Lucien’s Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

As a best foot forward goes, Sony has done a bang-up job.  Sorry this review took so long, but I wanted to get as far into this game as I possibly could before I talked about it.  This is a game that is fun as fuck, and challenging.  It’s a game that eschews all conventions about action shooters in favor of an open world that is beautiful, a world that is a little dry but still fun, and characters who are at the very least fun to talk to.  And the main character voiced by the same actress who did my favorite character from my favorite game of 2015.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that it has been 1,000 years since a cataclysm of unknown origins wiped humanity out.  Now what remains of civilization is bands of tribal societies.  And surrounding all of this is a robotic horde who also has unknown origins.  Our story follows a girl whose origins are also shrouded in mystery.  Hated by the tribe and unsure of where she belongs, her quest begins with a simple mission – find out who her mother is.  It’s a really grim narrative, but one that keeps you enraptured from beginning to end.

First things first – this game is beautiful.  Absolutely gorgeous.  The surprisingly-small open world is incredible to look at.  Making everything pretty compact was a smart decision on the devs part.  So many open world games have a bad habit of there being nothing to do.  In this game, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  There is a ton of stuff to do.  And all of it hinges on how you like to play.

This game has two facets – stealth and action.  Stealth is my preferred method.  I love stealth games.  The next game I am stoked for is just that.  The game gives you tall grass to hide in and ways to sneak around.  In addition to killing robots you have human enemies to fight.  And when you up the difficulty, they are some attentive fuckers.  Once you have the bounty missions, things get a lot more fun.  Then there is action.  This is the harder one.  Weapons in this game are primitive.  You have to be smart when shooting your targets.  You can craft your own ammunition, which you will be doing a lot.  Even the most typical gun-like weapons will suck up your resources.  Add to that the fact that the robots are tough customers and playing loud is a dangerous gambit.

Loot-mining is the biggest thing you will be doing in this game.  Every robot you kill drops a ton of loot.  You craft your own ammo, which I guarantee you will be a LOT of.  Every potion you drink, trap you lay, or specialized arrow you make will be done with stuff you find on every single enemy, in the environment, and what you buy.  In addition, you can buy better weapons and outfits.  However, sometimes you don’t need the best outfit, as all you need is to add mods to your weapons and outfits to make them better.  If there is one thing that this game cannot be accused of, it’s limiting how you play.  Especially because of all the robots.

Speaking of, this game was marketed primarily on having giant robots.  It’s both this game’s best aspect, and sometimes not all of its best.  When it’s at its best is when you are using the tools you have, including the ability to hack the robots, to fight machines who are massive and powerful.  When its at its worst is when you have enemies who have a bad habit of being just like each other, just a little bigger.  There are five robots shaped like pack animals that you can ride.  There are three shaped like giant cats, and two shaped like dinosaurs.  A little variety would have gone a very long way.  As would some more boss fights.  Having specialized machines who you only face once.  This was a fun part of the game, but the tedium of how regular certain enemies got can’t be ignored.  When you are able to use robots against each other and play stealthy, these things are awesome.  When you are forced into a stand-up fight against machines who can easily kick the shit out of you, it kind of sucks.

The other thing about this game is that the missions can get a little repetitive.  My favorites are the ones where you use this fantastic plot-device called the Focus to basically turn into Batman and examine crime scenes and know what everything is.  I would call it an easy out for the game to have the main character be a super genius, but you know what, it’s still fun.  And to the game’s credit, when you are able to put the device to good use, it does feel like being a detective.  Now if only they could have had more effort put into the crime-solving as opposed to the robot-killing.

Make no mistake, there are no shortage of missions.  Whether it being going into the vaults where the machines are coming from, learning bits and pieces about the forces at work in the world which is keeping the mechanical monsters coming, or examining a crime scene to learn what happened, or going into a bandit camp to kill the worst bandit of them all.  There is a TON of stuff to do in this game.  For completionists like me, it’s a dream come true.  But for the casual player, you may find yourself getting bored.

Which brings me to the acting in this game.  Bless the girl who voiced the main character’s heart.  She clearly put her all into this.  However, for as hard as she tries, the rest of the acting in this game ranges from wooden to overacting.  I can’t be nice about this.  The cruel reality is that not one of these character aside from Aloy sounds even remotely realistic.  A couple do pretty well, but I could almost see the rest of the cast reading from a script.  That is a very unfortunate deal.  The roles who do stand out truly do.  No joke, a couple performances actually made me get invested.  But for the rest this was a paycheck.  Still, main character was great.  This woman clearly has a talent for this, and I hope she is in more games to come.

All in all, Sony definitely brought their a-game to the table.  While everyone is all about Nintendo’s latest under-powered console, I still have a ton of stuff to do in this game, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Hitman: Season One

hitmanWhen I first heard about this game, I was annoyed.  Here we have a AAA title that is being sold in episodes.  What’s more, in order to play this game, you have to be online.  I was not going to stand for that.  I refused to participate.  Just like how I refuse to participate in releasing Final Fantasy VII remake in episodes.  However, when I decided on a whim to get the disc release of the game, and holy shit, I was impressed.  The wonders of what depression can do for a man.  Here we have one of the most fantastic stealth games ever made, with a few flaws.  All things considered, I am eager to see what comes next, even though I won’t be buying the episodes.

Have you ever wanted a game where you could actually feel like a secret agent?  If so, this is your game.  This game is at its best when you play it that way.  Agent 47 is back in action.  After the insane excess that was Hitman: Absolution, this is such a breath of fresh air.  However, much like that game, one of the biggest flaws of this one is the story.  To be honest, this game would have been so much better served if it nixed the story altogether.  Just have Agent 47 doing missions to kill people.  Play it like a Bond movie and have it be bad criminals doing bad things.  Hell, the game even frames one mission where it’s rich clients who are hiring the IDA to get justice that the legal system cannot give them.  They didn’t need another convoluted conspiracy involving some supranational entity who secretly controls the world.  This trope is so overused that I am genuinely sick of it.

The plot goes that Agent 47 is hired by the IDA as their newest operative.  They are a clandestine organization who works in assassinations.  Rich people, corporations, and even national governments hire them to do wet-work operations against very dangerous people, along with some people who slipped through the legal cracks but have some very violent retribution coming their way.  However, over time, 47 and his handler realize that they are being used by a dangerous individual to attack an organization who secretly controls the world.  To what end?  Wouldn’t you like to know?

As I said, this game is basically making you a secret agent.  Each mission has you infiltrating an open level so that you can take out a series of targets and occasionally take on an adjacent task.  The goal is to go through the level and be invisible.  The IDA values no collateral damage.  You are to be ghost, who kills with perfect silence, and never leaves a trace.  And the game gives you a plethora of ways to get the job done.  Each level has dozens of routes to get to the target.  You can take the direct approach, but shooting your way through a crowd looks bad.  The levels give you a good deal of freedom when it comes to dealing with individual targets.  Some of them have little side-missions associated with them.  Sometimes you can be a ghost and sneak around without ever having to change outfits.  There are tons of disguises and hidden goodies to help you get your mission done.  No one can say that this game is unfair.  The difficulty can be whatever you want it to be, but you are still being given as much opportunities to make the kill as you like.

The best thing I can say about this game is the levels.  Not only are the visuals fucking gorgeous, I mean holy shit, but the vast open spaces let you play around with how you want to get the mission done.  Since I love to make a kill in a way where I don’t even leave anyone aware that I was there, it feels so good when I am strolling out of a place and everyone still thinks that all is well in their world.  My personal favorite was in Morocco, where I got to walk out of the Swedish Consulate and have a massive protest outside, with me not having a care in the world.  I had just killed a guy from inside a TV booth, then dragged his body into a closet where he can rot in peace until some poor cleaning person gets to find him and the knocked-out security guard that I left him in there with.

Everything in the levels of these games plays a part.  If you get made, but are able to disappear, people will be talking about what happened.  If you kill one person in an area, other people will start to notice.  Take actions and you can see the results.  My favorite was in Paris, where I dropped a massive light display on a target and had the entire procession run screaming from the show.  That was cool.  A bit more flashy than I had intended, but sometimes flashy works.  How I dropped the guy’s lover was pretty epic.

The other flaw in this game, aside from the story, is how short it is.  With five missions and the training mission, there isn’t a lot of meat.  This is a game that is meant to be replayed.  To find all the ways that you can ice your target.  You can play each mission a dozen times and still be finding new ways to play.  Whether you go from disguise to disguise, slowly working your way to your intended target, or find a tall tower with a high-powered rifle to blow your target’s head off without anyone ever even seeing you, it cannot be said that this game doesn’t let you play your way.  Reminded me of that line in Leon The Professional, where he says that the best killer can get right up next to their target, while amateurs kill from a distance.

All in all, this was worth the wait.  It sucks that Square Enix has gone this route, but I can’t fault them for the final product.  This was one hell of a game, and I will impatiently wait to see what the next season brings us.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Kingdom Hearts II.8: The Final Chapter Prologue

Kingdom Hearts 2.8Alright, time to dole out some tough love.  Because this is a game that has some good parts, but some horrific and glaring flaws that REALLY need to be pointed out and analyzed.  It’s nice to have a final act to the plot as it’s understood now, however, the cruel truth is that for all the positive elements in this game there are some truly unpleasant realities about this three-pack that I think need to be accepted.  Let’s get down into this.

As with all the other culmination packs, this game is three games wrapped up into one.  Well, two games, really.  Actually, not even that.  One game, a piece of what should have been free demo DLC, and a long-ass cutscene.  That what it is.  Let’s break them down, one-by-one.

For anyone who says that Hideo Kojima has written some convoluted narratives, you don’t know what Kingdom Hearts’ story has become.  The first game is Dream Drop Distance.  In it, we have Sora and Riku taking a mastery exam to become true Keyblade masters.  They enter a dream world where they have to open seven keys that will unlock seven sleeping worlds.  In doing so, they will somehow prove that they are masters of the keyblade or some shit.  Yeah, the narrative is bunk.  This was a cash-grab game.  And as cash-grabs so…it’s pretty standard.

We have our two iconic characters reprising their roles.  We even have a ton of the extra case reprising their roles from the other games.  Really hoping that we get to have Axel’s iconic voice and tagline in Kingdom Hearts III.  Got it memorized?  Though, it seems that Hayden Penettiere didn’t want to reprise her role as Kairi.  Bummer.  I was really hoping that would work out.  Jesse Carter comes back as Roxas, which I love.  Dying to see him come back as Ventus in the last game.

