A gamer since the age of 4. I like pretty much all genres, and now that I can afford them, all systems. I'm looking for a new co-op game which won't suck me in for a year and a half. Please give AMD Eyefinity compatible gaming PC's generously (never mind, got one).
I would now consider myself a PC gamer primarily, but have grown up with consoles all my life. Whilst a bit of depth and plot are much appreciated, I tend to gravitate towards online FPS's and racing games.
I've been on a bit of a hiatus from posting here at the Dtoid C-Blogs, mainly due to my voluntary position at PureSophistry.com. Click the link to see my stuff.
The bar was silent. Uncharacteristically silent. Usually, the sound of a beatbox playing oldey-time honky-tonk piano under a piano made of cornflake boxes and the sound of a women screaming as she was chased endlessly by a dirty cowboy filled the room with noise, and the hearts of the patrons with joy. Tonight was not that sort of night at Jonathan Holmes Authentic Saloon Bar and Brothel.
Barkeep Holmes was not be seen. His cloth and polishing glass left abandoned on the floor nearby. Propping up the bar tonight was Lily Nelson, Beaney Tuesday, Beige Santa, and Soda Baby. Other patrons sat silently at the tables, nursing drinks they'd helped themselves to, leaving a few groats on the bar out of courtesy.
"So, looks like I'll never get a photo of Brendan Fraser's ass now!" Beaney said, staring down into his non-alcoholic beer.
Lily Nelson looked up. "No, motha-fucka" he said in an uncharacteristically dulcet tone. Dutfifully, he pressed rewind on his tape recorder, played back the utterance in a higher pitch, before bursting into tears and slamming the machine down on the bar.
"Whaaaat happend, booys?" Soda Baby piped up, nervously scratching at his diaper. "What's this all mean?"
Beige Santa put a hand on Soda Baby's shoulder. "It means that we're history".
"Whhaaat are you talkin' abou', seeee?" Soda Baby uttered between minor sips of whatever the yellow frothy liquid in his sippy cup was.
A loud, commanding voice from behind made everyone jump. "GAAHD...DAMMNIT SODA BABY! DON'T YOU GET IT? STERLING IS LEAVING DESTRUCTOID. PODTOID IS OVER YOOOU MOTHER FUCKER! THAT NO GOOD FUCKIN' FAECES SLINGING SHIT HOLE IS GONNA FORGET ALL ABOUT US! YOU THINK HE'S GONNA TALK ABOUT WILLEM DAFOE AND GET RICH QUICK SCHEMES WITH JONATHAN HOLMES WITH MOVIEBOB AND THAT JIZZ SLINGING FUCKDUMP YAHTZEE? WEEEEE'RE FUCKED UP THE FUCKIN' SHUNTING ASS YOU MOTHER FUCKER!"
Chungus (Son of Chungus) jumped up. "But, we're here! We're in his head! His head isn't going anywhere is it?" he said meekly, holding an icepack over his sore recently tattooed penis.
J. Jonah Jameson looked like he had a retort, but instead fell back in his seat and buried his head in his hands.
The Mysterious Benefactor of District Dafoe (A.K.A Willen Dafoe), who was leaning on the wall by the cornflakes-box-swinging-doors cleared his throat, which judging by the raspy voice he spoke in, achieved nothing. "Listen kids. I been in this guys head for nigh on a year and a half. That's longer than most of you put togedha! No one knows what's going ta happen!" he screamed through hi cloth mask and his self-urination.
His words were followed by silence. Captain Crack Cocaine snorted in disgust, and the Baby Police whimpered in their cot, as a SterlingCorp Fart Filter shuffled out from under one of the tables, before quietly shuffling back under.
Hours passed. No one spoke. In the silence, you could almost hear Lady Genital's heart break as she slumped to the floor from desperation and potential bloodloss from self-mutilation. All the while, a noise seemed to be stirring outside.
"What Godawful noise is that from yonder, sirs?" a nearby graverobber said, rubbing his scab-laden forehead.
"Probably just the Fun-Gestapo on another rampage, raising morale" Beaney Tuesday whispered. the thought that things couldn't get any worse than possible instant non-existance whilst being throttled and kicked in the groin by bikers wearing smiley-faced masks crossed more than one mind.
"AAAAAH! DOOOWN'T YA WORRY LADS" Bono Vox out of the U2 piped up. "OY'LL GO 'AVE A LOOK AND SEE WHAT ALL THE NOISE IS AAAAL ABOOUT". Before he could push the cornflake-box swining door aside however, he was knocked flat on his back, as MunkusBerger burst through the opening, sunlight erupting into the room and blinding the patrons, some permanetly. Both MunkusBerger and the horse that he was both attached too and consequently was were panting heavily.
"What is it fair Cenobite?" Chungus (Son of Chungus) asked, jumping from his seat and helping MunkusBerger into the room by tugging sharply on his reins. "What new devilry approaches?"
"The..." the Cenobite steed said, panting. "The... Queen... she... speaks...".
There was a moment of silence. Suddenly, everyone jumped to their feet, with a new sense of purpose suddenly filling their cold, dead hearts. The room was chaos as everyone made for the exit, and the air was filled with shouting and the sound of bodies hitting the floor lifelessly. They ran, they sprinted, and then realised they hadn't asked where they were going. As they rounded back on MunkusBerger, he pointed (with his nose, as he had no arms and legs, you see) to Val Kilmer's Emergency Podtoid Conclusion Stadium Showdown Arena On Ice.
"QUICK!" yelled Brendan Fraser. "GET YE' ALL TO VAL KILMER'S EMERGENCY PODTOID CONCLUSION STADIUM SHOWDUN... ON ICE!"
Under any other circumstances, they might have cheered and whooped as they ran, cycled, galloped, or rode Mark Wahlberg to the stadium. This was not that time, but a small spark of hope seemed to have ignited. Soon, they were not alone either. Scores of elves that looked like Jim Sterling, Max Scoville, Hamza Aziz and Conrad Zimmerman poured out of Beige Santa's Christmas Erection. The two decedent gentlemen stampeded past atop an elephant, each with a Walt Disney's head lodged firmly between their thighs. Further down, Colin Moriarty, the Napolean of Crime, ushered The Ghosts, a bus load of homeless men covered in glow in the dark paint, and Professor Cockknowledge and his pupils past a busy cross roads. The Amazing Spidered-Man ran from rooftop to rooftop, cursing and yelling, his pillowcase and genitalia flapping in the wind. Voldermort collapsed out of a nearby opium den, supported by a small chinese boy and The Emporer. There were yells. There were screams. There was some laughter, but there was also blood and other bodily fluids.
Finally, the bar patrons arrived at Val Kilmer's Emergency Podtoid Conclusion Stadium Showdown Arena On Ice; its obsidian gates swung open for the first time, and the impossibly large bust of Val Kilmer looking down upon them, sneering with a plaque on his forehead which read "The Man Who Was The Bat". Hundreds were piling through the entrance, some getting trampled by the prementioned elephant as the handsomer of the two threw rubies at the peasants below. The patrons pushed and shoved, sometimes pulling their hand back in horror, wondering what they had just pushed and shoved and what that was now covering their hands.
Val Kilmer's Emergency Podtoid Conclusion Stadium Showdown Arena On Ice was lit by moonlight; this was mainly odd considering it was 3:46pm. The crowd moved forward towards a large, impressive stage which had been erected between two giant chrome phalic objects, each covered in defintions of the word "Chungus". After several minutes of shuffling impatiently, a familiar noise which brought floods of tears and joy to all filled the stadium.
And there she was. The Queen. Her mesh tanktop today was gold. The cut off denim shorts were red like the fires of Hell, and upon her face was not a look of grim defeat, nor of pain or worry. No. Freaky Constantina, in all her majesty, wore a gas mask with a smiley face written on it in black marker, with the word "fine" written in lower case on the cheek.
"Citizens of Podtoidia!" she cried as Usher died down. The audience fell silent immediately. "I see many people here today. Many good, hardworking people. People who have faced adversity, like you!" she pointed into the audience at Grandpa Coca Cola.
There was no explanation as to why she'd focused on Grandpa Cola, and she just moved on.
"You come here today in panic. You come here today in fear. You come here today fearing that your existance as you know it is threatened. And by what?"
Her question had sounded like it was rhetorical, but she left an unnaturally long pause. After several seconds, some crowd members even raised their hands.
"I'll tell you by what!" she said, pointing a golden-painted fingernail in the air. "By our creator abandoning us. By our creator stepping away from the canvas upon which he has vomited us up upon over the last three years. I see that fear in your eyes. It is the same fear that would take me. Save... for one thing".
The crowd murmered to itself. Somewhere, towards the back, there was a shrill voice which cried out in pleasant surprise "WE HAVEN'T EVEN HAD THE SAUSAGES YET!"
"And that one thing!" she continued, finally, "is... our legacy".
Again, the murmering kicked off. There was a tone of disappointment clearly audible, but she continued.
"You may not think much of such a thing, but I say before you today, that such a thing, to have such a privelage, is to be..." she paused, slowly getting down on her knees, before raising her arms in the air like Willem Dafoe in Platoon. "IIIIIMOORTAAL!"
There was five seconds of silence. Somewhere in the audience, a small group of Foot Clan politely clapped.
"You doubt me," she said, awkwardly jumping to her stilletoed feet again. "But consider this. Out there... outside this festering fuckdump that Jim Sterling calls a mind, are legions upon legends of weird horny men and some beautiful women, who have taken us, our stories, our adventures, to their hearts. And there, ladies, gentleman, and dogs, is where we dig in. Where we spit out our everlasting poison, that warms, and possibly poisons their hearts. We are the fucking infection. We are eternal. We shatter all who listen to our fables, and we will live forever!".
The crowd was finally nodding in agreement. Some cheered, some whooped, but she waved them silent.
"And though we may not outsee this day. Though we may wither and die. Though the many different versions of Willem Dafoe in the audience may cease to be, there is forever, one thing that will never change. One thing that they'll never take from us".
The crowd fell silent in giddy anticipation.
"THIS HAPPENIN' BE HAPPENIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN" the Queen of Podtoid bellowed into the sky, and as she did, the crowd of beloved Podtoid characters erupted in simultaneous applause. The Muddy Buddy wept. Keanu Reeves said "Hooorse" with more enthusiasm than was normal, and even Time Capsule Jonathan Holmes, locked forever in his red and yellow prison, cracked a smile through the shit smeared glass.
People often like to talk about the game that got them into gaming. Whilst I had consoles from a very early age, the game that got me hooked came when I was eight years old. With my freshly unwrapped Sega Saturn, I immediately fell in love with Sega Rally Championship 1995, a port of the popular arcade game that still haunts the dusty corners of Brighton amusements to this day. With just four tracks and three cars, I set about for nigh on a year perfecting my craft. I was an expert; the dirt was my slave, the car my instrument of war against time itself. If there were world records for lap times being maintained, my name would inevitably appear somewhere. The day I learnt to use manual transmission was my gaming equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah; Sega Rally made a man out of me.
