Monday, June 27, 2011

Graphic Horror: Game Reviews

By Brian M. Sammons

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: DAGGERDALE, by Bedlam Games & Atari, Rated T, PC, PS3, Xbox 360.

I am sick and tired of bug-ridden games. There is no other type of media or entertainment that is constantly shipped to the customer in such a broken, unfinished state as video games are. Movies and TV shows aren’t missing whole scenes that make the story a confusing mess, only to have them added back in later on. Books don’t have random blank pages instead of text in them. Music doesn’t stop for no good reason and refuse to play any further no matter what you do. But video games more and more come plagued with bugs, some harmless and funny, others downright game breaking, but all of them seem slip-shot and for an industry that always whines about wanting to be taken seriously and seen as art, they relay need the get their collective shit together.

That little tirade brings me to DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: DAGGERDALE. Now I am an old school RPG nerd and I loved me some D&D back in the day. So I was very happy when this game came out, it was the first official D&D game in a good long while and I was looking forward to getting my hack and slash on. And to be sure, this game started off well. No it wasn’t anything Earth shattering, but it had some good dungeon crawling, four classic classes to choose from (warrior, mage, cleric, rogue), some button mashing brawling, up to four player co-op, and the new D&D 4th edition rules so what’s not to love? Well, up until the half way mark of this game, not much. I was having a ball playing with my buddies, beating up goblins, lizardmen, and other classic D&D sword fodder. But sadly, those good times didn’t last.

Without notice we all got hit with a bug where we lost multiple levels and skills that we had killed so many baddies for. It effectively neutered us and more importantly, pissed all of us off so bad that the fun we were having with the game got flushed away. While we could technically continue playing we were left with a bad taste in our mouths. And we weren’t the only ones. A quick search on the internet found out that pretty much everyone who played this game got hit with the same bug. That is just unacceptable. When you buy a video game you don’t sign up to be the designer’s free quality control department and game tester. No, that crap should be done before the game gets into the hands of the customers. You know, like every other form of entertainment ever made!

Now I waited to write this review for over a month, hoping that the game makers would release a patch to fix the bug I got hit with, and all the other bugs that others have been complaining about all over the internet. That way maybe I could forget the bad taste that D&D:D had left me with and try to be fair and impartial. Well one month later and the game still isn’t fixed. Again, that’s just inexcusable. So while I like swinging my sword at goblins as much as the next completely normal man of my age, I can’t recommend this broken game as it is now to anyone.

I sadly have to give DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: DAGGERDALE a pitiful, bug-ridden 1 magical sword out of 5.

DUKE NUKEM FOREVER, by 2K Games, Gearbox Softwear, and too many more to list, Rated M, PC, PS3, Xbox 360.

Right off the bat, let’s get to it. There is no way in hell that DUKE NUKEM FOREVER could live up to the hype surrounding a game that took over twelve years, and went through about a half dozen game developers, before finally coming out. Unless this game was the second coming of Christ, cured cancer, and developed an even tastier form of bacon, there was no way DUKE could have met those lofty expectations.

That said, it is also nowhere near as bad as you might have heard. Yet some of my fellow video game critics have taken great delight in crapping all over this game. It seems to be the fun filled bandwagon of bashing that everyone wants to jump on, to prove both their “serious journalist” cred and to score points with women and/or feminist by railing how disgustingly misogynist Duke and his game is. Then many of the same hypocritical hand-wavers do a “Top 10 Hottest Video Game Chicks” list the next week, or put out a ten minuet video spotlighting the jiggle breast physics in video games. Yay, talking out your ass is fun! Now like the game or not, that’s ok and everyone’s right, buy if you try to score points by taking moral pop shots, then you had better not live in a glass house. Ok, enough of that, let’s get to the game by way of looking at the common complaints I’ve seen over and over again and tackling them one by one.

Let’s start off with something I actually do agree with; “Oh it looks and plays so last generation.” Here the haters are correct. DNF just looks and plays old. It is a first person shooter taking place largely indoors against aliens and monsters of all sorts. Most of the time you’ll enter a big room, the doors will close and lock behind you, a bunch of aliens will pour into the room, and you’ll have to kill them before the next door will open. And yeah, that does feel out of place in this day of far more dynamic shooters. Add to that the somewhat sloppy game control and the passable, but nothing noteworthy or particularly good, graphics and you get a game that on a technical level is “meh” at best.

“Duke is the kind of action hero that seems out of place today”. Well no duh, but you know what, I wish there was more out there like Duke because while silly and crude, he’s fun. Can you name a true action hero today? In today’s movies you’ve got guys in spandex with super powers as our only heroes. Yawn. Outside of the costumed crowd you’ve got who, Jason Statham, who always plays the same emotional stunted, anal retentive “professional” type or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the ex-wrestler who’s more at home playing the Tooth Fairy in Disney flicks than being a bad ass. Sorry, but I’ll take Duke Nukem over all of those any day of the week. Yes, Duke is a throwback, but he is a throwback to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Bruce Campbell and other 80s and 90s action icons that have been sorely missed in these days where FAST AND FURIOUS Part Who The Hell Cares is the highpoint for action flicks. And don’t get me started on video games where HALO’s Master Chief, a one-dimensional, largely silent, cyborg protagonist with a history that runs from zero to confusing is considered the great gaming action hero. Sure, there are exceptions to that. UNCHARTED’s Nathan Drake is a great character, but for everyone one of him, there are a dozen Gordon Freemans from HALF-LIFE who only have three notable characteristics: glasses, silence, and a crowbar. Now you may not like Duke Nukem, but at least he’s memorable.

“This game is horribly offensive.” Who the hell are you to tell me or anyone else what’s offensive? That is a purely subjective definition unique to each person, you high-horse sitting member of the morality police. The whole game is basically a crude dick and fart joke, the kind of humor you would see on the old THE MAN SHOW or in a Kevin Smith movie. But you know what, I’m a man and I like dick and fart jokes. Sure, not always or all the time, but since you don’t usually have bathroom humor in video games, I thought it was a nice change. If that’s not your thing, fine, but don’t dare say such humor is completely without merit.

As for the story, it’s pretty basic. Twelve years after Duke put his mighty foot to alien butt, the aliens have returned and it’s up to Duke to once again save the day, not to mention the babes. To do so he breaks out all his old weapons, but sadly very little else. The lack of any real new weapons (the aliens do have perhaps one or two new toys, but they’re pretty forgettable) is sort of sad for a shooter. And while the awesome jetpack is also MIA for lord only knows why, DNF does have a bunch of diversions to help you forget its absence. There are a ton of things you can interact with in the world, from human feces, to porn movies, to even a glory hold (oh, how offensive). There are mini games like whack-an-alien, pinball, and air hockey. Unfortunately all the mini games sort of suck, with air hockey being particularly clunky and unresponsive.

There are a few modern additions to this old school game, such as the ability to only carry two weapons at once and a regenerating health system and such things do seem out of place here. Hmm, HALO much? At least the regenerating health makes an odd sort of sense as it is Duke’s massively overwhelming ego. You can increase this ego shield by doing manly things, killing bosses and interacting with the world in the ways I’m hinted at above. Still for a game that pokes fun at HALO, and other games, it seems like an odd choice to rip off two key aspects of it.

Final assessment: DUKE NUKEM FOREVER is a basic first person shooter with subpar graphics and mechanics that really haven’t changed over the last dozen or so years. The humor is crude and rude, but a nice change from the same old, same old. Duke himself it a relic from the past, but as that’s a past I miss when compared to what we’ve got for entertainment today, that’s fine with me. There’s profanity, nudity, blood and guts, you know; all the cool things. If that doesn’t sound like the game for you, then fine don’t play it. However if you’re child of the 80s or 90s, a fan of the groundbreaking DUKE NUKEM 3D and have been waiting forever for this game, an aficionado of the afore mentioned cured humor, or your just tired of all the same old military shooters out there, then this may be a fun diversion for you.

I give DUKE NUKEM FOREVER a “oh man, it’s not a joke, it’s finally out” 3 out of 5.

--Brian M. Sammons