Rin Plays: Gat Out of Hell DLC

I’ve finally done it. A month and a couple days after the release date, I’ve finally shot the devil in the face and nothing has been more glorious.

I’m still riding high off the thrill of Voltage’s Gat Out of Hell DLC for the Saint’s Row series, and now that I’ve finished I’m glad to say that all the worries that I had back in November did not come to fruition. Story, gameplay, characters; everything in this DLC was so well done that I’m honestly distraught that this is more than likely Saint’s Row’s last hurrah. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Spoilers for the entire DLC under the cut. (Seriously, if you haven’t played this yet, don’t ruin the experience for yourself by reading this.) Continue reading

Devoting Their Conference to Games: E3 and How Microsoft Decided They Wanted to Play

e3logoIt seems so long ago that I was attentively staring at my Twitch stream, praying that it wouldn’t go offline so I could see all of the tasty tidbits this year’s E3 had to offer. While I didn’t leave this year feeling like I had gotten a full plate, the main five developers—Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo, for those new to the scene—definitely served their audience a hefty appetizer. Here’s what I would go back for seconds of and what I’d scrape down the sink.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Not in the Kitchen Anymore

Recently I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled more than ever for articles talking about gaming culture and its effects on its members, in addition to its effects on the people that supply us with our drug of choice (i.e.: game devs). This may come as a shock to some people, but apparently when you keep your eyes open, you actually find things. Today’s Web Crush hits a spot very close to my heart and combines two of my favorite things: Xbox Live and laughing at stupid people. What? I never said I was nice.

webcrush picNot in the Kitchen Anymore is a site that documents fellow girl gamer Jenny Haniver’s day-to-day experiences as she plays games over Xbox Live. This doesn’t sound all that interesting from my description, but it’s the simplest way to explain the layout of her posts. On a deeper level, she’s exploring the misogyny that’s so rampant within the community. Or, well, I wouldn’t say exploring—it’s “exploring” if the temples Indiana Jones “explored” came up and knocked on his door. What’s happening here is more like watching Cops.

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Rin Plays: T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest

I love it when games release content for the holidays, and when the heads behind Borderlands 2 announced the release of a Halloween-themed DLC, I knew I had to get it. Even though Halloween proper is still a week off, I snapped it up on its release date back on Tuesday.

I know I didn't review the Tiny Tina DLC. I'm getting to it

I know I didn’t review the Tiny Tina DLC. I’m getting to it.

In addition to being something special for this time of year, T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest also gives way to a new type of DLC: head hunts. As the name implies, the goal of the quest line is to eventually win a special head—it’s what it sounds like: a facial customization for your character that changes most, if not all, parts of the head. Whereas I will agree that releasing so many ‘pay-to-get’ DLC customization options is a bit money grubbing—there have been fifteen in total—what I like about the head hunts is that it gives you an entirely new environment to run around in and new enemies to fend off. At least that’s what it seems like given the contents of this DLC. The question is: is it worth the three dollars? Spoilers under the cut.

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The Good, The Bad, and Then There’s Sony: An E3 Summary

Just as soon as it started, E3 has come to an end, leaving us with fantastical highs and long side-glances of apprehension. But what was good and what was bad? Certainly I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll give my opinion on the games that I think should be watched with much interest.

Unfortunately, my fears about Microsoft and the Xbox One were not alleviated, but neither were they exacerbated. It seemed like there was a general sense of hopelessness about the whole conference, and really, not too much stuck out to me. At least nothing that made me want to buy the damned Xbox One. Though the controversies I brought up last time weren’t exactly mentioned, they were more than content to make some new ones. During a play demo of the upcoming re-vamp of Mortal Kombat, one of the female developers, who was losing the match (playing a fighting game on a touch pad against someone using an arcade stick isn’t exactly a fair playing field), was told to “just let it happen” because “it [would] be over soon”. Something I absolutely do not watch game expos for is rapey side-comments about women losing games. It was gross, and it was clear that the developer wasn’t having any fun—which, when people already don’t like your system, is not the best way to go. All around, Microsoft came off as extremely unsupportive of their female playerbase. No one is amused.

However, Microsoft did have a couple good games at their showing. The ones I’m most excited for are Sunset Overdrive, a Borderlands-esque shooter which takes place in Titanfalla futuristic setting that almost reminds me of Jet Set Radio, and Titanfall. People are already getting excited over Titanfall for two reasons: it’s developed by a sect of people that left the Call of Duty camp (people who were the good part of that camp, some would argue) so it’s clear they already know their way around the genre—and it stars a non-sexualized female in a position of power. Unfortunately, from the gameplay it doesn’t seem as though she will be a playable character, but I’m happy that she’s there, at least. In such a male-dominated genre, baby steps are definitely the safe method to integration, but we’ll see if it’s more than just a novelty in the coming years.

