When Bethesda and Machine games brought Nazi-hunter BJ Blazkowicz to "next-gen" consoles in 'Wolfenstein: The New Order', a revival of the grandaddy of shooters, 'Castle Wolfenstein', set in a Nazi-dominated 1960's, they produced one of the best first person shooters of our modern era.
Now they're picking up where 'The New Order' left off (or rather before it even started) with 'Wolfenstein: The Old Blood', a prequel that pits our heavily muscled (and almost comically well-armed) Semetic hero against a whole host of new Aryan enemies while bringing the story back to a re-imagined version of the legendary Castle Wolfenstein itself!
Last month 'Assassin's Creed Unity', Ubisoft's ambitious first "next gen" entry in its long-running historical-fiction adventure series, was released amid a flurry of complaints. The biggest issues seemed to be frame-rates dropping well below the supposedly locked rate of 30fps, the in-game economy which allows players to "level up" their assassins by buying "points", and a weird system of companion apps and websites that are required to win certain rewards.
Fiber artist extraordinaire m. Cody and I have been playing the game, on SONY's PS4, solidly since its release and have only experienced one instance of frame drop. It happened to occur in the same exact location as one of the videos posted by IGN, on top of a church roof with no NPCs or enemies anywhere nearby, so it had no effect on gameplay. Otherwise the game has run superbly and looks beautiful, only giving us issues after a recent patch. As for the "points", all of the items and skills that can be purchased can also be earned by simply playing the game, and since 'Assassin's Creed' isn't a competitive game it doesn't really matter if other players choose to pay for them or not.
For me, the only major gripe I had about the game, namely that all these French people are running around spouting dialogue in British accented English, was just as easily addressed. I simply changed the in-game language to French with English subtitles, so all the in-game characters, from lowly NPCs right on up to our assassin Arno simply speak French, with English captions, like they aught to. Any remaining reservations I might have about 'Unity', which I'll address later, are related to the games' treatment of the historic milieu and how its characters act within it, something not unusual for a work of "historical fiction".
Graphically, the game is goddamn gorgeous, with sumptuously rendered backgrounds and breathtakingly fluid animations, especially during free-running and fight sequences, while the new assassin customization option brings several new flavors of eye candy to the game. Ubisoft promised new gameplay dynamics when it came to movement and combat as well, and they delivered with new attack and parry controls, a dedicated crouch button, an entirely new cover system, and a dedicated free-run "down" button. And trust me, you're going to need that down button, and appreciate all the work that went into rendering those pretty-pretty pixels a whole helluva lot more, as you traverse the games e-fucking-normous 1-to-1 scale recreation of Revolution-era Paris!
Even with the improvements to the controls Arno, like previous assassins, can prove a bit squirrely when it come to making him go exactly where you want him to. Once you get the hang of things movement is pretty fluid, and as I said watching him move can prove a thing of beauty, but there are still those moments where he simply won't do exactly what you want him to. Same goes for combat, as the new system actually makes combat simpler and easier in a lot of ways, but there are times when the sheer amount of enemies and their difficulty level can be frustratingly overwhelming.
My only other frustration comes from the story, which so far seems a bit confused in its presentation of the French Revolution and its portrayal of the Assassin and Templar orders in relation to it. The personal story of the character we play as, where our protagonist Arno is the son of a murdered Assassin raised by a Templar who is in turn murdered thus inspiring him to join the Assassins in search of revenge is, despite this convoluted sentence, straightforward enough. But within the larger framework of the Revolution the roles of the Assassins and Templars becomes murky at best. I'm forced to ask, what exactly are the motivations of the Assassins in this story? Whose side are they on?
Historically the series has portrayed the Assassins as the guardians of ultimate freedom and advocates of a certain brand of chaos and anarchy in the face of the Templars who desire only power and to exert their control over everything. But here they seem to be playing against type, with the Assassins standing against the chaos of the revolution and siding with the aristocracy, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The early commercials for the game made it seem like the Assassins were enabling the people against the government and assisting in overthrowing the bourgeoisie, even to the point of throwing people to the crowd to be executed. So far the protagonist in the game seems to be doing the opposite. The portrayal of the Revolution as a whole just seems odd, and a little "off" somehow.
