So, I do this thing. In my head. Not all the time, but sometime. More often than you'd (I'd) expect. When I'm reading a book, I'll often try to figure out how it would work as a movie. Sometimes just one particular scene, but not infrequently half my time reading the book I'll spend plotting out the screenplay version in my head as I'm going along. I won't ask if "am I the only one", because no, but I do kind of wonder how many people do this. With some books, like Dracula, it's kind of easy, because the book is almost perfectly written for translation to the silver screen, but the more challenging ones often are the more fun ones to do this with. It's not like I only think about it when I'm bored, because when that happens I think about something else. It's just a fun mental exercise, I think. Maybe it stems from me trying to visualize what's happening in the book and just getting carried away, I dunno.
It's not just books, though. Like, a recent example is the Legend of Korra TV series. Half the time I was watching it, all I could think was "man this is basically a perfect setup for a character-action RPG'. Not even kidding. You have both basic combat and multiple magic powers - each with their own freaking skill tree - that are basically tailor made for a combo system, an open-world city to go cruising around in fighting gangsters and fake communists and shit, an island base to test out new skills on, and even pro-bending for a fun little persistent side quest. It all works, and not in a 'this would revolutionize gaming' way, but in a 'this is totally what you'd expect from a game' kind of way. I can't tell if this is the side effect of me playing too many games and spending too much time here on Giantbomb, or if this is just me doing my usual alternate-media thing. Either somebody needs to get Rocksteady on the phone, or I need to go outside more often. Maybe both.
So I didn't know anything about this movie going in. Deliberately. I avoided all the hype, the trailers, the threads you guys made, the reviews, etc. I saw this as a new sci fi movie by the guy whose work in that genre consists of 2 of my favorite movies ever. I knew it was supposed to be semi-related to the Space Jockey from Alien, but that's it. I wanted to have everything be uninfluenced when I saw it, to avoid spoilers or letdown. I know there's a couple threads about this movie already, but those guys aren't really talking about what I want to address. Which is how bad it is.
And holy balls, is it bad.
Ok, it's not all bad. The opening sequence is intriguing. The special effects are hella dope. Idris Elba is always fun to watch, and Charlize Theron is purty. Even the 3D was done in a tasteful, impressive way that supported the overall aesthetic. Other than that, though.... man. If it wasn't so high budget, I'd say this was a Syfy Channel Original, not Ridley Scott's latest.
It's like someone wanted to do an 'homage' to Alien, but they thought 'homage' meant 'use all the basic story beats, and rejigger them a little just so it's not blatantly obvious even though it still totally is'. Almost all of what happens in this movie has a direct correlation to what happens in Alien, which is a terrible idea because it automatically sets itself up for comparisons. And of course, it does not come anywhere near the level of that film. The rest of it, what's not stolen from Alien, is still a bevy of the most trite, overused sci-fi cliches since the genre began.
Let's start with the basics. The underlying premise of the entire film is that ancient civilizations knew about aliens, who possibly created us. So, yes, the central idea for the entire movie is Chariots of the Gods. We are off to a great start.
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE: The main (?) character is a scientist, who believes in God! HOLY SHIT. You mean we're going to talk about faith and religion versus logic and facts? That's never been done before in sc-fi! And by never, I mean almost always. Don't worry, though: they don't actually have any discussions, they just make a basic nod to it, as if they knew you'd heard that conversation before and didn't actually need them to have it...
Which is actually how most of the film operates. None of the characters are actual characters. They're just versions of people you've seen in a dozen other scifi movies, and the only motivations they have are reduced to a single sentence or two, repeated occasionally in case you forgot. Some don't even have a point. The token Asian guy just sort of stands there watching everything the whole movie; he's supposedly an engineer, but I don't think he ever did anything for the entire movie. Like, at all. Other than die at the end. Also they have a fake Tom Hardy, which is automatically -10 points.
Likewise, every plot point is something you've seen in a dozen other movies, reduced to the point where they don't even feel the need to explore it. And not in a mysterious way, it's just sort of there. Want mysterious ancient constructs? Got those. Want tentacle-y monsters? Got those. Space zombies? sure. Space truckers? We got one with an accordion! What do any of them have to do with anything? Nothing, really, other than that the God Aliens actually think we kind of suck, so they made these other aliens to eat our faces, except they got their faces eaten first. Clearly the work of a superior intelligence. And of course, because we must leave no scifi trope untouched, we end it with an old rich man trying to live forever, who gets promptly killed by his supposed saviors. The two reveals about how Weyland was on the ship, and was actually Charlize Theron's dad, were so blatantly telegraphed that I was actually confused when the movie acted like they were big plot twists. The only surprising thing about this was when I realized the old man was played by Guy Pearce.
As the movie progresses, the story starts to splinter into several threads as different people have their own interactions with the aliens. But after a while, they kind of stop checking in on each other, or explaining what's going on. Like, the religious scientist lady I mentioned earlier has a self operated emergency abortion at one point (possibly the highlight of the film, because it's fucking nuts), but never tells anyone else about this. She just gets up, finds the rest of the crew and is like 'ok, what are we doing now?' Even though some of them knew she had an alien baby inside her, they don't ask 'hey what happened to the babything?' The robot guy ( yes, there's a robot, so naturally they have the 'does robot have soul?' theme that has never been done before in any scifi story ever... right?) knows about it, but he's just sort of like 'haha, you aborted the baby I was desperately trying to save, that's so silly!' This is the most absurd example, but not the only one.
The worst part about all this is that the entire thing ends up being an explanation of the source of the Aliens. That's it. They took one of the things that didn't need to be explained from a well regarded franchise, and found a way to explain that one thing, while ignoring all the parts of this story that you're actually supposed to flesh out. So... congratulations? The movie ends with people avoiding a giant wheel by running in the direction it's moving, instead of getting out of it's way, which is a pretty apt metaphor for how the whole story works. Brief efforts towards examining the greater ideas of The Meaning of Life, Creation and Death are just lip service, offhand comments made while we wait for the next crew member to die in a horrific and vaguely sexual manner.
There's probably more I could complain about, but it's 2 in the morning and it's too hot for me to think about things anymore. There was so much potential here, and it just... it's such lazy goddam writing. That's really all it is. How long till Batman comes out?
Bioshock had been my video game equivalent of War and Peace: one of those books you were supposed to read – one of the important books – one that I frequently started but never got around to finishing. I finally did finish it yesterday, though, and in typical MarkWahlbergian fashion I want to talk about it with you fine folks. If that’s ok.
Although I’d never gotten very far into the game, I’d had the Big Reveal spoiled in part for me several years ago (possibly by the Bombcast crew, I can’t remember exactly). I knew about ‘Would You Kindly’, but I didn’t know much else, and so I found myself paying more attention to the other details around it, such as the fact that you were playing as a rapidly aged 2 year-old whose father was an Objectivist genius businessman and whose mother was a stripper (add that to the list of sentences I’d never thought I’d write). That seemed much crazier than what I had expected, which was a KOTOR style ‘you are Fontaine’ sorta deal, with Atlas actually just Ryan trying to fuck with you or something.
The other result of not being shocked by the twist was that I think the flaws in the rest of the story stood out more. The twist certainly is what got everyone’s attention when the game was released, but when you look at the actual story, there isn’t a whole lot else to it. Most of it is actually just atmosphere, with audiotapes fleshing out the details of the places you encounter. The things that I was most curious about – how exactly did they go about building Rapture, how did they choose who to let into the city – were never clearly explained, and that’s understandable. The focus of the game was on how Rapture fell, and when you’re creating atmosphere, it’s just as important to know what to leave unsaid, as it is to know what to tell the audience. What Bioshock does very well is to show us the broad arc of the downfall of the city through the personal stories of individual people, which makes us more invested in what happens. We want to find out Bill McDonagh’s fate just as much as we want (at first) to help Atlas reunite with his family. So it is very strange that the ultimate villain, Fontaine, is barely explained at all as a character. For most of the game, he is a boogeyman lurking at the corners of everything, eventually starting an all-out war with Ryan over control of Rapture. Fontaine’s essential nature is repeatedly described as a criminal one; he even goes so far as to call his entire effort as a ‘long con’. But we never really know what he wants. If he is at heart a con man, then why does he try to take over the city? The whole point of a con is to take what you can and run the hell away, preferably without the mark ever knowing he’s been conned. And if he is only trying to use the city for personal gain, why does he turn himself into a roided-up freak at the end? That might put him on top of the pyramid in Rapture – which won’t count for much since he already destroyed it – but he’ll have a hard time of it above water. Ryan is memorable because he is a tragic figure; his greatest achievement was what ultimately destroyed him. Fontaine is just a power hungry douche bag with no clear motivation for bringing an entire society to its knees. If we knew more about why he came to Rapture (how did Ryan even decide to let him in?), I feel like even just that little bit of back-story would have made the whole story so much clearer.
Brad posted an article a few years back that linked to an alternate ending someone had come up with, which I think accurately addresses most of the flaws in the conclusion. However, there are a couple things about it that I also want to point out. Once Fontaine starts berating you over the radio, he immediately begins to cast doubt on Tenenbaum’s intentions, doubts which ultimately prove to be baseless accusations. And I think this is part of a huge error in the entire story, in regards to the theme of free will. The whole point of the Reveal was that you had not been acting of your own accord, that you were at the beck and call of the voice of ‘Atlas’. Once Tenenbaum rescues you, she claims to have ‘removed’ this mental conditioning. But then you spend the last third of the game doing whatever she tells you to do, so that while you are technically free, you’re not actually doing anything differently. You're still obeying the voice on the radio.
The problem with this situation became very clear when she tells you to become a Big Daddy. She claims it is necessary to go through the doors, because only Little Sisters can unlock them, but you’ve already had Sisters unlock those same kinds of doors for you before, when you were in the Orphanage. The justification for becoming a Big Daddy from a gameplay perspective is readily apparent – the cathartic nature of it is obvious – but from a story perspective it’s very confusing. Add onto that Tenenbaum’s clear desire for you to free the Sisters, and the Good Ending suddenly becomes much weirder when you realize that it’s entirely possible that she never freed you at all, but only altered the conditioning to match her voice instead of the trigger phrase. That’s just speculation, but I mean, for you to spend the rest of your life with a Big Daddy voice (after having your larynx adjusted for that purpose, despite your never speaking), that alone is a bit bizarre.
I did enjoy playing Bioshock, although there were some problems with the 'game' part of it. It was easier than I expected, although I did keep it set to Medium (I played it on my Mac with the track pad, so true difficulty wasn’t really an option), and the gamey-ness of the gameplay contrasted pretty heavily with the dark atmosphere, which is true of a lot of games but definitely stood out here. Having Big Daddies be neutral until attacked was nice, although it did make them significantly less threatening. And having them repeatedly spawn didn’t help much either; there were several times I’d kill one, leave the room, and then hear the deep groan and see a new Daddy walking right over the fresh corpse, even after I’d rescued all the Little Sisters. There was never much incentive to experiment with plasmids beyond curiosity, and the Harvest/Rescue mechanic was undermined by the fact that I got plenty of Adam just from rescuing (which again might have just been the difficulty setting, I dunno). It was still fun, though. And the story was interesting, despite the problems I mentioned above. All in all, I’m glad I finally played it, and I’m interested to see what Infinite will be like. I don’t know that I’ll get around to Bioshock 2 anytime soon, although I hear Minerva’s Den is pretty cool. And who knows, maybe since I haven’t had that spoiled yet, I might enjoy it more.
Nobody ever tells me this shit. How the fuck does everyone even keep track of this. I never know about this when I need to, and now my phone and computer change automatically, so it's like, what's the fucking point anymore. Seriously. I don't even know it's happening until like, almost the next fucking day. "Why the fuck is the sun still up/ not still up?" "Daylight Savings, motherfucker". You want to keep playing games like this, fine. Don't act like I'm some ignorant fuck because I don't pay attention to this clock bullshit.
It's no secret to anyone that visits the BBC news site that they like to have fun with their smaller articles, from time to time. Usually it just involves making the headlines as weird as possible. Sometimes you get things like this, though:
There's a reason BBC news is my homepage, and it ain't just that they have more world-wide focused reporting.
This whole 'hactivist' thing that appeared shortly after the big Wikileaks shindig last year (two years ago? I don't remember) has been sort of an exercise in watching old people try to understand the Internet, and asshole teenagers in the spotlight, but magnified to absurdity. Anonymous is just a bunch of dumbasses trying to act like they're accomplishing something, and the news media tries to play it up like they're some big deal, and the whole thing is completely ridiculous. If hackers are doing real damage, that's news, and I guess "Lulzsec" does a little more of that than the 'political statements' Anonymous goes for, apparently? But really, they're still just assholes with computers, not the Cyberspace Frontier of the battle between the government and the people over Freedom of Speech! No matter how many times they wear Guy Fawkes masks. It's worse when the article is clearly written by a young guy who's geeking out over getting to write about the Interwebs for his job, because you can tell he really wants to go into all this detail about them, but he has to focus on the news parts instead. I hate whoever came up with the word 'hactivist' (hacktivist? whatever) but every time i see a news article about it, the whole thing just seems so silly I can kind of forgive them. Sometimes I like to read the articles in my head with David Attenborough's voice, just for fun.
Why do you play multiplayer games? Honest question. Why? Is it because it provides more of a challenge than going up against AI? Is it because you enjoy playing with your friends? Or do you merely enjoy yelling offensive epithets at strangers on the Internet? I ask this because the standards for multiplayer components in games do not always line up with what I expect out of them, and more so now than, say, 6 years ago.
I play multiplayer games because I get a kick out of the social aspect. Getting a bunch of friends together, firing up a console, and playing a game together for hours on end is always great, solid fun. Maybe not the kind of fun that occurs in Wii commercials, but there’s usually a fair amount of yelling and dicking around. I would like to imagine that this is the attraction for many other people as well.
So, what happens when a game’s multiplayer doesn’t allow for this? That’s right: I’m bitching about Online play. Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy playing online, I do. I just don’t consider it to be “multiplayer” in most instances. Sure, I’m technically playing against other people, but that usually means nothing other than more challenging (or hilariously non-challenging) gameplay and the occasional teabagging. I’m not talking to these people, I’m not engaging with them any differently than I would with AI, I don’t even pay attention to my own team mates, if I have any. The same can be said for most of the other people playing with me. Playing a game against unseen strangers isn’t multiplayer, it’s competitive single-player.
There are a couple obvious caveats to this argument. You can play with your friends online, even talk with them via headset or the like. Just because you’re playing with strangers doesn’t mean teamwork can’t occur. And what are you even complaining about, Mark?! Most games let you do both online and local multiplayer! This is all true. BUT. But. They don't do them both well.
Let me clarify by example: In my opinion, the Halo games are the best competitive FPS’s in existence, for one very specific reason: It allows me to play with my friends (3 of them!) locally and against strangers online, simultaneously. Any other major FPS franchise insists on making me choose between one or the other. Even Halo’s system link is better than anyone else’s, allowing for 8 players instead of the standard 4 (but often 2). Black Ops is the sole exception in the CoD franchise, and that only allows 2 players locally during online play. I was watching a friend play Battlefield 3 recently, which he described as fun but “a good game for people who don’t have friends; or at least, friends who can come over and play”. In his eyes, the limited local play not only weakened it, it gave him less of a reason to play it instead of other games. Games like CoD might have local split-screen, but let’s face it: that can get a little lonely after a while. The chaos inherent in games like that doesn’t quite exist in its local play iteration the way it does online. And the online portion doesn’t have the same social element that local does. So what’s so hard about mixing the two?
Blur, a racing game, attempts to mitigate this issue by allowing local play with bots, which is a nice touch but isn’t quite the same. And that’s still one of the better uses of multiplayer in racing games in the past several years. Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit – two relatively recent and popular games – didn’t even have split-screen play! Let me repeat that: A racing game – that is, a game by its very nature meant to be played competitively – did not allow players to compete against someone else in the same room. That is insane. I may not be a big fan of Mario Kart, but the multiplayer in that will always have a clear advantage over either of those games in that it is focused on local multiplayer – which is to say, multiple players. There’s a reason Kart and Super Smash Bros have such a strong following: they successfully focus on local play as a core game aspect. Can you honestly say that New Super Mario Bros Wii would be half as fun as this if you could only play online?
The multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 was demo’ed recently. I haven’t had a chance to try it, but people seem to like it. However, there’s no split-screen component to it, which means that, for all intents and purposes, it is nonexistent for me. The same goes for Rayman Origins, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and more. Sure, I could organize a time with one of my friends for us both to be online, for us to join a party, etc. But for me to not even have to option to play with them when they’re at my house, unless they feel like lugging their own console and TV over? That’s absurd, and apparently not even possible in the case of ME3! Hell, The recent Borderlands 2 trailer mentions splitscreen as if it was some big new thing, rather than something you should kind of expect when you've already said 'co-op' (and even that is only 2-player, vs online's 4).
I’m not saying that you can’t have fun with the way online play is presented in most games. You can. But why is it so hard to allow for a stronger local component? It can’t be an issue of making your respective screen size too small, because huge TV’s are kind of a big deal these days. It can’t be because it’s not technologically feasible – Halo’s already proved that it is. The obvious answer is that companies would rather have a group of friends all buy a copy of a game for themselves, rather than just have one or two they can share. But is that really all that’s going on here? How hard would it really be to add at least one, let alone two or more functioning controllers to online play? If anyone knows, I’d love to hear.
Let me end this with one last question: All 3 of the major consoles of this generation allow for 4 controllers to be used, 4 people to play together. When was the last time you used all of them?
Hello! It's been a while since I've posted anything, as I’ve been... away, for some time. Some of you might remember me as the creator of the Space Whale page (read: no one remembers that). I thought I might address a few thoughts I’ve been thinking. It’s a bit rambly, but bear with me.
For those of you who were not aware, Mass Effect 3 is coming out soon. Now, I’ve been known to enjoy the Mass Effect games. They do somethingsthat I like. However, I think it’s important that we address something: the main story in these games is not very good. Sure, certain aspects of it are interesting, but what it boils down to is ‘GIANT EVIL ALIENS ARE COMING TO EAT US AND ONLY YOU THE PURCHASER OF THIS FINE VIDEO GAME CAN SAVE US oh noooes’. You then attempt to stop the evil aliens. While I’m not entirely against this sort of thing, it has frankly been done better. Freespace 2 made the unknown motivations of the Shivans a key part of why they were so fucking terrifying, while simultaneously throwing in a sympathetic antagonist; Bosch's monologues are still one of the best examples of how to succinctly sketch out character motivations in a video game. Alternately, Dragon Age: Origins, the ‘medieval Mass Effect’ released by Bioware itself, hinged on almost exactly the same plot idea – giant army of evil monsters and etc. – but places those enemies in such a bizarre religio-historical context that they become much more than that (when was the last time you fathered a God-baby to save your own life?). Hell, even CoD 4 had a ‘save the world’ ending that actually seemed like the rational outcome of the preceding –and mostly believable– events, which is a hell of a lot better than ‘I’m Commander Shepard, and I’m the only one who knows what’s going on because video games’.
This is not to say that nothing about the story in the ME series is good. Shadow Broker was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had with video games, period, in large part because of how it built off of what had come before. But precisely my point: I don’t want to have to worry about saving the world every time I buy an RPG or action game or the like. Yes, I know there’s plenty of games that have nothing to do with that sort of thing, but when it comes to games like these where the story is supposed to matter in some regard, I at least want there to be more variation.
Which what makes a certain group of upcoming games so interesting for me.
There are 4 or 5 games coming out in the near future that seem to all share a few qualities that, oddly enough, appeal directly to my interests. I have no idea whether they’ll be any good or not, and I’m jaded enough at this point not to get my hopes up, but the ideas that are getting tossed around, and what their developers are saying about them, are certainly interesting.
First, we have the New Tomb Raider. I’ve never played a TR game before, I found the movies boring and the character to be a complete turn off. But I’m completely fascinated by what they’re trying to do with this new game. Survival-based gameplay on a desert island, a female protagonist that isn’t embarrassing to play as, and a story that (based on what they’ve said) is more about the main character's development than any evil douchebag archaeologist’s schemes, all sound exactly like what I want to hear. At the very least this could fill the Mysterious Island shaped hole in my heart that’s been empty since LOST ended.
There are two other survival games that have been announced recently as well. Technically, I Am Alive was announced a while ago, but it’s recently resurfaced with new footage, and between that and The Last of Us, survival seems like one of the big ideas of 2012 (or 2013, depending on release whatnot). I haven’t seen all the material they’ve put out for these games, but I’m totally down for anything that has me making my way through busted cities and (more importantly) focusing on my characters issues, rather than humanity’s. Of course, both of those games could totally end up with Grizzled Protagonist Man leading the Rescue of Civilization Itself, but one can always hope. I’m not exactly huge on Post-Apocalyptic settings, but actually playing in one could be a lot more interesting than reading more about everyone dying always.
Fourth up is another Grizzled White Dude in Broken City game. Spec Ops: The Line got my interest the minute they said ‘Heart of Darkness’. Nothing makes my day like a good villain, and the concepts they’ve been tossing out about this – breaking down morality, the importance of the villain and your crew’s mentality to the story, and the decision based stuff – well, let’s just say I’m picking up what they’re putting down. I’m a total sucker for getting to make my own decisions in games (despite the fact that it’s usually meaningless), and to do that outside an RPG should be pretty refreshing. Since this is much more of a shooter than the previous 3 games I’ve listed, it’ll be interesting to see how they balance out the gameplay with the kind of story they seem to be going for (I’ve actually been avoiding the new trailers that came out a little while ago, since I know that if I do end up playing this, I want to know as little as possible going in).
Lastly, we return to an island setting but bring our frat buddy FPS along for the ride. Like I said before, I’m all about the villains (although who isn’t, really?), and Mr. Mohawk in Far Cry 3 is my kind of crazy. Sure, the trailer that came out today made the protagonist seem like a douchy college brat, but that could actually totally work if it’s done right (by which I mean it won’t be done right at all, because why would it be?). As with the other games I listed, a lot about this is still up to speculation at this point, and I’m not sure how I feel about what they’ve shown of the gameplay, but hey, if they manage to make it an average tropical shooter with a (relatively) interesting antagonist, I’m totally fine with that.
So, a bit rambly, but there you have it. 5 games, 3 destroyed cities, 2 islands, 4 totally fucked white men and 1.5 poor gals (Last of Us’ fake Ellen Page counts as half), and not a World Threatening Climax in sight. If just one of these turns out to be any good, I’ll count that as a win for me.
So I just finished playing Alan Wake recently, and while I don't really have anything to say about the game in general that hasn't already been said, there is something that I think has been severely overlooked. And that thing is: John Vignocchi.
Also, 'exactly' is totally one of those words that look weird when you stare at it too long. I hate it when that happens.
Also Also, this is probably going to be my last blog/anything on the site for a while ( or ever??? *gasp*). Taking a leave of absence for personal/ethical/spiritual/legal reasons. All things considered, it's probably fitting that this is how I go out.
Say hello to you mother for me.
EDIT: Perhaps I should clarify, in case anyone thinks I'm calling Mr. Vignocchi an obnoxious chubby fellow, I'm not. I'm saying that if you took any of his anecdotes from the Bombcast, and had Barry Wheeler tell those in the game, it would totally fit. They're both.... Charmingly garrulous, let's say. The physical resemblance is almost nil. THIS WAS PRIMARILY FOR HUMOROUS PURPOSES, AND AS SUCH SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
We like to think that, as video games improve in visual quality, the things we see in them can be stunning. And sure, they frequently are. There are some very talented artists at work. But for every kickass matte background, there's something in Real Fucking Life that puts whatever we can come up with to shame. And for everyone who thinks that the days of exploration are over, that the world is crowded and paved over and essentially flat, think again. We might be putting condos up over every free inch of ground in sight, but there's a whole ton of shit we haven't even touched yet.
I don't know how many of you read the National Geographic. All I know is, anyone who doesn't is missing out on some of the craziest, awesomest, most beautiful shit ever. Unfortunately, my current living situation means I don't get issues of NGM anymore, but thankfully they have a website. The following images are from an article in last month's issue, which you can read here.
There's a photo gallery with the article that has a bunch more pics. Basically, there's this cave system in Vietnam that basically no one has really explored until now, and it's kind of.... big.
I'm not going to make any assumptions about the lifestyles you guys lead, but I think everyone needs to step back and look around them every once in a while. We might not live in Fucking Badass, Vietnam, but that doesn't mean there isn't awesome shit all around us. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sit inside the rest of the day and write this stupid assignment that's due tomorrow....