SPOILER ALERT: This is a opinion piece that involves detailed discussion of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman (1989), Batman Returns, and the dumster fires that were Joel Schumacher’s horrible Batman movies. If you haven’t seen one, two or any of these and don’t want to read about story defining plot points, twists and surprises, then you’d best stop reading now.
I’m not too much of a comic guy. Without going too much into detail, the only superhero/comic that I’ve ever been “invested” in was Batman. I grew up watching the campy TV show with Adam West and Ceasar Romero, I never wanted to miss an episode of Super Friends and I was personally affronted if I missed either the Caped Crusader or the Dynamic Duo in appearances they made on Scooby Doo.
I was in the prime of my youth (the late eighties) when Batman comics experienced the renaissance that brought The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, Son of the Demon, Batman: Year One, Batman: The Cult and of course A Death In The Family. I even have a Smithsonian comic book collection that includes reprints of the very first Batman story told in Detective Comics, as well as the very first issue of Batman’s own comic.
Now as the nineties progressed and I started getting laid a lot more, comics became less and less of a priority, but my point was that I’m a fan of the Batman series and while I may not have my finger on the pulse of what mythos happens on what Earth after that whole Infinite Crisis thing, I still like the story. I know that may not be hardcore enough for some of you out there…and my response is, “Fuck you, Captain Sweatpants.” Anywho, I’ve just wrapped up watching The Dark Knight Rises on Blu Ray, and now that I’ve seen all of the Nolan/Bale Batfilms, I’d like to offer my opinion.
First and foremost, I’d like to say that I enjoyed the ride. I’m appreciative of the direction the series took, and as a Frank Miller fan, I’m also appreciative of the fact that the series boosted so many of Miller’s ideas, story angles and set pieces…because BOY did they ever adopt quite a bit of Frank Miller’s vision…even Bats calling the actual bats in Batman Begins…literally taken right from the pages. But not to rest on only one aspect of the films, I thought the translation was a little lacking, I thought some of the casting was questionable at best, but as a whole, the series did Bob Kane proud in presenting the Batman and his struggles with Gotham City and it’s many crazy characters.
However as an end observation, I think it just got to be a little much. First of all, the setting is straight out of Year One…especially for the unfortunately titled initial film, Batman Begins. The evening scenes are almost all filmed with an overlay of yellowish brown that only enhances the projection of Miller’s filthy and corrupt version of Gotham City…and that’s fine. Really I think this is the best film of the Nolan’s trilogy, mainly because while it endeavors to offer a more “gritty” view of Gotham than previous Batman films have, the movie still remembers that it’s based on a comic book.
Gary Oldman is superb in all three movies as Lieutenant/Captain/Commissioner Gordon, but Gary Oldman is also one of the finest actors on the face of the Earth, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. Michael Caine plays Alfred with an aloof sensitivity that does the character justice, and he shows his feelings for Bruce much more successfully than Michael Gough did in the Burton films. Morgan Freeman, like Oldman is typically fantastic as the superficially written Lucius Fox, with his only dramatic moment coming when he refuses to hijack every cell phone in Gotham in the search for the Joker.
With regard to the protagonist, it must be said that Christian Bale absolutely excels in the role of Bruce Wayne. Regardless if in one scene Bruce is an overly sensitive borderline emo prep school dropout, a prisoner in a Chinese gulag, or a billionaire playboy gettin it on with some Boats and Hos action, Bale captures everything there is to capture about the Bruce Wayne character. You can feel his pain, you can see through his charades, but you can also enjoy both of them as they are excellent performances…in all of the movies.
The Batman however…makes me sigh. First let me say that there’s no physical demands of the role that Bale wasn’t able to meet. Fighting, walking, driving, flying, gliding, riding a motorcycle or just chillin in the Batcave, Bale’s Batman moves as fluidly as anyone’s and his presence commands the appropriate respect. In fact, Bale’s Batman is absolutely money…until he starts talking. Bale’s register while under the horned cowl is that of a laryngitic pedophile with cotton balls stuffed into his cheeks. You can hear the saliva build in Bale’s mouth as he talks…it’s like he’s fucking Mouth Breather Batman. The scene in Batman Begins where he’s yelling at Flass in the alley…ANSWER ME!!!!…is an eyeball roller.
The thing that kills me is that I know for a fact that I’m not the only one to point the annoying nature of Bale’s delivery as Batman out, furthermore I also know for a fact that people were saying this publicly and often after the first screening of the first film…yet Mouth Breather Batman persisted throughout the entirety of the trilogy. In all honesty, it’s not quite a dealbreaker, but unfortunately in a franchise like this that’s had so many iterations and is so imbued in the conciousness of American entertainment, the cotton balls really hold Bale’s performance back from actualizing its greatness. Bale is clearly the best at playing Bruce Wayne, but he’s not a better Batman than Keaton was in the 1989 classic…and the ridiculous rasp of his voice has a lot to do with that.
The villains of Nolan’s trilogy have been more of a mixed bag. Liam Neeson of course was outstanding as Ra’s Al Ghul. Anyone familiar with the comic recognized Ra’s immediately, despite his ruse in the movie’s beginning. Neeson’s performance showed me a Ra’s Al Ghul that was at once more and less human than the Ra’s Al Ghul in the comics, and I liked it. In the scenes where he’s teaching Bruce, you can feel Ra’s’ paternal instinct, yet in the execution of the League Of Shadows’ plans, Neeson’s Al Ghul is less likely to be reasoned with as the character in the comics, which worked quite well.
Cillian Murphy was quite understated as Doctor Crane/Scarecrow, and his performance as well was a success. While he was essentially an ancillary villain in the first movie, his cameos in the second and third were also memorable…the third moreso than the second.
In the second film, I felt like the addition of Two Face took away from the overall quality of the movie. During my initial screening of The Dark Knight, I asked myself “Holy shit, this movie isn’t freaking over yet?” on more than one occasion. There’s good tension and buildup in the film, and the score is freaking outstanding, but it’s just too damn long. Too much attention was paid to the Harvey Dent/Rachel Dawes/Bruce Wayne triangle, and the rise and near immediate demise of Two Face at the end was an unnecessary frivolity. It was done well, the build, the tension and the performances…it’s difficult not to like Aaron Eckhart in any role, and the intensity he brought to Two Face was palpable.
…which makes it all the worse that he’s almost immediately killed off. Two Face is an iconic villain in the Batman universe and he’s basically used as cannon fodder in The Dark Knight. Furthermore, Eckhart’s portrayal of Two Face was probably one of the best attempts to translate him from the page of the comics to the screen. Yes, that is a direct reference to how God Fucking Awful Tommy Lee Jones was as Two Face in the movie where Schumacher put nipples on the Bat Suit. Bottom line, keeping the whole “half Harvey’s face gets blown off” thing in The Dark Knight would’ve been fine, but having a full on Two Face encounter and to have it end so quickly and so weakly…those was an absolute waste that lessened the film. Two Face should’ve gotten his own film, if at all.
It’s Batman…Not Saw 16.
Then we come to Heath Ledger’s Joker. As an alternate reality style portrayal, I liked it. Ledger played Joker very well in his own way, but the idea was clearly to make Joker “gritty” and “edgy,” which I guess you could say was Nolan’s overlying theme with this trilogy. While a remarkable performance, Ledger’s Joker absolutely forgot that he spawned from a comic book. There were times where Ledger’s Joker was comic, and there were other times when his character seemed to be based on something you’d find in torture porn. I personally found the discontinuity of Joker’s reboot to be a major flaw in the presentation.
I was also unsatisfied with the suggestion early in the film that the Joker “worked for” anyone, even the mob. I get that it was a setup, but even feigning servitude is supposed to be below the Joker. The Joker is a criminal mastermind, not some merc for hire. Then…there’s the makeup. I’m not mad at the look overall, no…new interpretation at the time, definitely did the Joker justice IMO. My thing about the make up is that it’s make up. Apparently…Nolan’s/Ledger’s Joker isn’t some hideously deformed freak with bleached white skin…he’s a guy with a Moscow Smile and some facial grease paint. Sure…sure…the makeup only comes off once and it’s really just a little tidbit of the story that is being told…yeah, still not the Joker. Not the Joker at all.
Now with all that griping out of the way, please let me reiterate that Ledger’s performance as the Joker was in fact legendary. It was a far different interpretation of the character than we’ve ever seen, and it worked very well. He meshed well with Nolan’s Milleresque Gotham City and brought a new layer of fear and loathing to the Joker’s emotional instability. He embraced the concept of chaos in a way that the character never had prior and while the presentation went overboard in attempting to portray the Joker’s psychoses, the Joker’s central theme that everyone is just one bad day away from going crazy was translated well in the film. For all the dinginess and grunge of him, Ledger’s Joker had enough style and flair to not be a complete abandonment of the character’s core, while at the same time it still saw the Joker from a completely new angle.
Aaron Eckhart…I won’t talk much about him, lest you start to think that I have a serious mancrush…which I probably do. Pause…no homo. Seriously tho, Eckhart is fiercely convincing as Harvey Dent (not to mention dreamy) and probably even more intense as Two Face than Ledger was as the Joker. If only the Two Face character had been treated with more respect by Nolan and his writers. Seriously, the fact that fucking Bane got more run than Two Face is a goddamned travesty.
And that brings us to…Bane. I’ve never liked Bane. When they brought him into the comics, that pretty much signalled the end of my interest in Batman comics. When I saw him in the Shameful Schumaker Film, I was finished with that generation of Batman movies. Honestly the 89 Batman still stands to me as the best Batman film to date…and while Batman Returns struggled to be mediocre, the films made subsequently with Clooney and Kilmer…that whole Schumacher sequence of films is just a fucking disgrace. But anyway…I digress. Bane sucks. Bane’s always sucked. Not a fan; never will be.
But the thing is, you can even put aside the fact that I hate Bane. The Dark Knight Rises’ presentation of Bane only made me hate him even more. The accent he used from under that mask was ri-fucking-diculous. Sounded like Jesse Pinkman doing his impression of James Earl Jones’ Thusa Doom while LL Cool J sodomizes him with a pool stick. Just absolutely horrible. The character himself wasn’t much better. Basically was a monologue machine…monologue, monologue, monologue. There was no back story (not his backstory anyway)…no nothing at all, just this guy who…nevermind. Beyond the hollowness of the portrayal and the fact that I find nothing redeeming or interesting or even really worth my time about the Bane character, he only furthered my opinion that the films went too far in trying to be gritty. Not “wow, that’s just shocking” too far, but “Jesus Christ, do you even realize how lame that is” far.
Bane’s initial escape from custody is a high action sequence, with a full out firefight, jailbreak, brawl and daring escape happening on a G5 jet that’s getting torn to pieces. Okay, I’m supposed to forget about the fact that the pressure destabilization at that altitude and that speed would’ve knocked everyone on the plane the fuck out and send them all falling to their bone-crushing, pulpy doom 20,000 feet below them…but they felt the need to portray the Joker in such a light that I don’t feel comfortable allowing my 12 and 8 year old sons to watch The Dark Knight. Wild with the inconsistency.