Which brings us to the gameplay.  Anyone who has played Birth By Sleep will get this combat sequence pretty quick.  It’s not hard to follow.  We get these little spirit creatures that you can create who mix things up, but it really isn’t any different from Birth By Sleep.  Add to that more worlds that are so damn empty.  Why are all the worlds in these games devoid of npcs?  It’s so weird to me that in 2017, with limited level space, we have so little happening.  If that’s the case in the third game, I’m strangling a bitch.  This game widened out the areas a lot more, which just made it that much more noticeable how there is no one in these places but the main characters and villains.  Weird to watch Quasimodo at the center of the Festival of Fools and have it be nothing but empty space.

However, when the plot of this game rears its ugly head, it drags its ass so hard.  Granted, I am happy to see old chums from previous games coming together to kick ass.  Seeing Axel fighting against his old comrades is pretty sweet.  However, it’s not worth the painful exposition-dumping that this game has all over itself.  But the worst offense – the parts that shine of brilliance and go nowhere.

For example – anyone remember what I said would make for an awesome Kingdom Hearts III?  I said that there should be a world like Fantasia, where it’s nothing but music, without dialogue, and you get to just take in the visuals and gameplay with it.  They did it!  They fucking did it!  And I was in love!  Each of the areas themed after the areas in Fantasia were awesome!  For those scenes, I was enraptured.  But it’s so short!  Give me some Rite of Spring!  Give me some stuff from Fantasia 2000!  Go nuts!  Or even worse, you go to the world of Tron Legacy.  And they have one of the most fun segments in any of these games – light-cycle fights!  You alternate from the awesome energy ribbons to laser guns.  That was amazing!  More of that!  But then it’s done, and you can’t even play it like a racing game later!  What the hell?!

This game had a ton of potential, and there are a few moments that truly do realize it.  Then others that go fucking nowhere.  It’s such a shame.

Speaking of, let’s talk about Birth By Sleep 0.2, the second “game” in this collection.  Although, I am going to come right out with it – this isn’t a game.  It’s just not.  It’s a tech demo for how the third game will play.  And just on those merits, it is actually a lot of fun.  No joke, I had a hell of a time just going around and getting a wow out of the crazy awesome visuals in the game.

The plot goes that Aqua has been wandering the Realm of Darkness ever since Terra was taken over and Ventus’ heart was lost to the darkness.  Now she is trying to find her way to her friends, but time has no meaning in this place.  She’s been wandering for almost ten years, and it’s worn her down.  You can clearly see that she is tired of this endless drifting through shadow, and wants to go back home with her friends.  However, when the darkness beckons, and destiny comes into play, we get to see Aqua do random shit that goes nowhere.

As I said, it’s a tech demo.  A very pretty tech demo.  On visual and gameplay merits, it actually is a lot of fun.  If this is what to expect in the third game, then color me impressed.  However, the cruel reality is that this game clocks in at under 3 hours long, and the plot is weak as fuck.  This game should have been DLC for $5, or a free demo for the third game.

Which brings us to the final part of this game – Back Cover.  A cutscene that decides to fill us in on the events which led up to the original destruction of the world and the Keyblade War.  As well-voiced and beautiful as this digital film is, the cruel and honest truth is that it isn’t a game, and I could have watched this shit on YouTube.  Hell, most people will do that.

I am trying to be nice here.  I really wanted to like this.  However, the unfortunate truth is that this collection was INSANELY over-priced and not even remotely worth what they are asking for.  If you want, wait for the price to go down if you are truly a die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan.  For the rest of you, just skip it.  A YouTube synopsis will get you caught up the rest of the way if you have gotten this far.

Final Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

#GamerGate Blamed for Trump’s Election (A response to L.A. Times)

Man, here’s something I never thought I would be talking about again.  It’s been YEARS since GamerGate was a thing.  During the heyday battles, it was a conflict that ran the gamut of ideological participants.  It brought groups who absolutely despise one-another together for the common goal of striking back against the games media and how corrupt it had become.  How it was pretty blatantly shilling a progressive message and leaving any form of objectivity at the door.  A fact that was apparently championed by “consumer advocate” landwhales like Jim Sterling, who listened to a game dev talk about doxing people and nodded while saying “absolutely.”  Given his stances on Quiet and sexy women in games, that should surprise no one.

I’ve heard every group imaginable be blamed for Donald Trump getting elected.  Russia is the biggest one, for their alleged leaks of documents that not one person has been able to prove are untrue.  Assuming it is true, I say that we should be thanking them.  Russia didn’t leak some lie to the American people.  It was the truth.  The truth about Hillary Clinton having her entire party behind her and manipulating the electoral process as much as possible to destroy Bernie Sanders.  Huh, makes you wonder if the reason that people didn’t like her is because she is a vindictive bitch.  That’s not to say that I like Trump.  Although, when you think about the alternatives, he really is the best option.  Hillary was doomed, regardless.  Had it been Ted Cruz who won the primary, he would have taken the WikiLeaks documents and beaten her to death with them.

However, in addition to blaming Russia, Millennials, Bernie Sanders, and neo-nazis for Trump winning, now the L.A. Times wants to add GamerGate to the pile.  Oh boy, this should be fun.  Here’s a link to the article, now let’s talk about it.

