So today I wrote a baseball post AND a food post AND a video game post. So that should make everybody happy.
Because you know I believe that.
As an added bonus, I’ve finally noticed that this theme was lacking in page navigation. So I haXX3d some in, because I’m uber.
If you played Kingdom Hearts, you no doubt remember how much the beginning of the game sucked. If you don’t, or if you never played it, I’ll summarise: you spend about an hour running around on an island talking to the cast of Final Fantasies VIII and X, playing dodgeball, and having scavenger hunts. Then you answer some strange questions that will actually set unchangable options that don’t seem to be related to the questions. Then you run an obstacle course. Then you watch a few cutscenes. In all, it’s an hour of time you’ll never get back. When I played Kingdom Hearts 2, I found myself longing for that kind of gameplay.
See, the intro to Kingdom Hearts 2 is four hours long, and consists mainly of running back and forth and talking to NPCs over and over again, punctuated with cutscenes of Christopher Lee cackling ominously. But it’s worse than that. Where the first game has you go on a scavenger hunt – which is easily outmoded by the internet – this time you need to raise munny so you can go to the other side of town (which, I guess, is a pretty exclusive community), and so you take odd jobs from the job board. There are three available. You’ll need to do something like twenty to raise enough money, which means you play the same minigames over and over again until you’re done. Now, I’m never a fan of minigames, and I know how you people can be with your "oh Darien hates everything" routine, but this is a little over the line I would think even for tolerant people. I repeat: you don’t just play minigames to raise money, you play the same three minigames repeatedly.
Once that’s done, there’s some gimmicky battle arena nonsense where you basically hit the mob twice and then run away from it for two minutes and then you win. Then you do THAT again about four more times. Then you run around town and ineffectually whack at Nobodies with your stupid wooden sword until you get saved by a cutscene. Then more cutscenes happen and you go to the mansion and it gets really insulting.
Once you fight your way through all the really boring Nobodies in the mansion, you get to the White Room where you watch a cutscene that I guess is supposed to be dripping with pathos, but failed to have any impact on me since the character I was supposed to care about was somebody I’d never heard of before and wouldn’t hear of again. Then you get down to the basement, randomly destroy some expensive-looking machinery, go through one more bullshit fight, and then find Sora so you can start the real game and basically render everything you just did totally irrelevant.
Yeah, because you haven’t been playing the right game this whole time. You’ve been playing like a game within the game, where you’re this other guy called Roxas and you have to avoid succumbing to tedium before you can get to the real game. It’s bullshit, and I hated it, and I was really annoyed that the entire first night I spent playing this new game I just bought went into playing minigames so I could unlock the real game. And I know I just linked to this, but it‘s still funny. So I’m going to link to it again.
So I was on vacation last week (which, incidentally, is why I didn’t update my world-famous blog for a few days), and I had Escargot for the first time. If you’ve never had Escargot, and I assume you haven’t because I know who reads this blog, it can be a little bit intimidating; here comes this little plate looking all fancy and some little tiny forks, like the kind you use to eat lobster. There are some lovely little mushroom caps there and some roasted garlic and on top of it all are these goddamn snails, right there, in the middle of the plate, looking snaily as anything.
Your first reaction is going to be to smell the mushrooms and the garlic and the herbs and think to yourself, hey, that smells really good. Then you see the snails and think to yourself, hey, I didn’t realise they’d still have the stupid snaily eye-stalk things sticking up like that. That really makes this snail thing look like I’m actually eating snails, which is something I may not be as prepared for as I thought. Then you probably think, well, what the hell, I already paid for this.
It turns out they’re very subtle and buttery; they don’t taste snaily at all. Don’t argue with me, now – you know exactly what I mean. They’re surprisingly firm, too; I rather expected they’d be sort of slimy and mushy, but they aren’t. They’re a bit crispy on the outside (especially the freaky disconcerting goddamn snaily eye stalks), but they don’t seem to be filled with any type of goo or jelly or slime. We had them served (as I mentioned before) over mushroom caps with roasted garlic, and the whole dish frankly had quite a pronounced mushroom flavour with only a hint of snail. So, really, I’d say I quite liked it, and far and away the freakiest part was the part where you’re sitting there thinking about how you’re eating snails.
Oh, and the eye stalks.
The Red Sox have now finished sweeping the sweepiest postseason ever. I kinda feel bad for the Colorado Rockies, who, for whatever reason – pressure, layoff, Steve Bartman, whatever – were just not playing good baseball. They were not playing up to the standard they set for themselves over the last few months. But, frankly, some questionable choices were made. Like, why send Brian Fuentes in to give up runs in the eighth inning every single game instead of skipping straight to Manny Corpas, who finished the series with an ERA of goddamn zero? Why not bunt the shit out of first base and make Francona pay out the nose for starting Ortiz? Why not send Willy Taveras in to pinch-hit in the ninth, bunt his speedy ass on base, and then maybe steal into scoring position? Ah well. There’s always next year. Take it from me, there sure is.
In other news, A-Rod is a free agent again. Dave had an interesting theory that the Dodgers should sign him, since they’re an expensive club that just wants to be in the news and doesn’t really care about the World Series, which is the perfect place for A-Rod. I said Mets for about 100% the same reasons.
- Zombies comin’ up the hill? Hold B and THEN press A, bitch.
- They shot down your helicopter? Bummer. Well, send another. Reckon we’ll keep trying this until it works!
- The Spanish actually speak with Mexican accents.
- I can’t think of anything more fun than sudden twitch minigames that result in instant death if you fail. Neither can Capcom.
- When you port your game to the Wii, you can replace all your "mash the A button really fast" minigames with "shake the controller really fast" minigames.
- Shaking the controller really fast is marginally more fun than mashing a button really fast, but still somewhat less fun than not doing either.
- It’s totally impossible to move and fire a shotgun simultaneously. And you can forget about moving and reloading. This is a delicate procedure.
- Zombies evidently got infravision sometime while I wasn’t looking. Maybe in 3.5.
- It’s not important to tell your commanding officer that you’ve been injected with the evil zombie virus. That would reduce the time you can spend flirting with her, after all. Even though the bitch didn’t make the radio.
- The United States government has the authority to force a corporation to suspend business indefinitely just by fiat. With no due process whatsoever. Even if it’s a multinational corporation.
- There exist corporations that would actually go for that.
It’s time to hate on the boss battles in Metal Gear Solid 2. The only thing I liked better about them was that there were fewer. They were still pretty dumb and unfun, though nothing quite as gimmicky as Psycho Mantis or as frustratingly hard to control as Sniper Wolf.
- Fatman: You have to knock him down before you can shoot him. How do you knock him down? By shooting him, of course! So shoot him, then shoot him more? Got it.
- *Fortune: She’s unhittable and has a ridiculous lightning gun (which the game mistakenly calls a railgun – hey, they’re both Quake weapons, who cares?), so hide until the elevator shows up, then run the fuck away.
- The Harrier: If you can handle the extr33m visual effect when it flies by, you’ve mastered the fight.
- Vamp (first battle): Don’t stand still or fall in the water. Shoot mans.
- Vamp (second battle): SNIPER BATTLE! Don’t shoot the girl or she’ll die. Which, I mean, she will anyhow. But I guess she dies in a bad way if you shoot her.
- Metal Gear RAY: Kill a robot that doesn’t move, doesn’t take very many hits, and has bad aim. Then do it again. And again. And againandagainandagainandagainandagain.
- *Solidus Snake: Hope you practiced the arbitrary ninja sword controls!
So, you see, not a whole lot better, though only the Metal Gear RAY battle is really awful. The boss battles still mostly seem like odd set pieces with strange, senseless rules. Fatman, for example, is wearing Invulnerable Mail, so you can’t hurt his body, and have to knock him down so you can shoot him in the head. Since, I guess, Raiden really sucks at aiming up. And then there’s the first Vamp fight, which features water that, unlike all the other water in the game, you can’t swim in and will kill you instantly. He can swim in it, though, for no particularly good reason. Oh, and your auto-aim feature doesn’t work in this fight, also for no particularly good reason.
Maybe what I’m getting at is that I’d like the boss battles more if they seemed like they were part of the same game I’d been playing.
I was thinking about these games against last night, inspired by a conversation with Evil Stephen (!!) about how he thinks I’m a "crazy nut" for liking the first two games about equally. He thinks, in common with many people, that the first MGS was much better than the second for more reasons than just how completely repellent Raiden is. In fact, I believe he’s downright shocked that I rated the original Metal Gear Solid as low as I did, but I had my reasons. One of those reasons was its utterly horrible boss fights. Shall we go through them one at a time, then?
- Revolver Ocelot: Run around in a circle waiting for him to stop, then shoot him once. Repeat.
- The Tank: Step 1: Throw a chaff grenade. Step 2: Throw two frag grenades. Step 3: Profit!
- *The Ninja: Run and punch, run and punch. Then play tag. Then intuit that you have to shoot him even though he and all your radio advisors have talked your ear off about how you can’t do that.
- Psycho Mantis: A giant foolish bullshit gimmick fight. Either look up the solution on the internet, or else lose four times consecutively (as in, die and continue, but don’t turn off the system) and then the mechanics will change so you can win more easily.
- Sniper Wolf (first battle): First run all the way back through the game to get the gun you need. Then come back and struggle with the bizarre aiming controls.
- *Liquid Snake (first battle): Hide behind the boxes. Wait for him to fly up, then shoot him with a missile. Don’t stand on the upper platform where he’ll shoot your ass full of bombs.
