Tag Archives: LBoG: Editorials

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

Berzerk: The Killer Arcade Game?

So apparently, the classic 80s arcade game, Berzerk can kill people. It’s an urban legend that has been going on for a good few years now. It’s one of many urban legends related to gaming, a bit like the whole Polybius thing, the main difference being that there is no proof that Polybius even existed (it didn’t, it really didn’t). But Berzerk? Yeah it most definitely existed, people played it, lots of people, me included. But has it ever really killed anyone or been the basis for any deaths? Well that is the aim of this article, to explore the urban legend and get to the truth. But before I do get to that, perhaps an explanation as to what Berzerk is and the killer urban legend behind it.

The Game & Urban Legend

Released in 1980, designed and published by Stern Electronics and Atari. Berzerk has you playing as an unnamed human fighting his way though randomly generated mazes overrun with killer robots. The aim is to destroy all robots and move onto the next maze. It was simple enough gameplay, they all were back then. You can’t touch the walls of the maze or you’ll die you can’t touch the robots or you’ll die, you can’t get shot by the robots or you’ll die. The game featured early examples of synthesizer speech during gameplay… oh and it also featured Evil Otto, the source of the urban myth that the game could kill you.

Berzerk Screen

So here we go. Evil Otto is a character in Berzerk who appears when you spend too much time on one maze, deigned to keep you the player moving and the pace of the game high. Evil Otto is the only character in the game who is invincible, so you can’t kill him. He can also move through the walls of the maze, making avoiding him difficult. If you touch him, or more accurately, him you… you die. I mean you die in the game, not in real life. Now the thing about Evil Otto is how cheerful he is. He’s a bright yellow smiley face that bounces around the screen. He’s not scary, he’s a happy chappy. Yet the whole urban legend of Berzerk centres around him. It had been suggested that if you get a high enough score and then get killed in-game by Evil Otto, then you die in real life.

Evil Otto

But is it true? No, of course it’s not. It’s an arcade game, it can’t kill you. But researching this subject has led me down a very interesting path and one I aim to take you down too. I think I’ll need to cover this in three sub-chapters. So here we go, the birth of the Berzerk urban legend and first, it’s most (in)famous kill…

Jeff Daily

Now it has been said that Jeff was the first victim of Berzerk. Often called the ‘666 death’ (here’s a Reddit that covers the death along with mentioning another I’ll cover next). Aged 19, Jeff of Virginia is said to have played the game in his local arcade for many hours where he achieved the high score of 16,660 on the 12th of January of 1981. After playing and getting his high score, it has been reported that Jeff suffered a major heart attack and died right there in the arcade. Several places reported on the Jeff’s now infamous Berzerk death at the time and still mention it today as the first video game known to have been involved in the death of someone. It’s a story that has spread over the years and had been reported on several times by many, many people.

Berzerk Screen 2

But there’s a few things that just don’t add up here. A high score of 16,660 is possible in the game… but it’s not really that high to be honest. Even an average gamer could get a score close to that, a better one could easily obliterate it. So for Jeff Daily to get that score after playing Berzerk (as reported) for many hours and on only one credit too seems unlikely as you could get that kind of score in a few minutes. Plus the 666 in the middle of the score is awfully convenient, not impossible as each robot destroyed in the game gives you 50 points with a bonus of 10 points per robot if all are destroyed in one maze. So with a scoring system like that, a nice round score of 16,660 is mathematically possible, but it’s just very convenient and unlikely to have 666 in the middle when talking about a death related to it.

Then there is another thing I uncovered while researching this story. A Jeff Daily from Virginia did indeed die aged 19 in 1981, that’s true I even looked into it. Using familysearch.org (you need a membership) I found this information…

First Name: Jeffrey
Middle Name: NA
Last Name: Dailey
Name Suffix: NA
Birth Date: 16 January 1962
Social Security Number: 225-94-5973
Place Of Issuance: Virginia
Last Residence: NA
Zip Code Of Last Residence: NA
Death Date: May 1981
Estimated Age At Death: 19

So yeah, there was a Jeff Daily or at least a Jeffrey Dailey aged 19 who died in Virginia just as the urban legend has said for decades now.  But the death date doesn’t match up as Berzerk Jeff Daily was said to have died on the 12th of January, 1981. This Jeffrey Dailey died in May 1981… and this is the only Jeff/Jeffrey Daily/ Dailey from Virginia to die in 1981, I checked and double checked. Oh and Jeffrey Dailey was nowhere near an arcade or Berzerk when he died either, he died in a car crash and is buried in Holly Lawn Cemetery in Suffolk City, Virginia. Again, I checked.

