Resident Evil 7 review

Posted: January 27, 2017 by ryanlecocq in Reviews

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Creepy kid alert.

EDIT 1/31:  Sincerest apologies, again I incorrectly stated that a PS4 Pro game was running at 4K when in actuality it was up-sampling.  RE7 runs at 1700p natively.  Doesn’t change the point though, because no $400 PC could run the game at 1700p at 60fps either.

 

Playstation VR Update 2/12/17

Words cannot describe how much better this game is in VR.  It is absolutely terrifying and the most in-depth experience available in VR.  Killer app right here.

I would actually say this completely changes my view on the game.  What was a solid, yet short RE reinvention in 2D, is a genuine tour de force in VR.  At a length of 12-16 hours to complete, it’s one of the shorter RE games, but one of the longer VR games by far.  Since it can be pretty stressful to play it for more than 60-90 minutes, the game suddenly feels much longer.  I now get the sense that Capcom had to carefully balance length to make the title possible to complete in VR from start to finish, as advertised.  If the game were any longer, I think even I would lack to will and patience to finish the entire game in-headset.

The other major difference is the aiming.  I now see why the aiming feels crude on the non-VR dualshock; the developers obviously spent the last 6 months of development only playing in VR.  I can’t blame them, as playing this game in VR is extremely addictive and the perfect example of the experience we’ve all been waiting for.  The debate between different control types of the past has become utterly moot, aiming a gun in VR with your head is by far the best way to shoot things.  I am a relatively good marksman in reality and this become immediately evident if you watch my RE7 VR videos.  While I am a very poor competitive FPS player, I am effortlessly blasting things in the face as they jump out at me, with split second timing and accuracy.  Finally comes the technology than brings real ability to the playing field.

Finally there is the cool factor of being able to move your head around and look at things from every angle.  The game is advertised as being playable while seated, but you can actually move and lean around freely, limited only by how you have your camera aimed.  This becomes immediately evident, right at the title screen.  I was able to stand up from the desk, walk around Zoe’s trailer to a limited extent and even stick my head in the toilet.  This is possible at any time.  I found it was really useful to have my camera aimed low, so that I could actually lean forward off my couch and see beneath objects like desks, tables and the trailer in the front yard.  The game even allowed me to bend over with my head between my legs and shoot through my legs behind me.  I can’t imagine ever actually doing this, but it is possible.  The other main benefit is you can lean in closer than allowed with a controller and really check out the maggoty grossness of every single object (like Andre’s floating corpse).

Overall I would say if you are playing without VR, read the rest of this article.  If you are one of the few fortunate enough to have a PSVR, go buy this game immediately.  The real McCoy has arrived and there is nothing better to play in VR right now.

 

This is going to be a tough review for me to write.  Normally I am pretty kind with my reviews, because I put aside all fanboy expectations and rate the game as a product vs. other direct competition.  I also generally throw out my knowledge of development time and what the game means to the industry.  This is the odd case where I really want to break my own rules and do the opposite.  You see, RE7 is a wonderful example of Capcom taking the pulse of the horror game genre and making a Frankenstein’s monster out of it that will define the next generation of horror.  Just like RE1 did to Alone in the Dark and RE4 did to Eternal Darkness, RE7 takes what Outlast and Alien: Isolation did to another level with its own series twists.  On the other hand, unlike past Resident Evil games, RE7 is not more gameplay value for your money than the games that came before.

All previous RE games have fallen into one of two categories(the good, main series ones at least): they had multiple characters with short campaigns, or they had one longer campaign.  Resident Evil 7 has one fairly short campaign, 2 only slightly different endings and no additional gameplay modes or multiplayer.  If you create a separate save at the point 3/4 through where you make the decision which affects the ending and complete both, there is literally nothing to do after beating it.  Well, there is an additional difficulty mode if you didn’t already get it for pre-ordering the game.  My playthrough took about 11 hours and I found the majority of the hidden items and notes.  It added an additional 2 hours to finish the other ending (which was totally lame and a waste of my time), for a total of 13ish hours to see all of the content.  Now allow me to spend the rest of this review telling you why this game is amazing, even though it totally fails my normal standard of value.

 

res7_hall

It’s like the Hoarders version of the Spencer Estate.

