I'm just another ghetto thug who isn't afraid to say anything on my mind, no matter how obscene, random, different, strange, or insulting towards someone's mother it may be. I make it clear when I think something is stupid, or when I think it's the greatest thing since grape soda, usually with a colorful vocabulary mixed with a few profane comments. So whether I hate something, love something, or want to fuck something's mother, I always have something to say on any subject in gaming, and any subject in life itself.
Now you may be asking, how is a game about aliens, ancient evil robots quadruple the size of the Titanic, and spaceships more realistic than a modern-day war simulator set firmly in our level of reality? Well, to answer that, one must look deeply (well, not too deep) into how we as gamers define realism.
Do we simply refer to realism as making the game look as photo-realistic as possible, à la Uncharted or Crysis? Or maybe you define realism by gameplay that faithfully represents the laws of reality, in games like Modern Warfare 2 that only lets you take a couple of bullets to the gut before you keel over and bite it hard. Perhaps you are one of those people who think that realistic games should all aspire to be Heavy Rain, a game based more in our own realm of realism than anything before it, a game with no supernatural occurrences whatsoever, basically a CGI detective noir film with branching paths via quick-time events. In that case, I must roll up my newspaper and whack you on the nose with it for trying to piss on the carpet of awesome gaming that my feet have rested comfortably on my entire life, because I keep hearing that people want games to be more realistic, and if every game that's wanting to be the opposite of Ratchet and Clank (and therefore, the opposite of fun) was also trying to be like Heavy Rain... I would probably eat my own intestines. Raw.
Since simple visual photo-realism is simple enough to understand, let's focus instead on physical realism in games. People who want these types of realistic games want things to, obviously, react just as they would in real life. This not only extends to certain materials acting as they should, whether it be wood breaking or metal bending as it should, like in The Force Unleashed, but it also means that the human character you play as must feel human. Their abilities must be based in our current reality, so no superpowers or futuristic tech that doesn't exist in our world. I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds boring as hell.
I'm not saying realistic games are bad... well, not completely... but if you look at it, their attempts at realism push them further away from the goal. The more things they do to make the games seem more realistic, the more noticeable it is when they overlook something. Take Uncharted 2 and Modern Warfare 2 for examples. Both games do something to make themselves more realistic. They both sport art styles firmly within the boundaries of real life with detailed graphics that allow for almost photo-realistic screenshots, neither one lets you do anything supernatural like shoot fireballs from your eyes or fly with the power of dreams, and both games are set on our quaint little planet Earth complete with real-life locations such as Moscow and Washington D.C.
And yet, they are both completely unrealistic.
Why, you ask? They both also do something that imaginative fantasy sci-fi games like Halo and Mass Effect do, namely the regenerating health thingamajiggy. Mass Effect and Halo do it with a rebounding shield and suits of armor, while Uncharted and Modern Warfare simply let you grow back your health. It may be weird to think about at first, depending on how you judge realism in a game, but the way Mass Effect handles its gameplay mechanics and explains itself makes it a much more realistic game than Modern Warfare 2. To me, realism is giving a credible scientific or logical explanation for the stuff in the game, and Mass Effect has an entire library of information about even the most out-there shit in its fake universe. The biology of alien species, the science behind your energy shields, all of it is explained, and quite well I might add. We all know the main reason there are no male asari in the game is because of memory space constraints, but BioWare went ahead and wrote it into the backstory of the species, turning the asari into a mono-gendered race, thus subtracting from the strains of our suspension of disbelief even though you are playing as a special agent that travels with aliens trying to stop an ancient race of sentient leviathans from conquering the universe. They built the backstory of the game's setting to fit with their limitations in game design, and did a damn good job of making it believable.
