Sunday, January 22, 2012

That Other XCOM

When XCOM: Enemy Unknown (made by Firaxis Games) was announced via the latest issue of Game Informer magazine, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief as the gaming world realised that they would no longer have to worry about 2K Marin's FPS reboot of the series. Instead of complaining about how 2K Marin's title wasn't true to the franchise or how the only similarities it shared were its name and some enemies, gamers the world over could instead focus their attention on the newly announced strategy title and forget about the other one. The only problem is, they didn’t forget or move on and instead continue to take every opportunity they can get to dismiss 2K Marin's title and rub it into the ground.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter would be well aware of how much this bothers me. I’ve lost count how many times I have vented my frustrations over the attitudes people have towards 2K Marin's game, simply because it is an issue that continues to come up. In some respects, I could understand it back when only the FPS was known about -- I respect the opinions of those loyal to the franchise, even if I disagree with their thoughts on the new game -- but now, when there are two XCOM titles on the way, I think it is frankly bullshit.

My problem isn't that people aren't interested in 2K Marin's game -- either because it isn't a strategy game or because it doesn't appeal to them (everyone is entitled to their own opinion) -- but, rather, that everyone appears to be so willing to dismiss the title and not give it a chance. Practically ever since it was announced people have despised the FPS reboot, lamenting the different direction it is taking and expressing concern over what it may or may not mean for the series overall. This bothers me not because I disagree with these people, but because they are making their decision on a game that hasn't come out yet (and won't for some time) and which hasn't had the opportunity to prove itself. We still know so little about what 2K Marin are doing with the title and it remains unclear just how faithful (or not) it will be to the franchise as a whole, despite claims to the contrary, so I think it is simply unfair to be talking about the game in this way. For all we know the game could be fantastic, something that could almost be assured given that 2K Marin made BioShock 2 which was, in a lot of ways, better than the original classic. I'm not saying that their version of XCOM will or won't be a great game, but the fact that we don't know yet means that we shouldn't be passing judgement, which is my primary issue here.

And, ignoring the actual game, the strategy title recently revealed or the franchise as a whole for a moment, what about 2K Marin themselves? How do they feel about having to hear about all of this negativity and arrogance (let's be honest here) with regards to their title, something they are no doubt putting a lot of work into and something they would probably view as a labour of love? Furthermore, how do they feel knowing that a game they have been working years on has now been so easily dismissed while XCOM: Enemy Unknown is lavished with praise and interest? That's my main qualm with this entire issue: the way in which these attitudes are affecting development, and the way it may or may not be impacting the team. Whether I agree with the approach or not, it is fair enough to be uninterested in a game and to ignore it in favour of other ones, but when you are sitting there insulting one because another is appeasing your own personal interests, then I have a problem. A serious problem. 2K Marin's morale is probably terrible right now because of all of the crap, most of it unnecessary, their game is receiving at the moment; by not thinking about what they are saying and not considering the consequences, the people dismissing 2K Marin’s interpretation of the franchise are giving the game a reputation it doesn't deserve, and treating the people behind it -- talented people who have families to consider and lives to maintain -- like crap. That isn't right, no matter how you feel about a product or a franchise, or how loyal you happen to be. It is also a direct example of how people can be biased and ignorant, and it also represents the sense of entitlement and privilege some players have -- whether they realise it or not -- when it comes to certain elements of their gaming passion and/or interest. People need to stop being so selfish and dismissive, grow up, and give videogames that are in development a chance. If the final product happens to be a bad game or it has serious flaws, then absolutely go ahead and criticise it so that both 2K Marin and the industry as a whole can learn from it, but until then stop judging something you know nothing about and stop whining when something doesn’t satisfy your every need. 

Unfortunately, I feel like the attitudes will only continue right up until both XCOM titles in development are released. Everyone is happy about the fact that 2K Marin’s title was delayed until 2013 and that Firaxis’ version will be out soon. When people like the creator of the original game, Julian Gollop, are pleased with the upcoming strategy title and believes the FPS one is a “great shame”, the problem is only exacerbated even more because it is the kind of thing that can be used as justification for dismissing 2K Marin’s efforts. And, when you consider the fact that the enthusiast press itself already refers to 2K Marin’s title as ‘That Other XCOM’ (as demonstrated by Game Informer immediately after they revealed Firaxis’ game), you realise that the FPS reboot’s fate has already been decided: no one cares about it anymore, those who did are probably more interested in the strategy game, and as a result 2K Marin (or more accurately, Take Two Interactive) may as well just cancel their title and make something else.

