Lucien’s First Take: Cyberpunk 2077 Gameplay Reveal

Here’s a game that I’ve been keeping a cursory eye on, but haven’t really gone into too much because I didn’t know exactly how I felt about it.  I was not the biggest fan of CD Projekt Red’s last game, The Witcher 3.  Not because I thought it was bad.  Far from it.  I just didn’t have much engagement because it’s connected to a franchise with a TON of lore and story baggage that I had no connection with.  So while it objectively was fantastic, I was bored stiff because of that.  However, here we have a new game with a connection to a franchise that has more to do with pen-and-paper RPG games than anything else.  So it’s basically a blank slate, and CD Projekt Red has promised the lore will be flushed out.

Still, it was something of a distant look until I FINALLY got around to watching their REALLY long game-play reveal.  I’m going to be putting the video here so you can follow along, but it’s 48 minutes long.  If you don’t have the time, I understand.  Instead of going through bit by bit, I’m going to talk about the things that really stick out to me.  Let’s get down to it.

We start off with this really cool narrator telling us that we get to customize our character.  I am all about this!  But looking at the character select screen, can we ditch the pixelization over the fun bits, when it is so obvious they are wearing underwear?  I am nine kinds of in love with the aesthetic of this game.  It lives up to its namesake.  The menus all have that retro-futuristic appearance, and that just tickles me pink.  As an hardcore fan of Blade Runner, this warms the cockles of my heart.

It’s also pretty great that we get to set up a ton of stuff in respect to our backstory, and the narrator says that all of this stuff plays a role in how our game plays.  For once, I am almost positive this is on the level.  After all, it’s CD Projekt Red we’re talking about here.  Definitely hoping the customization options are deep.  I want to turn my character into someone wholly unique.  I also love me some scars and some ink, so hopefully I get a ton of those to play with as well.  Kinda hoping we can add more ink as the narrative goes along.  Looking at the stats, I am definitely gonna be a tech person, with a focus on infiltrator stuff rather than combat.  The narrator says there are no pre-selected class systems, so you can choose how you play.  I dig it.

We see our first mission, and get to rescue a woman who is butt-naked from a bathtub filled with ice.  Again, CD Projekt Red, and they have a pedigree of not shying away from the swanky stuff.  They are European, after all.  I say that all devs should be European and Asian.  Americans are too pussy to go the distance like this.  After the first mission, I see our girl waking up with our comrade.  The narrator says that relationships are something you get to make on your own, and I’m glad about that.  Don’t get me wrong, Jackie is a badass bro.  I could do missions and shit with him all day.  But not sure he’s fuckable material.  Also don’t know if he is that guy for male and female character.  Makes me wonder what the differences will be between them in terms of options for relationships.  Is sexuality a set in stone thing, or is that open to character choice?  Lots of things to think about.

This apartment makes my inner cyberpunk nerd squeee a little.  So much yes!  Suddenly wanna hit up Deckard and see if we can find some replicants.  I couldn’t help but notice in the armory in her place that there is a slot for a fucking katana!  I want my katana!  Wanna hack some people up.  Or, because I am really favoring the subtle infiltration style, I wanna be able to silently kill people with it.  Customize the blade a la Metal Gear Rising.

Heading out of the place, the city looks unbelievable.  Some definite inspiration from Dredd, but that is just fine by me too.  The inhalers thing clearly came from that as well.  So many people tagged.  Was really hoping we’d to get see inside the weapon’s shop.  Seemed that dude has a quest to offer us too.  Getting off at the elevator, I see there are a ton of vendors.  Here’s my question – how many of these people can I visit?  There is a guy selling music, and that definitely appeals to me.  Vinyl records.  Love it.  Had a person in my life who has vinyl, as well as a player.  It’s pretty good stuff.  Makes some kinds of music sound more real.  Everything is so processed now.  The narrator talks about how believable the city is, making the team sound very “humble” in the process.  Whatevs.  With how beautiful this game looks, they’ve earned some bragging rights.  Street cred, as the game has it.

As we meet with the provider of our next mission – Dexter DeShawn, I’m seeing that the game has a broad array of groups that we get to interact with.  There are the corporate people, the criminal elite, the smuggling types who are involved with this mission, and since there is a crime scene we walk past, potentially the cops?  One of my favorite parts of Fallout: New Vegas was how many different groups there were that you could get involved with.  All of which changed how the ending played out.  Makes me want to play with the politics of this game and see where that takes me.

We get our job from Dex and go to our ripperdoc to get some cybernetics.  Here is where I am so stoked.  The trailers for this game have had things like a woman who removed her entire jaw while doing her makeup.  How far can I go with this?  I saw a post saying that if you over-cyborg yourself, it does affect you over the course of the game.  Still, eager to find that fine line.  Or at least see what kinda crazy shit I can get.  The narrator says we can get illegal cybernetics that let me do all sorts of bananas shit.  Hell yeah!

The driving in this game can go from third to first-person.  I would probably do third-person, if for no other reason than to take in the gorgeous landscape of this game.  Really itching to see the night cycle.  Narrator said the day and night cycle are dynamic.  Oh how a man can dream.  When we’re negotiating with the corpo bitch, I can’t help but notice that the language in this game is so foul.  Kinda love it.  After all, the word “Punk” is in the name.  Foul language goes with that territory.  Just watch any of the great films in that class.  Not the cyberpunk class, but punk.  Lots of foul-mouthed assholes.

