Has Bethesda’s Review Policy Been Successful?

Last October Bethesda announced that they would stop sending review copies to outlets, in a decision that caused an uproar not only in the media but with consumers as well. Deemed as an anti-consumer decision, it received criticism for alienating gamers, removing their ability to make an informed purchase, something that if we stop to think about, makes sense.

The rise of the popularity of YouTube created a scenario in which some gamers tend to rely less on video games websites and more on famous channels. And Bethesda saw that as an opportunity to free themselves from the need of sending review copies ahead of release, looking to decrease the power of reviews, a situation that would be a dream to any publisher.

We have seen a bigger focus of the company on creating extended demos, as a way to appease consumers, giving them a glimpse of the initial hours. We saw that happening with the release of Dishonored 2 and the Prey reboot, both from Arkane Studios, that provided big chunks of gameplay. Unlike Doom, that in spite of following the same decision was successful, Prey and Dishonored 2 have failed.

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Whereas Doom was successful critically and commercially, the others didn’t manage to appeal to consumers. Dishonored 2 failed to reach the top 10 in the US in November, and Prey only reached no. 5 in a weak month of May. Begging us to think if their policy has worked negatively to Bethesda. Missing the biggest sales window, the first month of release, where games tend to make the bulk of their revenue.

Doom, a franchise with a lot of history, ended up being successful, recognized as one of the best games of last year, both by big outlets and gamers. But that didn’t carry on with the release of Dishonored 2 and Prey, franchises with a smaller market and a focus on stealth, a genre that has struggled to find an audience. They couldn’t capture the mindset of the market, attracting little attention, appearing to have a more positive reception from the media than from gamers.

Troubled PC versions didn’t really help change that situation, as both games wouldn’t run properly on that platform. A big number of refunds also helped to create a negative reception.

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The aftermath of both releases goes to show that only a few games can get away without receiving the review push of major outlets. Bethesda’s track record of releasing quality titles wasn’t enough to make gamers trust that both games could appeal to them. If Rockstar decided to do that, maybe they could be successful.

But no matter the review score they received, both Dishonored 2 and Prey felt like missed opportunities. The first received several game of the year nominations, the latter, a revival of a beloved franchise, that impressed by its world-building and unique style. To see that happening is a real shame, but it can work as a wake-up call to publishers, that can now see that gamers won’t buy their games without having enough information, as they have been burned by that before.

Mafia III was an example, selling more than 4 million copies in its first month following the same model. 2K didn’t send any review copies ahead of launch, and that back fired due to a mixed reception, with many negative reviews. From that moment on, they went on to sell only 500.000 copies since November, stagnating completely.

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Maybe Bethesda will continue with the policy and things will change, but from what we’ve seen, it has failed and damaged two projects of the company. We can only hope that it will change before Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and The Evil Within 2’s release, before it can affect permanently their image and the goodwill they have. After all, great games deserve to be played by as many people as possible.

 

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The Term “Hardcore Gamer” Must Die

Video games are unique when compared to other mediums for one simple reason, the level of interactivity between the product and the consumer. Whereas in movies, books, music you react to what’s being played, written, in video games if the player doesn’t do anything the story won’t move forward, there won’t be interactions, conversations, action.

And due to this characteristic, we see a separation that we don’t see elsewhere. If you love movies, you are a consistent moviegoer, you are considered a cinephile. If you appreciate the beauty in art, music, you are an aesthete. But in games, you can either be a “hardcore gamer” or a “casual gamer”.

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With this separation being detrimental to the medium, as we saw with the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, that was released on April 28, and brought the Wii U version with some additions to the Switch. A revamped battle mode, DLC’s, and a “controversial” Smart Steering configuration, that will essentially keep the kart on the track.

Some websites that focus on the “hardcore” audience were quick to attack, make fun of the novelty, users complained on forums. But the one thing that we fail to remember is that these additions can be great to the industry, making games more accessible to a wider audience. And one story stood out in the crowd, as seen on Kotaku, of a little girl who suffered a stroke just after being born, affecting her coordination due to complications, and because of the Smart Steering function is now able to play Mario Kart for the first time in her life.

