Critical Essay #3 – Koontz

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Gears of War is a brutal video game of a humanlike race combating creatures from below their planet’s surface. This game is a third-person shooter game, where you can see the characters and control them in a third-person view. Gears of War takes place on a planet called Sera. The planet’s inhabitants were fighting a 79-year war called the Pendulum Wars over a natural energy source called Imulsion that was found under the planet’s surface. Two major governments were fighting this war: Coalition of Ordered Governments or COG; and The Union of Independent Republics or VIR. The Coalition of Ordered Governments soon turned to a weapon of mass destruction called the Hammer of Dawn, which was controlled via satellite, and used it to wipe out most of the Union. The COG soon attempted at peace with the Union when they found themselves fighting a more destructive foe, the Locust. These creatures came up from under the planet’s surface and were fighting to take over the planet. The Coalition of Ordered Governments then turned to the Hammer of Dawn again to destroy these creatures. They found it extremely difficult to destroy these creatures and where they came from. The Government sent out a Military Unit called Gears to travel into the planet’s surface wipe out the Locust creatures. This primary team of the game has characters named Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago.

The aesthetic qualities are very dark. Most of the game takes place underground or outside at night in the rain. Even with the dark qualities and the hard to see boards the graphics are pretty good. They have very smooth and functional transitions during gameplay. The rain scenes are very well executed and even though it’s difficult to see, lightning helps light and guide your way. Where the quality of aesthetics is poorest is in the people. You can see the pixels in the faces during the story mode and sometimes there is a lag in gameplay.

The user experience is really cool. Even though the game is dark, it enhances the game and can be scary when a Locust jumps out at you. Gameplay has three main modes to select from; story mode, online battle, or horde mode. Story mode is great and takes you through the entire story of Sera and its inhabitants. Story mode is basically like playing a game through an entire movie switching as characters Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago. Online battle is where players can join in on battles among others from all over the world playing as people of Sera or the Locust. The online battle is set up on small maps that are randomly selected from parts of the story mode. Each battle is about 10 minutes per battle. Horde mode is probably my favorite way to play this game. It too is played online with others. However you are grouped together with a select team and you are attacked wave after wave by the horde of Locusts. The Main weapon of the Sera people is a machine gun with a chainsaw on the bottom of the gun.

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There are minimal positive values of this game. Even though the characters are fighting to keep their race alive it is a very brutal and vulgar game. The chainsaw gun can saw through the opposing characters along with shooting them. The violence in Gears of War is pretty brutal. There is lots of gore with bombs, guns, and chainsaws. There are a few female characters in the game, however the females that are in the game are leaders of the Governments and also the Queen Locust. The language in this game is very vulgar. Even though this is a harsh brutal game the characters are fighting to keep their race alive.

Overall Gears of War is a great game that has a fantastic story line. The gameplay overall is a lot of fun and the characters are very dynamic and have plenty of activity to keep you on the edge of your seat wanting to keep playing to find out what will happen next. The dark quality of the game also helps keep the player disoriented on what might pop out in front of him, catching him off guard. This is certainly not a game for children.

 

Snapchat: Critical Review 3

Snapchat is an app that has been around since September of 2011. It is an interactive app that allows users to send pictures and videos to friends individually or in groups. Each picture or video sent out can be seen from one to ten seconds. The length of time the picture or video is accessible is determined by the sender. There is also an option to upload a picture or video to something called a “story”. The story is a feature that allows your items to stay on the app for 24 hours and be seen by anyone during this duration of time.

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I have OCD so the layout of certain applications is something that is cringe worthy to me. However, the aesthetic qualities of snapchat is something that is very pleasing to me. The layout is beautiful. When the application is first opened, it looks just as if you opened up the normal camera app on the iPhone. You can take pictures with the front or rear camera. If you swipe right on the screen, you are taken to a section that shows you recent ‘conversations’ of either messages, pictures, or videos sent with other people. It is a way of seeing the recent people that you have interacted with so you can more easily connect with your ‘favorites’. From the main screen, if you swipe to the left, you are taken to yours and your friend’s stories. This is where you can see everyone’s posts for a full 24 hours. The layout of the app is beautiful. The only complaint I would have in terms of aesthetics is the link between androids and snapchat. I have found that although the app can be used on all smart phones, the picture and video quality is not great on the android phones. It is almost as if the app distorts the quality in a way. However, as an iPhone user, I am very pleased with the app, aesthetically speaking,

This application is very user friendly. There are many different features that make the experience of using the application very pleasant. The fact that you can choose to send pictures and videos to one person, a few people, a group of certain people, or everyone, is a beautiful thing. It also has different filters that allow you to change a pictures color, it has a fast forward and slow down features, as well as filters that morph your face into something such as a dog, a cat, or a even a dancing potato. Filters change daily, which keeps the app exciting, new, and up to date. Furthermore, there are geofilters that allow you to post the location in your snap so that your friends can see where you are. You can also create and buy your own geofilter. I did this for my girl friend’s birthday. It was her 29th birthday and we were going to a club. I was able to create a geofilter and purchase it for the night. This allowed everyone there take pictures and videos and use this filter. These pictures were saved and later used in a photo album to save memories. It’s a fun way to make a night out a little extra special. It’s also another way to keep the users constantly engaged.

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There are both positive and negative aspects to this app in terms of social issues. The more that people are on their phones, the less that they are connecting with the people are around them, in person. However, on the flip side, social media can help you stay connected with people who are not local. For example, my sister lives in California and I am able to see my nephew through snapchat every single day.

When snap chat first came out, it seems as if almost everyone in my generation jumped on board. Sadly now, 2 well known apps, Instagram and Facebook have added similar features that snap chat offers. However, it is almost as if they are selling fake Jordans. It works, but the authenticity isn’t there. At least in my circle of friends, we all still prefer the original snap chat and do not use the similar feautures on competing mediums.

Much like everything in life, Snapchat is not perfect. However, what is has to offer is something new and exciting and it is something that keeps the users engaged and excited. It is an app that keeps me connected to family and provides wonderful options.

Waze

Waze, is a GPS navigation software that works on both smartphones and tables with GPS support and provides turn-by-turn navigation, travel times, and route details, all submitted by the users of the app themselves. Waze is free to download and was first developed by Waze Mobile, an Isreali company. The app was later acquired by Google in 2013. Waze stands out for its user-reported upcoming accidents, traffic jams, speed and police traps. The app can also identify the closest and cheapest fuel stations near you, along with any pot holes ahead or vehicles reported on the shoulder of the highway. Because Waze gets most of its information like traffic and police reports from the Waze-users themselves, they encourage their users to report such hazards by offering points for each time they submit a report. Like most apps, there are optional add-ons. These include connecting your Facebook friends to Waze and have the option to notify them when driving through high-crime areas, or let them know that you are in heavy traffic.

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Users of this app are capable of displaying the map on their phone using various different color schemes. Waze 3.x offers thirteen different daytime color schemes, users can also create custom color schemes. The aesthetics of this app are personal to each user which makes this app more appealing to customers. Waze is very easy to navigate. Once you open the app it is set at its home page with an address search at the top, your home address (if you chose to set one), along with a work address, favorites and recent travel destinations. There are different ways to use the app, some people prefer to have no voice at all and only view the map, while others want to hear the directions while also being able to view the map. Something that I found appealing was the option to only hear the important traffic reports such as; police reported ahead, estimated time in traffic, and red light camera reported ahead. Waze has a feature that I personally use that allows you to hear the reports without having to put in a destination, for example, if you are driving to work and know exactly how to get there but want to know about the upcoming police reports, you can be notified of this without hearing the step-by-step route directions. This app is very user friendly and easy to navigate. I think the app could improve in ways, I think there should be an easier way to resort back to the app after closing it. If the app had a tab that popped up on the top of the screen, like google maps does, it would be easier for the driver to quickly go back to the map without looking at their phone for a longer period of time. Something that people always complain about, and is only getting worse is traffic, especially for people driving to and from work during rush hour. Waze has created a way to get around traffic faster then any other navigation app that I have tried. Waze will re-route you during your travels if it find that there is an accident reported ahead, it will direct you in a way to get around that accident without the driver even spending a minute in traffic, if possible. This app is a way to improve the social/cultural issues of traveling during rush hour, or getting around traffic during long car rides.

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Like I said earlier, Waze stands out because of its user-based reports. It is a different approach then most navigation systems or applications that are popular today. Once you download the app, you become a “reporter” for Waze. Waze will announce a report such as “Vehicle stopped on shoulder ahead”, when you reach the destination where that vehicles was reported to be, a thumbs up or thumbs down will pop up, if there is a vehicle stopped you are directed to report it, if there isn’t you are directed to report that there isn’t. The app makes it extremely easy for the users to help each other get around traffic, police, and anything that might cause your travels to be delayed. This app is definitely growing and has room for improvement, but I think overall it is a well developed app and is doing very well.

