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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Indie Royale’s Lunar Bundle contains Back to the Future, Cargo Commander">BTTF







That's no moon. No, really, some of the games in the Indie Royale Lunar Bundle take place in space, but none of them appear to be set on - or are even about - the Moon. Still, nonsensical titles can be forgiven when the upshot is a four pack of pay-what-you-want indie games, including Back to the Future and the enjoyably tense zero gravity platformer Cargo Commander.



Here's a rundown of the bundle's lunacy:









Pid: A 2D puzzle-platformer in which you use gravity beams to explore a "peculiar planet". That's planet. Not moon. Review here.

Cargo Commander: A space-based roguelike-like about exploring randomly generated giant crates for weird loot. Still no moon. Review here.

Back to the Future: Telltale's five-part adventure update of the Back to the Future series. It's possible you can see the Moon during night scenes. Review here.

Dungeon Hearts: A fantasy match-three strategy game. Almost certainly no moon. No review either, I'm afraid.





A bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality, but I'd argue the inclusion of Cargo Commander more than justifies the cost. In addition, the three large question marks on the bundle page suggest some extra games will be announced at some point over the game's remaining few days.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Face Off: Are silent protagonists superior?">face off silent protagonist







Are mute heroes better than verbose heroes? Does a voice-acted player character infringe on your ability to put yourself into the story? In this week's debate, Logan says "Yes," while his character says nothing. He wants to be the character he’s playing, not merely control him, and that’s easier to do when the character is silent. T.J. had a professional voice actor say "No." He thinks giving verbalized emotions and mannerisms to your in-universe avatar makes him or her feel more real.



Read the debate below, continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Logan, you have the floor:



Logan: BioShock’s Jack. Isaac Clarke from Dead Space. The little boy from Limbo. Portal’s Chell. Gordon Freeman. These are some of the most unforgettable characters I’ve ever played, and they all made their indelible impressions on me without speaking a single word. In fact, they made such an impression because they didn’t say a word. By remaining silent throughout, they gave me room to take over the role, to project myself into the game.



T.J.: All of the games you mentioned were unforgettable narratives. But everything memorable about them came from the environments, situations, and supporting casts. Gordon Freeman is a great example. What can you really say about him, as a person? I find Shepard’s inspirational speeches to the crew in the Mass Effect games far more stirring and memorable than almost anything I’ve experienced in a silent protagonist game. I was Shepard, just as much as I was Gordon. But I didn’t have the alienating element of not having a voice making me feel less like a grounded part of the setting.







Logan: Ooh, Shepard. That was cold. I’ll happily agree that some games are better off with fully written and voiced protagonists—and Shepard’s a perfect example. But it’s a different matter, I think, with first-person games in particular, where your thought processes animate the narrative: “OK, if I jump into a portal here, I’ll shoot out of the wall there and land over yonder.” In this way I’m woven into the story, as a product of my own imagination. If the character is talking, I’m listening to his or her thoughts—and they sort of overwrite my own. It can be great fun, but it’s a more passive experience.



T.J.: First-person shooters are probably one of the best venues for silent protagonists, but lets look at BioShock and BioShock Infinite. I definitely felt more engaged by Booker, who responded verbally to the action, the story twists, and the potent emotions expressed by Elizabeth... than I did by Jack, who didn’t so much as cough at the chaos and insanity around him.



Logan: But was the result that BioShock Infinite was a better game, or just that it delivered a traditional main character?



T.J.: Booker? Traditional? Did we play the same game? I mean, it’s a tough call to say which was out-and-out better, as there are a lot of factors to consider. But zooming in on the protagonist’s vocals (or lack thereof) as an added brushstroke on a complex canvas, Infinite displays a more vibrant palette.



Logan: Do you think that Half-Life 2, in retrospect, is an inferior game as a result of its silent protagonist?







T.J.: Half-Life 2 was great. Great enough that we gave it a 98. But imagine what it could have been like if Gordon had been given the opportunity to project himself onto his surroundings, with reactive astrophysics quips and emotional back-and-forth to play off of the memorable cast around him? We relate to characters in fiction that behave like people we know in the real world. So yeah, I’ll take that plunge: I think I would have bonded with Freeman more, and therefore had a superior experience, if he hadn't kept his lips sewn shut the whole way.



Logan: A scripted and voiced Gordon Freeman may or may not have been a memorable character, just like a scripted and voiced Chell from Portal might have been. But in a sense, that’s the problem! Because some of my best memories from games with silent protagonists are the memories of my own thoughts and actions. I remember staring at the foot of a splicer in BioShock and realizing that the flesh of her foot was molded into a heel. I was so grossed out that I made this unmanly noise, partway between a squeal and a scream. I remember getting orders shouted at me in FEAR and thinking, "No, why don’t you take point.” I’m glad these moments weren't preempted by scripted elements.



T.J.: You were staring at the Splicers’ feet? Man, in a real underwater, objectivist dystopia ruined by rampant genetic modification, you’d totally be “that one guy” who just stands there dumbfounded and gets sliced into 14 pieces.



Logan: No, I’d be the guy at Pinkberry with his mouth under the chocolate hazelnut nozzle going “Would you kindly pull the lever?” But my point is, I remember what I did and thought at moments throughout all of my favorite games, and those are experiences that are totally unique to me. And that’s at least part of why I love games so much—because of unique experiences like that.







T.J.: I see what you’re getting at. Likewise, a lot of my love for games is driven by their ability to tell the kinds of stories other media just aren’t equipped for. Silent protagonists take us further beyond the bounds of traditional narratives, accentuating the uniqueness of interactive storytelling. That being said, really good voiced protagonists—your Shepards, your Bookers, your Lee Everetts—never feel like a distraction from the mutated flesh pumps you come across. When the execution is right, they serve to enhance all of those things, and lend them insight and believability.



There’s nothing like being pulled out of the moment in Dragon Age: Origins when the flow of an intense conversation stops so the camera can cut to the speechless, distant expression of your seemingly-oblivious Grey Warden.



Logan: Oh yeah, there’s no question that voiced protagonists have their moments. But they’re not my moments, and those are the ones I enjoy the most in games. Valve seems to understand this intuitively, and that’s why it’s given us two of the most memorable characters in videogame history: because I think the developers deliberately build into their games moments that they all understand will be uniquely owned by the players; “a-ha!” moments when the solution to a puzzle suddenly snaps into focus, or narrative revelations like watching horseplay between Alyx and Dog that instantly tell you a lot about how she grew up. Voiced protagonists can give us wonderful characters; silent ones let me build my own.



That’s the debate! As always, these debates are exercises meant to reveal alternate viewpoints—sometimes including perspectives we wouldn’t normally explore—and cultivate discussion, so continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for more opinions from the community.











https://twitter.com/hawkinson88/status/325060938120183808



@pcgamer it really depends on the writing. Some voiced characters are amazing, and some are whiny and annoying.— Ryan H (@kancer) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer In many cases, yes. I am forced to substitute the absence of a developed personality with my own words and thoughts. I like that.— Rocko (@Rockoman100) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer The volume of the protag doesn't matter, only the skill of the writer: hero voice is just one tool of many in a master writer's box— Jacob Dieffenbach (@dieffenbachj) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer The most interesting characters are the ones with a history, with regrets. Blank characters don't have that.— Devin White (@D_A_White) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer Most voiced characters seem to disappoint. I think silent ones express the storyline better through visuals which I prefer.— Casey Bavier (@clbavier) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer Definitely voiced. Having an NPC talk to you directly, then act as if your lack of response is totally normal feels eerily wrong.— Kirt Goodfellow (@_Kenomica) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer Silent! #YOLO— Michael Nader (@MNader92) April 19, 2013

Shacknews - John Keefer

Ron Gilbert's next game may be a puzzler for iOS, but he still gets nostalgic on occasion. For example, just how would he handle a new installment in the Monkey Island series? Hypothetically, mind you.

Gilbert tackled that question in his Grumpy Gamer blog, making it quite clear that he was just talking, nothing more. But if it did happen, he'd make it a fully voiced 2D game, and do all the things they couldn't do in the '90s with the limited engines and hardware. "Monkey Island deserves that. It's authentic. It doesn't need 3D. Yes, I've seen the video, it's very cool, but Monkey Island wants to be what it is. I would want the game to be how we all remember Monkey Island."

Before making The Walking Dead, developer Telltale Games made their own take on the franchise in Tales of Monkey Island. However, Gilbert said that none of those games mattered. "It would be called Monkey Island 3a. All the games after Monkey Island 2 don't exist in my Monkey Island universe," Gilbert said. "I'd want to pick up where I left off. Free of baggage. In a carnival. That doesn't mean I won't steal some good ideas or characters from other games. I'm not above that." The reason for the "a" is that the game would not be the Monkey Island 3 he had envisioned in 1992. "I'm not the same person I was back then. I could never make that game now. It is lost to time. Hopefully this one would be better."

As for going the crowdfunding route, Gilbert said he wouldn't do anything flashy, preferring to keep it "raw and honest." He doesn't want the hype or the distractions, but just to make a game.

"The game would be the game I wanted to make," he said. "I don't want the pressure of trying to make the game you want me to make. I would vanish for long periods of time. I would not constantly keep you up-to-date or be feeding the hype-machine. I'd show stuff that excited me or amused me. If you let me do those things, you will love the game. That, I promise."

Disney now owns the rights to the game after its purchase of LucasFilm and subsequent closure of LucasArts. Gilbert has said he wants to talk to Disney about getting the franchise rights to the series.

Announcement - Valve
Save 60% on The Walking Dead during this week's Midweek Madness*!

The Walking Dead is a five-part game series set in the same universe as Robert Kirkman’s award-winning comic book series. Play as Lee Everett, a convicted criminal, who has been given a second chance at life in a world devastated by the undead. With corpses returning to life and survivors stopping at nothing to maintain their own safety, protecting an orphaned girl named Clementine may offer him redemption in a world gone to hell.

*Offer ends Thursday at 4 PM Pacific Time
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to GDC 2013: Clementine was almost cut from The Walking Dead, Telltale on the dangers of branching a story too much">The Walking Dead: Episode Four







At Telltale's panel "Saving Doug: Empathy, Character, and Choice in The Walking Dead" today at GDC 2013, co-creative leads Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman outlined the ideas that guided their design of one of last year's most acclaimed games. A few of the presentation's topics overlapped a little with DayZ creator Dean Hall's comments yesterday at GDC about the value of context in storytelling and of player-generated meaning. But maybe most notably, the pair of designers admitted that they were concerned "every day" about how the game's story would suffer if players didn't care about Clementine, Lee's companion throughout the series.



Hopefully Obvious Disclaimer: This post includes spoilers about Telltale's adaptation of The Walking Dead.



Jake Rodkin: “While Clementine seems like an obvious choice for a character in a game that’s paying attention to your decisions because she can both influence your decisions and she can be shaped by them, but the creation for Clementine was actually more pragmatic at the beginning. It came from us trying to answer one question, which is: ‘Why the hell would you not leave this group of ass*$#%?’ So we quickly realized that a child that you cared about, someone akin to Carl in terms of Rick from the comics, would mean that you couldn’t just hit the road or maybe you wouldn’t constantly feel like you wanted to. But of course, if you don’t care about that child as well, then we were sort of doubly screwed. Because you’d be frustrated with this group and you’d be shackled to this little kid you don’t care about.”



Sean Vanaman: "Those were real fears. That was like real, every day..."



Rodkin: "Was there talk about cutting Clementine out of the game a week before voice recording? Yes there was."



This example ran alongside Telltale's discussion of the dangers of introducing unnecessary branches to The Walking Dead.



Earlier in the presentation Rodkin and Vanaman explained how Telltale came to recognize that adding too many story branches was a potential pitfall.



Rodkin: “We had to learn in The Walking Dead that the setup leading up to a dramatic moment was going to be as important or maybe more important than the payoffs. It did take us a while to get there. I think with the idea of an interactive story it’s really, really easy to get fixated on branching the narrative just for the sake of having more branches. You can spend forever coming up with cool ways to branch a story and lose sight of what makes the choices that you’re branching have resonance in the first place, which is the context that’s built up before the choice is made--the reason that a player is actually making a choice. It turns out that you can branch your narrative all you want, and that doesn’t make your narrative any more meaningful if the act of actually making those choices have no meaning.”



Vanaman: “Something we learned the hard way.”



Rodkin: “Yes. So, for example... for a while we actually altered the design of the second episode of The Walking Dead so that the result of most every major plot beat in the first act was in the hands of the player at the expense of building context. Every big event had repercussions which rippled out into later in the episode.”



Continuing, Rodkin provided an example of a plot structure they were considering for the game's second episode, but eventually discarded.



Rodkin: “So like, for instance, when you encounter these guys David and Travis in the woods, one of them would come back to you, and one of them would be left behind to become food for the cannibals later in the episode. But maybe if you made a completely unrelated choice later, Mark would be the one who was eaten instead. So Lee has this axe which you can give to a few different characters, only some of them could come to your aid later on. And then when the family from the dairy meets you, you could decide how much of your group’s fuel store to put on the table to bargain with in exchange for food when you go to visit them in the dairy. Then when you finally do get to the dairy, if you don’t like it there, you could just take your whole camp back for a second hash-through of all your options. Which of course, practically ended up boiling down to just ‘Oh, we should actually just go back to that dairy.’”



Jake Rodkin (left, creative director) and TWD director and writer Sean Vanaman.



Rodkin: “It sounds maybe cool on paper until you say all of that out loud. And maybe in another game or another situation it would be incredibly cool, but in The Walking Dead it wasn’t working. We were selling out the reason that all these choices were important for just giving the player the ability to make more choices. Creating all of these events and feeling like you had all this power actually ended up robbing all of the events of their meaning.”



Vanaman: “Yeah, we forgot about context and kind of became slaves to the question of ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if?’”



Rodkin: “Yeah, the more we broke the game down into choice after choice after choice, creating a sort of ever-shifting foundation of context to build on, the more players in playtests and even just the team started to feel untethered from the meaning of things, from what they were doing. And it drove home for us what really mattered in The Walking Dead, which was the experience of spending time with the world and the characters until you knew them the way you would a real place and real people, and then putting those bonds to the test.”



Track down the rest of the presentation on the GDC Vault when it becomes available. Rodkin and Vanaman can also be heard on the wonderful Idle Thumbs podcast.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Telltale saysfable

I wonder if Telltale are worrying about Difficult Second Album Syndrome, despite Fables: The Wolf Among Us actually being about their dozenth adventure game series. The rapture their Walking Dead series was met with puts them, if not actually on the A-list then at least on the waiting list for the A-list. By which I mean they’re on the list of developers who I’d say are on the list to be on the list. Maybe I should do a list of all of them., but to be honest I feel a bit too listless to bother.

The Wolf Among Us, then. It’s an episodic adventure game based on the modern-day fairy tales, Big Bad (were)Wolf-starring DC comic series Fables. (more…)

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to GDC 2013: IGF and GDC Award winners revealed">Cart Life







This year's GDC has been the source of many interesting industry tidbits. But forget them for now, because it also hosted two award shows last night. Shiny, slightly crass and easily digestible in a handy list format - we've got all the winners from the Independent Games Festival Awards and Game Developers Choice Awards right here. Did Hotline Miami's masked protagonist beat the living snot out of the FTL crew for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize? Did Incredipede's creepy-crawly monstrosities scare away the other Visual Art nominees? Did any game not called Journey win a GDC Award? Read on to find out.



We'll start with the IGF Awards, primarily because its the one that wasn't dominated by a PS3-exclusive game about plodding through a desert.



Independent Games Festival Awards



Seumas McNally Grand Prize



Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)

Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)





Excellence in Visual Art



Incredipede (Northway Games and Thomas Shahan)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Guacalamelee! (Drinkbox Studios)

Loves in a Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base)

Year Walk (Simogo)





Excellence in Narrative



Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games)

Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)

Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)





Technical Excellence



StarForge (CodeHatch)

Perspective (DigiPen Widdershins)

Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)

Intrusion 2 (Aleksey Abramenko)

LiquidSketch (Tobias Neukom)





Excellence In Design



Samurai Gunn (Beau Blyth)

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

Starseed Pilgrim (Droqen & Ryan Roth)

Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh)

Super Space (David Scamehorn and Alexander Baard/DigiPen)





Excellence In Audio



Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Bad Hotel (Lucky Frame)

140 (Jeppe Carlsen)

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)

Pixeljunk 4AM (Q-Games)





Best Student Game



ATUM (NHTV IGAD)

Back to Bed (Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment)

Blackwell's Asylum (Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment)

Farsh (NHTV IGAD)

Knights of Pen & Paper (IESB - Instituto de Ensino Superior de Brasilia & UnB - Universidade de Brasilia)

the mindfulxp volume (Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center)

Pulse (Vancouver Film School)

Zineth (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)





Nuovo Award



Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)

Spaceteam (Henry Smith)

Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)

Bientot l'ete (Tale of Tales)

7 Grand Steps (Mousechief)

MirrorMoon (SantaRagione + BloodyMonkey)

VESPER.5 (Michael Brough)

Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)





Audience Award

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)



Thoughts? Firstly, congratulations to Zineth, deserved winner of Best Student Game. It's great, and you should play it. More obviously, well done to Richard Hofmeier for the runaway success of Cart Life. I'm sure many will be surprised by just how well it's done, especially among such a strong list of contenders for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. If you're currently thinking "Cart What now?" let Christopher Livingston's Sim-plicity column on the game fill you in.



Elsewhere in the list, I'm surprised to see Little Inferno getting a Technical Excellence award (it had nice fire, I guess), unsurprised to see FTL nab the Audience Award, and marginally disappointed to see Hotline Miami go back to its DeLorean with nothing. Although, hey, it's still got a chance at a Games Developer Choice Award! Haha, no, just kidding. Journey won everything.



Game Developers Choice Awards



Game of the Year



Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)





Innovation Award



Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

The Unfinished Swan (Giant Sparrow/Sony Computer Entertainment)

ZombiU (Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft)





Best Audio



Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games/Devolver Digital)

Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)





Best Debut



Humble Hearts (Dust: An Elysian Tail)

Polytron Corporation (Fez)

Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan)

Subset Games (FTL: Faster Than Light)

Fireproof Games (The Room )





Best Downloadable Game



The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)

Trials: Evolution (RedLynx/Microsoft Studios)

Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)





Best Game Design



Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)





Best Handheld/Mobile Game



Gravity Rush (SCE Japan Studio/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Hero Academy (Robot Entertainment)

Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)

The Room (Fireproof Games)

Kid Icarus: Uprising (Sora/Nintendo)





Best Narrative



Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Entertainment/2K Games)

Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Virtue's Last Reward (Chunsoft/Aksys Games)





Best Technology



Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online Entertainment)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)

Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Treyarch/Activision)

Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)





Best Visual Arts



Borderlands 2 (Gearbox Software/2K Games)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)





Ambassador Award

Chris Melissinos, curator of The Smithsonian's The Art of Video Games exhibit



Pioneer Award

Spacewar creator Steve Russell



Audience Award

Dishonored



Lifetime Achievement Award

BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk



Conclusion: award show judges really love Journey.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Telltale’s Fables adaptation named The Wolf Among Us, releases this summer">The Wolf Among Us







Back in 2011, Telltale revealed it's working on an adaptation of Fables, the DC Comics series of fairy tale characters surviving in the modern world. As IGN reports today, Telltale's next adventure is now named The Wolf Among Us and will launch this summer.



Taking place as a canon prequel to the events of the comics, The Wolf Among Us follows Bigby Wolf, a humanized Big Bad Wolf scraping a living in New York City as a grim-faced detective. In the comics, Wolf can shapeshift between forms at will, wield his "huff and puff" wind power, and smoke a pack of cigarettes faster than you can say "lupine."



It'll be interesting to see how Wolf's abilities factor into Among Us' adventure framework, especially since its plot involves Wolf trying to keep other fairytale Big Apple citizens from drawing too much attention to themselves. I'd say that might become tricky if he accidentally topples over an apartment building by sneezing too hard or something. Still, Telltale tackling another episodic series is a thumbs-up all around given its successful first season of The Walking Dead.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Origin Player Appreciation Sale chops up to 70 percent off EA’s big franchises">Origin Player Appreciation Sale







It isn't often we see the words "Origin" and "sale" next to each other, but this week is the exception: EA is running a week-long Player Appreciation Sale which discounts some pretty hefty games in the publisher's lineup—titans such as Mass Effect 3, Crysis 3, and Battlefield 3.



Here's the full list of games on sale and their prices:



Battlefield 3 Premium—$25

Battlefield 3—$12

Battlefield 3 Premium Edition—$30

Crysis 3—$30

Crysis 3 Digital Deluxe Edition—$40

Crysis 3 Digital Deluxe Upgrade—$10

The Sims 3 Seasons—$20

The Sims 3 University Life—$28

The Sims 3 Supernatural—$15

Dead Space—$6

Dead Space 2—$6

Dead Space 3—$30

Resident Evil 5—$10

Mass Effect 3—$10

The Walking Dead—$10

Batman: Arkham City GOTY Edition—$12

FIFA Soccer 13—$20

Command & Conquer Ultimate Collection—$15

Hitman: Absolution—$15

Saints Row: The Third Full Package—$25

Assassin's Creed 3—$35

Assassin's Creed 3 Deluxe Edition—$56

Darksiders 2—$18

Dead Island GOTY Edition—$10

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City—$25





Normal and special editions on sale? And they're big games? I don't want to spoil this rare opportunity to enjoy a good Origin sale with cynicism, but it's hard not to chortle lightly at the convenient devaluing of nearly half the games EA offered SimCity players for free earlier this week.
Kotaku

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Is The Worst Game I've Played This YearThe wonderful zombie film Shaun of the Dead starts out with a running gag where it's clear that a zombie apocalypse is going on, but the heroes don't notice. As they walk down the street, we can see obscured scenes of undead carnage in the background, but Shaun is too wrapped up in his girlfriend-troubles to see.



Sometimes, a bad video game can feel a bit like that. You're playing, preoccupied with tutorials and introductory cinematic sequences, not yet fully aware of the jankiness that lurks in the shadows. Eventually, the game hits its stride and its crappiness gets right up to your face, groaning and snapping its teeth.



Terminal Reality's new game The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct does not indulge in such ambiguity. Both the zombie apocalypse and the game's utter badness are readily apparent within the first five minutes.



I spent last night playing through the first couple of hours of the first-person survival horror game, which came out yesterday for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Survival Instinct begins with a weird, cordoned-in tutorial that first sends you in pursuit of a false objective, then puts you into an unwinnable fight against a bunch of zombies, or "walkers" in The Walking Dead parlance. You die. Then comes the big reveal—spoiler alert?—that you were in control of the father of well-known characters Daryl and Merle Dixon, and your terrible shooting and running skills got him killed. It's a crap tutorial even among other crap tutorials, and a precursor to all the crap to come.







width="500" height="333" allowscriptaccess="always"
allowfullscreen="true">

But first! Comes the credits sequence. Which, if you're a fan of the popular AMC Walking Dead TV show, will feel mighty familiar. Bear McCreary's six-note violin motif and string-section dive-bombs push through an evocative collection of rural imagery accompanied by the names of the actors who appear in the game. It's almost like you're watching a TV show!



And then, back to the game, which is very clearly not a TV show. You take control of Daryl Dixon, the man you'll command for the rest of the game. Side-note on Daryl—it's interesting that the most popular character on the TV show is this guy who has no counterpart in the comics. I like Daryl on the show, too. His low-drama badassery stands in welcome contrast to the whining and carrying on of the majority of the cast, and Norman Reedus manages to inhabit the role with a sharp, morally ambiguous intelligence. And he does seem like the most obvious character on the show to base a video game around, what with his signature crossbow and mysterious backstory.



The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Is The Worst Game I've Played This Year



But even if Daryl deserves to star in his own video game, it shouldn't be this one. I've spent two hours playing Survival Instinct, and those two hours were filled with frustration, boredom, and that peculiar form of bleak hopelessness that accompanies the worst games.



Of course, it's not a huge surprise that Survival Instinct is bad. Its promotional campaign has been festooned with warning signs—in particular the fact that they've been cagey about actually showing the game. The introductory trailers made a far bigger deal about the fact that the game stars Reedus as Daryl and Michael Rooker as his brother, Merle (Wow! Real actors from a TV show! In a video game!) than anything related to the game itself. We were unable to secure an early copy of the game for review, which is never a good sign. And early footage that hit the web was… well, it wasn't promising.



So, yes, the game is a steaming pile and an utter waste of time and money. On the off-chance that this is all new to you, allow me to demonstrate a few of the ways it comes up short.




It's very ugly.



Survival Instinct looks and moves like an Xbox 360 launch title, with inconsistent performance and flat colors and textures. On PC, it offers the following advanced graphical options:



The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Is The Worst Game I've Played This Year



Here's what the game looks like without light shafts:



The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Is The Worst Game I've Played This Year



And here's what it looks like with them:



The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Is The Worst Game I've Played This Year



Okay then!




Combat is a drag.



Combat in the game is a disaster, plain and simple. In the early stages, you'll have a couple of guns and a knife. One of the guns uses a scope and is essentially useless, as the zombies are never far away enough to require you to use it. The shotgun is more useful, but is so loud that it attracts far more zombies than you could ever kill with your limited ammunition. That leaves you with the knife, which lets you get into a kind of hilarious slap-fight with a zombie until you kill it. As seen here:










Or, you could sneak up behind the biter and stab it in the brain. You will do this a lot. In fact, the ol' "Punch the zombie in the face to stun it, then run around it and stab it in the brain" trick was just about the only trick I used. Well, unless I got caught in...




The endless zombie group-hug.



One of the weirdest elements of Survival Instinct is the "grapple" move, which happens when a zombie gets too close to you. Daryl starts to wrestle with the zombie, and you jam the right trigger and, if you can get the cursor over the zombie's head, Daryl will stab it in the brain. It's kind of a neat idea? Except it fails in execution. The levels I've played usually end with me making a run through a pack of walkers. And if I get even remotely close to one of them, I get sucked into an unending zombie scrum, stabbing zombie after zombie after zombie, almost always until I die.



Here's a video:











Sweat. Everywhere.



Survival Instinct also features a lot of sweat. Sweat? Yes, sweat. Normally in games like this, when you "sprint" for a while, you'll run out of breath. Maybe, if you're playing Far Cry 2, your vision will swim a bit. In Survival Instinct, you'll start to see a weird water effect run down the side of the screen. That is, I have to assume, supposed to be Daryl's sweat, pouring down the camera lens. Weird! And kinda gross!










(It's a little hard to see in this video, but it's at the corners. Anyway, it's strange.)


Video Game B.S.



Survival Instinct is loaded with all kinds of shoddy video-game bullshit. The levels are very hemmed in and the world never feels reactive or real, and as a result the whole thing feels cheap and unfair. You'll carry around sports drinks that replenish your health, but equipping and using them is a nuisance. Checkpointing is a bummer and there's no quicksave option, and at least once the game crashed to desktop and forced me to restart an entire level. The heads-up display is laughably fug, a giant oblong compass in the corner of the screen that points, surprisingly unhelpfully, to your next objective.



The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Is The Worst Game I've Played This Year



Level design is awful—I'd run into a room and more often than not would get cornered and die. Doors are inconsistent—some will open, but most are glued shut. And there are invisible walls everywhere.



Check out this doozy from the end of another early mission:










I'm standing on the car, the dude I'm supposed to get to is right there, and yet I have to run into the glowing green area to end the mission. Man.




Slightly interesting ideas, poorly implemented.



When you travel from level to level in the game, you'll have to make some decisions about which route you take. You can take backroads, regular streets, or the highway. Each one uses a certain amount of gas, and each one brings with it a chance of a breakdown. If you run out of gas or break down, you'll have to explore a small side-mission area to find more gas or locate whatever part from your car needs to be replaced.



It's an interesting risk/reward idea that falls flat because no matter what happens, you're going to have to do the same thing: Enter an area, dodge some zombies, grab a thing, and run back to the glowing green square. Basically, these side missions give you more game to play. Because the game is terrible, they feel more like a punishment than a bonus.



The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Is The Worst Game I've Played This Year



You can also manage the survivors in your crew, which is another odd idea that doesn't work but could've maybe been interesting in another game. You can give your companions weapons and even send them out on errands to get gas or food. You can also just tell them to "stay at the car," which, if you follow the TV show, is kind of funny, albeit unintentionally so.



But really, this whole aspect of the game is a mess, and just adds some unclear, unfun micromanaging to deal with in between unfun action missions. I'd love to play a post-apocalyptic resource management/travel game like Oregon Trail, but this ain't it.



There's certainly no opportunity to get attached to your friends, and their deaths are treated about as ignobly as could be. Check out the end of this mission (more spoilers, if you care):










So not only does the cutscene trigger before I touch the green box, it ends with a hilariously anticlimactic death scene. Bang! End-of-mission screen! Ha.




Basically, everything else.



The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a slipshod, uninspired mess. I have to feel for the developers at Terminal Reality—whatever rushed production schedule or other behind-the-scenes shenanigans must have gone down, no professional game-maker could be happy with this final product.



There are so many superior alternatives: If you've got a hankering to kill some zombies in a southern setting, play Left 4 Dead 2. If you love The Walking Dead and want to spend more time in that world, play Telltale's wonderful adventure game from last year. And if you want to play a tense, terrifying first-person zombie game that relies on smarts and sneaking as much as on firepower (and you own a Wii U), play ZombiU.



I can think of no compelling reason why anyone should play this game. Ugly, flat, boring, aggravating and often broken, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is the purest form of video game garbage. It's utterly unworthy of your time and money.


...

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