Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: Death Stranding, Blizzcon & Price’s Beard

Behold, another weekend has passed and thus, as is the great Lord’s command, it is time for another Weekend Whammy that isn’t actually on the bloody weekend. I’d like to open this week by telling you that my left leg is currently dead because I’ve developed a baffling habit of folding it under my right leg over the past few weeks and for the life of me I can’t stop doing it. I’m doing it without thinking about it and then 30-minutes later I swear loudly because I tried to stand up and instead ended up wobbling around like some cooked spaghetti trying to walk. Why the hell do us humans do weird stuff like this? What is wrong with us?

So in the last two weeks since we chatted I dropped two reviews about multiplayer shooters that are vying for your attention, but they are radically different beasts. I am, of course, talking about my reviews for Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I’ve genuinely been thinking about which I’d rather play, and while I’d actually argue that Modern Warfare is a better all-around package I’d personally go with Plants vs Zombies, largely because I find playing Modern Warfare online to be gruelling and frustrating. Every time I play a match I find myself become horribly angry because of constantly being eviscerated by Killstreaks or by a random bullet from a great distance. Annoying deaths can and do occur in Plants vs Zombies, but it’s honest hard to get angry at it when I’m running around as a zombie in a cheap superhero costume. Plus, at least I don’t die immediately when stepping out of the spawning area in Plants vs Zombies because a fucking jet zoomed overhead and dropped a pile of bombs on me. Plus, in PvZ it takes a lot of shots to kill someone, so even if you’re ambushed you still have a chance to fight back using skill, whereas in CoD being ambushed is insta-death.

By the way, what is up with Captain Price’s facial hair? He looks like he has some sort of strange overbite. I mean, look at him! It’s glorious and weird all at the same time!

I also put out a little article ranking the Gears of War series, which was heaps of fun to think about and then write. I enjoyed just thinking back across all six games (I’m not counting you, wierd Funko Pop Gears game) and trying to figure out which ones I thought were the best of the bunch.

But the game I’ve been playing most, usually while huddled under a pile of blankets in a small corner of a darkened room, is Luigi’s Mansion 3, the long-awaited sequel to Dark Moon. Of course I’m playing it on my little Switch Lite so I’m not getting the big-screen effect, but I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything – Luigi’s Mansion 3 feels superb as a handheld game. And even on the smaller screen the game looks amazing at times.

So yeah, a review of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is in the works, but suffice to say that I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Speaking of upcoming reviews I should have one for Asgard’s Wrath up this week. If you didn’t already know it’s perhaps the most kickass of VR games to have launched, a proper triple-A game built from the ground up for the medium rather than just being Skyrim ported over. The problem is the damn thing takes like 40-hours to complete and its tricky to do long sessions in VR, so it’s taking me a while to actually get through it all. But it’s worth it, because it’s a beautiful game that has fun combat, solid puzzles and some awesome moments. Where else are you going to get a humanoid shark as a companion?

I’ve watched with great interest as the reviews for Death Stranding have landed. I’ll be honest I don’t have the itch to actually play the game but like the rest of the world I was utterly absorbed by needing to know what Death Stranding actually is. As it turns out its Kojima’s version of Eurotruck because you run around delivering packages. But the truly fantastic part is that you can build things to help traverse the world, and other players can stumble across them and use them in their own world. There’s no reward for this, instead it’s all about the simple joy of helping others out, to connect with them just as you’re helping reconnect the world in your own game. So maybe I don’t have a desire to play it myself, but I’m happy and delighted to see other people loving Death Stranding. We need games that are willing to try new things, to push toward different experiences and feelings. We need lunatics like Kojima who use far too many words to explain the simplest things and overindulge in their own mad ideas, because that’s how brilliance is birthed.

There were two bits of industry news that I wanted to chat about, the first being Blizzcon which I think many of us were watching with a sense of morbid curiosity following the debacle of Blizzard banning Blitzchung for voicing his support of the Honk Kong protests. The event has been and gone, and like in so many other cases it feels like people’s anger dissipated quickly as the entire thing still had thousands of people flocking to it and only a handful of protesters. To help alleviate the potential PR disaster Blizzard were able to hit hard with titles like Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2. I honestly feel a little annoyed that an issue so many people claimed to be infuriated over seems to have been forgotten because some shiny new things were shown, and yet that does seem to be the case.

But the truly interesting piece of news was that Blizzard’s CEO took to the stage to address the situation. It had to be done, of course, such a glaring issue couldn’t be ignored, although I wouldn’t have that surprised if they had tried. The point is the “apology” was a complete joke from start to finish, failing to actually address anything. Blitzchung and Honk Kong were never mentioned, the wording was as vague as possible and all the apology amounted to was that they were sorry that that people were mad. Nothing was said of Blizzard’s stance on the subject, whether they planned on changing anything or would do anything differently if they could. Exactly how are you sorry, Blizzard, if you have no intention on lifting the ban or even talking about the problem directly?

The CEO went on to waffle about how Blizzard still supports the concept that “every voice matters” even while the live chat in the stream was shut down. However, it must be said that Blizzard did at least allow people to voice their angers on the mic without trying to shut them down or talk over them.

The simple fact of the matter is the entire speech was hollow with no actions backing it up. I’d like to show you this qoute from the interesting PCGamer interview with Blizzard’s CEO, which you should go read.

PC Gamer: I wanted to revisit the statement you made at the beginning of the opening ceremony yesterday. You said Blizzard is “committed to everyone’s right to express themselves in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places,” and you made a commitment to do better going forward and that your actions are going to matter more than words do. Are you going to be repealing the punishment against Blitzchung and the two Taiwanese casters involved in this incident?
J. Allen Brack, Blizzard president: We are not.
Why?
So, one of the things that we talked about in the commitment to expression about all kinds of ways and all kinds of places, is the fact that we’re huge believers in free speech, and we’re huge believers in free expression. We have a long history of that being part of the culture of the company for employees. That’s certainly part of the culture of the relationship that we have with the community. And so employees are free to post on their social media accounts. If you think about the people that we have that are esports athletes, our Grandmasters, or anyone who is participating in esports, they’re free to say and do whatever they want on their social channels. I feel like we have a far more open set of guidelines and policies than really any other traditional sport that takes a view around making sure that all of the people stay on message. And so, that’s how we think about free expression and how we’ve contextualized it.
We want the official broadcasts, which are a small percentage of the overall content that gets created, to be about the games. And we want those to be focused on the games. Again, it’s not about the content of Blitzchung’s message. It’s about the fact that it was not around the games. If we hadn’t taken action, if we hadn’t done something, you can imagine the trail that would be in our future around doing interviews. They would become times for people to make a statement about whatever they wanted to, on whatever issue. That’s just a path that we don’t want to go down. We really want the content of those official broadcasts to be focused on the games, and keep that focus.

I understand the idea of wanting to keep the official broadcasts purely about the game in question and even agree with it to a certain point, but that also goes against their claims about truly supporting free speech and the right of everyone to use that. However, at least they did reconfirm that it wasn’t the specific content of the message that got Blitzchung banned, and that ANY political message would have resulted in the same action being taken. I’m not quite sure I believe him, but I’d like to.

The other interesting piece of news comes from Ubisoft who have been refreshingly open and frank about their business. In a press release they put out Ubisoft admitted that in terms of sales and reception Ghost Recon: Breakpoint has not met their expectations. They also stated that they weren’t entirely happy with The Division 2, either. However, rather than blaming a bunch of stuff and gamers like other companies have done in the past, Ubisoft turned their attention inward, stating that,

Unlike Blizzard Ubisoft have actually followed these words with action by delaying Watch Dogs Legion, Gods & Monsters and Rainbow Six: Quarentine until their next financial year, which runs from April 2020 to March 2021. According to Ubisoft they need “more development time to ensure that their respective innovations are perfectly implemented so as to deliver optimal experiences for players.” And once again being refreshingly honest Ubisoft said that this was obviously going to mean a huge reduction in profits for the year, dropping its full net-year bookings from €2.19 billion to €1.45 billion, and its operation incoming from €480 million to €20-50 million. This announcement also caused a substantial drop in stock prices for Ubisoft.

Now, obviously we need to step back and think about this. Firstly, I applaud Ubisoft for delaying their games, being more open and willingly taking a financial hit because in big business doing that upsets investors and that’s bad news. However, they are obviously a business and have no intention of losing money. They’ve already revealed that their estimate profits for 2020-2021 are going to be big with five triple-A titles due for release. This is a longer term move for their business, but there’s no reason why smart business and good games can’t work in tandem to make us players AND Ubisoft’s investors happy. Hopefully once we see Ubisoft start to hit the market hard again they’ll have learned from their mistakes, although I’m sure they’ll still be pushing microtransactions and games-as-a-service hard.

Moving away from games I sat down and watched Netflix’s Daybreak series, which I may have somewhat stupidly assumed was releated to the 2009 movie titled Daybreakers. Er, my bad. Anyway, Daybreak is yet another post-apocolyse with Zombies, but this time it features a zany tone and huge amounts of 4th wall smashing humour. It follows Josh Wheeler as he attempts to survive the new world and rescue the love of his life, Sam Dean. Along the way he joins up with Wesley Fists, a gay black dude who is now a sworn pacifist and samurai, and the crazy Angelica, a little girl with a massive intellect, some serious issues and a love of blowing shit up.

I’d have to say Daybreak is an acquired taste. It’s bonkers, it’s random, it breaks the 4th wall in a lot of fun ways, but it can all be a bit much. There were moments when I wanted to tell it to shut the fuck and just get on with the story already, but for the most part I had a blast with it, largely thanks to the characters. Principal Burr wound up being a highlight for me.

I’d recommend watching it, then, but with some big caveats: if you can’t enjoy zany, off-the-wall shit and constant slamming of the brakes on the plot so that weird stuff can occur then avoid it.

And I watched the second season of Jack Ryan which turned out to be very enjoyable and then I kind of forgot it all. I don’t know why, but I have this problem with any thriller/drama set in modern day which deals in terrorism and conspiracies and such. I have fun with them and then once they’ve ended I realise that I can’t remember who anyone actually was. But still, the second season was very solidly made with a good plot and a great new character in the form of Mike, who gives off the vibe that his life is now far more complicated for having met Jack Ryan but also a lot more fun.

Finally, before I end this, here’s a few other bits and bobs to go read:
– Cheap Boss Attack did an awesome review for Vampyr
– Cheap Boss Attack also wrote about his top 5 favorite horror games. Some fun choices there, although I’d personally stick Resident Evil 7 VR on the list as being pant-wettingly terrifying.
– The awesome Meghan Plays Game reviewed Red Dead Redemption 2 and makes an interesting point about how it can be hard to actually be an outlaw in a game about being an outlaw.

Right, that’ll do us for this week my fine folk. Do take care.

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