Category Archives: LBoG: Editorials

Maneater: Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

I love Jaws, it’s a brilliant, classic film that created the summer blockbuster. I could sit here and write an article on the making and importance of Jaws, I’m not going to because I already did that years ago. But the film’s influence can still be felt forty five years since it was released.

It’s quite surprising that Jaws hasn’t seen too many games based on the IP. There was that NES one from 1987 and Jaws Unleashed for the PS2 and Xbox from 2006 and that’s it. Bit of a shame really because Jaws opens itself up to numerous possibilities. How about a game where you play as a famed shark hunter, hired to search the seas to take out various predators, and of course Bruce himself? Jaws Unleashed had a great idea, play as the shark and cause all sorts of untold chaos. It was a good game, sadly ruined by some clumsy controls and numerous glitches.

But there have been a few games inspired by Jaws, quite a few really, mainly tappy-tap mobile games. Maneater from Tripwire Interactive is one such game, just not a crappy tappy-tap mobile game. But is it Jaws great or Jaws: The Revenge terrible… or maybe just Jaws 2 disappointing?

Taking the idea from Jaws Unleashed and having you play as the shark, Maneater is already separating itself from other open world games around right now. The game kicks off with you playing as a fully grown bull shark who crosses paths with famed shark hunter, Scaly Pete. Without spoiling the story too much, you soon find yourself in control of a baby shark. The basic idea of the game is to survive the harsh waters, grow and evolve your shark and take out Scaly Pete.

Maneater Attack

Your shark is pretty minimal at the start and to be honest, the first hour or so, I really didn’t see much appeal in the game. But once I’d played around a bit, levelled up and gained some new abilities, I soon found myself really enjoying exploring the water and chomping up fish and humans alike. Your shark is pretty nimble and that only gets better as you level up. From starting out with bare basic moves such as biting and dashing, you’ll unlock abilities like a tail whip to becoming an electric shark… seriously.

Maneater isn’t trying to be factual in any way. It’s a game with it’s basihyal firmly in it’s cheek, a basihyal is what sharks have instead of a tongue, see the reference works. The missions themselves are pretty restrictive, go here and kill ten of a certain fish, go there and kill ten humans, etc. There a really little variation in it’s mission structure. Yet, I never felt bored doing any of this because swimming and jumping around like a shark is so much fun. And yes, I did say jumping around like a shark. Maneater does let you get out of the water and your shark can manoeuvre on land pretty well too. Granted, the movements are restricted compared to being in the water, but you can hop about on land and gobble up annoying humans with relative ease. Just keep an eye on your O2 meter as you’ll soon suffocate.

Outside of the main story missions, there are license plates to discover and special landmarks to find. On top of all the open world expiration a game like this offers. The map is also a pretty decent size and split into various areas, some areas you can’t access until you grow your shark from a baby shark (do-do-do-do do-do… I have two small children) to a teen, an adult and even an elder shark. All while unlocking new abilities and skills, which themselves can be upgraded. You have four main resources in the game, proteins, fats, minerals, and rare mutagenics. Kill and eat fish/humans and earn the resources or find them in chests under the water. Then spend your resources like in-game cash to upgrade your abilities.

Those abilities will come in very handy as the game progresses too. You start in a fairly quiet area with little to no threats. Mainly full of non-threatening catfish and the like, small and easy prey for a shark pup. But as the map opens up and the game’s story continues, you’ll soon find yourself facing snapping barracudas, alligators, bigger sharks and of course, the worst of animals, humans. It’s the killing humans when an element of Maneater really comes to life. Kill fish, turtles and the like, nothing untoward happens to your shark, it is nature after all. But it’s when you start munching on humans where the game kicks things up a notch.

Maneater Jump

See, there are shark hunters out there and the more humans you kill, the more of a threat you become. So the more ‘wanted’ by the hunters you are. It all works a bit like the wanted system in other open world games such as GTA. The more human killing you’re responsible for, the more the hunters come after you. Here’s where you have a choice, swim away and hide until it all dies down or stay and fight. Dash/jump out of the water while being shot at by the hunters and take them on. Keep attacking their boats until they sink, leaving you with a floating buffet. The ‘wanted’ system is really well implemented and works brilliantly too.

It all gets a bit madcap, especially with a fully upgraded electric shark, but outside of it’s craziness, the whole thing is presented as a real world documentary TV show. They even got Chris Parnell who is the host of ‘real’ reality TV show, Maneaters vs. Sharkhunters to do the voice over. So it has a level of authenticity even though it’s stupidly OTT… a bit like real ‘reality’ TV then. And that voice over is fantastic too, from spitting out shark facts to making bad puns/jokes to even suggesting the best way to cook and eat some of the fish you hunt in the game. The presentation of Maneater is both fascinating and funny.

Now, I do have one niggle with the game, it’s the controls. For the most part, they work just fine and after a short while, you’ll be swimming, dashing and exploring the water with ease. However, a big part of the game is battling and eating to survive. There no lock on feature and you really do need one too. You can press a button to look at a potential snack or fast approaching enemy, but you can’t lock onto them. This really is an issue, especially when in the midst of a big fight with a large enemy. There is a level of strategy when it comes to the underwater fights. It’s not quite as simple as just tap your bite button and hope for the best. Your targets, both big and small will either avoid you or attack you. Given the fact you are underwater for 90% of the game, these fights can get a bit confusing as an attacking alligator swims over and behind you, by the time you’ve adjusted the camera to where it now is, it’s already taken a bite. You do have a dodge move, but this just adds to the confusion and helps you lose sight of your target quicker. If you could lock on, this would make the fights a lot more enjoyable.

Maneater Shark

But niggle aside, Maneater is a brilliant game. highly recommended. It’s not too big so you get lost around the map, nor is it too small that you find yourself with little to do and become bored. There is little variety in the main missions, but that honestly didn’t bother me much because just exploring the waters was great fun and the fluid swimming controls really do work a treat.

I just can’t wait to see what, if any DLC Tripwire Interactive has planned as I want more. I wonder if the Jaws licence would be relatively cheap now…

I just got through a review of a game called Maneater and didn’t make a single Hall & Oates reference, almost did though.

T-800 V T-800 – Fan Made Film

I love the classic sci-fi/thriller/action/horror film The Terminator. Released in 1984, the flick is still as amazing to watch today as it was 36 years ago. The sequels… I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. Yes even the mighty and massively popular Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a movie I’m not as keen on as others. It’s a great popcorn action flick… but it’s an awful sequel. Still, there has always been a question about the two films I’ve always wanted answered. Who would win in a straight up fight between the bad T-800 from The Terminator and the good T-800 from T2? Thankfully, that question has been somewhat answered by Mikhail Kramer on his YouTube channel, KRAMER’S MEDIA.

Mikhail has a bit of a penchant for creating fan made movies using Grand Theft Auto V‘s director mode and I love it when fans do things like this. Looking through the films he has made via GTA V is impressive. Mikhail has created short movies and trailers for The Matrix and I Am Legend plus others. He’s even had a go at making a Robocop 4. Using a cocktail of various mods, video/audio from the films he’s influenced by and of course GTA V itself, Mikhail has a few videos on his channel well worth watching. But it’s his latest video, Terminator 1984 Vs Terminator 2 that I want to give mention to here on my blog.

Arnie

There are a few issues with the film. Of course there are restrictions. I mean, Mikhail is directing these short movies with very limited resources. Then he also has his hands tied by the limitations of just what GTA V‘s director mode can actually do, it’s not a dedicated film creation piece of software, it’s just a fun addition to a game. Then there are slight graphical issues that are out of his hands due to how GTA V is programmed. I have a few personal niggles with some of the action in the film too, mainly the fist fights between the two T-800s. They just go on a bit too long and feature some questionable physics… you’ll see what I mean.

