…looks like Sweden just killed the Royal Rat Vanguard without any sweeping attacks…
The first half was just atrocious, with Telltale seeming to embrace linearity tedium rather than attempting to break out of it.
DAT SECOND HALF THO. For anyone who played the first Walking Dead…you’re in for a treat!
There is no doubt right now that Venezuela is embroiled in a clash between government and opposition, and that a country already besieged by high homicide rates is beginning to see an unparalleled level of violence in recent weeks. There is no doubt that both sides can only view this as bad, and bringing an already economically fragile country to the brink of ruin(although the owners of private capital might indulge in some schadenfreude were the economy to collapse, hailing it as something akin to the decimation of the USSR economy in the late 1970s which saw a fiercely communist government relenting before a wave of privatisation and price mechanism reforms). However, in my opinion, this is not the right way to go, and in fact, i hope the current government does survive this wave of protests…but not for the reasons you might think.
There is no doubt that elements of the old regime of the upper classes were behind agitating the 2002 coup, some might say in an undemocratic fashion, and despite opinions which state otherwise, Venezuela entertains a strong anti-government media presence although US media outlets often play that fact down. However, what is different between that coup and now is that whilst that was very much action engineered by a small elite who felt excluded in the new socialist order, these are evidently protests with a much stronger middle class backing, and hence, something which suggests a disaffection creeping across all the class lines. In my opinion, people can say what they like about Chavez, but there is no doubt that he helped lift thousands of marginalised workers and farmers out of squalid poverty, and emphasised their importance in society like no governments previously had ever bothered with. What Maduro must now realise though is that the first part of the socialist mission is now done, the sharp transition to liberal democracy has to begin immediately.
Just as the working class of the old order were previously neglected socially due to a lack of investment in education and healthcare, so too are the current middle classes being neglected by Maduro in terms of the certainty of rule of law, the ability to protest and the basic guarantees of the capacity to form small and medium-sized private businesses to feed themselves and inject the economy with much needed production and incentive mechanisms which the private economy delivers best in order to force down rampant inflation rates. For me personally, I think Venezuela is much better off without relying on foreign corporations exploiting its natural resources and corrupting the government from the outside, whilst forcing the populace into a state of servitude. However, it is no better when that corruption and oppression is home-bred either, thus, it is up to Maduro to deliver the reform people need and trust the skill and energy of the Venzuelan people in producing their own goods and driving the economy forward on the steeds of innovation and imagination, traits which the individual possesses much more so than the state. Any form of corporation is bad, whether it be the state corporation or foreign corporations.
For me, as a person who has some roots in South America(a few uncles here and there), I cannot truly understand every little piece of history which is going on there…but there is no doubt that the multiple socialist governments which have risen in Latin America is not due to ignorance by the populace, it is not due to military force being used to prop up anti-colonialist dictators, it is rooted in a deep, and justifiable distrust of the control of means of production by a select few aristocrats who lacked the imagination and empathy to help the oppressed and marginalised within their societies. What must be realised however, is that aristocrats in extravagant robes and splendid mansions are just as bad as aristocrats in military uniforms and red berets. The state cannot become the very corporation it sought to dismantle.
For me personally, I think Maduro will do too little too late, and the ticking time bomb that is the economy might just eat away at his support base in the workers who do actually support his government of their own free will, not because they were ‘bribed’ by Chavez with social missions and free healthcare, but because for the first time in a long time, they were treated as equals in society under his rule. If the opposition wins without understanding this plight, and realising the good Chavez actually did, then the cycle continues, and in ten years time, the injustice of the workers will become just as apparent as the injuries currently inflicted onto the middle class. Only through the synthesis of liberalism and humanism will not only a stable government, but a healthy prosperous society be cultivated.
Here’s hoping that both sides finally see reason and that the violence and chaos stops once and for all.
…is when university students stop copying and pasting Wikipedia into their dissertations, and begin using Uncyclopedia instead, citing it as a ‘respected author’.
Though to be honest, that’s not half as bad as people citing Tacitus as a respected historian!
A lot of movie franchises seem to have been revived over the past few years, like Total Recall, Robocop and even Judge Dredd. Perhaps a few rappers could follow the same trend in 2014?
Machiavelli, a political philosopher from Florence claims that faking one’s own death serves as a good way to escape a life of danger and violence…kind of like alot of gangsters on the street had to suffer, and kind of like Tupac himself had to endure.
Maybe 2014 is the year to watch out for, for it might just be the year of Tupac’s homecoming.
…when you realise that Rockstar’s game ‘Bully’ is essentially just an autobiography of Dan Houser’s time at school.
It should have all just been a dream! Why didn’t they do it so that the evil villain is actually another effect of his multiple personality disorder! For some reason, certain people seem to think these over-proposed well-worn tropes are ‘novel’ and ‘unique’ ideas which instantly introduce that necessary psychological dimension that turns good to great…IT DOESN’T:
i)Far Cry 3 doesn’t need Vaas to be Jason Brody to be good
ii)Breaking Bad doesn’t need Heisenberg’s final episode to be ‘a dream’ to make sense and be gripping
iii)the Mass Effect 3 ending doesn’t need to be a dream to create a coherent conclusion, because let’s face it, NOTHING WILL SAVE THAT ENDING…NOTHING.
So please, anytime you see someone propose these two ‘solutions’ to any form of artistic medium, you should hope for these two possibilities to actually be happening:
i)this is all a dream designed to reflect greater themes of frustration plaguing your life
ii)your other personality is fabricating the article in your mind to torture you and further fragment your mind.
Dedicated to the marvellous critical abilities of Emily Nussbaum of ‘The New Yorker’, whose insight into what makes a good finale can be found here=> http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/09/breaking-bad-finale-reviewed.html
Yours sincerely, MM
[No spoilers for the current episode will be mentioned, but some spoilers for the previous episode will be mentioned]
The Wolf Among Us(TWAU) started out with a strong and gripping opening last year, evolving from the already engaging Walking Dead series, the dialogue felt more mature, the artistic direction more resplendent and the choice system itself more sophisticated than ever before. It is without a doubt that this episode then is crippled by an overly lengthy wait between this episode and the previous one, which perhaps has stacked onto Telltale unrealistic expectations of the quality of this episode. Whilst this episode was overall an experience I enjoyed, it lacked the general sense of satisfaction it was hinted it would provide in the last episode, and moreover, the actual longevity of the episode itself is too short to truly justify the wait we had to endure.
Smoke and Mirrors starts out with an interesting start, and it is evident that TellTale have fine-tuned their craft of realistically shaping the responses of the characters in the world to protagonist, Detective Bigby’s own gruff and world-weary dialogue. Whereas previously, it felt like dialogue choices were half acknowledged by characters in the world, this time there seems to be a growing trend of different dialogue choices spiralling into mini forms of interaction and generally sustaining the atmosphere in a more vivid manner. This welcome attention to detail in terms of cultivating more interesting responses comes at a cost though, of the all important ‘major decisions’ which usually defines each episode of Telltale games. Whereas the overriding decision to either go for Lawrence or Toad defined a large part of the first episode, this episode doesn’t really present any significant choices at all that endowed the first episode such impact and a sense of suspense.
Still, whilst the capacity to make choices in this episode is severely lacking, I think that people have not fully given Telltale credit where it is due in terms of having choices front he last episode affect this one. Having gone back and played the interrogation scene two times with different choices(one with W and one with T), Telltale has subtly done something which people who have not played twice will not notice…actually given some effect to our choices in a meaningful way. The interrogation scenes actually offer different viewpoints on the case, and really feel more meaningful than saving Carley or Doug ever truly did in later episodes. Still, even this has its limits though, and things which seemed important such as literally tearing someone’s arm off in the previous episode still invites ridicule when they act as though nothing significant has happened.
Another thing to note with this episode is the lack of action sequences like the last episode, especially the final fight with Gren which certainly added to a level of tension and drama which this episode seems less focused on. Still, one part I did find quite interesting was the mixture between full out action and more subtle dialogue in the interrogation scene hinted at in the last episode. Suffice it to say, it was a nice addition to the series in which one can either play ‘good cop’ or ‘bad cop’ in terms of interrogation, with two characters behind Bigby serving to either scorn or praise Bigby’s approach to the interrogation. This form of interrogation showed up a few times later on and for me, showed the increasingly difficult moral choice for Bigby between ‘doing his job’ in solving the case, no matter how cruel that might be, and attempting to salvage some form of respect from an already distrustful Fable populace, and as the case becomes more intense, Telltale’s insistence on testing the player’s own moral convictions is to be applauded.
It was evident though that this unique fusion of dialogue and ‘action’ was still predominated by a focus on dialogue and on expanding the narrative rather than really allowing Bigby to partake in directing the narrative, as yet again shown by the paucity of major decisions present in the episode. For those who enjoy a more relaxed sense of pace and a trickle of information rather than the deluge of facts, opinions and revelations which the first episode offered, they might still enjoy this episode(which I certainly did) but still feel as though the fairly brisk momentum of the last episode which suddenly screeched to a halt this episode but then changes direction entirely 12 minutes into the episode is off-putting and shows some hesitation by the developer to really carry through the story which enticed us in the first place.
In conclusion, I did enjoy this episode, but I wasn’t satisfied by it. For the long wait we have been subjected to, it didn’t feel as though it justified the season pass and money spent,not to mention the fact that whereas the previous episode alluded to a lot more happening in this episode, it feels evident that whatever strange circumstances have plagued the developer so far didn’t even allow for the complete episode to be shipped out, and the ending to this episode feels as though it comes abruptly and without warning as opposed to the interesting increase in tension in the last episode as every suspect was methodically pursued. There is no doubt that in some aspects of this game, there are improvements, and the underlying essence is still fundamentally the ‘Wolf Among Us’ that we came to love and respect in the last episode, but at the same time, there is a feeling of a rushed product as the length of the story fails to capitalise on the frantic pace the last episode seemed to deliver and what we find is ultimately a more hollow experience than the previous one. I would personally say skip this one, pretend the Wolf Among Us is still suspended in a Half Life 3-esque uncertain state of development, and that the next episode delivers a more meaty product which makes the conclusion to this episode feel less frustrating. This is not because Telltale is a bad studio by any means, or that this is necessarily a bad story, but merely an INCOMPLETE one, and for some, that might be more infuriating than a further wait.
Recently, much to the joy of many fans of the Tomb Raider franchise, the new Tomb Raider will be updated graphically and released for the new Xbox One and PS4. For many people, the major source of contention about this release seems to be the actual extent to which either console can unlock new graphical potential in the game, and of course, the infamous framerate issue seems to be dominating many of the headlines for major gaming journalism outlets. However, that’s not my concern here, and in fact, it’s not ReviewTech USA’s, either, rather, he claims that it is a scam to release a new version of the game considering it was only released last year for last-gen consoles. Aside from the fact that mostly everything ReviewTech USA ever writes about tends to be wounded by his own double standards and even complaining about the whole Youtube copyright claim furor a month ago(despite the fact his fellow ‘lesser’ competitiors had to suffer that for much longer and without being bribed by the Youtube autocracy), he is particularly wrong here because he’s failing to see the legiitmate desires and demands which many gamers have about the next gen consoles, something which Square Enix understands better than he does and, as one does in a capitalist society, are satisfying in order to make profit.
