Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Let's Remember The Time Chris Redfield Punched That Boulder

Chris Redfield has had quite the character arc over the past 20 years, and I just blew my own mind with the realization that Resident Evil is now over 20 years old. In the beginning, Chris was the character I knew little about, because I was very bad at the original Resident Evil and he had fewer inventory slots than Jill Valentine. The extra inventory space didn't help me, but Chris seemed like the character you chose only if you were an elite RE player.

Chris is perhaps the most prominent character in the entire franchise, being playable in Resident Evil, Code Veronica, RE5, RE6, Revelations, and RE7 Biohazard's "Not a Hero" DLC (this is not including his appearances in spin offs like Umbrella/Darkside Chronicles and the Mercenaries modes in various games). In the beginning, Chris didn't stand out any more than any other grizzled cop. He smoked. He had a flat top haircut, the whole nine yards. He was a cop in every way you could imagine.

Over time, as we all do, Chris Redfield changed. Such is life. I'm certainly not the same person I was 20 years ago. I don't listen to Korn anymore. I'm not as socially awkward. I have slightly more gray hair. A lot can happen in that span of time. At some point, though, Chris Redfield drifted over to the dark side...

I spent ten years in the professional wrestling business, and I know a user when I see one. People you see regularly suddenly bulk up at an inhuman rate, and you know something is up. They're angry. They're more aggressive. They start criticizing your skinny calves. You know what's going on. That person is on the juice. They're on the gas. They're taking the Arnolds. Gym candy. Pumpers. The 'roids. PERFORMANCE. ENHANCING. DRUGS!

How do I know this? Let's look at the evidence. Chris spends so much of his time traveling the world with the BSSA protecting it from men like Albert Wesker, how exactly is he going to find time to hit the gym? Arms don't get that big from doing a few push-ups. Also consider that in order to pack on muscle mass, one needs to eat an incredible amount of calories, as well as keeping a close eye on their fat, carbohydrate, and protein consumption. Not once in any of the Resident Evil games have I ever seen Chris Redfield eat food. Lastly, let's compare his before and after photos.

A subtle change.

However, I can not condemn Christopher Redfield for his doping. I get it. I, myself, was once tempted to use steroids. I understand the feeling of wanting a more impressive physique and being able to bench press more weight. For me, however, it ultimately wasn't worth the moral guilt.

Perhaps Chris had those same feelings, but I have no doubt that those feelings quickly went away when he met his greatest adversary. A boulder. But not just any boulder. That boulder. You know the one. The one that was somehow conveniently placed on the edge of a precipice, ready for a good punching. The one that got to that spot without any prior human intervention. The one that would serve as a bridge between Chris and Sheva. That's the one. You remember that boulder.


Chris's performance enhanced strength proved to be ineffective at budging this boulder that only Jesus could have moved (though if I may critique his form, Chris should have been using more of his leg and core strength). But what that boulder didn't know was that there was an onslaught of pain coming its way...

...an onslaught, named Chris Redfield.

Chris noticed that this boulder was going to play dirty, and that's when he got mad. A few body shots thrown in to weaken his opponent, and then BAM! A right hook and that boulder went down faster than Glenn Danzig in Tuba City, Arizona.

Had it not been for Chris's sudden explosion of roid rage, there may never have been a Resident Evil 6, which, honestly, wouldn't have been a very bad thing, but there also wouldn't have been a Resident Evil 7, which definitely would have been a bad thing.

As someone who has been a fan of the series since the very beginning, I can say that I really like Resident Evil 5. I think it gets unnecessarily written off as a bad game because it followed one of the best games ever made and people didn't like the increased ratio of action to horror. I will say, though, that that's only when played in co-op. As a single player game, it's terrible, but with a co-op buddy, it becomes one of the better cooperative experiences of the PS3/Xbox 360 generation.

