‘Conspiracies, CyberPunk and Syndicates, Oh My!’

Crime Fantasies and Conspiracy Thrillers

Welcome back to our in-depth look at the graphics and game play of several different game genres. Today we’ll be examining the Crime/Syndicate/Political Thriller genre.

Now we look at the realm of the ill-defined genre of 1st-/3rd-person shooter open world Crime, Syndicate, and Political Thriller games. These are the titles that involve political maneuverings, intrigue, stealth, organized crime, and spec ops groups. I know what you’re thinking—that’s a very broad spectrum of games to discuss. Perhaps so, but for all the splendor of these games there aren’t too many and they share enough similarity in their central themes to be discussed in a group format. Those themes being heavy satire (or in some cases absolute political statements) on the state of capitalism, imperialism, and consumer culture. Indeed, some of these titles tackle all three. So today, we’ll be looking at Deus Ex, Grand Theft Auto 3, Saint’s Row, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

Coming back to our examination of how these games learned from their predecessors, this is probably where we see our first big departures from traditional adventure games. I use the term “adventure” broadly, because these games certainly cover multiple genres, but you could certainly draw parallels to older adventure titles. Open world exploration has been an idea explored in earlier titles, such as Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. Those game worlds had a somewhat limited scope compared to the large mileage boasted by GTA3 or Saint’s Row, but they are nonetheless starting point examples for this sort of game, at least on consoles. With Deus Ex, quite the complicated open-world adventure RPG/stealth game/cyber thriller, it’s probably a more accurate comparison to look at MMORPGS of the era. Everquest is the most obvious one, containing thousands of different character skills and talents that all had to occupy the same game world, and the massive game world itself. Deus Ex does not have quite the same map size, nor does it have quite as many skills to be trained up, but that’s just fine for a single player game. As I will discuss in the section proper, Splinter Cell was made directly to be like Metal Gear Solid, and thus takes almost all its cues from that masterpiece.

As much as these games take inspiration (sometimes very deliberately) from similar older titles, most of them set up new standards and, in the case of GTA and Deus Ex, define brand new genres. When you think of open-world shooters or crime syndicate games, GTA is probably the first one that comes to mind (or maybe Red Dead Redemption, but that’s by the same company so close enough). When you think of cyberpunk video games, or expansive single-player RPGs, Deus Ex is probably on your Top 10 list. These games did such an amazing job of creating a new space for future games to explore that they are inexorably tied into the collective video game history. Obviously, without these games, we don’t have their sequels, but we probably also don’t have games like Far Cry 3, or Bioshock. Not that those franchises didn’t exist already, but they pulled inspiration from Deus Ex and GTA. That inspiration doesn’t just come from the game’s actual systems, where we can always find some bleed over from other titles, but they’re political and satirical leanings. The political messaging of the cyberpunk genre, and Deus Ex in particular, certainly has parallels in a game like Bioshock, where a Randian Objectivist tries to create an industrial utopia and fails horribly. It’s an industry of recycling and improvement, after all. As much as these games entertain, they also draw our eyes to the reality of our own world with their messaging and satire, and that is just as important as being fun to play.

Deus Ex (PC, 2000)

An ambitious title put forward by Eidos Interactive and Ion Storm, Deus Ex is the story of JC Denton, a nano-augmented counter-terrorist agent in the far future. The world is a cyberpunk dystopia, where the gap between rich and poor has gotten far worse, and a disease called the Grey Death has devastated the world population. It’s up to Denton to keep this already desperate world safe from the machinations of terrorists and mega-corporations alike [ 1 ].

The avatar of Denton is a somewhat pale man with slick black hair, wearing a black overcoat with futuristic body armor underneath. He also always wears sunglasses, even at night—and there is a joke about this early in the game. Regardless, his visualization is the standard for a cyberpunk hero, and while the PC graphics of the time can’t quite render fine details, the presentation of Denton very easily conveys the typical spy thriller Hollywood badass. The action and exploration portions of the game take place in 1st-person view, so you only get a visual of what Denton is holding in his hand, but you see plenty of him in conversation scenes with other characters in-world. It’s a nice departure from older 1st-person games where your character is essentially a hand with a gun. The gameplay is based primarily around stealth action and quiet takedowns of enemies, as the direct combat approach is often a deadly mistake, at least on the harder combat difficulty settings. To this end, Denton can acquire skills in computer hacking, bypassing electronic devices, and lock picking to assist him in getting around tight security. He can also gain environmental training, which allows him to resist harmful environmental effects like poison gas, swimming skill to make him better in the water, and medical skills to keep himself alive. Finally, there is skill training for demolition, heavy weapons, low-tech weapons—like the knife—pistols and rifles. The player can increase some, but not all, of these skills in a regular play-through, allowing for a few different options in their gameplay experience. Remember, the intense visual of a rocket launcher explosion, while flashy, may not be the best approach in every situation.

Every iteration of the Deus Ex franchise, including the original, has pushed the limits of what Hardware can accommodate, and been innovative in their use of UI and features.

Being that the game is set in a dystopian future, the environments borrow a lot from real-world locations. You’ll visit Liberty Island, New York City, LaGuardia Airport, Hong Kong, Paris, even Area 51. These are not quite open-world sandbox maps, but each location has more than one path to the objective, allowing the player a sense of exploration and discovery. The designers of this game seem to have wanted to emulate the look of Blade Runner, making each outdoor location rather dark, light sources being man-made fluorescent or neon bulbs and interior locations vary from well-lit to pitch black. While shadows do play a role in the game, allowing the player to more easily hide from enemies, it would have been nice to have one or two daytime set pieces, which would offer a different challenge in terms of stealth, as well as allow the player a much-needed break for the eyes. That aside, and while keeping in mind the tech limits of the day, there’s not too much to complain about in the environs of Deus Ex. They stick with the cyberpunk and espionage themes of the game, allowing the player to immerse themselves into the grimy cityscapes of the future. In this visualization, the game portrays the now typical archetypes of cyberpunk fiction, a world wherein corporations maintain majority power over the earth, and those who inhabit it toil for the scraps that those conglomerates allow them. The main character and the main villains both represent this dystopia, certainly within the game’s dialogue, but also in their basic visuals. Enhanced humans that serve at the will of the powerful corporations as their enforcers. Though it is an imagined future, it is no less a terrifying possibility of mankind to end up there, and that lends an air of seriousness to games such as this.

The in-game HUD and menus are informative, if a little complex. In the top left you can see the overall health of Denton, represented by a sectioned human figure that changes colors depending on how much damage has been taken. Right next to this is a bar for energy, which Denton will use to activate his special augmentations. Speaking of those, on the top right we see the hotkeys for the augmentations, each one represented by its own graphic symbol for easy remembering. Lastly, on the bottom is the item bar, which can be fitted with weapons, tools, or healing items for quick access. Diving a bit deeper, the pause/menu screen holds a plethora of information including inventory, more detailed Health, Augmentations, Skills, Goals and Notes—which Denton automatically fills—past Conversation dialogue, Images for the current mission, and Logs for any transcripts you discover. It does sound like a lot at first, but each menu screen is presented cleanly and intuitively, allowing any player to scroll through them and understand them with ease. It even has white font on a dark background, which is easier on the eye when reading from a screen.

The enemies in the game have a decent amount of variance to their appearance, and each one’s visualization is telling of its overall threat to Denton if engaged in combat. The game starts off simply enough with terrorist soldiers and a single patrol robot, but things get much more dangerous as progress is made. Soldiers get better armor and bigger guns, making them much more lethal in direct confrontation. Robots go from simple wheeled turrets to large bipedal assault mechs a la ED-209. You’ll even run into fully augmented commandos that sport thick armor, machine guns, and rocket launchers. While combat isn’t quite up to the flashy Hollywood style, the game’s enemies are no less deadly for it, and each one takes careful planning to dispatch. Where the game is unfortunately lacking is in boss battles. Indeed, the hyper-focus on stealth tactics and espionage seems to have taken away from the traditional boss fights. Two of these fights can be completely bypassed, if you discover a secret kill phrase for these bosses, taking advantage of their pre-programmed augmentations and instantly ending the fight. The other boss battles are quickly ended, due to the overall lethal nature of combat in the game. It can be amusing to do this, of course, subjecting these major villains to the same vulnerability that the player may experience all game long, but it lacks the strong theatrical feeling of the boss battles in other games.

Deus Ex broke a lot of new ground in gaming. While it may have borrowed some themes from slightly earlier game titles such as Thief’s light and darkness mechanics or Metal Gear Solid’s heavily political plot line, Deus Ex elevated those aspects to another level. The multi-layered design of its mission goals, allowing for multiple ways to succeed, was something that most games struggled to emulate both before and after it. It challenged players to truly think outside the box. While it may not have been the most visually appealing, it was and is one of the most engaging and thought-provoking games of the modern era.

Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2, Xbox, 2001)

We are skipping ahead to the third installment of this franchise. While both GTA1 and 2 have their own lovely visual style and gameplay, they just don’t fit alongside these other titles for a point-by-point comparison [ 2 ]. Both GTA1 and 2 take place in a top-down world, where our main character is only displayed in tiny form, looking at the top of their head. This depersonalizes the protagonist to an extreme, and makes them difficult to relate to, which is an important theme in these games. Thus, we come to Grand Theft Auto 3, a massive hit from Rockstar games. GTA3 is about a gangster named Claud in the fictional setting of Liberty City. Betrayed by his girlfriend, Maria, during an armed robbery, Claud is arrested and quickly sentenced to imprisonment. During transfer, the convoy Claud is on is attacked by Colombian mobsters, who are there to free one of their own. Claud uses this to make his own escape, planning to get even with Maria [ 2 ].

Claud himself is an unfortunate presentation of ’90s fashion, wearing baggy green cargo pants and a black leather jacket, and short cut, slicked forward hair. His walking and running animations seemed to be styled after cartoons, arms and legs almost flailing as he sprints. In combat, his motions are simple and to the point. He fires the various guns with machine-like repetition, and while there’s not much flash to this, not much is needed, as the various gun fights in the game are all rather intense. While we don’t know much about Claud, apart from him being a criminal, we learn through regular play that he is both a good shot and a good driver, and apparently a skilled car thief—the game is called Grand Theft Auto after all. While you only start out with small arms and access to low end vehicles, you’ll unlock more of both as you progress through the various missions. As your arsenal expands, missions become more difficult, as Claud will draw the ire of several gangs in Liberty City. In fact, depending on which missions have been completed, the player may or may not get shot at simply for driving into different gang turf.

Arguably the originator of the “Crime Simulator franchise,” we couldn’t possibly skip Grand Theft Auto 3, in this installment.

Liberty City is a large, open-world sandbox, and while by today’s standards the textures are lacking, at the time something as large as a city with this much detail and with no loading screens was almost unheard of. The city always feels alive, as pedestrians and vehicles are semi-randomly generated as the player proceeds throughout. The city itself has many sections, modeled after realistic portions of other cities, and is split up into three islands. These islands reflect both real-world and movie expectations of urban sprawls, with an industrial, commercial, and suburban district, each one with its own fitting aesthetic. Apart from different scenery, the player will see different pedestrians and different vehicles appear depending on which location they visit, making the in-game world look and feel much more alive. The player will see the “seedy” side of town, where the poorer and most desperate folks eke out an existence, crammed alongside the supposed middle class of the city, those with slightly nicer cars and clothes. The later islands are populated by the rich, as shown by their polo shirts and high-end sports cars.

The game’s HUD and menus are stylized like an old comic book serial. You have a radar on the bottom left, which shows roads and any active objectives, as well as important landmarks when you are nearby. On the top right, you can see the time of day, and there is a day/night cycle; current money which can be spent on weapons, armor, repairing cars or replenishing health; health and armor percent, equipped weapon, and wanted level, which is represented by five empty stars that fill up as your wanted level increases. The pause menu displays a simple selection over comic styled background characters. You can Resume the game, Start a new game, look at your Stats—like time played, enemies killed, miles walked and driven and so on; view the Brief for the current mission, Options for audio and other game settings, and of course Quit the current game. The Map menu, which is separate, displays all three islands, as well as active objectives, important locations like Ammu-Nation—a chain of gun stores that used to be a satirical take on gun enthusiast culture in the U.S., but in modern days seems more like a literal take—main mission and side mission locations, as well as a map key on the bottom right. The graphics in these menus, while simple, provide an ample amount of information, allowing the player to quickly figure out an escape route or the quickest path to an objective, or to enjoy the record of their exploits.

When it comes to combat, what the game lacks in variety it makes up for in intensity. Gang members, though different in appearance and sound, mostly follow the same tactics—surround and overwhelm. While Claud can take some damage, any drawn-out gunfights are sure to get him incapacitated—something that should be avoided, as you lose all weapons and a good amount of money when sent to the hospital. The player will have to quickly weave Claud in and out of combat, as any gunfire is sure to attract the police as well, escalating the Wanted level and making the cops pursue him. With the right strategy, the player can hold out for a long time against both rival gangs and the police, but eventually will have to escape and clear their wanted level—which after three stars requires the player to collect a bribe token that can be found in various spots in the world, or to repaint their current vehicle to escape notice. Once the wanted level drops to two, it can disappear on its own if the player lies low for a while. Whatever the case, the player should seek to drop their wanted level as quickly as possible, as the police will deploy roadblocks, riot cops, and even helicopters at the higher wanted levels to stop them. However, even a basic encounter with the police will likely be deadly, as the cops will not hesitate to beat Claud with Billy clubs or shoot him with their sidearms for even very simple offenses—which is a commentary on police brutality that is found in all future installments of the GTA franchise. Best of all, all these gameplay elements look and feel intuitive, allowing the player to immerse themselves into the role of the tough as nails gangster. While the game does not have traditional boss battles, there are missions to kill the gang bosses, each of which provides its own challenge to the player, as these men and women are well protected by their gangs. On the whole, the various gun battles and car chases provide a visceral and entertaining visual spectacle, to the point that the player could have fun just causing chaos for a few hours and completely ignore the main missions.

While this isn’t the first GTA game, this is the one that people remember the most. This game was the first of its kind in that it brought a world of hardened criminals and gangsters, car chases, and intense gunfights into a fully realized gaming experience. It’s like playing an homage to Scarface, except that you don’t die in the end. Outside of some MMOs, gamers had not experienced anything with such freedom of movement and action in it. You could get lost for hours just playing in the sandbox of Liberty City, totally ignoring the missions, just stealing cars and running from the cops. That kind of simple fun is hard to come by in many games.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (Xbox, PC, 2002)

Ah, Tom Clancy and his various video game and novel tie-ins. What started with Rainbow Six, a game very similar in concept, ended up become a series of games that followed a too-samey formula. The title is deceptive, however, as Tom Clancy did not write the game script, or the tie-in novel; the game simply has his endorsement. In fact, the novel that relates to this game was written after it (2004), not before ((Stuart, Keith. “Tom Clancy – a Video Game Maker Too.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 3 Oct. 2013, theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2013/oct/03/tom-clancy-video-games).). In 2008, Ubisoft purchased the right to use Tom Clancy’s name for their games, meaning that titles created by them after this deal have basically nothing to do with him. Regardless, Splinter Cell follows the fictional tale of special agent Sam Fisher, former U.S. Navy Seal and Gulf War veteran, who is recruited by a new branch of the NSA to conduct covert ops.

Splinter Cell was developed as part of Ubisoft’s directive to create a “Metal Gear 2 Killer” [ 3 ], and as such one can’t help but notice a few similarities between Sam and Solid Snake. Both are spec ops agents, both wear sneaking suits, both have gruff voices. The key differences between the two are that Sam is supposed to edge closer to realism. His sneaking suit isn’t advanced tech; it’s modern day, and since Sam has the official backing of the U.S. government, he comes equipped with more gear—night-vision goggles and his own silenced pistol. As this game was developed with more advanced technology, Sam can perform more actions as well, such as climbing up and down or across pipes, capturing enemy guards and using their eyes to pass retinal scanners, as well as being able to take advantage of darkness to better conceal himself. Sam is also somewhat acrobatic and is able to jump up between two close walls and hold himself up with his legs split, a la Jean Claude Van Damme. Whether one prefers Sam Fisher or Solid Snake, it cannot be denied that Sam’s look and skills give the player the feeling of being a modern super spy.

As with Deus Ex, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell really pushed boundaries on what could be accomplished on the hardware.

The game world is modeled after the real world, and Sam will visit several locations over the course of his missions. He will hit several spots in the country of Georgia, where the president was recently assassinated in a coup and CIA agents have gone missing. He’ll infiltrate an oil rig in the Caspian Sea for data retrieval. He’ll break into CIA headquarters to find the source of an info leak. He’ll travel to China’s embassy and a local slaughterhouse to expose a plot to start a world war before finally returning once more to Georgia to put an end to the sinister forces behind it all. Each location is a semi-realistic portrayal of its real-world counterpart, showcasing the full abilities of the Unreal 2 Engine. Looking at it today, the textures are a bit dated, but not enough to take away from the overall gameplay experience. Each environment has several objects for Sam to interact with, like keypads, retinal scanners, and locked doors. Sam can also take out the lights with his guns, allowing the player more control of where they can be hidden. There are many paths to explore on each map, and all these elements, expertly combined, helps the player to feel that they are in a spy thriller espionage action movie. Since the game deals with some near real-world possibilities of political maneuvering, and uses such real-world locations, the political commentary is quite easily picked up on.

The game interface follows a simple and easy-to-understand design. The HUD displays a vertical health bar on the top right, with the bottom right showing the equipment information, such as the equipped weapon and remaining ammunition, and the stealth meter, showing how much light is currently on Sam. Just above the stealth meter are the OPSAT notifications, which inform the player of new Goals, Notes, or Data that has been obtained. The Goals, Notes, and Data are also present on the pause screen. The text of any radio communications or overheard conversations is displayed in the top left. When it’s relevant, the interaction system will appear in the top right, cluing the player in on what they could do with a nearby object. This sleek approach to the interface allows the player to quickly reorient themselves as to mission objectives and information, as well as perform their relevant mission tasks with ease.

Enemy variance is small, consisting mostly of guards or soldiers with small to medium arms. While you can engage in open combat in Splinter Cell, the hyper-focus on stealth and the overall lethality of enemies makes it a bad idea. Instead, it is best to take advantage of the many skills at Sam’s disposal, as well as the environments, to take down enemies. There are a few sections where scripted gun battles will happen, but usually only in places where Sam has an advantage. There aren’t any boss battles, as has been typical with these games, but they aren’t really needed, as there are plenty of intense moments in the game where Sam must exfiltrate while the enemy is on high alert. Despite the lack of visual variety in enemies, combat and stealth in the game are nonetheless exciting.

As I mentioned, Splinter Cell was intended to be an answer of sorts to Metal Gear Solid, but it took a bit of a different approach to its gameplay. Instead of one, connected world, Splinter Cell is broken up into mission maps. It’s fully 3-D, allowing for more dynamic uses of lighting, space, and props to create a more complete infiltration experience. It also more closely follows real world rules, whereas Metal Gear Solid had psychic foes and nigh-unkillable brothers. None of the things I’ve mentioned here make Splinter Cell strictly better or worse, but different. Overall, it’s an enjoyable stealth game experience, and would provide entertainment for fans of stealth games.

Saints’ Row (Xbox 360 exclusive, 2006)

Seemingly a clone of the modern GTA games, Saints’ Row is an open-world sandbox crime thriller by THQ. Clone is perhaps too harsh of a word, however, as GTA pioneered what was essentially a new genre of game, and its popularity was sure to attract other contenders. In any case, Saints’ Row follows a silent protagonist, who after a fateful encounter, is recruited into the 3rd Street Saints, a gang in the fictional city of Stillwater. The Saints are a gang on the rise, looking to take control of the Row to bring order to the otherwise chaotic world of the various gangs [ 4 ].

The first thing that sets Saints’ Row apart from the other games listed here is that you get to create your own character. While you can only create a male character, there are several other customization options, including skin color, eye color, hair color and style, and so on. You can also buy different pieces of clothing in the game for further customization, and later you can undergo “plastic surgery” to take you back to the character customization menu and change your basic appearance. These features carry on into the later Saints’ Row games, in which a female option was also added. Character customization is a great feature for any game to have, as it allows the player to create an avatar that they enjoy, rather than having to shop around for a protagonist they like. In-game, the Protagonist’s animations are part realistic, part comedic. He can run, jump, shoot and drive, as one might expect. He holds small arms sideways, “gangster style,” but thankfully uses both hands for larger guns like shotguns and rifles. The comedy I mentioned comes in whenever the Protagonist is hit by a vehicle, as the game has rather insane rag-doll physics that send him flipping and flying. For a typical silent type, the Protagonist has plenty of personality.

Saints’ Row the Third. “What if you could take over the white house, as a crime syndicate” is far less hyperbolic a statement today, then when the game was made.

The city of Stillwater is an amalgam of Baltimore, Detroit and Chicago, three cities with notorious gang ties. Saints’ Row’s environments are bright and colorful, though no less dangerous than any other gangland. The overall world textures are sleek and smooth. Various spray-painted gang tags can be seen all over the brick-and-mortar buildings of Stillwater. The pedestrians are lively and have more variety thanks to the advances in technology since the time of GTA 3. Lighting and shadows are more realistic, and vehicles are flashier or junkier, depending on which model they are. There is a day and night cycle, as well as some limited, though impressive looking, weather effects. The newer tech also means better frame rates, allowing the game look and feel much smoother, even when moving quickly through the city.

