I was in an argument over lunch with a pair of people who liked Dota 2 and Demon's Souls about the idea of a 'spoiler' and whether that term means anything. The conversation started when I said 'spoilers are bullshit' and ended when everybody agreed that information that constituted a 'spoiler' was subjective, and highly malleable. In the middle there was a lot of strident defense mostly surround the idea that, in order to really enjoy something, you ought not see it coming, but that it also should not be random. But, equally importantly, you ought to be *able* to see it coming, if you are clever enough. Only not being clever enough to see it coming is also very important when feeling like not being clever enough to see something coming is part of the experience which ought not be spoilt. However, predictability is also extremely important after the fact, because it proves that your surprise was all valid. Unless you enjoy things you see coming that are random?
The point is, Spoiler culture is insanity. No great work of art was ever diminished by subsequent ingestion, and no frustrating experience was ever crucially reliant upon ignorance to achieve its effects.
When discussing the idea of literal interpretation versus intention you run up against the limitation of language. Language has evolved out of a temporary cryptographic mechanism for cellular communication; the organism which emits the noise, or transcribes the thought is engaging the sympathetic nervous system of future viewers or listeners of the language to spontaneously generate chemical and electrical signalling for some finite purpose. In the mythology of the Warhammer 40k universe, the purpose would usually be glorious slaughter. Now, I don't know for a fact, every time, that in a Warhammer 40k context, glorious slaughter is going to happen--sometimes other things happen. There are glorious barbeques and glorious hot tubbing sessions. There's glorious fishing expeditions, and glorious subsistence farming. It's just that, in general, if I were going to describe the world and its background to someone, the term 'randomly violent' seems to tell you all there is to know. Is it spoiled? What if I said that it was randomly violent with a streak of religious oppression? What if I told you that the recurring message was that everybody's lives ended poorly. Is it spoiled yet? What if I said the main character of the game goes to space prison for colluding with the enemy after defeating the enemy; evidence cited that he was able to defeat the enemy, who was believed to be undefeatable.
Does not knowing how 99% of all Warhammer 40k situations turn out make experiencing one better or worse?
For an organism to register a response to complex language requires years of training, first in recognizing basic symbols and noises, and later in corollary contextual data (uploaded via sesame street, dora the explor-aH, spongebob, or muppets(muppetsmuppetsmuppets)) to provide the necessary foundation for a reasonably similar virtual linguistic environment: a world of imagination in which hormonal regulation and electrical impulses conspire to imitate the spontaneous reaction produced by the environment in the original case which prompted the communication. In this way mRNA signalling is decrypted and results in some given meaningful communication.
However, it is fair to say that, philosophically speaking, intention is a zero sum concept--if you have some intention and no one understands it, then nobody cares. If, on the other hand, you have no intention, and it produces some excellent result, then you have learned nothing (or, in a darwinian context, you have not been selected). As an individual intention is meaningless and only results matter, but, given that imperfect perception is the ultimate limitation on determining the true meaning of those results, only effects which directly impact the physical persistence of some organism (or more technically, some organism's behavior) genuinely impact the nature of the meaning of the original effect. The context for meaning is left behind in the community of the organism. If an organism does not perceive a useful effect then there is no purpose to the behavior. If a society does not perceive a useful effect then there is no meaning. Filtering experiences through Intermediaries of vibration or abstract symbols and light are organic tools to exploit an experimental venue of a set of primed organisms.
In the fiction of Warhammer 40k, technology is treated like religion. Gears are not oiled, rather unguents are applied to geared mechanisms to ensure their spirits are pleased. It's not clear if a ignorant mass of common people is no longer capable of appreciating amazing technology, and therefore the caretakers cloak their behavior in mystery to ensure their cooperation, or if the caretakers themselves no longer understand the machines to which they tend, or if it is some 3rd explanation, like elaborate Erotic Live Action Roleplaying, only with cyborgs.
But, clearly, when your city-sized radio uplink spire becomes a conduit for a demon invasion, the belief transcription factor for preservation of spires becomes a severe detriment to the continued operation of both the organisms carrying those signalling pathways, and even the larger intended goals of the original signalling authors, themselves. Indeed, we can draw a further comparison with the techpriests assisting inquisitorial investigations of warp derived power sources, as a kind of metabolic disruption, much like consuming white sugar; a demonic device which deceives the digestive processes of those loyal to humanity, ultimately causing the downstream regulation of an industrial world to be disrupted by the incursions of demons and heretical soldiers, each both immortal, unborn, and long dead--in the eyes of the emperor.
We then have to consider the ultimate meaning of these considerations. If we look at the codex for space marine conduct as mRNA signalling, whose purpose is the direct and immediate behavior of the organism; to be decrypted, treated as real, and ultimately acted upon, even to the detriment of the organism, perhaps for some higher purpose, but at any rate, because it is the functional groundwork for existence as a multicellular lifeform; without communication and behavior, there are only individual cells living without regulation, for themselves, vulnerable to disease, famine, their neighbors, and the omnipresent taint of chaos, [i]then[/i] we must adhere to it dogmatically, because to not do so would be the dissolution of mankind.
On the other hand, if we assume that the codex is chromosomal, a helix of enzymatic substances and binding proteins to be utilized in part, in whole, and to varying degrees of regulation as meets the requirements of the environment--by creating a fall back of behavior intention to the ultimate intention of all multicellular life, as measured by the only meaningful statistic (existence), then we have a foundation for behavior which readily admits the possibility that some young pussies who don't want to rock out on a jetpack, but would rather go home and cry like giant blue babies, should shut up. If they're so fond of doing what they're told, they should probably stop talking back to their superiors, especially when said superior is busy fucking up space ships, saving the day, and resisting corruption like it's just another Afleck on the stage.
The Arcade Beat Em Up is the best genre. Nothing else comes close. All games, at their hardcore roots are either pong, darts, or pick-the-darts-up-off-the-barroom-floor, but we rely on genre to define some set of oOh and aH. We follow the oOh and aH to a-Ha or hOhuM. You'll never get better than walking down a city street and hitting the shit out of some guys, though. It has the feeling of destiny from Mario with the violent focus of Gradius. The BEU is about language, and how all linguistic development is essentially the question of whether I'm punching you or not.
Oh hey! just did.
Ever given someone a compliment? That is a punch to the face. That poor asshole is left reeling afterwards, cowed by your kindness. If some prick is just bothering the hell out of you, for instance, by walking the other direction on the street, or talking about something you don't like--maybe he's saying he owns a playstation and an Xbox, which you know to be a moral impossibility, you can violently fuck him up with something like 'hey, I really enjoy seeing you. Sorry, I know that's a non sequitur--just wanted to say that.' That douche will be disturbed right the hell out of his pattern. Flung backwards in agony by your precision strike. Ever been complemented by someone when you're trying to get some shit done? It's the civilized man's hammer to the groin. The BEU protagonist is a non sequitUr. us. Rex. King of the guys you don't want to be on the street with, hardly ever. Unless it's 2-up.
Even then! The BEU is probably the first place where friendly fire meant anything.
If I had to pick my genre, it's probably BEU and the various action arcade adventure children that it spawned. Golden Axe is my favorite thing to do. Almost everybody of a certain age remembers a BEU with fondness. During the 90s, when people thought of video games in the abstract as this exciting amazing futuristic way to have fun, they pictured a beat em up, the way that someone who's ever eaten a pluot pictures a pluot when they read about Ambrosia in Bulfinch's Mythology. BEU were so it, that when Simpsons decided to cash in on a gaming tie-in, The Simpsons Arcade Game was all about walking down the street and hitting people with a skateboard. Of the nearly infinite number of possible scenarios which could fit the franchise, that, somehow, doesn't seem like it's on the list, but, nevertheless, such is the power of the genre, it worked. Every machine I ever saw had at least two utterly worn out joysticks--dangling like spent members between the legs of media capitalism; children jerking off Fox interactive so vigorously, that the springs wore out.
For the connoisseur there's hundreds of incredible BEUs that came and went nobody ever heard of, such was the fast and thick rate of turnover in even the dingiest mall arcades. Captain America and the Avengers or The Punisher were some of the best value you could get for your money, even when you had to pay by the quarter. If you had a chance to be in Japan while your skull was still soft, they had things like the "Devour The Mortal Realm" (Tenchi wo Kurau) series, or Captain Commando and Armored Warrior. But most of the arcade generation can remember at least a couple of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Knights of the Round, Alien vs Predator, or The King of Dragons.
