Yep, it has come to that point folks. Despite the fact that I’m in my early 20’s and have played a good majority of this years releases, I have hit that point to where picking up and playing videogames has been somewhat of a chore. Now it’s not too bad, I haven’t gotten any headache’s or thrown the controller at the nearest TV I could find. But for some odd reason, I get easily exhausted or lose interest with any recent title. Or maybe it’s not that, while I definitely admit that those are very solid factors, there is something else that I just couldn’t quite pinpoint.
I think these feelings started to become more apparent after the Sony PS4 press conference. Mostly everything seemed fine with me even though half of the presenters looked like they were sleep-walking throughout the entire thing. Sure some previews seemed either ‘forgettable’ or ‘good’, but the one that stuck out to me was the ‘Killzone: Shadow Fall‘ demo. Pretty much everyone watching the coverage was blown away by the spectacle of it, except for me. From what I saw, it just seemed like another sci-fi FPS with gorgeous visuals, but nothing beyond that.
This reminded me of E3 2007 when Sony debut the demo for Killzone 2, and everyone lost their minds over that footage because of how great it looked. In fact I’d say the first Modern Warfare is a much more accurate representation of the crowds ‘excitement’ for next-gen graphics. And to be fair, I was fairly impressed with Modern Warfare too, but before that I was impressed back in that same year, 2007, where Sony just showed off a montage of games that would supposedly come out for the system. They looked amazing, including the one for Madden, and even though some of those titles were pre-rendered, it was still something we could expect from the future of gaming.
However all this was just seen with my own two eyes, I never got to experience these next-gen titles until I uncovered the first ‘Gears of War‘ back when it came packaged with the Xbox 360. I didn’t know what to expect, other than it was critically acclaimed and was very gory. While I didn’t fall it love with it like some of the critics did, it struck me just how detailed the game looked. From the crevices in the armor, to the lighting, and the way the camera was integrated into specific prompts, it all blew my mind. It got even better as the years progressed, Uncharted had crazy detailed action scenes, Crysis had environments that looked gorgeous, Modern Warfare ran smoothly, Killzone 2 amplified the overall look of the series, God of War 3 showcased some of the best set pieces in gaming, Tomb Raider 2013 took everything Uncharted did but merged it all within a fairly open environment, all these elements were gradually progressing to the point where if I saw anything attempting to put forth CG/graphics ahead of the gameplay/story I would look back and say, “That’s cool and all, but I’ve seen it done better.”
Not only have the crisp visuals of Uncharted 2 and Crysis affected my perception onto shooters, but it also affected my outlook onto movies as well. Movies like Transformers were knocked down a notch simply because I’ve seen these visuals and set pieces done way better in games. Fans love to bring up the action climax in Transformers 3 as this gorgeous piece of chaos that was worth watching just to sit through 2 1/2 hours of Shia LeBeouf shouting at the camera (oh snap!). But for me it wasn’t, it was dull, all over the place, and most importantly had no substance to it unlike some of the action scenes I seen in Uncharted 2. In fact I would say Uncharted 2 topped every action set-piece I seen that year as far as movies and even games go.
The first generation of 3D consoles was simply the birth of a concept, the second generation was the exploration, and the third generation was about reaching the pinnacle in terms of graphics. So what does that leave this generation at? Could it be developing engines with large amounts of frames, innovating gameplay, or continuing the trend of…*gulp*…story in videogames? I’m not sure, but I can say for certainty that there’s not much else we could do with graphics, engines sure, but not graphics, at least for the moment. This is why it boggles me to see such an applauding reception for Shadowfall, hell if you were to take away the sci-fi theme, plant the game’s plot in the middle east then people would say that it’s another Call of Duty or Battlefield.
What this comes down to is that history seems to be repeating itself for me, what looks great will wind up either continuing or recreating an annoying trend. That trend in which people are too distracted from the spectacle of it all to truly see the game for what it is, cliched.
It’s not only visuals that bother me, well in another sense it is, it’s the way women are portrayed in videogames. Not only does this apply to JRPG’s, but this also can be applied to western/European RPG’s as well. Take for example Triss in the Witcher 2.
Her role in that game is to be Geralt’s lover, but doesn’t do much aside from some small investigations and gets kidnapped. In fact as it turns out, if you decide not to save her, she still automatically comes out in one piece anyway. What makes this even more laughable is that she seems to be utilized as somewhat of a sex device for Geralt, as shown in some gratuitous sex scenes, but never really becomes an interesting character. She is one of many tools used by developers to titillate the audience, or basically is just there to appeal to their market demographic, ‘young boys’.
I never really personally understood how making a character look sexy became such a major factor in videogames, well other than due to the market being dominated by men and because ‘boobs’ equals cash-flow, but still the explanation behind these decisions just feels very immature considering where we are today.
I mean context is everything, sure, so when your objective is to make a self-aware game that knows what it’s doing then I’m fine with that. But when it comes to RPG’s that are trying to be taken seriously this often leads to seeing most men as knights or warriors, while I mostly see women as mages or thieves. The men get to wear this heavy bulky armor that covers them head to toe, but women mages/thieves get to wear as little clothing as possible because they got the power of magic/stealth behind them! And even if you were a female warrior, you’d still get the metal breastplate, thong, boots, and that’s it! To be fair, it has been getting a lot better, especially since the Tomb Raider reboot and Uncharted has shown that we don’t have to subject females to stereotypes.
Although I want to examine a major part of my childhood, which is the ‘Super Mario‘ franchise. The first ‘Super Mario Bros.‘ was what got me into gaming, and how I became a huge ‘Mario’ and Nintendo fan. In fact I owned a copy of ‘Super Mario All-Stars‘ which featured mostly every game that came out beforehand. It was a hell of an introduction, and gave me little incentive to play much else on my SNES (which some would say I’d be missing out on considering what else was on the console). Ever since then I grew up playing Mario titles; Super Mario 64, Paper Mario, Mario Kart, Super Mario Sunshine, I was a huge fan up until Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Then I realized something, it was basically the same as Super Mario Galaxy, only with more added references from the original 3 ‘Super Mario Bros.’ and that was it. Not terrible, but it was a let-down considering that I always thought of Miyamoto to be pushing gameplay innovation when it came to ‘Mario’ titles. But as it turned out, the critics adored it, some say it was the best game of the year, and of course the Nintendo fanboys creamed their pants over it. However I think what also caught my attention was how cutesy it looked, not to say that other Mario games didn’t look just as adorable, but despite it looking good for a Wii title, it had a bland ‘cutesy’ look to it. The gameplay was also very retro as you had to collect star bits in order to attain lives, and despite the attempt to appease hardcore players such as myself through bonus levels, it never ultimately won me over.
The great thing about ‘Mario’ games is that anyone could pick up and play them. But with ‘Super Mario Galaxy 2‘ and the recent ‘Super Mario Bros. U‘, the message I’m getting from Nintendo is to rely on your nostalgia, or just stop playing our games because you’re not part of our demographic anymore. You’re too old. I guess that’t the funny part about this, while I outgrew Nintendo and continued to mature (somewhat), they stopped growing at a certain point.
I think that’s the problem, half of the industry wants to change, while the other half wants to simply keep relying on old marketing tricks, spectacle, and nostalgia. And yet people keep buying into it, hence why we still have a market dominated by shooters rather than a pleasant mix of all genres. I don’t know if people know this, but my favorite generation will always be the ‘PS2/Xbox/Gamecube’ generation, because everyone, especially Sony, were hitting the mark with their software. While we have been getting better, I do feel like we’re just gearing up for another disappointing retread of history. I sure as hell am not a fortune teller, but I do hope I’m wrong.
And then I play something like ‘Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon‘, a game where I can lure giant neon lizards near a facility and have them annihilate an entire army with piercing red lasers. It’s those moments that make me reconsider staying around for a bit longer.
Anyway that’s the Brut-Op piece, take it or bury it in the backyard like your old ET cartridge…or something else more relevant. Also in case you haven’t noticed, the reviews have slowed down immensely, but in place you can plan on seeing more opinion pieces like this and other fun stuff! Also for those who do want reviews, I will have a couple coming up for Dead Island Riptide and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon sometime soon. So make a decision between the cupcake and the cookie, and enjoy it!