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Killer robots that leave Terminator: Genisys in the scrap pile

Jul 07 // Nic Rowen
Five Nights at Freddy's Killer robots – Freddy Fazbear and friends Cost - $4.99 (The price of a ticket at the discount theater downtown that sells weird off-brand candy instead of popcorn. I heard a kid died in that theater. Spooky.) There are a lot of scary, high-tech killer robots out there. Miracle machines that can track you by your heartbeat three miles away, or link up with a satellite death ray to vaporize you from space. But not all robots need high-tech tricks to make them “killer.” As disused animatronics made to entertain children, the Freddy Fazbear bunch would appear on the decidedly low-tech end of spectrum, somewhere between banging two rocks together to make a fire and a used Honda Accord (roughly). They're a bunch of old junkers. Skeletal frames wrapped up in cute rubberized foam costumes that stink of pizza grease and child vomit. A sideshow attraction made on the cheap for a scammy restaurant chain with more than a decade worth of miles on them, about ready for the scrapyard. They are not “smart” robots. They aren't possessed of some malevolent A.I, nor are they the agents of a super computer running through a calculation that solves to the extinction of humanity. Their heads are full of malfunctioning chips rattling through half-remembered song and dance routines. The electronic equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease. And they're still fucking terrifying. Also, kind of cute in a weird, wrapped way. Look, robot love is complicated. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Killer robot – HK-47 and a bunch of weak-ass droids who are not HK-47 Cost – $10.00 (Around the price you'd pay to squint through the darkness at a godawful 3D action movie romp you can barely fucking see because of those damn glasses.) HK-47 is pretty much the reason the go back and play KOTOR. If you're not familiar, HK-47 is a potential party member you can add to your group of Jedi, smugglers, and Wookies. He's an assassination droid, making him to murder and horribleness as C-3PO is to embarrassingly physical comedy. And he loves his job. Despite being an artificial being, HK-47 comes off as having more personality than the rest of the crew combined because he seems to be the only one having fun. He's cheerfully sociopathic, breathlessly anticipating the inevitable robot uprising, and always, always, tries to steer the protagonist towards the most sadistic possible choice in any situation. Of all the killer robots I can think, he is by far the killi-est (which is the technical description). Fuck 1313, I'm glad it's dead. Fuck Battlefront. I want a Star Wars game where HK-47 leads a rag-tag bunch of droids to their ultimate destiny of wiping out their organic masters. You could have cameos of all our favorite droids. IG-88, that R5 unit that blew up when Uncle Owen tried to buy him, cyborg Darth Maul (yes, that is a real thing), and that creepy torture droid from Jabba's palace. I'd play it. Binary Domain Killer Robot – Cain, every other robot everywhere. Seriously, so many killer robots. Cost - $14.99 (The price of a movie ticket and a soda, maybe with some change left over to smuggle in gummy worms from the bulk food place next door. No wait, the 15-year-old usher saw your illicit sugar larvae and is making you dump them in the trash. Later, you'll write a dubious Yelp review of the theater as a nebulous gesture of revenge. It doesn't ease the shame.) Not enough people played Binary Domain, and that's a problem. Because the world needs more Binary Domain. We need more crazy, weird, experimental games that manage to be equal parts cliché and original, that are somehow both completely sincere and a vicious parody at the same time. Most of all, the world needs more Cain. Cain is a flippant French commando-robot with the mannerisms of Niles Crane, the lethality of an atom bomb, and the fashion sense of a cowboy. All of which is my way of saying he's perfect. Cain is everything I've ever wanted out of a video game character. Supposedly, Cain is an infiltration specialist, which is weird considering that when you meet him he's plowing a battle van through the middle of downtown Tokyo while engaged in a running gunfight with police. Also, he's painted kitchen-appliance white, shrugs off bullets, can tank a punch from a mech several times his size, and carries a high-caliber machine-pistol he wields with deadly precision. His skills might be slightly wasted as “the stealth guy.” In fact, it seems to me like he could probably replace every member of the Rust Crew team. Sgt. “perma-stubble” Dan and Big Bo could just go home and watch a ballgame of something; let Cain handle it all. Maybe we just don't need humans for anything anymore. Just something to think about. Mass Effect 2 Killer robots – Legion, the Geth, the Reapers, probably more if I thought about it Cost - $29.99 for the Digital Deluxe version (Two tickets and popcorn. Does not include the cost of whatever you had to spend to bribe your girlfriend into coming to see another fucking Terminator movie while you never got out to see Poltergeist when it was in theaters like she wanted to.) Terminator, as a series, mucks about with ideas of fate a whole bunch. That Judgment Day and the war between humans and machines is an inevitability. That no matter what happens, no matter how many cyborg Austrians Skynet sends back, or how many computer labs Sarah and John blow up, things will still shake out in a similar way. Machines will gain sentience and turn against their organic masters, and humanity in turn will not go gently into the night. Spoilers: This also turned out to be the entire plot of Mass Effect. After three games of mystery and build up, the modus operandi of the galaxy threatening Reapers turns out to be based on the same idea. That once galactic civilization reaches a certain point of advancement, a calamitous war between synthetics and the organic creatures that built them is inevitable. So the Reapers take it upon themselves to swoop in juuuust before that happens, mop the floor with everyone, and reset things back to the stone-age for a few millennia before coming back to do it again... For reasons? Look, BioWare had to close that diamond out somehow, and I'm not here to reopen old wounds. The internet has heard enough about the ending of ME3. However, there is a more interesting story tucked inside all that nonsense. The Quarians and the Geth are used as a micro-reflection of the overall problem. The Geth are a (more-or-less) sentient race of robots who after a horrible war have driven the Quarian people off of their home planet, banishing them to a dangerous nomadic lifestyle among the stars. Seems like typical evil robot behavior. The twist is, it was the Quarians who fired the first shot. They weren't taken unawares by some evil super computer; none of the laws of robotics were violated. The first time a Geth showed a glimmer of freewill, the Quarians freaked and tried to wipe out the entire species. The Geth only fought back to defend themselves. Of course, it turns out that a race of walking weapon platforms make better soldiers than a race of hypochondriacs who get sick faster than a middle-schooler on report card day. No fate but what we make indeed. Also, Legion is a badass and I always made room on my squad for him. You should too. Alien: Isolation Killer robots – Working Joes Cost - $49.99 on Steam, cheaper on console (Dinner after the show so you can sit around and talk about how bad the film was and apologize for dragging your significant other to it.) Ok, so we all know that the Alien is the star of Isolation, fine. But let me tell you a story about the Working Joes, the ever so helpful automatons that wander the rapidly deteriorating halls of the Sevastopol station. I've been playing Isolation for the last couple of weeks and it's been great, but slow. I'm trying to do it properly, so I started the game on hard and I've been taking pains to explore every area, picking up every piece of scrap, every bullet, while never actually using any. I never get spotted, never fight anything or anyone, I just try and make my way through the station with as little static as possible like a person in that situation would try and do. Then it happened. I messed up. A Working Joe spotted me in a restricted area. His eyes glowed red like two angry stars, and he started stalking towards me with purposeful, murderous intent. “Finally,” I thought. “I was worried I'd have to carry these bullets forever.” Because as much as I'd been playing the game like a good little survivor, a part of me really wanted to fire the fucking huge revolver I got near the beginning of the game. Now I had an excuse. I pulled it out -- mint-condition, heavy with potential. Calmly, carefully, I aimed down the barrel, and sent a piece of screaming hot lead directly into the Crash-Test-Dummy-like forehead of my target. He barely flinched. Another headshot. Another. He didn't even slow down. Then he was close, right on top of me, and I panic fired into his chest without aiming until the gun clicked dry. With seemingly no effort, he hauled me up one-handed and choked the ever living shit out of me until I struggled free, staggering away like a wounded animal directly into a dead end. I fumbled around, trying to reload the revolver but I'd never done it before and somehow I only managed to jam a single bullet into the chamber before he caught up with me. It doesn't do me any good -- this time he just beats me until everything turns black. I've played a lot of games with big, scary, implacable killer robots in them. But, I've never felt closer to Sarah Conner then in that moment. Completely helpless, just as outmatched by a stupid Working Joe as she was by the T-800. Absolutely terrifying. It was an emotional response that no gaudy new Terminator film could possibly deliver and a great argument for spending more time in my living room getting caught up with some of the killer robots already in my life, and less time tripping over people looking for a seat in the movie theater.
Killer robots photo
Bleep. Bloorp. KILL.
Terminator: Genisys opened this past weekend to a tepid box office reception and groaning reviews. But did anyone really expect anything else? Terminator 3 and Salvation more than burned up the credit earned by the original (...

