Tag Archives: Uncharted

Jazzy Conquests

Jazzy Conquests

Consider this totally not original thought: games are weird. An obvious statement, sure, but the ways they are strange are more interesting than the simple fact that they are. For instance, many of them force you to divide the concepts of literal action and gaming action; what you see may not always be what you’re actually doing.

A common example of this is any of the Uncharted games. Protagonist Nathan Drake, while being controlled by the player, kills hundreds upon hundreds of bad guys and suffers numerous injuries that he more or less shakes off with a Cheshire grin and a witty retort. But as soon as it is most impact or proper for the story, he takes a single bullet to the gut while facing down one dude.

And it’s supposed to be meaningful despite our nigh supernatural combative skills we’ve been showing off and honing for the past four hours because we divorce ourselves from the idea of literality in games. Much of what we do as the player (compared to what we see as a witness in cutscenes and whatnot) is taken on the level of a fish tale. The sea bass you caught was how big?!

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

The crazier thing, though, is when the game forces you to mash those two halves of the metaphorical and the actual, reconciling what basically amounts to nonsense, a blatant lie, or some sort of disturbing fever dream. Anthony John Agnello over at Gameological wrote a bit about the oddities of the weirdest Zelda game in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. He ruminates on the idea that the morality of Link’s actions in the game is decidedly gray, if not all the way malignant.

In Link’s Awakening, our familiar hero Link wakes up on the beach after a tumultuous storm ruins his seafaring jaunt away from Hyrule. He then embarks on a quest of listening to a giant talking owl on how to awaken an even bigger whale sleeping inside of an egg on top of a mountain. The issue is that the world Link has found himself in is all a dream inside the whale’s head.

So waking up the slumbering beast could spell the end of the world, its inhabitants, and, potentially, Link himself. Very obviously the question of the morality of destroying a world on the pure assumption that it doesn’t really exist is a great one and Agnello addresses it thoroughly, but consider the game actions of it all as well.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Link still, in this game and those that come both before and after it, is a maniac that tears through people’s homes and possessions. He kills those that seek nothing more than to exist and have malevolent connotations by simply existing. He fights to keep living simply so he can die.

It’s a dark game, but most notably, one that has its two halves neatly overlapping in their themes. It’s something greatly missing from the non-adventure genre where the mechanics directly (instead of merely analogously or tangentially) drive the story. Think about how in every other Zelda game, Link’s virtuous task at hand of rescuing a princess or saving a kingdom excused much of what he did in your mind, from simple theft to unabashed murder. Link’s Awakening removes that veil and lays pretty clear the insanity of it all.

Of course, it would be terribly hard to create games without the ability to sit approximations next to precise accounts of reality. Even when we watch an action film and see the body count top 20, we often think that even that is a bit much. So when we play Far Cry 3 and somehow singlehandedly clear an island of hundreds of dudes that seemingly never stop wanting to get sniped and blown up, we further remove ourselves from the idea that our actions impact the world in any way beyond “progress.”

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Perhaps we could do more with games that lift up that divider between literal and game action. Or maybe we get enough as it is. I don’t know if there’s a single right way to address it or if it even needs addressing, as if it were a problem that needs fixing, but I do know this: video games are weird, guys.

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Amalgams and Whatnot

Amalgams and Whatnot

There’s a trailer for an upcoming game that everyone’s been talking about. (I know. What a shock!) It’s an eight-minute walkthrough for Monolith Productions’ Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor wherein the protagonist—a ranger by the name of Talion—shows off his Wraith-like abilities by peering into the nether, controlling simple minds, and racking up a body count higher than the actual The Lord of the Rings movies.

It looks cool. Correction: it looks super cool. It captures much of what makes the battles of the films so cool, which is to say it makes the heroes feel powerful and the big bad guys commensurate, ensuring that victories feel worthwhile. The literal balance isn’t right, but hey, this is a pre-alpha build. And besides, it feels right. I mean, I’ve never sliced the head off of an orc, but I imagine it feels pretty good after slugging it out with him with sword and shield.

The crux of the trailer is highlighting the fact that every single playthrough of the game will be unique. Major enemies (and there are a lot of them) each have their own memetic interpretation and physical reminders of past events in the world. For instance, it could be as obvious as Orthog Troll Slayer having burn scars from Talion and his last fiery encounter, but it could also mean Ratbag’s career path goes down a different path, leading us to find him in one place instead of another.

It’s called the Nemesis system and seems pretty slick. Given that this is a game from Monolith, I have no small amount of faith in the game following through with the words of its marketing. We do have the results of F.E.A.R. and Condemned to back it up, so a modicum of respect is appropriate. Even their last Tolkien outing fared pretty well.

