drinkerofjuice / Member

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drinkerofjuice Blog

No Steps Forward, Several Steps Back.

Who rides a bike with sandals? Apparently he does.

For some reason, I felt compelled to do a write up!

My prior blog entry was a supposedly definitive top 10 games of the 7th generation. The list remains completely intact with the exception of the most recent entry: Grand Theft Auto V. It’s no longer in my top 10, 20, or 30. It was a game that I immensely enjoyed for the first while, but it has become of those cases where the more I play a game, the more I begin to dislike it and even become frustrated with it.

But of course, I wouldn’t be playing it continuously for almost three months if I had a strong hatred for it. The core game maintains to be enjoyable; the mechanics are the best in the series, as in they’re actually decent. San Andreas is beautifully designed, especially when you consider the hardware limitations Rockstar had to work with. The soundtrack is tits, and the dynamic between the three lead characters is enough reason to complete the story. It has enough good qualities to make you want to stay, just not necessarily enough to admire.

A truly great game is one where you consistently enjoy and marvel in its design, absorbing all the nooks and crannies it has to offer. In the case of GTA5, it’s specifically GTA Online, specifically free roam, specifically bounty hunting and fucking with other players for fun, driving around in my modded black Gauntlet like an angel of death. That’s it. That’s roughly a quarter of what the game has to offer.

Though I guess you can't forget about those purrty views from your apartment.

In the single player; take a look at what’s available to you long after you’ve completed the story. You’ve got street races and off-road racing. Those can be fun, if a bit too easy. You’ve got base jumping, which is also enjoyable despite being completely the same as it was in Ballad of Gay Tony. How about yoga? Or did anyone actually do that voluntarily? How about those triathlons, where it’s all about tapping A to win? That’s a thing. Stocks too I guess.

Anybody else find it cool how you can go hunting in one particular location, hunting one particular animal? I think it’s awesome how I can’t enter the interior of the properties that I own, like say a movie theater or night club. I’m really glad Rockstar took full advantage of deep sea diving, doing things like collecting submarine parts, nuclear waste and... Well that’s about it, really. But of course, let’s not forget about the sea life you can interact with, like sharks, sharks, and even more sharks!

Sharks!!

It’s very disappointing when all said and done. Was it too much to ask for the hunting system to be similar to Red Dead Redemption, a game Rockstar previously developed? Was it asking too much to enter the inside of purchasable properties, an aspect that was featured in Vice City, a 2002 GTA game? GTA5 gives you a bunch of these different gameplay options, yet the vast majority of these aspects are severely underdeveloped, serving as a poster child of the remainder of more not always being better.

Even more unfortunate are the different locations you can stumble upon and how they’re completely unutilized. Chances are you’ve dabbled in free roam, seen a casino, a race track, an amphitheater, among others. They all have one thing in common: They’re desolate. San Andreas had two different casinos you were able to enter and gamble in. San Andreas also had a betting shop where you were able to bet on horse races. It’s rather mind-boggling as to how GTA5 lacks aspects that were introduced years ago in previous entries. Initially I thought this was the most complete game in the series, but now I feel that the game itself is incomplete.

As for the main missions and storyline, it’s unfortunate that the heists were no more than glorified missions, and it’s even more unfortunate that those simple heist planning gigs counted as story missions. However, it’s not without some fine moments, and assuming you choose option C, the final mission is pretty damn fun. More often than not the main story missions are backed by some solid design and regularly consist of some exciting encounters and events. It’s also good there’s a solid checkpoint system. I don’t have much beef with it.

The story itself is weak, even by GTA standards. While their relationship is enjoyable, Trevor, Michael and Franklin are one note characters, not nearly as interesting as Niko or Luis from the GTA4 arcs. The history between Michael and Trevor is not developed well enough to serve as part of the central conflict, but it is. The other conflict is between the trio and some painfully uninteresting government officials and a very unmemorable billionaire. Devin Weston is no Sonny Forelli, he’s no Frank Tenpenny, and he’s no Dimitri Rascalov. He does not provide that looming threat, yet somehow he winds up being the main villain? Eventually you begin to wonder when the story is truly about to begin until you realize that this is it, and you feel underwhelmed.

This douchebag is no impending force of doom. He's just a douchebag.

GTA Online is the superior component, again because it’s very, very fun messing with other players, claiming bounties, and having bounties set on you. Modes like street and air races, survival and deathmatch can fun as well, assuming you’re able to find enough people to play. It’s also more in depth with character customization than the single player is, however the character creator in the game is nothing short of a joke, and the online missions feel very phoned in.

Free roam is where it shines. It’s an otherwise enjoyable mode that’s marred by a variety of glitches, and one of the most annoying, frustrating mechanics I’ve experienced in a very long time: The impound system. Seriously, fuck that system. The second you leave your car alone and there’s heat? It’s impounded. Die when the cops are around? Impounded. Then you have to go all the way to the impound lot and steal it back, again and again. Whoever thought this was a good idea shouldn’t be allowed to present ideas. It dampens the enjoyment and forces you to go out of your way to do something that’s just plain stupid. Paying a fee to the insurance company for destroying your car? That’s perfect. It penalizes the player without compromising fun. But the impound system? It’s a goddamn disgrace.

