A Thumb To The Eye Number 20

Thank you, Bryan Berg! Bryan was a trooper and filled in for me, so now I owe him, big time. Also, thank you Misha and Alex for helping get my mind off the shitty stuff. Well, here’s the news…

Sammy Announces a Game Guaranteed To Suck. Seriously. It’s About Vampires, So, On One Level, Sucking Is a Prerequisite. On Another Level, It’s Probably Going To Be a Very Bad Game, So It Will Likely Suck In A Completely Different Way. It’s A Pun People. Don’t Get Mad At Me, All I Have To Work With Is A Bloodrayne Clone with Six Guns. Blame Sammy.

—WARNING: Press Release Imminent!—

Carlsbad, CA – January 12, 2004 “” Sammy Studios, Inc., a developer, publisher and global distributor of interactive entertainment content, today announced Darkwatch: Curse of the West, an all-new 1st person shooter (FPS) with an original premise blending Vampire-Horror and Western genres. The game is a cinematic FPS, with explosive action and great gameplay variety framed by a story and visual design that delivers a frightening re-imagination of the Wild West. Darkwatch: Curse of the West is the first title developed internally at Sammy Studios, created by the team who launched Sammy’s US-based game development studio and publishing headquarters in 2002. The game is slated for release on Sony PlayStation®2 and Microsoft Xbox™ in Q4 2004.

Darkwatch: Curse of the West introduces the Darkwatch, a secret strike-force that has vigilantly protected man from evil incarnate since the dawn of civilization. Their newest and deadliest agent is Jericho Cross, an outlaw gunslinger pulled into their ranks by an unfortunate close encounter with a vampire lord. To save the West, and his own soul from damnation, Jericho must hunt the vampire that bit him through an American frontier suddenly overrun by his undead minions. At his disposal is the advanced, deadly technology of the Darkwatch, including an arsenal of powerful assault vehicles and enhanced versions of Western weapons, along with supernatural vampire abilities and a trusty undead horse. Players will experience an action-packed “living West” in Darkwatch: Curse of the West with massive environments, non-linear missions, dynamic enemy and non-player-character artificial intelligence (A.I.) affected by a player reputation system, and precision gunplay with location-specific damage.

With a wide assortment of Darkwatch-enhanced weapons and vehicles, horse-mounted gunfighting and superhuman abilities, Darkwatch: Curse of the West delivers tremendous variety in a FPS in both single and online multiplayer modes.

—End of Press Release—

Here, for your perusal, is a list of games worked on by this team. This is some impressive resume…

B.I.O. Freaks
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
ESPN Extreme Racing
NFL GameDay ’95
Kyle Petty’s No Fear Racing
Meat Puppet
Wet Corpse
Demolition Man
Sylvester and Tweety’s Cagey Capers
Izzy’s Quest For the Olympic Rings

So, in other words, expect to see it for $10 at Circuit City by next Christmas. I hate to be cruel, but this is going to be yet another half-baked attempt to create a franchise with “dark and gritty” undertones so they can make action figures and a movie. Do yourself a favor and forget about this game. I know I already have. What were we talking about?

Nintendo May or May Not Have A New System Coming Out. No One Really Knows But We’ll Keep Talking About It Until There’s Some News Worth Dealing With. Seriously, This Is Some News-Free Kind Of Season. Did I Mention How Much Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Kicks Ass?

Umm, yeah. Nintendo has said that there will be new hardware at E3. They have said, well, not much else. The rest is rumor and innuendo, isn’t it? Well, some people assume that the IQue launch in China is a harbinger of our new piece of hardware. Others claim it is an all in one like the pretty cool Atari stick that I think just about everyone got for Christmas. Some are thinking that it will be some kind of uber- GameBoy Advance with the ability to play GameCube games. My take is this: Nintendo isn’t going to release any of those things. No, I think that we are going to get an evolution of the IQue technology, but decidedly different. I have a feeling our IQue will be more multiplayer oriented and might make use of the WaveBird technology to boot. Most importantly, though, I think this system will be based around “suites” of games instead of individual titles. My scenario is like this: You plug a base unit into the wall and your television, put batteries into your wireless controller or controllers, and pop a card with 5 to 10 SNES and N64 games into your base unit. Viola, you have a device that fulfills the retrogaming hunger of the people, eats tons of batteries, makes Nintendo money off of games they already have, and supports the Big N’s fascination with multiplayer. Think of all the swank N64 four player games they could throw on memory cards. I know I’d buy one.

