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TheRico's blog

3:58 PM on 11.15.2011

Skyrim: Math and Swordplay

Iíve been playing Skyrim (sorry, Sky-mahfuckin-Rim, as its known in several circles) for four days now. I should say something about only having scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg. I hate to mix metaphors, but it's the only way I can convey my experience thus far. Its hard to believe something on this scale sprung forth from human minds, yet here it is. Poems will one day be written about the madmen at Bethesda, who saw the constraints of human imagination and said Ďfuck thatí.

Morrowind and Oblivion did nothing for me for me so itís astonishing Iím still playing at all. The improvements are obvious, characters who donít look like poorly constructed taxidermy specimens, a camera that doesnít pull directly into their lifeless eyes, an interface re-designed for actual human beings. In short, Iím thrilled Bethesda removed so many of the barriers that have kept me from this series in the past. But ultimately, its an Elder Scrolls game. The fundamental problems Iíve always had with the series remain firmly in place.

In reality, every battle is fought and won in the menu. Its not even Skyrims fault, this has been a trope of the genre for as long as there has been a genre. Numbers are compared, subtracted, added, and averaged, and the only thing that determines whether or not youíre still standing is whether those numbers came up green. It frustrating to think my controller inputs have such little say in the result of an encounter. Itís part of what forced me out of Oblivion, I would hate it if it kept me out of Skyrim.

I keep coming back to Lord of the Rings: War in the North in my head. I donít know what world the Publishers thought they inhabited when they decided to release it this month. Itís not a bad game, and the sixes and sevens that dot its metacritic page are largely a result of context. Certainly, in the wake of Uncharted, Saints Row, and especially Skyrim, it IS a six. But more so, itís the antithesis of Skyrim. It couldnít be more linear in level design, more limited in its character development. And yet combat couldnít be better. It gives you the same set of tools Skyrim does, and yet a Battleaxe in War in the North FEELS like a fucking Battleaxe. There is a weight and a heft that Bethesdas simulation simply doesnít bother with. Still, I didnít escape prison by turning into a werewolf and massacring the inmates and guards in Lord of the Rings. Maybe thatís all a game really needs.   read

1:10 PM on 07.24.2010

Why Resident Evil 4 isn't that great

I get the feeling I'm going to catch a lot of shit for this.

Resident Evil 4 is often lauded as one of the finest video games ever made, a masterpiece which defined the 6th generation of consoles, as Ocarina of Time did with the 5th. It's heralded as inventing the modern third person shooter, and recasting the mold of the survival horror genre.

None of that is necessarily incorrect. I just don't think it's a very good game.

If for no other reason then to tie me to a stake and set me on fire, please read on.


Let's start here, as there isn't that much to work with anyways. Plot has never been the high point of a Resident Evil game. It has one, typically thought of as a riff of the sorts of shitty zombie flicks one might see while channel surfing at 2 am. Regardless of whether of not that's true, the series has, from the start, imbued that plot with several basic ideas that fans have subconsciously responded positively to. Anti-capitalistic sentiments, Corporate accountability, Familial Relationships, The fight of Survival, it's all in there, and it's what we're responding to, not the b-movie plot.

Except for Resident Evil 4. Yeah, there's some subtext there, religious exploitation comes to mind, the Luis sub-plot has a little redemption thrown in there for good measure. But those aren't the things that had been driving the series up to the point. The previous game ends with Chris Redfield literally saying "We've got to destroy Umbrella, now! Once and for all!"

pictured: broken promises

So why does 4 open with a text screen explained that the Umbrella corporation dissolved after having their business licenses revoked? I wanted to destroy Umbrella, now, once and for all! In two paragraphs of text, Capcom had quietly removed the driving force of the entire series from the picture. It would be like JRR Tolkien quickly scrawling at the beginning of Return of the King, "And so Sauron, weary of a lifetime of war, retired to the bahamas with his long-time girlfriend Janice."

Resident Evil 5's saving grace story-wise is finally resolving the Chris Redfield vs. Albert Wesker storyline. When the credits roll on that game, it's more emotionally satisfying simply because it plays off 10 years of emotional investment. It's not profound, you won't cry, but it's a hell of a lot more than the paltry offering Resident Evil 4 makes.

This one's 100% personal opinion, but Leon Kennedy is a real shitheel. According to my sources, Leon Kennedy popularity is due to his 'mysterious and aloof nature'. But see, there's a thing called Character development that is traditionally the mark of a good story.

Here's what we know about Leon after Resident Evil 2: Nothing.

Here's what we know about Leon after Resident Evil 4: Fucking Nothing.

