Monday, March 21, 2011

Spotlight: Visceral Games

Hello everyone, I have decided to spice up this blog I would start a little segment called “Spotlight” in which I review and give a little talk about different companies. I think I may mainly do video game companies since that is probably one of my best areas. I could do movies as well, but we will see what happens. I won’t do daily spotlights, but they will be here every so often just to give me some more to talk about. The first gaming company I would like to talk about it Visceral Games. This company, when I really started caring more about certain developers, was the first to catch my eye as unique. I will run through their history as a company, as well as their developed games and my opinions and reviews on them and even the company as a whole.

 Visceral Games was first known as EA Redwood Shores and is part of EA Games. They got this name due to their location in Redwood Shores, but have since then branched out to Melbourne, Ausralia. This company has come pretty far in terms of graphical design and actually made games I have played through growing up. What really stands out in Visceral Games’ games is their musical style, especially as of late. I noticed it first in Dante’s Inferno and even more so in the Dead Space series. They know how to get a player sucked into the game by keeping them on edge with orchestral soundtracks. I usually get bored, trying to get a lot of a game done at once, but with Visceral Games, they know how to keep me entertained.
The first game Visceral Games released was James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire in 2001. It came out for GameCube, Playstation 2, and X-Box. In many magazines EA had stated that Bond would be going “back to its roots.” This game was originally supposed to succeed GoldenEye, which Rareware released in 1997. The game’s engine is based on a modified Quake 3 Arena engine.

It was three years later that Visceral Games released a new game, and in 2004 they released another James Bond game, Everything or Nothing. This is the second third-person styled Bond game to be released but is the first to incorporate a two-player co-op mode. Pierce Brosnan was the voice of Bond for this game and the character model is designed to look similar to him. Visceral Games did the third-person levels for this game. This game uses the same engine as Agent Under Fire but the driving was based off of the Need For Speed engine.

Reverse one year to 2003 and we have the last installment of the movie trilogy of the Lord of the Rings as Visceral Games developed this one. It was the only game out of the three that had multiple storylines, fighting for good or evil. This game was my favourite out of the three and the graphics are outstanding. The character models are almost completely accurate to the actors in the film. This game received positive reception, although many criticized the camera control. Such is Visceral Games’ only problem but we will get to it later.

Going back to 2004 we have a new Lord of the Rings game, The Third Age, which follows a different path of story which isn’t in the movies. This game came out for the same system that all these games have came out for as of yet. It is a role-playing game and it allows characters to travel and gain experience. Unfortunately this is one of the only Lord of the Rings games I have yet to try.  Many people disliked this game because of the storyline and because EA Games only had the rights to the movies and not the books, they didn’t have much to go off of. The combat style is turn based and is similar to Final Fantasy X.

In 2005, Visceral Games developed their third James Bond game entitled From Russia With Love. It is base off of the novel and film of the same name, which came out in 1957 and 1963 respectively. This game features more of the early filmed Bond elements like the jet pack from Thunderball and the Aston Martin DB5, which debuted in the 1964 movie Goldfinger. This game also included the voice acting of Sean Connery. This Bond game was the last to be release by EA Games as they lost the rights to Activision in the next year. From Russia With Love is made with the Havok engine which has been used in many games as of late and is one that Valve modified and uses in many, if not all, of their games.

The Godfather video game was Visceral Games’ project in 2005. It was the second game of the series. It was originally released on Playstation 2, X-Box, and for PC but has been rereleased on the newest generation of consoles in the Playstation 3, X-Box 360 and even the Nintendo Wii, even a version is available for the Playstation Portable. The game features many of the original 1972 film’s actor’s voices for their in-game characters. James Caan, Robert Duvall, John Martino and Abe Vigoda we able to lend their voices, but Marlon Brando Richard Castellano, John Cazale and Al Pacino were absent because of death or copy rights.

The next game for development by Visceral Games is The Simpsons video game which was released in 2007. This game features an original storyline that was written by Tim Long, Matt Selman, and Matt Warburton, who are writers for the television series. A main focus of the plot is that the family find out they are forced to partake in yet another video game. Critics gave positive feedback but did not enjoy the shortness of the game or the camera system, which is beginning to be a continuous down fall with Visceral Games. It uses the engine from The Godfather’s video game from the previous year.

Visceral Games started getting into next generation game development in the next year, as they released the first game in the new popular third person survival horror series Dead Space in 2008. Players take control of an engineer named Isaac Clarke who battles an alien infestation of Necromorphs on the mining ship, USG Ishimura. This game is very unique in the style of game play as it does not feature a HUD and that looking at your inventory and objectives does not pause the game. In order for players to see health, suits you wear have a health meter on the back of them and to see your ammo you can aim in with a weapon. The game’s combat involves “strategic deismembement” when dealing with enemies, which inflicts more damage and slows down their movement, and statis which lets you slow down moving objects or enemies as well as kinesis which lets you move objects. This game was developed with the Godfather engine.

Visceral Games developed a second Godfather game in 2009 which is based off of the 1974 film, which was directed by Francis Ford Copolla and co-written by himself and Mario Puzo. It came out for the newest generation systems, excluding Nintendo Wii, and also came out for PC. This is a sequel to the game that Visceral Games developed two years ago. It is play in the third person view and players try to battle rival families and take over businesses to become a “don.” Robert Duvall returned for his role for both voice and likeness but Al Capone did not. This game has fair ratings but critics disliked the easy playthrough which had glitches and bugs, as well as poor AI.

To continue their developing in 2009, Visceral Games developed Dead Space: Extraction. This is a prequel to the first Dead Space game that came out a year before. It was originally for the Nintendo Wii but has now moved to the PlayStation 3, as they have incorporated a motion sensored controller in the Playstation Move. It was then included when you bought Dead Space 2 for the system and is also purchasable from the PlayStation Network. As well as being a prequel, it is also played out during the time period in which the animated film Dead Space: Downfall is in. Players use their WiiMote and PlayStation Move controller to shoot at enemies as well as other combat options.

The next year 2010, saw the development that caused some controversy. Dante’s Inferno was developed by Visceral Games and is one of my favourites by the company, aside from the Dead Space series. The story is named after the first canticle of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy called Inferno. Players take control of Dante as he goes through the nine circles of Hell to save Beatrice, the woman he is in love with, who is taken by Lucifer. At the E3 in the year before it was released a protest began opposing the game, as protesters held up signs and called the game sacrilegious and insensitive to people’s beliefs. Some people even went as far as to call EA an Antichrist. Unfortunately this protest was a hoax which was actually made by EA to protest the game.  One of the achievements in the game entitled “Bad Nanny” required you to kill unbaptized infants and this led to problems with the International Nanny Association. The INA had no lucky getting any censorship from the ESRB. A professor at Columbia University named Teodolinda Barolini, said this on the game: “Of all the things that are troubling, the sexualization and infantilization of Beatrice are the worst. Beatrice is the human girl who is dead and is now an agent of the divine. She is not to be saved by him, she is saving him. That’s the whole point! Here, she has become the prototypical damsel in distress. She’s this kind of bizarrely corrupted Barbie doll.” Another professor, Arielle Saiber of Bowdoin College simply stated: “Beatrice saves Dante… not the other way around.” I agree with Arielle, but I will not spoil the game for you.

Dead Space Ignition was also developed by Visceral Games in 2010. It was released on the PlayStation Network and the X-Box Live Arcade. It is the midquel to the second Dead Space and is an interquel between to main games. The game was described by the executive producer, Steve Papoutsis, as being an “interactive comic-style game” written by Anthony Johnston who is the official Dead Space writer. This game is a puzzle game and is asks more of the brain than the other games as it doesn’t require gun power, just intellect to complete puzzles. If you complete this game, you receive bonus items on for Dead Space 2, which was released the next year, which includes the hacker-themed suit (15% armor, 15% inventory) and a bonus to the hacking parts of the game. Players would also receive a hacker-themed Contact Beam weapon, extra power nodes, health packs, ammo, and audio logs. These rewards are unlocked with your Dead Space Ignition completed save file and are found in “conduit rooms.”

The most recent game in which Visceral Games has developed is obviously Dead Space 2. It came out a month ago, which was February 28, 2011. It is the sequel to Dead Space and included a multiplayer option. In the sequel, you gain the ability to maneuver in zero gravity with boot thrusters. Wright Bagwell, creative director, said that the game is very similar to Resident Evil and stated: "There's an interesting story from Dead Space and Dead Space 2, which is that when we started building Dead Space, we basically started with a mechanic set that was really similar to Resident Evil 4, the [people on the] team were really huge fans of that game." This game receive a very positive reception from critics as many ratings are that of 4/5’s or 9/10’s and has even been compared to the Aliens move series. The only negative comment I have found is a gamer who could not remap his mouse keys to assist his disability but Visceral Games has issued a statement saying they are working on a patch to help out his situation.

The next game to be released that is developed by Visceral Games is called Ripper. It has been confirmed that it will come out on the PlayStation Network and X-Box Live Arcade. It was rumoured to be based on Jack the Ripper and this has been confirmed. There is not much information, but it was worth saying what Visceral Games is working on next.

All in all Visceral Games is an amazing game developer. They started off with the popular James Bond games for the PlayStation and X-Box in their early years and also developed some Lord of the Rings games and then started to make games that are more popular now, in the Godfather games and the better known series Dead Space and the controversial game Dante’s Inferno. I stated in the introduction that they have a unique way of using soundtracks. This is most seen in Dante’s Inferno, as you travel through the circles of hell and used in a more suspenseful way in Dead Space 2, they make you on edge as you do not know when or where a Necromorph may pop out at you. The only advise I have to the developers is, when making anymore platform games, please please please with a cherry on top fix your camera control. Other then that, I enjoy the games that Visceral Games develops and I hope that they continue there ongoing success. If you would like, please comment and tell me your thoughts on Visceral Games as well as your favourite games by them. Also suggest other companies if you want, I may just put the spotlight on them.

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