Backlog: Unity United edition

Image courtesy Kristina Alexanderson

Image courtesy Kristina Alexanderson

Sometimes it's hard to think of a theme for Backlogs. In this case, I found it easiest to take two versions of the root word "unite," and make a half-ass correlation between them. That's how we do. Think of it as some kind of spiritual unity: the combining two disparate topics into one being of synergy.

Anyway: Nick's attending the Unite 2014 conference to learn about, you guessed it, the Unity game development tool, and yours truly played as a mentally unbalanced United States Delta Force squad. Read all about our adventures after the break!

Joel and Ellie were convincingly lifelike in the original PS3 release, but the remastered edition of The Last of Us makes one hell of an effort at climbing its way out of the uncanny valley

Joel and Ellie were convincingly lifelike in the original PS3 release, but the remastered edition of The Last of Us makes one hell of an effort at climbing its way out of the uncanny valley

Nick

I’m hammering this Backlog contribution out just hours before Unite 2014 kicks off. It’s the official conference for all things Unity, the platform I use for most of the games I work on, and it’s taking place here in Seattle, so I figured I ought to be there. I’m hoping to drum up a recap piece once all’s said and done in case I pick up anything interesting that I can share with a wider audience.

But first, an important announcement -- we recently welcomed a PlayStation 4 into our household. I think Aaron did a great job summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of picking up a PS4 in its first year on the market, but I have to say I’ve really enjoyed the local multiplayer experiences that have since shown up. Games like Towerfall Ascension and Sportsfriends are a blast for players of all skill levels, and updated classics like Flower and The Last of Us: Remastered look and feel much improved on the new hardware.

Finally, I’ve gone ahead and ordered Bungie’s upcoming Destiny for the PS4. I’ve expressed a fair bit of reticence based on my time with the beta, and those concerns still stand. But with new hardware to run the game on and a couple of good friends ready and waiting to join up together online and level the hell up, I decided to let my curiosity get the better of me. The one indisputable thing about Destiny is that it’s an extraordinarily ambitious game, and from a critic’s perspective I feel compelled to evaluate the game for what it is in a timely manner.

Maybe it’s time for us to take another stab at a co-op review, Aaron?

Captain Walker unknowingly kills dozens of innocent civilians. As a player, how do you rectify an unavoidable plot point?

Captain Walker unknowingly kills dozens of innocent civilians. As a player, how do you rectify an unavoidable plot point?

Aaron

I'll see your co-op review and raise you a series of livestreams. What say you, Nick?

People: despite his trepidation, Nick is going to have a great fucking time playing Destiny. He just wants to resist on principle, I think. My only complaint with the game is that to fully "bro out" with my #bros in co-op (ugh), I'll have to buy Sony's expensive Gold headset -- because I'm sure as shit not using the awful earpiece that came with the PS4.

Now let me switch gears: Spec Ops: The Line is messed up; as in seriously grotesque and deeply disturbing.

Anyone who ignored or forgot Yager's third-person shooter should clear his or her calendar and bust through the campaign (and delete Call of Duty from your hard drive while you're at it). It should only take around 10 hours, and it's worth your time. In retrospect I'm disappointed we (as in I, because I hadn't played it) didn't push this gem onto our 2012 Game of the Year list. Sorry, Doug.

Most military-focused games obfuscate the violence inherent in requiring players to shoot enemies as a progression mechanic. We're lucky if some games are even aware of the ridiculous, Michael Bay-esque viscera they jettison into players' eye sockets every few seconds. Truly, I can't provide many examples of self-aware shooters with a message. Wolfenstein: The New Order comes to mind, which is one game in a sea of hundreds. Our staff podcasted about this topic last week in relation to the events in Ferguson, so listen to episode 49 for more on that subject.

The fact that most FPS games don't acknowledge the seriousness of war is the primary reason I recommend Spec Ops. It's a perfectly average cover-based shooter with squad commands for your two A.I. partners, but the gameplay only exists to propel the story forward. In some ways, the gameplay's average presentation feels like a commentary on FPSes as a whole. But again, the story is what you have to play the game for.

Over the course of the campaign, Captain Walker slowly degenerates into a monster befitting of the title "Colonel Kurtz Jr." Walker's psyche is essentially eviscerated because he's forced to make horrific judgment calls that butcher innocent civilians, not to mention that almost every choice puts your squad at risk. So when I say the game ends on a very rough note, you shouldn't be surprised. And despite the facade of choice given through branching narrative events (i.e., let a CIA agent burn alive or shoot him to prevent his suffering), you can't be the hero in Spec Ops, and that's a beautifully demented thing.

I only hope more shooters explore the dark reality of conflict to force players into a mindset where they question their digital actions. We have enough games enabling heroes to act out their power fantasies.

Once in awhile we need a palate cleanser.