Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On 2013

End of the Year Notes

Good Year?
You needed to ask me? Holy fuck yes. The Last of Us, Gone Home, Papers Please, The Stanley Parable, Consensual Torture Simulator and Metal Gear Rising, and that’s just counting the stuff that my meager means allowed me the privilege of playing.

Better than 2012?
Similar in form and quality! AAA games took similar self-investigative turns as last year’s major games, and Indie games continue to provide fresh and exciting experiences. Seriously guys, high fives all around, it has been an incredible year, and that’s saying a lot considering 2012 was also a really good year, one of the best ever.

Game I Thought Was Best This Year?
The Last of Us: Everything about the game served only to emphasize its aesthetic and its themes. I can’t say it was a pleasure to play, but it was a moving and wholly worthy experience. And yes I’ll openly admit to a bias towards the console/AAA releases.

My Favorite Game This Year?
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Worst Game of the Year That I Can’t Be Bothered to Get Mad About
Ride to Hell: Retribution

Worst Game of the Year
Bioshock: Infinite

Game That Surprisingly Sucked the Least
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Best Soundtrack?
That’s a question? Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Best Villain?
Senator Armstrong – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Game With Worst Camera
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Game That Will Not Age Well
Bioshock: Infinite considering it seemed outdated about 45 minutes in.

Taking a Lemon and Making Lemonade
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Oh C’mon, Blood Dragon Was Gross
Yeah, but I wanted to use that joke to piss on Far Cry 3. Fuck that game.

One True Fighting Game

It’s Still Not Out on USA PSN
Guilty Gear Accent Core +R

My PC Can’t Run It
King of Fighters XIII: Steam Edition. I’m really mad about it.

Still Not Buying The WiiU
Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks so good on the WiiU.

That Sold in America?
The Hatsune Miku game is getting a sequel released in America. Whoulda thunk it man.

Best Example of Sexism in Gaming
As always there were a more than a few good ones (not the least of which was the continuing embarrassment that is gamesmens’ reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes Vs. Woman in Videogames), but there only being one female hero in The Wonderful 101 is pretty good.
Oh wait, no, it’s definitely the gigolo missions in Killer is Dead.

Would Ya Please Stop Already
Killer is Dead, Grand Theft Auto V

Best PS4/XB1 Launch Title
Can you buy FFVII on a PS4 yet?

Am I Going To Talk About Music More In The Future?
Yes, starting now. (Don’t worry, it won’t be too often.)

Favorite Album
The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

Favorite Debut Album
Turnover – Magnolia

Favorite EP
Diamond Youth - Orange

Favorite Kanye West Album Released This Year

Favorite Rap Album Not Released By Kanye West
. . . I need to listen to more rap.

Best Black Metal Album That Cannot Be Reasonably Labeled Black Metal
Deafheaven – Sunbather

Best Album I Checked Out Because Dan Ozzi Said He Hated It
Deafheaven - Sunbather

Favorite Band I Discovered in 2013 That Didn’t Put Out an Album This Year for Me to Talk About
In Flames went from “Well I’ve heard of them,” to one of my top 5 favorite metal bands in the space of about a month. Clayman is one of the hands-down best metal albums ever recorded, The Jester Race, Whoracle, Colony, Reroute to Remain and Come Clarity are all track-by-track great as well, and Soundtrack to Your Escape, A Sense of Purpose and Sounds of a Playground Fading are all ranging from great to almost-perfect.

Will Final Fantasy XV Be Released in 2014?
Well it was announced to be in “full development” in 2011 so, my money says no.

Is That a Joke About Square’s Development and Release Cycles?

Can It Be 2014 Yet?
Metal Gear Solid V is going to be fucking amazing and that is a fact.

