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Resident Evil 7 Is The Most Important Game Of This Console Generation

resident-evil-7

I’m going to make a bold claim here. Are you ready? Are you sure? Here it coooomes.

Resident Evil 7 is the best game out in 2017 thus far, bar none. Ha! How do you like them apples?

What? Not bold enough? Okay, okay. Maybe you have a point. After all, it is only February, and RE7 is one of only two big games to be released this year, Nioh being the other one. And since Nioh is an arcadey hack and slash game that has been described as a mix between Ninja Gaiden and the Dark Souls game, I would rather get my fingernails pulled out than suffer through that sort of game. So process of elimination leaves RE7 as the best game of 2017 (so far) by default. It’s like winning a two horse race when the other horse is already in a bag of Alpo somewhere.

Okay, so if my previous statement is a bit of a cheat, let me throw a new bold claim your way: Resident Evil 7 is the most important game of this console generation.

Make no mistake, I’m not claiming this is the best game of this console generation. No, not at all. As long as we still live in a universe where The Witcher 3 exists, I doubt any other game will have that claim. Not to mention the gaming masterpiece My Name Is Mayo.

my-name-is-mayo

They should have sent a poet.

No, I simply mean that what RE7 does and accomplishes could, and should, send shockwaves throughout the industry, and put the increasingly stagnant publishing companies of AAA games on notice.

Before I go into what I mean by this, let me set the stage by describing the state of Resident Evil before the release of the seventh entry this year. In 2005, Resident Evil 4 was released, and it was a turning point for the franchise. The game took a much more action oriented approach to its survival horror formula, favoring fast paced, chaotic action sequences over the plodding suspense and jump scares of the previous games. The thing was, Resident Evil 4 still had scary moments, and a palpable horror atmoshphere. It didn’t stray from its roots so much that you could have mistaken it for a Call of Duty game. It was just a different kind of scary. If the first Resident Evils resembled a walk through haunted house at a carnival, then Resident Evil 4 was more like a roller coaster.

So Capcom took a risk, and was applauded for it. Resident Evil 4 was insanely well reviewed upon release and many still consider it the pinnacle of the series, a perfect marriage of old school survival horror and modern sensibilities. But then Capcom made a bit of an error.

You know when your friend says a funny joke, and everyone laughs at it, but then the friend runs the joke into the ground, killing it beyond all recognition? Capcom was that friend. It let the success of RE4 go to its head, and it misinterpreted its success as a call for more action in the series. Enter Resident Evil 5, where the series begins its rapid fall from grace.

The canary in the coal mine for RE5 was when there was footage that showed a split screen for local co-op. Surely this was just a weird graphical glitch, right? Most embarrassing for Capcom to release footage with such a glaring technical error and oh god no, that’s real and it’s actually a co-op game.

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I actually enjoyed Resident Evil 5. I played it twice with two different friends as a couch co-op experience, and it was actually a totally fun game. My problem with it is that, even though it was a good game, it wasn’t a good Resident Evil game. And when you’re playing a Resident Evil game, I expect to, yanno, play a fucking Resident Evil game. Just like when I go to Baskin Robbins I expect ice cream, and when I go to Golden Corral I expect explosive diarrhea; some things are just a given in life.

So I had to admit that I was a little disappointed in Resident Evil 5, especially after the masterpiece that was Resident Evil 4. While Resident Evil 4 certainly skewed more towards the action side of things, it still very much had a Resident Evil feel to it, and had plenty of scenes of expertly crafted tension and suspense. Resident Evil 5 ended with you punching a boulder. The seeds of disconnect were being sewn by Capcom.

re-5-boulder

Pictured: Survival horror, apparently.

And then came Resident Evil 6. Oh boy.

Fans were starting to voice their opinion that they were becoming a little worried about Resident Evil‘s sudden boner for explosions and car chases. Capcom tried to dissuade those fears by releasing an early trailer that featured fan favorite Leon S. Kennedy, shooting the Romero style shambling zombies of yore, as if to say, “Get ready folks, we’re going back to our roots!”