It’s pretty obvious from the final product, that the main purpose of RE7 was to test out a new game engine and style.  To that end, the money spent developing this game and the money you may spend on it are wise investments.  Even clocking in at less time than it takes to complete the first act of other games, RE7 showcases 8-12 hours of horror that is currently unmatched.  While many other games have shown glimpses of gameplay mechanics that would define the next decade of horror, Resident Evil is once again the game that makes the final mold.  Just like RE4 lead to wonderful games like Dead Space and Lost Planet, we will likely see another boom in horror games making use of this gameplay design.  Furthermore, if you are one of the few and the proud who managed to snag a Playstation VR at launch, RE7 is the first big-budget VR game people care about.  While VR headsets have previously existed to wow us with tech demos, mini-games and FPS games in 3D, RE7 is the first game that feels like a full game made specifically with VR in mind.  Many have complained about the Sony platform exclusivity of the VR mode, but I would be very surprised if we don’t see it added to all versions of the game after whatever deal they made ends.  Even playing on a normal TV set, RE7 is a damn scary game.  I play so many horror games that I am completely desensitized to the same old tricks.  RE7 manages to strike the perfect balance of old fashioned jump-scares and suspense, blended with some new tricks that take advantage of this game engine and technology specifically.

If you’re curious what I mean by ‘new tricks’, allow me to explain.  One of the biggest things RE7 does better than other games is gross you the hell out.  It does this with very well realized tesselation and other texture effects.  Things like rotten food or crawling maggots have a much more realistic and “squirmy” look to them than in many other games where objects all tend to look like plastic.  Clearly a lot of effort was put into getting these textures to come off realistically, both in game engine design and art direction.  The effect created a feeling of revulsion I am not used to experiencing when I am not smelling or touching the filth.  Heck, I have even worked under houses, crawling through rat carcasses and this game grossed me out more than that.  It’s not something you would think about as being scary in a video game, because it was much less possible before.  The constant feeling of disgust greatly added to my overall unease while playing.

Another of these little tricks that RE7 pulls off masterfully is environmental destruction and fire effects.  Although most of the destruction scenes are clearly scripted, the animation and physics are pulled off so well that it feels like things could come apart at any time.  With the walls and floor collapsing and fire consuming parts of the environment, the fear of unsteady terrain is constant and pervasive.  While similar effects have been used in many past games, RE7 pulls it off so realistically that I found myself bracing for impact when my character fell.

Effects like these really show that technology as well as design need to advance when a genre becomes stale.  Capcom clearly understands this and has invested significantly in creating a game engine built to scare the crap out of people.  On that front, I would say they succeeded with flying colors.

 

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This does not look like a place you could safely use a flame-thrower.

When it comes to gameplay, RE7 is also the new standard for horror games.  If you really want to scare everyone, running away is not the ticket.  I can say this because for me personally, running goes against every fiber of my being.  I am not someone who gets a thrill out of running in terror.  To scare me, you have to give me a little hope and take it away.  RE7 masters this by letting you fight, but making it mostly a waste of time outside of boss battles.  Much like the early Silent Hill games, this is a game that lets you fight, but doesn’t really reward you for doing so.  Most enemies can be avoided and there is no gameplay reward for fighting, besides the enemies killed stat on completion.  So nothing like RE4, where mastery of the combat system would allow you to farm bullets and herbs from weak enemies with melee attacks.  I always thought Silent Hill had this balance perfectly and now that series has fallen from grace, I am happy to see Resident Evil give it a shot.  Combined with some very well done running away sequences (that RE7’s big budget allows to raise the bar), the tense gameplay style with short bursts of action is definitely the formula I want more of in the future.

The one gripe I have in the gameplay department is that while PS4 is clearly the favored platform, controllers are poorly optimized vs. keyboard and mouse.  I played the Beginning Hour demo on both PC and PS4 Pro and found it dramatically easier to aim with a mouse.  When played with a controller, the acceleration and dead-zone just seem to be very poorly calibrated, making it easy to waste a lot of ammo.  I was able to tweak it somewhat in the settings, but part of it just comes down to design and testing.  I still had no trouble completing the game and got used to it eventually, but it was glaringly obvious after recent games like Doom and the Halo series have taken gamepad tweaking of FPS controls to a higher standard.  Tracking the bobbing heads of enemies with a crosshair that jumps around like Navi in Zelda 64 can be extremely frustrating at times and made me wish I had sacrificed VR support for decent controls at several points.  I am being a little nitpicky, as the controls are easily as good as similar first-person horror games, but unlike most of those, RE7 was developed with tens of millions of dollars.  I just feel like shooting could have been a lot smoother on what is clearly the flagship platform for the game.

