Lucien’s Review: God of War (2018)

Holy shit.  I just went through an experience.  It was a pretty damn awesome experience.  Sony is showing that it does single-person games like nobody else.  Both my favorite and second-favorite games of last year (Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, respectively) were Playstation exclusive.  In the age when you have companies like EA saying that single player isn’t what people want anymore, Sony is showing them just how wrong they are.  It’s pretty great stuff.  And thus we get a game that isn’t a reboot, but an actual sequel to one of the greatest franchises of all time.  But this is a game all its own, and while it isn’t perfect, it is so fucking awesome.  Let’s talk about it.

The first things to know about this game is that it is NOT for the uninvested in this franchise.  If you aren’t aware of what happened in the previous entries of the game, you are going to be SO lost.  Everything from where Kratos gets his unbelievable strength to why he is so dead-set on not telling his son the truth about what he is and where he comes from will fly right over your head if you don’t know what happened.  And the game doesn’t exactly help that.  There is no true exposition dump, but given how the game is set up with one of the most marketed mechanics, maybe that’s for the best.

Next, a lot of people have said that this game is riffing pretty hard on The Last of Us, and I would be lying if I said that I can’t see the influence.  But there are some pretty clear places where it differs from the other game.  Lastly, this game controls VERY differently than any God of War game up to this point, so if that’s a deal-breaker for you, then you’d best give this a pass.  The older entries were all about fast-pacing and combo build-up.  This game is about strategic combat and good use of power-ups.  There are even moments where you have some Dark Souls peek in.  But it also fits with how this game is designed.

The plot of this game is where you have Old Man Kratos (yeah, it feels like an Old Man Logan kinda story) in Norse mythology land.  After the events of the previous game (which they never really say what happened.  Like, how did Kratos get there?  How did he survive stabbing himself with the Blade of Olympus?  Who is Atreus’ mother?), he has fled Greece and the utter destruction he left in his wake and started a family in this new land.  Having met a woman, fallen in love, and had a child, some unknown event happened and the mother died.  The plot of this game is pretty simple.  Kratos and his son Atreus are taking the mother’s ashes to the highest peak in all of the Nine Realms.  But as with anything associated with Kratos, what stars as something simple becomes something very complicated.

What do I love about this game?  There are a lot of things.  For starters, while I wasn’t expecting the slower pace in combat, I got into step and began to see things more strategically.  You start with the Leviathan Axe, shield, and your bare fists.  But over time, you gain a new weapon.  One that should be familiar to everyone who played the previous entries.  The moment when it revealed that you get your old standard back, I was giddy as a school girl.  The nostalgia factor was palpable.

Which brings me to the next thing I love.  This game knows what franchise it’s in.  There are moments, a lot of moments where Atreus is talking about the crazy things that his father is doing and making it sound like this is such a crazy thing, and you’re thinking “oh kiddo, I’ve faced worse.  A lot worse.”  This game does a good job putting you in the seat of being Old Man Kratos, partly because of how this story is told.

They did change the voice actor for Kratos, and it isn’t the worst pick.  This guy is actually what I think of when I imagine Kratos as an old man.  The deeper voice is pretty alright.  Which made it annoying when there is a scene in Hel and you have this other guy doing the voice of a younger Kratos who appears in flashback.  Why?  It totally would have worked to have this dude be the person who voiced Kratos as an old man.  Why not have the older version for a scene referencing what happened in Greece before?  Kind of an homage.  They had the same voiceover for Zeus, so I just don’t get it.

Next up, I love the characters.  Everyone you meet in this game has so much personality.  What’s more, it’s pretty great to see Atreus being all youthful and nice with people, while his father is still the ultimate prick.  Part of why the voice change works is because this guy is still such an asshole!  He got the Kratos character down to a fault!  It’s pretty great stuff.  Which brings me to Atreus.  I like this kid.  For the most part.  For the first two thirds of the game, this character is a nice contrast to the cold, dark, violent mannerisms of his father.  His kindness and optimism, and the way he talks about how his mother was a lot like that, makes me really come to care for him.  It makes a scene later when he is horribly sick and potentially dying that much more impactful.  That being said, in the last third of this game, they give this kid a HUGE character shift after the truth about his existence gets known that just bugs me.  He does eventually come around, but for a while there the little bastard was downright insufferable.  Props to the voice acting for Atreus.  The kid they got for this was on point.

But don’t go thinking that Kratos is just a stick in the mud the whole time.  This guy has some real character development.  It is pretty awesome seeing how his character grows over the course of the narrative from a stern asshole, to a loving father who genuinely does care for his son and wants to do right by him.  I feel his compassion there as he talks with Atreus and more and more becomes a loving and outgoing father.  At least as much as his Spartan nature allows him to be.

I’ve spent a lot of this talking about the story stuff, but for those who read my site, you know that the story is the thing I care for most.  If that sucks, it doesn’t matter how the rest of the game is.  Let’s talk about some of the other stuff.

