Mass Effect: pre launch jitters

Trailer

Oh Mass Effect.  How you seem to always incite passion in gamers.  For the past ten years you have given SciFi fans the near perfect canvas to paint their Star Trek / Starwars fantasies, and you’ve asked for so little in return.  But there is a darker side to your relationship with your fans that the BioWare PR department hasn’t used while talking about your newest instalment.  Of course I’m talking about the hate that comes from the strangest of places – your fans.

“Please don’t hate me. Give me a chance.”

Alright, so I’m definitely more of a casual fan of the series.   I got to the party late on my PS3 and started with Mass Effect 2.  All the same, I poured close to a hundred hours into loyalty quests, upgrades, a complicated relationship with Jack, and my constant fear that Jacob was actually Xzibit and was going to try to pimp my Normandy.  I managed to keep everyone alive and felt a real sense of attachment to my crew and our story.

There it was.  One playthrough.  Good times.  Fond memories.  Mad respect for BioWare and their crafting of another adventure I could talk about with both fellow players, and my non gaming SciFi nerd friends alike.  Genius.  I can only imagine how attached hardcore fans were by then, having played TWO amazing adventures at this point.  I never had to live through the choice between Ashley and Kaiden.  That was just a cut scene for me.

I’ve had so many heated discussions with friends and co-workers about the Mass Effect universe. On several occasions, I’ve come pretty close to losing a few of both because I didn’t see eye to eye with their view of their  Sheppard and the whole story.  I’m not going to get into all the different gripes I’ve heard in the last decade about Mass Effect.  Haters gonna hate.  The world keeps turning.  

The elephant in the room however is the perfect example as to why I’m concerned for Andromeda on the 21st. Mass Effect 3’s ending is what I’ve been building towards.  The huge fan outcry, to me, was a tad on the rediculous side.  I understand a real, emotional connection with  your Sheppard, but just because you worked so hard and fell in love with with the Normandy and her crew, doesn’t justify the need for a Disney fairytale ending where everyone hugs and the universe is safe once again.  I really enjoyed and respect the original, non edited ending.  War is won with lives.  The “Sheppard’s” in real wars, fighting on the front lines seldom get to return to claim victory.  Many lives are spent with little remorse to save many more lives.  Victory isn’t always the best outcome.  Sometimes it’s about avoiding the worst outcome.  This is what I got from the ending of 3.  These words fell on deaf ears of many, MANY hardcore fans after the credits rolled.  I can sympathize, even if I can’t agree.

Thinking back on all those heated debates, where friendships were strained, I can’t help but worry.  The early access players are already stirring the pot, and while I haven’t heard the sentence yet, I can feel it coming.  “This isnt Mass Effect.  Where’s my Sheppard?”
I hope cooler heads prevail and everyone can enjoy the new Mass Effect for what it is, a BioWare adventure you can get lost in and passionate about once again.

No more cupcakegates. 

What do you think?

I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish Resident Evil 7

​Warning: Minor Spoilers

Another day in paradise

I’m at a stalemate in my first RE7 playthrough,and I’m not 100% sure why.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m enjoying myself.  I’m​ not one of the RE purists that hates the new direction that Capcom has taken.  To the contrary.  I commend it.

So why oh WHY am I not on my fifth playthrough?  

I know what the number one culprit is.  The release date.  Had RE come out in the fall, when I’m marathoning my horror movie collection, I would already be in the mindset of “scary good”.  In January, the only things I find truly terrifying is the idea that I have to go outside into the cold, and my credit card bill from Christmas.  So after a long day (because you only play scary games at night, with the lights off). I still have to amp up to do myself a frighten.  Sigh.  Maybe I’ll just see who’s playing Borderlands instead.

The other issue specifically THIS year, is the abundance of really good titles that have been released post holiday.  I didn’t actually get to RE until late February, and it started competing with Horizon Zero Dawn the moment that monster came out.  Sometimes I’m the perfect customer for the gaming industry.  I want almost all the games, and I seem to have the attention span of a goldfish.  Good for my local game retailer.  Bad for my wallet, relationship, and completed games list.

But what’s wrong with the game?  Nothing really.  The graphics are great.  The sound design is top notch.  There is an atmosphere that I haven’t felt in an RE game in ages ( in a totally good way ).
I think that maybe one of the design choices that works so well, and looks good on paper, even to me, is part of what has put me off so far – the tention that comes from the game never letting you breathe, or feel safe.  I know, I know.  “Stop whining.  It’s a survival horror game!”. 

I just know im going to hate these freaks.

