Saints & Sinners (May 4)
In the video game industry, the fans are bombarded by two separate yet equally important groups: Saints, who bring with them only the purest form of joy, and Sinners, beings dedicated solely to evoking misery. These are their stories.
The name is Drew Robbins, and the game is being obscenely mad about seemingly nothing at all. This week, Drew reels from a tragic incident earlier in the day in which a wasp stung my toe. That’s not all, though, as he must also prepare to face a challenge the likes of which he has never faced: a midnight screening. Will Drew survive a late-night viewing of The Avengers? Will his toe ever cease its swelling ways? Will Drew actually find something to be positive about in this week’s edition of Saints & Sinners?
Spoiler Alert: Absolutely not, probably, and it’s conceivable.
Nintendo: I’m seriously beginning to wonder whether the Nintendo I’ve been hearing about recently is real or just a cruel, manipulative tease being propagated by major media publications. Last week, when the revered publisher revealed plans for digital distribution, I was hedging my bets on it being the latter. This week, it’s more of the same.
Satoru Iwata is a man whose greatness is at least ten times as awe-inspiring as his ability to deliver a compelling keynote address. Unfortunately, he is prone to saying things that are less than great. Does anyone else remember the time that he heralded in the era of Wii Music and other heinous crimes against humanity with a scorcher of an E3 2008 press conference? I do; I can’t un-remember it. Recently, though, he has surprised me with gems of such radiant brilliance that I’m reminded of the pleasant stirrings I felt when Reggie Fils-Aime first let loose his golden larynx upon the eager masses. This past Tuesday, he said something particularly earth shattering: the Wii U will focus on appeasing hardcore fans ahead of its efforts to entice the casual market.
The past few years have made it tough to be a Nintendo fan boy; I’ve spent the peak years of my life having to live in shame of the sleek, white box sitting in my entertainment center that bears the Nintendo insignia after having spent the previous years being proud of a hideous, purple lunchbox of a console. Iwata’s words come off as an almost sincere apology to those that his company has left behind and as a promise to those very same individuals that Nintendo will go back to doing what it has always done best: creating, innovating, and inspiring. My body is ready to play a Mario game without waggle tacked on, a Metroid that controls with a game pad, and a Zelda game that’s key revolution isn’t the fact that playing it is equivalent to a jaunt on the treadmill. In all honesty, my body is ready to play games. The Wii was a system that wasn’t particularly good at delivering that level of content; I have a feeling that the Wii U may be a change of pace.
It should be noted that these words came within a month of Nintendo’s promise to deliver Pikmin 3, an initiative that makes everything within a particular radius of time seem like the greatest news ever.
ZeniMax Online Studios: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim might as well have been the biggest game of all time with the post-release buzz that followed it; it has only been recently that I could leave my house without the fear of hearing some half-witted hooligan belting out dragon shouts in polite conversation. Like all trends, it died off in favor of something else, a fact for which we can all be thankful. ZeniMax Online Studios will be hoping that the trend is prone to resurrection when they launch The Elder Scrolls Online, an MMO, for Mac and PC in 2013.
It’s easy for one to get caught up in the hype that surrounds a major release of this nature, but it should be done so in a cautious nature. People liked Skyrim to be certain, but what exactly did they love about it? A simple, possibly misinformed answer would be the vast terrain that allowed them to trek for hours at a time through seemingly monotonous landmarks, the Tolkien-inspired setting, or that players simply love smashing dragons in the face with a sword. There’s more to it than that, though.
Picture yourself playing Skyrim; it isn’t hard to do. There you are riding astride your horse when, all of the sudden, a dragon descends from the clouds to begin flinging its distinct form of chaos all over the realm. You dismount, unsheathe your blade, and rapidly charge towards the dragon to earn the loot that is so rightfully yours. Then, out of nowhere, five other men arrive from over the hillside and take turns having their way with the creature’s skull. Wasn’t that fun?
It’s my theory as someone who has played and enjoyed both Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that players don’t fall in love with the long journeys or the characters. Instead, they fall in love with the isolation. So much of the fun that Skyrim offers arises from the fact that you are the lone hero in all of Skyrim and that you alone must face the trials presented before you. The same goes for Fallout 3, a title which derives much of its fun from the fact that you are a rare survivor of the Vault out on the trail of your missing father. When other people get involved, suddenly the compelling nature disappears and all that you’re left with is another run-of-the-mill, current-generation piece of software.
Furthermore, hasn’t the MMO genre seen enough generic, fantasy environments? I highly doubt that a satisfying romp through Tamriel will be enough to drag players away from World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, The Old Republic, or any of the countless free-to-play titles that seem more unique in scope than this one.
Treyarch: I take great pride in the fact that I called out the decline of interest in Call of Duty before it happened when Modern Warfare 3 launched and was promptly pushed to the back of the shelf. My prediction can only be bolstered by the fact that Treyarch, a studio formerly known only as the other Call of Duty developer, announced the next game in the franchise as being Black Ops 2.
The first through that passed through my mind was that they had to be joking me; I mean, honestly, isn’t it enough that we have to see the continuation of one overly-long franchise every other year? Treyarch used to provide a breath of fresh air every other year when they would release intriguing one offs as seen in World at War and the original Black Ops. Now, they’ve fallen prey to the exact level of un-originality that so plagues their predecessors at Infinity Ward.
It seems that Call of Duty has reached a critical mass in its creativity. No longer are they trying to craft a believable wartime encounter; instead, they seem to be trying to pile up as many Hollywood moments on top of one another to distract from the title’s obvious inadequacies. Seeing something explode loses its effect when something explodes in every other scene. Even without explosions in every scene, it would be hard for the game not to come off as too much when you consider that the previous title in Modern Warfare 3 featured an entire city being decimated by the Russians.
Perhaps most glaring of all of the flaws present in Black Ops 2’s existence is the fact that it takes place in a future that has descended into a Cold War. Isn’t a Cold War awfully, you know, cold for a Call of Duty game? Does anybody really care about the narrative enough anymore that they want an eloquently crafted back story revolving around a tumultuous relationships between two opposing nations? It has been a few years since I played, but I’m pretty sure that the conceit of Modern Warfare 2 was that the Russians were bad and that they should be shot. The fan base didn’t seem to complain about that; who are they trying to please with this tripe?
Also, the game has horses. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how greatly I despise animals of an equine variety. Therefore, Black Ops 2 has earned by ire by proxy.
Judgement has been passed