Story about my Uncle, Physics was never this fun

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A Story about my Uncle is the story about how your uncle transforms you into a technological spiderman/rocket knight hybrid. But after playing this game for two and a half days, I realize that this was probably meant to be a little longer.  Exhilarating gameplay, story-driven exploration and a tender touch are what makes this game unique.  So that works to force you through the game faster than you might expect.  But what makes it fun it its blatant disregard for the safety of children and a solid understanding and complete dismissal of physics.  It almost feels like this game was made to showcase the physics engine.  Either way,  Newtown’s laws of Motion shall claim their vengeance!

So you start this game and you hear a father putting his daughter to bed with a story.  She won’t go to freaking sleep, so we have to play the game to make her.  Whatever.  Turns out that the father is your character and you are playing as his former childhood self.  You go to his uncle’s house only to find it empty.  As you look around, he tells his daughter about all the things he remembers that day.  Looking at maps, postcards, exploration suit that lets you fly through the air like a genie, teleportation pad that you use to travel to another world.  You know.  The usual.

Then you flip a switch and travel to a world with floating platforms everywhere.  After using your grappling hook to navigate some simple platforms, you get another crystal core for your suit and shit gets tougher.  You also see these frog people, which is cool, but they are really just a part of the scenery.  You meet one named Maddie, and she spends a lot of the game on your back, keeping you company, making side comments and occasionally taunting you.  My character says he wants to be careful not to bump her head, but I would be struggling not to whack her head on a rock purposely.  It’s ok, though, mostly she helps you keep from feeling like you’re playing Portal again.  Solitary, silent protagonist taunted and forced through a treacherous terrain.  Here, you are a winsome protagonist listening to the discussion between a father and daughter with frequent input form your travelling partner.  There is the matter of a couple turns of phrase that come out a little awkward, but those are so minuscule I doubt anyone but me will even notice that shit.

Eventually Maddie leaves you, and I have to admit that I missed her toward the end.  The most of this game is the nail-biting manner in which you travel from one point to another.  I am not a puzzle-game guy, but this was fun as shit.  Sometimes you can choose any of a number ways to travel toward your destination.  There are also little machines that you find, and you take their readouts, but nothing much is mentioned about them toward the end.  They aren’t easy to find, but getting to them is their own reward.  I couldn’t help but feeling a bit of excitement every time I landed with a satisfying crunch.  And with all the hang time you get while swinging by a glowing thread of energy, you sure have plenty of time to weigh the choices in your life that led you here.

You really have time to think while you pray you have the momentum to reach that platform...

You really have time to wonder if you have momentum to reach that platform while soaring through the air at ass-chapping speeds…

Another thing about this game is that you get a remarkable amount of upgrades.  Once you get the rocket boots, you are pretty much all set, though.  And another thing that this game seems to excel at is giving you awesome powers, allowing you to get used to them and then throwing insane obstacles at you.  O, you just got a handle on that grappling hook?  Good, here is a series of orbiting flying rocks to navigate!  You just got that long jump?  Ok, use your tractor beam to catch a rock at the end of your reach mid air after performing a long jump!  I almost shit myself a million times, but death in this game is more a relief from the white-knuckle feeling of flying through the air.  It’s not nearly as jarring as you expect falling from soaring heights into misty and uncertain depths should be.  That is good too, cause you’ll probably fall a few times.  That made it easy for me to feel like I wasn’t failing so much as learning what I needed to continue.  The game doesn’t make you feel like an asshole.  It just picks you up, dusts you off and says, that’s ok, we’re just having fun.  Not quite art, but definitely a cut above your standard game.

So what bothers me so much about this game? The FEELINGS!  I mean, it’s sooooo cute!  You’re a kid looking for his uncle!  Adorable!  Even though the guy made a suit for you, something that places you in a remarkable amount of danger. Blatant disregard for your safety!  And then!  O, the way you let Maddie go off on her own?  And the ending? AH!  Fuck you Gone North Games!  Fuck you for making me… feel for the characters.  O, well.  Time to go back to the standard thoughtless murder of hordes of flat enemies that is standard fare for games these days.

Rust, Naked and Scared Shitless

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Garry Newman, the same person at fault for Garry’s mod, is the brains behind Rust, another in the line of games that wish they were Minecraft.  But where in Minecraft there is some sense of decency and still an air of fun for fun’s sake, Rust plunges you naked and screaming into a world that suffers from griefer syndrome.  Before I go off on the playerbase, the game itself is actually quite fun, for a pre-release.

First, you start naked, and who doesn’t like to be naked.  At least it is fun until the sun goes down, then you realize what this game is all about.  If a game about digging in the ground and building is called Minecraft, a more appropriate name for Rust might be Mancraft.  Aside from a free-flailing dangle-down, your inventory includes a rock, a torch and some bandages.  Of course, the bandages don’t heal you, just stop bleeding.  So when you are randomly spawned and an asshole with a fucking pistol chases after you shooting for kicks, your best defense is to fucking run for cover.  I recommend loosing him among rocks, but he’ll still get you with a shot or two.  The bandages help there.   So once it gets dark, you’ll say “Good thing Garry gave me this torch!” but that shit is like herpes, keep it to yourself or someone will cut your dick off.  Take out that torch, O, naked wonder of human deduction, in the middle of nowhere in pitch darkness and what do you become?  A blazing goddamn beacon of newb-dom.  If you have the presence of mind to try gathering resources upon being thrust into a new world, as nearly no one fucking does, you might have some resources, and that is all the reason most people have to cut you open.  For the rocks you were keeping in your bunghole.

So, it should come as no surprise that God’s own multi-tool, a fucking rock, is the most useful thing you begin the game with.  By all means, swinging this rock becomes a sort of divine experimentation when you begin as you try to gain resources.  Look in your crafting section and you might see things you can make and things you need to make them.  Rocks and wood are among the most necessary base materials.  Now, for wood you just hit the rock on trees.  If you find a wood pile, even better.  But when I was looking for rocks, I felt like Christopher fucking Columbus exploring the Atlantic ocean: lost as a cumshot in a snowstorm.  There are TONS of fucking rocks around, especially near the mountains, so you might try harvesting them.  Those are, however, scenery and you are running out of time.  So it is a rock-bashing experiment until you realize which rocks you need.

