The 1911. Ol' Slabsides. The handgun almost everyone knows universally as "The .45", so much so that many don't know any other firearms chambered in .45 ACP. One of the most prolific, iconic firearms in the history of the United States of America. Along with that pedigree comes a lot of homages, imitations, and references in all sorts of media. Today I'm here to talk about why the 1911 was the first firearm I ever purchased, and some of the games I've played over the years that have featured this wondrous piece of American engineering, sometimes portrayed realistically, other times... less so.
I've always more or less been into firearms. I grew up and live in the American southwest, in Arizona. My state has always been defined by firearms and their use to tame the wild and spike the lawless. It's damn near impossible to grow up in the shadow of legends like Wyatt Earp and Tombstone without a healthy respect and more than a little bit of reverence for guns. My granddad was a fan of revolvers, and with the combination of Arizona's historical status as the "wild west" with the wheelgun and my granddad's influence, it should be no surprise that I'm a big revolver fan myself. In fact, nearly all of my trigger time up until I purchased my first handgun was on wheelguns. My 1911 was actually the first semi-automatic handgun I'd ever shot.
Speaking of firsts...
The first shooting game I ever played was Syphon Filter on the Playstation. At that time I didn't possess the skill to get very far; I never got further than the Washington Park without cheating. But I will always remember the sense of intense satisfaction I got from finally getting out of that flaming mess of a subway station and into the hedge rows of the Washington Park level. That's the first time in the game that you can acquire the ".45", and it was amazing.
Up until that point the pistol you are restricted to using is a silenced 9mm, which fires fast, but takes a minimum of 3 hits on unarmored enemies (without factoring in head shots). Once you pick up that .45, the game changes. Suddenly, up close, a single shot with that pistol will drop an unarmored enemy instantly, and that shot comes with a nice big "BLAM" to punctuate how powerful this handcannon is.
That was sort of how I felt when I first went to the range with my 1911. It was an experience I know I will never forget. Thankfully what I'd shot the most was .357 Magnums that my granddad reloaded with meticulous attention to detail and the same level of care he'd have used to tend to an infant. So when I slid the first loaded magazine into my 1911, racked the slide, alligned the sights on my target, and pressed the trigger I was pretty well prepared for the blast that came with it. But it was still my first .45, and my first semi-automatic, so the changes from shooting a revolver were distinct for me and that's probably what stuck with me the most in Syphon Filter and in my own experience. There was a change here, and it was distinct: what I'd shot before was undeniably capable and certainly lethal, but what I held in my hands that day had upped the ante considerably. I emptied the first magazine, slid in the second, and put another seven rounds into my target with a huge smile on my face. I consider the .357 Magnum to be one of the greatest, most capable cartridges ever created, but I couldn't fire 14 rounds of .357 Magnum in a matter of a handful of seconds. As my first semi-automatic, the 1911 opened my eyes to all new levels of capability lacking in my beloved revolver shooting.
Anybody who has played the Metal Gear Solid series knows that there's a love affair between Hideo Kojima and the .45 ACP cartridge. There's been a handgun chambered in .45 ACP in every Metal Gear Solid, and in some cases multiple handguns in that caliber are used. But there is no moment in Metal Gear history where that affection for the .45 is more clear than Big Boss's custom 1911 scene.
When EVA first hands Big Boss his shiny new 1911, he just about loses it, and I know exactly how he feels. (Wanted to find the scene where this happens, but I couldn't get an isolated clip of it, so here's the CODEC on it instead):
The 1911 in Metal Gear Solid 3 isn't the powerhouse of Syphon Filter, however. It's a more realistic portrayal of what a handgun should be in combat: reliable, portable, more effective than nothing, but nevertheless pales in comparrison to shoulder-fired weapons. Metal Gear Solid 3's portrayal of the 1911 is probably the one of the best in gaming, highlighting some of the history and the custom options, without taking its capabilities up to mythical proportions. Inaccurate shots with the 1911 in Metal Gear Solid 3 yield poor incapacitation, making accuracy the key without relying solely on an unrealistic portrayal of stopping power.
The 1911 love in this series continues on into Metal Gear Solid 4, with Old Snake's Springfield Armory Operator, and again it's portrayed with a fair degree of realism, without the silly fanfare of the .45 ACP's mythic capabilities of knocking grown men down with one shot. Snake approaches his own 1911 with less of Big Boss's reverence, though he makes good use of the Operator throughout the campaign.