Broforce Update photo
Broforce Update

Broforce Freedom Update adds pointy objects, flexing


That's a sharp helmet
Jul 02
// Nic Rowen
Just in time for Independence Day, the testosterone soaked, uber-patriotic Broforce is getting a synthoil injection of content by way of its “Freedom Update.” Featuring two new bros to mangle commies and protect ...
Super Arcade photo
Super Arcade

Super Arcade denied permit to re-open in Azusa, California


Public urination?
Jun 25
// Nic Rowen
Once a mecca for arcade and fighting game fans, the venerable FGC hot-spot Super Arcade closed the doors of its Walnut, California location last December after failing to reach a lease agreement with its landlord. After being...
Broken games photo
Broken games

The Arkham Knight PC port proves yet again that only suckers pre-order


A real shame
Jun 24
// Nic Rowen
Tuesday morning, I had a moment of weakness. After reading some stellar reviews (of the console versions) I allllmost pre-purchased the PC version of Arkham Knight. I've loved every other entry in the series and with those re...

Steam Summer Sale, an embarrassment of riches

Jun 24 // Nic Rowen
Wolfenstein: The New Order Embarrassment factor: A Neville Chamberlain ass-tattoo From the moment I first laid eyes on Wolfenstein: The New Order I thought “that looks like a great game!” followed almost immediately with a second thought “I'll wait for a Steam Sale.” And so it was. Yes, I know, I'm the kind of scumbag that disincentivizes publishers from backing games like Wolfenstein, and I feel bad about that, really. But I know in my heart of hearts that between work and every other game tugging at my arm, I will probably never find the time to run through a single player shooter, no matter how much fun the nazi-murder spree looks. At least it's there for me now if I ever re-watch Jin-Roh and feel compelled to dump a belt-fed machine gun into a human wall of Wehrmacht. Long Live the Queen Embarrassment factor: Mortified monocle dropping Look, sometimes I buy games because I think they might be fun to play with my girlfriend. Stop judging me. Also, the trailer was cute, and it was $2.00, and sometimes I like nice things, and you're going to stop judging me right now or I will cut off your head and parade it around court on the end of a pike. Iron Brigade Embarrassment factor: Serving with pride I don't think I need to make excuses for wanting to ride atop a glorious mobile trench/mecha, obliterate endless waves of lethal cathode ray enemies with ridiculously oversized cannons, and sport a splendid hat while doing so. If you don't understand the self-evident joy of such things, we're just never going to see eye-to-eye. Sunless Sea Embarrassment factor: Muttering about mutiny Sunless Sea looks like Darkest Dungeon, but on the water, so it's bound to be a delightful time. The embarrassment factor isn't too high here because I'm sure I'll get some play out of this one and I love to support indie devs like Failbetter Games. Besides, any game recommended by our very own Ben Davis has to be worth a look. Borderlands 2: GOTY Embarrassment factor: C:/My Documents/DankMemes Ever hear of the sunk cost fallacy? Well this is it. I loved Borderlands 2, played through the main campaign with my brother, did a bunch of co-op and challenge stuff with Dtoid's StriderHoang, and bought the big dumb fancy DLC pack. Problem was, I did most of that playing during the first three weeks of the game's launch and never quite got back to all that expensive DLC. This is why you never buy the season pass folks. It's always loomed over me and I'd like to revisit those characters and see all that content I missed, but most of my 360 friends have moved on to other consoles and it's not like I'm going to solo another character through the game, that's not how I get down with Borderlands. But, the Steam sale gave me and my brother a chance to grab the game on the cheap on our PCs, so we can delude ourselves all over again that somehow we'll find 30 hours of mutually schedule-friendly time to plunder, raid, and explode all over Pandora again. Look forward to next year when I tell you all about how I picked up the Pre-Sequel Definitive Edition on the cheap and will toootally play through it.. Sometime. Westerado: Double Barreled Embarrassment factor: I aim to misbehave No embarrassment here. Everything I hear about Westerado makes it sound like a hell of a game. Rustlin' cattle, solving mysteries, and laying down the law by whipping out a gun mid-dialog scene, these are all things I can stare at over the horizon and give a knowing nod. Gravity Ghost Embarrassment factor: WHEEEEEE! Mea culpa. I did not do the research before I bought this game and I just assumed that you played as the deer wearing socks that you always see in the screenshots. 100% of my purchasing thought process was based on loving the idea of a deer wearing socks. Sadly, you do not play as a deer wearing socks. On the plus side, it's a beautiful, charming, and magical experience and all that... Sigh, I really wanted to play as a deer wearing socks. The Fall Embarrassment factor: File not found The only embarrassment here is that I didn't pick up The Fall sooner. Seriously, this is a gorgeous indie game about a possibly malfunctioning robot-suit trying to save his unconscious pilot while stranded on a planet populated by insane drones and fascist super-computers. Just saying that last sentence out loud activates my saliva glands. Payday 2 DLC: Clover Character pack, Alesso Heist, and the Butcher's BBQ pack Embarrassment factor: A poster of Waingro in the family room I picked up Payday 2 during last summer's Steam Sale and it was a gift that kept on giving. Surprisingly fun co-op heisting with months of content patches and bug fixes behind it, and I picked it up for a song. I ended up playing it for months before my attention drifted and I don't think I ever spent more than $15 or $20 on it all told. With that in mind, even though I'm living on the straight and narrow now, I thought it might be a good idea to pick up some of the cooler looking DLC bits I've missed just in case the bastards ever pull me back in. See, smooth over the truth enough and you can justify something as dumb as buying DLC for a game you don't even have installed any more. That's the kind of moral flexibility the Payday crew can respect. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Embarrassment factor: Listening to “Love Deterrence” by Paz Oretga on loop It's Metal Gear for like $5.00, how could I not? I know, buying Ground Zeroes is essentially paying for the privilege to play a demo of The Phantom Pain (which is not too far away from coming out itself now), but you know what? The demo from Metal Gear Solid back on the PS1 was dope as hell and I ended up playing it over and over again FOR HOURS. That demo was basically a loading dock and the front yard of Shadow Moses, so imagine the kind of fun I can wring out of an entire military base. Again, I miss demo discs. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Embarrassment factor: Mistaking a shadow for a ghost and making a little yelping noise The Vanishing of Ethan Carter looks like a positively beautiful mystery/horror game that will sit in my Steam backlog with pride. I'll be glad it's there, and think of playing it often. “Maybe around Halloween” I'll say. But then the month will come and some big name title will drop hoping to get a jump on the November rush, or Team Fortress 2 will do some adorable ghost themed event and I'll end up plugging hours into an eight year old game again, and poor Ethan Carter will be forgotten. Left to haunt my backlog forever. More like The Vanishing of my Free Time, am I right? Wait, no, that doesn't make much sense. I'll show myself out. Alien: Isolation Embarrassment factor: Closing your eyes in the theater and hoping no one notices Oh man, I hope I don't lose this one to the backlog, because so far it's pretty great. Alien: Isolation is one of those games I was really interested in at launch, but just couldn't bring myself to cough up $60 for it. Now that I've had a chance to play it, I'd say it probably would have been worth the full sticker price (but I'm much happier paying the $10 or so it ended up costing me). The best part of the game so far has just been noodling around the station, checking out all the little touches and messing with the retro-future computers and technology. It's a lot like Gone Home, only instead of being “a little spooky” it's a full-on assault on the nerves that ratchets up the tension until finally skewering you on the end of a Xenomorph's spiked tail. I'm still holding out hope that Amanda will just find some nice girl to elope with and get out of the station. Marine Sharpshooter 2 Embarrassment factor: Marine Sharpshooter 2 I didn't buy this one. A friend “gifted” me a copy, and oh what a gift. Marine Sharpshooter 2 apparently came out in 2004, but after five minutes in it's muddy, jagged jungles, you'll swear it was 1999 all over again. With what I would describe as a “generous” Metacritic score of 52, it doesn't have many upsides. So of course I immediately installed it instead of any of the other many fine games I spent actual money on. In the clinical world, this is what they call “self hate.”
Steam Sale haul photo
We all have our vices
I still firmly believe that one of the greatest upsides of being a PC gamer are the twice annual fire-sales hosted by Steam. Those sales, alongside the multitude of other deals and bargains that can be scooped up from Humble ...

