‘METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES’ (M)
In terms of Big Boss’ career of covert infiltrations and extractions, Ground Zeroes is the equivalent of a quick stop by the office on a Sunday morning to take care of a few things before heading off to the golf course. The game includes a single location, a straightforward rescue mission, no boss battles, two cut-scenes, only one notable plot point, and it can all be completed in about an hour and a half. So even at the game’s $30 budget price, you’re still dishing out about thirty cents for every minute of gameplay. Not even the quarter gobbling arcade cabinets of yesteryear were ever so greedy. This isn’t a game — it’s a demo. It’s a ninety-minute prologue to set up the events of its already-announced follow-up, Phantom Pain, and as such, it should’ve been included as the first level in that package.
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s worth mentioning that your brief jaunt to Camp Omega does include some pretty good stealth gameplay and even a few excellent innovations for the series (which I can’t wait to see included in a full-fledged game). Your radar in now gone, creating a feeling of vulnerability that greatly adds to the tension. You can mark guards and track their movements, but you’ve got to spot them first. And in the event that a guard spots you, you’re now given a few precious seconds of slow motion to pull off a headshot and spare yourself the trouble of blaring alarms and tedious firefights. The production values are certainly top-notch, with dynamic shadows and rainy textures dressing up the otherwise generic military complex. It’s all enough to sufficiently whet our appetites for Phantom Pain. It just should’ve done so as a free download.
‘THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON TWO EPISODE 2 – A HOUSE DIVIDED’ (M)
The second installment of Clementine’s undead chronicles sinks its teeth deep into character development, fleshing out the members of her party before that flesh is inevitably gnawed off by walkers. As usual, it’s the living people who are the most threatening, and nearly all of them hint at dark secrets bubbling under the surface. But this season has a nasty habit of quickly punishing any character that exhibits the slightest kindness. It helps to paint a picture of an unforgiving world that rewards the cold pragmatist, but it also brings the narrative dangerously close to predictability.
Magus is a third-person shooter, but no one bothered to tell this to the game’s enemies, who come at you armed with swords and unicorn horns (because you actually fight unicorns). It’s a slaughter, without the slightest bit of challenge. But Magus is one of those games that’s almost so bad, it’s good, making the lack of difficulty one of its strongest assets. Free of frustration, you can sleepwalk through battles and quickly make your way to the hilariously bad dialogue, story and enemy A.I. glitches — all of which are wrapped up in some of the ugliest graphics ever seen on a PlayStation 3 (or a PlayStation 2 for that matter). CV
Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.