Games As a Service

Man, Street Fighter V is certainly great. It’s got ranked matches and player matches and…replays and…some short story bits and…um…not a whole lot else. I mean, comparatively speaking, this isn’t much different than Super Street Fighter II on SNES, but that also released in 1994.

A lot of developers like to look at their games as “services”. When DLC is factored into the development cycle, one is constantly thinking about what is coming next. Does the base game end at going gold, or do you continue to release things steadily throughout the year?

Most of us gamers grew up in an era where ceasing development was the end point of any changes to the game. There are always going to be last minute changes, but for the most part, calling a project finished meant just that.

More recently, however, games have continued to grow and expand. Killer Instinct launched on Xbox One as a free-to-play game with multiple seasons. Hell, that game is prepping for a third season and PC release; it is far from being finished.

Not finished? The hell, you say?

For that matter, Sony has molded Driveclub into a pretty respectable racing sim. That game launched with a laundry list of issues, but those barely remain. The constant stream of extra campaigns and new courses has also kept the game from becoming stale.

If you look at the history of Street Fighter, you almost see the same thing. Capcom had listened to fan feedback and kept tweaking the foundation that Street Fighter II was built on. When the game’s initial run was complete, we ended up having six official versions of it; if you want to count the HD Remix, that makes seven.

For that matter, both Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter III saw three different versions (and Alpha had some console ports with different things). Capcom has never been one to release a fighter and call it a day. Their previous efforts without the internet lead them to creating multiple SKUs.

Street Fighter V is just the natural progression of their developmental mindset. They are no longer shackled to brick and mortar releases or physical distribution. The internet has changed the way which they can tweak their titles.

That doesn’t excuse the lack of features in the current version. For $60, it is insane to expect people to be okay with waiting for content that is available in other games. A story mode is coming, but what is included just seems insultingly bare.

And this is insultingly not bare (in the final game).

For that matter, why are most of the online features not present? You would think with all of the work done onStreet Fighter IV that Capcom would have some grasp of what their community wants. Basic multiplayer lobbies and better replay features should be present.

This is all putting aside the fact that Capcom rushed the game out for tournament players. The deadlines for making EVO qualification were at the end of February, so Capcom needed this released to allow hardcore players to get in the competition.

That doesn’t do much for the more casual gamer. I’m of the mind that a company as big as Capcom could have spent more resources to finish all of the features for launch. There is no compelling reason that anything should be absent, apart from planned DLC.

If EVO were such a big concern, why not release a cheaper, digital only release with an upgrade option? We do live in the age of the internet, which is something Capcom is clearly banking on. My main concern becomes when any kind of server support for Street Fighter V is ceased; people will have a game on disc that is basically nothing.

Then again, we are in the year 2016 and there are still Street Fighter II tournaments being held. Capcom has created a legacy with this series that will not burn out. Even if the genre of games saw a hiatus between Street Fighter III and Street Fighter IV, the rise of social media and blogging has given niches a voice.

I know, Ryu; it is really stupid.

Those voices wanted a return to the glory days of 16-bit fighters. Since 2009, I can’t even recall the amount of fighting games that have appeared. BlazBlue, Mortal Kombat, Persona 4: Arena, Guilty Gear Xrd; I could be here for a while mentioning them all. There was always an audience for this genre, but developers just assumed no one wanted to play them.

As it stands, though, Street Fighter V is a bit disappointing. The game may be solid and have legs, but the amount of content present is unjustifiable. Anyone whom drops $60 on that and is happy is either blinded with nostalgia or just plain easy-going.

Hopefully Capcom doesn’t go back on their word. They stated that Street Fighter IV would be a service, yet we’ve seen four different retail releases of the game. For what is planned, I have hopes for Street Fighter V. I like that playing the game will earn me new characters, which just plain makes sense.

It’s almost like an old-school game; almost.

Forget Me Not

A funny thing occurred after I finished Remember Me recently; I didn’t like the game. I couldn’t come to terms with the sluggish combat and I was generally annoyed with how much exposition there was in the dialog. The game seemed to have it’s head thoroughly up it’s own ass (to quote Jim Sterling).

I was a little ticked off with seemingly having wasted my time. Even the conclusion to the game felt forced and out of left field, robbing me of a satisfactory closer. I took to the internet to see if people had any theories as to what happened and stumbled upon an interesting article.

On the website VenturedBeat, writer Leigh Harrison made the statement that, “Remember Me undermines it’s story to be a video game.” After skimming through his thoughts, I realized I felt the same way.

For starters, why is there a mad scientist type character that gets finished off half-way through the story? How come there are so many weird creatures that make no sense in a game that focuses on memory manipulation? Do people really mutate when they lose their minds?

I couldn’t get over these basic details. It didn’t help that most of the dialog was borderline satire, but delivered with such earnest feeling from the actors. To their credit, they aren’t bad, just the writing is. At one point, an enemy taunts you with some big bad wolf bullshit and your character responds with, “This red riding hood has a basket full of kickass.”

There isn’t a hint of irony with her yelling that, either. You’re just supposed to accept that she’s a woman who can kick ass in a man’s world. I don’t take an issue with Nilin being a woman, just that we still can’t have a game that doesn’t bring attention the character’s gender.

YOU GO GIRL!

Another villain, who is basically captain mcguffin, approaches a locker room and proclaims, “Hello beautiful ladies! Time for your cavity searches!” Why does he utter that? I know he’s supposed to be an utterly unlikable guy, but a line of dialog like that is basically written to make you hate him for disrespecting your character’s gender.

It doesn’t feel natural. It’s a cheap way to garner hatred without describing the guy further. That the game then shifts into a fight scenes makes less sense, too. Nilin proceeds to take out a locker room full of guards because you’re in a video game. We see her steal memories from a distance before, but I guess you just can’t now.

The ending boss is also something I take issue with. I figured finding your target and remixing his memory would be enough, but you are then shoved down a pathway to shut down the mega-computer that runs the game’s plot.

He asks you to shut him down and end his suffering. Upon reaching him, though, he suddenly wants to do battle. He then states, “If you do not kill me, I will destroy you.” You literally just asked me to kill you and now there is a battle? The hell?

Without me, this game is only 7 hours long! THAT CANNOT BE!

After seeing that article, I began to wonder about other games I’ve played that left me feeling empty. A lot of times, there seems to be basic plot structure getting thrown out the window to facilitate an action set-piece.

I noticed this a lot with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. I had never pieced it together as being contrived for the sake of gameplay, but that suddenly makes sense. The final mission has the Ghost Squad stating they can’t be seen and must take caution, only for them to miss a shot for no reason, slide down a mountain and brandish their pistols for a running duel.

There was even a section far earlier in the game where the Ghosts retrieve a hostage and during transit, take out their pistols and slow-motion action scene their way out of the armed facility. Why not stealth your way out? How about using those automatics you packed?!

We have cloaking devices, but his is way more efficient!

As video games become a more “serious business”, it seems developers are finding more ways to up the ante in regards to cinema. Since action movies basically have fight scenes every 15-20 minutes, a game must have that as well.

I truly believe Remember Me would have made a stellar movie. It has certain narrative choices that are beyond pointless, but it’s insistence on delivering an action game environment reverses a lot of the good will it’s story sets up.

Not only that, but the game basically never allows you any choice. You are compliant with the script and only change your understanding when the story says you can. It basically rips control from you when it should be empowering.

I also don’t like how many references they make to the word “Remember.” Then again, I did say I didn’t like the game.

A So Called Legacy

With Capcom’s announcement of the Mega Man: Legacy Collection for next-gen consoles, I feel a bit torn. On the one hand, we have at least some kind of confirmation that Capcom actually cares about the blue bomber. On the other hand, they don’t care enough to make an entire compendium.

In an effort to not rant like a maniac for the next few paragraphs, I’ve decided to break this into a Top 5 list. I will go over 5 different ways that Capcom could improve the Legacy Collection that won’t ruin the idea they are shooting for.

5. Bonus Features

While not everything is known about the downloadable collection, one thing that should be included are bonus, DVD style features. When going back to the past, it’s nice to get a viewpoint from developers on what their creative process was.

More importantly, adding bonus features gives old fans a reason to actually pay attention to what is possibly the 5th time these games have been re-released. Nothing is cooler than beating a game and immediately re-starting it with director’s commentary.

The interactive museum feature is a start and I won’t dismiss photo galleries, but I will state that I don’t believe they are enough. Concept art always looks better on paper, so just throwing a bunch of images into the collection won’t really matter.

4. Extra Modes

Capcom has at least confirmed there will be a challenge mode for each game in the collection, but I’d like to see them take this further. Mega Man 9 and 10 had bonus characters as DLC that would be perfect to include in the older games.

Along with that, why not go ahead and make a Master Quest style version of each game? Fans have beaten these games an innumerable amount of times over the years, so giving them what might be the closest thing to a new Mega Man as possible wouldn’t be bad.

3. Updated Graphics

Graphics may not be the most important part of a game, but charging an umpteenth time for a 28 year old game is a little crazy. Instead of just wholesale porting a ROM over, why not go the distance and re-create the sprites in HD?

Capcom hired Udon to do such a thing for Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, so why not Mega Man? Many people consider the blue bomber to be a defining character of their childhoods, so they would appreciate updated art assets that pay homage to the original style.

For the sake of purists, though, do not make updated graphics the only option. I cannot stand when HD remakes update the past, but fail to respect it. LucasArts did great with their re-releases of the Monkey Island games, so give us something along the lines of that.

