As a follow-up to my last post titled ‘For art’s sake – gaming and the artist’ I decided to look for games that encapsulate the best artistry in gaming. The industry is so entrenched in fantasy on the one hand and so reliant on the ability to create other realities and a ‘genuine’ experience on the other, so good examples were not hard to find, but I cut it down to three of my favourite.
3. Okami (2006)
Okami, developed by the now defunct Clover Studio and published by Capcom in 2006, literally means ‘Great God’ or ‘Great Spirit’ or ‘Wolf’ and incorporates ancient classic Japanese history in classic Japanese ink illustrations to tell the story of a white wolf and a swordsman who together fight an eight-headed demon to save their village as well as the protagonist’s beloved. The romanticism of the game is not only in the heroic storyline and the unusual use of traditional illustration but also in the game play, which allows the user to literally draw as they play. ‘For example, the player can create strong wind by drawing a loop, cut enemies by drawing a line through them or fix bridges by painting on the broken one, amongst many other abilities’ according to Wikipedia. Using the ‘Celestial Brush’ on PlayStation’s Dual Shock, or by pointing with the Wii remote or PlayStation Move, the player can influence the game with strokes on the game’s ‘canvas’. Poor sales and criticisms about the flow and motion control did not stop the game from receiving critical acclaim, including IGN’s Game of the Year in 2006. It will be rereleased for the PlayStation Network late this year.
2. Mirror’s Edge (2008)
A brightly coloured game with a pop culture aesthetic and futuristic, parallel universe synopsis like ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Jumper’. The player controls the protagonist and ‘runner’ Faith, in this high-tech first-person shooter as she couriers illegal messages sent through the ‘runner’ network. Runners like Faith actively protest and campaign against the ruling party, an oppressive, totalitarian regime that monitors all communication, controls the media and basically encroaches on the society’s personal freedoms through strict policy and harsh consequences for non-compliance. The searing illumination of this modern dystopia along with a wide range of parkour-inspired actions like sliding under barriers, wall-running, tumbling, leaping over rooftops and shimmying along ledges make for great visuals and an exciting, in-the-moment feel. The camera bobs up and down when Faith runs, spins for each roll and mimics pace and gait creating a fun and realistic perspective with great fluidity. The game received a lot of praise for its visuals but not so much for the plot.
1. Gears of War 3 (2011)
A third person shooter game developed by Epic Games for the XBox 360. Gears of War is based on a story by science fiction writer Karen Traviss. Various characters are used in combat situations filled with gunfire and explosives with a secluded island as the backdrop. The Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) is relocated to the island in order to rebuild their civilisation after their stronghold is destroyed and humanity is put under threat. A new enemy invades the island and the disbanded coalition is forced to take refuge at sea in a helicopter carrier. Characters can choose from a variety of weapons, swap weapons throughout game play and attain medals and ribbons for winning battles. New characters skins and weapons are unlocked after level completion and discovered stockpiles can be raided for additional ammunition and money. The game received rave reviews and was named amongst the best games of the year. ‘Game Informer’ rated the game highly with a score of 9.5 out of 10, saying that “Gears 3 is a fantastic idea polished to near perfection by an enormous crew of talented developers and a bottomless budget.”