Thursday, October 20, 2011

Renegade Ops, More Renegade Ops, Mass Effect 2, & Enslaved

First of all, didn't you hear that New York Comic-Con just came and went recently?  And that Blizzcon is going on right about now?  Do I care?  NOPE.

Alright, so Sega recently published this game called Renegade Ops.  Sadly, Sega did not make this themselves.  It was developed by Avalanche Studios (who?).  I pick on Sega for not making more in-house games but at least they're doing a good job now of picking good games to publish, like those by Platinum Games (Bayonetta) and Sumo Digital (Sega Tennis/Racing).
So Renegade Ops is an overhead arcade game in which you drive with one stick while shooting with another (think Geometry Wars).  You drive cars, tanks, and helicopters.  It's pretty cool.  EDIT: Dammit Google, why do you keep linking me to broken image URL's???

I've only played the demo though.  At least the demo gives you a modest 10-15 minutes of story play (it ends right after you get the helicopter though.  You're just plowing through the world shooting infantry, jeeps, and tanks.  Damn, you're such a bad-ass.  You're also rescuing civilians although you never really see them walking around--you destroy the cages they're in and you magically pick them up and take them back to the church (praise the Lord).

Now about the story.  You're treated to a little mini-introduction in this game in the game's sweet comic-book style artwork.  You're looking at a shot of a peaceful city with people all around.  Then a nuke goes off and everybody presumably dies.  Great--just what I needed--another war game with innocent people dying.  This bad guy named Inferno is threatening to nuke more cities and this wuss-bag at what appears to be the United Nations says we ought to perform sexual favors give in to his demands because the UN sucks like that.

NOT SO FAST as Mr. Hardass General guy never backs down from a fight.  He tosses his precious medals on the table and walks out dedicated to killing this Inferno bastard. " Do you think a man named Inferno has good intentions?" he said.  "Real American Badass.  Really, we need more badasses like this.  In a world where our football players wear pink.  Yeah, we're losing it here.

As opposed to:

Hey, isn't that Kevin Butler?

"Americans traditionally love to fight.  All real Americans love the sting of battle."  All I have to say is be a Man.

Really, Renegade Ops is pretty good.  Controls while driving and shooting are a bit weird (especially since you're driving a car and can't make 180-degree turns on a dime), but it's a fun little arcade shooter without inundating you with an annoying plot.  You can even play 2-player co-op with a buddy.  Try the demo now.

Please note that being a "bad-ass" doesn't mean playing dark greyish-brown games.  No, that's just stupid.  Dark colors make you feel depressed which reduces your manliness (for some of us anyway).


And now, I would like to talk about some more games.  While I'm at FIEA, some classes are dedicated to watching a game being played out on a projector.  The point is to figure out from a developer's perspective what was good and bad about the game.  Two games we recently watch were Mass Effect 2 and Enslaved: Odyssey.  And both games were rated pretty high from game critics (durr, of course).  To tell you the truth, I have never played either of these games.  But let me explain what I think from the 75 minutes I saw from the beginning of both games.

First, both games take place in the future in war-like settings.  Surprising, neither use that crap brownish hue that games like Gears of War and Rage unabashedly use at every turn.  They are heavily cutscene-driven.  They both involve killing tons of robots but Mass Effect 2 is a shooter while Enslaved is a "hack & slash."  Robots...just like Binary Domain, but at this point, I stopped giving a damn about the "humans vs. robots" motif so whatever.  Just entertain me anyway.

Now some probably expect me to come on here and slam both games for being production-laden crap, but not really.  Neither game was really that bad to me.  Cutscenes were pretty good and I kinda wanted to know what happened next to the characters.

But that's just it...this is not a game, it's a DAMN MOVIE.  An interactive movie, but still too movie-ish for me.  The gameplay (shooting/mashing buttons) was okay but it didn't do it for me.  Like in Mass Effect 2, I was more intrigued by the multiple conversation feature than the actual gameplay itself.  Like I wanted to know what happens what the black guy or that rich dude in the chair says next, not "oh, I gotta shoot some robots again, oh joy."  It's almost like the gameplay is secondary to the actual feature film at play here.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's cooler parts later in the game but if they aren't apparent from the beginning then I tend not to think about them.

Although one thing I must say that Mass Effect 2 did gameplay-wise is that your cohorts actually die when shot at.  Well, they magically get up at each checkpoint as if they fell asleep, rofl.  At least it's not some Call of Duty bogus crap where your story-driven friend (Ghost, Gaz, Price, MacMillan) just stands behind cover until you activate the next story trigger and off you go again.

I know some may say "Eric, you suck," but come on man.  Lots of people are movie buffs (at least here in America anyway) so these games are highly appealing.  However, I don't fit that mold.  I don't think I've popped a DVD in the player (except Seinfeld) or went to a theater in ages.  Well, I DO like some movies but not that many.  That's just how I roll.  My apologies.

I guess that's why games like Daytona USA, OutRun, Rock Band, and Advance Wars hit home for me--just present me with a setting, a short plot (if necessary), and let me control my own destiny.

That's really all I have to say here.  If I haven't pissed you off already then get a gold star under your name on the poster I have up on this wall here!


  1. Hey Eric, was googling random Daytona stuff when I bumped into your blog, then realized "Hey, I know this guy!"

    It's funny, I'm actually back in school myself for game art and design myself, though it's more game "art and design" and not so much "game design" as I hoped. But I'm a pretty decent artist so not all is lost. Though I was hoping something that would steer me in the direction of a creative director.

    But reading your analysis, it makes me wish I had classes where we analyzed and focused on games and determine where they went right and where they didn't. And compared to everyone else in my course, I'm always the odd man out with my tastes.

    Ironically, I'm pursuing the field myself because I'm pretty sick of what it's become. Too much cinema and simulation over addicting fun and creativity, and clichés everywhere. I suppose as an arcade gamer I feel alienated, and yearn for the days where games are just pure and enjoyable fun that just made you forget life for even a few minutes, and invited you to test your skill.

    Personally I don't see Mass Effect 2 or Enslaved as bad games, but neither appealed to me. I honestly find the art direction in a lot of sci-fi and fantasy games seem eager to burrow elements from another Star Trek or Dungeons and Dragons knockoff TV B-movie that premiered on the Sci-Fi channel. And I guess I felt the look of the first Mass Effect was almost a tribute to everything I wish I'd forgotten, lol. Gameplay wise, I'd prefer more freedom in my movement in combat, not bad but not my type of game.

    Enslaved looked pretty but I felt Monkey's character was introduced as just another huge muscular pissed off protagonist that's been thrown at us, so I wasn't eager to discover further from what I saw. Although the combat was motion-captured by Golem, it reminded me too much of Ninja Gaiden. I know the roommate who bought it enjoyed it, but neither of these games gave me the desire to play it for myself. I watched and found myself bored.

    I don't know how the environment is down there in FL, but here a lot of the guys are quick to hop on just about every gaming trend there is, and much of the consensus is that either cinematics/ story or accuracy/realism is more important than gameplay. The first instructor I had tried to shove the idea down our throats that all games start with story, and if story wasn't at the forefront, the game will fail, period. But he didn't have the credentials to back his claim, and it was clear everything he was teaching was nothing but his opinion. He even changed the class format to reflect his ideology, but he got fired for unprofessional conduct because he wouldn't let his ego be criticized. He boasted about the game he finally got pitched at the studio he worked at, the importance of story, but when we asked how it played, he couldn't answer. "Uh, a God of War clone, I guess." Year older than I am.

    Great that he's gone, but it's no different with the roommates who have come and gone. One was so fixated on realism he complained about After Burner Climax and Crazy Taxi. Others play literally nothing but race sims or CoD, others have issues and need to blow things up and kill zombies to make themselves feel badass. And most of my competition just wants to be a part of the industry, not lead it.

    I guess when I played Sega arcades there was something unique and different about them that I'm not seeing in a lot of modern games that have that same addiction, look and feel. Now I see a lot of what's coming out and I feel it's saying "this game was made because the demographics told us to make it."

    Bah, went too much on a tangent. I guess what I was getting at is that even though so many of today's titles turn me off, a few gems here and there still, a lot of people are eating it up.

    And word on that Patton quote. I fear the response if you introduced that quote to people today.

  2. Wow Sestren...hey buddy, saw some of your YT videos before! Nice to hear from you. Didn't know you were into game design.

    I don't have much to say since I highly agree. A lot of these games have me rather bored. While movies are good on their own, I hate when people try to mix them with games.

    I think there's a lot of group-think with if big-budget "realistic" games are popular, then everyone else will join in. That's just my guess. And yeah, Enslaved was kind of stupid.

    Funny that because of the emergence of cheapo-gaming (Angry Birds, Minecraft, Farmville), it's rattling the norm of big-ass cinematic games. Probably because people are fed up with ridiculous production value for same-old gameplay as before. So while I feel somewhat encouraged that the game industry may have to scale down the scope of their games in the future. Or at least cut down on all this cinematic crap.

    That's just my opinion. I always have the most fun with simple arcade games.

    Anyway, good luck with your endeavors.

  3. Thanks, and you too.

    I even tried the demo of Forza 4 at Best Buy the other day, and honestly I found myself more impressed by the new wireless X360 wheel. I dunno, sim racers just don't give me that same adrenaline rush compared to OutRun 2 or Daytona. Not that I'd knock the efforts of the Forza 4 team; on a technical level it's very impressive.

    And yeah, I read (and even did a presentation) on how app gaming is becoming a major "threat". But I've been saying for years that the industry is becoming stale, either because everyone wants to do realistic games or copy the formula of a successful title, and if they don't try to escape their comfort zone, something's gonna happen. People are gonna grow tired of it. When doing the research, since I don't have portable gadgets, I didn't even know it was happening. Hehe.

    I personally didn't have a problem with cutscenes or cinematics in games, at least in the early days. It certainly held a place within the Metal Gear Solid series and did it extremely well. Definitely impressive back then. But everyone wants to emulate a successful formula and it's getting over-saturated. There's a time and place for it, but holy cow. It's no wonder the majority of the games on my X360 are downloaded ones.

    I know my roommates must think I'm nuts with the games I play. I could beat Virtual-On in five minutes, yet I'll be going at it for two hours. Then again with "college" there's that expectation that anything you enjoy must have alcohol, blood everywhere, naked women and vulgar language. And most of my games are for younger/general audiences, but I find them a lot more fun and satisfying than what's mentioned above. Wanna play Madden? Nah, I feel like Mario. Wanna play Dead Island? Give me Sonic. But I will admit that Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles was actually pretty good with the Cloverfield-inspired camera work. Too bad it also actually interfered with gameplay (also too bad Cavia went under). Better than the first one which I felt was House of the Dead at 2 mph.

    Well, with the shakeup that apps are causing, it looks like some changes are in need, so who knows what'll happen? All I know is that I'm looking forward to a few games at the end of the year. Daytona, Sonic Generations, KOF XIII, Sonic CD. Oh wait, I own half of those. Oh well.

    Adios for now. I'll probably drop by every now and then.

  4. Hey, sorry I didn't reply to this one comment.

    Only "current-gen" games I really care about are Rock Band (because of the constant support/TLC Harmonix gives the game including the arcade-style challenge & learning curve), Forza (the car collecting aspect) and...Call of Duty. Sort of, anyway. It's the closest thing to an arcade-style shooter we have today. I agree the game is overrated though. The fact that Activision is peddling MW3 Double-XP bonuses in Doritos & Mountain Dew is the breaking point for me. Black Ops is still okay to me.

    A lot of people at my school still don't talk about racing games although there are a few people that know about Sega/Daytona so I'm starting to break through...just a little bit of course.

    While I'm not losing sleep over the "demise" of big-budget games, at least I hope "mid-budget" games (like traditional XBL/PSN titles) hang in there. Big companies are jumping on tiny social games too so it's not like small = good and big = evil. Just hope for more "authentic" titles in the future.

    While I like little games, I'm getting tired of these Facebook/iPhone games. I still like my PC and console games, ha...