About 10 or so days ago I was made aware of this beta that was then floating around the PSN. A beta for a game called Rocket League. It's a RC car based sports arena game where you take your car and ram a ball into a goal while also trying to defend from the other team doing the same to you. It's soccer on wheels. Mini-wheels. Made by Psyonix, Inc, who also made the similar game Super Sonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars.
I got my hands on it and decided, eh, I've got nothing else to do until Witcher 3 gets here, so I might as well. Boy, to say I was blown away is an understatement. It's a very, very simple game. Simple, but endlessly fun. It's soccer, but instead of people, you control a little RC car and you have to use your momentum and limited use boosts to take control of the ball and knock it around until you get it into the other team's goal. There's really not much else. The arena you are in during this particular beta is encased in glass, giving you walls to drive on and a roof so you can keep the ball in bounds.
The modes in this beta were 1v1, a duel mode where you can go mano-a-mano and prove your Rocket League MLG status. 2v2, which is a very tactical game where setting up shots for your buddy can be crucial. 3v3, which seems to be the standard way to go and what I ended up putting the most time into. The final mode was a chaotic 4v4 game mode that was just so busy and intense that I played one game and decided, welp, I'm not good enough for that.
The controls are simple as well, R2 is forward, L2 is reverse, X is jump. Jumping into the air and pressing X again allows you to slam in any direction that you push. Forward will jet you towards whatever you are aiming at, and holding the boost button will allow you to fly a short distance, left or right is a corkscrew type maneuver. Circle is your boost, which you can refill by driving over the many boost pads that are spread out across the field. The square button is a powerslide, allowing you to quickly and rather stylishly reposition your vehicle, and triangle is your "ball cam" a camera angle you can toggle that allows you to lock your camera onto the ball at all times.
Depending on how fast you hit the ball and where, you can send it flying across the field or rather just give it a little love tap. The trick is to learn the momentum behind your vehicle and choosing your moments. Sometimes you'll fly off the handle all excitedly and only end up scoring a goal in your own post, earning the other team a big fat +1 and leaving you to the sneers of your team mates. And that timing can be tricky to nail. It seems like the players of the game Super Sonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars are right at home with this game, as ever time I was dominated, the players pointed out how they were pros at the previous game.
And it shows. In my short time with the game I went from bumbling idiot that could barely even drive right to somewhat proficient enough that I could do alright. While I was pretty good at getting goals, I was piss poor in playing defense. Those guys knocked that shit straight into our goal time after time. But honestly, the game itself is so fun losing doesn't mean much. A "GG" here, a "Nice shot!" there, regardless of the team, sent through the in-game chat system, builds a sense of camaraderie. The games biggest feat was making it feel like you're all just a group of friends sitting down to play a game together, no matter the results, no matter who wins. No enemies, no strict competitors, just a bunch of friends having some fun.
I spent countless games thinking, okay, after this I'll be done for the day. Just one more game. And then I'd look at my clock and realize it's been 4 hours and I don't know where I am. But then reality sets back in and I sit down to play just one more game.
Speaking of that, games are quick, lasting just 5 minutes. So you can continuously churn out "one more game" after "one more game" at a steady pace.
It's addicting. Getting the goals, hearing the crowd cheer during a critical goal, reacting with the ebb and flow of the game. Electrifying. This game is just a beta and yet I'm already hooked. So disappointing is it then that the beta ended a few days ago, and I can feel the withdraws already. This was a game that at first I wanted to play only because I had nothing else, but it quickly became the nightly routine of my life for about a week or so. I made a lot of friends, I certainly made a lot of enemies, and I even made an epic save or two and felt like the cock of the walk(Only to screw up and score a self goal and feel like a huge idiot for a game or two).
The full game is set to have more modes, more arenas and a ton of customization for your little cars. It doesn't have a release date yet, but they are at least planning on it being out by Summer.
I can't wait to get my hands on the game. I recommend everyone keep an ear out for this thing.
Hello, I'm N7. I write shit from time to time at my website. I usually post them to Giant Bomb as well but I felt like I was spamming the joint and got a little self conscious so I stopped. But this Rocket League game is something truly special so I thought I just had to share my thoughts with people, especially because the Rocket League page is pretty barren. So I hope you enjoy my thoughts as much as I enjoyed the beta! But probably not because my thoughts are kinda shitty and that game is kinda awesome, so it's not fair to compare them.
I haven't written anything in just about a month and a half. Pretty weird for me because I was pumping out some stuff before. That's just it though, I only write when I have something to say. And I had a lot to say. But in the past month, I've experienced a lot. My shitty TV got a dead pixel and I had to rent another one. I played Deus Ex and was gonna do a big ol' thing about it, but eh whatever it's a pretty good game and it's as simple as that.
But then... something happened. I got a PS4. But not on my own volition, it was a gift. A gift from someone I have never met and will probably never meet. A good friend of mine. @yummylee. You may know him as the guy who's face is always on the front page of the forums since he's currently the only user with the highest post count to not be banned. And also, I hope you come to learn of his large, charitable heart.
That's right. If it sounds crazy, it probably is. He took a chance on my poor ass and it's probably never going to pay off really, because now he's got to deal with me on the PS4 as well.
Sometimes I wonder who I was in a past life to have earned such good friends. Friends who were seemingly always willing to help out. They're always there for me, and one day when I'm a world renown blogger/writer/podcaster/videogamedesigner/philanthropist, maybe I can return the favor. But alas, the only thing I can give right now is my thanks. Thanks to @yummylee for affording me the opportunity to play games from the next generation.
And then came the games.
First up was a bunch of downloadable games I had from PS+. I'm told games like Don't Starve and Binding Of Issac are fun but I didn't really get much out of them. Maybe I didn't play them enough, but they didn't really reach out and grab me. Then I played some Transistor and that game was pretty cool. I should probably finish it but right now I've got no desire to play it. That happens to me sometimes. I'll like a game and then not want to ever play it again.
Then the discs started coming. The full games were on the way.
First up: inFamous: Second Son.
Second Son was okay. I was pretty indifferent about it. I'm really into the inFamous series and inFamous 2 is probably one of my favorite PS3 games of all time, up there with games like MGS4 and The Last of Us. But Second Son was just... a game. It didn't even feel like a sequel. There wasn't a single mention of Cole, and when Zeke shows up, he does so in a DLC that we in North America can't buy because for some weird reason, it's only available on the European PSN.
The game starts and you are Delsin Rowe. You're the "punk". You tag buildings with spraypaint and hate authority. You like to jokingly quip at everything under the goddamn sun and "stick it to the man". How convenient for you that "the man" needs a sticking.
The story is, 7 years ago, shit went real bad. Conduits were using their powers for all kinds of bad stuff and were close to taking over the world or something, I don't know. I thought the story was kind of dumb. I liked inFamous when it was about superheroes and supervillains punching each other and jumping all over roofs. Now Second Son comes out and has to "send a message" because Nate Fox got "randomly selected" at an airport 20 years ago or something.
Personally I didn't like the character of Delsin.When Troy Baker fails to make a character likable then you know you've fucked up somewhere. It's his inability to take anything seriously and always brush things off like it doesn't matter. I couldn't tell if this guy was supposed to be in his 20's or somewhere in his teenage years.
I also didn't like going to Seattle. Empire City and New Marais were so interesting, even if they weren't particularly noteworthy, because they were new. They may have been your typical Fictional Cities, but they were new and different. Going to Seattle takes all of that out because you'd pass by some fountain and think "Huh, guess that's a landmark or something".
By going to a real location, they take some of that mystery of their universe away. The chances of seeing a statue of Cole or something is gone because you're in real place and they wouldn't have that, would they? They'd have a statue of some real guy who did some real thing. I don't know, maybe it's not a big deal, but with the complete lack of connection to the rest of the inFamous universe, pretty much every decision made by Second Son put me off in a big way.
But then you get to the gameplay. The gameplay wasn't bad, it just wasn't noteworthy. You've got games like inFamous 1 and 2 where you have powers that do something other than endlessly shooting at people with your power powers. For example, you could bring up an electric shield to protect yourself from gunfire in the other games. In Second Son, all powers are action a gogo, baby. And worse yet, they are just reskins of each other.
It's also worth mentioning that unlike Cole, who could use Electricity and Ice(Or the other one, fire or something) powers at the same time, Delsin has to manually switch powers from the source. If you want to use smoke, you have to find smoke somewhere and absorb it, if you want neon, you have to find a neon sign and absorb it, etc, etc. They could have taken away the endlessly repetitive reskinned powers and crammed them into one single tree and the value of the gameplay would have been increased exponentially. You could have things like the Television hover, the Neon sprint, the smoke... nothing, because that one sucks. They could have done what they did in inFamous 2 and give you another type of ability instead of an entirely different tree that spirals out and does all kinds of different stuff. They went for quantity over quality and it really hurt more than it helped.
The only real differences in powers are the navigational stuff. Neon lets you sprint around anything and everything at a very fast pace. You can climb up and down things like it's nothing. Neon let's you get around fast. Television's version of the Glide move can be upgraded into a hover, so you can hang in the air and pick your shots against enemies easier. It also has a very fast burst of speed that allows you to get about half-way up most buildings, but it almost seems pointless because why would I want to get halfway up a building and climb the rest of the way when I can just use Neon and get to the top in a fraction of the time, or the effort?
The navigational stuff was different at least, even if Neon was always the way to go. But when it comes to the actual powers themselves, as above, they are just reskins. L2 and Triangle will shoot some kind of missile, L1 will throw a grenade of some kind, and square will always melee.
The game didn't feel rushed, even if it was short, the world was empty and all of the powers aside from Neon were boring and lifeless, it was at least somewhat polished(And don't forget how beautiful the lighting and particle effects are in this game), it was just... okay.
Then there's the smoke powers but they are boring and generic. You can't get around as fast and have to rely on manually climbing up buildings like in the other inFamous games, but unlike the other inFamous games, the climbing in Second Son is so unbelievably unreliable that using smoke was always too much trouble for me to use. Whenever I had the chance, I would switch back to Neon powers. I would never use Television or Smoke. They felt so underutilized that it was like I was being punished for using them.
And then there's the enemies. inFamous had all kinds of variable enemy types. In the first inFamous, you have different kinds of gangs with different looks and styles. When you got to inFamous 2 you had giant enemies and super powered ice soldiers attacking you from every which way. Second Son has lame-as-all-fuck Russian Mob and D.U.P. soldiers who use a form of concrete. They mostly all look the same and they are all boring to fight. No one ever switches it up and it's usually the same fight every time. You shoot until you are almost dead and then you run away until your healing powers kick in and you shoot some more. There's practically no variety. Nothing in this game stands out. It's a one note game and that note isn't worth anything.
So how ironic is it that photo-mode, some random little thing is more fun to play with than the game itself? Again, I didn't hate Second Son, it was just so disappointing. After the bombshell ending that inFamous 2 got, you'd figure the sequel would be all kinds of crazy. But nope, you get barely a single mention of the other game to the point that this thing might as well be the gritty reboot, even if it's not remotely gritty.
Second up: The Last of Us: Remastered
I'll actually start this off by saying that it's ironic that I liked photo-mode more than the game itself in Second Son, because so far the photo-mode in TLOU: RE is pretty lame. You have a lot of the same options as in Second Son, but the camera is locked on Joel's character model in some weird way. You could turn the camera away from Delsin at any point to set up a nice shot, but it's locked to Joel so you'll either need to hide your model or figure out a way around it.
It also doesn't help that Joel constantly makes those stupid fucking faces making it entirely impossible to take any nice shots. The filters themselves also aren't up to snuff with the Second Son filters. Second Son's filters seems to change the lighting and colors, but for some reason the filters in TLOU seems to only change the colors. It's hard to explain and I'm also not entirely sure of the exact processes of filters, so I'll just say the ones in Second Son looked way better.
Honestly, I had a bunch of stuff written up about the game already, but I've put a lot more time into the PS4 version(I just got to the horses) and everything has changed. So I deleted it. And I'll tell you why.
It seems so much easier. I'm playing on Grounded mode because TLOU and Remastered do not share a trophy list, so I want another easy Platinum, and also because I hate myself. But imagine my surprise when I run into scenarios that gave me a ton of trouble before were actually so easy I were able to beat them on the first playthrough.
It's insane and I honestly don't believe it, but it feels like they made it easier. I mean sure, a lot of the early game problem spots still exist, like the school in Bill's Town. That whole thing sucked. But then the Bloater boss battle was a lot easier, for whatever reason. Maybe I just had better accuracy or maybe I got lucky, but I pretty much walked right through that boss, even though he had given me tons of trouble on the PS3.
And then there's the clicker tunnel when you're separated from Ellie and Henry and all you have is Sam with you. I beat this in one go. It was... an accident to say the least. Someone may remember from my other blogs about The Last of Us's Grounded mode, I point out how the companions get in your way so much that it becomes a big problem because of the difficulty. Well, that happened again, and actually made me look like an idiot in the process, and also making the hardest part of the game so easy I felt like I was going insane.
Thanks to the power of the next generation, I have a video to back it up! (Heads up, in this video I sound like a know-it-all because TLOU: Remastered had a few tricks up its sleeves. And boy, it got me good)
During this video my mind was processing so much and not knowing what to do with it. The single most difficult spot in the entire game, and I just walked right through it... because Sam took my place and I got caught by infected?
The levels of what just happened in the video are insane. By getting caught, I pulled away all of the infected from the ladder area so that I could just run up and go. But by sneaking, they would all be there as usual. Sam got in the way, and in doing so created an opening that I ended up using to get through. One that I never saw before. One that made me feel like a big ol' idiot.
And that's crazy. Because as many times as I beat The Last of Us on the PS3, nothing like that ever happened. The infected would rain down on me like an infected bombing run. But on the PS4... they kind of relented a little. I don't know if I got lucky(Doubt it because I never, NEVER got lucky on the PS3), or if they actually did some kind of... fixes, or something, but The Last of Us Remastered is definitely leading way to new experiences that I would have never imagined.
So many hours have already been shaved off of my playtime because I'm able to walk through really tough areas and it leaves me feeling weird. I know this has never happened before, and so it all seems so bizarre. Maybe I'm making a big deal about it, but it's absolutely not just "Old hat TLOU". There's something new going on under the hood. Whatever it is.
One thing I'd like to talk about before I wrap this massive blog up, is that TLOU: RE is actually... kind of buggy. Also what's up with me and these ellipses all of a sudden? Did I forget italics for some reason? Have I not written a blog in that long?
Anyway yeah. The game has kind of bugged out on me quite a few times in my first ever PS4 playthrough. At one part, in the library area of Pittsburgh, right before you get to the hotel all of the guards got stuck in place. It's like they were alerted for a short amount of time and then were frozen in place or something. They wouldn't move on their own unless I made a noise or something. And when it came time for Ellie to pull out her jokebook for the first time, she simply pulled it out, asked me if I wanted to hear a joke, and then immediately put it away before I could react. I don't know what's up with that, and I know these things never happened to me on the PS3, but it's certainly weird to see bugs all of a sudden. I mean personally I found it weird that the game still has just as much pop-in as it did on the PS3, but the bugs are just so weird.
Photo-mode is a great feature and I'd like to see more games use it. It gives people like me just another cool thing to do. Some people might not like it because it can be pointless, but I think it adds a lot to the game. inFamous: Second Son has a ton of opportunities to set up a great shot and a lot of options to make sure it comes out looking great. It doesn't hurt that the game itself looks great.
Other than that, my first exposure to the next-generation has been okay, I suppose. I didn't quite get the same level of a reaction as I did with the last generation. Mostly because I had games like Motorstorm showing me how incredible games could look. Or the hype of MGS4 to keep that hype-fire in my heart burning strong.
Though to be fair, one game is just a better looking PS3 game and the other is a lame attempt at a late PS4 launch title. So once I start getting heavy hitters like Shadow of Mordor coming in, I can get more of a feel for it. I am happy to get a chance to experience it though. I guess that's what it's like to have great friends!
Also I have a blog or something so come yell at me. I don't feature ads or anything weird like that. I'd feel scummy for posting them here but I honestly wouldn't do it unless I wanted to share my words that kill. So why not do it in the least douchiest way possible by actually interacting with the community? A win win for us all.