Of course we don’t want to forget Anne Hathaway, who looked great in the skin tight Catwoman suit, but I thought her character as well rung hollow. All we know about her is that she’s a freakishly highly skilled cat burglar with a spandex costume and a whip…basically a felonious walking wet dream. Hathaway, despite being one of the more overrated actresses in Hollywood (she’s good, but Oscar good?? I think not), did her best, but she wasn’t given much to work with. There’s absolutely no depth to her character, and Hathaway is given little chance to establish any on her own. Hathaway probably would’ve been better suited to the Rachel Dawes character, as her cynical portrayal of Catwoman lacks the personality that the character should’ve demanded.
Michelle Pfeiffer…despite being riddled with a horrible script and ridiculous lines, gave personality and depth to both Selina Kyle and Catwoman. She was hot and crazy as Kyle…and had the restraint to not overdo the crazy part, but the style and grace with which she played the Catwoman was simply unmatched since the days of Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar. Sorry Lee Meriweather…but you were awesome as Solid Snake’s mom. But seriously, watch the scene where she catches Batman on a roof and then show me the clip in The Dark Knight Rises where Hathaway’s Catwoman has even half of the personality/style. Yeah, yeah…the dialogue is incredibly campy…but the personality of it all. Simply marvelous there, and absent from…well any of Nolan’s Batman movies.
And oh yeah…Rachel Dawes. You’ll have to forgive me. In my world, Rachel Dawes is the daughter of The Reaper who took Hamlet’s advice and got herself to a nunnery after she found out who her father was. Katie Holmes was perky, solid and hot as Dawes…as long as herpes and hammertoe are your thing…(inside joke)…but Jake Gyllenhaal’s sister?? Seriously??? You replace Katie fucking Holmes with Jake Gyllenhall’s sister?? Not for nothing, but if you put a gun to my head and told me that the only way I could save my life was to bang either Jake or Maggie…I’d have to sit down and think it over. Seriously…and I say this as a 100% heterosexual man…Jake is prettier than his sister is. Pause…no homo.
Not to be forgotten is Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s and (in the comics anyway) wife/betrothed of Batman. Marion Cotilliard is fantastic as Talia, although we don’t really know she’s Talia until the end…and like Joker and Catwoman, Nolan’s Talia al Ghul is a significant departure for the character. She sees Bane as something of a father figure or protector, which runs absolutely contrary to her opinion of him in the comics. Furthermore, she’s obsessed with carrying out Ra’s failed plan to purge and cleanse Gotham City, despite the fact that she never really seemed to be half as fanatical about her father’s schemes in the comic books. In the vacuum of the Nolan trilogy, it works well and provides an honest to God twist to a movie which to that point had been a well executed by-the-numbers superhero movie, but I have to admit I was confused at first.
I’d also like to say that Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was great as officer Blake/Robin in The Dark Knight Rises. He built on the badass that he was in Inception and I look forward to seeing Tommy (he’ll always be Tommy to me) in more grown up, ass kicking roles. No, I didn’t see Premium Rush, nor do I intend to, but from the trailers, I can tell that Tommy would be excellent in the role of Cole McGrath if any Hollywood studios pick up the inFAMOUS titles for big screen adaptation.
Overall, Nolan’s trilogy is worth the money to buy all three on Blu Ray. They’re a bit long, especially The Dark Knight, and the treatment lent to some of the most iconic characters in the series is at times dismissive enough to be borderline offensive, but they’ve got good action, good tone, and for the most part they are paced well. Shave 30-40 minutes off of The Dark Knight and that movie would’ve been damn near perfect…again, in the vacuum of the Nolan trilogy. I don’t think Bale’s Batman or Ledger’s Joker eclipse the definitive performances by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film, but what do you want…Keaton was Burton’s muse before he found Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson is motherfucking Jack fucking Nicholson.
If I were to rate Nolan’s trilogy as a whole, I’d say it gets an 8 out of 10, and if we’re talking about multiple movies over a series of years, it’s the best running presentation of Batman that Hollywood has come up with. Individually, I still prefer Burton’s 1989 masterpiece overall, but the mediocrity of Batman Returns and the complete abhorration of the three Schumacher films that continued Burton’s films make Nolan’s trilogy the easy winner for sustained telling of the Batman’s story.
Just the other day, Microsoft Studios sacrificed their former creative director Dan Orth to the prevailing public opinion that he’s a fucking douche who needs to drink a tall glass of some Shut The Fuck Up Juice. At issue was DRM for the “Next Xbox,” which has been purported to employ an Always On feature to validate gameplay. The very thought of this caused quite a wave of ire and backlash throughout the gaming community…even Bert was pissed when he heard.
Rather than dispel rumor or even at least address the backlash with some degree of tact or diplomacy, Dan Orth (the aforementioned former creative director of Microsoft Studios) took to Twitter with a rather condescending remark on the subject.
#DealWithIt has since become an internet meme used when someone is acting like a complete and total buffoon in attempt to defend a person or a process that is so fundamentally wrong that its very existence is an affront to common sense and personal dignity. It’s come to symbolize an industry that has become so bloated and stagnant that it might as well be the zombie at the bottom of Herschel Greene’s well.
Ahhh, irony. You may or may not know or care that there’s a new generation of consoles set to be released to retail shelves sometime prior to this Christmas shopping season. Regardless of any of our positions on weather or not a new gen of consoles is necessary or even called for at this point is irrelevant…this is happening. We’ve heard plenty about PS4 to this point…and I guess Nintendo released a new console, too…but all the noise about Microsoft’s “Next Xbox” is that it’s going to (allegedly) not play used games and have an Always On DRM Lockout.
For the unfamiliar, Always On is a form of Digital Rights Management, which is a series of safeguards that software and (now apparently) hardware manufacturers created to protect against piracy. Always On means your next gen Xbox will always have to have an established and stable broadband connection to the internet to work. I know many of my friends don’t enjoy online multiplayer games…yet unfortunately if rumors are to be believed, the next gen Xbox will require a continuous high speed connection even to play a single player game.
Of course, this means you can’t ever have a power outage, internet outage or simply not have an internet connection if you want to play games on your next gen Xbox…like…at all. Yes…even if you have no intention of EVER playing your game online in any way…it simply won’t work if your next gen Xbox isn’t logged in online. And when I say “logged in,” you know that I mean logged in…to Xbox LIVE. That pesky $60 tax Microsoft imposes on their customers to use the internet that they already pay for. Given the fact that not only has M$ double dipped their customers’ ISPs for the last ten years, but they INCREASED the price of double dipping by $10 a couple of years ago…it’s safe to assume that you’re going to need to be or to get paid up on your Xbox LIVE Gold…just to have a reason to turn your next gen Xbox on.
Naturally, the very idea has made gamers hostile. The problem with the situation however is that customer hostility and backlash is something very very different for Microsoft and Xbox. Not to be preachy or judgemental…even tho I’m going to be…but Xbox users are a strange bunch. Maybe I’m just being an old geezer here, but IMO Microsoft has been the enemy of paying customers since they released Windows 98. The last time that many anti-trust suits were brought against one company, Standard fucking Oil was broken up and the Rockefeller family went from being Oil Barons to being politicians. Yet…Xbox users LOOOOOOVE Microsoft.
Think about the overall picture of Xbox fanboys. First, they’re in bed with the devil. I know, Bobby Kotick is the fucking devil, but ladies and gentlemen if he slips and falls in the shower, Bill fucking Gates will be right there to pick up the torch and take his rightful place in the center of the frozen river of Cocytus. Microsoft wrote the book on “Money Grubbing Bitches,” then they turned it into an art form. It’s now a regular show on Broadway. Bill Gates gives billions away to any charity with a bank account…all to avoid paying taxes…Paul Allen bought the city of Seattle or something…these are guys that were programming spreadsheets before they stole tech from Xerox…they almost literally “pirated” their way to an obscene amount of riches…and despite the fact that they’re bending over backwards to make sure gamers don’t “pirate” them in the same way they did Xerox…for some reason gamers held Microsoft as champions.
They pay Microsoft a yearly subscription for Xbox LIVE…which well all know is a ripoff. They seem contractually obligated to love every game in the Halo series. THEY EVEN LOVE THE BAN HAMMER!!!! Seriously…”Major Nelson,” or Larry Hryb as his mom named him, is the guy in charge of enforcing bans on Xbox LIVE. He has an official, non predatory job title, but he’s basically the ban hammer for M$. I remember once M$ banned like a million “accounts” in a day and this fucking guy held a press conference gloating about it as if he’d just won the Heavyweight Belt from Muhammad Ali in his prime.
But of course…no “accounts” were banned, noooooo. Microsoft doesn’t ban ACTUAL ACCOUNTS. They ban CONSOLES that they logged/marked/think were somehow cheating or playing pirated software. They don’t ban the Xbox LIVE account…and that’s why this prick Hryb was so happy…because by bricking a million Xbox 360s, he knew that he’d pretty much created at least 600,000 new Xbox 360 sales. Yes. If you ask my opinion, Microsoft bans people so brazenly (as opposed to Sony, who needs a trial by jury to ban and reset a known cheater) because they know that for every 10 consoles they brick, they’ll sell 6 new ones. That’s correct…not to digress too far, but Microsoft’s banning policy on Xbox LIVE is little more than a ploy to artificially inflate their sales figures…and Larry Hryb is the man behind this cunning and devious ploy…
…AND STILL XBOX FANBOYS LOVE THIS DUDE!?!?!?!?!? Seriously. I got no love for narcs, snitches, snake oil slinging scumbags or people who think that they have a right to take other people’s money for nothing…and that’s exactly what Larry Hryb is, that’s exactly what he and Xbox LIVE represent, yet Xbox fanboys love both of them. They will scream you down about how XBL is the greatest “service” on the planet and “Major Nelson” is the coolest cat this side of Prince. But I’m not here to talk about XBL or Larry Hryb.
This is where we come back to Dan Orth…and it’s also where he AND Microsoft went dead fucking wrong. By moving to Always On, Microsoft is trying to milk a cow that stopped lactating months ago. You can’t force people to keep an internet connection if they want to play a single player game. Some people aren’t rich…they don’t necessarily have 4G cell phones or high speed internet, but they still like to game. The economy is shit. The game industry’s economy is even shittier than the global economy. Studios are getting shuttered weeks before AAA launches that they’ve ground years to produce…some of them, 38 Studios for example, were shuttered before finishing their game, despite ridiculous infusions of millions of dollars. Gamers want to see the industry pick itself up and adapt to the times, not implode under the weight of its own hubris.
Yet despite the crappy economy, Sony and Microsoft are launching their “Next Generation of Consoles” later this year. Not only is this an ill advised move given the economic realities of the gaming industry in 2013, but games like God Of War Ascension and The Last of Us are launching, and they’re showing off graphics and technical prowess that would indicate that this generation of consoles has not yet reached its full potential, therefore making the launch of the next generation premature and unnecessary. Quite honestly, all indications are that this next generation of consoles might end in a similar way that the video games crash of the 1980s did.
With the potential of this generation still not fully actualized, with the economy in shambles and with people paying less and less money for games no matter how good they are (for examples see THQ and Square Enix), Microsoft somehow has the balls to feel entitled to their money. After all, they forced them to pay for Xbox LIVE…then they forced all Xbox LIVE users to have high speed broadband connections…then they turned their “Paid Service” into a glorified billboard…then they started banning people like crazy when they realized that 60% of the banned would simply buy a new console.
Why shouldn’t Microsoft feel entitled to their customers’ money?? They’ve been fucking Xbox users up the ass since they introduced the damn thing a dozen years ago…why should this next gen be any different?? Xbox LIVE Gold subs for everyone and that internet connection better be high speed and humming or else your nice new $500 Xbox 720 and the $70 game you just bought won’t work. Deal with it.
That is why Dan Orth is no longer with Microsoft. Orth’s comments themselves aren’t particularly snarky or undignified until you get to the hashtag. They’re certainly wrong. In my home between myself, my wife and our three kids, we have laptops, tablets, smartphones, Vitas, 3DSes, PS3s and Xbox 360s…plural. Those devices are NOT connected to the internet all of the time. I’m not going to lie…the economy is in the shitter and there were a few months in the last 12 or 24 where the wife and I had to shut down the internet to make sure every end was met that month. When you have three kids and a mortgage and aren’t part of “The One Percent,” then sometimes those are the sacrifices that you have to make.
Orth’s post, while completely stupid and wrong, reflected this sense that Microsoft feels entitled to gamers’ money. He basically went on Twitter and dared every potential “Next Xbox” user to not buy the next Xbox. Seriously how does anyone of sound mind in the position that he was in, working for a company that’s ramping up to their biggest, most expensive and most critical product launch in seven years…how the fuck was he THAT FUCKING STUPID to go all condescending on Twitter, telling people #DealWithIt
Cliffy B came out and lamented the parting of the ways between Orth and M$, taking care to spell out that Orth wasn’t fired, but had “resigned.” First of all, Gears Of War wasn’t a good enough game for Cliffy B to have all this goodwill. Dude is a Twitter Troll the likes of which even Orth probably thinks crosses a line. How the hell he’s still employed in the indust–oh…wait. Secondly, I know what people are saying is that he resigned…I however don’t believe that his resignation was anything about which he had a choice. Microsoft stands to lose it’s fucking ass if the next Xbox goes the way of the Wii U.
Seriously think about the history of the Xbox. The original Xbox sold 24,000,000 units. Xbox fanboys look at the original as a triumph, but in reality, Xbox only sold 2 million more units than GameCube, which is widely considered an abject failure. PS2 of course sold like 150 million units and they’re probably still selling them. Then the 360 stormed out of the gates a year ahead of PS3 and seemed poised to ultimately beat Playstation…but in the end, PS3′s sales caught up and passed 360. Sony continued to support the PS3 long after M$ practically abandoned the 360 to work on the next gen, so there’s pretty much no way Microsoft doesn’t come in third place with the final sales tally of this gen.
Microsoft has done well for itself, make no mistake, but again…this is the beast that Billy Gates built. They’re not used to “doing well for themselves” in Seattle, they’re used to owning the game, driving the competition out of business and letting the lawyers handle pesky, unimportant things such as Monopoly accusations, Anti Trust lawsuits, Business Ethics and the like. Microsoft doesn’t want to “do well” in the next gen, they want to win and win big. Orth’s comments ignited a firestorm of bad publicity and consumer vitriol the likes of which Microsoft’s gaming division has never seen. No…I don’t believe for a second that Orth “resigned.” I’m pretty sure that if he hadn’t “resigned,” they’d have fired him. In the end, his boneheaded tweet may still cost Microsoft billions of dollars…no way anyone survives THAT shit storm.
Anyways, Cliffy B was fairly apologetic and even tried to further Orth’s actual point, concerning the nature of gaming devices and their growing relationship with the internet…but even he admitted that what Orth said was stupid, and it was indeed stupid enough for a guy to lose his job. And that’s the thing. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Activision, EA, Ubisoft…they’re not entitled to our money. They can’t just run some crappy product out there and expect the vulgar masses to lap it up. Nintendo’s learning that lesson the hard way right now with Wii U. Third parties can’t seem to abandon the platform fast enough…and with good reason. Like the Wii before it, the Wii U is not even close to being able to run the same kinds of games with the same kind of graphics and performance as the Sony and Microsoft consoles of the same gen will be able to.
Nintendo of course let their hubris cloud their judgement. They didn’t see the success of the Wii for the lightning in the bottle that it was, they saw it as a license to be as douchey as they wanted to be. Now the Wii U is a sinking ship. Orth’s comments were borne out of the same sort of hubris…the same sense of entitlement. In so doing, he completely failed to have any empathy for his paying customers and pissed almost all of them off. And all I have to say is: It’s about fucking time.
You can’t be a dick like that on Twitter…especially if you’re going to be counting on customers to dig deep into their pocketbooks for you later on down the line. You can’t alienate your userbase. We can hope that this will show Microsoft just how stupid Always On DRM is and maybe encourage them to take steps to eliminate it from their next generation of consoles…but it might honestly be too late for that. Either way, there’s one less condescending douchebag working for Microsoft Studios, and while that may not be good news for Dan Orth, his family, or the people who own the note on his car and/or house, it’s right that people be held accountable for the words out of their mouth. Back in my day, there used to be the saying that “You don’t want your mouth to write checks that your ass can’t cash.”
Cliffy can lament Orth’s fate all he wants, but the proof is right there on Orth’s Twitter account right now. Try to find him on Twitter, and you’ll get a message that his Twitter account is now “Protected,” and you have to be a “confirmed follower” to see his tweets. If this issue was as irrelevant as Cliffy B (and I’m sure Dan Orth) want us to think it is, then why is Orth’s Twitter account now locked?? Why is he now hiding his opinion if he’s on some kind of moral high ground??
The answer is simple: He’s not on some moral high ground. He’s a fucking idiot who was talking shit when he should’ve probably been listening or at least doing something more productive. In that way, he’s indicative of the younger generation…a bunch of entitled pussies who’ve been so coddled that they can’t bear the thought of something that might force them out of the precious little box they live in. Too many of these little shits think that the world owes them a favor…that somehow life has to conform to them. That’s clearly the way Orth felt about the Next Xbox being an Always On DRM machine.
Oh well…while you and I may have what’s referred to as “common sense,” not all people do…and some people have to learn this the hard way. Fuck ‘em. That’s what they get.
…seriously. And FYI…don’t read this if you don’t want to have aspects of God Of War Ascension spoiled for you the way they were spoiled for me. Although I’m courteous enough to at least sound the ****SPOILER ALERT**** on this, I really, really wish that certain bald, fugly “game journalists” had the same respect for me. I’m not mentioning names…yes I am, it was Adam Sessler. Old wavy hands, on a crusade Adam Sessler…
Some of you may be aware that Adam Sessler got his review of God Of War Ascension up on Rev3games and was in quite the tizzy about the a sequence where you curb stomp one of the main protagonists of the game, which was rewarded with a trophy called Bros Before Hos. Like a good Potato Head, Sessler got his angry eyes out of his butt and started yammering about how offended he was by the trophy, referring to it as a “misogynistic gut punch.”
Now, having only seen it once and having not gone over it with a fine tooth comb, I can only assume the trophy’s name was what offended him, because the preceding sequence in which you curb stomp what you think is a magical, pissed off woman who just spent the last ten minutes trying to kill you with all sorts of magical fuckery…yeah THAT wasn’t anything different from the standard fare of depraved indifference for human life that God Of War has been serving up since 2005. So if THAT is what set Sess off, then what we’re looking at here is a little hypocrisy mixed with a double standard. But we’re going to assume that that is not the case.
Sessler’s the one who initially convinced me to get God Of War when it was fresh to market. Understand, I’m a grown ass man with a family. Until all of my children have graduated college and accepted positions in their chosen careers, there will ALWAYS be better, more important things for me to spend my money on than a video game. I used to NEVER buy games brand new…I always waited for the price drop. At least that’s how it went until Sessler and Morgan Webb got in front of the X Play cameras and used all of the fluffy adjectives they could think of to describe the satisfyingly visceral gameplay of the original God Of War on PS2.
Now, if you’ve followed Sessler, you know he’s not really one for bullying in any fashion, and as a parent I get and respect that. Really what parent wouldn’t? But the thing is…and I’ll try to keep it buttoned up on this, but IT’S A FUCKING GOD OF WAR GAME. GOD OF WAR –GOD OF FUCKING WAR. KRATOS. SPARTA. THAT GAME WHERE YOU LITERALLY RIP SOMEONE’S HEAD OFF AND SHIT DOWN THEIR NECK. REPEATEDLY. GOD OF WAR. MCFLY??
Seriously…real talk right now…just think about the story of Kratos…successful Spartan general…pledges his immortal soul into servitude to ARES to avoid death in battle…goes on series of indiscriminate, murdering rampages at Ares’ behest…KILLS HIS OWN WIFE AND CHILD, KILLS HIS OWN WIFE AND CHILD, KILLS HIS OWN WIFE AND CHILD in a blind rage while also raping and pillaging a village that looked peaceful enough…
…seriously. The entire series of God Of War games is basically a chain of unspeakable acts committed in rapid and brutal succession by Kratos. Sessler has always admitted that he’s loved the game, he’s enjoyed watching Kratos mutilate and murder his way to the top…we all have. So why is it that naming a trophy ‘Bros Before Hos’ is misogynistic?? I refuse to lend any creedence to a qualification of the phrase itself as misogynistic, because that’s absolutely ridiculous.
Pardon me, but I’m going to take a minute and pretend that I don’t owe anyone an apology for my gender. I love my wife and if anyone were to suggest to me that I’m a sexist, I would invite them to suck my ass. That said, there is nothing wrong with the phrase “Bros Before Hos.” Quite honestly, it’s something that every man should be taught by his father.
But the best part is…that’s not even why I’m upset. So they changed the name of the trophy…whatevs. I still knew it was Bros Before Hos when I earned it, and it’ll always be Bros Before Hos…even if it says Foes…because we all knew what that trophy name was days before the game was released, because Sessler spoiled it in his review.
…and that’s what I’m actually pissed about. When the time came for the bossfight in question, I knew how it would end. There was no surprise or shock in the visceral and brutal manner in which my enemy passed, because Adam Sessler had successfully described it to me in fairly thorough detail several days before. Because of all the comments that appeared on sites like Youtube, Rev3, Destructoid, et. al. in response to Sessler’s rage, I knew that Kratos hadn’t even curb stomped a Fury/woman, but an impostor. I also knew that a trophy was coming and it did.
