Mass Effect

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Indeed I am many years late to the party but I legitimately didn’t finish the game until last month. After all the hype and good things I’d heard from people who don’t even play video games and raved about this title, I decided I had to finally play it – 2 years ago. I just didn’t actually get past the prologue until I forced myself. I have to admit going into it that I have never been a Bioware fan. Sure, Jade Empire and KOTOR were excellent. Baldur’s Gate was legendary. But those were all over 10 years ago.

It’s more or less impossible to produce a space game, especially one with a rich and sprawling universe, without drawing comparisons to your three big hitters in the space “genre” – Stargate, Star Trek, and Star Wars. Star Wars in particular is something you might think of when playing Mass Effect, as the funky aliens, rogue murderous robots, space secret agents and many more common elements are there, and it’s fortunate that this isn’t a Star Wars game because BioWare has already done that, and done it well.

In Mass Effect I found probably the best sleeper hit RPG in many years. I bought it because I assumed I’d like it – I’m into basically all of the themes and elements that make the game what it is. I just don’t particularly like Bioware. Dragon Age left a very bad taste in my mouth. The combat was dreadfully boring, the learning curve didn’t exist, and the characters would not shut their mouths. Look, I like dialog and story as much as the next guy. It’s a vital part of RPGs. But the characters in Dragon Age droned on and on, and none of it was ever interesting. Fortunately for Mass Effect, I hung on every word that characters had to say. Even if I got tired of hearing them talk, I read the subtitles and hit the spacebar.

Obviously, the story in the game is not 100% original. I’ve seen many people draw comparisons with System Shock – though I’m not so sure how given the ending of this trilogy. Many elements draw blatant parallels with the big three, again – how couldn’t they? With thousands of hours of film and even more of novels and comics between them, those three franchises have covered as close to everything as possible. I also knew the ending to the trilogy would be shit beforehand, thus the thing about playing games way too late. Regardless of all this, I found it to be entertaining, and robust. The game has so many factions and side-quests to deal with that I found myself having to pause to remember exactly what was going on at times, more-so in the sequels than the first entry.

I have only two real criticisms First is the games handling of other species sex, and the Asari were somewhat well written. However, why must every character be overly sexualized? Do I need to see her tits as she dies? Just like early Star Trek and most of Star Wars, most species just seem to be a green or blue human with boobs tossed on them. We can’t speak for the quarians because we don’t know what they look like, but from what little you can see through their visors they appear sort of reptilian. The Asari, who even knows, with their tentacles on their heads.

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The other is….the morality system is basically meaningless. If you play RPGs properly, that means you talk to literally every NPC all the time, and do every quest possible. Simply talking to everyone whenever possible gives you paragon points. The only way to get renegade points is to intentionally take renegade actions. Even so, you would have to only do the renegade type of thing every single time, to be a renegade. Just like Fallout 3, the balance of morality has basically no effect whatsoever on anything because even if it did, it will take you 4 seconds to fix it.

The voice acting was very well done, even in the first game, and combined with the dialog itself I felt a sincerity to the things people were saying to me, or to others. In addition, the dialog and story seemed rather well written, to the point that I wasn’t being taken out of it to question the authenticity of the plot developments.

I flew back and forth around the galaxy, doing 100% of every side-quest and quest possible. It reminded me of long dead games like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger where you controlled where you go and what you do, when. Even better, it seemed that every single one of these quests remained relevant after the game was over. Looking back, the only things I didn’t do all of were probes or beacons or containers that required too high of a science level I didn’t have.

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Worst vehicle in the galaxy.

Surprisingly, the fact that the combat all controls as a third person shooter didn’t even bother me. Occasionally I ran into some frustrating battles like Benezia or basically everything else on Noveria, but most of that boiled down to playing the game too much like a shooter. It seemed an interesting way to handle the combat – not many RPGs have tried. Although I do feel that if you’re going to make a third person shooter and make it with consoles in mind, it would be nice to have a functional gamepad control scheme on PC as well. I typically play PC games with keyboard anyway, but the option would be nice. The only thing about this game that bothered me, other than the god awful handling and boringness of the Mako, was the 150 item limit. I was picking up at least 50 – 100 items per planet and mission. And then having to turn them all into omni-gel or sell them, seconds later.

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I don’t know what the graphics in the game looked like originally, as I played with the MIUTM mod. It doesn’t drastically change things, but it does replace most of the textures with high quality ones. And it looked pretty decent for an ancient game.

Resident Evil – What IS it? Continued

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Apologies for the second blog about Resident Evil in 24 hours but, you have seen the name of this site, correct? It’s expected. So the news today is that Capcom made a not-at-all substantial statement mentioning RE7.

Capcom is planning a new Resident Evil spinoff shooter game and multiple new HD remakes, but what about the next entry in the core series? Capcom is still not ready to share specifics about a follow-up to 2012’s Resident Evil 6, but now, veteran producer Masachika Kawata has told fans to “stay tuned.”

“We’re currently not at a state to talk about it,” Kawata said when asked directly about Resident Evil 7 in the latest issue of Japanese gaming magazine Dengeki PlayStation (via Siliconera). “But please stay tuned.”

Asked for a response to the notion that the Resident Evil series is “losing its horror touch,” Kawata seemed to agree, but went on to say that Capcom wants the franchise to return to its horror roots

“Since there’s been more spinoff titles, I can see how it can be perceived in such a way,” Kawata said. “And of course I believe that we should produce titles that bring out the horror. I’m thinking about it and also preparing for it.”

This is not the case. I don’t think he understood the comment he responded to. The game lost its horror roots because of the main series – not because there are “so many spin off titles.”

Revelations 1 and 2 are the closest thing to a real Resident Evil game that have come out in over a decade, and Revelations 2 wasn’t even close. It was just a mashup of Evil Within and Last of Us, with some Metal Gear Solid and RE4 mixed in. Revelations 1 was very close, it’s just the enemies weren’t frightening – ever – and they weren’t zombies or really mutated either. Just grey gelatinous puddles of goop with pointies on them. Real sea creatures are scarier. Like the goblin shark.

Resident Evil’s essence didn’t revolve strictly around horror. The game was 90% inventory management, adventures, puzzles, and piecing together the story from the environment and documents. “Horror”, and the ammo management that came with it, was that extra something that made the game special. Outbreak 1 and 2 were both, for all intents and purposes, real resident evil games. They just had a terrible lack of communication options, and you started out infected and inevitably died, to make it as frustrating as possible. So the only spinoffs that really hurt the series were ORC, Gun Survivor, and Chronicles. These were on rails and/or action games RE4, RE5, and RE6 have each individually done more damage to the franchise than all the spinoffs combined ever could have.

Here’s a no-brainer:

Stop. Listening. To. RE4. Fans.

Trying to make third person action shooters to cater to them is what has ruined this IP.

Any person that says “I loved RE4 and RE5, please go back to them.” is a person you should beimmediately ignoring forever. Resident Evil sold millions when it was Resident Evil. It didn’t sellmore copies once it was Gears of Evil. If you want to sell games to these people with the Resident Evil logo on them, that’s absolutely fine. But they need to be clearly separated from the normal product line with a common subtitle like Outbreak (not to be confused with the Outbreak games which were great) or something. I will gladly buy an offline single player or co op third person action shooter product that focuses on the BSAA – that’s perfectly fine. I trulyliked Chris’s campaign. It was the only good, functional, cohesive part of RE6 other than Ada’s story. Ada’s story doesn’t count because it was required to figure out what the fuck just happened in the previous 20 hours of the game. I didn’t like how Chris’s campaign wasn’t Resident Evil, but I liked what it was. Just stop shovelling that horse shit into the main series.

You can honest to god keep the over the shoulder camera. It can stay. 3d environments can stay. What needs to come back is the adventure gameplay. Keeping track of your inventory and the items you need within that inventory in order to open doors and solve puzzles, to progress in the game. Creepy, claustrophobic environments with grandiose music and elegance to them that reflect the degree of insanity in the people you’re dealing with. Reading documents that reveal the plot one fragment at a time so that you can piece it all together yourself – not constant cutscenes being shoved in your face every 2.5 seconds that serve no purpose whatsoever except to put in more exploding set pieces or sequences that would have been slightly off if you had control. No co op. If you must do co op, do it like RE0, or do it like Outbreak – nothing else. No exceptions.

What needs to go is the kung fu fighting, the free melee, the upgradable guns, the copious ammo and healing items, and the hordes of enemies at every turn. The mind controlled enemy zombie militias with assault rifles and rocket launchers and miniguns and crossbows, and wings. The main characters who have lived through 4 or 5 outbreaks yet can’t identify when a fucking human being has been infected and turned into a zombie (LOOKING AT YOU LEON AND CHRIS) Those need to go, forever. RE6 seemed like it attempted to deal with Chris’s development and his PTSD – something touched upon frequently in RE5 commercials but literally never even mentioned in the game – but they tried to Tarantino it and did a shit job. The constantly exploding setpieces, the plane crashes, the on rails vehicle segments, the jet plane flying, all of that shit needs to go away for all eternity, as well. Listen, Capcom. Within 1 hour of starting RE6 – if you play Leon’s campaign first – there are no fewer than 100 exploding cars, at least 10 car crashes either right in front of you or with you in them, an entire street that explodes and collapses, and an exploding Harrier. This is in the fucking prologue. The tutorial! Are you kidding!?!!?!?!?!

Sherry, Leon, Ada – no development whatsoever. None. Not one single iota. And once again, despite Wesker being DEAD, the only real conflict in the story revolved around him, this time the fact that he was dead.

Resident Evil – What IS it?

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As of late, Capcom has been publishing data regarding its franchise sales and success on a regular basis, and of course with E3 coming up soon, there is once again a lot of talk about reviving the Resident Evil franchise. A lot of alleged fans come out of the woodwork to say that RE4 was the best of the series and that people clamoring for a return to form need to take off their nostalgia goggles. I concede that it would be better to have better controls a la Dead Space or RE6 – and it would be better to have the option to change camera angles, but not one single other thing from RE4 needs to ever show its face in the franchise again.

RE4 has nothing to do with Resident Evil. Capcom – and Mikami himself in that case – thinks that throwing in a couple of characters that fans were familiar with and liked, and emulating what they did before in good games is all they need to do to make another entry. It’s not. The story had no connection whatsoever with the established lore – 8+ games worth I might add by the time RE4 came out – other than the text at the beginning of the game and the obligatory, off-topic references to and inclusion of Ada and Wesker. Krauser and Leon’s backstory didn’t even exist yet when they put him in the game.

It’s not a Resident Evil game. It’s not even a survival horror game. Literally the only moment of “fear” in that entire game was the first time you encountered Dr. Salvador because you didn’t know what would happen and if he was an insta-death. Once you found out that he was, there was no more tension in that game that didn’t come simply from your own desire not to die and have to replay part of it. Considering the frequent save points, and not needing ribbons, even that was minimal. Combine that with the fact that you can literally buy first aid sprays, upgrade your guns and subsequently get free ammo doing so, the fact that you have grenades and sniper rifles and can buy rocket launchers, there’s nothing suspenseful about the game. It was entirely action.

Allow me to reiterate: I do like RE4. It was a good game. I spent all my gaming time when it came out playing that game with my best friend until we unlocked every last thing possible (well, before the full PS2 version came out), even in public at our local video game store. I own the original, the PS2 port, the original mess of a PC port, RE4 HD on 360 and RE4 HD on PC. But, it’s not a Resident Evil game, and that precludes it from being the best Resident Evil game.

The influx of “kids” who never played RE Directors Cut, RE2, RE3, RE Code Veronica, REmake, RE0, and Outbreak 1 and 2 in that order are what has caused the franchise – in terms of quality – to nosedive. They played RE4 and thought it was the best game ever made, so Capcom has tried to emulate that unsuccessfully ever since. I’m sure a lot of people who liked original RE played it and liked it, but if you played them contemporarily when released and then jumped ship to the action, all I can say is that you’re a sellout.

And so this is why Resident Evil has had an identity crisis for the last 10 years of its 19 year existence. At this point it is mathematically more appropriate to call it an action game, than a survival horror or even an adventure game. Capcom is trying to appeal to two radically different groups of fans and ends up attempting to appease them both. RE4 introduced ridiculous gameplay moments like those below:

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Since this, the identity crisis suffered by this franchise has soared to hilarious, indescribable new heights. It reached the pinnacle of absurdity in Resident Evil 6, which featured the disgusting failures the below screenshots only hint at. If you haven’t played Resident Evil 6 but are a fan, be warned: You have to pilot a fucking fighter jet. You attack a Neo-Umbrella aircraft carrier with a fighter jet. This is the franchise where you had to re-arrange statues to get gems to get a key in 1998 and you couldn’t even aim your gun. In 2011, you are flying a god damn fighter jet.

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The amount of vehicles you have to “control” in Resident Evil 6 is simply fucking ridiculous. You control Air Force One, a scout helicopter, a UH-60 variant helicopter, a Harrier fighter jet, a police cruiser, a motorcycle, and a snow mobile. This is in addition to the set pieces. RE6 features so many exploding set pieces, it’s unfathomable that Capcom wasn’t having a contest with Activision. Exploding cars by the dozens, exploding planes, exploding helicopters, exploding ships, exploding trains, collapsing Moria mines, nuclear explosions, exploding rail artillery guns, exploding submarines, exploding giant houseflies, epic avalanches…Resident Evil 6 is the most ridiculous Call of Duty game in history.

As if the explosions and set pieces and raging fires weren’t bad enough in that game, they also mashed as many other games as possible together, like Gears of War. Look, I actually admit that Chris’s campaign was the best campaign in the game. It physically hurts me to say so, but it’s the truth. If Resident Evil were to just split off into a third person action shooter about the BSAA fighting bioterrorism, Chris’s campaign would be a great template to follow in order to accomplish that goal. That being said, what the hell is this? No seriously, though, I’m legitimately asking. What were these things called? You only had to kill 2 of them but there was never an explicit answer who made them or why. Are we to assume it was Neo-Umbrella?

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Sidenote, what fake build of RE6 is this screenshot taken from? The game does not look this good on absolute ultra graphics on PC.

Back on topic. To make matters worse, Resident Evil 6 is the best selling entry in the entire franchise. Certainly this sends a message to Capcom that we want action games, and that really isn’t the truth. Especially now that Revelations 2 didn’t sell as many copies as almost any other entry in the series. At this point in time, Capcom has actually commented that they may just keep making the main numbered entries into action games, and save what little similarities to the original game still exist for the Revelations games. Capcom, of course, says a lot of nonsensical things about Resident Evil.

Keiji Inafune – legendary creator of Megaman, the guy who left Capcom because they wouldn’t make a new Megaman game and then made it anyway (the one that we’re waiting for because it got delayed to 2016) made a statement in 2010 that Capcom wanted Dead Rising to replace Resident Evil as their zombie franchise (http://goo.gl/QDDw4E). That’s the extent of this ridiculousness.

We know now how that worked out. Capcom released the worst Resident Evil game in history the next year, and then contracted Slant Six to make the second worst game in Resident Evil history. Shortly after that they released the only good Resident Evil game in 7 years, and then Dead Rising 3 did not at all meet their expectations. So, those plans got axed. It seems at this point like Capcom is trying not to continue the RE franchise but they keep doing it begrudgingly because people want it – like the fact that it took them 14 years and 2 separate fan remakes of Resident Evil 2 before they finally decided to officially remake the game, along with the fact that they remastered RE0 and REmake.

At the same time, Capcom is making an online only competitive Resident Evil shooter that won’t even have Resident Evil in the title. I think it’s safe to say that after 10 years of struggling with this franchises identity, even having proven data with Revelations 1 and 2 that shows people want the horror back, Capcom still has no idea what to do with their IP. Barry and Jill’s frequent, badly voice acted query from day 1 is perfectly appropriate 19 years later and seems to be what Capcom employees are still asking each other when they have meetings.

What IS it?!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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Yes. I explicitly said I do not intend to buy this game. I did it anyway. Twice, in fact. I remember when this game came out in 2013. I had reservations and doubts and pretty much knew it would suck, but paid $60 on PS3 for it anyway. Actually I believe I even pre-ordered it and then stopped by GameStop to get it on the way back from work.

I broke a controller because of this game. The first time I’d done something that childish in  a decade, and it hasn’t happened again. That is how poorly designed the game is.

Example: Blade mode literally does not work the way it is supposed to. There are two bosses where you must use blade mode the proper way, or you die. The thing being, it never really gives any indication what the proper way is , and blade mode is a horrible way of blocking in the first place. Because you have to parry everything – there is no block. Very bad decision for a hack and slash game when literally every hack and slash ever made allows you to block and counter attack based on timing, but your game instead only applies parrying. Parrying is not the same as blocking and frankly is not the only method of defense in a sword fight.

Sundowner explicitly requires you to slash in 180 degree angles – horizontally or vertically. If you are remotely off, it doesn’t undo his shield.  The thing is, it’s not that difficult to see the clear middle of the x and y axis on a PS3 controller or Xbox controller. It just doesn’t work regardless.

It's literally telling you how to slash, and then not accepting it.

It’s literally telling you how to slash, and then not accepting it.

Other than the technical failures, the game presentation is completely inconsistent. There is no rhythm or flow to the play of this game. Normal enemies – soldiers/cyborgs – are pathetically, pointlessly easy. In comparison, Geckos are moronically hard. Yea, I’m aware of what they are, I played MGS4 – wherein Raiden easily fought them by the way – and they shouldn’t be doing as much damage as they do in one hit. Not to mention Dwarf Geckos, give me a break, if they swarm you. This is my major problem with the game. Each level is offensively easy even including the annoying and often overpowered minibosses, but then comes the other major problem with the game.

Bosses: Bosses are so, so, so stupidly out of place “difficult”. And that’s the thing, they aren’t even difficult. The last boss is the easiest boss in the entire game, if you don’t screw up. In fact, the fourth boss is actually the hardest in the game. As if that little fact wasn’t enough, you actually have to fight the third, fourth, third, fourth, and fifth bosses in the same hour of gameplay – three of them on the same level, on the same life bar, too. It actually reminds me of Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge in that the health bar was so poorly implemented – except in NG3 you literally couldn’t heal back to full health and stay that way except for checkpoints. In Revengeance, you can carry a meager amount of nanopastes and then you better hope there are spines – attached the human enemies – that you can heal with otherwise. Hint: There aren’t many in the second half of the game.

So you go from murdering everything, which Raiden should be doing, to getting his ass kicked by these A-team rejects in the same levels. It breaks the suspension of disbelief, even in a Kojima game, this juxtaposition of difficulty between actual gameplay, and cinematic boss encounters.

I’ve saved the actual story for the end because it is just so ridiculous. So, on top of what happens to Raiden between MGS2 and MGS4, he starts working for a mercenary organization to combat cyborgs and Metal Gear stuff. He’s pretty identifiable and expected compared to what he was in MGS4, until the point where the Spanish cyborg samurai basically leaves him for dead. Then he is still normal, but on the subsequent boss fight, he goes crazy. He embraces “Jack the Ripper” – remember him? His nickname when he was a WHITE African child soldier. Goes crazy and literally impales himself with his own sword to get off on the pain and apparently use it like a Sith would to make himself stronger.

Except this never happens. He doesn’t get stronger. He’s the same underpowered whining girl he was outside of cutscenes since MGS2. So the whole thing was pointless. And then at the end of the game, he just kindly goes back to Rose and their kid and can be a normal father again. Why? Because….

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Yes, this is the last boss, and yes he literally says “Nanomachines, son”.

 So, we’re just not going to talk about that? How you shoved a katana through your [admittedly cyborg] own chest and then decided to regress to the horrible past you allegedly have gotten over? Thanks Platinum and Konami, whichever group of you wrote the story, it’s even worse than any MGS including 5.

Still here

It’s been a long 2015. I no longer own any consoles, having sold my PS2 out of desperation a few months ago, so am only gaming on PC. Which is fine. I’m trying to get into videos, and am working on putting together a video show with some real life friends in the Houston area. I am still alive though. Currently I’m working on finishing up the Mass Effect trilogy – am about 1/3rd of the way through the third game.

My recent acquisitions are a bit lacking. I haven’t even installed MGS5 yet and really don’t care. I also will be working on a review of Stasis, maybe Soma, Far Cry 4, and some other titles.