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Adam Harris

as Nerd Interests' Lead Writer/Editor, I approve and edit submitted articles as well as assist with daily operations. Many of my contributions are opinion editorials on video games; I like to share my unique take on the gaming industry and its quirks.

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8 Reasons Why PS4 Undoubtedly Continues to Trump XB1

In a recent Tom’s Guide opinion editorial, seven reasons were given as to why the Xbox One is a superior console to the PS4. While some of these points may have held some weight, the conclusion was ultimately incorrect. Dating back from the original PlayStation console, Sony has been the only option for those who care about picking the generally better, more popular console. Without further ado, here are eight very not clickbait reasons why the PS4 is the correct console to be playing.

1. Graphics, man

Sony has consistently come through with consoles that deliver the most visually interesting games. Where Microsoft’s Xbox represents a capitalist-pig agenda, mass producing clunky bricks that are prone to RRoD-type failures, the PlayStation console has always been focused on a higher quality product and putting logos on their consoles that do that cool 90 degree turn thing. PS4’s cross-platform games will consistently run at higher resolutions and with superior frame rates when compared with their XB1 counterparts. As this is the second consecutive generation that this has occurred, it would seem to indicate a trend. Ruh-roh.

2. Popularity (for Multiplayer)

Given the significance of games such as Overwatch, the multiplayer experience has become more important to the average player. This means that playing online with your friends is something you will end up eventually wanting to do for a big title, even if you really don’t want to. Few people own two consoles and because of this, a choice must be made. The obvious choice would be the more popular console as you would be able to play with more of your friends, statistically. You can pretty much just play the odds on this one. The PS4 has simply sold more units. Easy choice.

3. Controller Design

Video games are about cutting edge design and technology. Players don’t want some clunky, fat, awkward rock to hold in their hand. They want something sleek, ergonomic, and visually balanced. The XB1 controller looks like a good design that was left out in the sun for too long and had all of its components serendipitously melt into place. I’m not saying the controller looks like it was hit by a train or anything. It was hit by something much smaller like a pick-up truck or a minivan.

4. Japan

The best games ever made are Japanese. Some may want to argue against this with lists of non-Japanese games that are very good, but if you take a look at the average top ten list for games, it’s going to be bloated with at least 50.34% of Japanese-made games. The recent Yakuza 0 is an example of this that’s an exclusive and is very good. I rest my case. Japan.

5. Naming Convention

The Sony brand is to some degree about simplicity. The major PlayStation consoles don’t have anything to hide with flashy names that disguise what they are: PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4. The PS4 knows what it is; it’s the fourth console after the third console. The Xbox “One”? It’s not the first console. The Xbox 360? Why? Because I turn 360 degrees and walk away? No, thanks.

6. The Picture

As you can tell by this picture, the PS4 is clearly on top of the Xbox console. While it is not clear how it got there, I would speculate that it naturally climbed on top to assert its dominance. Further, you can clearly tell which console is the PS4. The PS4 says “PS4” on the front. The XB1 has an image of a cracked egg on it. I think I’ll pass, eggbox.

7. The XBO may be ill

Upon its original release, the XB1 came with a Kinect peripheral that inflated its price. Microsoft has since removed this from their package and reduced the price. Some say this was because of the declining popularity of motion controls, but this was not the case. It’s because the Kinects were sick. They fell off of the original package due to atrophy. No one wants to open a box and see a dead Kinect. Stay away from this peripheral.

8. Legacy

If the tone of this article was lost to you, the idea that people should have to pick a side in a console “war” is silly. That the PS4 is winning the current competition is very clear, so there is no need to argue for or against it. What console someone is playing is a non-issue. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to choose a side and could play everything we wanted on one platform. No top ten list is going to confirm or reject the enjoyment that someone has with their platform of choice. It is that relativity that makes these types of arguments specious and ridiculous.

However, my personal opinion is that PlayStation is the best console available. This is because of the recent history of the brand. The PS2 was the last great console to exclusively be about enjoying what was on a disk with no other distractions and the original PlayStation console was just as solid. Microsoft has done little creatively for the industry and in its wake inflated it with empty gimmicks that have gone on to fill the UI of both consoles with worthless spam features and content. Sony has done their best to keep up in a race for unnecessary but demanded features that really shouldn’t be a part of a game console and that’s a shame. I believe Microsoft is a large influence on this shift of direction. If someone’s goal is to support a clean and healthy future for games, it would seem the lesser of two evils is the direction Sony is headed.

