Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Journalism is Broken and #GamerGate Isn't to Blame

I started writing about all of this #GamerGate shit yesterday because I got all fired up about it. I get passionate about things that are happening. This is hardly even something that you can write about right now because the narrative seems to shift every day. I think that someone turned up the smoking gun, though.

Take a look.

When I started writing yesterday, my scorn was equally pointed towards everyone. Zoe Quinn, the game media and gamers themselves. That was unfair. While I may feel at odds and even alienated from the "core" gaming audience a lot of the time, nothing compares to this. Game journalists aren't reporting on the news; they're actively trying to shape it.

Who's to say what's true now? Who can be trusted?

A game journalist mailing list discussing what to be covered. How many things that should've been bigger outcries have been buried over the years? How many things that should've been nothing have become something?

So, now we have #GamerGate. Let's be clear; no one deserves to be incessantly harassed. But I don't believe that sexism or misogyny is the root cause, here. We know that Zoe Quinn had some form of relationship that went beyond friendly with one or more journalists. The issue isn't that gamers hate her for being a woman, the issue is that they hate the situation. I'd like to think that the same reaction would happen if a female writer had close ties to a male developer, but I sort of doubt it.

Before I continue much further, I sort of want to take this argument out of the equation. This doesn't stem from a gamer-specific behavior of sexism. This is a failing of society as a whole. We should be just as mad at the men in this scenario, but for the most part I don't think people are. People have focused on Zoe Quinn, and she has been just as much of a shitty person in this situation as the writers she was allegedly involved with have been.

I don't think I really have anything to continue on, though.

The real issue here is that we've all been systematically lied to.

I'm sort of crushed by this and I think all of us should be. Gamers aren't always looked upon favorably, and the people that we look to for news on our hobby don't feel any better about us. All the scorn bubbling up here isn't a hatred towards women, it's a hatred towards being looked down upon that finally reached its breaking point.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Killzone: Liberation (PlayStation Portable) Review

Killzone: Liberation is a bland, joyless affair. Nothing in this game hints that anyone involved in its development ever had fun, or ever considered what they were doing to be fun. It is bleak, serious and gray as though it has some grave point it's trying to make. It doesn't. You could mistake this game for being in black and white.

I've never played any of the full-fledged Killzone games, but this doesn't make a good intro to the series. I'm assuming it starts after the events of the first game, and leads into the second. I can't really speak to its impact on or placement in the overall story, but what's here is incredibly lame. It seems as if the developer was told to make a sci-fi game, and they said "okay." From some good old Wiki research, I determined that the enemies in this game are just humans who moved off of the home planet and are now coming to take it back. Or something. It doesn't matter. There's some obvious plot twists, betrayal.. whatever. Everything about this game can be punctuated with "whatever" or "or something." 

The game plays out from an isometric perspective, in contrast to the FPS stylings of the full-fledged titles. It tries to kind of be a stealth game, I think. Or maybe it's trying to be a cover based shooter. I honestly don't know.

Okay, I lied. Gray and orange.

A huge issue with this game is the difficulty. You can have one gun at a time. You're never prepared for the situation you're about to get into with one gun. Your best bet is usually the standard assault rifle. It doesn't have a huge amount of stopping power, it fires in bursts and it sucks. The only way to get different weapons is to get them at resupply boxes spread around the map. You can get a shotgun, but it's only going to stop the guys close to you. It's obviously useless at long range. You can get a sniper rifle, but it's mostly just useless since you're entirely at the mercy of the game's auto aim. There's a few other weapons you can get, but they're all pretty much useless. Later in the game you can get a chaingun with unlimited ammo that only needs to cool down, which is a bit of a lifesaver.

So, you're dealing with your one gun. The next problem is that the enemies seem to have literally the exact same amount of health that you do. Now we come back to... is it a cover based shooter or a stealth game? There are areas where the game clearly wants you to be sneaky. It's pointless, though. You can sneak as much as you want but you don't have any kind of a stealth takedown. You can sneak up behind any enemy you want and melee them, but they'll just turn around like nothing happened and melee you. Which knocks you down and nearly kills you. What? These are humans too. Why the fuck are they so much stronger?

Okay, so let's approach it like a cover based shooter. This is about the only way to play it, and it is fucking boring. Enemies will cling to cover just like you do. You can grenade them, but you get two grenades. They are essential, too. You can get more grenades by playing challenge mini-games, but whoever would be enough of a sadist to go out of their way to do this probably has a few dead animals buried around their yard and will soon be moving on to humans. At times the cover based approach collapses, too. There's some areas where you're clearly supposed to be playing it guns blazing. You can't win here, though. Enemies literally have as much health as you. You can't stop three of them fast enough.

Oooh, red.

This game wants to be tactical. Occasionally you'll get a teammate who you can give some pretty inconsequential orders. You can tell them to attack something or take cover somewhere, but it's generally best to just let the AI do its thing. This comes to another problem with the game. When you're in that tactical menu, it doesn't pause. That's okay, we're not going to use that. Instead of pausing, the game goes into this super slow motion type of thing. It does this when you're opening the supply boxes too. This is where it gets to be an issue because it prevents you from switching weapons effectively. It's already hard to run back to the box to get a different gun, then the game slows down instead of pausing and through the translucent item selection menu you can see a bullet fly towards yourself in slow motion and kill you.

I mentioned the story earlier, but this game seems to have gone to the stores unfinished. Why? There's free DLC for the game which adds an extra chapter (set of four missions) and online multiplayer to the game. I used the DLC, and without it the game's plot would've just ended completely unresolved. It's not on PSN (I don't think it ever was, I think it downloaded from a browser link within the game), but you can get it from the developer's website and install it to your memory stick. Not only this, the game just doesn't fucking have music. It's dead silent while you're running around doing your thing, which only makes the game even more bleak and un-fun. 


I made it to the mission before the last and was just miserable with the game. I decided to try changing the difficulty level to see if that helped with the fun any... it didn't. Easy mode just halves the enemies' health. Nothing else changes. There's no extra ammo, there's not fewer enemies. It just takes "half" the hits to kill those enemies. It doesn't help.

Strangely, this game was pretty widely acclaimed when it released. I can't imagine having any more fun playing this game in 2006. Maybe it was just because the PSP didn't have many other games at the time? Killzone: Liberation is the worst kind of handheld game. It's a handheld game because someone felt there should be a handheld game. It's not an extension or modification of the other game's play-style. It's something else entirely with a brand name stuck on it.

The Score: 5/10

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Deadpool (Xbox 360) Review

Deadpool is probably more popular than Wolverine right now. He's everywhere. This is sort of unfortunate, because Deadpool seems to be an especially difficult character to write. Too much Deadpool is a bad thing. Take a look at Deadpool Corps. Don't get me wrong, there are some funny bits in there but overall, it's not great. A lot of writers seem to interpret Deadpool as Family Guy humor, which is the absolute worst incarnation of Deadpool. The best is easily in Cable and Deadpool. This was written by one of the creators of Deadpool, Fabian Nicieza. I cannot recommend the series enough. Cable's messiah complex balances out Deadpool's insanity and the series manages to have some incredibly poignant moments. We're not here to talk comic books, though.

You could say Deadpool has a bit of a rocky track record in comics. The game doesn't veer from that much. It follows the basic beat 'em up formula that I've mentioned before. Strong attack, weak attack. Deadpool adds guns to the mix, and I think it's probably the best integration of guns into a primarily weapon based game. Devil May Cry has this as well, but it never seems to go into the mix very well. They're just too weak and break the flow of the action. Guns are effective in Deadpool, and easy to use.

Combat feels appropriately hectic; there's a lot of action but you'll never feel too overwhelmed or swarmed. The problem here is that the difficulty level is very uneven. Sometimes you'll breeze through enemies, other times you'll die in seconds. A big part of this problem seems to be in the larger enemies sprinkled through the game. It's hard to stay away from them as they usually still move quickly, and they do huge amounts of damage. These enemies are mostly just annoying, and they're used pretty liberally. It seems to be there to artificially pad the length of the game. 

This is another problem with this game. This is the type of game that should have been about 4 or 5 hours long. Of course that brings up the debate of what a game is worth and if that's worth a $59.99 brand new price point, but this game just shouldn't have been as long as it is. It's about an 8 hour game, which doesn't seem much longer (and it's not) but the game just sort of drags. It has some serious pacing issues. I didn't sit down and play this through a weekend, either. I came back to it every so often over the course of a couple of months. Spacing it out like that didn't help either, the game just does not flow well. I'd feel the same fatigue coming back to it weeks or months later.

Definitely a PC screenshot.

The plot is sort of weak and doesn't do much to drive the game forward. Deadpool is just doing what he's doing because the game script says so, and then Cable needs his help to stop Mr. Sinister. I was overjoyed when Cable showed up, but there's not really any Cable and Deadpool-type moments here. Deadpool gets bored with Cable's bullshit and decides to kill himself, which is one of the funnier moments of the game. Since I mentioned it earlier, this is a good time to talk about the Deadpool characterization of the game. Overall, it's okay. The plot seems to come from self-indulgent Family Guy style Deadpool; the bad. The humor doesn't follow this type of self-indulgence, but it's never as clever as Nicieza writes it. It's not bad, it's not great.

Not a Nicieza moment, but excellent nonetheless.

I'm not much of a graphics person (I'm not going to complain as long as they're competent and work for the game), but they're worth pointing out here. I'm really not sure what's up with the graphics here. They're just... not that good. They look unfinished. They look like they're half cel-shaded or something. It's not an attractive game. I'm not going to knock it for that, but they're distracting.

This game is a mixed bag, and there's no better way to put it. It's an okay interpretation of Deadpool, the combat is okay with some good gunplay, the plot is okay, the humor is okay. There's nothing here that rises above and makes it impressive. It's worth a pickup if you see it cheap, but it's nothing to freak out over.

The Score: 7/10