Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Nerds Shall Inherit the Earth

I've had some issues with Playstation commercials in the past.

This pretty much makes up for it:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Once Upon a Time

I know you’ve probably heard by now.

Honestly, I’m surprised that it took my roommate telling me for me to find out: a writer from Gizmodo went on a blind date with someone she met on OkCupid who turned out to be Jon Finkel, current world champion of Magic: The Gathering. As it happens, Ms Gizmodo wasn’t too impressed by that. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

She’s rather annoyed. Seems “just like you’re obligated to mention you’re divorced or have a kid in your online profile” (are you?) someone should also be required to disclose any geeky world championship titles. Just like that, Jon had gone from being a charming, handsome professional to a geek. Just a geek. And that’s a bad thing, you know.

She then advises people to Google the hell out of their next on-line date.

Who would have thought that such a thing, posted on a technology blog, wouldn’t have gone over well.

We’ll ignore the was-it-right-for-her-to-call-him-out-by-name question and jump right to the next: should one disclose their geeky interests outright? Is it something to be ashamed of? Are you your hobby?

Here’s a confession: I’m single and I’m a geek. Furthermore, I’ve used on-line dating sites and on those sites I've made it pretty damn clear what my idea of a fun Friday night in entails. To me, since gaming is a big part of my life I feel that it is indeed fair to put that out in the open but this article got me thinking - if I were a man, would I be so transparent? Because women are still considered a minority within the gaming community I have found that letting my geek flag fly hasn’t really been a hindrance. At least, not when you consider the type of men I'm attracted to.

Men, on the other hand, still live with the stigma of “gamer”. It’s that image of the pale, overweight man sitting alone in his parents' basement playing World of Warcraft or the table full of nerds playing Magic drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos. That’s an image that male gamers have been fighting for ages and it seems to be the one stereotype that has worked in favor of female gamers.

That certainly doesn’t make this any less of a shitty situation for Mr. Finkel and other gamers who find their dates running to the door when they find out they’d rather spend the evening at home with a game than at a bar.

That being said, should you read this Jon, I think you’re pretty badass.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Too Busy Gaming To Game?

It’s been quiet around here lately.

I’m not really sure what’s been going on, whether it’s starting a new job and attempting to have more of a social life or a lack of games that have really been compelling me to dedicate more than a few hours to them, I just haven’t really been in the mood to play lately.

Which is why this article on why most players don’t finish games is rather perfectly timed.

Turns out, I’m not the only gamer who feels this way. In fact, it would appear that upwards of 90% of players who start a game never see the end of it. Considering how long some games are I suppose that’s not really a surprise but what I did find a little shocking is that it’s not always the quality of the title that stops people from playing. For example, “Red Dead Redemption” which was named “Game of the Year” by dozens of reviewers (including myself) only had about 10% of the people who started it complete the final mission.

The article goes on to list three main as to why gamers are having a tough time getting the digital credits to roll: other electronic distractions, a plethora of games to choose from, and a desire for more multiplayer.

The first two really stood out to me. For example, I remember playing Fallout: New Vegas and while the game would be loading I would be on my phone checking Facebook or Twitter; it was like I couldn’t not be actively doing something. Hell, as I type this I’ve got the Netflix streaming in the background. It’s as if we’ve gotten so accustomed to multitasking that we don’t know how to just focus on one thing anymore.

The second point I also found to be true (which is somewhat ironic considering I haven’t played a console game in a while) but it reminded me of how “Red Dead Redemption” and “Alan Wake” were released on the same day and how in the next few months Dead Island, Skyrim, and Arkham City are all coming out. Not to mention Tomb Raider, Silent Hill: Downpour, and Bioshock: Infinite will follow next year. With so many games to choose from, how can we possibly find time (not to mention money) for all of them?

Finally, there’s the issue of multiplayer and while at first I disregarded it since I’m generally a single-player gal I soon remembered that the last time I played a game it was a round of Left 4 Dead 2 with a friend and before that it was a replay of Resident Evil 5, again with a friend.

So what do you all think? Do you have a hard time finishing games? If so, why? Did this article ring true or are they missing the mark?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Someone Needs a Structurally Superfluous New Behind

Super impressive Team Fortress 2 live-action skit is super impressive!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

It won't come to that

You guys all know I'm the first person on-board when I hear the word "Bioshock." I've been following the growth of Bioshock: Infinite very closely -- reading articles (one of which sparked a post by Cary) and watching gameplay as it releases. I have to be honest and say that I was obviously concerned when I heard about Bioshock: Infinite and the idea that it would be focused on using the Bioshock engine with a completely new story; the story of Bioshock changed the way video games are seen and understood. Almost immediately my worries were squashed and now with the E3 demo finally released in its entirety, I'm gonna be soooo annoying on this blog until this game hits shelves in 2012.

How you feelin', guys?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Knock It Off, Leonard.

Who's ready for another video game movie adaptation pointlessly made in 3D?

The trailer for the upcoming Silent Hill: Revelation was recently released and it's pretty much exactly what you would expect. That being, not much:

A woman alone. Isolation. Quick cuts of implied creepiness.

Pretty standard horror movie fare.

To be fair though, I found the original Silent Hill movie enjoyable enough. Yeah, the plot was ridiculous and key elements of the games were changed for reasons I'll never know but if you turned your brain off and just watched it, the movie actually did a great job at bringing the world of Silent Hill to the big screen.

This new movie also seems to be trying to stay somewhat loyal to the series. In this trailer alone I saw more than a few direct references to Silent Hill 3 and 4 - including the use of the exact same audio clip of the man singing Happy Birthday. But despite that, I find myself more than relieved that this isn't a direct adaptation of Silent Hill 2 (which still remains my all-time favorite game) as was originally assumed.

Funny. Does anyone ever get excited when news comes out that a book or game they love is making the leap to the big screen or are we all just too jaded?

EDIT: So apparently the trailer is a fake. Funny that I'm not sure if I'm that disappointed or not. Either way, well done fan base.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This Dead Horse is Starting to Smell

Since Duke Nukem Forever was released I’ve found myself doing a bit of thinking on it. I downloaded the demo, played it through, read some on-line reviews to get snippets of what I was missing by forgoing playing the entire game and at the end of it all I came to a conclusion that somewhat surprised me.

I don’t think the game is offensive. At least, not in the way you’d probably expect.

