Devil May Cry 5 and E3 Thoughts.

That time of year has come and gone, that one week of the year we all wait for, excitedly, and then it just comes and goes before you know it's over. I am, of course, talking about Devil May Cry week, which I... Haha, just kidding, I meant E3! Though, if you were to ask me which one was more exciting, well...

Devil May Cry 5.

Devil May Cone.
Devil May Cone.

Kind of a weird trajectory this series has taken, huh? What started as a version of a Resident Evil reboot(?) that was too different became one of the first (if not the first) in what could be called the "stylish action game" genre. Then it got a few sequels, at least one of which was really good (3), and the others, well, I never played DMC2, but I've heard universally negative things about it, whereas 4 had its moments, but a lot of junk weighing it down. Then there was the reboot, which originally looked too grimedgy (my combination of "grim" and "edgy"), but ended up being a fun game, and at the time, my favorite in the series.

But with the reboot not being the success it needed to in order to survive, Devil May Cry seemed to just fade away, and be gone for good, at least until DMC5 was announced. A return to the main universe, over a decade after 4, and six years after the reboot didn't exactly fill me with confidence, and then I played the demo, which was not a good demo! And thus, despite it getting so much praise, I kept putting off buying it, until just recently.

Turns out this game is hella rad.

So, the thing that turned me off from the demo, and from what I'd heard about the game (aside from the rad-ness), was the continued focus on Nero. It'd been so long since I played 4, that in my head, the issue I had with 4 was that Nero wasn't fun to play, and most of the game was focused on him. Seeing him at the forefront of everything about 5, and him being the character in the demo (and said demo not really doing a good job of demonstrating what's fun about 5), just made me remember that aspect of 4, and I managed to convince myself that if I played 5, I'd come away from it enjoying the Dante sections of the game, but not the other characters.

(An aside I added in later: Another poor thing about the demo was that it doesn't really convey how you're supposed to play Devil May Cry in general. It'd been long enough that I forgot about things like some of the combos including pauses between attacks, and things like that. But between that demo and the game proper, I played the Definitive Edition of DmC, which did remind me of that stuff, and in perhaps a weird way, helped prime me to really enjoy DMC5 out of the box, thus saving me from flailing around to remember what to do during its opening hours.)

Thankfully, it turns out that this time, not only are all three characters in DMC5 a lot of fun, but also unlike probably the real problem with DMC4 (the levels, backtracking, etc), there's no bad levels or sections of 5. There's one part of one mission that feels like an unnecessary boss-rush, but even then, it's still fun, and it's fighting bosses with a different character, so it's not an exact retread.

But what is different this time, that got me to really enjoy playing as Nero? There's one concrete thing, and one thing that I'm a bit more nebulous about, because it's been at least a decade since I actually played 4. The nebulous part, is that I think (though who knows for sure!) they've added some new moves for Nero and/or re-tuned him to be a bit faster, or more...fun, for lack of a better word, to just swing a sword at enemies. I could've turned on my PS3 and replayed some of 4 to be sure, but I think I'm good.

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The more concrete change is the addition of the Devil Breakers. Nero's demon arm is gone (through story reasons), and to replace it, his friend Nico has constructed a series of bionic arms, each with different abilities. Big electric shocks, a pulse that tackles Nero into enemies, a sweeping whip, time slowing orbs, and my favorite, rocket punching (including the ability to surf on the rocket punch) are just some of what's available. And they're super fun! Nero may only have access to one sword and projectile weapon for the game (I still wish he'd get at least one more sword or something), but the Devil Breakers add some much needed variety to the devil hunting.

Which isn't to say they're perfect. A lot of moves across the DMC games (aside from the reboot) rely on specific control stick moves made in junction with locking on. This is truer than ever in 5, but the Devil Breakers can't be used while locked on. Instead, that button switches to Nero's grappling hook hand, which replicates what he was able to do in DMC4. Still a useful ability, but having to consciously remove my finger from R1 to unlock, then use the Devil Breaker, then re-lock on to do whatever other moves I want to do was pretty awkward at first. But I'm emphasizing "at first," because I absolutely got used to it after a while, and again, it became one of the keys to me enjoying Nero more than I ever had before.