Do you really need to ask me how it's hanging?

Do you really need to ask me how it’s hanging?

So, if by some fluke of merciless fate you spawn during the day time and you were blessed with ample time to figure all this out and get the necessary resources, you might just be able to survive.  Did you go looking for food too? O, yea, forgot to mention that.  You have a hunger bar that depletes over time, and the more active you are, the faster it goes down.  So that shit goes down but fast when you start just about fucking anywhere naked.  Basically, unless you lay your ass down and prepare for death, your health bar depletes faster than you realize.  Now aside from the locations where prepared food can be found (and those are usually camped by tuna-eating lunatics with hatchets hoping for the last chocolate bar on Earth) you have to take that rock, which is a more reliable inanimate best friend at this point than the companion cube, and chase down chickens, pigs or deer.  Should you be the asshole undaunted by the challenge of running around in the open naked whacking deer with a rock, you find the reward is… chicken.  Wait, what?  Yes, everything you kill provides, for the moment, little, raw chicken cutlets.  Eat up! And promptly spew your guts out, because somebody just had to make it realistic and give you salmonella poisoning!  I swear to god, people – including me – are paying money for this.  So, once you have your materials and chicken, you can build a little campfire and get cooking.  It’s a good thing they didn’t include stomach grumbling noises for all the players on the island or it would sound like you were constantly being stalked by ninja whales.

By this time, it is likely the middle of the night and you have died at least three times.  Aside from hunger and salmonella, which is shown above by the green health bar, you will get cold.  At the time being, campfires are the only thing that can warm you up with torches and furnaces expected to do this as well in later updates.  At night is when the scary things come out.  During the day you have bears and wolves to contend with.  Originally it was zombies, but the devs thought this enemy was just too played out.  So they went the realistic route and make it so that you have to outrun bears and wolves that will maul you to death, slobbering over the idea of gnawing on your femurs.  The scary things I am referring to are the other players.  And these assholes are relentless.  I have played a number of servers that advertise their friendliness to noobs and ‘outlaw’ the killing of nakeds.  This just amounts to bandits not killing you on sight every time.  Sometimes they will see you, follow you a bit and then kill you.  And I have run into groups of players that rove and hunt noobs and still others that just kill whoever they feel like at that moment.  It’s like a page out of The Lord of Flies without the little boys.  That would end in rape, given the mentality you’ll regularly see.

But that really is the fun of the game.  That and building houses out of foundation and wall segments.  You can customize your own little mansion on a mountain, craft a rifle and start taking potshots at people wandering by.  You’ll probably be killed by someone doing just that during your first days.  Survival against all odds.  Every once in a while, as if the game wasn’t brutal enough, an airplane flies by and performs an airdrop.  This makes me laugh.  It’s as if civilization knows were here and, not only do they not care, but they are throwing finite amounts of supplies down at us and watching the battles ensue.  Did I mention areas are randomly irradiated? Yep, usually around where there is pre-packaged food.

just wait 'till I build an RPG launcher, you smug sons-of-bitches.

just wait ’till I build an RPG launcher, you smug sons-of-bitches.

So what pisses me off the most in this game?  Aside from everything else in this game that makes no fucking sense ever again, one thing that stands out are the visuals.  They developers put a lot of time and effort into making the game pretty.  The trees are variegated enough that you feel like you are in a  forest.  The grasses look like fields of gently-waving grass.  I mean, everything looks very very nice, so you get that ‘beauty of nature’ fix before dying a brutal death at the hands of almost anything within sight-range.  It’s like somewhere above the trees you can hear a melody soft and sweet that is clipped short by the gunshot travelling through your skull.  One of the most frustrating things about the game is that it is multi-player only.  You have to go find a server and deal with it.  There is no ‘remember your first game of Rust’ discussions on the Rust forums.  That shit reads like  a PTSD support group.  The benefit, however, is that all servers are using the same map.  No procedurally generated randomness to contend with here, so if you find a great place to build your house, you can fight over the same beachfront property with other people on another server.  Ain’t life grand?

Can you spot the socio-pathic, hatchet-weilding psycho?

Can you spot the sociopathic, hatchet-weilding psycho?

All-in-all, it’s definitely worth playing, especially for the $20 asking price on Steam.  It’s a bit of a niched game that caters to the “minecraft isn’t realistic enough about survival” crowd.  Weird that such a deranged genre would arise from such a harmless source material.  Well, as harmless as any source-material where zombies chew on your bones at night.

Zeno Clash, Untamed WTF

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Zeno Clash is what would happen if Guillermo del Toro dropped acid and wrote a videogame storyline.  This title is full of weird enemies, surreal visuals, somewhat disjointed story elements and a world so bizarre it defies logical explanation.  I tried to explain the game itself to my wife and she said it defines “what the fuck”.  Yet, everything I just described is merely the flavor of the downright bad-ass, knuckle-cracking time this game provides.

First, your character.  A human named Ghat that starts of the game having savagely disfigured a creature known as father-mother, the leader of a clan in this town. The town of Halstedom.  Father-mother’s clan runs the city alongside the Northern Gate Gang.  It seems like this place is a veritable hive of scum and villainy as nearly everyone is part of either the clan or the gang, and there are very few laws being observed to the outside observer.  At least, few laws outside whatever father-mother says.  This leads one to submit to the supposition that father-mother (henceforth FM) is the monarch of the town, or at least influential enough to be a sort of leader of Halstedom.  Not to mention, FM has his entire clan convinced that he’s their father and mother.

Now, why Ghat has decided to take on FM is beyond me, especially considering that FM is a 10-foot-tall peacock creature.  Regardless, he escapes Halstedom with his hide intact where Deadra, crazy-horny heartthrob, follows him and helps him in his journey.. by being as flighty as possible.  And by horny I mean she has enormous fucking horns coming out the sides of her head. No, seriously.

