School Shooting, Blame Video Games, Again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, a quote,

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

Peace out,

Maverick

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Critical Examination: Ending Choice-Based Games

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

The Wolf Among Us

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

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

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

Mass Effect

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

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

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

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

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

Until Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

Life is Strange

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

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

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

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Until next time, a quote,

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

Peace out,

Maverick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, a quote,

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

Peace out,

Maverick

The Relationship Development Issue in Gaming

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

Mass Effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, a quote,

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

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 3

Ugh.  I don’t know what it is with game creators and stories with player choice.  For whatever reason, it seems that the vast majority of devs who make them find it difficult to end them in a way that reflects player choice.  But I don’t think that was the problem here.  I think the problem with ending this particular game is the fact that it has a continuity that it has to fit into, because it’s a prequel to another game.  And this game gave you the ability to completely break that continuity if you so chose.  Which I did.  I’m going insanely into spoilers, just a head’s-up.  If you don’t like that, get out now.  This episode had other problems too, which I am going to get into.  Let’s talk about it.

Here is a big issue – the first two acts of this game are done with such a mastery that it really blows my mind.  No joke, I was on the edge of my seat and feeling the feels in a big way.  It goes along with the narrative that it was so perfectly crafting.  Which makes the third act of this game and how far it dies that much more frustrating.  But my frustration with the third act comes from other places as well.

This is where I get into spoilers.  So anyone who doesn’t like that is advised to leave now.  For starters, what is the deal with the confrontation with Eliot?  That was bad!  Some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen.  It comes right the fuck out of nowhere!  So I’m just supposed to believe that he is secretly a crazy stalker who has a domestic violence complex when all the events up to now have told me he’s the sad friendzoned guy, based on the choices I made?  That makes no damn sense.  It was conflict needlessly thrown in there to add tension.  Or maybe to justify him not being in the game that follows this one.  I don’t know.  But that entire scene annoyed me to no end.

Next, why was the relationship I was cultivating with Rachel never acknowledged in the end?  That bugged me.  The previous game had Rachel and Chloe making out by my choices.  Why does it not have any amount of emotional intimacy between them.  It really doesn’t.  You could easily make the argument that they are just good friends based on how their interactions go.  Why?  This episodes goes out of its way to not say anything definitive about how their relationship is.  I know why – because of continuity.

And now we finally get into my biggest gripe with this episode – keeping the continuity.  See, here’s the thing: I broke that.  I broke the continuity of the game that follows it pretty damn hard.  With the choices I made, after a genuinely touching scene of David trying to reach out to Chloe, I had her finally choosing to make peace with him and set up a legitimate relationship for the family.  So they were on the path to becoming a real family, minus all the animosity.  Thus helping to set up a psychological balance with Chloe to help her heal.  Next, I put Nathan on the path to becoming a better person.  He had a real friend who was kind to him and treating him like he wasn’t a piece of shit.  That would set him on the path of becoming a better person and not needing Mr. Jefferson for his twisted fantasies.  Lastly, at the very end, I lied to Rachel about what transpired and the truth about her father being a real piece of shit.  That led her to having a very good relationship with her family that wouldn’t have had her and Chloe desperately looking to escape still.  Not to mention, I had set up in the previous episode that they would be heading to New York and not LA.  Since she wouldn’t have been self-destructive, there would be no reason for Rachel to be in Mr. Jefferson’s Dark Room.  Not to mention, since I had built up the relationship with her and Chloe so strongly (at least I thought I had), she’d have no reason for fooling around with Frank.  Unless she decided to cheat on her.

Do you see the problem?  The developers decided that it was better to keep the continuity intact than to allow player choice to dictate how the game goes.  Because, as I said, they had to keep to the continuity.  That’s bullshit!  If you are going to market a game as having player choice, respect their agency.  Yeah, I retconned the lore of the game that chronologically follows this one.  So what?  The original game, ironically enough, is an iron ball around the ankle of this one.  And that is unfortunate.

What’s even more ironic is that there is such an easy way around this!  Just have the continuity errors be Max in the future changing the past.  One of the bullshit endings to the game has it where Max goes back in time and lets Chloe die, ostensibly stopping all of the rest of the plot from happening.  The idea is that if Chloe had died, Max would never have gotten her powers, and none of the events that followed would have happened.  Even though, Max already fucking did that when she went back in time further than the events of the story and told David about Mr. Jefferson’s fucking Dark Room, which should have caused the same result!  Ugh!  I still hate the ending to the original game.  So yeah, if the idea was to stop the events of what followed after Max saw Chloe die, then anything she would do back in time before then to stop the events should work.  In other words, just have a bit where you see Max in Seattle having gone really far back and changing the timeline.  Then you can fuck around wherever you like.  A game with time travel allows for that.  Or have it be an alternate timeline Max created in time travel.  There are plenty of easy ways for this to work, and it doesn’t.

So, do I hate this episode?  I hate the final act, but just like the one that came before, everything leading up to that was pretty great stuff.  I guess you can make your own judgements on it from there.

Final Verdict
First two acts: 8 out of 10

Last act: 3 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Worst Game of 2017

You know what I hate?  When a good idea is taken and used in something really, really boring.   To have something with so much potential just get flushed down the shitter.  It’s worse when it involves talented people too.  Because when something is boring and made by people you don’t care about, then you can just say that it tried something and failed and maybe they can do better next time.  But when it’s something where all the people involved are very talented, it makes you wonder what went wrong.  My least favorite game this year isn’t especially bad, it’s just inordinately dull.  And I genuinely don’t get how it can be as dull as it is with the elements in it.

Observer

I just can’t get over how a game with this much potential was such a snooze.  Set in a post-apocalyptic world where corporations rule everything and nations are now just corporate zones, where there are special kinds of cops who are able to get inside people’s minds.  That should be a recipe for success.  The potential of that is overwhelming.  We could have it asking some dark ethical questions, like when the main character goes into the minds of people who don’t want to be invaded, or what constitutes invasion of privacy when this guy is uncovering people’s weird secrets and has to live with that.  There is a lot of creepy places that this idea could go.  But nope,  It’s just a boring, bland, by-the-numbers horror game.

Why did they feel the need to have segments where you are hiding from a monster?  Because they’ve done it in all their other games?  This game was supposed to be about fear coming from going into the dark parts of people’s minds.  That’s a freaky concept.  The fear potential there is amazing.  Remember that god-awful movie The Cell?  Imagine if that concept didn’t suck and was done right.  Being able to jack in, with your own mind coloring the mind of the person you are in.  It would make more sense why the observers get so fucked up after a while.  They can’t handle the strain of being in a person’s mind that way.  Plus, you could see all kinds of people and how they process fear in different ways.  Maybe if this game had more budget or more time in the oven with ideas this could have gone a long way.

The game has you investigating crime scenes, and that’s actually fun!  Using your cybernetic implants to look at things in different ways is really cool.  But it’s all done so quickly and doesn’t go much of anywhere.  This game is too short for its own good.  Maybe with a AAA budget they could have really gone deep into this concept.  I don’t know.

But by far the most disappointing thing to me was that they got Rutger Hauer involved in this.  That’s some damn big talent right there!  And to his credit, he was interesting in the performance.  It didn’t sound like he was phoning it in.  I hate that such a talented man wasn’t being given the chance to reach his full potential.  Like seeing into some homely Christian’s head and realizing all the fucked up things there are in there, and then having to go into some deranged lunatic’s mind and seeing all the whacked shit in there.  Getting to hear his reactions to some of that kind of thing would be interesting.

Overall, it’s just boring.  Bad games are one thing.  They can be annoying.  But I don’t go looking for that.  Too poor to spend that kind of time and money.  I look for games I am going to like, and this game was supposed to be one of the.  The trailers had me really interested.  The end product, however, was a game too short to be interesting and with some insane voice talent that goes nowhere.  It’s more annoying than anything.

What was the game you liked the least this year?  Let me know in the Comments

Until next time, a quote,

“This better be worth it.” – Daniel Lazarski, Observer

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Unpopular Opinion: There is NOTHING Wrong with Child Abuse in a Video Game

My most anticipated game of 2018 (list coming out this month) Detroit: Become Human is coming under fire right now for a trailer in which the first character we got to meet in the debut trailer is serving a drunk asshole, and is party to the beating of a child.  Here’s a link to the trailer so you can see for yourself.  It’s amazing.  It shows how you as the android are in a situation where you have to choose what you do in respect to this old drunk beating a girl that you have bonded with.  It’s a gripping scene.  Just like the last trailer which showed you negotiating with a malfunctioning android to save a little girl from a hostage situation (linked here).  There was also the trailer where you play as an android who is in charge of an android resistance and you have to make hard decisions about how violently or peacefully your revolution goes.  This game is all about making ethical decisions.

That’s what the trailer showcasing a domestic violence situation was trying to convey.  You, as both the character and the player, have to show that you can help this little girl from getting a beating.  You can try and manipulate the father, incapacitate him, or if all else fails, kill him.  I think it’s an amazing trailer and it has me so damn hyped for the game.  The likes to dislikes ratio reflects that other players are eager to see this as well.

But wouldn’t you know it, the moral busy-body squad has decided to make their voices heard.  Techraptor did a video on the affair, here’s a link to that.  See some of the quotes they found to justify this stupid reaction.  My favorite of which is the one where it says that this is never okay in a video game because this sort of thing happens to children all over the world.  No shit!  That’s kind of the point!  This video game is showcasing this in a game because it does happen in real life, and it is terrible.  This game NEVER frames what is potentially happening to that small child as a good thing.  As the robot, you want to protect her and take care of her.  It’s what you are tasked with doing.  That and the old drunk almost certainly forces that robot to do sexual thing.  I get the feeling that’s the kind of dude he is.  Ick.

This idea that we are never supposed to show morally uncomfortable things in entertainment baffles me.  Think of all the films that showcase morally questionable things that are lauded as cultural landmarks.  You have Blade Runner, with a morally questionable protagonist who forces himself on a fellow replicant.  It’s a disturbing scene for a reason.  You have the twisted kind of relationship that develops between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs.  There is a police officer being forced to accept evil because there is no way to stop it and has her own gun held to her head by a man who is supposed to be the good guy in Sicario.  All three of these films are lauded as good pieces of filmmaking with morally uncomfortable things.

Meanwhile, a video game that has shown in three previous trailer that it is tackling some heavy issues has a scene where you have to find a way to protect a child from a drunk man and that’s the problem?  There was that idiot who said that showing it in a video game “normalizes” it.  Are you fucking kidding me?!  Yeah, because finding out that the character Billy in Xenogears was a child prostitute who let other men have their way with him to help his family normalized pedophilia, right?  Wait, Salon magazine is trying to do that.  I’m sorry, I got confused.

Here’s a little fact that I guess the “intellectual” buffoons who wrote these articles don’t seem to understand – art imitates life, not the other way around.  There are plenty of children who are the victims of abusive drunks.  My father’s old man was a severe alcoholic, and it was known that my own man was his favorite punching bag.  It’s why my father has such a huge disdain for people who drink in excess.  His history with alcoholism in his family has caused some tension in mine, but that’s a story you don’t need to know anymore about.

People who espouse this viewpoint are just as stupid as Anita Sarkeesian and Jack Thompson, who thought that video games teach sexism and violence, respectively.  There has never been any, ANY evidence that video games have such an affect on real life.  So now you are going to say that this game where the context (a word that these social justice ninnies hate to no end) shows that this is bad and you are compelled to stop it is going to teach gamers to beat their kids?!  How stupid are these people?!

I just love how a video game is being told to compromise its artistic integrity in order to satisfy the petty hangups of idiots who don’t get how real life works.  I guarantee that the people featured in the article Techraptor mentioned are so happy they got a chance to finally have their worldview featured in media.  Someone can listen to them rant about absolute bullshit that there hasn’t been a single piece of substantive evidence toward in the history of video games.  These are the same assholes who said that people need to accept the ending to Mass Effect 3 because it was that game’s artistic vision.  I swear, one day video game media is going to be self-aware.  It is going to happen.  I don’t know when, but they will someday realize just how far up their own butt-puckers they have buried their heads.

Thankfully, David Cage was taking none of this bullshit and put those idiots in their place.  Let a game creator have their vision.  It’s his to have.  He’s absolutely right.  What matters is context.  But don’t tell the people quoted in the articles that.  They said there is no good context.  Not only that, but it’s funny that we have a scene where a mob of androids can choose to mercilessly kill innocent people, and there’s no problem with that.  We have a scene where you save a little girl’s life and promise to help the girl’s captor, and then are party to that android who trusted you getting murdered.  No outrage there.  It’s only when the little girl is put in a situation that the game makes no secret is morally gray and now it’s wrong.

I have a word for these people – hypocrites.  Violence is only wrong when it’s against this group that I like.  These are the same people who say that women are never victims in games, yet then get outraged when a woman is killed in one.  These people are so two-faced that it hurts.  Might as well give them a coin.  It would be fitting.

Until next time, a quote,

“If these people didn’t have double-standards, they’d have no standards at all.” – TJ Kirk

Peace out,

Maverick