Steam & SHMUPs

“Discovery comes easy when wandering a hall of video games, each churning attract screens. Without arcades, those random hubs found by curious Google hunters such as Thacker were it for the shmup’s exposure, outside of certain studios aiming at the die-hard audience. The genre, and with it the shmup’s myriad of sci-fi, fantasy, and military fetishism, fell into disrepair. The mainstream gaming public chewed on ever increasing polygon counts; the dedicated shmup fan sifted through what amounted to back alley digital dumpsters seeking anything of merit still made with scrappy 2D sprites, subwoofer crushing explosions, and mountainous end level bosses.”

Read my full feature on PC SHMUPs at PC Gamer

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On Xbox Live Indies

“In its later years, Microsoft stopped promoting the service as much. XBLIG became a wild west, home to crude zombie shooters, strange MMOs, Minecraft knock-offs, and lurid anime adventures. This became possible via the peer review process. With both Community Games and XBLIG, eager developers uploaded their games, and waited for other developers to go looking for functionality, glitches, or other problems. Those peers either accepted or denied the entry. All 3,300+ games on the service went through this procedure, both a hobbyist projects and serious attempts at making use of this emergent indie service.”

Read my full feature on Xbox Live Indies at Zam

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Sniper Elite 4 Review

“The main hook, that perverse, commercialized violence (particularly in such numbers), can’t sustain Sniper Elite 4 either. Seeing a skull rupture, brain jiggle, and fragments of each scatter with bullet impact rapidly turns repetitive. Larger scaled stage design only means more enemies and more of this one-off gimmick.”

Read my full Sniper Elite 4 review at Polygon

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On Superman Returns: The Video Game’s Development

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“Scripting problems were first in a number of communication and approval problems with Warner. Problems arose with, of all things, Superman’s groin size. “We sent them the box art for the game and [they came back and said], ‘you need to make Superman’s package smaller. That’s a little too big. Superman wouldn’t look like that,'” says Nystrom.”

Read my full story on Superman Returns at Polygon

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NBA 2K17 Review

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“As great as MyPark and Pro-Am are in theory, both modes’ leaderboards are too full of players that appear to have paid their way upward. Regardless of where MyCareer gameplay happens, the slog of leveling eases with NBA 2K17’s Virtual Currency, which can be bought in amounts that range from $2 to $100. While gameplay skill factors in, high player ratings carry obvious and substantial impact, with less urgency to improve for higher VC payouts. Never mind how this comes at odds with the hard work and success theme of Aaron Covington’s story.”

Read my full NBA 2K17 review at Polygon

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On Madden 17 and Ultimate Team

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“Beginning with FIFA 2009, the Ultimate Team feature quickly escalated into a mainstay, the result of that dream-like, pretend billionaire culture. It’s a distinctly American thing in terms of pro football, if seemingly stronger post-recession when this all took off. Built on the idea of artificial scarcity and tantalizing reward screens, Madden 17’s Ultimate Team reaches a crescendo. Pyrotechnics flare when menu surfing. There are flashing lights, tempting countdown clocks and shimmering gold borders, all reaching maximum gaudiness in Madden 17.”

Read my full thoughts on Madden 17 via Paste Games

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Iron Giant Blu-ray Review

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“For a distinctly American film in style and period, it’s voraciously anti-American in themes. Maybe there’s the key to Iron Giant’s lackluster theatrical performance. Set in the heart of June Cleaver’s purified 1950s, there are single mothers and artistic beatniks mixing with anti-bomb, anti-war, and the coup de gras, anti-gun leanings. A film too early then, rushing into a sensible conversation about firearms mere months after the Columbine tragedy exposed a most American of problems. So maybe Iron Giant was too uncomfortable to watch, or worse, it was correct on the issue before anyone realized. It’s hard to overcome the cultural fear of being in the wrong, let alone paying someone to tell us so.”

Read my full Iron Giant Blu-ray review at DoBlu

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