 

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You can almost smell the rubbing alcohol.

I mentioned a little bit about the graphics when talking about the new engine above, but the visuals definitely deserve a section alone.  RE7 is really one of the first games that justifies the PS4 Pro vs. a gaming PC.  You see I have both, which may seem ridiculous to some of you who fall into the “loyalist” camp for either.  I personally only care about playing the best games in the best quality.  PC users have been able to claim that crown for the previous generation and half of this one, as most games appeared across all platforms, the PC being the most powerful.  With RE7, we are seeing consoles enter a debate that PC users have about games all the time; “Is it better to run at higher resolution or with higher settings?”  While the PC version of RE7 can handle more detailed shadows and textures, the PS4 pro natively renders the game in 4k, a feat which takes a pretty beefy gaming rig, even at similar settings.  This is the first true example of the PS4 Pro demonstrating that one optimized 4k console can deliver fidelity that is hard to match with a PC version running on thousands of configurations.  While the added level of detail in textures and shadows looks very nice on PC, the 4K resolution of the PS4 Pro version arguably makes the game look much better in motion.  Even when played on a 1080p monitor, supersampling in 4K is better in general than any other form of anti-aliasing and requires no shader overhead above rendering the basic image.  It would take a PC much, much pricier than a PS4 Pro to run the game at the same settings and I think many will start to understand the wisdom of a middle-ground choice with future games like RE7.  The fact that VR is initially exclusive to PSVR is a nice add too, though it will likely alienate players on PC and XB1 until it gets patched into their game and they forget about it.

Overall, regardless of the platform you play on, RE7 looks amazing.  The art design is so stellar that very little in the way of shader “window-dressing” is needed.  Realistic fog, fire and smoke effects just complete the creepy picture of a game in which most screenshots could be desktop backgrounds.  Every bit of this game is just so creepy looking that you want to soak it in, even while running for your life.  The different areas themed around members of the Baker family each have a unique style and vibe to them.  The final episode is reminiscent of RE:Revelations in that you explore a derelict ship.  This area is distinct from the earlier parts of the game and the cramped design adds to the terror.  The only gripe I can mention with the visuals is character facial expressions.  While Final Fantasy is pushing facial animation to the point that you can really feel the ‘meh’ rolling off Noctis at all times, RE7 seems to be stuck in the days of Half Life 2.  Rubber faced mannequins jabber at you, loosely synced to voice acting.  It isn’t horrible on the scale of all gaming (and nothing like the early RE games!), but compared to other recent AAA titles, RE7 has a bad case of plastic-face.

 

The sound and music are great, but not a huge stand-out.  The soundtrack is very minimal, which I think is necessary in this game.  What really does stand out is some excellent Foley work (that’s recording sounds from other things to use in media).  Somebody spent a lot of time at a construction site breaking, hitting and walking on every type of building material to make this game sound convincing.  I have played in both 7.1 surround and with headphones using virtual surround, both had a very realistic soundscape.  The voice acting is definitely on par with the less campy tone of the past 3 RE games.  I would even say it’s toned down another notch, as there is no Leon shouting one-liners at huge monsters or Chris grunting with bestial fury.  Characters are largely believable, besides a few campy moments like a boss saying “Groovy” when he grabs a chainsaw.  I had to give a chuckle at the few moments like this though, as they felt more like a nod to classic RE than the actual tone-deaf writing of classic RE.

 

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Wondered what this meant?  It’s what Capcom is giving you for caring about the plot.

