Let’s Try That Again: Reboots

Franchise reboots seem to be a big thing lately.  Batman got a reboot, Spider-man just got one, and while I was sitting here, planning to put off work for another day, I happened to catch the trailer to the bright, flashy, and 100% more Irish reboot of Total Recall that’ll be releasing soon.

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Also, Kuato will be played by Peter Dinklage (We wish).

 

The same trend has also been happening in games.  After all, there are plenty of franchises where a developer screws up, teams get house-cleaned, and someone in the company decides they start wanting to make money off a “safe” game series again.  It worked for Mortal Kombat, it worked for Twisted Metal (kinda), and they’re trying to do it with Tomb Raider next year.

This is all well and good, but I get the feeling there are some franchises that I feel are more deserving of a second look.  Here’s a few games I feel could stand to get a fresh start.

Tekken:  A fighting game series near and dear to my heart.  As of late the plot has become a million crazy threads of ridiculous character relationships, a malevolent god representing evil (or whatever the hell Azazel is), a seemingly villainous protagonist, and a family of douchebags (Mishimas) that are the only people to have real plot relevance.

The Reboot: Paul Phoenix, the greatest martial artist in the world enters a martial arts tournament to pay off the expenses on his new motorcycle.  He tears his way through the tournament, fighting a colorful cast of characters including a disco dancer, several small Asian girls, and a schizophrenic in a Jaguar mask.  The final battle is with an army of Korean pop idols formed from the DNA of the former tournament winner, Hwoarang.  Along the way, buttons are mashed, faces are punched, and Mishimas are ignored.

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Those Koreans have vicious okizeme.

 

Resident Evil:  Largely credited with creating and/or popularizing the survival horror genre, Resident Evil is now all about ridiculously trained super-soldiers with John Woo sensibilities to their gunplay unleashing two-fisted fiery hell upon poor, innocent zombies, thereby releasing tension from what used to be something that was a little bit scary.

The Reboot:  Claire Redfield, Journalism major and avid horror movie blogger currently attending RCC (Raccoon Community College), is at a campus kegger when a batch of T-virus is released (Umbrella was contracting professors to unwittingly research the virus).  Now Claire and a misfit band of terrified college students must escape the city, despite having no training, little physical ability, and their only weaponry being strong political views and a mild grasp of rhetoric.  Along the way, guns are scarce, zombies are plentiful, and pants are soiled.

Monster Hunter:  A relatively Japan-centered game franchise where you kill giant monsters and dragons, then build new weapons out of their body parts to kill other giant monsters and dragons.  Hasn’t managed to get that much purchase stateside because of a game style that’s unforgiving and mechanics that don’t change much from installment to installment.

The Reboot:  In 2050, the world is overrun by bio-mechanical “Wyverns” created by unchecked nanomechanical research and a floundering sense of ethics in the scientific community.  You’re a rookie hunter tasked with making the world a safer place by destroying these monstrosities, and you do so by making new weapons out of the bodies of your quarry.  Along the way, horns and scales are harvested, the future is undecided, and the game is released in America on a console other than a damn handheld.

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Pretty please, Capcom?

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Go Big or Go Home: The Nintendo 3DS XL and Handheld Redesigns

Before I get started here, I’d like to apologize for this slip in schedule.  Celebrating the 4th of July in a drunken haze, then having my power get knocked out by a freak thunderstorm has put a damper on my writing.  But I’m back now, so…yeah.

So the 3DS is getting a new version.  As to be expected, considering the track record of Nintendo’s (and Sony’s, while we’re at it) previous handhelds.  I’m certainly confused by the choice.  Considering the 3DS is meant to be an easily carried console, why exactly is a sound idea to make the thing 90% bigger?

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Pictured:  Progress.

 

But again, it isn’t like this is unprecedented.  The DS alone had four redesigns (if we count the DSI line).  Sony got in on the act, too, with the PSP (1000 through 3000, and the ill-adviced Go).  I actually avoided buying a 3DS from the outset because I was waiting to see what redesigns I’d be faced with.  Even now I’m still waiting to see if we get a Nintendo 3DS Super Turbo Championship Edition next year.

What’s wrong with giving us multiple versions, or all the features from the outset, and letting the consumer choose?  I purchased a Vita (through some opportunistic trading and spare cash), and I just realized yesterday that the damn thing lacks an anti-glare screen.  The anti-glare screen was a feature added in specifically in the 3000 model of the PSP, because hey; a person might be playing on car trips. Where there’s sun like, everywhere.

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How long has THAT been there?

 

I think I’m about done buying handhelds.  Next time I’ll just lug a generator, an Xbox, and ten gallons of gasoline around with me, to get one up on the developers.

Or read a book.

In the Quicksand(box): Open World Games and Me

I preordered Sleeping Dogs yesterday, upon realizing that one; Grand Theft Auto 5 may not be coming this year, and two;  I haven’t played any games this year where hijacking cars is an acceptable way of avoiding rising insurance costs.

