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I wasn't sure if I should post a question like this just to satisfy my curiosity. From what I understand, blogs are supposed to be well thought out contributions to the site. Still, this is probably the best community to ask my questions without being met with a backlash of angry flames.

I just want to make it clear that I'm not trying, in any way, to bash the Uncharted series. Instead, I would like to ask what makes the game so loved by so many and my own thoughts on why the game is just "meh" to me.

1) The shooting: When I played through the game, the shooting didn't feel all that special to me. It was point and shoot mechanics with cover based tactics. Nothing really new from what I see. The shooting was indeed tight, aiming and firing felt good, just not mindblowingly good. I understand that the ability to climb obstacles and gain different vantage points on enemies is something new in this game, but trying to climb a building with to get to a good sniping position when your enemies know where you are usually got me killed or heavily wounded.

2) The writing: I never really got attached to any of the characters. That part is completely subjective so there's not much to talk about on that point but something that I didn't like about the writing is that conversations constantly set Drake up to say something smart to the point of making everyone else look dumb. Eg:

They find a map:

Sully: Look like we've got a map.

Drake: Let me take a look at that... it says that "the fires form the Himalayas point to the true path"

Sully: Well what the hell does that mean?

Drake: Don't you see?! The Himalaya's is where we're we've gotta go!

It seemed like every time the characters found some kind of clue, they required Drake to explain it to them even when the answer was obvious.

3) The platforming: It's not challenging but then again, I guess that the point of the platforming is to show off the grand vistas which it does a good job at. However, I found myself sometimes unsure as to which direction to leap in once in awhile and sometimes jumping to my death.

4) THOSE DAMNED G'NADES!!!!!: Ok, this is one point I'm gonna rant on. Why is it that enemies chuck grenades with impeccable precision? The don't throw the grenade so that it lands in front of your cover, oh no. Those freakin' pineapples land RIGHT ON TOP OF MY COVER INCHES FROM MY FACE. So naturally, I need to vacate my safe spot so that I don't get blown to shit. But if I do that, enemies will cut me down, especially if a close range shotgun wielding enemy happens to be close by. So whenever a grenade lands, I'm forced to dash away from it and run around like an idiot for awhile, waiting for it to go off, and then get back into cover. I have an aching suspicion that there is some kind if "throw grenade back at enemies" command that I never noticed. If so, then please excuse me.

So to summarize, I found the core elements of Uncharted 2 to be plain and simple when playing. Those elements are: the shooting, the writing, and the platforming. Nothing wrong with the game, as I said, I'm not out to bash Uncharted 2. It just didn't hook me as being "50 perfect scores" amazing. So anyway, I was wondering if some people could share with me what makes Uncharted 2 great since I would really like to understand the general consensus.

So I finally picked this game up over Steam. Going into The Witcher, I thought that this game took a different approach to RPG narrative and gameplay than other recent RPG's that aimed to be traditional such as Dragon Age. I think that I was right; The Witcher not only plays differently but the whole tone of the game feels very refreshing.

Sorty telling is a whole different affair from games like Mass Effect.. In a lot of western RPG's the game throws a lot of decisions at you but you don't ever really get to see them play out. Instead, you have to wait several years for the next game to come out and even then, you find that the decisions you made a only superficial or are not addressed at all. In The Witcher, major decisions that you make drastically change which characters you meet, who you are friendly with, and who is alive or dead. The Witcher seems to be made with a lot more thought put toward player satisfaction since the game shows you exactly what consequences your actions create by changing the story as you play instead of just throwing a bunch of choices at you and then making you wait for the next game to see them play out.

