Tag Archives: xbox 360

FGC #279 The Walking Dead

It will get worseToday we’re going to talk about why zombies suck.

I don’t know about you, possibly-swole reader, but I’m kind of a weakling. I’m not completely helpless (I can help move a buddy’s couch like a champ), but I don’t have much in the upper-body strength department, and, when you get right down to it, I’m pretty sure a group of particularly rowdy preschoolers could take me out. In other words, I’m less Zangief, a lot more Dan. Possibly as a result of this, I do live in a vague kind of fear of other humans. I’m not an agoraphobic, and I don’t walk the streets cowering in my coat, but I know that if some random dude decided to pressure me for my precious wallet, I wouldn’t have much in the way of recourse. I’m not going to bust out my amazing kung-fu, I’m not going to start swinging a secret sword around like a mad man; I’m… probably just going to get beat up. I’m done, the end. I fear the walking living.

But I’m not afraid of zombies. Okay, a prime reason to not fear zombies is that, ya know, they’re fictional. But other than that, zombies are… dumb. Yes, if there were some zombie outbreak, I’d be a little concerned about the dead walking and maybe the moon crying blood or something, but after getting over the initial shock, even the magical “running zombie” isn’t much of a big deal. Humans are threatening because they have intelligence, remove that essential trait, and you’ve basically got a big, lumbering Chihuahua. Look out for the teeth! He’s gonna bite! And… get past that, and we’re in the clear. I’m afraid of a human with a club or gun, I’m not afraid of being scratched to death by some shambling dork. Various bits of zombie media have already included the “neutered zombie”: cut off the jaw, and what have you got? … Wait, has anyone ever addressed zombie versions of people with dentures? Is there truly nothing to fear from Zombie Washington?

Keep on shamblingThough I suppose I’m missing the forest for the trees here, as the real threat of zombies is supposed to be numbers. Zombies have a tendency to herd together, and, while one individual zombie isn’t a big deal, when there’s a whole gang literally knocking down your door, that’s when it’s time to go for the safe room. This is the premise of a healthy amount of zombie media, and allows for fun situations where “there’s nowhere to run”. And, yes, zombie hordes are generally scary… but they’re still basically a problem of poor planning. As I am continually reminded, I am basically a handsomer Batman, and, given enough preparation, I could overcome any problem. Whether it be rampaging throngs of zombies or republicans, I’m still not afraid of crowds, because I am an excellent hider. Give me a general space of about twenty square feet, and I guarantee I could find an area to “hold up” until this whole mob danger has passed. Zombies, even in great numbers, don’t scare me.

And this all might trace itself back to videogames. In a way, every videogame enemy/monster/met is a zombie. They’ve got limited intelligence (AI), can only perform the most basic of functions, and their only goal is your (protagonist’s) death. The end. There is no secret desire of slimes (assuming said slimes are not Rocket), and, like zombies, programmed “intelligence” may be easily tricked by tossing out some bait that would be blatantly obvious to any really thinking individual. Koopa troopas spawn way to close to fire flowers, and zombies have a tendency to follow their noses straight into the threshing machine. Nothing scary about a threat that will walk right into a bullet.

So it’s a minor miracle that The Walking Dead actually makes zombies threatening again.

Am I having a stroke?Come to think of it, there’s a lot that is miraculous about Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. For one thing, it’s either an “old school” adventure game or a slightly graduated visual novel, and both of those genres have absolutely no business being interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I loved King’s Quest V as much as the next guy, but the whole “adventure game” mold is basically based on making interesting stories with unique ways to interact with the environment before videogames really had the power to do it “right”. And take a look at the number of transitory, wannabe adventure games for examples on the real reason that genre never went anywhere. Oh, and visual novels? Not even going to address why those are terrible. Basically, it’s amazing that The Walking Dead was able to properly synthesize an excellent game out of these basic pieces, left alone the whole zombie problem.