From what I hear Sleeping Dogs is going to be a gritty crime story full of notable characters and kung-fu action (what game isn’t?), and it’s supposed to encompass things like betrayal and broken loyalties and all that stuff you’d read about on the back of any straight-to-dvd actioner worth its salt (or the cost of printing its cover art).  But when I get right down to it, what was the real reason I decided to buy the game?

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Living out my fantasies of repairing and detailing vehicles, of course.

 

If it’s not horror, I like having a sense of control over the proceedings of the game (see last week’s blog to see kinda why).  In tightly narrated games I get this by good storytelling letting me know that the events of the game revolve around me and my actions, like an egocentric child demanding a parent’s attention.  Sometimes with high-powered weapons.

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“No, mommy.  It’s time for YOUR bath.”

 

In a Sandbox game, I fully expect and welcome this sense of control by me being given full license to dick around.  If I’m given a mission to go tail some guy back to his hideout, but then instead feel like seeing how many people I can hit ramping a schoolbus down a crowded street, then I love the game that gives me that choice.

I’m interested as all get out about Sleeping Dogs’s world and potential stories.  I don’t think the action-dripping potential of the Hong Kong action scene hasn’t been tapped for video games yet, just like the western genre wasn’t really touched on in a great way until Red Dead Redemption.

Hell, I’d enjoy such a game if it was just hours of me getting to dive through windows with a pair of unlimited-ammo pearl-handled and gold-plated pistols while doves flutter about in the background.  Or a game about me storming rival dojos and stealing their signs through martial prowess and angry yelling because they insulted my school’s boorish sense of interior decorating.  Or something.

All I’m saying is, in between those missions where I have to move the plot forward with police work and gunplay and suffering painful internal conflicts, just be sure to still let me occasionally steal a helicopter and laugh as I bail out of it onto a group of pedestrians in a park.

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Show me the door to fun, and I will walk through it.  I’ll even prop it open.

Running (Un)scared: Survival Horror and Me

I’d say I’d miss the survival horror genre, except the genre’s beginnings weren’t all that survival-y to begin with.  In the first Resident Evil you played one of two members of an elite paramilitary police force; not exactly the cart wrangler at the local grocery store.

At E3 this year they showed off Resident Evil 6, and it was indicative of the natural progression the series has taken with recent iterations.  Agile, lithely-built protagonists who carry pairs of high-powered handguns in either fist and have perfectly straight and capped teeth run around gunning down zombies without a really suspenseful moment in sight.  Everyone’s either a highly-trained government agent, a spy, or some kind of soldier.

It’s not really horror if your reaction to seeing a zombie horde is “Oh, awesome!”

 

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I think I’ll use the rocket launcher this time.

I know there’s enough people out there arguing for more titles where you play as an everyman thrust into an intense situation.  This is why I used to prefer the Silent Hill series.  The main characters in those games have been writers, store clerks, teenage girls and the like.  Average people with average weapons.   There’s something visceral and enchanting about being forced to bash an animated mannequin’s head in with a length of steel pipe.  And the terror comes from knowing you are an average person dealing with crazy, horrific occurrences.

But still, survival horror gives way to action horror, and it worries me that we’ll see a genre disappear.  The latest Silent Hill iterations have been less-than-stellar, despite showing an upturn toward the more highly regarded parts of the series.  Dead Space, while a good starting point for survival horror, felt like it was starting to get more action-oriented in 2.  I think a good rule of thumb is if the game starts adding in weapons that give you the power to torture enemies and exercise and element of control, you’re losing some of the “survival” part.  How scared could I possibly be of enemies when I have a gun that lets me impale them, then run an electric current through their body so I can watch them dance around like a shoddily-constructed marionette?

The Amnesia:  Dark Descents are few and far in between at this point, and we’re being inundated with heroes with big, glistening muscles and big, glistening guns starring in games that wouldn’t know suspense if it stalked them down a hall and didn’t bite them in the ass, but somehow jump out of a closet in front of them.

I want horror games where I play a Wal-Mart greeter, or a schoolteacher with a classroom full of kids, or a handsome, burgeoning blogger.  I want a game where my character’s normal life is turned upside by horrific occurrences.  I want more games where I know something is following me, but I never, ever get to look at it because it’s toying with me.  If I get to fight, I want to fight with hilariously ineffectual weapons that only serve to heighten the sense of “I’m so screwed”-ness.

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Big magazine, but the stopping power leaves something to be desired.

Moved to Tears: Thoughts about the Kinect

I watched two people in a game retailer today looking for Kinect games.  They were older folks; the man had hair that had gone almost fully grey, the woman had a cane.  I listened as they reasoned out their choices, and asked the clerk about some games for the Kinect that didn’t involve a lot of “jumping around”.

This situation amused and confused me.  I thought people bought Kinect games for the sole purpose of said “jumping around”.  I wouldn’t buy a game for a motion control-based peripheral that centered around being stuck on a 6-hour flight to Dallas, however scintillating downing my fifth glass of rum and coke and trying desperately to ignore the talkative grandmother next to me may be.

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Protip:  Wave hand to ineffectually flag down flight attendant.


Yet, there they were, looking for less motion-intensive motion controlled games.  I realized soon into my trip into the particular retailer that the new Steel Battalion had come out, a game where you control bipedal tanks and utilize the actual controls of said tanks.  It might’ve been a good choice for this couple, but they passed upon seeing the price tag.

This choice may have been a turn of good fortune for them.  From what I’ve been reading (I’m not purchasing it, due to lacking money, a Kinect, and a desire to give myself stress-related injuries to my arms), the game did not work.  At all.  Kotaku and other reviewing sites, I’m sure, have savaged the game.  Which is unfortunate, because the idea of sitting in the cockpit of a virtual mecha has a certain, highly attractive appeal to me.  I would’ve played a giant robot tank simulator if all I did was sit in rush hour traffic for an hour if they would have gotten the controls right.

I dunno.  I guess there’s not enough incentive to get a good, high-concept core game to work for the Kinect.  Not when Dance Centrals sell like crazy and most people don’t need much more than Kinect Adventures.  It’s sad, really.  It might’ve been fun to play an entire Halo game with strongly implemented motion controls.  A core Halo title, mind you.  Not some cheeky side-story or spin-off.

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Halo 5: Breakfast Evolved:  Better With Kinect!

I’ve got Reservations About This: Pre-order Bonuses

I miss when physical pre-order bonuses used to be more extravagant.  Everything has some sort of downloadable in-game bonus nowadays, from extra weapons to missions to additional ways to groom your character’s facial hair.

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A 5 dollar deposit gives me invulnerability to headshots.

Sometimes you’ll get a little keychain or something with your orders.  Getting Lego Batman 2 this week gets you a little Lex Luthor Lego guy, which is ok, I guess.  But I miss stuff like the Mirror’s Edge replica of Faith’s bag.  That bag carried my books through essentially half of my college career, and all for money I was going to spend on buying the game anyway.  The promise of another such bag got me reserving Resident Evil 5, although much to my dismay I found that particular bag was more like a limp, impractical purse more akin to one of those recyclable bags they always try to guilt me into buying at the grocery store (if I wanted to reuse a bag, I’d bring a backpack, but you bastards frown on that anyway).

In-game content’s cool, but give me action figures!  Give me vintage-style Working Design packaging!  Give me candy!  I mean, you’re strangers, but I’ll take it anyway.  Just the gesture makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

Give me the keys to a ’95 Ford Taurus and some vague direction to its whereabouts.  What does a Ford Taurus have to do with Assassin’s Creed?  I dunno, but if you make me a promise that I have the chance to find a mid-90’s economy sedan for putting down a few bucks on your game, then I will grab my wallet and head to the nearest retailer right now.

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Your move, Ubisoft Montreal.

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads.

I was going to write about how much I like getting a sense of power in video games, inspired by my acquisition of the game Gravity Rush and part of an article on Cracked (http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-moments-that-make-video-games-worth-it/), but over the course of playing it and re-evaluating my stance, I realized my enjoyment can be diluted down to something much simpler.

I enjoy flying/free-running/jumping around a gamespace like an asshole.

Committing massive acts of unintentional (or intentional) murder through the use of gut-bustingly hilarious powers is fun (thanks, Prototype series).  Playing the hero and feeling like a benevolent god that saves lives because he can is cool too (Infamous did me there).  These super-hero games that are coming out give me plenty of these kinds of opportunities.

But Gravity Rush showed me that all that stuff doesn’t come together for me unless I have a really fun, easy to use transportation power of some sort.  I spent the first ten minutes after the tutorial just hitting the gravity shift button and flying through the air so I could launch myself at another location with all the finesse of a ballerina shot out of a cannon.

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Pictured: A perfomance of the Nutcracker.

 

This need for transportation is part of an escapist fantasy, of course.  I hate driving anywhere.  I roll around in a POS ’98 Chevy with over 200 thousand miles on it and I’m sure is hatching up a plan as we speak to lose a tire and hurl me into a ditch somewhere in the countryside.  And gas?  Fuck gas.  We all know it’s gotten to the point where buying gas has become a major household expense.  But these games get to have me ignore gas, traffic, and all the fun of modern transportation.

If someone asked me what kind of superpower I would like if I could pick one, it wouldn’t be to shoot fire from my mouth or to have bulletproof skin or have hands made of swords (awesome as that would be), it would be to eliminate driving from my life forever.  Because really, how often are you going to use sword hands?  Really think deeply about it.

….

 

Yeah?

 

Maybe once or twice.  More if you own a sushi bar or something.

 

Exactly.  

 

If I could gravity shift fly everywhere, or grind powerlines, or even parkour/rocket-propelled slashed wrist bloodfly my way around the city, I would use that shit all the time.  For no reason.  The sense of freedom that people want to emphasize in games really comes down to providing excellent transportation options for the player.  Some work, some don’t.

Hell, you don’t even have to have superpowers.  Just Cause 2 was a great example of a game with an effectively implemented transportation system.  I can count on one hand the amount of times I stepped into a car.  I got around almost everywhere (I imagine like most folks) grappling hook and paragliding, like a vacationer good and goddamned determined to not let their new favorite summer activity end because they’re leaving the lake.

No one said escapist fantasies couldn’t also be practical.