I didn't intend to make another blog about the subject(My first one here), but as I finish The Last of Us on Grounded Mode(The DLC super-difficulty), I just have to talk about it. Also, as I was looking through the other character clothing options I realized it never acknowledged my Hard completion. So that's annoying. Thankfully beating it on Grounded ticked the trophies for Survivor and Hard. Also spoilers.
The Enemy A.I. really doesn't do that much
The thing I talked about a lot in my previous blog is the "incredible A.I." that will distract you and flank you and try to get behind you or around you any way they could. Well, that's true. It's still more complex than the base difficulties.
One example is an enemy who lays down covering fire for his friend to move up. It was a little surprising to see something so well done, but sure enough an enemy sprayed-and-prayed to keep me behind cover while his friend moved up.
Another example of the newer and "smarter" A.I. would be an enemy that would sit behind cover and shoot train his weapon right on my position. If I were to ever aim my gun or try to move out of cover, he would fire and fire and fire seemingly forever. Like the above point it was great to see new things taken to extremes that, yeah, this guy would totally try to fucking murder me. Fun.
And the other example of one enemy, sneaked his way behind me without any prompt on my part, and killed the shit out of me while I had no idea he was even after me until he was running and grunting right behind me. I was too scared shitless to know what was even going on so I could have countered him, I just couldn't because god damn that was frightening.
The problem: It doesn't happen often enough to make it fun. In the early game, I was seeing all kinds of interesting and brutal shit from the A.I. I had never seen before, but that was about it. After the half way point in the game, give or take some chapters, it was back to "You got caught, the enemies will run to cover and wait for 10 minutes before doing anything". No enemies ever got proactive. No enemies ever decided to come after me. There was nothing new to be found anymore and it's such shit.
"The AI is relentless, smart, and brutal, and survival will be near impossible,"
Well... no. Not really. They are brutal, and survival was nearly impossible, but the enemies aren't relentless or smart. In fact, the enemies relented quite a bit.
In a game where life and death are mere seconds apart and checkpoints so far away, the companions block your movement and get in your way at every possible opportunity
How's that for a header?
The most immediate issue playing on Grounded: It made me hate the companions. Ellie, Bill, Sam and Henry. They constantly get in your way and just fucking stand there(!!!). There were, I'll say, hundreds of times where I'd be moving to cover to hide from an enemy, when what do I see but Ellie standing in the doorway and not moving so I have to keep pushing against her very awkwardly until she moves.
Not only do they block your movement, but they constantly get in your way. After discovering the meaning of true hatred during the wave-based-forced-combat-survival sequence near the end of the game with David, I really did think I was done with the difficulty. Enemies killing me? Sure why not. Missing important shots while dangerously low on ammo? Absolutely, it is a game after all! David CONSTANTLY GETTING IN FRONT OF ME AND BLOCKING MY SHOTS EVERY TIME ALWAYS FOREVER FUCK FUCK FUCK.
As I mentioned in my last blog, I have no shame. So I'm not ashamed in admitting that it took me over 30 tries and at least a couple of hours to get through that first sequence of survival with David in that hut while the infected are constantly coming at you. Most of the reasons is, well, it's fucking hard. But the other reason was it seemed liked David would get in my way whenever I aimed the rifle at someone running right at me. I died so many times because David got in the way, blocking a critical shot.
It would not have bothered me one bit if the checkpoints weren't stunted for this difficulty level.
The checkpoints being fewer and farther in between feel more like a punishment than a challenge, especially in the late game
One thing I pointed out in my last blog was the fact that there are less checkpoints in Grounded mode. As I go through the game and the engagements get bigger and longer(Unf) it really does make death feel more like a punishment and less like a challenge.
For example: Through the final level of the game, the hospital segment, there is not a single checkpoint. You have to go through several floors of heavily armed, armored enemies who are packed tightly in a very small area all on one life. If you die, you're right back at the beginning of the level. And boy, is that fucked.
There was no amount of stress in a video game I have ever felt that compared to the constant failures during that last sequence. Worse still was when I managed to get a little further and then suddenly the stress multiplies. "Can I do it this time? No, probably not". But that didn't stop me. Although maybe it should have because I can just feel the years being shaved off of my lifespan after this ordeal.
Honestly though, the true difficulty in this game is the realistic-ish ways you can die on Grounded. For example, a headshot is instant death. But when an enemy melees you, you pretty much die instantly. When you get staggered or stunned or whatever state it is that Joel goes into after being punched, it initiates the instant kill animation and you die. So it's not that being punched is an instant death, it's that being punched leads to your instant death and there's no really anything you can do to stop it because you are stunned.
And there's nothing quite like going 25 minutes without a checkpoint to really solidify how fucking terrible it is to get punched in the face until you see that all too familiar black screen and have to do it all over again. Fuck.
This difficulty is like a magnifying glass that highlights every tiny little flaw until it's massive and unavoidable
When you are constantly dying and having to play through a sequence time after time after time you start to pay attention to the small details. And I mean really pay attention to the small details.
Like how hopping over small ledges/railings/windows or anything that you can hop over will produce sound that the enemies can hear... only sometimes. The most mind-boggling of the small details, definitely. Sometimes I'll hop over a window and an enemy will hear it and come and investigate. Nope, no broken glass. Nope, I didn't bump into anything. They just decided to hear it for some reason. But then I'll hop over the wall right behind an enemy and he'll continue on with his day. It was always a gamble on when to jump when I couldn't truly depend on the mechanics to explain themselves.
Enemies only notice bodies in certain areas. Sometimes you'll kill a guy and his friend will see it and everyone will begin investigating the area. Sometimes they'll walk right over it and not say anything. It's never really explained why this happens but it makes some zones easier and some zones not so easy.
While facing infected: Aiming a weapon and standing up, you produce constant noise after a second or two. That's right. Stand still and aim your gun. You will alert the entire goddamn map to your presence.
While aiming a gun with infected around: Going from a crouched stance to a standing position will also alert the hoard.
While crouch-walking up stairs, your slowest speed is increased and therefore you make a bunch more noise that will alert the enemies. You may say, "Hey, aiming a weapon slows me down considerably! Perhaps I can aim my weapon to carefully climb these stairs!" Nope.Somehow moving with weapons will attract attention.Brownie points for trying, though.
I was having a lot of trouble with the part where you're with Sam in the sewer tunnels and all of those fucking infected. I spent so long trying to find out what I was doing wrong to constantly get killed or spotted by the infected. That's one of the few areas of the game I felt was truly unfair. I eventually got through it by getting super lucky but if there was one truly fucked area of the game, it was that one.
Companions don't know when to shut the fuck up. When you have some other people with you and you try sneaking, it makes it really hard when you get caught because running away does nothing. Henry, Bill, and Tommy both react poorly under stress and don't really understand "stay back and don't shoot at enemies". Of course you can't really say that so I guess it's not their fault. One example is the forced combat section with Tommy right after your horse gets Molotov'd. I kept trying to sneak but suddenly Tommy would start shooting at people and then they would instantly know where I was and I'd be dead. That was another sequence that gave me a lot of trouble that I just barely managed to get through. Also I had very little supplies for this one so that did not help me.
Bonus: If Ellie is immune to spores, how come the Bloater can kill her with spores? Food for thought.
Bonus: While Ellie is a companion, no enemy ever sees or hears her in stealth mode. But when you play as Ellie and you sneak around, enemies can see and hear you. How come she can turn into a phantom only sometimes? What is she hiding...
Forced combat sections are the devil
When I first played The Last of Us, even when I second played The Last of Us, and even third played The Last of Us, I never had an issue with the forced combat sections. Sometimes I died, sometimes I died a lot. It was the ebb and flow of video games. Life goes on. And you have a complete lack of information, like no HUD whatsoever, no listen mode, no health bar(That goes with HUD but I'd like to specify that no, you cannot see your health bar. Not even while healing. Not knowing what your health is like can affect your decision to jump into battle, and when you have no choice in the matter, everything sucks.
Really, I don't have anything intelligent to say here. Forced combat sections made my Grounded playthrough feel like I was dying. It was terrible. You would progress through a level and think oh boy I've done it and then 8 more people run through a door and the fight continues. I say "fight", but it's more like opening a constant fart in a jar; It's not very pleasant but over time you enjoy it, and you hate yourself for you, but that doesn't stop you from opening more jars.
I should point out, just to be clear, because I am a talentless hack writer who can't get my point across without overbearing amounts of italics, I liked, no, loved, the forced combat on Hard and Normal. I'm not giving a commentary on the mechanic as it exists, just the forced combat on Grounded. And also to be clear, I'm not actually complaining or anything. I'm not saying this should be changed or anything. I'm using the metaphorical sense of "this sucks" like, wow, there's 19 guys in this room and they are all gonna take turns playing bullet ping-pong with my asshole. You know. That kind of thing.
Jerry's Final Thought
Once you get past the initial wow of seeing the A.I. work together in new and interesting ways, it begins to get really frustrating on multiple levels.
Really, "crazy A.I." should have been some kind of modifier you choose for any difficulty instead of being locked to Grounded, because while I don't think it's as groundbreaking as I initially thought, it certainly is welcome to see enemies really try hard to kick your shit in. In this case, it's frustrating on the level that I want to see more of these tactics. I wanted to be surprised by enemies popping up out of nowhere. Unless you are in a forced combat section, the enemies will only ever react to you. It's so refreshing to react to enemies acting on their own volition rather than walking back and forth and saying the same dialog over and over again.
It's also frustrating because sometimes you die fucking quick. And so it'd be really refreshing to see A.I. that makes you react while also not having the fear of having to repeat a 25 minute long sequence that could surprise me with surprise forced combat at any second.
I have had a lot of trouble out of the melee as well. It's notoriously unreliable. So reliable that I had actually kept a melee weapon across multiple sections of the game because I was too afraid of trying to use it, missing, and then restarting from the checkpoint a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
I will see an enemy, hit him, and even though I hit him, because he did his "instant kill" dance, I die immediately. It's the worst. It was like this in Uncharted, too. Sometimes enemies just have to hit you first. The only downside here is that it results in instant death.
Several times throughout the game, I'll go ahead and say "hundreds" of times, I'll hit a guy, maybe hit him again, but then suddenly he just hits me out of nowhere and then I'm stunned and then I'm dead. It was particularly frustrating as Ellie in which I actually had a guy in the execution animation(Knife in the stomach, zoom in on the face) only for him to not die and then grab and strangle Ellie. All within fractions of a second.
Really, even though I suffered through some pretty unfortunate situations, I'm glad I played Grounded. I think, personally, the only challenge you will face in that game is the challenge to your patience. I wanted to give up so many times. I just didn't enjoy a lot of the forced combat sections, and when you play Grounded you realize very quickly that there are a lot of forced combat sections. Some of the stealth sections had crazy difficulty spikes and sometimes I just didn't understand why certain things were happening like they were.
I never had these experience on normal or hard, and though I never played survivor, I doubt it was as intense as Grounded. I certainly knew what I was getting into, but man, this was challenging. Half of the time I wanted to give up, and half of the time I was disappointed that there were so many neat things in a difficulty that I didn't get to really see because I was too busy dying all of the time.
But I guess it did deliver on its promise as being idiotically hard. It was pretty hard.
*Alternate ending does not actual exist. See store for details.
I got a TV this year that's actually capable of playing 1080p, so you know what that means... That's right, I went back to a game that only goes to 720p.
The Last of Us. You know, the game that everyone really liked or something. No, not The Evil Within. That's the other game everyone really liked.
I still only have a PS3, so I am not playing the Remastered Edition. But I am playing Grounded mode, a difficulty that was added via $5 DLC(Free for season pass holders) that completely changes how you will experience The Last of Us. And I am getting my shit kicked.
Grounded mode is, by and large, the most accurate and realistic depiction of living in a monster ridden post-apocalyptic world I've ever seen. And the best part is, I get to experience this difficulty over a 15 hour long video game.
Full disclosure: I've beaten TLOU a lot. So much so that when the Grounded DLC was released, I wasn't interested. I had just played through Left Behind and felt like I had already gotten my TLOU "fix". So I started the game just to check it out, then I quickly remembered that it's a solid hour and a half before the game even truly enters the prologue. And so around the time you get downtown, right before you enter the collapsed skyscraper, I quit playing. It was a gimmick, I thought. I've already played the game on hard mode so I already experienced the hardships. Fucking hell was I ever wrong.
A quick aside: As the difficulty levels increase in TLOU, you get less resources in the world. I thought it was tough on hard, in which supplies are less common than normal mode, which can have dire consequences as the game goes on. Another quick aside: I have never played "survivor" difficulty, which is the one following hard. So I had no idea what to expect. Here I am jumping straight into a difficulty I don't understand feeling like hot shit before getting swatted down like an annoying fly. And then stomped on. And then lit on fire. And then fucking galvanized.
As you may have already gathered, Grounded mode is fucked. Resources are extremely rare, enemies are so overpowered that every firefight becomes so unbelievably tense that it creates a whole new atmosphere on a whole new level. The previous difficulties had their challenges, but they weren't as fucking nuts as Grounded mode. I was never once "scared" of combat on hard mode, but Grounded presents combat as a trial of time and patience that can end as quickly as it begins with one shot to the head or a solid right hook to the jaw.
I said before, this is incredibly realistic. What does that mean, you ask? Well let me break it down for you. Everything can kill you, no matter how much health you have. I have been at full health only to be killed instantly by a shot to the head, and enemies often sprint at you with a haymaker to the face, knocking you, as they say, the fuck out. And that's just the firefights. Enemies are so much more intelligent in this mode, as they actively take cover until you forget about them and then begin flanking maneuvers.
*CAN NO LONGER ADD IMAGES OH BOY*
Just today. I was in the hotel sequence of the game. I was sneaking my way through the entire level, stealth killing every enemy I could. I was very excited because I had never done this so successfully before(When Grounded makes you as afraid of combat as it did me, you start to make good friends with the stealth mechanics). I was pressed up against a wall, looking at an enemy. Ellie says "Joel! Behind you!". I laughed. Ha ha ha. No, silly child. He's in front of me. I mock the A.I. for its lack of true understanding. That's when I turn to look and see there's a fucking person standing behind me holy shit what the fuck.
Grounded mode strips you of your "listen" ability, and as such, spotting enemies can be very difficult as the levels are usually dark and enemies find ways to blend in. When Ellie calls the enemies out, they become highlighted as if they were being displayed in Listen Mode. This becomes invaluable as, once more, battles can be over in mere seconds as any stray bullet could hit you in the head or a fast enemy could knock you out within the blink of an eye.
People call The Last of Us a survival horror game, but that's never sat right with me. I prefer to think of it as a modern interpretation of survival horror. But with Grounded, with the subtle changes in the gameplay, I start to wonder if I'm just a psycho hipster that relies too much on labels to feel superior, or I even know what I'm talking about. I say this, because Grounded makes one more difficult change to the game to enforce even more of a survivalist feel than the original difficulties: Less checkpoints. Segments that would originally be separated by two, three, or even four checkpoints are now just one checkpoint.
As I mentioned above, the hotel section of the game in Pittsburgh was just one checkpoint. You need to fight through all of the human enemies on all three floors of the hotel until you fall down the elevator shaft before you get a checkpoint. That's like 15 enemies you need to meticulously sneak your way through lest you be insane enough to take them on in open combat.
I had to take advantage of every, single, opening that I could get. If a character had their back to me, I had to strike. Because I knew that if I didn't, it would be just another enemy left to potentially come after me if I were to fail. And failure, oh boy... there's nothing quite like spending 15 minutes sneaking your way across an entire level only to die because, oh, right, this part is suddenly fucking wave combat and having to do it all over again.
In The Last of Us, one of the better parts of the gameplay is that you are so powerful, but also so vulnerable. You were capable of dropping enemies with a single bullet, but also prone to great danger if you weren't careful. The human A.I. was ruthless and cunning and the infected A.I. were swarming and overwhelming. It's like that scene at the end of Titanic, where Michael Coreleone says "Not like this" only to be put down by Casey Jones. Grounded takes this a level further by making you even more vulnerable.
I have yet to beat the game on Grounded, but so far I sit in awe of my adventure already, not even out of Pittsburgh. So far every encounter with the enemy has been fought tooth and nail, like some kind of street fight between rabid dogs. I'm juggling between four weapons with one bullet in each while staring down 6 or 7 enemies. God forbid one takes cover behind some wall because they are likely transitioning into a flanking position somewhere behind me. They actually use player tactics like breaking line of sight only to move around and on one hand it's incredible, and on the other it's terrifying.
