Everyone’s favourite oral assault is here! It’s The Audible Protagonist!
This week, we chat about the rumours surrounding the next generation Xbox’s “no used games” crap, as well as the Valve/Abrams collaboration. We also talk about wrestling a whole lot, as well as Dragon Age, the OUYA, and Buddy Cop Portal.
Over the past three years or so, various game developers (and often more notably their publishers) have come under fire from gamers and industry folk for the so called “shoehorning” of multiplayer elements into what are often primarily single player games. Many consumers feel that this shift in focus is detrimental to the original single player experience and that it acts as a gateway for more sinister downloadable content, season pass and online pass practices.
Most of these criticisms are justified, and few developers have actually managed to prove dissenting voices wrong. Rather than question the addition of lacklustre multiplayer modes as a business practice, I’d rather question its addition on the grounds that, all too often, it makes no sense within the games lore or “universe”.
As despicable as online pass schemes and the belligerent homogenization of some games are, the blatant lack of respect for a games appeal that some multiplayer developers seem to show is of much greater concern to me.
Think back, if you will, to the release of Mass Effect 3 in March of 2012. Many fans of the series, myself included, were apprehensive, if not wholly pessimistic about the addition of a multiplayer mode in the latest instalment of what is predominantly a single player experience. When I got my hands on the game though; I was treated to exciting, intense, albeit simple wave based survival matches. The addition of free characters, maps and weapons (apology almost accepted EA) helped to ensure ME3’s multiplayer had some kind of longevity, and the fact that the mode was co-operative kept the majority of in game chat civil.
But there was another reason why ME3’s multiplayer felt like a breath of fresh air in a sea of vapid multiplayer shoehorning: it makes sense within the Mass Effect universe, and within the context of the game. Sure, you might have to suspend your belief when you see the Reapers send down waves of increasingly stronger enemies to engage in skirmishes with you, instead of just wiping you out with a giant laser, but such allowances are generally made across all games. What I mean is that for a game about the plight of a few brave warriors in the face of seemingly insurmountably odds, a wave based mode makes perfect sense.
Mass Effect 3 is a game about community and teamwork, as Commander Shepard must unite races with rather questionable morals and/or histories with each other, and trust in their ability to work as a team together. This is exactly what ME3’s multiplayer seems to be showing you. By teaming up with Quarian’s, Batarian’s, Turian’s and others, you’re essentially playing out Commander Shepard’s greatest wish: a unified galaxy against an undefeatable adversary. You are, in effect, the end to his means. This is why, whenever you play Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer, it never feels like it is misplaced or pointless. Because whenever a brave, lowly Turian Sentinel is struggling to hold out against a wave of cold, unforgiving Geth troopers, you know that (within Mass Effect’s universe) this is something that is happening everywhere, to almost everyone.
Compare this then, with other examples in the industry. EA is adamant that the Dead Space series should include multiplayer, despite that fact that Dead Space is supposed to be about loneliness, isolation and the inner psyche of a single character. Isaac Clarke is supposed to be trapped, alone and out of his depth, in a giant tin can in space filled with bloodthirsty mutants. Throw in four random players to go repeatedly gallivanting around the ship fighting necromorphs in order to level up, and things get a little weird. Dead Space is about survival, and, although you’re supposed to want to be there you’re not supposed to expect Isaac (or anyone else) to want to be there too. Repeatedly returning to a necromorph (an army with relatively few numbers) infested area seems like a fool’s errand, whereas fighting off against hordes of Reapers (with a seemingly limitless supply of troops) is a necessity; it has to be done.
For similar reasons, the concept of an Elder Scrolls or Fallout MMO just seems flawed to me. Whenever I play Fallout 3 or Skyrim, I want it to be a lonely, solitary experience, and as such; roaming around the wasteland with K1LLSnyPZ14 and urMUMizaF4twhoreee sounds about as appealing as meeting either aforementioned delinquent in person.
Furthermore, several clueless people have voiced a desire for online multiplayer to be included in the next main series Fallout game. The Fallout series is set within a post-apocalyptic alternate reality, and in any world wherein 95% of the population was wiped out by nuclear war: there aren’t many people left. Once again, having online multiplayer doesn’t make sense within the context of the Fallout universe.
Now, I’m not saying developers should sacrifice fun in favour of realism or a sense of narrative cohesion. But I must insist that they at least try to respect the world in which their game takes place, and in turn, try to develop multiplayer modes that work within that world.
With EA now declaring a “no single player games” policy, it’s unlikely that this incessant multiplayer shoehorning debacle will end any time soon. Hopefully, though single player games will still be able to thrive on their own merits, and people will realise that Fallout 3 boasts an 100+ hour campaign full of exploration, intrigue and most importantly: fun. Insisting that the Fallout experience would be enhanced by online deathmatches or intrusive drop-in-drop-out co-op is plain ignorant.
It's the fourth, technologically superior episode of The Audible Protagonist, and as a special treat for your ear holes, I decided to read some gripping works of fiction that will literally astound you for several minutes!
We also discuss questionable election ad campaigns for Sarah Palin's inevitable Presidency, a whole bunch of wrestling talk, some junk about Double Fine's The Cave, and STEVEN HAS A NEW MIC AND IS VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT.
Also, I need only hear back from the folks at iTunes before The Audible Protagonist is a go on iTunes!
While it might seem a little late to still be doing “____ of 2012” articles, there are some things that cannot be left un-said. Amidst each year’s appalling disasters and critic’s darlings, there sits a graveyard of games neither brilliant nor terrible; merely “pretty good”. Such games can often be overlooked by the general public, be it because of a lack of marketing, an uninteresting concept, or because it isn’t a yearly sports title.
I am not talking about small, independent games funded and developed by one or two people; blatantly overlooked because the games budget can’t support a widespread release. I am talking about mainstream titles funded by big-money publishers, and developed by large teams of skilled individuals. Games that, for all intents and purposes, should be a success, but end up drowning in bargain bins surrounded by old copies of Too Human and Imagine: Girl Band.
For me, the most overlooked game of 2012 was one that failed in so many aspects, but its successes made it one of the most unique titles of the year. Poor Binary Domain, you were doomed from the start.
To pick up a copy of Binary Domain (which you should do, it’s very cheap now) on a store shelf would be an exercise in apathy. The games artwork proudly displays burly alpha males right out of the Gears of War playbook, fronted by a man who would win first place in a Chris Redfield lookalike competition. First impressions are definitely not BD’s forte.
Insert the game disc into your personal virtual entertainment noise box of choice, and be greeted by a bland, black and white menu screen, the navigation of which is accompanied by generic bleeps and bloops. Boot up the campaign, and witness the two seemingly worst game characters ever engaging in tired, cliché ridden dialogue. They crack wise, they spout one liners at break neck speed, they say vaguely homoerotic things in a schoolboy attempt to seem quirky, you know the score; it’s Army of Two but even less well-intentioned.
After what feels like an hour of tutorials accompanied by more inane, cringe worthy chit chat, Binary Domain starts to display signs of competence. Environments are sleek, detailed and suitably bleak for a digital dystopia, whilst combat is simple, engaging and fun.
All too often in the games industry, zombies are used as a means to provide mindless, morally justified murder. Binary Domain however, tries the same trick with robots; and the results are equally satisfying if not more so. By targeting individual body parts, the player can dismember or behead their robotic foes; disabling the enemy’s movement, accuracy or weaponry (and creating a glorious shower of metal to boot).
Sure, a solid shooter is fine, but we’ve seen plenty of those. Where Binary Domain retains some of its inherent Japanese-ness is in its boss fights. Only mere hours into the games robust campaign, players will face a large, spider-like robot the height of a skyscraper and the width of a football pitch. Fighting the boss is a pretty mundane affair (target the weak spots to disable the legs), but what stands out about it is its sheer size and scale. Other bosses in the game are equally aesthetically pleasing, often resembling mechanized versions of bosses from Bayonetta.
So we’ve established Binary Domain plays pretty well, surprisingly able to hold its own against most modern third person shooters, but this is not why the game has remained lodged somewhere in the weirder parts of my brain. No, Binary Domain is truly memorable for its ludicrous, yet often poignant story. The game follows Dan Marshall and his “rust crew”, an elite squad of soldiers from around the globe tasked with eliminating “Hollow Children”; robots that believe they are human.
The crew is essentially a who’s who of familiar videogame stereotypes: there’s the wise-cracking black sidekick (Big Bo), the needlessly sarcastic British guy (Charles), the butch girl who exists so the developers could say “Look she’s not hot! That’s respect!” and barely says two words throughout the game (Rachael). Not to mention that Dan essentially resembles every game protagonist to have been created in the last 10 years: stocky, dark hair, gruff manliness hidden beneath a thin veneer of what could almost be described as a sense of humour.
The plot itself is actually a refreshing blend of Blade Runner and Terminator, and as the story progresses the team begin to question the true nature of their orders, and what it really means to be human. Without spoiling anything for prospective players, one of Dan’s crew members is actually a “Hollow Child” and as events unfold, we begin to wonder what makes them any less human than their squishy, organ filled squad members.
As these questions start to arise, the games characters start to become more fleshed out too. Dan and Bo’s idiotic jokes seem to be a coping mechanism; one that wears off as the game progresses and they start to show signs of sensitivity and (gasp!) emotion. We start to learn more about Dan’s past and his mistrust towards robot-kind.
All of this culminated in a bat-shit crazy finale filled with death, totally unexpected betrayals, triple crosses, and (sorry but I’m going to have to SPOLIER ALERT here) the reveal that new robot human hybrids are being created that possess the ability to birth children. Robots; giving birth to robo-human children. Seriously, this happens.
I thoroughly disliked Binary Domain at first, but the deeper I delved into the story of Dan’s “rust crew” and the games intriguing sci-fi pseudo-utopian world, the more hooked I became. Binary Domain taught me that first impressions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I implore you dear reader, if you’ve the cash and time spare, please check out Binary Domain, and hopefully, you won’t regret it.
Another episode of The Audible Protagonist is here, bringing with it fun, frolicking and fro-licking!
In this episode we each pitch ideas for games resulting in such game of the year contenders as: Job Interactive, Jewish Rats, Not-RPG and M From James Bond. We also discuss WWE 13, The Sims (Steve can't get enough), Assassin's Creed 3 and big moves for feminism.
It's time for the second episode of The Audible Protagonist you crazy kids!
In this episode, we look back on the best games of the year, and look forward to what 2013 will bring. We also talk about motion control sex toys, Pokemon sexual offenders, Far Cry 3, The Sims (again) and Darwin disagrees with everything anyone says.