i played it for a while before going to sleep last night. i started by heading to my wardrobe to fiddle around with my character’s outfit for about 15 minutes (i always loved the paper doll aspect of this game, and it’s a lot more advanced than it was in VC), then went outside and shot a few random people before hopping into my rhino tank parked under an overpass. i turned my turret around so that it was facing behind the tank, then accelerated forward while firing behind me to increase speed. i rampaged my way to my airstrip, where i got out of the tank and got into a harrier jet, which conveniently has a radio. i turned it to the deep house station and listened to some guy sing about living in harmony while i unleashed fiery death upon the denizens of las vegas (i forget what it’s called in-game). eventually i make the mistake of flying over area 51 (forgot its in-game name too) and i almost get shot down but i bail out in time, except i forget how to work my parachute and end up splatting on the ground.
why san andreas over gta3 or vice city? well, it’s just better, but i guess that isn’t as self-evident as i thought. gameplay-wise it makes the others seem hopelessly crude, ‘fixing’ a lot of the simple issues that would jar you out of the game experience – swimming, jumping, targeting, car physics, camera, etc. (this stuff is a big deal, because it makes the game that much more playable!) its range of environments makes vice city seem monochrome and monotonous (vice city feels really cramped to me, and there’s no range as far as what it evokes – it just makes you feel like a drug lord from beginning to end), the writing’s at its funniest and most interesting, the missions are amazing and the voice acting owns (the gta games are the only ones where celebrity v/o make sense)
some things i didn’t like about it:
-not enough options after you finish the game – it would’ve been nice if you could’ve had the option to replay any mission from the game (there’s some amazing set-piece missions in this game), or at least be able to initiate gang-wars again
-cutting off some songs early, meaning no monster breakdown on Rusty Cage and no sick instrumental section of Freebird ;_;
-wardrobe interface pretty clunky and slow
-it pushes the limits of the ps2 and out of neccessity the draw distance is very low, making things difficult when you’re piloting the high speed harrier
those are extremely nit-picky and are basically the only things i could possibly hold against the game. something i keep coming back to when i think about san andreas is, funnily enough, something s1ocki said about goodfellas once – talking about the scene where sorvino slices garlic with a razor blade, he simply says ‘there’s nothing else like that.’ well, there’s nothing else in gaming like san andreas. except maybe gta4 but i havent played it and i heard it was boring anyway plus it’s on another system so who cares. i mean, gta’s main legacy is probably the proliferation of sandbox games, but i can’t think of a single game in that style that reminds me at all of gta, especially san andreas – nothing with the ambition or the ability to see that ambition through. i mean, nobody else even WANTS to make a game where you can fly a jetpack, murder cops with a dildo, get into dofgights 2 thousand feet above the ground while listening to wreckx-n-effect, decide between a caesar and a fade – let alone TRIES.
That basically how I break it down to an extent.
about 40 hours in on playthrough #2 (this time it’s for keeps!) and a few thoughts
1. the knowledge to build and operate an alchemy pot has got to be some close-hold black helicopter shit because there’s no way you could let people play with these things willy-nilly and expect a barter economy to survive – clearly king trode, despite his ignorance of the scepter’s significance, has been keeping good notes on THIS (and who can blame him, it basically prints money, or should I say moon’s mercy)
1a. interestingly, however, the fortune-teller’s trade is a common one, and valued at jack of all shit in the epoch our adventure occupies; compare and contrast with the 21st century where the “knowledge worker” and “creative” class rule the roost and people who make things are regarded as either the globe’s poo-poo or at best a troop of rustic craftsmen who just couldn’t deal with a real career; in the age of equities trading it’s the motherfuckers with the crystal balls who run the show and not some lil’ dude with a pot in his wagon
2. the party structure, even given the addition of the monster team (Donkey Force Alpha, if you must ask, maxed out the 18 character limit, that’s right) argues for small elite units in military operations and takes a very clear stance against conscription; sure the world is full of tough guys and bad-asses and all manner of talented privateers, but any mission worth doing demands a far more discriminate bunch of revenge-bent lunatics highly motivated individuals
2a. in contrast to 1a, we see this actually playing out in modern times, where asymmetric warfare has become the rule and laggardly divisions of draftees are the exception
3. I’m certainly not the first to point this out but it is quite disappointing that the simple switch from fishnet stockings to the much more effective ruby of protection as an accessory means having to give up the bunny girl costume altogether. That shit doesn’t even make any sense.
4. Man I’m happy I read the gameFAQs this time around, jesus
oh and 5. is Jessica adopted or is it just me
or perhaps she has the same problem as Angelo/Marcello, right place, wrong parent? Actually that goes for the Hero as well I suppose, man these kids are all fucked up
this shit is so much more enjoyable to think about than my job or the economy, unfortunately it keeps me up just as late (but less drunk)
5. Marcello’s speech to the gathered boojwahzee on Neos is great; the whole game’s plotline (bloodline? lol!) is rooted in the business of family descent, and then he just stands in front of everyone and goes off on how meritocracy is the way of the future also PS. fuk u if u disagree
5a. Sounds vaguely acceptable at first but then you realize he’s actually a proto-fascist or a pretty boy bolshevik, especially the part where he calls out the Goddess as just another false idol. It’s a nicely done moment because at this point you’ve been to Tyran Gully and dealt with all sorts of discrimination yourselves, this fuckwit up on the dais may be ahead of the curve on a couple of points but one more putsch and he’s going to be gassing the fatties and belt-sanding the nuts off every male who doesn’t enlist in the Templars. Compared to Marcello that Charmles looks harmless, amirite.
5b. The bit after DQ9/11 happens and Angelo saves him almost out of spite is money. “You know I REALLY don’t care,” in the Jude Law voice and everything. I basically never gave two shits about Angelo outside of casting Multiheal until he said that.
6. Pickham is an interesting social experiment, a bit sci-fi really. Why does every city have to have its own accompanying slums? Why not just have one city that’s all the slums at once? The dregs of every major area wind up sleeping on the dusty floors in a den of thieves and fighting over scraps. Plus you put it just far enough out of the way that they don’t bother anyone else, except to consume the occasional gambling addict who can’t afford to sail to Baccarat anymore. The whole Swordsman’s Labyrinth fetch-quest could practically be a John Carpenter film by way of Sam Raimi.
7. Are Slimes the Jews of monsterdom?
atlus’s persona 3 FES is a gothic-tinged rpg that came out in the waning days of the PS2. the player takes on the role of a silent, mysterious transfer student to a japanese high school. on your 1st night in your new dorm you and your housemates are attacked by a slinking inky mass of arms and faces called ‘shadows’. after shooting yourself in the head you summon an otherworldy spirit guide – classically allusioned and perfectly art-designed – to defeat the shadows & save yourself and your housemate. all of this takes place after about 35 minutes of introductory cut-scenes, expository dialogue and cryptic visitations.
so persona 3 divides its time btw the world of shadows & the day-to-day life of a japanese high school student. & as you make way through both of these worlds, studying for exams, building friendships, occasionally venturing into the shadowlands to defeat monsters and gain strength the two worlds begin to build inwards upon each other, permeating their counterparts in strange & unexpected ways. like twin peaks P3FES does an incredible job of portraying a mundane world that is constantly under threat from the unknowable & mysterious horrors that underlie our everyday world. but unlike twin peaks the ‘regular’ existence never feels like an afterthought, the pleasures of simply being in this world & the social link mechanic are equal to the pleasure of dungeon crawling & the story-driven mystery elements of the game that mostly take place in the hidden shadow world.
it seems kinda crazy that a part dungeon-crawler rpg part japanese dating sim game can be summed up using em forster’s famous maxim ‘only connect’ but persona 3 FES is above all about the longing for contact & the terror of isolation. its most meaningful moments take place in the spaces btw how we see ourselves & how the other characters see us. i think its a mistake to want the game’s dialogue trees and social interactions to function in the same way as they do in d&d-influenced western rpgs. in a western rpg the focus is on developing a character & so the best games give a sense of true possibility and naturalism. whereas with persona there is always a right answer, a correct path. the point isn’t to give the player a blank slate to write his intentions on, to chose a ‘good’ or ‘evil’ path & then make descions based upon your character’s intentions. in P3FES your character is a mirror held up to the npcs. you reflect their vanities & insecurities, their hopes & fears. and so the player is forced to consider them, who they are & at best you can understand and help that person. your goal, your job is to build relationships, not a character.
finally – finally! – the combat in P3FES is one of the most tactically interesting mechanic of any turn-based rpg. every npc is self-directed and their actions will often – frustratingly – shadow their reallife personalities. as battle leader you can give them directives but you cant control their actions perfectly. so combat begins to double the social link aspect of the game, you’re forced to predict the actions of your comrades to know their strengths & weaknesses & so to understand them as people. the difficulty of this makes what is a very grind-heavy game both more fraught and more engaging. never a game to miss an opportunity death literally haunts the game’s dungeon & his shadow is always present in P3FES. even regular combats are perilous & you will die. a lot.
the best that i can say for P3FES is that unlike almost any other game the memory of its events stayed with me. although its mechanically frustrating, overlong & exacting it manages to create a plausible, engrossing world like no game before or since.
As part of our PS2 poll, we’ve decided to encourage voters to select one worthy game from the ballot and make a case for other voters to consider it. If you’d like to make a case for a particular game which hasn’t been profiled already, head on over to the thread, stake your claim on your title of choice, and git to writin’.
Okay, well talking about this game, what stands out is the violence. I think people were pretty put off by the violence in a game which aspires to update the side-scrolling beat-em-up to the 3D era– they remember the violence in those games being kinda lower-stakes or something. But when I think back to Double Dragon and Final Fight and the rest, I didn’t WANT them to be cute– I wanted them to be as brutal as possible, and in a sense I guess they were. For the time Double Dragon has stuff that’s just as shocking when you think about it as The Warriors is.
I think actually that The Warriors is the most violent game I’ve ever played, and I’m like a master sommelier of violent video games. I’ve played bloodier games, and gorier games, and games with a lot more death, but never a game where the violence says so much and has so much impact. I think even more than the movie the violence in this game is really frightening, and frighteningly addictive– the heaviness of every blow, the sickening crunches. You never get tired of it, and it never loses its impact, and it’s fun and ugly and addictive all at once. It never stops feeling really AWFUL, actually, especially when you’re terrorizing people on the streets, but it stays completely compelling.
Every time I read like a Hubert Selby novel I’m surprised at how brutal street life before the drug scene seems to have been– I guess we get this “there’s no sticking, just a little jabbing” idea from 50s and 60s movies and TV, but when I read books from that time, like The Wanderers by Richard Price and the Sol Yurick book The Warriors is based on, it gives you a very different idea– feral, sadistic, bloody, this ever-present threat of terrible and immediate violence with permanent consequences– and I feel like you get that from the game in a big way. It really gives you a sense of the freedom and camaraderie that must have made street gangs before the drug culture so appealing, and the compelling addictiveness of the brutality seems like it says something real, gives you a deeper experience than the violence in a lot of games does.
Oh, the minigames– from that shameful era of gaming where everything had to be a stupid twiddly little minigame. But they all make sense in the context of The Warriors, and they never really get tiresome; they’re right in the sweet spot of challenging enough that you feel the time pressure but no so challenging that they’re not worth doing. It also has fantastic enemy AI, really. The bad guys aren’t using advanced evade-and-detect tactics, but they’re not supposed to– these aren’t Special Ops soldiers. They use swarm and pincer strategies that really seem to adapt on the fly, and unlike every other beat-em-up of all time, you can never really identify an attack pattern you can turn around against the guys you’re fighting (except with the bosses, where you’re supposed to). And the multiplayer integration is fucking awesome.
Is this the best movie license game of all time? I can’t think of anything else that comes close to what The Warriors does–adapting the aesthetic of the movie perfectly, expanding on its story pretty extensively without beggaring its believability, and delivering a really deep and human experience, I think, in something that’s totally unpretentious and like nothing except the action game that it is.