It was easily the most tedious premise, the simplest control scheme, and yet, it never got anything except, more wonderful as you played. We live in a time when Devil May Cry/Bayonetta, and NInja Gaiden are pushing harder and harder to make a Guilty Gear style fighting game complexity live inside a sprawling player-fellating power fantasy of taking on an army, including the sweepingly impossible to understand what the fuck is going on at all, ever, Dynasty Warriors/N3/Hulk genre, which has gotten so inanely top heavy that it's resulted in a mixture with tower defense in games such as Trenched.
When they made a new Golden Axe a few years ago (which I liked alright (**1/2 - ABDN)), they couldn't resist pushing it toward that God of War at the end of the bar saying "Go ahead, say something about his tatoos--just introduce yourself!". God of war isn't particularly bad, either. It's just an extremely overly complicated, slippery, frustrating, arbitrary manipulation of a BEU where you are supposed to only notice that they did a good job of making you feel like you're literally climbing Mount Olympus, and not think too hard about how dumb that is.
I like punching every dude I see, and picking up every single thing on the floor, and getting points for it. I like walking 'down' screen to avoid a thrown knife, and I like jumping in place to kick guys on to fire. I'm not going to mention God Hand (**** - ABDN (and **** - ABDN)), but if any of this is resonating with you, then there's stuff in there you might like, and it's where the genre keeps trying to go, but gets sidetracked.
Buying story-heavy 3d adventure games with beat em up-like mechanics is the sub hobby that pervades my game choices. I probably get more shooters than I need, and don't play them all (heard Gears of War 3 is really good--can't wait to try the copy I bought out some day when somebody else is around and wants to do the same thing with me. It's certainly the case that I, like many people, cannot stop buying RPGs and MMORPIEs to piss my time away on in the vane and perverse hope that somehow, if I devote some threshold of hours to them, they will magically transform into exciting and rewarding experiences (which never happens, despite years of trying, sometimes playing several simultaneously (which feels like the anti-co-op experience (-2-up))).
That's why I got Assassin's Creed. If you ignore the weird Matrix-style bullshit surrounding the central premise, what you get is a lovingly recreated ancient world in which to beat up every single person on the street as you go from one place to another. There's this ambient crowd-thing of barely defined people-like obstacles, and you can hide in it or attack it to keep yourself amused. It's like a BEU about being a micro organism on the surface of some really fascinating artifacts--sort of Spore without the bland, shallow, utter worthlessness.
Assassin's Creed is about being a crazy murderer asshole in a time when everybody that matters is a crazy murderer asshole. It's about how religion, despite being pervasive, seems to have little to no impact on action movie scripts or the behavior of fish in a pond. As a game, it feels like pachinko, only instead of a metal ball, your tool is a man with a knife, and instead of spokes, wheels, and spring flippers, you have buildings made a little bit like a jungle gym. As an experience, it's like being Harry Houdini after he's debunked all the psychic mediums, and decides to take on the rotten core of organized crime.
I'm old enough that I was forced to read some books when I went to school. I do not think modern children have to do this. They are given a series of disconnected reference snippets from wikipedia, other pedias, and novelizations of movie adaptations. Also, when I was little, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs was still off a ways in the future, somewhere. At first, when it came to video games, it was Atari, and a good book doesn't have to try to hard to out-do an Atari game. Even crappy old black and white B movies are going to rip Pitfall a new asshole without breaking sweat. As a result, I have fond memories of someone called Errol Flynn, a guy who made movies where he was a pirate, or a robin hood, or a guy from SpaniFrance visiting the great sword-fighting sets of Middle-Europe, and all the places he went, and damsels he told to 'get behind me' before he began excitingly sword fighting a lot of guys in that olde Hollywoode waye.
