PlayStation Backlog

Oh yes, there will be blood spoilers.

Game: Metal Gear Solid

Console: PlayStation

Year released: 1998

Developer: KCEJ

Publisher: Konami

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This game (and this series in general) is one of the primary reasons why I’m doing this entire Backlog series. I know a ton about Metal Gear, I’d go so far as to call myself a fan of the series. It’s a series of games that almost seems like it was made for me. I enjoy the game play, the stories the series decides to tell and I love a lot of the acting, even when it reaches hammy levels. Every time a new trailer comes out for a new game in the series, I rewatch and rewatch the trailers over and over. I’m the kind of person, that Kojima decided to troll when it came to Metal Gear Solid 2 and I love it.

That said, I have a really embarrassing confession to make. I’ve only ever beaten two Metal Gear games. I’ve beat Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and I’ve beaten the newest addition to the series, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and in terms of the latter, that’s not exactly an accomplishment, the main campaign lasts, at best, a whole whopping two hours (I’ll defend the game to my grave though, the amount of extra content in the game makes the game worth the price of admission). So, that’s my embarrassing admission and I’m sure a lot of other hard core gamers, clicked off of this blog right then and there. So, I’ve seen the original Metal Gear Solid game been beaten, I was there watching the game be beaten by my friend James (he, being much better at games than I am) shortly after it came out back in 1998, but I myself have never beat the game.

Gladly, I can say that this is no longer the case. Before this play though, the furthest I had been was the tank Vulcan Raven boss battle, which for those that have not beat the game, is at best an hour and a half, two hours in to the game. I’ve done it though and couldn’t be prouder of myself, because as I said, this game and series in general is one of the primary reasons I even wanted to do this Backlog. I got the for a lack of a better word, “bad” ending. Meryl died, because I gave in to Ocelot’s torture. I went and watched the Meryl lives ending on YouTube and I have to say, I like the Otacon ending better. Meryl’s voice actress is one of the few that I did not enjoy, for this game in particular, I thought Otacon’s voice actor did a better job and Meryl dying tied into the themes of the game better, for me.

A lot of games leave me with the feeling that I’ve played too much of it. The Batman Arkham series is a good example, after I beat the game for the first back log, I’m struggling to get in to the portable sequel. Metal Gear had the opposite effect on me, beating Metal Gear Solid got me pumped to play more Metal Gear. I definitely feel for Hideo Kojima (the creator of the series), the ending of this game makes you feel like he said everything he had to say in this game and Konami seemingly will not let him make another game (and with the types of games he likes to make, him going to start his own studio separate from Konami does not seem economically viable) and Metal Gear Solid 2, seems as if it is a direct reaction to this, but on the other hand, I kind of love it. This game easily vaulted to one of my favorite games ever made and I expect much of the same from the rest of the Kojima Metal Gear games.

And the game held up surprisingly well. I mean yeah, you can tell the game came from another era, but the game is sixteen years old, so it’s hard to hold any old school gaming mechanics against it, because that’s exactly what they are. In terms of voice acting, the game is still pretty top notch. Knowing enough about the series, I think this game is easily David Hayter’s best performance of the series. Everyone else shines for the most part too and man, so many memorable moments, the first time the title screen shows I get chills every time. The Sniper Wolf battles are still great (as is the wolf cave and what you have to do to pass it), the Psycho Mantis fight is still effective, though probably not quite as effective as playing the game on an original PlayStation and the ending, fighting against Metal Gear Rex and then Liquid Snake on top of Rex is amazing stuff (and makes me appreciate the ending of MGS4 even more!).

The game cinematically just holds up extremely well and while I know that is one of the big criticisms of Kojima, that he should just go make a movie, well I would hate that. Because I would be deprived of some of my favorite games, because the stealth game play just clicks with me extremely well. I have a ton of fun playing these games and honestly, the likelihood of the next game I review on this backlog being Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, is pretty high. I wish I knew less about that game, but I’m excited, knowing what I know about it and am still hopeful that Kojima has some surprises in store for me, because he certainly did with the first game, no joke, I had several jaw drops and man, I just love this series.