SEE IF THIS CAMPAIGN TACTIC sounds familiar: Rally white men who feel the world is changing too fast, leverage racial bias for the cause, and demean women along the way.

The strategy belonged to a radical corner of the gaming world that may have provided the winning playbook for the campaign that won the presidential election.

I’m gonna destroy the white men argument right out of the gate so I don’t have to bring that up again when destroying the rest of this bullshit argument.  Because this author clearly gets his news from BuzzFeed, I guess he didn’t know about the tag that came with GamerGate – #NotYourShield.  Here’s a video that may put it into perspective.  Alright, moving on.  I can already see the insane strawman corollary that is being drawn here, but let’s let him get into it a bit more.

“Gamergate” is the term now used to describe the movement in which Internet trolls attacked high-profile people in the game industry if they attempted to change — or even speak out about — the misogynistic themes of video games. They are the gaming world’s radical right, and they’re fighting back against what they see as the onslaught of politically correct culture.

Actually, numb-nuts, GamerGate supporters ran the spectrum of political ideologies.  There are left-leaning social libertarians like me.  You had classical liberals like Sargon of Akkad.  You had conservatives who tried to avoid the politics of it all like Internet Aristocrat.  You had left-leaning gaming commentators like Mundane Matt.  There were all kinds in this movement.  If anything, it was impressive in how it brought together not just people of different ideologies, but people from various gaming spheres.  GameFAQs and Reddit forums came together in a show of solidarity never seen before.  Boards that hated each other like it was no one’s business on 4chan came together.  And all of it was sparked off when Eron Gjoni wrote his post, which Mundane Matt covered in a video that got a DMCA flag, which caught Internet Aristocrat’s attention.  You can’t even make your caricature of GamerGate right.  But again, he probably got all of his news from BuzzFeed and the rest of the left-leaning media.  It didn’t matter how many people debunked what they were saying, the narrative stuck.

The trajectories of Trump and Gamergate could be practically charted by the same graph — guys (for the most part) that a significant portion of the country didn’t take  seriously pandered to humanity’s most base instincts and won.

Actually, they are very far apart.  GamerGate was tired of the social justice culture injecting itself into video games.  You say that we rebelled against news outlets talking about “misogynistic themes in video games” (citation, please), but that’s not true.  What we rebelled against was the injection of social justice where it clearly wasn’t wanted or needed.  I’m sure you will come on and say, “It was needed!  Gaming is misogyny!  Just look at how sexy that woman is!  That’s demeaning to all women!”  However, there were a TON of very well-educated voices who spoke out against this attitude.  Like this video by Christina Hoff Summers.

Donald Trump won the election because he convinced people that he was some big outsider who was going to fight against the corporate government establishment that people were so tired of.  He capitalized on the same energy the Bernie Sanders had.  I knew that Trump wasn’t some big outsider, because I actually pay attention to history.  He’s center-right, much like Hillary Clinton.  There really isn’t that much difference between them.  GamerGate started as a consumer revolt.  Donald Trump started as a con artist capitalizing on energy that a genuine believer already had stirred up.  The truth is that these two movements have almost nothing in common, outside of people being tired of the status quo, and fighting against it.

The term “Gamergate” emerged as a hashtag in mid-August 2014. It described the attacks, particularly on women in the gaming world, by trolls and eventually their de-facto leader Milo Yiannopoulos, who became Gamergate’s Breitbart champion.

There were no leaders in this movement, dude.  None.  That was part of the problem.  The movement had no unifying message.  Some of its proponents took actions, and some didn’t.  Some chose to do this thing or that thing, but the truth is that all we had in common was a shared dislike of politics in video games journalism.  We just wanted to get straight news, and not have to hear about how Gone Home is the greatest game ever, just because it involves a gay chick.  Whoopty-fucking-doo.  Milo was definitely an ally of the movement, but he was not a leader.  I am really wondering where this guy got his news.

He goes on to make Milo out to be just like Trump.  This dude will take whatever he can to try and make these two things seem connected.  It’s kind of sad, if we’re being honest here.

Female game designers and journalists who spoke out about a more inclusive future for the medium were harassed on social media with threats of physical attacks, rape and death. Their emails were leaked (sound familiar?), and some saw details about their personal lives published online.

Let’s break this down, piece by piece.  I know what “game developers” he’s talking about – Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu.  Zoe Quinn was nothing to the movement but a launching point.  To be honest, we cared more about Nathan Grayson than we did about her.  After all, it was him that she was sleeping with, and him who had given her positive coverage (not a review.  People had said he reviewed her game, and that wasn’t true.  But he had written positive articles about her.  He is also crediting in Quinn’s “game” Depression Quest), which basically broke every rule about conflict of interest.  After she faded from the spotlight, she did everything she possibly could to pretend that the movement still cared about her.  Neat thing – Quinn was actually busted propagating a harassment campaign against a developer of an app.  Dead to rights, she was busted exploited personal information the app developer gave her to orchestrate a harassment campaign, and only stopped when the person threatened to go public about it.  Which they did anyway.  Well-played.