- Sniper Wolf (second battle): Ignore the fucking sniper rifle controls and kill her with remote-controlled missiles. It takes about a million hits.
- *Vulcan Raven: Ignore the fucking stinger missile controls and kill him with C4. It takes about a million hits.
- *Liquid Snake (second battle): Sit through the cutscenes, then dance around the bottom of Metal Gear REX to confuse him and then pop out and shoot him with missiles.
- Liquid Snake (third battle): Punch punch punch punch punch punch punch punch punch WHY WON’T YOU DIE?
- Liquid Snake (fourth battle): Goddamn motherfucking pointless stupid awful irritating and terrible VEHICLE GUN BATTLE with BAD CONTROLS.
I put an asterisk next to every boss battle I actually enjoyed even a little. You can see it’s not very many of them. The only other thing I have to say here is that you kill Liquid Snake FOUR TIMES through the course of the game, every one of which is pretty damn convincing:
- You’re on the top of a tower, he’s attacking you with a helicopter, and you shoot it with missiles until it crashes and explodes.
- He’s in a giant walking tank, and you shoot it with missiles until it crashes and explodes.
- A fistfight so high up that "nobody could survive this fall," at the end of which he falls.
- A stupid Jeep battle in which you shoot him in the face over and over again with a mounted heavy machine gun at point-blank range.
Would you believe that after all this the asshole is still alive? And that after escaping the base, when Solid Snake’s car flips over and pins him underneath it, Liquid emerges from the rubble unharmed? And after all that, after all these dramatic boss fights, after getting crushed, blown up, dropped from huge heights, shot in the face, and punched over and over again, Liquid Snake stands there, ready to execute Solid Snake, and then… dies of a heart attack?
I have never felt so completely ripped off by a video game before in my life. Well, except for Final Fantasy VIII.
Never mind how long it’s been since they’ve won the World Series. Never mind the ordeal of firing their manager in the least graceful way possible (as I mentioned last column). Never mind the seventeen trillion dollars they paid A-rod to beat up on Tampa Bay in July and flop against Cleveland in October. The Yankees have now suffered the ultimate indignation. As Dan Wetzel explains so brilliantly, the Yankees are now obsolete.
And for those of you harping about how I write too much about baseball, give me a damn break. The World Series is starting this week; this is baseball’s hot season. After it’s over, you probably won’t see one word of baseball come out of me for six months. And then, of course, all you "less video games and food, more baseball" people will have your cue to accelerate the bitching. Some days, a wise man once said, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.
Joe Torre walked out on the Yankees, which was an excellent decision on his part and a show of poor personnel management skills on the parts of the "new" Yankees leadership. With George Steinbrenner relinquishing control of the franchise due to the fact that he’s frankly nine thousand years old, this is probably the first major decision make in thirty years that he wasn’t directly and personally responsible for, and it was done badly. You don’t take a much-loved, well-performing, loyal employee of twelve years and offer him a 33% pay cut if he wants to stay. That’s bullshit, the Yankees know it’s bullshit, and, to his credit, Torre knew it was bullshit too.
I said I would, so now I babble about this. This will be light on the spoilers, since the game’s pretty new still; I’ll come back later and spoil the poop out of it. I do have a review already posted, so don’t expect this to be all review-y. This is more general blather and nitpicks.
I think I’m the only one, but I preferred Episode One. City 17 is possibly my favourite environment in any FPS, and I really liked trying to escape from it. Also, Episode One had no goddamn vehicles. Weapon placement in Episode One seemed to have more thought put into it; maybe that’s a necessary consequence of being weaponless for two-thirds of the game. It just seems like the majority of the weapons in Episode Two (all but the crossbow and not-especially-useful rocket launcher) are just sort of "there;" you walk around a corner, and, hey, a shotgun! Cool!
I didn’t really care for the long cave sequence that begins Episode Two; crawling around in tunnels fighting antlions just doesn’t do it for me. The sneak-around-the-antlion-guard bit was pretty kickass, though. After getting out of the cave, my enjoyment increased a good amount; the zombie factory was fun, but I liked the bits with the Combine the best. I generally prefer fighting the human(-ish) opponents to the monsters and animals, personally.
But what I hate – by which I mean "with the red-hot intensity of a thousand suns" – is vehicle levels. I like my games to stick to their mechanics pretty consistently, and shoehorning some wacky driving controls into my shootin’ game is going to piss me off. Fortunately, there isn’t really anything difficult to do with the car this time (with one exception that I won’t talk about in the non-spoiler column).
The achievements are interesting, but unfortunately pretty bland. The majority of them are awarded for progress through the game (completing a level’s major objective generally gets you an achievement), or are very hard *not* to get (kill an acid antlion?), or are just grind-y (kill X mobs with the gravity gun). There are very few that are actually won for doing something interesting and difficult (killing a hunter with its own flechettes, for example, or launching the gnome, which is the World’s Most Difficult Achievement).