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The Virtual Photographer

Capturing images to highlight showmanship and artistry in games.

Far Cry 3 is the most beautiful game I’ve ever played, hands down. It’s The Beach meets Lost with all the hunting, swimming, fishing, outpost-capturing, and radio tower-liberating you could possibly want. Should only be played on PC, as Xbox controls are useless for first-person shooters, and only a 1 GB video card or up will really do this graphical RPG justice.

There’s very little wrong with Lego Marvel Superheroes - it succeeds in a surprising number of ways, and there are practically zero instances of blatant failure on the part of the developers, voice actors, writers, and other assorted ‘big picture’ guys who made this release a reality. That being said, there are a few cases where you may get frustrated from an overly challenging puzzle, or onscreen directions that don’t seem to make any sense. This game balances the brain-teasers perfectly with some satisfying button-mashing, along with an extremely varied arsenal of weapons and super abilities. You’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy this game for at least a few hours, but beyond that and it might get tedious.

Goodbye Deponia has some great things going for it: the gorgeous staged scenes set against hand-painted backdrops are Daedalic’s trademark, and they seem to have pulled it off again here. Tough yet satisfying logic puzzles and hilarious mini-games make it a pretty decent adventure to play through when you’re just looking to unwind and mull over some brain teasers for a while. The plot is skillfully written and brimming with a very peculiar brand of German creativity. The sound design is smooth as a Miles Davis solo, and the songs will have you chuckling at their weirdness more often than not. What’s not to love?

If you’ve never tried Port Royale or Patrician, but are looking to explore a truly engaging “period piece” that will provide hours of entertainment, take Rise of Venice for a spin. As the latest offering from Kalypso and Gaming Minds, the game succeeds at re-creating an age out of mind through the very modernity of its design, and the presentation is as slick as any other new release you’ll find out right now.

Night of the Rabbit is the title of a beautiful adventure game from German developer Daedalic Entertainment, who are known for their particularly off-the-wall adventure games, and a highly artistic aesthetic that makes their games stand out from the crowd. While not a ton of people are making adventure games nowadays, most fans of the genre are hugely appreciative when a developer comes out with a game that hearkens back to the glory days of LucasArts and others, and Daedalic consistently manages to do just that with their old-school charm.

Arma III is a recent review assignment that I found to be at once perplexing and shockingly beautiful (at times). The gameplay mechanics were clunky, I rarely had any idea what I was doing, and I usually died before I even knew someone was shooting at me, but I found myself overwhelmed at certain moments by the sublime wonder of the tremendously detailed and life-like scenes that unfolded around me, and the team at Bohemia Interactive clearly went to insane lengths to incorporate as much realism as humanly possible into this game. If you enjoy hardcore military sims in the vein of Operation Flashpoint, and can boast a solid rig to play it on, I’d say give Arma III a chance; it’s a big budget adventure for only the most stalwart of war game buffs, but you very well may enjoy the challenge.

Payday 2 is a gorgeous heist simulator that emphasizes planning, cooperation, and a tight execution in its Hollywood-soaked, adrenaline-fueled gameplay. Oh, and don’t forget the custom masks. You’ll battle hordes of cops and SWAT officers, but be prepared to use stealth as well - it can often lead to even bigger payoffs. Coupled with an engaging ranking system that encourages you to link up online with other available con-men,the sequel to Payday does not disappoint, and it’s a steal on Steam right now for $29.99.

There’s little that can adequately match the feeling of watching your very own city grow. Out of nothingness blooms a territory-gobbling empire that can stretch on for miles. Such is the satisfaction that can be derived from Ubisoft’s Anno Online, a terrific settler-sim that employs a browser-based module (which I found to be of tremendous convenience while playing at work).

This weekend I spent an inordinate amount of time playing the free Open Beta test for the upcoming Company of Heroes 2. I’ve been a fan of the first game for a long time, but never did I think they’d be able to put together such a detailed, realistic environment, pulling out all the stops to make a sequel that improves on almost every aspect of the first title. The graphics are simply mind-boggling, and again, the free-form camera controls allow you unparalleled visual access to the battlefield. I can’t wait for the full version to come out on June 25th, but this amazingly polished Beta test worked perfectly as a holdover.