Where's your mysterious and aloof nature now?


Here's the problem with this problem, I like the gameplay of Resident Evil 4. Everything nice people say about it, about it being the missing link between the modern third person shooter, and the old incarnation of the genre, is absolutely correct. But one of the most common criticisms of the sequel is that it feels old, dated, antiquated, etc. "I want to shoot while I move!" screams a passing gamer. "It's not scary anymore!" screams another. First of all, Resident Evil 4 was never scary, it was tense. For a man outnumbered, and facing smarter and more capable enemies than ever before, Leon Kennedy is rarely in any real danger. Shoot them in the knee caps, hit them while they're down, pause occasionally to rescue the incompetent twat, repeat.

I had a hard time finding Ashley Graham pictures that weren't porn

For Resident Evil 4 to be a classic, it's raw gameplay should be timeless. Resident Evil 5 complicates that. Either 5 is good, and that gameplay is timeless, or 5 is bad, and that gameplay was never that good to begin with.

And the quick time events! Oh the quicktime events! Praised initially for the innovative technique to keep the controller in the players hands at all times, dismissed now as a shitty mechanic designed specifically to frustrate and anger the player. Watch a cut scene! Button prompt appears! Scene skips for a moment while result is loaded! Die! Reload save! Innovation at it's finest!

You could write essays on effective and ineffective uses of the quicktime events in games, I'm not going to get into the mechanic on a whole, but I will say their utilization in Resident Evil 4 is weak, to say the least. Typically in a game, death is the result of player mistake. Maybe they took a bad route and backed themselves into a corner against insurmountable odds. Maybe they misjudged how many enemies were in a room, and were shot down moving from cover to cover. Death in a RE4 quicktime event comes from you panicking and failing to hit one button. Your reward for success is getting to continue watching a cutscene. This is not compelling game play.

pictured: bullshit


This post is already too long, so I'll speed ball through my last few points. Game critics tend to be hyperbolic when first encountering a game. GameFan called Final Fantasy VII "Quite possibly the greatest game ever made". Gamespy said Mass Effect "will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest games ever made". Both of those things sound silly now. And while RE4 laid down the groundwork for the modern shooter, it's Gears of War that is more shamelessly copied these days.

The voice acting is terrible. Period.

Resident Evil 5 improves the RE4 formula by doing nothing. Resident Evil 4 wasn't' scary, so RE5 doesn't even try to be. RE4s quicktime events were too frequent and annoying, so RE5 has a token amount of them. Clearly Capcom didn't think RE4 was as good as it got, so why should you?

Seriously. She might be retarded. This is in poor taste.   read

1:28 AM on 08.16.2009

Pointless Endeavors: Reviewing Freeware

Another installment of Pointless Endeavors, another old story that is barely relevant anymore. I meant to write this a few weeks ago, but it wasn't anymore relevant then, so here I am now.
Battlefield Heroes is one of the latest installments in the classic Battlefield franchise. It's currently sitting at (and this is unfortunate) 69 over at Metacritic. This unto itself is unremarkable, but here's the thing, Battlefield Heroes is free to download and free to play.
"So?" you might ask, "It's a video game, it has to scored and tabulated and set within a table". Well, I respectfully disagree. Here's why.
I think it was within a very old issue of Official PlayStation Magazine that one of that publications editors gave the most compelling justification for the critics existence that I've ever heard. He said something to the effect of:

Games are expensive and we know you don't have an infinite budget to spend on them. Our goal with our reviews is to help you make an informed purchase. It's the reason we pack in a demo disc, it's the reason we leave the full review archive in the back on every issue.

At the height of OPMs popularity, Games Journalism scarcely resembled the dark empire it is now. This was before the widespread popularity of blogs, the living monolith of IGN was still getting it's shit together, people still went to UGO. Most importantly, there was no Metacritic, and Print Journalism was still the number one way of communicating this information.

What an idyllic era that was! Now there's a cornucopia of sources for you to get ostensibly the same information, and the Sauron-like Metacritic that each of them is wired into, spitting out a decisive and ultimately meaningless number. It seems like reviews have just become something you do if you're a media outlet, your local paper probably reviews games. The guy who does it is probably bald, wearing glasses, and described as tech-savvy and on the cutting edge (which just means he has to explain what Twitter does to his friends and family). What happened to consumer advocacy? To making an informed purchase? It's given way to a culture that critiques for the sake of critiquing.

But at least with 99.9% of mainstream games, this still can be used as a means of making an informed purchase. If 44,000 of the 45 000 reviews say you should check it out, it's probably worth checking it out. But what if the game is free, what if there is no informed purchase to make?
Well, they're still going to review it. Because that number between 1 and a 100 NEEDS to be on Metacritic, so badly it HURTS.
The worst Battlefield Heroes review came from GameTrailers, which contains this doozy of a sentence.

While Battlefield Heroes may not cost money, your time is certainly valuable

No it's not! I'm playing video game, clearly I'm treading on spare time here! You know, the time left over after all the important shit I have to do everyday!

If Battlefield Heroes is free, that means I can treat the whole game not unlike a demo, where I can download, play a match, determine whether or not I want to continue spending time with it, and then not have to spend a dime to do that. So it's actually better than a demo, where I have to buy the full game at $60-70 to continue playing. So if we want to make crazy assumptions, GameTrailers is therefore telling us not to play demos, and just to wait for the full game so they can tell us whether or not it's good. If we're not going to make crazy assumptions, we can all recognize the futility of reviewing a free game. You can give your impressions on Freeware, like most sites and magazines do with demos, please do, that's interesting, that's a welcome feature. But for the love of God, don't review it, don't give it a score, you might as well start reviewing demos at that point, and it will be at that point where you may as well spit in our face and tell us we're too stupid to formulate our own opinions on the media we consume. You understand why I would consider that a problem.

On the other hand, Summer's been pretty slow, so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on them... they were probably just bored and looking for something to write about.

-Rico   read

2:37 AM on 08.02.2009

Pointless Endeavors: Bioshock 2

Let's get the obvious out the way first, Bioshock 2 is a pointless endeavor unto itself because the first was such a contained story and doesn't require a follow-up. There, it's been said, we can now move on to what's been puzzling me about it, the multiplayer. The multiplayer unto itself doesn't particularly bother me, and oddly enough I have Uncharted to thank for that . When I first heard Uncharted 2 would possess multiplayer, I was wary. After spending time with the beta and realizing that it was in fact, a hoot, I changed my mind. As a result, I'm not 100% convinced Bioshock will fail in it's attempt to do the same.

What bothers me is something far more insignificant, a trivial detail mentioned in a Joystiq story back in May. It's been gnawing at the back of my mind ever since. From the article:

You'll play as a Plasmid test subject working for Sinclair Solutions during the fall of Rapture as you battle other players in re-worked game locales like Kashmir Restaurant and Mercury Suites.

Wait a minute..the multiplayer is canonical?
What. The. Fuck.
Now, I don't have anything resembling a consistent appreciation of multiplayer games, let alone a full understanding of the mindset of those who do. But here's what I've gleaned about them from my time online. They don't give one shit about the story.
I'm being presumptuous, I'd like to amend that if I could.
They don't give one shit about story when they're playing online multiplayer modes. That's not what they're there for. What your average multiplayer enthusiast wants is something that re-contextualizes the games key mechanics into a more competitive experience. In this context, story would be an unwelcome distraction. Granted, a large part of why people come to Bioshock IS the narrative, but trying to cram it where's it not welcome is a pointless endeavor.

Side note, is it Multiplayer or Multi-player?   read

1:11 PM on 08.01.2009

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Hey Destructoid, don't mind me. I'm just having a look around. Nice place. If it's cool with you I think I'll hang around here for a while. Sweet, sweet. So what do you do for fun around her? I bet you love to party, you look like you LOVE to party. We should party some time. Nah, nah, listen up, I got this banging connect down at the liquor barn, I'll be back in an hour with a keg. You and I are gonna get trashed, it'll be great

Oh my God, did we really do what I think we did last night. Look, no one can ever know what happened here, mistakes were made but let's not let this get in the way of our relationship. In fact, I feel like this horrible, awkward experience has brought us closer together, and if nothing else the ice is completely and irreversibly broken between the two of us, shattered into a million pieces. Which means we can get down to business. The business being video game commentary.
I wish I could say that I bring an asshole edge to the table, but these days there isn't a critic or commentator on this industry who claims that's what makes him special or interesting.
I wish I could say I will bring a new insight into this, observing what no one has observed before.
I wish I could say those things but the reality is that I have no idea what kind of <i>human monster</i> I will transmogrify into upon my arrival into the public forum. I wrote (briefly) for a blog no one read, so that's not really indicative of anything. I write the occasional Facebook status that several people read, but only one ever thinks about, which is sadly, somewhat more indicative than the blog (but not my much).
I will make no promises about what this c-blog will be, because I don't know what it will be. But I think that's what I like about doing this. Hopefully that's enough for you.

Looking forward to my impending personal apocolypse
-Rico D   read

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