I’m also unsure as to what purpose crews serve aside from playing with your friends. Initially I figured it was for online heists, but the only robberies you can do are either on armored trucks or convenience stores. There’s very little take in those when you’re by yourself, let alone playing with a crew. There’s still a large chunk of GTA Online that feels unfinished and unpolished, and more than two months after its release it seems doubtful of interesting content coming into horizon.

Now, I’m not going to say that I didn’t get my money’s worth. I did, and then some. But I can’t help but think of what it could have been, or perhaps should have been. I still think it’s a good game all things considered.

But a great game? Nope.

Game of the year? No no.

Game of the generation? Fuck no.

Greatest of all time? You’re out of your goddamn mind.

Best of Gen: Definitive Edition

So come next month, the Xbox One and PS4 will be released, fully ushering in the next generation of console gaming. It's likely I won't be buying either system until a year or so after they have released. But since there's very few (if any) upcoming current gen titles that are gaining my interest, this is a perfect time to meaninglessly pick 10 of the best games I've experienced from November 2005 (the 360's release) to present day. No honourable mentions, no special thanks, just a definitive list of 10 games that rose above the rest.

 

#10. Grand Theft Auto V

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While technically still in the "honeymoon period", I'm sticking by my gut when I say Grand Theft Auto 5 is the most complete entry in the series. While GTA's tried and true gameplay formula is beginning to show some age, Rockstar made numerous improvements to the presentation as well as mechanics that make some of game's underwhelming aspects somewhat easy to overlook. The dynamic between the three leads make for a consistently entertaining single player experience, while GTA Online, while still not entirely stable, makes the pseudo-realistic San Andreas in the single player turn into a wonderful playground.

 

#9. Spelunky

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Familiar, yet unusual. Spelunky was a game that I literally had no knowledge of until the XBLA version was reviewed here. I tried and liked the demo. It seemed like the kind of game that rewards careful playing. Dying could happen quickly and easily as a result of a single mistake, yet progression felt very rewarding. Upon purchasing it, it was literally the only game I was playing for almost a month, and my sessions were usually lengthy. On top of the challenge it posed, the game had immense replay value due to the fact that the level design was randomly generated. Icing on the cake consisted of the game being filled to the brim in secrets that lead you to unlocking new characters and locations. This game had its hooks in me for quite a while, and it lingered in my mind like cancer. That counts for something, doesn't it?

 

#8. Company of Heroes

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I was never good at Company of Heroes. In fact, I was pretty bad. I'd lose eight matches before winning one. From what I remember, my win/loss ratio online was something like 5W/30L. Pretty bad, like I said. But I'll be damned if this isn't an exceptional strategy title. Relic produced a real piece of work, one that pushed the envelope when it came to depth and presentation in an RTS game. It encouraged developing and attempting several different tactics, and battles were never short of thrilling. So even if you were getting your ass handed to you repeatedly (like me), it still manages to be supremely entertaining.

 

#7. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

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Prettier, bulkier, all around stronger than its predecessor. The Witcher 2 consisted of everything that you would expect from a great sequel, and it further solidified Geralt's candidacy for being the BAMF among BAMFs. No more needs to be said.

 

#6. Batman: Arkham City

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Arkham City, like The Witcher 2, is everything you would expect from a great sequel. In fact, AC is such a strong sequel that it almost renders its predecessor as redundant. One thing I really liked about City that I found to be undermined by some is that you're kind of catching Batman on a really bad day. Maybe it's just me, but throughout the entire game he carries a quiet kind of anger that I found to be a nicely menacing touch, especially upon reacting on certain events in the game's story.

 

#5 . Bayonetta

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What I initially had zero interest for ended up being one of my most played games of this generation. Bayonetta suceeds because of how absurd it is. Its style and tone is basically laid out groundwork to provide some wildly inventive gameplay sequences and boss fights, not to mention a ridiculously in-depth combat system. Simply put, Bayonetta is the kind of title I wish more developers would dare to produce.

 

#4. Super Meat Boy

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As punishing as it is rewarding, Super Meat Boy gives you the whole package. Plenty of incredibly well-designed levels, tight control, beautiful 2D visuals, fantastic music, oodles of secrets and a crushing difficulty. It is quite possibly the finest platformer to be released in the past decade, with the only true contender being...

 

#3. Super Mario Galaxy 2

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When it comes to the main platforming series, Mario has never been better. With Super Mario Galaxy 2, you can try to find flaws under the microscope, but you won't find any. The game doesn't become dull for even a millisecond. Every level, every nook and cranny carries that magical touch. It excels in every aspect.

 

#2. Dark Souls

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Uniquely designed, unforgiving, but above all Dark Souls is menacing. It rewards those who play intelligently, but as the game provides you little to no sense of direction as of what to do and where to go, it evokes a mysterious, haunting atmosphere. Very, very few titles manage to be this engrossing.

 

#1: Fallout: New Vegas

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All I'm going to say is that this is probably the closest we're going to get to a modern day Fallout developed by Black Isle.

 

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Don't get too caught up in the rankings. There's no single favourite title when it comes to the top five.

And with that said, it is set in stone.

Grand Theft Auto V in 35 Words.

Ambitious, yet polished to a shine, GTA5 doesn't reinvent the wheel. But it's the most complete, most exuberant GTA game to date, thriving largely due to the great dynamic between its unholy trinity of protagonists.

Metal Gear Solid 2 HD in 100 Words: Retrospect Edition

Initially I found MGS2 to be a great game underneath some heavily intrusive, convoluted and downright idiotic plotting. Now the gameplay itself has aged a fair amount, making it a rather mediocre game under an insufferable narrative. Between flimsy mechanics, poorly fixed camera angles, silly AI, and the Big Shell being a terribly uninteresting location, it's hard to find a legitimate reason to go back to this title. That is unless, of course, you prefer games that take you out of the experience excessively with storyline exposition so intense that it makes Inception look like a heavily ambiguous arthouse film.

 

Bed of Chaos

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This thing right here

The internet disappoints me, building this up as some painfully cheap boss fight that I'm going to spend at least a few hours on. Nope, instead it ends up becoming the easiest boss fight in Dark Souls. Left, right, center. Or right, left, center. No matter what direction you take, she is a goddamn cakewalk. The crumbing area is a greater threat than she is, and that's not difficult to get past as long as you have a pair of working eyes. She's nothing like the dynamic duo you face in Anor Londo, or the gravelord in Tomb of the Giants.

Anywho, great game. Fantastic game. Will definitely play again in the future, just probably not anytime soon.

Binary Domain in 100 words, Dark Souls (so far) in 150

It's a one and done kind of experience, but that doesn't mean its void of some neat aspects. It's satisfying when you see hostile robots peel off front of your eyes as a result of firing a barrage of bullets at them. Weapon upgrades are a nice touch, letting you throw down with maximum efficiency, and theres also an emphasis on player performance since you have a fun cast of characters who actually give a damn about what you do as a squadmate. Binary Domain doesn't try to elevate to greatness, but that doesnt mean its not well worth playing.

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While punishing to the point of aggravation, Dark Souls is a "Where have you been all my life!?" kind of game. Sure, you're given no hint as to where you're supposed to go, and it may take a few hours before you actually start heading towards the right direction. But there's a sense of mystery within its brilliantly crafted, Metroidvania-like design and setting. The game possesses this haunting atmosphere of being in a world that you don't quite understand, slowly grasping little details about it as you go, not to mention the online component which I still can't put my finger on. The game is all about taking your time, being careful and intelligent as you progress and/or enter a fight. You will die more times than you'll remember, but getting by a part that you initially thought was impossible provides a feeling rewarding enough for you to keep playing.

Whatever happened to giving things a chance?

Instead of getting all giddy and excited for next generation consoles back when we were either kids or early teens, we can't help but look at everything through a critical lens. I guess as you grow older, your standards adapt and become higher. It's common, really.

But now we've become critical to the point where we're not willing to give a system the time of day because some initial aspects simply don't jive with us. It's kind of unfair, and kind of stupid.

It seemed like the minute the Xbox One was announced, people were poised to tear MS a new one. Gamers were so quick in giving the company sh1t for bundling Kinect with the system, making the system require a consistent internet connection, and diverting the focus to several multimedia features that aren't particularly game-related. Not to mention the used games debacle (though people are deciding to ignore the fact that the PS4 may have a similar feature)

As a somewhat jaded anti-gamer who laughs at people's ridiculous sense of entitlement, I see a bunch of hardcore gamers who are upset because Microsoft isn't trying to make them a primary demographic. But of course, why should they be the primary demographic? Neither the 360 or PS3 were strict gaming consoles, and with this next generation, Sony and MS are transitioning their systems into multimedia machines. They're making them a nexus of entertainment, which is something that goes far beyond playing video games. As for the required constant internet connection, it's kind of the way of the world. Almost everything we do nowadays is connected to the internet to the extent where it's kind of a scary thought. Aside from my DVD and MP3 player, I can't think of an electronic device that I use and is not connected to the internet.

As of now, I'm an undecided buyer. I'm not trying to be an advocate for the Xbox One, because I will admit that some of the features don't sit too well with me. But I also believe the system has potential in being something great, and I think the exact same way about the PS4.

Just give it a bit of time to see what else the system can provide. More than a week at least. Doesn't that seem logical?

 

Mass Effect 3 in 100 words.

Like its predecessor, the game is better than the sum of its parts. Examining all of its aspects separately, like the combat, AI, mission/level design, scanning mechanic and overall writing, it falls flat. But as the game completely revolves itself around uniting the galaxy against the Reapers, you get caught up in the grand scheme, and you're almost instantly hooked into the adventure. It's also the main reason why the multiplayer, while very simple, is pretty engaging. But unlike ME2s suicide mission, the payoff of taking back Earth, given all the running around you have to do, is embarrassingly weak.

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