It’s a great week to be an American.
Summer’s in full effect, fireworks and barbecues are just 48 hours away and now that we’ve lost in the World Cup, we can finally return to not caring about soccer – even if that loss stung a little bit…
In honor of our forefathers and the great country the Pixelitis staff calls home, we’ve put together a list of games that best exemplifies the ‘merican condition. From badassery to immigration, there’s plenty in our favorite pastime that just screams apple pie, monster trucks and giant explosions.
So if you’re proud to be an American or just watching our bombastic celebration from afar, hit the jump to gorge yourself on our picks like you’re at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet.
‘MURRICAHHHHH: Grand Theft Auto IV takes a satirical look at the immigrant story.
If you think about it, the USA has been a land of immigrants clinging to the false notion that this country is theirs. Europeans sailed to the east coast and spread to the Appalachians, Russians came over to claim the Pacific Northwest and all the while, the indigenous population were left asking “WTF?!”
No better game in recent memory really hammers home the plight of the modern immigrant, albeit in a satirical and violent manner, than Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV.
Much like many immigrants that came in search of a better life, the protagonist of GTA IV, Niko Bellic, arrives in Liberty City to get away from his dark past in what is presumably a war torn Eastern European country. Yet after hearing of the American dream his cousin Roman “beeg American teetees” Bellic has been living, Niko learns that the mansions, fast cars and loose women were nothing but a lie.
In reality, Rockstar’s facsimile of New York City and America in general paints a bleaker picture of poverty in minority populations, the hyper-ubiquity of sensationalist media and the hard life of the American immigrant.
It’s a story that millions of people lived in at least some small way: from the Anti-Irish sentiment that was prevalent in the 19th century to the Iraqi expats seeking asylum from their battered homeland.
And honestly, nothing says America like a national braggadocio that entices the less fortunate into a hard life of low wages, poor decisions and broken (American) dreams.
- Andrew Martins
‘MURRICAHHHHH: Metal Wolf Chaos is the quintessential U.S. President mech shooter.
Nothing screams “AMERICA!” like a fictional U.S. president bursting out of the White House in a giant-ass mech, hellbent on saving his country from a coup d’etat perpetrated by the villainous vice president.
Developed for the Xbox by From Software, long before they were known for the Souls series, Metal Wolf Chaos exclusively graced Japan with its absurd presence in 2004.
It’s a shame that North America never got it, as it was insanely over-the-top, featuring English voiceovers that would make for fine additions to Audio Atrocities. President Michael Wilson (descendant of U.S. president Woodrow Wilson) and his aide Jodie offer the most hilariously awkward dialogue since Shenmue.
Yeah, it’s a satire on George W. Bush’s presidency and the post-9/11 surge of patriotism that came about as a result, but to use that as the excuse for why it was never released here is pretty Un-American. After all, satire is protected under the First Amendment.
And all the hilarity of the game aside, it’s a damn fine third-person shooter, featuring just the right amount of mech customization, diverse locations and explosive combat that one would always want out of a game of this nature.
Hey Microsoft, how about an HD port or a full-on remake? Pretty please?
- Patrick Kulikowski
‘MURRICAHHHHH: Broforce is the most Bro-merican game.
I don’t know if any of these other picks can beat Chuck Norris with a shotgun blowing up an enemy base in Vietnam, followed by the gruesome murder of Satan himself. I’m pretty sure there’s anything more American than Rambo zip-lining down to raise an American flag then jumping from a cliff to the ladder of an attack helicopter. And I don’t think you can find me something more American than Bruce Willis in a mech with a jetpack in slow motion taking out an entire city of terrorists single-handedly.
If you believe otherwise, you’re fucking kidding yourselves, because Broforce is hands-down the most American game out there. And I know these Pixelitis Picks aren’t supposed to be competitions, but what’s more American than screaming at your friends and using colorful language to prove that you’re right? Nothing.
Except maybe Broforce.
See, Broforce was made with the express purpose of actually being the most American game ever made. Maybe it aims to do so in the most satirical and over-the-top way possible, but there’s no doubt in my mind that even in Steam Early Access the game achieves its goal on every level imaginable. The fact that I can at one second be strapping dynamite to a turkey as MacGyver to release a flamethrower-toting Mr. T from a Vietnamese prison is nothing if not borderline nationalistic propaganda.
