From a ‘battle royale’ showdown to a shoot ’em up revival, three mixed new titles demonstrate the value to games of genres
Genres, as the graphic novelist Alan Moore once wrote, are pretty much only useful for directing the WH Smith’s clerk in which section to place the books. The best work is woven from threads of comedy, tragedy, romance, horror and all the rest. It defies, in other words, tedious categorisation. In video games, however, the strictures of genre cannot be so easily dismissed. Game design is tactile, quasi-architectural in nature. Games are more easily grouped, then, and drift in and out of fashion more readily than film and literature, as a trio of this month’s releases demonstrate.
The Ukrainian fingerprints of Metro Exodus’s development team are pressed clearly into each of its snowy, menacing landscapes. This game, based on the bleak, post-apocalyptic novels of the Russian writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, comes from a team clearly familiar with the texture of post-nuclear disaster: the blackened berries withering on the bushes, the homeless dogs, nature’s relentless reclamation of all human edifice. The effects of this fictional nuclear holocaust have surely been exaggerated for video game effect – the swamp sharks and mutant horses, to name but two – but there’s a melancholy near to the surface of this brittle shooter that has the quality of lived experience.