Right up front, I admit that this is a terrible idea for a series. Judging by the comments, the audience of this blog typically majors in RPGs with a minor in Dark Souls. In terms of audience priorities, action shooters fall somewhere below “2D side-scrolling pixel art indie games” and random complaints about keyboards.
Moreover, this game is fairly new, and my Spider-Man series demonstrated that the audience prefers to read retrospectives about games that are a couple of years old. Even in the wider gaming culture, this game didn’t seem to resonate with people. It vanished shortly after release and nobody had much to say about it.
So why am I doing a retrospective on a poorly-reviewed game that people don’t care about that my audience cares about even less and would be too new to be of interest even if they were interested? I don’t know. I think this must be self-sabotage on my part. The years of imposter syndrome have taken their toll and now I’m trying to get rid of my audience so I can go back to working fast food.
Actually, I’m probably writing about this for the same reason I wrote about all those other games: I just can’t help myself. Rage 2 is filled with really interesting problems that compel me to look closer. I want to discuss these flaws (and complain about them, obviously) and talk about why they matter. In my Spider-Man series, I said the story was mostly good and occasionally brilliant, but with a couple of moments of perplexing awfulness. Rage 2 is the inverse of this. The story is mostly dross, occasionally awful, but with a few brief moments of perplexing excellence. How can a setup like that not make you a little curious about the development process?
In Case You Missed it
Rage 2 is an open world action shooter from Avalanche Studios. It was released in May 2019 and is a sequel to 2011’s Rage from Id Software. It’s set in a Mad Max style post-apocalypse desert filled with feral mutants and bloodthirsty scavengers. You drive around to find outposts, and then jump out of your car to shoot dudes and collect crap to upgrade your arsenal. You’ve got a technology super-suit that lets you dash, double-jump, and ground-pound like a cross between Mario and Master Chief.
Different map locations offer different sorts of challenges. Sometimes you just need to shoot everybody. Sometimes you need to destroy a device. Occasionally a location is just a peaceful scavenger hunt. Rarely, a location will be a very mild puzzle where you need to figure out how to enter a building to get some goodies. There’s some car racing and a bit of driving combat in the mix, some arena battles against waves of mutants, and a heaping dose of Ubisoft-style collect-a-thon.
The story doesn’t really gate much progressYou need to do one of the first missions to gain access to the shotgun, and a few upgrades are tied to early-game missions. so you can engage with it at your own pace. You can plow straight through the story and ignore the side-content for a serious challengeActually, it’s possible that a couple of story missions are gated by cleaning off bits of the map. I didn’t run into any roadblocks, but I did a lot of side content. or you can spend hours exploring the entire map and then stroll through the story missions like a munchkin god.
As perverse as it might seem, this series is going to focus on the main story of Rage 2.
I’m Just Trying to Help!
As I’ve said before, you don’t need a lot of story to have a good story. You don’t need long cutscenes, a large cast of characters, moral choices, branching dialog, plot twists, or multiple endings. You don’t need player customization, companions, or character classes. Rage 2 is an open world empowerment shooter, and it’s entirely appropriate to build a game like this on top of a premise like: “There’s a bad guy. You don’t like him. Go murder his face off.” Not only is it okay to do that, but it’s possible to take that simple premise and make it really good! I’m a fan of Bulletstorm, and that game is neither complex nor highbrow when it comes to story. It takes a simple idea and executes it in a way that’s in harmony with the gameplay.
This series is going to be less about castigating the developers for mistakes and more about offering constructive criticism. I want to encourage the Rage franchise to continue its efforts to build some kind of narrative structure to hang the whole thing on. My previous retrospectives were focused on story heavy games, and this time I want to focus on telling a minimalist story that can still deliver some sort of dramatic payload. My criticism here will focus on what this game did wrong, but it could also be used to figure out how to make the next game better.
This also means I’m going to be a little nicer than usual to developer Avalanche Studios. I savaged poor BioWare Montreal for the failings of Mass Effect Andromeda because the Mass Effect series is built on story and developer BioWare Montreal needed to live up to the BioWare legacy. But Rage 2 isn’t a story-based roleplaying game and Avalanche isn’t a studio that sells itself on its storytelling prowess. Both games break a lot of conventional wisdom regarding story, and they both suffer for it. The point of the Andromeda series was to point out that BioWare Montreal had failed spectacularly in their efforts to capture the magic of a BioWare game. My goal with this series is to convince Avalanche Studios that their games would be greatly improved in terms of critical and commercial reception if they were willing to put more thought into the story.
To put it another way: BioWare Montreal tried and failed. Here I want to convince Avalanche to try. (Once they try, then I can do a more critical narrative analysis.)
The thing is, this game isn’t that bad in terms of mechanics. I’ve certainly seen games with far less interesting gameplay that scored much higher. I think the problem with Rage 2 is that the story didn’t offer any emotional engagement. It’s an open world game that can’t get us to care about the world.
Pink is not Comedy
I need to mention one last thing before we start picking at the story, which is that the project very clearly went through a last-minute tonal shift into attempted / alleged comedy. It reminds me a bit of Borderland‘s 11th hour pivot to action comedy, only this time it didn’t work. The comedy is even expressed in a similar way: A wacky trailer, title card intros for major characters, some silly names, and no actual jokes whatsoever. The main plot is painfully self-serious, and all of the supposed comedy comes from superficial last-minute art assets that were bolted on when the game was basically done.
The game uses hot pink / magenta as the eye-catch color, the way Tomb Raider games use smears of white chalk and paint to draw attention to climbable objects. The pink is amusing when contrasted with this desperate Mad Max style desert, but it’s not amusing enough to carry the game into the realm of comedy all by itself.
I would seriously love to know if the team had a last-minute change of heart, or if the publisher imposed this on them in response to current trends. Did this idea come from the creative people following their passion, or from marketing people chasing successful trends?
In any case, comedy is a much better fit for the world of Rage. The setting is too silly to support the anger-filled slaughterfest the first game established. This is a goofy world with outrageous superpowers and a cartoon villain. This setting and premise are a natural set-up for comedy and a terrible starting point for drama. Anthony Burch made a similar point about the outlandish world of Borderlands: Anyone attempting a serious story in this world is going to face an uphill battle, and anyone trying to tell jokes is going to have lots of material to work with.
