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Preview: The Xbox One Holiday Lineup

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Preview: The Xbox One Holiday Lineup

Alien: Isolation:

There's our girl.

There's our girl.

The first thing I asked the Sgea rep demoing Alien: Isolation was when the demo content took place in the game proper. He told me it’s more of a vertical slice, indicative of the game’s overall feel, but not necessarily any one part.

People who remember 2013’s license nightmare Aliens: Colonial Marines know why this was deeply concerning to me. Colonial Marines was nothing but vertical slices, and when it came time for the game to be released, the final product was so different, it sparked lawsuits. So even though the next paragraph is going to begin with what’ll sound like a bit of hyperbole, know that I’m still very, very apprehensive about this game.

This spooky guy didn't show up during my demo, but one can only assume he's gonna be Xenomorph chow my the end of the game.

This spooky guy didn't show up during my demo, but one can only assume he's gonna be Xenomorph chow my the end of the game.

Alien: Isolation is probably the best Alien game ever made. It might even be up there as one of the best survival horror games ever made. The demo threw me into a limited zone, and presented a few tools up front. I had some flares, some scrap metal, and a flamethrower, which me handler was careful to call a “tool”, not a weapon. Unlke more classic survival horror experiences, Isolation doesn’t really hand you much in the way of weaponary, and why would it? Guns are pretty much useless against the Xenomorph. In fact, everything feels useless agaisnt the Xenomorph. It’s massive, towering over my character, and walks with a lumbering thump-thump. It’s genuinely horrifying, and with only one enemy throughout the entire game, it more than makes up for the pretty much guaranteed lack of jump scares.

Even the motion tracker itself looks gloriously crappy.

Even the motion tracker itself looks gloriously crappy.

It took me four tries to get anywhere in the demo. I had to be cautious and stealthy, checking my motion tracker whenever I found a safe hiding spot, and then finding out the alien was right behind me. The sound of it approaching was enough to get my knees shaking, and the subtle cutaway when it catches you is probably a thousand times spookier than any gore-shot could have been. The Xenomorph runs around unscripted too, doing whatever its AI feels like, so there’s no way to rely on rote memorization. It’s all about your skill at tracking, avoiding, and using the incredibly limited toolset availble to you. The game also looks incredibly faithful to the movie, replicating that 70s low-fi si-fi look with pretty stellar results. At the beginning of my demo, I got a tutorial video on how to use the motion tracker, which looked like the worn-out VHS tapes I saw in elementary school. Apparently, the dev team rendered the video in game, recorded it to a VHS tape, scratched it up, then put it back into the game. That’s dedication.

But, no matter how great Isolation is in, well, isolation, it remains to be seen how the full game will turn out. After the Colonial Marines disaster, it never hurts to be trepidatious, especially when dealing with a seven-and-a-half foot tall two-mouthed monstrosity.


Assassin’s Creed: Unity-

Bros before Templars, or something.

Bros before Templars, or something.

I am a cantankerous fart when it comes to the Assassin’s Creed series. I’ve tried them again and again, but they’re never what I want out of a game that promises the experience of being an assassin. At best, they’re sort of bland trips through beautifully realized historical locales. At worst, they’re Assassin’s Creed 3. My problem always sort of comes down to the games increasing focus on open-world action. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is sort of the platonic ideal of that kind of game in a lot of ways. The focus is on fast paced, fluid action, and sailing the high seas looking for more people to shoot and stab. While that works for most people, evidently, I’ve always wanted a more stealthy experience from the Assassin’s Creed games. They always promise sneaky alternatives to action, but remaining hidden is usually so difficult and frustrating that it just doesn’t feel worth it.

Assassinate people through windows! In a church! At the barbeque! After school! After lunch! Any where is good for assassination!

Assassinate people through windows! In a church! At the barbeque! After school! After lunch! Any where is good for assassination!

In my hands-off demo of Assassin’s Creed Unity, Arno was spotted exactly once, and was able to silently get away regardless. It was impressive, but it was basically all due to one little improvement, the crouch button. The assassin’s guild has finally learned the art of getting low to the ground and wearing darker clothes, making it actually feasible to sneak by guards! Arno can also take cover, peek around cover, and even do third-person-shooter style cover-to-cover transitions. It’s something of a late revelation for the Assassin’s Creed series, considering Metal Gear was doing it more than a decade ago, but it’s by no means unwelcome. Adding stealth options that actually seem to work is a big, big deal for the Assassin’s Creed games, which have been catering to the action-focused players since Assassin’s Creed 2.

Next-gen consoles can render those crowds of thousands, but they're only there so you can kill 'em dead.

Next-gen consoles can render those crowds of thousands, but they're only there so you can kill 'em dead.

The game is also kind of insultingly pretty. It seems a bit cartoonier in style than previous entries, specifically when it comes to the blood. The Ubisoft rep who was demoing the game says the gore wasn’t specifically turned up, but the “improved” blood splatters and gore are definitely noticeable, and made me a little uncomfortable. At one point, Arno ducks into a confessional, and the camera zooms in as he stabs his wrist-blades into his targets eyes. It’s brutal, and just a little gross. Otherwise, the environments are beautifully realized, the crowds are enormous and give the world a much better sense of scope, and NPCs react accordingly. At one point, a man on patrol in Notre Dame cathedral was distracted by a cat long enough for Arno to kill him, and dump him into a nearby hay bale. But, this was all hands off. It remains to be seen exactly how well all this will work when it isn’t being demoed by a member of the dev team. For now though, Assassin’s Creed Unity looks like a stealth game I genuinely want to play, which is shocking.


Fable Legends:

That "four heroes walking into the middle distance" motif is real strong on this holiday's marketing materials.

That "four heroes walking into the middle distance" motif is real strong on this holiday's marketing materials.

At E3 Fable Legends looked both kind of generic, and far too good to be true. One one hand, it seemed like a weird offshoot of the Fable games, without any of their sense of scope and grandeur. On the other, the super seamless five player multiplayer, with one player serving as the villain and four working together as a band of heroes looked almost impossible. After going a few rounds with it, Fable Legends showed its true colours- it's actually two genuinely cool, interesting games.

No pictures of my trusty pal Inga, so have Glory wrecking stuff with fireballs.

No pictures of my trusty pal Inga, so have Glory wrecking stuff with fireballs.

The first game is the heroes side. They play an action RPG where each of them has a primary weapon, three health potions, four special powers, and a recharging mana bar that they draw from. I played as Inga, a tank class character, who had a slow sword swing, a big shield, and various abilities that improved her teammates survivability. Along for the ride were Shroud, a sniper, Leech, the necromancer, and Glory, the mage. The developers mentioned that so far, there are eight characters, with more in development, and the plan is that any team of heroes can be viable. The character picking feels a little bit like a MOBA, as each has a very specific role to play on any team they take part in. Otherwise though, characters level up and keep those levels, getting stronger over time and holding on to different weapons and items that players find in the single player campaign.

You know, they call 'em archers but you never see them arch.

You know, they call 'em archers but you never see them arch.

The villain player though is playing a totally different game., sort of a cross between an RTS and a board game. In each arena (distinct areas of each level) the villain can place enemies from a palette of four monsters per arena, activate traps, and direct monster attacks. At one point, the villain player used a monster to lure me past a gate, then sealed it behind me, leaving my slow tank to deal with a swarm of monsters, and the rest of my party without a reliable damage sponge. Before every arena, the villain has about a minute of prep time, but most of their action goes on as the heroes advance through the areas, reacting in realtime to the weaknesses and strengths of the other players.

It’s unbelievably fluid, and part of that may have had to do with the fact that it was running on five networked machines, but god damn if it wasn’t impressive. The game doesn’t currently have a five player local option, which could be a problem moving forward, but apparently Lionhead is looking into smartglass support for the villain player. Otherwise though, so long as the game actually runs this smoothly in its final form (which is a while away, a beta is happening in October), Fable Legends is shaping up to be one of the more interesting multiplayer experiences on next-gen consoles.


Mortal Kombat X:

Yeah, that's Mortal Kombat alright.

Yeah, that's Mortal Kombat alright.

X14, the media event wher I got a chance to play these games, was set up on two floors. More mature titles, like Assassin’s Creed and the Evil Within were on the basement floor, while family friendlier titles like Minecraft and Forza were on the first floor. I told you that because Cassie Cage, one of the new characters, has an attack where she punches her opponents in the nuts so hard their gentials explode.

Mortal Kombat was on the first floor.

Kotal Kahn is a new Mortal Kombat Kharacter, who Kicks and Kracks with the best of the top Kombatants.

Kotal Kahn is a new Mortal Kombat Kharacter, who Kicks and Kracks with the best of the top Kombatants.

Gameplay-wise, the big change is the introduction of a character variation system, which gives each character a choice between three different specializations. For example new character D’vorah, an insect-woman, had variations that added venom to her attacks, or gave her extra control over her bee swarm. Each variation changes the physical appearance of the character, letting competitive players know what they’re up against without any surprises. The other gameplay twist is taken from the MK team’s previous game, Injustice: Gods Among Us, which allowed fighters to interact with various objects and people in the environment. For example, on the market stage, the Warner Bros. PR rep playing the game with me picked up an old lady in the middle of her shopping and tossed her right into my face.

Mortal Kombats tone is a beautiful thing. It’s completely unserious, completely goofy. Where Assassin’s Creed’s cartoonish goriness was mildly upsetting, Mortal Kombat’s was almost jovial. This is a game where the aforementioned Cassie Cage (daughter of series mainstays Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage, by the way) can kneecap her opponents, shoot them through the head, pull out some gum, chew it, stick it over the bullet hole, and watch as a blood soaked bubble pops out. The goofy goriness refreshingly unserious, which is strange to say in an industry where increased gore is meant to be a mark of maturity.


Ori and the Blind Forest:

Dang, that's pretty.

Dang, that's pretty.

Do you remember the action/platformer indie game trend of 2008ish? Moon studios does. In fact, their debut game, Ori and the Blind forest feels like it could have been ripped right out of that post-Braid period of indie game design. It’s actually kind of refreshing, considering so many indie games are following the current rougelike trend. In terms of platform mechanics, there’s a little bit of lag to Ori’s movement, a little bit of floatiness to his jumps, giving it a very similar feel to Rayman: Origins. Ori also shares that game’s focus on gorgeous 2D art. Like Rayman, it’s only meant to look hand drawn, but in motion, moves a lot more fluidly with less frames. It’s not janky looking by any means, but it’s likely what contributes to the floatiness of the gameplay.

Ori also borrows liberally from Metroidvania-style games, with areas that are only accessible by levelling up Ori’s various attacking, jumping and running abilities. The whole game takes place on one interconnected map screen, and the plan is for loading to be seamless, with all progress impediments being completely organic, rather than Metroid’s trademark locked doors. It’s a big promise, but as far as the demo goes, it seems feasible. Unfortunately, there isn’t very much that distinguishes Ori mechanically. It mostly seems like a method of conveyance for this gorgeous art, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s probably not the indie game that’ll put the Xbox One on the map.

Sunset Overdrive:

I really hope that gun actually fire bullets shaped like the word "Blamm!"

I really hope that gun actually fire bullets shaped like the word "Blamm!"

Sunset Overdrive is Sonic the Hedgehog but with guns.

But also it’s nothing like that one game that already did that.

See? Grinding! Just like everyone's favourite the Hedgehog.

See? Grinding! Just like everyone's favourite the Hedgehog.

Insomniac Games is coming hot off the heels of last year’s tepidly reviewed Fuse, their first multiplatform title. Sunset Overdrive meanwhile, is their first Xbox exclusive game, and the attitude is an interesting cross between the classic Insomniac cartooniness and Microsoft’s focus on “mature” content. The game opens with your personally designed character (mine was a buff red haired girl with a fantastic goatee) cursing up a storm as they flee from mutant energy drink addicts and learn how to grind on rails and building ledges. That’s where the sonic comparisons come in. on the ground, your character is a sitting duck. You’re not very quick, but the mutants are fast and come at you in droves. While grinding though, you get both the high and speed advantage, along with a better look at the lay of the land. Your advantage is the mobility that the rails offer you, and it makes for a faster, more visually dynamic shooter.

Explosions! Orange! Blue! Soda! Tongues! Firmly in cheeks! But not in a ditry way!

Explosions! Orange! Blue! Soda! Tongues! Firmly in cheeks! But not in a ditry way!

The problem mostly comes in when your weapon variety starts to show up. I had a flaming  gential-themed shotgun, a disc gun that fired vinyl records, and a massive hand cannon called the Dirty Harry. None of these guns really favoured the high speed, far away combat style that the grind-rails encouraged. The shotgun worked great for enemies nearby, and the hand cannon was perfect when I slowed myself down and focused on enemies, but otherwise, the disc gun’s bouncing records was the only weapon that worked at the high speeds the game wanted me to move at. Presumably as the game opens up, you’ll get more weapons that suit how you want to fight, but the game pushes you very hard in a particular direction. The other problem I see is the game’s open world, which sort of renders that high-speed mobile combat moot. Specific challenges designed around your mobility in certain areas can be really interesting, but a big, open world might just allow the developers to create more generalized challenges that can be dropped in anywhere on the map. For now, Sunset Overdrive’s overall goofiness, and highly mobile combat style has me a lot more interested in it than I’d initially thought, but that open world is particularly worrying, and very much not in Insomniac’s wheelhouse.