2. Release on “Legacy” Consoles

While the new generation of consoles is underway, there are people who have no interest in leaving their past consoles. For some, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are all they will ever need. Then there are the Nintendo faithful who have a Wii U and no possible way to experience this collection.

Instead of snuffing those customers, why not port the game to last-generation consoles? You can’t tell me that the collection wouldn’t run on previous gen hardware. Both PS3 and 360 have Mega Man 9 and 10, not to mention the Wii has a majority of the older Mega Man games on the eShop.

Wii U also has that, but when you’re charging $5 a pop, why are you going to leave Wii U owners out in the cold on this “Legacy” collection? Just having the games isn’t the only point of this re-release.

Sony has the perfect feature of “cross-buy” that would be great for their console family. Having Mega Man on PS3, PS4 and Vita would be enough to convince prospective players into dipping their toes.

1. Include Every Mega Man Game

This is probably the biggest concern of mine when it comes to the so called “Legacy” collection. You can’t claim something is a legacy if it doesn’t have every available game. Even though Konami has their heads firmly up their asses, their legacy collection of Metal Gear included every title (and the VR Missions!).

Capcom should take this chance to provide Mega Man 7, 8, 9 and 10 on next-gen hardware. Forget that some of those titles aren’t the best of Capcom’s classics (I actually think 9 is the best Mega Man game), but they are a crucial part of the blue bomber’s history.

The biggest disaster is that Mega Man 8 isn’t readily available on most consoles. While Sony recently released it as a PS1 classic, there isn’t a reason why this collection should be missing such a game.

Couple that with the fact that the previous Mega Man collection actually included 7 and 8, and I really don’t understand the reasoning to leave out the last four games in the Mega Man series. Hell, that same collection even had both arcade fighting games, so why not throw those in?

Even if it would move the relatively low price up a bit, I’d be willing to pay more for a collection that is complete. The NES era might be the best of our old friend, but he did have other ventures that most likely created some die-hard fans.

With this list, I really hope Capcom takes the time to notice some of my concerns. I do love Mega Man, but access to the back catalog of games isn’t the easiest thing to come by. You either have to own more than one console or be lucky and find the old Anniversary collection.

Capcom could even go out of their way and make a physical release that includes a Mega Man statue. That may be asking too much, but fans truly want some kind of acknowledgement that the blue bomber is worth a damn.

Either way, I probably will still end up with the Legacy collection. I love the little blue guy too much to withhold myself.

Labyrinth Legends is a Thing

I beat Labyrinth Legends the other day. It was a fun little game with some decent controls and puzzles. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but Sony giving it away for free on PlayStation Plus was nice. I feel bad not giving the developers $10 for the game, since I did enjoy it.

Funny thing about the game: I cannot find much about it. There is no Wikipedia entry. The developer’s website has maybe a paragraph about the title. GameRankings only has seven listed reviews. I can’t find any advertisements for the game. Apparently nobody cares about this.

So what else can you say about a game when even its developer doesn’t care? This is an old problem in the games industry that hasn’t changed with the shifting times. Konami should know firsthand how bad no promotion or attention can be. Destructoid’s own Jim Sterling is the only reason that the game Blades of Time is recognized around the Internet.

When it’s already difficult to get a game made, why would you simply coast along and hope your game does well? Since I actually enjoyed Labyrinth Legends, I would have gladly promoted the hell out of it. I’d make some videos on YouTube, maybe do a Let’s Play. Anything would be better than the situation now.

This just makes me think about the recently released Remember Me. The game is already facing an uphill struggle as it stars a female protagonist, but I have not seen a single promotional teaser for the game. Focus groups and developers claim that games with female leads do not sell, but then fail to promote them properly.

labyrinth_3

Even a demo would have been nice. It hurts when the review scores are coming with some negativity and not many people have even heard of the game. What are you supposed to do to rectify your reputation when you don’t care?

I still refuse to believe how terrible Konami is about PR. They constantly delay games without notifying even retail outlets and issue press releases for demos that were released two days prior. If a game from that company doesn’t contain the words “Metal” and “Gear” in the title somewhere, then you’d be hard pressed to actually know it existed.

Even Silent Hill gets shafted. While the HD collection was trash, longtime fans were super pumped to be getting re-releases of beloved gems. Maybe if Konami gave a crap, we’d have HD versions worth owning and more people would recognize that survival horror was still a genre.

Then we come to Nintendo with the Wii U. The adoption rate of the console is beyond miserable. The Wii even managed to outsell its HD brother last month. Not many people understand that the console is actually different. I don’t see any commercials trying to persuade consumers, either.

We have random PR gibberish and made-up phrases like “asynchronous gameplay” that mean nothing to anybody. Nintendo is simply resting on their laurels and hoping the Wii U explodes like its predecessor. Why bother putting more effort in?

labyrinth_2

It’s not just the Wii….we promise.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I genuinely care about gaming. I love these companies for their past successes and want to see them succeed. I’m tired of playing good games and having no one to discuss them with. Why am I the only person that seems to know about something?