Next week I’m going to begin stepping through this story and offering my advice to the current / future writers of the series.
 You need to do one of the first missions to gain access to the shotgun, and a few upgrades are tied to early-game missions.
 Actually, it’s possible that a couple of story missions are gated by cleaning off bits of the map. I didn’t run into any roadblocks, but I did a lot of side content.
Silent Hill Turbo HD II
I was trying to make fun of how Silent Hill had lost its way but I ended up making fun of fighting games. Whatever.
What is this silly word, why did some people get so irritated by it, and why did it fall out of use?
Punishing The Internet for Sharing
Why make millions on your video game when you could be making HUNDREDS on frivolous copyright claims?
Do you like electronic music? Do you like free stuff? Are you okay with amateur music from someone who's learning? Yes? Because that's what this is.
The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.
153 thoughts on “Rage 2 Part 1: I’m Not Even Angry”
As I recall, not only did the marketing make the game out to be a comedy, but a comedy aimed at the Hot Topic crowd. I don’t suppose that translated to the actual game either?
Rage 3: Forever 21: Manchester 0
Definitely Manchester 0, now that the UK’s Forever 21s have all closed a few months ago :D
I don’t really know why, but while I wasn’t interested in Spider-Man retrospective, it’s different with this one. I dunno why, I didn’t even plan to play any of them. Maybe because it seems like it could be more… spectacular? Anyway, I don’t think that the age of the game has anything to do with its popularity here, at least not for me.
I’m pretty sure most of your audience doesn’t really care good old a game is or the genre (except for those scared of spoilers, which seems unimportant in the case of Rage 2; and those who only want to read about games they’ve played) – add long as you have something interesting to say about it.
Making a retrospective about a game where your entire point would be “this has all the same issues as Mass Effect 4, only slightly less so” would probably get boring somewhere around installment #34. An entirely new set of gripes and comments? Bring them on!
I was interested in the Spider-Man series, but I stopped reading at the point where I had left off playing.
Even though it’s unlikely that I’ll pick it up again and even more unlikely that there’s anything that I would care about being spoiled, it still felt wrong to keep reading since I “intend” to finish it.
That’s funny, because I kept reading the Andromeda series past my point in the game because I figured knowing the precise degree of stupid in my future would prepare me.
I get that. Spoiling Fallout 4 helped me so much with tolerating the plot.
There will be no point in my life where the thought of playing a Rage game will cross my mind, but I’m excited by this retrospective!
I never had any interest in Rage 1 or 2, but I’m very excited for this series!
One of my favourite parts of the Andromeda retrospective were your brief asides of how you would have written the game if you were on the writing team. An entire series dedicated to that kind of premise is going to be VERY interesting.
I’m not really familiar with either Rage game, but I’m curious about a point you made, Shamus.
These games are post-apocalyptic shooters, or at least they take place in grungy wastelands. My nearest point of comparison are the Mad Max movies, which on the face are pretty darn goofy, but aren’t comedies. What’s the difference between the setting of Rage and the setting of Mad Max that invalidates drama for the former while making it work for the latter (Mad Max doesn’t have superpowers per se, but I think some of the action is ridiculous enough, and the villain design cartoony enough, that you might as well call it equivalent)?
It’s the gameplay, basically. You can double-jump, ground-slam, launch dudes, or set dudes on fire with a pistol that shoots fire bullets.
The game has 30m tall monsters, a mutant-shooting game show, and wasteland punks that send grenades at you with baseball bats.
That description would apply pretty well to Warhammer 40k, which (Orks aside) isn’t exactly known for its humor. Absurdity doesn’t always equal comedy.
I don’t know about that. I’ve heard people argue that Warhammer 40K is inherently and deliberately humorous, or at least done with tongue firmly in cheek. I’m no expert, but from what I do know of the setting it sounds perfectly plausible. Is this or is this not the game series with the faction of Egyptian mummy-terminators in it? Most of the factions are ridiculous, over-the-top, or ridiculously over-the-top. The intent may not be strictly laugh-a-minute, but it looks like comedy to me.
Most of the fiction is rather sturdily over-serious, but the game writing was entirely tongue-in-cheek bleak comedy. They knew how absurd the whole thing was and played it up. It just isn’t not comedy in the sense of knee-slapping guffaws though.
It’s always been deliberately over the top, but it used to be sillier than it is now. It got more srs bsns the more the people who grew up with it started writing it.
This is absolutely correct. The current crop of writers take it very seriously, precisely because they grew up on it.
There’s a humor in it, but I wouldn’t call it comedy. It’s a different flavor of humor than anything I can name, which might account for some of the popularity.
Warhammer 40k is very much bleak, parodic and ironic comedy in its current incarnation. It started off as parody goofball in Rogue Trader, with stuff like the blue clad “Ultramarines”, the Space Marine leader Lion El’jonson, Orks being soccer hooligans in Space and the Eldar firing throwing stars instead of conventional bullets. It has since warped to be less goofball and become more serious, but the core of parody and irony are still at the core of 40ks humor.
And yet it has removed literally none of those ridiculous elements.
Sure. It doesn’t HAVE to be comedy. But it’s the easier of the two possible paths in this case. And if you’re (ahem) struggling with writing a good dramatic story for your first-person face-shooter, then maybe taking the easier road is a smart move.
Warhammer 40k is, and has always intended to be, satire, which is a subset of comedy. There is nothing actually serious about Warhammer 40k, though its fanbase has forced Games Workshop to take the setting at face value for some reason (which is why I believe the current metaplot involves the most loyal of the Primarchs taking over the Imperium and actually trying to correct ten millennia of propaganda and misinformation.)
Ah, I knew if I left it someone else would say it for me :D. Yeah, 40k hasn’t always taken itself as seriously as it does now.
Not sure it was ever intended as satire, though. I always got the impression it started as a Copy/Paste of Warhammer Fantasy, putting all the ideas into a sci-fi setting, and then it grew from there…
…unless Ghazgkull Mag Uruk Thraka actually WAS deliberately named after Margaret Thatcher…
wasn’t 40k born to be a giant hotpot of every scifi tropes + every fantasy tropes IN SPACE?
I remember it being more comedic, but i never really followed the lore that much, i only know space marines started becoming more good guys while the tau became more evil
Well, if you were to say that Warhammer Fantasy was a giant hotpot of every fantasy trope they could think of, you wouldn’t be wrong…
Hah! Tau? You young’uns. I can remember a time before the Tau even existed.
…which is probably not that impressive; I bet some of the people on the site remember the Squats (Space dwarves.
i actually remember them, weren’t they essentially retconned out of the setting because people hated them?
From what I heard, Squats died from a combination of not selling well enough and a couple of lead writers thinking the idea was stupid / lame.
Which, considering Grey Knights and Orks are still in the game and thriving, seems a bit weird…
It was as much that and because nobody really knew what to do with them.
In 40K they were basically just Hell’s Angels, but they weren’t a whole army list and nobody could figure out how to expand the Hell’s Angels aesthetic into a full army.
Meanwhile in Epic (old out of print 6mm scale game) they were gothic-industrial space dwarfs with armoured trains and such that wouldn’t have scaled super well to the 28mm scale game.
So they just gave up and said the Tyranids ate them.
My experience with 40k has only been with the Dawn of War games, so I’m not as knowledgeable as some of you, but I still don’t get why they’ve gotten rid of the Squats. I’ve watched a couple of videos about it, and GW said they killed them off, because they felt they couldn’t do them justice, and as a result the Squats weren’t distinctive enough, and didn’t really fit with the setting.
But why? They could have easily to reconciled the two aesthetics GloatingSwine mentions. And they could have served as a nice counterpoint to the Eldar – I mean, how can you have elves without dwarves!
More like many of the scifi tropes came from 40k.
Seriously, the number of tropes that TVTropes names after their 40k appearance is staggering.
He definitely was named after Maggie Thatcher. And in Warhammer Fantasy there was a iron-willed female empress also named after her.
The original Warhammer fantasy and 40k were filled with silly puns and ridiculousness. I’m not sure they were satire, but it was deliberately over-the-top ridiculousness that everything was SO DARK and SO GRIM in 40k.
And then it gradually seems to have morphed into being much more serious and not silly at all, so now the Cruelest and Most Bloody Regime Mankind Has Ever Known is presented as being kind of the good guys.
Speaking of which, I am not sure that the current crop of writers understood that Dah Emprah (!) was the meeting’s biggest villain.
Not sure about that. He did some explicitly evil things (even qualifying for Stupid Evil in a couple of cases) in the few Horus Heresy books I bothered to read.
It’s kind of weird, though, that given that, we’re STILL apparently supposed to be rooting for Humanity in this mess. The newer, more serious tone is somewhat jarring given the way the actual setting hasn’t really changed.
The aliens are frequently more relateable (or at least fun).
I’m pretty sure the Emperor really is intended to be unmitigated evil, just with really good publicity, and, unlike most every other setting villain, he thinks of himself as the Hero. It’s just that his ego is the only force greater than his power. He’s the greatest killer of men ever and responsible directly or indirectly for the current state of the galaxy.
In the current lore he’s committed to the ultimate future salvation of humanity, but has a very long view and is utterly ruthless; most dramatically in a flashback to when he was examining Angron’s brain implant, and decided it was unremovable and
He was also planning to dispose of the Primarchs and the Space Marines and the navigators, etc. once they were no longer required.
Actually responding to “Guy”, not myself but I can’t send responses that deep in the reply list:
Yes. I just mean that most players seem to assume that Emperor having ostensibly “good” motives mean he’s not a villain, and thereby more or less fall into the good-publicity trap. While I’m not 100% certain, I believe the basic historical model for the Emperor was literally Adolf Hitler: uniting the territory of “his” people whether they wanted it or not, purging all dissidents and killing anyone too different, enforcing ideology, suppressing religion and all rival possible power centers, and setting about conquering and/or murdering any and all surrounding civilizations.
There are no good guys.
The factions who just want to kill everyone who is different from them are fighting factions who want to kill everyone, factions who just want to kill and don’t care who, and factions which are trying to end the universe entirely.
The Emperor is a hero of Humanity, but he is not a good guy, any more than an equivalent Orc or Chaos hero is.
It basically went the way of Shrek and two face. It lived long enough to see itself become the thing it started out poking fun at.
Satire? It’s closer to satire than standup, but what is it a satire of?
The space operas that came before it, Tolkien, Dune, UK politics and no doubt a lot else.
That said, I’ve not played/read any of the more recent 40K, from the outside it does seem to be trying to take itself seriously now – which would be a huge mistake.
“Mor Dakka” is obvious satire of most of the 1950’s/1960’s era “Space Opera” genre.
Most of those authors spent novel after novel/comic after comic increasing the power of the weaponry.
Eg E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith smashes a planet between two world-sized spheres of antimatter in a footnote.
It is the proverbial kitchen sink satire. Whatever GW wanted to satirize was thrown in there, much like how Monty Python could satirize the Arthurian legend, the 100 year war, contemporary British politics and overzealous policemen in the same movie. It is, I believe, a distinctly British form of humor to simply satirize everything you can get your hands on with little care for internal consistency other then “get a good laugh or a knowing nod out of every scene”.
Well, the Mad Max movies don’t have SupahEwok at the controls of the main character, who is now moon-walking into a corner while the badass is explaining the plot for some reason? And then when the exposition is over, they try to steal all of his stuff.
I was counting player input as the defining difference as well. It’s the same problem GTA IV has when its protagonist pauses his personal quest for answers to fire rockets at random vehicles in the road.
So… Half Life 2 is a comedy game now?
I mean, there were moments of levity, but the linearity kind of grounds things. The open-world nature of something like Rage 2 will always permit the possibility of forestalling the Eminent Moment of Moments in case the player decides driving a dune buggy circuit race is a more tantalizing option.
Mad Max was pretty silly until Fury Road actually had incredible storytelling chops to back up the seriousness, tbh.
You know, it’s a weird thing. I think I’m out of the loop when it comes to these things… or at least out of sync or something. I found Fury Road to be anachronistic and silly. I watched it in both black and white and in colour. I found it more interesting in black and white style but I found the story pretty ridiculous and the action not ridiculous enough, nor the protagonists (Furiosa and her ‘sisters’?) too serious.
Contrast that with the previous three films. Mad Max – everything is serious but over the top. MM2, everything is serious and over the top but in a cool way. MM3:BTT – everything is serious AND camp but not overtly comedic… and then MM:FR where everything is serious and important and not camp at all.
