Shadow Warrior, Better the Second Time

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As with movies, games that were remade from an older title fall into two categories: epic or fail.  Shadow Warrior takes the material from the unrepentantly indecent original and sculpts it into an experience that adds to and surpasses the original.  And the way they did it is what makes this so awesome; Shadow Warrior uses the same corny sense of humor, but tempers it with a snarky, demonic sidekick. Devolver Digital has recreating an old washed-up title down to a process as simple as “give it to Flying Wild Hog.”

When SW kicks off, you main character is driving down the street listening to The Touch by Stan Bush.  People seem to like those songs from the 80’s, but not everything out of that era is worthy of remembrance.  Shit, not much out of the 80’s and even some of the 90’s is worth remembering, so this guy listening to some shitty 80’s music in a badass car on the way to a deal is a little off-putting.  Honestly, at first I was like, “God, please don’t tell me that’s the main character.”  But this game is filled with demons, so despite my pleas of “don’t make me play this guy”, I was forced to play as Lo Wang. I let out a nervous giggle and soldiered on.  Of course, this was the only thing that I, as a gamer, found distasteful about the game.  Its humor, on the other hand, is another story entirely.  If I were asian, I might be pretty deeply insulted by most parts of this game, but the way the game also makes fun of the original seems an attempt to apologize for it.

SW_powah

Huh, they misspelled “POWAAH!”

 

As with most games, the first level gives you an idea of what to expect, and it is fucking awesome.  It’s about an hour worth of slicing enemies to tiny pieces with a katana as they shriek and gush blood all over the carpet.  Your katana behaves like a magical limb-detaching wand, and at first I was really surprised by how horrible and gory the game is.  That lasted about 10 seconds before I was laughing my ass off at how ridiculous it really was.  2 parts Tarantino, 2 parts Jet Li and all Wang, baby.  It also displays how good at hiding shit in plain sight FWH really is.  At one point there is a statue behind glass in one of the main corridors, and I walked past it wondering why it was the only glowing statue in the whole place.  This statue is one of several types of collectibles that the game hides from you: money statues, bowls of blood, Ki Crystals and fortune cookies.

The statues give you money, but are not the only source of funds.  The other source is an ancient chinese method called “finding that shit lying around.”  As you collect money, the game totals it and lets you use it to buy ammo and upgrades for your weapons.  There are 3 different upgrades per weapon with 6 upgradable weapons: a pistol, machinegun, shotgun, crossbow, flamethrower, rpg.  One of the things I love about this game is a logical conundrum that I call the “Dimensional Sphincter Improbability”.  Essentially, unless you have a magical asshole that also links to an alternate dimension where you store all your weapons, it’s highly fucking improbable that you can carry an arsenal this vast.  Hard Reset, FWH’s inaugural title, solved this issue by making these weapons varying configurations of the same two weapons.  Shadow Warrior just stores these weapons in an off-screen pocket dimension that follows Lo Wang around at all times.  Of course, this game makes no apologies, and why should it?  It is a remake of an old, less-than-classic game.  Fuck logic.  Your first weapon, though, is the best.  The katana is an awesome part of this game, and you start the game dicing people up and flinging shuriken.  There is one problem with all of this.  The money has the square hole, which is distinctly Chinese, but the katana and shuriken were weapons of Japanese origin.  This game is a bizarre cultural amalgamation of two cultures.  Maybe the enemies in the next game will come from Korean lore?

The next big K-pop group, "Puppets of a Delusional Overlord"

Massacring these blood puppets was more fun than my ethics should have been able to tolerate.

Next, you have the bowls of blood.  This part makes me a little uneasy, and I filed it under “shit I won’t think about too much.”  Every once in a while, you will come across a secretly ensconced bowl of blood suspended by demonic power on a spiked shrine built of the corpses of your enemies victims.  So, naturally the first thing you do is drink it.  At least, I assume you do, and I am pretty sure it is never outwardly stated exactly what Wang does with it, but what else is there to do with it?  Rub it all over your body?  Either way, you get these bowls and they grant you Karma, which, in turn, is used to upgrade yourself with all kinds of abilities.  I spent the most of my first karma points on Ki attacks with my sword, which are badass attacks that allow you to cut through demons like lightly-chilled tofu.  These attacks are rewarding as fuck, too.  Get off a good divider of the heavens attack and your enemies basically explode while is great for taking off legs.  Your enemies will crawl off a bit, which makes it easy to deal with their friends then come back for the karma of beheading them, too.

Ki crystals are giant crystals that glow with ki power, something that fuels the demons’ magic.  Luckily, it also allows you to use Ki powers like self-healing or making a defensive bubble.  While not overtly useful, if used properly the powers become as deadly as the attacks.  Each of these collectibles allow you to buy new weapons, powers and abilities that make gameplay deeper and more entertaining.  The best part is that the abilities flow perfectly from gameplay, and the controls are beautifully intuitive.  As soon as I had the abilities mapped to my brain and the controls, I was ripping through enemies.  When I was finished, their army was measured in liters rather than kilograms.

After a battle, every arena tends to look like this.

After a battle, every arena tends to look like this.

Finally, there are these fortune cookies. Each of them gives you 5 health, which is nice, and then slips you a Confucius-style joke that will make you face-palm so many times your head will turn black-and-blue.  Generally, the humor of this game is pretty terrible, and it would even get to a point that is indecent, but the demon in your head makes it a little better.  He is an ancient, which is some kind of immortal asian demon.  The one you befriend is named Hoji, and he was banished from the shadow realm.  His story is one of Romeo and Juliet turned Pygmalion and Galatea, but with a dark twist.  He provides some comedic levity to balance your character’s ego a little.  With Hoji by your side, there is someone to keep Lo Wang from being the same person he was in the first game.  At one point he even says “Sorry, I used to be a prick.”  In the context of the game, he could be referring to his recent personal catharsis, but it also feels like a reference to that previous life.  Given the fact that this game also has more Easter eggs than grocery stores in late March, it’s not too much of a stretch.