I really feel like the game speaks for itself, so I’ll just leave you with this trailer.
- Brendon “The Liberator” Bigley
‘MURRICAHHHHH: Bioshock Infinite takes patriotism to a Bradburian extreme
The Bioshock series is very skilled at making nightmarish settings based on extreme ideals. In Infinite, the player finds themselves in the airborne city of Columbia: a xenophobic “paradise” patrolled by robotic, mini-gun wielding George Washingtons.
The first Bioshock game chose to apply their satirical lens on the philosophy of Ayn Rand and extreme libertarianism. In Infinite, the satire is more timely. We experience the horrors that can follow American jingoism, misguided organized religion and the unquestioned worship of political leaders.
Perhaps Infinite‘s themes would’ve stung even harder during the Bush years where the term neo-conservative was born. Unfortunately, the city of Columbia is still a nightmare that parallels (and exaggerates) many problems in our own country.
While our real country is considerably more open-minded (and less racist) than Infinite‘s fictional city, sometimes it takes a work of fiction to allow groups of people a moment of self-reflection.
There is nothing wrong with patriotism, but to over romanticize one’s nation to the point of divinity is a dangerous path. Enjoy your 4th, but let’s make sure, as a country, we never make mech-warrior presidents.
- Stephen Hilger
(In Pixelitis’ Double Take, staff members chat after playing a demo build of an upcoming game and encourage discussion about it on your part.)
Next up from our E3 2014 archives is our video impressions of the hands-off preview for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which was shown off behind closed doors at Konami’s booth.
Today CD Projekt RED announced The Witcher Battle Arena, a mobile MOBA game that is being used as an extension of the popular Witcher series.
According to Tadek Zieliński, a creative analyst for the studio, the game will not be built on a microtransactional platform like many other MOBA and mobile games traditionally are. All privileges and content will be earned and unlocked through in-game play:
“In a world full of enter-your-PIN-number-to-win mechanics, what we value above all is well-balanced and honest gameplay. Battle Arena is all about skill and dedication, and we’ve spent hundreds of hours planning to make it a paragon of fairness in mobile gaming.”
The Witcher Battle Arena will be based on six “heroes” fighting to protect three central command stations, similar to the mechanics of games such as League of Legends or DotA. What differentiates this game from others of the genre is the inclusion of popular characters from The Witcher series.
The three characters mentioned in the release were: Letho of Gulet, the Kingslayer; mohawked dwarf Zoltan Chivay and sorceress cum advisor Philippa Eilhart.
The game is scheduled for release Q4 2014 on iOS, Android, Windows phones and tablets, with downloadable content and updates to be released after some point. It will be being developed by CD Projekt Red in tandem with Fuero Games.
(In Pixelitis’ Double Take, staff members chat after playing a demo build of an upcoming game and encourage discussion about it on your part.)
In the next day or two we’ll be finally releasing some videos from our E3 2014 archives, starting with video impressions of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U by Managing Editor Karen Rivera and Associate Editor Patrick Kulikowski.
Sometimes you just have to reach deep down inside yourself and strain to become the best commander in the Citadel.
At least, that’s what Patrick Kulikowski and Andrew Martins should have told Karen Rivera in this week’s Pixelitis Podcast when she revealed that she was starting the Mass Effect trilogy from the beginning for the first time.
In this week’s show, the original cast is back to discuss the latest in gaming news (within the last seven days, that is) while trying to keep tangents at least somewhat relevant in the process.
- What we’ve been playing
- News: Gotta catch ‘em all: Pokémon concert series revealed
- News: Hyrule Warriors packs a womanly punch with new trailer
- News: MAGFest Indie Videogame Showcase is now accepting applications
- News: Gears of War creator Cliffy B returns from retirement
- New releases
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Intro: “Diamond” by Monomirror, from Brave Wave’s “In Flux”
Break: “Pokemon Stadium GS” composed by Hirokazu Ando, Tadashi Ikegami, Shogo Sakai, Takuto Kitsuta, from the Super Smash Bros. Melee Original Soundtrack
Outro: “Flying Machine” remixed by Manami Matsumae, from “Strike the Earth! Shovel Knight Arranged.” Originally composed by Jake “virt” Kaufman.
