Category: Opinion


Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein’s best scene provides insight into the American mentality.

We all want to believe that we’re doing the right thing. However, our sense of right and wrong is never so clear-cut, which is something that Wolfenstein: The New Order perfectly illustrates with one scene in particular. I didn’t give Wolfenstein a chance when it first came out but after a sale, I felt a simplistic, mindless shooter would fill my time nicely. At least, that’s what I thought going in.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game was a lot more than just an alternate-history dystopian Nazi future. The game shows it’s understanding of America’s hypocrisy when it claims to fight for freedom. The scene in question is between our patriotic, Nazi-hating protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz and J (played wonderfully by Luke Burke), an obviously stoned and tortured guitarist. When B.J. picks up J’s guitar, we immediately get the sense that B.J. is no hero in his eyes.

As you can see, J’s speech reflects a lot of today’s mentality between the marginalized and privileged. The hardest thing for B.J. to hear is that he’s just a bad as the bad guys. Hell, he even fits the Nazi’s idea of the perfect man – blonde hair and blue eyed. To have his vision of the America he knew stripped away and the idea of what he represents called into question hurts, mostly because that’s what the truth does.

What’s most apparent is that the anger, rejection, and violence that B.J. exhibits to being called a Nazi is all too familiar with today’s heavy political climate. It’s reflective of many Americans’ vision of the past. Nobody wants to look back at their country or ancestors with disgust but pride. Sometimes, the best step to a better tomorrow is acknowledging the mistakes of the past.

World War II is always thought of as a time where most of the world united against a common enemy: the rise of Nazism. An enemy so despicable that you would think that everyone should agree that they were on the side of evil. What we choose to ignore, and what our main protagonist is willfully ignorant of, are the sins of the supposed good guys.

Don’t get me wrong, Nazi’s are and will always be a group of people who have committed some of the worst atrocities known to man. However, their sins don’t erase our own. Blackface lasted well into the early 1900’s, racial segregation didn’t end until the 1950’s (lasting almost 100 years), and as J points out, blacks were drafted into a war to fight for an America that still hated them. This doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of some of the massacres and injustices perpetrated by America pre-World War II.

Developer MachineGames says The New Order wasn’t meant to comment on today’s culture, and while neo-Nazis may have not been in the headlines in 2014, the game clearly makes a statement. With The New Colossus set to debut next week, it tackles an America under Nazi rule, bringing out the worst aspects of the country. As white men with Nazi tattoos and wearing swastika bands on their arms march in the streets, it’s going to be harder and harder for the developer to disassociate the game’s messaging from real life. Even if they can’t predict what the world will be like when their game releases, there are obvious injustices that influence what we see in the Wolfenstein series.

Their marketing has shown to be more reflective of current events but can easily be seen a chance for them to draw attention to their game through popular topics. At the same time, they continue to distant the series from anything related to today’s politics. It’s a bit disheartening to hear, considering MachineGames has a chance to say something of substance while playing around with this particular subject matter. Hopefully, The New Colossus provides more scenes that reflect the dark parts of America that a vocal percentage doesn’t want to see.

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The logo for Player Unknown's Battlegrounds

PUBG wants to take on Epic in want seems like an unnecessary battle.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Unfortunately, when a big company like Epic decides to add the widely popular ‘Battle Royale’ genre from the game Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) to Fortnite, things get a little dicey. Bluehole, the creators of PUBG took offense to having their game copied, and even threatened legal action. But here’s the thing, you can’t copyright a genre, or at least you shouldn’t be able to. Continue reading

Screenshot from Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.

Hellblade delivers an exciting experience but misleads players along the way.

If you’re like me, then you play almost every game on normal. In my opinion, this is how the experience is meant to be enjoyed. Once I’m done, I venture into playing on a higher difficulty. While many consider themselves try-hards, I’m more inclined to finish a game the way the creator intended. The base experience has more to offer me than soul-crushing difficulty.

Not everyone feels this way – mainly the players. Strong opinions are formed from the very community these games create, and most often, they go against what the developers present to the players. A recent example of this is Hellblade, developer Ninja Theory’s latest title. A game I’ve yet to dive into, however, it’s caused a bit of controversy during launch.

Hellblade greets players with the promise of permadeath, a feature rarely seen in most modern games. When you lose too many times, you lose everything – your progress and save. The game doesn’t actually tell you how many times you have to die for the feature to activate but it promises that the game will become more and more difficult. An unwelcome surprise for many players.

Here’s the twist, the permadeath doesn’t actually exist. The game does grow difficult the more you die but ultimately the threat of erasing your progress in a bluff. It’s a ploy to evoke tension, fear, and paranoia in the player, matching the feelings of its mentally ill protagonist. An interesting approach to the creators intent. However, it’s poorly executed.

Commitment and Honesty

Difficulty can be a part of the experience. It’s in those moments that I wholeheartedly accept the challenge. Some of the best games show the player no mercy, as a way of evoking frustration and helplessness. It also provides a challenge that players are compelled to overcome. The key to creating a game that is both challenging and engaging is the balance. The idea is to make a game seem impossible without that actually being the case. It’s why the Dark Souls and Bloodborne series work so well. It requires trial and error, along with the growth of your skills as a player to complete.

In the case of Hellblade, I didn’t have the same reaction many had to the prospect of permadeath. I found it interesting and innovative for the approach Ninja Theory was trying to take. However, my problem was with Ninja Theory’s lack of commitment and transparency.

No Man's Sky header.

No Man’s Sky developers promise features and game play that never made it into the game.

Developers should not lie about their games. Their word is a major deciding factor for players. Besides, it never works out well when a developer is misleading about gameplay, story, or content. Just look at No Man’s Sky or Batman: Arkham Knight. Both contain experiences that are ruined because of false promises from developers. Ultimately, Ninja Theory does the same when they fail to commit to their threat of permadeath. If you are going to take a bold action, then be bold – no half-measures.

You could say the fakeout is what Ninja Theory’s intended for the game but anyway you look at it, it’s a shitty attempt at inciting a reaction from players. In an age where companies charge for DLC that’s already on the disc and throw microtransactions in a $60 game, trust is hard to come by from gamers. Also, why not add permadeath? Why present a feature that doesn’t exist? You not only alienate the players who took offense to your decision but you betray the ones who were excited to play the game the way the creators intended.

Taking Bold Risk

I’m looking forward to playing Hellblade when I get the chance. I’ve always been fascinated by Ninja Theory’s games, and from what I hear, Hellblade accomplishes a lot for an independent game. Ninja Theory is a studio that takes a lot a risk, and I hope they learn from the game’s reception. I actually hope that all developers learn that what you promise matters to gamers, especially when it affects our purchase. We respect the creator’s intent but it’s still important to meet the consumer’s expectations.

Picture of the characters from the RPG, Final Fantasy XV

Gladius, Prompto, and Ignis do want they want.

I have a grievance. My last two role-playing games (RPG) experiences – Final Fantasy XV and Mass Effect Andromeda – are not satisfying me. They are great games and fun to play but the action-oriented focus of both sacrifices a key aspect of the genre – control.

This loss of control doesn’t happen when I’m playing as a lone wolf type of character. In games like Fallout or the Witcher, you’re the all-powerful hero who can conquer anything by yourself. However, when you are given a party or squad, you’re their leader. You’re supposed to direct them on the battlefield and tell them what to do. Except, recent RPGs have made your party autonomous. They do as they please and you have little say.  Continue reading

Sony's enhanced console, the PS4 Pro.

Are you upgrading for 4K resolution?

The PS4 Pro just dropped, and next year the Xbox One’s Scorpio is set to release. I don’t know how to feel about these enhanced consoles yet. They are cool in concept, but do they bring enough to the table to justify replacing your current machine? Continue reading

The Mass Effect Anomaly

A banner for Mass Effect Andromeda.

Mass Effect Andromeda is different, and sometimes not in a good way.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a weird game. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy it but playing it just feels strange, like something is off, and it’s not the animations. Keep in mind that I’ve only had enough time to complete a majority of the missions on planet EOS, so I still have a large portion of the game to get through. With that said, a few aspects stick out, shaping my early impressions of what the rest of it might be like.  Continue reading

Promo art for Metroid Fusion.

Oh Metroid, where art thou?

Boy, do I have a lot of woes lately. Anyway, I’ve had a recent craving for a Metroid– style game, and Nintendo seems unwilling to fill that void. It’s actually a bit frustrating to be a fan of the red-headed stepchild of the Nintendo family. Whenever the company does acknowledge that the series exist, it’s more like they are telling you “Here you go, now shut the fuck up.”

My only solution to these Metroid withdraws is to rummage through indie catalogs for the best imitators out there. I do this about once every year. It’s actually quite surprising how many of these developers are making amazing metroidvania games. Continue reading

maxresdefaultAs you can tell from the title of this piece, I have no problem with games that launch with only multiplayer. I liked games like Titanfall and Evolve. I know some are ready to call foul and say a game is nothing without a decent single player to craft its identity and story but I’m here to just say your wrong. First and foremost a game is about the gameplay. The narrative is just a concept that grabs and motives the player to play. Think cops and robbers. However, that is an argument for another day. The real problem is the pricing of these multiplayer only games.

Continue reading

The cast of Blizzard's Overwatch.

Does Overwatch Deserve to be Game of the Year?

As I browsed through my monthly Game Informer magazine, I came across an interesting topic within the Q&A section. The magazine recently released their top 50 games of 2016 list and it was obvious that some of their readers didn’t agree. Many of its detractors questioned their choice of Overwatch as their Game of the Year. The magazine has every right to name whatever game they felt deserved the top spot. However, the comments brought up something I haven’t thought about before – What makes a game the full experience? Continue reading

 

steamworkshop_webupload_previewfile_336883246_preview

If you were a kid in the 90’s, chances are you had a Give Yourself Goosebumps book or two. One of the best children’s horror series ever (honestly they don’t make enough children’s horror series anymore). The allure of these books was that you were a part of the story and, even more than that, you chose how your adventure would unfold. Were you going to turn to page 54 to go down that dark scary ass basement? How about flipping the page to 99 to explore that creepy swamp your aunt told you to stay out of? The choice was up to you. Goosebumps is the reason for my love affair with today’s choice based narrative games.  Continue reading

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