Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Does it Still Hold Up?

Back in the days of October, 2004, the world was taken by storm by the latest and greatest installment of Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Moving from the bustling Vice City to the gang-filled streets of Los Santos, San Andreas was regarded as a damn masterpiece of the time. With a quite large open world for the player to explore and plenty of side activities, it’s no wonder why it was regarded with such praise at the time. But what about now, 15 years later? Does it still hold up as a quality game or have we been blinded by the rose-colored glasses we look through?

First things first, a brief recap of where we begin. We follow the story of and play as Carl Johnson (better known as CJ), a former member of the Grove Street Families, who is coming back to his hometown of Los Santos after the death of his mother. What he comes back to find is Grove Street to be a shell of its former self and their lifelong rivals, the Rolling Heights Ballas, reigning supreme. Determined to stay and build the Families back up as one of the leading gangs in Los Santos, CJ once again finds himself back in the world of crime he had tried to leave behind.

Note: This review is based off of the PC version available on Steam. Experiences may vary on other platforms.

Well as far as the story goes, I say it still holds up in true GTA fashion. It checks the boxes of actual intriguing story as well as giving the over-the-top outrageousness that the series is known so well for. From drive-bys (and drive-thrus) to killing deliverymen with RC planes, there’s a wide array of missions CJ is tasked with to keep the game lively and entertaining. The plot itself is one I find to be actually rather compelling. The twists and turns keep the player intrigued and invested in what’s to come while also providing an element of comedy that’s still brought up to this day. I can say that this aspect holds up to this day rather well.

The characters themselves are memorable in their own way. From the preaching words of Big Smoke to the uncanny skills (for a blind man, at least) of Woozie, each one has their own unique personality, giving the game more dynamic and fun interactions. But on the downside, there’s a good deal of poor voice acting in the game. It seems that the non-crucial story characters (take T-Bone Mendez for example) have just really bad VAs, while the more important ones are pretty good. My guess is that Samuel L. Jackson took up too much of the budget and they had to take what they could get. Other than that, though, the characters are some of the most iconic in the entire franchise.

Now for the technical side, where the disparity really starts to show. First off, the graphics really show that it’s from 2004, with textures that look better off in Minecraft nowadays. Outside of cutscenes, everything is jagged and rough. Hell, I’m not sure if there’s anything resembling a curve in the game. The audio is another issue, prominently the dialogue. When in cutscenes, it sounds just fine, but in-game, anyone other than CJ sounds like they’re speaking through a cheap Xbox mic. It’s not the most pleasant thing in the world to listen to. Gunshots don’t sound great and explosions could be related more to someone blowing into a microphone than an actual explosion. Another somewhat uncommon issue is that the game can crash while loading, leaving you looking at a black screen that’s annoying to Alt+Tab out of. I’ve resorted to restarting my PC whenever it happens.

Controls are a whole different beast entirely. The camera control when running and driving can be a hassle, but it’s manageable. On-foot movement is nothing different for the GTA franchise, so it’s easy to get the hang of. The driving, on the other hand, is quite annoying when starting off. Most notably is that you have no control over your acceleration. As it’s controlled by a button rather than a trigger, the only options are “go” or “don’t go”. However, once you get a grip on it, it can feel quite good to drive around in the game. Shooting is where my main issue lies. It’s primarily controlled by a target-lock system that can be a bit buggy at times, not allowing you to lock on to someone standing directly in front of you. Another issue is more of a personal gripe, but when you try to shoot someone behind you, CJ simply just shoots into the air rather than turn around. You have to turn and face the target for CJ to actually aim at them. I understand why it works like this, but it’s just annoying to deal with.

Overall, I think that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas would not hold up today in terms of graphics and audio, but the story, characters, and gameplay are still of a high quality that keeps the player entertained for countless hours. From when singleplayer games reigned supreme, this gem has stood the test of time and lives on with a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.

Redo Of Healer could Spark Controversial Debut

Controversial Revenge Manga Redo Of Healer, could spark a plethora of negative reviews for its portrayal of sexual assault and abuse.

Redo of Healer tells the story of a Healer abused and assaulted by his party, the Healer then gained the ability to reset time back four years, and take his revenge on those who wronged him. The anime adaptation is confirmed and will most likely be highly scrutinized by many, the same way Rise of the Shield Hero was as well with its depiction of Slavery, or how Goblin Slayer was with a certain scene from the first episode.

The controversy that sparked Shield Hero was ridiculous and simply made the anime more popular. Many normally functioning human beings will understand that fiction and reality are two separate forms of life and art themselves. There are others who disagree, but they’re the type of people to hate you for having an alternative opinion for something very minuscule.

We can only await its anime debut and I’m calling it right now, it will get even more woke negative reviews than Shield Hero or Goblin Slayer ever did. As long as the Warriors of Social Justice have a platform to spew hatred for different opinions, this will always continue.

Killer 7: Politics in gaming done RIGHT

Nowadays politics can be considered one of the most important parts of some lives due to the obsessive coverage, obsessive talk about it and overall the spin we give to it due to the obsession to get the most views,

Now, Killer7 First/Third person shooter game with arcade like mechanics with an tint of political drama/Psychological horror/David Lynch film released for PS2/Gamecube and Steam recently and a compelling storytelling technique which leaves some thing vague yet they can be understood once you analyze the game well enough.

Let`s get to the basics of the story shall we.

You play as the Smith Syndicate which is a group of 7 personalities inside one man named Harman Smith who is an wheelchair bound assassin who carries out politics related assassination for the US.

However they are intercepted by the mysterious Heaven Smiles, bizarre zombie like creatures who blow up and are invisible to everyone but the Smiths,

However the game is far deeper and interesting than this non spoiler preview because whatever I mention after the first mission are spoilers which shouldn`t be talked about without experiencing first hand, this game takes alot of inspiration from things like David Lynch film and it`s one of the most insane videogame experiences both plotwise and character wise, it`s not an easy to understand experience but it`s an lovely experience

The basics of the Seven Smiths is also interesting.

The main personalities are Dan, Garcian, Kaede, Coyote,Kevin, Con, MASK

All 7 of them are of course unique in their own way.

Dan is an hotblooded assassin who wouldn`t hesitate to shoot anyone

Kaede is a character who helps open passages with her own blood,

Coyote is an assholish assassin who can do long jumps.

Kevin is an mute albino who can turn invisible,

Con is an young blind chinese kid who has the ability to use Super Speed,

Mask is the embodiment of kindness who has super strength and uses it to help the Smiths at multiple points with his Grenade Launchers.

Garcian is the Cleaner who takes over once the Seven Smith personality are gone, he can be called the last resort in most missions and is curiously one of the personalities that appears the most throughout the game

There are also informants which all of them talk in a different text to speech voice each.

They are your ghostly clue givers which always help you throughout a level and throughout the story while giving you some tips.

How is the gameplay however and well.

The gameplay is Arcade like shooter which means you have a third person view while walking in a railroad corridor with different paths to take usually but to shoot you have to stand still and aim.

You cannot move and aim so you gotta know when to shoot and always check your surroundings as all Heaven smiles have a weak point which gives you Thick Blood which is used to upgrade your characters in restrooms.

Each upgrade is important in itself so don`t go around missing on weak points, some enemies have obvious ones while others have some really hard to find ones and you might need to use some shoots to find them.

The soundtrack.

Now, The soundtrack of Killer7 is done by Suda`s collaborator and Danganronpa composer Masafumi Takada and it can be considered one of it`s most memorable parts with songs such as “Rave on”, “Teck Mecks”, “Scene man”, “Russian roulette” and “Reenact”.

The music feels like part of a movie that each time you are in feels fitting.

You can feel the intensity of a scene through the music, the music is essential to the game for me and many others.

In a way you can consider that the music is probably one of the most beautiful part of the game besides the cel shaded graphics and cutscenes.

You can consider the game to be an insane videogame masterpiece with it`s story.

The game is a trip for the player who ventures into it and it feels like a Mamushka of both conspiracy and drama which spans thru multiple decades an involves the existence of the world itself

I rate Killer7 an 9/10 due to all of the points above and because of course it is a masterpiece but it has a minor flaw in itself.

That flaw being the run times of course but thankfully PC has fixed it for you players who didn`t waited 6 weeks in front of  a TV for a PS2 game to load.

All in all we can say Killer7 is the true political drama everyone would love.

Pokémon Fan Games Are Fantastic

Immense Effort in a Disheartening Climate

Immense Effort in a Disheartening Climate

I’m new to fan games in general and never was a big Pokémon fan but I’ve been recently enjoying what they have to offer and the work these people put into there games. Despite knowing Nintendo will most likely strike down on them is insane and respectable because the devs of these games know that once something in on the internet, you can truly never remove it. Which is great news for all the fan games and for some reason Nintendo thinks this is a bad thing.

The game I have recently tried is arguably the most popular Pokémon fan game “Pokémon Uranium” which so far I have been impressed with. The game so far has been really beautiful to look at, the environments are vibrant which I know Pokémon B&W had a hard time with and looked watered down. Uranium still feels like a fan game due to lack of polish but in many aspects really improves on many parts of Nintendo’s actual games.

Route 5

The game adds 150 new Pokémon each with unique designs that compete with the actual thing and the most adorable starter on this planet.