I never thought The Last of Us was a scary game, but Grounded mode adds a level of "scary" to it that feels almost alien. I've already beaten this game a bunch, so I shouldn't really have that much to experience from this game, right? But nope. That's what it wants you to think, man.
The first playthrough of TLOU I felt like an old grizzled badass. I'm Joel, fuckers. And I'm gonna protect Ellie no matter the cost! But when playing through Grounded, I don't feel like an old grizzled badass. I feel haggard, paranoid. I walk into rooms with dozens of enemies only to look at my inventory and see nothing. Completely nothing. No ammo amongst my four guns, no molotovs, no bombs or smoke bombs. All I have is my fists, a brick, and Ellie. And even then, using melee combat is almost an instant failure as enemies hit you back, which can trigger instant death. Really, the best way to go about fighting is not fighting. It's keeping your distance, staying low, and moving on when you can.
Playing Grounded reminds me of a quote Joel has earlier in the game. He says "It's called luck, and it's goina run out". Indeed, I find myself in all sorts of precarious situations against all sorts of elements.
It's truly something special, I think, that something so optional can make the game feel so real, so... natural. Really, it's almost like this is the way the game was meant to be played. And honestly, I find it a shame that it's locked behind a $5 pay-wall in that it's DLC, but I'm sure $5 isn't anything special to most people. So I wish people will give Grounded a try. I wish people will go for that experience of feeling what The Last of Us is like when you're brought down on such a vulnerable platform that any move you make could lead to your doom.
Really, I find the overbearing difficulty unique. For example, you will enter an area and kill an enemy. That enemy will drop ammo for a weapon you really need ammo for(In my case, I'm out of ammo for everything so anything would be great), end up getting yourself killed and when you kill that very same enemy, he drops nothing this time. That gun that you needed ammo for? Yeah, you still need ammo for it. There's also something particularly frustrating about stealth killing an enemy with a firearm and watching that firearm instantly disappear into the ether the second you grab them. Yo! I needed that shit! Where did it go!? The truth of the matter is ammo is a double edged sword. If you have ammo, you can freely engage enemies and kill them, or try to. Doing so will expend all ammo and you're out again. But not having ammo allows you to get creative and sneak kill enemies as best as you possibly can. Sure, there's nothing stopping you from "getting creative" while you do have ammo, but the fact of the matter is I don't even remember what that was like anymore.
For example, Bill's Town sucked. Everything about it sucked. There's infected fucking everywhere and I've got little to no ammo. The best thing is the introduction of the Bow and being able to retrieve arrows from the corpses of enemies, provided that the arrow doesn't break on impact... which they all did, leaving me shit out of luck. But hey! I've got this sick bow, right!? Right... Anyway. The infected are fast and move erratically so accuracy comes and goes along with the natural weapon-sway. The entire thing was a shitshow from start to finish that can only be described as like when The Undertake threw Mankind off the top of the Hell A Cell and Mankind was being carried away on a stretcher only to get up, come back, climb to the top of the Cell again before being slammed through it. It goes from bad, to worse, to really worse instantly.
When I first fought the Bloater on Normal difficulty, I had a fucking arsenal. I had several Molotov cocktails, a bomb or two and ammo out the whazoo. It was a tense fight, but an easily victorious fight. Grounded mode? I had four shots in my shotgun and two bullets in my revolver. That's it. That's not even talking about the random infected that get added to the fight every now and again. I died so many times I honestly didn't think it was possible. Perhaps I had fucked up and somehow went in with too little ammo? Maybe I wasn't supposed to use that bomb from before and could have used it now? All questions, no answers. But when the time was right I got hulked out and picked up that big fucker with those 24 inch pythons, brother and slammed him so hard in the Pontiac Silverdome the entire earth was temporarily knocked out of orbit, jack. Okay, not really, but it was pretty close.
Then I got to Pittsburgh and had to fight an entire hotel of insane fuckheads who smashed me face in a couple hundred times(Or so it felt like), then I had to deal with a hoard of infected in the lower reaches of the building only to make my way outside and deal with three or four waves of hunters. After I beat those guys I saved the game and that's where I'm at now.
Honestly, I'm way into Grounded and think it's an incredible and unique experience. The difficulty makes Dark Souls look like candy land at times because in Dark Souls you're at least allowed to fight back. In Grounded mode, you'd be lucky if you can get a single swing of a melee weapon in before some hunter has you on the ground, flat. The only problem I'm running into is that the game has a very strict script. The game wants you to play the way it intended for you to, and it does not like you to deviate.
For example, in Bill's Town, when you are pushing the truck along. There are three infected along the left side of the road in the front yards of the houses. I decided, hey, I've got less than no ammo so I'll go and kill those guys before the truck gets there so it can lessen the load! Genius, right? Well, not really. What happens is you can get to about two of the infected before it does two things: One, forces Bill into action mode and causes him to sprint at the last infected while blazing-guns and triggering anything else in the neighborhood. Two, it instantly spawns an infected on Ellie so you will have to run back and save her. But, the timer is so short there's a good chance you won't make it. When you fail to save Ellie from the infected, it's game over and you have to do it all over again. And this time you'd probably not want to go and take out those infected anymore.
Honestly, that really annoyed me. My logic: I'm playing on Super-fuck-my-face mode and I'm using logic to solve a puzzle and attempt to make this incredible hard feat somewhat easier. It sounds reasonable, I mean logical reasoning is pretty much the way you get through video games. Logic: Bullets kill enemies, so I'm gonna shoot enemies with bullets! Ding, you're correct. Logic: Killing enemies will reduce the amount of enemies around! BONK YOU'RE WRONG FUCK YOU GO BACK TO SCHOOL IDIOT. JESUS.
I have yet to beat the game on Grounded yet(Echo, echo, echo...) so I'm not sure if any fine details will change, but one thing I wish would have at least been considered was increasing Ellie's dependability. They changed the A.I. to be a lot more cunning and tactical, so I wish they would have made the frequency of Ellie's MLG moments like saving you during a scuffle or hitting enemies with bricks to stun them. The only thing that happens is bricks being thrown, but so far I've yet to be saved during an instakill animation. It's disappointing because playing Grounded makes you more dependent on Ellie's abilities and so it would have been interesting to see what happens when an enemy has you down and mere seconds from game-over, only for Captain Switchblade to jump into the fray and start stabbing people. It doesn't happen. Though, to be fair, and maybe a little hypocritical, I have noticed that Ellie kills people on her own a lot more. She'll run up to some guy, jump on his back and stab him to death almost without prompt. Usually it's someone I'm trying to fight and she comically gets in the way as if she's saying "No, Joel! I've got this!" and take the fucker down.
It's absolutely appreciated, and I'm definitely trying not to whine or complain about it "Because it's just too hard! *insert sad face here*". It's just that they made the enemy A.I. a lot more advanced and yet Ellie just seems to be Ellie. I don't know, maybe I just suck. Whatever. You're not my real dad anyway.
Anyways, let's wrap this up the only way I know how: Bulletpoints!
Extreme lack of resources forces you to get creative
Super vulnerability also forces you to get creative
Suddenly like being forced to get creative
I feel sometimes like I'm not being given enough time to do what needs to be done. Those infected move fast and some have a pretty wide range for their instakill grab and I seem to always be a few feet away but get grabbed anyway.
The lack of checkpoints is also a double edged sword as I like the additional challenge of knowing I have to get this shit right, but when I fail quite a distance into an area(Sometimes 16 minutes into an area) I get sent back to the very beginning and I just feel so defeated. I think it's a necessary evil to enforce such a strict challenge, but sometimes it feels more like a noose wrapped around your neck at all times.
My Grounded journey isn't over yet, in fact it's about the half-way point, if I remember correctly. But I like what I see so far. Enemies popping out of the woodwork and then retreating for cover, only to disappear and flank around you makes for some interesting scenarios. Truthfully, I would have preferred a customizable difficulty system, something like Sniper Elite 2 and 3 that allow you to choose from a preset list of difficulties while also allowing you to cherrypick what you want to be easier or even harder. I like the creativity of enemies going to cover so their friends to distract you, giving them an opening to move around and flank you. I can understand why there had to be an entirely different "mode" for that difficulty, but it's more fun to go up against these guys. In a perfect world, I'd be able to choose the super-hard A.I. while also reducing the instakill melee range on these guys so I can get some room to breathe and have intense shootouts while still having to worry about my flank. Because I can't understate enough how fun shootouts are on Grounded mode. It's fucking brutal.
But I guess that won't happen, and I'm certainly not going to knock Naughty Dog for not having some crazy feature that very few games actually have. It's just that I'd love to be able to appreciate the crazy difficulty under a maybe-not-so-punishing light. But that's not going to stop me from continuing on my journey. And until next time, I'm gonna fucking die a lot yeehaw!
I have my own blog here. No one ever comments on it though. Truthfully I'd rather just post blogs to Giant Bomb, but I also like having my own blog to have my own identity, you know? You go there and it's my shit. My opinions. My views. It's great. While I'm on Giant Bomb, I'm a member of Giant Bomb, but on my own blog, I'm just me. You know? Eventually someone's going to yell at me for constantly putting a link at the end of these, but really I'm not doing it for ad money or anything underhanded. I spent some money on the design and on a domain for 5 years so I'm proud and want to show it off. I don't sell anything, I don't have ads. It's just me and my words, my words that kill.
This year sucked but I guess there were some good games though. Also, super spoilers below for certain games. Watch out for that.
The fact that I sit here, googling what even came out this year should go ahead and paint a picture as to the quality of what I've played, much less liked. I have played pretty much ever major game that I could, being a holdout of the last generation. I had to pass on many titles, like Shadow of Mordor and next-gen versions of the games I already do like. But alas, I've got a list and I've checked it twice. Actually, I haven't even written it yet, so that was a lie, I haven't even checked it once. Okay, here we go.
You know, for the readers of this thing it's going to look instantaneous. These words that follow each other are just right there, right next to each other. It looks like one continuous thing. But it's not. This is the first blog I've written in months that I've started up with a clear direction and sense of purpose and yet, it's been days since I've actually written anything down. See, I look at all of the games I liked and even loved this year and when it's time to write about them... well, I don't have anything nice to say about them. I made this huge thing about Dark Souls 2, but I spent the entire thing whining about why I didn't like it as much as I did the first one. I had all of this stuff ready to go about why I think FarCry 4 is a horrible shooter and stealth game... even though I thought FarCry 4 was fucking awesome.
I've come down with a virus, so I'm sick yet again. Maybe that's clouding my judgement, or writing abilities. I can't say for certain. I might just delete all of this and try again before deleting even that too. But I'm gonna do this, goddamnit, one way or another. For truth and justice. For America. For lil baby Jessu and the shins he died for.
Truthfully, I think that this issue stems from the quality of games to come out this year. Personally, and it's just me, but I think the video games this year have sucked ass. Sure and, again, there were games that I liked and even loved, but you look at the games and it's just... this one's broken, this one is just another annual release that's the exact same as the one before it, this one's just not fun. So much shit. Even worse than that, so many games I wasn't even interested in to begin with. It's not the good or the bad that gets me, it's the indifference. The games I look at and go "Eh, I don't need this", whereas any other year seems to be "NEED THAT, NEED THAT, DON'T NEED THAT, NEED THAT". Last year had better games, is what I'm saying. Or maybe I just hate fun. All of these are possible.
Bonus Game: Resident Evil Revelations
Yeah, I know, Revelations didn't come out this year, but I played it this year, and if you remember this blog here, you'll remember that I fucking loved Resident Evil: Revelations.
It wasn't quite so instant, as there was a bit of the game that I felt like I had to "trudge" through. But once the charm and personality of the game(And Parker) began to shine through, it was an instant hit and I couldn't put it down. I also played an embarrassing amount of Raid mode and never looked back.
After playing Resident Evil 6, I was pretty down on Resident Evil, Capcom as a whole, survival horror as a whole, just everything. RE6 burned the fuck out of me. I honestly thought I was done with Resident Evil and would never look back, but just when I got out, Capcom is there pulling me right back in. And it introduced me to Jessica and her sweet ass, Parker and his sentient lust for lunch, Quint and Keith's dumbass-faces.
It was an experience, that was for sure, one I'm glad to have... uh, experienced? Yeah, that's right.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
METAL GEAR!? IN LAST PLACE!? FROM A METAL GEAR FANBOY!? COLONEL ARE YOU EVEN HEARING THIS!?
You read that right. Ground Zeroes came out in March and I got my hands on it as soon as I possibly could, which was almost delayed in a sense of irony because Sony was having issues with the Playstation Store again and the thing didn't update for two weeks. Luckily I somehow managed to bruteforce my way into the Store and download GZ and delay the, well, delay.
It was intense and awesome. The next generation of Metal Gear Solid powered by this new thing called a "FOX Engine". It looked great, it sounded great, well, whenever Miller stopped talking to you that is... which was never. The story was nonexistent and there were a lot of technical issues, many of which I've talked about in my huge three blog write-up that you can find here, here, and here.
There were more issues present in this very tiny representation of the next generation of Metal Gear Solid than any of the other full length Metal Gear's and it struck me hard, like when Alistair hardened up in Dragon Age: Origins. Suddenly, this young beautiful, hilarious flower, withered a little. But in doing so, it was stronger. The day that Metal Gear Solid is released to be buggy and as incomplete as Ground Zeroes it the day that this boy wakes up to reality and sees the world the way it is as a man. In a world so black and white, all I see is gray... and I don't know what to do with gray.
But the gameplay! The gameplay is tight and open. And the story, while there wasn't much on display, adapted to the decisions you make. Sure, it's as simple as "Do you rescue Chico or Paz first?" but the game has an answer for you no matter which route you take. The way Chico will react depending on if you rescue Paz first or not is a small detail that most people might not even see, but it's there and I can really, truly, appreciate that.
See, my relationship of Ground Zeroes is one of self-awareness. I loved it, but I'm keeping it real(Word, ya dig, my homies? Hippity hoppity) with the fact that Ground Zeroes is a demo. It doesn't offer much, but what it does offer is incredible gameplay and a multitude of different scenarios for you to run around and sneak yourself into. It was also great taste of what The Phantom Pain will bring, which comes out sometimes next year. With Ground Zeroes, the fun really is what you make it. Some people didn't take so well to its length, but my issues weren't with the length, and so I found a ton of hours of replayability and fun sneaky situations.
But for real though Kaz, shut the fuck up!!!
The Walking Dead Season 2
Walking Dead Season 1 and 2 MEGA SPOILERS BELOW
The Walking Dead by Telltale is a really genius stroke of storytelling. They establish so many characters, and seem to kill of so many more, but the beauty is how they handled the arc of Kenny. The guy comes across as an asshole for the entirety of Season 1, trying to swing his big ol' hatedick around until he gets his way, and he most certainly doesn't care who he pisses off.
It all begins to change as he loses his family one by one. First his wife, and then his son. Not only does he lose his son, but it was Kenny who killed his boy to prevent him from turning into a "walker" himself. Yes, it's true, Kenny had a hard life. In fact, it was even implied that Kenny dies as well, in some terrible way while trying to be a hero.
And that was just Season 1! Season 2 rolls around and when you finally meet up with Kenny, he's different. He's become more and more unhinged. If his character can be defined by anything, Kenny would be defined by "Loss". He's had everything taken from him, forcibly. He was pushed to the brink of his sanity and the people around him question his every word. He's driven into fits of rage as his life gets worse and worse. No one takes him seriously, people constantly talk about him behind his back, no one can trust him. Kenny hears it all. He knows what's up, even if he's not really fit to handle himself with any composure from time to time.
I understood Kenny, or, at least, Clementine understood Kenny. After all of what happened in Season 1, people freaking out about Kenny almost offended me. The guy's fucked because we're all fucked, I would think to myself. Why is no one pointing out that we're all fucking crazy, it's not just Kenny, I would say into my controller as I have no real friends to talk to and oh my god I'm so lonely.
Time and time again, Kenny proves himself to be worthwhile and trustworthy, and time again people refuse. "He's a powder keg waiting to go off, he's a psychopath that doesn't care who he kills, he's fucking crazy!" And I was having none of it. After all, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with him in Season 1, and I knew him more than anyone else.
