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Kevin VanOrd has just reviewed Bioshock: Infinite and gave a 9.0. You would think that everyone should be happy with that score, but surprisingly (ok, not that surprisingly), a few people are still upset. They wanted a 9.5, and I even saw one demanding a 10. Kevin raves and raves about the game, describing its deep and challenging narratives and fantastic gameplay. He only mentions a couple of negatives, including a few glitches that impact the game, but it doesn't seem to warrant a drop of a full point to some.
Carolyn Petit reviewed Luigi's Mansion last week and gave it a 6.5. This caught a lot of people off guard as reviews started coming in from the Four Corners of the Internet and they were mostly positive with lots of 8s and even some 9+s. It seemed overly harsh for GameSpot to give the game a 6.5. I, like many others, were a bit baffled because the review text clearly didn't match the score. Carolyn's major complaint was a lack of midlevel checkpoints and some overly difficult moments. Dark Souls is both brutally hard and contains no checkpoints, yet Carolyn gave the Prepare to Die Edition a 9.5.
Tom McShea reviews The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and gives it a 7.5. He has instaneously earned more ire and hate from the Nintendo community than Jeff Gerstmann did when he gave Twilight Princess an 8.8. Tom had valid complaints which were instantly dismissed because he had the "audacity to give a Zelda game lower than a 9.0". Also, the Metacritic was going against him, which I'll get into that later. Yes, it was assumed that Tom McShea hates Nintendo, which is ironic as the very same reviewer gave Super Mario Galaxy 2 a 10. And you know what's funny? People STILL complained about the score, saying it was too high. (And then there's Gerstmann's own 10 for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.)
Jane Douglass gives Trine 2 an 8.5, but a year later Carolyn Petit gives Trine 2: Director's Cut on the Wii U a 6.5. Even though the Wii U version contained free DLC and introduced no new flaws with the game's transition to the Wii U, it was scored two points lower. Carolyn simply didn't like the game as well as Jane did, which caused a problem I'll get into later.
Chris Watters gives Gears of War Judgement a 7.5 and Mark Walton gives God of War: Ascension an 8.0. Both of these games are the fourth installment in their respective console franchises, of which they have scored nothing short of a 9. Yet, some people blew gaskets when they saw these scores, as there was no possible way either GoW could have scored less than a 9. They chose to remain ignorant of the games' flaws, and continued to dismiss the reviewers' opinions.
And this is why you should never trust reviews. They are inherently opinions. GameSpot tries to review their games as objectively as they can, and they might do so more than user reviews do, but at the end of the day, it is still one opinion. The reason why a review cannot be trusted is because an opinion does not equal a fact. Even when a reviewer claims he is being objective about a game's features, he is indirectly making an assertion based on his tolerances. Everyone has tolerances when it comes to not just games, but everything else. It's our how tastes are defined.
GameSpot reviewers do their best to explain their positions, but when they submit their score, it no longer becomes their score; it's GameSpot's score. Every reviewer in that San Francisco office does not review using a hive mind, which is clearly evident with the inconsistency of Trine 2's reviews. People can't be expected to learn every single reviewer's like and dislikes, because that would take too much time. So to them, they don't see Kevin giving Bioshock a 9, Carolyn giving Luigi's Mansion a 6.5, Chris giving Gears of War a 7.5, Mark's God of War an 8.0. It's "GameSpot gave this and this and this a 9, a 6.5, a 7.5, etc."
I've also read - and partially agree - that GameSpot should adopt a multiple reviewer format, like the old days of Electronic Gaming Montly. This would give more perspective into the game, but at the same time, it would cause the reader more confusion when the scores are all over the place. I remember one review of EGM's that went from a 9.5 all the way down to a 4. I was like, "What the hell am I supposed to do now?" It would be nice, but I think it's more beneficial to just read reviews from other sources altogether.
Then there's Metacritic. People continuously say "Don't trust GameSpot. Look at Metacritic." So, instead of not trusting one reviewer, you're going to trust a cumulative score of many other reviewers? I bet you probably wouldn't click on a single one of those reviews on Metacritic. Even then, I heard it's not the professional Metacritic score you should be trusting, it's the user scores that matter. That can actually be worse.
User scores are easily influenced. If there's shady politics regarding the business decisions of that publisher, users will attack them through user scores, as can clearly be seen by the Kane and Lynch fiasco, where the user score on GS has been dropped to a 4.1 (although I know it was much lower when the circus began). You'll also have fans of a series or a license that will give games a much higher score than reviewers, because being critical of a game doesn't matter to them. They can love games unconditionally.
"Reviewers don't love games." This is one thing I've heard a few times, and I've even been told before that I hate video games, which is absurd. Although, there is something to be said about reviewers being able to enjoy certain games less than other gamers. It has to do with our hobbies becoming work. Every so often, reviewers end up suffering from burnout, having to pull all-nighters during crunch time to get that review out by the deadline, and then it's on to the next game immediately. I'm not saying this afflicts all reviewers, or even a good number of them, but it's not impossible to say it doesn't affect some on a subconcious level from time to time. Unable to take a break from a frustrating game can have an adverse affect on the reviewer's frame of mind, and negatives will carry more weight when the reviewer begins to write up the review.
It's expected for reviewers to finish their games, but some readers feel that a game should be finished 100 percent before a proper verdict can be given. This is why you might see some readers arguing over reviews because the reviewer didn't fully explore the game. That's a bit unfair, because there are other games that need reviewing, and we simply don't have the time for it. This might give off the appearance of reviewers being jaded, but we just don't have the same luxury of time as you do. Always keep that in mind.
I'm writing this as a reviewer myself. I have been reviewing games since as far back as 1998, being an Editor-in-Chief of a small hobby site called MediaFuzion, having a small stint with PSXExtreme.com, writing well over a hundred user reviews for this site, and I'm currently writing for DefaultPrime.com. So, it seems weird that, as a reviewer, I'm saying don't trust reviews. Yes, don't even trust mine. Reviewers aren't mind readers, and we certainly don't write to placate to you. We'll say what we think about a game to give you an idea of what the game is like. We'd hate to know that we're responsible for you buying a game that you ended up hating based on our recommendation, and we surely don't want to bear the brunt of your wrath when we "crap all over" a game you absolutely love. Reviews as meant to be used as buyer's guides, with the emphasis on the plural. This means that burden of research lies on you, the consumer.
On, and one last thing. QUIT BASING YOUR PURCHASES OFF SCORES! Actually read the text! They are far more important than any qualitive number. For all you know, God of War: Ascension got an 8.0 simply because there weren't enough boobs...
Let me first just say how terrific it is to be using my Wii U again for something that's not Netflix. This has been my first Wii U game since I finished the initial seven launch games I picked up last year, and it's one that I've been waiting for for quite some time. I also feel that of all the games in the Wii U's library, this is one of the more important ones. Yes, it does appear to be just for children, a vibe that most Nintendo games usually give off, but the one thing that any secure gamer knows is that Nintendo games are simply just pure fun. Lego games have a large following, being played by young and old gamers alike, so for the Wii U to have such a quality Lego title exclusive to them is a much needed title indeed.
Lego City Undercover feels extremely fresh for two reasons. One, it's not based on any licensed media. Its concept and theme are entirely unique. Two, it's not structured like any of the previous Lego saga games. It's structured just like Grand Theft Auto, an open-world sandbox. You are free to go where you please, playing through story missions when you please. Its story missions are explicity linear, however, but you're still free to do extra activities at your own pace. You can seek out loads of Super Builds to put together, but of course that will involve acquiring bricks, and there's Super Bricks EVERYWHERE.
Undercover is also an important Wii U game, because it makes great use of the gamepad. Once you get the feature unlocked, you can hold up your gamepad to seek out any Super Bricks, villains to arrest, or other activities by holding up the TV and moving around in total freedom. The visual is pretty slick, too, as everything goes into a gently pulsating blue, with objects being highlighted in gold. Video calls also play on the gamepad, and the map is there too, but personally, I just wish you could still use a mini-map on the TV screen. It's a bit distracting to always have to look down at the pad while driving.
The story missions themselves are designed pretty much like any other Lego game. You move from room to room, each having some kind of obstacle in your way that you need to solve simple puzzles to overcome. Destroy this, build that, use a different disguise's ability to activate that door. You'll still be collecting a required number of studs to get 100 percent and earn a Lego City Hero rank, and there are hidden red bricks in each of the 16 story levels. You can also revisit those levels in Freeplay with new disguises you've unlocked to earn hero ranks and get any other missables.
Now, I will say that during my playthrough of my last Lego game, Indiana Jones 2, I was enduring crappy driving. Driving has never been Traveler's Tales' strong suit, and I was worried the driving would be absolutely horrible in Lego City. Well, it's not absolutely horrible, but it's still pretty bad. It's quite easy to oversteer and crash into a wall or another car, and most cars have only four hearts for health. Plus, on the rare occassion where the police become aggressive enough to hit you, it can be frustrating as there's almost no way to avoid them. As I said, though, those occassions are rare. The police are very, very passive for a sandbox game.
I so badly want to keep talking about this game, but I need to save the rest for a review. Lego City is just a blast so far. It's no where near as technically sound as other sandbox games, because Lego games have their own inherent mechanical problems, but the charm, humor and overall presentation of the game is just simply fantastic. I'm going to end up giving the game a Funniest Game of the Year award, because I'm just in love with the writing. Ladies and gentlemen, you may not realize it, but Lego City Undercover is actually the Wii U's first killer app.
EDIT: By the way, I forgot to mention that the game has SERIOUS loading time issues... I guess I forgot about it when I was writing my impressions, because I was having so much fun with it.
Just like to start you off with a quick story. Today, I was planning on picking up Lego City Undercover for the Wii U. I've been following the game for quite some time, ever since it was first announced for Nintendo's underperforming machine. I've always enjoyed the Lego games and the concept of this one being pretty much a Grand Theft Auto for kids made me excited. I hop on over to Best Buy after work today and head to their games section when I come across their stack of pre-order cards. "Interesting... hummm..." Well, my Best Buy has a tendency not to put out their stock in a timely fashion, so I call GameStop (BOOO GAMESTOP! -_-) and ask if they have it. I learn there's been a delay thanks to Nintendo shipping the game out late. So, I walk out of the Best Buy store with a screw face on.
"What?! Y'all ain't got dat new Lego City in? Dat sh*t's whack, yo!"
Yeah, I was pissed. Turns out, the game will be in Thursday or Friday, and well, that's only a couple of days. No need to be angry, right? So I get in my car and breathe and mellow out. Now, I'd like to have reason that my case of having a game delayed on me is different than an actual delay of several months for fine tuning or whatnot, because I actually went to the store to buy the game and it wasn't there. I had to make time to get to the store, and I even adjusted my previous week to finish up on things so that I would have a clean slate for when I picked up the game today. Ah well, I'll just wait.
