Star Wars: Battlefront First Impressions

I can’t help but think the Rebellion must be running out of recruits. Every Rodian, Sullustan, Twi’lek and Ishi Tib must have already been drafted before they got to me. As I repeatedly crash one X-Wing Fighter after another into the sides of Beggar’s Canyon while trying to figure out how to fly this goddamn thing, surely the recruitment officer who failed to check my references and handed me the keys to this multi-million dollar spaceship has been fired.

I’m not a huge fan of modern console games, but I am a huge fan of Star Wars. I bought a Nintendo 64 to play Star Wars: Episode I Racer and a GameCube for Rogue Squadron. I’ve had blisters on my thumb from attacking AT-ATs on the Atari 2600’s The Empire Strikes Back, spent hours assembling virtual bricks in Lego Star Wars on the PlayStation, and waved my arms around like an idiot while playing The Force Unleashed on the Nintendo Wii. Based on my previous efforts to assist the rebellion you might think word would have spread about my lack of skills and those in charge of recruiting capable soldiers would quit handing me loaded weapons, but no.

For what it’s worth, a PlayStation 4 with a second controller and a copy of Star Wars: Battlefront will set you back $518. After stopping by GameStop after work and receiving a snarky lecture about not pre-ordering the game, we walked next door to Walmart and bought everything right off the shelf. Walmart does a lot of things wrong, but that whole part about stocking their shelves with things people want to buy, they do pretty well. May GameStop and their pre-ordering system burn forever in the lowest levels of Mustafar.

I play these games, I think, because I want to be in Star Wars. As a kid, watching those films on the big screen, I imagined it was me flying a snow speeder and bringing down those giant walkers, or engaging imperial stormtroopers in a furious blaster battle. And while the original two Star Wars Battlefront games did a good job of bringing this experience home, Star Wars: Battlefront for the PS4, Xbox One and PC perfected it. As you run through worlds you’ve grown up watching on the big screen while firing lasers at your opponents, you’ll know this is as close you’ll ever get to being a part of those epic battles that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Because the recommended specs for the PC version of Battlefront are so high (Electronic Arts recommends 16GB of RAM and a 4GB video card, among other demands) I opted to go the console route. As I watched my son wiggle around our entertainment center connecting HDMI cables, I remembered why I’d had him.

The other thing he’s good for, apparently, is kicking imperial ass and taking names. After dying repeatedly, I handed him the controller and watched him go. He’s more of an online multiplayer than I am, and soon he was running around Hoth, Tatooine, and Endor shooting everything in sight.

I don’t know that screenshots do the game justice. I was afraid that the game wouldn’t look as good as the screen captures I had seen floating around prior to its release, but in reality, it looks better. With each generation of games I wonder “How can things get any better?” and this is no exception. At times I wish my enemy would stop shooting at me long enough to let me study the rocks and dirt that make up the landscape.

This game is so detailed and so big that I feel like it may take me many months to see it all. Like a meal with many courses I plan on slowly working my way through each one, taking the time to taste, smell and appreciate them before moving on to the next. Along with the game, I’ll be buying an online pass for $50 and (I’m sure) paying for downloadable content later, and Dice has done such a good job with this game that I honestly don’t care. Whatever it costs, I’ll pay it.

Line up another X-Wing for me, Red Squadron. I’m comin’ in hot.

Review: Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

BREAST ACTION GAME OF THE REAR! EXPLOSIVE HAND-TO-GLAND COMBAT! THIS ERECTION SEASON BAYONETTA 2 PUTS THE TITS BACK IN CONSTITUTION!

Short summary: Gameplay-wise, there aren’t any substantial changes from the first, so if you didn’t like the first you won’t like this either. If you liked the first, you’d probably like this.