As I said, the basic story that motivates Arno himself and drives the game is satisfying, as is the larger mythology involving Abstergo, the animus, and how they've progressed here in the present-day. But I would have liked to have seen the background story of the Revolution and the warring Templar and Assassin factions' role in it handled different. Personally I think it would have made sense for historical characters like Count Cagliostro and Count Casanova (both of whom had a hand in the occult, secret societies, and espionage during the era) to make appearances. An exploration of the Royal family's obsession with Poussin's painting of The Arcadian Shepherds bearing the motto "Et in Arcadia Ego", which was alluded to in an earlier game, would have been nice too.
In the games defense, going that route would probably make the influence of Robert Anton Wilson's 'Historical Illuminatus' series on the AC franchise as a whole a bit too obvious, even if it would make for a better story more rooted in the esoteric history of the Revolution. And I guess the fact that the real life execution of Louis XVI concluded with a man stepping out of the shadows and shouting "Jaques Demolay, thou art avenged", which would be a decidedly pro-Templar thing to say, kind of means that the in-game Assassins would HAVE to be anti-Revolution...Even though it makes no sense philosophically when analyzed against the games mythology...Nor would it make a lick of sense historically.
All nit-picking aside, I do think 'Unity' is an extremely ambitious entry in the series which improves upon the game's playability and visual presentation. I'm still enjoying playing it as I work my way through the massive world-map and am looking forward to what the series will hold in the future. Next year's entry in the series, code-named 'Victory' set to take place in Victorian London, is already on my radar. But I hope to see more variety in settings, including China during the Boxer Rebellion, India during the British occupation featuring nods to the Thugge or the real-life heir to the Assasins The Agha Khan, post-Moorish Spain around the time of Columbus, and maybe an Indiana Jones-style globe-hopper featuring Aleister Crowley, Nicola Tesla, Harry Houdini, and the like, as we move forward.
Who knows where the series will go? After all, part of the creed itself is that "everything is permitted."
I could've posted about 'Assasin's Creed Unity', Ubisoft's first entry in their long0running historic fantasy series for so-called "next-gen" consoles a few months ago. But there were just too many goddamn trailers out there floating around touting the game's groundbreaking graphics and gameplay that I just couldn't choose which one to share!
Now that we're less than a month away from the game's November 11th street date I figure I'd share my excitement for this new iteration of the beloved franchise. It takes place during the French Revolution and boasts a whole host of new features, including downward free-running, a dedicated stealth button, and a re-vamped co-op system, amongst many others.
I had Ubisoft's 'Watch_Dogs' pre-ordered when it was supposed to be out last Fall. And I've been anticipating the game in general for some time before that. But this new trailer, which focuses on the game's digital recreation of the city of Chicago, just upped the ante big time!
Today marks the release of 'Burial at Sea: Episode Two', the last piece of 'BioShock Infinite' DLC, and the final hurrah for the Irrational Games studio, which was shuttered by it's founder Ken Levin earlier this year.
'BioShock Infinite' remains my favorite gaming title of 2013, and the 'Burial at Sea' content, which has brought the story full circle, back to the underwater city of Rapture from the first and second games, has only bolstered my satisfaction with the latest entry in the 'BioShock' series.
'Episode One' ended on a shocking cliffhanger, so I'm pretty excited to see where this entry, which focuses on Elizabeth, who you now play as, takes the twisted tale where there's always a lighthouse, a man, and a city.
It's already downloaded and waiting on my PS3 now.
In the wake of a pretty serious content leak by SONY, Rockstar has released the final 'Grand Theft Auto V' trailer before the game's September 17th release.
This trailer offers a bit more insight into how Michael gets pulled back into the world of crime, as well as how far beyond the Michael, Franklin, Trevor triumvirate their crime ring might actually extend.