Even just having a person recognize the title I’m talking about would be huge. I may not know every movie ever made, but I certainly know enough about the casting or directors to at least have a conversation with another human. When I discuss gaming, though, I get blank stares.

I want more people to appreciate and form opinions about my hobby. I want the developers in the games industry to prosper and get their games recognized. More importantly, I want funny, quirky little games like Labyrinth Legends to do well.

So, I urge everyone to give that game a shot. It plays like a modern version of Gauntlet, except without the 50 floors. The game has bright, cheerful graphics and a very brisk pace. It feels great and is nice.

I just wish more people actually knew about it.

Talking Bout Your Sex Appeal!

Tomorrow sees the release of Suda51’s newest title, Lollipop Chainsaw. I know very little about the actual gameplay and there doesn’t seem to be any extensively in-depth previews on the internet for me to read. All I really have to say about the game is, “I FUCKING WANT IT!”

Why is that? For once in my life, I think I’ve fallen for the “sex-appeal” angle of marketing. It’s terrifying to me as I’ve never been prey to such stunts, but it looks like WB Interactive was won the war this time.

Juliet Starling is so outrageously sexualized that one cannot help but be entranced. The art designers went with blonde hair for obvious reasons (Blondes have more fun!) and even gave their character an excuse to wear practically nothing by designating her as a cheerleader. It’s all too damn clever for me to not fall victim to.

It doesn’t help that the real life analogue of Juliet, the fabulous Jessica Nigri, is a bomb shell. Jessica isn’t sexualized, but taking a look through her cosplay resume reveals that she isn’t afraid to show off her “assets.” It’s insane how uncanny the resemblance is between Jessica & Juliet is. They are equally as attractive.

Still, I feel a bit remorseful for objectifying this woman and the character in the game. I should be able to look past such things and notice what the game is actually all about. I’ve been able to do it in the past and I still look at other games with clear sex symbols for their gameplay.

The only other character that has been able to slightly breach my mind is Morrigan Aensland from “Darkstalkers.” Her entire existence is as a sex symbol, being that she is a succubus. I’ve let that one slide as an unsexy demon wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense in the lore of the series. Then again…

Be still my gentle heart…

It doesn’t help that Ms. Nigri has also cosplayed as Morrigan, so I think this whole fusion of Juliet and Jessica was just meant to happen. I was meant to play previous Suda51 games and have excitement for his new title on pure name alone. Not only that, but these two super-sexy and drop dead gorgeous women were destined to be marketed to me.

I just wish I could separate my hormonal mind from myself long enough to know if “Lollipop Chainsaw” is even going to be worth my time. I’m sure at some point during the game I’ll be able to disconnect my mind and sex-drive long enough to know whether I’m enjoying the game or merely the “eye candy.”

Then again, is it really wrong for me to have a crush on a game character? Considering the situation of my life, love isn’t something that comes around often. Maybe having someone to idolize whom I can’t actually impose danger to isn’t so bad. The only thing that could go wrong is that I get sucked into a fantasy which I never leave.

I don’t really see that happening. I’ve always been able to differentiate between fact and fiction ever since I was a child. At the tender age of 8, I was slaughtering people in “Mortal Kombat 3,” but I’m not a merciless killer. I’ve been stomping on Goomba’s since I was 4, but I’ve yet to jump on someone else’s head.

As I grow older, though, I thought I’d have a better shield against juvenile marketing campaigns. While sex clearly sells and I know about its importance in life, the marketing for “Lollipop Chainsaw” is a bit tasteless for me. That’s the whole problem though.

Well, whatever the case, I’m excited for the game and I’m wondering if anyone else suffers this same dilemma. Who else wants Suda’s new game, but only based on sex appeal?

Resolutions – Broadening My Horizons

I can’t begin to tell you how many games I finished this year. Yakuza 3, Demon’s Souls, the entire Zelda series; this year has been one of the most productive for me in terms of finishing virtual tasks. As I’m literally a few hours away from completing Unreal 2, I believe I’ll end 2011 with a grand total of 65 games finished.

Yet, there are things I didn’t do this year; I didn’t play a single JRPG, Racing game or Sports title. I’ve also neglected my own social life. If there is any resolution I plan to make for next year, it will be to broaden my horizons.

This past week was a very pleasant one for me. At long last, I was able to meet fellow blogger VenusInFurs. We walked around the Union Square area of New York and had a wonderful afternoon getting to know each other better. We talked about whatever came to mind and nearly froze to death from the colossal winds.

That kind of thing is what I need to do more of next year. I don’t necessarily mean meeting other DToid members, but I do need to focus more on expanding myself to other people. I’ve only recently begun friendships at work, so why not take the extra step?

