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Reach exceeds grasp. Not that I lack skill, I just have small arms.

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Don't play Gods Will Be Watching.

In fact, you CAN'T play Gods Will Be Watching, so don't even bother trying. The game gives the illusion of choice, but in the end none of it matters. All one can do is pray to the aforementioned Gods that the random number generator is kind enough this time to allow Sgt. Burden to advance to the next chapter. What could have been a fascinating look into how far someone is willing to go to survive quickly turns into a back ally shell game that always feels stacked against you.


This one scene sums up how playing the entire game felt.


Each of Gods Will Be Watching's seven chapters takes place from the viewpoint of Sgt. Burden, a name so laughably heavy-handed it gives Avatar's unobtanium a run for its money for the Captain Obvious Award, a deep cover operative infiltrating a galactic terrorist organization knows as Xenolifer. Xenolifer fights for the emancipation of all alien life in the galaxy, and while their goals may seem noble, their actions are not. In pursuit of those ideals, Xenolifer resorts to kidnapping, murder, and genocide to create a better universe.

This idea is what Gods Will Be Watching's largest selling point is supposed to be. How far are you willing to go to accomplish the mission? Do the ends justify the bloody means? Well, regardless of what you do, the Gods clearly don't care. No matter what series of choices you make, the end result doesn't change one damn bit.

In one chapter there wasn't enough food for the entire group to survive the twenty some-odd days it would take to be rescued. My plan was to work the engineer to death repairing the radio I would need to contact the ship. After all the work he put in I would get rid of the tubby bastard. I said all the right things, forced him to work through out the night, and the moment it was finished, I blew him away. This, in turn, caused the group's doctor to run off screaming into the woods never to be seen again. Great, I thought, I needed two fewer mouths to feed if I wanted to make it through the next couple of weeks anyway.


"Enjoy that meal, fatty. It'll be your last."


So alright, it was a harsh thing to do, but if I hadn't, we all would have starved to death. After twenty days without further incident, the rescue ship arrives and the rest of the survivors escape. The next chapter starts up and I fully expect to be reprimanded for my actions, but nope. You see, the fat-ass engineer and the cowardly doctor are both right there in the briefing room as if nothing had happened.

Here is where one of my two largest complaints about the game lies. If my actions have no consequences, they have no meaning. There is nothing preventing me from blasting the hell out of everyone the moment they stop being useful to me. There is NO REASON to keep anyone safe beyond the bare number of people needed to accomplish your goals. Everyone else can chomp on a laser sandwich with Burden suffering nary a care in the world since nothing influences the next chapter.

When the entire premise of your game is living with the burden (do you get it yet) of command, yet nothing you do affects the end outcome, then every action feels hollow. Sgt. Burden could be a living saint or history's most terrible mass murderer and not one damn would be given. The next chapter would start up, everyone would be fine, and the game would continue.


Just kill the little bastard if you get what you need. It doesn't matter anyway.


I would be a tad more forgiving of what Gods Will Be Watching is trying to accomplish here if it weren't for the broken randomness of its game play. I have no problems with chance in what I play. A bad room in The Binding of Isaac or poor jump in FTL can cripple a run. In both of these cases, however, I at least feel as if dying is my fault. I can adapt, learn, and come back with the skills needed to get around the problem.

Gods Will Be Watching makes no such concession. Sometimes you will just die and there is nothing that can be done about it. No matter how many stragglers you abandon, no matter how much water you ration, no matter how hard you press there are times your random number just comes up and you will die with nothing to show for it.

At no time is this more apparent than when the game places Burden in the hands of a rather sadistic torturer early in the game. After days of the Sargent being knocked around, burned, stretched, and having his teeth pulled out, the torturer loads a gun and literally plays Russian roulette with both the Sargent and your progress. There is no strategy here. No matter what you say or do, there is the chance of Burden's captor pulling the trigger and blowing his head off, forcing you to replay the last 20-30 minutes of scene over again.


No, please do, for the love of the Gods please do.


I went through this torture, in more ways than one, four separate times only to get Burden's brains splattered against the wall within the first two clicks before finally catching a break on his fifth attempt. Each death forced me to replay the chapter from the very beginning, over and over again, without any relief in sight. There was no crafty way of getting past it, you just have to hope you get lucky.