My 1911 doesn't have a whole lot of bells and whistles on it. I bought something a little more standard, a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec (stock photo at the start of this article), lacking in about 99% of the modifications/changes Big Boss goes on about here (and about 70% of the stuff in Old Snake's Operator). Nonetheless, there's something about a 1911 when you put it up against other handguns. The second handgun I ever bought was a Glock 21 (Glock's pistol for the .45 ACP enthusiast). When I stack the two up side by side, there's just something special about my 1911 I can't quite describe. I love my Glock, and I carry it, but it doesn't quite have what my 1911 does; some inexplicable little sense of identity. Or perhaps it's just my connection to guns and american history that makes the 1911 feel different for me, but it just feels like there's a soul there that more modern designs haven't had the time to develop.
If there's a game out there that has a soul, it's probably Resident Evil 4. This game remains one of the most impressive transformations any longstanding series has ever undergone. It completely reinvented the Resident Evil series and took it somewhere entirely new for that series, with nothing short of spectacular results.
The Resident Evil series trends strongly toward the use of 9mm handguns. Essentially every main Resident Evil game's protagonist has carried a 9mm handgun, perhaps most notably the Samurai Edge custom Beretta M9s used by the STARS members. Leon Kennedy's primary handgun in every Resident Evil he's been featured may have been a 9mm, but he's the only main Resident Evil protagonist I know of that's ever had access to a 1911. And Goddamn, it was a good one.
The Killer7 Magnum in Resident Evil is probably my favorite Magnum in any game of the series. A double-reference to the game Killer7 as well as a bit of an homage to the 1911 wielded by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Terminator, this gun is just dripping with badass and campy cheese.
The moment Leon picks it up and you equip it for the first time, you know you're in for a good time. Everything about this gun in Resident Evil 4 is gold, from the shooting animations that make Leon look like a weak little pipsqueak of a man to anyone who's ever shot a .45 (my wife manages that cartridge better than he does!), to the crisp and clean reload animations and the utterly indescribabe destructive force it represents. Is it even vaguely realistic in its portrayal? Not even close. But picking it up and firing it reminded me of Syphon Filter and a dozen other games where realism takes the backseat to fun which, in my opinion, it damn well ought to most of the time.
When it comes down to it, that was probably the main factor in my decision to buy a 1911 as my first handgun: fun. I bought it to take it to the range and reconnect with my love of shooting after my granddad passed away. Prior to that purchase, I'd never shot at a range without my granddad or my brother, and after he passed I swore I'd not step onto a range until I'd bought something that belonged to me. It seemed wrong to me to take any of his guns out of storage or shoot his ammo until I'd taken that step for myself, demonstrated my sufficiency and my capability to survive and provide, and add to the family collection. It was a choice I made to show myself that I was still here, and moving on with my life. And furthermore, taking responsibility for that life I intended to live. When I made that choice I knew in my heart that first gun would have to be something special, something precious to me that would be with me for the rest of my life, much like my memories of packing up the lever- and bolt-action rifles, the sixguns, and going to the range with my granddad.
So, with all that said, what are some of your favorite firearms in videogames? Do you prefer realism to cheesy action, or vice-versa? Have videogames ever had impacts on your own firearms choices, or ones you'd like to own?
While everyone is working on and debating their Game of the Year choices for 2014, I'm going to be turning the dial back a couple notches and looking back. Partly because I didn't write a single blog in 2012, and partly because of my New Year's Resolution. My goal this coming year is to identify some key factors in games I enjoy and continue to play long after I've beaten them, and use what I find to narrow down my game purchases. In keeping with that general theme, I welcome you to Hat Trick, a blog series where I'm going to be examining a year of game releases and purchases, and identifying three games from that year that I'm still playing today, or I'm still captivated by the original experience of playing them.
2012 was an interesting year for me as far as gaming goes. I played one or two of the "Game of the Year" titles in 2012, but frankly the games that have stuck with me the longest weren't on that list or anywhere near it.
I'm just gonna say what everyone is thinking (or should be thinking): "Mech suits are awesome."
Armored Core V gets on this list because, frankly, the time I put into that game was worth three or four times what I paid for it. The sheer volume of entertainment I got out of Armored Core V is hard to quantify, but why did it capture me so? Was it purely mech suits smashing eachother to bits? Autocannons the size of school busses? The endless possibilities of dick/ass jokes inherent in a rudimentary version of MS Paint?
Armored Core V was a landmark of the series in many ways, but perhaps more than anything else, the shift into a team-based multiplayer arena shook up the Armored Core formula and took it somewhere new and interesting. Along with that shift came something of a return to form in the gameplay, by dialing back the breakneck speed and flight mechanics present in its predecessor, Armored Core 4. Armored Core V also changed up some of the series traditional customization and building, and allowed for the placement of custom emblems physically on the parts making up the AC, giving the player the opportunity to truly visually design their personal walking death tank in an entirely new way. The end result of all these changes was mechanical magic.
