Category: videogames

Shooting Tokyo … IN THE FUTURE

Saw this on Polygon and kind of fell in love. It’s got a really cool look and the music sounds great, too. I’m not too fussed about the multiplayer, but that’s true for 99% of the games I play.

There’s a comment on the Polygon article comparing it to Hotline Miami, which I can definitely see. Hopefully it won’t be as frustrating as that (I don’t think I made it past the first level). I’d like it if it was either like the original Syndicate, which had a very deliberate pace, or like Grand Theft Auto, with fun (and survivable) rampages.

[SIDE NOTE: I just looked up the official site so I could link to it. The two games the dev references are Syndicate and GTA 1. Apparently great minds thinks alike.]

There’s no release date, but I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on it.


Killing the Beast

Just a quick update to say how much kudos  Anita Sarkeesian deserves for not letting a particularly vile subsection of the internet stop her from shedding some light on the rough deal that women get in video games.

For the you who don’t know, Sarkeesian set up a project on Kickstarter to make a series of video critiques looking at the various female tropes in the video game genre. As always happens when certain pockets of the internet feel like their privilege is being threatened, there was a backlash against both the project and Sarkeesian herself. This, sadly, isn’t uncommon, and it’s something I’ve written about before.

It would have been very easy for Sarkeesian to decide that it wasn’t worth the hassle, and with people wishing cancer on her and calling her a “dumb ass nazi cunt” simply for having the temerity to suggest that not everything in the video game world was rosy and perfect, it would have been very hard to blame her. Luckily for us1, she stuck with it and her Kickstarter project ended up being fully funded around 25 times over.

I like the idea that all the commenters managed to achieve was to give the project more visibility, which helped it raise even more money and help kill the beast they represent that much quicker. It makes sense to me; anyone stupid/twisted/detached enough to find that kind of interaction acceptable and/or funny is unlikely to have enough perspective and self-awareness to realise how they appear to people who aren’t already desensitised to their bullshit.

It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that they’ve hastened their own demise because they couldn’t keep their ignorant, misogynistic mouths shut. I guess I have to tip my hat to the trolls, too. Well done you internet jackasses; your myopia is finally done something halfway useful.

  1. And by “us,” I mean “us gamers who will be educated and/or entertained by the project.”

Err, You Know What an Assassin IS, Right?

Assassin’s Creed 3 looks better than I expected.

I’ve never really thought that the gameplay in Assassin’s Creed was really the series’ strong point and I wasn’t entirely convinced that an AC game could work outside of an urban environment.  The trailer does a pretty good job of selling the open world stuff though and getting around looks pretty simple (read: “unobtrusive”).  As long as the characters and story are solid, then I’m sure I’ll enjoy it just fine

There are two things that bug me about the trailer though:

1. The Swiss-Army Hidden Blade

The minor gripe first. The section where Connor flips the hidden blade round to skin a deer is dumb.  Really, really dumb.  When the series started, the hidden blade was exactly that: a blade that you couldn’t see.  It had one use, and that was stabbing Templars in the back. There was also the whole thing with cutting off the ring finger to allow the blade to come out without injuring the user.  Yeah, it was a little thing, but it added some extra flavour to the assassins.

Four games later and it’s getting all Inspector Gadget up there.  What used to be the assassin’s signature weapon is now some kind of wrist-mounted multi-tool. Would it really have been so hard to have Connor pull a skinning knife from his belt rather than bust out his super-secret murderblade?

2. The Frontal Assault

Someone at Ubisoft seems to have forgotten that stealth is quite an important part of assassinations.  Twice in the demo, Connor runs up to a group of Redcoats and fucks their shit up.  This is great and all, but I can’t help feel like he could have saved himself a lot of time and potential gunshot wounds by sneaking past them.

I get that it’s a demo and it needs to make the game look exciting to John Q. Public, but for me it’s highlighting exactly the wrong thing. It looks like the dev team has made fighting half a dozen people at once a lot more cinematic, and I’m sure that I spotted a QTE dodge manoeuvre in there as well.  None of this stuff is bad per se, but I’d much rather the effort had gone towards more stealth options, like, Oh, I don’t know, disguises.  If the point of taking on the gate guards was for Connor to grab a uniform to better infiltrate the base, I’d have been a happy man.


Skyrim Nitpicks – Part One: People

So, Skyrim, huh? People are tripping over themselves to give it Game of the Year awards, but let’s face it, there’s lots of things wrong with it. For example:

1. “You Talk Funny”

What’s going on with the accents in Skyrim? I can forgive the fact some Nords sound sort of Scandinavian, others sound American, and one – and it does seem to just be one – sounds Scottish. What confuses me is when members of the same family, who all grew up in the same town, have different accents. Not just a little bit different either. We’re not talking the difference between Brooklyn and a Queens accent here; it’s more like the difference between a Norwegian accent and Mickey Mouse’s nemesis Pete.