But none of that resonated at all. It had none of the affect that the developers had intended, because it had already be thoroughly spoiled to me, by some overly sensitive bald guy who likes to rant about things that appear to be “injustices” through the uptight glasses with which he chooses to view the world. Yes ladies and gentlemen…Adam Sessler’s need to express his perceived moral superiority is more important than objectivity (he goes on to admit that the trophy name somehow inexplicably colored his assessment of the rest of the game) and also more important that Rev3′s viewers’ right to check out a review without fear that it’ll spoil a major part of the game.
Furthermore, Sessler went on to describe the now nerfed Trials of Archimedes. Sessler goes into excruciating detail about the Trials. He tells you what they’re named, he tells you that they are at a point that is very near the end of the game, he tells you that it is a scenario that sees many enemies of varied size and difficulty attack Kratos in waves for a prolonged period of time.
So now, not only can I not have the opportunity to play through the Trials with the degree of difficulty that the devs intended…but every time I hear the name “Archimedes” in game, I can’t help but think, “Damn…we’re coming up on the end of the game.” I’m not sure if I’m close to the Trials or close to the end, but Archimedes’ name is fairly prominent in the section I’m playing through, and combined with the fact that the Trials’ difficulty, design and placement in the game were spoiled…it’s really bringing my overall game experience down.
Seriously. Sessler…I know you’re an opinionated guy and I know that you’ve got a soft spot on your angry side for anything that you perceive to be bullying…but really…just shut the fuck up. You’re too uptight. If someone stuck a lump of coal up your ass, in a week they’d have a diamond. Things that you consider to be morally objectionable aren’t always morally objectionable. But thanks to your bloated ego and overinflated sense of self importance, I didn’t get to experience the “Bros Before Hos” trophy…hell, I didn’t even get to enjoy the entire sequence, because YOU FUCKING RUINED IT.
I love you, Sess. I loved you on X Play, you were one of two reasons that G4 was even watchable, and I’m probably still going to watch your reviews of games I have interest in because I do value your opinion…but stick to reviews…leave your butthurt crusading to your soapbox pieces and STOP FUCKING SPOILING GAMES. Seriously…this isn’t even me being a militant chauvanist jerk…this is me being pissed that a large portion of an expensive game that I’ve been waiting for war fucking ruined by some guy who is I THOUGHT was going to present an objective, spoiler free review.
So yeah, quick reminder…we still love him, but noone’s perfect so…Fuck Adam Sessler.
But I’m not really here to talk about Killzone 2, which is my pick for best FPS of all time, no. I’m here to talk about Killzone HD. Released in 2004, the original Killzone (PS2) was hyped as “The Halo killer.” Neither Sony nor Guerrilla take “credit” for the Halo killer label, but not only was it awkward when it originally was said at E3, but it became a Scarlet Letter for Sony as the game went on to pwn itself with a litany of glitches and bugs that assailed the game at launch.
The best you could say about it is that once patched, the overall experience was good enough for the microera in which it was released, but by the time Guerrilla and Sony had released the final patch, the damage had been done. Killzone was panned by most critics, who universally scoffed at the Halo killer, however most were generally nice enough to note that without the bugs, it would’ve been a great game. Of course a critic will never review a game based on what it might’ve been if it had worked properly…so Killzone was for the most part an abject failure.
Well, the patched (or final) version of the game got an HD remaster and was available as a solo download from PSN for $15, so I figured…what the hell?
Some may scoff at the possibility of its existence, but I’m a very big fan of the story behind the Killzone series. Not only is it pretty good sci fi, but it’s also a surprisingly intelligent and balanced examination of the nature of tyranny and the fine line between freedom, oppression and the people who are involved with the implementation of such things.
Throughout the Killzone games, we’ve played as members of the ISA who are portrayed as the “good guys,” or at least as “the protagonists” in their struggle against the Helghast. The reality of the narrative, however is that the Helghast war on the ISA that has been depicted in the games to this point, is a response to a brutal and frankly criminal invasion that the ISA perpetrated when it invaded and occupied planet Vekta and forced every inhabitant off the planet, exiling them to Helghan. That was called the First Extrasolar War, and I think those chapters of the story would be great settings for future games in the series.
For the uninitiated, please don’t think that the Helghast are made of sunshine and rainbows. These guys were fashioned in the mold of mutant space Nazis with glowing orange eyes to make them look extra creepy. As in the current gen sequels, all the Helghast have a gutteral but not quite cockney British accent, and like all good space Nazis, they have a propensity to yell “DIIIIIIEEEEEE!” extra melodramatically while in the heat of combat.
The game itself does not start out particularly well. The very first mission, defending against invaders from an earthen foxhole, just seems out of place. The mechanics are stiff and the enemy AI, while good by 2004 standards, isn’t nearly on the same level as the incredible enemy AI from Killzone 2 and 3. For people like me who came to the series on this gen and have never played the original, that is one aspect of the game that is going to let you down.
The first few missions are actually pretty…pretty meh. Those of us used to the current generation of FPS mechanics will take a bit to get used to the stiffer mechanics of KZ, and you’ll notice that there’s not a lot of inspired storytelling or compelling action along the way. And not like this is a big thing for a series with such bleak and somber settings, but the color palette of the first half of Killzone HD makes Killzone 2 look like Katamari fucking Damacy. Holy shit, there’s so much dark brown and grey that the game appeared to be an abstract reference to Ashy Larry.
However, somewhere in the second act of the game as you begin to secure assets during an evacuation, the action and the story pick up quite nicely. For fans of the series, you can see elements of Killzone 2 and Killzone Liberation (Guerrilla’s 2006 PSP entry into the series, currently available for PSP or PS Vita), especially the latter. While this should come as no surprise that there are common elements between games of the same franchise, given how widely Killzone was panned when it debuted in 04, it’s nice to see that Guerrilla didn’t abandon the vision that they’d had for the series in their sequels.
Being that the campaign depicts the Helghast invasion of planet Vekta, there are many sections where your character has to traverse damaged or bombed out terrain. This becomes problematic in some sections, and provides occasional dots of annoyance here and there throughout the game. During an evacuation sequence, the game makes a point to “shake” the screen to simulate crashes and explosions (one would guess, anyways) in other parts of the facility. This effect definitely gives a certain pause to the player but becomes more of an annoyance than an obstacle as the game goes on. Thankfully, it’s not something that lasts forever.
Certain parts of the game look quite nice considering that it’s an early PS2 port, unfortunately, the overall look and textures do not hold up. There have been some pretty high quality HD remasters of previous generation classics, and they all look better than Killzone HD does. Honestly, Killzone HD doesn’t even look as good as the HD remaster of the PSP’s swan song, God of War: Ghost of Sparta. That said, it doesn’t look bad, and given the fact that developers weren’t even able to push the PS2′s hardware in 2004 the way they were for later games, it’s certainly passable. However unlike the God of War remasters where you’ll occasionally ask yourself: “this was a PREVIOUS generation game?”, with Killzone HD, you’ll find yourself inquiring: “THIS was supposed to kill Halo??”
There’s a variance of environments that you play through in the campaign. You fight Helghast on a earthen brown hilly area, you fight in a park full of blossoming cherry trees, you fight in a mall, you fight in a slum similar to the slums in KZ2 (only much MUCH smaller) you fight on a couple of beaches, in some grassland…but more than any one type of area, you do A LOT of corridor shooting in Killzone. Many of those corridors open up to bigger areas, especially in the mall and in the military installations, and a good job was made making seemingly open environments as smartly crafted corridors. It’s not annoying or too detrimental, but make absolutely no mistake, I’d say most of your shooting is corridor shooting.
Though there is a wide range of environments, they do tend to get repetitive inside of themselves. Several industrial corridors outside the slums are one identical corridor after another, and that layering of similar corridors inside of an area continues throughout parts of the game. When the game ventures out of doors, the design does very well, but inside buildings, through industrial corridors and in particular, one sequence where you trudge up what is apparently a coast full of identical peninsular outcroppings with very similar industrial docks/cargo areas in the trough between each finger of the coast…you’ll find a sameness that falls only just short of hearkening to the weird redundant neighborhood that Wynona lived in in Edward Scissorhands.
Another interesting aspect of the environments is that throughout the game, you get the feeling that this was definitely done by a team in Northeastern Europe. The malls, the slums and the aforementioned docks area give much of the game an Eastern European urban-industrial feel…so much so that you can almost hear the rhythmic thumping of some random Rammstein song as you progress. At some points, it almost feels like it’s channeling Half Life 2. I was kind of irked by how Templar’s first name (Jan) is pronounced “Yan” in the original, seeing as how in KZ2, it was pronounced “Jan,” if only once by Rico in the opening cinematic…they probably should’ve stuck with Yan.
Like Killzone 3, Killzone suffers from “BeingInTheSameFranchiseAsAGenreDefiningGame-itis.” Some things are judged a little more harshly than they probably should, given my feelings toward Killzone 2…I may have mentioned, it’s my favorite FPS of all time. However, I have to say that being the prelude to KZ2 also helps the game, as it endears me to (some of) the characters and at the same time I automatically want to see how the story played out, despite my knowing its outcome from having played every other game in the series already.
Speaking of every other game in the series, we should talk about the playable characters. Originally, you play as Captain Jan Templar, but as you go along, you add three people to your party who are all playable at your leisure. Sgt. Rico Velasquez is back in this game, and while he’s not quite the unbearable jackass that he was in Killzone 2, he’s certainly not the only slightly ignorant Rico that we all remember and somewhat appreciate from Killzone 3. He’s still not very likeable, but at least he’s not insufferable. You can play as Templar, Rico, Shadow Marshal Luger or the half Human/half Helghast spy General Hahka.
Playing as Shadow Marshal Luger turns out to be the only character with a different or unique gameplay mechanic available. Modelled to be an assassin, Luger has night vision goggles and a knife only “stealth(?)” attack, but there’s not much stealth involved in the game at all, and the little stealth you can use seems fairly superficial. Luger’s “stealth mode” only really comes into play once, and it’s a throwaway sequence at best, IMO. Rico and Hahka are your standard soldier loadouts, with Rico carrying an LMG as his primary while Hahka rolls with the typical Helghast AR. You have three weapon slots, though…and I found that regardless who I played as, I almost always picked up two ARs and an LMG unless the situation called for something heavier.
Funny observation: the Killzone series has always dealt with the alienation of one or more races within the human species, the condition that we know as ‘racism,’ and while we know Rico hates him some Higs in a way that would make Derek Vinyard proud, the blatant racism behind half Helghast, half human, all white as fuck General Hahka calling Rico a monkey was only underscored by Rico’s subsequent line, which was “What the fuck is a ‘Shakespeare?’” I mean…fo realz?? Rico just gonna get played like that?? Count on some motherfucking Norwegian motherfuckers…man, that’s on some old fucked up shit, son. I’m talking Vincent and Jules arguing over coffee in Jimmy’s kitchen…that’s that gourmet fucked up shit.