We've been playing a lot of 'San Andreas' here at Imageyenation HQ lately so this trailer has me more than a little amped to return to the city of Los Santos and its dangerous criminal underbelly in bigger, bolder, and brighter, hi-definition.
I've played 'Bioshock: Infinite' and 'The Last of Us', and 'Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag', 'Watch_Dogs', and 'Beyond: Two Souls' are all still to come, but 'GTAV' is looking like the event game of the year.
Keep your ears open for music from The Alchemist, Oh No, Flying Lotus, Tyler, the Creator, Hudson Mohawke, DJ Rashad, and more when the game drops in a few weeks.
It's no secret, I'm old. 35 years old to be exact. And during a majority of those 35 years I've spent at least some time playing video games. I started off getting a quick quarter's worth at the random standup arcade machine in the local convenience store or at bar-table games at whatever "adult" restaurant my parents had unwisely dragged my immature ass to for dinner. Then I graduated to the actual arcade. At this time the arcade was a place of mystery and danger. It was where kids who cut school and other assorted juvenile delinquents were rumored to congregate. And the signs threatening those who were dodging school if they were caught made it seem like you could get in trouble just for being there! But, much like the atmosphere of night clubs would later in my life, the darkness, the cacophony of weird electronic sounds, and the flashing lights of the arcade called to me. I loved those arcade machines! Whether I was good at a game or just wasting a quarter on something I had no chance of success at, it was fun! So, when I discovered that there were these machines, machines with names like Atari and ColecoVision, that could bring that experience home, I wanted in on them. I got the Atari experience thanks to a 5200 my mother bought me. Now 'Pac-Man', 'Pole Position', 'Joust', 'Centipede', 'Dig Dug', 'Q-Bert', 'Popeye', and others were right there in my house! When Atari fever broke a few years later I wound up with Mordecai and Rigby's system of choice, the SEGA Master System. I remained loyal to SEGA all the way up to the introduction of the SEGA CD. I purchased one of those things on the day of release. And that was the last system I actually owned until I copped my SONY PlayStation 3 a few years ago.
Obviously games have changed over all those years. The temples of pixels, beeps, and quarters; the arcades, are all long closed and mostly forgotten. People think 'Words With Friends', 'Angry Birds', or 'Candy Crush', are "video games". We're about to see the introduction of a whole new generation of consoles. It's a brand new world! I definitely look back fondly on the lighter fare of yesteryear. The Pac-Men, Marios, Sonics, Mega Men, Alex Kidds, Rampages, Ghouls & Ghosts, and the like. But when it comes to modern games I usually go in for the cars, guns, girls, and guts style of games championed by Rockstar's 'GTA' series, 'Red Dead Redemption', and 'L.A. Noire'. Last year my favorite games included the criminally under-appreciated Hong Kong Triad drama 'Sleeping Dogs', and the latest entry in the 'Assassins Creed' saga. This year I blazed a bullet riddled path of bloody revenge through the flying city of Colombia in 'Bioshock: Infinite'. And I'm currently slogging through the fungus infected dregs of a future America with a little girl at my side in 'The Last of Us'. I lamented on how the grim reality of the latter game kind of overshadows the possibility of actually having "fun" in an earlier article. I'm further into the game now, and certainly appreciate the gameplay, design, writing, and voice-acting, but it's still more harrowing than "fun". And sadly, 35 year old El Keter doesn't have nearly as much fun as the kid who used to hit the arcade every weekend. Which is why I needed a game like WayForward's "remastering" of 'DuckTales', an NES cartridge game based on the uber-successful after-school animated program 'DuckTales', to come waddling along and give me something good and old fashioned to have fun with!
