The Issue of Realism in Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar’s sequel to the 2010 game, Red Dead Redemption, was possibly 2018’s biggest release and had fans hyped to dive back into the wild western world. The first game made a huge impact on me personally, so I was excited to jump into number two. On release, the game seemed to divide fan opinion, and like many people, I found myself unable to really connect with it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a huge, beautiful world filled with diverse characters. It follows the story of lifelong outlaw Arthur Morgan as he gradually begins to rethink his life and attempt to leave behind a positive impact on the world when faced with his own mortality.  It is a narrative game with a stunning ope world to explore. On paper, it ticks all of the boxes that I want in a game, but in practice something was missing. After a lot of thought, I think I now understand what.

It’s a common thing that players need to suspend their disbelief when playing games. It is also a common occurrence for certain games to suffer from ludo-narrative dissonance, the idea that the narrative tries to present one thing while the gameplay mechanics show the opposite. The current aim of many AAA games is realism. Realistic graphics and characters that players can relate to. Games want to be movies even though movies already exist as a separate medium, and will often do everything they can to distance themselves from the interactivity and potentials of the gaming medium to chase Hollywood trends. But where games such as Naughty Dog properties such as Uncharted and The Last of Us try to achieve this by being linear experiences with a heavy focus on cutscenes, Red Dead Redemption 2 attempts it by the hyper-realisation of its gameplay. Continue reading

When is an Assassin not an Assassin?

When is an assassin not an assassin? When it’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

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Ubisoft’s flagship franchise has enchanted fans for years with its rich historical settings and exploratory freedom. We have wantonly butchered guards across several continents and have dived from sickening heights into miraculous hay bales and bushes. And after the successful revival of the franchise with Origin, this is set to continue this October with the newly announced Odyssey.

But is Odyssey an Assassin’s Creed game other than in name? While the series has always had a ‘stealth is optional’ approach, the games have always been about a lone assassin taking on the world in an eternal war. The hoods and the hidden blades are truly iconic and the pseudo philosophy that the games try to cloak themselves in is interesting. From watching the E3 reveal trailer, none of this is really present. Continue reading

Inclusion in games – More work is needed

Some of my earliest memories are of playing on the Sega Megadrive back in my old, tiny bedroom at the tender age of three or four. Games have always been a dominant part of my life, but they have been a core part of my being that I was never able to share with my parents.

My Dad was a lost cause. He is part of the old guard. A former miner with a love of gardening, he never really gave games the time of day. The few times I got him to sit down and play anything usually only enforced this division of our opinions.

On the other hand, my Mum has always been willing to watch me and my younger sister play, or take part when she can. And that is the trouble: She can’t play 99% of the time. You see, when she was born she suffered a stoke and lost much of the use of her right hand side. She can still walk and move her right arm but it is clumsy and she has no real control over its grip or independent finger movements.

As you can imagine, this is a problem for playing games because she can’t hold a controller. She certainly can’t manoeuvre her fingers to quickly and accurately press buttons. As such, she was never able to join in with our hobby no matter how much she may have wanted to. Continue reading

The Loot box Controversy: Dismantling the Defenders.

With Belgium’s announcement that it has found loot boxes in several games to be legally gambling, a large step has been taken in the loot box battle. Something that amazed me though when I read through several articles were the amount of people defending loot boxes in the comments.

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Why would people go out of their way to defend an exploitative and predatory practice? Do they genuinely enjoy the addiction and dopamine rushes that come with it? Do they feel that the poor publishers will have to stop releasing big budget games without the extra money loot boxes bring in? Do they truly believe they are just add-ons that don’t effect the fundamental design decisions of the game? I really don’t know. Continue reading

Rewards in Gaming

Rewards for consuming entertainment is a novel invention that is unique to the medium of games. By investing time into them and achieving certain goals players are given various gifts within the games to encourage further investment.

In more narrative games, the rewards are the experience the player gains in itself. Like in movies or books, we are rewarded with sentimental attachments to characters, resolving plot arcs and witnessing great events. Where games differ though is in the rewards tied to mechanics and gameplay. Continue reading

7 Days of Games – 19/02/18

The week is the 19th of February 2018 and it has mostly been pretty dour. President Trump tried to alleviate my ongoing mid-life crisis by taking me back to my youth in the 90s with the assertion that real world violence is influenced by digital violence in games. Relating to this are the discussions suggesting taxing violent games like one would tax alcohol, cigarettes and other things bad for your health. History of course remembers how Grand Theft Auto directly inspired the torture methods of the inquisition and how those patriotic early Americans burned women at the stake after extended playing of Outlast.

Speaking of historical sins, Dynasty Warriors 9 came out to about as much enthusiasm as shown by its own AI. Apparently taking a regular Warriors map and spreading it so thinly across a massive open world then removing iconic weapons from characters doesn’t go down particularly well, even in a fanbase that has seen more copy and pasted games released baring PS2 era graphics than there are twelve year olds on Xbox live who have slept with your mother. It is easy to say that despite the already stale yet fresh in the eyes of Tecmo Koei addition of an open world, the gaming community seems completely burned out on the franchise.

Speaking of Burnout, Burnout 3 isn’t being remastered but Paradise is. The fact that the series is still somehow twitching is a good sign but then it is still owned by EA so maybe a swift rock to the head would be the greatest mercy.

Something else that could use the mercy of being put out of it’s existential misery is the hopes of Half Life fans. After the twin disappointments of Valves card game, Artifact, and the Portal spinoff, Bridge Constructor Portal, another nail in the coffin of Valve fan’s dreams come with the preorder bonus of Gordan Freeman ‘s outfit in the PC edition of Final Fantasy XV. Not content with culturally appropriating the clothes of Middle-Eastern Assassins, Noctus can now don the iconic clothes of a mute scientist with a crowbar. The behemoths won’t know what hit them. To be fair though, a launch price of £34.99 is a great show of good will and does a lot to alleviate the pain of the endless Half Life 3 taunts.

Something that’s pain only seems to be growing is the Metal Gear franchise. Metal Gear Survive released and ironically signals the death of the series. Industry Satan Konami had access to the Fox engine and all of the things that made Metal Gear great aside from the obvious gaping blackhole that is Hideo Kojima yet only managed to churn out a generic zombie survival game that’s only unique feature was to give said zombies shiny unicorn horns because reasons. Fans who hoped to see Metal Gear live on post Kojima were not given a confidence boost by this uninspired effort. Fingers crossed for Metal Gear pachinko, eh?

To round off this round up, reviews have started to roll in for medieval life simulator, Kingdom Come Deliverance. The reception has seemed overall positive aside from some glaring bugs, but then Bethesda has conditioned us to associate sword based rpgs with more bugs than Pixar’s Bug’s Life. The game has the potential to wrestle the coveted award for ‘Most janky rpg that people still love’ from Bethesda’s hands while they are too busy trying to port Skyrim to the Tamogochi. I joke but here I am replaying Dark Souls 3 in anticipation of Dark Souls remastered on the Switch. We all become that which we hate in the end.

Digital Duels: Talion (Shadow of Morder/War) vs Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher series)

The internet loves to pit characters against one another in hypothetical fights to see who would win. In the RPG sphere there are two characters that most often get debated. The Witcher series has master witcher Geralt of Rivia while Shadow of Mordor introduced us to Gondorian captain and wraith host Talion. But who would come out on top in a fight? Continue reading