Music is the flavor of life. It can make a good day great, make your heart race, and completely wreck you when it reminds you of something sad from your past. Everyone at some point or another has imagined their own soundtrack to life, because somehow, music defines us.
This is what makes music so important in a video game. In those worlds there actually IS a soundtrack to life, and it can change absolutely everything about the way you experience it. Most of you can probably name every song from Ocarina of Time upon hearing 5 seconds of it, from "Lost Woods" to "Bolero of Fire" (and of course my personal favorite "Gerudo Valley") and simply hearing them probably cheers you up a little bit, too.
I’ll never forget the song from the battle with Jecht in Final Aeon form from Final Fantasy X. To me then it was so incredibly hardcore and had so much meaning. I put it on my mp3 player in middle school and listened to it every day.
We can all probably agree that WET wasn’t a great game (even though it’s Bethesda produced – mystery) but my god if that game didn’t have an absolutely jammin’ soundtrack. Like when I started youtubing it I discovered songs that I didn’t even know were in the game and I immediately started adding them to my playlist. "Undead West", "Crazy Loco Loquito", "You're Dead" - all of them are great.
And what’s best, all the songs in the game fit the action so well. Rubi leaping from car to car in a red/black fury, blastin’ dudes in the face to songs like "She's Lost Control" was pure badassery. I was tempted to forgive the roughshod story and repetitive, over-the-top action… and 5-hour campaign length -.-
Then there are games like Katamari Damacy with just.. just lifechanging combinations of colors and music and quirk. I used to leave the “sky progress” part of the homeworld up on my TV just to listen to "Katamari Stars", and I still have it set as my ringtone for friends who know and love the game like I do. In total I probably understand about five lyrics from the entirety of that game’s soundtrack, but god damn if every single one of them doesn’t put a smile on my face.
Some games use the haunted warblings of a bygone era to unsettle your bones – like in Bioshock or modern Fallout games. Hearing “How much is that doggy in the- doggy in the- doggy in the window” skipping on an old record player in a torn-up, dark undersea restaurant creeped me right the $#&% out. And yet somehow hearing about “Johnny Guitar” in the ruined wasteland of New Vegas was comforting to me...
Even games that make limited use of music are crucial to the creation of memorable atmosphere. And I’m not just talking games like Dead Space or Condemned. One of the most lauded games of the PS2 era, Shadow of the Colossus hardly had any music at all outside of the hulking boss battles. And lord knows we spent twice as much time wandering BFE with Agro as we did fighting sleepy giants, so the loneliness of a silent, vast world really set in for us.
Borderlands is another game that is minimalist in its use of music. The tunes are rarely overwhelming, ramping up only when a big fight begins, but it’s ever-present and sets a great mood. The guitar-and-spurs style fits the desert scenery fantastically – constantly reminding you that you’re on an adventure to conquer wild territory full of wild men and beasts.
I think it’s incredibly unfortunate that soundtracks don’t seem to receive as much recognition as story and graphics when it comes to the review of a game. It’s sometimes mentioned alongside the sound FX category, but it really is something different entirely.
Maybe not enough games have incredible or apparent enough soundtracks to merit a review category of their own, but oftentimes not noticing them is what makes them so masterful. Games, like movies, are a completely different experience with the sound turned off. Watch The Omen on mute and see if you find it scary at all, then play MGS 4 without any sound and see if it’s NEARLY as touching.
Three games have made me nearly want to cry with their end-credit themes, and that is definitely saying something I think (what with all my manly machismo). "Dead Man's Gun" at the end of Red Dead Redemption, "No Death in Love" at the end of Enslaved, and "Fade Away" at the end of inFamous 2 were all incredibly endearing final melodies to end a game with, and seemed to make everything that much more special; particularly when they are accompanied by a procession of flashbacks like the one featuring Cole's exploits, as if they were a tribute to the monumentality of his life. And it wouldn’t have been the same feeling at all with just a generic rock song outro.
Honorable mention goes to the end credits of Killzone 2 for having a super-rad outro/credit-art combo before the normal text rolled. The point is – music makes the game, more than any of you may believe. It may not be the only thing, but it works behind the scenes to tie every piece of your experience together. Character developments, plot-twists, great victories – all are amplified tenfold by a damned appropriate spot of great music.