This game is GORGEOUS!  I have a basic bitch PS4, and it looks absolutely stunning.  The visuals are a cut above.  It’s not Uncharted 4 levels of detail, but it is still downright fantastic.  I love this game’s visual design so much.  Some of the Nine Realms aren’t especially interesting, but when this game shines, it really blows me away.

One thing that I am surprised they didn’t get very well was the sound design.  The soundtrack for this game is really…forgettable.  It doesn’t stick with me the way any of the other games have.  I can still hum some of the tunes from God of War III pretty clearly, but not this game.  In fact, there is a very large amount of quiet time where you are just listening to the environment.  It’s kinda nice.  But then the music that does kick in, it lacks a certain amount of punch.

All in all, this game is damn-near a masterpiece.  It’s one of the most engaging narratives I’ve played in a VERY long time.  A lot like Uncharted 4, it feels like a logical extent of the story, and while there are a few things holding it back, it’s pretty damn great all the same.  And this is the FIRST of the PS4 exclusive games this year.  Sony is really coming out swinging this year, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Advertisements

Video Games are Fueling the Rise of the Far Right! Right? (A response to The Guardian)

I swore that I would never go after this publication again.  They officially became too low-hanging fruit after the article about how emojis are evil.  That was the point when I decided that they are so stupid that responding to them is a waste of what little intelligence I have.  But dammit, they make this so easy!  And now they are going after a hobby that is near and dear to my heart, saying that since the inception of video games, they are helping fuel right-wing ideologies.  This is so ridiculous.  When I saw this article being talked about, I had to make a response.  Here’s a link to the article, now let’s talk about it.

Gaming cultures are connected to violence – but should be considered in terms of the rise of far right political discourse and the prominence of “alt-right” misogyny and racism.

Oh boy, I am sure that you are going to find a very concise, totally not bullshit way of demonstrating this point of view.  I’m sure you are.  I’m sure that there won’t be any buzzword usage and emotional appeal slathered all over this crap.  Not even a little.  If there’s one thing the far-left and the far-right have in common, it’s bad argumentation.  I love them for it.

The white male supremacy in gaming has been discussed in the context of the harassment campaign Gamergate and via the link between Trump and gamer message board threads on the 4chan website.

So, where do we get started on why this is bullshit?  For starters, I am not going to go through all the madness that was #GamerGate and why you’re wrong.  I’m going to let the archived videos of Internet Aristocrat do it for me.

As for boards on 4chan being for Trump, so what?  People online talking about politics.  I’m sure that gaming has a connection there.  Like I said, bad argumentation is the cornerstone of The Guardian and their “news” coverage.

Games are ideological constructions which push a set of values on the user. Like television and film, they often support the ideologies of their context: in the Bush years, American games endorsed aggressive foreign policy; since Brexit, British games advocate isolationism or nostalgia for empire – and the prominence of anti-Islam games in the 2000s tells it all.

Wow.  Notice that they don’t list a single video game to back up their claims.  None.  It’s almost like the person who wrote this doesn’t actually play them.  Maybe they just studied up on Anita Sarkeesian’s old catalog of videos and didn’t actually do any real research.  Another cornerstone of The Guardian writing – bad research.

I wonder if I can think up some games that didn’t pander to the Bush doctrine.  Maybe games like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.  There, you have an American operative who is used by his government to kill his mentor/lover in order to get secrets that the Americans didn’t want to get out to them.  He was used and then, when he finds out how deep that well went, chose to disavow his loyalty to America and become a mercenary.  That was one example off the top of my head.  Idiot!

However, video games have at least two unique features compared to other media.

I can’t wait to hear this.

First, rightwing ideologies have been overrepresented and dominant throughout the history of video games. Although affected by context, video games have long focused on the expulsion of “aliens” (Space Invaders to XCOM), fear of impure infection (Half-Life to The Last of Us), border control (Missile Commander to Plants vs Zombies), territory acquisition (Command & Conquer to Splatoon), empire building (Civilization to Tropico), princess recovery (Mario to Zelda), and restoration of natural harmony (Sonic to FarmVille).

I’m dying!  This is so stupid!  Oh my Groj!  Why is this so dumb?!  Alright, let’s break this down.

First, it’s a right-wing ideology that when a hostile alien species invades your planet and is blowing everything up to fight back?  Really?  So would the left just lie down and let themselves be destroyed?  Is that what I’m to infer?  Notice I said a hostile race.  These creatures are openly killing people.  This isn’t aliens coming to Earth and then saying “hi, let’s make peace” and we just kill them.  It’s them coming and immediately attacking humanity and killing people.  Is the lesson here that this is a right-wing sentiment?  If so, I am REALLY confused as to what the left-wing approach is.

Next up, we have an “impure infection.”  The head-crabs in Half-Life are an alien life-form that takes over the bodies of people.  They are an actual infection.  Same with the Cordyceps in The Last of Us.  That infection is actually based on a real-life infection that happens in insects.  There are dozens of species of this fungus, all of which are tailored to one specific bug.  The concept of that game was that the infection jumped species and infected humanity.  Is it really a ring-wing ideology to fight back against this?  I ask again – what is the left-wing response to this sort of thing?  An infection is spreading out of control killing millions upon millions of people.  What is the left-wing response to such a thing?  Get in a circle and hold hands?

Then we come to border control.  Attacking this point is more about one of your examples than the merits, since at least this is something more associated with the right than the left.  How on Earth is Plants vs Zombies a referendum about border control?  It’s about stopping zombies from getting into the house and eating the brains of the denizens inside, dumbass!  I can already hear the snooty British retards who take this crap seriously responding – it’s about the unconscious implications associated with this that will tailor the minds of people to see it as people considered ugly not being allowed in your area.  Or, because we’re not in far-left fantasy land, it’s about plants stopping zombies from getting in the fucking house.  Ugh.

And we have “territory acquisition.”  This is another one where I’m more going to attack your examples than your point, even though the idea of expanding American territories is bafflingly stupid to call right-wing.  The right in this country (maybe you British idiots have this idea in the right since you used to be an empire) is very isolationist.  The libertarian dinguses want to get rid of all American military bases and only focus on America.  This is such a stupid point to make.  But back to the examples, what is Splatoon doing on there?  It’s a game about shooting ink because you’re a squid-person.  Where is the so-subtle-it-doesn’t-exist message in that?  This author is nine kinds of stupid.

What about “empire building?”  Once-again, this doesn’t at all tie into the American right-wing.  Not even a little.  You are so stupid it hurts.  Plus, games that allow you to create a fictional society and run it how you want to run it are about building empires?  This ties in to me thinking that you don’t actually play video games.  See, in Civilization, you can choose how you expand your empire.  You can be an empire that seeks peaceful cooperation, or violence.  It allows you to choose.  And Tropico doesn’t have you building an empire.  It has you as the leader of a Third World country that you have to make a better place.  Man, that is so right wing I can’t even believe it!  Your examples reek of the most blatant stupidity one can possibly imagine.  I’m sending this to you so you can hopefully learn something.

The one that really made me laugh is “princess recovery.”  This is a right-wing idea.  The idea that if a woman who you value (as in both examples provided it is clear that the main character does value the women they are respectively trying to save) is taken prisoner by an evil monster, you should save them is a right-wing idea.  What is the left-wing approach to this?  Be like “well, you kidnapped my significant other, guess that’s just how it goes.  Oh well”?  Some little bitch you must be.

Most baffingly of all – natural restoration.  Are you fucking kidding me?!  Restoring nature of a right-wing ideology?!  How?!  When was this?!  My whole life, I grew up hearing about how it’s the fucking hippy left that wants to restore nature.  Now we have this idiot talking about how restoring nature if a right-wing point of view.  I want an example of this.  I want to see some right-wing site trying to restore nature.  All the conservative idiots who say that climate change isn’t real and that we should be able to pollute as much as we want because Jeebus is coming back and Alfie dumbass Brown is telling me that the restoration of nature is a right-wing point of view.  Fucking idiot!

Second, video games put the user to work on an instinctual level, making the gamer feel impulsive agreement with these ideologies. Playing Resident Evil is not equivalent to watching the movie, because the controller-wielding gamer experiences the desires of the game as their own desires – not as the desires of another.

This is basically the Anita Sarkeesian argument – that because you play games, these secret, implicit things that they are nefariously conditioning you towards are going to hit you harder because it’s a video game.  A point of view without a SINGLE piece of scientific evidence for!  None!  There have been so many studies debunking this.  There was another study done just recently that was a long-term study having people play Grand Theft Auto V for months, then doing tests hours after the game sessions were done to test if they were more violent, and came back negative.  The only tests that have shown anything even remotely indicative of your perspective have come from tests that were done immediately after someone had gamed, when they are still running on endorphins from playing.  It’s ridiculous.  This is unproven bullshit that I am sure you are going to have some brilliant “evidence” for.

The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan distinguished between “drives” and “instincts”. While instincts come from within us, drives occur when political forces propel us in certain directions. In these terms, video games are drives masquerading as instincts, naturalising rightwing ideologies in a way other media cannot by offering its users the chance to experience them on a personal level.

That’s nothing.  That was a nonsense, bullshit statement that basically exists to say “I’m smart!  Can’t you see what a smarty I am!”  It is basically just saying that video games are secretly nefarious for reasons that will never properly be defined.  When all evidence on the subject of video games influencing your personality goes against you, this guy has to say that it is so subliminal that you can’t even tell.  Almost like it doesn’t exist.