So when it was time to act, when it was Kenny or anyone else, I choose Kenny. I trusted Kenny. And in the end, I believe I choose right. It was between an fucking insane, proven psychopath-among-psychopaths who would abandon even her sister, or pretend to have killed a baby just to prove a point, or Kenny, who's only fault was he let everyone know what he was thinking and refused to back down. It was an easy choice.
In the end, I think I got a better ending. Emotionally rewarding on pretty much every level. We get to see these characters at their worst, and also their best, and I feel like my ending was more complete because of this, especially when you see the alternatives which are a lot more "cut and dried". But my decision felt... powerful. And it certainly meant a lot to me.
The arc of Kenny may or may not be over. As he is now an "optional" character, there's a very good chance that Kenny goes away forever regardless of your decisions in the next season, but for now, I'm gonna let it end on the hopeful note and wait and see for myself. Kenny's had a hard life, but he's got a second chance with Clementine and little Alvin and I'm excited to see where their adventure goes regardless.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age. What an interesting series. I remember when I first played Dragon Age: Origins I was so blown away. The amount of choice and decision making you get in that game is almost criminal. You're always either able to kill someone or steal something or do something nefarious, or do some nice and kindhearted. You've got the power in your hands.
Dragon Age II introduced a whole 'nother set of issues to the series. It was just as buggy as DAO, but it retained most of the quest-layouts of the first game. You get a quest, go to a cave, and then choose how to resolve it. You get another quest, go to the same cave, and choose how to resolve it. You could still make decisions and feel powerful, although they weren't as deep or rich as the first game. But that's okay, because Dragon Age II was rushed to the market so they would certainly ensure that the next game was even better than ever, right? Well... sort of.
The thing about Dragon Age: Inquisition is how fucking huge it is. I remember when Bioware announced that there was a single area in DAI that was so big it could contain all of Dragon Age II, people laughed at them. "You expect us to believe that? Seriously?" and everyone was expecting this game to come out a broken mess of some sort just because of the way Dragon Age II came out. Then with the controversy of Mass Effect 3's ending, no one truly knew what to expect from Inquisition.
But that's the funny thing, the game is huge. The levels are massive. They absolutely delivered on the promise of level scale. What they didn't deliver on was, well, meaningful quests.
I liked Dragon Age Inquisition. Maybe I even love it. I've put over 130 hours into the game across 2 playthroughs, but the issues I'm having aren't of quantity or level size, it's of quality. You'll be walking around in this massive levels and you'll find a dead body with some stupid love letter next to it. The letter will read like some frilly story about lost love, and it will lead you to some bush, or a tree stump, or some rubble somewhere. And inside of that something, is an item that is always several levels under leveled so it's immediately unusable. And that's the quest system in Inquisition. Walking around this massive landscape and picking up shitty rings or amulet's. No longer are you able of finding roving bandits and talking them down, or using them to your own end, or even persueding them into being friends with you or anything else you could ever do in DAO or II. It's the closest thing you can find to a single-player MMO and that burns me so much, because ultimately I just wanted more Dragon Age Origins.
For example. There is a quest that you can find in the Storm Coast. The quest involves you going to this stronghold in the hills and defeating this group of people called the Avaar.(Or Avarr, or Aavvaarr or some other fantasy shit). This quest has an optional route though: You can craft a special amulet that will allow you to converse with the leader of this group, instead of walking in and slaughtering everyone. I thought, wow, this is incredible. They give you the choice to do this and it's so rewarding! Having a choice is a choice in this game! NOPE! That's right, it's a one time thing and it's not even meaningful. Because having talked to their leader will always result in instant battle, and having killed the entire group just means you get one less mission for your war table.
Really, the decisions you make in this game are the least interesting and definitely the least meaningful. You would figure the leader of a massive INQUISITION could affect how shit gets done, especially as you gather more and more allies and support as the game goes on, but it's all worthless in the end because you can only reflect on the success and growth of your Inquisition through your war table, where everyone assures you time and time again, that the Inquisition is big and mighty and everyone loves you ohhhh boy, but you never get to actually see it. No one sends dignitaries, no prime ministers come check your shit, no hero ever visits you asking for support in a cause he's invested in, with the tables turned that now you are in the position to help heroes of Thedas, whereas before it was you that were the heroes of Thedas. Nope, you get nothing.
Really, the only redeeming factors in this game are the main missions, the characters which I think are great, and the gameplay. They all have their own sets of problems, but I have fun with Inquisition. It's so fun to load it up, kick it with Dorian and Blackwall while you fight a big fucking Dragon.
If Inquisition is the template for Dragon Age as the series moves forward, I don't think Dragon Age can have lasting power. In Origins or even II, you were tasked with important decisions all the fucking time, even then you were just some lowly Gray Warden, or some refugee that no one wants. In Inquisition, you are supposedly the leader of this mighty establishment, and here you are, scouting the wilderness for level 7 rings and then escorting a fucking buffalo back to its owner. What the fuck? Seriously? There's no personality in this game, and while they have absolutely made a lot of great decisions for Dragon Age as a franchise, I want more Origins and less Skyrim. More personality, less "Look through this fucking bush for stupid shit".
Wolfenstein: The New Order
"DOPE LAZORS, KILLIN' NAZIES AND TITTIES, SOMEONE GET ME A BEER AND WATCH THIS" is the shootermans reaction most people would have to this game. And that's the thing, the game goes beyond all of that, because once you enter the world, or should I say, the new order, you see it's a lot more than shootermans. There's a deep and strong narrative that's carried by characters that almost have no right to be as entertaining as they are. Villains that you want to wollop in the mouth, allies that you want to hang around with forever, and guns you could shoot all day. Oh, and you go to the fuckin MOON. There's so much waiting for you to play around with, and it's all so fucking fun.
Not only that, but you get to make some decisions in the game as well. Sadly, I didn't get around to a second playthrough to see the impact of my decisions, but early in the game you get to choose who lies and dies between two of your friends, and the way the story turns out, you get put into a catatonic state for 14 years. That's when Nazi's burn down your hospital and take your girl. And that shit JUST DOESN'T FLY. So you wage your war against them and find your friends along the way. And it's all so fucking fun.
Honestly, aside from my #1 this year, there wasn't any other game that I had as much fun with as I did with Wolfenstein: The New Order. The story was ridiculous, but at the same time really mature, and smart. The cutscenes were also something I didn't expect to be as well directed as they were. It seemed like every shot was framed extremely well and obeyed some rule of thirds or other to position everything just so great.
Really, even though it may seem like I have less to say about Wolfenstein: The New Order than I do the other games on this list, it was an incredibly fun game that I have very little to say negatively about. I enjoyed every second of my time with it and I will be playing through this game again.
The funniest part, to me at least, was that this was the sequel to 2009's Wolfenstein and I had no idea. I borrowed that from my uncle and played the shit out of it, enjoying every second. It's funny, because while it's a sequel, I'm pretty sure there's no supernatural events at all in The New Order. It's all science-fiction out the wahzoo.
I absolutely loved Wolfenstein: The New Order and how it's all so fucking fun.
Game of the Year: The Evil Within
As I've written before, I didn't expect The Evil Within to be anything. With the whole marketing scheme of "FROM THE CREATOR OF RESIDENT EVIL 4" I was like, oh, they're trying to sell it on name-power alone? "That guy from that thing made this other thing, so it must be good!". I expected nothing from this game but a terrible experience that could possibly be plagued by bugs.
What I got instead, however, was my favorite game of the year. The only game of the year I wanted to play over and over and over again.
The story begins with Sebastian Castellanos, who has one of the coolest names in video games, and his partners as they venture forth into a mental hospital. As they get deeper in, the entire world explodes into madness and they have to fight their own minds as well as the nightmares set forth on the world.
You use a combination of stealth and smarts to survive the horror and weigh the odds in your favor. Just one of the many tools at your disposal, matches change the entire way the game is played as enemies are critically weak to fire. Knock them down and light them on fire to get an easy kill, but one thing if for certain, they don't make it easy for you.
Upgrade your weapons, conserve ammunition and play it close to the vest as you explore a world gone mad.
I'm gonna cut the "review" bullshit because that's not what I want to do. I just want to gush about how much I liked this game. The reviews are mixed, and it can get annoying to see people so authoritatively put the game down, but it's clear that this game is polarizing. Aspects that one person may love, another may hate and vice versa. I like to think that it's a fantastically well made game with some janky issues, and it's absolutely far from perfect, but in the end, I got so much joy from this game. In some ways, I felt like a kid again playing the game. Everything drew my attention and made me want to sit and watch, listen and make sure I understood everything. I wanted to explore everywhere and see everything. And out of all of the games I've played this year, The Evil Within(And I mean, I guess Ground Zeroes as well) was the only game that I beat and immediately went back into again. I needed to keep playing. I had so much fun fucking around in the game that it was almost impossible to put down. I played it three and a half times and even managed to get all of the upgrades, collectibles, and beat it in under 5 hours.
If there was ever going to be a game of the year for me this year, it's absolutely The Evil Within. The gift that keeps on giving, and a treasure trove of entertainment for hours to come.
Sure, sure, let's get the "fluff" out of the way. The characters are pretty much non-existant, the voice acting is... all over the place(HOSPITAL!!! HOSPITAL!!!), and there's jank. It's not perfect, and honestly, I don't know if I'd even want a game like this to be perfect. I think the imperfections are just a part of its charm and I appreciate it more for the shortcomings.
Besides, the janky shit will just get fixed in the sequel. That's the norm in this industry anymore, right? I mean, the norm is also releasing completely unplayable games, so let's hope they skip that route.
Dark Souls 2 just didn't reignite the spark that the first game left inside of me. It was fun, and I spent over 150 hours on it so clearly it did something right, but... man, I don't know. It's the Borderlands effect. The first game comes out, is totally fuggen cool and stuff, but then the second game comes out and it's just more of the first. I didn't take to it as much as I did Dark Souls 1, even though I still liked it.
Far Cry 4 was weird. For the first 20 something hours of my time with it, I loved it. It was like all of the best of Far Cry 3 but none of the worst. But then something happened towards the last 10 or 15 hours... It just started to ware on me. To be blunt, if I may(Fuck, it's my blog, I sure hope I can!), the shooting is shit. I realized all of the sudden that the reason I used to Recurve Bow so much wasn't entirely that I loved it(Though, I did), it was because I hated all of the other guns. And it's not that they are bad, per se, it's the way the fucking A.I. moves. Sometimes they do this thing where they are moving at a full-sprint even though it looks like they are walking, and they are shooting at you too and it's just annoying dealing with that.
I also find the stealth to be grating to my soul. It seems like farting the wrong way will alert the entire base and so it's really frustrating to make an effort to stealth your way through areas, since enemies can become alerted without you really knowing why. Sometimes they see a dead body through a wall, sometimes they just decide now would be a good time for a freak-out. It felt more like I was "dealing" with enemies than dispatching them at times, and I didn't enjoy that so much.
It's a shame too, because the freedom that Far Cry 4 gives you is incredible. At any point you can hop off of a ledge and wing-suit your way across the map, land, take out two guys with a stealth take down, hit the third with a throwing-knife execution, then headshot guys further away with the super silent bow. You feel like a fucking badass, and it's great fun. Not to mention the elephants, man, those elephants though. Fucking powerful.
The narrative was entirely predictable. You can easily see where the story is going from pretty early on. It's a little bit if a disappointment, but the story itself is interesting as the main villain of the game, Pagan Min, is completely infatuated with your character, Ajay Ghale. He calls you throughout the game, talking about you like a shining star. Not to mention the amazing alternate ending that feels better than the already-pretty-good endings that have to do with choice-here and choices-there.
I think if maybe they try to reinvent the gameplay like they did from Far Cry 2 to 3, Far Cry could go a lot farther than it can now, with Far Cry 4 just being "Hey, more Far Cry 3!". There's nothing entirely wrong with it, though Ubisoft has shown that if they can squeeze every ounce of water from that "annual release" stone, they absolutely will. I just hope the Far Cry guys will take good care of the IP before we see shit like 2 Far Cry's released in a single year. Boy wouldn't that be something? How about pirates? It worked for Assassin's Creed!
The Wolf Among Us. In my opinion, not better than The Walking Dead Season 2, but that's probably an unfair judgement to make as I already had an emotional investment in The Walking Dead when The Wolf Among Us came around.
I don't have too much to say about the game. I just wanted to include it because I truly enjoyed the world and the characters of the Fables. I hope I get to see more, but only time will tell.
Ultimately, I am not satisfied with the quality of games this year. Hopefully next year is awesome. I mean Resident Evil Revelations 2 is coming out soon so that's gonna be awesome.
AND SOMEHOW I MANAGED TO WRITE THIS ENTIRE THING WITHOUT EVEN MENTIONING THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL: MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL. FUCK IT I'M OUUUUUUUUUUT.
Hello. I'm N7. This is the part where I link to my blog and talk about how I find it weird that I do that, but it's okay because we're all friends here. Well not all of us, that @yummylee guy is kind of weird. But most of us, right? Still no? Okay then. You can check my blog out here. I don't feature ads and I'm not selling any Chinese herbal medicines or anything(yet). Maybe you might like something, or not like something, and then yell at me in the comments. That's okay, I'm pretty lonely so I'd enjoy the company.
It's 6:27 AM on a Thursday. Not far off from Christmas and I just got done fighting a bunch of dragons in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I'm trying out the Knight Enchanter class on the hard difficulty and wow, that class truly is overpowered. At some points you don't even need a party. With a self sustaining energy barrier and the ability to deal radical amounts of damage, it's clear why this is the new "meta" for solo Nightmare runs.
I'm sitting here and I'm not even listening to the game audio. I've got my headphones hooked up to my PC and I'm listening to someone who sounds scarily like myself talk about Samurai shit from 500 years ago for reasons I don't know. And while it's entertaining, I'm not even really listening to that either. I'm deep in thought, thinking about my time with Metal Gear Online across the years and multiple games. Subsistence, and my short amount of exposure to that since I bought the game just a few short months before the servers were shut down. Guns of the Patriots, of which I put an embarrassing amount of time into. Portable Ops+ with its attempt to replicate the first MGO but being just different enough for me to not care for it(And also that control scheme sure was nightmarish). Then there's Peace Walker with a decent idea but no execution due to the sheer amount of insanely over-powered weapons making it a joke to play. Sniper-shotguns whaaaaat.
I'm thinking. I'm reminiscing. I'm reliving my past memories of Metal Gear Online. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I'm watching this video, until I remember I've actually seen this video multiple times before.
The distant sounds of soldiers screaming, the intensity of headshots pinging, the codec calls of "Go! Go! Go!", the random lag? They do not know. The nostalgic days of stealth combat action, all the times you really wanted a ration. It's the season of giving(And awkward Metal Gear Online inspired Christmas carols, apparently) and here I am waxing poetic about a dead multiplayer game from 2008... but, what do we say to the angel of death? Not. Today. Motherfucker. (That quote may not be entirely accurate). Anyway. The guys at Kojima Productions L.A. are in charge of the new Metal Gear Online (The link may not work as you must go through an age-gate) that will be included with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. From what I said about the game in my last post, it looks great for what little we've seen so far. But that's not enough, because they want feedback. I decided, being the MGO vet that I am, that I should help out with that.
We also asked for feedback on #MGO here on our newly launched Twitter account, which now has over 4500 followers!
The idea I have is that this MGO should be the continuation of themes and concepts from previous MGO's while improving on them with the new open-world design and mechanical advancements that they have at their disposal thanks to the awesome FOX Engine. The worry is how deep it will end up going. If you look at previous Metal Gear Online games, the options they give players did nothing but add to the depth that the gameplay allowed. You could hang, crawl, shimmy across ledges, fall-grab ledges in a pinch, hide in garbage cans, even go as far as to play dead.
You could grab them, slit their throats, disarm them in several complex ways, choke them out, punch and kick them, or pull out your knife and straight up stab at them. Barrels and boxes and the ability to both roll people over and even "charge" them with the box abilities added in from DLC's furthered the options any player could take advantage of.