So when the inevitable sequel to Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed II came out, and it was set in the renaissance, with an Italian protagonist, and the whole thing became this incredibly well handled version of the Godfather meets The Count of Monte Cristo where everybody was a Muskateer, I was pretty happy. I didn't quite get to the end because at some point there is a chase sequence that bored me, and I just stopped playing. As it turns out, this was very close to the end. I subsequently also bought Assassin's Creed 2: Addendum and Assassin's Creed 2: The More of the Samening which gradually moved the original, kind of crazily fun premise slowly towards strange The Sims style mediocrity and those RPG mechanics which make you feel most like you are the child in Poltergeist: trapped inside the television set by angry spirits. It still felt like an Italian noble with a devil may care attitude could climb a cathedral, and what, were you going to tell him, 'no, sir you can't do that'? Try telling an Italian they can't do something, like climb a cathedral and then jump off it and stab someone in the head. Let us never forget that Italians are locked in a heated battle with Spain over who is better at relaxing. And right now, the Italians are winning because they make Lamborginis. Every one of those cars does not give a fuck what you think. They aren't going to listen to you when you tell them what to do. Seeing an Italian Swashbuckling renaissance ninja is just the Lamborgini of video game characters (in the proud tradition of Mario and Luigi, the Ducati and Aprilia of video game characters).
Now there is Assassin's Creed 3, and rather than taking something weird and making it less weird with rich texture and historical touchstones, it is more weird. When the first assassin climbed a building in Jerusalem, people exclaimed 'my goodness, what's that about'. However in those ancient wild and wooly times, I can picture all kinds of strange things happening. Who knows what it was like. Everyone was either a serf, slave, or a knight--all careers that make your life a fitness club membership. Maybe guys climbed buildings sometimes. It wasn't even really about the climbing anyway. This is about going back to a period in time so remote it almost feels like magic, and then saying 'what if we put Batman in a society that had no secular law and made him a religious zealot?'. That's got an interesting feel to it. In an era with no technology, no forensics, a Batman like figure is a self-reliant master of the body. A man with an intellect too large for the tools available. That hangs together well.
If you take Batman forward into the renaissance, well, by all rights, you should have an easier time making people feel at home, but a more difficult time justifying the weirdness. Retooling the mindless zealot to get a character with friends and something to say, rather than a growly fill-in-the-blank speech for every occasion, was a great choice. This isn't about 'you' anymore. This is the story of some guy, and he was there first. Even if I thought the ham-handed personal relationship with Leonardo Da Vinci, and somewhat weirdly idealized firearms and glider appearances were a bridge too far, there was still this powerful feeling of texture and authenticity dripping from everything.
Let's remember, at the end of the day, this is a game about waiting for the enemy to try to stab you, and then pressing the button that makes you grab them by the nostrils, and, using a sudden upward jerking motion, completely filet them and leave their skin on a clothesline overhanging the street. It is a BEU where someone summarized the process of punching guys as 'someone will try to hurt you, you avoid this, and then kill them in one of a dozen ways'. That's not really what it was supposed to be about, and the reason I put up with it is because I think they did some stuff with history and texture that made it feel like getting back in touch with a mythologized past. The attention to detail and care taken in the basic simulation of a bustling society was really impressive. The last 100 years of human existence has been a whirlwind. Life at this exact moment is as strange and foreign to our underlying biology as it has ever been. When an experience like this comes along, it soothes me. Instead of thinking 'dear god, so much stagnation, and then this explosion of unprecedented change', I see, instead that there have been metropolises and intrigue, and people being clever, and peasants being anonymous for a long long time. Life went on, and brilliant things were made and lost and made anew.
The point is, Assassin's Creed 1 and 2 delivered this exciting package that made the fact that the game was about 3/4s climbing tall buildings, and ¼ waiting for someone to try to stab me so I could press X to tear them into bloody chunks, and not really a good BEU in any way (maybe somewhere in the fractions there's a place for 'pretty good horse riding mini game') less of a big deal than it would be if I were really looking for my next NARC (it helps that I wasn't expecting much).
The two interestitial AC2+ installments didn't really affect me much. I think it's interesting that they tried a version of tag in one of their complicated crowd-ocean cityscapes. I got started on the one where, rather than refurbishing just your old family home, you have decided to revitalize the entire former Roman Empire with money earned as a courier or by looting people's household savings. I rebuilt an aqueduct, which was great, I guess.
If this had been a BEU, I would have punched the rubble of the aqueduct until it coalesced into a new aqueduct. It might also have transfigured the substance of the aqueduct into gold.
BEUs are pretty great.
But that's not what happened. Instead, what we're dealing with is the perversity of Triple A production married to talent that has been driven utterly mad. What I'm about to say applies equally to Medal of Honor/Call of Duty, Halo, Madden, and Everything A Japanese Company Has Been Responsible For Since 2001.
You can't keep locking incredibly creative people in a building together and making the same shit year after year. They will go crazy and start sabotaging the work.
Assassin's Creed III starts off with a Georgian Era update to Assassin's Creed 2. After 3 full length Triple A Assassin's Creed IIs, I can honestly say that I hate history. I don't care that there were people before me anymore, and I want every museum plowed under with a bulldozer. They include a number of intimately recreated wonderfully realized board games that have been largely forgotten in the wake of Scrabble, Chess, and Checkers, and I happily spent a couple hours playing them instead of wandering around in my fancy hat and cloak, perching on banisters, and tackling guards who, for some reason are standing on nearly every roof. The crucial difference, here, is that, whereas the guard-stocked rooves of Vienna were castle parapets, in 1700s Boston, they are just rooves of houses, making the dozens of british soldiers standing on them, fucking crazy, and also irritating, since they now have loaded guns at all times, rather than just having halberds and the occasional bow.
The guns, at last, make a little sense, and, to my relief, rather than pretend that, somehow, leonadro da vinci could invent a perfectly reliable semi-automatic derringer pistol, the protagonist must go through a long reloading process. This reloading process is, generously, about 1/3rd the time required to actually reload a pistol or rifle of the period, and a missed opportunity for the Gears of War reloading timing minigame to make an appearance, but at least they didn't go crazy and either exclude guns, make them one-shot only, or some other bizarre inconsistency. As a result, they have the very authentic feeling circumstance of pissing off a red coat by accident, and then having his 10 men turn to you in a line and shoot you all at once. This is hampered somewhat by the less authentic fact that your heavy pea coat somehow absorbs much of the bullet so that you can take 10 in the chest and still be at about 80% health. Then you stab dudes.
This is quibbling, ok? I get that this is quibbling, but it just gets weirder. There are chickens, pigs, dogs, and cats all over the place. I guess that's nice. You can pet or feed them. If it's a dog, you have to pet it, if it's a pig or chicken you have to feed it. You always have corn in your pocket for chickens and pigs but never any jerky for dogs or fish for cats. I don't know why this bothers me (I guess stereotyping animals is probably the least of our problems) but it does. But it probably only bothers me because I am repeatedly told by the interface, that "Your Ancestor did not kill innocents or Domestic Animals".
What? My ancestor, such as he is, murders british soldiers (who are, admittedly, operating on some kind of 'shoot first, harrumph later' principle) left and right, while being, ostensibly, an English patriot (this is well before the revolution starts). When they say my guy doesn't kill domestic animals, there's guard dogs. Ok? They're dogs and they guard and they are not going to engage in a dialog with me. I have to kill them. Weirdly, doing so earns me no bad karma. Now, I'm am not interested in killing dogs for fun in a game. Why I have to say that, or why it matters is part of the disease with which the internet has infected us all. But, having said it, if I can turn to anybody on the street and jam a knife through their head with no consequences other than the game saying 'tut tut, you are a jerk', why is there any moral injunction against killing a dog or cat? Much much much more importantly, why the fuck can't someone from the pre-supermarket era slaughter a pig or chicken? Those things should be walking health orbs--the consequence of killing them no worse than stealing (note: there are no consequences for stealing other than someone going 'hey! You stole from me' and then having to kill some soldiers, if they happen to be nearby).
There is a Mohawk. Well several Mohawks. Despite weird shit like having a fat friend (a condition which shouldn't have been occurring at this period in time, but I digress), supernatural free-running instincts which allow traversal of trees at speeds faster than staying on the ground, and the awesome, fully animated and realized 'Mohawk Mom' character being playable only as a tease in a loading screen, the authenticity seems to be ratcheted way up when they start speaking in Mohawk to each other for a significant stretch of the game. This tapers off immediately when you are instructed to hunt by hiding in some grass, throwing some shit on the ground, waiting for a deer to come over, and then assassinating it like it's a guard and the woods are some Syrian Castle. Skinning and butchering are in the game as "things you can do to earn money", and I'm 90% sure that they were programmed either by a vegetarian or someone who'd never heard of animals before this game, because when you start the process, your character attacks the carcass like a murderer in a horror movie, and the sound effects of jamming a rusty shovel into a bin full of cabbage and melon plays. You can skip this... whatever it is... thankfully, but jesus christ, what the fuck do these people think hunters actually do?
