The Death of Nuance in Gaming Culture

Everywhere I look, I feel more and more at odds with the nerd culture.  E3 was the best example.  Sony’s press conference had me getting to see some pretty awesome trailers.  Their choice to make their four biggest draws into not trailers but full on gameplay demos was fantastic!  It had me on the edge of my seat.  First there was Ghost of Tsushima.  A game that looks like the perfect homage to samurai culture.  I’ve been DYING for a game like this for so long.  Ever since a brilliant artist did an idea for an Assassin’s Creed game set in Japan.  Now it’s happening!  Except not tied to that franchise.

Next up there was The Last of Us: Part II.  Here’s where I felt my experience waver.  See, I know that Neil Druckmann has this HUGE chip on his shoulder when it comes to social justice.  He takes what Anita Sarkeesian says very seriously.  I’ve been replaying Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and it’s there as well.  But that doesn’t stop him from writing good stuff.  It’s a balancing act in my eyes.  See, I don’t hate something with a social justice bend so long as the narrative is engaging and the characters are good.  And since this is a sequel to one of my favorite games of all time, the pressure certainly is on here.

So when I saw this game had a LONG opening segment that goes all post-apocalyptic 90210 on me, it rubbed me the wrong way.  Especially when the trailer has all the diversity of a college campus.  And the girl that Ellie starts sucking face with is more and more reminding me of Sarkeesian herself.  Which has me wondering if this character is written so he can fanboy all over her.  That’s…weird, and off-putting.  It keeps taking me out of the moment of actually liking the trailer.

Then we get to the gameplay stuff and hot damn is it back to form!  Granted, the person playing is a fucking idiot who should be dropping their enemies to keep them from raising the alarm, but whatever.

We then get to the trailer that had me really at odds with everyone in nerd culture that I follow on Twitter – Death Stranding.  I really loved that trailer.  It showed me the world, elements of play, and gave me some neat insight into the characters.  I got to see new characters be introduced and I learned about the world.  Then there was that tense bit with the shadow creatures that reminded me of The Sorrow boss battle and I was stoked.  But that’s not what I saw online.

Person after person bitching and moaning about how this trailer told them nothing and how they don’t know how to feel.  I fucking lost it.  Where is the appreciation of nuance with these mother-fuckers?!  Oh my god, they didn’t spoon-feed how you’re supposed to feel about this new game!  Say it isn’t so!  You actually have to think about it and come to your own conclusions!  The horror!  Fuck me! People posting on Twitter mocking both the trailer and Kojima himself because they weren’t given something that told them everything.

Everyone seems to believe that this game is giving them another Metal Gear type of game, and if they don’t get it then they are sad.  But it might not.  Kojima has said that this game doesn’t start a super-badass action hero.  It stars a normal man who is in way over his head in crazy circumstance, but he stays a normal man.  It strikes me that because of Kojima’s reputation, everyone is hoping for something and not being open to what this game may end up being.  It may be a game where you do little to no fighting at all.  You may have to hide.  Or it may be a narrative-focused game where the goal of gameplay is in exploring the world.  But the mystery is there, and it’s part of why I am still super stoked.  Because this could be anything and I think that’s exciting.

But it seems I’m in a minority on that.  Everywhere I look it’s people wanting to be spoon-fed.  Or they just want something to get them pumped.  Having to think about something critically?  Fuck that!  I want my nerdgasm!  Part of me wishes Sony had chosen to end on that, just so all the troglodytes in there got to walk out feeling like someone had pissed in their coffee.

So many people screaming Bethesda’s praises from the hills.  I am not among them.  The only thing in their little conference that even appeals to me is the sequel to the excellent DOOM game.  That has me pumped.  Everyone else was dead weight in my eyes.  Then Nintendo takes the stage and it’s “SMASH BROS!  YAY!” all over the goddamn place.  I…I don’t care about that.  I stopped following Nintendo pretty closely a long time ago.  I can only play the same game but with more shit so many times before I start to realize that their formula doesn’t ever change.  But I guess that’s what people want.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess?  I’m sure there’s some nuance there that people will accuse me of missing.

“They’re not the same games!  The new Legend of Zelda was open world!”  What’s that?  So Wind Waker just didn’t happen?  Okay.  “But Lucien, more characters!”  Neat.  That looks interesting, I suppose.  But it’s the same game.  New characters, new stages, but that’s it.  I guess it’s supposed to be a system seller.  I can see that.  Nintendo seems to have enough fanboys around.

I just feel like I’m missing something here.  Like, everywhere I turn I see myself at odds with what the prevailing thought is.  I was more engaged with Sony’s offerings than anyone else’s because the games looked interesting and they took the quality over quantity approach with their big hitters.  I wanted to see big demos that showed off and they delivered.  But there’s everyone hating it.  Bethesda releases trailers that are basically just nerdgasm fuel, and everyone loses it.  Sure, I felt myself getting kinda pumped for the DOOM sequel.  It’s on Earth now, which is fun.  Though that does leave me wondering what happened back on Mars, since the guy told me at the end he would be seeing me again.  Still, cool, I guess.

Maybe this is me getting older.  I just don’t feel the draw to hype fuel.  I’d rather see what I’m getting into and really feel some sense of attachment to it.  It’s how I can stomach the 90210 shit in The Last of Us: Part II trailer, because I know that Neil Druckmann might have a chip on his shoulder but he still can write good stuff and I want to know if he does it again.  I game for stories.  It’s all care about.  Sure, if the gameplay sucks, I can’t get into it, but the story is what everything hinges on.  I don’t care how good the gameplay is, if the story sucks, I hate it.  It’s why I REALLY didn’t like Rise of the Tomb Raider, even though its gameplay improves upon the previous game.  The story was boring and the villains were stupid.

Or perhaps it comes down to me being the analytical type.  I love to dissect things, both what I love and what I hate.  I could go on and on about the things I like for hours, or how much the things I hate suck ass.  It’s part of the fun for me, because when things are good, I mean really good, it gives me such a healthy appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into them and being able to revel in that final product.  Or if there is something that is really good but still has its flaws, it gives me a greater appreciation for what it does right and I can laugh at the parts that don’t work and think about how it could be improved upon.  Over-thinking is something I am guilty of, but that’s part of the fun in my eyes.

But I’m starting to realize that I am in a minority here.  A very lonely minority.  I see nuance and get excited over mysteries.  I don’t like to be spoon-fed things and come to my own conclusions (another part of why I hated the 90210 shit.  Because it felt like Druckmann was trying to score SJW points since their opinion matters to him).  I don’t get the nerdgasm anymore.  Now I get the more reserved sense of excitement wondering what I’ll learn next.

What do you all think?  Let me know in the Comments

Until next time, a quote,

“The worst thing to be is all alone with other people.” – Quinn Pierce

Peace out,

Maverick

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Lucien’s First Take: Death Stranding – E3 2018 Trailer

Finally, we get to the piece that I would say is the most controversial in that it still has people guessing.  This game has had a very strange hype cycle around it.  Everyone is wanting to be told everything about it, and I think that’s unfortunate.  It’s a Kojima game, so of course he’s going to play things close to the vest.  During the Sony press conference, I saw person after person bitching about this.  It was unfortunate, because when I saw this trailer, I was genuinely curious.  A lot like all the other trailers, it opens the door for more questions, but that’s not a bad thing.

Why is it that everyone wants everything spelled out for them?  We asked for gameplay, and we got it.  It’s just that the gameplay is as enigmatic as the story.  It always bugs me how everyone is looking to be spoon-fed everything.  When people were talking about the old Metal Gear Solid games, people had no idea what the first one was until they started playing it.  Even the box was enigmatic.  It had the title on a white background.  That told you nothing.  People who know Kojima know that this is his MO, so they why is everyone shocked that he doesn’t hold your fucking hand?  I swear, gamers are some of the biggest babies.

A lot like the last trailer, we’re going to be asking some questions, which I think is what this trailer was shooting for, so all of the good.  Let’s take a look.

 

Okay, so the first thing we see is…a baby’s ass.  This is how you know Kojima knows what he’s doing.  He did that deliberately to fuck with us.  People think that he doesn’t plan this stuff out, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  Baby gives us a thumb’s up and we’re off to the plot.

We have some chick and Norman Reedus talking about things that are a little vague.  At the very least, we learn that there are levels to what people who examine this world have, and that some people have the ability to see the creatures in the shadows, while our main character can feel them.  The chick offers him a job, but he turns her down.  There is some implication that what she does is dangerous, and he prefer what he does so he doesn’t have to be in that.