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E3 Has Me Shivering With Antici……Pation

Those winds are blowing again, my friends. The winds of a new generation carrying with them the remnants of fanboy and fangirl tears alike as brave gamers prepare their wallets for the blow that they’ll inevitably receive. Tomorrow, once more the e3logodoors of E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, will metaphorically open to the public and we’ll see what these big name developers have been hiding up their sleeves.

Already this year things are a little bit different, and drama already arisen. First off, and most notable in my eyes, is that Nintendo isn’t going to be holding a conference in earnest. Certainly, they’re still going to have a presence with a Nintendo Direct panel—a more general panel encompassing more than just the new system—going on Tuesday and a panel dealing with the newest Pokémon games, X and Y, happening later on in the same day. However, I don’t know if it speaks more about Nintendo itself or its competitors that they don’t feel as though it would be worth it to hold a panel as normal.

If you’ve had your toes in the water of the gaming world at all in the past few weeks, you probably already know the other drama. Word’s out: no one is really overly impressed with the Xbox One. Especially with its lack of backwards compatibility, need to be hooked up to the internet more often than any gaming system, save for PC, should, and the seeming vendetta against used games and sharing games in general. The viral advertising against Microsoft concerning this, legitimate or not, hasn’t helped matters much either. Of course, words are cheap and for many, waiting until the One was shown at E3 would be Microsoft’s defining moment. However, it’s rumored that due to the widespread unfavorable opinion on the console (as well as an assumed inability to dispute said opinion) Microsoft has canceled their post-show media roundtable. As much as I’m side-eying the company right now, I sincerely hope that this isn’t true. Not only would this look poorly on the company and the system, it would also be confirming my worries that this system is not something worth investing in. And with titles like Banjo Kazooie: Grunty Land and Mirror’s Edge 2 tempting my spending, I’d really like there to be something redeeming about the One.

To the surprise of no one, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for any news about Dragon Age III: Inquisition and The Last of Us, but more than that, I’ll be looking especially hard for how this new era of games is going to present their characters. Of course, there’s still going to be our Halo’s and other series that have long since overstayed their welcome, but with the current release of Remember Me—an action adventure game staring a (hopefully) un-sexualized female character—and even the past release of the new Tomb Raider, I maintain the hope that females will overcome their tropes and companies will create more and more diverse characters that do more than just look pretty. (Although other aspects of the industry are continuously still trying to ignore that half the gaming audience is, indeed, female, which is a little disheartening.) With games such as Bayonetta 2 being listed—despite there being no confirmation if the title will actually make it to the E3 showroom—I think this is a good sign for progress on that front. It’s impossible to know for sure, however.

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

If you’re interested in looking at the state of the union, so to speak, you can watch the IGN stream here or the YouTube stream here. E3 starts tomorrow, Monday the tenth, at 9AM PST (Noon EST), so to make sure you hit the video streams you want, make sure to check out the schedule. I’ll be liveblogging on my tumblr (tagged “E3pocalypse ’13), so feel free to drop me a message telling me your opinion, or simply leave me a comment here.

Rin Plays: Omega DLC

Mass-Effect-Omega-01The release date of the ‘Omega’ DLC has come and gone. Omega has been taken back, Aria is firmly seated on her throne once more, and Cerberus has lost a substantial foothold in that sector of the galaxy. So why am I so damned undecided on how I feel? [Spoiler Warning]

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Nyreen: Mass Effect Godsend or Dealbreaker?

For the longest time, fans of Mass Effect have reveled in the backstories, culture and xenobiology of the various alien races that comprise the universe, and while to say that the game doesn’t have its fair share of badass females would be a gross understatement, a problem remained: where are the female aliens? Of course, there are the asari, but for all intents and purposes, they’re blue human females with magic. And there was the Dalatrass (a female salarian), but that was only one blatantly female character out of the entire race. The fans want more. We want to see what both genders, if viable, of the species look like. Bioware seems to have heard our wish. On November 27th, Bioware is releasing the anticipated Omega DLC pack which features a female turian.

Out of every race, turian seems like the most obvious in showcasing both genders. For one, we already know that female turians exist as your crewmate, Garrus, speaks of one that he trained with before joining C-Sec. For another, the design and their place in the culture have already been determined. In opposition to, say, a female drell which we know exists but nothing more, female turians are known to be held to the same societal standards as their male counterparts and are just as involved in their war-hardened mindset. At first glance, this seems to be the case with this new character, Nyreen.

In fact, Aria herself describes her as ex-military. This puts her on footing with Garrus and gives her that renegade sense. What made her leave her blood-given post? Did she find something inherently wrong with the system, or did Nyreen just want to do things her way without the military bureaucracy breathing down her neck? Whatever it was, she would have to be a total badass to have the recognition from Aria that she does. Let’s not forget that Aria was the previous boss/mayor/queen (if you’re feeling dramatic) of the dirty, gang-run city of Omega who was only forced from her throne when Cerberus troops ambushed her, and not without leaving dent in said troops. So the fact that Nyreen has a past with this powerful woman (and is still alive) speaks volumes about her character. The universe can never have enough kick-ass women, after all.

Now, while the fandom is having a field day picking out everything they can from the trailers and forming their own early headcanons, there’s also a bit of a controversy going on with her character design. This being that Nyreen seems to have breasts.

Turians, as a race, are largely based on tweaked avian physiology and as a non-mammalian race, the use for things such as breasts would be non-existent and thusly (hopefully) removed by eons of evolution. Also, given that turians previously have stated that breasts are “funny bumps that get in the way”, the implications of turian females having these bumps are potentially canon-breaking. Seriously, this series doesn’t need any more of that, especially not after the trainwreck that was the Deception novel. Beyond this, however, is the implication that to be considered female, one must adhere to certain standards derived from the human male gaze. Why would an alien female have breasts? Because, in the mindset of the target audience, boobies are awesome and fun to look at. That is essentially the reason for the asari to have breasts: it’s said in the lore that the appearance of asari change based on what each race finds attractive, but for an evolutionary stagnant race like the turians, there is simply no excuse to have them.

For now, Patrick Weekes, senior writer for Bioware, has released a tweet saying that what looks like breasts is just armor plating, but it is arguable that he’s just trying to cover someone’s ass. Despite this, I am truly looking forward to playing the DLC when it’s released. Then and only then will I be able to return Omega to its rightful owner and lay this worry to rest, once and for all.

Gaming Company Leads Want Players to Think Before Raging

Trigger warning: derogatory language and slurs below.

“Fuq u pussi biiitc h lern 2 play”

This is part of the verbatim bullshit I was forced to deal with during a game of League last night. However, it looks like someone heard my prayers, or the prayers of a huge chunk of the gaming community, of cracking down on negative sexist banter on co-op games. We’re not talking just anyone here; we’re talking Kiki Wolfkill and Bonnie Ross kind of people. These women are the Executive Producer of Halo 4 and the head of the Microsoft 343 Industries, in case you were unaware, and their initiative can be summed up in six words: check yourself before we wreck you.

Taken from an article on Jezebel, the two of them have started work on a zero-tolerance policy for the popular Xbox Live service Microsoft provides. Like screaming words like “cunt”, “retard”, or “faggot” over your headset? Well you won’t once you get banned for it! Oh, and this is a lifetime ban too, so don’t think you’ll be getting back on in a week or month.

This initiative is to aid in making female gamers in particular—and perhaps gamers as a whole—feel more comfortable with getting a more expansive gaming experience. Of course, as is the case with filter dodging like above, there will be people that find a way to circumvent these rules, but with any luck it will drastically cut down on the dude-bro mentality in some of the more popular multiplayer games. I can’t say that I have high hopes as of now, but I do have hope that it will work out in the end.

Strong Female Characters: Gearbox, You’re Doing it Right

In all the hubbub of Borderlands 2, what with its delightful new and old cast and (roughly) kajillion side-quests, I think it’s important to step back and appreciate the timeless things. The simple things.

But mostly that Ellie is the best character in the game.

I’ve already given my partial opinion about larger people in the media, so when I saw her concept art I was seriously worried what would come of such a character, especially when every other female in Borderlands is thin as a whistle. Would she be played off for jokes?  …The bad kind, that is, not the kind that Borderlands is revered for. I should have had more faith in Gearbox because this lady is faboo.

From her introduction I loved her—seriously? Smashing a bandit in a car compactor? Bad. Ass.— because it was such a great example of what was to come. She doesn’t take shit, she’s clever and resourceful as hell, and she’s fun. She’s an actual 3-dimensional character. Gasp, be still my beating heart.

Playing along her questline further also reveals an intricacy that not many other Borderlands characters have in my opinion. She has motivations beyond “wow, I better not die” and she has something to prove, but not to herself. Being Scooter’s sister, that also means that she’s Mad Moxxi’s, the voluptuous vixen manager of the Ring O’ Death’s, daughter. By doing Ellie’s quests, Ellie ends up venting about how her mom wants her to lose weight and essentially be like Moxxi. In fact, her mother doesn’t believe that Ellie can even take care of herself on her own out in the Dust. Ha! Allow Ellie to prove her wrong. The great thing about Ellie is that she’s completely okay with her life and her choices. She knows smart enough to survive and that she’s damn  sexy to boot. Her confidence in her skills and in her body isn’t played for laughs, so the player is able to come to respect this unlikely paragon of beauty. And gosh, it’s just great.

I could gush more, but why don’t you take a look at what the designers at Gearbox have to say on the mechanic yourself?