The tone of the game feels much more mature than other RPG's I've played such as Dragon Age. When I say mature, I don't mean the large numbers of sexual encounters that Geralt can participate in or that the game features quests that contain mature themes like incest but rather the way that these mature elements of the game are handled. In Mass Effect, sex was treated like the ultimate pinnacle in a relationship which is unrealistic and insulting to the player's intelligence. In The Witcher, sex is just something that people do and enjoy. You can have sex with a large number of people without having to court them throughout the entire length of the game. This change of pace when it comes to romance makes me believe that the games attitude to mature themes is a well rounded one. Instead of focusing a romantic engagement into the one moment of sex like in Mass Effect, The Witcher deals with sex as if it was banal or common. This difference in treatment of sex makes the game feel like it is much more able to handle it's mature themes without getting wrapped up in trying to make sex a big deal. For example, picture a grade schooler talking to his friends about porn and they are all snickering and acting uncomfortable. That's what I feel games like Mass Effect do when compared to The Witcher. Mass Effect is not as bad as grade schoolers. In fact, it does a pretty admirable job of creating a playable relationship. It's just that when compared to The Witcher, it feels like The Witcher is the grown up who treats sex as just something that people do instead of putting all their attention on it, a la grade schooler style.

I think that the character class that you play in The Witcher is quite unlike any others that I have played in recent RPG's. Most RPG's have three distinct classes and their iterations: the warrior, the rogue, and the mage. In The Witcher, gameplay feels like a mixture of all three. You have the abilities of a warrior in that you are proficient with melee weapons and thus can use brute force if you choose to. You are also like a rogue in that your attacks are fast and agile and you can switch styles on the go to fit the situation. Finally, you have access to five different magical spells to further add to your combat repertoire. At the same time, though, Geralt is not a master of any of the three classes. He can't, for example, grab a shield and tank or pick up a two handed weapon and one hit kill enemies. He can't go invisible and stun lock someone and then proceed to crit them to death. Nor are his spells complex or have nuclear level capabilities. Still, The Witcher's mix of the usual three RPG classes makes a truly unique class, The Witcher, which feels completely unique and refreshing. Alchemy further adds to this class.

The Witcher's ability to create potions, oils, and bombs is the final piece of gameplay that makes Geralt truly stand out from your usual RPG classes. In The Witcher, brewing potions and other helpful mixtures is vital to many fights. However, if you think that this game encourages crafting 100 health potions before a boss fight, then you would be mistaken. This is because the game includes another gameplay element, blood toxicity. Each potion you drink increases this green bar and if it fills up all the way, you're dead. Thus, the game encourages brewing and using potions that have an effect over time instead of "winging it" in fights by using whatever potions you want. Typically, if you go into a fight having already drunk your potions (for example, one that increases you vitality regeneration, one that allows you to see in the dark, and another that makes you immune to stun or knockdown) then you will often finish the fight relatively easily and with minimal damage. Attempt that same fight without preparing, however, and you'll be dead within seconds. This element of careful preparation before a fight changes up The Witcher's pace and makes the game feel very different from other RPG's. Instead of winning because you had an obvious level advantage or had stocked 100 health and mana potions, it becomes much more rewarding to know that you brewed your own custom made potions that buffed you up in a way that was tailored for that particular fight. In short, it makes you feel like professional monster slayer which is what you play as in The Witcher.

A weakness of this game is bad voice acting and lack of polish. Some textures, especially ones for buildings, lack detail. Also, character models are used over and over. You'll see the exact some model for a random villager in one part of the world used for another character that is key in the story, right down to the clothes that they wear. Characters also have very limited facial expression if any at all. By far, though, the biggest upset is the bad voice acting. Geralt's voice has a cool growling aspect to it, but he delivers his lines in a deadpan, monotone style. This is evident in many of the characters you meet which is disappointing. One of the worst examples of bad voice acting would be the character Dandelion. He is a famous bard who should be eloquent and have a marvelous singing voice along with a great range of expression in his voice. However, Dandelion's voice sounds like any other random NPC that you would meet, completely ill fitting to his character. The translation from Polish to English can also be wonky. Characters will say things that don't make sense when heard in the context of the conversation. It is evident that several details got lost in translation which is a pity since some great voice work and writing are crucial to narrative driven RPG's.

In summary, The Witcher stands out by being truly unique from a story telling aspect as well as catering to the hardcore audience by having deep and rewarding gameplay.

