Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NEXT SOLSTICE BOOK ANNOUNCED!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


ANNOUNCEMENT:

After some serious thought where I wanted it to go I, I have two announcements.

The first is that the Solstice (Part one of the Moxley Trilogy) is not actually going to be a trilogy and there will be definitely be four books at least....

The second announcement to most is that the next book is pretty much mapped out and will be called, "Celestial"

The images were just ones I picked at slapped a title on to give some clues on what the book will be. It should be noted that I am still going to put out "Pill Hill" first but afterwards I will start working on the next Solstice book.
 
 
Solstice:
 
Equinox:
 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Beyond Two Souls Review


I'll be the first to admit it...I liked 'Heavy Rain'. Was the PS3 exclusive perfect in everyway? Of course not. It was however a huge step in story telling and motion capture in gaming in the early days of the PlayStation 3. In spite of the mundane tasks and some of the bad acting (especially at the beginning) I liked the premise and how things played out based on your decisions in the game, and I thought to myself that whatever David Cage comes up with next is going to even better.

I was wrong.

When the announcement was mad that Cage and his Quantic Dreams game company was producing a game starring Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) I was pretty stoked about having a game like Heavy Rain but with better actors. Then it was revealed that Willem Dafoe was also in it...awesome! As long as they didn't go and make the same mistakes as before then this could be a game of the year contender.

They made a lot of the same mistakes.

Let's just get into the design of the game so I can state my case. One of the issues with the previous games by Cage was performing monotonous tasks that we all do on a everyday basis; opening a refrigerator, shaving, opening a door, etc. What made it bad was the use of the analog stick and the way you had to move it that sometimes made it annoying. To their credit, while there were still things to do in the game like opening a door it wasn't as bad to control doing so like in 'Heavy Rain'. To my point though, why even have to do it at all? Most of this occurs during the terrible downtime that the game has when the character is a child or teenager and you have to go through the motions to move on with the game. Some of it served a purpose but a lot of it seemed to be put in their just to give the player something to do. Then there is the pacing of the game in general.

The game is set up on a sort of timeline between each chapter, but goes back and forth between being a child, to an adult, to being on the run, to being part of the CIA and so on. This is not a bad thing, but after looking at the timeline chapters it occurred to me that some of these chapters could have easily been put together into one, so instead of one small part it could be a bigger part of the story. I understand why the choice was made to do this, to let the player be surprised by the events that occurred early in the time line but not see it until later in the game for a 'surprise' or 'shock effect'. Once again not a bad thing, but it also seemed to be broken up to split up the gameplay elements as well.

 In one chapter you are walking around with your overly protective soul, 'Aiden" and you use him to create super natural occurrences like items moving or breaking, another is you are in a combat situation with an overly easy combat system that allows you to be undetected as long as you keep the 'X' button pressed, then there is the quick time events and hand to hand combat sections...ugh...the hand to hand...which I was not good at because of my urge to just react and not see what the main character was doing (if the is moving downwards, then to use the stick and point it downwards). Simple enough, but I was terrible at it for some reason...which really didn't matter since it seemed impossible to die!

That's right. There seemed to be no consequence to be had when you did not do certain tasks during the combat.  You know why? Because your over protective soul that is attached to you just comes swooping in to save the day. This is no doubt a choice to keep you engaged in the story more, which is what Quantic Dreams does, but it begs the question... can this really be considered a game?  When you make choices there are repercussions in a game that can lead to a 'game over' screen or losing the level and having to restart, but not in 'Beyond: Two Souls'. That's a debate that will be had I am sure.

Which also leads me to believe that this game doesn't really know what it wants to be. Is it a science fiction, horror, third person shooter, stealth...I am not sure how to define it because it had all of these elements included in it. Maybe I'll just call it an interactive movie, because I think David Cage would like that.

Graphically it just about the same their previous game but with some cool science fiction effects for the plot line that was created. The character models didn't seem to different which I found to be a little disappointing as I found they paid more attention to Page's features than Dafoe's or anyone else's overall. Don't get me wrong, you can tell that it is clearly Willem Dafoe, but the age lines and pores were not in great detail like with Ellen Page, but that may have been a space issue on the disc for all I know.

Speaking of Ellen Page...great in it as well as the rest of the cast. Nothing bad to say about anyone or anything. However, is it a requirement for the actress to take off her clothes in these games? I think I can count the number of times Ellen Page takes a shower and changes her clothes on both of my hands. This also is one of those unnecessary tasks you are made to do like shaking the controller to dry your body off with a towel (the dinner chapter was mind numbingly bad and awkward).

The plot was great overall and I found the parts where she is on the run more humbling than anything else that had to do with the plotline, which outlined the good in humanity and what her 'gift' can do. There was no real heart before those scenes occurred by Page, but the Dafoe character and his assistant had that part down as the Page character grew up and they regarded her as a daughter like figure.

I didn't hate "Beyond Two Souls". As the game went on I just played it for the plotline and performance and had no real liking to the gameplay, if that's what you would call it. I probably won't play it again to see the other endings (26 total I think). I got what I wanted out of it and was content with it. I would not suggest buying it unless you are a completionist and just have to get that platinum trophy on your PSN account. Spend the four bucks and a Redbox and play it for two days, in which you can probably beat in less time and get a good story and performance at the very least.