I named this after my cat during a nuzlocke run and I just realized if she dies I WILL cry.

Along with many new Pokémon, Uranium bring a whole new type of Pokémon, Uranium type, who would have guessed. This type is super effective against everything, and everything is super effective against it. Why am I doing a nuzlocke again go damnit. Speaking of nuzlockes this game provides a nuzlocke challenge setting so I can be forced to watch my adorable cat die permanently.

Now, why am I talking about Uranium well for one its the one I tried but it was also “taken down” by Nintendo which means its not at risk if we report on it, but bigger companies like Kotaku don’t understand the importance of preservation. Kotaku has a whole section on their site dedicated to “Fan Games” which informs the masses about these fan games and also to their twitter followers which includes Nintendo. Nintendo is infamous for taking down an fan made games which is why its our responsibility to stay quite about active ones and spread them around as much as possible. Kotaku doesn’t seem to know what subtlety is.

It’s unfortunate to see these things go and the fact that Nintendo has this power is disheartening and hopefully some change is made where people have true creative freedom but for now fan games will just have to stay low only to be seen by those who hunt them down.

Normies Far Too Entitled. Is GateKeeping our Only Option?

Your favorite ice cream truck has rolled right around the corner, its music blaring as the truck comes to a complete stop right in front of your house. The other children scream in delight as the truck opens up and all the glorious ice cream you can buy rolls around. You get the occasional Dark Souls ice cream cone. It’s very tricky to balance, even with both of your hands holding it. But there’s so much content in it that indulging in it is a very lovely reward in the end. Perfect for a hot summer day! Sooner or later, however, the bullies in the town find the ice cream “offensive” and “segregating” as they order their filthy rich parents. They argue that they want all flavors the same so that they appeal to everyone. The ice cream truck rolls around once more, all with one flavor that’s supposed to appeal to everyone…. it’s cum flavored. Eww, no thanks.

This may seem like a ridiculous example, but it’s not far from the truth of what will happen to videogames or even games in general in the near future. Because it’s so easy to pick up a controller and start playing, it’s become incredibly widespread throughout the globe. Hundreds of tournaments for just about any game you can name are popping up worldwide, just about every convention holds an area for videogames and it’s constantly advertised on TV to this day. With so many people involved though, there has been a consistent growth of very manipulative people, who don’t care at all about videogames or art, that are taking dozens of fans by the hand and recruiting armies to change games how they please. Whether it’d be to dumb everything down so everything is for babies, shoving in their absurd propaganda. Either way, they’re doing everything they can to make the videogames we love into the cum flavored ice cream that they feel entitled to.

 Why is that, though? Is it Money? Power? Clout? Well, according to what they’ve done to infect the gaming communities at hand, it’s a mix of all of that to be perfectly honest. Manipulating the normies of the different game fandoms to poison each one further not only moves these people up the system but it also targets those high in the system to take it down due to Cancel Culture. However, Cancel Culture didn’t start out as much of a thing. There was definitely Outrage Culture but nobody was horribly affected. Those who were called out still had plenty of power. Infact if anyone was the first to weaponize it to such a large degree, it was Keemstar. Before Idubbz neutered Keem, he was a titan in the Youtube industry, taking channels down like Tobuscus, with the help of Toby’s ex girlfriend in this case. After 2016, cancel culture was in full swing. But none of it was used nearly as much as the AltLeft. Obviously cancel culture has its good uses. Take power from the ones willing to abuse it. However, due to incredibly ridiculous double standards and heavy bias, cancel culture continues to be a weapon only used by those who abuse power. Only worse, there’s been a recent movement to “cancel cancel culture” as quickly as possible so that it effects no one on their side. Either that or they pretend that cancel culture doesn’t exist or harm anyone because they heard about Pewdiepie last week. And if you ironically believe that when reading, read this: Just because someone cancelled can afford to recover doesn’t mean that everyone else can. Alec committing suicide over a Twitter mob and Zoe not contacting authorities whatsoever should already be a clear indication on what Cancel Culture can do. Worse, it teaches every man in the industry that women are just walking lawsuits waiting to happen. That creates even more sexism, not vanquishes it. On the opposite spectrum, not allowing women to play videogames or harassing them with dick pics for doing so is even cringier (excuse my language).

The other thing to mention is the return of the Easy Mode arguments. Specifically in the wake of Hideo Kojima announcing that Death Stranding will have a Very Easy Mode. While this does not harm the game and was specifically for movie fans to see more of Mads Mikkelsen, game journalists started popping up announcing that every game should have modes like these for more accessibility. While modes don’t harm the game itself, not every game needs an easy mode. Games like Sekiro, which normies have long raged for to have a gamemode, has a set difficulty as its primary feature. The argument for it is so that people can “see the game”… as if Let’s Plays and streaming don’t exist? The logic falls flat once you realize that normies don’t even want a game, they just want scenery and easy accomplishments. That’s why they spend so much money on live services, because it gives them that with a credit card number. Any videogame that dares challenge this dogma is sent to shame for not being “accessible.” Of course, Nintendo masters this to a T with genre specific games appealing to everyone and anyone. However, that’s Nintendo’s style, not every company needs to be like Nintendo. From Software has their own style of games. Blizzard has (or had) their own style of gameplay. I use ‘had’ because World of Warcraft has now become a fancy art show due to being as “accessible” as possible and ends up being shallow. If WoW Classic boosting WoW subs nearly 3 times the amount doesn’t show how important gameplay is, I don’t know what does. Gatekeeping didn’t do that, encouragement of the industry to focus on what makes games great did.

The point is, no. We can’t bring back gatekeeping nor is it our only option. We must call out these frauds who oppose our hobbies and seek to censor and destroy what made them special. That is not gatekeeping. Gatekeeping implies that there’s a gate in the first place. There isn’t. Videogames are for everyone, even if not every videogame is for everyone. Are they harming the industry with live services? Well, in a way yes, but we should encourage more single player games. Encouraging this action has lead to the PS4 Spiderman game, God of War 5, Sekiro, Astral Chain, Breath of the Wild and the likes. The more single player non live service games we put on the shelves, the more we can educate normies on what real accomplishment, escape and community feels like. Gatekeeping does not accomplish those things as much as we want it to.

Link’s Awakening: Does the Remake hold a candle to the Classic?

Incase this may break continuity on how I feel on games and specific games, this will be put into the perspective of Demon Tristie.

   The GBA was my only connection to the Nintendo in his early childhood, other than the Wii but that would be years later. I personally haven’t played much of the original DX version at all except for a custom cartridge on the Game Boy Advanced, (yes you can actually get those on Ebay) even then I didn’t play much of it because its battery died soon later. Coming back to this game, with hardly any memory from it or playing the series was a breath of fresh air for me.

   “It was a dark and stormy night” is usually a cliché way of starting a story. In Link’s Awakening, however, that doesn’t matter as its charming gameplay and enticing mystery sucks you into the game. Its gameplay is simple yet fun as ever with its rewarding mechanics and challenging dungeons. It seems rather silly at first to price a remake at $60. But when you look at the features it offers on top of its visual upgrade then it really is worth that price. The gameplay itself is still crisp. Albeit very simplistic, its gameplay is charming enough and still fun as hell. The trading sequence is a blast and the dungeons are insanely fun to figure out. Everything just…. connects and it’s great to get that rush. That’s what gameplay is about. It’s about tight design and building up from previous experiences for newer experiences within the game.

   The graphics in the game are wonderful, though pretty laggy at times. Not only is the visual art direction absolutely wonderful with remastered and new soundtracks, but the ability to build your own dungeons and download others’ gives an even better experience. On top of that, the obvious references to other Nintendo games lends itself surprisingly well to the style. The side-scrolling ones are filled with Mario enemies and you’ll sometimes come across something from the Kirby games. Except, as I mentioned, it gets pretty laggy at times. An undocked Nintendo Switch can prove to be irritating as entering new areas can cause pretty hefty framerate drops of 20-30 fps for a second or two while it’s loading. And once you enter a water area? Oh boy that’ll kill your framerate to 20-30 fps for as long as you’re there, hopefully this works better on the Switch Lite but it’s frankly painful to go through it for longer periods. Regardless it’s 60 fps for the most part and it looks gorgeous.

   The Soundtrack is also something to note more in detail. The Ballad of the Wind Fish is probably one of the best Zelda tracks out there (and I’ve listened to a large majority, but still, take my opinion with a grain of salt). I also love that it puts in some chiptune for the sound design to hark back to the original Gameboy version. It’s a nice touch with its artstyle and cheery attitude.

   Overall, Link’s Awakening is an excellent game. It’s framedrops are nothing compared to its beautiful style, good soundtrack and its simple but elegant gameplay. If you’re a Zelda fan I highly recommend it. If you have a Switch and you’re looking for a nice single player game, I definitely recommend it.

Mortal Kombat’s Guest Character Problem

In 2009 the developers of the beloved Mortal Kombat franchise filed for Bankruptcy after several quarterly losses. Warner Brothers purchased the IP from Midway and the studio was reborn under Netherrealms Studios and their first game was a soft reboot of the franchise. 2011’s Mortal Kombat was a breath of fresh air for the nearly vacant fighting game scene that year and stands as one of the best fighting games of the decade and one of the strongest entries in the series overall. 