Somehow, I guess two or three wrongs make a right, because, technically, The Walking Dead relies on a phrase that strikes fear into my heart: The Walking Dead is a game-long escort mission. TWD is, at its core, a “dad game”, you’re Lee, who, shortly after the game begins, finds the orphaned Clementine, a little girl that, left to her own devices, will certainly be devoured by the undead inside of five minutes. Actually, that’s probably not accurate, as Clementine generally seems to have her head on straight, but the game certainly treats you, the player, as Clementine’s only hope for salvation. So, dad, it’s time to take care of your daughter for five episodes or so. You’re constantly in danger, Clementine is constantly in danger, and you’re often asked to compromise your own safety for hers. I don’t think I’m even spoiling the ending to note that, yes, at one point you will have to let Clementine “grow up” because maybe Booker Lee started taking this “dad” thing a little too literally to be healthy.

Move alongBut the adventure game motif comingling with the escort mission works brilliantly for the undead hordes. Lee is, at best, equipped with a cumbersome axe, and he is never going to be granted a rocket launcher. It’s clear from the first episode that the most “physical” Lee is ever going to get is reeeeeeally reaching for a key, so don’t expect any crazy zombie jump kicks during this adventure. Ultimately, this all adds up to maintaining the zombies as a constant threat, and then ups the ante by giving the player someone to protect. I’m not worried about Lee dying, after all, he’s a videogame protagonist, any of his deaths will be undone by a quick “Press X the restart”; but Clementine? If something happens to her… well… that would be horrible. I’d give my left arm to guarantee Clementine’s safety!

So congratulations to Telltale Games’ Walking Dead for making zombies scary again. In AMC’s The Walking Dead, the eponymous Dead have become little more than shaved (but plentiful) bears, and every other videogame has made zombies useless fodder. But zombies had a brief time to shine in this Walking Dead. The combination of a bunch of gaming tropes that don’t usually work actually coalesced into something fun… and something to fear.

Good job, zombies, you don’t completely suck. Maybe you just bite.

FGC #279 The Walking Dead

  • System: This might be faster if I just list which systems don’t host this game. It ain’t on any Nintendo systems. Other than that, it’s all over the place. There’s even a Vita version? Weird.
  • Number of players: One player controls Lee, and then a small audience gathers around that player.
  • Race Relations: Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a black protagonist that was smart and level-headed, but didn’t have a background of being a violent criminal? I realize Lee’s whole deal allows for some drama with the cast in the early episodes, but, come on, Telltale, did we need further reinforcement of that unfortunate stereotype?
  • It's GlennFavorite Character: She’s completely insane, but I like Lilly. On one hand, she’s absolutely a pain in the butt in many situations (some of them involving exploding heads), but, really, for all my bluster about not being afraid of no zombie, she’s probably an example of how I would actually operate in a zombie apocalypse. Protect your family, assume everyone else is against you, and maybe go steal a vehicle because you’re secretly kind of a jerk. … Hm, I wonder what this says about me.
  • Did you know? There is a lot of unused dialogue in this game that seems to indicate that there were different plans for various characters and their backstories. It’s kind of amusing that this is the game that really kicked off Telltale’s “adventure game” renaissance (or at least totally funded it), and it’s clear the writers had no idea what they were doing in the early episodes. Okay, they undoubtedly knew what they were doing, they just didn’t have a firm grasp on the characters and future plot from the start of the first episode. It’s understandable, but I’m the kind of guy that meticulously plans out everything I write and… Great, now I forgot how I was going to end this sentence.
  • Would I play again? You know, I enjoyed this game… but I still haven’t played the sequel. The whole franchise seems to dominate this weird no man’s land where it’s not really a videogame (like I wouldn’t sit down to play it like I would a Mega Man title), but it’s certainly more intense than watching a random TV show. I liked my experience playing this game, but I might never do it again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Troll Islands for the SNES! Are… are you trolling me, robot? Is this even a real game? Guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!

It will get worse

FGC #242 DJ Hero

Rock out!I’m racist against DJs.

Like most racists, I don’t mean every DJ out there, or even a number of people that could be called DJs. Some of my best friends are DJs! The first “adult” that I thought was a cool person (and not just another authority figure) was a DJ (he had a jukebox in his house!), but he was a radio DJ, a very distinct subset of DJ. And, of course, I bear no ill-will toward people that merely “DJ” their own “playlists”, as that is an action as natural as meticulously alphabetizing all of your videogames. Most people are DJs, and that’s okay. And, heck, back in my high school/college days, even I, Goggle Bob, was a DJ, albeit, again, a “radio DJ” and not some other malevolent type. I could spin all the hits with the best of ‘em, and I knew I was doing something right, because every popular kid in the school thought I was playing the worst music available. You’ll listen to this entire Ben Folds Five album and you’ll like it, you damn audience!

No, what I’m talking about is a very specific form of DJ. I’m talking about the performing DJ.

Again, like many racists, I claim I have a reason for this unbridled loathing. See, I have been a musical performer since… yeesh… does kid’s choir count? I’m not really “in the scene” now, but I am kind of an attention hog, so I’ve always found the stage to be inviting. So whether it be singing, trumpeting, or tickling the ivories, I’m big into performing in a musical way. I’m sure we have a picture of me being hardcore somewhere around here… Ah, here we go…

ROCK OUT

See! Totally rocking! Or… something! Look, I might not be that great at not stoppin’ the rockin’, but I’m pretty sure I was involved in a band that may have won an award from MTV2 at some point, so let’s claim that actually means something. But it’s not about the trophies, money, or the fans; it’s about the music, man. That’s what’s really important! Going out there with your original music that you’ve practiced long and hard, and seeing the smiles on the faces of the twelve people that happened to show up at this podunk bar on a Friday night instead of having a real life with friends and people that actually care about them. Wait, may have gotten a little sidetracked there. Again, to be clear, it’s about the music.

DJs? Modern, performing DJs? They just hit the F key and call it a day.

How I despise them.

I’m racist, so I’m going to draw the stereotype. First of all, it’s always a dude. I’m sure there are women DJs out there, but, like dwarves and drummers, I’ve never seen one. Second, they have a tendency toward trench coats and unkempt, dark hair. That’s my style! I saw it first! Goggles? Goggles!?! Mine, loser! But once you get past their disheveled appearance, then you get into the real reason I abhor them so, so much. The DJ’s instrument is a laptop. His music is other people’s music. His “skill” is measured by how effectively he can smack that F key to set off an air horn to the beat. Cross fade is considered more valuable than breathing. The beat is all. The beat is one. And if those Guitar Center speakers aren’t pumping out the bass, then get off the stage.

And audiences love it. Stupid, tasteless people love a good DJ. And I disdain them all the more. Wake up, sheeple!

DJ Hero at least makes being a DJ appear to be hard. Right off the bat, we’ve got this monstrosity:

ROB is not a DJ

The appeal of the Guitar Hero controller was that, hollow piece of plastic or not, it looked like a damn musical instrument (specifically, a guitar or something). Rock Band Drums didn’t exactly bring the bass, but they still appeared to be the typical “drum set of the future” that Casio has been peddling since the 80’s. And the Rock Band Keyboard is pretty much just a truncated keyboard, and any pianist would tell you mo’ keys equal mo’ problems, so hooray for lil’ keyboards.

The DJ Hero Turntable, meanwhile, is obviously a turntable, but… what else is going on here? Let’s check the manual…

What am I even looking at?

Crossfade slider? Blanking plate? Euphoria button!? What the hell is even happening?

Okay, okay, let’s not get crazy. I’m sure even the Wiimote looks scary and button-heavy to a time-displaced Neanderthal. The DJ Hero Turntable might not be as inviting as the Guitar Hero Guitar, but how does the game actually play? Is it just more clicky, plastic buttons, or is it actually a fun and innovative experience?

And the answer is, surprisingly, DJ Hero makes being a DJ appear to be actually… natural.

