Monday, December 20, 2010

The Spirit Of The Season

I love to give. Unfortunately, I'm a big ball of spite, so I'm going to be giving out big spoonfuls of spite. Here's LordMune's Let's Play of Heavy Rain. Heavy Rain: the two-word refutation of the entire "games as art" argument. Fuck you, David Cage.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How About A Nice Game Of Chess?

So watching Extra Credits this week reminded me of something. Not that games aren't art, I already discussed that. Video games will be art when we start discussing the artistic merits of Monopoly. Video games are games, they're not art just because I really really like them. And it's not that most people on the interwebs seem to grossly overthink the simplest things. Seriously, watch this weeks episode and tell me you're not thinking "Riiiiiigggghhhhhhttt" most of the time.

What it reminded me was that Missile Command is probably one of the most terrifying games out there. Seriously, that game was some unsettling shit. In large part this was because it was one of those old school arcade games that never ends. It just keeps getting incrementally harder with each level. For those of you not familiar, Missile Command was a simple game where you had three SDI (strategic defense initiative) missile silos with finite missiles and six cities chock full of civilians. And then thermonuclear warheads start falling from the sky. You have to protect the cities from wave after wave of atomic death. Oh sure, you got your ammo resupplied after each level, but attrition weighs you down something fierce. Eventually your going to lose a city, and it's gone forever (actually I think one citiy magically rebuilt every 10 levels or something, but I could be wrong). Or you could lose a missile silo, rendering your cities more vulnerable (if you got a silo back after a set number of levels, I didn't live that long). At long last, the sheer volume of warheads being thrown at you is going to win. And all you can do is sit and watch helplessly as your empty silos try and target the warhead that is about to wipe out millions of people. And then it hits, and you get the game over screen. Actually, it wasn't a "game over" screen. It said "The End" within the games pixellated, circular nuclear blast. The game wasn't over, it was the end. Everyone was dead. Humanity died on your watch. And there were no continues, more quarters just started a new game. Now that was some scary shit, especially when you consider that the game was made at a time when it could have really happened. Oh sure, today we play DefCon because no one realistically expects a global thermonuclear war, but in 1980...

Back then you couldn't really "win" arcade games. That's what hi-score lists were for. You were competing against other gamers in your area for the top score. To that extent Missile Command was no different from its peers. But that subtle change from "Game Over" to "The End"... damn. And it wasn't a frantic firefight to survive until the end, but all too often you ran out of missiles or all your silos got hit, and all you could do was sit and wait for the inevitable. For such an old arcade game, that game was dark.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If Games Are Like Movies, And Movies Are Art, Then I Still Hate You

The folks over at Extra Credits today kept hammering home a point I find myself strangely hostile towards; games as art. Mostly because, on my end, it went something like:

Extra Credits: "Games are art! Games are art! Games are art!"
Me: "BOOM HEADSHOT! I'm sorry, you were saying something?"

If games are art, I'd consider them something like movies. Except RPGs, those are more like novels. Except Final Fantasy, those are more like shitty mangas. Anyway, I consider film to be an artistic medium. At the same time I love things like Die Hard (except Die Hard 2) and I even have a soft spot for the craptacular Starship Troopers movie. If I wanted to draw parallels (and I love doing that), then Dragon Age is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Okami is Millenium Actress, Modern Warfare is Live Free Or Die Hard, and StarCraft is what Starship Troopers SHOULD HAVE BEEN (I wanted to compare something to Schindler's List, but that ain't happening in gaming anytime soon).

You'd think the parallels would make it easy for me to side with the games-as-art crowd, especially since I'm a gamer. So why my hostility? I don't really know. Maybe it stems from my feeling that some of us are taking a hobby way too seriously. I also build Gundam models but I'm never going to take the time, money, and effort to paint them and build custom stands for them. I suspect, though, that my issue is that I feel art should be more academic and less visceral. When I'm watching a Let's Play, I can take the games-as-art argument more seriously because I'm more detached. I can see artistry or lack thereof is level design because I'm not trying to navigate it. If I'm navigating the level, I'm not concerned with artistry as I am with functionality. Fuck elegance in design, I'm lost and the camera seems more concerned with ceiling patterns than helping me out. But then, I always judged architecture more on its usefulness than it's artistic merits (unless you want to argue pragmatism as artistry, but I'd have to punch you at the moment). It's like an argument I once had regarding pornographic "art"; if I'm masturbating to it, it's not art. If I'm appreciating the human body, it is art. Pretty much what I'm asking is whether or not the "artist" is actively trying to give me an erection. Masturbation was probably the worst analogy to use, but the idea of the visceral reaction is the same. I can appreciate the art in an action sequence where the hero skillfully headshots his enemies. When I'm playing as the hero, that artistry got jettisoned out the window the moment I took some level of pleasure and/or pride from my skillful takedowns. When I'm personally and viscerally involved, it's not about art but about my in-game accomplishments. Accomplishments the designers obviously facilitated, but I, the player, am the one stepping up to the challenge. Video games are games, and while we can praise a players abilities or the fact that football is infinitely more pleasurable and interesting than baseball (proven fact), nobody talks about the artistry in football's rules. Because we're focused on the player and whether or not the game is fun.