Next up we have Brianna Wu.  A woman whose 15 minutes of fame went on FAR too long.  She was one of the many people who came out and attempted to make the story about her.  Every time she could possibly find a way to make herself out to be the victim, she did.  Like when she exploited the death of a woman who wasn’t even remotely connected to GamerGate to sell her own victimhood.  An act so repulsive that I was openly venomous with her.  Using the horrific death of a woman to sell the fact that she is “in danger” was just sick.  Then, Wu was busted trolling herself on Steam to try and rack up victimhood points.  Guess she didn’t get the memo to make sure to switch to an appropriately-misogynistic sock-puppet account first.  Idiot.

As for the leaked emails, I’m assuming he’s talking about the GameJournoPros list that got leaked.  Neat fact about that – most of the emails and senders whose names got leaked in that were men.  This Todd really must get his news from a fantastic source.

“Lock her up,” Trump supporters shouted about Hillary Clinton.

“I hope you die,” Gamergate champions tweeted at Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent cultural critic who critiques games from a feminist perspective.

Yes, let’s equate what people said at a political rally to what trolls said to a con artist who used them to get victim points.  Sure, that sounds equivalent.

Gamergate advocates argued that gaming journalists were corrupt and were colluding to bring a politically correct makeover to the medium (read: take away our digital guns, treat women as something more than sex objects and cast someone — anyone — other than a white male as the lead protagonist).

Wow.  What gross hyperbole.  Care to back that up with a citation?  Because, from where I’m sitting, Internet Aristocrat made a truly fantastic series of videos detailing how the story played out (linked here).  I suggest you take a look at that before saying that we were all just losing our shit over nothing, which I take it is what you meant with this comparison.

Also, treat women as something other than sex objects?  Considering how many women were involved in GamerGate, that’s fucking sexist, dude.  That’s basically denying the women involved and their opinions on the subject.  Fuck you.

Those who bought into his words targeted their ire at female critics who sought to intellectualize the medium. Ultimately, they were only bringing to light gaming’s more regrettable traits: that it has long pandered to a male-focused, gun-obsessed community where women were damsels more often than heroes.

To intellectualize the medium?  Oh really? By disabling comments and not once responding to critics, many of whom were level-headed and who wanted honest debate with the likes of Anita Sarkeesian?  Gee, funny how that works.  Seems that revisionist history is alive and well.  But you are making comparisons to GamerGate and Donald Trump.  I’m not surprised.

As for the “regrettable traits,” there have been a TON of fantastic, well-researched, well-made videos that have shown the points that the likes of Anita Sarkeesian has made to be ridiculous.  Here’s one by Mr Repzion.  Here’s one by Triox.  These videos that Anita has done about the “regrettable traits” blatantly ignore context and use bad examples.  But since research clearly isn’t your strong suit, I guess you don’t really care.  Oh well.

The biggest, most visible games are still largely created by men for boys. Gamergate ultimately was driven by nostalgia and fear of change.

“Keep politics out of games,” was Gamergate proponents’ rallying cry, but they may as well have been saying, “Make games great again.”

Bullshit.  GamerGate was driven by the disgust we had at a blatantly-corrupt gaming journalism scene, along with the white knights who defended it.  This idea that we were just like people at a rally is stupid.  Not to mention – games are already great.  They were great before the SJWs decided to inject their bullshit narrative into gaming.  And since games have continued on the straight and narrow and are a billion-dollar industry, it seems they will keep being great.  Works for me.

There’s evidence that major developers are listening to their broader audience rather than being bullied by Gamergate, as recent titles such as “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End,” “Watch Dogs 2” and “Dishonored 2” have touched on mature themes with a wide variety of characters.

Another one of these hipster gamers who doesn’t have ANY perspective on gaming to realize that touching on “mature themes” goes back a long way.  Like how the character of Billy in Xenogears was a child prostitute to help feed his family.  Or how one of the biggest themes in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the tragedy of getting old and the inevitability of aging.  Not to mention the truly dark and dismal themes in the follow-up game Majora’s Mask that touched on why being an adult sucks, that time and death is inevitable, and that life goes on in even the worst of circumstances.  Then there is Final Fantasy X, which looked at the corruption of religion, atheism, and how faith can be used to control a population.  But please, tell me more about how gaming is just now getting “mature themes.”  What a brilliant researcher.  This guy must be making the big bucks at the L.A. Times.

For much of the last decade, the biggest game franchises — “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” among them — were driven by guns and disparaging views of women and minorities. And unlike the Republican Party, the game industry has done this without lobbying money.

Man, how bad are you at research?  The most recent GTA had one of the protagonists as a black man.  I am sure you will say the disparaging thing toward women was the whole “have sex with a prostitute and then run them over with your car.”  That’s only disparaging if you think that 1. Having sex with a prostitute demeans women (if you do think that, you are sexist as fuck.  It’s a profession that plenty of women choose to do.  Some are forced into it, but some women do it out of financial desperation.  Are you saying those women are lesser for making that choice?  That’s sexist as fuck), and 2. you ignore the fact that you can run over every single character in the game with your car, if you want.

As for CoD, those games run the gamut in terms of ethnicities of the protagonists and antagonists.  And there are lots of chicks in the games too.  Where’s the sexist part there?  Still showing off those stellar research skills, Todd.

It may as well have been content unwittingly aimed directly at the so-called alt-right community, the loosely defined movement made up of social media-savvy white nationalists that has also attracted neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and misogynists.

Find me some evidence, ANY evidence, that this insane bit of hyperbole is even remotely true?  There isn’t any.  None.  You are so full of shit.

