The Not Concise List of Video Game Experiences I’ve Had in January-March 2018

Yes, I think these wordy and annoying headlines are my thing now.

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I have a Playstation 4 Pro now!

I’ll be honest, I don’t totally buy into the inevitable 4K future of media. I like nice looking things but not necessarily enough to feel like a new TV will be anything but a brick of space that I get excited about for a week and then summarily realize 2160p and 1080p and 720i or whatever just get jumbled in my head and that I’m blind enough that it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. So why in the hell did I give up a perfect fine base PS4 for a system whose biggest pitch is “hey, you need something nice-looking on your TV, you rich 4K content consumer”? I got a good deal on the trade-in. That’s about it. My games run a smidge better and despite my errant eyesight, I really notice that sort of thing. And I don’t know, it’s got a nice supersampling option to where I think my stuff looks better on a 1080p TV.

Honestly, if you’re someone who somehow hasn’t bought a new system, I severely doubt the PS4 Pro and the similarly beefy Xbox One X will be a thing you need unless you are using a big honkin’ TV for it, which then, why not? Look, I don’t know your money situation or anything.

Metal Gear? Survive?

Metal Gear Survive, released in early February, is one of the more puzzling games released this year. It’s not because publisher Konami saw fit to continue on its highly popular Metal Gear franchise without series creator and (for lack of a less pretentious term) auteur Hideo Kojima. In fact, this happens a shocking amount of times in gaming as each project is sort of like a season of a TV show where showrunners can be interchangeable by all of the reasons you would think (creative differences, burnout, switching development teams, being so fuckton popular that they just have a million separate teams working on yearly installments, etc.).

But Metal Gear isn’t an ordinary series, either. Metal Gear is insane anime-esque antics somehow struck by hard commitment to military arms and themes and more insane storytelling. The one given all of the credit for this is usually Kojima, since there are specific tropes revolving around the series instantly attributable to the man. For example, guy loves movies. He named a guy who looks like Michael Biehn and later Kurt Russell the code name Solid Snake and the gruff vet sounds like Russell’s Snake Plissken. In MGS 2 and later V, Kojima pulls a twist essentially telling you that everything you’ve experienced prior is not as it seems. Even simple character traits carry over from game to game: a mysterious lady sniper (1 and V), a female member of your team does some sort of traitorous action (1, sorta 4?, Peacewalker), etc. And all of this, true or not, is credited to Kojima’s bombastic style because, well, guy loves movies.

So this gets even weirder with Survive, an offshoot taken quite significantly from the engine powering the final Kojima game for Konami, Metal Gear Solid V, but refashioned to play more like the nascent trend of survival games. I mean, it’s in the title. It is not a new installment in the Solid timeline nor does it really have any bearing on the timeline of anything preceding it. Also, the story is colossally stupid, which could be labeled on many points of the Kojima games but not to this degree. In desperate bids to make any sense of a nonsensical situation, the first hour of nearly all cutscenes explains weird currencies, has an alternate world named from Dante’s Inferno, and has characters entirely meant to show their one character trait. Ole Reeve is uncertain about stuff and angry! Goodluck is a big ole two-face. Chris is literally Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris but if he was only given instruction to act like Elmo. It’s a mess.

But despite myself, I kept playing and it wasn’t awful. Combat is definitely flawed in that it’s really easy to turn the game into Poke The Zombie With A Spear. (And sure, the zombies are called Wanderers, but they’re fucking zombies. They’re even as bone stupid as zombies are portrayed in pre-2000 horror.) I did like the bow combat or even how something as simple as making a gun could effectively change a plan. See, most of the game is holding down some sort of fort, usually holding a wormhole or transporter, and making sure it doesn’t blow up. And that can be decently tense and satisfying, easily the best parts of a game that seems like nothing before these holding missions.

I finished playing around the reveal of a second area because it was kind of enough for me but I didn’t hate it as much as I expected, even with its faults a mile wide. If I had to give it a rating like I did on my (cheap plug) Petrification List, I’d keep the **1/2 out of 5 mark.

It’s sports game time!

When I put MLB 17 on my top ten list a couple of months back, I made no bones about it being my personal favorite sports game franchise. They just do so much right, from allowing an array of control schemes to suit the player to their efforts to speed up the game to just focus on play-centric moments. They are likely the only sports franchise to have this benefit, as really the only ways to speed up Madden or NBA is to drop the length of the quarters and crank the “game speed” slider all the way up and even that has kind of mixed results for me. And they are definitely the only one to have a robust enough simulation system to let the player choose just how much they want to control, like doing only fielding or only hitting. It’s nice.

So obviously, I got MLB The Show 18 upon its release in late March.

And I spent the week of me owning The Show playing NBA 2K18 more.

Me and NBA 2K have a complicated relationship. When I first downloaded NBA 2K13 on my Xbox 360, I had a rough time with the control scheme. This is both the series’ biggest early hurdle and its greatest success. The controls of 2K are tough to grapple with but also extremely capable upon figuring it all out. More importantly, the series staple MyCareer, a mode in which you build up a nice basketball man with the ability to rise from the crop to be the real cream (or some metaphor like that), is addicting in its slow ascent. Honestly, even now, the 2K games from this era hold up and it’s probably like $2 at a Gamestop for any of these older years. It’s worth your time in that regard.

In this console generation, though, NBA 2K has been a real mixed bag of stuff. On one hand, the sheer amount of stuff added to their franchise mode, now called MyLeague and MyGM depending on preference, is insane. They kind of give you the tools to play around in absurd ways with the league, whether it be putting 36 teams in Athens, Georgia or dismantling the shot clock or having a fucking possession arrow start the game in the most anti-climactic fashion instead of the tip off. And while the expansion team generator isn’t robust enough to make the Druid City Brewers (extra points for a Bo Hicks thumbs up as the logo) play in Tuscaloosa, it’s amazingly creative even while you’re passing by pictures of a Pornhub team or President 45’s bigly grin.

The other shoe drops, though, when it comes to NBA’s albatross of online connectivity. I played 120 hours of NBA 2K18 on the Switch and for the main MyCareer mode, it requires an always on connection. Without playing it on the TV, this is a shockingly impossible ask. WiFi isn’t the best at staying connected on the Switch as is and any sudden outage boots the game back to the start without even a save. Add to that 2K’s terrible trend of not wanting you to skip any of the amazing cutscenes of MyCareer where, uhh, your basketball player is aware of Bill Murray movies and Lil Yachty and that’s his DJ character I guess, and it gets tiresome.

But fuck me, the basketball is still so good. The commentary shouldn’t feel as realistic as it does, even if Kevin Harlan doing the play-by-play for near a decade now means they probably have a lot of natural sounding clips loaded up by this point. I like figuring out the intricacies of my center. That’s usually just lumbering around, setting picks, getting rebounds, taking advantage of a small lane to dunk, etc. And I like the up and down nature of a higher difficulty game. I’m currently on the Atlanta Hawks, who are not very good right now much like in real life, and we’re on a 10-13 season. And I like that. No easy W’s here at House Irby for my blonde bomber Lou Wells. And we’re getting there. I like way more the road to getting there than anything else. I had a Raptors team one year go 77-5 and win the title and that felt wrong. It didn’t feel like I got anywhere but immediately up. And that’s what’s actually kept me in. It’s the middle path of seeing the battles to come.

(So uhh, I went long on this so I might split more stuff into this as a two parter of some sort. Depends on my fingers and my coffee, I guess. Ciao!)

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