Chandler, Arizona, United States

There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

this entry brought to you by white rabbits, "i'm not me"

15. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) As much as I loved Skyrim, I have problems with the writing. As you go on quests you are often locked into moral choices you don't want to make-- I'm locked in a room with a stranger and a Demigod demands that one of us kill the other, and I can't leave the room without doing it. If I tell a cannibal that I'm not a cannibal and don't want to join her weird cult, she doesn't believe me, and if I kill her, the game decides I'm a cannibal anyway. Every plot line for every guild always ends with me being the supreme ruler of it, so I am the King of Thieves, Head Master Magician, and Leader of the Assassins before hour fifty, instead of picking one leadership role, as you would expect. And yet I put over 180 hours into-- more than any other single player game this generation without starting a new character-- because dammit, it's fun to sneak around, shooting lightning bolt arrows at thugs, stealing stuff from the corpses. Wandering around a vast open world getting into adventures wherever I went, there was an endless vein of discovery no matter what direction I headed, the whole time my companion evolving from annoying pack mule to monstrous killing machine. If it's one thing that Skyrim does well, it's show you monstrous creatures at the beginning of the game that you can't possibly deal with, knowing you'll eventually have the power to-- the most dramatic being, of course, dragons. Dragons will show up randomly, sometimes when you're in a city, and it's a powerful moment the first time you're going to a shop to sell off all the crap you've accumulated, when you hear screaming, flames bursting near you, and you look up and a dragon is perched on a roof, laying waste to the populace. That first time you bring down a dragon, it'll probably be with a whole army with you, and being part of that group is exhilarating. But one of the most memorable moments in Skyrim is the first time you are out in the wilderness, for me it was on top of a snowy mountain, exploring, and are attacked by a tenacious dragon which refuses to leave you alone, and you're left with no choice but to come up with your best strategy to kill it. That first time you turn the monster to bones and collect its soul all by yourself will be a moment you hoop and holler, but it wasn't a boss battle-- you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

14. Assassins Creed: Brotherhood (2010) I'd skipped AC1 because I'd heard it was boring and repetitive, but my interest was piqued when Assassin's Creed 2 came out to rave reviews. I really liked the idea of hiding in plain sight, and the idea that the game was based around climbing the shit out of things had compelled me, but it wasn't until I heard about the multiplayer that I finally decided to take the plunge. I had grown tired of standard shoot the shit out of people multiplayer, and the idea that this game's conceit was that you would look like the NPCs, and would be able to hunt people while trying your best to blend in seemed like an impossibly fun idea, so I decided to buy both Assassin's Creed and Brotherhood at the same time, starting AC2's single player to get a handle on the controls (which I had heard were intuitive but complex, which they are), playing for a few hours to get a handle, swapping over to Brotherhood's multiplayer, putting in at least an hour a day for three weeks (I got, I would say, pretty darned good, consistently in the number 2 spot), then swapping back to AC2 and finishing the single player. Although the modern day storyline with Desmond was beyond stupid and I always found it to be filler between the good parts, Ezio Auditore quickly set himself in my heart as one of the most awesome characters this gen, and I found his story to be compelling. The gameplay loop of hiding in crowds, climbing up buildings, stabbing bad guys, running like hell, and hiding in crowds again is immensely satisfying, and Brotherhood's additions of having a team that can pop out of nowhere to help you do your dirty work is the pinnacle of the series. And beyond that gameplay loop, there's something still so satisfying about seeing a tall building, climbing the shit out of it, opening up a space of the map, and taking a dive into a bale of hay. You know what's better than that? Jumping out and stabbing a guard who happened to be walking by.