Now we get to the gameplay, and just like all the games I’ve talked about, the visuals are breath-taking.  We have Norman Reedus walking through a giant grassland that reminds me a lot of Scotland, for whatever reason.  You also see these spires going into the sky.  Landmarks of objectives?  That’s smart, given how you have this HUGE open area to traverse.

After more traversal of the landscape, we see Norman Reedus in a bath, washing away what appears to be blood from a lot of scrapes.  To me, this says that this world is dangerous as it is, and that’s why Reedus isn’t looking to get with the chick for her job when it is going to put him in even more danger.  He has his own problems.  Then we get to one of the weirder things – him carrying a corpse.  That’s kinda weird.  Why do they harvest bodies?

Then we see a destroyed metropolitan area.  This has me wondering if there was some kind of cataclysm and now the people in this world are having to survive in what’s life.  Kind of a post-apocalyptic sorta deal.  Lots of questions, which has me even more excited. More traversal, and we see Reedus pulling something really gross out of his foot.  That was so eww.  But has me wondering even more.

As he gets to the top of a ridge overlooking what appears to be a camp of some kind, he pulls out a gun.  Does this mean that there is fighting for resources?  More interesting questions.  I dig it.

Now we get to the various screens telling us things, and I think we get to the juicier stuff.  Like Norman Reedus trying to get a picture, but there is a weird shadow entity that seems to be walking on its hands, and wherever it presses down, grass grows.  That’s is surreal and creepy on a whole lot of levels, and it’s pretty clear that our main character is terrified of it.  As he tries again to get the picture he was going for, a hand grabs his, and we see…is that Lea Seydoux?  I remember her from Blue is the Warmest Color.  There’s a hard turn.  She’s dressed in pretty hardcore gear, so what is her deal?

Something I noticed about the scene after she arrives – did you catch that music?  Did that style not seem a little familiar?  Call me crazy, but since Kojima was originally intending to make a Silent Hill game with Norman Reedus and Guillermo Del Toro, and now he is basically doing the same collaboration in this game, it got me thinking.  Didn’t that music sound like Akira Yamaoka’s style?

We then get a bombshell thing that most people seem to have missed.  She says that she’s headed into town.  So there is SOME kind of infrastructure to this madness?  Is her logo on the outfit a faction?  This trailer is so good about giving us more and more questions, all of which I cannot wait to answer.  Next up we hear people on the radio talking to him, and it implies that whatever these creatures are, there is method to what they are doing as well.  Lea’s character alluded to as much as well.

Then we see that the baby that this dude carries around serves a kind of function.  The part of the machine that can detect the shadow creatures is contingent on using the baby.  That’s neat.  What follows is a genuinely tense scene where we see the shadow creatures above in a way that almost looks like The Sorrow boss fight from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.  Kojima couldn’t get away from the stealth gameplay, but that’s fine by me.  If the dude knows his shit, no sense telling him not to do what he’s good at.  The umbilical cords connecting the creatures implies some kind of mother organism.  That’s another neat clue that people don’t seem to want to pick up on.

After trying to dodge the creatures, they sight him and pull him into the ground.  Since I know that death in this game means being sucked into the much more violent purgatory realm, I figure that he didn’t actually fail in that section.  We also get Lea Seydoux eating a bug.  That’s gross, and weird, but she says that the eating of them is beneficial.  Dying to know why.

Finally, we get introduced to a blonde chick that seems to have some connection to Reedus, but he doesn’t know who she is.  Well dressed, but seems to exist in the purgatory universe of the game.  I wonder what her deal is.  So many questions.  It’s great.

Most people I talk to hate this trailer.  I love it.  Something that gives me more questions than answers while showing me the game is always for the better.  Do we want trailers that just spoil the whole damn thing?  I don’t.  Between movies and video games, so many trailers tell us everything there is to know and leave no room for interpretation.  Kojima loves him some intrigue and likes to keep gamers wondering right up to when we see what it is.  That’s what I like in his games.  You never truly know what to expect.  If all I had with games was the same shit over and over again, I would get bored very, very quickly.  Why is that what everyone wants?  It makes no sense to me.

