August 26, 2011

Reviewing Deus Ex: Human Revolution

It's been sometime since I've actually decided to review a single player game. But I think I am due for one, especially a high profile game like this that I am sure many others will be spouting their reviews and personal opinions about. Of course, mine is but one opinion of many, and what I am going to do is try to keep from spoiling things and just boil out the heart itself, the actual game play and how it handles.

Now, let me get the first bit out of the way; I do not care for Squeenix. At all. Like you couldn't even pay me to actually like them anymore. I use to be a fangirl big time, back with the original Final Fantasy games on Nintendo, back when they tried to sell the story and the game as one complete whole instead of isolating them as complete separate entities locked behind a wall of glaringly painful graphics in front of a matte painting backdrop that removed any sense of their actual belonging there.

I loved Final Fantasy 1, 2 and 3 or for those who have to be politically correct 1, 4, and 6 in Japan. The original is extremely dated now, and it's a very basic hack and slash RPG, but Final Fantasy 2(4) and 3(6) introduced not only very powerful game play elements, but an engrossing story that captured the mind and kept wanting you to see more of it. These things orchestrated, in my mind, a company that actually cared and wanted to deliver the best they could despite the limitations of the hardware they were using, you wanted to explore the world, to see what was offered and ask what else is there and even the tiniest things kept you asking, what are they hiding.

But when Squaresoft decided to jump on the Sony Playstation wagon, all that magic and wonder was lost as they got mired in the idea that just selling pretty graphics is enough, the rest of the game isn't as necessary. You can see this philosophy a lot in their latest iterations of Final Fantasy as well as that bombshell of a movie they called The Spirits Within. It's just been awful and it just makes me shake my head how many people think that train wreck of a game, Final Fantasy 7, is the pinnacle of the entire series. How low your bar must be set if you think that dross of a go nowhere, convoluted and no story game is actually remotely as high as the bar set by Final Fantasy 2 and 3.

But that is another story for another time. Instead I am here to talk about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Again, my mind had already been set that this game wasn't going to bear witness to the fruit that the original game garnered in its fan base. Honestly, I can't say I was ever a fan of the original Deus Ex, not because I didn't like it, but because I never actually had the pleasure of playing it. So I will be looking at this from the point of view of a new comer into the series of games.

I can safely say that hurdle has been overcome because I think, for the first time in a long time, I've actually entered a game I feel immersed into. I get into the spirit of the stealth, I get into the wonderment and curiosity the conspiracy theories invoke, and I certainly feel a bit of a small rush when I did something dumb and I am hiding from all the guards in the area as they do a search for me. The game play is very much a choose your own adventure thing, but on top of that, you are given the freedom to decide how to handle all the situations, from being a gung ho hero to being a Solid Snake style sneak and covert op. I am sure there is a game play style for everyone in this.

Another thing I rather enjoy about the game is that there is a sense that you actually have to pay attention, not just to environment, but to your inventory and your various messages and clues you receive. Though the game does track a lot of things, not everything is, and just randomly pushing buttons can end you in either a situation that can hurt you, or even worse, a quick death and speedy trip back to your last save. And if you aren't a diligent saver, that can be a long ways back for many.

As I said previously, it's been a long time I've ever actually felt this immersed in a game before. I want to get around the next corner, I want to unlock that door and find out what secrets are in it, but do I fly the straight and narrow, or am I the stealthy thief, that robs people blind, or am I the cold blooded killer that shoots first, shoots second, shoots some more, and then when everything is dead I think about the question to ask? These are the things you get a hold of and I am sure I am still not doing it justice.

I haven't finished the game yet, I still take breaks here and there to give me a moment to think my way around a situation I've found myself in currently in the game. Current run through I am playing stealthily and so far I can say other than the tutorial, I haven't killed a soul yet. From what I am told that still negates me from the achievement due to the tutorial, but I will gung ho in another play through. The game has presented itself a challenge to me, it actually encourages me to think, and I love that, something many games lack in this day and age.

But, and there is always a but, I have to say there are things that annoy me about it and they are just petty gripes that I think people can ignore for the most part. My first complaint is the voice acting. Now, I can't say voice acting in the video game industry will win any awards anytime soon. Most of the voice actors sound like they are less enthused than the voice actors for cartoons. But here it's almost whimsical how many of the voice actors say their lines. And I don't even think that they were trying to go that route, but it really doesn't sound like they were on the same page that the line delivered should have been. From Adam Jensen's wannabe Bale Batman gravelly voice sound to Mikal's flippant serious to bubbly voice acting, it's hard to get the idea that it was suppose to be serious. Some though delivered their lines perfectly, but most just sound out of place, but I think that also is because of the second point.

The animations during cut scenes and the like. They are so whimsical and poorly animated that you can't help but be sucked right out of what you were enjoying in the immersion. For me, I almost have to stop watching and either just keep reading the subtitles to ignore it, or turn my head and just listen. The character animations for these tense, talky choice scenes are poor, and that's being nice. The characters animate like marionettes from an amateur in the next room, and in some places, like with augmented people, the actual joints themselves appear to almost break off at points before quickly reattaching themselves to the original body. This and the voice acting can end up yanking someone out of the immersion they might have been experiencing. It's perhaps the biggest complaint I got, and it's a tad petty.

The only other thing that drives me up a wall is the interacting distance. Maybe I got use to other games too much where they were a bit gracious on the distance, but in DX:HR you pretty much have to be standing on top of objects before interacting with them works properly. And in a game where stealth is key that can add a bit more drama to moments. But that is only personal preference and probably from being spoiled by the dross of games over the past few years lately.

So far, I would recommend this to anyone who would be interested and would prefer a game that actually encourages exploration, thinking outside of the box, and above all else, not pretending to be a bullet absorbent badass that has no fear of consequences. Though that option is present, you still have to think tactically if you are to survive.

Oh, and that first boss fight is a pain in the ass. It will definitely piss off the people who play HALO (a POS FPS game that somehow gets hailed as the greatest thing evah) and such expecting to deflect bullets with their chins. If you're going in expecting to take 8 billion bullets before death, well, you probably won't like this game very much. However, if you want to use tactics, play using smarts and actually exploiting weaknesses instead of battles of attrition based on who can fire the most bullets, then this might be the game for you, especially if you love conspiracy theory thrillers.

August 20, 2011

Maturity of the Internet

A common poll type or complaint you will see often spouted out at random are the terms "kiddies" "kids" or "under age." It's a rather interesting concept that these people have, because they spout on about the age of an individual as if it were a gateway to describe what they are really on about; maturity.

What fascinates me about this is how many people, themselves, are being immature and juvenile about the subject when they sit there and profile a person based on their age as if that was the only bracket that was prone to such things. Of course, this trend has been around for as long as the MMO market has, and it's rather hilarious that people believe that people under the age of 18 are the ones largely responsible for the juvenile and immature behaviors that happen in an MMO these days.

In the time I have spent in MMO gaming, the average age of most MMO gamers typically falls in the mid 20s to mid 30s bracket, regardless of what people say. And most of the time, it's this bracket, I find at least, that is also the most immature. But immaturity really knows no age bracket, and you will find it everywhere, but in an ironic twist it's typically the under aged people I run into that are typically the more mature.

What really fascinates me about posts like this are how juvenile and immature they are about it to begin with. You will see all manner of slander and hypocrisy being spouted at every which turn from the post about people under a specific age being the problem with games, but not once will they even acknowledge that immaturity knows no age limit. Hell, I've seen people even go so far as to try and recommend adult servers to "keep out the kiddies" as if that is going to stop immaturity when it's generally the people of those age brackets conducting the problems.

Just one of those things that all you can really do is shake your head at. 

August 19, 2011

My Thoughts on Warzone: Huttball

Warzone: Huttball is the most recent announcement from Gamescon and this Friday update over on the official SW:TOR website, it has garnered mixed reviews from a lot of people on the various forums and places that have sprung up. Of course, the most hardcore naysayers are those that are generally throwing out words I've talked about already; immersion. Honestly, at this point I definitely do feel they don't know what that word means.

My personal view on Huttball; honestly if people wanted something new and different, well hell look no further. I don't think I would of ever thought up something like this anytime on my own, and the ironic thing is when I was a kid I loved an arcade game based on Rugby (I even think that was it's name, but I am not sure) where it was basically set in a medieval time period with two teams basically playing rugby, with all sorts of hazards on the field, swords and including a troll. It was a fun game if not silly. And that's what Huttball is reminding me of.

Of course, I am sure 'The Pit' is going to be much different than the field of rugby, and the traps definitely look more hazardous but from the concepts I've seen this looks like it will actually be something injected, especially on the side of PvP, that will be fun and different from the tired old tripe of kill till someone dies or just sit and hold a point until a counter runs up or out.

Some will compare Huttball to Capture the Flag style game play, and in a way I guess it shares some similarities, but I don't recall having to run the flag to the enemy side to win. This is going to be a true e-sport in the most basic sense of the word. There are goal posts on either side and players are being encouraged to basically play rugby. Honestly, I can't wait to try this out because it is definitely something new and different, at least on the front of the MMO side of things.

August 16, 2011

The hatred of roles

One thing that seemingly crops up regularly in forums is a rather pervasive, and misguided, attempt by certain individuals or groups of individuals to sit back and bash specific systems within a game. It's almost as universal as breathing these days when it concerns video games. One of these almost reviled by a select demographic of gamers is the roles systems that many MMOs typically espouse to.

Now, if you were to hear how people tell these stories, the majority of misinformed opinions typically go along the lines of "roles (or the holy trinity as it is often called) is an outdated system that promote elitism and hurts games." To call that line of thinking bullshit would be an understatement. I am not saying that roles are necessary in all things, in fact I do feel that a game should be playable at any time solo up to a point. However, I've seen these people go so far as to try and proclaim how outmoded these systems are by stating that people don't assume roles in real life. Okay, here's where I call you on your bullshit.

First and foremost, in almost everything these days, people are assigned roles within jobs and things of that nature. They might not be described as tank, support and DPS but you are assigned a role. Everyone from the fast food employee to someone working at Wal Mart is assigned a role. Generally they are assigned the role they are best at, though some businesses think it is hilarious if they keep swapping people around. Mostly retail, but there are many other types of jobs.

Of course, I've seen people sit there and say things like military don't have roles. Okay, now you're just an idiot if you believe that train of thought. Military is probably the strongest example of roles in real life. Just using the army alone, you have your infantry, your water brigade, your medical, your mechanized infantry, your artillery and many other facets. That's complex roles but every group has their own specialized career they do to handle and continue to employ to assist them in their jobs and their unit. In most cases a military unit operates as one giant team, and unlike say a retail store, people not participating in that team effort can lead to the rest of their unit actually being killed.

Hell, I've seen one person even try to state that sports do not have roles. Well hell you are just being purposely ignorant there. I can sum up American football easily in both offense and defense. Center is your Tank, linemen are your support conducting crowd control, and the backs are your DPS, driving forward with the ball to get more into enemy territory. In fact, almost every sport out there assigns people specific jobs to do and coverage. This is the heart of team play, and you can't even deny that everyone is assigned a role, and if they don't do that role, the team pretty much falls apart. Deny it all you want but that's pretty much the truth.

The problem is the self entitlement issues. Today's gamers are raised on the notion that they are special and better than everyone else and thus anything that promotes that they are equal and on level terms with another player is a bad thing, which is ironic considering MMOs are about people being on an even term with others and working together for a mutual goal. In this respect a game where they can't be the lone savior of everyone and require the aid of others goes against any grain of thinking they have. In short, it's an elitist attitude because something that requires working as a team and relying on others to achieve a mutual goal is pretty much against the common baked in concept that everyone gets in today's games that they are the lone hero capable of doing anything they choose.

It also is an entitlement issue as well, plain and simple. People feel they should be able to do everything themselves. Being a part of a team kills that idea, and since teams generally try to get people to work as a team, or dungeons require people to work as a team to succeed, this goes against every grain and fiber of peoples belief structure when it concerns their entitlements. In fact, there is a number of people that find it rather insulting that only those who work as a team to defeat the hardest stuff get the greatest rewards and there has been a very vocal group that believes they should be entitled to equal rewards for practically no effort.

They come up with worlds of solutions of course. Most of them just basically revolve around being able to bum rush bosses till they die. Basically the early Champions Online model of game play. No strategy, no thinking involved, just keep zerging the boss and win through attrition no matter how many deaths you gain. It doesn't work out well in retaining people looking for a challenge, and there are more people who prefer to be challenged than those looking for an easy victory.

It does astonish me when people get a case of the ass when 95% of a game is devoted solely to them and the 5% that's devoted for teaming they demand needs to be soloable. But like I said earlier, they will call raiders elitists, and I am far from a raider anymore, but I have to say, people that demand the game to be soloable are just as much elitist if not more so, especially when they try and say that a system that works is outmoded and then try to state it doesn't apply in real life. Play in the rest of the game that was given to you but quit trying to destroy the enjoyment of those who want to play as a team and seek a challenge from that experience. The game doesn't have to 100% cater to the wussy game style of everything handed on a silver platter to the people that say that they have a job or real life non-sense.