Archive for March, 2013

Bioshock Infinite or Did They Really Say That?

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on March 30, 2013 by Rabidgames

Unfortunately, Rabidgames is not even close to finishing Bioshock Infinite. Blame a social life, travelling and all this mundane stuff …

However, it is evident Irrational Games have made their boldest game from the beginning: Bioshock Infinite portrays America in the early 20th century – and where Red Dead Redemption chose to show glimpses of racism, Bioshock Infinite goes into all the ugly details. From everyday racism such as special toilets for “negroes and irish” and many propaganda posters to an unsettling meeting of some kind of Columbia Ku Klux clan, you’ll be exposed to many disconcerting details, some of them outright disgusting in their pure racism and hate and bile. But it doesn’t even stop there! Just watch this video (you can skip to around minute 12):

Not only does Bioshock Infinite portray the inhabitants of Columbia as massive freaking zealots who worship its founder as a new age Jesus, they don’t hesitate to blow themselves up for the greater good. Let’s count the hours until the FOX shitstorm sweeps in.

Then again, Bioshock Infinite does not just show us the twisted and dark side of religion, the inhumane effect of unchained capitalism and aforementioned rampant racism, the game also hits out a communism. Vox Populi, the communist opposition in Columbia, might have had noble motives in the beginning, but they have succumbed to power and violence, too.

Thankfully, Bioshock Infinite does not jump to any conclusions (yet). There is no obvious and guiding moral of the story, we only get shown how the world of Columbia works and is. While the topics are a feast for our self-proclaimed upholders of moral standards from all directions, it would be insane to call a game racist just because it shows racism in a fictional world. Well, at least it would be insanity for any sane person …

It really seems Take Two is the publisher to turn to if you want a mature narrative tackling sensitive issues; be it Rockstar and the American way (GTA IV), the advent of “civilisation” (Red Dead Redemption), post-war depression and racism (L.A. Noire), be it the whole Bioshock series highlighting the dangers of ideologies, or be it Spec Ops: The Line which depicts what war is like if you peel away the layers of glorification, patriotism and technology. Kudos, guys.

And then, there’s Elizabeth. This is probably the best job of creating a believable AI character so far. Of course, it is easy to have a character perform naturally in cutscenes or scripted scenes.  But if you pay attention to Elizabeth when exploring or fighting in Columbia, she almost always behaves in a way you would an actual person expect to behave – cowering, watching the world in amazed wonder or just throwing you some coins or telling you about a hidden item. Most of it feels beautifully random and like proper AI. It’s just a shame the enemies of Bioshock Infinite lack Elizabeth’s intelligence – instead of applying combat tactics their strategy consists of “fuck cover – let’s just run and shoot blindly”. But then again, Bioshock Infinite is more about the narrative anyway …

Rabidgames needs to pick up the controller: Talking and wiriting about it is one thing, but it’s about time to find the time to finish the game. Let’s just hope the ending of Bioshock Infinite is better than those of Assassin’s Creed 3 and Mass Effect 3 – which shouldn’t be hard to be honest!

Tomb Raider or Less Cleavage, More Gameplay

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , , on March 26, 2013 by Rabidgames

Reboots are en vogue these days. If you’re stuck with a story or a protagonist, rewind and restart. In Tomb Raider’s case, it’s been a damn good idea. Lara Croft isn’t just a mere sexualised dual-wielding triple jumping doll with gravity-defying massive knockers anymore, she is a young and naive student on her quest to archaeological glory. At least for 45 minutes. After a rough start, she has survived getting impaled, getting shot, falling and more falling, wolf attacks … and there’s more pain to come.

Sadly, the transition from naive student to cold-blooded huntress happens a bit too fast in the new Tomb Raider. One minute she is close to puking her guts out after shooting some bad guy’s brain into tiny pieces, the next she’s on her way mowing down squads of baddies. Later on, it gets outright ridiculous when she takes down a whole army (literally) within mere minutes! Alright, even though this sounds crazy let’s not forget the new Tomb Raider isn’t as outlandish as the franchise used to be (no, there’s no T Rex), but still, don’t expect more than solid B movie entertainment. It is solid; the story is engaging although not surprising – think of Indiana Jones and you’re pretty close to it. But it works. The story about her team stranded, an insane cult worshipping a long dead queen and hte mysteries of this isolated place is enough to get the plot going. Characters … well, let’s say it’s obvious who dies and who lives, and if you want to know more about them, you have to look for documents scattered all over the island.