My first point is that many gamers have already invested hefty sums into next-gen consoles, and are rewarded for their faith to their favorite console series by a string of lacklustre games which are scarcely pushing any form of graphical limits whatsoever. Many of these games, whether they be something so constrained as ‘Knack’ for PS4, or something so fiercely opposed to cogent gameplay as ‘Ryse’ for Xbox One are severely underwhelming in terms of really justifying for these people why they bought the consoles so early on. Though something like ‘Ryse’ might deliver very nice graphics, there has been a failure to balance a next gen game with good gameplay as well as showing off the magnificent graphical potential the Sony and Microsoft overlords have been boasting of for some time now. This financial investment is colossal, and it explains well why people also develop something akin to an emotional investment into these products as well, and thus, people want to feel as though that emotional investment, like any real life relationship, is actually paying off in terms of tangible benefits for themselves. This is why the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is welcomed by many on the next gen, it is objectively an entertaining game which is now undergoing a dramatic facelift to showcase what the new consoles can really do, and also acting as a restraint on console owners who are close to hurling their new consoles out of the window out of sheer frustration. ReviewTech USA might claim that this is just a massive scam to dupe people into paying more, but what he doesn’t realise is that when a demand for a product exists, and people are willing to pay for it, then it becomes servicing demand. That’s why anytime a developer releases T-shirts branded with a gamer’s favorite game franchise like Metal Gear Solid or Halo, they’re not being scammed, they’re showing their love for the franchise by buying the merchandise, but also gain the pleasure of a nice aesthetic T-shirt which demonstrates their loyalty to their franchise. This is why expanding the game library for their favorite console is just as good, because it rewards the faithful for their loyalty to the console and also helps to act as a stepping stone into what new original games could deliver in the future. As the saying goes, ‘time you enjoyed wasting was not time wasted’, and if people want to ‘waste’ their cash on these things, that’s because they want it in the first place.
My second point is brief, and perhaps obvious, but it is this, people have a CHOICE as to whether to purchase this new Definitive Edition or not. ReviewTech USA, despite his easygoing amicable manner in which he pretends to just be on our side and informing us of the dangers we cannot possibly see ourselves, is even more patronising and cynical than he supposes Tomb Raider: Fraud Edition is…he thinks that his fanbase is so incapable of recognising the subtle ploy by Square Enix to get more money, that we will literally all spend our last few dollars on the game, and in the process, lapse into financial ruin…except for the fact that this isn’t the case at all. It’s pretty obvious to anyone, especially the gamer crowd who tend to be more intelligent and informed than more other consumers out there when it comes to a new product being severely overpriced, which is why EA is basically flamed by gamers everywhere everytime it tries to bleed us dry financially for very trivial DLC or DLC which seeks to exploit the player excessively. The Tomb Raider update however, is not like this necessarily because firstly, it isn’t crucial to our enjoyment of the last Tomb Raider to play it, it is an experience which can be enjoyed in its own right for the graphical improvements it boasts, which is akin to ultra-PC levels of splendor, seen only on stellar titles such as the Witcher 2. If we don’t feel it is worth buying because we already have something like an ultra performing PC, then we won’t buy it, but for ReviewTech USA to presume we hadn’t arrived at this conclusion about a week before he did just goes to show that same exemplary judgment he always displays when needed most. For most people seeking to justify their consoles however, as I stated in the prior paragraph, they will embrace this product as evidence that publishers are giving their consoles the love which over $400 paid upfront suggests the consumer themselves have. Ultimately though, the choice is completely up to the consumer.
Lastly, and this is something which has been echoed pretty universally on the forums, comments sections and even in gaming publications as well…most people want to see not only graphically impressive games on the next gen consoles, but moreover, want to see last gen games on the next gen consoles. Square Enix is probably ahead of the curve in this aspect, but there have been more than just a few voices who are arguing actively that developers should spend time on updating late last gen games so that they can enjoy them in a novel and unprecedented way. Even games like Dark Souls 2 is being entertained as a game which might be re-released for the next gen, and that’s a game which hasn’t even come out yet! Other games, like GTA V which already boasted astounding gameplay retain alot of support from many quarters about being pushed onto the next gen because whilst the next gen might not introduce new gameplay mechanics which radically alters the game, graphical improvements can really change not only the feel fo the game but how satisfying a game it truly is. People might argue tthe whole ‘graphics vs gameplay’ debate all they like, but there’s no doubt that when it comes to atmosphere,(which contributes to some degree to the enjoyment of a game), graphics can make a major difference. When you’re flying in a plane in GTA V and you see trees and objects popping into view as you approach them, this can be as corrosive to the gameplay experience as shooting mechanics which feel awkward or driving mechanics which are sluggish and lack precision. For a game like Tomb Raider, the experience is not the idea of an open world, but rather of brutal survival, and so for that to really take hold, making the world feel alot more desolate and bleak can contribute to the atmosphere and hence the enjoyment of the game in subtle but self-evident ways. Foliage which reacts to your character much more so introduces a sense of vivid realism, and could potentially allow for sections which involve hidden enemies to rely less on merely spotting an enemy and more so on using the environment to judge where enemies are. Smoke effects within buildings adds to the sense of panic and dismay players feel during escape sequences whereas previously, those areas might have felt bare and less effective.
Ultimately, it is up to the player to make the choice whether or not they want not just Tomb Raider: DE, but any kind of game which is essentially a product which mainly only offers graphical upgrades, but that doesn’t mean it is a scam, just something which can either introduce gamers who only have next gen consoles to the game itself or allow pre-existing fans of the game to enjoy it in a new and more immersive environment. ReviewTech USA is wrong then not merely to suggest that buying this new game is bad, but moreover to suggest that any form of game which translates from one console to the next gen is bad and that developers should stop doing this, because they shouldnt’. The risk is entirely on the developer and publisher as to whether their previous game commanded good enough sales and loyalty that investing money into a new version of the game will create a reasonable profit, and provided the publisher does not actively attempt to mislead the consumer into what new features should be added, it is up to players themselves as to whether or not they want to buy these games. Consumers, especially not gamers, don’t need ReviewTech USA to tell them why a product is bad in order to make that informed choice, because in this case, it’s a matter of personal taste rather than factual merits of purchasing a game based purely on aesthetic rather than on gameplay additions.
[NOTE BEFORE, HEAVY SPOILERS IN THE ARTICLE BELOW]
The Gears of War series has had many charges hurled against it in the past ranging from its damaging effect upon the gaming medium in creating a proliferation of ‘cover shooters’ of ‘chest high walls’ to its corrosive effects upon the morality of society itself, especially considering the fact it apparently glorifies war and depicts its bulky warriors as the height of virility. However, during the course of this article, I’d like to show a different side, a side which might not necessarily emerge through naturally through dialogue, but one which is being portrayed in the setting of the game as well as the overarching plot’s events.
Gears of War depicts the ongoing war between the subterraean Locust Hordes and the struggling survivors of ‘E-Day’, the humans themselves. What is interesting to note before is that in the prologue to Gears of War 2, the near apocalyptic events of ‘E-Day’, that si whent he Locust staged an ambush from underground to flood the cities with Locust and exterminate much of the population, they were weakened by their own wars and obsession with violence as shown through the ‘Pendulum Wars’ before the events of Gears of War, fought over the major fuel source of Sera, imulsion. In this sense, we can see a symbolic connection between the E-Day and the actual idea of Judgement Day in more than just the fact that humans are being exterminated, the humans are being exterminated because they have become so immoral and vicious that they are judged as unfit to survive. Myrrah herself claims that the extermination of the human race was something they brought upon themselves. It was not referencing some kind of injury which the humans had dealt to the Locust, but rather the idea that the destruction of humanity was the logical conclusion of the battles which preceded E-Day, and that the Locust are merely there to spur on humanity’s self-engineered demise. This leads on to an even more intriguing aspect of the Gears of War narrative, that of the metaphorical signficance of the Locust themselves.
The Locust are portrayed as utterly cruel and depraved. They have no qualms about slaughtering men, women and children and serve a singular purpose of engaging in a never-ending war with humanity until it is entirely crushed. At first, one might infer that the Locust are merely generic cannon fodder who exist to satisfy the trope of ‘utterly evil enemy which has to be killed’…however, further scrutiny reveals a more tragic and potentially horrific element to their existence. Many of the Locust are humanoid in character, and their leader, Myrrah is especially humanoid. The only thing that has truly deformed them and alienated them from humanity itself isn’t merely their grotesque appearance, it is their unerring love for murder and destruction, which has led them to the mission of expunging Sera of all human life. This is because in actuality, the Locust represent the mindset of any soldier who is committed to war. War transforms a reasonable man into one whose sole purpose is to murder and kill others, and this means that inevitably, they will surrender those parts of themselves which defines them as humans, which is why if the Locust were a peaceful band of traders who still resembled deformed men,the metaphor would be lost. It is war that deforms them so, and as any soldier’s true purpose in battle, their love of war means that they relish the opportunity to kill any man in their way. Although one might argue that some wars are noble in purpose and thus, the idea of the genocidal Locust representing all soldiers is flawed, one needs only look further into the motivations behind the Locust to realise that their same motivations are similar to that of any other nation out there which attempts to seize the semblance of virtue. Whilst most Locust are incapable of articulating their own reasons for destroying the human race, Myrrah serves as the eloquent messenger of death, describing the necessity of the destruction of the humans, framing their extinction in a scientific way as though nature itself demands their destruction to allow the physically superior Locust to occupy Nature’s position of lords of Sera. Ultimately, most players will see this ‘noble mission’ for what it is, a land grab by Myrrah to try and placate her restless Locust hordes and an attempt to justify the systematic slaughter of countless men, women and children…but are these not the same motivations that spurs on any soldier? Have these promises of glory not been fed during WWII, and WWI, and the Great Napoleonic Wars, and during the colonization of Australia and the Americas? The series demonstrates that every war has its ‘justification’ but challenges the player to analyse whether it can every truly justify the deaths of other men.
This ‘addiction’ to war is also widely reflected in the ‘addiction’ to imulsion, that is essentially the fuel for most of modern day civilization’s machinery and infrastructure. imulsion is so precious as to be equated to our own world’s oil, and in fact it was this reliance that spawned so much inter-necine conflict between the humans in the first place and left the humans vulnerable to attack fromt he otuset. In this sense, imulsion portrays two things, not only that the over-reliance and addiction to certain things can be damaging and harmful, but that the very nature of this addiction fuels another more devastating addiction, that of war. Moreover, it is a subtle social commentary on the way in which fuel might often be a seductive commodity to wage wars for, as the Iraq war and Gulf Wars both illustrate this, here fuel is not only a reason to wage war but also the way in which war itself is fuelled. It is this destructive cycle that plagues Sera and has culminated in the near extinction of humanity.
However, there is an even more interesting analysis to be gained here. The theory that the Locust are merely humans deformed b a lust for war goes further, it could be that the Locust were actually humans at one point in the lore of the story but were changed when they were exposed to imulsion, something which is explored in Gears of War 3. It is by being exposed to this ‘addiction’ for war and fuel for so long that literally changes men from normal beings to the savage killers that comprise the Locust race. This is heavily suggested by the fact that the more imulsion creatures in Gears of War 3 are exposed to, the more powerful and deranged they become. This is why the final weapon in the Gears of War trilogy is so effective, since it targets all the emulsion in all infected Locust and humans, it is literally destroying the ‘addiction’ man has to war, an addiction which once destroyed will finally secure a path to peace for the world at last. This solution does not come without a price though, Marcus realises that his father has infected himself with imulsion to study the effects just as the weapon is about to fire. It is a point of tragedy when Marcus beholds his father transformed into ashes before his very eyes as the imulsion dooms his father to death. This could merely be an opportunity by the writers to reinforce the concept of sacrifice into the nature of war, but the actual meaning is more sophisticated than that. As Myrrah later recalls, Marcus’ father was not only a scientist who helps end the war, he was the architect of some of the most powerful and terrible weapons of the war, especially the Hammer of Dawn. In a sense, whilst the soldiers are both actors and victims in the war, he has merely contributed to the deaths of many, not only of Locust kind but in the most desperate stages of the war, even civilian populations in an effort to deny the Locust any ground. His death affirms the fact that all wh participate in war have to be held accountable at some time, just as humanity itself was judged by the Locust for their own addiction to war.
Though Gears of War might not retain the sophisticated dialogue of a Bioware game and often appears to indulge more in gratuitous violence than it does criticise it, there exist many subtle elements of satire and criticism built into the structure of the world itself. It might be excessive to say that a game which regularly encourages its players to sever foes into pieces with a chainsaw built into a gun is a sophisticated critique of war, it definitely acknowledges the brutality of war, something which is demonstrated by the end of the series when all the soldiers rejoice the end of the war. They are too scarred by the lives sacrificed and the violence of the war to usher it back, and with the destruction of imulsion, perhaps not only their means to war but also their addiction to war have finally been destroyed once and for all and love and compassion can enter back into the lives not only of the Cog soldiers, but humanity itself.