Culture, Gaming

Destroying the Death Star: the Star Wars games of our generation – part four

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, key art 01 (1280x720)In the final part of my Star Wars games round-up we look back on the last decade of titles, including the oft-forgotten Republic Commando, the family-friendly adventure that started a global children’s craze, Lego Star Wars, the penultimate epic from LucasArts, The Force Unleashed, and look forward to EA’s Battlefront reboot. This lightspeed retrospective has shown me just how strong the Force was with some Star Wars games – and how nonexistent it was in others.

Enjoy the final part, and by all means share your own memories of Star Wars games if you’ve got ’em. I’m @dk33per on Twitter.

Culture, Gaming

Favourite games of E3 2015

Uncharted 4, PS4, 01 EU 23/06/2015 (1920x1080)Best of E3 round-ups: they’re so subjective, aren’t they? But that’s not going to stop me doing one of my own.

Not being present at E3 2015, or played any of the games on display, a small selection of some of my personal favourites seems the most honest way to approach things. What follows are 10 of the games that impressed me at this year’s E3.

Culture, Gaming

E3 2015 news highlights

Nintendo, E3 2015 booth, 18/06/2015, by emr9801 (2048x1152)Given the number of announcements in the two weeks prior to E3 2015, I was afraid the show itself would struggle to offer up many surprises this year. But that didn’t prove to be the case. First Microsoft stepped up with its broadest line-up since the early days of the 360. Then, Sony follow it with a trio of well-wishers’ most wanted. And elsewhere new ideas are blossoming for the next generation systems at last.

Previously, I’ve felt pretty underwhelmed by all three of the current-gen consoles. But this E3 has given me, and others yet to pick up a PS4, Xbox One or Wii U, reason to take notice again. Here are some of my highlights from E3 2015.

Culture, Gaming

Introducing Moments We Remember

Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a time
Gaming at home, Aug 15, 2009, by Maria Morri (1920x1080)I’m about to embark on a journey with this post – and I’ll need your help. This journey will either lead to a honeycomb of new tales and new faces, or it will peter out and be assigned to the graveyard of faded feature ideas. So on that jolly note, here goes.

Real-life story features in game magazines and websites are some of my favourite. They are the ‘My Favourite Game’ articles. The community spotlights that were previously so common on GameSpot and IGN before social media killed forums. The career spotlights in the likes of Develop magazine. Or, occasionally, the one-off posts by guest writers who give you a whole new perspective on a game or genre.


Behind the Ink of EA Comics

Here’s something cool, comic book fans. Creative director Scott Baumann, “conceived and managed all business, strategic and creative aspects” of Electronic Arts’ new comic book imprint, EA Comics. You can see a full portfolio of work on the project at

EA Comics was formed in late 2009. The comics are funded and managed by EA while IDW handle publishing and distribution. EA have already had several of their game adaptations published by the likes of WildStorm, Image and Dark Horse. Presently, only Army of Two and Dragon Age have been released under the EA Comics brand, so it will be interesting to see if future EA game adaptations are all published through their new division.

Empty Salvage

Isaac Clarke sure did a number on the Ishimura – of course, I’ve still not seen it for myself as my inch by inch progress through the original Dead Space has meant I’m still closer to the beginning than the end. I know he must have done something big though as the remnants of his actions can be seen in the new graphic novel Dead Space Salvage.

Contrary to my progress with the game, I wolfed my way through the previous Dead Space comics, so the arrival of a new graphic novel was an exciting event. In Salvage, a small fleet of illegal miners stub across the remains of the planetcracker Ishimura while searching the Aegis system for value material. They board the ship only to find the crew reduced to “bone soup.” Then, the screaming soon begins. The Dead Space 2 team have talked about the influence of the government and the Church of Unitology in the sequel and you can see the seeds of that here.

To my disappointment, I didn’t find this graphic novel particularly exciting or nice to look at. The art is by Christopher Shy and though it’s all very shadowy and melancholy, I found it all too difficult to figure out who was who and what was going on in each panel. The original comics, illustrated by Ben Templesmith, were more cartoonish but its monochrome style, which made way for chilling reds and blues, created a non-verbally spectrum of emotion throughout the book. In contrast, the semi-photographic likenesses and dark colours of Shy’s artwork would be welcome for tainted Renaissance-like lithographs, but don’t depict the action too well.

