Category Archives: Video Games

Geekly Debate: Best Video Game Villain

Geekly Debate LogoThe latest installment of our weekly debate podcast, Geekly Debate. This week we discuss our thoughts on the Best Video Game Villain ever!

Let us know what you think about the show, and send in your ideas for what we should debate next.

Geekly Debate: Most Overrated Video Game Franchise

Geekly Debate LogoThe latest installment of our weekly debate podcast, Geekly Debate. This week we discuss our thoughts on the Most Overrated Video Game Series Continue reading Geekly Debate: Most Overrated Video Game Franchise

Google, The European Commission, and the Sickening State of Free to Play

As you may or may not have heard by now, Google, at the behest of the European Commission, is no longer labeling games as free on its Google Play store in Europe if that game has in-app purchases. Google is also going to implement stricter authorization protocols on the in-app purchases to make sure children do not make purchases on accident. Oh my, someone is finally regulating this thing. Someone has finally started to pop the bubble of one of the most despicable cash grabs that I have ever seen from the gaming studios. Finally, a government is listening to its people and is trying to protect them from the incredibly shady business tactics of these game developers. The only problem is that this will never happen here in US. That is sad. Continue reading Google, The European Commission, and the Sickening State of Free to Play

Geekly Debate: Best Metal Gear Solid Boss

Geekly Debate LogoThe latest installment of our weekly debate podcast, Geekly Debate. This week we discuss our thoughts on the Best Boss from the Metal Gear video game series.

Let us know what you think about the show, and send in your ideas for what we should debate next.

Video Games You Should Have Played By Now: Bioshock

Hiya folks, and welcome to another installment of Video Games You Should Have Played By Now, where we take a look at some of the best video games ever created and try to discuss some of the things that make them so good. For today’s outing, we’re going to be looking at one of the most thought-provoking, intelligently written, and downright bone-chilling games ever created: Bioshock.

Before we get started in earnest, though, you should know that this article is going to contain some extremely heavy spoilers. A thorough discussion of Bioshock simply cannot be adequately done without mentioning one of the most brilliantly conceived plot twists ever seen in gaming (or in any medium, really). Having this moment spoiled for you would rob you of what is widely considered the defining moment of the game, and you should avoid such spoilers at all costs. You have been warned.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s jump into the game itself. Placing you into the role of the unassuming Jack, Bioshock brings the player into the ruined underwater city of Rapture, a place built to be a Randian scientific utopia, now turned to squalor. As you quickly discover upon arrival, Rapture has been turned to ruin by a civil war between founder Andrew Ryan (and no, his name is not a coincidence) and industrialist Frank Fontaine, who discovered a substance dubbed Adam which allows the user to manipulate their own genes. By the time you arrive, all that is left is a mob of Rapture’s crazed citizens as they murder each other in the street for the remaining Adam, with your only stated goal being to be to escape with your life.

With this as our setting, the team at Irrational Studios (2K Boston at the time) craft one of the most compelling and cerebral experiences ever created in the gaming industry. From the moment you wake up stranded in the ocean, to your super-powered showdown with the deranged Fontaine, Bioshock is a game that will keep you on the edge of your seat. But while the game gives the player solid gunplay, an intriguing set of powers, and robust character advancement, none of these things are what make Bioshock unforgettable; rather, it is the strength of the setting, and the way that it actively brings the player into the experience that Bioshock one of the best video games ever made.

From the moment you step out of the bathysphere (or rather before you even emerge, in fact), the game wastes no time in establishing a very evocative setting. To start with, the world of Rapture is steeped in shadows menace, with enemies constantly lurking in the darkness, raving and chattering in the periphery. But even more than the madmen and the gloom, the game is given a haunting, creepy atmosphere by the mystery and ruination of the world around you.

The city of Rapture is one of the most fully articulated environments in gaming. It is not only packed with detail and beautiful Art Deco design, but it also comes come with a past all its own. Andrew Ryan’s attempt at utopia has its own detailed history, ideologies, conflicts, intrigue, and leading individuals, but you are not there to see any of its defining events take place. By the time you arrive, Rapture’s glory days are already long behind it, with nothing but a shell of the former city left behind. As such, the player is made to take a novel approach to discovering Rapture’s complex backstory: sifting through its rubble. Throughout the course of the game, the player discovers a number of tape recordings left behind by the city’s denizens which slowly piece together Rapture’s horrific past. Through this process, you uncover the nature of the enemies you face, the philosophies and aspirations of those who built Rapture, and the conflict that tore the city apart.

And there is nothing you can do about any of it. In one of the many examples of the developers upending the typical gaming experience, the player has no power to save the city because there’s nothing left to save. All these people whose recordings you’ve been listening to, with the exception of Dr. Tenenbaum, are either killed by the player or are already dead, and have been for a very long time. Coming across some of their corpses, in fact, make for some of the most surreal moments in a very surreal game. The knowledge of Rapture and its mysteries always seem locked away in the past where we cannot reach them, and even with what we can piece together, we will never know what Rapture used to be, and it is all the more tantalizing because of it.

If you’re not trying to save the day, though, what exactly are you doing in Bioshock? The simplest thing in the world: surviving. Jack (and through him, the player) is no messiah, but rather a weapon (more on that later). From the player’s perspective, though, you’re just trying to get out alive. By making our motivation so simple, the game instead focuses most of the player’s attention upon their own actions and what few choices they are allowed to make. Which leads us fairly neatly into the other aspect which makes Bioshock so special, the way it incorporates the player into the game world and makes them question their actions and assumptions.

As you walk around the city, you will quickly discover that the there are more than raving Splicer thugs running around as you come across what are perhaps the two most memorable residents of Rapture: the Little Sisters and the Big Daddies. In terms of both gameplay and Rapture’s power dynamic, the Little Sisters and Big Daddies are something of an anomaly, as they are effectively noncombatants who wonder around the gameworld gathering Adam from the dead. For the player, though, the Sisters represent your means for advancement, for if you can best their hulking protectors, you can take the Adam from their bodies. It is at this point, though, that the player has to make a very profound decision: are you willing to murder a child? 

You could spare them, but that would mean giving up a larger share of Adam, the only thing in the game that can make you stronger. The thing is, though, that Bioshock will make you feel it if you decide to go through with it. Where lesser games might reduce such a process to text on a screen or otherwise disassociate the player from their actions, Bioshock forces you to watch as the child struggles in you arms before she dies.  And you can’t even get this far without first fighting a Big Daddy, a creature which will do nothing to harm you unless you first attack the child it is protecting. As intimidating as the Big Daddy is, at the end of the day, it bears you no malice and seeks no quarrel; any confrontation is at your behest, and so once again, you bear the responsibility.

And this is just one example of the way Bioshock brings you into its world and makes you feel the gravity of your actions. Dealing with the Little Sisters manipulates the player’s emotions (and diminishes any detachment they might feel) better than most any game out there. And yet it is the way the game manipulates your mind that is best remembered. Most of you probably already know where I’m going with this, but the scene that best defines Bioshock can be found when you finally confront Andrew Ryan in his office, where you learn that everything you thought about yourself and what you were doing was a lie.

Just on its own, this already a smart, well-executed plot twist, one that fundamentally alters our perception of the entire game, one that is up there with the likes of System Shock 2 or The Usual Suspects. But upon closer examination, we begin to appreciate that the true genius of this scene runs much deeper than that. Because it wasn’t just the character Jack who had been acting as a puppet at the end of Fontaine’s strings.

You were as well.

Ever since the game began, you haven’t been watching Jack following directions; you were following them yourself. You picked up the radio,  you found the wrench, and you murdered Ryan. You did as you were told. Of course you did. How many times have you already done it before, following the directions of your kindly guide as you move through the game world? I know that I’ve done it dozens of times at least. At the end of the day, then, am I really all that different from Jack?

Now, you could of course argue that it’s not like the game world gave you much of a choice; there’d be no point in playing Bioshock in the first place if you’re just going to sit on your hands in the bathysphere the whole time. So, no, you didn’t have any say in the matter. But then, neither did Jack. This, I think, encapsulates the brilliance of Bioshock: it doesn’t just show you a hapless soul being manipulated, it gives you the experience of being manipulated yourself in a way that can only be accomplished in video game, where you are ostensibly in control of the action. Over the course of one narrative, you experience both the sting of coercion at the hands of Atlas and the weight of dire decisions as you deal with the Little Sisters. And because the game doesn’t give you any distance between yourself and your avatar, you feel both of these extremes in a very profound way.

With such craft and care that went into such elements, it is little surprise that so many people consider Bioshock to be one of the greatest video games ever created. As outstanding as Bioshock is, though, it does naturally have some shortcomings. The one that stands out the most to me is the lack of consequence for dying; you’ll wake up in the nearest Vitachamber with a little bit less cash, but will otherwise be just fine. In essence, this means that can effectively throw yourself at any obstacle until you wear it down.

