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Formerly "akathatoneguy".

I've been on D-toid for quite some time, and I got into video games back in the NES days.

My console history pretty much goes like this...NES->Genesis->Playstation->PS2->Xbox 360 (+PS3). I've also briefly owned an N64, Dreamcast, and a bunch of portable systems. Because I missed out on a good three generations of Nintendo, I've also missed out on plenty of classics. Plus, I had years in high school where I didn't play games much at all, or stuck mainly to (gasp!) sports games. Have no fear, fellow gamers...I have since renounced my evil ways and opened myself up to worlds of amazing games that don't involve sticks,, balls. Okay, I worded that awkwardly.

I'm also into sports, movies, and other stuff that is pretty much enjoyed by most everybody. My main hobbies are MMA (mostly watching, although I do jiu-jitsu and have done some kickboxing), the Chicago Bears/Cubs, and video games. I read comics when I have time in an effort to become a more well-rounded nerd, also. I'm finishing up college right now and I haven't worked a "regular" job in about five years now. Instead, I've been a freelance writer and written MMA columns at various sites (currently

I would LOVE to write about video games professionally, and I think I'm ready to do so. I've resurrected my c-blog going again partially in an effort to reach that goal, and partially because I just like to be able to connect with other people about the games I experience and topics in the gaming industry.

Inquiries, love letters, marriage proposals, and amazing job offers go to akathatoneguy [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ItsJonHartley. I'll be happy to follow back fellow Dtoiders!

Promoted Stories

And the gamers who play them: Sports Gamers
Other Worlds Than These: I live in Liberty City
Untapped Potential: Moral Choices




Alpha Protocol

WTF Moments in Gaming History

Wall Street Kid
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If you're like me, you remember the NES very fondly. You also remember the system for the genres that made the system so great. Sure, there was something for everybody, but generally you could count on plenty of platformers, side scrolling action titles, bullet hell shooters, and RPGs, to name a few well-worn genres from the 8-bit days.

What you wouldn't expect a lot of are stock trading simulators. Mainly because marketing a game where you buy and sell stocks to a bunch of 10-year old kids is INSANE.

Enter: Wall Street Kid.

Wall Street Kid, quite simply, was designed by sociopaths who thought, "You know, there's plenty of games out there where you play baseball, save princesses, or do battle on alien worlds. So let's just get away from all of that and let kids do what they really want to do: try to make a profit off of the volatile stock market!"

Keep in mind that in 1990, when Wall Street Kid was released to what were certainly crowds of gamers who had camped outside of stores in anticipation of such a AAA gaming experience, games were pretty expensive at about $50 a piece. People complain nowadays about $60 games that "only" provide 10 hours of single-player content, but let's remember in that in 1987, people were shelling out $50 for Deadly Towers.

So, this wasn't like asking somebody to pay 800 Microsoft Moonbucks for a niche XBLA title that might offer some stupid fun. This was asking a bunch of pre-teens to set aside their allowances for a couple of months so that they could buy a game that you could beat in two or three hours that had you trading stocks instead of punches or gunfire.

Riveting gameplay!

"Okay," you may be thinking, "this doesn't sound so bad. I mean, yeah, it was a dumb business decision to make a game like that, but I could see a sort of stupid appeal. It could be fun if done right." I know, I know! I felt the same way when I played it as a kid. The problem is that the game was AWFUL, even if you thought trading stocks all day sounded amazing.

First of all, the difficulty level was punishingly hard. You had to trade the stocks of companies like "Strayhound", "Reebucks", or (my favorite) "American Depress" on a weekly basis according to wildly varying market conditions that could make a stock hot one day and leave it plummeting in price seven days later. You were expected to use the game's version of The Wall Street Journal (another well-known name in children's entertainment) to make your decisions based on interest rates, market conditions, and news items.

Seems legit

See, your character has a $600 billion inheritance from a distant uncle that he can't have access to until he proves his worth by turning $500,000 into at least $5 million within four months by trading on the stock market. Why? I don't know...because your uncle's a dick.

Why do you need to make so much money? Because at regular intervals throughout the game, you will be forced- yes, forced- to buy large items. If you don't have the money, the game ends. One time it's a $1 million house, another time it's a $700,000 yacht, and then there's the family castle that is up for auction but used to belong to the family. Depending on how the auction goes, it will be at least $3 million, but can cost as much as $10 million. How did a family worth $600 billion allow a castle that was supposedly important to them fall into the hands of outsiders? We don't ask such questions.

