Spider-Man, yet more Destiny 2, and more!

It's been a couple months, and I'm back! I've been very busy working on a thing, which I may have more to say about at the end of this blog (assuming I don't get in trouble with the mods for shilling a thing), so keep reading to find out more!

Regardless, I've been playing games, and I have words to say about them!

Marvel's Spider-Man.

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Despite the fact that the box of the game only has the Marvel logo, followed by the name Spider-Man, thus making the official title incongruous with what's on the box, in the game, etc, I had a fantastic time with this game. It is, in so many ways, the Spider-Man game I've wanted ever since I was a kid, but never got because in my childishly stubborn ways, I refused to see that first batch of Spider-Man movies in the theater, or have anything to do with them/the games based on them. (And when I did eventually see the first one on TV, I felt justified because I thought it was terrible (the second one is much better, though)).

ANYWAY, I got sidetracked. Everyone knows what the shtick is with Spider-Man games. "How's the swinging?" "Is the swinging good?" "Okay, but what about the swinging?" And of course the swinging is incredible. The visual fidelity on display as Spider-Man swings from building to building, spinning and twirling above city streets (funded by Sony's seemingly bottomless pockets for their published games (I just hope Insomniac's/whatever support studios' working conditions aren't terrible even if they were well paid)) is often breathtaking. Like, literally so. It looks incredible, and it feels just about as perfect as I can imagine swinging in a game feeling. If you get going just right, it is absolutely one of the being "feeling" games I've played in...maybe ever.

The combat, while not as perfectly honed as the swinging, is also a lot of fun, and I think crucially, it's less Batman-y than I expected it to be based on what I'd seen. It has the two button takedown thing from those games, but otherwise it feels enough like its own thing. Don't get me wrong, I love the Arkham games, and I do think Spider-Man's combat could be tightened up a little more, to better match those (and it probably will be for the sequel), but I still had lots of fun with it over the game, even if it's ultimately repetitive in the sense that the game leans on combat encounters a lot.

But, if I had to put my finger on the one thing that really makes this game work for me, it's the story and the characters. More so the characters, I'd say, because if you really want to nitpick the story, it's kind of just another Spider-Man story, only with a Mad-Libs rearrangement of a few things. Peter Parker is a lab assistant for Dr. Octavius instead of a photojournalist, Norman Osborn is the obviously corrupt but no one can prove it Mayor, etc.

The things that make it work are the characters. The writing, performances, and that (again exorbitantly well produced) level of polish that we've come to expect from Sony published games all come together make a really engaging experience. I mean, I'm about as central to the target audience of this game as you can be, as I've been a big Spider-Man fan since a kid (never mind when I was on the outs with the franchise in my teen years), so of course I'm extremely receptive to what this game is doing.

But it's not just that it's a game about Spider-Man doing Spider-Man things, at least in terms of the story, it's (as clichéd as this sounds to say about a superhero story), it's really about the man behind the mask, and his friends and family. Aunt May isn't just an old lady who occasionally gives Peter some sage advice about life, she works at a homeless shelter because wants to do what she can to make New York City a better place. Mary Jane isn't just a love interest and a damsel in distress, she's a woman on a mission, who often feels like Spider-Man is getting in her way as he learns not to be overly protective of her. And Miles Morales isn't just a throwaway cameo, though of the (mild spoilers I guess?) three playable characters in the game, he is the one that I think deserved a little more screen time (which I am sure he'll get in the sequel).

And that brings me to something about the game that I simultaneously really like, but also I think is the weakest part of the overall game. The part that I like is that (again mild spoilers if you haven't followed the game at all (in which case just play it, or at least stop reading this until you are able to)) Spider-Man isn't the only playable character. Miles and (especially) Mary Jane have quite a few missions where they are the focus. As much as I love Spider-Man as a concept, he is still a cis-het white dude, and having a little more diversity in a big budget game like this is welcome, even if there's still obviously much further it could go in that regard (there's no queer characters, for example (unless Miles is gay in the sequel, which, hey, why not?)).

Let Spider-Man be queer, you cowards!
Let Spider-Man be queer, you cowards!

And on paper, sequences playing as characters without super powers in a game all about super powers could be a nice change of pace. In a couple instances, it is. The first Mary Jane mission, which opens with MJ tricking someone into letting her into a museum after hours is fun. At least at first, when it's about looking at old artifacts, and MJ playing it cool whilst tricking the person there. It's a little less fun when it turns into a rote stealth game.

That ends up being the problem with the MJ and Miles segments. Outside of the Grand Central Station mission (more on that in a moment), they're just not fun. They're not terrible, and they're never difficult enough, or long enough to ruin the game. And load times after getting caught are short enough that it never got frustrating. But all that said, as someone who loves stealth games, and games with stealth elements, this is not great stealth.