(Mainly because that’s exactly what it is. Jim Cummings, who has voiced Pete for nearly 20 years, provided additional voices for Skyrim.)

2. “No! Look at Him, Damn It!”

I know I’m the main character, but that doesn’t mean you have to look at me even when you’re talking to someone else. Seriously, quit it. It’s creepy,

3. “It Wasn’t That Big a Deal, Really”

Some people are really touched by favours you do them, and I mean really touched. Faendal – or Sven,whichever floats your boat – in Riverwood will follow you into ruins and crypts and risk his life fighting unholy warriors from centuries past, all because you delivered – or didn’t deliver, again, whichever floats your boat – a letter to a girl he liked. Sometimes, you don’t even have to help someone out. There’s a guy near Riften stables who won’t shut up about how good a friend I’ve been to him: I beat him to within an inch of his life for a bet.

4. “Excuse Me…”

Lydia, oh my darling Lydia, you’re the bees knees and I’m glad you’re on the team, but for the love of Talos, would you stop blocking doorways?! It’s not just Lydia, of course; companions seem to have this uncanny knack for getting in the way. I shouldn’t have to lure my hireling into the room so I can get past them, and I definitely shouldn’t have to dragon shout them out of the way.

5. “Be Careful!”

If there’s a pressure plate in a hallway, companions will step on it. A corridor could be a mile wide, and they’d still manage find the one part of the floor that causes poison darts to come out of the walls or spears to stab out of a doorway. What’s worse is that they won’t just stand on it once; they will stand on it over and over again until fate steps in and they can move on. In one draugr-filled dungeon, Lydia stepped on a pressure play about a dozen times before the spiked gate it activated knocked her past it. It’s even more pronounced –although, not entirely unhilarious – when you’re being accompanied by master thieves, who are supposed to be adept at avoiding traps.

6. “That Looks Uncomfortable.”

Guards, it seems, never take their helmets off.

Even when they sleep.

Man in the Iron Mask, eat your heart out.

7. “I Thought You Already Knew…”

Some of the residents of Skyrim have a habit of asking you questions they should – in theory –already know the answer to. For example, the blacksmith lady in Whiterun (I’m not great with names, sorry) will ask if you’ve met her father, who is the Jarl’s steward. A fair question, you might think, but she’ll keep asking it after you’ve delivered a sword to him on her behalf and bought the empty house next to hers – a process that involves talking to none other than *drum roll* the Jarl’s steward.

8. “An Arrow in the Knee, Huh?”

The guards in Skyrim seem to share a single consciousness. It’s not just the arrow in the knee thing – a line that crops up so often that it’s become a meme – there are loads of other things that every guard, in every hold,will come out with. Basically, they’re either a hive mind, or by some bizarre coincidence every guard in the province is a former adventurer with a bad knee and a cousin out fighting dragons. Oh, a lot of them wonder if they might be Dragonborn, even those who know that it’s you.

9. “Will You Just $&#@ing Walk?!”

Probably the worst quest objectives you can have in Skyrim are those that read “Follow Captain NPC to Angry Badger Ravine,” or something similar. Not because they’re hard – they’re really not – but because if you follow too close, then the person you’re following will stop and throw out a line like: “We can’t stop now, this is badger country.” Yes, I’m aware of that Captain; that’s why I didn’t initiate a conversation. In fact, I was moving faster than you, a fact that seems to have upset you. If you don’t want me to catch you up, you shouldn’t move so bloody slowly, should you?

10. “We’ve Just Been There.”

Some NPCs seems to have a bit of a problem remembering where they are and what’s going on around them.

“Hello my dear,” my wife Ysolde would say. “Back from another adventure?”

“Um, No,” I would reply. “I was upstairs. Sleeping. You just saw me come down the stairs.”

I don’t think she heard me though; she was too busy sitting in the kitchen.

It’s not limited to spouses either; companions will sometimes suggest that we explore a cave that we’ve literally just left, or say they’ve never seen anything like the sight in front of them when you know damn well that they have.



Everything I Know About Gears of War 3 I Learned From the Silverback

Well, not everything, but the Silverback does contain some interesting little titbits – yes, that’s titbits, I am British after all – about the game’s design philosophy.

There are three things you need to know about the Silverback.  It’s slow, well-armed, and doesn’t have any armour in the back – and when I say it doesn’t have any armour, I mean at all; the pilot is completely exposed at the back, just waiting for an enterprising sniper to shoot him or her in the head.  Of course, that never happens, because in Gears of War, the action is always in front of you.

The other point, that the Silverback is powerful but slow, shows how Epic keeps everything balanced.  You can be quick or you can be powerful, but you can’t be both.  This applies to pretty much everyone and everything, whether Locust, COG, or Lambent.

Ok, so not the biggest revelation in the world, but I still thought it was interesting.