But any complaints I have about this game are mere nitpicks, and amount to nothing when stacked up against the games astronomical successes. The city of Rapture is so fully fleshed out that you could spend hours just pouring over its nuanced backstory. And perhaps more than any game I’ve ever played, Bioshock makes you think about what you are doing and who you are fighting. Playing Bioshock is an experience, one that should be had by most any gamer. If you haven’t played it (and for some reason ignored my spoiler warnings), go out and get it today. You won’t be disappointed.

So there we have it! What did you think? Please leave a comment below, and thanks for reading!

Weekly Recs Bonus Round – X-Men: Days of Future Past

Weekly Recs LogoDaSupremeB-Man plays a game and reviews a movie in Weekly Recs newest ongoing video segment, Bonus Round. In this episode, DaSupreme One takes on Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and talks about the latest mutant movie X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Please subscribe, like, comment, and let us know what movie and game match-ups you want to see B-Man take on next.

E3 2014: Nintendo

Nintendo LogoThe annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, is well underway out in sunny southern California, and everyone is bringing their best. We gave the goods on Microsoft’s and Sony’s lineups for the coming gaming year, but Nintendo took a approach to their press conference, which is appropriate for a video game company that refuses to adapt to the status quo. And that’s just fine, because The Big N’s E3 showing is anything but routine. Here’s the rundown.

The Delivery

While Nintendo elected for a video segment that used Robot Chicken style animation segments and prerecorded interview segments, the departure worked quite well considering the same boring press conference tactics used by other console companies and developers came off just as bland as they usually do. The move really put the focus on the games, helped avoid the always clunky live English translations for the interviews, added a unique way for Nintendo to better control their overall message, and helped showcase Nintendo as a company full of gamers, who just want to have fun making and playing great games. And, man, those games look great.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Super Smash Bros Wii UNintendo’s showcase video began with more news from the game that is going to make Nintendo’s year, and make the Wii U a must-have console: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. New character announcements abounded, with Lady Palutena of Kid Icarus fame, the legendary video game icon Pac-Man, and – wait for it! – YOU! It was announced that SSB for Wii U will incorporate a radical new take on the entire idea of the Nintendo Mii (the digital avatars that act as a players persona), making these Miis playable characters for SSB. Players will be able to choose from three character types for their Mii Fighter – Mii Brawler, Mii Sword fighter, and Mii Gunner – and while these are pretty self-explanatPac-Manory, players will also be able to choose from tons of available moves for their characters, taking the combo-building to new heights, and making online play something truly spectacular as players see firsthand just how much these new combos can lead to ultimate beat downs. Compatibility with Nintendo’s new Skylanders and Disney Infinity-esque toys-to-games product – dubbed Amiibo – was also showcased, but I doubt any Super Smash player cares that much about it, and the creative nature of Nintendo’s games didn’t end with Smash. Super Smash Bros. Wii U is due out by year’s end.

Mario Maker

Mario Maker Mario Maker is a game that plays exactly like its name suggests: You build a level of Super Mario Bros., and then you play it. While the idea of being able to create, test, play, and challenge my family to levels of Mario that I made is so full of possibilities that my brain reels, players will also be able to upload and download levels created by other players! There is simply no end to the hours of creativity and gameplay that Nintendo has, not really built themselves, but only tilled a field for players to sow and reap whatever the hell they want. It’s a singular Nintendo take to games like Minecraft and Little Big Planet that have found success in letting players build, play, and do things their own way. Look for Mario Maker in 2015.

Yoshi’s Wooly World

By far the most beautifully different game of the entire show, Yoshi’s Wooly World takes Mario’s dinosaur mount, puts the undeniably cute character into his first starring role, and makes for a beautiful looking platformer a la Kirby’s Epic Yarn. The game looks to be using similar gameplay tactics to the Kirby game, with a lot of influence Yoshi Yarnadded for the tongue-lashing, air-walking dino, but the amazing approach developer Good-Feel Company is taking with the yarn-centric graphics looks outstanding. Everything is made of yarn. The hero is made of yarn, the baddies are made of yarn, the entire world is made of yarn! Just look at those graphic. Yarn also plays really big in the overall gameplay, and as fun as this game is going to play, and as awesome as it’s going to look, the best part may end up being all the cool Etsy.com creations that end up for sale. Yoshi deserves some love, and he’s finally getting it, but he’s not the only B-List Nintendo character getting his own game. Yoshi’s Wooly World is due out early in 2015.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad Treasure TrackerA company announcing a third platform game may lead to grumbling from some gamers,but not when that company is Nintendo, and not when those platformers are so different from each other. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker take Mario’s less acrobatic buddy and throws him headfirst into a slower, more deliberate, but amazingly fun looking platform game. Nintendo’s theme for this E3 has definitely been different, and it continues with this new game starring a fan-favorite original character. The Super Mario 3-D World’s Toad levels are pretty much just being translated to its own game, but there ain’t nothing wrong with that! But this isn’t the only new property Nintendo showed gamers this week. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker will be out before the end of the year.