NBA JAM to NBA 2k17 – Evolution of the Sports Genre

Though I have never been a fan of sports, I have always enjoyed playing video games about them. Sports come with a large amount of down-time and ask that you already understand them before you enjoy them. When it comes to watching and playing, you need to have a lot of previously acquired information to properly appreciate them. As someone who is not particularly invested in learning the history or technique of the actual game, it really isn’t worth the labor. Videogames however, are not about absorbing dense information. Games are more practical and focused the experience of playing. Playing a game is fun. Comparing stats is not as fun (unless you’re one of those people.)

Sports games have always been a part of gaming, going as far back as Pong being a representation of Ping-Pong  (because it’s a sport.) Growing up in the 90s and 00s, my first experience with this kind of game was, though I played it on the SNES, the arcade classic NBA JAM. It boiled down the feel of a 2-on-2 game of basketball with style. The twinkling of cameras flashing on dunks was there. The ball catching on fire when you did well was there. These unrealistic but fun things were all coming together to make a game that fully realized in its game identity.

NBA Jam wasn’t a simulation; it took the most exciting things about watching basketball and boiled them down into an easily digested and understood interpretation. With ideas outside of what already existed, it represented the imagination and sense of humor that all of the very best games share. It wasn’t about the rules of basketball; NBA JAM was different in many ways from how an actual game of basketball is played. A simple representation of the sport was not enough, NBA JAM also drew from the humanity and life behind the experience of watching a game.

Fast-forwarding to the present, not much experimentation has happed in the realm of sports. Perhaps this is why so many “hardcore” gamers feel that these games are only played by casual players. The games never change in an environment where merit is earned by novelty.  The most popular sports franchises repeat the same formula year after year. Even after the success of the more quirky NBA Street series, the genre has not seen the light. Breaking away from the mold and concentrating on more than the fundamental mechanics of the sport will always result in a more compelling experience.

Enter NBA 2k17, an odd compromise between reality and the fantasy of a game. What can be expected from a contemporary sports game is the sport itself, the players in-game being representative of how they play in reality, and references to things that are happening currently in the sport. These are focuses because these are things sports fans are focused on. 2k17 reaches out the fans of not just the sport but to fans of games as well. It does this with its MYCAREER mode. This and the previous year’s game in the series used a narrative to get their point across. You play as a character you have created and your goal is to be a superstar. It gives you something to invest in and a goal that anyone can appreciate. Growing from novice to master is widely relatable.

This is not a good game by any means. The game is incredibly buggy, clearly rushed, loaded with irritating micro-transactions, and terribly unpolished to the point of almost being broken. However, I find myself playing it because this story that I have invested myself in and the RPG elements provide a feeling of growth. The game rewards successes and is responsive to them with its feedback, shallow and repetitive may it be. It is this responsiveness and willingness to analyze new perspectives regarding the sports genre that is causing an expansion of what basketball is in the context of gaming. Narratives in sports games are growing in popularity and this represents a change for the better. It represents a step away from the simulation and toward the whimsical exaggerations of a game like NBA JAM. Sports fans deserve to play the simulations they enjoy but even they should be able to enjoy the fun of playing a fun game.

Mass Effect Mistakenly Collaborates with Cards Against Humanity

In a teaming up that no one asked for, BioWare has decided to bring a 14-card Cards Against Humanity addon in to the world. Though this choice may seem strange to the average video game player who is used to the “video” part being important to the video game industry, many others will surely enjoy this. After all, who hasn’t considered the delights of playing a game like Clue, but with the Mass Effect gang. Instead of having Professor Plum, with the Knife, in the Ballroom, you could have Garus, with the Sniper Rifle, in the middle of some calibrations. Perhaps now is a good time to also release a tic-tac-toe skin but starring the late XO Pressley.

While this critic is not a fan of IRL DLC, the goal of this business venture does not escape me. Like all of the recent big-name titles, BioWare would like their game to be as much of a household name as a Grand Theft Auto. Grand Theft Auto did this by being on the cutting edge of what was acceptable to display and express in video games. BioWare would like to do this by pretending that there is some significance to having homosexual relationships with aliens and now apparently, by merging their name with a sit down, old-fashioned card game. Yes, because there is nothing better than sitting down with friends to play a lively round of Card Against Humanity and then everyone then breaking out their individual televisions and consoles to enjoy your game devoid of any form of local play.

