Monday, 6 January 2014

Suicide Gaming 2013 awards: The Glad Hands

Yes, it's that time of year again. When there's fuck all to report in the world of video games, because all the big publishers think it's a good idea to shoot their commercial load right at the start of the Christmas period. So with nothing better to do (other than stop) I'm- like every other terrible blog or website with time to kill- compiling the Suicide Gaming end of year awards. Just like last year, they are split into two categories, summing up the good and bad of video games (as well as stand out people, items or events) of 2013. So we start with the best of the 2013, the glad hands.  But first some admissions. This list is complied by me alone, so that means I can only list games I've actually played. So GTA 5 isn't here, because I need a new hard drive for my Xbox 360 for the 8Gig install. And the lack of mobile games is because my phone is shit. If you don't like it, then set up a amazon wishlist for this blog and you can just buy me everything, that fair? So anyway, in no particular order...

Bioshock Infinite

After the lacklustre Bioshock 2 (which was more like a glorified add-on disc) Ken Levine and all at Irrational Games really found their form again and created another instalment of what they did best with the first Bioshock. Acaptivating story, that is essentially holding your hand through a linear first-person shoot 'em up, but when the story being told is as well thought out and written as Bioshock Infinite's steampunk twist on American history. Add to that improved shooting controls (a common complaint of the first game), some actual space to move around enemies all set against the stunning backdrop of Columbia, a floating monument to capitalism, racism and the odd 80s pop song. But best thing of all about Bioshock Infinite is how it lured out every  hack games journo who wanted to wave around the term, "ludo narrative dissonance" - which is something you'd see in the story or cutscene of a game that clashes or is totally contrary to the game play. So every arsehole with a media degree went about showing how cleaver they were buy saying Bioshock Infinite was a major example of it. Yeah, playing as a former government spy/union buster using violence and magic potions to defend himself against a whole floating city of militia men and genetically modified jingoists really clashes with the plot. You know what's really dissonant with the game? Finding money in bins. Are the inhabitant of Columbia so affluent that they chuck all their spare change in the rubbish? That's the only problem, just enjoy a well made game, you self important pricks.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

If the story of how MGR: Revengeance got made in the first place- that the head of Platinum Games half-jokingly agreed to make the Metal Gear Solid based action game Hideo Kojima's team was having trouble making- is true then hats well and truly off to Platinum for, frankly, keeping up their pedigree of hack and slash games alone, but that they did it using the MGS universe. Just think about that, they took a game series that emphasises stealth, patients and really, REALLY, long cut-scenes and thought, "Why don't you just run around with a sword and sliced everyone in half?" And for good measure have it star the least popular character in the MGS franchise, pretty boy Raiden. Underlying homophobia aside, Revengeance carries on in the growing Platinum Games catalogue of cool action games, focusing on sword-play and then some. You get you de riguer light and heavy attacks but then you get "Blade Mode." A genius piece of video game interface, drawing the action to a standstill and allowing you to slice through a enemy as exact as a surgeon or into a pile of fucking cyborg mincemeat. Brilliant! Is it better than Bayonetta? No, but then what is? But the soundtrack is certainly miles better and there's a reference to the Vanilla Ice song, "Ninja Rap" from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. So fuck your 30 minute cutscenes and crap dialogue Kojima, we've got mad bastard cyborg Raiden now. It's well paced, fun and the pointless Jetstream Sam and better Blade Wolf DLC packs are free now.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is a movie about giant, alien monsters invading the Earth. And in defence, humanity makes equally giant robots and punches the shit out of them. That is it. There's no fancy twist or post-ironic look at the Japanese Kaiju, giant monster film genre. It's a film completely about piloting giant robots and having massive rucks with giant aliens. And it's fantastic. Where Michael Bay failed over the course of three rubbish Transformer movies, Guillermo del Toro succeeded with tremendous aplomb. The main thing that sets Pacific Rim apart from the generic summer sci-fi blockbuster fare is the over riding feeling that it's been made by someone who genuinely loves the genres that inspired it. But even though it's inspiration comes from anime and movies from the over 30 years ago, the story, direction, kaiju and jaeger design, camera work, soundtrack and characterisation all have a fresh take on what should be fairly tired ideas. It's familiar and new all at the same time. Yeah, you have the troubled loner who needs to open up and realise his full potential and yeah, he does that through a relationship with a women who takes interest in him. But *SPOILER ALERT* not in the way you expect. Raleigh and Mako's relationship is that of brother and sister, bonding over their loss and learning to trust the other. Because the colossal jaegers require two pilots, working in complete unison-connected by shared memories. So the whole, "We have to learn to work together or we lose" routine is perfectly justified in that two seemingly different people discover they're more alike than they thought and it makes them much better at kicking the shit out of giant aliens. And boy do they kick the shit out of aliens. If, by the Hong Kong scene, you haven't regressed into a 10 year old, bouncing around in your chair with a big silly grin on your face then there's no hope for you. If there's only one negative I can find, it needed more Cherno Alpha.

Mummy, I want one!

Depression Quest

I'm not usually one for text-based games and I didn't write anything about this interesting title-that has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons- when I played it. The reason I didn't write about or review it earlier was because the "interactive fiction" (as the creator Zoe Quinn calls it) that depicts the life of  someone suffering from depression affected me in a way no video game ever has. While playing it, I was doing what most people tend to do during similar, multiple-choice, personality tests, and answer as truthfully as possible, basing my answers on how I would of acted in a similar situation to the protagonist of Depression Quest. As I made the various choices based upon me from 10 years ago,  when I was in a similar situation, the status updates on how your character's mental health, as you progress, grimly telling me how depressed I am, when it suddenly clicked. That time I used to jokingly refer to as my "lost years" was depression. It was such a shock, I didn't want to play it again right away nor write about it. For that alone, Depression Quest is worth mentioning with the best games of 2013. This is one of the best depictions of the isolation and self-loathing one goes through during a depressive period. I know that doesn't sound like a great game but the way it uses a first person narrative to put across how mental illness can develop and worsen without help (which you can seek via links on the website) means your time isn't wasted, even if you're not no-scoping space marines in ultra high definition. Check out the website and give it a go, you can pay whatever you want, or play a free version, or give it the nod on Steam Greenlight.

Jim Sterling

Young James may have had the odd rough patch in the past, but 2013 has really been the year he stepped up his game and came into his own as the foul mouthed, self aggrandising, Willem Dafoe obsessed speaker-upper for the common gamer. Even if the subject matter is something some gamers don't want to dwell on or were unaware of- be it microtransactionsdevelopers pulling a fast one, and victim blaming, he hasn't shied away from the difficult subjects. Even if you don't always agree with what he has to say, you should respect his total honesty with games, gamers and himself. Honesty that has drawn a fair amount of flack from those he's criticised (both the players and makers of games) or those yet to, or never will, get some of his arguments. I pretty much hate everyone in games media, but Sterling's video series, the Jimquisition has become essential viewing. Plus, what other game journalist shows off their sex toy collection? Try getting that out of Ben Kuchera. He won't show you as much as an anal bead.

The Shamancycle

 The massive rise in popularity of crowdfunding sites, like Kickstarter,has lead to some confusion on the nature of investment, maybe because there are now known people and corporations forgoing the traditional method of funding and  using their fanbase as a direct cash source. Or, like the Ouya, it's been a minor cluster fuck. Investing in something isn't a online store, ok? Kickstarter was meant for projects that wouldn't be able to get funded via the traditional channels of hoping some rich bastard or mega-corp likes it or see a commercial  aplication. That's why in 2013 (or probably ever), the only kickstarter I donated to a 10-person, giant eagle bicycle, the Shamancycle. This is exactly the sort of thing Kickstarter was set up for. A giant eagle-shaped bicycle for 10 people to ride on, because it's too awesome not to exist. If that isn't art purely for the love of it, then I don't know what is. I have no idea what my meagre donation paid for, probably a foot pedal. Yeah, that'll do for me, the Suicide Gaming memorial pedal- always under someone's foot, but it keeps going. And if you don't wear shoes, you'll get hurt. Perfect!

SMB3: Brick By Brick

Bob Chipman, cinema critic, game journalist and lord of the dark moustache has literally rewritten the "lets play" (maybe someone else did it before him, probably. But seeing as awarding him on the dubious notion he has redefined a sub-genre of games fandom will no doubt  fuck off  his detractors, so why not?) by documenting an entire run through of Super Mario Bros.3 on the NES, told alongside Chipman's professional and personal life, detailing some of the common struggles the adult gamer has to deal with, trying to juggle a productive life while still devoting every spare second to  defeating that fucking long koopa tank, near the end. If you like Chipman, then Brick By Brick is a brisk read about one man's history as a Mario fan and well worth you time. And if you don't normally like his "constant issue raising" then see what he's like when it's all about the games, right here.

Rad Raygun

Often, retro-style games are given the label, "love letter to..." because it uses pixel graphics or chiptunes and make little nods to games that are more than 10 years old. But (to my diminishing knowledge) none have been a love letter to a console, in this case the Gameboy. Rad Raygun wears it's love for Megaman games (and similar titles) on Gupei Yukoi's little gray box of wonders on it's sleeve, it's collar, trousers, belt, the whole fucking outfit. The graphic style is entirely in a  green monochrome- that can be adjusted to the exact shade of green (or red or blue)you had on your old, original brick Gameboy, just for the extra touch of nostalgia. The soundtrack by  FantomenK is excellent, especially the Berlin stage. You've got loads of references to 80s and 90s game and cultural tropes. And you play as a anthropomorphized Gameboy for shit's sake! Available on Steam and Xbox Live, this is a small yet wonderfully formed indie game is a neat homage to shooting platformers of yore, but without the massive difficulty curve. I find Rad Raygun to be a nice cleanser, when I play something and reach a frustrating impasse, I quit and blast through Rad Raygun as a break from that one bastard of a boss that's pushing me to a screen-kicking spree. I look forward to what TruFun Entertainment does next.

Patrick Scott Patterson

Despite being guilty of the social crime of wearing sunglasses indoors, Patterson, on top of documenting the history of videos games and having it recognised as part of popular culture has taken it upon himself to offer his services as a video game expert to any news channel in the US  running a story (unsurprisingly) about violent video games and it's misrepresentation in the media. Using such progressive methods such as reason, forethought, promotion of responsibility. Basically everything Fox News and Jack Thompson want people to think every video game is shooting satanic radiation into the player's brain, making them into psychotic baby kickers and cat molesters at the drop of a Xbox Live update.

Honourable mentions

IDW Comics - Iffy Dredd ongoing ans shitty Crow in Japan remake aside, IDW has put out some really excellent titles, including James O'Barr returning to write 2 new Crow stories, Judge Dredd vs. Mars Attacks  and what has been the most consistently funny comic of the year, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye. Yes, really. Imagine a all-autobot remake of Red Dwarf but without the disappointing decline in quality.

Darkstalkers: Resurrection - Under the radar fighting game classic has well tuned second and third games in the series. And Jedah. Fuckin' Jedah!

The Dredd Sequel Petition - Whoever put the idea into effect, it's a fucking excellent idea. I don't know if a Dredd sequel would reverse the economic crisis, cure all disease and make ice cream  slimming. But sign the petition anyway.

The Wolf Among Us - Not only is a cool variation on the misery-thon, The Walking Dead. But I love it already, just because in my 30-odd years of gaming I never thought I would hear the line, "Have you heard the latest Shakin' Steven's album?" Genius!

Kirk Mckeand - At the rate he's writing now, in about 4-6 years he'll be at the "too good for games journalism" stage. So jump on the bus early, before he loses his looks.

Mindless Self Indulgence - Their latest, crowdfunded, album, "How I Learned to Stop Giving a Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence" is like there's a party in your ears. And they're all having gay sex. Which, as we all know, is the best kind.

Lou Scheimer -Animation icon, Scheimer, passed away in 2013, leaving a long legacy in Western animation, most notably He-Man and The Masters of the Universe. Which helped kick off the 80s boom in US cartoon shows and dedicated channels. If you've ever enjoyed a cartoon show from the last 30 years, made for one of the numerous cartoon channels, then you owe a small debt to Scheimer. Good journey Lou.

Diablo 3 - The console version to be exact. No bullshit DRM or having to mine money for the broken exchange system. Just the game, and playing it with a controller makes the combat is real time, thus making Diablo 3 the Gauntlet remake I always wanted.

Video Games Changed the World - Despite the presance of Rob Florence and one of the Explosive Alan cast and the omission of DDR, Charlie Brooker showed good video games television is doable, there is a audience for it and it doesn't have to be aimed at infants or night dwelling masturbators.

Far Cry: Blood Dragon - Slightly underestimated arcade game, wrongly labelled as DLC. It's not. You don't have to buy the game about some cunt with a shit haircut, murdering tigers to play as a cyborg cunt with a shit name and murder neon cyber-soldiers and shoot at dinosaurs.

John Cheese - For his breakup letter to Xbox, summing up the (mostly abusive) relationship between console maker and user.

Critial Miss - For being better written, drawn and funnier than anything Penny Arcade has ever shit out. So read it.

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