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Microsoft photo
Microsoft

Microsoft unveils new Xbox One Elite bundle, exclusive GameStop controller


$499 and $64.99 respectively
Aug 31
// Chris Carter
Microsoft has announced the new Xbox One Elite Bundle, which will come with a 1TB Solid State Hybrid Drive and an Xbox Elite Wireless controller. It's priced at $499, on sale in November at GameStop and the Microsoft Store. W...

Review: Satellite Reign

Aug 31 // Josh Tolentino
Satellite Reign (PC)Developer: 5 Lives StudiosPublisher: 5 Lives StudiosReleased: August 28, 2015MSRP: $29.99Reviewer's Rig: Intel Core i5 3.40Ghz, Nvidia Geforce GTX 780 Ti, 8GB RAM I mentioned the discrepancy between my memory of what Syndicate was and the fact of how it actually played, and Satellite Reign's existence makes that difference all the more apparent. That's because, despite the latter game's obvious tonal and thematic debt to Syndicate, it's a closer cousin, mechanically speaking, to Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  Whereas Syndicate and Syndicate Wars had you controlling a squad of roughly identical agents, each distinguished mainly by the weapons you had them carry, the corporate wetworks team you run in Satellite Reign's consists of four distinct character classes; each class has unique abilities unlocked through the leveling system, as well as individualized ways of dealing with the obstacles in their way. Soldiers can attract and resist enemy fire or hardwire enemy power generators to turn off turrets, doors, and cameras. Hackers can shut down security systems, use drones, and "hijack" enemy and civilian NPCs to puppet as they please, a la Syndicate's Persuadertron. Support agents heal their comrades and can use a "World Scan" ability to trace systems and find suitable hacking targets. Infiltrators can use ziplines, vents, and cloaking devices to sneak past guards while packing powerful melee and sniper attacks.   [embed]307082:60210:0[/embed] This class system, in addition to the game's requisite suite of cybernetic augmentations, weapons, and equipment, as well as an XCOM-like cover system, makes every encounter and excursion in Satellite Reign a far more involved affair than in its inspiration. Whereas those older encounters usually boiled down to how quickly your guys could mow down theirs, here, every member can work in concert, their abilities complementing each other to lay even the toughest defenses bare. Evasion, subterfuge and pitched combat all have their place, and can happen at virtually any time on the game's open map. That open map is another way 5 Lives stands apart from its peers and inspirations. Instead of missions, whether bespoke like in Syndicate or procedurally-generated like in XCOM, Satellite Reign opts for an open-world structure set on what the developers claim is one of the largest maps ever generated for the Unity Engine. The map is that of a city owned and run by Dracogenics, a massive future megacorporation propped up by selling "Res-tech", a cloning technology not unlike that seen in The Sixth Day. Your team, part of a rival corporation, is dropped into the city with an older, pirated version of Res-tech (their explanation for respawning), and tasked with overthrowing Dracogenics' monopoly in the name of business, no matter how much murder and robbery it takes to do so. Everything happens on the map, as your agents claw their way through the city, with nary a loading screen between tasks. Each district, from neon-soaked Downtown to the smog-choked Industrial zone, houses a number of side missions designed to reduce Dracogenics' control. For example, infiltrating the local police station can lengthen the time it takes for guards to call in reinforcements, while planting bugs in a surveillance center keeps security cameras from recognizing your agents too quickly. Breaking into the district bank can increase the speed at which ATMs funnel cash into your coffers. Bribing a disgruntled sanitation worker can unlock a side entrance into a heavily-guarded military base. Locating a conveniently hung power line might give your agents a quick way over the walls, but only if your Soldier can sabotage a nearby generator to keep that line from frying anyone trying to slide down it. It all feels interconnected and detailed in the manner of the best obstacle courses and levels. Through it all your agents will be getting their hands on new gear, unlocking new abilities, and getting more formidable, as the game's structure allows for a near total freedom of approach. Virtually every scenario can be handled in the way you choose (short of peaceful negotiation), limited only by your ability to coordinate your agents and their own equipment and abilities. Every upgrade makes you feel more powerful, but not just in a simple "numbers went up" sense, but in the way that new upgrades unlock new options and ways to break past barriers that limited you before. Unfortunately, like a proper cyberpunk story, Satellite Reign's shiny, polished exterior reveals some grit and ugliness upon close examination. Civilians walk aimlessly to and fro, only there to provide a source of fresh clones for your agents and inconvenient witnesses for their crimes. The open-world structure of the game excises the possibility of truly lasting consequence, with the world, guard patterns, and even destroyed cameras eventually resetting over time. Enemies are a touch too durable as well, their multiple layers of armor, health, and energy shielding limiting certain approaches, and turning most firefights into drawn-out affairs as enemies summon reinforcements faster than you can kill them. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this otherwise brilliantly-executed game is how hollow its world feels. Despite the gorgeously rendered city visuals and a goodly amount of text to be found by digging through random data terminals, Satellite Reign's city feel less like a world than a cyberpunk-themed playset. You direct your little squad of action figures around and play as you like, but rarely feel lost or immersed in the setting. It would be churlish and greedy to demand storytelling on the level of, say, Deus Ex from the game when it already does everything else so well, but it's saying something when Syndicate still manages to establish a better mood despite being nearly twenty-two years older. At the same time, rough edges like that are a small price to pay when Satellite Reign does Syndicate better than Syndicate ever did.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] [embed]307082:60210:0[/embed]
Satellite Reign Review photo
Guerilla Startup
I can still remember the first time I played Syndicate. It was after school in late 1993, and I was messing around on an office computer while waiting for my mother to finish a meeting and take me home. I remember the cool mi...