In the sense that it looks terrible, controls poorly and seems shockingly unpolished for a title that’s been in development for 12 years then hell yeah, Duke Nukem Forever is an offensive game. But in terms of its flat-out portrayal of women, I remain unconvinced. At least, in the more traditional sense.

Hear me out.

Duke Nukem Forever seems just as distasteful in its treatment of men as it does for women. In the moments I spent with Duke in the demo I watched him kick a field goal with an alien’s eyeball, piss in a urinal while making references to his penis size, and sat back while two women performed fellatio on him.

Sports. Penis. Sex.

Kinda sounds like a typical “all American” male prototype doesn’t it?

Just as the women in this game are reduced to their most stereotypical elements, Duke himself is nothing more than walking, talking testosterone. But I’ve discussed this here before. The question remains then, what’s the problem? If both genders are equally lampooned, why all the fuss?

Because the male typecast revolves around power, strength, and dominance while the female stereotype equates femininity with helplessness, weakness, and submission we aren’t as rattled when we come across a character like Duke. After all, ridiculous though he is, at the end of the day he’s still a red-blooded American man. Duke isn’t punished for his masculinity; where he gets to save the day, the women in the game are terrorized. This is why it's different.

Probably the most infamous are the alien rape scenes. Women in the game are abducted, forcibility impregnated, and then die “giving birth” (all the while moaning in pain) should Duke choose not to execute them himself.

But doesn’t that sound an awful lot like the Alien franchise? And I would dare anyone to call that series sexist.

And so, my friends, I think I’ve pinpointed exactly what it is about Duke Nukem Forever that’s pissing so many people off, myself included: it’s not funny.

Yeah, it’s not funny.

This game is obviously meant as a satire but in the hands of poor writing it comes off as heartless and cold.

Remember that scene from Seinfeld when Jerry’s dentist converts to Judaism so he can make Jewish jokes? Jerry, upset, goes to a Catholic confessional to vent. The priest concludes that Jerry is offended as a Jewish man but he responds that no, he’s offended as a comedian.

When jokes fail it’s never good but when we attempt to make light of serious issues and fail, it’s ten times worse. Duke Nukem Forever attempts to make fun of issues like rape and fails miserably.

Then again, I’ve never heard a joke about rape that’s made me laugh.

Long story short, this game is offensive for a plethora of reasons. It's immature, badly designed, and humorless. It's a bad game, folks. Does it piss me off? Yeah. Should it? Probably. But it's not like it's being hailed as game of the year:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Not That Kind of Croft

Anyone alive out there?

It’s been a crazy month in terms of personal lives and whatnot so allow me to quell your fears of this blog fading into the void of the interwebz.

So what’s been happening? What’s been going on?

Oh! E3!

Right, that little thing.

I must confess that I actually didn’t pay too much attention while everything was going on. With Twitter getting flooded with updates I went into a sort of media blackout with the entire event and am only just now starting to seek out information I’m interested in. That being said, holy shit guys – I’m excited for the new Tomb Raider:

Honestly, I’ve been excited for this reboot since the new Lara was revealed but this trailer just blew my mind. As Nicole Tanner wrote in her recent article entitled “Female Characters Get Real”, past iterations of Lara were portrayed as utterly fearless, hardened, snarky heroines. While that may be a break from the norm, it’s not real. This Lara is scared, unsure, and knows when she needs help. She cries out in pain when bandaging her wounds – the old Lara would never have done that. Yet, despite that, I dare you to watch that trailer and tell me what you see isn’t a strong character. I absolutely cannot wait to play this game. I think this new Lara is going to make a terrific example how women in games can be strong and beautiful and still be real. Somewhat ironic when you consider Ms. Croft’s history, huh?

May I also point out before I move on that I find it delightful that while buzz is being created about this new perception of women in games, Duke Nukem Forever has finally been released and is tanking? I know, cheap shot. Sue me. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Jim Redner might hear.

The only other bit of news from E3 that really got a reaction from me (other than making fire engine noises in regard to Nintendo’s new console) was the trailer for Silent Hill: Downpour:

I’m not thrilled. Yeah, sure, the trailer itself doesn’t really look too bad until you get to the end and you go, “wait, this is Silent Hill?”. There is nothing in this trailer that reminds me of the games I love from this series. Maybe it will surprise me, but after Homecoming and Shattered Memories I’m probably just going to wait and see what the reviews say before and if I pick it up. I truly, truly hope I’m wrong and the game ends up being amazing but I’m not holding my breath.

And anyway, I’ve got Tomb Raider to look forward to.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This Isn't New York

Last year, I proclaimed Rockstar’s action Western “Red Dead Redemption” to be the best game I’d played in 2010. Naturally, when Rockstar announced that their film noir style detective epic would be released this year I was eager to see how it would play out. On one hand, I wasn’t too enthused about the setting. Sure, I could see the appeal of a rich and dramatized Los Angeles set in the late 40s but how could 20 something hours of investigating crime scenes possibly hold my attention?

At PAX this year, Lynsey and I were treated to a 30-minute demo of the game, which certainly piqued my interest but still left the aforementioned question unanswered.

Having finished “LA Noire” last night I now know: yeah, I really can spend 20-something hours investigating crimes scenes and not get bored.

As detective Cole Phelps I began my career as a lowly street cop only to work my way up the food chain of the LAPD from traffic to homicide to vice and then finally arson. And yes, arson is the last division you’re assigned to thanks to some surprising plot twists. Then again, this is Rockstar isn’t it? Plot twists are what it’s all about.

As Phelps you spend your time driving from case to case – occasionally stopping to assist in 1 of 40 street crimes that randomly pop up – and trying to piece together what exactly happened and who you need to haul downtown to answer for the nefarious misdeeds. As you wander through a crime scene, your controller vibrates to let you know a clue is nearby. Well, sometimes it tells you nothing: Phelps often picks up items that turn out to be worthless but are still able to be fully examined. Let me tell you, I think the guy has a fetish for hairbrushes.

Following the crime scene investigates, you move on to the interrogation of suspects and this is where “L.A. Noire” really shines. Using an elaborate network of 32 cameras, the developers flawlessly recorded the actor’s faces as they spoke their lines. This may seem excessive to any outsider but when a large portion of your success in the game depends on your ability to read people’s expressions (are they not meeting your eyes? Is their mouth twitching? Are they blinking too much?) this is crucial and Rockstar pulled it off beautifully. Take a look at this video to get an idea of the effort that went into this technology and how marvelous it truly looks:

That being said though, the facial animations really are the star of the show here. Yes, the story is engaging but truthfully once you’ve played one Rockstar I feel as though you’ve played them all in some respect. I went into this game knowing that at some point I would be betrayed and that my character or someone I was close to wouldn’t make it to the end credits. I’m certainly not going to go into details on that here but let’s just say I wasn’t surprised by the game’s twists and ultimate conclusion.

I will say it again however, this predictability doesn’t make the story any less fun.

The other staples of the mechanics work wonderfully as well: the music, the background noises, shooting and cover systems, they all come together nicely with the exception of the repetition of the conversations NPCs would have around you. It wasn’t long before I found myself memorizing lines like “if olive oil comes from olives . . . where does baby oil come from?”.

This lack of variety did play a role in my disappoint with the overall level of interaction with the open world of this game. Yes, it looks beautiful but really, there just isn’t much to do in the streets of Los Angeles. I never felt the urge to explore like I did in “Red Dead Redemption” but I suppose it’s not really fair to compare the two and I will say that while Red Dead only had a handful of “random” encounters that were recycled in different areas of the world, all 40 of the street crimes in L.A. Noire are wholly unique.

That’s impressive.

Impressive. That’s really a good word all around for this game. It lived up perfectly to my expectations, neither falling below or above them. L.A. Noire is a fantastic game and is everything I’ve come to expect from Rockstar. In fact, I’m planning on starting another playthrough as soon as I finish this review. There has already been talk of a sequel and I can earnestly say I’d love to see more of this world, perhaps within a game where it’s a little easier to get yourself happily lost outside the main quest.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And She'll Scream, and She'll Shout, and She'll Pray

Video games, like other forms of media, often comment on the nature of society. In fact one could argue that that is the very nature of media: to comment on society, the good, the bad, the ugly, the confusing and the complicated.

Kotaku recently published an article concerning the nature of the relationship between Elizabeth, a woman from the highly anticipated (read OMFG IS IT HERE YET?!) Bioshock: Infinite and Songbird, her mechanical captor. When she first appeared in the teaser trailer Elizabeth was shown as nothing more than a beautiful face, trapped high in a tower, being held against her will by something lurking and monstrous. She seemed to be a very real princess trapped in a very real tower waiting on a man to come to her rescue.

Needless to say, I wasn’t terribly impressed with her.

Then the 10-minute demo footage was released. Here, I saw this woman in the midst of the fight, more than holding her own. She didn’t seem to need any help or protection which in addition to giving her more of a unique personality put my fears of escort missions aside.

What also caught my attention was the fact that Elizabeth spent a fair amount of time in the demo struggling to breathe as she raced through the chaotic streets of Columbia in a corset. I know it may seem strange that such a thing really stuck with me but I think it speaks volumes in the developer’s quest to make her a real person. Society demands that she forcefully constrict her body to accentuate her hips and bust while making her waist seem impossibly small all in the name of what’s considered beautiful and appealing – never mind that it also compresses her lungs, ribs, and organs. Elizabeth is a woman restricted by her environment and is now being revealed as a woman fleeing an abusive relationship.

In the article, Kevin Levine describes how Elizabeth pleads to the protagonist – you – not to let Songbird take her back, implying she’d rather die than fall back into his mechanical hands. Yet, when the synthetic beast catches up with her she tearfully apologizes for running away and asks it to take her back home.

She is strong and clearly capable but still frightened, made weak by her fear and inability to keep the hopelessness of her situation out of her mind. She resigns herself back into captivity to save your life, as abused women often do for the sake of their children.

I find it brave of Irrational Games to explore this type of relationship. I truly do.

Elizabeth seems damaged, trapped, strong, intelligent, and real.

I can’t wait to get to know her better and find out how her story ends.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Zed Word

In-game screenshots from the upcoming zombie sandbox game "Dead Island" were released today.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Here We Are Again. It's Always Such a Pleasure.

This review was really difficult to write.

Also, a little startling.

After all, it’s not every day that a seasoned gamer gets that feeling of pure, unadulterated satisfaction upon seeing digital credits roll. It’s even more rare when that sated feeling starts translating into thoughts of, "that’s the best game I’ve played in a long time" and “that’s . . . that’s one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life.”

Yeah. It happened.

Like so many others I fell in love with the 2007 original game and was crazy excited for the sequel. However, part of me worried about how the simple (I use that word very loosely) idea of the 4-hour experiment would translate into a full-fledged game. Would I get tired of the same routine after 8 or so hours? Would all the puzzles manage to be unique from one another? Would the addition of an actual plot deter from the mechanics at all?

In short, the answers are no, yes, and absolutely not.

Waking up in a dilapidated sleep chamber, you are quickly introduced to perhaps the strongest element of the game: the incredible and hilarious writing coupled with some seriously impressive voice work. While I was thrilled beyond belief with knowing that Ellen McLain would be returning as GLaDOS (who is quickly becoming my favorite video game villain) I was floored at how good Stephen Merchant was as Wheatley – your spherical and astoundingly funny companion. It’s hard to remember him opening his mouth (so to speak) and me not laughing.

J.K. Simmons also does an incredible job as Cave Johnson, the CEO of Aperture Science who hates you almost as much as GLaDOS does and seems to have a firm belief in everyone around him being a loser who will do anything for $60.

In addition to the awesome writing and voice talent, the game’s designers deserve immense praise. Not only are the puzzles brilliantly designed but the game does a great job of switching up your surroundings to avoid repetition. Just when I would start to get sick of an area, I would be thrown into an entirely new one. Yes, I definitely got frustrated more than once and I’m not too proud to admit that a few puzzles took me over half and hour to solve.

But oh man, when I did. GLORIOUS.

I can’t even begin to fathom how the developers came up with all the puzzle designs but I’m pretty sure we’d find the origin of the universe in their collective brains should we be given the chance to dig around in there.

The single player campaign of Portal 2 really is, from start to finish, genius. Absolute genius. The co-op mode however, introduces something new to the franchise. You and a buddy play as Atlas and P-Body, two robots built by GLaDOS specifically to run her diabolical courses. Lynsey and I have run through the first course and had a blast.

Well, up until I accidently killed her.

GLaDOS seemed okay with it though.

Really folks, I don’t have too much more to say. This is really a game that has few, if any, flaws. In fact, the only one I can think of off the top of my head is that the scripted events can take awhile sometime and upon additional play-throughs it may be a chore to sit through them all again. But why would you want to skip them anyway?

. . .

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Really. That’s the only thing I can think of that could potentially be wrong with this game. I’m sayin’ it, Ladies and Gentlemen: Portal 2 is perfect. Perfect. It’s the kind of game that only comes around once in a blue moon and absolutely should not be missed by anyone. Also, it's rated “E” so you’ve got no excuse.

Get out there and get yourself a copy of what is bound to become the gold standard of puzzle games.

Friday, April 15, 2011

That Was A Joke. Ha Ha.

If you're like me and anxiously awaiting the release of Portal 2 then you probably just about lost your mind when, hidden inside Valve's "Potato Sack" collection of indie games were hints pertaining to Portal 2, including the date 4/15/11 and the time 9:00 PST. Fans were eager to think that this suggested Portal 2 would be release at that time instead of the scheduled date of the 19th.

The fact that the game started to pre-load on Steam last night only added fuel to the fire.

Then, a mysterious countdown clock appeared.

We all waited with bated breath while the time ticked down to zero and then . . . nothing.

Well, no, not quite nothing.

It seems that GLaDOS did effectively hack into Steam but now she needs help re-booting so that Portal 2 can be released early. So how can you help? Buy buying and playing the 13 indie games from the Potato Sack. If enough people play these games, Portal 2 can in fact be released before Tuesday. The Aperture Science main page where the countdown was now displays a real-time meter showing the progress of this endeavor.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

On one hand, I'm kind of pissed that Valve is all, "Hey! Give us money now so that you can give us more money sooner!" but on the other hand, it is pretty cool to see them support independent games. Plus, can we really be upset about not getting something ahead of schedule?

Valve Time schedule, that is. Remember, the game was already delayed by a month.

Of course, being a console gamer none of this really matters to me but this has been . . . interesting regardless.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm already dead... to you

Since I've made the switch over to PS3 from the 360, life has been very different. I wouldn't think of positives and negatives or bads and goods so much as just... different. I've finally added my PSN card to the side page of our blog and there you can see the games I've played and the trophies I've earned. But since I haven't really gone into much PlayStation stuff since the switch, I thought I'd talk a little about each game I've played thus far.

INFAMOUS: Really enjoyed the gameplay, and I thought the story was new and exciting. Honestly, have yet to finish the game so I can't say too much more on it.

DEAD RISING 2: Not much to say, honestly. I didn't play this game much because I found the beginning disappointing. I'm not going to give up on it, I just haven't gotten back to it yet. I dunno, maybe I take my zombie-killing more seriously.

FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS: I can't wait to finish this game. Truly, this game is certainly like a very large expansion pack but I bought it full price for my 360 before it died, then I went back and paid for it AGAIN for my PS3 -- I'm serious about this game.

UNCHARTED: This is another game I started and haven't finished (yes, I know, I know), but Drake is a truly refreshing character. And the gameplay is fun, but sometimes repetitive, to be honest. Don't worry, I'm going to finish this one when I can.

HEAVY RAIN: The first game I played (and immediately completed) on my PS3 -- one of my favorite games of all-time. I think this is the kind of game that shows what games are truly capable of being. It's easier to talk about what this game did right in so many ways and not so much on what could be improved.

DEAD SPACE 2: What hasn't been said about this game already by us? Cary and I have so much faith in the Dead Space franchise and this game was more than I could have expected. The gameplay was so much more rewarding, Isaac was a more worthy protagonist, and Ellen kicked some serious ass. For real.

MASS EFFECT 2: This is why I haven't finished so many other games, guys. THIS. I'm something like 15 hours into this game and I am not ready for it to end. I still have yet to pinpoint exactly what it is that has drawn me into this game -- the gameplay doesn't have much in the way of variety, to be honest, and the load screens still take a really long time, but my lady Shepard is a fucking badass. She head-butted a krogan. And she'll do it again.

Next up: Portal 2 (OMG DUH, GUYS) and L.A. Noire. The guys at Valve are bringin' it with this sequel, guys, and when Cary and I were sitting in that booth at PAX East with Chet Faliszek 5 feet away from us, we were stupid giddy. Valve fangirls to the end. Also: Rockstar's L.A. Noire looks utterly promising -- it looks to be going the way of Heavy Rain in terms of gameplay and story, and I'm really excited by that new direction in gaming.

As an aside, has anyone had issues connecting to the PlayStation Network at all? I wasn't having issues until the last month or so and its been intermittent connectivity. Forums haven't been the most helpful in isolating the issue.

One last aside: I had to actually call to cancel my Xbox Live Gold subscription and the experience was actually quite hilarious. When the representative asked me why I was canceling my service, I told him I didn't have my console anymore because it broke on me a third time. When he told me I could repair it OOW for $90, I didn't know and I told him I didn't know, to which he said, "Oh, so you just gave up on the situation?" And literally "tsk tsk"ed at me. Sorry, Xbox Live and Microsoft, this is an unacceptable method of saying goodbye to loyal customers who were forced elsewhere because of your faulty hardware and lack of clear technical support. Try harder next time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Break Out Your Tiny Violin

It’s certainly a regular thing for upset fanboys and girls to go on forums of their supposed favorite games and bitch and moan about certain aspects of the experience that they didn’t like. It seems that no matter how good a game is or how much someone claims to love it something always has to rub them so hard the wrong way that they feel the need to express their disapproval on the game’s official forums.

99% of the time I totally and completely ignore it. Haters gonna hate.

Truth be told, I would never have even known about forum poster Bastal’s complaint about the Dragon Age 2 romance options had lead writer David Gaider not taken the time to personally respond.

So what was so horrible about Dragon Age 2 that Mr. Bastal felt he needed to vent? In his own words, “Bioware neglected their main demographic: the straight male gamer”. He feels that because the majority of RPG gamers are straight and male and that the small amount of women who game stick to casual titles like The Sims the development team should have been much more concerned with making the straight men who play Dragon Age 2 happy. And how does one do this, you ask? Put in more hot, white, blonde, buxom chicks that want to rip your armor off it seems.

He feels that because Fenris and Anders can be romanced by both male and female Hawke that they were created specifically for female players and “the gays” which he estimates make up a staggering 5% of Bioware’s total fanbase. In addition, the two female romance options (which can also be pursued by both male and female Hawke) are “too exotic” and therefore were not created with the desires of the “straight, male gamer” in mind. I continue to be confused as to what he exactly meant by this. I guess Merrill’s tattoos and Isabela’s . . . erm, tan skin are intimidating? Honestly though, how anyone could think that Isabela wasn’t created purely to satisfy drooling adolescent boys is beyond me:

Whatever. I’m not going to say much in response to what is obviously a homophobic male teenager’s refusal (or lack of desire) to acknowledge the world around him. I did want to point out a few erroneous assumptions and hypocrisies in his argument however:

1.) His statistics. Yeah, it’s an easy one to go after but it’s just so damned irritating. The fact that this guy thinks the estimations he admittedly pulled out of his head are fact is just hilarious.

2.) He claims that the vast majority of women who game spend their time with pick up and go games like The Sims and yet he believes that Aveline was specifically created for women “given the lack of strong female characters in games”. If you think women don’t game, why would you possibly think this about Aveline? Also, why not mention Hawke as a strong woman that female players can identify with?

3.) He argues that there should be a “no homosexuality” option to prevent Anders and Fenris from making passes at male Hawke as that’s awkward. Somehow I have a feeling however that if he played as female Hawke and Isabela or Merrill hit on him he would not only not find it awkward but would probably peruse the relationship. After all, we as a society generally don’t have a problem with the idea of lesbianism so long as the chicks are hot and we can watch; it’s just the idea of dude’s kissing that’s offensive, right? Being a straight woman, I was not interested in pursuing a relationship with Isabela so guess what I did when she hit on me? I told her no thank you and we moved on. Shocking.

Urgh. Sorry. I know I just said I wasn’t going to spend too much time on a response to this doofus but my fingers got away from me. The level of entitlement and ignorance in this post infuriated me, especially the admission of being uncomfortable with a male character hitting on him while claiming he’s not homophobic. This was a recurring theme in the comments as well. Lots of players claiming, “I’m no homophobe but” and then proceeding to say something along the lines of it breaks Hawke’s badass persona to have him jumping into bed with Anders and/or Fenris. Gentlemen, once again, just like you would do in real life if a woman you weren’t interested in hit on you, just walk away. Don’t get all pissy that gay people can exist in your fantasy game and pretend it’s not your homophobia breaking your immersion.

Breaking your immersion. Oh yeah, this entire post is about a game. A GAME. A fantasy, role-playing game which is meant to allow people to explore and do things they never would in real life. Guys, it doesn’t make you any less butch to love on these fine assortments of pixels:

They’re not going to come out of the TV and change your orientation and as soon as you're done with Dragon Age 2 you can go back to ogling women in order to re-affirm your masculinity.

Okay, okay. I’m done now.

The entire reason I started this post was to share Mr. Gaider’s response to this guy. It’s a rather lengthy post so allow me to paraphrase here while pointing out my favorite points in bold:

"The romances in the game are not for 'the straight male gamer'. They're for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don't need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant... and that's ignoring the idea that they don't have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The 'rights' of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent 'right' to get more options than anyone else.

"More than that, I would question anyone deciding they speak for 'the straight male gamer' just as much as someone claiming they speak for 'all RPG fans', 'all female fans' or even 'all gay fans'. You don't. If you wish to express your personal desires, then do so. I have no doubt that any opinion expressed on these forums is shared by many others, but since none of them have elected a spokesperson you're better off not trying to be one. If your attempt is to convince BioWare developers, I can tell you that you do in fact make your opinion less convincing by doing so.

"And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as 'political correctness' if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They're so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don't see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what's everyone's fuss all about? That's the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want”

Thank you, David Gaider.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to this absurdity while simultaneously renewing my faith in the gaming industry as an entertainment outlet that deserves to be taken seriously.

Monday, March 21, 2011

To Chew Gum and Slap Asses

An interesting bit of news came out today regarding a previously unannounced multi-player mode for the upcoming (and long awaited) Duke Nukem Forever. It would appear that the developers have taken a new spin on the classic "capture the flag" and replaced it with "capture the babe".

Players will run around and attempt to capture a woman who "will sometimes freak out while you’re carrying her (somewhat understandable we’d say) at which point you have to hit a button to gently give her a reassuring slap.”

That didn't go over too well.

So the game's PR reps clarified toady that Duke wouldn't be slapping the women in the face. Oh, good. Rather, he'd be hitting them in the ass to get them to calm down, presumably as they're being carried over his shoulder. Now, when I first read this I literally rolled my eyes and said a few choice words outloud. Then I remembered what game I was reading about:

If any game on the face of this earth could get away with something like this, it's Duke Nukem. I've never played any of the games in the series but I know enough about the franchise to understand it was originally created as a satire to the action movie heros of the late 80s and early 90s. I also think it's incredibly obvious that it remains a gargantuan parody of hyper masculinity and machoism. Whether it's effective or not (read stupid) is a matter of personal opinion.

Does that make this any less in poor taste? No, not really.

To be honest, I'm really not sure how I feel about this. It reminded me of the Bioshock 2 multi-player "capture the sister" mode where you ran around trying to grab screaming little girls. More specifically, I remember thinking that it was funny but that an outsider would probably think I was playing a seriously sick and demented game.

Is that applicable with our buddy, Duke? Did the developers cross a line or is it all the name of parody? Just because a game like this can get away with it, should it?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mages, Templars, and Kittens

Well folks, after about 25 hours of gameplay I have finished my first playthrough of Dragon Age 2. After being thoroughly impressed with the demo I was crazy excited to finally sit down and play the sequel to what has since become of my favorite games of all time. Was I a tad nervous? Of course, but the overwhelmingly positive reviews of Bioware’s other big sequel – Mass Effect 2 – left me feeling more optimistic than anything else as I started the game.

Perhaps that was a mistake.

Not the kind of mistake that makes me wish I hadn’t played it – not at all – but the kind of mistake that makes me think I was a little blinded by expectations.

Dragon Age 2 is a great game. It really is. It improved on some of the weaker aspects of Origins like endless quests in never-ending areas (I’m looking at you Orzammar) and clunky controls and replaced them with (mostly) fresh and crisp surrounding and gameplay mechanics that shine on the 360. Playing as a mage in Origins could be little boring; I’d find myself just staring blankly as the Hero of Ferelden would pew pew her way through battles. Hawke the mage, however, was every bit the badass she deserved to be. I never, ever got sick of watching her slam her staff into the ground to send an enemy reeling. I also adore the re-design of the Qunari:

There is no arguing that Dragon Age 2 looks and feels better than its predecessor but does that make it a superior game?

For me, the biggest draw of Dragon Age Origins was the story. I completely fell in love with the lore of the world and the lives of characters I met. Even the companions that I didn’t spend too much time with like Sten and Zevran managed to endear themselves to me in the quiet moments of camp. Although it took me a few playthroughs before I truly grasped the depth of everything that was happening in Ferelden it only made me care about the place far more than I ever would have expected.

When all was said and done within Kirkwall I cannot say I felt the same, which is especially interesting considering you spend a decade within the city. This isn’t to suggest that I was apathetic to the problems facing me and the city, only that I never really got the feeling that the world around Hawke was really being influenced by her presence. In Orgins, you greatly impacted the lives of almost everyone you met while Dragon Age 2 kind of goes out with a whimper. It’s set up nicely for a sequel but I found the ending of the game to be very sudden especially considering that several key issues didn’t really seem to resolve themselves. Again, you could chalk that up to the preparation for Dragon Age 3 but I was really disappointed with how certain circumstances – including one very large one from Origins – never played out or hell, were even really mentioned. Considering the scale of your actions in the first game, I really expected the second to touch on it far more than it did.

That being said, Dragon Age 2 is littered with little references and cameos from the first game and I adored every single one of them. From a bartender telling me about the declining pigeon population in Ferelden to Anders talking about Ser Pounce-a-Lot and Merrill’s desire to mend the Eluvain, so many cool moments are dependent upon the player having completed Origins and Awakening before this. Which is really awesome but still leaves me scratching my head as to why larger events in the previous games were hardly referenced or brought up at all.

On the whole, Dragon Age 2 is much less complicated than the original. Party members cannot have their armor changed (though it can be upgraded), conversations with companions are limited to specific times and locations and you never spend too much time in one area though you will travel back numerous times. Funny how all the caves on the outskirts of Kirkwall look exactly the same inside, huh?

While I miss some aspects of the above overall I think the changes work well for the sequel and help the player stay focused on the actual game itself rather than getting caught up in the more menial tasks listed above.

To sum it up, Dragon Age 2 is a great game. It really is. I’m planning on starting my second playthrough as soon as I get this posted but I do feel that it was a step back from Origins; no amount of improved graphics and mechanics can make up for a weaker story.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

PAX East, Day 3

Well friends, after 3 long, glorious days PAX East 2011 has officially come to an end.

Learning from our experience with panels yesterday, Lynsey and I headed right to the theater for the “One of Us” panel that featured our fellow blog buddy Alex.

Check her out, folks. She's awesome.

After a few uncertain moments the ladies and gentlemen of the panel really got rolling on the issues facing minority gamers, specifically the differently-abled, non-heterosexual and female gaming population. Although the entire panel was very interesting there was one thing that really stood out to me. The panelist from (who’s name escapes me, please forgive!) tackled exactly what it is that you should do when you come across the inevitable hostile player in the virtual world who aren’t too keen on the fact that you’re not as they are.

The answer: stand up for yourself.

It actually reminded me of a conversation held on a recent episode of Analog Hole Gaming where Christy talked about a young boy in World of Warcraft asking her to send him pictures of her tits. Instead of rolling her eyes and ignoring him, she called him out on the absurdity of his statement and shamed him into stopping. It made me think back to the times were I’ve been harassed on-line and how I blocked them and moved on without letting them know.

And it bothered me.

After all, how can we expect things to change if we remain passive when someone’s throws the word “fag” or “dyke” or “bitch” around on-line?

We can’t and we shouldn’t - complacency is not the answer.

It really was a great panel.

Afterwards, we headed back to the show floor but upon finding 2-hour plus waits for the other games we were curious about we opted to watch from the sidelines for a few minutes before heading out exhausted but satisfied. This was my first time at PAX East and I can certainly say that I plan to return next year. Yes, the lines were long, the food was expensive, and there was a lot of confusion that first day but overall it was a terrific, nerdy experience.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

PAX East, Day 2

So day two at PAX east ended up going a little differently than we intended.

We arrived back at the convention center a little before noon and after finding out that the wait time for L.A. Noire was about an hour and a half with the demonstration itself being 30 minutes we decided to kill some time in the freeplay areas since the “Females on Female Characters” panel was at 3. After an always-pleasing game of Left 4 Dead 2 we headed over to the theater only to find an enormous line waiting to get it.

I’m talking, HUGE.

While we were pretty bummed that we couldn’t get into the theater we were also pretty excited that such a topic would elicit the response it did. I’m curious to see if similar amounts of people show up for the “One of Us” panel tomorrow, which has a similar theme – gamers who break the gamer stereotype. Regardless, perhaps we’ll be treated to more “minority” panels at future conventions considering how well the one today did.

Slightly downtrodden, we headed back to Rockstar’s booth and got in line for the L.A. Noire demonstration. After waiting for 90 minutes we walked into their closed off booth and were treated to a fantastic preview of the game’s mechanics, plot devices, graphics and overall theme.

The level of detail in this game looks incredible. We watched the protagonist kneel over a dead body and meticulously examine it – from a head wound to broken fingernails to a cut on the arm – and the surrounding crime scene. A flick of the analog stick would cause you to turn the victim’s head to the side or even gently move a bloodied wrist. Every little action is put in control of the player.

We saw the main character interrogate suspects: asking them questions and judging the truth behind the answers from the way the character acted and spoke. I really enjoyed that in order to successfully accuse someone of something malicious you had to have hard evidence - not just a hunch - or things could go quite bad for your character.

Overall, the demo left the kind of impression that we’ve all come to expect from Rockstar: I went in knowing little about L.A. Noire and left thinking that I’m probably now going to pick it up day one.

Shortly after we left Rockstar’s booth (with two free posters and two t-shirts) we decided to head out to appease our growling stomachs but not before we caught a good long look at the Duke Nukem Forever booth and its rather interesting promotional tools:

Enter the booth babes.

What I find the most curious about this is that following PAX East last year the guys from Penny Arcade decided to enact a ban on scantily clad models at their conventions and that this ban was met with overwhelming support from the 6,313 attendees surveyed. It would appear as though a large amount of men as well as women didn’t really care for watching half-naked women who know nothing about the product their bodies are advertising prance around. However, it would also appear that despite the ban on these types of models being used to promote games, Gearbox got under the wire.

Which, yeah, on one hand it’s obnoxious and sexist. I mean, why not have a shirtless butch dude who resembles Duke standing there to take pictures with people?

But on the other hand, I saw plenty of female attendees cosplaying in less than what these women were wearing and those women were dressed the way they were because they were pulling from the female characters currently appearing in video games. Hell, I’ve put in about 10 hours so far with a Dragon Age 2 with a main character looks like this:

So while at first I was pretty annoyed with the Duke Nukem booth, I have to say that on reflection I find that the majority of my irritation stems from what has always bothered me about video games and that’s that female characters generally aren’t taken seriously and are hardly ever presented as a character first and an attractive, sexual woman second.

Man . . . I really wish I had been able to attend that panel.

Friday, March 11, 2011

PAX East, Day 1

Today Lynsey and I woke up early, ate a quick breakfast and hopped on the T headed toward the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for the first day of PAX East 2011.

Now, the profuse rain certainly didn’t help but I have to say that our very first impressions weren’t great. The venue is huge and while it’s great for making me feel like there is room to breathe working your way around the place proved to be quite the challenge and no one working the event seemed very sure of where things were. However, seeing as how the “staff” is largely comprised of gamers volunteering I really can’t give them a hard time.

The first event of the day was the keynote speech by Jane McGonigal who, in addition to welcoming everyone and getting the crowd excited for the events to come, did a great summary of her book “Reality is Broken”. Having not read the book myself I can’t really critique her material too much but I will say that it certainly piqued my interest, even if it did seem a bit idealistic at times. McGonigal herself was energetic, comfortable, and confident and did a fantastic job getting everyone pumped up.

First up on the show floor for us was a look at Nintendo's 3DS. While I’m generally not a handheld gamer I was curious as to how the technology of the device works and I have to say I was pretty damned impressed with it. After a few seconds of letting my eyes adjust to the screen I found the 3D effect to be surprisingly clear, clean, and effective. It honestly looked and felt fantastic and though I’m still not convinced my life would be incomplete without one I found myself thinking about it the rest of the day.

Well, until we hit the Portal 2 booth.

After grabbing some free Aperture Science t-shirts we headed inside a wall-up room and saw new footage from the upcoming game including a PAX East exclusive look at the character Cave Johnson, creator and CEO of the aforementioned company. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m more excited for the actual game or the hilarious and smart dialogue that comes with it. Speaking of amazing writing, it was a pretty awesome moment when Lynsey looked at a man by the booth and said, “I know I’ve seen that guy before” and me going, “Dude! That’s Chet Faliszek!”.

Valve fangirls to the end, friends.

After the Valve presentation we went in search of food and after paying $12 for a small sandwich, chips, and a soda (expected but still annoying) it was back to the show floor for a quick look around before we headed to one of the many free play rooms for a relaxing game of Left 4 Dead.

Tomorrow’s plans include the panel “Females on Female Characters” as well as checking out Rockstar’s L.A. Noire and Projet Origin’s FEAR 3 as well as some others.

See you then!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tell Me Of The Champion

If you listened to our latest podcast wherein we recounted the best and the worst of last year you’ll also recall that Lynsey and I named our most anticipated games of 2011. Yesterday, the demo to my most anticipated game went live:

Aw yeah.

Now Andraste knows I’ve touted my love of Dragon Age: Origins on this blog many times before. It’s the best, most immersive RPG I’ve ever played and the one I’ve spent the most time with. That is, with the notable exception of World of Warcraft but I unlike WoW, it was the story of Dragon Age that kept me so wonderfully entertained and despite the fact that I’ve played through that game 4 complete times, I could sit down right now and start it all over again.

Having said that, I have a feeling that Dragon Age 2 is going to make me wonder why I loved Origins as much as I did.

Using vastly improved graphics, I was immediately thrown into battle and amazed at how good it felt. For my first play through I may actually have a difficult time deciding what class to play because although I love being a mage, the rogue is just so badass looking. The standard attacks are varied like they were in Origins and look incredible – it’s stunning to watch Hawke knock an enemy down with her shield and then rush at them before they can get back up.

All the action flows so seamlessly it’s mesmerizing.

The other drastic change is the dialogue system and while I enjoyed the lengthy options in Origins the shorter, voiced choices in Dragon Age 2 is pretty awesome. It has me really excited for the epic story that’s undoubtedly coming.

I could really just go on and on and on about the demo but I’ll save that for the full review once I complete the actual game.

March 8th seriously cannot come fast enough.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Got Any Tango?

You're talking about it. Your friends are talking about it. Your parents are talking about it. Your professor is talking about it. Your boss is talking about it. Your favorite barista is talking about it.

Now, we're talking about it:

Gorgeous, emotional, and effective.

What more can really be said except for if Dead Island turns out to be half as good as this trailer we're all in for a treat. Then again, is it really possible that an open-world, RPG zombie game could be bad?

Wait . . . what am I saying . . . no, it's fine, I'm sure I didn't just jinx it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You Can't Push It Underground

The time is almost upon us, friends. Time for masses of nerds to flock to Boston for the Penny Arcade Expo. A few days ago, the official schedule of events was released and since Lynsey and I are about to burst from excitement, we thought we'd post the info of the sessions we're definitely attending via the official PAX East site:

PAX East 2011 Keynote: Jane McGonigal

Main Theatre - Friday, 10:30am - 11:30am

You may know her work from the I Love Bees ARG that launched with a little game called Halo 2. You may also have seen her speech or read her book ("Reality is Broken") where she describes gamers as being uniquely equipped to save the world. She's super smart and has a lot of really interesting things to say about gaming, and we're super excited to have her here.

A Live Demonstration of RAGE

Wyvern Theatre - Friday, 1:30pm - 2:30pm

Join Design Director Matt Hooper and Senior Producer Jason Kim for a live demonstration of RAGE, the groundbreaking new first-person shooter from id. Set in the not-too-distant future after an asteroid impacts Earth, you emerge into a vast and ravaged wasteland to discover humanity struggling to survive the deadly threat of bandit gangs, mutants, and the Authority – an oppressive government regime that has a special interest in you in particular. Featuring intense first-person shooter action, breakneck vehicle combat, an expansive world to explore and jaw-dropping graphics powered by id’s revolution.

Interactive Drama: Dialogue as Gameplay

Cat Theatre - Friday, 2:00pm - 3:00pm

Do narrative games provide dialogue choices that enhance gameplay? Is it important to develop relationships through interactive choices between player and non-player characters? How are interactive conversation choices designed and how important is the user interface? What does it mean to experience Interactive Drama in a gameplay mechanic of dialogue choices?

FRAG Movie Screening

Naga Theatre - Friday, 9:30pm - 10:30pm

As a documentary covering the lives of pro-gamers, FRAG sheds light on the world of pro-gaming. Pro-gamers, referred to as cyber-athletes, face the same problems that professional athletes face, making decisions that can affect them for the rest of their lives. As gaming spreads not only as a hobby, but as a profession, FRAG reveals some of the secrets behind one of the biggest sports industries in the world that many know nothing about. Judd Saul plans to be on hand after the screening to sell videos/answer questions as well.

Females on Female Characters

Wyvern Theatre - Saturday, 3:00pm - 4:00pm

Join Susan Arendt, Senior Editor of The Escapist; Kathleen de Vere, star of LoadingReadyRun; AJ Glasser, News Editor of GamePro; and Lisa Foiles, star of Lisa Foiles Top 5; as they discuss what they embrace in female fictional characters and why these attributes are important. They will identify their favorite characters and how they would like more heroines with similar attributes integrated into Geek culture. This fresh, positive approach to female characters shouldn’t be missed.

The "Other" Us: If We're All Gamers, Does Our Gender Matter?

Naga Theatre - Saturday, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Abbie Heppe's review of Metroid: Other M prompted a wave of backlash across the gaming community. Words like "feminist" got thrown around in comments sections of popular gaming sites as if it were the new "f" word. But what is really feminist versus what is perceived as feminist by virtue of the fact that it comes from a woman’s perspective? Using these reactions as a jumping off point, a panel of gamers, journalists, and members of the industry will look at the ways gender is treated in gaming culture at large. In our debate and discussion of Abbie's review, we'll be looking at the larger question: "As our industry becomes more progressive and, arguably, gender-blind, is geek and gamer culture regressing?

One of Us

IGDA Dev Center - Sunday, 12:00pm - 12:50pm

Are people surprised to learn that you're a gamer? Do the clerks at the Local Generic Game Retailer ignore you when you shop? If they do talk to you, do they assume you're shopping for something with more pink on the box? Or worse, ask you if you're buying a game for your son or boyfriend? Gamers who do not fit the stereotypical image of the hardcore gamer often feel left out in the cold. Our panel of game writers and hardcore gamers discuss the obstacles to acceptance they've faced and their strategies for coping with them.

What'ca think, guys? Sound good? Are we missing something you're excited for?

Friday, February 4, 2011

We're All Gonna Burn

Sequels are bound to bring about anxiety.

Fanboys and girls alike all know the feeling of sitting down to the next installment of something they greatly loved and far too often are then left with a feeling of disappointment. After all, for every “Aliens” and “Terminator 2” there are a dozen “Star Wars: Episode 1” and “Batman and Robin”.

It was understandably strange when I realized that all of the usual trepidations weren’t present when I thought about Dead Space 2.

The first game has been raved about enough on this site so I’ll spare you what you’re bound to already know. Yes, yes, Dead Space was a marvel of survival horror. What’s really awesome is that its sequel is also a spectacle to behold. Even – dare I say it – better than the original.

Before you gawk and vow to never read this site again allow me to explain. Let us consider the few flaws that Dead Space had: One, the errand boy, backtracking telling of the main story. Something breaks, you fix it, something else breaks, you fix it, something else breaks and you destroy it in a monotony-induced rage. Or, you fix it. It got old and Visceral got the message. Throughout all my time in The Sprawl I can only remember one instance when I had to go back to the same area to finish an objective. Aside from that one occurrence, every area both looked and felt different.

Two, the melee attacks. Yes, it may seem like a small detail to some but personally, I didn’t use Isaac’s punch and stomp to kill an enemy once in the original game. This tended to be a problem when a necromorph was quite literally breathing down your neck and a second to compose yourself or, say, quick heal, meant the difference between moving on or reloading from the last checkpoint. This time around, Isaac’s attacks are much more precise and almost worth letting a slasher try and slice your head off. Well, maybe not but it was still a vast improvement over the last game. Not to mention the ability to have our illustrious hero repeatedly stomp while muttering, “die you motherfucker!” was pretty fantastic.

Third, poorly planned events. Take, for instance, the infamous asteroid defense scene in the original. You got to take a break from shooting the horrific re-animated bodies of your former friends and colleagues to defend the ship against a ridiculous and unending wave of asteroids. To this day, I’ve never spoken to a single person who didn’t loathe that sequence. Now, is it fair to bring the game down because of one scene? In this case, I’d say so. Go on, talk to anyone you know who’s played Dead Space and I guarantee that after the praise the first thing they’ll mention is “that damned asteroid sequence”. There were also several scenes that involved you having to fumble around with the real-time menu to consume an air can before you asphyxiated. Dead Space 2 has no scenes requiring you to search around for an air can or shoot asteroids or anything even remotely similar. With the exception of one chain of events toward the very end of the game involving a particular enemy type that may have done its job a little too well, the game is very evenly paced.

Four, a silent hero. Unlike the original, Dead Space 2 gave Isaac a voice and personality. Whereas in the first game the most we got out of him was a shake of his head to convey emotion, this time we get full-on conversations with other protagonists, antagonists, and himself. Isaac is cocky, confident, troubled and quick to anger. The voice work is superb and it gave way to the unexpected joy of Ellie, another survivor on The Sprawl who is not only one of the best female characters I’ve seen in a game in a long, long time but who also provided Isaac with some much needed support and even a few laughs.

Love you, Ellie.

So when I take into consideration these facts plus the absolutely breathtaking graphics (even if it did require the Xbox version to be on two discs), the duel stories of The Marker and Isaac’s grief over Nicole, the amazing soundtrack and audio effects, the mixture of cheap and psychological scares including one very, very memorable trip down memory lane and some crazy smart AI, I stand by my declaration:

The original Dead Space was incredible.

The sequel is a freakin’ masterpiece.