Oh. David Cage. If like making movies so much, maybe you should just be a film director. I am not sure what you are trying to prove with your games but I just don't think you upped the bar any like you did with 'Heavy Rain'. There is always the PS4 though.

Beyond Two Souls: 3 out of 5 stars




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Last of Us Review

    
     On April 16th, 2010, Roger Ebert wrote the article in his blog called, "Video Games Can Never Be Art".  Since then, the topic has been debated back and forth for the last three years since. A few months I mentioned that "Bioshock Infinite" was the closest piece of intellectual property that comes close to proving Ebert wrong. It's storyline of bigotry in America, life choices, war, and even quantum physics brought videogames to another plain; people still are scrounging through Bioshock to find hidden object, recorders, and even playing a second or third time through so they understand it all. The fact is they know it and the fact that they can't put it into words is frustrating, and anything to help with the debates or even the telling of friends about the game to make it coherent helps.

     The best way I can describe it is that every year I watch the film "Jacobs Ladder". It's a great movie, in my opinion, but the main reason is to reassure myself that I understand it, in spite of the fact that I can't convey the whole plotline. It's the same with David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"; I get it, but talking to you about it won't do it justice.

    "The Last of Us" is not like those films, or even like 'Bioshock', but it is indeed something else.

    I realize that I am late to the game in the reviewing process for this game because I am not privy enough to get advanced copies of games, but I read a lot of reviews when the game came out; 10/10 and 5 out of 5 stars seemed prominent, but with that I don't think most reviewers got the uniqueness of the story itself and based their reviews more on atmosphere, which 'The Last of Us' has plenty of.

     At this point, any of you reading this will more than likely know the premise; Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie to a group a people called 'The Firefly's' to possibly help mankind against the infected population. There I did it just in case. Naughty Dog is not a stranger to atmosphere and great backdrops and graphics (The Uncharted series), but in this they take it a step further with character interaction, atmosphere and plot development. Every step you take, and every action you do has some sort of deeper meaning when you play the game. For example, throughout the game you are consistently picking up ladders and placing them in spots or lifting Ellie up to a ledge so she can unlock a door or move something to help the both of you reach higher places, but at one point when the triangle button appears indicating to press it so Ellie can climb...she doesn't come. Instead, she sits on a bench in a daze. The developers could have easily created a cut scene, but they didn't, they kept the story going by using an action that comes second nature to us as players.

     The storyline is not for the faint of heart as the script has no qualms in taking a character and pulling a complete one-eighty on you. People die, people are sick, people are terrible human beings as is indicated by one of the female characters...

                     "Guess what? We're shitty people, Joel!"
   
     The interesting thing about the game is the empathy for the people you come into contact with. Your character and the others around you are not that much better than the humans you face in the game (which are just as much, if not more than the infected). The game creates a sense that in spite of the bad things you do, there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere and in this game, the year travel across the country is a trying one to see a glimmer of that hope, but in spite of the horrors that no one, man or child should ever see, they keep going...because its worth it.

     I was told that I may be impressed with the ending, or disappointed.  I was both.

     Before I get into that, the gameplay needs to be addressed. The developers did a job well done on 'The Last of Us', which they should, since it seems to be the same as their Uncharted series with some additions. The real time crafting of tools was a fine touch as well as the weapon upgrading, but the latter is nothing new to games nor should it be, but if I wasn't as enthralled with the story, it would have been like playing Nathan Drake and Elena from Uncharted all over again.  That may come off as a bit unfair or harsh, and it's not meant to be, I love the 'Uncharted' games and that is a great engine... it just felt way to familiar.

     Stealth is key element to this game; guns an bullets are limited in this game as they should be in a post apocalyptic world. However, when shooting humans with a shotgun four times in the chest, it seems way to unrealistic.  With a game that wants to stay in some sort of realism and focus on stealth, shouldn't the regular humans die normally if you shoot them in the heart multiple time with the limited bullets your machine gun has in it?

     I would also like the applaud the cast. The voice work and motion capture was top notch, but I didn't expect anything less from the people at Naughty Dog. Troy Baker is rapidly becoming one of my favorite voice actors, hell, actor. His portrayal of Joel is the stuff that awards are made for and Ashley Johnson plays Ellie with grit laced with innocence in a world that is anything but.

     The ending.  I will not spoil the ending for you. I will just say this; as a gamer I was shocked the way it ended, but as a movie fan I was thrilled.  Gamers are spoiled, pure and simple. We get to the end of a game and we engage in an epic battle with tense music and when it's all over we look for that achievement/trophy in the corner of the screen and call it a day.  This game ends in a way that makes sense given the story line and was outside what I thought it would be because of what I am used to in games.  If you look at this as an experience and a technical or even storytelling greatness then the ending will make you put down the controller, sit back in your chair and stare at the credits while you ponder everything that occurred in the game and come to a realization that as screwed up as it may be...could you say that you would have done anything different than what the characters did?

     That is what makes great movies classics and just because a controller is involved, a game should not be thought of or treated any different, and if any game reserves that right for Ebert's respect, "The Last of Us" should be one of them.

     Experience: 10/10
     Gameplay: 8/10
     Story: 10/10
     Graphics: 10/10

     Overall: 9.5/10

     If you like this review, please let me know. I am considering doing this on a regular basis.