My trips to bars have even been a bit more fruitful recently. I was hanging out with my DJ friend and some girl walked up to me and told me her friend thought I was cute. Well, I strolled right on over and spoke to her. I even got her number (regardless of how that later failed). That’s something.

Gaming wise, I think I’ll finally tackle Command & Conquer 3 next year. A game I had wanted when I was in college (in 2007), I bought it on a Steam sale and have neglected playing it. As a matter of fact, I haven’t even touched Shogun 2: Total War either.

In an effort to bond with some of my fellow co-workers, I may also buy my first Madden game in 12 years. I know nothing of sports, but NBA Jam is just too awesome, so maybe I can dig the NFL.


THAT’S SOME FOOTBALL!

One thing I neglected this year was my love of cinema. I’ve always had a penchant for films, but I only managed to catch about four movies. Three of them I didn’t even care for, but I’ll happily say “Winnie The Pooh” was the best thing I saw this year; hands down.

Since everyone talks about the mega blockbusters and mainstream cinema, maybe I’ll just force myself to go. I have no problem plowing through games I dislike, so cinema should be a lot easier to digest. At least I could converse a bit more with others.

I loved that I saw a bunch of concerts this year and they weren’t all in the same genre. I didn’t think I’d ever get to see “The Big 4,” but that is now something I can check off my bucket list. I also caught Mastodon and Deadmau5, so I think for next year, I’ll focus more on classic rock and indie/local bands.

Regardless of what I do, though, I know that next year is going to be about exploring areas I haven’t dared before. I can’t promise that I’ll kiss someone, but I have a good feeling. If anything, I have enough cash saved now that I can buy a girl a drink and not regret it.

I also plan on finishing the test for my motorcycle license. I’ve come so far and the damn DMV is not going to stop me (regardless of how asinine their tests and policies are). I can finally bust out my Chuck Greene jacket and feel bad ass.


Maybe I’ll get the paddle going, too…

So look out 2012! If everything goes well, I’m going to kick your ass thoroughly! Don’t come crying to me, either! I’ll be too happy to notice your sadness.

Resident Evil 4 – Conquering My Fears

One of the definitions of “Haunt,” as according to Merriam-Webster, is; “to have a disquieting or harmful effect on.” I cannot recall much in my life that has done that to me, other than one video game. That belongs to “Resident Evil 4.”

My friend and I were eagerly anticipating this game. We watched pretty much every trailer and I even recollect a moment where I claimed the game would, “Be the Best video game ever.” While that statement isn’t too far from the truth, something funny happened along the lines.

I became afraid of what I was seeing. Villagers with demonic eyes, wielding sharp objects and bum rushing you with murderous intent; it was terrifying to me in a way I had never experienced before. Throw in the idea of instant death enemies and gigantic, over-powered boss fights and I was almost ready to give up.


Ah christ!

I put on a façade that I was hardcore, though. I really did want the game and I wanted others to believe I cared about it. I’m not quite sure why, but those were my actions. When the game finally came out, I immediately picked it up and popped it in my Gamecube. I played for a grand total of 20 minutes before I gave up out of fright.

I couldn’t take the tension of facing the unknown. The way death was lurking around the corner or bear traps were waiting for me or gigantic boulders were coming; it was insane. Couple all of that with the fierce difficulty curve and I was dead on arrival.

What didn’t help was how my friend was using Action Replay and still failing. Even he couldn’t deal with the difficulty and cheats couldn’t help him. I was so terrified at this point that I almost traded the game back, but I held onto the hope that I would be able to conquer my fear one day.

It took me 2 full years before I tried playing the game again. During that time, I heard from another friend of mine that most of the game was difficult. He had trouble slaying some of the bosses and he often had to quit for a few days to rebuild his strength to continue. How was that supposed to alleviate my fear?

Well, when I got my Wii and was out of games to fool around with, I figured that I might as well attack the cause of my anxiety once and for all. As it turns out, the game actually kept me scared for other reasons.


This is not an uncommon sight.

Before that point in time, not many games existed with the sole intent of destroying your morale. “Resident Evil 4” is unique in that death isn’t simply a game over screen. Most of the time, your character is mutilated or decapitated. If you check YouTube, you can find a near 10 minute video of character deaths.

That idea, alone, scares the ever-living soul out of me. When I’m trekking through a game, I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed and life is over. That’s what makes the game work, though. When you conquer a tough situation and know how gruesome failure can be, the accomplishment is like curing a major crisis.

The few successes I had in the beginning just made the entire experience wonderful. You come up to a tough area, get eviscerated or annihilated and then come back with a new found fear/respect for your foes. It makes you more careful, more calculated and even tenser at the thought of death.

One of my best moments from the game comes during the middle. You face off against this enemy that looks like a Predator. He is called Verdugo and he is nearly impossible to kill. The entire idea is to freeze him with canisters of CO2 and wait for an elevator.


He is your nightmares personified.