But minor niggles aside, this short flick shows some great cinematic moments and direction. The truck/semi chase is a particular highlight, using very film-like camera angles. Coming in at a little over 30 minutes, Mikhail’s Terminator 1984 Vs Terminator 2 is a very well made and observed little film. The fact it was made with a piece of software that’s not a dedicated film editor is even more impressive.

You can watch Mikhail’s video right here…

 

 

Honestly, that’s pretty damn good eh? Full of Easter eggs and references to the first two  flicks. Certainly a lot more entertaining than Terminator: Dark Fate and that shit cost $196 million to make. Also, don’t forget to check out Mikhail Kramer’s YouTube channel for more great GTA V made fan films.

The Beginning Of The End For Rockstar Games?

I am, what you may call, an older gamer. I’ve been around a few years and seen my fair share of games and gaming studios over the years.

Back in 1988, I played a rather simple but pretty good arcade style shooter on the Amiga called Menace. Okay, it never blew me away but it was pretty decent none the less. The follow up, Blood Money was, and in my opinion, still is a fine shooter well worth playing today. It was around this time in 1989 when I really began to follow the team behind these 2 games. They were called DMA Design and I fast became a fan. Other top quality games followed like the impressively violent shooter, Walker. The sued by Pixar, Unirally and of course, they were the same team behind the greatest puzzle game ever made… Lemmings.

Lemmings Art

DMA Design were amazing in that late 80s – mid 90s period. But it was certain game they created in 1997 that literally changed the world of gaming forever. Grand Theft Auto. I don’t really need to go into detail over how DMA Design became Rockstar North and kickstarted the whole Rockstar Games empire… I already did that in my book, MICROBRITS, buy a copy now! But needless to say, Rockstar Games became one of the biggest and most popular gaming studios in the world and I’ve been a fan for decades, going right back to that game Menace from 88.

As a fan, as someone who has followed this company and loved their games for so long, it pains me to see what they have become in recent years. The staggering success of Grand Theft Auto V has been both a blessing and a curse for them. From my point of view, I think the cash cow that is GTA V had made the company lazy and complacent. Now before I get all the hate, hear me out. Let’s just look at their gaming output over a 5 year period…

Between 2008 – 2013:

Grand Theft Auto IV
Bully: Scholarship Edition
Midnight Club: Los Angeles
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
L.A. Noire
Max Payne 3
Grand Theft Auto V

I think you’ll agree that’s an impressive list of games and DLCs right there. In fact, I’d like to go on record as saying that the DLCs made for GTA IV and RDR are the finest pieces of DLC I have ever played and was more than happy to have paid for them, and I detest DLC in games. And that list doesn’t include ports and remasters, with the exception of Bully. And yes, they only published L.A. Noire and didn’t develop it, though some work was done by Rockstar given the troubles the developer, Team Bondi were having at the time.

Anyway, the point is that there isn’t a bad game in that list up there. Some arguably better than others sure, but an all outright bad game? Nope. Proof that even with a multi-game production run, Rockstar can do quality and quantity in equal measure. Even before those years, Rockstar continually made/published high quality games and released them frequently too.

Rockstar Titles

Now let’s look at the following 5 years…

Between 2013 – 2018:

Red Dead Redemption II

Okay so to be fair, they also re-released GTA V with a few new bells and whistles for the current generation. But just look at that drop off in production there. No impressive DLCs for GTA V (despite voice actors and Rockstar themselves claiming DLC was coming) and only 1 game?

Just very quickly want to bring up this bit of news that is still on the official Rockstar Games site

Coming in 2014
Expect big things in both Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto V next year including:
GTA Online Heists. We know many of you in the GTA Online community are super excited for the debut of co-operative Heists. Heists are currently in development and we are working very hard to get them as polished and as fun as they can be. Stay tuned for much more detail in the New Year.
GTAV Story Mode Updates. For those ready to jump back into the story of Grand Theft Auto V, we have big plans for substantial additions in 2014 continuing Michael, Franklin and Trevor’s action, mayhem and unexpected adventures in Southern San Andreas.

Something is not right here. Yes I know games get more advanced and take longer to develop and produce, so I guess some kind of drop off is to be expected. But just look at those 2 lists again. That’s not “some drop off”, that’s a complete lack of production.

Then look at Rockstar Games themselves. It’s not 1 studio making games, they have studios all over the world. Rockstar India, Rockstar Leeds, Rockstar Lincoln, Rockstar London, Rockstar New England, Rockstar North, Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar Toronto. That’s the list of current Rockstar game studios working today. That doesn’t include Rockstar International, their main publishing HQ or Rockstar Games HQ itself in New York.

Rockstar Games Logos

Now to be fair some of those studios listed up there are not dedicated development studios. Some work on localisations for the games, some work on ports, etc. But still, they have a lot of studios under the Rockstar Games umbrella. So with all of those resources, all of those talented staff… how do they go from 10+ games and DLCs between 2008 – 2013 to just 1 game and no DLCs between 2013 – 2018?

One such reason for the drop off in game production is the blessing and a curse that is GTA V that I previously touched upon. The fact that GTA V sold a staggering amount, the fact it went on to become the best selling piece of entertainment ever (making 1 billion dollars in it’s first three days alone), the fact that as of December 2019 GTA V has sold 120 million copies worldwide and still sells today… almost 7 years since it’s original release in 2013. The fact it continues to make a hell of a lot of money for Rockstar Games and their parent company Take-Two, both via sales and shark cards for the online portion of the game. Just the fact that 1 game has made so much money means they have rested on their laurels, it means they don’t have to make games to keep the company alive. All they have to do is keep updating GTA: Online with an overly expensive in-game new cars, a new hat every few months and idiots will continue to pay for shark cards and put money into Rockstar and Take-Two’s bank accounts as they have been for the last 7 years. Why would they spend money on expensive game production when they can just release a new update with a handful of new items and let the fans fork-out real world cash for in-game currency to buy said items making millions in profit each year from very little output?

Shark Cards

Then of course, I have to address the whole Leslie Benzies incident. I’ll not go into detail here, you can look it up for yourself, but suffice it to say that Leslie “leaving” Rockstar Games in 2016 has had an impact. For those who do not know, Leslie Benzies (for me) was the rock in Rockstar. He started out as a programmer in 1995 working on the DMA Design game Space Station Silicon Valley. In 1998, he was the one who put together the team that would create Grand Theft Auto III… to then go on to change the world of gaming from that point onward and help transform DMA Design into Rockstar North and then expand into Rockstar Games. Leslie became producer/development director/game designer for pretty much every Rockstar Games hit from that point on. He eventually became executive producer for the company. Then go read about all the troubles in developing Red Dead Redemption and how it was Leslie, as executive producer and lead designer who got the project under control and finished. For me RDR is the best game Rockstar have ever made, even it’s sequel (prequel) could not match it. My main problems with RDR II was that it was over produced and over bloated with a lot of filler… it was missing Leslie Benzies’ touch, his direction.

I don’t care what anyone else says, a Leslie Benzies-less Rockstar Games is a major downturn and has had an impact on their games and the company on the whole.

Leslie and Dan

Which brings me bang up to date with the very soon departure of Dan Houser, who is set to leave Rockstar Games in March this year. Again, just a brief history on who Dan is/was. Along with his brother Sam, Dan Houser co-founded Rockstar Games. Dan has written/co-written pretty much every GTA game from GTA 2 onward as well as penning other games like Smuggler’s Run 2: Hostile Territory, Bully, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Red Dead Redemption and it’s sequel (prequel). Dan has also been executive producer on many Rockstar titles. In short, Dan is/was a major player in Rockstar Games, the company and many of it’s games wouldn’t have existed without him. Even Take-Two’s share price dropped after the announcement that Dan was leaving. So with Dan’s soon approaching exit in a few weeks on top of Leslie’s departure, 2 of the main 3 at Rockstar are no more, leaving Sam Houser as the only original (main) member left… I wonder how long before he leaves too?

Now Take-Two have very recently put out a statement saying that Rockstar Games are stronger and better then ever (one of the founders and main writers is leaving… and things are better than ever? That’s unbelievably arrogant and disrespectful ) and that Sam has no intention of leaving. But let’s be honest, Take-Two are hardly going to put out a statement that Rockstar Games are in trouble and slowly sinking, of course they’re going to put on a brave face even if whatever is going in behind the scenes is seriously hitting the fan.

Shit Fan

And that’s just the big boys at Rockstar who’ve left, what about the lower level staff, the ones in the front line doing all the work? We know several employees left with Leslie and setup a new studioHow many more have left since Leslie’s departure that we don’t know about and how many will leave when Dan finally goes? 

Yeah I know, due to GTA V that Rockstar and Take-Two have made shit-loads of money and they have more than enough to keep afloat, but money isn’t everything. Just how much of a toll, from a creativity point of view, has milking GTA: Online (and now RDR: Online) had on the staff who crave to make new games? There’s got to be a point where staff members have had enough and want to do more than update a game over and over for 7 years, the morale and drive must be low. They must want to do what they want to do… make games, be creative again like they used to be pre-GTA V. Fans have been crying out for new Rockstar games for years now. As good (but flawed) as RDR II was… it’s still only 1 game and as covered, a huge drop off in production from before. If the talented staff at Rockstar Games hadn’t spent all that time and resources at continually making updates, adding new vehicles, clothing and game modes to GTA: Online, could they instead have made amazing DLCs like before and even new games like Bully II, GTA VI and even new IPs already?

Bully II

Rockstar Games are slowly dying, maybe not profit making wise, but creativity wise, most definitely so. The downturn of the company can be traced back to the success of GTA V and the absence of Leslie Benzies. Dan leaving soon is a far bigger blow than Take-Two are willing to admit (publicly anyway). Staff must be getting bored of not making games and readying themselves to leave if they haven’t already. We’ve seen this many, many times in the past too. A small game studio makes it big to the point where they become over inflated and burst. It’s happened a lot in the past and it will happen again.

I honestly think that Rockstar Games is slowly rotting away from the inside out. I truly believe this is the beginning of the end for the company. I’m not saying you’ll wake up tomorrow with the news that Take-Two have closed Rockstar down, this will be a gradual process as the company slowly dissolves away. Everyone waiting for GTA VI or Bully II had better not hold their breath.

RDR Grave

 

 

Have You Stayed With Atari Today?

I tend not to cover news on this blog, I usually stick with opinion pieces, histories and sharing memories, etc. But a slice of news has surfaced today that made me chuckle a little that I felt I had to quickly cover.

When it comes to big names in gaming, Atari were one of the biggest. The grandfather of gaming to most people and the company the defined home gaming with their brand of consoles, going back to 1977’s iconic Atari 2600. I think it would be fair to say that Atari as a company have had a very chequered past. I mean, they were central in the infamous video game crash of 1983.

The company has died, been reborn and swapped hands so many times over the years that I’m really not sure who own the name anymore. A new console, the Atari VCS is said to be released this year, but that’s not what I want to cover here. I’m going to look at the Atari hotels… yes Atari hotels.

Atari Logo 2

It’s very recently been announced that Atari (whoever owns the name now) has teamed up with real estate developer True North Studio and GSD group to build eight Atari hotels around the U.S. The first is set to begin building in mid-2020 in Phoenix, Arizona… which given Atari’s rather ‘interesting’ connection to that particular place is kind of ironically amusing (see the previously mentioned video game crash of 1983).