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Review: Satellite Reign (PC)

Satellite Reign is one of the most beautiful games I’ve played since Trine 2. Shadowrun has a better plot, but its watercolor backgrounds failed to make an impression, Invisible Inc. has better stealth gameplay, but its cyberpunk vision is so dull it might as well be taking place in the same universe as the movie “Her,” Satellite Reign is the first modern cyberpunk game I’ve played that gets the look and feel right. We really have reached an age where artistic vision trumps engine power in terms of a graphical triumph. I just cleared the Downtown area and gained access to the Industrial sector. My biggest fear was the game would blow its graphical load in the downtown, then industrial would be boring and repetitive. They did not and it is not.

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The Top 50 Non-Art Indie Games

Once upon a time, respected movie critic Roger Ebert said that video games would never be art because their narrative didn’t explore the human condition. Video game critics wished above all else to one day be as respected as Ebert, so they took his statement as a personal rejection and made it their life’s mission to prove him wrong. They could have simply corrected Ebert by telling him that judging video games by their narrative is like comparing the card game “Bridge” to “Go Fish” based on the quality of the artwork on the cards. Sadly, the game critics instead went out in search of video games that explored the human condition with narrative!

Apparently the best they could find was a game called Passage. In it, you control an ugly pixelated dude and move him to the right until he dies. The only noteworthy thing about the game is how terrible it is in every respect. But the game’s website said it was inspired by colon cancer, and that was enough for the game critics. They showered Passage with universal undeserved praise.

Notoriety is money in the indie scene, so like mushrooms on a cow pat, amateurish, ugly, joyless games with a message began popping up everywhere to inevitable accolades from insecure game critics. I myself was mislead into paying money for Papers, Please, foolishly thinking that if EVERYONE was loving this game, including supposed curmudgeon Yahtzee, that it might actually be way more fun than it looks (Spoiler: it isn’t!) Thanks to gamergate, we now live in a brave new world where questioning why art games get preferential treatment by game critics is equivalent to gang-raping a woman in a porta-potty, so pretentious art house gaming is here to stay.

But fear not! There are still indie developers who make games that eschew narrative exploration of the human condition for gameplay that’s actually fun, and I’ve compiled a list of 50 of ‘em! Enjoy!



One Finger Death Punch

50. One Finger Death Punch

A cheap 2-button game of stick figure kung fu fighting with epic music and destructible scenery that’s way more entertaining than it has any right to be.

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A Brief History Of Video Game Violence

Author’s note: After seeing what a wet blanket most of Hotline Miami 2 is I figured I’d dump this here and see what everyone thought about it. I wrote it awhile ago when it seemed like the whole #GamerGate thing was going to turn into some expressly anti-violence desensitization thing. — Worm

This is Rampage, arcade version!

The first violent game I remember seeing would probably be Rampage. Now I know this isn’t a traditionally violent game but it’s where it began. After all you could pick up people and eat them whole, that’s pretty violent. Certainly Mario smashing Goombas wasn’t some grand gesture of peace but this is the first time I remember killing people, innocent people, and it was fun. I wasn’t really defending myself in Rampage, actually I found that the most fun was fighting against the helpless civilians rather than the military units that actually could drain my health and cause me to lose a life. Most of the fun in Rampage was killing helpless women and men, plucking them out of their apartments and eating them whole.

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Review: Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius (PC)

So I got led by a Steam curator to this game which promised turn based naval combat, something that’s been lacking so much in games that I’ve recently reloaded early 90s stuff like The Grandest Fleet and Lost Admiral Returns. It had embarrassing anime art and promised equally embarrassing writing, but like The White Chamber it unexpectedly ends up being one of the best in its genre??!! And it’s free?

The story is a wacky anime harem setup. Thankfully you can hold down the enter key and quickly skip through all of it.

But then you get to the combat and wonder how the hell this got tacked on to some throwaway anime novel game?


skip skip skip skip

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Review: Fury (Movie) 2014

Shia LaBeouf plays an evangelist.

Good god, this is some of the worst writing in an Oscar-bait flick. It almost felt like something Donald Kaufman threw together while flipping through his colored sticky note bookmarks in Story. The opening scene is Brad Pitt having a save the cat moment when, after brutally murdering a German, gently pats the man’s white horse and sets it free. Then at the end, in the carnage of the final battle, a white horse runs by. “This is what McKee calls ‘coming full circle’, Charlie.”

