Archive for category Video Games

Six Trends in Shooters that Need to Go Away

Resistance-3-Screenshots

Yeah, this is a great plan.

1) The Silent Protagonist

Video games have improved leaps and bounds in such a short amount of time that it’s inexplicable why so many shooting games, first-person or third, still utilize the same tropes and gimmicks that seriously should have died out in 2001. Topping the list is having a completely mute protagonist. Developers design this blank slate figure so the gamer can project him or herself onto the hero, but it’s really an excuse to avoid actually creating a charismatic character worthy enough to save the day. Not to mention the shortcomings of a blank slate; how awkward is it for a female gamer, playing as Gordon Freeman, to be flirted with by Alyx Vance? Let the protagonist speak for him or herself and present opinions on the world around him or her – it’s flat out stupid that the characters around you are screaming obscenities, yet you adhere to a vow of silence.

2) Melee Attacks Being Stronger than Shooting

The attempt to give close-quarter combat an edge or an advantage has led to the proliferation of some baffling results – namely, that a punch, a kick, or a knife stab has equal or superior power as a shotgun blast. Never mind the fact that any gun fired at close range has more stopping power than from a distance, this anachronistic concept defies all logic in an imaginary world gone mad with technological weapons that can shoot through walls and armor that can soak up damage like a sponge. Melee attacks should stun, disarm, or weaken a baddie, but unless that weapon is a Halo Energy Sword or something like that, close-quarter fighting should really consist of “retreating” and trying again.

3) Poor Jumping/Leaping Mechanics.

Metroid Prime redefined what it meant to jump in a first-person shooter. So why haven’t games copied this? They steal everything else for the most part (I’m looking at you, Resistance 3), so why is jumping still a shitty thing to do? Third-person shooters aren’t much better, although at least you can physically see the character as he leaps, but nine times out of ten, it’s directly to the hero’s death, with mechanics that alter with every single leap. (Nathan Drake’s jumping is particularly egregious. Sometimes he leaps like an overweight child, other times he’s gliding through the air, Mario-style.) The dying 3D platformer may have taken the art of quality-jump mechanics with it, which makes the potential new Mirror’s Edge sequel a hellish endeavor. Not to say the first one worked out all that well (despite loving the game).

4) Limiting Weapon Capacity to Two

There’s nothing wrong with limiting the number of weapons you can carry; after all, being a character that can lug every weapon ever is indeed a fairly unrealistic (if convenient) option. However, why in the world is the limit, always, always, at two? Maybe for the heavy weapons, sure, but there’s no logical reason your character couldn’t carry around four to six regular pistols-sized weapons. Some games play around with an inventory system – Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes to mind – but Halo’s limitations kinda makes me wonder why Master Chief is considered a hero in the first place, and Nathan Drake may want to invest in a second holster.

5) Terrible Non-Playable Friendlies

Large-scaled, intense gun fights are always exciting, but you can’t blame being shot in the head when you’re too busy wondering what your computer-controlled teammate is firing at. Why waste graphical power on gun-toting NPCs that are as useless as the civilians you’re trying to save? Bad AI is always a problem, but it’s worse when the badguys are semi-clever while your team is less effective then a box of rocks. What’s worse, as you delve deeper into a game, said teammates, more often than not, disappear. The need for the player to be hero may trump everything else, but at least spend the time to make your squadmates competent to a fault. And try to think of practical ways to remove them from the equation when approaching the endgame. Kill them off, send them on another mission – something that takes the taste out of watching a soldier waste good ammo blasting at a bush.

6) Bullet Sponges

Stupid badguys are one thing; stupid badguys that are essentially robots-built-of-diamonds are another. I’m not sure why, or how, enemies manage to take in so many bullets with minimal-to-no reaction, handling a barrage of attacks with nary a scratch, yet a few bullets at you kill you practically instantly (this goes doubly so on hard/insane levels of difficulty, which suggests we really need to change how we think of challenge levels). Bullet sponges are pretty terrible all around. I understand the need to maintain a certain level of consistent conflict, but opening up the type of reactions to being shot would be a step in the right direction, instead of watching someone soak up bullets like the blob.

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Welcome to the blog!

In the past few weeks, I’ve received a number of hits and views due to some wonderful connections I’ve made through Twitter and emails. To which I say: welcome! Thanks for the wonderful comments and observations.

