Please make Spider-Man good again

Monday night’s PlayStation press conference at E3 brought a dizzying number of reveals, many of them catching people completely by surprise: Days Gone, Death Stranding, God of War, and… Spider-Man? Definitely didn’t see that one coming! Do I dare confess my excitement about yet another Spidey game after I actually spent $60 of my hard-earned cash on Beenox’s godawful TheAmazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) for the Xbox One? Look, there was a time when Marvel’s friendly neighborhood cash cow meant something more than another ugly, unplayable movie tie-in. When the first Tobey Maguire flick landed in 2002, Treyarch released what can best be described as a fairly…


ReCore, robots, and us

ReCore belongs to a grand storytelling tradition. From Forbidden Planet (1956) to Big Hero 6 (2014), Isaac Asimov to Fallout 4 (2015), science fiction has long been preoccupied with the bond between humanity and machines. So have I, for that matter—my earliest memory is being hospitalized for pneumonia at age two and getting to interact with a remote-control robot in the hospital’s playroom. There’s something incredibly powerful about the notion that we’ll one day create automated beings with superior intelligences and mechanical bodies that’ll outlive us all. First announced at last year’s Microsoft E3 Briefing, ReCore is the story of a young woman named Joule Adams…

Far from Noise

Far from Noise, an upcoming narrative game about nature and mortality

Transcendentalism and 19th-century American thought aren’t the typical influences in game design, but London-based programmer George Batchelor is prepared to overlook that. Though he works primarily for the BAFTA Award–winning studio State of Play, Batchelor moonlights as a game maker on his own personal projects, such as the forthcoming Far from Noise. A low-poly, warm-hued game in which the player takes on the role of a woman in her early 20s having a lengthy conversation with a deer, it promises both a rich narrative and more than a few surprises. After driving through the woods, the young woman loses control of her car and finds…

Lost Ember

An upcoming game lets you explore Mesoamerican ruins as a wolf

Mooneye Studios looked to narrative-heavy titles like Journey (2012) and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) for its upcoming game Lost Ember. And like those titles, it began as a third-person exploration game with puzzle elements, but much of the development process has so far involved paring away its more traditional design concepts. “We felt that they [distracted] from what we are really trying to do,” says Mooneye’s CEO Tobias Graff. “We want to create an experience and trigger certain emotions, get the player to feel the story, and these mechanics always felt wrong for that. The main drive in Lost Ember comes from the story…

Don't Kill Her

Don’t Kill Her turns murder mystery into a hand-drawn delight

Call him Wuthrer, call him Wuthrer Cuany—call him any name you like. Just don’t call him conventional or compromising. The Swiss artist’s latest project, Don’t Kill Her, is an ostensibly two-dimensional adventure game drawn entirely in pencil. The title is up for vote on Steam Greenlight and is currently seeking funds on Indiegogo. Driven by a central murder mystery in which the player character is said to be the killer, an unnamed victim narrates the dreamlike story as you make your way through Wuthrer’s sketchbook-esque world. While the artist is coy on specifics (“Don’t judge a game by its cover,” his website urges), there’s plenty to admire on the surface.…


New videogame thriller takes its cues from The Twilight Zone

“You had a good life. But things changed,” explains the narrator of Asemblance as you begin your descent into a world of reconstructed memories. The machine asks how much of your past life you remember, then: “Are you sure you want to remember?” Last year, Niles Sankey founded Nilo Studios out of a desire to tell new kinds of stories within videogames. An ex-Bungie employee who lent his creative vision to Halo: Reach (2010) and conceptualized the E3 2013 Destiny reveal, Sankey saw untapped potential in the anthology format of storytelling. Asemblance is the first episode in a new, ongoing series of experiences that takes its…

Welkin Road

Welkin Road takes parkour from the rooftops and up to the skies

Gregor Panič has just released Welkin Road, a first-person grappling platformer for Windows, on Steam Early Access. It’s not only his debut game but also a sophisticated one that blends puzzles, freerunning, fast-paced grappling-hook maneuvers, and a “surreal skyscape.” The obvious comparison is with Mirror’s Edge (2008) in that it’s both a first-person platformer and eschews naturalism in favor of efficient design. However, while playing it, the game’s cool, almost minty color palette, its inspired use of cloud imagery, and form-follows-function philosophy, led me to draw comparisons to the NES classic Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988). I wasn’t wrong. “Classic platformers have had a big influence on videogames…


Halo composer is making a “musical prequel” to his next big game

“It needs to be ancient, epic, and mysterious.” These were Marty O’Donnell’s only instructions from Joseph Staten, who’d asked him to write the music that would accompany Halo’s (2001) unveiling at Macworld four days later on July 21, 1999. The melody that resulted from Staten’s minimalist direction, and O’Donnell’s clever use of Gregorian chant, has since become synonymous with the Halo franchise. Rolling Stone named the score for Halo: Combat Evolved the Best Original Soundtrack of 2001. Then, in May 2005, BusinessWeek reported that the first volume of the soundtrack for its sequel, Halo 2 (2004), had sold upwards of 90,000 copies and landed at number 162 on the…

The Division

Now you can explore The Division’s version of Manhattan in Google Maps

There’s a stillness to The Division’s plague-stricken version of New York. Rats populate the streets in greater numbers than do human beings, and a rustling newspaper is often the only visible object in motion beyond the player character and the omnipresent snowfall. The view outside of Madison Square Gardens is one example of how Ubisoft Massive has repurposed Midtown Manhattan to suit its game’s persistent, near-future crisis state. Fences are lined with razorwire. The digital billboard out front loops between two images: an American flag and the seal of the Catastrophic Emergency Response Agency, the game’s fictionalized version of FEMA. A tarp has been thrown over the…