In All Seriousness
2013 was a turbulent year in my life. I went from jobless and single, to being neither, and back. School was hell. My parents broke up, and that was also hell. I moved out of my mom’s place, into my dad’s, and now it looks like us two are moving back into my old house. I became a founding member of a pop-punk band[1], and I got a bitchin’ new amplifier to help me make some noise. I also finally started a game blog. I named it Haptic Feedback after ICO.[2] I wrote an essay about Metal Gear Solid that I’d been meaning to try for years. Point is, writing gamecrit helped me get through quite a lot this year, and I hope it’s been as meaningful for anyone reading this as it has been for me to write. It’s not yet been a year, but I’m looking forward to playing and writing for the rest of my life. Thank you for reading.

-       Austin C. Howe, Maryland, 2013

[1] http://thebreadshots.bandcamp.com
[2] It’s my interpretation of the controller vibration when you hold Yorda’s hand: most people just take it as feet hitting the ground, but I like the idea that it’s the excitement in Ico’s heartbeat when he holds Yorda’s hand, or maybe it’s the excitement in hers. Maybe it’s both.

Monday, December 16, 2013

On Uno, Dos, and Tre

Yeah, I wrote about music. Whatever.

There’s a Great Album Hidden in the Wreckage of Uno, Dos, and Tre

Green Day released Uno, Dos, and Tre over a year ago now and it’s been agreed by 90% of fans (casual observation I pulled out of my ass) that the trilogy was a total mess, and possibly Green Day’s three worst albums. Since it’s been this long, and I’ve thought about it a lot and listened to all three quite a bit, I decided to reflect on why that is and come to something conclusive on just what doesn’t work here.

After all, theoretically speaking, each of these albums should be able to cater to a different section of the fanbase and keep them satisfied, with Uno being based on the group’s earlier, more basic pop punk sound, Tre representing their more epic side showcased on American Idiot and 21st-Century Breakdown and Dos laying in a transitional point.

Therein lies the first problem: the creation of this trilogy was highly calculated from the start. I remember reading a Rolling Stone article soon after the release of 21st-Century Breakdown wherein Billy Joe said their next album was going to be another concept album because they’d gotten too good at it to stop, and that obviously changed.

Soon before the release of Uno, Billy Joe did an interview with Guitar World where he said that the main reason Green Day decided to strip down was because he found himself enjoying playing the more straightforward punk numbers from 21st the most, but it’s also worth noting that the critical press was (needlessly) more skeptical of 21st, an album that, to its credit, was less conclusive, and more musically experimental than it’s predecessor.

So, for any number of reasons, the band made a compromise, which outright destroys the foundation that made the preceding albums so great: Not giving a fuck.

Green Day didn’t give a fuck when people said they sold out to sign to a major, make Dookie and change the face of rock music, and Green Day didn’t give a fuck that anyone thought they were being overambitious to release a political rock opera (that was more a commentary on the death of punk than anything else that had one genuine anti-war song.) Green Day did what they wanted.

Green Day may have been doing what they wanted on this trilogy, but what they wanted to do was stop pissing people off. No matter how you slice it, that ain’t punk, but much more importantly, that ain’t Green Day.

But let’s talk about the music.

First and foremost, the problem with Uno, Dos, and Tre is that Green Day made an effort to be the version of that band that everyone loved from Dookie[1], but they don’t have any of the tiny little details that made that version of the band great.

Like it or not, modern Green Day is about Billy Joe. Or at least, that’s the only serious conclusion I can come to. 

Mike Dirnt used to color Green Day songs with wonderful bass licks that filled space and gave the basic chord progressions and arrangements of vintage Green Day, already exploding with freight train force, an enthusiastic quality (think early Van Halen and the licks Eddie used to play.) That slowly went away, evaporating completely on American Idiot and 21st-Century Breakdown to make room for more guitar dubs and other layers, which was fine since the more interesting arrangements no longer required him to play “lead” as it were. That said, the lack of that outgoing style is exactly why Nimrod and Warning were distinctly weaker than the two albums preceding them (and why “Castaway” was such a standout on Warning as a result) leaving this trilogy with the same set of problems as plague those two earlier albums.