(EDIT: While looking for a decent picture, I happened upon the design below, which clearly shows it having armour in the back. It look like this is concept art and the design was later changed)


Diversity, Gaming, and Internet Rage

Some days I love the videogaming community, and other days I really, really hate it. Especially when it’s filled up with idiots who not only refuse to engage with discussions about diversity, but are actually hostile to the very idea those discussions exist. On those days, I want to strangle it to death and leave its body in a quarry. Seriously, if you ever want a sure fire way to piss me off, show me the comments section on an article about sexism or misogyny or racism in videogames. I can guarantee that some mouth-breathing dullard will say something that will cause my very being to constrict with rage. Even worse is that a hell of lot of the comments will agree with him.

Seriously gamers, what the fuck is wrong with you? Why, in 2011 – and nearly 2012, no less – am I still reading articles like this one by Leigh Alexander complaining about how exhausting to be a woman writing about games, and then tripping over comments like this?

“When the fuck did Kotaku become a soap box for group of people that feel repressed and underrepresented? When are we going to get the article from the handicapped gamer? The one form the black gamer? Maybe the Indian gamer? How about the one form the gay, female, handicapped, black, Indian gamer?

I thought the idea of this site was that we’re all gamers, we all like to hear about games, and discuss games.

If I wanted to read about people segregating themselves into groups and pissing and moaning because the group they most self identify with is tied to something touchy like sexual orientation or skin color, I’d read the comments section of a political blog. What I said in the other article applies here to. Once you stop putting so much fucking emphasis on it, other people will as well. Try handling shit on a case by case basis, and I’m sure people will stop using “female” in the taglines used to describe you.”

(Just so you know, the other article he mentions is this one, in which a gay gamer explains how he has been bullied and abused for most of his life because of his sexuality, and how tossing words like “faggot” around in multiplayer games isn’t as harmless as some people like to think. It’s deeply personal and rather harrowing to read, and this shitehawk treats it like he’s the one that’s been wronged.)

You know what? If you don’t care about this kind of stuff, that’s fine – not everyone wants to get embroiled in this kind of discussion about their evening’s escapism. But don’t attack other people simply because they do care. We are not being unreasonable when we urge people to be more thoughtful about the language they use. It’s not trampling on free speech – which, by the way, is not synonymous with “I get to be an asshole and you can’t say anything about it” – or political correctness gone mad; it’s about trying to make the world a more considerate place. Yes, there will be people who will take it too far, but that doesn’t mean everyone who says that gaming is not as inclusive as it could be, or indeed should be, is some ultra-PC feminazi whose only mission in life is to spoil your fun. This is an attitude that the gaming community – as much as you can call a disparate group of people linked by a single common interest a community – need to ditch. It’s holding gaming back and its holding us back as human beings.

I’m just going to leave this here, because it makes the point wonderfully.


The Bitches of Arkham


Last week the internet was ablaze with discussions of whether or not Batman: Arkham City was sexist or not. A blogger by the name of FilmCritHULK took exception to how developer Rocksteady used the word “bitch” in the game and how often it cropped up. It’s a discussion I’m a little late to, mostly because the game didn’t come out in the UK until Friday, meaning I had no first hand experience with the game. When I finally did get to play it, I didn’t want to start writing until I’d played it through, so I could get a sense of the whole game, rather than just the first few hours.

One thing I can confirm: The ladies of Arkham City get called “bitch” a hell of a lot. In his/her article – I’m not entirely sure which one it is – FCH suggests that Rocksteady uses the word clumsily, and that’s something I’d agree with, although probably not for the same reason that FCH does. For all Arkham City’s good points, the writing in the game can be rather rough at times, and the plethora of bitches is a great example. Any time that Catwoman and Two Face are in the same room together the word crops up so much that it starts to get ridiculous.

I think I can understand why Rocksteady uses the word so often. Rocksteady is using the word bitch – likely one of the very few actual curses it could use in a Teen rated game – to establish a certain tone. It wants us to know that the residents of Arkham City are not nice people, and we should not feel bad about pounding the snot out of them. It is said by characters we are not supposed to like, most often – although not exclusively – about a character that we are supposed to like.

Whether or not that makes it OK depends on your own point of view, but I think it’s worth noting that Rocksteady’s intentions were good, even if the execution was not. However, I do agree with a point that FCH makes in his/her follow up article, where he/she says that there are better ways of establishing tone than random insults and swearing, but again, not because it’s sexist, but rather because comes across as really, really juvenile. You’re not going to convince anyone you’re grown up and mature by saying “bitch” a lot – if anything, it’s usually exactly the opposite.

Perhaps some good will come of this. Arkham City is such a high profile game, that maybe, just maybe, the “controversy” will raise awareness of the issue of sexism in games. I’m not holding my breath though, as I don’t think most gamers are willing or able to discuss topics like this just yet. Still, perhaps just getting the issue in front of people’s faces is a good start.