That's my piece, and if anyone cares I'm willing to elaborate, but I think I have all of one reader anyway. Maybe one day our children will talk about video games the same way I talk about movies and books. Maybe one day video games will have televised industry award shows that aren't sponsored by Mountain Dew. Or maybe on day competitive gaming will have the same broad appeal as professional sports, complete with televised matches, leagues, and championships. And I said "or" there because I consider these things mutually exclusive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gears Of Voldemort

I like Gears of War. I don't like Harry Potter. That being said, I think they ruined the new Harry Potter game by making it Gears of War. When a Potter hating Gears fan tells you that was a mistake, you know you fucked up. Also, one of my favorite book series uses Vancian magic as a substitute for artillery, and I still think third-person shooter was a horrible mistake for a Potter game. Christ, I hate the books, I hate the movies, and I'm still pissed off about this game ruining Harry Potter. I need to go calm down with some Lovecraft or something.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rights And Privileges

Before anyone comments on this; read the whole thing first rather than shooting a comment off the moment you see something objectionable, and even if you read the whole thing take two or three deep breaths first before commenting.

I really liked the Rally to Restore Sanity. It wasn't as political as I expected, it was more focused on the tone of the discussion. Even when you're arguing for the right cause, the point of the entire discussion can be lost in all the shouting. So I haven't been following that case about California wanting to ban the sale of games to minors. Sometimes you've been fighting so goddamn long that you get sick of the whole thing. It's an annoyingly semantic debate. On the one hand, I do support the banning of selling games outside their intended age group. If a game is to be given to someone outside the intended age group, it should be purchased by an adult. If a parent thinks an 8 year old is mature enough for, say, Manhunt then that's the parent's decision. If an 8 year old thinks he's mature enough for Manhunt, he's a fucking idiot and ought to be smacked by his parents. On the other hand, this ought to be an industry regulation, not a government one. And on that note, the government is trying to get this through by comparing Rock Band to hardcore pornography, which strains credulity to my mind.

I don't know how many of you are old enough to remember the shit storm that came up around the time that Mortal Kombat 2 was getting its console port. There were hearings and investigations, and Sega took the lead by instituting their own ratings system. Then the government gave an ultimatum to the industry: regulate yourselves or we start regulating you. I took the unpopular position amongst my peers of fully endorsing the ESRB and their ratings system. Most of the censorship debate sounded like lazy parenting to me. "I can't be bothered to check what my children are doing, so just censor everything I object to so I don't have to do it." With the rating system, there was no excuse. You couldn't complain about your child playing a violent video game because you were the parent was the one who bought it.

Of course, that assumes that the industry is working right. For starters, the ESRB is the gaming equivalent of the MPAA, and Jack Valenti's moral monstrosity is an ethical mess which the ESRB threatens to mimic. Secondly, many stores know that you shouldn't sell or rent R rated movies to minors, but take a more nonchalant attitude (or, in some cases, a subversively guerrilla attitude) towards selling or renting M rated games to minors. Right there the industry has failed to regulate itself, but it's the distributor, not the developer at fault. This is yet another problem we face in this discussion. If Larry's Gaming Dungeon sells Gears of War to a six year old, then someone will launch an outcry against Epic Games for ever having made the title. If Larry's Video Hut sells Night Shift Nurses to a six year old, it's Larry who's getting lynched in the street. I can't explain this discrepancy but it does exist.

I might support California's law if it made the argument that the industry is welching on it's agreement to self-regulate. Instead they're comparing video games to pornography, when games should be regulated like movies. Just because I have an extensive collection of pornographic games doesn't mean we should stop children from buying Mario Galaxy. The biggest problem I see is that the gaming community is so wrapped up in screaming about censorship that we've forgotten our own responsibility in this mess. The industry, with responsibility falling primarily on distributors, was supposed to keep M rated games out of the hands of anyone under 18 and T rated games away from anyone under 13. If a parent bought it, then it was the parent's decision that it was suitable for their child, but the child alone could not purchase it. Instead we've cried "Censorship!" at just about anything and everything and now find ourselves in a nightmare scenario where Sonic the Hedgehog is being compared to... well... 90% of Sonic fanart actually. The game distributors have a responsibility that they haven't bothered with, but we haven't helped much. Take a look at every censorship argument you've made in the last twenty years, then consider the context of what was really going on. Were you helping? See, this is why I argue that we ought to leash our passions.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


This is, simultaneously, the greatest and worst thing in the world.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Modicum Of Professionalism

I got pissed off playing Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 again. And the weird thing is I don't even get pissed off at the game or anything. It's that some random line of dialogue somehow gets me thinking "my childhood kinda sucked" or some such thing and suddenly I'm pissed at various not-Gundam things. I don't know what it is about that game but it pisses me off at everything but the game itself. Maybe it's that all the in-game compliments sound like the same kind of insincere flattery you get when someone is saying something nice because they're supposed to be nice but they don't really mean it. I don't know. Maybe I just have issues.

Anyway. Call me a cold-hearted Yankee bastard, but culturally I'm a westerner. An American, specifically. And it's a statistical fact that we like our game heroes stoic and aloof. Which is quite the opposite of what Japan likes in their anime and video game heroes. And it's even odder since our hero preferences are the opposite of our cultures. Relatively speaking, western culture is very emotionally open while Japan is emotionally repressed. We like stoic heroes, they like more "emotive" (i.e. angsty) heroes. I'm not going to try to understand the hows and whys of this, I'm just positing an argument because I think I'm right. I like my heroes stoic, which might be why I came down off my DW:G2 anger rush by playing Gears of War of all things. I think it's because stoic heroes just seem more effective to me. Consider a scene from Ace Combat 6 (Japanese game, if you didn't know). We're going into spoiler territory, so if you care stop reading. Anyway, the player-character is a silent protagonist, so Talisman's dialogue is pretty much what I would be saying. And I like to imagine any competent leader would be thinking the same thing (even if they didn't quite say this).

