Video Games

March 22, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

‘Infamous: Second Son’ review: Art is a weapon

Neon light is one of the slick superpowers in "Infamous: Second Son."  (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Computer Entertainment)
Sony’s new superhero fantasy “Infamous: Second Son” opens not with a bang, but with the hissing sound of a spray paint can. As a work of comic-book-inspired fiction, this PlayStation 4 video game aims high, asking right from the start if art can be weaponized. If sulfur bombs and pink and blue lasers count as art, then the answer is yes. Conflicted antihero Delsin Rowe, whom “Infamous” players will control, is a rabble-rousing Banksy wannabe who discovers his hands can conjure smoke and set the world ablaze. His stenciled graffiti art pokes fun at a police state set in a Seattle of the future. Fear brought on by the emergence of humans with superpowers has crippled a nation, turning the Pacific Northwest into a society where segregation and surveillance have run amok. Rowe is thrust into the role of unlikely […]
March 07, 2014 | 2:37 p.m.

‘Titanfall’: Xbox One is gunning for next-gen dominance

Vince Zampella is the game mastermind spearheading "Titanfall," due March 11 for the Xbox One. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
It was Valentine’s Day, and I was afraid someone was watching me die. On a night when most are finding ways to celebrate (or curse) romance, I had opted to spend the evening curled up on the couch with a game, a first-person shooter. At least I wasn’t alone. I was one of many worldwide who were playing “Titanfall,” a game in beta testing that Microsoft has declared the showcase title for its recently released home console, the Xbox One. Connecting to strangers via Microsoft’s servers, many of whom were engaged in midgame conversations, I was outgunned, anxious and nervous about letting down my new teammates. In eight minutes, I would be killed 11 times by people I will never speak to. Once, a giant robot stepped on me. Moments later, a giant robot fired a rocket into my chest. […]
March 06, 2014 | 11:45 a.m.

‘The Last of Us’: Lauded Naughty Dog title headed for big screen

First it was one of the most acclaimed video games released last year. Now the zombie-themed “The Last of Us” is set to make the leap to the big screen. Screen Gems announced Thursday its plan to distribute a new film based on the PlayStation 3 title developed by Naughty Dog. “The Last of Us” creative director Neil Druckmann will write the script for the movie, which he’ll also produce along with game director Bruce Straley, Screen Gems executives Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra and filmmaker Sam Raimi under his Ghost House Pictures banner. Set in a post-apocalyptic environment, “The Last of Us” visits decimated cities where a fungus has transformed the population into zombies. Twenty years after the outbreak, smuggler Joel is hired to protect 14-year-old Ellie and escort her across the dangerous wasteland. On the journey, the two […]
March 04, 2014 | 6:48 p.m.

‘Batman: Arkham Knight’: Rocksteady readies game for next-gen consoles

Box art for the upcoming video game "Batman: Arkham Knight." (Warner Bros. Interactive)
Batman is getting a next-gen makeover. “Batman: Arkham Knight” will be coming to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC later this year, the fourth console edition of the popular “Arkham” series and the third to be overseen by London’s Rocksteady Studios. According to a Warner Bros. Interactive release, the new game will serve as the “conclusion” of the “Arkham” series. Regular Batman super villains will return, as the Caped Crusader is forced to hold off a threat to Gotham spearheaded by the Scarecrow. Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn are also said to be featured in the game. The upcoming title will be the first “Arkham” game to feature a playable Batmobile. A new trailer — watch it above — shows off the car briefly; the clip largely centers on Thomas Wayne’s will, a testament that seems to foreshadow Bruce’s […]
Feb. 26, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

Review: ‘Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze’ springs ape to action

A scene from "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze." (Nintendo)
For the last three decades, one of the video game world’s greatest antiheroes has been a barrel-throwing ape. He’s arrogant, ornery and not nearly as dexterous as he thinks he is. A kidnapper whose jungles were construction sites, he’d steal your girlfriend and trap her atop a skeletal steel structure. But as males-behaving-badly became a pop-culture norm — and an unfortunate requirement of most video games — Donkey Kong softened up. The once attention-desperate gorilla shed his hostage-taking ways and settled into a more healthful lifestyle with the launch of “Donkey Kong Country” in 1994. Now five iterations of the game later, he’s morphed into a rather lovable grump who just wants to enjoy a slice of cake with a frosted banana on top in peace. “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” released last weekend for Nintendo’s home console the Wii […]
Feb. 08, 2014 | 5:00 a.m.

