2009, The Summer of the Sandbox

Grand Theft Auto 3

Ever since Grand Theft Auto 3 came out in 2001 sandbox games have been a popular medium. With their large open environments, freedom to explore and wreak havok, they’re an endless sandbox of fun. The genre has moved from a simple drive and shoot emphasis to some more extremes in the recent years. Crackdown, Spiderman 2, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and Assassin’s Creed are all games that took the sandbox, and made sand whales instead of sand castles.

Over the last three weeks there has been release after release of sandbox games. Prototype, inFamous, and Red Faction: Guerrilla. All sandbox games are all unique in their own respect. Which ones are worth the time, which ones aren’t? Well simply put they’re all good games, all unique and damn enjoyable.

Prototype Image 4

Protoype is a game made by Hulk: Ultimate Destruction developer Radical Entertainment for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows. The game takes place in a modern day New York city, with the player controlling Antihero Alex Mercer. Alex wakes up on an autopsy table with amnesia and two scientists ready to open him up.

As Alex you start with some of the basic powers of a superhero: resistant to bullets, being exceptionally fast, and jumping high lengths. As you progress through the game you unlock new abilities, such as armor, claws, a whip, a sword, all created from Alex’s body. The game feels very similar to the Incredible Hulk, but with a more twisted Resident Evil-like storyline.

Its ultimate flaw would probably be the story. The character isn’t very likable, and most of it is hidden in the game’s feature called the “Web of Intrigue”. Still a great game with its foundation well based in the very solid Hulk: Ultimate Destruction game. I’d have to give Prototype a buy, if not a strong rent. I haven’t beaten the game, but the game is thoroughly entertaining.

Infamous

inFamous is a sandbox game created by Sly Cooper developer Sucker Punch released exclusively on the Playstation 3. Like Prototype, inFamous revolves around a superhero-like character in a large urban landscape. You play as Cole McGrath, who wakes up in the middle of a large crater. The city is in chaos from a WMD and he is blamed for the chaos being labeled as a Terrorist.

Cole’s power is also generated from his body, but is based solely on electricity, allowing you to fire off bolts of electricity, grind along electrified wires and rails, and even bring people back to life with them. Much of the game’s movement focuses on Assassin’s Creed like-parkour, which allows the player to climb nearly everything in the game (except for fences).

Given he’s labeled as a terrorist the game supplies you with numerous moral-based situations in which you can more or less be a terrorist and be evil, or choose otherwise and be a savior to this chaotic mess of a wasteland. Choosing one or the other changes the story’s outcome and what select abilities you obtain throughout the game.

Sucker Punch did a great job with the game creating a brilliantly detailed landscape, making an encompassing story with likable characters. That being said, the game’s ending focuses on the need for a sequel, which leaves the player with a frustrating cliffhanger. Buy inFamous, it’s one of the really brilliant Playstation 3 console exclusives, and is an immensely entertaining game.

Red Faction: Guerrilla

Red Faction: Guerrilla is the third game in the Red Faction series created by Saints Row developer Volition for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows. Of the three sandbox games to come out recently Red Faction is the black cat of the bunch. It doesn’t focus around a guy with super powers, but rather an average man. The player takes control of miner named Alec Mason who is forced into fighting in a revolutionary war against Mars’ militaristic government, the Earth Defense Force.

The game focuses mostly on fighting in guerrilla battles to take back land from the totalitarian government that rules Mars. During the game you use some traditional weapons, like machine guns and pistols, but are also treated to some more extreme weapons, like a electricity gun, a gun that shoots exploding saw blades, and a rifle that turns whatever its round hits into dust to name a few.

The biggest draw to the game is its large destructible environments. If there’s a building in the game, you can destroy it. Volition did a great job of making each building destructible so it seems more natural than what is seen in other games. Rather strangely, while the buildings are destructible they don’t seem to listen to the laws of physics very often when a single pillar can keep an entire five story building from collapsing into a pile of dust.

Unlike Prototype and inFamous, Red Faction has multiplayer, allowing for up to 16 players to fight in six different game types. Much like Call of Duty or Halo 3, you gain levels within the multiplayer, but they mostly unlock cosmetic changes to your character, such as a new sledgehammer or new skin for you character. Of the three, Red Faction Guerrilla is the most average of the three, with its more traditional stance towards the sandbox genre, but does execute the single player very well. Rent Red Faction: Guerrilla if given the choice.

There ya go. Three games, three sandboxes, and two of them have characters who sound like Christian Bale as Batman. Which ones? Well you’ll have to play them to find out… or find some videos on Youtube.

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