical HD chip we’ll be just about<br />

level again.<br />

We are also still engaged solidly<br />

with our console(s) of choice, and<br />

this generation of machines bring<br />

with them some features that give<br />

new meaning to the term ‘brand<br />

loyalty’. Microsoft and Sony are<br />

each invested in their meta-score<br />

game tracking, with Achievements<br />

and Trophies solidifying the social<br />

gaming space. Moving across to a<br />

new console in the future will require<br />

the maintaining of current gaming<br />

badges, lest they risk the ire of<br />

players the world over.<br />

There’s no doubt that come E3<br />

2011, pundits will speculate on the<br />

likelihood of a new major console<br />

release from one of the Almighty<br />

Three. For our money, this console<br />

generation has plenty of life in it<br />

yet. Back in 2006, Sony Computer<br />

TIME OF THEIR LIVES<br />

SEGA<br />

1983 Sega SG-1000<br />

1985 Sega Master<br />

System<br />

1988 Sega Mega<br />

Drive/Genesis<br />

1994 Sega Saturn<br />

1998 Sega<br />

Dreamcast<br />

Entertainment America president<br />

Kaz Hirai predicted that the<br />

Playstation 3 would have a lifespan<br />

of ten years. So far he’s spot on,<br />

but we’re only halfway there. We<br />

can’t say for sure whether we’ll<br />

be playing Heavy Rain 3: Gentle<br />

Downpour on our not-yet-obsolete<br />

Playstation 3 in 2016, or whether<br />

we’ll be unwrapping a new Bluray<br />

drive Xbox, but whatever the<br />

case, we’ll continue to enjoy what<br />

has been a bountiful period for<br />

consoles and console gaming.<br />

DYLAN BURNS | MICHAEL PINCOTT<br />

Unreal Engine 3<br />

Roll Call<br />

Cliffy B must be dry<br />

washing his hands<br />

constantly, grinning<br />

nefariously as those millions<br />

in royalties roll in from<br />

every game and his dog<br />

using the Unreal Engine 3.<br />

Here are some of the more<br />

surprising ones:<br />

DC Universe Online<br />

Hail To The Chimp (:S)<br />

Alpha Protocol<br />

Mirror’s Edge<br />

Enslaved: Odyssey<br />

To The West<br />

Zumba Fitness<br />

Borderlands<br />

Lost Odyssey<br />

Shadow Complex<br />

Batman: Arkham Asylum<br />

Mass Effect (all titles)<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

21


KILL DEATH RATIO<br />

BOYS IN<br />

THE hood<br />

KEN LEE and MICHAEL<br />

PINCOTT have been getting<br />

acquainted with stealth and<br />

stabbing in the multiplayer<br />

of Assassin’s Creed:<br />

Brotherhood.<br />

MP: Multiplayer games typically<br />

involve, but are not limited<br />

to, headshots, grenade spamming,<br />

teabagging, deathmatches, capture<br />

the flag, whiny pre-pubescents, and<br />

players abusing whatever the latest<br />

exploit happens to be. Though we can’t<br />

guarantee an absence of whiny prepubescents,<br />

the multiplayer of Assassin’s<br />

Creed: Brotherhood spares us the majority<br />

of that paradigm to offer something rather<br />

fresh and different. Bombast is replaced<br />

with subtlety and stealth. The satisfaction<br />

of a headshot replaced by that derived<br />

from an exquisitely stealthy kill. It’s a<br />

perpetually tense game of cat and mouse<br />

combined with the kinetic rush of rooftop<br />

parkour. Ultimately, I love Brotherhood’s<br />

multiplayer because it emphasises<br />

strategy over twitch skills. Where my FPS<br />

skills would best be described as average,<br />

Brotherhood is an avenue for me to<br />

(attempt to) employ cunning and stealth<br />

instead of twitch gameplay. Would you<br />

agree, Ken<br />

KL: The emphasis on strategy is<br />

definitely a high point for me. There is<br />

huge benefit to planning the perfect kill,<br />

and the game actively rewards that. I<br />

mean, I could choose to run wildly over<br />

roofs stabbing every target I get. But the<br />

meagre points awarded for those kills<br />

reflect the lack of thought and decision<br />

put into them. I can get far more points<br />

22 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


ASSASSIN’S<br />

CREED<br />

BROTHERHOOD<br />

Developer Ubisoft Montreal<br />

Publisher Ubisoft<br />

Platform 360 / PS3 / PC<br />

Genre Action/Adventure<br />

OFFICIAL WEBSITE<br />

You<br />

feel totally<br />

in sync<br />

with what’s<br />

going on and<br />

totally like<br />

the badass<br />

assassin<br />

the game<br />

wants you<br />

to feel like.<br />

if I take my time, approach my<br />

prey stealthily, and walk away<br />

calmly after sliding a knife<br />

into their backs. The rewards<br />

for that one quality kill greatly<br />

outweighs quantity.<br />

Your references to standard<br />

multiplayer games are right<br />

on the money. After several<br />

rounds into AC:B, those other<br />

multiplayer games almost feel<br />

somehow base and vulgar. The<br />

deliberate nature of AC:B, and<br />

the precision it requires make<br />

each session feel a little posh<br />

and gentlemanly.<br />

Another thing that I like very<br />

much is how the game prompts<br />

a sense of urgency into each<br />

kill, making the game move<br />

along at a quick pace. Despite<br />

being encouraged to plan each<br />

kill, the window of opportunity<br />

is constantly growing smaller<br />

as my prey gains more<br />

pursuers. As such, I can never<br />

just hang back and hope to<br />

get the one perfect kill to win<br />

the game, lest my target gets<br />

poached by others.<br />

MP: We should probably<br />

touch on some negatives<br />

as well. For one thing, the<br />

matchmaking leaves a lot to be<br />

desired. Though patches have<br />

improved things, getting into<br />

a match can be a frustrating<br />

affair. If it emerges that in<br />

a few months time nobody<br />

is playing Brotherhood’s<br />

multiplayer anymore, it won’t<br />

be because the multiplayer<br />

wasn’t good – it will be<br />

because too many people<br />

were turned away by the slow,<br />

broken matchmaking.<br />

Another thing that became<br />

apparent to me the more I<br />

played was how much luck<br />

plays a role in Brotherhood.<br />

Ten minute rounds would<br />

pass by with nary a kill on<br />

the scoreboard, but then<br />

everything turns to gold.<br />

Targets run straight towards<br />

your waiting blade. Your hunter<br />

gives themselves away and<br />

you net yourself some tidy stun<br />

bonuses. The points seem to<br />

rack up without even trying.<br />

You feel totally in sync with<br />

what’s going on and totally<br />

like the badass assassin the<br />

game wants you to feel like.<br />

Does it even out in the end<br />

Probably. Just don’t feel too<br />

bad if nothing’s going right.<br />

A lethal killing machine one<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

