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Buddy Acker's blog

4:49 AM on 01.16.2014

The Winds of Change

Iím not usually the type of guy who likes to share personal details about himself with anyone, but Iíve already talked a little bit about my depression, so Iím just going to say this and deal with the repercussions: Iím bisexual. Iím attracted to both men and women. It scares the hell out of me to finally admit that in a public forum because Iíve seen what others have had to deal with. Iíve seen the hatred directed at homosexuals and transgender people on the internet. Iíve heard people tell my brother, a homosexual, that heís ďgoing to hellĒ or heís ďdisgusting.Ē

My brother and I were raised right smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, and yet we somehow wound up avoiding some of the more ignorant ideals that some of the people in our lives attempted to pound into our heads. We were fortunate enough to always have my mother around. My mom will tell you herself that she wasnít the best parent in history or anything, but she did try, and she always let my brother and me make up our own minds about things. She always told us she would love us no matter what and she still says so now. I believed her then and I still believe her now[font=arial].[/font]

I was raised a Christian and Iíll always remain one no matter what for my own reasons. I believe in God. Iíve read the Bible, including those verses about homosexuality that some of the more grating members of the religious community like to tout. The Bible has been twisted and turned by the modern church into something that it is quite frankly not, which is one of the main reasons, along with judgmental idiots, that I havenít regularly attended a church in years. All the ones Iíve attempted to attend have been borderline Westboro, so my relationship with them didnít last too long.

I suspect now I wonít be welcome in very many religious circles at all, which is just fine by me because I donít want to be around terrible people. I was affected by their crumminess before, but now Iím desensitized to it and donít really care anymore. Iím happy to know that their death rattle will soon be drowned out by the winds of change. And Iím even happier knowing those winds are also sweeping over the thing I love most: video games.

Now, Iíll be the first to admit that I love me some Call of Duty.† Iím also a huge fan of plenty of other AAA titles, among them BioShock Infinite,† Grand Theft Auto V,† Halo 4† and Assassinís Creed IV: Black Flag.† Now that Iím in danger of being labeled a ďdudebroĒ, I would also like to point out that one of my favorite games is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons† and Iíve also completed and love games such as Papers, Please,† Analogue: A Hate Story,† Depression Quest† and Device 6,† as well as many other ďindieĒ games. I like to shake things up and I very much enjoy when new experiences are made available.

However, the gaming world just hasnít gotten enough of those new experiences. Developers still believe that having a female protagonist in their games is a bad business decision because a bunch of losers get on Reddit and say it is. Death rattle. A Twine game isnít a game. Death rattle. Social activism shouldnít be in games. Death rattle.

I want more games that challenge the traditional idea of what a game is. I want a first-person shooter featuring a chain-smoking grandmother. I want a game that allows me to feel just a little bit of what itís like to be a single mother raising three children. I want a survival horror game about an overweight bisexual male whoís constantly depressed and struggling with his religion and afraid to admit heís bisexual.

The main thing I want is change. I want to see it in games and in humanity. Some people would seek to deny me and others that change. It doesnít matter. Their time is over. Death rattle upon death rattle fading into nothingness. Let the winds of change sweep through and make things right.   read

2:04 PM on 05.01.2013

Star Trek: The Video Game - Playing this game would be highly illogical

I was so looking forward to Star Trek: The Video Game. I probably shouldn't have been after seeing the words "third-person shooter", but then again, I noticed the obvious influences of games like Mass Effect and Gears of War. Too bad those games had no bearing on the final product. Digital Extremes has crafted one of the worst games of 2013.

For starters, Star Trek: The Video Game is just plain broken. It's buggier than a Florida swamp in midsummer. The arms and legs of Kirk and Spock often clip through objects. During my first playthrough with Kirk I fell through different floors or walls six separate times. I don't recall encountering one--one!--animation in the game that wasn't glitchy.

I had to power down my Xbox 360 five times because the game simply stopped working. A door wouldn't open, or my AI partner wouldn't assist me when I needed him to, or the game would freeze, etc. I could more easily accept these issues if the game were a downloadable title created with a small budget, but it isn't. Digital Extremes wasted a lot of money only to release a piece of junk.

And it's boring. Cover-based, third-person shooter games typically force players to strategize, to choose when to fire from behind cover or run out in the open with guns blazing. Star Trek completely forgoes tradition. I genuinely hated taking cover thanks to the abundance of glitches, but it's not like the game forced me to. I played on normal difficulty and hardly ever had to run away from danger. The utterly stupid, pushover enemy AI deprives the game of anything vaguely resembling a challenge.

A lot of the game can supposedly be snuck through. No thanks. This was not a game created with stealth sequences in mind, and the fact that Digital Extremes even attempted to imply that it is is completely laughable. Their entire marketing scheme was very deceptive, with promises of the game being a "true Star Trek experience". Yeah, because when I think Star Trek, I think cover-based, third-person shooter.