“The people who promoted Gamergate said they were concerned about journalism ethics,” read a post on PressThink, a site maintained by New York University professor Jay Rosen. “As a professor of journalism with a social media bent, I felt obligated to examine their claims. When I did I discovered nasty troll behavior with a hard edge of misogyny.”

Wow, a quote that has NO additional context.  I’d love to hear their evidence.  Maybe a link to the article, so we can review it ourselves?  What’s that?  Nothing?  Gee, it makes me think that you were just quote-mining for people who agreed with you that you could use to help make what you say sound good.  In fact, a single link at all in this article would have been nice.  You know, help the credibility thing along.

So Hollywood isn’t out of touch with the real — make that conservative — America, after all. The entertainment powerhouses behind the world’s biggest games have directly targeted it. And now the rest of the country  — the majority of voters behind the popular vote, if you will — can’t press the jump button to avoid it.

This article was as lacking in evidence was it was in ANY substantive connections between GamerGate and Trump.  I’m not at all surprised that the connection was made, but I was at least hoping that destroying it would be harder than this.  And I’m sure that Todd will say that researching all of this is difficult.  Well, I think I’ll let Milo destroy that argument to close this out.

Until next time, a quote,

“I’ve been doing it for a year.  It’s not that hard, you just gotta do the work.” – Milo Yiannopoulos

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONU: Native Advertising in Video Games

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a LONG time.  Things are pretty quiet right now, so I haven’t had much to write about.  However, as I have been trying to get a total completion in Final Fantasy XV, I am sitting with an amused look on my face thinking about one of the missions.  After Gladiolus leaves your party, he comes back with a new perspective, on a very specific thing – Cup ‘O Noodles.  That’s right, Cup ‘O Noodles is in this game.  And one of the main characters gives them the ultimate dick-sucking treatment in a cringe-worthy piece of dialogue that made me laugh so hard the first time I heard it.

And they aren’t the only brand getting recognition in this game.  Did you notice the Coleman brand on all the camping gear that they use?  That is their brand logo.  So, I guess they also wanted to get some representation.  In Angry Joe’s review of Quantum Break, he noted how Nissan is very represented throughout the game.  I’m unsure how to feel about this.  On the one hand, it seems only natural.  I’m genuinely surprised that this hasn’t happened sooner.  Given how big a market gaming is, and how massive the production values they have these days, you would think companies would be all over having their brands represented in gaming.

Granted, it isn’t like this is totally a new thing.  Racing games have pretty much been car company ads since I was a kid.  Madden, FIFA, and MLB games are the same deal.  But this is the first time that I’ve seen native advertising in a fantasy game.  That was strange and awesome at the same time.  I get the feeling that this game was a field test of the concept.  None of the reviews I saw for Final Fantasy XV made a big deal about it.  There is an entire sub-plot of the game that is about getting ingredients for Cup ‘O Noodles.  The game doesn’t even try and hide the intent.  Which leads me to wonder if this just the beginning.  Like, am I going to see McDonald’s represented in a video game?  Uncharted 4 was basically open about pimping Sony’s products.  Everyone had a Sony phone.  Nobody  cared.

Which leads me to another thought – why is it that native advertising is hardly noticed in video games when news that does it is dragged through the mud?  I have a theory – it’s because gaming is such a different medium.  Seeing a product in something doesn’t automatically mean that you are going to get it.  Since gaming is a medium about gameplay and player involvement, something like native advertising just doesn’t have the same effect.  Granted, it can go too far – the Cup ‘O Noodles mission.  Listening to Gladiolus describe that stuff was amazing.  Made me think of the advertising in The Truman Show.  Hopefully I’m not too old for that reference to make no sense to people.

As gaming becomes more and more corporatized, should it surprise anyone that we are seeing game companies reaching out for sponsorships?  If anything, this whole deal has me thinking that it is on the verge of becoming a lot more common.  So long as I don’t have to listen to a character make a speech about the nature of a cup of soup, I can live with that.  It’s the future of gaming, people.  What about you?  What do you think?  Sorry if this post is a little short, I just wanted to get something out there for you all.  It’s a slow time of year, but will be picking up.  Two of the games on my Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2017 (linked here) are coming out soon.  I cannot wait!  I’ll try and get reviews out in a timely way, but at least one of them will have hours upon hours of gameplay put into it before I can give a good review.  So stoked.

Until next time, a quote,

“What the hell are you talking about?  Who are you talking to?!” – Truman Burbank, The Truman Show

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2017

While 2016 was a bit of a slow year, 2017 is looking to be trying some new stuff.  This is a year full of IPs, sequels to games that weren’t super successful, and games that haven’t been confirmed for 2017, but I am reasonably confident will be coming out this coming year.  Call it gut instinct.  Wish I could put The Last of Us: Part 2 or Death Stranding on this list, but I know for a fact that they aren’t coming out this year.  Some of these are games that were pushed back from last year, and some of them are games that nobody saw coming.  I am excited to see what happens this year, so let’s not waste any time.