…The horrible story not withstanding of course(be honest now). 

Naturally there was a follow-up after they experimented with the engine a bit for Injustice:Gods Among Us. Mortal Kombat X, or MKX for short, was…well…okay if we’re going to be totally honest MKX is a major step down from MK9 and is by far the worst entry in the new timeline. 

From relegating major characters like Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Kenshi to the backseat and making their kids the focus of the story there’s your first major problem. The Kombat Kids are some of the most fanfictiony stuff ever put into a video game and I, to this day, do not understand their appeal. Which brings us to Mortal Kombat 11 the, quote-unquote, most controversial entry in the series since they completely removed any sex appeal of the female cast of characters, made SUBTLE jabs at Donald Trump, turned Noob Saibot into a Misogynist for some reason, and decided that this new timeline just wasn’t working out so they hit reset again by the end of the story.  So we’ve had two timeline resets between three games…friendly reminder that the original timeline, for all its flaws, went on from 1992 to 2006(I don’t count MK vs DC Universe). 

Mortal Kombat has a major identity problem going on at the moment but that’s a topic for a different day. I bring up the new Trilogy because in MK9 we got a taste of something that was honestly fairly interesting at the time. Guest characters. 
Mortal Kombat has had DLC characters for the three previous titles. MK9 only had 4 guest characters but I feel that they handled it the best out of all three titles so far. We had two returning classics with Rain and Kenshi, a proper introduction to the long awaited Skarlet who has been rumored since Mortal Kombat 2, and finally Freddy Krueger. A surprising entrant but neat nonetheless. 

50% highly anticipated returns, 25% new character, and 25% guest character. Solid balance, no problems here. 

Let’s take a look at MKX. We have Goro, a preorder bonus, Tanya who is IN the story mode, Tremor a character who hasn’t been seen since the abysmal Special Forces, Bo’ Rai Cho another character who is in the story mode, Triborg a poor attempt at getting Smoke, Cyrax, and Sektor all in the game without giving them all variations, and four, count em, four guest characters with Jason Vorhees, Predator, Leatherface, and Alien. 

Oh boy…This is just insulting. Not counting Goro as a preorder bonus who eventually went up for sale, the only returning classic characters are two of the most unpopular characters with Bo, Rai Cho and the underdeveloped Tanya. Both of which are integral to the plot of MKX and already had in game sprites and Tanya had a moveset. Netherrealms literally sold us on disc DLC characters who should have just been playable from the get go. 
At least Triborg is fun to use on his Smoke Variation and it’s not a totally horrendous idea, just cheap execution. 

Then we have the guest characters. Since Freddy was a guest character in MK9 you can kinda get away with Jason Vorhees. But since we have banter before fights why would you want to include a character who never talks? The same goes for Alien and Predator. I mean Predator is the most fitting out of all the guest characters in MKX and it is kinda cool to see him kicking ass. 

But then we have Leatherface and I will maintain that he is without a doubt the worst guest character in Mortal Kombat history. Jason Vorhees is an undead serial killer with superhuman strength and endurance, Freddy Krueger is a demonic master of dreams, Alien is a highly advanced bio weapon that bleeds acid, the Predator is an Alien with high tech weaponry who hunts and kills the strongest warriors for sport and Leatherface is…just some crazy hillbilly with a chainsaw. He just doesn’t fit in Mortal Kombat and his dialog consists of screaming incoherently. So that’s four characters who don’t work with the new banter system since none of them talk. 

There were 8 dlc characters for MKX, 50% guest, 25% debuting, and the remainder are characters who already had movesets either from the previous game or built into the story mode. It’s ridiculously lopsided in favor of crossover appeal and if I wanted Crossover appeal I would play King of Fighters. Which brings me to Mortal Kombat 11…look. I enjoy Mk11 way more than MKX, I’ve put countless hours into mastering Subzero to a point where I even play competitively for the first time in years, so take what I say with a grain of salt but…I think it’s a baby step in the right direction. 

The current confirmed characters are Shang Tsung, Nightwolf, Sindel, Terminator, The Joker, and Spawn…maybe Ash Williams as well but that rumor appears to be squashed at the time of writing this though it won’t surprise me if they make a deal later. 

Three Returning iconic characters who are beloved by fans, a super cyborg, the most fitting guest character in Mortal Kombat history with Spawn and…the Joker. Well…he fits better than Leatherface does and he is culturally relevant since The Joker movie is a box office juggernaut and something something Terminator Dark Fate. 
There’s a rumor that more DLC characters are coming down the pipeline and it appears that we’re going to see more classic characters returning and they’re taking a step back from guest characters for the time being. 

But Netherrealms has a good track record of disappointing me to no end. They still have this guest character problem even if they appear to have corrected the course.  When one of the key developers of Mortal Kombat 11 talks about how it doesn’t matter what the fans think about returning characters then there’s a major problem at NRS. From a practical standpoint I get it. Your audience should not dictate the direction of your product but rather you should only do what you feel is necessary to make it a good product and hope that the audience will be there to support it. The issue isn’t with that, the issue is with this major disconnect that NRS has with their fanbase. 

Consider the Following for MK11. Cyrax and Sektor are both plot central but neither one is playable despite having movesets. Chances are they’ll be playable as DLC in the future but that’s ANOTHER example of on disc DLC that we’ll have to buy and if they don’t include those two popular characters later on then it will just disappoint the fans even more. It’s lose/lose when they just should have made them playable from the get go. Also consider how many characters are referenced in MKX and MK11 or even fully seen in the story mode like Li Mei, Sareena,  Fujin, Sheeva, the previously mentioned Cyrax and Sektor, Smoke, Stryker, and even the severed head of Hsu Hao makes an appearance in one of Erron Black’s intros. 

What is the point of having so many iconic characters bopping around the story mode but not be playable? Now I’m not arguing that they pull a Mortal Kombat Armageddon and make every single solitary character playable in one game(as nice as that would be) I’m merely asking them one simple request.

If you go out of your way to make brand new character models, hire voice actors and actresses, and make them plot central in some form or another, then please just make them playable instead of worthless characters like Leatherface. 

Is it so wrong to ask for a Mortal Kombat game to have Mortal Kombat characters and maybe a guest or two? I’m not trying to be a downer here because I do honestly think MK11 righted some of the wrongs in MKX but it still made some of the same mistakes and even added a couple of them that weren’t present before. 

For all it’s faults and foibles I love this franchise. I’ve been in love with this franchise since I was 5 years old and thought that Mortal Kombat was the greatest movie of all time and that Mortal Kombat Annihilation was just as good. Hell, I even watched and enjoyed Defenders of the Realm growing up.

I’m not asking Mortal Kombat to love me back or for Ed Boon to bottle up some sweet gamer boy eyebrow sweat. But I’d love it if Mortal Kombat gave us some more classic characters and Netherrealms stopped jerking us around with guest character slots that could have went to fan favorites who haven’t been playable since 2006. 
13 years since Mavado, Reiko, Havik, Li Mei, Nitara, Ashrah, Onaga, and hell I’d even welcome back Kira and Kobra. They could actually develop them a little better this time around. 

…You can keep Mokap, though. 

Modern Warfare – Review

Introduction

  I’d like to say from the outset: It’s been about a decade since I’ve played any Call of Duty game. The last ones I touched were Modern Warfare 2, and Black Ops. I actually have quite a few fond memories with those games, but don’t expect me to be able to compare our current topic of discussion to every single yearly release since then. But that begs the question: What brought me back to the series? Nostalgia for the classic Modern Warfare games? If that were the case, I would’ve played Modern Warfare 3. Maybe it’s the fact that Microsoft can’t figure out how digital purchases work, and I got access to some unlucky sod’s pre-order edition? No, it was these two things: An apparent focus on more tactical gameplay, and the pathetic press catastrophe surrounding it. The latter however, is a topic for another article.

  I like more realistic, involved experiences when I play a military shooter of any kind. Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, SOCOM, Spec Ops, these are the modern military games I grew up with. Games that reward forethought, strategy, and caution. The run and gun gameplay that the Call of Duty series devolved into was of no interest to me. As you can imagine, I have a hard time filling that gap in my taste these days. “Ghost Recon: Breakpoint” can actually be quite good (mechanically), but that’s one of the few games out there right now. Thanks to executive decisions made with the title, it’s almost as if Ubisoft doesn’t want to allow it to succeed. On top of that, the game’s story completely fails to act upon it’s compelling setup and themes. So then we’re left with “Rainbow Six: Siege”. Despite my soft spot for the game and it’s realism oriented gameplay that rewards coordination and careful movement, I can’t deny it’s held back by an excessively grindy progression and an online only live service focus.

  So then I started to hear about this new Call of Duty, a same titled reboot I would normally ignore the release of. An interesting, shocking story you say? People dying over and over when they fail to check their corners who then complain that the maps need fixing? Now you have my attention.

The Campaign

NOTE: I played the campaign on the “Hardened” difficulty, which sits right above “Regular”, since I was after that more realistic experience. This made the gameplay’s strengths and weaknesses very clear. We’ll be covering them both.

