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About
Kevin Johnson is planning to take over the internet one small blog at a time. A Dartmouth grade with a penchant for having fun, drinking, and all things entertaining, Kevin will do his finest to add thoughtful, insightful looks at gaming and video games in general-- but do not worry, he can be just as snarky as the rest of the internet, 4chan excluded.

This person mainly has a "professional" blog at www.totalmediabridge.com; by "professional," he means it doesn't make money and it's really just a general showcase of his writing skill and blogging ability. In due time, however, he will improve it immensely in the months to go, along with a nice, super-secret project in the works. Stay Tuned!

Unfortunately, he isn't into the new gen-systems, because he can't afford them at the moment, due to the bad economy and student loans. But he still games when he can, mostly the unplayed favorites of the previous generation, and at the very least tries to stay current on what's going on, news wise.

So keep your eyes peeled for some particularly interesting stuff in the next year or so!

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I'm currently in the process of writing a Ratchet & Clank screenplay exclusively for Destructoid! It takes place between R&C4: Deadlocked (the last PS2 game) and R&C: Tools of Destruction (the first PS3 game). I know fan fics tend to get pushed aside as lame, but so far the criticism has been positive, so hopefully if you do decide to read this, you won't sigh in annoyance.

So enjoy!

Ratchet and Clank: All or Nothing

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Part 5.

Part 6.

Part 7.

Part 8.

Part 9.

Part 10.

Part 11.

Part 12.

Part 13.

Part 14.

Part 15.

Part 16.

Part 17.

Part 18.

Updates every Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays!

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(SPOILERS about Lost and Final Fantasy 7 within.)

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Now that everyone has digested, dissected, and in some cases, disposed of, the Lost finale, I shall propose the following idea: but first, a small anecdote.

I jokingly mentioned on Twitter mere minutes before I engaged that finale episode of Lost that the show's big reveal would be that everything took place in the Mushroom Kingdom. (If you think about it, that works more than it should.) It garnered a few laughs, but it kind of got me thinking, especially after the finale ended: if you think of Lost in pure sci-fi terms, you were probably disappointed; but what if you thought about it as a modern-day fantasy? Specifically, in video game-esque fantasy terms?

Lost was a show which utilized allusions of Western and Eastern culture, religion, and philosophy to weave a deep tale about redemption and character salvo. However, its "world" - its grand mixture of science and magic, logic and mysticism, all at the risk of thorough or satisfying explanation - might have been easier for gamers to swallow, since we're so accustomed to games that play with those very elements without delving into the how and why. Think of Lost as a game - as an character-heavy RPG almost - and suddenly, it "works". (FYI - I am aware there was a Lost video game, but since no one played it, and fewer talk about it, neither will I.)



And why shouldn't it? It is well documented about how Lost's appeal tended from its game-like structure; not only from the backgammon metaphor from the first season, but in how its fans delved into the entire series like a puzzle, examining pictures and dialogue as a means to figure things out. And even the characters themselves spent so much time backtracking and exploring to find answers and secrets to expand and explain the realm in which they existed. It was the TV equivalent of discovering secret areas in any game; and, like so many secret areas, they tend to be pointless (oh boy, 5 more potions? I'm already fully stocked!), but in the end, it was all about the journey to finding them. Lost has always been about the narrative journey, and on that level, it succeeded.

But I believe it also succeeded as a structure in itself, despite what the nay-sayers may say. Why? Because it told us what we needed to progress the "game," akin to any number of RPGs out there. For the sake of comparison, I'll use FF7 as a prime example, because its mix of science and magic melds so well with the mix of science and magic found on that island. Hell, certain ideas ring so close to each other it's scary; the Dharma Initiative sought to exploit the island's properties in Lost; the Shina Corporation was exploiting the planet's magic force in FF7 (I should mention I don't have much in-depth knowledge to the Final Fantasy 7 universe, but in a way, that proves my point: most gamers' knowledge of the FF7 world and intricacies probably don't differ too much from most viewers' knowledge of the Lost mythos, and yet, a fair amount of enjoyment was derived from both). Despite the number of FF7 spin-offs, prequels, and sequels, there's probably a host of questions that gamers may have yet lack the time (or wherewithal) to answer with a close reading and analysis of all those elements. But it's hard to suggest that those questions detracted from the overall enjoyment of these spin-offs, prequels, and sequels.