Tomb Raider’s island is amazing. Thanks to the pretty and smooth graphics, it is more welcoming and more diverse than Far Cry 3’s jungles, and there’s much hidden in each and every corner – be it in the jungle, in caves, in old ruins or in a rather miserable shanty town, you’ll never get tired of looking at it. Yes; an island full of mysteries, some “others”, relics, it is more than a subtle hint to Lost. Inexplicably, there is no hatch (that award goes to Just Cause 2).

And now for the surprise: Lara is the little sister of Batman, and no, she has virtually nothing to do with Nathan Drake. Forget about comparing Tomb Raider to Uncharted – apart from both games being action adventures and containing gun fights, they don’t have much in common. Arkham Asylum is the godfather of the new Tomb Raider!

DNA tests? Here we go:

  • Lara’s instinct = Batman’s detective mode
  • backtracking (new gadgets open new paths)
  • melee system, especially counter moves
  • Lara’s rope arrows = Batman’s rope gadget
  • destroying barriers feels the same
  • documents = tapes
  • the level up system
  • stealth works similar – if it is an option

Let’s be honest here – Arkham Asylum is an amazing game, and it’s a decent blueprint to use. Mind you, Tomb Raider is more than a mere copy – it is darker, grittier and definitely bloodier. Both games have one thing in common though: The focus on gameplay and fun in diversity. And the mix between action/fighting and adventure/exploring is close to perfection in both games. There are many different items to collect (from interesting or useful to chore) so even after completing the story, you might want to go back and continue collecting some more stuff.

Surprisingly, the gun fights in Tomb Raider are more challenging than in many other shooters: Forget about leisurely eliminating enemies from cover! Molotovs, dynamite, melee fighters and more make it impossible to just sit there waiting for heads to pop out. In Tomb Raider, you have to be proactive and quick if you don’t want to get overwhelmed. The only annoying enemies are those carrying shields (at least before the grenade launcher upgrade): Lara’s stupid dodging before rolling makes fighting them a chore. By the way, why can Lara use grenades with a rifle, but she can’t use them without it?

Of course, Rabidgames has to nitpick once more: QTE. Come on! While the first couple of QTE in Tomb Raider might serve as a way for inexperienced Lara to learn how to fight and survive from an artistic point of view, getting rid of the final boss via QTE is nothing short of fucking lazy! It’s a disgrace. What happened to the art of smart boss fights? Extinct? Superfluous? Not streamlined enough for this generation?

Another disappointment in Tomb Raider is the lack of actual tomb raiding: There are only 7 tombs (plus one preorder DLC one) to be raided – and each one is just one puzzle per room. Erm, why exactly is the game called Tomb Raider now? Shouldn’t it be called “Lara Croft: The Beginning” or “Lara Croft Rises” … Anyway, Tomb Raider is one of those action adventures spelled ACTION adventures – although the fighting/puzzle ratio is still higher than in Uncharted 2.

Oh, the multiplayer. Fuck it. Rabidgames doesn’t give a fuck. Tomb Raider does not need a fucking multiplayer, and supposedly, it ain’t great anyway. Those wasted resources would have helped in enhancing the adventure part. Oh, and Square Enix, one word about your DLC policy: Fuck off! Lots of rather tiny stuff for day one. Weapons, characters etc. And for the singleplayer, we get some extra skins. Remember when skins got unlocked by playing the fucking game? Good old days long gone it seems …

Rabidgames nods: Well, the usual nitpicking aside, Tomb Raider is a pleasant surprise. Even though there is not much originality in there, it still feels refreshing, and that’s something which ain’t easy to achieve. The easy-going gameplay and a sombre atmosphere go well together, and after finishing Lara’s first adventure, we are craving for more. No, not a boob job, you perv!