5/5

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PlayStation Backlog

Game: Dishonored

Console: PlayStation 3

Year released: 2012

Developer: Arkane Studios

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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Easily one of my favorite new IP’s from the PS3/360 generation of consoles, I had so much fun playing Arkane Studios Dishonored. So for me, that’s where this game shines, the game play. I absolutely love playing this game. The amount of options you have at your disposal, be it stealth game play or sword fighting your way around Dunwall or using political intrigue to capture your foes, the openness of the game play is pretty astounding to me. For better or worse, I struggle to think of a game from this generation that is as open as Dishonored, one that gives you the variety of possible ways you can play through the game. I love that your decisions in game play directly affect the environments of the game. If you decide to play stealthy (Low Chaos), the city stays clean, but if you kill every guard in sight (High Chaos), a rat infestation infests Dunwall and really changes the way that you can play the game.

The world building is pretty great too, while this game was sold to me as sort of like BioShock, the environments didn’t stand out to me in the way that Rapture and Columbia did (which I wouldn’t necessarily expect either, as those are two of my favorite environments in gaming) the game did evoke City 17 from Half-Life 2, no surprise as the designer of City 17 worked on Dishonored to create Dunwall. The atmosphere in the game is pretty great though, especially if you play High Chaos, towards the end of the game the atmosphere is pretty amazing.

I’d say the actual story though, was serviceable and while the ending of the game wasn’t a deal breaker for me like some reviews that I read, I did kind of feel like, “Well, okay.” as the credits were rolling. I do hope that Arkane focuses a little more on the narrative with whatever game they’re working on next (the rumor is Prey 2, though I do hope they’re doing a sequel to Dishonored as well, I think they’re a two game studio team now, right?). Adding to the disappointment of the narrative to me, was the kind of lackluster voice acting. Especially given the talent involved. Along with the recent critiques of the voice work of Peter Dinklage in the Destiny Alpha, Lena Headey, also of Game of Thrones fame, is equally drab here in Dishonored. I heard an interview with Troy Baker (of The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite fame) where he said that not every actor can do voice work effectively and you look at the talent involved here in Dishonored; John Slattery of Mad Men, Brad Dourif of Chucky films and The Lord of the Rings, Lena Heady, Chloe Grace Moretz of the Carrie remake and Kick-Ass movies, Susan Sarandon of everything, Michael Madsen of Reservoir Dogs and even a performance by Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher and there is some definite talent involved with this game, but I can’t think of a single performance that stood out to me and this really leads some credence to what Troy Baker said.

The last real negative critique I have of Dishonored, is the game did feel a little on the long side to me. They keep introducing missions for you to complete towards the end of the game and none of them really did anything for me. For the last three or four missions I was just ready for the game to wrap up. I’ll say that my qualms with the ending aside, the last mission was effective and I had a good time sneaking, bending time and stabbing my way through the level and I felt really satisfied with the last mission.

All in all, I enjoyed my time with Dishonored, as I said, in terms of original IP I absolutely loved it. They nailed the most important aspect of gaming and that is to make a game fun to play. With the variety of game play options you have at your disposal here, they definitely pulled that off. I hope that for whatever Arkane does next, that they focus a little bit more on the story and nail that aspect and I think that if they can do that, they’ll have one of the better games on these new consoles.

Rating: 4/5

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PlayStation Backlog

Oh yes, there will be blood spoilers.

I don’t have a better name for this unfortunately right now, so we’ll go with this name for the time being. I’m a pretty big PlayStation fan, I guess you could call me a fan boy, if you want to, I just really enjoy the electronic devices that Sony makes, I think they’re designed well and I love the quality of the products that they make. With that said, Sony has now made four main consoles and two handholds. No matter the success of each individual platform, that’s going to be a lot of games. A lot of games that I have wanted to check out, but never got the chance. Or a lot of games that I started to play, got distracted or busy and had to put down. So my goal here is to play every single PlayStation game that I want to play and I’ll write some thoughts about each one. Obviously, I will not complete every game, there are some games that either I just won’t click with, or I just am no good at. Those games will be dropped, but I will do my best to talk about why the game didn’t work for me. So, first up:

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Game: Batman: Arkham Origins

Console: PlayStation 3

Year released: 2013

Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

I love, love, love, love Batman: Arkham Asylum, the first game released in the Arkham series by developer Rocksteady. It’s currently #14 on my games of last generation list and I think, story problems aside, they just absolutely nailed the feeling of Batman, better than all previous Batman video games, which were a bit of a mixed bag. Asylum is the first time I felt like gaming had absolutely nailed the feeling of Batman. So with Rocksteady moving on the current console development with the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight, Warner Bros. handed the keys to the Arkham franchise to relatively new developer, Warner Bros. Games Montreal, which led to people getting all in up in arms that a developer besides Rocksteady was developing an Arkham game.