Well, not really, but at the time, it was a massive deal to gloat about whilst my friends with their PlayStationís struggled round the various courses of Gran Turismo 1 & 2 in AT. This aside, Sega Rally will always maintain a special pedestal within the grand exhibition which is my gaming history. It cemented my love of a genre which we as gaming enthusiasts rarely talk about. I have often been surprised at this; Gran Turismo, the Forza series and the Colin McRae series (with its DiRT series offspring) are rarely written about beyond the odd preview and the obligatory review, and yet remain series which boast impressive sales numbers and colossal install bases. These are games that, like many first-person shooters, will attain dedicated followings of people who devote themselves to online competition, time attack modes, and even livery editing facilities within the game. It really didnít take too long for me to crack this chestnut. Thereís nothing to bloody write about!
When reviewing a racing game, the reviewer will inevitably focus on handling, gameplay modes, online functionality and visuals, as well as tracks and available cars. Thatís it. Thatís all there is to focus on. Take two examples that I have just in the last week completed. DiRT: Showdown is essentially a collection of car-based mini games and the odd race which fails to hit the high standards that the previous games of the DiRT series. Additionally, Forza Motorsport 4 was a long, soulless grind of race after race in a campaign that long overstayed its welcome with this humble racing fan, despite a plethora of tracks and cars to vary the experience.
My main issue with the modern racing game is simple; theyíre soulless. They lack attitude. It almost feels like the developers deliver these technically brilliant racing experiences the way a world-class chef would bring his most famous creation to you, only to drop it in your lap with a grunt of indifference.
It also often feels like all Iím racing is a bunch of coded car shaped things! Many games make it far too obvious that youíre merely racing against pre-coded opponents with no apparent personality. Some games, like Forza, actually contain AI behaviour modifiers which means your opponents can make mistakes, or even try and ram you out of their way. This is amazing work, but it still feels like my opponents may as well be inanimate objects. I often imagine something as dull as a small potted apple tree has spun out in front of me, whilst the pumpkin behind me in the Ferrari Enzo is desperatly trying to T-Bone me into submission.
Sure, there are signs that some people on those development teams really care; Forza 4 had plenty of nice little touches for your average car fanatic. But Iím not a car fanatic, Iím a game fanatic. In real life, I could barely tell the difference between a Lamborghini and a telephone box with wheels full of sick. I care very little about who won the Forumla 1, the WRC, the Touring Car Championships or the Nascar (especially not the Nascar!) What I love is the racing itself. It doesnít matter whether Iím in an F1 car, a supercar, a go-kart being driven by a villainous turtle, or even a futuristic anti-gravity vehicle from the year 2048. As long at the mechanics are sound and the thrills are there, Iíll probably play it.
But that extra layer of attitude and of immersion into the world these races occupy boosts the experience to new levels. Even Sega Rally was memorable for the cheekily sung ďGAME OVER YEAAAAAAAAAH!Ē as was Segaís later effort with Daytona USAís memorable soundtrack and ďROLLLLLLIIINí STAAAAAAAAAAAAAART!Ē I can give only three great examples of racing games that go the extra mile in this way from, which I personally have played.
Firstly, Wipeout 2048 on the PS Vita, which achieves this extra mile through slickly designed menus, awesome music, and even the smallest most negligible detail; the opening video. The video shows how racing evolves over time, from classic racing cars right up to the anti-gravity monstrosities youíll be using in game. Having played past Wipeout games, this video made Wipeout 2048 all the more compelling, as it finally felt like it might just be tied to our own reality.
Secondly, another entry in an existing series, MotorStorm: Apocalypse does very well in creating a narrative for its racers. The plot isnít very good, even by game story telling terms, but it works just enough to set the tone for the races, and to provide even more motive to play what was already a very sound racing title.
But finally, my favourite racing game of this generation is inarguably Colin McRae DiRT 2; a game which did everything as well as one can expect. Menu systems which replicate the experience of living out of a trailer as you tour the world? Check! A wide array of contemporary music to set the tone of the events youíll be attending, such as the XGames? Check! Rival drivers communicating with you, making you feel as if youíre actually racing against people as opposed to inanimate objects (such as a pumpkin, or a small potted apple tree)? Check! A surprisingly affectionate tribute race to the late Colin McRae within the game, followed by an emotional video tribute as the pre-mentioned real life racers pay tribute to their fallen rival? Check!
And whilst the racing itself was somewhat improved in DiRT 3, with a larger focus on rally events and the obligatory improved visuals, Codemasters seem to have lost that spark of attitude which made DiRT 2 so great. Sure, some of their design decisions can be seen replicated in their F1 series, but again, this is a series which lacks the balls-out Ďtude of DiRT 2. But perhaps the biggest feather in DiRT 2ís cap is the fact that, whenever I was playing it, I felt like I wasnít just some guy eating bread from the bag, wearing a scruffy hoody I bought when I was sixteen with a controller in my hand. DiRT 2 near convinced me that it was actually me behind the wheel of that car, or living in that trailer with all the people outside listening to Queens of the Stone Age. It achieved what even some of the most pretentious and narrative-driven videogames fail to do so- escapism.
Well, after something of a hiatus, Iím back. I have recently upgraded my career to that of a Registration Officer (a person who helps book civil marriages and checks youíre not dodgy), and am very happy in my new position. I no longer work nights, and only have one job that I have to travel to. But enough about the bland characterless NPC of life which is me, letís talk about videogames!
First up, as part of an effort to integrate my backlog blog with something more entertaining, I have taken the effort to start a ďLetís PlayĒ video series to go along with it. This will be a highly unambitious project where I will graciously share with you, the indifferent Destructoid community, moments from my personal relaxation time. My hope is that you find me a witty and charming if not slightly an acidic and unpleasant host to my own personal shenanigans. This first video comes as I strive to complete the 100th Backlog Videogame!
