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Why Fight When You Can Run?

It is an idea that most games discourage, to say the least. Combat, hitting things, shooting things, cutting things, breaking things, slaying monsters, just fighting seems to be the big focus of most of the more well known, popular games on the market. I am not going to say “it is a bad message” or “it gives games a bad name” or any of that nonsense, because frankly doing something like cutting down massive monsters with even bigger weapons is nothing short of satisfying. The point is that fighting is the focus of too many games, so much so that even most commercially available game engines are pre-built to handle some kind of combat, and the mass media has developed the stereotype that games are inherently violent. It is a pity, really since there are so many great games I would rather play about making things or blooming flowers or running and jumping.

mirror's edge town

Best start running

I recently got my hands on a copy of Mirror’s Edge, and while not a perfect game to be sure, I found I thoroughly enjoyed it. Its name is pretty well known nowadays, but for those unacquainted with it, Mirror’s Edge is a game about running, or rather moving without stopping. While there is combat, within which you are able to take guns out of enemy hands and go FPS, the game itself discourages it. For one, it is not easy for an unarmed person to approach a group of armed gunmen and take a weapon without taking a few bullets, but more than that stopping to fight breaks your momentum. Perhaps it is because the combat is imperfect, to put it lightly, but regardless of the reason, in a game about momentum slowing down is the last thing you want to do.

It is for just this reason that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Combat exists, but in most of the game, all modes included, it is almost entirely avoidable and unnecessary. In fact, the enemies are more obstacles to your momentum than targets to eliminate. There was something refreshing about playing a game that just wants players to run. Outside of the combat bits in story mode, there is no tension from fear of death, just the desire to go keep moving and never slow down, looking for anything in the surroundings that can be used to move the next rooftop. While players do not one-man-army a swarm of baddies or topple a foe twenty times their own size, doing something like, say, running up a wall to jump across a chasm between two buildings and sprinting through, above, and below a maze of obstacles all ending with a wall-run to a zipline is just as satisfying–some of the more absurd times can be easily found on youtube and are beyond believable.  It is reminiscent of older times before plots gained complexity and graphics started mattering as much as they do now, when all you had was a goal as simple and pure as “get here and do it really fast.” No, it is not the first game with such a premise, but despite its shortcomings Mirror’s Edge is a great momentum game.

sonic screenshot

The original fast runner

In more recent times, less combat-oriented games are not as infrequent or doomed to obscurity as they used to be. If anything I can think of more games that I have played in the last week without combat than with, but when it came out Mirror’s Edge got a lot of attention because it is the first first-person parkour game, and a genuine first is a beautiful sight. I could have used Minecraft or Don’t Take it Personally or something even more detached from combat, but the inclusion and discouragement from combat in the game is one of the main things that inspired this little string of thought.

Bad Co 2: Vietnam’s Achievement List

The Battlefield blog has released a list detailing most of the achievements, reproduced below, which are contained in the upcoming expansion to Bad Company 2. Of particular note are ‘would you kindly STFU’ and ‘balls of fire,’ definitely. Note that there is one achievement missing here, since there’s a secret achievement. Wonder what it’ll be?

Achievement List

Can I Go Home Now?
Bronze/15G

Achieve a team victory on all Vietnam levels

Every Gun has a Silver Lining
Bronze/35G

Get silver stars on all primary Vietnam weapons
(Veteran weapons not included)

Ecstasy of Gold

Bronze/50G

Get gold stars on all primary Vietnam weapons
(Veteran weapons not included)

Doing the Rounds

Bronze/15G

Get a kill with all Vietnam vehicles

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Why Are There No New Maps Or Content For The BFBC2 VIP Program?

Though the buy-new incentive ‘Project Ten Dollar’ was implemented for Bad Co 2, Battlefield fans everywhere claim that the VIP program has presented little value for their money. Instead of getting any new content, the program has taken to re-releasing established maps in different modes–and even simple costume changes, which end up being slight recolors of established models, or the only new mode, Onslaught, have cost Battlefield players money. This has set precedent to the feeling that if Battlefield players want to experience new content, they’re going to have to fork over cash to do it. So, what gives? Well, the Battlefield Community manager had the following to say on the subject:

How come you are releasing map packs and not “new” maps?

“The idea of the VIP program was to make sure that we had a continuous flow of content to our players, to keep the Battlefield updated with new places to fight in. We also wanted to make sure these were free of charge to the people with VIP codes. The remixed maps has worked great for this but we clearly also hear the community request for new maps. Naturally these are much heavier to create from a dev stand point and hence the lead times are longer.”

So, there you have it.

Now, at the risk of sounding cynical, I’m going to guess they have little incentive to release new content because not only is DICE working on Medal of Honor, but there’s also a full-fledged expansion–Vietnam–which will be released later this year. Intuition tells me Vietnam will be their response to our cries for ‘new content.’

Interestingly, other ‘Project Ten Dollar’ iterations–like the Cerberus Network for Mass Effect 2–have managed to churn out a lot of new content in a shorter time frame at zero expense to those in the program.

Medal of Honor is a “Creative Risk” From Which EA Will Not Back Down Despite Media Criticism

Frank Gibeau, president of EA Games, told Develop that what they are doing with Medal of Honor is tied to creative vision. “We respect the media’s views,” he said, “but at the same time [these reports] don’t compromise our creative vision and what we want to do.”

More than creative vision–art!

“At EA we passionately believe games are an artform, and I don’t know why films and books set in Afghanistan don’t get flack, yet [games] do. Whether it’s Red Badge Of Courage or The Hurt Locker, the media of its time can be a platform for the people who wish to tell their stories. Games are becoming that platform.”

Hmm. I was under the impression that art provoked critical thought of some sort? How can you claim to produce art when you can also say that you don’t intend to push too hard? Now, I know what you’re thinking. Patricia, that’s a quote from DICE, and they’re just handling the multiplayer aspect. So what? They are still speaking on behalf of the game, but more importantly, we already know that games with multiplayer components do not have to suffer a complete dichotomy from the single-player. Brink has taught us that multiplayer can be completely purposeful and integrated into the main game: hell, there’s no dichotomy between the two modes, there. Am I to believe that EA wanted to give such justice to the subject that they’re fine with providing us a mindless game mode, which only exists to satiate new consumer demands for online multiplayer? There’s really no excuse for it.

So, then, is it any surprise that they’re proud of what they’re doing? “The development teams care very much about what they’re building, and of course a bit of criticism from the media causes some to get demoralised, but at the end of the day we’re proud of what we’re doing. Brining Medal of Honor back was no small feat.”

And why brave all the criticism for this game? Because they want you to see “what it was like to be in a soldier’s position.” Because that experience is completely transferable in an entertainment medium, right?

Medal of Honor Becomes a Missed Opportunity

I have nothing but harsh words for the people over at DICE today. But, before I start firing my guns, I should give you guys some context:

“I think it is a fair point.” said producer Patrick Liu on the latest issue of PSM3 magazine, on whether or not playing as Taliban soldiers may be pushing it too far, “We do stir up some feelings, although it’s not about the war, it’s about the soldiers…We can’t get away from what the setting is and who the factions are, but in the end, it’s a game, so we’re not pushing or provoking too hard.”

I can’t even count the number of things wrong with those statements. Let’s tackle them one at a time, shall we?

Controversy around this subject is to be expected, especially considering that Medal of Honor will depict present-day conflict. The subject isn’t something most of us have only read in history books, this is something that’s happening right now. And we get to use the actual guns on actual enemies while simulating war tactics in our pursuits for killstreaks. Given these facts, it’s not surprising that some people may have issues with what the game depicts. It’s a sensitive issue.

Still, I maintained hope that the direction the game is taking is some sort of artistic choice–it had to be. Why pick the current war? Why pick the current “enemy?” There has to be some intent, some message, a qualifier of some sort, right?

Hmm. Red flag # 1: it’s not about the war. It’s about the soldiers.

And, it’s a fair enough point. Except, if it’s not really about the war, why bother going through so much trouble to make the game as realistic as possible in the “right” way? It doesn’t make any sense to put so much effort into showing current armed conflict if that’s not the point. Why bother consulting all those special forces? To me, saying that it’s not about the war serves as a deflection.

DICE could have avoided this entire debacle if they just abstracted the themes they want to relay in a different setting or context–after all, it’s about the soldiers. Not about the war. So it doesn’t make sense for them to say they couldn’t “get away” from the setting and the factions. Yes, they could have. In fact, it’s becoming obvious that perhaps they should have, considering that they just got done saying that the war itself isn’t the point. Why bother depicting that, specifically, then?

Unless, you know, the setting wasn’t chosen for some artistic reason, or chosen to relay some sort of message. What if the setting was chosen knowing that it would garner controversy and sell more copies?

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Medal of Honor Limited Edition Comes with Battlefield 3 Beta

Praise the lord, the fabled Battlefield 3 exists! IGN is reporting that the Limited Edition of the Medal of Honor will come bundled with the Battlefield 3 beta–in addition to the extra game (for the PS3), weapons, and camo which we already know the LE will include. Not much else is known about Battlefield 3 at the moment–but it exists!

Update: EA has an official page for the Battlefield 3 beta, here. “Beta offer is contingent on Beta availability within 12 months of Medal of Honor release. Beta will be available for a limited time only and offer expires upon close of Beta events. Participation in Beta requires acceptance of Beta Agreement. Must be 18+. Xbox GOLD membership required for Xbox users. Check this site for further details when available.”

Medal of Honor Beta Ending July 31st For PS3 & PC, August 9th for 360

And the Medal of Honor blog thanks fans for their efforts in helping DICE produce a better game. Here are some of the fixes we can expect to see in-game once it releases:

•    Improved hit detection
•    Breath control for all classes
•    Crash fixes
•    Improved control input mapping
•    In-game HUD polished
•    All weapon stats are now updated in the spawn menu
•    Spawn points tweaked

The full game drops October 12th.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 Mythbusters

Two videos here for you, which put various myths about Battlefield Bad Company 2 to the test. Of particular interest to me was that you can destroy a stationary shield with your repair tool, and that you cannot kill someone with your ATV unless you go over them with the wheels. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run over someone, but they didn’t die: and now I know why. Other myths, like whether or not you can kill someone through the glass of a stationary shield, are also debunked…definitely interesting stuff, though only a couple of things are practical in actual use. The fact that you can snipe someone with that shotty without slugs is downright insane, even though I can’t ever see myself using it that way.

Battlefield 1943 Players Get Medal of Honor Beta on PSN

Good news for those of you that own BF1943, who want to get in on the Medal of Honor action: DICE has just announced that anyone who owns 1943, will be able to get into the Medal of Honor beta through PSN. “We at DICE appreciate your loyalty and are happy to let you know we were able to unlock the Medal of Honor beta directly on PSN for you for a limited time!  All you have to do is access the “New Releases” section of PlayStation Network and start downloading your way into Tier 1 warfare.”

This probably only works if you own BF1943 on PSN, too, though–not XBL. No word on what ‘limited time’ means, and so, if I were you, I’d get crackin’ on that download.

New Tier 1 Interview for Medal of Honor, Hammer & Scalpel

“Within the U.S. Special Operations community is an elite group of handpicked warriors who are tasked with only the most dangerous and difficult missions. A small group of these men acted as consultants on the development of Medal of Honor, infusing the game with their experiences and contributing ideas that make it the most authentic and relevant combat experience to date. In the Tier 1 Interview Series you’ll hear their personal stories and find out what it takes to operate at the highest levels of the U.S Military.”

Quotes of interest:

“I don’t want to read about somebody else, I wanna make history”

“No telling what he had to do to get to that point, to break through that door”

“He’s risking his life, to save someone else’s life”

“I wish the public could have an understanding, of what they do, not just operationally, what they sacrifice for years and years”