Not pictured: literal wet blanket

Then, there's your fiancee, Priscilla. Her sole existence appears to be to bleed you dry and make endless demands of you even though you have four months to make a 1,000% profit on the stock market. She wants a dog, and then she wants a new car. Then she wants stereo equipment, as well as art to put in the new house. She'll also want to throw an expensive party, and you'd better buy her some jewelry, too. You'll also have to make time out of your stressful workdays to take her to picnics or carnivals, and after the wedding, you'll take a week off of work for your honeymoon, even though you're busting your balls to try to make back the money you spent buying her all of that crap.

As a kid, you have to wonder whether this was intended to be a game that trains you to kick ass on the stock market or one that trains you to have a deep-rooted fear of commitment. Wall Street Kid teaches you that women are nagging, greedy, needy creatures that exist only to make your life difficult. For $50, you get both a stock trading sim and a mysogynist trainer!

Fun for all ages!

The next time you wonder what the hell game developers and publishers are thinking, just remember that once upon a time, a little software company called Sofel published a point-and-click, stock trading strategy game that was ridiculously difficult in a time when videogames were still thought of mainly as "kiddie stuff."
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I don't know about you guys, but it's been awhile since I took out the trusty ol' plastic axe and shredded out a few tunes in my living room. Still, even my cold, black heart melted a bit when I heard of the monumental sale Harmonix is throwing at us shortly.

Don't worry about this guy- he already owns them all

Starting Tuesday, 9/18, over 1,100 tracks that were released before Rock Band 3 came out will be 50% off. Now, what is not known is whether this represents a permanent price drop or a temporary sale, so if you've had your eye on that Night Ranger Pack for a few years now but were too cheap to shell out the entire $5.49, you might want to snatch it up with the quickness so you can get your "Sister Christian" on.

On Xbox Live, prices will gradually update, but all of the tracks should be priced correctly by noon ET. Meanwhile, Wii prices will update at the normal time that Wii DLC usually goes up (whenever that is), while the same will be true for PS3 tracks. Here's a full list of all of the track packs, albums, and single songs that will be impacted by the discount.

The songs will not have pro guitar or keyboard functionality, since they were all issued before Rock Band 3, BUT have no fear! They are still compatible with both Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz, in case you have traded in your plastic git-fiddle for a regular old controller.

Are you guys going to pick anything up? Do you even play music games anymore? I'm kind of interested, and I have to admit that I do miss playing fake guitar...

Just about every gamer has a backlog, and I am no exception. To try and keep mine managable, I will regularly pick a game I've been meaning to get to and complete it (or play as much of it as I can stand) before reporting my thoughts. That's what Backlogged is all about: the dream of finally getting to all the games I've been meaning to play. And no, it has nothing to do with being constipated. Finally, don't worry, I won't including anything other than very light spoilers past the first hour of gameplay without warning you.

Not pictured: Awesome "Se-gaaaaa" opening credit

The Backstory

Alpha Protocol is a game that I read about regularly before its release, immediately being interested in the branching paths and interesting dialogue system. Of course, the game was delayed for over a year and upon release, was panned by many critics (including our own Jim Sterling, who gave the game a woeful 2/10) for poor shooting and cover mechanics, along with technical issues.

Nevertheless, the wide range of review scores (as low as 10, but with several others in the low to mid-80s) and the praise I've heard for the RPG aspects of the game kept me somewhat interested, and I finally snagged a copy for all of $11.69 at GameStop in February. Despite hearing that the game often gets frustrating due to the shooting sections not being well done and the difficulty being uneven, I finally gave it a try this last week.

Easy Does It

I'm not "reviewing" this game, per se. As such, I am freed from the responsibility to try out different difficulty levels and so forth. Instead, I simply aimed to play it, enjoy it (if possible), and clear it out of the ol' backlog. Because of that, I made the decision early on to play the game on easy.