Battle scenes? Shaky cam has officially been replaced by flying clods of dirt obscuring everything. I’m no expert on WWII ordnance, but I’m fairly sure that tank shells didn’t glow green and blue while bullets were dark red. It looks like a G.I. Joe cartoon half the time. In one scene, the sun is setting when they open fire on Germans causing them to run to a barn 100 feet away. Cut to them entering the barn and suddenly it’s pitch black night. A bunch of troops are shown marching where every 5th man is carrying an anti-tank weapon, but when the battle starts they have to break the anti-tank weapons out of crates.

Typist non-combatant new guy. Jesus freak. A dilemma about shooting a German prisoner or not? Struggling over a knife with a German before one is overpowered to be slowly stabbed? The opportunity to withdraw before the final attack but knowing that it would doom other American troops? Telling typist non-combatant guy to go live? All your Saving Private Ryan bits are here, beat for beat! Now with a 5 hour brunch scene! Plus loving, tender rape (it’s okay for the pacifist to rape her because one of the rougher soldiers would have anyway!)




It’s, like, symbolic of technology vs nature.

Did you know that war is hell and that it’s dirty and muddy with muddy dirt everywhere and that soldiers are human and also civilians are human caught in the middle? Donald Kaufman sure does! He’s here to do Saving Private Ryan right, without that opening beach scene that everyone hated and with a more boring final battle.

That’s literally what Fury is: Saving Private Ryan without the beach scene and worse screenwriting 101 moments crammed in.

FABIO

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Titanfall: The Cable Brothers Official Video Review

Two game-reviewing brothers, united against a common cause, review the latest from Electronic Arts. A Caltrops exclusive from Inherent Troll Field. This is a wild ride filled to bursting with language!



The Cable Brothers

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Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet


Our Heroine Yumemi

I feel like in deciding to review Planetarian I may have bit off more than I can chew. Planetarian came out back in 2004 and received a fan translation in 2005. It only recently received a licensed translation because some increased interest in Japanese Visual Novel games has made them somewhat profitable in America. Most people who are interested in this kind of thing probably have played the fansub and they might buy the product, either from a sense of responsibility for a desire to encourage future localizations.

People who are interested in this kind of thing and haven’t played the fansub probably will buy it. I personally would like to convince those who are not at all interested in this kind of thing to buy it and give it a try. This is probably a fool’s errand since most people not interested are often violently opposed to this sort of thing. Though writing a review with anyone else in mind is a waste of time.

If you have an interest in Visual Novel then I’d say definitely give this a try as it’s very enjoyable and represents a pretty high level of craft and story telling without being a 300+ hour affair with Manzai, hidden routes, and various dead ends. It’s short, it’s sweet and it’s very good. For the rest of you, well let’s start by explaining exactly what this thing is.

First of all, Planetarian is not a game. Now I don’t mean this in the sense that it has simplified gameplay or is lacking an end state. I mean it literally. Planetarian is Visual Novel without any choices, termed ‘Kinetic Novel’ by its publisher. It’s a straight linear story. Now I guess you could probably apply the nonsense arguments like those used for Gone Home or Mountain, yeah it sure subverts game conventions, heck some might even say you’re playing with your emotions.


The Planetarium

If someone wants to get into some huff about how this is totally a valid game then they can until they’re blue in the face. Go argue with me about it in the forums if you want. I don’t think there’s any real issue with it not being a game. Many Visual Novels only feature interactivity as a means of choosing heroines, so the absence of that interactivity isn’t such a huge deal in my eyes.

That may be a little too much introduction, but it’s a necessary disclaimer. You’re getting a story which utilizes limited computer graphics, voice work, and music to mainly elicit an emotional reaction from the reader/player. These stories deserve a little of your attention as they come on to Steam. They represent earnest efforts of a lot of people and typically the ones you’re going to see localized are some of the best ones released. Though certainly you’re gonna see plenty that exist only as softcore fetish crap before soon, so keep your eyes peeled. So I guess I’ll finish up this little introduction with that.

Planetarian has an immediate and obvious advantage over most Visual Novels. Rather than being based in a potentially gay setting like a Japanese Highschool, it’s set somewhere you’re more comfortable with; a grey-brown post-apocalyptic wasteland. The story is detailed and easily immerses you in the world. Certain small touches like an explanation of why a character has to wear something really aids in the world building. It’s actually kind of amazing that there’s more world building in this simple virtual picture book than you have in the majority of AAA releases. It’s not necessarily an amazingly crafted world, but I easily would rather replay this the dozen times times needed to make up Bioshock Infinite’s playtime than finish Bioshock Infinite.


Hey kids look it’s S.T.A.L.K.E.R

Humanity is on the verge of extinction and must scrape by just to survive, all the while hunted by old automated war machines. After destroying itself with a variety of weaponry mankind is now assaulted by torrential poisonous downpours. Our nameless protagonist is a junker(the game’s term for picker) who is currently looking for things of value in a long-dead metropolitan area. While doing that he meets a robot, named Hoshino Yumemi, who works in a Planetarium. She has operated in this dead city for 30 years unaware that the world has ended. After speaking with the robot about the Planetarium he finds himself attempting to repair the projector of the Planetarium.

The protagonist’s world weariness is contrasted with Yumemi’s upbeat and aloof demeanor and we’re treated to a sort of sad before and after of the apocalypse for a chunk of the story, as the character works to repair a projector for the chance to see a starry sky that has been blotted out by torrential rain for his entire life.

It’s a touching story that really does aim for an emotional response, you might call it sentimental but I don’t think that’s so bad. It does a good job not only getting you sympathetic for both characters, but also Yumemi comes across as irritating to the player as the protagonist but still grows on you over time. It achieves a good sense of a person becoming nostalgic for a world he never has and never will know.


Hey it’s got iron sights, so it’s gotta be pretty good, right?

The game is fully voiced in Japanese and features pretty good audio work altogether. The art is very good as well. Certainly many of the visuals do consist of an anime girl with a dialog box below her but when it does move away from that, things are animated and displayed very well. It’s a little hard to go over the technical merits of a Visual Novel but this one certainly is top notch in that regard.

My only complaint is that it might be priced a little high for what it is. The price certainly makes sense in the context of there being an existing fanbase which will likely buy this out of solidarity. Though I feel like 5 bucks would have been a much better price point, but maybe everyone is pricing with the eventually 50% discounts in mind. I honestly have trouble understanding the perpetual state of discount we’re in with gaming now.

It’s worth buying and playing, I’d say it’s at least as good as The Walking Dead games, which I’m sure isn’t something many may agree with. Though I’d like to encourage anyone who is curious about Visual Novels at least take a plunge on this one. As always I’m available to have bile launched at me in the forums at on Twitter. If you’re thinking of dropping cash on Hatoful Boyfriend for some chuckles you could probably do a lot better picking this up. Even if I haven’t convinced you very well, I’d say maybe wait for this to go on sale and give it a try. It really does represent a significant effort and if nothing else features nice visual and audio work with an enjoyable story.

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Worm

Bang.

School started a couple weeks ago for my kids, both of whom have to get up earlier than ever before to catch their respective buses. My 12-year-old son’s bus runs at 6:30am; he gets up at 6. My nine-year-old daughter gets to “sleep in” until 6:45am.

This morning when I went into my daughter’s room to wake her up, she rolled over, pointed her finger at me, and said “bang.” A cute, innocent gesture from a child who probably learned it from watching SpongeBob or Bugs Bunny do it. (We watch a lot of retro cartoons in my house.) Had I made this gesture as a child to my parents they would have either laughed or simply “shot” me back. Instead, I had to sit my daughter down and explain to her why she can never make this violent gesture outside our home.

Last year, my seven-year-old nephew got suspended from school for three days for bringing a knife to school. He had just joined the Boy Scouts and received his first pocket knife: a tiny “Swiss Army” knock-off complete with a bottle opener, corkscrew, nail file, and a couple of rusty blades no longer than your big toe. He knew he wasn’t supposed to bring it to school but, being seven-years-old and the proud owner of a “new” knife, he did. He showed it to a friend during recess, who told another friend, who told somebody else, who told a teacher. A few minutes later my sister was on her way to the school to pick up this obvious menace to society. I doubt that knife could have penetrated someone’s eyeball without a ten yard running start, but rules are rules, and common sense be damned.

Earlier this week, a high school student in South Carolina was both arrested and suspended for writing a story about shooting a dinosaur in creative writing class. In 2013, a five-year-old child in Oklahoma was asked to turn his Michigan sweatshirt inside out because it “promoted gang activity.” Earlier this year, a third grader in Colorado was suspended for shaving her head, which she did to support her friend who has cancer. Earlier this month, a Florida mother had the audacity to let her seven-year-old walk by himself to a neighborhood park. She was arrested and charged with child neglect — a felony. Last month a woman was arrested for leaving her nine-year-old at a park by herself.

Last month, a fourth grader from Georgia who was given a school assignment to “bring in some of your favorite toys to talk about” was suspended for bringing a Nerf gun to school. This spring, a high school student was suspended for refusing to turn his NRA t-shirt inside out. The school said that the boy’s shirt “violated the school’s policy prohibiting clothing that might incite or encourage violent activities” by displaying the Second Amendment. In 2000, police were called after a fourth grader threatened to shoot a paper wad at another student using a rubber band. In 2008, a third grade student was suspended and set home after bringing a 1 1/2 inch charm/medallion shaped like a gun to school. “Rumors of the incident also scared two families into keeping their children home the next day,” according to the story.

The story that came to mind though was this one. In 2013, a third grader was suspended for “using his thumb and index finger to pretend his hand was a gun,” exactly what my daughter did to me. I had to sit down with my nine-year-old daughter and explain to her that pointing her finger at someone and pretending it was a gun — even if her finger wasn’t loaded — could get her suspended from school.

What I didn’t tell her about were all the times my friends and I played cops and robbers. We played “war” a lot as a kid. A few of us had camouflage pants and hand-me-down Army jackets that we would wear while running around the neighborhood chasing one another and yelling “bang!” Then there were the Roman Candle wars, in which we lit fireworks and shot them at one another. God forbid the stories of our BB gun wars ever get out; I don’t know that 30 years exceeds the statute of limitations for that.

One year for Halloween I dressed up as a ninja, and carried with me a real ninja sword. While the blade was made of aluminum alloy and therefor unable to be sharpened, I’m sure that would not dissuade a police officer or well-meaning citizen for shooting you for brandishing it. Had someone tried to take it from me I would have thrown one of the throwing stars in my pocket at them. Not one of those dumb foam ones; real metal ones, the ones that stuck in wood and sheet rock and people’s faces.

For the record, I never stuck a shuriken into anyone’s face. I played Dungeons and Dragons and never worshiped the devil. I listened to heavy metal and never tried drugs. I played with toys with little parts and never choked. I drank drinks with aspartame and never got cancer. I watched violent movies and played violent video games and never once tried to kill anyone.

And I pointed my finger at other kids, said “bang,” and never once shot another human being.

Just for the record — so far we have suspended and/or arrested children for wearing t-shirts with college logos, bringing Nerf guns and gun-shaped medallions (the size of a Monopoly piece) to school, shaving their heads to support friends with cancer, threatening to shoot another student with a rubber band, and for writing about threatening to shoot a neighbor’s pet dinosaur as part of a creative writing assignment.

Earlier this week, a gun range instructor was killed after handing a fully automatic Uzi submachine to a nine-year-old girl (the same age as my daughter) at a gun range as her parents recorded the incident with their cell phone. It is not currently known whether or not the girl had ever worn Michigan sweatshirts to school, shaved her head, or ever walked to a park alone before.

Neither the girl’s parents nor the gun range, all of whom thought it would be a good idea to place a fully automatic machine gun in the hands of a nine-year-old girl, have been charged with any crimes.

Our kids are not the problem here.

Bang.