RockStar Prediction: the Next Grand Theft Auto Isn’t In Any Of The Previously Guessed Eras

I’ve heard people swear the new GTA will be in Rat Pack era Vegas. I’ve also heard them claim it will be in true Sabotage grandeur, a 70’s cop show, ala San Francisco. Or the Roaring ’20’s like John Dillenger. All of these are wrong, I’m guessing. As swank as they would be, especially the Vegas in the 50’s one, I think Vice City was an aberration from the plan and future GTAs will be modern. Yes, modern. No more retro, I would guess. My money says GTA:5 is LA pre or post earthquake, maybe with a quake in the middle, with rioting and looting somewhere in the chaos. Guess number two: LA circa 1991. N.W.A. on the soundtrack, riots in the streets, and gangbanging. The controversy lovers that are RockStar will give you control of either a black or Hispanic gang member, fresh from prison, like every other GTA protagonist, and we’ll get some licensed early 90’s gangsta rap and jerk off L.A. cops. Sad thing is, it’s more fun guessing than playing these games.

Checking The Mail

Yes, I get letters. Here’s one now:

Yup, cheap gaming is my thing. The Dreamcast is the main target, for example: I went to a car boot sale, picked up 6 games for £26 (5 at £4 each, the other one was £6). Those games were Fur Fighters, Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2, Outtrigger, SEGA Rally 2, Ecco the Dolphin and Resident Evil: Code Veronica. I think that says all anyone needs to know, really…

By the way, Rez is worth near retail, if you can find it that cheap. I’ve seen prices as high as £70 for my PAL DC game so sorely sought after…

– Nik Thorpe

I loves me some cheap games. I also loves me some Dreamcast. The Dreamcast, at least when I bought mine, was the best system to get good and great deals on games for. I’ll never forget blowing $250 on games and basically getting the entire Capcom catalog for DC and REZ, the PAL iteration, for hella cheap. Oh, those were the days. Of course now, as Nik says, REZ is pretty hard to find and afford. Hell, I blew $50 to get a PS2 copy so I wouldn’t have to bother with the old DC except for my beloved among beloved, Fire Pro Wrestling D. Oh, and check out Nik’s site while you are at it.

You are so right about Disgaea…I’m playing that right now, and just
reached the Mid-Boss cut scene. I laughed so damn hard at that, it was
all I could do not to wake up my wife. Then I tried the level and got
seriously fucked up…I need to level up some more…

Good column this week!


“I know it’s crooked. But it’s the only game in town.” -Canada Bill Jones

Oddly, this is in response to my “angry” column, so I was pretty surprised that ANYONE liked it. As far as Disgaea goes, that is my Game of the Year for 2003. If it was portable, I’d probably lose my job. I love it that much. Disgaea is the reason I play games. It is pure, unadulterated fun. Pick it up before someone charges you $80 on Ebay.

Use Your Shirt, James, Your Shirt

Nothing feels better than the first rant of the day, doncha think? This one was avoidable, RockStar Games, but no you just couldn’t do this one little thing. All I wanted to do was choke a white supremacist with my bare hands. Or maybe the unbuttoned prison shirt I have on over my wife beater, you know, the one that would surely get caught on a loose nail or stuck in a door or grabbed by a pursuing Warriors cast off. Hell, I won’t even mention how much the lack of bare handed kills bothered me the whole time I played. Then, it clicked inside my brain. Manhunt is about murder the way BurgerTime! is a realistic portrait of the fast food industry.

The crux of the whole thing is this: Manhunt is a cleverly designed ruse. It is a way for RockStar to once again prove to themselves that they are smarter than you are. Manhunt is a joke, and you, me, and every other schmoe who purchased or rented this game are the butt. The clues are there, if you want to see them, the symbols and hints at the true nature of this game. You see, it’s all about knowing your place, and Manhunt doesn’t hide the fact that you are being played by the game, not vice versa.

It all started with Tennis and I will blame it for this travesty, this loss of control. In the days of Pong, the first smash hit of a videogame, the player controlled a paddle that hit a ball. Simple enough. Tennis, on the other hand, showed up and the player was controlling a player with a paddle, or racket if you prefer, on screen instead of the paddle itself. Such a little step was the first step towards the sorry state of affairs we have now. Once direct control was lost, the link between the controller in hand and the dancing dots on the television was muddied. It has only gotten worse from there.

Think of it this way: tennis, outside with a net and everything, is 0 steps removed from tennisness. If so, then ping pong, the indoor cousin of tennis, is 1 step removed from tennisness. Pong would be 2 steps from tennisness, far enough that is starts getting pretty abstract. Tennis with it’s bubble wand wielding stick figures, would be 3 steps from the tennisness. NES Tennis, the one with Mario as a line judge, is about 4 steps from the tennisness. Super Tennis will be considered 5 steps from tennisness. And, finally, Virtua Tennis shall be our number 6. This is my model, now let us look at it.

Ping pong, or table tennis, has a different set of rules from real tennis, but serves as a rainy day replacement. The ball, court, and paddle physics are completely different, but everything is consistent within it’s own framework. Ping pong is not a simulation of tennis but a different game with similarities. Fine. Pong would be the game I judge all others on, simply because it is what all other games wish they could be: pure. Pong is also a game that has it’s own set of physics and (simplified) rules. The whole game operates off of this mechanism: player moves controller, paddle moves. It is related to tennis and has a relationship to it, but is not tennis. Then we make the third step…

The third step is into Tennis and away from Pong. The fact is this: You are no longer in complete control in Tennis, you are a puppeteer controlling a puppet who hits the ball. This extra step, the controller goes into the system, tells the character to swing the paddle, the paddle swings, is the point, the exact point, that games started to drift into the dangerous area they are in now. By the time we get to the sixth step, you are no longer even controlling the player, who is made of millions of polygons and has hundreds of animation frames. You are on the sideline yelling to the player what to do. You are almost a spectator at this point. Follow me: player inputs control, controller tells the system what to do, the system tells the character what to do, the character figures out which animation sequence to go through, the character executes the animation sequence, the system figures out if the animation makes contact, via the collision detection, the paddle hits the ball. See the difference. You are no longer in control.

What does all this have to do with Manhunt or any other game, you ask? Well, let us go back into the world of Manhunt. In this game, for the uninitiated, you play a serial killer murdering his way through a shitty, Kansas City- esque city to escape. You are told what to do by a cooing, orgasming, yelling, screaming, and cajoling director through the Karaoke Revolution headset. You are Commanded to kill. If you look at it, though, you will see the real subtext of the game. Manhunt is not a murder simulator, a “Se7en” style videogame journey through the snuff film underworld, or an inheritor of GTA’s throne. No, Manhunt is the first game that doesn’t hide the fact you are not in control anymore. The player is doing horrible things at the behest of a director, who is ostensibly the antagonist of the game. You are killing because you are being told to. Not to protect yourself, not even for fun, just because you are being told to. Manhunt is the final expression of what games have become. You move into position to kill, because someone has told you to, and the game switches to a cutscene to show the murder you perpetrated. You are being used. By a game. Manhunt is the ultimate display of RockStar’s contempt for you. They can order you to kill and you will do it, no matter how many steps removed you are from the action. Do you really want to be played like that?

With that, it’s off to the pub. Next week: something so big it couldn’t fit in this week.
Happy playing!







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