Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Co-op Condition

Given there is a lot of excitement being generated over Red Dead Redemption's Co-Op mission pack, I feel it might be a good time for some recommendations of co-op experiences you may have missed. In alphabetical order, sorted by
  • Army of Two - Third person shooter that has two annoying, yet entertaining stars.
  • Borderlands - A stylised Fallout 3 with a better sense of humour.
  • Crackdown - Super cops team up to take down three distinctive gangs.
  • Halo Wars - Command and Conquer meets Halo with a co-op campaign.
  • Ikaruga - XBLA arcade shooter. It's impossible but great fun.
  • Left 4 Dead - Intense 4 player zombie survival.
  • Lego Star Wars - 2 player drop in/drop out casual gameplay. Ideal for parent/child combos as well as chilling with a beer and a buddy.
  • Splosion Man - XBLA platformer entertaining and silly with an amazing ukelele song!
Have I missed a gem? Let me know!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

What's Your Age, Again?

It may surprise you to learn that despite the sketchy-at-best quality of this site, I am not a professional blogger. I work in a game shop.

I never cease to be amazed at how oblivious some parents are to the content of games. I'm no moral crusader, however, I do think parents need to be more mindful about what they passively give to their children. I don't think the case is that the parent in question is a bad parent. In most instances, the parent just wants their kid to have the game that all his or her friends have. To me, that's an understandable desire. There has to be a line, though.

The usual suspect is Rockstar Games with the Grand Theft Auto franchise but most recently the hot product is Red Dead Redemption which is such a fun game I've been spending my time riding through the west rather than do things like, for example, anything else.

It is not, however, child friendly. What is that basis of my opinion? Well, the mistreatment of women; lots of racism; graphic violence and really inventive swearing. All of which is characteristic of the era and its inclusion lends itself well to a hardcore western.

It puts me in an awkward position when a parent is buying RDR for, say, a 10-year old because the conversation tends to go like this:

"Oh, this is a great game! Good choice." Then I spot the child. "So, is this for him?"
"Yes. I don't have time for these things. I know it's an 18 but he's heard it all before."
At this point I don't feel like I can say "really? I hadn't heard any references to anal rape until I was 12!" So I go with, "I have to tell you, the game is really graphic."
Then I either get a just-gimmie-the-game look or they tell their kid they can't have it. They protest and I feel a little bit guilty. Just a little.

The crux of the problem seems to be that gaming, like comics, is still seen as a juvenile medium. The perception for a lot of parents out of the loop is that there can't be anything too harmful in them, so they let their kids play Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption, Left 4 Dead etc. The knock-on effect of this? Misdirected outrage.

When the majority of parents don't try out games before the kid plays them, or even sits in with them, it usually falls to newspapers to call attention to unsuitable games. You know what happens then? Games that are intended to be played by, wait for it, adults are scrutinised as though they are intended for children and our beloved industry comes under the rather questionable spotlight of the tabloid press and Keith Vas.

So, parents, by all means allow your children to kill hookers (GTA); kill civilians (CoD MOD 2); kill hookers (Red Dead Redemption); have a pagan-esque sex ritual (Dragon Age) or walk in on a lesbian 3-way with heavily, ehm, rendered breasts on show (God of War 3). Let them if you want but when it bites you in the ass, don't pretend you're a victim and give people like Keith Vas more ammunition than they already have to kill the industry with.

Not all games are for kids and by letting your kids access inappropriate video games you're leaving the the gaming hobby open to more BS along the lines of Manhunt makes kids kill kids. Which, by the way, it doesn't.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Some Sort of Pun on Reaching

Got your Halo: ODST campaign disc? You've tried Halo: Reach by now, right? RIGHT? Well, If you have yet to, then I strongly recommend you do soon - you only have until May 19th.

The Reach multiplayer experience has left me excited for Halo again. I initially passed on ODST because I had Halo burnout and ODST didn't excite me enough to pull me out of it but, let me tell you, this beta has really got me excited.

I won't bore you with exhaustive details but I will say that the four armour abilities are real game changers, allowing you to sprint; become invincible; use active cammo and fly - yes, fly - at will. The four abilities add some serious depth in terms of strategic deployment and can be changed during any respawn. So far my favourite has been Armour Lock (invincibility) because it usually gives me the chance to wait until my opponent decides to reload and I pounce. Also, it looks super manly.


Oh, also. Play the Beta then access Halo Waypoint to unlock the Reach Beta Tester hoodie for your avatar.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Super Street Fighter 4 - Live!