But I seriously hope they don’t because I care about it and I am definitely interested to see where it goes. My sole opinion doesn’t matter, of course, but I still hope the game does see release and that it and 2K Marin’s efforts are given the proper consideration that they deserve.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Year That Was 2011: Games Edition

Now that we have looked back at what took place on the blog, let’s shift focus and talk about the games that I played during 2011. It was a quiet and subdued year for me, the intention right from the beginning being to hold back on purchases and only really buy the games that I deemed to be ‘must-have’. This led to a focus on just a handful of titles that I eventually began referring to as the “Big Four”. Ultimately that figure decreased to three as one title didn’t come out at all (The Last Guardian), but the sentiment as a whole describes the year that I had perfectly, and it alludes to the approach that I had throughout it. It should also be noted that this post is replacing any ‘Games Of The Year’ posts I would have otherwise done, as I do not feel that I played enough of 2011’s range of titles to truly offer an informed opinion or to highlight the things that were done right. So, without further ado, the videogames that I got to play in 2011.

Test Drive Unlimited 2

Despite clearly being a massive fan of the racing genre, I always felt a little guilty for having this title so high on my anticipation list for 2011. For whatever reason it just felt ‘wrong’ to be excited for this game when better titles (supposedly) were on the horizon like a new Zelda and Forza Motorsport 4. Yet high it was and the reasons for it were simple: I absolutely adored the original game because it enabled me to just pick a car and drive it, wherever and however I wanted to. To be able to experience that pleasure again with improved visuals, new additions like weather and off-road racing and on a much larger scale thanks to the inclusion of two islands rather than one was incredibly enticing for me, and I simply couldn’t wait to try Test Drive Unlimited 2 when it released in February. It was the first of my “big four” games and, in hindsight, it was the right choice as it absolutely delivered on the expectations I held for it.

Having said that, however, it was also a huge disappointment -- not only was it flawed it was incredibly inconsistent, too, making for an insanely fun game when it got everything right and a horribly frustrating one when it got everything wrong. It took far too long to be able to play the game as I intended -- using it for the pleasure of just driving -- thanks to a ridiculous (not to mention unnecessary) story mode; the dirt races and routes felt tacked on despite still being rather fun; and new features such as weather were nothing more than superficial add-ons at best. I have still lost countless hours playing it and just driving freely, so my experience with it has been mostly positive, but there are some serious issues with the game, too, and for the most part they are inexcusable.

I will be covering Test Drive Unlimited 2 in a little more detail in the near future, so keep an eye out for that.

L.A. Noire

The second of my “big four”, L.A. Noire was easily my most anticipated game of the year. Sure, Rockstar’s involvement with it was certainly a big factor but I was more intrigued by how different it appeared to be, and by Team Bondi’s overall ambition with the title. A meticulously recreated 1940s version of Los Angeles to inhabit; a protagonist who is a cop rather than the usual criminals leading other games; and a game in which conversations and discovery (IE: the interrogations and investigations) are the most prominent parts, not shooting or driving or any of the usual suspects? Yes please!

Unfortunately my excitement didn’t pay off as much as I would have liked as the game was somewhat of a let-down. It was still good and I am still very glad that I got to experience it, but it definitely has its problems and some of its main components conflict with each other more than they should, too, which is unfortunate. And the game’s rendition of LA, the feature I was looking forward to the most? Very impressive, no doubt about that, but also very redundant as it is nothing more than a dull and empty space.

Ultimately the game was overshadowed by the controversy that followed its release involving Team Bondi, Brendan McNamara and the eventual (perhaps even inevitable) closure of the Sydney-based studio. Despite these real life dramas and the inconsistencies that L.A. Noire exhibited, I still enjoyed the game and still firmly believe that it was an important title and certainly one worth investigating. It could have been so much more than it actually was, but what was there was still worth the time I put into it.

I plan to revisit L.A. Noire in the near future to try and knuckle down on my thoughts, as it definitely comes across as a game that I need to discuss here on the blog.

Portal 2

In all honesty I wasn’t expecting to be playing Portal 2 this year. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in it or didn’t want to play, it just happened to be a game that I was prepared to wait for like so many of the other big 2011 titles. However, shortly after I purchased my gaming PC I was lucky enough to get the game and, in typical Valve style, it delivered on all expectations.