I found the film dragged on too long, the action sequences, whilst amazing, were pointless. It was action for the sake of drama and not the other way around (i.e. the correct way).
Furiosa (and her sisters) didn’t have the empathy or the emphasis of the oil tribe, the plane crash tribe or the survivors of the biker gangs. It felt contrived and simplistic and unnatural in the implementation of the story. Visually, the film was amazing and I feel it coasted on this aspect but the rest of it was basically dross. That’s really harsh but I place Thunderdome above Fury Road in terms of storytelling and pacing…. and Mad Max 2 above that.
Just to head off any contrary opinions – I think the entire Mad Max series is basic and inept, over the top and stylistically focussed on post apocalyptic fads and dependent on cultural references for the time… the films always depended upon visual dependencies that could carry the weight of the filmography.
I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a cultural reference in any of the Mad Max funds. I always just watched them as fun action films, that worked on their own.
To be honest even the action I found quite dull (in the first 3, haven’t seen the new one). It all seemed silly and empty and characterless. The three films might as well have been a single still image and got across as much to me. The Goose thing was somewhat impactful though at least in the first one, I admit. Definitely films that I’d put in the category of the posters being much better than the film (see also: Big Trouble in Little China, They Live, any other 70s-80s B-movie feeling films with amazing ensemble posters, Enter the Dragon, Logan’s Run.) Well, I’ve seen the poster for MM3, I assume the posters for 1+2 are good!
Furiosa was a desperate person, trying to free slaves. What else is necessary?
It wasn’t that wasn’t a good hook. It was just lip service to the action. There’s much more story in the other films to support the action scenes and make them meaningful.
It was still about people fighting to survive in a blasted wasteland…while dressed in impractical amounts of (frequently impractically shaped) leather, sure, but still.
Plus, the first movie was pretty much completely devoid of humor – they didn’t have the budget to give people ridiculous costumes, so it was a pretty conventional-looking action movie.
That’s kind of my point: Mad Max 2 has ridiculous character and vehicle designs, and action stunts, and leans towards melodrama, but it’s not a comedy. Max and some colonists fight a desperate battle against a drag post-apoc biker gang for survival, and there’s some goofy dude in a little bitty helicopter. But it isn’t played for laughs, it isn’t zany, the story plays straight. Mad Max 3 gets intersected with a Disney movie and the tone gets all sorts of screwed up in the middle, but up through the Thunderdome fight and exile, it has no claims to comedy either. And neither does Fury Road. Their silly designs and setting are used for noncomedic stories, so I don’t really buy that the stuff Shamus brings up is a great barrier to dramatic stories. A mild barrier, maybe, but hardly insurmountable.
The Warriors is another movie I can think of off of the top of my head with an absurd premise and ridiculous designs, played for drama and not comedy.
It wasn’t Shamus’ main point in the article and I’m sure the series will elaborate on his thoughts. But I find this particular point weak.
“I don’t really buy that the stuff Shamus brings up is a great barrier to dramatic stories. A mild barrier, maybe, but hardly insurmountable.”
The point is that comedy is the EASIER route if the world is absurd and exaggerated. And when we’re looking at a dumb disaster of a story, step one is kinda pointing out, “You know, you made this harder on yourself and you didn’t need to.”
Ooh, challenge mode. Looking forward to it.
About your view that your audience doesn’t want to read about action shooters, was your series on Wolfenstein that badly received? Because I enjoyed it.
I for one am NOT excited for the series. I am curious, however, about how you’d construct a minimalist story for a FPS.
“You’re on Mars. Demons have killed everyone. Go and deal with that by blowing up a portal or whatever.”
“Ninjas have kidnapped the President. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue him?”
Parasites turn people into Zombies in a little village in Spain. These Zombies kidnapped the presidents daughter. You, Ex-Cop Douchbag S. Kennedy, have to get her back.
Just stick to the classic narrative conflicts:
-Man vs Man
-Man vs Nature
-Man vs Self
-Rip vs Tear
Rage 2 Part 1: I’m Not Even Angry
Is it strange that I feel the title for the article could be an actual movie title. It’s got enough sub-parts that it feels like a movie studio trying to set up some big new action franchise and it’s even got the “we split one movie into two parts” thing going on. We could follow it up with “Rage 2 Part 2: Now I’m Angry” and “Rage 3 Part 1: Enraged”
Edit: I have no idea why this ended up as a reply and not it’s own comment. (I blame user error)
Clearly it should be Rage 2: Part 2: I’m Being So Sincere Right Now.
Thank you. :D
You’re rebelling against the cyber-authority. With guns.
The Interior AI, Professor Something, some chip in your brain, Fletcher, the machines. The end.
I don’t think even the authors know what any of it means. Brilliant game though, I feel that completing it on Insane is my one claim to hardcore difficulty gaming.
Strangely, their next game Shadow Warrior on Insane was rather easy. I just got bored at the huge boss demon guy because he was taking so so so long to take any significant amount of health off.
Robots have taken over a bunch of space mines. Blow up the central reactor and escape alive.
Demons have taken over a Mars base. Kill their big boss.
Something about Aliens of Gold.
Whatever the plot of Ken’s Labyrinth was.
There’s a lot of concrete examples in the classics.
Aha! He said Dark Souls, charge!
For example, there’s this game you might have heard of called Dark Souls. . .
It’s a very strong/dark pink, but I’d say it needs at least a couple more ticks to reach magenta. At least I remember my magenta crayon being darker.
HAH! I posted a tongue-in-cheek response to this imitating a Dark Souls fan and the Spam Filter blocked it.
Touche, Spam Filter. Good to see you doing your job.
Check your colorimeter – that’s Dark Souls…
In RGB space, Magenta is a small region at the lower value corner of Pink. The color in the above is an ee2aa6, which is dead in the middle of Pink space. If it were magenta, the screenshots would look something like this: http://tryop.com/MediaDocs/ShamusImages/Magenta%20Rage.jpg
Except your link doesn’t contain ee2aa6. It might contain ff2aa6, a similar color, but only it I completely misunderstand what it says. I think it contains ff00a6, and that is the closest color that it contains.