Tinder: A Review

Up until about a month or so ago, I had little to no experience with the popular dating app called Tinder. I was quickly able to familiarize myself with how the app works. The goal is simple—to meet people. When a user first creates an account, she is able to enter her name, age, education, work, and a short biography (less than 300 characters). Users are also allowed to upload up to six photos which is undeniably the most important part of one’s Tinder profile because matches are made based upon one’s profile photo. The app can be set to customize potential matches by distance, location, age, and gender. Once these settings have been selected, the swiping begins! Tinder then displays a photo featuring another user’s name and age. If interested in this person, users swipe right to “like” that person’s profile; if not, users swipe left to indicate that they are not interested. The matching occurs when two people mutually “like” each other. Mutual liking creates a match and users can then begin messaging each other in hopes of meeting up for a date or something else. Tinder does not share your personal info such as your phone number or Snapchat, but users often exchange these details when messaging.

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The aesthetic qualities of Tinder are very simple and straightforward—the main screen features a photo of a potential app with a toolbar of actions at the bottom. Users can also tap on a person’s profile photo to read their bio and see a listing of mutual friends and shared interests, thanks to Facebook. The messaging feature is almost identical to that used on any smartphone, without the ability to send pictures and videos. The main icon associated with Tinder is the flame, which appears when a user has a match. The flame seems to be a metaphor to represent a relationship between two people beginning with a small spark (tinder) and then turning into burning love. However, the accuracy of this metaphor remains up for debate.

Similarly to the user interface, the experience is relatively straightforward. Basic users can either simply “like” or “dislike” potential matches by swiping right or left and then begin messaging if the two are a match. For a fee, premium users have the ability to “super like” potential matches, experience “boosts” to get more likes, and use the “undo” feature to view previous profiles. All users also have the capacity to “unmatch” someone they have matched with if the interaction—in most cases, if the interaction becomes uncomfortable or inappropriate.

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As a 21 year-old female using Tinder my experience is that any sort of values or morals are virtually non-existent on this app. While I have had some enjoyable conversations and have met a few people at bars, the majority of my interactions on Tinder have been about hooking up/sex. As a girl, it is not at all uncommon to get messages asking for a quick hook up or pick-up lines involving crude and vulgar language. I think these types of experience are a shame for the app because it is a valuable way to meet people, but many users (especially women) become turned off by experiences much like my own. The app also favors appearance over personality because users immediately swipe left or right based on a person’s photo. All in all, Tinder only furthers the hook-up/one night stand culture that has become so prevalent in today’s dating world.

Goldeneye

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Goldeneye is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, allowing the user to play as James Bond: shooting, running. Jumping, shooting, fighting, (and shooting) their way through level after level to uncover a British double agent and stop the nuclear detonation of a Russian built satellite weapon.  Goldeneye is based entirely off the film of the same name.

To me, reviewing Goldeneye is like looking back on Atari Pong: sure it’s outdated, but nonetheless groundbreaking.

Backdrop:

The year is 1997.  5-year-old me clad in Spiderman pajamas, anxiously sitting on the end of our plaid couch, eyes transfixed on the presents underneath the Christmas tree.  I couldn’t decide if I wanted Pokemon Snap or Goldeneye for the N64 that year, flip flopping between the two like a politician’s stance on abortion during campaign season.

To my surprise I received both that year.  However, Goldeneye was the one that has stuck with me for so many years, not just as a nostalgic memory, but as one of the best videogames I’ve ever played.  Here’s why:

Aesthetics & Gameplay:

Goldeneye was a first in so many ways, and many of these firsts are found in the Aesthetics.

Remember, its 1997.  The most recent first person shooter, Quake (1996) bolstered graphics that looked like this:

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Then a year later, a game comes along looking like this:

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(YOU JUMP OFF THE DAM JUST LIKE THE MOVIE!)

It’s hard to imagine it now that we live in an age where virtual reality can be purchsed at a WalMart, but for its time, the landscape was totally immersive: the player could create bullet holes in the wall, the gunshots sounded real – and varied depending on the weapon – guards would pause and survey their watch towers instead of mindlessly walking back and forth.  And you even got to use the bond laser watch.

***Gameplay***

Goldeneye gave birth to the headshot: it was the first shooter game designed with location based damage, wherein enemies would react based on where they were shot (shoot an enemy in the foot, and instead of falling over they’d hop around for a couple seconds before firing back).

