Current status: Any and all synonyms for exhausted. Mentally, physically. Resources depleted. Running purely on caffeine vapors and anxiety. Trying to keep it together. In desperate need of a mental health day, while knowing that such a day probably can’t happen until at least next week at the earliest.
Look: I’ve read and watched my fair share of dystopian fiction, and the thing that never gets mentioned in those works is the unceasing exhaustion and overwhelming despair that comes of perpetual outrage. Or the near-constant stress-eating and resultant GI distress.
This latest fallout from the WHCD this past weekend is just the icing on the cake. I cannot come up with a witty retort, so I’m gonna let Burneko handle it:
…As you’ve surely read by now, Wolf joked that [Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee] Sanders’s makeup—her “perfect smoky eye”—is made of the ashes of the facts she burns.
That’s about as gentle a way as anyone could come up with to lampoon the single most relevant fact about Sanders and what brought her to a station in life that would make her a reasonable subject of lines in a White House Correspondents’ Dinner monologue in the first place. A frank and honest description of who she is and what she does would be much more harsh: Every day, Sarah Huckabee Sanders plants herself, by choice, between the public and the facts of what’s being done at the very highest levels of American executive power, and does her damnedest to break and delegitimize the means by which the two are brought together. She is one of the most visible and powerful people in American civic life, and she uses her visibility and power—she chooses to use her visibility and power—to confuse the public and degrade its grasp on the truth, rather than to inform or empower or serve it. Her willingness to do this on behalf of Donald Trump, day after day, and the unmistakable teeth-gnashing relish with which she does it, are the substance of her power, and the reason why anybody knows who the fuck she is at all. What history will remember about Sanders is that she is the scum of the fucking earth, and not the jokey means by which one comedian pointed out this inarguable fact—and that’s only if the senile rageaholic pissbaby moron on whose behalf she shames herself on television every day doesn’t annihilate the human race, first.
I take solace where I can, folks, and right now it’s listening to good music, snuggling with my family*, and, after my family has gone to bed, obsessively playing God of War.
Speaking of which. I’m at least 30 hours into it. Currently doing a tricky side quest in Niflheim, newly unlocked. Can’t stop thinking about it.
Let me back up a second. I’ve recently been doing a thought experiment at work; I keep a Google Doc in a tab and any time a game pops into my head, for whatever reason, I’ll write it down. I’ve been doing this for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it happens quite a lot, and I’m wondering what triggers it. As a weird example: for the longest time, any time I gave my son a bath, I’d start thinking about a certain sequence (the dockyard shootout) in Max Payne 3. (I have no idea why, and I don’t know if I want to know why.) More to the point, I’ve been trying this out because sometimes I’ll be in my basement, utterly paralyzed by my backlog and not knowing what I’d want to play first; the log reminds me what I’ve been thinking about, and perhaps the paralysis can end.
I’m in no such paralysis at the moment, of course, because every free waking moment I have is spent being thoroughly absorbed by the aforementioned God of War, which is, thus far, probably one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life. It’s probably fair to say that part of my above-mentioned exhaustion is that I spent the bulk of this weekend’s evenings playing far past my usual bedtime. Like, 3-4 hours past my usual bedtime.
Because this is not a traditional review, I’m not particularly compelled to tell you about mechanics, though they are wonderful – like a lot of actual, professional critics, I found myself spending a lot of the early hours just throwing my axe into things and then summoning it back, and even 30 hours later it never gets old. It is, indeed, one of the most satisfying weapons I’ve ever used in a game.
Nor am I technologically savvy enough to describe the graphics in any sort of meaningful way. Let me simply say that, while I don’t know if it’s the best looking game I’ve ever seen, it’s certainly among the very top. I can’t give it full marks if only because this is the first game I’ve really spent any time playing on my PS4 Pro / 4K HDR TV setup, and having seen what the X can do in that setup, I can see that the Pro isn’t quite as powerful. (If I’m splitting hairs, I’d say that the X port of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is better-looking than the PS4’s version, and is also probably better-looking than God of War on a pixel-by-pixel basis, though it’s fair to acknowledge that each game is doing wildly different things.)
And I don’t want to discuss the story, because it should be experienced first-hand. I accidentally spoiled myself on a mid-game plot point and almost immediately regretted it. What I can say, though, is that the relationship between Kratos and his son, Atreus, is far better written than I’d ever give this franchise credit for. There’s a thoughtfulness behind every line of dialogue, and the voice acting is marvelous.
Here’s what I can say, and I know this is going to sound weird – this game feels like it was built for me, specifically; the 40-something tired father with not a lot of free time. It is paced exactly the way I’d want it to be paced – much like Uncharted 4, the combat is exciting and dynamic but is also spaced out evenly, and there’s just as much emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving as there is on beating the hell out of demons. The game is beautiful, and it knows it, and it knows you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny, and more often than not there’s a useful treasure hidden away in those places, and so you’re encouraged to go off the beaten paths. Indeed, sometimes those paths go to rather unexpected places, and the rewards are generally always worth it.
More interestingly, I feel like the game understands how I’m interacting with it and responds accordingly. The interstitial dialogue as you’re travelling from place to place does a wonderful, effortless job of world-building and character development, and it does it through subtlety (inasmuch as a character like Kratos can be subtle). If I need a break from killing things, there are always tons of non-violent things to do. Hell, even just pausing before a combat section so that I can re-outfit my weapons is satisfying; there’s a hint of puzzle-solving that goes along with each encounter, and you can see the results of your decision-making immediately. It’s wonderful.
As much as I was enjoying Yakuza 6 and Ni No Kuni 2, and also kinda diddling around in Far Cry 5, this is the game that I’m gonna want to keep coming back to. The new Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption games don’t come out until the fall; this will more than suffice in the meantime.
* I just wanted to mention that my current favorite thing is the way my son plays with the back of my hair when I’m carrying him downstairs in the morning. He is half-awake, floppy-limbed, and can barely keep his eyes open; but when I pick him up, he puts his arms around me and runs his fingers gently through the very short hair on the back of my neck. It is the sweetest thing – I have no idea if he even knows that he does it – and it makes my day.