Naughty Dog

Anyone who actually reads this or talks to me should understand my stance on Naughty Dog by now. I need to vent, though, so here be ye:

People, and when I say people I mean Sony kids, because no one except Sony kids can say something this absurdly ignorant and disgusting, say that Naughty Dog is the best developer in the world. Supposedly. Ninja Theory said it when Uncharted 2 came out. Plenty of pathetic kids on the internet say it: you’ll easily find 5 appropriate hits at the top of a Google search, three of them on IGN, a Sony fanboy site.

Naughty Dog has made eight games, ever. Four of them were Jak and Daxter games. Three of them were Uncharted. One was The Last of Us. Considering I reviewed all four of their PS3 games, you should easily see my experienced opinion on them within a few mouse clicks. Suffice it to say, Naughty Dog is very far from the best console game developer – that’s just a ludicrous statement.

So when I see things like this written – and every article on every gaming site has one because it’s mandatory, those are the rules of the internet, I get disgusted and want to leave the site.

NDThe universe possesses neither enough faces, nor enough palms, to handle something this incredibly asinine. It is a physical impossibility due to a lack of supply. I hate to tell you this but if you played Uncharted 1, 2, and 3, even if you played Uncharted 1; and the sheer linearity, lack of creativity, horrible gameplay, and overall contriteness of it’s thrown-together mash-up of concepts (which by the way, are not new or ahead of the curve – Indiana Jones came out in 1981) did not cause you to question your decision a minimum of 6 times, you aren’t a gamer – you’re a tool. 

“But Grenadeh why does enjoying a game make me a tool?”

Enjoying it doesn’t make you a tool. Going on to then gush sycophantic about a completely overrated and honestly bad game, that makes you a tool. Especially when you do it in public, to an audience of your “peers” – many of whom don’t know you, can tell you’re an asshole, and will not hesitate to tell you so. Let’s fast forward to TLOU. Once again, ND took a bunch of long established genre memes, and mashed them together into a mostly coherent but contrite story that brought absolutely nothing new to the table in terms of story-telling, game-play, game-design, or story itself.

It’s worth mentioning that you could say the same thing about Dead Space – a game I worship – if you want to. You’re welcome to say that. It’s false because – whereas you can compare Uncharted to Indiana Jones, it also has its origins in Tomb Raider, and a lot of novels. The idea is far more beaten to death by popular media than “space horror”. Dead Space, on the other hand, takes some inspiration from Event Horizon, Aliens, The Thing, and others, but more than anything it takes inspiration from System Shock 1 and 2 – both the version of two we did get, and the intended version that Levine and his team could not make because of technological limitations. Even just analyzing movies, there really is not enough source in sci-fi movies to call anything in Dead Space truly cliche. The jump scares are cliche, for sure, but that’s about it.

So, please tell me, I would love to know, how Naughty Dog could make a Turok game, and do anything but ruin it? Naughty Dog hasn’t made real games since PS2, nor do they show any sign of going back to those. Hollywood-esque games rake in more cash than Jak and Dexter ever did, and they will stick with what makes Sony money. See this? Naughty Dog would never be able to make a game with this:

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That’s a T-Rex with a mother fucking laser cannon attached to it’s head.

cerebral_bore2This is a god damn cerebral bore. It’s a heat-seeking remote drone that drills into an enemies head and liquefies their brains as it sucks them into the air. Naughty Dog can’t make that shit.

So take your pathetic, disgusting Sony fanboyism, and seriously, keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear it, because anyone with any experience whatsoever playing video games knows Uncharted and TLOU are recycled, half-baked shit and they are meaningless to real gamers.

Dead Space 2 Review

After the unexpected success of Dead Space, it was inevitable that EA churned out a sequel, but this game fared a lot better than many sequels do, in terms of quality. Visceral took a masterpiece of a game and they added in some great new atmospheric elements, abused the protagonist in new and more disturbing ways, and dialed up the action gameplay. Some people believe that this game may almost trump the original, but the first game has a charm that will never be re-created. From the very beginning, Isaac is taken from the hell of his nightmares and crumbling sanity and immediately thrown into a real hell of Necromorphic proportions; in a straight-jacket, no less. The escape from the medical ward was probably one of the best sequences in a survival horror game, and hopefully if the franchise continues, we will see more things like it.

