Injustice: gods among us demo review

Before properly beginning I must admit a bias, I don’t care about this game. I’m not a big fan of fighting games, I think the tone is horrible for mainline superhero gaming, and there are logical inconsistencies abound. However, I have friends who have interest in it; one of which continues to text me on updates for it, including the demo drop, despite my insistence that I don’t care.

I got the demo anyway; I figure since it’s free I have little to lose. Plus this way at least I’ll have some minor ammo to fire back with next time the game games up in conversation.

Injustice is a dark superhero fighting game promising over the top antics with well established and mostly liked characters. The demo gives us one arena to play in and three controllable characters. The arena is Gotham City and seems very fitting; most people know it, one of the playables lives there, and it’s a ‘major city’ which is where most super action goes down.

The three characters are Wonder Woman, Batman, and Lex Luthor. I played the demo first as Wonder Woman (because, Wonder Woman) and then as Batman. I ignored Luthor because I simply didn’t care about him.

The demo gives you little information on how to play. There is a moves list but no generic ‘this button does what’ list. Or at least I couldn’t get the cursor to go to the ‘options’ selection. From what I understand you have three attack buttons, a special power button, a grapple, and a button that lets you shift stance maybe? It didn’t even seem to do that, it really just seemed to make my guy turn back to front and front to back. I did it for a while but it did not seem to help me in my fight.

As I said I began with Wonder Woman. The demo puts you in four fights, one against each of the three playable characters and finally against Doomsday, the neigh unstoppable juggernaut whom once killed Superman. My first fight was with Wonder Woman and already I was disappointed, not only was it a same-on-same fight but there didn’t seem to be any difference between the two. And in fact during my stint as Batman I got really confused as to which Batman I was. And then Wonder Woman did a prayer to her goddess and received her lasso, and then the other one did the same. And this seems to be a trend, everyone appears to have the same cinematic every time.

Wonder Woman has the super power of swapping weapons. In her normal “hard-hitting lasso” form she does a bit more damage and can use her lasso to grab opponents and throw her tiara. In her defensive sword and shield mode she takes less damage when blocking and can pull a captain America. I do enjoy that using a sword is less effective than her punching you, because that feels like fact.

So I beat myself up, then Batman, and Luthor, and finally Doomsday. The moves list gives you info on each move, including how many frames it takes and delay times so you can better pull off unstoppable combos or whatever it is that people do with that information. I was more interested in testing out the interactive terrain and multi-tiered levels. It does not appear to be intuitive at all and not once did I use any thing in the environment to my aid. No matter how often I turned back-to-front at it. I did get a hydrant thrown at me though, and I was knocked off a building, onto a train track, and finally down into an ally; that was kind of fun. Of course then I just kept flailing at my attacker until I won.

So then I gave Batman a whirl. He has a grapple gun and batarangs so he can use those to grab an enemy or dodge a minor ranged attack…just like Wonder Woman. Exciting. His special power is that he can double jump and also summon three electric bats that can be used as a minor shield or be fired at the enemy like a…batarang.

It’s somewhat amusing how fast this demo ran out of steam.

So anyways, I fought Wonder Woman and won. I fought myself, got very confused and won. Then I fought Lex Luthor, and despite taking a orbital strike to the face I won. And then came Doomsday, so I slapped him a lot with my non-powered and weak human hands before sticking a bomb to his back (Batman’s standard grapple move) and winning. Superman is a chump, it’s all about the slapping.

Finally the demo shows you some footage of the game and a few features. There are some mini-games, a couple of which looked halfway decent (especially Bane beating up the batmobile, heh). Also it showed off a couple of the alternate costumes. Wonder Woman gets her ingame costume, what may be pantless Amazon armor, and a black version of her Amazon armor. Flash has his ingame suit, an extra armored version, and one the covers his whole face. I’m curious why neither has a ‘classic’ costume.

And then the demo ends.

I remain unimpressed. You could say “well it’s not your type of game” and you would be right…about the fighting portion. And honestly I’d be a little more excited if it was a big scale super hero game about epic combat. But it is not. This is a fighting game that features broad versions of super heroes. Harley Quinn and Joker are here because they are popular and must be, but even the most casual fan of either has to admit that this is a poor venue for them to appear in. Superman? Sure, toss him and Doomsday at each other and I’ll gleefully watch the city crumble.

I try to judge without favor, and if I can do so here I see a fighting game that felt repetitive and boring in the demo. There didn’t seem to be much innovation, nor did I feel like a superhero or larger than life figure. I’m not good at combos or pulling of special moves; I once beat Street Fighter II using Ryu and nothing but kicks. I get the feeling that I could do the same here using Catwoman, and if that’s the case I don’t care how many tiers are in a level, or what the environment does, or which big bad super villain the game has…I’m just some chick kicking them all.

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The Trouble with Zombies, part one

Zombies, they’re everywhere.

This hasn’t always been the case, not long ago zombies were relegated to poor cinema and looked down upon by most respectable citizens. Somewhat like comic books. But now zombies have bloomed, taking up residence in movies, games, books, comics, and even music. Ask a person how they feel about zombies and instead of the former “Zom-what?” you will now get a bevy of answers ranging from “OMG I love zombies!” to the phrase that has inspired this article, “Pft, zombies are so overplayed.”

Before we begin it is best we fully establish what we are talking about, and a bit of what we will not be talking about. First, for the purposes of this article I will be using Zombie to reference the eternally decaying undead that feast upon the flesh of the living. The same zombie as depicted by George Romero back in 1968. Being a fan of both voodoo and zombies I am aware that they go back much further than the sixties but also that they were not always walking corpses. But as the traditional voodoo zombie is not the focus of popular culture we will not be focusing on them.

Secondly, concerning the purpose of zombies. I will be discussing why they are relevant and what purpose they serve. But my scope will be limited to their aspects in modern media, with a possible primary focus on games, and not their fear effect in whole. Zombies are a reminder of death, the one enemy we can never escape, and the corpse variety take that even further by not only showing the afterlife in a horrible light but by literally consuming life. These are high concepts that relate to all manner of zombie but I will be focusing on lower concepts for reasons of brevity and because we all know zombies represent said fear of death.

So what do zombies represent and why are they in every game and movie released as of late? Primarily because they transcend evil. It is a long standing fact that tossing Nazis into a game makes for a simplistic and morality-free villain. Even the Germans came to hate Nazis whose cruelty is handily recorded. ‘Shoot a Nazi and move on’ my grandpa always used to say. Well, not really. The point is in the hierarchy of bad guys, the Nazi is king. We give more love to Imperial stormtroopers then we do to Nazis, despite some pretty heavy similarities. But in an age where we have begun focusing on human rights, motivation, and the possibility that our previous ‘lots of violence’ approach to problem solving is wrong it can be seen that while upper management is pretty dirty there was a very human element to german soldiers which could lead to grief. Not so with zombies!

Zombies don’t care, they don’t reason, and the most I’ve ever heard one say was one line to lay a trap for more food. They are a force of nature, a destructive element with no redeeming value that all of our advanced ways can never hope to communicate with. They don’t even have an ideal to strive for; they simply eat man and move on. But zombies have a face, and a form, and that makes them awesome. With that face comes our ability to punch back. Hurricane takes your house? Sorry buddy but you’re screwed. Zombie eats your wife? Take this axe and give ‘em hell! In this fashion zombies represent a force of evil that transcends itself, and uncaring force of destruction that has just enough of a physical form to allow us hope.

It is that form which gives us the second reason why zombies have achieved such a high status. Zombies are human, mostly, in form and origin. We can understand them; we can discuss their weaknesses and strengths. This simply fact alone is strong evidence to their popularity; how many of you have sat around with friends having a debate on what zombies can do and how you would escape? It’s a pointless debate, but it’s fun and because they are so closely tied to humans it makes it easy to base decisions and set limitations. You know zombies won’t have laser vision or the ability to fly, but can they run? That’s a question open for debate with strong evidence on both sides because they were human.

Their previous humanity leaks into our mentality and how we perceive them as threats. Imagine for a moment the game Perfect Dark. It never achieved the success of Goldeneye but on it’s own it was pretty fun. Mostly in the beginning though, as you infiltrated office buildings and got into shootouts with guards. Later in the game they introduce the main plot, which was giant aliens and mother ships and all kinds of things above our heads. Then the game became muddles, because we don’t know how a gun would affect aliens, or what their attacks would encompass. We don’t even understand how they think or operate because they are alien. The game removed itself too far from a human perspective and the focus suddenly blurred.