Accessibility must be an important part of games moving forward. Whether is something simple, like Smart Steering, or an easy mode, that can make games more palatable for kids, that in the past generations haven’t had many devoted to their audience, and they are crucial for the future of the industry, representing a strategic group that has been neglected.

As well as for people with disabilities that, unfortunately, have to face barriers to play their favorite games. Uncharted 4 is a great example to be followed, being one of the first games to be released with enough options to allow gamers with disabilities to play from beginning to end. Inspired by a fan that couldn’t finish previous entries due to the necessity of mashing several buttons to move forward, something he wasn’t able to do.

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Even if we only focus on the business side, we hear that the majority of the population is composed of gamers, that the industry is bigger than others in entertainment. But according to a Nielsen report, more than 23% of gamers in the US haven’t heard of the PS4, and it may sound strange, but a significant part of gamers only buy the console their friends like and play one or two games of a franchise they love every year.

They are not into what’s new, they don’t go to news websites and they are happy to have a small library. And sports, as well as racing games, have adopted arcade modes that makes them much easier to comprehend, especially sports games, that become more and more complex in each iteration. The trainer mode in the EA Sports games is a good example of that, teaching you how to play in a way that is easy to understand, and limits the game to more basic moves, going on to sell millions of copies every year, to many “casual gamers”.

And that is great for the industry, given that many newcomers can get to know games and maybe become more involved. We like to brag about how movies and music are smaller than games. But how many people you know that will actively play games as part of their daily life, on mobile maybe, but when it comes to consoles and PC’s, it’s a much smaller number.

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Try to think of another medium that divides their audience based on the way they consume. If you only watch Marvel movies, that doesn’t make you a casual moviegoer or only listening to Rock bands, a casual music lover.

But if From Software announced that Bloodborne 2 would have an easy mode, their fans would go crazy, but how does that affect them? Having gamers that may not be used to the franchise or genre can make it even bigger, increasing sales, mind share. Being good at games, in the end, doesn’t mean anything, except that you have mastered a mechanic.

We especially see a toxic behavior in multiplayer games, where you can be kicked out of a mission or a room solely based on your level. I couldn’t play some daily missions in The Division or some games of Rainbow Six Siege because of that.

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Despite our love for games, not all of us can invest hours every day into developing a character or skills. As the industry grew, gamers grew with it, many today are responsible adults, parents, husbands, wives, with bills to pay and limited time, financial possibilities.

For example, I must play probably thousands of hours every year, but I play every RPG on easy mode. I’m not focused on the combat, but on the story, that became more refined and more time-consuming as the genre advanced, and I don’t have enough hours in the day to master complicated systems.

Having the option to play something with all assists on Project Cars or Forza, for example, can bring relapsed gamers back. A mode in which you only need to care about one thing, can present a new market, and bring games to people who would possibly never have to chance to enjoy them. Embracing new players to a community can make it thrive and sustain a healthy environment.

Video games are incredible, they can bring people together, but if we want it to become a larger and more mature industry, we need to stop with separations. Playing Candy Crush or Pokémon Go doesn’t make you casual, “walking simulators” like Gone Home and Firewatch can be an incredible experience, and they are not lesser games just because of their more streamlined gameplay. As some games that I love like Life is Strange and Journey, that marked me despite being simple.

Instead of using this bravado, claiming that we are “hardcore gamers” why not just say we are gamers. After all, in spite of our love for them, they are just another way of entertainment, that helps us go through this hard journey called life.

 

What Mass Effect Andromeda Could Learn from Arrival

Spoilers follow.

Mass Effect Andromeda was released for almost 2 weeks now to a lukewarm reception, with an average score above 70 on Metacritic, that definitely isn’t bad, however coming from a franchise that used to be above 90, it is a significant fall. And even though it managed to reach the first place in the UK charts since its release, the biggest complaint around the title, other than its horrendous face animations, is that it fails to meet the high standard set by the original trilogy.