And then they made the mistake of showing the rest of the trailer. And we got to see the promise of classic survival horror was hollow, mere window dressing for another explosion filled extravaganza that was masquerading as a Resident Evil game. The trailer even promised cover based shooting. Cover. Based. SHOOTING. IN A FUCKING RESIDENT EVIL. ARE WE FIGHTING FUCKING PEEK A BOO MONSTERS NOW.

Sigh. And what made it even worse is that the game itself was bad. The franchise’s progression was as follows:

Resident Evil 4: Man, this was amazing! Capcom really did a great job of rebooting the franchise but keeping things familiar!

Resident Evil 5: Well, it’s not a very good Resident Evil game but it’s still an enjoyable game.

Resident Evil 6: Well, it’s not a very good Resident Evil game but it’s shitty too so fuck this game.

Things were not looking good for the series. Sales declined from 5 to 6 and for good reason. Throw in a couple of spin offs, like the multiplayer-centric shooter Umbrella Corps, and it seemed like Capcom had officially gone the way of a senile grandparent, hopelessly out of touch with life but still trying desperately to remain cool by saying words like “fresh” and “hip.”

To make matters worse, is that the rest of the game industry was following suit. There was a distinct lack of good, true survival horror games for pretty much the entire PS3/Xbox 360 generation. The only game that seemed to have any interest in providing a scary, immersive and atmospheric experience was Dead Space and look what fucking happened to that franchise (hint: the exact same thing that happened to Resident Evil).

But, there was hope.

In 2015, Capcom released the beloved Gamecube remake of the original Resident Evil, remastering it for modern consoles. Although there was something comical about remaking a remake, the game was much appreciated by me. I never had the chance to play the Gamecube Resident Evil, and I had always wanted to considering the rave reviews it had gotten over the years. When it was available for download, I immediately purhcased it.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had these feelings. The game was Capcom’s fastest selling digital game ever, and even broken a record on the PSN, being the fastest selling digital day one title in the PSN’s history. Clearly, this game was resonating with people, and soon enough Capcom announced they were going to remaster Resident Evil 0, followed by the Earth shattering news that they were planning on completely remaking Resident Evil 2. Capcom had apparently noticed the hunger for some old school survival horror Resident Evil, and was now about to force feed it down our throat like an old Italian grandmother watching her grandkids, shoving cannoli after cannoli down their gullets.

I wasn’t complaining though. Cannoli is delicious, after all, and survival horror is one of my favorite genres. To make this all even better, the gaming industry in general seemed to notice that there was still very much demand for survival horror, as the indie scene exploded with some great, scary games. Outlast and Slender to name a few, with The Evil Within being a AAA example of a new survival horror game. And of course there was the phenomenon that was P.T., a demo for the now aborted Silent Hills (R.I.P.) that set the internet ablaze with how scary and fucked up it was. Hell, I personally know of three grown men who only lasted ten minutes into P.T. before having to quit, while another friend, who is a Navy fucking SEAL, refused to play it because of what he had seen and heard about it.

lisa

nope nope nope nope nope nope NOPE

When you took a look at this survival horror Renaissance and combined it with Capcom’s sudden commitment to getting the older Resident Evils back into gamers’ lives, it made fans hopeful that Resident Evil 7 would bring the series back into the shadows of actual, honest to goodness horror. But would Capcom actually listen to their fans?

Yes, they sure fucking did.

And here is where I finally come back to the whole god damned point of this article. Resident Evil 7 is the most important game of this console generation because it shows what can happen when a game company takes risks and ACTUALLY LISTENS TO ITS FANS.

Resident Evil 7 takes the franchise to some place old and some place new. We go back to the spooky survival horror of the series’ past, a brand of gameplay that puts more focus on exploration, puzzle solving, and avoiding combat rather than shooting your way through hordes of enemies. The game even brings back locked doors with specifically designed keys that require some backtracking to find and unlock, giving this game an incredible ‘classic’ Resident Evil feel. Is it a little goofy that this dilapidated backwoods Louisiana property has extremely specific locked doors with extremely specific keys, as well as a gauntlet of puzzles you need to solve before you can even go into the front yard? Yeah, probably, but fuck me if this isn’t the Resident Evil we know and love.

