Do modern-day shooters have what it takes to pierce your heart? Let's find out together with the ShootStravaganza!!


September 1, 2014

ShootStravaganza!! Mercenary Kings

You might think it’s a little unfair of me to add a game like Mercenary Kings to this miniseries, by way of it being a shooter in the sole sense that “it has guns”.  But then again, I could counter that by saying there was never any exact definition as to what sort of shooter would appear in the ShootStravaganza.  Given that there’s a third-person shooter coming up, is it really so far-fetched to have a game that leans hard toward being an old-school 2D platformer?

No.  No it is not, good sir or madam.

Moving on to more pertinent matters -- this game has sprites, and that makes me happy.  I agree with the sentiment of a lot of gamers, and think that sprites are cool…and on top of that, something precious ended up being lost in the transition from 2D to 3D.  I’ve got one of the later Breath of Fire games on my PS3, and the animations there make me lament that that didn’t become the future of gaming.  Same goes for Street Fighter; I like (and still play) IV, but there’s just no beating the marvel of Alex tearing his shirt, Sean’s two-fisted dragon punch, and pretty much everything about Makoto and Elena.  A well-made sprite leads to a level of artistic expression that 3D can’t always match.  Or if not that, then it at least offers something friggin’ cool.

So the same applies to Mercenary Kings, as you’d expect.  I just wish there was more to it than that.

August 28, 2014

My Mom is the Best in the Universe


I’m well-noted for being an optimist, but sometimes it’s pretty hard.  That’s to be expected, sadly.  Negativity is part and parcel of the World Wide Web these days, and with good reason: it’s a place where fans -- where those who care deeply about the things they love -- find out on a regular basis that something bad is about to go down.  I try to counteract that here, but the woes of the video game industry and its mounting failures means that a lot of times, I have to get negative, too. 

So you know what?  It’s time to do something different.  I want this to be a happy place, and I can think of one surefire way to do that: paying tribute to my mom.  Today’s her birthday, after all, and she’s such a great person that I HAVE to give her the praise she deserves.  I don’t do that enough, but that’s to be expected when you’re about as good with people as trying to spell the alphabet backwards…while on fire.  (As evidenced by that curiously-morbid joke.)  And seeing as how I have yet to encounter a greeting card that can cram several thousand words onto a folded piece of paper, this will have to do.

So gather ‘round.  Have a seat.  Because I’m going to wish my mom a happy birthday the only way anyone can: by giving 100% irrefutable proof that she’s the best in the universe. 

It would be 110%, but doing that would require making the post’s title in all caps.  And as per The Rules of the Internet, that would put the post's credibility in danger.

August 25, 2014

ShootStravaganza!! Wolfenstein: The New Order

Video games may be an art form, but it’s hard to separate them from the mechanical underpinnings.  Yeah, that’s probably true of every art form, but given that games are built on technology, it’s more than a little pronounced.  So while in a lot of ways, it’s easy to understand why there are so many shooters (even if you’re not willing to welcome them): the mechanics are the simplest way to create a relationship between a real player and a virtual world.  Take aim, pull a trigger button, and things happen.  It’s a hard formula to screw up, even if it is less than preferable to others.

I’m not even going to pretend like I know everything/anything about shooters, but I can do something like that for fighting games.  Even if you don’t have any skill with them, it only takes a glance to realize that there are systems and particulars that go into each one, making them different across the board.  True, there are lessons and concepts that carry over from game-to-game, but Street Fighter 4 is not the same game as, say, Street Fighter X Tekken

There are surface-level elements, like those unique systems; there are deeper elements, like preparation and tactics; there are elements that you have to learn on the fly, going from one match to another (someday I’ll learn how to fight Chun-Li) -- and then there’s the super-deep stuff like frame data, proration, and more.  Fighters may have seen a renaissance over the past half-decade or so, but that’s partly because they’ve got the depth -- at every level -- that can satisfy a player.  It’s what makes fighters one of the purest game genres out there.

I bring all this up because I think that’s part of the appeal of Wolfenstein: The New Order.  And it’s part of the reason why it’s not only the best game I’ve looked at for the ShootStravaganza, but maybe one of the best next-gen games so far…even though that doesn’t really mean very much at this stage, but whatever.

August 18, 2014

ShootStravaganza!! Killzone: Shadow Fall

So you know what I just realized?  All the games that are going to pop in for the ShootStravaganza are PS4 games.  Fancy that.

The way things are looking now, I’m not exactly what you’d call excited about the next (technically current) generation of games.  I’m on record here on Cross-Up of being genuinely worried about what the PS4 and Xbox One would bring, and now that they’re getting dangerously close to the one-year mark, I can say that they’re not the doombringers that most would have expected.  Now, mediocrity-bringers, on the other hand?  THAT’S something they can do.  For someone who’s getting into games for the first time with something like Infamous: Second Son, they’ll be fine.  But for someone like me, who’s played the other, better Infamous games?  It’s a step down.  And the less said about Watch Dogs, the better. 

It doesn’t say good things about the state of a console or a game industry when the most compelling argument to even turn the blasted new box are games that not only DON’T take full advantage of the technology, but could conceivably appear on the earlier consoles…not to mention they were likely made for a fraction of the price, yet ended up better regardless.  In all fairness to the PS4 (and the Xbone, to a lesser extent), I’m going to say what I’ve been saying for a while: someday, they’re both going to get the games that justify their existence.  Someday, they’re going to be consoles worth owning.  Someday, they’re going to make big contributions to the gaming canon.

Today is not that day.  And Killzone: Shadow Fall is not that game.

August 14, 2014

On the Ninja Turtles and Nostalgia

I never really liked Scooby-Doo.

There was a time when I sat down for a marathon of episodes -- my first exposure to the show as a wee little Voltech.  Believe it or not, I was excited for them.  And then I actually sat down and watched them, and I pretty much went “Ehhhhhhhhhhh…this is kinda garbage.”  I guess I just didn’t have the artistic sensibilities for it yet. 

But those sensibilities never did develop.  Even with the myriad spinoffs and alternate versions -- there was one about catching thirteen ghosts, which gave the series a built-in END button -- I never found myself treating the franchise as anything more than a diversion.  Just some background noise to play, or a last-ditch effort to find something on TV.  Still, Scooby-Doo has long since found both its legs and its audience, and it doesn’t matter if I’m not a member of it -- although, as it turns out, I actually think the recent Mysteries Incorporated show is pretty good.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it, but I could see myself watching that more than anything else.

The reason I bring up Scooby-Doo is because it’s proof of an obvious truth: the past is not sacrosanct.  Just because it’s from yesteryear doesn’t automatically make it flawless and worthy of some slot in the hall of fame.  It can qualify, sure, but there’s no reason why the old should get a seat on a golden throne just because it has a familiar name.

Which brings us to…well, you read the title, didn’t you?

August 11, 2014

ShootStravaganza!! Destiny (The Beta)


This should go without saying, but you should never take anything I say too seriously.

Holding up someone’s words and opinions as gospel is pretty dangerous, because A) it prevents you from thinking for yourself, B) it hands over a lot of power to some nigh-unseen force, and C) it would imply that the deliverer of gospel is flawless.  They’re not.  And I’m not.  I try to be as fair as I can, and look past my biases.  If I can’t -- which is often, I’d bet -- then I’ll at least try my hardest to support my reasoning…even if that reasoning is just a way to justify shutting my eyes and covering my ears. 

I just thought I’d make all that clear up-front, because this is actually the second post on Destiny that I’ve done.  Granted the first was focused more on the business side of the equation, the dangerous precedent at play, and the potential threat to the gaming canon vis a vis another big push toward mediocrity, but…uh…I don’t have a positive way to end this sentence.  So I’ll just go ahead and say that Destiny was, at the time, innocent until proven guilty.  Until gamers in droves -- myself included -- got to try the game, making any snap judgments would’ve made anyone who slammed the game look like a fool.

But that’s fine.  Because now that the beta is over and done, I get to slam the game all I want.

…I told you I was biased.

August 7, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Playing Favorites

So my brother wants to go see the new Ninja Turtles movie, and I now have a sudden urge to find the largest, heaviest item I can carry so I can introduce him to it.  In the percussive sense.

I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, seeing as how he’s the same person who caused me to watch the unthinkably awful RoboCop reboot.  I guess some people never learn, but I figured it was worth another shot.  So I asked him: “If you want to see the Turtles, then why don’t you just watch the cartoons?”  His answer was that the upcoming movie was new.  And I guess that means it’s…better, somehow?  In which case, I’d point his attention elsewhere

Well, it could be good.  But I have my doubts (for any number of reasons).  Setting aside the miserable fate that may await anyone who has even a passing interest in cinema, I can’t help but think back to a statement made by Michael Swaim of Cracked, and a sort of “understood truth” about the Turtles, or characters in general: whichever one is your favorite says a LOT about your personality.  I like Leonardo, for example, and if you’re familiar with the stuff I’ve said here on Cross-Up, this should be no surprise to you.  But beyond that, the important thing is that by identifying deeply with a character, your overall enjoyment of the story is practically destined to increase.

I say all of this because it applies to Guardians of the Galaxy.  Because not only is it a good, good, good, good, good movie, but your enjoyment will inevitably increase…because by movie’s end, you WILL have a favorite.  Guaranteed.

THE REEL OF FATE IS TURNING
SPOILERS -- TONS -- ACTION!

…Because who needs thought and wit when you can just make references?

August 4, 2014

Introducing: The Cross-Up ShootStravaganza!

Not too long ago, I took to Reddit’s Truegaming section to pose a question: what kind of lasting effect have guns had on video games?  I think it’s a legitimate question, considering how you pretty much can’t have a game these days without guns.  Okay, maybe not every game has guns (Tokyo Jungle comes to mind, and is stronger because of it), but there are ENOUGH games full of guns to give pause.  It really doesn’t say good things about the state of the industry when I read a GameInformer article about Gearbox’s upcoming game Battleborn, and the first paragraph talks about how the dev established itself as a FPS ace with Halo: Combat Evolved.  And in that very paragraph, it goes on to say that Gearbox left its comfort zone by making Borderlands…another FPS, only with RPG elements, sort of.  And then their new game is -- hold on to something -- another FPS.  Only different!  Somehow.

I’ve gone on about this before, but it bears repeating: guns are a useful tool in-universe and out of it, but they can be limiting in the very same method.  Think about it; a character’s weapon of choice/fighting style says a lot about their personalities, and in a video game it can decide (and jazz up) the mechanics.  Or, to put it a different way, compare a handful of shooters to a handful of fighting games.  There are basic principles that carry over from, say, Street Fighter to BlazBlue, but the varying characters, styles, and mechanics make each fighting game a whole different beast.  Conversely, playing one shooter gives you nearly everything you need to succeed in another.  There are nuances that set them apart, yes, but there’s only so much you can do in terms of deviation.

So the question that’s been on my mind, now more than ever, is simple: what makes a good shooter?  And I intend to find out.

July 31, 2014

What’s the Key to Good Character Design?

There’s an image floating around on the internet that shows Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts mainstay Tetsuya Nomura’s take on Batman.  Apparently it was his design for a game that never materialized, but in exchange there’s a figure of him and some art if you’re interested in looking.  Speaking personally, I don’t think it’s that bad.  It’s definitely an interesting take, if a little cluttered.  And given the man responsible, it could have been a lot worse.  A LOT worse.

Nomura may be famous for running Kingdom Hearts right into the damn ground his artistic sensibilities, but whether you like his techniques or hate them, it’s hard to heap too much hate on him.  If nothing else, his designs -- when they’re at their best -- are the sort of things that by nature stick out in your mind.  They transcend being mere drawings or renderings, and become some truly iconic stuff.  I’d like to think that (if not for the presence of something like Berserk) it would be Cloud and his Buster Sword that engraved the concept of “massive sword” in the public conscious, where it’s stayed for years.  On the other hand, Nomura has almost single-handedly ruined “belts and zippers” for everyone, so there’s also that.

But let’s not slam the man any longer.  Let’s focus on concepts.