Player gets their job, which results in them heading over to the Maelstrom hide-out.  The first thing to notice about this guys is all the tech integration.  It’s freaky.  The narrator tells you that you can choose how you go about missions.  I am all about that.  I want to be an infiltrator, of sorts, but wouldn’t mind taking the approach of being able to talk my way out of a bad situation.  Though, not sure it’s worth it with the creepy borg people who have all the glowing eyes and shit.  The head dude looks like he ripped out the front of his face to replace it all with tech.  That’s creepy with a capitol C.

We get some stuff showing off cool combat abilities, but that’s just window dressing for me.  Especially since this person isn’t into the whole tech angle the way I want to be.  They are into the engineer side.  Neat, I guess.  After blasting your way through, you get out, only to be met by corpo bitch.  She tells you that this is how it is, and you head over to Dexter DeShawn’s club to make the drop-off of the creepy spider-drone.  Why did we not have the drone assisting us in combat?  That’s so weird.  We took the time to get it up and moving, but not explore how it can help me out?  So weird.

All things considered, this looks awesome.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to feel like I live in the world of Blade Runner, and now I get the opportunity.  We’ll see what happens next.

Initial Verdict
Jack in my brain, ripperdoc!

Peace out,

Maverick

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SIONL: Death Stranding is Gonna Explode

The Tokyo Game Show just happened, and we got to see a new trailer for Kojima’s latest project, Death Stranding.  While morons are going to say that they don’t understand (seriously, I saw a trailer where someone outright said they watched the trailer three times and still didn’t understand it.  What was so fucking complicated?!) what this is, I couldn’t be more stoked.  In this age where everyone wants to have all their questions spoon-fed to them with all the creative mystery of a ham sandwich, Kojima is keeping all his cards close.  And praise that man for it!  The mystery has my anticipation so fucking high.

Sony has been on such a massive winning streak lately with their exclusives.  This year has had three, and all three were massively successful.  And good.  God of War was an engaging narrative and a beautiful story of a father and son.  Detroit: Become Human was David Cage doing his thing, and while it isn’t for everyone, for those who can appreciate his craft, it was pretty awesome.  Finally, we got Marvel’s Spider-Man.  Easily the best game in its genre, and with three pieces of DLC that the devs have promised are not just busy work but substantive story expansions, it isn’t done yet.

Last year, we had two major exclusives from Sony, both of which were so good that I had the hardest time ever picking which was my favorite.  My favorite and second-favorite games of last year, they were – Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn.  It seems that Sony is really banking on great exclusives now, and hot shit!  There is some of the best quality material I have seen in YEARS coming from them.  And more is coming.  This year at E3, we got to see three major gameplay demos from three of their biggest upcoming projects – Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us: Part 2, and Kojima’s latest project, Death Stranding.

I have no reason to believe that the first two listed are not going to be amazing.  This tactic of showing demos specifically to get people to see what the quality they can expect is brilliant, in my book.  Sure, fast-paced trailers with big, bombastic set-pieces are fun and all, but that’s not my jam.  I like a trailer that feels like I am diving in and seeing what I am getting for my money.  Already I can hear people typing, asking why I am taking Kojima’s shtick of giving very little substantive info in his trailers.  Well, that’s a different kind of charm.

Here’s the thing to know – anyone who knows videos games knows that Hideo Kojima is something of an insane perfectionist.  If a game doesn’t come out to the exact quality he wants, he won’t release it.  The only reason MGSV released half-finished was because of the fallout with Konami.  So his continual teasing, making the urge for nerdgasm so strong just titillates me so much. And with the most recent trailer, there is no doubt in my mind – this game is going to be unbelievable!  It will be a hallmark game that will define this latest console generation, along with the new direction Sony is taking.  While Microsoft scrounges in the dirt for exclusives, and Nintendo keeps remaking the same games, over and over again with the fewest tertiary changes, Sony is giving massive budgets to developers who want to do amazing things.  And it’s working!  It’s paying massive dividends.

At the beginning of the year, God of War smashed sales records.  Just recently, Marvel’s Spider-Man did as well.  Perhaps gamers are figuring out that Sony’s new direction of amazing exclusives is churning out some of the best games in generations?  A thought.  Meanwhile, in the case of Death Stranding, I am certain beyond any doubt that this game is going to explode.  Just explode.  The new trailer shows so much.  For starters, Troy Baker is back!  Anything with him in it, at his A-game, I immediately know is going to be amazing.  He is easily my favorite male voice actor right now.  He can pretty-much do no wrong.  But as the YouTuber YongYea figured out, Stefanie Joosten, of Quiet fame from MGSV is back as well!  The cast for this game couldn’t possibly be anymore set.  On name recognition alone, this game is going to sell.  We have Norman Reedus, who will appeal to Boondock Saints fans, and The Walking Dead fans.  We have Guillermo Del Toro who is only donating his likeness to the game, but that will appeal to fans of his films.  We have Lea Seydoux, who will appeal to fans of French films.  She’s a crazy talented actress.  We have Mads Mikkelsen, who will appeal to Casino Royale fans.  Lastly, we have Kojima himself as the creator, who will appeal to Metal Gear Solid fans.  With this much weight behind it, this game is almost certain to set some sales records.  It will premiere to massive numbers.

