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Books! They’re like films without pictures, or games that are all cutscene. Old people and hipsters really like them, teenagers think they’re like totally lame, and quite frankly we should all read more of them. There are countless games inspired by books – most especially Tolkien, Lovecraft and early Dungeons & Dragon fiction – but surprisingly few games based directly on books. Even fewer good ones.
Perhaps one of the reasons for that is that a game can, in theory, cleave closer to what a book does than a film can – with their length and their word counts, their dozens of characters and in some cases even their own in-game books, they can to some degree do the job of a novel. They don’t need to be based on books – and often they can do so much more, thanks to the great promise of non-linearity. Of course, the real reason for the dearth is that novels are so rarely the massive business a movie is these days. You might get a forlorn Hunger Games tie-in here and there, but suited people in gleaming office blocks just aren’t going to commission an adaptation of the latest Magnus Mills tale, more’s the pity.
I suspect that, over time, we’ll see the non-corporate side of games development increasingly homage the written word, but for now, these ten games (and seven honourable mentions) are, as far as I’m concerned, the best, and most landmark, results of page-to-pixel adaptation to date.
Homefront: The Revolution sounds exciting. Ostensibly a sequel to Kaos Studios' bland 2011 FPS, it's elevated by a new plot, new development team, and new focus on emergent open world design. Before I get to play it, Deep Silver Dambuster describes a shooter that attempts to capture life as a guerilla fighter.
It, they say, is a world where you are outgunned; where you're nipping at the heels of a more powerful force. It, they say, is a shooter where you'll need to know when to withdraw. Soon after, I get to play a section of its open world. Once, during a scripted sequence, my panicked squadmates tell me to retreat from a fight. I do, but only because there's an objective marker. Outside of this mission, the sense of being the underdog dissipates completely. I can wipe out patrols without fear of retribution, and capture Strike Points with relative ease.
Getting a bit cocky, I decide to throw myself at a heavily defended outpost, and, fair enough, I am swiftly killed. But the rest of the time, I seem to be a one-man army able to kill every KPA oppressor foolish enough to have a go. Based on what I played, Homefront: The Revolution doesn't feel like a game about resistance fighters in a desperate struggle for freedom. It feels like an urban Far Cry, or a military Watch Dogs. Its main inspiration is not guerilla fighters, it's the Ubisoft school of open world design.
Homefront: The Revolution takes place in a Philadelphia now under the control of the Korean People's Army. It features a map, and on that map are Strike Points. Complete a Strike Point, and the camera swishes around the area to show nearby activities and rewards. As you complete events, the map gradually shifts colour to show your increasing influence.
"The basis of it is similar to what you may have seen in other games," says senior level designer Fasahat Salim. "When you take a Strike Point and you unlock that space you get the content revealed to you, but we're not killing off the enemy. There's always an enemy presence in that space. The only thing that's changing is you now have more of a resistance influence in that space as well. What you see is more resistance fighters on the ground, more resistance fighters taking vantage points."
Weapons are scrappy, makeshift affairs that offer plenty of customisation options.
I like the sound of this approach. One of my major problems with Far Cry 3 was the way that, by completing its outposts, I was creating safe spaces where the enemy couldn't move. It felt as if I was slowly eroding away all the fun I could have in that world. Homefront: The Revolution differs in that it won't restrict the KPA's movement—emergent patrols and events will still trigger in areas with a resistance presence. The threat will always remain.
Even within Homefront: The Revolution's familiar template, there are still things that stand out. The weapons are scrappy, makeshift affairs that offer plenty of customisation options. New scopes, barrels and attachments can be crafted and installed on the fly. There's toys, too. Explosives, remote hacking devices and noisemakers can each be unleashed via a number of different delivery mechanisms. You can attach a hacking tool to an RC car, drive it under a drone, detonate it, and watch as the drone seeks out an enemy sniper nest and self-destructs inside. It's a gimmick, but it's a good one.
I hope my reservations will be answered by the other zones. The demo I play takes place in a 'Red Zone'. These derelict, bombed out streets are found along the outskirts of the city. Civilians aren't supposed to be there, so KPA patrols and snipers will shoot on site. It is, to be fair, exactly the sort of setup that lends itself to the Ubisoft-style theme park. The Yellow Zones sound more interesting, although Dambusters isn't showing them yet. "It's a completely different kettle of fish," says Salim. "It's a ghetto; it's where the population has been focused. There is a lot more population present. Security cameras are everywhere, and it's heavily policed and heavily patrolled." These areas are all about stealth, and building up support among the populace to trigger riots against the KPA.
In missions, players will also explore the Green Zone. "This is the central part of Philadelphia where all of the high-rises are," says Salim. "The opulence; where you see iconic things like city hall. We wanted to create very contrasting experiences in each of the zones." The existence of these distinct areas and experiences makes me hope that this is more than just a sandbox reskin. It won't be revolution, I don't think, but, combined with some accomplished combat and fun gimmicks, Homefront: The Revolution could still be an entertaining shooter.
Alec has already told you to play XCOM this weekend if you haven’t, seeing as the full game’s free to try on Steam. It’s “one of the best games of the last few years” says he. Aye, maybe it is, and maybe you could. However. If you fancy real-time smashing rather than turn-based tacticisicing, have a bash at the superpowered open-world antics, shenanigans, and – dare I say – bants of Saints Row IV [official site], which is also holding a free trial weekend on Steam, as is Saints Row: The Third.
SR4 is the best action game on PC, according to John.
Each week on Show Us Your Rig, we feature PC gaming's best and brightest as they show us the systems they use to work and play.
Braden Chan is an Associate Game Designer at Relic Entertainment working on Company of Heroes—specifically Company of Heroes 2: The British Forces, which comes out this Thursday. While his graphics card may be old, the piano, sound mixer, and giant speakers give me the feeling Braden is more focused on an a high quality audio experience than a cutting edge visual one. He was kind enough to show us how he works and plays, and tell us about why he loves Warcraft 3 more than any other game.
Instead of using an audio box to run my inputs through my studio monitor, I am actually using a DJ mixer which provides the same effect. It also gives me the flexibility to hook up my laptop into the mixer and run audio through my monitors that way as well. It's great as I can still control the levels of each device I have plugged in. The Pioneer DJM-800 mixer also has the flexibility to host multiple inputs like RCA, XLR, etc.
I'm currently engaged in a lot of Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Company of Heroes 2, and I occasionally play Starcraft 2.
Click the arrows to enlarge.
My phone or a glass of water.
Warcraft III will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite game. It was one of the first of its kind as an RTS/RPG hybrid. Many of the mechanics that were created laid the path for other games such as DOTA, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. I took that game really seriously and I qualified for WCG Canada in 2007. I just really enjoyed the emphasis on combat and micro that it had. As a player, you really had to create a strategy based on the heroes you were going to use. On top of that, you would build an army that would support your hero. Unlike Starcraft, you didn't really have to focus too much on your economy and macro. I think that is what I enjoyed the most about it; focusing on my units rather than my workers collecting gold.
If you've been reluctant to splash cash on Ark: Survival Evolved, then good news: it's free on Steam this weekend. The dinosaur age survival sandbox is ludicrously popular, and it's easy to see why. When Chris Livingston played he "chopped some wood, punched some birds, [and] pooped out several large, round turds," which sounds pretty great.
Other games are free too: Company of Heroes and its sequel, Company of Heroes 2, are both free for the weekend, and come with a 75% discount if you want to purchase. Mount & Blade: Warband is the fourth game to go free, with 66% taken off the usual price if you like what you play.
In case it's not obvious, these games are free for the weekend only: come Monday you'll need to pay up if you wish to continue playing.