But Capcom didn’t just shoehorn this game into the blueprint of the originals and call it a day. They actually took a big chance and gave it a first person view. Gone are the fixed cameras of 1-3 and say goodbye to the over the shoulder perspective of 4-6. You’re now put squarely into the shoes of the protagonist, and you’re going to see all the disgusting gore up close, as if you’re actually there looking at the lovely, mutated Southern family chowing down on a dinner of entrails.

Even I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical of the first person view. When I saw that Resident Evil was aiming to be scary again, I was ecstatic. The first person view, though? Ehh, I was a little worried. Resident Evil had tried first person view before and it never particularly ended well.

dead-aim

The dude is trying to shoot you so you don’t have to subject yourself to this game.

But after having played Resident Evil 7, I can’t imagine any future installments in the series going back to 3rd person. The 1st person view makes everything so much more immersive and, thus, more scary. When you’re being chased by a crazy hillbilly with an incredibly deadly shovel, it makes it a much more frantic, pants shitting experience when you actually see him barreling straight down the hall towards you. Similarly, hiding in the corner while he searches the room you’re in is that much more intense when you’re seeing it unfold before you, watching as he gets closer and closer. The switch to first person has, in my opinion, made this the scariest Resident Evil in the series yet.

And this is why this game is, in my opinion, so incredibly important to the industry. Capcom showed some big balls by rebooting one of their most popular franchises, and also showed a good deal of humility by swallowing their pride and admitting that the past couple games in the series have been disappointments for fans. They not only were brave enough to admit fault and reboot the series to borrow from its much older ancestors, but also put a fresh new spin on it as well, making the familiar feel fresh and exciting again.

It’s rare for a game company as big as Capcom to do something like that, and it’s heartening to see it happen, and so successfully at that. This could have positive ramifications throughout the industry. Capcom has officially planted the flag and shown to the rest of the big, AAA publishers and developers out there that if you actually take criticisms to heart and take creative risks rather than stagnate and be content with pumping out the same game every two years, you can make a hell of a good game.

And that’s just what Resident Evil 7 is: a hell of a good game. This entire reboot would have been for naught if it came out and people hated it. That would have been incredibly destructive not just to the series, but to the idea that companies should take risks and reinvent themselves. It would have been every suit in the gaming industry knowingly nodding, going “This is why you’re going to get Call of Duty every year, kids.” But here we are, with a fantastic game in Resident Evil 7, the best the series has offered since the PS2 era. And why? Because Capcom actually bucked up and listened.

Now imagine what could happen when other companies look at this when they start to develop the next big entry in their franchises. Call of Duty had its worst sales in quite a long time this year, showing that series might be in need of a bigger change than just putting the game in outer space and having Jon Snow be the villain. Now Activision can look at Resident Evil 7 as proof that, hey, maybe we can adjust our formula a bit and put some life into the series! Bethesda has received some criticism for Fallout 4, with many noting that, while it’s certainly still a good game, the tried and true Bethesda open world RPG model is honestly starting to feel a little stale. When development on Elder Scrolls VI starts to get going, I sincerely hope that they see Capcom’s leaps of faith with Resident Evil 7 and put it towards evolving not just their series, but the genre in general. And of course, there is the Final Fantasy series, which is probably the new Resident Evil in terms of a series that has fans crying for the game to go back to its roots, with the developers responding, “New phone, who dis?”

Square Enix’s defense of this is even eerily similar to Capcom’s when people questioned the direction of Resident Evil. When people asked where the survival horror and the scares went, Capcom would say things that indicated that they believed survival horror was dead and that the modern gamer has no patience for a slower, more deliberately paced genre, despite no evidence supporting this. Square Enix essentially says the same things, saying turn based strategy and role playing games have gone the way of the dodo, despite games like XCOM and The Banner Saga becoming cult classics seemingly overnight. I truly believe if Final Fantasy LI, or whatever the fuck number they’re on, went back to a more turn based, strategic combat system, more reminiscent of earlier entries, that it would be the best reviewed Final Fantasy since IX or X. Instead, we get relative disappointment after relative disappointment.

Those excuses can end here though, and we can thank Resident Evil 7 for that. No longer can companies hide behind buzz words like “bottom line” and “trends”, holding pictures of graphs trying to prove their points that gamers want certain things, despite the gaming communities saying, quite literally, the opposite. Resident Evil 7 shows that if you trust your fans, and if you go back to what you know and what you do best (in Capcom’s case, scaring the poo out of you), then you can make not just a great game, but a reason to be excited about your franchise. And that’s why, despite the fact that this game involves a boss fight where you’re battling against a giant centipede woman, this is an incredibly important game for this day and age.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Kyle Hanley’s Top 5 Games of 2015

 

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It’s that time of year, folks! It’s the start of a new year, which means it’s time to look forward! Let’s make New Year’s Resolutions to stop being so fat and disgusting, for the first few days of January, at least! Let’s all make plans to visit new places and take exciting trips only to realize we barely have enough energy to walk to the fridge let alone go out of town! Let’s all reflect on how we are all about to get another year older which means we are that much closer to death and, even worse, erectile dysfunction!

But while it’s good to look ahead on all the positives and great things a new year will bring, it’s also worth looking back and reminiscing about the year we all just had. Think about all the good times you had with your friends and about all the milestones you hit. For example, I managed to train myself to fart the chorus section of All You Need Is Love by The Beatles. Thanks, 2015!

Longtime fanatics of this blog, and I’m sure there are many of you, know that I also take this time to look back and rank my favorite games and movies of the year. This year is no different. I will start with this post about my favorite games and by late January/early February, I will have my top 5 movies article posted. Let’s see if at any point between these two articles I leave the house and talk to somebody who isn’t my mom!

Now, 2015 may have been the year that gave us Hotline Bling and Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, but it was a GREAT year to be a gamer. After a somewhat paltry 2014, we managed to get a ton of great games this year and I actually had a tough time drawing up this list. I am not exaggerating when I say a couple of these games are some of my new all time favorites and that I easily think 2015 will be remembered as one of the best years in gaming history.

Now that I’m done with what I’m sure you guys are assuming is hyperbole (but it isn’t! I swear!), let’s actually get to the rankings!

5. Until Dawn

until dawn cover

The list starts off with the surprise game of 2015, a PS4 exclusive made by Supermassive Games. If you’re asking, “What’s a Supermassive Games?”, congratulations! You are literally everyone, ever, when this game was first announced. They’re a pretty new studio and they actually started Until Dawn last generation, when it was supposed to be a first person, motion sensor based game. Years have passed and the game jumped from PS3 to PS4, metamorphosing into something quite different.

So what is Until Dawn? If you answered, “the amount of time you spend jerking off, Kyle,” you are wrong! Well, you are technically right, but that wasn’t the answer I was looking for here. Until Dawn is basically a choose your own adventure in the style of Telltale and Quantic Dream games where you control eight different characters in a horror movie setting. Imagine Heavy Rain if it were inspired by slasher flicks instead of murder mysteries, and if it also had much less awkward sex scenes.

Heavy-Rain love

Umm. Am I supposed to be getting a boner or…

Until Dawn tells the story of a group of teenagers who visit a cabin for the weekend even though two of their friends had died there the previous Winter. Why go back to the scene of such a traumatic and tragic incident? Because the story says so, stupid! Of course things don’t go well, as death cabin visits tend to, and the teens find themselves prey to a sadistic and psycho killer (Qu’est-ce que c’est, Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better).