Each level had a distinct “feel” and personality, and this was due not just to the visual aesthetics but the soundtrack that wove the game together.  Just like every other aspect of this game, the soundtrack showed time and dedication to get just right.  Levels set in post-cold war Russia were narrated by soviet trumpets, darker levels that involved sneaking around more than shooting were played out over tense (and when you played the level for days at a time to complete, irritating) electronic backbeats.

Perhaps the game’s biggest success wasn’t in the story mode at all, but what it did for the Multiplayer experience.  The game’s multiplayer was more intense than it had any right being; friendships created and destroyed over this game, countless nights of my youth spent hunting each down other down in complex levels, usually ending in controllers being thrown and accusations of “cheating” (looking at the other person’s screen to see where they were) abound.

Uniqueness and Impact:

Goldeneye did something a film and a TV show couldn’t – it allowed you to be James Bond, and as a pre-pubescent boy, there was nothing cooler than being James Bond.

Overnight the game became the new standard all FPS’ would aspire to be.  Out of all it’s firsts, the most impressive is that Goldeneye created a new medium altogether: the first immersive FPS.

NBA 2k17

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NBA 2k17 is a basketball video game that is available on all consoles.  It gives you the opportunity to do all things basketball like play your friends head-to-head with your favorite teams, start a career as either a GM or player and really get the full experience as a fan.  These games get better every year and I as well as others can say that it has brought us much joy over the years.

Ever since Microsoft and Sony created the next generation consoles, gaming hasn’t been the same.  The realism of video games nowadays is next level.  NBA 2K17 is no exception.  The graphics rival even real life photos.  Technology is growing all the time and it really shows in video game graphics.  The true game-breaker of 2K is that they use real announcer voices from all of the NBA broadcast stations like Shaq, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson and others.  This feature truly makes you feel like you are controlling a real-life game.

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The user experience in NBA 2k17 is unlike any other video game that is out there.  It is honestly half video game / half movie.  In the most popular game-mode, MyCareer, it puts you in a story mode with complete freedom in terms of how you want to play.  You build your player however you want to.  You are an upcoming prospect that is highly recruited. You start out with a choice of 8 universities to pick from, and your goal is to make it to the NCAA Final Four.  The better you play in college, the higher you get drafted.  Once you are on an NBA team, you have choices to make in everything from shoe deals, sponsors, TV commercials and more.  It really immerses you into the game and makes it very fun to play.

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The social themes at work are very relatable to a lot of people.  “Pres”, the protagonist of the story mode grew up without a father and has had to work hard to get where he is.  This definitely resonates with a lot of kids who pick up this game and makes it that much more desirable to play.  There isn’t too much involved with that part of the story, but it plays a minor role in who “Pres” is.  You have the option to be as negative or positive as you want.  People will either love you or hate you and it all depends on your press conference answers and sponsorship deals.

As I have said above, NBA 2K is unlike any other game out there.  No other games have ever used a story-mode feature like this (matter of fact, every EA game coming out later this year has a story-mode).  With a story line like Pres’s, it really forces you to lose yourself in the world of NBA.  People want depth in everything.  Whether that be a movie or a video game.  When you accomplish something in a game, it is nice to have a cutscene that is something out of a movie.  It allows people to have a perspective of the glamour of being a professional athete.  NBA 2K17 gives you that and more.

Skyrim (2011)

Skyrim is an open world video game that was released in 2011. The game is available to be played on several platforms including the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Xbox One, and PS4. It is the fifth part of a medieval and adventure series called The Elder Scrolls, which follows different storylines set in a fictional world Tamerial full of elves, wizards, knights, vampires, werewolves, and even trolls. In Skyrim, the plot revolves around the user’s main character called the “dragon born” who is essentially the chosen one that is the only individual who has the power to kill an evil dragon named Alduin. To begin the game, the player gets to choose and fully customize a character to their liking, choosing their character build, race, hairstyle, and certain abilities. Over the course of the game, the player has hundreds of quests to choose from, and the overall gameplay capacity is up to 300 hours. Each of these quests changes the direction of the world around them and gives the ‘dragon born’ points to develop skills to level up and get stronger. The game is in an open world format which gives the user the ability to travel anywhere on the map and do any quest as they please in any order. This is an amazing feature making it a way better experience as if you have independence and power, making the video game seem more realistic. The game has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and won several awards at the E3 video game conference, including game of the year.

