Thief: The Dark Project (1999) Gold edition review

thief poster

Rated: 4 / 5

This is a game I’ve been interested in trying for years now.  Back in the early 2000s, a few friends of mine tried to get me into it, but to no avail for a couple of reasons.

1.) Every time my mother or father had purchased a computer, it was never one capable of running modern games.  That was fixed when I personally bought the components to build my own computer, but that was a decade later.

2.) I was a fucking idiot who didn’t understand the appropriate way to play, nor did I fully appreciate the pacing and playstyle, or the intelligence.

Cut to about a month ago, and I see a Youtube video (yes, as much as I hate Youtube, there are too many good content creators using that platform to ditch it) which discusses the problems with AAA gaming today.  Long story short, the problem is style over substance, too much repetition, too much hand-holding, too few chances taken.  AAA games today are made more for profit than they are for longevity and creating fans who will continue to revisit such a game decades later.  Because think about it, of all the AAA games that have been released over the past, um, let’s say from the X-Box 360 and PS3 and Wii generation of consoles and onwards (roughly 2006 to the present), how many do you often revisit?  Why do you revisit them?  What is it that makes them appealing and stand out from all the other games of the same genre and playstyle?  What makes one Call of Duty game different from another?  What makes open-world games so unique and appealing?

Well, many of them suffered from similar problems that I was aware of subconsciously, but couldn’t put into words or fully comprehend.  Then watching the above video, and after playing the game, I am now aware and can comprehend why the status of many games today is totally fucked.  It’s the same thing that made The Witcher 3 tiresome for me after a duration of time (despite how much I wanted to love that game more than I do), the same thing that plagues The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim, and many first-person and third-person shooters.  Map markers, mission markers, waypoints.  Whether it’s on the main screen or on some mini-map at the corner of the game screen, they do the same fucking thing.  They distract the player.  They dumb down the player and the experience.  It makes the player focus more attention on the marker and moving from point A to point B completing one objective after the next and being guided while doing so rather than thinking for themselves.

The version for taffers.

But it’s not the hand-holding alone that makes it bad (well, ok, maybe it is, since it promotes laziness and practically letting the game play itself; more on that later).  In fact, it could be used as an optional hint/cheat for players who are lost in the game who don’t want to be challenged in that way (pussies).  Rather, it’s the hand-holding combined with the distraction.  Players more often focus on the waypoint rather than the world itself.  The environment, the buildings, the people, the conversations, the subtle indications that are sprinkled in various areas (assuming that much attention to detail was given).  Whenever I play Skyrim or Witcher 3, or any such game similar (hell, even Jak II and III is guilty of doing this, but it’s more justifiable in those games because the open-world environment is less interesting than the destination of the waypoint when you do start platforming and shooting), my attention is focused more on the dot/arrow/icon that indicates what direction to move in rather than anything else around me.

Playing Thief: The Dark Project (aka Thief: Gold, which I’ll refer to as just Thief from now on; and don’t you dare confuse it with the 2014 version, fanatics of the old franchise will sneak into your house and murder you in your sleep for that), it got me to see why it is those waypoints take away from the game.  Which seems contradictory if you think about it, adding in elements to a game actually taking away from the experience; sometimes less is more, even in videogames.  Without waypoints to guide me, I was forced to try remembering portions of the level, utilize the map to some extent, as well as the compass to determine where I am and where I should go.  You also may not even want to reference the map or the compass ever.  In this way your attention is held entirely on your immediate surroundings.  You are forced to memorize the level up to a point.  You are forced to look for your goal(s).  And there are details worthy of your eyes.  Not just the shadows to hide your presence, or the types of floors which are safe to walk/run quickly upon vs. those that make too much noise.  No, there’s also the subtle story elements.  Not just the books you come across, I’m talking about the items and materials strewn about around the map.  They give indications as to what the place is like, what the occupants of the place are like, how things are run, hints at some room being the optimal location for riches to loot; plus the occasional secret door to come across.  Not having a waypoint ultimately allows one to be more immersed in the game world itself.

This isn’t to say its not without its headaches.  One can get easily lost in a level once you get to mission 4 and onwards (out of 15 main missions).  It may take you longer than your patience allows to find some obscure item necessary to complete the level.  Hell, there were a few times I had to resort to looking up youtube videos and/or game guides on gamefaqs.com to figure out how to get myself unstuck (I probably could’ve figured out how to get through it if I put enough time into it; but when I started clocking in at 3 hours on one level, that starts to make me think about what else I could be doing with my time).  Many games from 1999 and earlier suffer from similar situations, even the first Doom game from 1993.  But while the frustration is there, it also accomplishes something else I hadn’t felt in a while.  A sense of accomplishment.  While I did utilize guides at some points, later on I forced myself not to for the sake of trying to complete it all on my own.  And at some points, I succeeded.  This sense of discovery and solving the puzzle, getting through the maze, is more invigorating than simply being guided from one point to another.  Plus it adds to the length of the game.  15 levels, where you’ll be spending anywhere from 1-5 hours on each level depending on how good you are at this sort of thing, or if you’re replaying it.  You won’t feel like the game is too short to say the least (hah).

Which brings me to another point.  The whole getting lost in a level and learning your way around the place.  It does something else.  It makes the level memorable.  It makes each level feel like its own stand-alone experience.  Where the enemies are placed, how they patrol, what enemy types there are, the look of the level, where the lights are and whether or not they can be extinguished, certain areas you can use the rope arrow at (if anywhere), learning the paths to take to sneak past enemies, or how you can knock them out one by one until you have free reign of the entire area.  On that latter point, I found it hilarious in the context of this one level where I had to infiltrate this opera house (to steal shit of course).  I could’ve tried doing the level without knocking anybody out and hiding their bodies somewhere.  I could’ve, but considering I’ve been knocking out pretty much everyone I came across in previous levels, why stop know?  So I ended up knocking out most of the security guards, all the ballerina dancers and opera singers, and all the upper class nobles who came to watch the play.  I couldn’t help but chuckle at this, considering the context.  It’s a great moment that the game doesn’t force onto you.  It’s something you can choose to do of your own accord, without even being told it’s an option.

And on that note, this is a game that’s a stealth-thriller.  You’re not meant to just go in and butcher everyone because the sword-play aspect of the game is intentionally fiddly, and just about everyone else can wield a sword better than you can.  If you try to fight a bunch of guards, you’ll most likely get killed.  In fact, on the highest level of difficulty, the Expert difficulty (which is the level of difficulty I recommend to all, it’s the way Thief was meant to be played), you’ll automatically lose a mission if you kill anyone (well, anyone who’s human anyway).  So you’ll be forced to play like a thief.  You’ll be forced to feel like a thief.  You will be encouraged to play in such a way as to stick to the shadows and avoid combat wherever possible.  However, the last 3-4 levels eventually do away with this.  You are eventually allowed to let loose on these monsters and undead that wander around.  You can still sneak, to be sure, but there are some places where combat becomes unavoidable in later levels.  In some cases, it becomes mandatory to kill off certain enemy types.  It does offer a change of pace, but its subjective as to whether or not it’s a welcome change.  Some like it, others don’t.  Personally, I was just ho-hum about it.

So yeah, there’s more than just regular humans in this game.  There are undead and supernatural beings in this, and they become relevant to the plot, and are foreshadowed in documents and discussions, should you choose to read/listen to them.  And the undead make an appearance as early as level 2, so they are established as existing within this world early on.  Despite that, the game sticks closer to stealth-thriller rather than stealth-horror, up until you reach this one level titled, “Return to the Cathedral.”  Once you get to that level, holy Jesus-aged-titty-fucking-Christ almighty.  That level is one of the scariest fucking things you’re ever going to experience.  The game suddenly turns into a survival-horror game in that level.  You will want to hide not just because you don’t have the means or the ability of wiping out these demons that show up early on, but also because they are scary as fuck.  You hide because you don’t want to encounter these things.  And if they spot you and chase you, God help you, even though it’s likely he won’t considering how often you’ve stolen religious artifacts and desecrated holy sites.

Outside of that, there’s this other level called The Sword, which many state is their favorite level in the entire game (it’s not my personal favorite, by I can see why it is for others).  It starts out like a normal mansion level, until you go deeper and deeper into the mansion where the level design gets bizarre and unnatural.  One would wonder how it’s possible for someone to construct a mansion like this.  There are documents you can find in the level that indicate how it could be done, but it doesn’t fully explain everything witnessed in the most logical sense.  But it makes more sense later on when you learn more about the owner of the mansion.

Like I said, each level has it’s own unique and memorable aspect.  It’s something that can be overlooked if one were left focusing on a minimap and/or waypoint.  But there’s also an aspect that, well, I won’t say is unique to this game, but isn’t utilized anywhere near enough as it should be.  Sound.  Listening to the footsteps of guards to get a general idea of where they are and how far away they are, if they’re coming closer or moving further away.  Using sound to determine if it’s safe to come out of hiding, or if you should stay hidden for a while longer.  This is a very crucial element of this game, something that makes it work as well as it does.  The only other stealth game I can think of which utilized something like this is Alien: Isolation.  Other than that, most of the time, games go for visual cues rather than audio cues.  I mean, look at how the Uncharted games evolved between Uncharted 3 and 4.  Uncharted 3, yeah, you could sneak around and knock some foes out before having to get in a shootout.  Sometimes you could clear out an entire area stealthily, though it’s optional to do it that way.  Uncharted 4, fairly similar, except it’s easier to sneak around and take people out silently.  It becomes easy because you can mark your targets, and always see their location even when they’re not in your line of sight (because you mark them with waypoints).  Games today prefer visual cues rather than audio cues, and it cheapens the experience.

All these elements make this game stand the test of time precisely because of how much it does with what little it provides, though it is most likely intentional that they left some things out, restricted what the character is able to do, precisely to make it more realistic.  Because realistically, people can’t mark targets and then always know their location just by marking them visually with eyesight, as opposed to listening for their footsteps.

Most modern AAA games sacrifice immersion for more bling, more waypoints, more handholding, etc.  Open-world games somehow tend to be the worst of this.  Sometimes they offer the ability to turn off waypoints, but then you run into another problem.  Some games aren’t designed well enough to work without the use of waypoints.  Which is another thing that allows games like Thief to stand the test of time.  Level design.  While they can be headache-inducing, they at least offer challenge and actual exploration (moving to an objective via following a waypoint/minimap is not exploring, that’s riding an escalator).

As for the specifics to that game, you play as a thief named Garret, who is trained by a secret organization known as The Keepers, learning the tricks of the trade when it comes to thieving, but decides to abandon the organization and go independent.  Then he has occasional run-ins with other thieves and the organization known as The Hammers.  His way of life isn’t easy, as he needs to steal constantly and attempt to avoid being double-crossed and cheated, just to pay the landlord, nevermind having suitable living conditions.  But as the game goes on, his skills become noticed by devious figures who want him involved in their schemes.  In the end, he goes on missions he doesn’t entirely want to go on, including those pitting him against the undead and some mages.  But the potential reward is worth the insane risk.  But then he begins to realize he has underestimated what he’s been getting involved with, how supernatural things he put off as superstition end up being real, and begins to suffer for it.  By the end of the game, he wants nothing to do with the Keepers, the Hammers, or anyone else that big.  Only for it to be indicated that he is still being used for some organization’s purpose, as he had been used during the second half of the game.  The narrative is subtle, but good.  There are some plot elements (and/or treasures) you may have overlooked on a first playthrough, which encourages a second playthrough.  While Razorfist (see video above) doesn’t care for this game as much as the others, I found it to be just fine.

The game comes highly recommended.  Rough around the edges, sure, as anything from 1999 is likely to be.  But it does more things right that should be taken for granted, but have been tossed away through the years.  One of those things includes being a game that doesn’t insult your intelligence and try to lead you like a sheep.

Mods

Oh, right, there’s 2 mods I can recommend for this game, one of which is mandatory.

TFix

An unnofficial patch the fixes some bugs, and makes the game more compatible for modern engines.  This is the mandatory mod.  It’s less of a mod and more of a fix, though you can’t use the next mod without this one.

Thief Gold HD Texture Mod

If you think the graphics look too dated (ie too 90s), then there’s this mod.  It’s not going to make it look like a modern graphics game so much as it makes it look 1 console generation better in terms of graphics.  Works for me.  The only things I found iffy were the gas cloud effects of the gas bomb.  They looked too good for this game.  They stood out too much compared to the other special effects.  I prefer the graphics to be consistent.  It’s more of a minor nitpick than anything else, as the pros far outweigh the cons.

PS: Now I’m eager to play the sequel, The Metal Age.

Sonic Generations (2011) and Sonic Mania (2017) review

Sonic Generations

Rated: 3 / 5 (good, but may be a while before I play it again, if ever)

So I haven’t played a Sonic the Hedgehog game ever since Sonic Heroes (2003) on the Nintendo Gamecube (GCN).  Up until that point, I enjoyed virtually all the games found on the Sega Genesis, which is why I’ve purchased a few retro Sonic Collection discs for a few systems off and on.  The best 2D Sonic game being Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and the last decent one being Sonic CD.  I did play Sonic Adventures 1 and 2 on the GCN, and enjoyed them at the time, but I’m not so sure if I’d enjoy playing those 2 nowadays.  Those games work when the levels are designed for Sonic and speed, but they were still a bit finicky and glitchy even when those levels were being played.  But regardless, it showed potential in what the 3D setting had to offer, more-so than Sonic Blast.

Right there, during the landing, I should’ve been able to hit that wire and grind on it, but didn’t.  That’s just 1 of several things that bugged me about the 3D platforming segments.

Unfortunately, it also showed everything the 3D setting had to offer.  Playing Sonic Generations, it doesn’t seem like anything has really changed since Sonic Adventures other than getting their priorities straight in knowing what the best things have been about putting Sonic into a 3D platforming environment.  Restricting movement so it’s more 2D-ish.  The jump-spin-dash.  Grinding on rails.  And that’s pretty much it, and even now they seem unable to make it glitch-free.  There were numerous times playing this 2011 game that I got pissed whenever there was a glitch, a bug, a misstep and a cheap-shot with the level design.  Moments where I should’ve been running along the wall until I hit the speed ramp only to either fall off the wall for some reason, miss the speed ramp due to circumstances a bit beyond my control, or the speed ramp launching me on the wrong direction.  That’s just one instance in one level where things irritated me.

Witness it go from 3D to 2D right before your eyes.

And the game has at least one moment like this in every other level that involves the 3D gameplay.  It never got as bad as that one abomination that came out on the PS3 and X-Box 360, not even close.  But still, considering how much practice they’ve had at this, and considering how much it rips off levels from older 3D titles, you’d think the experience would be more slick.  It doesn’t ruin the game, but it provides needless irritation.  And at this point, this seems to be the best they can do when putting Sonic into a 3D setting.  This is it.  The limit has been reached.  3D platformers aren’t meant to be this fast-paced.  They can’t handle it without resorting to some form of 2D restriction, which defeats the purpose if you ask me.

But since this game calls itself Generations, it also let’s you play as Sonic in the 2D setting.  And guess what?  It has less bugs and cheap shots compared to the 3D segments.  Easier to play, and still challenging in all the right ways (but it never got too challenging, or arguably not quite challenging enough by the end).  It reminded me of why I enjoyed these Sonic games in the past, but it never got to the point where I thought this succeeded in being its own thing.  Mainly because a good portion of the levels were straight up ripped from previous Sonic games, both that I’ve played before, and those that I haven’t (Sonic Colors being one of them).  But at this point, I missed playing good Sonic games badly enough that I was willing to give the game a pass like I did Star Wars: The Force Awakens and just enjoy it for what it did provide.  Though it had nowhere near enough boss fights considering how often they showed up in previous games.

There’s only 4 boss fights, and the constant hints dropped on “how to beat it” got really annoying considering how self-evident that it is, and that the game doesn’t have as much faith in the players as old-school games of the past did.  Fuck you and your faggoty-ass hints.

Oh, and the cutscenes were a bit annoying.  I never really got into any of the new characters past Sonic Adventure DX (even that one brought in some annoying side characters).  Shadow is an emo only millennial retards who think they’re Generation X believe is cool.  Don’t know or care about that white/silver hedgehog.  And most of those individuals who are supposed to be friends of Knuckles all suck.  The only solid characters in this franchise has ever been Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Robotnik/Eggman, and Metal Sonic, and that’s it.  I’m willing to cut Amy a small break, but everyone else I just tolerate as best I can while enjoying the gameplay.

So the game is fun, but it could’ve been more if the bugs were worked out and it tried to be more of its own thing.  The 2D gameplay worked far better than it did in Sonic 4 Episode 1 (I didn’t bother with episode 2 considering I wasn’t digging the way the mechanics worked in Episode 1), but it just made me miss the gameplay in Sonic 1, 2, and 3 & Knuckles.

The semi-boss fights between Shadow and Metal Sonic and some other white emo-hedgehog trying to out-emo Shadow aren’t half bad though.

That being said, it is worth noting that there is a mod for this game that allows you to play the Sonic levels from Sonic Unleashed, which many say was the best part about that game.  I haven’t tried it myself, but if I ever get the urge to play this again, I might give it a spin.

Anyway, I found out about another Sonic game that I ignored for a while until the praise for it became deafening.  So what was this one all about?

 

Sonic Mania

Rated: 4 / 5

I don’t fucking believe it.  They got it right.  This shouldn’t be possible.  A Sonic game that has sprite-based graphics released in this day and age?  A Sonic game that finally replicated the gameplay of the old classics perfectly?  Feels like the old games?  Just as long as the old games?  Has more content than the old games?  That just might be better than the old games?

Don’t let the opening fool you, there’s plenty of new content to be had here.

Well now I believe in miracles.  The hype and word-of-mouth is true.  This is the best Sonic game to be released since Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  Sonic accelerates and runs and jumps just like his old self (fuck you Sonic 4, this is how it’s done!).  There is a boss fight in every act (making this the most boss-heavy Sonic game in existence).  And the challenges move gradually in an upward curve with perfect precision.  This game offers the challenge that’s been missing since the first 2 Sonic games (as much as I love Sonic 3 & Knuckles, it lowered the difficulty level down a notch or two compared to the first 2 games), while building upon the perfection in gameplay with the 3rd Sonic game.

Now, like Generations, this game has a decent number of levels that are rip-offs of the old levels from the old games.  But unlike Generations, it tweaks the levels in such a way that they feel more fresh, and isn’t afraid to add in brand new additions of their own that fit the classic setting like a glove.  I worried that I’d just get another Sonic game that people praised just because it’s too much like the classics.  But my worries began to go away after getting through Act 2 of the first level, and completely evaporated by the time I was halfway through.

And the bosses, for the most part, are something different compared to what I’ve seen in previous Sonic games.  Sure there are those that are a bit familiar, but none of them are carbon-copies of those from the old classics.  They all feature Robotnik, or Metal Sonic, or on of Eggman’s creations as usual, but they are all implemented in a way that is fresh and challenging.

I’m not showing any other bosses beyond this.

The levels are pure Sonic design.  All begin and end at the same point, but there are at least 3 ways minimum per level to get from point A to point B.  And to further encourage repeated plays, there are 2 elements.

1.) If you got to a checkpoint with the minimum amount of rings (I think it’s 30 rings), you can jump into the stars and go to the classic “Get all the blue spheres” level, just like in Sonic 3.  As brain-burning and adrenaline-pumping as ever, and they get hard as hell too.

2.) But then there’s something completely new (unless I missed some 2D Sonic game that did something like this).  When you jump into a hidden giant ring, you enter into 1 of 7 levels where you can get a Chaos Emerald.  And this is the most challenging part of the game in my opinion (though some of those Blue Sphere levels may have a say in that).  It becomes semi-3D, in the sense that it feels like a classic 2D system emulated 3D using sprites, where Sonic has to run around in a seemingly 3D environment that’s a bit on the rails.  Racing around a track, speeding up each time you collect a set number of spheres, needing rings to stay in it while you lose a ring each second, and catch the balloon/ship/thing holding the emerald before time runs out.  And you can’t catch it until you boost your speed twice.  Trying to find each spot in each level where this giant ring is at increases the replay value enough as-is with the game.

Similar to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, if you don’t have all 7 emeralds by the end, you just fight the end boss and treated to a decent ending.  But if you do get all 7 by the end, in addition to being able to go Super Sonic (with 50+ rings), you gain access to a final secret boss and the true ending (which doesn’t add much more than the original did, but it’s enough so as not to get taunted by Robotnik after the credits).  I’ll admit I haven’t collected all the chaos emeralds (have only done 4 so far, and I got too stressed out trying to get the 5th, so I bowed out and watched a video to see what’s supposed to happen).  This game really makes you work for them, and really makes you work for that ending, more-so than Sonic 3 made you work for those emeralds.  Which is why it’s optional in terms of making it through to the end.  You won’t reach the secret final boss, but that’s the breaks.  This is a game that isn’t afraid to make players work for the reward.

No shit new generation Sonic.

And there is more.  After playing through a game, you unlock the ability to play as Knuckles, like you could in Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  And as usual, the game is more difficult when playing as him.  On top of that, there’s DLC which adds 2 new characters into the game for you to play as for even more challenge (I haven’t purchased the DLC yet, but I’m currently job-hunting right now, so I’m intentionally limiting myself in what I will purchase).  The game offers everything an old-school Sonic fan can want, and offers everything current videogamers need in a game with platforming at sonic speed.

If there is one thing that I can dock the game for, it’s with the story it tells.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to lower the score for this, as this isn’t a game where the story matters all that much.  It’s more of a comparison to the story told in Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  Eggman seems to have come across some emerald that can alter time or dimensions, and Sonic is forced to go through various places to track Eggman down, all the while he’s building up a giant mecha.  It’s a bit difficult to determine the story from what is shown in the gameplay, which is reason enough to hold the story told in Sonic 3 & Knuckles in higher regard.  The story is told in a more straightforward manner, shown more simply (Sonic and Tails fly to the last known location of Eggman after destroying the Death Egg in the previous game, but run into Knuckles who impedes them every way he can, because he’s working for Robotnik, but is deceived by him as Robotnik only wants his chaos emeralds, something that belongs to Knuckles, and the emerald is used to repair the Death Egg and to be taken off-planet for some unsaid purpose; all the while there are hints here and there indicated that the chaos emeralds making Sonic go Super Sonic is etched in legend among Knuckle’s people, as shown in an ancient image carved long ago, Super Sonic being a being that can save the world from the evil that invades it).  Sonic Mania tells the story in a more confusing abstract manner, allowing for only vague understanding outside of reading the story online somewhere.  Again, nothing I’ll bash the game’s score for, but it’s one thing that Sonic 3 & Knuckles did better.

In fact, now that I think about it, this game seems to be missing that one other element that Sonic & Knuckles provided.  Lore hints dropped within the game.  We see Knuckles and his secret chaos emerald temple early on, and we see all that stuff in the Hidden Palace Zone in Sonic & Knuckles.  It’s only 2 brief bits in the entire game, but they’re there.  With Sonic Mania, it opts more for just telling the story through sprite cutscenes at the end of each level.

Outside of that, this game is better in almost every way.  Though I will say this regarding the music.  The new music scores are fine, and renditions of classic tunes are fine.  Except for one.  The music from Hidden Palace Zone in Sonic & Knuckles, that is a classic theme that is easily my favorite among the classic Sonic games.  The remix is a step down from the classic beat in my opinion.  I don’t think many, if any, 16-bit scores are going to top that beat for me personally.  That being said, this remix is still good in its own right, providing its own epic feel with that guitar riff.  I think it’s just the nostalgia factor in me that overpowers the new stuff.  You be the judge.

And lastly, this game did the one thing I wasn’t sure was possible.  It made me enjoy playing videogames again, and not just make it feel like a chore being done in the hope that I would find the spark to rekindle that joy.  This game is a gamer’s game, and it’s the game that Sonic fans can’t point to for all the non-believers and say, “This is Sonic!  This is why Mario can suck our dicks!”

 

Highly recommended game, for both Sonic and non-Sonic fans.

 

The Witcher 3 (2015) review

Rated: 4.5 / 5

Nudity ahead.
Sex ahead.