  This is a prequel story. They won’t tell you that, for some reason. The only thing that clued me in were references to the story of previous games beginning… Which were only relayed at the very end of this one. They could’ve come up with something else to call it, but I suppose that at least makes the redundant title somewhat understandable.

  How is it though, the story? Well, I actually like it. It’s no shocking taboo that’s going to turn the tide of gaming as we know it, but it’s a well rounded story with likable characters and exciting escalating events. It’s the kind of political action plot you’d expect from the old school Tom Clancy games. Don’t take my comment about this not being a game changer the wrong way, this campaign does do some very surprising things. Things that do well to prove a lot of journalists aren’t really playing the game, if white phosphorus killstreaks are all they’re complaining about.

  I could talk about the crowds of civilians during terrorist attacks, or the supposed victims who surprise you by pulling a gun (and those are nice touches). But frankly, everyone has. Something I’d like to talk about, is the interesting way the game puts you on the other side of situations most games would put you in some sort of control of. How many times have you been a guerrilla fighter approaching your enemy under the cover of darkness, taking cover when exposed only by the light? How many times have you had to torture someone for information? How many times have you been there to save children and innocents from danger? How many games have put you in the helpless position of all these situations? Modern Warfare has a way of putting you in places most games don’t. You’re not usually the one holding a gun on someone’s family, because the good guys aren’t supposed to do stuff like that. This game puts you there, and even manages to give the characters a thoroughly understandable reason to do so.

  It’s moments like this where the campaign shines. A huge enemy force is approaching your position under the cover of night, and your only reprieve is a flare launcher with limited ammo to give you a few moments of a fair fight. Or maybe you’re in a residential area with no idea who’s a threat and who’s not. Moments like these are every bit as teeth gritting as you would want them to be. There are even moments of social stealth where you have to blend in with a civilian environment and find a way to complete your objectives. They don’t hold up to the missions of old from Medal of Honor that had you playing the part of a World War II spy with a large (for the time) environment to explore, but the effort is appreciated.

  Even the more linear scripted events the series has faced harsh criticism for, offer you a pretty fair degree of freedom in this title. You might start out being led to the hope of safety by the father of your character in a flashback, but you’re quickly thrust into a stealth situation where you (playing as a helpless little girl I might add) have to defend yourself from a soldier using various tools in the environment. Even when you’re being tied up and tortured, you have the ability to influence events with your performance and dialogue choices. It’s clear the developers went to a lot of effort to tell the story they wanted, while still allowing there to be a game in those heavily guided scenarios.

  Now that we’re on the topic of linearity, why not start discussing level design? There’s actually a healthy mix here. You’ll have your “guided tour” sort of mission that leads you down a fairly straightforward path. Although, even those give you some fair sized arenas to play around in. However, there are also missions that open up and give you a large environment to sneak around and complete multiple objectives. The one where Captain Price covers you with a sniper rifle while you infiltrate a small township to search for a hostage was one of my favorites.

  The weapons in this are great. Not as many as you’d expect from a game today, but I wasn’t disappointed by a single one of them. They sound fantastic, and they hit hard. They all perform realistically. Shotguns don’t magically stop being lethal because the enemy is more than four feet away from you, and they knock the guy off his feet when he isn’t. Assault rifles are reliable, high caliber sniper rifles sever limbs. You can throw a grenade into a room, and no one walks out of it.

  Speaking of believable lethality: This is the only Call of Duty game I recall feeling the need to crawl along the ground just to avoid being picked off. Sure you can sometimes survive a shot, thanks to the typical regeneration. But the sense of danger here is very real, and you don’t wanna risk it.

  Something I’d like to commend this game for, is that there are actually a good few instances where you aren’t penalized for shooting civilians for friendlies. It’s usually in the more crisis oriented missions where they’ll cut you slack, only failing you in missions where you’re working with a specific squad that you (ideally, we’ll get to this) should have no reason to be shooting. This is a game where you can take out a group of civilians by accident, and you just have to live with it.

  Another thing I appreciate about the campaign, is that “gimmick” features don’t just up and disappear after they’re introduced like you’d expect. Night vision, disarming tripwire, marking targets for support fire… All of these things are used again throughout the missions. Only one feature is introduced never to be seen again: An instance where you’re able to control explosive rigged RC planes that the rebel fighters set up. It was about as exciting as it sounds, probably why it was only used once. Well that, and long range sniping mechanics. But that’s just not necessary at the range most missions have you fighting in.

  Enemy AI is pretty solid for the most part, and the time to kill is extremely fast for you and your foes. This makes every gunfight very intense. If you’re not paying attention to your surroundings for even a moment, you will die. It’s not often a game conveys the very real danger of a bullet like this one does. Regenerating health is honestly one of the few things keeping this from being more of a simulator experience like Siege. This topic however, is a great segway.

  You’re wondering at this point, “Well, what’s the bad news? It can’t be perfect.” And of course, you’re right. However, I’d like to stress that the real issues are actually very few. But holy ghillie relieving Christ are some of them glaring. I’ll do my best to order this in a way that the worst offenders are talked about first, that way there’s some semblance of organization you can identify things with. If something sounds like a lesser issue, that’s because it probably is.

  The friendly AI. Let’s make the distinction clear: The enemy AI and the friendly AI seem to be working on different rules here. I don’t know if it’s broken and doesn’t scale properly with difficulty, or if this was some sort of huge oversight. The enemy AI can drop you like a cripple that wandered into the middle of an ongoing war crime. But the friendly AI handles guns like a handicapped child with mommy issues. The friendly NPC’s are only even slightly competent when they’re scripted to be. To make this problem worse, not only do the majority of missions put you with an AI controlled squad (missions in which your assistance is very clearly accounted for with the size of enemy forces), but there are instances where you actually have to depend on this same terrible AI to cover you.

  I’ve personally witnessed the friendly AI kill an enemy… once. To clarify, that’s the average AI at work, not one of the many scripted moments where they wanna make a character look cool. We’ve had companions in shooters for around twenty years now, helpful ones even. How are we still having these problems? The terrible friendly AI in this game was easily the single largest negative drain on the entire experience. It’s that bad. Imagine having three to five enemies come up from behind you. Ya know, where your sixteen AI companions are sitting doing absolutely nothing. Real, earned deaths did happen. But the vast majority of the times I had to go back to a checkpoint, was because the friendly AI is entirely useless. From getting in my way, to just completely ignoring the enemy that just ran through a group of them. If the developers were to fix the AI, most of my issues with the game would be solved.

  Next on the chopping block, is a mechanic called “mounting”. On paper, this is something I would’ve put in the list of positives. In practice… It just doesn’t work. Essentially: You’re “anchoring” or “leaning” your gun on an edge or corner, allowing you to pivot your aim around whatever it is you’re mounted on. A great idea for tactical, cautious gameplay. But for some reason, it just stops working at random, even when you’re not moving at all. This not only forces you to re-engage the mechanic, but it also screws up your aim and forces you out of cover. This is another thing that led to some of my cheap deaths. I like what they were trying to do, and even appreciate that they were attempting to do something different than other shooters with similar features. But in the end, I would’ve preferred a manual “lean” mechanic, like what can be found in Siege. As a way of enabling a more cautious playstyle, the game actually allows you to slowly push doors open instead of just bashing through them. It’s moments like this where a dedicated lean mechanic would’ve been very helpful as well.

  Another problem I ran into every so often was enemy spawns. I don’t know any way to describe it simply. Sometimes enemies seem to spawn endlessly when there’s normally a set amount in any given mission. Endless enemy spawns, in a game with a lighting fast time to kill and useless companions. Imagine it for a moment. These endless spawns only seem to be stopped by walking forward just enough. One time, not only did they spawn endlessly in a small room, but they also ran down the exact same path every single time. It’s the only instance the enemy AI was anywhere near this stupid.

  So what’s up with the juggernaut? I wanted to put this complaint higher on the list, but it’s difficult to be more upset about this than other issues when there’s only one of these in the entire campaign (more in Spec Ops though). In the mission where it appears, the main NPC “Farah” suggests that I should grab the shotgun with dragon’s breath rounds. So when this guy popped up, I figured that must be the solution… right? Well quite a few deaths later and the game’s death message tells me that explosions stun him. They don’t. Not most of the time, anyway. Then the message told me to use stun grenades. These never worked for me. I tried launching underbarrel grenades at him, which were all duds apparently because none of them detonated (I actually watched some of them bounce off of him). Then Farah suggested I use the steam (which you release with a set piece mechanic) as cover and get behind him. That didn’t offer me much more advantage. Then I was told to shoot him in the head to stun him. You guessed it, I died because he wasn’t stunned. You can see where the problem here is, right? So after at least twenty deaths I got tired of dealing with it, and turned the difficulty as low as it could go so that I could deal with him.

  So essentially, the game wants you to run around in circles with this guy who can practically instakill you because Infinity Ward thinks those little glass face shields can take sixty continuous high caliber rounds without breaking (remember, that’s how many it took on easy). He’s a bullet sponge. There’s no strategy, barely anything slows him down, and you just have to keep slamming your head against the wall until he falls over. I’m gonna be honest with you right here: I was debating whether or not to play the Spec Ops for this review. Because I knew it was gonna throw a bunch of these guys your way at once. Just one of them made me want to quit playing the game. It’s an atrocious, lazy enemy design. Do not put stat reliant challenges into realistic shooters. It doesn’t work. Even Breakpoint lets you knock their helmets off.