Another thing that helped me really like playing as Nero was the music. The game has some pretty good music in general (or at the very least it accomplishes what it tries to do), but each character has his own battle theme (and some variations of them throughout). Nero's, in particular, is just the absolute most jam-est of jams that I've heard in a long time. It's so good, and I can't stop listening to it.

Which, in some ways mirrors how I played this game, as I couldn't stop playing it. Not literally, but after finishing it, despite having other games to get to, I dove into the Bloody Palace mode, and went back and started the game again on the higher Son of Sparda difficulty. And I spent a lot of time over E3 week playing that, and maybe even more so in Bloody Palace while listening to E3 related podcasts and the like. Definitely more the Palace during that, because even on playthrough 2, I wanted to pay attention to the story again.

The story was better than I was expecting, and what I want out of this sort of game. Without getting into spoilers, I'll say it has at least one twist I never saw coming (much to the amusement of a friend of mine who said it was somewhat foreshadowed in DMC4), and it's left me really excited for what could be to come in a theoretical DMC6.

I will say, as it gives me a segue, a lot of the story revolves around the new playable character, V, "The Mysterious One" (taken from that screen that was going around showing Nero as "The Devil Hunter" and Dante as "The Legendary Devil Hunter"). He was the biggest question mark for me before I started playing, because his fighting style appears so different than anything else in the series at a glance. Rather than fighting himself, V instead commands his critter companions to fight for him. A bird (Griffon) for projectile attacks, a panther (Shadow) for melee, and a giant goop man (Nightmare) for the Devil Trigger super move.

But the reality is that the actual controlling of all this is pretty similar to playing as Nero or Dante, it just comes with a bit of an abstraction. Shadow's moves use the same control stick motions as the others (ie, hold back and hit Triangle to do the uppercut equivalent), and every attack from both is directly controlled. There is an auto-attack mode (which is very effective!), but it comes at the cost of draining the Devil Trigger gauge, which of course is also used by Nightmare.

Small friend.
Small friend.

So playing as V becomes this dual layer thing of managing this menagerie, while also keeping V out of harm's way. He can just run around, but the various dodging moves he has will pull either Griffon or Shadow out and to him, which can be good at saving their hides as well (since they can be knocked out, and need time to recover). Also, while V can't directly hurt enemies, his animal companions can't kill them, so getting him in and out of fights while the enemies are stunned becomes the final piece of his combat puzzle.

Also he can read poetry from his book during fights to refill the Devil Trigger gauge faster, which is just such an amazing thing. It's the exact right amount of ridiculous silliness that makes me love this game in particular, but also the series as a whole. The sort of thing that's both a good risk/reward during fights (because V slows down while reading (but can still dodge out to cancel the move)), but also just so ridiculous.

And then of course there's The Legendary Devil Hunter himself, Dante. Like DMC4, he doesn't become playable until fairly late in the game (maybe about halfway-ish?), but unlike that game, 5 has plenty of variety to keep it interesting until that point (three protagonists in general is a great boon to variety), and the Dante sections aren't just backtracking through the earlier levels again. But like that game, Dante's still my favorite to play, and definitely the character with the most depth to his moves, and weapons.

It'd be hard not to, given he still has four fighting styles, can have four melee weapons equipped at once (including three variations on one of them that can be swapped between at the buying moves menu (though they're really more like upgrades and I just use the final one)), and four projectile weapons at once (and again, one of them has some variations (again more akin to upgrades)). That's a whole lot to remember, and there's even more stuff going on with him mechanically, like a second type of Devil Trigger, and it's honestly more than I can keep track of at once.

Like in the fighting styles, I really only use Swordmaster (extra melee attack button) and Trickmaster (dodge button). Occasionally I'll use Gunslinger (extra gun button) for a specific move I like, but I've finished this game twice, and I'm still not entirely sure how Royal Guard works. I know it blocks stuff if you time it right, but there's a meter that builds up, and I don't know what it does. Listen, I know I could either go digging through the menus and see if there was a tutorial I missed/forgot, or look up a YouTube video explaining it. And I probably will, I just haven't gotten to it yet.

