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October 28, 2006

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A very nice analysis, I'm wholly sympathetic with this call to action. I should also note, when talking about crossover audiences, the example of Die Hard. That film did 40% better at the box office than the typical action film at the time, and it did so because its humorous counter-pacing and the emphatic hook of McLian's relationship with his wife opened a cross-over audience of women. Wedding Crashers worked the same way, but inverted. Its that subtle attention to detial that transcends genre and really opens something up to greater commercial and artistic potential - though in games the UI has a lot to do with it.

Yeah - I'm starting to think of this problem as being 'the tyranny of dual analog'.

Good write up Clint, glad Neil sent this link around. You more or less mirror my current feelings, good to see others thinking along the same lines. I'm 28 and while I'll always enjoy a shooter that mixes the default formula into a tasty dish I always yearn for "more" during my game play experience and relish games that pay attention to detail and try and squeeze more out of mechanics and story, etc.

A question has been raised which is will the length of next-gen games that try and do "more" end up being significantly shorter when more thought is put into the developement, mechanics, story, etc? For example Splinter Cell: Double Agent has been toted as the best Splinter Cell game to date...but also the shortest.

Good stuff. Having played a few hours of Gears of War before reading this pre-critique, I get to nod along rather than wonder. Two things struck me early on in Gears of War:

1. The attention to little details in the setting is fabulous. We have to call it realism, because it makes this imaginary world seem more tangible, even though there's not necessarily anything realistic about it. The quasi-classical architecture not only creates something we intuitively understand -- we're all better equipped to reconstruct Old World architectural ruins in our imagination than we are to picture what the wreckage of some futuristic design might have looked like pre-war -- but it has a chance to provoke completely fictional nostalgia every time we engage in the game's core mechanic: taking cover. Rather than taking cover behind generic rocks or unidentifiable alien architecture (a la Halo), we're crouching behind half a shattered pillar or a curve of crumbled marble. This all used to be something beautiful, and the fact that it's now just part of the cover mechanic reminds us constantly of our motivation.

2. The characters completely undermine all of that. Despite some dialogue that helps humanize them now and again (like when your gun jams), I kept getting pulled out of the atmosphere created through the setting by the smart-ass, recycled blase attitudes of these no-neck bad-asses. Sometimes they're just edging up against the line of weary gallows humor of professional soldiers, but too often the actors (if not the writers -- I'll have to replay the first few hours to solidify my opinion) push it all the way into something cold and uneffected. It's a damn shame. A lot of this falls away during the combats, where the shouting is more invested, but I feel like the emotional pressure is constantly being released for the sake of some hollow swagger that's been done to death already anyway.

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