Exhausted.  Weary.  Done.  Finished.  I first played this game when it first came out; finished my first playthrough after roughly 80 hours.  I enjoyed the experience, though I was glad to see it end.  3 years later, I got back into it again, knowing that there were expansions to play, updates that polished the rough edges (reducing the number of bugs and annoyances), and graphic enhancements which make the game look spectacular (something only the modding community provides, but CD Projekt Red is a beast of a game company that truly cares about its customers and its product, so they did the enhancement themselves with the update).  With the expansions, I think I clocked in at over 100 hours, maybe 110.  And I don’t intend to get back into this for a long time.  I started this up again soon after I finished a playthrough of The Witcher 2, which was several months ago.  I thought I could plough through this and then play on New Game+ and take that into account for this review.  But I don’t have the willpower.  I don’t think I can invest that many hours into something like this without taking so long of a break I forget some story elements.  I don’t intend to get back into this game for a long time, even though I enjoyed the experience.

Make no mistake, this game is a masterpiece. The gameplay has improved that found in Witcher 2.  They did away with Quick-Time-Events thank God (combat in of itself should be its own natural sort of QTE; come to think of it, aren’t all non-turn-based videogames QTEs in their own way without having to be obvious about it?  Press this button now or you die?  Jump now or you’ll fall?  Shoot this enemy or he’ll shoot you?  You know what, QTEs suck.).  The leveling system is as good (if not better) than it’s ever been.  The (open) world is more immersive than its ever been in any other Witcher game.  The diversity of choices and the short/long-term consequences they entail are numerous to the point of mind-boggling (there’s like, what, 20 different endings you can get with just the main story, never mind how the side quests can turn out.  And no rational individual will complain about the game being too short or lacking in content (as if they could bitch about that with the other 2 games).

While the story isn’t as good as that of its predecessor, it’s a solid enough conclusion to this game trilogy, and easily ranks among the best game franchises that has ever existed.  And it went out with a bigger bang than Mass Effect 3 (I’ve been comparing the Witcher games to the Mass Effect games so far, why stop now?).  The characters are all as memorable as ever, and some of the side quests are just as memorable, if not more-so, as the main quest itself.  And like the other Witcher games, you will be faced with decisions that will challenge you on an ethical level.  Many players have different experiences with the story due to the decisions they made, due to their thought processes, and it can be a real conversation-starter when discussing why they chose one path or another.

So why do I give this only 4.5 / 5 rather than 5 / 5 like I did the 2nd game?  It’s not because of the bugs and glitches, though they are there (no open-world game this large is ever going to be bug-free, not in this day and age).  It’s not because the gameplay is worse (it’s better).  It’s purely for selfish and personal reasons.  There are two reasons, and both have to do with the narrative (what can I say, the narrative is the main reason I play these games).

1.) The main story gets docked a partial point.  Why?  Because of Ciri.  Don’t get me wrong, her character is fine, the motivations she has and everyone has for seeking her out is fine.  But the whole, “She has powers greater than anyone else,” element got on my nerves at a couple points, especially when the Wild Hunt lays siege to Kaer Morhen.  Once a significant character gets killed, and it looks like the Hunt will finally get Ciri, she all of a sudden goes apeshit and scream forever (arguably to the point where it gets comical) and emanates this power that the Wild Hunt can’t take and are thus forced to retreat.  That’s the big eye-roll moment for me.  I was willing to take her powers of fast movement and exceptional strength.  She was strong, yet still vulnerable.  But once that bit happened, it just comes off as a deus ex-machina.  And the whole, “She can’t control her powers,” excuse just makes it worse.  I hate this shit of pulling magical saves out of your ass at the last minute.  The other two Witcher games had magic, but kept them firmly grounded with their strengths and weaknesses.  But that moment reminded me of the most irritating elements many animes contain.  Thankfully, this only happens once, maybe twice, tops.  But since it impacts the story, I can’t ignore it.

2.) The side-quests and in-depth lore.  Again, the side-quests are fine and all, and the lore is great.  But I can only stand delving into them for so long before my, “Can we just get this fucking over with already!” personality gets unleashed.  Perhaps I am to blame, I don’t tend to play these games in small doses.  I sprint through them for consecutive hours on certain days.  But just because I do that doesn’t mean I’m not invested and interested in all the little details the world has to offer.  But there was too much for me.  And the side-quests get monotonous after a while, despite the differences ins stories and characters, and the way some progress and how occasionally they throw a curve ball at you (like how taking on a monster contract usually has you tracking and killing a monster and going back to the one who posted the offer for a money reward, but sometimes something happens along the way the links to another quest, or takes an unexpected yet refreshing turn).  Patterns begin to emerge after playing for a while.  I suppose this is inevitable for any game that runs this long.  And I shouldn’t complain since the secondary quests are optional.  But some of them can have an affect on the game ending, including the choice of ignoring some specific side quests.  It’s what I call too much of a good thing.  Many won’t mind that the game has all this, and that’s fine, to each their own.  But I base my ratings on my personal experience and on my own personal tastes, and that’s just how it is.

It makes me compare this to Skyrim.  I enjoy all the side-quests much more in that game.  I can’t get enough of them.  So at some point, I had to ask myself why that is?  Why do I enjoy spending just as much time (if not more) in Skyrim (modded, mind you) than I do in The Witcher 3?  Then I figured it out.  It’s not because one is primarily first person and the other is primarily 3rd person.  It’s because Skyrim is more of a true RPG experience, where you have more control over your character, how he/she/it levels up, and what they do in the world.  You have more control, more customization, and aren’t playing as someone else so much as you are playing as yourself, or playing as someone you want to be in that world.  With the Witcher, you’re playing as Geralt.  You can decide which choices he is going to make, but ultimately it’s still Geralt making those choices rather than you.  Geralt will always act and talk in a way that is appropriate for that character and his personality, and no choice made in the game will contradict that.  In Skyrim, it doesn’t matter as much because you have more control, it’s more about you.  It’s also more immersive when comes to how you play and what your lifestyle is like.  Being a sneaky thief, a sneaky assassin, a blunt-force warrior, an all-powerful spellcaster who shoots fire/lightning, a spellcaster who heals, a chemist, a smith, a mixture of any or all of the above.  It’s a more personalized experience.  With Geralt, you can only play a Witcher.  Sure you can determine if you want to focus more on sword-based combat, magic-based combat, or being an alchemist who makes the swords or magics stronger due to alchemy, but you’re always going to play the same way in terms of fighting enemies in the open and slaughtering them in order to get things done (though some dialogue choice could prevent a couple battles from happening).

Because of those intentional limitations, the game is more narrative-based.  The narrative is good, but it’s long.  It’s not perfect, but it’s not disappointing either.  Too good to say it’s terrible, not good enough to justify the game length.  I felt a bit guilty when I stopped caring about what some of the books were telling me about the world and its history.  I felt I was missing out when I stopped reading every letter I got.  Because ultimately they all resulted in the same thing, go to point A to get this or kill that, then go to point B to see the resolution or see how to get to point C.  In Skyrim it’s not much of a problem because you can see yourself as a character who goes through the world not giving a shit.  But in the Witcher, it seems like you should give a shit.  And it’s exhausting to give a shit for that many hours, even with the breaks, because it gets monotonous.

So this will make the game experience different for some people.  Some will relate more to Geralt and the world, and will thus stay invested no matter what.  Others who don’t relate as much will eventually grow tired of this and start ignoring some books/letters, and start skipping through various dialogue conversations in many parts of the game just to get through it faster.

I sort of had that issue with the first Witcher game, had much less of an issue with that in the second Witcher game (probably because it’s the shortest, though 30 hours is nothing to scoff at; plus it had the best story that I can always get invested in), but began to have that issue again with this game after about 30-40 hours.  It sounds like I’m being ungrateful that there’s so many hours of content, but I would prefer to have every hour investing and enjoyable rather than just a certain percentage of those hours be enjoyable.  And that’s the risk of having so much in a narrative-based game like this that isn’t as personalized as Skyrim; the monotony becomes more apparent faster.

But regardless, when those great investing moments are there, they hit hard, and make it worth playing through to the end.  And the endings are a gut-punch in their own way.  Some are satisfying, others a bit more devastating.  It encourages replay to see how different decisions result in the different outcomes.  But considering how exhausting this game can be, I’d rather just see the alternatives played out on a YouTube video by players who are more into this game than I ever could be.  The two times I played, I was perfectly happy with the outcome (if you ask which ones I got, I’ll answer in the comments).  And yes, the outcome was different for each playthrough.

The rating is one of respect and admiration.  I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I gave it anything lower than a 4.5.  I feel bad enough not giving it a 5.  But a 4.5 is nothing to scoff at.  This game is a masterpiece in it’s own right, and it’s made by people who are passionate about it and who give a damn about their fans (because of that, I pre-ordered this game, and I never do that; and I will do it again when Cyberpunk 2077 comes out because CD Projekt Red has earned that much of my respect).  The game may be a labor at times for me to get through, but it does feel worth it in the end.

 

Mods!

Oh, right, there are mods for this game.  I’ll only mention the ones that I used for my playthrough.  There are others, but I don’t feel like re-researching through them all again to recommend what are considered the best.  Keep in mind, the ones I’ve downloaded aren’t likely the latest versions.  Some might have made mods that are similar but better or easier to implement with less work.  And I’m not going to lie, I thought the gameplay was pretty much fine without the mods.  The weight limit seemed right, combat was fine, the graphics were good, everything seemed perfect.  Except for the nudity and sex.

Ciri Bath Bandage Removal

I didn’t use this mod just because I’m a pervert (though I am).  It just always felt off going into a sauna covering your private parts.  Kind of defeats a bit of the purpose in my opinion.  Though this does relate to another issue I had with the non-modded version of the game.  Compared to The Witcher 2, there’s an awful lot of covering up and hiding the sex scenes and nudity.  Which brings me to…

Background girls nudes 0.4

Just seemed like some of the women in the brothels and whorehouses needed to be skimpier, or just altogether nude to advertise their assets.  But that’s just to see those you come across as you journey through some cities (and no, I don’t use the “all nude” version, just the version that alters specific women types).  It’s more for immersion, I swear.  But the nude mods don’t stop there…

The Wild Nudity Project and Vagina’s For Everyone and Naked With Genital and Naturally Bushy

I don’t remember if I used some or all of these mods, but at least two are needed to work together to overcome removing the bra and panties during the sex scenes.  There’s a few versions of these mods.  But because I’m only a half-assed pervert, I didn’t opt for the whole, “All females are naked everywhere,” version.  Just the one where it removed the undergarments.  I went for this mod after dealing with that one witch who sought a plague and/or cure for the plague.  The cinematic with her at the lake, it didn’t seem to fit the dialogue while she was wearing bra and panties.  They talked like she was fully naked.  It lead me to do a little research, and I found out they censored the game a bit to make it internationally friendly, mainly because some assholes in the Middle East won’t accept a game with that much nudity and blatant sex.  But I’m a fair man.  I believe in equality.  No anti-game-censorship would be complete without…

Naked Geralt

Finally, a proper naked Geralt mod.  Unlike the version in The Witcher 2 which made him dickless and without balls, his whole man-package is on display for everyone to see.  And there’s one last thing to take into account…

…which contrary to some opinions doesn’t require a mod.  It’s clearly obvious with the way the sex scene went with Triss that the camera angles got altered to the point where it’s distracting that there’s more going on than with what is being shown.  Too many close-ups and weird cuts.  If you don’t want to track down a video showing how raw they can get, you can enable Free Camera.  To do so, you need to edit a file titled user.settings.

[General]
DBGConsoleOn=true

Once you type that in under the [General] section (assuming you don’t just need to switch it from false to true), you can press the ‘~’ key to activate the camera, fiddle with where it’s aimed at, and try to capture the good moments.

So, yeah, those are the mods I use.  Feel free to do the same if you want more adult content (plus making it closer to the intended uncensored version that those pansy Middle Eastern people can’t handle).

Ah, but there is one non-adult mod I use, and it’s a simple but necessary one in my opinion.

 

Open menu during dialogues and cutscenes

This allows you to go to the menu during cutscenes, in case you need to answer a phone call, take a shit, or actually interact with real non-digital people (just in case you have a real social life).  This is a lifesaver mod.

 

And, so, there it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ending on full-pervert mode.

Resident Evil 7 (2017) review

Rated: 2.5-3 / 5 (depending on my mood)

Completely Tangent Intro

So I was playing through The Witcher 3, with all the DLC installed.  And after, I don’t know, between 50-60 hours of playing, as good as that game is, all I could think was, “Goddamnit, isn’t this fucking game over yet?  How fucking long is this thing?”  I feel bad saying that, because it is a really good 5/5 game I plan on reviewing some time down the line so I can say I reviewed the entire trilogy.  But I guess epically (I don’t give a fuck if that isn’t a real word) long games and me don’t always mix.  I’m the kind of guy who prefers game lengths (as in from beginning to end of one play, not including replays) to be between 8-20 hours, maybe 30 hours if it’s good enough.  And I knew what I was getting into, because I played it a long while back and I remember clocking in at just under 80 hours of playtime.  Throw in a couple DLCs that each add an additional 6-8 hours of playtime, and you see why it is that game is so goddamn long.  The Witcher 3 is one of those games that I just can’t power through like I normally do for most games, it’s too long for that.  It’s more like one of those games where you just do 1 quest (either a main quest or a secondary quest, maybe throw in a few treasure/monster hunts for the hell of it), savor it and the details, and then stop.  Rinse and repeat for another 50 sessions or so, and then there it is.  Otherwise someone like me gets burned out.  Granted, it didn’t start to happen until I was about 40 hours into it, but that’s 40 fucking hours!  I thought about holding off on reviewing that game until I play it through again on New Game+ mode, but fuck that.  That’s like doing a marathon of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extended cuts, and then saying you’re going to do it twice in a row.  Not me.

So what does this have to do with Resident Evil 7?  Well, for starters, it’s an easier to digest game that clocks in at an acceptable 9-10 hours on a first playthrough on Normal difficulty, which gave me a sigh of relief compared to the daunting task of finishing a Witcher game.  Snack time.

He chose foolishly.

 

The Actual Review

Ok, so first of all, I have played most of the previous Resident Evil games.

Ok, maybe not most.  Just Resident Evil 0 (GCN), 1 (GCN remake, which is the best way to play it, minus the dumb fucking decision to throw in the crimson heads), 2 (my personal favorite out of all the games, but that’s another story), 3 (arguably the best one next to 2), Code: Vernoica (the first Resident Evil game I didn’t really care for all that much next to RE:0, plus I hated them bringing back Wesker and making him and the protagonists come straight out of The Matrix), 4 (the main reason people like this game is because of the updated third-person gameplay which is done well, and the self-awareness at how ridiculous it is; I thought it was just ok, albeit an entertaining time regardless), 5 (played it co-op with another real human being too; otherwise the only memorable thing about it is finally seeing Wesker die, though he should’ve stayed fucking dead in the first fucking game), and a couple of the spinoff games which aren’t memorable enough for me to even remember the titles.  As for Resident Evil 6, I skipped out on that shit.  As far as I’m concerned, it got over-the-top enough with Code Veronica and 5; the franchise needed to die rather than keep coming back to life (which I guess makes the Umbrella Corporation a metaphor for Capcom).

Seriously, this is some of the Matrix shit they’ve been doing since Code Veronica.

And then this game comes along.  So it’s more or less a reboot for the franchise, moving away from the superhuman heroics (thank fucking Christ), and turning to a more immersive 1st-person horror-shooter (not on-the-rails like House of the Dead or those mediocre at best Wii games).  And it didn’t star any of the leads we’ve become accustomed to.  And I’ve heard positive reviews about the game.  So I decided to snatch it up off of Steam while it was on sale, but didn’t start playing it until about a week ago, when I found out that about a couple months after purchasing it they released a Gold Edition of the game.  Well fuck you too Capcom!  You see why I’m hesitant to purchase any brand-spankin’ new game within the first year it comes out (patches for bugs aside)?

So how was it?  Eh, it was ok.  I don’t know man, I don’t know if its because I’m getting too old for most games, or because I’ve played so many that it becomes very difficult to please me outside of nostalgia-baiting.  Or maybe it’s because the current state of the game industry makes me a little sick to my stomach, more so that all the gross-out moments this game shoved in my virtual face.

