Here’s what we played/watched this week:
Grand Theft Auto V
This is the first Grand Theft Auto I’ve ever seen to completion! Whenever I took a vacation to Liberty City, Vice City or San Andreas, it took me the span of a few hours of mind-numbing, repetitious tasks before I grew bored and moved onto livelier goals. Nothing cures the doldrums quite like leaping off skyscrapers or playing bumper cars in the midst of congested traffic!
Rockstar, ever striving for big budget perfection, finally took the hint and stacked the deck with a staggering number of clever scenarios. I was prepared to make a mental note of the “good” missions so I could return to them later, but quickly abandoned that idea when I realized replaying the whole campaign would be more practical. I’m tempted to run the various heists again and again, just to see how the different crew members impact the operation.
Unfortunately, certain aspects of GTA V left a sour taste in my mouth. But we’ll be touching on that soon….
I was pretty outspoken in my doubt that GTA V would meet expectation, but I was equally determined to see for myself at launch. Never have I been more glad to be proven wrong. As Ben mentioned, we’ll have a full review next week, but it’s fair to say that I have immensely enjoyed the game. I’ve always enjoyed the series, and V is a fantastic entry.
There are, as I expected, parts of the game that feel dated and underwhelming. A lot of the cultural humor just feels like a played out act, and is pretty disappointing. The story is great, though, the gameplay is varied and solid, the characters are (mostly) interesting, and it’s just an engaging, interesting world. I’ve beaten the game’s story now, but I’m by no means done with it.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
On Tuesday evening, my allergic seasonal reactions came to a head and punched me in the gut. I spent the majority of the next two days in bed, wrapped in blankets and trying to stave off a restlessness that pounded fiercer than any headache or cough. As fate would have it, I had just unfinished unboxing my Wii U one day before, and with the aid of modern conveniences, I was soon playing Wind Waker HD in bed.
It’s easy to mock the Wii U’s “off-TV play” as an unnecessary gimmick until it comes through for you when you least expect it. Though the screen was considerably smaller than the average monitor, it never felt like a compromise to me. I felt a childlike sense of wonder as I sailed across a perfect blue sea and fought beasts thrice my size, all from the comfort of my own mattress.
With exams looming on the horizon and classes to catch up with, it’ll probably be some time before I jump back into Wind Waker. However, I won’t easily forget the joy it brought me when simply sitting up made me nauseous, and I’m more than a little excited that other manufacturers (Sony, Valve, etc.) are catching onto the potential behind streaming games to a second screen.
No Time to Explain
Really, I should have liked No Time to Explain pretty well. I certainly started out doing so- it’s a simple platformer where you use a plasma cannon to manuever, its powerful recoil driving you away from the direction you point it. It wasn’t mindblowing, but it was satisfying and fun. The problem comes with its dimension-hopping. You see, every level is a new dimension, and one dimension just completely upstaged the rest of the game.
That particular dimension starts out like any other- you walk in with your plasma cannon, and are presented with a course to navigate. However, when you step forward to give it a shot, a van pulls up from behind, and knocks you off the level. You then take control of this alternate dimension version of yourself- in this dimension, you are a superstar. There are statues of you everywhere, and adoring fans cheer you on as you race around the course, propelled by the recoil of a shotgun. Your normally-silent character is instead quiet vocal, with constant grunts, war cries, and shouts of “DOIN’ IT!”
It is so much more interesting than the rest of the game, and once the level ends, it feels dull to go back to the inferior-controlling plasma cannon, and the generic atmosphere. I would have been fine playing the rest of the game before I saw how much more interesting it could be, and now it just feels like a disappointment. Bummer, man.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of SHIELD is Marvel’s latest go at milking its newfound mainstream popularity for all it’s worth. It stars a transfer agent with a forgettable face and an even more forgettable name (I already forgot it), paired with a stereotypical, quirky-but-attractive hacker. He reports to Agent Coulson, back from the dead because Marvel wouldn’t let something silly like meaningful deaths get in the way of resurrecting a fan-favorite, rife for merchandising.
I can handle dumb plot lines and questionable performances, but Marvel and Joss Whedon respectively bringing their candy-coated gloss and deluge of pithy one-liners rendered the hour-long pilot nearly unwatchable. It felt like I was watching a toy commercial written with the dreadful idea that pointing out a deluge of dull clichés is the formula for comedy gold. Characters loudly announce their every thought and feeling as if they were amateur androids attempting to replicate human emotion. It all feels cold, calculated and sterile, with the sincerity of a supermarket commercial.
SHIELD is a barren wasteland of entertainment, with cardboard cutouts standing in for true characters and a “style over substance” ethos proudly slung along its shoulder. In other words, it fits Marvel’s M.O. to a T. I can’t help but wait with bated breath until DC and Marvel use up all their television goodwill and move onto something better.
My partner here is not so familiar with TV drama standards, if you ask me. I wasn’t exactly blown away by Agents of SHIELD- indeed, it was barely interesting enough that I will watch another episode. My policy is generally that I watch three episodes of a show to see if it hooks me, and it’s got another two episodes. The first wasn’t bad enough to scare me off, but also wasn’t good enough to sell me. It did have plenty of issues, however.
One of the things I like about Joss Whedon’s trademark smartmouthed writing is that it is very relatable to me. Like me, most of Whedon’s characters use humor as a defensive mechanism, channeling their stress and uncertainty into jokes to make coping easier. Firefly’s Malcolm Reynolds gets more smartass the more screwed he is, trying to distract himself and his crew from his doubts and fears. Dr. Horrible (from Dr. Horrible) uses humor to draw attention away from how nervous and anxious he is at dealing with relationships. The characters in SHIELD, however, don’t seem to give a damn. They use humor out of some sense of duty- it’s what Whedon does, so they have to do it to. It’s not any kind of secret insight into their character, it’s just sloppy writing.
The resurrection of Coulson doesn’t please me, but it seems like something anyone who’s spent any amount of time with comics should be well used to. They invented the term retcon, after all. He is, however, the only vaguely interesting character- everyone else is a boring, badly acted cliche. I did enjoy the way the episode treated the American promise that everyone can make it if they just work hard as an obvious, blatant load of bullshit, but the central message of “not everyone can be a hero” kind of rings hollow. I’m pretty sure the way Tony Stark became Iron Man proves that in the Marvel Universe, anyone can if given the power.
It could have been a bigger mess, but this is a pretty rough start.