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by Jorge Albor

8 Oct 2015

Something strange is happening at the League of Legends World Championship. The international tournament, featuring the best LoL teams from around the world, is surprising everyone, and we’re only in the midst of the group stage. Despite overwhelming expectations, we are seeing upset after upset across the board. Teams like Origen, CLG, and Cloud 9, none of whom were expected to lead the pack at this point, have made tremendous showings. The underdog victories, especially against their traditionally dominant Chinese and Korean opponents, is making Worlds one of the most exciting championships to date. It is also making for one amazing spectacle of eSports drama.

So what is the latest hubbub all about? Right now, the group of analysts that comment on these tournament matches are under attack for (in a way) not predicting the outcome of these matches better. Jakob Mebdi, more commonly known at YamatoCannon, received a particular hefty amount of negative feedback when he stated he believed the North American team Cloud 9 would lose all six games during the group stage. So far, Cloud 9 has gone undefeated in three games against the likes of AHQ and Fnatic, teams that have consistently led their region in victories.

by Scott Juster

1 Oct 2015

If you want to play Metal Gear Solid V stealthily, you’re going to spend a lot of time in the dirt. Of course, sometimes you’ll mix it up and get up close and personal with mud, grass, or concrete, but the point is that avoiding detection requires you to emulate Snake’s animal namesake. It makes for a slow, methodical experience that forces you to pay attention to the game’s intricate mechanics and the subtleties of its open world.

by Jorge Albor

17 Sep 2015

So I started playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain with very little knowledge of the franchise as a whole. Yes, I know the series is known for off-the-wall plotting and general Kojima madness, but I never expected to go from a hospital bed to shooting a flaming unicorn in the face within an hour. This is new territory for me, so I hope you believe me when I say that The Phantom Pain has the best video game tutorial ever made.

Making a game tutorial is not easy. To account for all player experiences, a tutorial must contain basic information needed to play. For this reason, many tutorials are trite and redundant. The most exciting feature in some tutorials is relearning where reload is mapped to a controller. If you have played a lot of shooters, then most game tutorials are a slog.

On top of tutorial boredom, getting new players acquainted with the latest entry into a series may require the creation of some arbitrary plot contrivance to justify the lesson. How many shooters, in a desperate attempt to remain in-universe with their story, have placed our protagonists in mock boot camps with some hard ass military instructor. An even worse alternative is tossing players into some alternate reality battle room, forcing you to accomplish specific maneuvers before letting you roam free in the “real” story. And this is to say nothing of the often inane voice overs to catch you up to “the story so far.”

The prologue to The Phantom Pain laughs at these trite attempts to comfortably acclimate players. The game isn’t here to shepherd you gently into the world of Metal Gear. It wants to see you struggle, but safely. It’s like a parent tossing a child into the deep end of a pool, but not before subtly putting on those arm floaties. You’re drowning here, but not really.

As the opening credits begin, you awaken in a hospital room. Before long, a doctor tells you (Big Boss) that some dangerous people are after you and that you’ll need reconstructive surgery, at which point the game dumps you into a robust character creation menu. Fiddle and tweak all you want, none of it matters (at least not yet). As soon as your surgery is about to begin, all hell breaks loose. The idea of character customization goes right out the window. You thought the game was one way, but it’s not. You’ve been tricked, but not maliciously. The only power that you have here is the power that the developers give you, and they will dole it out at the moment of their choosing.

An early lesson in crouching.

An early lesson in crouching.

All of the basic mechanics from this point on are delivered in discrete contextual moments, bound up in a chaotic and unpredictable series of disastrous events, a lot of them cut scenes. Crawling, a necessary skill in the Metal Gear series to elude guards, is at first just the result of playing a sick and nearly crippled protagonist. Dragging yourself along the floor is a humiliating act, moments before becoming an expression of power and subtlety.

The Phantom Pain also deftly uses a mysterious bandaged ally, called Ishmael, during the lengthy tutorial to show possible behaviors in the game before prompting you to do the same. As you hobble forward, your ally tactically takes cover, scouting ahead for enemy movement. He warns you of potential threats, training you to do the same. In one scene, Ishmael slams your arm socket back into place telling you “next time, do it yourself.” It’s an almost parental lesson in a way. This is a safe space to learn these lessons, but as evidenced by the severity of the situation, you must learn these lessons quickly. Soon you will be on your own.

All of this tutorial is still taking place within a crazy backdrop of warfare, complete with a flaming devil incarnate, a murderous telekinetic child, and the slaughter of innocent people. The mundanity of learning basic movement and gunplay is overshadowed by a giant whale covered in flames appearing out of nowhere to eat a helicopter. The prologue is a tease, a splash of insanity to set the right tone. It knows tutorials are often drab affairs, so it takes you by the hand while leading you into one of the craziest introductions that I have ever seen. It give you just enough of a sense of control in the game, while still making you feel weak in the face of chaos.

I shot a fiery unicorn in the face with a shotgun. I have no idea what’s going on, but I’m ready for more.

by Scott Juster

10 Sep 2015

This piece contains spoilers for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

At times, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture feels very grounded. Despite it being a story about a supernatural visitor that causes the population of a small English town to inexplicably vanish, the world and its inhabitants often feel authentic. However, due to the way that you interact with and learn about the world, this feeling of “being there” is inconsistent. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a story about humanity, but the tools that you use to understand the story are unfortunately alienating.

by Jorge Albor

27 Aug 2015

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

I know what I want from Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. I want someone to be angry at.

I know, I know, it’s an inspirational story in some ways. The latest game from The Chinese Room drops you into the sleepy little hamlet of Shropshire, a quiet rural town nestled in the Yaughton valley. There we discover everyone has disappeared, leaving clues to the their story scattered about in the form of memories, light trails projecting their last moments on earth like ephemeral home recordings.

//Mixed media

The Hills Are Alive, But Nobody Else Is in 'The Happiness of the Katakuris'

// Short Ends and Leader

"Happiness of the Katakuris is one of Takashi Miike's oddest movies, and that's saying something.

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