How do you surpass perfection? By continuing to be perfect, that’s how -- precisely what Portal 2 did. There’s no denying that the sequel had some big shoes to fill and I am sure it would be fair to say that most people out there had their doubts, despite the game being made by Valve, and yet it nailed everything that it set out to do. Objectively, it is the game of the year purely because of how skillfully and elegantly it achieved its goals, but subjectively it would be a strong contender for that nod because it is just simply fantastic. I had an absolute blast playing around with the new mechanics and found myself, once again, baffled by some of the genius level design and clever puzzles. It has one of the best videogame endings of all time, I think, and personally one of the best openings, too -- I was absolutely hooked as soon as I heard how much Wheatley had to say when I left the game idling, and when I was ready to actually play I couldn’t because I was in hysterics. Humour in videogames is still seldom seen, unfortunately, so I absolutely cherish the funny moments that the entirety of Portal 2 gave to me.

F1 2011

After being blown away by F1 2010 and inspired to do things like my Living The Life series, it was inevitable that this game would be a key title from 2011’s lineup. What you might not have known, however, was that I was prepared to hold off buying it until perhaps even this year due to the aforementioned desire to hold back on my purchases. That was until I found myself in possession of a review copy, anyway.

F1 2011 is hard to comment on because, aside from playing it enough to be able to write the review, I have barely touched it -- not when compared to the amount of hours I have put into its predecessor F1 2010, anyway. What I did play, however, demonstrated to me that the game was absolutely an improvement with some great refinement being made by Codemasters, and key new features like the inclusion of the Safety Car being thoroughly welcome. It wasn’t just an annual release ready to cash-in on the brand or license, it was a genuine successor that illustrated that F1 2010 wasn’t just a one-trick pony, and that Codies had a direction that they wanted to go with the series. Whether it can sustain everything in its current form for another go with F1 2012 later this year remains to be seen but, right now at least, F1 2011 is another fantastic Formula 1 and racing game, and the franchise as a whole is well on its way to being one of the genre’s finest.

I will be covering F1 2011 extensively this year, as well as using it for the second season of my role-playing story. I refuse to focus on the title until I have covered F1 2010, however, so expect musings on that game in the very near future. 

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

The third (and final) game of my “big four”, Uncharted 3 was absolutely high on my list because it was the follow up to the impeccable Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and because it was being made by one of my favourite developers in Naughty Dog -- a studio I firmly believe deserves to be considered in the same light as Rockstar, Nintendo, Valve and the other behemoth names of the industry. Most of all, however, I was eagerly anticipating Drake’s Deception because it meant another journey with some of my favourite characters in the medium, meaning I could share more adventures with Elena, Chloe, Sully and, of course, Nathan Drake.

Interestingly, now that I have played it, I feel like Uncharted 3 was a bit of a let-down. A feeling that actually bothers me because there is nothing inherently wrong with it and because it exceeded what Uncharted 2 brought to the table back in 2009. The graphics were sublime; the set-pieces were absolutely amazing; the levels and locations were incredible; and the continuation of the story and the ability to see more of the characters was brilliant. Yet, somehow, I feel like I enjoyed Uncharted 2 more and I find that fascinating to contemplate because on an objective level Drake’s Deception is better in every way. I’m sitting on my thoughts about the game for a few months so I can revisit it and really understand them, so when I play it again I will cover it here on the blog. In the meantime it absolutely is a fantastic game (despite what some of the backlash it is receiving might suggest) and ultimately it ensures that the Uncharted franchise as a whole is one of the best to have come out of this current generation.

Forza Motorsport 4

Like F1 2011, commenting on Forza Motorsport 4 is difficult for me because I have barely played it and, once again, I wasn’t expecting to have access to it, either. For whatever reason a very generous friend decided to buy two copies and lend one to me, and now we’ve made a deal in which I will be buying the game off him once I am ready to do so. Being the Collector’s Edition means that I am rather grateful to be in a situation like this, but either way it is interesting because it was totally unexpected.

The first thing I noticed was how much better overall the sound quality was: cars sound absolutely fantastic now, and the environmental ambiance and general aural performance has been improved immensely. Physics, too, have continued to be refined to remarkable levels, something I won’t fully get to understand until I have played it for some time. The graphics are also better -- that’s obvious from screenshots alone, as demonstrated above -- but, as a simulation game, I don’t pay too much attention (okay maybe a little bit) to that.