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Even aside from the styles, there's just a lot going on in the weapons themselves. The second melee weapon, Balrog, has stances. It starts in punching mode, but holding back while attacking switches to kicking mode, and it'll go back again with the same move. It's not just two stances to switch between, though, because attacking in punch mode charges up Balrog, and after ten hits (which the game keeps track of via a demonic voice counting up (along with a visible glowing effect)) it's fully charged, and time to switch to the more powerful kick attacks, some of which include breakdance style spinning, and it's so good

Most of the projectile weapons are fairly straightforward, but one in particular is perhaps the single most specific instance of this game's silly sensibilities: A weaponized cowboy hat. Named Dr. Faust. It uses Red Orbs (the game's money) as ammo, but if done correctly, enemies will drop more orbs than were used as ammo, so it's a net bonus. Plus, you can stick cowboy hats on any enemy in the game, even the final boss, and while I don't think I got any good screenshots of it, it's very good. I didn't really use Dr. Faust that much in normal fights (or the projectile weapons much in general), but just conceptually it's very funny.

And I couldn't write this without mentioning that they finally made good on the motorcycle fighting that was teased in DMC3, but nonexistent beyond that one cutscene. DMC5 is just such ridiculous fun, and I love it. I love it so much.

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While I might not be using every single tool at Dante's disposal, he's still a total delight to play, and I could absolutely just sit down and play through dozens of levels in the Bloody Palace with him right now if I wanted to, and have a blast. I've not actually finished the Bloody Palace, though. The farthest I got was the boss at level 60, at which point I died. But I got a C rank, which is the highest I've gotten in that mode. If I had to guess, I assume there's at least a hundo levels, so I'm far from done.

Honestly, that pure delight in the act of playing this game is the thing I love about it most. Sure, it's not perfect. The level design is pretty static, and uninspired compared to something like the DmC reboot (but to be fair, in all the years since I played it the first time, I can't think of another game I've played with levels that do the cool things they do there). And as terrific as the combat is, that really is just about all there is to the game (aside from the story). Just running through linear levels, and fighting. Occasionally there's hidden stuff to find, and some small challenge missions to complete, but otherwise it's an entirely straightforward game, perhaps to its detriment, if only a little.

Despite the game being co-op, and occasionally connecting to other players, most of the time you and they are in separate parts of the levels, and can't actually interact. There's a couple moments (literally two that I can think of) where you do actually get into the same physical space as another player, and fight together. And it's cool! I wish there was a co-op mode for the Bloody Palace, because then maybe I could get to the top if I was playing with a friend.

Alas, that's probably not going to be.

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If you like melee action games with a terrific sense of Smokin' Sexy Style (I cracked up the first time I got a SSS rank and heard the demonic voice yell that phrase), I can't think of a game I'd recommend over this one. At least not ones on PS4, as the other other games of this ilk I might (might) say I like more are Metal Gear Rising REVENGEANCE (not actually a better game, but I love its Metal Gear-ness), and Bayonetta 2 (which I'd have to replay and reevaluate). Play this game, it's super rad and bound to put a smile on your face.

Also, it has the best graffiti I've ever seen in a game:

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E3 Thoughts.

Not really surprisingly, but it felt like an off year for E3. Not much in the way of newly announced games, even less in the way of said games that interest me, and some less than stellar showings for games I'd been hoping to really get excited for. However, that makes it sound totally negative, which isn't the vibe I want to give. Absolutely games coming in the next year or so that I'm really excited for, but also a couple in particular that I've left E3 either really skeptical of, or outright disappointed to be thinking it'll be bad.

But I'll get to those later, first, the (hopefully) good games!'

Death Stranding.

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Okay, I know, this wasn't actually at E3. But Sony putting that trailer up so close to E3 was them clearly trying to capitalize on it, so you know.

Anyway, I'm excited. It looks weird, and maybe it'll end up being too weird for its own good, or maybe it won't be nearly as weird as the trailers make it seem. But, I'm a sucker for games with a large emphasis on exploring big worlds without there being a clutter of typical open world game style side activities to do, and it sounds like this is that. So, combine that with the (for better or worse) storytelling we've come to know and (at best) love from Kojima and company (and at worst feel disappointed in, if I'm being honest with how MGSV (particularly Ground Zeroes) went), and it's certainly interesting to me.

That said, the more combative stuff shown (like punching those dudes and shooting someone in the trench) didn't look so hot, especially compared to the CQC and shooting from MGSV. But, this probably isn't supposed to be a tactical espionage power fantasy like that game, so it's not going for that. I assume.

Of the games this year (assuming it's not delayed), this is the one I'm most interested in seeing what it actually is. Again, I suspect that's a lot of simulated walking, but I'm down for that.

Destiny 2 Free to play/Shadowkeep.

Bungie are now removed from Activision, and it's going to be intriguing, and hopefully cool to see what they do now that they have full control over the game. Making it free to play in time for the next big expansion is a bold move, and one that I hope pays off for them. I have one friend in particular who (despite my trying to warn them away (jokingly)) could get into it specifically because of this. I'm sure there's plenty more out there that'll do just the same. And adding cross-save support for all platforms is another great step toward making the game that unified ecosystem I suspect they want it to be (certainly the one I want it to be, so I could actually get enough people together to do a Raid). Will the game ever have actual cross-play? Who knows. I'm sure there's two big hurdles to cross there, one being the technical difficulty in engineering all that, and the other being convincing Sony, since they seem to be only allowing true cross-play for Epic Games games.

And what of the new expansion? Well, just about all it takes to excite me is a piece of fiction going to the Moon, or back to the Moon in this case, so I'm down. Always the potential for it to be bad, but typically the end of year big expansions in Destiny are the best ones, so if history is anything to go by, it should be good. But, Bungie are masters at defying expectations in every possible way, so it wouldn't surprise me if it was bad!

Nintendo!

Breath of the Wild 2.

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Of all the games announced, or really shown at all at E3 this year, this is the one I've got the highest hopes for. Breath of the Wild is, after thinking about it for these last couple years, absolutely one of my favorite games of all time. Definitely a top five game. So, a direct sequel, with a darker, more mysterious tone, and hopefully with some lessons learned from the previous game (namely that the forced stealth sequences were horrible/the game was at its best when it allowed players to create their own solutions (also transphobia is bad)), this one has the potential to be even better.

But with not even a title given (it probably won't be "Breath of the Wild 2"), I'm not expecting the game any time soon. Which is good, because that gives me more time to get a Switch. Assuming this one doesn't get delayed so much it ends up a launch game for whatever Nintendo's next system is. Surely by then I'd have a Switch, right? Unless they go and remaster all the Switch games on the next thing (because I have no confidence in Nintendo to do anything other than repackage and charge $60 for it all, again), and I end up the one person who had a Wii U but never a Switch.

I'll probably get a Switch. I'd like to say this or next year, but I can't commit to that when there's at least one other new console I'll probably want more coming then. Not unless I can get more money.

No More Heroes III.

I am at once, so excited for a return of No More Heroes, and also a bit worried. Worried because, well, this is a series I love more for its tone and style than the actual game play...and I worry that perhaps that stuff might not hold up so well. Or be done as well as it was back when I was seventeen (I feel old), because even No More Heroes 2 wasn't as great as I'd have liked it to be. Sure, it was a better game on paper, but in practice, it just wasn't the same.

Maybe nostalgia will be enough. Or maybe it'll be great! We'll just have to wait and see.

And no, I probably won't play that side game from last year.

Luigi's Mansion 3.

The extent of my time with this series was playing a small amount of the first one at a friend's house, way back in the day, and not liking it enough to want to buy it myself. But I was eleven at the time (I feel so old), and this new one looks cool! Plus, it has...

