Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is as bad as you expected

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Robomodo’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 finally released this week, and a lot of people didn’t even know the game existed until it arrived on store shelves. This isn’t a great sign, especially when combined with the fact that Activision apparently didn’t send any advance copies to reviewers. Almost everyone in the video game community saw all this as a surefire sign that the game would be a dud, but some of us had hope.

The only piece of promotional material I actually saw in advance of the game’s release was Tony Hawk and Lil’ Wayne’s appearance on Conan’s Clueless Gamer segment. The segment was amusing, but it didn’t exactly make the gameplay shine.

I still held out hope, and headed to Redbox yesterday to try out THPS5 for myself. I played the game for just over an hour and the expectation that it would be terrible was 100% accurate. The gameplay is very poorly executed, and the game looks and functions like a game for the PS2.

The game dumps you into a freeplay mode where you’ll skate around with other skaters, but there’s no way to interact with them besides bumping into them. There’s literally no point to showing other players in the world, other than to say “hey look, people are actually playing this crap!” If you want to engage in any multiplayer you have to bring up a menu and load into a separate waiting area before entering a match. I tried to get into multiplayer matches, however I could only ever find one other player and the matches would always fail to start.

Completing missions is no better. Once accepting a mission you’re met with a loading screen before loading into the same environment, minus all of the other players in order to accomplish the mission. Once complete you again have to load back into the free skate area. All of this is slow, clunky and poorly executed.

As you complete objectives and missions you earn skill points, but should you want to spend them you have to load back out to the main menu to do so. This is unintuitive and annoying. What’s worse is that should you choose to play as a different skater, Lil’ Wayne for example, you lose your progress and have to re-accomplish objectives on that character. The objectives and missions aren’t even fun to do the first time, why anyone would want to do them on every character is beyond me.

There’s so much about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 that I haven’t seen, but in the hour I’ve played I’ve seen enough to know that it’s not worth a second more of my time. There’s no charm in the world, there’s no local multiplayer and the game has no soul. The only positive is the halfway decent soundtrack, but not even that could save this game.

I don’t generally assign scores to games, but I couldn’t see how THPS5 would ever deserve anything more than a 1 out of 5. Avoid this mess at all costs.

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Recently Watched: ‘Grandma’

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Yesterday evening Vanessa and I returned to The Flicks in Boise to see Paul Weitz’  “Grandma” starring Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner. The film tells the story of a young woman named Sage who must acquire $600 in one day to pay for an abortion. Sage seeks the assistance of her foul mouthed, lesbian grandmother as she feels she has no one else to turn to.

The two go on an amusing adventure together and they each learn a lot more about each other than they probably wanted to. Sage witnesses her grandmother’s free, incredibly progressive spirit while also learning a lot about her troubled past. The film goes to some uncomfortably dark places among all the humor, yet none of it feels forced and these moments complicate Sage’s already difficult situation.

I really enjoyed the visual style and use of color in the film, and I especially loved the performances of Tomlin and Garner. They have great on screen chemistry and it’s wonderful to watch.

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Without saying too much (you’ll have to see for yourself), I’d simply point out that “Grandma” adds more to the conversation of abortion that may pair well with the film “Juno.” In fact there’s a scene outside an abortion clinic that mirrors a scene from “Juno,” however Tomlin’s character’s reaction is quite different.

I enjoyed “Grandma” quite a bit. The film is short, clocking 79 minutes, yet the story unfolds and wraps up just fine in that amount of time. I highly recommend “Grandma” to anyone up for a lighthearted film that tackles an incredibly difficult subject. The film performs wonderfully.

Recently Watched: “Pawn Sacrifice”

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Yesterday afternoon Vanessa and I took a trip to The Flicks theatre in Boise to see “Pawn Sacrifice”. The film chronicles the exciting rise and sudden disappearance of American chess great Bobby Fischer, played by Tobey Maguire.

A movie about chess, or one particular chess player, might not sound exciting to most, but the life of Bobby Fischer is definitely one worth peering into. I grew up not knowing much at all about Fischer, until I read Frank Brady’s “Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall” a few years ago.  The story of Bobby Fischer is fascinating and the lead up to his face off with the Soviet Union in 1972 is a thrilling tale.

“Pawn Sacrifice” does a wonderful job of simultaneously illustrating Fischer’s eccentric behaviors, his troubled mind and his incredible brilliance. Tobey Maguire does an excellent job displaying all of these traits. Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg are both wonderful in their roles as well, as their characters try desperately to keep Fischer on track to defeat the Soviet champion, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber).

The excitement of the final showdown between Fischer and Spassky is electric. It might be hard to imagine becoming excited for a series of chess matches, but director Edward Zwick does an exceptional job captivating the audience.