Unfortunately, however, I just haven’t played it enough to give you any decent summary of how good it is. Why haven’t I spent time running it through its paces or driving lap after lap after lap? Because I am still working on Forza Motorsport 3 and I am trying to wrap that up before fully transitioning into FM4. Look out for some coverage on the game later in the year once I have given it a proper go.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Another game that I wasn’t expecting to play and thus, can’t really comment on, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a hard one because I both like it and don’t think it is as fantastic as everyone else makes it out to be. I realise having played very little I can’t speak to it like everyone else can, but the brief sessions I did have with it illustrated to me that whilst it was a massive improvement over The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it is also full of the issues that have plagued the series for years, too. It looks and sounds better, has a more interesting setting and features a world that looks like a joy to get lost in, and yet it still has wooden (and fairly uninteresting) characters, the same goddamn voice-overs and repetitive quests and/or dungeons. I don’t know, the game just had (and continues to have) such incredible hype surrounding it and yet that’s what the final product is? Really?

I just don’t see it, but then as I said I have barely played it so it isn’t right to judge. I am sure it is a fantastic game (I did enjoy what I played, honest!) and that I will enjoy it when I can finally play it properly, but at the same time I just don’t think the series as a whole is right for me, or that I am just missing what everyone else sees in it. I guess time will tell on that one.

Oh, and for the record: I was able to play it due to another generous friend. I don’t own it myself yet, unfortunately. 

Mario Kart 7

Yet another game I wasn’t expecting to play because I wasn’t expecting to own the platform you find it on. It wasn’t until last month, December, that I got my Nintendo 3DS (yes, as a Christmas present) and as such this game only barely scrapes onto the list. Despite this it already stands out as one of the year’s most interesting and enjoyable games, and I definitely look forward to playing it some more in the very near future.

The fact that Retro Studios had a hand in its development is also something I find fascinating, not just because of their own pedigree and what it means for the game but because of what it may suggest for Nintendo (and thus, the medium) going forward, too. By collaborating with Retro to design some tracks and environments, EAD Tokyo have indicated that they are not against the idea of working with other development teams; western development teams. This is significant information and could be very interesting to keep an eye on as the Wii U comes out and Nintendo enters the High Definition race -- Retro may not have released any HD games themselves yet but, being a Western team, they would absolutely be familiar with it. Will they be leading the charge, so to speak, when it comes to the approach Nintendo ultimately have with their upcoming console? Probably not, but it’s still an intriguing thing to observe and contemplate.

Super Mario 3D Land

As with Mario Kart 7 I wasn’t expecting to own this and because the purchase was so recent I haven’t played it enough to really comment on it. What I did see was impressive and I look forward to playing more, but having said that it also didn’t grab me as much as I was perhaps expecting it to.

Regular readers of Raptured Reality would be aware of the fact that I am not as into Mario or Zelda as most Nintendo players are, my series of choice instead being Metroid. They would also be aware, however, that Super Mario Galaxy captivated me and surprised me with its genius level design and fantastic use of perspective, so my reaction to that wonderful game definitely played a key role in my interest for Super Mario 3D Land. A mix of Super Mario Galaxy and old-school Mario platformers, in 3D, on a handheld? It almost sounds too good to be true and, if I’m honest, it is… What is there is seemingly a really well made, fantastic title, but by being an amalgamation rather than a unique experience I also feel like the game might ultimately fall a little flat for me personally. But, again, I have barely played it -- let’s revisit this subject once I have given it a proper chance.


What can I say about Minecraft that I haven’t already said countless times before? The game is a marvel, quite literally, and if hours played were a defining factor behind choosing a game of the year the thing would win hands down. Featuring it for two years in a row is also a little weird, as no other game (except maybe World Of Warcraft?) can remain as important and as prominent as Mojang’s indie sensation has. Of course, the game ‘officially’ came out late last year by finally leaving Beta status, but no matter what state the game is in one thing has remained consistent and abundantly clear the entire time: Minecraft is on this list because it is inspiring, mesmerizing and because it unleashed a creative side to my personality that I didn’t even know I had. It is one of the best games I have ever played and I fully expect that I will be playing it for many more years to come, too.

This may be a touch hyperbolic so early into a new one but, Minecraft isn’t just one of the games of the year, it’s one of the games of the decade. I eagerly look forward to seeing what other developers can do with the new genre that Mojang have created.