I'll tell you what they think. They think that, just like a European preparing to murder a Church Soldier in downtown Rome, first, you climb a nearby outcropping--for example a crane or a mysteriously terminating balcony support to nowhere. You then leap off this thing, and jam a secret assassin's knife into the ear of your target before rustling the body for loot and running up the side of cathedral or opera house. The way this plays out is you will see a Mountain Lion sitting on a rock, sunning itself. There is a tree bizarrely bent over in such a way that you can walk about 50 yards past the lion, and then run up the trunk of the tree until you are poised above it. Simply dive off the tree above the lion, tackling it, and shoving a knife through its head.
That's the best way to hunt. There's a bow and arrow, but if you use it, you're wasting effort. Climb a tree, wait for something to move somewhat close beneath you, then leap out of it, and drive a dagger through its spine with the full force of a human being falling 2 and a half stories.
You will, fairly early on, have a beaver pelt, and some deer hearts and whatever else. You can take these to a trader. After playing briefly, I found a white man with a cart, and went up to see what I could trade. He gave me 5400£ for what I had.
I know that kids these days don't really get how things work anymore, but that's an astronomical sum. The Sea Venture only cost 1500 £. It was a 300 ton ship. It's hard to know how shit works, but are you saying that, in 100 years, inflation was such that 5000£ wasn't that valuable anymore? There's quibbling over bullshit and then there's being insane. This qualifies as the latter. Probably for me and the game designers at the same time. The £ was worth 5 dollars in 1914, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was stronger in the 1700s, considering that we were a (not-yet) rebel colony, and Britain was a world spanning empire. So that's 25000 US period dollars, conservatively, and that, with inflation is like 700,000 today. For some beaver and deer parts. In contrast, the price of food for a year would have been around 50 dollars.
It's not just that it's utterly divorced from the economy in question. It's that it's also divorced from the relationship between the Mohawk and the English. Walking up to a guy on a cart and getting a shitload of cash for some animal parts isn't how the world worked, and, while the series has never been on a mission to tell the story right, somehow, the falseness starts to build up.
The white washing gets creepy. At one point, very early on, you hear that a British guy is using his position to collect and sell slaves. In response to this your main-character-of-the-moment (who is some upper class man from England) gives this grim 'shit won't fly' look to nothing in particular, and one of your bonus missions becomes freeing the slaves. This is fucking weird. Why does he care? He's english. The english and germans have had a mutual respect for hundreds of years because they share in common several traits, including a reverence for formality, structure, punctuality, and utilizing human beings like disposable resources without a second thought (and, to be clear, the United States is a melting pot, but the pot, itself, is made out of Germans and English so this attitude applies in the setting). But whatever, I get it, maybe someone didn't like the practices of the day. This guy is an outsider: an idealist.
Then you find the slaves and with one exception they are white.
Ok? The one exception, by the way is the Mohawk mom-to-be who gets to be Mr. English's Pocahontas. I don't get this. The triangle trade was what it was. At the very least there should be some more texture. It's not like they're asserting that slavery was a more southern practice, and that Boston didn't have enough to mention--they're asserting that, as far as the eye can see, the only Black man is the bizarre self-made man Ex assassin, who is 'Sanford' to your half-Mohawk's 'son'. He has a plantation manor house to himself.
What the fuck image of early America is this?
They include painstakingly, wonderfully, detailed naval ships of war in gorgeous sea-battle sequences with technical realism about the types of weaponry used, and the basic nature of large wooden ships (like how you have to actually climb the rigging while it's wet, windy, and leaning back and forth as the ship goes over waves in order to get anything done--and every time you fire a cannon at a ship, it makes a huge mess of that rigging). But they speed this combat up to make it feel like every wooden ship battle took place with a giant motor under the ship, requiring precise timing to fire cannons. There are lessons in the stately pace of naval warfare--lessons that don't seem to have lost vigor in other genres of game! In starcraft the wrong decision at minute 5 can take until minute 20 to play out. Starcraft is full of slippery rigging and crudely aimed canons with inconsistent fuse delays.
The deck of Battle.net is covered in swabbies with broken backs who slipped while reaching for a stay.
So here's the metaphor that's missing. In assassin's creed, it's pretty much impossible to fall off things. There's 'whoa(!)'-type animations, but nothing so dramatic as the Metal Gear Solid 2 slip-on-bird-poop. It really needs it.