Video game designers go to next level with real-world problems, nuance

"Thralled" creative director Miguel Oliveira at his Los Angeles apartment. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times )
Miguel Oliveira is developing a video game in a tiny apartment near USC, worlds away from the high-tech studios of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. He works on a laptop surrounded by folding chairs and red plastic cups. The spare surroundings belie his ambition: to design a game that changes the way we play. In Oliveira’s game “Thralled,” set in 18th century Brazil, players explore jungles and ships to help a runaway slave reconnect with the life that was stolen from her. The Portugal native grew up on games where guns played the starring role. Now, he wants something more — to create work that has the same cultural resonance as the best in film, literature and music. “What’s blocking interactive media from being considered art is that most video games focus on primitive feelings of aggressiveness and competitiveness,” said Oliveira, […]
Jan. 09, 2014 | 5:45 p.m.

‘The Last of Us,’ ‘Tearaway,’ ‘Gone Home’ lead prestigious GDC noms

Naughty Dog’s survival horror title “The Last of Us,” Media Molecule’s folkloric “Tearaway” and The Fullbright Company’s domestic narrative “Gone Home” lead the nominees for the 2014 Game Developers Choice Awards, with each game generating five nods across a number of categories. The industry-voted Game Developers Choice Awards, held in conjunction with the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, are widely regarded as one of the industry’s most prestigious honors. This year’s ceremony will take place  March 14 at San Francisco Moscone Center. “Gone Home” is the only independently released title to compete for game of the year honors and was the first title released by the four-person Fulbright Company. The downloadable title is up against the PS3′s “The Last of Us,” Nintendo’s Wii U title “Super Mario 3D World” and cross-platform blockbusters “Grand Theft Auto V” (Rockstar Games) and […]
Jan. 07, 2014 | 8:00 a.m.

‘Alien: Isolation’ game pits Ripley’s daughter against Xenomorph

An image from the video game "Alien: Isolation." (Sega)
Fans of Ridley Scott’s 1979 iconic horror film “Alien” will be able to relive the suspense in “Alien: Isolation,” a new video game to be released this year, in time for the film’s 35th anniversary. The game, from Sega and British studio Creative Assembly, was officially announced Tuesday morning and will be available in late 2014 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PC. “Alien: Isolation” lets gamers play as Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda. When she left Earth, Ripley promised Amanda she would be home in time for her 11th birthday, but then the events of the movies ensued, and Amanda never saw her mother again. Some 15 years later, Amanda is an employee of Weyland-Yutani, the mega-corporation that operated Ripley’s ship Nostromo. Amanda finds out that the flight recorder from Nostromo has been recovered at Sevastopol, […]
Dec. 27, 2013 | 7:00 a.m.

‘That Dragon, Cancer,’ ‘Silent Enemy’: Game designers to watch in 2014

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The Times asked its reporters and critics to highlight figures in entertainment and the arts who will be making news in 2014. Todd Martens focused on a few video game designers who could have gamers talking in the new year. Ryan and Amy Green The setting is a hospital. A father is exasperated, a child is crying and it’s your job to find out why. But any victories will be small, as “That Dragon, Cancer” explores the ups, the downs, the everyday terror, the sudden miracles and the dreaded inevitability of caring for a loved one with terminal brain cancer. So … wanna play? Ryan Green, his writer-wife, Amy, and a small team near Fort Collins, Colo., are in the early to middevelopment stages of “That Dragon, Cancer,” a narrative-driven game they hope to complete and release by the end […]
Dec. 19, 2013 | 2:19 p.m.

‘Doki-Doki Universe’: Video games make a play for emotions in 2013

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“Doki-Doki Universe” begins with heartbreak. A robot is left alone on an asteroid, dumped there by his human family. The robot has only a sentimental, hug-happy balloon as a companion for the next 32 years. Then things get abstract. The game, released this month across numerous Sony platforms by the Bay Area’s HumaNature Studios, has one main objective — to make players feel as much as to challenge them. Like many of the most intriguing of 2013 games, the bright, colored-crayon-like world of “Doki-Doki Universe” wows not by being a technological showcase. Instead, in a year that brought us fancy next-gen game consoles from Sony and Microsoft, “Doki-Doki” impresses by illustrating how a still-growing medium can provide a moving, affecting experience via simplicity. (Check out our picks for the top 10 games of 2013 in the gallery above.) “Specifically,” said […]
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