So 99.9% of the other cases of game delays, we receive much further notice. Yes, some get delayed within just a couple of weeks of release, like Rayman Legends, and that can produce some disappointment in us. Others like Grand Theft Auto V should have really been predicted to be delayed and come as no shock to anyone. The Last of Us was another recent game that I heard got delayed, and yeah, it's all quite disappointing. But it certainly isn't worth crying about. Unless you do it in an entertaining way, such as good ol' Francis.
But the sad reality is that there are gamers who act just like this when games are delayed. It has some part to do with what Francis said, "You are ruining people's lives! This is the face of the life you have ruined!" Games mean a lot to us. They are hobbies to some, lifestyles to others, and well... lives to a few. When you've been looking forward to something for so long and you know it's just a few weeks or a couple months away and it gets pushed back even further, it just makes you want to rage.
It's ok, though. There really isn't any need to rage. It's not warranted to go out and start swearing up message boards and make YouTube videos of yourself screaming and crying at a publisher who will never hear you to begin with. There isn't even a reason to be disappointed at all, really, and I'll give you a few reasons.
- There are other games to play. Unless you only play the popular mainstream titles, you should never be without a few stop-gap games to play. There are so many good games that have sat on the shelves for years while everybody else scarfed up the big budged AAA games, and they've been going down in price ever since. Why don't you go to the store and pick up a few to tide you over.
- You could use this time to finish the games you already have. This was my problem years and years ago. I was buying so many games that I couldn't finish half of them, which is why I have the backlog that I have now. A NEW UPCOMING GAME DOES NOT INVALIDATE THE NEED TO FINISH GAMES YOU ALREADY OWN. Consider the extra time a blessing, because now you can work on getting something productive done.
- You could use this time to maybe save up more for the game. If you're on a budget, you can probably not sacrafice as many things as you were going to. You might even be able to come out ahead if you balance things out right.
- Read a book?
I also realize I talked about game delays before with Rayman Legends, but that was a special case. There, a finished game that was fully ready to be published was instead delayed for the sole purpose of being released simultaneously with other systems. For the other games that I've mentioned, Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, etc., those games are going to be polished. They will benefit from the delays, so there shouldn't be anyone upset about them.
I think anticipating something so intensely is actually bad for you. It causes the brain to fixate on something at the cost of awareness to other issues. If Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us, or any other major league game that got delayed was so important to you, seeing it pushed back somehow makes other games less desirable. That's why I think points 1 and 2 have merit' it will help alleviate the sting. The last thing you should be asking is, "What am I going to do until then?!"
I try to be a patient person. Being patient is a great way to curb negative energy, but unfortunately you get to a point where it starts to consume your positive energy. Then, there's the whole thing about waiting for something for so long that you just stop caring. Also, we get instances in gaming where waiting for so long turned out not to be worth it at all. Do the names Too Human and Duke Nukem Forever ring any bells?
To be honest, I'll tell you a little secret... I'M SICK OF WAITING FOR THIS GAME!
Yes, with everything that I've been saying in this blog, I'm becoming a hypocrite by saying that I'm sick of waiting for this game. I've wanted it for such a long time. And that's the problem right there. The want. It's powerful with this game, it really is. It seems like I want it so much, I need it, and that's scary. I should never feel like I need any game, yet that's just how it is with The Last Guardian. The rest of the gaming industry can crash and go up in flames, but it will be fine with me so long as I get this game before that happens.
And well, those four points that I brought up ealier can easily be applied to myself. In fact, there's a possiblity that all these years of delays have given The Last Guardian a major benefit; it could move to the PlayStation 4. From what I've seen of this game so far, it's already drop-dead gorgeous, but imagining it on a much more powerful machine? I don't have words for it. I hate saying this, because half the time I don't believe it coming from other people, but this game will definitely be worth the wait. No doubt about it. Patience, Lucas... Patience.
So I just discovered a new show called The Final Bosman. This particular episode talked about what it would take for us to get excited, truly excited, for the next gen again. Let's face it, we're not getting the same generational leap in graphics this time around. Yes, graphics seem to be improving, but not by much, and not much else is improving along with it. So, what then do consoles have to do really get us excited?
Tried it. Nintendo's already abandoned it. And well, the Wii U simply is not the answer either. The tablet, although it is fun and convenient in places, has its own share of problems. For one, it has horrible battery life, which doesn't make it ideal for long gameplay sessions. Sure, you can plug it in and play, but honestly, you're not supposed to be connected to anything when playing on a "wireless" controller. It defeats the purpose of the term "wireless". The screen on the controller also presents another problem in that it causes you to avert your attention away from the TV to the tablet and then back to the TV again. I find that counter-intuitive, distracting and disconnecting. Sure, I loved playing ZombiU for what they did with it, but in most cases, they just took information that would have been displayed on the TV screen and shifted it to the tablet screen. Is it really that convenient to manage your item inventory when you have to look down, move with your fingers and then look up again? In that same amount of time, you can pause the screen, select what you want and unpause. Even the scanning of the environments can be done on the TV by simply having the character bring up the device, which then takes over the TV screen. I love my Wii U, but it simply isn't the future.
The future of consoles will always be in what lies in the inside of the machine. It will always be about raw power, not new controller interfaces. You cannot beat the traditional controller of two sticks, triggers and face buttons. This is why Nintendo did away with the remote and nunchuck and gave us back sticks and buttons. They just managed to cram a screen that wasn't really necessary in the middle of it. The Move failed to catch on for the PS3, and the Kinect is being woefully crammed into the next Xbox. All three companies are failing to understand the real draw here when it comes to next-gen games... and well, that's the games. Yet, they want to bank on gimmicks; Nintendo with their tablet controller; Sony with their Share button; Microsoft with their Kinect.
This is why I liked what Kyle Bosman was saying about games needing to present themselves more creatively. That will happen through creation of the game itself, not whatever goofy controller we'll be playing it with. We'll need to see raw power utilized in ways that don't just give us shinier and richer graphics, although that is still important. Graphics are immensely important when it comes to games, and any person that says otherwise is simply blowing steam up....someone's tea pot. Graphics suck you into the game and immerse you. It's the gameplay that keeps you locked in, and if the gameplay isn't continuing to evolve like graphics are, then you're going become aware of the real world again. That's why raw power needs to continue to be the forefront of next generation machines so that we can have more environments that react to us. We can have more enemies on screen to produce more random chaos. We can have smarter enemy AI. We can have more meaningful experiences without having to wave our arms or feel compulsions to have others watch what we play just like we want people to read our self-absorbed status updates.
It also wouldn't hurt if next-gen consoles were... perfect from the very start. What I mean by this is no more Red Rings of Death. Quality assurance would play just as an important part of a console's manufacturing as the design process of developing the architecture. Imagine being able to buy an extremely powerful machine and knowing that it would operate for at least the next 10 years. This is something no one, not even Nintendo, can do anymore because of the inherent nature of complex machinery. But yet, you give me a machine that will never mechanically fail? I call THAT next-gen.
I'll also call it next-gen when games no longer have load times. I know games can be loaded to harddrives because they're faster to pull information from compared to optical drives, but there's still got to be a way to get rid of load times altogether. It can be done, and has been done like in games such as the GTAs and the new Tomb Raider. They let you explore their worlds without any load times. There are tricks to getting away with no load times (one such trick that worked well was Metroid Prime loading the next area while the doorway was unlocking), so what needs to happen next is that developers find a way to do it and implement it into all their games making it the standard. I want it like the good old days of cartridges when you turned on the console and the game is ready to go that very second.
Next gen would also mean that even though machines could do more, they would be easier to program for. What's the use of having so much power when no one knows how or is able to use it? This is why we get so many titles with so many bugs and glitches. Next-gen for me would mean seeing more polished games more often. Products continue to improve at accelerated rates because the new hardware is not only both extremely powerful but extremely easy to code for.
And for the love of god, implement a sleep function similiar to what the 3DS and Vita have. Contrary to popular belief, gamers have lives. We go to work. We visit people. We go to school. We spend hours a week in commutes. Some games are near impossible to play because they require a scheduled block of at least an hour or two to get something done. I know some games have auto saves and others have checkpoints, but sometimes things come up where you need to leave immediately. Sure, you could leave your machine on, but if you're like me, you don't like to leave your systems running unattended. Plus, you may not be able to get back to them for several hours; that's wasted electricity. Being able to sleep your console would be a next-gen feature.
Honestly, I get the notion that gaming has "grown stale". It isn't the controller's fault. It isn't the hardware's fault. It's the games themselves. It's the creative minds of developers who are building the software. If you keep changing how we play games, then we'll just keep playing the same unimaginative games only by interacting with them in different ways. If you keep giving us more powerful hardware and don't do anything special with it, then we'll just keep playing the same unimaginative games only with prettier graphics. Changing controller interfaces and pimping consoles to be Internet media hubs is only detracting from what a game machine should be doing, and that's playing games. So for the next gen to really feel like the next gen, consoles can't keep getting more powerful without the developers getting smarter.
What does next-gen mean to you? Do you feel like the new consoles will truly be next-gen? What do you want them to do that you aren't able to get with your current-gen systems?
It goes without saying that this isn't your mother's Tomb Raider. Gone are the pointy breasts and the running and jumping around doing acrobatics with dual pistols firing an endless amount of ammunition. If you've seen any gameplay footage at all of this game, you'd hardly recognize any of the old Tomb Raider in it. That's because it's a reboot. They've taken everything you've known about Tomb Raider and threw it over the side of the ship as it broke in two and sank somewhere in the Dragon Triangle.
That isn't a bad thing, though. Tomb Raider is still a great game so far. It's just far different than what the previous games were. Instead of warping from one destination to the next, you're shipwrecked on one giant island where you'll be accessing each new area completely on foot (or in some cases ziplines). So far, I haven't come across any major tombs (only a baby of a tomb that was over in five minutes), but I've been been enjoying the exploring so far. It isn't as similiar to Uncharted as people would make it out to be. Uncharted funnels you through one massive set piece and beautiful locale after the other. Tomb Raider lets you muck about, getting dirty for a while before it drops you in its next set piece.
And during her travels, you'll be getting Croft's hands bloody as well. This reboot introduces a completely new Lara Croft who's never killed anyone before. There's a poignant scene in the game where it shows her in near shock after killing someone in self-defense. Lara's got people counting on her to save them, though, so she has no choice but to press on. She knows she cannot let herself get killed, or her friends would die, so she's no choice but to kill her would be assailants; the game makes that evidently clear. It's this new emotional exploration that makes the game interesting, although it unfortunately comes at a cost of true tomb exploration. To be fair, I'm still early in and haven't gotten around to exploring for any tombs just yet, so the game might have plenty in store for me.