Initial Verdict
Can’t wait to see what comes out next

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: The Last of Us: Part II Gameplay Trailer – E3 2018

The sequel to one of my favorite games of all time.  Needless to say the stakes for this are a mile high.  I saw the original trailer and I was pretty interested. Why is Ellie on the war path?  What is Joel’s role in this?  Will it stick with the moral framework of the previous game?  A dark narrative about the cost of living and the cost of being a good person when lights are gone and the cops don’t exist anymore.  I loved the dark themes and the brutal combat.  Joel and Ellie and their dichotomy was absolutely fantastic, and I am genuinely eager to see what they get up to next.  So let’s take a look at this trailer and see if it measures up.

 

We open up with a ho-down.  Okay.  I’m sure this is going to go somewhere.  Our girl Ellie is there and is looking longingly at some Indian girl.  I’m speaking about people from India, not Native Americans.  Alright. Then Asian dude comes up to her to talk.  So this game has all the diversity of a college campus pamphlet because Neil Druckmann thinks that Anita Sarkeesian has a point.  Even when her and her ex-affiliate Josh McIntosh shit-talk his games.  Funny how that works.  Okay, whatever.  So long as they’re good characters, I don’t care.  But this trailer is boring me.

The trailer goes on with this 90210 bullshit.  Where is this going?  What is this place, anyway?  Is it Tommy’s compound?  How have they maintained power over all this time?  With no way to replace parts for the hydroelectric dam, if things break, how do they keep the lights on?  I’m so bored by the stupid banter between these characters I don’t know and the one I do know that I’m finding plot holes.  This isn’t a good look.

We see the banter turn to romantic banter.  Okay.  Since I don’t know who this chick is, I don’t really care.  I guess it’s a cute scene, but I don’t give a fuck.  They kiss.  Okay.  Good for them.  Happy couple.  Where the fuck is this going?!  Then it cuts to her killing someone.  Oh hey!  Now we’re back on point!

Okay, I have SO many follow-up questions.  For starters, where is Joel?  Asian dude alludes to him being overprotective, and Ellie seems to agree.  It comes off as a little bit of animosity between them.  So, is the game going to tell us what happened between them?  Asian dude calls him her old man.  That’s interesting.  Because the audience could see that Joel and Ellie were forming a relationship as surrogate father and daughter.  It’s part of what made their dynamic so beautiful and tragic.  What happened?  Their connection tied in to the message of the game and I kinda wanna know where these two are at.  He is mentioned and then brushed off.

Given that we have India lesbian girl as the central focal point of this trailer (which again I want to stress I don’t care about, so long as she is not a boring Mary Sue), is our connection in this game supposed to be her and Ellie’s relationship?  I assume that she’s dead by the time we get to where the actual gameplay starts.  I mean, what else would drive Ellie to be so eager to go back to her killing ways?  In the last trailer she hinted that she was looking to get some very sweet revenge for what these bandit group has done. Given these two being all kiss-y would imply be killing her girlfriend, which would point that being the central conflict.

Here’s the problem – I don’t know this character.  My hope is that if she’s interesting enough, I will come to feel bad about her being murdered.  Druckmann has shown that he can write a solid relationship.  It’s how I felt bad about Joel’s daughter being killed at the beginning of the last game.  But you spend a solid four minutes on these two’s dynamic, and I don’t know who this love interest is.  It really makes me wonder what the purpose of putting that in the trailer was, if not to win SJW brownie points.  You’ve shown that you seek these people’s approval, after all, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

It’s unfortunate that the India lesbian is probably dead by the point where Ellie is being violent again.  I get the feeling that the moral quandary here is that she was living a very upstanding life, outside of the violence that her and Joel found so easy to embrace in the previous game.  The violence that she wanted to give her life for, rather than be forced to live with it.  They had to accept the people they had become by the end, because Ellie chose to accept her surrogate father’s lie about what happened at the Fireflies base, rather than the truth.

Part of me would like a scene where Indian lesbian sees this part of her girlfriend.  Where she sees this violence inside of her that she is now openly embracing all over again.  A part that I get the feeling she spent years trying to get away from.  Now it’s all back, and she has gone back to that life without a backward look.  A moment where the girlfriend sees that person that Ellie is willing to let herself be come and being horrified by it sounds kinda fun.  It fits with the theme of the universe in the game.  At least from the last game.  I’m not too sure if this game will remember that.  It would be a real shame if it doesn’t.

Also, openly gay characters in a post-apocalyptic setting interests me.  In the last game, we had Bill.  He clearly had a very ugly relationship with someone who hated him for his quirks and his conservative outlook on how to live his life and be regimented about all things at all times.  The game put that relationship and its falling apart as a very hard thing because in a world where so many people are dead, infected, or crazy, finding gay love must be the hardest thing in the world.  And given how in situations where order breaks down, conservative ideologies tend to flourish rather than liberal ones, being openly gay must be a HUGE risk to take.  Unless Neil Druckmann is going to just avoid talking about that.  It’s a magical world where reality and the ugly parts of it don’t exist.

I’m not saying I hate this little romantic thing Ellie and India chick have going.  My problem is that if you’re going to put this relationship in this setting, at least take the time to acknowledge that it’s going to be uncomfortable.  Or difficult.  Don’t just tell us that it’s totally normal part of that society.

Back to where the trailer is.  Ellie has knifed a dude and is back in form.  Alright.  I like this.  Let’s talk about the actual gameplay.  Oh my Groj, the environments in this game are gorgeous.  I noticed that Ellie seems to be able to hide in tall vegetation, much like in Uncharted 4.  I liked it in that game, and I like it here too.  So why is this player having her skirt around her enemies?  That’s not smart.  Especially since she just killed a dude.  It’s always smarter in these games to clear out your enemies.  Less chance of detection.  When they find dead bodies, they raise the alarm, you know.

I also caught that you can go prone through shorter vegetation.  Yes!  I like that too.  The sneaking possibilities in this game are expanded.  This makes me happy on a lot of levels.  Can’t help but notice those two guards you didn’t kill before raised the alarm.  Sure would have helped if you had taken them out so you can kill the enemies better.  Whoever is playing this gameplay bit is an idiot.  Also, are you unable to do the listening thing from the first game?  Because it seems an obvious thing to do given how the player never seems to know where the enemy is.

Given that Druckmann takes what Anita Sarkeesian and her ilk say seriously, it is interesting that we see that now, not only can you kill women, you can kill minority women too.  I’m actually not against that.  I like seeing the people you have to murder get changed up a bit.  The white man as being the only ones with the potential for evil is a tired cliche.  The combat also seems to have gotten a bit of revision.  Is there a kind of dodge mechanic?  It looks that way?  Or at least a parry mechanic to avoid hits.  I like that too.  The brawler combat from the last game did kind of get old pretty quick.  And since Ellie is small, dodging is a good way to get around her smaller size than her opponents.

After having to run away because the player is an idiot and didn’t realize that it’s better to kill all of your enemies as you go, we have Ellie using tall grass to hide in.  Again, I like this.  Then we see her hiding under a car!  That’s cool as shit!  And you can use weapons under the car.  That’s pretty cool too.  Though, a silent weapon would be better.  Not sure what that would be given the tight space under a vehicle, but just floating that idea.  This person playing really doesn’t get being stealthy.

Some more gunplay because this person can’t do headshots, and we see another thing that caught my eye – arrows stick out of you when you get hit.  That’s kinda neat.  Like a mechanic where if you get hit with physical projectiles you have to deal with that.  You can also use bad guys as a shield!  That’s cool as fuck!  I would abuse this SO Much.  There is also some nice destruction of the environment in this game.  That’s a nice touch.  I also like how taking ammo out of corpses like arrows is more involved.  Another nice touch.  The little nice touches are adding up.

Then we see something I was really hoping would be improved upon – the crafting mechanic.  You can make different kinds of ammo!  Yes!  So many possibilities.  This game seems to be big on giving you lots of new tools to deal with the apocalypse.  You can also pick up ammo enemies drop when they’re hurt!  More and more nice touches that go a long way.

Finally, we cut back to 90210 with a character I have no reason to care about.  REALLY hoping we come to care about this character and not have her be a boring token.  Thus far, I’ve seen how Druckmann still has the capacity to write good characters.  But he led on this trailer with this, so he’s putting all his chips in this basket.  Best of luck.