I wasn’t really all that worried, I mean, Rocksteady was a fairly new developer when they started out as well, so I had confidence that Warner Bros. Games Montreal would at the very least, replicate the game play of the Arkham series fairly well. Having beat the game now, I feel like they did exactly that. The one bummer about that, is that they did exactly that. They didn’t really bring much else game play wise new to the series. I did like the improvement of being able to combo the traversal movement through the city, but aside from that I struggle to think of what else Montreal brought to the Arkham table so far as the game play goes. This is an Arkham game through and through, for better or worse and honestly, for the most part, it’s for the better. There’s always potential to ruin a series if you mess with the formula too much and for Montreal’s first game, I’m glad they didn’t.

There is an aspect of this I’d like to talk about and that’s the fake series fatigue that surrounded this game after the announcement of the game. A lot of people online and on podcasts talked about how they weren’t sure necessarily if they wanted to play another one of these Arkham games. Which is ridiculous, because up until the upcoming Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, there wasn’t really another game that played the way that these games played. So we’ve had a total of three of these games and the first sequel added the city to traverse (for better or worse) so there have been additions to the gameplay. Then Rocksteady’s Arkham Knight was announced and people were like, “I can’t wait to play Batman again!” What? Seriously?

What sucks about that, is where Montreal may have slightly dropped the ball in terms of the game play, I feel like they nailed the story, something Rocksteady has yet to get right. Both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were a bit lacking on the story and Arkham Origins just nails it. I knew we were in good hands when they released the TV spot ad for the game pre-release.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InUj9BT8KCc

If you haven’t seen it yet, definitely check it out, but like Kevin Smith, he of the (among many other things) Fat Man on Batman podcast says, that TV spot does more for storytelling about Batman, than most other media has in far less time. The game is not quite as effective as that TV spot, but it’s pretty close, there are several really good moments in the game, my favorites being: the Deathstroke fight, the Joker reveal and subsequent Batman/Joker origin related things and the relationship between Batman and Alfred is really touching in this game. I love how Alfred just wants Bruce to come home and eat a nice Christmas Eve dinner and Bruce just wants to do his Batman thing, until Alfred’s life is threatened and then Alfred becomes the most important thing.

I hear Montreal’s goal was to make a Year Two story. Year One, for those not in the know, is the proto-Batman Begins story and the story that movie borrowed from a smidgen to help tell the origins of Batman. It is, like the title says, the first year of Bruce’s life as Batman. So Year Two, obviously, would be Bruce established as Batman, but not quite the legend he will be come in later times. I think they nailed their goal of telling a Year Two story. I love that they ground it with the Christmas theme, though I think they could have used a little bit more of a Christmas look to the game to help sell that idea a little better.

The voice acting is pretty great here, which really surprised me. I expected Troy Baker as the Joker to knock his role out of the park, 2013 was an amazing year for Troy Baker and I expected that trend to continue, though I was surprised at how much I liked him as the Joker. Yes, he was partially aping Mark Hamill’s take on the Joker, but I also think he spun it his own way a little bit. It was a fantastic performance and made me very interested in his next take on the role. Roger Craig Smith as Batman/Bruce was equally as effective, which is saying a lot. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are just so iconic as those characters, you really have to bring it to live up to them and I feel like both Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker did and more so.

Overall, I think Montreal really brought it for their first take on Batman. It will be interesting to see if they get handed the key’s to Batman games after Rocksteady leaves after Arkham Knight. It really kind of reminds me of the Call of Duty Infinity Ward/Treyarch thing, back in the era of Modern Warfare 2/Black Ops, where both developers were better at some things than the other developer was. So far, I think Rocksteady has the upper hand as far as game play goes, but I think are nowhere near as effective storytellers as Warner Bros. Games Montreal was for Arkham Origins. If you skipped over this game, because of some reason and you’re a Batman fan, I highly recommend the game and hope that Montreal gets another shot and if so, I’m very interested in seeing what they do next!

Rating: 4/5

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