It's the same with Halo, we know Master Chief's energy shield and super-jumping ability is from the super-advanced MJOLNIR armor he wears. Unlike Mass Effect, it doesn't go into great detail about the science behind it, but at least it's there. I don't need to know every detail about how it works, I just need to see it in action to know it's there. After all, seeing is believing. That's all I ask, a little visual evidence at the very least. People who pioneer for more realism in games always diss Halo because "you can jump 50 feet in the air, that's lame and unrealistic." How is it unrealistic? If you were wearing that Spartan armor, you could jump that high too!
Modern Warfare 2, on the other hand, gives no reason as to why the hell your average U.S. Army soldier can regenerate himself like he's Wolverine or something. Sure, it only takes a few bullets from the enemy to take you out in the game, just as in real life, but only if those bullets are constantly hitting you. Really, you could take a million bullets to the chest in one level of the game and still be fit as a fiddle at the end (unless you're playing the No Russian, Loose Ends or Endgame missions, of course), as long as those bullets don't come too often at once, so you have time to regenerate. We're just supposed to believe that the bullets collecting in his increasingly Swiss cheese-ish body just disappear, and the bullet holes covering his mangled torso just close up within a few seconds.
So what if you get shot repeatedly in the leg? Does the blood just shoot up to your face or something?
Uncharted 2 pulls this shit even worse, since not only is Nathan Drake channeling Weapon X with every perforation caused by gunfire while wearing nothing but a t-shirt and jeans, his enemies and even the environments take unbelievable amounts of punishment. One of the enemies in Uncharted 2, those Team Fortress 2 Heavy wannabe motherfuckers with mini-guns, take 2 to 3 rockets to take down. Rockets, as in from an RPG! How in the holy mother of FUCK does a human being survive a goddamn bazooka to the face?! Let alone two or three! There is no amount of armor in the world that can prevent complete disintegration via rocket launcher! If they at least looked like something other than human beings, that would be fine, but they're just people. Nathan Drake is just a regular person, all his enemies are just normal people, and even those yeti things near the end turn out to just be people wearing really elaborate Halloween costumes, and then they try to quickly justify this by saying they eat magic resin that grants them the ability to shrug off more bullets to the face than is usually possible, even though the cannon fodder soldiers with a resin-free diet are almost as resilient.
Just as effective as futuristic UNSC armor reverse-engineered from alien technology, and now in denim!
Both games pull this shite in various ways. The James Bond-esque snowmobile chase in MW2 and the logically retarded train level in Uncharted 2 stand out. Sure, the snowmobile section was exhilarating and fun, but it made no sense. In a completely fantasized world, these events could be justified by simply redesigning the setting of the game into something completely unrecognizable by human eyes, thus giving the developers freedom to make up their own laws of physics for this bastard world of unrealistic bombastic excitement. As it stands, the environment in these games is one we recognize, and thus know enough about to know that a simple train cannot take missile after missile from an Apache helicopter without being completely derailed faster than you can say "logical fallacy."
In that regard, even Ratchet and Clank, or even Mario games, are more realistic than Modern Warfare 2 in some ways. Both of those games are absolutely, unquestionably detached from any semblance of reality as we understand it, but at the same time they adhere perfectly to their own laws of nature, mostly because their laws of nature are completely made up. But still, that works. When you see Ratchet jump four times his own height, you don't question it. He's a fucking Lombax, it's just how they roll. Compare that to the very beginning of Shadow Complex, a game where you play a very normal person, an "everyman" with no superpowers at all, where you start off as Jason Flemming with nothing but a flashlight, and yet a seemingly normal human being is capable of leaping twice his goddamn height. Someone tell that Nathan Drake clone that he's not a damn kangaroo, and not even NBA superstars can jump that high!
I think the in-picture text says it better than anything. Seriously... WTF?!