I recommend any of you who don’t already, pay closer attention to the music in your favorite games, and in games you play in the future. See how it fits the action; imagine if it wasn’t there - would it change how you feel about what you’re doing? I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t feel half as badass, half as desperate, half as enthralled if it weren’t for the IV adrenaline being fed through your ears as you save your planet, your girlfriend, yourself – or die trying.
A friend and I were sitting around the other night browsing apps in the Android market on our phones when I stumbled upon a free, RPG style game with an “organized party battle system” and a “touching story on an enormous scale”. My first thought – “buuuuulll$#&%” but I downloaded it anyway ‘cause like momma always said, rock it before ya knock it, right?
So after updating all the essentials like my Live Blue Flame wallpaper and Dictionary widget (Jesus Christ I’m cool) I started installing Tales of Inotia 3: Children of Carnia! It fired up and I had to select a class – of which there were about five or six, all standard fare for an RPG. I went with Paladin, just over Rogue and “Shadow Hunter” (Archer) and the story began.
I was in some sort of flashback of a Barbarian whose sister had been captured by dark elves. After a little bit of intro dialogue I started caving some blue elven skulls with my dick-compensator of a giant ass sword and my bevy of special whirlwind moves. The controls were pretty basic but all there – action button, special hotkeys, directional pad.
I caught up with my sister and engaged in some dialogue with her emo-elf captor, who surprised me by mind-controlling her into attacking me! There the flashback ended and something dawned on me.
Am I… Am I ENJOYING a phone game?
Now I’m sure there are tons of you out there who committed the last 3 years of your life to dominating the ever-loving Christ out of Angry Birds but you have to understand that to me phone games have seemed like a load of crock since that Snake-Eating-Apples, Garden of Eden metaphor excuse for a game that used to be on all our little Nokia phones.
Even when I brought home my very own $200 little black rectangle late last year I spent about fifteen minutes playing a Metroid-meets-Cave-Story rip off before I essentially abandoned that page of my phone altogether. But as with all things technological, I guess they were bound to improve eventually.
So, Inotia. Normally it wouldn’t be considered much of an accolade to be recognized as one's favorite pooping pastime, but I think that changes when you end up pooping LONGER because of it. I probably poop like four more times a day than usual now because I know it provides me with more valuable Inotia time. Hell, I even play when I’m NOT pooping – can you believe?
And then, oh and THEN, I ran an errand with a buddy to a phone store yesterday and while I was deliberating which body part to gnaw off to escape the torment of a 12-person Sprint store line, I stumbled upon a little shooter called N.O.V.A. on an HTC phone in the corner.
N.O.V.A. has got to be one of the most committed HALO rip-offs since that Samsung Epic 4G commercial last year, but in the context of what I’m talking about, that actually might be more of a point of impress than insult. The controls are pretty rough since you can’t aim and shoot at the same time, and though it tries to compensate with some maaajor auto-aim assistance they might’ve been better off just going with a lock-on mechanic.
(Translation – “Touch screen where you see: Weiners”)
ANYWAY. Back to the point – what the $#&@? Suddenly I’m all into cellphone games? What the hell’s happening? I won’t even buy a PSP to carry my favorite eye-straining activity around with me yet here I am gleefully dumping valuable time into sub-par games from unheard of developers on a shoddy interface.
There are only two possible explanations.
1. Excessive strip club attendance has FRIED all rational portions of my brain with glitter-booby overload, OR
2. Phone gaming is finally hitting it’s fuckin’ stride.
And you know what? I’m in. You go phone games. If I can get texting, internet, GPS, and decent little RPGs and shooters for the cost of a family plan and not have to drop $40 every time a new title comes out – I say “hasta la Vita” baby.
P.S. I also just downloaded Zenonia 3 from the market the other night and have been cheating behind Inotia’s back with it after it goes to bed. What can I say, better music, cuter animations, and cooler toys. Who doesn’t crave something a little younger and tighter now and again?
God damn you strip clubs for turning me into a dirty old man 40 years early.
Hey guys, I'm realizing more and more the emphasis placed on proper introductions around here. This is coming a bit late, but I hope you won't pelt me with hot dogs or anything for my ambivalent hesitation.
Hi! My name's Ev, I'm a 22-year old college grad mooching off his parents for the summer! As my sidebar states I'm a big Sony fan and have discovered the beauty of a GameFly account in recent months, so many of my blogs thus far have been inspired by that fact.
I was lured to DTOID by a combination of college buddies and HAWP videos and I've got to say, I've loved every minute I've spent here :] Never before have I encountered such a cohesive group of funny, creative, and most of all communal individuals anywhere else on the web.
You guys have a wonderful little family here and I hope my blogs provide you with the same thought-provoking entertainment I have found in all of yours. This place is the indispensable little people keeping the real video game flame burning, I read the C-blogs before just about anything else game-related and hope they keep up forever ;)
So, there you have it. That Keelut guy is no robot, he's got a heart to love and an ass to kick. Er, uhm. Yeah. Anyway, glad to be aboard :] Look for me in the recaps, probably under FailToid for this one - Late ass newb.
**NOTE: Spoilers present – Yeah, I give it all away baby.**
A friend was telling me recently how he doesn’t understand why so many franchises think they need trilogies. It’s rare that a game will have one sequel and then stop. But every once in a while, a series needs to stop after the sequel.
I’ve just completed Killzone 3, and honestly, I kind of wish they would’ve packed the story into two games. 2 was an exciting and unexpected return to a series that was a fun divergence from standard shooters back on the PS2. Everything was amped up in that sequel, we saw the return of stars from the original, and the climax was a shocker.
But with 3, it sort of feels like Guerrilla had already pulled out all the big guns. They tried to stretch what should have been the conclusion of the second game into a whole other installment, and the thinness of it all was tangible. I couldn’t help but feel that the action and writing was as feeble and tired as the Helghast councilmen at the center of the game’s “political intrigue”.
(Which came off like a bunch 10-year old boys playing war anyway)
I didn’t find any of the cast likeable, which is not a surprise in Rico’s case after he beat a soldier to death for “insubordination” in the last game, but I actually felt for Sev at the end of that one after his hothead partner fucked up their entire mission. They killed off Garza, and Natko was nowhere to be seen (except in the co-op campaign, and even then he doesn’t speak at all).
Narville was a giant pansy, no matter how hard I tried to imagine he was just playing the good mentor. In fact, the entire ISA army in the third game was made up of pansies. Every soldier whose face you could see (besides the ONE random girl) was an overweight bald guy. And they got dropped like mosquitos. I don’t know whether to blame their own incompetence or their commanders’ complete lack of leadership or concern for them.
(I’ll stick with Captain Templar, thanks)
Even the gameplay was a little contrived at times. This is a problem that has plagued the series since the beginning I think. Many a time I found myself starting a section with some random weapon shoved into my hands, only to discover it was essentially useless. It was as if they were just trying to show it off, but I never asked for it! Where did my exploding-bolt gun go??
At one point after a cutscene, I randomly started in a vehicle called an “Icesaw” which at no point was introduced and was only even shown at the end of the run when we bailed out of it (and why I had to steer AND shoot while Rico was driving is beyond me). The tank and mech sections were pretty fun, if a little bit frustrating, but the final fight in space was just a shitshoot.
All of this is compounded by the fact that Guerrilla still doesn’t seem to have fixed their checkpoint system. You fight your way through 65 Helghast assholes across a whole platform – with the only gun they drop ammo for – to get dropped by some surprise motherfucker and have to do it all over again.
Your buddies can revive you, but for some unknown reason they’ll only deign to do it like twice before they let you go and you respawn at the last terrible checkpoint. And half the time while they’re shouting “You think I’d let you die?” they’re sitting behind cover 50 yards away and you bleed out watching the nearest Helghast trooper give you the finger.
(Fuck you, buddy)
Glossing over the inconsistency of the ATAC fights, the invincibility of the heavy troopers, and the sheer number of bullets it takes to kill ANYTHING with the inaccurate weapons provided – let’s discuss the ending.
A nuke? Where the hell did we get a nuke on our crappy little space attack ship, and why the hell did we not use that IMMEDIATELY? The main bad guy is getting away in his GIANT space cruiser, and we wait until we’ve slowly pestered him to pieces and he’s falling into orbit TO DROP OUR NUKE?
And then – oh and THEN – he fucking LIVES! You’re shitting me right Guerrilla? A fourth installment, after this mess? Please just make it a movie. Don’t make us do this again. Have it turn out that the big surprise at the end of 3 is the intro to a movie tie-in. Or a fucking space-time loop. “We nuked all of Helghan and the pissed survivors are coming to invade Vekta!” – boom, first game plot, more or less.
I loved you Killzone. I invested countless hours in you, had faith you truly were “The Halo Killer” like they said. But you let me down. I’m.. I’m not sure I can go on like this. I think I want to see other games. Maybe you should see other players, too. When 4 comes around, I don’t think I’ll be here. I’ll have packed all my stuff and moved to Battlefield 3’s house.
As gamers, it is practically written in our genes that we will abuse every freedom provided us by a developer (that is why we make such great open-beta testers, because we will wedge our characters’ faces into the most absurd corners and shoot penis shapes into everything we see until we run out of laughs or ammo). But in this context, unlike most others, abuse of freedoms is a good – nay, a great thing.
(Rock on, Ashley Burch)
Some developers planned for our collective short attention span and incorporated distractions into their games. The minute I discovered Link was free to do other things besides pursuing Ganondorf and the captured princess, I found myself on a mission to angle the fabled 26-pound fish, run down every noisy Cucco, and ignore baddies everywhere in my Hyrule-wide search for gold skulltulas.
I could’ve run down Lost Planet’s timer with the amount of mission-ignoring shenanigans I partook of in GTA III, and my attitude didn’t sober up with the improvements to realism in the fourth numbered entry in the series. Niko Bellic swan dove into as many lakes out of helicopters, assaulted as many old ladies, and ate as much unnecessary pavement as any of his multi-ethnic predecessors.
And the Saints Row series took freedom very seriously (?) with their allowance for bra-wearing, sky-diving, granny-flashing, dildo-beating, turd-spraying, hot-dog-suit-wearing… well, you get the picture - nonsense. But in my opinion, freedom is not so much something granted by the developers as it is something seized by the players.
(Gamers and dick jokes, I swear to God)
Even in titles where the freedom of the above-mentioned games is not programmed in, players find a way to contradict the script in hilarious and defiant ways. I know that I personally spent a good twenty minutes at the beginning of Half Life 2 chucking soda cans at guards’ faces and giddily evading capture. I even managed to wedge the train platform door open with a box and get myself trapped outside of the game’s code. Oops. Haha.
(Gordon Freeman, prankster extraordinaire)
Some games practically BEG to be defied. Whiny, useless escorts screaming “SAVE ME AAHHHH!!” or RPG NPCs welcoming you and your arsenal of laser weapons to their defenseless goldmine of a town. Or pretty much any character that says the word “can’t” to you at any point in your dialogue – basically has set themself up as ground zero of the next explosion-holocaust.
A friend of mine tried his damnedest to murder Cole McGrath’s nagging, ingrate girlfriend in inFamous – prior to Kessler’s big ultimatum. And that same friend found endless mirth in denying me a hand up to ledges in Army of Two (which for those of you who don’t know, somehow causes the denied character to buckle and collapse as if he was utterly stunned by the distress of his betrayal – try it with your friends).
I spent more time in Braid rewinding Tim’s balls onto and off of fiery projectiles and rabid bunnies (the noise was hilarious) than I did solving the actual puzzles. Hell, even Streets of Rage provided some inexplicably hilarious comic relief in the form of partner grapples. Every once in a while I would just skate up behind my buddy and engage in a decidedly homoerotic hug until he punched me in RL or one of the baddies came along and beat us apart with a lead pipe.
(More like Streets of GAY-GE! ...heh)
The point is – games will always provide us with freedoms in a way the real world almost assuredly cannot – at least not without the consequence of being fired or completely abandoned by your friends. In a world where a second chance is just a loading screen away we are free to grind a rail using Tony Hawk’s nose, conquer a city with a purple dildo, and fail to save the planet because we’re too busy griefing our friends.
So here’s to you, video games, for providing us with the freedom to fail, and do so hilariously.
God bless Gamerica.
Hey all, thought I’d blow off a little steam by being creative instead of my usual smashing up of household items with various pellet guns and fire (just found out I didn’t get a job I was really banking on), so I’d like to discuss some really rad multiplayer trends I’ve noticed cropping up recently.
My first blog on this website was about how disappointed I am with the PS3’s neglect of multiplayer prospects in this generation of games. Few games for the console have any form of multiplayer, and the ones that do usually lack a local option and/or simply aren’t fun. But since writing that, I’ve played a few titles that have actually given me a great deal of hope for where multiplayer aspects are headed in the near future.
For starters –since it is probably on everyone’s minds and consoles at the moment – there is the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta. If you’ve played it, you probably think it’s awesome, if you haven’t you probably need to. And if you’ve played it and don’t think it’s awesome, well, maybe you will after this.
(Customization is the icing on the murder cake)
When talking about the new multiplayer in Uncharted 3 Naughty Dog expressed their hopes that it would set the new standard for multiplayer – that it would take the lead and provide an unsurpassed experience to satisfy all kinds. Hearing this I was a bit skeptical. The multiplayer in 2 was fun, and most other games don’t support the vertical platforming element that this series does so that’s a fun new twist. But certainly I still preferred Bad Company 2 to sate my ass-kicking needs.
But I have got to say, Naughty Dog really delivered on this one. I’m not saying it will definitely be everyone’s future go-to, but it has managed to satisfy a surprising number of demands for an online shooter. It has similar weapon modifications to Battlefield, movement capability and fluidity that surpasses MGO, and perks, kill streaks, and level voting reminiscent of CoD.
Top that off with character customization and I’d say you’ve got a solid sale. Of course this is only a beta and you have the selection of about 3 characters total (none of which are female..?) and only two levels to play through, but even this early selection shows promise. Small changes I’d like to see before the full release are more treasure drops (fewer repeats), better melee detection (no more throwing an elbow after you’ve been killed), and fixing the unfairness of starting on the trucks in the Air Strip level – lord knows the heroes have an advantage defending two doors from a bunch of dudes trying to leap through them from moving vehicles.
(I shouted "bullshit!" so many times I started to forget what it meant)
Not only is the multiplayer fun and varied, but you can play with your friend on the same system. I played with two of my friends in the same house with two of us sharing a screen and we were all able to party up and be on the same team in every game, it was great. The only complaint I have about the split screen is the utilization of about 40% of it to display our player icons, which is entirely unnecessary.
So I will certainly be purchasing Uncharted 3 in November, and can’t wait for the full multiplayer to drop with that Subway deal (keep your eyes peeled people). The other title that re-instilled a little hope in my heart was actually Motorstorm Apocalypse. My friend and I rented it from GameFly because I had fun with the other Motorstorm demos and Apocalypse looked tense and exciting.
(^^When Yachts don't wait for the drawbridge)
After cursing my lips off through the ball-blistering difficulty that often characterized the single-player campaign (which surprisingly had an actual story to accompany it, and a decent one at that) I messed around with the multiplayer for a long while after discovering how fun it was. You get to customize every single vehicle available – and quite thoroughly at that, down to how much weathering your car shows – even moreso after you unlock more of the available parts and designs. This adds a certain pride and distinct flavor to your repertoire of destruction cruising speed-demons – a feature really lacking in many other racers.
Unfortunately you only get to choose from an arbitrary selection of vehicles depending on the level, which doesn’t even seem to hinge on what would be appropriate (i.e. mud vs. concrete) so you may not get to use the Superbike you just customized in several races for no reason at all. But this at least forces players to become versatile in their skills and learn to appreciate every vehicle the developers included, as they all do have a certain usefulness.
On top of that, the game also includes a level voting system like Uncharted and even a “Rival” system in which you select one player to bet that you will finish ahead of, which creates a second level of tension and an opportunity to earn even more experience and accolades. There are even perks that players can select loadouts of to help them gain an extra edge against opponents in their own unique way.
(Level voting is sexy, and so can you)
All of this from a racing game? Surprising I thought. And to top it all off, it also has the local/online multiplayer combination which allows you to play with one friend next to you as you compete with others online. This is a great aspect that has really been missing from games in general, even dropped from games it used to be in like the Burnout series. Thank you Motorstorm for bringing this back.
So there you have it, at least two reasons why a small shred of my faith has been restored in the future of console multiplayer. Not to say I didn’t have fun with Killzone 3 or wasn’t looking forward to Battlefield 3, but those are different, and if we’re being honest – less versatile. I’m just glad that developers are remembering that friends don’t always want to just sit on the couch and watch us have fun with a bunch of strangers. Cheers Naughty Dog, Evolution Studios, may your financial futures be bright.