Author Archives: John Richard Albers
There are some days when the words will just not come. I stare at the empty page, a yawning void looking back into the soul of me, and I’m tormented by the loss of my muse. That’s when determination sets in, the training that tells me I cannot allow myself to write only on days when the words sing and I must trudge on regardless. On those days, any old thing typed down will do, just so long as I don’t allow myself to stop.
With the success of Playstation 3 exclusives such as Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us, Sony is developing a market strategy focusing on the creation of exclusive new intellectual properties in direct opposition to Microsoft’s tendency to utilize multi-platform sequels, and Nintendo’s predilection for the reproduction of intellectual properties from close to thirty years ago. And, since the Playstation 4 will soon be dropping opposite the Xbox One (with the Wii U sitting in the corner eating paste), gamers are owlishly watching to see which console (if any) is the smarter buy.
The unknown. It is both our greatest fear and the singlemost thing which galvanizes us, which holds our attention, and which inspires us to act. Why are we afraid? Because our imaginations present a million and one possibilities of a reality immeasurably worse than our own. Why are we still attracted to it? Because there still remains the hope that the unknown contains a reality better than the one we live in now, and humans are notoriously bad at reckoning the odds. Halloween, though westernized, Anglicized, and removed of its teeth, still remains a humbling reminder that the only reason the world is not more than we think it is is that we simply haven’t made that discovery yet. It creeps in at the corners of our perception, making us question our mundane world, and opening us to the chance, the most minute of chances, that there is something more out there which would change everything. That unique Halloween spirit is difficult to capture in its entirety, but aspects of it are visible in the following titles.
It’s not uncommon for people to suffer from a little depression during the fall and winter. Maybe not bad enough to be clinically diagnosed, just a muted feeling that turns life down and makes everything seem like so much of a chore. Gamers have more reason to be depressed during winter than most. All the major titles drop by November and then there’s nothing to open on Christmas morning. Take into account the flagging economy and a lot of people don’t have the cash on hand to blow on new releases. But it’s not like a good gamer would throw himself into his family, focus on getting into the holiday spirit, and participating in community events to make connections and enjoy the warm glow of brotherhood. That requires you leave your room and *gasp* talk to people! So here are the top ten current gen titles to inject some warmth, cheer, and light into an otherwise drab, grim, grey, chest-high wall filled existence.
I suppose there’s no harm in admitting I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan as a kid. I watched the cartoons, collected the action figures, had the PJs and bedclothes, went to see the movies, collected the comics, and of course I had to have the games when they released. As with anyone who played it, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES was a matter of finding workarounds and ways to game the system considering its difficulty level. The sequel was a little more the right tone, having been taken from the arcade version of the game.
For those unfamiliar with the subject material, the upcoming video game Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the pen and paper game system Cyberpunk 2020, combining high-tech and low-life elements and a noire style of storytelling in the infamous metropolis Night City. The cyberpunk genre in general focuses on examining the increasingly blurry lines between man and machine in a world where technology has advanced but humanity has not. There is espionage, there is intrigue, there is betrayal, violence, and the longstanding staple: Greed.
Among the first titles purchased with my own money as a boy was Vegas Dream for the NES. As you might expect by the name, it was a gambling game, starting you out with seven-hundred dollars and making available four different casino games. It was fun, but once I’d earned enough money the thrill of it abated, and it went on my shelf where it still sits. Funny that with the release of every new game console there have been gambling games produced for them which, while entertaining, didn’t sell very well.
With the release of the much anticipated Grand Theft Auto V, opinions have been diverse and hotly contested. And with good reason. There’s a lot to consider. The size and detail of the map, for instance, versus how much of it is you actually use. The social commentary on police, what with having a wanted star granting the police in game the right to shoot you dead. Skyrocketing cost of healthcare. And the inordinate difficulty in making enough money to survive let alone thrive. I can spend the entire day hunting and make maybe $1,000 for my trouble, but if getting mauled by a mountain lion at the end of the day nets me $1,500 in medical bills, then I’m in my pocket for the day’s work. And, for the danger they present, illegal ventures don’t necessarily pay much better. So we’ve put together a little guide looking at ways to make money, how to maximize your profit, and what to ignore.
With the bankruptcy of developing giant THQ and the auctioning off of its intellectual properties, the fate of nascent Saints Row 4 was up in the air for a while. And after it was picked up by Deep Silver, producers of Dead Island, more than its fair share of speculation was had as to what could be expected. Put in the capable hands of Volition, who developed such underappreciated classics as Ghostbusters: The Game, I had my hopes, which were simultaneously not met and exceeded.
What we’ve been seeing with video games over the course of the last few years is a sort of event horizon where there ceases to be a dividing line between a movie and a game, as evidenced by such emergent titles as Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy (with a new title to be soon released from the same studio). Back when the processing capacity of a computer or console was so very limited, a short cut scene or static image upon completing a level would be the player’s reward. The opportunity for storytelling has increased manifold as computer technology has advanced. But the compartmentalization of the game development process has brought about a pitfall which unfortunately many titles fall into.