Splatoon

Nintendo continued their different take on games with the first party-shooter game ever, Splatoon. You and a team of friends tries to take possession of a majority of the play-area by painting more of the world with your team’s corresponding color. The twist? You can also change into a squid to add a different level to the gameplay, like moving through a painted area as a much faster speed. But, look out, because moving through your opponents’ color hinders your movement. It all sounds kind of complicated but the gameplay video speaks for itself.

I see some online multiplayer mayhem, last second victories, and demands for rematches in my future, but the true King of Nintendo’s E3 announcement was from Hyrule. Splatoon will be out in 2015.

The Legend of Zelda

Nintendo showed off their latest installment in The Legend of Zelda series, and it looks simply amazing. The demo was short, but it really showed off the size and scope of the new look to the venerable series, and the Wii U graphics never looked better. This game is due out sometime in 2015, but it’s not the only Zelda love we got from Nintendo.

Hyrule Warriors

By far my favorite announcement from Nintendo at this year’s conference, Hyrule Warriors takes two great things – like peanut butter and chocolate – and turns it into something so unique and fun that only a company like Nintendo would produce a game like this. Hyrule Warriors take The Legend of Zelda with all of its amazing characters, and combines it with the outlandish and over-the-top brutalization of badguys that is Dynasty Warriors, and what comes out the other end is players driving characters like Link, Zelda, and Impa through armies of badguys. Dynasty Warriors is one of those games you play after a bad day at work. Killing hundreds of death-deserving members of an evil army’s horde was so relaxing, and doing is with Link and the gang is going to be so much fun. Look for this one to hit on September 26th.

The Verdict

While other game develops continue to give gamers what gamers think they want, Nintendo continues to be the Tony Stark of the gaming universe by giving gamers what they want before those gamers even know they want it. Sure the usual suspects of Nintendo characters are all there, but the creative gameplay, innovative use of unique peripherals, and huge middle finger to the status quo that Nintendo showcased at E3 is beyond spectacular. Super Smash Bros. is still THE reason to buy a Wii U this year and remains the game to buy from the publisher before 2015, but The Big N isn’t resting on its laurels with it’s blockbuster fighter. Nintendo’s lineup shows a lot of imagination and creativity on all sorts of levels. Nintendo’s latest console may have been deemed “the second console” early on in its release, and their “hardcore” and 3rd part lineup may still be lacking, but Nintendo has won the argument about the Wii U being a must have console.

Playstation and Xbox at E3

Let me be honest here: I don’t have an Xbox One or a Playstation 4. I’m still gaming with my Xbox 360. It’s not that I don’t want to update my gaming system, but since I definitely can’t shell out hundreds of dollars for every new gaming system that hits the shelves, I’ve been taking my time on deciding which console to buy next (besides the fact that all of my friends are equally broke, so we’re all still happily playing together on our Xbox 360s). Beside the price, my biggest concern in buying a new console is the games. After listening to the Sony and Microsoft presentations at E3, I’m actually starting to lean a lot more towards the Playstation than the Xbox One, mainly because of the Playstation-exclusive games that are being released. I’m not about to kip on over to the store to pick up a new console, you know, because BILLS and GROCERIES and RESPONSIBLE ADULT-TYPE STUFF. However, when I do finally procure the funds needed to get a new gaming console, here is what I’m thinking about:

The Order: 1886 (February 2015)

This game looks absolutely, incredibly fantastic. Here’s a basic synopsis: The Order: 1886™ introduces players to a unique vision of Victorian-Era London where Man uses advanced technology to battle a powerful and ancient foe.  As a member of an elite order of knights, join a centuries-old war that will determine the course of history forever. Not only does this game sound incredibly exciting, but Sony will also be releasing some collector editions of the game that will come with some amazing extras. Seriously, I must have this game, and it looks like it is going to be a Playstation-exclusive game.

Destiny (September 2014)

I highly doubt there is a gamer out there who hasn’t heard of Destiny. However, in case you’ve missed the buzz, Destiny is going to be Bungie’s new game, and it looks amazing. Here’s a rundown on the game: In Destiny you are a Guardian of the last city on Earth, able to wield incredible power. Explore the ancient ruins of our solar system, from the red dunes of Mars to the lush jungles of Venus. Defeat Earth’s enemies. Reclaim all that we have lost. Become legend. It looks like the game itself won’t be console-exclusive, but it does look like they’re planning to launch Playstation-exclusive content. So even though you can play it on the console of your choice, it looks like the better gaming experience will be on Playstation.

The Last of Us, Remastered (July 2014)

 

Last of UsHere’s a basic synopsis of the game: Joel, a ruthless survivor with few moral lines left to cross, lives in one of the last remaining Quarantine Zones. These walled-off, oppressive cities are run by what’s left of the military. Despite the strict martial law, Joel operates in the black market of the city, smuggling contraband for the right price. I have been wanting to play this game since the moment the original came out. Of course I haven’t been able to because this is a Playstation-exclusive game, but seriously, all I hear is how awesome this game is. Sony will be releasing a remastered version of this game in July (though, from what I hear, it hardly needs “remastering”) for the PS4. I’m pretty sure this alone is a sign from the Gaming Gods that I need to make the move over to Sony-Land.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2015)

This is another one of those Playstation-exclusive games that I’ve always wanted to get into, but never had the console to do it. Thief’s End looks fantastic, and it will be releasing exclusively for Playstation 4. There isn’t too much information available about the game at this point, but it looks like the game will follow Nathan Drake several years after Uncharted 3 as he journeys to uncover the truth about a historical conspiracy behind a fabled pirate’s treasure. Honestly, you had me at “pirates”.

 

Ultimately, there’s a lot of exciting stuff in the future for Playstation. They’re even doing cool stuff like allowing Xbox 360 and PS3 players to upload their progress from GTA: Online onto the Playstation 4 version of Grand Theft Auto V. The thing is, I just can’t get myself to fully abandon Xbox. I’ll always hold out hope that Valve will release a Left 4 Dead 3 (though I guess I could just play the game on Steam), and with Fable: Legends and All the Halo Games Ever being released exclusively for Xbox One, I’m not ready to say goodbye to Xbox. Maybe the real answer here is to just buy both *looks at bank statement, weeps*. Okay, maybe not.

I’d love to hear from you guys on this. Why do you love your PS4 or your Xbox One? Should I stick with Microsoft for my next console, or should I move over to Sony? Did I miss something awesome from Sony and Microsoft’s presentations at E3? Tell me what you think in the comments!

The Best Video Game Soundtrack Renditions

 Chrono Trigger: The Brink of Time

Quite possibly one of the more unique interpretations of a soundtrack genre-wise, but it is one hell of a good one. Have you ever heard acid jazz? I can’t say I have before listening to this. However, every single song on this record is crafted differently, retaining the familiar melodies that made the original Chrono Trigger music so amazing. You might describe this album as schizophrenic, with each song having its own personality, yet representing the tone of album as one arrangement. Some are chaotic, others are relaxing. You might not even like any of the renditions on this album, but it is hard to deny the creativity that Yasunori Mitsuda composed himself.

 Smooth McGroove VGM a cappella: Volume 2

Really any compilation of Smooth’s versions of popular video games tunes is a great listen, however volume two contains some really standout choices like the Moon Theme from DuckTales and Dr Wily’s Castle from Mega Man 2. As the title of the album reads, each is an a cappella version of a popular chiptune, which might seem weird at first, but it actually works out quite well and is not hurtful to the ears at all. In fact, it’s quite pleasing. Smooth McGroove is talented, creative and a lot of these selections can be found on his YouTube channel.

 Final Fantasy VI: Grand Finale

While piano collections exist for a lot of the Final Fantasy game soundtracks, it’s good see that the best Final Fantasy and the best Final Fantasy soundtrack got even more love here. From Nobuo Uematsu, you’re treated to 11 orchestrations from the FFVI lineup. Some of them turn out differently than you may imagine, but that does not detract from their quality. If you like the melodies from any Uematsu composition, this is for you.

Super Smash Bros. Melee: Smashing… Live!

The entirety of this recording was performed by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra … live! The themes from most of your favorite Nintendo franchises are performed with mastery and embodied with plenty of character. What you thought were tunes actually become accurate, full length instrumentations that are very enjoyable to listen to. Most of the pieces are about three minutes long, but there is a 14 minute medley that will please any Nintendo fan instantly.

175px-OC_ReMix_Super_Street_Fighter_II_Turbo_HD_Remix_Official_Soundtrack_front_cover[1]Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix OST

Back when SF2THDR was released, everything about it was sharpened; this also included the soundtrack which was left up to OverClocked ReMix. Just starting up the game to the main menu, hairs raised on the back of my neck. The feeling of nostalgia went to straight awesomeness. All of the music from the original Street Fighter II have been remixed and remastered for the game. Sure, you can toggle back to the original music and many would probably prefer it that way. But I’m telling you this is excellent work and it shouldn’t be ignored.