As for the combat, be prepared to cringe, because it gets brutal. How about a neck shot with a bow and arrow with the arrow protruding from the neck of the enemy? The physics are pretty solid too, shooting at the knee caps of someone charging you, so they tumble down on the ground where you finish them off with a shot to the head. And poor Lara, she dies in grizzly ways. Let a dual-machete wielding goon get too close and you'll see her neck get slit. Oh, and seeing a cave collapse and a boulder crush her legs? Yeah, it's hard watching her die. Granted, there are a lot of old fashion gamers out there who aren't about the gore, so it's understandable that they may not wish to play the game.
But I'm enjoying it so far. I honestly was hoping for some real tomb raiding, but so far, it's just been an island survival third person shooter with some light platforming exploration. Still waiting for it to really open up, and when it does, I hope to be treated to something special. I'm expecting tombs to be at least comparable to what I played in the AC2 games. And speaking of AC, the game actually fees more like AC3 than Uncharted if you ask me, at least when it comes to exploring the natural habit. I just wish Lara could climb half as well as Connor...
In just a couple days time, the reboot of Tomb Raider will be unleashed upon the gaming populace. Some have highly anticipated it, some have felt pretty "meh" about it, and others are in quite an uproar. Those against each and every change this new Tomb Raider has implemented have expressed every complaint from the new combat system to multiplayer and to even her appearance. Yes, I heard someone complain saying that the new Lara's boobs are too small.
They seem actually... real now. As opposed to what Lara used to look like.
But also, if you notice something about the latter image, Lara's prestine. She has no bruises and has no cuts and is not smeared with blood, staining her clothes. She essentially has no marks upon her, no evidence that's she been shuffling and rummaging through dusty, dank, dangerous crypts. If you look at the former image, you see a battered, beaten up, exhausted Lara, a realistic reflection of a woman who's going through hell. You look at this new Lara and you're as repulsed by her as you are concerned for her. If anything, the last thing you notice about her... is her breasts.
Yet, people complained about that as well, her being bloodied and sullied. I once read an argument that it was disgraceful to do this to a woman character, because it somehow promotes violence against women, or some crazy notion. So it's okay to see a male character driven through hell in a similar type game, but you get all offended when you see it happen to a woman? Does it somehow not connect within you that the represenation of the results of her trials on her body is making her stronger, just as every time a male character crashes down, he gets back up ready for more? Or are you still clinging to the old image of what Lara used to be?
Yes, there are gamers out there that are against change in any of their beloved franchises. These gamers are jaded gamers, the kind that blames the modern trends of gaming into "killing" their favorite franchises. I will not name names, but there was a poster in the forums who accused me of not being a "true" Tomb Raider fan for wanting to play this title. According to this person, I was "trolling" and "supporting the death of video games" by wanting to play this reboot. Ridiculous. I love Tomb Raider as much as the next, but even then, I can say the franchise has been stagnating a bit. This reboot looks to be a refreshing take on a franchise that's a few years shy of two decades old.
Examining that argument also forced me to reflect on another recent reboot, and I actually was against it myself.
"True" fans of Devil May Cry don't recognize this new Dante. Yes, he hardly resembles the old Dante that we all grew to love, but the fact of the matter remains he was born out of a reboot. In order to reboot something, many things need to be changed. Traditions and expectations need to be reexamined and reinvented. New ideas need to be created and those new images are products of those reimaginings. Consider a reboot to be a rebirth; the start of something new, yet keeping a part of the original's spirit. As much as I hate the look of this new Dante, I still acknowledge the fact that the Devil May Cry spirit is there; it's just in a completely different shell. So, as much as I don't want to admit it, I am a hypocrite for rejecting DmC while at the same time embracing Tomb Raider.
Back to the new Tomb Raider, the game itself has been completely reinvented, not just Lara's new appearance. The combat system is no longer that run and jumpy acrobaty John Woo-inspired guns blazing gunplay. Rather, it's cover-based and yes, I see how some fans can be upset by that. Considering this new Tomb Raider is going for a more realistic look and feel, having to change up the gameplay was the next logical step. Was the original Tomb Raider's gunplay even that amazing to begin with? And sure, the game's opening hour or two is riddled with QTEs, but then again, how useful was making Lara do handstands to the gameplay?
"This handstand is so much more fun than a QTE!"
I honestly think that those who love the original Tomb Raiders so much that they don't want to play this reboot are not giving the new Tomb Raider a fair shake. Yes, a lot has changed. The game's presentation is now similar to Uncharted's. Her boobs are smaller. She gets dirty and filthy and bloody. She hides behind cover now instead of bouncing around the stage like she's doing floor exercises. It's a real tomb raiding game for a real world. If it's too real for you, by all means, revisit the older games and pretend this one doesn't exist, but just remember something. A "true" fan sticks with a series. It's like with sports; you don't just attend your team's games when they're winning. You're there when they're losing, cheering them on through rain and snow.
And who knows? If you stick around with Lara Croft in this game, you JUST might come out pleasantly surprised. If not, well hey... at least you tried it. When someone asks you, "Hey, what did you think of the new Tomb Raider," you can answer with an experienced opinion, "I played it and just couldn't like it," instead of "Never played it, won't play because it isn't Tomb Raider", which then paints your opinion as coming from of a self-appreciating snob. All I'm saying is... be open-minded. Tomb Raider has grown up, and so should you.
Another dip into ye olde backlog. I remember playing the demo of this game on my 360 and just having a blast with it. I mean, honestly, whoever came up with the energy leash that yanks enemies towards you and then kicking them into slow motion so you can aim and shoot at particulars is a freaking genius. I mean, that mechanic just never gets old! No more having to scrounge for the best position to shoot people. Just yank them to you, kick and shoot! So much fun!
So yeah, the game's about as mindless as shooters go, but in such a good way. The game never takes itself seriously and is just so over the top, it's good. Brutal, from popping a guy in the head and watching it pop like a balloon to yanking him out of the air and into a bed of spikes. Blood, blood, blood! The Skillshot system only makes it even more fun coming up with creative ways to kill enemies. Slide kick a fool upside down and shoot him in the ass for a Rear Entry, or tie a guy down with a bola grenade and kick him into a group of thugs for a Gangbang.
Ok, so the game's about as crass as George Carlin. "If you follow me, I'm doing to kill your dicks!" "What does that even mean? You're going to kill my dick? Well, yeah, I'm going to kill your dick! How about that!" But honestly, you just can't help but laugh at the dialogue. It's so stupid and vulgar, it just makes perfect sense. I've heard this game criticized for its writing, but honestly, when you have a game titled "Bulletstorm", are you expecting some kind of emotionally moving script or something?
I'm into the second act so far and just loving it. Haven't had so much fun with an FPS in a long time. It's this kind of fun that you rarely see in other more serious FPSes, especially the ultrarealistic war shooters of the Call of Duty nature. Oh, and riding a train with a massive grinding wheel ripping up the tracks behind me? That was a real intense moment! This game is just beautiful, both on a technical and artistic level. Really, if you haven't tried Bullestorm and are tired of the same old FPS, you got to give this one a shot.
Behold Pyramid Head. Anyone who's familiar with the Silent Hill series is familiar with this menacing character. His titular shaped helmet, his lanky posture, and of course, his massive knife sword that he drags behind him. My first encounter with this character - one could even say creature - was in Silent Hill 2, and he was doing some.. unspeakable things to another creature in the game. That image was burned in my head, something that no moral cleanser could remove, and it's something I didn't want removed either.
I love horror games, but I have yet to come across a game with so many disturbing moments than Silent Hill 2. It just wasn't Pyramid Head's introduction that stayed with me, it was him haunting me throughout the game. I remember when the sirens would go off and the rooms started flooding, I was making my escape and ran headfirst into him. I remember dying in a terrific shower of blood when that happened. I also remember being in a basement and hearing his giant knife drag across the concrete floor. Not knowing where he was coming from made my hair stand on end, and just thinking about it again is giving me goosebumps.
Now, you can't talk horror games and talk about Silent Hill without talking about Resident Evil. Resident Evil has left some great memories as well. Of course, its type of horror is far more different than Silent Hill's psychological unguided tours through hell. Resident Evil provides mostly BOO! type scares, but they do them well, at least the older games do. My first major Resident Evil scare was that infamous L-shaped room with dogs running outside of its windows. You knew they were going to break through and attack you, but you just didn't know when. Well sure enough, after I collected whatever key or item I needed, I had to pass through that L-shaped corridor and that's when the dogs made their attack. I must have jumped back a good foot or two when they crashed through the glass.
Resident Evil 2 in my opinion stands as one of the best sequels ever made. They improved damn near everything; better graphics, better voice acting, better gameplay, etc. They also improved on the scares and introduced their own terrifying menace...
Mr. X. Mr. X is someone, or something, you don't want to come across in a dark alley. Hell, you don't want to come across him in broad daylight sitting inside a tank. What made Mr. X truly terrorfying was his unpredictability. He showed no emotion and showed no signs of striking. His calm stalking walk would turn into a lighting quick sprint in a heartbeat, and it took everything you had to put him down. Every time you did, though, you were left with a body that didn't dissolve, meaning you knew he wsa coming back; you just didn't know when. Every time I thought I was safe, he burst through the wall and scared me. Every. Damn. Time. Resident Evil 3 introduced a Mr. X-like character with Nemesis, and it played practically the same way, but it wasn't as special considering it was expected. Mr. X turned out to be quite the treat, because it was a surprise for playing the game a second time.
Unfortunately for Resident Evil, it began going through some changes and losing its horror edge. This all started with Resident Evil 4. NOW HOLD ON BEFORE YOU START FLAMING! I love Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition and played through it five times. It's a great game, but its entire feel quite honestly changed. It changed its gameplay, got rid of fixed camera angles, and threw so many enemies at you, it became more of an action game and less of a survival horror game. I tried playing it on the GameCube, and sadly, the analogue stick didn't give me enough precision I needed to do well in the game, and I became frustrated and gave up. When I got it for the Wii, however, it was much better thanks to aiming with the remote. Unfortunately, it started to feel like a light gun game at that point. And well, the rest of the Resident Evil games are history (aside from Revelations).
Then, there's Dead Space.
Dead Space was absolutely terrorfying, incorporating cerebral elements with jump out and scare you moments. It had those tank-like RE controls, but it did it one better by allowing you to move while aiming. That might seem like it made the game easy, but the enemies were relentless in their pursuit of you. The enemes were also horrorfying in their design and unnerving just to look at. Seeing the necromorphs reanimate bodies was enough to turn your stomach. Dead Space 2 was also an incredible sequel, but personally, the last couple of chapters threw just way too many enemies at you. Dead Space 3? After playing the demo, I lost zero interest in the game. Fighting human enemies now? Necromorphs with guns? No. I've never seen such an abrupt crash in quality of a triology than I have with Dead Space.