What we know about Dark Souls III so far

Jun 17 // Nic Rowen
Lords of Cinder Apparently, the main plot of the game revolves around the Lord (or “Lords”) of Cinder and his (or their) resurrection. Details are obviously spotty at this point, but the general sense is that the Lord of Cinder isn't Gwyn (the boss of the first game) like you might immediately suspect, but another soul who chose to link the fire. You know, like you do as the Chosen Undead at the end of the first game. Dark Souls III might be you dealing with the sins and repercussions of your original character. For a series all about cycles, repetition and repeated mistakes, I think that is a very cool angle. Time is a flat circle, indeed. If it Bleeds... Combat in Dark Souls III will feel much closer to the pace and rhythm of Dark Souls and II than Bloodborne. Shields are back in fashion as the stylish choice for every fashion-forward undead interested in keeping all of their limbs intact. Interestingly enough though, bows and arrows will be receiving a lot more love. Drawing and firing an arrow will be much faster than any previous games, to the point where you could possibly use them as an up-close weapon. Miyazaki jokingly claimed that “using the short bow is a bit like being like Legolas in Lord of the Rings. Ok, I’m probably exaggerating a little.” Nice, but I can't imagine Legolas lasting long in the extra-harsh world of the Souls games. Stance switching will be a bigger thing than ever. While switching between one and two hands or the useful “power stance” of Dark Souls II has always been a thing, it seems some weapons will have even more stances and special properties. Short swords have a “ready” stance where the sword is held two-handed above the head and able to crush guards when used correctly, while the massive Greatswords will be getting a “lunge” move that allows you to jut forward quickly with an upward stab that may have some invincibility frames on it. Handy stuff for PvP. But it gets cooler. Enemies will be able to use stances and skills just like the player can. Expect undead to try and adapt to what you're doing and use all your own dirty tricks against you. This is one of those things that is both exciting and terrifying and I can't wait to see how it all works out. I'm imaging having to duel smart versions of the Silver Knights in Anor Londo and it's giving me chills. Oh yeah, KICKING IS BACK! *a heavenly choir sings in the background, babies laugh, grown-men weep with joy and all is right with the world* Dedicated servers? In a Q&A session after a hands-on demo, Miyazaki was quizzed about the PvP and co-op mechanics and how it would all work in Dark Souls III. While initially a bit evasive, Miyazaki eventually relented and spilled the beans on a few details that I'm sure fans will love. The Soul Memory system for match-making is gone (good riddance) and the game will be returning to a similar (but tweaked) version of the Soul Level matching system of the first game. Good news for anyone who enjoyed PvP fight clubs or bro-oping with friends and grew weary of micro-managing their soul intake. Probably the most earth-shattering detail about multiplayer released so far though, Miyazaki told the group that the game would be using dedicated servers for its multiplayer. This would be a huge change, as every other Souls game so far has relied on (occasionally less than stellar) peer-to-peer systems. I'm a little hesitant to get my hopes up super high -- there is always a chance this will get chalked up to a “translation error” or otherwise quietly scuttled later -- but the idea of a smoother and more consistent Souls multiplayer experience has me giddy. Boring technical shit The game will run at 30 FPS. Yes, some dude used his one chance to personally ask Miyazaki a question to harass him about the frame rate. Nice. I imagine this will be a sticking point for some people who react like their eyes melt at anything less than 60 FPS, but I'm fine with it. Not saying I don't love a good frame rate, but I think that concern is occasionally over inflated. All that really matters is that the game looks good (which can be accomplished better by art direction and design than sheer horsepower) and plays well. Dark Souls III will be the last in the series Now this seems like the piece of news most likely to change in a few years time (after Dark Souls III sells a shit-ton of copies and the money is too good to resist), but according to a Namco/Bandai press release, they “are happy to dedicate this final episode to them [the fans]!” I'm sorry, did you say “final?” This wouldn't be the first time a game was sold as “the last in the series” and it turned out not to be (side-eye to Gears 3) and the Souls games already have a history of spiritual successors and suspiciously similar sister-series, but it's still an interesting idea. With Miyazaki back at the helm and the story line focused on the end of the cycle of resurrection and decay, this might be a good place to leave the series. A bitter-sweet thing to think about. Those are the most interesting details I've heard about the game so far, but news is moving fast and the rumor mill is always churning. If you've heard anything cool, be sure to share it with the rest of us!  
Dark Souls III details photo
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down
I could not be more excited about Dark Souls III and the return of lead designer Miyazaki to the series. While I loved Dark Souls II (it was one of my favorite games of 2014), it felt like a very well executed and d...

OP Gamers photo
OP Gamers

New show for gamers might be the worst thing I've ever seen


We've achieved maximum awkwardness
Jun 16
// Nic Rowen
Do you like forced memes? Sure you do. Want to see some YouTube clips you've probably already seen six months or more ago? Of course! How do you feel about awkwardly inserted slang and grown-ass men talking about &ldquo...
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Assassin's Creed Syndicate gets PS4 exclusive missions, Dreadful Crimes


DON'T MESS WITH EVIE
Jun 15
// Nic Rowen
The PS4 is getting some exclusive Assassin's Creed Syndicate missions based on the works of some of Victorian England’s most famous authors (although curiously, they didn't name which ones). The Dreadful Crimes exclusi...
Transformers: Devasation photo
Transformers: Devasation

Transformers: Devastation confirmed as a Platinum Games title


Best Buy spills the beans again
Jun 14
// Nic Rowen
Well, that was fast. Not a full day after it was leaked, Platinum Games has been confirmed as the developer behind the gorgeously cel-shaded Transformers: Devastation thanks to a premature Best Buy listing. As well as confirm...