He may not go by his grossly shortened moniker, but Gears of War creator and the top Super Mario Bros. player of July/August 1998, Cliff Bleszinski announced earlier today that he was leaving the luxurious lap of retirement at the age of 39 to return to game development.
As he’s been wont to do, Bleszinski made his announcement via Twitter, letting his more than 232,000 followers that he was returning to the business he “literally grew up in.”
I'm officially coming out of retirement to make video games again. Stay tuned here for details in the next 7 days! #DontCallItAComeback
— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) June 30, 2014
For those that may not recall, Bleszinski stepped down as Epic Games’ design director back in Oct. 2012. At the time, he cited a need for some rest and relaxation after two decades of working in the industry.
Following his announcement, Bleszinski tweeted that the reception has been generally positive, stating that he could not wait to explain what brought him back.
More news on Bleszinski’s return and his mystery announcement is sure to come in the days ahead.
An orchestral concert tour celebrating the iconic music of the Pokémon series could soon be making its way to a city near you, as the Pokémon Company and Princeton Entertainment announced the first two stops of Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions.
The show, which will feature orchestral arrangements from all of the canonical Pokémon games from Red, Blue and Yellow for the Game Boy Color to X and Y for the 3DS, will debut at the Warner Theater in Washington D.C. on Aug. 15.
“Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions is going to be a spectacular showcase of the memorable music that has been a hallmark of the Pokémon franchise for nearly 20 years,” J.C. Smith, the director of Consumer Marketing for the Pokémon Company said. “The concert series serves as a thank-you to fans and an invitation to share our passion for Pokémon by reliving some of our fondest memories. We’re looking forward to seeing fans of all ages meeting up and enjoying this very special Pokémon orchestral event together.”
During the same weekend the show is slated to kick off, the 2014 Pokémon World Championship will also be taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
For those not in the immediate Washington D.C. area, a followup performance will be held at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 19.
Additional dates for performances are not yet announced but will be kept up to date on the event’s website.
With the announcement of a Grim Fandango remaster for PS4 and PS Vita at E3, a renewed slew of vigorous players saying “I wish I could play that” has started to occur.
I, with the lucky happenstance of having played and loved this game as a kid, am here to share with you a quick overview of what I think makes this game so great and why you should be so amped up to play the remaster.
You play as crime-solving, travel agent skeleton Manny Calavera who lives in the Land of the Dead, a place where the souls of the recently dead live after being evicted from their flesh homes. The gist is that people will only stay until they are able to make their journey to the Ninth Underworld, though some (like Manny) end up sticking around longer than expected.
Basically, if you were a bad person in life the journey to the Ninth Underworld is a hellish one, so most just end up sticking around the Land of the Dead permanently. If you’re a good guy in life, getting to the Ninth Underworld is a cakewalk.
Manny, the main character, is a travel agent for the Department of Death. This basically means that his job is to usher newly dead souls into the Land of the Dead, and subsequently help them along their way to the Ninth Underworld. The game’s premise is a unique one—Mercedes, a female that is new to the underworld, is castigated to a long journey to the Ninth Underworld, despite having lived a full and kind life. In fact, so kind that her reason of death was chicken pox after helping out at numerous homeless shelters and orphanages. Manny, seeing that something may be awry, makes it his goal to solve this puzzle—a puzzle that will take you through the rest of the game.
While I could continue to go on about plot, because it is one of the things that makes this game so fabulous, you will eventually get to see it yourself when it comes out in a non-DOS-based format. It really is such an in-depth and well-designed work that I would do it disservice to just type it out here and not prompt you to try to play it. So, instead, let’s talk about some of the mechanics.
The gameplay, unlike other LucasArts releases, does not present information over an item if the player hovers a mouse over it.
Think about The Secret of Monkey Island, and how you would be prompted with which action you wanted to take on whatever item your mouse was near—you will see none of that here. Instead the player is alerted that they may be moving in the right direction or hovering near an item of importance by Manny’s head and attention in the direction of the item. This makes the game a bit more challenging in terms of maneuvering and discovering clues, which serves to make it an enjoyable game with longevity for different ages.
I, as an adult, get tired of being told when I can interact with an object—it makes it much more interesting and puzzle-like to have to pay attention to Manny’s movements in order to get clued in.
Nevertheless, the style is similar to other LucasArts games in the sense that the backgrounds of the scenes are prerendered and static with objects and the moving characters placed over them. This is mostly, I would imagine, due to the nature of the environment where the games were being played, and I wonder if that might be something that changes when the game gets remastered.
Because the style is so “iconic” in a way, I think it may actually be a disservice to the game itself to change that. The scenes themselves, though, are all set in a film-noire type style that is reminiscent of old crime and detective movies—in fact, I think that is mostly what the game is about. Manny, despite being a travel agent, works for much of his time during the game to help solve the mysteries revolving around his female companion, Mercedes’, life.
Mercedes’ character is another aspect that I have always appreciated of Grim Fandango. With the uproar about big name companies like Ubisoft noting that creating female characters would be too much of a strain, it’s good to see that we female gamers will at least have a remaster to enjoy that has one.
Mercedes, also known as “Meche” is indeed a sweet and genteel female character, but also has many moral and personality-based standings that are made clear through out the game. As a young girl I appreciated her involvement in the game as I felt that she was the type of woman to stick to her guns, rather than just to serve as a manic pixie dream girl for the protagonist as many other female love interests tend to do. She will often make choices for the better of those around her, potentially even sacrificing her own safety and happiness—but even this is done without any mention of feeling of martyrdom, it’s almost more like she is incredibly stubborn. That’s something I can relate to.
Other than the traditional point-and-click stylings, though, Grim Fandango is its own beast. Most of the game is built around traditional Mexican culture and practices. The characters are all styled on calaca figures, which are decorations used during the celebration of the Day of the Dead. Similarly, those that are stuck in the Land of the Dead are able to go back and visit their family in the mortal world once a year on Dia de Los Muertos. This was a pretty cool and well thought out touch to the game, which gave it much more depth than some other LucasArts releases.
As far as DOS-based games went, LucasArts knew what was up. These games are classics even today and still have so much fan interest that I always thought it was a shame that they weren’t planning on ever re-releasing. So many of my friends express their interest and desire in being able to play Grim Fandango (and other DOS games) that it really does seem like a genre ripe for remastering and updates.
If you are not hyped up on this game, or weren’t before reading this, I hope you now feel sufficiently pumped.
(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)
It’s nearly impossible to properly introduce one to the Katamari series.
I first played We Love Katamari on a demo compilation of Namco games. With no proper warning, the sight of people with pill-shaped heads and dancing red pandas deeply scared me for reasons I don’t wish to explore.
But regardless of my fear, I was intrigued. I opted to play the game again, and once I started rolling a katamari big enough to eclipse a school full of sumo wrestlers, I too loved Katamari.
The game quickly transitioned from nightmare fuel into a relished pastime. Essentially, you roll a ball (or katamari) around that picks up small objects. As you get bigger, you can pick up people, animals, buildings, and eventually the whole planet. It’s a little disturbing to hear people yelling and seeing the chaos that your giant katamari causes all while happy music is pumping. Alas, that’s the game’s sense of humor.
And speaking of sense of humor, the King of the Cosmos is the one of the series’ best features. He is one of the funniest and most imaginative videogame characters out there. I could describe his nonsensical tangents or regal diatribes (and strategic uses of hearts) but it’d all be doing him a disservice. He’s an experience that must be witnessed firsthand.
Underneath all the absurdity, the game is simple fun with a great soundtrack and off-the-wall comedy. I highly recommend it, but don’t say I didn’t want you about the intro.
It’s been two weeks since we last posted a Weekend Roundup, so this one’s a bit of a doozy, covering the week we missed, as well as the last seven days. Which is perfect timing, honestly, since this year’s Steam Summer sale is still blowing through the jasmine in our collective minds.
Having drained our wallets in the name of ballooning backlogs and reduced time in the sun, our Valve overlords are doing a wrapup of their own. You can check all that out on their main page, if you’re so inclined.
So if you missed anything in the last couple of weeks, hit the jump and catch up. It’s all waiting for you there.