Jebussaves88 Vs: The Bad Men of Dunwall
So why do a ďLetís PlayĒ series? As a casual working-man critic of all things explodey and violent, it is my hope that showing you my gameplay and voicing my thought process as I play will allow you, my beautiful lovelies, to get a better insight into my opinion of the game. If I take the piss or whine during a playthrough, itís probably not one Iíd recommend. If itís a game I take the piss out of, but all in good fun and with an air of good times to be had, you better stick this thing on your Steam wishlist, because if I say so myself, I have excellent taste. I also, in all seriousness, want to make something of this account here on Destructoid, which is why, other than on Youtube itself, I will not be promoting this video series anywhere else. This is just for us. Iíve come to greatly respect the Destructoid staff and community, and if I manage to entertain and inform you with a glimpse of gameplay and commentary by some berk in England, then it is a great honour to have contributed to the greatness of this herew ebsite. Also, Iím quite aware that the backlog blog on its own was rather boring.
Done watching that video up there? Okay cool. So, as I say, I am soon to complete the one hundredth game in my backlog. I will write more in detail about my opinions on these games later this week once Dishonored has been completed. The reason I donít now is because Iím busy packing for a short excursion to Scotland to see the rain and hopefully capture a mountain troll, and any effort I make now to write about the sixteen games Iíve completed since we last spoke in July would be rushed and of low quality. Basically, I just wanted to let you all know that I love you and Iím not dead.
So for now, itís farewell, and I look forward to griping about Skyrim , Super Mario Galaxy 2, Lollypop Chainsaw and Dead Rising 2 at you. Bye bye now!
Itís been a busy couple of weeks since my last update to you fine chaps and chapettes. On the last Backlog Diary update, I mentioned how Iíd finally got past a rather tricky boss fight on Chapter 12 (of 13) on Final Fantasy XIII. Well, I come to you now as someone with a great weight lifted from their shoulders, as I have now finished the game and cast it back upon the shelves from whence it came. But Iíll get to that later.
Alright. Letís get this out of the way. Alice: Madness Returns on PC. Didnít finish it, because itís a crappy port of what could have been a good game. It gets a 1 for being a dreadful product. Anyone else had any luck with it on PC? Does it just hate AMD graphics cards? Basically, whenever the gooey doll monsters show up, the game lags up to unprecedented levels. Seriously? 5 frames per second? For shame EA. Patch this nonsense! Itís unplayable.
Alright, what else we got hereÖ ermÖ oooh, Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3. Very cool game, but I give up. Itís too hard, and I donít have the willpower, dedication or time to be considered a threat online. And thatís really what this game has been created for; beating the shit out of friends and strangers alike. And sure, I can knock fifty shades of grey out of someone sitting in the couch next to me, but online? Wow, these guys are scary. I sometimes wonder if the only games they own are this and Marvel Vs Capcom 2. ďNo time for Skyrim, Call of Duty or FIFA games, Iím going to be amazing with SentinalĒ.
So, after a disappointing Win/Lose ratio of 3:20, I hang up the towel, and the game goes back to the shelf alongside Soul Calibur V, awaiting the day that someone visits me again and we run out of things to talk about in our dull repetitive lives. The game is beautiful, treats its entire roster of characters with the utmost respect and love, leaving a game that the casual and the hardcore can enjoy, so long as the casual are not stupid enough to go online. It will hurt your pride. UMvC3 gets an 8. I wouldnít recommend it for single player, as it suffers from Split/Second syndrome; that mother fucker is going to kick the shit out of you if it wants to.
And now, an unusual tangent to my usual playing habits. A puzzle game. Professor Layton and the Curious Village suddenly caught my attention due to my love of Phoenix Wright and the incoming news that the two franchises may get a cross over which I am now praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster makes it to European shores. If it doesnít, I might kick some livestock about, because I can now honestly say that I love these two franchises. Whilst Phoenix Wright is sometimes ďoverboard-crazhy-tchimes-Japanese-rikeĒ (a potentially offensive term which probably has a better shortened version, but nevertheless is the phrase I hear in my head in relation to this kind of thing), Professor Layton is much more grounded and universal (except for the part where it turns out everyone is robots, because of reasons). A cross over of the two would be a great experiment and certainly would be a day-one purchase for my dust-gathering 3DS.
But back to Curious Village; the game is pretty much 150 puzzles held together by a charming hand-drawn-esque backdrop, with charming characters trying to solve an overall mystery. Little details like customising the rooms of Layton and Luke in the inn, building a robot dog out of scavenged parts, and other meta-puzzles make for a very solid product, perfectly framed in a charming story about two puzzle enthusiasts out to find some treasure or something. The treasure turns out to be something else though, which ultimately begs the question; is it paedophilia or not?
But I digress. Level 5 could have just slammed some puzzles on a DS card like so many other developers, but instead set out to make something much more charming, likeable, and memorable. Iíll give it a 9. It would be higher, but I did start hearing Lukeís voice in my head.
Next up, Tomb Raider: Underworld. Itís seemingly impossible to play this without casting comparisons to the now vastly superior Uncharted series. Nathan Drake is more likeable than the bloodthirsty and seemingly reckless Lara Croft (even though Nate himself is guilty of just as many atrocities against the human race). The visuals are mostly kind of bland and uninspired in Tomb Raider, in contrast to Unchartedís rather fantastic range of locations, and it lacks the exciting set paces of Drakeís adventures. That said, I did enjoy the game, despite some rather annoying instances of Lara seemingly not able to make jumps that she looks like she should be able to do because of reasons. The motorbike sections donít really work in my opinion, as it feels more like youíre on a tricycle towing a fat man in a trailer. But, this aside, I would put Underworld on a par with Uncharted: Drakeís Fortune. It gets a 7 from me.
And yes, more tigers will get fucked up in this one.
Yesterday, I also finished Spec Ops: The Line. It was, well, very interesting. I would describe it as a cross between the movie Platoon (for general message), Call of Duty: Black Opsís single player (for similar plot devices), Gears of War (for controls) and Journey (for locale and motives behind development. Itís a great game, but itís not the best third person shooter. The plot and the interesting gameplay mechanics brought on help carve something unique out of a rather over saturated genre. It doesnít handle as well as Gears of War in my opinion (cover mechanics are a bit odd, with separate buttons for vaulting and taking cover), but it more than makes up for it with well-grounded characters who find themselves in a world gone to hell, with the overall message of the gaming seeming to be ďYou just made Hell worseÖ good going son!Ē
Itís hard to summarize my feelings towards this game. I enjoyed playing it, and I respect its motives, but I think it could have gone a lot further to achieving its goal; make the player question their actions at the end. As it turns out, Iím one evil bastard of a player, but I wonít ruin it for you.
If you have a liking for third person shooters, then definitely go out and get this, but I donít know if I would recommend it to anyone who doesnít particularly like this genre based on story alone. It ticked a bunch of boxes for me personally, as I love games with plot, morals, violence etc. The characters are pretty convincing, prime amongst them the player character Captain Walker, played by Nolan Desmond Nathan The Prince North. Itís not quite on a par with Gears of War in terms of gameplay, but for its plot, itís worth a punt. I give it a 7, in the hope that fellow C-Blog readers will eagerly try it, but with an air of caution in their stomachs, as it may not be fully fulfilling an experience for you.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand finally! Final Fantasy XIII is complete. Feels good to write that. Whatís strange is, it wasnít an overly difficult game; I beat the final three bosses with relative ease on the first attempt. Whatís odd is I got stuck on a boss creature called a Proudclad in the summer of 2010, and just didnít go back to the game for nearly two years. As such, the game has weighed heavily in the back of mind as something I really ought to get on with, and always appeared in my mind as a massive impenetrable barrier between me and the completion of this backlog. But, the barrier is destroyed, and I can now report to you in all honesty that I thoroughly enjoyed the game.
First point; Iím not a massive Final Fantasy fan. The only other game in the series I properly enjoyed (and completed fully) was Final Fantasy VIII, another one in the series which receives a fair share of dislike amongst its hardcore fans. With this in mind, I wasnít expecting the same things as existing fans; open world, cities etc. I knew pretty much what I was getting when I bought the game, and therefore didnít have any major expectations which could be dashed.
The visuals: Very good for a nearly three year old Xbox 360 game. One of the finest points though is artistic direction, the design of locales and monsters. Every screen of the game could be used as promotional art (except some of the blander areas on Pulse)
The Characters: Sure, Vanille does make a lot of sexual sighing noises, and Hope doesnít seem to have a penis for the first few chapters, and Snow is a moron, but they grow on you, and develop as the plot progresses. I managed to drop my overly Western view of the game and take it for what it was, and I really started to enjoy this aspect. The way Hope plans to kill Snow in revenge of his motherís death, the near suicide of Sazh (my favourite character FYI). It seems the characters take their cues not only from traditional Final Fantasy stock characters (Snow and Lightning are named as such because they come from a CloudÖ geddit?) but also were designed to appeal not just in the East, but also the West. It seems maybe they failed, due to all the negative opinions of the game, but hey, they won me over!
The plot: It was followable. I wasnít mad bat shit off the wall craziness that you might expect from a JRPG, although there were elements of this within. Six dudes and dudettes get cursed/blessed with magical powers and are told to fulfill their FalíCie masters wishes or turn into big crystal mantelpiece ornaments. It works.
The gameplay: Probably my favourite part. I know a lot of people felt it was just a case of surviving by using ďAuto BattleĒ constantly. But when you truly master the effectiveness of every role, study/Librascope every enemy and determine how to be their downfall, or simply try to figure out how best to attack a crowd of three different enemy types, it becomes a lot more tactical. This is the best turn-based combat system this generation. I know they might not gel with a lot of RPG fans round here, but for me, it worked. It was accessible, but had depth enough to require a learning curve, which if followed, could lead to utter domination of the latter enemies in the Tesseractís and Orphans Cradle.
So, in summary, I really liked a game that by general consensus was pretty bad. I donít get it! Sure, I gave up on it for a year and a half, but I donít think this was really the game fault. So, who also liked it? Who partially liked it? Who thinks Iím a prat for liking it? Who loathed it? Iíd like to see why peopleís views vary so differently from mine. Iím giving Final Fantasy XIII a 9 and there ainít nothiní you can do Ďbout it!
It is a question I ask myself quite a lot. Whether it be slogging away at two jobs I donít even like, or hanging out with friends I donít find interesting or even very agreeable in any respect, or perhaps whilst browsing some website in the early hours of the next day, reading some trivial article about something I care little about.
More recently, this question has been focused on video games, namely two I have decided to cross off my backlog list at a time which some may consider premature.
ďWhy am I still trying to win this race in Split/Second when clearly, the AI is totally misbalanced?Ē
ďWhy am I still trying to unlock Kilik in Soulcalibur V after around fifty attempts and two hours of lost time which I cannot chalk up to being fun?Ē
ďWhy am I bothering with this backlog?Ē
Most of the time, it is difficult to actually find a good answer. To the three questions above, I could merely reply that it is plain old stubbornness; refusing to be defeated by an AI which has seemingly been designed for the primary purpose of beating me.
Split/Second: Velocity is yet another racing game (following Gran Turismo 5 and Shift II: Unleashed) which I am crossing off my list despite not really having completed it. For those unacquainted with the swansong of Black Rock Studios, itís pretty much Mario Kart, but more grounded in reality. Instead of Go-Karts, you have sports cars, trucks, SUVís and the like. Instead of blue, red and green shells, banana skins and mushrooms, you have traps set all along the course, such as swinging cranes, falling buildings, crashing aircraft, and attacking helicopters. And instead of the bright and colourful Bowserís Castle and Luigi Circuit, you have the not so bright but still quite colourful backdrop of a wrecked city, with courses bounding through canals, shipping yards, airplane graveyards and nuclear powerstations. The game is just a huge freaking spectacle, a lot of fun to watch.
But unless you can by some miracle find a lobby of opponents online or can tolerate splitscreen racing, thatís all it has. The AI is just far too messed up. It slaughters you. You can be leading for a near full lap, driving like a pro, and suddenly, three AI opponents will all cruise past you at light speed, robbing you off necessary points to proceed. I retried a lot of races trying to bump up my scores, but to no avail. I was defeated no matter how well I did. Eventually, I became tired of this, and stopped. This is one of the worst games for AI opponents Iíve ever seen in the driving/racing genre. AT least with real human opponents, you can probably expect to be beaten fair and square, but there is no fun to be had in the single-player campaign. If anyone else has had more luck, please tell me which rainbow you found a four-leaf clover stapled to a rabbits foot under.
But this rather crippling flaw aside, Split/Second can still be a lot of fun through couch multiplayer and online (if you can convince some buddies to buy the game as well, because the online community is dead). Itís a very good idea, and a darn spectacle to boot, but the crippling AI difficulty means you will not enjoy this alone. I give it a 6
Next up, another sort of DNF, Soulcalibur V. The original Soulcalibur on the Dreamcast stands as my all-time favourite fighting game. Since then, however, without exception, it has seemed that the series has gone majorly downhill. Soulcalibur 2 was still very good, but failed to really innovate beyond its predecessor beyond a few new fighters and some prettier looks. Then it got bad, to the point we got the broken inclusion of Yoda in Soulcalibur IV. And yet, once again, I found myself handing over a few notes for the latest from Project Soul, hoping the trend may finally buck.
Good news! It has! This game is such an improvement over III and IV, and I can honestly say Iíve spent about twenty hours in multiplayer, be it online or against my father (who originally bought me the Dreamcast just so he could buy Soulcalibur). The things which made the series so appealing back then still stand; diverse characters with a wide array of moves and styles to learn and perfect over long periods, and the feeling that not one experienced, non-button-mashing player plays the same as another. Arenas and beautiful andÖ haa zaaa! Multi-tiered! A feature Iíve quite enjoyed in the Dead or Alive series, which to my mind, is a feature that makes a lot more sense than a square arena in the middle of nowhere which you can fall off and die. Well, actually, most of the levels are still death squares, but the one or two exceptions spice things up a bit.
Character creations a bit crap, but Iíve seen videos where people have clearly had fun making Scorpion, Batman and Sub-Zero (someone should tell these guys about MK Vs DCU, theyíll shit a house!)
But again, the game is at times crippled by AI. There is a constant theme as you play through the rather agreeable story mode and arcade modes where the AI can block the way only a computer which is reading your inputted commands could. Sure, you can throw them to combat this, but youíll probably already be ten feet in the air counting your shiny new sword wounds before you get the opportunity. Itís moments like this that made me retire the game back to the shelf until my father wants to resolve some trivial issue with simulated mortal combat, or have the nagging desire to smash a stranger in the face with a six foot sword. Soulcalibur V gets an 8.
Sorry Elsa, itís not old Ezio.
And now (sigh), Homefront. Fucking. Homefront. I donít know why I begrudge this game the two and a half hours it took me to complete its mediocre campaign. Oh God. Oh God Iím having flashbacks, ARGGGGGGGHHHHHH MY HEART!
In all seriousness, donít buy it. It was launched with the promise of a Call of Duty-esque game with a good story. That is bullshit. Itís a mess of dislikeable characters, who fall squarely into the army game stereotypes, mucky graphics which despite the engines promise is not taken advantage of, instead offering up lazy and uninspiring visuals. A finale on the Golden Gate Bridge? Should be pretty epic right? No. It felt like one of the more boring filler sections of a Call of Duty or even Medal of Honor. And it was the FINALE!!! The last point of contact the player will have with the story, and we got pretty much fuck aaaaall!
Also, I died. A lot. On the easiest difficulty setting. Enemies often spawn behind you, or hide or get stuck on scenery, and yet shoot you through it, invulnerable to your attack. I swear to God, there was one point where an RPG soldier just appeared and killed me seven times in a row, with me being able to do very little about it. It was dumb luck that I managed to snipe him before he killed me an eight timeÖ right before his friends all popped in (literally) and tore me to pieces.
I really, really didnít enjoy it. The best thing about it was it wasnít any longer. The helicopter bit was okay, but most of the time was spent waiting for your squad-mates to come unstuck from scenery, slowly walk up to you, and open a door for you.
And concerning your squad-mates, just fuck this guy. Worst character in any shooter of recent years. Homefront gets a 3, the only other game to receive a score as low as this being the dreadful Tom Clancyís HAWX. I donít want to talk about it anymore.
So why not talk about SSX? Hooray, a score based extreme sports game for the modern consoles which isnít a beaten to death Tony Hawkís game. To summarize, I really did enjoy it. The genre has been MIA for quite a while, and itís satisfying to get good at. The levels are pretty, the visuals and music are spot on, as youíd hope for an SSX game, and the control system, possibly the most important feature of games of this genre, just works. Why fix what ainít broke with a crappy peripheral, right Tony Hawk?
SSX: Not compatible with crappy skateboard controllers which break your arms.
I did enjoy the more difficult sections later on. Funnily enough, one of the most fun levels is one where you canít see shit. Also, along with the World Tour mode, there is a well implemented Arcade mode where you can compete with friends based on score or time. Little features like that just make it feel like a well-rounded package with plenty to do, and a constant challenge to not let Andy, the little shit at work, get all smug because heís doing better than you in Antarctica. I give SSX a 7, but only because I donít quite get on with snowboarding games as well as I do skateboarding games. If you mess up on SSX, you canít just restart your line without doing a ďSands of TimeĒ and losing a ton of points. And on your journey to get good, you will mess up a lot. If youíre a perfectionist, prepare to restart the level a heck of a lot.
And finally, a game Iíve been kind of waiting for since 2004. A game I simply had to add to my backlog despite the hordes of other titles screaming from the shelves. Max Payne 3, the third entry in what may be my favourite series of games. Ever. And no, I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Now we all knew all along this was not going to be an HD carbon clone of the first two entries. Graphic novel cutscenes are gone. Freaky nightmare sections are gone. New York, for the most part, is gone, only returning to tie the new setting of Sao Paulo to Maxís origins. And yet, despite the visuals and the location being thousands of miles away from what it once was, the game retains what made Max Payne so good; a dark, twisted tale of murder and revenge, following a man with only his life to lose, and he isnít exactly fussed about that.
And yet, there was something amiss. Why is Max so down on himself? Isnít he aware of what heís capable of? Iím pretty sure that heís killed more people than polio, and yet he still feels useless. He has the power to slow down time and end the lives of seven goons whilst crashing through a club window, and yet will not put the bottle down and consider what heís capable of. The only reason heís worthless is because heís constantly wasted, and yet he drinks because he feels like heís worthless. I donít know whether this is just a plot hole or an over sight, or is an accurate portrayal of the horrific circle of self- abuse that drinking and drug abuse lead to, but either way, it was a little bit annoying.
But then maybe that speaks volumes for the character that Remedy created back then, and that Rockstar have maintained. I cared more that Max eventually drops the bottle and pull his life together than anything else. This is a man who the player genuinely sympathizes with, as he has suffered one of the worst personal setbacks a person can suffer; the loss of a family.
And whilst Max is definitely centre stage, the supporting actors in this piece really do their work. From his sidekick to his target, from his boss to the bosses wife Max seeks to save. The world of Max Payne 3 is full of three dimensional characters, and it is a world that despite the evil that dwells there, the player will certainly revisit. Heck, I might revisit it in a minute, if not just for the awesome modernization of bullet time, the horrific level of detail within a gun fight, and the pure Matrix-esque level of spectacle. But with the gore, its not there for fun. The game is actually quite shocking. Bullet holes in people really do look like bullet holes in people, as jets of blood erupt from the forehead of your latest victim. And it never really is enjoyable. Each time the camera zoomed in on a headshot, it was actually a little sickening. But thatís what I love about this game, something so horrific enhances the experience, because the game isnít setting out to be similar to some massive Hollywood blockbuster where people get shot in the stomach, fall to the floor and swear bloody revenge on the protagonist before falling over the side of a building. This is a game which shows a man on the edge, plowing through an army of smugglers and mercenaries, grasping on to what small glimmer of purpose he can feel for himself, be it revenge, or saving the girl. And if you have to murder people along the way, the game is going to make sure you know about it.
Also, multiplayer. Max Payne 3 has it. Itís alright.
I give Max Payne 3 a 9, an absolute triumph of a sequel, despite my dread that I felt around 2010 when the original ďshaved head MaxĒ started doing the rounds on the internet. The only let down really was the ending, which was somewhat disappointing after the pure madness of the rest of the game.
So back to my original question. Why am I here, surrounded by games, slowly making my way through them in order to justify their purchase to myself and to you?
Because of Final Fantasy XIII. A game I got stuck on in the summer of 2010. A game that has hung over my head like the sword of Damocles, forever tainting my purchases with a small whisper in my ear. ďWhy are you buying that? You havenít finished me yet! You still havenít killed the Proudclad! You worthless human being!Ē
But last night, after putting the disc back in the 360 for the first time in nearly two years, I killed that Proudclad. And now, finally, the sword will fall, and I wonít be sitting like an idiot in the chair underneath it. Finally, I will get to write a blog two years in the making; a critique of f***ing Final f***ing Fantasy XIII, a highly enjoyable game that I just got too stuck on. So, next time, Final Fantasy XIII, and maybe DJ Hero.
Having just finished one more game in the backlog, I find myself at a cross-roads; a cross-roads with about thirty different exits. There are still so many games to go, and even though, lately I have been carving off chunks from my console backlog, Steam and physically packaged PC games dominate the horizon. The hard part is where to start, as with so many choices, it becomes difficult to know what Ifeel most like playing next, and instead end up picking one through eenie-meanies-miney-mo methods, which due to a lack of willpower, I may not enjoy to its fullest. If I re-emerge myself in LA Noire as best as I can, I may simply get bored and end up stopping again. Here are some choices from the list of games I have already started and ought to finish first:
ē LA Noire- I have just gained access to the Homicide desk, but found the game tedious in its repetition and constantly felt like Phoenix Wright had a better handle on the detective genre, possibly due to its wackiness and pretty colours. LA Noire is just a bit too noir, and yet not noir enough, feeling more like a dull episode of CSI than an interesting fifties era crime thriller.
ē Final Fantasy XIII has been untouched for nearly two years after I got stuck quite close to the end. Itís a shame, because unlike most people, I was really enjoying it.
ē Mortal Kombat is all good fun, but I havenít quite got the knack of its mechanics, and keep getting my sorry ass handed back to me with apologies from the Netherrealm. If I get the hang of it, this could be fun, but being competent at MK is harder than being competent at DOA or Soul Calibur.
ē SSX has a similar problem. I tried to play this last night, and managed to get a fair way through World Tour mode, but then got horribly stuck in Antarctica to the point where the game offered me the option to skip the level I was doing. I must have been that bad, but some levels are just hard to make good lines on.
ē I keep getting quite far into Super Meat Boy, and then having to reinstall Windows on my PC, at which point, despite best efforts to back up save files, I lose progress and have to start again. Good fun, but Iíve finished the first two sections about five times now.
ē I was really getting into LocoRoco 2, but my PSP died.
ē Resident Evil: Revelations failed to set off a real spark of intrigue when I first started it two months ago. Could be really good, but I may have to work for it.
ē HomefrontÖ urgh Homefront. Started the first level yesterday and kept getting blown up by grenades in this section near a downed airplane. Unlike Call of Duty, the grenade indictator is pretty feeble, and I got blown up five times in a row before I swore at it and exited. I need a good reason to come back.
ē Forza 4 just keeps on going. I probably still have another 60 races before World Tour mode is completed. May just renew my Xbox Live Gold subscription and take it online, because thereís only so much racing against the AI on the same tracks over and over in lovely weather I can take.
ē Split/Second is also quite hard. Like Mario Kart, itís just luck if you cross the line in 1st place and some fucker hasnít squashed you with an airport terminal.
ē Madworld- Iíll be honest, I forgot I had it.
So to sum up, I donít know what to play next. Particularly idle days just see me playing Temple Run on my phone, so some encouragement for a certain title might just give me the drive to get going again. Either that or I end up collecting stamps and blogging about that. Do you want that?
So, Bayonetta. Am I allowed to like this? Am I allowed to actually fucking adore this game, hail it as the best hack ní slasher this generation, whooping the ass of Batman, Dante, Ryu Hayabusa and all those Dynasty Warriors guys? Am I allowed to say that Bayonetta herself may be one of the most entertaining and likeable protaganists of all time?
The reason I doubt this is primarily awareness of the times weíre in. There is a strong call for more rounded female protaganists in games who donít purely rely on the sexuality of the character and the player to sell themselves to their audience. I cite Alyx Vance and Rochelle and Zoey from Left 4 Dead as examples of game characters who arenít there to be pretty and sexually appealing (or at least, not purely created for those reasons). Bayonetta, in contrast to these three Valve creations (oh, and Chell) has been designed very much with her (and for the male/lesbian population, our) sexuality in mind. She dresses in what appears to be skin tight bondage gear, which is in fact her hair, which at her beck and call can scarper, take demonic form, and tear evil bastards to shreds whilst Bayonetta looks on in her barely censored birthday suit. She taunts her enemies with sexual innuendo, swears, backflips, and even poses after some attacks, at which point a camera click can be heard. As a liberal minded modern mid-twenties male, pro-female, and part of a society that encourages a loss of ditzy sexy female stereotypes, am I supposed to dislike this game?
Now I know that there has been little, if not no fuss about this game. I have not read or heard of any objections from the female populace about the character or the game. I am not trying to create a controversy where this isnít one. So why do I feel the need to doubt whether Bayonetta is a good example of a female video game character? A character done right? Is it just her sexuality that at first made me cautious about outwardly declaring that despite the objections some may have had to her, she is one of the best pixellated women to come out of Japan in forever?
I suppose I just feel the need to be cautious. Generally, I feel the need to declare that I too dislike the rather adolescent use of female semi-nudity in Dead or Alive, despite the games being some of the best beat Ďem ups available for entry level players and veterans alike. I liked Bayonetta, and at first I didnít know why. I felt like ought to be put off because of her in-your-face sexiness. But to take things into further analysis, despite this focus being a primary part of her character, it is the other ingredients that justify citing her as brilliant. Sheís smart and cocky (both shown by her taunting of angels the size of buildings), confident, dominating, independent. In fact, the ďtraditionalĒ role of damsel in distress is reversed here as she frequently saves the life of clumsy journalist Luka (a male sidekick, so to speak).
So what does Bayonetta teach us that we did, or probably should have already known? That a characters blatant sexuality is okay, so long as the other traits of the character justify it. Despite being a kick ass ninja, Kasumi seems to spend half her time in bikinis, crying out for her brother Hayate. Bayonetta needs no one. People need her. And that is why Bayonetta herself kicks ass. She may be a sexy female protagonist, but she isnít there just to be a sexy female protagonist.
I can't see this fighting stance allowing too much accuracy with firearms.
Also, the game itself kicks ass. The combat is very well developed, with the Witch Time dodge mechanic testing reflexes and allowing you to dominate your enemy. Torture attacks are entertaining, levels are gorgeous and well designed, enemies are both beautiful and terrible (in a good way) and demand different tactics and thought processes to be felled. The game offers much replay value through the collection and purchase of items as well as a scoring system, action sequences are varied (youíll ride not only motorbikes, but hellsíaípoppiní missiles!) and the plot, despite being a bit mad and hard to follow at times, is at the best of times entertaining, and at the worst of times adequate enough to encourage progress. If you want a good looking and challenging hack ní slash game with a great protagonist and some real depth, I canít recommend Bayonetta enough, even though from what I hear, the PS3 version is plagued by loading times and slowdown.
Iím giving Bayonetta a 10, because it showed me what Platinum games are capable of. I loved Vanquish, I enjoyed MadWorld (and hope to finish it soon), and Bayonetta is probably one of the best games of this generation. Much more than a pair of spectacles and a pair of tits.