As the 1972 chess match ends the film concludes rather quickly and fades to black. I was left wanting more, however I feel like ending the film so suddenly is appropriate considering Fischer faded into obscurity rather quickly as well. I recommend checking out “Pawn Sacrifice” whether you have any real interest in chess or those who have played it. The film tells a dramatic story well, and is enjoyable to watch throughout.

Encountering Metal Gear Solid 3’s exploitation of women

Yesterday I progressed a little further into Metal Gear Solid 3 (I didn’t get far, as I spent a lot of time being lost and going the wrong way into the jungle) and I encountered some sequences in the game that seem entirely unnecessary and are quite exploitative of women.

Almost as soon as the character Eva is introduced she is sexualized almost to the point of belittling her character. As she is first introduced to Snake, for some unknown reason she unzips her coveralls to expose her chest. There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for her to do this. You could argue that maybe she is trying to seduce Snake to get him to follow along with her plans, but is exposing skin the only way a woman can be attractive? Hardly.

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During this same sequence the player is prompted to press a button to see through Snake’s eyes, and his focus is rather inappropriate.

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As long as the player holds R1 the image above is all the player will see. It’s as if her physical features are the only thing of any importance.

The sexualization and exploitation of Eva continues for many scenes to come. In a scene where Snake is waking from rest the player is yet again prompted to press a button to view through Snake’s eyes, and this time Eva is exploited even further during a voyeur scene.

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Kojima isn’t done yet. Moments later Eva is felt up by another character who discovers she is a woman as his hand lingers on her chest.

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He not only rests his hand on her chest, he squeezes as if he needs further confirmation that his hostage is a woman. From there he sniffs her neck and rattles off a derogatory phrase.

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Maybe Ocelot is a chauvinist, and a complete jerk, but during all of this Snake doesn’t even bat an eye. He makes no attempt to stand up for Eva, nor does he allow her to kill Ocelot after the ordeal, stating that he’s “still young.”

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Despite all of the sexualization and exploitation, at least Eva isn’t portrayed as entirely helpless. Ultimately she’s the one who breaks free from Ocelot (after Snake foils his plan), but Snake still interferes and almost defends Ocelot’s actions by writing him off as young and dumb.

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The entire introduction of Eva was uncomfortable, especially after seeing how another female character, Quiet, is treated in Metal Gear Solid V.

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I haven’t played enough Metal Gear Solid V to encounter Quiet myself yet, but I’ve heard a lot about how her character is presented in the game and it seems that Kojima’s portrayal of female characters hasn’t progressed at all since Metal Gear Solid 3. Much like Eva, Quiet is shown wearing very little clothing without much apparent reason.

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Not only is Quiet a combatant dressed in hardly any clothes, but she is also sexualized throughout the game via disturbing camera angles and a shower scene in which male characters try to watch her shower.

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As much as I’ve enjoyed playing Metal Gear Solid 3 and V so far, I can’t quite swallow the way female characters are exploited in the games. Does it happen on TV and in film all the time? Sure, but the sexualization of women in video games too often feels entirely unnecessary and wildly inappropriate. It’s just not cool.

 

Yet another post about Destiny

I’ll have something other than Destiny to talk about soon (I hope), but until then I’m going to keep enthusiastically posting about Destiny. The first week of The Taken King has been awesome so far, and at times I’ve found I’ve been unable to put the controller down. Destiny seems to have finally gotten the loot driven gameplay loop right. I’ve never seen so many items and engrams drop at almost a constant rate during missions and strikes and I’ve found myself wanting more and more as I’m almost always finding something useful that edges my light level higher.

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I worked my way through the story missions throughout the week, and with a little help from the Crucible I managed to hit level 40 by Friday. It was a slow rise, as many players hit 40 the day The Taken King released, but I wasn’t dedicating an insane amount of time to the game. I was excited to see Xur return on Friday with new wares, and purchased my first Taken King Exotic, An Insurmountable Skullfort, to get a decent light level bump.

My goal was to get as close to a 290 light level this weekend as possible, so with that in mind Friday I began running Strikes. The very first Taken King Strike I encountered was Cerberus Vae III, one of my least favorite Strikes in Destiny. Luckily they reworked the Strike a bit with new enemies, however the overall Strike plays out exactly as it did before.

After this disappointing rehash I finally got into the new Strikes, and they were great! Every new Strike has an interesting aspect or two that makes them more fun to run through than the older ones. For example, the Sunless Cell boss fight in the dark is a blast! The first time I dove into the dark pit I felt my palms get sweaty as I had no idea what I was about to encounter, and my heart raced during the entire encounter until Alak-Hul finally fell.

The Project S.A.B.E.R. Strike has its own wonderful moments, such as the beginning of the Strike in which your Fireteam has to avoid being overrun while defending an uplink. The Taken enemies really make this section of the Strike challenging and exciting. The last time I ran through it I could tell I was grouped with people who were running the Strike for the first time. Unfortunately, neither was utilizing voice chat (I have yet to encounter a single person in playlists who does) and I found myself the sole survivor of the initial onslaught which I somehow survived. The boss fight at the end of this Strike can be challenging the first few times, especially if your teammates don’t know what to expect, but once everyone knows what’s going on it’s actually rather easy.

The Shield Brothers Strike can be one of the most frustrating, especially with no communication. Encountering the dual boss fight the first time is chaotic, however a lot of jumping seems to help the chances of survival.

I’ve had a blast playing through all the new Strikes, even as I ran through them multiple times. The amount of engrams dropping all the time makes it hard to stop running Strike after Strike. I’ve watched my light level constantly creep higher, and ended the day at 254, just shy of the 260 recommended for the Heroic Strikes. I tried entering a Heroic Strike at a lower light level (the Shield Brothers) but it proved too much to handle and I had to bail out as we never would’ve completed it.

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I’ve also had fun in the new Crucible modes, although I’ve always been a terrible PvP player. I’ve played more matches than I normally would have throughout the week because after every other match I was getting Strange Coins while on a losing team. I looted at least ten Strange Coins through just a few matches which left me with more than I had ever had at one time by the end of the week. If they continue to drop as frequently in the Crucible I’ll probably play more than I ever have to prepare for Xur’s weekly visits.

Destiny: The Taken King is a blast so far!

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Destiny’s third expansion The Taken King released today, a week after the 2.0 patch introduced a significant amount of changes to Destiny’s gameplay. I ordered the expansion and the $20 Collector’s Edition upgrade, and so far it seems like the purchase has been worth it.

I didn’t really play any Destiny after the 2.0 patch launched, so I was still level 32 when I jumped into the game earlier today. With the level cap raised to 40, I decided to it would be worth checking out the House of Wolves quests I had never finished in order to get some experience. Even though much of my time spent in Destiny since the Taken King release has been spent with older content, I still feel the impact the newest expansion has made. Earning experience instead of hoping to get the right loot to increase light level feels great. I also thoroughly enjoyed the House of Wolves quests as I finished the quest line and gained a handful of levels in the process. Not only was I leveling, but I also came across a ton of Taken King gear along the way (mostly greens and blues). It felt great to see so many engrams flying all over the place as I blasted my way through enemies.

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Sorry for the quality of the screenshots, I was streaming to Windows 10 and couldn’t take any in game screenshots while doing so.

Once I did get to the Taken King content, it blew me away. The cut scenes, music and voice acting are all phenomenal. I had never experienced something so well produced during my time with Destiny previously, and I was literally in awe. I had also never been as excited while completing story content in Destiny.

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The new locations are visually pleasing and the new enemies are a blast to fight. They introduce new mechanics that are exciting to encounter. I’ve only completed the first story quest and the Sunbreaker quest but both were an absolute blast. In fact, the Sunbreaker quest is my favorite Destiny story mission by far. Unleashing the power of the new subclass was incredibly thrilling alongside the epic music and relentless onslaught of enemies. I can’t wait to see what else the new subclass has to offer.

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So far I’m loving The Taken King, and can’t wait to spend more time with it!

 

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (on the Vita)

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Shortly before the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I decided I wanted to try to catch up on Metal Gear. I purchased Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on the Vita, and figured it would be a good of place as any to start.

Snake Eater was released on the Playstation 2 in 2004 and the HD Collection came to the Vita in 2012. My last experience with Metal Gear was with Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance on the Xbox, however I remember very little about the game other than the underwater section being frustratingly difficult.

I had hoped that Snake Eater would shed some light on what is happening in The Phantom Pain, but so far I’m more confused than ever. The story so far (in both games) comes across as comically absurd, and I’m not sure whether to laugh or shake my head most of the time.

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What I can say for sure is that the game looks great on the Vita. The game also controls well and makes good use of the Vita’s touch screen (it’s especially easy to change weapons), however I’ve run into quite a few camera issues. While sneaking in the grass the camera switches to first person and I can’t seem to find any way to see what’s going on around me. I just have to wing it and hope no enemies are looking when I emerge from the grass. I’ve changed the camera settings in the options but it doesn’t seem to change anything at all. Maybe I’m just doing something wrong, but so far this is making the stealth aspect of the game extremely frustrating.

I haven’t gotten too far into the game yet (I’ve only just started Operation Snake Eater) but its absurdity so far has me wanting to see just how crazy it gets as the story advances. The hard part is decided whether I want to focus my time on Snake Eater or The Phantom Pain primarily. MGSV is much more enjoyable to play, so that’s probably where I’ll spend most of my time for now.