(Example: The question of what the "light" was under the island resembles what one might ask what the "magic energy" within the planet of Gaia. Sure, we know what it does, how people exploit it, the sense of its power, and so on, but we're never provided with a full explanation of where they came from, how it truly "works", and the full purpose of its existence, except that it's there and is exceedingly powerful.)

Japanese games, anime, and movies often delve into the bizarre interconnectedness of highly-derived technologies and inexplicable spiritual/magical forces; Lost is probably the first to do it for a mainstream American audience (at a much, MUCH smaller scale). This type of thinking may explain why the "next Lost" has yet to materialize; they fail to understand the importance of crafting its own world and rules - ones that gamers understand but audiences may brush off to focus on the narrative. Flashforward took place in "our world," so it's difficult to remove the weird occurrences from the everyday. Likewise with Happy Town. Heroes had the right idea with the first season; it just got really, really stupid. Hell, that show could have benefited from having a few gamers on staff, let alone, you know, real comic book writers. (While many may argue that Lost, too, took place in the real world, I'll argue that once the characters landed on the island, they no longer were in that world and were transported into another one, one where the island assumed control.)

I've never played FF6, but it seems to be the most loved among the gamers out there, and with the game's emphasis on character, it might make the better comparison to Lost. Or, better yet, Chrono Trigger - with its well-defined characters and time-travel exploits, along with its deep themes of science, magic, power, choice, free will, and destiny. Ultimately, though, as much as Lost was a TV show, it's sensibilities, structure, worldview, beats, and mythos had all the trappings of a modern day, fantasy-RPG, ones that we as gamers can truly recognize.

Now, understand, I'm not quite comparing the story of Lost to the stories of FF7 or Chrono Trigger. I'm merely comparing the kinds of worlds that these shows/games presented, and how their lack of a -complete- explanation doesn't detract from the narrative it presents.
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To assist Chad with his Countdown to Super Mario Galaxy 2, as well as compliment Tony's awesome Mega Man collection post, I thought I'd show you my own collection of Super Mario gear that I had once gathered like a kid in a candy store with a blank check. Prepare to be (somewhat) amazed! (And excuse the blurry photos, I took them with my phone in a semi-rush.)

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Collecting Super Mario curios today is fairly easy, what with the number of official and fan-made toys out there from Japan and America alike, all accessible at conventions and through ordering online. I'm kind of frustrated by it, actually (in a good way) - when I was a wee lad in the early 90s, acquiring Super Mario accessories was a difficult endeavor, despite his overall popularity at the time. Mario may have succeeded, game wise, but the acquisition of his merchandise was trickier, which seemed ironic. Perhaps it was because at a young age, you're limited with things like being able to drive, having the finances to buy them, and having parents supporting your clearly-unhealthy habit. Still, I managed to gather a small yet impressive collection, the years before DVDs and online purchasing became mainstream. I even have some original goodies that I don't think you can find anymore.



Before DVDs there was VHS, and what made VHS annoying was you had to fast-forward and rewind to get to whatever episode you wanted to watch; there was no "episode selection". Still, ask any anime fan back then how hard (and expensive) acquiring the Far East's animations were (my brother was a Ranma 1/2 fan, and gathered as many tapes has he could from out local Suncoast), and you have a pretty good idea of its difficulty to finance and maintain. I'm pretty sure these aren't all the tapes that existed, but these are as many as I could grab, and sadly, no Super Mario Wold cartoons were available to me. But, yes, I have the movie, and while as a SMB fan I was sorely disappointed, I had a chance to rewatch it recently. It's a silly, fun film, akin to The Fifth Element.



I've showed these before, and I'm happy that I (or, I should say, my mother) managed to preserve them. While the original hats are missing, these dolls essentially defined my childhood, and at the risk of coming off *askew*, I would play pseudo-Super Mario adventures with the collection of dolls at my disposal. (PROTIP: I also owned a stuffed monkey, so guess who got his ass kicked the most.) With the hard plastic heads, hands, and feet, this toy was a dangerous weapon, but oh-how I loved it so. Sadly, these dolls are the second batch my brother and I owned, as the first ones we had were lost originally at a baseball field (long story, don't ask. Or do, I'll probably explain it.)



