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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Ghost in the Shell

THE LOWS

Tom Senior: Giving up the ghost
I have nothing in particular against First Assault Online, but I am sad that Ghost in the Shell has never received a game that does the fiction justice. As Andy notes, First Assault is a team shooter with some new ideas, none of which really examine the ideas that make Ghost in the Shell interesting.

Never mind the bionic special forces agents questioning their humanity Ghost in the Shell is full of potential game mechanics. Take the car chase in which Major Kusanagi hacks into a VR visualisation of the internet to track their target shortly before taking control of the car with her cybernetic brain, or the criminal that’s had his memories replaced by a virus to hide the identity of the hacker—a unique idea for a ghost playthrough. There’s plenty more in Standalone Complex, a smart police procedural show set in the Ghost in the Shell universe that imagines the new crime that future technology might enable—ideas explored in gorier detail recently by Psycho-Pass.

Perhaps I should be thankful that a lot of Ghost in the Shell’s ideas have filtered down into games in a piecemeal fashion. Watch Dogs has traffic hacking functions and Deus Ex operates in similar territory, though with fewer monotone philosophical monologues about posthuman identity crises. Come to think of it, that’s probably for the best.

Phil Savage: Bat's still broke
Batman: Arkham Knight received another patch, which is good. But many are still having problems. At this point, it's hard to tell if it's more or less broken than any other PC release—all of which must deal with a bewildering number of configurations, ensuring that some problems are guaranteed to occur. The perception that Arkham Knight is broken could be shining a light on all of the people for whom it is actually broken. Of course, it could still just be broken above and beyond what you could reasonably expect. It's hard to know the extent of the problem.

At least there's a simple solution should you buy the game and find that it doesn't work to your standard. To find out what it is, head here and refer to slide #14.

Purring Quest Slide

Chris Livingston: Cattitude
Last week I tested the realism of a dog-walking game called Loot Hound, and naturally it was decided I should also closely examine a cat-based platformer, called The Purring Quest, for accuracy. I'm afraid it doesn't hold up. The game begins with you (a cat) being abandoned in a graveyard where your senile owner has just buried his dead wife. Yeah, it's pretty bleak. In an effort to find your owner, you jump over and onto obstacles, collect ghostly fish skeletons (?), and do your best to avoid or battle enemies (rats, dogs, giant crows).

At one point I encountered a Doberman. Naturally, it chased me, but with my cat-like reflexes I was able to jump onto its back. I was unhappy to discover this meant I lost a life. What? Anyone who has ever had a cat and a dog (I have, and have had, both) knows that if the cat jumps onto the dog's back, the cat wins, no matter how big the dog is. Later, I jumped onto a tiny, yappy dog, and again it was counted as a death. Bogus. Look, cats are mean and pointy and any creature, no matter how vicious, instantly submits to an angry pointy cat on its back. Want to bring down a Nazgul? Galactus? The Tarrasque? Cat on the back. Fight's over.

Angus Morrison: Victory achieved
In an interview with Edge, Hidetaka Miyazaki of From Software said that there are no more secrets to be found in Dark Souls. As a community, we’ve beaten the game, at least in terms of those features that were deliberately coded in. There is of course much more to Dark Souls than From Software intended—in the absence of conventional narrative and faced with the later stages’ incompleteness, wild speculation has itself become canon. Dark Souls’ fundamental mystery is its greatest appeal.

That’s why Miyazaki letting us know it’s all over is my low of the week. Not knowing and the thrill of a discovery hard won is central to the fantasy that has sprung up around the game. I’m a long way from having seen everything with my own eyes, but it was nice to believe, however childishly, that there was always something else lurking in the darkness that nobody had found.

Hideo Kojima Slide

Tyler Wilde: Kojima is fine, but…
I’m happy that Hideo Kojima has moved on and that Kojima Productions is up and running again, hopefully to employ lots of people for lots of successful games to come. But while we celebrate an auteur landing on his feet—which we all knew he would—I keep thinking about the people whose names aren’t in the logo. The Nikkei report released earlier this year about working conditions at Konami made it sound downright oppressive. Our favorite game of the year, Metal Gear Solid V, was made within a company culture I can’t imagine enduring, and yet they made something brilliant. As much as that deserves praise, it shouldn’t have happened like that at all. Here’s hoping the new, independant Kojima Productions is a better place to work, and that all companies are called out when they’re not.

James Davenport: Incomplete criticisms
After giving Metal Gear Solid 5 our game of the year award, I noticed that a ton of people in the comments were criticizing it for being an unfinished game. The complaints mostly come from the discovery of some assets that point towards a missing chapter and the cut island segment detailed in the collector’s edition of the game. Had those never been unearthed, I wonder if folks would still label MGS 5 incomplete.

I didn’t actually vote for MGS 5. I thought its story was pretty lame and gimmicky, but didn’t think the game was incomplete. MGS 5’s primary character arc came full circle, silly though it was. The Twist felt Kojima-considered and gave the somber silence of the game a hell of a lot more context. It was more intent on obscure artfulness than on playing to the MGS loyalists, which may have thrown off a good portion of players. It certainly did me. Sure, the signs are there that content was cut from the game, made especially apparent once the drama between Kojima and Konami went public. But were every game’s cut content detailed in a Reddit affidavit post-release, then I think the reactionary mobs would cry out about 90% of games being incomplete garbage piles.

More than 70 hours of my life were spent stalking through bases, approaching complex scenarios from different angles with completely different strategies using a massive variety of tools. There is so much wiggle room in the mechanics for this game, so much allowance for creativity, that I cannot understand how anyone can look at it and say it’s an incomplete piece of garbage. Metal Gear Solid 5 is incredible for what it sets out to do, satisfying story or not.

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