Guy gamers love it when they get treated to a sexy digital piece of ass. I may just be speaking for myself but I think that it’s a perfectly natural reaction to have your blood pump a bit faster when you are presented with a woman who is sculpted to be the object of your desire. But is the physical aspect the only thing that video game women have that makes them attractive? What about those other things that people have: personality, interests, thoughts, morals, souls. A lot of video game women lack these things. Now I don’t mean characters like Alex Vance and Elena Fisher. Those two and others show us that women in video game women can be more than just eye candy or princesses in castles. But those two lose something that the “sculpted” video game women have in abundance: raw sexual appeal. Please excuse me for saying this but I find it hard to take a video game female seriously when they are wearing armour that defeats the point of having armour or are walking around with double H size hoohas. It’s just too far removed from reality for me to truly believe that these women are more than just objects for my hormonal drive. So can video game women be both compelling and sexual? I thought that for them to be taken seriously, video game women would have to lose the thing that women have an innate greater control of over men, their sexuality. That is, until Bayonetta came along.

Bayonetta has sexuality in abundance. Every cutscene that she is in is oozing with sexual appeal, sometimes blatant like when she equips here trademark weapons, the Scarborough Fair, and sometimes sublime and simple like the tone of her voice or her movement as she walks. Now, some may ask “So what’s the difference between Bayonetta and, say, Lara Croft when it comes to sexuality? Both of them are created to get a rise out of male players. They are there to show off their bodies so that us strong men can enjoy them”. While it may be true that both Bayonetta and Lara are made to appeal to guys, there is an important difference in the ways that these two present themselves. Lara Croft does her flips, jumps, and other body presenting motions for your enjoyment. Bayonetta does it for her own. I think that this is an important distinction. Imagine, if you will, a stripper who is dancing for you because you have paid her to. In this example, the power is in your hands. But what if that stripper is dancing not because of the money but because she simply wants to? What if it makes her feel great to dance? This suggests that control and power over the situation lies not with whoever is forking up the money but with the performer themselves. It is not that they must perform because they need to. Rather, they (or in this case Bayonetta) does what she does because she loves doing it, and your just lucky that she wants to do it around you.

Another comparison to a video game woman: Kasumi. Kasumi has big boobs. She was pretty much to flag ship character for boob physics. For most gamer guys (i.e. me) big boobs= hurr hurr hurr purdy. Unfortunately, those boobs also completely dominate Kasumi’s personality. I mean, how many of us saw Kasumi and thought “Man, that must be an emotionally deep character. I should go onto the DoA wiki and check out her back story”. Ok, maybe some of us. For me, it was just, “Wow, those are some nice looking hoohas. I wish I wasn’t in public.” Also, take a good look at Kasumi’s expression.

Kinda vacant, isn’t it? Maybe even deer-in-the-head lights vacant. It doesn’t tell you anything about what she is thinking. It doesn’t even seem real, like just something that would be on a mannequin.
Bayonetta has pretty small boobs for a video game woman. I mean, they don’t shake and wiggle at the slightest touch of the control stick. WHAT BLASPHEMY IS THIS? I think that Bayonetta’s boobs are really important to the character. Having small (again, for a video game character) boobs is the first cue that this is not your regular boobs-over-character video game female. What do we look at after her boobs? Well, depending on if she is facing us or not, I would say her face. Studies have shown that men actually tend to look at a woman’s face first before the boobs because it gives men an instant clue as to if the women is receptive or not (lol, look at me using studies). And once I saw that face, that’s when I realized that Bayonetta is more than some digital body for me to drool over.

Her expressions speak volumes. Sometimes playful, sometimes receptive. Other times scathing and
oh so dangerous but you just always come back for more. Bayonetta’s face is a big part of what makes her a whole other breed of video game female. You can see the intent in her smile, the thoughts on her brow and the soul in her eyes. Next up, we have her hips. Obviously, she has one hell of a nice butt. Beyond that, though, I think that Bayonetta’s hips contribute a lot to her stance and that stance is what makes her so sexy to begin with. Bayonetta is able to convey emotion and intention with just her posture and much of that posture rests on those hips. I think that her hips and butt have obvious sexual appeal but their ability to create a strong pose at any times Bayonetta feels it is necessary is part of what makes her such a powerful character. At any time she wants she can put her hands on her hips, calk them just to the side and she instantly states what she thinks with her body. A lot better than vacant expressioned Kasumi, eh?

The gameplay of Bayonetta brilliantly emphasizes feminine power. The gameplay is able to achieve this by the use of Witch Time. Now, a lot of games have slo-mo in them. Mass Effect 2’s Soldier class, Max Payne, and Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time trilogy are but a few. But the difference between these uses and of slo mo and Bayonetta is implementation. In those game, you could use go into slo motion whenever you wanted as long as you weren’t out of sand, in cooldown, etc. In Bayonetta, you can only use slo mo when your being attacked. I think that this simple change in pace sets Bayonetta apart from other action games that, coincidentally, feature the manliest of men. God of War, for example. Gameplay in God of War often consists of hitting fast and hitting hard. Of course, for bosses you are supposed to counter attack a lot of them but that is beside the point. In God of War, you are supposed to utterly overpower and destroy your opponent. It is a test of one character’s strength against another. If you do not keep on the offensive, then you risk being overpowered by the enemies numbers. Thus, you must keep up a constant show of aggression. How very manly. In Bayonetta, if you try to play it God of War style, you’ll be dead very soon. This is because enemies take off a lot more of your health with each hit than in God of War and also their attacks often carry greater consequences like knocking you down for a time. This is why you must use Witch Time to succeed. Dodge the moment that your enemy attacks you and the world comes to a standstill, giving you precious few seconds to lay the hardest smackdown you can before the world starts back up. I think that this simple change does wonders to juxtapose Bayonetta’s femininity against Kratos’s overbearing manliness. Instead of going balls out and smashing your enemies beneath your boot, you wait for them to walk into your parlour. Instead of matching your strength with theirs, you let them put themselves in front of your barrels and capitalize on them when the time is right. I think that this difference is powerfully feminine. To not use brawn but rather grace and elegance to defeat the enemy is what makes Bayonetta’s gameplay so compelling and how it says so much about Bayonetta as a character.

Last point. Lara Croft and Kasumi’s sexuality are both sad affairs, imo. They are made to be sexual because whoever creates them knows that their hot figures are what draw guy gamers to them. This makes their sexuality submissive since it is made for our enjoyment. In stark contrast, Bayonetta’s sexuality is wielded like a weapon. Again, she is not doing what she does for our enjoyment. She does it because she loves to and it is this difference that makes her powerful. Often in the game, Bayonetta defeats her opponents with, literally, her sexuality. Summoning up the beasts of hell by sensually dancing is just one example of how she uses her sexuality as a weapon. I think that this differing use of sexuality makes Bayonetta unique in that, in a way, she is the one playing the game and the one who is in control, not the player. I feel this way because Bayonetta’s personality and her being is so powerfully commanding that it becomes the player who submits to her and plays the game just to be able to see more of her, instead of Kasumi or Lara Croft who are but dolls for guy gamers to play with.

Bayoneta showing of her moves. All credit goes to blaze and his expert play!
Photo Photo Photo

I decided to to get my snow tires put on today but when I went down to Canadian Tire they told me that they were booked up. Thinking that I should make the most of my trip, I went over to the nearby Best Buy to do some Christmas shopping. To my delight, there was a demonstration of Kinect set up and I watched something that I never thought I would see. A grown man getting the shit kicked out of him by a five year old in Kinect boxing.

It was David versus Goliath. I could tell that this man had some experience with boxing because his guard was up high instead of hanging about his mid section. The child had no guard up. As the match started, the man began to dip and swerve, throwing hooks, rights, and uppercuts. The child decided to channel the power of the Fist of the North Star. Arms flailing, feet kicking out to no discernible rhythm, this child unleashed a wave of rapid, snake-like strikes that overwhelmed and confused this grown man. In fact, when the man fell, it took him a moment to realize that it was his avatar lying on the ground, broken and defeated. He said "Wait, is that me?". Yes it was you, my friend. The man bravely got back up by punching the stars out of his avatar's vision, trying to shake off the mental anguish at being on the receiving end of a five year old's fury. Sadly, he didn't realize that he was already dead. Again, the child went into his crazed assault, not allowing any quarter even when the man was clearly out of range of his punches. To an untrained eye the child's technique may have been called "cheap" but I could see the brilliance in this little behemoth's onslaught. You see, while his wave of tiny fists lacked power, they made up for in sheer numbers and variety. The child even used his feet to amazing effect, kicking them out and withdrawing them so fast that it seemed as if they were the spasms of a dieing snake. This was an obvious psychological attack. His kicks served no purpose when it came to offense but the simple fact that he was using KICKS in a BOXING match threw his assailant into confusion. Glorious. What came next was inevitable. The man fell once again, then another time. TKO was announced. The man left the stage defeated, his mind and body shattered. I would have offered him my help but I dared not incite the wrath of what was obviously the reincarnation of Kenshiro who stood triumphant in front of me. As the replay started, I witnessed the boxing match again in slow motion which only served to make the losing avatar's pain all the more obvious. The child's avatars fists were so blindingly fast that even in slow motion they were difficult to make out and his feet once again showed their amazing psychological assault upon the victim's mind. Picture four jackhammers jury rigged onto a steel girder with each jackhammer working as a human limb. That was what this avatar looked like, a four pointed device of pain.

Another brave soul (who was also fully grown) challenged the child to a "friendly" game of volleyball. He lost 7-1. Nuff' said.

My own turn playing Kinect was thankfully not against this child-demon-warrior-king, but against one of the staff. I have to say, Kinect is surprisingly impressive. My time spent with Wii boxing was what I used to compare to Kinect and I have to say that Microsoft did a great job when it comes to actually making Kinect work as advertised. When I was playing Wii boxing, I could never get down the proper way to move my body so that my punches were registering. It felt like I was supposed to make certain movements that would then serve as a button to activate a type of punch, rather than a one to one representation of what I wanted to do. With Kinect, each punch I threw was represented on screen down to even the speed of the punch. What was more impressive was that the heavier the punch I threw, the more damage it would do when it connected. After I discovered this, I began to use my hip to get the most power I could out of an attack and when one of my "power" attacks hit my opponent, it took off an appropriate amount of health. It was a very satisfying experience, to immediately be able to pick up and play Kinect boxing with little to no learning curve and to discover deeper mechanics as I played. When I threw a punch at the head, that was what my avatar did, when I aimed at the mid section, that was where I hit. Kinect really does work, at least in boxing. I came away the victor in my match and was quietly satisfied that I had beaten one of the staff.

All in all, a pretty cool experience that came from needing to get snow tires.

I'll just start this off by saying that this blog won't be too gaming related. No, I'm not going to be bashing the uber macho ten year olds who pervade Xbox Live, although my train of thought did begin with them. No, this essay has more to do with everyday observation.

What does it mean to call something gay? When I was in high school, I called things gay all the time. If I thought that a test was hard, it was gay. If a teacher was being unfair then he would be gay. If the vending machine took my money but failed to give me what I wanted it would be gay. Anything or situation that was detrimental to me in anyway would immediately be labeled as gay. But what was I saying? That the test that I failed liked to have sex with other tests of the same sex? How does that even make any sense? These thoughts occurred to me in my highschool days but I never payed them too much heed because calling things gay was just so easy, the word fit so many situations and with this ready made adjective that fit any and all bad situations, I could turn off my brain and just say "That's really gay." I didn't need to analyze the situation, to find the root of what was bothering me, nope, just call the whole thing gay and continue on without any sense of hindsight. A group counseling session held in PE changed my mind.

At this session, the counselor asked us all a question: "How would you feel if everybody in the school, instead of calling things "gay", called them whatever race or ethnicity you are?". My first reaction was at how ridiculous that would be. Why would be people call things Asian (in my case). How is calling something Asian a good descriptor of the situation of thing being bad? Not only that, it would be offensive to all Asian people because then you would be insinuating that simply being Asian was a horrible thing and thus calling something Asian would fit perfectly since horrible things deserve horrible names.That was my immediate reaction. Then came the inevitable wave of realization. "My God..." I thought. How horrible would it be to be if you where walking around school and constantly hear things like:

"Seriously? That teacher is so fucking Caucasian."

"That test I took back there was so Black."

"I've never heard of anything that Asian."

"Fucking Hispanic."

If people were constantly using my race was a derogatory term for anything and everything they find repulsive or otherwise unacceptable, I would be mortified. My life would be one big reminder that I am a horrible person for simply being the way I am and I would not be able to say anything against the status quo because I am few and the few are always victimized. I think I finally understood just a little bit about how stupid it was for me to call things gay. I had never thought about the damage I would be doing to the secretly gay guy or girl beside me by bashing them indirectly.

I decided to stop using gay as a term of hatred after high school. Sometimes, when I am talking, I stop in my speech as I search for words that would describe a situation where I would have used "gay". It's actually harder than it sounds, using words when you are so used to using "gay" as a one size fits all insult. I think it's worth it, though, if not for those around me then for myself.

I've had this idea in my head for a couple of weeks now to write about one of my most beloved pieces of music, the MGS theme. The problem is, I'm not sure how to quantify my feelings in relation to a piece of music. I can't talk about the mixture of harmonies and how certain notes combine with others to make me feel a certain emotion because I lack this knowledge. Still, I want to get the amazing feeling that I get from listening to the MGS theme down in writing so I'll just try to use descriptive writing to the best of my abilities. For the purposes of this essay, I will be using the piece "Metal Gear Saga".

A lot of Metal Gear has to do with persistence. Snakes, be them Naked, Solid, Liquid, or Solidus, always seem to be very hard to kill in the games they appear in and all of them rage against their obstacles time and time again before either finally overcoming or succumbing to death. Even in death, though, the snakes still persist as is seen in the persona of Liquid Ocelot, an amalgamation of Revolver Ocelot and Liquid Snake, and Naked Snake, who even in death moves the world with his past actions and his unshakable will. This theme of persistence seems to be at the forefront in "Metal Gear Saga". When listening to this piece, I couldn't help but notice that the theme of Metal Gear was being played quite prominently. In fact, most of the song is made up of the MGS theme. The theme also goes through different stages, first beginning with a rousing score that grabs your attention. This part of the song makes me think about all the high-lights of the MGS series, all of the snakes' most triumphant moments such as then Solid Snake uppercuts Liquid Snake off of Metal Gear Rex or when he engages Psycho Mantis and negates Mantis's mind control. This part of the song makes me think of how Snake is always unbeatable. The next part, though, reminds me that though he will always complete his mission, he is nto immune to pain and torment.

The song moves onto a guitar version of the theme. This part of the song seems to be meant to evoke a sense of melancholy that stands in contrast to the previous orchestrated version of the theme. It is almost like the many instances when the Snakes are faced with great pain and sadness such as when Boss broke Naked Snakes arm at the elbow and threw him into a river or when Solid Snake was withstanding electrical torture on Shadow Moses Island. The strings version of the theme makes me remember these instances because the strings echo, making me feel alone and exposed which I hazard to guess the Snakes might have felt in their times of utmost pain. The strings, however, are quickly replaced by the brass, the trumpet to be precise. The trumpet version of the theme brings with it a whole other tone.

While the strings where lonely, the trumpet's clear and stalwart sound makes me remember that the Snakes always persist, no matter what. Just like when Solid Snake slowly crawled through a corridor saturated by microwaves as his friends fought off certain death, he persists. The trumpet makes me think of these times, the times when the snakes continue on even when every fiber of their being is telling them not to. This is because the sound of the trumpet is so clear and the tone is so fresh that it simply cannot be ignored, much like Snake's missions. These missions cannot be ignored for the fate of many rest within Snake's hands and failure to complete the mission is simply not an option. So like the unignorable sound of the trumpet, the snakes also never ignore their mission and carry it through regardless of any pains that came before, like the haunting strings that came earlier in the song.

Phew, that's my attempt at trying to describe what I feel when I listen to a song. I hope other people also feel deeply moved and awed when listening to the MGS theme. Please, if anyone has any suggestions on how to describe music, clue me in. And remember... you're always better than you think you are. In fact... you're pretty good.

Added link to song: