Every time I end up playing any video game, I find myself comparing it to the cinematic experience of Mass Effect. Continue reading
I wanted to to a huge play-through of the entire Mass Effect series for a few months now. You see, I have a strange habit of replaying games approximately three times in a row. The first time is to just play through it to enjoy it. The second time is to pay closer attention to the story. The third time is to make absolutely sure I didn’t miss anything.
I’m treating this play through as my third one. It’s been awhile since I played through it. Hell, according to my save files, I haven’t touched Mass Effect 1 for over a year now. Wow… you know, I decided to look at my Amazon page to see when I purchased it. June 13th, 2010. I spent $9.99 on it. Yep, $10 for one of the greatest games of its generation. It was about three years old at the time, and there was a nice sale. Yeah, I love Amazon.com sometimes.
Dear lord, I get sidetracked easily. Focus. Gotta focus. Anyway…. I’m going to be assuming that you have played through this entire trilogy and are familiar with all the basics. so if you have no idea what “Krogan” are or the importance of N7, then go and purchase Mass Effect. It’s a good investment and I believe in supporting good games. It encourages the company to keep on making games that you like!
All I want to do is this. First, look at gameplay. For the first time, I’m playing Mass Effect on the Hardcore setting. I was told by a friend that it was really challenging. Turns out, she never beat the game on Hardcore… and I can see why. I barely was able to beat it. And I learned quite a bit about the gameplay. All the flaws stand out when they end up killing you… a lot. After looking at game play, I’ll make some observations about the story of ME-1 in context of the trilogy. There won’t be some sort of in-depth analysis of anything. Just fun things that I picked up from the narrative. Finally, I’ll give some concluding remarks.
I played an Engineer with the play through. It was the first time playing one, and with the Hardcore setting… I figured I’d have a difficulty time. I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be. So, let me say this.
AI HACKING F**KING SUCKS!
The AI Hacking is broken in ME-1. I lost count of the amount of times the Geth choose to attack ME rather than the enemy when I hacked them. Nothing’s worse than hacking a Geth Destroyer and then having it charge you and stomping a mud hole in your ass. For whatever reason, the geniuses at BioWare thought that it would be a good idea to have hacked Geth just attack the nearest target rather than the f**king enemy. If you manage to hack a Geth that’s pretty far away and that Geth has other enemies nearby, that might be pretty good. It is sort of a crap shoot, as I once hacked a Geth Sniper, only to have that sniper blow Shepard’s head off.
They are jerks.
And why the hell is Shepard so out of shape? Seriously. I am friends with a few military guys. They can run the mile in like six of seven minutes. These guys have endurance like you wouldn’t believe. Yet, Shepard gets winded after running forty feet. And someone has to be shooting at him in order to get him to run in the first place. What kind of out-of-shape unmotivated protagonist is Shepard anyways?
And there was something I noticed with how the Mako was programmed. It was like the game designers who were programming the Mako were completely different from the game designers who programmed the environment. That’s the only way that anyone can justify why the Mako performs so badly in the game. It was doing freaking backflips on me. Backflips!!! It was flat-out terrible programming on BioWare’s part.
But you know what… despite off of it, I still remember what it felt like when I first played the game. The mechanics, though dated, were still intuitive to me. I could still use a pistol and take out enemies that you’d normally need a sniper rifle to kill. I could defeat Saren without breaking a sweat. I still get chills when confronting Sovereign on Virmire.
The choice mechanic in the game was pretty interesting. Yeah, no matter what the choice you made, most events turned out the same way. But… it still felt different. Sovie would still die at the end, but the choices that were made felt like they mattered. That’s what blows my mind about the gameplay. The choices seemingly don’t bear that much of an impact on the results of the game, but they really feel like they do… to the extent that the playthroughs feel different depending on the choices made.
The first Mass Effect game creates the context to understand the entire story. It’s the game that introduces us to the galaxy, the aliens, and the conflicts that lies there.
Like the Keepers. We’re told in the first game that nobody ever understood them. Vigil explained to us how they were there to make sure nobody would ever learn that the Citadel was actually an inactive mass relay.
Vigil said something very curious about the Keepers. Sort of a throw-away statement that I admit missing until this playthrough:
The Keepers are no longer directly controlled by Sovereign or its ilk. They evolved so they only respond to the signals emitted by the Citadel itself. When the Protheans altered the Citadel’s signals, they broke Sovereign’s hold over the Keepers…. The Keepers evolved in an unanticipated direction. Non-organic servants like the Geth would be more predictable.
It starts at about 59 seconds in. The important part is what I put in bold. At least, I think it is important. Work with me for a moment. The Keepers receive signals from the Citadel. We aren’t told what the signals tell them to do, or the nature of them… only that they receive them. This is very significant, as it begs the question of why the Catalyst (which is part of the Citadel) didn’t do anything at all during the first game.
Or did you guys notice how many times Shepard came across forms of mind control? Indoctrination was a biggie. But there were two others. The Thorian was able to control others with spores. The Thresher Maw queen was able to exert its control with a strange biotic/mind control power. That’s a pretty big deal, since I’m betting most others in that galaxy never encountered any! This won’t be important till looking at the third game, but keep this in mind. Shepard probably has more experience with mind control than the entire galaxy.
While I was playing through the game, I started to really appreciate how mysterious the galaxy actually was. I forgot about how some planets had lingering mysteries that were begging to be solved. Like Farcrothu‘s moons… they were sculpted about a half million years ago. What do they look like? Who were those aliens? Or the planet Quaji. There were originally strange alien carvings when the Alliance originally scanned it (only visible on ultra violet lighting). Is that from an ancient alien race? If so, are they still around? Or what about Ploba? There could be a mega-structure deep within that planet! It could be a huge super-computer. Maybe a hidden base from a technologically advanced civilization that was using the planet’s core for power. There’s so many unknown that are floating around on dozens of planets. I forgot how rich in potential the galaxy was!!
The first Mass Effect was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It does not hold up well at all. The battle mechanic isn’t very good. The game freezes. The loading screens takes forever. There were so many planets around that it started feeling like a chore going to each one, landing on there and driving around. And the Mako. Sweet f**k, the Mako. That was frustrating. Some of the fights felt more like a chore than anything else. Get shot. Lose shields… retreat for 30 seconds to wait for shields to come back. Or if the Mako’s shields fell, wait 5 minutes before continuing with the battle. So yeah, there were serious flaws and the game really doesn’t hold up well.
There are still great things about this game. The story is weaved together masterfully. Every race feels real. You can understand why they are the way they are and their place in the galaxy. Every interaction you have will make you feel like you’re participating in this complex and dynamic world. Your character, your Shepard, felt real because the world was so lovingly created that it felt as real as this one.
With Dead Rising 3 on the verge of coming out, I think it would be good to stop and take a look back at the sequel to one of my all time favorite games: Dead Rising 2.
Dead Rising 2 was a financial success, selling over 2.5 million copies between the Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 3, It was so successful, Capcom made a reimagined version of the game staring the protagonist of the first game: Frank West (he covered wars, you know). I guess there was a fan outcry for the return of Frank West.
The man in the yellow is the protagonist of Dead Rising 2. His name is Chuck Greene. And yes, he is a father. His daughter, Katey, was bit by her mother when she turned into a zombie. Chuck’s a motorcross racer by trade. The game opens up with Chuck participating in a gameshow called Terror Is Reality, killing zombies for the entertainment of America. He does this to win money to buy zombrex for Katey. The zombrex has to be taken every 24 hours to prevent zombification.
After the show.. all hell breaks loose. No wait.. something happens first!
Chuck sees these two in the hallway, who proceed to insult his masculinity while having a pseudo-incestual hug. I wanted to point them out because they really set the tone for this game. There’s a lot of sexual themes in this game, ranging from the twins there acting very seductive through rescuing half-naked women. Sexuality was always present in the Dead Rising series, but this game takes it into high gear! Take a look at some screen caps for yourself!
Anyways, as I said.. all hell breaks loose. Someone set the zombies loose into the community and Chuck grabbed Katey and ran for the safe house. Turns out, he was framed… accused of setting the zombies free. So now, Chuck has to clear his name and keep his daughter alive. And man… the story has a number of pretty fun twists and turns.
Yes, I liked this game. It was fun.
The gameplay on Dead Rising focuses on fun rather than on horror. It is combat intensive, just like the first game. The player fights zombies, mutated zombies, insane survivors, and the evil humans part of the overarching conspiracy. Dear Rising 2 does something the first game doesn’t do… allowing the players to customize their own weapons.
Maybe beating an insane guy to death with a park bench isn’t your style. Blowing them up with dynamite arrows very well could be. Yes, I did this. And yes, it is as much fun as it looks. There are so many fun weapons to create that, well, I spent hours upon hours just sitting back and finding new and creative ways to kill me some zombies! Electrocuting them. Making flame throwers out of water guns. Oh! And the beer hat. No, I’m not kidding. A freaking beer hat. I can’t wait to cosplay Chuck so I can wear it.. just like this awesome guy!
The game has two endings, which I find sort of neat. There’s ending A, which you get at the end of normal story mode if you did everything. This ending is incomplete, as it shows Chuck almost getting bit by zombies as he is mauled in an elevator. It sets up Case West, where Chuck is saved by Frank West. The other ending, ending S, completes the story within the game and has a fairly satisfying conclusion (saved the damsel in distress and Katey from one of the biggest jerks in the game).
You can find this game for next to nothing at any game store or online. Heck, they were giving it away through the Xbox Marketplace just a month ago. It’s a fun game that’ll give you hours of enjoyment.
The only thing I cannot recommend with the game is the multiplayer. Yes, you can play Terror Is Reality for yourself. The reason why I can’t recommend it is because the people who are still playing the game have been playing it for over a year. They are like super-experts at it. And the learning curve for the games is pretty steep. So you can either lose a lot to other players or just have fun killing zombies… yeah. That’s an easy one!
Enjoy the game! You’ll thank me later!
Have you ever tried to talk to someone about your favorite video game, only for your excitement or frustration to be dismissed as something childish. “It’s just a video game,” you could be told. “Grow up.” “It’s not like it’s important.” “It’s just a game.” It’s the stigma that’s attached to video games. They are inherently viewed as childish and unworthy of “adult attention.” Video games are seen as a waste of time… something completely non-productive.
Passion for a game is also dismissed by people inside the video game industry. Video game developers tend to LOVE it when people are passionate for their games and talk about it for years (see Super Mario Brothers 3, Mass Effect 1 and 2, Call of Duty, etc). But if gamers see there’s a problem in the game, the gamer is viewed as somehow immature and childish because they are focusing too much on the game. It’s strange. The video game developers/distributors love to see their games linger in people’s minds, but only if it is positive. If it is negative, the gamers are losers for not moving on. Heck, Chris Priestly (let go from BioWare a few months ago) still trolls people online if they still express strong feelings about Mass Effect 3.
These stances only work if people truly believed video games don’t matter. That they are nothing more than a distraction from what is truly important in life. For the people who just flat out criticizes gamers for being passionate about video games (why don’t you care about something that matters? Think of the children in Somefuckastain being eaten by dragons you selfish blah, blah, blah!), it’s just a video game that the gamer is passionate about.
Just a video game.
I don’t think I really have to go into that much detail over the first part. We’ve all experienced something like it. Maybe it was a pointless argument with your parents. Or maybe someone made a flippant comment about how you could be gaining “valuable life skills” or something.
As a side note, I hate the way people use “just.” You can attach it to anything to make it seem less important. It’s just a car. It’s just money. It’s just a house. It was just a kiss. It’s just … blah, blah, blah. Try it yourself. You can instantly demean almost anything you want to. Yay!
More to the point. Is it really just a video game?
No. No it’s not.
An entire sub-culture sprung up around video games. We have cosplayers. We have recognizable music which damn near everyone knows. We have our own slang. We have our own fashion. We have our own fields of academic study. We have our own celebrities. We have our own icons. Hell, we have holidays (November 7th = N7 Day, for example).
Would I say video games are important? You know, I don’t know. The idea of importance is so relative that what I think is important, someone else would think it is a waste of time. I view things that help me have fun as important. So to me, video games can be considered important. Doesn’t mean it is important for someone else. What I do know is this.
We’ve hit a point where we can’t look at a video game and just see a video game. It is so much more than that.
So I’m a year older.
And I’m looking around at the video games today and marveling how much they changed from when I was a kid. My first system was the Atari 2600. I think my father got it in 1986 or 1987. I remember it was around the launch of the NES. My dad couldn’t afford to purchase a NES, so he got the next best thing. The Atari 2600 was under $50, so it was a pretty good deal.
My father purchased the video game Centipede with it. So really, Centipede was my first console game. Not my first game, since I was playing arcade games at that point.
So… why bother reviewing a game that’s probably twice as old as most of the readers of this site?
Well, something hit me when I was thinking back to that game.
You see, Centipede was a fairly simplistic game. There are a lot of these strange mushroom things, which are the red rectangles on the screen. The larger rectangle at the bottom is the PC. The goal the player has is to kill the wandering Centipede, seen in purple/pink and the random bouncing spider. The large rectangle could shoot and hit the Centipede that was running around, going left to right… right to left… moving lower and lower. The Centipede will bounce change direction when it hits a mushroom, going lower in the process. You shoot the head, you get more points. You can shoot the body and break it into pieces. Each piece you hit turns into a mushroom. The game goes on until the player runs out of lives.
The goal is to destroy the Centipede. Nothing more and nothing less. Now I’m not going to bemoan the loss of “simple,” mainly because there are still lots of these types of simple games on mobile devices. Also, the complex games out there are sort of fun, you know? I loves me Silent Hill, Mass Effect, Zelda, Mario Brothers, Castlevania, Skyrim, etc. The modern stuff is just as good, if not a whole lot better, than the older games in almost every respect.
What gets me… when I look back at the older games like this one… is how video games evolved. The modern ones are closer to a cinematic experience. Like, for example: Dead Rising. You play Frank West… a guy who’s covered wars (you know)… (don’t give me that look! If you played the game, you’d be laughing right now)… and is now trying to survive and uncover the truth about a zombie outbreak. Frank can attack, just like I was able to attack in Centipede… but there is story/plot, phenomenal music, 3D space, camera angles, texture maps… so much more than what Centipede has.
I guess Centipede helps me see that modern video games do still have a game buried underneath everything. It’s easy for me to overlook it, since it feels closer to an interactive story than anything else.
Oh, if you’re ever going to play Centipede, I have a good trick that I’ve seen my father do. You position your guy in the middle of the screen and keep on firing up. You may have to move around to avoid the spider or to not get hit. In theory, you will be hitting the Centipede. The goal is to make a tunnel of mushrooms that will capture the Centipede… forcing it down a narrow corridor and really easy to kill.
I can’t help but think about the game and smile. Here’s a video I found on YouTube that shows the gameplay. Enjoy. And if you have the chance, check the game out. It’s a fun way to spend 5 or 10 minutes.
What the hell?
No seriously. What. The. Hell?
Between you and me, I haven’t been a fan of the direction fighting games have gone. Yes, I’m an old school gamer. Hell, I’m an old school Street Fighter fan.
I played the original Fighting Street for the TurboGrafx-16. Yes, I am that old school. I remember the TurboGrafx-16. No wait, I PLAYED the TurboGrafx-16 (Bonk’s Adventure was hellafun). Back to Street Fighter…I played Street Fighter II at the arcade. Guile was my boy, but I was also pretty good with Ken. My all time favorite memory was when I went against Vega with Guile. You see, back in the day, Vega was considered to be a unique and difficult boss. He was faster than anyone. He also could jump higher and farther than anyone. So, he gave me some difficulty.
So I want you to picture this. It was the 3rd round. We both were low on life and battling it out. Trading blows. Blocking. Time was running low. He jumped. I did the flash kick (we called it the razor kick). I missed and he got in another hit. One more and I’m dead. Game over. So I jump away, trying to get distance, but Vega wasn’t having it. He launched himself high into the air. You know the attack. The one where he grabs you mid-air and german-suplexes you on the way down. He was going to hit me. No way to avoid it. So I jumped right at him and hit the kick button (I think it was medium). I grabbed him mid-air and came down with a back-breaker, winning the match. I swear, it all happened in slow motion. That’s how it felt.
When I play fighting games, that’s the type of experience I’m looking for. Just like in a real fight. It’s not fancy moves that wins the day, but moves that occur in the heat of the moment. That’s the type of excitement that I think everyone looks for.
And I think Street Fighter IV does not provide that. Heck, I don’t think most fighting games out there provide that (outside of Injustice)
Every time I play a modern fighting game.. hell, any fighting game after Tekken came out… it all feels like one huge gimmick. Now before you jump all over this and rush to the defense of this game, hear me out. Okay? Just hear me out.
Let’s look at Ryu. He can jump, punch, kick, and block. He has three special moves: hadouken, shoryuken, and tatsumakisenpukyaku. Now a combination of those is more than enough to beat almost any opponent. I know, since that’s all I tend to use. But nope. There’s more. He has two special moves.
Shinku Hadoken – an overglorified hadoken that stays stuck on the opponent.
Metsu Hadoken – a nifty looking hadoken
These special moves are a bit more difficult to do than the normal moves. But that’s okay, they do more damage and… as I said… they look really nifty. When I’m in the middle of intense combat, those special moves are next to impossible to do. They require an extra second or two in order to get them right. And in that time, the opponent can (and often will) force you to eat your own feet.
But maybe you don’t have trouble doing them. I’m wagering most people don’t and I just suck at Street Fighter IV and at life in general. I think there still is some trouble with it. Here… watch this:
There’s a lot of flash to the attacks. And I mean a lot of flash. I don’t think there’s much substance though. It takes out all the strategy in the fighting game.There’s no need to try to use punches, kicks, blocks, and the basic special moves. There’s no nail-biting taking place. All the player has to do is wait for the opening and then hit the right button combination. And if they hit, they do tons of damage. If they don’t, then they will have to recharge their meter.
But you know, maybe that’s just me being all bitter and a good player can do that with no problem. And more, they can use it with as much ease as every other move and can strategize with it.
What about the computer who can do these moves with ease?
What about Akuma who can do his near instant-kill special move?
What about all the other characters that can do their special moves out of nowhere in a heartbeat?
These moves give the computer a huge advantage over any player. And it’s not just the ungodly amount of damage done. When I’m playing the game, I’m in a good rhythm. My moves are almost pure instinct. But when the computer does a special move, I see lots of flash and graphics and blah, blah, blah. It focuses on that and I can’t see my character. I’m taken out of my rhythm.
It’s a freaking break in the action. All to look cool.
I hate that.
Another GenCon’s come and gone for me. I started attending back in 1999. And except for 2007, I’ve been to every single GenCon since then. So this GenCon was my 14th GenCon. I remember when it was still in Milwaukee. Heck, I remember the awesomeness of the Ravenloft Play. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, the Ravenloft Play used to consist of a group of writers and gamers who wrote up whimsical performances using the Ravenloft setting. They really were something great to see. When I first watched it, it was a musical. Strahd sung “O Barovia” and it was just about as awesome as it sounds.
GenCon’s changed a lot over the years. But one thing it is about is everything that this blog site’s about as well: nerd culture. It represents the best four days in gaming. So… what can I share about my experiences about this year’s GenCon? What made this unique and special?
It’s hard to say what made this year’s GenCon so special. I mean…. everyone there was super friendly!
You’ll never meet a more polite bunch of people than the gamers who go to GenCon.
There was a strange lack of zombies this year, though. It’s a shame since they seemed to be everywhere. There was a zombie walk event… ever see a horde of zombies heading down the hallway? It’s awesomely creepy. I wonder why they weren’t around?
I did get to meet a bunch of heroes and villains. Red Skull was such a nice guy! Completely misunderstood.
And the Comedian. He was so funny! Though I didn’t get his jokes… and he was the one laughing while pointing weapons at me…. hmm…. well, at least someone was laughing, right?
Rogue was a great lady. We talked for awhile. She seemed interested in finding out if I had any superpowers. She wouldn’t take “oh dear god, don’t touch me” for an answer. It must be a cultural thing.
And there was a Dalek there. Can you believe it? It only slightly disintegrated me from existence. Very polite of it.
Fortunately for me, that’s when the Prince of All Saiyans appeared to save me. I suppose standing there and laughing at me is a type of saving as I was able to get away. Thanks Vegeta!
There’s never a shortage of superheroes to help. So just in case, I went to Robin for help!
There was so much to see and do there. The one thing I cannot emphasize enough is how friendly everyone is at GenCon. I’ve heard so many great stories of generosity. My experiences consisted of people buying me beer. But the generosity’s so well known and prevalent that a documentary was shot on it called Hobocon where two men lived off the kindness of strangers. And they were not disappointed.
Yes, I’m mostly kidding. GenCon brings out the excited kid in me. It’s like one huge playground where there’s so much to do and see. Even after 14 great years, there’s always something that brings a smile to my face. Let me share more of my memories:
Maybe you’ll have a chance to make it to GenCon. I highly recommend it. There’s something there for everyone. Video games, card games, movies, anime, board games, talent shows, cosplaying, miniature painting, tabletop RPGs, LARPing, meeting celebrities, meeting webcomic creators, dancing, music, Klingons… the list goes on.
See you there!
When it comes to what platform people prefer to play on, everyone will have different answers for different reasons. Some prefer the Xbox 360, some prefer the PS3 and some prefer the Wii. Some people even prefer older consoles such as PS2, Nintendo 64 or older handhelds such as Gameboy Colours. There’s a wide variety to choose from to be sure and for a long time I just considered myself a ‘console person’. I hadn’t really considered PC gaming as a route for me. I did, and admittedly still do, prefer the feel of a controller in my hands as opposed to keys. However, with the recent ‘next-gen’ argument only getting more heated I thought now would be the best time to try it.
Steam had been sitting on my computer for months at this point; somewhat neglected. It was in dire need of updates and my library was barren. I wanted to give it a fighting chance so I bought a good wireless mouse and mousepad, and got it back into fighting shape. I figured the most logical first step would be to download a game I have already on console and see how smoothly it flows for me.
So I downloaded Dragon Age; Origins. I’d played it time and time again on my Xbox 360 (not to mention it was only £20 for the Ultimate Edition with all DLC packs in the Steam Summer Sale) so I figured it would be my best shot at getting an appropriate comparison. The result? My god, was it smooth to play. Less buggy, better interface, it even looked better. It completely took me by surprise and to be honest I adapted to the WASD way of things much faster than expected. I fell back in love with a game I hadn’t touched in quite some time due to new releases piling up at my doorstep. It rekindled my love for what is -in my opinion- the greatest RPG I’ve ever played. All because of how perfect it was for the PC. Keeping in mind this was coming from a devout console gamer who was confident that Steam wouldn’t be able to convert me. It hadn’t completely done so yet, though; I wanted to try a few more titles before I could consider Steam my next-gen solution. So I bought a few more; Alice Madness Returns, Portal 1&2 and Magicka. All perfect, all VERY convincing. It was making me wonder why I hadn’t tried this before and the overall better gameplay wasn’t the only thing that I found seductive either.
Another incredibly tempting aspect of Steam was the price of its games. The Summer Sale was incredible, but even without it a lot of the games were very modestly priced and most cheaper than their console counterparts. Not to mention there were different offers on every week which I can see would be extremely tempting if I had the money to spend on them. Sadly, I don’t being a student and everything but it’s safe to say my library would be packed if I did. My point being I would be much likely to buy a title off of Steam than I would be to walk into my local game store and buy it new from there. The only advantage I could see that console games have would be that you then always have that game on disc but you can access your Steam account from another computer so sharing isn’t a problem and I’m pretty sure Valve would be more than happy to help you if you had a faulty game or it just stopped working somewhere down the line. All in all? Cheaper with better deals. The idea of PC gaming is getting more and more appealing by the minute and yet, it isn’t over.
And so we get to my last point; indie games. Yes, I know that Xbox Live has the Marketplace but with Steam the market is just so…Vast! So many incredibly promising titles just waiting to be discovered at prices that would make your head spin. Rogue Legacy was a hidden gem that’s finally getting the recognition it deserves and I don’t regret a penny of what I spent. There’s also Greenlight which further encourages indie developers to get stuck into such a promising market. It’s a win-win situation from where I’m standing; Steam get a larger market and more money, developers get recognition and money for their creations. Nowhere here do I see a bad point. Steam are giving indie developers all the right nudges in all the right directions and you only need to look at their ‘Indie’ section to see what a brilliant job they’ve done. It’s fair to say that some titles in that genre are better than some mainstream ones; it goes without question. It was the final blow for me; Steam was pressing all the right buttons.
So there you have it; a console gamer admitting their affair with Steam. And I’d never go back.