So there is zero evidence to suggest that anyone called Jeff Daily, aged 19 from Virginia died after playing Berzerk. Zero, zilch, nadda, nowt, nothing. I can find nothing to prove the story is true, not even a mention in a local newspaper. So that’s it then, the end of the urban legend with it’s most famous story shot down… only it’s not because at least two people did actually die after playing Berzerk, not fictional made up people with similar names to someone else who died. But real people.

Peter Bukowski

The 3rd of April, 1982, Peter Bukowski aged 18 of South Holland, Illinois went into Friar Tuck’s Game Room to play some video games. Just like most teens caught up in those early days of video games, Peter quickly became a fan. He was instantly drawn to Berzerk and dropped a few coins into the machine. He played a couple of games and got himself a high score too, he put his initials into the game and decided to play another game. Once more, he got a high score and once more he put his initials in. Proud of his gaming achievement, he stepped away from the game, turned around and took a few more steps before collapsing. One of the workers at the arcade rushed over and began to preform CPR while an ambulance was called. Peter was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. It was later revealed that Peter Bukowski suffered from a previously undiagnosed heart condition called Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia and he had even suffered a mild, unnoticed heart attack a few weeks previously.

Peter had walked to the arcade after visiting both a couple friends and his girlfriend, a round trip of just over four miles. It had also been snowing which made the walk more difficult. All this excursion is thought to have aggravated his then unknown heart condition. Even friends he was with at the time noticed he was short of breath by the time they all arrived at the arcade. So yeah, that is one death after paying Berzerk, but it wasn’t Evil Otto that killed Peter, it was his unknown heart condition.

Here are a few clippings from various sources who, at time, reported on Peter’s death…

Berzerk Death

Berzerk Death 2

Gaming mag

Edward Clark Jr

Then six years later another Berzerk linked death occurred with a very strange coincidence. It was the 20th of March, 1988 when Edward Clark Jr aged 17 walked into Friar Tuck’s Game Room… the very same arcade that Peter Bukowski was in when he died in 1982. Edward and his friends walked around the arcade looking to find some games to play. They spotted the Berzerk arcade machine… the exact same one that Peter Bukowski played just before he died. Sitting on the cabinet were a few coins that someone seemingly had left there. So Edward took one of the coins and put it into the Berzerk game and played. This was when Pedro Roberts, 16 stepped forward and claimed that the money was his and that Edward now owed him for the coin he had just spent.

Threats were made between the two teens and an argument began before a fight broke out. A staff member had to separate the brawling teenagers and decided to kick them both out to avoid any more trouble. Knowing kicking them both out at the same time would be a bad idea, the staff member told Pedro Roberts to leave first and then waited around ten minuted or so before ordering Edward Clark to leave and telling him to walk the opposite way that Pedro had gone earlier… advice Edward didn’t take.

Edward and his friends walked along the street and though a car park, but they didn’t know that Pedro had been hiding in an alley waiting. As Edward and his friends strolled past, Pedro jumped out from his hiding spot rushed toward his victim and plunged a knife into his chest. Edward Clark was bundled into the back of his friend’s car and driven to the hospital but he died shorty after arrival. Pedro Roberts was convicted of the murder in 1990 and was sentenced to an eleven year prison sentence. I apologise in advance for the poor quality image coming up, it’s the best I could find…

Clark Murder.jpg


Berzerk TShirt

So there you have it, the truth about Berzerk: The Killer Arcade Game. Truth is the game never killed anyone directly. The most famous related death, the one that kick started the whole urban legend didn’t even happen. The other two indirect deaths were linked to a heart condition and a petty fight over a coin. It’s more than safe to play Berzerk, I have many times.

