Monday 10 October, 2022
So, literally years later I was able to get back to this game and finish it. I'm surprised by how well I remember the "big picture" points relating to the game's story. I couldn't remember some of the finer points (who stole what? why are both characters after person X for revenge?).
Unfortunately my wife bowed out, but in two sessions I finished the game playing with my daughter (with my wife sort of paying attention as we made progress).
My daughter's experience with regular controllers help - and we made good progress with few hold ups on that end. And, it was fun to answer her questions about what was going on - which is why I can say that I was surprised by how much I remembered. My daughter did have a preference for playing Leo - and she explained this mostly due to her enjoying his accent.
So, overall feelings and reaction? Wow - this game really is great and interesting and fun and all kinds of other good things. As we played the sections in Mexico (the game starts with both characters in a plane - and then you play up to that point, the plane is on the way to Mexico, and then you play stuff in Mexico and more. But not that much longer after the Mexico section), I couldn't help think of the Uncharted games! The Mexico section is basically wandering to the bad guys home/base (we chose to walk rather than parachute in, I have no idea what happens if you choose to parachute in), shooting the place up and then escaping on motorcycles while getting shot to pieces until you leap back on the plane to escape. It's fun, action-packed and (arguably) less impressive than Naughty Dog's work on Uncharted, but still really engaging with lots of slow-mo cinematic moments where both characters stuff is synchronized in cool ways (e.g. motorcycles grabbing air while barely missing each other and some jeeps that are also in the air, etc.).
I assumed that the game's end would be a sort of wrapping up with Vincent (and his estranged wife and newborn child) and Leo (with his girlfriend/wife(?) and young son re-uniting...
And then - BLAMMO! - Plot twist!
It turns out that Vincent is actually an undercover cop working the case because his undercover cop brother got killed in Leo's initial deal (the one where he was crossed and then escaped). Uh oh!
So, big uh-oh because the game has been super co-op all the time! And now, both characters are at odds with each other! Leo escape, Vincent chases him down.
I thought this was super interesting from a collab game perspective and I wonder how/what other people decided to do when they got to this point. My daughter and I decided that we wanted Leo to escape - so I purposefully didn't shoot him, fire on the speedboat, etc.
It was for naught since ultimately the game lands on a 1 vs 1 confrontation - both characters can shoot at each other and depending on who does more damage (get to a certain threshold in their lifebar) a different ending will ensue - either Leo dies, or Vincent dies. Whoah! We all thought this was a cool (and unexpected) dramatic twist - and the game definitely forces one outcome - someone has to die.
So, we decided that Vincent would die. And we watched the really sad game ending - this included Leo delivering a letter Vincent wrote to his estranged wife before the he crossed Leo. Super sad. Cop funeral and all that stuff. But Leo is on the move with his family. Silver lining?
Then we decided to play the ending again - but this time Leo would die. Also, super sad. Vincent visits Leo's girlfriend/wife(?), supposedly explains what happened - it's sad all around. Here Vincent is given another chance with his wife. Again, silver lining?
From a narrative perspective, the plot twist may not be that surprising, and I'm guessing people guessed what would happen. But, I'm more interested in the game design side of things. Here the game does not give you an out - and if you were playing with a stranger on the internet with no way to communicate with them then my hunch is that the cross would turn nasty and that you'd really play to stay alive. But, the game's design also encourages couch-co-op AND playing with a friend (it allows you to share the game with someone who doesn't own a copy!). So, I think the way the game is/was actually played probably differed! I would guess that this was a "put down the controller" moment for players and that there was probably some negotiation (as players realized that the game offered no way out - there's not "and both lived" scenario AFAIK) about the kind of ending they wanted. So, player deliberation and desired probably trumped what the game "forces" you to do. So, players would meta-game and not play "by the rules". I'm curious to know if my hunch is correct? I haven't looked online, but I wonder...
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the game's design and context encourages (implicitly) players to negotiate out of the game as they become aware of the limited options the game gives them and that this design was deliberate. And, I think this is both cool (from an experiential perspective) and interesting (from a design perspective).
Re: the ending where you were wondering if players tend to meta-game, I went back to remember what we did at the end. It would have been cool if I'd elaborated more on what we felt about that part, how we decided which player lived first and which to go back and replay later, but sounds like we just did a re-load to see both endings. It probably wasn't much of a debate for us sitting on the couch next to each other, like "Oh, we can make a choice, then reload and do the other one. Cool? Cool." I don't remember what I was talking about with "character speed" though!
Wednesday 12 October, 2022 by dkirschner
"We thoroughly enjoyed the game, even if the endings weren't what we wanted to happen. (And it wasn't a tough choice because you can just re-load and see the other one). BUT, when you do get to the end, there is a very cool piece of design that affects character speed, and thus, the ending you get, and I won't say more for spoilers. That was one of my favorite parts though."