What Remains of Edith Finch10. What Remains of Edith Finch
Yes, we’re about to have your moment where you groan – I am a fan of Indie games.  That’s right, I like games that are typically not liked by the normal gaming scene.  The company who made this game, Giant Sparrow, made one of my Indie games – The Unfinished Swan.  A game about a fairytale telling a tragic story about a boy who loses his mother.  This game is keeping a similar storybook style, but this time telling the story of Edith Finch, who is returning to her family home to unravel the mystery of why the family always dies in their enormous house.  Gameplay segments have shown flying a kite, playing as a baby in a bathtub, and even a cat climbing a tree.  This game will have a dark edge, and I can’t wait to see more.

Yooka-Laylee9. Yooka-Laylee
After a year with things being pretty quiet, we finally got to see some gameplay that isn’t alpha stuff.  This little Kickstarter-funded passion project by the dejected devs who worked on Banjo Kazooie just looks better and better.  Like an homage to past games, they even have the cute little language that they used in the original games.  I am so excited to see what stages they come up with.  If it’s anything like that casino in the newest trailer, then this game will be a call-back to the best that the medium has to offer.

Kingdom Hearts 2.88. Kingdom Hearts 2.8: The Final Chapter Prologue
The final piece of the plot before the final game is revealed, this game brings forth the remastered version of Dream Drop Distance, which I have been DYING to play.  We also get a very cool intro to the gameplay style of Kingdom Hearts III with a segment where you play as Aqua, traveling the Realm of Darkness.  Of course, there is also a third segment that is literally nothing but cutscenes.  That will undoubtedly bug me, but it’s all going to be worth it for the first two.  The newest trailer has my mouth watering at the worlds you will explore with Aqua.  If that’s the kind of visuals that we can expect in the newest game, you cannot begin to understand how excited I am.  We desperately need a new trailer for the final game, along with an intro into some of the worlds.

persona-57. Persona 5
A game that was supposed to come out in 2016, it got pushed back.  Unlike some people, I am all for that.  I am glad when they have games pushed back, in order to get everything right.  New gameplay has shown that this game is all about using spirit creatures as proxies to fight.  Reminds me Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch in that regard.  Fine by me.  The game has a colorful style, beautiful character design, a world that looks fun to explore, and on top of that, combat that looks active and vibrant.  There has been a woeful gap in truly stand-out JRPGs in the last couple years, and I want that to change.  Hopefully this game will be leading the charge!

styx-shards-of-darkness6. Styx: Shards of Darkness
You know what I miss?  Stealth games?  You know I also miss? Stealth games with a protagonist who is fun, unlike all the gruff heroes who can do the stealth thing, but got no problem killing everyone when that doesn’t work.  When I played Styx: Master of Shadows, I thought two things.  First, this game’s loading screens are bugging the fuck out of me.  For a game that is all about trial and error, having to sit through those loading screens was more than a little frustrating.  Second, finally, a stealth game that is true to the name!  So many people were bitching that you couldn’t fight.  Well yeah!  You play as a little goblin-man!  He’s half the size of everyone else.  Of course he is kind of fucked if he gets busted.  But it wasn’t just that.  Styx was a fun character.  He was foul-mouthed, vulgar, and actually enjoyed being a thief.  Plus, the world had such interesting lore.  The original game wasn’t perfect, but with the stealth genre dead, I am so glad that we have a series coming up to bring it back to its roots.  Can’t wait to see what happens next.

nioh5. Nioh
What do you get when you combine the difficulty of Dark Souls with the weapons and aesthetic of the Samurai and monsters that take from Japanese mythology?  You get one badass-looking game!  Everything about this game screams that it will fit right in in the pantheon of games loved for their brutal combat and their rich lore.  I will say that the fact that the protagonist looks so much like Geralt is a little weird, but I am willing to give it a chance.  This is a game that seems to be flying under the radar with people, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because of the people who say that it’s a Dark Souls knock-off?  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  However, the proof will be when we get to see the game for ourselves.

uncharted-the-lost-legacy4: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
After the end of Uncharted 3, part of me was kind of wondering what Chloe was up to.  You see in the newest game that she invites Nate out on a treasure hunt, but he says “no way.”  In what is probably the most gorgeous reveal I have ever seen, we see our girl is back in form.  This time, she has teamed up from the rather affable mercenary from the last game.  Sure, we wanted to kick Nadine’s ass, but she wasn’t all bad.  Just a merc trying to get by.  Now that her whole endeavor has fallen apart, she’s out to get rich quick.  The two girls are now out to find their own fortune.  Is this a DLC or a full-blown game?  Not sure, but either way, I am excited to see what Naughty Dog is going to tide us over with until The Last of Us: Part 2.

Horizon Zero Dawn3. Horizon: Zero Dawn
It got delayed quite a bit, but you know what, if the goal is to make the game as complete as possible, I am all there!  Originally debuted a couple years ago, we finally have a release date for it.  Won’t have to wait long.  I am all about this game.  A post-apocalyptic game about a redheaded huntress who is stalking the wastelands for parts by the mechanical beasts who roam the world.  There is a story behind all of this madness, and it’s clear from the trailers that this girl is out on a mission to go figure out that story and get the truth behind her ancestry.  With the same girl who did the voice of Chloe Price in Life is Strange, I am so excited to see what happens with the narrative of this game.  The gameplay has been pretty flushed out, so now I want to know where the story goes.  Traveling around, scavenging parts from robots is fun and all, but I want to get to know this world, and the people in it.  We’ve seen that conversation options are a thing, a la Mass Effect, but I’m not complaining.  There is also the fact that there are ancient machines with untold dark powers and dark purpose.  What does it all mean?  Where did the people go?  So many questions, few answers.  Can’t wait.

