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1:34 AM on 02.01.2010

Review: Global Agenda Starts Tomorrow


This is kind of a strange position I've fallen into. I was tempted, but never really thought I would buy this game. What actually happened was that I started talking video games a lot with a guard at the book store where I work at part time. He's a big TF2 buff and tipped me off about the Steam holiday sales. I bought The Killing Floor and Crysis for less than half the price of Crysis at its regular sale price (Steam commercial!) Then he kept going on about Global Agenda. His medic, apparently, could just run into a room, poison everybody, and they would drop like flies. I was impressed. That sounded really cool.

We talked about the game for the next few days, then finally one day he seems to be talking about it non stop. This, as I would soon find out, was actually a lead in to ask me, in exchange for a $25 Best Buy gift card, to purchase it and complete his team of four (necessary to make a good team for PvE.) Well, of course I took the offer, it practically cost me $20 (plus the 5 dollar markdown Steam already had on the game) to buy a new $50 game that sounded, from his description, to be pretty interesting. This was a pretty sweet deal in the end. Lastly, I also got the chance to get a taste of a game before it's official release (whatever the hell that means) like some kind of official video game journalist.

(I am currently planning to use the Gift Card for Mass Effect 2 as soon as I can get around to getting my ass to the local Best Buy.)

Ok, so all things are right in place for me... to do... a.. PREVIEW!!! Err, maybe it's technically a REVIEW?

...of Global Agenda.



So apparently the world of Global Agenda works like this: two factions, similar costumes, genetic cloning, robots, and 3rd-person, jet-pack driven multi-player firefights. It's pretty sweet. I'm not certain as to how in depth the single player really can be, since from what I've experienced so far, the MMO elements are all just an interactive world meant to get you into the action. It's kind of like if Shadowrun wasn't just a bunch of capture the flag/attrition matches, this is what they could've broken up the action with between matches.

There are multiple aspects to consider however. You can craft your weapons and armor, yet one needs to finish the PvE missions that a team of four complete together fighting in randomly generated maps of varying difficulties. The AI for the PvE missions is pretty good from what I've experienced. There's not a lot of stuttering and they aren't distracted by teammates when they have you on the run with low health. They also jump over obstacles and use cover when they've spotted you. It's not a walk in the park.

So once you've played through these missions enough, accrued some valuable experience and crafting materials, let the customization begin! Oh damn, well the servers went down soon after I had collected enough in order to craft any items at all. Well I guess I can tell you from what I saw, you can get some pretty interesting equipment, an elf hood, or some cool spiky armor. You know, rad shit.

Outside of PvE, you can participate in Mercenary PvP missions, which are variations of action/shooter multi-player game modes in which you can earn a tidy sum of denero or, just the old-standard, experience points. Yes, that is what makes this similar to most MMORPGs. The ability to customize your character in manner not too much different from progressing through a Diablo 2 skill tree. You can also allocate a limited amount of points to improve your devices (weaponry, explosives, and other basic items) to specialize your character to even greater heights.

Take my level nine (of the ten levels available before its official release) recon for instance (sn:Bad_Horse). Using his class skills I've made it so he takes less damage while cloaked and can move on the ground fairly quickly, so as to ensure he can catch up to you, stab you in the back, and fade into the shadows while taking minimal damage in the process. This makes him basically like a Spy from TF2, but, mind you, he also has a jet pack. He can also take a stim pack that allows him to jump to a rooftop in a single bound; and he has a sniper rifle. This makes things much more interesting.

I have to say I enjoyed my short but exciting dip into this new MMORPGFPS thing. It's kind of thrilling. It combines elements of TF2, Diablo 2, Shadowrun, and Everquest/WoW. It's actually quite a brave undertaking by Hi-Rez Studios. However, they're not all that innocent, since they are planning to make some features available by subscription.



The central feature being the Alliance versus Alliance portion of the game called Conquest. It's basically like General Chaos. Two competing factions, players can choose to join either one, fight to control certain territories. I never actually got around to participating in this part of the game, but it is apparently free to all players until March first. So if you're interested enough by the game's basic components, then now is the time to buy in order to test its expanded features without incurring any monthly penalties. There are some additional features that will apparently be available with the Conquest, you can check them out on their Web site. They also have their payment model available on there as well for when the Conquest mode kicks in.

