Saturday, December 31, 2016

In the Candy shop

Tell me. Is it just me, or is the modern game-industry offering a bunch of "Meh"? Once in a while, I buy something cheap on Steam. Sometimes, like "Dying Light" a few weeks ago, it brings me a decent game. More often, I play a game just a few times, then forget I ever bought it. But that's PC gaming. I'm talking about consoles. PS, Xbox, Wii U, et cetera.

My little girl is not too much of a gamer, yet she likes to sit with me playing Mario, or asks if she can drive the Dump truck in GTA5 from A to B, gently. So, last Christmas (I gave you my...) I was in the toys tore again. Clueless on what Santa should buy them. I can’t think of anything they DO NOT have. Not that they’re getting that much, but I already own laptops, phones, tablets, consoles, games, Lego, multiple TV’s, creative drawing stuff. So that automatically becomes available for the kids as well.

How times changed. The two or three times we received presents in a year, were the absolute holy grail of Joy in my youth. Lego, trains, clay, games - there was always something to desire, and browsing through the toys magazine sixty times a day prior to the December month, was sooo exciting it literally made me sick and sleepless. Unlike myself, my parents didn’t have tons of stuff to play with. Father didn’t play games, mother didn’t own a tablet with YouTube and an endless amount of movies.

The Not-Knowing-what-to-Buy Nightmare

Now, twenty-something years later, I have absolutely no clue what I would give myself, nor my spoiled kids who seem to have everything already. I hate myself for that. When young you would kill a person for a new Nintendo, or even just the empty box of it. Now, when you have all the consoles, laptops and money to buy new games, I couldn't care less. It must be that dream/nightmare I always had; given 100 bucks to buy something nice, but the dusty empty store had nothing nice to choose from. In sweating panic, you would turn over the whole place, searching for something juicy. But nothing but shit you don't want. Ten year old games, genres you don't like, stuff you already have, obscure unknown stuff that doesn’t look cool at all. Feeling your slow awakening, realizing you'll have to hurry up if you want to enjoy anything at all, HAVING to buy something, ANYTHING, you would end up with something useless. Like Dr.Mario for the Gameboy or something. And then wake up with a very bad, empty, feeling.

Did you pick a nice game already?

Yes I dreamed that several times. The horror. And when standing in a games store now, I have exactly that unpleasant feeling. So I'm staring at the Wii U "arsenal". Or well, arsenal... 20 games or so. 75% of them is made by Nintendo. Mario World, Mario Kart, Mario Moron Dance, Mario Roller chair Cricket. Half of them I already own, the other half is just too bad, or I've seen it and done it too many times before. Smash Brothers for example. Excellent game, but after playing the N64, GameCube and Wii versions, I don't expect anything new. Same can be said about most other Nintendo games btw. You keep buying them because, once upon a time, long ago, they gave you a fantastic youth. But deep in your heart, you know Nostalgia is playing tricks on you. Nothing in that game will be new or surprising, likely it will be too simple because you already solved the same Metroid/Zelda/Paper Mario puzzles a billion times before. And no, you can't turn into an eight-year old boy with an awesome Nineties kids E.T. bedroom on the attic, getting cookies from your mom before going to school with friends. Growing up doesn't work that way. Unfortunately.

Getting Bored in the Sandbox

Then the other 25% in the Wii U games rack, asides from a few exceptions, is either crap, weak versions of games I wouldn't buy on the PS4/Xbox either, or "Retro"... Yes I liked the idea of "New Super Mario Bros", reviving 2D sidescrollers, ten years ago. It boosted life into Indy game-studios to produce "8-Bit" alike games. Platformers, isometric view, pixelated graphics. Reviving forgotten genres with simplicity and fun as core elements. Yet I'm not sure how I feel about those. I bet there are little gems out there, but when you can buy massive, beautiful, technological state-of-art games like Doom4 or "The last Guardian", then a simplistic 2D pixel-zombie shooter game doesn't feel like a good buy (even when it's just 8 dollars). It's the type of game I would randomly click on a "Flash Games" website on a boring Sunday afternoon, play for two hours, and then... forget about.
And yeah, I tried Terraria for instance. Liking the fact I can play it together with my daughter. But then, after a few hours… what exactly are we supposed to do?? I actually Googled that, ending up in forums where people explain it's a "Sandbox game! Do whatever you want to do! Endless fun!". Erh... yeah, but what's the fun of making an (ugly) flat 2D house, made of chunky pixels? I'd rather play The Sims then. Or better, listen to my girls complaints and fix my own house, my real house I mean. Or how about finding and slaying giant Eyeball bosses? Ok... but what's the reward of doing all that? Pixelated curtains for your 2D house.