god-of-war2. God of War
This game was just announced, and I have no reason to expect that it will be released this year, but call it a hunch.  Something about the reveal and how far they are into it gave me the impression that the game isn’t that far down the rabbit hole.  A soft reboot of the God of War franchise, this game is a continuation of the story.  I am dying to know what happened to Kratos after the end of the third game.  How did he get into a land of Norse mythology?  Who is this kid who is clearly not his biological son, but whom he is treating with all the love and compassion that a Spartan would his son?  They make it sound like he had been fighting in this land for some time.  Why?  What purpose guides Kratos?  He says that the boy and him are going to be fighting together against the Gods.  What new gods has our favorite god-killer gone and pissed off this time?  Lots of questions, few answers.  As I said, no confirmation, but a gut instinct that the game is coming out this year.

And the game I am most excited for this year is…

detroit-become-human1. Detroit: Become Human
Another game that I have no confirmation that it will be coming out this year, but call it a decent hunch.  Announced two years ago, we first got to see the breath-taking spectacle of the world of this game.  Centered in the city of Detroit, it seems to follow the stories of a series of androids living in a world where they are treated as second-class citizens.  The first trailer showed an android who has learned how to hide what she is.  The newest one shows an android created specifically to be used in hostage negotiations.  At first, his mission is an outright failure, but the trailer shows that you can go about it other ways.  By taking in clues, you can tailor your negotiation to best deal with the deranged android.  It also shows that there are plenty of ways to save the little girl’s life.  The very best way shows that even when you do everything right and she is saved, the police still kill the android.  He calls you a traitor.  The last game by Quantic Dream was my second-favorite game of 2013.  I have nothing but high hopes for this one.  Let’s see what it’s got.

What about you?  What games are you most excited for?  Let me know in the comments

Until next time, a quote,

“It’s up to you how this story ends.” – Connor, Detroit: Become Human

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Worst Game of 2016

As I said in a previous post, it has been a slow year for gaming.  This means that there have been some mediocre games that have come out.  And while some of those mediocre games bug me, like Rise of the Tomb Raider, it isn’t nearly bad enough to make this list.  I had been going to do a review of this game, but I never did.  I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.  It was so annoying.  I wasted my money on it.  I want a fucking refund.  But nope!  Because PSN doesn’t do refunds, because Sony are a bunch of greedy mizers.  This game was bad, in every way that a game can be, aside from being visually interesting.  I’ve waited to talk about it long enough.  Let’s get down into my worst game of this year…

Bound

When I think of all the complaints that people have about Gone Home, the one that always sticks out to me the most is when people call it “pretentious.”  The reason is that I don’t think that it is.  Is it the amazing game that everyone believes it to be?  Absolutely not.  It’s a misleading game about a girl being home alone, with all the marketing making the game out to have some kind of nefarious edge.  Instead, it was just a game packed full of 90’s cheese about a lesbian dodging her duties as a soldier to be with her girlfriend.  Yeah, that’s it.  There’s really nothing more to it.

Speaking of, here we have a game that is about a pregnant woman on a beach, ripping pages out of her notebook while going into a fantasy world as a ballerina character to act out metaphors for her broken life.  That’s it.  There genuinely is nothing more to it than that.  You get to go through some admittedly-cool landscapes to solve a narrative that is WAY too far up its own ass.  Plus, the gameplay is boring, repetitive, and after a while you start to realize that all the worlds look alike.  At least with Alice: Madness Returns, while the gameplay got repetitive, you had these unique environments to explore.  That made it all worth it.  Every level in this game looks exactly the same.  It got to the point that I couldn’t tell if I was moving forward or backwards in places.

Oh, and then there is the repetitive control scheme for the repetitive hazards that you come across.  I felt like my time was being wasted so many times in that fucking game.  But, you know, I could actually have dealt with that if it weren’t for the fact that the narrative is such pretentious bullshit.  It’s trying to be all vague and metaphorical, but it doesn’t read that way.  It reads as that episode of Nostalgia Critic examining “The Cell,” where he has the director dancing in the background shouting “ask me what it means!  Ask me what it means!”  Groj, I hate this fucking game.  Wasted $20 on that.  No joke, for a game that is 3 hours long, they charged $20.  Unbelievable.

And then, the game just ends.  No build-up.  No final boss.  Hell, no fucking pay-off!  Like, it gives you some bullshit choice, that I guess you are supposed to leave open to interpretation, but it doesn’t read like, that.  Again, “ask me what it means!  Ask me what it means!”  This game is every pretentious SJW circlejerk where they get to go on and on about how deep and poetic a game is.  And this is coming from someone who LIKES art games.  My second-favorite game of this year is ABZU, a game which is literally a giant underwater level with VERY smooth controls.  I am going to eventually be doing a huge Critical Examination post about that game, because there is a very interesting lore there.  But this is just artistic bullshit.  It’s some poncy art student wanting to pretend to be all deep, while in reality just making crap that looks nice, for a bit.

Fuck this game.  Fuck this game so hard.  Since I didn’t do a review of it, I’m going to give it a Final Verdict to close us out.

Final Verdict
2 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick