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.