Friday, November 27, 2009

The Only Cure is More Dead Angels

Thanks to the guys over at 4PlayerPodcast, yesterday I got a code for early access to the Bayonetta demo on Xbox Live. Now, this is a game that I mentioned before on this blog but to basically sum up my interest in it, I think the gameplay looks intriguing and the graphics beautiful but I was worried about the over-the-top sexuality of the eponymous heroine. After all, we’re talking about a witch who’s magical abilities come from her hair and since her suit is made of her hair when she casts a large spell she’s left virtually naked.

Still, the reviews that have been coming in for this game have been phenomenal including a very, very respectable 10/10 from Edge Magazine which had previously only given 10 other games a perfect 10/10 including The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Accordingly, I was incredibly curious when I sat down and downloaded the demo today.

So, is the sexuality and exploitation of Bayonetta unnecessary? Yes.

Does it take away and otherwise distract from the enjoyment of the game? Not really.

Is the game good? Oh, yes. In fact, it’s very, very good.

I have honestly never felt as free and simultaneously in control of an avatar as I did maneuvering Bayonetta. Her combos and movements are positively flawless. Whether you’re shooting at the angel right in front of you, gracefully spinning downward blasting enemies at all your sides or sending a baddie into a conjured iron maiden, the mechanics of this game are tight and incredibly satisfying. The few times Bayonetta found herself without clothes I was honestly so into it that I mostly didn’t notice and when I did the game didn’t seem to make her flesh the central element to the scene.

That being said, Bayonetta still oozes sex. Her “taunt” is pretty ridiculous and I still can’t figure out why she stands the way she does but, honestly, the sexist nature of the game did not bother me nearly as much as I thought it would.

Overall, this game has gone from being something I was curious about to a definite buy come January.

Check out the demo on the 3rd of December. It will be my new life goal to get Lynsey to at least try the demo. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sinners! Repent!

Lynsey and I promised that we would get a re-cap of our last podcast up soon - and we will. Until then though, won't you please have a look at one of the best bits of game advertising I've seen in a long, long time?

Make sure you go pre-order this blessed game.

Go, my children.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Episode 3 is Live!

Hey all! Episode 3 of the Play Like a Girl Podcast is now live! You can listen below or by looking up "playlikeagirlblog" on iTunes and subscribing to us there. Personally, we prefer iTunes - and your reviews.

Thanks for the support, everyone!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

REVIEW: Modern Warfare 2

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who reads this blog. We recently discovered that we were linked on an article from and we're extremely grateful for the attention this blog has received. A step beyond that, I'm pleasantly surprised at the amount of enlightening and intellectual discourse we've had on this blog, as well. I truly expected far more wank but, even on Cary's latest blog entry about a controversial scene in Modern Warfare 2, it's been nothing but great conversation. And that is awesome.


I looked back at the tags for our blog and was supremely disappointed in myself for the lack of Modern Warfare 2 entries and mentions. Cary and I have been caught up in the Left 4 Dead 2 craze, admittedly. That doesn't forgive the fact that we've been remiss in discussing what is, undoubtedly, one of the best games of the year.

Game Informer gave Modern Warfare 2 a rating of 9.75 out of 10 and my only question is: what does a game have to do to earn that .25? MW2 has accomplished what every sequel should hope to -- keep, at its core, what makes it what it is, while expanding upon that core with small details that give this game that extra edge and the feeling that, just maybe, the developers listened to their fan base while making the sequel.

Cary and I are in agreement: we liked this game more than the first. Many people might agree that the "Shock and Awe" mission in the first Modern Warfare was jaw-droppingly thrilling, but who would argue that there aren't at least five of those moments in Modern Warfare 2? This game doesn't let up -- even when you're not knee-deep in "the shit," you're hanging to a space station, being thrown to Earth after a massive explosion. I think Infinity Ward may have just brought the qualifications of "epic" to epicly higher standards.

Even after being in awe of this game, Cary and I played some Special Ops mission last night and we found ourselves saying "okay, one more mission and that's it" until, before we knew it, we had unlocked the achievement for receiving 8 stars in Special Ops and I can tell you, without fear of repudiation, that we are nowhere near being done with Special Ops missions. And just like I did with the first Modern Warfare, I will be trying my hand at beating some missions on Veteran difficulty.

I really don't know what else to say except that this game is a performance of true artistry and that you shouldn't waste a moment of contemplation about buying this game -- do it now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Controversy of Modern Warfare 2

Like a whole lot of people in America and around the world I have spent the last couple of days playing through “Modern Warfare: 2”. It’s a game that I have been eager to play but wasn’t counting down the days for – that’s reserved for Left 4 Dead 2 (ZOMG 6 MORE DAYS!!1!). After all, if this sequel to “Call of Duty 4” was anything like its predecessor it was bound to be an epic and exciting ride.

And it has been so far.

I’ve probably got about an hour left of the campaign but this post isn’t a review, it’s about the controversy.

As someone who didn’t do any research on the game beforehand (I’d actually only seen one trailer) I had no idea of any of its content, including what’s being referred to as “the airport” mission or “No Russian” as it’s called in the game. Before you being the single-player campaign you’re given a warning that states that certain missions in the game may be offensive or unsettling to some players, would you like to be given the option to skip it? Seeing as how the game is already rated “mature” I figured it was probably a scene of excessive gore and that it would be gross but whatever, it’s a game. I can handle it.

I’m someone who (for better or worse) generally considers herself to be hardened when it comes to depictions of simulated violence and unless it’s sexual in nature seeing it in a movie or video game really doesn’t bother me. Plus, I’m playing a war game. I know what I signed up for.

About an hour into the game you take control of an American CIA agent who infiltrates a Russian terrorist group. You then accompany the terrorists to an airport which then leads to this:

The unrelenting slaughter of hundreds of innocent people. When it all started happening I just stared at my screen in sheer, honest shock. Instead of firing on the people I instead shot at the terrorists only to be called a “traitor” and have to start the mission over again. I have seen a lot of things in video games but this was honestly the first time I felt physically sick as a result of something I was not only seeing, but being forced to take part in.

Now, before you say, “you’re not forced! You have the opinion to skip the mission!” let me make a point. When I clicked the option saying I would not be offended I was basing this on content that I had not yet seen. It’s like the moment in “Pulp Fiction” where Vince asks Mia not to be offended by what he’s about to tell her and she says she can’t because her natural reaction may be to get offended and then by no fault of her own she would have broken her promise. The same applies here.

The only saving grace to this sequence – if there is one – is that the terrorists don’t antagonize or otherwise berate you if you don’t fire a shot inside the airport so I was able to get through this mission without actually killing any civilians. However, the game does force you to shoot your way through dozens of police officers on your way out. I couldn’t get around that and I was not a happy camper.

So my big question is this: if the disclaimer telling you that you are able to skip this mission includes the fact that you will not be missing out on story complication or achievements then why – why – is this mission even in this game? Could Infinity Ward not come up with a better way of portraying these guys as evil then to have you participate in their horrific crimes? Let’s not forget, you’re playing as a good guy undercover. A good guy who, at the very least, stands by while all of this is going on.

I am truly baffled and, yes, offended.

I think the developers of this game included this sequence for nothing more than publicity. They knew how big this game was going to be and that because of lazy, unconcerned parents and despite game retailers best efforts, children are going to get their hands on this and I guarantee you the vast majority, if not all of the people who purchased this game, are going to play this mission. It’s the “don’t push this red button” effect.

This is going to do nothing more than anger people who are already livid at the prevalence of violence in video games and, for once, I’m in total agreement with them.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Doin' it for the Ladies

So as most of you have probably figured out at this point, Lynsey and I are women. Though I’d say we’re more “gamers who are female” than “female gamers” the issue of women in the video game industry is one that we tend to talk about with a certain level of frequency. While surfing around tonight in a desperate act of procrastination I came across the old argument of “what do companies have to do to get women interested in gaming?”. Now, I’ve already given my opinion on this before but tonight I wanted to elaborate on what I consider to be a key point on this issue: female avatars.

When it comes to the creation of female characters I feel very confident in saying that most developers design them for men rather than women. What really gets me going with some of these characters is that, in fighting games for instance, they’ll give the female characters all the same strengths and abilities as the male characters only they’ll be nearly naked and bouncing all over the place.

Now, before this goes any farther I need to give an important qualifier: I am not saying that unrealistic body images and the exploitation of those bodies do not exist for male characters. Not at all. However, I do think that for every male avatar who looks like this:

There are 100 female avatars who look like this:

Now, this isn’t always a terrible thing. After all, video games are an escape and I will be the first to admit that it’s fun to get into a fabricated world as a sexy and strong woman who kicks ass but I don’t need to see the avatar’s nearly naked ass for this to be accomplished.

Let’s take a look at some totally random examples:

Okay, so maybe these women aren’t entirely random but they do prove my point. Alyx Vance from The Half Life Series, Chell from Portal, Zoey from Left 4 Dead, and Rochelle from Left 4 Dead 2 are all women who more than hold their own in their respective games and are permitted to do so with hardly a single (if any) reference to the fact that they lack a penis. I remember playing Portal and being surprised when one of the little turret guns called me, “the lady from the test”. Gender is such a non-issue in Portal that it never occurred to me that I could be playing a female character. I – like most female gamers I’d bet – always assume I’m playing as a man when I can’t see my character’s face or body.

I really think that if more developers followed in Valve’s footsteps and made “normal” female avatars it would do wonders for getting women interested in gaming but in order to do that the industry would have to let go of a pretty deep-seeded sense of normalcy: that women are only exciting and enticing when they’re practically nude.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Never Too Late For a Good Scare

So without further ado, I present my selection for The Three Scariest Games of All Time (read “the three scariest games I’ve ever played").

Number 3, Silent Hill 2.

Now I’ve already written review of sorts of this game so I won’t say too much more on the plot or why this game means as much to me as it does. What I will make mention of is how it remains of the most successful survival horror games I’ve ever played. The trick is that the vast, vast majority of the scares come from what you don’t see. I will never forget walking into the Silent Hill Historical Society towards the end of the game, hearing a door open, close, and then footsteps walking toward me. Nothing ever happened, I never saw anyone, but I’m telling you that my knuckles went white with terror.

It’s this type of physiological horror that makes Silent Hill 2 so successful and it’s apparent from the very beginning that you’re in for a mind fuck as you lead James down an impossibly long trail to the titular town all the while hearing footsteps behind you and dogs growling but never coming into contact with a single other living thing. Silent Hill 2 really takes all the cheap scares out and just lets you scare yourself.

Number 2, Dead Space.

Like Silent Hill 2, I also wrote a review of Dead Space when I finished the game a few months ago. This game is scary in a more traditional way with horrible looking monsters eager to jump out at you and subsequently rip your face off but Dead Space manages to walk a fine line between horror and action that kept me coming back for more, despite the fact that it scared me shitless on more than one occasion. There was one sequence in particular when I was running from one of the more terrifying creatures I’ve ever come across in a video game, having to make my way through a maze while it literally breathed down my neck . . . let’s just say when I finally finished it my shirt was drenched in sweat.

Dead Space is truly a game that rests right on the border of “holy hell it’s really scary but I think I can get through it” and “no fucking way I’m going to be able to play that game alone.” It’s a true credit to the survival horror genre.

Number 1, Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly.

So what makes this game worse than the others? What makes it the scariest game I’ve ever played? Simple: I cannot play it alone. Even with friends, I have a hard time. In order to spend any significant amount of time with this game I need friends, lights, and beer. As if the haunted village full of violent ghosts weren’t enough all you’re armed with . . . is a camera. Yup. A camera which houses the ability to exorcise evil sprits, provided you let them get right up in your face before you snap a picture. I’ve never been able to finish this game though I did get close once – made it close to the final house before I got lost and started getting stalked by a scary as hell child ghost. Then I started having nightmares and that's where I draw the line.

Need a hilarious example of its terror? Check out this video some friends shot with Lynsey and I as we attempted the game. In my defense, I was pretty intoxicated:

So thanks for the horrifying memories Fatal Frame 2 – we won’t be seeing each other again anytime soon.

But, maybe some of you fine people will check it out when you’re in the mood for a horror filled night.