Your enemies are also a throwback to that old time, when Nukem was the duke and consoles were for kiddies.  Many times, this game just throws you into fights where you are like “o shit I’m gonna die” and the entire time I was having flashbacks to plays of Descent and Doom.  Your first enemies are humans, but the game is fast to switch them out for an army of demons.  And those old games seemed to have a habit of throwing demons in as a foe for shooters.  I mean, look at Quake.  I had no fucking clue what the fuck I was even fighting, and the recent(ish) Quake 4 changed over to aliens instead of demonic foes.  Honestly, whatever.  Shadow Warrior made it cool to kill demons again and gave me as much of a thrill as Bioshock did.  Then there are these massive bosses that the game throws at you.  I played a little Duke Nukem Forever, and the giant-boss battles were just a little too… Duke.  They seemed so focused on the fact that the boss was massive and it played well enough, but it was just uninteresting.  Just felt like I was firing bullets into a river to dam in an attempt to damn it shut.  I didn’t feel  badass, just felt like damage control.  Boss battles in this game follow a sort of rhythm and you can measure your progress visually.  You also feel badass at the end for taking down this giant enemy.  It doesn’t feel one bit frustrating and is well done.  The battles are the same method as those found in Hard Reset, and I greatly enjoyed them.

Alongside the enemies, the game takes numerous flares from old-style games, like the card-key search.  Back in the days of Doom, it was standard procedure to be sent out after a set of keys to the complex you were running and gunning through.  Lo Wang finds himself running through arenas of foes searching for colored shrines to destroy in order to get past mystical demon seals.  It really brought me home, and I feel like this is an experience that new gamers will enjoy while old gamers can get all nostalgic.  On top of all this, Shadow Warrior had a spin-off game with Viscera Clean-up Detail: Shadow Warrior.  That is another indie gold mine and a lot of fun, so check it out.

Obligatory scenic screenshot

Obligatory scenic screenshot

Every ounce of this game screams with a righteous fire that burns through every expectation that I had.  It is a vein-bursting experience with fun gameplay, amazing music and a storyline that plays an artful, melodramatic chord against the game’s wang-fueled humor.  The game is ridiculous and over-the-top in a way that made old kung-fu movies so popular.  It doesn’t matter that this game is goofy and ridiculous, it is still a lot of fun, and in a lot of ways it is a shrine to the old generations of PC games and a fist-bump to their players.  It almost feels like I just sat down with the developers, had a few beers and talked about the “good old days of PC gaming” and how gamers nowadays wouldn’t understand.  This they would understand.  And it is really something special, even though it is so, so ridiculous.  Not to mention, the game leaves one of its main enemies wide open for a sequel.  Zilla, your former employer and demonically-enhanced lunatic, escapes in a helicopter.  You slice the other guy’s throat, though, so you get that satisfaction.  This game is 39.99$ on Steam, and I whole-heartedly endorse paying this money.  I got the game when it was on sale, so I lucked out, but it is a title you are guaranteed to enjoy.

With all that being said, the thing that boils my blood over this game is its developers.  Seriously!  How dare they make something so good!  This sets fucking standards!  They literally have made 3 fucking games.  FUCKING 3!  A game where you shred through hordes of demonic minions with righteous blazing fury, one where you blow your way through level after level of robotic minions that are spliced with human bodies and … a game starring a pink panda and a yellow lizard.  Ok, so that last one is still in development, but I am totally fucking serious.  These guys should be given some other old-school titles to revive, like SiN or Blake Stone!  I feel like the only fucking guy that even remembers Blake and his battles with Aliens of Gold!  Shit!  Oh well, I am sure all that is just around the corner, Devolver Digital just needs more money for properties acquisition.  I wish I could just give them money.  LoL!  Be so much easier than waiting for games to come out.

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Warlock: Master of the Arcane, Strategy Wiz

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I’m not sure if I ever said it, but I love strategy games.  Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a game that sticks out in my mind as a perfect example of the genre.  It takes after my all-time favorite strategy series, Civilization, and really gives fantasy gaming some serious respectability, rather than just another action-thrill ride through a well-known and profoundly over played fantasy series.  Lord of Magical Fashion Accessories aside, Warlock is a semi-serious game from a franchise known to do everything but act all self-important and serious.  This title in the Ardania franchise reminds you that, while you might be micro-managing the economics of an empire while keeping the ravenous hordes of enemies, ghouls and humans at bay, it’s ok to giggle a bit.

So part of the reason for posting this is I played this game a whole lot over the spring and finally realized the sequel came out.  Another title that suffers from lack of respect, this title received a 71 from Steam’s game critic system, the meta-critic.  I am at the point where I will tell you not to trust the meta-critic with this one.  Warlock is far above a number of other worse strategic titles.  So, Ardania is a realm comparable to that of Heroes of Might and Magic, considering how often the denizens are killing each other, but it is much more comedic.  MnM’s “anti-hero focused, villainy rises to power” game was a story about a demonically possessed man that convinces all his friends he is actually a good guy before killing their daughters and summoning his father, a demonic deity, to eat their souls: a demon-Jesus, hence it is called Dark Messiah: Might and Magic.  Ardania’s version of this was Impire: you are a the dark lord, evil mastermind of horribleness.  Trouble is, you were summoned by a schmuck, so you are a tiny imp.

To start Warlock, you get to configure the vast map on which you’ll play.  I am an obsessive lover of turn-based strategy games, so I always set the size up really high.  There are also the usual parameters to configure (number of foes, win conditions, difficulty) but the most interesting adjustable value is the number of alternate worlds.  Aside from the main map that you can play on, there will be a number of alternate worlds parallel to the primary one.  Now, as far as I’ve gotten (I’ve built a sprawling empire of monsters) I have yet to encounter the portals for this mechanic.  I know that I am worried about it, though.  Good chance that, knowing my luck, the first one I find will be the link to the dimension of darkness and evil shadows will pour out to consume our souls.

it's like a pretty steampunk butterfly of world-generating glee!

It’s like a big steampunk butterfly of world-generating glee!