Your job is to navigate the night and make sure all the character survive UNTIL DAWN. Like Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls or any of the fucking eighty Telltale games there are, you control the characters in an adventure game type setting, making split second decisions that could forever change the course of the game. A lot of games of this type offer this promise and fail to deliver, especially the Telltale games. It’s like, “Okay, choose between two characters for the one you want to survive this scene, but it doesn’t really matter who you choose because the other will just die a half hour from now because we are too lazy to write two different scripts that far ahead.”

Is Until Dawn guilty of this? At times. Certain plot twists and developments rely on key characters being alive, so there are times where there is no real danger. But even with this caveat, Until Dawn is MUCH better than the other games in actually having your choices matter. Its much touted Butterfly Effect system actually has seemingly small incidences heavily affecting certain outcomes later in the game. A mistake early on could prove to be the death of that character later on in the game. The game even compiles all these cause and effect moments in a helpful menu screen, so you can look back and reflect on just how badly you fucked up.  If you’re bad enough at the game, it could easily turn into a Whiny Teenager Killing Simulator, which is a shame the game wasn’t marketed as such because it would have sold billions if it had.

Until Dawn’s intense choice system makes it a ton of fun to play and replay, and this is also easily one of the best looking games on the PS4. But the game has a few flaws. It incorporates too many quick time events (or QTEs to hardcore gamers like me *snorts, pushes up glasses*) and the game also relies a little too heavily on jump scares, especially in the beginning when it seems EVERY character plays a prank on another, trying to scare them. I prefer a horror game to create a consistent feeling of dread and suspense through toying with my psychology, rather than it constantly going, “BOO! HAHAHA, SCARED YOU, YA QUIVERING PUSSY! BOO AGAIN! HAHA TOTALLY NAILED IT!”

Outside of these qualms, Until Dawn manages to be a fun, engrossing experience that demands multiple playthroughs. Just don’t feel too bad when you inevitably end up killing the whole cast.

Random observation: Some people will say that this game only made the list because it includes a bath scene with Hayden Panettiere. That’s completely untrue, I didn’t even watch and rewatch that scene more than fourteen times.

4. Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman_Arkham_Knight-coverart

Pop quiz! Who is the best superhero?

A. Superman
B. Aquaman
C. General Dickspank Stormheart
D. Batman

If you said A, we are no longer on speaking terms. If you said B, you must be the creators of Aquaman, Mr. Mort Weisinger and Mr. Paul Norris, which is confusing because you are both dead. If you said C, I made that name up to see if you were paying attention and since you obviously aren’t, you can get on the hell out of my blog. *cocks shotgun and spits in spitoon*

If you said D, then DING DING DING! You are correct! Batman is and always will be the best god damned superhero ever created. And the Arkham games, based on Batman and his universe? The best god damned superhero games ever created and yes, Warner Brother Games, you can put that quote on the box.

Batman Arkham Knight is the 3rd game in the Arkham trilogy (hey Arkham Origins, you’re actually kind of fun but, uhh, no one is counting you as part of the series). In it, Batman finds himself in his most harrowing situation yet. Scarecrow has taken over Gotham City, holding the city hostage with his powerful fear toxin. As if that weren’t enough, a new bad guy calling himself the Arkham Knight has rolled into town with a seemingly infinite mercenary army, helping out the Scarecrow and generally being a dick to Batman. Also, this takes place over the course of just one night because Batman.

Let me clear the air on something: I fucking love the Arkham games (and yet again, WB Games, feel free to use that quote for marketing purposes). The games are a near perfect blend of stealth, action, story and atmosphere and Arkham City was easily one of my top ten favorite games of last generation. I am happy to announce that Arkham Knight manages to top all before it and is quite comfortably the best in the series, which is saying something.

Like the previous games, Arkham Knight brings equal doses of fluid combat with tense stealth sections. These different scenarios often force you to make use of Batman’s wide arsenal of gadgets (no shark repellent in this one, but there’s always hope for the next Arkham game!). When you’re not trying to save Gotham from Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight, you can spend time on the side trying to save Gotham from other villains because apparently no one got the memo from the first two games that Batman is not someone you want to fuck with.

The game also includes a new mechanic, which is easily the most polarizing part of the entire series: the Batmobile. I remember when I first heard the Batmobile was going to be in Arkham Knight, I was very skeptical. I am always leery of driving sections in games that aren’t built specifically around driving, as it often feels tacked on an unpolished. When reviewers were complaining about the Batmobile in reviews, I was even more fearful.

Thankfully, reviewers from big media outlets are dumb. The Batmobile is not only just fine, but a ton of fun to use. Blasting through Gotham and crashing through walls never gets old and the tank style sections are fun and intense (for the most part). Sure, the Batmobile is not without its faults. A few tank sections, particularly near the end, can be more tedious than fun. And the idea of Batman destroying three quarters of the city he’s trying to save with a giant, missile spewing explosion machine makes about as much sense for his character as it does for Captain America to head over to Hitler’s house to watch the games and share a few beers.

gotham-city-burns

Gotham City, after a typical joy ride with the Batmobile.

If you enjoyed the other Arkham games, you’ll love this one. If you didn’t care for them, I can’t guarantee you’ll be won over by this one, but I do think it’s more likely than with the others since Arkham Knight is even more jam packed with things to o than the others. Arkham Knight easily ranks up there with the best games of the year.

Random observation: The storytelling in this game is incredible, not just the plot but the way its told and presented. But the eventual ‘reveal’ of the Arkham Knight’s identity is so predictable and lame, they may as well have put it at the start of the game. Like in a “and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver!” style opening credit. And now I can’t stop thinking of Jerry Mathers as the Arkham Knight.

3. Rocket League

Rocket_League_coverart

Let me plant the flag right here: Rocket League is the best multiplayer game ever made. Yes you can take your Call of Dutys (heh, dutys) and Mario Parties (heh, parties) and Halos (heh, halos) and shove them right up your pooper (heh, shove).

Rocket League is as simple as it is addictive. Its soccer, but instead of whiny Europeans, its played with rocket powered cars. There are also a lot less fake injuries.

fake injury

Maybe this will be in the DLC, though!

Aaaaand that’s your premise. That’s it. You are a car, there is a giant ball, and you have to get it in the net. End of story. No saving the word from Russians or aliens or Russian aliens, no fighting endless hordes of zombies (you mean video games DON’T have to include zombies!?), just pure old fashioned fun.

The beauty of Rocket League is its local multiplayer. For someone reading this a few years in the future when this doesn’t exist anymore, local multiplayer is this awesome thing games used to have where people called ‘friends’ would come over to your house and you would actually play the SAME game in the SAME room! I’m sure your jetpacks and Pizza Hut Delivery Drones that feed you at your doorstep are pretty cool, but man, it’s a shame you didn’t get to experience local multiplayer. Rocket League does local multiplayer better than literally anyone, providing a fun, frenetic experience that will have everyone chanting, “one more game, just one more game,” like you are part of the world’s geekiest cult.

The game is a little bare bones in terms of the amount content it offers. Outside of standard online multiplayer matches, you only get exhibitions and a shallow season mode. There are also only 3 legitimate difficulties, two of which are easier than raiding a blind person’s fridge, the last one of which is harder than raiding 2012 Val Kilmer’s fridge. The game, since launch, has been updated with some game modifiers to help freshen the experience, but even they only go so far. With all this said, it’s tough to be too harsh with all these criticisms when the stiff it does offer is just so much fucking fun.

Random observation: Hey, 2012 Val Kilmer, if you’re reading this, I didn’t mean anything by the fridge comment. Just kidding, yanno. Please don’t eat me.

2. Fallout 4

fallout 4 cover art

For seven years we have been waiting for a new true Fallout game. And no, don’t even try to pass that broken, glitch filled sack of turds New Vegas as a true Fallout game. Seven long years with seemingly dozens of false reports and ‘leaks’ and hoaxes about Fallout 4 and its eventual coming.

That wait ended this past year when Fallout 4 was not only announced, but released merely five months later. It was the most triumphant moment for virgins since Tim Tebow won a playoff football game that one year.

I am a HUGE fan of Bethesda open world RPGS. I have spent more combine time playing Oblivion, Skyrim and Fallout 3 than I have done doing things like “laundry” and “hanging out with friends” and “looking for a career”. So I was just as stoked as anyone for Fallout 4’s arrival. And now that it’s here and I’ve been able to get lost in it, I can say it’s just as good as we hoped/expected.

Fallout 4 takes us to its post apocalyptic universe, where the danger of being shot at with a gun is around every corner and where people are gigantic dicks to each other. It’s not much different from today, actually, just a lot more rubble and less selfie sticks. In this installment, we are taken to the Commonwealth which is the nuked remains of Boston. Unlike the dull gray that seemed to suffocate the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3, the Commonwealth has a much more vibrant color palate, making for a much more beautiful and eye pleasing game world to explore. It may be the end of the world, but that doesn’t mean it has to be offensive to the eyes.

Like all Bethesda RPGs, Fallout 4 affords the player with incredible amounts of freedom. You create your character at the beginning with an in depth creation system, allowing you to make your character as beautiful or ugly as your hear desires.

ugly fallout

OH GOD IT’S LOOKING AT ME SOMEBODY HELP

After creating a character, and a short prologue, you are dropped into the world to do whatever the hell you want. You can plow through the main quest to experience the story, like some kind of nerd, or you can take your time and explore the vast, dense game world, picking up side quests, crafting weapons and armor or, my favorite, being a complete asshole to people. Oh and you can do all this while wearing nothing but a chef’s hat. I feel like that is worth mentioning.

Fallout 4 also adds a few new things to keep players hooked. There is a settlement building activity where you can build and maintain settlements of survivors, using a wealth of objects to build almost anything your imagination can come up with. It’s a neat system, but it definitely isn’t for everyone, myself included. I respect what its trying to do, but I found it boring, especially when I realized how much work it was going to be to make a bunch of dick shaped buildings.

One thing I do love is the deeper companion system. While Fallout 3 had companions, they were not much more than bullet absorbing, mobile storage devices. Sure, they had personalities, but they weren’t nearly as fleshed out as Fallout 4 companions are. With these companions, you have regular conversations with them, picking up bits of backstory about them and you can even unlock a specific quest to complete with them, a la Mass Effect. They start to feel like real, living people and it helps form a much more tangible bond with them. These companions also act as your moral compass, replacing the famed Karma system from past Fallout games. When you do something your companion does or doesn’t like, you’ll get a notification of it in the top of the screen. So if you beat an old lady to death with a baseball bat because you wanted to steal the box of mac n’ cheese she had on her, prepare to hear a comment on it from your buddy. If they’re fun, they probably won’t mind it.

With all this said, though, Fallout 4 is, at its core, nothing more than souped up, more refined Fallout 3. Is that bad? Shit no! Fallout 3 is amazing and so is 4. Do I wish it brought a little more evolution to the Fallout series? Meh, maybe. Perhaps that’s why it’s only number 2 on the list. Yanno, like that’s a bad thing.

Random observation: Been burned by Bethesda glitches before? Afraid to pick up Fallout 4 because of it? Fear not! I only ran into a ridiculous glitch two hours into the game, rather than a mere hour as we expect to from Bethesda games! Good job, Bethesda, you’re getting better at this video game thing!

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Witcher_3_cover_art

And here we are. My game of the year. What is so incredible about The Witcher 3 is that even in this year of sensational gaming, where we had some true juggernauts clashing for the top spot of GOTY, it wasn’t even close for me. Witcher 3 is hands down the best game I’ve played all year, and by a large margin. A small part of me even thinks this game might be the best I’ve ever played, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Guys. This game is really good. And the thing is, I almost didn’t even play this game. As a lifelong Playstation gamer (not counting a brief Rollercoaster Tycoon on PC addiction in my early teens which I don’t like to talk about, it was dark time in my life), I’ve never played the Witcher games. So when I heard that The Witcher 3 was coming to PS4 I went “So?” and went back to Google imaging ‘Emma Watson making out with Emma Stone, preferably naked’. But then I saw previews for the game and I found myself enamored by it. It looked awesome and I figured I’d give it a shot.

Yet another brilliant decision in a life full of them. I was almost immediately hooked into its world, engrossed in its storyline. As a Witcher virgin, I was worried about being able to appreciate its storyline. Being dropped into a fantasy world mid-series can feel confusing, like being asked to translate “A Tale of Two Cities” from French to Russian when you don’t even know how to read. But The Witcher is a gentle, thoughtful lover and eases you into its world, even providing a lengthy, helpful glossary in times of need.

Just everything about the game is top notch. The graphics are sensational, the combat is simple but satisfying, the sound perfectly immerses you into the game world, the game’s score perfectly sets the mood, the scope and size of it is awe inspiring, it justs…it justs…oh god, yes! YES! YES!

Huh. Well. It appears I just came in my pants. Excuse me while I go change into new ones and I should probably take a shower too.

Okay, back! So while all that stuff I mentioned is great, the real star of The Witcher is the quests. Not just the main story quests, which are deep and full of tough plot and character decisions to make, but the side quests as well. Every quest is thoughtful and fleshed out in its own way. A major problem I have with RPGs are the fetch quests. As much as I praised Bethesda RPGs earlier, they especially are victim to this critical flaw. So many RPGs are happy to give you dozens of quests where you’re simply going into a cave or mine or dungeon or a giant monster’s asshole and retrieving an item, with little to no thought involved. Oh, you lost your priceless butter knife in the Cave of Blood and More Blood? GO GET IT YOURSELF, ASSHOLE. AND WHILE YOU’RE THERE, FIND ME SOMETHING INTERESTING TO DO.

The Witcher however, gets it. It realizes that if you’re going to pack over 200 hours of content into your game, it better damn well be more than just finding shit for people like you are god damned intern.

geralt

Hello, Mr. Flaherty! I brought your coffee, just the way you like it! 2 creams, one sugar! When does this start being fun?

Quests in The Witcher are plentiful and varied. Sure, there ARE fetch quests, but there are tons more quests that aren’t. Some focus on exploring and investigating environments, some are more combat based, others are literally nothing but dialogue.

Let me give you a non spoilery example. There is a quest in the game where you have the opportunity to drink with a couple of Witcher buddies you haven’t seen in a while. And that’s it. That’s the quest. You, drinking with two mates, talking about past jobs and love lives. You control the dialogue throughout, being able to take part in the male bonding that’s occurring. It’s such a simple quest, but it does wonders for character development. When you end up fighting alongside these characters in other quests, you better believe you have an extra affinity towards them thanks to this wonderful quest that came before it. Here’s how other RPGs would have done this quest:

“Geralt! We wanna drink and have fun, but the vodka is in the cellar, surrounded by baby dragons! Be a doll and grab it? Thanks.”

(gets the vodka, killing the monsters in the process)

“Cool, you got the vodka! Now let’s…oh. You didn’t bring glasses with you? I kinda thought that you had just assumed to bring some. Whatever, you can just go get them now. They’re up on the top floor. Careful, though! I’ve heard distinct shrills and monster sounds from up there!”

(gets glasses and kills more monsters)

“Nice! Vodka and glasses accounted for! Let’s get fucking Witcher wasted!”

Then you’d either get a cutscene or the screen would fade to black, glossing over the fun bits. Not so in The Witcher. You see, The Witcher relishes in little moments like this quest, providing a depth of heart and character that other RPGs couldn’t dream of doing.

And that’s just one example. The Witcher is full of quests like this, that focus more on story and character rather than menial tasks and unrelenting tedium for the sake of padding the game’s length.

Listen: The Witcher 3 is amazing and you need to play it. You can thank me later, along with all my other fans lining up to express their gratitude for all the amazing things I’ve done.

Random observation: Wanna know how good this game is? I gushed about it for 960 words and didn’t mention once how it’s got a ton of boobs. Now THAT’S the mark of a true Game of the Year.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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