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Editorial

Three Visions of America in Gaming For July 4

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Independence Day

Independence Day is a celebration of all things American, and so OnlySP is shining a spotlight on three different interpretations of the nation to be found within gaming.

The Neutral – Assassin’s Creed III
By DJ Arruda

With Assassin’s Creed III, Ubisoft sought to tell the story of American Independence through the lens of Ratonhnhaké:ton (better known by his adopted name Connor Kenway), a member of the Mohawk tribe who would rock the colonies on his journey to becoming Master Assassin of the Colonial Brotherhood. While the historical fiction of the series has always been grounded in facts supplemented by the shadow war between Assassins and Templars, taking on the story of the American Revolution allows for a visceral retelling of a well-known story, the details of which have been lost in the names of battles and the Founding Fathers.

With Connor as a protagonist, the studio examines colonial actions against Native Americans alongside the path to independence for the colonies, allowing for a story that offers a uniquely engaging look at the historical events that are the reason for the celebration of July 4. From the beginnings of unrest with the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party and the start of the war proper, Connor’s presence throughout these events provides a critical and earnest reaction to the gaining of independence. Even the minutiae of the Continental Congress does not escape this thorough chronicle of America’s origins, which ultimately gives as complete a story as any in fiction about how the country came to be.

Now, being of a series with “assassin” in the title, violence aplenty becomes the true means of progressing. While no-one should be surprised that much blood was shed in achieving independence, having an Assassin’s presence at these key points highlights the cost of freedom. While many debates can be had today on violence in America, keep in mind that violence has always been a part of the country since the very founding. Overall, Assassin’s Creed III is a history lesson that captures the bloody details kept out of the legendary American holiday.

Assassins Creed III

The Negative – Bioshock Infinite
By Damien Lawardorn

With a name drawn from the annals of U.S. history, Bioshock Infinite’s floating city of Columbia makes a powerful claim to be viewed as a microcosm of American society, and the reflection is an unflattering one. Like Jack Ryan before him, Booker DeWitt steps into a fantastical city where the embrace of idealism has led to collapse. While Rapture descended into a nigh-apocalyptic haven of madness, however, Columbia’s fall is less immediately obvious because the symptoms hide beneath a glossy surface. Bioshock Infinite offers a scathing indictment of the ideal of American exceptionalism by exposing the moral decay that accompanies a collective belief in unquestionable superiority.

Despite its idyllic appearance as a paradise among the clouds, Columbia is a city-state rife with racism, xenophobia, violence, overseen by zealous dictator in the form of Father Comstock. Although Bioshock Infinite is primarily a critique of the contemporary setting of 1912, many of the themes raised across the course of the game remain relevant today—not just in America, but across the entire world. A fear of the Other continues to power opposition to ethnic minorities and those of alternative genders and sexualities, while terrorist violence continues to flare. Furthermore, Bioshock Infinite is profoundly pessimistic, suggesting self-immolation as the clearest path to ending dictatorship and freeing the downtrodden masses from the yoke of a tyrannical master. Even the great American spirit of industry is lampooned, with the technology that keeps Columbia afloat stolen rather than developed internally. The city festers within its affluence and righteousness.

As a reflection of 1912, the game is an interesting thinkpiece on the state of America at the time. As a reflection of 2017, however, the title takes on a more sinister bent, suggesting that while some strides have been made in overcoming inequality and discrimination, the world has not moved far. Yet despite Bioshock Infinite’s negative portrayal of some elements of American society, the game remains a powerful testament to the ideal of entrepreneurship that began with the Founding Fathers and continues to push the nation forward and keep it at the forefront of the world’s superpowers.  Independence lies at the heart of the game, evident in both Father Comstock’s miraculous city and in Booker’s steadfast refusal to accept determinism, and this theme is a powerful reflection of everything celebrated on July 4.

Bioshock Infinite

The Positive – Red Dead Redemption
By Marley Hannan

Writing as an Australian, I feel the game that sums up Independence Day and what it means to be American best is, for some reason, Red Dead Redemption.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Red Dead Redemption is the quintessential cowboy game and, for many people, a cowboy is the most iconic American thing there is. The game focuses on John Marston, one of the coolest cowboys out, as he tries to redeem himself for a life of criminality and wrongdoing, that, while morally unjustifiable, is guaranteed to be badass given that the story is likely the basis of Red Dead Redemption 2. Marston aims to achieve said redemption working for the Sheriff’s department and is tasked with hunting down and killing the members of his former gang to earn himself a pardon. While far from a job Marston enjoys, bounty hunting is  the coolest job people could possibly have in that day and age, given that horse urine collector was a job in Canada until the 1930s.

Americans should remind themselves of that. If you are stuck in some dead-end job, working in an office or a Cinnabon somewhere, just remind yourself that you are a goddamn American. Every other country knows you are a part of the most awesome nation in the world. The dorkiest person you know is way cooler than ten New Zealanders, so be proud and happy for them. Maybe also be thankful that you do not have to collect horse urine for Canadians.

Returning to the topic at hand, Red Dead Redemption is also about helping other people, even if the things they ask you to do is deeply odd. The experience of being an American is helping your fellow human being, even if they want to make love to their horse or, worse, are Nigel West Dickens. To some extent, you do these jobs to help yourself. You help others for the cash, the XP, and the cool outfits, but you also do it to solve problems, making the place you live somewhat better for you having been there.

Ultimately, Red Dead Redemption is a fantastic game that can and should be played all year round, but especially on Independence Day. After all, July 4 is a great day for sitting inside, avoiding fireworks, crowds of people, and the rest of the hubbub.

Why?

Because freedom.

Red Dead Redemption

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019

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May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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