  It’s worth noting that there are some annoying instances of some sort of mounted enemy (whether it be a sniper or gunner) that can’t be killed no matter what you do, unless you get behind them like the game wants you to. There was exactly one instance where I was actually allowed to kill one of these snipers with the use of an RPG I found (no, explosives don’t work any other time).

  A smaller, much more isolated issue occurred during a more scripted event. It’s practically nitpicking, but it bothered me. For some reason the game designers seemed to think there were only two possible options in a scenario, so it didn’t know how to react when I chose a third. So instead, it scolded me as if I chose the more merciless option.

  A few minor things before we move on to multiplayer. The soundtrack was underwhelming. I know, most people don’t care. But I’m a sucker for a great, fitting soundtrack. The score composed by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe for Modern Warfare 2 was iconic, it’s a shame we didn’t get something of that caliber here. There was one memorable track used in the final mission, and it’s used all the time during the final stretch of some multiplayer matches.

  Another small problem I had was the occasional drastic frame rate drop. I’m playing on console (Xbox One), where the experience is supposed to be at the very least stable. So PC players may have even more occurrences. I also had one crash… Or more accurately, one place the game continuously crashed until I restarted the mission.

  In mission number ten, “The Wolf’s Den”, you start out being dropped off by a helicopter. Immediately after getting your feet on the ground, you breach a building with two enemies inside – one in the middle of the first room, and another hiding further in. Upon loading the mission after a night’s sleep (a checkpoint which put me in right after the helicopter introduction), every time I killed the first enemy, the game would crash completely. Not just a freeze, straight to dashboard. This continued to happen until I restarted the mission entirely from the main menu.

The Multiplayer

  The logical place to start I suppose would be with my favorite mode: Ground War. This is the multiplayer mode that intrigued me the most. I used to play Planetside 2. Not a perfect game by any means, but it did one thing very well. That one thing being emergent, organic gameplay. It’s the kind of game where I could share stories about how we held our ground for hours with no support, and no respawns. And how in that same instance, when some of the opposing players either got bored or had to go and the fighting calmed just a bit, I joined a small detachment with one goal: Head South and take over the area to reconnect with our territory and support. And that moment of tight player coordination after a long fight, finally gave us the win. So you can imagine when I heard about this mode in Modern Warfare that has teams of up to sixty four players fighting to take over a large map, I was extremely excited by it. It’s been some time since I’ve had a PC that could run Planetside 2, and I was thirsty for that kind of strategic battlefield gameplay.

  Strategy is indeed the name of the game here, it’s unfortunate many players can’t seem to wrap their heads around that. The team that doesn’t coordinate, is the team that loses. And I can’t entirely fault the playerbase for this one, as the game provides absolutely no quick effective methods of communication. Only the NPC voice droning on and on about the two players fighting a tug of war battle over the same point, or the occasional helpful warning about incoming enemy killstreaks. There’s voice chat of course, but first of all not everyone uses that for one reason or another, or even listens to it. I can’t for the life of me tell at a glance who’s talking either, I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen a “speaking” indicator over a teammate’s head. What’s worse, is I could swear the game places a “radio” filter over the already greatly varying microphone quality. So voice communication is effectively useless.

  Many games have a lineup of  “quick commands”, from Overwatch to For Honor. And that’s for a reason, team coordination is extremely important in online games. Not everyone has a huge clan that can not only fill up a team of sixty four, but also have sixty four working adults (or even busy teenagers) from different parts of the world on all at once.

  On the topic of team communication, I can’t tell my teammates apart from enemies most of the time. It would be one thing if this were like real life, and everyone wore the same distinctive uniform. But this is a game where you can use skins of many characters from many different kinds of units, with two alternate color options for those characters. Not to mention you’re constantly switching sides. So why do I need to aim for several moments at an ally that’s wearing the exact same colors as one of the enemy team members (and probably shoot them, in a game with friendly fire), just to see the dark blue name tag appear above his head in the exact same way as enemies? I figure out who my teammates are from the fact that they haven’t shot me, faster than I see the indicator that they’re an ally. I never know if that’s an enemy tank I should be hiding from, or an ally tank I should be rallying behind. We’re talking about a game mode with huge environments and skyscrapers where sniping is a legitimately useful tactic. You need to know if that tan blob in the distance is one of yours, or one of theirs.

  Speaking of ally markers, some of them are green, for some reason. Yeah most are blue, but some are green in ground war. Now I’m assuming this is meant to be some kind of “squad” mechanic, to encourage people to work together. But no one does it, and there’s no reason to (outside the obvious teamwork thing). You can respawn on them when they’re not in combat, and that’s about it. It’s handy, but with no incentive at all to work together, why should anyone bother working with those teammates over others? Perhaps if there was a kind of XP boost or something, the mechanic would encourage the less coordinated players to assist each other. It’s arguably more beneficial to split up so that everyone can basically spawn wherever they’re needed. Spawning on the ally who’s standing where you just got ripped apart is usually suicide anyway. The only time it’s helpful, is when a few people from your squad all decide they wanna be snipers. In these instances, you can actually use it to your advantage. Watch each other’s backs, share field upgrades, and respawn on each other when one of you gets picked off.

  Very rarely is a control point inside a building. It’s usually in the middle of some field or a connecting bridge. Working with your squad in a hold out is almost never an option, so sniper teams are the only players that really benefit. Which is odd, because the map design here is great! Every building can be entered, and the few doors that can’t be opened are very clearly barred. There are numerous entry points on every building. Your options for breaching and defending these interiors are just as diverse. I can’t think of any logical reason these control points were placed in such blatant killzones. I get having a few, maybe make every center point open? But when most of them are nothing more than mosh pits, almost all strategy goes out the window. You either get there first and use a clever trick to hold it, or you take it by sheer brute force (usually involving vehicles, or a lot of explosives and players when indoors).

  I didn’t plan to start talking about most of my problems with multiplayer during the bit about Ground War, but it just so happens to be the mode where the flaws are most apparent. However like I said, it’s my favorite mode, despite these issues. I actually had to stop myself from playing it to try the other modes for this review. There are still many instances of genuine teamwork and battlefield strategy. There’s nothing more satisfying than being a member of the team that’s holding the control point inside the cramped barn, other than being on the team that finally gets in that is. Some points are fought with small skirmishes, others are lit up with intense combat. Helicopter attacks, tanks, jets, airstrikes. They all make for quite the spectacle in Ground War.

  Planetside 2 had massive, expansive open world maps dotted with everything fortresses to outposts, and designed solely for that kind of freeform gameplay. Ground War maps are obviously smaller, and naturally offer a few less options. They’d basically be making a whole new game to pull that off. Even so, Modern Warfare could stand to benefit from taking some notes. Put a few more of those control points in fortified areas (like any competent military would), make players strategize together to flush out their opponents. Not all of them, just don’t make open points the norm either. It would solve the problem of sniper teams being the dominant strategy. It would also give less equipped new players the chance to be more useful.

  Ground War may not quite be Planetside 2, but it certainly scratches the itch. I’m frankly not very good at it right now. But after a fair bit of play, I was taking out snipers at long range with my light machine gun in Planetside 2. So maybe it’s only a matter of time.

  “Gunfight” is next on the list of multiplayer modes. I personally got tired of it pretty quick. But that’s not to say it’s bad, to the contrary in fact. I just don’t much enjoy that sort of area shooter combat. I can however appreciate it’s laser focused goal. Two teams of two players, a tiny arena, no killstreaks, and a random loadout (that everyone shares). It’s the purest form of competition. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it exciting at times. It’s simplicity also doesn’t offer a lot for me to say about it. It’s good. If you like quick snappy competitive modes, you’ll like Gunfight.

  This is where I actually expected my critique to get a bit disorganized. There are two modes, “Shoot House 24/7” and “Hardpoint”. Both are equally bizarre names to me, as neither of them give you any kind of indication as to what the modes actually are. On top of that, they’re both the exact same game mode. There’s a difference between them, sure. But it’s negligible at best. What’s even more odd, is that Shoot House is a post launch release, with one map (currently). They put time and effort to making the same mode again (but slightly worse), and a map for this mode, and labeled it as “content”. Free content sure, but that doesn’t negate what a waste of time it was.

  Both of these modes revolve around taking over control points (innovative, I know). It’s one control point, cycling to different locations across the map every so often. There is literally, only one legitimate difference between the modes. In Shoot House, you’re taking over points that have invisible barriers. In Hardpoint, you’re taking over points that have visible barriers. That’s it. That’s the only difference. The points on the one Shoot House map are always outside, whereas the ones in Hardpoint tend to be inside. Note that I said “tend to be”. Some of the Hardpoint control points are outside as well, so not even that can be considered a difference.

  If I’m being frank, Harpoint comes out on top as the better of the two variants. Notably in fact. First of all, there’s no reason we shouldn’t know where the barriers of the control point are. In Shoot House, you have to waste time feeling around for the mystical elusive finish line (this is an issue Ground War suffers from as well). Knowing where those boundaries are allows you to immediately and wordlessly coordinate a defensive strategy with your team. And with the perk of most of these points being inside, it makes for quite the intense game of take over, and hold out. With the maps being so small and the objectives so pinpoint, great teamwork is actually very prevalent in this mode.