Once you have you world set up, you pick you ruler and jump in!  One of the more disappointing elements of the game is that it has 3 playable races (4 with the DLC): humans, monsters, undead and Arethi elves.  Arethi elves are basically just emo elves.  Now the humans get the most gold production, monsters  have the best food production, while elves are good at all three (but not comparably so) and they have the best research.  I favored the monsters for two reasons, first being I like to eat and eating makes my army bigger.  I can always steal money from enemies.  My favorite element of the monsters is that they have the most variety to their army.  You start off getting ratmen and goblins and, for my character, you move into lizard people, the Koatl.  I can also get a giant fucking turtle as an ultimate unit!  It’s great!

The way city-building is almost exactly like Civilization.  You have a central city that grows in population and thereby grows in power.  Your capital will come to have a full-on bitchin’ castle at some point, which fires at nearby enemies.  You’ll construct buildings on the nearby land and assimilate resources necessary to fantasy empire-building: food, gold, mana and research.  Now, where this game differs is that research is not used for technology, but for magical spells.  Each spell has a supportive, offensive or strategic use of some kind.  Things like lightning strikes and fireballs are obvious, but things like water-walking and terrain-alteration is just interesting and useful, especially when turning farmlands into wasteland.  The final spell is the Unity spell.  Similar to the spell that hippies attempted o cast in th 1960s, the Unity spell makes everyone sit down and sing cumbaya and smoke pipe-weed, that shit’s for sissies.  It is much more fun to kill everyone and take over their shit.  Of course, if you take over their cities, you will have to contend with the lack of farmlands you caused without an ounce of forethought.  Another thing that was irritating about this is handicapped production on all fronts when controlling the city of an enemy race.  This seems a bit harsh, but if I, a human, was forced to rub elbows with goblins and ratmen, I would be irate and difficult to rule, too.  I am ruled by humans and I am already irate on a regular basis!

Welcome to my seat of ultimate powaaaahhh!

Welcome to my seat of ultimate powaaaahhh!

Some of the problems posed to you as a ruler come down to building a city in the right place.  While in normal strategy games you can build mostly everywhere with minor economic modifiers that might come to be frustrating.  Build a farm on the roiling lava plains and your building will cost you 3 gold per turn AND you’ll have 20% reduction in whatever that building produces.  So, generally, don’t fucking do it.  Also, should you decide that a burning plain with rivers of lava is an acceptable risk for military advance, your units will have to contend with a movement penalty and a 50% defense penalty.  Not worth the fucking trouble, unless you run your shit like Pickett.

Further features of this game involve a modest plethora of special resources, like donkeys and pumpkins.  I really enjoy the things that can be done with these, too.  I have my koatl houses that I build in swamps, a shrine of the rotten pumpkin, order of the stubborn knights and other things.  Stubborn knights are powerful and ride donkeys.  They are eternally stubborn and hold grudges as high as universal mandate.  As you play, you will notice the hordes of wild animals.  These serve function of barbarians from the Civ series.  They are random marauding groups of enemies that serve as something to kill besides other players.  There are also some special enemies in the water, like krakens, which will murder the fuck out of your ships until they’ve seen some battles.  They guard treasure troves that are well worth the fight, including items for your Lords.  These lords can be hired and deployed to deal massive damage or healing.  Employ them right and you will slaughter enemies by the droves, employ them poorly and they will be the funniest most expensive character bios you’ve ever forged an empire to buy.

One of my favorite features of this game are the missions.  Throughout the game you will be randomly assigned missions to kill neutral foes, AI foes or build things.  You might also get a mission from the gods to build a shrine in their honor, which can only be built on special holy sites.  This gets you sway with the god in question and, in turn, their favor will grant you special features.  I am currently struggling through the demands of a needy deity that wants me to want him.  He demands that I build a shrine to him on a holy site.  It’s a little annoying and I really want to make that god happy so he’ll give me shit, same way religion works in real-life.  Not open to the idea of pissing of deities with phenomenal cosmic power.

The go kill bears mission.  The pivotal moment in every epic story line.

The go kill bears mission. The pivotal moment in every epic story line.

 

In my opinion, this game was given no quarter by the meta-critics.  It is a stupendous game with some flaws that don’t ruin the fun parts.  Not to mention it is reasonably priced.  You can get Warlock Ultimate edition on Steam for 24.99$, which includes all the DLC with the core game.  You can also get the fucking entire Majesty collection for 69.99$.  I am pretty sure I own 90% of these games and I still want to buy it.

As it is with all things, there is something in this that pisses me off unnecessarily.  Anywhere you haven’t explored there are clouds.  CLOUDS MAN!  I fucking feel like there is a roving bands of stoned hippies just over each horizon, and, like all hippies, they break down camp whenever anyone that might spoil their convention of hallucinogenic enjoyment. Fucking hippies!  I wish I could march my fucking army down their throats and murder all of them with the rage of monstrous fury! Then subsequenly enslave a remaining few so our society would have a fresh supply of dubious plant-life to smoke recreationally in the states of Washington and Colorado.

Estudio Antropo, True Next-Gen Gaming

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Remember is Shadowrun how your characters had 2 different versions of the matrix to deal with?  Yea, sure, one was the Virtual Reality (VR) realm where hackers reign as gods, clad in icons to resemble all the deities of old as their meat body lays somewhere on a bed or floor neglected by the free-roaming mind.  The other was called Augmented Reality (AR) and it is where you find the visual interfaces that allowed you to see what specials and sales stores have going that day by looking at the logo through the right pair of glasses.  Nintendo was the first to really take advantage of this when they came out with the 3DS and its aptly named VR cards, which revealed a variety of simple, fun AR games that had my wife and I battling over who was the better virtual fisherman.  These cards were cards you lay on a table and then look at with your 3DS in AR mode.  Characters would then pop out of the cards or games would form out of the table.  It was fucking awesome.  Then there was this company that fucking decided to make a pair of computerized glasses, which hold the potential to plaster gaming all over the world.  There is another company, however, whose scope is more ambitious than just playing with cards and more exciting than karate chopping at the air or shouting virtual “clay pigeons” to pieces with your fucking thu’um.

Estudio Antropo said “That’s fucking neat and all guys, but what about the goddamn devices the entire society has already invested in?”  Not a direct quote, but one I like to imagine coming out of someone’s mouth.  These guys have developed a game for the boARd format, a Kurzor S.R.O. concept, that allows you to use your mobile devices to play board games.  Now, the trailers for this only show people with their iPads all spooled up and ready to go, but, the game is also scheduled to release with an Android element, as well.  I don’t see it being long before Andriod and iOS players can huddle around the same boARd to play a rousing game of Monopoly, or something.  Estudio Antropo currently have a kickstarter campaign up that ends August 1st.  If anything in this article excites you nearly as much as it fucking excites me, go there and throw some money in!

cartoneros-logo-01-long

 

Check my cardboard swagger.

Check that cardboard swagger

First among the titles that will pioneer the fourth fucking dimension is Cartoneros.  This title is one that has a kind of general appeal that plays out really cool.  Not to mention, even those hippies with their goddamn iPads will love the concept.  Cartoneros takes place in a world where people throw away vast amounts of fucking cardboard.  EVERYTHING is cardboard, including your characters.  Your characters then go out on their mission to clean up the world! Aw, yay!  That is so special!  Yippee! Love is magical!  They then proceed to battle over resources like the humans that undoubtedly spawned them and battle to the death over cardboard.  So yes, good intentions do pave the road to good gameplay.

In this tactical strategy, you control a small team of Cartoneros, these little guys that collect the cardboard detritus of the world.  Each of your cartoneros has strength and weaknesses, too, so it is not all cut and dry combat.  In your mad dash for sustaining cardboard, you will battle with other players.  Now, this carboard you collect isn’t really something you’ll use in-game to pump your cartoneros up, but between plays is when it comes in handy.  As you await your next round of play against your mortal foes (apparently your mom and little sister) you use the cardboard to beef up your cartoneros.  You will even be able to shape the gaming environment by building maps, characters, weapons, monsters and robots!  Its developers liken it to a combination of DoTA and XCOM.  Granted, if you spend your cardboard too frivolously, you will not have enough resources to maintain a competitive  team.  This honestly looks like it could turn into a fucking sport.

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn't that nice!

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn’t that nice!

Each game of Cartoneros will include 1 – 8 players, and the game style will change depending on the teams.  If everyone is on the same team, the game is more like an RPG with players working together to fight monsters and get cardboard.  If you split the players apart, it becomes a DoTA, XCOM fusion-style tactical strategy game.  Monsters in this game fall in three categories.  Little ones that flee, big ones that attack your characters and huge ones that make you crap your cardboard trousers.  Each monster will have special abilities that can be obtained by killing the monsters and eating its heart like a ancient n0rse warrior.  I might have made up that last part about eating its heart, but you really can get the powers of your foes for a limited period by destroying them.  Apparently there are some really neat features to the game structure, as well, allowing you to create your own game.  Maps can be created by arranging terrain on the board, missions can be created by designating objectives and stories created by linking maps.  The game is going to be tough, too; if you lose characters weapons, tools etc. in-game they are gone forever.  You’ll have to be careful how you spend your cardboard between games, but careful planning will pay off big-time in the long run.  You can read about Cartoneros in greater detail on its Kickstarter page.

espio_logo

Does cartoneros sound too much like something that the family will enjoy and won’t be badass enough for your group of awesome buddies that only opt for the finest and most edgy of tabletop games?  The guys backing cartoneros are also developing Espionag3: Berlin Files.  If cartoneros’ strategic gameplay and winsome visuals don’t excite you, the dark world of spies and intrigue laid out in Espionag3: Berlin Files should.

It’s another strategic game where you control a network of spies and battle against your friends.  Berlin files looks really fun and with pitched gun battles and tailing missions, this game looks awesome.  I don’t fucking care what language the goddamn screenshots are in!  The players take up the role of secret government agents in Berlin, who have discovered that the mafia has moved in and are expanding rapidly.  It is up to players to utilize their stealthy spy tactics to overcome and eliminate their mafia enemies.  This gaming format has a lot of possibilities, from the simple and fun ideas to adult level games providing intrigue and excitement.  I could see a game like this taking place in 1930’s New York with players controlling a mafia family and vying for control of the illegal liquor trade.  Want a historical piece?  What if someone developed a game where half the players are the French Resistance fighters and the others are Nazis, and the players duke it out for control of Paris?  See, only limited by your imagination.

On any city street in Berlin...

On any city street in Berlin…

So why does this concept excite me and why should it excite you too?  Do you like tabletop games?  Anyone who has ever played Shadowrun, Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer and any other such related games should be able to see the potential this poses for awesomeness.  This format could easily be built upon by major developers to create a DnD game that works with ipads, android phones etc. so that you can sit down with your gaming crew and play some serious tabletop games.  You could have endless customization options for your Warhammer armies, all explained at your fingertips by the software of the game.  Terrain customization for Warhammer, DnD and Shadowrun games would be that much more detailed and the worlds you play in would, literally, just be a game screen away.  You would be able to almost touch them.  Super-nerdy niche games not your style?  This format could be used to give standard boardgames the modern update off of console systems they so desperately crave.  Instead of buying the whole box and all the pieces getting scattered by a rampaging dog, you could just play care-free on a paper-board!  Granted, the animals might poke holes in the paper boARd, but it saves you a hell of a lot more time searching for tiny houses.  Those fuckers are a bitch to step on at night, too.  So support Cartoneros on kickstarter up through August 1st!  It could really be the update of next-gen gaming that would really make people feel like they are living in the future!

 

Dear Game Informer: You’re a Fucking Asshole

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Game Informer is a major gaming magazine that is apparently written by assholes.  Now, the reason I receive it is because my wife got the Powerup rewards card at Gamestop.  This was when she got our 3DS ‘s and Pokemon X and Y.  I pick it up and peruse it whenever it comes in, and it often shows me some surprisingly good indie games I hadn’t yet heard about.  But this month was different.  This month I got to pages 28-29 of the July 2014 issue and was met with this woven monstrosity called “The Indie Game Flowchart”.  I would tell you that IndieDevs are the sole reason for true ingenuity and without those with the balls to run free in the capitalist wilds, there would never be any innovation or progress in gaming at all.  We would all be playing COD and WOW rip-offs.  This is a rage article of crotchety proportions, so if you don’t like it, fuck off.  Game Informer needs to sit down and shut the fuck up.