Why? Well, I'm okay with a good challenge if a game's mechanics are sound and the difficulty isn't ridiculous. To date, there are only a handful of games I've ever played through on easy (this and Catherine being the two that come to mind), and in both cases it's because I was more interested in the story than anything else. When I heard that this game had shoddy combat and that you had to invest in certain skills to get anywhere on the standard difficulty, I figured I'd have a better time saying "eff it", playing on easy and doing whatever I wanted, instead. Although very few sections stand out that seem as if they would have been frustrating on harder levels (besides the helicopter attack from the last mission), I think I made the right choice.

Getting Started

You get to choose classes in Alpha Protocol, which is only slightly made confusing by the fact that later on, you also choose specialties. I chose "Soldier" in part because it indicated that my character has "natural language talent and quick wit." Sounds about right, if I do say so myself. Ahem.

My first official act within the game? To hit on the first woman I spoke to, the horrifically-named Mina Tang. Mina has disastrous bangs and a mouth that looks like it belongs on the head cheerleader of Uncanny Valley High, but I decided right off the bat that like all secret agents, my character would be all about the tang. Even Mina Tang.

Little-known fact: Mini grew up in East LA, which is why she still shaves her eyebrows off, then pencils them in

I noticed right off the bat that the game likes to provide you with choices. One of the easiest of which: "Open Door" or "Break Open Door". Well, shit. If you put it like THAT...why would I ever NOT want to break open a door? I'd kick in the door to Subway whenever I wanted to get a sandwich if I could get away with it. I was less impressed with the melee combat, which looked decidedly last-gen and like it was tacked on at the last minute. "Oh shit guys, what do players do against all of the enemies who will run through their gunfire and attack them with kung fu? Better program some melee in quick!"

No, I realized that my door-busting ways were already over; stealthy was the way for me. Using my stealth skills, I snuck up on an unsuspecting enemy and immobilized him with some typical judo-rate that would only work in the confines of a videogame. I also got my first taste of the lockpicking, hacking, and other minigames, which were not bad! At least, at first. But hey, I've yet to find a similar minigame that hasn't gotten old after doing it a couple hundred times.

After kicking the shit out of all kinds of nameless thugs, I found out that it was all just a training exercise and part of the recruiting process. OF COURSE! That makes perfect sense! I customized my character (a pair of aviators and five 'o-clock shadow seemed great for his douchey, womanizing demeanor), got trained up, and was set to go.

Betrayal! Suspense! Intrigue! Sexual Innuendos!

The story of Alpha Protocol is a mixed bag. On one hand, I loved the characters, who may not have been believable in all cases (and often were caricatures), but were always clearly-defined and in most cases, either instantly loveable or hateable. On the other hand, the story was a whole lot of crap about terrorists doing terroristy things, evil corporations working with arms dealers, missiles needing to be recovered, and blah blah blah, you get the point. I'll be honest with you: a fair amount of the time, I set off on a mission not really knowing (or caring) why the hell I was doing what I was doing.

What I did care about, though, was my interaction with the other characters. Sure, it was fun clumsily trying to seduce women, but it was also fun figuring out the motives of shady characters or deciding which way to approach conversations in order to get them to do what I wanted them to do. Investing in them made me similarly invested in big choices that occurred later in the game, which were occasionally among the harder ones I've been asked to make in a videogame.

Your character, no matter what you do, seems to be locked into the persona of Drake from the "Uncharted" series' extra-snarky older brother. You can choose to be professional, suave, arrogant, aggressive, and so on during conversations, but when you don't get to choose what you say (as in some cutscenes or communications during missions), Agent Thorton often makes dry wisecracks, anyway, such as when he wonders aloud in a monotone voice whether a terrorist under arrest "likes waterboarding".

Sometimes, to keep the story on the path you've sent it on, characters will do things that seem out of character, or just plain weird. For instance, after a misunderstanding with one character, I was able to end the confrontation without violence, which is fine, but it seemed weird that he would just let bygones be bygones when I had just mowed down dozens of his men during the mission. Other times, though, you can convince someone who openly dislikes you to help you out if you appeal to the correct motivation, which you use your own intuition and the information you've collected on them to figure out.

Judo-rate! Keeeyaaaa!

Choices, Choices

The game's dialogue system is great. Options of what attitude to assume in a conversation appear as other characters are finishing their statements or questions, and you have a finite amount of time to choose how to act or respond. I found that the one to two-word descriptions were usually pretty fitting with what Thorton would actually say. The really great thing, though, was seeing how your choices affected not only the gameplay itself, but how your missions went and what options you might have in the future.