  Even when objectives are out in the open, the awareness of borders allows for better planning. Often times a single player or two will sit on the point to hold it, while the rest of the team sets up at choke points and sniping positions. This too is very satisfying and exciting. Amazing, the drastic difference a simple touch makes. Hardpoint is actually my second favorite mode, and I’m actually pretty decent at it.

  Last on the list, is “Free for All”. It’s Free for All. I feel bad for giving it such a small word count in a review, but what do you want me to say? I would never have played it if I wasn’t writing this. I almost didn’t anyway. I knew what it was gonna be, and I knew I wouldn’t like it. I think I’ve made it pretty clear I’m not really interested in that sort of gameplay. The only time I’ve ever actually enjoyed a free for all mode, was in Overwatch. And that’s more down to the variety it’s characters bring. It’s Gunfight without any of the balance or creativity. It’s not bad, it’s just Free for All. If you mess up Free for All, you shouldn’t be making multiplayer games. Bring a shotgun or an SMG and you’re bound to get some kills. If you like that sort of gameplay, you’ll probably enjoy it. Just don’t be surprised when people start breaking out their automated turret killstreaks and set claymores on staircases for easy kills.

  Let’s end this on a good note, shall we?

  First of all, I’d like to compliment the game on it’s weapon customization. It’s decently expansive, and everything is earned. You can change your reticle, paint, even slap some stickers on there screw it. Attachments don’t have completely nonsense drawbacks, like how most games make suppressors decrease power and range despite the fact that they’re a barrel extension. In fact, they work exactly as they should, extending your range. There are an odd few with attributes that don’t really make sense, but this would seem to be the exception.

  Weapons level up seperately, a mechanic you’d be familiar with if you play Titanfall 2. I’m not particularly a fan, as this means you’re essentially punished with more difficult gameplay because you’re new. But at least they’re not making you buy this stuff. If fact, they don’t let you buy anything in the multiplayer, not even boosters to skip the grind. There’s a store page, and the only thing on there right now is a charity related cosmetic pack. I don’t know who sacrificed what, but I appreciate it.

  There’s also some character customization. Now don’t get too excited, you won’t be making a tactical waifu in this game. But there’s a decent selection of characters, all with three different skins to choose from. They can earned through various tasks and challenges. Again, no real money purchases here. It’s not much, but it’s appreciated.

Special Operations (Co-Op)

  I tried, I really did. Despite the fact that I knew there’d be numerous Juggernauts, I didn’t feel right putting out a review of this game without playing the Spec Ops missions. Unfortunately, I really can’t dig too deep into them. Let me be crystal clear: I have only played the Spec Ops missions, I haven’t completed a single one. That’s because of two major factors: It’s a team reliant mode, and I have no friends to play with. Oh sure, I can play with random parties, and I did. But there’s almost no one who actually works together, everyone wants to run to objectives. And when we fail once or twice as a result, someone always quits, forcing everyone else to restart the mission. If I were to hold up this review to play through Spec Ops, it might very well take the rest of the month. So instead, I’ll tell you what I can. Don’t expect much.

  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the setup of Spec Ops missions. First of all, your multiplayer unlocks and loadouts carry over (and vice versa). So playing one doesn’t impede your progress in other. Even killstreaks appear as equippable gear. Once you’re all set and a mission is chosen, you’re dropped into a sizable level to complete various objectives in, much like my favorite missions in single player. One even gives you the option to infiltrate a base quietly (of course no one did that).

  Honestly, a coordinated team could take these missions on, even with the annoying Juggernauts (those are still very bad here). It’s just a lack of the former that makes these as difficult as the are. It’s even more of a shame, because the story in these is a continuation of the campaign. These honestly seem like great fun to me, I just can’t play them right now.

Conclusion

  Modern Warfare is not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good one. Above average I’d say. There are quite a few things to legitimately enjoy here, and amazing potential for ideration. The story is solid, and fun. Surprising and gut wrenching at times. The gunplay is exactly what ten years of annual releases should be. Tight, polished and satisfying. Unfortunately, there are also a few genuine glaring problems in places there really shouldn’t be. Either fix the friendly AI, or get them out of my way. There is no excuse for the companions you’re supposed to depend on being useless. There is no excuse for a bullet sponge enemy. There is no excuse for a complete disregard of all logic and reason.

  Game developers should know by now that no one can read the dark colored small text above a person’s head. I should not have to struggle to comprehend the name of the person I’m trying to communicate with. I need to be able to point my teammate in the right direction with a command at a moment’s notice. There is no good reason for these basic things to be wrong.

  At the same time, this is a game I’ve been enjoying my time with. I hope they fix these issues going forward, because I haven’t been excited to play a Call of Duty game in a long time. It wasn’t a chore to play this for a review, I had fun with it. Even more in the multiplayer. And that’s really weird for me, I’m a PVE and single player type. I almost never thoroughly enjoy competitive games. And when I do, it’s usually racing and fighting games, not first person shooters. This game is an outlier, and I actually want to keep playing it. I sincerely hope they don’t squander what they’ve built here.

Modern Warfare – Blatant Propaganda (Response)

  How do I even begin with this one? Well, I suppose I could start with a statement of my intentions. I’m not responding to the crying over white phosphorus or any other such nonsense I’m sure is getting everyone’s attention. In this article, I’ll be responding to a specific Youtube video. One that comes from the sort who claims to be on the side of reason. The side that puts a spotlight on the blatant hypocrisy and lunacy that’s often seen from so called “progressive” outlets. The side that… Let’s be frank here, is only ever referred to as a “side” as more of a formality. It’s a statement of reason and logic, and a rejection of lies and contradiction. A distinction I’m sure to make, as the first thing this person would likely respond with is, “I’m not on anyone’s side.” The fact of the matter is: They’re on their own side. They can say whatever they please, but they’re content provably revolves around pro-consumer topics, and anti-SJW statements. I don’t feel this person would disagree that this is the stance they hold. However, I’m here to tell you it’s not. Not because I think I know the person better than they know themselves, but because actions speak louder than words.

  People can say anything, but they only do what benefits them or their goals. Those goals can land anywhere on the moral compass, but a person’s actions will almost always indicate their tack. If they don’t, the person will always address the discrepancy when it’s brought to their attention, rather than ignore it. They would only be hindering themselves by continuing, after all. This is my hope for anyone I address in the way that I’m going to here. Unfortunately, I’m typically disappointed.

  It can be easy to forget that a perjurer is just as likely to hide in wolf’s clothing, as a sheep’s. That’s just my overblown fancy way of saying: Liars and hypocrites will be liars and hypocrites. They don’t care about right and wrong, fact or fiction. They have no beliefs of their own. They will say and do whatever they think will get them ahead. Sometimes we get so caught up combating the irrational, we are blind to the fact that the same people who take advantage of the willfully ignorant, will try the same thing on us given the chance. Therefor, it’s just as important to call out hypocrisy and gaslighting on our own “side”, as it is to do to “theirs”.

  For the sake of transparency, here’s a link to the full video I will be responding to. No context loss here.

  So our friend here “Upper Echelon Gamers” (I’ll be calling him “Upper” for the sake of brevity) put out this video pretty recently. An attention grabbing title and thumbnail to be sure. Full disclosure, I was a semi-regular viewer of this channel. I disagreed at times. But unlike those times, it now feels as if he’s reaching comically far in the name of clicks. I couldn’t take his content seriously anymore. Now I could tell you out of the gate what this man has said here, but I may look to be reaching myself if I don’t fully explain my reasoning. Or maybe you actually have a life, and aren’t familiar with the online shenanigans of late, so this might sound at least somewhat reasonable to you upon a passive viewing. For all of those reasons, I’m gonna break these points of his down in chronological order here.

  To Upper’s credit, he starts his video by stating his intention with the video, and by stressing that the game is still well crafted despite his misgivings. Unfortunately after this point, any semblance of logic dies. For those of you who didn’t watch the video for whatever reason: He opens by stating that he believes the game’s story to be “actual propaganda, deeply rooted in social justice ideology”. He hadn’t lost me at this point. First, because I had yet to play the game. And second, because any point can be proven if you have the facts and evidence to back up your claim. So let’s get into what he brings to the table.

  When speaking about why this hypothesis of his bothers him enough to make a video, Upper says this: “I’ll say again, from a purely tactile, gameplay perspective: I believe the campaign is fantastic. However, when you examine historical references and extrapolate motivations behind overarching narrative choices, it becomes harder and harder to give the game such glowing praise.

  Here we have our first red flag. He immediately admits to completely guessing the motivations of the game’s developers. To be clear: Extrapolation is to infer based on known information. But it is still a guess. This information is not known, it’s inferred. Extrapolated data, is not fact. It’s interpretation, pure conjecture. Everything he brings up in this video, is meant to prove the factual basis of something he’s already admitted is an assumption. Let’s bear that in mind going forward. An assumption might I remind you again, that’s being presented as proven truth. He started this video stating that this game’s story is, “actual propaganda”.

  He also immediately contradicts his statement about the story having no effect on the gameplay. It is his presented belief here that the narrative choices are bad enough that it ruins enjoyment, and his ability to positively represent the gameplay.

