Tag Archives: xbox 360

FGC #421 Saints Row 4

Saints!Saints Row 4 is an over-the-top videogame about a world beset by aliens, destroyed, and then rebuilt in a Matrix-esque virtual reality wherein your player avatar, The President of the United States, is granted amazing super powers in an effort to eventually conquer the alien threat and conquer all of time so as to save the human race.

So let’s spend this article talking about urban planning.

Wait, sorry, I have been informed that it is moderately possible to stay on topic while addressing this blatantly boring matter, so we may as well give that a try. Take two…

Saints Row 2 was an amazing little chunk of a game. After Saints Row was reviewed as “like Grand Theft Auto, but we forgot to figure out the ‘but’”, Saints Row 2 shook the gaming world by being the most Grand Theft Auto-est Grand Theft Auto to ever Grand Theft Auto. That is to say, the Grand Theft Auto from before Rockstar decided to smother any fun in the franchise by sticking its head so far up its own butt that no excitement could ever escape this airtight asszone. And it wasn’t just about a completely bonkers plot that may or may not have contained covering sections of the city in raw sewage! No, Saints Row 2 took the customization features of San Andreas and dialed them up to eleven. So many options! So much clothing! Hell, they had to build an entire mall to house all those shopping choices!

And, in my humble opinion, that mall might be the best part of Saints Row 2.

WeeeeeYes, it’s just one silly area. Yes, it’s an area that probably ultimately only exists for one set piece mission that involves a shootout in a mall (that seems less funny in 2018). And, yes, I might just like it because I have a weird inclination toward hanging out at any mall, virtual ones included. But whatever the original reason for that lil’ shopping center, it is one of my favorite spots, and a significant reason for this is simple: it’s a place. It is somewhere in the Saints Row 2 city that you can actually go. It’s not just another empty, set-dressing building. It’s a real location, and, even if there is an obvious “now loading” parking garage or elevator, it still feels like an organic piece of the city. It’s not just a place to customize your trench coat, it’s a place, and it makes the world of Saints Row 2 feel that much more real.

And, like in our blighted present, you can never go to the mall again. Saints Row 3 dropped not only the mall, but seemingly the entire concept of going inside a big, open building.

And, let’s not kid ourselves, people noticed. I noticed. Saints Row 3 was an amazing game, but almost everyone seemed to recognize that its base city was somehow… less. There were more exciting cutscenes, set pieces, and the occasional reason to deploy a parachute after leaping from your hover-bike, but there weren’t any malls. There weren’t any places that made the SR3 city feel like a real place; simply stores that were singular rooms, and the occasional “level area” that felt very much like a Hyrulian dungeon. The Saints Row 3 city was a shell of the former glory of the series, particularly at a time when other franchises seemed to be moving forward with more immersive worlds.

And then Saints Row 4 effectively told the world that that was good enough, and outright reused the “old” city of Saints Row 3. New game, old city. Party foul, Volition, directors of Saints Row 4. You destroyed half the fun of an open world game before I even opened the box.

Tanks for the memoriesOf course, anyone familiar with the franchise or its producers knows the truth of the matter. In short, without reusing assets to an absurd degree, there literally would be no Saints Row 4. And that would be a major loss for the universe! Saints Row 4 is an irrational amount of fun, predominantly because it takes the typical, mundane world of Saints Row 3 (well, as mundane as any world with Mayor Burt Reynolds could be) and adds super powers. Run like The Flash, fly like Superman, and telekinetically whip some cars around like Matthew Malloy (like you can’t use Wikipedia). When you were previously tethered to finding a conveniently unlocked car every seventeen seconds, being able to Hulk jump straight out of a lake and onto a building is a bit of a game changer, and truly makes Saints Row 4 its own experience. The wisdom of Solomon is telling me you don’t need a new city when you’ve got the speed of Mercury.

But you know what? Let’s stop trying to justify the loss of a new city, and acknowledge that Steelport, the official city of Saints Row 3 & 4, is actually pretty great.

