Adversity is a key element of many good yarns. But too many developers still reach for a simplistic shorthand, letting violence stand in for something more nuanced where it’s not required. It can even happen in a game, it turns out, whose developers have made a concerted effort to remove gunplay.
DICE’s Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (p108) trades on agility and momentum, never placing a weapon in your hand or forcing you into cover, and even helping you avoid affray altogether. But this otherwise progressive design still forces players to endure the game’s undercooked, awkward hand-to-hand combat in progresshalting arena encounters. A desperate scrap to clear the way makes sense, but these walled-in moments add nothing to our understanding of Faith’s struggle.
At least DICE’s misstep can be blamed on genre hangovers – RedLynx has a great deal more explaining to do after crowbarring some truly abysmal gunplay into Trials Of The Blood Dragon (p123). There’s shonky platforming and an assortment of other poorly judged additions, too, but it’s heartbreaking to see a team so capable of melding adversity with satisfaction serve up a bullet-driven debacle.
Even games built around guns can make a mess of things, as Capcom proves with Umbrella Corps (p114). Though in this case, it’s actually a selection of other elements that serve to undermine what could have otherwise been an inoffensive tactical shooter. Perhaps the real problem here is a market-led fear of letting a good idea stand unsupported.
Thank goodness, then, for Inside (p120), a mesmerising adventure that neither wavers from its focused vision nor resorts to violence as a narrative crutch. Instead, stripped entirely of fat, it conjures its horror from the lightest of touches, and it’s all the better for its clarity of vision.