Contrary Mary

Thanks to the internet, making an informed decision is the norm these days. A quick google search will return a bevy of sites offering a written review for each and every new release and should you feel swamped by opinion, metacritic offers a aggregate score to make life easier.

It’s not a fool-proof system though and as it happens, I’m a fool.  Every once in a while I’ll play a game that everyone thinks is amazing but I’ll think it’s crap. However, to balance the universe, there’s usually also a game that everyone thinks is crap and I’ll actually really enjoy!

Red Dead Redemption

Starting with the former of the two, Red Dead Redemption (RDR) is a excellent game. It received a metacritc score of 95 and easy to see why. It’s open world representation of the wild west is one of the best you’ll ever see. Beautiful vistas that stretch for numerous virtual miles in all directions, a cast of imaginative characters tied to a fittingly western style story-line and even top notch gameplay, with a magnitude of varied missions types.  All the makings of a classic and yet, for reasons I’m going to try explain, I didn’t think it was very good.

Many people draw correlations between RDR and another Rockstar title, Grand theft auto (GTA) – some going as far as to label it “GTA with horses”.  Like GTA, in RDR much of the gameplay is simply travelling from mission to mission across the open world environment.  In GTA this seemingly monotonous task was made more interesting by the use of excellent radio stations to listen to on the way. The trouble is RDR is that horses don’t come installed with radios, so you spend your time galloping in dull silence.  GTA also benefited from a densely populated city and a range of vehicles with different handling to keep things interesting. In RDR it’s just you, a horse and the occasional cactus, as you ride for mile upon mile across the dusty landscape.

GTA-IV-Horse

they see me rollin’, they hatin’

However, I think my main issue with the game is that John Marston, the badass ex outlaw, is actually a bitch.  Despite talking the talk, John spends almost the entirety of the game being cuckold by US Marshals whilst protesting endlessly and making empty threats. Although the main storyline is actually very good, it doesn’t lend itself well to open world gameplay. The key to this type of game is freedom, and yet Marston is chastised by storyline. Although you are technically free to go off and do your own thing, contextually it would be out of place. See, Marston spends his entire time doing things not because he wants to, but because he want’s to get his family back, so it doesn’t make much sense to go off rustling cattle or wasting hours at poker when there are clearly more pressing issues.  This feeling of being just a loud mouth puppet with someone else pulling the strings is what ultimately spoilt the game for me.

Soldier of fortune payback

Moving on to a game that was widely slated, soldier of fortune is simply not a very good game. It’s storyline is forgettable, so are it’s characters and the gameplay feels very dated. In comparison to RDR’s score, Soldier of fortune managed a measly score of 45 on metacritic – and yet it’s a game I thoroughly enjoyed.  The games unique feature is excessive violence.  You may be familiar with the phrase “shot to pieces” – well soldier of fortune bases it’s entire game around making that phrase reality. Bullets that hit home on your enemies won’t simply kill those foes, they will rip pieces off them.  Arms, legs and heads pop off with alarming ease with an accompanying shower of blood that borders on the absurd.  The end result is somewhat of a guilty pleasure, but the sense of power is undeniable and it’s a mechanic that is rarely used at this level anywhere else.

Gratuitous violence. Awesome!

Gratuitous violence…. awesome!

I agree with the reviews though that this use of violence is a bit of a one trick pony and feels like a bit of a throw-back to games of the past – which brings me onto why I actually really like this game.  Although I doubt it was their goal and it was probably more a bi-product of incompetence, soldier of fortune acts as a homage to the retro shooter.  The voice acting is laughably cheesy with lines that are reminiscent of 80’s action movies.  The plot is as cliché as it is forgettable: Something about a world-wide terrorist organisation that needs taking down.  The enemies utilise their rubbish AI to full effect, letting you cut them down in their thousands, arm and legs flying everywhere.  Boss characters, despite being regular humans, possess that antiquated ability of soaking up damage, meaning you have to just chip away at them until they eventually go down. In short, for me, everything that is bad about this game acts in it’s favour, creating an almost one of kind game for this generation!

So does anyone else have either a great game that they didn’t like or a generally perceived rubbish game that they really love? I’d be interested to hear in the comments below.

Fodder Recommends

I’m constantly reading or watching gaming related content on the internet, but when I want to refer back to it, I can often never find it.  So below is a list of articles and/or video’s to content that I’ve found particularly good.  I’ll be adding to the list as time goes on.

Violence

This first video is part of Cam’s “The what if machine” an excellent series that took a scientific look at area’s of gaming. The video on “Violence in video games” was my person favourite:

This next article by upcoming writer Kirk McKeand show’s that a bit of research and spending some time to interview people pays dividends:

http://www.gameranx.com/features/id/12541/article/a-killer-instinct/

Sexism, Racism and Equality

This video is a bit of a strange one to “recommend” as, for numerous reasons, I don’t think it’s very good. HOWEVER, by watching it, I watched some of the other feminist frequency video’s and despite most of it being the same idea rehashed over and over, it did open my mind to the wider stereotypes in media. Anything that opens my mind a little. is worth a recommendation:

On the flip side, the above kickstarter funded video was shot down (or at least traded blows) pretty well here, on what I assume was an unfunded response by thunderf00t. Not that it’s about the money, it just added insult to injury knowing what the tropes vs women series received in funding vs the end product, and also echoed my personal opinion on the matter:

These next two are by Ryan Perez, a writer that I personally respect the opinion of, and deal with the subject of trying to censor and/or control content.

http://venturebeat.com/2013/02/01/fake-is-fake-on-sexual-objectification-offensive-material-and-all-things-naughty-in-fantasy/

http://venturebeat.com/2013/02/12/tiny-tina-be-trippin-on-free-expression-and-artistic-integrity/

Games Journalism

Journalism about journalism eh? These next articles look into that very subject.

This first one is by Rab Florence, a bloke that I personally have a bit of a love/hate relationship (we’ve never dated) with. Some days the stuff he tweets annoys me, where as some of it is completely spot on.  This is, what I think, one of his better articles:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-10-24-lost-humanity-18-a-table-of-doritos

Reviews

Ben Yahtzee Croshaw has created a video series amusing to the point that you can enjoy them even if you’re not interested in his view of the game or, in fact, interested in games at all. His hard to please nature means that I rarely watch the video’s in search of an actual opinion, instead I just soak up the comical genius.  Although they are all great, this particular video stands out because I actually agree whole heatedly with reasoning and examples he uses to tear the game apart.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/1732-Monster-Hunter-Tri