This article, written by some mimsy tart named Joe Juba, has this text blurb to start you off:

If you want to make an indie game, you need to be driven by passion.  Maybe you want to tell a personal story, or experiment with a never-before-seen genre.  Realizing this dream might require years of work and your life savings, but it could be worth the struggle.  What is your reward at the end of the journey?  Follow our flowchart to find out.  You might earn instant credibility, vast wealth, or cheap statuettes from an indusrty awards show.

– Joe Jube, Game Informer, Issue July 2014, Page 28

You might think “O, that’s not so bad!  He just gave the indie devs some credit for drive and passion.  Not to mention experimenting with genres and some other things!”  Honestly, sure, he does, but then he cheapens it with a giant flowchart that mocks the entirety of Indie Developers and what the real goal is as an IndieDev.  While the article is a comedy-rag with sarcasm dripping from its pages, one should keep in mind that comedy is a form of philosophy where they cause you to laugh by showing you the truth (in this case Juba’s perception of the truth) and making you see it in an entertaining light.  Just watch Louie C.K. or George Karlin.  Hell, nearly every comic uses elements of real-life in their shows, and that makes them artists in a way.  This is just flat-out mockery of a people who have no real centralized way of responding.

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

At start is says “So you want to be an indie. What is the first priority?”  Move on to the first offense, “Fun, good gameplay“.  The next box after that just says “wrong” and directs you to the other option out of the gate “A cool art style.”  Now stop right there you fucking pricks.  Did you just see that?  With a quick flick of the goddamn wrist, this slimy little fuck says that indie games as a whole do not have fun, good gameplay and rely on art style.  FUCK NO!  I can name plenty of games off the top of my head in varying genres that have great gameplay with great art all the way to shit art and fabulous gameplay.  Minecraft, for instance, has arguably simplistic art.  Most Super Nintendo titles had more advanced textures.  The gameplay is the redeeming part of this game, and spawned several genres.  THAT was the work of one fucking guy in a goddamn basement, NOT the result of the industry’s method-at-large, which is typically “who fucking cares how mindless the gameplay is, just art it up with pretty graphics and fantastic visuals so that no on notices.”  Want another?  Sure.  Hard Reset.  That is a game with some pretty graphics, great ambiance and an artistic method of doing cut-scenes in a comic book style.  The gameplay, however, is a ton of fun, allowing you to blow shit up and use a variety of weapons with the same two “guns” and elminating the question of where you keep that bazooka.  Sure, the story is a little confusing at times, but Half-life 2 had as much story as a mass-murderer does.  Shit, Call of Fucking Duty has less story, but that is punching the retarded kid there.  I don’t know where Joe Juba thinks he gets carte blanche to say what he wants about the indie culture, but he is writing for a major fucking magazine.  That, along side his little opening to this masterpiece of douche-baggery, automatically takes away any credibility he truly has with the indie culture.  But he goes on, so, too, must I.

From that box you also see “it needs…” You can go to “blocks like minecraft” and that takes you to the minecraft clones.  This path ends in the Copy-cat award, success by association.  That is a bit funny, but the devs in those games are getting a little short-changed.  Often, the best way to get to new shades of genres are to take the major genre elements of something successful and apply them to other facets and ideas not explored by the majorly referenced work.  This is done all the time with fantasy, with Lord of the Rings as a start, and brings you to people like George R.R. Martin writing dark fantasy worlds that owe their lives and allegiance to Tolkien.  The next major issue I have with this article of short-selling +9000 is “first-person..” leads to “shooter” which leads to the David and Goliath Award, Call of Duty will destroy you.  STOP RIGHT THERE YOU SHITTY LITTLE FUCKFACE!  So, you’re telling me all first-person shooters are in direct competition with COD?  Your taste in games obviously has a diversity comparable to Iceland’s gene pool.  One massive collection of similar-looking people with a few sharply-contrasted elements floating around to emphasize the main body.  Hard Reset and ZenoClash are two indie FPS’s that are nothing like COD and thank god for it!  These titles add elements of diversity to a stagnant pool of genre degeneracy that is characterized by vastly acclaimed titles like Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, Black Ops, Battlefield…  Seeing some similarities?  And the best part is, the moment that this genre drifts away from the Call of Douchebags FPS standard of “kill da bad guy soljers” it drops in funding, quality and standards.  Don’t believe me?  Thief.  As if I needed to expound further this guy does a way better job at explaining the game’s shortcomings than I could here.  And he tries to defend it with lengthy diatribes of legitimately interesting discussion about how the game could have been better.  Genre diversity is a must, and indie FPS’s offer way more in this respect.

Another off-shoot from that “cool art style” box leads you to “A living painting. Like Braid, but with…” and this section leading to the ‘Too Indie, What about gameplay?’ endpoint that dominates the center of the first page.  This placement is no fucking accident.  This is the way that mainstream gaming stereotypes the indie gaming culture.  I do appreciate their implication that this is the home of the extremist indie games, and thereby not the bulk of them, but this still puts a smear on the community as a whole.  These are apparently the representative items of indie culture that the most people will understand and, thus, it is in a plce that the most people will read, with the bulk of readers giggling a bit here then moving on to their Culla’ Doodie circle jerks.  In this section they include Braid, and a number of weird modifiers.  They also catch these outliers by having First-Person also lead to “Pretentious Interactive Narrative Experience“, which is arguably a way of saying “artistic game experience”.  But another place first-person takes you is were you bought by Valve, in which case you end up at the “Gamer darling Award, Please stop saying the cake is a lie” or elsewhere.  If you say no, it moves on to the next page and “years later”.  This implies that every indie title will take years to complete.  This brings you to “Perfect! You project has the green light! When will it release?”  Two options after: One year, which leads to a delay show at PAX then the second selection, which is two years.  Then another delay show at PAX, and then four years.  This means, fuck you, even if you think that your game will release in a year, after years and not getting bought by Valve, you’ll actually take four years and tons of personal delays to make your game.  That is degraging.  Sure, it may happen to some, but this seems to imply that indie developers cannot adequately structure time schedules.  Because the major industry has ben SOOOOOO fucking good at doing that! Right?  By the way, what was the release date of Half-life 3 again?  Whatever, just play Duke Nukem Forever and you’ll start to get an idea.  In fact, just read this fucking Cracked article.  That should tell you.

But let me skip over to another point of contention.  Following side-scrolling games takes you to the inevitability of “Wait a minute… are you already a major developer?”  One option (No, then keep at it!) takes you to the aforementioned “years later” situation.  The other 2 are “Does Double-Fine count?” and “Yes”.  Yea, you see where I am going with this now.  This gets you to Nice Try, Decades of experience isn’t indie.  FUCK YOU!  You sit there and say that to me?! I wanted to just type a string of random angry characters but quivered with rage for a few moments instead.  Where do you get off saying that indie developers cannot have decades of experience? Do you realize that Sword of the Stars was made by people from Rockstar?  Just because they have been around for a while, doesn’t mean they are not indie.  My understanding is the Double-Fine got to mainstream game dev and backed out because they wanted, I don’t know, some GODDAMN FREEDOM!

Moving right along, there is this other endpoint of Indie Foul! That’s not how this works.  Among the things that lead here are third-person roguelikes with crop-farming and carefully crafted dungeons and collectible creatures.  That takes you to “Look, I don’t know what “roguelike” means”  There are also apparently Third-person roguelikes with spaceships and no permadeath, which also leads here.  Fuck you.  Now we need perma-death in spaceship games to be good?  Fuck you.  My angriest path here leads through the thoroughly convoluted “third-person zombie survival games funded by independent modders who have a well-organized business plan”.  This is apparently no one, as this goes to Indie Foul.  fuck you. again.  The option aside a well-organized business plan is apparently “who get massive community support” and this just has to be a joke.  Having these as separate options basically states that crowd-funding is not part of a well-organized business plan.  Honestly, asking the gaming community to fund your project isn’t the most sure-fire way to get it done, but Kickstarter is for gamedevs that have great ideas and none of the money required.  So I also suggest that, yes, crowd-funding can be a good element of a well-organized business plan.  Other ways to indie foul include an old-school RPG inspired by some N64 RPG’s with retro sprites that was considered as an Ouya exclusive.  There is also a mainstream audience that leads to Indie Foul, but that tells me that this guy thinks the main element of “indie” gaming is that only a couple assholes like it.  This is even more heavily implied by the statement that aiming precise challenges at a few dozen masochists will be enough to get your project the green light.  I am not sure which planet this Joe Juba asshole comes from, but it is one where “indie” means “pretentious dicks that think they know better” rather than, you know, independent.  Indie games can be aimed at mainstream audiences.  The retro style that many take on these days are made to appeal to what a lot of us older gamers played as children.  Oh, I am sorry, not every spoiled-rotten little rat bastard was able to buy games when I was a kid.  In fact, when I was your age, playing games made you the socially awkward nerd that got beat on.  On last path that takes you to Indie Foul! is Border Control Simulator.  I would say this is a jab at all those weird simulator like Rock Simulator, Streetsweeper Simulator and Papers, Please, but those games are a new genre that deals with allowing you to literally live different aspects of real-life.

So now your game is finished.  There are now three results for you left, having dodged the sweeping two-page morass outlined by some ass.  The only thing left is the name.  Three options: First, you can go with something slimy and geometric, like “Gooptahedron”.  The next thing is “that’s free to play, isn’t it?“.  The only selection is yes, or hell yes.  This leads you to the Zero Credibility Award, Money (is not equal to) Quality, which is the only place Joe Juba deserves to be classified.  Granted, he starts off with that whole gooptahedron crack, but this is the only location on the indie flowchart that features free-to-play games.  I can think of a couple really good free-to-play games.  Immediately I am reminded of Gear Up, a multi-player tank-shooter.  So, tell me, you relentless shit, are you saying that all F2P indie games have zero credibility as indie games? Fuck you, again, indie is not about money, it is about independence.  The other two options out of game-finishing are a weird sentence fragement and a single vague word.  Your game is then a success.  Either you say Fuck it, I quit, where you earn the Something Fishy Award, Don’t forget to cancel the sequel and the most insulting thing on this shit-sheet: “beg for money on Kickstarter and try again.”  Yup.  BEG for money you worthless little worms!  Then you can go back to start to begin again.  O, and you remember how, apparently, it takes four years after previous years of delaying to get it done?  Yea, that path leads here, too.

Now, if you read all the way to the end of this article, I give you a lot of credit.  This is a long wall-of-rage-text article with few visual stops.  The point I am making is as follows:  This convoluted two-page spread is just an insidious mockery that attempts to rob the indie gaming and indie developer community of its main source of undeniable respect.  Indie Devs want freedom.  Freedom from major developers to develop as they please, without the back-burner rejection that these types of games would receive from mainstream companies entrenched in the FPS standard, or whatever standard they prefer.  Indie means independent, and that scares the mainstream companies and their little turd-sniffing employees, such as Joe Juba.  Not because they think  we want to be like them and want the money that comes with it, but because we want nothing to do with them, we want to do what we want, and accept the money that comes with it.  This is where indie developers get their real power.  Alongside the fact that indie games are the testing ground for new and interesting concepts that push the industry forward and bend the boundaries of virtual experience like minecraft, which spawned crafting games and survival games like Rust.  For this reason, Indie Gaming is the source of true gaming diversity.  We don’t want our options to be between WoW, CoD and Assassin’s Creed without recourse.   We’re not a bunch of pretentious dorks sitting in a corner of a lunchroom wearing goofy glasses and handlebar mustaches making fun of the “cool COD kids”.  We are a collection of like-minded individuals that are tired of the same old horse shit that mainstream gaming presents.  We are tired of graphically fluorescent games with shit story lines or inept game-play.  We are ready to take gaming into our own hands.  And that scares the ever-loving shit out of them.  If I ever needed physical proof that mainstream gaming resents the indie community to the level that you might call it hate, this is it.

How to Survive, MacGyver vs. zombies

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By this time everyone is getting tired of killing zombies.  From pixelation to paradise, we’ve all smashed more brains and likewise been ripped apart more times than should really be socially acceptable.  Why is this? Well, zombies are safe enemies.  They are person-like enough to be fun to kill, but are clearly monsters, so the deranged soccer-moms of America can’t really blame zombie-slaying for the downfall of western civilization.  More safe than zapping aliens, as that would just be xenophobia and in some cases their belief systems are just echoes of our own xenophobic issues…<cough> Halo </cough>  Yes, zombies are our little squishy rage receptacles, and H2S takes the love of zombie-slaying to isometric levels.

Among the first things that I noticed when starting this game up is its insistence upon issues controls at me like I am holding an xbox controller.  Also, it’s an isometric action RPG.  Like Legend of Zelda with less magic, more zombies and gallons of blood.  Your character of choice washes up on the shore of some island with a random asshole nearby coughing and gasping for air.  Me, I would have just taken the stick he gave me and bashed his brains out with it.  One less zombie to fight later, but it seems this game is more merciful than I am.  You leave the guy to his fate.  Christ.  I would have taken the stick to the head option.

Also, after getting that guy some pain-killing plants to munch on, he gives you a stick.  He even says you won’t survive without it!  Lovely.  Now the only thing keeping me from the precipice of doom is a flimsy piece of wood.  You’ll use it initially to bash in zombie brains, then later you use sticks for crafting.  Alongside some other detritus and pickups, you will find these floating books left behind by a mystical russian sage in a welder’s mask named Kovac.  It is pretty clear that Kovac is a few screws short as he had so perfected the art of survival that he now writes manuals chapter by chapter and leaves them across the various islands you’ll explore.  All this is done for the benefit of anyone else that might end up on his zombie-infested archipelago.  O, yea, this takes place on some tropical islands, but don’t worry, there are no luxury hotels or rap-singers.  Just a russian guy and some zombies. O, and the odd survivor or two.

againstwall

She looks royally fucked. I met a couple gameover screens putting my back against a wall.

Probably the best element of this game is the crafting system.  Your character runs around grabbing items pieces of useless junk, such as harpoon grips and air tanks, and uses them to build shotguns and pistols which fire screws, nuts and bolts.  Hence why I reference the 80’s tv show MacGyver: the original “guy who could go into the woods with a q-tip and build a shopping mall”.  My personal favorite was the boomerang made of two sharpened bones you tied together.  That just screams terrible, messy death.  Especially when you meet some of the bosses in this game.  Shit, man!  I was playing solo, but you can easily play a local game (on your fucking computer) and run around with another player blasting zombies.  At some points you’ll be glad to have that other player.  Numerous times alone at night I have had to flip around while fighting off a horde of zombies with just a bow to shine my flashlight at the night zombies, which hate the light.  That stalls them long enough to kill a couple more enemies attacking your front.  Such frantic gameplay, however, is easily avoided by bringing a buddy.  Sure, there are other survivors in this game, but most of them are either content hiding on their personal island and writing manuals for everyone else or they die terribly.  There is also the off chance they are just disabled, but yea, not helpful.  One NPC that follows you around just seems to be the guy that knows where everything is.  That’s Ramon, and he is obviously someone’s latino grandfather.  A little on the stereotypical side, he calls you papa at some points and uses other spanish terms.  It gets uncomfortable after a while.

Your character progresses to meet the challenges presented by leveling up.  Each kills, direct or otherwise, gets you exp and those points get you skills, like making crossbows or better aim.  There are skills oriented toward survival, too.  Mostly oriented toward the necessity mechanics of the game.  There are three things you need to do in this game: eat, drink and sleep.  Neglecting any of them results in your demise.  You can hunt wild animals, but carrying bloody predictably makes you a zed-magnet and you have to cook it before consumption.  There are wild fruits, which replenish thirst and hunger but also give you diarrhea if you eat too many.  Then there are the roots.  You can find things like cassavas everywhere, but these are gross and replenish only hunger, but they keep you from dying and you can eat all of them with no negative effects.  For water the game places freshwater wells throughout the game and allows you to fill empty bottles with the water, for drinking on the go.

Then there is sleep.  Your character can only sleep at designated locations throughout the game.  Little safehouses built by Kovac and out fitted with beds, a savepoint and a blaring loud siren.  O, yea, this fucker goes off and attracts EVERYTHING in the vicinity.  Not to mention the safehouse starts spitting out zombies at you, too!  So you have to run around in circles zapping gut-munchers and praying you can survive.  The third safehouse you come to was truly fucking irritating, too.  I only have my little homemade pistol and a bow.  I must have missed some goodies, though so I am heading back a bit to see if I can make a shotgun at least.

If that doesn’t sound frustrating enough, some of the fucking zombies have ARMOR on.  Seriously!  You can shoot them all you want with your pistol, but that shit ain’t getting through!  For those guys you need to get out your bow, focus, woo sah woo sah and release.  Meanwhile, a ton of little brainbugs or regular zombies (which get progressively harder to kill) are munching on your spleen.  At some points the game feels more like a test of your ability to cycle through you inventory, but going into your inventory quickly became my method of choice as it pauses the game.  I use this time to address issues of near-death, hunger or thirst.  There are also zombies that explode, giant fucking run-for-your-life-and-hide-like-a-bitch zombies that take forever to die.

"You say 'woo sah' to me one more time, jack, and I shoot you in the dick."

“You say ‘woo sah’ to me one more time, Jack, and I shoot you in the dick.”

Did I mention the natural problems you might run into while living in the middle of nowhere?  You might get charged down by a wild animal defending the watering hole.  Or perhaps you take a swim in a piranha infested swamp?  Yep, the longer you stay, the more you realize this island was set up by a secret government organization to vet the pool of 80’s action hero hopefuls.  There are all kinds of neat elements, though.  You can pick plants and use them to make power potions, craft poultices for injuries and other neat shit.  I would say get this game, but only if survival amongst zombies while building flamethrowers and crossbows intrigues you.  As of this article, Steam has this game on sale for 3.74$.  The DLC’s aren’t on sale, but altogether they cost only 8.94$, so this is definitely worth your money.  The sale is only good until June 29th, 2014, though, so get on that shit!