Alpha Protocol has all kinds of different paths that you can take, ranging not only from how you deal with the game's villains and main characters to who you ally with, and sometimes who lives and dies. Here's a vague and only lightly-spoilery description of a scenario I dealt with early on:

I had the choice to either extort, arrest, or kill an arms dealer. Because I wanted to get information from him, I chose to arrest him. Doing so hampered intelligence gathering in the region, but also lowered terrorist weapon supplies. In another mission, I chose to fulfill a side objective that helped a friend, but also caused a security lockdown, making the mission more complicated.

Later on, the game also throws some tough "you can only accomplish one of the two objective" scenarios at you, but it goes back to the well with them a little too often and they lose some of their power as a result.

Love Machine

For me, this game was one part murder simulator and one part sexual harassment simulator. Although I found the combat to not be quite as bad as others have, you can guess which part I enjoyed more. From the start, my Thorton hit on, flirted with, and generally made uncomfortable every woman that he came in contact with.

And there are so many to choose from! From the afore-mentioned Miss Tang to the predictably career-minded photographer (with red hair and named Scarlet, no less) to the classic damsel in distress (Madison Saint James, who Thorton correctly notices has a porn star name), there is quite a range. None is as entertaining as SIE, though, whose name is spelled in all caps for no apparent reason, besides maybe the fact that she murders professional soldiers in the snow while wearing a tube top and pink sunglasses, so she can pretty much spell her name however the hell she wants.

Completely appropriate attire for gunfights in Russia in the dead of winter

All have their own personalities, which makes interacting with them a little more interesting than in, say, Bioware's offerings, where you know you pretty much have to listen to their boring stories and pretend to be interested in their problems to earn their favor. Sure, Bioware's method may be more realistic, but in Alpha Protocol you can actually try to woo a woman and fail miserably for awhile when not knowing what she wants.

Another difference from Bioware's games is that you can be a complete man-whore and sleep with everyone in one playthrough. I failed, as the undoubtedly sadomasochistic pleasures of SIE were undiscovered by my character, but it's the thought that counts. The romance scenes, of course, are nothing to write home about, with just the insinuation that you, to use one love interest's innuendo, "planted your tracking device" in the women.

Who's the Boss?

I generally tend to think that boss fights are a silly, unnecessary and outdated part of gaming that have overstayed their welcome. They either require you to abandon the core mechanics of the game for a gimmicky one-off battle or they lazily through a suped-up version of a regular villain at you just to add some articifical challenge to the proceedings.

In shooters, the problem is ten-fold, as it's impossible to suspend your disbelief when you have to shoot someone dozens of times in the face to kill them. In Alpha Protocol, you run into a teenage girl who appears to be fighting you in street clothes, yet somehow takes several bullets to the face before realizing she's probably lost the battle. Later on, I faced an enemy who I shot over 30 times, almost always in the head, before again subduing- not even KILLING- him.

The only saving grace for what would likely be very frustrating experiences on the harder difficulties from these bullet-absorbing supervillains is that if you level up certain abilities, the fights are almost an afterthought. With all but a couple of bosses, I simply used a pistol ability where you freeze time, load up a bunch of targets (all of them to the bosses' head, of course) and let them all go at once to make quick work of them. Still, what place do boss fights like that have in a game like this?

Her hoodie is...bulletproof, I guess? Hell, I don't know

Shooting: Dice-Roll Style

Some people were put off by the combat in Alpha Protocol, and I can't blame them. Due to the RPG aspects of the game, there are times when you'll aim at someone's head and simply miss for no apparent reason, for instance. That's hard to defend. Then again, how do you properly show progression if all of the success rests on the player's individual ability level, which by and large doesn't change a whole lot?

I also found that if you stick to a couple types of guns and just level them up, the shooting wasn't quite as frustrating. Having to wait a few seconds for your reticle to converge for a critical hit felt strange (especially when being shot at), but since your enemies have just about zero accuracy on the lowest difficulty level, it wasn't such a big deal for me.

The stealth aspects of the game were not as bad as I'd heard. I didn't feel like enemies who shouldn't have known I was there detected me very often, and an ability you can earn fairly quickly that works like the "Detect Life" spell/ability in the Elder Scrolls series was pretty helpful, too. That said, my stealth style is best described as ", fuck it", as I would generally use stealth just to get the drop on a group of enemies and start confrontations to my advantage, not to sneak through entire missions unnoticed, which seems as if it would be fairly difficult in this game.