Overall, the gameplay looks slick as fuck, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Initial Verdict
Hyped to see what comes next

Peace out,

Maverick

PS: Wait a tick!  Something just occurred to me.  India lesbian looks kinda familiar.  And it is fitting, since Neil Druckmann takes this woman seriously.  Am I the only person who thinks that she looks a bit like Anita Sarkeesian?  I can’t be the only person who sees the resemblance.  Is this Neil fanboying over Anita by putting her in a video game?!  I mean, we already have Anita’s self-insert fantasy game, but now we have this guy putting her in his video game.  I CANNOT be the only one who noticed this.

Lucien’s First Take: Ghost of Tsushima – E3 2018 Gameplay Trailer

With games like The Last of Us: Part II and Death Stranding, part of me was hoping that Sony was going to bring the house down at E3, but unfortunately they didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, their showing was cool and all, but it wasn’t the absolute extravaganza that I was hoping for.  Still, the thing that Sony can best lay claim to is their exclusives, and they knew that that is what everyone was hoping to see.  So they delivered, and I am going to be talking about all of them in several posts.  I hate to start at the high point, but the one that really blew me away in terms of gameplay elements is the Ghost of Tsushima trailer.  This thing looks so amazing.  I cannot wait to play.  Let’s talk about it.

We begin with showing a windswept area.  Oh my Groj!  This looks amazing.  The visuals in this game are a cut above.  At first, you start thinking that this is all just cutscene stuff, but then you see our main character, and the gameplay begins.  As you walk up this hill, I am in awe of the subtle touches in this game.  The grass moving with the wind.  There is a woman crying over dead bodies, and our main character looks at her before moving on.  Little things like that go a long way, for me.

Then we get to the Otsuna Grasslands, and holy shit!  These things are amazing!  I am in awe, absolute awe of how gorgeous this is.  Makes me feel like a kid again, giddy to play the next really cool game that I think is really cool.  Poor grammar.  Whatever.  We then get to ride through them, with that soft flute music in the background.  If that is indicative of what the soundtrack for this game is going to be like, then I am even more excited.  It’s so soft and really gets me in the spirit of feudal Japan.

Coming to a very dark forest, we can tell that trouble is brewing, and it’s time for our nameless character to spring into action.  Here’s where we get our first take at the combat in this game.  I will say that it’s kind of odd to have the Mongols seemingly talking in their own language, but to have the regular gameplay in English.  I’m not complaining, but it does stick out.  Back to the combat, I like that the pace isn’t super fast like an Assassin’s Creed game.  In fact, there are points where you see that you have to adjust your strategy for different enemy types.  That’s pretty neat.  It’s also great to have the first guy coming at you and leaves blowing in the wind, only for your character to whip out his sword at the last second and deal with him.  Kinda anime, but whatever.  It’s cool as fuck.

We’re then paired up with a female character, who seems to have a chip on her shoulder, but it’s clear that our character just wants to get the job done, rather than deal with politics.  It’s here that we get to see that there is stealth gameplay as well, and it’s fun.  Kinda makes me think of the Arkham games.  Unsure why.

At the temple, we get to see that not only does this game have some slick combat, but there’s parkour too!  I love this game more and more with every passing second.  It’s like that Assassin’s Creed: Rising Sun idea that a dude posed, only a million times better because it isn’t attached to the Assassin’s Creed franchise.  That series is dead to me.  One thing you have to help you with your parkouring is a rope.  This makes me think of Uncharted 4, which is just fine.  I loved that game to death too.

Once we find our ally, and see he’s in a pickle, the game feels even more like Arkham Knight, in that we can drop down and take out one enemy, with a kind of fear mechanic to take out the other two.  Not complaining there either.  That was one of the more fun parts of that game as well.  When we get our ally out, it seems that the woman who had the chip on her shoulder wastes no time showing us what that chip is.  Our character rightly points out that we have bigger problems than petty grudges, but it seems that she won’t let this go.

What follows is one of the coolest boss fights I have EVER seen!  The deliberate pace of combat in this fight is excellent.  Kinda makes me think of For Honor.  Carefully timing your attacks to avoid her counters.  But the setting is what sells it.  There is so much atmosphere in this battle.  I also love how this character is determined to see this fight through.  As the Mongols arrive and shit gets real, she’s not backing down.  So much atmosphere.  It’s great stuff.  The trailer ends with the two at least putting aside their differences to face the enemy.

This is what I’m talking about!  The hype train is absolutely bananas for this game.  Unfortunately, the lack of a release date tells me likely 2020 at least.  Bummer.  Oh well.  We’ll see what happens next.

Initial Verdict
Couldn’t be more hyped

Peace out,

Maverick

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

Lucien’s First Take: Venom – Official Teaser Trailer

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck…

Initial Verdict
3 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2017 E3 Gameplay

I meant to talk about this months ago, but I am finally getting around to it, because there is a lot to unpack.  Here’s the thing about probably 95% of superhero games – they suck, or are really mediocre.  Especially the ones licensed to films.  Licensed games are the worst thing under the sun.  After the SNES and Sega Genesis, they were all nothing but crap.  So when I heard that Insomniac is making a Spider-Man game that is officially licensed by Marvel, I was groaning.  I mean, Insomniac games are awesome.  They made the Ratchet and Clank games, which are awesome.  But a superhero game to come directly from Marvel?  This has bad idea written all over it.  This year at E3, however, they released a gameplay trailer that has taken all my skepticism and destroyed it.  It looks awesome, so let’s take a look at it now.

Right out of the game, the visuals for this game are amazing.  The level of detail is just perfect.  It’s pretty standard, for a modern console game, but you know what, it’s great.  Definitely hoping we can either customize or get new suits for the web-slinger, but I do like this suit.  Not too worried about that.  Switchable suits has been a standard for Spider-Man games since their inception, so it’s all good.

The control scheme for this game looks pretty simple.  I can clearly tell that almost all of it will be about staying above your targets.  The stealth elements look absolutely phenomenal.  One of the things I always thought was kinda dumb about Spider-Man games is that they don’t take advantage of the elements of getting enemies from above.  Sure, his suit ain’t exactly made to sneak, but you can still hit an enemy from above without them seeing you coming.  Since Spider-Man never kills his foes, we don’t have to worry about non-lethal runs of the game.  Exciting stuff.  The controls for getting back up to beams or on top of objects are taken right out of the Arkham games.  No problem with that whatsoever.  It’s totally fitting for our friendly neighborhood hero.

We also get to see some potential gadget stuff in this game.  Another thing I am digging that seems to have come straight out of the Arkham games.  Desperately hoping that they don’t just copy that formula beat-for-beat though and give you some freedom to customize the stuff you use and be able to craft specialty stuff.  Really wondering how the leveling up system is going to work.  You also can use the environment to fuck up enemies!  That’s awesome!  I love it.  Later on we get to see that done even in combat scenarios.  Manipulating the environment in active combat and not just for stealth is a break from the mold they clearly are going off of, and I think that’s a great one.  But the stealth aspect of this game is really something.  Not gonna lie, the more potential I have to be stealthy, the happier I’ll be.  It’s my favorite way to play a game, and it looks like I get to scratch my itch here.

Then we get our first peek into the combat.  Now here’s something where I want to elaborate on how this game is using the Arkham formula.  A lot of people are saying that that’s unoriginal, but you know what, I think it’s goddamn brilliant.  There’s a reason why.  When you fight, it’s clear that you are using the same kind of system they used in Arkham to dodge enemy attacks before they happen.  To me, this formula makes even more sense for Spider-Man than it did for Batman.  Why?  Because of the Spider Sense.  That talent gives him the ability to see what’s about to happen when danger is close.  He gets an almost perfect ability to perceive incoming problems and react to them.  So the indicator system from the aforementioned series is perfect for that!  It also lets you dodge machine gun fire, which, for those who read the comics, is something that Spider-Man could do when he’s at his best.  Since this game isn’t attached to any film or thing like that, keeping it true to the comics is kind of awesome.

From there we get some stuff with a helicopter that shows this game is also taking cues from the old God of War games with quicktime events.  Not gonna complain about that either.  Clearly they are doing the concept right.  Kinda curious to see what all this “HEX” stuff in that clearly is some kind of energy.  This should be interesting.

This game went from being something I figured wouldn’t be worth my time, to one of my most-anticipated games of 2018.  That’s pretty awesome.  Let me know what you all think down below.

Initial Verdict:
Hyped!

Peace out,

Maverick