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  1. #41
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    My impression is that Spec Ops fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between player and protagonist in a linear game, and so whatever criticism it tries to make is pointless. The point seems to be that you can't or it makes no sense to enjoy playing out a story that disturbs you. But this can't be a reasonable point. It demands that the player, rather than simply controlling the protagonist's simple actions as the story plays out, takes on the role of the protagonist. How can this be demanded if the player isn't given any story agency?

    It is perfectly possible and reasonable for a player to enjoy the gameplay of a game while simultaneously disliking what the protagonist is doing. They don't need to feel anything bad about the actions they take in the gameplay because it just ain't their story. The player is simply playing out the things that the protagonist does. A good example is Arthas in Warcraft 3. His story is quite grim and disturbing, and you're controlling him as he does it, but there's no sense that you should feel disturbed for enjoying the fun of playing an RTS with a disturbing plot.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  2. #42
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    My impression is that Spec Ops fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between player and protagonist in a linear game, and so whatever criticism it tries to make is pointless.
    Have you played it? Because your entire post reads like second guessing.

    Also:-



    Amusing dinosaur dismissals of the game by alec and adam in their honorable mentions list: -

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012...tions-of-2012/

    How the fuck Dear Esther makes the 24, given it's less of a 'game' than TWD or Katawa Shoujo (if you paddle in those waters) but Spec OPs doesn't is frankly laughable tbh.
    Last edited by Kadayi; 26-12-2012 at 01:14 PM.
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  3. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    Have you played it? Because your entire post reads like second guessing.
    Of course I haven't played it; nothing I read about it was at all appealing. I'm just inferring things from the terrible arguments people make in its defence. It certainly is possible that it's a game that everyone who liked it completely misunderstood. So I ought to have said instead that "My impression is that everyone who praises Spec Ops fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between player and protagonist in a linear game..."
    Last edited by NathanH; 26-12-2012 at 01:12 PM.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wheelz View Post
    I believe you're right Jnx, however I (and I suspect Gunner) don't think its a shit game. What I would say, and what I think Gunner meant, is that its not fun - because it doesn't try to be. It doesn't want you to enjoy shooting all those [SPOILER] American Soliders [/SPOILER].

    As oposed to it trying to be fun and failing miserably.


    all of which is subjective of course.
    Thing is, I think only people with personal experience with american military can feel more disturbed by the violence in Spec Ops than in any other game. What difference does it make to me if the guy shooting at me or running to me with a knife is an american soldier or a russian soldier or a korean soldier? None. What I think is this: Woa this mediocre man shoot really handles mediocrlyish. Pretty art tho.
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  5. #45
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    The nationality of the Spec Ops enemies doesn't matter. The real issue is that they're supposed to be your allies but the horror they went through warped their sense of reality. And yet despite their brutality and questionable morality, they're the good guys in this story. They're trying to do the right thing and you fuck up everything for everyone. The whole shootbang action starts because the main character misunderstands the situation. That's where the shock and pain comes from.

  6. #46
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus jnx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirKicksalot View Post
    The nationality of the Spec Ops enemies doesn't matter. The real issue is that they're supposed to be your allies but the horror they went through warped their sense of reality. And yet despite their brutality and questionable morality, they're the good guys in this story. They're trying to do the right thing and you fuck up everything for everyone. The whole shootbang action starts because the main character misunderstands the situation. That's where the shock and pain comes from.
    The shock and pain come from realizing how much time one has wasted on a mediocre game because someone told it was supposed to be significant. It may speak to some, granted. But I can't feel any responsibility for actions taken by a videogame character, if I had no part in making the decicions. The behaviour of the protagonist was part of shittiness of the game. Why would anyone want to play him?
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  7. #47
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    Again, the error comes from the use of "you". "You" don't do anything, the protagonist does things. All "you" do is to play out some of his actions, presumably because playing out some of these actions is entertaining in some way.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  8. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    A good example is Arthas in Warcraft 3. His story is quite grim and disturbing, and you're controlling him as he does it, but there's no sense that you should feel disturbed for enjoying the fun of playing an RTS with a disturbing plot.
    I did find that section of WC3 a bit disturbing though. It was only the cartoon graphics that made it tolerable. The peasants screaming as you cut them down was pretty bleak.

  9. #49
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    I believe video games work according to dream logic. Honestly, I have no problem completely identifying with the main character in pretty much any game. I accept the reality of the game. Don't you find third person games very similar to a certain category of dreams where you're basically split in two, aware of and controlling both your dream avatar and the "camera in the sky"?

    Quote Originally Posted by jnx View Post
    The behaviour of the protagonist was part of shittiness of the game. Why would anyone want to play him?
    Negative emotions and unlikeable protagonists have their value.

  10. #50
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Of course I haven't played it; nothing I read about it was at all appealing. I'm just inferring things from the terrible arguments people make in its defence. It certainly is possible that it's a game that everyone who liked it completely misunderstood. So I ought to have said instead that "My impression is that everyone who praises Spec Ops fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between player and protagonist in a linear game..."
    Given your limited comprehension of the player/protagonist relationship as evinced by your later statements as well as a lack of knowledge as to how the game actually plays I don't think you're particularly well equipped to make any judgement calls in truth. Least of all to condemn either the game or its advocates. There are actually opportunities for player agency within the frame of the experience (linear as it may appear).

    Quote Originally Posted by SirKicksalot View Post
    Negative emotions and unlikable protagonists have their value.
    Agreed. I think this idea that game should conform to a particular range of comfortable emotions goes back to the video on 'beyond fun' I posted earlier. The medium is evolving, and some people seemingly didn't get the memo.

    Quote Originally Posted by jnx View Post
    Thing is, I think only people with personal experience with american military can feel more disturbed by the violence in Spec Ops than in any other game. What difference does it make to me if the guy shooting at me or running to me with a knife is an american soldier or a russian soldier or a korean soldier? None. What I think is this: Woa this mediocre man shoot really handles mediocrlyish. Pretty art tho.
    You mean you didn't balk a bit in MW2 when you found yourself shooting civilians or fighting US troops towards the end?
    Last edited by Kadayi; 26-12-2012 at 06:37 PM.
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  11. #51
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    I think it has to be understood that the entire calendar is the very skewed perspectives of people who haven't played anywhere near all the games that have come out because that's nigh-on impossible.

    Far Cry 3 is an odd one, I'm sad to see it get the top spot because it's just a good game. The only interesting thing it tries to do is the big problem with it. In times past, RPS was the sort of site that would reward interesting games like Spec Ops, over simply good ones, like Far Cry 3. But then the top games are always going to be the big-hitters as it's more likely everyone has played them. And other factors enter in to it too. One writer might really like game X, suggest others play it, but it's a busy time of year, they never get around to it, and hence it doesn't get anywhere.

    Then other games are in there because one writer really really liked them. That Dear Esther is in there because it did something interesting with game story-telling, while Analogue isn't, is crazy.

    Slightly bitter that Resonance didn't even get an honorable mention, but then that's likely because non of the writers played it...

  12. #52
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    Diablo 3 - Like it or hate it, it offered many hours of gameplay for those who got into it. The major negatives coming from their ill prepared launch and online only mode. It made changes from D2 that at first you question but for the most part work great. The game is focused on you clicking and slashing more so than worrying about skill trees and stat points. They have put forth updates to make it better and to what the community wants.

    The game of funding Kickstarters - A possibility of seeing new ideas having a chance and old games be recreated. 2013 will really tell us how this game ends as various funded Kickstarter games get closer to their proposed completion dates.

    Half-Minute Hero - Not a top 25 but a mention. Fun game with short bits of gameplay at a time.

  13. #53
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deano2099 View Post
    Far Cry 3 is an odd one, I'm sad to see it get the top spot because it's just a good game. The only interesting thing it tries to do is the big problem with it. In times past, RPS was the sort of site that would reward interesting games like Spec Ops, over simply good ones, like Far Cry 3.
    Couldn't agree more. I find it frankly bizarre that seemingly only Adam played TWD as well, a game that's largely been vying for GoTY standing across the rest of the gaming press.
    Last edited by Kadayi; 26-12-2012 at 06:46 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finicky View Post
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  14. #54
    I finished Spec Ops: The Line last night and I'm somewhat in agreement with those who didn't find it as compelling as the internet chatter would have us believe. However, I think that's because I'm not the target audience for this sort of game. I don't really play military shooters, and I wouldn't have played Spec Ops if I hadn't heard that it was different from the run-of-the-mill military shooter. I did appreciate what the developers were trying to do and I appreciate it even more after watching Extra Credits' take on it. But I feel that this game would have more impact on exactly those people who are unlikely to play it; those who buy the latest iteration of Call of Duty each year and play military shooters for the power trip. I suspect that the reason why the Spec Ops doesn't resonate with me is because I'm not a fan of the military, I don't have an unhealthy fascination with guns, and I'm not American or a fan of American foreign policy. I'm anti-war, British and left-wing. The developers are essentially preaching to the choir. I also suspect this is the case for many of the commentators who have been discussing and dissecting the game over the past months.

  15. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    Given your limited comprehension of the player/protagonist relationship as evinced by your later statements as well as a lack of knowledge as to how the game actually plays I don't think you're particularly well equipped to make any judgement calls in truth. Least of all to condemn either the game or its advocates. There are actually opportunities for player agency within the frame of the experience (linear as it may appear).
    You're quite right that I'm not well-placed to judge the effectiveness of the game, given that I haven't played it. I am, on the other hand, perfectly placed to point out the weak arguments that are made about it. I don't have any baggage associated with not liking the game or liking the game. This disinterest allows me to identify when someone is talking utter nonsense. My experience is that most defenders of the game are talking utter nonsense and most critics are talking sense. As I said, I am open to the possibility that the game is good but most of its defenders are just wrong.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  16. #56
    Lesser Hivemind Node Wheelz's Avatar
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    Wait, I'm wrong because I happened to project myself (at some level) onto the protagonist, and found the story convincing while also experience the uncomfortable feeling that the developers intended the player to feel?

    The uncomfortable experience comes from what your expecting to happen (as stated by every other manshoot in the history of gaming) against what actually happens, and it works best if you identify with Walker.

    Just because some people didn't gel with Walker, doesn't make the game shit.

    also: Your "Everyone who likes this game is wrong." stance is ridiculious, who are you to make such a judgement?

  17. #57
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    You're quite right that I'm not well-placed to judge the effectiveness of the game, given that I haven't played it. I am, on the other hand, perfectly placed to point out the weak arguments that are made about it. I don't have any baggage associated with not liking the game or liking the game. This disinterest allows me to identify when someone is talking utter nonsense. My experience is that most defenders of the game are talking utter nonsense and most critics are talking sense. As I said, I am open to the possibility that the game is good but most of its defenders are just wrong.
    Most critics and players agree that the game has flaws, but a large number recognize that it's also doing interesting things as well. Do you even read any gaming sites beyond RPS? Because at times it seems your entire worldview is informed solely by the hivemind's whim tbh.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wheelz View Post
    also: Your "Everyone who likes this game is wrong." stance is ridiculous, who are you to make such a judgement?
    We're talking about NathanH here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finicky View Post
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  18. #58
    Quote Originally Posted by jnx View Post
    There's the Kieron Gillen rule though. If a game is shit for 10 hours before it gets good, then it's shit. Spec Ops is a game that is crap until the very end, and even then it doesn't become a good game, but a thought provoking experience. If you don't reach the end because the game is just mind jarringly mediocre, it stays as such.
    You're right. I just happened to enjoy it from the start. I don't play military shooters, so it's possible the game was in fact a slurry of cliches, and I simply haven't had the chance to get tired of them yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    My impression is that Spec Ops fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between player and protagonist in a linear game, and so whatever criticism it tries to make is pointless. The point seems to be that you can't or it makes no sense to enjoy playing out a story that disturbs you. But this can't be a reasonable point. It demands that the player, rather than simply controlling the protagonist's simple actions as the story plays out, takes on the role of the protagonist. How can this be demanded if the player isn't given any story agency?
    People manage to identify with characters in books and films, which give them even less agency than a game. Could it be that not everyone consumes narrative media the same way you do?

    Part of the problem might be the clumsiness of language. There was certainly no joy involved in Spec Ops or my experience of it, but saying I "enjoyed" it -- despite being disturbed and even made physically uncomfortable by it -- also isn't totally wrong, since I kept coming back til I'd finished it. It was deeply unsettling, but also thoroughly refreshing. I "enjoyed" the conversation it wanted to have with me, or at least the fact that it wanted to have one, even if I was disgusted by a lot of the specific content.

    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH
    Of course I haven't played it
    So... why are we even having this argument?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Mechanical Aggressor
    I suspect that the reason why the Spec Ops doesn't resonate with me is because I'm not a fan of the military, I don't have an unhealthy fascination with guns, and I'm not American or a fan of American foreign policy. I'm anti-war, British and left-wing.
    All of that (except for being British) describes me as well. Still found plenty of resonance.

  19. #59
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    Another vote for spec ops here. Personally it's probably my GOTY, Though GOTY probably isn't the right term. As a game, it's crap. Rubbish even. Sloppy mechanics, the player avatar is both slow and lightweight, a shotgun that feels like it was lifted from a game of laser tag, grenades that feel clumsy, a cover system that doesn't stick like the velcro goodness of GOW, and heck, that AI, is a new kind of dumb. Not to mention that by the end of it, you feel like you're grinding from checkpoint to checkpoint, the game taunting you as you go. It's a woeful game. Heck, the 'storm wall' even feels like sloppy deus ex machina right near the start.

    That said, it all works as a whole. The game is spot on in terms of pacing, the characters have an actual arc, even if it's more of a downward spiral. I rarely burn through games now (I have more unfinished games than I care to count), and this one I burnt through in two sessions. Compare it to say, dishonored. Dishonored was fun, Blink, Blink STAB STAB STAB, oh crap, more guards, blink blink, shoot shoot, cackle (I cackled so much playing that game), blink blink blink, stab, stab. Basically run around like a freaking god, murdering everyone, feeling like a total predator, mowing through guard after guard after guard. Then get a crappy ' you a bad man mmmk' ending, go on youtube, watch the good one, done with it. The story in dishonored left me wanting. It didn't really have much to say, other than it lets you be a badass and have a good time. I never got emotionally involved in it, beyond feeling a bit of a rush playing it, and the obligatory 'stealth high'.

    Spec Ops made me feel like i'd been punched in the gut about halfway through, then by the end of it I felt like a loser and *spoiler* was ready to blow my brains out. Amazingly the game let me. Playing through it felt like a grind, it wasn't fun, it wasn't even enjoyable. The guns didn't have that satisfying rat-a-tat-tat that you get from a GOW or a COD, by the last few chapters I felt like I was just pushing up against a wall. *Spoiler* Which has to be intentional, I mean, the closer you get, the harder you have to push, the loading screens deliberately taunting you, breaking the 4th wall, the game speaks directly to you, the player, and how it ties into the ending, the *you had to keep pushing* kind of idea. And right at the end, when you get that line, "you're here so you canbe something you're not, a hero", delivered straight to you, the player, that line hit me so damn hard. The 'game' part of spec ops, is at best, servicable, and if you want your mechanical fix of a power fantasy, look elsewhere. But as a subversive experience that plays out through a videogame, nothing comes close. This game takes the tropes, and by the end of it wrings you out. You know why solid mechanics wouldn't work? Because then you'd enjoy, playing it. This isn't an enjoyable game, but it's such a damn important one. The mechanics compliment the story and vice versa. Requiem for a Dream isn't an enjoyable movie, you don't watch it with the misses on date night, but it's a damn fine & important movie nonetheless.

    As for the 'story agency' argument, videogames are the one medium where even if you have no narrative control, the world moves around you. In a movie you watch what's there, that's it. In a game, you play a guy, you control his movement, his actions, you pull the trigger, you shoot the window, you aim for the head, you are more directly linked to the protagonist than in any other medium. Sure it's Nathan Drake who jumps from one falling building into another, but he only does it because I press X at the correct time! Or so I'd like to believe. *Spoilers* That's part of what makes how Spec Ops plays out so awesome, the way it takes the idea of a power fantasy, of an escape fantasy, and totally subverts it and punches you in the gut. You're playing this game but it never lets you enjoy it , you never feel like a hero. The core pillar of most games is you are a hero, in this game, you never save the day.. As for choices...well you get to *spoilers* Kill a man who betrayed you or let him burn to death, shoot into a crowd who hung your fiend of disperse them by firing into the air, make a moral choice between two people hanging, or just charge through and shoot the snipers, and finally, whether or not you shoot the protagonist at the end. Not many choices but they all feel important. Even better, the choices never feel binary, there's no list of options where you get all the possible choices the devs thought you could have, they're all done through the mechanics of the game.

    As for it not being 'your' story, you are the person running around, pulling the trigger, because, it's a shooter, you shoot or be shot. You directly control the character, you're linked to the protagonist, he'll just stand there, chilling, until you get all puppeteer on him. If for whatever reason, you can't lose yourself every now and then and get lost in the medium, and empathize with the narrative being presented, you're missing out big time. Besides, the only games that really give you true story agency are roguelikes, and they flat out suck at telling stories. They give you the best tools to make your own stories, by far, but there's nothing wrong with enjoying stories where you have minimal narrative influence. But anyway, In Spec Ops you get to make a few HUGE decisions, *spoiler* Like protagonist suicide, I mean really. No game has come close to letting me control that kind of decision.

    Man I could write about spec ops for ages, it just did it for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tritagonist View Post
    Wargame: European Escalation has been pretty fun too. It's probably aimed at too niche a strategy crowd to warrant inclusion in a general top list like the RPS crew made, though.
    Damn it hurt me to not see this one mentioned at all. I still don't know why they went silent on the game after they gave it a pretty serious pre-release coverage! :( It's probably my favorite strategy game to date. I had a weirdly positive feeling about it from the first time I heard of it - I actually put it on my Steam wishlist back when it apparently didn't even have an image to go with it.

    Can't wait for the sequel, though I feel the insane amounts of units promised for AirLand Battle is excessive - no way all of them will be balanced and used constantly, you could argue that isn't the case in even W:EE.

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