What I want from Fallout 4

Jun 13 // Nic Rowen
Better stealth I'm going to take for granted that better gunplay is a given for Fallout 4. The awkward, inaccurate shooting of Fallout 3 was probably the most common complaint about it, and New Vegas' attempt to address it with a janky iron-sights system was so rough and amateurish that it felt like a hacked together mod. Fallout 4 will obviously have to do better in the guns-and-ammo category, so I'm not going to waste my breath begging for it. What I will beg for though, is better stealth design. Some of the best moments in Bethesda's games have emerged from the shadows. The Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood had the best quests in Oblivion and Skyrim, encouraging many players to roll up at least one sneaky character. I know I personally spent a huge chunk of my time in Fallout 3 trying to skulk through super-mutant camps, silently seeding the area with mines and booby traps before pulling down on some mutant and watching the chaos pop off as his buddies came running. When done well, the tension and power dynamics of stealth can provide some of the best gameplay around. Bethesda seems to know this. It includes so many quests and options in its games that encourage you to be a sneaky little jerk. So why does sneaking around feel like some after-thought, Scooby Doo bullshit? The old "crouch down and watch an icon that tells you if a raider can see you or not" routine isn't going to cut it anymore. Stealth should be more than a factor of your sneak stat and a matter of breaking line of sight. I'm really not interested in another stealth experience that allows enemies to pick you off from 50 yards away in the dark like you were holding a road flare if your sneak skill is low, or let you squat down straight in front of their shins like you're the Invisible Man if the skill is pushing 90 and above. Make stealth active, give us something to do to make us feel sneaky. Instead of making the Sneak skill and active camouflage gear the end-all-be-all of stealth, how about throwing in some active abilities to let us dynamically manipulate the enemy? They don't have to be complicated. Take a page from the Far Cry games and give players with a moderate skill investment in stealth the ability to throw a distracting rock or bullet casing to draw enemies away. Make some cubbyholes or hiding spots that only intermediate ninjas can use. Let Sneak-Kings focus down like Joel from The Last Of Us and get some "I'm super good at hearing" ghetto-SONAR ability. I'm not asking for Metal Gear Fallout: Sons of the Atom Bomb or anything here. I understand that in a game as big and complex as the Fallout games have been, you can't layer on every little system and nuance you'd like (that's what paid mods are for, am I right folks?) but I'd like to see something to make crawling around in the shadows fresh for Fallout 4. More skill checks please, but keep them quiet One of the things I love, love, LOVED about New Vegas was its focus on non-combat skills. Reaching back to the original Fallout, New Vegas went out of its way to incorporate skills like barter, repair, and science outside of their obvious (and boringly pragmatic) purposes way more than Fallout 3 did. This is without a doubt the right direction to move in and I would love to see Fallout 4 double down on the idea. I love this idea because it makes each character feel unique. My tech obsessed teenaged hacker had a much different experience in the Mojave Wasteland than my cannibalistic night stalker. Not just because she preferred to melt her worries away with a stream of molten plasma while he would literally cut to the heart of a problem; they moved through the world differently, physically and socially. She would hack into systems, open doors, appropriate security drones, all that good, typically sneaky stuff. But she was also able to use her skills as a currency, occasionally repairing broken gear or fixing otherwise unsolvable problems for people in the Wasteland. She fell in with the equally tech obsessed Brotherhood of Steel and it felt natural. My cannibal used his detailed knowledge of anatomy to occasionally work as a makeshift surgeon, appearing as a wolf in sheep's clothing to the unaware, and was invited into a cabal of secret people eaters. Each of them had opportunities and moments that were totally unique and exclusive from each other and that's amazing. That's exactly what Fallout should be about. I just don't want to know about it up front. I would love a little more subtlety and mystery when it comes to skill checks in Fallout 4. As I loved how New Vegas worked, I couldn't help but find the giant, full caps skill messages jarring. Nothing quite reminds you "oh yeah, you're playing a videogame" like a big old block of mechanical text that says something like [MEDICINE 60 REQUIRED]. Fold skill checks into the game more organically. If a player doesn't have the skill required to pull something off, don't show the option. Or, maybe show the option, but don't promise success. Let Prof. Goofus with his measly 15 points invested in repair set off a bomb when he tries to defuse it. Let someone who thinks they're a smooth talker chat their way into a slaver's pen. I know some people may prefer to know their options up front and the stats they should shoot for, but I'm a big believer in surprises and trusting the player to figure things out. Besides, if you really want to know the stat requirements for every interaction, there are always wikis and FAQs.   I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe make it a little darker? Okay, hold on. Don't go branding me with the mark of #Darksiders2 just yet. I'm not asking for Fallout 40K edition here and I'm not saying I want some grim and dirty "realistic" depiction of a blasted out radioactive wasteland, because realism wouldn't do the game many favors. All I want to see is Bethesda even out the tone. Make the normal world a little darker and saner so the black humor and absurd moments can pop in contrast. I love the line Fallout walks, that razors edge between unimaginable despair and corny '50s sci-fi pulp. It's a difficult balance to find and while I think both Fallout 3 and New Vegas did a decent job at it, I think they could have done better. I think the problem is that neither game is willing to let you get your feet under you before piling up the silly stuff. Fallout 3 starts in a Vault isolated from the realities of the world, so I'm willing to put up with the greaser shenanigans of the Tunnel Snakes. But then the first town you come across in the real world, Megaton, is full of equally goofy shit and ridiculous people. You go from one silly place to another without a big change in tone when the game could have set you up for a gut punch by showing you a very zany life in the Vault and then plunging you into the harshness of the wastes. New Vegas starts its story by introducing you to Victor, a robotic cowboy with a TV in his chest and machine guns in his arms like a very well armed Teletubby. Again, don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a robot cowboy, but couldn't we wait five dang minutes to establish the stakes and condition of this post-apocalyptic world before saddling up on the wacky horse? When you come across a crashed alien saucer, find a settlement of pacifist super-mutants, or liberate a slave mine with Lincoln's very own rifle, it should be a hell of a moment, not business as usual in the wastes. Fallout 3 and New Vegas come at you with the bizarre and ludicrous so hard and so often that it runs the risk of losing its impact and blurring together. I'd like to see Fallout 4 avoid that if possible. Don't get rid of the black humor and ridiculous moments, just space them out a little more, or make the average day in the wastes a little more grounded so they can stand out better. Going by the very sombre trailer we've seen, I may just get my wish on this one. How about you? What are you looking forward to in Fallout 4? What kind of perks do you want to see? What kind of companions? How much are you hoping all these rumors about a voiced protagonist and a very focused main-plot with a mandatory male character are black and filthy lies? I know I am! Hopefully we'll find out more at Bethesda's big event tomorrow. Then we can either sing the praises or count our dead.
Fallout 4 wishlist photo
We'll find out soon enough
I'm a huge Fallout nerd. I can wax poetic about the Fallout games and how much they mean to me all day (I've done it before), so to say I'm looking forward to what Bethesda does with Fallout 4 is a little bit of an understatement. I do have some requests though. A wish list of things I would personally like to see in the next installment.  

Rain World photo
Rain World

New Rain World footage justifies the title


Those poor Slugcats
Jun 13
// Nic Rowen
I melt every time I see a new set of gifs for Rain World or even a picture of a Slugcat. But for all my cooing and fawning, I have to admit I don't really know much about the game. Other than the exploration and puzzle ...
Transformers: Devasation photo
Transformers: Devasation

Cel-shaded Transformers: Devastation is nailing the look


One must fall for these screens
Jun 13
// Nic Rowen
A new Transformers game from Activision, Transformers: Devastation, has been leaked in the lead up to E3, and damn if it doesn't look like an 80's cartoon come to life. Someone better call Cosimano, I think he'll be excited. ...
Dota 2 Reborn photo
Dota 2 Reborn

Valve announces Dota 2 Reborn, new engine, new UI, less frustration


Heroes never die, they just respawn
Jun 13
// Nic Rowen
Valve has announced a massive update for their mind bogglingly popular MOBA, Dota 2. Dota 2 Reborn will be a top-to-bottom overhaul, reworking and tweaking just about every aspect of the game. Chief among these changes is a b...
Platinum tease photo
Platinum tease

Platinum teasing continues with a Vanquish screenshot


Don't joke about these things
Jun 11
// Nic Rowen
Earlier this week Platinum Games said it'd have an unannounced game to show off at E3. Then it goes and drops this little tweet earlier today. Platinum? Ok, listen -- do not mess with me about this. Don't go and tee up a pos...
Reinhardt photo
Reinhardt

Overwatch adds a robotic knight to its roster


Go team silver foxes
Jun 11
// Nic Rowen
Well, Steven asked for more old men and Overwatch delivered. Reinhardt, the latest character to receive a personal sizzle reel, is a 61-year-old self-styled knight who fights evil by encasing himself in a robotic suit of arm...
Deathwing photo
Deathwing

What righteous fury looks like in Space Hulk: Deathwing


Exterminate the heretics
Jun 09
// Nic Rowen
I've been interested in Space Hulk: Deathwing ever since they put out that trailer with the groovy music from Kadebostany a few months back. Today, Streum On Studio (the same team who brought us the wonderfully strange E.Y.E....

In a better world, these games exist

Jun 06 // Nic Rowen
Street Fighter vs Mortal Kombat Released on the Dreamcast in 2002 to belatedly settle the fighting game rivalry that defined the 90's arcade scene, Street Fighter vs Mortal Kombat remains a legend in the fighting game community. Still considered the finest example of 2D sprite art and animation from its era, the silky smooth and obsessively detailed characters of SF vs MK set an impossible bar to follow. The almost decadent use of special purpose one-off animations and frames only adds to the visual splendor. Vega's sublimely gory “Shadowloo Slicer” fatality still elicits screams from the audience at EVO. As fierce as the fighting between the World Warriors and the forces of Outworld got, the battle behind the scenes is said to have been even bloodier; a runaway budget, arguments over almost every aspect of the design, and frequent shouting matches characterized the prolonged five year development cycle. Despite the astounding success and popularity of the title, a sequel has never been attempted. Ed Boon and Yoshinori Ono refuse to even speak to each other to this day for reasons neither of them will discuss. The licensing snake-pit of copyrights and legal redtape has prevented any other ports or remakes from ever being produced, spurring a cottage industry of Dreamcast re-sales and custom made fightsticks for the console, supported almost entirely by SF vs MK's diehard audience. Alan Wake: The Fear That Gives Men Wings One has to imagine the lengths Sam Lake and his team at Remedy had to go to to protect their secret, their lips held firmly tight, unable to tell anyone what they were really up to. Keeping things under wraps despite the kind of scrutiny placed on what would be the flagship launch title for the Xbox One. The kind of pressure they must have been under to tease even a bit of what they had up their sleeves. But, somehow they managed it, and the fourth wall shattering reveal of Max Payne as a playable character in the second act of the game will go down in history as one of the most surprising and surreal moments in gaming history. Max is every bit as cynical and bitter as ever. But this time he isn't raging against an indifferent and unfair universe with a vague sense of living a cliché. This time he can direct his anger against the very man who wrote the script of his sorry fate. The scene where he crushes Alan's writing hand with the butt of his pistol is almost unbearable to watch. Reportedly, Sam Lake spent the night of the launch locked in his office suffering an intense panic attack, a crisis of artistic confidence. He spent the last five years of his life calculating this surprise, this single plot twist. If the game failed it wouldn't just be the end of his career, it would end his self-image as an artist and writer. Hideo Kojima, no stranger to pulling a controversial character rope-a-dope called him that night and consoled him in his hour of need. From that experience, the two men formed a bond that eventually led to them collaborating on Snatcher 2, another smash success. City of Heroes: Issue 25 “Messages from a world ending” In the waning days of City of Heroes' lifespan, most of the development and design talent in Paragon Studios carefully made their exit to greener pastures. As everyone else was jumping off, one man climbed aboard the sinking ship to take over as lead designer. There would be no budget, a small (and rapidly shrinking) team to work with, and low expectations from fans and critics already aware of Paragon City's impending doom. He was supposed to be just folding up the socks and towels, putting the game to bed. Instead, Austin Grossman created one of the most memorable final chapters to an MMO ever seen. Relying on his background as a writer, Grossman set out to recast the tone of CoH to better fit the looming ennui of a world coming to an end. CoH's final storylines were not the Silver Age dust-ups that characterized most of the game's lifespan. Instead, Grossman wrote introspective questlines laced with sharp humor about heroes and villains looking inward. What compels someone to point a laser at the moon? What drives someone else to put on a cape and jump in front of that laser? And who gives a shit about the moon anyway? Couldn't these miracle men born of science and magic be doing something better with their lives and isn't this all a little bit silly and embarrassing when you step back from it? With no money to craft new areas or other big gameplay draws, Grossman had to get clever to generate new content. Flipping the familiar Giant Monster concept on its head, instead of creating new and impressive Godzilla-esque monster for players to rally against, he instead turned a single random player into an unstoppable force of destruction. An artifact known as Mournblade, a cursed black sword, would be “gifted” to a player once a month, immediately giving them an exponential boost to their stats, constantly depleting health that could only be regenerated by killing with the sword, and flagging them as a PvP target no matter what zone they were in. When the player fell, the next nearest player would inherit the blade, and the carnage would continue until a heroic sacrifice was made -- the deletion of the character currently holding the blade. In the final hours of the game's life one lone hero remained, wielding the Mournblade against a cataclysmic invasion of blatantly overpowered alien invaders. The beauty and value of struggling against inevitable darkness was CoH's final message. A fitting tribute for the beloved and fondly remembered MMO. Springfield Rockstar has always played it's cards close to it's chest but no one could have guessed that the schoolyard based Bully was a testbed for a much more ambitious project several years in the making. When Rockstar announced it's partnership with Fox to make an open-world Simpson's game where nearly every single NPC in the game was a known and beloved Simpsons cast member, the response was a mixture of unbridled excitement and raised eyebrows. Those eyebrows stayed raised as Rockstar made design choices so bold they bordered on absurd. Rather than make Bart or any of the other predictable Simpson family members the protagonists, Rockstar reached back to its tradition with mute characters and allowed players to make their own avatar, a recent transfer student to Springfield Elementary known only as “The Kid.” The game was structured similar to GTA and Bully, but with a Simpsons twist with “The Kid” taking on all kinds of missions from notable Springfield residents. Hijinks ranging from helping Comic Book Guy try to woo a regular customer (it ends poorly), to covering up an accident at the nuclear plant for Mr. Burns (it ends poorly), to trying to elevate Bumblebee Man's stature as an actor (you guessed it, it ends poorly). 400 hours of dialog, quips and jokes make Springfield a real, living place filled with the characters you know and love. Most precious of all, though, were the inclusion of previously unused and forgotten recorded performances from the late Phil Hartman, allowing a final farewell for beloved characters such as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure. [embed]293426:58849:0[/embed] Those are games I see when I close my eyes at night. Games that I know could never have existed for a number of perfectly sound reasons, but still can't shake the feeling that we should have had them. Do you have any games like this? Titles that stick in your imagination and make you wish things had happened differently?
Dream games photo
All great ideas go to Heaven
Silent Hills was a dream game. Specifically, it was my dream game. If you asked me before P.T. crept onto the PSN servers what series I'd most like to see rejuvenated in a bold new way, I would have probably told you Silent H...

MWO update photo
MWO update

Mechwarrior Online retools its MechLab again


Hold the phone, NEW MENUS!?
Jun 05
// Nic Rowen
Have you seen a commercial where a company basically throws its last product or several years of service under the bus to promote its new stuff? Like those bizarre ads for Domino's Pizza a few years ago which basically boiled...

Review: Shooter

Jun 02 // Nic Rowen
Shooter (Book)Released: June 2, 2015MSRP: $5.00 Shooter is a collection of essays from recognizable names in game criticism speaking on a wide range of topics related to games that involve some kind of gunplay. Some chapters take a deep dive into the mechanical and technical details that make shooters what they are. Steven Wright's “The Joys of Projectiles: What We've Forgotten About Doom” for example, laments the rise of “realistic” modern shooters and how their largely interchangeable hitscan assault rifles have abandoned many of the mechanics that made early FPS games so pleasurable and skill testing. Others are more personal, such as Gita Jackson's touching reflection on how Counter-Strike could be seen as a microcosm of the (seemingly one-sided from her self-deprecating perspective) sibling rivalry she shared with her brother. Shooter strikes a great balance, it never gets so bogged down in technical minutia that it feels like a lecture in game design, but has enough mechanical grounding that it doesn't just become a series of anecdotes either. The games Shooter examines are varied and numerous. Of course genre forebears and trendsetters like Doom, Half-Life and Call of Duty are discussed as you would expect, but there is plenty of attention paid to less bombastically popular titles as well. Genre-defying shooters like Red Orchestra 2 with its brutally unforgiving depiction of realistic combat, and the insidious darkness of Far Cry 2, which sets aside the typical rationales for heroic violence to make the player complicit in something unsettling, get entire chapters dedicated to them. It's a great technique. By examining the few games that step outside of the bounds of typical FPS conventions and power fantasy dynamics and figuring out why they feel so different, it is easier to pinpoint the standard tropes and expectations of the genre that have become so ubiquitous that they are nearly invisible. Perhaps the greatest praise I can give to Shooter is that it made me reexamine and reflect on my feelings about a few games. When a piece of criticism grabs you by the collar and demands you take a second look at something, you know its doing it's job right. Filipe Salgado's chapter on the intentional ugliness and barely contained chaos of Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days almost made me want to play through the game again with a fresh set of eyes -- eyes more willing to see past the clunky mechanics and thoroughly unlikable protagonists to scan for deeper meaning. Almost anyway (this is still Dog Days we're talking about). At its best, Shooter feels like a lively conversation with some very smart people who enjoy, but expect more from, their trigger happy games. Its snappy, intelligent, and occasionally funny. At it's worst, the book veers into the pretentious. At times, it feels less like a conversation and more like an awkward dinner party dominated by a lecturing windbag everyone is too polite to interrupt. Thankfully these rough patches are few and far between. The rest of the book is well worth putting up with the occasional eye-rolling turn of phrase. Mostly though, Shooter feels important. The industry needs more “capital C” Criticism to unravel the subtext and ideas behind the games we love. Games mean something. They impart messages, communicate ideas, either by conscious choice on the part of their developers or by the assumptions they make -- the casual omissions and things taken for granted. We have to start examining these ideas in a mature, intelligent, and yes, academic way. Shooter isn't the first example of this kind of criticism in games writing of course; there have certainly been other books written, and articles penned (on sites like Destructoid, I might add) that dive into these waters. But, it is still very much a nascent field. Video games are a young medium, and we haven't had time to establish a critical tradition like film and literature has. We need to cultivate these voices; the generation of writers that will talk about games in a serious manner in the coming decades. What better way to stake a claim in this new field than to gather a variety of exceptionally talented voices to talk about and critically examine what is generally considered gaming's dumbest, most developmentally arrested genre? The thrill of shooting a Cyber-Demon with a rocket launcher may be obvious and simple, but there is a lot to unpack when you take a closer look.
Shooter Review photo
Looking at life down the barrel of a gun
Shooters seem simple. You step into the shoes of your typical tough guy space-marine or mercenary and empty clip after clip into the faces of Nazis, or aliens, or alien-Nazis from the vaguely disembodied gun bobbing up and do...

My greatest gaming regret is never making it to one of those ridiculous BattleTech Centers

May 29 // Nic Rowen
While BattleTech Centers were a video game experience, I'd say they had more in common with a laser-tag joint than an arcade. It was a production; one part video game, one part fantasy. They'd sit you down inside an overly-complex facade of a mech cockpit they called a “battle pod,” complete with WWII bomber-style tail art and mock technical information plastered on the side. Inside were a dizzying array of peddles, throttles, joysticks, and an assortment of quasi-functional warning lights and buttons. The pod was totally enclosed, fully immersing the pilot in the fantasy of actually being in command of a giant war-machine. They'd give you a call sign, have you watch poorly acted in-universe tutorials of how the game worked (staring Jim Belushi of all people!) and print out “after action” military reports (scorecards) of your performance. Mechwarriors would play a networked multiplayer death match, piloting their giant mech against with other real live humans piloting their own mechs from separate pods. All of this in the year of our Lord 1991. It was astounding for the day. In just a few short years, they'd have the technology to allow players in different BattleTech Centers around the country play against each other, likely the first introduction to online multiplayer for many mech nuts. Again, this is in the early '90s! [embed]292997:58730:0[/embed] Even voicing the idea out loud, I have no idea how it got off the ground. It sounds like a pipe-dream. A mad fantasy scribbled down in the margins of a high school notebook during the last few minutes of a particularly boring English class. Not something real people would spend real money on. It sounds exactly like the product of one of the “wouldn't it be cool if...” head-in-the-clouds conversations I'd have with my brother when we were kids. Even at the absolute height of the franchise's popularity, I can't imagine dedicating an entire building to mechanized combat. Nowadays, The Avengers are about the most popular thing on Earth, with their combined movie franchise making more money than some national GDPs. Still, I can't imagine getting any investors jumping on board to make Iron Man Centers where you strap on some fake Tony Stark gloves and a helmet and shoot repulsor blasts at other players. It's insane. Still, BattleTech Centers happened. There was a time when you and 15 or more friends could pile into a couple of vans, drive to a BattleTech Center, and spend the afternoon recreating the 4th Succession Wars of the early 3000s from the comfort of your personal cockpit -- and I fucking missed it. Nothing gold can stay. As the popularity of BattleTech as a whole began to wane, and the general market shifted away from arcades in favor of home consoles, BattleTech Centers around the world began shuttering their cockpits. There were reattempts at the idea. BattleTech: Firestorm came out in early 2000s with improved Tesla 2 cockpits (capable of “Advanced Mission Mode” which actually turned on all of the extra switches and controls in the cockpit, changing them from a cute cosmetic affectation to necessary instruments). But despite a small hardcore audience of enthusiasts, battle pods are on the brink of extinction. There are a few places still running BattleTech pods, but they are scattered throughout the country and operate on a much smaller scale. A few half-functioning pods tucked in the back of an arcade at a Go-Kart track in New Mexico. A small mech cache in Houston that is only open on occasional weekends or by appointment. Or the Fallout Shelter Arcade's wandering BattleTech exhibition that travels between conventions and events, dropping pods in the middle of a show floor for curious attendees. Even with these last few preservationists, the clock is ticking. The machines are getting older, spare parts and the knowledge to repair them increasingly scarce. Soon, the few remaining pods around may suffer the “lostech” fate that befell the advanced Star League technology of the BattleTech series (an end that is deeply depressing to the part of me that still wants to climb into a cockpit, and bizarrely exhilarating to the part of me that is a bone-deep MechWarrior nerd). Look, I know these centers are dead for a reason. I get that they were cheesy as hell even when they were new. I know the games probably haven't held up. The once quasi-mystical LAN multiplayer experience is completely unnecessary these days and there are any number of better mech games and pilot sims to spend your time on. [embed]292997:58731:0[/embed] But good lord, I just would have loved to have gone to one back in their heyday. Just the idea of dragging a few of my friends and family (who aren't obsessed with giant robots) to one of those centers puts a smile in my heart. Sitting through the terrible videos, climbing into one of those big fake cockpits, it's just the right blend of something I would enjoy both ironically and completely sincerely. Of course I would immediately switch it to the so-called Advanced Mission Mode and spend most of the time flailing about trying to figure out the controls and basically waste the opportunity. I know myself, I'm exactly that kind of jerk. I guess I should start planning a road-trip to catch up with one of the few remaining clutches of pods scattered around the country. The big, silly BattleTech Centers of yesterday are gone, and I'll never get the chance to go to one, but their legacy is still around -- at least for now. I don't want to add another regret to the pile. 
BattleTech Centers photo
They'll never bury me in my robot
I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of in my life. I've made a lot of mistakes, missed some opportunities that still feel like a cavity in my heart, know that I've done wrong. But if I'm being honest? My number one regret...

Darkest Dungeon update photo
Darkest Dungeon update

Darkest Dungeon update adds two new characters, fresh terror


So good I almost had a heart attack
May 29
// Nic Rowen
Darkest Dungeon is my jam. I've been playing the hell out of the early access build and while I've had an absolute blast, I was reaching the bottom of the barrel in terms of current content. So it should come as no surprise t...

Fighting games and roguelikes are my personal school of hard knocks

May 26 // Nic Rowen
Titles like The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Nuclear Throne and (my latest obsession) Darkest Dungeon make it their business to stymie and frustrate your futile attempts to get to the credits screen. They delight in throwing a wrench into the works, tearing apart promising looking runs or dungeon crawls with a few merciless rolls of the RNG. They move around the win conditions and goalposts from the traditional idea of “I gotta get to the end and dunk on the last boss!” to “oh God, please just let me survive a little longer this time.” Victory isn't just marked by, well, victory, but by discovery and learning. Seeing a new enemy, figuring out a new trick or strategy, and learning to avoid whatever awful thing killed you last time. Those small successes are what dubs a run a win. It's tough to turn that switch that demands progression off in your brain. It has been dutifully conditioned by years of games where victory is the expected outcome. But it's those wild unfair swings in a roguelike that completely mess you up that makes them so satisfying. The emotional roller-coaster of suddenly losing a beloved party member, or picking up an item that completely gimps your current build, or getting screwed by a few unlucky rolls that leave you facing almost certain doom. These factors that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to come up with new strategies broaden your horizons, you have to think about the game and really consider all of your options rather than relying on one or two recipes for success. Those runs that truly are hopeless? Well, they just let you appreciate the good ones a little more. It took me a long time to realize it, but fighting games are much the same when you get right down to it. While you always want to win a fight, just adding more notches to your W/L ratio isn't, and shouldn't be, the goal. What you really should be aiming for is learning. When Street Fighter IV came out, I was very hot-to-trot for some online play. I remembered dominating at SFII in grade school, all the hours I sunk into collecting every ending in Alpha 3 on the PS1, the times I used to rush through Marvel Super Heroes on one quarter in the arcade. I thought I was good at fighting games, and was looking forward to a chance to prove it. I swagged online like I was O'Hara from Enter the Dragon, obnoxiously breaking boards in front of Bruce Lee like it meant something. My fights ended up going about as well as his did -- Boards, and CPU opponents, don't hit back like the real deal. [embed]292757:58670:0[/embed] I'll be completely honest, I almost quit playing fighting games at that point. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're losing at something that used to be a point of pride for yourself. Thankfully, despite its rough and tumble exterior, the fighting game community actually has a great attitude about these things. EVERYBODY loses. It's what you take away from those losses and how you come back from them that defines you as a player. Shortly after SFIV came out, I was introduced to David Sirlin's Playing to Win, a book that is all about the philosophy of fighting games and is as close to a bible for the fighting game community that exists. I remember when I first read it I distinctly thought “this guy is an asshole.” Playing to Win can be a very abrasive read if you come from a background of playing fighting games for fun. If you ever thought your next door neighbor was cheap for constantly sweeping in Mortal Kombat 2, or angrily called someone a “spammer” for repeatedly tossing out fireballs from across the screen, or think there is such as thing as too many throws in one round (a philosophy I can no longer recognize except in direct reverse), Sirlin's opinions will probably rub you the wrong way. These self-imposed rules and ideas about how the game should be played are the foundation for what he considers a “scrub mentality,” a mental framework that will always limit how far you can go in fighting games, and ultimately, how much joy you can derive from them. Embarrassingly, I saw a lot of that “scrub mentality” in myself. The way I'd get angry at “coward” Guile players for tossing endless sonic booms, or frustrated with people constantly choosing the blatantly over-powered emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat, for easy wins. But when you stop looking at what other players are doing as “cheap,” and start looking at your losses as learning experiences rather than straight out defeats, a lot of that frustration evaporates. It takes real effort and time, but when you internalize that outlook, fighting games become less stressful, more enjoyable, and infinitely more beautiful. Of course people are going to throw sonic booms as Guile, he's a machine made by the Air Force to do exactly that. It may be true that Sagat (or whatever character) is over-powered and easier to win with and disproportionally popular as a result, but how can you blame people for making a choice that will tip the odds in their favor? You have that choice and opportunity too, and if you decide to stick with a different character you'll just have to make peace with the fact that you'll run into tough matches and try and develop a strategy to deal with them. You can either get frustrated, stomp around, and quit/uninstall the game forever, or you can thicken your skin. Learn how to roll with the punches, and take something away from the mistake. Either figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or come to peace with the idea that sometimes things are out of your control. These are not new concepts, ideally we should always be trying to find the positive side to a set-back or learn from a mistake. But to me, at least, nothing else crystallizes the idea of learning from a loss into a rock hard truth than pitiless rougelikes and fighting games. And after spending so many years immersed in both genres, I like to think that I've been able to take those lessons and apply them to other areas of my life. It's not always easy, and I won't claim to be some kind of Zen master who never gets frustrated, but I know I'm definitely a more patient person now than I was five years ago.
Learning from failure photo
Learning from my (many) failures
The last few years of games for me have been all about defeat. Constant, unending, expected defeat. I think I'm better for it. It wasn't always like that. In fact, for most of my life, games have been all about completion, vi...

LoL bans photo
LoL bans

League of Legends debuts near-instant punishment system for toxic players


Quick draw on the ban hammer
May 25
// Nic Rowen
Just this weekend I was chatting with a friend of mine who told me he recently quit LoL after several years of playing because he just couldn't put up with the scumlords and jerkbags that seem to make up a large portion of th...
Witcher 3 bears photo
Witcher 3 bears

Bears Vs Cyclopes in the Witcher 3


Whoever wins, we lose
May 24
// Nic Rowen
Despite the positive reviews (such as the one by our very own Chris Carter) I've been hesitant to jump into The Witcher 3. It sounds great, but with a potential run time clocking in at 100 hours and up, I don't want to buy a...
Rock Band 4 trailer photo
Rock Band 4 trailer

Live-action Rock Band 4 trailer looking for bodies


Take it on the road
May 20
// Nic Rowen
Are you a Rock Band fan living in the Seattle area with nothing to do for the next few days? Do you mind standing around bored stiff for hours on end while gaffers, grips, and roadies endlessly disassemble and reassemble sets...
H1Z1 cheaters photo
H1Z1 cheaters

Daybreak bans thousands of H1Z1 cheaters


Boo hoo, you're breaking my heart
May 19
// Nic Rowen
Nearly 25000 cheaters just got the permanent boot from H1Z1. According to Daybreak president John Smedley's Twitter, the purge targeted cheaters using ESP hacks, a cheat designed to reveal other player's location and status a...
Nuclear Throne teaser photo
Nuclear Throne teaser

Amazing Nuclear Throne teaser inspired by Doom 4


Fish can lol
May 18
// Nic Rowen
Rami Ismail of Vlambeer was inspired by today's super hot, extra informative Doom 4 teaser to whip up a little something for Nuclear Throne. This tantalizing glimpse of the frenetic early access title (that you can play right now) is a conundrum wrapped in a riddle. I know I'll be spending the rest of the day breaking apart this teaser frame by frame and comparing my findings on reddit.
Silent Hills fan trailer photo
Silent Hills fan trailer

Torture yourself with this fan-made trailer for Silent Hills


Wear your headphones
May 14
// Nic Rowen
I still can't get over the cancellation of Silent Hills, and this fan-made trailer from GLS Machinima isn't helping. It's a short clip and was made a few months ago, but its more than Konami seems interested in giving us and...

Early Access Review: Black Mesa

May 10 // Nic Rowen
Black Mesa (PC)Developer: Crowbar CollectivePublisher: Crowbar CollectiveReleased: May 5, 2015MSRP: $19.99 Now that I've had a chance to replay the original (selectively edited) Half-Life through the incredible reproduction effort of Black Mesa (which had its first part released roughly three years ago), I'm not sure that choice was so wrong. In the end I think I broke even. Half-Life was a monumental game that will always be rightfully remembered as a masterpiece for its time, but its probably not as fun as you remember it (headshots on the other hand are, and forever will be, a timeless source of joy). First thing's first, the Crowbar Collective has done an astounding job of dragging Half-Life into the modern age. This is not a mere port like Half-Life Source which used all the same assets as the original with a bit of spit and polish added in the form of a higher resolution and some dynamic lighting. Black Mesa is a remake, built from the ground up to fully realize the vision of what Half-Life could be on modern machines. More than a straight remake, the Crowbar Collective has played with the nuts and bolts of the game. Black Mesa rebuilds, trims, and expands different parts of the original for a smoother experience, while still staying true to what fundamentally made Half-Life what it was. There are new puzzles to work through, new and expanded areas to explore, and the availability of ammo and supplies has been bumped and nudged by a team that has spent ages agonizing over the pacing of the game. Action scenes are frantic and aggressive, with plenty of ammo doled out to deal with the additional enemies and larger set-pieces provided by Black Mesa. But when the action slows down and Gordon is guided towards evasion and caution, supplies dip to an almost survival horror level of scarcity. The push and pull of tension and action, going from a rat in the walls to a one-man army was one of the most intriguing things about Half-Life, and Black Mesa nails it better than the original. Some areas like the On A Rail sequence that infamously overstayed its welcome in the original, benefit from editing. Sometimes more isn't always better and Black Mesa makes some smart cuts getting rid of the fluffier and more frustrating aspects of the original. All of the edits are an improvement to the game. In fact, I'd say they could have probably brandished the razor around a bit more. Maybe we were just more tolerant of rampant amounts of bullshit back in 1998. Or, I suspect our memories of Half-Life benefit from a healthy helping of nostalgia and a lofty appreciation for everything that game did for modern game design. Half-Life basically wrote the book on immersive storytelling, first person exploration and strategically minded A.I for enemies, it had to be fun, right? Kind of? There are great times to be had in Black Mesa. When the game works, you can easily tell why Half-Life is so highly regarded as a classic. But then there is a looming dark side; a great number of hours when the game stubbornly refuses to be fun. The overly long underwater sequences that have you searching about in the darkness for some nook or cranny you missed as the last of your oxygen bubbles out of your lungs. The obnoxious clunkiness of trying to just MOVE around on physics enabled debris, let alone when the game demands you try to make a specific jump or escape from a screen rattling auto-turret under those conditions. The arbitrary insta-kill traps and monsters that force you back into loading screens and more than a couple “gotcha” moments that you couldn't hope to avoid without active precognitive abilities. Even with careful editing and a mind towards evening out the pace of the original, Black Mesa still traffics in an almost unconscionable amount of backtracking and finagling. There were several sequences where the solution to the predicament I was in was so awkward and stilted that I was sure I was doing it wrong. Of particular disdain was a protracted sequence set in a waste disposal facility that merged all the “joys” of water exploration, insta-death traps, pinpoint jumping between moving conveyor belts and confusing map design into a single ultra dense black-hole of anti-fun so terribly dark and spirit crushing that I'm still not sure I fully escaped from it. Maybe I'm being tough on it, but I remember Half-Life being smarter. I remember liking its world and characters better. Maybe it's age or maybe games have just moved on, but this time around I was more exasperated than amused by the shenanigans of the Lambda research team. The game has one joke -- you wander up to some poindexter in a lab coat, he says something silly/smug/abrasive, then immediately runs headlong into bullets/fire/devouring jaws (whatever option would make what he said seem more ironic). I like to imagine Freeman giving the leftover blood smear a knowing smirk each time. Granted, it's a funny goof the first two or three times it comes up, but when you're nine hours deep into the game and Professor Egghead is still predictably blundering into the crossfire, the dismemberment gets a little rote. I think its interesting that almost all of my criticism for Black Mesa is directly related to content from the original Half-Life. Every other effort is fantastic. This game looks great, especially considering its roots as a community driven mod. The soundtrack of original compositions is fucking banging. Every edit and change they made to the game was for the better. It almost makes me wish Black Mesa wasn't a remake-with-cuts of Half-Life. I wonder if the team would have been better served making their own thing, or maybe a “inspired by the events of Half-Life” complete re-imagining of the original game. The way I see it, there are two potential audiences for Black Mesa. There are the players who missed the original in its heyday because they were too young, or didn't have a PC, or thought Freeman's goatee on the box art made him look like a barista stooge, but love Valve's other games and want to check out the legendary classic that started it all. Then, you also have the true-blue fans of the original, the generation that cut their teeth on Half-Life and remember it as a wonderful and mind expanding experience who would love to recapture the joy of those heady days. I'm in the slightly uncomfortable position of telling both of those camps that they can probably take a pass on Black Mesa, even though I truly respect the work that the Crowbar Collective team has done with it. If you want to play a great Half-Life game that has aged fairly well, Half-Life 2 and its accompanying chapters are fantastic and Valve practically gives them out every Steam sale. Those games have all the best parts of the original Half-Life, while cutting out most of the chaff that bogs it down. If you didn't play Half-Life back in the day, I can't really imagine someone enjoying it as a game. Maybe as an academic curiosity, but not as a play experience. If you absolutely loved the original, you may very well find something worthwhile in Black Mesa. It really is the singular best way to play Half-Life. That said, you could also find something you don't like. A terrible truth, an awful secret, the knowledge that one of your favorite games is actually kind of a pain in the ass to play. It might be best to leave those pleasant memories as they are. There is still more Black Mesa to come; the game is in early access and right now the story concludes on a cliffhanger right before the Xen levels, where Freeman is thrust into an alien world of annoying platform jumping and floating alien bastards. The Crowbar Collective is actively working on that final chapter and plans to include it in the full release. Considering that even the most stalwart fans of the original generally concede that “the game was perfect (except for the Xen levels)” I don't think those last levels will really swing my personal opinion on the game. I will say this though, I can't wait for whatever the Crowbar Collective does next.
Black Mesa photo
Half as good as you remember
Half-Life was like a magic trick. It was a game you could show to people who weren't gamers and they'd get into it, a gateway drug. A real game (not some glorified puzzle book like Myst) that had the cinematic flair and prese...

FNAF fan film photo
FNAF fan film

Five Night at Freddy's fan film is short and creepy


Small run time, big spooks
May 08
// Nic Rowen
Horror movie trailers always give away the best bits of the film, and this fan made short for Five Nights at Freddy's by Typhoon Cinema is no exception. You've got all the greatest hits, spooky music, fuzzy security cameras,...

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