The strange thing is that bits and pieces of the trailer (once you get past the highfalutin talk of dynamic, persistent, and determinant world interactions) feel just a bit…off. Perhaps just a tad too familiar, so much so that they actually seem too foreign to work. In reality, those moments of discontent—those moments where you try to recall something on the tip of your tongue while the answer hops away—are too familiar.

That’s because they are too familiar. It combines nearly every pillar of every successful franchise in the past few years into a single game and applies its own layer of specificity (which, obviously, is the most important part, but we’ll get there later). Talion can climb around on just about any piece of the environment, moving around the world like a Nathan Drake. He strikes with the speed and ferocity—and single-buttonness—of Batman in the Arkham series. Then his Wraith vision gives him Assassin’s Creed-like insight into any given encounter.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Each of these pieces has been previously adopted into other games as well, perhaps for similar reasons. Jumping and clambering about ledges and walls and conveniently placed ropes, we get hints of Tomb Raider as well, the bounciness of Croft and Drake’s collective climbing abilities noteworthy and inhuman in every regard.

The Arkham implementation of combat has been shoehorned into so many varied titles from Captain America: Super Soldier to The Amazing Spider-Man. Quick, one-time button presses that directly correspond to attack and defense, and each one as a response to an immediate need.

Detective vision has been the bane of many game critics’ existence. Named as such after the Arkham version as well, its origins go far deeper. Assassin’s Creed‘s Eagle Vision accomplishes the same thing, and The Amazing Spider-Man actually has something similar. Dishonored does it, too. But it’s a fine line between an addendum ability thrown in at the end of production and one that is finely integrated into the experience. Not sure where Shadow of Mordor lies yet.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

It’s very clear, though, that outside of the open world of responsive and unique enemies, Shadow of Mordor is really an amalgam of past mechanics du jour. It seems to have looked at a Rolodex of successful franchises in the past five years and said, “We’ll take one of each of those.” Once the initial amazement faded, a lot of ire of the trailer began to surface for this exact reason.

The thing to remember, however, is that it’s the particulars that make something work or fall apart. You know, devils and details and all that. Take a look at Resogun, one of the best games from last year. It was, without question, a simple cocktail of bullet hell games, Defender, and its own past amalgam of old school tropes Super Stardust HD.

It worked precisely because it combined all of those familiar elements in such a specific way. Like a surgeon, it cut out laser-level portions of things you’re accustomed to and then like Frankenstein, stitched it all together into something new. It’s the same reason why you can take flour, butter, and eggs and end up with either a bunch of great pancakes or a ruined Sunday brunch. It’s the particulars that matter.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Of course, the argument of familiarity is also an authentic one. A lot of resources obviously went into the whole Nemesis system; it’s not easy creating an open world that wholly responds to player actions like that. It’s pretty easy to cobble together proven successes when you run out of time to gin up something entirely original.

But that is also a cynical way of looking at it. The auteurship involved in mold individual corners of a simple box elevate or degrade it either to art or a travesty. We are, after all, all just lumps of carbon and water; what makes any of us better than another? The details, of course. That’s where all the devils live, after all.

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PlayStation 4 Launch Event Recap: Uncharted, The Last of Us, and More

PlayStation 4 Launch Event Recap: Uncharted, The Last of Us, and More

How was your night last night? Go out anywhere? Maybe stand in a big line and get a $400 piece of technology? I didn’t, but I did go check out a couple of midnight launches of the PlayStation 4. For one of the biggest metroplexes in the country, Dallas didn’t really have anything crazy to offer, although a couple of dudes offered me some queso, so there’s that.

UPDATE: just kidding. Apparently I missed Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant buying five lucky line-standers their PlayStation 4s.

Of course, it (and whatever was happening at your closest GameStop) didn’t compare to Sony’s big launch event in New York. It was just a big ol’ celebration for Sony’s step into the next generation, but they still decided to throw some news in there. Geoff Keighley even asked about The Last Guardian! (We’ll get to that in a second.)

New Uncharted for PS4

In perhaps the teaseriest tease of all teases, we see nothing more about the upcoming Uncharted for the PlayStation 4 except that 1) it exists, and 2) it has betrayal. Oh, also, I guess that is has a super high resolution logo?

At least it tells us what Naughty Dog has been up to since putting out Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and The Last of Us. And over on the PlayStation Blog, it has been confirmed that creative director Amy Hennig and game director Justin Richmond are both attached to the rather green project and that Todd Stashwick of Heroes fame provides the excellent voiceover.

The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC

Speaking of Naughty Dog, we see them release their first single-player DLC with Left Behind. The teaser is short and poised for a lot of emotional drama as the franchise is wont to do: Ellie and Riley Abel, her school chum from the Quarantine Zone, happen across a carousel.

Like, nothing happy can come from that, right? But it will hopefully at least be a fantastically sad. It’s based somewhat on the Dark Horse comics The Last of Us: American Dreams (which are pretty great) where it shows Ellie and Riley meeting, but this is Ellie telling Joel what happens after that.

Don’t worry, I’ll bring the tissues. Look for it in early 2014 for $14.99.

Destiny Beta

Along with the above trailer, Bungie COO Pete Parsons (what a comic book superhero name) announced that the beta for their upcoming online first-person shooter Destiny would be coming first to the PlayStation 4.

“We’re going to give first access to the PlayStation nation, PS4 and PS3 owners,” he said. If you want to get in on it, you’ll have to have preordered before October 1st, though I’m sure there will be other avenues available as it creeps closer.

Classic Snake in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

I guess not everything old made it out when the new stepped in. In a confusingly nostalgic move, Konami will be including Classic Snake as a skin in the Sony-exclusive mission “Déjà Vu” for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. So yay next-gen graphics? Whatever, as long as I get to choke dudes.

Dammit

Geoff Keighley asked Sony’s Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida and Vice President of Publisher Relations Adam Boyes about Team Ico’s mysteriously missing The Last Guardian. God dammit. JUST GIVE IT TO ME.

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Tomb Raider and the Croft-Drake Affair

Tomb Raider and the Croft-Drake Affair

Tomb Raider is a good game. I’m not quite done with it (damn you, friend-that-just-bought-a-pinball-machine), but I started out liking it and only felt my affection growing with each passing day. There were, admittedly, moments where I felt like it faltered or stretched itself too thin—Conan O’Brien’s “review” highlights one of these parts—but it’s hard to hold those against what is an otherwise well-executed and cohesive reboot of a known quantity.

This isn’t a complaint for me, but I have noticed and agreed with some people pointing out that Tomb Raider also tends to skew a bit closer to the Uncharted series than you would expect. These moments largely fall in the first third of the game, but they’re definitely there. The seminal franchise from Naughty Dog is known for its bombastic set pieces that often include crumbling buildings, speeding trains, and capsizing ships with you placed smack-dab in the middle of them. Built on top of fantastic shooting and climbing mechanics that give you an over-the-top yet grounded interpretation of the Indiana Jones mythos, Uncharted pulls off spectacle with aplomb.

You should know, though, that “grounded” doesn’t necessarily mean realistic. It just means that the characters and situations feel like something born from this world and not one where everyone is built like refrigerators and have chainsaws attached to the end of their guns (not that there’s anything wrong with that). However, Naughty Dog knows they aren’t building a realistic setting for Nathan Drake to explore and fight in. For all we know, all of his muscles are contained within his arms and his bones are hollow like a bird. How else would he be able to jump and climb the way he does?

“Realistic” is what Tomb Raider goes for and, well, ultimately fails at. Realism is when Lara impales herself on a piece of rebar and is rendered immobile by it. Realism is when Lara has to kill a man with her own hands and is visibly shaken by the process. Realism, however, is not what happens immediately following those two events, namely killing shit ton more dudes with an adeptness and ferocity heretofore unseen save for the likes of Kratos.

And Nathan Drake. Along with the Master Chiefs and Kenshiros of the world, Nathan is one of the most prolific mass murderers ever known to mankind. But he started out so human. He was purposefully made and animated to stumble as he ran, not effortlessly glide across the map like some transplanted figure skater. Rocks and ledges and little divots in the ground would cause him to misstep as he ran through the forests and ruins of the world, much like we know we would if we were similarly accomplish travelers.

He would lean into or touch walls and railings. Not even his balance was infallible. He would lament the incessant flow of bad guys impeding his progress and point out the absurdity of his actions. He, for all intents and purposes, was like us if we had infinite upper body strength and a penchant for untreated gunshot wounds.

Aside from the aforementioned leaking bullet-shaped holes in his torso, Nathan is presented to us as a human. He is a human murder machine among a society of other ostensibly human murder machines, sure, but he is still presented as a human within his milieu. It just so happens that everyone else is as trigger-happy as he is. You can see this in the beginning of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves where Nathan infiltrates a museum with cohort Harry Flynn. We are shown right in front of our eyes that Nathan Drake is not a superman. Next to us is someone just as capable as our hero, just not as lucky. Or charming. Or kick-ass. But it shows us that in this world, Nathan is just a regular ol’ dude.

Lara Croft is given similar trappings in this Tomb Raider reboot. She is, by far, the least graceful iteration of the acrobatic archaeologist that we’ve ever seen. Rather than cartwheeling and flipping over gaps and sauntering into battles with tigers and bad guys with guns blazing, this Lara is made to be human. Big falls see her stumble and trip. Rather than scream a bloody war cry as she runs headlong into battle, her voice shakes and breathing quickens as an encounter with even a single enemy looms tall. Even acquiring her first weapon is no easy task. Solid Snake climbed up a tree and grabbed his gear. Lara tumbles back down to Earth.

As far as we can tell, Lara is just as durable as Nathan, though. Despite the three feet of metal piercing her side, Lara still manages to clamber up cliffs and parachute through a seemingly endless basin full of trees like a leafy game of Plinko. She absorbs a commensurate amount of bullets and punches from her foes and she still comes out the other end ready for more. The only difference is that the world that Lara is in—the one we are made to accept that she and everyone else in the game exists and operates within—is made to look as human as she is.

We are not given a Harry Flynn. We do not know that Lara exists in a world made for combat where guns and henchmen flow like wine and other flowing things. Her kills are instant with one-shot initiative. She is hyper-personalized, and thus we apply similar human facades to this largely faceless fodder.

Tomb Raider seems to have had an equal chance at being called Lara Croft and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, each unfortunate event on her maiden expedition being of Lemony Snicket proportions. And that’s something we can all identify with. Her circumstances make her a product of her environment, so from her personality to her aspirations to her fears, we associate those with being human, which is easy because they are all very human in nature. So it’s a sizable departure when she starts killing dudes by the droves.

Nathan Drake isn’t humanized in quite the same way. Through his attitude and interpretation of his predicaments we are led to believe he thinks like we do and acts like we do, but it just so happens that he can do so much more than we can do because he lives in a world where that sort of thing just happens. Jumping off cliffs into a raging river below just sort of happens when you escape from bad guys, just as you do climb a falling train car as you nurse a bleeding tunnel of mangled flesh in your side.

Tomb Raider is still a good game, and those Uncharted comparisons are fair, to say the least, but there’s a facet in that Venn diagram that goes mostly untouched, and that is where Lara Croft and Nathan Drake diverge in their presentation. It’s not just who they are and what they say but it’s also where they are placed and what situations are thrown their way, much like how it’s not just the meal served but the plating and the fancy Top Chef-esque squiggles of deliberately placed sauce that makes the dish. It just so happens that Nathan’s humanity was designed to accommodate his murderous bent while Lara’s was not. We hoot and holler when Nathan runs from an explosion, but we simply pull for Lara’s survival. And then we question why she has to kill 20 men along the way.

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Not So Born For This

Heroes generally fall into two categories: Marvel and DC. Just kidding, this isn’t that kind of article. I’m more talking about how heroes are usually portrayed as either a destined savior or just an everyman that happens to succeed (in the face of insurmountable odds and multiple real and/or pseudo deaths, but we’ll address that later). You’re probably more familiar with the two concepts than you realize; in just about any game that involves you defeating some world-conquering villain, you’ve played as one of these two archetypes. And given how many video games you’ve played in your lifetime, you’re probably a god damn scholar on the topic.

A pre-destined hero is one that—if prophecy or history or power from on high is to be believed—will succeed no matter what. So long as he makes an attempt and isn’t a total dum-dum, the hero will defeat the villain and save the universe or whatever. He may or may not survive the ordeal, but that’s not really part of the “success” qualifications anyways. He just needs to save his constituents as The One. Everything in his life has led to this moment, whether he knows it or not.

This is usually found in fantasy stories where a noble warrior with some hidden lineage must take the throne to fulfill his destiny or something along those lines. It can also happen in sci-fi, but since fantasy stuff is much more open to the occult, that’s usually where all this destiny stuff happens. Take for example The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You play as a Dragonborn, an individual born of mortal flesh but with a dragon’s soul. By extension, he or she is able to speak with dragons and learn their language, which then enables them to use dragon powers. You, in particular, play as the prophesied one from Alduin’s Wall, a large sculpted mural depicting you defeating the World Eater (which is as bad as it sounds).

An everyman hero is something more about an ordinary person that finds himself in extraordinary circumstances as opposed to the extraordinary-on-extraordinary of destiny. This doesn’t necessarily exclude anything involving the supernatural; it’s just that the protagonist has to be just as likely to fail as he is to succeed since he’s not meant to succeed. He’s just some dude trying his best, and that’s the key.

Imagine someone along the lines of Nathan Drake. He was just some relic-robbing charmer with a sordid past, but he’s found himself in some exceptionally extraordinary situations. Hell, he fought zombie Spaniards and giant blue furry ape things, but he’s still no different from you or me. I mean, all right, he has seemingly infinite finger strength and an amazingly high bullet tolerance, but he’s still just some guy. He’s was never destined to be a treasure hunter or fight vaguely European villains. That’s just how his hand played out.

The important thing is that you can relate to that. Taken as an analogy or some less wisdom-imparting parable, we’ve all found ourselves in similar predicaments. We are by definition just regular people. As far as I know, no prophecies exist detailing someone reading a thousand words on video game heroes or anything, but we’ve definitely all felt pushed out of our element at times, pushed into doing thing we didn’t think we’d ever have to do or would need to do. It highlights the serendipity—the happenstance—of life because things just happen and we can’t control it. It’s relatable in that way and as it turns out, we like to relate to things.

Destiny is a bit…stranger in that way. We’d all like to think we’re destined for greater things, that those odd, random encounters were mile markers along your path, showing your progress to your future. It was all meant to be! That is a feeling that we can all relate to, wanting to believe you were meant for something greater.

But then somewhere along the line, perhaps at a certain age or a lifetime milestone, you realize that particular notion is a bit selfish. Perhaps you are destined for something, but that something just might be being the stepping stone for someone else who is on the way to making it big. That little nugget dawns on you—dwells and festers within you—and you begin to opt for the belief that there is no preordained life for anyone, that everything is up in the air up until the moment it happens.

That disenchantment is where destined heroes, the ones that can’t fail because everything in the universe is in cahoots with them to succeed, fall apart. We as players and human beings understand the feeling of wanting that to be true but nowhere do we tangibly appreciate anything of the sort coming to fruition. Worse yet, we eventually come to refuse (and possibly resent) that idea, leading us to refuse and resent the hero that we play.

If you look at Desmond Miles of the Assassin’s Creed series, you can find that entire arc played out. Desmond starts out as the present day ancestor to Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad of the High Middle Ages. Altaïr is a cold, calculating man with little in the way of character that helps us sympathize with him. We fall more in line with Desmond, a guy who just happens to have a valuable bloodline. A stroke of bad luck and he’s kidnapped for, well, something (it’s all very vague in the first game).

Once things begin to get a bit supernatural, though, we see that Desmond is destined for greater things. He is the man that can single-handedly save the world from a lingering cataclysmic event from the First Civilization. Ezio Auditore da Firenze, however, is for all intents and purposes a pawn. He is played but not necessarily destined for anything in particular beyond being a utility. Ezio then becomes the more relatable character and over the course of three games, we begin to drift further and further away from the preordained heroics of Desmond and towards the largely immaterial Italian nobleman. It was a combination of the fact that the role of Ezio is much more easily understood by us and that he’s a much more likable dude that Desmond. I mean, come on. He’s one charming rogue.

Assassin’s Creed III kind of cements the notion that we have been evicted from the Feels of Desmond and side with the history-pokers as most people find Connor still more appealing than Desmond, and Connor is kind of a dick. I understand he had a rough childhood and was betrayed a solid number of times, but can’t he at least just once thank Achilles? Or anyone who helps him for that matter. Altaïr was reserved by nature but it seemed like Connor was off-putting by choice. And despite this, we still side with the self-serious Native American over the destiny-ridden Desmond. Why? Because we find the preordained even less appealing than the dickish (mostly; Connor did have a fair amount of redeeming qualities).

Then again, it’s not always so cut-and-dry as this, nor is this emblematic of every story in video games (or books or movies). The one-man army shtick, for instance, falls somewhere in between these two archetypes, and favor falls all over the spectrum of relatable characters for that and the destined and the everyman. I’m just saying that the inherent storytelling qualities of the latter two fallout with relatability on the “just a dude” side of things, and since we like to feel like we’re understood and that we can understand things greater than our vocation, it’s a great boon towards likability as well. Hmm, maybe the Marvel and DC crack was more apropos than I thought.

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Sandwiches and Video Games: Being a Coddled Gamer

Listen, I know how to make a sandwich. When you see me with some bread, choice deli meats, and delicious cheeses, there will be no doubt in your mind that I know what I’m doing. The urge to say “hey, looks like you could use some help” never crosses your mind because 1) I’m fucking slaying this sandwich-making business and 2) stop looking at my lunch. It’s such a simple task that finding someone unfamiliar with the concept is akin to finding someone afflicted with smallpox.

So why do video games assume that I can’t make a sandwich?

There used to be a time when video games were slightly abusive. They actually follow a similar trend in regards to the sanitization and pacification of society in general, but that is a discussion that will have to take place at another time and place.

I’m not saying they were sadistic in any way but rather that the way you learned how to do things was by trying and failing and eventually succeeding. Hand-holding and explicit “go here and press this button after you go here and flip this switch” instructions were a rarity, and—if the game was well designed—no one missed them! Did anyone ever have to tell you how to make a sandwich? Did anyone have to tell you that the peanut butter and jelly went between the bread? I didn’t think so.

This is an oversimplification, but consider Super Mario Bros. level 1-1. There is no voiceover or text that tells you to go right and jump on the Goomba. There is a Goomba in the way, and you know there is a way past it. Either through experimentation with button-mashing or experience with other games, you figure out you can jump over or on top of it. And notice the proximity of the first block? It’s positioned just so that while you’re nailing the timing of your first kill, an errant leap or two will lead to the discovery that you can bump blocks for goodies. Simply through playing the game, you learn a great deal many things that you didn’t know before and didn’t require the game to tell you through flavorless exposition, and never does the game say “don’t forget to jump over the bad guys!”

Of course, game mechanics were simpler back then, but even video game control staples such as using the right analog stick to look around are still being hammered into your brain in the most pedantic of ways.

Take, for instance, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. There are puzzle sequences, climbing sections, and firefights. For most gamers, two of those parts are likely to be the standout facets of the Uncharted gem while the puzzles are left to be considered as slog. It seems that the developers know this since every time you come across a puzzle, the SELECT button icon comes up, reminding you to check Drake’s journal.

Or at least, that’s what I hope is the reason. The alternative is that they think you’re an idiot.

After the first puzzle, it’s safe to assume that you can remember that one of the 14 buttons on the controller is wholly dedicated to a third of the entire game. Instead, in an effort to quell the outcries of injustice from us simpletons, as soon you start a puzzle, before you even begin implementing your first posited solution, up comes a prompt that says “HEY DUM-DUM, PRESS SELECT TO SOLVE THIS PUZZLE.”

Don’t take this all the wrong way; I’m not categorically admonishing the notion of in-game tutorials. They’re a fine replacement for the atrophying state of game manuals (which I find absolutely horrifying. I used to read those things just for fun). I mean, just because I know how to mix cereal and milk doesn’t mean I know how to turn a dozen or so chainsaws into a mobile death engine. Teach me! Then I’ll know. Just don’t treat me like a fool.

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E3 ’09: Sony

Jack Tretton said “2008 is the year of the PlayStation 3.”

To be honest, it wasn’t. Sure, we had Metal Gear Solid 4 and LittleBigPlanet, but neither were the top sellers they probably should have been. And with Final Fantasy XIII and the next title in the Metal Gear franchise, “Metal Gear Solid: Rising” both coming to the Xbox 360, what’s Sony’s move?

It’s rumored that a new PSP model was going to be one of their biggest announcements, but the internet got the best of them, and the PSP Go! is known almost in its entirety already, and has been for the past week.

Sony started off their year with the bang that was Killzone 2. Down the pipe we know they have the likes of God of War 3 and Uncharted 2. But will it be enough? Does the former gaming juggernaut have any earthshattering surprises up their sleeves? Will they try to jump onto the motion control bandwagon like Microsoft has with Project Natal?

It’s time to find out.

12:50 – Waiting for the Sony conference, something has occured to me. I’ve been told more than once that I look vaguely like G4’s Adam Sessler. The thought terrifies me. What do you think?

1:12 – We’re starting at last. Montage of some upcoming games. Uncharted 2, Ratchet and Clank, God of War 3, LittleBigPlanet, Heavy Rain… Some pretty big games on their way. Video is set to the musical stylings of Queen.

1:14 – Jack Tretton is on-stage, thanking God that the press showed up. Joking about press leaks and how he was worried there’d be no reason to come (referencing the afforementioned PSP Go! stuff), much to the pleasure of those in attendence. Classy.

1:17 – Claims that Sony is the only company with 3 successful systems on-sale at once, referring to the PS2, PS3 and PSP. Thing is, I think Nintendo did the same thing for at least a short while with Wii, DS and GameBoy Advance.

1:18 – Talking about the PlayStation 2. How long is it going to take until Sony finally stops talking about it? Oh, right. This is PS2 year 9, and they’re going for the whole 10-year life cycle thing.

1:19 – Over 100 new titles for the PS2 this year? Crazy.

1:20 – Talking numbers. Standard affair, but it reminds me why Microsoft’s conference was so great. It didn’t have any of this stuff. Jack is currently talking about how great inFamous is, which, sure. It’s pretty rad.

1:22 – Someone from Naughty Dog is out to talk about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Multiplayer beta starts tonight at midnight. Going to show single-player here, now.

1:23 – The crowd is cheering as Nathan Drake scales a building. Game looks impressive graphically and seems to have some nice dialogue during gameplay. Oh look, a nice helicopter…

1:24 – Action has camped up. Gunplay is being shown. Looks standard but well done, and mixed with all this Lara Croft-like acrobatics could make for some cool situations.

1:26 – Game looks intense and pretty cinematic. Keep an eye on this one, PS3 owners.

1:27 – We’re finally going to see gameplay of MAG – Massive Action Game. 256 players simultaneously fighting a battle.

1:28 – They’ve got 256 actual players about to play this demo. Impressive.

1:29 – Looks like a pretty involved multiplayer FPS, with every player assigned to a squad (across two large teams), and a squad leader capable of giving commands to his squad. Seems to be objective-based gameplay.

1:31 – XP system a la Call of Duty 4 confirmed. Dude just got +5 EXP for killing another dude.