23


KILL DEATH RATIO<br />

moment, guy wearing a dunce cap<br />

and running with knives the next –<br />

it’s the assassin way.<br />

Ken, Ubisoft have already said<br />

there’s going to be another full blown<br />

Assassin’s Creed title by the end of<br />

2011, and it’s likely that multiplayer<br />

will be a part of that game. What<br />

improvements would you like to see<br />

KL: Getting the matchmaking<br />

working would be great, of course.<br />

Like you, I spend as much time<br />

waiting for a game to start as I do<br />

playing it. I’d like more variety in<br />

maps and level design. I’d like to see<br />

more open maps, with multiple height<br />

levels. At the moment, the maps tend<br />

to closed in, and don’t have much<br />

verticality. The controls are identical<br />

to the single-player, so the camera<br />

and mobility are merely serviceable.<br />

If any changes to the map are to<br />

be made, the controls will need to<br />

be modified accordingly to allow for<br />

quicker tracking and chasing of prey.<br />

I’d also love to see less emphasis<br />

on character levelling. While levelling in<br />

Brotherhood hasn’t been too tedious,<br />

it is compounded by the difficulty of<br />

getting into a game in the first place.<br />

Plus, there are a few perks that have<br />

a substantial effect on gameplay<br />

that are awarded at widely differing<br />

levels. Getting a better balance<br />

between the levels and its associated<br />

rewards will help to keep dedicated<br />

gamers engaged while still remaining<br />

accessible to more casual players.<br />

Brotherhood has offered quite an<br />

innovative and refreshing take on<br />

multiplayer, and I hope that it’ll keep<br />

its unique identity. For a game in which<br />

I originally dismissed the potential of<br />

multiplayer, I’m <strong>now</strong> really eager to see<br />

what else it’ll offer in the future.<br />

KEN LEE | MICHAEL PINCOTT<br />

Five Ways To Not Suck At<br />

Brotherhood Multiplayer<br />

1Kill With Style: The points you earn<br />

comes down to the quality of your<br />

kills. You can go for the cheap and nasty<br />

kills that net you 100 or 150 points,<br />

or you can be patient and pick up<br />

anywhere from 400 to over 1000 points.<br />

Sometimes a messy kill is the best<br />

option if your target is being difficult<br />

and you just want to move onto the next<br />

contract, but where possible, it’s worth<br />

that bit of extra patience and time to<br />

pick up those Incognito bonuses.<br />

2Watch Your Back: It’s bloody<br />

difficult to track your target<br />

and evade your hunter at the<br />

same time, and basically<br />

impossible when you have<br />

multiple assassins on<br />

your case. Still, it’s<br />

wise to play defensively<br />

when you can. Escape<br />

and Stun bonuses are<br />

a good source of extra<br />

points. <strong>Hunt</strong>ers who give<br />

themselves away will be<br />

marked with a red icon<br />

above their heads. It’s a<br />

risky move to take them<br />

head on, but a well timed<br />

Mute or Smoke Bomb will<br />

give you the upper hand.<br />

3Time Is Of The<br />

Essence: You’ll<br />

always be on a timer in<br />

Brotherhood multiplayer,<br />

no matter the mode. Your target may<br />

well be on the opposite side of the<br />

map to you, so the subtle and stealthy<br />

approach isn’t exactly efficient. At the<br />

same time, running will make you a<br />

dead giveaway to anyone hunting you.<br />

The rooftops are quick, but they will<br />

leave you exposed. Pay attention to the<br />

hunter markers - if none are lit up, you<br />

can run around as much as you like (as<br />

long as you’re not spooking your target).<br />

4K<strong>now</strong> Your Loadouts: You can have<br />

up to five pro<strong>file</strong>s with different<br />

loadouts. It’s helpful to customise<br />

these according to what mode you’re<br />

playing. Manhunt, for example, is<br />

split into a hunter stage and<br />

a prey stage - defensive<br />

abilities aren’t much use<br />

when you have nobody after<br />

you, and vice versa.<br />

5Play Manhunt: Of<br />

the three modes,<br />

Manhunt by far yields the<br />

most XP, for the simple<br />

reason that instead<br />

of chasing one target<br />

at a time as you do<br />

in Wanted, or two in<br />

Alliance, there can be<br />

up to four targets waiting for<br />

your blade. More targets<br />

means more chance of<br />

getting a kill, and more kills<br />

means more XP.<br />

24 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


QUESTIONS & ANSWERS<br />

PROFESSOR PIXEL<br />

We keep him well supplied in cocaine, virgins and donuts and in exchange Professor <strong>Pixel</strong> answers your most fiendish<br />

gaming questions. Got a question for Professor <strong>Pixel</strong> Fire it off to professorpixel@pixelhunt.com.au<br />