Now, it should be noted that being I was a SEGA guy I didn't play a lot of NES titles back in the day. Yeah, I'd get my Mario in whenever I'd visit a Nintendo-owning friend. I played 'Metroid'. The appeal of 'Zelda' always eluded me though. And who gave a shit about 'Ninja Gaiden' when you had 'Shinobi'? Anyway, the point is, I wasn't necessarily familiar with the vast majority of the Nintendo catalog. And I certainly never played the original NES 'DuckTales'. I was, like most people of a certain age group, a fan of the cartoon. But I have zero nostalgia for the game, which was apparently a fan favorite. I was sold on the "remastered" take on the 8-bit classic solely by the video promos showcasing what appeared to be gorgeous hand-animated 2-D characters inhabiting an amazingly rendered 3-D recreation of the fowl-filled world of the 'DuckTales' 'toon. All it took was a quick glimpse of those videos, and the co-sign of my Nintendo-owning (yes, she still has an NES and and Atari 2600) housemate m. Cody (who has insisted I also mention the fact that she's already beaten 'The Last of Us') who apparently was a fan of the NES title, and I added 'DuckTales' to my "must buy" list. The fact that it would only cost $15 on the PlayStation Network Store only sweetened the deal. And trust me when I say that once purchased, the deal, was in fact sweet. Not only do the graphics bring the original game's sad pixelated take on the characters to smooth, beautiful, colorful, fully animated life, but the original voice actors deliver all the dialogue, both throughout the game's several platforming levels and during the cut scenes which flesh out the admittedly thin story, lending even more authenticity for fans of the show.
More important than any of that though is the fact that the game is just pure fun to play! I've seen a few reviews of the game go negative because, while the audio and visuals were given a complete makeover, WayForward left the gameplay, along with the old-school control mechanism, largely intact. Oddly, this has resulted in complaints of it being both too easy and too hard, as well as allegations that projects like this are fueled solely by nostalgia, particularly nostalgia for things probably better left in the past. Personally, I have no nostalgia for the original 'DuckTales' game. I don't have an axe to grind here. I thought the remastered graphics were pretty, and when I played it I had a shitload of fun. This could be a brand new 'DuckTales' title and I'd have the same reaction. Yeah, you just sort of hop around a lot, collect loot, and bop enemies on their heads. It's a simple, incredibly good-looking game and I haven't had as much fun playing another game in a very, very, long time. And I think what keeps it so fun is the fact that it remains so pure to a different era of gaming. I know, there are developers, particularly indie developers whose bread and butter are games that visually and stylistically hearken back or pay homage to bygone eras. Two of my favorite recent titles, the hand-animated side-scrolling fighter 'Skull Girls' and the "Metroidvania"-style platformer 'Guacamelee', do just that. But both games, while lusciously designed and fun in their own way, miss the mark ever so slightly by utilizing game mechanics that cater to modern gamers by relying on a bunch of overly complicated combos that make simple tasks more difficult than they need to be. Sticking to the basics helps keep 'DuckTales' fun until the very end.
Seriously, what more do you want? The game is friggin' gorgeous! The music is incredible! The voice-work is phenomenal! The gang—Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby, Duckworth, Ms. Beakly, Launchpad, Gyro, Fenton/Gizmoduck, Bubba, The Beagle Boys, Glomgold, and Magica—are all here! It is nothing but fun! And it only costs $15 in the PlayStation Store! It's an easy must-buy, both for folks who loved the original, and people who just want a taste of what console gaming used to be like, without sacrificing their high definition graphics and surround sound in the process. And honestly folks, I really hope 'DuckTales' is the start of a whole new trend of "remastered" titles that bring classic gameplay into the modern milieu with updated graphics and sound. I hear they're already working on Mickey Mouse's 'Castle of Illusion', a SEGA title that actually engenders genuinely warm feelings in the heart of this aging gamer, and from what I've seen they're doing some really interesting things with it. Is it only a matter of time before we get an upgraded Mega Man, or Sonic? Nintendo's been rehashing Mario and Donkey Kong ad infinitum for years already. How about remixed takes on 'Gauntlet', 'Golden Axe', or 'Altered Beast'? Just make sure you bring back whoever it was that screeched "WELCOME TO YOUR DOOM!" in the original. Personally I think a genuine arcade classic like 'Rampage' is a prime candidate for an update. Just think of what modern graphics quality could bring to the squashing and eating of all those screaming civilians! Oh, there I go again with that bloodlust...