The horns must be great for extra doughnut storage.

The horns must be great for extra doughnut storage.

Now, I am not saying I would hide my sexuality from her in abject fear of her getting naked, but those horns would definitely do a number on my bedside table.  I, mean, she probably never goes indoors, for that matter, but they do come off once, if memory serves.  This being the only point where she is shown laying down looking dreamily into Ghat’s eyes.  She is very naive considering she follows a known felon, who may have killed the only being either has ever known as father or mother,  into the wilderness and away from the safety of the only home she’s ever known.  To her credit, however, she is handy with her sawed-off shotgun and has some nice legs.

Despite the weak central female character, whose only function is to harass Ghat about FM’s secret and stand defensively out of the way of fights, the game still delivers in the place that truly matters.  Gameplay.  And here I introduce Metamoq and the Corwids.  The Corwids are these guys Ghat describes enigmatically as being not insane, but having chosen to be what they are.  So, they are fucking insane and do everything from eat people to bang their heads on trees.  There is one guy that walks in a straight line and refuses to let anyone change his course.  You find him later dead when he met the only nemesis a nutcase wearing giant iron boots has: a tree.  And he runs into a fucking tree in a desert after making his way OUT OF A GODDAMN FOREST! Sorry.  That is in no way important to the plot, but it was one of many WTF moments in this game.  These not-crazy, but actually fucking insane, mask-wearing guys have some members that border on intelligent.  Ghat was a Corwid for a while, which is how he knows so fucking much about them.  Since each of them seems to really only do one thing, I am going to say Ghat’s “thing” was beating the fuck out of bitches with his bare hands.  He never says what inspired this ascetic lifestyle either, nor what he did before that.  At some point he meets Metamoq, a growly-voiced, mask-wearing, sentient booger that teaches Ghat how to beat people with his fists.

And beat people he does.  This brings me to the best part of the game, its combat.  You can punch and kick people.  You can get super hard wind-up punches in.  You can dodge and strike ’em in the ribs.  You can even knee ’em in the face.  Much fun to be had.  You might expect a fighting game made with the source engine to be less maneuverable , or maybe generally difficult.  Not so, and the first-person fighting makes things challenging in a way that doesn’t make it less enjoyable.  Although this game holds a number of features reminiscent of older-generation fighting games like Double Dragon (ie slide-in versus screens and free-style fights and health bars), it fails to devolve into the button-mashing frenzy of those older games.  And you can’t just use the “powerful attack” all the time since stronger enemies will just dodge that slow-ass punch.  But timed well and as part of a combo, those attacks become devastating cards in a deck of whoop-ass.  I discussed this with my brother, The Game Pirate and he said it reminded him of a game we played on the Nintendo 64 called Hybrid Heaven, and equally WTF-inducing fighting game.  But where Hybrid Heaven focused on using the WWF’s finest spine-splintering attacks, Zeno Clash focuses more on its use of boxing-type moves.  When you get tired of fisting everyone in sight, you can pick up any of a number of imaginatively fucking-weird guns.  They are slow to reload and have shitty rate of fire, but this is a brawler at its heart, and even grenades are tough to use against enemies who do the logical fucking thing and run away.  They also tend to hide if you have a gun and favor moving through cover to get to your position, rather than making it nice and easy by running across the giant open field to get in fist-range.  Some of the boss fights All of the boss fights are weird, and most of this game will leave you scratching your head.  But don’t let that stop you because it damn well might.

So at some point you wander through a dark wasteland on the other side of a desert and find this guy named Golem waiting for you.  He calls you and Deadra by name and says he was left by a long-dead race of wise people.  Why everyone always thinks the “long-dead race of ancients who are wiser than us” thing makes sense I will never know. But if they were all that fucking wise, why are they ALL FUCKING DEAD?! Anyway, this guy has a human torso and a head, arms and feet made of blue playdough.  He follows you around and even helps you kill a blind assassin, who uses squirrels with parachutes and powder keg backpacks to kill you.  Then at some point he sits down and starts working on a fucking Rubick’s cube.

Big, strong AND he maintains his mental acuity

Big, strong AND he maintains his mental acuity

You bring him with you back to Halstedom and after finishing off FM, he reveals the secret FM has that Ghat is too much of a pussy to tell.  Y’know, that the father-mother guy everyone is defending steals babies from their beds and raises them as his own. Also, he’s a guy.  And he replaces the babies with baby pigs.  You even run into a woman that seems perfectly happy with a new baby pig, too.  Just bringing up baby Peter, or whatever.  Once FM lays dying, the big blue guy pulls out his Rubick’s cube and it starts to glow.  He says that he can help bring peace by bringing everyone in as part of a new connection that can never be broken.  Screen zooms out, you see this weird guy with a telescope standing next to a completed Rubick’s cube and everything ends.

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Shiny naked metallic dude, just looking at everyone else with a telescope like he has nothing to hide. Whatever, not the weirdest shit in the game so far.

Now, this guy looks remarkably like one of those metallic shadow zombies that infested the wasteland where you find Golem.  So part of me thinks his idea of peace is quite a bit more morose and sad than his words imply.  All that just makes me want to play the sequel even more.  Just bought it and set it to download.  No game has had me as excited to play as Zeno Clash has since Half-life 2, and perhaps Hard Reset, so hopefully the sequel upholds all these points while gracefully embellishing upon them and simultaneously polishing its rough-points.

So, given everything about this game and how much fun it is, what bothers me the most about it?  I have never said ‘what the fuck’ more times in more ways and for more reasons than I did while playing this game.  I mean, the blind assassin first shows up and fights you from atop the head of this floppy elephant/brontosaurus.

Is it just me, or does that thing have hairy testicle sacs hanging from various spots on its face?

Is it just me, or does that thing have hairy testicle sacs hanging from various spots on its face?