I would normally never talk about the ending to a game in a review, but I feel it necessary to bring it up here. Without spoiling anything, the plot tries to justify the randomness and the apparent lack of continuity between chapters in its final moments. I'm not going to go into detail, but in no way did I feel the game earned the way out it presents itself with.

Not until the last quarter of the game is the ending even hinted at. The reveal comes at you so fast that there is no sense of build up, no feeling of suspense as the game gives up its secrets. Like a arrogant dying man, Gods Will Be Watching spends its last few moments shouting out "Look how clever I am!" before breathing its final breath with a faux choice that simply felt like one more parting troll from the developers.



I'm positive there are those out there who will claim Gods Will Be Watching is a great game. These people will point out that the punishing difficulty and reliance on chance help serve the narrative, that the entire game itself is a case study in futility and nihilism. The problem is that unless someone is feeling particularly masochistic, they will never put up with the game's bullshit to reach that sense of rushed clarity at the end.

Gods may be watching this game, but no one should be playing it.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) prays he will never have to think about this game again. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything.
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Flak cannons open fire upon the incoming allied air invasion of Germany. The joint US/UK operation is a last gasp effort to kill the mad German General Strasse, whose twisted inventions have already caused World War II to stretch into 1946. Impossibly fast jets scream out from Strasse's headquarters, a massive spire looming over the German coastline, wreaking havoc upon the invasion forces. Fierce resistance from cybernetically enhanced stormtroopers and massive Nazi war engines crush the few, meager troops that managed to make it ashore. It's amongst this carnage that Captain B.J. Blazkowicz's surprisingly entertaining tale of resistance starts, but it won't be until 14 years later when it finally ends.

MachineGames takes the standard Wolfenstein formula of "enter room, kill Nazi" and expands on it while still keeping the feel of the franchise intact. Taking place in a nightmarish 1960, during which the Third Reich rules the planet with a iron fist, The New Order gives the normally two-dimensional Captain Blazkowicz a far more human side. Trapped in his own body as he recovers from injuries sustained in the intro, he watches a world rapidly trampled over by jackboots from his room in a Polish hospital.


The Doctor will see you now


The narrative to any of the previous Wolfenstein games was always laughably thread-bare. It always served as a simple vehicle to explain why Blazkowicz was marching down corridors and hallways blasting Nazis across the room. The New Order, however, does an excellent job of highlighting just how bleak this timeline is. Stories of cruelty from resistance members that share your hideout as well as a few disturbing scenes later in the game perfectly illustrate what happens when infinite power is combined with infinite sadism.



I want my scalps


While far from award-winning, the voice acting and writing is significantly better than past entries. Resistance leader Caroline Becker is appropriately hardened from years of guerrilla warfare, while Blazkowicz himself could easily fit into the cast of Inglourious Basterds. Not everyone fits the tone of the game, however. Jewish scientist Set Roth is a walking stereotype who doesn't fit the seriousness of the setting. Roth feels like he should have been in an episode of Seinfeld, not fighting back against an oppressive regime.

There is one special note I want to bring up in regards to the plot. The New Order had possibly one of the most well handled sexual relationships I've seen in a game. Most games use sex as a reward for doing X and it usually consists of a topless scene and a woman grinding up and down against someone, a visual "atta-boy" for picking the right dialog or finding the right room. MachineGames handled sex here in such a way that it didn't feel forced, nor did it feel like a cheap reward for doing a good job. This is something that needs to happen more in games if they ever want to grow as a story-telling medium.


Just as grim as you think it is.


Wolfenstein very much plays like its predecessors. Waves of brainless soldiers and mechanical monstrosities roll toward the player waiting for their turn to be gunned down. Health and armor don't regenerate fully and rely on pickups to be replenished. Hidden files, notes, and treasure are scattered across each map to be found, some of them requiring a bit of Indiana Jones-like pulling of swords or candles to uncover.

One major annoyance was that nothing could be acquired by simply running over it. I was constantly pressing the "pick up" key over and over during my playthrough to make sure every medkit and bit of ammo was retrieved. Other than trying to stay true to its roots I can't think of any reason for this mechanic to be here and damned if I wasn't tired of smashing the same button repeatedly as I moved through a level.

Feeling as much a reboot as an homage, The New Order incorporates several things found in more contemporary games as well, with mixed results. A simplistic stealth mechanic rewards those willing to silently remove officers while not forcing itself upon the player.  A level up system not based around experience, but completing different challenges, feels almost ripped from the Call of Duty playbook. While uninspired, it does add incentive to try out everything the game has to offer in exchange for perks like faster reload speeds or quieter footsteps.