It's the Alien effect.
Great movie, great horror!
Great movie, great action!
See, the more enemies that are thrown your way, the more action you have to carry out to destroy those enemies. Suspense is prehaps a horror game's (or movie's) greatest element because it establishes mood and atmosphere and tension and apprehension. You need to be afraid of what the environment is hiding from you, not what's constantly jumping right in front of yoru face. Of course, this is entirely subjective, because some people love action horror while others love suspense horror. That's why I'll always consider Silent Hill to be the greater franchise over Resident Evil.
One day, I would like to try this one out.
When I watched the video review of this game, there was one feature that caught my interest: you can't fight back. Now, I know a lot of people were turned off by the game at that point, but honestly, it sounds like a novel idea. What better way to instill terror and fear into your gaming heart than not being able to fight back? Having to run being chased by something that will kill you instantly is a great way to get those adrenaline glands firing. In fact, I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it, and I might make it a goal to play this game this year. Also, not being able to fight back reminds me of this nasty little game here.
Ahh, good old Scissorman, you demented hobbit with an oversized pair of shears! This was a game that guaranteed you no sanctum. Scissorman would make a random appearance in whatever area you were in, and then you had to flee immediately and seek out a hiding spot. Once you were hidden, you watched as Scissorman explored the area looking for you, standing right in front of the closet you were hiding in. Has he found you? Will he kill you? SHANK! Speared right through the closet door. YOU BASTARD!
So yeah, a great horror game isn't really about the action and the controls. It's not about the weapons or the story. It's about the nail-baiting tension that leads up to the forgetting to breathe moments that produce that one true scare to illict a scream from you. A great horror game leaves you feeling uneasy by the time you turn off the console and it makes you check under your bed like you're still 10. Great horror games unfortunately are very rare now, thanks to the Hollywood action blockbuster effect that delivers millions of copies sold, and that my friends, is a true horror.
Obviously, this is about the recently announced factoid that the PS4 will not be backwards compatible with PS3 game discs. A lot of people are crying foul, but they don't really understand why. The reason is purely technological. The PS3 contained a powerful computer chip called The Cell.
No, not that Cell. It's a computer chip, not a movie. Stay with me, thanks. So, the new powerhouse of the PS4 is the QWX64KP12.-742WTFKTHXBAI. Extremely powerful chip with a completely different architecture than Jeniffer Lopez... I mean, the Cell. So, unfortunately, the PS4 simply isn't wired to play PS3 games, even though it's far more powerful. This would explain why Sony is trying to stream them to the PS4 instead. If PS3 games are being processed on Sony's servers, then all they need to do is stream them to you, and the PS4 can handle the rest. It's a clever alternative, but not really a desirable one. Not everyone has high speed internet, and some people have data caps. For those unfortunate SOUUUUUUUUUUUUUULS... *ahem* ... they're going to be hit hard when they try to stream PS3 games.
Now, let's address a common statement that I've been seeing in these discussions.
"LIKE ZOMG JUST KEEP J00 PS3 PWOBLM SOLVED N00B!"
Except, there are still problems. Let's try to understand first why some people are disapointed that there's no BC. Sony was the first company that made a backwards compatible gaming machine (technically, it was Nintendo since you could play regular Game Boy games on a Game Boy Color, but I can't really count that as the GBC wasn't entirely a new machine). The PS2 was able to play PS1 games, and it continued to play PS1 games throughout its life cycle. This set an expectation and other companies followed suit. Nintendo's Game Boy Advance was fully backwards compatible with GB and GBC games, the DS could play GBA games and the 3DS could play DS games. When the Nintendo Wii came out, it could play GameCube games, and the Wii U could play Wii games. The 360 even played old Xbox games, but that was a hot mess as they had to do it through software emulation and ceased support on that less than a year after its release. Surprise, surprise. You now started seeing Xbox games available for download...
Sony upheld the tradition of backwards compatiblity with their first generation of PS3s, not only allowing you to play PS2 games, but most PS1 titles as well. In essence, the PS3 launched with the largest library of games in console history as it supported not one but two other systems' entire libraries. That is great for a gamer's first foray with a company's system. Unfortunately, Sony was hemorraging money from the PS3 just being too bloody (I c wut I did thar) expensive, so they started scaling things down with the following generations of PS3s. Sadly, the Emotion Engine (PS2 graphics chip) had to go, but at least Sony tried to keep PS2 BC with emulation support. That didn't last long, and eventually the new PS3s were relegated to nothing more than machines that only played PS3 games. Sony started BC, and have now swiftly ended it.
Sony has limited the size of their PlayStation library now. Yes, Sony states that they will include PS1 and PS2 titles along with the PS3 titles for their cloud gaming service, but this comes at the expense of manhours, resources and money to get those title available, not to mention the service will most assuredly not be free. Want that rare niche PS1 title that no one's heard of? I doubt Sony will make that available digitally. You'll have to go to eBay or wherabouts to acquire it. Prepare to buy a PS1 or PS2 to go with it, or pull out your old console and dust it off.
"That means I got to hook up another console to my TV!"
Yeah, I know. It sounds lazy, but having another console out means having to make space. It means snaking more cords through entertainment centers. It means pulling out controllers with cords, and means more tripping hazards. The convenience afforded to us thanks to Sony and BC meant that we could retire our systems and save space. It meant that our old systems that served us well could finally be put to rest, no longer counting the days when the CD/DVD motor or lense would finally crap out. PS4 being BC with PS3 also would have meant a lot to owners of 20 and 60 gig PS3s, again because they could retire their original PS3s before the inevitable Yellow Light of Death (I got mine last year in September. R.I.P.) and if they've been playing them hard, they've put more than six years of wear and tear on them. Also, if the PS4 was BC, it would mean a lot of PS3 owners could trade in their machines towards the PS4, making it more affordable for them, thus selling more PS4s.
True, the PS4 is technically incapable of playing older games. True, we could just keep our old systems lying around. True, we buy new machines to play new games. It seems silly that some would be upset over an incovenience of having to buy an older machine or hooking up another machine to a TV to play older games, yet it was Sony who introduced us to that convenience for us in the first place. That's why seeing people bothered by no BC. They'll buy those PS4s for PS4 games, but they have every right to be disappointed. It's hard not seeing such a terrific feature that's been with the PlayStation for two generations suddenly disappear. I guess we're all just going to have to settle paying for a streaming service with a limited selection, provided our internet is fast enough and we haven't hit our data caps yet...
Lots of PS4 info dropped today. I haven't even had time to look over everything. But I just want to get something out of the way first.
This is the new controller. Love it, hate it. But acknowledge that the DualShock has finally undergone some serious changes. Sure, the layout of the sticks and face buttons are the same, but the contours of the pad have been ... fattened. Too early to tell, but I'm willing to bet it will be a little more comfortable. The obvious change, however, is the center of the controller. This is a touchpad. Repeat: TouchPAD. Not a touch screen, like the Wii U's tablet, so don't be so quick to jump up and down in screaming fits going, "SONY COPIED NINTENDO AGAIN!" The only similiarity that I see is to the old Wii remote with the built in speaker. Not sure why they felt they had to put one there, as I thought it was an annoying and unnecessary feature in the Wii remote.
So apparently, this new controller is going to be the keystone for the PS4's new social focus. The Share button will allow you to stream your gameplay in real time to another friend, and even grant him the ability to take over for you and play a particularly hard part for you. You know, I've already heard a couple people complain about this? "I don't want my friend taking over my game for me!" Then don't pass the game over to him! SHEESH! You can even upload gameplay video to Facebook and ... blah blah blah. I wonder what will happen to the gaming world if Facebook disappears... A lot of functions will end up going unused, but that's another blog.
As for the system itself, it seems to be doing a lot of interesting tricks, but at the same time fails to convince me that they're absolutely necessary. First is the PS3 backwards compatibility via streaming. This is a wrong way to handle backwards compatibility. The main problem with any kind of streaming and cloud gaming service is that high speed internet still isn't in every household, and there are some people who have data caps. Streaming and cloud gaming will not be viable for them. And then there's the whole part of Sony most likely going to charge you to play PS3 games you already own on your PS4 digitally. Backwards compatiblity is still very important to a lot of gamers, and Sony just doesn't seem to care much about it anymore.
I'm not much of a specs person, so I won't really comment on what's in the PS4's guts. I will move on to the Vita connectivity, which considering it already does with the PS3 is no surprise that it will be supported with the PS4. Again, I've been hearing, "OH MY GOD, SONY COPIED NINTENDO AGAIN!" Actually, the Vita's been doing this with the PS3 before the Wii U was out. And yeah, yeah, Nintendo's been doing this with the GameCube and Game Boy Advance, but yeah yeah, computers have been remoting with each other long before Nintendo made the GameCube. Anyway, I'm very intrigued about this aspect, because I really would like to see if Sony can pull it off. I have a 3G Vita and tried to use my PS3 remotely, and the video feedback was grainy. If they can improve on this technology, they got themselves a winner for those who own a Vita. Plus, there will be less of a need to include Vita versions with PS4 games when the Vita can simply stream them.
From my understanding, the price of the system is still up in the air, but it's estimated to be 419 for the base model and 519 for the more feature packed model. In reality, it would be 399 and 499 because those previous price points are just too obscure. 399 and 499 seem reasonable to me, because they're 100 less than their respective PS3 launches. It will still be high for many, but comparably, the cheaper SKU is the same price as MS's more expensive SKU 8 years ago. If Sony really wants to stick it to Nintendo, they'll release a third SKU, cheaper still at 299. This is something I would really like to see, because the first two PlayStations launched at 299. Nowadays, consoles are made to do so many things, the launch price has to rise as a result. I personally would like to see things go back to basics.
As for the launch line up, we'll just have to wait for E3, but right now, there's not much sparking my interest. I just heard Watch Dogs will make it to the Wii U, and I'm actually more excited about having it on that than on the PS4. I'm just hoping they can make some creative use of the tablet controller. I'm also concerned about Sony's investment in the social aspect. Do they really think that we all want our real names attached to our gamer profiles? I'm sure there will be options to uphold our privacy; it would be stupid of them not to. But, well, Sony tends to do stupid things. I'm just kinda worried that the system is trying to do so many things at once, it's going to choke on itself and all these boasted features will become bug-ridden disasters.
Of course, the one real concern that's on everyone's minds is whether or not the PS4 will block used games. There's a rumor out that says it will in a sense by restricting what the purchaser of a used game will have access to. In order to unlock the rest of the content, that used game buyer would need to pay to activate his copy. This way, the game can still be sold used, and the publisher could get a little money back from the sale. It sounds like a better alternative to flatout blocking used games, but still is not a desirable one. I guess we're just going to have to continue to wait.
