Why ReviewTech USA is wrong about Tomb Raider: Definitive edition

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.

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No matter which side of the fence you sit in terms of the great next gen fanboy wars, the vicious competition for ‘console exclusives’ shows that the followers of either next gen console just wants a bigger library of games to show that developers have as much love for their gaming platform as they have for it.

 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.

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Gamers are already pretty well informed about when a publisher is trying to scam them, and really, it’s only when they try to exploit the player through DLC excessively that the element of ‘choice’ goes entirely. Tomb Raider: DE isn’t forcing anything onto the player, it’s expanding a pre-existing and essentially self-contained experience.

 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.

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Increased graphical capacities such as a greater viewing distance can make a beautifully detailed world like GTA V even more spectacular.

 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.

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Gears of War-a saga which depicts the cruelty of war rather than glorifies it

[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.

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Gears of War represents not merely a battle against the Locust but humanity’s struggle with its own self-destructive nature

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.

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Humanity is not literally being crushed only by the Locust but by their obsession with war itself.

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.

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Myrrah tries to justify the genocide of humans with rousing speeches and is portrayed as an elegant figure in the same way that many wars have been depicted as…but this cannot disguise the underlying brutality of war or the cruelty of her own martial doctrines

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.

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Every war has its cost, and those who fuel it are often the ones consumed by it.

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.

MasterMachiavel