Irrational Games and series creator Ken Levine have finally dropped some of that long-awaited, much-ballyhooed 'BioShock: Infinite' DLC. And instead of hitting the PS3, downloading the 'Clash in the Clouds' files to my console, and getting my first person shooter on, I'm here, posting the trailer for you to see.
Yeah, for those of us who paid for the Season Pass back when 'Infinite' dropped this simple non-story level-based content is sort of a head-scratcher. Wasn't Ken Levine on Twitter telling us to stop bitching about waiting because he was putting so much time and effort into giving us something amazing? Not so sure this is it.
That said, there are two more DLC packs coming, and it looks like there's at least a chance of them giving us some amazing things. The additional content will be a two-parter titled 'Burial at Sea' and will take 'Infinite' protagonists Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth back to pre-fall Rapture. Say whaaaaaaat?!?!?
That shot of the Little Sisters is pretty fucking spine-chilling, huh? And the Nat King Cole tune is used to utter perfection. These sounds and images, and word that Levine said it's important that Elizabeth remain a "multi-dimensional" character, give me hope that we will indeed get something amazing out of this Season Pass DLC.
Last Monday I walked into my local T-Mobile store and told the girl behind the counter to talk me into upgrading my phone. I'd spent the last few months reviewing phones and at this point was still torn between the Samsung Galaxy 4, the Samsung Note 2, the HTC One, and the newly-released SONY Xperia Z. After some serious mulling the One and Xperia Z were in a dead heat. But with the Xperia in my hand, loving the design, digging the fact that it's water & dust-proof, and trusting its 13 megapixel camera over HTC's "ultrapixels", all it took was for the salesperson to say "the Xperia has a slot for SD cards, which the HTC doesn't" for me to make my decision. I walked out of the store with the Xperia Z still in my hand.
Since then the phone has hardly left that hand! Seriously, I had scoffed a bit when reading about how SONY had engineered the phone to be "perfectly balanced", but there it is sitting perfectly in my hand at any angle, with no part of the phone heavier than the other..."perfectly balanced" indeed. But it doesn't just feel good in my hand; with its super thin profile, rounded edges, and glassy obsidian finish, it looks gorgeous! Bye, bye, phones that all look like the iPhone! From now on phones are actually gonna be "pretty". That prettiness extends to the glorious 5-inch Bravia Mobile-enabled screen, the stripped-down layout of the mostly bloatware-free version of Android Jellybean running on the device, and the design of the UI & its components.
Like I said, one of the main reasons I went with the Xperia over the HTC One is that I just don't buy HTC's whole "ultrapixel" scam. I've seen photos taken with the One in real life, and they look awful! I don't know where the reviewers get their photos from, but I don't believe they were actually taken by a One. The photos I've taken with the Xperia Z since purchasing it on the other hand are pretty much exactly what I'd expect from a 13 megapixel shooter with a bunch of crazy camera-like settings. I can't say much for the One's ultrapixels other than my photos look a lot better than my One-owning friends' do on Facebook and Instagram, which is all that really matters when we're talking about an in-phone camera.
If you couldn't tell, I've absolutely fallen in love with SONY's Xperia Z. I sometimes find myself whispering sweet nothings to it. And the other day I said "I love you..." out loud which a passerby thought was intended for them until I added "...smartphone." They were none-too-pleased. I on the other hand remain nothing but pleased with the Xperia. It's slick-looking, super fast (rocking a 1.5 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor), without a trace of lag-time in button-presses & swipes, mighty in battery power, and with 16GB internal memory plus the SD card from my old phone transplanted it's a storage BEAST! And that's not even touching the waterproofing, which I don't plan on testing out for myself any time soon!
After waiting unnecessarily long for a copy of the game to arrive in the mail I finally own Naughty Dog's blockbuster title 'The Last of Us' and have been playing it for a week or two. The game may be the most popular of the year, and for good reason; it's highly ambitious, it features some downright beautifully rendered graphics, and it really pushes the limits of not only video game storytelling but voice acting as well.