So there you have it, the games that I was lucky enough to play during 2011. As suggested above it was a rather quiet year for me and I didn’t get to play everything I wanted to, including The Last Guardian which was unfortunately delayed for whatever reason. I missed Batman: Arkham City, The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Bastion, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and so many more games that I definitely wanted to play. Unlike 2011 my aspirations for 2012 aren’t restricted in any way so I definitely will be catching up with all of the titles that I missed throughout the year. I will also be playing a whole host of games due to come out, too, but I will have more on those in a preview for 2012 in a couple of days.

Finally, I suggested in yesterday’s post that I found the year to be disappointing. The reason for this is because I felt like all of the titles that had high expectations and immense hype either underperformed or failed to deliver. It’s not that the year’s best games weren’t great experiences and worth waiting for but, rather, that after looking so strong for so long the final outcome for each of these titles was a little… lackluster. A similar thing happened with 2010’s range of titles but I definitely feel like that year was a better success (if you will) than 2011 ultimately was. Was the year yet another example of hype reaching unrealistic and unattainable levels? Maybe, but either way it is an interesting thing to observe and contemplate. Here’s hoping 2012’s line-up has a better chance.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Year That Was 2011: Blog Edition

If I were to sum up last year with just one word, it would most likely be: horrible. I choose this word because of things that took place in my real life, such as the death of my Nan; I choose it because of how disappointing, I felt, the year was for gaming (more on this tomorrow); I pick it due to some of the events that took place within the gaming industry, such as the PlayStation Network hack; and I use it because of my unproductive, less than ideal year here on the blog. Despite starting and pursuing some things that I thought were really interesting, such as my ‘Living The Life’ series, I definitely feel as if 2011 as a whole was disappointing as far as Raptured Reality is concerned, and that it was probably my worst year of blogging to date. I am proud of some of the content I produced and some of the experiments I conducted but, for every success it felt like there were many more failures, so I am definitely unhappy with the blog’s final outcome for 2011. I tried some things that didn’t eventuate (and which you never knew about), I seemingly failed to stick to my word and keep my promises whenever I laid out my plans to you, and my consistency was… well, it was non-existent. The year is over now, though, so there is little point in dwelling on what could or should have been. Instead, it is time to reflect on the year that was, so here are some thoughts, observations and insight into some of the posts that were published on Raptured Reality in 2011.


The start to the year was interesting because it felt like I hardly published anything and yet I did get a fair bit done. I explored some interesting subjects, continued to add to things like my Living The Life series and I started a new tradition, too, by looking back at the year that was 2010. Re-reading over that post now brings to my attention that I didn’t get to do a lot of the things I wanted to as I began 2011, but despite this it was interesting to reflect back on the insanely packed year that 2010 was and to remember the games, issues and themes that defined the year for me. I revealed the ten games of 2010 that were important to me through two extensive posts; achieved a mini-goal of mine by looking at and responding to the reveal of the new Tomb Raider (the goal being to respond to things I found interesting more often, also demonstrated by a look at the cancellation of Perfect Dark Core in March); continued to display a deep affection for and addiction to Minecraft by taking a look at the addition of Wolves to the game, of all things; and I reflected back on the season so far of my Living The Life series after finishing the fifth round (of nineteen) of the season. This last one was particularly intriguing and fun to do as it enabled me to look back on the story both in character and out if it, highlighting some of the things that doing this role-playing story had enlightened me to as well as explaining some other aspects that were only merely mentioned in the summary of each round up to that point. It is an aspect of the series that I plan on continuing as the season progresses (it’s already finished in terms of playing but, obviously, not in terms of being published here on the blog) so look out for more insight as more rounds are published.

February also marked the release of the first of my “big four” games of 2011 (more on those tomorrow) with Test Drive Unlimited 2, a game I was eagerly anticipating after loving the original but ultimately a game that was somewhat disappointing, too. I still love it of course and will explain why in the near future but there’s no denying that it has a lot of problems and flaws, too, and that it didn’t meet expectations either. A trend that seemed to be a theme for the entire year, actually, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for me to elaborate on that.