Gooigi.

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Daemon X Machina.

It's that mech game that Nintendo is publishing. Or at least I think they are (I kinda wish they weren't so I could play it on something I already own, but alas, the reality is I'm just going to have to gather the money for a Switch, somehow). Anyway, I don't know that this game will actually be all that good, but with my reborn love of mechs (via watching a lot of Gundam over the last year), I want this game.

BANJO AND KAZOOIE IN SMASH BROS!

Self explanatory. About time, too.

Animal Crossing New Horizons.

I've never played an Animal Crossing, but this one looks intriguing? Not like, spend $60 on it intriguing, but intriguing. I hate not having much money.

I think that's about it for stuff that caught my eye with Nintendo, who, I'd say had the best showing overall. I guess there's that other Zelda game, which looks very pretty, but I'm much less of an overhead Zelda fan than I am a 3D Zelda fan. They did show that Marvel game that would not get my attention were it not for...something else, but more on that later, and that Platinum game that isn't Bayonetta 3. That certainly looks cool, but also very cop-y in a way that rubs me the wrong...way. But, it certainly won't be the only game I mention here that I would very much like to be excited for, but certain things make me not excited. Again, more on that later.

Also, I know this is to be expected, but still no F-Zero. The Captain may very well be dead and gone at this point, were he not at least still in Smash Bros. They're never going to give us what we want.

Bethesda?

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Bethesda, in between people screaming in the crowd and updates for existing games, showed some very interesting stuff. Part of it was more DOOM ETERNAL, which still looks rad. Can't wait to play it. But they also had a pair of newly announced games without any game play to show, but very interesting trailers, and from interesting studios.

I'm of course talking about Tango Gameworks' Ghostwire Tokyo, and Arkane's Deathloop. Basically nothing is known about how they actually play, but those two are on my radar now. Hopefully they end up good.

Microsoft...

Every year, Microsoft is the one I go into with the weirdest feelings. It's a mix of hope, and trepidation. The hope is that part is me is hopeful that they can someday get out of their lack of games that interest me hole, and the trepidation is that said getting out of a hole could lead me to want to buy a console that would cost money.

Unlike Nintendo making me want a Switch, Microsoft did not make me want an Xbox One.

Nor did they really make me want an Xbox Two (Scarlett). Again, I'd still like to think that all their acquisitions will lead to them publishing more interesting games, but just having a limp Halo trailer as the thing to show it off? Especially when, I mean, I'm no tech expert (techxpert), but if they had said that trailer was running on an Xbox One X, I'd have believed them. Never mind that it did nothing to get me excited for Halo, which is a bummer. I used to love Halo. But, it is what it is (and what it is will save me money I need for a PS5, honestly).

So, Microsoft went the way it usually does. Good third party games, some first party stuff that I'm sure will be fine (like Gears 5 (despite them not showing any game play)), but not nearly enough to get me to spend the money on it. There was a certain cameo at this showing, but I'll get to that later.

Ubisoft...?

A very good dog.
A very good dog.

Aside from Jon Bernthal's dog, the only Ubisoft thing that got my attention is Watch Dogs Legion. Not really what I was expecting (leaks notwithstanding), and also not leaning into the stuff that I really liked about Watch_Dogs 2. I really liked the characters in there, especially the main guy, Marcus. So, a game with no main character is a bit disappointing, but also potentially really interesting. Some really cool ideas, but time will tell if they end up working or not.

Though, there's no dogs in the game, which is a definite disappointment. The dog petting in Watch_Dogs 2 was great! Let us pet and play as the dogs, you cowards!!!!

Other stuff!

Elden Ring!

The rumored collaboration between From Software and George R.R. Martin ended up being true after all. It was a rumor that I wasn't thrilled about at first, because I've no direct experience with Martin's work, and a lot of the things I've heard about Game of Thrones (like how much incest and sexual assault is in it (which is probably exaggerated, but I wouldn't know)) didn't exactly make me want to watch it, or read any of his written works.