The company who made Skyrim is called Bethesda Studios, who also created the popular Fallout series. To make the game Bethesda used their state of the art creation engine which has essential real time shadows and creates more details to distant objects. For example, a fellow character in the game may not seem as visually impressive as a huge snow-capped mountain range in the background of a scene. This engine also exhibits a more physical based structure, vibrant volumetric lighting, and more developed character generation. Bethesda also put great attention to detail in blending nature and buildings. Skyrim is also known for its great non-character player interactions and intelligence making the world in Skyrim to seem like a real place and makes you feel like you are actually there. The attention to detail is seen in every image of this game.

What makes Skyrim unique is how colossal this fictional world of Tamerial is. The role playing sets it apart, you can create a character of your choosing and create the world of your choosing, and the freedom to live however you want. This liberty that most games do not have. The vast amount of content brings in such a commanding sense of adventure and discovery into play. The fighting scenes and view is from the first person which builds a life like an experience and feels like you are actually attacking your enemies in the real world. The exploration is endless and you can change how you play whenever you want, the ultimate flexibility and choice of direction also sets it apart from any other game I have played.

The soundtrack to the game is also extremely impressive. It is an achingly beautiful score done by Jeremy Soule who is considered the John Williams of video game soundtracks. It is a great orchestra based and classical music infused soundtrack with hints of opera in it. It goes perfectly with the medieval and mythical nature of this video game. The equality in Skyrim is also very great, women are treated as equals in this game and have the same opportunities, and all races are treated alike.

Skyrim is immense and beautiful, with such a layered open world structure that is endless. It is full of creative designed content that you have never seen before in any other video game.  Bethesda created a world in Skyrim that feels like it existed long before you arrived and it will live on long after you stop playing.  It is capped off by a great reward system and amazing story that will keep you playing for hours at a time. All giving many gaming critics the belief that Skyrim is one of the best games ever made.

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Undertale

 

Undertale is an  incredibly successful independently developed role-playing game (RPG) which follows the adventure of a young androgynous human child named Frisk. After falling down a hole atop a mysterious mountain, Frisk finds themself  stuck in a society filled with strange but friendly monsters. In their journey to get home to the surface, Frisk makes friends(or enemies) with a varied cast of different monsters, including the goat-like Toriel, the skeleton brothers Sans and Papyrus, the nerdy lizard Alphys and her robotic creation Mettaton, the brutish fish-woman Undyne, and the goat-like monster king Asgore. Similar to a lot of RPGs, Undertale’s story changes depending on choices made by the player over the course of the game. However, unlike most RPGs, Undertale’s story changes with the slightest of actions. Killing a single enemy can drastically change the final outcome of the game.

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Aesthetically, Undertale pays major homage to RPG games of the early 90s, particularly the humor and fighting style of the popular Super Nintendo title Earthbound. The game is done completely with old-school 8-bit graphics, but has controls similar to more modern titles, with the players using the W,A,S and D keys for movement and the ENTER button for interactions. Undertale even brings some of its humorous aesthetic into the user interface of the game, primarily with the characters of  Sans and Papyrus, the skeleton brothers. Since the game features no voice-over dialogue, all dialogue is told through text. For comedic effect, the creators gave the two skeletons unique text font, with Sans speaking in comic sans and Papyrus speaking in papyrus. While the games artstyle harkens back to simpler gaming graphics, the real aesthetic masterpiece comes from creator Toby Fox’s masterful chip-tune soundtrack. Composed of over 100 unique songs, Undertale’s music only adds to the immersive nature of the world, with every main monster having its own unique fight theme which correlates with his/her personality. For instance, the fight theme for the dramatic drag-bot Mettaton is a bass heavy ballad which combines typical runway music with techno based sounds of an old computer, and is appropriately titled “Death by Glamour.” This coincides with his diva-like personality and TV personality motifs.


Although the indie smash hit boasts an incredible soundtrack and a gorgeous pixelized art style, the true beauty of the play is how the players interactions with the game affect the overall story. Depending on the player’s choices, the game can end in a variety of outcomes centered in three separate storylines. There is the “pacifist” storyline, which is achieved by making friends with every monster by sparing them all, the polar opposite “genocide” storyline, in which the player kills every single monster with no remorse, and the neutral storyline, which includes every possible outcome other than killing or sparing every monster. Although most games with a branching story structure usually change at key moments in the game, Undertale’s entire story can change after simply battling an enemy. In fact, the story of Undertale is primarily controlled through key game mechanics such as battling and saving the game.

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The game’s turn-based combat system, which is similar to games such as the Nintendo 64 RPG Earthbound, is the primary deciding factor for how the story will unfold. During a battle, the player is presented with two main options; kill their opponent, or sparing them. By sparing a monster, the player moves closer to the pacifist ending of the game, and by killing them, the player leans towards a genocide ending. Most of the battles in the game are against minion-like non-playable characters (NPCs), but killing even one of them during a playthrough will make it impossible for the player to get the pacifist ending. While most battles don’t have much affect, the choices made during boss battles will have a greater effect on the final outcome. At the end of a neutral playthrough, the player will often receive an epilogue from one of the game’s boss characters. This dialogue will often change depending on which of the bosses are still alive by the end of the game. For many players, the best option for the game is the pacifist route. This is the longest story out of the possible outcomes, and it provides happy endings for every character. These factors, along with the game being advertised as “The RPG where nobody has to die,” lead many fans to believe that the pacifist run is the true way to play the game.

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        Further support can be found for this when completing the genocide run. Unlike the pacifist run, where the overall difficulty of the game is balanced among both normal battles and boss battles, the genocide runs difficulty is very unbalanced. Most of the genocide run is spent meticulously searching areas of the game for enemies to ensure that every single monster is dead, leading  to less interaction between the player and the quirky  non-playable characters, which leads to the overall game becoming pretty dull. Even a majority of the bosses die with one hit, with the exception being the final boss fight against Sans. Unlike almost every other fight in the genocide playthrough, Sans’ bossfight is incredibly long and frustratingly difficult. There’s even a point during the fight where he pretends to surrender, only to instantly kill the player and troll them for it. It is without a doubt the hardest boss in the game, and its part of the reason why many players avoid the genocide route altogether.

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Although choices during battle have great impact during the game, there are other functions that affect the story. In Undertale, the player is able to “reset” the game if they accidentally kill a character or miss an enemy. While in most games resetting would completely restore the game to its original condition, the characters of Undertale, in particular a soulless flower called Flowey, remember the player resetting the game, in some instances mocking them for their choice. In order to showcase this mechanic, the developers made it impossible for the player to obtain a full pacifist or genocide ending in their first attempt at the game. At the end of their first playthrough, the character will be told by Flowey that they either didn’t become friendly enough with a character or they forgot to kill somebody, meaning that the player will have to go through the whole game again to obtain his/her desired ending. However, resetting and fighting arent the only game functions which impact the story. The simple act of saving the players game file has impact on the story. At each checkpoint in the game, the player is given text telling him that he has been filled with “determination,” fully restoring his health and saving his location so he can pick up later. Later on in the game, its explained that “determination” is the energy that allows for the player to save, or in the games universe the ability to alter the course of events at will. There are also moments in which the game will force a crash to add dramatic effect, particularly when fighting against the neutral ending boss, a photoshop monstrosity called Omega Flowey. These are only a few instances of how the players’ every choice can change the game’s final outcome.

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Apart from being a welcomed departure to the norms of the RPG genre, Undertale is also a departure from cultural norms, with some of the game’s characters being LGBT. Most notably, the player’s character, Frisk, is canon gender-neutral. While most RPGs give the player a choice of choosing a generic boy or girl to go on his adventure with, Undertale opted to go with a gender neutral character to stray from being another stereotypical RPG title, as well as to provide LGBT representation. Another instance of this representation can be found with the characters of Alphys and Undyne. During a side quest in the game, the player has to assist Alphys, a shy, nerdy, lizard-like scientist, in winning over the strong and menacing fish-woman Undyne. Their relationship, while a minor addition to the story, has major repercussions with Alphys’s personal story arc and with the game’s fanbase, which applauded the inclusion of a canon lesbian couple. Finally, there’s the dramatic robot Mettaton. In the middle portion of the game, there’s a section in which the player has to go up against Mettaton in a series of TV show-type challenges, including live news reports, cooking shows, a trivia challenge, and even a romantic drama, all of which are coverups for Mettaton’s true plan to try and kill the human. However, in the boss battle against Mettaton, the player accidentally flips a switch on Mettaton’s back, causing a transformation from a boxy light up robot into a tall, slender, robotic drag queen known as Mettaton EX. While it might seem to be a great visual gag with the character, it becomes fantastic representation considering there aren’t many representations of drag queens in media outside of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Thanks to its retro art style, gorgeous soundtrack, representation, and gameplay mechanics which define the overall story of the game, Undertale has quickly become one of the most praised video games ever made. Some have gone far enough to compare its greatness to Nintendo’s classic adventure The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game widely believed to be the best game ever made. While some don’t agree with this statement about the indie smash, it is easy to see why people make this comparison. At face value, the two are very different games, with one being a 2D turn-based RPG and the other being an open world 3D adventure. However, both games were revolutionary for their time, with Zelda being praised for its score and its open world style of gameplay with loose linearity. While Undertale is still a very linear game that follows a sequential series of events, it’s true revolution connects to the very ideal that defines videogames; the ability of choice. With a lot of modern games having deep story, gaming has begun to feel more and more like an interactive movie. The way the player interacts with the game dictates his experience with the game. For example, no two people will have the exact same experience with a game like Super Mario Bros. One will probably be casual with it while the other will think about every move and jump. Undertale takes this idea of choice and amplifies it tenfold. The game is driven by decision, with every interaction not only dictating their experience with the game, but how the rest of the game will progress. The game either ends with all of the monsters being saved, or all of them being killed. Frisk will either be seen as a friend to monsters, or a monster themself. Undertale is the textbook definition of what it means to truly experience a videogame.