  “Modern Warfare takes place in a somewhat fictional reality. What I mean by this is that while many elements do in fact re-create actual real world locations or factions, many others do not. However, even when the names or locations differ, they do not differ very much, and are easily connected back to their ‘root’ or better put, their ‘inspiration’.”

  So it’s fiction. The game’s story is fiction. Just because there’s a CIA agent in the game with an amazing mustache, does not mean that he represents a real CIA agent with a slightly different amazing mustache. This may be rooted in reality with familiar concepts, but so is literally every fantasy and fiction. Another obvious thing it probably seems pointless for me to point out, but I promise this is relevant. These are the exact same distinctions between reality and fantasy I find myself having to explain to every other moronic Twitter user. They seem to think that just because something is portrayed or slightly altered, every single fan and creator must believe these things to be absolute fact. That’s just not how human psychology works. That’s not how fiction writing works. If this was meant to be fact, it wouldn’t be presented as fiction.

  This isn’t a Battlefield V case where it was presented as an honest to god World War II game, but hid behind the veil of “pure fantasy, alternate history” after everyone called them out. Or replacing groups of real life men with one woman in their story. It is, and always has been a World War III scenario, total fiction. To my knowledge, this is the first Modern Warfare game to so much as mention a real life event (bear in mind I haven’t played MW3). None of these people are real. None of these things happened. Propaganda is real, or at least presented to be. It’s information (or misinformation) intended to further a goal. Propaganda doesn’t have a “not rly tho” caveat. It’s not for telling dumb action movie plots. It’s revisionism, not storytelling. It’s Disney telling everyone that every German is raised to be an evil, despicable human being from childhood.

  “As an example: During the campaign, players are made aware of an extremist group called ‘Al-Qatala’. But this group is not some vacuous construct purely designed for the sake of a fictional narrative, it’s quite clear that inspirational blueprints were drawn from the real world terrorist faction named ‘Al-Qeada’. There is nothing inherently wrong with that by itself. Many other games utilize a similar tactic.

  Not just other games Upper… Everything. Every fictional work draws from something real. This group is absolutely a vacuous construct purely designed for the sake of a fictional narrative. It’s leadership, is not real. It’s goals, are to free their country from Russia. You may not know this, but Russia is not in their country right now, because their country doesn’t exist. It is completely made up. The only thing real about this group, is the tactics it uses. This group is not real. Al-Qatala is as real as the Empire from Star Wars. By your logic, I can get a primo alien waifu any time I want because we use jet propulsion in real life.

  This is fictional writing at its most basic. Have you ever had a creative thought in your life? Is Batman real because utility belts and detectives exist? People use these things all the time, clearly Batman is no vacuous construct designed to serve a narrative. There’s a real dude out there right now, fighting crime in the streets of New York dressed in a Halloween costume. Wake up!

  No really Justin, wake up, please! You’re two minutes into this video and you’ve already got three pages in the text document. This has to be a nightmare. Somebody shoot me.

  “It’s a very long list of possible explanations, but that’s not what is important.

  Please, God Upper. Tell me what’s important. Please explain to me how the long list of other possibly valid and reasonable explanations you just admitted exist, don’t matter at all. I’m dying to hear this.

  “What is important for Call of Duty, is that almost everything you see (aside from individual instances of combat) is loosely based on real world events.

  What, the fuck, isn’t? I’ve only gotten seventeen seconds farther, I’m dying laughing. Someone please kick this stool out from under me, I can’t take it anymore. This is a twelve minute video.

  “I don’t think this video is the right time or place to discuss the intricacies of geopolitical conflict, especially as complex as what has been transpiring in Syria.

  What in the finger fucking Christ does this game’s plot have to do with Syria? What do geopolitics have to do with the fake Russians in this game having one rogue general? Did you say that to sound smart? This isn’t the only time I’ve seen someone insinuate that Urzikstan is some kind of stand-in for Syria, but I have yet to see anyone so much as mention where they’re getting this from. It’s like they think Syria is the only middle eastern country anyone could ever take inspiration from, just because it’s the only one in the news right now. Bear in mind, I didn’t follow the press releases like an addict. So maybe a dev mentioned it somewhere.

  And even if it is a stand-in for Syria… The game is called “Modern Warfare”, the series has always involved it’s story in topical conflicts and tensions. Shit’s going down in Syria right now, and Russia is likely to end up being the opposition. This is like complaining that Black Hawk Down takes place in Somalia, or that past Modern Warfare games took place in Afghanistan. It’s a non-issue. It’s proof of nothing. That’s what the story is based on, that’s all there is to it.

  “However, the game does not just take existing events and depict them with a nationalistic bias. It takes entire sections of motivational history, and revises them to be completely different. There are a few examples of this, but for today the most important one is ‘The Highway of Death’.

  Okay so barring the revision part we’ve already hit on a few times: This guy just dead ass told us that he’s not going to present most of his evidence. In the goddamn twelve minute video that’s all about proving his accusation and literally nothing else. This would be, the time to talk about every single one of those things Upper. Don’t give me that “but for today” shit either, we all know this is probably the only time you’re going to talk about this. Because it was a gamble for clicks and it backfired. Or at least it backfired enough that you felt the need to post a little comment about how controversial (you wish) it was. If you go to the video now, it looks like everyone’s tossing his salad. And a lot of people are, make no mistake. There are thousands of idiots that bought this. But if you look a little deeper, not only are there plenty of comments calling out the hypocritical reach, but the dislike ratio is actually much larger than his usual video.

  Now this is just what I can extrapolate but: I think he figured his viewers would eat this up. I don’t think he expected any kind of backlash. So when there was even mild discontent, he pulled the classic SJW “backpedal but reaffirm” tactic. You know the one. “Okay maybe you’re right about this, but…” That’s just what I can extrapolate from his actions though, so it’s obviously true.

  I would love to say more about that, but we just hit the point of no return and I’m really excited. He’s gonna talk about the Highway of Death now.

  Okay so I’m not even gonna bother copying the exact wording of his very long winded and very incorrect history lesson. Yes you read that right, incorrect. We’ll get to that, because that’s where he used the backpedal tactic in the comments. So I’m gonna sum it up for you.

  Basically, the Highway of Death refers to an event and place where American military forces conducted an ambush, and it was a complete mess. There was a ton of collateral. And his reason for bringing it up, is that in the game’s story, it was Russia. That’s it. That’s literally the entire basis of his “propaganda” argument. There’s a couple other little things he mentions (and we’ll get to those), but remember this is his smoking gun evidence that he disregarded all of his other evidence to discuss, because it was just that good. He is upset that this fictional story altered the one and only real event it ever references to fit it’s narrative. What’s more, is that he fails to mention that this information comes from an extremely biased source. A character named “Farah”… Who’s home was invaded by the Russians. Who’s parents were murdered, by Russians. This is a character who is surprised, fucking shocked when a Russian helps her later in the story. A person who would probably believe you if you told her a Russian pissed on her cat.

  I couldn’t write a better comedy if I tried. Let’s take a look at this comment before we talk more, because he explains a few things for me. By the way this is a copy/paste, the typos are his. I’m not gonna bother correcting them.

  “Ok, it’s pretty clear after a few minutes this is going to be a controversial one. All I ask is that people listen to the whole thing before responding. I don’t expect everyone to agree, but it’s worth discussing how when some things are changed, everyone is happy about it, but when others are… it creates backlash. My intent is to try and avoid the typically blinding bias of favorable historical revisionism.

Also, People are rightly correcting a mistake. My notes were mixed up, the referenced Highway of Death ambush took place during the Gulf War, not the Iraq war.

  People are absolutely salivating over the fact I said 2003… get over it. It was literally a skipped line in my pages of notes so I referenced the wrong year… it invalidates nothing, and changes nothing… and people comparing it to CoD itself are completely off base. CoD didn’t make a small mistake, they CHANGED the events deliberately in a totally unnecessary and slanted way. Focus on things that are relevant instead of cumming in your pants that a youtube got one fact wrong.

  Okay so the first thing that comes to my little PI brain… If your one and only point in this entire slapshot video was what took place on the Highway of Death, how in the fursuit humping fuck did the Iraq War and the year 2003 get into your notes? Also: Were your notes mixed up, or did you skip a line? I’m gonna let that sit.

  This is not a case of  “agree to disagree”. This a case of you presenting something as fact and not only having zero evidence to back up the claim, but also screwing up your own presentation.

  Upper, I can’t think of a single instance where the gaming community has been okay with any kind of revisionism. In fact, they’re way too goddamn trigger happy sometimes. People cried “revisionism” over Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. The game with fuckin’ minotaurs and a cyclopes. From a series that literally built itself on changing the events of history to suit it’s narrative. These kats would call Xena: The Warrior Princess propaganda if it aired today.

  Getting that date wrong invalidates your entire video. The whole fuckin’ thing is you bitching they got one detail wrong, one. The sheer absurdity of you insisting that you know for an absolute fact that they are deliberately revising history because they got one detail wrong, is completely changed by you yourself getting a detail wrong. It is ludicrous that you can go through the process of researching. writing, recording, and editing a video where you get something wrong, and then cry “propaganda” when for all you fuckin’ know the developers made the same kind of mistake you did. You have absolutely no proof of the developer’s intentions. All you have is one off detail, that you yourself admitted could’ve been changed for any multitude of reasons. Incorrect information is not only relevant to your video, but the entire fucking point of it. The manic nerve you have to piss and moan about your viewers doing the exact same thing to you, that you just did to all of them.