Next in my Halloween special. A look at a supposed film curse

Red Dead Redemption II, A Year Later…

It’s been a year since the release of Red Dead Redemption II and what a fine game it was. But now the dust has settled and it has had more time to resonate with me, I thought I’d take a look at just how great it was and ask if it still is? Now, there will be quite a few comparisons to the original RDR in this one… and just for the record, when I refer to ‘the original RDR‘ or ‘first’ I do mean Redemption not Revolver. Just thought I’d throw that in there to appease all those pedantic people.

So for me, the big question I aim to answer is how RDR II has held up? But before I got to that, I need to paint a picture of just how excited I was for the release of Red Dead Redemption II. Quick pre-warning, there will be SPOILERS ahead if you’ve not finished the game.

Back in 2010, Rockstar Games (when they were releasing top quality titles consistently instead of milking online modes and microtransactions and then releasing one game every ten years) released the first Red Dead Redemption. This was a coming together of a few of my favourite things. It was Rockstar Games when they were at the top of their game, mixed with a Wild West setting. RDR was heavily inspired by classic Western cinema, especially the Spaghetti Western sub-genre. If Sergio Leone had ever gotten in to making games, he would’ve made Red Dead Redemption.

RDR Title.jpg

For me, RDR was/is one of the most perfect games ever created. It had a great story, fantastic characters and of course, tip-top gameplay. Since it’s original release up to today, I’ve lost count of how many times I have played and finished RDR. I remember first finishing the game and then as soon as the credits finished rolling, I started a new game. I know I must have completed the game at least five times in the first twelve months of it’s release. I’ve also played through it a few more times over the years since then too. When it was made backward compatible for the Xbox One a couple of years back, I played through RDR again. Then it was given a 4K update… and yes, I played though it once more before the release of RDR II. And you know what? I played though it again fairly recently just a handful of months back. All told, I’ve lost count of how many times I played and finished RDR over the last nine years, but I’ve got to be in double figures easily. RDR is like an all time classic movie that you just never get bored of watching, it’s the gaming equivalent of Die Hard, The Terminator, The Blues Brothers, Goodfellas, The Breakfast Club, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2

For me, Red Dead Redemption is the greatest game I’ve ever played to date. So when the sequel (prequel) was announced, of course I was excited. Us RDR fans had been waiting almost a decade since the first game was released. The year long delay from it’s original reveal to it’s release was like waiting a lifetime and as soon as a concrete release date for Red Dead Redemption II was announced, I booked two weeks off work. It took me less than three minutes from when the release date was announced for me to reel off an email to work putting in a holiday request, an email I had already pre-written and just needed to put in the dates. The girlfriend suggested we go away somewhere nice and warm, get some sun. Me? Nah, I’m playing Red Dead Redemption II.

That day my pre-ordered copy came though my letter box at 9:17 am on the 26th of October, 2018, I tore through the package like an excited 6 year old on Christmas Day. The two greatest days of my life up to that point were the birth of our daughter and RDR II release day. The cellophane was cleaved and mutilated from box which was quickly opened and the disc removed to be installed within seconds, as my Xbox One X waited for it’s food. Two discs, two Blurays? This was going to be gargantuan. The install time felt longer than that one year delay of the game as I sat there watching that instillation bar slowly fill. And then, it was ready to play, finally after eight years… RDR II was here. I got the cervezas ready, sat back and began to play. Seriously…

RDR II Me And Beer

I played thorough Red Dead Redemption II and had a lot of praise for it. But that was a year ago and the way I measure a great game is if it’s still great after a decent period of time. As I’ve already covered, I’ve played through the first RDR many times since it’s release in 2010 (at least five times in it’s first year) and you know what? I’m sure I’ll play though it again too. But how does RDR II stand after twelve months? In short, it doesn’t, at least not for me personally.