Arrival, on the other hand, was a movie released last year, nominated to Best Picture in the Oscars, lauded by critics, regarded as one of the best movies of the year. Both are in the science fiction genre, but while one takes it time to develop the story, present a new race, feels innovative, the other feels rushed, formulaic, uninteresting, and unfortunately the latter is Mass Effect Andromeda.

The mediums are different, but as I watched Arrival again, there were various aspects it succeeded in which Mass Effect Andromeda just ended up failing, like for example:

The First Encounter

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Playing as the pathfinder, you are traveling through worlds completely new to mankind, supposedly filled with new races, that you just can’t predict the behavior, and yet the first encounter feels rushed and completely void of emotion.

In the first hour of gameplay, Ryder is sent to Habitat 7, and as you reach the planet that was supposed to be the new home for humanity, the player has the choice to follow a directive to only fire back in the first encounter. But that feels empty of any meaning, looking like any combat from the previous trilogy as the first shot is fired. There are no repercussions, no attempted conversations, no fear, no tension, just action.

Whereas in Arrival, it takes more than 30 minutes to show how the aliens look and the environment in which they live, creating a level of tension that slowly builds by showing how the aliens reached Earth with no further explanation. Just strange ships landing on different places of the planet and that’s it. With a brilliant use of sound, with a minimal, but strong soundtrack, it plays with perception, with the viewer’s imagination.

Portraying how the characters react to the first moment they enter the ship, touching, feeling the material it’s made of. And most importantly, a level of fear and concern over the unknown, frightened by who the visitors are and what their motivations are, displaying a tense first attempt at a conversation and how it impacts those involved.

Less Action, More Character Development

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Having an improved and revamped gameplay is always great, but Mass Effect wasn’t built on gameplay, but on its characters, just play Mass Effect 1 nowadays and you will see that. In ME: Andromeda you have a very interesting cast, but that pales in comparison with the original cast.

They look more focused on being funny, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they seem to have more quips than emotions. Except when it comes to romantic relationships, that was a fun part of the original trilogy, but that takes a bigger role here, something that feels uninteresting when you don’t care about the characters as much as you are expected to.

Exploring a new galaxy doesn’t affect them, not as much as it should. Instead, you see a game that focuses on the action side, with amazing looking powers, alien guns, but that doesn’t have a soul, something that Shepard and his crew had in abundance.

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The characters of Arrival are affected by what they see, there are consequences to their actions, slowly building its stakes. Showing the difficulty of trying to communicate, understand another race, whose interests on Earth are not clear. The relationship with the aliens grows, as they try to exchange knowledge, talk, understand each other.

You become curious to know more about them, what they are trying to tell us, if they are peaceful or not. While you see the decay of mankind, fear taking over, without using action as its main resource, but character development.

Bigger Isn’t Better

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With an entire uncharted galaxy to explore you end up doing the same as you did before but in bigger spaces, you mine, you roam through the planets, with more missions, but as lifeless as in Mass Effect 1. A story that could branch out to have a huge scope, feels too simplistic, with only a handful of new races, and easy answers to possibly complicated issues, becoming smaller than in the original trilogy,

Using mainly the inside of the alien ship, that we spend the majority of the movie seeing only a small part, Arrival tells a meaningful, compelling, introspective story that has a huge fallout. Posing a question that stays with you long after you finish watching. Nothing feels cheap or given, but earned, deep without sounding arrogant, patronizing.

The problem with Mass Effect Andromeda is that in the marketing they claimed you were the alien, but you still act as if they were, visiting their planets, attacking at first sight. In Arrival, although the aliens came to our planet, we end up acting as aliens, at first unable to communicate but learning to understand them, when they already understood us, being a far more powerful story, using much less to be successful.

And to finish, the beautiful song that plays during the final scene of Arrival, that beautifully encapsulates it, enjoy:

 

 

What’s the Problem with Linearity?

Growing up in the SNES era, linear games were pretty much the main style of games, long before the open-world of GTA III, that gave players an incredible sandbox like never before. But recently, it is very common to see reviewers and pundits claiming that the linearity of a title was a flaw, that they wanted open environments, even though sometimes that doesn’t fit the genre. And from what it seems, the word linear has been used to the detriment of a title, carrying such a negative feeling that it needs to overcome another hurdle.

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I’m not saying that open-world games are not great, Watch Dogs 2 was my favorite game of last year, but we are very close to a saturation of the genre, after all, the vast majority of the AAA market relies on the open-world structure. There are some truly incredible examples, like The Witcher 3’s world, that is a real character, filled with missions and activities that feel meaningful, without being overwhelming. GTA V’s Los Santos is lively, beautiful, full of details. But many others feel as if they would be much superior if they had a more linear structure.

Mafia III, that despite having varied settings, they all felt boring and unexpressive, being empty, and robbing some of the brilliance of an amazing story. That could be greatly enhanced in a more controlled environment. No matter how fun it can be to have a massive world to play with, it is much easier to tell a compelling story in a linear game.

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Many people may not agree with me, but to me, the best story and game of the Batman Arkham franchise is Asylum. That took advantage of having a compact location to tell a significant story with real impact to the Dark Knight. That because it didn’t have a lot of the distractions of an open-world, felt urgent. Something that’s been lost a bit in the sequels, that are great, but fail to reach the same level of quality when it comes to the story.

Uncharted 4 increased the scope of its levels, turning them into bigger spaces, however they managed to keep their linearity, using these traversal moments to improve on character development. Managing to resemble an open-world gameplay without sacrificing its commitment to telling a great story, something that is very hard to accomplish in a sandbox.

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One of the best games of the last generation, if not ever, The Last of Us, used it to its favor, creating a stunning and detailed game that resonated with many. Characters that became iconic, unforgettable, mainly due to the strong focus on the story, and even though it was heavily scripted, TLoU remains a powerful game, with a much-awaited sequel.

Journey and Inside minimalistic approach to storytelling require a more concise and controlled gameplay. Not only the story can benefit, the gameplay as well, Titanfall 2, for example, that created set pieces, and levels that would be very difficult to execute in other circumstances, being recognized for its surprising campaign, that leads players to unexpected places and played with their assumptions.

Having a massive world doesn’t equal quality as we’re lead to believe. Open-world games can be great, but they don’t have to be the rule. Linearity, if done properly, can tell powerful stories and create breathtaking moments, that only a greater attention on the story can bring. Being linear is not something negative, it is another way of bringing to gamers experiences that are a lot more fulfilling, than a project that had an open-world tacked on as we see in many cases.

 

 

Do We Really Need to Play Every Classic?

As people, not only gamers, we tend to change pretty much everything in our lives. What we watch, we hear, we play. Some things we used to love lose their appeal, and others we would never give a chance can become a favorite. Games are no exception to that.

Life can get in the way, and we can spend years aways from it, because of several reasons. Many times a lot of classics become part of a backlog that we will never end playing. And for some crazy reason, gamers feel a strange guilt about it, as if they are not hardcore, a term that I hate, and I’ll talk more about it in another opportunity.

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I used part to be part of this group, feeling that I had to play several games only because of their importance. During my SNES, PS1 and PS2 era, I really was into racing, sports games, and platformers. Because of my preferences when I was younger I never played a Final Fantasy game for more than a few minutes. Zelda never caught my attention, no matter how many friends told me it was great, it was not my cup of tea.

Half Life, Shadow of Colossus, Ico are other examples. I was too busy playing Super Mario Kart, NFS Underground 2, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 to care about other games, even though they were part of the history of the medium. Maybe because I was younger and didn’t mind about RPG’s or games that required a lot of time to finish.

When I bought my 360 I started opening up to new things, started playing shooters, open world games, and with the Xbox One, RPG’s, Adventure games. Leaving behind a lot of great titles that if I gave the chance I would’ve loved, but today just don’t hold up. Playing GTA San Andreas, Bully nowadays feel strange, Symphony of the Night, that is considered the best Metroidvania, feels outdated.

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Systems, features, level design, a lot has changed in this market, and in an incredible rate. We don’t have to look at 20 years ago, Assassin’s Creed 2’s gameplay is very inferior to Unity, Syndicate, and that’s why I can’t muster any excitement to play games like Fallout or Skyrim. After playing Dragon Age Inquisition or Witcher 3, they feel like games that belong in the last generation.

Games usually don’t age well, with very few exceptions, unlike a song, a book or a movie, that may show their age but are easier to be timeless. Because of the interactive nature of games, some become unplayable after a while, no matter how much we want to play its history.

Not only that, old consoles are hard to find, as cartridges, that can be expensive. And the most important part, we are supposed to have fun with it, and not play something because we have too. It’s not because you never played Half-Life or Chrono Trigger that you are less of a gamer. You don’t have to love every franchise, or waste hours or even minutes into something you’re not enjoying. Our free time is too precious to just throw it away with things you don’t like, no matter if it’s a classic.

 

 

Scalebound is Another Example Why Microsoft Can’t Have Their “PSX”

This week Scalebound, one of the most expected exclusives of this year on the Xbox platform, was cancelled after more than 4 years of development. Being another exclusive that was announced by Microsoft and didn’t come to fruition in this generation, like Fable Legends, Phantom Dust.

This year’s lineup that didn’t really looked as appealing as in years past now is even weaker. And to me, that’s another example why the Xbox brand doesn’t have the power to have their “PSX”.

For the past three years, PlayStation has organized the PlayStation Experience, a.k.a. PSX, and fans of Xbox have been clamoring for a similar event. Despite using my XONE as my main platform, I just can’t agree with this idea, and the cancellation of Scalebound is a perfect example why, along with many other reasons, such as:

Lack of Strong First-Party Exclusives

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Scalebound was just another example of Microsoft’s policy of using third-party studios to produce their exclusives. And even though a lot of them were excellent titles, like KOTOR, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Ninja Gaiden, Alan Wake, just to name a few, they don’t feel as part of the Xbox brand.

A lot of them never went on to become a franchise associated with the console, going to PlayStation later. All due to a pale number of first-party studios compared to their competitors. And even the amazing indies of the Summer of Arcade age can be played everywhere else, losing any identity with the console.

Inability of Creating Memorable Franchises

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When the game in the image above was announced, a lot of people, including me, thought that it was a new IP and not a revival of Phantom Dust, an obscure Xbox exclusive that is unknown to most gamers. Watching PSX’s conference you could see people cheering for games such as Parappa the Rapper, LocoRoco, Patapon, Dangaronpa, receiving a warm reception in spite of never being huge franchises.

If feels like the Xbox consoles don’t have those smaller, unusual, artistic games that appealed to a hardcore audience, like Journey, Shadow of the Colossus. Having only Halo, Gears, Forza, the now in the limbo, Fable as their trademark franchises, whereas Sony has many cult hits over the years that created a fandom that is extremely faithful to the PlayStation brand.

Something that Microsoft has been unable to do, and we see that in sales numbers, with 4 active PS franchises (Uncharted, Gran Turismo, Ratchet & Clank, God of War) selling over 20 million copies, and only 2 from Xbox (Halo and Gears of War), with no new franchise in sight as a possible massive hit.

No Recognition of Third-Party Games as Theirs

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When you think about Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Destiny, more recently Resident Evil 7, you end up thinking about PlayStation. With many having no idea that titles of these franchises have been released for Xbox consoles, and in this specific generation it feels stronger than ever. Sony has been able to attach their name to a game so strongly that the audience reacts to them as a first-party title, all due to a successful use of marketing agreements, and titles that were part of the establishment of their brand.

Scalebound was an expected title because it looked like something that the Xbox One doesn’t really have, an exclusive AAA JRPG. In this generation, many of XONE exclusives didn’t take off like Sunset Overdrive for example, and it feels like more games are being cancelled than released.

A large-scale fan event from Microsoft would be great, but unfortunately, the Xbox brand doesn’t have the variety and the franchise power than their competitors have. Like Nintendo and Sony do, and yes, they have more time in this market, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that without Halo, that doesn’t have the same impact as it used to, and Gears, that went through a soft reboot, a Xbox console may fail due to a lack of a established history with gamers.