Consider the number one complaint about modern open world games: there’s nothing to do. From Breath of the Wild to Skyrim to Dragon’s… Dogma? Age? Something like that… For all of those worlds, it seems the number one complaint is that there’s a crazy, humungous world to explore, but nothing to do. And that makes perfect sense, as any neighborhood where every dungeon and dragon is squished together is going to feel a bit claustrophobic. If your horse doesn’t have anywhere to run around, everywhere is going to feel like Hyrule Field, and then you may as well just be playing an N64 game. A big world needs the option to feel boring, because wide open spaces are practically a requirement.

WeeeeeeeBut all of the open world games named a moment ago are fantasy-based worlds. An empty field feels natural in Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls because “the wilds of the frontier” are practically built into the genre. That’s not going to fly in an urban environment, because, come on, when was the last time you saw seven inches of a city uninhabited by anything. In New York City, I saw a landlord-tenant dispute over a sleeping bag. This means that, assuming you want your sandbox city to be remotely realistic, it’s time to populate every millimeter of the place with something. There are no nice rocks or fields of tumbleweed in Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row; no, every bit of the city has to have a building or fountain or maybe just a spot where some dude carrying a dildo spawns. You need something, otherwise the world is going to look unfinished.

And then there’s the form and function factor. This is a proper videogame, not some manner of Endless Ocean nonsense, so there are missions. Missions require venues, so of course robbing the bank or destroying the alien antennae needs a spot to be marked on the map. So that means you have to build a bank or an antennae. And they can’t be next to each other! No! There must be some space between them. And there’s a car chase at the tail end of the mission? Wow, better design the streets around that for some interesting twists and turns. Don’t forget to add a fruit cart! Now multiply that kind of thinking by about, what, twenty? To account for all the story missions? And how many optional missions are there? How many street races, ragdoll showcases, and gang fights have to be included? And what do you do when missions start running into missions? It’s not like every section of the city is walled off entirely; you need to account for jobs that will use the same highways and byways. Everything has to fit together, and I don’t have to remind any artists out there how difficult it can be when you have to change just one thing, and are then forced to change every damn thing around it. Smoothing out one road might change the entire shape of the city!

Just thinking about it gets me exhausted.

Take a lookBut this is the strength of Steelport. With a limited number of changes, the same city was used for two different games brimming with content. And that’s amazing! Considering that Saints Row 3 and Saints Row 4 have dramatically different movement options available (a tank is not the same as Supergirl speed), the fact that the same city can be used at all is a minor miracle. And once you factor in all the missions across both games, well, it seems a little silly to be worried about the loss of a few open buildings. Yes, you might not have the same “lived-in” feeling of Saints Row 2, but SR3 and SR4 both use their shared city to do their jobs incredibly well. If you can use the same city to stage a noir-ish gang war story of betrayal and luchadores in the same place as a sci-fi epic featuring aliens and Agent Smith, then you’re clearly doing something right.

There’s nothing lazy about building something to last, and there’s nothing indolent about Steelport. This is how you reuse assets: by building something amazing and adaptable right from the beginning, and showcasing that remarkable flexibility. Here’s to the city planners of Steelport, because they know how to shape a city for the ages.

Though I do still miss the mall…

FGC #421 Saints Row 4

  • System: Available on PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. The Gat Out of Hell expansion (/entirely new game) came out at just the right time to boot this one up to the current gen consoles.
  • Number of players: Like SR3, this one has multiplayer that I have literally never tried. Let’s assume it’s good!
  • Favorite Weapon: There is a gun that inflates people’s heads. While I would like the ability to randomly inflate other body parts (I would very much like someone to explode thanks to unreasonably swollen calves), I can’t say no to N64-style body morphing.
  • OuchiePresident for a Day: It impacts practically nothing, but this title begins with your protagonist as President of the United States. I would personally like to play more adventures where you’re a Super Hero President… but then I start thinking about how my ideal game is Dynasty Warriors: Oops All Presidents, and how much it would kick ass to take out hordes of enemies with an extremely over-leveled William Howard Taft.
  • So, did you beat it? Yes. This is one of the few titles I actually completely Platinum’ed. I would be more proud of that if it didn’t involve rubberbanding a controller so I could fly around on a hover bike for an hour…
  • Did you know? This game canonizes the “Saints Row 1 model” character as a virtual reality created “boss” during one mission. This means that, without a doubt, if your protagonist is female in Saints Row 4, she’s trans, and not just implied to “look different” like in Saints Row 2. I think this means we have exactly one videogame franchise with a potentially trans hero. Progress!
  • Would I play again: Absolutely. I intended to play through Saints Row 4 on PS4 for this review, even… but it’s a long game! And I have a 100% save file right there on PS3! And I like running around like an invincible idiot! It happens!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Captain Commando! Caaaaaaptain Commaaaaaando! Or… maybe I’m thinking of something else…. No matter! Please look forward to it!

Where did it all go?

FGC #416 Bioshock Infinite

Note: This article does contain spoilers for Bioshock Infinite. You have been warned!

BIOSHOCKIN'Bioshock Infinite is god damn terrifying videogame. And it’s even more terrifying that no one identifies it as such.

Let’s hit the basics before we get into the abject horror. Bioshock Infinite is a story-based first person shooter from the creators of Bio/System Shock. As such, it is a ludicrously complicated videogame from multiple perspectives. Combat is conceptually simple (shoot man in head, move on, shoot other man in head) but multiple weapons of a mundane (all of the guns, forever) and magical (“Look, pa, I can shoot lightning”) nature allow for an amazing number of options. Is there water on the ground for conducting electricity? How about some nice, flammable oil? And is this a situation that would better warrant a sniper scope, or a shotgun? Or screw all those options to the sticking place, and ride some sky rails to channel death-from-above action. In a genre that often panders to the lowest common denominator with boring hallways and tedious, linearly graduating weaponry, Bioshock Infinite’s wide open Columbia and all the options it affords are a godsend.

But, as great as the gameplay is in Bioshock Infinite, memories of BI are not of battling crow cultists or the occasional ghost mom; no, Bioshock Infinite, like its Bioshock brothers before it, is all about the story. In this case, we have the tale of Booker DeWitt…

FGC #405 Duck Dynasty

WeeeeeA couple of weeks ago, Random ROB rolled up with Duck Dynasty for the Xbox 360. DD had been a game I purchased some time ago, as it was being sold as a special edition that came with a “free” duck call, bandana, and “bonus” trivia game. And the whole package was ten bucks. However, I had never played the game, and was at a loss as to how to approach the duckest of dynasties. Finally, it occurred to me that, like a fine wine, I should share that uncorking with friends, and, thus it was time to savor the screams of the innocent.

Please enjoy this stream of BEAT, Fanboy Master, Morning Song, muteki, and myself… surviving Duck Dynasty for the Xbox 360.

Notes! With Time Annotations!

0:00 – As all things must, we begin with a dramatic reading of Ozymandias.

4:35 – Our guests for the evening discover, for the first time, what we will be playing for the next two hours. I have never heard so much groaning.

10:00 – Morning Song correctly identifies the fact that Oldest Duck Dynasty has apparently been glued to a cup. Random Blue Cup quickly becomes our favorite character.

16:00 – BEAT shall be credited for coining “Duck Duck Revolution”, as every duck call appears to be a quick time event. So far, it is simply our job to summon ducks, and watch helplessly as they are gunned down en masse.

21:00 – muteki joins the stream as I battle some surprisingly agile bottles. Aiming in Duck Dynasty is as easy as pressing a button, so we basically have a superhero on our hands.

22:30 – BEAT offers a reading of The Ballad of Malone Duck, a story from my childhood. Because Twitter is a capricious beast, here is a transcribed version of the story:

So my dad used to have a neighbor named Malone. Malone was a widow by the time he was living next to my dad, and Malone was also batshit crazy. He once got drunk and lit his lawn ablaze, claiming that it was the best way to maintain the grass. So it goes without saying that Malone was also just an angry, angry man. He was pretty much every stereotype of “stay off my lawn” you’ve ever imagined. So one day, when my dad encountered a duck that was similarly angry, he named the duck, “Malone Duck”.

WeeeeeWe live in an area where ducks are seasonal, and also very territorial. The spot across from my grandmother’s home used to be marshland, and a flock of ducks returned every year. Among those ducks, every year, was Malone Duck. Malone Duck would be a dick to everybody. The rest of the ducks would just be chilling, and Malone Duck would swagger up, and start yelling at everybody. Humans? Cars? Dogs? Malone Duck was not having any of this. So, my dad, clearly a very sane individual, would occasionally yell back at Malone Duck, and, naturally, call him by name. The neighbors must have gotten a kick out of it, because it wasn’t too long before literally everyone in the area was talking about/to Malone Duck.

This was around when my dad was in his 30s, and, also, generally, around when I was born. Part of the reason my dad was yelling at Malone Duck was because he had a kid randomly sleeping at his grandma’s, and, come on, duck, that baby wants to get some sleep.

A few years later, I was maybe 4? 5? How old do you have to be to be playing in front of your grandma’s house fairly unattended? Somewhere in there. I’m a pretty young kid, and naturally, fascinated by these ducks across the street. So my grandmother, who was a very nice old lady who generally ignored everyone around her, decided to accompany me across the street to feed the ducks. This could have been something from a Rockwell painting. … Could have been… But, also given the vibe of this story, this could be the explanation of why I have only nine fingers. No, it wasn’t that bad, because some neighbors noticed the old lady and small child across the street, and dashed out shouting, “No! Don’t go over there! Malone is out!” My grandmother had completely missed my father’s long running feud with a duck, and assumed the crazy neighbor from years ago was out there, maybe burning the lawn again, and her panic response kicked in, so she decided to “calmly” escort her grandson back home. Unfortunately, this enraged Malone Duck, who decided it was time to clean house. If you can picture a grandmother who hadn’t run in thirty years and her very confused So much camograndson attempting to outpace a deranged duck, you have the right of the situation. But, thank God, Malone Duck did not understand doors, and he waddled back to his home.

Later, my parents came to pick me up from gramma’s, and my grandmother relayed the basics of our afternoon adventure. My father’s response was simple: “Oh. You met Malone? That duck is a jerk.”

So that’s why I don’t trust waterfowl.

33:15 – We all take a moment to acknowledge the terrible, terrible models on display in this game.

42:00 – The virtues of Morning Song’s dad’s abacus are discussed while I am forced to repel squirrels. Also, Fanboy Master makes mention of the official explanation for Final Fantasy 8’s SeeD acronym. It’s exactly as crazy as he describes.

ELEGANT MAN

49:30 – And here’s about where I’m forced to commit beaver genocide. I have no idea what the Duck Dynasties have against beavers, but shooting a swarm of good boys leads to the most tension this game could ever produce. Also, Morning Song speaks bird, which is pretty cool.

55:40 – I can walk on water. That seems pretty handy!

1:00:00 – Who doesn’t like fishing minigames? Aside from everyone ever? Commentator extraordinaire, Metal Man Master, mentions that apparently our player avatar is a real person in the Duck Dynasty canon. Who knew?

1:10:00 – Other terrible games are discussed, and I start shoving the Ducky Dynasties around with a car. I am downright amazed the programmers didn’t account for the player attempting to flatten these guys, as it is literally all I could think about an hour into this adventure.

Weeeee1:17:00 – And it took this long to get back to duck hunting, ostensibly the point of Duck Dynasty. Or maybe it isn’t? I’m not going to do any research on this. However, FBM does mention Duck Amuck for Nintendo DS by Wayforward, and I want to investigate that further.

1:27:00 – The return of the King (Cup)!

1:38:00 – If we hadn’t been completely ignoring the “story” of Duck Dynasty story mode, we might know more, but, lost on Duck Dynasty Property, the goals of our poor, beardless hero are discussed. Maybe he’s an Eagle Scout? Who hates beavers?

1:47:00 – This video would be longer, but we’re all pretty much dead already. Guess we’ll never know if more squirrels need to be assassinated.

1:49:00 – As we near the finale (which is just me turning it off), we discuss Cromartie High School, one of the best, funniest animes available. The joke I was trying desperately to remember was, “Milk is the main ingredient in yogurt, true or false?”

And that’s a Duck Dynasty, folks! Thanks again to everything that participated, and to viewers like you! Or something!

FGC #405 Duck Dynasty

  • System: Xbox 360 for the stream, but it was also apparently available for Xbox One, PC, Playstation 3, and Playstation 4. There’s also a 3DS version, and I really want to see more of that.
  • Number of players: The box says it is two players, but I saw no real evidence of that. Story mode certainly isn’t two players! And I’m not subjecting another friend to such a thing!
  • More gameplay: Since I’m looking at the box anyway, apparently we squandered another avenue of adventure. “Sneak around the warehouse to trick Willie” is a bullet point that was apparently meant to sell this game, so sorry I missed that.
  • Hate youUncensored: It was mentioned on the stream that the rivers could not run red with the blood of fallen beavers because that would warrant a more intense ESRB rating, but the game is apparently rated T for Teen. This sounds like a duck conspiracy.
  • Favorite Duck Dynasty: It’s the cup. Duck Cup o’ Skittles.
  • Did you know? Apparently the whole “we hate beavers” thing is a running gag on the actual Duck Dynasty show. In one hilarious episode, one Ducky Dynasty leaves a dead beaver in the sink of another Duck Dynasty. I can’t imagine why I never watched this show!
  • Would I play again: Honestly, this game wasn’t as terrible as I had expected. It was still pretty bad, and I don’t want to play it ever again. But at least it was an interesting and playable kind of terrible. One star out of five, but that isn’t zero!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Beyond the Beyond for the Playstation.

Fuck.

FGC #400.0 NieR

Time to learn about NieR!

Feel smarter now? No? That’s fair.

FGC #400 NieR

  • System: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Our neighbors to the East got a different version of Nier (the guy) for each system, but we only got old man grizzled Nier. This is for the best.
  • Number of players: I maintain that this title is the secret gameplay sequel to Secret of Mana, and you should be able to let buddies control your extra party members. But that’s not happening, so whatever, it’s single player.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I feel like I talked about the emotional impact of NieR enough during the Automata review, and the plot is covered enough up top, so I’ll just go ahead and say it: I prefer the gameplay of NieR over NieR: Automata. God help me, I’m pretty sure NieR is, from a gameplay perspective, a secret Kingdom Hearts title. And, what’s more, the way NieR deftly weaves in gameplay from other genres across the videogame pantheon… Well, there’s no other way to say it: this hole was made for me.
  • ShinyOther glowing reviews: Nobody ever seems to acknowledge that, aside from the game being good for a lot of other great reasons, NieR is really good at playing with lighting and the difference between its dark and light areas. The fact that all the highly populated towns are bright as the sun when things are good (and not so much later) is a great bit of subtle visual storytelling.
  • I hate everything: In constantly googling for information on NieR, the first “marketplace” recommendation is not the actual game or its sequel, but a nude 2-B body pillow. I don’t like this internet thing.
  • Did you know? A version of NieR was planned for the Vita, but it was cancelled due to the prominence of Dragon Quest X. This… seems kind of poorly considered in hindsight.
  • Would I play again: One reason I keep this website going is that it offers me an excuse to replay videogames I enjoy when I should really be doing something else. This is a roundabout way of saying that I’m glad Random ROB made me replay this title, and I will gladly play it again in another seven years.

What’s next? That’s 400, folks! I’m going to take a week off wherein there will be updates of a different nature, but we’ll pick up the FGC officially again on Monday, April 2, with…. Final Fantasy 3 for the Nintendo DS! Please look forward to it!

(And, on this coming Monday, there will be a very important update regarding the site itself…)

You're hearing the fanfare