The whole father-mother thing.  Baby thievery being the basis for an entire city!  Using squirrels as purveyors of fiery death!  Giant horn-headed chick! Mostly-naked masked men dancing in the woods!  There is a point where a Corwid spins in circles and plays music while hopping on one leg!  Grenades are human skulls hollowed out and filled with explosives!  The only non-caveman humans in the game seem to be wearing rice paddy hats for no reason! Did I mention this game was made by a bunch of Chileans?  That rifle’s sight up there is a piece of wire! Regular-sized crabs spit vomitous goo!  The giant chicken-dragon also vomit green goo!  You can get a double-slingshot-crossbow as a ranged weapon!  The ammo for said crossbow uses rocks that have faces!  The faces have noserings where the trigger mechanism attaches!  Oh, that rifle is reloaded by inserting a long rod with an orange-hot end into a metal loop on the back of the chamber and shutting a little door with it!  This game deserves a what the fuck of the year award for the year 2009, when it was released.  Seriously.  I don’t think I will ever say what the fuck as many times in a row ever again.  Oh, right there’s a sequel.  The thing is, even this element of the game gives it a unique-ness that really cannot be matched.  You could say that anything this bizarre couldn’t be called ‘art’ or ‘artistic’, and it doesn’t really have a deep moral meaning outside of ‘beat up baby stealing assholes with your bear hands’.  But if you think bizarre cannot be artistic, just look at anything by Salvador Dahli.  How about all that crazy, though awesome, music out of the 1970’s?  (Pink Floydd, Led Zepplin, Jimmi Hendrix et al)  This game’s unique approach and winning gameplay are guaranteed to lock you in and wtf you until the games conclusion.  Which makes no more sense than nearly anything else about it. Surrealist art. Period.

Starbound, Infinite Possibility

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In December 2013 a game was released and it seemed as though everyone on Steam was buying it at the time.  That or Rust, but fuck Rust, this one is for Starbound.  What is Starbound? Well, remember Terraria?  Starbound is like Terraria, but fucking amazing.  You are an exiled member of one of 6 races: humans, Avian (a bird race that have a Mayan feel), Apex (a planet-of-the-apes-style monkey dictatorship with standard high technology), florans (plant people), Hylotl (a fish race that have an asian motif) and Glitch (a robot race with an oddly steampunk-medieval motif).  As an exile you are forced to the ass-end of the galaxy.  This is where shit gets interesting.  Just watching the trailer you hear this music foretelling ultimate freedom and ecstasy.  It’s almost surreal as the screen pans over 16-bit landscapes and NPC towns.  I was just like “Really? That’s it?”, but don’t let the retro graphics fool you.  Just beyond that pixelated exterior is a heart of gold.

Hylotl ships in this are all dragon-esque

Hylotl ships in this are all dragon-esque

First there is your ship.  You start the game after character creation (which has a startling number of options for a 2-d game) onboard your little ship orbiting a planet.  You’ve run out of gas and need to find something to use for fuel.  So, after looking through the bare locker in your spaceship, you beam down to the planet’s surface.  I looked out at the planet and saw strange swirled patterns and pink continents with green oceans.  This looks bad, I said as I stepped trepidatiously toward the teleporter.  I was out of gas and had nowhere else to go.  Surely the game wouldn’t start me nearby a toxic planet, would it?  I make planetfall and look around.  All around me I see brains.  Brains growing on trees and out of the ground, brains on bushes, brains in the background.  “I have got to get the fuck off this weird-ass planet.”  With my Hylotl, Pearl, I decide that I have to start looking for building materials.  It is getting dark and bad things always happen at night, doesn’t matter what you are playing.

So I get a little rudimentary hut going and immediately after night hits, a swarm of ugly little fire-spitting birds fly out of nowhere.  I am glad I have my house.  There are also these weird crooning creatures outside.  Not going to fuck with them, they seem worse than the birds.  So I get my bow, climb out on the roof and shoot down a couple birds.  This nets me some food, which I cook.  Eat some and store the rest.  Now, there are a number of crafting options in this game.  You can craft weapons, armor, building materials, objects storage containers and almost anything you can think of.  You can also craft things you find in the wild, and, believe me, go roaming a bit and you will soon see that good weapons are worth their weight in gold.  You’ll run into huge monsters that kill you with a fart, accidentally.  Then there are the well-decorated temples of the lunatics with spears and guns.  These guys have everything from sawblade trap pits and all kinds of other shenanigans.

And once you find coal, which can be used to fuel your spaceship, you can get anywhere.  Ironic that the universal fuel should be fossil fuel, but it is a game.  What are they going to have you go look for that would be easily available and get you to a new planet if you started somewhere stupid.  Like the pink brain planet.  I wanted to get out of there so bad, and I did!  The game even makes you build a communications array that summons a giant flying saucer boss fight that spits out penguin troopers.  I did this in the middle of an Apex city thinking the height of the buildings would give me some better range.  It ended up getting nearly the entire city slaughtered, which is ok, since I hate those ugly monkey bastards anyway.

Laugh it up, but this fucker means business...

Laugh it up, but this fucker means business…

Then there is the multi-player.  You can coordinate with your friends, transfer to their ships etc.  Teleporting to their ships makes it easier for you all to agree on a home planet, too!  You can leave one of your ships at youe home planet, build a base and then use the others to go exploring!  You can then teleport back to the home ship when you have resources and other things for your base!  It’s an awesome strategy that make socialization in this game well worth the effort.  Not to mention, you can take down that penguin UFO a hell of a lot easier with other players.  Another interesting feature is that the gameworlds go deep as fuck!  You get down to where it is lava.. then blood and bones and all kinds of other weird ass shit.  Another thing is that each player can get abilities that you can use, like super jumping and forcefields and stuff!

So, in a game where I am having trouble including all the neat stuff that I like about it in just one post, what about it bothers me the most? Huh? HUH!? Rule 34. That is what. DeviantArt, too! There is a strong fan base around noody pics of the races from the game.  And the thing about it that bothers me the most?! Well, it’s that.. I.. am not.. strongly enough against it…

I feel like I should be harder on it.. I mean..!

I feel like I should be harder on this.. I mean..hngh!