Meanwhile, Tre Cool has never been a technical powerhouse drummer, but he’s always played hard, and he simply doesn’t here. The mixing on the album is clearly aware of this, gladly burying his drums under an audio problem that outshines the lack of enthusiasm in the rhythm section by a country mile.

Billy Joe Armstrong has the best guitar tone for a genre of music he doesn’t play. It’s crystal clear, it’s precise, and it lacks any of the distortion or controlled messiness you need to make this kind of music feel energetic. Granted, this ends up working well for the albums best songs, which have basically jack and shit to do with the speed of punk, but songs like “Amanda” are begging for the buzzed-out sound of Dookie or Insomniac.

That basically sums up most of the album: sounding like Nimrod when it ought to sound like Insomniac. Some experiments are better than others, but the bad ones are horrible, and horribly misguided (“Nightlife”), and most of the attempts at the classic pop-punk style fall absolutely flat (“Let Yourself Go”.)

That said, I still think that in this absolute mess of a triple album, there is a set of really good songs.

No really! Most of the songs on this thing range between mediocre and complete shit, but that really only highlights when a real banger like “X-Kid” or “Amy” comes on. And, shock of all shocks, most of these really great songs sound like the band that made Dookie and the band that made Nimrod, except they’ve grown up and changed and are about stuff that 42-year old men write about.

In fact, the lyrical mess of nonsense that also plagues the album (especially disappointing following the somewhat scattershot, but still razor sharp cuts on Idiot and Breakdown) also comes into clear view when you filter out the crap: Billy Joe is a 42-year old pop-punk kid with a wife he loves and kids he’s concerned about, and he’s starting to worry about all of the choices he’s made. He’s reflecting on his friends that fucked up, and he’s feeling a lot more attracted to other women than he ought to. What is a triple-album that jumps all over the place becomes a clearly focused, mature album from a mature band. In fact, I’d say that if you cut this thing down to the 12 or 13 tracks that are genuinely really great, the production decisions start to make a lot more sense, the lyrics become more intimate, and what you end up with is an album that is, in fact, a lot better than any of Green Day’s first six albums.

In any case, let’s break this fucker down into categories and see what we get. And let’s start with the crap, because there still is plenty.

Fuck This Shit

“Let Yourself Go”: Green Day was never really the type to put the adolescent humor in their songs, and it doesn’t really work here. Immature, asinine. Not really catchy either.

“Loss of Control”: Yeah, fuck the people you went to High School with except holy shit dude, you’re 42, you don’t put a song about it on a Green Day album you write a fucking blog post. Music here is just lazy.

“F*** Time”: This one’s going on here just on principal of the song being called “F*** Time” and not “Fuck Time”. It’s the 21st Century dude. Also, who are you talking about? And how are you fucking? I mean maybe R'n'B has made me expect more of baby-makin’ music, but still, the kind of lame middle-aged-horny-dude thing that works on “Troublemaker” just fails here. (Also I hate E minor with a passion.)

“Wild One”: You CANNOT make a song called “Wild One” that insufferably slow. Also I’m not really sure what the song’s about.

“Makeout Party”: It starts with a riff that is 80% the same riff as the awesome “East Jesus Nowhere” from 21st Century Breakdown and then goes nowhere. The lyrics go for cute and come across as lame. Billy Joe needs to stop pretending to be teenage Billy Joe.

“Baby Eyes”: Dude, what are you talking about? (This one’s actually pretty catchy but holy shit, be specific.)

“Nightlife”: If Blink can’t pull it off, neither can you. Embarrassing.


“Dirty Rotten Bastards”: Sounds like an outtake from 21st Century Breakdown.

“A Little Boy Named Train”: No clue what it’s about, too generic to be exciting.

Good Lyrics, Boring Music

“Fell for You”: Interesting in that it’s a classic “Falling for You” song but it has more of the mature perspective of how shitty that can feel, because you have no idea what to do about it, and you realize that maybe acting on it isn’t the best idea. Musically though, it’s the most boring chords at the most pedestrian mid-tempo.

