Let’s take a looking at a week in gaming from 9/3/13 to 9/6/13. Below is a special feature holding reactions to IGN's first hands on with GTA V.
November 22. Will Xbox One Miss Out on a Head Start? (9/4)
The date defies previous assumptions (particularly those in the games press who actually thought that it might launch in December). IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey was confident that it will meet Call of Duty’s release date, and others thought that if not that day, the very week of. But not only did it not hit the same day or week of Ghosts, it’s coming out after the Playstation 4; at least in America.
So what could this mean?
Preorder sales during the weeks after E3 2013 were 3:1 in favor of the Playstation 4, no doubt having to do with its flawless messaging in response to Xbox One’s controversy. With the advantage of maintaining their messaging over the past few months, Playstation 4 has been the next gen favorite even since its announcement.
The US territory has been dominated by the Xbox brand for the last few years, arguably the entire console generation next to the Playstation 3. But one of their advantages was that the system launched a year ahead of Sony. Now, they’re a week behind.
The predictions of many can reign true; Playstation 4 has a stronger chance of winning consumers’ wallets this year in the US over Xbox One. Playstation has the image advantage over Xbox, who has struggled to realign themselves with both gamers and developers. That favoritism will come in full force from November 15 through till the end of the year. In addition, that week head start wont be enough to obliterate their competition, but it could just be enough to say, “Hey, you can experience the next generation NOW.”
And while more attentive gamers can parse the difference between Sony’s exclusives and Xbox One’s exclusives, indie games aside – Killzone: Shadowfall will easily be overshadowed by Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, Forza is a proven racing franchise over Drive Club, and Knack will be dwarfed (no pun intended) by the myriad of other releases – that extra $100 will sway consumers who are looking to play the biggest titles of the holiday which exist on both platforms.
If Sony plays their cards right, they’ll boast the $399 right when the Xbox One hits. They can ride the very short wave of coming out first to being the cheapest. Xbox One will capture the audience who’ve made up their minds (such as myself… at least until I get a PS4 for the holiday), who’ve turned in their pre orders (unfortunately, I’m not one of them), and who have racked up their achievements and/or friends list on XBL. But if Sony beats it into consumers’ heads within that week that they’re out, and then beats the cheaper price into their heads after the 22nd, Sony will own next gen in 2013.
And as fun as it is to talk about this, it matters little. Even when Xbox One was this monstrous consumer unfriendly service box, the next gen race could have equalized itself. Even that might not have been a hard predictor of what the next 8 years would look like. So for two systems that are launching a week from one another, and $100 difference, a simple game like Titanfall could swing the crowd, and Uncharted 4 can bring them back.
I can assure you this: no matter what system you’ll choose, you will receive an optimal next gen experience from the gate and beyond.
Rape is Hardly Contextually Justified: Hotline Miami 2 (9/5)
I loved Hotline Miami. Its tempo, its gross violence, is hyper twitch design, I loved every millisecond of it.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was demoed at Rezzed 2013, no doubt generating a strong turn up to try out the sequel to one of 2012’s most critically acclaimed games. Folks enjoyed it, including PCGamer’s Cara Ellison, until this happened.
Pig Butcher, one of the characters you’ll play as in Wrong Number, finishes his “proper” deed of slaughtering every hostile face in sight. He encounters a woman before the Mortal Kombat reference FINISH HER prompts the player. And where the game could have gone off in a direction that would have no doubt generated conflicting opinions for those who preach equal opportunity violence and those who cringe at the thought of violence against women, the game careens in a completely different angle.
Pig Butcher pins her down and drops his pants.
The insinuation in and of itself is infuriating, disgusting, horrifying, and every appropriately negative adjective you can throw at it. The original Hotline Miami had its own under pinning of misogyny with the suggestively under-dressed damsel. But THIS takes it to a completely different level.
