Category Archives: Games

Taking Back Control as Adam Jensen

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At the beginning of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the player meets Adam Jensen at what might be the most emotionally turbulent time of his life; he has just experienced heartbreak, he has been physically brutalized, he just failed to protect the lives entrusted to him, he has lost control over his own body, and, to top it all off, he has been stripped of his own autonomy and anatomy. Mechanical limbs and neural “enhancements” ensure that he will never be the same person again, nor will he ever be perceived the same way again. He didn’t ask for this. But he’s now given a new lease on life and a goal to uncover the truth behind the attacks on his employer, Sarif Industries. However, a more important goal that runs parallel to that task also exists: Adam’s goal to regain his own autonomy as a human being.

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THE MECHANICS OF CHANGE

Choice defines the role-playing game: character customization, world interaction and, in some cases, story outcome are expected from the genre. Human Revolution uses the RPG structure to tell Adam’s story of reclamation on both narrative and mechanical levels.

This design works in two ways: first, it plays into the traditional RPG mold by using Adam’s situation as the mechanism driving player customization, and second, it makes those choices reflect Adam’s quest to become his own man again. For example: picking the social enhancer upgrade opens up diplomatic solutions to character interactions, thus steering Adam down a more empathetic and less overall violent narrative path. By using stealth and non-lethal takedowns, Adam becomes a man who seemingly prefers not to become a mass killer. Furthermore, combining the social enhancer upgrade with a “shoot first, ask questions later” combat strategy allows for an interpretation of Adam that is…complicated.

While the power fantasy is still the most common and lucrative design philosophy in mainstream gaming, Human Revolution manages to do something more with it. While HR undoubtedly conforms to the power fantasy philosophy at times, this makes sense if one’s reading of the story is indeed of Jensen regaining his own independence. It offers a different, narratively-motivated context for the power fantasy. It uses its own version of the power fantasy structure, the building of a character into a powerful figure, to develop its themes of self-control.

This is not a typical fantasy wherein the main character dominates everything around him through violence. Human revolution is different from Gears of War. Adam Jensen is not a tank, even with all those Dermal Armor upgrades. Power in Human Revolution must first come with autonomy. So, Adam must first become autonomous again from David Sarif, his boss and the man who saved his life with a ton of mechanical augmentations. After having no choice in the decision to augment him with Sarif’s technology, he now at least has the choice of what mechanical augmentations to further saddle himself with. Furthermore, he has the choice of what to do with those augments. This is what’s called “playing with the cards you’re dealt.” As we eventually learn, Adam has been playing a fixed game his entire life.

One of the most effective explorations of this idea comes relatively early in Adam’s journey. After getting a heads-up from Pritchard about some security issues, Adam goes to Sarif’s office to confront him about it. The problem: the back door into the company’s security system that got them compromised might have been created by Sarif a couple of years before the attacks, when Adam was first hired. This presents Adam an opportunity to directly confront the man who has permanently changed his body and his place in the world. He can finally push back against one of the external forces pulling his strings.

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The argument is like a maze, full of misdirection and dead-ends if he goes the wrong way. Sarif is a slippery bastard and his slyness challenges Adam to stay on point. If he plays it right, Adam will get Sarif to show him the documents that he was sending through that back door. More importantly, he has won a battle against one of the people controlling him.

This is one of the first and largest steps Adam takes in regaining control of himself. Even better, the information Sarif was withholding regards information about Adam’s childhood.

Since the beginning of his life, Adam Jensen has been lied to. As omnipresent newscaster Eliza Cassan says, “everybody lies.” David Sarif, Adam Jensen’s parents, and Meagan Reed all confirm that. His knowledge of himself has been subverted his entire life; his parents, David Sarif, and Meagan Reed have all lied to him.

Now that Adam has begun to push back against the world and learned to control his body, he must continue his two journeys. He will gain further physical independence from Sarif with more self-inflicted changes to his body via the typical RPG upgrade system, but his next endeavor is much more challenging.