The Endings Your Mass Effect Team Would Choose

Posted in The Latest on March 22, 2013 by Rabidgames

Thanks to this discussion on gamefaqs (which is now closed unfortunately), Rabidgames has started wondering about the Mass Effect 3 ending out trusted squad mates would have chosen. Please bear in mind we take the consequences of each ending at face value. No indoctrination theory in play. Without further ado, let’s roll:

Ashley
Destroy. She’s a soldier through and through. Plus, she doesn’t trust aliens.

EDI
Synthesis. Seriously, EDI is the embodiment of synthesis in Mass Effect 3. Sure, she speaks about the importance of the individual and might be concerned about rewriting everything, but as said above, let’s take the endings at face value; in Synthesis, she still seems to be an individual.

Garrus
Control. Depending on him being Paragon or Renegade, his guardian actions might differ though. Remember, he has a rather vigilante way of seeking justice …

Grunt
Refuse. He wouldn’t even listen to Starbrat for one split second, he would just try to headbutt the VI into oblivion and beyond.

Jack
This nice lady would either try to tear Starbrat apart – Refuse – or she would Destroy the Reapers. 50/50 there. Don’t expect any form of compromise from Jack.

Jacob
Destroy. He is just like Ashley, only even more stubborn.

James
Destroy. This soldier without a real personality beside generic soldier issues in the past doesn’t know anything but pulling triggers.

Javik
Destroy over and over again. We now know the Protheans don’t give a fuck about preservation of other species or anything like this. Plus, he’ll avenge his people.

Legion
Well, what would the Geth choose? Certainly not Destroy. In order to evolve, Synthesis would be the best option. After all, the Geth long to know more about the concept of “life” … and the best way to achieve this would be to become more alive.

Kaiden
Hmm. This guy’s an odd fellow. It’s possible he might choose Synthesis, him being one of the first humans “enhanced” with biotic synthetic upgrades. Otherwise, Control?

Kasumi
Would she choose Control to rule the galaxy? Or Destroy so she has not to sacrifice herself? Good question.

Liara
If she wasn’t the shadow broker, but the innocent student from the first Mass Effect, we might have a discussion on our hands. But she likes to channel and control information (and the fate of governments etc.), so Control is the rather obvious choice.

Miranda
Probably Control. But maybe Destroy, too. It’s hard to guess what’s going on inside her head.

Mordin
Mordin’s a tough one. Refuse is not an option. Someone who sacrifices himself to stop the genophage would not commit another genocide, so Destroy is no option as well (at least if the Geth survive, otherwise it might be different). Also, Mordin is not cut out for Control – can he trust himself to rule the galaxy? Possibly not. He might end up choosing Synthesis – a galaxy full of prosperity and peace, and of course, science.

Morinth
Assuming she is able to choose, better be prepared for a miserable existence under the eternal yoke of this cruel empress. Obviously, Control. And control of the most evil kind!

Samara
Her Justicar code in mind, Destroy is her only option. She might not even like it intellectually, but she’s bound to follow her code anyway.

Tali
This one depends on her actions from Mass Effect 2. If she’s been exiled, probably Destroy. Bitterness, revenge and stuff. However, if she has become an admiral, and if there is peace between Geth and Quarians, she might lean to Synthesis since she wants peace for her people.

Thane
Well, Rabidgames is at a loss here. Thane followed a very complicated codex which is not easy to decipher. Refuse is no option, but he might choose either Control (although he seems to humble to do so), Destroy (although he would prefer not to commit genocide) or Synthesis (although he seems to grasp the concept of free will). He would surprise us … well, first by rising from the dead, of course.

Wrex
The first instinct would be Refuse. But Wrex has matured. He now has the whole Krogan race in mind. He would choose Control in order to look after them and to prevent a second genophage.

Zaeed
He seems like  a tired old man who doesn’t care about the big issues anymore. Destroy and some quiet sunset years for our old mercenary friend.

Rabidgames warns: We should always keep in mind the most logical option for everyone would be Refuse. Why? Well, why would anyone blieve a deus ex machina VI out of nowhere? The one that built the Reapers! It just doesn’t add up (it didn’t before Leviathan, and even after the first piece of DLC, it’s still ). But hey, let’s use our human form of space magic, our imagination: Let’s summon suspension of disbelief and let’s take the decisions and the endings at face value when we talk about them. For now.