The in-game interface learned a few lessons from its GTA predecessors, and rounded things out even more. The bottom left displays the compass, which shows which way is North, as well as current mission objectives, wanted level, and the new notoriety level, which is one of the features setting Saints’ Row apart from GTA. Notoriety functions like a wanted level for rival gangs and indicates how much they will pursue the Protagonist. Compare this to GTA3, where rival gangs simply remain hostile to you regardless of what you are doing. The top right displays health and stamina—stamina being used to sprint—as well as the currently equipped weapon, remaining ammo for that weapon, and ally icons for any allies currently following the Protagonist. It also displays respect level, which is another mechanic unique to Saints’ Row, requiring the player to achieve a certain level of respect before new missions can be unlocked, and functions much like experience in RPG style games. There is also a radial menu that will appear when the inventory button is pressed, which shows all weapons the Protagonist is currently carrying, as well as any food items they have—which are used to restore health. This smoothing out of old features and addition of new ones is handled very well and helps to make Saints’ Row stand apart from its GTA grand sire.

When it comes to foes, Saints’ Row has a colorful menagerie of characters. Rival gangs wear bright, flashy colors, proudly displaying their allegiance. The Los Carnalies favor bright reds shirts or vests, and several have large silver crosses hanging from chains around their necks. The West Side Rollers wear navy blue, usually accompanied by very baggy pants and their symbol of the gold car rim as jewelry. The Vice Kings favor yellow, usually accentuated by black, and wear the symbol of a three-pointed crown. And let’s not forget the Saints themselves, sporting bright purple and their signature Fleur de Lis. As mentioned earlier, sometimes allies follow the Protagonist, and while this is featured heavily in main missions, it’s also possible to simply grab other members of the Saints off the street to join you in some mayhem, or even call up your homies on your phone to bring backup and vehicles. Both allies and enemies look and feel as though they have personality, goals, and a sense of unity, which adds to the atmosphere of rival gangs vying for power. This game also lacks any definitive boss battles, although the Protagonist will take out rival gang leaders, this usually happens how all other game elimination missions do—a large gun battle between the Saints and whoever they are trying to take out. In a way, this game is more oriented around “team” battles, and though the Protagonist can certainly fight on his own, it’s always a good idea to have a few homies with you for backup. This creates a memorable visual experience and puts Saints Row in a place all its own in this genre. These visualizations also lend to the commentary on consumer culture, as these rival gangs eke out an existence in a world that has kept them down and desperate, while also feeding that same machine, as they seem to have no other option.

It would be an easy trap to fall into calling Saints Row a clone of GTA3, but it needs to be acknowledged that this game did its best to stand out on its own. Its approach to the game mechanics storyline is different enough that it goes beyond being a simple clone or cash grab, banking on the popularity of games like GTA. The Saints’ Row franchise’s continued success is also proof that this game is not just a flash in the pan, there’s actual good substance here.

Each of these four games has broken new ground in their genres, and each successive game has drawn heavily on the lessons of those that came before it. Some improvements are a matter of course, such as higher pixel count, better texture rendering, and more realistic motions for protagonists and foes alike. What is never certain is implementation of these improved technologies, and how well they will improve the overall experience of gaming. With these four, that experience was taken to new heights every time.


  1. Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition. PC/Windows, Ion Storm, 2000. “Every iteration of the Deus Ex franchise, including the original, has pushed the limits of what Hardware can accommodate, and been innovative in their use of UI and features.”
  2. Grand Theft Auto III. XBox, Rockstar Games, 2001.
    “Arguably the originator of the ‘Crime Simulator franchise’, we couldn’t possibly skip Grand Theft Auto 3, in this review.”
  3. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. PC/Windows, Ubisoft, 2003.
    “As with Deus Ex, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell really pushed boundaries on what could be accomplished on the hardware.”
  4. Saint’s Row: The Third. XBox One. Volition Games. 2011. “Saints’ Row the Third. ‘What if you could take over the white house, as a crime syndicate’ is far less hyperbolic a statement today, then when the game was made.”

A man of many talents, Clayton has worn several hats. His work focuses on visual mediums like film and gaming. A practiced martial artist and a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design & New Media, he brings both tactile experience and academic credentials as measures of his considerable expertise. Clayton is both Manager of Steam-Funk’s core writing staff and part of the firm’s senior creative team, helping craft both The Living Multiverse and firm policy.


  1. Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition. PC/Windows, Ion Storm, 2000.
  2. Grand Theft Auto III. XBox, Rockstar Games, 2001.
  3. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. PC/Windows, Ubisoft, 2003.
  4. Saints Row. XBox, Volition Games, 2006.