I myself plan to never actually pay for Conquest. While I do enjoy the game's combat system and the character customization, I really don't think the game's that revolutionary to warrant the constant purchase for just the opportunity to play in guilds. Truthfully, it's basically a game that I wouldn't own if I hadn't been paid by my friends to play it. With that behind me, I do think it's a fun and refreshing entry from a young gaming studio into the fairly stale world of MMORPG-styled gaming.   read


10:15 PM on 01.30.2010

The Future: Whores Will Spill Out Into The Streets



I wanted to explain my last blog post. While it was harsh, I meant it. Whether or not SCMRPG is art, I wanted to point out the hypocritical, circular, and reformative logic sandorasbox employs in their argument. Despite the fact that they say they study art, there appears to be no possible way for games to be art. Here is where sandorasbox has gone wrong with the medium of video games:

I work at an institution that houses works of art. There's a pile of broken ceramic dominoes on the ground and on the wall there is a series of pictures chronicling its construction, arrangement, destruction, and dispersing outside of the corner they were housed in. All done by the hands of a group of artists. How could this happen? They have their own exhibition at a university-funded art museum. I don't argue that it's strange. I don't argue that it's correct. I only argue that art is not a topic to be denied.

One does not explain what's not art. It seems so impossibly and blindingly facile and pointless. If someone does not have the means to paint, they draw on the side of a cave. If one does not have the means to “make art,” then what do they make? IS this merely a craft? I don't understand this argument. Making a craft, doesn't that involve making some kind of utility? In what way are the majority of video games practical?

They involve hours of hard work by designers. They sketch the possibilities and elaborate from there on. Games take concept art created by an author (I leave this idea up to you) and grant that piece dimension. I say this examining games from a static approach. Looking at only its accoutrements and the elements (scenery, character design, etc.) that change only when replaced by the progression of story, such as almost every single aspect of Majora's Mask.

After you examine the static, then there's the addition of movement, sound, and control. Those are the basic elements of a game. “Control” is relative concept. The piece is a whole on its own, whether the player is there or not. Like any book, a game exists as whole unto itself. The game, whether truthful or not, still represents something. It constructs nothing more than itself. If that's too simple, then maybe I could liken it to the work of a dancer.

A dancer is able to contort their body into a variety of positions. In the same sense as how limber or flexible the dancer is, a game can only possess a specific range of motions. The code can only act within the boundaries it is supplied.

I guess this is the point where you can add those accoutrements. The stage and the sound are undeniable elements of any dancer's performance. Whether the dancer is one at a nightclub or a ballet depends upon what the dancer wants to accomplish and where the viewer places their self physically. This is also literally analogous to control. Arguably, you could say, according to the idea that games that you make a one-time purchase of are purchased (almost like a ticket price, but of course there are always downloadable indie games...) based on one's faith in the creator, then they are purchased for the sake of experiencing something of value. Optimistically speaking, this is a value that enriches the human experience. Is that not something akin to art?

Have our lives not been enriched by this experience in some form or another? We must think so, at least, since we're all here talking about how much we love the medium and banding together as a community. Unless sandorasbox is right, and we're all paying these (cash)whores for the next experience, be it a single purchase or more. Meaning that paying for DLC and subscription-based gaming are merely feeding a habit that is cheap to supply and high in demand. We're all broken creatures waiting to find accomplishment in the most high-tech place we can find it.

Now I can say this, if they are not already complete pieces of whoredom, then with time and the improvement of control of content (therefore, better for commodification) will they be 100% whores later on?   read


7:26 PM on 01.30.2010

"Super Columbine Massacre RPG is retarded...."



Why yes. Nicely put. That is a very nice distillation of what that game is. It's not like you didn't just feed the flames of arbitration and madness. What in the wide world of art was I thinking? Blast!

How did I not think of something so simple? My idea of art is too retarded to be regarded as important (not to mention the fact that I used your idea of art to label it art.) Well, I answered my question damn it. How progressive of me. Retardation never occurred to me.

While one game that uses a ready-made canvas to draw on (“poorly made RPGmaker game”) is arguably not as meticulously crafted as one that was coded from bottom-to-top like the game Cave Story that is reportedly “the closest thing to art the medium has produced,” it's not the correct kind of uncomfortable to be art.

It's less gothic than sandorasbox prefers it to be. It's too realistic. Err, that couldn't be right. It doesn't contain any sense of realism. Maybe that's the point? Eh, whatever, if sandorasbox says it's too retarded even to discuss a game that contains a message too sophomoric or unsophisticated such as this, then be damned the interpretation. Be damned the thought or cares of its creator. They might as well be cave drawings.

Where can we begin? Where does art start? Well, of course, it starts with sandorasbox. Where else could the gaming public find its guidance? This sand/box entity knows art, plays video games, and is able to place words on a page in a cohesive and compelling manner. Be damned the creator they don't know. Distinct lines have been drawn. Sandorasbox is the preeminent critic/paragon of video game art. They've expressed feeling, frustration, concepts, technical mastery, or whatever through medium and I haven't, so I the more retarded for it.

Oh god, how condescending this blog has been. I feel like an asshole now. Wow. I can't believe how angry that response made me. What an unintelligent critique. No consideration. My bad.   read


10:39 PM on 01.24.2010

The Future: The Inevitable Fork



It's a pointy, uncomfortable topic. You can use it to bite off more than you can chew, but most people use it to pick through leftovers. It's not too fun. I myself made the decision about this pretty recently. My decision was based primarily upon the concept of saving myself from continually making investments every 3 -- 4 years for the next upgrade. It was a long term idea. Having relied on consoles for gaming up until these past two years, it's kind of a shock. I found myself digesting the benefits before I had even realized that there was a fork.

It was about a year after the Wii's release that I finally bought one. I had made a lot of money from my recent paid internship and felt the need to reward myself with my first ever completely independent console purchase. At first I regretted this decision, since only a week or two earlier there was this really sweet deal at Radio Shack for a 360 plus any one (or two, I forget) game(s) available in the store. They had CoD 4: MW and a few other acceptable titles. It was a really thrilling offer at the time since I had already logged plenty of hours playing CoD 4 on my brother's 360.

I seriously rode around on my bicycle in their parking lot for half an hour weighing my options. Even by the time I decided to leave I had no conception that I would just buy a Wii instead of taking advantage of this amazing offer. Not too much time later would I find myself buying a new computer that happened to be a decent gaming computer in its own right. Meaning that this was not a gaming decision at its root. It was something that was going to happen inevitably since my Mac had just recently died after I purchased my Wii that summer.



I entered this one for a dtoid contest years ago.

At first I thought to only play multi-player games with my roommate. In the beginning I was hesitant to dive deep into pc gaming under the preconception that this style of gaming lent itself to addicts and other such unsavory characters. Needless to say, it was a scary move for me. I'd never had access to playing games online made so readily available to me with no concept of having to pay a monthly charge or to go to the local internet cafe. My next move would be to download Steam which enabled me to download next gen titles I'd only ever dreamed of having access to with my old second-hand computers.

Something had clicked inside me. I can play games in multiplayer for free. I have a lot more control over the content on my computer than I could ever possibly have on a console. The only thing I truly missed was the feeling of having a controller in my hand.

This is where my Wii comes in handy. I fire it up and once again I feel as though there is a purpose to console gaming. There are things consoles can access that for a computer it might be a little too complicated, or, more appropriately, awkward. Yes, a company could always adapt the Wiimote, or something similar to it, to work for a computer. The bottom of line is, however, I wouldn't care for that to happen. The Wii is just not something that my computer is accustomed to in terms of concept of use. My computer is a work area, in addition to being an access point for hardcore internet gaming and some modern, graphically high-end games, usually RPGs.



"I'm a PC."

The Wii can be a place for putting in long hours of intense gaming, but in a realistic sense it's not that much more than a substitute for movies. I can play for a bit and relax. I never feel worn out after playing a game on the Wii. As opposed to the end of a long session with Mass Effect, CoD 4, or Left 4 Dead on my brother's 360, which most often leave me exhausted and tense. Both experiences grant me with a sense of satisfaction. It definitely has something to do with the types of games available for the Wii, but more importantly I don't feel compelled to grind away for hours at a game on my Wii. I do what I want and move on with my day. This is how I like my console experiences to be. A little more push button and seamless, since I can't help but feel, after playing console and computer versions of a variety of games, that playing games like the ones that I've mentioned are a bit too slow and unwieldy when placed on a console.

With the 360, if I am subscribed to Xbox Live, then I am paying to participate and my participation depends upon the making friends and/or randomized server settings. The PS3, well, it's an investment in and of itself. You don't subscribe, but you certainly still have the console-style server settings. I just don't see the benefit. However, I do like the games that they offer. Games that I can spend nights working on, then fall exhausted into my bed afterward with a strange sense of satisfaction. The problem is that I can do that just as easily on my computer and remain a relatively productive human being in the meanwhile, switching between the game and my regular computing-related activities (like writing this Destructoid post.)



It's at this point where they split. It appears to me that consoles akin to the PS3 or 360 imitate computers and lure the crowds away by its stream-lined functionality. While the Wii actually provides a gaming experience unto its own that is hard to imitate by any computer I've ever come across. One of the most important distinctions to point out is best posed with a question. What best-selling game on either the 360 or PS3 does not use a split screen when playing a local multi-player match? Off the top of my head I can't name too many, while the Wii's library is filled to the brim with titles where the action fits into a single frame while multiple participants are in the same room.

What drives this kind of interaction is that Nintendo wants players to share in the experience of using the Wiimote. This exchange causes me to pause and reflect upon my own life in gaming. As much as I love completing single-player games alone much like reading any book, transforming my multi-player experience into a similarly isolating episodes, as MMOs do, seems to me to be too much. Not to mention that I'm paying to separate this from another medium I already spend a great deal of time sitting alone with anyway (my computer), I just can't buy into this concept. These are what LAN parties were made for; and with computer prices dropping and console prices on the rise, how could somebody accuse me of being elitist?

There is a fork. It is bearing down on the console. Or rather the console is barreling toward it. What the F &$% is the fork? To me it is the power struggle between software and hardware. With Project Natal coming soon to the 360, Microsoft has obviously seen something of worth in Nintendo's strategy. Though I have to wonder, whether Microsoft really hit this same fork or is it merely going to be another toy that accentuates the absence of real interaction, aka Sony's EyeToy?   read


10:45 PM on 11.11.2009

How the PSP Go Power Switch is Destroying America



There's a specific design flaw of the PSPgo I feel I have to point out to Sony. It is a particularly worrying design flaw due to the fact that it can kill your PSP Go. I am not saying this out of jest. Do not take it as a personal attack either, I am still (even now) a firm believer that Sony always intends to deliver the highest quality of electronics and accessories to its customers all around the world. It is just that the power switch on my PSP Go was the death nail on its tiny rounded-side coffin. Let us examine the features of the power switch and how its variety of functions might have turned my $250 portable game system into a 5 ½ oz brick.

So the power switch toggles up and down. Found on the lower-right-hand side of the console, it's flat featuring bumps to add gripping action. Once the operator presses their thumb to it, they must now navigate a treacherous road from this point on. Flick the switch up and it turns the system on/off. Flick the switch the other way and it locks downward to function as a hold button. The fact that the amount of force necessary to unrest the power switch from the "hold" position is so much so that if you're not careful you can easily find yourself with a powered-off PSP Go, should foretell a life of pain in the eyes of a product tester.

The feeling of mistakenly hitting off is not unlike “accidentally” slapping a loved one, then coaxing them afterward while saying that you never meant for this to happen. Even when I finally learned how to unlock my PSP Go without inevitably turning it off, accidents would persist. Fortunately for me, the PSP Go bookmarks the spot where you were last for any given media (except that I am not certain the same applies to games, but we'll get to that later), so I could get back to where I was last within seconds. However, and this is where our tale turns into a travesty, please do take a few seconds few turning your PSP Go back on.

As I exited my house, one of my not favorite songs started playing on my PSP Go. It was so not one of my favorite songs that I needed to unlock my PSP Go... oh shit. Ok, well I need to turn on my PSP Go right now, as soon as friggin' possible, because technology must bend to my quick-tempered will as fast as it can. Well, I slid the switch back up the moment after I had turned it off.

Then again after that.

Once more... Uh.

(Actually gives the PSP Go a second to turn off.)

Tries one more time.

God damn it.

I have yet to buy a game for the system and it is already broken. I have yet to spend a cent on it, outside of the screen cover, and a major flaw has already presented itself. I bought it a week into October and it's a 14 gig paperweight in the first week of November. Wow. My disappointment is complete. I have never experienced this amount of pain with a portable console before. Every Nintendo portable console I have ever played has been a tank. Surviving a dip in the ocean (GB pocket), my sweaty, cheese-dust covered hands smearing the crevices around the buttons (GB), and devastating blows to its bumper buttons (GBA sp), has taught me that a portable console relies on durability.

While this might not be the most representative test of the PSP Go, I do believe that I can tell when a system has failed me and not the other way around. What I suspect to have taken place is that either I jammed the “on” side of the switch or it is somehow stuck in a permanent state of hold. A practical phantom zone of malfunctioning equipment, my PSP Go has reached the top of my shit list and will never come down. This could be a combination of software and hardware failure, but I cannot be sure. I only hope that I am one of a thousand that experiences this terror, but I believe I am not the only impatient and clumsy gamer around. I guess it's just one more reason to dislike the PSP Go.