One thing I do think of when I think of Star Trek is ship battles. Star Trek contains one such battle, and it ranks among the worst levels I've ever experienced in any game. It's poorly explained and is nothing more than a shooting gallery that's worse than that deer hunting arcade game you see in every Walmart. It makes any one level from 2006's Star Trek: Legacy, a game in which you actually get to control starships, look like a masterpiece of game design, which is pretty sad considering how mediocre that game is.

The bad ideas don't stop there (they don't ever stop). In one level Kirk and Spock must use transporter guns to help each other traverse their surroundings. It's annoying and awful. The platforming segments are annoying and awful. There's even a swimming level! Unfortunately it's even more annoying and awful. I could keep using the words "annoying" and "awful" to describe Star Trek, but I'm sure I can muster up some synonyms for those words, so I'll move on.

I suppose I'll mention how players can upgrade their weapons and abilities and how that's pretty cool if you're into the most simplistic RPG elements imaginable. Kirk and Spock can use a tricorder to scan their surroundings and collect data or audio logs or other stuff stolen from Mass Effect. You earn credits for whatever you scan (and for hacking a whole lot of damn consoles) and spend those credits on the aforementioned upgrades. It's really unnecessary, and it's really not fun--just like the rest of the game.

But hey, the story is actually pretty good. If you're a fan of Star Trek, like me, you'll probably enjoy it. It really does give Kirk and Spock a reason for working together, and it ties in nicely with J.J. Abrams' 2009 "Star Trek" film. Most of the actors from that film provided pretty decent voiceovers for the game. Chris Pine in particular is pretty solid as he slips more into the William Shatner side of Captain Kirk's persona. It's interesting stuff; shame it doesn't have a better game to back it up.

Now I'm done with this review. Now I don't ever have to play or think about Star Trek: The Video Game ever again. I cannot stress enough how much people should avoid this game. I tried in all those words I typed above, but I'm still not sure I've offered enough. JustÖdon't play it. Please don't play it.

Score: 2.5/10   read

4:55 PM on 03.13.2013

Tomb Raider - Review

Iíll admit I was never a big fan of the original Tomb Raider. I enjoyed it when I was younger, but as the years progressed I realized how wonky the controls are and how truly bad the camera is. But one aspect of the game has withstood the test of time: the persona of Lara Croft. I never viewed Lara as a sex symbol. Iíve always thought of her as a cool lady who kicks a lot of ass (she is). She has always been, in my mind, one of gamingís best protagonists.

Thatís why, when I first saw the new Lara in the January 2011 issue of Game Informer, I was concerned. That isnít Lara Croft, I thought to myself. I had no qualms about the new Dante in DmC: Devil May Cry (because, letís face it, the old Dante is nothing special), but rewinding gamingís leading lady and transforming her into a scared young woman seemed like a strange decision. I was, however, excited for the gameplay changes Crystal Dynamics promised.

My excitement has been proved well-founded. Ms. Croft controls better than she ever has. I played through Tomb Raider: Legend as I was working on this review. I missed several ledges in that game while jumping with Lara, and most of the time it wasnít because of any fault of mine. The controls, while much improved over the older games, were still a little touchy. I hardly missed any jumps in the reboot, and the ones I did miss were wholly my fault.

Some may say the revamped controls are stolen from the Prince of Persia or Uncharted games. Their argument is probably a very valid one, but I love the change. These are the controls the Tomb Raider games have needed since their inception. Donít be afraid to take a leap of faith; Lara can handle it this time. The tools Lara acquires as the game progresses, such as a pickaxe, make navigating the various environments all the more easy and fun.

Speaking of the environments, they are beautiful and a blast to explore. The game is kind of linear, yet kind of open world. It is what you make it. If you wish to explore, youíll find a lot of ground to cover. If you simply want to complete the game, the game wonít prevent you from doing so. Thatís the beauty of whatís available here.

Should you explore, youíll find a plethora of collectibles to hunt down, challenges (which are really more collectibles) to complete and, oh yes, tombs to raid. Itís worth seeking out these things thanks to the deep upgrade system. The more XP Lara gains the deadlier she and her weapons become. Itís similar to what Far Cry 3 offers, and itís just as awesome in Tomb Raider as it was in that game. I became obsessed with hunting down everything.

Then thereís the story. Itís exciting and interesting, and it made me realize I was wrong about the new Lara. She starts out as a girl who seems to be incapable of defending herself and quickly becomes a killing machine. It all happens quickly, but it serves the story. I havenít played many games in which the gameplay effortlessly serves the narrative. Tomb Raider handles it with aplomb.

And donít worry about rape scenes; none exist in the game. I donít like spoiling story elements, but itís impossible to spoil what isnít there. What is there is far better than any scenes of sexual assault could ever be. The only thing I didnít care for is the ending, which is really random and crazy. Then again, this is Tomb Raider weíre talking about here.

Tomb Raider doesnít rest on its laurels. It takes the series in a bold new direction. The sloppy controls and poor camera that plagued the former games are gone. The old Lara Croft is gone, replaced by a human being with emotions and the like. Iím a fan of some of the other games, but I never considered any of them must-plays. I absolutely think Crystal Dynamicís new vision is worth checking out. Itís my favorite Tomb Raider yet.



The major misstep in Tomb Raider comes from its multiplayer offering. Itís annoying and boring. If the tagline for the campaign is ďA survivor is bornĒ, the tagline for the multiplayer should be ďLeave no survivorsĒ. Prepare to die a lot, and when that happens, prepare to stare at a lengthy respawn timer. The weapons feel bland and the environments are soulless. It is the very definition of ďtacked onĒ. Stick to the campaign.

Score: 9.5/10   read

2:25 PM on 01.27.2013

DmC: Devil May Cry Review

The words "Devil May Cry" hold a lot of meaning for me. Devil May Cry was the first game I ever played for the PS2, and Iíve enjoyed every game in the series since it (except the second entry; what a shocker). I know Dante as if he were my own brother. Iíve seen him grow up, grow up some more and even take a backseat to another cocky little white-haired bastard. I understand every aspect of Dante as a character.

Thatís why it surprised me to hear some people complaining about the new Dante in DmC: Devil May Cry. He is the same Dante as before. Heís just younger and more immature. Werenít we all that way once (I still am)? Donít get me wrong; I was shocked when I first saw Ninja Theoryís new character design for Dante. Now that Iíve played the game, I get it. I see no problem with it.

I also see no problem with making Devil May Cry a little easier. I grew weary of getting my ass handed to me in the older games, which could be agonizingly frustrating at times, and "agonizingly frustrating" does not equal "fun". If that makes me any less of a gamer as Iíve seen some users on Metacritic stupidly point out, I apologize. The thing is, it doesnít. Itís just yet another dumb observation by a bunch of idiots who shouldnít even be allowed to play video games.

Besides, DmC does stay true to its predecessors in the way that its combat is an absolute blast. I found myself getting all giddy when I nailed an especially impressive looking combo. I kept nailing cool combos throughout the game. It may have been because of my experience with the previous installments, or it may have been because of the lowered difficulty, but either way, it was awesome. The combat system is deep, satisfying and easily one of the best things about DmC.

It has tons going for it. Itís very fast-paced and exciting. As the game progresses, Dante gains angel and demon weapons. What this basically means is that one type, the angel weapons, are assigned to the left trigger, and the other type, the demon weapons, to the right. Itís a brilliant choice by Ninja Theory that allows players to mix things up by constantly swapping between each weapon type and Danteís firearms.

New enemy types are introduced throughout the game, forcing players to strategize. For example, one enemy type might only take damage from an angel weapon, and vice versa. This can be one of the gameís biggest flaws at times due to the lack of a lock-on feature. I found myself aiming but hitting the wrong enemy type a lot of times, which was irritating. Thankfully, the lock-on has been replaced with a dodge button, which is a welcome addition to the series. It can stay right where it is, thank you very much.

Dante can also grapple toward enemies or pull them to him. This adds even more depth to an already broad combat system. He can also use his "grappling hook" to latch onto platforms in the environment. The platforming is kind of a letdown, but it has its moments. Still, it wouldnít hurt my feelings if Ninja Theory changed it up a little bit in the inevitable sequel. It sometimes overshadows levels that are otherwise enjoyable.

Speaking of the levels, the environmental design is amazing. Dante has to make his way through a place known as Limbo, which is a world he gets pulled into for the majority of the story, and itís a world full of wonderfully grotesque and picturesque vistas. Limbo in and of itself is an enemy type. It really does seem as if the environments are trying to kill Dante. It was an ingenious decision on Ninja Theoryís part to design the game in this manner. Exploration was my favorite part of DmC (and it often resulted in me getting a bad time rating at the end of the missions).

My least favorite part of DmC is definitely the story. It isnít really all that different from the stories in the other Devil May Crys. A bunch of incoherent crap happens and Dante says dumb stuff. Thatís about it. It attempts to make fun of society and FOX News, and all of that is funny at times, but itís utterly useless as a meaningful storytelling method. The character named Bob Barbas is essentially an exaggerated version of Bill OíReilly, which means he runs his mouth a lot about nonsense nobody gives a damn about.

The story is at its best when itís exploring Danteís past and developing him as a character. Dante realizes before the end of the game that he may have a bigger purpose in life than lying around in a mobile home, boozing and sleeping with women. I chuckled at a few of Danteís unbelievably lame lines of dialogue, but a lot of them are just thatĖunbelievably lame and unfunny. Itís one thing to spout off Schwarzenegger-esque lines like "Youíre fired"; itís quite another to brag about your penis being bigger than someone elseís. That just emanates desperation.

DmC: Devil May CryĎs strengths far outweigh its flaws. The story sucks, but the gameplay is great and the art style is better. I played through the game on the Devil Hunter difficulty, and it was pretty easy. The thing is, I feel compelled to play through it several more times. I love it. 2013 has started off with a bang.

Score: 9.3/10   read

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