Gameplay Material for Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Posted in News with tags , on March 17, 2013 by Rabidgames

We’ll have to wait until 26 April (when Dead Island Riptide will be released, too) until we’ll be able to lay hands on the hopefully proper expansion to Rabidgames’ GOTY 2012, Dragon’s Dogma. In the stand-alone add-on Dark Arisen, we’ll be able to explore the new region of Bitterblack Isle, which somehow looks like The Everfall. For some reason only known to Capcom, the full original game is also part of Dark Arisen. So we’ll end up buying Dragon’s Dogma again … now that’s quite a good idea to push your sales!

Oh, you’re here for the Dark Arisen gameplay video. Watch and rejoice:

Looks good so far. Of course, it’ll be mostly more of the same, but if the length is alright, Dark Arisen should clearly be worth it (considering Rabidgames has pent 250 hours on Dragon’s Dogma, it should be fine).

Rabidgames sharpens the blade: It’s time soon, and it’s about time to delve back into Gransys again. The question is: A fresh character or the tried and tested Arisen of Dragon’s Dogma? We’ll see, we’ll see …

Lost or Mass Effect 3 All Over Again!?

Posted in Just Watching with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Rabidgames

Obviously, big fat spoilers for both shows ahead. Read at your own risk.

Apologies. Yes, Rabidgames is late. Late for a long time. He just finished watching Lost. So, the situation will be the other way round for most of you.

But before we come to the rather sad similarities, let’s point it out one amusing … coincidence: In both franchises, we have spent time with a protagonist called Shep(h)ard. It is Shep(h)ard’s role to guide his flock, as different as the two flocks may be (may should be emphasised, since a Paragon Mass Effect Shepard is pretty close to the Lost Shephard). Plus, you know, sacrifice, leadership, burden of responsibility and so on …

Anyway, Mass Effect 3 and Lost definitely have one thing in common: THAT ENDING! Raaaaaaaaaaaaage!!!!!! Bitter disappointment after a long time of investing time, and most likely lots of educated guesses and wild theories. In both cases, we have spent dozens, if not hundreds of hours with the characters. And in both endings, fans were not exactly happy, to put it mildly.

But that Lost ending … fucking hell, there were even three colours! The white exit light, the golden source, the red waterless pit … But hey, who cares if there are bigger fish to fry: have you ever thought about the myriad of plot holes that just arise because of the flawed ending? Yes, the fate of most main characters is explained, but what about the island? What happened to it? Who guards it now? What about the source? Is the smoke monster dead forever? And what was the point of many minor characters? Is there no redemption for Michael, Mr. Eko, Ben, Richard, the Widmores? And what about Vincent, the dog? Is he doomed to roam the island forever? What was the purpose of the temple? Who did build the statue? Who were the very first humans to set foot on the island?

Does that remind you of Mass Effect 3’s last hours, or rather minutes? Where is Harbinger? Where did the Normandy crash land (also, in both franchises, there’s a last second escape of trusted companions via a flying device, and the main character stays back to potentially sacrifice themselves)? And so on.

But the problem is not just the endings themselves. In both cases, there’s been a rather shambolic thicket of plot holes (well, time travel is always an issue now, isn’t it? – just think about Aaron; a three-year old in the ‘real’ world, but a baby in the sideverse), confusing character developments all over the place and many, many questions simply left unanswered. Unfortunately, Lost won’t ever get an Extended Cut.

Worst of all, they are similar in one case: The endings seem like a last minute brainstorming result. As for Mass Effect 3, it’s a child ex machina and a blatant rip-off from Deus Ex Human Revolution threefold ending, plus ignoring 99% of all our decisions; as for Lost, it’s a plunge into mysticism and biblical allegories. Many mysteries remain unsolved, many questions unanswered. And in both cases, it seems like strange decisions to decide the end plot in the 11th hour.

Look at Mass Effect 3: Nothing ever points out to a sentient guardian within the Citadel. Starbrat just pops out out of nowhere, invalidating most of our decisions by giving us simplified choices. We know Bioware didn’t spend much time there – after all, we got the Extended Cut which is still bad, but hey, it’s not an abysmal pungent piece of shit anymore. At least we know why the Normandy was there, although it still doesn’t make sense. And yet, there are still questions forever to be unanswered: Where is Harbinger? Why the hell didn’t the indoctrinated Rachni queen call the Reapers to the Crucible?

Now look at Lost. Sure, there’s a development in the last season (although some people like Dogen are just there and don’t really add up), but the omniscient explanation to allow anything is “there is no NOW here”. Yup, that smells like space magic. Just make up a fairytale purgatory dreamed up after detonating a hydrogen bomb to stop the electro-magnetic source from exploding, also known as ‘sideverse’ … alright, that’s a pretty brutal test of suspension of disbelief. As said before, there are many, many plot holes, and just as with Mass Effect 3, Lost does not even care to try to explain them away. Here’s a simply solution, it explains everything you need to know, please swallow it, alright folks, goodbye, we just leave before you can digest it.

Ultimately, the endings don’t ruin the experience, but they leave a sour taste in any thinking guy’s mouth. Of course, it is easier to forgive Lost for the disappointment: After all, we did not play hundreds of hours as our very own, individual Commander Shepard there, we were just spectators from afar. But still, after both franchises seemed to have reached a point of critical narrative mass, the writers backed down, threw all logic and common sense over board and decided to take the easy way out; call it religion, call it mysticism, call it whatever you like to call it. It is simply not satisfying – but the main reason why the endings suck is not even the mystical approach, but all the loose ends.

Rabidgames assesses: The similarities are in fact astonishing. In short: The journeys were worth travelling, but the destinations are not a place which brings enlightenment or closure. In fact, if you turn around you can see lots of lost luggage at the edge of the road. And yes, there is one word for it: Bad writing.

Saints Row IV and the Announcement Trailer

Posted in News with tags , , , on March 15, 2013 by Rabidgames

We’ll be able to delve deep into a world of insane action and over-the-top borderline infantile jokes with Saints Row IV on 23 August! Hooray. All hail the purple dildo!

But … wait a minute. After THQ’s demise, the Saints Row franchise got hawked to Deep Silver. Now, you might have wondered “will Volition be allowed to go ass crazy again” or will Saints Row IV be a tame, politically correct open world adventure where getting the high score means guiding old ladies across busy streets? The answer is – well, check for yourselves:

Phew. It’s still fucking crazy. Sex, drugs, violence, violence and some more violence. The good old Saints Row formula.

But … remember Saints Row The Third. Yes, it was fun. Yes, the gameplay improved vastly. But in terms of story and characters, it was incredibly shallow. Customization was ten steps back from the glorious Saints Row 2. And Steelport felt lifeless and generic. Above all, the thought of the fucking “40 weeks of DLC” still makes Rabidgames mad. Let’s hope Volition adds some depth to the Saints formula. But then again, a good portion of Saints Row IV will probably consist of the canned add-on Enter the Dominatrix, clearly designed for Saints Row The Third. Only time will tell if the same engine and the same base principles allow for a decent experience beyond mere over-the-top action and dick jokes – although there’s nothing wrong with that per se.

One more thought: Is it coincidence Saints Row IV is to be released one month shy of GTA V? Clearly, closer to GTA V would have been a bad idea, and later in the year, with the pending release of the next generation of consoles, worse idea. So maybe summer is the perfect time for Saints Row IV to be released. Let’s just hope the game is finished by then – and please Deep Silver, complete! No more 40 weeks of DLC aka thinly veiled micro-transactions which would have been unlockable rewards in Saints Row 2!

Rabidgames analyses: Saints Row The Third was fun. But it also was a victory of style over substance. Let’s hope Saints Row IV can not only win our hearts and risible muscles, but also our brains.

Mass Effect 3 – One Year Later

Posted in Revisited with tags , , , on March 12, 2013 by Rabidgames

Remember one year ago when we were all playing Mass Effect 3? Remember all the buzz before the release? Remember the surprise the MP was actually worthwhile? Remember the rise of the infamous indoctrination theory? And of course, we all remember the shitstorm the ending caused … When Rabidgames purchased the last DLC and the farewell to Commander Shepard, Citadel, it was the perfect opportunity to have a second, probably more objective look at Mass Effect 3:

Story

Well, not much has changed here. Leviathan and especially the Extended Cut have enhanced it a bit, but overall, it still has the well-known highs and lows. Playing through Mass Effect 3’s campaign again does only change small things due to your decisions in the first two games. The perception is still the same. It may be interesting here and there, but it’s nothing major – which is still a shame. Tuchanka and Rannoch are still – and will probably forever be – two of the best pieces of video game narrative. Still, if you think about the overall story, it is still incredible how insanely awful it all fits together, and even now, there are tons of plot holes in Mass Effect 3’s narrative (what the fuck happened to Harbinger, why is everything weird on the Citadel, how the hell can anyone survive an exploding space station in the stratosphere, and so on).

Gameplay

Here, Mass Effect 3 is simply fun – most of the time. Different classes allow different styles, obviously. Rabidgames’ ‘current’ Adept run (usually the team consists of Liara and Javik) is basically an insane biotic explosion galore. However, this tactic sucks against Cerberus and their millions of shields and barriers … The first run as Engineer felt different, and Rabidgames’ planned third run as Renegade Infiltrator will be different as well. Bioware did a good job here, so let’s give credit where credit is due.

While it is fun, there are also two drawbacks: The first one being the incredibly linear levels. You proceed to narrow corridors, shooting, cutscene, walking, shooting, cutscene, rinse and repeat. The second drawback is the apparent episode-like character of Mass Effect 3: You go somewhere, tick of the boxes (kill x, rescue y, bring back z), then you go back to the Citadel, never to return. Thanks to the lack of exploration, it rather feels like you’re watching a TV series about Commander Shepard, whereas Mass Effect 1 really felt like being a part of the universe. Anyway, played in small chunks, it is still fun, especially with Javik’s banter.

DLC Policy

We’ll talk about MP later, and let’s face it, the Extended Cut was nothing but Bioware closing 7/10 giant plot holes, trying to salvage this shipwreck of an ending. Let’s talk about the 3 planned single player DLCs for Mass Effect 3: Leviathan was alright; nothing too special, some nice story and lore, some adventure lite puzzles, alright, worth purchasing. Omega, however, seems (Rabidgames hasn’t bought it – and no intention of buying it full-price) like a big rip-off – and beyond that, a lame one … temporary squad mates we don’t get to keep, a hub we cannot revisit … come on! Overall, Leviathan and especially Omega look like ripped from the main game, just to be sold separately for some more bucks. Citadel, however, is something different. It is simply a piece of fan service, a farewell to Shepard and all of our surviving friends. It’s not to be taken seriously, and it definitely is fun. Good job, Bioware. And yet, it hurts. Bioware still have it, they can still write good lines (how often do you laugh out loud when playing video games) and they still know what we want – it’s just a shame they don’t live up to their potential all the time …

Multiplayer

Mass Effect 3’s MP is addictive. Rabidgames knows since he has started playing it again. And things have changed since Rabidgames left the MP half a year ago: Geth White Gold has become harder since camping is a thing of the past now, there are tons of new classes (we can play as an AIU (an EDI clone), a collector(!), a Geth Prime(!!!), oh, and there are Volus) and weapons, new environmental hazard maps, new enemies (seriously, fuck those Dragoons), challenges … it has become harder but also better. Sadly, the once trusted Salarian Engineer has been nerfed … Decoy is practically worthless now … But still, the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3 is still really good – and all DLC is still free. Of course, this is not because EA and Bioware a humanitarians, but because they want to sell their micro-transaction packs – well, whoever pays real money to buy random packs must be out of his fucking mind anyway!

Rabidgames deems: Mass Effect 3 has been dissected and torn to pieces – some of the criticism has been justified by all means, some of it might have been exaggerated. At the end of the day, Mass Effect 3 is a good game. But it’s not a great one, it’s not the game the Mass Effect trilogy deserves. Worst of all: Bioware is still capable of being the best writing team in the industry, it’s just … they rarely use their potential. One year ago and today, it is a shame. Had Bioware shown proper artistic integrity, Mass Effect 3 could have been a sublime masterpiece instead of just a good piece of software. That might be enough for EA, but Bioware used to have aspirations beyond cash …