But hearing a quote from Miyazaki on a podcast (thanks Austin Walker for reading that on Waypoint), and how much Miyazaki respects Martin as a writer, that has gotten my attention. I really respect, and love the worlds that Miyazaki and crew have created, and when he is excited to have worked closely with Martin to create the world and backstory for this game, that's got me excited.

Problem is we still don't know much about the game. Some vague things about it being open world, and bigger than anything From has done before. But I forget how much of that was from leaks/rumors, and how much has been directly stated. So who knows! But with From's recent track record, I'm on board.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake....?????

So, I've never played a Final Fantasy game (unless a demo for XV counts), but this one...looks kinda cool? And fun? But knowing it's only part one of a series kinda turns me off from wanting to dive in. I dunno. But like XV, it's at least caught my attention, so who knows! Maybe it'll be the first Final Fantasy I play. That, or maybe the stars will align and I'll finally play XV one of these days.

Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order.

After a pretty mediocre showing at EA's live stream, it was really encouraging to hear the people who actually played it think it's fun. I love Star Wars, and Respawn's made some really great games, so I really want this one to be good!

Some other games that have been shown before, and I continue to be excited for: The Outer Worlds (the Obsidian game, not The Outer Wilds, which is out now and I can't play because I don't have an Xbox One or suitable PC), Dying Light 2, Control, Wolfenstein Young Bloods, etc. Those last two are out in the next couple months too!

Probably other stuff too, but even these I don't have anything to say about, so... It's time to get to the two games I'm feeling pretty disappointed in how their E3 went:

Marvel's Avengers.

Those almost look like fancy dinner plates strapped to his chest.
Those almost look like fancy dinner plates strapped to his chest.

We've known about this game for what feels like forever. Remember when Square Enix just randomly said Crystal Dynamics was making an Avengers game? It feels like it was forever ago, though a brief search makes it sound like it was only in 2017 when this news first came to light. If it was earlier than that, please let me know, because now I'm just feeling like time is distorted even more than usual.

Anyway, I've been waiting for some sort of showing for this game for quite a while, and given how much I like Marvel in general (I saw Endgame twice (the second time in IMAX!)), and how great last year's Spider-Man was, I understandably had pretty high hopes for this one. I really liked those two Tomb Raider games Crystal Dynamics made in the reboot trilogy, and I thought they could make a great Avengers game.

Who knows, maybe the game still will end up being good. But as of right now, it feels like they would have been hard pressed to flub up the reveal of an Avengers game more than they have. Like, nothing of what they've shown looks good? They showed a story focused trailer featuring a story that sounds like a rip-off of Watchmen (which Overwatch already did in the video game space a few years ago), and starring who may be the four more distractingly recognizable voices in video games.

Listen, I like Nolan North, but frankly I would rather they get a cheap Robert Downey Jr knock-off than have Tony Stark just sound like Nathan Drake. Same for the rest of the cast, rather than being distracted by hearing the same people I hear in every other game as it is, and not doing enough to sound different than what they usually do!

Aside from the voices, the whole vibe of that game's aesthetic is aping the movies. Just close enough to them to remind me why the movies look good and this doesn't. It's fine that they don't look like the actors, they probably shouldn't if this isn't a direct adaptation of those. That's not the issue, the issue is that the costumes look like cheap knock-offs (or way too cop-ified in the case of Captain America), and the faces just look bad. Like, below what I've come to expect from faces in big budget AAA games.

Which would be fine if this game had a comic book-y stylized style. That'd certainly be a way to convey personality and stuff in faces without having to spend the resources making them super detailed and realistic. Spiderverse last year (granted, a movie) was a fantastic example of this. Not trying to be realistic, but such an astounding level of style and personality in everything, especially the people.

Sadly no, they just went with "realism" (I'm sure because that's what they think sells best), but without what appears to be the technical force to make it look good. Or maybe it's just bad designs, I don't know. I'm talking about stuff I don't really know enough about to do so, forgive me. All I know is, the characters look bad in a way that they don't in most big budget games these days, and I've spent paragraphs griping about it.