The game itself tells you how many days you’ve survived, which is neat and all, but I cannot help but feel like this game was supposed to go in another direction.  I have been right about this sort of thing before, too.  It seems like this game was supposed to throw you into a nasty, rough environment and force you to survive on your own.  No storytime, no Kovac and no one to help you but your own gut instinct.  I also feel like they might have allowed you to build your own base at some point, but the game never gets there.  Instead you just sort of run around picking up Kovac’s breadcrumbs and helping your mexican grandfather accomplish his dream of flying a plane.

There is one thing that pisses me off about this title, too.  That being the zombie tropes.  Every game that has zombies wants the game to get tougher than just making you fight the same bland living dead all the time.  Sure, they could just make them tougher to kill, but without an external reason making them tougher to kill (ie armor or helmets) it is a little cheesy.  Thus, since Left 4 Dead every fucking zombie killing game has had the same stupid fucking exploding zombies!  Just change the fucking skin texture and hope no one notices.  Then there is this large, pain-in-the-ass-to-kill tank zombie that charges you down. Seriously, people, if someone can’t get a little more original, I might just stop buying anything with fucking zombies in it.

TerraTech, Constructive Preview

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TerraTech is a game full of potential, which will be appearing at E3 2014, and I am hoping at IndE3 as well!  It is a solid concept built from the dirt up in Unity3D, and, of course, this game is an Alpha Demo, so please leave the screenies alone.  They were on the highest possible graphics setting.

TerraTech is like a combination of lego and erector sets where you start with a few simple pieces.  You gain more pieces by roving the surface of the alien world mercilessly destroying the cockpits of other vehicles.  In the beginning you have your cockpit, a body piece, a machinegun and some wheels.  The pieces are dropped on you like, fuck, here, whatever.  I laughed.  So I am driving around and I see some asshole with a couple wheels and a drill.  So, I naturally did the first thing you do when meeting other people: level your machinegun and prepare for battle.  After nuking his cockpit and leaving their corpses exposed to the extra-terrestrial atmosphere, I took their drill, which I affixed with a blue building beam (Psh, I ain’t fucking going out there!).  And I went off to drill some rocks.  After some drilling and a few battles, I realized that a tractor beam piece was used to pick up raw materials and parts.  Now I am that guy driving around with a whirling ball of resources and parts just chillin’ there, not in any kind of use.  Then I killed an automaton and found an AI interface.  Pretty useful.  That let me make an AI that would drive into trees and turn a little bit when fired at.  Eventually I saw this big asshole that had some neat yellow parts I wanted, so I killed him and took his pieces.  I am now the lord of the big alien world.  That is until some dick drives up out of nowhere and levels me, scattering my parts everywhere.

That's the smug son of a bitch driving through my pieces.

That’s the smug son of a bitch driving through my scattered pieces

I was not unreasonably frustrated, so I went on to see what else this little demo had in store.  Turns out there are some other really nifty modes for this game.  The first I saw was Rocket Mode.  That sounded badass as hell, so I clicked it.  I was greeted by an orange desert and what looked like a two year old overturning a giant bucket of legos.  My eyes instantly lit up like fireworks and I went to town, baby!  When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t allow us to have legos for two reasons.  I have 4 brothers and that shit is fucking EXPENSIVE.  Not to mention we scattered toys with impunity, and my mom did not want to fall victim to the natural predator of bare feet – lego blocks.

This mode is a ton of fun.  They dump out a ton of blocks and say “have fun!” like a dismissive parent that just wants to watch football in peace.  I am happy to let him go, cause I have some wings, there are repulsors, some wheels ( those are remarkably important for a flying vehicle I find ) rockets and rockets and rockets and fuel tanks and rockets.  Now, they give you some advice.  Don’t put too many fuel tanks on or it will be too heavy to fly.  I nodded absently and started throwing things on like a kid on Christmas.  After about twenty minutes of sorting through the disheveled heap I cobbled together what I thought seemed a craft fit for flight.

To the moon!  Won't be tough since we start on Mars, methinks.  Mars has less atmosphere so.. ah fuck it..

To the moon! Won’t be tough since we start on Mars, methinks. Mars has less atmosphere so.. ah fuck it..

I know right?  Badass!  Upon finishing I hit shift and let it rip!  And it flew like a broken-legged seagull that ate a rock.  It was funny as hell though!  It dragged through the sand, did a backflip.  I imagine the little engineer inside must have gone to Space Camp as a kid, gone to Space College and even manned the centrifuge only to end upside down in the orange sand like “This is what I’ve become”.  LoL!  This was a difficult task, though.  I tried a few times and still could not get it right.  This is why I am not a goddamn engineer.

After my aeronautical failure I turned to Checkpoint Mode.  Again I was greeted by the joy-inspiring avalanche of blocks.  This time I noticed two GIANT sets of wheels.  This opportunity would not go unaddressed.  I immediately set to work placing my cockpit atop a massive yellow block with giant wheels and covered it with as many fuel tanks as I could get.  I would need them.  For propulsion I covered the backend of this baby in as much fuck rocket engines as baby-Jesus could pour from the heavens, and thus did I rock most righteously.  Immediately I flipped on the CD player, popped in some Hendrix, closed the blast shield on my helmet and engaged.

'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky!

I threw the wings on there because fuck you it looks awesome. Ha ha ha!  I enjoyed the hell out of this mode.  Granted, steering this beast was like trying to turn the Titanic by paddling with Q-tip, but I didn’t have to worry about trees!  I just hit the nitro and flattened the fuckers!  Rocks, on the other hand, still provided a challenge, and as you can see Ethan, Reece and Stephen did not feel threatened.  That’s ok, though.  My rig would probably blow right through whatever dainty little maneuvering craft they made.  I bet they used the tiny baby wheels, too. Heh heh.

So what about this game pisses me off? I’ll tell you!  The rockets!  I need more fucking rockets!  Seriously!  I could have gotten at least thirty more megatons of propulsive force on the back of that baby!  The opportunities I missed!  Ah, well.  This is an alpha mode, so I bet the Devs are preparing a mode for me where I have to attach as many rockets as possible to the back of a cockpit with wheels.  Then I can launch it into the horizon!

Spec Ops: The Line, Heart of Darkness

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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.