The Evil Within:

That lanterns is almost certainly going to burn through his pants. Give him some toasty buns.

That lanterns is almost certainly going to burn through his pants. Give him some toasty buns.

Hoods are so last year for "spooky apparition", don't you know that?

Hoods are so last year for "spooky apparition", don't you know that?

Did you play Resident Evil 4? If you didn’t, it’s something of a classic. Shinji Mikami reimagined of the survival horror genre when it desperately needed some fresh air, and created one of the first modern third person shooters to boot, RE4 is pretty rightfully considered to be one of the best games of its time, and it holds up surprisingly well. The Evil Within is Shinji Mikami’s return to the genre he revolutionized twice, and it’s sort of lacking in the revolution department. Without Mikami, Resident Evil has become a far more action- oriented franchise than ever before, and indie games have taken the survival horror genre in a more atmospheric, less actiony direction.The Evil Within is a very anti-climactic return to that Resident Evil 4 middle ground. The protagonist even has Leon Kennedy’s trademark constipated shuffle.

Ammo’s in tight supply, the “haunted” can come back from the dead if you don’t burn their corpses with a match, and the demo took place in a spooky mansion. The potential for jump scares and death traps is pretty much infinite. At one point, I walked down a hallway, and triggered a rope that dragged me into a closet full of spinning blades. I tried shooting at the blades to jam them, but of course, the game didn’t exactly highlight the tiny blinking light I was meant to shoot at until after I died. And then I lost about 20 minutes of progress. Retracing my steps was an exercise in memorization. Turn around, shoot that zombie. Stop, kick open door, defuse bomb, grab safe dial, go down hall, activate trap, shoot trap. The sheer scriptedness of everything renders the horror moot. The terrifying atmosphere of modern survival horror has left Mikami’s take on the genre feeling more like a particularly goofy haunted house.

In a more positive take, having to burn enemy corpses is an interesting mechanic. Your character only has so many matches available to him (one has to wonder why he doesn’t just carry a lighter) and any enemy whose head you don’t completely blow off has a chance of coming back. I could see that becoming a real great way of building dread, but then again, after dying once or twice, it wouldn’t be too hard for a player to figure out which bodies to burn and which to leave. Especially when compared to Alien: Isolation, The Evil Within seems like a survival horror throwback, and not necessarily in a good way.


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Mark of the Ninja Special Edition- What You Are in the Dark

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Mark of the Ninja Special Edition- What You Are in the Dark

It’s interesting how another trip back to a game you love can really change your mind about it. Mark of the Ninja was one of my favourite games of 2012, and, in my opinion, one of the best stealth games ever made. Mark of the Ninja: Sepcial Edition is its $5 expansion DLC, which adds a bonus level set before the events of the game, a new play style, two new weapons, and developer commentary. Going through the game again for the commentary reminded me that its still one of the best designed games ever made, but when it came to the new level, something clicked in my head. The new level that Special Edition offers somehow manages to show off why Mark of the Ninja is so great, and also why it could have so easily sucked.

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The new level stars Dosan, a ninja without the titular mark. For those of you who haven’t played the original game, or forgotten about the lore, the mark is what lets you freeze time to aim your throwing weapons, and use farsight to see through walls in a very clear take on the Arkham game’s detective vision. Dosan, being a technical pacifist, also doesn’t carry a sword, instead having access to an instant non-lethal takedown.

For me, that last one sounded like a breath of fresh air. I love playing through stealth games as non-lethally as possible, slowly and methodically making my way through a level without being seen, and without touching a hair on my enemies’ heads. Unfortunately, that often slows down the game significantly. In games like Metal Gear Solid and Dishonored, this is par for the course, the game is meant to be taken slowly. But Mark of the Ninja is different. It’s fast paced and fluid and slowing down the game to play non-lethally really messes with the flow of the level sometimes. I figured that a non-lethal takedown would bring speed back to my pacifistic play style.

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work. Dosan’s inability to slow down time while aiming, an almost essential feature when playing stealthily, essentially means that his throwing items (a dust cloud that confuses enemies briefly for an easy takedown, and poisonous spores that kill anyone who comes in contact with them) are completely out of play when you’re on the move. His takedown also leaves something to be desired, as it instantly knocks out any enemy it hits, unlike regular takedowns, which require a directional input and an extra button press. It’s a small thing, sure, but it’s what made lethal takedowns so visceral and exciting, and also offered the ability to mess up with them, granting you a kill, but creating noise that drew enemies to your location.