With Resident Evil 4, the decision was made to change the series from "survival horror" to "survival action." It worked well with RE4, as it's one of the highest rated games every made and received several game of the year awards, but for whatever reason, people didn't lavish the same type of praise on RE5 despite the fact that they're essentially the same game. With the increased emphasis on action, we started to see more firepower, more QTE action sequences, and more explosions to the point that Resident Evil 6 may as well have been directed by Michael Bay.

Pictured: 70% of gameplay in RE6.

But even in a game where we had already been through several escape sequences, battled giant monsters, and survived a plane crash, this one moment of sheer stupidity was the moment where the series officially lost any and all sense of reality. In a section of RE5 where you've just crash landed inside of an active volcano while the Matrix-enhanced version of Albert Wesker punches through a metal canister containing the Uroboros virus and becomes a hulking-armed mutation, the most ridiculous and unbelievable thing Capcom asked me to believe was that Chris Redfield can punch a boulder so hard that it rolls out of the way.

We often hear of television shows "jumping the shark," and this is the moment that it happened for Resident Evil. In my opinion, this is the most notorious example of a video game series jumping the shark in history, and I'm a Metal Gear fan.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Games Of The Year Spectacular

2017 very well may have been the best year in video game releases we've ever seen. In the several years I've been doing these blogs, I never had this many games that were in contention for my top 10 list as I did this year. There were so many great games that I sunk dozens of hours into that I simply didn't have the time to play very popular games like Shadow of War and Assassin's Creek Origins.

But, as always, before I get into my personal top 10 games of 2017, here are some categories for me to give fake winners to.

Biggest Surprise

Had it not been for some positive word of mouth from a coworker and the fact that I received a digital copy as a freebie from work, it's likely that I wouldn't have given Prey a chance. I've never played the original Xbox 360 game with its definitely not racist-pun named protagonist, and had no interest in the cancelled sequel or this reboot/remake/re-imagining/re-whatever this is, but it was described to me as Bioshock with aliens, which sounded pretty solid to me.

I certainly have my nitpicks with Prey, like the loading times and one instance late in the game where I'm pretty sure there was no proper exit out of a room and had I not had enough ammo for the GLOO gun that I would have been stuck there forever. But Prey did a lot more right than it did wrong. Even after powering up I felt still felt vulnerable late in the game and had to use careful strategy when encountering certain enemies.

You can beat the game several different ways at many different points in the story, and I love that about it. There was a nice twist at the end that I didn't see coming, but I'd be lying if I said that the game maybe went on a few hours longer than it should have. Many of the side quests are good and worth your time, but when it came to the main story, it got to be a bit of a slog. I thought I was on the last mission and used up all of my resources and was more careless with my ammo, only to find myself struggling when it turned out I still had several chapters left to play. Definitely a game worth playing, and it certainly surpassed the limited expectations I had prior to playing.

Runner up: Little Nightmares

Biggest Disappointment
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Not every genre is meant for every type of gamer. For me, I've never been good at nor have I ever really enjoyed strategy games. Strangely enough, I still find myself playing strategy games for the first few levels trying to convince myself that this is going to be the game that changes it for me, but it never happens.

I did that again with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Surely, having the Mario pantheon of characters and the Mushroom Kingdom as the setting would change my mind and bring me around on the strategy RPG genre, but alas, here I am writing this entry. Like every strategy game, I made it past the first world and decided that I had had my fill. Not even my Nintendo fanboy blinders were enough to convince me that this was a game that I was enjoying enough to continue playing.

Let's talk about this again next year after I inevitably attempt to play whatever new Fire Emblem game there is.