Good video game development involves incorporating puzzle-solving and skill elements into what can seem to the player to be an open-ended narrative, but what all too often ends up happening is that you’re directed by a series of arrows to complete an obstacle course and fight a couple of monsters in order to trigger the next cut scene and advance the plot a step. The game and story should be seamlessly interwoven into one another, but regrettably in the case of Remember Me, I’d probably be better off watching a compilation of the cut scenes on Youtube.
For what it’s worth, Remember Me has some excellent ideas, the core concept being that a future company in Paris has discovered a way to digitize human memories, allowing them for download, upload, transfer, manipulation, and even theft. This is brought about by the Sensen, a sort of holographic implant sprouting from the back of the neck which allows memory transfer through thin air, ineptly thinking to avoid all the plotholes associated with the biology and technology that might be needed to make such a thing a reality, taking what could be a concrete and visceral concept and making it too nebulous and airy-fairy for most people’s liking. Sculpting a perfect past by means of buying new memories becomes an addiction of the social elite and trickles down to the lower classes, who bankrupt themselves and create a new sub-human underclass of memory addicts who don’t even know who they are anymore.
It hits the mark well as a dystopian cyberpunk game because it emphasizes the militant order imposed by the corporate powers that be while at the same time showing how utterly little they care for the core concept of one’s humanity. We as both the character and the audience get a strong sense of helplessness and weakness in the face of this vast, overgrown, corrupt machine which eats people up and shits them out. But whoever planned it doesn’t have a good grasp of storytelling, as they fail to set the scene properly by showing us the whole of the city in its decrepit splendor. Consequently, while I know I’m running around through Paris, it’s not like I would’ve recognized it unless I’d been told that’s where I was. The location adds nothing to story. The same goes for much of the gameplay and scenery.
And who on earth decided to rip off Star Wars for the soundtrack? With the sharp clatter of drums, hailing of trumpets, and shriek of violin strings surging up at the slightest notice, the only thing that was missing was the familiar and somehow calming beeps of R2-D2.
And whoever wrote the character’s dialogue needs to go to a corner bar and listen to the drunks for a couple of weeks so he can figure out how real people talk. I’d prefer leetspeak over the ham-fisted soap opera-ish twaddle the game’s characters trot out. As the player, you are Nilin, a French-born British-accented revolutionary-turned guinea pig-turned revolutionary whose memory has been taken, and you must find out who you are while being guided by the only other active member of your cabal, with the ultimate intention of bringing down the company responsible for establishing this pseudo-new world order. But we’ve yet to identify the bad guy behind it all, or even identify an evil plot. The company is a world power with its own military. What it could want to obtain through evil means that it couldn’t obtain through perfectly legal ones boggles the mind and leaves me thinking that the game’s writer just couldn’t come up with a decent goal for the bad guys to get involved in an actionable plot. Consequently, you fight the company because of its unethical but perfectly legal business practices, and I feel a bit stupid conducting industrial espionage trying to take down the futuristic equivalent of Wal-Mart just because they’re not nice people.
I would call it a saving grace were it worth the 10+ hours of work, though it’s not, but the one innovative approach to gameplay is memory remix, where Nilin dives into a person’s mind, replays a given memory, and then alters it as if one were editing a film in order to make the person think something that didn’t happen did. Aside from this, you engage in many hours of parkour which would feel like Assassin’s Creed if you had an open-world environment to roam instead of being told where to go constantly, taking away the spontaneity that’s the entire point of parkour. And occasionally you also get into fistfights superficially reminiscent of the 10 on 1 fights from Sleeping Dogs ala Bruce Lee. The developers tout their combo lab combat system as revolutionary, in which you can mix and match attacks to create your own attack combinations which do damage, heal you, or create status effects. What you’re really doing is putting pegs into holes. There are five combos that you unlock over the course of the game and will be carved into your soul given the mindnumbing frequency they are used. But with a limited number of attacks you can plug in, one combo becomes your damage dealer, the other heals you, the third establishes status effects, and the remainder are never used because they are too long and you are always interrupted before you can complete them.
True dystopian cyberpunk titles are few and far between, meaning I really had my hopes up for Remember Me. But the combination of high-tech low-life isn’t there, nor is there the cast of supporting characters and corporate intrigue one needs to show the many shades of grey inherent in a world where money is all that matters. This is what happens when each department in a development company is given a job and a deadline with no one who has the vision and leadership capabilities to keep everyone working together and all headed in the right direction. The compartmentalization of responsibilities in game production has led to the deaths of many titles in the past; Remember Me will not be the last to fall to bureaucracy. What it sought to achieve should indeed be remembered, but what it actually managed is best left forgotten.
|Pros:||Excellent premise. High quality graphics. Sweeping soundtrack|
|Cons:||Poor storytelling and execution. Boring gameplay.|
|Game producer's website:||Dontnod Entertainment|
|Official website:||Remember Me|
|Game available at:|