Dosan is just as quick on his feet as the ninja of the original, and in fact, the new level almost requires speedy play, with enemies that have short patrol loops and a segment that has your usual methods of sneaking my enemies slowly taken away from you, one by one. That segment is actually when the DLC begins to come into its own, only to fall and frustrate you once again. Each time you activate one of the “traps” in this area, you lose one of your usual hiding spots. In the order of your choosing, you booby trap the scaffoldings and climbing spots, the vents, and the hiding places. Taking these three things out of play, three of your most important stealthy resources, makes for a very interesting level, but also highlights the flaws of Dosan’s play style. With no way to slow things down, directly kill enemies to get rid of their bodies, or hide and plan, an interesting level mechanic turns into an exercise in frustration, reloading from the last checkpoint for the fifth time because you spent one second too long in the vents and got impaled by the spikes that now line it.

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However, the level does come around to a much more satisfying conclusion, one that’s better tailored to Dosan’s strengths. The end of the level tasks you with either knocking out every guard in the area, or terrifying five of them. Of course, without the ability to kill or the game’s terror dart weapon,  Dosan has a hard time of managing to terrify enemies. Also, the area this challenge is given to you in is sprawling, intricately connected, and has dozens of guards with variable patrols. Terrifying one guard in the corner of the map can completely alter how the rest of the guards move around the level. Not to mention the fact that terrorized guards shoot wildly into the air and can hit you, or worse, mess up your plans by hitting other guards.

This challenge, clearly designed around Dosan’s ability to play fast and loose, without too much planning, is one of the most sublime setpieces in the entire game. Dashing and swinging around this massive complex, with an unconscious guard in tow and three at your back creates a sort of tension the game didn’t have until now. Special Edition forces you out in the open and into direct, non-violent confrontation with the guards, in a level perfectly designed around the play style they invented for it. It’s perfect, and almost makes you forget how the rest of the level is sort of lacklustre.

Almost.

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As for the commentary, I was expecting it to be audio-based, like in Portal. I was surprised to find text commentary strewn across the level instead, stopping me every time I wanted to read up on the game. Of course, any look into how Klei made a game I love so much is appreciated, but I have to wonder if audio commentary wouldn’t have broken up the flow of the game as much, especially in a game so focused on fluid play. 

Klei has the chops to make incredibly designed stealth levels. They put out an entire game full of them. It’s slightly off-putting that they didn’t seem to get their game together until the very end of this DLC. It unfortunate too, because they made the rookie mistakes that would have turned Mark of the Ninja into a bad game. Easy takedowns, weird pacing, boring, straight hallways lined with unpredictable traps, all these things and more populate the first three quarters of Dosan’s tale, but brave them all, and you’ll find the crown jewel of Special Edition: proof that Mark of the Ninja can still be a spectacular game when it wants to be.

 

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Has the Best 10 Seconds of Any Game Ever

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Has the Best 10 Seconds of Any Game Ever

[Major Spoilers for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, if you haven’t played it yet, DO THAT NOW. It’s a spectacular game.]

 

There’s a moment in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons that reminded me why I love videogames. In fact, it left such a huge impact on me that I’m pretty sure that it’s the single best 10-15 seconds of any videogame. Ever.

It’s a solo co-op game, with the left stick and trigger controlling the older brother, and the right stick and trigger controlling the younger. It requires some impressive brain gymnastics to get the hang of controlling two characters at once, both moving independently of each other and focused on completing different tasks. Games have trained us over the years to be excellent at controlling a single object, possibly with some subservient followers, probably because moving two figures at once, with no relation between their movements is hard.

 "Brothers is confident that it can teach you how to work as a team with yourself"

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Beyond just videogames not training us for this, I’m pretty sure the human brain isn’t wired for this kind of job. People who have never played videogames before often have trouble working a first person shooter, since it requires the player to operate two axes of movement independently of each other. The abstract task of controlling even a single figure on a screen is too much for most people. Not to mention the fact that we’re terrible at multitasking in general, even when it’s something as simple as patting our heads and rubbing our bellies at once. So when it comes to controlling two characters at the same time, it’s not surprising that the majority of the first chunk of the game is spent making your characters run into walls and stumble around each other.

But, Brothers is confident that it can teach you how to work as a team with yourself, and that confidence isn’t just bluster. As the game goes on, you get better and better at controlling the brothers, better and better at working in unison with yourself. It’s an impressive feat of game design, but what’s more impressive is how they tie it in to the narrative.

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Brothers tells its story with out a single word of dialog, at least not that anyone can understand. Characters speak a fantasy babble language that sounds vaguely like simlish. The only words I could make out by the end were (what I assume are) the names of the two brothers. It’s a simple story, two brothers go on a quest to find the water of life, which will save their dying father. The journey goes about as well as you’d expect for two children, with moments of triumph and wonder punctuated by loss and danger at every turn. It’s a story of love, brotherhood, and loss, but manages to get your to care about its characters without ever saying a single word to you.

Not only that, but as you play the game, you get better and better at controlling the two brothers in unison, to the point where it becomes second nature. The game is teaching you how to do it through practice, but what it ends up looking like is that the journey these two brothers go on brings them closer and closer, until they don’t make mistakes, they know what the other is thinking, and they become a perfect team. It’s as if they share a brain. Of course, they do. It’s your brain they share. But there’s a little more to it.

At the beginning of the game, there’s a cutscene which shows the younger brother on a boat, trying to save his mother from drowning. The scene ends with him woken up by the older brother, calling him away from their mother’s grave to help carry their father to someone who can help.

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Later on, you encounter water, and the younger brother refuses to go in. At first I thought it was because he couldn’t swim, but I realized very quickly it was because he was afraid of water, because he watched his mother drown, and the concept of being in water now terrified him. In order to get him to swim, the older brother has to enter, then the younger brother has to walk near him and grab his back. You hold down the right trigger to have the younger brother hold on, and then swim with the left stick. It’s a pretty simple action, all things considered, but it means something a little bigger. The younger brother relies on his elder, he’s useless without him, he needs him to help him get over his fears and contribute. It’s an extremely subtle moment of character development, and amazing that it’s told almost entirely through player interaction.

Later in the game, the older brother dies. The brothers make it to the tree where the water of life is kept, but the older brother doesn’t hold out long enough for the younger can make it back with the water of life in time to save him. Thus, the younger brother, now the only brother, has to head back to save his father alone.

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On the way back, the younger brother comes across a river. Walking up to the river elicits the same reaction from the younger brother as it always did He shakes his head no and tries to turn away. He still refuses to walk into the water, no matter how many times you try to press his action button. Ever since the two brothers separated at the tree of life, the game only has you use the right stick and trigger, the buttons that once controlled the older brother are useless. But now, standing in front of the river, you realize that they do have a use.

Pressing the left trigger, the older brother’s action button, makes the younger brother jump in the river and swim across as fast as he can. It’s stormy, the waters are choppy, but he swims across, crying the whole way.

It doesn’t seem like much, I know, but it’s those ten seconds of swimming across a river that drove home every single one of the game’s themes. Every leg of the brother’s journey is about love and how it changes people. A troll helps you along your way, but then throws you into mines in order to save his beloved. You free another troll only for her to run away, forcing you to deal with her captors. She returns and offers her help, realizing you were sent by her husband. You free a strange-griffin like creature, which in return for your help, flies you across a chasm before dying, loving freedom until its last breath. The older brother falls for a girl you save, and stops listening to his younger brother, the person with which he essentially shares a soul. Ignoring his brother’s advice costs the older brother his life. His love for the girl made him ignore his love for his brother, and changed him for the worse. I could write essays upon essays about all of the individual thematic moments in Brothers, and why they’re all so spectacular. They’re all little parables, almost fable-like in how they express their themes without any dialog, just gameplay.

"Hitting a button reminded me why I love videogames."

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In the end, pressing that trigger to make the younger brother swim is the final point the game has to make about brotherhood, love and loss. Love can make you stronger, it can change you, but it can also ruin you, in the case of the older brother. Loss can make you weak, and useless, like the younger brother who can’t even swim without help. But brotherhood is stronger than any of these forces, a permanent bond that ties two people together, through love, loss, death and anything else the world can throw at them. In ten seconds, the game throws all of that at you. With one button press, the game puts you in charge of putting the thematic conclusion on the entire game. Hitting a button reminded me why I love videogames. Why a medium that can affect you through your own interaction with a story is worthwhile. Why interactivity can enhance a story.

 

Ten seconds reminded me that videogames can be amazing, and that makes them the best ten seconds of any videogame ever.

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