13. Dishonored (2012) When any stealth game comes out, the producers are quick to point out that in their game, you can choose to play it like an action game, and to one degree or another, they always fail. This couldn't be more untrue with Dishonored. At any given moment you're always afforded a myriad of options. Playing as a stealthy, non-lethal bastard as I did, I could quickly teleport behind an alerted foe before he really knew what he saw, choke him out, shoot a tranq dart at his buddy who came when the first guy made a "what was that!" noise, then teleport into a corner in the ceiling and sneak past the guys in the hallway by possessing a rat. But one level I just decided "fuck it" and proceeded to kill every single non-story relevant character, leaving piles of dust in my wake, and I found it just as exhilarating being chased around, teleporting, stabbing people, setting up electrified fence traps and tossing people out of windows. The game's plot, which punishes you for killing too many people, offered me just enough leeway to have my fun just this once without giving me the "bad" ending. Beyond the delicious gameplay, Dishonored has a magnificent, comic booky art style as rendered by filthy water color. Its streets are filled with interesting characters, it has a totally unique alternate history 1890s back story, and has some of the best mission designs ever (the masquerade party is a mission that will be mentioned in Best Of lists for years to come). The only problem with Dishonored is that despite all of its abundance of originality in nearly all regards, the plot itself is laughably predictable. Dishonored is the perfect setting for a deep, allegorical story with deep, meaningful metaphors, much as Bioshock was, but instead decides to tell the most basic story of empires and betrayal imaginable, and that seems almost unthinkable in a game like this. Here's hoping they try a little bit higher, plot-wise, for its sequel.

12. Saints Row: The Third (2011) I never put much thought into the Saints Row series. As the game moved from a Grand Theft Auto clone into its own with a heavier emphasis on raunchy, silly humor, I was glad somebody was able to able to be successful copying the open world crime formula, but I didn't care. The advertisements featured guys in bunny costumes wielding dildo baseball bats, and that aspect of GTA has never been my favorite part of that series. Then people started saying "Hey, you should give Saints Row The Third a shot", so I decided to. Firstly, it cannot be overemphasized how much better Saints Row feels over Grand Theft Auto. GTA5 feels leagues better than its predecessor (which I stopped playing because car driving in that game was impossible), but it still feels dodgy, and their fix for the imprecise shooting is an incredibly magnetic lock-on system which fixes the problem but does not allow for skill. Saints Row's combat feels like it's on another level, being able to pull off head shots with a pistol on the ground to people in helicopters, for example. Next, and perhaps ultimately most importantly, Saints Row has a much better pace-- if you want to dick around in the open world you certainly can, but when you start a mission, any mission, the game is designed to make you have fun instantly, and the plot is constantly upping the ante. Crazy shit is constantly happening, and crazier shit is always happening right after that. By the end you will have leveled your character to the point where you are completely indestructible, yet Saints Row never seems less fun-- if you're indestructible, that means you can cause even more chaos, and even in what would be, plot wise, intense moments, your surroundings never stop you from relishing in how much fun you're having. But what surprised me the most is how goddamn funny Saints Row The Third is. Even reviews always noted the dildo and stripper jokes, but I wouldn't enjoy this game nearly as much if that was all it had to offer. The humor has multiple layers; more like an especially spot- on episode of South Park than the frat boy humor the marketing team played up. And that ending, where the Saints are in space, fighting aliens-- Jesus Christ, could any ending beat it?

11. Batman: Arkham City (2011) I'm not sure I've ever actually played any Batman games before Arkham Asylum. They were always shitty, of course, but even the ones people remember fondly from the 8 and 16 bit eras were simply side scrolling beat-em-ups with an occasional driving segment. I always felt like this stupid, and when technology kept getting better but Batman games remained the same, I always felt like it was a waste of an opportunity, that really, Batman can't be that hard. When I played the original Splinter Cell I felt like here! This is Batman! Unfortunately, that game has the. Worst melee options ever, so if you were up close, you were dead. Basically what Arkham Asylum did was take Splinter Cell, give it the best melee combat known to man with its awesome rhythm-based combos, and the perfect aesthetic blend of the comic, Nolan movies, and the cartoon. Arkham Asylum, the first game, gave a much creepier feeling, had these intensely creative Scarecrow segments, and used the Metroid method of blocking off areas until Batman gained the proper ability. Nevertheless, Arkham City gets the nod, because it had a more gripping story (with quite a dramatic and unexpected!), and an expanded villain roster; The Penguin's re-imagining here is perfect, easily my favorite version of the character, and the Mr. Freeze fight was a stand-out. The open city meant there was always something to do, from dropping down and beating up thugs, taking on the myriad Riddler puzzles which were all over the place, to helping out innocent people locked up with the madmen. The entire city also gave Batman room for the most satisfying transportation ever-- using the grappling hook to fly around the city never gets tiresome.

with love from CRS @ 1:20 PM 


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