I will say that, by the end of it all, it did feel like a Resident Evil game.  But at the same time, it also felt like it took as many steps forward as it did backward, which frustrated me.  The main thing to discuss in that regard is the one thing I usually play games for nowadays, and that’s the story and/or characters.  Because games nowadays focus more on the look/feel/flash than they do on the gameplay.  And when it comes to first-person-shooters (FPS), that’s probably all that genre has left going for it.  Gone are the days where you could just play something like Doom I and II (the newer one from 2016 does not count) or Duke Nukem 3D, or Painkiller: Black, or Descent I-III.  You know, shooters with virtually no narrative or story outside the instruction manual (back when games came with those), where all you had to do was get weapons and blow shit up.  Those are a-dime-a-dozen, and it’s not exactly a high bar to meet when it comes to crafting an FPS game.  So we need to have story and characters to help stand out from the rest and get us gamers more easily immersed into the game.

So, story.  You play as some random dude who’s wife has disappeared, and you receive a message from her to stay away and forget about her.  So rather than forget about her and get another smoking hot wife to bang, he decides not to heed her advice and go out into the middle of “I buttfuck my daughter; redneck swamp land” nowhere, and decides to approach a house that looks like it’s been abandoned for a few years, if not a decade, crawls through swamp water and sewage and bugs and rotten food and other shit (maybe literally) until he finally finds a backdoor into the house where she is supposedly located.  You know, it might be because I’m not the heroic type, but I would’ve decided that she’s not worth this, and drove out of “I buttfuck my daughter” land back to “I buttfuck any hot chick who isn’t related to me” land (though with this franchise there would probably be a twist to that).  I mean, at least in the other Resident Evil games, the protagonists were thrust into these sorts of situations against their will, and usually due to extreme circumstances demanding extreme measures.  Either that or the protagonists were so muscular and heroic and martial arts masters that it just seemed by-the-numbers by their standards.

“Give grandma the hammer!”

But I digress.  Our protagonist eventually goes on to find his wife, who then goes berserk and kicks the crap out of you and saws your hand off, before you get captured by some redneck dad named Bubba who introduces you to the rest of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family (seriously, the parallels are impossible to ignore unless you haven’t seen that movie; the original Tobe Hooper movie from the 70s, none of the remakes you smart-asses).  Well, it got me a bit interested.

The thing is though, there’s something about these graphic styles for these games that put me off.  Something about the 3D modelling, the way they talk, the way they act, how they can never smile right.  And most important of all, how hard it tries to be realistic with the graphics.  It’s just something about that sort of emphasis on realism in a videogame that just doesn’t suit me.  I just can’t help but have the attitude of, “Who are you trying to fool?  You could have the effects as bad as Goldeneye on the N64 or as good as, I don’t know, whatever game exists now that people consider to be top of the line in terms of graphics, and it would all be the same to me.”  Bit of an exaggeration, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at.  It might just be a personal thing, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in thinking this.

Side-tracked again; back to the story.  So let’s just say that as the game goes on, the main villain/monster turns out to be some Ring/Grudge/Ju-On/F.E.A.R. chick.  Alright, you know what?  If this game is going to pull cliches like that out of its ass, it really should do so with a more tongue-in-cheek attitude.  But it plays things straight.  That trait is endearing in the first 3 Resident Evil games, but that doesn’t appeal to me here.

The last thing I’ll mention about the story, kind of.  There’s this moment in the game where you have to “make a choice.”  Whoah, a choice?  Where your decision affects the events in the game as well as the ending?  Do tell!  There’s nothing to tell.  Like most games that do this, it’s not really a choice.  It doesn’t matter who you choose to save.  Sure the choice does give you a different ending in the long-run, but it’s really stupid how saving one kills them both, saving the other gives you a happy ending with one of them living.  Would’ve been more intriguing if saving one gets you that girl at the end, while saving the other gets you that girl.  Not going to work that way, so the game just kinda beats you up for making a choice that seems more ethically wrong, I guess.  So it ends up being a waste of time inserting this so half-assedly into the game.  But it could’ve worked well if it had that tongue-in-(butt)cheek attitude.  Hey, if this game is going to be immature about this shit, then so am I.  On that note, when the decision came up, I chose the non-wife (Zoe).  Why?  Well because Zoe kept helping me in her own way with getting out of the place through a good portion of the game, while the wife (Mia) did nothing but do spouse abuse so extreme I’m surprised she didn’t resort to slicing my dick off.

There is a problem with this game, and I’m pretty sure I heard about it well-before ever purchasing it, but I think I chose to forget about it thinking, “No, that just can’t be.”  But it’s definitely there (poor choice of words).  So here’s the problem.  There are no zombies.  There’s not one foot-stepping, undead-moaning, dick-sucking zombie in this entire game.  Nothing in this game qualifies as a zombie as far as I’m concerned (anyone who says otherwise is stretching the definition too far).  Sure there are people who aren’t normal people, but they’re not normal in the same sense that all the regular enemies in Resident Evil 4 aren’t normal.  You know, in Resident Evil 4, all those not-zombie people had a decent enough awareness, they could talk, they could run a bit, and they could weld weapons, and they could mutate and shoot black stuff out of their heads.  Pretty much the same thing here, except the not-zombies in this game can pass off as normal people (at least as far as isolated hillbillies in a swamp can go for normalcy) .  They walk and talk like normal people, but they’re just stronger than average and are almost impossible to kill by any regular means (but in a Resident Evil game, nothing is regular).  And there’s only like 3, maybe 4, of them.  The rest of the time you’ll either be against these black gooey man-alligator things, giant mosquitoes, fat blubbery fucks, and the lickers (when they show up).  So boss fights aside (which are just mutations of the not-zombie people), there’s only like 4 different enemy types.  And that’s it.  Even the first Resident Evil game had more variety than that: zombies, zombie dogs, zombie spiders, hunters, zombie birds, zombie snakes, zombie wasps; and those aren’t even the bosses.

And speaking of bosses, yes, this game has enough variety in bosses to satisfy me.  But Jesus Christ do they go over-the-top with these boss fights.  Granted, they’ve been over-the-top ever since Resident Evil 2 (and it’s hard enough to resist a jumping the shark joke with the first game), but this game was aiming for more gritty realism goddamnit!  The fights get more over-the-top as the game goes on, and so do the mutations and monster forms.

See what I mean?

There are some nice nods to the first Resident Evil game.  Once you get involved in this “game” section where you go through some traps and such, some old-school Resident Evil music plays, and some nostalgic sound effects will go off when you press some buttons.  I appreciated the nostalgia.  Also didn’t hurt that it was one of the more memorable parts of the game, going through these Saw-like sections.  And the game almost convinced me that it was tongue-in-cheek.  But only for that section, the rest of the game thinks it’s too good for satire apparently.

At a few points in the game you get to watch some VHS tapes, which treats you to some lost footage films done in the same vane as The Blair Witch Project.  Now, the first time this happened I was interested, and there’s one other time where it does serve a legitimate purpose.  But for the most part I found them to be irritating distractions.  These should be sections that are cutscenes, but instead the game has you play as the person shooting the video (which makes zero sense for the last “video”), which gets even more annoying when you realize you can still screw up and die and have to start over.

As the game went on though, once you’re finally able to grasp what exactly is going on and how things got to be the way they are (ie why there are monsters), the game actually wasn’t half bad.  Plus I also became sympathetic to the swamp family, noting how they were before and after the incident, and how they’re crying out for their souls to be freed.  A bit of a touching moment I wasn’t expecting from a game like this.

So, despite my gripes, I can say the game is fun enough to be worth a play.

 

Other Notes

Now, with that all being said, I’d like to take a moment to talk about gaming in general, my personal opinions on the matter.  As I said earlier in the review, I fear my tastes in gaming have changed.  I fear I may not really be all that much of a gamer anymore.  Honestly, I try to do board games more than video games simply because I prefer playing against other human players, face-to-face.  You know, for face-to-face social interaction, something I believe society is in dire need of, rather than isolating ourselves and using social media as an illusion for legitimate social interaction.

Gaming to me should be fun.  And fun games for me personally, from what I’ve determined when looking back over the years, come in 3 categories:

1.) Short and sweet.  Basically games from the Sega Genesis and SNES time period, where the games were short, the difficulty was high, and you had to play it multiple times to get good at it.  There are plenty of games that are that old that I would still play to this day, like Contra (practically any of them, especially Hard Corps), Castlevania I III and Bloodlines, Starfox 64 (or the SNES version), among others.

2.) Games with an engrossing story and good characters.  The first one to really pull this off for me, which I still maintain to be the best (even if this is predictable) is Final Fantasy VII.  Memorable characters in storyline so fucking good I was willing to bear through the typical issues plaguing J-RPGs (random battles, some grinding, repetitive combat).  I’m not sure how I’d feel about this one today, but Skies of Arcadia on the GCN wasn’t half-bad either.  Tales of Symphonia had decent enough characters and story, and a pretty solid real-time 2D combat system to go along with it.  Kane & Lynch (the first one) I consider to be underrated.  And Spec Ops: The Line, whew, that whole game is designed to be a huge gut-punch to those who play third-person shooters regularly and don’t think much about the people they kill (look at you Uncharted).  Silent Hill 2 is probably one of the best, if not the best, character study games of all time.  And, of course, Metal Gear Solid 1-4 and The Witcher 2Starcraft is arguably the best RTS game in terms of storylines (especially if you read the background story given in the game manual), though I do need to play Warcraft IIIMass Effect 1-3 (though less so for the first one just because the side missions make the game’s pacing suffer considerably).  So, in other words, games that you talk about like they were movies when you’re done with them.  But God help you if you play a game solely for this reason, and it ends on a cliffhanger with no sequel ever happening (fuck you Valve for not wrapping up Half Life 2).

3.) Games that are paced well and do something right with the overall design, especially level design; and maybe throw in some semblance of a story as a bonus.  Super Mario World could arguably be the best designed out of all the traditional Super Mario games in regards to level/game design.  Resident Evil 2 is the go-to horror game for me to this day, mainly because it absolutely nails the zombie sounds, both the moans and the footsteps; and how it gets under my skin during the portions where no music is playing; it’s paced pretty damn well too, and has tremendous replay with different bosses you can face; and it really knows how to time a couple of those jump-scares; plus I believe limiting the player’s view to fixed camera positions works to the game’s advantage when it comes to horror and creating tension with the player.  Doom I is the best Doom game in terms of pacing and progression, both in terms of level design, the weapons you acquire, and the types of enemies that appear.  Doom II isn’t half-bad either, especially with the level design, but the pacing isn’t quite as there, and exists more as a reason for you to just go insane with the shooting, to just unload all those bullets into all those hordes of enemies.  It’s one of the reasons why I believe level design is the most important aspect when it comes to crafting an FPS, the second-most important aspect being pacing (types of enemies that show up on each level, which weapons you have each level).  Usually the one genre I cut a bit of slack are RPG games, especially The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, mainly because of the mods.  Valkyria Chronicles I think is pretty damn good too in terms of gameplay (plus I think the story and characters are so unintentionally hilarious it should be a case study; they have practically every anime cliche/stereotype in the book thrown into that game).  And there’s the Dark Souls games; these are games that aren’t afraid to challenge you, and it’s the kind of challenge that I like.  And then there’s Master of Orion (the first one, from 1993), which I firmly believe is the best 4X-civ game ever designed to this day, despite the dated graphics (at least it’s not Atari graphics and older, my tolerance for dated graphics doesn’t really extend further back than the 90s).  Lastly, I’m terrified of getting into X-Com: UFO Defense again, not because it’s a scary game (though it is tense as hell), but because of how addicted it is; first time I played, I started at like 9am, and next thing I new it was dusk; that scares the shit out of me if a game can make me lose track of time like that.

But anyway, there are some game genres I’d rather not touch just out of personal preference, like sports games and racing games (Grand Theft Auto V I guess could be considered an exception).  Aside from those, I’ve become quite picky when it comes to games.  Probably because I’d rather use my free time doing something else now.  Then again, it could be because the people I used to converse with about gaming in general are no longer around, giving me no one to talk to about this stuff once I’m done with it.  And no, writing reviews about games and bitching about them and/or praising them isn’t enough.  Or it could just be I’m going through a phase.  But considering how much less frequently I’ve been playing videogames over the past couple years compared to how often I’ve played in the past, I doubt it.  I guess it’s possible to reach a stage in your life where you’re gamed out, and are only willing to game on things you know for certain are of high quality (ie suited to your preference).

As for Resident Evil 7, it’s just going to be another one of those games that isn’t really all that special to me.  Entertaining and fulfilling, sure, but so is a burger from Burger King or Jack in the Box or Carls Jr.; just because it’s fulfilling doesn’t mean it stands out compared to the other games/burgers that are out there.  And at this point in my life, I’d rather indulge myself in games that do stand out.  As far as I’m concerned, most of those games are in the past, not in the present or future (with some potential exceptions, like Cyberpunk 2077).

Grand Theft Auto V review

Rated: 4/5*
* = with some caveats and warnings that must be brought up

So, first confession, I initially played this a few years ago on the PS3. At the time, I thought it was the best GTA game ever made. Granted, one could think that with any newly released GTA game, but I thought this was the definitive GTA game that does the title and theme justice. The first in the series to get it right, in my opinion, was GTA: San Andreas. Though I really hated how you had to button mash and do workouts and stuff to make your character stronger. GTA IV was, uh, not bad, the gameplay was solid enough, especially with the shootouts. But the storyline in that game was cliche and predictable. GTA V took the best elements of both games and removed all the shitty ones. The storyline and characters are fantastic, blending satire and legit emotion into it all, covering aspects of both gangster land, redneck country, and high class riches levels of society by having you play as one of three characters representing each. Thus you get to play as someone who represents a certain aspects of society, for better or worse. But since it’s a satire on society as a whole, not being afraid to show the cons of all three, and mostly reveling in the cons, that is what makes it so perfect. The crimes they will commit, all of which require hijacking vehicles as a bare minimum to get the job done. Not to mention it does away with all the BS workout minigames from San Andreas, improves on the storytelling aspects of GTA IV, and makes banging hookers fun again. But you still don’t get to see nudity when you’re doing that. The nudity is left strictly in the strip clubs, where you can be subject to private strip dances ala GTA IV, but no sex.

So, to rephrase that last part, there’s sex in the game, but no nudity while sex is going on. There’s nudity in the game, but not while having sex, and outside of strip clubs, the nudity is mostly relegated to man-ass. Rockstar is teasing us, aren’t they? Like how they showed the full monty with that one DLC story in GTA IV. Maybe in the next one they make we’ll be able to play as a female protagonist who isn’t shy about baring her assets. That would honestly be a bit refreshing, having a female lead in one of these games. She should be a biker. But if the sequel will turn out anything like this one, I’d expect there to be multiple characters to choose from. Well let’s see, they’ve done Russians, they’ve done black gangsters, they’ve done white gangsters, they’ve done rednecks (which deserve their own distinct classification)… Well I guess they could do a Mexican gangster, which up until now have pretty much been NPCs. They’ll also probably have some Middle Eastern guy or something, with some terrorism theme thrown in where some assholes yell “Alla Akubar!”, and one of the missions is just mowing down radical Islamic terrorists or something. But to counter-balance that, you also have a mission where you get to mow down a bunch of radical Christians, radical KKK members, radical neo-nazis, radical leftist liberals, radical right wingers, etc. Have them be done via those Rampage missions, like those ones done in this game with Trevor.

Oh yeah, the Rampage missions. Those are fun as hell. They’re mainly done via the redneck character Trevor, who has a very short temper, has some screws loose, and virtually anything can set him off. So at various points in the game some optional side missions can pop up where you can start killing off people who pissed Trevor off. For instance, he has a conversation with some rednecks at a bar, just out of the blue, he gets pissed at them and starts shooting them, and then you have to start shooting all these other rednecks which just start showing up trying to kill you. Rinse and repeat for black gangsters, Mexican gangsters, and the U.S. military. It’s a huge amount of politically incorrect fun.

So that’s Trevor’s unique character missions. As for the black gangster of the trio, Franklin, he has side missions that are all about assassinations. And about those assassination missions Franklin does. The first one that you get to do, the hotel assassination, I never was able to do the fucking thing. Both on the PS3, and PC version. There was some fucking bug in the game where the guy you are supposed to assassinate never goes outside the hotel, and you’re just waiting for-fucking-ever for it to happen. It pissed me off that I couldn’t do the mission, but thankfully the game seemed prepared for such a scenario and had countermeasures built in. If you fail a mission enough times, there is usually the option to skip it, which I did, because I didn’t have a choice. And by “skip”, I mean the game glosses over it and treats it as you you successfully pulled it off, without you actually having done anything. The game gives you the option to do that for all the side missions as far as I know. I’m positive the reason they implemented this is because they didn’t want gamers getting frustrated over a mission that is optional to do, but really this also serves as a way to bypass mission-breaking bugs in the game.

The 3 main characters are fantastic, and so are several of the side characters themselves. The dialogue is top-notch A+ class writing. I don’t think it could’ve been done any better. Trevor is one crazy psychotic sick sadistic motherfucker, whom the other characters are scared to meet, as they should be. On top of being less than rational, he has a very short temper. His special ability is all about ignoring damage for a limited time and shooting everything in slow-mo.

Michael seems to be the main central character, at least in my opinion, though the other two share as much screen time as him. But everything major tends to revolve around him. His actions usually keep the story progressing. A retired criminal who is having a hard time living the retired life and keeping away from the criminal life. Also doesn’t help that his family are spoiled rotten annoying pricks. I kept hoping he would leave them, but he doesn’t. Whatever. Special ability is shooting in slow-mo.

And then there’s Franklin, the true character living up to the GTA name, stealing cars for profit, and being a thug life gangster. But he desires more than where he’s at, and is thus willing to go along with Michael on more high-stakes heists. Special ability is driving in slow-mo for better vehicle maneuvers.

The story is all about satire of the United States and its occupants. How the main characters themselves are terrible people, the people around them are terrible, and the supposed “good guys”, from the police to the government to corporations to shop owners and such, are all terrible people. But in this fucked up little world, somehow someway, amidst all the muck, there still manages to be small slivers of goodness within everything. But they come at a point where characters have fallen so far when it comes to stealing and drugs and (mass) murder, that the only good comes from killing off guys who end up being worse than they are. Michael’s family hates him for being an uncaring asshole of a father (though he seemed reasonable to me), and for bringing danger to them through his criminal activities, yet they have a hard time living without him because they don’t know of any other way, and are too fucked up to live any other way. And even though the pacing slows at a couple points with the main missions, it never gets bogged down for too long. And there are alternate endings (like GTA IV), but any decent person knows which one to choose.

The story is better than GTA IV. The graphics and gameplay are better than GTA: San Andreas (even if this game does take place in that location). And all 3 of those are better than any GTA game prior. If you were to play any of them, this would be the one, regardless of any bugs it may contain. The only real downside to this game is the whole buying/selling of stocks. I mean, I seriously doubt many would be into that sort of thing if they’re playing a game like this. But hey, it’s there. Also gets a bit irritating how messages can clog up your in-game cell phone.

* But the other con to this game, and this is a big fucking con that everyone should know about before purchasing this game, is with the Rockstar servers themselves. I purchased this game on Steam, and when you first play it (after spending a long-ass time downloading all 66+ GB of it), you need to register with the Rockstar Games Social Club, which is required to log in each time you play the game. A sort of DRM thing, more or less. Now, theoretically, you can do offline play even with this, but it still has to detect the Rockstar servers before it allows you to play the game, which means you still need an Internet connection, even if just for a moment, before it will allow you to play the game. It’s mainly because of GTA Online, which I do not and never want to be a part of because of all the bullshit I heard goes on with it (plus they’ll ban you if you play GTA Online with a modded game). Now, this may not sound so bad, at first.

But there came a day where my PC couldn’t connect to the servers for some reason. I assumed it was a problem on my end for a while, until this problem continued for 2 days straight. At which point I did some research to find out this is not a rare occurrence. Sometimes this happens to gamers. And when it happens, there’s no way for you to get into the game to play it, not even single-player mode. And the only way to fix it is to uninstall the game, delete your folder than contains data on your Rockstar Social account, then reinstall the game, all 66+ GB of it, which takes a long-ass time. This was fucking bullshit.

So while I did eventually get it up and running again, this issue should be a disclaimer put in front of the game whenever anyone wants to buy it. I’m going to be very skeptical of any future purchases (if any) I make from Rockstar after this little stint.

Mods
Oh, right, this is a PC game, so naturally I want to see how mods can improve the experience. And they’re definitely out there. The main site to go to for mods for this game is GTA5-Mods.com. To get started, there are 2 main mods to download in preparation for everything else.

Required Mods (in order for actual mods to work that affect gameplay):
1.) Script Hook V, which comes with Native Trainer, which allows you to do some cheating in the game if you wish to fool around with it.

2.) Community Script Hook V .NET

After installing those two, then you’re usually safe for everything else, though you should always read the instructions and requirements to be sure. Anyway, here’s the mods I ended up using for my playthrough:

Recommended Mods:
1.) World of Variety. Basically gives greater variety in the people you see, the clothes they wear, and in the cars and boats that are driven around. Variety is a good thing to break up monotony. That being said, every now and again, there’s a minor glitch of a vehicle disappearing. Happened to me once immediately when I tried to get into it while the cops were chasing me. But that’s a minor bug that doesn’t happen very often.

2.) Fine-Tuned Felony & Response. Makes the cops act more intelligent and realistically.

3.) Bullet Impact. It just felt unfair how you would get shot and nothing much happened, but if you shoot someone else they could fall over or stumble for a moment. This mod fixes that, making your character react like anyone else if they get shot. It encourages more use of cover. I thought it was great, but it may make missions a little too difficult at times. It’s clear that the game wasn’t built for your character to take a pounding like this in certain places (the Rampage missions in particular). However, with a couple struggles here and there, I made it through the game with this mod. Just be warned of the increase in difficulty.

4.) Safe Cracker. Hey, now you can break open safes and get a bunch of cash rather than only stealing from cash registers. Works for me.

5.) Rob People. You aim a gun at someone, they will stand with their hands up for a moment, then drop their wallet, then run off. You pick up the wallet and get money. Brings more immersion, but it can also cause some missions to get a little buggy with this feature. But again, I was able to play the game the whole way through with this mod.

Now, those are the 5 main mods I used for my playthrough, but there are some others worth checking out after you complete all the missions in the game. That’s required because these other mods don’t work to well when playing through the game normally.

Optional Mods to use at end of the game:
1.) Open All Interiors. Opens up a lot more buildings that were previously closed off in the game. That being said, don’t mistake this for something that opens up “any and all” interiors in every single building. It doesn’t do that. It just opens up many more interiors that were previously closed off. Makes for more interesting shootouts with the cops.

And honestly, those are all the mods I’ve tried that I can recommend. There are plenty of others to choose from which I’m sure will improve the game the way you see fit. One other one I have tried which I can’t fully recommend is the Tanks Spawn at Five Stars, which means the military and their tanks and choppers come after you when you have a 5 star warrant rating. It was fun at first, but there’s 2 reasons why I don’t prefer it. 1.) It’s not realistic. 2.) The tanks are way too overpowered and way too accurate. You won’t last 10 seconds after reaching 5 stars when the tanks show up. That’s no fun.

* One other thing to mention. Last I checked, Rockstar still releases occasional updates for this game, mainly just for GTA Online. Whenever they release an update, and you have mods installed using Script Hook V, you need to either wait until Script Hook V gets an updated release which you must also download and install in order to play with the mods, or play the game for a while without the mods.

Anyway, despite the caveats, I do recommend this game. The game itself is fantastic, it’s just that Rockstar borderline fucks it up with their corporate DRM bullshit.

Wing Commander review

Rated: 2/5

So this PC version is from GOG.com, and uses DosBox.  Well, this is a game that certainly shows its age from 1990, coming out 3 years before Doom, that had 360 degree movement.  So in some respects, Doom is actually a step back in terms of gameplay compared to this game, but on the other hand Doom also had cooler weapons, monsters, and puzzle solving (although the puzzle solving aspect frustrated the hell out of me in that game, but that’s another story).

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