The story has been written by Anthony Johnston, who’s penned all the previous ones. It’s has a decent amount of industrial sci-fi, ship crew gradually going loco and turning on each other and nasty Necromorph slaughters to whet your appetite. Overall, though you’ll find the same unsettling happenings here, the indistinguishable characters and ill formed artwork aren’t something I would recommend.

A Walk through the Valley of the Damned

Biblical works have always been a source of controversy. It could be the depiction of a saint, a misinterpretation of a religious text or even simply opening a forum for debate on an important religious issue. Someone, somewhere, is bound to be offended.

So EA set themselves an uphill battle right from the start when they green lit Visceral Games’ interactive interpretation of literary classic, The Divine Comedy. The game itself is a bloody and violent affair, as one would expect for a subject matter that sees Dante deceasing through Hell. Working off of the pretence that “bad news is good news,” EA’s marketing department wasted no time in organising a bevy of bogus protestors at E3 2009 and inviting everyone to “Go to Hell” with launch campaign that caused a bit of a stir.

As with Dead Space before it, EA also commissioned an anime tie-in and a six-part miniseries to accompany Dante’s Inferno when it hit the shelves in March this year. I’ve not had a chance to experience the remorseless torment with the game, but I have locked horns with the comic.

Having not read Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, I was apprehensive about how even a small part of it would be condensed to just six issues with any real meaning. But even if the story is too hasty, the art will keep your eyes lingering over pages to take in the decaying scenes. Diego Latorre has captured a feeling of dark Renaissance with his art. Nothing is stable, everything is distorted, deranged and dissolute. For its subject matter, it is pleasant to see panels that capture the divine tragedy at its heart in a way that sets a faint tone for the reader’s own imagination while still bringing the nightmarish human traits to bear.

That said, the moments when Dante slays the oversized residents and gatekeepers of each Circle of Hell is an outlandish concept that becomes no easier to picture after seeing the comic’s interpretations. If you’ve little experience of The Divine Comedy, such as myself, Dante’s Inferno fulfils expectations for a quest of punishment and strife, with clever dialogue from the master-of-all-lies and flashbacks that reveal more of Dante’s sins with each issue. It will hardly drag you to Hell, but it will introduce you to a poem that enthusiasts of biblical fiction (ie Dan Brown lovers) will certainly be interested in discovering more fully.


Informants, Hitmen and Creepy Collectors

For a prequel comic that had its one major plot point deliberately rendered worthless by Mass Effect 2’s promotional previews, you’ll be lucky if anything in Mass Effect: Redemption keeps you guessing for long.

Written by Mass Effect 2’s lead writer, Mac Walter, the story here follows Liara (a blue Asari female with biotic abilities) who is on a mission to recover the remains of Commander Shepard’s body. She travels to the Omega station to meet Feron, an information trader who claims to know the whereabouts of Shepard’s body. No sooner has Liara arrived on the space station when she finds herself the target of mercenaries, as the Shadow Broker, pro-human group Cerberus and the reclusive xenophobes, the Collectors, fight over their human cargo.

At four issues, Mass Effect: Redemption was never going to be the next Scott Pilgrim, but you would expect it to at least provide a brief entertaining run-around. While there’s plenty of buffing and double-crossing, its story arc is predictable and the payoff is, of course, an invitation to find out more by playing Mass Effect 2. But, Feron’s agenda adds some deceit to the plot, and finding out more about him and his part in events is the series’ strongest point.

Art-wise, the miniseries wears its origin’s colours, but would benefit from an even more pronounced, less bright art style. Omar Francia has represented the world of Mass Effect in the same colourful, dirt free way that so many of Dark Horse’s sci-fi comics are. And something about the way he draws some of the aliens and their facial expressions just doesn’t seem right proportionally at times.

Mass Effect: Redemption is a mediocre effort for a franchise that has already spawned a rich expanded universe. I almost wish they had just made the comic’s events playable in the game. Then maybe they could have spent time making a more unexpected comic and left the search and rescue mission to the player.