You could call MGO a shooter, and you'd be right. But there was so much more there. The ideologies of MGS blurred the lines of typical shooter mechanics, such as "shoot him, stab him, kill kill kill". For example, as I mentioned in my last blog, putting enemies to sleep rewards more points than killing them. CQC-fighting them, choking them out, shooting them with tranq-darts. It went deeper than just "kill that guy and he respawns". You could be cruel to your enemies by knocking them out, stripping them of their weapons and grenades and then leave them alive. They still pose a threat what with their knife and CQC abilities.
That's just one example of the depth you could and would find so very often in Metal Gear Online. I may repeat myself a lot here, but really I say the big secret to MGO, and the reason so many people liked it is because of the options you were given. No two players would play the same. Each employed their own usage of tactics that would rely on skill, ability and luck. That is the core of Metal Gear Online. The soul. Remove that and it's gone.
So when I watch the trailer for this new Metal Gear Online, I see things and I begin to worry. Regenerating health for example. Then I think, man, it's 2014, almost 2015, are we still on the kick that regenerating health somehow degrades a game? Or makes it more "dumbed down?" I don't know. After all, you had a health bar in MGO and could only regenerate health by going into a box and staying idle. It was sometimes impractical as there was a battle raging and there you are, sitting, not contributing. But again, it was an option. That frantic moment as you hide in your box and an enemy soldier walks by, and you think "Did he see me? Does he know?" and the panic sets in. Your health isn't regenerated just yet, do you leave your box and try to brute-force it? Do you wait and see if your ruse has succeeded?
It was all afforded by the fact that you had a health bar, and not regenerating health. And so I wonder if that is just one experience lost to an innovative new addition to the game. I mean, the box does remain as a staple of the Metal Gear Solid series, so could it be that I'm just over thinking it? I must warn you that I am one of those stereotypical people that hate change. I can't stand it. My biggest fear is that MGO is almost perfect. That maybe it gets everything right but some minute and miniscule feature that I just don't like. But that's a topic for later. Going further, Konami released a press release for Metal Gear Online that just happens to mention that the game will feature a "class system". The quote in full:
KONAMI used the online event to debut the first glimpse of METAL GEAR ONLINE, which will go live alongside THE PHANTOM PAIN’s launch. METAL GEAR ONLINE represents the third iteration of the popular multiplayer game, newly redesigned with the familiar gameplay and aesthetic styling of its companion single-player campaign METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN. With a focus on Tactical Team Operations, the game features a ‘class system’ that more uniquely defines the strengths and abilities of player characters on the battle field. Key characters from the series including Venom Snake and Ocelot will also make appearances in the anticipated multiplayer feature. To view the trailer, please visit: www.konami.jp/mgsv
Regenerating health could very well be me just being weird like a caveman is afraid of fire, I'm not sure, but the "class system" is something that concerns me greatly. Allow me to take a moment of self-awareness here. It's hard for me to not come off as whiny or aggressive sometimes, especially when I'm so invested and passionate about not just MGS as a whole, but MGO on an entirely different level as well. So I'm not exactly trying to "attack" these new ideas or design bases, I'm just... I don't know, thinking out loud. Which is really what this blog is about. Speaking of that, back on topic!
The beautiful thing about MGO was that it doesn't need classes. By it's very nature it is an open game for you to come in at any direction for any purpose, rhyme or reason and do what you want. Now, MGO2(The one featured in MGS4) did feature a skill system that allowed you to choose among a list of many skills and then level them up. They were skills like "Runner" which increased how fast you ran(And boy did you run slow in that game), "Assault Rifles" that decreased recoil, increased reload speed and reduced spread on all assault rifles as you leveled up. Then you had skills like CQC that could dramatically increase how fast you could knock someone out. "Knife" level 3 allowed you to slit throats, provided you had the "CQC" level 1 perk equipped.
I mean sure, there was "CQC EX" that got introduced and gave players Solid Snake level CQC, which allowed them to counter any CQC attempt from behind(Or was it from the front? I can't remember) and it also allowed them to instantly knock players out. It was intense and hard to combat, so much so that players would openly kick people for using it. But as for classes, man, I just don't know about that. I have never played MGO and then decided "Boy we could really use some assault right now!". Or "A stealth device could come in handy!" I mean, sure, it could come in handy, but the beauty(Why am I saying beauty over and over again? Yeah I have no idea myself) was that anyone could fill that role at any given time. Anyone could be stealth or assault or whatever they wanted and/or needed to be.
I would often rely on subterfuge and sneaky tactics to get behind enemies, but I did carry an M4 so I was able to mow them down when the opportunity presented itself. But then I would mix it up and go for CQC's, to knock players out for extended periods of time so we could focus on capturing objectives or holding zones, since killing them would just allow them to respawn. How does that work now? That's the question. Will different classes have access to different weapon sets, or even abilities? In this screen shot, you can see a multitude of different headgear among the soldiers. Is this just aesthetic to look super cool(Which it totally does by the way) or will it actually have a function on the battlefield?
The thing that gets me the most is the inclusion of stealth camo for multiplayer. Early in the trailer, you could see a soldier going invisible and then choking out another soldier. The logical reaction would be "But wouldn't this just be spammed until it's the only thing used?" much like "Ghost" in Call of Duty Black Ops II, a perk that made you hidden to the various methods of displaying you on enemy radar's. After all, stealth camo was only available in specific modes in the other MGO's, most notably in Team Sneaking(Which was arguably the best multiplayer mode in existence).
My fear is that I'll be playing and maybe I'm killed by someone using stealth camo and so I react with "Well then I'll wear stealth camo!" and the circle of stealth camo goes on and on. Much like in The Last of Us, when someone brings out the all-mighty Bow, which incites everyone to pull out their own Bow class on the logic of "It's so overpowered that by not using a bow of my own I'm at a grave disadvantage!" I just hope they make sure these things are useful but not overpowered.
I am interested in the freedom of movement that MGSV allows will carry over to MGO, with players being able to climb into more advantageous positions and navigate the battlefield more accurately than ever before. Say what you will about the older MGO games, but you weren't really able to climb freely. You were bound pretty harshly to climb only waist high boxes and ladders. That restriction has been removed and it takes one step to opening up the gameplay into interesting directions. That's one thing I'm totally in favor of. Freedom of movement is always great.
It's really exciting to think about the situations we can expect with the idea that anyone could be hanging around anywhere(Within reason, of course). One thing that's on my mind are how will vehicles come into play? In the trailer we can see a truck but the question is: Can someone just jump right on in and start driving? What can we expect from that? It's not known if you can shoot out of vehicles in MGO or even The Phantom Pain, but you couldn't in Ground Zeroes. Perhaps your companions can shoot from the back or even the passenger seats to provide cover? Interesting questions and I'm very excited to learn more. Also, who doesn't love running people over? It's hilarious! "Stealth action this!" as you ram Snake with a jeep. Haha, yeah, take it Snake.
Bulletpoints! (Bang bang!)
So I've made this huge blog, like I always do, and I rambled, and I'm subconscious of my writing so I'm always afraid that I wasn't able to proficiently discuss what I intended, but let's finish this up with what I think Metal Gear Online can do without.
Awkward invincibility frames after getting shot. In MGO's of old, when you get shot, you actually enter a momentary i-frame stasis that allows other bullets to pass through you. It was never explained why this happened, but it was certainly the bane of my existence during certain exchanges where I'm shooting through someone, not quite managing to pull off the headshot that I need to save my life. Just look in the video I provided above, it features someone getting shot and some bullets just pass right through. Not cool.
LAG. Seriously. MGO was peer-to-peer which means you could play with some downright janky people. People could also use this to their advantage and lag-switch. It was not cool and not handled with enough care to actually make any progress. I would very much enjoy some actual servers to ensure lag-switching and other terrible instances of getting shot by ghosts because on their screen they are standing right in front of you, but on yours they are way off in the distance. Also not cool.
Box popping. It was the worst. Box popping, for those who aren't into the MGO mythos, is when someone rapidly equips and unequips a cardboard box while also aiming and shooting their gun. When you equip and unequip a box, you enter a series of i-frames that allows you to basically avoid all damage and continue dishing it out yourself. It didn't make much sense and it got really annoying as people were able to, in most cases, walk right through firefights without taking a hit. Because not only are they making themselves a smaller target by entering the box, they gain temporary invincibility. Some would argue it is a legit strategy, I would argue it was one of MGO's many flaws.
No more weird point reward system locking off customization options. When MGO rolled out the rewards store, everyone was filled with the purest of hype. It allowed us to finally customize our soldiers and make them truly our own. The problem was the only way to get points was to spend forever in auto-matching or join weekly tournaments in which you were set up against other teams for the ultimate reward: Reward points. It was a fantastic idea that was executed on well enough, but the problem was the lack of reward points given. With the prices of items going as high as 50,000 reward points, getting 25 points for winning a match just doesn't cut it. Sure, it's good to have goals, but there are better ways to go about it. And judging from the trailer, this new Metal Gear Online will feature a lot of character customization.(Awesome customization too). Let's just hope they are reasonable to obtain with many options(Colors, camos).
No region locking. Seriously. I have friends from all over the world that I never got to play MGO with because the servers were region locked. The communities were fragmented from the very beginning because of this and it was a severe letdown. It's 2014, let's do away with region locked servers and let us play with all of our friends. That's the way of the future.
Okay, well those bulletpoints look fucked up. God damnit if I can't do anything right. Well, anyway, I should say that while Kojima Productions are the new kids on the block, I have the utmost faith that no matter what they do, they will reinvigorate Metal Gear Online with new ideas and design philosophies. I mean, just look at these guys.
Hi. I'm N7. I like to write blogs from time to time and I've even got my own blog here at www.wordsthatkill.com
You might ask yourselves "Why do you not post some blogs on Giant Bomb" and that's because I still find the whole "linking to my own blog at the end of my blogs" kind of scummy, even if I'm not doing it for underhanded reasons, so I figure I'm not going to spam the joint with referrals to my blog, and only do so when I feel it's a big and nice enough blog to post here. That's right, I spoil you guys.
In this blog I will be talking about spoilers, but I will try to shine away from the gory details as much as possible. That said, you have been warned!
Ah, Assassin's Creed. How I love thee, let me count the ways. Many already know the history of the series so I don't need to tread any well-worn territory, but what I will do is explain to you my love for Assassin's Creed: Rogue, and then I will explain why I hate Assassin's Creed: Rogue.
Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? The announcement trailer.
Holy. Fuck. Right guys!? We're playing as a TEMPLAR!?!? IN ASSASSIN'S CREED!?!?!? Yep. I was right there. On the proverbial ten yard line. Pumping my fists, yelling at my computer screen, waking my neighbors. For once, I was that guy. Yeah, that's right pal, I get excited by pointless video game trailers, come at me bro.
Ubisoft had done it, they had actually made a game where we play as a Templar. In a world of color, all we're able to see for the first time, is gray. Because we have the power now, we have the resources, we are the Templar's, and we will not stop until the world is under control, until they feel our wrath and remember that we, and all our brethren, are better. Right? Wrong.
The game, a prequel to Assassin's Creed III, but sequel to Assassin's Creed IV(and also mentioned as the game that links them all together) starts off and you are Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin.
If looks could kill, he'd be an Assassin! Oh wait...
You are palling around with your buddy Liam O'Brien who, with a name like that, may or may not be a voice actor. In the opening mission you rescue some prisoners and then steal a ship named The Morrigan and encounter a cast of characters. You then go to the Davenport Homestead which people who played Assassin's Creed 3 should be familiar with. Once you arrive, you see two old faces in the form of Adewale, your first-mate partner-in-crime black-best-friend from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and also Achilles Davenport, the mentor and trainer of Connor Kenway in Assassin's Creed III. Adewale in his old age reminds me a lot of Big Boss, in that he's a seasoned veteran killer with no regards for giving a shit. It was great to see him, I was very excited to see what he would be up to after so many years since the end of Black Flag. And as for Achilles, well anyone who played AC3 knew that he had a family at one point so I was excited to see them as well. Basically, as a fan of the previous games, I expected this game to pray off of the history of these characters and do something with the knowledge I already have. Fanservice, in a way. But Ubisoft shows their hand all too soon and you get nothing.
The Man himself! Adewale! Hmmm, wait a second...
Something doesn't seem quite right here...
Oh no... oh nooo....
2SPOOKY FOR ME!!!!! Or maybe he played Assassin's Creed: Rogue.
Ubisoft had mentioned in the past that when Rogue begins you are an Assassin, but after some devastating event not far into the game, you switch allegiances and become a Templar. Problem: You spend a little under half of the game as an Assassin. Another problem: You only interact with terrible characters that aren't and will never manage to flesh themselves out enough for us to actually care about. I wanted to go pal around with my old buddy Ade and hear stories of his life after Edward Kenway retired. I wanted to see Achilles and his young son Connor(He would later rename Rahtonhakaton "Connor" because he had no idea how to pronounce his native name name) having a day out on the Homestead. I wanted to love these characters and become attached to them all over again before turning into this big bad monster who wants nothing but to kill them. And I didn't get that, but for more reasons than you might think.
Adewale fucks off at the beginning of the game and doesn't even show up until somewhere near the end-ish of the game.
Achilles loses his family not too long into the game but you are only told this in passing while piloting your ship and absolutely nothing comes out of this.
Shay is not a bad person.
I may have raised plenty of eyebrows with that last point. "Not a bad person? But he's a fucking Templar! This is what we have been waiting for! Goddamnit!" Yes, goddamnit indeed. The plot in the beginning is that there's a book - a manuscript that can locate "First Civilization" temples hidden around the world. The Assassin's are using this to try and find an Apple Of Eden, which is a long tenured "piece of Eden" in Assassin's Creed lore. The problem is, these fucking Assassin's don't know what an Apple of Eden looks like, so they go to these temples and pick up the object - which is actually a device used to hold together tectonic plates - and then remove them, causing catastrophic damage to pretty much everything in sight. I mean fucking fire and brimstone, man, death and carnage everywhere. 2012, the movie. The thing is, Shay has no idea about this. Why Achilles or any other character doesn't mention this to him I don't fucking know. You use Benjamin Franklin's help to find one of these temples somewhere in Lisbon. Long story short, shit goes bad.
Guest starring: Benjamin Franklin, because fuck you we've still got his model on file
The city commits sudoku and Shay is really sad about this. So he goes back to the Assassin's and very calmly explains his issues with them in a warm and open environment. Oh, wait, no... that, that doesn't happen at all. He flips the fuck out and yells at everyone and it's really, really dramatic. No doubt. He is told on the spot that they won't stop using this manuscript to find pieces of eden and that he should probably go fuck off. He doesn't like this answer so he breaks into the Davenport Homestead mansion and steals the manuscript. This, in my opinion, is where the game begins to go downhill. One: The characters may be terrible and generic(Teehee, I'm the sexy girl assassin I flirt with everyone (: / I am the stoic native American Assassin, I am a rock, I am an island. A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries / I am the french Assassin so I'm a fucking cunt all the time and no one likes me), they are generally nice people. They seem to be passionate and compassionate about what they do and I could imagine they would help you if you needed help. Problem: They do a total 180 on their own characters and become really toxic and fucked up.
As you make your escape from the mansion with the manuscript, they taunt you and berate you and INSTANTLY accuse you of some great betrayal. There is maybe a minute or two gone by and already you are the greatest evil in the room. It makes no sense, even for "dramatic purposes". I mean, I get that they wanted to turn on your Assassin friends, but... it's your Assassin friends that turn on you. Shortly after this, you fall into the ocean and get rescued by Templar's. The thing is: These Templar's are super nice and cheery and friendly and good. They are GOOD. GUYS. This is, in my opinion, where it was locked firmly into a downhill position that it could never turn upright from.