Runner up: Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy

Most Unnecessary Re-release or Remaster
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers

This was a tight race between LA Noire, Rayman Legends, and USFIITFC, but it was Street Fighter that came out on top. I had no interest in L.A. Noire on the previous generation consoles, and hey, guess what, I still have no interest in it. Rayman Legends is an amazing game, but not one I feel that I ever need to play again. If anything, Rayman Legends on the Switch is inoffensive.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, on the other hand...just, why? It's obvious that Capcom will not be content unless there is a version of Street Fighter II on every console possible. The fact that they had the audacity to call this "The Final Challengers," insinuating that this would be the last version of SFII WHEN WE ALL KNOW THAT THAT ISN'T TRUE, CAPCOM! just boils my blood. Can we just lay Street Fighter II to rest already? Just let its corpse rest in peace. That's all I'm asking. Capcom, have mercy on Street Fighter II already and put it out of its misery.

Runner up: L.A. Noire

Best Re-release or Remaster
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Let the remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap be the example for any and all future remakes. This is how it's done. This is how you take an old game and make it for a new generation of gamers. You take what was great about the original and update it. Not every game that gets another chance has to be given the "gritty reboot makeover" like Bionic Commando.

The way you're able to seamlessly switch between new and old graphics or the new and old music on the fly was done so perfectly. I've never played the original Sega Master System version, so I constantly found myself switching to the older graphics because I would find something that I thought looked cool and was curious how it looked in its original incarnation. The same goes for the music. Those remastered and updated tracks are beautiful pieces of music, and the 8-bit predecessors aren't so bad either.

Runner up: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Best Multiplayer
Splatoon 2

You know a game is good when you move on to the next game and feel like you didn't give the previous one enough love. I adore Splatoon 2, and it's the only game that I spent a significant amount of time playing with friends this year. Splatoon 2 became appointment gaming for my friends and I for about a month. With as great as 2017 has been, it's been hard to go back simply because there's always something new that I want to play, but few games have given me as much overall fun as Splatoon 2, despite some of the ridiculous things Nintendo did with it.

All of the maps are unique and fun, the community is great, and it just spews style from every orifice. I even got into some of the ranked battles, which is not something that I normally do, and really enjoyed the different types of matches. Even though I put it on the shelf a couple of months ago, it will eventually be pulled back off when the world of gaming slows down and the need to splat some fools comes back.

Runner up: Friday the 13th

Best Retro Game
Kirby Super Star

Did you know that I'm a huge Kirby fan? If you didn't, you do now. He's probably my favorite video game character outside of Mario. However, my love of Kirby really didn't begin until the DS era, so I missed a lot of his early glory like Kirby's Adventure and Kirby's Dream Land, but Kirby Super Star is the best of Kirby's back catalog (I still prefer the newer games to the older ones).

We chose Kirby Super Star as one of our retrospective episodes on the Error Machine Podcast this year, and what I found is a collection of bite-size games that each brought their own unique kind of fun to the table. Obviously, The Great Cave Offensive and Milky Way Wishes are the two games in the collection that stand out. They each have metroidvania-like elements to them, and I would love it if Nintendo would take these ideas and turn them into a fully fleshed-out game, even if it were nothing more than a $20 downloadable title.

Runner up: Windjammers

Best Moment
"Kick It" - Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

There were so many great moments in gaming this year, most of them organically woven into the gameplay. All the moments of Super Mario Odyssey that made me smile, the Breath of the Wild moments that left me in awe, the exhilaration from taking down a Thunderjaw in Horizon Zero Dawn, all fantastic moments. But no game 2017 is saturated with more shocking moments that I'll vividly remember for years to come than Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.


It was really hard to pick just one moment because there are so many that left an impression. BJ's execution and subsequent transplant onto a new body, finding BJ's father waiting for him at his childhood home and their tense interaction, finally sticking that ax of yours into General Engle's face, all very good moments. But, when a game offers you the opportunity to kick Adolf Hitler in the face, any non-terrible human being on earth takes that opportunity. In fact, if you played the game and didn't kick Hitler in the face, I have legitimate reason to believe that you may be a Nazi yourself.

Runner up: The New Donk City Festival in Super Mario Odyssey

The "Wore Out Its Welcome" Award
Golf Story

Never before have my feelings on a game from start to finish varied so much. Golf Story has such great and fun writing, and characters that I really liked. When the game was first revealed, it looked like everything I ever wanted, and it was...for about the first 8 hours. When you reach the third act, you start to realize that there's no more to the game than some quirky writing and a decent golfing game.