Then Wrong Number attempts a “just kidding” justification with this: “…and the director at the side of the screen yells “cut”. ‘“Pig Man, well done, but don’t be afraid to be rougher. And you there, blondie – you need to work on your femininity. Act more helpless and scared. You know, more girly.”’
Dennation’s Dennis Wedin had an interview with Rock, Paper Shotgun about the press’s and community’s reaction to the scene. While admitting that the team feels terrible and expresses an understanding of what sexual assault can mean to so many people, their justification for the scene’s existence was depicting the way that other players saw the game violence from a movie making-point of view, while at the same time referencing horror films’ tendency to raise the bar of shock value. However this moves closer to exactly what Anita Sarkeesian spoke about how video games fail to subvert and commentate tropes when having the player participate in what it’s criticizing. You run into the Far Cry 3 symbolized “Anglo Saxon Savior” issue.
He also claims that the scene was out of context and wasn’t intended to be controversial, but I call bullshit. It seems that Dennation is in desperate need of PR training. Showcasing a sequence that involves a rape reference cannot be justified in isolation. You can’t excuse the demo for being out of context with there being no room for context on the show floor. If contextual value is needed, then it shouldn’t have been shown in the first place.
My knee jerk reaction to this aligns with Ellison’s, I feel betrayed.
This level of betrayal grows from my love of the previous game, stems from my uncontrollable anticipation for the follow up to my favorite Playstation Vita title, and is rooted in my complete distain for violence and predatory behavior against women. Wedin does hint at that the team can address the scene in the game, with the possibility of taking it out completely.
But being that I struggle to bring myself to an open mind thinking, “Hmm, maybe this sexual assault/ grimy ‘blondie’ label has something interesting to say,” unless it manages to convey a profound message, Hotline Miami 2 will not earn my purchase with the insinuated “Pig fuck” scene in it.
On The Hunt for Xbox One (9/6)
So I pick up my cellphone before I leave the office to see my first client today and dial the closest Microsoft Store to my house.
“Yes, hello. I’m wondering if you guys still have available pre-orders for Xbox One?” I ask.
“Yes, of course we do. I can actually set you up with one right now. Would you like to get that done?” the associate asks.
“Um, yeah sure.”
“Alright. Let’s get you started.”
Faint typing in the background.
“So…” I interrupt, “This is going to be available in November when the system launches, correct?”
“We don’t have any day one editions, but yes. And it’ll be shipped to your house.”
“Ok…” I hate shipping, “Cool.”
More faint typing.
“So just to let you know, this will be delivered on December 31st 2013. Is that ok with you?”
“Oh, um… you know what? I’m actually going to cancel that, but thank you.”
“Ok, I’m sorry to hear that, thank you.”
This past week Phil Spencer spoke with Game Informer confidently assuring that gamers should have less trouble finding available systems compared to the 360 back in 2005. I didn’t pick up a 360 until 2007, riding the Wii surge of pretty good titles until I decided that it was time for a high definition experience.
As a 24 year old gamer, the Wii was actually my first system launch (window) purchase, standing first in line at Gamestop dressed in my pajamas and robe with my winter coat giving the kid and his mom behind me the “tough shit look”.
It was a well worth sacrifice at the time, one that in present day I’ve been preparing myself for after missing the pre-order phase after E3 and slowly losing hope that more available pre-orders will become available again (all options for me point to a New Year’s Eve delivery).
So, can we rely on Phil Spencer’s confidence and depend on finding units on the shelf? Or do we have to pump ourselves with vitamin c to boost our immune system to weather the cold days if not weeks after the launch of the Xbox One?
There’s a sense of pride in waiting hours in front of a store to then be rewarded of a brand new piece of hardware.
I think I’ll take my chances.
A Week in Gaming Special Feature:
Reactions to IGN's Hands-On with GTA V
Originally reported on September 3rd 2013
It’s very possible that GTA V will be the most critically acclaimed game this fall, and may probably be the best selling right under Call of Duty: Ghosts. At one point, over 17,000 IGN fans were reading Luke Reilly’s hands on impressions and well over 1,000 were viewing the video discussion.