Some missions only required for you to use your conversational skills, and another mission has you using a sniper rifle to zoom in on suspects to find the right one before carrying out an assassination, which was a nice change of pace. However, a lot of the missions required the same ", fuck it" play style and didn't have much variety as the game went on.

Many Different Paths

When I came to the end of the game, I felt pretty satisfied. Even with one playthrough, I can testify to the many different ways your Alpha Protocol game can end. I re-loaded my last checkpoint right before the final boss fight and changed a couple of choices right at the end that gave me different endings, for instance, one of which was radically different (and patently ridiculous, but whatever).

Looking around online, it seems that there are many parts of the story that branch off and can cause the ending to be completely different. There's also an extra rundown at the end of the final mission that ties up some loose ends via a few paragraphs of text, which is also done at the end of previous missions to help you understand the gravity of your decisions.

(SPOILERS)In the end of my playthrough, Marburg apparently escaped scot-free, but I brought Leland to bloody, beautiful justice. I saved Mina and we floated off into the sunset to make little Tang-Thortons. Of course, when I reloaded and chose to let Leland live, I literally had my jaw drop as Thorton was shot by a sniper who turned out to be Scarlet herself. Turned out that Scarlet had made the assassination attempt on Taiwan's president earlier in the game, too. I give Obsidian props for making two very distinct endings from what would be two nearly identical playthroughs, but the Scarlet-as-assassin ending was pretty far-fetched. If you've played through Alpha Protocol, let me know how your ending was!(END SPOILERS)

In real life, I always choose "suave"

Remaining Questions

-If there's no new game plus, why did I earn XP at the end of the final mission?

-Why does SIE's accent sound Russian, not German?

-Seriously..."Mina Tang"?

By the Numbers

19:55 time logged
24 achievements unlocked for 675 gamerscore
576 enemies killed
108 enemies subdued
49,336 XP earned
928 children orphaned (no really, the game tells you that)

Final Thoughts

Alpha Protocol exceeded all of my expectations. I'll go as far as to say that I really enjoyed playing it. Now, it had started to wear out its welcome with repetitive gameplay and mission structure near the end of the story, but the interaction between characters kept me interested, nonetheless. While I felt that the combat and overall gameplay coule be improved, I didn't find them to be as bad as was indicated in many of the reviews I've read.

Alpha Protocol reminds me of LA Noire a lot in that while the game was far from perfect, there were some solid ideas that I'd like to see taken further, if not in a sequel, than in another game entirely. Overall, I liked Alpha Protocol a lot, and I'll likely replay it in the future to see some of the other things that could have happened in the story.

If you've played the game, too, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!
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Hello, friends, strangers, and men pretending to be women!

I feel more than a little self-conscious writing an introduction blog, for a couple of reasons:

a) I would rather the focus of any blog entry not be on me. My consoles of choice, the games I've played, my dashing good lucks, sure. Me, as a person? The subject merely being the fact that I'm here? That seems a little weird.

b) It seems only slightly less masturbatory than actual masturbation, but slightly more masturbatory than bragging about one's gamerscore to write a blog that basically says, "Here I am! Quiver at my presence and cast Faps at my feet, peasants!"

However, the fact is that while I've never stopped visiting Destructoid regularly, I've been absent from my poor, neglected c-blog for two years (I've visited the site, commented, and blogged in various capacities since 2007). It would seem just as awkward to simply show up with a blog about whether I want to buy a Wii U or discussing the merits of yet another game where you shoot stuff in first person without so much as a mention of the fact that my next most recent blog post was about Heavy fucking Rain.

It's also more than a little weird that I've been lurking/reading/commenting/blogging here for five years, yet I haven't really ever felt as if I'm ingrained myself in the community. I think that's a problem, and just last night I read various blogs about the state of the community here, including one by Y0j1mb0 that basically said, "If you don't do anything to contribute, don't complain." I think that makes a lot of sense.

In the past, I aimed to post blogs about things I found interesting, in the hopes that others would, too, and some discussion would ensue. I tried to give what I thought would be a unique take on things that had nonetheless been discussed to death already, hoping to provide a fresh angle that would get noticed. It's not that I don't want to do that anymore, but I also want to actually be more of a part of things here, too.