As the last paragraph alluded to, I was a collector, but not a responsible one. I never had the foresight to keep certain toys in "good" condition, because clearly you couldn't have fun with them trapped in their original packaging. Which explains why my most prized possession, this hardcover bound collection of Super Mario comics, taken from a short lived run of issues published by Valiant in the early nineties, looks somewhat disheveled. A local discount store sold it when I was younger, and I jump at the chance. Looking through it again, it has a very fun if confusing style of story telling, a mixture of random styles of art and dialogue fonts. Each story is about 6-8 pages, and while some fall flat, some others are surprisingly entertaining, and maybe I'll write up some mini-reviews for each one next week or so. A number of scanned pages of the comics are available around the internet, but having this hardcover feels so much like an accomplishment that I'm particularly proud of.

What makes this set fairly interesting is its attempt to streamline more side characters into the SMB canon. Wooster was a servant mushroom to King Toadstool, who was somewhere between crazy, foolish, stupid, and corrupt. Also, Stanley the Talking Fish. Add in revolting plants, hypnotizing pigits, Dirk Drain-Head, and some Dear Abby-type letters to the princess (she's really good at this letter thing), and you have the base idea and feel of what the Paper Mario games are ascribing to.



AND THE FIRST ISSUE!

FUCK, this was a great find. You see, dear readers, Sonic comics came a dime a dozen, and as a SMB fan it did sting a little to be saturated in my enemy's exploits at the local comic book store, and yet not witness a single sliver of a Mario-relation graphic novel. So it was just random chance I saw this one floating on the debut boards, and, of course, I purchased it immediately. I remember asking the cashier whether they would be getting more of these, and he returned a definite and slightly condescending "No," as if the idea of "Super Mario" comics was ridiculous, especially within the myriad of X-Men and Excalibur and other "real" super heroes. I tried getting into them, like Spiderman, but I much preferred my stories more whimsical and fun (like Gummi Bears!) than all realistic and gritty. So, in summary, fuck that guy.



Likewise, these are pretty awesome - mainly because apparently these are hard to find. And yet, I have TWO. These were sold at a long-gone local game store, and I originalyl bought one, but lost it. So I bought another one. During some spring cleaning, I found the original. Yay me. On first glance, you'll recognize this as the comic adventure debuted in Nintendo power so many years ago, all told together in a rather funny and exciting adventure. This even includes the Mario vs. Wario tale based on Six Golden Coins (who remembers that? :D), but sadly, not the story where Mario and Wario battle over Princess Toadstool's birthday affection (THAT WAS HER NAME), only to be beaten out by Weegee. Still, I often read through this one quite a bit, especially for inspiration on a... ahem, special thing I'm working on.



Super Mario never had novels. But they had these silly little "Choose Your Own Adventure" type books back when it was all the craze, and as far as I'm concerned, they ARE novels. These original Choose Your Own Adventure series used to scare me shitless, because they had no problem killing YOU (and there was never any indication you won a book or not), but the SMB versions were much more low key and sillier, with puzzles you could solve to choose the right path. Still, Mario or Luigi could die, which was still horrifying, and I particularly remember Monster Mix-Up being downright the scariest SMB-related thing since the piano came alive in Super Mario 64. I sadly could never find the first one.



Some promotional stuff for the movie. Ahem. Let's move on.



And lastly... trading cards! I forgot I even had these. I guess I was supposed to trade these with other people with different video game-related cardholders, but screw that. I wanted Super Mario, not Contra. Hell, you'll probably notice that there's even two sets of Zelda cards over there. Believe me, they were just part of the collection. The art on these are hit or miss; the one with Mario climbing the stairs is the best in its clever minimalism and sense of wonder. Likewise, the blurbs on the back of each card is either informative or redundant; one has a listing of all the Koopa Kids and their personalities, another has a PSA on how to climb stairs properly. So... yeah.

Perhaps one day I'll return to SMB collection; I had to quit after reality set in and money started going to things like books and school and life. But now the whole process is easier, and no longer would it present that delightful challenge and whimsy it once had. There was something exciting about finding a Mario-relation book or story in a bargain bin and having it then and there. I know people out there have a lot more stuff than I do, but for a 10 year-old in the early 90s, this is kinda impressive. I think.
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While Jim Sterling's infamous article outlines exactly what the problem with fanatical fanboyism, he stops short of explaining why fanboys particularly aren't good at developing their vision. A few commenters mentioned that, because fans essentially engulf every detail and aspect of a work, that there is perhaps a modicum of correctness in the fan's desire. Theoretically, yes, but practically - no.

Why? Fans, for the most part, don't have proper training.


... kinda like this.

"Proper training" means here that they fail to grasp the elements that go beyond that intrinsic desire for self-satisfaction. They don't quite understand the ABSOLUTE IMPORTANCE of development and story, of appealing to demographics and financial backers, of conflict and nuance and drama and change. They don't understand the work involved in the creation of anything - and the constant need to proliferate that work beyond the first iteration. In other words, if fans had their way, the very thing they worship would be over in about an hour.

The Sonic 4 issue is not nearly the singular outrageousness that fanboys exhibited over the years. I recently read this article about Chuck fans and something or other, who had issues with the TV stars awkward love triangle (or quadrangle). They wanted the two lovebirds to become instant lovebirds. Problem is, if you do that, you don't have a TV show. It's over. Same with Lost fans, who wants their questions answered as soon as possible. While I have issues with the show's pacing (ie, is this really an effective storytelling pacing or a deliberate method to pad?), it definitely "works" for the show itself, and people are indeed enjoying the show's final season. Had a fanatical Lost fan been given the reigns to develop the show... well, I'm 100% it would have been awful.

Fans are rarely trained in storytelling, in conflict or character development, in pacing, style, and meaning, in programming, design, PR, in which ever genre they're engaging it. They look without watching; they enjoy without playing. Sonic ISN'T just about speed. If it were, then the hundreds of speed-based games out there would be just as popular. Sonic was released essentially as the "anti-Mario," the perfect mascot character with 'tude that marketing 101 would tell you best reflected the angsty teenager mentality, the one that grew up on the cutesiness of early Nintendo gaming and wanted to rebel against it. Nostalgia, coupled with a swath of decent games, barely-mediocre comics, and cartoons ranging from bad to passable, has fans thinking of Sonic in terms beyond what he actually is.

For a project I am working on, I have done a bit of research on Sonic, and, well, it's been hard. Take a look at the writeups on Sonic both at wikipedia and the various Sonic wiki sites. They're terrible. Look at that ridiculous Storyline Summary. The writers fail to understand the encyclopedic necessity of conciseness and clarity. They ramble on as elaborate summaries instead of clear, point-by-point descriptions. Imagine, now, what their fan stuff is like.

What makes this particularly frustrating is that because fans are so in-tuned into what they enjoy, they may have indeed some great ideas in their collective heads. But because they're so fanatical, they end up making insane threats, moronic claims, and outlandish rants that seek to annoy developers and casual fans alike. Fans don't need to shut up so much as channel that erratic energy into something that people can profit from. Star Trek and Star Wars fans produce novels, videos, songs, hold conventions - stuff that, while a bit weird, showcases a controlled talent that suggests an enjoyable experience as a fan-production instead of a scrambling diatribe on some message board forum.

(FYI: A friend of mine was so worked up over the ending of Dawson's Creek that she and a number of other fans created an alternate ending to it. Crazy? Yes. But she's an aspiring screenwriter, so it's not as if she posted an illegible post somewhere. She attempted to pool her skills into something that she and others felt better served the thing she enjoyed. I don't know how it worked out [I've heard good things], but the point is, she made something work because she knew how to make it work. She currently is attending a screenwriting program in Vancouver film school.)

It's pretty much understood that developers and filmmakers claim to listen to fans, but they truthfully don't. Because their ideas suck. BUT, if they spent a few weeks looking a bit more critically at the very thing they enjoy, perhaps maybe they'd be more appreciative and - GASP - learn something about the craft to help formulate their arguments and/or create something amazing, like this Mario-fan trailer.

Or at least they'd finally realize how terrible Heroes truly is.
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This is the story of how I learned about the truth of a young gamer's Christmas.



The picture above this paragraph is a classic Mario doll from the early 90s. These short, squat, stuff variations of the iconic Nintendo mascot are items from a past era: with solid, hard plastic for heads, hands, and feet, these toys are primarily perfect for swinging around and hurting people. The body was stuffed with cotton, which is stringing along the joints, and the hair is fading, exposing the skin underneath. It also came with a cloth hat with the "M" emblem on it, which is forever lost to childhood neglect.

This was my favorite toy of all time. I was, and still am in a certain respect, a huge Super Mario Brothers fan. Something about this character appealed to me. I'm not sure if it is the simplistic gaming style or the creative beauty of the gaming worlds they inspire. My favorite color is red because of him. I found myself playing "Mario" during our schoolyard faux-fights: while other kids my age chose Wolverine or The Punisher, I chose the plucky plumber with the huge nose.

I'm a black male who went to a predominately white Catholic school, and thanks to our overall youth, I was never question about the validity of being Mario due to the variation of skin color. I'm reminded of a short story whereby a new kid to a neighborhood is greeted with praise and enjoyment by the local kids; and after one conversation with their parents, the local kids proceed to question the newbie about "his kind" being around here, and that he was no longer wanted. The beauty of this story? It was never indicated what "his kind" was comprised of.

I never had that happen to me, thankfully, but I was aware of my, for lack of a better word, shortcomings, especially during Halloween. I couldn't dress up as Mario; while the costume would have made me recognizable, it just wouldn't have made any sense. I was forced to be as generic as creativity could allow. A cop. A doctor. A pirate. Now I would have some distinct choices: Alyx Vance's father. The dude from LD4. But I couldn't really be who I really wanted to be. Mario, jumping on some Koopas.

All I had was the doll, and I loved it to death. With it I could interact with the "world" conceived by Miyamoto and design my own adventures. The only thing I needed was the rest of the cast. Luigi. Toad. Princess Toadstool (as she was called at the time). And as Christmas came around the corner, I knew just who to ask.



I believed in Santa. Well, I believed in the miracles that Santa could perform. I knew that my parents provided the gifts, but I had inexplicably conceived that Santa was somehow involved in the process. He could make certain gifts just happen. What wasn't available in stores was accessible through him; so when I was given the opportunity to visit Santa, I was nervous and excited. (It's odd, too - Kevin Mcallister from Home Alone had pretty much the same imaginary concept of Santa).

Our local mall has closed down since its heyday; it is now a series of random stores and a Sears. It used to be pretty cool, with fancy fountains located underneath the escalators and a pretty fast elevator in the center. Santa was set up behind that elevator, and as my parents and I waited in line, I could feel the nerves building up. It was silly asking for what I was going to ask for, but dammit, I was going to do it.

The time came, and I found myself on Santa's lap.

"Ho-ho-ho! Have you been a good little boy?"

"Yes, I have." (I hope so!)

"And what would you like this Christmas?"

And I spilled my greedy guts. A Luigi doll. A Princess Toadstool doll. A Toad doll. I can't remember if I asked for a Yoshi doll, but I probably did, depending on whether it was before or after Super Mario World. He said sure. He said something about being a good boy and something about seeing what he could do. When a parent says that, it means "no." When Santa says it? Pretty much guaranteed. And so, we took the obligatory picture, and left.

I managed. I felt pretty confident about my chances. I even resigned myself to be extra good in the coming days up until that fateful morning. Things were going to be awesome. The Mushroom Kingdom would be mine.

Guess what happened.



No Luigi doll. No Toad doll. No Princess Toadstool or Yoshi doll.

I can't remember what exactly I did get for Christmas that year. I think some games, but I can't remember which ones. I remember coloring books, and the only reason why I remember coloring books is because I remember searching hell and high water around that tree for those dolls, only to find the coloring books last.

I never colored in those coloring books.

It was then that I learned that Santa wasn't real, at all, in neither the gift-providing nor miracle-creation capacity. There was no extra-hidden gift under my bed. There was no last-minute exchange that would turn my day into joy. There was no "Oh, kiddo, this is for you!" surprise that was waiting for me, with the laughing jolly man flying across the moon, silhouetted against its light. Just utter disappointment.

In an instant, my hopes and dreams were gone. It was a few months before I could recover, a secret I had always kept to myself. Even I knew the fallout of revealing my grand disappointment to either my friends and families would be embarrassing. In time, I understood the fact that Nintendo, or which ever third-party company, did not make such dolls at the time. In a way, I consider you all lucky, with the accessibility of various toys, dolls, and action figures of your favorite games, which are only a few clicks away.

As we discuss the complexity of true immersion and push to be closely linked into the video games we enjoy, it is important to remember that it has its limits. We cannot, how ever much we try, bring that world to reality. This is what I learned that Christmas. I am not angry. It was something I needed to learn, and as you celebrate your holidays, please remember that, with the faulting economy, the inclement weather, the limitations of the human condition, and plain old Murphy's Law, some things just cannot happen.

Sometimes, people don't receive Christmas miracles.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Destructoid. Stay safe and enjoy what games come to you, but I ask simply to keep it all in perspective.
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I had randomly rented this game from Blockbuster during the early part of the 21st century, when Blockbuster still was relevant. At the time, games never really "meant" a lot to me. I figured that they were there to be played, and the experience was purely based on the interaction of the player's ability to press buttons at a certain time in a certain place, and how well a publisher and/or developer programmed the game to interpret those controls. Graphics and story took a back seat. Or so I thought.

I was blown away.

This was the signature game that elevated my opinion of the gaming experience into something from passive enjoyment into active interaction. Never have I truly felt part of the game as much as Red Faction made me. For a few hours over the course of a few days, I actually felt like I was Parker, frustrated by the Ultor's Corporation totalitarian control and lack of concern of the miners' welfare, losing it as I watched a fellow minor getting beat to death as the final straw. Mind you, this goes well beyond the hype of the Geo-Mod technology, which, to be honest, is used only about three times effectively in the game.

It was interesting to see the story played out so smoothly, so effectively, that I really felt like I was actively sneaking from base to base, plant to plant, building to building. The areas were so wonderfully interconnected that it seemed like a real place, like how a series of corrupt architects would indeed design a multi-level conglomerate on a distant planet. How later in the game, wanted posters of your character begin popping up all over walls and buildings. And I had to figure out many of the specific objectives of this enterprise myself - such as sneaking into one plant via an airduct high in the air, or another plant via a pipeline, or killing a giant robot via a well-placed garbage disposal - all without any spoon-feeding by outside sources or characters (now, to be honest, on the second playthrough, I was told how to kill the robot, but on my primary playthrough, I wasn't, which I much preferred).

I had played Red Faction prior to Half-Life and Half-Life 2. And even though I did enjoy my experience with Gordan Freeman through all his available adventures - even Episodes 1 and 2 - I will contest strongly that Red Faction is still the superior experience.



Now, I was indeed aware of the hype around Half-Life, but I did not have a computer capable of playing it nor did Blockbuster carry the PS2 port. I could have bought it, but I'm not really a "buyer" of games since those 60 dollar price tags are really hard to swallow. (This was also before I knew about "Steam".) It wasn't until I procured a Gamefly subscription that I managed to rent Half-Life 1.

I can't say for sure if the Red Faction experience left me disillusioned to the HL1 experience, but I was somewhat disappointed by the game. Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed it for the most part, but it seemed... off. I certainly understood where RF garnered its seamless gameplay style from - by escaping the "levelized" structure of most games (and removing or limiting cutscenes), both HL and RF create a world where the gamer is truly immersed in the occurrences that happen throughout. But while HL may have "started" the movement, RF perfected it. The only times I felt HL was pushing towards RF-like immersion was at the very beginning, when you're up against that huge tentacled creature, and when you're captured at the game's midpoint and stripped of your weapons. Otherwise, HL is simply a glorified, long shooter. There are no stealth moments, few vehicles to commandeer, no multiple paths, no major elements to figure out. Sure, there are "puzzle" areas, such as the moment where you control a satellite to bomb a doorway to progress forward -- but it seemed then that the "action" stopped to give you some air to think, while RF forced you to think and shoot at the same time, or at least think in terms of the overall objective, instead of a tricky way to get past an obstacle.

This notion was solidified with HL2 and its subsequent games.



HL2 blew its predecessor out the water. The characters were richer, the storyline heavier, the gaming experience more lavish, certainly. I really felt like I was in for a real treat when playing this. The beginning was really getting me excited -- having to outrun the Combine without a weapon was truly exciting (can I say I was hoping for about a full hour of this kind of thing?). But then... you get your crowbar, and your first pistol, and it's back to the same. Sure, the "same" was pretty awesome - avoiding a helicopter as it shot at you, racing across rivers and beaches in vehicles, Ravenholm - but still, it was all so structured. How odd am I? I was annoyed by the segue between levels. You exit one cave-shaft and suddenly, you're out of Ravenholm and racing across roads. One magical teleport has you out of the Combine's Citadel and - ONE WEEK LATER - commanding an army through a war zone.

Again, I must stress I had A LOT of fun with this game. But I was disappointed that the segues were so distinct; they might have well been structured levels. And, again, the action and puzzles were separate "hubs" - a game design decision that actually accepted and mentioned by one of the designers of HL2 (as mentioned in the Lost Coast addition on Steam). Not to sound like a spoilsport, but it's really lame to stop the flow of the game with a generic moment of "keep away" with a ton of Antlions in a mine shaft (HL2, Ep. 2). In other words -- I feel like I'm STILL protecting Natasha while she infiltrates some computer as German soldiers burst in from either side.

Another egregious example is in Episode 2, where you reach a section in a driving level that leads you to a part in which you're ambushed. That would be fine -- except the area is specifically designed to keep you within a building until -they- decide to blow open the door to the outside. I wish that I had the options - to bunker down and shoot within the building OR to sneak out by some other means, where by Alyx shoots from the inside, and I stealth kill them from the outside. Sadly, it doesn't exist.

For all the enjoyment I received from them, the Half-Life games seem to lack the intuitive flow and real-time decision making that seemed so organic in Red Faction. (Also, RF's vehicle use is better managed than Half-Life 2's, but that's more of a personal thing.)

Red Faction seemed to stress real thinking, the necessity to figure things out within the heat of the entire ordeal without the stop-and-go stylistic choices that Gordan Freeman's adventures seem to utilize. When you're on the surface of Mars, for example, no one tells you that, without armor, you suffocate and your health slowly depletes. You learn that on your own, and that's a gamer's delight.

So what happened with RF2 and [/i]Guerrilla?





Red Faction 2 espoused the seamless gaming experience for distinct level structure, and Guerrilla seems to emphases a violent, destructive "capture the base and destroy it!" sandbox mechanic. While I have yet to play Guerrilla (which still looks like a fun game), I know deep down inside that the only close example I'll get to that full experience I had with the original Red Faction is when Half-Life: Episode 3 comes out, and that same part may be disappointed then, if the developers still have that action-puzzle distinction mapped out.

I love Red Faction. It's my favorite FPS of all time, and it's sad that part of me believes that I'll never have an experience like it. I hear Thief is pretty close to it, so I'll probably give that a whirl sometime, and The Chronicles of Riddick has the right idea; I wish there were more different types of environments, had more variety, and was longer (and, uh, more shooting sections. I loved the stealth stuff, but it is a FPS, and that S does still have meaning). But until then, as gamers turn to their Freemans, Master Chiefs, L4D casts and so on, I'll always have a soft spot for Parker, the miner who both spearheaded a rebellion AND cured a disease. He knew how to pretend to be a doctor and a businessman, and went into a woman's bathroom to distract a guard and kill him (which was the best thing ever). He could drive all vehicles, and knew his way around an airduct just as good as any MIT graduate.

I love you, Red Faction. Just not in that way. In that other way.








Hey! Hey! Listen!

I just acquired my PS3! I took advantage of Sony Style's Cyber Monday deal, after a terrible, terrible experience trying to exploit deals on Black Friday. Now, while I know it seems silly that people in this day and age are waking up at ungodly hours to fight the traffic and insane crowds, I sort of have a soft spot for it. For one thing, I'm a big guy (muscular wise), and have little to no fear of long lines and nutso crowds. I'll throw-down an old lady no problem. Secondly, I snagged some sweet deals last year, so I thought maybe I could go two-for-two.

Well, all I got was a head cold standing out in the rain.

I should have known it would be a disaster when I arrived at Wal-Mart at 4am to see the damn store open and ready, people walking in and out 1 hour before it was to officially open. Hell, they even set up the dividers and barriers for the people to stand in. Wow. And since neither the website nor the circular said anything about ticket holding or doorbuster deals or allowing some people in early, I was absolutely floored. Needless to say, the inside and staff was a mess. (Also, Staples didn't even carry an advertised laptop I wanted, so double fail on my part.)

I ended up getting both online, so, I wasted 24 hours and all I got was sick.

But lessons learned. Now I have the goods!



Even my dog was excited for me!



Or maybe she was just wondering what I was doing with that camera phone.

So I hooked it up with all it's HD glory, and it is sitting comfortably in my den.



I've been having a lot of fun with the games that it came bundled with -- the first Uncharted and Infamous. Also, I got Metal Gear Solid 4 off one of Amazon's lighting deals for 20 bucks. Sweet.

I'm now part of the new wave of gamers. I feel relevant now. My PSN name is kjohnson1585. I'm not too creative when it comes to nomenclature.

So, I hope to see ya'll around somewhere!

Oh... and: ENGLISH MOTHERFUCKER, DO YOU SPEAK IT:



I most certainly do.
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