Tuesday, December 27, 2011

See Your Death

I don't know what it is that makes gamers so whiny. Probably the prime example recently was the ridiculous backlash against Diablo 3. Also Fallout 3, a game I consider one of the greatest ever produced, has been proclaimed to be an atrocity against sensibility for having the audacity to be more than mod of Fallout 2. And you will find dozens of write-ups about how Front Mission Evolved is an awful game because it's an American produced action game rather than a Japanese tactical RPG. Yet in all those write-ups there isn't a single complaint about the terrible story, awful acting, and annoyingly dull gameplay.

By that same token, many Ace Combat fans are decrying Assault Horizon as the worst thing to happen to the franchise since the American localization of Ace Combat 3. But these people are mostly being whiny jerks.

It's not that people aren't making valid observations about Assault Horizons (well, some of their observations are invalid), but they seem to be coming to the wrong conclusion. They complain that Assault Horizon doesn't feel or play like an Ace Combat game. They are correct on this. They say that this makes Assault Horizon a terrible game. They are very, very wrong on this.

The first change players will notice is that the game doesn't take place in Strangereal. I thought this was a mistake, since Strangereal allowed the writers to use fictitious countries with fictitious histories. You can tell any kind of story you want and simply invent a geopolitical situation out of whole cloth to justify it. By setting Assault Horizon in the real world, we got stuck with the same, tired Russian civil war story. When future historians look back on games as a reflection of our culture, their going to think the Russian Federation was about as stable as Rhodesia.

Another big change up is the combat, surprisingly. Besides the startling assortment of non-airplane vehicles you get, the actual combat has been radically altered with Dog Fighting Mode. Dog Fighting Mode focuses you on a single enemy and almost turns the game into an on-rails shooter. It's a neat little gimmick, especially since your computer controlled plane does some pretty crazy shit. I'm pretty sure a lot of enemy flight paths in Dog Fighting Mode are scripted for cinematic effect.

Unfortunately, a lot of complaints that are leveled against this game are just pure bullshit. For example, the most glaring complaint you'll see is that the controls are dumbed down. First of all, that control scheme was available in every Ace Combat game since the PS1 days. Secondly, the more 'conventional' control scheme is still available. It's right there in the options menu. It's just that the 'novice' controls are set by default. So really the controls are only an issue if your THE TYPE OF FUCKING IDIOT WHO DOESN'T CHECK THE GAME SETTINGS.

The most bullshit complaint of all, though, is that the game isn't realistic enough. I'll never understand why people seem to think the Ace Combat games are supposed to be ultra-realistic flight sims. Your missiles only lock on if the target is less than 800 feet away. Your plane can carry over 200 missiles AND a particle beam cannon. And you fought the Stonehenge anti-asteroid cannon on the continent of Usea. If any of these players join the Air Force they are going to be sorely disappointed. They complain that Assault Horizon is too arcade-like and unrealistic when every single game in the franchise is arcade-like and unrealistic. I thought that was the point. I thought that's what made it fun.

So let's all step back from the (apparently) horrifying revelation that this isn't Ace Combat 7 and judge the game on its own merits. It's a faced past flight shooter that actually gave me the shakes whenever I finished a session. I'll admit I miss the 'Operations' mechanic from Ace Combat 6, but Assault Horizon doesn't really leave you time to think. You'll be running on instinct and tweaked nerves. This is somewhat exacerbated by the lack of mission briefings. Instead, you just have to deduce your mission objectives based on cutscenes and radio chatter. No, this isn't hard to do. If the radio lets you know that a base is under attack, and a whole slew of targets show up around the base in question, you should probably go blow those guys up. I want to know how much of a 'spergy retard you must be to face that situation and start screaming "What are my mission objectives?! There was no briefing!"

The story for this game (one of the two things done by a westerner) is decently played out. It's not as good as Ace Combat 5, but it isn't sleep inducing like Ace Combat 6. The characters are a bit shallow, the aforementioned Russian civil war is becoming cliche, and Makarov... wait, I mean Markov gets his character development too late in the game for my tastes. But the twist was handled well enough, nobody in the military rambles on and on about pacifism (why would pacifists join the military?) and despite the cliches the Liberation of Moscow was very satisfying.

And just one closing note of praise. There are great soundtracks that stand alone as songs and music, and there are great soundtracks that can't stand alone but wonderfully compliment what is happening on-screen. Assault Horizon's music is arguably not the former, but as the latter this is probably Keiki Kobayashi's greatest work to date.

Assault Horizon doesn't feel like Ace Combat. Then again, Guilty Gear doesn't feel like Street Fighter. I think this is what most of the complaints stem from. If you noticed, I haven't even referred to the game by it's full title; Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. If H.A.W.X. was Ubisoft trying to copy Ace Combat and everything goes horribly wrong, Assault Horizon is Namco trying to copy H.A.W.X. and everything going horribly right. This isn't really an Ace Combat game, but that doesn't make it bad. Far from it, this is one of my favorite games to date. So as a game unto itself it's absolutely fantastic. As an Ace Combat game it seems like the red-headed stepchild of the franchise. Albeit a red-headed stepchild that went to MIT and put a man on Mars. Frankly, I think this game should have been marketed as "Assault Horizon (from the makers of Ace Combat)". That would have been a more honest title, and there would have been less bitching an moaning. So to all the haters out there, no this isn't an Ace Combat game. It's amazing and fun and wonderful, but it doesn't feel like previous games in the franchise. So I guess everything this game got right doesn't really matter. Fanboys are assholes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Attention Whores

As you may have deduced from previous comments, God knows I'm not a fan of Mario games. Not that they're bad, that style of platforming action just isn't my scene and from an objective design standpoint I'll attest to the quality of most of them. Still, like racing games, no matter the quality it just isn't something that interests me. So if something somewhere were to go wrong with Mario, I'd have no qualms about leaping into the fray to destroy it. Unless, you know, PETA were the ones to point out the problem. Assuming this whole thing doesn't die as quickly as their "sea kittens" campaign, expect to see protesters outside of GameStop with "fur is murder" signs. According to PETA the Tanuki suit sends the wrong message to children. They say it tells children that it's okay to wear fur. I say it tells children that wearing the skin of a raccoon-dog will allow you to fly. And I tell that to children all the time. So is PETA overreacting? It's PETA. It isn't about the animals, it's about getting people to look at PETA. And if it sounds like I haven't really addressed the issue, it's because I refuse to dignify this artificial controversy with a proper response. Mocking response, sure. But not proper.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Great Moments In Nerd Pranks

For those of you who don't know, Coast to Coast AM is a radio call-in program that generally deals with conspiracy theories, aliens, and the supernatural. They are not gamers. As such, describing a video game as an actual event may very well get taken seriously. What can I say, George Noory doesn't think with portals.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Directed By Kenneth Branaugh

The same guy who did this is also doing a rather silly LP of Vampire: The Masquerade-Bloodlines.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Constantly Treading Old Ground

I almost feel bad about even mentioning it (and I'm not providing a link), but the GameOverthinker is promising another Metroid: Other M video. The defenders of Other M are few and far between, and the general failings of Bob's arguments aren't helping his cause (of course, when it all goes to shit he claims he was trolling us for the website hits).

First things first, his rampant Nintendo fanboyism is so well known it's not even worth discussing. Suffice it to say Metroid: Other M is a Nintendo game, therefore he will defend it. Secondly, he seems to be one of those people who mistakes personal opinions for objective facts. Bob likes retro-gaming, therefore retro-gaming is the best gaming, and anyone who disagrees is wrong and a jerk. It's the same logic as 'I think guy-on-guy is icky, therefore homosexuality is an abomination before the Lord.' Lastly, and the point I really want to address, good ol' fashioned argument redirection. Apparently if you think Other M is misogynist, then you are a racist.

Stereotypes have some basis in truth, the problem is that it's wrong to assume that the trait in question applies to all members of a group. Not all Asians are terrible drivers, though my Dad happens to be a terrible driver. Not all Russians are alcoholics, but my Uncle is. You shouldn't judge an entire people based on the actions of a few, but at the same time it doesn't mean that the few aren't guilty. It's a stereotype and a fallacy to assume all Japanese men are misogynist. It's just as much of a fallacy to assume that NO Japanese men are misogynist. Really you shouldn't assume anything at all, the actions and words of the individual in question should speak for themselves. So I don't assume Metroid: Other M is misogynist because it's made by Japanese people, the game itself demonstrates that it hates women.

Now, Bob does have some semblance of a point that Samus Aran hasn't been fully developed as a character until recently and most of what we assume about her are just that: assumptions. Actually, more like educated guesses. She's a space bounty hunter with a preference for armor and big guns. And she works alone, always. I'm sorry for assuming, based on all that, that she had deep-seated co-dependency issues. As Extra Credits pointed out, bad characterization is not a step up from no characterization.

If you really want to see a female game character that got screwed by their parent company, feel bad for Aya Brea. Really, if the Parasite Eve games had done better, she should have been the poster girl for strong characters who are female. Unlike Samus, Aya is from an RPG so she has pages of dialogue and characterization to fall back on. She was strong, independent, took no shit, and her constant JRPG yammering meant that all of this wasn't just the audience putting words in her mouth. Then came The Third Birthday, a game so shameful it wasn't even allowed to be called Parasite Eve 3. Now she's suddenly a simpering girl-child who likes to strip down and bake muffins for all the boys.

When we first discovered that Samus was a woman, it was supposed to be a surprise. Back then female characters weren't the leads, especially not in action-adventure games. Her gender quickly became a non-issue, whatever you thought of women you still accepted Samus as a character. Most of us assumed she was about as feminine as Ripley as portrayed in 'Aliens'. It should be noted that, in the original 'Alien', the writers were told to have another female character so they simply changed all references to Ripley from 'he' to 'she' and that's all the changes they made. With Other M, it's not really that Samus is particularly feminine, it's that she's particularly weak. She has dependency issues and wangsts constantly. That feels like the writers hated the character. That the character is a beloved symbol of empowered women makes it look like woman hating. And the game could have been made in Sweden and we'd still be making the same observations.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stranger In A Strangereal Land

Once again I haven't picked up a game because doubts existed. I'll likely get it later this year. That game being Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. For starters, Ace Combat has always been very anime. There are at least half a dozen videos splicing Ace Combat with Lyrical Nanoha (I posted some of those here) and a Let's Play of Ace Combat 6 had a commenter openly compare it to a mecha anime. Assault Horizon is much more grounded in American sensibilities regarding war games. Right down to taking place in the real world. Yeah, we abandoned Strangereal. Which might be why this isn't a numbered sequel (not too American though, as there's already fanart splicing Assault Horizon with Macross). This might be a significant shift on Bandai/Namco's part. Ace Combat has traditionally sold rather poorly in its native Japan; most of their sales were in North America and Europe. At first a lot of us were worried this was some kind of cycle of crap: Namco makes awesome Ace Combat; Ubisoft makes shitty HAWX trying to make a western Ace Combat; Bandai/Namco makes shitty Ace Combat trying to make HAWX. It doesn't look like that's the case. The overall production quality suggests that either Bandai/Namco is invested in this game's success or the director is a genius with getting more out of less in terms of budget. I was very nervous when looking at the announcements, everything was pointing to this being the death of Ace Combat. Instead it looks like we're getting an American approach to story telling with a Japanese approach to game design and presentation. Which is the exact opposite of what happened with Front Mission: Evolved. Which means it will be good?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

GrimDark Fandango

I was torn between getting Dynasty Warriors 7 or Gears of War 3. With the assistance of a coin toss I split the difference and got Space Marine.

The story for Space Marine is actually pretty good, containing fun double crosses and betrayals. And the clever player can understand the plot even if you're not a Warhammer 40K fan. You just have to pick up on what everything is supposed to be. Space Marines are super soldiers, Imperial Guard is the Army, and let's say Inquisitors are intelligence agents (not the most accurate analogy, but it works for the story). Once you get past the vocabulary the story makes sense even to non-fans of 40K. Unfortunately the dialogue isn't so accommodating, and the non-fan will have to muddle through discussions on heresy, the Warp, xenos, and the Codex Astartes.

As for gameplay, Space Marine is nominally a third person shooter. I've found this to be a lie, as it's actually more of a Dynasty Warriors game than Dynasty Warriors 6 was. Once I got within melee range and started banging out X, X, X, Y combos things started to feel oddly familiar. The game is designed to reward aggression, and it does so admirably. While there are some enemies who sit on unreachable ledges demanding ranged weapons, most are content to sprint directly towards you. Ranged weapons seem more for thinning the ranks of a horde or softening up a tough enemy before you get into close quarters. And there is no cover system, unless manually strafing behind a wall counts. And no ducking, you stand up at all times. If anything, melee is safer for you. Like the original Halo, you have armor that regenerates over time and health that does not. To restore health, you have to perform melee executions on enemies. This is where presentation makes all the difference in the world, as the animation, tasteful use of slow motion, and giving the player free camera control all make the execution animations very satisfying. Presuming there isn't a weird clipping issue that has your enemy four feet to your left while being killed or disappearing behind a concrete wall. It still satisfying, as I've found myself performing executions, yelling some variant on "fuck you" at the television, and coming away from the experience feeling strangely fulfilled.

The game isn't flawless. While new enemies are introduced at a healthy pace, weapons are not and you'll sometimes find yourself replacing a weapon with a new weapon before you've even learned how it works. The reloads are annoying as well. Reloading while you have ammo is faster than reloading an empty clip (for some reason), but if you manually reload an empty clip you can mistakenly think you're reloading a partial clip, which throws off your timing. And the timing is hard to learn because the reload animations are so subtle I'm not entirely sure they exist at all. And melee attacks or firing a partial clip cancels the reload, which just further confuses things.

Space Marine isn't a game that's going to revolutionize the industry or even the genre. The setting is too niche for the mainstream and being the bastard child of Dynasty Warriors and Gears of War is too niche for it's own genre (which is...?). Great game, no. Good game, yes. Enthusiastically yes. I'm having fun with this game. And isn't that the point of games in the first place.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Clausewitz "On WAAAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!"

Still no new hi-def TV, but I got sick of waiting and hooked up my 360 to my old TV box. And then I downloaded "Kill Team". Let's just say you get what you pay for.

I personally enjoyed the game a lot. Of course, I haven't played a good two-stick shooter since "Smash TV", so the market was a bit dry for me. Part of my enjoyment of the game was the price. Seriously, it was 800 Microsoft points. Had it been pricier, I might have felt ripped off. I mean, there isn't a whole lot of game here. It's only five levels, making the whole game maybe three hours if you do a straight run-through and don't die too much. There's no on-line multiplayer, only local co-op, for all the good that does me (I don't do multiplayer). And there's a survival mode that's even more shallow than the campaign, and that's quite an accomplishment.

It's painfully straightforward: you are a Space Marine, there are orks, you shoot them. Nearly every mission objective is some variation on "go here and kill stuff". The games biggest break from that formula is "stand here and hold a button for five seconds". But, as I keep bringing up in just about everything I write, what were you expecting from a cheap-ass game called "Kill Team". It's uncomplicated shooting and explosions, so the only question is how well it does that. And frankly some things could have been better. Primarily it's balance issue regarding the various Marine classes. This is a very shooty game, and half of your character classes are melee focused. Maybe this would work better in co-op, where the Sternguard and Tech Marine do all the heavy lifting (completing mission objectives and the like) while the Vanguard and Librarian run around killing orks and covering the other guy's ass. I beat the game in single-player with every class, but it was noticeably easier with some than with others. Also, grenades are shit. Good luck tossing those with any accuracy with this game's camera.

That's really the only technical complaint I had with this very simple game, the rest is mostly about presentation. First, I'd have liked more Space Marine chapters to be available. I know it only affects your color scheme, but some Space Wolves would have been nice. Also, I personally find Orks very boring as an enemy. There a great faction, don't get me wrong. I just find them dull to fight for some reason. Maybe it's because they're as uncomplicated as this game. True, there is another faction that shows up later (spoilers), and I'd frankly would rather have spent an entire game fighting them rather than just the one level. They could have gone with Chaos cultists, and if you said they were a Khorne cult they wouldn't even have to change the AI for the enemies. Also, making them Chaos kinda ties in with having more playable Space Marine chapters since it would justify having Grey Knights.

At the end of the day, it's a great game for 800 points. Had it been more, it would have been a rip-off, but at that price a game that was deeper and more complex would have been a miracle. It's like how my biggest complaint against Front Mission: Evolved was paying $60 for it. Had it been $20 I'd have been fine. Kill Team is cheap and plays cheap. But then again, you don't get pissy if your McDonald's hamburger doesn't taste like prime rib.

And I haven't even touched Space Marine yet, I'm still waiting on the reviews. Mostly because I'm having bad flashbacks to Fire Warrior.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I've Harped On This Before

Oh yes, it's the "games as art" shpiel again. I'm not saying the folks at Extra Credits are wrong in their arguments per se, I'm just saying that they're starting from an incorrect premise. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this is just a symptom of me being that "I like it but..." type of gamer, the guy who likes a game but can't recommend it because it's objectively indefensible. Like those Dynasty Warriors games I like.

In any case, one thing that art shouldn't have to deal with is audience participation. Look at a game like Metal Gear. I was about seven when I first played that game, and I hated it. The reason? I was playing it wrong. We've all seen it, we've all recommended a game to friend only to have said friend not like the game. Upon hearing their critique of the game, you realize he was playing it wrong and that's why he didn't like it (although sometimes it's a failure of common sense because AIRPLANES DO NOT WORK UNDERWATER MATOUSHIN).

Art should not have to function like this, and it's serious points against anything that does. I mean, I like Evangelion, but my biggest complaint is that it's possible to watch it wrong. When has "you're watching/reading it wrong" ever been a reasonable defense for films or novels? It's an automatic mark against a piece of art if my participation is required for it to function. And games, by default, require player participation. Unless they have hour long cinematics, which is rightfully a complaint against games because we're supposed to be playing them.

If anyone reading this disagrees, I'm throwing down the gauntlet. You write up how football is an art from the player's perspective (actual art, not just a series of complexities) and I'll start to seriously listen to the "games as art" argument. Until then, Bioshock might have been an awful awful game without the literary references, but I'm just trying to shoot libertarians.

Friday, July 15, 2011

It Got Worse

Someone once summarized the complete history of Russia as "Somehow, it got worse."
I like to summarize things with video games, because Tetris was actually a complex metaphor for the Soviet Union.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Greatest Game Ever

I would like to emphasize that the game I'm about to describe is real. It was published and sold for profit. It is not some Flash game made by a 15 year old indy developer. I swear before Xenu that this is true.

The greatest game ever has the eerily accurate title "Vinnie Vole's Existential Nightmare." In it, you control Vinnie the vole. At the start of the game, you are given the controls and told what button starts the game. Starting the game informs you that your actions have damned Vinnie, which is technically true (you monster). If you hadn't pressed start then Vinnie wouldn't be in this mess. Anyway, Vinnie is trapped in some kind of box/oubliette/thing and cannot escape. Within the first thirty seconds you will realize that there is no way out of the box. Vinnie will also realize that you can't help him (Hell, you're the reason he's here) and will stop being controlled by you. He'll glare menacingly at you (again, you're the reason he's here) while trying to think of a way out of the box. Unfortunately, Vinnie can't think of one and ends up bouncing off the walls in frustration. After this little fit, Vinnie will crawl into the corner and cry. Unbeknownst to the player, Vinnie has an inventory that you can't access (it's Vinnie's, not yours). Having reached the final extreme of destrudo, Vinnie goes into his inventory and pulls out a gun. He places the barrel against his temple, and pulls the trigger. And a giant flashing "Your Fault" screen appears to let you know the game is over. Why don't more mainstream developers pick up on this breed of meta-gaming?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Because Americans Are Retards"

I haven't been following E3 that much. I'd complain that Nintendo continues to disappoint (let's make our hardware ridiculous to cover up that we're re-releasing a 15 year old game due to a lack of creativity!), but they always do. And I'm not sure Microsoft was even there.

So instead, I was reading Doctor Sparkle's (the Chrontendo guy) revisionist history of Super Mario Bros. 2. The traditional story about SMB2 was that the Japanese SMB sequel showed up in the Nintendo of America offices and was declared too hard for stupid American gamers. Then an idea was hit upon to take a game, Doki Doki Panic, and swap out the character sprites for Mario Bros. characters. And we'd all be none the wiser because Americans are retards.

Doctor Sparkle took issue with that theory. First, the development team for Doki Doki Panic was effectively the development team for Super Mario Bros. So the game had that pedigree to its name. And secondly, a heavy dose of the game's characters were instantly added to Mario Bros. canon (such as it is), giving us Bob-ombs, Shy Guys, and Birdo. If you doubt the canon thing is an issue, look what Sega did to Sonic the Hedgehog. They had a kind of split-canon where America and Japan had entirely different stories for the games. Then when technology meant that much of the story was in-game rather than in-manual, they effectively declared the American canon invalid. Despite the traditional story about SMB2, Mario never had this split-canon issue.

Chrontendo has linked to a recently released interview that adds greater weight to the idea that Japan was already planning to embrace the American SMB2 as a canonical Mario Bros. game. The original prototype that would become Doki Doki Panic was originally designed as "Super Mario, except vertical." Seriously, SMB2 was a lot of climbing and directed falling. In fact, the games horizontal sections were added at the request of Miyamoto specifically to make the game more Mario-esque. The game was, by design, aggressively Mario. Then Fuji TV cut a deal with Nintendo to release a game as part of this big hoopla they were doing. This aggressively Mario game was still using placeholders for the player-characters, so Fuji TV's mascots of the year were tossed in. Nintendo of Japan had already designed the game to be Mario-esque and, tying in with Doctor Sparkle's original theory, they couldn't hope to sell Fuji TV mascots to an American audience. Fuji TV may have owned the characters, but Nintendo owned the game. So sprite swap the characters and congratulations, instant best-seller. So yeah, everything you knew was wrong.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weather: Snowfall Predicted for all Circles of Hell

Dynasty Warriors 7 has free DLC for Japanese Voice Actors.

I can hereby report that even after rigorous hours of play my XBox 360 is still working wonderfully. Also, Dynasty Warriors 7 so far is basically 3 but better. Seeing as how 3 is my favorite in the entire series, this is a good thing.

I'm also convinced that the reason all these reviews are decrying DW7's "presentation" is because playing with the English voice actors is like watching Lord of the Rings dubbed over by your local middle school drama club.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

While I Countdown To The Apocalypse...

I normally rant about how the GameOverthinker has done something horrible and stupid and he's a bad person. Well, I still think he's a bad person ("I didn't like 'Scream' because I wasn't special anymore!") but I think we should hear out his ideas on cartridges. In short, bring back the cartridge. Not the exclusively cartridge based consoles, God no. Simply as an extension on existing consoles (the hardware's already in place for flash drives) to add a bit more convenience between now and the singularity. See his video on the topic for more details (note on the new opening: how's that ego going?). Meanwhile, if you're a PC gamer who thinks that the home console is dying out; why do you hate me? Seriously, hardware isn't cheap. That's what I hated about Extra Credits video on the future of gaming hardware; it's great if you don't live in a deadzone and can afford all that shiny new tech. Meanwhile, I have food and utilities to pay for.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rewarding Failure

I'm not going to start complaining about Extra Credits topic today. They opened it with a disclaimer that the games they were discussing were "interesting", not necessarily "good". And I can vouch for that, I've played some of those games and two of them (that I played) were utter crap. But they seem to have ignored one aspect of gaming journalism and fandom these days; "unique" is a code word for "excellent". The long and short of it is that an excellent game can be criticized for not being new and different enough, while an awful game can be lauded for doing something different irregardless of actual results. Let's say I did something different, like hunting tigers. That would be wildly different for me (and I'm pretty sure incredibly illegal). So I go on a tiger hunt, but instead of bagging a tiger I accidentally shoot and kill one of my porters. Well, props for trying something different I guess.

Frankly, I don't care how much effort and thought went into it, I'm not a fan of rewarding failure. Actually, if that much effort and thought went into a failure, that's even sadder. And if there wasn't much thought or effort put into it, then it's just a gimmick. And the gimmick failed. I don't want to reward that either. It may sound like this kind of thinking will stifle creativity, but think about it. You tried something new, you failed, try again and do better. As opposed to trying something new, you failed, but you tried something new. And that's just as complacent as Yet Another Call of Duty.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Bad Old Days

I've been watching a lot of Chrontendo lately. The big problem I have with the retro-gaming thing is that so much of it is built on nostalgia. Everything was better back then because we were too young and stupid to know any better. Chrontendo (as well as the side series by the same guy, Chronsega and Chronturbo) is an almost academic look at every video game to ever come out on the NES (or Famicom). It's a shockingly good reminder of just how much soulcrushingly awful crap came out on that system. And it's also a reminder of why the Super Mario Bros. games are considered classics. It's probably gaming blasphemy to say that Super Mario Bros. didn't exactly age well, but when it first came out that game was a goddamn masterpiece in every conceivable way. And that's made all the clearer when you see everything that came before it. So Chrontendo is a great, non-nostalgic look at the old days of gaming, warts and all.

And MovieBob made made me think I should watch "In the Name of the King" again. Not because it's good, but because it was so appallingly bad it's hard to imagine that kind of awfulness happening accidentally. It's a hilarious movie, even more so when you realize it was trying to be serious. And to be fair, Uwe Boll can be an okay director when you puts his nose to the grindstone and puts some honest-to-God effort into his movies. The problem is that he's so convinced of his own genius that he thinks he doesn't need to put any effort into directing. He clearly thinks he shits gold, so if he shits out a movie it must be gold. But it's just shit. Unintentionally hilarious shit, but still...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I'm As Shocked As You Are

Apparently they decided to make a sequel to Earth Defense Force 2017. This one seems to have a bit more money backing it than the original budget game, but as it isn't out yet time will tell. I'm probably the only person actually anticipating Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

UbiSoft Never Learned

The Ace Combat games, despite being awesome, are constantly on the verge of being killed by Bandai/Namco for not being profitable enough. Once again, Cooked Auto has given us a completely valid reason to support the Ace Combat franchise: it isn't HAWX.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Showdown Of Ultimate Destiny

I'm starting to wonder of Ben Croshaw isn't somehow my subconscious id that escaped and got a job as a gaming journalist.

Someone over at The Escapist thought it was a good idea to have a weekly debate between Ben Croshaw (Zero Punctuation), James Portnow (Extra Credits), and Bob Chipman (GameOverthinker, MovieBob, The Big Picture). This week's debate is about the state of console gaming. In the first round, just about everyone was agreeing with everyone else. In response to this, Yahtzee decided to show his origins as a Something Awful goon and decided to call motion controls a dying gimmick just to piss people off. The long and short of it is that you have a troll, a half-troll/half-fanatic, and a mediator all trying to have a debate. I do enjoy Yahtzee's work.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We WERE Controlling The Transmission

I'd probably be saying something about BulletStorm right now, but my TV crapped out. And I was kinda excited about this game (well, as excited as I get). It was made by People Can Fly, and Poland has never steered me wrong.

But alas, I have learned to never trust a Samsung. No, really. There's a lawsuit pending on the grounds that there ought to have been a recall on their craptastic TVs. On the one hand, I'm enough of a Luddite to be taking my sweet time getting a new television. On the other hand, I'm too much of a tech snob to hook my XBox 360 up to anything with less than 1080i. It's gonna be a while.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Call Of Duty: Giant Killer Robots

A lot of people hated Front Mission: Evolved before it ever came out. Personally I thought the "Evolved" subtitle was stupid, and having played the game I have been vindicated on that point. But most of the hate came from people who hated that a Front Mission game was going to be an action game rather than a turn-based strategy RPG. That is totally unprecedented in the franchise! Except for Gun Hazard. Gun Hazard was a game we all loved, because it was a Front Mission action game. That's why we hate Evolved, because... okay, I'm saying the haters are hypocrites. That's not to say the game is undeserving of ire, it should just be properly focused ire. Don't hate it because it's an action game, hate it for its mediocrity.

I should probably start with a list of everything the game does right before I go off on its failings. First, it's a competent third-person shooter. Yes, competent. Not outstanding, but not bad either. As a shooter it is satisfactory. In fact, I'd argue its a better game than the Armored Core games or most Gundam related shooters out there. The reason being is that it's an action game about giant robots rather than a giant robot game. It's one of those design philosophy things. Games like Armored Core try to be giant robot simulators, and as a result the controls are clunky and stiff, especially for a third-person shooter. Front Mission: Evolved was designed as a shooter first and foremost, it's just that all the onscreen characters are giant robots. That works out wonderfully in my opinion.

Second, I'm rather surprised how well various concepts from the turn-based strategy games translated into a shooter. While the mech customization is obvious, they even kept in the concept of "battle skills", special abilities that randomly buff you during battle. My only complaint is that most of these battle skills are better suited for multiplayer than for the single player campaign. The ability to add damage over time to your attacks is nice, but most enemies in single player won't live long enough to make use of it. But hey, I'll take a 50% boost to melee damage when I can get it.

Lastly, I should mention that the music is pretty forgettable. The only reason I'm bothering to mention it at all is because it kept giving me flashbacks to Space: Above and Beyond. I half expected T.C. McQueen to fly in on a Hammerhead and start strafing the baddies. So the music was forgettable, but it reminded me of an awesome TV show, so it gets points by proxy.

But, of course, there is a laundry list of problems. The most glaring thing for most players is going to be the infantry sections of the game. In a game about piloting giant robots, there are sections that require you to run around on foot to shoot enemy soldiers. Why? Like most of the gameplay, these sections are not bad. They handle well and are a decent shooter experience. But why are they in this game? They feel very tacked on and the gameplay would be fine, in fact better, without them. While these sections do nothing wrong in terms of gameplay, they're so generic that if we gave the enemy soldiers Nazi uniforms then the circle of stupid would be complete. These sections don't have the depth to stand on their own, and they have no right to be in THIS game. I'm here for robot fights, dammit.

The most glaring problem for me is the customization system. For starters, there's no inventory. Whenever you buy a new part to equip you immediately sell the old part. If you decide your new load-out doesn't work and want to switch back, you have to buy your old parts back. Some missions force you to swap out parts. In short, your going to be bleeding money for most of the game. Secondly, the single player campaign forces you to go a "jack of all trades" route for your mech. In the traditional Front Mission games you commanded a team. This meant each team member could specialize for certain functions: the melee guy, the artillery guy, the sniper, etc. If you go into multiplayer with a pre-arranged team, then you can set up to fill a specific role in the team. But that's presuming the team is at all pre-arranged. And in single player there's no room to specialize like that. You need to be at least competent at everything instead of focusing on one skill set. And even then, it means that some weapon load-outs like sniper rifles are relatively useless because of the emphasis on mid- and close-range fighting. Personally, I probably would have gone with a well-rounded and adaptable load-out anyway, but that the gameplay doesn't really provide you with any real options about that annoys me.

Lastly is the story and voice acting. The acting is bad. Consistently bad, with the occasional patch of terrible. I think one character actually changed accents about three times in one sentence. As for the story, I'd like to apologize to the writers for the Gears of War games for making fun of their dialogue. I've found something much worse to complain about. Okay, actually the story needs a bit of perspective. Take your favorite story from a JRPG. Now, realize that this JRPG story is told over the course of about 40+ hours of gameplay. Now reduce that story to a series of bullet points. Then reduce it further if that bullet point list probably wouldn't fit into a 6 hour game. You just wrote the story to Front Mission: Evolved. The broad narrative isn't far removed from your standard JRPG story, but it's so rushed with time constraints that neither character nor story is ever developed. There's a romantic subplot that's crammed in without any explanation except to maybe give our hero a reason to save the girl. But if the romantic aspect were cut entirely we could easily argue he's going to save a comrade and, considering how well developed the romance is, it would actually make more sense. The villain is gleefully evil for no other reason than simply being a jerk, and I'm assuming that much because his motivations are never fully explained. Events seem to occur for no other reason than that they must, and then a half-baked explanation is stuck on as a coda. It's just awful writing. Looking at the synopsis of the story and comparing it to a good JRPG or anime it looks like it has potential, but without any development of anything it just seems like a random series of events strung together because we need a jungle level now.

I complain, but I still like this game. The acting is bad, the story is worse, and a lot of the game elements needed more polishing. But it's still fun to pilot a giant robot and shoot other giant robots. And really, aren't games supposed to be fun before all else? It's just not $60 worth of fun. Yeah, I paid full price and regretted that. If you've got an open mind about this game then it's worth a rental, Hell if you've got a GameFly account your paying the subscription fee anyway so it might as well go in your queue. If your a Front Mission fan who isn't offended that this is an action game then it's definitely worth a buy, if you see it in the bargain bin. It's a fun game, but it isn't $60 worth of fun. Maybe $30 worth of fun. And if your looking for a really good buy you should check out Mount and Blade: Warband. It's like 8 bucks on Amazon and I haven't been this manically addicted to a game since Alpha Centauri.

EDIT: Mount and Blade: WarBand was 8 bucks when I got it. I checked today and it's up to 14 something. Still worth it.