What I'm saying is:

I want to get in your pants, Destructoid.

This post is kind of like the stammering, self-deprecating Hugh Grant speech from some bad 2000's rom-com that is going to help make that happen. Hopefully, you will find it somewhat amusing and return when I actually post something of substance. At the bare minimum, I hope you don't wish you had spent the last few minutes causing yourself bodily harm rather than reading my ramblings. I think that's a pretty good starting point, too.
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A funny thing happens when I browse this fine site. Many times, I'm more interested in people's reactions (and the reasons for them) then the actual stories themselves. I find Destructoid not only to be an awesome place to get news and even make some friends (if you're into that sort of thing), but also an interesting community with a subculture all its own. I find that at certain times, the Dtoid community reacts to things in a way that no other site does in quite the same way. Figuring out why this is the case is a nice challenge from time to time. So of course, after braving the comments sections of a few stories related to Heavy Rain, I wondered why the game provoked such intense reactions.

What follows, fine folks, is the result of painstaking research, good ol' fashioned hard work and a little bit of just plain making shit up.

The question was obvious: what is it about Heavy Rain that pisses people off or even makes them give a damn at all? I, like most of us the majority of the time, can bypass stories about games I have no interest in without feeling compelled to stop in and comment (again) about just why I won't be playing said game. However, any Heavy Rain story (even early on, before the "games vs. movies" nonsense really got started) would attract numbers of people who simply felt the need to tell us why they wouldn't be playing it. Furthermore, people seemed to be a little more passionate about this game than they really should be, especially if they really didn't care (as they claimed). There had to be something about this game that got people's panties in a bunch, so to speak.

What I've realized is that Heavy Rain has inadvertently created a "perfect storm" of rant-inducing, argument-starting, fanboy-enciting madness. There are a few buttons that a game or its developers/publishers can push that will set people off a bit, and Heavy Rain pushes many of them, maybe more so than any game in recent history. Here they are:

It's a PS3 Exclusive

I don't have to point out to anyone who has visited a gaming website before that all you have to do to stir up the ol' controversy pot a bit is to release your game as an exclusive to one system or another. While scientists have quietly kidnapped console fanboys for years in order to perform grisly experiments on their underdeveloped craniums, they still have not found any real reason for the condition that has plagued gaming websites and forums since the beginning of time. Er, internet time, that is.

Still, it is an irrefutable fact that if a game comes out just for the PS3 or the Xbox 360, there will be drama. Lots of it. That's the most obvious reason that comes to mind for the shitstorm that ensues in the comments sections of even the most uneventful Heavy Rain story. It didn't help that last May, before the game was even on some people's radars, we got the obligatory "only possible on the PS3" comment. Of course, it wouldn't be a perfect storm with just that.

The Developers Love Their Game Too Much; Can't Shut Up

If there is one clear way to get many Dtoiders to hope your game sucks, it is to endlessly talk it up to anyone and everyone who will listen. How many times have we seen this happen? Peter Molyneux. Denis Dyack. Luc Bernard. Peter Molyneux again. Cliff Bleszinski.

Well, Quantic Dream's David Cage surpassed all but the most elite in this category with the rapid-fire quotes that were fed to the community regularly, inciting anger from members who do not take kindly to such cockiness. We heard Cage proudly state that Heavy Rain had morphed from being a game into something else entirely. We heard Cage say that he didn't want us distracted by Trophy alerts during play. We heard Cage call for more mature themes, characters and situations in games (he had a good point here). We heard Cage fire back at criticisms about his game, which almost no one had actually played yet, and the supposedly QTE-heavy gameplay . Cage also wished aloud that players would only play through the game once, in order to preserve their initial experience, which prompted quite a few incredulous comments.

And it wasn't all Cage, either. Sony reps boldly (stupidly?) stated that Heavy Rain graphically "blows Uncharted 2 away". They also stated that Heavy Rain is a "gamble" (which it is), and the game's producer even weighed in on the Modern Warfare 2 "No Russian" controversy.

Of course, this overexposure of Heavy Rain in general and Cage in specific worked hand in hand with another thing that is sure to get people riled up around these parts...