GTA V will be massive in every sense of the word, and IGN’s very first hands on impressions makes me feel that the $64.19 that I’ll be spending on this game will grant me more value over the next couple of months than the hundreds of dollars I’ll be dropping on next gen hardware.
Luke’s first encounter discussed was him stress testing the wanted system. The behavior of his assailants makes me curious to see how it feels like when enemies attacking from afar. This relies heavily upon how the shooting mechanics work – which have been said to be vastly improved. The example with Trevor positioning his body while belly down on a plane wing is exciting, though I’m not sure that this Max Payne style will see its way into everyday shooting. With the exception of Max Payne 3, the shooting has never been a strong suit in Rockstar Games. Let’s hope the changes feel as drastic as everyone claims.
GTA has historically been a pain in the ass about saving vehicles. By either parking them in a garage or in a parking spot, you’re able to retrieve the whip even after you boot up the game again. However once you lose them, they’re gone for good, forcing you to jack another clone in the city. GTA V seems to add an element of incentive to that system by allowing players to retrieve their abandoned or destroyed cars from the impound lot for a fee. While I enjoy other open world titles’ liberal gifting of saved cars, the retrieval fee seems like a small justification of GTA V’s monetary system.
Making things your own seems to be part of Rockstar’s intention with GTA V, and the way in which they handle weapons seems to support that claim. One of the biggest downfalls of dying in previous games was losing your entire arsenal in one fell swoop (restarting from the last check point was a common practice of mine being that the game would restart it for me at a greater cost). Now, your weapons remain even after you die; and better yet, Rockstar has finally caught itself up in modern times with weapon customizations.
The tactical play between all three main characters have been displayed time and time again in Three’s Company since the unveiling of GTA V. The system facilitates appropriate indicators of each of the three characters by flashing their portraits red if one of them is in danger and white once they’ve become useful. Trevor on the chopper, Michael in the building, and Franklin on the sniper is all well and good, and both Derailed and Vinewood Babylon feature Michael and Trevor’s alternating play, but the real question is how many missions will GTA V be able to pull off that level of dynamism with, or at least give each characters a purpose without feeling as if you can stick to one character alone?
Rockstar also seems to be embracing its mission design. The biggest criticism from IV (and existing in every one before it) was failing a mission only to return to your place of residence or separate location miles away from your mission start having then to drive all the way back and do it all over again. Checkpoints return to solve that problem, and I can only assume that replayable missions means that you can get the use of any one of the three (or however many are present during the mission) as many times as you want.
Combat interplay has clearly received an overhaul, but it’s the details described that are head spinning: “The new crunch of spinning tyres on grass and dirt. The way livid drivers angrily flip you off after collisions. The ubiquitous rain grooves of LA’s decaying freeways brought to life in Los Santos. The subtle ticking of a cooling engine after shutting off a car.”
Rockstar commits itself to detail more than any other developer I can think of now while writing this. In Saints IV, you can raise their version of a wanted level, kill every alien and destroy every tank and UFO that has the worst intentions for you, encounter one of the super powered Wardens in a final fight, and after victory, everything goes back to normal immediately. Daniel Krupa describes blowing up a car in mission, and after completion, fire trucks wiz by to fulfill their purpose. This continuity exists within the three characters as well. While one is hanging out with his boys, the other is high tailing it with a two star wanted level. This stage of persistency is almost unmatched, and has made the series an iconic example of simulating and independent ecosystem.
Together with the thousands of animations of characters in the game, GTA V seems that it will create a level of bar setting immersion that was previously set by its predecessor.
With exactly two weeks to go, the wait for GTA V is coming to an aching close. For mad gamers like me, it will take painful dedication to get as much out of it as I possibly can without compromising the experience in order to get to the rest of this holiday’s line up. For many others GTA V will be the last game they play this year.
And what a way to close the year with none other than GTA V.