The 14 cards will include jokes and references from the game and will only run you $1. It seems the company has a sense of humor and criticisms aside are pretty funny, including ““*missing cards to be sold later as DLC” to the end of their own promotion for the game on their also humorously titled website for the collaboration.

Full speed ahead to the Monopoly skin!

via Dualshockers

Polygon Blues – A Practical Guide to Playing Older Games

Quite a creature is able to keep up with every new game released. Playing brand-new games is a rarity for most. It takes money, time, and a very powerful attention span. Most players pick and choose games that relate directly to their interests. It’s difficult to play the latest Uncharted game when you’re deeply committed to stunning successes such as Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball  and HuniePop.  Finding that real gem game requires the ability to go back or step out of your comfort zone. This guide will give you the tools necessary to play games you might have missed over the decades and avoid the common pitfalls that many experience.

The Trilogy

That shiny new fourth game in a series comes out and you know you want to play it. The easy choice would be to ignore all reasonable thinking and simply jump into it without going back to play the original trilogy. You then abruptly awaken, covered in sweat. Yet another filthy casual nightmare. As you calm yourself, you breathe a sigh of relief.

Everyone knows you can’t just play the newest game without going back. If you did, you take in all of the great things done to fix the issues with the previous games and render those games unplayable. Simply watching Lets Plays is equally reprehensible behavior. You must, of course, earn the ability to play the fourth game by fighting your way to them yourself; this is no small feat. No one wants to play the original Uncharted. No one. It’s unseasoned chicken flavor of shooting mechanics lose their charm when they’re surrounded by violently awkward textures on environments made of construction paper.

The solution is to understand your struggle and commit to your goal. Once you have knocked out the first game, the other games will come easily. You will be invested and as you play that second game you will be able to say to yourself “At least this isn’t as awful as that first game.” It will only become easier from there. The answer to your problems is to put the first game on its easiest setting as you play.

The Polygonal Mess

You pick up a PS1 classic in your local game store and rush home. Swinging open the door to your room, you reach into your closet and bring down your PS2, the greatest console ever made. Wiping off the dust that has collected from years of neglect, you power it on. Loading the disk on to the tray and closing it, you prepare for a wild nostalgia-fueled adventure. That’s when it hits you. Everything looks terrible.

Visually upsetting games are an issue. It’s difficult to play a game when you’re stopping to bandage your hands due to cuts from its razor-sharp polygons. There are a handful of games that are fine art and have art styles that hold up to today’s standards but often times older games get uglier as they age. Ugly does not mean unplayable. The key to enjoying a hideous game is a sense of humor. Seeing two collections of polygons lifelessly waggle at each other is not sad, it’s comedic.

The Snail-Paced JRPG

“Final Fantasy IX was the best Final Fantasy game and I’ll prove it!” you exclaim, thrusting the jewel case in your friend’s face. It wasn’t just nostalgia that made the game feel magical and full of life. Everything holds up just fine and now that seventeen years have passed, you can finally enjoy its incredible replay value while you show its beauty to your friend. You load it up and, oh no. The screen is cluttered with the game’s odd desaturated art style. The characters are not immediately interesting. The main character is basically a furry. What do you do?

JRPGs are some of the most beautiful dense works available to be enjoyed. They aren’t there to dumb things down for you. They are there to get a point across (be it one that is passionate to the point of insanity.) Xenogears isn’t going to hold your hand; it’s more likely to shove your hand in a fire and ask if pain is just a social construct. This is why forcing your friends to play these long-form games against their will is so important. While the games will on their surface be rough and immediately seem dull, the complex and interesting messages embed in the stories are worthy of appreciation, no matter how much time has passed. They are no different from reading classic novels. If they were good in the past, they’re still good. The best way to play these games is simply to do it. You’ll be rewarded once you get used to how things look.

 

Old games will always exist and they should always be enjoyed. Don’t wait for a remake of your favorites and don’t miss out on playing games that are now much cheaper than they originally were. No matter how much the industry would imply otherwise by endlessly promoting the online multiplayer experience, missing out on a game isn’t a bad thing. The best games will survive time and everything else will fade away, so enjoy those stories and learn to appreciate another era of game.

Metal Gear Solid – A Film Fated for Failure

 

Indie director Jordan Vogt-Roberts plans to direct a Metal Gear Solid film. Currently in the writing phase, Vogt-Roberts hopes to avoid common adaptation pitfalls. In a Collider interview, Vogt-Roberts explains his expectations and his desire to treat the series appropriately:

“Metal Gear Solid is probably the most important franchise to me on the planet. It is such a genius, idiosyncratic work and being able to spend time with [Hideo] Kojima recently has been like a dream. He’s the best and his whole team is the best. We are working on the script. That is a property that I will fight tooth and nail to make sure is done properly because it’s so easy to screw it up and so easy for a studio to try and make it into G.I. Joe or try and make it into Mission: Impossible or try and make it into something that it’s not. Metal Gear Solid needs to be exactly what it needs to be, which is Metal Gear Solid.”

Given the way that Hollywood treats original works, it’s likely that fans would not be receiving a pure and deeply sentimental film but rather a cash-grab that mimics an already existing action film. In other words, Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a western director who would like to make a lot of money from the direction of a western movie for a western audience. There are many things that can prevent the success of a game-to-film adaptation and one of those things is not respecting the source material. Vogt-Roberts addresses this, but also mentions that he would potentially be going down a path already traveled:

“I think that for me, I want to make the version of the movie that is most true to what it needs to be, so if that is a Deadpool or Logan route where you go with a smaller budget and you’re able to make it R, great. If you need to blow it out more and really get that bigger budget and go PG-13, I think it could exist in both avenues.”

To be blunt, no one wants to see a PG-13 rating on a Metal Gear Solid movie. Even the consideration is an insult. Nothing about Metal Gear Solid, a series about a soldier and his context in war, is family-friendly. Further, attempting to pull from other blockbuster movies to receive an R rating and get the correct budget is also a choice that suffers from poorly placed attention. The original Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation is a masterpiece. It’s a masterpiece because budging wasn’t the main concern for the project. Using what was available and pushing the limits of the tools used is what made it amazing. Artistically and masterfully directing expressionless polygonal models in a way that brought them vividly to life is what made the original game so great. Half-heartedly trying to whip up a blockbuster with some weak fan-service is sure to not only hurt the series as a whole but ruin the reputation any director who would be interested in such a thing.

“There are hyper-violent parts to Metal Gear but I would not necessarily call the hyper-violent part the core element of it versus like the tone and the voice and the philosophies that the characters exhibit… ”

That the interview was not crazed mutterings explaining how much the movie will be like a fever dream the director once had, says enough. A Metal Gear movie should be as crazy and out-there as the games are. It would have to take risks just as the games did. The interview was pandering to fans of the series but ultimately ended up sounding like an elevator pitch for a Hollywood producer. Attempting to adapt a Japanese work of art that was painstakingly created to be as excellently campy and loaded with as much detail as it could be, into a film for a fragile, unadventurous western audience can never work. Can this man’s greed not be satisfied with something easy? Just reboot the Tomb Raider films or something.

Mass Effect Andromeda – Protagonist’s Awkward Tween Trailer Appearance

Mass Effect’s original trilogy gameplay relied heavily on its tree-based dialogue system. Your dialogue choices essentially drove the game. As what has become popular for many story-driven games, you made dialogue selections and those choices affected your story in a minor way that is later reflected by something in the plot. The character of Shepard was designed to be somewhat bland and without personality to facilitate those choices. The player could be a Paragon and choose options that were meant to be charming, good, and non-violent or go Renegade and instead choose to hit aliens in the face as much as possible. It was this face-hitting ability that made Shepard’s morality gameplay fun to play. The enjoyment came from quickly solving problems with a Han Solo-ian approach or feeling the satisfaction of rising above violence and taking it on the chin, like a proper hero.

With this adaptation of a morality system, Ryder, the game’s replacement for Shepard will be taking the reins. will be who you control throughout your time as Pathfinder. While performing their search for new inhabitable worlds with their crew, Ryder will have a lot to live up to. Given the new dialogue options, there will be a certain attention placed on what the developer chooses to do about the absence of an explicit good/bad dynamic. Ryder will have to be strong in some way, in order to give some significance to your choices. While not an incredibly memorable character, Shepard was loved by series fans. The cold, imposing element of Shepard’s persona was part of what made him likable and believable as a captain and leader. A failure to meet that same level of charm from the voice actors and writing will be met with a particularly agitated response.

The hype train for Andromeda will be coming in to station very soon. Fans of the series, of course, strongly desire a quality fourth game, but trailers for the game came with some red flags (and given that the entire purpose of a trailer is to skip over red flags, this is bad news.) One of the largest and most aggressively waving flags was the appearance of the game’s protagonists in the trailers (both male and female.) They look and sound younger and perhaps lost, on their way to an audition for a Nickelodeon Original Series. Contrary to the muscular physique, authoritative posture, and stern voice of Shepard, these characters are younger and seem to be designed to be more like what developers believe their player identifies with emotionally. There is nothing wrong with younger or even timid lead characters. In fact, these types of characters go against the typical western need to have an unhuman Betty-Sue lead without faults. This is always preferable. However, given what is available to be seen, it appears as though BioWare has not done the necessary work to make these non-macho characters believable or appropriate for their roles as a form of soldiers.

When making a fourth story for a series, there are hurdles. The writer is concerned about being contrary enough to what has come before to be artistically interesting. The younger looking characters seen in the trailers are meant to be jarring, no problem; taking chances is great. In writing, the successful execution of an odd or different idea makes for concepts that are particularly engaging and meaningful. When it’s done successfully, audiences will take note of it and recognize it as a goal that was achieved. It’s been done before. An easy example of this would be Hideo Kojima’s passing of the torch from the gruff Solid Snake, to the lame and ineffectual Raiden. Raiden was a surprise that most fans hated, but the choice to include him ultimately turned out to be a thought-out, character-arch driven, and somewhat realistic choice to contrast Snake’s campy machismo. That this will this be the case for Mass Effect 4’s hero has yet to be seen but the trailers, previous writing in the games, and setting make a strong argument against this. Luckily, as with all Mass Effect games, the player will at least be given control over their player’s appearance.

Mass Effect: Andromeda will be released on March 21, 2017 for XBO, PS4, and PC.

Left Behind – 5 Forgotten Games

It’s as though we are in a constant contest based on our prowess and knowledge as social game
players. Of course we don’t want to let others in on our weakness by airing our dirty video game
laundry. When we lack the attention-span or dedication to get all the way through a game, we
want to bury that deep. Some, however, wave that filthy casual flag high. I’m proud at how awful and inconsistent I can be with games. We as players need to embrace our flaws; they make us human. In an attempt to keep it real and be #relateable, I will share the last few games that I simply couldn’t reach to the end of. Be it because I found them overwhelming, I was distracted, or because I really wanted to play something else, I put these games down. Some of them I ended up completing and for some are still in progress. I present to you in no particular order, the last five games I put down:

1. Punch Club

punch-club-screen

I have a soft place in my heart for 8-Bit or Retro-styled games that are well made and on the PC.
So, when I was given the opportunity to play this game, I expected to have a good time. I’m a fan of attractive, indie projects an engaging experience similar to Revolver’s Always Sometimes Heroes (a indie/poverty/love epic, check it out here) where I wouldn’t want to put it down until the game was over. What I received was an attractive but ultimately limited and frustrating meh-tier fighting sim. I put it down when I realized I was going to be hearing the same music over and over again with only small variances in gameplay.

2. Devil May Cry

dmchdc_dmc1_hd_092811_03_bmp_jpgcopy

I bought a digital collection of the classic trilogy for a really nice price on the 360. I’m at the very end of the first game and could probably finish it in about thirty minutes. Something about that amount of time really turns me off, however. Also, my time away really takes me out of the moment. It seems like a waste of energy to get into the game again only to have it immediately end. So, for now, I lack the will to complete it. What’s worst about this is I can’t actually move on with the series. I really want to see the improvements in the sequels but I’d never skip a game; I’m not a monster.

3. The Witcher 2

witcher2.ee.01a.lg

You may be thinking, “What? This was a good game. Why would you put down a good game?”
Reasonable response. Play this game from the beginning and ask again. This has the strangest
and most uninviting beginning to any good game I’ve ever played. It has such a unique and spastic way of telling the story. I luckily didn’t stop where I did and was able to experience this game’s amazing late-game and solid conclusion. When Witcher 2 finally decides what kind of game it is and shows some form of consistency, it’s easy to see how so many people consider this one to be a classic. Still, I put it down.

EDIT: I picked it back up. It was amazing.

4. League of Legends

league-legends

Because League.

5. Telltale’s Game of Thrones

Telltale-Game-of-Thrones-finale-Beskha-and-Rodrik

So, this is one I’m particularly embarrassed about. As someone who is passionately in love with
this series, it really bugs me that I have little desire to gather the energy to pick up where I left off. I started this series, liked it, and somehow lost my place. I was playing, I had to wait a few weeks because of the episodic nature in which these games are released and I simply fell off the wagon. There is a mixture of the lack of replay value because it’s a Telltale game and the fact that I don’t really remember where I stopped.

It’s important to recognize that not every game that someone ends up setting down is bad.
Sometimes life just happens and we’ll have to stop playing something. Consistency is hard and
when it comes to something like playing games, I refuse to let it become something I’m forcing
myself to do. Me though, I’m particularly pretty bad.

Don’t be like me.

Metal Gear Solid: The Only Stealth Series

Stealth is a part of most highly-acclaimed titles. People like the idea of being sneaky and most good games have a stealth element. Think of any popular open-world game and you will find a sneaking button or portion of the game that involves stealth. It’s a popular idea and when it comes to simply being a part of a game, I don’t have much to complain about, be it good or bad. However, when a game considers itself to be a part of the stealth genre and completely fails at its job, my feelings change. As it is, all but one game make me feel that way. This has led me to a reasonable question, “How can an entire genre be bad at its one job?” The answer I ended up with was an interesting one. Metal Gear Solid. It’s because of the existence of this game. I believe MGS was such a good game that it justified the existence of an entire genre with its excellence.

This game by Konami was (and still is) its own completely unique experience, defining then in 1998, things about sneaking games that would shape them into a fully fleshed-out genre. Things like creating distractions to lead enemies away, using gadgets to solve puzzles, and general psychological gameplay elements were all mastered in this one title. That being said, Metal Gear Solid at its core isn’t really a stealth game. It’s almost the opposite. You blow up a giant dinosaur nuke and a Hind D helicopter with stinger missiles. You have to do that to progress in the game. That’s not really stealth. That’s the most fascinating and disappointing part. A game that is not necessarily about stealth has the best stealth in it.

This brings me to my main point. Stealth as a genre, is garbage. Metal Gear Solid was successful at it and it seems as though every other game about sneaking wants to do the same exact things in the same exact ways. However, they don’t do those things and when they try, they end up creating something incredibly frustrating instead. I’ve come across so many games that attempt to show off neat stealth gameplay mechanics but that instead make me want to pull my hair out. Being caught by boring and lifeless enemy patrols isn’t my personal cup of tea. When it comes to gameplay, I expect something original and interesting to take place. I expect some kind of challenge other than waiting for an opportunity to run by while someone isn’t looking.

It’s difficult to explain the disappointment experienced upon playing my next major stealth title after Metal Gear. I played Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. Put simply, Sam Fisher is a bad idea. No amount of under-door-seeing cameras is going to make me change my mind about that. The game has goofy sounding terrorists and completely forgettable main characters. Why is it considered to be a decent stealth game and why were there sequels made for it? According to IGN, the original game is “amazing.” I guess it’s amazing how insubstantial and loaded with hype a game could be. Splinter Cell shouldn’t be considered a popular stealth game. It’s a bad Syphon Filter at best.

It’s those games that fail to contribute to the genre and simply distract from creative growth that upset me. Metal Gear made every character lovable and relatable. It even made characters you didn’t even get to know like Decoy Octopus seem really impressive. It did this while juggling a bunch of other enjoyable components. I have never been invested in Sam Fisher or anyone else that he dealt with. Players care about games that the game makers care about. Metal Gear games are a collection of beautiful ideas all working harmoniously together and I expect that standard for all games in the genre.

Stealth games fail with more than their lack of ability to trigger an emotional response. Technical aspects lack as well. Perhaps I’m being a smidge obsessive-compulsive here, but when I play a game like Hitman and I get super caught by being too bald or whatever reason, I choose to start over and play the level in a way where I am undetected. I can only make these games satisfying by completing the missions without being caught (it’s a game about being an assassin, after all. I start over because playing as a bad assassin is stupid and makes me feel like I’m disrespecting the canon.) So, when I have to do that constant restarting, I anticipate the game maker creating easy, fun ways for me to do that. It seems like stealth games often just don’t care at all about what it feels like to restart. It’s never fun and smooth to start over; there’s always this feeling that I’m breaking the game and ruining my own experience. They instead encourage you to go on a rampage immediately, the first time your cover is blown. However, it’s a stealth game. So no, I don’t actually ever want to ever have to pull out the silverballers and massacre everyone on the map. There is a game that doesn’t have this problem. There is a game that has a really cool and iconic failure screen that doesn’t yank you out of the moment. That game is not the Thief remake.

The remake of Thief is the worst game I have ever experienced and that isn’t hyperbole. It’s bad because of the way the beginning of the game hypes the player up and then leads them to massive amounts of disappointment. The beginning of the game is exciting and if the game were just the first part of the game repeated a bunch of times with minor variations, the game would have been good if not great. All of the parts of a great game are there. It looks good, the controls are good, the characters are almost there. It’s a game with massive amounts of wasted potential; that’s what hurts me. The worst part of all is the stealth, though. There are parts of the game that actually don’t let you get past them with non-combative stealth. You just can’t do it. If I spend half of a game doing perfect sneaking and there is a portion that just doesn’t allow for that, I’m going to emotionally check out. They clearly gave up during a part of that game’s development and I gave up when playing it as well. My point in saying all of this is that, the biggest mistake a stealth game could make is not allow you to use stealth when you play it.

The stealth genre needs work. Stealth itself is still pretty cool, again, I’m not talking about games like the Elder Scrolls where you can have fun with the sneaking in a free-roaming environment. As I mentioned, games like that aren’t the issue. I’m talking about stealth games. I’m talking about games with objectives that encourage sneaking with gameplay and then reward you for not being caught. I need more games that celebrate restraint and make the not murdering everything a good time. Hopefully it wont be too much longer that we are blessed with another classic in this genre so that there can be two good stealth games.

Don’t Believe the Hype: Modern Warfare 2

Group-hating games as always been something I’ve been against. It isn’t in me to dogpile on popular titles and adopt the feelings of the masses once a level of success is reached for a game. It’s too easy to point out the trending flaws of a game. There isn’t a goal, taking the time to bash something publicly results in the bashed thing getting even more attention. Rather than having a unique and heartfelt criticism, they simply regurgitate the popular reasons for the dislike keeping the conversation shallow and stagnant. We should feel confident enough in our own feelings to be able to support our own reasoning. All of the sheep-like dislike is unnecessary.

Being someone who usually looked into games before passing judgments, I assumed that these snap judgments were very much beneath me. As it turns out, I was incorrect in this assumption. When it comes to “bro-shooters” I have found that I am exactly the type of person I criticize. In a recent discovery, it became clear how I prevent from appreciating games because of my trust of a group that doesn’t truly understand what they’re critiquing.

This revelation hit me recently as I was playing games with my brother that we had not in a while. In an attempt to play something that was enjoyable and split-screen (not an easy task) we came across a PS3 copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a game deeply embedded into my collection of games. Never having been a huge player of the game during its initial period of buzz, my memories of the gameplay were rather weak. It took me actually playing a one-on-one match with him to finally realize why this game was what it was. This wasn’t a garbage, poorly constructed shooter. This game was and is a masterpiece.

A major gripe that I had had with the COD series and the large amount of other online-focused series, was their lack of ability to shine during a single-player experience. Coming from a simpler time that didn’t demand a certain type of television or internet connectivity to play games, it’s something I have found off-putting. MW3 doesn’t actually suffer from this issue. Without even bringing up the decently immersive single player campaign, the gameplay itself is fun and easy to play. The RPG elements of having to unlock things for your gun is enough to motivate continued investments of time. Not much about the way you play is constricted and the game requires actual skill to master. Above all of this, however, is the fact that the game is simply fun.

The visuals are attractive and hold up after seven years. It’s more than the great level-design of the core multiplayer maps that make things look nice. It’s the psychological aspects that really bring things home. Every time you progress, the game rewards you with a musical rift and colorful visual. They’re subtle and well-crafted enough to not annoy the Jesus out of you as they constantly pop on to the screen. You like knowing you got a killstreak, you like knowing you’ve progressed with your gun, you like knowing that you’ve leveled up. The rewards don’t fall short like so many other games, you feel like you’re getting something and this translates to playing offline with one other person as well.

It’s a fun shooter that changed the way people understood the genre by providing a level of fluidity that there had never been. Why should the game be represented by the type of people who play it? There are toxic people everywhere online, avoiding them is up to the player. In a production climate with games that genuinely are the worst garbage I have ever played, we really shouldn’t disrespect good titles by allowing their reputations to be sullied by trashy online culture.

Death of the Cheat Code

I clearly recall playing games as a child. My identity as a video game enthusiast is rooted deeply in those moments. With a controller in my hand and a burning passion in my heart, I played, almost every day. I wasn’t thinking about the reality of sitting in a room with a device hooked up to a television; I was fully present in an exploration of a polygonal world. With amazing moment after amazing moment, I deepened my understanding of what a game was and cultivated my opinion on what a game should have been. I booted. I loaded. I played.

During this wondrous period of my childhood, I was playing the most frequently of my life.  The internet was not very easily accessible during this time and living my lower middle-class life and not yet being connected to the universe through an information superhighway, games were my greatest connection to the artistic and outside world. Through games I was introduced to so many incredible works. Thinking back, it was strange for a child to be appreciating art on that level, but I and every other child game player of the time was very much able and thrilled to do so. I spent my free time digesting and appreciating all of the work that went into games through playful interaction with them. They expanded my mind. Game makers were my Gods and each game was like a page in my holy book. With vivid and exciting visuals, I was immersed deeply into the worlds that these adult artists had spent years creating, celebrating the games with everyone else. It was pretty magical, actually.

Working my way through these beautiful and compelling narratives alone was enough excitement, but being the experimental child that I was, I found it even more interesting to break the fourth wall and play games in different ways; I wanted more control of my games. There was no easily accessible modding at the time so my only way of doing this was through one of the most interesting and important aspects of games: cheat codes. “Cheats” were particularly meaningful to me as a very young person. Every month, I received a game magazine that contained cheats and whenever I discovered one for a game I owned or I bought a game that I had codes too from a previous issue, I spent hours enjoying all of the new things I could do on top of the normal game play.

I’ve played a good amount games that were popular before I was born but ultimately missed the era of peripherals such as the Game Genie. My golden age in cheating took on another form, during my adolescence. One of the most intense experiences that I personally had with cheats and cheating was with a game that can at this point be considered a classic: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. After completing the game’s story a few times, I started a deeper exploration and in that found myself doing something with a game I had never done before. These weren’t your run-of-the-mill recover all your health cheats, these were things every player wanted to do but could not. I found myself in cinematic slow-motion bike chases on highways, with full aiming rotation, shooting triad pursuers. To escape, I made gigantic leaps as I bunny hopped on bicycles, cackling as I did. After discovering this way of playing I questioned why all games didn’t have cheats that provided that level of “what if…” gameplay. Sadly, I never received a satisfying answer that that question.

As I and audiences matured, things changed. No longer could you enter a button combination to hear a noise that confirmed a cheat’s activation and be done with it. The special sneakiness had become something obvious and boring. Game makers built in cheat screens into pause menus as they attempted to make cheats something normal, a staple for all games. They were no longer secrets and ultimately, they limited what you could do to pretty dull things that were difficult for anyone to really care much about. This is when codes stopped being fun; this was when cheats as they were, were lost to time.

We then moved into a time of great connectivity. There was a “online” and what was once small groups of friends playing together or with other friend groups became a space for anonymity and over time with this became incredibly toxic. From this behavioral waste came those who only desired to break games for themselves and disturb other players online. This kind of cheating is not special; there’s nothing magical about ruining fun for others. This kind of cheating is simply vandalism. If not this kind of altering of the game experience, there are also more innocent modding communities that enjoy adding to a game as well. From these groups occasionally comes an interesting indie project or two, but because of the limitation of creation with no-budget and lack of permission from the originators, these modifications of play are typically pretty weak.

This is where a line should be drawn between a player using codes to make their own experience fun and exploitation through “hacking.” They both fall under the umbrella of “cheating” but are rather different. Exploiting games has always been something I have been against. From the standpoint of a consumer, I don’t want to be able to beat something by basically skipping the parts that require me to be good at them and as a person that is a part of game culture, I don’t think others should find pride in their ability to not play a game as they are, well, playing a game. I honestly don’t see the fun in playing games in ways they were never meant to be played. Using codes as I did when I was younger was simply exploration.

There is always hope for a return to how things were before. There are ways to punish toxic behavior and cultivate good. Why not to go back to entering codes? Why not return to a time when games felt like love went into them? Why not return to vanilla masterpieces?

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