Shamrock: "My wife and daughter are dead."

Talisman: "Oh... I'm sorry. Do you need to take some time off or something? Medical lea..."


Talisman: "Okay, your taking some time off. See a grief counselor or something, but your grounded. You're flying 200 million dollars of tax-payer aircraft, with enough jet fuel and warheads to destroy 15 city blocks. If you're going to start crying every 10 minutes then you're now a liability to get someone killed. As your flight leader, you are hereby grounded until further notice. Return to base."

Call be a bastard, but sometimes we all just need to calm down before we angst ourselves into an early grave.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Goddamn Newtypes

I haven't played Front Mission: Evolve yet, but based on the review I just saw it's probably inevitable. Based on that review, it seems the franchise has transitioned surprisingly well from a turn-based strategy/RPG into a third-person shooter. The review pointed out three potential problems, one of which isn't a problem for me because I like to win and another isn't a problem because I don't do multiplayer. First, multiplayer sucks. With that out of the way, another problem is balance. When fighting as infantry against giant robots the player seems strangely effective at knocking the behemoths down. When fighting in your own giant robot, the game turns into a war crime as your advantages over your enemies make it less like a battle and more like a murder. The last problem is the story. Apparently the hero is a newtype or he has Trans-Am or he has the EXAM system or [insert another Gundam reference]. In any case, super powers wouldn't be terribly out of place in most giant robot stories, but Front Mission has built itself around believable geo-political intrigue. Cut out the giant robots and most Front Mission stories would read like a good political pot-boiler set in the real world. The sudden inclusion of newtypes or something seems very out of place. So story wise, Front Mission: Evolve is the best Gundam spin-off never made.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Part of me thinks I should stop posting these videos, but that Heavy Rain LP has been a comedy goldmine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Metroid: Other DOAX

Well, GameOverthinker had another fanboy rant desperately trying to defend depictions of femininity in Other M, thereby completely negating his comments regarding the same topic in Bayonetta. I love third-wave feminism as much as the next guy who doesn't want his porn taken away, but sometimes you're not being feminine and just being a whiny emo puss, gender notwithstanding.

Rather than post a link to Mr. Chipman 'sperging out over how Nintendo can never do anything wrong (I shouldn't say that, he made a video talking about how Sony only made it big because Nintendo was being retarded. On second thought, I think he made that video to deflect accusations of being a fanboy), I'll just link to Yahtzee's review of the game. It's pretty much what I would say, only funnier and more popular.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Versus XBox Live

I keep trying to write up a decent review of the Scott Pilgrim game, but every time I try I slip into a sort of malaise. So instead I'll just say that it's a really good beat 'em up, especially for $10. In terms of gameplay it's the bastard love-child of Sengoku 3 and River City Ransom. Visually, it's like playing a Paul Robertson movie. If I have any complaints, it's a bit grindier than I'd like, but I think that comes with the River City Ransom thing. Also there was a reference to Crash 'n The Boys, so I'm obligated to like the game.

EDIT: This picture is one of the least fucked up things on Paul's site. Now imagine a 12 minute video.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Shouldn't Do This...

I know I'm supposed to be posting about XBox 360 games, not bitching about PS3 games. But I couldn't pass this up.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Demand Spoilers

My PC would probably burst into flames if it tried to run StarCraft 2. I suspect that my co-poster on this blog will probably be waiting in line for a midnight release or something, and since I won't have a chance to speak with him before launch I'll say here that I want story details from the campaign. All of them. Who dies, who lives, and how vindicated am I in never reading the StarCraft novels (actually I read one StarCraft novel. That experience taught me to never read any of the others).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Totally Missing Out

I must be honest with you all. Since I don't own a PS3, I can't partake in such brilliantly designed games as Heavy Rain. So sad.

Monday, June 28, 2010

An Addendum

After the previous post I had a discussion with a friend and felt the need to clarify certain issues. In regards to Nintendo's "casual" gaming versus the "hardcore" FPS scene: GrandPa doesn't get Kirby. GrandPa does get sighting down a barrel and shooting bad guys in the head.

I think that we, as gamers, should consider things from a more detached viewpoint whenever we talk about whether a game is intuitive. A non-gamer can quickly grasp the concept of "pick up gun, shoot target" without having to experiment too much or refer to a manual. The moment you say that experimentation is part of the experience, you have ceased to be either a casual or non-gamer. In all seriousness, go find the old manual for the NES version of Super Mario Bros. That whole thing reads like a drug fueled fever dream, doesn't it. Grab the mushroom to grow large, grab the flower to shoot fire. And you lose them if a turtle catches you. You can talk about imagination and creativity, but we were supposed to be talking about casual gamers. Does the casual gamer have the interest in gaming necessary to embrace the elaborate fantasy logic at work here?

Back in high school we used to joke that Mario games were full of hidden drug references. I still like that fan film that depicted Mario as a 'shroom addict living with his abused girlfriend, Peach. Meanwhile, Luigi had quit the 'shrooms, married Daisy, and gotten a job. But yeah, we gamers are used to game logic. For us, it's not a huge intuitive leap to accept that crashing your airplane into a giant, floating "P" will somehow make your guns bigger. We're not terribly weirded out by the idea of gaining a cape by grabbing a feather, then riding a dinosaur that eats mushrooms, fish, and turtles. And the cape lets you fly. We're cool with that, but then again we're gamers. This is the kind of weirdness that scares off the normals. This is why games like Kid Icarus are, in truth, hardcore games. This is the kind of game that tries to keep gaming an exclusive club. This doesn't bring in the non-gamer, it confuses them. Some of us, GameOverthinker I'm looking at you, have been playing games for over 20 years now. We get this stuff. But GrandPa only started playing games when we got him that Wii. And GrandPa doesn't understand why his magic sword shoots lasers while his health is full. So for his sake we're switching out the magic sword for a rifle. GrandPa gets that. Because GrandPa isn't a gamer.