In this way, the rationale of gaming is to unite pleasurable impulse with political ideology, a process which renders gamers susceptible to discourses that urge people to follow their instincts while also prescribing what those instincts ought to be.

An opinion not proven, for a point of conjecture that is pure bullshit.  Yeah, this really is The Guardian’s MO.

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Hollywood cinema transformed the desires, empathies and emotions of a global population (even for those who never went to the movies), but it’s harder to recognise the pattern in your own context – and we may need to consider whether we are in the midst of a comparable revolution with video games today. Currently, the new desires incubated by games lean far to the right, and without more progressive games on the market (though some are emerging), the future may be even bleaker than the political present.

You have got to be kidding me.  This person is so stupid.  I love that I, an American, get to look down on a dumb-shit British person.  They are usually so pompous that they tend to be the other way around.  Hey Alfie, art imitates life, not the other way around.  I guess nobody told you that.  Or maybe you just watched Anita Sarkeesian’s videos and take all of her bullshit at face value.  Whatever the case may be, you’re wrong.  Demonstrably wrong.  The reason that the films in the 60’s-80’s reflected a change in the culture is because the culture was changing and Hollywood changed with it.  The hippy movement of the 60’s, which came to a crescendo in the 70’s left a lasting impact on cinema.  This was reflected when Hunter S Thompson wrote his masterpiece “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,” which talked about how that hope and belief in the fight for change crashed down around those who fought when the decadence and decay of the 80’s swept in.  Read that book sometime.  It’s a great piece, from an author who saw the hope and decay very clearly.

Video games are the whipping boy of every cultural movement in the world.  The left and right use them to vilify people almost in equal measure.  It’s amazing.  These two ideologies should really join forces on their mutual hatred of a medium that has NEVER been proven to cause violence, sexism, or anything else.

Until next time, a quote,

“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken

Peace out,

Maverick

Trump Defender Says Video Games are Bad (A response to Matthew Walther)

I’ve been looking for a good representation of the Trump defenders coming out in support of their God-King saying something so asinine and not even remotely backed up by science as violent video games have a connection to mass shootings.  I really have.  But thankfully I have Twitter, and between the pornstars I follow on there and the YouTubers that I like, there are also the people in video game culture who find all of this shit as amusing as I do.  Plenty of them are conservative, and watching them be quiet about their God-King saying something so stupid is interesting on its own.

However, I have now found someone who fits the bill of the /r/TheDonald sychophants who want to come out in defense of their God-King and say that all of us detractors are wrong.  I love this shit.  I really do.  Here’s a link to this article, now let’s talk about it.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just robbed a drug dealer and was peeling out in my getaway car — also stolen — and thinking about my next score when I saw her: a woman in high heels and a very small bathing suit. She motioned towards me and I let her get in the car. We performed a blurry parody of marital intercourse. After she got out of the vehicle, I ran her over. Then Judas Priest came on the radio. I cranked the volume and roasted the tires of my sports car beneath the orange moon.

The moral being that because this happened in vidya, it is no less evil than if it happened in real life.

Because I was 13 years old and the above scene was unfolding on my friend’s PlayStation, I am not writing this column from a maximum security prison.

Called it!  Yeah, Matt.  And the other day I took a teenage girl from an operating room after killing a doctor with a bullet to the face.  Then, when a woman who was her caretaker at one point tried to stop me from taking her away, I put a bullet in her stomach and then, as she begged for her life, one in her face.  But there is a context to that.  The character I was playing as had this one person who was his connection to the human condition, and he was selling humanity up the river to keep that connection.  Wanna know something about both your example and mine?  I know that they are both fiction, because I’m a fucking adult.  I don’t believe in fairy-tales, or unicorns, or Jeebus, or that video games are real.

When President Trump dared to suggest last week that “the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” he was denounced with the uniform hectoring intensity that meets his every utterance. Hundreds of pages of digital ink was spilled pointing out that, actually, there is no proven connection between digital mayhem and the massacres that have become a commonplace part of American life.

Gee, I wonder why that is?  Could it be that there is not a SINGLE piece of substantive evidence linking video games to school shootings?  Or violence of any kind?  I don’t know, I think there might be something to it when the pantheon of people can come out of the woodwork and easily defend our position, while I’m sure you are going to have STELLAR examples that bolster you belief.  I’m sure it is all going to be very well-researched stuff.

What does it mean to say that there is no connection? Virtually every single one of the pasty psychos who have shot their classmates and teachers in the last two decades has played such games. What would count as evidence?

No.  Video games are ubiquitous to modern culture.  Especially modern male culture.  The hardcore audience of gaming is men.  By that same token, maybe we could say that Marvel films are influencing school shootings.  After all, I bet these shooters have watched a ton of them, and comic book films have been a huge part of culture for the last 20 years.  Or maybe it was the iPhone.  How many of these shooters had one of those?  You can take any piece of typical culture and put it in there and make the EXACT SAME argument.

Meanwhile, the hard science (a phrase that conservatives fear more than any other) has shown that there is NO connection between playing video games and being violent.  None.  Find me a study that proves me wrong.  You can’t!  And before you go saying that the studies are biased, Congress has commissioned a lot of these studies trying to prove just what you are!  A Congress who is biased against the industry has commissioned study after study to desperately try and prove that video games cause violence.  It hasn’t worked.  There is a great quote by Max Caulfield that I am going to end this with that summarizes this perfectly.

I cannot understand why even positing the notion of a relationship between games and the behavior of those who play them is taboo. Does anyone think that misogyny in films and television and music does not shape men’s attitudes toward women, that it has no consequences in the real world? A thousand #MeToo takes suggest otherwise. Why, then, are video games the exception?

What?!  You have GOT to be kidding me.  Dumb-dumb, the reason that there is this taboo (it isn’t.  You can say whatever you like, but everyone is going to tear you to pieces for being stupid) is because there is not a single piece of scientific evidence that suggests that.  Just like there is not a single piece of scientific evidence linking film, television, and music to sexism.  This is patently absurd.  By the way, whose side are you on, anyway?  You’re defending Trump’s comments and bashing the left, then using their talking points?  The cognitive dissonance is interesting.

Either way, there has been no connection between video games and violence, or sexism.  None that has been proven.  Just lots of conjecture based on weak, cherry-picked evidence without a single study to back it up.  In fact, there was a long-term study finally done by Germany that disproved the notion of video games.  So yeah, your entire argument is fallacious bullshit.

Why is it the default position of every commentator that spending hundreds, even thousands of hours acting out scenes like the one I described above has no ramifications for the way young people — the majority of them male — feel and behave? How do people who accept the existence of concepts like microaggressions and rhetorical dog-whistling convince themselves that indulging an appetite for murderous rage could have no discernible effects on the imaginations of impressionable young people?

I don’t accept either of those things, because neither of them have been proven by science!  Science, mother-fucker!  Do you speak it?!  Oh right, you don’t.  Just like every conservative who wants a pulpit to stand on, you just spout off rhetoric and then say you’re right.  If this was a research paper it would get a D.

Let me put it another way. If someone created a video game in which it was possible to grope or even rape women, as opposed to just cutting off their heads with a chainsaw or shooting them in the face with machine guns, would we still consider it a harmless diversion unlikely to disfigure the imaginations of players? What about a game where the user was allowed to molest children? Why is pretending to be a killer okay?

The other cornerstone of conservative argumentation – emotional appeal.  Do I think the games you bring up would be tasteless and grotesque?  Absolutely.  Granted, I’m not a fan of playing a game where I can indiscriminately kill civilians with a chainsaw or machine gun.  Now a game where I kill demons with those things like the masterpiece that is 2016’s DOOM, that I can do all day.  But do I think that those games would turn people into rapists?  No.  Much like I don’t think that watching porn makes you think that women are sex toys.  A fact that has actual SCIENCE behind it.  This is so fucking stupid.  How many different ways can I say the same thing?

One does not have to be able to demonstrate a formal causal link — whatever that would look like — between the hideous violence of many video games and real-life acts of mass murder to recognize that the former are contributing to something sinister.

Yes you fucking do!  You do have to demonstrate it.  Because you want to legislate against what people can watch and play.  You want to tell people that they have to pay your morality fee in order to play something that has no proven link to violence.  Just like how Rhode Island wants people to pay their morality fee to watch porn.  I’m sorry that demands for evidence are hard for you.  Lemme guess, you’re a Christian too.

One of the ludicrous dogmas of the modern world is the notion that the media we consume cannot influence us for the worse.

It’s not a dogma.  Dogma is faith.  Faith is belief without evidence.  There is actual evidence of my contention, while zero evidence for yours.  I’m sorry, but I don’t take things on faith.  It’s why I stopped believing in this God that so many conservatives claim to be such a huge fan of, and it’s why I also don’t believe in the SJW convictions like the ones you apparently are also in favor of.  For real, where do you fall on the spectrum, dude?

Virtually everyone agrees that it is possible to be deeply moved by watching a film or hearing a song. We are all familiar with lachrymose paeans to the virtues of reading, which is supposed to be able to make us more open-minded and empathetic and every other vaguely positive-sounding adjective you care to suggest. Why do we pretend that the reverse is not true in a medium that is designed to be immersive and interactive, to give the vivid impression of really being there?

Because I’m not five, idiot.  I know that it’s make-believe.  Can I hear Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 and feel a lot of powerful emotions?  Absolutely.  It’s amazing music.  But I have those feelings based on the things that I feel in my own life.  Being touched by something doesn’t mean that I am going to suddenly start my own orchestra and make it myself.  Being touched by a fantastic book doesn’t mean I’m going to think that it’s real life.  You feel that way about the Bible?  Watching a heart-breaking film doesn’t make me think that way.  And when I play The Last of Us, I don’t feel the urge to suddenly go bust into an operating room and kill a doctor.

I’m sorry that nobody ever told you that there is a difference between real life and pretend.  I think my species is retarded as fuck, and even I give them more credit than you.  Go figure.

Until next time, a quote,

“A pattern is emerging.” – Max Caulfield, Life is Strange

Peace out,

Maverick

More Racism Disguised as Racial Sensitivity (A response to What Culture)

I remember a few years back now when I went after Hipster McGee on PBS’s now defunct YouTube channel for saying that there aren’t enough minorities in gaming.  Now we have a British idiot from another hipster culture critic channel who has decided to take a swing at it.  Will this be any less stupid than Hipster McGee’s video?  Not really, no.  The premise this time is that gaming needs to have its “Black Panther Moment.”  Oh boy, I’m sure this isn’t going to be stupid at all.  I’ll have the video so you can see I’m not taking anything out of context, let’s get this over with.

This is stupid right out of the gate.  For starters, this film is a bold reinforcement of what it means to be black?  Wow, what a sweeping and broad generalization.  No, numb-nuts, it’s a Marvel film about a superhero from a fictional nation.  Are you telling me that all black people are supposed to identify with this character?  Yes, I’m sure the black guy from the Bronx who is a New Yorker to the core can so identify with the blackness here.  This idea that all black people are supposed to correlate in some way to this character ties into some more racism that this video spews that I’ll get to in a bit, so I’ll leave it saying that this video has this great power of generalizing about people.  They seem to think that all people of the same skin color are naturally similar and their life experiences, where they are born, and the community they grow up in will make them all the same.  That all black people are supposed to identify as African and be so in touch with their African heritage.  How absurd.

I hate that Black Panther, that is a perfectly fine Marvel film, has been elevated so much.  It’s not that great.  It’s really not.  It’s not bad, but it’s not this magnum opus of the Marvel universe.  That’s so dumb.  They say that the only reason people like it is because it’s got black people in it.  Um, no!  It’s because it’s a Marvel film that follows the Marvel formula to a fault and the Marvel formula tests well in this country.  It makes a shit-ton of money.  I like to over-analyze things, and even I think you’re fucking daft!  We’ve only just gotten started and already I’m annoyed.  Groj help me.

Next up they say that films like Blade and Hancock don’t count because they don’t have enough to do with diversity.  Um, what?  So the fact that Blade lived in New York and had the New York mindset all over the film isn’t a diversity?  Oh, right, this idiot has this idea that all white people are part of some big collective hegemony and is so fucking xenophobic of cultures outside of his own.  What do I mean?  I mean that in New York, the way of life there is vastly different than the way of life in Seattle or Houston, Texas.  See, differen’t parts of the country have different cultures inside them.  If these culture simpletons could actually get that, maybe they wouldn’t be talking about how characters like Blade basically aren’t black enough for them.  And by black enough, we mean African enough.  These people are so fucking racist.

So gaming doesn’t teach about a love of culture and diversity?  Really?!  Fucking really?!  This is what I was waiting for.  I’m pretty much about to go off the rails on this moron, so buckle in, people.  I’m playing Persona 5 right now.  It’s a marvel of a game.  The depth it goes into about Japanese culture is just wonderful.  Oh, wait, the Japanese are too white for this fucking bigot.  Or maybe we can talk about the Yakuza games.  They don’t even have a dub, which is awesome.  You get an even further dive into the culture of those games.  But again, the Japanese are too white.

Or how about Horizon: Zero Dawn?!  That game created several cultures for the tribal societies from scratch!  And you learn about all of them!  I can tell you about what I learned about the Osram, or the Sun Kingdom, or the Banook.  I found every culture in that game fascinating and they were able to do that by having the cultures be diverse skin tones, but have cultural differences.  Something that this xenophobic piece of shit doesn’t even address!  As an example, this is some British or maybe Irish social justice moron.  If we made a game that was very much about British or Irish culture and had a deep look into the community it is set in, is that not culturally diverse?  I’m American as fuck and I would find that just as engaging as I do Persona 5.  But no, let’s just ignore that.

This video has the BALLS to say that gaming rarely goes into detail about what it means to be one with your culture.  Bull-shit!  I just listed off three games right off the top of my fucking head.  Let me try some more – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.  In addition to going into the culture of the pirates and their world, you also get to see some of the racially charged segments.  Hell, that game has a DLC where you play as your former quartermaster freeing slaves!  Speaking of pirate culture and a game that dives into what a culture is, let’s talk about Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.  That whole game has Nathan Drake learning about the culture of powerful pirates who run the gamut of diverse races and backgrounds and you learn a ton about them.  Oh, right, you SJW morons said it’s bad because it basically has Nate as a grave robber.  Fucking idiot.

I could go on for hours about my favorite Final Fantasy games and how they immerse you in the cultures of their worlds to have you come to learn about these characters and their cultural and ideological diversity to care about each of them.  Or maybe we could talk about the fucking Mass Effect games.  They have a TON of codex entries helping the player learn all they can about every culture, and you have all these diverse species and races having different perspectives on things.  Like how Garrus would have taken the Salarian Delatross’s offer to let the genophage go on because of his own biases as a turian.

You know what this moron’s REAL problem is?  It’s not that there isn’t enough diversity.  I’ve just beat the shit out of that entire argument here.  Their argument is that there aren’t enough black people.  It’s as simple as that.  They want more African games with characters who are African as fuck just so they can beat the same social justice drum that they beat for a film that does NOT deserve it.  I didn’t see these people singing the praises for Moonlight, a film about growing up both gay and black that was a masterpiece of the genre.  No, they have to have a film that is superficially about being African so they can say “see, this is promoting diversity!”  It’s because it’s mainstream.  That’s it.  Hardly anyone has seen Moonlight.  That and it deals with being black and gay, which being gay is something that a HUGE portion of the black community is not a fan of.  It’s an ugly truth that these xenophobic morons want to ignore.

I hate this crap.  This person seems to think that all white people are a homogenized group.  Yes, because as a white American I know just how a white Russian (anyone who gets me one right now is my friend.  You know what I mean) feels.  Or a white British person.  Or a white Frenchman (insert Monty Python joke here).  I’m sure I know all about that.

Forgive me for thinking that a black person in New York probably has no fucking clue what it’s like to grow up in a fictional African nation.  Or that a black British person has no fucking clue what it’s like to grow up in New York.  It’s almost like there’s nuance to this or something!

But you know what, if there is a good game that comes out and it has a character who is so damn African that he actually celebrates Kwanzaa (nobody celebrates Kwanzaa), then you know what, I got no problem with it.  So long as the story is good, I don’t care if the protagonist is super mega African so in touch with his African heritage that he wears some REALLY ridiculous clothes.  Or has a lip disk.  Whatever.  I want good games.

That’s what gamers want – good games.  It’s why we all loved Horizon: Zero Dawn, even though everyone says that gamers hate female protagonists.  It’s why Mafia III wasn’t looked upon so poorly because of it’s racial element, but because of the lackluster gameplay.  It’s why you have fighting game tournaments where people of all ethnic backgrounds gather.  Because gaming IS inclusive.  We want good games.  I tell you what, What Culture, you find me a developer who makes to make a game that is so ethnically diverse that it has a genderqueer ponykin, then if it’s actually a good game I will play it.

Oh right, you had that opportunity.  We got that point-and-click housecleaning simulator.  You know what I mean.

Until next time, a quote,

“Perhaps you’re giving the krogan too little credit, or the salarians too much.” – Commander Shepherd, Mass Effect 2

Peace out,

Maverick

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

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

The Relationship Development Issue in Gaming

You know what I hate – when a series of games allows me to develop relationships, yet it feels like they aren’t complete by the end.  Or there is something flawed in them.  I’m going to be talking about two examples here, but there are more.  Lots more.  See, for whatever reason, game developers have a gift at making games where the relationship is developing really nicely, but then totally botch it later on because you don’t see real development.  For my two examples, I think there are different reasons, but I think it is something worth addressing.  Let me get into my examples.  That will help illuminate what I mean.

Mass Effect

In my initial run of this series, I had Shepherd going after Liara.  They were a totally cute couple.  Femshep was my character of choice, namely because Jennifer Hale had 1000X more personality than the guy who did male Shepard’s voice.  I don’t know why they picked so bland a guy, but he was dull as dirt.  Femshep was an interesting character.  And the romance between these two was cute.  I genuinely like both characters, so I wanted to see them together.  For the first game, the development of their relationship really felt genuine.  Liara doesn’t understand humans, so her bond with Shepard feels very exploratory for both of them.  Her being an alien is addressed as well.  It’s neat stuff.  We get to learn about her species and her character at the same time.

The second game rolls around, and this felt really good.  When you see Liara again, she’s become someone else.  The time apart has had a real effect on your relationship.  There is real distance that you are unable to address.  I like that when you see her again, she wordlessly says something to you and there is intimacy before she has to shut it down.  Then you get the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, and the distance between them is beautifully addressed.  I genuinely loved that.  The way the tension builds and builds until it all blows up and she acknowledges the feelings that were always there is just fantastic.  But they also address the reality that what Shepard is involved in is violent.  He/she could be killed at any moment.  That’s hard when you want to build a future.

Then we get the third game, and here is where my gripes come in.  Shepard has been incarcerated for months, and then are reunited with Liara on Mars.  That should have been a very intense scene.  A lot of emotional outpouring should have happened.  But it’s fine.  I can handle the little gripes.  My biggest gripe is that it really feels like the game is sending you back to square one with their relationship.  Why?  After having been together for years, these two should really be in a place where they are looking at their future and thinking about something more.  Liara talked about it at the end of the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC.  She wanted to know what Shepard was hoping for with their future.  Now here you are, and she asks if you want to pick up where you left off.  Of course I said yes.

And yet, from that dialogue, it feels like you two are distant again.  Why?  You just said that you wanted to continue where you left off, after having addressed building a romantic future between you.  Shepard even joked about marriage and making babies with her.  So why does it feel like I’m having to win her back?  There should be more closeness between them that was tragically missing in a lot of scenes.

I said that I believe I have an explanation for why.  Here’s what I think happened in this game – they had to leave it open to the player wanting to go another route.  So they give you a chance to set things up with another character.  But see, that makes no goddamn sense.  Because Liara asks you if you want to pick up where things were left.  If you said yes, that should have just locked the player into that arc.  I know it’s cheating player choice, but you gave them the chance to back out.  It’s on them if they chose not to.  To see their relationship grow to something where they are talking about making babies and building a future together, maybe having the last scene be Liara asking Shepard to marry her.  To have that be the culmination of their emotional arc would have been fantastic.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it did have some closure in the Citadel DLC.  I really loved how they treated their relationship there.  Still, in a game all about building a narrative journey across three games, that seems like a no-brainer in developing that to see where it ultimately goes.  Would make Shepard’s passing in the end (if you chose one of the stupider endings like taking over the Reapers or the Synthesis ending which is bafflingly stupid) even more intense.  Seeing Liara in a room sobbing as all the chance to see her girlfriend survive is lost.  Of course, if the ending to the series hadn’t been so fucking stupid, we could have had options to have Shepard live.  I’ve already bitched about that enough.  Wrote a whole post about it.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Now, the original game had its own issues with a lackluster ending.  See, the original game had it where the only time the game would acknowledge Max and Chloe’s relationship is if you pick the ending where you let her die.  That bugs me.  But that’s nothing compared to how annoyed I am at this game.

See, the crux of what made this prequel work is building up the relationship between Rachel and Chloe.  You had to be careful how you set it up.  The wrong things said could derail all the romantic elements you are going for.  I liked that.  Made my investment seem like it was worth something.  Seeing how you go from acquaintances, to how fast these two can fall in love, it wasn’t like some Disney 3-day romance.  Here it feels like two people drawn together by a love that was beyond either of their control.  Which culminated in the second game to them kissing in a scene that was legit wonderful.  Especially after the amazing stage scene I got to have between them where Rachel pretty much says that she has feelings for Chloe in a way where it fits with the play at hand.

But then we get to the last episode.  This bothered me.  These two just made out, and all the momentum is in their relationship.  It felt like they should really be under the spell.  But nope.  The plot got in the way, in all the worst ways.  There were narratives that had to be wrapped up, and this game did it in such a piss-poor way.  It should have ended with Rachel meeting her mother.  Or maybe a plot about Sera being involved in bad things and the game acknowledging that.  Could have left things open for a sequel where the two meet her, and you have to figure out what to do next.  Options are there.

Instead, the game treats them both like they are friends.  The only time they acknowledge what happened in the last episode was via text.  Are you kidding me?!  Young love here, idiots!  Stupid teenager who should be all hormones and passion.  Granted, some serious shit happened with the revelation of Sera’s relationship to Rachel, but this game spent so much time grounding these two’s relationship as the center of the narrative, then totally ditched that.  It’s frustrating, to say the least.

Once again, I think I have an explanation.  See, in the game that this is a prequel to, the relationship between Rachel Amber and Chloe is deliberately ambiguous.  I was at first assuming it is so you can see in this what it was all like.  But since this prequel had to keep to the canon of the original (for reasons I will never understand.  There are so many narrative reasons around that with alternate timelines), it couldn’t let you be definitive about it.  Doesn’t help that I ostensibly set up Chloe to find out that Rachel was cheating on her with Frank.  Ouch.

So what do you think?  Why is it that game devs seem to have an issue bringing resolution to relationships in a game or game series.  Some do it better than others.  The relationship between Chris and Ashley in Until Dawn had some resolution if both of them lived to see the end.  I dug that.  And don’t even get me started about how they fucked the relationship between Femshep and Garrus.  That just bugged me!  Between games should have been nothing for them.  Anyway, that’s my thoughts.  Let me know yours in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

I don’t think you can analyze love. It’s the greatest mystery of all. No one knows why it happens, or doesn’t. Love is a chance combination of elements. Any one thing might be enough to keep it from igniting – a mood, a glance… a remark. And if we could define love, predict it – it would probably lose its power.” -Neelix, Star Trek: Voyager

Peace out,

Maverick