Assassin's Creed has a relationship with not slipping that should be instructive. In Ancient Bibleville, the first Assassin figure didn't slip because every little interaction was a spectacular feat. Remember Tomb Raider? The first one. No of course not, none of you have any idea what I'm talking about. That game is like 200 years old.
Tomb Raider made jumping between two cubes spaced precisely 1 running-jump length apart a feeling of spectacular accomplishment. Every single time, Ms. Tomb would barely grip the edge by her steel talon-like finger tips. Then she would boost herself up with a noise that was full of effort *or*, she would do a spectacular and exhausting lift and walkover animation. She would then go and do this again. The original Tomb Raider was about carefully considering and executing singular moments of climbing, running, or jumping. There was also a lot of jogging down tunnels and shooting wolves.
Sure, in Jerusalem, it's all dry, and rough stone, and you have great traction at all times. Maybe in Vienna, there wasn't any green slime mold on any wet stone surfaces, so you could have run between the buildings and caught ledges without dying. But in Boston, in the 1700s, there should be rotten shingles, wet ropes and spars, icy paths, and weak tree limbs. Your character should be in a world of dangerous missteps. They're timidly partly the way there--they have the concept of deep snow being hard to walk through, and pervasive in the winter. But sometimes it feels like the only reason for this is to drive you into the trees to see how the developers made it possible to run around above the forest floor like the Predator.
The whole game is missing that idea. In this america, nothing ever went wrong, and nothing about history was confusing or inclined to give anyone perspective. No blacks were slaves at the time you were talking to them. Mohawks saw the impending wipeout shitfest of their doom coming but were way too chill to do anything except brood on it while exercising their superpowers of futile pride clinging to their ways against all odds, etc. No Mohawk can be cool unless they're half-white, and white english gentlemen were routinely climbing buildings, running on rooftops, and buckling swash like you wouldn't believe.
I'm instructed to liberate a Fort. I enter the fort, kill the guards, and assasinate the captain of the fort. I then am told to destroy the powder magazine. A room full of black powder is an unknown quantity to me, so, after I witness the main character chuck a lantern into it, I run for a wall and jump out of the fort for dear life. The explosion happens behind me, then, as I land, I see the message 'lower the flag'. This promptly disappears as my feet contact the ground outside the fort. I go back inside the fort. There is a new powder magain, captain, and a dozen new british soldiers.
What the fuck?
I then do it over again, and 'lower the flag' as instructed. In it's place I raise the fucking 13 star original american flag. A flag that doesn't exist for a country that doesn't exist. The person doing it a half mohawk, half english assassin who resent colonial manifest destiny.
So whatever, ok. The british are marched out of the fort in a cut scene (there aren't any to march anymore, since I murdered them twice, but since they can spawn in from the dimension of tea and crumpets at a moment's notice, this isn't too jarring in comparison to everything else), and replaced with american revolutionary regulars who, again, don't technically exist at this point in time. The cut scene ends, and I see one of the random thief/enemy messenger characters running around in the fort, so I chase him and kill him. Dozens of american soldiers instantly turn on me and try to kill me.
They're not american soldiers. The british weren't british soldiers, either. These are grand theft auto 3 police people. Their job is to try to kill you when you break a 'rule'. They're idiotic AIs programmed by a pedophile murderer.
Let me back that up. If I leap out of a tree and stab a mountain lion in the head with a stone hatchet, that is 'hunting'. When I kill a domestic animal, that is murder. When I kill a human being, male or female, white or brown, I get the exact same message I get when I kill a domestic animal. I also get the same punishment, which is to say, none whatsoever, though if I kill several in a row, I will be restarted at the nearest checkpoint (with the money I pilfered from their corpses still intact). If I kill soldiers, I gain the boon of robbing their dead bodies, taking their weapons, and, of course, being at liberty to run around doing whatever I want without interference until I run into more. However, if I am near a child, and try to kill it, the game plays dumb. I am unable to harm the child in any way.
This insane sanctimonious morality has only a single coherent message. Killing a virtual meaningless empty shell fascimile of a real person must inherently have a connection to genuine abuse of people and genuine ideas of violence. So it must be prevented. However, innocent men and women are no better than cattle and pet animals, so if you kill a few, it's not really a problem. All forms of authority are equally evil, and dumb, and when a person puts on a uniform they become a mindless drone with no ideals and undeserving of any mercy. So you cannot kill children (they've done nothing wrong!) but you can kill anybody else, any time you like, because mankind is a giant CAFO, and who gives a shit.
