Posted by EpicSteve (6487 posts) -
SHOOT THOSE GUNZZZZZ!!!!!!111

In my final month in Afghanistan, I didn't have much going on. Our replacements were still a ways out, and the Taliban were occupied with their muslim holiday, Ramadan. I was able to finally sit down and play some damn games. The only issue with this is that every game in my pile involves shooting dudes in the face. My unplayed games included, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Vanquish, and Spec Ops: The Line. The good thing about living with 30 dudes is that there is no shortage of games coming in. The bad side of that is I’m the only one here that would consider videogames a hobby; no one really plays games of different genres. It was a great enough struggle to get the guys to check out games that weren't called Call of Duty. I can be credited with several sold copies of 2011's GOTY, Saints 3.

Up first was Ghost Recon, a game I didn’t finish because I was bored out of my mind playing it. I figured, yes it’s a shooter but maybe a more tactical pace would be a breath of fresh air. Boy, was I wrong! I have no clue what the Clancy name even means anymore, but the latest outing of the Ghosts was a snore fest to say the least. Not only was it a straight up shooter, the game isn’t even up-front with it. Future Soldier is the best example of a game with an identity crisis. Either the people involved with development weren’t clear on what kind of game they were making, or Ubisoft put out a title that tries to cover all angles including stealth, tactics, and 3rd person action without pleasing anyone.

SHOOT THOSE GUNZZ THEN SLIDE TO SHOOT AGAIN!

Some of the stealth segments were interesting as they were set up like puzzles. I was tasked with methodically having my squad take enemies out without their comrades noticing. It’s unfortunate these segments weren’t more difficult or else it may have been strong enough to carry the generic action that makes up 50% of the game. It’s also strange that the game calls itself “Future Soldier”. For instance, none of the game’s elements feel especially futuristic in a videogame context. In reality, seeing soldiers turn invisible and throw out drones that can tag targets would be jaw- dropping. But in a videogame, it isn’t as revolutionary. Most of the “Future Soldier” stuff just explains gameplay stuff such as a HUD as technology the characters are actually interacting with. I think the game would have been better off going further with the futuristic approach or just be as-is without the “Future Soldier” tagline.

Next up was Vanquish, a game I actually finished. Directed by Sinji Mikami, the man behind one of my favorites games of all time, Resident Evil 4. Unlike Ghost Recon, Platinum Games did everything imaginable to distinguish Vanquish from the commonplace 3rd person-shooter. I’ve seen this game described as Japan’s answer to Gears of War, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only thing Vanquish has in common with Gears and our friend Ghost Recon is that the camera is 3rd person and the protagonist uses guns to fight. In fact, the game actually penalizes you for utilizing cover. That is, if you care about getting high scores at the end of a stage.

Vanquish is all about using the jets the protagonist Sam’s armor suit is equipped with to slide around the battlefield at 50 mph laying waste to Russian Space robots in Max Payne style bullet time. If that description doesn’t entice you, then you are one of those dead souls who can’t enjoy a Pixar movie. For a cherry on top, pressing the Left Bumper (360) has Sam smoke a cigarette mid-battle. Sometimes the flame distracts the Russian Robots. Seriously, this game is great. Vanquish has some of the best sense of movement I’ve ever experienced in a videogame before. The fidelity of sliding around while blowing up enemies is something all game developers should take note on. No game has made me feel so awesome and forget I’m holding a controller. And Vanquish has plenty of awe-inspiring explosions and Japanese non-sense action that is tastefully presented. Thankfully the game never gets too anime. I picked up a copy for $20 on Amazon; at that price I recommend everyone pick it up.

Finally, I checked out Spec Ops: The Line. I was legitimately impressed, but confused at some inconsistence in quality. Spec Ops is successful at establishing atmosphere. From the beginning there’s a great sense of mystery adding to the game’s motif. The acting and writing is also impressive to boot. The overall presentation has all the makings of a great Blockbuster without all the Michael Bay bullshit. On the other side of the coin, the action is straightforward and littered with unresponsive controls. Or perhaps just coming off the outstanding movement fidelity of Vanquish just jacked my standards unrealistically. I’ll have to revisit that criticism. Maybe I’m just tired of shooting dudes. I even wrote a review, making it my 10th and final review written in the field. I carry the self-proclaimed title of "Afghanistan's #1 Videogame Correspondent".

That’s a lot of time on the trigger. With all these games I’m completely drained of any desire to shoot dudes or Russian Space Robots in videogames. I’ll be heading home soon, so I’ll be able to hop on the downloadable scene to check out games like Fez and The Walking Dead. Also, Diablo III.

-Steve

@stevenbeynon

#1 Posted by EpicSteve (6487 posts) -
SHOOT THOSE GUNZZZZZ!!!!!!111

In my final month in Afghanistan, I didn't have much going on. Our replacements were still a ways out, and the Taliban were occupied with their muslim holiday, Ramadan. I was able to finally sit down and play some damn games. The only issue with this is that every game in my pile involves shooting dudes in the face. My unplayed games included, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Vanquish, and Spec Ops: The Line. The good thing about living with 30 dudes is that there is no shortage of games coming in. The bad side of that is I’m the only one here that would consider videogames a hobby; no one really plays games of different genres. It was a great enough struggle to get the guys to check out games that weren't called Call of Duty. I can be credited with several sold copies of 2011's GOTY, Saints 3.

Up first was Ghost Recon, a game I didn’t finish because I was bored out of my mind playing it. I figured, yes it’s a shooter but maybe a more tactical pace would be a breath of fresh air. Boy, was I wrong! I have no clue what the Clancy name even means anymore, but the latest outing of the Ghosts was a snore fest to say the least. Not only was it a straight up shooter, the game isn’t even up-front with it. Future Soldier is the best example of a game with an identity crisis. Either the people involved with development weren’t clear on what kind of game they were making, or Ubisoft put out a title that tries to cover all angles including stealth, tactics, and 3rd person action without pleasing anyone.

SHOOT THOSE GUNZZ THEN SLIDE TO SHOOT AGAIN!

Some of the stealth segments were interesting as they were set up like puzzles. I was tasked with methodically having my squad take enemies out without their comrades noticing. It’s unfortunate these segments weren’t more difficult or else it may have been strong enough to carry the generic action that makes up 50% of the game. It’s also strange that the game calls itself “Future Soldier”. For instance, none of the game’s elements feel especially futuristic in a videogame context. In reality, seeing soldiers turn invisible and throw out drones that can tag targets would be jaw- dropping. But in a videogame, it isn’t as revolutionary. Most of the “Future Soldier” stuff just explains gameplay stuff such as a HUD as technology the characters are actually interacting with. I think the game would have been better off going further with the futuristic approach or just be as-is without the “Future Soldier” tagline.

Next up was Vanquish, a game I actually finished. Directed by Sinji Mikami, the man behind one of my favorites games of all time, Resident Evil 4. Unlike Ghost Recon, Platinum Games did everything imaginable to distinguish Vanquish from the commonplace 3rd person-shooter. I’ve seen this game described as Japan’s answer to Gears of War, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only thing Vanquish has in common with Gears and our friend Ghost Recon is that the camera is 3rd person and the protagonist uses guns to fight. In fact, the game actually penalizes you for utilizing cover. That is, if you care about getting high scores at the end of a stage.

Vanquish is all about using the jets the protagonist Sam’s armor suit is equipped with to slide around the battlefield at 50 mph laying waste to Russian Space robots in Max Payne style bullet time. If that description doesn’t entice you, then you are one of those dead souls who can’t enjoy a Pixar movie. For a cherry on top, pressing the Left Bumper (360) has Sam smoke a cigarette mid-battle. Sometimes the flame distracts the Russian Robots. Seriously, this game is great. Vanquish has some of the best sense of movement I’ve ever experienced in a videogame before. The fidelity of sliding around while blowing up enemies is something all game developers should take note on. No game has made me feel so awesome and forget I’m holding a controller. And Vanquish has plenty of awe-inspiring explosions and Japanese non-sense action that is tastefully presented. Thankfully the game never gets too anime. I picked up a copy for $20 on Amazon; at that price I recommend everyone pick it up.

Finally, I checked out Spec Ops: The Line. I was legitimately impressed, but confused at some inconsistence in quality. Spec Ops is successful at establishing atmosphere. From the beginning there’s a great sense of mystery adding to the game’s motif. The acting and writing is also impressive to boot. The overall presentation has all the makings of a great Blockbuster without all the Michael Bay bullshit. On the other side of the coin, the action is straightforward and littered with unresponsive controls. Or perhaps just coming off the outstanding movement fidelity of Vanquish just jacked my standards unrealistically. I’ll have to revisit that criticism. Maybe I’m just tired of shooting dudes. I even wrote a review, making it my 10th and final review written in the field. I carry the self-proclaimed title of "Afghanistan's #1 Videogame Correspondent".

That’s a lot of time on the trigger. With all these games I’m completely drained of any desire to shoot dudes or Russian Space Robots in videogames. I’ll be heading home soon, so I’ll be able to hop on the downloadable scene to check out games like Fez and The Walking Dead. Also, Diablo III.

-Steve

@stevenbeynon

#2 Posted by Tylea002 (2295 posts) -

Not for nothing, but I think you mean No One Man Should Have All That Firepower.

That's really all I have to add. Well written blog, though.

#3 Posted by Erk_Forever (157 posts) -

My favorite part of video games is when you fire the .50 cal, and it doesn't jam for no reason.

#4 Posted by EpicSteve (6487 posts) -

@Erk_Forever said:

My favorite part of video games is when you fire the .50 cal, and it doesn't jam for no reason.

Yeah, but you can't really throw weapons maintenance in videogames. Head Space and Timing the .50 cal before you shoot Russians? I hating dealing with real-world .50 cals.

#5 Posted by Hippie_Genocide (579 posts) -

Man, I think if I were stationed in Afghanistan I would play games where you throw lollipops and fart rainbows. Not fucking Spec Ops: The Line. You're sort of already living it, why would you want to further explore it through games?

#6 Posted by EpicSteve (6487 posts) -

@Hippie_Genocide said:

Man, I think if I were stationed in Afghanistan I would play games where you throw lollipops and fart rainbows. Not fucking Spec Ops: The Line. You're sort of already living it, why would you want to further explore it through games?

There really aren't any other options. Plus, fighting real world Taliban vs. a generic 3rd person shooter are far from related. I see where you're coming from, but my shooter fatigue is a product of what the videogame business is, not my job.

#7 Posted by Laiv162560asse (487 posts) -

You have a nice, unpretentious, concise and readable style of game writing. Not that I know anything about the journo biz, but I'd say that with a bit more polish and some editorial oversight you could try to write for a publication, once you get back. If you were looking to do some further writing maybe a piece about how games kept you entertained in the field would be good, if you felt there was enough material there.

Of the games you mention, I haven't played any and none of them are on my list except for maybe Spec Ops, since I'm fairly forgiving when it comes to games that place story over mechanics. Shooter fatigue is something that got to me years ago so I tried to cast about for stuff that felt like it had a bit more imaginative potential, or at least wasn't limited by the same conventions... RPGs, strategy games, open worlders, returning to my console roots with racing games, eventually even having a desperate fiddle about with some sports management games, whatever. All to great gratification. Not that I don't often feel like gaming is in a rut, but it feels good to know I can turn to pretty much any genre and find something there for me.

#8 Posted by Jay444111 (2441 posts) -

@EpicSteve said:

@Hippie_Genocide said:

Man, I think if I were stationed in Afghanistan I would play games where you throw lollipops and fart rainbows. Not fucking Spec Ops: The Line. You're sort of already living it, why would you want to further explore it through games?

There really aren't any other options. Plus, fighting real world Taliban vs. a generic 3rd person shooter are far from related. I see where you're coming from, but my shooter fatigue is a product of what the videogame business is, not my job.

There are many questions I have to ask now.

1. How are MRE's you guys have gotten? I had a couple from a friend and I gotta say, I do like the none solid stuff... also the water bag is cool, I think it was the beef stew one that I tried. How are the others?

2. So... what local food is good over there? How do the people over their treat you guys?

3. is it true, that in foxholes that you dig a smaller hole inside of it so, in case of grenades, you just push them in the small hole? Or does that rarely happen?

4. No RPG's from anyone? That sucks...

5. Do... they have TV there? I know, probably a dumb question but I am curious. What do people watch if they do have TV there?

6. What is the weirdest thing you saw over there? (By weird I mean just something that is so different in cultural significance that you find odd.)

And finally 7. How hot is it EpicSteve?

#9 Posted by believer258 (11905 posts) -

I would have brought a DS and some RPG's over there. Just saying.

Also, interesting blog. Keep it up. And I hope you come home safely, how is it over there? Do you wind up just dicking around and doing boring work a lot of the time, or are you always on your toes and just waiting for someone to shoot at you?

And, most importantly, do military guys really say "fuck" all the fucking time like they fucking do in all those fucking military movies?

#10 Posted by Tim_the_Corsair (3065 posts) -

Great write up, you have a nice style.

I remember there was a military dude who used to write for a PC mag in Australia (can't remember his name), but he'd cover a lot of the military games and brought some unique perspective to a lot of it. You might have just found your niche if you're planning a career in games!

Anyway, my one question (and I don't want to pester about your experiences) is: run into any troops from other countries over there? How was that?

#11 Posted by laserbolts (5322 posts) -

Good too see you back. Nice blog I enjoyed it.

#12 Posted by falserelic (5436 posts) -

No 1 man should have all that power.....

#13 Posted by Hockeymask27 (3683 posts) -

Welcome back nice blog.

#14 Posted by iam3green (14390 posts) -

pretty good stuff. glad to hear from you. future soldier was also pretty boring i thought. it has some interesting things but boring at other times.

#15 Posted by liquidfox00 (30 posts) -

I'm of the same opinion with future soldier. I'm qbout halfway through it since launch day and I can't seem to put it back in the system. For a bit of change of pace may I suggest Sleeping Dogs if you enjoy open world style games.

#16 Edited by EpicSteve (6487 posts) -

@Jay444111 said:

@EpicSteve said:

@Hippie_Genocide said:

Man, I think if I were stationed in Afghanistan I would play games where you throw lollipops and fart rainbows. Not fucking Spec Ops: The Line. You're sort of already living it, why would you want to further explore it through games?

There really aren't any other options. Plus, fighting real world Taliban vs. a generic 3rd person shooter are far from related. I see where you're coming from, but my shooter fatigue is a product of what the videogame business is, not my job.

There are many questions I have to ask now.

1. How are MRE's you guys have gotten? I had a couple from a friend and I gotta say, I do like the none solid stuff... also the water bag is cool, I think it was the beef stew one that I tried. How are the others?

2. So... what local food is good over there? How do the people over their treat you guys?

3. is it true, that in foxholes that you dig a smaller hole inside of it so, in case of grenades, you just push them in the small hole? Or does that rarely happen?

4. No RPG's from anyone? That sucks...

5. Do... they have TV there? I know, probably a dumb question but I am curious. What do people watch if they do have TV there?

6. What is the weirdest thing you saw over there? (By weird I mean just something that is so different in cultural significance that you find odd.)

And finally 7. How hot is it EpicSteve?

1. I generally ate about two MREs a day. Sometimes we got warm meals flown in and we would also live off of care packages and donations. Your stomach gets used to it. For someone like me who gets fat super easy, I don't like that they're full of sugar and Saturated Fat.

2. Don't eat the local food. We never went around to go bullshit with Afghan civilians. Once in awhile we would eat with our Afghan Army counter parts and/or local elders for a meeting. You drink CHie (warm tea), eat foot bread and lamb is a popular meat.

3 We don't dig foxholes anymore. Just chill in bunkers made of sandbags and concrete. When on mission and you need to take a tactical break, you just find a little cover area. Foxholes were more of a Vietnam of WWII thing when soldiers were continuously walking through a country taking land. It's probably extremely rare soldier sleep outside the wire in Afghanistan. This isn't the case with 99% of Afghan Ops.

4. Yeah, well I showed a few people Skyrim and there was about a 2 week period everyone was obsessed.

5. Like for Afghans? A lot of tribal areas don't really know what TV is, then you got civilians living in the capital that wear jeans and get on Facebook. The divide between modern and stone age living is the root of a lot of the problems here. I've seen Afghan TV once, and I think it was actually from Pakistan. For the troops, bases have a thing called AFN, they'll play movies, UFC Fights and Football games. But we didn't have access to it.

6. Uh, this might not do it justice just from writing. But I saw a guy carrying a goat like a backpack up a hill. Almost shit myself laughing. Then just seeing the Afghan Army do stuff, they're super uncoordinated and have generally goofy mannerisms. For instance, they also hold out their hand like they' about to karate chop whenever they're talking to someone lesser than them or when they're confused. The culture boils down to NEVER looking at women, talking to them, or touching them. And we always had to take our gloves off when shaking hands. I forgot to do that most of the time.

7. Too hot

@believer258 said:

I would have brought a DS and some RPG's over there. Just saying.

Also, interesting blog. Keep it up. And I hope you come home safely, how is it over there? Do you wind up just dicking around and doing boring work a lot of the time, or are you always on your toes and just waiting for someone to shoot at you?

And, most importantly, do military guys really say "fuck" all the fucking time like they fucking do in all those fucking military movies?

There really aren't a lot of DS games that are for me. It all depends on Taliban movement. When on missions, we can be dismounted or on the road and in fear of being blown up. You always have to be on your toes, but never actually thinking about what's going on. The moment you start thinking, is when you go "why the fuck am I doing this!?. We were on an OP that wasn't the most well defended place in the world. You're never waiting to be shot at, you just go about your daily routines until it happens. And yes, "fuck" is used heavily. Thinking about it, it's just dudes, for a year. Testosterone is through the roof. My language now probably precludes me from trying to date any relatively classy woman for awhile.

@Tim_the_Corsair said:

Great write up, you have a nice style. I remember there was a military dude who used to write for a PC mag in Australia (can't remember his name), but he'd cover a lot of the military games and brought some unique perspective to a lot of it. You might have just found your niche if you're planning a career in games! Anyway, my one question (and I don't want to pester about your experiences) is: run into any troops from other countries over there? How was that?

All the time! We worked with the British A LOT. And did a handful of security missions for the Danish. The Brits were awesome. They get killed and hurt a lot due to lack of funding from their country. They roll around in open-top vehicles. Of course, Taliban often target them instead of us when given the option. The Danish were assholes that couldn't run their own operations for shit. Now I'm here in Kandahar Airfield (a big-ass base) waiting to leave country and I'm seeing Australians, Romanians and German soldiers. And we lived with Afghan soldiers.

#17 Posted by jakob187 (21670 posts) -

IT'S STEVE! HOLY SHIT, MAN! I must've missed the "I'M BACK" thread, but it's good to see you back on GB, brother.

Also, it's more than intriguing to me hearing about a dood that is out shooting guns in a "war" that is also playing games where people are shooting guns in a war. There's a level of surreal to the whole thing. Then again, if we look at the time that 9/11 happened compared to when shooters came to consoles, as well as how long the "war" has been going on while the rise of shooters became popular, I think you'd find a lot of correlation between the two.

Keep on keepin' on, man. Good blog, and glad that you liked Vanquish. Solid fucking game all around.

#18 Posted by EpicSteve (6487 posts) -

@jakob187:

I realized that it was surreal one night when I was "off" and playing Battlefield 3 singleplayer while I could clearly hear our Afghan Army counter parts in a firefight probably 1-2miles away from me.