  The trap boyfriend the boss promised me for this article better be fuckin’ lit, or I swear to God Walgreens is next.

  After a few minutes of blatantly repeating himself over and over (saying the exact same thing in as many ways as he can think of), he then goes on to say this: “I should clarify right now I am a proud citizen of the United States. But historical revisionism and offensive fabrications that are based on a tragic real world event are unacceptable no matter how or why a development team arrived at that decision.

  Folks, the “horseshoe” effect is real. This man stretched so far to cry “SJW”, he has become one. He just told everyone that fictional games based on any war are not allowed. Fictional games based on crime, are not allowed. Where do we draw the line, Upper? You’re saying that Infinity Ward making one change to one historical event, is unacceptable no matter what. Because you don’t like it. Not because you can prove there’s anything wrong with it, but because you don’t like that they changed it for this game’s narrative. That’s not even mentioning the fact that you just admitted once again that it’s entirely likely this wasn’t propaganda at all, that there are other reasons these changes might’ve been made. You have bent over backwards to make it look like this game has committed some unforgivable offense, and it’s quite frankly a pathetic display.

  But our boy keeps going. During the speal where he repeated himself a lot, he also snuck his first mention of how Russia was being painted as the villain. On top of that notion making basically every 80’s action movie SJW propaganda, it also completely ignores that this is a timeline where Russia later invades the United States and starts World War III. If you have a problem with Russia being depicted as an antagonist in any capacity, the blame factually does not lie with the game you’re lambasting for it.

  He then goes on to act like war crimes don’t happen. No I mean it. He suggests that a later segment where one single Russian soldier is attacking your character’s family is somehow implausible and ridiculous, made even worse by the “previous revisionism” that took place. This fuckin’ ingrate, thinks bad shit doesn’t happen during war. This astounding moron thinks that psychopaths never get recruited. This absolute man-child, thinks that because one random no-name character from one faction did a bad thing, that means that the developers think that all real life Russians do those bad things, and expect their players to believe it just because it’s in the game.

  Now I know what he would say. “It’s not any one thing that proves it, it’s all of these things together.” And yes, that’s how proving something with evidence works. The more the merrier. The problem here is that absolutely nothing you’ve provided is evidence to your claim. It’s all pure fantasy, guesswork. It’s assumptions you’ve made that you for some reason seem to expect everyone to accept as fact. A part of the story made you feel icky, so you think it must be some SJW conspiracy to make Russia look bad. It can’t simply be an innocent decision you don’t like. It’s an organized effort to spread anti-Russian, pro far left propaganda. You fucking weapon.

  He spent this entire section about the flashback with your character’s family saying, “Yeah the gameplay and tone is fucking stellar, but you can’t enjoy it because of this thing I made up.”

  I pray, to any fuckin’ thing that will listen, that the people reading this article don’t need me to explain to them why this is a complete joke. He somehow managed to come to the conclusion that the only reason Russia is an antagonist in this game, is because it’s the only politically correct choice. Nevermind the fact that this is a game where you kidnap a middle eastern guy’s family, and threaten to fucking off them right in front of him. Clearly shootin’ for those brownie points. Somehow the culture of victimhood also plays a role. You wanna know the best part? He’s still not finished. Oh he repeats himself again for another few minutes, but there’s more.

  We’re about eight minutes in guys, it’s almost over. I mean I’d take a little love tap to the brain with a bullet at this point. I wanna be a real life ghost girl rockstar.

  The next tangible thing he says is that the Russians are the only true villain of the game. That they don’t commit to the middle eastern antagonists. You know, the ones that open the game bombing civilians, the ones you spend the majority of the missions pursuing. Yeah no the Russians you barely hear about are the real threat. They pull so many punches when it comes to Al-Qatala. I didn’t see a single civilian execution or bomb vest in the whole campaign. Could’ve really done with a mission where you had to defend an embassy from a city full of terrorists. It was really disappointing how you spent like two missions completely dismantling a terrorist organization, what non-threat. Stories can’t have more than one antagonist.

  He also complains that they don’t commit to giving Al-Qatala a “true morally grey decision making pattern”. Is irredeemably evil not good enough for you? I thought you wanted them to commit, not have the terrorist leader give me a sob story about how his puppy got sick once and that’s why he murdered countless innocent people and children. Which is it? Pick a fuckin’ narrative.

  Upper then goes on to explain how Russia is like one of two or three superpowers that could actually take the U.S, and one of the even fewer that might have a reason to. No words in the English lexicon can describe the seething anguish my body is in right now.

  Among the baffling cognitive dissonance we just witnessed, Upper managed to slip in a little jab about the game having “as diverse of a cast as possible”, specifically citing Farah (the woman) as a strong character. Stop being a pussy and say it, we all know what you were getting at. There are two new characters in the main cast, one of them is the whitest motherfucker I’ve ever seen. The other is Farah. You see his problem is that they added a single competent woman to the main cast.

  Whatever alternate universe I was dropped into: I want out.

  This character is well established, well flushed out, and not overbearing. She has a personal connection to both of the antagonists, and it’s thoroughly set up that she lived most of her life fending for herself in harsh conditions. She was forced to kill motherfuckers as a child. And no, it wasn’t exactly easy. I would know, I had to play it. And so did you. If all of those are not good enough reasons to have one single halfway useful female character on the team, then congratulations: You are the petulant child who’s afraid of having vaginas in his Call of Duty that every SJW complains about. Developers are allowed to make whatever character they damn well please without it automatically being a part of some agenda. It’s fine, you’ll live I promise.

  One last little thing he managed to slip in before the end, is that the maps are designed to have “safe spaces” for “newbies”. He’s talking about choke points and vantage points. He’s talking about proven real life tactics working in the simulation. On top of everything else, he is one of those people that complains because he can’t figure out how to stop sprinting into corridors and open fields.

  So in conclusion: Modern Warfare is SJW propaganda because the Russians are the bad guys, creative writing is a thing that happens, women exist, and real world strategies are effective.

  I honestly don’t know how to properly end this one. I was thinking of making another one of my edgy jokes, but I just can’t muster the effort to think of something. This drained me. I feel like I’m dumber for having dissected this. Upon rewatching the video for this article, it somehow managed to simultaneously be one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen, and one of the most depressing.

  The moral of the story is: Keep your wits about you. Check people’s facts. Check mine, watch the video to see if I’m misrepresenting. You never know where one of these idiots is hiding until they try something. Above all else: Stay consistent and true to your beliefs.

Invoker From Dota 2 is Now a Shota

After months of waiting, those who purchased the Dota 2 The International 9 Battle Pass and leveled it up significantly were more than happy to see the announcement of a new Persona item in Dota 2 for Invoker, after months of teasing and a single splash art with very little information. I am no fan of Dota 2 myself, my editor however is a massive fan and has been a part of the community since its early beta, years before its official release.

 The International, if you don’t know, is an annual competition for Dota 2 where Esport organizations from around the world throw their teams at one another to compete. It’s one of the very few e-sports that North America actually has a chance of winning and one where Korea doesn’t get too involved with, so yes, it’s pretty fucking exciting. Every year they have a Compendium or a Battle Pass, though they started moving to a Battle Pass in 2016 and, yes, Valve started the Battle Pass trend even if Fortnite popularized it in 2018. These battle passes, much like Fortnite’s, give exclusive rewards, items and skins through leveling it up. However, unlike Fortnite, it’s pretty damn difficult to earn these levels yourself. Most of it is through purchasing levels, to which 25% goes to funding The International. While these rewards like Invoker as a Shota or an exclusive Arcana for Earthshaker, these items can get pretty damn expensive. 24 Levels are $10, 11 are $5 and 5 levels are $2.50. To give an idea how expensive these items are, Shota Invoker can be unlocked at level 305 and the ES Arcana is at level 365, to get both and more you need to throw in nearly $150 into the game. Which leads to a much bigger problem.

 The International wasn’t always this expensive to get good items. In 2017, IO’s Arcana was around level 230, a whole underwater map reskin at level 170, and an exclusive Kunkka item was unlocked at level 225. Getting your pass to level 300 with the sale cost around $70 with a Steam Summer Sale deal. Even if you didn’t miss the 2019 Summer Sale deal, you still would have to spend $110 this year. This is a problem because Valve needs to make a bigger and better prize pool every single year. They’ve now reached over $31 Million for the prize pool, which is record-breaking. So Valve has no choice but to constantly throw gimmicks and make any permanent cool items go up in level each year to meet that exponential growth that is the prize pool. No only that but since 75% goes to Valve, they’ve earned over $90 million so far in this tournament which is a huge score for investors. If Valve doesn’t break the record each year, they could fuck over investors and their community would be let down. Plus, you have plenty of Dota 2 players that instantly level their passes to the thousands anyway. So only the casual player that wants cool exclusive items will be severely disappointed within the next few years unless Valve does something. But they’re Valve, and Valve does whatever the fuck it likes.