But even the witty writing wore on me to the point that I began skipping all dialogue. This was most evident after completing the second major tournament, when the rivalry between the old folks and young kids reaches its climax with a rap battle. That sounds funny when you write it down, but it went on so long that I said out loud "is this still going on?"

The actual golfing is solid, but outside of a few diversions, you quickly realize that you're essentially doing the same mini-games over and over with a few variables switched. The game is pretty easy until you reach the final golf course, where both the mini-games and final tournament have one of the sharpest difficulty spikes I've ever encountered. After beating every tournament and match on my first try, it got more than a little frustrating when it took me no less than 20 attempts to win the grand finale.

Game I Fell Off Of The Hardest
Destiny 2

I loved the time I spent with Destiny 2, and I actually played the great majority of the game by myself. It was a great couple of dozen hours, and I haven't thought about the game since. After I beat the final mission, I spent about a half hour checking out the post-game stuff, turned off my PS4, moved on, and never looked back.

Even the expansion content, which I got for free from work, wasn't enough for me to turn it back on. Sorry, Destiny 2. I enjoyed the time we had, but you're in my past and you'll be staying there.

Runner up: Splatoon 2

Best 2016 Game I Played in 2017
Stardew Valley

The life/farming simulator has never been my type of game. Games like Harvest Moon or Fantasy Life have never grabbed me regardless of how much time I've spent with them. I picked up Stardew Valley this year when the physical version was released on Xbox One. I mainly bought it because my wife is a big fan of the genre, and I figured I would go ahead and give it a shot myself due to the overwhelmingly positive buzz about the game.

If you would have told me that I would have devoted more time this year to Stardew Valley than I did to Breath of the Wild, I would have laughed at you, but that's exactly what happened. I devoted a solid month to the game on two separate occasions during 2017, and don't regret a moment. I got sucked into the lives of the characters, earning their trust, mining for resources, fishing, crafting, improving my house, expanding my farm, fixing up the community center, and courting Haley (who, of course, I chose because she bears the closest resemblance to my own wife). As much time as I've already spent with Stardew Valley, there are still many, many things left for me to do, and I'll be returning to it again at some point, no doubt about that.

Runner Up : Witcher 3: Blood and Wine expansion

Honorable Mentions

There were two games this year that I really liked but simply didn't play enough of to form a strong enough opinion about, so I want to give them some love here.


I simply can't get over how good this game looks. I picked it up late in 2017 and only played a handful of levels before writing this blog. The word that spread about the game is its difficulty, and it is certainly a difficult game, but not so difficult that I don't want to keep playing. It does a great job of getting you to come back for one more try. Its also a great co-op game that the wife and I have been enjoying in the early stages of 2018.

The Mummy Demastered

The Mummy Demastered is truly a gaming oddity; a very good game based on a very bad movie. If you're a fan of the metroidvania genre like me, what you'll find here is a tight experience that offers constant upgrades, good boss fights, and a map that's extremely fun to explore. The retro aesthetic adds a charm to the game, and you would come to expect nothing less from a company like WayForward.
Top 10 Favorite Games of 2017

10. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Considering how much I enjoyed Wolfenstein: The New Order, it came as no surprise to me that I enjoy this sequel. What it lacks in gameplay it makes up for with a great story that is chock-full of surprising and shocking moments as well as a cast of characters that I really enjoyed. That's not to say that the gameplay was bad, it just didn't do anything particularly special to separate from other first-person shooters. I did my best to play the game as stealthy as I could, but it seemed like too often I would be spotted from someone very far away and that would eventually just turn into me dual-wielding and running around the room like a crazy person. I had a much easier time playing stealthily in the first game. Wolfenstein II is certainly not without its flaws, but I still think it is worth playing for anyone that likes the genre or wants to good story.

9. Little Nightmares

The easiest way to describe Little Nightmares is do refer to it as "3D Limbo," though I think that is super reductive and sells Little Nightmares short. I loved Limbo, and I would say that I still liked it more than Little Nightmares, but Little Nightmares has a lot more going on. Its bleak atmosphere and enemy design that seems ripped straight out of an animated Tim Burton film gives it an underlying sadness that makes you want to see the main character, Six, successfully find her way off of The Maw.

The game has some genuinely thrilling chase sequences that oftentimes left you escaping by the skin of your teeth. It's a short experience, but what you get here is quality. It does so much with so little, and that's what makes it great.

8. Steamworld Dig 2

Steamworld Dig's first direct sequel continues the trend of taking a simple concept and making it incredibly addictive. You're constantly postponing turning the game off because you just want to see what else you can find in the mines. You tell yourself that you'll stop when you reach the next cave, and then you get to the next cave and you say you'll stop after you solve it, then you solve it and say that you'll stop when you get to the next pipe that transports you back to the main town, and that's how the game goes until you've finished it.

Steamworld Dig 2 improves on an already great game by giving you new and better abilities and increasing the amount of secrets and areas to explore. The cave puzzles are challenging without being frustrating, and the increased amount of enemies was a welcome addition. I'm hoping to see Image & Form return to create a Steamworld Dig trilogy.

7. Splatoon 2

Despite my complaints about the map rotation, its poorly implemented app, and the fact that I can only play a certain mode of the game at specific times (I'm still yet to play Salmon Run), I don't know if there's a game that has a higher fun density than Splatoon 2.

I've never been big on multiplayer shooters, but Splatoon 2 just does so many things right that I'll look past both the game's shortcomings and my introverted nature. The style it has, the way the guns feel, the feedback from shooting, the splat of the ink on the ground and walls, sliding through the ink to refill your tank, every aspect of actually playing Splatoon 2 is pure gold. It's just a shame that the way Nintendo mishandles the user experience hampers its periphery.

6. Everybody's Golf

I hate golf. But I love golf video games, especially the Hot Shots series. The latest iteration of the long-running franchise changed to its international title, but while I prefer the Hot Shots moniker, that's about the only change I disapprove of. The series may have gotten away from the super wacky characters that they had in HSG3 and Fore!, but the actual golf is just as great (and anger inducing) as ever.

Golf is usually a relaxing game, but after one poor shot, you'll see just how infuriated I can become. That being said, however, the Everybody's Golf series is one that I continuously come back to throughout whichever PlayStation's life is current. While I didn't get too into the online tournaments, the online play with some of my coworkers and customers this year was some of the most fun I had in multiplayer outside of the few bugs we encountered. If you want a golf game on the PlayStation 4, Everybody's Golf is the perfect blend of simulation and arcade.

5. Resident Evil 7 Biohazard

Not counting the Revelations semi-spin-off series (which is great), I had been waiting for a great Resident Evil game for 8 years. In case you're wondering where my math is coming from, I consider Resident Evil 5 to be a great co-op game. There isn't a series that I've written about more in my life than Resident Evil, as I've been a huge fan from the very beginning of the series, but after the abysmal RE6, I was worried that the series was no longer a viable commodity for Capcom. In this case, I could not be more happy to be wrong.

I will admit to being more than a little skeptical when the first gameplay footage had the game in a first-person view, everything else surrounding it seemed like exactly what I wanted from a new Resident Evil. Taking cues from films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you never once feel safe after you encounter the Baker family. Everything from the beginning walk up the driveway to the Baker plantation to the return to the house after an excursion feels masterfully crafted. The only real complaints I have about the game is the anticlimactic final battle and lack of variety in the enemies.

It felt like a return to its roots, but seeing as it didn't sell as well as Capcom had hoped, I wouldn't be surprised if they go back to the heavy action the series had come to prior to this. Personally, I would love to see the series stay right where its at.

4. Metroid: Samus Returns

Much like Resident Evil 7, I had my reservations about Metroid: Samus Returns after I found out that MercurySteam was at the helm. While I did enjoy the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow game, I feel like they tarnished the good name of Castlevania beyond repair with the two games that followed.

That worry went right out the window from the very onset. Some may not have enjoyed the counterattack feature, I felt like it was a necessary, adding a variety to the combat that the series lacked. I could go into a lot more about Metroid: Samus Returns, but I wrote a review of the game over at Scholarly Gamers, so give that a read for my full thoughts.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What can I say about Breath of the Wild that hasn't already been said? The fact that I played close to 100 hours of the game and was still discovering areas of Hyrule that I had never seen before is astounding. The sense of discovery is unlike any game I've ever played before, and oftentimes I would forego fast traveling simply because I wanted to everything on the way. Scaling the towers and finding little things in the distance that pique your curiosity could sometimes lead to hours-long diversions that lead you to all kinds of breathtaking moments and discoveries.

When the game released, my Twitter feed would be full of animated GIFs from people showing all of the cool ways that they were able to manipulate the tools at your disposal to do something that was likely not even thought of during development. Breath of the Wild rewards your for experimentation, and there are so many ways to approach each situation that there are probably still ways that no one has discovered. I truly think that Breath of the Wild is the new gold standard of open-world games.

2. Horizon Zero Dawn

It may be strange to some that I just said that Breath of the Wild is the new gold standard of open-world games and then have another open-world game higher on my list. Here is my explanation: Breath of the Wild had a sense of discovery that I've never encountered, but my nitpicks about it were enough to knock it down a peg. While the world of Hyrule is unmatched, that combat in Breath of the Wild is only adequate, the story is practically non-existent, the stamina meter and weapon degradation are two mechanics that no game should ever have, and Link becomes completely useless in the rain.

On the other hand, while Horizon Zero Dawn may not have a world that's as fun to explore as Hyrule, everything else is done better. I don't have to wait for the rain to stop before Aloy can scale a mountain, she doesn't get tired from running or swimming short distances, the story is probably the best of the year, and the combat is top-notch. Horizon Zero Dawn sometimes requires intense strategy and other times brute force to succeed in combat, and taking down a group of tough enemies is sometimes a very harrowing experience. I even took the time to get the platinum trophy for this game, which is not something that I'm typically inclined to do, and I went through the trouble of doing the same thing for the Frozen Wilds expansion.

I had a customer tell me that when I told him that I liked Horizon better than Breath of the Wild that I legitimately upset him, and then he played Horizon and came back into the store to tell me that he agreed with me. If you have a PS4, Horizon is probably the best game you can get on the system.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

Surprising no one, Super Mario Odyssey is my favorite game of 2017. But that's not just my nostalgic heart talking, that's everyone talking. I never grew tired of exploring the various Kingdoms, I never got tired of seeking out new Power Moons or purple coins, I never grew tired of the combat, I even enjoyed one of the water-based worlds in Odyssey, and that is saying a lot.

If the game has a fault, it's that it is almost too dense, which is not something that games usually deal with. There are so many moons available to find that it becomes a bit of a daunting task for the completionist. I took the time to find 500 moons in order to unlock the last area, put the game down, and will return to it in a month or two and there will still be almost 400 more moons to discover. That's insane!

All of the things you're able to capture in the game add new and fun abilities to Mario's arsenal that a lot of the time you don't ever want to return to playing as just Mario. The sense of discovery in Odyssey is just as great in Breath of the Wild but in a different way. Rather than seeing something in the distance, you'll see something that just seems slightly off and you know that you can manipulate something to make a Power Moon pop out. The late game moments are truly incredible, and the way it honors the history of Mario played wonders with my nostalgia.

I think Super Mario Odyssey will be to the current generation of kids what Super Mario World is to me.

Thank you all so much for reading, and here's to hoping that 2018 is as good for video games as 2017 was.