Yeah, you may have guessed but the dialogue ranges from SMDH to full on facepalm. Both campy and offensive, the dialogue isn’t the worst part. No…that would be the battle chat. As you go along you hear quips and one liners from Rico, Luger, Templar and Hahka. Unfortunately, they repeat themselves so often that they go from annoying to almost self parody. Not a dealbreaker, but def could’ve used more variation in the battle chat. I know the game dropped in 2004…that’s no fucking excuse. It’s not 1973 anymore, Dirk.
Get in that booth and deliver me some more lines. I mean, if that fucking bitch Luger stops ghosting us long enough to tell me to “keep out of sight” one more time, I’ll bleed that ho…real quiet. Leave her there…the fuck.
So anywho, the game winds through a bunch of different environments, although the colors never really seem vibrant…like at all, outside of a “jungle section” toward the end that makes you wonder why an earlier “jungle section” wasn’t as green. There’s grass and there’s foliage, but it all looks greenish-grey like just after the first thaw of the year. Again, not trying to insist that infantry centric FPS start injecting fairy dust, unicorns and rainbows…but after a while, it’s just like…damn.
At the end of the day though, the story progresses and if you’re a fan of the Killzone series, if you enjoy the statement that the game’s narrative makes about things like racism, intolerance, tyranny and the duality of man…however unintentional it may or may not be…then Killzone HD is probably worth your $15.
Killzone HD gets 6 out of 10…and that’s because I’m generous. It’s a functional game that’s primary merit is for fans of the series, however it’s highly unlikely that every KZ 2 or 3 fan would enjoy playing this game. The lack of online MP isn’t so much a problem, but at $15, this is kind of pushing it. While it’s a nice remaster of the source material, the game doesn’t pick up until you’re about an hour or two into it, the color pallette is the type that inspires Bieber fans to cut themselves, and the dialogue ranges from hella campy to seriously what the fuck.
The game mechanics don’t reinvent anything, in fact they’re not even close to those from KZ2 or KZ3. The HD remaster is good in spots, but overall it is really quite lackluster when compared to the many excellent HD remasters that previous generation games have received. I personally liked the game once it got going, but again most of that really came from my investment in the overall narrative of the Killzone series. This remaster won’t win Guerrilla any new fans for Killzone Mercenary or Killzone 4…but if you’re a fan of the series and have an extra fifteen bucks laying around…then why not?
It’s that special ChrisKwazaukkah time of year, and that means that Activision has a shiny new Call of Duty game on shelves, and a bevvy of extra content to sell you as well. I for one, am thankful every holiday season for the Christmas noobs, who typically will add a tenth of a point or two to my KDR when they get out from under their stepmother’s Christmas tree.
I realize that it came out a month ago, but a cracker’s got shit to do with his life, so lay the fuck up off me, bro. Besides, reviews are simply opinions, which are supposed to differ between independent minded people. Furthermore, I like to give my opinion after I’ve had my way with the game at my leisure…which typically leads to a more enjoyable gaming exprience for me. Some nametag however had to punch in at 6am the day before launch and have their copy played through and written up before 10 that night, and really who is going to have a pleasant gaming experience when they’re on that kind of deadline??
So where to start? First of all, I’d like to say that even if Jason West and Vince Zampanella hadn’t been illegally removed from their positions at IW, and even if they hadn’t subsequently poached every dev and coder worth their salt to join them at EA in Respawn, and even if Robert Bowling…well, that guy was just the community manager, so whatevs.
Anywho, after playing Black Ops II, I’d like to offer that even if you go back to the heyday of Infinity Ward’s creativity in working on CoD, Treyarch is the best developer to have worked on a CoD game…and really has been since Black Ops…period. With Black Ops II, Treyarch continued their commitment to more than just CoD’s competitive multiplayer. For all the crap the CoD franchise gets for being a multiplayer first game…anyone taking a realistic look at the situation should see that’s something that IW cultivated with their petulantly minimalist half-game Modern Warfare 2 and it’s gimped yet very fun, half-game sequel, Modern Warfare 3. Don’t get me wrong…I loved the stories to both of them, but really only if you put the two games’ single player campaigns together do you have a proper sequel to the original Modern Warfare.
Treyarch’s CoD entries however, have no such issues. While World At War’s storyline was the typical CoD hodgepodge of standard FPS missions, with the jumping back and forth between marauding through the South Pacific Keifer Sutherland as Roebuck to skullduggering your way from Stalingrad to Berlin with Gary Oldman as Reznov, you felt connected to the game and the situation.
Then of course, Black Ops famously threw the ridiculous narrative style of the previous CoD games out the window and focused on one person, Alex Mason. The result was the first truly cinematic Call of Duty in the series. The single player campaign was absolutely sodden with Cold War awesomeness, mixing some elements of the Manchurian Candidate and conspiracy theory into a twist-filled, bullet-ridden tear through Vietnam, China and the tundra of Mother Russia. The campaign still jumped from location to location, but the perspective was that of Alex Mason the whole time, which fleshed out the story and made the campaign more than an amalgamation of missions with a cutscene at the end.
Treyarch have also proven themselves the kings of production value. While IW will hire any schlep off the street to voice the main protagonist of their games, Treyarch always rounds up top notch Hollywood talent. Sutherland, Oldman, Ed Harris, Sam Worthington, Michael Rooker, Michael Keaton, Sarah Michelle Gellar…for fuck’s sake…ICE CUBE!! You could argue that the difference between a Hollywood guy and an industry guy is only in the dollar signs, but it’s still a nice, classy touch to bring out recognizable talent for your AAA game that will probably bring in more money this month than the government of Mexico will.
SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN
Black Ops II continues its predecessor’s excellence of narrative, it continues to bring the high spectacle, high tension moments as well as awesome rides in current and future vehicles and weapons tech. At the same time, Treyarch also adds a richness in soundtrack and ambiance that they’ve really perfected since W@W, creating some of the best atmosphere in gaming. As a teenager, I owed more than a few nights of drunk, wild sex to the song Closer, so naturally I was thrilled by the soundtrack. Trent Reznor’s score goes from eerie to sublime throughout the game and shows his evolution as an artist, at times almost channelling Roger Waters and at others hearkening back to Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral.
And as stated, Treyarch absolutely kills it with the voice acting talent. Manuel Noriega has some significant screentime, and while Manny was a little too dead to do his voiceover, having both Lt. Col. Oliver North and Gen. David Petraeus make cameos as themselves is pretty insane. Petraeus in particular has a few scenes, and actually shows a little dramatic flair. Sam Worthington returns as Alex Mason, and while Ed Harris wasn’t apparently available to reprise his role as Mason’s CIA handler Hudson, no less than Michael fucking Keaton was brought in to fill his shoes. Also along for the ride are The Walking Dead‘s Michael Rooker, Big Trouble In Little China‘s James Hong (FUCKING ICON, bee tee dubz) as well as pop ups from Jimmy Kimmel and the guys from Avenged Sevenfold.
The campaign of BO2 does jump between playable characters quite a bit, so it is a departure from BO in that respect, however it does this to several different ends. The main story is a story of revenge, but it’s a revenge plot that plays out over the course of about forty freaking years. You play as Mason, his son David, his teammate Frank Woods, and a few of their associates, as well as one segment as the antagonist playing out his decades long thirst for retribution. You almost start to wonder how one person can remain angry at someone for so long.
Well, I’ve beat around the bush for long enough, I should get into talking about the bad guy whose face is so desperately in need of your bullets. The gentleman we’re talking about is a South American militant named Raul Menedez, who you may or may not have seen in the trailers, looking like he’s straight from a Miami Vice episode.
This is where BO2 creates its own niche, because traditionally, Treyarch has developed very solid protagonists. Sutherland’s Roebuck, Worthington’s Mason and of course and especially Oldman’s Reznov are protagonists that have resonated with those who’ve played the games. In BO2, Menendez is the dramatic center. He’s a great villain, both loathsome and pathetic. As the game progresses, I came to see Menendez’s motivations, I began to see his personal situations, and in many ways, he endeared himself to me.
Rooker’s character plays a support role, albeit a fairly indespensible one. Rooker aquits himself with dignity and honor, making his character a rather likeable and capable sidekick. It’s odd because Rooker’s lines are such that taken by themselves, you would think they were written for your typical, machismo ridden dudebro Space Marine who rocks out with his cock out…but Rooker’s delivery suggests that dudebro has thought about his position and has a logical argument to back it up. Furthermore, being that his voice is also the voice of Merle Dixon, Rooker’s character Harper comes off as an “Approach with caution” kinda guy.
As a character, Mason’s son David is probably the one that is playable the most, and he’s depicted in a quite bland manner. Similar to the OpsCom in Zipper Interactive’s ill fated SOCOM 4, David Mason isn’t a deep character, and mainly exists to provide exposition and transition points in the story by stating the obvious in case the players didn’t get the visual depictions for what they are. There are times when emotional range is actually used and you actually feel empathy for David, but that’s like…twice in the beginning and almost not at all after the halfway point. He certainly doesn’t take any spotlight away from Menendez, who again should be noted is an excellently portrayed villain, even if he is a tad dramatic…tho it’s an endearing act.
Not so much that I ended up rooting for Menendez, absolutely not. His actions are deplorable and reprehensible, and before the game is over he will have manipulated the players into doing things he or she will not be proud of. Throughout the course of the game, the player is given several situations that can be handled differently, some well or bad, some bad or worse. There will be moral decisions to make…and sometimes logic would have the player take a slightly less human path.
There are multiple endings to the game, and the one I got was semi good, semi bad and SERIOUSLY melodramatic. As I understand it there are “better” and “worse” endings, and while those are based on certain player decisions as well as certain scenario results, and while this will drive many to replay the campaign (or at least it should), I want to replay it for slightly different reasons. Sure, I’d like to see all the endings, especially the Happily-Ever-After ending, however some situations evolve in such a way that you feel a need to replay the sequence or the game to get a different result. I’m not sure if this is curiosity or guilt, but I do have a want to go back and fix some things: and it’s not simply the times where there is a clear decision (like Gears of War’s “Press LT to go left or RT to go right”) to be made, but the triggers often lie in how gracefully you complete the missions.
Saying more would be a spoiler, so I’ll keep that down. Of course, as you play you get the feeling that the twist is coming, we all know it is, and it’s not long after the first couple of missions that the twist begins to telegraph itself. It’s not technically a spoiler to mention this, since Activision advised gaming journalists of the plot device of turning America’s military drones against itself, but there’s a couple of issues with this. First of all, it takes forever to set up, and once you finally get there, it doesn’t significantly add to the campaign. I geared up over the summer and autumn, thinking I was going to spend 4 to 5 hours doing battle with the allegory of America’s Drones Gone Wild, but most of the game built to that and really there weren’t enough missions that were carried out against the drone backdrop for it to be as effective a literary device as it should’ve been.
Not to get on a soapbox here, but you may or may not be aware that America is (actually, no shit, real life) currently carrying out a number of drone strike campaigns in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have killed MANY non combatant civiliains, including scores of women and children. This may be confusing to some people who thought that since the apprehension and termination of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, American military forces really had no good reason to remain in the region, let alone actively carrying out missions with innocent civilians making up collateral damage, but…surprise!!
Seriously…someone fucking tell Obama to get our soldiers out of there. With ACTUAL issues in Syria, Iran and maybe even Russia brewing, our military is spread far too thin in areas where we have no business spreading it. We need our men and women out of unnecessary harm’s way, and as far as I’m concerned, that starts by getting them out of any place that’s name ends with “-stan.” Rant over.
Well, not quite. See one of the few but very much the main problems with the story come from the fact that it doesn’t do enough. At one point, Hunter Killer drones are shown flying over Los Angeles, New York City and Washington DC as well as places like Bejing and Moscow. Visually, this was probably as powerful as a CoD game has gotten…beyond of course the nuclear detonation in Modern Warfare, which went from shocking turn of events to dime a dozen plot device by the time MW2 came around, but we don’t want to digress too far. This image is incredibly powerful, and while the game could take the opportunity to explain that THAT is what Americans are doing to major cities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it kind of glosses over this…to the game’s overall detriment. It’s mentioned as one of Menendez’s motivations…but it’s not exploited further as a real life issue that demands the attention of the general public…and I think it is and should’ve been. There. Rant REALLY over.
It kind of just goes away, though…without divulging too much, the artistic/political/social statement that could’ve been the sharpest and most controversial thing a Call of Duty game has included (including the “No Russian” sequence in MW2) simply didn’t flesh itself out well enough for my liking. For what it is, however, BO2′s drone storyline is a good if largely underplayed statement on the subject. The only shame is that because it’s not as controversial as it could’ve/should’ve been, the drone allegory will be forgotten by reviewers and likely completely lost upon the ignorant rabble who no doubt played through the scenarios without so much as a second or even a first thought to the drone campaigns currently going on in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Without becoming too self important, I’d like to go back to the review if that’s okay. The campaign itself is shorter than typical Treyarch standard; I didn’t have a timer but if I had to guess I’d say it’s maybe 30 min to an hour or so longer than Modern Warfare 3 was…if that. There are also Strike Missions, which are ancillary mini missions that are playable between main missions. They dovetail with the narrative, however they’re only available at certain points of the campaign, so gamers may want to play them through as they come up to make sure they avoid missing some. They aren’t necessary to the development of the plot, but they’re smaller points of a larger story that often involve vehicles and/or tech that isn’t necessarily available in the main missions and some of it is actually pretty fun to try out.
You can also customize your loadout for single player missions, but the first go round you are restricted to only the weapons you’ve unlocked up to the time you play the mission, which does put a damper on the freedom of mission specific, user chosen loadouts. It is worth noting however, that some missions go easier if you bring the equipment that is recommended. I found this out the hard way on a mission where I substituted the recommended EMP grenades with Concussion canisters, only to find out halfway through that EMP grenades would’ve made the mission about a hundred times easier.
Treyarch’s Call of Duty games are perhaps just as responsible for the Zombie Renaissance as game franchises like Resident Evil and shows like The Walking Dead have been, and Zombies returns in a more varied and fleshed out form. The core zombie experience is Tranzit, which features a bus that the playable characters fortify and use to travel between different areas for zombie splattering fun. Tranzit has the four players “working for” Zombie progenitor Maxis in retaliation for the acts of deranged Nazi scientist Dr. Edward Richtofen in Black Ops. For those who don’t know: Richtofen manipulated events throughout the Nazi Zombies campaigns of W@W and BO so that he would end up on the Moon base with Samantha.
However Richtofen and Samantha switch souls and Maxis then leads Samantha and Richtofen’s crew of Takeo, Nikolai and Dempsey through the steps necessary to launch nuclear missles at the Earth from the Moon base…which is where we pick up in BO2. You have to watch out for lava, as the world has been ravaged by Maxis/Richtofen’s cataclysm and there are open fissures with game ending lava EVERYWHERE. You build turbines and fans and ride the bus from a 50s era bus station to a deserted town, to a farm and to a central underground military hub (that looks like something Assassin’s Creed’s Abstergo would build). I haven’t wrapped up any easter eggs just yet, but there’s some serious shit going on here, and by the time the DLC parade is over, BO2′s zombie mode could end up being even crazier than BO’s zombies experience was…and that was fucking epic.
There’s also Survival Mode, where players only play on one map for the duration, and there’s also difficulty settings now for those who simply found previous zombie modes to be a little too tough. Let’s face it, once you get to round 15 in Black Ops zombies, the wheat seperates itself from the chaff. Now there’s an easy mode so the chaff can enjoy plugging zombies into deep rounds just like the rest of us who just happen to be legit. Easter Eggs and fun abound for all, and this time around it’s even easy for the n00bs to have fun.
For those who want a competitive zombie game and were grossly disappointed by Slant Six’s Operation Raccoon City, there is Grief mode, where teams are divvied up between the CDC and CIA. Players don’t attempt to kill players from other teams, but you don’t do the other team any favors and if you can get yourself out of a sticky situation by taking a course of action that with ends with zombies swarming a member of the opposing team…then all the better for you and your team. Grief and Survival are fun, but once you’ve made a run into the deep rounds on Tranzit, those two modes become less satisfying to play.
And finally, we come to multiplayer. The reason for the season, the value that drives the price of admission, the wind beneath Bobby Kotick’s accountant’s wings…Call of Duty’s online multiplayer component is the driving force behind it’s industry leading sales, marketing and popularity. Easily the most purchased franchise in console gaming history, I can talk up campaign and zombies all I want, but the dudes who wear flak jackets to midnight releases and consider Doritos and Mountain Dew to be sources of fuel…those guys break out their stepmother’s credit card for the multiplayer, and it’s just as good as ever.
Treyarch changed the loadout system up this year with their Pick 10 system, where you can pick up to ten weapons, attachments, perks or wildcards to outfit your merc with before launching into the chaotic abandon of CoD online. Reading reviews of the game, most critics have gone on record as being fairly unimpressed by the Pick 10 system implementation, and I’d suggest that they’re all just being a bunch of nitpicking ninnies. Of course, every time there’s a sequel, gaming journalists and pundits demand improvements to the gameplay, typically in the form of added mechanics and/or useful items that help the games fluency and make it more fun to play than its predecessor.
The problem being that Call of Duty is very much the Gold Standard of online FPSes. The formula they have in place is the one that’s most popular in the genre, and it works. Proof can easily be found in the fact that Black Ops 2 sold more games faster than any game ever has at launch, decimating the sales records set by Modern Warfare 3 and selling exponentially more than its actual progenitor, Black Ops. So then the issue becomes “What to do you improve upon in a game that gets everything so right?”
Clearly, CoD developers have to bring something new to the table without fucking up the reason so many people buy the game in the first place, and unlike every critic who couldn’t see past their own nose, I rather enjoy the Pick 10 system and think it’s a great innovation for the series. For one thing, you never see the same loadouts on multiple players from one game to the next. In MW3, most games will feature people using MP7s and ACRs and very little in between for their primaries. In Black Ops, most players will be using an AK-74u or a FAMAS…bet money on it, although you will run into the occasional AUG H-bar. In MW2, you’d have to be an idiot or one of those people who rejects simple solutions to not carry around Akimbo 1887s as your secondary.
In Black Ops 2, the sky is the limit. There’s no one weapon that is most prolific, there’s no one set of perks that is most common. There’s a lot of mixing and matching going on out there, and it pays to experiment. I personally recommend the FAL (with Select Fire attached) as the primary and Akimbo B23Rs as your secondary, but the beauty of the system is that you can (and often do) try a multitude of weapons and perks with each other. You can forego primary and/or secondary weapons all together in favor of more perks, equipment and/or wildcards. It’s actually very empowering for gamers to truly create their own classes and to stack their loadout in different wasy that capitalize on different aspects of their game.
Personally, I have one class that only has Akimbo B23Rs as my weapon, but has loads of perks like Lightweight, Extreme Conditioning, Flak Jacket, Tactical Mask, and Fast Hands. I don’t recommend an Akimbo handgun setup on the bigger maps with more wide open areas, but on maps where you’re running from cover to cover or on the smaller, more hectic maps like Hijacked, I can flat out dominate that way.
Also I should mention the kill mic. Some of you may have noticed last year that when you killed someone who had a mic on, you could hear them whine about it. Apparently now, when you kill someone you can hear them and they can hear you. I found this out on Standoff when I had my Akimbo B23Rs out, I was shooting with this guy and I got him. As I had been shooting, I was saying into my mic, “Yeah, that’s right…come get your ass whippin.” When he died, I kept talking and this is what I heard from my vic: “Oh that’s bullshh–HEY FUCK YO–” and then it cut off. It’s always fun to hear my vics cry about getting pwned…now I can share my trash talking too. MARVELOUS.
The maps are great again…which is a Treyarch deal through and through. I realized with MW3′s disappointing launch maps just how great Treyarch is at crafting fun maps for online gameplay, and they’re back at it in Black Ops 2. There are maps with long views, sniper alleys, close quarter areas, debris good for camping and all other kinds of fun. My favorite map so far is Hijacked, which is a depiction of a Yacht on the high seas, but locations such as the Port of Singapore, wealthy Indian shopping areas as well as bombed out versions of Los Angeles and military installations make for cool and exciting backdrops.
There is a LOT of camping in this game, but the many different modes available for gameplay should help with that. Party games are back, which you may remember as Wager games from Black Ops. Sticks and Stones returns in that format, so I’m very very pleased. Nuketown also received an update and in addition to being “turned on” for “events” that Treyarch will have online over the next year, the Chaos mode has been added, which is supposed to be a randomized mashup of all smaller maps and varying game modes, but it features Nuketown 2025 fairly prominently in the randomization.
Overall, I’d have to say that this is a great fucking game. My friends and I are going to have great fun on both zombies and multiplayer over the course of the next year or two, and I can replay the campaign a couple of different times and different ways to see how many different endings I can come up with. The game’s narrative is at times powerful, and at other times not nearly as powerful as it should be, but in staying mild, the game never gets preachy or too judgemental. The twists are telegraphed, some incredibly so, some not so much, but overall the narrative is interesting and fun, and the decisions and methods you use have a real impact on the game that will give different users different experiences.
