The will likely be spoilers, but should I talk about something super new I'll warn ya. But consider this a pre-emptive warning! You're WARNED!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

DESTINY: Fleece me once...

Pull up your pants, I'm about to say a lot!

I've never had as torrid an affair with a game as the one I've had with Destiny. Sure, I've loved plenty of games. Sometimes when I love a game so very much, the game alone isn't enough–I'll read crappy tie-in novels, soak up all the lore I can, make fan art, wear a t-shirt, whatever. I've bought some games that have stunk, but that's becoming increasingly rare thanks to the internet; with very few exceptions, I wait for reviews and/or price drops before committing. I've also played games that were perfectly enjoyable during the time I spent with them, but once they're over my brain somehow purges specific information like, you know, plot. All I'm left with is "That was a good game!" and that's enough.

And then there's Maude Destiny.

Last July, I voraciously consumed the Beta version of this first-person space shooter. I loved it so much that I felt no qualms about buying a deluxe edition of the game that included a pass for the first two expansions as well. I knew I'd play it, so why not save a little money up front?

Since Destiny released in September, my feelings have vacillated back and forth between love and hate so often that I'm not even sure what a feeling is anymore. I am a hollow shell of a person now, and so very tired.

Destiny is often mislabeled as an MMO. It's not an MMO at all–it's an online shooter with very limited story-based content and some PvP options. The key phrase here is "limited story-based content": developer Bungie and publisher Activision want you to keep playing, but after you complete the main story your only choice is to replay content again and again and again–in gamer parlance, to "grind"–in the hopes of acquiring better gear.

In order to keep you playing, there are roadblocks on your path to that better gear. Some daily and weekly activities drop loot, but they are not repeatable until the game world "refreshes" on Tuesdays. Some activities drop loot every time you play them, but only some players in your group will be rewarded. You might get something! And it might be great! Or it might be crap. Play the content again for another chance! It's a slot machine that doesn't take your quarters, it takes your time.

You can also buy gear from vendors with a currency called "marks". These are accrued in both the daily/weekly activities and PvP. But there are roadblocks here as well: you want that gun that costs 150 marks? Well, save up because you can only earn a maximum of 100 marks per week. Want that gun and a helmet that costs 75 marks? Well, you can't buy them both at once because you can only hold 200 marks at a time. It's a nefarious way to keep you coming back for more, even though that "more" is the same limited content you've been playing for months.

Sounds like a kick in the teeth, doesn't it? People who don't play Destiny don't understand why anyone would keep doing it. Heck, some people who do play Destiny don't understand why anyone would do it. The short answer is, the game is fucking fun. Even if you're re-doing a mission for the thousandth time, the gameplay is still solid. Anyone who's played a Halo game knows that Bungie can craft a shooter. (I fully admit: faith in Bungie is what had me fully onboard even after some doubts during the Beta. I count Halo: Reach amongst my very favorite games, and so I was excited to see what they could do with an entirely new universe.) Destiny simply plays really, really well...and my goodness is it pretty to look at. If you're a space nerd like me, it's a dream come true to run around Venus, Mars, all of it.

The limitations on content–whether it's weekly limits or the random number generator (RNG) of loot drops–keep people coming back like addicts constantly searching for that next high. Maybe you'll snap out of it, maybe you won't. Personally, I hit a wall about a month in. I realized that the limited content meant one thing: I was grinding for better I could be better at grinding. What was I going to use that exotic pulse rifle on, except the same story missions or PvP maps yet again? I found myself irritated with the lack of content. I found myself irritated that what story there was simply wasn't very good–and to actually get it all and understand it all, you had to collect "grimoire cards" that are unlocked at random locations and times, or hidden around the game maps. To read them, you have to visit Bungie's website. Yup, the story and lore and context is mostly told bit by bit through digital trading cards you might find that can only be accessed outside the game.

My feelings were definitely on the "hate" end of the spectrum at this point, but I was already signed up for the expansions so I knew there was more on the way. I had hopes it would get better.

The first expansion, The Dark Below, hit and I was eager to jump back in.

I finished all the story missions–which re-used areas I'd already played through–in 15 minutes.

I didn't bother with any of the new PvP maps, or the new strikes (specialized missions requiring a fireteam). I shut the game off and didn't touch it again until the second expansion (House of Wolves) dropped.

With good reason, I wasn't expecting much. But my heart still had hope in it because, as I said, the game is fun. I like playing it, and I want it to be good. I know it can be! The potential is there! WHY WON'T THE GAME JUST BE BETTER?

Well, House of Wolves is much much better. The story, though still short (and still based largely in areas already used), is the best in the game so far. It is coherent! It is lively!

There is also a new arena/horde mode, some new PvP options, new strikes...House of Wolves feels worth the $20 it cost, whereas The Dark Below felt like a total and complete rip-off at the same price.

In fact, House of Wolves put me right back in those September feelings: I was addicted again! I was grinding again, yes, but I was having fun!

At E3 earlier this month, Bungie announced The Taken King, a bigger, better expansion due in September at a bigger, better price of $40. Finally, we'd see some new areas! Our characters would get a new subclass of skills! There's more, more, more...and I was in. House of Wolves felt like Bungie was really moving in the right direction, and though $40 is not nothin', it doesn't seem egregious for the amount of content on the way.

Then they announced all of the Destiny packages available at different prices.

Now, let me say up front: I generally don't have a problem with DLC. As An Old, I realize that the price of games has not gone up since the days of the Atari 2600. Accounting for inflation, prices have actually dropped despite the fact that game budgets have gone up and up. If DLC gives me more of a game I'm enjoying and the price is right, sign me up.

Also, as any gamer knows, prices drop over time. A year after release, a $60 game might be available for $40 or even $20. Eventually, games that have a lot of DLC might get a "Game of the Year" edition, which includes all of the DLC at a bargain.

None of this makes what Bungie is doing with The Taken King sting any less. Look out, here come some numbers!

For $85, I got Destiny and the two expansions. As the expansions are $20 each, I saved a whopping five dollars by buying the package.

Now to get The Taken King, I am to spend an additional $40. So we're at $125 for a Day One veteran. Yikes! But not so yikes. I don't buy a lot of games new or at full price, and for the number of hours I've gotten/hope to get this isn't such a bad deal. However.

Bungie will be selling a new edition of Destiny that includes the game, the first two expansions, and The Taken King for $60. Again, see above: I get price drops. But by the time The Taken King arrives, House of Wolves will only have been out for about four months. So all of the Year One content–what I paid $85 for–is only worth $20? What a fucking deal for newcomers!

But Bungie wasn't done there! They're releasing a Collector's Edition with some real-life goodies and some in-game goodies for $80. The digital version–where you don't get the real-life goodies–costs the same. So if a Day One veteran player wanted those goodies, they'd have to fork out money for content they already own in addition to The Taken King, which would bring their total so far to (at least) $165.

As you might imagine, people were upset.

Last night, Bungie responded. They heard the complaints, and wanted players to know that the complaints were valid...that to get the goodies, you shouldn't have to re-purchase the vanilla game and the two expansions. In response, veteran players can buy the digital goodies (which totals nine cosmetic items) for $20.

$20 for nine cosmetic items. That is the price of–no, that's more than I paid for each expansion.

So for $60, a new player will get Destiny, The Dark Below, House of Wolves, and The Taken King.

For $60, I will get The Taken King and nine cosmetic items, six of which are class-based so they can't be used by all your characters.

As you might imagine, people are still upset. But wait, there's more!

Bungie also announced a promotional partnership with Red Bull. In July, some specially marked cans of Red Bull will have codes to unlock some story content in The Taken King when it launches in September.

Content that will unlock for everyone in January.

That means when you drop $40 on The Taken King, you will be paying for content you can't access until January...unless you drop some more money on Red Bull to access it early. But wait, there's more!

Even the stores where these Red Bulls will be sold are under timed exclusives: they'll be at 7-11 in July, and other stores in August.

I have been very forgiving with Destiny. Never a strict apologist, because I know how flawed the game is. I understand why people gave up on it in September, or any time since then. But because I like playing the game and I remember Bungie's past efforts, I was willing to overlook many of the problems. I was willing to hang on in the hopes that the game would get better. I was willing to open my wallet to support the gameworld and the developer.

But this? This is a developer and publisher blatantly taking financial advantage of players. It reeks of the worst that video games has to offer: the cash grab. It's disgusting, and I just can't support it or make any excuses any longer. It sucks, because I fucking love Destiny. I can always play what I've already got (it's all digital, so I can't sell any of it), but it won't feel the same. But for new content, I'm tapping out. Fleece me once, shame on me. Try to fleece me again, go fuck yourself.

I'll always remember our time on Venus. And that other time on Venus. And those other million times on Venus because holy shit, Destiny could also be called Groundhog Day because I just played the same shit over and over. Why am I sad again?

But it's so pretty...

See? It's a torrid affair!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tamriel with Friends

After a year of existence–and fair-to-middling reviews–in the realm of "personal" "computers", The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited has arrived on consoles. I consider myself to be a pretty big Elder Scrolls nerd (well, as big a nerd as one can be when one discovered the Elder Scrolls with Oblivion, anyway) and I was so excited I pre-ordered and pre-loaded that shit. Mind, when the game launched at midnight on June 9th, the servers were so flooded I couldn't play. In fact I couldn't play until sometime the next evening and that was super frustrating but it's fine now so let's not dredge up bad memories, hmm?

I've played a shit ton–nay, a metric fuck ton–of Oblivion and Skyrim. I am a total sucker for open world gaming, and there's not much that pleases me more than exploration. Wandering a world, discovering landmarks, descending into caves, solving mysteries...I cannot get enough. I cannot! The structure in Elder Scrolls games is loose; sure, there's a main quest line, but you don't have to actually do it. These are role-playing games in the truest sense, because you can basically do whatever the hell you want.

I made one of my characters a total "tomb raider". She lived to uncover the hidden places, to find untold treasure and learn about the past. I enforced plenty of restrictions in that playthrough:

  • she couldn't join any guilds or follow the main story at all
  • she couldn't fast travel (that is, she couldn't warp from one place to another...instead, she had to walk or hire a carriage)
  • she had to adhere to a somewhat normal schedule–this meant finding an inn or campsite and sleeping at night, as well as eating regular meals
  • for maximum nerdery, I only used the fold-out paper map that came with the game–no fancy in-game maps for this character so cool, I know
  • no magic use allowed–bows and daggers or swords only
Another character could only use magic. She was an evil outcast full of nothing but rage, a lust for power, and murderous thoughts. She helped very few people on her journeys, and when she did, she bilked them for all they were worth. Her only goal was to rise to the top of both the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood (the assassins guild), and to incessantly harass a shopkeeper who sassed her. Every night, I would sneak into the bunkhouse where the shopkeeper slept. I'd pick her pockets clean, then go rob her shop. Every night. 

For all of my playthroughs, I turn off the game's music and turn up the sound effects. The crunch of my footfalls on dirt...the different crunch of my footfalls on snow...the patter of raindrops on leaves...wind howling through a bend in a long-forgotten crypt...the conversation between two bandits somewhere further on in a cave...all of it added to the immersion, the feeling that my characters were truly inhabiting a living, breathing world.

So along comes Elder Scrolls Online and it's time to dive back into Tamriel. As I said, I was wicked excited and my nerd senses were a-tinglin'. I thought long and hard about what kind of character I would make, which of the game's three Alliances I would join. I love sneaking, busting out my bow, and eliminating threats before those threats even know I'm there, so I created a wood elf and joined the Aldmeri Dominion, which unites Bosmer, Altmer, and Khajits. I was ready!

Or, I thought I was. Duh fucking DUH, Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO. It's online. It's right there in the title! I got that because, like, I know how to read. What I didn't get was how much it would change the Elder Scrolls as I know it. 

Basically there are a zillion other folks running around with you–other Bosmer, Altmer, and Khajits. And Orcs. And Nords, and Dunmer, and Bretons, get the idea. So what does this do to your game?

Well, let's say you're tasked with entering a cave, collecting ten samples of Whatever, and killing the Head Necromancer in Charge. Cool! Standard RPG stuff. So you get in the cave, ready to sneak on through and–oh. Someone runs by you and engages the enemy you were going to quietly assassinate. Okay. That someone–you see their screen name emblazoned over their head, so let's call them MuffDiver69, because that's the kind of user name you'll see, which is great for immersion–kills the enemy, nabbing all the XP that comes with victory. Then they nab the Whatever that drops, so you need to wait for the enemy to respawn and hope that you get the goods this time.

You make your way to the boss's chamber, and five people–MuffDiver69, I_Teabagged_UR_Mom, whofarted, 420blazeit, and xxxDeAtHdEaLeR666xxx–have almost killed the Head Necromancer in Charge. You get a snippet of dialogue from the big bad so you kind of know what's going on. Now you have to wait for the Head Necromancer in Charge to respawn, and you notice that bodies don't fade. This means that there are three dead Head Necromancers in Charge on the ground as the one you need to kill reappears in front of you. 

And so on. That's the way it goes. It's an MMO.

While that makes the idea of immersion a joke and leads to a lot of oh my fucking god will you please get out of my way "I_Pooped" and let me do this thing I need to do, it also leads to stuff like this, the appeal of which cannot be denied.

I mean, you just don't get impromptu underwear dance parties with strangers in Skyrim, you know? Not to mention the background chaos: people riding horses through town, running around, shooting fireballs, being chased by their pet panthers. This encapsulates ESO pretty perfectly, which is to say your Elder Scrolls expectations need to be tempered. Your enjoyment of the game will likely be equivalent with how okay you are with this sort of thing.

So if you're totally okay with it, what of the gameplay itself? What is there to do? Holy shit, there is so much to do. The quests aren't always particularly deep–you'll frequently run into some variety of "Help me, adventurer! Will you gather ten plants/kill the bandits/find my brother?"–you know, fetch quests and the such. However, that doesn't mean they're not often interesting. For example, at the end of one minor quest, my partner and I agonized over a particular decision–whether to kill an NPC or let her go–for a good five minutes. We debated the repercussions of each option, weighed them...and ultimately the result had no bearing on anything beyond that quest. But the discussion it sparked between us made it memorable.

There's also a lot of humor, and most of the billions of NPCs have personalities. Even throwaway moments are well-written, and that can go a long, long way in a game like this.

Many of the standard Elder Scrolls hallmarks are here–crafting, cooking, enchanting, alchemy–and they're all as in-depth than you could hope for, if not more so. There are so many skills, abilities, and perks that it's quite intimidating at first–how can you possibly unlock them all? Then you remember that the game is essentially endless, that if you're in, you're in for the long haul. You can join guilds, team up with others, or play nearly all of the game solo. Or, as solo as you can be in a massively multiplayer experience. There's also the PvP realm that pits the various Alliances against one another. I haven't checked that out yet, and frankly I'm not in any rush to.

I've got too many necromancers to kill, unless of course Missed_Da_Toilet gets there first, or I get distracted by an underwear dance party. Tamriel. It's a living, breathing world!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Resident Evil news!

Polygon reports today that a remaster of the GameCube-exclusive Resident Evil remake is coming to PC, Playstation 3 and 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One in 2015. It seems that any changes will be largely to improve graphics and controls- basically a spit-shine to a game that already looks terrific even on hardware that's more than a decade old.
You will also have a choice of playing the game in its classic 4:3 ratio or 16:9 widescreen, while an additional choice of controls will be available including the classic Resident Evil control scheme.
Ah, the classic control scheme. I'm playing Resident Evil 3: Nemesis on Playstation 3 right now and boy, it's tough to go back to that old play style. Not gonna lie, I've died a few times just trying to get Jill to run in the right direction! An update-ening will be most welcome.

I don't know about you, but I'm super psyched for this. The REmake is on my "favorite games of forever" shortlist, and it's pretty much the reason I've held on to my GameCube all these years. Seeing it with a graphical polish and playing it with the DualShock 4 is going to be such a treat, I can't wait.

Now Capcom just needs to read the other pages in my Game Dream Diary and give RE2Nemesis, and Code Veronica the remake treatment...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Let's face it...

...the best thing about the Resident Evil series is that the official soft drink of Raccoon City is called Trish.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I am totally Destiny's child

I'm sure glad the Destiny Beta is offline for a few days, because I am having so much fun with it that I don't want to do anything else. For real! Sleeping? Pfft. Eating? Whatever. This is how people end up dead in South Korean internet cafés...I need to watch out!

But there's just so much to do, even if it's a Beta. Sure, the level cap is set at a mere 8 and there are only about five story missions to play, but there's so much to see and discover that there's always something new around the corner. And since there are three classes (Titan, Hunter, and Warlock), well, I'd might as well try them all...I'm telling you, it's dangerous.

straight-up reposin'

Destiny is my first MMO and to be honest, I wasn't sure I'd dig it. I have always been a Single Player Lady, vastly preferring the story-driven experience (I'm a huge lore nerd) and the ability to explore and linger as I please to people being all up in my virtual grill. While I have soloed plenty of Destiny (it works very well as a single-player game, at least so far) I find myself loving the community and I'm endlessly entertained by the antics. The first time I saw a group of players dancing together at the Tower (the social/vendor hub), I lost my mind. ("You've never seen that? It's an MMO thing," said Travis. Suddenly I felt like Encino Man or something.) There's something really special about teaming up with a stranger for a moment in the field, simply to take down an enemy or complete a random event, before saluting each other and moving on. Again, this is old news to MMO vets, but I find it fascinating.

I'm even super into The Crucible, where all the PvP matches take place...and believe me, that's not usually my thing whatsoever. The only multiplayer I've had any enthusiasm for is that of Mass Effect 3, because it's more teamwork-based and goal-oriented beyond "kill the other players". However, I'm having a helluva good time killing the other players. My skills are quickly improving, but even when I'm consistently murdered by some opposing superstar, it's actually fun. Who knew?

Look at these badasses...that's Travis holding the flag, and me getting my face obscured by said flag.

I'm loving it all so much, in fact, that I started an online clan: Mo Glimmer, Mo Problems. Sign up and participate in the forums! You can sign up even if you're not playing Destiny, though that will certainly be a large focus of the group. Become clanmates (on PSN or XBox) with fellow members and play online together! I'm hoping folks actually join; forming fireteams is much fun and helpful for taking down the big bad guys. Might as well reap rewards with people you know!

I was a robot lady for a while

As far as my issues with the game go (story is pretty thin, context is desperately needed, the world feels sparse), I'm taking the "it's just the Beta, I'll wait and see" approach. Overall, this taste of Destiny has me even more excited for the full release on September 9th. I just hope I remember to sleep...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The men of Resident Evil, ranked!

Yesterday my friend Travis and I ranked our favorite lady-folk from the Resident Evil series, and today we're fixin' to do the mens.

Favorite Male Characters (Stacie)

1. The Original Zombie

That's a guy, right? I assume? What a way to introduce the player to the fact that there are zombies all over Spencer Mansion! You're just wandering around empty hallways, looking for your missing S.T.A.R.S. teammates, then BAM, there's a zombie layin' the chomp down on a very dead Kenneth of Bravo Team. And then the zombie looks at you! And it's gross! And then it gets up and starts shambling after you, and if you are me (or Jill Valentine) you momentarily lose your shit and you run. So good.

2. The Guy Who Says "Resident...Evil"

Sure, it's not the same guy every time, but you know what I mean. I can't say "Resident Evil" out loud without doing a horrible impression of this "scary" voice. That is just a warning, should you and I ever meet in person. I love love love how corny it always is (and sometimes it's so bad. SO BAD.)! If a Resident Evil game is ever released that doesn't feature this series staple, my anger will tear apart the heavens! Or I'll at least be like "Aw man."

3. Barry Burton

"I found something. It's a weapon. It's really powerful, especially against living things!" How great is Barry? Jill's Spencer Mansion partner and BFF is everyone's BFF. He's so befuddled by everything going on, and this befuddlement is a source of never-ending amusement ("I hope this is not Chris's blood!"). As if his dad jokes ("Jill Sandwich", anyone?) and his beard didn't already put him over the top, then he goes and fixes that annoying broken doorknob. Whatta guy!

4. Alfred Ashford

I talked about how super and superior Alexia Ashford is yesterday, remember? Well, her twin brother Alfred is like the Dollar Tree version of her. Inferior in every way, which has given him such a complex that he's taken to busting out his Caboodle and slathering makeup on his mug in an attempt to steal some of Alexia's shine. I don't blame him, though...we've all been there.

5. Clive O'Brian

BSAA Chief O'Brian pretty boring, right? How the frig is he my #5 favorite? Well, I find that he bears more than a passing resemblance to Peter Falk, which means that whenever I play Resident Evil: Revelations, I get to do my exceedingly bad Columbo impression ad nauseam. Why, just looking at his picture there is giving me all sorts of "Ah, just one more thing..." feelings.

6. The Merchant from Resident Evil 4

Man, when Resident Evil finally decides to give players an item shop, they sure do it in the weirdest fucking way possible. Out in the woods, in a cave...wherever you meet him, he's got some rare things on sale, stranger! What're ya buyin'?

7. Leon S. Kennedy (Resident Evil 2 only!)

I'm not sure why Capcom has such a boner for Leon, putting him front and center in all the CGI movies and so many games. Overall he's pretty damn bland if you ask me (GO AHEAD AND ASK ME), but I admit I have a soft spot for overwhelmed little baby rookie cop Leon in Resident Evil 2, because I love that game so much.

8. Brian Irons

As if battling your way through a walking dead-infested Raccoon City wasn't enough, you find out that Police Chief Irons has sold out to the evil Umbrella Corporation. Even worse, he's a total lunatic who murdered several officers under his charge. Even WAY worse, he killed the mayor's daughter and want to stuff the body and keep it as a "trophy". He's one of the biggest lunatics in the entire series, so of course he's on my list!

9. Helicopter Mike

We never even see his face, but oh how Helicopter Mike flew directly into our hearts! Or my heart, anyway. Is that a Noo Yawk accent? A Bahstun accent? Who cares! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go write some fanfiction where Helicopter Mike survives and he and Leon go have those drinks and then they fall in love and then they get married and Claire is at the wedding.

10. Brad Vickers

What! Brad "Chickenheart" Vickers? He deserves no place on any list! Oh yes he does! Wait, why am I arguing with myself here? Sorry about that. Listen, I know Brad is a big jerk, flying away in the chopper right when his teammates could use an evac. Or when he runs away instead of really telling Jill what's going on, that a huge fucking monster is about to relentlessly hunt her down. He's the worst! How did this wuss ever make it into S.T.A.R.S. to begin with? All that said, I really admire his full commitment to being an asshole.

Favorite Male Characters (Travis)

1. Barry Burton

Barry is your best friend in the Spencer Mansion. He’s there for you giving you grenades, lock picks, and saving you from getting all smushed-like. More than that, he’s representative of that enormous feeling of relief you get when you run into another living person in the Mansion. He’s also got a lot going on with his personal life, thanks to Wesker, and that leads him to have to make some pretty heavy decisions.

2. Albert Wesker

Albert is a big ol’ meanie head. Like, seriously, what a jerk. He makes for a great villain, though. Especially in Resident Evil. You don’t really know what’s going on with him. Do you trust him? With so much going on in that mansion, you don’t really time to think about it. He’s smart about his shenanigans, using the Spencer Mansion goings on as a diversion. It takes one heck of a team of S.T.A.R.S. to thwart a menacing menace like Wesker.

3. Piers Nivans

I love Piers. Seriously, he’s really great. He’s there to knock some sense into Chris when Chris is being obnoxious. Which is like, all the damn time in RE 6.  I’ll get into that later. It’s obvious that Piers cares a great deal about Chris. They’ve been through a lot together and when Piers makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Chris, it has a definite impact. The chapters starring Chris in RE 6 were almost unbearably annoying, but seeing Chris and Piers grow to depend on each other was really believable.

4. Richard Aiken

Oh, man. Richard wasn’t around a ton in Resident Evil, but he played a really impactful part. That whole section of the game where you have to save him from the poison was really gripping. It speaks a lot about the feeling of dread and loneliness that old school Resident Evil was able to evoke. When I rushed to get the antivenom for Richard it wasn’t just so he could live, it was also so I could have another friend alive in the mansion. Saving Richard was such a small but rewarding victory that allowed you to be briefly hopeful. When Richard ultimately meets his doom, it’s not only sad, it’s representative of how easily that hope can be snuffed out.

5. Chris Redfield

Let me be honest. I don’t really like Chris. Not anymore. It doesn’t have to do with his giant muscles or anything to do with not liking the newer games he stars in. I’ve always thought Chris was a little bland. I didn’t really get into his story in Resident Evil. Heck, I didn’t even save him from the Spencer Mansion detonation my first playthrough. But at least then he wasn’t incredibly offensive. As time went on Chris devolved into a massive man-child. Obnoxious doesn’t really begin to cover it. He’s been through a lot, that’s for sure, but his reactions don’t always make sense to me. When everyone else is moving on and dealing with what’s going on, Chris is throwing tantrums. He’s become selfish. So the Chris on this list is the one who picks himself up and deals with the shitty shitfest situations placed in front of him. Strength is representative of character, Capcom. 

6. Robert Kendo

Classic RE dialogue such as “Whew, sorry babe, I thought you were one of them!” and “But don’t you worry, girly! It’s safe in here. I’m keeping a close eye on things.” Unfortunately Kendo meets his demise almost immediately after uttering those last words. On the bright side, you get a shiny new weapon!

7. Jake Muller

Jake is kind of annoying to begin with. Eventually he becomes more likable, especially as his relationship develops with Sherry. At the conclusion of their scenario I was honestly a bit disappointed that they didn’t fly to Honolulu for an impromptu wedding. Jake’s macho compensation bullshit rebel attitude becomes much more tolerable when you realize that he’s not just in it for the money and ends up FIST FIGHTING the monster that has been tormenting you the entire game. As an added bonus he can be a pretty snappy dresser and he’s easy on the eyes.

8. Freaky Leech Dudes from Resident Evil 0

I’m not taking about the mega-leech dude. I’m talking about the ones that whip their arms back and forth in a manner that would make Willow Smith’s hair cry in a corner. Them dudes was freaky. I remember I spent TWENTY MINUTES psyching myself up to run past one of those assholes because I knew he was in a hallway just waiting to slap Billy’s ass as he ran by. Ugh. FREAKED ME OUT.

9. Marvin Branagh

Thanks for info…sorry I had to shoot you. R.I.P.

10. Alfred Ashford

Loopy doesn’t even begin to describe Alfred. He were crazy, he were. Dressing as his sister, sniping at you in a somewhat annoying battle. In fact, somewhat annoying is a pretty good way to describe Alfred overall. He was an extremely entertaining nuisance, that really made you realize you had gotten yourself into some mad shit.

And that's that, all out favorite humans! If there's one thing we've learned from all these lists, it's that Resident Evil is so great. Wait, we already knew that! Hmm, maybe we didn't learn anything.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The ladies of Resident Evil, ranked!

I still remember my first encounter with Resident Evil: I saw the original big box version at a Blockbuster and rented it for a weekend of gaming with a friend. We started playing and it promptly blew my mind. There was a live-action opening sequence! There was exploration and puzzles! It was scary (dogs crashing through windows, man...)! I could play as a female character! I fell in love fast and hard, and over the years my ardor ain't abated a single bit. This is not to say that I'm a total dummy about it; I have more than my share of qualms with the direction Capcom has taken the series. Once upon a time, I used to buy consoles just so I could play an exclusive Resident Evil title on them, but since Part 5 they're no longer Day One buys for me. Hell, sometimes they're not even Year One purchases anymore. I play them all eventually, though, and even in the worst games I can find a lot to praise (Operation Raccoon City is a shit ton of fun...SO SUE ME). All of this is to say that while I may have been a normal(ish) lady prior to discovering it, Resident Evil is simply a part of me now. You know, like a giant eyeball growing out of my arm.

My love of Resident Evil is a bit like herpes: it's always there, and it will never go away. But sometimes it flares up and consumes my everything. Right now, the fever has got me in its grip, y'all, and I've been playing everything I can get my hands on. I've been subjecting my friend Travis to gaming sessions and endless blah blah blah about it all...and he doesn't care a single bit because he's pickin' up what I'm puttin' down. After ample "I love this character..." / "Well, I love this character...", we decided to formalize our character loves with some Top 10 lists because The Internet fucking loves lists.

Today, we're gonna talk about our favorite Resident Evil ladies because let's face it, the women in the series are way more interesting than the men.

Favorite Female Characters (Stacie)

1. Jill Valentine

I mean, this is a big fat DUH, right? Of course. But listen, as a lady gamer it's important to me that I can play as lady characters (and that the characters are, you know, not lame), and Jill is one of the best lady characters of all time. She's no second-class member of S.T.A.R.S. who flails around with her boobs going every which way, flirting her way through the horror, oh no. Jill is all business, and her business is getting shit done.

2. Jill Valentine

That's right, she's also my Number Two because her greatness cannot be contained to a mere one spot on my favorites list. The advantages to playing as Jill instead of Chris in the original game (increased number of inventory slots, lockpicks, grenade launcher, avoiding the Plant 42 battle altogether) mean I'd choose her even if she weren't so badass.

3-5. Jill Valentine

She took down the Nemesis while in her civilian gear. She isn't all that phased to find her hair newly-blonde after surviving Wesker's mind control experiments. Jill has seen some shit, but she keeps on keepin' on in her quest to take down Umbrella and any other assholes who create bioweapons. She's the motherfucking Master of Unlocking, and she's just the best.

6. Claire Redfield

I'm not sure that Claire ever gets enough credit in the scheme of things. She's not some highly-trained special forces soldier who's been gettin' her combat on for years. At the beginning of Resident Evil 2, she's just a college kid who rides into Raccoon City (on a motorcycle! Claire is so rad.) looking for her brother Chris. When she discovers the city is overrun with zombies, she's all "Okay." and rescues a kid and gets the hell out of there. She has no qualms about following Chris's trail to Umbrella' goddamn headquarters (so brave, Claire, SO BRAVE), and after she's captured, she basically responds to Steve Burnside's "I'll rescue you!" with "I'll rescue myself, thanks." I know one of her amazing jackets says LET ME LIVE, but that shit needs to say LET ME BE GREAT.

7. Helena Harper

If you played Resident Evil 6, then you know that ex-Secret Service Agent Helena has a secret. She'll tell you real soon, right after you get to a place! Okay, she won't tell you then, but she'll tell you when you get to the next place, honest. Or maybe the place after that. For real this time! Aw, I don't mean to tease...Helena is awesome and super protective of her little sister. She's also the gayest lady in all of Resident Evil. Come on, she is such a big ol' dyke! Her outfit makes me wish that she'd star in a new TV detective show called Cagney and Lacey and Helena.

8. Alexia Ashford

A super-brilliant badass bitch who is better, smarter, and insanier than me and you and everyone else ever. She injects herself with the t-Veronica virus and lets it gestate during a 15-year cryogenic sleep so she can become even more superior. Oh yeah, and in one of her mutations she turns into a giant vagina-looking thing, so that's obviously worth something.

9. Ada Wong

Ada Wong, aka FLAWLESS QUEEN. She is an oh-so-mysterious double/triple/quadruple agent whose only loyalty is to herself. Who does she work for? Is she a good guy or a bad guy? Do we really know? Do we actually care? NO, because no matter the circumstances, Ada will show up at the last second, backflipping her way onto the scene in some hot red number, throw someone a grenade launcher, and she'll save the day. To what end? I don't care!

10. Rebecca Chambers

I have to admit, I forget about Rebecca a lot of the time even though she's been with the series from the start and even starred in her own title (Resident Evil 0). But when Resident Evil Fever really has me in its clutches and I re-read (YES, RE-READ) all those trashy novels- especially Caliban Cove, aw yeah- I'm reminded that I can, in fact, love a character who often wears a headband and can best be described as "plucky."

Honorable Mention: Lisa Trevor

The Resident Evil remake for GameCube is perfect, thanks in large part to the addition of Lisa Trevor to the RE mythos. She is one of the most tragic figures in the franchise, horribly disfigured thanks to the experiments foisted on her by Umbrella since she was a young teenager. She's also fucking terrifying, moaning and groaning and clanking her chains as she slowly pursues you through the dark. She's a monster who just wants her mommy!

Favorite Female Characters (Travis)

1. Rachael Foley

Rachael really deserved better. She’s only alive for about .5 seconds in Resident Evil Revelations and whoever designed her decided that her breasts should be on the brink of a destructive nip slip at all times. She’s a classic Resident Evil NPC, born to die. There are many reasons that I love Rachael, and it’s sort of hard to explain. Let’s just say Rachael’s on the scene and call it good.

2. Claire Redfield

Everyone wants to be Claire. And why wouldn’t they? She’s effortlessly badass. Like she was born into that Made in Heaven jacket. There’s no bullshit, in your face attitude compensating for anything. She’s tough as nails and she proves that when she saves herself and some annoying kid from many, many horrifying creatures in Resident Evil 2. Afterwards she casually decides to stroll on up to an Umbrella facility and rescue her brother. Just ask Claire’s old pal Steve Burnside how tough she is. He’ll tell you.

3. Jill Valentine

Everyone loves Jill. She’s the OG RE hero and she doesn’t mess around. What I love most about Jill isn’t that she picks locks or that she would go great on any sandwich. It’s that she really grows as a character. And you grow with her. She starts out getting freaked by that zombie eating Kenneth (May he R.I.P.) but by the end of Resident Evil Jill is done with everyone’s shit and you are right there with her. Jill is a survivor, through and through. She gets turned into a remote controlled villain, gets chased relentlessly and poisoned by one nasty Nemesis. She even gets turned blonde by the magic of Resident Evil science. My bff Jill does not give one.

4. Cindy Lennox

It’s hard for me to pick just one favorite from Resident Evil: Outbreak. Alyssa was a reporter investigating Umbrella. She was way sassy and took shit from exactly nobody. Yoko, on the exterior, was as bland as a living piece of printer paper. Eventually you come to realize she’s an ex-Umbrella employee who’s dealing with the knowledge that she played a part in what is happening to Raccoon City. Cindy, however, is nothing more than a waitress who has been thrown into a really shitty situation in which she is forced to survive. A true underdog who, at least in my game, single handedly cured herself of infection and defeated a Tyrant when all of her fellow survivors fell around her.

5. Sherry Birkin

How can anyone not love Sherry? Sure, there was no one who was more of a pain in the ass in RE 2, but she was just a doofy kid who got dealt a pretty crummy hand. She survived Raccoon, thanks in LARGE part to Claire, and went on to become a central character in RE 6. It’s unfortunate that she starred in a game so many people were disappointed with because she turns out to be pretty flippin’ awesome.

6. Rebecca Chambers

Rebecca is pretty cliché in the grand scheme of things. Weak on the exterior, but ultimately proves that there is more than meets the eye. So what makes Rebecca so special? Well, her circumstances. She’s an 18-year-old genius amongst a group of hardened veteran men. Cliché or not, it makes sense that she isn’t physically tough. She’s spent her whole life just being smart. In the end, it’s those smarts that outmuscle her companions and lead her to be the single surviving member of her entire squad. And let’s not forget that when Chris and Jill arrived, Rebecca was all like “Been there, done that.”

7. Ingrid Hunnigan

Hunnigan is never on the frontlines, but she is your lifeline in RE4. What makes Hunnigan so special is that she makes you feel like you aren’t alone. Partners are an important part of Resident Evil as we’ve come to learn over the years. (If you didn’t know that, just listen to Sheva groan incessantly about it for your entire playthrough of RE 5.) Hunnigan does a hell of a job from behind that monitor. When Ada is giving you the middle finger and Ashley is annoying you to the point of no return, Hunnigan is there to make you feel sane again.

8. Ada Wong

Perhaps you’re surprised that Ada isn’t higher on the list. Frankly, for a long time, I’ve been tired of Ada’s shit. We get it, you’re mysterious. She’s the Resident Evil trump card and it’s getting old. Ada was perfect in Resident Evil 2. Back then, the mystery was still charming and you really cared when she seemingly died. Then RE 4 happened… and it was too much. I really feel RE 6 did a good job of re-humanizing Ada. She’s forever a badass, but it was nice to see that she still has people feelings. The ending to her campaign in 6 gave me goosebumps.

9. Helena Harper

Helena grinds my gears for a large part of RE 6. She feels a little forced in her conviction that she won’t tell Leon what is going on. The whole “Just trust me,” bit is a little played out and that’s Helena’s WHOLE DEAL for too long. But when you finally realize what’s going on, it starts to make sense and you realize that Helena really is on your side. A nice change of pace from the super mysterious spy kids bullshit routine we have seen from entry number 7.

10. Carla Radames

The woman you love to hate. I mean, she is as vicious as they come. But she has an agenda and she sticks to her guns. She’s great at what she does, and that’s messing with everyone and everything. When you find out who she really is you can almost understand why someone would do the things that she does. There’s really no excuse for her behavior, but her entire existence is a funked up mess of sad and disgusting psychopathy. It’s hard not to feel just a tiny bit of sympathy.

Honorable Mention: Excella Gionne

Excella was one classy villain. She be lookin’ good and she be knowin’ it, y’all. Her outfit, her hair, her shoes. Immaculate. Unfortunately her attempt to ride Wesker’s coat tails to evil victory led her to become a giant grody to the max leech monster along with hundreds of decomposing bodies. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, I’m sure of it. Maybe don’t trust super weirdo villain dudes, no matter how hunky they are? Maybe don’t get involved with gross leech monster bidness? Just don’t ask Sheva what happened. She’s still reeling at the fact that not everyone in the universe understands the importance of PAHTNUHS.

So there you go, our favorite Resident Evil ladies. Who tops your list? I have to admit, that amazing picture of Excella kind of makes me want to give her an "Honorable Mention #2" spot on my list. Tomorrow we tackle the menfolk, stay tuned!