April was a particularly significant month for two reasons, one public and one private. Publicly, it was the month in which the PlayStation Network hack occurred and where gamers around the world were concerned about whether their credit card details were obtained or not. Personally, while I was worried too, I was more interested in the response to the debacle and whether other companies, Sony themselves or industries in general would learn from the situation and use it to ensure online security in the future. It was the most important ‘event’ of the year, no doubt about it, and I really wanted to see everyone react to it in that way but, instead (and like I expected), people got over it pretty quickly -- especially once the PlayStation Network itself was back up and running -- and now it is almost as if the entire thing didn’t even happen. That is the most disappointing thing about 2011 for me as a whole, but it is not surprising at all and was probably predictable from the start. When the potential was there for identity theft and personal information to be obtained (if not utilised) everyone rightfully was in a state of panic, but once it became clear that the only real impact was a lengthy down-time for the ability to play games online on the PS3, everyone expressed their disdain and then ultimately moved on to forget about it. Not only is that an example of how quickly people move on and forget on the Internet but, more seriously, it is also an example of how blasé industries, companies and consumers all are when it comes to the convenience of the thing and its many online services. When things go wrong the complaints come thick and fast but when they become ‘right’ again, everybody goes back to their routines, privileges and schedules, and it gets lost in the digital ether until the next big disaster takes place. It really bothers me (if you can’t half tell) but that is the Internet for you, so whining about it here isn’t going to change anything.

More privately the month was also significant because of something that was happening behind the scenes and also something that ultimately didn’t eventuate. Any regular reader of this blog knew that I had a strong addiction to Minecraft and that part of that obsession involved watching videos on it such as Coe’s Quest, a series I had mentioned in 2010 a couple of times when discussing my experiences with the game. What you didn’t know, however, was that I had contacted Coe and asked if I could interview him, something he kindly agreed to. I requested it because he was approaching his 150th episode and I thought it would be a good thing to coincide with the milestone and, some email exchanges later, I had a series of questions and answers ready to go. So why wasn’t it ever published? Quite simply, because it wasn’t finished and for whatever reason Coe never responded to one of my emails. He had a particularly busy period with his work and also preparing for that milestone and as such he went quiet for a few weeks, apologising every now and again for not replying to me. I told him that it was fine and that I was happy to wait (that and the 150th episode still hadn’t aired yet, so I thought there was plenty of time) and after that I never heard from him again. As you can imagine that was quite annoying as we had already progressed quite far and, because interviewing someone was something new for me (one of the many experiments I ended up trying in 2011), I was really looking forward to finishing it and publishing it here on the blog. Despite these frustrations I don’t hold anything against Coe for failing to respond and I am still glad I got the opportunity to try interviewing someone, even if it didn’t pan out or ever see the light of day publicly. I even still watch Coe’s Quest which recently hit 200 episodes and continues beyond that, so really nothing has changed for me and my relationship (if you will) with his story in Minecraft -- the only thing that was different was that I had talked to him and no one ever knew about it. That’s disappointing to be sure, but it is the way things go sometimes, too, so I put it down as an interesting experiment and nothing more.

April was also rather hard to bear as it was the month in which I wrote a tribute, of sorts, to Bizarre Creations. When news broke that Activision were shutting down the studio I was pretty upset about it. Sure, studio closures and lay-offs were nothing new in the industry -- especially last year -- and as such, it is something I should be accustomed to, but it was particularly hard news personally because Bizarre made some of my favourite racing games of all time and were absolutely one of the best developers in the genre. Alongside Criterion Games (thankfully still alive and well), Bizarre defined what Arcade racing thrills meant to me so to lose that was not only serious -- due to insane talent losing their jobs and thus, livelihoods -- it was devastating, and probably the other big low-point of 2011 for me. Most of the talent appear to have landed on their feet and now work for other studios, which is good to see, but it was still a significant loss to the industry and, perhaps more importantly, the medium of videogames itself, too. Rest in peace Bizarre Creations.

May was also a busy month as it saw the release of L.A. Noire, the second game of my “big four”, as well as posts looking critically and analytically at Gran Turismo 5 and Mafia II. The former also marked the beginning of my ‘Behind The Wheel’ series which is where all my racing game critical coverage will now go. I enjoyed looking at Gran Turismo 5 from three different perspectives and definitely took pleasure in trying to pin-point just what made GT5 unique, but I was also fairly disappointed, too, because looking back on the year as a whole I now realise that I still haven’t finished appraising that game in the way that I intended. Something to attend to this year, then, especially considering that I feel like the game has been rebooted (in a sense) after the release of Spec 2.0 in October: a significant update to the game that brought with it some interesting changes and was released in preparation for the (then) upcoming downloadable content.