In the end, the single player is never too tough to beat, but it’s never a walk in the park, either. The campaign is somewhat short, but the dramatic and emotional content make it one of the most memorable of the entire CoD franchise. The online is back with a vengance, and the customizability that comes with Treyarch’s new Pick 10 system puts the game up there with the best online shooter experiences available to console gamers today. Zombies mode brings the pain as well as adding a new wrinkle of its own to the tale of the war between Richtofen and Maxis, and set amidst this manmade apocalypse, Tranzit helps take the zombies mode into what should turn out to be a completely awesome new direction.
The game isn’t perfect, but I must reiterate that it IS fucking great and has probably the best single player campaign in the Call of Duty franchise yet. However, there isn’t enough of the campaign for my taste and while the Tranzit/zombies mode offers enough story and easter egg goodness for people who are willing to look the info up and move with it, the mode isn’t accessible enough for the casual zombie shooting fanatic to ever get the same kind of entertainment value out of it that the Easter Egg Hunters will.
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 gets an 8 out of 10. Please understand, though…I don’t do that 8.5 shit, I typically round down to avoid sounding like a fanboy…but this is a great game, and three to five more missions against the backdrop of the hijacked drones would’ve made this game an easy 9 out of 10 and legit Game of the Year contender. Treyarch continues to kill it with their entries into the Call of Duty franchise, while truly telling the CoD story with their own unique voice…both with the campaign and the zombies mode. If you’re an FPS fan or a fan of military shooters, this needs to eventually find its way into your library.
Okay. I’ve got three wonderful kids, and they are the most important people in my life. You could say that they are my life. Before I had kids, I didn’t really play many video games. My main concerns were getting drunk, getting high and pretending that I was bulletproof. It’s a long and truly fucking crazy story about how that all changed, but the motivation behind everything was that I was going to be a father and I needed a new lifestyle.
Kids. Believe it or not, kids are the key to Darwin’s theory of Evolution. The idea is that the “fittest” is the species that survives long enough to have kids who will survive long enough to have kids of their own. There’s MUCH more to it than that, but you get the gist.
Last Friday, as you all should know, some delusional fucking asshole killed almost two dozen kids at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conneticut. Most of the kids were aged between 5 and 8. My youngest is 5. She doesn’t understand much about life, pain, misery or sadness. I remember taking her to see the new Muppet Movie and her crying hysterically because the Muppets were sad at one point. She doesn’t understand about how people are assholes, or mental illness, or anything of that nature. She’s also never so much as hurt a fly.
So when I see that so many kids her age were cut down like that…well, it had an effect. I won’t bore you with the details, but the effect is real, and it endures…probably will linger as a shadow in the back of my mind for a while. Dropping my kids off at school yesterday wasn’t easy at all. Not for me; not for any of my many friends with children in school. We all know that it’s incredibly unlikely to happen to our kids…but it was just as unlikely to happen to those kids in Newtown. Shit just happens.
So…without further ado…I’ve got two things for you. First and foremost: love your family. Your mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparents or your own kids. Love them, and don’t ever let them leave your presence without giving them a hug and telling them that you love them. It may not be macho or cool, but it’s much more important to make sure that you’re not sitting there after some horrific accident, saying “The last thing I said to him/her was (something other than ‘I love you’).”
Secondly, some of you may have seen the video on twitter by @BlackBible from @GamerFitNation. I’ve included it for anyone who hasn’t, but his fairly emotional suggestion is that we as a gaming community simply go one day…December 21st…without playing online shooters. No Halo, no CoD, no Medal of Honor/Battlefield, no Killzone, no TF2…no nothing that involves shooting “people” to “death.”
The gaming world is ridden with machismo. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to notice that the most popular games are often the ones that involve gratuitous violence and gunplay. God Of War, Gears Of War, Halo, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted, Sleeping Dogs…I could go on and on. If you’re not shooting “people” to death, you’re literally ripping them apart limb from limb. I make no apologies for the games I play. Honestly, I can be a bitter and angry person, and violent video games are very cathartic in that they allow me to use my imagination to work some of those feelings out of my system.
But nothing warms my heart like my kids. I can come home from the crappiest of days, angry at the world and just itching to get on CoD, put on my mic, ruin someone’s evening and then talk shit about their ‘skills’ in the after game lobby…
…but man…when I open the door to my house and my kids come running up yelling “DADDY!!!” and swarm me with hugs and love…all of that goes away. But that’s just me. I’m one of the lucky ones; my kids are still alive. Right now in Newton, there’s families that have lost that forever. I can’t imagine what that’s like. I’m literally tearing up at the mere thought while I type this. Anger?? Sadness?? Compared to the people in Newtown, Aurora, Columbine…compared to that, I don’t even know what anger or sadness truly is.
Those people have lost EVERYTHING. Yeah, they may have their houses, cars, possessions and still more family…but when kids and the unconditional love that they have is ripped away…then you’ve lost everything, or at least everything that matters in this twisted, fucked up world. This was a senseless tragedy, and the fallout will be fairly continuous. The gun control debate has risen from the ashes, the Westboro Baptist Church is again exploiting tragedy to spread their hateful message, and we’re bound to hear from disgraced former attorney Jack Thompson at some point…
So I’m with @BlackBible. Online Shooter Cease Fire on December 21st. I’m in.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it will help stop violence in the future. I’m not going to pretend that this sort of thing won’t happen again. I’m not going to tell you or anyone else that this is a moral imperative and has to be followed. It’s entirely up to you.
I will say however that while I can’t bring them back or heal the pain of their loss, I can honor their memory and the goodness, happiness, innocence and love that those kids and teachers had, which is now forever gone from the world. Of all the things the people of this world could do well to do without, those are things that we all need more of.
It’s not much, but from 12:00 am to 11:59 pm on Friday December 21st…the day the Mayan Long Count expires…I’ll be playing SSX or Journey or Flower.
If you haven’t seen @BlackBible’s video, I posted it below. Spread the love, spread the word. Online Shooter Cease Fire on December 21st.
ZOMG!! GTAV!! GTAV!! YOUGUYS!! SERIOUSLY!!!
Fuck yes. Here’s the trailer…go get your Lubriderm and tube socks.
Hellz to the fucking yeah. Grand Theft Auto returns to Los Santos next spring, trading in the whiney bitch Serbian and his fat cousin for what looks to be three actually likeable protagonists. Near as I can tell, the three playable characters in GTAV look to be a jaded ex con, a street hustler who wants to be more than some dumb gangbanger and a psychotic if not slightly retarded redneck. I’ll fucking take it.
Yes, three playable characters. Not much has been said about the dynamic between the three other than the fact that you can switch between them at different times, and you never know what you may be getting into. For example, someone mentioned somewhere that you could switch to a playable character and instead of finding him where you left him, he may be in the middle of a high speed chase on the freeway or something. This looks like it will add some chaos and maybe even urgency to the game without becoming annoying like all of Niko’s girlfriends from GTA IV did SOOOOO quickly.
I like that GTA V looks to be cashing in on narrative, as well. Gamers may not notice, give a fuck or even want it to happen, but video games are artistic expression, and their single player campaigns are becoming much more than “mindless diversions,” rather they are evolving into thoughtful engagements. There looks to be a dysfunctional family dynamic, a baby mama drama dynamic and an out of control geeker yelling at people and throwing fire dynamic…if such a thing exists.
However of all the positive things we saw in the trailer, the thing I’m most excited for are the vehicles and their associated accessories…namely helicopters, planes and parachutes. I know…I know…you all saw the dude drive the jeep out of the bay of a C-130 at 5,000 feet and then jump out of it. That’s the fuckin stuff right there. I can’t tell you how many times I abandoned perfectly good jets and planes in San Andreas just to be able to jump out of them. Good on Rockstar for bringing the fun of free fall back.
Of course, planes and parachutes were notoriously missing from GTA IV…and honestly I thought the inclusion of helicopters was fairly superficial in that game as well. As funny as Brucie is, I didn’t want to take him with me on every heli ride, and WHY THE FUCK couldn’t I access the Heli from the Helipad over Brucie’s body shop?? Again…painful, disappointing shortcomings of GTA IV that GTA V should hopefully help us forget.
At the same time, we also saw MILITARY GRADE fighter jets in GTAV Trailer 2, which were present in San Andreas, but difficult to get at. Of course in Vice City, it was as simple as getting an armored car and barrrelling your way through the guards to the Apache…now, I’m not hoping for a F16 in my garage or anything, but I’d like to be able to use the military grade stuff on an open setting, outside of the framework of the SP missions.
…bringing the Jet Pack back would also be frigging awesome, but I’m not trying to get too greedy here.
Now, you’ll remember in the first trailer, we saw the hills and mountains outside of Los (Angeles) Santos, and we saw people hiking. While hiking was not my first choice of free roam activities in San Andreas, and the Badlands or whatever they were called weren’t very inviting, I do fondly recall searching for Bigfoot after the rumor spread that there was one living on Mt. Chiliad. It’d be great to have that and/or some urban myths to explore in our free time, and after LA Noire and Red Dead Redemption, I have hope that Rockstar will give us more to do in our free time away from missions than three weird “Friend Missions.”
Of course, I will always hope for more than is likely possible to be included in the game, but I like what I see so far and I can’t wait for the next trailer. I don’t want to wish winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years away, but I’m also getting antsy for Spring to be here so I can get back to Los Santos. Grove St. 4 life, bitches.
The Playstation Vita has been treated like a red headed stepchild in the media, particularly at sites that can only seem to drive traffic their way with anti-Sony vitriol, but also in the marketplace…where gamers have been hesitant to adopt the platform, due in no small part to the lack of AAA games and/or apps for the device. The late fall/holiday season of 2012 was supposed to change that, with (among other things) Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified both scheduled to release for the handheld at that time.
Call of Duty, like the Playstation Vita (and seemingly any Sony exclusive product these days), is also most often ridiculed in the media. Reviewers use phrases like “Copy and paste,” “Whack-a-mole” and “tacked on single player” to describe CoD, however unlike the Vita, Call of Duty rakes in the dough. Just today Activision announced that Black Ops 2 sold over half a billion dollars’ worth in its first 24 hours on shelves. That’s good enough to break the record that Modern Warfare 3 set last year and more than twice what sales juggernaut Halo 4 brought in in it’s first 24.
Liberation generated good buzz for the handheld, but it was Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified that was supposed to put it over the top. Activision’s megalithic military shooter franchise was supposed to spawn that ever elusive Killer App, which in turn would also spark sales of the controversial handheld. Luckily for Sony AND Activision, the media’s portrayal or reviews of CoD games typically has no bearing whatsoever on the games’ performance at market.
I say that mainly because predictably enough, Black Ops Declassified’s early returns have brought scathing reviews, with Game Informer going so far as to call it an embarassment to the franchise. Reviews that I’ve read all speak of a single player campaign that can be beaten in under an hour and multiplayer that simply does not work. As a Vita owner who unapologetically loves the Call of Duty franchise, I’ve spent some time perusing the online reviews and have found something quite odd.