I spent more time than I really care to think about fine tuning everything about my AC, and everything from the booster, generator, weapons choices, to the very last decal I put together and carefully placed on it, had a purpose. It took almost six months of tinkering before I was able to really create exactly what I wanted, and then another three weeks to design logos and emblems to compliment what my design turned out to be. It was an unweildly and difficult to use hunk of battle steel, with a weapon selection that wasn't terribly effective, but I loved everything about that damn AC. Even today, I'll boot up Armored Core V (or its follow-on expansion, Verdict Day), just to look at the end result of all that tinkering and testing.
Looking back, I think the reason Armored Core V captured so much of my attention and my time had a lot to do with the visual design of the game. The shift from AC4's lightning fast, sleek designs back to something more like a walking tank appeals to me on an aesthetic level, and the sense of weight returning to the series was something I greatly appreciated. Beyond that, Armored Core V provided almost unprecidented levels of customization even for an Armored Core game, and once I dug into that, there was no turning back. A trend I find in many games I play long after I've beaten them is customization, and I've come to value the trend in modern games to allow the player to really create something unique of their own to utilize in the game's environment.
I feel like Dragon's Dogma is a game a lot of folks forget about. It was a title loaded with style, epic fights, interesting mechanics, and a decidedly odd take on the cooperative experience.
My love affair with Dragon's Dogma began with the demo, where I was screwing around in the character creator prior to the game's release (my love of customization strikes again), when I crafted a character that would transcend Dragon's Dogma and find an iteration in almost every RPG I played from that day forward: Jack Danger. Battle Ranger.
The concept for Jack was pretty straitforward. Jack is sort of a Don Quixote analogue; not the true hero of our story, but a man who is utterly convinced he is the savior of the world and must meet the challenges set before him with zeal and courage, and almost no sense of self preservation. Because those are not windmills, those are giants and chimaeras and dragons. Oh, and goblins, Arisen. So many goblins. Jack's pawns were actually real adventurers who chose to look after him in his mad quest to save the world, whom he steadfastly ignored/misinterpreted, as "pawns" are all a figment of his overactive imagination.
While I was playing Dragon's Dogma, I shared certain events that happened with friends and family in the form of Jack Danger's Adventure Journal, Jack's recounting of events which were worth discussing. The most memorable of which I'll share here:
We have word that there are a group of bandits hiding out at the ruins of a watchtower up the mountain path. Alice (Alice was Jack's main pawn, actually an old friend from his village trying desperately to keep him out of trouble) thinks we should leave them be, but there will be no raiding of honest commerce on Jack Danger's watch!
Arrived at the ruins. They appear to have either tamed a cyclops, or they have one man who is the biggest, ugliest gentleman I have ever laid eyes on. If it is a man, I wonder what they fed him to do that. And where I can get some that won't make me look quite that ugly.
First attempt was less than successful. We did learn that it was a cyclops and not a man, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. The battle was going well, with the bandits dispatched by my extremely talented hands from a distance, though it was difficult with Hector (My brother's pawn; he killed Death once) carving them up like Christmas hams. We were able to set about half of the cyclops on fire with some oil and a bit of fire magic, but then it punched me off the cliff.
Alice seemed mildly upset while I was falling. I don't blame her, if I'd been in her position, I would have expected me to die as well, and a world without Jack Danger is no world I'd want to live in. But she forgot the little trinket I spent all of our grocery money on the last time we were in Gran Soren. "That's worthless," she said. "We need bread and meat, and you buy a yellow stone from a man who specializes in forgeries?" Well, once again, Jack Danger is right, and she is wrong, for when I finally struck the ground, my "worthless little forgery trinket" shattered and all was well in Jack Danger's body. I admit, feeling my ribs and spine re-assemble was a little disconcerting, but everything seems to be back where it was supposed to go.
To celebrate my survival, Hector jumped off the cliff to assist me with (save Jack's life from) the chimaera I landed next to. Tomorrow, we'll see about that cyclops. I need to go sleep off a death hangover.
Stories like that are what made Dragon's Dogma such a wonderful game for me. I have so many memories of the adventures of Jack Danger, Alice and Hector that it's still a surprise to me that I haven't spent even more time with Dragon's Dogma than I already have. Jack Danger, Battle Ranger, has since made appearances in Skyrim, FFXIV, Dark Souls, and just about anything else I can wedge him into. He remains insufferably sure of himself, and on occasion still gets punched off of cliffs.
The most surprising of my Hat Trick for 2012, Mark of the Ninja came completely out of nowhere as one of the most memorable side-scrolling experiences I've ever played.
I still remember with remarkable clarity the exact thought I had when I bought it and downloaded it: "How are they going to do a stealth side-scroller?" Several hours later, when I'd finished the story and sat back with a sense of intense satisfaction, I knew I'd just finished something truly special and unique. And promptly went back to play it all over again, varying up my playstyle from mission to mission with every combination of ninja outfit and equipment I could imagine, and no matter what selection I used, it all pretty much worked and worked well.
Since then, I've gone back and played it over again several more times and each time I come away impressed by what this little title brings to the table. Like the other two games on my Hat Trick 2012 list, Mark of the Ninja has customization, but it's a game which focuses almost exclusively on making the gameplay itself adaptable. The player decides how, and the game offers every opportunity it can find to grant the player their own unique experience. It was a unique and sublime experience that I will remember as long as I can, and continue to play as long as I have access to it.
Even more impressive is that, despite its meager price tag and short story, I still consider it to be one of the most fully realized games I've ever played. The emphasis on gameplay is what really cements this title in this list, and is a reminder for me that while a so-called "Triple-A" title may have a bigger budget to throw around, what makes a game good is the underlying philosophy of its design team, and how well that team can bring the ideas in their heads out into a functional, playable, fun experience. It's well worth it to remember going into 2014 that some of the best games being made aren't necessarily coming from major studios or development companies, and some of the best ideas won't come with a $60 price tag on them.
So, that's Hat Trick 2012 all wrapped up. You've seen mine, now show me yours: tell me three games from any year that put a major mark on your library, and if you don't have enough space to do it in a comment box, write up a blog with Hat Trick in the title and link it in the comment section.
Do you... see what I did there?
That was terrible and I should apologize. I won't, but I should.
So, hello again Destructoid. It's been a long time. Like, 3 years long. An amazing amount of shit can happen in three years. I'll hit the high points:
I lost my computer. I lost my grandfather. My girlfriend and I started living together. I went from being an unemployed college student to working out of the food and beverage department at a major resort. We got two cats. I got a driver's license. I got a truck. I joined the next gen. I started what I hope will be a magnificently expensive (and extensive) firearm collection. I discovered a love (nay, obsession) for a wonderful concoction called "bourbon", though I admit I liked it before, I just got enough money to really try some good stuff. I went from food and beverage to security at the same resort, which is now what I do for a living (a wonderfully colorful job which has some... interesting stories). The girlfriend is now my wife. Our wedding colors were Renegade/Paragon and everybody who was in on the selection had to wear their Shepard's respective color (I was the only Renegade. Someday I will convince one of them to convert). Somewhere in all of that I found little snippets of time to play videogames.
So that's my last three years in a horribly insignificant sounding little paragraph which does not even remotely describe the actual impact of any of those things. (Also, I like parenthesis!)
Now we come to why I'm back despite having less time than ever to indulge in videogames, which have been a vital part of me for about as long as I'd care to remember.
Like the last three years, there's a lot behind these words, but here's the simple version:
I missed it. I missed Destructoid, I missed games, I missed community, and maybe more than anything else I think I missed writing on a regular basis. So I suppose I'm back for selfish reasons and I'm hoping that wherever Destructoid has gone in the last three years, and whomever makes up the rank and file these days, will enjoy my rambling, babbling, two parts esoteric vocabulary one part obnoxious videogame snob three parts wikipedia blogging style. I'm also hoping to see some old faces, I'm sure there's some still around writing up a storm. No doubt I've got a lot of catching up to do, which brings me to my next paragraph.
I've got a New Years' Resolution and it runs a little bit counter-intuitive, but hear me out. I want to play less games next year. Now, don't get me wrong, I played some really amazing games this past year, and I wouldn't trade a moment of those experiences for all the gold in Fort Knox, but I also wasted an abysmal amount of money on games I frankly knew I wasn't going to play, knew I wasn't going to like, but I picked them up because, hey, I wanted to try to keep up with the industry and what was goin' on that week. Then, as my collection grew, I started to find myself wondering what the point was. Why did I buy so many games that I didn't even have the time or the interest in? I didn't have an answer. I still don't, but what I did discover is, I want more out of my games than I got this past year.
So the goal of this blog of mine, for the great year of two thousand and fifteen, is to buy fewer games, and take a lot harder look at what I enjoy, and what I want out of a game. And while I could definitely make that journey of self-discovery entirely on my own, I think I'd like to share it with an audience. You know, for fun and also possibly to have a teeming mass of unforgiving people who don't know me well enough to feel bad when they smack me back into line should I start dropping into bad old habits. While I'm at it, I also want to showcase some of the other things I intend to do with that surplus of money I won't be spending, though I'm going to do my best to link those things and experiences to videogames in some meaningful way.
That's pretty much it. Uh... anybody want to bring me up to speed on the last three years for Destructoid?