Metal Gear Solid – Mission Complete

As some may have noticed, I’ve been playing through my Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection and enjoying it quite a lot. I’m a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid games and am overly familiar with all their foibles and features. Playing them back-to-back certainly helps make MGS2 make a little more sense. The parallels with MGS1 are clearer.

My favourite is MGS3. It’s technically stunning and succeeds in feeling more advanced than its prequels even though its story is set a generation or so before either of them. This is reflected in the available technology in the game. No soliton radar for Snake this time! There are, as always, some self-deprecating nods to bits of plot and terms.

I’d planned on playing through Bully and then having something fill the time between that and the next major sandbox game on my playlist. Likewise, I’ve had my fill of Metal Gear for a bit but will probably be as keen as ever to get my teeth into Metal Gear Solid 4 when it ships in mid-June.

I think the Metal Gear Solid games come under a bit of flak because of their high profile and also because of the apparent linear or shallow nature of their gameplay. Another point of criticism is their indulgent and lengthy cut-scenes that deliver character development and plot exposition (and convolution).

Whilst it’s unlikely critics will be converted by this information, I’d like to present you with links to a couple of Metal Gear oriented articles.

The first, Driving Off the Map – A Formal Analysis of Metal Gear Solid 2, deals with the story and characters of Metal Gear Solid 2. A lot of players felt rather cheated by the game due to the change of lead characters. The article is lengthy and quite a challenging read but offers some interesting (though not necessarily authoritative) views on the various subtexts in the game’s narrative and interpretations of what messages it is delivering the player. When I first read the article it opened my eyes to a broader view of the events in the game and turned my disappointment to appreciation.

The second article is actually a collection of pages covering the gameplay features and quirks of the entire Metal Gear series. It’s an unfussy collection of tips, tricks and details that feature in all the games and shows just how much care and thoughtfulness was put into the gameplay of each game. There are details of literally hundreds of events and circumstances in the games that you can try out. It’s astonishing to see so much hidden content in games that feel so complete and rich in their ‘vanilla’ gameplay.

Fan or not, a look at some of the information available on those sites will give a broader appreciation of a game legacy that rightfully has fans across the globe and has resulted in one of the most watchable and compelling characters to ever grace our videogame screens. It certainly makes you wonder what will be hidden in the depths of Metal Gear Solid 4, doesn’t it?

This is not a crusade

Truly it’s not. But the needle on my irony meter went into the red this morning when I collected my newsfeeds from the lovely google reader and noticed a certain popular gaming news site/blog bleating about how the geek section of TIME no longer wants to be friends with them.

I’m not going to pretend that my earlier comments have radically changed anyone’s views about anything or have raised levels of awareness that TIME are now furthering. I guess I just appreciate the timing of the sentiment.

Most people will learn of the post from TIME via Kotaku. Or, more specifically a Kotaku post with an “Evil Empire” sensationalist heading and a childish view of a reasoned statement. No prizes for guessing the tone of comments that such a post generates.

The best bit, in my opinion, is the first comment on the TIME article’s page. It’s written by a Kotaku employee and, rather than addressing any of the points raised in the original article, resorts to playing tit-for-tat. The comments that follow are what you’d expect. This predictable nature of them is particularly evident in those who disagree with the TIME article. One even goes as far to suggest that the article was only written in order to garner some sort of sensationalist internet publicity.

Damn. My irony meter just broke!

You reap what you sow

It seems there was a little bit of a gamer outburst last week when some criticism was levelled at popular games such as Gears of War and the forthcoming Resident Evil 5 for leaning too heavily on stereotyping black men or veering too closely to racist themes. Newsweek columnist (and one of the few genuine journalists this industry has) N’gai Croal presented his thoughts and views on RE5 in this interview.

The gaming magpies at Kotaku spotted something shiny and spluttered out a post on it with their usual sensationalist headline that was sure to attract their typical vocal audience.

Before going further I should say that I hold N’gai Croal in significantly higher regard than anyone at Kotaku and I hold Kotaku staff in marginally higher regard than their stereotypical lowest-gamer-denominator audience. I’m motivated to keep tabs on Kotaku’s output in the same way many are motivated to watch Big Brother. It’s not because I care for their way of doing things or for an appreciation of their output, it’s because it’s pure car-crash viewing inhabited and fuelled by white gamer trash. Kotaku, at best, can be compared to a popular Sunday tabloid. It is not in their interest to report news, it is in their interest to publish stories that encourage their audience to keep visiting the site and generating them advertising revenue.

So it was with a strong sense of poetic irony that I read a post called "A Call To Ban" from Kotaku editor Brian Crecente. I find that Crecente’s output tends to be more measured and far less deliberately (mis)leading than that of his staff.

The inevitable train-wreck of hostile user comments that were posted as a response to Croal’s observations on Resident Evil 5 had clearly got so bad (even by Kotaku’s standards) that Crecente felt moved to reconsider site policy about how much interaction the readers might have.

Kotaku really only has itself to blame.

It runs multiple posts every single day with leading headlines and personal bias fuelling the tone of the writing. This is inevitably picked up by their impressionable readership. Kotaku practically celebrates "ban Monday" where a cull of reader accounts is executed based on feedback given by Kotaku’s own readership. Celebrating destruction is such a familiar trait to gamers that they don’t seem to question the absurdity of banning your own readership. Nor the broken logic in it that, by doing so, you are merely taking a weak jab at the symptoms whilst still feeding the illness behind them.

Of course, Kotaku themselves are blatant hypocrites and have absolutely no qualms about applying double standards when it suits them. The moment their journalistic integrity is called in to question we’re reminded that they’re just simple bloggers, telling it like they see it. Except they get themselves into all the trade shows they like and also secure (and show off) goodies and promotional items they’ve received. Kotaku gleefully report any news leaks they get a sniff of and then roll out the predictable and tired tabloid excuse of "the people have a right to know". Yet when they ran a trivia competition and a reader posted all the answers on a forum ahead of the competition deadline Kotaku decided that leaking information ahead of it’s scheduled date was a bad thing to do and, again, pulled the morality plea about how one person is spoiling the fun for everyone else. In both instances, the readers bleated in favour of Kotaku’s stance-of-the-moment in a superb display of being manipulated.

Kotaku’s sense of morality is skewed at best. Shortly after a tragic school shooting incident in the US a tasteless videogame was produced. Kotaku, of course, reported it and took it upon themselves to stand up for morals and ethics and warn every reader about the exploitative nature of the game or the distasteful way the homepage of the game invited visitors to donate money to the author. In doing so, Kotaku made another sensationalist post which resulted in publicising the game they claimed they were attempting to snub and exposed their readers to at least half a dozen adverts that populate every page of Kotaku. It seems that if anyone was finding themselves profiting from the existence of such a terrible and morally corrupt game it was Kotaku.

Kotaku’s vocal readership is a direct reflection of the attitude the site takes. Having seen guesswork and lies presented as fact on a couple of instances where I’ve been far more familiar with the subject matter than any of the Kotaku pundits and then watched their readership swallow down the spiel and proceed to rant based on the misleading reports I have absolutely no respect for their brand of popular ‘journalism’. I also apply that simple rule that if I know for certain they’ll lie and fabricate stories on topics where I know all the facts then how do I know when they’re ever telling the honest truth? If they’ll do it once because it sells a good story and gets page hits then I’m sure they’ll do it again and again.

On websites that report game news in a straight-forward and level headed manner without deliberately attempting to lead the reader to a specific opinion or those that don’t pander to the trashier side of the culture – those websites don’t seem to have to find themselves regularly advertising "ban Mondays" or publicly ruminate on the mentality of those that comment on the stories they publish.

Perhaps if Kotaku exercised greater maturity and stronger discipline in how ran its stories or baited its readers it wouldn’t find itself asking how its kids grew up to be such poorly undisciplined tearaways.

I fully expect Kotaku knows all this but, just like any sleazy tabloid, will spin this as a crisis of someone else’s morals and shirk any responsibility for their own output or the behaviour of their readership onto another body.

Who knows? Maybe this post will get spotted and picked apart by them and I’ll be demonised by the site and its readers. Sorry guys, I’m afraid I don’t have a book on Amazon that gamer-trolls can write fake reviews on.

So, Kotaku, if you want a change in the behaviour of your readership you should start with looking at how you conduct yourselves. After all, you reap what you sow.

If you’ve read this far it should be perfectly obvious why I’ve not included any links to Kotaku articles in this post.

First GTA 4 review fuels fanboys

OK, so after the first review got posted and the site now says “This site has been removed at the advice of legal council.” (with a simple hit-counter at the end) it’s worth noting that a copy of the legally removed article can be found here.

It’s worth noting that this removal request is pretty much the only thing that legitimises the review at this point. Furthermore, a faker would probably know that and fake the legal message too.

The review talks about the game, reveals some spoilers and deliberately compares the 360 to the PS3 version. The 360 specific parts are in red, the PS3 in blue.

Obviously, for a true fanboy this will never be an issue. But its interesting to hear some detail.

I’m looking forward to the game a great deal and the only decision I have left to make is what format to try it out on first. The review linked in this article should help me decide.

For what it’s worth, I’m not particularly interested in rushing to make comparisons of the game for anyone’s reading benefit. Few people own both consoles, fewer still are silly enough to play the same game on each one – and for those that do it’s not necessary to report differences because if there are any then they’ll make themselves apparent soon enough. And those with a single console haven’t a choice to make and only care about differences for bragging rights and to make themselves feel better about their hardware purchase in the first place.

So, read it or don’t – it’s up to you. Only a few weeks until we all get to try it for ourselves!

Fanboy? Me?

Erm.. maybe?

GTA fanboy? Check!

GTA fanboy? Check!

MGS fanboy? Check!

Check and double check!

Click the lower two for fullsize. If you’re wondering, the original Metal Gear Solid is the old PlayStation 1 version and plays via backwards compatibility on a PS2.

Sleuth

Not to be confused with the execrable “Clue!”, Sleuth is a play revolving around two characters. One, a successful author of detective novels, the other a young man having an affair with the author’s wife. The premise of the play sees the author inviting the young man to his country home to learn his background and to make a criminal proposition. The author explains that his wife is used to expensive luxury and the young man is in no position to provide it. The author suggests that if the young man acts as a burglar and steals jewels kept in a safe in the country home it will benefit them both. The author can claim on the insurance and the young man can sell the jewellery. The author will enthusiastically call upon his experience of researching his detective novels to ensure the authorities are misled should any questions be asked.

The stage is set and what follows is an engrossing battle of wits between the two men as layers of their characters (and character flaws) are unravelled and motives behind motives are revealed.

I recently rediscovered Sleuth in its first movie adaptation which features a young Michael Caine and not-so-young Laurence Olivier in the roles of the two characters.

Sleuth - 1972 Screen adaptation

Sleuth - 1972 Screen adaptation

Last night I enjoyed watching this play in its original form in the theatre.

I find Sleuth fantastically enjoyable. Being a play there is a focus on characters, dialogue and interaction between the principal roles. This is reflected in the original screen adaptation with minimal deviation. Don’t expect any car-chases.

The dialogue positively crackles with gleeful wit and self confidence – qualities that the character of the author believes he has no peer. As such the interplay between this older, successful man and the young upstart courting his wife is very much a game on one-upmanship. Nearly every line or response shows an effort to better the delivery of the other man. As the stakes increase and the balance of power shifts to and fro references to earlier exchanges are made in a different light and reveal greater depth.

If you have any chance to watch Sleuth I encourage you to do so and can promise you as entertainingly sophisticated couple of hours as you’re ever likely to get.

In all likelihood, it’ll be easier for people to see the 1972 movie than the theatrical version. I’m no theatre purist so see no harm in this. Watching this version will still reward you with a hugely enjoyable experience and a couple of Oscar nominated performances from two highly celebrated actors. Beware: I understand the 2007 version of Sleuth (featuring an older Caine in the role of the author) does not compare at all well to the other versions.

So, before the deluge of summer blockbusters hits, hunt this down in one form or another and see it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Upgrading

WordPress, the fantastic free software that powers this site has had a major release. I’ll be installing this a little later and there’s a chance that it’ll upset some of the extensions I’m running.

If you’re reading this and the site looks wonky or is running a basic-looking theme it’ll be for compatibility reasons.

No doubt, the strong support that WordPress has from its users and developers will see any incompatible extensions updated to work with the new release fairly shortly.

Thank you for your patience.

This is not an April Fools.