All About stephenage
As some of you may know, frequent blogger Adam1808 (who you will know from his fantastic featured blogs on this site) and I talk to each other about video games a lot. Despite living on opposite sides of the globe we find the time to get into lengthy video game discussion on a very regular discussion and have this weird feeling that what we say is somewhat worthwhile. It was during this process that we formulated an idea after having a deliciously meta discussion about the discussion of video games (how pretentious are we?). Our conclusion from this was to start a monthly blog series where the two of us play through a game and then post a video of us discussing it in length. Though video games are discussed ad nauseam on this site and on others, there are always things like spoiler constraints and after a while a game gets forgotten. There is nothing like a book of film club discussion where you get to perhaps return to an older title and discuss it fully and analytically. The point being not a review of the product itself, but an analytic dissection and discussion of it as a whole, put simply we are doing a monthly game club. If this isn't clear, watch this instructional video which I slapped together in a few minutes to explain everything. This video is a very basic one, but when we get onto the games themselves the plan is to put together a video of mine and Adam's conversation complimented with game footage I have captured and edited. I'm willing to admit I'm not the best editor, but I am willing to put proper effort into actual game club videos and am looking forward to it.
So now you have watched that you know that the first game we are doing is Far Cry 2, and you know why we picked it.
It's a divisive game that neither of us has really played, and it is known for being ambition, interesting and potentially a failure in many regards. We are playing through it now and towards the end of the month you will see our blog in which the video itself is posted. Before then what we want is to hear what you have to say, either play some Far Cry 2 this month and get back to us with your opinion of the game or just sound off in the comments about how you feel about the title. We will get to your comments on the video itself and include you in the discussion as much as is possible. Also feel free to suggest new Game Club titles, the criteria being that it is an interesting game to discuss and that I preferably have access to it on PC (for recording purposes).
For Harmonix the long time ago was November 2005, the time when most of us first saw the appeal of playing fake guitars in video games. Its fair to say the music made us smile also, as what looked like a game of niche appeal (especially considering the lack of commercial success of games like Guitar Freaks) became a complete phenomenon. Of course Harmonix eventually parted with Guitar Hero and upped the game once more with Rock Band, ditching the singular instrument focus and opening up a whole new world of gameplay possibilities and music. Rock Band hit the states in 2007 and has since been my go to series for the entire genre, Guitar Hero had the name and a bit more popularity, but it was Rock Band which won over the hearts of so many. The novelty of strumming a guitar along with your game was no longer the key factor and Harmonix exhibited a level of professionalism and polish that Guitar Hero werent pulling off. Sure, if you were crazy into the devil and tired rock n roll iconography then I can see how Guitar Hero would be the game for you (when you arent playing Doom of course), but Rock Band was the one for me.
I can only speak to my own experience here, so forgive me for generalising, but I think its fair to say that if you cared about music (and specifically rock music) Rock Band was the gold standard. It was a game made by music lovers for music lovers, with an appreciation for the art form it presented. Just look at The Beatles Rock Band, which was the perfect tribute to one of (if not the) greatest bands of all time. Every aspect of the game was lovingly crafted and all went towards giving you the authentic (though entirely drug free) Beatles experience. Iconic moments were faithfully recreated, the setlist did a great job of showing the bands musical arc and the visual details and buckets of extras just couldnt have been better. It was a true loving letter to the bad and is still a highlight of my video game collection (I feel obliged to say that I am a huge Beatles fan, so make of that what you will). The Beatles Rock Band wasnt the only band specific rhythm game of 2009 though, remember Guitar Hero Van Halen? Honestly, I would be surprised if you did. Harmonix advertised the Beatles to the ends of the earth, going as far as to create a truly fantastic awkward E3 moment featuring the surviving Beatles and Yoko Ono on stage (separately of course). The Van Halen treatment on the other hand was very different. Perhaps aware that they were still making spin-offs while Harmonix was putting out a proper standalone video game (superb in its right), Activision decided to pretty much write Van Halen off. As people gave away their $60 just to play Beatles tracks Activision were giving Van Halen away as a freebie if you bought Guitar Hero 5. This (perhaps unfair) treatment of the game made Guitar Hero Van Halen look more like the free CD or game disc you get with a magazine than a proper tribute to a beloved rock group. Perhaps this was appropriate though, you dont set a B-movie up against Citizen Kane, and while the Beatles game was praised for its attention to detail and authenticity Van Halen was criticised for lacking in this area.