People are Too Damn Excited

There is a certain trend that emerges with a high-profile game, which Heavy Rain has surprisingly become, at least here at Destructoid. When the game is announced and first spoken of, reactions tend to be almost entirely comprised of optimism from those who think it's up their alley and non-commital comments from those who aren't sure whether they'll be into it or not. However, as more information comes out about the game, those who are pumped for it already become really pumped, and an interesting phenomenon occurs: those who aren't interested in the game somehow feel the need to counteract what they feel is an excess of hype or excitement by, well, shitting all over the game whenever they get a chance.

I don't know what this is all about; perhaps these negative Nancys feel as if they are somehow "bringing balance to the Force" or something. For whatever reason, though, people in general can't stand to see a game that they personally aren't interested in get too much attention. Particularly when that game contains...

Quick Time Events!

Just like Heavy Rain itself, Quick Time Events push all the wrong buttons for some folks. Which is ironic, because pushing the wrong buttons in one of Heavy Rain's Quick Time Events will likely get you crushed to bits in a junkyard compactor. Because Heavy Rain, like Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit, if you prefer) before it does not appear to have dedicated controls for many of the actions you will perform in-game, its critics have taken to lobbing many a slight towards the game- including the ultimate critique of saying it's not a game at all.

To me personally, such statements have no merit whatsoever. I would like those in the "Heavy Rain's not a game" camp to make a couple of things clear to me. First of all, what makes a video game a video game? If you're so sure Heavy Rain doesn't fit the criteria, you must know what your criteria are, and I would love to hear them. Second, what makes Heavy Rain anything other than a game? Is it because of the emphasis on story? Is it because you aren't always using predefined controls, like "right trigger to shoot, B to crouch," etc.?

So, what other games aren't actually video games? Are point and click adventures games? What about console versions of board games? How about old-school JRPGs that require little more of you than to walk from place to place, select actions from a menu and watch the story unfold? After all, in many of these games, you don't even have an effect on the story, unlike in Heavy Rain, where your actions will determine how things proceed. One of the funnier arguments I read was that Heavy Rain isn't a game because you could play it with a DVD or TV remote. You couldn't do that with many of the Final Fantasy installments? The thing is, while no one wants to stand up and say that something like a Final Fantasy game or Secret of Monkey Island isn't a game, Heavy Rain hasn't come out yet and doesn't have that place in gamers' hearts where such a criticism would be met with a zillion "STFU"s. Still, it doesn't make the argument any less silly.

And a quick note on QTEs- you may hate them, but that doesn't make them any less legitimate of a gameplay device. Most of the time when you play a game, you react to a visual stimulus by pressing the appropriate button(s) on your controller. QTEs just break this down to its barest essentials, but make no mistake, pressing "X" when it pops up is essentially the same as jumping over a Goomba as it approaches. It's just a stripped down take on one of the core mechanics of video games. If you want to call them unimaginative or annoying, fine, but it's just not correct to say QTEs aren't gameplay.

GASP- It Wants to Be a Movie?!?!

Recent articles on Destructoid have highlighted this last fire-starter, as many have come forward to say that they aren't big fans of what they perceive to be an attempt to make Heavy Rain more like a movie than a game. The thing is, Indigo Prophecy already did the same exact thing- how big of an issue should this be in 2010?

Well, this is just poor timing and bad luck, honestly. Since Indigo Prophecy, we've had more "are games art?" debates than you can shake a frozen turd at, not to mention the continuing onslaught of awful film adaptions of games, as well as the continuance of the time-honored tradition of shitty games based on film licenses. Gamers simply don't want their games and movies to mix.

Then, there was Avatar. What normally would have been just another blockbuster got blown out of proportion entirely in the gaming community, particularly because James Cameron insisted upon making comments about certain characters being influenced by gaming culture, as well as insisting that his movie was even more immersive than a great game could be.

Now, I agree that games should focus on their strengths and not try to be something that they're not, but is Heavy Rain really trying to be a movie? No. The quoted blurbs from the review mailer Jim Sterling received compared two elements to that of films- the narrative and the production values. How many of you really want to say that gaming, as a whole, seriously competes with mainstream films in those areas? Come on, now. That's ignoring the fact that this type of crap is written to sell the game to people who are on the fence, and are not written by the people that actually created the game. So, Heavy Rain is bad for gaming because some marketing majors decided to compare a couple of elements of the game to movies?

