What we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - Borderlands 2, Xbox 360
I finally got round to playing one of the games everyone else in the office has played and loved, and I've currently got mixed feelings. Even only an hour into the game I can see the writing is excellent, the characters I've met have been funny, and the visuals are gorgeous. I'm less thrilled by what I can only describe as a claustrophobic field of view and a worrying amount of choice when it comes to weapons. I've already got about 20 of the things, and can see myself spending more time looking at stats than actually shooting things. Still, an hour isn't much to judge the game on, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with Gearbox's highly regarded title.
Neon Kelly, Video Production Editor – Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, PC
If you've been a patron of VideoGamer.com for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a pretty big fan of The Oregon Trail – the legendary edutainment title from the 80s. Part of the fun with The Oregon Trail lies in subverting the systems to provide a more game-y experience – like spending all you money on bullets so that you can go on a kill-crazy rampage in the hunting mini-game.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure has a similar attitude to The Oregon Trail. It manages to revere the spirit of the original game while utterly taking the piss at the same time, resulting in one of the weirdest shmups I've ever played. The action is composed of 30-second action sequences that are shuffled and dished out at random; one game might find you battling unicorns, only for the next to catapult you into space. It's all very silly, but well worth the £2 asking price.
David Scammell, Deputy News Editor - Spec Ops: The Line, Xbox 360
Imagine if Street Fighter made you consider the consequences of beating up your opponent, or if Need For Speed: Most Wanted questioned the moral ambiguity of jacking a car sitting innocently on the side of the road. Spec Ops is a shooter that - once you've finished it at least - makes you consider every kill. It's undoubtedly powerful fiction - something I've seen tried, but never satisfactorily executed in other games of its type. The end is so powerful, in fact, that I've read tweets from some people claiming to have cried at the game's closing moments, and becoming depressed from the sense of guilt it forces unto the player. Yager's efforts with its storytelling here should be admired.
I've also read theories suggesting Yager intentionally sabotaged the gunplay to make the killing 'less fun'. Which must be nonsense, mustn't it? Though it may tie into the ethics explored by the game's narrative, I struggle to believe that a developer would deliberately ruin its game's core mechanic to help further the fiction. If there's any truth to it, which I'm not convinced there is, they've done a really bad job of it, too: as horrifying as it ultimately turns out to be, blasting Spec Ops' soldiers into unrecognisable chunks is actually fairly entertaining.
It takes a while for it to really get going, then - the majority of the game, in actual fact - but if you want an example of mature storytelling in video games, Spec Ops: The Line is certainly worth adding to your playlist.