Even worse than failing to continue my look at Gran Turismo 5 in-depth was my failure to continue talking about Mafia II, a game that left me with incredibly mixed, strong feelings and a title that still to this day stands out to me as intriguing and important. Back then I likened it to the way in which Mirror’s Edge ultimately made me feel, an analogy that I think is even more apt now as I reflect back on my time with Mafia II and realise that, despite its flaws, I really loved it. I think one of my goals for this year will be to return to Mafia II and knuckle down on what my overall thoughts on it actually happen to be because I truly do believe the game deserves some more time in the spotlight. I think it will be even more interesting to do it now that I have also experienced L.A. Noire, as the two games have more than just their 1940s setting in common.

Perhaps luckily after all of that, June was a rather quiet month, the distraction that is E3 being particularly prominent. Even so I still managed to begin another series that I have since left neglected. As you would expect I am not proud of the fact that I posted just one entry in the ‘Evaluating My Driving Style’ series before leaving it dormant, so that’s something that frustrates me especially now that we are in 2012. Having said that, I never lost interest in doing it as I believe the series as a whole will offer a fascinating insight (for people who aren’t as familiar with the racing genre -- or racing in general -- as I am) into the ways in which someone can approach a videogame or, indeed, racing. So I definitely intend to continue the series this year. I have the entire thing planned out and drafted so in a sense it is appalling that I never got it done, but these things happen and I will rectify this problem in the future. I promise.

As I touched on above, E3 was particularly significant in June with many games revealed, many more announcements made and the industry as a whole taking the time to celebrate all things gaming. What you might not have realised, however, was that I didn’t post anything on the show last year, breaking a self-imposed tradition that I wanted for Raptured Reality in the process. I had eight (!) posts lined up in reaction to the show, believe it or not, but for whatever reason I couldn’t get them done straight away and then later in the month my Nanna passed away, distracting me even further. Obviously I regard her death as the biggest and most unfortunate event of the year, which makes June the worst month of the year for me by default, but even so I found it frustrating that I couldn’t offer my thoughts on E3 or anything related to the show. In hindsight, it was probably good that I didn’t get to publish the other thing related to E3 that I was going to, which was a response to all of the snark and sarcasm that appeared, particularly after the conclusion of each press conference. I was absolutely appalled by some of the comments and behaviour exhibited by various people -- both whom I knew and random comments on trailers and stuff like that -- and really wanted to rant about it and call them out on it, but it didn’t take place for the same reasons any E3 coverage here on the blog didn’t eventuate. Having said that, people really need to think about what they are saying publicly because a lot of people looked absolutely silly during E3 and we as a collective whole are never going to move forward or mature if everyone is behaving like that. Hopefully this year’s E3 is different but, if I am to be honest, I expect it will be even worse -- especially if the big three reveal their new consoles…


The third quarter of 2011 was perhaps the best part of the year for the blog, for a variety of reasons. Not only was it the most packed and varied in terms of content, it also saw the beginning of two new projects and the publication of a few posts that were important to me. I also happened to buy my purpose-built gaming PC in July, finally giving me access to a platform and range of games that I had to ignore for so long prior to that purchase. Of course, my love affair with Minecraft and inability to keep on top of the things that I commit to has resulted in my Steam library remaining largely untouched, but as the months and years go on I definitely look forward to exploring PC gaming fully, and having an even deeper understanding of and connection to the medium I love so much: videogames.

Perhaps the most important thing that happened in the third quarter was an especially important milestone for a franchise that I absolutely adore: Metroid. Not only did the series celebrate its 25th birthday, an incredible feat that few other franchises can manage, the milestone also inspired me to get on with a series of posts I had been planning for months: my Metroid Marathon. So far, I would say the Marathon has been a success with people enjoying my analysis and coverage of the game -- particularly the post in which I look at the game’s 'Magic Moments' -- and personally I have really enjoyed the fact that I can take such an in-depth look at what is easily my favourite franchise ever. It has gone a little quiet in recent months for various reasons, but so far it has been great and I look forward to continuing it throughout 2012.