Right. Magenta is around 970049 (H331, S100, V59.2), while the brightest pink in Shamus’ screenshot is ee2aa6 (H322, S82.4, V93.3). The color-shifted screenshot I made is still mostly technically pink c1155d (H334, S89.1, V75.7), as the value is too high, but at least the hue is correct.
Bare eyeballing it, but from my painter/designer/artist/maker standpoint, I’d call it fuschia.
Games reviewed by Shamus that I’ve personally played for more than a marginal amount of time: LOTRO (if a Let’s Play counts), Diablo III, and….NWN 2. It’s all about the content of the review, not the game being reviewed.
However, I did think that the Spider-Man series went on for far too long.
I didn’t mind the length of the SM series, even if I’ll never play the game myself. I did play and like FEAR and Unreal Tournament (the original, drink!) so I guess this series is kind of in my wheelhouse? Though by that metric I should like the Witcher, why leaves me stone cold…
I guess humans are complex creatures that aren’t easily summarized in a single formal rule.
If the Spider-Man series went a little long, it’s because Shamus opted to analyze the plot beat-by-beat, in order, rather than write with some other organizing principle in mind. If I had played Spider-Man, I suspect I would have appreciated the beat-by-beat approach more. I know that I appreciated his Batman: Arkham Origins series much more when I read it the second time after actually playing the game. To some extent, this is all a matter of taste. However, I think the danger of the beat-by-beat approach is that you can run out of meaningful or interesting things to say long before you run out of beats to cover. I’m reminded of the Knights of the Old Republic episodes of Spoiler Warning, wherein they ran out of things to say a couple of planets in, and the rest was just griping and Rutskarn pretending to be a twilek.
Edit: I should qualify that statement to mean “If a Let’s Play by Shamus counts as a “review”, since I have played the game a significant amount of time.
I think the colour in question is what I’ve seen described as a ‘hot’ pink.
(Wikipedia considers it more of a ‘deep’ pink.)
((What is pink? Baby don’t hurt me.))
At least on my monitor here at work, I’m not seeing anywhere enough purple for that to be magenta.
The lower left corner looks purple to me, the most visible upper right corner is quite pink, and the rest is somewhere in between.
I don’t think people have an explicit preference for older games, it’s just that the easiest way to identify which games are resonant is “wait two years then ask who still cares about it”. If you wanted to talk about, I dunno, Overwatch, I imagine that six months after launch would’ve been just as good a time as now.
Also, being console-only probably hurt Spiderman’s ability to appeal to your PC-focused blog.
I skipped the Spider-Man retrospective mainly because I plan on actually playing that at some point and the articles seemed to go into detail w/r/t the story.
For Rage 2 I have no such problems since:
1) I don’t really care about the story in Rage 2
2) I also don’t really care about Rage 2 as a whole and I doubt that I will ever play it.
Looking forward to this series!
Hear hear. I’m thoroughly looking forward to hearing Shamus moan about Rage 2 in spite (and indeed possibly beacause) of having no intention whatsoever of playing it.
When this game was announced, all I remember about it was how annoyed it made me. I just remembered that there were a few of the big video game events where Bethesda had a presence and I tuned into their showcases in hopes of seeing announcements for Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6 only to have them talk about Rage 2 and me swatting at the screen like it was a buzzing insect to get that game out of there so that they could talk about something that I might actually care about.
The game itself looked so generic and so much like something that we’ve all played a thousand times before that I remember thinking that they should’ve just named it Video Game: The Game. There was no amount of bright pink paint that was going to cover up that reality.
Nonetheless, I’ll gladly tune in for this series. The fact is that many of your long-form critiques have been about games that I have zero interest in. I wasn’t at all interested in the new Spiderman game, or Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, and GTA 5 is pretty much the exact game that someone would make if they were trying to make the perfect antithesis of what I think a good game should be. But I tuned in for those series – and even occasionally had things to say – because of what you bring to the table. There’s nobody else out here doing what you’re doing, or at least not doing it nearly as well as you do. Even if a game isn’t interesting to me, there’s still a good chance that what you have to say about that game will be interesting. Plus, I’ll keep coming back for that slot machine-like chance that the next long-form series will be about The Legend of Dragoon or Lost Odyssey or something like that.
Same here. The Borderlands games don’t interest me at all, but I still enjoyed reading what Shamus had to say about them.
You know, I never got back to Lost Odyssey after playing through the intro. Weirdly apropos, that.
Indeed. The only reason that one was on my mind because I recently saw that it was backwards-compatible on the Xbox and I thought “I have that one” and decided to give it another play.
And it’s so weird. It’s a game that was basically designed to fail. It was this hardcore JRPG co-written by the creator of Final Fantasy that was released exclusively on the Xbox 360. Those were two paths that just never crossed. Your average Xbox player wasn’t looking for an old-school, turn-based RPG, and your average JRPG fan didn’t own an Xbox, particularly in Japan. You could argue that Microsoft was trying to break into the Japanese market, but how would that work? That market was already taken up by other systems who had made tons of the type of game that the market wanted. Who was going to run out and buy an Xbox for just this one game?
And the gameplay itself is simultaneously fast and ponderous. On one hand, you have to have a quick trigger finger for the “ring” battle system, but on the other, the battle will sit there and wait for you as you fiddle with a half-dozen menus as you decide how you want to attack. And once you’ve made all of the choices for your party, you have no idea what order that your people or the bad guys will attack in. It’s bananas by today’s sensibilities. Even fighting “scrub” battles takes way longer than it should. And the designers must have realized this because you can’t level-grind. Once your party has leveled to a particular area, you just stop running into bad guys there. And the game basically asks you to take a break now and then to read an audio/visual short story. Who makes games like these? Yet it’s somehow wonderful and beautiful.
I want to say that the deal to develop Lost Odyssey was finalized before the Xbox 360 flamed out so hard in Japan. The mere fact that Microsoft had greenlit the thing was part of a publicity drive for the console.
It’s entirely possible there was even some kind of multi-game deal that included their previous game, Blue Dragon.
It could have been worse.
They could have shown the new direction they were going with the Elder Scrolls. (Action “rpg” with a side of aggressive legislation)
I don’t think the lack of interest in Spider-man was related to it’s age. There were other issues:
1) It’s PS4 exclusive. I think people probably prefer to read about games they’ve played. I imagine the audience for this blog has a higher percentage on of PC exclusive players than average. Even if you’re platform agnostic like me, the PS4 is the one I don’t have so I haven’t played it. On that note: it might be interesting to for you to post a poll with a list of games you’re wanting to do a retrospective on and having your audience vote on which one they want the most? I’d be curious to see the result even if you didn’t necessarily go through with it.
2) I felt that it got a little repetitive and went on a little too long. Most of the plot seemed fine with a couple of exceptions, so we mostly got story recap with the occasional analysis instead of the other way around. Too little butter spread over too much toast I think. I could be wrong here, but that’s how it felt.
Lastly, I’m down for your analysis on anything in any genre. Your RPG critiques might be your most famous works, but for me it was your detailed breakdown on DIAS in GTA 4 (which helped me understand why I hated “The Greatest Game of All Time”) and contrasting GTA with Saints Row that made me a fan for life.
So let’s analyze some Rage! I’m ready my friend!
This. I was interested in the Spider-Man review series at first, but as you went into it, Shamus, I started to feel that I wanted to try playing it to see for myself. But I don’t have a PS4, and I wasn’t going to buy one just to play Spider-Man. That made reading the series frustrating for me, so I stopped following your work on it about halfway through.
I’ll read the Rage series, even if I don’t get interest in it, because if somehow I do, I have a PC and I know I can get it.
Appreciate all your great writing!
Count me as another person looking foward to this series. I don’t have any plans to play it unless it gets released for free on one of the platforms I play on. I didn’t really care for Rage and I never really finished it. I returned to it a while ago but found the gameplay to be floaty and imprecise with weapons which didn’t feel good to fire… and worse, a bit dated. Ironically, I much preferred the weapon feel of Fallout 3 and 4 than Rage! (Fight me! ;) ) While I wasn’t enamoured with Doom 2016, that game was snappy and felt excellent to play in terms of movement and weapon sound and feel.
I was interested in the Spider Man retrospective, but I was (and still am) actually intending to finish my playthrough at some point, so I haven’t read it.
I have no intention to play Rage 2, so I’m looking forward to it ;)
A slight misread, and now I’m sad because how much more awesome would Master Chef be if the contestants could dash, double jump, and ground pound?
Regarding that comment, by Halo 5, that’s not a mix of Master Chief and Mario… that’s just Master Chief. He’s been given special powers at this point in the campaign.
Have you met my friends Overcooked and Overcooked 2?
The issue with Spider-Man is that that is a game I own but have not made time to play through yet. I’m not going to experience the story the first time through your essays. Rage 2 I don’t have any interest in playing, so I don’t mind if you spoil away. Looking forward to this.
This game was so aggresively boring I don’t really remember much of it even though I think I’ve almost finished it. The combat mechanics were solid enough, but the decision to put them inside a generic copy-pasted Ubisoft open world scenario was just plain bad. I miss the times of yore when FPS games were all about intricately designed well paced levels.
I’ve never played this game. But I wonder if the pink wasn’t an attempt to keep the world from being overly dark and boring. So many of these games get stuck in a grey/brown/blue palette that rapidly gets old. Look at that screenshot of the merchant — imagine the pink replaced with grey, and that looks dark and meh — but with the pink it sort of pops and looks lively. And it contrasts with everything.
I don’t play most of the games you write about these days, with Spider-Man, Control, and Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order all being recent exceptions. I’m just here for what you’re writing.
Then again, I’m wondering if we’re only seeing the consistently high comments, but you got analytics that point to certain retrospectives being more or less popular than others.
Regardless, I just added Rage 2 on Xbox Game Pass to check out, but I dunno at what point I’ll be looking into it. Still, I’ll be reading through this since I don’t have high expectations for the story.
The pink just makes me think of Danganronpa, which is Ace Attorney meets Battle Royale. A very distinctive aspect to their aggressively anime art style is that blood is rendered in hot pink, doubling down on absurdity in the middle of the horror.
It also has the secondary benefit of making the splatter patterns easy to pick out, since they’re key to many cases.
I really liked the gameplay of Rage 1 (until the last mission), but I’ve resisted picking this one up on a sale because it’s inevitably going to come to either PS Plus or Humble at some point.
Also putting in my vote as interested in reading about this game.
This one’s an odd one for me, because on paper, it should be everything I like: post-apocalyptic, superheroes, first-person shooting, driving in an open world, but for some reason it just never attracted me. I even really liked Avalanche’s Mad Max game that preceded this one. It must be all the pink. Games with pink or other garishly bright colors used to stand out has been played out with me from the start. Last one I managed to grunt through was Far Cry: New Dawn (another first-person shooting, driving, super-powered, post-apoc game with the color pink, but one I had an attachment to from the start since it’s a post-apoc reprise of the Far Cry 5 world, which I also greatly enjoyed.)
First Hunni Pop and now the Rage series? Perhaps you’ve found your niche. Clean reviews of dirty games.
“The story was fine in concept – a regular Joe finds himself in an otherwise normal work situation and suddenly inexplicably amorous women start throwing themselves at him. However, the whole thing is plagued by plotholes that kept taking me out of the experience.
The protagonist is supposedly visiting this sorority house to fix the dishwasher, but the women are all random ages and most of them make no sense as college students. Who was in charge of casting? It’s like they cast these roles based on looks rather than finding people that look the part. No explanation is given for why this many women would be so amorous that they need to rely on this one (much older, vaguely greasy) dude. We clearly see young men on the campus in the establishing shot. This issue isn’t isn’t even lampshaded!
Worse, there are long stretches with no dialog, or plot development. None of the characters have much in the way of an arc. By the time the credits rolled, they’re basically the same people, except tired.
Worst of all, the entire dishwasher plot is never resolved. I waited through the credits, hoping there would be an Avengers-style post-credits bit that showed if he got the machine working again, but it never happened. It’s like the writer forgot the plot of their own story.
In the end, the whole thing gets dragged down by sloppy storytelling and thin characters. There’s nothing here except tons of naked people having lots of sex. I can’t imagine why anyone would watch it.”
Paul Spooner has nailed it and found your greatest super power – now you just need to turn it into a YouTube video! :-)
Can’t wait to see HuniePop 2 Double Date retrospective xD
You know how at the end of every inspirational movie, there’s one person in the stands/audience/whatever, clapping as hard as they can, with tears rolling down their face? That’s me right now after reading this.
Well, the tears are from laughter, but I think the comparison still works.
Now see, THIS is what you need to be doing in YouTube to get more audiences.
Sounds terrible. Which one was this again? Asking for a friend.
Been a while since I laughed so hard. Good work! And good work to Paul, for providing the setup!
Finally, someone who gets it! We need people like you to shine a light on the utter failures of these amateurs to tell a compelling story! I mean, NEWS FLASH – people watch movies for the plot and characters, and it’s your job as a creator to cater to that!
What bothers me the most in this entire franchise are the utter lack of worldbuilding and character building. I recently watched one where the protagonist worked as a pizza delivery man, who had a job to deliver a pizza to a rich woman. After delivering the aforementioned pizza, the woman (who, without any set-up, turned out to be the main love interest) said she didn’t have any money, and had to pay for the delivery by having sex with the protagonist.
So, you’re telling me that even though she lives in a house that’s worth MILLIONS of dollars, she doesn’t have enough money to pay for a pizza? Don’t get me wrong, I like sci-fi, and I get what they were going for. It’s actually quite an interesting idea – it reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s short stories in which he explores a fantastical world, similar to our own except for one key detail which shapes how the entire world works. Like how in “The Dead Past” we have a world just like our own with the exception that they have technology that can see into the past, and the story deals with how that would change the world, the people living within it, and ultimately what that means for us, who are reading this story.
But this movie didn’t do ANY of that! Is this situation normal for this world? What drove this woman to such dire straits? Surely, she could sell one of her fancy couches in order to pay for the pizza? And if she doesn’t have any money, why is she ordering take-away? Doesn’t she know that take-away is the most expensive option for dinner, and should not be relied upon except for special circumstances? Also, doesn’t the protagonist have any other deliveries? Doesn’t he realize how these missed deliveries will tarnish his employer’s image?!
None of these questions are ever answered, and the audience is left high and dry, wondering why they ever bothered watching…
I think you’ve just recreated the plot of the 1989 movie “Loverboy” .
I wouldn’t mind a film about a pizza guy being paid in ridiculous ways.
Like he has to find a way to balance a couch on the back of his motorbike, then take it back to the restaurant.
After that, someone pays with a load of leftover bricks.
Then the next guy says ‘Well, I’ve got no money, but I do have a tiger…’
It all ends with him building his own house with all the stuff he was given and not needing to be a pizza delivery guy anymore.
More importantly, she NEVER EVEN EATS THE PIZZA
I wonder if there’s some kind of horror angle to this plot, actually. Like, she’s in the house, but she doesn’t own any of the stuff in it. She’s trapped there under the thumb of the owner, and is perhaps so out of touch with the outside world she doesn’t know the number for police, so she’s calling the pizza guy as a point of contact. (Of course, that’s not the kind of thing you should just imply, you’ve really got to establish that or else it looks like a plot hole.)
This is the most damning part, really.
I am curious as to how many people didn’t play R2 due to being locked initially on Bethesda’s platform. Thereafter it still required a Bethesda account which I’ve chosen not to setup. I might have been willing to buy this at a discount knowing the quality was so-so.
I don’t know about the deal with their platform, but I pretty much decided to stop supporting Bethesda long before this game was released due to their shenanigans in the last few years. And seeing how they’ve only gotten worse, I’m not even a little bit sorry for that decision. Granted, surely not everyone has done the same I did, but I’m positive many people have.
I set up the stupid Bethesda launcher when it got me Morrowind for free. I need to get around to uninstalling it, now that I know the game works without it.
OpenMW is usable at this point. It faithfully replicates all the arguably intended game mechanics of Morrowind, adds a couple of qol improvements like not crashing, and uses all the same assets. Literally the same assets, you need to import them from a Morrowind install.
Good to know, but I can actually run the Morrowind executable without the launcher. It took me a bit to figure that out, but my poor old laptop is much faster without extra crap running in the background.
And it’s stable? That’s amazing.
Shhh! Don’t jinx me!
That’s funny, because my opinion of the Spider-Man game’s story is exactly the one you have for Rage 2. In fact, reading your Spider-Man retrospective I got the impression it was your opinion as well. I think the Spider-Man game has some really good dialogue and characterization for most of its runtime, but the story itself is, at best, pedestrian, and at worst a complete and utter disaster.
I don’t know, maybe all the excess hype really affected my expectations so hard that I judged the game too harshly but really, the story had me rolling my eyes all throughout in a way that only David Cage has done before.
I’m a fan of the PA genre, and in particular the Borderlands and Mad Max series. I tried Rage 1 a few times, and desperately didn’t like it. While I closely followed the development of Rage 2, I couldn’t bring myself to actually buy it. So I’m really looking forward to this.
I know that the title of the post is a play on the title of the game and probably has no intended significance beyond that. Nevertheless I really, really want the title of the next post in the series to be “I’m being so sincere right now”.
Part 3’s “Even though you broke my heart and killed me” might be a little melodramatic, though.
Only fitting for the point where he tears the game to pieces.
Even Though I Broke Your Bones And Killed You.
Y’know, I played through Portal 2 last week, yet I don’t remember the ending song at all.
I was going to say something snarky about the ending of Portal 2 until I remembered that I haven’t seen it because I never beat the boss fight at the end. Seeing as I heard “Still Alive”–heck, seeing as I owned a digital copy of “Still Alive”–before I ever played Portal, I’m just going to assume that the song at the end of Portal 2–if there is one–isn’t memorable because it isn’t funny. Let that be a lesson to us all.
What disappointed me about the ending of portal 2 was that i felt that they felt that they needed to do a musical number because the first game had one. Unfortunately, this also came with the proviso the designers had that “everything must be bigger and better”. This resulted in a forced, completely over-the-top affair which, i felt, detracted from the game.
Portal 2 had some good story and gameplay ideas but the simplified puzzles and the “trying really hard to be funny” aspects of the writing left me with a bit of a cold feeling for the franchise.
The thing that bothered me most about the writing was not that it was trying too hard to be funny, but that they kept dipping their toes into Actual Serious Storytelling and it did not fit with all the wackiness they had going on. Cave Johnson gets an emotional death scene that’s impossible to take seriously when you remember he’s dying because he took a bath in moon rocks for the lulz. When you beat the game, comic-relief villain Wheatley gets this big speech about how he’s realized what he did was wrong and he’s very sorry and so on, and I spent the whole thing waiting for a punchline that never came because the writers inexplicably decided to end on a note of genuine repentance from the robot deliberately designed to be stupid.
These days, I’m more like majoring in board games and minoring in metroidvanias, but don’t worry, I just like reading your complaints about stories :)
I’m a bit surprised that you’re going for more constructive criticism here. My impression from the Diecasts was that Rage 2 was another one of those games that isn’t about the story, but no one remembered to tell the cutscene people that. So I’m curious what this will be about!
I think Shamus underestimates the range of interests of his audience somewhat. The subject matter of most posts skews discussion towards RPGs and Dark Souls is polarizing whenever it comes up (still, for some reason…) but I do remember a much greater variety of games being mentioned in the “what we’re playing” topic on the forum (RIP, admittedly that was the one topic that was going somewhat steady but I still miss it). Just, you know, it’s rare that the subject matter of a post or discussion in the comments lends itself to mentioning most genres.
That said I am somewhat guilty of this the other way because I associate Shamus with primarily story criticism of narratively heavy games, with a minor in things like Minecraft or Factorio, and on those rare occasions when he posts about some smaller, mechanically focused game it always catches me off guard.
If discussion skews towards RPGs I suspect it’s because everything is part-RPG these days.
I think the reason why Dark Souls generates endless debate is because there’s a somewhat unique powder-keg situation where there’s large overlap between the things people who hate the game hate about the game, and the things people who love the game love about the game, such that to criticise the [things] is perceived as advocating to kill the genre by tearing out its essential raison d’etre, where as to defend the [things] is perceived as an argument to forever bar entry for people who’d love to love the games if it wasn’t for the existence of [things].
The reason I didn’t care about Spiderman was because I have serious Marvel fatigue (it’s a hegemonic presence in pop culture) and serious Ubigame map-mopping fatigue (it’s a hegemonic presence in gaming). Being a PS4 exclusive would have had little bearing if it was a more interesting game; I’ve read much worse-written but still lengthy retrospectives of games such as Drakengard just to get a sense of its weirdness.
Story criticism of narratively heavy games is the most interesting content on the blog for me too! Systems-heavy games are more interesting in the playing than the discussion, in my experience.
Dark Souls (1) was bad because the animations poorly reflected the game logic. Sometimes a windup is a commitment to attack in a specific arc, and sometimes it’s a threat to teleport in a small area and hit you if you are in that area.
The only way to learn the difference is to learn every animation of every enemy, and theres no way to generalize from one to another.
And there’s no good way to practice fighting one specific enemy type.
OK, so quoting a piece of text with an offhand mention of Dark Souls starts a discussion on Dark Souls, that’s good to know ;)
(I’m not complaining, I just thought it’s funny.)
On the one hand this proves one of the things I said, on the other I feel the urge to bang my head against something rising…
What I’ve noticed is that where discussion trends towards topic X, the special caveat of this website is that for any topic towards which discussion trends, the true trend is actually to a meta-discussion about the discussion of said topic (and its trending thereto).
Looking forward to this. Not something I want to play generally but Campster’s video got me intrigued at where exactly it’s broken and I’d like to see the more in-depth take.
Also not sure if Noita counts as a 2d side-scrolling pixel art indie game but I’m totally playing Noita right now.
*ahem* Let me try to categorize Noita. No, nevermind, that’s already been done. It’s a magical action roguelite with a physics engine that leads to amazing things. Also, it has deep game systems and a top notch art/soundtrack.
Anyway, enough raving about it. I’ll subscribe to Shamus’ patreon in a few, that porn review a few comments above was the small push I needed :)
I would define magenta as being a bit deeper and more intense (like if you mixed purple and red together and then blended a hint of black into it) than that particular shade; I’d still call that pink, but just a darker shade of pink.
I found Rage 2 quite fun but I skipped all the cutscenes and dialogue, they just didn’t seem to matter.
I am just glad you are doibg a longform analysis again. Its my favorite content on this site. Your old MMO lets plays like with Star On Chest are still some of my favorite video game commentary ever.
“Pink is not comedy”
“I can’t stop laughing at how pink everything is”
Ok, this made me laugh.
I haven’t finished reading this article yet, but I just want to say I’m interested in reading about (analysis on) a game that I have or have not heard before (including games that are new). I did read the Spiderman series too. I mean, I didn’t engage in any discussions, but I almost never do that here anyway.
Then again, that’s just my opinion, so maybe this doesn’t matter in the sense that most readers might not feel the same way as me.
I played Borderlands (the first one), Bulletstorm and Rage around the same time. Borderlands felt like a MMO, it had “wacky humor” that grows old fast to me, it’s mechanics were pretty simple and the experience for single player was kinda dull.
Bulletstorm is like an arcade, it had humor but it was also heavy on action tropes, the mechanics were the star of the show (specially the achivements)… it was an interesting single player game (I don’t remember if it had coop).
Rage was a weird one, sometimes it didn’t felt like a shooter (at least at the start of the game). I don’t recall if it had humor at all. I remember vehicles to be an important thing in the game, the shooting had a couple of things, but it wasn’t an RPG. It was a good single player experience.
Out of all of them, only Borderlands came up on top… so it makes sense Rage 2 would try to copy Borderlands “humor”… but I think it was originaly the better game
My problem with the open-world post apocalypse genre is that I keep running into empowerment games that liter guns, ammo, explosive barrels, and hordes of enemies around when that’s the exact opposite experience I want from my post-apocalypse. One thing in my mind defines post-apocalypse: scarcity. I want a game were I spend most of the time avoiding violence and gun fights because medical care is non-existent, bullets are hard to come by, and if my gun jams I might not have the tools to replace it.
Metro had the interesting idea of using bullets as currency but it compromised that by saying that only pre-war bullets are money so don’t worry about using the plentiful, but allegedly inferior, post-war bullets were just littering you with. But you can’t sell a AAA game on scarcity, avoiding unnecessary conflict, and legitimate survival in an unforgiving world so I guess I have to settle for The Last of Us even if it’s not open world and more of a vehicle for a story.
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