This only part of why Rock Band became so much more important to me than Guitar Hero though. I love music, I love rock music especially, and Harmonix treated it with the reverence that I think it deserves. The key factor though, and the reason why I still play Rock Band 3 to this day, was the Rock Band store, and here we have the true point of this blog. That opening verse form Don McLeans American Pie is more relevant than forced connections between it and the path of Harmonix. Its true that they started a long, long time ago (ok not that long ago, but cut me some slack), made us smile and eventually decided to make us dance when given the chance. The importance is not this though; the importance is that American Pie is the final song to come to Rock Band. Recently they stated they were stopping weekly song releases and now Harmonix have announced that they are stopping updates altogether, and what a way to end it. Im not the biggest fan of the song, I like it and am listening to it as I write this blog, but I will not deny how appropriate it is as a finale. Personally I would have been perhaps more on the nose and tried to get my hands on The End by the Doors (Im imagining Apocalypse Now levels of darkness and insanity in the backing video) but really American Pie is a better fit. This is really an end of an era, these plastic instrument games were so big and this is the last hurrah. Its a genre I dont see coming back next generation, and it is one Im going to miss, for Rock Band (and perhaps plastic instrument rhythm games as a whole) this truly is the day the music died. But what a legacy they have left behind! The dedication Harmonix put into supporting their product is really impressive. Some have criticised them for putting out three Rock Band games rather than pure DLC, but for me Rock Band 3 was so good that this was never an issue. The flow of DLC may have stopped but we are not left deficient in content, there are over 4,000 songs to pick from on the store now, and while half of those are user created Rock Band network songs this still represents quite an achievement.
I will be honest, the Rock Band store never had everything I wanted, but it was never going to. It had enough to satisfy me though, and enough quality material to put a couple of hundred tracks in my personal library (really the limit was my wallet not the quality on offer). This is a paltry amount compared to the Rock Band libraries of so many of your but it was still a significant investment and one I dont regret for a second. This is kind of a sad moment for me then; Im proud of my Rock Band library and am now forced to accept that songs I wanted will never be there. I never really expected the songs to appear but living in denial is still better than being hit in the face by reality. I dont feel we should be saddened by the end though, or rejoice it, merely reflect on the amount of support Harmonix put behind their product for good or for bad. It may be a genre you have no interest in, and you may be happy to see it exit the stage after its final encore, but I think you should still appreciate it. While Guitar Hero sequalised the genre to death Rock Band did live the dream we wanted of a platform for music, and the occasional sequel just refined this further. Harmonix were truly a developer who cared about music, and cared about their product, you may not miss the updates (you may be glad the clutter has gone from XBLA and PSN) but I for one will miss it and I know there are others out there. So I would like to take this moment to thank Harmonix for going above and beyond the call of duty and for showing a genuine passion for what they make and what they represent.
I will leave you guys with a short list of my Rock Band dreams, and I would like to hear yours, so here are five albums that I would have loved to see in Rock Band (not my five favourite albums, just ones I would love to play in the game). Though realistically my biggest wish was Led Zeppelin Rock Band,
1. Appetite for Destruction- Guns n Roses (This would have to be uncensored, which could cause an issue, but this would be so much fun to play. One of the best rock albums ever written and would be a blast on all instruments (bar keyboard I guess))
2. The Bends- Radiohead (Not their best album (though up there) but the one which best translates to a music game)
3. Argus- Wishbone Ash (I saw Wishbone Ash play most of this album live and it was just amazing, when it comes to pure musicality and just amazing guitar music you dont get much better than this)
4. Physical Graffiti- Led Zeppelin (If I cant have the full game, at least give me my favourite album... Oh, I cant have that either? Dammit.)
5. Kill Em All- Metallica (I think this album might be the most fun Metallica album to play, and I would really love to play (Anaesthesia) Pulling Teeth)
More like Colonial Mehrines, am I right? Ok that was terrible, I apologise for that. Moving on.
I completed the campaign of Colonial Marines today and I have to say it is the worst game I've played in a while. First of all though, here is a short video I recorded of my early impressions with the game's campaign. Enjoy.
So I was pretty down on the game then, and it got worse. Well basically it just didn't change, after that point I started fighting humans and that wasn't very fun. The enemy AI across the board is just terrible, soldiers frequently ignored me, ran around for no real reason or just cowered next to a waist high wall leaving a bit of body exposed to be shot. They also died real easy and pose little threat, the armoury in Colonial Marines is vast and you can use any gun at any time (apart from power weapons), on top of this ammo is super plentiful and so are health and shield items. This means there is no real sense of danger ever, and this is added to by dull corridor based level design and repetitive enemy encounters. You enter a room, xenos appear and they run at you and die quickly, the show no sense of self preservation or tactics, or just basic intelligence, they just run at you and die. The one bonus is you get to use a pulse rifle and a motion tracker, but the motion tracker is useless because the game is so predictable. For one thing, a little icon comes up every time it wants you to use the tracker, so you know aliens are near (or other enemies) so there is no shock factor to it, and then the enemies always run straight at you and there are never very many of them. You just don't need a radar at all. The pulse rifle sounds great, but the shooting never feels great, the aiming is a tad sluggish and hit detection just seems a bit off sometimes. However accuracy is never really needed so no trouble is caused, it just makes for a game that never feels great to play. Sure it is serviceable, but it's never wholly enjoyable. On top of this the game just looks ugly, sure they nailed the Aliens aesthetic and that's great, but the graphics from a technical standpoint just look dated. I was maxing it out on PC and it just looked old, and yes the corridors look like corridors from the film Aliens but they sure do repeat a lot.
So what else is there? Oh yeah, story. Well the story is ineptly told and characters seem to go out of their way to keep you out of the loop. The plot itself is supposed to segue between Aliens and Alien 3, do some explaining and give you your Alien fix. It does nothing of the above, it just exists and it makes little sense in the larger canon. Certain things just happen and at one point something real major happens in regards to Alien lore, and instead of giving an explanation a significant character just says it's a long story. This is a pivotal moment, and it's just this happened, we don't know why but it's fan service and you like fan service right? The story is also ruined by abysmal cutscenes which are horrible compressed and feature the worst facial animation. Sure it makes Bishop seem like an android, but I half expected a twist to come that would reveal every person in the game as an android. Characters flap their mouths in an out of tune way with dialogue as they stare glassy eyed with no other facial movement bar the occasional blink. It just looks awful.
So if you want to spend a boring five to six hours in a game that looks kinda of like Aliens but doesn't feel like Aliens, buy this game. Staple facts about the franchise are just ignored and disrespected, sure you get an audio log everynow and then which is kind of neat, but that is it. Aliens as an enemy are belittled, the Alien queen especially who you eventually confront as she follows you harmlessly around a room whilst you pull four switches and press a button. The Alien queen, one of the mos iconic and awesome sci-fi monsters and this is how an encounter with it is treated. Once again, there is no fear and no tension but a palpable sense of boredom. Taking down the Alien queen should not be boring.
Nobody wake up Hicks. It's better he never sees this.
Basically guys, don't play this game. As a shooter it's completely mediocre, it's serviceable but there is nothing else to it. Everything kind of works, but nothing works really well. As an Aliens game, it's straight up bad and kind of disrespectful. If you don't like Aliens then the game will carry no interest to you at all, if you do like Aliens you will hate it. It's not a good position to be in.
My Recent Reviews
Jun 19, 2013 10:51 am GMTstephenage gave Far Cry 2 a score of 7.0
Jun 18, 2013 11:37 am GMTstephenage gave ICO a score of 8.5
Jun 3, 2013 2:25 pm GMTstephenage posted a new blog entry entitled Game Club: An Introduction
May 31, 2013 12:15 pm GMTstephenage gave Little Inferno a score of 8.5
May 29, 2013 5:42 pm GMTstephenage gave Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty a score of 9.5
May 19, 2013 4:49 pm GMTstephenage gave Dead or Alive 5 a score of 4.5
May 15, 2013 5:56 pm GMTstephenage gave Catherine a score of 8.5
May 12, 2013 11:39 pm GMTstephenage gave Costume Quest a score of 7.5
May 12, 2013 2:48 pm GMTstephenage gave Burnout 3: Takedown a score of 9.5
May 12, 2013 2:15 pm GMTstephenage gave Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box a score of 9.5
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