Editorial: Alex's Month of Binge Gaming

Whistles, Jumps, sword fights, artillery strikes, rope swinging, ducking behind cover, space jets, terrible dialog, emotionally gripping conclusion, and prototypical action schlock were all aspects to a month and a half long session of on and off gaming. Between Christmas, work, new years, research, recouping a social life, and writing it’s strange I was able to game as much as I did. However, as surprising as that is to me, I did and feeling a refreshed sense of vigor towards the industry, feel it’s only appropriate I give a few of my thoughts on a month of binge gaming.

The Literal Definition of Final:

              Topping the list is Final Fantasy XV, the latest entry in a seemingly never ending series. The games ten-year production cycle left me a little weary of the final product, and contrary to most popular opinion, this weariness was sadly justified in what I feel to be one the weakest titles to grace the series.  The games open world gameplay had me excited for the first few hours, but diminishing returns and a seemingly worsening story started to take its toll on my attention. It’s not that the game is ‘bad’ persay, but it does feel as though I was forcing myself through large chunks of the game rather than simply enjoying it. Combat can be complex, or if you’re like me, can be relegated to holding a button down only to change suit when you need to recharge your magic or drink a few potions. This game seemed to play itself, and for the most part didn’t have the captivating themes often present in other final fantasy’s, causing it to feel more or less like a cheese fest for the strict purposes of distraction rather than a sixty dollar cornucopia of fantasy envelopment. I digress though. Needless to say, the game was ‘entertaining’ but missed so many beats I feel compelled to write a review in the musings of Harry S. Plinkett at some point.

Look Mom, Jon Snow!:

              Moving from the disappointing to the surprising comes COD: Infinite Warfare. Having avoided the last three or four iterations, I was certain I would be deleting the game off my hard drive within a matter of minutes. However, to my amazement, I found myself having a blast within the confines of it’s ‘no holds actiony’ structure. The game knows what it is, and doesn’t even try to pretend to be anything different. I’m a sucker for action schlock and boy does this games campaign load on the schlock. Are the physics realistic? Absolutely not. Does the game try and take itself seriously to a fault? Most definitely. But all of this doesn’t matter because this is action hero first person shooter game, and for that I love it. It doesn’t even try and hide its intentions. The game gives no apologies for the lack plot, and instead just treats it like the meathead sterotyping known in this genre. Why is Jon Snow on the warpath? Because Mars that’s why. At no point was I bored or confused. It sets itself up such as, “Go here, do this and watch explosions.” With each room and hallway acting as sort of an arena, juggling one objective to the next. It also gives you enough down time to catch your breath, meaning you don’t start feeling too overwhelmed midway through the ‘plot’. While I probably won’t be playing online (As I tend to always get my ass handed to me) I can say without a doubt I’ve been having a blast with this game, and maybe that’s due to me staying away from the series for so long. It just might be that letting the market catch its breath between titles is what this series needs.

Certain Games Never Lose Value:

              When I think Christmas, I think Zelda; don’t ask. So naturally when it neared the time for jolly giving and yuletide alcoholism, you had better believe I started to get an itch for some classic Ocarina of Time. Traditionally games seem to lose their value over time, often becoming simple memories of a certain point in one’s life, not worth revisiting. However that’s not the case in some rare instances, this being one of them. Ocarina seems to take the most magic instances of a child’s imagination, and translates them into a fantastic 3d world with rich characters, decent story-telling, and some of the most riveting and memorable gameplay ever. It’s a world whose center theme is loss of wonder as we transition from childhood into being adults. Yet it does this so subtly and wonderfully amidst a good adventure and fun gameplay, that you might not have even ever noticed that theme until I just pointed it out. When I first saw this game I almost couldn’t believe what I was playing. At that point in my life I had never experienced something so magical, and yet here it was. Unseeingly quiet and humble. Even the box art had no imposing supposition. Yet threaded through this adventure was an experience as rich as the deepest coughers in all the world. Something every one of every age could enjoy and smile at. Playing this game again, I can honestly say the magic is still there the same as it was twenty years ago. This game is a masterpiece, whose themes of coming of age and loss of innocence have no expiration date. You can still find this game through emulators and various ROM's, but that would rob you of an even greater experience, the hunt to find a genuine copy of this game. Make this at the top of your list, without going to one of the various online shops, hunt for an actual N-64 in your region, and try and track the cartridge down manually. The adventures you and a friend or son or daughter might get into hunting for this will only enrich the experience of what this gem already brings to the table. In my world, it’s safe to say The Ocarina of Time is timeless.

WWI in WWII So You Can WWI While You WWII:

              Battlefield 1 is the newest entry in a brand that is quickly coming to saturate the market the same way that Guitar Hero and Call of Duty did, if it has not already. At this moment, I am torn between a perplexing feeling of awe and enjoyment and a complete annoyance and disdain for the way the game presents itself. The arena in which both the single player and online occur is during WWI in case you were lost on that fact. yet its mechanics revolve around weapons that weren’t really in large use during the time, and that’s perfectly fine, I mean I don’t hate it for that reason alone. But it just feels as though this game presents itself as realistic, and tries to draw a line of serious emotional story telling through the lenses of several WWI veterans. This all just feels contrived and like a separate entity from the actual gameplay. And the reason for this is completely mundane and bears more in-depth coverage at some point, but the automatic weapons. Behind the WWI paint, this is essentially every battlefield ever. Which is why I find myself annoyed. Unlike Infinite Warfare mentioned earlier, it presents itself as genuine, and tries to tack on a good story that again feels removed from the gameplay. It comes off as something that feels like it had too much production oversight, and not enough creative license. If you’re going to spend time developing a campaign based on WWI, you’re going to have to take some risks with that territory, and that includes the actual mechanics. Which, even if it was bad, would commend a nod from those like me. This is an issue I’ve had with media in general for a while, and I’m not going to waste any more time on it here, but needless to say, mitigating internal risks have started to sterilize authenticity from our entertainment. Now you might be screaming at your computer right now, telling me it’s about the online rather than the single player. To that I say, “I KNOW!” Which is where my first emotion comes in. This game is badass and is a blast to play, both online and off.  It’s hard to describe, but one copout is classic battlefield with some new gizmos. To which I have no problem. I love it and the action blows me away at times. It’s such a fun little festival of destruction, this alone could have been the game. More importantly it doesn’t hide its imbalance at all. So what if that tank keeps rolling over you, this is battlefield and we’re all just laughing at how we keep dying! It’s a world in which you and a couple of friends can get lost in for hours, and for that deserves such solid praise. I just wish the campaign that they spent their soul into, didn’t feel so separated and contrived.

The Only Bad Part Was The Cheeto Stain on my Pants:

              Finally, I found myself returning to Uncharted 4 at the turn of each gaming cycle. Beneath this straight forward action adventure platformer, lies an incredible deception whose twists and turns make you forget you’re actually playing a game. While visually stunning and an incredible demo of what the PS4 is capable of, the bulk of what makes the game memorable lies in its story, characters, actors, themes, and solid gameplay. The narrative puts you back in the hands of one Nathan Drake, and once again trying to find lost fortunes amidst the dangerous perils that come with said treasures. So from a back of the box perspective, it’s a modern day Indiana Jones tale. However, what I love about the story is how it tries to ground those ideas in somewhat reality. You’ve walked away from this life, and are doing it solely for your brother. A theme of growing up and out of such fantasies much of the player audience has done since the original Uncharted game. It acknowledges its silliness, and at the same time continues to lay down more absurdity. Couple this with a decent multiplayer and newly added Co-op(Ross we need to play) and you have yourself one of the definitive must owns on PS4. The game is a polished masterpiece that highlights just how beautiful a games story can be, rivaling that of many Hollywood films. And if three continuous play trough's aren’t enough to convince you of the awesome power this game has, then I don’t know what is.

 

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