I’m not saying that RDR II is not a great game, it is, it’s amazing. But looking at it now as apposed to my initial reaction last year. It’s problems and issues are much clearer to me. I think most of RDR II‘s problems come from one simple fact, the game was overproduced. The lack of Leslie Benzies and his direction is painfully apparent in the game. If you look back on previous Rockstar games overseen by Leslie, including the first RDR, they are sleeker, tidier, much more refined. The main problem I have with RDR II is that it contains a lot of unnecessary filler. No one at Rockstar was there to stop and think ‘do we really need this?’. So everything was thrown in even when it was not needed. Case in point… the hunting.

I’ll be honest, I think the hunting mechanics in RDR II are amazing. You have to track the animals, you can use binoculars, or a scoped weapon to spot them from a distance. Then there are the different quality pelts. You can have low quality, one star skins or much higher quality three star ones. And adding to that, the weapon you use to kill the animals can damage the pelts, so if you want to maintain the quality, you need to use the right weapon and even ammo. Different quality skins can will fetch different prices when you sell them, plus the quality is also important for upgrades, etc. To know which weapon to use, you have to study the animals, maybe even kill a few to better understand them. Then there is the fact you give of an odour the animals can smell, so best to hunt downwind.

RDR II Hunting

Seriously, the hunting in the game has so much crammed into it, you can’t help but adore the attention to detail. Some dedicated hunting games don’t have this level of detail and mechanics in them… which is the problem. I’m not playing a dedicated hunting game, I’m playing RDR II. In order to upgrade your camp in the game, you have to hunt and most of the time, you need pristine skins. Now because of the random nature of the spawning of the animals, there is no guarantee you’ll get a perfect pelt to use. Adding on the that, some animals are rare and only spawn in one or two spots on the map… if they spawn at all that is. There’s an upgrade that requires two perfect cougar pelts. Now cougars only spawn in two places on the map. To get this upgrade I had to hunt cougars and only cougars for five days to get perfect pelts. Often the cougars that would spawn had lesser skins, often they just didn’t appear at all. Five bloody days and I wasn’t doing other things then a bit of hunting on the side, I was just hinting cougars… five days, real world days too not in-game days.

Remember the hunting in the first RDR? See the animal, kill it, skin it, get pelt… job done. No studying animals, no worrying about using the right weapon and ammo. It worked and worked well, so why add all this added guff? I’m not saying the hunting didn’t need to be improved or that it shouldn’t have been, but more a case of it doesn’t need all the crap thrown in that it now has. It’s too much. Again, I think the hunting mechanics in RDR II are great, if I was paying a hunting game.

RDR II Fast Travel

Now let’s look at fast travel… which you need to hunt to get an upgrade for your camp to do in the first place. With a big, open world game like RDR, you need fast travel. Even if you don’t use it, it’s just a nice thing to have just in case. So let’s assume you’ve gone though the tedium of hunting to get the fast travel upgrade in RDR II. Now it’s time to use it. So you can only fast travel from your camp and only to the towns on the map, which is massively restrictive as you have to go back to your camp each time you want to fast travel elsewhere and then, your options are very limited. Now, you can get trains to go from train station to train station, you can also get stage coaches to go from town to town. The options are there, but still restrictive. The boundaries forced into the fast travel make it pointless most of the time. Look at the fast travel in RDR. Set up a camp anywhere (as long as it wasn’t too close to a town) and fast travel anywhere on the map, to any town, even your own placed way-points. That’s it and you could get to any part of the map with ease. Bearing in mind the the map is RDR was smaller that the map in RDR II, meaning fast travel is far more important in the sequel… so why make it far more restrictive? That’s not an advancement, it’s several steps backwards. Just like the hunting, it’s adding obstacles that simply don’t need to be there.

Carrying weapons. In RDR you could hold and carry any of the weapons you find and chose from any of them whenever you wanted. You can’t do that in RDR II. Once more, it restricts you to one main weapon and one pistol. Your horse now holds all your weapons, so if you ever want to change things up, you have to get to your horse and go through the pain of fiddling around with the awkward weapon wheel (more on this next) to change a gun. So you’re in the middle of a gunfight and the shotgun you have just does not have the range to take out the bad guys, need to swap to a rifle? Tough. You now have to find your horse or call it into the middle of a gun fight to change your guns. This was never a problem in the first game. You just swapped the weapon whenever you wanted cos you could hold whatever you wanted.