 

 

When a Game Is Better Than It Deserves to Be

Playing games on a daily basis for more than 20 years has given me some perspective on how well a game fits my taste. Using a gameplay video of at least 10 minutes, a review or a beta has proved enough for me for me to have an idea if that’s a game for me or not. But even after all this time, sometimes something comes up that ends up being a lot better than I could expect. As pretty much everything in life, we make mistakes and playing Watch Dogs 2 recently brought that feeling came back.

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I played the first Watch Dogs and I enjoyed it, didn’t find it incredible, but it was a good game. But there was something missing there, the whole downgrade left a bad taste in my mouth, although it wasn’t the biggest problem. A franchise that seemed to take itself too seriously, with a character that had no charisma, a story that was dark but without any substance. The Nolan movies despite being dark are entertaining, they are fun to watch, something that lacked in Watch Dogs.

This year, after some leaks, Watch Dogs 2 was announced and a complete overhaul of the brand image was implanted. A new leading character that felt fresh, different, and a cast that represented another side of the hacking world. Out the gritty, damaged Aiden Pierce, in the young, irreverent Marcus Holloway. Even though it looked like a new game, I still didn’t manage to muster any excitement towards it, to the point I only bought it during a sale for 40% less.

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It all felt a little bit forced, with the characters looking like hipsters striving to look and sound cool. And boy was I wrong, even Wrench (the guy in the image heading this text), ended up being a strange, crazy and a compelling part of the Dedsec crew. Yes, they may be exaggerated sometimes, however, this group is strong enough to head the franchise, bringing a much-needed level of fun that I haven’t had in a long time in a market that feels that for a project to be considered great it needs to be serious.

The missions also feel a lot more interesting, taking a page of the GTA book. Poking fun of problems we face in our society, government surveillance, data mining, privacy, religious controversies, all treated with humor, spotlighting relevant issues and providing a level of freedom hard to find in other games. Something that also happened with the hacks, allowing you to use it in horrible ways, causing ordinary people to be arrested or attacked by gangs, or in nice, unique ways to solve a puzzle, enhancing one of the most successful features of the first one.

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The same thing happened when I played the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, being that I was never a fan of the series, playing a few of them for just a few minutes. And I was astonished by how much I loved it, I still argue that there’s no better feeling in any game than to headshot somebody with the crossbow.

The world was interesting, with varied areas, the gameplay was great, using RPG elements to make the experience even better, with a robust upgrade system of both Lara and her weapons. When it comes to the story it was lackluster, but Crystal Dynamics managed to create a more humane Lara than ever before and created an opening sequence that was scarier than a lot of horror games out there.

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There was hype around this game but nobody predicted it would be this outstanding, managing to stay away from the Uncharted comparison and reviving a series that looked dead, after a sequence of mediocre to bad titles.

There are several other games I could talk about, Ratchet and Clank, that was incredible, Life Is Strange, my game of the year of 2015. Nevertheless, we often rule out a game without giving it a try, I’m not saying that we should believe everything people say, but occasionally a game that isn’t on our radar, can be a great surprise, and be better than it deserves or it’s hoped to be.

 

 

Movies That Could Influence Splinter Cell

Spoilers follow.

After the unfortunate failure of the Assassin’s Creed movie, with a very negative critical reception and poor box office performance, expectations have reached a new low. And even though it wasn’t the movie responsible for the arrival of the golden age of great video game movies, another Ubisoft franchise has a meaningful chance to do that, Splinter Cell.

It may sound crazy to even believe that someday our luck will change, but Sam Fisher’s foray has a shot for a simple reason, it’s not that different from movies we’ve seen. A gruff, talented agent ain’t nothing revolutionary, but the series has enough elements to feel like a breath of fresh air, and most importantly it can learn from other movies.

Sicario and The Accountant are great examples, with scenes that show how a Splinter Cell movie could play out. In both, we see a character in need to invade a compound filled with enemies, something common in any game of the series. With quick shots, slick and brutal fights, interesting use of the environment, that focused on a stealthier approach, it can serve as a roadmap to how they should deal with action.

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And it can be greatly enhanced given Fisher’s highly technological pieces of equipment, as we saw in Batman v Superman. Like Batman, Sam can utilize his gadgets, such as a drone to have a higher ground, having an idea of what’s to come. His advanced suit as a way to protect from adversaries, weapons and his multi-vision goggles as a way to differentiate himself from known cinema characters, as his signature, using technology in a much more grounded style than a billionaire super-hero.

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The Bourne franchise can be a great inspiration for a series that not only is beloved but also innovative. A killing machine to the government, with the distinction that Fisher works closely with it, with some exceptions, whereas Bourne is a high valued target.

This relationship can be greatly developed, and the duality of it. Like for example, in Double Agent, where Fisher had to work within the boundaries of working as a government agent whilst being undercover in a terrorist organization, juggling their interests. In Conviction, that had its leading character going rogue to save his daughter, leading him to invade even the White House, and gruesome torture scenes, that could translate well to the movies, if used with the right motivation and care.

If they choose to go in a more Blacklist style of story, they can focus on his role as the leader of a government agency, and his relationship with Grim, as his right hand, and a possible love interest, Victor Coste, his mentor, and his daughter Sarah. The idea of protecting targets from possible attacks could be a touchy subject, but if treated properly can be appealing to a mass market.

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With a strong actor such as Tom Hardy attached, we have someone talented and with an edge that can bring the character to another level, and has repeatedly displayed his capacity to lead a film. In a property that has a rich history of quality titles and a story that is easily understandable, while in Assassin’s Creed and other movies based on games, there were complicated lore and some complex and/or convoluted ideas, we can see a more feasible chance of success. Like The Division project, another Ubisoft movie to come.

Things I Can’t Stand in Good Games

Usually, we tend to love games, and as in real life, overlook some flaws. And in spite of my affection for some games, they can really get under my skin sometimes, again, as in real life. Some may sound like nitpicking, with one being more of a pet peeve, and even though they are not massive problems, they end up ruining a little bit a great experience, like:

Annoying Secondary Systems

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Let’s begin with my favorite franchise of the last generation, and one of the few that I’ve ever replayed, Mass Effect. Each one of them has something that really got on my nerves. Mass Effect 1, for example, with its horrible auto-save system, that if you didn’t do it manually there was a risk you would need to restart a very long mission. The use of the Mako, and its pathetic handling through empty planets where you would fight a giant worm or sentry turrets.

Mass Effect 2, and a tedious mining system, that would require the player to spend hours upon hours scanning planets searching for minerals. That after an upgrade became faster but remained incredibly boring.

And the worst one for me, Mass Effect 3, and its asinine readiness system. That according to the number of war assets you had, the ending of the game would change. Forcing the player to play side missions that he might not be interested otherwise, and the worst part, in order to increase the percentage and get a better ending, it made you play the multiplayer, or use external apps. Something I never understood and that made give up on getting the best ending.

The Supernatural Twist

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This one is loved by some, hated by many, the classical Uncharted supernatural twist. A game in which you control an Indiana Jones-esque character, that seems grounded until 70% of each game. Uncharted is a truly remarkable series in part because of its storytelling, and I just can’t understand why it needs to copy movies or classic Pulp stories. It feels more like a gimmick in order to present stronger enemies and stretch it a little bit more, than a real, meaningful part of the plot.

1st Person Defenseless Attacks

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This is more of a pet peeve and a major reason why I don’t play horror games with a 1st person view. Far Cry 4 was an example, you are constantly attacked by all sorts of animals, and many of them feel unbeatable, like those damn badges, and those terrible eagles. And I can’t think of a worse feeling than an Alien impaling your character or an enemy in Outlast coming in your direction.

The Obligatory Side Mission

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Mass Effect 3 also does that, but the Assassin’s Creed series has annoyed me a couple of times. In Brotherhood, the necessity to upgrade your brotherhood and add assassins to it in order to play the final mission was pretty underwhelming to me. Black Flag and the ship was another occurrence, a requirement of always improving it to go through the final parts of the game led me to cheese it, and go around ships, finding places to avoid any combat.

Mandatory Internet Connection

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Some may argue that this may not be a good example, since 2015’s Need For Speed ain’t a great title, well, I had a lot of fun with it. But one thing that simply doesn’t make any sense is the need of a constant internet connection. If we are talking about a mainly multiplayer game, like Overwatch, Titanfall, it’s ok, but when it’s a game without any major multiplayer experience, there’s no necessity for this stipulation.

Shoehorned “Singleplayer”

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Overwatch showed that if you’re going to do a multiplayer-only game, embrace it. No game needs a single player mode, but if you’ll add it, do it right. The first Titanfall promised a campaign to players, and in the end, all we got was a shoehorned one, that didn’t really tell more about the lore, the story. It ended up being a few matches where in the beginning a character you had no idea who she was saying something about what happened there.

Unsupportive AI

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There are many titles that suffer from this irritating situation, the AI that was supposed to support you, ends up being in your way. I tried to play Resident Evil 5 alone, but Sheva kept stealing ammo, missing shots, being a complete mess. Finally, I decided to go co-op and finished the game with a friend, and it ended up being much better. But no game should have its gameplay worsened by poor AI.

Endless Grinding

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I loved playing The Division and Destiny, but after dozens of hours, I just grew tired of the endless grind. Both games have a very addictive reward system, and both improved a lot after updates and the release of expansions. But no matter how much you love the gameplay, the world, the constant demand of replaying main and side missions, tends to become tiresome when you realize there’s nothing else to do in the game.

 

 

 

 

Not Enough Bantering

Minor spoilers follow

Games have evolved tremendously since I was a child when it comes to storytelling. And the more complex they became, the more we wanted to know about these characters and worlds. With the evolution of the 3D technology and voice acting, with actors becoming prominent due to some roles, character interaction has reached levels never seen before, increasing immersion, with one aspect that is crucial to it, ordinary bantering.

Even though we have titles with books, texts, audio logs, working as a way to develop our knowledge on a game’s lore, few things are as efficient and powerful as a straightfoward conversation. The Last of Us being  a very successful example, with a very charismatic cast, that becomes even more engaging due to these simple moments, that make the story a lot more compelling.

Like when Ellie is learning to whistle, or tells “amazing” jokes, or when Joel finds comic books for her, and she quotes them, or when she see arcades or albums in a music store for the first time. It may sound silly, but they allow the player to be part of this world, and to better understand it. Enhancing what its characters are going through, and how Ellie, that didn’t have contact with the outer world, reacts to these new experiences and places, bringing a lighter tone to a world torn apart by violence and death.

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And Naughty Dog took that to Uncharted 4, using it to reveal more about Nathan’s relationship with the other characters, more than in other titles of the franchise. Exposing more about their past, stories with Sully, Sam, as an outstanding style of telling stories, without the need of cut scenes or missions that wouldn’t work as part of the main plot.

Similar to TLOU, Bioshock Infinite used this to build Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship. As Ellie, Elizabeth didn’t have a lot of contact with her world, living in a tower, and using bantering we managed to see it through her eyes, having access to a perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise. With many moments becoming unforgettable, as when she reacts to the sound of music, being a quiet and beautiful moment in an action-packed game.

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In games that have a smaller playtime, it can be even more important for a campaign. In RPG’s such as the Mass Effect series, it shows us more about the races, the politics, the galaxy, but in a much minor fashion than Enslaved, for example. A true hidden gem, Enslaved, used it to display the mutation of a contentious relationship, at first, and explained what caused the destruction of mankind in an impressive manner.

As games improve their storytelling, new ways of creating better and more compelling characters are required. And a very competent and simpler way is through bantering, that doesn’t require much from game creators, working as a bridge between the player and their favorite titles. That through thoughtful dialogue can assist us into getting a better grasp of character motivations, their stories and most important, who they are, making them a lot more believable and human.