Well, aside from scaring the piss out of me, I was constantly running away and screaming while doing so. I was so afraid of failing that I didn’t even want to look the beast in the eye. Well, during an almost successful attempt, the guy jumped at me and decapitated me. I can remember my reaction clear as day.

The buildup of astriction and angst was tenfold, but the failure was just incredible. I couldn’t believe that I lost and I immediately headed back to surmount this bastard. When I finally overcame the beast, I was ready to throw a party.

Circumventing this foe wasn’t the end of my troubles, though. When I watched my friend cheating, he was on a boss I hadn’t even encountered yet. I saw the creature lash out and devour my friend, so I was so damn terrified of that happening to me.

Not too far after, I finally strolled into the very same boss battle. It was a fight with the antagonist, Salazaar, and I wasn’t ready. While I didn’t get consumed by him, I was nearly paralyzed at the thought of that giant creature eating me. I failed a few times out of adrenaline build up.


Thought you could best me? Think again!

When I eventually beat the game, I began to wonder what all the fear was for. Maybe just anticipation got the best of me? Hearing the stories of friends bombing at the game didn’t provide any sense of ease to me, so I let that thought permeate in my mind.

To this day, though, nothing was managed to give me a sense of dread like this. There are some other games that I’m sure will be scary to me, but I now know that I have the strength to tackle nearly any obstacle put in front of me.

Thank you, Capcom. You managed to scare me silly and make me feel invincible. That is definitely an amazing feat.

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero – Review

Dead Rising 2 is still a month away from us, but Capcom has given gamers a piece of the action by offering up “Case Zero,” an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive paid demo. While the paid part may put people off, you can rest a little easier knowing that Capcom has included quality within this download to make the $5 price tag worth it.

The demo starts with Chuck Greene, the new protagonist, driving into (the ending of Terminator) the town of Still Creek. He exits and takes a quick look around before giving his daughter, Kate, some medicine. Right off the bat this demo establishes a more personal character than Frank West and at least gives the zombocalypse a more threatening feeling.

When Chuck and Kate exit the vehicle and enter a nearby gas station, Chuck’s truck gets stolen. Probably feeling like an idiot, Chuck steps outside for a bit before noticing a swarm of zombies coming in. He takes his daughter and immediately barricades the gas station (I wish all survivors were this smart).

That’s the whole premise behind the story and what comes after is the generic style of Dead Rising gameplay that the first game was made famous for. There are plenty of zombies to kill and a few survivors to save. While nothing in the formula has changed, the additions to combat and the improved path finding for AI partners makes the experience go down a little easier.

For starters, you can aim and move. Holy shit, Capcom finally learned! Even if the reticule is a bit wonky and the movement feels jerky, at least it’s better than standing like a moron and waiting for bullets to hit you. There’s still no cover system, but then again, zombies don’t fire back.

Another neat addition is the whole “Combo Card” system. You now have the ability to take two items (symbolized with wrenches above their names) and combine them on various work benches to make new weapons. Some hilarious concoctions are the Chainsaw Paddle, the Air Horn and the Beer Hat. Not only do the items have increased durability (and general hilarity factor), but they free up extra space in your inventory and even provide bonus experience per kill.

Speaking about experience, you’re only able to level up to 5 in this demo (a feat which can be accomplished in a little over 1 playthrough). The benefit to leveling up in this demo is being able to take these 5 levels with you into Dead Rising 2. You also receive the recipes for some of the combo cards along the way.

These additions make the game definitely feel like it has more to offer than the first, but the actual objectives still remain the same. Your mission in this demo is to rebuild a bike and then escape the town. Along the way, you run into survivors and can save them. One of my nagging issues with the first game was how pathetically stupid the AI on the survivors was.

It seems Capcom realized that. I never once experienced frustration in trying to save anyone in the demo. They joined my party and followed me diligently. They even attacked zombies and would run away if outnumbered. The path finding problems are just gone. You can point and press Y to tell survivors to stay and it doesn’t end up in another dead person (as opposed to the first game).

There isn’t a large selection of weapons in the demo, but they definitely are fun to toy with. You get 3 different guns and about 20 melee weapons, along with the combo cards. My favorite has to be the Lawn Dart, but the classic Shower Head and even a Moose Hat make an appearance. Every weapon still only has 2 functions; you either press X or hold X. It can be rather bland to some, but mowing down zombies doesn’t really need much in the way of a combo system. The guns are more practical now thanks to the improved aiming functions, at least, so everything is a viable option in an emergency.

Control wise, Chuck feels funky at first. Frank was very fast and you always felt like you had great control of him. He never slowed down or had a strange hook to the left. Chuck just moves slowly. It’s very clunky at first, even. Once you put a few minutes into him, though, it’s not too bad.