Of course, you know me, you know I'm more than willing to overlook a lackluster story and production values if the core of the game is solid. But, for a game that's coming out in less than a year, they had shockingly little to show the public, and didn't even let people at E3 itself play it, which isn't a great sign. Especially when what we have to go on makes it sound like there is not a ton of depth to the characters (only three abilities per?), and that the game itself sounds split.

Both a story focused AAA game, and an endless loot game? I mean, sure, it's not impossible, and games like Destiny 2 kinda try to do that, but not in the way that the trailer makes it out to be. That trailer sells it as an Uncharted style linear action game. Which I'd be fine with if it was really good, but also saying it's a game they want people playing for years to come (with the implication being loot as the driving force) makes it sound like the people trying to sell the game don't know what to sell it as.

And that leads me to what I think might be the reason why this game could (possibly likely to) end up being bad. My theory is that the people working on it wanted to make a big story focused game, not unlike what they've done in the past with those Tomb Raider games. But the higher ups at Square wanted an endless money sink, so it also became a loot game. Then the public turned against loot boxes pretty hard in that Star Wars game and others (though Star Wars is owned by Disney, as is Marvel), and thus this loot game they'd been working on would suddenly not have the paid loot boxes, and I dunno.

I'm probably wrong. Maybe it was the other way around, they wanted to make a big loot game, and Square forced them to do the story stuff. Maybe it's neither, and I'm just pulling garbage out of the air. We won't know until the game is a disaster, and someone like Jason Schreier does their magic (investigative journalism), and we get the scoop on what happened during development.

At this point, I'm much more interested in that than the actual game.

Hopefully I'm wrong and it ends up being good. But my hopes are about as low as they could be, right now. Sadly.

Cyberpunk 2077.

Keanu, I want to be excited for your game, but...
Keanu, I want to be excited for your game, but...

So, Cyberpunk. After it wowed almost everyone at E3 last year, it feels like for every step forward it takes in getting me excited, it takes two back in some sort of misstep around the game. Whether it's transphobic jokes on the official social media account (or others associated with CD Projekt Red), or word about crunch at the studio being bad (though I don't know if that's bad in the way that I suspect almost all AAA studios have bad crunch, or bad by even that standard), it feels like there's always something rearing it head to trample over my potential excitement.

So then there's E3 2019, where it was revealed that Keanu Reeves is in the game, accompanied with him appearing on stage at Microsoft. As breathtaking as he is, and as tantalizing as him having the second highest number of lines in the game is (the player character having the most), we couldn't even get out of E3 without those two steps back happening.

First, word out of the demo being shown made it sound like the game is leaning pretty heavily into racial stereotypes (and you can see some of that in the trailer this year, or even the long game play demo they showed last year). Would it be the first game to do that? No, but does that mean that I want to play a game where most of it is killing racial stereotype gangs? Also no! Will it be just that? Hopefully not, and even in what was shown, I don't want to make it sound like it was all bad, because at least according to Austin Walker (my best source of E3 takes this year, haha), the Creole spoken by some of the NPCs in the game sounds as authentic as it could be, so clearly some amount of effort and thought is being put into this stuff, I guess? (Go listen to Waypoint's podcasts for longer/more nuanced discussion that just me in this blog, seriously).

And then there was that transphobic ad. I'm not going to show it here, you can find it yourself, but basically it shows a sexualized depiction of a trans woman with the very clear (and "comically" large) outline of her genitals under her tight outfit, along with the text "mix it up." Now, according to the artist at the studio who drew it, she says it's "supposed" to be sexualized in a bad way, in the same way that happens all the time in the real world with advertising, and particularly women (usually cis, not trans, though).

I want to believe that artist believes that, and that was the intent. But the problem with intent is that it's going to go over most people's heads if that intent isn't more clearly stated. It's like that meme with the MS Paint Gundam shooting the "war is bad" shot over the "wow cool robots" person. At least in the mainline Gundam shows, the "war is bad" message could not be any clearer, and yet people still miss it, I guess. It's like playing all the Metal Gear games and just completely missing that there's a political message, you'd have to really be missing a whole lot, or not thinking about anything at all to not get it.