“Walk Away”: Too plodding, and I don’t know what you’re recovering from. But I dig the light existential vibe of “Well, nothing else to do but keep on keepin’ on.”

Catchy, But Lyrically Suspect

“Nuclear Family”: Catchy tune, lost opportunity to talk about the failed structure that it’s named after. Honestly I have no idea what this song is about.

“Kill the DJ”: According to Armstrong the song was supposed to be about him hating conservative talk radio hosts, and who doesn’t? But that sort of specificity isn’t in the song, leading it to sound like a sarcastic song about an old guy who hates everything on the radio, or alternatively an aging rocker who can’t stand the growing popularity of electronic music. (And the worst part is that either of those could still be true, or at least legitimate interpretations. It certainly was my first reaction.)

“Angel Blue”: I guess he likes a girl but she’s mean to him? There are a few songs like this on the trilogy, and some are better than others (“Stay the Night”) but it’s weird to hear BJA sing songs about having crushes and shit when he’s been married for decades. His kids are about as old as me!

“Wow! That’s Loud”: I dig the lead guitar hook, but same problem as “Lady Cobra”.

“Drama Queen”: I like the style, have no idea what it’s about.

Good, But Not Great

“99 Revolutions”: It’s nice when Green Day can be political without needing to do a concept album, but the production on this album is too dry for this to come across as anthemic the way it would be on American Idiot.

“Carpe Diem”: Captures a sense that someone is living irresponsibly, but a little vaguely. Standing alone it’s not that great, but it works well with the trilogy’s better songs about Billy Joe looking back, realizing his age, etc.

“Rusty James”: He’s definitely trying to talk about the bars and joints Green Day used to play at and how some of the people from that scene are burned out now, but he’s way too vague about it to be really compelling. “X-Kid” is essentially this song but better in almost every way. It seems like he’s trying to sing it from the character of one of the burnouts but the perspective isn’t distinctive enough from his own to make it feel vibrant. Then again, maybe that’s a form of self-criticism itself. (I’m not gonna give it that much credit though, and that should mean a lot from the guy who considers American Idiot the rock album of its decade.)

“Stop When the Red Lights Flash”: This one might be about promiscuity again, but it’s also still too vague for me to be really sure. “I’ll make you surrender” sounds more aggressive and dangerous than anything in “Fuck Time” or “Troublemaker”, but it’s attached to a set of lyrics that doesn’t really work out, and a tune with energy, but no direction.

“Ashley”: It’s pissed-off, but the outright bitterness can make it a bit of a turn-off. Also it’s in E minor which makes it a chore to get through for me.

“Lady Cobra”: Would’ve been better if there weren’t better songs about promiscuity all over the trilogy. I dig how noisy it gets though and how it gets to the point.

“Sex, Drugs, and Violence”: I like how it’s kind of about how Green Day decided to simplify for this album, but pointing out how pedestrian these topics can be also says a lot about the weaker songs on the trilogy. I might also not be calling it a better song because it’s following “X-Kid” and it’s the same E major catchy style, and it can’t possibly follow that song.

Special Category

“The Forgotten”: It’s honestly really good, but it’s incredibly out of place here.

So after all that, what do we end up with? 13 songs, 45 minutes.

The Great Shit

“See You Tonight”: The two really great songs on Dos (the other one being “Amy”) are the two most musically vintage, with this one giving off a Simon and Garfunkel affectation by way of 50’s pop lyrical style, both of which it totally nails. Lyrically, like a lot of the good songs on this trilogy, this one is about Billy Joe trying to keep it in his pants.

“Stay the Night”: It’s catchy as hell, and it feels relevant to his age. Billy Joe hitting midlife, questioning his decisions, even his marriage, and looking to have a fling just to take some risks again.