I've been playing the game slowly and methodically since its arrival, and after a number of days haven't even made it out of the quite incredible digital recreation of Boston. By contrast, I flew through another extremely popular and groundbreaking game, 'Bioshock: Infinite', gunning down enemies and collecting swag like a man possessed. And while the two games offer very different experiences, I think they bare more than a little comparison.
The two titles are running pretty much neck and neck in the race for "Game of the Year" in most gamers' minds. But I fear the one thing holding 'The Last of Us' back when compared to 'Bioshock: Infinite' is the "fun factor". Don't get me wrong, both games are grim in their own way, and 'Bioshock' definitely received it's share of criticism over the amount of carnage and graphic violence it depicted, but 'The Last of Us' can be downright depressing.
Whereas the run & gun style of gameplay in 'Infinite' felt fun, and the exploration of the world built up around it offered wonder and horror in equal doses, 'The Last of Us' feels more like a slog through one horrible event after another on the way to what one must assume is not going to be the happiest of endings, with the only reward being the experience itself. I mean, hooray for breaking the boundaries of video game entertainment and everything, but my life is hard enough already.
In that respect I suppose 'The Last of Us' might have more in common with the original "art deco mutants in an undersea world" iteration of 'Bioshock' than 'Infinite' did. It definitely takes a few notes on creepiness and scares from the earlier game. It could've taken a few on NPC AI from 'Infinite' as well though, as the other characters often get in your way and can even cause you to be discovered by enemies. She's no Elizabeth, but at least Ellie is "cool" and likable as a character, despite being a klutz.
Speaking of character, I've gotten attached to video game characters before, and had all kinds of emotional reactions to the bullshit that happens to them. But I genuinely feel bad for 'The Last of Us' protagonist Joel. Here's this middle aged man who has lost everything being backed into a corner by life yet again, sort of stumbling and wheezing his way through the exertion demanded of him to just stay alive! He's practically the anti-Booker DeWitt who was an unstoppable middle-aged killing machine!
Sure, one is far more realistic than the other. But Joel has about as much business taking off on this mission as I do! About the only thing either of us has going for us is a hidden penchant for brutal nastiness. I'm surprised he hasn't complained about his bad back yet! And granted, I'm not very far into the game, but there have been no barbershop quartet renditions of Beach Boys tunes or "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" interludes to break the apocalyptic mood of this virtually silent game.
That's a bit of a problem when most of us play video games to escape from our day to day realities. The real world is scary enough with monsters like George Zimmerman and Rick Perry, among many others, running around, I don't need to be afraid some fungus-infected asshole is going to eat my video game character's face. It's all enough to make a man give up! But maybe that's the point, with a world like ours, maybe we should just give up and let the fungus take over?
But uhh, I should probably go finish the fucking game.
I've been playing Capcom's stylish, sumptiously designed platformer/fighter 'Remember Me' for the last few weeks. Aside from the innovations in gameplay and the fantastically realized world of Neo-Paris I've been pretty captivated by the game's soundtrack.
The work of composer Olivier Deriviere, it shy's away from recent trends toward punishing Dubstep beats and instead blends traditional cinematic orchestration with little glitchy touches. In keeping with the game's theme of "remixing" memories Capcom and Deriviere have offered ,"Fragments", a track from the soundtrack. for folks to remix, and maybe win some prizes.
Two winners will be eligible to win an exclusive 'Remember Me' vinyl LP with a custom-made sleeve and their winning track, a game console of their choice (Xbox 360 or PS3), the 'Remember Me' artbook, a signed copy of the game, and assorted swag. Pretty sweet if you ask me.
So visit the contest page as soon as possible, download the "Fragments" stems, go to town on them in your DAW of choice, upload your fancy mix, and maybe, just maybe, you'll be a winner. And if not, maybe you can get the game's lead character Nilin to "remix" your memories so at least you think you're the big winner.
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