Final Fantasy X (Critical Review 3)

Final Fantasy X is an action-adventure role playing game developed by Square Enix in 2001. The plot of the game follows Tidus, a superstar athlete of the fictional underwater sport Blitzball in his hometown of Zanarkand, a luxurious city full of high-rises, bright lights and advanced technologies. During a Blitzball game, the city is attacked by a massive creature that the townspeople regard as “Sin.”

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After the entire city is destroyed, Tidus is somehow transported to the land of Spira, 1000 years in the future. Through the immense journey, Tidus befriends Yuna, an up-and-coming Summoner devoted to bringing peace to the land, along with her five guardians. As Tidus decides to join her and the rest of her companions on her pilgrimage, he discovers that Sin is the spiritual embodiment of consequence for society’s violent reliance on machines and mankind’s materialistic values overpowering faith. Yuna implies that the only way to defeat Sin is by summoning the seven Aeons, mystical and powerful creatures that she can only obtain by journeying to prestigious temples and passing their tests as a Summoner. As the gang continues their voyage and faces countless challenges throughout the game, we learn more about Tidus, how he truly arrived in Spira and what his role in this world is in what turns out to be a very twisted and compelling story.

The Final Fantasy franchise, now fifteen games deep, has always been known for its vast word-building, graphics, combat mechanics and complex story. For its time, Final Fantasy X was critically acclaimed for how intricately crafted and innovative this game was. The game employs a turn-based combat system where up to three allies and enemies can be on the battlefield at once while each person attacks one-by-one. It is well-known for allowing the player the opportunity to switch out each character mid-battle, something that a lot of RPG’s had not yet brought into play. It is the first game to allow the player to utilize up to seven different playable characters and personally design the skill-tree for each. You would do this using the Sphere Grid, a humungous chart that branches out into hundreds of different directions. By collecting different unique “spheres” while playing the game, you can upgrade each character’s specific abilities in any direction. This leads to different gear customizations for weapons and armor that provides us with the true RPG-style format that Final Fantasy games specialize in.

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As a Playstation 2 game from 2001, Final Fantasy X had some of the greatest graphics I had ever seen from a game running on that console. It was the smooth, detailed look of each cutscene that began to enthrall me with video games as a young child.

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Although it was such a simple characteristic of the game’s animation, even seeing your characters hair bounce as they moved was something so interesting that I had never witnessed before in a game. Additionally, the land of Spira was crafted like no other Final Fantasy game had been before, attempting to better reflect Asian culture and landscape into the environment rather than the European medieval aesthetic they artistically expressed in past games. The developers had even commented that Thailand was specifically an inspiration for some of the locations in the game. For example, in the game, the island of Besaid resembles a very tropical, southern-pacific atmosphere while Kilika is a very stereotypical image of a village in Thailand, built around a forest and on a body of water.

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This is just a sample of the culture that is beautifully reflected within Final Fantasy X and is only one of the many artistic qualities that draws people to this game.

The game does not use many real-life social issues as  plot mechanisms, but does have its fair share. In the game, the Al Bhed are a group of people that belong to Bikanel Island, home to Spira’s only desert region. The Al Bhed are very foreign to the general population because of the unique language that they speak and how far their homeland is from the other indigenous populations of Spira. They are hated by mostly everyone because they are masterful technologists known for inventing the machines and weapons responsible for Sin and do not believe in the teachings of Yevon, the primary religion of Spira. They are very much inspired by the Middle East and a lot of the characters act as if the Al Bhed are the most threatening race to the world’s safety. In the beginning of the game, when Tidus is first lost after Zanarkand was destroyed, he is rescued by an Al Bhed group led by a girl named Rikku, who later becomes one of the other playable characters. As soon as Rikku joins Yuna’s pilgrimage as a guardian, she holds back from telling everyone that she is Al Bhed because of the reaction she knows she will receive from the rest of the party. When Wakka, one of Yuna’s guardians, figures out Rikku’s heritage, he threatens to kick her out until Tidus stands up for her for saving his life and Yuna reveals that she is actually part Al Bhed. This is a very big issue that is not only squashed with Rikku’s closure.

The final thing that makes Final Fantasy X amazing is the musical compositions. Nobuo Uematsu and Junya Nakano are very famous composers, mostly known for the Final Fantasy games and other Japanese anime. What is so fantastic about the Final Fantasy X score is the composer’s ability to create simple, catchy themes for each character and location that are later reused in more complex pieces of music. That is what creates the insane level of nostalgia for any person who replays the game. For me, this occurs with Tidus’s main theme.

On top of that, being a game revolving around religion, there are very unique songs that fill that spiritual aesthetic. One of the most emotionally touching pieces of music from the game is “Warping to a Different Dimension,” a song that plays when Yuna performs a “sending” of the dead to the Farplane, a place where the dead are at peace, after Sin destroys an entire village.

It is all of these qualities that make Final Fantasy X a remarkable game and a truly memorable experience.

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Fallout: New Vegas

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Fallout: New Vegas

In Fallout New Vegas, a video game for the Xbox 360, you are thrown into a post nuclear setting as a courier that has just survived being shot in the head. The year is 2126, and the United States is a radioactive deathtrap caused by a war with China over resources. With no central government, two main factions are competing for dominance; Caesar’s Legion, a fascist regime drawing inspiration from the cruel side of the Roman Empire, and The New California Republic, a United States inspired people’s Republic. It is up to the player to decide which side to fight for. The game is a first person choose your own adventure in which you must complete quests, barter, gamble, and fight your way to earn money and fame. The game eventually leads to a battle for Hoover Dam, a major power source for a resource barren region. Whichever faction wins the dam is able to provide 1st world amenities for it’s constituents. In addition, you are able to pick and choose which subfactions you wish to aid. There are issues at hand like whether to discriminate against ghouls, which are people with burns and skin disfigurement as a result of exposure to radioactivity, or to fight for the purists who want to kill them all. It is ethical situtations like this that distinguish Fallout New Vegas as a more deep and moral experience than other video games.

The Aesthetics of Fallout New Vegas are purposely bland and dead looking to convey the message that the land has been destroyed. Rusted cars, cracked pavement, and dusty red cliffs dominate the landscape and provide an eerie and hopeless feel. Additionally, threadbare drifters and wrinkle-faced drug addicts contrast well with the finely outfitted head honchos of the New Vegas Casinos. A drawback of this technique is only the lack stimulation the player receives, as the blandness is a stark contrast from other video games of its time.

The player is in full control of almost every aspect of the game. You can design your character to be a skilled wordsmith with charisma boosting clothes or an elusive sniper with the world’s most expensive rifles to boast. When in dialogue, the player is presented with 4-5 different responses to each statement made by characters. You are also exposed to very realistic gore and violence to completely integrate the player in the fantasy world.

 

The values of the game are wide ranging and up to the player to decide. If the player decides to be a soldier of Caesar’s Legion, they are accepting and condoning slavery, genocide and classism. If they fight for the NCR, they are choosing to ignore the mistakes of the Americans and reinstate bureaucratic failures. There is also racism towards physically deformed ghouls and mutants despite their unchanged mental cognition. The player can also choose to free sex slaves or utilize them, which is a big point of controversy.

This game was critically acclaimed and won game of the year for it’s ability to give players unprecedented moral and physical control of their experience. The aesthetics used left no room for questioning the destructive nature of nuclear war and served as a warning to Americans. The ability to customize your moral compass was revolutionary. The game started a trend in the industry and has lead to a successful sequel and two acclaimed spin off games.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoHACl_1OHg