Ahh, yes, the Game Empire. You see, I'm British, I shop at shops in Britain and right now we're being whittles down to one games supplier, Game. Little by little the independent sector is being killed off, little by little we are losing those great little shops that still have copies of old NES games hidden in a corner.
So now game are reporting MASSIVE sales increases, their evil empire has grown by extending its tendrils into that bastion of into that bastion of awesome that was Gamestation. Go into the stores and you can see it already, the prices are up, the logo (admittedly introduced by Blockbuster) is the artificial commercial grunge that people think we want as gamers.
Now the OFT are investigating Game, and thank the lord for it, because we need some genuine competition back in who we buy our games from before the UK drowns in the horrible corporate stench of Game. It's not that I dislike corporations, I just dislike it when they try to be something other than a corporation. Gamestation's image as "Your best mate" in gaming terms will hopefully not hold up under the auspices of Game.
I'm going to admit it, I'm biased, I hate Game, I've disliked them ever since one of their managers was snotty with me years ago. I'll also admit I like Gamestation, I got discount by ASKING NICELY.
So, maybe the OFT wil de-merge them one day and allow competition back into the UK market, until then I'll just have to stay grumpy. If you want to see just how much Game's unjustified profits increases are then you can go here....but make sure you come back here to sulk.
Now let's get one thing straight here. I dislike games journalism in general, either the reporters are in the back pocket of a company and report from that viewpoint, are entirely too nice all round, or finally are a bunch of bloggers who think they're journos because Gabe Newell said hi and they "so totally said hi back". I'm not a journalist, I'm an angry man with a livejournal community, I'm not paid to blog, nor do I give two hoots to be paid, I just love games and want to see better games in future.
Pretty much 90% of gaming websites have been posting how much this year's E3 is going to suck. They're determined that a smaller event spread round many hotels is going to be horrible compared to the old and grand E3. Here's a news flash...MOST OF YOU HATED E3 ANYWAY. You posted about the horrible and cramped conditions, the seedy booths, and the sheer amount of dirty nerds on every flat surface. Guess what, the studios hated it too, it sat there like a monkey on their backs, asking for marketing money, asking for a demo, asking for key design staff to leave for a week to attend. And what was the point? Who was E3 for? Not for the general public, it had a relatively small attendance. Not for the media, you can send them a CD of movies or just invite them to the studio. So it was a completely pointless trade show that relatively few people attended, most people hated AND NOW YOU'RE COMPLAINING IT HAS BEEN SCALED BACK?
On what planet do you guys live? The one where games "journalists" are meant to be invited to free parties half populated by overpaid models dressed up as game characters? Because seriously, even the current E3 is too much. Frankly I can't see why we can't just stick to X0-, Space World and.....whatever the hell Sony have. Give your "State of the Union" speech there, why do you have to give 3 inside a week?
I mean, seriously, let's look at the facts. You're waiting for Metal Gear Solid 4, say, now do you want money to be taken from that to be spent on a pretty CG demo for E3? Do you want the designers to take a week off to galavant round parties instead of finishing your much anticipated game? Of course you don't.
Frankly the people saying E3 will suck need to get a grip and consider what actual need there is for E3 at all, and whether there ever was for anyone except those Indie games designers looking for a publisher.
It has been brought to my attention (by me) that I have been entirely too happy about games and frankly this has got to stop. So today will be the first in a series I like to call "Overblown Loads of Rubbish", no I'm not going to abbreviate it and you're going to have to live with it. Now for the moment I'm going to restrict myself to some criteria. Firstly the game has to be current gen (Handheld, Console, PC, I don't frankly care, they are all equally worthy of grumpyness just as long as they're still being made), secondly it must have at LEAST one 8.5/10 or greater on metacritic and finally I have to think it's a right load of rubbish. That's it, that's all the criteria I need, and frankly anything more would just mean actual effort. I mean come on, this is the lazy man's way to write an article, use someone else's reviews, tell them they're stupid/wrong and then claim it's the height of post modern satire. Well, let's make this less lazy, the game can't be an annual franchise or from a long running series known to lack innovation (Otherwise I'd just be picking Madden whenever I got bored and frankly I can't be bothered).
Yes, it's the people's champion Test Drive Unlimited. Oh I can't tell you how long I've waited for this, I have some serious vitriol stored up, but first let's look at how the critics scored it. A Metacritic score of 82 and 26 reviews above 8.5/10. You'd have to think I was taking on some kind of behemoth here, you really would, but I've played this game and I do know what I'm on about. You see, Test Drive Unlimited is all about taking cars and bikes round a virtual version of Hawaii. Now these are your dream cars, and you inhabit this island with other drivers in your virtual world, it's meant to be some sort of Massively Multiplayer Driving Experience.
What you actually get is a horrible kludge of a game. Does it want to be Grand Theft Hawaii? Does it want to be PGR? Does it Want to be World of Gearboxcraft? The answer is that it wants to be all of these at once but without the controversy of GTA. Oh the game includes police but they're about as effective as that ethereal chocolate fireguard everyone keeps talking about., so it might as well not.
Let's start, though, with the biggest aspect of any driving game, the handling. Now on a console that is famed for PGR and Forza Motorsport you'd have to imagine that any competing game would have to have this spot on. Well here's the skinny. Every car handles in exactly the same way, driving along at high speeds there is not turning, and then all of a sudden loss of grip on every tyre and spinning. This isn't even accurate to the cars portrayed in game let alone to any real world cars. The bikes handle similarly, with all the insane mechanics of this hash of a game.
But let's not stop at this diabolical impersonation of how cars should handle. Let's look at how the game stands up graphically. Graphically the game is plain, very plain next to the raft of other 360 titles out there that shine in the same kind of environment. The big box buildings and the slightly daft foliage have all the graphical polish of a mid-range XBox title, sometimes the game would actually forget to texture them at high speeds. It all just feels so budget.
Of course then we have the mess of an online aspect. In my time with the game I saw people appear in mid-air, warp inside my car, and all other manner of frankly daft things, it really is beyond the pale sometimes. I actually took the demo for a run at one point and thought my speakers were broken, it turned out that the game had taken me on Live without even asking. At least everything else TELLS you when it's online.
Frankly, this should be enough to condemn any car game, so I don't see the need to bother with the dodgy sound, half baked off-roading, lacklustre races, or just the crushing DULLNESS of the rest of the game.
How on earth any editor of any magazine, website, or other organ of the press (and I do use that in its most defamatory sense) can look at TDU and think "Yes, this is an 8/10 game" confounds me to the point of wanting to rub their faces into the screen while shouting "DO YOU SEE????" although my therapist said I should try and avoid this until we get to part 4 of "The Indoor Voice".
So here it is, IF this was a review site (and it's not) we would be awarding games marks out of 10 with 5 as the average. Now if WE were to score TDU it would get a 3, because frankly I'd rather see gamers picking up Need For Speed Underground and thinking they know about cars from that than this little half-arsed effort at a game.
I think that's enough being grumpy for now, I think I've earned the right to be positive about something later.
I for one welcome our new rhythm action overlords and the wonders they bring. Cliche, yes, I know, but I'm using it and you can't stop me.
We in the world of grumpy gaming saw little once in the DDR clone market but then our Maintainer-in-hiding DarkMime64 (He has been sent to a remote scottish cave to work up appropriate levels of vitriol with only a PS2 and Ape Escape for company) decided he quite liked Bongos and after a long period of persuasion I decided I quite liked guitars but still didn't like Bongos. So where am I going with this you ask. Well it seems that a little known development team called "Harmonix" or something has been working on a semi sequel to Guitar Hero 2 called "Rock Band". Now Rock Band aims to bring you from just playing the guitar to...
Oh what's the point, look, this is just an elongated way of me saying "I'm going to link to a gameplay video someone ripped off gamespot and pretend it's actual news instead of me liking something but I want to feel TOTALLY validated in doing it"
If you find yourself as a GH2 fan not being excited then be prepared for my team of 12 burly scotsmen to beat down your door and then use you in an impromptu caber tossing contest. The only problem is that I REALLY want to play the drums and the means buying a peripheral. Ah well, such is life, I suppose....wait...that sounded entirely too happy go lucky, I'm supposed to be grumpy...
Things cost too much, and that's bad, also children these days are terrible, they need to be shoved in shell suits and made to suffer all the worst bits of the 80s so they can appreciate what they have now...like Rock Band. Okay, that sounds grumpy enough for me.
I do have to wonder sometimes if games companies exist on a similar plane of reality to the rest of us, weird, so outlandish, so utterly incomprehensible that it truly does become a herculean effort to actually break into their thought process and work with what they have in order to come to conclusions on their overall plan. Perrin Kaplan's famous "It's a Ferrari under the hood" statement on mediocre Wii specs, Microsoft opening an E3 with a Shrek game, and Sony's entire E3 of last year(Giant enemy crab, you can't write that stuff, it takes EFFORT to be that mind numbingly bad).
So what is the latest PR gaffe of the world of gaming? Well, it was made by Jack Tretton (President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America) who basically accused studios of being unprincipled, and his competitors of being underhanded. Don't believe me? Read this link for some proof. Now, come on Jack, let's get some issues straight, are you really saying that securing exclusivity by money is a bribe? Do you REALLY want to bring this whole issue down to dirty tactics against you and make your competitors look like backstabbing rogues who should be twirling moustaches and tying people to railway tracks?
Here's the real issue. Microsoft and Nintendo are investing, not only in a developer but a userbase, and good will. Let's take something like Gears of War for instance. Microsoft expanded the RAM in the console for Gears of War at a cost of $1bn because they saw just how much more potential there was in the game. Now let's look at the outcome, Gears of War was huge, totally beyond the pale for 360 games. It was unavailable for other platforms but was so big people bought the console for it, they played it, loved it and bought the T-shirt. So let's analyse here; Microsoft win because their console is selling, their attach rate is going up, and they have a new big IP to wave round. Epic win because they generate massive sales on the game, fan goodwill by making a tremendous game, and they have a proven working relationship with Microsoft to build from. Fans win because they get a game built from the ground up for that specific platform.
Bribery, by its nature, assumes that principles are being corrupted. Guess what, the principle of most games designers is to make good games for lots of money. The fact that the industry is having to turn to episodic gamign to minimise long run costs just proves that investment in return for exclusivity is something that some studios will need in order to make full sized games in future and there is no shame in it. Perhaps in future Mr Tretton should stick to improving his own product before lambasting others as Rome burns around him.
The fact is that Sony is currently missing the goodwill from studios as well as the sales from exclusivity it needs. In fact you need only look at the buzz generated by Assassin's Creed to see how important percieved exclusives can be.....and just how damaging it is when you lose them. I can't see exclusives making up for lost sales on PS3 already but I can see them being part of the overall rescue package in time.
We here at GrumpyGamers don't get happy often, we frankly don't see that much to be happy about, in fact if we did we'd probably be called "FunCandyLandGamerz" or something equally depressing. Once in our youth, however, we were innocent, unspoiled by the ever growing gaming industry and its insidious plugging machine (or as we call it "Games Journalism").
During this time of excess and happiness we were treated by Sega to something rare, something special, something true....something so very Sega. Yes, it was NiGHTS into Dreams where you play as the plucky asexual creation of Wiseman (NiGHTS' main villain) collecting orbs to break open things that allowed you to move on. Okay, so there wasn't that much of a story but it had two kids conquering their fears, destroying their nightmares and then living for themselves afterwards. Now this game was creative, it didn't work like anything else out there and there's been very little since even close.
Now flash forward many years, past the fall of Sega and into the new Imperious Age of Sammy-Sega. We saw the announcement of the new NiGHTS and (being grumpy) decided it would be a poor clone of a wonderful game we had a special place for in the swinging hardened brick you might once have called our hearts.
...then came the first scans which looked rubbish....but now there's a second lot, to be found here , and you know what, we think they're so special that people other than us might actually show some kind of interest in them. Remember people, we're grumpy, so if WE like it there must be some hope for all of mankind in the end. Sure, it's modern Sega and will probably be as disappointing as recent Sonic games have been but if we hold out some hope that this one might be like old Sega, and then people buy it then maybe, just maybe, Sega will go back to making the quirky games we all used to like in the old days that people no longer want because they're not licenced by Adidas or something.
I bet if the dragoon in Panzer Dragoon Orta had had a Nike tick on the side the game would have sold like hot-cakes.
Yes, it would seem that Mr Jack Thompson has finally been called in to discuss all his previous misadventures in court, it seems however that whatever discussion that took place have tried to cement him as a raving loon. Apparently when called in for "mediation" with the bar association (the body governing the conduct of all lawyers in the US) not only was it suggested Mr Thompson be given a 91 day suspension but it was also suggested that he undergo some psychological evaluation. For some reason some people are reporting this as if it has already happened but much like the 2 federal lawsuits against Jack Thompson this has yet to be concluded.
The one interesting thing about this is that Mr Thompson himself informed Game Politics about the lack of mediation. We have to wonder what he was looking for, is he looking for sympathy? Perhaps he wants to clear up what happened? Maybe he even wanted to keep his name hot as he hasn't been heard from in at least two weeks. Let's face it, most gamers wouldn't give Jack the time of day, let alone feel sympathy for him, as well as that there aren't many in the gaming world who care about accurate reporting all that much because they're reporting that this has already happened. Well, doesn't this leave us with just the one conclusion? It would appear the Mr Thompson actively wants his name associated with controversy all the time as if he's just attention seeking.
On a personal note I have to say that while I laud what Jack is trying to do (Restrict the sale of adult games to adults) I do not have slightest idea why he sees the need to stir up controversy and annoy the very community he claims to want to protect. What Mr Thompson is doing is stirring up opposition to his proposals that would not exist were it not for his tactics that 9/10 of the world disagrees with. Here's a final hint though, being passionate about the cause of age restriction on games when you don't play them, blatantly ignore their content, and then call gamers idiots isn't the best way to go about these things.
For the original GamePolitics article head here: http://gamepolitics.com/2007/07/03/jack-thompson-claims-bar-official-demanded-psych-test-suspension/
Right, well, the first bit of grumpy business is something I like to think of as an experiment in worldwide hysteria in the gaming community. For those of you not in the know I will recap:
Manhunt was a game involving you, an escaped prisoner, working for a "Director" who had whisked you away from death row in order to get you to star in "snuff films" (go and look those up on wikipedia, I'm not doing the game the dignity of making proper links). So, you stalk people, kill them in many violent ways (the more successful you are the more excruciatingly violent the death), and eventually chainsaw your boss in half.
Now so far this is sounding a bit like Hostel without the softcore porn, but now we have to move onto Manhunt 2. Now Manhunt 2 is a sequel and as we all know the sequel MUST top the original, more violent, more bloody, more psycopathic. So, we now have this even more over the top game that is coming to all platforms. Now don't get me wrong, I don't buy the link between violent games and violent acts but what I do think is that games like all other media have societal standards of taste and decency to uphold. We formed a body to enforce these standards with the BBFC, an independent body that has to conform to legal standards.
Now, let me just discuss the BBFC here briefly. In regards to violence they have several criteria, they have to consider the level of violence, the appropriateness, and finally how easilly copied that violence is. The upshot of this is that if someone uses a gun or a laser it is more likely to be passed at a low level by the BBFC, if it's nunchuku or crossbows (which can be legally be bought and are easy to use) then they have a problem. Simple stuff, really, it is.
Now the BBFC denied a rating to Manhunt 2, they didn't even suggest cuts, that's how bad they thought it was. Consider this, this is a board that happily passed Saw, Hostel, Captivity and all the other torture porn you can think of with no cuts. Now consider that the BBFC has recently announced that people can remove themselves from violence in videogames more easilly than film and that they would be bringing ratings more into line with film as a result. Now consider just what Manhunt 2 must have done to have its rating withheld. Worse yet, consider a Wii version!
This is why I was somewhat annoyed by the following article: http://www.mcvuk.com/interviews/81/Manhunt-2-ban-erodes-civil-liberties go on, read it, you know you can. I'll be waiting right here when you get back. This is not an erosion of civil liberties, this is not even a step in that direction, this is an independent commision telling the public that this game is not suitable for them and the risk of children getting their hands on it is too strong to allow it to be released. This is no more an erosion of civil liberties than Casino Royale getting a PG is. Let's face it, the games industry is now being held to the same standards as the movie industry is as regards its societal resposibility. For years people said games should be taken seriously, now they are, and people are throwing a hissy fit.
Frankly I think we have to accept that the industry has grown up in the eyes of the world and it needs to start acting responsibly before we see titles like this smacked down left right and centre. Sure, there's a complement of people out there who want to be shoving shotguns up people's nostrils and watching the brains fly but those people need to realise that if society sets a line up then they need to be mindful about crossing it. Hopefully this fuss will die down and the petition to get Manhunt 2 an 18 without cuts will be rejected as all I can see it doing right now is free publicity for when the game eventually comes out in cut down form.
Gamers of the world, this is your overlord. I come to you not in peace but in war. These are desperate times and so we must take desperate measures. The gaming world has officially become full of itself, and we are here to put an end to it with joint measures of mockery and adoration.
Now you may be thinking that you've had it up to the hilt with comedy blogs mocking everything everyone does in some sort of weird post-modern way but we're going to be different. You see, we're not just going to to mock everything, no, we're going to be picky about our mockery and we're not always going to take the popular stance on these things.
Hopefully time will bring us more than just me to comment on these things.