The hotels will obviously be gaming related. They will be used to house the ever increasing in popularity e-sport events. Guests can expect VR experiences, interactions and games. Gaming related rooms utilising famed Atari IPs. All along with standard hotel facilities such as restaurants, bars, gyms and all the other stuff a hotel usually offers.

More sites for hotels are planned outside of the Phoenix one with Austin, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle all set to have their own Atari hotels built over the next few years.

Honestly, I love the sound of them, I’d love to stay in an Atari hotel and revisit my childhood as well as experience (what I hope will be) cutting edge gaming interactions and experiences. But there is serious doubt over of they will ever happen. I mean, there have been numerous stories of troubles in getting the new console made and ready for release. So if that’s been a bit of trouble, how will multiple, cutting edge gaming hotels work out?

I just hope they do happen and that they will have guest capacities of 2600, 2700, 5200 and 7800.

You can check out the official website right here. Plus here’s a few renders of what the hotels could look like…

The Xbox Series X

So the new Xbox console has finally been revealed. There’s really very, very little to go on other than pure cosmetic appearance at the moment, so this article isn’t going to be in-depth or anything, just me offering my very first impressions on Microsoft’s new console.

I don’t like it. Told you this wasn’t going to be in-depth.

Xbox Series X Console

Honestly, I think it’s lazy and ugly. For me, when a new generation of console is released, I want it to be new. Just sticking with Microsoft for this rant, take a look at all their machines up to this point. The Xbox 360 looked radically different to the previous Xbox and the same could be said about the Xbox One/X over the 360. They all had their own unique look, style and identity, they represented a whole new generation of gaming. But this Xbox Series X just looks like an overweight Xbox One X. All they have done it take the previous console and make it look like a fridge…

Xbox Fridge

Given the fact that the Xbox One has suffered relatively poor sales, The PlayStation 4 has sold around 91 million units this generation with the Xbox One selling closer to 43 million… oh dear. Things have been pretty bleak for Microsoft this generation and I’m a proud owner of an Xbox One X. I think they came up with the design for the Series X because they had loads of left over plastic from the One/X they had to use up. It’s just ugly.

Then there is the name itself. The Xbox Series X? It just does not sound right. Remember when Nintendo released the Wii U after the success of the Wii and it sold poorly? A lot of that was because the name made the new console sound like a slight upgrade to the old one and it seems to me that Microsoft are just repeating Nintendo’s fatal mistake. This does not look or sound like a whole new console and I think people will assume it’s just another upgrade to the Xbox One X.

Project Scarlet was the name for this console while it was being developed and that sounded pretty great, just drop the Project bit and call it the Xbox Scarlet, sounds much better and like a whole new machine.

There really is very little shown of the new console other than a few pics and this video…

No games are shown other than some pre-rendered videos. A bit of what may be a Forza game, a spot of footie (so either FIFA or PES) and a taste of Halo. Again, these are not actual games or gameplay footage, just videos. So until we see what this console can actually do, there’s really not much to talk about. But at least one game was shown with Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 which was said to have been running in real-time on the new Series X. But to me, it still just looked like video and not actual gameplay.

But I do want to say how the Xbox One launch was a total disaster, what with Microsoft forcing the useless peripheral no one wanted with the Kinect onto people, the talk of having to always being connected to the internet, DRM and all the other gubbins they mentioned. It made a lot of people angry and this was where Microsoft lost the sales. Then after launch and the exclusive games were just not there and are still lacking now. If Microsoft really want to get the upper hand this new generation, they really need to have much better 3rd party support, better exclusives and a better launch price over Sony’s PlayStation 5. We can only wait and see what both Microsoft and Sony have planned for the full launches of their new consoles next year (more to see at E3), but for me just looking at this Xbox Series X… I’ll not be rushing out to buy one.

But this whole thing does remind me that I need a new fridge…

Black Fridge