These few examples are a big issue for me, the restrictions the game put on you or the over complications of things like hunting. It slows the game down it makes things a lot more awkward then they needed to be.

Now for that awkward weapon wheel thing I mentioned. Just as with the hunting, it’s overloaded with options and, if I recall, there are actually three inventory wheel things to navigate. You have one for your weapons, one for your inventory and then another for your horse items. Again, look at the first game, it’s just so much more streamlined and easy to use. But with RDR II, everything is overtly complicated just to do something so simple.

Red Dead Redemption 2_20181031134628

So you have the weapon wheel where you keep your weapons (surprise!). Using it seems pretty natural to be honest, but it’s not without it’s issues. I’ve already covered the whole carrying weapons thing and that is the main issue with it. But then there are the other wheels added into the mix and using them requires so many button presses and varying combos, it just gets awkward. There are so many multiple button presses within other button presses that you end up playing a mini game of Twister with your fingers and game controller. Look at using the fishing rod as an instance. After you awkwardly select it, you have to use the same button to bait the thing as you do to put it away. One you do by just pressing the button and the other by holding it. Of course, you’ll often forget which us which so end up putting the rod away when you mean to bait it and visa versa.

This is an issue with pretty much everything in the game, because there are so many options and variables, there are just not enough buttons on the controller. So many buttons end up doing double or even triple duty while you have to hold or press another button, making the controls a lot more finicky then they need to be. Just doing something as simple as talking to an NPC can prove tricky as you first have to lock onto the person to bring up yet another set of new button presses and if you do that while forgetting you have your gun out… well you’re in trouble. The amount of gun fights I have gotten into when I didn’t mean to is ridiculous. I think one of my biggest gripes with RDR II is the overall controls, everything is just too convoluted and counter-intuitive. Don’t even get me started on the crafting in the game with it’s numerous menus, items, button presses and so on. Everything is so damn slow.

RDR II Crafting

I think the controls in recent Rockstar games have begun to feel a little dated, I thought as much back with GTA V and RDR II has not improved anything, it’s gotten worse. I don’t know but it seems to me (and others) that the controls in RDR II want to do their own thing when you want to do something else entirely, it just feels like a continual fight. It all goes against your muscle memory and instead of pressing buttons on an instant that feels natural, you have to check and double check the button prompts that not only are you holding down the correct button to bring up specific options/menu, but that you also press the right button while ensuring you are holding down the correct button… and then check to see you have the right button prompt on screen to press.

There there is the inclusion of RPG/survival elements. The cores to your health, etc. They just didn’t need to be there. I’d love to play a hardcore survival game set in the Wild West era and RDR II incorporated minimal elements of such a game… but it didn’t go far enough with them to make them effective, so they came across as pointless. Instead, you get this kind if limbo game caught between an action/adventure title and a survival game, and it doesn’t quite gel. Overall, Red Dead Redemption II felt very confused to me as if it wasn’t sure exactly what it wanted to be. Is it trying to be a hardcore Wild West sim with strict rules and overtly complicated menus RPG style or is it trying to be an action packed sequel to the first game?

I also need to address the very slow pace of the game. I had no issues with the storytelling, I thoroughly enjoyed it in fact. But man, this game is so damn slow. Things like the fast travel I’ve already covered. But just doing something as simple, as going to the start of a mission can be a chore, especially when it’s over the other side of the big map. The game is gorgeous to look at, especially in 4K and all the very slow horse travelling is great at first because you can take in the beautiful scenery the game offers. But after a while, it all begins to grate and you just want to get to the place you need to be at and crack on. The very limited fast travel does not help (unlike the first game), so you have little choice other than to just sit on your horse and get slowly bored. Occasionally, you might come across a random encounter to make your journey a little less boring, but how may times can you shoot the chains off a fleeing prisoner before you get bored? About three is the answer to that, but it happens dozens and dozens of times. This isn’t like GTA where you are in a car travelling at speed and having to weave in and out of traffic as you make your way to your location, that’s pretty exciting and holds your interest. RDR II is about slowly trotting along on a horse and not doing much of anything. I suppose you could stop off and do some hunting… if it wasn’t so damn tedious.

