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Saturday, July 2, 2011

L.A. Noire

There seems to be a lot of talk about how L.A. Noire isn't really a game, or that it is just a reboot of the old point and click adventure games. The people who want to reduce this game to derivative tripe are just near sighted ass weasels. L.A. Noire is the latest venture from those who wouldst entertain us which seeks to blur the line between video games and interactive movies. And it does a damn fine job of doing just that.

To say that it isn't really a game is stupid. You put the disk in your Xbox and you play it. End of story. To call it a point and click adventure.... not so much. Those games required a bit more logic and decisiveness, there was no gray area. You either solved a puzzle or you didn't. End of story.

What we really see here in L.A. Noire is a situation where everything is pretty well laid out for you in a fairly straight path, and while you may wander off for a bit and play around in the massive, seething 1940s LA sandbox universe, essentially all main quest plot points are neatly laid out for you and you can't really fail at solving a mystery. You can simply delay the solution by wandering off in the wrong direction for a bit. Essentially, you are on a rail. Some people find this upsetting. Those people make me sad.

These very same people may have also disliked the illusion of control that your choices gave you in the recent game Dragon Age 2. I for one, find very well crafted character and scenery quite distracting from the developers machinations and I suspend my disbelief and am willingly lied to in order to be taken on a journey. To experience something new and fresh which has not yet been experience by mankind.

What we are witnessing is the birth of the newest form of storytelling. This is perhaps the most ancient of all human art forms. Traditionally we follow the adventures of a protagonist. We identify with his journeys, his struggles and we find them enlightening, cathartic even. This end has been achieved through oral tradition, written novels and the like, and most recently film and television. But Yea. Behold. Now we enter an era in which not only do we watch and listen to the story, but we also participate in and sometimes inconceivably shape the very stories laid out before us.

The ability of a company like Rockstar to unite so many disparate elements of production, so many stages where things might have gone wrong, and to distill it down into a finely crafted story, with some of the finest digitized acting and scene design ever fabricated is nothing short of compelling. Yes, its not a true sandbox game. But the sad truth of a sandbox game is that the story is not very strong or well defined. Inevitably the story, when left to the devices of the users, becomes something along the lines of the tale of a young upstart gentleman who devolves into a series of violent hooker beatings and car thefts that eventually peters out into a tale of boredom and ultimately leaves one wondering why GTA 87 was even made in the first place.

But to craft something. A real story. With real people, twists, turns, revelations, and heartache. That is an achievement. And yes, it does hearken back to the old point and click adventure games because back then story mattered. Characters mattered. Maybe, just maybe, we've gotten to the point where the graphics race has come to a plateau, and rather than resorting to the newest SFX orgy explosioneering, game developers are going to return to the helm of the old art train and start cranking out some classic mythology for future generations.

One can only hope.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mortal Kombat Review, Dead Island Trailer

For all of those who have missed it on our YouTube Channel, here are my two video reviews. One is a response to the Dead Island Trailer and the second is to the disappointing Mortal Kombat Web Series. Now please know I do respect what they have done, I just want MORE!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Your Heart's Desire

First things first - Check out Episode One 'Going Pitbull' on TheGameRev.Com. It is now a fully operational battle station.  Kiss your Alderaans goodbye ;)

Second.  The interwebs are abuzz today with the ire of unsatisfied lovers.  I'm speaking of course about the romance options in Dragon Age 2.

So we have someone putting forth this notion that somehow Bioware neglected their main fanbase - "Straight Male Gamers"   (Bioware Social Network).  Now, in a game where females of all races are more often than not a) attractive and b) well endowed, this premise seems to me a bit farfetched.  Not to mention that nestled in the heart of his rant, our poor angsty, hetero protagonist makes the concession that there ARE in fact two options for him but he doesn't appreciate the fact that they are "Exotic" options.  LOL.  This meaning Isabella is NOT WHITE and Merrill is.... AN ELF.  I don't want to call Elf Racism, but I have spent an awful lot of time running around as a sexy Blood Elf Paladin, and that comment cuts me to the quick.  Ok, so what.  He's not into elves and dark skinned chicks.  But way to dismantle your entire thesis.  The Bioware rep makes, I think, a good rebuttal to his post on the forum link above.

We all know that I on the other hand tend to side a bit more with's Tycho in that I primarily play RPG's as a female.  And as a female, I take joy in flaunting my virtual sexuality every chance I get.  Every time the option to hit on someone comes up I'm on it like green on orcs.  It's fun to explore your options.  Yes, I would like to see if the Brooding Elf ex-slave would take me.  I know my mother disapproves, but he reminds me of Wolverine, and simply I can't STAND that everything I do somehow racks up rivalry points against him.  At least if I get him to sleep with me I'll have THAT to lord over him.  But NO.  He DID sleep with me, and then he broke things off.  What, I'm not pretty enough for you??  Is it my face tattoos?  My red hair??  You're just not into humans, WHAT?!  JUST LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU IS THAT TOO MUCH TO FREAKING ASK???!?!!!  Then there's Anders the slightly fem demon possessed Mage who just can't take a hint or Merril who I quite frankly find annoying as hell, but hey she's a chick and that's kinda hot.  Of course there's always Aveline who's butch and totally unappealing as a woman, but she's into that templar dude and that just makes me jealous.

What strikes me most about this dialogue is that it is happening at all.  People are experiencing the real world perils of romance in the comfort of their own homes.  This is a new age of voyeurism, of experimentation that allows us to see and feel things we never would on our own.  Have I ever hit on an insecure elf girl moments after helping her kill her mentor and entire elven village IRL?  Nope.  I'm not even sure I've actually ever hit on a girl before, unless you count  that one time I asked a cute girl for directions to the post office while I was standing DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE POST OFFICE.  Then I tripped on my shoelaces and fell on an old lady with a walker and an oxygen tank.  She was fine.  I was so upset I got the hiccups for an hour and started playing FrontierVille.  Oy.

If Bioware can create a game that causes a person to experience the kind of hopelessness and frustration that real life romantic endeavors do every day, I think they deserve a slowly building golf clap.  Well.  Done.  We've all had our hearts broken.  When Aerith died in Final Fantasy VII, who amongst us did not rend our garments, gnash our teeth, and search desperately for the mysterious WHITE MATERIA that would return her to us for the entire remainder of the game?  Years later I still feel compelled to search from time to time in the hopes that someone, somehow figured out to bring her back to us.  So sweet.  So pure....  The point is this.  I care.  I care about fake characters in a fake world and I care about their fake feelings towards my fake avatar.  And while all of this is, well, FAKE.... It feels REAL.  And that means it's working.  

Straight male gamers??  Let me tell you something about straight male gamers.  Some of us are cool, some of us are not.  Some of us are kids, some have wives and kids and jobs.  Some of us play as straight male dwarves, others as bi female humans.  But if we can experience something in a game that causes us to grab our keyboards and reach out to the electronic universe to shout publicly from our virtual windows, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!!"  Then it's working.  They are doing something right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jump, Jump, GO!

Ladies and Gentlemen.  We are witnessing a rebirth.  A new era is emerging.  One that is familiar, yet all the same new.  And crowning.  Ok, bad phrasing.

Thesis: We have entered a Rennaissance of Platform Gaming.

I myself have been guilty of saying things like, "God, I'm so sick of all these First Person Shooter Clones!  Doesn't anyone have anything NEW to make?!"  And even the other day I overheard a lady gamer (yes, I know ladies *plural*) say that everything these days is just Wolfenstein 3D.  Which is obviously not true.  And yet it has the spark of truth.  There seems to be a tendency towards Shock and Gore over Quality in games these days.  Or at least I used to think that was true....

The other night I was so bored with *UNNAMED MMORPG* that I could spit.  It was time to move on.  So I booted up Xbox live and downloaded the little engine that could - SUPER MEAT BOY.  And holy hell am I having fun.  It's amazing how something so simple as jumping from platform to platform toward an endpoint can be so challenging, invigorating, and charming.  All it takes is some inspired art/scoring, fun and appealing character design, and well crafted game mechanics and suddenly I'm transported into another era.  The era of my youth where nearly EVERY game was some variation of the platform.  Super Mario.  Wizards and Warriors.  * THIRD GAME WHICH FULFILLS LIST CRITERIA*.

But let's think about the last couple years and what Xbox Live Arcade itself has been able to unleash on us.


And then there's Kirby's Epic Yarn on the Wii.  I'm sure I'm forgetting other examples as well.

Here we have a genre which has more or less languished since the dawn of FPS.  And I'll admit I was not the least bit sad to see it go.  At their peak, platform games seemed to get redundant, repetitive, and retarded.  Nothing was progressing.  I was tired of getting knocked into water by an offscreen bat I couldn't anticipate coming at me.  Why can't my superpowered character survive a little H2O?  I can shoot lazers out of my eyes, but I never learned to swim??

But now we are seeing FPS begin to languish inartfully (I take it back Portal, I take it back!!), and new technology and the ease of promoting indie DLC has brought us innovation we never saw coming.  And I'm loving it.  Bring it on, developers.  Bring me quality and joy the likes of which mine eyes have not known for well on 15 years.  Give me back my childhood.