VR photo
VR

We tried the HTC Vive and had a chat about comfort in VR


Cloudhead Games showed us The Gallery
Aug 31
// Myles Cox
The dawn of ubiquitous consumer virtual reality is nearly upon us, and there are still some questions left unanswered. While Oculus may have led the monopoly in the VR game for a few years, multiple VR solutions have started ...
Destiny photo
Destiny

Oh for goodness sake, Destiny's Taken King raid won't be in at launch


Bungie...
Aug 31
// Chris Carter
When the last Destiny expansion hit, we got the recycled, poor excuse for endgame content -- the Prison of Elders -- instead of a real raid. Bungie claimed that a raid would be "coming later," leading many to believ...
Cave shmups photo
Cave shmups

Cave shmups are coming to Steam this year


Published by Degica
Aug 31
// Chris Carter
An ominous teaser site has popped up on the web, titled caveshmups.com. According to the landing, publisher Degica will assist Cave in bringing iconic shooters to the Steam marketplace, which will go down sometime in winter o...
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided photo
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided dated, with a whole mess of pre-order nonsense


'Augment your pre-order,' haha
Aug 31
// Chris Carter
Square Enix and Ubisoft sure know how to do a terrible mean Collector's Edition! Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will launch on February 23, 2016, and with it, multiple "tiers" of pre-order bonuses and a Collector's Edition tha...
Shenmue III photo
Shenmue III

The Shenmue III reveal triggered a huge spike in Dreamcast sales


Interest in first two games increases
Aug 31
// Laura Kate Dale
Six months ago, if you wanted to buy a second hand copy of Shenmue or Shenmue II on eBay you could do so for in some cases as little as $15. The games seemingly kept low resale value online due to the second game ending on a ...
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Metal Gear Solid V

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes just got an update to allow save uploads


To bring into Phantom Pain tomorrow
Aug 31
// Chris Carter
Everyone look under your Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes chairs! The game has just been updated on the PS3 and PS4 to allow for a save data upload. This comes a day before the release of The Phantom Pain, which has the...
LawBreakers photo
LawBreakers

New footage has surfaced for Cliffy B's LawBreakers


Skill shots and domination streaks
Aug 31
// Laura Kate Dale
Oh hey, are you itching to see more footage of Cliff Bleszinski's upcoming futuristic sci-fi shooter LawBreakers already? Well, thanks to the official LawBreakers Twitter account this weekend, we have a whole bunch of new pie...
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Metal Gear Solid V

The only file on the PC retail version of The Phantom Pain is a Steam installer


A single 8MB file for a 28GB game
Aug 31
// Joe Parlock
Oh Konami, why do you do these things? Do you not know people are mad at you for recent events? Do you not know people have been avidly awaiting Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for years? How do you continue to fuck up, ...
Cities: Skylines photo
Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines After Dark trailer shows off your city's nightlife


Get your drunk arse home, mayor
Aug 31
// Joe Parlock
Cities: Skylines was absolutely fantastic. Developer Colossal Order did a fantastic job of balancing its fun city creation tools with a detailed simulation that made SimCity look like some matchsticks held together with sick...
Atlas Reactor photo
Atlas Reactor

Trion announces turn-based strategy game Atlas Reactor


'Turn-based game... but competitive!'
Aug 31
// Joe Parlock
Rift developer Trion Worlds has announced its newest project: Atlas Reactor. A free-to-play, simultaneous turn-based strategy game, all players carry out their turns at the same time, meaning there isn’t hours and hour...
Steam photo
Steam

Steam now sells over 6000 different games


I've got a lovely bunch of videogames
Aug 31
// Joe Parlock
Ever since Valve opened Steam’s floodgates with Greenlight, the amount of games on the platform has exploded. NeoGAF noticed the other day that that number has skyrocketed to over six thousand games, either fully releas...
 photo
Win one of 10 copies!
The fine folks at Guru and Gambitious were kind enough to bestow 10 copies of Magnetic: Cage Closed upon me, so that I may give them to you fine folks! Magnetic: Cage Closed is a cool looking puzzle/platformer game, and if yo...

Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes

Go where lion-eagles dare with the creator of Gryphon Knight Epic


Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Update: Show's over folks...
Metal Gear Solid photo
Metal Gear Solid

What if Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is less than perfect?


I'm not a per-fect perrr-soonnnn
Aug 30
// Zack Furniss
In just a couple of days, most of us will be playing Metal Gear Solid V (including 95% of the people who claim they've boycotted Konami). Chris felt that it was "equal parts tough and flashy, and it's fitting t...
Weekend Deals photo
Weekend Deals

Weekend deals: Tip your hat to 25% off Phantom Pain


Finger cross on PC port not sucking
Aug 30
// Dealzon
Of the two AAA titles releasing on September 1st the big one is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. PC gamers are getting discounts up to 25% off at 2game dropping the price to $44.99. A good alternative is DLGamer&nbs...
Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes

Exploring absurdity with the developers of Dropsy and Screencheat


Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] On the surface, Dropsy and...

Through the Woods uses psychological horror to retell a classic myth

Aug 30 // Alissa McAloon
Conversations between the mother and her doctor drive the greater plot. The events of Through the Woods happened long ago; the players are simply helping the mother with her retelling of the tale. The demo begins with the mother alone in the dark woods with only a flashlight to guide her way. Branches crunch beneath her feet as she slowly makes her way through the environment. From time to time, an object in the distance catches the light of the flashlight. These objects, the mother explains to the doctor, are reflectors her son often collected. Reflectors sometimes trigger a short conversation between the mother and the doctor, but more often than not simply serve as a welcome reminder that you're on the right path. Eventually the forest directs her toward an isolated cluster of cabins. As she tries to open each door, she calls her son's name into the night. After finding every door locked, the door farthest from her creaks open and the soft sound of a woman's singing beckons her toward the cabin. I was somehow still surprised when the door then slammed shut behind her. The sound something loudly drooling and shuffling nearby filled my ears and it was then I became well acquainted with the run button. The game bills itself as psychological horror and it isn't hard to see why. Through the Woods uses a finessed merging of sound, design, and narrative to craft an experience that is equal parts intriguing and terrifying. I can't wait to give Woods another shot when it releases next year, but chances are I'll be playing with the lights on. 
Through the Woods photo
Norse mythology is messed up
I knew I was in over my head with Through the Woods the very second I started the demo. The moment I put those headphones on, the loud world of PAX disappeared and was replaced with the unsettling ambiance of a dark forest. ...

Space Dave! photo
Space Dave!

Space Dave! adds eyeball blasting with a Galaga twist


Sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
Woah Dave! was a pretty big success, though it's looking like the next title on the Dave! series won't be content to simply give us more of the same. While Dave's first adventure was heavily influenced by the 1983's Mario Br...
Dragon Age: Inquisition photo
Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition's DLC epilogue is called Trespasser


Plus, Golden Nugs for all!
Aug 30
// Josh Tolentino
Dragon Age: Inquisition isn't even a year old yet, but for some reason it feels like it's been forever since it came out. I played it, had a gay old time with my slender elven Knight-Enchanter, finished the story, then settl...
Punch-Out!! photo
Punch-Out!!

Would you play Donald Trump's Punch-Out!!?


Put him away!
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
[Art by Catlateral Damage creator Chris Chung.] The Punch-Out!! series is known for being politically incorrect in a cartoonish and lovable way. Some would argue that presidential hopeful Donald Trump shares that same brand o...

Cliff Bleszinski: 'I respect that core gamers see free-to-play as a dirty, dirty thing'

Aug 30 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]308383:60188:0[/embed] At this point, LawBreakers co-developer and Killzone series director Arjan Brussee chimed in "If you have a small barrier of entry like an early access fee, then I think that can work. For us, if you look at the game, it's definitely a triple-A type of experience. We don't want to charge $60, but our fans are used to paying money to play games with the Killzone and Gears of War stuff. So, I think we can leverage the free-to-play thing and do cool stuff in that space." Brussee's right in saying that this is a segment of the gaming population that doesn't have a problem coughing up some cash for games. The challenge comes in getting them on-board with free-to-play -- especially those who are distrustful of the model. But, Bleszinski wouldn't want to go back to the traditional sales metrics. "Yeah, for me, that's completely dead. That's pre-orders, that's 'how many do you get in the first two months' and then it's an exponential curve downward after that," Bleszinski said about the idea of his metrics for success suddenly shifting. "People who are still doing that: have fun. For me, that's old. For us, it's about a ramp." Bleszinski continued "We may not make a lot of money in the first couple months. But, in the first year, we may start to ramp up. These games are like a locomotive where they get going and going. Once they get momentum, you look around and say 'How did this game get so damn big?' The marking is a steady launch over the course of a bunch of different beats throughout the year as opposed to blowing the wad at Christmas while everyone else is blowing their wad. Or, the Super Bowl where you try to get Liam Neeson and Kate Upton to do goofy ads. We're in it for the long-run here."
LawBreakers free-to-play photo
But he's done with the traditional model
When Cliff Bleszinski formed Boss Key Productions to create the game now known as LawBreakers, he always knew that free-to-play was the model he wanted. That statement's not as black and white as it sounds. There's a lot of i...

Capsule Force? photo
Capsule Force?

Capsule Force edu-tainment vignette has surprise dirty bubbles


By the creator of Videoball
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
Former Dtoid editor Vito Gesualdi and Action Button Entertainment honcho Tim Rogers have teamed up for another live action advert for a videogame that they did not make. That said, Action Button Entertainment's Videoball and...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Decepticons dominate in Splatoon's latest Splatfest


Autobots, you don't have the touch
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
Yesterday's North American Spatfest was a unique event, featuring the first of hopefully many brand tie-ins with an outside property. Splatoon's transforming squid kids were tasked to join either team Autobot or team Deceptic...
CONTEST photo
Courtesy of Xbox and The Coalition
The original Gears of War is back almost nine years to the day on Xbox One with the HD soul-patched Gears of War Ultimate Edition. To celebrate, Xbox and The Coalition are giving away a custom Xbox One designed by The Coaliti...

Mario Maker PAX photo
Mario Maker PAX

I made a terrible Super Mario Maker level at PAX


I had 20 minutes!
Aug 29
// Myles Cox
Super Mario Maker is playable on the show floor at PAX, and it turns out Nintendo is giving players a rather generous amount of hands-on time with the game. If you're patient and don't have anything else to do (also if y...

Cliff Bleszinski: We want players to actually use verticality

Aug 29 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]308291:60187:0[/embed] "I don't mean to slag any other games, because those core loops of getting a lot of kills quick are what kill streaks and kill streak rewards are built on," Bleszinski said. "With us, we want to have a little bit of that dance, a little more like Halo where if someone gets the drop on you, you at least have a shot at either getting away or at least taking a dent out of them so they might die by your teammate." The hook that allows LawBreakers this freedom lies in the world-building. Because of a cataclysmic event known as "The Shattering," Earth is left with pockets of low gravity in certain areas. Conveniently enough, LawBreakers' maps are set in some of these areas, which should make for interesting and varied gameplay. Bleszinski was visibly excited about this. "We see these moments where there's this giant zero-gravity pocket where everyone's vertical and people are actually knocking each other around with rockets. One of the comments on Twitter was someone asking if rockets actually propel people. Since you have a rocket jump now, you actually have a radius. We found that with rockets not being a one-hit kill (because we don't really want them to be), even with Kitsune who's a very light character, once we have the law equivalent of her, she probably might be a couple rockets minimum. Still, it's a light character, but we want you to juggle." There's a reason he wants players to juggle. "When you introduce low gravity and the concept of juggling as well as a rocket that you can air-burst with the alt-fire, you see somebody flying through the air blind-firing propelling themselves, and you can suddenly send them over to the other side of the map by air-bursting a rocket and then follow through with your stomp move and kind of chain your moves together. We want the FPS dance to kind of come back." That FPS dance means that players stay alive longer and actually get to make use of the game's vertical axis. "It's a lot greater than your Call of Duty grind. It's a little bit faster than your Titanfall one. It's somewhere around Halo-ish is what I like to say," Bleszinski ultimately said of Spencer's original time until death inquiry. Figuring out exactly how to properly execute all that action is the tough part. LawBreakers' gameplay trailer showed a handful of different characters, each with their own abilities and traits. Bleszinski and his team are now in the position of getting all of those characters work in conjunction with one another without any of them sticking out like a sore thumb. "Perfect balance is nearly impossible to get," Bleszinski commented. "We're still working on it. Right now, in the current build that people are playing off-site, it's very asymmetrical -- two unique classes on both sides. The Law has all sorts of weapons whereas the Breakers have like area-of-effect stuff. That's been really hard to balance. One of the first things we're going to do when we get back is, you have Breacher on the Law side, we're figuring out who the Breacher equivalent is on the Breaker side. That's something that when we go back to symmetrical gameplay, I think it's going to be easier to balance. But, it'll still be slightly asymmetrical." It may not be exactly what he's shooting for, but Bleszinski made reference to a revered fighting game when talking about balanced gameplay. "I saw a graph where they're pointing out the Smash Bros. characters from the original that we've used over the years. Smash Bros. may be the most perfectly balanced game ever because they kept finding a new character and a new exploit without the game ever being patched or updated." An interesting analog, but LawBreakers won't take that approach. Bleszinski continued "Thankfully, we're going to be a living product so we can keep introducing updates, hopefully every couple weeks. Pump that shit through, have test kitchens and things like that. Basically, if we find an exploit that breaks the game, fix it. But, also recognize when there's an exploit that adds to the game. You know, rocket jumping is one of those accidents that actually is cool." Bleszinski and Boss Key can expect to find a lot of those exploits given the combination of possibilities between several unique characters and maps with variable gravity. There are a lot of factors at play. Some exploits will evolve into part of the game, some will get squashed. Those that make verticality more enjoyable and contribute to the FPS dance (as Bleszinski put it) have a better chance of surviving.
Bleszinski interview photo
Doing the FPS dance
Just this week, Cliff Bleszinski and Boss Key Productions pulled back the curtain on LawBreakers -- the free-to-play arena shooter that has been in development under the codename Project BlueStreak. It's more than just the co...

Metal Gear memories

Aug 29 // Nic Rowen
I remember the entire route through Shadow Moses. I remember the area with electrified tiles inset in the floor and steering a tiny rocket over them. I remember resenting not being able to use my guns in the nuke disposal area. The cave with all of Sniper Wolf's wolves running loose -- one of them pissed on my cardboard box. I'll sometimes forget the best way to get downtown, but the map of Shadow Moses is burned into my memory. The bosses were legendary, both for their design and the surreal conversations you'd have before, during, and afterward. One-on-one with an old west gunfighter, circling each other around a hostage in the middle of a room rigged up with C4. He showed off his fancy carnival trick-spinning and made comments that distinctly implied that he wanted to make love to his pistol, or that gun fighting was an allegory for sex to him. I don't know, he was a weird dude. There was that shaman who you'd fight twice, once in a literal tank and once while he carried around a gun the size of a small tank. He discussed ear-pulling competitions and the futility of struggling against fate. He was eaten by his own ravens. Then there was the suffocating tension and isolation of dueling a single sniper hundreds of yards away. The battle with Sniper Wolf would be eclipsed in every way six years later by Naked Snake's duel against The End, but at the time it was one of the most intense fights I'd ever experienced. I feel like there has probably been enough ink spilled on how crazy the fight with Psycho Mantis was, but holy fucking shit. How did any of that happen? It was like stepping into some alternate reality where Andy Kaufman had been a game designer and somebody cut him a blank check. Memes of plugging the controller into the second slot, or the infamous “HIDEO” error screen are well worn now. But I don't think secondary accounts can do justice to just how crazy and bizarre that fight, and the rest of Metal Gear Solid, truly was. All of that weird fourth wall breaking shit -- holding the controller to your arm for a massage, having the Colonel explain combat maneuvers to Snake directly referencing the DualShock and a bunch of video game jargon, it was something that had to be lived in the moment. It felt like Kojima was peeling back our skulls and attaching electrodes to areas of the brain that were previously entirely unstimulated. He was showing us a new way of making and thinking about games. I remember taking that instruction book with me while on a short shopping errand that Saturday afternoon in a calculated move to ensure I wouldn't have to stop thinking about Metal Gear. It had its hooks in me, and once I was in that world of spies, rogue special ops groups, and shadowy conspiracies, I never wanted to leave. We were supposed to visit our grandparents that Sunday, but stopping wasn't an option. So we took the PlayStation with us, hooking it up to an ancient TV in their dusty basement where we could continue to save the world from nuclear disaster and learn more dubious information about genetic engineering. I know, it was a scumbag move. But in our defense, we'd just finished the torture scene, found the corpse of the real DARPA chief, and escaped a jail cell using a bottle of ketchup -- neither of us were in the best head space to make positive decisions. It was a weekend I'll never forget. My brother and I tackled Shadow Moses together, experiencing the entire mission as a single unit. It was was a battle march, a do-or-die suicide mission to finish it in a single weekend. Even if it meant wearing out our welcome at our grandparents with multiple pleas of “just 15 more minutes!” as we pummeled Liquid Snake to death and tried to watch the hour-long ending without completely alienating the rest of the family. So yeah, we kept the stupid manual. Call it a battle trophy, or a war memento. My brother still has it buried in some desk drawer. Besides, we did Blockbuster and the next person to rent the game a solid. When we returned the game, we taped an index card with Meryl's codec number to the inside of the sterile white and blue plastic box. We had to crack that puzzle with brute force after we couldn't convince our mom to drive us back out just before midnight to look at the back of the CD case on the shelf. Kojima never accounted for us rental kids with his fourth wall shattering puzzle, but I forgive him. How could I not? He made some of my favorite memories. The best moments I had with Sons of Liberty all happened years after the game first hit the shelves. Nowadays, I consider Sons of Liberty to be one of the most important and subversive games of all time. When we picked it up on day one though, I thought Raiden was a turd and Kojima was playing a mean spirited prank on us. You want to talk about memories? I remember thinking “boy, I hope this is just a joke and Snake takes over again reallll soon” about a million times during the first few hours with it. That's not to say I didn't like Sons of Liberty or that it was a bad game or anything, it was just frustrating. It seemed to exist only to validate every criticism of the original. That it was a bunch of nonsense for the sake of nonsense, or that it was a nice movie with some neat game bits in between. I wanted to love it, but it didn't seem to care one way or the other for me. Subliminally, I was picking up on the entire meaning of the game. But it'd be a long time before I could fully appreciate it. Sons of Liberty isn't a game you tackle in a single weekend of obsessive dead-eye play. It's an intricate and nuanced criticism of the industry, players, and power fantasies that you revisit every few years with a scalpel and a fresh set of eyes. It's a game that was so prescient that only now, with games like Spec Ops: The Line and Hotline Miami, are other titles even attempting the same kind of criticism it levied. It's a game that I've enjoyed reading about more than I enjoyed playing. And I've enjoyed playing it a lot. It would be easy to dismiss Sons of Liberty's message as postmodern gobbledygook, or its criticisms of Raiden, and by extension the players, as overly impressionable rubes playing pretend at being a super solider as a creator taking a shot at his audience. But I remember a time in high school when I skipped Mr. Hogarth's class in the morning and couldn't afford to be caught. How the blood in my veins began to pump as I saw him looming just in front of the door of one of my afternoon classes having a conversation with Mr. Jones. How I slipped seamlessly, without consciously thinking about it into STEALTH MODE, creeping up just behind him, turning with him as he turned, like I was staying just outside of the vision cone of any of Metal Gear's hapless guards, slipping in just past him to take my seat, no alarms activated. The S3 plan worked better than Kojima could have dreamed. Even a pudgy high school nerd could have his own Solid Snake moment with the kind of training he provided us with. The Substance Edition on the Xbox was where I really came to love Sons of Liberty. The VR missions more than made up for the intractable cinematics and radio conversations of the main game, finally letting me feel like I played Sons of Liberty rather than watched it. With a few years to get over the shock of playing as Raiden and absorb the message of the game's screwy third act, I was able to enjoy the story and characters. It's one of the few games I can think of that benefited from a remaster in a way that was more meaningful than just a graphical update. But when it's all said and done, I think my favorite memory of Sons of Liberty has to be slipping on bird shit and falling to my death. I don't know why, but that's the moment that crystallized Sons of Liberty to me. Snake Eater is one of my favorite games of all time. I've completed it maybe ten or so times give or take. Certainly more times than any other game I've ever owned. The reason I played through it so many times is simple -- it kept giving me something new every time I did. I'm not sure how many people appreciate how incredibly dense and rich Snake Eater is. If you just want to mainline the game on normal mode, stick to dependable tactics, and don't care too much if you get spotted or have to drop a few extra people, it can be a fairly straightforward affair. If you want to dig deep though, if you want to get weird, that's when Snake Eater really shows you what it's really made of. I did all of the normal things. A regular playthrough where I slit every throat I saw, blundered into enemies and tripped off alarms, and was admonished by The Sorrow who seemed very cross with the number of Russians I set on fire. I did the professional thing, where I snuck in like a shadow over Groznyj Grad, with no alarms and no surprises. Then I did the goofy stuff -- theme runs where I would try and see if I could complete the game as a North Vietnamese regular (all black camo, unsilenced pistol, AK-47, grenades, and SVD only). I did runs where I would only eat fresh killed food, no Calorie Mates or insta-noodles. Runs where I tried to kill as many people indirectly as I could, to see how many I could poison with rotted food or knock off of bridges, the spirit of bad luck. Runs where I made a point of blowing up every supply shed and armory in the country. Every time I thought I exhausted the very last bit of Snake Eater, there was just a little bit more to find. A new mechanic or trick (that of course was almost totally useless and impractical, and great), or some new weird quirk of enemy behavior (did you know you can kill The Fury with a few swipes of your knife? He even has custom dialog for it), or a new radio conversation or song I had never heard before. I played Snake Eater for years, and I'll bet there are still one or two things left to find; Kojima's bag of tricks never seems to end. I still have the memory card with all of my Snake Eater saves on it, just in case I ever feel the need to get down on my belly and crawl through the weeds and marshes of Tselnoyarsk again. I had a whole library of saves, most of them right before discrete scenes or moments I knew I'd want to play again and again. The mountain infiltration right before you rendezvous with Eva and the treacherous march back down again. Dodging KGB special operation units armed with flamethrowers, mindful of the differences in elevation and the gun emplacements littering the hill. I've heard The Guns of Navarone was one of the movies that inspired Kojima when working on the series, and I like to think this area is his little homage to the cliff-side raid of the movie. I saved right before the sniper duel with The End, two different versions. One where Snake would run into his valley clad in camo greens, ready to fight a war of attrition with the legendary marksman. Another, where I assassinated the old man earlier on in the game with a single split-second crackshot (Snake Eater lets you do this because Snake Eater is a game that gives and gives every time you play it). In that version, his valley was full of Ocelot's personal entourage of soldiers to play with. Can you slip by unnoticed while being hunted by a pack of red beret-wearing hotshots? Or maybe it would be more satisfying to unzip each of their throats one by one, or to fight them all in one glorious running battle of machine gun fire and shotgun blasts (I never really used the thing unless I was goofing around). Of course, I saved just before the final showdown against The Boss. It's probably the single greatest scene in the entire series and one of the best boss encounters ever designed. Sure, taking down the Shagohod was satisfying, and sneaking up on The End and forcing him to give up his special camo and rifle made you feel like a sneaky master, but this was the real test. Fighting a person with all of the same skills and tactics you've spent the game developing and mastering, but she's better at them than you. After all, she invented them. I have less personal attachment to the other games. Guns of the Patriots I had to enjoy vicariously, reading about it and watching other people play. Same with the Metal Gear Acid games. I've spent a good chunk of the last month catching up, reading wikis about them and watching Let's Plays to fill in the gaps of my Metal Gear knowledge. I think I'm ready. I'm ready to finally close the loop on this series I've been playing my entire life. I'm ready to experience the last chapter in this decades long story of espionage, betrayal, and hiding in cardboard boxes. I can't wait to get into The Phantom Pain next week and see it for myself. I'm hoping Kojima can give me a few more memories on his way out.
Metal Gear memories photo
More than the basics of CQC
We stole the instruction manual when we rented Metal Gear Solid from Blockbuster. It's the one and only time we ever did that. Normally we were fine upstanding rental citizens who held manual-thieves in smug contempt. But in ...

Special edition photo
Special edition

Xenoblade Chronicles X gets a special edition with a USB stick


Sick USB stick
Aug 29
// Steven Hansen
Xenoblade Chronicles X is getting a collector's edition along with its December 4 release in North America (it launched in Japan earlier this year).  The $90 version includes the game, a 100 page art book, a tiny illustr...

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