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8:47 PM on 09.27.2011

Why I Can Never Hate on Dead Island

I get it. I can understand the buggy saves, the shoddy multiplayer, the complaints regarding the promises that the trailer made but never quite fulfilled. The first time my roommate picked up Dead Island and hopped into a co-op with me on Banoi, we had this conversation.

SA: Hey, do that jump again.

Me: *jumps*

SA: You look stupid when you do that.

I understood where he was coming from. The character models do a little squat jump when they make their leaps. I made the mental connection, but immediately started looking at him like he was kind of a douche. He was viewing this game from a technical standpoint, a critic's standpoint. Someone who has heard the hype, and heard hype like it before, and immediately wanted to spot things to lessen it. How dare he!

You know why I was jumping so much? Because when you jump kick a Walker/Infected, they fall down, and when you attack a fallen enemy, you include your weapon's force attribute with it's base damage. This saves you precious swings of your already rapidly-deteriorating weapons. I make it a habit to jump kick a lot, and I'm sure people think I look stupid doing it. But it gets results. Results in the form of decapitated heads and smashed-in craniums.

Also: jump kicking zombies makes me feel like a fucking bad-ass.

(I don't care what my character's model looks like in the game, when I knock down that Infected that's running balls-out for my brains, I feel like this.)

When I see a zombie coming for me in this game, I don't look at the sprite in detail while it tries to kill me. I don't make a negative mental check in my mind if there are a few 'clones' running around. And I certainly don't have time to complain if the reach of my weapon is a little different than what I think it would be in real life.

What I do is I kill the bitch.

It's the difference between playing and observing. I've been the most hardcore gamer (not saying much, in my situation, as I've been the only gamer) in my social circles for the majority of my life, and part of that personal development has been a single-minded focus on gameplay. I wasn't the type to walk around and look at all the sprites and models of a game, to see how the art direction complemented the setting. I didn't especially care about voice acting or FMV.

What I did care about was that if I got Shade's magic to 8:99 in Secret of Mana and cast Dark Force, an alternate animation showed that did tons more damage. If I knocked out a Koopa in Super Mario 64, I could ride its shell around, KOing other enemies and surfing across water hazards. I continuously entered and exited the shop menu with Adria the witch in the original Diablo, looking for new spellbooks, until my aunt could quote, with perfect inflection, "I sense a soul in search of answers,". I progress through the levels in Little Big Planet, timing my jumps perfectly and holding up the integrity of the party, I DO NOT STAMP EVERY FUCKING THING ON THE SCREEN FOR FIVE GODDAMN MINUTES.

I didn't learn, until very recently, that other people play games differently than I do.

And I still wonder why. Dead Island's reception has brought this to my focus, because it is a game where the gameplay is "kill lots of zombies, strategically." Other games, like Left 4 Dead, focus on speed, clearing a path to reach the next objective. Dead Rising is simply clearing that same path, but there is no way for you to "kill them all." In its own way, Dead Island is all about Killing Them All. It's not the game where you look at what you can and cannot pick up, or wonder why those pool floats can support the weight of a grown man/woman. Turn your back for a second, lose your focus, and you're surrounded.


People have called it the closest thing to an actual zombie apocalypse, and I agree.

The Zombie Apocalypse isn't about complaining that your skull-bashing hammer is falling apart. It's not about whining that someone stole your shotgun. It's not crying because you're suddenly all alone. Start bitching too loudly and you're something's lunch. To survive, you need to accept what is happening, come to terms with it. Make some goddamn lemonade. In a way, it's a reflection of what you have to do to really appreciate Dead Island. Stop looking for bugs, and glitches, and for God's sake stop fucking arguing about which console is better. Just...just stop.

Pick up a paddle, chuck it at something. Stockpile Alcohol, make Molotovs. Jump kick an Infected, then stomp. Drown a walker, for the lulz.

But above all, remember: Kill. Every Zombie. You Goddamn See.   read

10:23 PM on 03.04.2011

The Holiday Release Mentality

In response to Jim Sterling's awesome editorial on the death of middle-class games, he wondered why middling developers decide to release their products during the same crunch weeks as larger-named games. My two cents involve the season that makes the world go round for the entertainment industry: Christmastime.

The Holiday release schedule has always been a standby for many major contenders of the gaming industry, because it's right around then that the industry sees people spending money on games that usually are spending it elsewhere. Gifting games has obviously contributed an enormous amount of revenue for the industry, and I'm sure there's still that mindset of the parents or relatives of a kid browsing through a mall, seeing a video game display, and thinking "Didn't Jimmy get an Xbox machine last year?" before heading in and purchasing Lee Carvello's Putting Challenge.

But that type of situation only existed earlier in gaming's heyday, when Toys R Us was the place where most of us got games from relatives. Back then, the clerks they asked were selling everything in the aisles next to the toys as well, and couldn't really care less what granny bought her son. These days? Clerks are trained by experience to ask a single question, and give one answer based on what is said.

That question is: What console does little Jimmy have? The context-sensitive "help" the clerk now gives is:

Xbox: Halo, Call of Duty
PS3: Final Fantasy, Call of Duty
Wii: Mario, Zelda

The "why" question granny immediately asks after this response is easily represented with a dollar sign. Millions of people have already bought and ejaculated over these titles, and it's easier to say that than to say "Darksiders, while not up to the visual standards of the day, works admirably incorporating various gameplay mechanics from a lot of top-tier games that have sold well in the past" or "Yakuza's no Grand Theft Auto, but it explores very real sociopolitical themes that still exist in modern-day Japan, while still featuring an underlying storyline that incorporates valued human traits like loyalty, integrity, and compassion." And anything on the Wii is automatically doomed from the start unless it features Mario, because he's mainstream. Sure, the No More Heroes series expertly combined dark and satirical humor while portraying the main character as a moral-deprived pervert on the surface, but underneath he's simply a result of our "sex and violence sells" mentality, and eventually learns how unsatisfying those mentalities turn out to be.

The only way middle-class games are sold is to actual gamers, who research their purchases and know ahead of time (or have in the back of their minds) to specifically ask if these games are on the shelf.

Cliffy B made reference to how game releases are becoming like the Hollywood summer blockbuster releases, where small-time movies don't do as well as the larger films, but what he failed to mention was that many indie and middling movies tend to have the sense not to compete with the big names in their opening weekends. Game publishers have somehow neglected to learn this, releasing their tiny indie games the same week, month, or HOLIDAY SEASON as the bigger names of Zelda, Halo, and Call of Duty.

They neglect to remember that gamers are living on budgets, and when large titles come out, they'll spend their money where they have the highest chance of a return on their investment. They don't realize that gamers don't wait for christmas to buy their next game, they buy their next game WHEN THEY BEAT THE ONE THEY HAVE. It could be the driest of dry seasons, but when I finish Yakuza 4 to my satisfaction, I'm heading to my local game store and seeing what they have, and the more times there's nothing new in the mid-range to excite me, I'm going to take that one step closer to buying Call of Duty, and that's the last goddamn game series I want to buy from.   read

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