1:32 – Spawn points, a la Battlefield, have to be secured for attacking players to push forward toward their goal. Players (or at least squad commanders) can call airstrikes. Seems to take a lot of tactical strategy. Hopefully that won’t be an issue with so many idiots playing online. MAG will be playable on the show floor, and should be out this fall.

1:33 – Time to move to the PSP.

1:35 – The crowd is actually cheering at a pink PSP Hannah Montana bundle. They’re either jokesters or paid. Or both.

1:36 – Kaz Hirai is making his way to the stage.

1:37 – He pulled a PSP Go out of his pocket. Says it has a couple of names, the first being “Worst kept secret of E3.” Glad to see they’re light about the subject and acknowledging it.

1:38 – PSP Go has no UMD drive, and all of its games and software are download-only, somewhat like the iPhone. 50% smaller than the regular PSP. Controls slide out, like a Sidekick Slide cellphone.

1:39 – Media Go announced, which replaces the Media Manager of before. It’s a PC application that is used to transfer media to your PSP.

1:40 – Now he’s talking about some weird sounding program called “Sense Me” that analyses your music library and chooses songs for you based on the mood you select… Or something. He glossed over it really fast. Comic in Fall.

1:42 – PSP Go will be $249.99. PSP 3000 will still be $169.99. Anyone sold on Go? I’m not, personally.

1:44 – The father of Grand Turismo is coming onto the stage.

1:45 – Grand Turismo PSP announced at long last. He has it running on a PSP Go right now. The device does indeed look small, which could be nice. Says that even though the device is small, the game is a full-scale Grand Turismo experience.

1:46 – The translator seems to be reading notes the whole time, which is kind of weird.

1:47 – Tons of cars (800+) and tracks, plus content sharing. You can trade cars with friends in an attempt to “catch them all.”

1:50 – Playing a trailer of the game now. It looks like a Grand Turismo game. SURPRISE! Apparently it’s coming October 1, 2009.

1:51 – Something Metal Gear is coming. Hideo Kojima is showing up. I wonder if it feels like coming home to your family after announcing that you’re sleeping with their enemy.

1:52 – He’s not here to talk about Metal Gear Solid: Rising, though. He’s talking about a PSP game called Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker. Set 10 years after MGS3. We had heard a bit about this yesterday, so not a huge shock, but still nice.

1:53 – Kojima is writing and producing. Says it’s a true MGS sequel, not a spin-off or sidestory. So much for MGS4 being Kojima’s last Metal Gear game!

1:55 – Here’s a trailer. Kicks off with some live-action stock footage and some voice-over. Looks like the continuing adventures of Big Boss in the lead-up to Outer Heaven.

1:56 – Graphics look really sharp for a portable title. Lot’s of sneaking, so hey, it’s a Metal Gear game.

1:57 – There’s… 4 Snakes/Big Bosses/Clones on screen right now. Say what? They’re facing a Metal Gear, looks like. And the trailer ends with the infamous cardboard box antics. Coming in 2010. My interest is piqued.

2:00 – Jack is back on stage talking about… Resident Evil on PSP? Brand new, exclusive game sounds like, but… That’s all we got.

2:00 – Hannah Montana was name dropped again, and the crowd cheered again.

2:02 – Montage of upcoming PSP titles. Final Fantasy Dissidia, Monster Hunter, LittleBigPlanet, Soul Calibur and others are in the lineup.

2:05 – Time to talk PlayStation Newtork games.

2:06 – Adding over 50 PS1 classics to the service this year, starting today with Final Fantasy VII. Fanboys everywhere can rejoice.

2:07 – Talking about PlayStation Home and where it’s come since launch 6 months ago. As one of the millions that was pretty disappointed by Home, I’m not sure many in attendence care too much.

2:10 – PS3 video now. There’s Uncharted 2 again. inFamous, Madden, Final Fantasy XIII… The usual suspects. Batman: Arkham Assylum, White Knight Story and Ninja Gaiden and there too, with many more. Seems to be a solid lineup.

2:15 – Got to say, this is a long montage with tons and tons of games being shown. Not all of them are exclusive, by any means, but PS3 owners should be happy with what’s available.

2:16 – Announcing Agent, a Rockstar game that’s exclusive to the PS3. Nice move, Sony. That could be a smart move after the blunder of losing GTA.

2:17 – Ubisoft folks are on-stage to show Assassin’s Creed II. Wasn’t Ubisoft’s press conference yesterday?

2:18 – Now, I was a big fan of the original Assassin’s Creed, so I may be biased, but this sequel looks fantastic. I’m liking the new setting a lot.

2:18 – Leonardo DaVinci is one of Ezio’s “friends” that helps him become an assassin. He sounds like Bond’s “M”, providing Ezio with gadgets and weapons.

2:20 – Ezio is deadlier than Altair, the hero in the first game. And he looks it. The crowd seems impressed with deal-blade assassination.

2:21 – Italian dude was just OWNED. Assassination complete. Time to get the hell out of dodge.

2:22 – The crowd cheers as the demo ends. I’m impressed. The game launches this holiday season, along with an original PSP Assassin’s Creed title.

2:24 – A video is playing of Final Fantasy XIII. I’m a big Final Fantasy fan, but I’m kind of sick of seeing this one and just want to play it already. Still, I like the English voices being displayed here.

2:27 – Dude, WHAT? Jack just announce Final Fantasy 14?!?!?!? 13 isn’t even out yet!!!! Bir us XIII Versus. He also makes sure to say that the PS3 will be the only console it will be available on.

2:28 – Wait… This trailer is reminding me of Final Fantasy XI. The online game.

2:29 – AHA! Called it. Final Fantasy XIV: Online. Extremely less excited now. Unexcited to the point that I barely care. Interesting that it’s PS3-only, though.

2:30 – Now Sony is showing off a new motion controller. Everyone is jumping on the Wii train!

2:31 – Ok, I’ve just gotta say it… This motion controller – in its current form, which they stress will change – looks like a dildo.

2:32 – Looks like it interacts with the PlayStation Eye in order to replace the dildo device with a racket, golf club, stop sign… Maybe even a real dildo?

2:32 – Dude running the demo just said, “It’s still hard.” That’s way funnier to me than it should be.

2:34 – The technology looks cool, I’ve gotta say, but what’s gonna happen in the new war between the Wiimote, this thing, and Natal?

2:36 – “Sub-millimeter accuracy.” Accurate enough to write and draw with the little wand-dildo.

2:37 – Looks way too similar to the Wii Remote for me to be super stoked, but it does look like better technology than the Wii uses. I may have to write up my thoughts on all this motion stuff in a seperate blog.

2:39 – Fighting monsters with swords and throwing stars. Looks fun enough. Oh, bows too. It’s an archery kinda day between this and Wii Sports Resort. This one may be impressing me more.

2:41 – “PlayStation Motion Controller” coming Spring 2010. I wonder if Nintendo will launch a new Wii next year, too, to combat this and Natal.

2:42 – Talking LittleBigPlanet costumes. Disney themed. Awwww, cute little Jack Sparrow Sackboy!

2:43 – Just announced ModNation Racers. Another “Play. Create. Share.” title like LittleBigPlanet. I’m guessing you can design tracks and whatnot.

2:44 – Yeah, the character creation looks similar to LittleBigPlanet, though it’s a slightly different style. You can also customize cars, looks like.

2:46 – Real-time physics, drifting… Looks like a standard kart racer. Looks nice graphically, though, and customization could be a big draw I suppose. It’ll have to top the creation tools of TrackMania, though.

2:47 – Tracks are rendered and playable in seconds, so that’s kind of cool. The creation stuff does indeed look pretty easy and cool. You can add mountains!

2:49 – A friend just mentioned that this is basically Mario Kart meets LittleBigPlanet, and that’s pretty darn accurate. So if that sounds awesome to you, then maybe you should be excited.

2:51 – Jack is back.

2:53 – Third title in the “Ico” trilogy is known as “The Last Guardian.” Looks like the “Project Trico” footage that actually leaked awhile back, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. A lot of people have been anxiously awaiting this team’s newest title.

2:54 – For those not in the know, this game is from the people who made “Ico” and “Shadow of the Colossous” for the PS2. Very artsy (and good) games. This new game follows in the same vein in a lot of ways, with a weird furry/feathery creature and a small boy.

2:56 – Yeah, aside from the title “The Last Guardian” and maybe some touchups and new footage, this is the exact same trailer that leaked before. Oh well, it looks outstanding and very stylized in HD.

2:57 – Short tease of Grand Turismo 5 for the PS3 now. Seems like some people have been waiting for this one forever, but realistic car racing isn’t really my thing.

2:59 – GT5 looks good graphically, if this stuff is in-engine. But that’s all I can really say.

3:00 – Time for God of War 3!

3:02 – This totally looks like a God of War game, which, hey, is a good thing. They say it’s the last part of a trilogy. Really, now?

3:02 – Harpy riding!

3:03 – Did Kratos just sprout wings for a second? Other than that, it looks like pretty standard GoW gameplay. Looks very, very epic, though, and gorgeous graphically. Should easily please fans of the series.

3:05 – Confirmed: Quick-time events are back. They look better, though.

3:06 – Those interested in God of War should definitely track down a video of this gameplay demonstration when all this is done. I can’t really describe it. But it’s brutal in all the right ways.

3:07 – Coming out March 2010.

3:08 – That’s a wrap.

Pretty impressive, I’ve gotta say. Sony didn’t let leaks or Microsoft’s guns get to them. The conference went really well. We’ll have more in terms of coverage and comparisons later.

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