Xbox Live is brilliant. Yeah, I know I'm a latecomer to this, but I held out on the next-gen tsunami until this wave of awesome launch titles has crushed me in the tidal fortitude of an endlessly playable holiday line-up. Within the first taste of depth, in the Bioshock demo, I explored the post-objectivist underwater apocalypse that was so beautifully rendered, populated, to the point of being a recontruction, that I haven't been this immersed in the wetting of my panties since… well… just since. I await this game as a leviathan in the famished bathysphere of the game-narrative abyss, wherein we loath surface-dwellers and their shallow byline plots.
Bioshock, save me!
So yeah, I played alot in the last few days. Crackdown, Call of Duty 2, Lost Planet, and the demos for Stranglehold, The Darkness, and Geometry Wars (which is like Smash TV deconstructed by Malevich into a supremacist "essence" of addiction symbology, with my skill level better described as abstract death-on-death). The first five were, in order, crack cocaine, cinematic until you played the idiotic multiplayer, overly-japanese eye candy, bangbangbang, and bangbangbang in the dark.
This smorsgabord was especially exciting for me given its accessibility. I mean, I could just download a shit-ton of random demos and stuff, turn off the 360, come back home after work and I have all the titles mentioned in water-cooler talk awaiting my perusal. And Stranglehold was more fun than I'm willing to admit as well; having long despised John Woo of being reductively derivative of his own work, I found his game was a satisfying Max Payne knock-off with lots more bullets, table-sliding, bullet-dodging, and just sheer mandarin murderin' madness.
Our project got extended, and I sorely miss longer gaming nights, but such is life. Swim with it.
Even since the Tokyo Game Show, I haven't seen much that was mindblowing in terms of console graphics. Sure, Bioshock gave me the chills, but its sub-aquarium art deco style and pitiless monster screams are working off the advantage of breath-taking art direction, and the echoes of the primal fear found, of all places, in a video game called System Shock. That's plain unfair.
To date, the System Shock games have been the only ones to scare the beejesus outta me, unless you count playing the marine in Alien Vs. Predator and facing hordes of wall-slithering low-poly xenomorphs with nothing but a desperate assault rifle and the para-sympathetic beep of an astigmatic motion detector throwing its hindsight into the dark of the tunnels. But that was fear, not the transformation of horror to terror you get running from Shodan's cyber-midwives birthing aberrated monstrosities while begging you to kill them. If Bioshock brings that feeling back, and under the new claustrophobic pressures of its ocean sunk carnivale screaming with rusting valves, leaking walls, and antique midways, well, it'll be a hell of a game.
Ok, so maybe I also jumped a bit at that first monster in Alone in the Dark simultaneously breaking the silence and the bookshelf I pushed over the suspicious hole, but c'mon, we were kids then. Regardless, that wasn't the kind of goosebumps I care for, and it still isn't today. No, the goosebumps I want are the kind I get when I watch this Alan Wake trailer.
From the folks who gave us the psychotic supercomic narratives of the loquacious Max Payne comes something of the same literary vein, a tale of a writer in Alaska with strange circumstances about. Let me tell ya, I've been there, and that is EXACTLY how Alaska should look in a game. It has all the isolation, the empowering and humbling expanse, and the sentient daylight that tricks the brain and tires the soul. It's gorgeous. And moreover, it drops my jaw without rockets, robots, aliens, or some iteration of WWII or Special Forces.