I'm not saying Shadow Complex is trying to be a realistic game like Modern Warfare 2, it's just an example of one of the major flaws of games starring people who are unaltered by supernatural or high-tech devices. Halo and Mass Effect tailored the backstory and universe of their games to suit the gameplay and offer a complete sense of immersion and understanding while also making the universe of the game more realistic to the point where, even though they don't mean to, they feel like they could very well take place in the same universe as me, while games like Modern Warfare and Uncharted feel odd from a logical standpoint when impossible shit starts happening, and as a result I lose any sense of immersion when the laws of physics that I am familiar with are brutally raped in these games that are supposed to take place in the same universe as me, and yet don't feel like they do
Everyone keeps saying that this generation is the start of realistic games, and if by that they only mean photo-realism from a graphical standpoint, then yes, as of 2009 we're off to a decent start, although personally I don't mind waiting a long time for the day when beautiful stylized art is overthrown by lifelike graphics. However, if you want to point out a game that truly represents the start of realism in games from a physical and scientific standpoint, then you have to look at otherwise unthinkable choices, like Halo and Mass Effect. If I was to say I wanted a realistic game, I would say that I want believability instead of adherence to the laws of nature that I myself am forced to follow in real life. A game can be completely out of its mind and still be realistic, as long as it gives an at-best understandable explanation for what it's letting you do in the game. With that in mind, you could have a game where you do in fact shoot fire out of your eyes and still call it a realistic game, as long as you explain why you're able to shoot fireballs from your retina, whether it be a genetic mutation, pyro-optic implants or simply magic. That way, everybody wins!
Well, except for the people who want games to be realistic in the sense that everything that exists in that game also exists in real life... but where's the fun in a game like that?
Then again, if you're still wanting über-realistic games that are devoid of the supernatural to pave the way to a future where games of that sort overthrow the majesty of games like Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario Bros. or Ratchet and Clank, then I have only one thing to say...
I figured that my first blog on Destructoid might as well be based on the monthly topic, which is games that I have a love/hate relationship with. I couldn't pick just one game for this topic, so I decided to do two games: one that I have a love/hate relationship with that I mostly love, and one that I mostly hate. So it is with great pleasure that I pop this thing off with one game that, despite its flaws, I truly enjoy.
This game, even though it has many bugs and some of the gameplay isn't done nearly as well as in other games, is still one of my favorites on the PS2. The flavor and atmosphere of the game are what draws me to it, primarily since there is a serious lack of what I like to call "ghetto games" around. No, I don't mean that rectal discharge that comes out every time 50 Cent wants some interactive ego-boosting to be mass-marketed, I'm talking about the real shit, and Getting Up is that real shit. It's an honest ghetto game, not some wannabe-gangsta bullshit game that thinks all it needs to do to be gangsta is throw in Snoop Dogg as playable characters and have a hip-hop soundtrack.
The main reason my love/hate relationship with this game hasn't culminated in full-on love is because of what this game represents to gaming as a whole. This is probably the best ghetto game out there, and it's still pretty mediocre. It symbolizes that it's damn near impossible for gamers to have a fun, enjoyable and respected videogame out there where you play as a street thug in the projects, since now that Getting Up (which was already considered more a niche game than a game with mainstream appeal) didn't hit the proverbial bulls-eye in the gaming industry, developers and publishers aren't even trying anymore. Fiddy Cent shooting up Iraq? Fuck you, is that the best you got to give the ghetto gamers around the world? I want Getting Up to be better than it is, so more people will give ghetto games a chance in the same way Batman: Arkham Asylum proved that comic book-based games can be amazing. As it stands, the game is only more proof that it can't be done right.
I simply can't ascertain why so many people think this game is rubbish. Usually, anything with a Metacritic score of less than 70 is, for reasons unknown, considered simply bad by most gamers, but this game seems to draw some other brand of blinding hatred. An excellent representation of this critical discrimination is a strip from a very well-known gaming webcomic:
It may not be the best game in existence, but calling it "God's punishment for an evil world" just seems like an overstatement to me, to say the least. The gameplay, while not very polished, was still playable and fun most of the time. I can somewhat understand that the ghetto atmosphere alienates most gamers, since I have to face facts that many of the average gamers of the world are teenage white boys from the suburbs who see nothing but a bunch of minorities wearing their pants around their knees and speaking improper English every time they change the television to BET, which is the only contact they'll probably ever have with the hood. After all, if you don't mind playing as a Cosa Nostra or even a convicted serial murderer, why should it matter if you play as a street thug unless you have a specific dislike of that culture?