EDIT: Thanks to @packtop for providing us with a link to an interview where Yoshida says the PS3 will not block used games. However, it doesn't look like a clear cut and dry answer to me. I'm still somewhat suspicious.
So, will I be getting a PS4? It was already in the cards. It's been a tradition for me to get new systems at launch, because I love the experience. I also love covering my bases, so if there's one exclusive that comes out, I don't have to worry. Same with whatever system gets the best version of a console multiplat. I also have a sneaky suspicion that we're going to finally see The Last Guardian release this year, or maybe next, and the whole reason for the continuous delays was because it was being migrated to the PS4. I can only hope...
Well, well. I'm playing my 360 again, albeit for just a Lego game. I'm getting myself hyped for Lego City Undercover, so I thought I'd finally break this one open. This is the first Lego game that I've played that doesn't follow the standard format of the older Lego games. There is no central hub that connects all the game's chapters. Instead, you select a chapter, and it starts out you in a level right away. It's short and sweet, and there's no secrets to scrounge around for. Once you beat the level, you can then explore a portion of the chapter's own hub level. Only after you've completed enough of the chapter can you really explore the hub to your heart's content.
So in essence, it plays the same, but it's just arranged differently. You can still acquire the cheats, but now you run around looking for things to bash instead of keeping an eye open for that well placed hidden area that contained the red brick. There's still lots of characters and vehicles to unlock, but it's a bit weird not having a centralized area to do all your purchasing. You have to roam around the city and look for what you want to unlock. Also, each hub world has 10 bonus levels that have treasure chests which hold pieces that build a vehicle to take you to the Super Bonus Level. There is a LOT more emphasis on stud collecting, and it seems less empasis on exploration.
So far, I haven't seen any mini kits to collect, which is disappointing; I love those. Plus,several of the story levels were incredibly short. Also, it seems to be my imagination but I believe controlling vehicles is actually worse. You can actually role them now, which someone thought would make the game even more fun. It also doesn't seem to be as funny as previous Lego games, but I'm only a chapter in, so maybe it will pick up.
The graphics are fantastic, though, even by today's standards. It does a great job of depicting Lego bricks against realistic backdrops. Of course, you got to love the Indy music and the sounds of blowing up blocks and collectings studs. It's got enough staples that fans of Lego games will enjoy, but there's still something about the game that just seems... off. I can't complain really, though, as I got the game as a gift, and even then it only cost 20 dollars.
It's not a very bright time for Nintendo's new console. People burned on the Wii have since turned their backs on Nintendo, and those who never got behind Nintendo are laughing even louder. The Wii U had a good enough launch as far as libraries went, with some big name third-party titles like Mass Effect 3 and Assassin's Creed 3, and for once in a very long time, it actually had a Mario title right alongside with it. Finally displaying in high-definition and incorporating standard analogue sticks and face buttons into their controller (not to mention releasing a traditional Pro Controller), things looked good for Nintendo. This had the makings for the best Nintendo system yet.
So what's going wrong? On November 18th, 2012, why were you able to walk into a store and pluck one off the racks? Why were you able to go to Amazon.com or any number of retail websites and not see the "Out of Stock" status for the Wii U? Why were they going for just about the same as the retail price on eBay? Why were the casuals, who Nintendo targeted so vehemently last generation, so clueless that the Wii U was even out? Why don't people want a Wii U?
It's obvious where they went wrong. Personally, I attribute the major problem to the Wii U's slow start by simply naming it the Wii U, and not the Wii 2. People see Wii U and they think, "Is it an add-on?" They look at the Wii U and see the console pretty much looks just like the Wii. Then they see the tablet controller and think, "Oh, yeah it is. 300 dollars for a tablet controller? No thanks." The entire concept of the machine was wrong from the very start, I even remember Reggie and Co. trying so hard to explain what it was all about last E3. Oh yeah, and the fact that Nintendo probably spend $23.50 on advertising didn't help them at all.
Everyone should know by now that the Wii U is moving dreadfully slow. It managed to move around 55,000 units last month. Bad news keeps rolling in with game delays and cancelations. EA Sports announcing that they will cease support is a major blow, and it's a blow I'd like to focus on. The reason being is that the Dreamcast was hurt severely by a similiar announcement, that being EA would not support the Dreamcast.
That's just one of a few parallels I'd like to mention with the Wii U and Dreamcast. The second is that both the DC and the Wii U released within about a year before stronger, larger competition released their offerings. Consumer faith wasn't there for the DC because of Sega's past mistakes. Sega finally got everything right with the Dreamcast, and it should have definitely had a longer life than it did, but people had enough of Sega. The CD, the 32X, the Saturn. Nintendo's burned a lot of people in present years, and that exact same shortage of consumer faith is present in the Wii U. Also, this really has nothing to do with anything, but both consoles had screens in the middle of their controllers. *cues Twilight Zone theme*
"But the Wii U's only been out a few months! Give it some time!" Ahh, now see, this is where I think Nintendo will fair better than Sega. Nintendo knows how to ride the storm. They can last like a nomad crossing the desert with just a bottle of water. They know they have enough loyal Nintendo fans that will buy their first party titles, and they know the systems will once again start moving when the big guns come out. The Wii U isn't doomed, but it sure as hell is a long long ways away from succeeding.
What matters most, though, is how much they can control the damage this generation. If they somehow manage to put out games slow enough for even the most die hard Nintendo fan, they might lose even more consumer faith. They need to rethink their focus immediately and work as hard as they can to get third party support back, because at this rate, Nintendo fans will be bored waiting for first party titles. They've got to start spending more money and create more internal game studios to keep that supply going. If they start building momentum this holiday season and continue to build it into next year, the Wii U will be alright. If not, Nintendo will just have to do what they can until next gen and try once more.
I have no crystal ball, but the way I see it, this in no way is Nintendo's last console system. Depending on how well or how horribly this does, it will determine whether or not Nintendo's NEXT system will be their last one. People think that if Nintendo fails this generation, that's it for them, because unlike Sony and MS, they have nothing else to fall back on. Well, Nintendo's doing just fine in the handheld business, so they'll be okay, at least for one more generation.
Will the Wii U suffer the same fate as the Dreamcast? No, it won't. But the very fact that thought is on our minds is quite worrisome indeed.
Well, Dr. Ryuta Kawashima is back, making people feel as stupid as ever. Only, he's doing it in a way that isn't as fun as his previous Brain Ages. Brain Age Concentration Training's main course is called Devilish Training, and they are comprised of a series of exercises that train your working memory. The only problem is, my memoryr raally sucks. In the previous Brain Ages, those exercises were something that I was consistently getting better at. That isn't entirely the case with Concentration Training.
One of the excercises is called Devilish Calculations, and it works simularly to Calculations X 20 in that you're given a string of simple calculations to solve. The twist is that you're supposed to write the answer from the previous calculation. Not only do you have to do math, but you need to remember previous answers. The difficulty actually ramps up as the higher levels make you remember answers from further back, in 2, 3, 4 and 5 stages. I have started to improve a bit at this game, but then I screw up and go down a level. It's rather frustrating.
The other memory games that I've unlocked so far is Devilish Pairs, which is like the old game of Memory, Devilish Mice which has you memorizing hidden mice as they're being shuffled around, Devilish Shapes which works like Calculations but with weird random shapes instead, and Devilish Cubes which has you memorizing the disappearing locations of randomly placed cubes. Oh, and there's Devilish Reading, which is broken. It requires that you read the sentence out loud, into the 3DS's mic, but alas, my mic doesn't work that well! I have to hold the 3DS right to my mouth and speak in a LOUD voice for it to register. I'm supposed to be memorizing the underlined words in each sentence, but I can't because I'm too focused trying to get the damn game to register my voice! So, I cheat by tapping the mic with the stylus and just remembering the underlined words as they appear. Yeah, I know it's cheating, but the fu cking game doesn't work!
Oh yeah, and just like the other two Brain Ages, there are handwriting recognition problems. You really have to have expert penmenship at times, or the game will not recognize what you wrote, or accept an incorrect answer. When you're trying to concentrate, having the game buzz you because it misread your answer is a great way to jolt you out of your focus.
The game also has some supplemental activities such as the classic Calculations X 20 and Word Attack, which has you remembering words that flash on screen for just a second, and there are Brain Training activities such as Klondike and Block Head. I like Block Head, because it's an actual puzzle game. You hop across a layout of blocks with different values and compete against Kawashima to get the highest score. There's also Relaxation Mode, but I've only unlocked one game so far, which is called Blob Blast. It has you clearing out different kinds of blobs with bombs, and it's actually rather addicting. The one omission I've noticed the most, though, is Sudoku. I'm hoping it's in the game, and that I just need to unlock it. Annoying that it's not there at the start, though.
Almost forgot to mention, Dr. Ryuta Kawashima now talks to you. He also gives these mini seminars about how the brain functions and why it's important to train our memories and keep our brains active. I do enjoy the presentation of the game, but I just wish the game itself was more fun instead of seeming so relentlessly difficult. Also, the game doesn't even give you a brain age anymore. You're given a training grade, which starts you out as F, and improves depending on how far you get in each Devilish Training activity. It also plasters your grade on your Mii like some scarlet letter. Yeah, didn't enjoy seeing my Mii prance around with a big F on its chest... Anyways, I'm sad to say that I cannot recommend this game to fans of the previous Brain Ages. It just isn't the same.
Well, it looks like the current hot topic is used games again, thanks to circulating rumors that PS4 and Xbox 720 may block used games. There's usually one focal point of this argument whenever this debate arises, and that's GameStop. Oh, that evil GameStop, selling used games for five dollars below the new game price point. THEY MUST PARISH! If you've ever been around a video game forum, you know a lot of people hate GameStop.
Now, there is something that I think most people aren't taking into consideration here. If GameStop sells used games at 55, it actually increase the odds that a consumer will buy a new game at 60. They'll probably think, "Well, if I spend five dollars more, I can guarantee myself a disc without scratches and a manual without Cheetos fingerprints. I'll take a new copy please." A lot of the outrage that I hear from people is that they make so much money off used games sales because of their markup.
So let's say GS doesn't sell used games at 55 dollars. Let's say they start at 40. Now things start to get interesting. Why buy a new game at 60 when you can buy it at 40 used? Sales of used games begin to skyrocket. GameStop may not make the same amount of profit, but the demand for used games all of a sudden went up, while the sales of new games has decreased. This also presents a quandary. How will they get used games off their racks if they aren't selling new games for people to sell back to them? Kinda makes you think.
