From the Archives: Me v MGS V

Remember a million years ago when I was working on a huge Metal Gear Solid essay for Unwinnable?

COgG-8rU8AAtx--

Well, here it is.

Unwinnable – How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Metal Gear Solid

This is probably the longest essay I’ve written since college, and all things considered I think it turned out pretty well.  I can’t say I’ve thought very much about the game since this piece got published, but then again, I think I just re-downloaded it on Xbox One X, and I may give it another ago during the next release calendar lull.

Extra-special thanks to Unwinnable EIC Stu Horvath for accepting my pitch and making it look really nice.

Shameless Plugs, Raiding Tombs, GOTY prep

1. OK – first thing’s first, my gigantic essay about my history with the Metal Gear Solid franchise is finally available in this similarly gigantic Unwinnable double issue.  It’s one of the longest things I’ve ever written, and if you’re a big fan of MGS then (a) you’ll probably hate it, although it also follows that (b) you’re probably not reading my blog.  But anyway, if you want to read 3000+ words about me v. Kojima, get to it!  There’s a ton of other great stuff in this issue, and I’m pleased as punch to be in it.

2.  As it turns out, I was correct after all – I only had a little bit left in Rise of the Tomb Raider, and it went pretty much as I expected it to.  After the credits rolled, I went back into the story (where there’s an additional coda before you regain control), finished the last Challenge Tomb, and now I’m at 91% completion.  That’s not bad for a first run!  That remaining 9% is still pretty substantial/time-consuming, and it’s not really all that impossible to achieve, either, so I may end up going for 100% if I get overwhelmed by Fallout 4.

My quibbles with RotTR’s story aside, I think it’s an excellent sequel to an already excellent first game, and I’m very happy indeed with where the franchise currently stands.  I think the move to make it a timed console exclusive probably did wonders in terms of focusing development; there’s a level of polish here that really shines through, and it’s abundantly clear that a lot of love and care went into building this thing.

And while I’m still a little “meh” as far as the combat goes – especially as everything else is really, really good – the game doesn’t feel as grotesque about murder as, say, Uncharted.*   There’s still too much killing, and I’m not sure that any of these kinds of games will ever be able to avoid it – even the first 3D Prince of Persia had too much of it and didn’t really know what to do with it.  But at least there’s a LOT more non-combat stuff to do here, and I’m all for it.

3.  So here’s what the rest of the gaming year is looking like:  I’m gonna be starting Fallout 4, possibly tonight.  There’s gonna be some Battlefront, and maybe my buddy and I will continue to slog through Halo 5 in online co-op.  I’m going to give Just Cause 3 a rental, just ‘cuz.  And… I think that’s it, as far as new stuff goes.  I do kinda want to get back to some of the Witcher 3 DLC, even though the New Game + mode was kicking my ass in ways that were not all that pleasurable.

Which means that I guess I can start working on GOTY stuff in earnest, or at least once I get 10-20 hours of Fallout under my belt.


* Indeed, after having recently replayed the first halves of all three of the original PS3 games, I’m a little concerned about the upcoming Uncharted 4; the parts that I love of those games do not appear to be the same parts that everyone else does, and I suspect that U4 will be far more combat- and action-heavy than I’d like.

 

Weekend Recap: moaning and groaning

Truth be told, I don’t feel like writing about games right now.  I’m kinda sickened by what’s happening in Ferguson, and talking about video games seems awfully trite and silly in the wake of Mike Brown’s death.  But I’m going to write about games because if I don’t do something, I’m going to start going crazy.

Ironically, then, there was very little gaming done this weekend; my son was recovering from a bad bit of constipation (that required a visit to the ER on Thursday), and I had (and still have) a pretty bad cold, and we ended up having to cancel a bunch of plans, and when I wasn’t sleeping I was mostly trying to keep my son happy.  That’s a fun game, too, when it’s working.

I did finish The Last of Us Remastered on Friday night, though, and I must admit that I enjoyed it a lot more the second time.  I must also admit (though I’m not ashamed of it) that I played it on Easy, which made it a much less frustrating experience; I still died a few times, but I was able to enjoy and savor the world and the narrative and take many screenshots and still feel dread while not being unnecessarily frustrated.

And speaking of dread, I went ahead and played P.T., and even though I’d already watched a bunch of people’s Let’s Play videos and was somewhat prepared for that first jump scare, it still managed to creep me out.  In this current era of open betas and Early Access and the seeming absence of demos, it is sincerely refreshing to get something like P.T., which is technically a teaser for an upcoming Silent Hill game but which is also a wholly self-contained creep-fest.   As someone with no real hands-on experience with the Silent Hill franchise (beyond a few hours with both SH4 on the 360 and Shattered Memories on the Wii), I came into it not needing to look for hidden SH clues and callbacks, but simply to take in the experience.

And it does capture that feeling of dread pretty goddamned well.  Despite my massive Stephen King collection, I’m not really all that into horror films or games, so I can’t necessarily speak to how effectively creepy it is for other people (although there are lots of YouTube videos of people playing P.T. and freaking out, so I know I’m not alone).  But even just the basic concept of the endlessly looping hallway – my god, it took me right back to a horrific mushroom experience I had in college, where I had the sensation of being caught in a time loop and where the same 2 or 3 things kept happening over and over and over and over and over and over again, and I thought I was going mad.  I might also add that I played P.T. with my wife on Wednesday night, and that’s the night that my son started having stomach pains, and woke us up by crying at 4 in the morning.  So the “crying baby” trope hits pretty goddamned close to home.

I still don’t know whether I’m going to play the actual game.  Like I said – I’m not the biggest fan of horror games, and I’m certainly not a big fan of Hideo Kojima.  That being said, having Guillermo Del Toro on board certainly does a lot to offset Kojima, and if it ends up reviewing well, I will probably feel compelled to check it out.

I’m not sure what’s on tap for this week; I’m not playing the console release of Diablo 3, and in any event most of my recent free time has been taken up by Book 3 of the Locke Lamora series and a rekindled obsession with They Might Be Giants, of which a carefully curated Spotify playlist follows.

ups and downs

I’m fighting a horrific head cold, so bear with me as I try to remember what’s happened this week:

1.  The biggest news is that I’ve got some serious Vita problems.

In my previous post (Monday), I’d said (at the very end) that the memory card for my new Vita had finally arrived, but the Vita itself wouldn’t work on my office wi-fi, and so it was still useless.  So I finally got it set up Monday night, and then promptly downloaded all the stuff that I’d already had in my PSN library – Fez and Steamworld Dig, for starters, and then using my $10 credit to help pay for Final Fantasy X HD.  PS+ people also get Uncharted and Wipeout for free, so I started downloading those as well…

…and they literally didn’t finish downloading until Wednesday morning, before I left for work.  That should’ve been my first clue that something was off.

My second clue was that there was this weird vertical line running down the left-hand side of the screen – very faint, but sort-of looking like the red line on loose-leaf paper.  Which eventually faded away.

My third clue wasn’t even a clue.  Wednesday afternoon, during a slow moment at work, I pulled out my Vita and decided to give Uncharted a try.  I got around 30 seconds into it when the graphics started glitching out, and then the game suddenly froze up.  I powered the Vita down, waited a little bit, and then tried to restart – but the Vita wouldn’t restart.  Screen stayed black, no sound, and then the machine would turn off.  Contacted support – tried doing a forced restart into safe mode three times – still nothing.  So now I’m sending it off for repairs.  I am doubtful that I will get it back before my upcoming vacation, which is a little over 2 weeks from now.

On the bright side, Fez is still wonderful, and I’m really glad to have it in a portable version.

2.  I finished one playthrough of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.  I am unsure if I will play through it again, although the release calendar is still a bit dry for the foreseeable future, and there’s certainly a hell of a lot more to do.

My feelings about the MGS franchise are well-known and not worth repeating here.  As for this particular game, well:  Ground Zeroes has some of the best moment-to-moment gameplay the series has ever seen, and it uses the open world remarkably well (even if that world is small – and probably it’s done well because it’s small), and I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that kinda does want to play through it again and see all the stuff I didn’t see the first time.  And maybe I’d also do all the side missions and all the other stuff that’s there, because based on my post-game stats it’s abundantly clear that I’ve barely scratched the surface.  (And so the common pre-release complaint about having to spend $40 for 1 hour’s worth of gameplay is clearly ludicrous, because there’s obviously a lot more here to do.)

But the game is also fucking ridiculous, and impossible to take seriously, and features some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard.  I don’t know why people are so up in arms over Kiefer Sutherland’s casting; he barely utters a word, and in any event the words he does utter might as well be gibberish.  I don’t know if it’s the translation that’s so terrible, or if it’s that the translation is slavishly faithful to what’s actually terrible in the original Japanese*, but ultimately the problem is simply that it’s dumb.

There’s a lot of discussion (that I’m too lazy/sick to link to) about how it’s often unfair to credit one person as the “Game Maker” when a big-budget AAA game is often the work of hundreds of people – but MGS has always been Hideo Kojima’s baby, and the number of times his name appears in the opening titles and closing credits** means that he’s OK with all this.  Even though he’s said numerous times that he’s tired of Metal Gear and longs to do something else, he’s continually given enormous resources to keep cranking these things out, and so he continues to stick with it.  And there’s a part of me that admires his willingness to out-crazy himself with each successive effort.  But this isn’t Saints Row, which at least has the benefit of being clever.

I am beginning to feel that Kojima is turning into George Lucas, surrounded by an army of minions who are terrified of saying “No, don’t do that.”

3.  I am becoming weary of Infamous: Second Son, even as it continues to graphically dazzle.  The Infamous games have always been fun but also somewhat shallow, and that is definitely the case here.

4.  I am hoping to finish Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea Ep. 2 by the weekend.  I continue to enjoy it in spots, and also deeply hate it in spots.  It is guilty of very lame and tired design cliches, such as the continued over-use of audio logs and the very, very tiring trope of wandering through a series of enemy-free rooms, finding the thing you’re looking for, and then – abracadbra, those enemy-free rooms are suddenly conveniently swarming with bad guys.  It is also still consistent with the original game, in that these beautiful paradises are completely devoid of normal human beings.  With a few notable exceptions, everyone you meet in the game (in person, at least) is an enemy.  It makes these fantastical worlds feel hollow.

5.  Anyone in NYC who has even the slightest interest in pinball should stop what they’re doing and head over to Modern Pinball NYC, over on 3rd Avenue between 26th and 27th streets.  I was there last night for the prelude to a NYVCC meeting, and it was love at first sight.  I’m a huge pinball fan but I’m also a homebody, and so most of my pinball time these days is spent either in Pinball FX2 on the 360 or in Pinball Arcade and Zen Pinball on my iPad.  And while those digital editions are fun in their own right, nothing beats the real thing.  Great selection of tables, both old and new, and they’re constantly being maintained – which is a treat in and of itself, getting to see the belly of a pinball table, which is insane.  Highly recommended.  I may end up throwing my birthday party there later this year.

10007245_10152266988925865_1208936234_n

__________

* This is the same problem I had with Murakami’s “1Q84”.  I’ve loved all of the English versions of his previous work, but I found the writing in 1Q84 to be pedestrian and sophomoric and completely devoid of his usual poetic voice.

** SPOILER ALERT – I am also aware that in one of the bonus side missions, Kojima himself is an actual character in the game.  So, yeah.

%d bloggers like this: