Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Battlefield 3 Is Scary

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 15 Nov 2011 16:00
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It's hard to feel alone and underequipped when my character can pull a targeting computer out of his arse and direct a bunch of laser-guided missiles into a group of entrenched foreigners. And then there's that sequence that seems to be a prerequisite for every modern warfare game now where you're in a bomber supporting infantry units by firing ludicrously big shells at ground targets who have absolutely no possibility of hitting you. Watching blips on your radar representing someone's son or husband disappear with a plop as someone in your earpiece congratulates you and laughingly points out the remaining ones who are running for their lives. I mean, fucking hell. Once you discount the possibility that this is supposed to be dramatic or challenging then we are left with the conclusion that this only exists for the masturbatory power fantasy. It just creeps me out is all.

Anyway, let's turn our attention to cheerier matters, 'cos I want to finish off with a quick review of an indie game I've spent a surprising amount of time on lately, and that's The Binding of Isaac on Steam. From one extreme to another, because you can't get more underdog than the player characters in this game. It's also one of those premises that just makes me laugh on its own. You are an infant locked in a basement by your insane mother, and you must defeat all your hideously malformed brothers and sisters by firing your tears at them. Well, I think it's funny.

Binding of Isaac plays like a cross between the dungeons from the original Legend of Zelda, Smash TV, and Splatterhouse, all depicted in that rather idiosyncratic Newgrounds art style previously seen in Castle Crashers and Super Meat Boy. On the surface, it's a pretty short game: you cry your way through 6-8 levels and that's the end, but it's unforgiving with it. There are no saves and the rooms become quite murderously difficult quite fast. It also completely randomly generates each level, as well as all the upgrades, items and bosses, which gives it a surprisingly addictive quality. One touch I particularly like is that with each upgrade various permanent additions and mutations are added to your character sprite until you're just as monstrous as the things you fight. Very Nietzsche.

I'd say it's got some balance issues. I've only managed to complete it twice and on both occasions it was down to acquiring random upgrades that were just completely overpowered. There's one that lets you fire unlimited lasers in any direction that instakills virtually everything and it's like removing the baddies from the screen with a windscreen wiper. Still, it's not a deal breaker.

You know, give me a chance to take this back after the year's Christmas release schedule has dried up, but sometimes I seriously consider putting my money where my mouth is, retiring from reviewing triple-A big-commerce games altogether and concentrating entirely on indie releases, because that seems to be the only avenue where anything interesting happens. I have a strong suspicion that major releases are only going to head further down the road of sightseeing tours. But imagine what the developers of The Binding Of Isaac might come up with if someone took a risk and gave them creative control, funding and a team to make something on a cutting edge level. You probably wouldn't even get through the opening scroll without throwing up.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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