Some AC games backstory: The Templar's are the bad guys. Assassin's? Good guys. There have been bad Assassin's and good Templar's, but at the end of the day, that's the alinement we have in our universe. Templar's bad, Assassin's good. It started with Assassin's Creed III, it was the first installment of the series to actually feature deep and textured characters. For the first time in the series, villains were no longer cookie cutter cartoon villains who only want to do *insert evil thing here* and only live for *insert other evil thing here*. No, this was the game of villains who truly believe in themselves and their order, and want to do right. It just so happens that they were wrong, but that's all a part of the journey! And it was the same with Black Flag, this time even breaking from the mold more-so by having a main character that was, by all intents and purposes, a cunt. It wasn't until later in the game that he realized being a cunt cost him all of his friends so he stopped being a cunt and it was one of the most emotional journeys I have seen in a video game. With Rogue, we went into another direction. We went into: Friends of Shay are great people, heart and soul, whereas people indifferent to him are TOTAL EVIL AND BAAAAAD!!! BAAAAD!!! It got to the point sometime in the game where you are talking to your first-mate Gist and they were talking about how they just want to help their common man, and that all they live for is to better the lives of people and free them from evil and it's like, dude, come the fuck on, YOU ARE A TEMPLAR. I'VE PLAYED THIS FUCKING GAME'S SEQUEL, I KNOW THAT YOU ARE ALL CUNTS. Truly, I feel like this game was written for people who have never experienced the Assassin/Templar conflict before, because it was subverting the most basic of expectations.
Try as you might, Adewale, you will never be able to run from Say Patrick Cormac's lack of personality!!
In doing so it created, in my opinion, one of the most boring stories I've seen and definitely the number one most terrible Assassin's Creed narrative.
Throughout the series Templar were always the evil mastermind, up to no good with plans of world domination in play somewhere. Instead, after becoming a Templar yourself, the rest of the game is about you and your Templar cronies playing second fiddle to the Assassin's. You are constantly catching up to them, you are constantly running after them, you are constantly chasing after. Point being: They are always ahead and you are always behind.
The bigger issue is the fact that this game was supposed to link together the "Kenway Saga" of Assassin's Creed 3 and 4 and even link us into Unity. It was supposed to close out the previous games and send us on our way forward, but the way that it does that is so half-assed. There was nothing about seeing Achilles in his prime(Which, you really don't see Achilles much at all, truthfully), nor Adewale in his old battle hardened years that truly stood out. It wasn't fun. I know Adewale deserved better, hell, they all did. They all deserved a fighting chance at having "character", but if Rogue has anything to say, at all, it's "Rogue has nothing to say". Now how's that for meta commentary.
That's not even taking into account the fact that you really don't even fight Assassin's. In the other games, they have things like Templar forts and hideouts and all that, so when you get in there busting faces, you fight REAL. LIVE. TEMPLARS. In Rogue? You fight "gangs". You go to "gang hideouts" and fight them in their "settlements" and it's so lame. I wanted to fight Assassin's! I'm a fucking Templar and I'm fighting the gangs of New York? What? Give me my shiv and let me uh uh uh a fucking Assassin Knight or whatever they call themselves, not some stupid fucking lame ass shitty looking generic goddamn "gang leader". It's all just so lazy.
And that's just the narrative!
If you would have me what I thought of Rogue yesterday, I would have told you it's fucking incredible. Not up to snuff compared to Black Flag but close enough that I could love it tenderly. Today? I've beaten the game, I've unlocked a bunch of unlockables and I've spent a lot of time doing stuff. See, that's the thing about Assassin's Creed: The world is so big, yet there is nothing to do. Oh, wait a second, that's not entirely true anymore!
Rogue claims to offer up a dramatic change from the series Asassin-centric origins. It was supposed to be you, playing a Templar, doing Templar shit. What actually ends up happening is you play an Assassin doing Assassin's Creed shit while you wear Templar logos and plot world domination. But it does try, it surely does.
It's a good thing he looks so cool because as a character he fucking sucks
One interesting change is the near-constant threat of Assassin stalkers in the area. They hide in the environment in places such as bushes, hay, on benches, on rooftops, hiding against walls and basically in any sort of way you could hide. If you hear a spooky whispering sound effect that means there is a stalker nearby and if you go into eagle vision, you get a locator ring that fills up in proximity to your would-be assassin.
You might imagine it would get boring after a while, but truthfully I thought it was fun all the way through. It's a decent change up in the tried-and-true nothing is happening anywhere any time oh god kill me that Assassin's Creed is known for. You need to keep your wits about you as you explore the city of New York as an Assassin could jump out and severely injure you at a moments notice. Leaping out of their hiding spot, the game goes into slight slow-mo and you have an opportunity to counter their attack just as you would any other enemy in the game. Once you do so you can kill the Assassin and move on about your day. The best thing about this mechanic is that the Assassin's aren't entirely stupid. They will wait for you to engage combat with other people before making their move and injuring you and that makes it a little more exciting knowing that I am not truly safe. You get to learn what it's like being an Assassin target, first hand.
It doesn't stop there. Out on the open seas of naval gameplay you also have some Assassin worries in the form of Bounty Hunters. Bounty Hunters made an appearance in Black Flag where they would come after you in some sort of GTA-Like wanted system where the more you kill and plunder, the more they want to kill you. It's not exactly the same this time, however, as these "bounty hunter assassin's" have the ability to board you this time around.
Once they board you, they use their own form of swivel guns and start gunning down your crew. My first boarding was almost a very tense situation as I had a bunch of Assassin's all around me attacking me and my crew while subsequently gunning us down from their ship. It was a nice change from Black Flag's bounty hunters and it added to every naval exchanged, where I knew that if I don't sink this ship now, he will probably board me and fuck my shit up.
Unfortunately, while this mechanic is a well appreciated change of pace, it doesn't happen very often at all. As they are "bounty hunters" you have to become "wanted" before they will appear. It seems to take a lot to get wanted in this case because I spent hours and hours plundering and pillaging ships in the arctic without seeing a single bounty hunter ship. Not only that, but your wanted level will reset sometimes for no clear reason, resulting in you losing all of your wanted progress that you have built up, further lessening the amount of bounty hunting ships you will see.
When it comes to the traditional Assassin's Creed gameplay, I think the game falls apart. One, the combat seems really disjointed now and two, the free-running navigational stuff is the least reliable it's been in years. I had trouble attacking enemies because I was in "combat mode" but the enemy wasn't, so I had to wait for him to ready up before we could fight. That happened a lot. Often times I would have issues where Shay wouldn't fight. I would press a button to hit enemies and nothing would happen. It felt really sluggish and unresponsive. While I had issues with the combat from Black Flag, it was absolutely responsive. What they had to do to get that to happen boggles my mind.
When it comes to the navigation, Shay falls all the time. He's constantly failing to grab some ledge as I hurdle to my demise, or running up the side of a tree and then dropping instead of reaching up and grabbing the ledge. I have experienced first-hand just how terrible the free-running can be in Assassin's Creed past, but with Black Flag I thought it was incredibly refined. I was jumping where I wanted to 90% of the time. With Rogue, I don't have that certainty. In fact, I am certain that I won't be able to climb correctly or jump correctly to or even jump off of things correctly. It got really annoying really quickly.
Now, I talk a lot about things I don't like, so let me take a change and talk about things I do like.
The game opens up a lot earlier than other Assassin's Creed games, probably because it's so short, but it was a welcome change. I felt like I was able to get right into the open world and side mission activities as soon as I became a Templar somewhere around Sequence 3. To put it in perspective, before I had beaten the game, I had beaten all legendary ship battles, found all viking sword pieces and finished all of the Assassination Interception missions.
The side missions. With the new missions they have introduced a new side mission that is quite clever. It's the exact opposite of the usual "assassination missions", in which you intercept a carrier pigeon and then protect someone who has been targeted for assassination by using eagle vision to scan hidden Assassin's and then kill them. It was really fun and exciting when coupled with the fact that Assassin's are so deadly.
Speaking of Legendary Ship Battles, I actually like what they did here. In Black Flag, Legendary Ship Battles were you going toe-to-toe with a massively over-powered enemy ship. It was really challenging and it pushes you to the limits of your piloting abilities. In Rogue, they are almost like missions. Almost. You enter the area and there is one gigantic and overpowered ship, surrounded by other ships that you must destroy or else it's going to be even more difficult. The interesting thing is, though, you have allies of your own. Your own little NPC buddies float around and help you out. Except they don't. Often times all they did was get in my way and I'd end up killing them by accident. The Big Bad legendary ship doesn't even shoot at them, so they aren't used for a distraction.
I liked that they fleshed the idea out and actually got something meaningful out of it. It's a shame that they didn't do that for many other facets of the game because I really wanted to enjoy Rogue. I truly wanted to enjoy being a badass badguy who killed Assassin's and didn't give a shit. In the end, I didn't get that. I got "Almost Black Flag 2 but not really". A contrived cast of characters that we are supposed to care about because they "were Shay's most trusted friends" when you see exactly no information that would make them friends nor would they care about each other. In the end, it's just a bunch of people just happening to die who are Assassin's from Shay's hand, who just happens to be a Templar. I truly didn't feel the Assassin/Templar conflict in this game and whatever the fuck story I did get felt like someone with no understanding of the series, or basic human emotions, wrote it.
If this was a review, which I'm not sure if it is, I would rate the game. And since I'm rating the game, I'd probably give it a whopping:
2 JOAKIMS OUT OF 5!
Ultimately, even though I did not care for Rogue, I don't think it's terrible. I just think they did enough wrong that I can't really enjoy myself. I don't like the characters, I don't like the gameplay, I don't really even care about the "modern day story" anymore. If Ubisoft can get it right next time and get us back to the days of Edward Kenway and Connor. Back when characters had character and I cared about the shit they did. With Rogue, I really did find myself just not caring. I wanted to see Adewale fuck shit up with his cool giant ship. I wanted to see Achilles beating the fuck out of some Templar's in his prime. And most of all, I wanted Shay to be a badass Templar who erred on the grayer side of morality. I did not get this from Rogue. All I got was disappointment.
Oh well. There's always next year...
I post stuff from time to time on my blog, if you are interested, give it a look. Don't worry, I'm not selling some scummy product and I don't even have ads on my blog.
Forward: I don't talk much about the story or plot, so there are very few spoilers found within.
Now here's a blog post I'm extremely excited to write about. As you might be able to tell, detectives, I'll be talking about The Evil Within, a game developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda.
For those who aren't aware of what The Evil Within is, it is a pseudo-survival horror game in lieu of The Last of Us. A pseudo-survival horror game created by the father of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami.
Some of you may not be aware of who he is, and that's okay. OH WAIT NO IT'S NOT. He's the mastermind behind Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4. Of God Hand and Vanquish. And that's just his directorial roles. He's been the producer and executive producer on numerous titles. He's an industry veteran and also a badass motherfucker.
Don't believe me? Take a look.
Exclusive behind the scenes photo of The Evil Within development
Well if that doesn't put it in perspective then I don't know what will. Mikami gets what Mikami wants.
Mikami formed Tango Gameworks on March 1st, 2010 with a staff of 13. After some time their staff increased to 65 and they were soon bought out by ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks. Two years later, in 2012, they had finally announced their newest(And so far only game), The Evil Within. And with a segue like that, let's move onto the game!
When The Evil Within was announced so long ago, I wasn't really interested. I consider the "horror" game market to be saturated with games that I just do not enjoy playing. The outlier is Dead Space, which I enjoyed the gameplay enough of to want to continue playing, but ended up being such a pussy that I was too scared to continue. That changed with Dead Space 2, but then that game, while incredibly fun, was extremely predictable with the enemies. It was a really beautiful game which featured one of the best lighting engines I've seen in years. The way the light just bounced off of things, the way the darkness flowed, the way shadows looked. I love that game. But again, not scary. Then Dead Space 3 decided "Hey guys, know how everyone loves that this game is about DEAD. SPACE. What if we went onto a planet like a fucking idiot and then ruined what little interest people do have in this game?" and somehow that shit got approved. Dead Space 3 was a necromorph of its former self and had nothing to really offer except a shitty checkpoint system often forcing you to retread 20 or more minutes of ground just to get back to where you were. It was brutal and unforgiving, but not for the reasons you would expect out of a "horror" game. After a point, the only horror was realizing, shit, this game STILL isn't over!
Given, I haven't really played many horror games. I usually play them, become disinterested in the actual gameplay and quit more often than I find a game that I enjoy and want to continue being scared through. I have for instance played every numbered Resident Evil game(And the all time best game ever made Resident Evil Revelations), but the same thing happens every time: I play for some time, get the piss scared out of me and quit and then move onto the next Resident Evil game. I was never fond of the tank controls and when I try to come back to them now, I just find them outdated and unplayable. I've made my peace that I missed the boat on the classic Resident Evil games. I've dealt with that internal struggle and accepted it. But of course that's not counting Resident Evil 4 Because everything changed with Resident Evil 4...
NO! NOT THAT RESIDENT EVIL 4!
THIS! This Resident Evil 4. You know, the real one... shudder...
Resident Evil 4 was the first RE game I actually completed. But it's beyond that I completed it, I fell in love with the gameplay. Ammo is hard to find, enemies can outnumber and surround you forcing you to play smart. It was mainstream appeal at first sight. I couldn't get enough of it. Playing smart, outrunning the chainsaw fuckers and upgrading your weapons. It was awesome. Not to mention you get to fight a thing called El Gigante.
I hear they call him El Gigante because "Holy fucking shit look at the size of that fucking thing fuck" was too long to fit on his birth certificate.
I remember my favorite, and usually everyone else's favorite Resident Evil 4 moment is when you have the opportunity to barricade doors and windows and defend yourself against waves and waves of hostile fuckers who want to cut you with all kinds of rusty shit. Either near the beginning of the game or with Luiz later on. There was something magical about it. Hearing the loud crash of a window, making it abundantly clear that the enemies are putting ladders to the windows. It was pure panic and how fun that was.
I imagine I'm preaching to the choir here about how great Resident Evil 4 was, but it's true, I love that game. So when The Evil Within was announced, and all I heard was "FROM THE CREATOR OF RESIDENT EVIL 4" all I could think of was... Nope. Not interested. I've heard that pitch before. It's asinine. You're playing off of the fame of something he did 10 years ago to get interest in something he's making today. Sure, Shinji Mikami is still a fairly big name, but he's made some bad stuff in the past too. In fact, I was more interested in Alien: Isolation than I was The Evil Within. So imagine my reaction when I ended up strongly disliking Alien: Isolation and ending up loving The Evil Within.
No blog is complete without custom banners of some sort! Even weird hipstery pop-art banners!
The first thing right off the bat for me was the mystery. The appeal of not having everything crammed down your throat immediately like you see so many times in video games today. It let a simmer come to a boil, and then simmer back down again. Constantly pushing and pulling on your headstrings, your intrinsic curiosity to learn more. STEM? Ruvik? Krimson City!? I am so. fucking. in.
The game begins with you in control of Detective Sebastian Castellanos who's being driven to a just called-in case that's developing at Beacon Mental Hospital. A bunch of units were called in but haven't called back out, so you and your crew, Detective Joseph Oda and Rookie Detective Julie Kidman are on the move to find out exactly why that is.
Your cast of characters.
The game moves pretty fast in the beginning. You go from securing the hospital and searching for any survivors of this apparent massacre and woosh, you then wake up hanging from a rope surrounded by hanging corpses that have, to put it simply, seen better days.
Turns out, this is a stealth game! Just my cup of tea.
The gameplay really has more in common with The Last of Us than it does Resident Evil. The general idea is to maybe avoid combat as much as possible so you can conserve ammo, you know what I'm talking about. I'm not doing a preview here, you've all played The Last of Us.
See, the best part of the game is the options that it presents you with and the opportunities to exploit those options to interesting outcomes.
One of these options are in the form of "matches" that you can light and toss onto enemies to set them on fire and permanently kill them. Sometimes so simple can break up the monotony of endless running or endlessly fighting. Not to mention you can use these to converse ammo, as lighting an enemy on fire with any other enemies near him will cause them to all go up in flames. The best part is, pretty much every enemy aside from bosses or mini-bosses are critically weak to fire. The challenge, however, is maintaining a steady supply of matches. They aren't infinite, and you can run out if you let your inner firebug out and burn some motherfuckers. And let me tell you, it's never not fun.
Spread throughout most environments are traps. Like beartraps, tripwires, motion-detectors with bombs in them some sort of proximity alarm thing that alerts all enemies to action even though you pretty much only see it once and it doesn't truly make much sense. Anyway.
The beauty of the game is exploiting these options, and using these traps and throwable objects like bottles(Which is very reminiscent of TLOU) you could lead enemies into traps to kill or injure them, giving you the edge in the fight. You must always be mindful of your surroundings if you are expected to survive The Evil Within.
You can also disarm traps, if you don't trust yourself enough around them and when you do, you get spare parts which can be used to craft arrowheads for your "Agony Crossbow", which is just as fucking rad as it sounds.