Somehow I am still optimistic about the whole ordeal. Outside of the fact that it is now not actually functional, my PSPgo was a fun romp into the world of the mp3/mp4/downloadable video game playing portable system. I did get a chance to play the demo of Patapon 2 (fun as a demo) and the free guitar hero game (it's confusing to have to transition between instruments) that accompanied the system. The button scheme took a little time to get used to and the analog stick is still as sticky as I remember it to be, but the package is styled in a superior fashion compared to the original in my opinion. It looks so sleek. Watching tv on something that can compact itself down to only a screen is really a sweet feature. In the end, though, it's basically an iPhone you can play Final Fantasy 7 on.

I know this ends kind of like a review, but it's really more of a love letter to what could have been a more fulfilling relationship had I only been given more time. How sad.   read


10:38 PM on 08.23.2009

This One's for Chad: The Dolphin Helmet

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In the Venetian sculpture exhibit at the National Gallery of Art there is a helmet, or burgonet as the Italians might have called it back in the day. This burgonet brought me back to a simpler time. A time when PS2s were still the rage. A time when DLC had yet corrupted our innocence and WW2 FPSs were still dominating the market in a sad, sad way. When we felt incorruptible, no?

Well, Final Fantasy 12 MMORPGed up the joint. The true break from the traditional FF turn-based formula. Now even the most Internet-less person could enjoy the feeling of power grinding in the same way as any PC gamer without the nuisance of human interference. More importantly, Venetian-style garments were back in vogue. Anybody and everybody could stat buff whilst looking like a Renaissance (Wo)man. It was beautiful, if it weren't for the ease through which one could beat the game it could have been so much more rewarding.

Dear reader, this helmet encapsulates the last Final Fantasy to be released of its own accord without the benefit of accompanying titles or a sequel already in the making even before its release. This helmet is dedicated to a simpler time and to a great enthusiast for the pixelated past. Chad Concelmo, here is the helmet for you.   read


1:22 AM on 07.17.2009

DoW 2: Orks in Progress, Part 1



Space Orks. The anti-space marine. They're a clanky, unrefined race that stretch the limits of realism in terms of space-travelling war machines. In Dawn of War 2, they have vehicle units that spew smoke and appear to be Frankensteined out of any parts available to the ork engineers and mechanics. Ground units are ultimately specialized.

With exception to the ork heroes, no single ork unit can be fashioned to become a stand alone unit. There is only one unit that wields grenades and only grenades, Jumpaboys jump (sometimes to their kamikaze-style death), nob squads smash, and shootas shoot. The two most dynamic units are sluggas and the rokkit unit. The former can repair and melee, while the latter can function as artillery and anti-tank.

However, the point of this article is not to break down strategy or give stats, but merely to discuss my own interest in this strange, albeit physically strong race. How it functions as an exception to most races in the RTS format. The manner in which their quirky strategy, or lack thereof, and characteristics as a race bend the rules of conception in terms of building an RTS faction.



The closest science fiction-based relation the space ork has is the reaver from Firefly. If you have yet to see Joss Whedon's Space Western, then I will just have to say go watch it, and you will be searching the racks after ward for a browncoat to proudly display your unwillingness to fall under the wheel of somebody else's concept of what progress "should be".

Well, much like orks, reavers just barely function as a space-travelling band of raping and pillaging aimless scavengers. In order to compete with their technologically superior foes they push their engines to the limits. They persist by raiding others and recruit through intimidation, torture, and mutilation. They revel in a world of ultra violence, yet still have managed to form a society all there own.

Unlike the zerg, which are creatures that maintain their society through a hive mind, orks survive through brutishness moving with a raider mentality. A religious or corporate-run society does not appeal to their lifestyle. If there was one word to best describe the style of government that an ork society would most likely adopt it would be decentralized.

The ork borrows from all races, absorbing almost none of the real intelligence necessary to innovate their army, focusing mainly on improving their ability to smash one as gruesomely as possible. Similar to the Viking, they thrive on war. However, they are less reflective about the afterlife. It's a civilization where all revolution of logic has ceased to exist.

A society without sentimentality, organized religion and business, self improvement, and vanity. They're not even necessarily efficient. One can only assume there is one belief/edict/hope/want/will/wish to understand here: strife.   read


12:53 AM on 07.03.2009

Art Over Game Play



So I finally got back into playing Okami on the Wii. It's really a surprising game. I find the combat to be repetitive and the dialogue to be a bit questionable. A lot of the items and weapons are useless. Even the graphical quality could've been improved just a bit for the Wii. With all of this riding against it, it's still an amazing game.

It's like that supposed new "category" of game created by a Sony exec, the Zen game. It's not about being innovative in game play, blowing your mind with its storyline, or even really challenging the player in any specific way. You are only expected to marvel at its beauty.

