Per­for­mance anx­i­ety

Even though the common theme of game me­dia – and its lap­dog, the be­low-the-line ag­i­ta­tor – is to build up and knock down ephemeral idols (“not another Call Of Duty”), the one con­stant we could hang on to was the score. You know, the num­ber at the end. I love read­ing what you wrote and ev­ery­thing, es­pe­cially the first line and the last para­graph, but come on, what did it get? I’m as guilty as the next lib­er­ated, left­wingy gamer of skimming through the back pages of the lat­est is­sue of Edge and just go­ing straight to it. What did it get? I’ll read the re­view later, and it will in­form me or ag­gra­vate me, but the first hit of the re­view has al­ways been the score. But are things chang­ing?

Des­tiny seems to have been re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing the num­ber at the end of the words seem some­how less im­por­tant, less cer­tain in a lot of the spe­cial­ist press. The silly range of scores – from 60 per cent on Poly­gon to 100 per cent on PlaySta­tion Aus­tralia (“Videogame worlds are rarely this rich and ad­dic­tive”), along with a pro­lific slew of ar­ti­cles, blogs and post-reviews seem to have ush­ered in a new age of un­cer­tainty and anx­i­ety. Maybe DestinyDes – and the up­com­ing gen­er­a­tion of gam games it ush­ers in – are go­ing to be too com com­plex, too am­bi­tious, too po­lar­is­ing to be red re­duced to a sim­ple digit at the foot of the pag page. Maybe we do all need to just hold han hands and talk about our feel­ings and de­bate wh whether we’re grind­ing or re­fin­ing. Have gam games be­come num­ber-proof?

Maybe not. It’s not that some things are too so­phis­ti­cated or com­plex to be scored. It’s that there’s noth­ing that can’t be scored. Think about it: your car, your job, your girl­friend or boyfriend, your per­for­mance in life so far. Think about each one hard enough and – how­ever much you don’t want it to – a num­ber will ap­pear in your head. Not a po­lite para­graph. Not an es­say. Just a flat score, usu­ally out of ten. A seven. A five. A two. Ev­ery­thing. Some­times you’ll get it wrong. Some­times you’re just too close to be ob­jec­tive. That’s when you need a clear­headed, straight-talk­ing friend to say, ‘No, you want him to be a ten, but he’s just a seven. Your ca­reer? It’s five, all the way.’

The truth can hurt, but when some­thing in your life, from a car to the lat­est Zelda, is a true ten, it’s a eu­phoric mo­ment, and all those low scores in the rest of your life ring even truer. To (mis)quote Gor­don Gekko, scores are good. Scores work. Scores cut through, clar­ify and cap­ture the essence… So I’m ask­ing Edge, my favourite num­ber maker, to please not suc­cumb to the new-lib­er­als who’d have us sum up the mean­ing of games in a 7,000word Guardian es­say with com­ments and an opin­ion poll. Share your thoughts and feel­ings and ex­per­tise and in­sights, but don’t for­get what I look for first.

And all those Des­tiny scores, all that earnest head­scratch­ing: Me­ta­critic rounds them out to 78 per cent, or eight out of ten – ex­actly what you gave it. Some­times peo­ple can go a long way around the houses to get to the sim­plest truths. An­thony Hughes There was no early ac­cess to fi­nal Des­tiny code, so some felt they had to rush out reviews. The vol­ume of com­men­tary that’s fol­lowed is more about how fas­ci­nat­ing its endgame is than any anx­i­ety over the score. Re­gard­less, re­lax: those num­bers won’t be leav­ing th­ese pages any time soon.

Price is right

I like read­ing stuff I agree with and we seem to agree a lot – the PS4 is my new ma­chine of choice, Rime and No Man’s Sky are the coolest games on the hori­zon, Far Cry 4 is

“Blogs and postre­views seem to have ush­ered in a new age of un­cer­tainty and anx­i­ety”

bet­ter than it should be – but some­times a bit of dis­agree­ment adds some grit. Right?

I love the de­vel­oper ac­cess in Edge. The in­ter­views, round­tables, stu­dio pro­files. All that cool stuff where you sit down and talk to the guys who ac­tu­ally make the games. I love, more than the reviews even, see­ing be­hind the cur­tain and hear­ing what makes th­ese guys tick. So your new Col­lected Works ( E274) looked just my thing. It didn’t even have ques­tions to get in the way. Just the au­teur him­self, talk­ing about him­self and his own games. Per­fect! Ex­cept… Ted Price? In­som­niac? WTF? I al­ways hated Spyro. It was a cut-price

Mario to me, fake and weak. Ratchet & Clank passed me by, Re­sis­tance looked like the coolest game ever but just dis­in­te­grated to the touch, and then Sun­set Over­drive looked like, well, a bunch of 40-year-olds try­ing to look cool by sprin­kling the Tony Hawk en­gine with a bunch of lame ’80s TV spoofs and bad lan­guage. Where were the likes of Ko­jima, Miyamoto, Mikami? This wasn’t who I wanted to read about.