This couldn’t have me more excited.  Knowing that Troy Baker is back, as a villain who has a kind of asshole charm to him, this game is bringing so much to the table.  And the mysteries keep piling up.  So, what is this weird fluidic substance, and it’s connection to the other world?  How can certain people control it?  What are these monsters that wander the landscape, some of whom can be seen, and other can’t?  What is Mad Mikkelsen’s connection to it all?  The panel said that he is the main villain of the story.  All the questions I could ask for.

But the real beauty of it all is that the wait won’t be much longer!  Kojima has said that there has been no delay in the game.  Some time ago, he said that his game was going to be finished before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.  At first I wondered if that was a reference to something I figured he might, but wrote that off.  But at the end of the panel, he confirmed my suspicion.  He said that the game is going to be finished to correlate with the date that the legendary anime film Akira was set.  Know what that means?  2019 confirmed!  I couldn’t be more excited.  I can feel it, the next trailer is going to have a release date.  This will be the one.  I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Until next time, a quote,

“Well shit, I had a special surprise prepped and everything, but it looks to me like your hands are full.  It’s no biggie.  We can always tweak the rules a bit.” – The Man With the Golden Mask, Death Stranding

Peace out,

Maverick

Spider-Man Isn’t Political Enough! (A response to Kotaku)

Anyone remember when Far Cry 5 came out and all the SJWs were bitching about how it wasn’t political enough and didn’t make a caricature of conservative America enough for them?  Well, it seems that the new Spider-Man isn’t exempt from this intellectually-vapid “journalism” either.  Because now we have Kotaku writing another insipid piece where a game that was targeted at young people to put them into the role of their favorite superhero to beat up bad guys isn’t political enough for them.  Letting kids have fun?  Fuck that!  We have to put them into the political arena and tell them how to feel about things!  Because that’s what general audiences love – blatant political messages.  That’s not to say that Spider-Man doesn’t have themes and messages.  The problem for them will become apparently soon enough.  Here’s a link to the article, now let’s talk about it.

Spider-Man has taken on his share of street thugs and supervillains, sometimes teaming up with the police to face down foes and rescue the people of New York. While Spider-Man on PS4 undoubtedly shows Spidey’s allegiance to his community, it also casts him as a big fan of police and their tactics that sometimes conflict with that civic mindset.

So yeah, their problem is that Spider-Man isn’t making enough of a statement about the cops.  Ugh.  Of course, Heather Alexandra wrote this.  What a shock.  He’s a fan of New York.  He wants to take down bad guys and protect good guys.  So yeah, he is on the side of law enforcement.  But since the first part of the game has some dirty cops trying to kill him, it isn’t like the game is ignoring that things are complicated.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s keep going.

One of the earliest things you do in Spider-Man is go around activating security towers, made by Oscorp but used by the NYPD, that make it easier for Spider-Man to track crimes as they happen. Narratively, these towers allow the police to better surveil citizens; they also give Spider-Man access to police frequencies.

Um, when does he use the towers to keep track of average citizens?  Nowhere in the game does that happen.  They are only ever used to track police frequencies.  Hell, there’s a bit on Jameson’s radio show where he makes that exact same argument, but you the player get to see it’s more of his conspiracy theorizing!  Man, Heather, it’s almost like you just heard that and assumed it’s true.  I get the feeling you would be a big fan of Jameson.  I love when a game attacks the arguments of it’s detractors directly.  Really saves me a lot of work.

Not to mention, I love how you gloss over the fact that Oscorp made the towers.  Because you have this chip on your shoulder, so fuck the ACTUAL context of the game – that Oscorp is a corporate monolith and is corrupt.  A theme that is central throughout the entire game.  The idea that corporate monopoly is bad.  Seems like you missed that.  Just putting that out there.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man’s enthusiasm for the police—from his stated love of busting drug deals to his cheesy “Spider-Cop” impersonation—had my coworker Tim Rogers calling Spidey a “narc.” While I found Spider-Man as good-hearted and heroic as ever, he was also way more accepting of state power than I expected from a hero with a history of being wrongly maligned by the press and police.

He’s trying to stop bad guys, moron!  That means that, by virtue of what he does, since he absolutely refuses to kill, he is on the side of the police.  Yeah, they malign him, but part of the thing is that he wants to be accepted by the public at large.  It really looks like you’re cherry-picking data points to back you up here, and it’s kind of annoying.  But I guess assisting the cops to any extent makes you a “narc.”  Wow.  Look, I have my issues with the police state as much as anyone.  But the idea that the police are, by virtue of existence, to not be trusted and a hero who wants to help people and save innocent lives should be against them is asinine.

In real life, the conditions at Rikers Island and the systems surrounding it are complex, but games like The Division and Spider-Man flatten that complexity in favor of giving you criminal enemies to overcome. The Division features “the Rykers” as an opposing force for much of the mid-game, and while its radio makes mention of how many prisoners are in jail for minor crimes like drug possession, your primary interaction is to shoot everyone. In Spider-Man, these prisoners function as generic thugs to fight in waves. Despite being a superhero who is on the side of the people, when faced with this element of his city, Spider-Man forgets his allegiances and just enjoys beating the shit out of them.

Um, no he doesn’t.  He fights back against people who choose to fight him!  The people busting out of Rikers aren’t the gentle lambs of the world.  They are violent.  They are choosing to attack cops.  Every single one of them that is in the riot is attacking the cops, attacking Spider-Man, or often both.  If Spider-Man went from cell to cell kicking the shit out of people, you might have some semblance of an argument.  But he doesn’t.  One of his quips is that he will be perfectly content to leave them alone if they go back into their cells and stop fighting.  More and more, it looks like you are just cherry-picking based on a narrative you like to spin.  I can’t imagine Heather Alexandra doing that.  Nope, not once.

Spider-Man’s simple presentation of crime and policing feels tone-deaf in the modern age, when more and more people are growing aware of the class and race dynamics of policing.

You wanna know what’s funny – so many people who think like this fail to understand that police brutality has a deeper problem.  Not the racism, though there’s that.  There is a lovely need in the SJW community to talk about how black cops in the inner-city can be just as violent as their white counterparts.  There is a deeper problem, one that might actually have a chance to be solved now that more and more states are moving towards legalization of marijuana.  The problem is the drug war.  It’s the thing that has destroyed so many cities.  And yeah, there are DEFINITELY racial components to it.  Like how white people and black people do drugs at a commensurate rate, but black people are penalized far more.

However, the solution to this isn’t to imprison more white people.  It’s to end the drug war.  Once that’s done, so much good can be done for the black community in this country.  More than Black Lives Matter will EVER accomplish.  What do I mean?  I mean that we can get non-violent drug offenders out of prison.  This would free up such a vast amount of prison space, allowing there to be some hope of rehabilitation.  What’s more, the legal market would CRUSH the illegal one in a matter of months.  Once the gangs are out of business, businesses would feel safe going back to the black communities.  This would mean more jobs, more income, and help income disparity.  Plus, it would help tame the racial stigmas.  Though the black community would then have to step up and help the police to crush the last vestiges of the crime that destroyed their communities.  Once that was done, what a wonderful world it would be.

This is contingent on mass decriminalization of all narcotics, but one step at a time.  Once the government sees how much money there is to be made with this stuff, it will happen.  The film Layer Cake made a great point about that.  But I don’t expect Heather Alexandra to get that.  She has hair dyed a color not found in nature.  I see such people, I just assume they have nothing of value to contribute.

Spider-Man’s portrayal of policing feels divorced from reality, to the point that it feels out of line with Spidey’s comic book heritage. Comics often speak to what’s happening in the real world. Captain America assumed the role of Nomad in 1974, the same year that Richard Nixon resigned from office in the wake of the Watergate Scandal. The X-Men have a history of allegorical representation of minoritized and persecuted groups. Spider-Man doesn’t seem interested in reacting to the real world.

I’m not aware if you know this, but comic books and video games are two different mediums.  Insomniac didn’t want to make a comic book.  They wanted to make a video game.  One that’s fun for as many people as possible.  One that would appeal to the fans of Spider-Man, with an emphasis on young people.  Kids who saw Tom Holland rocking the role, and then wanted to play a game as that character.  That’s who this was meant to appeal to.  But you want this to be some political screed.  I’m sorry (not sorry) you don’t like that.  You’re reporting on the wrong medium for that.  Video games are about being fun for the audience.  Sorry that bothers you so much.

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

Lucien’s Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

The game I have been super stoked for ever since I started working at an office with a big-time Marvel fan as a coworker.  Granted, I was already excited for this game, but him and I talking about it got me even more stoked.  This license has unfortunately been abused by so many people.  The number of bad games vastly outnumbers the good ones.  But when I saw Insomniac putting out a gameplay demo, I could see that they had learned so much.  Sure, parts of it looked like they were riffing on the Arkham games, but whatever.  It’s still Spider-Man at it’s core.  After all that waiting, does the final title live up to the hype?  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that it has been eight years since Peter Parker started to do his thing as Spider-Man.  He’s firmly established, and has put away a decent amount of his rogue’s gallery.  After all these years of doing his thing, he’s not too far from where he started.  He’s poor as fuck (because he’s an idiot and keeps turning down money for ethical reasons.  Dude, you can’t do your best as a super-hero without a decent bankroll?  Ask Tony Stark how that works for him), but doing his best to improve humanity as much as he can.  The game begins with him putting away one of the biggest of his baddies – Wilson Fisk.  Just when you’d think things would calm down with Fisk behind bars, a new baddie is on the scene, ready to make things even worse.

I have so much to talk about with this game.  Let’s start with how it plays.  Everything about making this a fun game hinges on how well it plays.  And this is where I get to tell you – this game is buttery smooth!  While I’m sure the size of the world is not to scale with actual New York, it is a huge playground, and everything about getting around it is great.  This game’s web-swinging is all about getting and maintaining momentum.  The developers knew that if that aspect sucks, the rest is going to be tedious.  Getting around New York is so much fun!  You unlock fast-traveling pretty early on, but I never found myself using it.  Jetting around the city as the Spider is just too much fun not to.

Combat in this game is similarly about maintaining movement.  Spider-Man isn’t the toughest dude, so you have to be able to move.  Using your webs, dodges, and gadgets, you keep the flow of battle going.  As time goes on, there is a diverse amount of villains, though that does eventually tie in to one of my criticisms.  But we’ll get there when we do.  My favorite way to play is stealthy, and it’s kind of a bummer there aren’t more levels that let me do that.  Even the areas where you have to clear out enemy bases, they don’t let you clean the whole thing out stealthily.  I wish they did, because it’s the most fun part.