I can’t say it’s great (random zombie attacks still happen, especially when swinging a weapon and missing), but Chuck isn’t the worst thing around. At least the inventory remains the same from the first game. Attack is still relegated to the X button, A for jumping, Y for survivor management and B or item pick up. Weapons still break and books are still around to increase their capacity. There is one short segment of a motorcycle and it is easily one of the most broken things I’ve ever controlled. Terrible steering and no ability to rotate the camera, but it only lasts for a minute, so it can be tolerated.

As for graphics, I’m a bit mixed towards them. The character models don’t look bad and they animate well, but there are a lot of issues with screen tearing and general slowdown. Nothing really gets in the way, but it lacks a lot of polish. It’s great that Capcom can fit 1,000 zombies on screen at once (or so their claim is, I only saw a few hundred), but the game doesn’t perform well under duress. This could potentially be a problem in the full game, especially with all the background ambience of Vegas.

The actual story aspect of this demo is where it comes up short. Case Zero is supposed to represent a side-story in-between Dead Rising 1 and 2. It actually just acts as an extra case for 2 and provides little to no information on who Chuck Greene is or why he’s even heading into Vegas. Worse yet, fans wanting to know what happens to Frank will be left in the cold.

The game culminates in a decent boss battle though (even if it is a bit difficult), but you still have no idea why anything is happening. I guess Capcom is banking on people having played the first. Like I mentioned, Chuck is more relatable as he has a personal reason to hate this outbreak (and one reference is made to his wife), but there is no true drive to this story or any reason for its existence other than for Capcom to make money.

There are multiple endings, but it’s mainly just failing the story. I’ve only found two, but I can think of another potential two that exist. Honestly, though, it’s not worth it to go out of your way just to fail. There is replay factor (I suppose), but it’s not a deal breaker/maker.

Even with that fault, “Case Zero” is a very fun diversion for gamers. It may not be perfect, but it provides exactly what Capcom stated; a demo. You don’t need to pay the $5 to play (you can simply download the trial version), but if you want to keep you stats (and earn a rather easy 200 gamerscore), you’ll need to pony up.

And for $5, a demo that lasts around 2 hours and even provides you achievements is perfect. It certainly isn’t the best Live Arcade game around, but Dead Rising fans have no reason to pass on this. If you’re new to the entire franchise, you’re probably better off getting the first game for cheap now. But give the trial a shot; that is a free download and will show you exactly the same content (there may actually be a limit, I didn’t bother with checking).

Score: 7.5 out of 10

E For Effort – Devil May Cry 4

To my friends, I am known as a man of hatred. I tend to hate on a lot of fairly popular games for not advancing their respective genres in any meaningful way. My friends will all boast, “HOLY SHIT, GEARS OF WAR IS STELLAR,” yet I simply think, “Meh. It’s like Resident Evil 4 without the tension.”

So whenever I say I hate something, they usually expect that I find no redeeming qualities in the title. This isn’t the case for a few of my more recently disdained games. While I won’t talk about disliking Okami, I figured Devil May Cry 4 may be interesting to a few people.

I’m sure most people know about Devil May Cry (it only paved the way for Ninja Gaiden and God of War). A little series Capcom started while trying to make Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry has become ingrained in gamer memory as the staple game of the action genre.

While Capcom hit a snag with 2 and nearly obliterated the first title with 3, the move to the HD era and the lack of console exclusivity had people worried that 4 may be lacking. That certainly wasn’t the case, even if 4 couldn’t touch the first game in terms of raw quality.

But, as much as my friends loved pummeling demons with Nero and Dante, I couldn’t help but feel bored and generally angry at what was going on. Why did Capcom copy and paste certain aspects of the gameplay? Why did Dante’s character radically change from previous entries? How come the final boss was a pushover?

I couldn’t understand the appeal, even if I knew the game was rock solid. It had extremely beautiful and flashy graphics, the voice overs were actually not bad for an English dub and the story had some actual emotion in it. Hell, even the combat was improved from previous games.

What I think was inherently wrong with the game was how Capcom divided the story between two characters. You spend the first 10 levels becoming acquainted with Nero and learning a brand new play style to the series (something reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden). I fell in love with how easy it was to knock enemies around, even if their AI couldn’t do a damn thing to stop me anyway.

When Dante finally comes into the mix, you learn that he’s now a pompous douche. While he always had an attitude, he is either in over-drive or woke up and had a full serving of Carnation “Instant Bitch”. Just listening to him is aggravating.

But the game goes back to the exact style of combat present in DMC3. While that game is great, why in the hell would I want to relearn something after playing a new character for close to 8 hours? Not only that, Dante doesn’t have any concrete combos. You just mash buttons like a madman and hope that enemies die.

Nero eventually comes back and, low and behold, you end up facing the previous bosses again. I think there are only 4 actual bosses in DMC4, but you end up facing them each about 6 times. The worst part of this game (level 19) has you on a Mario Party style board hitting a random dice and fighting off either waves of enemies or a boss (a boss you already beat, mind you).