With the switch to first person perspective, I’m just programmed to want to explore. And with a house of horrors and puzzles I can’t help but want to check under every cobweb covered detail for that next clue.  But it’s borderline impossible to do with Mr Baker, the unkillable super mutant after you.  Stalking you everywhere you go.  I had just ran him over with a car a few dozen times, set him on fire, and blew some stuff up in his half a face.  I got it pretty early on that he’s not going to be easy to kill, but I would have liked more than two rooms worth of peace and quiet before he showed back up ready to fillet my face.

Don’t mess with me! I have a gun! Oh wait, I’ve shot you like 20 times already.

I understand that the tention they are using is based on me never getting a chance to feel comfortable.  The knowledge that there is someone stalking you no matter where you are.  Doors won’t save you.  Neither will walls in some cases.  In theory, I love this.  I guess my frustration stems from feeling like there’s a whole game to be played, but I can’t for fear of having my leg removed with a shovel if I stop to check what that VHS tape is all about. 
Maybe I’m just being a big baby.  

Maybe I need to keep pushing on.

I like what I’ve played so far.  I don’t want to play another horror themed walking simulator.  I just need to know that I’m not going to spend the next 10 or more hours getting the shit beaten out of me by a bunch of mutant yokels and that’s that.
Maybe I’ll throw it back in after a few more missions in Horizon.
What do you think?

(Keep the spoilers minimal please)

Still a Gem?  “The Last of Us”

Trailer.

​Full disclosure, this is one of my personal favorite games of all time.  I chose to write about it first because, to me, it is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
The argument I end up in oh so often, is that game “X” it the greatest game of all time.  I personally don’t want to believe there is an untouchable greatest game of all time, and end up challenging someone’s views of their greatest game.  Is it grand nostalgia?  Or is their gem truly a timeless classic?

The Last of Us – to me – isn’t a perfect game, but from the moment the end credits rolled the first time I finished it, I knew I would never forget the gaming experience, or the emotionally drained state it left me in.  To me it was the greatest game I have ever played.

Looking Back

Realeased originally on June 14th 2013 on the PS3, The Last of Us was received with fairly unanimous critical acclaim constantly scoring on average a 95%.  Just over a year later, in August 2014, it had sold over 7 million copies on PS3, and a million copies of the HD remaster on PS4.

Reviewers praised the story, characters, and well designed gameplay.  It isn’t hard to find a positive review, but you can find one of my personal favorites here.

Back to the present.
After playing back through The Last of Us, one thing that might be starting to show its age is the graphics.  I played through on the PS4 HD remaster (without the 4K upscale – no fancy PS pros for this guy).  While still quite far from ugly, some of its textures, lighting and particle effects are starting to show signs of age.  It’s not that it looks bad, there are just some games doing a far better job now (I’m lookin at you Horizon Zero Dawn).  While important to the atmosphere and helping with the illusion of the stealth segments, these aren’t the most important visuals of the game.  Those still belong to the characters and both their motions and facial animations, and they are still excellent.  The performances by all the talented actors still shine through and make all those digital characters very human, and their story that much more of an emotional  affair.

And then there’s the story.  If you’re ​a fan of The Last of Us, and you haven’t seen the movie The Road, bookmark this, go watch that, come back, and thank me in the comments.  

Back?  Ok.  Let’s continue.
While I can feel heavy influence from movies like The Road, and maybe even some Romero scattered in the background, The Last of Us has a story that feels familiar, but manages to focus so heavily on the human elements in such an inhuman world.  I could spend hours talking about my respect for the story, it’s themes of human relationships and dependancy, or how much I respect the game for not just making the entire 15+ hour experience about redemption, but I’ll leave it to this: the story and the characters within have been crafted with such love and care, that you can’t help but truly feel a connection with them that motivates you to push on and do whatever it takes to survive.  It’s a powerful and sometimes emotionally taxing experience that I have only felt playing a videogame a handful of times and never to this degree.

But all of this could have just been a really long movie without the gameplay.  As a rule, I’m not usually a fan of stealth gameplay.  I’m horrible at it.  I get spotted and panic and then “poof” mission failed please try again.  The Last of Us manages to make stealth an important part of survival within the game, where if you’re spotted, the tention gives way to all out panic and chaos.  Once you hear that runner scream, you have seconds to run or make a stand, using up valuable resources in the process, leaving you vaulnerable for possible future confrontations.  I’ve played this game from beginning to end a dozen times.  I know every scene and senerio like the back of my hand, but because of the superbly crafted gameplay, I still find myself sitting on the edge of my seat with every encounter mumbling “oh god oh god oh man….” the whole time.

If you’ve read this far, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious.  The Last of Us is a gem.  If you haven’t played it, you need to.  If you have played it.  Play it again.  It won’t disappoint.

Now I will just have to play though it again while waiting for The Last of Us 2. 

Thanks for reading.  What’s your favorite game of all time?