The shifting landscape, bright colors, and the bringing to life of classical Japanese scroll art all propel me along, more so than anything else. It's like Wind Waker, when little Link is just sailing around this astonishing ocean, I enjoyed exploration for the mere experience of traversing this amazing world. I still am not a fan of Zelda games, but that's another story altogether. I liked Wind Waker, because it dared to be colorful with no regrets.

If you want to look like a painting, like Okami, every aspect of the game must reflect that aesthetic. Not unlike Jet Grind Radio, which embraced the punk, funk, and speedy game play, it takes the graffiti lifestyle and puts it to motion. The music, the level intros, and the anti-authority theme. It blares beats.

Instead of being overly forgiving like Okami, Jet Grind Radio may have been one of the hardest games to perfect. Some of the jumps and stringing together of many grinds were frustrating so much so I took month long breaks from the game after many fits of rage. I overcame its steep learning curve and grew to love the soundtrack more than anything else.

Side note: When Jet Set Radio Future came to the X-box, I was very excited to try it out. Then I did, and found it to be a watered down, less fun and exciting version of the original.

Another strange game that I like its artistic direction more than the actual interaction with it is Battalion Wars. A friend of mine even expressed a positive regard for the cartoon-ish quality of this war game. Never mind its sometimes clunky unit control, which frustrates me about 30% of the time when a unit dies needlessly because I couldn't rescind an order. The bouncy, high-pitched voice soldiers and overly constructed super tanks put a strange spin on the war genre as a whole.

Framing war as a Saturday morning cartoon is a strange artistic turn. The different nations are all caricatures of modern super powers. They're all horrible clichés and the entire world is bumbling about swinging its weapons about aimlessly looking for the next major conflict, while the real enemy sits their lurking in the shadows. It's all very expressive, open, and blunt. It's political commentary, not inept design that some might think. This outlandish world was made to reflect our own.

Whether the world is brought to life by wacky generals or the stroke of a brush. The creators of these wonderful games are exposing their audience to absurd worlds, astonishing beauty, and even social and political commentary. Why, look at Okami once more. It's about reviving nature. You run through a wasteland filled with poisoned waters, desolated trees, and even some pieces of land that are so scorched that they harm the main character to even step foot upon.

You want to know what I think this game might be an allegory for? Post-war Japan. The bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. They irradiated the land. Fouled the beauty that is mainland Japan. Poisoned the waters. It's a wish of a painter to return the world they live in to one frequently archived with magnificent landscapes that fills scroll art from centuries past. I think it's a statement worthy of a game so beautiful. Whoever said a video game can not be a piece of art must be a soulless mass of flesh living in a dark unimaginative world.   read


4:08 AM on 03.13.2009

Call of Duty 4 Versus The World



The question I want to pose in this piece is, "why play 60 hours of multiplayer, when I could play 60 hours of numerous other games?" Where did my life go when I connected to XBL? My eyes have burned bright images of gunfire and claymore blasts. I could have spent that time chipping away at the other 20 games in my ever-burgeoning stockpile of story-rich RPGs and vocabulary-enhancing "My _____ Coach" games. Am I a poor unfortunate soul who can not help himself from having complete sensory deprivation within a hectic world of mind-numbing explosions and quick, yet painless deaths?

I can not help but feel the answer is an easy yes, but there are those times when there seems to be something insidious hiding around the corner to be the next ten-point kill. I am not a shy kid out in the world. I participate in class discussion. I live in a house full of eleven other people, with who I have very well-rounded friendships. I am a member of numerous student organizations. I go to parties and bars and enjoy myself. However, something about playing CoD 4, a game with a very specific purpose and set of goals, sucks me in and holds me there for hours longer than I can even gauge with a clear mind. The bullets fly and my brain becomes so attached that the time rattles by without notice.

With that said, I do not think I could say the same for any single player game. Oh yes, I play through my Final Fantasys and Bioshocks like I absolutely need to see the next smart line of dialogue or find out what happened to my favourite black mage character. Once I am done, I will not pick up that game for a long time. The memory remains fresh for a while and I have a fairly good amount of plot recall, so I do not feel the need to invest 40 more hours into the game. Call of Duty 4 however does not play the same.

This is one of those topics that has been of great debate. The "jacked in" feeling. The belief that when I shoot player x, then person x will be on the other end of that controller feeling a mixture of emotions. I would expect some anger, resentment, loss of pride, shock, embarrassment, despair, and possibly (if it was a really smart or impressive kill) respect. Those bits of feelings slowly filter into me. Every kill I execute feeds that expectation. I control the amount I want and when I make a perfect ass of myself then I can escape it whenever I want.

I guess, in a sense, I like the control of participation. Unlike interacting with an actual full and complete human being, given these terms I get to exercise the feelings I want to onto a fraction of another person. We mutually partake in this give and take scenario. I take their life and they come back to give me more if I wish (or have the ability) to do so. Whereas in Bioshock, I take from it the atmosphere, the story, and lives of AI-driven players, which in some sense are given to me by the developers. They are not active, though. The developers must slowly permeate the ideas they wish to impart upon me in a slow and deliberate fashion. CoD 4 allows for a quick and wild exchange between up to 16 players in the immediate now with surprisingly fresh quality.

These players all have their own concepts of how this showdown will play out. As much as there are teams (for certain game modes), they are certainly not all going to be tidy and go well together. They might as well all be there to kill each other in a split second. Thus this control of participation falls into place. In the English language there are many words to be said in an infinite amount of contexts in which they could be said. In a primarily multi-participant game such as CoD 4 words carry little meaning. The language is a brutal one. It is one where one person interacts with another by sharing each other's demise. A controlled participation. One with little room for mistaken meanings or with fairly limited real world repercussions.

All interaction is a reward for just having participated.

Thank you for reading this. I hope this does not seem like a lot of repetition. I did not mean to waste your time with this. My intention was to sort through my long time love affair for FPSs such as CoD 4, Battlefield 2, or Shadowrun. The feelings I have felt and the time have spent with these games have, in my mind, been significant. I wished only to offer this up as some sort of token to those gods that have controlled so much of my time. I hope this in some way to bring about some kind of understanding about why people (or at least just why I do) like to play games like this for such a sobering amount of time.   read


1:14 PM on 11.30.2008

Video Game Journalism: Talking About the Hype



It just occurred to me that is this what Video Game Journalism is for? To report objectively whether these hyped games are over hyped or not. I'm sure Sterling (in reference to the recent Midway post) and the rest get that a lot, second hand remarks by publishers and developers about how great this or that game will be, but then those same people get angry when the people whom are supposed to be reporting the details they themselves so love to aggrandize in their potential. I guess this relates to my last article, and theme I see rising in my writing here, "Nothing is new".

When companies like to stake claims about expanding the boundaries it always ends up to be disappointing no matter how satisfying the experience. They set themselves up for bigger and even more embittered disappointments when they create such fantasies and mysteries about their products. If you give people your purpose in creating this game straight rather than trying to up the bid in comparison to one other's work (unless you're The Beach Boys and The Beatles) it seems the more contented the consumer is likely to be with buying said game.

With lots of hype, one is unsure what they're really buying (the dream of the game or concept of the game, I leave it to you to decide which is better). Well, I guess the problem is that this isn't incidental a lot of the time. Sometimes this is used as a smokescreen effect to confuse the ill informed. Also the recent tension between media and medium has certainly become very apparent as of late, so allowing a reviewer the chance to stop development in its tracks or hurt sales is certainly on a lot of project leaders' and company execs' minds. So how much does industry unease enter into it is a problem. As well as advertising is certainly a concern for marketers.

However all this distrust and shady practice certainly has not helped either side. So how does a journalist look at the comments made by a developer? Well, obviously by reputation and a certain amount of reflection on the part of the individual speaking. Their name is attached to those words, so their job is on the line, but silence speaks volumes in this industry as well as seems to be the primary course of action for any big name developer. A lot of money on the line. So the journalist must know when it's worth to be so bold as speak derisively about anything specific and when letting things stir in order to allow the developer to make their own mistakes is a strength one must be well aware of in order to remain friendly with the machine that keeps on feeding.

Pussy footing aside, the journalist is a filter that the public should appreciate. One simply could not be a Mr. Universe of the real world and remain a functional individual. That is what I thought the intent of a newspaper (blog or, ugh, seven'o'clock news) was for, to be the middle man between the action and observer, not as a scary outsider. This might be overkill or a rehashing of past posts, but do you think so? Is reporting on hype really a report or more of a dissection? I appreciate the rumors, but sometimes the developers sound like a sound bite about every potentially "new" game on the market.

Also, cocks.   read


11:45 AM on 11.28.2008

That Reminds Me: Left 4 Dead & Kung Fu Chaos



Spending approximately 5 hours and nineteen minutes getting horribly thrashed attempting to complete the same last chapter in a game certainly affords one the time to fully appreciate the influences of this wonderful zombie busting action game. It combines the run'n'gun action of "Hunter: The Reckoning", while retaining the HL2-quality of an FPS. It's like a next generation Guantlet, yet without the overextended level design and ridiculous amount of levels as well. They obviously set out for one purpose, to make a simple, effective, and flexible (future DLC, no?) zombie masher and they accomplished it.

However, I think this game certainly contains some of the attitude of an old X-Box title from about five years ago. It plays like a simple button-mashing side scroller for some parts and then a series of mini games for other leveld, it secured itself a place in my heart as being a standalone example of creative and fun gaming. I bring up Kung Fu Chaos as an example not because it's also four-player, it's also deceptively long, or because I've played too much of either. I am mostly interested in its use of cliche and film.

Cliche



It drives the characters, they're all the same characters you've seen everywhere else. Mysterious ninjas, fighting princesses, disco queen bad asses, biker dude burly bastards, and old grizzled warriors that should otherwise have their driver's licenses revoked for reckless driving had they not been shoved out back into the battlefield "one last time." It's so strange how this meme picks up, but Valve and Just Add Monsters understood the strength that such old rehashings can provide a game's structure and they did it despite the transparent reasoning behind it. (It's a lot easier than pretending to be creative).

What do they do so well?



However where cliche exists, originality can foster. Kung Fu Hustle creates such a bright and cartoonish world, I've forgiven it's flamboyant "evil director" character in favour of understanding and strongly appreciating the liveliness of the world it illustrates. Much like Okami, its bright colors and fluid design creates an impressionable world with cool bosses and a flurry of cinematic flourishes. The beginnings of each level are framed by a golden film grain and the director only demands exceedingly magnificent results each level, with the bar set higher for even greater rewards. This game builds from where others have only managed to achieve.

Not unlike Left 4 Dead, which somehow actually frames its levels the same way. This is a movie set and you are merely players shooting actors. However, the greatest performance of all comes from the zombies and the baddies that strike with such ferocity. As my brother and me stretched into our third hour of attempting to clear the last chapter of the second scenario, I began to understand my enemy's place. Specifically, the implications of each "boss" character.



A self-destructive glutton, a self-loathing witch, a vice-filled (literally, he's made of nicotine) strangler, a wrathful simpleton, and banal mass of passive consumers. The enemy is something to fight, because they might destroy you as much as you might become one of them. The player becomes the actor. The individual becomes the mob, or the destruction of the mob versus the individual as this case may be. This is a movie. You are merely replaying the action sequences. The end credits will roll. As they indeed do for the end of each Left 4 Dead "movie".

Where this leaves us?

Kung Fu Chaos and Left 4 Dead are movies in action. While the former creates a vivid cinematic experience each level, the latter sets the player versus various vixen and vermin with the intent to either end the movie with escaping survivors or just with the dead. Thus in using cliche to build their worlds, they manage to eek out some sense of a deep narrative that might have otherwise been lost in post prouction.   read


9:14 PM on 11.24.2008

A Time to Build: Thanksgiving Break

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Be grateful for the time you will have to finally finish the Punch Out! game you downloaded to your WIi. Be grateful that a lot of classes are canceled this week and finals are going to be a breeze. Most of all, be grateful that your brother bought Gears of War 2 and rented Left 4 Dead just at the right time for you to come back to your home and not talk to your parents or visiting relatives.

Thanksgiving is the time for gamers all around the world to add one portion of that game they've been meaning to play for so long to their unhealthy holiday gaming habits. We shall all share in the gentle warmth of new games released, old games ported, and any other game revisited.

That new Iron Chef game might help out with prepping that stuffing or carving that first slice. The new Chrono Trigger might teach you never to fuck with time and be grateful for the time you have at a table you share with people you are only somewhat more familiar with than the characters you know in the games you will most likely be thinking about with the people at that table.

Remember past Thanksgiving parades? Well now this year's parade will hold special meaning since it will most likely resemble the zombie apocalypse that you face each time you start up another game of L4D. Imagine any annoying floats as merely the representations of roving zombie hoards, such will be the joy felt with each disgusting band of clown firefighters or bobble-head characters stumbling down the avenues.

Imagine what floats or costumes could have been. A big daddy lumbering down the street? A Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo Float? A "Mega Man jumping" giant balloon? A Reggie meat burger palace float? Mushroom kingdom float? A Warthog cruising down the street, with an army of space marines following in a march, and possibly a Halo marching band? A Destructoid Balloon? The list goes on.

Turn Thanksgiving into your own feast of gaming fantasies and pleasures. Build a Thanksgiving parade to video games in your mind (or maybe in jpg?).   read


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