Scripted events much likes those of several other triple-A shooters are sprinkled throughout. With their Michael Bay inspired mayhem they are over-the-top but enjoyable. One Tarantinoesque conversation with the sinister Frau Engle over an Aryan purity test stands out in my mind. While bordering on the cheesy side of tension, it did convey a sense of dread and powerlessness. Knowing there was nothing that can be done as she carries out the test adds to the absolute feeling of helplessness that comes with this new world.

Not everything Wolfenstein tries to include works out for its benefit. A basic cover system was so clumsy and awkward  I ended up ignoring it except to complete the few challenges that required me to get a certain number of kills using it. The intro is bogged down with a lackluster rail-shooter that is the lowest point in the game. A shame since it's the very first thing the player is introduced to and starts everything off on the wrong foot.


Doomed to fail


My biggest complaint comes from The New Order's signature gun, the Laserkraftwerk. The Laserkraftwerk is an upgradable weapon with all manner of modules that can be added to increase its power, and if that is all it was it would be fine. The problem comes from its secondary function, a laser cutter meant to carve holes into aluminum boxes and chicken wire. Used to open passages or bust open metal crates, the Laserkraftwerk's cutter is cumbersome to use at best and outright frustrating at worst. There were several instances where the hole I cut was not big enough to progress through and trying to trim away any excess bits I missed was nigh impossible as the physics of the gun won't allow for small corrections. There was more than one instance where I had to restart from the previous checkpoint, which are thankfully plentiful, in order to try to cut again. What could have been something that made the game stand apart from most other shooters instead turned into a burden forced upon the player.

Much like Blazkowicz himself, the game feels stuck between two different ages. While MachineGames attempt to merge both the classic with the modern works for the most part, they bring some of the bad of each along with a lot of the good. Blasting Nazis always feels satisfying and fleshing out B.J. beyond a floating gun adds gravitas to what otherwise would have been another unremarkable frag fest. It's a shame that a few mechanical problems hamstring what was an enjoyable 12 hour game, but not so much that I can't overlook them.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) reads The Grasshopper Lies Heavy every night before bed. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything in general.
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Gearbox President Randy Pitchford has always been sweet on the Borderlands community. When not handing out SHiFT codes on his twitter feed, he is often posting pictures people send of their Borderlands tattoos or costumes they have made imitating Pandora's memorable inhabitants.

Today, Gearbox released assists for its upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel designed to allow that rabid fan base and early chance to start crafting their costumes for all of those midnight launch parties.



Inside the pack is a series of high-res pictures detailing the outfit, tattoos, and weapons of former Crimson Lance assassin Athena, one of the new characters staring in the upcoming Pre-Sequel.

Gearbox states that they will release one of these guides for each the four new classes so if Athena doesn't do it for you, don't worry, the rest will be coming soon.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) is just a lowly vault hunter in a sea of Handsome Jacks. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything in general.
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Adventure games have had a bit of a comeback as of late. Recent titles such as Telltale's The Walking Dead and HD re-releases of the Monkey Island series have reignited interest in a genre that once dominated PC gaming in the late '90s.

Jane Jensen's (Gabriel Knight, Grey Matter) successfully Kickstarted project Moebius looks to tap into that renewed base by introducing the eccentric antiquities dealer Malachi Rector as he investigates the life of the recently murdered socialite Bianca Cardolo in Venice. Malachi's photographic memory and extensive knowledge of history makes him the perfect candidate when a shadowy government organization hires him not to investigate Bianca's death, but into how she lived, and if there were any other connections between her life and those of other historical women.



Much like her previous work, Gabriel Knight, Jensen's Moebius has its own paranormal twists to it. Malachi's ability to read people goes beyond just a Sherlockian wit and has more than its fair share of paranormal intuition. His ability to just "feel out" the background of an item or a person along with his strange hallucinations hint at a far more mystical story than just the adventures of a withdrawn academic researching a murder victim.

Malachi has his own share of figurative demons to battle as well. Borderline paranoid and prone to panic attacks, Malachi loves to pop Xanax like it's Halloween candy. This combined with his strange visions led to one scene in which Malachi falls screaming to the floor in the middle of the night with his bodyguard and companion, David Walker, rushing in to care for the crazed man.

