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  • Apr 21, 2014
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Let's play

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am

For decades, cynics have argued that video games have no real artistic value. They're mindless escapism, they say: gaming is nothing more than a button-mashing, meaningless medium which can't compete with the subtleties and subtext of films, television or books.

Of course, for entertainment history buffs, all this negativity sounds familiar. Radio was judged inferior to books, silent films were inferior to radio, talkies were inferior to silent movies, and television was a lesser medium than film.

But the new media eventually usurped the earlier media. The sales figures for video games suggest that they are doing that, too. Over the past four years, video games have consistently outdone films in terms of release-week sales.

Last December, Call of Duty: Black Ops became the highest-grossing game in history when it took in US$1 billion - in just over one month of release. It was the biggest entertainment opening of all time - bigger than Titanic, Avatar and every other Hollywood blockbuster.

That's just money, critics say. It's rich parents tossing US$50 to their spoiled kids to buy the latest ultra-violent shooter. Video games aren't art and they never will be. But even that tide is turning. Just last month, the US National Endowment for the Arts expanded on its Arts in Media guidelines to include digital games and it will offer up to US$200,000 in funding to designers.

As the summer rolls around and the film industry tries desperately to regain box-office composure by raising ticket prices for the endless stream of 3-D films, video games are doing what they do best. The slate of summer releases is exciting, and while their 3-D aspects are currently limited to one console, that might all soon change (see sidebar).

Until then, if you are a video game fan interested in what's coming up over the next few months, read on. For anyone bold enough to leap into the newly-dominant medium, our handy recommendations are useful for easy mental adjustment.

For film fans ...

L.A. Noire

From such open-world adventures as Grand Theft Auto to unique releases like Bully, developer Rockstar has inarguably defined the past decade of gaming. Its latest release brings together the best of both. Set in the film noir-era of L.A. circa 1947, players take on the role of a hard-boiled detective solving cases. Blending fast-paced car chases with meditative crime-solving elements, it's a wholly cinematic game, with the newly developed MotionScan technology allowing gamers to accurately play detective by analysing potential suspects' every facial tic.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360

Release date: out now

For comic-book geeks ...

Infamous 2

Mixing the still-popular comic book trend with an involving 'karma' system, Infamous was one of 2009's best releases, a sandbox superhero game that allowed players to choose between good and evil. The sequel is more of the same - and that's a good thing. With a host of new superpowers literally available at your fingertips, and a noticeably larger open-world city to explore, Infamous 2 is an action-adventure game that takes a cue from superhero follow-up flicks. It continues an engaging story while increasing the stakes.

Available on: PS3

Release date: out now

For zombie fans ...

Dead Island

The zombie genre seems to be spreading to all media, and getting out of control in the process. But no console has seen a truly good living dead game. That might change with Dead Island. A mishmash of gaming genres, it's a four-player cooperative game that sends you on role-playing quests through an open-world setting. It takes a traditional zombie genre concept - survivors try to find a safe haven in a ravaged world, while battling undead along the way - and transports it to an interactive gaming experience.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows

Release date: September 6

For romantics ...

Catherine

Only the Japanese could've come up with something like Catherine, a game so hard to define we're only going to skim the surface. Exploring one of life's most important elements - personal relationships - you play the role of Vincent, a man wrought with guilt after cheating on his girlfriend. Alternating between trippy sequences that incorporate puzzle elements and RPG-like real world scenes in which Vincent weighs conversations with friends and colleagues, Catherine is a wholly original game that offers a much-needed respite from endless first-person shooters.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360

Release date: July 26

For veteran gamers ...

Resistance 3

The first-person shooter has usurped every other as the most popular genre in the market. The Resistance series is one of the best available, and the upcoming third entry expands on the alternate history story while building on the post-apocalyptic maps. But it's the run-and-shoot gameplay that players are most interested in. Keeping to its tried-and-tested mechanics, it will bring back the weapon wheel and a number of weapons from the first entry, while expanding the arsenal with a biological mist gun, a sniper rifle and a nail grenade.

Available on: PS3

Release date: September 6

For retro gamers ...

Pac Man & Galaga Dimensions

Retro games are on the rise, so why not go back to the start with two of the best? The highlights of this 3DS collection are the new versions of two classic games, each updated and fully remade to take advantage of the console's tilting and 3-D functionality. Alongside this, the developers are including 2007 download games Pac Man Championship and Galaga Legion plus the full versions of both the original classic games as they appeared on the Atari system all those decades ago.

Available on: Nintendo 3DS

Release date: July 26

For 80s gamers ...

Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D

Eighties-era adventure gamers who dropped the habit couldn't resist N64's 1998 release Ocarina of Time. Bringing back the classic Legend of Zelda series, it revolutionised the adventure genre with clever gameplay and impressive graphics. Nintendo has now remade it for its portable 3DS console, updating the visuals in stunning seen-to-be-believed stereoscopic 3-D while adding various new challenges and quests for those who've obsessively played and replayed the game during the past decade.

Available on: Nintendo 3DS

Release date: June 19

For 1990s gamers ...

Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever was a joke in the video-game industry - a sequel announced 15 years ago that was plagued by endless delays. But it's finally here. Taking the comedic aspects of previous entries , like corny one-liners and pigs on jetpacks, and borrowing gameplay elements from popular releases like Halo, it's billed as a rip-roaring throwback to the 1990s shooter. Initial reviews have been below average. It's a relic of a bygone era lost in a next-gen world, critics say. But it was probably never going to live up to its endless hype anyway.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows

Release date: out now

For artists ...

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

Sawaki Takeyasu was art director on two of the most beautiful games ever created: Okami and Devil May Cry. With El Shaddai, he's been given full control over gameplay and story, and early reviews are calling it a true work of art. Following a priest sent to destroy seven fallen angels, it's a fighting game unlike any other: battles are almost secondary to the morphing environments. Sequences are constantly changing to resemble different artistic styles like woodcut prints, watercolour paintings, and modern anime.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360

Release date: July 26

For day-trippers ...

Child of Eden

Open-minded millennial college kids who bought Tetsuya Mizuguchi's 2002 game Rez no doubt spent months lost in its endless psychedelic world. Child of Eden is its follow-up, employing next-gen graphics and the motion-controlled Kinect and Move devices to fully immerse players in its hallucinatory world. Said to be Mizuguchi's version of Super Mario, it's a shooter on the surface, the eventual goal being to save a princess, but the real reason to play is for its mind-bending technicolour landscapes, dream-like sounds and abstract electronic music.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360

Release date: out now

For fairytale readers ...

Alice: Madness Returns

Alice, 2000's gothic-horror game adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic story, was a surprise success, blending a reality-based tale of insanity alongside surreal visuals and stunning graphics. The sequel once again balances the real world and possible madness - a character-driven story that's an action game at heart, those with a love for Carroll's original story will find much to appreciate, with Alice alternating between a grimy, depressing Victorian England and literally battling her inner demons in the demented wonderland.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows

Release date: out now

For God complexes ...

From Dust

Peter Molyneux is one of the industry's most innovative game designers, most notable for creating the 'god game' genre with 1989's Populous. From Dust is the spiritual successor to his work, with players given the power to terraform an entire world.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows

Release date: July 20

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