You need that focus in fiction, it draws the viewer/player in and helps immerse them in the world. This is why the primary protagonist in most fiction is human or at least human like in the case of Lord of the Rings and The Dark Crystal. Zombies being human simply reinforces their capabilities and limits, it lets you know what might or might not work. And on a darker level, it’s simply more satisfying to shoot a human target. It fits in your mind, gives you hope, and when you finish pulling the trigger you get a small rush that the target is dead. Take any game where the damage is offset to the high end, such as Black, where you have to nearly unload a clip into a human bad guy just to kill them. It diminishes your power; it doesn’t make the game harder it just makes you worthless. Sure zombies can take a lot of damage, but most people know it’s either a shot to the head or a significant amount of body damage to put them down. Or a shotgun, also called the win button.

And the final reason, ease of creation. Having taken a class on stage makeup, and achieving decent to good marks, I can say that blood and gore effects are pretty easy. Getting the face to look mangles is not a hard task and there are quick ways to cheat. Sure the makeup can be done poorly, but compared to old age, gender swapping, or even animalism it ranks pretty low on the difficulty scale. Moving on to video games it can be a simple matter of applying a new skin to an existing character. In Minecraft they simply modified the ‘steve’ skin and used that for the zombies. This makes it very easy to not only stick zombies in a game, but to quickly add them into an existing game such as Call of Duty.

This concludes my examination of zombies and their relevance in the media. Next time we will discuss the route zombies traveled to get here. We will also discuss rather they are played out and why. And then sum up with where I think the future of the zombie belongs.

The Trouble with Skyrim

*Videos are taking longer than expected. I’m going to start posting filler. Here’s a a thing on Skyrim!

 

On the fifth day of July I added another year to my age track. Because of this I received a copy of “Skyrim” for free. I have been playing it pretty constantly ever since. It is a fun game, filled with interesting locations and things to do. But a problem seems to be developing and I am beginning to feel that the game has a couple major faults within.

The first is a problem I could aim at “Oblivion” and possibly the past two “Fallout” games. The problem is that the writers, while capable of creating an intriguing story, do not actually know what that story is. In “Oblivion” I was apparently the chosen one, able to find the evil portals, close them, and stop some evil entity. But I never really cared to do so and over the course of the game I entered as few portals as possible, beating the game with the bare minimum of plot encountered and essentially only winning the final battle because some bad guys attacked me.

Part of my apathy towards “Oblivion’s” plot is that it sent me all over the world numerous times. And each time I came to a place there were several plotlines and intrigues for me to follow. As I chased each of these the main plot fell behind and I found that I rarely cared to get back to it. However, if you had the DLC, there was a superior plot located in ‘The Knights of the Nine’ which dealt with me becoming the chosen one, tracking down special people to fill the ranks, locating the ancient artifacts, and then leading the final charge on an evil god. It was a smaller story told in a more straight forward manner, and as such helped me stay aligned with it no matter where I went.

“Skyrim” has fallen prey to this same problem. As I type this my character is level 42. I am only now in the second act of the main plot line and until level 30 I had proceeded only far enough to learn a few shouts for free. Level 30 represents the moment when I finally became bored running around Skyrim doing whatever I wanted. Now I am plodding along with the primary quest, though I am alternating between it and the much more interesting civil war plotline. This is a difficult task for in the main plot I am working to stop an ancient evil that may destroy the world and has lingering and growing effects on the world (dragons) while the other quest involves the lives of the common man torn asunder by treason and loyalty, it is a story of belief and conviction with neither side being shown in a fully good light.

And again the side quest of civil war makes for a better story, and is also told in a better fashion. Once siding with the Empire I was asked to be a courier and consult with a local ruler, I was then used as such again before returning to Whiterun and taking part in a large battle. Afterwards I returned to my primary post and received new orders. I then traveled to my new post and began taking orders. Simple and linier, but engaging and probable actions.

In my main quest I was sent across the whole of Skyrim to find an old man, whom I then had to bring back, and cross to the other side of Skyrim before heading back up to the top of the tallest mountain at which time I learned little and then had to travel to the farthest point north in Skyrim. At this point I encountered the Magical university and a whole new plot line has opened to me, one I don’t want since I’m a simple, steel-driven, barbarian.

Oblivion had this as well. Through he course of the game I became the leader of the mage guild, despite being an untalented barbarian who could barely cast a light spell. I will concede that at least Skyrim lets you enter without joining provided you showoff your status as the dragonborn.

So for the record I have encountered and been offered a position in, the following ‘guilds’: thieves, warriors, mage, assassin’s, rebel, empire…and all I wanted to do was fight some evil and do some blacksmithing. Adding to the problem here is that I can’t even simply speak to the leaders of the rebel or empire factions without attempting to join. I was only able to talk to the rebel leader about his reasons once I had joined the opposition. And apparently I’m part of the thieves’ guild now because the recruited was also the man who had information I needed about the old guy. Also I became a mage student because I talked to the mage headmistress because the lady at the gate told me to do so.

So here seems to be the main problem with “Skyrim”: it’s too free. You are given the illusion of absolute freedom, but not the tools to achieve it, meanwhile the game assumes you care about its plot. You begin as a prisoner, same as Oblivion, but at least there you were simply in jail and if you wished to be a good person it could be assumed you were simply sleeping off a mad drunk. Here you are trapped with the rebel leader and on your way to the chopping block. How am I to be a hero? Clearly I’ve done something horrible, I just wanted to be a blacksmith. Luckily I’m saved by a dragon attack and free to make up my mind (a friend of mine did just this, once out of the sewers he left the imperial behind and just did his own thing) but really it seems like the only likely scenario is either help my rebel master take out the evil empire or run a couple messenger quests out of gratitude to the imperial that got me safely out. But really both of those lead to me killing a dragon and discovering my true destiny, to follow an annoying and unwanted meta plot about running across the world like Forrest Gump.

To be honest I think I’d like a more limited narration, one that limited my options but put me deeper into the world. The game could still start with you coming into Skyrim in a bad way, perhaps you are on the way to a local lockup, maybe you are ready for execution, or maybe you have sold all your possessions just to travel here, or maybe you are the last survivor or a battle gone wrong. To decide the game could simply ask which direction you prefer, perhaps not outright: I want to be a thief, but where your ambitions lie. If you choose duty then it’s a soldiers life for you. Knowledge; you are on a quest to enroll at Hogwarts.  

Whatever the case they could lengthen the mini plot for that section. This could give you a more in-depth magic plot or a longer companion’s plot that really lets me know why Kodlak liked me so much. And then if they wanted the meta plot to kick in, just tie it into the final arc of the plot. Using the magic university as an example it would go like this. Act one would be enrolling and learning to use magic, with quests centered around the university and eventually spreading out into the surrounding area. Act two would see you graduating to the higher ranks, allowed to travel further and dealing with plots and intrigues in the surrounding towns along with mentions of a civil war on the horizon. Act two would end with you on a mission and encountering a dragon, after the battle the shouters would summon you and act three would begin. Act three would begin with you being summoned and the whole of the world open to you; some paths would be shut off (if you showed a proclivity towards good there would be no admittance to the assassins) but a few others would still be open (perhaps now you feel your magic is strong enough to aid the empire) but the dragon threat would be ever looming.

This would give a fuller experience and help tie you into the world, actually make you care. Plot with a dedicated plot it would be easier to drop hints of the danger to come, instead of just having dragons attack each time you leave riftin. And for the people who still hate this idea and would cry about the game limiting them…just have one of the options be “I want to be a legend” and have the game function as normal.

Update June 2011

It has been three months since my last post. Sorry.

This latest semester began to take its toll on my and I was forced to abandon most of my extraneous hobbies in an attempt to stay afloat. But it’s summer now, and next fall my schedule looks very close to being something that a human could pull off.

But today I am posting! It is a glorious day! I do not know how often I will post, but hopefully it will be more often than every three months. I have plans, things I’d like to do with this blog but I’m not sure how well that will work out. The problem is that I lack focus and have a hard time narrowing the parameters of my blog to one or two simple things.

I mean I could just chat about my life but, despite being the most hilarious entries you would ever read filled with pathos and drama, I won’t. Hopefully I can still post RPG bits but the days of weekly updates of adventures are gone. We jump around a lot more now, and some people can’t make it all the time, plus retyping the previous night’s events was kind of boring. For you and for me.

I do want to blather about movies some more. I love media: books, film, and television. If used properly each one can be just as amazing as the other, this is why I say ‘No, the book is not always better.’ You just have to know and understand your medium. This is why I’d love, and plan, to do an occasional bit about TV that I love. Because the world watches too much crap and all the good stuff falls away.

Honestly I think I will approach this blog as I’ve approached this post: Utter bewilderment but with the attempt to write something informative or at least entertaining. This isn’t entertaining so I’m trying to cram in facts. Sorry. Sticking to a schedule has never been my strong suit, but I’m going to try and stick to at least one post a week. It will be awesome. Maybe I’ll talk about television, maybe I’ll review a movie (good or bad, I care not), maybe I’ll debate RPG conventions, or maybe I’ll just spitball ideas for a cyberpunk red riding hood.

So, yeah.

So…lack of updates…

Last friday me and the game group ended up not gaming. Various reasons for this exist, not least among them that I am still very busy. Apparently this whole college thing is some hard work.

Add to this the fact that I am adding a couple new activities to my life and it leaves me with even less time. I struggled with these descisions but one of them is a creative writing club. I like the people involved and since I see myself as a writer I felt it was a good idea to join.

But that means more time taken away from blogging.

Also I know I promised Robin hood movies…and they are coming, I just forgot to set them up properly so i’m holding off. Truth be told though i’m not sure I want to keep doing movie reviews. I feel I have gotten too static, when really I just wanted to blather on about movies in a humorious fashion…so maybe the occasional film.

This means I may make this more narrowly a gaming blog, or just random subjects. I don’t know yet…it’s late and I just finished an astronomy project and i’m not sure I finished it well.

So anyways…that’s where I am right now. Not sure if there will be a game update this weekend as my friend is about to pop out a baby so there might be some hospital visitation going on.

State of my Blog, or why there are no movie reviews this month.

So I have been slacking a bit lately, and I apologize for that.

What really upsets me is not that I have been neglecting my schedule, but that I haven’t at least put up some sort of improve post explaining why these things are not posted.

I’m fixing this now; this is my ‘state of my blog’ post.

Today I have started back at college after the Christmas break. First I had to work, and then night classes, this will happen again on Wednesday. Tuesday and Thursday I will be on campus all day. Fridays should be a relaxing day of simply work. In this first week I also have a script to memorize for a show I stupidly took part in. Also, all the other things in life I must continue to do.

This is not me complaining.

But, this is me being very busy. So for the month of January there will be no movie reviews. I will attempt, very strongly, to continue to update you on my RPG affairs over the weekend. I will also attempt to do some random postings at various intervals. You might think “if you can do random stuff, why no movies.” My answer: Random can happen anytime and is not in itself a promise.

I will resume movie reviews in February, and to mark the occasion it will be themed month. I hereby declare February to be Robin Hood month. So that should be fun.

I also want to try and put up some book reviews, since I’m in a book club. I’ll work out when those will happen.

So for anyone who checks my blog regularly hoping for new updates…uh, don’t stop.

Monday update: December posting plans

It is December, and I find that I must make a few accommodations to my blog. Originally I had planned on reviewing nothing but my favorite Christmas movies here. That plan is changing due in small part to necessity.

On the first I posted a review of The Orphanage, not very Christmas feeling but I had been sitting on it for a bit. This past weekend I had my usual roleplaying post. Wednesday I will begin with the Christmas movie reviews, but don’t expect Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I walk a different path.

On the tenth I am heading to Chicago which would normally harpoon my standard weekend roleplaying post. Instead I have a review of the original Tron set to upload then. When I return the next week I will upload on Wednesday a special roleplaying post from my time in Chicago; then another on the weekend from my usual group.

And that weekend should see the release of Tron Legacy which I fully intend to review here. From there on out…it’s Christmas movies all the way.