The interactions between Malachi and David seem to hint beyond being just friends, but nothing explicitly stated was ever shown. Given all the issues with games and the LGBT community lately, it  will be interesting to see how far Jensen is willing to push this relationship past the two just being business partners.



Moebius plays a lot like other traditional point-and-click adventure games. It sticks to the basics: find the object, solve the puzzle, watch the story unfold. My short time with Moebius didn't let me see if it falls into the "collect everything" trap that I feel plagues a lot  of these games, nor did I see any Rube Goldberg-like puzzle solutions where I had to use fishing wire to lure a cat to eat the rat and puke up a key, but until I can get a more complete hands-on experience, I can't promise they won't be in here.

While looking a tad unpolished, lets face it, people don't play these games for cutting edge graphics or tight controls. What I DID see, however, was an interesting story that will lure in both history buffs and those who like a bit of the paranormal thrown in with their mysteries. Add in a dash of a Dan Brown novel and you have what could be a great, compelling entry to Jensen's already excellent portfolio.

Jane Jenson's Moebius is looking to release in 2014 for PC, iOS, and Android devices.
 

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) is just a random guy who lucks out into seeing games before they come out from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything in general.
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Make no mistake, despite the rather pessimistic tone of this article's title, 2013 was a GREAT year for gaming. On top of several excellent games such as Bioshock: Infinite, The Last of Us, and Tomb Raider there were also two seemingly successful console launches. The 3DS had a strong year with a new Fire Emblem, Pokemon, and Zelda all releasing while the indie scene continues to pump out quality content covering almost every style of game imaginable.

However, 2013 also had some rather dark moments attached to it. Broken promises, studio closures, and extremely disastrous launches all plagued last year. An industry that claims it wants to be taken more seriously keeps demonstrating a Peter Pan mentality over and over again with petty name calling on all sides of any discussion derailing any real chance of change. All of this darkened what should have been a banner year for games.

2013 was paved in gold, but the tarnished spots need to be highlighted in hopes that 2014 will be even better. I'll be showing off some of those moments in hopes that they can be avoided in the future.

Bullshots! The Lies Behind Aliens: Colonial Marines




There is absolutely no nice way of saying this. Gearbox sold the consumer something that was not advertised. The atrocity that was the game itself is only matched by how deceptive the trailers were. I've gone off on how terrible the game was and how nothing was near the quality of what was promised. Using high-res shots and "gameplay" that is unable to be replicated for the normal player is common in the industry, but Gearbox took this to the next level with its extremely immoral advertising.

The thing to take away from all of this? Don't buy into the hype of anything. Resist the buy it now, play it later pre-order culture that has been fostered over the years. These days, short of a small handful of releases, nothing will be sold out and if it is, it will be back on the shelf in days. It costs nothing to wait to verify what a company is telling you.

The Never-Ending Penny Arcade Controversy


Make it stop!

It no longer matters who is right or wrong about this. Both sides have dragged this down into the muck and the supporters on each side have devolved into rabid dogs. Once vicious death-threats and insults start being tossed about casually by both sides, it stops becoming a debate and turns into a third-grade playground fight.

What could have been a legitimate, teachable moment about sensitivity vs. political correctness has become a clusterfuck of callousness and arrogance all around. When people start having their heads shoved so far up their asses they can taste they own breakfast, it's time to move on.

If you want to have a real discussion, then have respect for the opposing side and, for the love of god, understand that sometimes people will never see things your way. It's going to be alright, your life will go on if someone disagrees with you.

On-Line Server Woes

Meanwhile, at EA...




So EA is the clear target here with both SimCity and Battlefield 4 having MAJOR issues at launch stretching weeks past the first day. Companies will try to explain these away with spin claiming that it's due to how well the game is selling and that the game is so popular they couldn't anticipate the server load.

Let me make this perfectly clear. These are no longer valid excuses in this day and age.

A major publisher like EA or Take-Two, who also suffered launch issues with Grand Theft Auto Online, knows full well at least ballpark estimates as to how well a game will do before it comes out. They have the ability to perform massive stress tests and make sure that any problems at launch are kept to a minimum as well as years of botched launches in the past to learn from.

The real culprit is a justifiable fear of their stock prices dropping from delaying any AAA game more than a week or two to address these problems. The result is that they launch what's essentially an "early access" game, still in beta, filled with game-breaking bugs in the form of disconnects, server crashes, and lost progress.

Releasing a buggy game to the public is infuriating, but then lying to me about it with spin trying to tell me the reason is that your game is selling so well insults my intelligence and is a lame attempt at an apology for ripping off a day-one buyer. No more. This idea of "ship it now, patch it later" needs to stop NOW.


Joel McHale's Blatant Disdain for the VGX Awards



"Just give me my God damn check, Keighley"


If there was one thing to take away from the VGX, it was how much of a professional Geoff Keighley is. Only a true pro would be able to put up with what an ass Joel McHale was during the entire show.

McHale spent the entirety of the show making fun of everyone ranging from the guests, to the viewers, to Keighley himself in a style that went far beyond simple comedic riffing to outright offensive. Insulting and insufferable, McHale was clearly here for an easy payday and made sure everyone knew it.

Microsoft's Xbox One Reveal



It takes a lot to unite the entire gaming community but Microsoft pulled off this feat with its Xbox One reveal conference. A overwhelming "Hell no!" was collectively screamed out in terror by multiple media outlets and gamers in general.

With its need to "check-in" through an internet connection every 24 hours, the always-on Kinect, used game restrictions, and the inability to play games on different consoles the Xbox One quickly became the punchline to several jokes and memes on the internet. Even Sony was unable to resist poking fun at their biggest competitor, themselves having been on the other end with their own lackluster E3 conference when the PS3 was first shown.

All of this combined with several mixed messages from Microsoft executives in the days that followed as well as former Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth's "deal with it" comment only angered the already upset fan base. The outrage was so great that Microsoft even reversed some of its policies before launch.

Looking Ahead

I've come not to bury 2013, but to praise it. The good far outweighed the bad and anyone who claims 2013 sucked for gaming needs to re-examine their priorities. However, that said, it was far from perfect.

As spiraling development costs lead publishers and developers to push out broken or extremely restrictive products, the public needs to be ever watchful to call companies out on their patronizing bullshit and demand to be respected as consumers.

Gamers need to realize that this is a two way street, though. If people want companies to treat them like adults then they need to ACT like adults. This asinine, horrifying need to not just disagree with, but to destroy anyone and anything that someone might not like needs to stop. There will never be anything that is acceptable to everyone. Everyone has different lines and there is room to discuss where they are, but let's keep the conversations civil and not let it turn into a flame war.

As 2014 starts I'm sure there will be a fair share of controversy, but lets at least try to show a bit of humanity about it.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) is someone who thinks he knows WAY more than he actually does about gaming and isn't afraid to share that with the world. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear more of his ranting.
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Call of Duty: Ghosts has been released and the reviews are in. Most seem to feel it's a solid, albeit familiar, addition to the franchise. A few outlets, such as Destructiod's review by Jim Sterling, were far more critical of how little innovation there was and the limited risks Ghosts was willing to take, especially in light of Black Ops 2's attempt at a branching campaign and changes to its venerable multiplayer.

I finished up the game earlier today and I'm going to share a few quick thoughts about it here. There could be minor spoilers for those reading, so if you want to go into the single player completely blind, stop reading now.

1. You could take any level from Ghosts and tell me it was from Black Ops 2 or Modern Warfare 3 and I would believe it. I noticed very few changes to the look and style of the game. It's more of the same with all the good and bad that comes along with that.

2. For all the hype about Riley the dog, he wasn't really in the game all that much. It feels like the marketing team was trying to find any reason to make Ghosts stand out from previous installments and the only thing they could find was that damn pooch. I get it, dogs are popular in games for some reason, but the messaging should match the payout.

3. Who the HELL names their God damn kid Hesh?



4. I felt like I was going through the Call of Duty checklist the entire time.


Flashback mission? Check.


Player character dies? You bet.


Stealth mission where you crawl through a bunch of tall grass? You better believe it.


Blasting things from the air in a gunship/airplane/flying pasta monster? Oh yeah, we got that.


Rail shooter on the back of a truck? Did you even have to ask?


Ends with a slow-motion quick time event? Well, it's Call of Duty right?


5. Ghosts has what I felt to be one of the silliest endings since Sci-fi movies from the 70's used  "The End...?"






Please feel free to comment below and tell me your thoughts and ideas on the game. Also, follow me on Twitter if you want to listen to me babble even more about games.