“Troublemaker”: The chorus would be pedestrian if Billy Joe wasn’t singing it so well. Meanwhile, horny Billy Joe is fun Billy Joe. Song should be annoying, but it’s mostly cute. He says he wants to be a troublemaker, but you know he doesn’t mean it. And I’m pretty sure he’s in on the joke. The classic kind of “He can get away with it because he’s Billy Joe Armstrong.”

“Stray Heart”: Lots of other songs on the trilogy are about Billy Joe dealing with his feelings for other women, and this one seems like an apology his wife, which makes it pretty sympathetic even if it can be a bit vague. I’m giving it a lot of points because it’s catchy as hell pop-punk without feeling like they’re trying to imitate themselves.

“Lazy Bones”: Musically this is the kind of rock Green Day oughta be focusing on from now on, and the wandering style of lyrics that mar a lot of other songs work here when the song is about being stressed out and being so tired you can’t sleep.

“Amanda”: A lot of songs on this album are about struggling with infidelity, but this is the only one mature enough to say “We can’t, I’m sorry.”

“Brutal Love”: Another one where the clean production style that fucks up the rock songs really helps the musically vintage style we hear here. The marching bombast here really matches the melodrama here well. Really like this song.

“X-Kid”: “Hey little kid/Did you wake up late one day and/you’re not so young/but you’re still dumb/and you’re numb to your old glory but now it’s gone.” Fuck that hurts.

“8th Avenue Serenade”: Catchier than “Sweet 16”, and it captures a more desperately sexual angle to a long relationship that’s lost a bit too much passion.

“Missing You”: Maybe she found out about all those women on the side. Actions have consequences buddy.

“Sweet 16”: This is one of the great nostalgic songs on the album, this one specifically about Billy Joe’s relationship with his wife. He’s been absolutely worshipping his wife in his music recently,[2] but it’s at its cutest here.

“Oh Love”: Musically, this is the type of song where the aural choices made on this album actually add up. It’s a more glacial tune, but the big chords ringing clear give that some genuine power this time around. Lyrically, “Oh Love” is the prototypically great song from this album, capturing Billy Joe walking around at night, filled with doubt, feeling vulnerable. It’s great stuff.

“Amy”: I fucking love this song. I just . . . god damn this is good.
-       Austin C. Howe, Maryland, 2013


[1] And for the record, Dookie may have many of the band’s best songs but it’s not nearly as consistently awesome as Insomniac, even if the former features the tiny little things that can make an album really special.
[2] Gloria and Whatshername are both basically his wife, and just listen to him sing those praises on “Last of the American Girls” or “Extraordinary Girl”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Notes on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Quick notes on Metal Gear Rising

·        How you interpret Chapter 5 is kind of insightful into how different people play and think of games differently:

To someone who is more interested in the narrative, which is at that point hitting peak tension, the escape from Denver is basically filler. They could’ve made it smooth sailing to the launch site, but maybe the designers needed an extra 15 minutes or so of gameplay[1], so that got thrown in.

For some players, it might be seen as a rare instance where the game forces you to backtrack instead of taking you somewhere new, so their complaint would be similar.

On the other hand, for action game devotee, they notice that each of the four fights in the area, but they aren’t incredibly difficult fights, so they might see it as simply a few short set-pieces wherein they can bust out and do freestyle gameplay.

. . . I wanted to turn this into a short thing about how I hope game criticism will be able to refine itself soon enough where people have clear approaches to how they do things, but honestly, I’ve got nothing.

·         Metal Gear Rising has the best game soundtrack of recent memory. I’d also go so far as to call it some of the best metal released on 2013.

·         I love how the bandana Raiden uses to cover his cut eye (more on that below) has a hexagon pattern on it that visually recalls the aesthetic of Metal Gear Solid 2, specifically the game’s opening.

·         I can understand the use of cinematic quick-time events in this game. It all completely makes sense for this game, and frankly, most of them are only examples of “optimized” gameplay. Other methods of killing an enemy will work, but the cutscene endings and such allow you to restore life and fuel. All of that said, I am murdering the designer of the next game I play that makes me mash the joysticks. You know what happens when I do that? I have to take my right hand off the buttons where they should always remain and use my right palm to mash the joysticks and that shit hurts. Yeah. Fuck that shit.