Divine Cybermancy, Ineffable Confusion

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This indie title has a lot of potential, which is sadly unrealized.  Strap yourself in because this is going to be a non-stop rage-fest from start to finish.  First, the things I liked.  The RPG/First person combo.  You have an inventory, you level up and your skills are based on stats.  You can take skills to become a psyker, a cybermancer or a guy with a big fucking hammer that squashes things. You can shoot holes in everyone.  You can research new weapons and other things useful to your missions.  Killin’ dudes, too. I love killin’ me some dudes.  I actually haven’t seen a game that blends killin’ dudes with RPG aspects well since Dark Messiah: Might and Magic. The graphics are pretty alright, too.

So what is all the rage about?  Well where do I start? Story. That seems like a good place to start.  This game seems to be what happens when a game made by people foreign to the english language make a game and are forced to hastily translate it for the Americans.  Admittedly, the tutorial videos showcase something that looks like it could be either french or latin. But that is no excuse for the aphasic dialogue and strangeness in peoples’ mannerisms.  Then there are the archives!  After the initial mission there is the objective (?) to go looks through the archives and get an idea of what the fuck is going on.  Admittedly, this would be the best place to start in a normal RPG-esque shooter since it would be nice to have an idea what is going on. No. FUCK no.  That shit must’ve been written by someone profoundly enlightened by the mystical qualities of numerous drugs, cause it is barely intelligible. Seriously.  And I get the feeling that these archives are supposed to be the collective knowledge of this “EYE” group.  It amounts to a nonsensical series of events that don’t seem to stream together and are explained in the vernacular of a retarded college student.  Commas are in weird places, syntax doesn’t match up and there is no guidance as to which terminal one should read first.  Sure, all the guys walking around brandishing badass weapons and shiny armor seem to allude to some well thought-out decision making and a neat back story, but that just doesn’t come through. Two of the terminals seem to be crappy science fiction written by a grammatically inept, anti-social high school student during study hall.   This is about a guy named Shinji who seems disillusioned by the super-individualism of his society and listens to spiritually-oriented radio stations.  Also, he scoffs at the drive for space exploration.  Later he attacks a couple in the park after they finish a date.  He might be in wolf-form here, but that is never explained clearly, just vaguely referenced.  He cuts a guy’s throat then rapes and beheads his woman.  ALL OF THIS is just a backdrop for what seems to be a possible invasion by aliens(?) of a nebulous and spiritual nature.  The other two terminals relay information about the timeline which seems kind of cool, but again is hampered by the syntactical grace of using a sharpened rock for fucking brain surgery.  The console that tells you current events directly references ‘you’.  As in the main character.  And it is done in such a way that it seems they took what was supposed to be on the back of the game’s case.. or maybe in the instruction manual.. and just slapped it in the archives.  All very pretentious and mysterious in a distracting “what the fuck am I reading” way and less in the cool mysterious way.

So, storyline completely fucked ass-backwards, I realize there is a drone with a video of me telling myself some shit I forgot.  Most of it, again, makes little to no sense. O, yea! Cause he directs me to the fucking archives for elucidation. Fuck that guy.  I wanted to buy some guns and realized that I’d need to level up mah skillz to get the desired weapons.  No big. Do the work, get the toys.  At some point I spoke to some guy that I think was an important dude.  His name was Nimanah.. or Shivrama.. sounded like something out of the Bhagavad Gita.  He basically told me that he was working against my mentor and suggested that we’d be killing him later.  For a group of people that seem to vaguely want you to be stealthy, this guy was subtle as a cinder block.

The weapons seemed to work well, I mean, the guns shoot, the swords slice.  Fun fun fun. I cut off a guy’s head by accident, too!  I power attacked some guys in the sewers and they just flew apart like crash dummies. That was pretty neat.  There is also a resurrection system. You seem to start with 10 rezzes and a sword stuck to your body somewhere. Seriously.  I ditched my starter sword for some dual katanas (What?! I wanted to dice the bad guys up like chilli and fries!) only to discover that I could still switch to that weapon.  That weapon which I no longer had on me.

...to see my giant shiny, gold penis?

…to see my giant shiny, gold penis?

So after making plans to buy some guns and cyber tech, I go to the Commander Rammalammadingdong pictured above to start the mission.  In the mission, I meet this guy that berates me for not being stealthy (seems a common form of greeting for these pricks at this point) and, after some clumsy conversation boxes, he tells me all the objectives in the nearest three zip codes. Did I mention that these goddamn things don’t disappear after you fucking complete them? Like you are starting a collection of floating glowie waypoints, or something.  I then creep along this gangplank and am seen and shot at by enemies. Then more enemies.  Pretty fucking soon it seems like the ENTIRE FUCKING PLANET has come out because they saw a gunfight on the news.  Federals and random thugs chase me down like they have a pact to kill me and then duel it out.  Oh, did I mention this game is racist as FUCK against white people?  No, really.  In a world of spiritual people whose armor and names seem to be a vague conglomeration of Middle-Eastern, Indian and Asian cultures, the enemies, called FEDERALS, are white and wearing either nazi storm trooper armor with officers sporting what appears to be the garb of imperialism-era soldiers.

So after slaughtering droves of aimless fucking morons with guns I hacked a bit.  Hacking is fun.  It is a duel with a cyber enemy for control or destruction.  If you lose a hack this big annoying fucking thing comes across your screen.  It flashes purple, red and green, changes expression from angry/happy to laughing and generally tries to give the player a seizure, but does its job of reminding you not to fuck that shit up again.  Seriously. And that shit sticks around for a long fucking time, too!  It certainly makes for interesting gunfights, though. Heh heh…

Quake with epileptic fury!

Quake with epileptic fury!

 

Generally, I would tell anyone considering paying the $9.99 for this on steam to save their cash.  This game is what happens when someone has an awesome idea to weave Warhammer 40k influences into a Shadowrun campaign.  Weird, super-religious protagonists and a dark cyberpunk world.  This game dreams big and rambles unintelligibly.  It wanted to be something neat, something memorable.  It wanted to break boundaries and shatter expectations.  It ends up roaming the streets muttering to itself and wrenching its mangy hair as on-lookers cross the street to avoid it.  Its delivery feels rushed as hell and could’ve been so much more than the shitbox that it is.  This game seems to have a cult following, though, and if you are into bizarre worlds with rambling story-telling and shitty mechanics, then this is for you.  I wish I could get my money back, but that isn’t happening.  I played this game for a total of about 3 hours, 2 of which was spent reading garbled english.  The rest was spent shooting dudes, which is fun, but there are many much better games for that.  Avoid this at all costs.  If you disagree, fuck you.  You’re probably one of those underground hipster assholes. Fuck…

Spec Ops: The Line, Heart of Darkness

2268428-spec_ops_the_line_wallpaper

 

A man who is always angry misses the beauty of life.  So after beating this game in a few days, I admit this one fulfills my desire for art in games.  Spoiler alert: if you are so slow on your gaming schedule that the ending for a game that was released in 2012 is still unknown to you, fuck off. Stop here, go play and come back.  In reality, I served in the military for 2 years and this game would not disturb me any less if I never had.  But that is the key to art, isn’t it?  Beyond just being a nice painting or a pretty song, its goal is to make us feel something.  And the feeling from this piece is a mixture of dark and sullen emotions that directly confront the joy and fun of playing a game where you run around killing people all the time.  The worst, I think, that anyone who is a huge fan of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and any of the other “power fantasy” military games in this genre, can say against Spec Ops: The Line is that it didn’t make them feel right.  And in that it has done its job.  Note that I do interchange between you, your character and Walker when talking about the main character as you experience this through him and, because you control his actions, identify chiefly with him.  What happens to Walker happens to you.

You start this game doing reconnaissance on a post-disaster Dubai, a city known for being a major tourist destination in the Middle east for the ultra-wealthy.  Massive raging sand storms have brought unfathomably large waves of sand that cover everything in their path, and the only survivors huddle in between a few luxury hotels and casinos hoping not to die horribly.  Well, America sends in a Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel John Konrad, said to be the Patton of his time.  After Konrad gets a couple thousand people killed trying to lead a convoy out of Dubai, he pulls back, hunkers down and tries to survive.  Military Brass orders Konrad and his men to pull out and give it up, but they stay put.  At some point a group of insurgents forms among the surviving civilians and they start to attack the men of Konrad’s Battalion, known as “The Damned” 33rd.  We find that this insurgency is led by the CIA with the aim of bringing down Konrad, his men and anyone left in Dubai in a final move by the CIA to cover up the failure of Konrad and thereby avoid bringing the ignominious facts to the world.  As far as the US government seems concerned, Dubai can just get buried and everyone remember it as a tragedy for which we did all we could.  Avoidance of disgrace.

When you first come on the men of The Damned 33rd, they are rounding up civilians with a DJ announcing loudly over the radio that they broke a ceasefire and that he had the perfect song to “play them off”.  He then starts playing some Vietnam era classic rock which makes the gunfight that much more exciting.  Now by this time you have seen a ton of dead bodies and are travelling from one CIA operative’s corpse to another trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  You never try to negotiate with the men of the 33rd, you just assume they are rounding the civilians up for unstated nefarious purposes under Konrad’s command.

After dispatching the civilian-corralling soldiers (whom, I might add, you never explicitly see shooting civilians but shooting upward to scare them) you move on to find a CIA operative being tortured, but it turns out he’s been long dead and you’ve been lured to an ambush by Konrad.  Another operative, named Gould, helps pulls your team’s ass out of the fire and you watch him get captured shortly thereafter while leading a diversionary insurgent attack against the 33rd.  Once you find Gould, you have the choice to save him or some civilians.  Gould dies either way.  Your character then decides to exact revenge on “The Damned” 33rd.  You infiltrate their camp and fire bomb them with white phosphorus, which, I might add, the 33rd used themselves in an engagement against the insurgents only a short time ago.  So you torch them like bugs.  As you walk through the devastation of the aftermath, charred men crawl from under humvees, you hear one man trapped in a tent begging for aid.  He dies shrieking.  Unless he was screaming for ice cream.  Which I doubt.  As you wade through the carnage, one surviving soldier with half a face left claims they were “helping”.  Your character Walker thinks a solid minute before turning to a tent at his side.  A large tent.  At the back of the base.  You enter to find the crispy remains of some deep-fried civilians.  To top it off, in the center is a woman corpse crouched clutching a child corpse, thus dissolving all notion of good will and, incidentally, Walker’s sanity.  While your friends nearly get into a brawl over their newly earned status as war criminals, Walker is just like “No, we have to push on.  Konrad made us do this.”

Honestly I would be struggling with a crippled psyche to comfort the gaping hole where my soul died, too.

Honestly I would be struggling with a crippled psyche to comfort the gaping hole where my soul died, too.

So it goes, you all push on, Walker thinks he sees some guys hanging by ropes with snipers trained on them.  A soldier and a civilian.  He hears Konrad’s voice tell him to choose one to live and die.  Later you find that they were desiccated corpses and there were no snipers, but, hey, you’re losing your last nut.  Why stop there?  After discovering a talkie with the corpses of Konrad’s former chief officers, you find later that the talkie never worked.  When a group of civilians lynches your sniper and translator, Lugo, you and your hitherto sane/reasonable assault squaddie just gun them down like dogs.  Sidenote, in true “shits about to go down” form, Lugo is the wise-cracking and likable squaddie.  They always kill the guy you really like when shit’s about to go down.

Later on you help the last CIA agent steal the water supply of the city and in a last ditch effort to keep it from enemy hands the fucker crashes the trucks and destroys it.  This ensures the complete annihilation of everyone left in Dubai in 4 days.  Oh I forgot, at some point before Lugo bites it you storm the DJ’s hideout and the sniper aerates him with a pistol. You fly a helicopter as an exit strategy, leave the tower a smoldering ruin and engage in a replay of the opening sequence to which Walker says “We did this already!”  At that point you should be like, am I losing it too?  Well, after a while your assault squaddie gets wiped out Alamo-style and as you run off you only see the flicker of multitudinous explosions behind you.  But nothing really concrete.  Either way, you know that a ziploc bag might be too big to send his remains home in.  I might add that during this last sequence the loading screens say things like “It’s not your fault” and  “You’re still a good person”.  Well, the reassurance did nothing to ease the growing knot in my guts.