RDR II Scenery

But speaking of the slow pace, I do need to bring up the epilogue of the game. Man, this was boring. I wrote an article on how the most boring part of RDR was my favourite and explained why too. I still stand by that. I loved the ending where you play as John Marston trying to make a name for himself as a farmer, the slower pace was a welcome change after everything that came before it and the slow building of tension was amazing. A very similar thing happens in RDR II after the main story finishes and Arthur dies… but it’s just horrible. Playing as John again was a nice surprise, but the whole thing is tedious and drags on for way too long. Teaching a ranch owner’s son how to ride a horse, having to go into town to buy materials to build a house… and then having to build said house, having a date with your wife and getting a photo done, etc. It was all utterly pointless. It worked in the first game as there was a sense on unease, foreboding that something was going to go wrong now John was a free man (and it did)… but we already know the story of John as RDR II is a prequel, so we know he’s not in any real danger. There was nothing to fear or be concerned about at all. Just a really long winded and tenuous epilogue leading to the exact point we knew it would.

RDR II Epilogue

As I said at the start, I think Red Dead Redemption II has been over produced. Just because you come up with an idea to include something, doesn’t mean you should include it. The whole game just needed ‘editing’ down a bit and no one was there to do such a thing. I’ve already mentioned how I have played and re-played the first game a lot over the years including at least five times in it’s first year. I played and finished RDR II and yes, I started a new game… but I’ve never really played it much since then. It’s only while writing this just now that I realised that I’ve not bothered to go through the game a second time because everything felt like a chore and I got bored quickly.

RDR II, while more advanced, feels like several steps backward from the original game. It’s over cluttered with filler where it didn’t need to be, it’s slow and gets boring several times . I’ll happily agree that RDR II is better written with a stronger story. I’ll even say that Arthur Morgan was a better realised character than John Marston… but the first game just played much better and John felt like a more fun character to play as too. It didn’t have all the unnecessary filler, it didn’t feel like it needed trimming. But RDR II does.

RDR is a slender and stream-lined athlete, it was the Muhammad Ali of video games, cocky and arrogant but utterly charming and had the talent to back up it’s reputation. But RDR II is Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch, it’s big, brash, overweight and while it packs a punch to get the job done… you can’t help but think how great it could be if it lost some weight. Watching a Butterbean fight is entertaining, but you really want to be watching the legendary Rumble In The Jungle instead.

RDR II Fist Fight

I liked playing Red Dead Redemption II, it has more than a few moments of greatness. Elements of the game are pure genius, but also felt underwhelmed and disappointed by it at the same time. I feel that that is what the game is, a collection of great moments and not a great game as a whole. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back and finish my second play through of the game, even a year later, but I do know I’ll most definitely be going back to Red Dead Redemption again in the future. It’s just a far better and leaner game.

Now that is out of the way, I can start my Halloween specials for this year…

Halloween Is Coming…

I’ve not done much writing for my blog this year as I’ve been busy working on my books and short stories. I’ve done a handful of smaller articles and write ups, but nothing big. No retrospectives, no big celebrations. I love doing more in depth articles but just haven’t had the time this year.

But Halloween is a time of year I really enjoy. I have to do something to help celebrate. So I ceased work on my book(s) for a while to do a big Halloween blow-out spectacular! Coming Halloween week will be four articles, two gaming and two movie ones. There are retrospectives as well as spine tinging topics related to Halloween, scary games and films. My two movie articles actually cover the same film, but different topics relating to it. I even have a fifth Halloween article planned and if the timing works out, it’ll be published too.

Either way, there are most definitely at least four Halloween specials coming this year. So it all you regular readers, those if you following my blog (thanks). I know I’ve been a tad lax with this blog this year as my attention is focused on my books… but there’s a hefty Halloween special coming soon. Stay tuned…