I’ve experienced a renewed sense of purpose since returning from a recent vacation and have decided to finally renovate my apartment ( I moved in 3 years ago).
This is a solo job that will take weeks, but I will be working on a new article between break periods. It’s about how the Matrix is a true story, but in the shittiest sense possible. Similar to how ‘The Revenant’ is based on the true story of when a guy shot a bear once. Fantasy will always be more romantic than reality and the human race will be less disappointed in general once we all internalize that fact.
But I’ll not spend the ammo of that article here – that’s just a teaser until it is posted in a month or so. In the meantime I wanted to quickly break down the games I’ve been playing:
Shadowrun Returns/Shadowrun: Dragonfall
These recent iterations of Shadowrun were a happy surprise. Both are story rich RPGs that focus on a small number of characters with definite arcs and plots. Both games reach a dignified end when the story is told.
The first in this renewed series, ‘Shadowrun Returns’, is sort of a bare bones experience. The budget restraints can be clearly seen. The odd glitch is evident and there are limited areas to explore. But the developers were aware of their limitations and wisely embraced its restrictions, not overreaching its ability and remaining focused on its core characters and mechanics. ‘Shadowrun Returns’ is an enjoyable, relatively short but nonetheless engaging turned based CRPG.
The follow up game, ‘Dragonfall’, is ‘Shadowrun Returns’ with a budget. More characters, more places, more side stories and a larger scope. The fantasy wasn’t sacrificed nor was the competent writing. This seems to be the best realization of what the developers wanted and I enjoyed it start to finish.
An intense, fast paced visceral arena shooter with an adrenaline inducing soundtrack. A shooter where you truly ‘get in the zone’, sucked into the battle; constantly moving, jumping, shooting and dodging the attacks of the surrounding monstrosities while switching to the most appropriate weapons for the job. Tactical choices need to be made on when to use your special weapons and finishing moves.
The combat is fantastic, but that’s all it’s got going for it. The characters and story are as lazy as it gets. The additional challenge modes just annoyed me as they took me out of the world (literally in most cases) and provided little in the way of benefits. There is pretty much nothing that can’t be killed with the default weapons.
Still worth playing for the combat alone. People need to calm down about it though – ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ was superior in almost every way. Even the combat gets tiring towards the final couple of levels. Wait until the price drops to sub- 30 Euro and then check it out. Not substantial enough to justify 60 Euro.
Assassin’s Creed 2: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed 2: Revelations
Not much to say on these. More of the same as Assassin’s Creed 2, following up the story of Ezio and Desmond. As usual Desmond’s story is uninteresting and practically comes to a halt, while Ezio develops, grows and becomes an all round more likable protagonist. Fun, but nothing terribly new, or worth dwelling on.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I’m about 6 hours into this one. I reviewed it’s predecessor ‘Ground Zeroes’ last year and found it to be a short but concise and engaging experience.
The follow up ‘The Phantom Pain’ is similar mechanically, but stuffed with the unfettered imagination of Hideo Kojima. A man who is part genius game maker, part man-baby and terrible writer.
Mechanically TPP is great. Stealth is intense and the little touches are as interesting as they were in GZ. There are many options to approach each challenge and as a game, TPP is solid and engaging. The scope is grander as the world is considerably bigger – containing many bases in which to complete missions. I’ll probably spend a lot more time there…that is of course, the absolute nonsense dialogue and insane tonal shifts won’t cause me to delete the game in annoyance.
The tone is all over the place. The serious moments are effectively brutal and executed expertly, conveying a sense of horror that I feel about the actual cold war (the game is set in the mid 80’s, focusing on the Russian’s activities). I was reminded of when I was growing up in the late 1980s and feeling a sense of dread when watching the news, seeing footage of Russian trucks firing payloads of rockets into a battered third-world war zone, and the weirdness of seeing people delightfully hammer down a wall in Germany.
Then the game will introduce, with no explanation, a floating psychic child and a shape shifting fire demon. As well as a squad of psychic soldiers that turn people into zombies.
There is also the toilet humor. Most of your view is taken up by a mans bare ass during the opening HOSPITAL MASSACRE.
I’ve yet to reach the part where the naked woman becomes my friend before proceeding to murder many many people.
Kojima is trying to have his cake and eat it. He wants seriousness, but also comedy, as well as Michael Bay action, with ‘Munich’ levels of drama. There is no sense of pace or transition. The same scene will go from unspeakable horror to bad teen comedy. The first thing that happens after you wake up from your coma ( as a facially disfigured amputee) is a nurse virtually shoves her cleavage into your face.
It’s not that you can’t have changing tones, but tonal shifts need to be implemented skillfully. Here, Kojima comes across as a 10 year old making up a story, firing off the first interesting thing that comes to mind – ‘and now this happens! And then, and then and then….’
I’ve a lot of respect for Kojima as a game maker, but he’s more Lucas than Spielberg. Skillful and experienced, but but badly needing someone to keep his imagination in check with reality.
Kojima has been getting a lot of praise and affection lately, which is worrisome for his future games – artistic restraint can be positive, but his upcoming ‘Death Strand’ is already looking like pretentious David Lynch wannabe garbage.
Lets not be too encouraging of the man’s random bollocks and pseudo philosophical nonsense.
That’s another thing, the dialogue in TPP is terrible. Insecure, hyper-masculine men vomiting dialogue about war being dirty work that someone has to perform, but seemingly loving it at the same time. The main characters are near identical grizzled soldiers united in the common belief that war is the solution to everything.
Again it’s Kojima infant syndrome. I remember when I was 7 years of age and thinking Arnold in ‘Commando’ was the coolest thing that a person could aspire to be. Kojima still seems locked into this mindset and level of maturity.
Normally I wouldn’t tolerate this A.D.D Story telling, but (for now) I’m still fascinated by the gibbering spectacle to continue playing. Similar to the Batman vs Superman film in how mind-boggling it is that such a highly produced expensive movie could be so bizarrely taped together.
I’ve played Doom 2 in the past, but I needed a palate cleanser after the above head wreck. I’m about halfway through and playing on the second to hardest difficulty (I’ve previously played on ‘normal’ only).
Doom 2 is still a bloody joy to play. I’ll criticize the lack of story as I have the new Doom, but it’s not such a stinging point because old Doom avoids hanging a lampshade on its plot. New Doom makes fun of its lack of story, as if admitting they couldn’t be bothered- whereas old Doom uses it story as a paradigm around which to design monsters and levels. New Doom is almost resentful of its story, whereas old Doom accepts it as functional and moves on.
Combat is still hard as nails but intensely satisfying. Levels are large and open allowing you to zoom through rooms and corridors, dodging and shooting the fantastically designed enemies.
The atmosphere is as creepy as ever (more so than new Doom) and the violence is gloriously visceral and shameless. Another game that I would consider a definition of a classic. Nearly 21 years old and still fun to play.
The classic Doom collection is going for cheap on GOG.com and is so old that it could run on a toaster. There is no reason not to take a look.