Dear Professor<br />

Q Most sequels have<br />

numbers in them, but some<br />

sequels have subtitles instead.<br />

Why do you think this is<br />

Regards, Percy The Second<br />

AProfessor <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

Well Percy, this is a<br />

handy trick for when you<br />

want to pretend your game<br />

isn’t a sequel when it<br />

really is. For some reason,<br />

developers start to get a<br />

bit embarrassed when the<br />

numbers get too large, so<br />

they throw in a subtitle<br />

instead. See such titles as<br />

Fallout: New Vegas (Fallout<br />

5), Assassin’s Creed:<br />

Brotherhood (Assassin’s<br />

Creed 6) and Call Of Duty:<br />

Black Ops (Call Of Duty 7). I<br />

just don’t understand why<br />

they wouldn’t want to boast<br />

about how efficiently their<br />

prolific sequel machine is<br />

operating. Don’t they k<strong>now</strong><br />

that the ladies love the big<br />

numbers Why isn’t Guitar<br />

Hero: Warriors of Rock given<br />

its rightful title of Guitar<br />

Hero 12 The only series<br />

brave enough to show off<br />

its double digits has been<br />

Final Fantasy, but they’re<br />

holding back more than<br />

anyone - if you counted the<br />

spinoffs and remakes they’d<br />

be well into the hundreds.<br />

I’d like to see developers<br />

and publishers embrace the<br />

fact that they shamelessly<br />

churn out sequels to games<br />

every other day. I won’t be<br />

satisfied until I see Halo 21<br />

and Need For Speed 34 on<br />

the shelves.<br />

caLL OF DUTY 7<br />

Would this have been that bad<br />

QHey Professor P!<br />

What’s with these<br />

hardass dudes who can rip<br />

fools in two and eat them<br />

for breakfast but turn to jelly<br />

when it comes to walking<br />

across a wooden beam<br />

Kratos from God of War,<br />

Gabriel from Castlevania and<br />

the Prince of Persia all can<br />

run, jump, climb, swim and<br />

fight like it’s nothing, but<br />

whoooooaaa, it’s a wooden<br />

beam, I’m gonna fall, I better<br />

wobble about like a big girl,<br />

oh no I fell, better pull myself<br />

back up so I can act like a<br />

bitch some more. When will<br />

we get an action hero who<br />

can cross wooden beams<br />

without wetting themselves<br />

in the process<br />

Angry John<br />

AProfessor <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

Thanks for your query,<br />

Angry John. I’ve never tried<br />

walking across a narrow<br />

plank of wood before so I<br />

can’t personally attest as to<br />

the difficulty of such a task.<br />

But I do ack<strong>now</strong>ledge your<br />

point – the wooden beam<br />

seems to be of tremendous<br />

difficulty to the gaming<br />

heroes we so respect and<br />

adore. Perhaps they have<br />

inner-ear deficiencies<br />

Perhaps they wear narrow<br />

shoes Perhaps upon looking<br />

down they’ve noticed a stain<br />

on their outfit, distressing<br />

them to the point of losing<br />

their balance It’s hard to<br />

pinpoint the exact nature<br />

of their problem, but<br />

might I humbly suggest to<br />

video game villains of the<br />

future that they construct<br />

their lairs and dungeons<br />

entirely out of wooden<br />

beams, hoisted high above<br />

some fiery and unpleasant<br />

doom. The poor darlings<br />

won’t even make it to the<br />

front door.<br />

Gabriel<br />

castlevania<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

25


ON THE HUNT<br />

WHAT<br />

WE’RE<br />

PLAYING<br />

Believe it or<br />

not, the <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

<strong>Hunt</strong> staff<br />

actually play<br />

some video<br />

games <strong>now</strong> and<br />

then. Here’s<br />

what has<br />

tickled their<br />

fancies of late.<br />

KEN LEE<br />

Dance<br />

Central<br />

I got the Kinect as a<br />

birthday present from<br />

my wife, and getting<br />

my dance on seemed<br />

the most natural and<br />

obvious thing to do.<br />

Dance Central is really<br />

quite impressive. There’s<br />

a huge list of songs, and<br />

a huge variety of dance<br />

moves to emulate. And<br />

the game’s Break It<br />

Down tutorials are very<br />

effective in teaching<br />

those moves to a<br />

beginning player. It’s not<br />

quite a killer app, but it’s<br />

a must-have if you’ve got<br />

a Kinect.<br />

JAHANZEB KHAN<br />

Final Fantasy<br />

XIII<br />

(International Edition)<br />

This is pretty much Final<br />

Fantasy XIII with an<br />

Easy difficulty option.<br />

I’m glad Square-Enix<br />

finally decided to release<br />

FFXIII for the Japanese<br />

Xbox 360 because<br />

after spending 15<br />

hours with it, I realise<br />

that this is truly the<br />

next-generation RPG I<br />

dreamed about back<br />

when the term ‘next-gen’<br />

was still hip and the<br />

PlayStation 2’s Emotion<br />

Engine was considered<br />

to be godly.<br />

MICHAEL PINCOTT<br />

Donkey Kong<br />

Country<br />

Returns<br />

I’ve been super<br />

impressed by this game.<br />

It looks great, plays<br />

smooth as butter and<br />

sports some fantastic<br />

level design. It feels<br />

as though developers<br />

Retro Studios paid a lot<br />

of attention to Super<br />

Mario Galaxy in terms<br />

of constantly throwing<br />

fun, new things at the<br />

player. Even the motion<br />

controls, which have<br />

caused some people to<br />

gripe, work quite well.<br />

ANNIKA HOWELLS<br />

Assassin’s<br />

Creed:<br />

Brotherhood<br />

I was addicted to<br />

Assassin’s Creed II, and<br />

this one is pretty much<br />

exactly the same, so<br />

why am I not enjoying<br />

it Maybe it’s because<br />

it’s exactly the same. I’m<br />

looking at a massive map<br />

of icons, but instead of<br />

fun opportunities all I<br />

can see are chores to<br />

be repeated; complete<br />

special platform puzzle<br />

areas and find hidden<br />

hieroglyphs. Didn’t I<br />

already do all of this<br />

only a year ago Screw<br />

this, I’m going back to<br />

Minecraft.<br />

JAMES O’CONNOR<br />

999: 9<br />

Hours, 9<br />

Persons, 9<br />

Doors<br />

Easy puzzles, awful<br />

writing, hammy dialogue,<br />

messy cliches and<br />

enormous logic leaps all<br />

combine to create....a<br />

surprisingly compelling<br />

and enjoyable game,<br />

actually. The overarching<br />

ideas and story are good<br />

enough to elevate what<br />

should have been a bit<br />

of a mess into a real<br />

‘take it to the toilet with<br />

you because you don’t<br />

want to put it down’ DS<br />

affair.<br />

26 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


ON THE HUNT<br />

PATRICK LANG<br />

Deadly<br />

Premonition<br />

(Import)<br />

An open world actionadventure<br />

thriller that<br />

appears to have escaped<br />

from the brain of David<br />

Lynch. PS2-era graphics,<br />

awful controls, yet<br />

utterly, utterly brilliant in<br />

its oddness.<br />

DYLAN BURNS<br />

Everything<br />

A lot of catch up. I’ve<br />

spent my holidays going<br />

back to BioShock 2,<br />

Dragon Age, The Witcher,<br />

Dante’s Inferno, Nier<br />

and heaps more. I’m<br />

loving Bad Company 2:<br />

Vietnam and I still have<br />

the urge to swan dive<br />

back into Assassin’s<br />

Creed: Brotherhood<br />

and get those last<br />

few secrets. But more<br />

than anything I’m just<br />

enjoying this small<br />

period of game release<br />

silence, a reprieve from<br />

the weekly avalanche of<br />

truly great games. 2011<br />

looks like it will be just<br />

as crazy, so get ready!<br />

ALEX WALKER<br />

World Of<br />

Warcraft:<br />

Cataclysm<br />

So far, I’ve enjoyed<br />

spending the last week<br />

exploring the changes<br />

that Deathwing has<br />

wreaked upon Azeroth.<br />

My first encounter with<br />

Armageddon involved<br />

me dying from his<br />

burning fury while selling<br />

items to a vendor inside<br />

a building. I enjoyed the<br />

surprise, but hopefully<br />

Blizzard won’t overuse<br />

their new trump card.<br />

BRENDAN KEOGH<br />

Just Cause 2<br />

I’m a bit late to the party,<br />

I k<strong>now</strong>, but this game<br />

is incredible! It’s one of<br />

those rare games where<br />

you think “I wonder if<br />

I can do this...” and 9<br />

out of 10 times, you<br />

can! When I used my<br />

grappling hook to tie<br />

that first speeding jeep<br />

to the road and made it<br />

forward-flip and explode,<br />

I knew I would be playing<br />

this game for some time.<br />

TIM HENDERSON<br />

Darksiders<br />

I’m playing the PS3<br />

version, despite how<br />

insanely cheap this was<br />

in the Christmas Steam<br />

sales. It’s the sort of<br />

game that should be<br />

played on a larger TV<br />

while reclined on a sofa,<br />

even if it feels a bit flat in<br />

the visual department.<br />

That bit that rips off<br />

Shadow of the Colossus<br />

is awesome. Shameless,<br />

but awesome.<br />

AARON SAMMUT<br />

NBA 2K11<br />

I can not put this game<br />

down. After completing<br />

the amazing Michael<br />

Jordan career highlights<br />

mode, which you can<br />

play out the most lauded<br />

of his Airness’ defining<br />

moments on the court.<br />

I have moved on and<br />

started creating my own<br />

legacy: Aaron Sammut<br />

is a 5”8”, 220 pound<br />

shooting guard with a<br />

field goal average of 15%<br />

and is currently hired<br />

by the Orlando Magic to<br />

warm a seat for Dwight<br />

Howard.<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

27


creative<br />

Charlie Loses His Cool<br />

(An Alan Wake Story)<br />

I<br />

’d been lots of places to chase women over the<br />

years, but none of them had been quite like<br />

Bright Falls. Leaving the sunshine for something<br />

approaching the Canadian border was bad<br />

enough, but this place seemed to have escaped<br />

wholesale from a David Lynch movie, with people<br />

to match. Except for Rose, of course, who was<br />

responsible for bringing me to this shit heap in the<br />

first place. I got a letter from her one day – she’d<br />

read one of my books (one of the better ones) and<br />

wanted to meet me. “I’m your biggest fan,” the<br />

letter had read. “I k<strong>now</strong> people say that all the<br />

time, but I really am!”<br />

Also enclosed was a Polaroid that I can’t<br />

adequately describe without breaking several of<br />

this hick state’s ‘decency’ laws. Needless to say,<br />

28 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


it was enough to make me fling a hip<br />

flask into the car and coax it onto<br />

the highway. I hadn’t realised how<br />

long the trip was (a tip for anyone<br />

wanting to Kerouac across America:<br />

don’t) and I fell asleep at the wheel<br />

10 minutes out of town, hitting a<br />

goddamn deer in the process.<br />

I was quite a sight when I finally got<br />

to Bright Falls, bloody from a cut on<br />

my forehead, stinking of booze and<br />

slightly embarrassed that I’d killed<br />

the town’s favourite animal with a<br />

Volkswagen. It didn’t matter to Rose<br />

though, who took me back to her<br />

weird trailer-home-thing, bathed my<br />

cuts, found a fifth of whiskey and then<br />

bedded me like a wild animal. This girl<br />

was hot for writers, and I was suddenly<br />

seeing the appeal of being able to<br />

string a sentence together.<br />

The next morning she said I could<br />

go with her to work – after all, there<br />

was precious little else to do unless<br />

you wanted to join in the communal<br />

anticipation for the upcoming Deer<br />

Festival (I really, really didn’t). So I<br />

tagged along. The place was called<br />

(seriously) the Oh Deer Diner, and<br />

it didn’t belong in this or any other<br />

century. Still, it kept the autumn chill<br />

out, so I installed myself in a corner<br />

while Rose kept cups of thick, hot<br />

coffee coming my way, which I would<br />

generously top up with my hip flask.<br />

The people in the joint had to be<br />

seen to be believed. Two gnarled old<br />

metal heads sat in a corner, lording<br />

it over the jukebox, which they<br />

insisted on using to play Nilsson’s<br />

‘Coconut’ over and over again.<br />

Hmph, I thought, suits my mood<br />

– I do feel like going a bit Reservoir<br />

Dogs on the whole damn town.<br />

Every once in a while one of the<br />

hick locals would drop in to get their<br />

morning coffee and poke their nose<br />

around. Every single one of them<br />

fixed me with a look of distaste, and<br />

why shouldn’t they I had come up<br />

from less than nothing and made<br />

a living out of arranging words on<br />

paper, of course they hated me. Still,<br />

it was starting to feel a little too<br />

Deliverance meets Stephen King for<br />

my liking.<br />

The diner had only three other<br />

occupants. One was a local landlord,<br />

Carl Stucky, a world-class small-town<br />

asshole in a boiler suit who had<br />

thankfully hidden himself in the john<br />

for the better part of the morning.<br />

The second was a vacuous looking<br />

cop in a sheriff outfit who was clearly<br />

a parody of himself. The other made<br />

my blood boil – a cardboard cut-out<br />

of that sycophantic loser Alan Wake.<br />

A bigger, wealthier writer than I’d ever<br />

be, and a complete fuckwit to top it all<br />

off. I’d quizzed Rose about the cut-out<br />

when we came in, but she professed<br />

ignorance, claiming she’d never seen<br />

it before. A claim, I noticed, which<br />

made even the burnt out derelicts in<br />

the corner roll their eyes.<br />

Something was very fucking rotten<br />

in Bright Falls.<br />

I was busily topping up my<br />