GameStop actually makes very little from the sales of new games, so they rely on the used market to carry them through. It's also been reported that they're closing roughly 250 stores nationwide. Could it be because so many people refuse to buy from them? Well, I'd also like to think that part of it is overdistention. I've heard from several people who say there are at least two or three stores in their zip codes. Here in Aurora, Co, we have one in the Aurora Mall and one just outside a couple minutes away. It's no different than a Wendy's closing because there are three within five minutes; they're competing against each other.
You can blame GameStop all you want, but if they can get away with selling used games at 55 dollars, why bother lowering the price? The demand is there, so it only makes sense from a business standpoint to offer the supply. Does that make them unethical? No. Greedy? Sure. And when you're taking risks on buying games (and this same risk applies to other stores, such as pawn shops), you'll want to try to make the most money that you can back.
Now lets talk about the potentiality of the next-gen systems blocking used games. A lot of people will celebrate this because they think GameStop will go out of business, and they want to see that happen. Too many people, though, are hung up on that fact and don't realize who else will be affected. Included, but not limited to are these:
- Mom and pop shops
- Craig's Listers
- Rental outlets
- Your friends
Yes, yourself. The thing is, when you buy a video game, that copy BELONGS to you. You have the right to do whatever it is that you want to do (provided that you don't make copies and distribute/sell them) with that copy. You should not be barred from attempting to get some of your money back when you are tired of the game, or just simply don't like it. If used games become blocked, then new game sales will suffer as a result. After all, when you buy a game at 60 bucks, you better hope to God you bought a good one. Because you can't eBay it, you can't pawn it off, you can't sell it to your friend, or even give the damn thing away. You just bought a 60 dollar coaster. Sure, you can wait for a sale on a new game, but that would do little good, as the retailer already paid the distributor for that copy. They took a loss on the copy to get if off their shelves.
"But... but.. the devs deserve their money!" And rightfully so, as they make money from the initial sales. That's where it ends, though. First Sale Doctrine prohibits the author from making money from future sales of that particular copy. This applies to everything: music, books, movies, art, sex toys, whatever. You can't make a special exception for the video game industry. Why should you? No other industry cries so much, and implements so many counter measures to stave off losses to a used market like the video game industry does. If you honestly want to support developers who make games you like, by all means, do so. Just don't go about calling the used market and the people who partake thereof evil. You should be pointing the finger at publishers who continue to sell short games pock-marked with DLC options and online passes for 60 dollars. "But, if their games sell, why lower the price?" Haha, GREAT POINT! If GameStop can sell used games at 55, why lower the price? Simple supply and demand.
"But.. but.. we PC gamers don't have a used market!" This is one argument that I hear from time to time, and other PC gamers actually butt in and say, "Yes, there is a used market." It's just that GameStop doesn't sell used PC games. There's a reason for that, though. It's very very easy to copy a PC game to your harddrive, find a CD key and play it without the disc. This frees up the game to let you sell it back to the store for maximum value. Console games don't work that way. Plus, PC games are on average cheaper, so there's less incentive to go out and buy a used game for 55 when it already sells for new at 30 or 40. Also, there's Steam. Loads of cheap games that can be traded and gifted. There's not much of a used market for PC games, because there simply isn't a need for one. Console games are much more expensive on average, thus the demand for used games.
I know, I know, you really love gaming, and you want everyone to support it. Then, you better never have done any of these:
- Read a book at a library
- Checked out a CD or DVD at a library
- Bought used clothing
- Bought a generic brand foodstuff or prescription drug
- Bought a used car
- Bought a part from a junkyard
- Read a magazine in a bookstore
- Borrowed a game from a friend
- Borrowed anything from a friend
- Snuck into a movie theatre
- Downloaded from Napster
- Downloaded from pirate site
Now, I know some of these can be debated, and if you like to, go ahead, but I'm basically saying that if you were guilty of any one of these, you're taking money away from someone else. Such is economics, the ups and downs of business and the wills and will nots of consumers. Consumer rights are extremely important, and to block them can effectively hinder your company more than help it.
For opponents of used games, you also need to consider something here. Most purchasers of used games have no intent in buying new. Period. They aren't lost "potential sales"; they are no-sales. If Microsoft blocks used games, a lot of consumers will migrate to Sony and vice versa. I can see one company being stupid enough to block used games, but not both. In the unlikely event that both do, maybe this is the winfall Nintendo needs...
I also want to remind everyone who are against used games that a lot of gamers end up purchasing new games thanks to previous experiences as a result of buying used games. They might browse a used games bin and see something for 15 bucks and love it so much, they'll buy a sequel or another game from the same company new for 60. The used market is an effective way of giving companies' games exposure. Plus, a lot of games go out of print, and you can only find the rare ones used through eBay or other auction sites. Lastly, even the Evil Vile Overloard of Evilness Bobby Kotick isn't entirely against used games. He sees used games as a platform to sell more DLC. Think about it. There really is a lot of good that comes out of used games, so they honestly are not as evil as people are making it seem.
Ubisoft has announced via Facebook that a new exclusive demo for Rayman Legends will arrive for the Wii U. They claim that they have "heard" us and "will continue to listen" and "understand" our frustration. Yet, Rayman Legends continues to be delayed until September with pretty much the only apparent reason being to release simultaneously across all systems. If you work for Ubisoft, this is what you'll be hearing, if you really are listening.
What an insulting slap to the face. Keep your stupid demo.
Another bloody demo is useless! We already have one and you're fooling yourselves if you think wii u owners give a rats ass about a demo. The game was to come to wii u exclusively so the least you can do is put it on wii u first as scheduled.
Looks like ubisoft found 162 people to like the decision to rape their fans on an enjoyable game for 7 months and fill that void with a shallow demo that last 30 tries. Go to hell ubisoft, buying used games for ubisoft now on!
I commented on the Hate/Love ratio before. Now there are over 1,000 comments, almost all negative and a measly 162 likes. Almost 10:1
working with the development team? the development team has worked their asses off to get this game out for release. and now NOW you think that they need to make us another demo, no you just need to release the game, in full. like you announced at E3, like you delayed to december, then delayed to february. if the game is complete we want it. It will be irrelevant to gamers in september, and I do not want this game to fail, I love rayman and I want to support this series as long as I can, do not shoot yourselves in the foot and wait til it's too late to make a profit. Release it for the Nintendo fans, nintendo fans were the ones praising and celebrating from E3-to Now and now they are razzing and booing. don't turn away the loyal fans you have, because once you do, you will have a more difficult time getting them back.
And these comments are just random ones I picked off the current portion of Ubisoft's FB wall. The list goes on and on and on. It's readily apparent that a lot of Rayman fans and Wii U owners are upset about this. And rightfully so. Games have been delayed before, but usually for good reasons. They want to put more levels in, or fine tune some mechanics, or do something beneficial for the game, but that isn't the case here. The game's essentially done, but it won't be coming out in time, and when it does come out in September, it will have not benefitted in the slightest by the delay.
No, the reason for the delay is so the other systems can see a simultaneous launch. Let's not even focus on the fact that Legends was promised as a Wii U exclusive. Let's focus first on the developers, the people who worked extremely hard on the game. Please read this, something that a Ubisoft developer wrote:
If you're pissed, imagine how we feel. Think on the situation, we've been making overtime with this game practically since May preparing E3, and then almost a demo per month (gamescom, Wii U presentation, shops, eShop, etc...) and at the same time trying to actually finish the game. We had a first delay because it was obvious we couldn't finish on time but we gave it all to be there on February. What face do you think we had when the week we had to close the game we're being told it's not going to be released? I couldn't believe it.
For practical matters, you'll have to wait for some months for the game to be released and will most likely serve for more content to be added and do it better. For us, this means we've spent 6 months barely seeing our wives, kids, and friends for nothing because, after all, such haste wasn't needed. Believe it, it was a hell to swallow these news.
Even then I'm firm in what I said back in the day, Rayman Legends is an excellent game and will still be, and the team that's making it doesn't deserve to have your back turned on them just because some men in ties one day took a wrong choice. This industry is really that shi tty."
Can you imagine how frustrating this is for them? To work your ass off for six solid months to get a game out by Feburary only to be told the game won't make it until September, and to get right back to work in getting the game prepped for other consoles? Not only that, but to see a game you worked so hard on having to go up against giants like Grant Theft Auto V? There's also the possiblity that two brand new machines are coming out this holiday season. Gamers will have a lot to buy at the end of this year. Does Ubisoft really think that Rayman Legends' profile is high enough to compete with Grand Theft Auto V? I mean, it's a high quality game, but it is rather niche. Just look at the sales for Origins. I'm surprised we're even getting a sequel, at all. Now, imagine your game not only not selling well because of competition, but also because of Rayman fans scorned by the delay refusing to buy the game.
I will admit, I'm torn whether or not to still buy this game. Part of me WANTS to buy the game to support all those who worked so hard on it. I want them to see my money, because they honestly have deserved it. But then, the other part of me wants nothing to do with the game, because I don't want the publisher side of Ubisoft to see a dime as a result of such a bonehead move. I want them to take a loss from Rayman Legends to teach them a lesson to not do something as stupid as this again, but is that lesson worth the possiblity of Ubisoft Montreal closing? Part of me really wants to play the game, because I've been waiting for it for so long, but the other part of me just doesn't want to see Ubisoft get away with treating not only the devs, but us like this.
I ultimately feel that it is only right, however, to buy the game to support the hardworking men and women who made it. Yet, that is me. I cannot suggest to anyone else who is interested in the game and upset by this recent development what to do. It's completely understandable either way. The only thing that I desperately want to happen is for Ubisoft to quickly realize the folly in this decision and to put the Wii U version back on track. That really is the only smart thing that we can all agree on. They can make money on the Wii U version now, and then can make a little more on the other systems later. This decision to delay a finished game with the sole intent for a simultaneous release on other platforms is a very poor one, and anyone upset over it should make their voice heard by posting on Ubisoft's Facebook page. If enough people speak out, then maybe Ubisoft will actually listen to us and release the game when it was originally supposed to launch.
We all want to support developers for making the games we love to play, but god dammit if the publishers make it hard to do so...
Hurrmmm... how do I describe this? I forgot how to ninja. This is solid old-school gameplay, and it's a good reminder that I've softened over the years. I've become accustomed to constant check points and save points that let me play through at midway points and use up all my lives while being allowed to continue right before the boss fight. I've let games play themselves for me, relying on their fine tuned mechanics where all you have to do is press the win button. Shinobi whaps me upside the head, pulls my pants down and then points and laughs while I just stand there looking like an idiot glouring at him.
Yeah, Shinobi's really not that hard. The difficulty harkens back to the days where you played games that dealt death to you every inch of the way, but did it in a consistent manner. Your skill relied on memorizing enemy locations and boss patterns while also reacting instinctively before enemies even appeared on screen. This is how Shinobi's always been, so it's real nice to see that Sega's stayed true to its spirit with this 3DS installment. I just now passed the third level, and it's the perfect balance of love/hate. I love the game, but I hate it at the same time for making it start at the beginning of the level every time I lose.
So what's it like? Well, this new ninja is named Jiro, and he's got a few more moves up his sleeves. You can skill shoot shruikens at enemies and slash them with your sword, but you can also perform multihit combos, upward slashes, rolling mid-air slashes, etc. You can even sneak up on a few enemies and stealth kill them in rather hilarious ways, but it all has that classic Shinobi feel to it. This isn't something you can just mash the attack button on. Your sword slashes need to be expertly timed, well placed. You also have to parry incoming attacks, and since you can't just hold a blocking stance, you have to parry at just the right moment. Also, the game already threw a few wicked platforming segments at me in just the first few levels. I'm dreading to see what else it has in store for me.
It's reminding me a lot like Shinobi III, but my nostalgia will prevent this game from ever coming that close. For one, I find the ninjitsu practically useless, and you only get to use it once, unless you find another scroll. I also think the game does such a poor job with its narrative, they shouldn't have even bothered with any of the anime cutscenes. Who am I fighting? Why am I fighting them? What the hell is going on? Would have been better to just keep it entirely old school and just move from one level straight to the next. Plus, you can't skip cutscenes until you've had to continue the level. The second level's opening cutscene is roughly a minute/minute and a half long. Irritating. Also... again, it's the memories of Shinobi III that's holding this game to higher standards, but I'm not enjoying the music that much.
The graphics are alright, but I know the 3DS can do loads better. It looks like a really good DS game, not something that 3DS would have to really flex its power for. Still, it moves and animates well. It also controls well, but that's dependent on you. Every hit you take is you somehow screwing up your timing. Jiro leaves himself open for a split second, which is odd for a ninja, but it does happen. Anyway, the game's dirt cheap now. If you have a 3DS and are looking for an old school side-scroller, give Shinobi a shot.
Ok, so Dead Space 3 is out today and reviews are coming in. So far, it's a pretty solid game currently sitting at an 80 on Metacritic. We all know by now the game features microtransactions. Dead Space 3 features a crafting mechanic that involves the gathering of different resources to use to enhance your current gun, add an attachment or simply make a new gun altogether. The system practically replaces the need for credits. But as we all know, there is no need to purchase microtransactions, so no need to be bothered by it, right? It's optional, right?
True, you do not need to buy a single resource to play the game, however, the game has been impacted by this new mechanic. To be fair, I'm writing this blog only on what I've experienced in the demo, but I won't go out and buy the game and play all the way through it just for a more accurate impression, so please take what I say with a grain of salt.
So, from what I've played of the demo, I instantly got the feeling that the crafting system was created with the sole purpose of making resources available for purchase through microtransactions. Sure enough, I go online shortly afterward and find John Calhoun saying this:
"Theres a lot of players out there, especially players coming from mobile games, who are accustomed to microtransactions, Calhoun explained. Theyre like, I need this now, I want this now. They need instant gratification. So, we included that option in order to attract those players, so that if theyre 5000 Tungsten short of this upgrade, they can have it.
The entire system of adding enhancements to your weapons feels exactly like a mobile phone app. I've played a few rinky dinky free games on my mobile phone, and they're set up so that you buy whatever points, coins, food or gems you want to progress through the level quicker, and that's essentially what's happening here. I, and many others, have restraint, so if I ever decide to play the game, EA won't see an extra dime from me that I did not spend on the initial purchase. Those other gamers sadly don't have the restraint, so they'll be spending extra to make the game easier. They're practically paying for an easy mode. "But that's them. Let them pay if they want! It doesn't affect your game!" Or does it...
I liked the older games' weapon systems better. I liked being able to pick up a health pack here and an ammo clip there. Although they're still plentiful from what I've seen, the game's now cluttered with resource here and resource there. It's messy to me, and it effects the pacing of the game. Survival horror games are meant to be structured in the sense that when you finally find that shotgun, you let out a deep sigh of relief. Then, you have to deal with item management to not only keep enough space for your shotgun, but the ammo that comes with it. Dead Space 3 has effectively thrown out a long-standing staple of the survival horror genre with this crafting system. Now, you can craft your shotgun (only using shotgun as an example) whenever you want, provided you have the resources for it. "Oh damn, I spent all that tungsten on a flamethrower! Now I can't get my shotgun!" Well, if you want it that badly... *devilish grin* buy more tungsten!
The impatient gamers will succumb to this. There's two enabling phrases that I hate when it comes to microtransactions and DLC. They are "it's only" and "it's just". "It's only 99 cents!" "It's just two bucks!" The more enabling gamers out there that think like this, the more those 99 cents and two bucks turn into a thousand here and a thousand there. It sends a wrong message to the developers and publishers. It encourages them to continue to implement questionable microtransaction and DLC business models, and parts of our games have been excluded from us, being held for ransom and gameplay mechanics have been reworked as a result. And when companies nickle and dime us in this fashion, do they even bother to make the game more affordable to us? No.
Now, normally I wouldn't make a big deal out of this (if you call writing a blog a big deal, then I hate to think what you would call Youtubers screaming and swearing over this), as I try to advocate the ideal of "If you don't like it, don't buy/play it." You might remember my blog when I tried to defend SquareEnix's inclusion of multiplayer in Tomb Raider, but that's a different case. The MP has no bearing on the SP at all (please reread my blog on that subject if you disagree). The microtransactions in Dead Space 3, unfortunately do affect the single player, even you never spend a single cent on them. Do you dislike the fact that the battle field is scattered with resources? Don't like having to spend extra time understanding a crafting system when you much prefered the older games' straightforward method of using nodes? Hate the fact that there's less emphasis on item management as every weapon now uses the same ammo? You can thank mobile gamers for that, and EA's need to cash in on them.
I know I'm being hard on Dead Space 3. I'm sure the crafting system is just fine when you get the hang of it, but I don't want to see any more resource-driven mechanics where the materials can be obtained through microtransactions. I honestly don't want gamers to spend money on "instant gratification", as John Calhoun would say. The whole point of playing a game is to experience it, and you deprive yourself of it once you spend money to make it easier. Yeah, I can vote with my wallet and not support the game, but will that vote matter? EA won't know why I didn't bother to buy their game. All they're looking for right now is to see how many people are buying tungsten. I really hope that number is low enough for EA to stop taking perfectly good gameplay mechanics and break them down to resources in order to capitalize.
Thank you, dear Tom McShea for sparking up the desire for me to beat a dead horse again. *keeps beating the dead horse until flesh, skin and hoves fly off in a red mist* HAHAHAHAHAHA! STUPID HORSE!!! *ahem*
So basically what his article is saying is to pause for a second before you go off and attack opponents of violent video games and try to see that there is some blame to be had. I think it's not the fact that we need to pause and look at the situation; it's that many of us are sick to death of looking at the situation. We looked at the situation when Mortal Kombat came out. We looked at the situation when Doom was used as an influencer in the Columbine shooting. We looked at the situation when it was said that Halo trained the DC snipers. We're tired of pondering and always coming up with the same conclusion from video game violence studies: inconclusive.
How many more times are we going to have to go through this? Apparently, 10 million dollars worth of times as Obama somehow thinks it's a good idea to give that much of our tax paying money to the Center for Disease Control to do more studies; the CDC of all places!
Ok, enough cynicism. Let's focus on violence in video games again. First, let's understand why it exists. In the early days, violence in video games was nothing more than a little ship shooting a block at other ships and having those ships explode in a bunch of boxes. Not really that offensive, but violent by definition. The thing is, would the game make any sense if it the ship was just shooting blocks into empty space? No. The reason why the ship is shooting at other ships is because those ships are the enemy. The goal of the game is to erradicate the enemy ships because, well, they're the enemy!
As technology has improved over the years, graphics have become more and more realistic, yet the goal remains the same: erradicate the enemy. It's just now instead of shooting blocks, you're shooting bullets, and instead of the enemy exploding into blocks, they have gaping exit wounds at the approximate location of their body, and use ragdoll physics to fall down properly. Yes, it's starting to become more offensive because our senses are relating it more to realism. But, that's where our most important sense comes in to play: the common one. We know it's just as fake as it ever was, no more as ludicrous as when politicans were trying to ban Death Race 2000.
Look at a game like Afro Samurai, which I just recently finished playing. We have a game that uses enourmous amounts of blood and gore to drive the action forward. But, Afro Samurai is not doing this killing senselessly. He's fulfilling a quest for vengeance, seeing his father killed before his very eyes. Since he's a samurai, his title and the game's effective era dictates that it will be a violent game. It would not make sense to make Afro Samurai be polite, going around asking the enemy, "Please lie down won't you, so that I may proceed through the game?" The ship didn't ask the invading aliens to stop invading its planet; no, it shot blocks at it.
Then there's Tom's example of God of War. Yes, the game is full of blood and guts and gore and carnage and savagery. Yes, it punctuates the violence again and again with every execution. There's no mistaking that Kratos is a very angry person, and he's set in a very bloody era. Should he be killing people? Yes, he should, as he's the GOD. OF. WAR. Not God of Tea Parties, not God of Picnics, not God of Corporate Functions (I lied, back to cynicism. It's what I do.), God of WAR. You betcha being a violent, bloody game is the only way to tell this narrative. There should be no need to excuse it.
Now, let's visit Grand Theft Auto for a spell. I'm currently reading a book called Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, by David Kushner, and it's a great read so far. It really helps to put into perspective why violence was needed in an entertainment medium that is not just continuously evolving, but also growing up. It also tells of Lemmings creator David Jones, who was making the next big game involving an open world that allowed for realistic freedom. The game was called Race 'n' Chase, and it played pretty much like Cops and Robbers. It allowed for an almost unprecendented amount of freedom as you could just drive anywhere around the city, but then someone pointed out something. It sucked. Why did it suck? It was too realistic. You had to stop at traffic lights. You couldn't run over people. You were still pretty much playing nothing more than a kid's game. Someone suggested, "What if you were the robber instead of the cop? There car is there, why can't I just yank the driver out and take it?" Suddently, the game sparked to life and it was renamed Grand Theft Auto.
The rest would be history, had it not been for the fact that the franchise is still making history. Arguably the most controversial video game franchise of all time, Grand Theft Auto became the sort of alpha scapegoat. Whatever went wrong with the world could be blamed on Grand Thef Auto. On the surface, it's easy to see why. You're basically a thug, yanking people out of their cars, picking up hookers in them, beating them up, taking their money, driving off somewhere while running over countless pedestrians only to get out in the middle of the intersection to pick off police with your sniper rifle. Heads popped off (oddly enough, Rockstar had to edit out code that allowed limbs to be shot off as well since the censors thought it was too "gorey") and blood sprayed everywhere. Is that senseless? Of course it is. It doesn't propel the story forward or help you in any way aside from some arbitrary high score. But everyone forgets that all that mayhem is optional. You don't have to play that way.
Rockstar had to keep reiterating that fact when defending their game in court. No one seemed to care that for every negative action you made, an equal reaction occured as the police would hunt you down. No one seemed to care that this video game was a narrative equivalent to highly acclaimed crime dramas like Scarface, Goodfellas and the Godfather. Everyone overlooked the fact that you could get in a police car and chase down real criminals, or get in a firetruck and fight fires, or do anything in the game that wasn't 100 percent criminal. Rockstar, constantly under pressure by the media, continued to push the envelope because they believed in something truly important: games aren't for kids anymore. Violence should be at the forefront of any M rated game, because it needs to be readily apparent to the parent that the game is not meant for their kids, just as Scarface wasn't meant for their kids, which I'm sure they themselves loved as adults.
So why is it that most of the time, movies and other forms of media are given a free pass while video games are painted as the only culprit? Participatory action. I love that phrase. By participating in the video game, you are essentially the killer. You are making the decision to pull that trigger. Fair enough, but aren't you participating in witnessing violence when you buy a ticket to Die Hard, to Aliens, to Friday the 13th? Please don't try to say you don't willingly enter the theatre, or pop in a DVD or Blu-Ray to watch a movie filled with violence. You are compelled to see it. You love the violence, otherwise you wouldn't be watching those films. Violent video games only let you create the violence yourself. There isn't that much difference. In games like Grand Theft Auto, you can choose to not participate in a lot of the violence, only doing what's required for the story. Or, you can choose not to participate entirely by not playing the game at all. If you choose to engage in wanton violence, that is a call you made based on free will. The game did not spur that moment of violence out of you.
Another thing that gets me is that it seems violence in the media is only a problem that exists in North America. Some of the most violent entertainment comes from our distant neighbors in the East: Japan. I just recently saw Battle Royale, and God, what a messed up movie that was! Kids killing kids for the sake of survival! Yet, it wasn't completely senseless. There was a lot of different emotional theme, such as survival, friendship, desperation, courage, etc. But you know what gets me? One of the most successful movies of recent times is The Hunger Games. Kids killing kids, in a franchise that is targetted towards young readers. The Hunger Games trilogy has been highly requested in my library for years, yet parents don't bat a brow. True, the violence may be tame in comparison to Battle Royale, but the themes are still exactly the same. Violence. Violence. Violence. Let's see the parents start caring when a Hunger Games game is made...
And Japan also makes some sickingly violent games themselves. Platinum Games is renowned for this, as anyone who's played MadWorld and Bayonetta can tell you, but do those games ever get brought up during a violent video game witch hunt? Well, that's easy. They don't get anywhere near the same exposure as an Activision or Rockstar game. And with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance nearly out, Platinum Games looks like they'll continue pumping out ridiculously over the top violent video games. But even then, maybe the people who took notice that these games were extremely violent instantly dismissed them because of the way their violence was portrayed. Maybe it was just so fantastical that it warranted no concern. The opponents of violent games are looking for something that's much more relatable, like people shooting people, or games that have Westernized characters chopping each other up. Japan's culture on violence is actually far different than ours, so maybe their society is more easily acceptable of violence in the media, while too many of us in the states still treat it as taboo.
The bottom line is this: the numbers don't add up. You cannot look me in the face and tell me with a straight face that violent games causes people to be violent. If that was the case, we would see hundreds, maybe even thousands more shootings a year. Since there are HUNDREDS of millions of gamers in the world, you might even say we'd be seeing hundreds of thousands, or even millions more shootings. We'd be seeing kids running out in the streets with swords pretending they're Dante or weilding their chainsaws thinking their Jack Cayman. We'd hear from mass shooters as they claimed they were Chris Redfield killing zombies, and even then, did anyohe take James Holmes seriously when he said he was the Joker? How come Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan aren't being lambasted to great length like our video games are? This guy flatout points his finger at a fictious character saying, "HE MADE ME DO IT!" Oh, but introduce the fact that he might have played a video game or two during his life and suddenly it's all the game's fault. Don't even get me started on the number of killers that would be created if movies even had a fraction of the percentage of influnce people say games have.
I'm writing this article to you, Tom McShea, and anyone here on GameSpot, in Politician Land and wherever else that thinks that everyone is having knee jerk reactions to when games receive the finger of blame. This is me, not replying as a gamer (although I'm inherently one, I excercise no bias in writing this editorial), but replying as a reasonable person viewing the situation from all angles. Viewing a situation that has been viewed by me over and over again, by others over and over again. Obama can waste 10 million dollars of our money, and the CDC will reach the same conclusion that researchers reached back in 1999 when trying to correlate the effects of violent games making violent people: inconclusive. Enough is enough. We aren't knee jerking. We are tired of seeing misdirected energy. We are going around in circles, and this is why gamers are becoming angry.
There you have it. My moment of reflection. Please don't make me reflect anymore. I have violent video games that need playing.
So, I just played a couple of PS3 demos tonight: Dead Space 3 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I'll start with Dead Space 3.
Dead Space 3.
Where do I begin? First, let's take a look at where you went wrong in Dead Space 2. Although you were still a great game, you brought a bit too many enemies into the fray during the later levels. This shifted the balance of the game, turning it more into a third-person shooter than an actual survival horror. Seems you won't learn that lesson with Dead Space 3, thanks in part to including drop-in drop-out co-op.
Now, let's talk about this new crafting mechanic. Instead of picking up ammo and health off corpses and finding them in nooks and crannies, I instead get tungsten and scrap metal and semiconductors and whatever. I just learned that EA will be implementing an online store where you can purchase these resources with real money, and now it all makes sense. The whole upgrading and crafting of the weapons feels like a mobile phone app. I hope you're proud of yourself. You have soiled the Dead Space name.
I'm so bothered by this damn crafting mechanic that the rest of the game just looks unappealing to me. I'm not impressed by the graphics, nor the giant drill thing it had me fight, The enemy designs don't even scare me anymore, thanks in part to no sense of tension. It seems the game just wants to be louder and faster, like that's supposed to scare me. And what's this? I have humans trying to kill me now? I have to take cover now? And reanimated corpses can use guns now? Visceral... what did you do? What did you do?! So glad I played this demo, because I have never made up my mind about not buying a game quicker than I did with the Dead Space 3 demo.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
You know, I was having a lot of fun with this game, until I got to the boss and realized how horrible the parrying system was. Yeah, yeah, you have to practice and get better at it, but I swear to god I was parrying every time, but the damn camera swings around whenever the boss lunged at me so much, it was getting motion sickness. What the hell's wrong with a normal blocking and dodging system? I was getting so frustrated that I almost didn't finish the demo, but I kept trying and finally managed to beat him, with 1% left!
The game is beautiful, though. Could be a little prettier here and there. I really love the cutting mechanic, and there's a lot of stuff it lets you cut. Sword Mode is basically Bullet Time, but for swords. You can swipe anything from a full 360 degrees, and it slices apart very realistically. The only thing is, environmental damage is extremely fake. One of the first things I did was chop apart a bridge's pylon, and the rest of the structure just sorta poofed away.
This is primarily a Platinum Games game, but it does keep a few Metal Gear Solid elements to it. It has a couple of stealth segments, but it really isn't like the old games. Basically, it just an opportunity here and there to sneak up on someone and perform a one hit kill. Then, everyone's alerted and you're off fighting them. I do like the way you get your health back by slicing open an enemy, ripping out their spinal cord and absorbing the fluid. I just don't understand why some give you the opportunity to do it and others don't. Maybe I'm just going too crazy with the slashing.
Anyway, I don't think I'm going to get the game right away. I was getting rather worked up with the boss, and I can only imagine how much more worked up I'll get with the rest of the game. Besides, it takes place after Metal Gear Solid 4, and I still haven't played that yet.
The game is magical. I can't really describe the feeling I got when I first booted it up. Seeing the Studio Ghibli trademark animation and the cartoon like world that I began roaming around in. Talking to characters about menial little things such as picking up groceries. Sneaking out to do mischief with my best friend. The Japanese RPG style of this game permeated my very being, and I honestly just became hooked. I had no idea how much I missed a truly honest, traditional JRPG.
I'm sure you've all heard it by now thanks to constant spoilers, but just in case:
So far, the story telling has not let up. It's just absolutely amazing what this game is accomplishing, all thanks to Studio Ghibli. I'd say if you're a hardcore Ghibli fan and don't own a PS3, you should go out and buy one just for this game. As for the gameplay itself, that's what I'm a little disappointed with. I misunderstood what the combat was going to be like, and I thought it would let you summon familiars and use them along side yourself as you fought, but they take your place instead. They also share your HP and MP as well, which is something I'm still getting used to. Basically, I just have to get behind the idea that using Oliver himself in battle is completely pointless.
I'm about six hours in (with some idle time), and I just took down my second boss. They haven't been challenging yet, but I've heard that will change. I do like the glim system, though. Basically, these little orbs of different colors will appear from time to time after you deliver a few attacks. You can get green orbs for HP, blue orbs for MP, and they have a game changing glim known as the Golden Glim which only appears during boss fights. If you collect it, not only is your HP restored, but you unleash what's called a Miracle Attack, a very devastating magic or special attack. And, it consumes no MP. Very, very useful, but you need to pay attention for the glim, because it could disappear. If you see it, cancel whatever you're doing and go chase it!
The overworld is just fantastic. It's like walking over a three-dimensional painting; it's that beautiful. The cel-shading and character animation make it look like you're controlling a cartoon. The soundtrack is absolutely remarkable, powerful, lighthearted, dramatic, all different moods to suit whatever the current tone of the game. As much as I'm loving the game, I just have to say, though, this should have been on the Wii U, without a doubt. Considering that it started on the DS, there pretty much was no reason whatsoever for Nintendo to not have gotten this game on their Wii U. Plus, it seems like the runes you get for spells were designed to be cast with the stylus, which would have made a lot more sense for it to be on the Wii U and not the PlayStation 3.
I tried not to buy more than one game this month (which was Anarchy Reigns), but after seeing Kevin VanOrd's video review, I had to get this game. Simply had to get it. It may not be a ground breaking game in terms of gameplay, but it's the marriage of traditional JRPG mechanics with the magical presenation of Studio Ghibli that really makes this game special. Honestly, if you love JRPG or Ghibli (and I'm sure it isn't an either/or thing), you have got to get this game. It's already got the makings for several GOTY categories from best soundtrack to best RPG to even possibly Game of the Year itself.