It's kind of hard to see here just how much ass-kicking this thing can do, but take my word for it.
You've got all kinds of options with this thing. You can craft explosive bolts, harpoon bolts, freeze bolts for when your patience wears thin and you want to end a fucker. Shock bolts can stun enemies, and flash bolts can blind them.
When you level up your Harpoon Bolts to level 5, they become FLAMING harpoon bolts, and you remember earlier, how I sad these fuckers are super weak to fire? Yep. It turns every fight into a good old fashioned Krimson City BBQ. And you KNOW just how awesome those old fashioned Krimson City BBQ's got! With the Agony Crossbow, anything is possible!
As with upgrading the Agony Crossbow, you can upgrade your other weapons and even some base stats like maximum health and stamina. I went with melee because I'm an IDIOT and thought it would change something, but the only thing it's good for is stunning enemies for a few seconds so you can shoot them in the head with a gun because seriously, who brings their fists to a hatchet-sickle-torch-chainsaw fight?
The one thing that really bugs me about the game are the forced combat sequences, and boy are there quite a bit of them. You walk around feeling high and mighty because you've got 40 bullets in your revolver and 20 in your shotgun and then suddenly you've got to fend off a large number of enemies because someone needs to open a gate or something stupid and then all of the sudden you hear a distantly familiar click followed by "OUT OF AMMO?!?!11" by your character who shares your complete disbelief in what you are both experiencing. That's usually when shit hits the fan and you have to remember real quick just how useful those matches can be. Those fucking things can save your ass in more ways than a gun. Never leave home without them!
Another thing, and one that I love but others seem to hate: The letterboxing. The game is presented in some sort of letterboxed widescreen and it really, in my opinion, adds to the bleak and weary atmosphere. But some people just aren't having it.
Come on guys, really? LOOK AT THE EMOTION CONVEYED BY LETTERBOXING! You just can't get that in any old game. Learn to appreciate art.ART.
Some people go so far as to say it somehow impedes your playing, that it gets in the way of things you might be able to see but can't because of those giant black bars, which just seems crazy to me. I've beaten the game twice and there was not one single point in the game in which I was stuck because I didn't see something above or below me - in fact, I noticed I had been looking upwards and downwards more often because of the black bars. I wanted to make sure there was nothing creeping about. Because of this, I felt a lot more aware and ultimately I got more out of my experience with the letterboxing than some crazy people that would prefer to play without it with the help of mods. That's just crazy. Crazy. Okay, enough of that.
Speaking of voice acting, I gotta say it's not really doing anything for me in this game. I don't think it's bad, I just don't see any redeeming qualities. For some pretty decent names in the cast, I expected more than just "bland".
They tried really hard to get Ryan Gosling, but they had to settle for his mirror-match clone instead
Personally I liked Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Ruvik, but most of the time you only hear him through flashbacks and audio logs, so it doesn't really carry much when you eventually do meet him face to face.
More on that later, speaking of the cast, I was really surprised by a few special cameos in the game. First up, we've got this guy making a special appearance from RE4:
You know, I wasn't expecting much from his role as "Crazy torch guy who sets you on fire", but this kid blew me away!
This guy. Shinji Mikami must really love this dude's design because he's gone from SomewhereinthemiddleofSpain to wherever the fuck Krimson City is and he's STILL got it. Whatever it is, he's got it.
And the most surprising guest appearance of all time has got to be...
Wilford Brimley!! I've been a fan of this guy since I saw The Thing and let me tell you, he really knocks it out of the park as Uncle "Itchy Tasty" Jimenez. I mean really, who could have seen this coming? Way to go Tango Gameworks and especially to the man in charge, Shinji Mikami.
Now, earlier I mentioned the voice cast laying it on a little thin, and it's because of that that these characters don't really have much character. With the collectible notes and documents you find throughout the game, you get an idea these characters should maybe act a certain way, but they come off as very calm and collected, even when it seems like reality is warping right in their very faces. They just collect themselves and move on. It's strange. Very strange.
But there is one character in particular that stands out. A character that stands out in a huge way. Her name... Nurse Tatiana.
Just go ahead and pretend this is an Obama "HOPE" poster.
That's right fellas. The best companion in video game history. I hear your silent judgements. I know what you are thinking. "Best companion? Ha! That goes to Garrus! Morrigan! Fawkes! Boone! Lydia! etc etc". Well to that I have to say: GET. THE FUCK. OUT.
Nurse Tatiana has been employed at the hospital for years and with all of the things she's seen, she is EMOTIONALLY DEAD. She has nothing left to give. She sits there, yells at Sebastian Castellanos for moaning in his sleep and pestering the other patients, and she doesn't give a single fuck while she does it. The way she sits on her stool so authoritatively, filing her nails, occasionally releasing a sign so devoid of life or emotion you have to wonder if she even has a soul. But chapter after chapter, Tatiana is there for you. Reminding you to spend your green gel, or telling you how much of a worry-wort you are. She may not have a soul left, or any emotion to use to relate to you or your mission, but she's there every day you wake up. She may not give a shit, but you know she cares! And I thank her.
The boss battles in the game are also something I really enjoyed. One boss in particular seemed to reek of creative genius from the devs because of how it is introduced. You are walking along, looking for stuff, and all of the sudden you see a small chest. Oh boy! Chests! Video games! Hurray! You open the chest and you get a key that you can use to unlock doors back in the save room and gain items or green gel that will help you in your journey. The collectables are really great in that aspect. There are a ton of them to find but they actually help you out in the long run and make it fun to find them and use them to get stuff.
So you get the key from the chest and think, great, I hope there are more of them! Then later on, about a half hour or maybe longer from this point you reach an area that is LITTERED with chests. I practically jumped for joy when I saw all of them. "So many keys!!" I thought. But they wouldn't open. I thought it was a glitch in the game and actually got mad with it! So I said whatever and progressed, and it was only then that I realized what was happening... because the chests were actually a part of the area boss! All of the sudden these chests that I wanted to open desperately were forming into a huge axe wielding psychofucker wanting to kill me. It was excellent and left a lasting impression. I certainly never felt safe opening anything after that.
It's the little things that can have such an impact in this game, and again, I was more than ready to judge this game before I got my hands on it, but the second I did - something... clicked. It was almost instant. I fell in love with the game. The story, the vagueness and mystique that kept me asking more and more... And sure, the story ends without any real explanation of what the fuck happened, but there's enough evidence in the documents and through what the game doesn't tell you - but rather shows you - that you can use to form a pretty good idea of what actually happened. Either way, let's not get caught up in the purposefully left open story. That's for another time.
The atmosphere really is incredible, truthfully. Creepy and tense, with dangers hiding around every corner.
This isn't really a "professional" review, in the sense that I was never raised by writer parents and never went to writing school and learned how to write professionally. I don't know the rules of the grammatical road, but I've got my hand on the wheel, foot on the pedal, and I'm driving inside the lines. I wanted to talk about The Evil Within - because I truly enjoyed it. The things I didn't enjoy as much really didn't bother me like it did other people. Trust me, I'm not even trying to go soft on the game. I just really enjoyed this. Aside from Resident Evil Revelations, there just hasn't been any other game that I have connected to so entirely. The Evil Within has lasting appeal... jank, yes, lots of jank, but lasting appeal. I hope everyone goes out and buys this game and loves it as much as I do. Shinji Mikami is a fantastic director and I hope this does well for his studio and we can expect more The Evil Within for years and years.
I write blogs whenever I have something I'd like to talk about. I don't want to spam up the joint so I don't post some of them to Giant Bomb(Which is so far just one I didn't post here), and I don't know if this would be considered "self promotion" or anything, but if you'd like to check out my personal blog, it's right here. It's a pretty shitty blog but sometimes you just get a hankering to write something, you know?
Resident Evil. What left could be said of this roller coaster-of-emotions of a franchise? A series that laid roots in survival horror and then dropped it to capitalize on the dudebro shooterman genre that keeps the heart of modern video games pumping.
Whether that is a legitimate decision is ultimately left up to the individual, but to me, the issue lies not within the direction Resident Evil is facing, but rather, the capability of the publisher and developer to make, well, good games.
And that's my issue with Resident Evil today. They are poor action games that feel like they are trying to convince themselves that they are still somehow survival horror. How can you forget the marketing campaign of Resident Evil 5? "Fear you can't forget". There was so much conviction within the campaign. "You are going to be terrified. You are going to scream for mercy, but there won't be any." etc, etc. They painted the picture that, hey, this game is gonna be scary. Then of course it came out and you'll probably end up playing co-op with a friend, talking over cutscenes and laughing about other stupid shit, like I did. It's hard to be afraid of anything in that environment. Taking a game in which you are alone and outnumbered by hoards of enemies and then, uh, giving you an equally equipped partner takes out any tension. Suddenly jump scares aren't scary. Suddenly being outnumbered means nothing. The fear has been removed.
With Resident Evil 5 however, I felt conflicted. I wanted a survival horror game, but what I got was more attuned to action and glory. Whereas I wanted to walk down corridors, fearful for what may lurk around the corner. I did not get that. I got, instead, "action game".
Surely I'm being unfair in some regard? Well no, it's a criticism. I liked Resident Evil 5. I put way too much time into it, in fact. I S ranked the whole game on every difficulty and then I S ranked Mercenaries. I leveled up all weapons, I collected every jewel, every BSAA emblem. I unlocked every figure and file. If there was something to do, something to obtain in Resident Evil 5, I did and obtained it. Which is the reason I feel my criticism isn't just mindless internet hate vitriol acid garbage spew; I played the game, I enjoyed the game, I saw the potential for Resident Evil. I also saw the downfall of Resident Evil.
The potential of RE5 was abundant, it was easy to control, it was simple enough to get into, it didn't require too much thought. You shoot people, or sometimes things, or sometimes people-things with your guns. You can slash them with your knife too, if you like. And then sometimes you can punch them, and punch them well. You had a very simple weapon upgrading system and even a simple store system so you can buy things like First-Aid spray, weapons, or even special items that increase your resistance to melee or bullet damage.
If Resident Evil was to be an action game from here on out, then they've got the ground work laid out. The gameplay is solid and the prospect of expanding on that and enhancing it is very exciting. The things they could do to improve the flow of gameplay is really exciting to think about! Where could it go? What could they do? The possibilities are endless.
Damn girl, you shit with that hat? Wait no, that's not the line. Ah who cares.
My conflicted feelings for Resident Evil didn't end there, however. With the release of Lost In Nightmares, a DLC expansion for RE5, set years beforehand with Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine exploring an old mansion while looking for answers. I remember being almost caught off guard by the expansion. Here I was, playing "Capcom presents: Shootermans" and all of the sudden I got... Resident Evil? Gothic locals, scary atmospheres, neat little puzzles. Not only that, but I actually found it pretty scary at some points. It told me everything I needed to know: Capcom is returning Resident Evil to its roots. They have listened to the fanbase's distaste in action and want to return to the classic survival horror, but with the new gameplay additions that the action game can provide. It was incredible. A little short, or, okay, a lot short. Lost In Nightmares was not very long at all, but it was filled with the essence, the spirit of Resident Evil. It felt like Capcom was reminding people that, hey, we've still got it. And I couldn't have been more excited to see where they were going.
But then I got there. Its name? Resident Evil 6. A mess. A downright mess. To put it bluntly, this game was bad. It just didn't make sense, and when you look at the narrative of the game, it pretty much destroyed any semblance of a return to form.
Worst album cover ever.
With Resident Evil 4, we went from zombies to B.O.W's, or, Bio Organic Weapons. Resident Evil 6 turned this concept up to 11 and basically destroyed a whole country with an outbreak of every goddamn virus in the entire series. Suddenly you've got your classic zombies, then you've got your Ganado and Majini types of people-exploding-into-tentacle-porn. Then of course comes in the monsters. Giant creatures, heavily mutated people, fish, turtles or whatever hunters are.
It took it to a new level. Suddenly Chris and Leon and... Sherry Berkin are involved with the biggest threat to humanity, and even the world. It threw caution to the wind and said "Fuck survival horror, give me that turret and turn up some Dragonforce!!!"
And I'm not even talking about the (mostly) stupid story. I'm not even talking about the completely moronically idiotic and completely mishandled opportunity to have Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield team up only for there to be absolutely none of that. I'm talking about the gameplay. The very core of this video game.
I bet you thought this would be cooler than it ended up being
It settled for QTE's in the stead of actually developing an interesting cutscene we could watch or even a gameplay segment we could go through on our own. If it was interesting, it was a QTE. The Resident Evil series is filled with QTE's, you might be saying. One, you're right, but two, you've got no idea. You've got no idea at all.
The most notably mindfuckingly terrible QTE comes from Leon's campaign, near the end. You have to climb a rope. Any other game would allow you to do this by moving the left stick. Resident Evil 6 wants you to alternate between R1 and L1. But it's not as simple as hitting one button and hitting the other in secession. You have to hit one, wait a second, hit the other. It's not a matter of hitting the buttons as fast as you can and then moving up, it's you having to find this weird rhythm of waiting for the game to allow you to move. But if you wait too long, you'll fall some distance and have to climb back up until you get to the top. Just take a look:
In my experience, personally, I have never wanted to kill a video game before in my life. Until that moment. I guess you could say... I was at the end of my rope? Huh? Huh? Yeah.
Resident Evil 6 was emulating Call of Duty, Uncharted, Battlefield. Big budget action games about shooting people and saving America and not giving a fuck one way or the other. Resident Evil 6 was doing this while laughing at you, the fan at home, for wanting survival horror. To want fear. The only fear here is the game itself, and the idea of playing it... the fear you can't forget.
Now I want to be absolutely clear here. I want to make my point as loud as possible: I'm not hating on RE6 because of this false sense of loyalty to the older games, or this idea that I'm a special snowflake for wanting a return to survival horror. If I have failed to make that point, I apologize, because that's not my intent. My full on, girthy hatedick for RE6 comes from the fact that it said "I want to be an action game" but could not dedicate itself to being even competent enough to actually pull it off well. Hey, I LOVE action games! I'm no special snowflake, I enjoy the shit out of running people over in GTA or ripping dudes heads off in God Of War. I'm no stranger to action games, you know the rules and so do I. But there is a time and a place for action games, both good and not so good. One of the best, off the top of my head, is Spec Ops: The Line. Most of its critical acclaim isn't the gameplay, it's the narrative. The gameplay is actually quite average, not bad per se, but not worth writing home about. It's not about being the best, it's about being good enough to have your own identity.
Resident Evil 6 has no identity. It's almost a meta commentary on video games itself. It tries to appeal to everyone by featuring a campaign almost exclusively dealing with zombies and featuring Leon S. Kennedy, and then it shifts gears in Chris Redfield's campaign by being a straight-up third-person shooter. You get in shoot-outs with monsters and have all kinds of tanks shooting around you with jets flying overhead dropping bombs.
On paper, it sounds nucking futs. And also incredibly fun. The idea of these B.O.W's practically leveling up and going to war is a very cool idea. But then you put the controller in your hand and you play this stiff, poorly thought out action game. It does not feel like Resident Evil. It, quite frankly, is not Resident Evil. It had no identity, it was everything and yet it was nothing at the same time.
You had an action game! You had the mechanics! Years ago! YEARS AGO! You were the chosen one, RE6! You were supposed to bring balance to the force(of survival horror and TPS action!). It was just not meant to be, I suppose, because aside from selling well, even Capcom has said that Resident Evil 6 "felt bloated"
And with that, I segway nicely into the original point of this blog: Resident Evil: Blood Diamond. No wait, it's Resident Evil: Brotherhood. No, damnit. Resident Evil: Reckoning. Fuck, that's not it either. Resident Evil: Begins. Hold on, I'll get it. Resident Evil: Black Flag. Well I just have no idea anymore. No, wait a second! It's Resident Evil: Revelations! Yeah that's it! Resident Evil: Revelations!
With all of the "Woe is me, I was disappointed by Capcom again" out of the way, I can finally talk about what I came here to talk about.
I recently went through Revelations and what I expected what another RE6. Another dudebro "WAR IS HELL" blood sweat and tears God Bless America RED WHITE AND BLUE action game. Instead, I found an honest attempt to answer the question that fans have been asking for quite a while now: S-survival... h-horror? To which the answer was a resounding: SURE FUCK IT WHY NOT.
