Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
After chiming in on last week’s Dead Space 3, Drew Toal was on double duty for shooting-spooky-things-in-space games and took a look at Aliens: Colonial Marines. Drew didn’t care for the revisionist adaptation/continuation of the famous Aliens film, and neither did Valondar, who pointed to larger issues behind the series’ troubles:
Besides the saturation of below-par Aliens franchise entries, the other problem for Aliens is its many, many imitators. That it was released on the heels of Dead Space 3 sort of underlines that, but the omnipresent first-person shooter narrative cliché of the badass space marine blasting away at some safely nonhuman menace (”toughest space trooper to ever suck vacuum,” to use a certain game’s precise words) owes a lot to James Cameron’s film. Just to cite a less-mentioned example: 1993’s Space Hulk, a game set in the Warhammer 40K universe where you play as marines charging around abandoned starships killing aliens and other monstrosities.
And on the other hand, the actual extent of the setting people are interested in is fairly limited. Hence a game that revived a planet that had been blown up. This isn’t a fast, open space universe like Mass Effect where we can just go see what humans and aliens are doing on Exciting Locale X. It’s humans in grimy spaceships and abandoned facilities, and also there are aliens. It’s a powerful set of settings for two movies, but to endlessly recycle them in games is a bit samey.
In response, Kid van Danzig elaborated on what unexpected elements worked best in Aliens’ favor:
It’s ironic because the Aliens setting is probably its strongest element. It provides a perfect contrast to the clean and idyllic (read: boring) human futures of Star Trek and the like. Alien is all about space truckers being exploited by their lawless bosses and chased by a space monster in a space haunted house. There are no space truckers in the Mass Effect universe.
Aliens kept the corporate exploitation theme but expanded the haunted house element to a Roanoke scenario, which was smart. The most ingenious thing about it, that which none of its legion of descendants have bothered to replicate, is its disruption of viewer expectation. Like in the first film, the people you think are going to be most important die in pretty short order, but unlike the first film we actually expect the characters to give as good as they take, and that sense of misfortune and doom is what makes it an effective horror-thriller in addition to a seminal actioner.
Really it feels like all of the properties’ stewards (excepting maybe David Fincher’s famously troubled production) have only really paid attention to the space marine action element and wasted the Lovecraftian/body horror elements of the series as cheap shock.
Metal Gear Rising On The Cake
Scott Jones reviewed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a stylish slasher where a disguised cyborg ninja slices his way through enemies and all the way into the player’s heart. Since Revengeance is the 10th-or-so entry in the Metal Gear series—albeit a spinoff—Enkidum asked where a novice should start getting into Metal Gear. Colonel gave a simple answer:
Just strap on in for Metal Gear Solid 3. It’s a prequel to everything, and aside from a few references and in-jokes, you need absolutely zero knowledge of the series. It’s still got lengthy exposition, but the cutscene-to-gameplay ratio is better than the other games.Also, you’ve got The End and a fucking fantastic final boss/ending.
Going more in-depth, Caspian Comic elaborated:
Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 3 I can recommend with only a few qualifications. Metal Gear Solid 2 is particularly unusual even by the standards of this series and requires a bedrock of knowledge gleaned from MGS1. Metal Gear Solid 4 is probably the worst of the lot, with a shameful cutscene-to-gameplay ratio, and on top of that, it requires you to be intimately familiar with the entire series to care about or even understand at the most basic level what’s going on.
And for what it’s worth, while I consider the series one of gaming’s greatest dynasties, and familiarity with them will improve your gaming vocabulary on the whole, I don’t know if I’d really consider them “essential reading.” Especially if, unlike, say, me, your time is valuable and actually at a premium due to work or family commitments.
You can think of the Metal Gear Solid series as gaming’s equivalent to the works of James Joyce. They’re interminably long, impossible to really understand, and while they’re seminal examples of avant-garde storytelling in their respective mediums, you can fake your way through most conversations about them without having actually experienced them yourself.
John Teti alerted us to a new Gameological side feature that answers just such questions:
Hey, everyone, we’re trying a new experiment on our social media tendrils. We asked our followers on Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook to send us specific questions about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and then we chose a few of them and made Scott Jones answer them, via Skype video. Consider it an add-on to the full review.
It’s the brainchild of Gameological’s assistant editor, Matt Gerardi, and we’re creatively calling it a “Review Check-In.” You can catch the new videos (and the calls for questions) if you follow us on one of those thousands of social networks. We’ll sometimes be posting these before the full review is finished, to give you a sense of the critic’s impressions and whet your appetite for the review.
Here’s the first one. These are a quick and dirty affair, but two out of six people have already given this video a “thumbs up,” and I couldn’t be prouder.
And Now For Something Completely Different
If you found yourself wondering what questionably titled games besides Revengeance were released this past week, then look no further than Drew Toal’s Out This Week column. Responding to literally no part of Toal’s article, Beema linked us to an interesting article on older gamers banding together to play games online:
Apropos of nothing, I just stumbled upon this fucking awesome stuff.
Online communities for older gamers to network and play online! Without all the damned kids! FUCK YEAH!
Bar Crawl In The Family
Drew Toal walked us through some of Skyrim’s most notable bars with a handy guide that would put Zagat’s to shame. Horatio Scornblower shared a favorite Skyrim story that took place in Drew’s “Best New Bar,” complete with passion and revengeance aplenty:
I have fond memories of the New Gnisis Corner Club when I just started out with my Bosmer thief (and later assassin). I was very low level, probably around 10, not as much concerned with leveling up so much as with wandering around the way I hadn’t with my first character.
So I get to Windhelm and decide, hey, no one can see me in here except this guy, how about I steal that piece of Imperial armor that’s on the table? So I did, and it turns out that he didn’t see me! Sweet!
A few days later, I’m back in Windhelm and about to try to start the Blood On The Ice quest when what do I see but a band of mercenaries charging at me straight through the gate? I’m still very low level and don’t have much to my name, either in terms of money, potions, arrows, or mana, so what commenced was about five to seven straight minutes of me running and jumping around Windhelm, firing the occasional arrow if I could spare it, spewing a weak ass fire spell, occasionally getting a good hack in, and repeating that process until all three were dead. I checked the note on one of them, and apparently the owner of the Corner Club knew I stole that damn armor after all.
Needless to say, once I was around level 25 and the best goddamn assassin in all of Tamriel, I went back to the Corner Club and very discreetly slit his throat and killed his assistant outside. Good times.
Rectangle Of 4Tune
John Teti gave us the inside scoop on Sony’s recent press conference announcing their newest, and techiest, console the Playstation 4. Dan Whitehead also responded, noting the importance of social media in the upcoming generation:
I think this is why there’s such an expanding gulf between the mainstream games industry and indie developers these days. One side is constantly hungry for more polygons, more RAM, more everything, and the other is looking for ways to be more interesting while using less. What’s interesting is that with Facebook games and iOS titles, it’s clear that the general public is out of step with the core industry. Sony’s presentation did nothing to address this, which doesn’t bode well. The console that succeeds this generation won’t be the one with the biggest veiny throbbing teraflops, but the one that comes up with an accessible and open marketplace for independent developers that can rival the App Store. In other words, it’ll probably be Apple.
And Soredomia left us with this quote:
“They do not possess the true fire. They speak of creation and they boast of their potential but they do not create anything beyond the mundane. Their imagination is poor, obsessed with the small details. A true Dreamer, I say, creates a grand scheme and then concentrates on the details. Starting with the details is for the ants of the imagination—the small insects who aspire only to be fed.”
Apparently, that’s a line from Planescape: Torment. Cool! Well, that’s it folks. As always, thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.