Did you finally repaint the window frames, and fixed those ugly skirtings?! I sure did honey.

I'm very old fashioned; a game needs a beginning and an end. I beat the game so I can say I've beaten it. Endless games (and that includes Sim City, Theme Park, and all those kind of games) will lose me sooner or later, as I feel the effort is getting pointless. Certainly now that I'm a grown-up, as I can spend my time on more useful things like, uh.. working. Or Tower22. Or being there for the family. Or not being a lazy asshole that sits in the sofa the whole day and try to sport at least an hour a week.

Consoles for Grown-ups: PS4 / Xbox One

Conclusion, there is nothing to buy in the Wii U section. I'm hoping "Zelda: Breath of the Wild" will give a worthy end to the not-so-shiny lifecycle of the Wii U console. In the meanwhile, I spend a few dollars on "Advance Wars 2" on its Virtual Console. Old, but a damn good game. Too bad I already know it. And too bad, a NEW game like THAT is not on the fucking shelves.

"Hahaha, you silly goose, what else did you expect?!" is what the PS/Xbox dudes would laugh at me. So I'm taking two steps further to the PS4 shelves. Being Nintendo, I never liked that "PlayStation", which you could pronounce as "Pleestation" or "WCstation", in Dutch, meaning "ToiletStation". Until my little brother and I just HAD to play GTA San Andreas, bought a cheap PS2 (very late), and also found out classic 2-player brawling games like "Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks" or "The Warriors" were out there. A domain Nintendo once owned with Double Dragon and Final Fight, but gave away for mysterious reasons when the N64 arrived.

Therefore, I also own a PS3. But I can count the games I *wanted* for that system on a single hand. Basically the whole Rockstar collection (with “Red Dead Redemption” as an unexpected treasure), plus The Last of Us. Oh, and Resident Evil 5 (also bought 6 but let's scrap that passage) and Little Big Planet which had awesome music, looked very fresh, but just wasn't that much fun to play in my opinion. Tried several more demo’s or games from my brother, but it was all like “meh”.


Now that's a box you want to buy; our English school teacher about to kick the shit out of some punker thug.

Now looking at the PS4 collection (and thus also the Xbox collection which is 95% equal) I don't get sparkles either. Not getting a Love-on-First-sight when looking at the cover art, as I would have with Mike Haggar or Simon Belmont. If the shop owner would pick up a megaphone and shout to grab as much games as possible within a minute, I would be staring, hands in pockets, for sixty seconds, not knowing what to do. I considered a PS4, knowing at least a few interesting games will be out there (Resident Evil 7 might be the push I need...). So I looked and looked in the Top-10 lists more than once, to see if there is anything for me. But... but... Most games either just don't appeal me, or I can have their PC-versions as well.

Stuff that requires a lot of "mousing", like RTS games or pure shooters, just work better for me on a PC -though I regret getting Fallout4 for the PC, instead of PS3 and enjoy in the couch. And then again, most action/shooters are dull anyway. I never understood the popularity of Call of Duty. Hundred years ago we had those "Rail-Shooters" in the arcade: camera flies a fixed path, you shoot everything that moves along. That's all. CoD is the same, except you have the freedom to run 10 meters, like a dog on a leash. Bark.

No Bot-friends to play with

Or Battlefield then. It looks so criminally beautiful that every blood cell says “buy buy buy”. But wait, says my wiser-me. You never liked the "Bad Company" demo on the PS3. Battlefield-4 was broken, and sucked. Battlefront (the Star Wars one) looks so yummy but also received bad critics for its emptiness... Alarm bells should be ringing by now. The last BF seems to fix a lot of that, but wait again, where in the Devil’s name are the Bots?! I just don't like Multiplayer in general; gunning down each other running in circles and getting yelled at by angry 14-year old pubic-hair-snots. Nothing to do with tactics. But I totally digged Bots(CPU foes) in the very first Battlefield or Unreal Tournament. Even if the A.I. wasn't brilliant, you could fill hours with just trying all kinds of crazy stunts. And being able to actually win without getting shot every five seconds, makes you feel like a big boy.

The funny part is, I hear a lot of (14-year old?) guys yelling Bots are gay, defending DICE's choice to leave them out. Main argument I’ve red is that DICE is supposed to have more development-resources on making the Multiplayer even greater by scrapping a "Bots Mode". I'm not sure if DICE themselves had this as an excuse, but how about this: If they didn't spend millions of dollars, hours and code-lines on a lousy Singleplayer campaign -which the original BF never had in the first place!-,
they could spend that on Bots. Which would mean even less work and thus even more resources on your beloved Multiplayer. Less? How so? Well, no need to design/model/produce/program single-player maps, no expensive voice-actors, no need for all those extra one-time-use-only animations, music, models and sound-effects. And the NPC A.I. that had to be programmed anyway, could be perfected for their already existing Multiplayer maps. So why DICE is scrapping bots? I don't know, but reason enough for me to scrap DICE as well then, no matter how cinematic and realistic their stuff looks. Plus I don't like their commercial. Classic song, but... Smashing Pumpkins in a World War 1 setting, really?!