The thing is Capcom always does this in their action games. Even Mega Man falls into this ploy in the Wily Stages (granted 10 does something neat with revisiting old bosses). I don’t mind if the guy is powered up, but when I’ve already taken him down twice, why should there be any reason to continue? The bastard should know that I’m just going to kick his ass again.

The levels in-between all these boss shenanigans don’t really fair much better. Nero has to backtrack a lot through environments to solve puzzles and place statues to open doors. As Dante, you essentially replay the entire Nero campaign with enemies that are even easier due to your constant upgrades from Nero. It just makes it feel like a bland action title.

But I digress; everything about this game is slick and entertaining. I managed to finish the game twice within a week, even with my constant hatred flowing. There is just something about how polished the combat is that makes you want to press on, or possibly how personal Nero�s story is (love does go a long way for narrative).

And like I said, the graphics were stellar back in 2008 (they actually still look fairly good). While graphics can’t save a game, DMC has always been based on stylish kills and frenetic combat. DMC4 doesn’t disappoint at all in this regard.

So while I hate DMC4, it definitely is a quality title. It gets an E for Effort from me, though I would be surprised if someone else felt the same way.

Something About Sex: Get Out

Sex is one of the most powerful industries in the modern world. Sex conquers nearly every piece of media that it enters. There are entire books dedicated to the subject. Most of the 70’s Classic Rock output consisted of songs written to purely evoke a sexual tension. A sub-genre of film was created to simply showcase the act.

But what does that mean for videogames? Simply that in the future, we will more than likely see games that are only sex … actually, that’s already happened. The better question is how do I feel about sex in my videogames?

To lay the ground work for my real-life counterpart, sex is something that frightens me. I was born and raised a Catholic boy, a title that I am now pretty ashamed of. My parents always told me, “You keep it in your pants!” and, “Think with your brain at all times!”

To further complicate the matter, girls have never truly liked me. I became infatuated with the idea of a woman in middle school, but I never confronted her with my lust. When I got to high school, depression set in and I was often simply thinking of ending my life.

Eventually I met a very colorful character and fell for her. She spoke of all the ridiculous acts she had done and I became very intrigued as to how people can simply fornicate and not have the act take any kind of impact on their character. She teased me with ideas of us being together and it simply led to me loosing a very good friend and blaming it on sex.

To me, sex is something that just ruins my life. I can sit at home at night and browse various Web sites for some kind of fetish, but it just makes me feel sick. Why and how do people commit these acts so freely (granted I am basing this off of the sick view of the Internet)?

On to the real answer: what do I feel about it in my games? I think it really has no place in the interactive medium (and Heavy Rain proves me right). Videogames often do not have sex as a means of dissecting what it can do to the human psyche. They are simply trying to sell an image that the largest demographic (Males 18-34) will eat up.

I have not seen one instance of sexual tension in a videogame that truly warranted it. When strong female characters are created in games, they often lack over-sexualized features. I find the strangest females attractive because their personalities are what intrigue me, not their “assets.”

When strong male characters are created, we almost have an inverse of the female philosophy. They are given rugged good looks or sophisticated voices and are knights of the greatest valor. The women are often shown as sexual icons in the light of evil. Their desires are meant to evoke some kind of negative feeling out of you, or a purely sexual tension that is talked down upon.

The males are shown as either having no sexual desire whatsoever or as disgusting pigs who only want sex. No middle ground exists to say, “I enjoy being with you and want to express my love.” We simply have, “NIKO, MY COUSIN. BIG AMERICAN TEETEES!”



Mass Effect
tries to prove me wrong on this matter. Shepard is not a sexual deviant, but in the same instance he can be. The paths you choose in that game can lead Shepard to cause great discomfort to the other females he courts (or males if your choice is female Shepard).

Mostly any BioWare game has some kind of romance that leads to sex. My question is, “What does this really result in?” Is there a true purpose for the sexual act or is the game just trying to create a world that feels immersive?

Fighting games are at least the most blatant about their sexual references. Games like Dead or Alive know that sex is the main reason most people will play, but they don’t only flaunt the sex. You have a very satisfying fighting game built first and then character designed to be visual eye candy. It may not be very courteous to women, but at least you know that the sole intention is sex.

Street Fighter even has women with barely any clothing — Just look at Cammy or Elena. There is no sensible way you can tell me that wearing no pants makes you a better soldier or that the reason you are wearing what is conceivably a swimsuit is because you live in an impoverished country. You were just designed to be sexualized.

I haven’t experienced a game that gives me the option of sex that actually makes good use of it. It just seems to exist as a purely voyeuristic way for gamers to get their rocks off. I’m not sure if it’s the industry pegging us as worthless nerds or not, but it certainly has no belonging in the medium.

Until our industry matures to the point where story lines and characters can be taken seriously, I will never accept sex in my games. It doesn’t enhance my experience and it certainly does not add to any kind of gameplay department.