Okay, So What Does All This Mean?

So, that's what I came up with. This all comes together at a perfectly bad time, as the "console wars", the tradition of cocky developers bragging up their games, people's dislike of QTEs (and the "casual gaming" fad that they supposedly represent) and the non-troversy regarding games trying to be movies have all built up to a high level. For one game to represent all of these issues means that there is probably no end in sight to the ridiculousness we've already seen in the comments sections of any and all Heavy Rain-related stories here.

I'm not naive enough to think that pointing out all of the characteristics that get people riled up about this game will change much, though. If you're the kind of chap that gets fired up about a game that you haven't even played yet because of something a developer says or gameplay elements that you haven't even tried yet, self-evaluation is probably not your strong suit. And as for the other stuff, well, we've already seen that nothing will bring an end to the great console wars.

However, if even one person can just acknowledge that maybe the reason that they hate (or love) Heavy Rain before it has even been released has little to do with the game itself, I will be pleased. Maybe at some point later this month, we can all give the game a chance and STFUAJPHR.
Photo Photo Photo

As posted in the title, this is not video game related, but I know there are a fair amount of horror fans here on Dtoid, and I had to see what you guys thought of the trailer for the Nightmare on Elm Street remake trailer that was just officially released. Here's the trailer for anyone who hasn't seen it.

Now, before I say what I thought, here's a little background on my Freddy fandom. I saw the first movie on cable when I was like 6 or 7 due to a lazy babysitter falling asleep and leaving me unsupervised. Needless to say, it scared the shit out of me, but I always loved the movies anyway. To me, Freddy is the most iconic horror character of all-time, but I recognize that I'm very biased on that matter, as well. Even though really only half of the movies (by my count, the original, the 3rd, New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason) are any good, I still enjoy all of them for different reasons, even the corny ones.

Having said that, I was not opposed whatsoever towards having a remake done of the movie. I firmly believe that a remake can't harm the integrity of the original, and is actually less harmful to the original than a bunch of crappy sequels are. A lot of people say, "it's all about the money, blah blah blah", but when is making a movie NOT about the money? I'm talking about from the studio's perspective. To the talent involved, from the director to the actors to the crew, whether it is a remake or not, it is still an exercise in trying to make the best film that can possibly be made. When did we start giving a shit about the motives of producers and executives? It's just like with video games. I don't care if Kotick or whoever else is a big asshole, because I know there are hardworking programmers, designers and developers who are trying to make a game worth playing. If you go to the top of any company, you will always find money-grubbing, greedy bastards.

But I digress. My original thoughts on Jackie Earle Haley playing Freddy were positive ones, and once I finally saw Watchmen, I was actually really excited for him to be playing the horror icon. However, after this trailer...I'm not so excited. First of all, let's talk about the makeup. More realistic in its depiction of what a burn victim would look like? Yes. The problem is, real burn victims aren't scary! I don't want to have a joke-telling Freddy, but that doesn't mean a sinister grin isn't welcome now and then. After all, Freddy is a sadistic bastard who enjoys what he does. How would he make any facial expression whatsoever with that makeup? I'm just not a fan of it.

Also...the voice. I thought Haley's voice in Watchmen was already close to ideal for Freddy, and the voice he used in the trailer was And what's with the lisp? The last, minor problem for me is just a matter of Haley's height. This may seem like nit-picking, but any Freddy connoisseur knows that Freddy has about fifteen shots of his silhouette in every one of his films. It builds suspense and adds a little creepiness. With Haley, it just doesn't work. He's just way too short. I would have preferred a stand-in for the silhouette shots, since you're not seeing the makeup or anything anyway at that point. I know Robert Englund was also not very tall, but still.

I'm still going to go see this for sure. I'm willing to give it a shot. However, I think I'm definitely an easy mark for this one, and I still managed to walk away from the trailer disappointed. If you're going to rehash the original movie so much (right down to individual kill scenes and dialogue being repeated), why change Freddy's makeup so drastically or give him a fruity voice? I will say that the opening parts with the origin of Freddy were pretty bad-ass though. And as to the kids he's terrorizing...meh, just more crappy young actors that look like they belong in a Dawson's Creek re-run.

Oh, to make this post a little bit game related:

What a brutal game that was.