CONTROLLING THE NARRATIVE

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Even before the beginning of the game, Adam is given directives from higher up. He goes from taking orders as a cop to taking orders as corporate security and is just a pawn in a greater conspiracy. One of the ways he regains control is how he makes the decisions in the field. The one aspect of Adam’s life that he has unmitigated control over is how he conducts himself in matters of combat and diplomacy.

Adam can kill every enemy he meets or let all of them live. He can also just kill and spare where he sees fit. His actions can come across as contradictory if there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to his killing, but human beings are contradictory creatures.

Beyond his combat decisions, Adam can affect how people perceive him in the world. A violent Adam, who disregards the safety of others, can get people killed. He can also try to talk his way in and out of situations. This will open or close off certain tangible benefits to him, like weapon upgrades or discounts, But it also closes off people, sometimes literally. Greg Thorpe won’t give him shit if he didn’t save his wife from the terrorist Zeke Sanders; Tong, the head of the local gang of Triads, will not willingly give Adam information if he can’t verbally convince him.These interactions are the consequences of Adam’s chosen actions, and thus the consequences of how he utilized his freedom. Positive or negative, Adam exerts his personal sovereignty in their radius and the consequences reflect that.

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As Jensen regains control over himself, the Illuminati seek to gain control over everything. And this is why which ending him choose is so important. There is a way to side with the Illuminati which signifies that him fell under their control, in a way. It doesn’t mean anything Adam did before doesn’t matter; it just means that Adam is still fighting for his human sovereignty until the credits roll.

A core aspect of power is the ability to control the narrative. Those in power can spin the events of the day to make themselves look better and line their pockets. Adam’s main enemy in Human Revolution represents the apex of power: the Illuminati. He fights against his boss, against mercenaries, and against a giant corporation. But a nearly omnipotent group based on a real-world conspiracy theory is his greatest adversary. In Human Revolution’s world, the Illuminati is a real thing that individuals must stand up to, which Adam does. He fights their grasping of power. He fights for power over himself and over the events and situations under which he has been placed and which the Illuminati seek to influence

To me, there are two choices that complete Adam’s arc and two that betray it. The two that betray it are given to you by Bill Taggart (a noted piece of shit) and David Sarif. Taggart, an Illuminati member and aforementioned P.O.S. asks you to blame anti-rejection drugs on the bloodfest that has just occured at Panchea, an ocean-based installation and the final level of the game. As Jensen regains control over himself, the Illuminati seek to gain control over everything. And this is why which ending you choose is so important.. So, choosing to side with the Illuminati signifies that you fell under their control, in a way. Sarif asks you to blame anti-augmentation extremists. Both of these men have been trying to influence the world and him since before the beginning of the game. Acquiescing to either of them sounds contradictory to Adam’s arc and goal.

However, Hugh Darrow’s request does line up with Adam’s initial goal. He wants Adam to simply broadcast the truth to the world and reveal the Illuminati.Sounds kosher, right?

“However,” says Eliza Cassan, “there is another option.”

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Adam could destroy Panchea and kill everybody onboard. “That’s an option?” he asks, outraged.  With this decision, Adam Jensen hasn’t just taken control of his destiny, but thousands more. He has ended their lives and taken their voices. While nobody can now “spin the story,” nobody can make their voices heard because of Adam’s decision. Arguably a monstrous move, but it’s also a move that puts the future of humanity back into the hands of the masses. He takes away a few voices to give more room for the billions of others, who now don’t have these powerful people taking up so much space. After making his choice, Adam reflects on his actions and asks “does this mean I have the right to choose for everyone?”

It’s the ultimate middle finger to the men who so desperately want to control the world and influence its future. It’s also the culmination of Adam Jensen’s journey towards true independence. He disobeys orders from Sarif, Taggart, and the game’s father of augmentations, Hugh Darrow, to make his own bold, definitive choice and solidifies his autonomy. With his journey complete, he returns the favor and brings freedom of choice back to the masses and gives them their own freedom to choose.

Mass Effect Retrospective

The Mass Effect trilogy is Bioware’s magnum opus; an original concept borne out of their penchant for textured characters, labyrinthine plots and role-playing strength.  As the series has grown, so has controversy surrounding Bioware’s business decisions regarding their relationship with Electronic Arts and their creative direction with the beloved franchise. However, it is still mostly revered. As a whole, Mass Effect adds up to a monolithic, highly ambitious science fiction masterpiece; each game taken on its own merits is something special, but all have some little things that prevent them from being masterpieces. With the recent release of Mass Effect 3’s Leviathan DLC, the flame wars have started yet again about the ending, and I figured it was time for me to indulge and describe my overall feelings about the trilogy. Keep in mind this is an opinion and subjective. It is meant to be discussed and debated. Oh and SPOILERS AHOY!

Mass Effect 1

In 2007, Bioware released the first installment to rave reviews and commercial success. As a new intellectual property (IP), Mass Effect combined elements of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Bioware’s own ingenuity to deliver a space-opera of a storytelling quality that the medium rarely sees. The game converted new players into Bioware fans while satisfying their old with vast RPG elements and a fascinating story. With immense customization from your character’s gun attachments to your character him/herself, Mass Effect gave fans one of the first great sci-fi games of the generation.

It really did contain every conceivable part of an RPG; players could level up Sheperd in many different ways ranging from how they fought and talked and pick different classes. Environments were so littered with guns and gun modifications that I eventually found myself in a loop of finding items, dropping them, finding more, and selling others. Other squad members contributed their own talents. Multiple squad members with different abilities allowed players to pick whom they took on missions and customize and combine with to their hearts’ content. Players could customize almost every aspect of Commander Shepard: gender, class of soldier, armor, look, and even personality. The variety that the game allowed in these terms meant gamers had different characters with whom they identified with, and discussions about “who is the best squad mate” still bang on to this day.

The story is what made Mass Effect special, though, and for good reason. It emphasized textured characters and storytelling. The final act alone contains the biggest revelations in the entire franchise, with one mind-blowing twist delivered after another, adding substantial depth to the new universe. Shepard, and by extension, the player, had to deal with very real problems transplanted to space; problems like racism, overzealous colonialism, genocide and diplomatic tension. That method of storytelling is still not a popular thing, except for the few brave studios willing to discuss it in the medium.

But it was kind of broken…

Mass Effect was released early in the Xbox 360’s lifespan and it already hasn’t aged well. Reviews described frequent crashes as well as a frame rate that chugged when things got intense. Firefights lacked intensity and controls felt loose. It played more like a beta. As I played through recently, I noticed all of these things. For a highly ambitious game with superlative storytelling prowess, it carried technical flaws that most of us kindly overlooked; now, however, it’s hard to get through. The inventory itself extends the game unnecessarily for hours because you’ll have to scroll down to drop or sell something, then scroll all the way down again to do the same thing. You would have four kinds of the same ammo mod because the game didn’t stack them, so have fun sifting through that.

And the elevators. And the goddamn Mako that handled like a retarded pig had its feet cut off and somebody just attached old skate wheels to its stubs. I know some people like it, and they are sick, twisted individuals.

It’s only five years old and it hasn’t aged well at all.

We accepted it as the first in a promising series almost like a test run.

Mass Effect 2

What would Bioware do for its follow-up? After Electronic Arts acquired them, Bioware got a bigger marketing push for the sequel, and it sold well. Many consider this to be the finest entry in the series. Mass Effect 2 made remarkable improvements in gameplay.

Let’s stop acting like this series never tried to be a shooter. Mass Effect was an RPG-shooter; the shooting mechanics just sucked. Mass Effect 2’s shooting mechanics, even though they’re not as refined as Gears of War or even Mass Effect 3, are very good. You aim your gun and the people die. You press the cover button and you’re in cover. Adding to the action were memorable set-pieces involving a derelict Reaper and a human-Reaper larva. Mass Effect 2 definitely put the “epic” in sci-fi epic something-or-others. People still dismiss it as “just an action game”, but what’s wrong with a great action game and a great story?

It also carried a darkness that the first game didn’t have. In ME1, you’re thrust into an almost light-hearted space-opera that’s all about sweeping cinematic scale. It really is akin to the original Star Wars, except better written better acted, and not boring. ME2 on the other hand drops Shepard into the grimiest parts of the galaxy. Omega is a steamy, smoky example of urban decay. Poverty and anarchy are ways of life, with one crime lord ruling over it all from her comfy nightclub. While themes of racism and genocide are still explored, ME2 mostly goes a different direction with the storytelling. Through the loyalty missions of the squad mates, ME2 explores much more personal themes like vengeance, guilt, sins of parents, prisoner abuse, and the battle between idealism and cynical pragmatism, this time explored in more polarized forms of Paragon and Renegade Shepard (a hilarious sociopath), respectively.

The game only gets darker as the main plot goes on. The derelict Reaper is a stunning example of pacing. The game slowly ramps up the intensity, constantly teasing plot revelations. ME1 did this beautifully as well, and with bigger plot revelations, but it didn’t do it amidst a sense of unavoidable dread. In the suicide mission at the Collector Base, you are constantly aware that your decisions could lead to your favorite character dying horribly, something that many RPG’s don’t even try to deliver on. In this literal hive, filled with millions of human corpses that have either been liquefied, or are about to be liquefied, you are surrounded by death, looking at the horrors of the base and its haunting set-design. This is the game that established that the universe of Mass Effect can be just as horrifying as it is fascinating.

But…

You know all those cool customization options in Mass Effect? The ones that allowed you to change the kind of ammo specialty you had, the numerous armor types and their modifications? Well, most of them were gone. Bioware went a little too far in streamlining things to the point where customization felt like a tacked-on addition to brag about on the back of the box. Powers were still customizable, to a lesser extent. You had less of them, this time, as did your squad mates. Armor customization was only available in Shepard’s private room, and there wasn’t much of it. I get three different kinds of gauntlets? And two kinds of leg braces? Yay.

And for the inventory, Bioware didn’t streamline it so much as they just removed it. Instead of improving it, they just omitted it completely. These things caused many fans to cry foul and refuse to recognize it as a Role-Playing Game. It is, but it’s a different kind. It emphasizes character choice, not weapon mods, which I respect, but, damn, those design decisions are still baffling.

Mass Effect 3

So after two critically acclaimed, commercially successful entries in their sci-fi trilogy, Bioware released Mass Effect 3 in 2012. The Big One. The Daddy. It certainly spared no time when it came to action; this is the most action-oriented of the trilogy. Everything is designed to be a set-piece. The entire galaxy is literally on the line. Dozens of enemy types and an incredibly adept construction of scale meant Shepard fought Reaper ground troops while a BIG-ASS REAPER IS IN THE BACKGROUND DESTROYING SHIT.

Combat here is the best the series has been. Bioware finally succeeded in ripping off Gears of War’s one-button cover system. Moving from cover to cover is fluid and shooting is satisfying and smooth, even on console. Enemies react to gunfire and will attack intelligently, mostly. Squad powers are devastating, especially when combined, creating a tech burst or that unforgettable sound of a biotic explosion.  The addition of a hard melee also gave players more options in attack and defense. ME3 is a great shooter. Even its multiplayer is good. Who would have thought?

Story makes or breaks the series, though, and this story had its strengths in terms of emotion. Bioware succeeded in giving many subplots emotional endings. The endings to the genophage, Quarian-Geth War, Rachni plotline, and many others can all result in deaths of beloved characters. If certain characters died in the suicide mission, then more characters will die in ME3. You will be locked out of some options that ensure happy endings and kick yourself for screwing up. Playing Renegade will ensure Shepard does some heinous things in search of victory. The Renegade decisions on Tuchanka still shake me.

This story is by far the most serious and grim. Even ME2’s unrelenting darkness doesn’t hit as hard as ME3’s unrelenting hopelessness: life-or-death choices with beloved characters, morally ambiguous choices, and gut-wrenching decisions on handling the aftermath.

So, the combination of impeccable technical proficiency and Bioware’s immaculate storytelling chops combined to make the best, most complete, and satisfying  game in the trilogy, right?

Right?

Well, there’s that one BIG THING, but we’ll wait to talk about that. I’ll just write about the rest of the story flaws. One of which is pacing; by starting the game on Earth at the point of the Reaper’s invasion, Bioware cripples the pacing. Anything you do in the game that doesn’t contribute to the war feels like a waste of time in that world. Shepard wouldn’t kick it at the Citadel with Bailey or Garrus; he would be running around trying to do shit. And in that time, a couple of weeks in-game, Earth should be rubble. Yes, the Reapers aren’t trying to outright destroy humanity, but they are trying to harvest them. And since they’re trying to kill the soldiers anyway, they could have just used their beams to take out the military forces, and then take the civilians for themselves.

Then, there’s that damn kid, a clumsy attempt to pull heartstrings. It’s a cheap and overly melodramatic way to try to gain the audience’s sympathy for a character. What’s even more baffling is that the writers do try clever ways of inciting emotional responses from the player, yet also rely on this hackneyed approach.

This laziness might be my biggest gripe with the game because the game will throw these tricks out at you periodically. The issue that got blown up to the point of Forbes coverage only happens once. But it’s still a mess.

The ending. First and foremost, I dislike the ending. I don’t hate, it, but I do find it frustratingly vague and lazy. I haven’t been able to think of a better example of a deus ex machina. The “starchild” as the internet has dubbed it, is literally a “God in the machine”. It comes out of the Citadel, revealing himself as the Conduit, dumps a load of exposition on you, and gives you three to four options depending on your Galactic Readiness level. It’s a lot for the player to take in and it’s an attempt to simplify a large, complex narrative, which it does. It boils the sweeping scope and ambition down to one mechanic: press the right color. I’ll give Bioware credit for two things here: one, they did an admirable, yet unsatisfactory, job in allowing the player to question the Conduit further in the Extended Cut. Two, there are a lot of high concepts in here. The Conduit reasons, pessimistically, that humans will always be killed by the synthetics they create, so the race that created it created the Reapers as a solution.

It poses the theory that the Reapers and the race that created the Reapers are logically flawed. Many gamers have interpreted this as meaning that Bioware’s logic is flawed in the manner of the Reapers’ motivations. I think it is Bioware giving these omnipotent beings character flaws. There are other Bioware reasoning flaws:

Why does the Conduit look like the human child?

Why does the Conduit give you an option to destroy the Reapers if it’s so convinced in its reasoning?

How did Anderson get up to the room where Shepard got to just beforehand?

Why did Shepard have a gunshot wound to the stomach, when the Marauder shot him in the shoulder?

Why would Shepard be able to control the Reapers when the Ilusive Man couldn’t? Only because the Conduit, the thing controlling the Reapers, said so?

There are just too many lapses in logic and contradictory evidence to invalidate the surprising straightforwardness of the final result in an otherwise cerebral final scene. What sucks is that this ending has brought a lot of interesting conversations, but the guttermouth that is the internet has spewed vomit all over it. And it is a fundamentally flawed ending, but it got so far out of hand, I wouldn’t want to be an employee at Bioware, ever.

As a writer who found himself under the pressure of a deadline many times, I understand trying to find an easy way out to wrap up a story, and that could have been the case here. The Mass Effect 3 ending comes out of left field hard and the deus ex machina was never foreshadowed, as far as I know. It’s not a bad thing to make up a story as you gAo as long as you have a layout of the future, minus the details, you leave yourself options, and you make sure it all comes together cohesively. This doesn’t.

The End?

Shepard’s story is over, except for optional DLC, but there will be more Mass Effect games. They are popular, after all. And even though Bioware’s former fans feel their once favorite developer has been sullied in their eyes with their recent decisions, the Mass Effect trilogy stands as an ambitious achievement in video games, and the craze surrounding it stands as a cautionary tale of fandom and corporate takeovers.

Why Mass Effect 3 Scares Me

Bioware’s popular franchise Mass Effect conjures up some divisive opinions: there’s a group of people who think that the series is a masterpiece of storytelling, contains strong gameplay, and offers a compelling world to truly immerse yourself in. Others, who also like to throw around the phrase “sell-out” believe it is a dumbed-down action game with RPG elements and unlikable characters. I’m in the former category, currently on my third playthrough of Mass Effect 2 at time of writing.

I am worried Mass Effect 3 might send me into the ladder camp.

  • Marketing

Electronic Arts owns Bioware, so they own Mass Effect, and they market the game. There are hundreds of accusatory comments stating that Bioware has sold out, that EA controls Bioware with an iron grip (despite Bioware’s own dismissal of such claims) and possibly EA being Satan incarnate when Activision doesn’t fit that role. EA has made no qualms about marketing Mass Effect 3 to a wider audience. According to Joystiq, Mass Effect 3 was delayed to adjust some of the mechanics for the larger market.

BUT: this could have been in reference to multiplayer, which plays like a slapdash Horde knockoff at best (I’ll get to the demo, don’t you worry). Multiplayer will raise eyebrows from audiences who wouldn’t give an RPG a try.

However, there’s also the sentiment that ME3 will “contain more action-adventure,” on CVG.com. Bioware’s David Silverman said:

“It’s a natural entry point for new players: giant alien race launches all-out war, you have to rally the forces of the universe to counter and see if you can take them down. That’s pretty clear. You don’t need to be like: ‘Well, what about when I had this love affair?’ It’s like, who cares? It’s all out war!”

Despite his generalization, the sentiment is still clear: personal relationships don’t matter compared to the threat of war. One of the most vital points of Mass Effect is to interact with the characters in this epic space opera. He straight up says that doesn’t matter.

  • The Demo

The single-player demo doesn’t offer anything in the way of consequences: you get very few chances to actually fucking speak during cutscenes as Shepherd, but they don’t change anything. Hell, you can’t even make a dialogue choice until after your Shepherd has said several sentences without your input. He’s supposed to be your character, why is he acting like a typical action-game protagonist?

Bioware also pathetically tries to pull at your heartstrings by killing a kid. Why is the death of one kid important in the possibility of galactic annihilation?

Gameplay-wise, it plays like a Gears-clone now. Not a bad thing, necessarily: cover feels much more fluid, and hit markers display so you know 100% that you’re making damage. However, it’s also incredibly linear and more focused on explosions than real gameplay. Biotic and Tech powers seemed completely unnecessary because I had every type of gun to kick ass with.

However, this is JUST the demo. Not fair to judge the full retail product based on it, alone.

  • On Earth

And here we are at my biggest problem. The decision to make the story about Earth. “Take Earth back!” the tagline reads. Why? Why should I care about Earth? For the past two games, Bioware has shown players that humans are selfish, egotistical, and self-righteous and just as flawed as all of the other species in the galaxy. Yet, humans get special billing in the finale. Yes, the game will funnel players down corridors on different planets, interacting with different species, but it all appears to be in the name of saving Earth, a planet we have not visited, nor have had any reason to care about besides from the fact that, aw shit, I guess we should.

Sequels are supposed to expand scope, not narrow it. Mass Effect 1: the citadel comes under attack, the galactic council is in dire straits. Mass Effect 2: Human colonies are disappearing, you must find out why. It connected to the larger narrative. Mass Effect 3: not looking too good.

You know who I care about? Tali, and finding a safe place for her race to live peacefully; the complex workings of the Geth collective, as hinted at by Legion. There’s Thane, the warrior-monk whose imminent death had him at a crossroads with his violent life and his desire to see his son excel as a better (fish)man. And of course, my all-around Dirty-Harry-Meets-Batman-the-Alien with whom I have carried on a remarkable bromance with through two games, Garrus Motherfucking Vakarian.

I care for one human: Miranda Lawson. She becomes a fleshed out character during her loyalty mission in ME2, and her steadfast allegiance to Cerberus makes me wonder how she’ll react to Shepherd mowing down waves of them after they’ve been sent to kill him.

Mass Effect 3 has me in a corner. It’s the finale to a franchise that has touched many other gamers and myself in a unique way. But has that allowed EA/Bioware to count on our loyalty maybe too much, and make foolish story decisions, since they know we’ll buy it. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to tell: by buying it, and beating it.

Upcoming Shooters that could Change Everything…

You couldn’t pick a more over-saturated genre of videogames than the shooter, but in 2012, I see a lot of potential games adding some much needed zest to the genre.

INVERSION

Let’s start with the most dubious one. This gameplay trailer shows a lot of cover-based shooting with generic weaponry, and the story…well it’s a videogame, so let’s not be too optimistic about it. The majority of the trailer shows a generic “Gears of War” clone up until BRRRRAHHHHHHHHHHH! The fucking gravity shifts all over the place…then you get into cover in the air. Still, if that gimmick is used right, “Inversion” could be a sleeper hit. Manipulating the battlefield’s gravity is a definite way to make your game memorable.

FAR CRY 3

Far Cry 2 was well-acclaimed, but it had many issues: crippling bugs and a sandbox that didn’t have much to do being chief among them. There were two territories you would go to, and they each had a handful of side-missions that you would earn money or weaponry for. Main missions and side missions boiled down to driving from base, across a hostile land to your objective, and crashing your jeep. Every damn time.

However, it had an interesting, morally ambiguous story with an antagonist who drops philosophy every time you meet. Far Cry 3 also features an interesting antagonist, one who asks you if know what the definition of insanity is twice in one trailer. Now, in a tropical island with a sandbox approach to gameplay, Far Cry 3 is the successor to a game that made you make tough choices. This might have tougher choices to make. This could be one of the most thoughtful games released this year.

SPEC OPS: THE LINE

Speaking of thoughtfulness, Spec Ops purportedly really does feature tough choices and moral choices that don’t have a stupid meter. This intrigues me the most. A meter always simplifies a game’s moral choices and makes the player have to go all good or all evil with no in-between (Mass Effect). Without one, who knows what Spec Ops will do.

The developers and game journalists say that it is trying to emphasize making the player feel uncomfortable to kill so many people. It also borrows story elements from “Heart of Darkness,” a classic novel that was the basis for the 1978 film, “Apocalypse Now.”

BIOSHOCK INFINITE

The big one. If you don’t know why you should be excited for this, you never played the original BioShock. The 2007 masterpiece set the world on fire with its utterly fascinating world, intriguing characters, beautifully oppressive atmosphere, and a twist that subverted the conventions of videogames. You could also shoot bees out of your hands.

Irrational Games trades the claustrophobic undersea city Rapture for the sunlit, sky-city Columbia. Here, political upheaval has taken affect, with two factions fighting to take a girl who can manipulate the very fabric of time into their control. However, a gigantic, mechanical bird known as Songbird, will kill to defend her and keep her locked away in her tower.

Other literary allusions and metaphors for the present-day are sure to abound.