Explaining My Hostility

First things first, maybe it's purely anecdotal personal experience but it feels like the defenders of casual gaming are a lot more hardcore about their gaming than I am. And, in theory, I'm one of those hardcore-Halo-playing-gunjocks (side note: fucking hate Halo). I honestly don't get in the requisite time to finish a Mario game these days. Maybe that's why I never got into Super Mario World; if I wanted a platformer, I could beat MegaMan X in about an hour. Super Mario World was a backtracking project. I had RPGs to soak up hours, I didn't need a platformer to do it. I think this issue somehow goes back to my argument that it's not casual versus hardcore, it's accessible versus impenetrable. Grandpa will never play Zelda. Ever. Chad from the basketball team will play Call of Duty. And probably stuff you in your locker, but that's besides the point. Somehow the game that the traditional non-gamer is playing is hardcore, while the game that the non-gamer will never play is casual. Go figure.

Meanwhile, I'm almost sorta nerd raging over the 2.5-D thing. Which is weird considering my undying love for Street Fighter. I continue to blame nostalgia. It's like those guys who look back at high school as the best years of their lives. Yeah, I was an unemployed virgin without a car. Good times. Everyone always likes to think about how things were better back when we were younger. My problem was that I had an unhealthy interest in the gaming industry when I was younger. Not just the gaming, but the actual industry. So back then I had some pretty good ideas of what I wanted to see in games to come, and looking back I have a clear vision of how we got here. Remember when we loved 3-D? Technology is always advancing, and back then the limitations of gaming were limitations of technology. Of course our games were 2-D, we didn't have the tech for 3-D. But someday, someday we would. And then that day finally came, and an army of nerds simultaneously creamed their pants when we saw Super Mario 64. It was Mario, in 3-D! At the time this was a clear and unambiguous step forward. To my mind, it still is. But for some reason we're retreating to the 2-D again. We're fleeing from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

It's all the difference between looking back and looking forward. I've explained my evolution before: Contra to Metal Slug to DOOM to Gears of War (and, as a Mac user, a few years experimenting with Marathon). I remember sitting at home playing Contra 4 on my SNES and thinking "Gee, wouldn't it be awesome if this was in 3-D." And then Gears of War came out. And then about half my generation decided the 2-D was better. If this was purely emotional, I could get it. If all the involved parties just said "Yeah, it's nostalgia because you think everything was better in 1988" I'd call you an idiot, but at least you'd be an honest idiot. But this is argued as the intrinsically superior game design and I don't get why. What were we waiting for all those years? Were the rest of you sitting at your gaming consoles thinking "I hope nothing ever changes for 25 years"? From my standpoint it looks like Gradius->Colony Wars->Ace Combat 6->Oh-Jesus-it's-scary-I-want-Gradius-back! Someone explain!

If I seem hostile it's because I'm opposed to nostalgia on most levels. It's like how everything was better in the 1950's. We were young and happy and there was never any crime in our neighborhoods. And black people knew their place. And you don't have to give gay people rights if you pretend they don't exist. Weren't the 1950's great? Here's an idea for a retro game, Star Fox. Yeah, it's great because it was on the Super Nintendo, then it was on the Nintendo 64. And it's great for retro-gaming because it's big selling point when it first came out was that it's in fucking 3-D! We are now what gaming back then was striving to be. Don't let a generation worth of effort go to waste.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blast Off To Adventure!

To continue my tradition of non sequitor first paragraphs, I discovered I have a copy of Garou: Mark of the Wolves. It's not a bad game, but I have no idea how I got it, where it came from, or why I have it. I never cared about the Fatal Fury/King of Fighters franchise before, so I don't know what happened. Anyway, I should get to the point that made me sit here in the first place.

I started playing the Orange Box edition of Half-Life 2 again, a game which has a sort of odd place in my collection. Half-Life 2 is an excellent game, but while games like Gears of War or Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 are in constant rotation, I haven't touched Half-Life 2 or it's episodes in about a year and half. I think I've figured out why. I think.

Like many in my generation, there was a time when the First Person Shooter was called the Corridor Shooter. Mostly because the first game we had played in the genre was Wolfenstein 3D. I had Wolfenstein 3D on my Mac (LC II, oldschool) and I had the special edition of DOOM on PSX. FPS's in general, though, were more of a PC genre and I was a console guy. So I generally had to wait for an FPS to come out on a console before I could play it. Enter GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. These two games shaped what I looked for in a good FPS, and I think it still colors my preferences. PC shooters had technological advantages over consoles, and the design philosophy tended towards big, expansive worlds to explore. Without the hardware for big, expansive worlds, many console shooters tended to be smaller. GoldenEye and Perfect Dark were effectively fully interactive 3D shooting galleries where the targets could shoot back. The levels were small and had a habit of being fairly linear. This is the shooter I grew up with. Today my favorite shooters are Gears of War and Modern Warfare. If you've played those last two then I think you can see the connection.

Meanwhile, the PC FPS had big open worlds filled with enemies, secrets, and places to explore. The console FPS only had enough room for the enemies. This was a major difference in design philosophy. It is this difference in design philosophy that makes me objectively acknowledge the quality of Half-Life 2 while still rarely playing it because each new level makes me think "oh Christ, this level...". One design philosophy isn't better than the other, it's just a matter of preference. I grew up playing Double Dragon and listening to The Doors, so I'm not as big a Mario fan as someone who played Super Mario Bros. and listened to whatever the Hell 8 year olds listened to back then. We all have different tastes.

In private I've thrown around the term "First Person Adventure with Shooting Elements" to describe games that lean more to the PC FPS philosophy. It's how I've described BioShock, and part of the reason Fallout 3 was so refreshing is that it was a straight up RPG which could only be confused for an FPS if you've never played it or seen it played. Half-Life 2 falls into this category. A lot of the problems we sometimes have with something are the preconceptions we go into it with. Cloverfield wasn't a monster movie, but a disaster movie in which the disaster was a giant monster. I can understand how that can kinda piss people off when they went to see a monster movie. It's this same problem that made me not appreciate Half-Life 2 as much as I should have. To me, Half-Life 2 isn't a First Person Shooter, it's a First Person Adventure. If I go into it with the same mindset I go into Gears of War or Modern Warfare, I'm going to find a noticeable lack of ammo and a crippling lack of monsters to use it on. But if I approach it less as a shooter and more as an adventure game, suddenly I'm not seeing a lack of enemies but instead a wide world where the enemies that do show up are a tangible and exciting danger.

I have different tastes in First Person Shooters. My favorites are the linear shooting gallery style games. Half-Life 2 is still an utterly fantastic game. I just have to think about it not as a shooter, but as an adventure game (that, and ignore that escort quest near the end of episode one). If I start to think of Half-Life 2 as a shooter, I might as well start complaining that Dragon Age had horrible flight mechanics and dog fighting. It's a personal issue, but by addressing it I can better appreciate the game for what it is rather than what I expected from it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Secretly Hate All Of You


Friday, May 28, 2010

Rental Considerations

As is my way I've been watching Let's Plays, and I've decided I may yet rent Dante's Inferno, but I will never buy it.

First things first, it's derivative. But if you've read anything I've written about Gears of War you all know that simply being samey has never put a damper on my opinions. It's got everything I should love: button mashing combat (see also: all those Dynasty Warriors games) and blood, guts, and horror (see also: my porn collection). It's a God of War rip-off, but God of War was awesome so it's OK. The problem seems to be that they took awesome elements from games they liked, but never gave consideration to what made them work. Gears of War 2 had you hijack a brumack in the last level, making you effectively invincible and packing huge guns. For maybe fifteen minutes in the last level. Dante's Inferno does something similar twice in the first hour of gameplay. Devil May Cry gave you guns for ranged attacks, but the guns were horribly underpowered because they were meant more to add flavor to the combat than to be a viable combat option. Dante's Inferno made its ranged attack powerful enough that you could theoretically never use your melee attack. They were so concerned with copying awesome game concepts that they never thought about what made them awesome and just piled them into their game. The result is that something that was once awesome becomes common and base.

The biggest complaint that anyone even remotely literate is going to have is the way the game rapes the original poem. Let's suppose someone made a game story about some generic fantasy kingdom that is taken over by some interdimensional chaos demon, and so some half-demon knight who can shoot lasers from his eyes has to cut his way through monsters to save the land. It's dumb, but a serviceable plot for an action game. Now imagine someone took that story, renamed the fantasy kingdom Denmark, made the half-demon laser-knight William Shakespeare, and called the game "Hamlet." That wouldn't work and would make something that started dumb end up epically stupid. That's what Dante's Inferno did. They took a dumb but serviceable story about a disillusioned Crusader launching a one-man invasion of Hell, and changed the names to make references to The Divine Comedy. Having your main character die, then having him kill Death and stealing his scythe, that's kinda stupid. Making this same character Dante Alighieri is offensively stupid. Also, all of this is taking place some three or four hundred years before Dante Alighieri was born.

So why would I consider renting this drek? Well, like I said, button mashing ultra-violence. But it's also a visual treat (I realize this says something about my taste). It's a visually brilliant game, which may be why a Let's Play might hold up better than an actual rental. I should point out that I was completely unfazed by things that horrified the Let's Play commentators and rendered one speechless. It's weird, but I want to rent this game less to play it and more to see it. And before anyone starts complaining about graphics becoming more important than gameplay, I said I'd rent it. I'm never buying this monstrosity.

Let's Be Honest For A Sec

MovieBob gave a pretty good review to Prince of Persia. But he said he was surprised that he wasn't more thrilled that a good video game movie had been made. His explanation for his lack of thrills? It wasn't Mario.

If I ever develop the same degree of fanaticism for Gears of War, or Ace Combat, or... Hell, let's say Lyrical Nanoha, consider that an open invitation to shoot me in the head.
(It's kinda like those ads that were disguised as polls on anime sites. "Do you eat Pocky while watching anime?" No, but if I ever do I'll have to kill myself out of shame.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In protest against Obama's assertion that playing Xbox will turn me into a mutant star goat, a serial graffiti cleaner, or a disused lavatory (I assume it had to be something offensive like that, as otherwise there wouldn't be an uproar), I now thoroughly counter-assert that my Xbox is still working.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Exciting New Levels Of Apathy

This just in: President Obama says mean things about XBox. Nation shocked to learn that politicians don't trust gaming. More on this when I can feign outrage.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Depending on how I feel after this, my other blog will have a similar, if less coherent, rant about anime. So here goes.

Not surprisingly, the Game OverThinker's latest video did something to piss me off. Surprisingly, it wasn't the primary content of the video. I largely agreed with what he said. It was his continued dichotomy of brightly colored, old school platformers versus pseudo-realistic military shooters. He seems to be under the impression that anyone who honestly enjoys Modern Warfare 2 is also a fratboy jock who masturbates to Glenn Beck. All TRUE gamers prefer the Mario games (and all TRUE Americans don't live on the coasts). He states he has no problems with the casual gaming image Nintendo is building for itself, but considering his Nintendo fanboyism I find it hard to take this statement at face value. Instead of dividing gamers into casual and hardcore, let's instead divide game culture into "accessible" and "impenetrable". The question isn't whether grandma can figure out the controls, but if a non-gamer would play the game to completion. I begin to suspect that the more militant aspects of the platformer crowd (some people just prefer platformers, but some douchebags believe it's the One True Path and Miyamoto is it's prophet) would prefer games to be impenetrable, that special thing that only the nerds have.

People have a habit of categorizing themselves. The nerds, the jocks, the gamers, whatever. It goes beyond the stereotypes of the high school cliques and is proudly on display at any sci-fi convention or baseball game. We divide into Us and Them, and any overlap makes us uncomfortable. There is the crowd that consistently got 100% runs in Super Metroid, and the crowd that only knew the consoles as that thing to play the new Madden game on. Then came the game that changed that for a generation of gamers, specifically my generation. Suddenly there was a game that the football players were playing to completion on the higher difficulty levels, a game that could finally unite the jock and the nerd in an ultra-violent nerdgasm of alien carnage. Yes, I speak of Halo. Finally, there was common ground. Many have embraced this common ground, others have recoiled in horror. The sacred ground of the nerd, the video game, had been sullied by the uninitiated.

I'll be honest, I don't like Halo. Halo 2 failed to impress at launch, and while the original was impressive at the time, it hasn't aged well. But suddenly there was a whole new market in a revamped genre, the FPS had found a new niche on the console (let's not get started on how the PC nerds reacted). Gaming was undergoing yet another evolution. And by that I mean you young'uns wouldn't believe what we had to put up with in RPGs back in the day, I still shudder to think of those interfaces. I don't say this often, but thank God for Final Fantasy. Gaming was evolving, and many of us rode with it. Others retreated to their cabins in the woods to await the End Times.

This, I believe, is the primary cause of friction between the old school and the young bloods. Well, this and that the young bloods seem to be brutally ignorant of history. But the problem was that previously impenetrable games that only nerds could tolerate were now accessible to the mainstream American. The club was no longer exclusive. Anyone could be a gamer. The modern argument of casual and hardcore first started out as gaming nerd battling lacrosse player. If "hardcore" gaming today is a club, then old school gaming back in the day was a clan. You weren't in unless you were born in and marrying in only meant your children were in, you were still out. It was that exclusive.

Part of me wonders if this doesn't also have to do with national cultures. Domestic, American game companies didn't really start to hit it big until the PSX era. Prior to that, everything came from Japan. A lot of platformer enthusiasts make the arguments about colors versus real-is-brown, and to a shocking extent that's a cultural barrier between west and east. Japanese games still have a market in the west, but not on the same scale that American and European games have. I'd buy Idolm@ster if it ever came out here, me and ten other people (four of whom are convicted sex offenders). Meanwhile, American games (and to a lesser extent, European games) don't do well in Japan. The primary reasons cited by Japanese gamers is that they look too hard (this from the country that brought us Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania) and the main characters aren't cute enough. I wish I was making that last part up. It's all part of the kawaisa aesthetic. They like things cute and colorful, while we like big manly men. That's why the military shooter has done so well in America amongst people who previously wouldn't be considered gamers. It's muscular men grasping long, hard objects and shooting off in other guys' faces. If that seems overly harsh to American cultural preferences, I point you to Japanese sociologists who view all this colorful cuteness as a dangerous cultural neurosis and symptomatic of an entire society refusing to grow the fuck up. My point is that the nerd was dedicated enough to gaming to leap over these cultural boundaries (or embrace them, but that's a whole other rant) whereas the less traditional gamer wasn't. But then games were produced that played to his own culture, and suddenly he was a gamer. Much to the horror of some older gamers.

Gaming has gone mainstream. It is part of our culture now. And that means it's not exclusive anymore. The gamer isn't a specialized class of nerd, but a noticeable portion of the American market. That scares some people. They have lost all special entitlements and considerations. Gaming has come to the masses. Nearly every gamer has publicly argued that gaming should be recognized and respected by the mainstream of American society. But now that it's happening, some of us are afraid that we're not so special as we thought. We can march forward, or we can insist that everything was better when I was younger. As a guy who still owns the original Super Mario Bros. trilogy on that front loading NES that's still plugged in (okay, Bionic Commando is in there now, but that's not the point), I'm marching forward.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


In the event any of you cared, I wanted to share that my 360 is still full of pith and vinegar, figuratively speaking.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Natal Is A Terrible Idea

If I gave a flying fuck about motion controlled games, I'd get a Wii. If I wanted to flail around like I was playing tennis or running outside, I'd got outside and play tennis or run. That's what I never understood about motion control, we're trying to make the controls feel like you're really doing the action that's on-screen, or you could just go outside and get some sun you fat fuck. It's like when The Sims first came out:
"You can make friends and get a job!"
"Wow, and here I thought we could just do that in real life."

While I'm bitching, could someone who's into the 2-D platformer retro-gaming explain the appeal to me? Without referencing nostalgic everything-was-better-when-I-was-young. It's the same twitch reaction gameplay you'd see in, say, Modern Warfare 2. There's a crippling lack of story that we've been complaining about for nearly twenty years. The only appeal I can imagine is nostalgia. It's like "Hey, remember how 'Contra' was awesome?!" Yes, I do. In 1987. Then I started playing Metal Slug because it was better. Now if you'll excuse I'm going to play Gears of War because the technology means we don't have an excuse anymore. At least with retro-style strategy games or RPGs there's a depth of design that allowed them to hold up over time. Platformers don't have that depth, and I liked Super Mario Bros. 3 too but fuck you it didn't have depth. It's a fucking platformer.

I really should stop watching Game Overthinker, his Nintendo fanboyism does this to me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

We Called It "Total Annihilation"

I'm not a big RTS fan, but I'm told Supreme Commander 2 (spiritual bastard child of Total Annihilation) is one of the few console RTS games that get the controls right. And considering that much of the action and resource management is taken directly from its illegitimate parent, my inner fanboy is probably obligated to play it at some point.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It Can Never Die

I can't tell if this is the most awesome or most terrifying thing I've seen.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Drive A Tank

Don't tap the fucking glass!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

About As Nostalgic As I'm Getting


Monday, March 15, 2010

Have You Noticed I Like Anime?

Considering the type of fellow Tom Clancy seems to be, this entire video almost feels like a giant "fuck you" to him.
Note: You should probably full-screen this in order to see anything.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Still Alive

Portal 2 has been announced, and my 360 is still alive.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fictitious Chatter-Boxes

It's not uncommon in games these days for characters to either compliment or chastise you based on your actions. I don't know what it is about Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, but something in that game is pushing my buttons. Let's compare:

NPC: "Hey! Good job!"
Me: Thank you.

Fallout 3
NPC: "Thanks for the help. Here's your reward."
Me: No reward needed, just happy to help.

Ace Combat 6
NPC: "Nice shooting, Talisman!"
Me: Damn straight it was.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2
NPC: "Great job! You should take more pride in your accomplishments!"

Monday, March 1, 2010

Steve Blum Is In Everything

Remember when I posted a link to that Ace Combat 6 Let's Play? Apparently Viddler decided that they hated all that was good in the world, and yet TyrantSabre continues to use them. So until the relevant parties realize that the .flv movies border on unwatchable, let's watch an LP of Ubisoft's Ace Combat knock-off: Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Cooked Auto uses, so the streaming quality is significantly better. And he's apparently quite the Ace Combat fan, as the PC version of the game he's playing has him using several fan made Ace Combat skins. And Macross skins. And Lucky Star.

EDIT: In the latest video, he honest-to-God uses a Lucky Star skin on a MiG-29. Just as Tom Clancy intended.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Who Needs Shrinks?

I was playing Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, when an off-hand bit of dialogue caused me to yell at the TV for about 5 minutes before crying in the corner for half an hour. I'd say this probably isn't normal behavior, but who can define normal in the age of LOLcats.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Did You Have Fun?

Watching reviews for games, I'm noticing an annoying trend. Whenever I engage the entertainment industry I want to do something enjoyable (playing Silent Hill games notwithstanding). Many reviews lately have complained about everything under the sun; the game wasn't realistic enough, it didn't do anything new to revolutionize the genre, Jesus didn't come down from on high and inject pure liquid joy into my eyeballs.

First off, a lot of reviewers seem to expect a gaming revolution every three months. If we applied those same standards to other aspects of our lives then we should have turned into demi-gods of pure energy two centuries ago. As for the realism issue, I'm not a huge fan of realism in my gaming. Many people have complained about how Modern Warfare 2 is less realistic and more like a Michael Bay movie. This is true, but if I demanded more realism from my war games I'd go enlist. Nothing's more realistic than honest-to-God dying when you get shot.

I don't know about other folks anymore, but when I play a video game I want to have a good time playing it (again, Silent Hill doesn't count). It reminds me of an argument I had back when Gladiator and Traffic were competing for Best Picture. Traffic was, in technical terms, the better movie. It was better written, better acted, and better directed. But it was an odd experience, I respected it from an artistic stand point but I wasn't terribly entertained. Gladiator, on the other hand, was over the top and about as historically accurate as Lord of the Rings. But I had fun watching it. And it's kind of the purpose of the entertainment industry to entertain. I'm not saying that an entertaining film can't be intelligent or artfully crafted, I'm just saying I put greater emphasis on enjoying the movie or game. I'll be the first one to admit that some of my favorite games are rather generic, just look at the stuff I've written about Gears of War. But it's a fun game. Hell, I play Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, which is essentially Dynasty Warriors 2, 3, 4, and 5, but with giant robots (and sadly it's more of a traditional Dynasty Warriors game than Dynasty Warriors 6, but that's another argument). So to all the people who complain that a video game didn't move them to tears or make them re-evaluate their principles, I have one question. Did you have fun?

SIDE NOTE: I start to wonder if reviewers don't have these complaints because video games are ultimately trivial time wasters, and they have to validate their hobby by depicting it as high art. Even though the definition of a hobby is "an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation" (emphasis added).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just Reading It For The Articles

So I was playing DOA Beach Volleyball and joking that "I'm just here for the volleyball, honest." But it occurred to me, how many volleyball games are there? I mean, what if you honestly really wanted to play a volleyball video game? How many outlets do you have? I know the DOA volleyball games have a shockingly large female audience that plays it for the relationship building aspect, but maybe there are actual volleyball enthusiasts who play it less as a choice and more as a lack of options. Or they could go play actual volleyball, but it's 31 degrees Fahrenheit out here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Let's Play Recommendations

Following on his entertaining Let's Play of Red Faction: Guerrilla, TyrantSabre is now doing a Let's Play of a personal favorite of mine, Ace Combat 6. He admits he hasn't played any of the other games in the series (HERESY!), but he's apparently done his research enough that he can talk about the setting of the games irregardless. And download the original videos (requires a Viddler account), the streaming videos on Viddler are almost unwatchable.

Also, since the original video got deleted, I'd thought I'd fag this up a bit and post the completed version of this little horror show:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Strange And Terrifying Developments

Corporations have had the limits on their political contributions removed. Corporations can now legally buy out politicians, thereby allowing them to re-write American law as they see fit. Pray that Sony doesn't become too ambitious AND become aware of this blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

So Why Not?

I can sorta kinda understand why Metal Wolf Chaos never made it to the US. But it's been a few years, American politics have changed. I say we should get this game on XBox Live. I know I'd download a game about the Vice-President leading a coup-de-tat and the only way to stop him is for the President of the United States to pilot a giant killer robot and liberate America. Admit it, that sounds fucking awesome.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Danger Close

The first proper paragraph of this is going to be a look at the plot and politics of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, so if you care that much about spoilers you should skip the next paragraph.

Based on what some people have been saying, when I opened up the case for Modern Warfare 2 I expected a bald eagle to fly out and land on an M1 Abrams tank that was firing into Stalin's face. No such luck. The game does fulfill the right-wing fantasy of having another "good war", a war without any ambiguity where America is clearly the good guys and our enemies are explicitly evil. We are not the invaders overthrowing a sovereign government because it doesn't live up to our political ideals. Instead we are the invaded, fighting off an army more interested in carnage than military conquest. But that's where the right-wing politics end. The story of how we reached that point sounds like something out of the 9/11 Truth Movement. The villain is an American general who engineers the invasion of America for the purpose of putting America on a 'total war' footing and using that power to liberate the rest of the world from the shackles of not being American, all to sate his meta-historical(?) ego. If this were something from the Glenn Beck Show, that conspiracy would be a red herring to distract us from the evils of brown skinned people. But in the game the conspiracy is the truth, which is decidedly less Sean Hannity and more "Loose Change" (if you don't know what that is, Google "loose change 911"). So before we start having a kneejerk reaction to the games right-wing militarism, maybe we should look more closely at its left-wing narrative.

Gameplay wise, what you heard about Modern Warfare 2 is true. It is criminally short. Admittedly I had all the free time of Christmas Day, but after sinking my teeth into Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 and watching Rebuild of Evangelion, I still finished Modern Warfare 2 the same day I opened it. There's a new "Spec Ops" feature that can lengthen gameplay a bit, but it was built with co-op in mind. You can play most of the missions solo, but the ones that really interested me (shooting from an AC-130) are co-op only and I don't do multiplayer. But make sure you play Spec Ops with a friend, some of those missions are frustrating enough and griefers aren't going to help ("I swear I'm not aiming at you, you're running into my line of fire"). I'm sure Spec Ops and multiplayer add countless hours to the game, but I'm a single player kind of guy and Campaign mode was short as Hell.

The actual game mechanics are little changed from the previous game. Most of the guns are new, or at least sport new target sights. There are some new toys, like thermal sights for some rifles and a heartbeat detector on one gun. The biggest change is the action flick style chase scenes. I'll agree with the harsher critics, all pretense to realism flew out the window after the snowmobile sequence. But, if anything, I've been a critic of realism in games so that didn't bother me. It's essentially the same game with a new story, but like the Gears of War franchise, too many changes probably would have angered me more than anything.

Of course the game carries over one of my chief complaints about the first game. The enemy AI seems very aware that you are the player, and so long as it can kill your character it "wins". It doesn't matter if you're in a platoon of over a dozen other soldiers, every RPG and machine gun in a three mile radius is trained squarely on YOU. This game even created something new for me to complain about. In the first Modern Warfare, if you took too much damage the edge of the screen would turn red and you'd have to go hide somewhere until magical tissue regeneration saved you. Often, it was a good idea to take the second before you might die to kill the guy shooting you, thus giving you plenty of time to heal up. In Modern Warfare 2, every hit you take splatters raspberry jam on your eyes, and if you're near death everything turns into a blurry red smear. Good luck finding cover when you can't see a damn thing, let alone defend yourself.

And these games are tough. It's bad enough that your character seems to have a twelve foot high "KILL ME" banner stuck in the top of his head. I normally play the original Modern Warfare on normal difficulty, but occasionally I get frustrated enough with cheap deaths to play it on easy. Modern Warfare 2 is harder, combining the "everyone decided to kill you and only you" problem with the raspberry jam in the eyes and I died about two dozen times in the same exact spot on that damn oil platform. Often I'll beat a game on a difficulty I don't like, and henceforth swear to only play it on lower difficulties. In Modern Warfare 2, the difficulty I beat before swearing it off forever was normal.

If you're like me and only play single player, the game's length feels less like a sequel and more like an expansion pack. But it's certainly fun, and if you play multiplayer it's probably much longer. If you haven't yet played this game, give it a spin. If you haven't yet played the original, you might want to try that first so the story has some context. Of course the sequel has Kevin McKidd, the original doesn't. Makes all the difference in the world.