That one mission though, is pretty cool. I'll hide it under spoilers if you haven't gotten to that part of the game yet. So, this mission (like the museum one) starts with MJ in a not stealth situation, and allows for some fun walking around, and looking at neat stuff on exhibit around the station. But, of course that doesn't last, as soon some villainous sorts come in, and take everyone hostage. MJ, of course, manages to sneak off, and gets in touch with Spider-Man, who quickly gets to the scene.

But rather than switch to Spider-Man, the game stays with MJ, who now gets the 'ability' to tell Spider-Man when to take out the enemies, the idea being that they need to coordinate so the rest of the enemies don't get alerted (and thus they keep the hostages safe). In terms of stealth game design, it's nothing spectacular, but in terms of what happens on screen, it's very funny. You hit the button, then some web shoots in from off screen, and the enemy gets pulled up to the ceiling. There's several different animations, and it's one of those things that feels like it's pulled straight out of a comical scene in a Spider-Man movie, and I loved it. And when I was getting toward the end of the mission, I looked up (as Grand Central Station has a very high ceiling), and saw about ten or fifteen dudes still dangling from the ceiling, which got a hearty laugh out of me.

Though, actually maybe the biggest misstep of Spider-Man is that while it seems to recognize that modern media should have diverse casts, it also seems a little unaware of the general state of the modern world when it comes to police, and surveillance. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting this to be some extremely leftist game that was anti-cops, and I think the "Spider-Cop" bit between Spider-Man and Yuri is funny enough on its own.

The part that stood out to me, even before people really started digging into this stuff with a depth beyond what I am here, is where Spider-Man helps the police fix their surveillance system around the city. You know, the one created and installed by the unambiguously evil Oscorp. Yet, the game never takes the time to actually say anything about surveillance, and it just feels like such an oversight to me.

We live in a world where corporations are trying to sap us of every last piece of information about our lives that they can, so they can sell things to us, which is also a world that, at least in the US, feels increasingly like a police state. A world where actual surveillance systems a lot like this are actually being installed in actual cities. Never mind that the invasion of privacy is bad enough on its own, but that it's in the hands of the police, who (at least in the US) get away with murder, and abuse, and well, it makes the game feel out of touch. I have no idea how much of that is because the people at Insomniac didn't think about these things (for whatever reason), of if it was because of pressure from Sony/Marvel/Disney to not be 'controversial,' I have no idea. Probably a mix of things.

And honestly, I'm fine with stories where the protagonist does something wrong (in this case helping the police spy on people in an effort to "combat crime") so long as the story then makes it clear that this was wrong, and the protagonist learns from the experience.

This isn't that. And it feels weird to me, because (without spoiling anything), things happen later in the game that puts Spider-Man in a position where he is, somewhat explicitly, saying that fascism is bad. So, I dunno, feels like maybe some wires got crossed, maybe something got cut from the game for any number of reasons, who can say. But I really would have preferred the game either had some other explanation for the towers to unlock the map, or if there was some sort of comeuppance/lesson learned from doing that.

Rest in Peace, Solidus.
Rest in Peace, Solidus.

But, my thoughts on this game's unaware politics aside (don't @ me in the comments, I have my beliefs and am never in the mood for 'debate'), I do think Spider-Man is a really great game. Not perfect, as there's certainly room for improvement in many aspects, but it honestly is a dream game for me, and I'm extremely hopeful for what I hope will be an even better sequel. I'm sure the DLC will be good too, but with that coming this year, I cannot imagine it being a substantial departure from what we already have. I'd expect more combat, and maybe some stealth sequences played as Black Cat.

Destiny 2: Forsaken.

Ah, Destiny 2. While you may have started in a somewhat odd state, with a much more coherent story than the first game, but with a less compelling end game for weirdos like me to endlessly grind. While you may have taken the same exact trajectory with the DLC as the first game, even to the point of replacing an actor with Nolan North (leading to a situation with North talking to himself), you've finally gotten to where you should be.

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Destiny 2 is...good.

Forsaken is absolutely the best Destiny 2 expansion, by a light year, and from what I've heard from people who played the expansions for the first game, probably the best expansion Destiny the franchise has had to date. It's pretty much everything I would want out of a Destiny 2 expansion. The story missions are really good, both as first person shooter missions, and by Destiny 2 storytelling standards. Which, I worded that in a way that probably makes it sound bad, but it's good. Just not like, going to win any awards for story, that sort of thing.

And, not only has it added a new patrol zone, it added TWO new patrol zones! They're both sizable, and good! The second one, The Dreaming City, is particularly good, especially in its visual design, and the new things it does. Specifically, it changes over time. I'm not sure exactly what is going to cause the changes over time, but the first change was sparked by the first group to complete the new Raid (a Raid I will likely, sadly, never see due my regular Destiny group being unable to get enough people together). Don't get me wrong, when I say it changes, I don't mean that suddenly it's a completely different zone. I mean that, as it changes, it seems like how Taken the zone is will change. As of the last time I was in there, it was getting pretty Taken.

If you don't know what I mean by Taken in that context, don't worry about it, it's a Destiny lore thing. But speaking of that, for maybe the first time since Destiny's release in 2014...I think I'm starting to get into the lore of this franchise. I always enjoyed playing these games because they're fun shooters, and I understood as much as I could (which was not easy in the first game) to at least have some semblance of a clue, but I never really cared about the lore. Like, about the nature of things like the Awoken, or The Taken, or what's up with dragons. Because there are dragons in Destiny. Or, at least there used to be, because...well, that's getting deeper into it than I am prepared to do right now.

Not only that, but the more surface level storytelling is better than it was in original Destiny 2. I know I make a big deal out of pointing out the coherency of Destiny 2's story in relation to the first game, but outside of that, it didn't really have a memorable story. I think that game opens really strongly, but it kinda peters out, and leans a bit too heavily on a not great sense of humor, and not great jokes from Cayde.

Even Cayde, who I often found annoying in the base game, is suddenly good now. Most of it is because his writing has finally found the right tone for that character, but honestly I think part of it is him being recast with Nolan North. I know North is still trying to sound like Fillion, but I think I still like his take on the character a bit more.

Too bad this happened right as they kill the character off, huh?

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Outside of getting into nitpicks I could complain about, the last new addition in Forsaken I have things to say about is the new Gambit mode. For those unaware, it's a mode that is both against AI controlled enemies, and enemy players. The setup is that two teams of four are sent into identical but separate arenas, where they fight waves of enemies. The enemies drop Motes of Darkness, which are stockpiled. If you put in enough at once, you can summon an enemy to prevent the other team from spending their Motes, and there's varying levels of that based on how many you put in at once. Once a team hits 75 motes, a Primeval is summoned, and the round ends when one team defeats their Primeval.

But, the other wrinkle is the portal that leads to the other team's arena. It opens at specific points in the match (I forget when, but it's based on Motes stockpiled), and then opens regularly once the Primeval is summoned. One player runs through the portal, and then their objective is to kill the other team. And with an extra shield, the invader gets a bit of an advantage.

The only problem with Gambit, at the moment at least, is there's a bit of a balance issue. Specifically, and normally I'm not the sort to mention a weapon being unbalanced in a game, but Bungie needs to do something about Sleeper Simulant. As best as I can tell, it's a one hit kill no matter where the shot hits, and that's overpowered. I already don't like being one hit sniped out of nowhere, and that's bad enough when it requires a headshot (and thus fairly precise aim).

Outside of that, I've been having fun with Gambit, as I have with all of Forsaken, honestly. There's definitely been some moments where the Endless Grind felt like I was just spinning my wheels and making no progress, but even then the core game play was fun enough to keep me going. It's fun, and if nothing else, it's something to do whilst listening to podcasts, and I seem to have an ever replenishing supply of those to consume.

But, speaking of Destiny lore, and Gambit, some of the things The Drifter (the NPC who runs Gambit) says about the Darkness, and killing other Guardians in that mode... It's kinda making think Destiny 3 might let you use Darkness instead of Light. Which, again, I'm sure makes no sense out of context, but it would explain why it's still a Power Level in Destiny 2, instead of a Light Level like the first game...

Forsaken is good. I dunno if it's good enough to lure back in people who haven't played the game since launch, at least not when it still requires people to own the previous two expansions. That was the thing that kept me away from The Taken King in Destiny 1, as back then I hadn't been roped back into buying both of the lackluster expansions like I did this time (at least I got them on sale). Okay, Warmind was decent, but the Mercury one was not good.

Last thing I'll say, is that while I do not think this will happen, nor do I have any real reason to think it would happen for this game at least, but I wish Destiny 2 had some sort of cross console/PC play. I really feel like if it did, I'd be able to get enough people together to actually do one of the Raids. And now that Sony is finally starting to loosen its grip on this stuff (though I suppose they'd been letting it happen with PC on some games for a while), maybe it could spread to something like this? Maybe Destiny 3? Who knows.

The Gardens Between.

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A bit of a tonal shift between the Endless Grind of Destiny 2 and an indie game that could probably be finished in a single sitting like this, huh? Anyway, this was a neat little game about moving time around to solve environmental puzzles, and I had a good time with it. It's kinda hard to describe in text form, so I'm not even going to try. Go watch the Quick Look if you have no idea what this game is.

It's neat, but I wish it was longer. There's some really cool puzzles, that lead to some great "aha" moments, but the game ends right around the time it starts to feel like the puzzles are really coming into their own. But, I suppose in some ways it's better to be left wanting more, than left feeling like it went on way too long, huh?

Burnout Paradise Remastered

Ah, Burnout Paradise. The best racing game ever made? The best racing game ever made. Even, after all these years, this game is just such an absolute joy to play. I don't really think that this game was that remastered, aside from maybe a boost in resolution, so that aspect of the package is perhaps a bit disappointing. As are some things, like all the menus and stuff being exactly the same, when maybe something like the ability to set custom waypoints on the map would have been welcome. I suppose that's why I waited a few months for it to go down in price before buying it.

Regardless, the core of this game is still just stellar. Stellar enough that I actually got the Platinum Trophy this time, which I didn't do on the original version (though I came close, I think). Which is not to say I got every single Trophy for the game, because this Remastered version splits all the "DLC" Trophies from the original game into separate things.

Anyway, it's still great. It's the same game it was all those years ago, but that was enough for me. It's just good to cruise around Paradise City again.

Anything else?

Nothing that I really have more than a couple sentences to say about. I did play a couple matches of the Soul Calibur VI beta, which was...not amazing. I'm not sure if it was the lag inherent with it only having online matches available, or something about the game itself, but it felt kind of rigid. Granted, I haven't played a Soul Calibur game in about a decade (around when IV came out), but my memory of these games (at least II and IV) is that they're very fluid games. That they have a natural flow to them that is very easy to get into, and get going. This, conversely, again, I don't know how to describe it other than rigid. Hopefully that was just lag, though I dunno... I'm probably not going to buy the game anyway, at least not at launch. I don't know anyone who lives near me to play games like this with anymore, and if the online is going to feel bad, I won't want to play that.

And I think that might be it for stuff I've played since the last time I wrote. I mean, not counting things like playing the occasional matches of Titanfall 2, or Overwatch. Or some nondescript PS+ games that didn't really grab me, or (since October's came out since I started writing this blog) I haven't spent enough time with to discuss. I know there's a slew of indie Metroidvanias I'd like to play out there, never mind Yakuza Kiwami 2, or even Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Which, I'll be honest, I haven't heard great things about the latest Tomb Raider, but once it gets cheap enough, I'll probably play it, and not feel like it was a waste of time. And Assassin's Creed Odyssey is this week. Still unsure if I want to go get that now, or wait for a price drop.

And, of course, at the end of the month, it's cowboy time...yee haw.

Also something that happened since I wrote the majority of this blog is that, there was a certain game from 2010 that I had a hankering to play again. One of the best games of last generation, one that I really just felt the need to experience again, and to do it before I got caught up in the big game coming at the end of the month. A sprawling epic that's really stuck with me over the years, something that honestly hasn't been matched in the years since its release...

I am, naturally, referring to Mass Effect 2. It's still great, y'all. The PS3 version (the one I had easiest access to), maybe not so much. But I'll not let that deter me. At least not while EA still won't remaster it...

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That's it for games, but as I said at the top, I've been working on something for, honestly, over a year at this point. Bit of a longer term, bigger writing project. Longtime readers may remember that in years past, I tried my hand at some book writing, and I'm happy to announce that my return to the scene is now.

So, my latest, and I think greatest book, 'Crashe' is available now on Itch and Amazon. It's a queer cyberpunk story, and I would be thrilled if people read it. Now, it is a little on the long side, because I couldn't afford to pay an actual editor (I'm slightly joking, but it is long), but I think anyone who likes fun stories will enjoy it.

And, mods, if this strays too far into 'advertising' and I broke forum rules, just send me a PM, and I'll cut this from the blog.

So, links!

Itch: https://mooseymcman.itch.io/crashe (You can download a PDF of the first chapter free too).

Amazon (US): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HXJ1KZX

Amazon (Canada): https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07HXJ1KZX

Amazon (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07HXJ1KZX

It's available in a variety of other regions as well, and if you read it and like it, let me know! If you don't, or don't like it, that's fine. Don't be surprised if this hunk of the blog is gone by the time you get back anyway, haha.

So, that's it for this time. Thank you for reading, and an even bigger thanks if you buy the book! Dunno when I'll be back. I certainly would like to write more about games now that I'm in a lull between my bigger writing projects, but I can't really do that if I don't play anything new. So, we'll see! I will, at least, do my best to have The Moosies around the usual Game of the Year time. I haven't played ten games released in 2018 yet this year, so we'll see if I've accomplished that by then!

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Have a good day!

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