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The sad reality is, the most intense and scary parts of the game, gameplay and atmosphere wise, took place on the Ishimura. Again. About a 4th of the playable Ishimura from the original returns but that short segment of the game was the most fun. Walking through those halls, taped up and full of tools to fix them, brought back all your memories of the first game of being quite concerned at every corner. Rooms like the decontamination chamber made you worry about what new horrors you would face, only to trick you by not making you fight anything (once anyway).

In the last few chapters, the game basically de-evolves back into the end of the first game, forcing you to run from the unkillable necromorph until you can get to the marker – only to participate in a boss fight that seemed a uncomfortably reminiscent in setting and concept to the ends of God of War 1 and 3. It was a wild thrill ride if you didn’t have enough ammo or health or stasis to waste on the onslaught of necromorphs they threw at you, pretty easily trumping all other situations in the game beforehand.

Dead Space 2 in-arguably improved upon the zero-g sequences from the first game, as far as control goes. Counter-acting that in a bad way though, none of those zero-g sequences were remarkable or challenging or really even fun. All of the zero-g puzzles –  all two of them, in fact all of the puzzles in general, happened to be disappointingly easy. Visceral added in much more freedom to control Isaac on three dimensions, rather than the point to point jumping of the first game. It’s just unfortunate that they truly didn’t explore this freedom for more than 3 minutes at a time.

About as intense as DS2's zero-g sequences get. Please no, not another easily killed enemy.

About as intense as DS2’s zero-g sequences get. Please no, not another easily killed enemy.

While the sequel kicked up the gore and death scenes noticeably over the first game, it really feels like they missed the point nearly to the same extent that Capcom missed the point with RE5 and RE6. They replaced atmospheric scares and psych-outs with action, on top of more action. The best parts of the game are easily the first 10 minutes, the Ishimura, and the last 10 minutes, which seems to defeat the purpose of having a two disc long game. Almost everything in between was filler – juicy filler, but filler nonetheless. Just a lot of big rooms with a lot of enemies, or a big room with a few big enemies. In what is similar to one of the absolute worst elements of Uncharted, you can pretty much tell which rooms are going to throw 100 necromorphs at you (Hint: The big ones); and a lot of shock or wtf moments.

For example, the first Crawler is often cited as one of the most shocking moments in the game. Sure it is, if you’ve never played a video game before, or Dead Space. It’s quite obvious after Dead Space 1 and almost half of Dead Space 2, by the time you encounter a crawler, that anything with an orange glow either is explosive, or is a weak spot. Games in general tend to highlight the explodey part in red or orange, it’s no different than the arcades where the boss flashed red when he was about to die.  So there’s hardly anything surprising about a necromorphed baby blowing up a crazy Unitologist woman. Even the Brutes, Tripods, and the Tormenter were hardly intense or concerning enemies, considering how easy they are to kill with stasis.

Admittedly the game is decent and never gets too boring, but the game has no momentum whatsoever until you meet Ellie. People complained misguidedly about how the Ishimura supposedly lacked distinct environments that differed from each other and offered variety, in Dead Space 1, but the simple fact is that all of the mission objectives and environments were perfectly natural to what science fiction has established as the “starship” archetype. There would be an engineering deck, a mining deck (in a mining ship), medical bay, the bridge, the turret defenses, cargo bays, shuttle bays, hydroponics, all of that. Isaac happens to be an engineer and, his reason for being there was to fix the Ishimura. Everything you did had purpose, even if it was to escape.

In stark contrast, nothing you do in Dead Space 2 has any defensible purpose whatsoever, until disk 2. The first half of the game, nearly, is about you finding Daina, and then being lied to – which pretty much pans out into a ridiculous and uncalled for action scene. Obviously, the enhanced variety in environments – like the Unitology church, which itself serves the objective of shedding more light on Unitology, but not your going there; the school, the shopping district, the government sector, the apartments – these all work towards showing you this space station has more stuff on it than just hallways, but they are just means. There is nothing to justify them. Getting your ass kicked to fix parts of the Ishimura had a point – you were going to die if you didn’t. Suffice it to say, you aren’t going to die if you didn’t pay a visit to the elementary school. Surely there were 18 other ways to get anywhere else in the Sprawl, considering it’s a city.

Isaac’s worsening mental state, which has developed nearly into full-blown schizophrenia, was an interesting concept in the game but Visceral truly did not capitalize on it as much as they could have. Sequences, which occur quite routinely in the game, are almost always clearly distinguishable from reality and so it invalidates the mind-fuck factor. There are only two moments in the game where they seem quite real, and neither lasts very long. It would have been much more effective if they had the delusions do real damage to you, only for them to fade and then you find out you didn’t lose any health. Other than the end of the game, that is, where it is clearly not really happening but the threat is real and will cause you to die.

If you are a fan of Dead Space 1 or survival horror, there’s no reason to not play this game through and give it the time it deserves. For those that have not played Dead Space 1, seriously, go play it first. This game is a different experience and cannot be put into perspective without having finished the original. At this point the time has come and gone, but this game was definitely worth a purchase at the full retail price. Just don’t expect Dead Space 1 when  you get Dead Space 2, because you won’t find it here. Where Dead Space 1 was mostly a survival horror game, Dead Space 2 errs more on the side of action shooter. Fortunately, it’s still better than RE5 and RE6 combined.

Total War: Rome 2 Review

One of the most anticipated games in the past 9 years, if not the most, finally came out last week and undoubtedly many people have seen their friends lists in Steam blow up since then. Creative Assembly has dropped their latest work, as the undisputed king of epic strategy games, but does it live up to the excitement generated by its initial teasers?

Rome 2 follows the same standards as all Total War games, giving players a gigantic map – the biggest yet in the franchise’s history (Empire had Russia but in sheer number of settlements and provinces, Rome 2 eclipses Empire) – and letting them loose with the same methodical task of taking over the world at their own pace, or their objective, within the time given. Very little has changed since Shogun 2, and not for the better because unfortunately, some elements were included from the previous entry that absolutely should not be there nor should they have been in Shogun 2.

Namely, the food element. Let it be said right now – the food limit does not adversely hinder your ability to win the game if you figure out how to play correctly, but it certainly hinders the rate of your countries expansion, the creativity afforded you in managing the digital empire of your choosing, and forces you to micro-manage every last town you control in a bad way.

If you are playing as the titular Rome – why you wouldn’t be is a mystery, at least once – you should not be constricted so arbitrarily in how many armies you may field. Frankly, neither should any faction as they all fielded large armies or hordes of barbarians. This element was implemented in the game to keep it from being “too easy”. As anyone capable of even reading Wikipedia or the internet can tell you, Rome fielded large armies from the beginning. The Horatius your generals constantly refer to? He fielded an army probably the size of your maximum army in the beginning of the game – except that was over 300 years before the game started, within the city of Rome itself before it ever became anything close to a superpower. Fast forward a little bit to the Battle of Cannae, 216 BC, where Rome allegedly fielded around 80,000 troops and almost all of them got killed in the double envelope tactic that would come to dictate military strategy for the next 2,200 years. Not long after the campaign starts, yet you can only field 3 legions.

Obviously it would be a little unfair to the AI factions if you could bust out of the gate with 8 legions, considering you could easily take over all of Italy and a large part of Gaul within the first few turns. But, the entire point of this supposed rebalancing of the armies for both the player and the AI was that “battles will have more severity.”

“This system has been implemented to make battles more decisive and for them to have a bigger impact on a war between two factions” said someone, supposedly, though there is no one attributed to the quote.

This system  utterly falls apart in the latter turns of the game for so many reasons that it’s ridiculous. Take rebellion as an example. In every TW game, the longer you allow a rebellion to go unchecked (I’m literally quoting the in-game advisers from the past games), the more strength it will gain. So, let’s say you take over all of Libya’s territory, or Garamantia, or really any faction. They get pissed off and they rebel. Suddenly here’s a full stack that spawned from nowhere. Or, they don’t rebel but one of their remaining armies (another extremely annoying part of the game) even though they have no territory, comes and attacks you. They take over the city. One turn later, they pump out multiple 20-unit armies. Excuse me? The rules of the game? Why does the AI get to ignore them? It’s not just that, either – I’ve literally seen the Spanish tribes run from the west coast, to the east coast, and back again, in the same turn – same army.

I digress.

It falls apart because, even if the enemy faction drops a 20 unit army on your 10 unit garrison, your next army can simply be a turn away and then defeat them. Then the cycle starts again. Battles have no significance in the game, because, if the AI loses, they get to run away, and their faction stays alive forever until you hunt every individual unit to the ends of the earth and kill it in the battle map and make sure that they all die. Then they’ll inevitably come back again if there’s a rebellion – and if you play as House Julii, it will happen because of Julii’s silly public order debuff. If you lose, the AI almost always chases you down and slaughters you.

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You should probably just give up now.

The game, even with it’s bugs, is quite beautiful – at the right times. Often the units look wonderful, and the detail that has gone in to finally giving them historically accurate shields based on era (thank god) and slightly differentiating uniforms, especially in the pre-Marian stages of the game (which are only the first few turns unfortunately), is definitely appreciated. Gone are the pastel colored waterways and units, replaced with dirtier, deeper, more realistic textures and meticulously crafted weapons, ships, buildings, and armor/weapons.

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Good, Testudo is accurate this time and not fictional.

Rome 2 features a lot of new and appreciated features, such as the ability to send your army directly into the ocean without needing a separate ship. Good, because the Roman navy was the Roman army, and you can look to plenty of historical examples like the campaigns of Germanicus to see that they didn’t need a separate navy to necessarily ferry them around. Another wonderful feature is that, when auto-resolving, you now have a choice of what stances to use, which will dictate what percentage of troops you might lose in a battle when it is an even match.

Rome 2 also gives you back the feature of diplomats, spies, and veterans that made Fall of The Samurai that much better than Shogun 2. The range of their abilities and benefits is pretty wide, so it will take a lot of time to fully appreciate them. There are some less glorious parts of the game, like the Senate mini-game. I have yet to understand it but I imagine if I did, or if it worked properly, it would be much easier to force a civil war to occur. That’s another feature – unlike the bad Shogun 2, the civil war is a challenge but it is not as easy to completely lose the campaign because of it. I hear, anyway, because I have yet to see it happen in my game and at this rate don’t think it will.

Unlike the original, or even Shogun 2, despite the battles not being significant, the memories you will take from the campaign certainly are. You will grow to hate enemy factions with an undying passion. Client states will make you rue the day you ever protected them from being conquered. Enemies will drive you insane with their persistence and blind stupidity – which isn’t always going to lend to a better experience. Despite on multiple occasions stressing that the new combat system will make the AI less suicidal, they still do it. They still attack an army of 5000+ men with 1 unit of 9 men. And when you autoresolve because

WHY WOULD YOU WASTE YOUR TIME ON THAT BATTLE? 

the unit survives to be ridiculous another day. Thus the story of how the Vivisci survive 10 turns after Spain is conquered.

There is one fun element in the game that is kind of unexpected, if you think how weak the diplomacy and alliances used to be. It’s quite evident that the AI factions are designed to beg you if they can be your client state, but only when they are about to get wiped from the map. What ensues soon afterwards is the client state needs no protecting at all – in fact, they run around like a redheaded step-child and they conquer and subjugate and start wars with as many factions on the map as possible, as quickly as possible – drawing you into war with half of the world. Then, they march their armies directly alongside yours, and don’t help you in the slightest bit.

I won’t give much attention to the bugs, because the game was broken on release. There was a point where I had 118 food surplus. The minute after I patched, my food surplus went down to 20. Slight error in calculations there. Or there’s the fun part where enemy ships would glitch through the ground. My favorite glitch was the fact that the Tortoise siege ram was literally broken – the second your unit picked it up, the unit animations for every unit on the battle map slowed to less than a frame per second. It’s a good thing they leapt on pt

2013-09-03_00008I can conclusively say this game is better than Shogun 2, as it should be (not Fall of the Samurai, though). Where Shogun 2 used the food limit to completely and arbitrarily limit your ability to play the game – forcing you to take over territories as slowly as possible for fear of the realm divide ruining your game – Rome 2 implements this food limit as more of a goal to reach towards, giving you a reason to improve your cities. It will definitely keep you playing for a long time, but you may get frustrated more than all the other games combined.

To any fan of Rome Total War or the Total War series, this is the best game to come out since Medieval 2, even with it’s downfalls. Go get it unless you just don’t care for Roman history.