Following every online review I’ve read of Declassified, multiple user comments have been left, calling Bullshit. Users report the single player campaign being short but not less than an hour short, and the comments from users regarding online multiplayer suggest that not only does Black Ops Declassified’s multiplayer work, but that it’s actually very good.
Here are some user comments that I’ve pulled from a couple of different sites:
These are from Playstation Vita Hub, so please excuse grammatical errors, as I did not wish to paraphrase these users’ comments.
“I seriously don’t get this. I haven’t touched single player yet because multiplayer has been so fun…Even if single player is total crap, I’ll still feel good about my purchase.”
“I for the life of me can’t figure how they can improve on Resistance BS in every way possible and it still gets rated lower. I think these reviewers r full of crap and r probably playing the game right now. I know I can’t put it down.”
…and my favorite:
“they are pussies i have the game. the campaign is short like 3-4 hours…but the MP its like a console experience nothing at all boring super addictive…”
And that’s just one site. Every other site that I’ve read a review on has multiple unique users calling the review bullshit and claiming the game is awesome.
So…is Black Ops Declassified a pile of monkey crap?? If you believe the people who have played video games 8 hours a day for the past few years…not because they want to, but because it’s their job…then yes, it’s a broken, embarassment of a game that has a broken multiplayer component and a single player campaign that you’ll miss if you blink.
However, if you believe the users…the people who bought the game not out of obligation, but because they like to play games…then the reviewers are all full of shit and the game is awesome. Personally, I don’t know. I haven’t bought the game yet and probably won’t for at least a couple of weeks. What I do know is this:
Game reviews have become an interesting animal. Not everyone is going to have the same opinion, so it stands to reason that a game that one reviewer likes very much could at the same time seem tedious and boring to a different reviewer. However some time ago, many reviewers found that giving AAA games a poor rating (regardless of the game’s merit) will drive new unique traffic to thier site…and we all know that average daily unique hits are the rubric by which internet advertising dollars are paid out.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the reason for these bad reviews is solely placed on reviewers being trolls or that Sony or Activision’s check bounced, but what I am saying is that game reviews, particularly those posted to “tech” or “gamer” sites have become increasingly disparate over the years with the sentiments of the users. In all honesty, I can understand. I play games that I want to play, and I play them because I want to play them. Guys who write for tech sites or gamer sites play games because it’s their job.
Adam Sessler, who many of you may remember from his groundbreaking time with Tech TV, left G4 this past April. He recently joined Rev3games.com as editor in chief, and released a video about his return to gaming journalism. He mentioned that in the six months or so that he’s been unemployed, he had the luxury of playing games that he wanted to play, when he wanted to play them. In hearing that, I couldn’t help but infer that gaming journalism is a job, and is just as much (if not more) of a grind as any other desk job is.
So tech writers and gaming writers may very well love their jobs, and they may very well prefer their current position to jobs like “Customer Service” or “Data Entry,” but the fact remains that it’s still their job. They still have to wake up when they’d rather sleep, put up with employees they find annoying and deal with a boss who also annoys them. To you or I, it may seem like a case of living the dream, but it can’t be that great to come in to the office Monday morning and hear things like: “Good morning. I need you to get through enough of the latest Ace Attorney game so that you can have a full review in the can by tomorrow morning.”
For myself, I hate RPGs. Can’t stand them. I’ve been a Star Wars fanboy ever since I can remember. I like to quantify my fanboyism by telling people “I’m not even mad at the prequels.” Yet, for some reason, I absolutely hated Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. Why, you ask?? Because of its ridiculous, fun-killing RPG elements. The constant looting, turn based combat, choosing dialogue lines and playing a personality despite the fact that those choices have almost no effect on the result of the game whatsoever. If I were to get a call that sounded like: “Hey Glue…need you to play Persona 4 through to completion. Include enough online to give a comprehensive review of the game. Then I need your review by tomorrow morning,” then that would pretty much ruin my day.
So I’m guessing writers get just as jaded as the next guy, and that it affects their disposition toward games (and gamers). What this means is that when you read a bad review, you may not be reading about a bad game, per se…rather you may just be reading about a bitter, bitter person who hates his/her job and has decided to take that anger and hatred out on the only people he/she can…the game developers who make the games that have ruined so many of his/her workdays.
There was a point in all this, but I think I touched on it a long time ago. I don’t know. We’ll definitely have to see. Reviewers have been less and less “pleased” with the CoD console entries since Modern Warfare 2, but CoD breaks it’s own sales record every year. Maybe this will be the game to finally get the Vita on the road to legitimacy.
I don’t know. I already have my Vita…I’ll probably make Declassified my Christmas gift to myself. Maybe others will, too. For now, I’ll just go play some Black Ops 2 zombies and jerk off, I guess.
So I was just asked “How much is Playstation Plus?” My answer was this: It pays for itself.
Sure, I could’ve told the guy that it’s $50 a year or however much per month/three month block or whatever…but honestly, if you’re a gamer, Playstation Plus pays for itself. I’m just going to real quick rattle off the games I’ve gotten for free since I subscribed to Playstation Plus this past summer.
Little Big Planet 2, Just Cause 2, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Saint’s Row 2, Pac Man DX, inFAMOUS 2, The Walking Dead Episodes 1 and 2, Dust 514 Beta, Borderlands, Starhawk (single player), Payday The Heist, Double Dragon Neon, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Bloodrayne Betrayal, Outland, Renegade Ops, Choplifter HD, Sideway New York, Warhammer 40K Space Marine and Gotham City Imposters.
Now, let me real quick run down for you the Vita games that are being given for free starting Monday, when Playstation Plus goes live on the Vita.
Wipeout 2048, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, Gravity Rush, Jet Set Radio, Final Fantasy Tactics and Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
Certainly there is a price associated with a Playstation Plus subscription, but god fucking dammit…the shit pays for itself. The free games is really just the tip of the iceberg, too. I’m not saying you have to buy it, and I was so skeptical of PS + at launch that I didn’t even bother with the free month of PS + that Sony gave to every user after the PSN Hacking Disaster…but seriously, just read that list of games.
Shit pays for itself.
Oh and I hear Bulletstorm is next in the “Free Game” line for PS + subscribers. Say what you will about the ridiculous premise, the ridiculous characters and how they make the dialogue in Killzone 2 seem aloof and upper crust…but Bulletstorm is a fun game with great mechanics and it’s absolutely beautiful to watch. Some of the best graphics I’ve seen on the 360. It’s like the Big Trouble In Little China of First Person Shooters.
The UFC was built by guys like Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Dana White and Rampage Jackson. In a world where “This Is A Business” has inexplicably become the mantra of professional sports, these guys were anything but professional, and you could tell that it was anything but business as usual. These guys say “fuck” just as much as you or I do, and they’re not shy about doing it in front of a microphone. They’re all fighters, especially Dana White who has fought, bit, scratched and clawed the UFC to respectability and viability as a major American spectator sport.
Then there’s the image. Rampage wore a chains out to the ring, and once said of an opponent, “It’s time for some black on black crime.” Chuck Liddell has a mohawk, handlebar stache and tattoos on the side of his head. Tito Ortiz married a fucking porn star, and fought so openly with White that he once wore a shirt to a weigh in that said “DANA IS MY BITCH.”
So understanding the guys who built the sport may help understand some fans of the sport who for some reason express nothing but contempt and hateration of Georges St-Pierre. I mean, I get it…well, I don’t really “get it” as in “yeah, they’ve got a good point,” because they don’t. Rather, I understand the factors that motivate this ignorance. Georges is the kinda guy you expect to see after football games. He wears Armani suits, he’s always gracious and professional, and he rarely shows disdain or malice toward opponents. He’s Canadian AND French…which is a regrettable trigger for some people. He hasn’t “finished” a fight since he knocked BJ Penn out at UFC 94…there’s all these things people reference when they hate on GSP.
But seriously, that’s all just superficial bullshit. How about you take a step back and look at the fights…you know…the shit that matters?
Georges St-Pierre at one point had won over thirty consecutive rounds of fighting in the UFC. GSP broke Josh Koscheck’s orbital bone with the first punch he threw in their fight at UFC 124. GSP has knocked Matt Hughes out, he has also submitted Matt Hughes. GSP beat BJ Penn twice, the last time so badly that BJ Penn…one of the greatest UFC Champions of all time…nearly retired afterward. GSP dominated Thiago Alves at UFC 100 for all five rounds despite pulling his groin muscle in the middle of the third round. DUDE WAS OUT THERE WITH A PULLED GROIN AND STILL DIDN’T LOSE A ROUND.
Now maybe you can say that GSP makes complete and utter domination of his opponent look so effortless and easy that the haters just think he isn’t applying himself 100%…but that’s fucking bullshit, too. Dude…I boxed in high school. Let me tell you something…most people on earth don’t have the endurance to last for three, three minute rounds in a boxing ring. Dead ass. No joke. I don’t care if you’re a couch potato or a dude who lifts heavy on the reg. Unless you’ve got some serious cardio under your belt, you won’t make it through all nine minutes.
The thing is however, that even if you’ve got the cardio…you’re spending those nine minutes GETTING PUNCHED REPEATEDLY IN THE FUCKING FACE. So yeah…but wait…there’s more!! What I did was merely three rounds that were each three minutes long. GSP, since winning his title back from Matt Serra in 2008 has fought FIVE round fights, with each round being FIVE minutes long.
Point being…it’s not effortless, it’s not easy, it’s hard fucking work. And if GSP can look like he’s styling on guys while physically dominating them in the octagon for five rounds, then how is that not better than a KO or sub? Trust me, it’s harder to establish consistent success for that kind of a sustained period of time than it is to KO a guy.
When I boxed, my senior year I KOed a guy in under a minute at the AQ Mission Bouts. But the fight I’m most proud of was the preliminary fight I’d fought the week before. I’d lost that fight, but I had fought a guy that outweighed me by thirty pounds, and he and I simply stood in the middle of the ring and threw haymakers at each other for nine minutes. It was a slugfest, plain and simple. There was blood everywhere. It kinda motivated you to throw harder punches. I swear, you can’t understand what a great feeling it is to see your opponent coming out of his corner while he’s bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth.
I know it may sound grisly to some, but it’s the fucking best, and I am a better person for having done it. Our coach had the paramedics check us out afterwards to make sure we were all right. That’s what I remember, what I’m most proud of. The endurance in the face of all that pain…and goddamn was it fun, to.
Bottom line in all this rambling…GSP is gonna continue to roll. He’s said that before the injury he’d lost his passion and was largely going through the motions, and that having the ability to fight taken away from him for a year has refocused him and given him his fighting spirit back. He might have lost something with the injury, but I’m not thinking that’s the case. Carlos Condit is a bad ass, but I think GSP is going to handle his business this Saturday night at UFC 154 like he always does.
The judges have reached a unanimous decision…you’re winner, and now undisputed Welterweight Champion, Georges “Rush” St-Pierre. Haters gonna hate.