So, you climb the stairs to the tower and enter under the premise of surrendering to Konrad only to discover “The Damned” 33rd surrendering to you.  I was confused since, usually, if they have enough firepower to make you surrender, there are at least a few of them left.  In the lobby though the so-stated remainder of the 33rd is like 12 guys.  Konrad summons you up to his loft where you find him painting a rendition of the above image like some kind of serial killer therapy patient.  Best part is, Konrad was never there.  How could he paint this?  Simple answer, he wasn’t and this was painted by Walker.

A little happy blue here and you capture that incriminating glare.

A little happy blue here and you capture that incriminating glare.

He disappears behind the painting and you follow him only to see a person sitting in a chair. Konrad’s corpse wearing something totally not his above hippy-gamer look. So he monologues to you over a montage of earlier events explaining that you have fucking lost it.  At one point you see Walker even talking to himself.  Now this is where the “Fuck me I am a horrible piece of human trash” realization kicks in.  In the final boss battle you basically shoot his reflection in a pane of glass before he shoots you and then radio for evac.  Among imaginary Konrad’s last words he says that after all this you can still go home. The final epilogue gives you the chance to surrender to some recon force or mow them down with an AA-12 and grumble cryptically over their radio “Welcome to Dubai” to their superiors.

So. There are a few things that piss me off here. Not in a typical rage sort of way but in a more “my brain won’t stop running over it for days” way. First off is Konrad.  As you and imaginary Konrad stand over Konrad’s corpse he says “Looks like Konrad’s survival was vastly overstated.”  Cheeky fuck. This implies, however, that he has been dead a while. Possibly the whole time, but you pick up the broken talkie further along in the game. So either your character lost his mind the first time you crashed the helicopter or Konrad died sometime after you heard him over your operational receiver but before you pick up the talkie.  Another thing to consider is the helicopter sequence.  Why do we see that twice? And how is it that Walker knows that this is the second time this has happened?  One theory I have is that everything that happens between the beginning of the game and the second helicopter sequence is the you reliving the horror of what happened up to the point where he truly loses all grasp on reality: the gunning down of civilians. As you gun down those civvies it seems weird as shit that suddenly your previously rational squaddie suggests and even begs to mow them down. So that makes it seems possible that maybe your squaddies have been dead this whole time and your character is sifting reality through his broken psyche alone and dying in the desert sun that his squaddies tried to stop his carnage, but in reality they were never there at all.  Perhaps even these are the events as they were imagined to justify a lunatic engaging in a murderous rampage?  And if Walker did paint the above masterpiece, that means he sees a whole lot of shit the wrong way.  Honestly, the implications are just too vast to be fully expounded upon.

The game makes you feel like an absolute piece of shit for finishing, too. As if somewhere that tent is still sitting huddled in an abandoned Dubai full of charred corpses. I mean, Konrad even says to you “None of this would have even happened if you just stopped” which automatically sounds like he’s talking to YOU.  The goddamn player.  Like, YOUR bloodlust and YOUR insane desire to see the game out to the very end and impassively dictate the actions of three Special Operatives as they murder Americans and torch civilians is more to blame than the videogame character Walker himself.  Not sure about you, but this one had me wiping the fingerprints off my mouse and keyboard.

Overall, this game made me feel.  And not just fucking feel but hard, deep and powerfully. Like ouch. It is a masterpiece of gaming that makes you ask way too many questions in what is supposed to be the conclusion and has been hailed by many as a redux of Heart of Darkness, a book written by Joseph Conrad. O, yea, that last name look familiar? It’s the ‘K’ threw you off, wasn’t it? And that was artfully redone by Francis Ford Coppola as Apocalypse Now.  Wasn’t the famous line from that “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”?  Well, Walker favors the sizzle of white phosphorus, but the homages to the film don’t stop there.  The DJ is a hippy-lingo slinging wastrel with trippy visuals in his broadcast hideout and a sort of “fight the power” vibe to him. AND he plays Vietnam-era classic rock over the radio for the murderous audience. AND the game’s opening screen starts with Jimmi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner! So, yea, this is a hat-tipping frenzy to rival an earthquake in a haberdashery.

My honest opinion is that this game is an example of what I feel videogames struggle with most: legitimacy as art.  This game sits in the same genre as Call of Duty and its ilk, but it is far beyond them all in scope.  I now feel I have to do this game a duty and reread Heart of Darkness (since I forget mostly everything about it) and watch Apocalypse Now (since I’ve never seen it).  If this game doesn’t make you feel at least a piece of all that, then fuck you.  You may be beyond redemption.  Anyways, this is my blog. Deal with it.

Spacebase DF-9, Everyone dies the first time

df-9

 

 

Or at least in mine they did.  Granted that was 2 or 3 alpha patches ago, but still, it is pretty fucking likely.  The concept is this: you build a spacebase.  To start you pick a sector of a spiral galaxy, like our own, and launch a pod out there.  And when I say ‘pick a sector’, I mean it.  You have this yellow glowie cross-hair that you guide along the picture of a galaxy as the readout relays four points of information: Stellar density, which controls how much matter is present at the game start and how often meteors hit your base, Warpgate Proximity, which dictates how often you get visitors to your base, Threat Level, which is how likely you are to get boarded by pirates and Magnetic Interference, which is how often derelict ships will randomly spawn outside your base.  I always tend to choose a sector with a decently neutral standing in all four, so I can get a well-rounded Spacebase experience.

Now, I say you’ll probably die the first time, and it isn’t my lack of faith in you.  But the help prompts that teach you what to do take a second or two to read and there are a few of them.  By the time you realize you can hit the spacebar to pause it and still dictate orders, there is a good chance 5 of the 8 minutes of starting air in your citizens’ space suits will have run out as your citizens marvel at the star-strewn void.  From there it is a trainwreck on a timer as you struggle to understand and then implement what you need to do to actually get a jump on things.  Like the developers were like, “Heh heh, wait two prompts before mentioning the air supply” so they could imagine you going “Oh, fuck, we need to breate!” and building a slapdash airlock with duct tape.  My first time I was enjoying the setup of corridors between rooms before everyone suffocated.  Then I said, O! I can make oxygen recyclers!  Now worries, though, it doesn’t take away from all the fun of it!  Just takes you out of the game a second so you can admire the amazingly sarcastic humour of the developers as the “Spaceface” logs the citizens issue range from whimsical to darkly hilarious while their faces turn blue.  I get the feeling that this game was made by Brits, cause the witty sarcasm comes into my head in an english accent. Just seems to fit.  Also, don’t forget, that the little box you guys were shipped out to the ass-end of the black in can be torn apart so you can build a closet.

Once you get your guys doing push-ups in a fresh, new artificial environment, however, you’ll see just how important that little bit of matter really is.  I mean, if you picked anything below neutral for Stellar Density your miners have to float like turd nuggets across a toilet bowl to get to the nearest asteroid.  Quite entertaining.  So you get your mass factory up and running, miners mine, security patrols, builders build and you still have aimless morons doing calisthenics in the life support room.  Well, sleep turns out to be important.  Oh yea, there is food too, but early on you learn that you can put food replicators in every room and to get fresh food, you need like everything else you can possibly build beforehand.  So, you get to watch your matter bounce a little as people eat food made out of space rocks.  While this happens, your proximity to the nearest warpgate becomes apparent as every asshole within a hundred lightyears comes by to sample your nutrient paste. No, that is not a blowjob joke.  Also, derelicts appear out of nowhere that might harbor bugs, killbots raiders and god knows what else.  Hopefully you’ve recruited someone that can shoot a gun or it’s rock-paper-scissors among your dumbass security team as to who goes into the dark foreboding derelict vessel first. And, while you can see everything on your base, derelicts appear as black, sharp-edged geometric shapes that might actually be leftovers from videogames of the last century.  Should you have gotten a higher Stellar Density you’ll be thrilled with all the building materials, right up until you get bombarded by space debris every twenty minutes.  No worries, though.  When it happens a large target comes up a good time before the debris hits so you can get any citizens out of there.  Granted, if they’re sleeping in a room that gets hit, you get to watch them wake up halfway through the event in a room full of smoke and alarms… if you built the alarm panels.  Either way, they are going to be running out of there looking for the fire extinguishers… if you built them.  Heh heh heh…

Putting out the flames.. with LASERS!

Putting out the flames.. with LASERS!

 

No. The fire extinguishers don’t really fire lasers.  So the key here is anticipation.  If you get your food replicators in early, you can keep them alive long enough to get them a pub and real food.  But that leaves some other frustrating issues.  Remember, though, this game is in Alpha!  If you are easily frustrated by bugs, just walk on by the window.  One of the biggies I have noticed is that it takes a fucking army of technicians to keep everything in working order.  And even then someone might neglect to fix the airlock doors allowing everyone to get sucked into space and die.  And the technicians won’t really fix it that much.. like 5%!  And they still walk away from that shit for a cold beer like “Well I have done my civic fucking duty for the next twelve hours!  Nothing bad will come of this!”  They have tweaked it in some recent Patches, but it still feels like it takes half the fucking population to fix all the gear you have onboard.  Then there are the stupid ass ways people can die.  Like, are you pissed that you built a room shitty and just want to tweak it?  Better get everyone out first!  The builders will demolish a wall with a non-suited person in the room, sucking out all the air in the process.  Your citizens will run around like lunatics and either a) run out the door to safety or b) dive out the breach into the frigid embrace of their own demise. I mean, the bodies don’t even stick around so you can harvest matter!  Although, if your people die onboard (i.e. eaten by space bugs, killed by robots, build themselves into a room you forgot about and starve to death) their corpses just lay there as a grim reminder to all the others where it’s all headed. No morgue or medbay.  Just pile the empty husks of your departed friends in the middle of the room.  Your can’t even send them out the airlock.  Me I’d want to eat them since you can’t raise any kind of animals onboard. Protein intake would be relegated to plantlife and your own ejaculate.  But, hey, you can have a gym and videogames on the spacebase, so it’s not all bad!  This is a fantastic example of a pre-release bonanza.  The game is broken in ways. Many real and funny ways.  Sure, you cleverly developed this habitat specifically for your various human and alien citizens.  Now watch them all die in bizarre and horrible ways.

The thing that really really pisses me off about this game isn’t the glitches, though.  It’s the fucking weird ass naming conventions!  I mean this race of.. err.. space chickens…(?)… have names like Jeff 52938442. Yep. Luckily you can rename them, but when someone befriends the newly christened Jeffarious, it’ll say friends with Jeff 52938442. Yep.  Annoying.  There is also the matter of personalities.  Each citizen has their own individual personality! Yay! They’re special!  These personality traits dictate what job they will be happy in the longest.  And NO ONE is happy as either a builder or a miner long.  Regardless of how good they are at it.  It used to be that this would lead to depression and eventually someone would “forget they were out of air” outside and suffocate to death. Then their friends would fall into depression and stop eating, then die.  Eventually the whole base became a noncommittal, Sam Neil-less emo redux of Event Horizon.  But with a fix, now we can move on after a death and maybe only their friends will jump out the airlock doors.  Unfortunately, this means the state of the game as of this post boils down to a constant juggle where you want your people to be happy and do ‘fun’ jobs, but need to get shit done and have to force unskilled morons to do hard labor for a couple weeks at a time.

Overall, if you like simulations, laser battles and sci fi games, this is a great buy.  A little pricey for an alpha game at 25 dollars American on Steam, but it’s Steam.  If you are that stingy, just wait until it inevitably goes on sale.