·         It’s interesting given that this game is the possible start of a new sub-series starring Raiden that the gameplay actually has a fair few parallels to the original Metal Gear Solid: Enemy ranges of vision are a fair bit smaller than in the most recent Solid installments, so even if you’re ninja running, sometimes enemies won’t even perceive you.[2] Sound is also no longer a factor when using stealth to approach a target. You can run up literally right to a target’s back and then use the one-button prompt to execute and as long as you don’t touch them then you won’t enter Alert phase.

·         Of course, on the other hand, the fact that this game has stealth, cardboard boxes, or sub-weapons that come from earlier games in the first place might just be the Platinum team showing their dedication to Kojima’s diamond tablets of source material. (Read: fanservice.)

·         Speaking of dedication to Kojima’s source material: the PR leading up to this game’s release sounds like all the usual bullshit you get when you hear that a new dev is trying to preserve a franchise’s artistic qualities.

That said, scriptwriter Etsu Tamari I think really does “get it.” Metal Gear Rising is, politically and philosophically, absolutely 100% a Metal Gear title, and it’s enthusiasm to show that it is makes it possibly the most thematically blunt Metal Gear ever made. It observes and criticizes the relationship between war and capitalism, it examines the relationship between mainstream media narrative and truth, and it questions, more directly and aggressively than any other Metal Gear, the heroic nature of the violence by which the protagonist reaches his ends. And if you didn’t understand any of that, there’s a point where Raiden reidentifies as “Jack the Ripper” and the ending has you beating the shit out of a redditor stereotype named Senator Armstrong: He’s white, he’s rich, he’s a libertarian, and he played college football at the University of Texas.[3] (He’s also without question the game villain of 2013)
·         That said: The rogues gallery of a given Metal Gear title is always interesting in one way or the other, either through strong characterization, or interesting backstory, or both. And always through fantastic boss fights. MGR mostly just has really good boss fights. (And I mean really good boss fights.) Two of the major bosses are introduced right before you fight them, and only one gets to leave an impression. (Monsoon is awesome in so many ways.) Neither of them are particularly strong in characterizations or backstory. The other three appear sparsely and don’t get much development either, including Senator Armstrong and I am serious: why doesn’t this guy get more screentime?! I haven’t loved hating a character this much since I-really-can’t-recall when.

·         That plays into another thing that I can’t really call “wrong” with this game, but I’mma bitch about it anyway: the cutscenes in this game are really short, and in case no one has ever noticed, the length of about every Metal Gear gets sliced clean in half when you skip the cutscenes. Case in point, my final playtime, including watching all the cutscenes and tons of continues was 5 hours. (Which blows my mind because there’s 2 hours of cutscenes in here.)

·         This is partially because, and most people don’t realize this, stealth games are almost inherently action games, just with a different aesthetic.[4] And games that are primarily action-based rather than adventure-based tend to be pretty short, even if you account for cutscenes.

·         Per above, Metal Gear Solid 4 averages about 15 hours a playthrough for me, and around 8 hours of that is cutscenes. So yeah, only 7 hours of gameplay. So basically yeah, Metal Gear games are the definitive stealth games, but stealth games are action games.

·         I cannot be the first person to point this out, but the title is an obvious play on words. It’s not Revengeance it’s “RE: Vengeance”. Vengeance is the central theme of Raiden’s narrative arc, as we come to observe Raiden’s actions less and less through an altruistic and humanitarian lens and more as weakly justified expressions of his own repressed anger.

·         I might write more about this, I definitely should at least, but Metal Gear Rising actually has one of the most surprisingly solid narrative constructions I’ve seen recently. It starts with a character being of a certain perspective, it gently, and then relentlessly questions and deconstructs that perspective, and the character is left fundamentally changed. Its thematic intentions are subversive, but its narrative construction is Storytelling 101.