But guess what? I ploughed on any­way, and found my­self fas­ci­nated. I started to re­spect the de­ter­mi­na­tion and cre­ative spirit of Price and his team at In­som­niac. That common thread of in­sane weaponry, hu­mour and tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion made sense, and I re­alised not just how many orig­i­nal IPs In­som­niac had cre­ated but how much hu­man­ity there was be­hind th­ese games. I went to a friend’s house to check out Sun­set and look­ing at it through the prism of In­som­niac’s back cat­a­logue, and see­ing how all their ob­ses­sions had been chewed up and spat out in a new game was re­ally ex­cit­ing and re­fresh­ing. Far from look­ing cyn­i­cal or lame, I could tell how pas­sion­ate and fun Sun­set was, and it was gen­uinely mov­ing to see 20-plus years of gaming ideas all com­ing to a head.

So, wait, we’re agree­ing again? Ted Price is cool? That’s fine. Now get ar­rang­ing those Col­lected Works I’ve asked for, and maybe even some I haven’t. Hell, even David Cage. If any­one needs space to tell us what the fuck they were do­ing with all those girls in un­der­wear and QTEs, it’s that French dude.

Robert Vowles

AI, AI, no

I have been re­new­ing my sub­scrip­tion in ad­vance; I do my best read­ing most of each is­sue, and I play the games you sug­gest. For Christ­mas, it’s sim­ple: just bring me an AI re­view added to each game re­view. You know, Edge, it need not be as bril­liant as

Kil­l­zone: Shadow Fall’s Post Script. (It does, but you know what NASA says, right? Twenty per cent is bet­ter than per cent.) It can be only a few lines. Please, do it in re­mem­brance of your fifth com­mand­ment!

Éric Ja­copin In truth, E247’ s Ten Com­mand­ments ar­ti­cle was aimed more at the dev com­mu­nity rather than try­ing to be a style guide for re­view­ers. As ever, though, when AI mat­ters, we’ll give it the at­ten­tion it de­serves.

You’re grounded

Find­ing my­self in pos­ses­sion of a PS4 after a fit of Black Fri­day-in­duced mad­ness, I’ve re­cently been re­play­ing The Last Of Us in its shiny, up­scaled form. The story and slick me­chan­ics would be rea­son enough to re­turn but the ad­di­tions have sweet­ened the deal. Best of all is the new Grounded dif­fi­culty, which has been kick­ing my arse and at the same time made me de­ter­mined to play through the whole thing again.

As well as the ex­pected bump in en­emy strength and de­crease in re­sources, this new set­ting makes some pretty rad­i­cal changes. It strips out the en­tire HUD, in­clud­ing your health bar, and elim­i­nates nearly all but­ton prompts and tu­to­ri­als. In case you were com­fort­able with that hand­i­cap, it also de­prives you of Lis­ten Mode, the abil­ity you use to de­tect en­e­mies that are out of your line of sight. Ap­par­ently at Naughty Dog, grounded is a syn­onym for im­pos­si­ble.

Ex­cept Grounded mode isn’t im­pos­si­ble. In fact, once you ad­just to its lim­i­ta­tions, it breathes new life into the fun­gal corpse of the PS3 clas­sic. By re­mov­ing so much from the game, Naughty Dog has made it more de­mand­ing but also more re­ward­ing. I’ve found my­self nav­i­gat­ing ar­eas by plan­ning and us­ing my senses rather than stum­bling through and re­ly­ing on luck. Joel is now so flimsy that the eas­i­est way to sur­vive is to rely on stealth. That was true be­fore, but the dif­fi­culty spike has ren­dered sneak­ing a ne­ces­sity where be­fore it could be aban­doned when things got hairy.

The real ben­e­fit of th­ese changes is that I feel like a to­tal badass ev­ery time I play. Ac­tiv­i­ties as ba­nal as clear­ing an area or sneak­ing past some Click­ers have be­come feats wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion. I now scorn those who rely on life bars and plen­ti­ful ammo drops to sur­vive this des­o­late Amer­ica. At least I did un­til I was forced to re­play a sec­tion 30 times, limp­ing through with three bul­lets and a sliver of health.

This con­stant emo­tional swing has made for some thrilling, if stress­ful, ses­sions with Joel and El­lie. It height­ens and re­fines what was al­ready great about the game into some­thing worth the price of read­mis­sion even with­out the on­line mode and DLC.

The re­moval of screen fur­ni­ture also makes it much eas­ier to en­joy the im­proved graph­ics and higher fram­er­ate. I’ve found it eas­ier to im­merse my­self when there isn’t an ammo counter con­stantly float­ing in my vi­sion. It is still a thor­oughly in­ter­ac­tive story but, with some of the less agree­able trap­pings of the medium gone, The Last Of

Us now stands out even more as a lead­ing ex­am­ple of sto­ry­telling in videogames. It makes me won­der what other games would ben­e­fit from tak­ing a min­i­mal­ist ap­proach.

Charlie Rober­son Ac­tu­ally, it makes us won­der which games wouldn’t ben­e­fit from it. Surely the busy HUDs and hand­hold­ing should be for Easy, not Nor­mal? Let us know which SteelSeries gear you’d like, and it’ll be on its way.

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