Now that I got that out of the way, it's time to discuss a game that I simply do not like that much, despite it doing supposedly everything right.
Uncharted 2 is supposed to be good. It's gotten more praise than most recent games, it's been played to death by throngs of people, it's brought us a new benchmark in console graphics, and it's up for many Game of the Year nominations from several publications.
So why the fuck do I hate this game so much?
Part of it is Nathan Drake himself. I am just not fond at all of that smarmy, cocky, wise-ass smug son of a bitch at all. He's your stereotypical sarcastic white guy in every action movie you see, someone who tries so desperately to make even the most threatening situations into a one-liner, so much so that I have been infuriated to the point of questioning whether or not he's meant to be a parody of this kind of idiotically suave poster boy mentality that I seriously thought died out in the late 80's/early 90's action movies. The protagonist in a game matters to me more than it probably should, since I have to feel some sort of attachment to the person I am controlling, even if it's something as simple as the guy looking cool to me. Nathan Drake is exactly the kind of person I do not want to play as in almost every single way. The only thing missing is a swastika tattoo on his bicep.
Probably the biggest thing about this game that I have a beef with is the fact that it's supposed to be like an interactive action movie. Let me remind all readers that action movies are usually horribly, HORRIBLY written, whether it's with gaping plot holes, scientific inaccuracies or plain logical fallacies, and in the case of Uncharted 2, it pulls more logical fallacies than I thought physically possible from any form of media ever made.
Drake can take a thousand bullets to the gut while wearing nothing but a t-shirt and jeans, he can scale a humongous icy cavern with his bare hands while being able to keep an iron grip on the ice with his fingers, he can face down an attack helicopter, and what must be the biggest logical fallacy of them all: the godfuckingdamn train level, where you have to fight your way to the front of the train to rescue Chloe. First of all, why doesn't the whole train get derailed when the attack helicopter shoots it with missiles 50 fucking times? Second of all, if the bad guys care so little for the safety of the train that they would call an Apache to bomb it, why won't they simply detach the back of the train so Drake can't follow them, and is a sitting duck for the chopper? Third of all, why in the holy mother of fuck does Chloe tell Drake to get lost when he finally reaches the front of the train? She didn't say why she wanted to stay with Lezarevic, she just told Drake to go fuck himself. Lastly, why the hell was there a propane tank conveniently sitting in a train car at the end of the level, and how was it able to detach and derail the train car Drake was in, when the aforementioned attack helicopter did absolutely fuck all?! Add onto all that the stereotypical trend of all action movies, where everyone with an American accent is unquestionably heroic and selfless while anyone with any kind of foreign accent or darker skin tone is either flat-out evil, morally ambiguous or just plain useless and weak, and you have the makings of a terrible, terrible interactive movie
So all in all, I can begrudgingly say Uncharted 2 deserves the high scores it has somewhat appropriated, as Naughty Dog didn't do anything really wrong from a gameplay perspective. However, when judging it as an "interactive action movie," which so many people claim it to be, it's just plain fucking trash. I respect the game for what it is, but at the same time I loathe it for what it is. For me, that's pretty much the definition of a love/hate relationship.
I hope anyone who read this enjoyed it somewhat, as I enjoy writing these blogs/articles/rants/bitching fests. Feedback is always greatly appreciated, and positive feedback, even a little bit, will motivate me to write more.
DISCLAIMER: If anything I said in this article, whether it be my profane language or my bashing of a beloved PS3 game, offended anyone in any way... Oh well.