Lucien’s Review: Shadow of the Colossus (Remastered)

I remember when I was a lot younger playing the original game on my old PS2.  It was a game that helped redefine the medium as not just mindless entertainment, but as a new art form.  It was a simple premise with some astounding execution.  Sure, there were some flaws, but the game did what it set out to do.  I don’t hold it as one of my favorites, but it is a good time.  Now Sony has come together to remaster it.  Does it measure up to the original, or is it just another game with a pretty paint job?  Let’s talk about it.

Like I said, the premise is simple.  A young man takes a girl who has died to a distant land, where he heard there is a powerful force that can bring her back to life.  The force says that if he wants to resurrect her, he will need to kill 16 colossi.  That’s it.  I honestly like that.  It doesn’t force a whole bunch of unnecessary backstory in there.  You learn all you need to know, and then the story plays out.

The first thing to say about this game is the visually it is a marvel.  The effects have been brought forward with astounding clarity.  It’s unlike anything else you’re going to see.  On the PS4 Pro you have the option between visual fidelity and 60fps.  With the visuals cranked up, this game looks unbelievable.  The marketing all pimped out how great this looks and they weren’t kidding.

It also has this mode where you can take stills of scenes for screenshots and you can mess around with the visuals of it.  That’s kinda cool.  Caught myself playing with it for some of the epic views in this game.  Got to have a lot of fun with that.  It’s something you can completely miss, but for those who want it, it is a nice distraction.

What you need to know is that this game is not only a very simple premise but there are NO bells and whistles.  This game’s entire premise is about killing the colossi, and that’s all you are going to do.  I am glad they didn’t have this be a full-priced game.  It feels worth it for the price they asked for.  If you are looking for a game that will give you countless hours of entertainment, you’ve gone to the wrong place.  If that’s a deal-breaker for you, stop now.

Since this game is essentially 16 boss fights, the challenge comes from finding the weaknesses of these monsters and then exploiting it.  Each boss is unique.  Everyone has their favorites.  Mine are the ones involving flying.  Both the giant bird and the giant sky serpent are phenomenal battles.  I like how they really amped up the visuals of the boss you fight in the water by making it glow in places.  Kinda wish they had done that for some others, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Here’s where I get into my biggest gripe with the game – one reason I was genuinely apprehensive about this was that I was REALLY hoping that they would fix some of the control issues from the original game that did NOT age well at all.  The biggest being the handling of the horse.  That thing will fight with you the entire time.  And I’m sorry to say that they didn’t address that hardly at all.  They made mounting the horse easier, but that’s about it.  It genuinely feels like all of their shift on this was to focus on the visuals and not on the gameplay elements that really do show this game’s age.  That is a problem, and one that keeps bugging you as you have bosses where you have to depend on your horse and it is still fighting you.  Very frustrating.

Overall, this isn’t a masterpiece by any measure.  It’s a fun game that you can put on to marvel at the visuals and have some fun killing creatures vastly larger than yourself.  I don’t hate it, I don’t love it, but it’s fine.  Kind of a short review, but I don’t really have anything else to say.  It’s good.  It’s a perfectly fine game that didn’t recapture the magic of the original, but was fun to play.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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Top 10 Movie Villains

I’ve already done a post about my favorite video game villains, so now I thought that I’d do another top 10 for my favorite movie villains.  I may end up doing my favorite book and TV villains, but that’s a list for another day.  Film has some amazing villains, and it is hard to have a list for just 10.  Feel free to tell me what some of your favorites are in the comments.  Me and my friend Quinn talked about this for hours and I have come up with my list of the villains who stuck out to me the most.  I want to be clear that when I say villains, I mean characters or monsters who meant harm to the protagonist.  So it isn’t just creatures with bad intentions.  Sometimes it’s just a creature doing what it does without any malice at all.  Let’s get started.

10. Sauron
Lord of the Rings
I just love that this villain has so much presence all without having a body at all.  The reason he is so low on this list given the pure evil power he has is because in the film they categorized him as having a giant flaming eye.  In the books he had no form at all.  His evil was absolute.  When I do the book list, he will be much higher.  But this guy is evil with a capital E, and can corrupt the purest souls he finds with the promise of power.  He nearly brought Middle Earth to its knees, hence why he is on the list.

9. Capt. James Hook
Hook
This guy is so iconic!  I’ve loved pretty much every iteration with him.  Even the live action Peter Pan film from the early 2000’s, he was the best part.  Granted, there he was played by Jason Isaacs, who can make evil just roll off the tongue.  But my favorite version by far is the one by Dustin Hoffman.  Hook was a great movie.  The cutesy shit aside, this film had everything right.  The casting was almost pitch-perfect, with Pan’s kids being the only problem.  They were insufferable.  But never has this character had more character than when Hoffman brought him to life.  He was manic, he was diabolical, and he was so damn classy!  Hoffman could make this guy into quite the charmer.  He can smash clocks to pieces, then rally his crew to battle.  This guy was so much fun.  Not all villains have to be super serious.  This guy had it all while being funny as fuck from time to time.

8. Sid
Toy Story
Maybe this is my nostalgia goggles on a little to tight, but when I was a kid, this dude freaked me the fuck out!  Sid is so delightfully evil, but the thing that really makes him stand out among the villains on this list is that he isn’t really that evil.  Something you don’t think about as a kid but do when you get older is that he is honestly just a kid.  He’s a weird-ass kid, but he’s still a kid.  I’m talking to boys for the most part now, but how many of you have horribly mangled or mutilated your toys when you were really little?  It doesn’t mean you’re evil.  It means you’re young.  This character isn’t really malevolent.  He is just an ADHD little shit who has weird hobbies.  But man did that kid freak me out.  At the time I saw the film, I was around Sid’s age, and yeah, I admit to being weird little shit myself.  Scary, funny, but never truly evil

7. Shere Khan
Jungle Book
Disney has such an amazing library of villains to choose from.  I could make an entire list just of my favorite villains from their library.  But one of the ones that truly stood out to me was Shere Khan.  Not just because of the AMAZING voicework.  I mean pitch-perfect.  This dude is such a badass and he knows it.  This dude has absolutely zero fucks to give because he knows that anyone who fucks with him is dead.  And the entire jungle knows that if he is mad, you are fucked.  But the way he can be so damn classy just takes the cake.  He never raises his voice, but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he means business!  This pussy isn’t fucking around, and that’s what earns him this spot.  Scar wishes he could be this cool.  The scene where he interrogate Kaa is just the best.  He knows that the snake is fucking with him, but he just lets it go on.  So badass.

6. Predator
Predator (franchise)
It was such a hard pick between this and the xenomorph.  I knew I could only pick one.  But to me the Predator is much more fascinating of a villain.  It doesn’t kill people from some sense of malice.  It sees all other life as merely prey.  Does it care that we are sentient?  Nope.  That’s part of the fun.  We’re a lifeform worthy to hunt, and it goes after the biggest badasses it can fine.  A bummer that so many of the films with this creature are either really mediocre or suck.  I admit that Predator 2 is a guilty pleasure.  It hunts with violent precision, and will attack you no matter where you are.  It’s an apex hunter, that hunts the most dangerous game in the galaxy.

5. Mark Hamill’s Joker
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
A lot of people will be mad at me for not picking Heath Ledger’s Joker.  Or even Jack Nicholson’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I think both performances are amazing.  But here’s the thing, as great as both of them are, Mark Hamill always seemed to capture the madness so much better.  With Nicholson, you believed that he is evil.  Hell, he’s been playing that roll for forever.  And Ledger seemed to be trying to make a point.  But Hamill’s voice-acting was able to bring this character to life by having you never really being able to know just how insane he was, or how much he thought things out.  Violent, twisted, funny, and always having you guessing.  This character is iconic, and this film had him doing a great role too.  The scene in the councilman’s office was my favorite.  How he can go from being happy and taunting, to fearful for his safety, to twisted and evil in the span of a few seconds is just great.  There are a lot of great portrayals of the character, but Mark Hamill has always been and will always be my favorite.

4. Hans Landa
Inglorious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino has a real gift when it comes to making villains who aren’t just evil for the sheer joy of it.  He has this real talent for making three-dimensional villains who have a ton of depth.  I like it.  Nowhere is this more exemplified than in Hans Landa.  This guy is so damn charismatic.  He has all the class and charm of a gentleman, but has the twisted sense of darkness and evil of the biggest scenery-chewing Bond villains.  The thing I really love about this guy is that all of how he does is bravado.  Landa is in it for himself.  He’s a twisted, violent monster who can play it off so smoothly to Aldo that even when he is going to fuck him up, he still buys the narrative.  This guy is a twisted monster who can put on a sheep’s clothing seamlessly.  It’s pretty great stuff.

3. Hans Gruber
Die Hard
Another villain who is equal parts evil and classy.  Only Alan Rickman could have done this villain justice.  There is no other.  This guy is just the best.  He’s a cocky, greedy intellectual who is so in love with the sound of his own voice.  Hearing him play off Bruce Willis’ character is just the best.  Especially when they are in the same room together.  But this guy is sure of himself, and even when it all starts falling apart, he is cool and collected.  There’s not too much to say about this guy.  He’s just got the most charm that any villain will likely ever have.  It’s Alan Rickman at his most Rickman.  May he rest in peace.

2. Maleficent
Sleeping Beauty
Classy women who are evil can never, EVER be matched up with Maleficent.  This woman is badass with a capital B.  All it took is someone snubbing her by not inviting her to a party and she spins an elaborate plan to kill the daughter whose birthday she was not invited to.  The poise and elegance that this woman carries herself with is so profound.  Not talking about the live action version!  Fuck that movie.  The 1959 version of this character is what I’m really talking about.  I wouldn’t cross her if my life depended on it, because those who do learn very fast that the price of fucking with her.  When you do get under her skin, and make her mad, this woman will fuck you up!  Or your children.  No evil queen has as much presence as she does.

And my favorite movie villain is…

1. Velociraptor
Jurassic Park
When you talk about the apex predator, in my mind, there is not that can hold a candle to the velociraptor.  Not evil at all, it’s just a hunter.  But what it lacks in malice it makes up for in sheer cunning.  This creature will hunt you down and rip you to pieces.  The scene where the warden is hunted is just perfect.  He never stood a chance.  Before he even got started, he was dead.  These things are what nightmares are made of.  You don’t see them coming.  Their claws and teeth rip you to pieces.  You are still alive when they start eating you.  They feel no fear and you are no match for them.  When you’re out in the woods, alone, that’s what you should really fear coming after you.  Because once the hunt is on, it’s already over.  At least if you are the prey.  I love these things so much.  It kills me how the sequels fucked over the cool factor, but it is what it is.

What are some of your favorite villains?  Let me know below.

Until next time, a quote,

“Clever girl.” – Robert Muldoon, Jurassic Park

Peace out,

Maverick

School Shooting, Blame Video Games, Again…

I just love how this country is so eager to do anything it can to not talk about the issues after tragedies.  It’s amazing.  See, anyone who knows politics knows that the NRA is an insanely powerful lobby that brings a TON of money to politics.  So I know that no matter how many people get killed, or how many families get destroyed over those deaths, there will never be anything that will happen in the realm of sensible gun control.  I’ve said before that I am not a fan of taking guns away.  That would create yet-another black market, and I’m looking to get rid of the ones we have.  But there is no good reason why we can’t have it be that people have to be licensed to own a gun.  You gotta have to license to drive a car, so there is no good reason why you can’t have one to own a gun.  It’s only smart.

But all of that is just shit that I know won’t happen.  So we had yet-another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida.  17 casualties.  And just like every time this happens, the dim-witted American public and the ideologues who want you to not pay attention to the real problems facing this country are looking for things to blame.  As always, the first thing that people go to is video games.  Naturally.  It’s as old as their conception.  The endless thing to blame for what goes wrong in this world.  When all the rest of the developed world doesn’t have NEARLY the gun violence that we do, yet has just as much of a video game culture.

For the ideologues, this is no surprise.  We are STILL hearing about the Russian “meddling” in the last election.  Except the ONLY thing that they actually, allegedly (it has still not been proven) did was tell the public about Hillary Clinton rigging the primary against Bernie Sanders (which has been vindicated by the reveal by Donna Brazile, so for anyone who wants to argue, shut the fuck up).  Those amoral bastards, am I right?  Distraction from the real issues is so prevalent in modern politics because those in power know that the American public is full of some of the biggest retards you will ever meet.  You look at pretty much the entirety of the far-left and The Donald subreddit and you’ll see stupidity in motion.

Blaming video games is the easiest way for the ideologues to deflect people’s attention away from the real issues.  After all, to the uninitiated, video games look very scary.  See, Susan Dumbass sees her kid playing a game that has people killing other people and she just assumes that little Billy’s brain is being rewired to do violence.  Why does she think this?  Because it looks scary to her and her favorite talking head on Fox News said that it’s bad and we need to be scared.  Meanwhile, she’ll take her kid to watch films that have a ton of killing and it’s no problem.  She isn’t smart enough to realize that there is NO evidence of video games causing violence.  None.  There has never been.

People seem to think that all video games are just violent shooters.  That’s bullshit.  There are amazing artistic masterpieces like a game I just got – the remastered version of Shadow of the Colossus.  No shooting there.  Just an amazing spectacle about fighting massive creatures in order to bring the girl you love back to life.  Or you have the post-apocalyptic game Horizon: Zero Dawn.  There is shooting there, but it’s with a bow and arrow.  And most of what you are fighting is huge robots.  Or the episodic game with the art style and sensibilities of an Indie film, Life is Strange.  That’s a game about time powers and a girl solving a mystery.  Or my favorite Indie game, Journey, about a character traveling in a beautiful dessert.  Yeah, lots of violence there!

It’s so easy for the ideologues to market the CoDs or the Hitman games.  It’s easy to look at the blood and guts in DOOM and think that it’s scary.  But these people go so far out of their way not to see the artistic side, or the side of games that doesn’t hurt anyone.  They don’t want to talk about how the biggest shooter right now is Overwatch, a game that has no blood, no guts, and a cutesy art style that doesn’t make the combat out to be bad at all.  If they did that, then maybe they’d have to acknowledge that games are not all just “murder simulators.”  But don’t tell whatever that ignorant-ass Governor from Kentucky that.  He says we need to admit that video games are bad.  Um, no.  I’ll do no such thing.  I have intellectual integrity, unlike you people.

If you want to know the really horrible truth about shootings and this country, let me sum up how all of this really goes in a single picture.

That’s what breaks my fucking heart.  And you know what, that’s what Congress wants.  They want you to be kept complacent, stupid, and ignorant.  So that way, the two parties, who are the exact same party underneath their superficial “differences,” can make bank off lobbying money and swindling the American people.  But please, tell me again how an entertainment medium that has a very interesting correlation with the decline in violent crime is responsible for everything.  All fucking ears.

Until next time, a quote,

“What’s the point of talking if nobody listens?” – Huey Freeman, The Boondocks

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Incredibles 2 and the Death of Pixar

I’ve repeatedly said that Disney is pure evil and they destroy everything that I love.  They turned one of my favorite films into a fucking Kinect game.  That’s how bad they are.  They take good ideas or properties and turn them into shit.  Most recently with Star WarsThe Last Jedi was a dumpster fire, and if what I am hearing about the latest film in the franchise, it went through three directors, had multiple rewrites, and the guy who plays the titular character not only looks NOTHING like him (he’s a fucking pretty boy.  Nothing even remotely roguish at all), but can’t act his way out of a paper bag.  They had to hire an acting coach for him after shooting the bulk of his scenes.  So yeah, that will be a dumpster fire too.  I mean, they barely show this guy in the trailer for his own film.  If that isn’t a sign that this movie is dead on arrival, I don’t know what is.

Now we come to The Incredibles 2.  I really liked the first one.  It’s not my favorite Pixar film, but it’s up there.  A film about a family of superheroes, mixing some fantastic action, great scoring (the score for that film is phenomenal), and both superhero and human elements to make a great story.  It balanced out every character to give them an arc and show them grow.  It’s great stuff.  Then the trailer for the sequel dropped.

This film looks terrible.  So, we go from a story about a family of superheroes, to the mom being off doing stuff, while the dad is being a stay-at-home dad with superbaby.  Wow.  That’s so boring that writing it I felt myself lose energy.  Who thought this was a good idea?  I mean, all the creative potential that a sequel of this film could be.  Like, it’s been many years since the first one.  Why not age the characters up a little?  Have them dealing with the reemergence of superheroes in society and them being kind of swept up in things?  Or maybe have them still having to be in the shadows and yet still doing good, now accepting their desire to be heroes, yet still being trapped behind a screen of anonymity.  All the cool ideas are there, but what is the final product?  Stay at home dad and superbaby!  Oh boy!

It hurts me inside to think of how Pixar has died.  It really has.  While the death of 2D animation breaks my fucking heart (it is an art form that has died and will likely never come back in the way it once was with the old Disney magic), I did grow up with this company.  I remember seeing Toy Story and thinking it was crazy cool.  My favorite of their films, Ratatouille, is a charming story.  The Incredibles combines so many good elements.  This studio once was believed to be setting the new standard in kids movies story-telling.

Then Brave happened.  With that movie I felt something.  There was a shift in the films that they were putting out, and the content immediately starting getting progressively worse.  You’d have films that stand out in the crowd, but the bulk were either really mediocre or outright bad.  Plus, a lot of their staff was now under Disney directly making some of the biggest bargain-bin garbage ever put to film.  Films that were made only to help the influx of capital for the fiscal quarters they were made.

When I heard that they were doing a sequel to The Incredibles, my heart leapt.  Finally, a return to form!  Get some of the classy style that was modeled first in 2D drawings and then put to digital models.  Great voice acting, great score.  All the potential was there!  Then the trailer drops and I realize that I’m seeing yet-another bargain-bin movie that everyone will forget about just as fast as they did Monster’s University or Cars 2 (or the original Cars for that matter).  This kills me inside.

Disney is like the film version of EA.  They take IPs and studios with good ideas and then run them into the ground.  Does it not blow your mind the way it does mine that there are over twice as many mediocre/bad films in the Star Wars franchise as there are good ones?  Over six!  That’s insane!  Marvel has been kept from joining these ranks simply because Kevin Feige is at the helm.  Once he leaves, they’re next.  It took a man with vision and a passion for the source material to keep this genre from becoming bargain-bin shit too, and there are people who make the argument that the brand is getting old.  I think I have avoided this thought process simply because I only watch the films in there that I think look good. Pixar is gonna be their version of Visceral Games, one of these days.  It hurts me inside.

Until next time, a quote,

“Turians think they know a thing about a scorched-earth response.  Fuck ’em!” – Jack, Mass Effect 2

Peace out,

Maverick

Critical Examination: Ending Choice-Based Games

I do not know what it is with games that feature choice as a gameplay mechanic and finishing them.  Can someone explain this to me?  What is it about ending them in a satisfying way?  I am probably gonna answer my own question here, but any insight that my audience has would be appreciated.  It’s just that I do not understand why some games that feature choice as a central theme go so well, and others just plain suck.  It’s a mystery.  Let’s do some critical analysis of some of my favorite games with choice as a central theme, and analyze what went right and what went wrong.

The Wolf Among Us

For whatever reason, Telltale Games just knows their shit.  At least where their early works are concerned.  Now they are just derivative bullshit, but once upon a time they set the standard for how to do episodic games right.  This was an awesome concept and a fun game.  Based on the Fables comic series, telling a murder mystery involving a rundown slum where fairytale characters are living their lives is just fantastic.  You play as a grungy cop who isn’t a bad guy, he just has a very violent history.

The element of choice is central to this game, and how it plays with the concept to affect how everything ends with the setting, the villain, and the resolution was so well done.  Maybe it was because the story wasn’t especially complicated.  Or maybe it was because the story was the center of everything and the characters built around it.  I think that might have been it.  By keeping their focus on the story instead of the characters, they could keep the time spent having to develop characters and their relationships simple.  The mystery was engaging, so you do have to think about it.

A game where the plot is the central focus may be the best thing for this kind of medium.  This game, along with its predecessor, The Walking Dead, got it right.  Granted, that game was about a small plot involving a small bunch of characters.  It was able to strike the delicate balance between flushed out characters and flushed out plot.

Mass Effect

It bugs me so much how close this game came to being a story-telling masterpiece.  Had it succeeded, this franchise would have been the hallmark in a style of gameplay that would never and could NEVER be topped.  The way that the three games in the franchise (fuck Andromeda.  We never speak of that travesty again) built a steady narrative on a personal and galactic scale was just amazing.  All throughout, you could see real effects on what you did, both with the worlds around you, and with your party that you are brought to know and care about on a very deep level.

What I love is that the game had this nice thing where you can do really nice stuff but in a way where you are being the biggest asshole, which can sometimes lend to some absolute comedy gold.  Like in the second game, where you can yell down a bunch of admirals and basically tell them to fuck off, and still get Tali to not be exiled.  It’s awesome.  And if it weren’t for the fact that Morinth won’t come to my party, I’d have totally let her come instead of Samara.  I’m talking about the Citadel DLC, for those who are wondering.

Then we get to the end of the last game.  Everything after when the Victory Fleet goes to Earth.  And that’s where the game just DIES.  I do mean everything.  Nothing about when the Victory Fleet goes to Earth is fun.  Not one thing.  I built up a massive fleet!  I want to see what I got!  I want to see the Geth and Quarians.  I want to see the Turians and Asari.  I want to see the remains of the Batarian fleet coming out and being eager to start a fight.  I want to see Aria’s mercenaries.  I want to see krogans riding kakliosaurs riding into battle.  I want to go to battle with all the assets I had built up over so much time, and have every decision affect who lives and dies on a galactic scale!  What’s the point telling me about how I let Jack’s students become biotic artillery if I can’t see them in action!  I want to watch them fuck up the Reapers day!

The trailer for the game showed your fleet fighting it out on Earth, and that being central to the plot.  Yes!  That!  Let’s see how bananas this can get!  Let all of the decisions I made, from letting the Council live or die at the very beginning of the franchise, to which central characters I lost along the way factor in to the final battle.  To do that would be a monumental undertaking unlike anything seen before.  But it can be done.

A lot of gamers blame Bioware for how this all ended.  It’s not their fault.  It’s EA’s fault.  They were pushing hard for Bioware to get the game out the door before the new console generation dropped.  If EA wasn’t such a shit-storm of a company, maybe we could have gotten the ending that we deserved.  Where there aren’t just three color-coded paths to the end, but a plethora of challenged that you can pass or fail.  This franchise was poised to be the hallmark moment in a genre, instead it smashed its face on the floor sliding into the finish.  That sucked.

Until Dawn

This game had a fantastically simple premise – keep seven people alive until dawn.  Every choice you make factors into who lives and who dies.  Failure means losing one more person.  The first time I ran through the game, I had one person die.  But I never lost another.  This game was phenomenal.  How a studio who had never done anything like this before was able to get this done baffles me.

Unlike Mass Effect, this game was a very small story, but devoted equal parts to character development and relationship development vs plot development.  Because this was a very small game, and the punishment of your choice was pretty clear – people die.  You succeed in the game by living.  The ending will ultimately play out the same regardless of how many people live or die, but you are able to feel the consequence as the credits roll and the characters who survived are being grilled.  It’s good stuff.

Each choice you make in the game is as consequential as the in-game context that you are doing whatever you are doing in.  You choose to save Ashley when you have the choice of who to save and who to let die, it immediately sets your relationship up with Chris.  I liked those two, by the way.  They are a very cute couple.  When I got the best ending and the two kiss, it felt earned.  So many choice-based games tend to drop the ball with romantic elements.  Mass Effect 2 comes to mind.  That game had a bad habit of having characters in your crew who fall in love with you seemingly out of the blue.  It’s bizarre.  And since you get virtually none of them back in your crew in the following game, it doesn’t matter.

One nice touch in Until Dawn was the fact that the items you chose to examine and analyze comes back into play.  That was a really smart touch that went a long way for me in helping make the game believable.  It is similar to how things worked in another game that we will see later on in this list.

Now we get to one that I have a lot of things to say about.

Life is Strange

This game had the makings of something truly amazing.  An episodic game that had the potential to be the kind of Twin Peaks/ Indie film of the video game medium.  That aspect made me respect it.  For the first four episodes, it truly did feel like it was leading up to something spectacular.  Your choices don’t have massive consequences, but you can see the progression of all your actions as you go along.  Then it comes down to the end.  Ugh…

I’ve harped on this ending before, so I’m not going to go over all of it now.  Suffice it to say, if you thought the ending of Mass Effect 3 neglected your choices, you ain’t seen nothing.  That game gave you three color-coded options to make all of your choices count for nothing.  This game gave you two.  That’s right, two choices, and no matter what you did prior, it all ends exactly the same.  I just don’t get how this happened.  Here is my belief, and it comes into play in the last game on this post too – they wrote themselves into a corner.  Either that, or they didn’t have the budget or resources to make the last episode bigger.  See, to truly make your choices matter, and to pay off things like the tornado being a representation of countless timelines that Max created paying off, they would have had to devote so much more resources into the final episode.

Part of me gets that it’s hard to end a choice-based game.  To have meaningful payoff for the countless choices that every player would have made, it must be an astronomical undertaking.  But here’s the thing – if you are going to make a game like this, I think it’s on you to do it right.  The player is owed that.  People say that us gamers are entitled babies, and sure, sometimes we can be.  But this company decided to take the effort onto themselves to do this.  We didn’t tell them to.  They didn’t have to.  It could have just been a game like Gone Home, where you have to roll play through another story.  I just know that somebody will come into the comments and say that it is just like that game.  It’s not.  They chose to make this game one where the player is told that their actions will have consequences.  Being able to track those consequences and do it well is a massive undertaking.  Any game company who wants to play at that owes the player a satisfactory resolution.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Boy did this game really have so much fantastic moments where it rose above being derivative, only to crash and burn at the end.  The last episode of this game has two thirds that are just great.  It opens with Rachel acknowledging the closeness that her and Chloe share if you built them up as a couple by holding her hand and asking her to stay when her father is going to tell her the truth.  You have a moment where Chloe faces down her demons about losing what matters to her when Rachel is stabbed and she has to rush her to the hospital and show that she understand just how serious this was.  Then, everything that follows that scene is where it all goes to shit.

The last third of this game takes how the previous game gave you two choices that nix all of your choices before, and switches it over to one.  The final two choices you can make are ultimately meaningless.  No matter which you chose, nothing changes.  I said in my review of the last episode that I think it came down to them wanting to keep to the canon of the game that chronologically follows, and that is still true, but they also had to write a resolution to a story with more characters than it realistically needed.  Or it could have just chosen not to have payoff.  As an example, everything that happened at Rachel’s house could have been nixed.  No, should have.  It served no purpose.  We already knew that Rachel’s dad was doing some underhanded stuff to keep her biological mother way.  Now we need to have a subplot come out of nowhere about him being straight-up evil and wanting her dead?  And even to be helping a criminal get off scott-free in the process?  That’s retarded.

Nixing that plot would also have nixed the even worse final confrontation with Eliot.  Instead of having his plot end there, it could have ended with him meeting up with Chloe at the hospital.  They have been playing with him having feelings for her and you either being kind to them or not as the player.  It could have paid off with you making the final choice of what you want between them.  No big, right?  They could easily have kept this in canon with the game that follows this by having it just be another relationship that Chloe could eventually shrug off as her and Rachel got deeper into the drug game.

Finally, the last confrontation at the mill was stupid and didn’t need to be.  This game should have ended with Chloe finding Rachel’s mom and trying to convince her to come meet her daughter.  It’s simple, it can factor in your choices in how close you have gotten with Rachel by having your relationship play into the argument between them.  How the last episode got so poorly handled baffles me.  I thought I knew the reason why it crashed and burned at the end, but the truth is I don’t.  I really don’t.

Conclusion

Choice-based games are hard.  That’s the thing to take away.  I don’t think a developer should take on something like this unless they are ready to really go the distance with it and not half-ass.  We’ve see it done well, and done poorly, and in some cases coming so close to greatness that it bugs me to see it fail.

What do you think?  What games do you think did it well and which ones did not?  Let me know in the Comments

Until next time, a quote,

“Choice.  It all comes down to choice.” – Neo, Matrix Reloaded

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Venom – Official Teaser Trailer

This sucked!  This is the worst trailer I have ever seen, in the history of trailers that are meant to get people’s hype up.  What the fuck was this?!  I have never seen a trailer so bereft of essential material to what they are trying to market in the history of movie trailers.  This trailer could be for anything and I don’t think that anyone would see the difference.  This could be for any retarded action movie and people would not be able to tell the difference.  I hate this trailer, and it is making my expectations for a film that I am GENUINELY hoping is awesome fall to the fucking floor.  Can Sony PLEASE sign over the rights to everything in the Spider-Man film to Disney already?!  They can’t fuck it up worse than they have.  I could go on and on about it, but let’s show the trailer so you can see what I mean.

Do you see what I’m talking about?!  What did we learn in this trailer?  That Tom Hardy’s accent is odd?  I know that Hardy is an amazing actor.  I’ve loved him in everything I have seen him in.  Even in movies that I think are horribly flawed, like the last Star Trek film that he starred in as a young Picard, his role was still fantastic.  So what is up with his accent?  You know what, never mind.  Hugh Laurie’s accent wasn’t great either but I still loved House.

Where is the titular character?!  I get that this is an origin story, but only showing a brief little tidbit of a symbiote is not going to get me excited for this film.  They are talking about fucking Carnage being here.  They are saying it is going to be a violent R-rated film.  Why are they not leading with that?!  Let’s see some of the violence!  I get that it’s smart to keep the full reveal of the character for the film itself.  Too many films play their hand too early.  I do want to be surprised.  But you can still do that and have a trailer that doesn’t cheat everyone of at least a glimpse of what they are supposed to get excited about.

Let’s see some of Carnage’s violence?  He rips and tears people to pieces.  Let’s see some dismembered bodies!  Let’s see some of the twisted death in his wake.  That’s a neat idea!  Have a flash where we get to see him, or how about the titular fucking character?  Maybe have Tom Hardy finding the symbiote?  Why not that?  There are so many better things they could have done, and not one of them was done in this fucking trailer!

What blows my mind is how many positive votes it has.  Did we watch the same trailer?!  I don’t think so, because all I saw was meaningless voiceover that could be for anything, shots that could be for anything, without a single semblance of rhyme or reason.  This was actually worse than the Solo trailer.  By the way, that looks like shit too.  The pretty boy they got for the role looks NOTHING like the character.  That film will suck.  But back to this movie, this trailer was shit and it has set the bar incredibly low for a movie that I want to see and genuinely hope is good.

Fuck…

Initial Verdict
3 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Amy Hennig Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About

I hate when people inside the industry trash-talk elements of it and pull things right out of their ass.  EA shut down Visceral Games, an action that had a lot of gamers going “well, they got the EA treatment.”  As Bioware will after Anthem has more lootbox bullshit and gamers give it the finger.  It was genuinely nice to see gamers be able to come together after the disaster that was Battlefront II and be able to vote with their wallets against this sort of thing.  EA will be bringing the microtransactions back in that game, everyone knows that, but the real question is what will happen with Anthem.  I have no intention of playing that game.  I don’t do online MMOs.  But a lot of people are speculating that just like Battlefront II, Anthem has a lot of its gameplay elements centered around lootboxes.  Given that now the gaming public is openly fighting back against this, EA’s cash cow might also bleed money.

Which brings us to Amy Hennig.  After months of her Star Wars project being destroyed, she finally sat down for an interview and really tore into gamers.  In her mind, EA was somewhat justified in destroying her project, saying that gamers who claim that we like single-player games are not putting our money where our mouths are.  She says that last year had games like Wolfenstein 2 and The Evil Within 2 which both reviewed well and had poor sales.

Here’s the thing, Amy – I don’t know if you are aware of this, but people like me only have so much money.  I don’t have the capital to waste of things that I don’t like.  With my adulting costs, medical costs, and things like like, I don’t have the money to buy all the games that sound good.  I have to buy the ones that I really think are worth my time, and I’m selective about that.  It’s not like I get the money back if it was a bad investment.  I’m sorry that that means that I bought Horizon: Zero Dawn and Persona 5 instead of those other games.

Then she decided that she was going to say that EA is justified in its business practices because the cost of making games is too high, and it’s use gamers who are responsible for that.  Apparently, we are the ones demanding visual fidelity get higher and higher.  This statement bugs me on so many levels.  See, I have argued, many, many times, the I don’t need the most massive fidelity in order to like a game.  My favorite game of 2015 used pastel colors and very low textures intentionally to create a style all its own.  While I do believe the facial animations could have been improved, it was still a fun game with its own style that did not cost an arm and a leg to make.

I wish that more game devs would try unique things with the visuals in the medium instead of just subscribing to the most high-def design.  Take cues from Mirror’s Edge or JRPGs or Borderlands.  But even without that, I don’t need the most cutting edge amazing graphics to like a game.  Just give me expressive characters and a good narrative.  Is that so fucking hard?  Who are these people who demand the graphics be so insanely detailed and rich at all times?  I need to know who these people are and tell them that they are part of a problem.

Here’s another thing, Amy, if you want to make a statement about that, then lead the fucking charge!  Make a game where you use a different visual style.  Have it be all its own and show gamers that something different can be just as good as something that costs astronomically more to make.  Then we can stop having EA fuck with us and you fucking defending them!  Because these companies aren’t doing this because of rising costs.  They are still making astronomical profits, you fucking moron!  They are doing it because of greed.  They’re doing it because they see games like Grand Theft Auto Online and Destiny and they want to get in on that insanely lucrative pie.

It is occurring to me that linear, story-focused games may be dying in the AAA space.  I personally miss when devs were willing to make a AA game that could have a small budget and take more risks.  We are seeing some devs be willing to risk that.  Or they are willing to take their time and get things right.  But Hennig believing that the greedy and destructive practices is gamers’ fault bugs me.  This woman sounds bitter about her game being cancelled, and I get that.  I really do.  It must be so hard to watch something you put your heart and soul into die.  She said as much in the interview, not knowing how much creative energy she has left.  That’s sad to hear.  I hope she goes back to Sony, who has shown that they are not going to be abandoning the story-driven game.

What will gaming be in ten years?  I’ve said before that if story-driven single player games die, I’m done.  That will be when I leave the industry.  I don’t know how many people are with me.

Until next time, a quote,

“There’s so much grey to every story. Nothing is black and white.” – Lisa Ling

Peace out,

Maverick