·         Here’s the difference between Metal Gear Rising and the typical lame bullshit that passes for “moral ambiguity” in most games: most games do “Yeah, vending machines full of blood . . . Take it easy Dracula, they’re still human.” And that would be it. MGR on the other hand starts its story there, thematically speaking, and follows it down a rabbit hole to the point where Raiden, at the end of the game, completely lacks anything resembling moral authority. THAT is subversion.

·         Per the note above, Raiden actually fails almost every single objective in this game. That is not insignificant: He fails to prevent the assassination of N’mani despite describing his work as “security,” and after succeeding to rescue the harvested and unharvested children from the Desperados, he learns that this was a way to distract Maverick and Raiden from Senator Armstrong’s plans[5], and when he goes to Pakistan to prevent those plans from being carried out, the World Marshal PMC uses the attack on the base to make Raiden the villain and use him for the same purpose, his murder of Armstrong likely contributing to that.

·         In addition to that: failing to morally justify the action he takes against World Marshal, Desperado, and Senator Armstrong, Raiden makes a psychological regression back into the ultraviolent persona “Jack the Ripper” that we saw when he was a child soldier.

·         Worth mentioning in relation: the Metal Gear games typically use the loss of an eye to depict a character who is evil or is becoming evil (Solidus Snake, Big Boss), so we’ll have to see where a possible sequel takes that plot thread.

·         Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is definitely my favorite game this year.

-       Austin C. Howe, Maryland, 2013

[1] The average chapter is much longer than 15 minutes, but this is a very short game.
[2] “Perceive” is the word I’ve heard used around the Metal Gear fandom used to refer to when an enemy in a Metal Gear game “sees” you outside of their field of vision, and thus they investigate where they spotted you.
[3] Go Razorbacks!!
[4] Deus Ex is mostly an exception, I view it as stealth being the central focus of what is otherwise a WRPG: what’s important is not so much mastering a system of sneaking more so than customizing the ways in which you sneak (or choose not to sneak at all.)
[5] Too long to not footnote: assassinate the President on Pakistani soil, exploiting American nationalism to create a groundswell of support for a second war on terror, which the game states in no uncertain terms has been a complete and utter failure.

On Cutscenes as a Form of Pacing (Storify)


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Final Fantasy VIII on Steam

So since my favorite game just came out on Steam I thought I'd note a few things.

1) This version of the game comes with a "Magic Loader". It starts you off with a max stock of more than a few good spells. It's a cheat code but, tastefully, it only gives you some of the initial sets of spells that you'd grind for within the first five hours of the game or so, so no starting the game with, say, 100 Ultima.

Because that'd be broken right?! Trust me, I'm laughing just as hard as you are.

2) Spoony's Let's Play/Review of Final Fantasy VIII is far and away one of the worst pieces of games writing that yet exists. Frankly, it represents almost everything wrong with how games criticism has been done up until this point. When I take the opportunity to write more about the game (which I certainly will) I will write more about why I hate the review so much, but I will say right now that it has at least one grievous factual error.

3) This is one of those games much like Dragon Quarter or Resonance of Fate that's wants to be played a specific kind of way, and you gotta work with it or you're gonna waste a lot of time. For example, I can tell you right off the bat that six of the spells that the "Magic Loader" in this version gives you are absolutely useless as junctions in comparison even to other spells on that list, or spells like Water that become available nearly as soon as you turn the game on. (Honest to god, if you want to play FFVIII and feel "intimidated" by it, send me an email, I will speak to you personally on the subject.)

Anyway, Final Fantasy VIII is an awesome, awesome, unique game that everyone should play once, Squall is my favorite game character, and it's my favorite game of all time. I really, really want you to play it if you haven't before. And for $12? That's a steal. Look for more writing on FFVIII here on Haptic Feedback in the future, but not anytime soon. Too many ongoing projects, also a lot of personal reasons that I'll explain more in-depth when I write about the game.

- Austin C. Howe, Maryland, 2013