But those people exist, and if they can miss the really obvious stuff, they're going to miss the "subtle" things too. So even if the intent was, "we're making a statement about over sexualized bodies and corporations trying to profit off people in any way they can," that's not enough unless even a little more work is done to convey that. And that could be as simple as having a couple trans characters in the story who make a few offhand remarks about all the demeaning ads they see across town during a story mission.

Problem is, we didn't get that, we got people zooming in ray-tracing screenshots and seeing the soda ads with the big-dick lady. And given how this stuff has gone over the last year, I don't think there's going to be those trans characters in the game that will get the chance to make those remarks about the ads, and show that they're supposed to be commentary, and not just there for a laugh. What we've seen right now looks as bad as the worst GTA in game advertising, and that's about as low a bar as I can think of.

As it stands, I don't blame anyone at all that looks at this, looks at the studio's handling of these things over the last year, and is just done with the game. No more desire to play it.

I'm not there yet. And I'm not there yet, because I was just saying earlier in this blog that Breath of the Wild is a top five game of all time for me, despite that being really, truly transphobic. If a game that features a quest where Link has to disguise himself as a woman to sneak into a women only space, which has super bad parallels with what transphobes say trans women are/do, then it feels hypocritical of me to write off Cyberpunk. Now, does that speak ill of me to let things like that slide?

Maybe.

I want to be excited for the game. I loved The Witcher III (and Witcher II, for that matter), and on paper this game sounds great. Sprawling open world with a heavy emphasis on player choice in both game systems and the story? Those are things I love! Having Keanu as a cyber-ghost tagging along most of the game? SIGN ME UP!

I just wish they would get some trans and/or nonbinary people in there, and help them clean up this stuff so it's not something that I have to spend pages writing about how it screwed up once I write about the game next year. You know, like I just did. And maybe they already are, because they did put out some halfhearted statement about adjusting the character creator to allow for more trans or nonbinary characters, but what form will that take? Will I be able to make a nonbinary character that gets referred to as such in the game? I really doubt they're going to re-record every line where the main character is referred to as "she" or "he" and write a "they" version. Unless the whole game was already written in a gender neutral way (which would save time over having two gendered versions, just saying!). But I doubt that.

And of course, do the same consulting thing about those potential racial stereotypes, just with appropriate people for that.

Because you know, all this said, I'm probably still going to play the game. Unless it runs disastrously bad on consoles, is just a bad game in general, or crosses some line where it's too transphobic, too racist, too whatever for me to put up with, I'm going to play it. Just a question of if I get it close to release and can feel good about it, or if I wait for a healthy price drop, and play it just to know. You know, sort of like why I played Anthem (despite getting that on a whim on literal launch day). Of course, I still enjoyed Anthem as best as I could (despite it running disastrously bad, or close to it), so...

I really hope they can make a game I can feel good about liking. I don't want to have to go through all this. Again.

Other stuff (briefly!)?

I spent way too many words of this blog griping about Marvel's Avengers and Cyberpunk 2077 (for very different reasons!). If you read them all, then thank you. If all you did was read what I wrote about DMC5 (a fantastic game I cannot recommend enough), then skipped to the end, that's fair. Either way, thanks for spending some of your time reading this.

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As for other things, between the last blog as this, I played at least half-ish of the way through Dragon's Dogma remastered, and if anything, that game holds up even better than I hoped. The only reason I stopped was because I got caught up in DMC5, and I fully intend to get back to it.

That, and I'm finally playing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I haven't finished it yet, but I think I'm nearing the end, and I like it a whole lot. Makes me wish the series had kept going in this ridiculous space opera direction, rather than the grim and dark "realism" of the Modern Warfare reboot.

I've got Sonic Mania downloaded from PS+, and Judgment is out soon. So, more games to play!

Maybe I'll give those games a bigger write up once I'm done with them, but in the meantime, see ya!

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