Other interesting posts to come out of the period included some musings on Let’s Plays, continuing my desire to respond to various things; a post lamenting the inevitable ‘loss’ of Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto IV once it is succeeded by even more impressive cities, most likely from future GTA installments; the continuation of my Living The Life series after yet another little hiatus, as well as a look at some discoveries I had made whilst playing F1 2010 out of character; a look at the ways in which developers can (and do) approach realism in racing games, including a convenient example not long afterwards; and an editorial expressing my desire to see games use Mother Nature and natural disasters a little more effectively and in ways that affect the game experience. Writing that last one was hard as it had to be delayed a few times due to (and out of respect for the victims from) the many natural disasters that took place in real life during 2011, and because it is hard to contemplate the subject as it relates to games when it is unclear as to what will and won’t be possible in the future. In theory the ways in which games can use disasters and Mother Nature to impact the gameplay has massive potential and, as such, that’s why I would like to see that aspect of the medium explored further; in practice, however, it’s simply not clear what technical limitations will impede on the possibilities in this area, so I will continue to observe with interest as we continue moving forward into the new generation and beyond. I do hope we can make some progress in this space, however, and that weather in general doesn’t just remain a superficial element of videogames only.


If the third quarter was the best part of the year for the blog, then the final quarter was the worst. All three months were relatively quiet with very little happening on the blog, mostly because I needed to take a break from my usual routines as I dealt with some stuff in my personal life. This silent period bothers me because I don’t like being inconsistent, but history from previous years would suggest that consistency as a whole is an issue that I have always had trouble dealing with and that, in particular, the final months of the year are always rather quiet here on the blog. I would like to take the opportunity now to apologise for that because it is in no way intentional but obviously it keeps occurring, too, so it is something that I need to work on.

Having said that, the period wasn’t all bad. I still did some interesting things, the most significant being yet another experiment. In October I may have only posted one post but that post was a link to and additional musings on my very first review which focused on F1 2011. I wasn’t really expecting to try my hand at reviewing back then but I am glad I was given the opportunity and thought that I did fairly well for my first attempt, though whether anyone who read it agrees is another thing entirely. Obviously I haven’t reviewed anything since, either, which may or may not suggest things to you, but overall I am glad I tried it and wouldn't mind doing so again in the future if the opportunity ever arises. Even if it doesn't, however, I would be fine with that too as I much prefer the freedom that editorials provide, and my incessant ability to ramble certainly ensures that I prefer longer-form writing as well.

Perhaps ironically, the month after my first review I published a post that looked at some recent reviews surrounding the blockbuster videogames that had just been released, expressing concern with the seemingly relentless praise these titles were garnering. The idea wasn’t to suggest that these reviews were “wrong” or anything like that but, rather, that critics should (and need to) be careful with their appraisals and should try to avoid falling under the spell of hype and excitement that the end of year release schedule usually brings. Seeing a whole host of games be awarded ‘perfect’ scores (IE: 10/10) was worrying not because they were full marks, but because of how easily (and quickly!) titles can have a backlash a few months after release. In the post I used The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess and BioShock 2 as my examples; now, just a couple of months after release, there’s people retracting their opinions on Batman: Arkham City, The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception -- all titles that received perfect scores at some publications.* I’m not going to be so bold as to say I told you so or anything like that, because that is just being arrogant, but the change in perception around these titles certainly suggests that I was right to be as concerned as I was.

The final significant thing of the year, aside from yet another return of the Living The Life series after another hiatus, was a post looking at the announcement of Grand Theft Auto V. Any regular reader would know how much I love GTA IV so it was only natural that I was going to be excited by the announcement, and eager to hear more about what direction the franchise was heading in. I used the opportunity to lay out some of my own desires for where I think GTA should go, as well as gave some predictions for GTA V. Really, though, I simply look forward to the day that I can step out into the re-envisioned Los Santos for the first time and discover what it has to offer -- I love getting lost (figuratively) in new virtual environments and can't wait to explore the city and its surrounding countryside when the game finally hits.


And there you have it, a look at the year that was here on Raptured Reality. As I said this is now a blog tradition for me as I find it really interesting reflecting on the year that I had and commenting on some of the posts that I made, giving you insight into how I go about writing here as well as the way in which some posts came about. It wasn’t exactly the most ideal or pleasant year, but overall I'd classify the year as a learning one. Will 2012 be as experimental and inconsistent as 2011 was? Honestly I have no idea, but unlike last year I have some direction for where I want to go with the blog this year, some of which you will be seeing sooner than you may think.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this look back at 2011 as it fared on Raptured Reality. Come back tomorrow for a look at the games that I played throughout the year, as well as some explanations as to why I found the year as a whole to be rather disappointing.

*I’m actually somewhat surprised that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim isn’t receiving a similar level of backlash, as I would argue that the titles that are receiving some negativity are more polished than Bethesda's title ultimately was.