The big glaring flaw with this game that I have to come back to is the branching path and endings.  I think I remember writing a whole article just devoted to how stupid “arbitrary choice” endings are.  While this is not nearly as bad as Mass Effect or Deus Ex: HR, that strung you along thinking all your other choice mattered OR Silent Hills Homecoming and Downpour that totally decide who your character is at the end, it’s a much lamer choice overall.  I don’t want to spoil it, though I feel like it would be totally irrelevant if I did.  Basically the game gives you one moral choice towards the end, but that choice is totally stupid and the results are even more stupid.  If you choose the obviously good path, you get what is clearly the normal ending of the game.  If you make the other choice, the game makes it clear you chose wrong 2 minutes later, then you get the same ending but the game will spend the last chapter telling you how wrong you were.  It is a completely pointless and unnecessary addition to the game that doesn’t even add much replay value.  I was able to reload my save and complete the “bad” ending in an additional 2 hours.  It added one pretty simple boss fight, that mostly existed to make me feel bad, but was otherwise the same.  While overall my feelings about RE7 are positive, this is a complete slap in the face compared to past Resident Evil games.  Like I mentioned in the opening, RE games either have multiple scenarios and endings (each with unique content), or they have one long scenario with a ‘complete’ ending.  Re7’s plot feels neither long nor complete.  I think I would have been happier with a minimal plot and a vague conclusion honestly, compared to the totally asinine ‘moral choice’ that RE7 tries to pull off.

Besides that the writing is pretty good.  The Bakers are a fun collection of maniacs, that rank right up there with those crazies from The Devil’s Rejects and The Hills Have Eyes.  While many of the scenes are reminiscent or horror films and games past, RE7 pulls off things like the ‘bug house’ and ‘trap rooms’ very well.  It’s clear that movies like Slither and Saw were on Capcom’s watch list, but it comes off more like loving tribute than shameless ripoff.  The Baker house deserves a place next to the House on Haunted Hill and the Bates Motel in the annals of brilliant fictional horror houses.

 

Overall Resident Evil 7 is one of those games that is like being an early adopter of a hardware device.  You are paying a premium for what you get, but you get it before everyone else.  Sure, next year some new game will come out with the same formula, plus multiplayer and extra side content.  That’s next year and this is now.  Right now you can play the game that is the future of horror and I feel that is worth the investment.  Sure, it can be completed in a weekend, but you will remember that weekend for years.  While it’s difficult to argue against the wisdom of waiting for the inevitable GOTY edition that will bring added content a year from now, I have been waiting years for a game like this and want it now.  How much you need to play this game will depend on how much you feel is lacking from recent horror games.  I have played everything from hits like Outlast to indie games like Alchemilla and DreadOut and I can tell you that this game does what those don’t.  It combines all the best things that horror does now and introduces things it should be doing.  Best of all it scared me repeatedly, which is an experience I have to seek farther and longer to find these days.

If you are into pretty much any popular fiction of any medium, you are probably familiar with the term “shippers”.  These are fans who want to see certain characters in their favorite franchise hooked up romantically and will often go to great lengths to push that desire on the community.  This has gone to almost ludicrous levels recently with fanbases like Harry Potter, Doctor Who and now the popular game Overwatch.  In a surreal reality, fans even threaten to boycott a series to realize a fantasy.  That sentence was so much fun to write.

Most people giving this topic any press coverage are focusing on “are these people pathetic?” vs “how much say should fans have in creative process?”.  That is largely ignoring the psychological implications of this phenomena.  When you remove all of the context and semantics, what people are doing is a negative and by my definition evil process of thought.  That may sound absurd, but consider this:  That character is the brainchild of a writer, who imagined them with a gender identity, sexual preference and their own ideas of what they are attracted to.  Although that character is not a person, with rights to autonomy and choice, they are a statement of an individual that was created by a person.  So if we assign that character temporary personhood (just for the sake of this thought exercise), what you are doing is forcing choice of partners on this person to fit your own desires to empathize with them.

Now, now hold on!  This is just harmless fantasy and these are fictional characters, not people!  So it should be safe, right?  I guess so, if you think that any sort of fiction is okay, even if it clashes with our societal ideas of morality.  Now I don’t want to create a straw man argument here and debate whether there should be rape simulator games or games that let you kill children.  The point is that if you believe it is different because it is fantasy, just be aware that you are fantasizing about forcing gender and sexual identity on people, as well as arranging partners for them.  It is absolutely true that these are fictional characters and nobody is harmed.  The emotional need that you are seeking to satisfy though, is the same as that felt by a parent who doesn’t approve of their child’s sexuality or choice in partners.

We want the people we care about to make choices that we approve of.  A lot of us care about Tracer and Mercy almost as much as we would a pet or a family member.  That may seem strange, but can any one of us not name a fictional character that we identified with more than anyone we knew?  It’s because good writers have a lot of empathy and are very good at writing characters anyone would want to care about.  At the end of the day though, those characters and their personalities belong to them.  We all buy in little parts when we shower those creators with our money, but the important things like love and sexuality should rightfully be theirs, because that character is a part of them.

Hopefully I have managed to poke a hole in your mental fabric that will take some thinking to fill.  My objective is not to make people feel guilty, as there is once again no harm done here.  They aren’t real people.  I would prefer that we, as a society, learn to open our minds and allow ourselves to empathize with characters less like ourselves.  Be okay with a character not doing what you would have them do.  A series of books that did that for me was the Godspeaker trilogy by Karen Miller.  The first novel is told from the perspective of the character who becomes the villain.  You don’t know this as the reader (unless you read it after the whole series is out I guess), so it makes the first book painful to read.  You see the horrible things that happen to her and she becomes more and more twisted and bitter.  By the end I was like “I hate this character, I hate this book!  Why did you recommend this to me?”  The person who did so just smiled wryly and handed me the second book, insisting that I try it out.  A few pages in, I realized that in a masterstroke of writing I will never equal, Miller had created a villain more real and hateful to me than any other ever could be.  I truly grew to hate her, just as the characters in the story, because I watched her change into someone I could no longer love.  That betrayal to my desires as a reader was so real to me, that it created empathy for those I hated, changing me forever as much as Stranger in a Strange Land or God Emperor of Dune.

Because fiction isn’t just imagination, it changes who we are and who we can empathize with.  For me it has been for the better.  My hope is that as fiction expands into new mediums, it can lead to the same growth of the soul that books have given me, not a new way to fantasize evil.

Another sad update for fans of Armor by John Steakley

Posted: January 19, 2017 by ryanlecocq in Off-topic

My regular readers are probably not aware, but besides the normal content about gaming and technology, I also carry the torch for fans of an obscure sci-fi novel.  I wrote an article about Armor years ago and the response was overwhelming.  Steakley’s philosophical space character drama apparently has a huge following of cult fans (at least partially due to being on the recommended reading list of many of the nation’s military academies).  Steakley unfortunately passed away a few years ago, apparently having the rights to his novels and potential film adaptations buried with him.  Over the past 5 years I have made repeated efforts to contact anyone related to Steakley’s estate or publishing contracts.  The response has ranged from none to canned emails.  I recently made an attempt to contact DAW publishing, which was the subsidiary of Penguin that last published Armor in paperback.  Previously I had attempted to contact Penguin, the Sy Fy network and the law office where Steakley’s will was filed.  I got my most useful (though still useless) response yet.  An only half-canned response that at least uses proper nouns, while still informing me that Steakley had passed away, which I made very clear I was aware of in my initial message to them.  This is the response I received:

Dear Ryan LeCocq:

 

John Steakley unfortunately passed away in 2010. He had not completed a manuscript for a sequel, to DAW’s understanding, so we do not expect to be able to publish a sequel.

 

Film rights are with the author’s estate, and DAW unfortunately does not have any information on those negotiations. Obviously, we would be delighted by a movie adaptation as well.

 

Thank you very much for writing in, and thank you to you and to all the fans of Armor for reading.

 

All best,

 

The DAW Team

 

So there you have it, the most recent in a series of dead ends.  I am willing to keep trying, but I have run out of people to bother.  If we’re going to make any progress, it’s going to take some input from you the fans.  Someone out there must know something about the man who wrote this book.  I know he was a mysterious loner, but nobody goes through life without a trace.  Just find me a relative or a past lawyer or something and I will at least convince or bribe them to make some sort of statement to the fans.  If it is in any way possible to make more of the drafts for Armor 2 available or renew negotiations for a movie, I will gladly start the ball rolling.

I was a little late on this one, as I had switched back to Dark Souls 3 after a month of solid FFXV.  Long story short, it is possible to see large parts of the open world that were not intended to be accessed, by using glitches.  Since I am not the first, second or third to report this, I’ll link to the videos and the best article I found at the bottom of this post.  What I want to explore today is the potential of what this game might have been and what it still might be with future content.

 

“The largest open-world RPG…”

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This is a world map that was shown early in development.  Although it changed slightly, I have added labels to the areas in the final game.

At one point in FFvsXIII/XV’s development, there were some claims thrown out that the game would feature one of, if not the largest open-world when it released.  The final game, while featuring a respectable open segment (somewhere between the acreage of Watch Dogs and GTAV depending on how you tally it), it fell well short of the scale we’ve seen in games like The Witcher 3.  Even with that said, while the total area end-to-end is large-ish, it pales in comparison to the density and used area of similarly sized games.  One thing about this game’s development that is interesting though, is that the world map was designed and leaked very early on.  There are images from much earlier in development showing a table-top model the developers created.  It even shows that Angelgard Island was modeled after a piece of driftwood glued to the table in the ocean.  This map was much larger than what we saw in the final game and the game areas can actually be identified on it still.

Player’s exploitation of OoB glitches shows us that much of this area is still in the final game in rough form.  So far players have accessed the Northern areas of Niflheim (around the train segment), other parts of Altissia (but not the other nearby islands) and Angelgard Island.  There are a few other blocked off parts of Lucis that are reachable as well.  Players have even managed to swim to Altissia from the mainland, making Chocobo use there possible.  While all of this is great fun in the old fashioned ‘break the game’ spirit of the fan community, it points to what the devs may have been hinting at.

If the game initially contained all or most of the areas of the original map, it would be quite massive.  It is likely that this was an ambition, but only the four nations mentioned in the plot were actually ever developed, even in rough form.  Lucis, Tenebrae, Niflheim and Accordo are all right next to each other on the larger map.  Combined they still only represent 2/3 of the total map.  So if the flying Regalia had once been able to circumnavigate the globe, there would have been even more locations.  Even if there was only ever the areas seen in these glitches, I think with minimal effort Square could add a few roads and side-quests and fans would be very pleased with the overall size of the game.

 

How likely are we to see it done?

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Cor Leonis is kind of like Aslan in Narnia, he’s just so badass that he can’t be around for more than 3 minutes or there wouldn’t be a plot.

Although games have shipped before with large chunks of unused data on the disc, the content in this game points in many ways to future expansion.  The most detailed of the areas you explore coincide with parts in the plot where characters leave the party.  This has already been hinted at as the setting of the future DLC releases for each party member.  Gladiolus’ would chronicle the time he spent apart from the party on Lucis, likely exploring unused regions there.  Prompto’s will likely cover some of his very questionable backtory in his solo journey through his homeland of Niflheim.  We can just venture a guess that Ignis may go in search of a legendary “NEW RECIPE!” in Altissia.  There was also a fairly credible reddit rumor about Noctis and Cor having a driving sequence in Niflheim as well, which would explain the weird little cross-section of roads near the early part of the train sequence.  Even if these are the only areas added in future DLC, it would make for a respectably large game overall.

We will give in to rumor and speculation (SPOILERS ALSO)

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The DLC everyone still wants.

So if I’m going to cover a bunch of other people’s theories, I have to give at least a little page space to some of my own.  Other people may have similar ideas, but I haven’t read them yet, so if you haven’t either, you read it here first.

As soon as there was mention of Lunafreya as a potential party member in future expansions, a strange theory started to form in my mind.  The obvious thing of course, is that add-in members like Cor, Aranea, Iris, Ardyn and now Lunafreya would be selectable in some new mode, potentially PVP.  That would be easy and I’m sure it would make a lot of people happy.  But what if that wasn’t it at all?  It seems obvious that Noctis does not get a DLC episode because the entire game is about him.  We’ve already seen his story and the other characters deserve a moment in the spotlight.  There is one thing missing though.  Noctis and Lunafreya never reunited in life.  Of course they existed happily eternally after as deities, but that isn’t quite the same.

What if they did though and we just never saw it?  I’m pretty in love with this idea, so bear with me here.  How cool would it be if after all the other DLC was released, there was a final free episode for Noctis and Lunafreya where they secretly met in Altissia to go on a clandestine date the night before the binding ceremony?  It sounds like pointless sentimental nonsense, I know, but hold on.  With the landmarks like the wedding gown, shopping area, restaurants and the arena, there are two things that stand out to me.  First, the area seems perfectly set up for a “date” sequence like you have with Iris in Lestallum.  There is sort of a bro date to this effect when you first arrive, but I felt like it was designed for more.  Here’s where we get nerdy.  If you squint your brain just right and imagine it on a drawing board, the Altissia area bears a strong resemblance in raw design to Gold Saucer from FFVII.  The fact that Squeenix is using it for the upcoming ChocoMog carnival event makes the resemblance even clearer.  From a design standpoint the area seems set up for a sort of ‘tour-date’ like many of us remember so fondly from the adventures of Cloud and company.  It would be such a bittersweet Easter egg if the couple shared a quiet night together away from everyone, even us the players.

The other mad theory I have is that the other characters could be introduced in a DLC that is similar to the Platinum demo.  Noctis could be travelling through time from within the crystal and join each character for a formative part of their backstory for more insight on these characters.  It wouldn’t add any real content or real estate to the main game, but it would be very satisfying for those of us who wanted to know more about characters like Aranea and Cor.

Once again, this is just my wild speculation, but if I was writing it, that’s what I would do.

Resources/further reading (sorry, free account, can’t post videos directly):

RPGsite’s excellent summary of the biggest glitch areas

Video showing how to swim to Altissia

Hour-long video showing exploration of Niflheim outside train

Angelgard Island

 

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Like many of the proud few who managed to snag an NES Classic this holiday season, I have entered the wonderful world of adding my own games in the past few days.  One of the absolutely wonderful things about this is that most fan modified roms work perfectly.  I was able to put fan translated versions of Mother (original Earthbound) and Final Fantasy III on my Classic and they worked flawlessly.  What was even more intriguing was when I discovered tecmobowl.org.  TecmoBowl.org is a community of die hard fans who updated Tecmo Super Bowl each year with updated rosters, playbooks and schedules and hold tournaments with it.  The roms are made available on the site and further customized versions of many varieties fill the forums.  New features are even added, like the ability to view detailed info on player injuries.  Needless to say I had to get it and take my 2017 Seattle Seahawks through the season in hopefully a more dignified manner than the actual team.

The amazing thing about it is how closely the games often mirror the real thing.  I played a full season, automating all of the games besides the Seahawks.  Many games played out exactly or almost exactly as they did, because the players played accurately for their stats.  The funny thing was that the Seahawks (partially due to me playing them) played a lot better.  Not only did I not lose Tyler Lockett for the playoffs (because I used him for kick returns and short passes, rather than sticking him way out there to get crushed), but I did not inexplicably lose to the Rams in week 2.  The Falcons managed to reverse it and beat me by 2 points in week 6, but I destroyed them in the divisional with a healthy Wilson, Lockett and Thomas, 31-12.  I was defeated in a very painful and familiar way by the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, making the Tecmo universe basically a hellish Groundhog’s Day for the Seahawks.  If the Hawks make the bowl, I hope this isn’t the result we see, but if it were stat for stat, I think Tecmo Bowl got it right.

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Adding both Tetris games was a must.  Also added a few not-so-great games that I had as a kid.

I must say my feelings are a bit at odds right now.  While our governments fight over hacking one another and Russia’s suspected involvement with US Presidential election, we citizen hackers and modders have a generally wonderful relationship.  A perfect example would be the Russian modder Madmonkey being the first to crack the loading method Nintendo used for the NES classic.  Madmonkey released the mod and source code and very quickly the internet came together and many people made the mod into something so elegant and simple that anyone can do it.  Honestly it’s so straightforward and has absolutely no sacrifices, making one wonder why Nintendo doesn’t already have mall kiosks charging you Virtual Console prices to add games to your NES classic.  Most of us would have gladly paid.  Hell, I would have gladly paid for another controller too, if they would just sell me one.  But scratching our heads analyzing Nintendo’s lack of foresight could take another series of articles, several of which I’ve already written.

The thing I want to bring up in this article is the irony of the hacking/modding community coming together across borders to mod the hottest holiday tech toy, at the same time our governments seem hell bent on starting World War III.  One can only imagine what problems our governments could solve if they worked together with the maturity and co-operation of this group that so many of them like to vilify.  Also let’s remember that when CNN says Russian hackers, they are not talking about people like Madmonkey.  If it is proven that Russians tampered with the US election, these were government employed espionage agents.  All of us real people out here that just want to play some Tetris on our NES Classic have a lot more in common than we differ across borders.

This may seem a little overly obvious to a lot of people reading that title, but strangely the people saying it really do not understand.

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No… explain simply, as you would to a child.

So here we go.  This is actually not just limited to games.  What it really comes down to is many people being raised with a twisted view of what winning actually means.  You see, in measurable reality, when you win, you gain something.  Something like money, or services, or social advantage.  So if you are a professional gamer, you are actually making your living, so winning matters.  If you are the other 99% of us, you are just killing time.  Now I want you to read this next part very carefully:  If you are not getting paid or rewarded for your gaming ALL you are doing is entertaining yourself.  So truly boredom and time are your only enemies.  If you manage to pass an hour without the crushing dread of reality peeking in, you have won, the end.

So if you are casually gaming and getting all upset with your teammates when you lose, you are delusional.  Sorry, nobody likes hearing it, but it’s true.  You have nothing to gain and only friends to lose.  It’s not even like we’re talking about your personal image or glory.  Literally nobody wants to hear if you won your CoD game last night.  It will not get you a promotion.  It will not win friends or influence people.  The reason it feels so important to you is that an idiotic part of our culture has convinced you that beating the other person is somehow more important than personal gain.  It appears our President Elect has this same issue.  We are a culture of people who will shoot our own public image in the foot, in order to establish some strange tribal pecking order that is totally irrelevant.

The really disturbing part of this is how many people have substituted this false concept of winning for any actual success.  All one needs to do is browse YouTube channels to find thousands of complete losers in life, who think they are king of the universe because they can snipe in Call of Duty.  Furthermore, many of these same people will have strong words for anyone who doesn’t play into their strategy of winning.  If this is you or someone you know, take a long look.  Are you actually a badass?  Like if this was a real war, would people want to follow you and be inspired by your presence?  I can give you a hint, real wars are not about getting the most headshots.

While we’re on the subject of real wars, allow me to share an anecdote about someone who people did want to follow and did inspire followers with confidence; Alexander the Great.  Now Alexander may have been a jerk too in some ways, but when it came to winning, he got it 100%.  When Alexander fought a battle, he didn’t try to show his enemies he was better at throwing spears than they were.  He would trick them and outmaneuver them to win the battle as quickly as possible with the least loss of life.  Afterwards, he would try to turn those opponents into loyal tax-payers as quickly as possible.  You see, Alexander got something that angry gamers clearly do not: when the war is over, those people are still human assets.  The same is true of gaming and game streaming.  The most popular gamers are not the best gamers.  They are the friendliest gamers and the first to add opponents to their network and friends list.  The mandate of the people makes you powerful, not your own opinion of yourself.

Now if you are actually one of those people and for some reason still reading this, you are most likely at the “well you probably just suck and wanna whine” stage.  You are welcome to invade me in Dark Souls III and find out, but I don’t feel that is the case.  In fact, I am more driven to write this article due to my exhaustion with being the moderator or champion.  Honestly I am not the best gamer around, but I do take a lot of pride in my sportsmanship.  I like to hug my opponents after a SoulCali tournament, win or lose.  When someone obviously doesn’t get a game mechanic, I explain it to them.  Hell, I will even remote play your PS4 game and show you how to do something, then die so you still get to do it.

In fact this is a good opportunity to bring up another part of this: personal attacks.  Many angry gamers will go beyond berating a person’s gaming ability to attacking them personally.  That is just plain horrible.  It’s actually this that caused this article to form in my mind.  You see, as I’ve had more success in life I find that these attacks hurt me less and less.  You can call me a fag if you like, but I know a lot of fags I really like, so I don’t really consider that an insult.  You can call me a loser, but I’m not likely to feel like one sitting next to my beautiful wife and dog, knowing many people love me.  Watching people try really hammered a realization into my mind.  If those players can’t win the game, they are going to make someone lose, somehow, because that is what they need emotionally.  In order for them to feel like a winner, someone has to lose.  Let’s allow that to sink in a bit and then immediately start changing this.