The purpose of this blog is to essentially give equal weight and thought to  all forms of entertainment and attempt to delve into the pop culture lens across the board. Here, I discuss movies, TV, comics, books, video games, music, and cartoons in equal fashion, exploring how all those forms of entertainment are approach today and how they may or may not relate to each other. Many critics will explore, let’s say, feminism with either one character for a distinct genre, or several characters from one genre. I prefer to look at Ripley, Peggy Olsen, Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, Gladys Knight, and Korra with the same perspective and ponder, what exactly, is feminism today. No format or genre is outside my consideration. Everything is fair game, and I will try to discuss these forms of entertainment in a fun, informal, approachable manner, while indeed putting some thought into it all. Or at least try.

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Moving Away from Momentum

What happened to the promises of motion gaming?

Motion Gaming Peripherals

The fact they look phallic is not the problem.

I once was over at a friend’s house and watched him play Red Steel 2. Switching between swinging his sword and shooting his gun, after about an hour or so, he began to breath slightly heavier and sweat a little, the exaggerated movements for attacking making him grow weary. Understandable, as the Wii’s emphasis on motion is geared towards physical activity, as evidenced by WiiFit and WiiSports. And yet, after playing Legends of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Okami for hours at a time, I haven’t even begun to experience any type of exertion. Our setups are similar – we’re both seated 6-10 feet from the screen. I wondered then if he purposely developed more aggressive movements because he wanted to (subconsciously) exercise, while I’m content with low-key, flick-of-the-wrist movements, both of which are registered by the motion sensor exactly the same. In other words, I treat my Wiimote like a controller with an extra “motion button,” while my friend sees it as the physical manifestation of striking as Miyamoto probably hoped.

Either way, it’s difficult to think that motion gaming is actually moving in an interesting or innovating direction. We all considered motion gaming a gimmick when the Wii was first announced – but what we have now is worse, or more accurately, disappointing. The burden of proof was on Nintendo (and then with Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move) to show us something; if the recent E3 was anything, it showed that everyone dropped the ball.

Police 911 was the best thing that motion gaming came up with – a lavishly expensive arcade game pretty much only available at Dave and Busters. Motion gaming seemed to be a way to interact with the environment in ways that kept us up and on our toes in the heat of the moment; but it ended up being used for mini-games, light exercise, and quiet moments of stationary, semi-pinpoint aiming. We’ll never get that sword fighting/lightsaber game we dreamed of, and driving games without the tension of a real wheel is endearingly hopeless. Motion controls are inherently limiting, more so than I think any of us, even the programmers, really expected it to be. Gaming is about timing, accuracy, and precision, all things that motion controls inherently lack. The games themselves are designed to compensate for that (larger reticules, wider hit detection), and isn’t that exactly what motion controls were trying to avoid?

The larger problem was inferred from E3 and the wildly divergent (yet more of the same) games and features announced. Microsoft went heavy and hard with simultaneous multimedia venues, Sony essentially copied Nintendo’s ideas from seven years ago, and Nintendo rapped our knuckles like a college professor, teaching us how to play video games and giving us homework assignments on their website. The biggest draws were South Park’s The Stick of Truth (which had nothing to do with motion) and Ubisoft’s ZombiU, an intriguingly potential use of the new WiiU controller which still left me somewhat skeptical (and, hey, look, we’re back to zombies again). But what about those motion controls? The great pioneers of the technology even seemed to brush them off, like they ain’t no thing.

Motion controls can be simple (bowling a Wii ball) or complex (the bizarre way to help someone fish in Okami), but there’s no draw between the two, which prevents casual gamers becoming core gamers. Nothing is wrong with either group, but it’s no surprise that the WiiU so dropped early, since the casual market had no interest in exploring games beyond those simple, crowd pleasing ones; they simply are not going to go from Just Dance to No More Heroes; the furthest they’ll get is Mario Party (insert number here). So Nintendo decided to move on to the next “era” of consoles for casuals can easily play instead of pushing the capability of motion with the current gen. This not only leaves core gamers with more of the same, but does nothing to advance motion gaming as a real, potential method of entertainment. Somewhere, Milo is crying himself to digital sleep.

So, where are we at in the realm over motion gaming? If the WiiU is any indication, we’re looking a 360-degree digital landscape, a world that seems extremely vast to look at,  but empty on the outskirts with no fertile soil to grow. Oh, well. There’s always zombies.

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