Rock out!DJ Hero is very much a descendant of Guitar Hero, so, yes, it is a bit heavy on the “just press the red button to the beat”. As someone who plays guitar (just not very well), I’ve always seen Guitar Hero as a really weird approximation of actual guitar playing, and I’m guessing DJ Hero is much the same way for record scratching. But the whole experience is much more… active than I ever expected. There is some actual skill involved in crossfading, and tapping along to the beat feels… right when orchestrating these dope mash-ups.

Yes, I suppose that’s the other thing that surprised me: there is some actual craft in the medleys available to play in DJ Hero. Granted, anytime someone invokes Queen, they’ve automatically got my attention, but I was downright surprised how many excellent tunes from yesterday and today (today being ten years ago) blend together perfectly. I was expecting a dubstep, glow stick rave of nonsense, but this… I could actually listen to the DJ Hero soundtrack, and that only enhances my desire to play more. Come to think of it, yes, wow, I could actually play DJ Hero quite a bit and enjoy being a DJ on my couch. By Grandmaster Flash, the disease is inside me!

So it might be responsible for one of the weirder peripherals I own, and it might be another “silly” Guitar Hero-style game, but DJ Hero is actually a worthwhile experience. It’s fun to play, has a lot of good music, and actually makes performance DJing appear viable. It’s a rarity that I find a videogame that turns around my perspective on an entire vocation, so good job, DJ Hero, you’re the hero this racist-against-DJs Goggle Bob needs.

Though I still want my trench coat back.

FGC #242 DJ Hero

  • System: I got mine for the Wii, but Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Playstation 2 versions are available.
  • Es Bueno!Number of players: If you can get two DJ Hero turntables, you can get two DJ Heroes a-scratchin’. Everybody wants to be a DJ Hero!
  • Favorite Track: I can’t explain why I like the Poison/Word Up combo, but I do, and I will broker no debate on it being the best track available.
  • Sinister: The natural “left handed” configuration for this device… doesn’t work out so hot. I am once again being discriminated against.
  • Unlockable: Apparently there are about twelve billion unlockable DJs, outfits, turntables, samples, and skins available. Ah, the heady days before DLC became the norm for every stupid thing that popped into a developer’s head.
  • Did you know? There was apparently some legal trouble with this game, as the publishers of Scratch: The Ultimate DJ claimed Activision stole their bit (and code). The case seems to have tumbled around between “dismissed” and “overturned” a couple of times, and my new DJ skills have severely hampered my already meager attention span, so let’s go ahead and claim that this was the reason we never saw a DJ Hero 2. Either that or the fact that I bought my copy of DJ Hero for five bucks at Big Lots was a factor.
  • Rock out!Would I play again: I’m surprised to be saying this, but, yes, probably. It’ll take a little effort for me to whip out that turntable again, but I did enjoy the experience, and might return to it in the near future. I… would be okay with being a DJ Hero.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon’s Lair for the NES! Ah, yes, the famous animated game that… wait… for the NES? There was an 8-bit version of Dragon’s Lair? That… can’t be good. Please… look forward to it?

WW #6 Record of Agarest War(‘s box)

I’ve mentioned before that I will buy pretty much anything if it’s marked down to ten bucks. I’ve privately referred to it as the “quarter compulsion”, as, when I was child and had a quarter, I would immediately spend that quarter on whatever useless crap the supermarket foyer area was selling. And I’ve got a collection of bouncy balls to prove it! As a responsible adult (lie), I treat a Hamilton roughly in the same manner, and that couples poorly with my tendency to hang out in videogame stores. This is just a longwinded way of excusing myself for owning this…

It's a box!

That’s Record of Agarest War. It’s a TRPG that I played for maybe ten minutes before outright quitting forever. I’d love to write a full review or something, but… nah. TRPGs take way too long to do anything, and there doesn’t seem to be anything compelling about dialogue box after dialogue box relaying the War of the Who Cares.

However, despite purchasing this videogame ostensibly to not play it, I do not regret the ten bucks I blew on this purchase. Why? Because this is the box that caught my eye…