Last week. 29/04/10 - Some 43 competitors shuffle into Gamestation, Clydebank to beat the snot out of each other in a Street Fighter tournament. I was expecting a brutal fight club. Turns out they were going to play a video game.

Super Street Fighter 4, to be exact. To celebrate the launch of SSF4, Gamestation was offering up some sweet prizes.
  • First place took home a copy of the game and the official strategy guide (which presumably has such strategies as 'punch they guy' and 'do the best moves').
  • Second place got a copy of the game.
  • Everyone got goody bags that got progressively better the closer you got to winning.
I got knocked out in the first round. I would be disappointed but I know I'm not that good and I'm not one to make excuses... Even though we were playing on PS3; I'm used to xbox; I couldn't concentrate because all I could hear was some guy bad mouthing my character selection; the kids dad asked me to let him win a round; my hands were sweaty; I felt bad for thrashing the kid in a practice; I'm really more of a Tekken guy but yeah, I don't make excuses.

I got a sweet Guile t-shirt for my trouble though!

The tourney was run very well. However there was a moment of drama when a competitor playing as Ken in a semi-final match paused the game and asked to change his button config despite having the opportunity to do so before the match started. He was disqualified but argued the decision. Ken's opponent was asked if there was any objection to him playing on. The opponent didn't mind and was beaten. The pausing offender went on to win the tournament.

Two fights and the moment of controversy follow:

Thursday, 29 April 2010

In Defence of the Gaming Artform

Roger Ebert
thinks I've just linked you to a lengthy arguement made by Ebert on the subject. Here, I am not going to bother with a lengthy well thought out rebuttal. I'll probably just resort to name calling and forming a meaningless analogy... Actually, that sounds like a great idea - let's run with it!

Roger Ebert is a confused old fart and, let's not forget, a movie critic. It is his job to pick apart and destroy works that he deems unimportant. He does this to a medium he loves. Imagine the wrath he can unleash upon a medium he doesn't care about.

Roger Ebert: "I keep getting ganked... THIS ISN'T ART!"

He criticises the video games industry for being focused on profit centers and marketing. Granted, when money is involved artistic merit is usually the first thing cut from the budget. However, let's think about that sentance for a second.

"When money is involved artistic merit is usually the first thing cut from the budget." - Me, circa now.

Out of context you have absolutely no idea if I'm talking about poetry, videogames, movies or poetry. It is, of course, true across the board. He's also... Wait, this is getting too long. Shut it down.

Confused old fart thinks video games have no capacity for engaging at the same emotive level as works of established art. He clearly hasn't had his dog shot by the man who killed his sister.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

So, it's been a while, huh?

Indeed it has. Been busy and all that junk. No excuse blah blah blah.

What have I been doing? Well, Playing Mass Effect 2 and Dragonage. Avoiding writing.

So what's on its way out? There's Red Dead Redemption, Blur, and Super Street Fighter 4. I've pre-ordered all three but I think I'm going to pass on Blur. Mario Kart for grown ups is a niche that's been needing filled for a long time. It looks great, plays really well and the beta really made me hunger for it. So, what's the problem?

Simply put? I can only choose one and Red Dead Redemption looks better. People have been calling it Grand Theft Auto on horse-back but I sincerely hope that is a misconception because GTA4 was as boring as balls. Also, I think stealing someone's horse; taking it to the pass (presumably the same pass bandits get 'headed off' at); strapping TNT to its belly, then returning it unnoticed would be absolutely absurd. Hilariously so.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

You betcha! If you like playing games then you've probably come across a "game" that requires you to work. The funny thing is that if these games, ahem, do their job properly then the goal is to make you, the gamer, stressed out. It gets better. You usually pay for the experience which, admittedly, can be kinda fun.

For example, Diner Dash hit XBLA the other day and although I haven't had the points to unlock a full version, I have been playing the trial non-stop because of the stressful fun it provides. You play as a waitress who has to seat customers, take their orders, give the orders to the chef, give the customers their food, take their cash, clear the plates and finally place them for washing. Easy peasy!

Until you have to deal with 3-8 other tables with a steadily growing queue of disgruntled customers.


One small reprieve comes in the form of upgrades earned at various point milestones but they only serve to add yet more stress because although running faster might seem like the best way to serve people faster; you end up just running around, overshooting your mark more often than not. Casual gaming at its least casual and it's amazing fun... Well, addictive.
Read this post here