The game begins and you take the role of Jill Valentine, now a BSAA operative and on the search for Chris Redfield and his partner Jessica "Sexual Chocolate" Sherawat. Jill has a partner of her own, the ruggedly handsome Parker Luciani, who can appropriately be identified as the love child of Chris Redfield and Barry Burton.
The happy couple in question.
The gameplay takes a step back from the chaos of Resident Evil 6 and plays more like a modified Resident Evil 5. This time you can move and shoot, move and use your knife, and even charge up your physical attacks for maximum damage. The upgrading system has been replaced by finding parts for your guns that allow you to alter its stats(Like increasing damage and reload time, clip size and the like) and even change how it functions. For example you can turn your semi-auto pistol into a burst-fire pistol by adding the "Burst" attachment to your gun. Or a really interesting addition: The "Charge shot" attachment for your shotgun, that allows you to hold down the fire button and charge your shots to increase the damage that it will do.
By setting itself up on the Queen Zenobia, a massive cruise-liner in the middle of the ocean, the setting is almost automatically creepy. You're in the middle of nowhere, a thousand miles from home, you are looking for lost friends and there are monsters everywhere. It really sets the tone for creep factor. I wouldn't call the game "scary", by any degree. It can be at certain points. For instance, there are jump scares peppered in there somewhere. I'd say it's a very creepy game though. And I appreciate it. None of RE5 or what I remember of RE6 was very scary at all. Most times in RE5 it was outside in the bright sun. But when it comes to Revelations, you can depend on it for being creepy.
Immediately you will notice the personality of this game. It came out some months before Resident Evil 6 but managed to compartmentalize the charm into almost every aspect. The weapon upgrading system, the massive ship you explore as the game goes on, and even the characters. Parker Luciani won me over the first time he offered to buy me lunch. Lucky for me, the offers didn't stop there. Jessica Sherawat(Chris's partner) and her sweet, sweat covered ass is an interesting prospect in and of itself, with the constant innuendo and flirting with Chris that you never see much with characters like Jill and Sheva. It's usually straight-shooting with those two. But here we get some off-beat chemistry going on to really spice-up the status quo. Now, it's not revolutionary(Revelationary?), but it's an interesting change when seeing the over the top relationships in 6 and the almost-stale, zero-to-no personality from anyone in 5. Sheva was fine, I liked her, but she didn't bring much to the table. She didn't have the sass I was looking for. It felt like she was playing second fiddle to Chris at every avenue, and not truly bringing any "game" of her own. But love them or hate them, the characters in Revelations certainly got something to them.
Speaking of characters, Revelations is the first in the Resident Evil franchise to feature not one, not two, but three guest stars to its ranks. That's right. Making his video game debut: Conan O'Brien!
I assure you, this isn't edited. He really is that ugly.
But not just Conan O'Brien! We've also got Beavis and Butthead, or Captain and Tennille, [insert other witty duo references here]! You know shit's getting real when these guys show up, because the music gets all funky and hippity hoppity. They don't do much for a majority of the game, and one of them is even implied to stalk Jessica Sherawat and her sweet ass
They are about as incapable as they look.
Anyway. The story goes in and out of flashbacks of this super city constructed on the ocean called Terragrigia and how terrorists attacked it a year prior to Revelations' start date. You play as Parker when he worked for the FBC with Jessica. Then Conan O'Brien makes an appearance as an FBC rookie who gets wounded and helped out by Parker. It's all very emotional, you see.
Easily one of the best parts of the game is when Jill and Chris finally team up, after so long of being apart, we finally get to see the two partners back in action together and it's a really incredible feeling. Two of the biggest and best characters are kicking ass side by side, after all of these years. I really loved that. They work well together and as much as I love Parker, Jill and Chris will always be the perfect couple. Like Albert Wesker and a bad haircut.
TRIUMPHANT. AS. FUCK.
The second best part of the game is actually before that. Chris and his partner Jessica finally track down the whereabouts of Jill and Parker and rush off to save them. They find the ship they are on and race right down to the bilge, fighting through hoards of monsters to save their friends and comrades. They get to the door and open it, only to find it's empty. The camera then pans over to the wall to find that Chris and Jessica are on the Queen Semiramis, the sister ship of the Queen Zenobia. The sudden realization that they were on a completely different ship, after having the player believe they were just seconds from seeing their friends reunited, was an incredible moment. The execution was perfect. It set up the moment and knocked it out of the park.
I'm buying you lunch.
The story gets all weird and Resident Evil-y as it goes on and there's some conspiracy or another. The ending also has so many plot holes it might as well be a sinking ship. Though I didn't let that get me down. I feel like they kept the typical "This is all just absolutely stupid" bullshit stuff to a bare minimum. I felt like it put more emphasis on the characters and their interactions than really anything else.
I also really liked the environments. I feel like they are varied enough that during longer segments when you are walking all over the ship, your surroundings are changing often enough that it never feels too "samey". You go from classical Gothic ballrooms to a dirty and rusted bilge, to sleek and sexy science labs with computers everywhere. Each area has its own personality and I thoroughly enjoy walking around the ship and seeing them all.
The enemies were also pretty decent. You fight some pretty crazy looking monsters as it goes on. They call most of them "ooze zombies", but it felt more like wet organic socks than "zombies". I give them props for at least trying to make them different, god knows they could have easily made them traditional zombies, but you have to wonder if that would have been better. Perhaps the traditional looking zombies would have been more effective with these weird mutations growing off of them, looking just familiar enough to be comfortable fighting them, but with some added parts like those long "mouth tube" things they have. Then again, you probably couldn't get something like this with a traditional zombie:
They are crazy fat zombies who go "party harty" mode with their chainsaw arm. They like to fuck shit up. They are usually pretty fun to fight.
Party on Wayne.
But when it comes to enemies, I have to say, Revelations has the two best designs for enemies I've ever seen in a Resident Evil game. One belongs to a terrible boss fight, and the other to a pretty fun boss fight.
Malacoda. A giant whale infected with the T-Abyss Virus and expanding to massive size and fucking shit up on the Queen Zenobia. I like that, earlier in the game, you can read a document pondering the circumstances of a whale getting infected with the virus, and then near the end of the game getting to see it for yourself. It was pretty unexpected but a fantastic looking boss. I hope to see something equally as crazy in the later games. Maybe that boulder from RE5 gets infected and vows revenge? 2spooky!!!
Move over MGSV, with your stupid flame whales. REvelations is bringing the pain.
Ultimate Abyss. No, not the wrestler unfortunately. That would have been pretty sick. This guy is a mix between the Nemesis and "ooze" zombies. He is quite frankly one of the coolest motherfuckers in these games. Just look at him, he's gonna fucking kill your whole generation or something sinister!
Looks like someone has a... splitting headache? Man my pun game is off point today isn't it?
Seriously though, look at this shit!
I felt like the game is heading in the right direction and really hope these "RE: Revelations 2" rumors are legitimate as I would really enjoy seeing more adventures with this type of structure in mind. Great new characters, a return to a survival horror setting(With some neat twists!) and a great weapon customization system. You can't really ask for a better return to form than Revelations. Well, actually, you can. Revelations isn't the best game ever made, and it's certainly not the best Resident Evil game out there. But it certainly struck a cord with me, and seeing what that shitshow Resident Evil 6 was all about, I'd take Revelations out to lunch any day of the week.
Without being melodramatic, I truly am surprised to enjoy a new Resident Evil game. I thought they had gone the way of the dodo bird. The more I want to like Resident Evil, the more I am turned away by the stiff controls and terrible action sequences where they game thinks it's something else. Really, I'd just be happy for Capcom to find a solid ground for Resident Evil to thrive. Is it going to go back to survival horror? Is it going to stay an action game? With as long as it takes them to make these games, you'd figure they'd have it all planned out by now. But with the rumors of Revelations 2, and the possibility of a sequel to 6, I am both excited and anxious to see where the series could be heading. But wherever that may be, I hope Capcom can do it right.
VIDEO GAMES. Boy aren't they great? Know what's even better? LISTS OF THE BEST VIDEO GAMES.
Hi, I'm N7. Thanks for joining me. I'm here for just that; lists and video games.
Before we begin, let's take a minute to remember the shittiest year of them all: 2013. It had some pretty great games, some pretty not-so-great games, but most of all, it was filled with heartbreak and disappointment. It seemed like just when 2013 couldn't get any worse, it, like dinosaurs(Apparently), found a way. Let's take a moment of silence to remember 2013 the only way it should be remembered: A giant pile of shit topped with more shit.
Now that that is out of the way, let's get to it.
Believe me, I am just as surprised. I was all but ready to hate this game since it was announced. A watered down Splinter Cell experience set to appeal to an even broader scope of people, least of all Splinter Cell fans? And no more Michael Ironside? Certainly a tough sell, for voice actors and me alike.
I was immediately taken aback by the flow of gameplay. The controls were so tight and responsive and Sam moved quick and confidently. It definitely gave new meaning to stealth action, but as I quickly realized, that is not a bad thing by any means.
I found myself lost in moving quickly through the battlefield, taking no prisoners and being too quick to take names along with them. By itself, the gameplay was rewarding. It asked nothing of you but gave everything in return. You could take your time and assess the situation, creeping around like a ghost, or strike quick and silently like the panther. It was so simple, but so enjoyable. I more often than not ended up replaying missions over and over again just because I was having too much fun trying new tactics.
The animations for Sam were a nice surprise as well. You can feel like a badass no matter what your play style may be; stealthy and lethal, lethal and loud, or just plain stealthy. Every slash of the knife, every fist thrown was tight in and of itself a treat to watch.
Because of this, I felt less intimidation from enemies than you probably should in a stealth game. I had no fear, bobbing and waving in and out of cover, taking down enemies one by one before their friends had any idea that I was there. And just like that, I was gone to the next area.
The one downside to the game happened to actually be the new voice actor who, for all intents and purposes, was certainly stacked against the odds. He seemed to do fine for most of the game, but had a lot of moments where you can see he was imitating Michael Ironside and it felt flat, like he was constrained and wasn't able to be his own Sam Fisher, and instead tried to be someone else's.
Regardless of this, Splinter Cell: Blacklist was easily one of the best games I have played this year.
This one shouldn't have been a surprise, but somehow that's what it ended up. After hearing all of the troubles Volition faced with their publisher going under, it was so refreshing to see Saints Row IV emerge from the rubble with as much personality as it did, even though most of the time it felt like it was relying on its predecessor just a little too much.
But that's no match for the sheer joy I found in both the gameplay and the story. The President of the United States of America, formerly a corporate titan, formerly a 2-bit gangster, is attacked by aliens and put into a simulation where he must rescue his allies and wage a Matrix war against his captors, to save his people, to save his world.
It's a concept as ridiculous as it is fun. The only thing I could think of most of my time in Virtual Steelport is how much they managed to recapture the feelings I felt from Spider-Man 2, in my opinion, one of the best open world games to date. In Saints Row IV you have powers, but not just that, you are powerful. The reality of the situation is, aside from how great it was to see Robocop's weapon as a submachine gun, or Deckard's pistol as a pistol, most of the time I spent fighting enemies were Superspeed meleeing them to see all of the incredible and overtly cool grapple moves which, by the way, did not fail to disappoint.
And let's not forget the soundtrack, which was pretty damn good too. But not only was it good, it was available outside of cars, but let's face it, no one drove in this game. Why drive when you have Superspeed? Let's not ask dumb questions, shall we?
Assassin's Creed III took the scene by bringing much needed updates to the series. You can now climb trees. You can now climb rocks. You can also beat the ever loving shit out of people. But also boats, and it turned out people liked boats a lot. So much so Ubisoft did the only thing that made sense, make a game about pirates.
The game starts off and you're Edward Kenway, a young privateer out on the seas with two goals in mind: Get money and fuck the police while you're doing it.
It was a refreshing change, since the prior games were either about legendary Assassin's or people struggling to understand the consequences of the Assassin/Templar conflict. Not this time, you're a pirate, you plunder and kill your way to the top, and no one can stop you or your ship, the Jackdaw.
Although the game starts off wonky, with Edward already doing what you would figure trained Assassin's would do(Climb viewpoints, accept Assassination contracts, stick to being stealthy), he does not belong to the order. It wouldn't be accurate to call him an assassin trained by pirates, since by the time you step into his life he's already a well trained fighter and ship captain.
But that's not what this game is truly about. It's about sailing the amazing(And huge) West Indies and finding ships to plunder. You can do all sorts of other things, like explore islands, collect sea shanties, which are little songs that you crew sings while sailing, even Assassinate whales.
The characters are quite dynamic and go through quite a few phases in their life, changing it up from the traditional characters that barely change(Like Claudia, Ezio's sister, who remained a teenager for roughly 40 years). These characters are dynamic, and evolve over the course of the game.
The game does have its faults though, like the lackluster combat system that seemed to ditch enemy health bars entirely, which require you to now go through the motions of attack, attack, attack, attack, attack, execution animation. You could hit an enemy 99 times out of 100, get interrupted, then have to hit him 99 more times. I ended up relying on my pistol because of this frustration, often times shooting enemies 4 at a time instead of wasting my time.
Another issue I had with the game are the lack of exciting animations like Assassin's Creed III. Connor was a beast, you can feel the weight of every blow that he lands on enemies. He makes it pretty clear he doesn't like them, and wants them dead in the most brutal of ways. Unfortunately, Edward's animations are pretty average and actually needlessly long(How many times do you have to stab them in the face, Edward!?) and flashy, but not anything to marvel at. You also do nothing spectacular with your duel-wielding swords. You almost want to make the argument that the majority of attention was spent on ocean exploration and ship battles, but you can never be sure.
There's not much to be said about this game that hasn't already. The Last Of Us does not fail to disappoint. A survival horror third-person shooter with a wonderfully crafted story, it was a refreshing change of pace from traditional "GO TO RUSSIA AND SHOOT NUKES AND SAVE THE DAY AND SAVE AMERICA" storyline so prevalent today.
It was solid to control, it had a lot of original ideas behind it to not only make the story incredible, but the gameplay as well. A main character that's not the best marksmen on the planet? A cinematic gameplay experience that creates situations you sometimes can't predict or plan ahead for. Enemies hear the click of your pistol when you are out of ammo, they use communication to overwhelm you, and they will beg for their life when the tables turn. Not to mention your helpful A.I partner, Ellie, who will actually throw bricks and bottles to distract enemies for you, and stab them with her pocket knife to help you in a pinch. It wasn't without flaws, but what great game is? Regardless of that, it all came together in a smorgasbord of atmosphere.
The multiplayer was probably the biggest surprise of all. You'd almost expect a watered down action oriented version of the singleplayer experience, but it was just as rooted in stealth, crafting and teamwork as you'd come to see in the story.
The supply system made sure it could carry the same dreary dread from the singleplayer, requiring you to get a certain amount of supplies to grow your camp, and if you fail to get the required amount, your people start to get sick and even die. It didn't mean anything important in the long run, aside from cosmetic unlocks, but it certainly made sure every battle was just as tense as it needed to be. And I was really into that.
Ever since then I have been waiting for an RPG to blow me away just like it did. I thought White Knight Chronicles could have been the answer to that, another Level-5 game, but it wasn't quite it. In fact, I didn't even really like that game. But many years later, Ni No Kuni was released and it blew me away.
A story that's light of heart, but not afraid to get pretty dark, the gameplay was much of Pokemon by way of Final Fantasy 11. Its combat is real time, but instead of fighting yourself, your main objective is to use little creatures named Familiars. But let's face it, they are Pokemon. They exist, they can evolve 3 times, and you can name them.
The combat system is as much about acting as it reacting. Always putting in or taking out one of your familiars to assess and address the situation, to ensure you are getting the best of your enemies.
As you fight, you can level them or yourself up, learning new skills and pushing them further along their evolutionary path, making them bigger and stronger.
It was a mishmash of gameplay that I've never seen before, and it works so well. Even better, the characters and the world surrounding it.
I had no expectations on what to find when I got my hands on this game. I had nothing. I was interested in an RPG at the time and decided to pick it up. And I am glad I did, because it left an impression on me, and makes me really excited to see what Level-5 can do with a sequel, maybe even on PS4.
That's my list. Thanks for reading. I really liked these games, and I hope you did too! (: