Don’t Like: Mass Effect

November 10, 2009


I like video games a whole bunch. I don’t discuss them too much here. I like to think I’m a sort of casual/hardcore gamer. Okay that doesn’t make sense. Basically, I don’t play night and day, but when I get a few hours of down time I like to sit back and play the one game I’ve been playing for the last few weeks or so.

I have a general like of shooters. Mostly because some of the best games that have been made in recent years have indeed been shooters (Halo, Call or Duty 4, Bioshock). Halo, while being a muck of an overall story, does indeed have the best shooter engine and physics ever. That’s the reason the multiplayer is so beloved, it’s just so fluid and telling. COD 4 meanwhile is such a wonderfully immersive game, with great goosebumpy moments. And Bioshock is my favorite, not much replayability, but such great art design and some really story/thematic points to boot (it’s a criticism of Randian Objectivism, perhaps it was made just for me).

But most of all I love RPGs. I’m a sucker for story and immersion. I just am.

I particularly love the final fantasy series. Yeah, I completely understand that the series has a real particular set of flaws, most stemming from the fact it is uber-japanese themes and eastern storytelling, but they’re awfully unique even in their samey qualities. And they have the scope not just of a novel, but an entire series of novels. Outside of the FF series, I also have particular love of the elder scrolls series (Oblivion!) and their other revamp of Fallout 3, which took the same exact engine as Oblivion and managed to make a completely different feeling experience. Fallout 3 is just fantastic.

Which brings us to Mass Effect and it’s RPG/shooter hybrid shittyness.

First note, I’ve played Bioware games before. I’ve played the KOTOR series and thought they were pretty good-ish. It definitely lacking some of the organic qualities i loved in the eldar scroll and ff series, but it was essentially interesting storytelling. Then again I tend overvalue any star wars property and grade it a full letter grades above where it should be. When you like everything about a particular universe it’s just more fun. What can I say?

So I was very excited for Mass Effect, I’ve gone a long time without getting and heard some very good things … and now, having beat it… I am very, very, very disappointed. I seriously have no understanding of how it got that kind of love. It’s exceedingly repetitive. Go here. Find this base. Kill this thing. Seriously, the side missions are especially meaningles. People complained about Oblivion and those missions were terribly unique compared to this stuff.

And don’t even get me started on the sameness of the design. Lazy. Lazy. Lazy. Every cave, every planet, every mine, they’re all the exact same. Seriously, THE EXACT SAME MAP. Sometimes the same exact box layout. It makes every mission a paint by numbers exercize. And believe me, I’m a completionist when it comes to my gaming so it’s very, very boring.

In terms of story I didn’t give a shit about anyone, usually Bioware is a tad better than that even with it’s generic clunkiness. I could tell you every story beat right before it happened.

This hilarious chart is completely accurate.

I’m sorry, but it’s true. And Bioware doesn’t seem to get it either.

Look, I know and understand Cambellian Hero Story analysis just like everyone else whose been in high school. It’s great and is responsible for so many great stories. But it’s not a lame excuse for paint by numbers storytelling. With this generation it’s become the most lazy storytelling exercise in the world, because they just make a beat for beat version of Star Wars and claim it’s the Cambellian Hero Story! No it’s not, what makes those stories unique is originality of detail and way you make the story seem as if it’s different, not how strictly you adhere to it.  There’s virtually no distinction in HOW you emphasize those story telling points anymore and it Mass Effect was the best example.

What stinks about that is that the scope of Mass Effect is great, the sheer idea for building a fully explorable universe has just fantastic possibilities and the shooter aspect was actually pretty well executed, which makes the fact that it’s eventually a boring, pointless game all the more annoying. Look, I understandd how much it took to build something so big in scope, but when it came to subtle execution in giving each little corner it’s own distinction (and HELL a reason to even go there!) all we get is long semi-amusing paragraphs written about the planet. And for character? You ever hear of show don’t tell? Well instead of getting to see that character’s story in some fashion (you get in FF) or have it play into the story in some fashions (KOTOR, Elder Scrolls), the character’s background is just explained to you in the most boring dialogue options. Tali’s plight made me want to shoot myself in the face.

I’m sorry but it’s a lazy, lazy game in the end.

Compare it to the Final Fantasy series where the whole thing strings along in a fluid series of vignettes and starkly different looking environments and goals, and employs weird reality-dream-bending methods of storytelling… Some people don’t dig it and think it’s weird and I totally understandthat , but the last thing you can accuse the story telling of being is lazy.

I get it’s a matter of taste and what not, but COME ON. Bioware just keeps making the same-ish sort of game. I don’t get the universal adoration. Hell, Fallout 3 used the same exact engine as Oblivion and it managed to feel exceedingly different, all because of the nuance of detail. Even recent shooters like COD4 and Bioshock felt more like interesting stories, because they were organic, fluid, and detailed. The details are everything in video games and Mass Effect opted for the sparse boring map. Anytime a RPG gets shown up by a shooter is a big warning flag to me.

And look I’ll eat my hat if ME 2 improves on any of the repetitive qualities and the entire game was excuse to build an engine, but seriously. I don’t get it.

The ability to say something sarcastic in every dialogue option, does not a great game make.


Hate With The Passion Of A Thousand Suns: That For Some Reason I’m Too Dim To Figure Out My Favorite Website No Longer Can Be Displayed At My Work

March 3, 2009

I fury knows no bounds. I am seething rage.

Look. I don’t abuse my internet privleges at work. I check emails. It check out favorite sites (the onion, espn, etc) when I take breaks.

My particular favorite site is a movie site called  It stands for Cinematic Happenings Under Development and is a reference to the old (awesome) horror movie.

And for some reason. It’s not fucking working anymore. On any server.

Granted the site is so filled with ads and nonsense I’m sure that my updated browsers think it’s an attack site of some sort. And it’s not “blocked by websense” which I inadvertently get sometimes when I click emailed blind(er) links. But this is just uncalled for. It’s a movie/video game website with a bit of snark, intelligence, and similar test.

In the words of Belle and Sebastian, “Fuck this shit.”

remember, we’re official!

Don’t Like: Asking this question: How many of people out there have been having “Fallout 3” Dreams?

December 29, 2008


Needless to say this has been disturbing.

I normally don’t dream this stuff, but fallout 3 is so visceral and encapsulating I find myself dreaming of the world 2 nights in a row. It’s not that much fun.

What’s even weirder is that I woke up from the fallout 3 dream and got up, took a shower, and went to school.

Only I got to school and had no idea what my first period was… I started asking other people but they had no idea whose class I was in. I was frantic. Then I look down at my watch at 6 hours had passed and it was 1 pm. Not only that, I had no idea what any of my classes were and basically started having a nervous breakdown. I have no idea why I was forgetting everything. It was scary. It was like amnesia. I went to student services to try and explain to them that I thought I was losing my mind and had absolutely no memory of all thses school-related things. As I waited my turn I began trying to help someone else who was there and it started a discussion among the admin  and afflicted students (the whole time I’m freaking out because of my lost memory). Then I say something (I can’t remember what) and this Asian woman starts yelling at me profusely because I apparently misheard her. Then I realized the woman was  Michelle Malkin, the evil one.

Then my alarm goes off.

I realize: I’m not in high school anymore. I’m not even in college… And I have to go to work. I had no idea I was dreaming and totally fell victim to the “dream within a dream” thing. It was freaky as fuck. And were it not for the horror of my fallout 3 dream I probably never would have woken up to the “reality” of my second dream.

… Man, I can’t wait to play more Fallout 3 tonight.

Don’t Like: Metacritic

October 23, 2008

So here’s what metacritic is if you don’t know: It’s a website that takes reviews (including ones that don’t give any kind of “rating”) and finds the average scores of those ratings and positive/negative sentiments to give the most average and fair score to that film/album/dvd/show/what have you.

Sounds perfectly fair, right?

Except the system has a lot of problems. I don’t know how they put it all together but many of the results are… suspect. I think it may have to do with how each medium approaches its criticism but let’s get specific.

The chief offender is easily, easily, easily music.

Here’s the top 16 for 2008:

1 What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective by Steinski 2008 90
2 London Zoo by The Bug 2008 90
3 Fed by Plush 2008 89
4 For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver 2008 89
5 Dear Science, by TV On The Radio 2008 88
6 Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes 2008 87
7 Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds 2008 87
8 Robyn by Robyn 2008 86
9 Hercules And Love Affair by Hercules And Love Affair 2008 86
10 Fortress by Protest The Hero 2008 86
11 Rook by Shearwater 2008 85
12 Life…The Best Game In Town by Harvey Milk 2008 85
13 Third by Portishead 2008 85
14 Stay Positive by The Hold Steady 2008 85
15 Laulu Laakson Kukista by Paavoharju 2008 85
16 Harps And Angels by Randy Newman 2008 85

Now I like music. A lot. I like a lot of weird shit. I went to metafilter to specifically see if there was anything I didn’t know about which was pretty good. I do this about every 6 months or so. And this time I was like “that’s it, I’ve had it.” The top twelve on this list are pure balls. Seriously I in depth listened to all of them and there wasn’t anything good. The only things I kind of liked were stuff after that and things I already had like Portishead, The Hold Steady. Look, music is ultra super subjective. Moreso than the other mainstream artforms. It just is. And trying to critically rate it all just doesn’t work in the metacritic system. Look across the board,  everything gets the “green light” rating of being good. Unlike the other mediums where getting something in the green is rare. Plus it tends to overskew bad metal bands that get big love from metal magazines. Don’t get me wrong, I likes me some metals but damn Protest the Hero sucks. Bah, it makes me too angry.

Their movie scores are much less offensive, but often your favorite movie can get lost in the shuffle. Strongly mixed critical reactions are often a symbol of brave filmmaking. My favorite film so far this year “Towelhead” rated a 57. Why? Because I imagine it was so hard/uncomfortable for some critics to watch. And that becomes a huge detriment for this intensely brave and well-made movie which is tackling societal taboos and the mixed messages we send young girls. Show me a “universally adored” movie and I’ll show you a Titanic. Yeah, you go back and watch that piece of poop recently? God that was bad.

Oddly enough there is one form of media where metacritic system excels.

Video games?!?!?! Yup. Their culminations of reviews are surprisingly spot on. Universal adortation of video game is easily possible because gamers are such a specific audience. Everyone who goes to a movie doesn’t understand mise en scene. But everyone who plays video games frequently gets the subtleties of game play. So metacritic works so well for my gaming purchases purpose. Just fantastic stuff.

*shit, sorry all. I like TV on the Radio a lot. I should have mentioned that but forgot. I stand by the rest.

**double shit, I like Nick Cave and the bad seeds too.

***i more though the bug, plush, robyn, hercules and the love affair, protest the hero, and shearwater really, really, REALLY sucked.

Like: Rock Band

June 10, 2008

So this is how it went:

A bunch of video game designers were sitting around in their awesomeness and went:

“Hey let’s invent the greatest party game ever!”

“Okay, how about a game where you play simplified musical instruments collectively as a rock band”

“And we can use popular/totally awesome songs!”

“Cool, and we’ll make different difficulties so you can totally show off or if you’ve never played you’d be okay after two tries!”

“Or even play when you’re drunk!”

“Especially if you’re drunk!”

“And we could actually make the drums give you some of the same skills needed to drum”

“Not the guitar though”

“No, not the guitar”

“And you wouldn’t even really have to know the words! Just the basic tune!”

“And we’ll have the vocals real low so people’s awful, awful voices don’t ruin it!”

“And we could actually teach people the value of pitch since it’s the only thing the mic could measure!”


“Dude, be sure Gimme Shelter is one of the songs!”


Sure there were 2 versions of guitar hero as the progenitor to this so it was really just the next logical step in the evolution, but I still like this version of the events.

Don’t Like: Billy Mitchell

May 12, 2008

He’s the asshat on the left.

I finally got around to seeing The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters last night and it was really a great little documentary. It’s odd that a movie about world record Donkey Kong attempts could end up becoming a movie about the fickle nature of simple human decency. The film follows nice-guy Steve Weibe, a family man laid off from his job, as he attempts to break the world record in Donkey Kong. He mostly ends up having to deal with a whole bunch of bureaucratic BS, most of which stems from the original record holder and all-around-dick Billy Mitchell.

The guy is very definition of following: smarm, ego, opportunist, jerk-ass, scumbag, incumbent power holder, transparent, and above all hypocrite. He may even have a chance to go down as one of the all-time great hypocrites too. He’s the perfect villain and he completely puts himself into that role. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a single person more. The best part of the whole thing is how, when pitted against a genuine human being like Steve, all of those awful things about Billy come through so clearly that slowly his co-horts start to realize the truth. Like I said, it really gets into the power of decency.

Definitely, check out King of Kong.

Don’t Like: That I’m Losing My Moral Compass Playing Grand Theft Auto 4

May 9, 2008

This game is so freaking awesome. But it’s completely enveloping. As such, I found myself walking down the street yesterday and figuring out the best way to steal the approaching SUV. I also was wondering if I could pick off those bums on the corner with a sniper rifle from here. I wasn’t even realizing it at the time either, I was just so in the world of the game.

Scary stuff.

But like I said, holy crap is this a totally fantastic game.