However, another thing that all of the fun in this game hinges on is the boss fights, and holy shit did they get that right!  The only complaint I have about how fun these boss fights are is how few of them there are.  Each of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery that you get to right has a unique way to fight them, and there isn’t a single one that I wasn’t at least a little wowed by.  There is a new villain brought into the game who hasn’t been seen outside the comics – Mister Negative.  And this dude is no slouch!  Not only is he a cool character with a neat narrative to tell, but he is not fucking around.

In addition to getting to play as the web-head, you also get to play as MJ and Miles Morales.  Oh no!  Getting to play as a woman and a black young man!  How will I identify with them if I don’t share a gender or skin color with them?!  That’s what idiots in the social justice sphere think when I see things like that.  But you know what, I think of my favorite part of the game was getting to play as MJ.  There is a bit where you have to use her to give directions to Spidey in order to stealthily save a ton of hostages.  That mission was tight!  You are almost entirely through MJ’s perspective, seeing the Spider do his thing from her point of view.  Kind of gives me some sympathy for being one of his villains.  Chasing this guy must suck.  But Miles’ bits were fun too.  A part where he is sneaking past two of the Sinister Six made my nerves go haywire.  Since neither him nor MJ has Spider-Man’s abilities, you have to play their bits as stealth missions, and every one of them is fun.

Oh, and I can’t talk about this game unless I sing the praises of the visuals.  This game looks unbelievably good!  I mean holy shit!  The environments are phenomenal, and it looks so good as you’re blazing through it.  Each time of day brings a nice perspective, though night and rain aren’t the prettiest.  Still, it’s a great-looking game.  Every environment is brought to life with incredible attention to detail.  Especially with the titular character.  Whether it be the Iron Spider suit from Avengers: Infinity War, or my favorite suit, the Dark Spider, each of them looks fantastic.  And you get them almost all the way through.  None of that cutting to the suit that appears to be the mainstay of the Spider in this game.

But with all the good things, there are some negatives.  First, the side-missions are not especially interesting.  There is the intro of Black Cat, but I’m only stoked for that because of the DLC with her that I cannot wait for.  I wish I could get to actually go after her in one of those games.  People think that everyone ships her and Spider-Man together just as a fanfiction thing, but there is an actual bit on the comics where he outright does the deed with her.  There is a panel where you see both of their clothes, and him saying it was a good decision.  Spider-Man has a habit of getting with almost all of his fangirls.  His sexual resume is actually really impressive, when you think about the fact that he is such a dork in his alter-ego. There was a digression.

The side-missions in the game are almost all either tedious or not especially interesting.  For example – you go around taking pictures of all the various landmarks in New York, in addition to the Avengers Tower, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the Wakandan Embassy.  You know what would have been nice – something to go with that.  A kind of journal entry or something.  A little blurb on Parker’s experience or knowledge of these places.  He talks about knowing King T’challa when you take a pic of the Wakandan Embassy so why not give us something about that?  It’s a weird thing to not include.  Would have made me more excited to get this pictures if I could have had me a little NYC Wikipedia in the game.  Have some comic book perspective, which is especially prescient since there are plenty of things you take pictures of that are only in the comics.  Should give the people who aren’t super initiated some context.  Just seemed like a missed opportunity.

Also, the enemy bases that you take out got REALLY repetitious after a while.  Especially as it becomes just new varieties of enemies that have bases you have to take out.  It would have been nice if there were bases where you could only use stealth, or at least could take out every enemy with stealth and have that be the end.  Instead, no matter how quiet you are, the game eventually forces you to right waves of enemies, and especially with the Sable bases, it gets tedious really fast.

Another thing that I thought about – if you are going to riff on the Arkham games, which I have no problem with because they made it their own, why are their no character models?  The character trophies in the aforementioned game series let you take a look at the characters after you take them out.  I kinda would have liked that.  Especially since so many of them have a very unique look.  The game has a cool photo mode, so why not that as well?  Just putting it out there, it’s a missed opportunity.  While I’m at it, you let me choose so many different suits for Spidey, why not some outfits for Peter Parker?  Always seeing him in flannel gave me hipster flashbacks.

Lastly, why is there no New Game Plus mode?  Another easy piece of missed opportunity.  The Dark Suit is my favorite, and I kinda wanted to go through the game with it the whole time.  Maybe this is just me nit-picking, but it seems like an obvious bit to have.

Overall, this game is very, very fun.  I am liking it a lot.  But it’s not perfect.  The side-stuff can get a little old, and the enemy variety does grow stale after a while if you work diligently to get through all the character stuff.  But this is definitely a Spider-Man game in a class of its own.  It’s a perfect template to build off of if there are any sequels.  Hopefully we get at least one.  Norman Osborn being in there means that Green Goblin has to make an appearance at some point.  Guess I spoiled there that he doesn’t in this game, but it isn’t that bad.  He is still a central character, and you can see that when it gets there, it is going to be insane.  With three pieces of DLC that the devs have promised are going to be big story enhancements, we’ll see what it becomes.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: DOOM Eternal – Phobos Gameplay Reveal

Have I talked about how awesome 2016’s remake of DOOM was?  Because it was!  It was the coolest fucking thing in a VERY long time.  A great meme that I saw on Twitter surmized it like this –

Dark Souls – You’re put in a room with a bunch of demons

Doom – A bunch of demons are put in a room with you

That game is fast-paced, it’s combat is slick, the violence is visceral, and the plot isn’t half-bad.  The way it left on a cliffhanger had everyone wondering what was going to be next.  And we didn’t have to wait long.  Two years later, and Bethesda shows off their next look into this new franchise, and holy fuck is it awesome!  I didn’t cover the trailer at E3, because while that was cool, it didn’t show me much.  And I didn’t cover the first gameplay trailer that had the pretty funny line about not calling the demons by their name, instead calling them “mortally challenged.”  That was cool and all, but it felt like more of the same.  But now we’ve gotten something else, and holy fuck balls!  I love it.  Let’s see the trailer, then we’ll talk about it.

It opens with us seeing Doomguy walking into a room full of people, and everyone who looks upon him seems like they are shitting their pants.  As they should be!  Because getting in Doomguy’s way is a VERY bad idea.  Then we get some poor, scared bastard who has the key to the door in our way.  Yeah, we decide that he’s going to wheel in his chair over to that door, with us dragging him by his neck.  I love it!  Then we have these two guards, one of which is telling me I can’t be here.  Oh yes, I can!  By the way, nice gun.  Mind if I borrow it?  As if we care if he says no.

Then we get into the action.  I couldn’t help but hear the computer say that the “Slayer” has entered the facility.  At first, I thought it meant me, since the original game has the Hell logs calling me the “Doomslayer.”  But I think it’s talking about someone else.  Does this mean there’s someone who can stand toe-to-toe with me?  This intrigues.

This gun is awesome!  My least favorite weapon from the last game was the pulse rifle.  It seemed useless to me.  But this weapon puts that shit to shame!  The pulses from this weapon blows the demons to bits!  Plus, there seems to be an effect on nearby enemies hit with it.  I am liking this more and more.

After blowing some enemies to bits, we get teleported into another room, where there is a Baron of Hell wreaking havoc.  In this battle, we learn some neat things.  For starters, instead of just hitting the guy, we are blowing pieces off him.  Alright.  Plus, his ground pound attacks have a very definitive area of effect, but there is a nice way to counter-act it.  I was sure that I saw earlier Doomguy doing some kind of dash maneuver, and you see it again here.  Makes it look like you can use it as a kind of strafing move as well.  That’s pretty slick.  The speed of the fights is taken to 11 for this game.

Once we get out of that fight, we go back to a weapon that I had as my old stand-by in the first game.  The gauss cannon with the scope attachment was the premier weapon I had for bigger targets.  Seeing it again is nice, but I saw something this time.  It seems that it doesn’t have the same ammo as the pulse rifle.  Yes!  It was so frustrating that so many weapons all had ammo pools shared with other weapons.  If they got rid of that for this game, all the better!  Let me be able to go through my full arsenal before having to rip out the chainsaw and getting an ammo dump.

During this next fight, we get to see that one of the attachments of the regular shotgun is to use it as an assault rifle.  That’s awesome!  I love it!  And when we attacked a Mancubus, we could blow its arm off!  So, does that mean that all enemies have destructable parts?!  Color me impressed!  Bethesda really has gone the extra mile here.  Not to mention, this new integrated flamethrower attachment is really something.  Being able to watch your enemies scream as they burn, with you able to blow off pieces of armor to refuel your own is pretty cool.  Lots of little touches with this new game to make the pace even better.

Finally, we get to the door, and it seems we are introduced to this “Slayer.”  I get that it is meant to be badass, but something about it doesn’t feel that way to me.  To me, it just looks like a more amped up Imp or something.  But there is something that caught my eye – we got the sword back from the original game.  As I remember, when you get to the end of that game, Samuel Hayden takes it from you as he sends you through the portal back to Hell, with a farewell indicating that he knows he will eventually see you again.  That intrigued me then.

It was strange for Samuel to turn on you.  He went through all the trouble of finding you, and bringing you to Mars.  He was almost loving over your sarcophagus, yet turned on you in the end.  But his saying that he knew he would see you again caught my eye.  As did him saying he isn’t the villain of the story.  Was there something he knew about everything?  Part of me is looking forward to seeing him again.  Hopefully the game doesn’t fuck around with some half-assed him already being dead storyline.

Overall, this looks awesome!  The action is faster, the weapons are better.  Do we get that sniper rifle from the last game?  You see the red troopers using it, and it looked pretty sweet.  I was hoping to get a crack with it.  Since the assault rifle still has scope capabilities, probably not.  Bummer.  That thing looked fun.  It has changed up the formula just enough, and knowing that I will be among humans makes me even more stoked to see what happens next.

Initial Verdict
Time to kill some Hellspawn!

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: A Plague Tale: Innocence – Gamescom 2018 Trailer

Holy shit!  Where has this game been?!  I’m normally pretty on top of nerd culture, but this one totally snuck up on me.  And now that I have seen the unveiling of it, I can’t get enough.  This has sky-rocketed from a game I have never heard about, to me desperately hoping it comes out in 2019.  I know it won’t be this year, since the phrase “Work in Progress” is at the top of this video all the time it’s up, but a man can dream, right?  Much like a lot of the games I have been stoked for, over the years, it begins with us seeing a decent snippet of gameplay.  Going in not having known anything about this, I was giddy to see more.  It kept me enraptured from first to last.

Part of me wishes all games did that – introduce themselves with a long gameplay bit, then have the story trailer and whatnot to get me into the narrative.  If they can find a way to work both in, that’s great.  And for those who want to call foul because of how I said that I like how Kojima has done with his new project, there’s a difference.  I expected what Kojima did.  He likes the secrecy.  And this trailer was in the same vein.  The gameplay was more in depth, but it didn’t spoil the whole experience for me.  It tantalized me enough to want more.  That’s what a good trailer is supposed to do!  There’s a lot to talk about with this, so let’s get into it.

We begin on a boat, with a boy who looks to be in his early teens steering, and an young woman who is holding a young boy.  The lad is sick, and she is concerned.  This companion, introduced as Lucas, seems to be a very knowledgeable sort.  She asks him about the nature of the brother’s disease, and he imparts information from alchemists.  From their conversation, I can gather that the parents of the two passengers are dead, and Lucas is not a family member.  So what is the nature of their relationship?  An interesting question.  Over the course of the trailer, we see that he is quite dedicated to the two.

I’m also curious as to what disease the girl’s brother has.  The title of this game has Plague in it, but I get the feeling that it isn’t The Black Death.  If that were the case, then he’d probably be fucked.  Does take a touch of the realism out when Lucas explains that it can have effects, depending on the person.  As if this is some supernatural thing that will give him super-powers.  I am kind of hoping not, because as this trailer goes on and we see how it looks grounded in realism in a lot of ways, it makes the description of the illness seem far-fetched.  Of course, it may just be that it is a folktale and the kid really does have a very bad illness.  Kind of hoping so.

Once we get past the cutscene into gameplay, we find out that the place they are heading is French.  So this game takes place in Medieval France?!  Alright!  This makes me happy.  Their accents go with it, I suppose.  Lucas knows enough about this kid to know his name – Hugo.  Alright.  This tells me that there is some connection between the two sibling and Lucas.  Enough for him to be very brotherly and it feels natural.  The visuals in this gameplay bit are unbelievable!  It genuinely does feel like I am in Medieval France on a very foggy day.  Getting a sense of place like this is just astounding.  I also caught that we have the Roman numeral V and a title.  So this is the fifth chapter of this story.  That’s interesting as well.

As we journey down the river, I can’t help but notice there is some banter between the girl and Lucas.  She cares for his comfort, and he talks with her like they are close enough to be open about that.  It’s an interesting hint about their dynamic.  Curious to see who Lucas is to the two of them.

Hugo finds himself a British shield and sword, pretending to be a knight, but the girl and Lucas are immediately alarmed.  Why would that be here?  The answer doesn’t take long, as the smell of death greets them.  At the top of the hill, they see the source – a battlefield, full of rotting corpses.  The detail again comes to mind, and you can feel the horror of countless dead bodies, all around.  It’s clear that girl wants to go around this, but Lucas tells her they have no choice, if they want to get to the Chateau.

What follows is a brilliantly told bit of exposition through gameplay.  You can feel their horror, having to climb over the dead to get away from the nightmare.  Hugo feels like a real kid, asking silly questions to the person who is the adult in his life at the moment.  Coming up to the corpse of a horse, the situation goes from bad to worse.  Rats burst out of the rotting carcass, and now they are surrounded.

Then we get to see a gameplay feature.  You can loot the environment, and fashion weapons out of what you find.  It’s a simple crafting mechanic, but it makes sense.  We also see that the girl’s weapon of choice is her sling.  After fashioning some incendiaries, you find you can use them with the sling to fire volleys at flammable targets.  Light keeps the rats away.  Odd, but whatever.  I’ll go with it.  There are also some cool environmental puzzles, like using a trebuchet to assist in lighting more fires.  We also find that the girl, Lucas, and even Hugo are involved in solving these puzzles.  That intrigues me more.

I’ve said before how little touches in these kinds of trailers go a long way for me.  Little signs that the developers show special attention to detail.  One thing I noticed is that your torches burn down, if they are just sticks of wood.  The kind enclosed in metal don’t, but that little touch goes a long way to selling me on the realism.  It’s good stuff.

A human enemy comes into play, and here shows off a couple more mechanics.  Not only can you use long grass to hide in, but she can also use her sling to target either human opponents, or their stuff.  Like when you use it to break the lamp the guard is using to keep the rats away.  Whats follows is, what I’m sure in real life would be absolutely horrifying, the rats tearing him to pieces.  His screams sound real enough.  Lucas finally says her name.  I think it was Alysia?  Correct me if I’m wrong.  It’s also interesting that you can use the rats ripping other enemies to pieces as a way to charge past them.  This game looks so fucking grim!  I love it!

We get more environmental puzzles, this time with siege weapons.  I cannot get over how amazing this looks.  The siege tower is full of arrows.  Looks like it was headed for a wall we can see behind, but never quite made it.  Here we get to see that, since it’s clear she’s not made for battle, when enemies catch sight of you, your best option is to send some stones flying from your sling, straight at their heads.  Naturally, the rats tear their corpses to pieces, giving you an in to get inside the siege tower.

Since stealth definitely seems to be the name of the game, using breakable jars to lure guards away is smart.  Giving you the chance to shatter their lamp and let the rats go to town on them.  It’s such a disgusting way to deal with your enemies.  I genuinely do love it.  After pushing a siege weapon and getting it stuck in the mud, you realize that not only does tall grass factor in, but so do other environmental hazards.  I kinda like that.  Makes you wonder what ways they will integrate that into the narrative.

Alysia gets to have this neat bit where she follows an English soldier who has a torch, in order to get close enough to get one that is on a cart.  That tells me that there is going to be a lot of clever sneaking in this game.  I love it!  Again, little touches like that go a long way.  She’s not a warrior, after all.  The best she can do is use her small size and padded feet to stay silent and move among those who are dangerous.  The game helps you keep track of the positions of her enemies by having a kind of white border on the side they are facing.  I like that too.

There is this other nice way of the game telling you that you can only be stealthy.  Notice the metal helmets that they are wearing?  That’s a nice way for the game to tell you that their heads are protected.  If they find you, you’re fucked.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  And the guy has a torch on top of a pole, which means that you can’t break it.  The only choice you have is to sneak.  The player here is smart, realizing that they have to ditch the torch and head into the tall grass to sneak past.

It seems that even the dead can be of some use, as there is a wonderfully grotesque puzzle of using dead French soldiers as food for the rats to sneak past.  It also gives us a nice little bit with Lucas being very kind and telling Hugo to stay close to his sister.  I like this character more and more.  The trailer ends with a knight who appears to be trapped begging to be helped, only for you to use him as living bait for the rats, so you can escape.

This trailer is DARK!  I cannot love this enough.  I am going to be reading all I can about this game, to learn everything I can about when it will be released and what other media will be put out regarding it.  Sure, it’s easy to make comparisons to this game and titles like The Last of Us, but the setting and character give it all it needs to stand apart.  Not to mention the fact that stealth is the only tool you have.  There is no shanking or fist-fights.  All you can do is hide, use the environment, or the sole weapon you have in order to stay alive.  This looks awesome.

Initial Verdict
Cannot wait to see more!

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Bentley is the Best Disabled Character in Gaming

If you don’t know who I’m talking about, let me introduce you to the brains of the operation for the Cooper Gang, from the Sly franchise.  Bentley is the third in the initial team that is made up of Sly Cooper, The Murray, and himself.  While Sly is the thief skills of the operation, and Murray is the muscle, Bentley is the brains.  When we see him in the first game, he is only a voice, never out in the field.  The second game has us getting to take him out on missions, and while he is sometimes a nervous wreck, he always gives it his all to get the job done.

At the end of Sly 2: Band of Thieves, he ends up being the final victim of the final boss.  After you defeat her, she gets in one last hit on him, which results in him being a paraplegic.  They could have made Bentley a pathetic character that you only ever feel sorry for.  But no!  Instead, he becomes the definition of a reference that I don’t know how many of you will understand – handi-capable.  His chair become an extension of himself, and right from the beginning, you see that being put in there hasn’t slowed him down one bit!

Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves begins with him and Sly being back together, but without Murray.  He holds himself responsible for what happened to him, and left to go partake of a life of meditation.  The reunion between them is genuinely touching.  While there is the goal of getting Murray with them for their latest big score, you do feel like he is sad to have lost his friend when they are reunited.  But my favorite scene is when he is on a mission with Penelope, a newcomer to the team and his crush.

There is this great scene where she is fawning all over Sly, implying that it was him who taught Bentley his tech skills.  One of his weak points is his pride, so Bentley scoffs at the notion and points out that he is the brains of the outfit and is damn proud of it.  Penelope correctly calls that for what it is – him being jealous.  Partly because her being into Sly (a common reaction of females they come across), but also because it is the only time that we see Bentley have self-pity.  He admits that he misses his mobility and wishes he didn’t have to live the way he does.  It leads to a great moment of Penelope telling him about all the other things he can do.

After regaining his composure, Penelope mentions that they won’t get anywhere standing around, stopping to apologize for saying standing.  This is where my bit that caused me to love the character comes into play.  He castigates her for the apology, saying he is perfectly aware that it is a colloquialism and he knows what the usage is.  That’s awesome!  None of this SJW self-pity and need to make themselves feel special crap.  He doesn’t confront the feeling of wishing he was not where he is, but is able to get himself back on his feet and doesn’t want others to pity him.  It’s a great scene.

Everywhere I look, there are people who want gaming character to be nothing but whatever their identifying issue is.  Their race, their sexuality, their gender.  Instead, we have a guy who kicks ass, is damn smart, and doesn’t want pity from anybody else because he is able to take care of himself.  There is even a great bit at the end of the mission where Penelope is blinded, and his quick-thinking is what saves the day.  But he doesn’t feel the need to rub her nose in it.  Instead, he decides to look after his teammate and make sure she isn’t permanently blinded.

He isn’t perfect, and makes mistakes, but the game has him going out of his way to try and fix those mistakes, and admitting when he needs help from others because he’s gotten himself in a bit of a hole.  Plus, we see the character evolve past the scared newbie to field work, into a capable part of the team who takes on VERY complicated tasks with his teammates as he needs them.  Everyone in the team recognizes that they are better together than apart.  It’s great stuff.

Meanwhile, in “intersectional” or “woke” movies like The Last Jedi, we have Tumbrina woman getting a ton of people killed and when a guy takes her to task for it, Leia Poppins (if you’ve seen the movie, you know why that reference exists) shoots him in the back.  Because Woman Power!  Oh, and let’s not forget Rey the Mary Sue!  She only just learned about The Force a matter of days ago, and she’s already so good at it that she doesn’t even require training.  She can just do everything!  Moving mountains, no problem!

I’ll take Bentley and his attitude ANY day over that garbage.

Until next time, a quote,

“I’m the brains of this operation.” – Bentley, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

Peace out,

Maverick