By SpikeDelight 6 Comments
By SpikeDelight 21 Comments
Did you ever notice that developers these days are continuing the trend in their games of putting more and more enemies in, just to pad out the length? Take the Star Destroyer sequence in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed this year for example. I think it would have been safe to say that everyone would've been happy just doing the analog motion of ripping the craft out of the sky (without the stupid alignment thing) while really cool stuff played out around you like the way it happened in the trailer. No getting up every five seconds to deal with annoying TIE Fighters in a badly designed arena. Things like this remind me of the masterpiece that is Shadow of the Colossus. In Shadow they didn't add anything that would break the tone of the game as a whole. It was only you, your horse and the giant colossi. Nothing else was populating the world but a few lizards crawling on the ground, which were hardly enemies. They were just there to scamper away from your horse's galloping hooves (and get stepped on). Not every game has a tone of desolation as Shadow did, but they should be holding onto what makes their game interesting. Not enough developers think about their product as a whole anymore. They just think of what will happen throughout the length of their game and then proceed to make everything else on a moment-to-moment basis. The scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda pulls Luke's X-Wing out of the swamp was entertaining and engaging without any extra crap thrown in there. There were no enemies or action scenes between, just the struggle between a living being and the Force.
I'm not saying that there shouldn't be action in games at all, but most great games know when to break the action for an interesting part that doesn't involve killing enemies. Gears of War 2 for example, ended an incredibly action-packed segment by throwing you inside a giant worm's insides and asking you to just marvel at the sights; the only real action happening was the running between lethal parts of its digestion system. Yeah there were a couple of those spider-things you shoot at, but most of the time you were supposed to be running past them anyway. That was a very focused part of a great game. This focus made cutting the arteries with your chainsaw all the better as well, as your only enemy was the ever-increasing pool of blood surrounding you. If they added 3 Locust Drones to fight after each artery was cut, would that have made you enjoy that segment any more?
I think games nowadays have to cut most of their ties with their 8-bit brethren. Sure developers can learn from them by using the mantra of "find something fun to do and keep doing it" like Epic did with Gears 2, but padding your levels out with useless enemies meant only to make your sequence more frustrating and add 'challenge' is idiotic. Games don't need to have challenge at every turn. Sometimes gamers are refined enough to just appreciate the spectacle of something great.
By SpikeDelight 60 Comments
Did you ever notice that the first shot in GTA IV with the guy in a bondage suit screaming "Daddy's back you bitches!" is supposed to be a reference to the Hot Coffee mod of GTA: SA? It's not exactly the same, but the fact that it's a hardcore act and that it's literally the first shot in the whole game is meant to represent the fact that this was GTA's past. When Niko knocks on his door and tells him he's going to miss his chance to go ashore it's referencing the fact that GTA is leaving that kind of silly 'dildo as a weapon' stuff and will be going for a more serious story. It's also saying that it's leaving behind the Hot Coffee stuff for this game, which is funny that Rockstar acknowledges it even though it wasn't actually in GTA:SA, or wasn't meant to be.
In addition to that, the phrase, "Daddy's back you bitches!" is meant that after its leave of absence for four years and dozens of competitors trying to take its place, the real sandbox crime game is back to take its rightful place on the throne. It's meant to be GTA actually saying to the competitors that they're bitches and that daddy, the game they all took their ideas from, is back. Thought I'd just point that out for anyone who didn't notice it before. Hope you enjoyed it.
By SpikeDelight 7 Comments
Did you ever notice that in the first cutscene of Grand Theft Auto IV, when Roman drives drunk up to the 'Platypus' to pick up Niko, the Russian pop song by Glukoza, Schweine, is playing on his car radio in the background? The word "schweine" in Russian means Pig (obviously meant to describe Roman as a person and his lifestyle) and the song's lyrics are directly related to the opening of Grand Theft Auto IV. Some of the lyrics are as follows:
Flow of cars, I arrived peacefully
Without control and with obstacles in my head
I'm going home
Step, step, step - I ended up in the dark again
For the third time I was completely deceived
Already by you
These words not only describe the situation Niko is getting himself into, but in some parts the exact movements for the characters and setup for the scene. I'll go verse by verse, as it's almost disturbing how closely Rockstar followed the song's lyrics. The all-important "Grand Theft Auto IV" title reveal shot, in addition to the first shot Roman appears in begins with a car being lowered on a crane from the Platypus onto the dock below. This transfering to the ground is a flow of cars (probably the weakest argument here, but it does make sense). Niko then arrives peacefully in America, ready to live the life of luxury promised to him by his cousin. The phrase "without control" could either signify the fact that Niko's life spins out of his control, dragging him back to the violent past he so desperately sought to escape, or the fact that he so quickly goes from knowing what he's going to do in his new American life to having no control over anything, soon being stranded by Roman in a grungy apartment in a strange land. The obstacles in his head would be the things that Niko eventually reveals that he is unable to overcome about American life throughout the game's story progression. In many conversations with Roman during car rides he chastises the materialistic lifestyle of Americans and the odd rituals they practice. He may not know it at this moment, but these obstacles he has for himself are lying dormant, waiting to be unleashed when his stubborn nature meets the in-your-face life of America. The line "I'm going home" can be understood simply by seeing the first trailer for the game, as Niko hopes he may find a new life in this country and escape from his past sins. When Niko is seen before getting ready to exit the ship he is in a lighted cabin, but when he leaves he is left in the dark to wait for Roman's car to arrive and pick him up. This suspense of not knowing whether Roman will show at all not only relates to the physical darkness of the night, but the empty void Niko feels not knowing whether or not Roman will keep his promise (which he soon finds out wasn't kept anyway). The line about being decieved for the third time I can't quite figure out, one of the two times obviously being by Darko Brevich. I would assume that he was decieved into joining the army in his home country, but I can't say that I'm sure that was one of the three. It is obvious however, that this third deception is Roman's, since he tricked Niko into thinking he was rich and that he would be able to support him financially throughout his stay. "Already by you" may or may not be something lost in translation but I'm going to assume it was meant to say something like "completely deceived... by you already". This would be pointing out the fact that Niko hadn't been in America for five minutes before Roman started deceiving him.
The real significance of having this song be in the opening credits though, has to be the irony of the whole situation with Niko. The theme of the entire song is how a woman's ex-boyfriends, or pigs, decieved her. Her contempt for them fuels the entire song. Niko feels this same contempt in his encounter with Roman, as he realizes everything was a lie; the song's themes signified Niko's emotional conflict in addition to the literal scenes described above. Why however, should Niko be ungrateful for the life he has in America? He definitely didn't have it better in his old country, where fear of being killed by bombings highlighted each day and night. Sure Roman didn't have everything he said he did, but living in America was a major step up for him, so why did he have the right to expect so much of anyone? These questions are all answered later in the game and some are left for the player to infer, but the point in all this is that all of these facts (except for the exposition of course) can be inferred just by the simple choice in music and camera angles for the game's opening cutscene. This is just a little something I noticed when seeing the opening cutscene again which I thought I'd pass onto whoever's interested.
Here's a video of the opening cutscene. The parts I'm talking about begin at 1:48
Call this bullshit if you want, but a if you've ever read a scholarly essay about literature it's pretty much like this. You can take it or leave it. Also don't take that to mean I consider myself the kind of scholar who's qualified to make these kind observations, just wanted to share something I found. If you don't like this, or if you don't like the idea of this (meaning you don't like the fact that I thought so much about one subject), please don't give me bad feedback just because I "wasted my time". I really don't care what you have to say if that's all you're going to contribute to this discussion.
By SpikeDelight 4 Comments
I've decided that I'm going to start a new series of blog posts called "Did You Ever Notice?" which will just be about any and all things that I've noticed about parts of games, the gaming industry, or games in general that you might not have thought about before. I realized after writing up my huge "Force Unleashed quibbles" post that I will never again find the time to actually sit down and write an entire essay like that, so I'll just post little tidbits and facts that I think of throughout my travels. Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the interest.
By SpikeDelight 0 Comments
I recently picked up The Force Unleashed from a local game store (I won't tell anyone if you don't), and I have to say that everything I'd said about the game in The Force Unleashed: That is Why You Fail is now almost completely rendered moot. I love everything about the game, especially the excellent story. I completely care about every character and the acting is superb. It feels like a true Star Wars chapter and not like some things (Clone Wars).
Almost every problem is solved by the fact that there really are a lot of combos and powers you can unlock and I'd forgotten the whole game isn't set in the relatively bland backdrop of a TIE Fighter construction facility. The QTEs don't bother me now because 1) You'll continue doing the move without having to initiate it again if facing off against a boss and 2)you can kill normal QTE enemies without engaging the QTE and just attacking more. The set pieces, even in the first Apprentice level are phenomenal, and the level was actually pretty long. The demo was only about half to one third the actual length of the level.
The skill tree is pretty damned deep for this kind of game and it's immensely satisfying to know that you can reset it at any time. There is a lot to collect and I am actually even more engaged trying to find all the unlockables than I thought I'd be. (There wasn't anything near the Clone Helmet I discovered when the demo came out though, which I found a little disappointing).
In short, mostly everything I didn't like about the game originally in a very compressed and small taste is now drowned out by the fact that the biger picture has so much more polish. Plus, the game doesn't quite throw all its cards on the table like the demo does. Overall, all the intensely specific bickering actually helped me like this game more I think because I lowered my expectations SO much after that. But that's not to say it isn't an insanely fun and engaging game, even solely as a new Star Wars Episode. If you're a Star Wars fan like I am, you will LOVE this game.
By SpikeDelight 0 Comments
I waited with baited breath for the release of the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed demo, and like many, was sorely disappointed when I finally got my hands on the actual game. But before I get into all these specifics, let me describe myself a little bit, as it might be a factor in all this that I am quite demanding of my Star Wars games. 'Huge' wouldn't be an adequate description of my Star Wars fandom. I am the kind of fan who, if you asked me "How long did Han Solo say it took him to complete the Kessel Run with the Millennium Falcon?" I would know to reply, "It's a trick question because he says he did it in less than 12 parsecs, but a parsec is a unit of measurement not a unit of time. That still indirectly references how fast his ship is however, because the route where the Kessel Run would take only 12 parsecs to complete would pass near a black hole, whose gravitational pull would pull in all but the fastest ships." Yeah.
So when I first heard around a year or two ago that this was touted as a true canonical followup to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, I was very excited to play it and see how the story unfolds. I am also a huge gamer though, so I was hoping for a revolutionary game to go along with what was supposed to be a revolutionary story. This was back in the time of hype for Bioshock, Portal, GTA IV (before it was delayed) and so on, so a boy could dream about how good his games would be and the result wouldn't be so far off the mark in many cases. When I saw those videos of Euphoria and DMM, with the way that wood splintered when R2D2 was thrown at it, I was amazed. Then I saw videos of it all working in-game, with the Apprentice shattering glass that looked lifelike and metal bent just like one would expect. It was a Star Wars fan's dreams come true. Every fantasy anyone ever had about using the force in real life was about to be realized through this game that crossed my, and many others' two great loves: Star Wars and video games.
Then I played the demo.
I should have seen this coming in all of the video coverage I'd see of the game, but I was blinded by how awesome I had imagined the game to be. While at face value, yes the things Haden Blackman raved about were in the game, but just like Assassin's Creed, there wasn't much else. They showed almost everything that could be done in the game with a clever presentation which made it look as if the possibilities were endless. It was exactly like how My Cousin Vinny explains the playing card looking like a brick.
<Beginning here is a bunch of nitpicking. If you want to read about actual problems then go down to the end of this part>
The first problem starts as soon as the game is launched. The opening Lucasarts video isn't synced up to the audio. I played this video a few times too, and it didn't stop having issues. This shows such a lack of attention by the developers it is disturbing. The same problems occur with the ending montage, even the Xbox 360 'Jump In' thing was off. Then I tried to adjust the video and audio settings, as my TV usually needs the brightness turned up a bit for most games, and I wanted to turn off subtitles, so I press the button for OPTIONS.
Yes the OPTIONS screen has to LOAD! How could such a screen have ANY assets, graphical or otherwise, that require their own loading time? It's ridiculous. So I get there and there are no options besides brightness and a couple of audio settings. You can't even access the other ones until you start the game. This makes no sense, because if you want to have subtitles turned off for the first cutscene or do anything like that you can't. So I turn up the brightness (which, to make a longer story short, didn't even save and I had to adjust it again when I got into the game anyway.)
Yes, it loads both ways. This especially makes it a bitch when you accidentally press B and have to go to the menu and then back into the Options screen. So when I finally got to the opening cutscene, when Darth Vader activates his lightsaber the game hitches at the same part every time, stopping (thankfully) the video and audio, so at least everything stays synced up there. Speaking of audio, in this cutscene one really starts wishing that they didn't get Chad Vader to do a James Earl Jones impression. He starts off sounding alright, but it's easy to see through his ruse at the parts where he says "Critical Imperial shipyard" and "Kill everyone aboard, Imperials and Kota's men alike." I don't want to knock Chad, because he does an admirable job for someone trying to imitate one of the most iconic voices ever, but I don't think anyone could have done it perfectly but James himself. Another thing that rears its ugly head before the game proper even starts, the subtitles (which can't be turned off for this cutscene) are in the kind of Star Wars font that you'd download from a font website and is of the actual Star Wars logo. It's bulky and annoying to read, and when the cutscene ends and Juno Eclipse radios you, there's a wall of text with this stupid font, taking up like a third or half of the screen. Apparently nobody at Lucasarts learned how to write subtitles correctly.
<The nitpicking ends here, although this whole blog entry could be considered nitpicking>
I think one thing that everyone noticed when this demo began was when the windows are shattered on the ship, the explosive decompression that follows isn't very satisfying. Even when a bunch of crates are in front of a broken window, only a few of them will decide to fly out. Second, the Apprentice can't jump out of the window (which makes sense) but he isn't affected by the air flying out either. He just stands there, breathing (which he really shouldn't be able to do until that blast shield closes) and does nothing. Also the droids in the game don't get sliced very satisfyingly either. It's not because of the way he slices them th same way every time, but because of the disappointment that follows when the blast door is forced open and humans can't share the same fate. They just take it, with huge (and unnecessary beacause almost everybody dies in about three hits) health bars over their heads, only showing scoring from the lightsaber when the game feels like it, but never letting themselves get cut into pieces. I suppose I could understand Lucasarts' logic behind this, but not in exactly the same way that everyone else assumes. I figure that if everyone's limbs were flying off left and right, the game would end up the same way the Godfather game ended up, way overly gory compared to the movies it came from. The Godfather film probably would have been as brutal as the game, but it didn't show the violence as much, so when the game showed everything behind the scenes, it looked way over the top. I think it would have been the same with this game. No one in a Star Wars film ever chops up that many humanoids, so if a player was to see thousands of humanoids being dismembered in this video game it would look repulsive, even if there was no blood.
Another thing I have a huge problem with is waiting right at the end of the first hallway in the TIE Fighter hangar. Why would a game with technology behind the scenes so advanced resort to including 'Unlimited Force Usage' or 'Extra Damage' powerups? Why would it have any powerups? It's the year 2008, Lucasarts, we're not running away from ghosts and eating pellets, we want some kind of depth in our games--or at least give the powerup some kind of veil behind Star Wars lure. I'm sure you could have thought of something if you actually put your minds to it. I wouldn't really have a problem with this, but this game was riding on its technology and how advanced it was for a Stormtrooper to think about grabbing onto something to not get pushed off a ledge or how wood splinters like real wood. It's trying to be realistic (within the context of the subject matter at least) so it's kind of stupid that they shoehorn these powerups in there.
The lightsaber combat isn't very satisfying either. It's controlled by simple 'combos.' I know that a lot of games do this, but with the extremely visceral feeling one gets from using the Force in this game, this lightsaber swinging pales in comparison. I appreciate combining moves like infusing the lightsaber with lightning, and I understood that there are multiple combos depending on how many times the saber is swung, but how much better would it have been to have The Force Unleashed control like a faster version of Assassin's Creed? You would have to block all the blaster shots (instead of be able to get hit with like 15 shots before dying) and you could run while blocking, a feature conspicuously absent from the demo, which now forces the Apprentice to look like an idiot using the 'Force propel forward' move like a million times to get away from the AT-ST's fire. He could then press X while blocking to try to counter a blaster shot back to the guy who shot it. If he messed up a counter move it would just be a 'sloppy block' like in Assassin's Creed and he would lose health, but without actually being hit. Then when his health is gone, the next time he messes up a block he would be hit with a blaster shot and he'd die. When the apprentice was close he could do whatever combo he wanted to do, but with a more visceral feeling. It never feels like the Apprentice is paying attention to who he's slicing, like he doesn't know anybody's there. It just looks like he's flailing his saber about and people are falling down because of it. He never even impales people personally like Altair does, only when he's doing his lightsaber impale from afar.
They also missed the chance to do a few cool moves that Sith would be able to do, such as Force Choke. Perhaps this will be in the real game, but instead of L just flinging a guy straight up (which can already be done by flicking RS up) a player could hold it to choke the guy. Maybe you could feel his heartbeat with your controller like in The Godfather game or something. Jedi mind tricks would be cool too, maybe he could turn a guy (or an AT-ST) against his comrades. There are a lot of other powers that could be put to use, but I can't think of any others at the moment.
Also, and many people don't understand that this is what's happening, the targeting system for using Force Grip is relative to the Apprentice's position, and not relative to the camera's position. This means a player has to position the Apprentice exactly towards something to grab it, but most people just try to point the camera at whatever the thing is and cry when he picks up the wrong thing. This is a flaw with the game, however because if the player is pointing towards something there is no way for the game to tell the difference between two targeted things if they're vertically stacked. A camera pointing towards them would be able to though, so I don't know why they didn't implement the targeting system that way, or at least give the option to do it either way like DEAD RISING did for Frank's camera's controls (by that I mean his camera used for photography, not the game's camera). And why can't you repeatedly fling a guy into a wall, like in the target video for the game that was released with the game's announcement?
Last, and certainly not least is the weak boss battle against the AT-ST at the end of the demo. I know a lot of people speculate that this is not going to be in the real game, but whether it is or not is irrelevant. The problem still stands in that is how you have to kill an AT-ST in the game, and most likely all other bosses. The stupid 'weaken him by beating him with your lightsaber and other moves ad nauseum and then do a quicktime event' is so archaic it's laughable. God of War does it well, but in a setting where a player is under the impression that he can kill almost anything with his "Unleashed" Force powers, it's stupid to say that an AT-ST is a formidable foe. It explodes after tripping on a bunch of logs set up by Ewoks! You think it takes this much effort to destroy an AT-ST? A strong wind can blow one of those over! The stomp attack it does is stupid because it doesn't even make sense in this physics-based world the game sets up, and the 'two shot' attack is annoying, knocking the player yards back, and usually off the edge of the platform he's on. The ultimate frustration sets in when the player realizes just how useless the block move really is when the '20 blaster shots' attack can't even be escaped after a successful block because apparently it takes less time to reload than it takes for a Sith warrior to get off his ass and move out of the way. I could have thought of so many better ways to take care of an AT-ST in an Unleashed fashion it's not even funny. Not in a finisher, just right when you encounter him. In fact:
- Target his legs and take them out from under him
- Target his head and push him off the edge
- Use the Force to bend the guns so when they tried to shoot they would explode
- Use the Force to open the hatch where the Stormtroopers inside see from and pull them out, disabling it
- Use your lightsaber (which can still cut through metal like a hot knife through butter in the game) and cut his legs off
- Use your jughtsaber and cut it anywhere. It'd probably go down.
- Use Force Lightning on the power source, overloading it and probably making it explode or something.
- Jump on top of it and thrust your lightsaber into the top of its head like a Colossus
Those are just a couple of ideas I had that would be better than this generic miniboss encounter.
These are all the problems with this game I can think of at the moment, and nothing would make me happier than to be proved wrong by the final game when it's released. I will still be purchasing it and I'll probably still enjoy it for the story, but I couldn't help but vocalize the thoughts that were brewing in my head. I wanted very much to like this game, and I thought it would be just as revolutionary for gaming as Star Wars was for films. But sadly, it's more generic than almost anything out there today. Maybe someday Lucasarts will come to their senses, but I guess for now I'll just have to continue holding Star Wars Republic Commando as the only symbol of Star Wars gaming nirvana for all future games to strive for. At least it's the only one set during the Galactic Civil War that's great.
also, inb4 stfu, why are you so serious about this, etc.
If you're not interested in this topic then don't fucking read this blog, don't give me negative feedback solely because you don't like the fact that I wrote volumes on this subject. I swear if somebody writes a comment like that please refer them to this.
By SpikeDelight 0 Comments
I am already playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune from the beginning for the trophies. I hadn't exactly beaten it yet in the first place but that still counts as replaying I guess. I will do that with every other game I own as well because I think Achievements and Trophies are one of the best inventions in games yet. It turns the act of playing games into one big game, where you're constantly on a Quest to earn the next reward, and the best part is you get to show everybody what you've done.