Monday, May 17, 2010

SOMEWHERE, ROGER EBERT IS ANGRY:It's rare you see a Times review that says what's being review "sets a new standard for sophistication and ambition," and a "tour de force." It's even rarer that you get those words invoked in praise of a video game, but the Times does so today with a review of Red Dead Redemption that may have actually persuaded me to go out and buy a copy at full price.


  1. Daniel Radosh2:11 PM

    Uh... Not saying he's wrong necessarily but it's hardly rare for Schiesel to review games in hyperbolic terms. I suspect he overcompensates precisely because so man Times readers are of the Ebert school.

  2. I have such an aversion to the term "tour de force" that when I see something described as such -- whether it's a movie, a book, an album, whatever -- I am much less likely to buy/watch/read/listen to that product. But I'm probably not the target demographic for something called "Red Dead Redemption" anyway.

  3. Daniel Radosh2:51 PM

    A few very typical quotes:

    I have probably spent 10,000 hours playing various sorts of electronic games. But no single-player experience has made me as genuinely nervous, unsettled, surprised, emotionally riven and altogether involved as Heavy Rain, a noir murder mystery inspired by film masters like Hitchcock, Kubrick and David Lynch.

    But Dragon Age so convincingly, inexorably, gloriously draws players into believing that they are really inhabiting its world that the game easily sails into the ranks of the best single-player role-playing games ever made

    As with Uncharted 2, the new Assassin’s Creed conveys the unmistakably buoyant sense of a team of developers maturing as artists and growing into the full flower of their creativity and craft. In a field as vibrant as video games, titles like Assassin’s Creed II demonstrate just what wonder this relatively new form of entertainment can evoke.

    No game this year will be more controversial and more easily misrepresented than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. That is because it revolves around the most provocative, forcefully uncomfortable and emotionally disturbing scene yet built into interactive entertainment

    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, developed by Naughty Dog and published recently by Sony for its PlayStation 3 console, is a major step forward for gaming. Uncharted 2 is perhaps the best-looking game on any system, and no game yet has provided a more genuinely cinematic entertainment experience.

    The term labor of love is often used to refer to a task accomplished with willful disregard for financial reward. But once in a while you come across a blatantly commercial project that is so utterly suffused with joy and enthusiasm for its subjects that no other phrase will suffice. A product like Brutal Legend.

    By reinterpreting an essential symbol of one generation in the medium and technology of another, The Beatles: Rock Band provides a transformative entertainment experience. In that sense it may be the most important video game yet made.

    That is exactly how a somewhat jaded game hand felt while exploring, gliding and bashing through Arkham Asylum’s lusciously creepy catacombs and secret passages. Batman: Arkham Asylum may not provide the definitive superhero experience, but it is the finest, most intelligent comic-book game yet and one of the best video games of the year.

    Only Germans, perhaps, could make a game about economics — a stylish, intelligent and captivating one at that. Dawn of Discovery is the best new single-player strategy game I have played in several years.

    It takes a lot of gumption to blow up the entire Washington area; render the wreckage in detailed yet almost painterly strokes; populate the wasteland with all manner of alternately deranged, endearing and frightening characters; weave a score of intersecting story lines; sprinkle on a thick layer of high-powered weaponry; and simply set the player loose. Yet that is what Bethesda Softworks accomplishes with Fallout 3, one of the most ambitious single-player role-playing games in recent years.

    It was just another night on the streets of Liberty City, the exhilarating, lusciously dystopian rendition of New York City in 2008 that propels Grand Theft Auto IV, the ambitious new video game to be released on Tuesday for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems...It all adds up to a new level of depth for an interactive entertainment experience.

  4. Eric J.2:59 PM

    Those quotes work really well if you read them as Will Ferrell as James Lipton.

  5. And this explains why Daniel works where he does (a place that requires comprehensive recall of past media statements) and I do not. Though to be fair, of those I've played (Brutal Legend, Beatles: RB, Fallout 3, Batman, and GTA:IV), the praise is pretty well deserved. (I'm not a huge fan of the gameplay of Brutal Legend, but the joy in the game is undeniable.)

  6. Oh, and AC2 and Dragon Age (though Dragon Age is really just the perfection of the BioWare formula used in KOTOR and Mass Effect and put in a traditional old school fantasy wrapper).

  7. That's a hell of a Schiesel takedown. But now I want to play Dawn of Discovery.

  8. Jenn.3:43 PM

    As a fan of reviews, I have to say: that was awesome, Daniel.

  9. Daniel Radosh3:51 PM

    Oh yeah, I love almost all these games (with the big exception of Heavy Rain). Just wary of excessive claims of transcendent artistic and intellectual significance, which I really do think SS throws around a lot to convince his skeptical readers and editors that these reviews DO SO belong in the New York Times.

  10. If I was purchasing a gaming system, should I go with the 360 or PS3 if my interests are in the following:

    * NCAA Football
    * The Batman: Arkham game
    * Red Dead Revolution/GTA IV
    * Left 4 Dead series

    Those are the only ones I can think I really want to get off the top of my head. Any system definitely better than the other?

  11. Left 4 Dead is 360 exclusive on consoles, so if that's a factor, that's the decider. It really depends on what you want--both have attractive exclusives, and the Blu-Ray player feature on the PS3 is attractive (as is the free network play, while you have to pay for network play on 360).

  12. I could probably pass on one game/series for the sake of just having a better overall console/free network play.

  13. Daniel Radosh6:24 PM

    @CW. OMG 360 all the way. it's not even close. I have both systems. Got the PS3 because I wanted a Blu Ray player and thought, "this way I can play any PS3 exclusive games too." In all that time I have literally only wanted to play one game that was on PS3 and not Xbox (Uncharted 2, which is admittedly great). However there are numerous 360 exclusives that are worth playing, too many to list. Plus, even though paying for network play sucks (I don't, because I hate other people) the XBL download store is far superior to the PS3 equivalent.