coffee cup when one of those huge,<br />

ridiculous four wheel drives pulled<br />

up outside. You k<strong>now</strong> the kind; urban<br />

Holy shit. It was Alan Wake – the real Alan<br />

Wake - and he was coming in the door.<br />

assault vehicles driven by edgy<br />

housewives on their third drink of the<br />

day. Someone emerged. I squinted<br />

through my mildly drunken haze.<br />

Holy shit. It was Alan Wake – the<br />

real Alan Wake - and he was coming<br />

in the door.<br />

I grabbed my coffee and quickly<br />

(though somewhat haphazardly) dove<br />

into the kitchen. I had no intention of<br />

encountering Alan goddamn Wake,<br />

and I didn’t trust myself not to land<br />

a punch (and no doubt an assault<br />

and battery charge) if I did. He was<br />

talking to Rose, mooching around<br />

with that ‘I’m such a tortured artist’<br />

look on his face. Millions of dollars<br />

will do that to you.<br />

I couldn’t make out what he was<br />

saying, but I sure heard what Rose<br />

said to him.<br />

“Mr. Wake” she enthused. “Alan<br />

Wake Oh God! I am your biggest<br />

fan! I k<strong>now</strong> people say that all the<br />

time, but I really am!”<br />

Bitch.<br />

I didn’t stick around to hear the<br />

rest of their discourse. Instead, I<br />

acted like the adult male that I am<br />

and snuck out through the back of<br />

the kitchen. I ended up in the rear of<br />

the diner, near the john. It was dark,<br />

and all the fuses seemed to have<br />

gone. A hand touched me on the<br />

wrist. I jumped in the air, dropping<br />

my hip flask in the process. Looking<br />

around I saw a creepy old woman,<br />

dressed in black with a veil on.<br />

Christ, I thought, if this is what Deer<br />

Fest is going to be like I’m glad to be<br />

getting out of town.<br />

“Jesus Christ, lady!” I exclaimed.<br />

“Just what the fu-“<br />

“Carl couldn’t make it,” she<br />

interrupted, “he was taken ill-“<br />

“Listen,” I said forcefully, “I don’t<br />

k<strong>now</strong> who you are or what horror<br />

movie you escaped from, but you<br />

better back off.”<br />

She merged back into the<br />

shadows. I found the door and got<br />

the hell out of Bright Falls.<br />

Patrick Lang<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

29


OPINION<br />

BATTLEFIELD:<br />

BAD COMPANY 2<br />

Bar<br />

Fight<br />

KEN LEE on why<br />

multiplayer levelling<br />

unlevels the playing field.<br />

There’s a trend in online<br />

multiplayer games that I’m<br />

gradually getting tired of. I’m not<br />

sure how much longer I can deal with<br />

games that have persistent character<br />

progression and levelling. I’m not<br />

talking about MMOs, but rather<br />

games in the same vein as Call of<br />

Duty: Modern Warfare.<br />

When Modern Warfare was<br />

released in 2007, it felt like a breath<br />

of fresh air. It depicted war in a<br />

modern era. There were locales that<br />

mirrored current real-world places,<br />

and you could use current weapons.<br />

But the persistent character<br />

levelling in multiplayer was one of the<br />

most innovative things that Modern<br />

Warfare accomplished. It was one<br />

of the first games that combined<br />

an online shooter with character<br />

progression in an accessible manner.<br />

You could jump in any selection of<br />

game modes, and earn experience<br />

towards unlocking better weapons,<br />

gear and perks.<br />

There was nothing like this<br />

before. I was excited about this<br />

brand new way to play. Suddenly, all<br />

those deathmatch sessions meant<br />

something. There was something to<br />

achieve, something to strive for. It<br />

wasn’t just about your score or kill/<br />

death ratio in inconsequential games<br />

that were forgotten once the timer<br />

ran out. You worked and earned<br />

your way upwards, and you had the<br />

trophies to prove your veteran status.<br />

But every innovative idea<br />

eventually gets co-opted by everyone<br />

else, regurgitating it over and over<br />

until it dies a million deaths. Or so it<br />

felt to me, when other games started<br />

to incorporate persistent character<br />

progression into their online<br />

multiplayer components. Games<br />

such as Medal of Honor, Battlefield:<br />

Bad Company 2, Transformers: War<br />

For Cybertron and Assassin’s Creed:<br />

Brotherhood all copied the Modern<br />

Warfare model.<br />

This trend of character<br />

progression normally wouldn’t be<br />

a problem. I’ve taken my fair share<br />

of enjoyment out of these games.<br />