Lonely LAN parties

I always bought Nintendo consoles because they make, maybe kiddy, but unique games. Too bad it's not so unique anymore after six or even more generations... I'm not too much of a fan of the PS or Xbox either, because a lot of their franchises are dumbed down milking cow games, and most of them have a superior PC brother as well. Except that playing a game with a controller in the sofa, TOGETHER, is more fun than sitting behind a PC or Laptop screen. Co-operative gameplay I mean.

How I loved to play a lot of (PC) games together with my brother back in the days. Duke Nukem, Red Alert, Doom, Hidden & Dangerous, Age of Empires, Theme Hospital. Anything would be ok. But it always got ruined. Either the games just didn't have Co-op, or were so old they only supported weird serial or IPX networks. Or we didn't have two PC's. Or the second PC was broken/too weak to run the game. Or you needed to download a dozen patches and a stinky "Sven Co-op" MOD that still only half worked. Or the game crashed (Hidden & Dangerous, ahum). Or... after all the hassle, my little brother wasn't in the mood anymore, being less of a gamer than I was anyway

Nowadays Multiplayer functionality is SO much better. But yet, I can't enjoy it. Many games still don't give you a true Co-operative mode, where you can beat the game with a friend. Split screen is often too heavy for such advanced graphics, or the game-style is just too fault-sensitive to have a second drunk running around, ruining a perfectly scripted scene. Yes, scripting & 2 players = problems. And joining (14 year old?) strangers on the internet, nah. Either they're too serious, or just not co-operating at all. Besides I don't know them, they're not in the same room, can't have a laugh with them.

Despite all it's bugs, I think Hidden & Dangerous (free download now), is one of the best Co-operative games out there. Too bad only a few persons on this planet share that thought.

Last but not least, my little brother is not so little anymore. Lives in his own house, with his girl. I have a daughter though (and boy, but he still shits Minecraft in his diapers). But take Resident Evil 5. Pretty fun, type of game where you can really help each other, supports Co-op, split-screen, we have two PS3 controllers, perfect! Except... that she is only eight years old, and gets nightmares of zombies. And even if she weren't, she would suck at it, and I would kill 99% of the zombies, or getting game-overs by her mistakes. Mario Kart and World on the Wii U are more forgiving, but I'm just too old and experienced compared to her. As if you would challenge Mike Tyson for a boxing match. I solve all the puzzles, I always beat her, I always defeat the foes. And I always lose my patience if she can't leap over those platforms for the fifth time. Bad dad. Maybe in ten years the roles are different, but as a forty year old by then, I don't think I'll enjoy playing an ancient game like Resident Evil 5 then. Too little, too late.

For the kids
Now hold on. I'm writing down this depressing story about a poor dad, not knowing what to buy, and everything sucks nowadays. But wasn't I supposed to buy presents for the *kids*? Thus not for myself, right? Oh yes. Almost forgot. So I quickly left the games-section (disappointed), bought some girl-horse-shit and a big-ass Star Wars Lego spaceship for my 2 year old son. At his age, he still eats Lego bricks, but he doesn't like toys anyway. Grabbing stuff out of drawers and whining on his mother’s leg is more his thing. Besides, he's a boy, and boys will like Lego sooner or later. See this as an investment for his future. And... father always wanted to have Lego and big Star Wars ships... The best presents are the ones you both enjoy, right? Too bad that seems to be impossible with games though…
Big world. Big empty world? I sure hope the next Zelda doesn't forget it's cozy towns and deeply hidden passages.

In all seriousness, I think kids who didn’t play Doom, Mario, Zelda or Command & Conquer a trillion times before, can still have a blast. But as a grown-up, I feel the magic is a bit over. So, as I was asking in the first line of this post, do you feel the same about that, or am I just an old nagger?

Well, let’s see what 2017 brings. Hopefully more than terrorist attacks, famous dead artists, weird controversial presidents. Zelda: Breath of the Wild… Resident Evil 7… Red Dead Redemption 2… God of War… Last of Us part 2… Tower22 playable demo? (I’m not making promises)… Maybe 2017 won’t be that bad. Have a happy, healthy, productive New Year dear readers.

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