I’ve spoken at length previously<br />

about the number of hours I’ve<br />

sunk into Battlefield: Bad Company<br />

2. I can also understand why game<br />

companies implement such features.<br />

The second-hand game market is one<br />

that publishers and developers never<br />

directly benefit from. Encouraging<br />

gamers to not only buy first-hand,<br />

and hold onto those games is in the<br />

best interests of the developers.<br />

But it does mean that each game<br />

demands a huge time investment<br />

30 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


ASSASSIN’S CREED<br />

BROTHERHOOD<br />

MEDAL OF<br />

HONOR<br />

from gamers. It requires a loyalty that<br />

I believe many gamers won’t be able<br />

to commit to a single game. Sure,<br />

there are people who only play one<br />

game religiously. But for someone<br />

who loves all manner of games,<br />

there’s just no way that I’d be able to<br />

put that amount of time into a single<br />

game. I’ve spent close to 40 hours in<br />

Bad Company 2, and I’m only at Level<br />

22 (it goes up to 50). I’m an average<br />

gamer with average skills, and it’s<br />

likely to take me at least another 40<br />

hours before I get to the end. I’m at<br />

level 17 in Modern Warfare, and level<br />

7 in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.<br />

How many more hours do I need<br />

But what I find most frustrating<br />

is how these games commonly lock<br />

better weapons and gear until you<br />

hit the higher levels. I k<strong>now</strong> these<br />

weapons are an incentive to stick with<br />

the game. It can be very rewarding<br />

to finally get that high-powered rifle<br />

after hours of sweat and toil. But the<br />

fact that the weapon was locked away<br />

means that people who are either<br />

jumping in brand new, or don’t have<br />

the time to commit those hours are<br />

penalised. I only just unlocked the<br />

smoke bombs on AC:Brotherhood,<br />

which substantially changes the game.<br />

It’ll be a long while before I can gain<br />

access to the second ability slot (level<br />

10), the throwing knives (level 19)<br />

and the poison blade (level 29). While<br />

most games try to maintain a balance<br />

between the higher and lower level<br />

unlocks, some games are woefully<br />

unbalanced. In Front Mission: Evolved,<br />

the higher level weapons grossly<br />

overpower the weapons you start<br />

with; some guns deal more damage<br />

in a single shot than I could with a full<br />

clip of ammunition. Needless to say, I<br />

didn’t stick with that game for long.<br />

I don’t have anything against<br />

persistent character levelling and<br />

progression. I understand the appeal,<br />

and I enjoy it myself most of the time.<br />

There have been a number of games<br />

that I’m willing to throw away hours<br />

I’ve spent close<br />

to 40 hours in Bad<br />

Company 2, and I’m<br />

only at Level 22...<br />

for. But with so many games <strong>now</strong><br />

incorporating this same mechanic<br />

into their multiplayer, I’ll never be able<br />

to get round to ‘completing’ those<br />

games. I just don’t have the time or<br />

dedication. But most frustrating is that<br />

some of that content will be locked<br />

away from me forever. Ultimately,<br />

these games require a lot of loyalty<br />

and commitment, but when you’re<br />

somewhat of a gaming slut, it doesn’t<br />

feel good to miss out.<br />

KEN LEE<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

31


OPINION<br />

Make It Stop!<br />

DYLAN BURNS on the seemingly endless barrage of<br />

game releases.<br />

Even before going through a fairly<br />

comprehensive Wikipedia list of all<br />

the major game releases of the last ten<br />

years for one of our <strong>Pixel</strong>Casts, I’d had<br />

in mind a rant on the subject of how<br />

many games are getting released each<br />

year. Perusing the list for 2001 through<br />

to 2004 or so didn’t take that long, but<br />

as I kept going, it was taking longer to<br />

process each year, with more and more<br />

great titles jumping out at me.<br />

By the time you read this, our<br />

debate will have already taken place<br />

on the podcast. I hope it was fun to<br />

listen to. I’ll leave my personal picks<br />

out of this and concentrate on the<br />

main topic of release volume. Actually,<br />

‘release volume’ sounds pretty<br />

dodgy… how about ‘game flood’ or<br />

‘title torrent’ You k<strong>now</strong> what I mean,<br />

right The sheer amount of games<br />

that are getting released across<br />

all platforms is just crazy. So crazy<br />

that it’s actually getting stressful to<br />

try and keep up. You think being a<br />

games reviewer is fun when you’ve<br />

got multiple reviews due of multiple<br />

awesome games, each of which you’d<br />

rather take a long time to play Okay,<br />

it is still cool, but as far as first world<br />

problems go it’s right up there.<br />

I’m sitting here in a lovely holiday<br />

period of the New Year and my catch-up<br />

list extends back into 2009. In fact, I’m<br />

probably just going to have to write off<br />

some of the larger titles and reconnect<br />

with their impending sequels.<br />

Obviously, making more games<br />

makes sense. It’s a growing industry<br />

and there are big bucks to be made<br />

if you are a publisher of consistent<br />

quality. It’s strange that I would<br />

complain about there being too many<br />

good games, but as I look over 2011’s<br />

upcoming releases I just k<strong>now</strong> that it’s<br />

going to be as bad this year as it was<br />

in 2010. Games are getting deeper,<br />

longer, more complicated and their<br />

tails stretch out vastly thanks to the<br />

implementation of steady streams of<br />

DLC content. My personal problem is<br />

that as soon as I finish a game, its first<br />

batch of DLC is already in my face. I’d<br />

much prefer a break, to move on to<br />

another game or three, but something<br />

within me feels compelled to continue<br />

the adventure if I really enjoyed the<br />

base game.<br />

32 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

JANUARY 2011


When I say that games are getting<br />

longer, I mean in an investment sense.<br />

We are faced less often with epic 60<br />

hour adventures, but there is still an<br />

8-10 hour expectance from full priced<br />

games. Add to that the time-sink<br />

possibilities of a well-implemented<br />

multiplayer mode and stand alone games<br />

have the potential to occupy you for<br />

weeks or even months at a time.<br />

But of course, we live in an age where<br />

nearly every week brings at least one<br />

new title, and for the most part they’re<br />

all worth getting. I k<strong>now</strong> last year I was<br />

getting games and not even playing<br />

them. Or buying two or three games on<br />

a Thursday and having to choose which<br />

one to play first. It’s both awesome and<br />

crazy at the same time and my poor<br />

brain just can’t deal with it.<br />

Which brings me to my 2011 gaming<br />

resolution: to try and be more picky/<br />

selective with the games that I play,<br />

and to try and push down those anxious<br />

feelings as titles slip by without being<br />

experienced. With hundreds of games<br />

clamouring for our attention, I only have<br />

time to enjoy the cream at the top.<br />

This will, of course, mean that I miss<br />

many very good games, but come the<br />

end of 2011 I’ll no doubt have a list in<br />

my mind of titles that I’d like to track<br />

down at a bargain price. Steam also<br />

seems to be turning its Christmas sales<br />

into a regular thing, so I’m sure I’ll pick<br />

up some savings there.<br />

There are rumblings in the industry<br />

about slowing down and releasing fewer<br />

titles. Late last year EA said as much,<br />

hinting that they may plan to reduce<br />

their yearly output but still concentrate<br />

on quality. Surely the flood of games<br />

must be impacting on sales; it may be a<br />

booming industry but even so, the main<br />

consumers who regularly buy games can<br />

only spend so much on it. The Guitar<br />

Hero series, once a billion dollar open<br />

cheque, has fizzled, a result of market<br />

saturation.<br />

With hundreds of<br />

games clamouring for<br />

our attention, I only have<br />

time to enjoy the cream<br />

at the top.<br />

I have no illusions as to my effect on<br />

the industry. Too many games will continue<br />

to get released around me, but perhaps if<br />

we all band together and start being more<br />

selective, that activity will show up as a blip<br />

on publishers’ mega-secret, sale-tracking<br />

underground lair computers. I’m going to<br />

do my best to stick to my resolution. I’ll<br />

let you k<strong>now</strong> how I go.<br />

DYLAN BURNS<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />

33


Issue 14 – Coming<br />

MARCH 2011<br />

IN THE NEXT ISSUE<br />

GDC: Game<br />

Developers<br />

Conference<br />

SO UNTIL THEN<br />

KEEP UP THE HUNT

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!