If they're going to let you stab people, then fucking let me stab people for the sake of consistency. The uneven application of rules makes the resulting carefully crafted supposedly historically correct setting become not just comical but darkly comical to the point of repugnant.
The game play controls are like this on every level. In Assassin's creed 1, you climbed tall places to see the surrounding city. It was a showcase of the art. In aSSsasin's creed 2, you climbed famous structures to see a fly around of their setting and structure. They were a showcase of the history. In AC3, you climb tall trees (the same genetically reproduced tree in various setttings) in order to see fog and treetops. It is meaningless. In addition, you must contend with a deranged lunatic of your character as he tries to climb the (same, cloned) tree. Since each tree is the same, there is no puzzle to overcome after the first success. However, there are several points in the journey upward where you are challenged, not by a difficult jump or a narrow margin for error, but a hallucination or methamphetamine induced brain fart--your character, rather than expertly grabbing the next branch will leap out into nothingness and die. Of course, if you reach the top of the tree, you will be able to leap flawlessly and safely into a pile of hay that the character has no way of being able to see from the fog-shrouded tree top.
Boston tea party. Defend 2 fragile historical figures while a 'tea destroyed' counter ticks up. For bonus points, throw tea overboard! Stab a brit with a bayonet by jumping off a railing! Throw brits in the water (doesn't count if you kick, elbow, stab, or tackled them into the water)! Be rewarded at the end with a pregnant moment of eye contact between your main character (at least somewhat understandably down with an act of vandalism) and the miscellaneous cadre of antagonists, who have to stay on the sideline in order to allow history to happen.
Why do revolutions fail? Or rather, why are revolutions perpetually stillborn, dying on the vine, a shriveled husk of mollified free thinkers and marginalized agitators? I was a history major, and I've spent about 1/3rd of my active book slots equipping history works, and while I've learned a lot of things to my satisfaction, like how hard it is to tell religious people what to do, or how nobody really knows who lives in England right now (druids?), it's never been clear how the wealthy manage to sit on a pile of free food and labor, even while people starve, without everyone else rising up and devouring them. Is humanity playing Tetris? Do we stack assets under some asshole only to reap a score multipier when they die (note: this is what a capitalist would say, more or less, but is subject to a religious belief that connects piling wealth in a money bin with making exciting cooperative endeavors like tractors or oil tankers).
Play as a behavior has a defining element; the ability to quit.
My wife and I are renting an apartment. Recently, the management, who are just employees of a company located out of state, threatened us with eviction if we did not pay some additional money we supposedly owed them. They called it rent. The number they invented resembled no charge we could find anywhere in our lease or utility bills. My wife went to them and investigated, and after saying we had to pay for some things which our lease explicitly said we did not have to pay for, he offered to change the lease right in front of her to make it say otherwise. After some negotiating, she managed to get one of them to go through their ledger and point out what was owed, line by line. This produced a new, different (slightly smaller) number.
We drafted a letter saying we would not pay the fee, because our lease does not require us to. The management replied by reducing the number and asking again, this time claiming it was just a fee for parking. We drafted another letter, citing each passage of our lease where we are allowed parking, but not charged anything extra for it. They replied by saying we don't owe any money, but we can no longer park.
There is a fundamental issue here of a lack of civility. We have no interdependence. We do not rely upon one another. What's interesting is that there is something standing in for a crude effigy of civility. For instance, I do not go to them and threaten them with force, directly. I do not expect them to shoot me, for example, if I park my car in my space. I do expect them to tow it. Then I would take them to small claims court. The idea behind that would be that a judge would then tell them to reimburse me for the cost of recovering the car plus whatever other inconvenience--if I could establish a meaningful monetary value to it (for example, damage to the car or time not spent working).
If we lived in the old west or the old siberian east, I would have a gun and they would have a gun, and there'd be no towing facility, and we might agree that while we didn't agree to the extra fee for parking, and it isn't in our lease, we can come to some kind of arrangement, where perhaps we help maintain the grounds or invite them to dinner occasionally, since they often get lonely in the office. Maybe we could bake them cookies. The point is, nobody outside the 4 of us would matter in the dispute. We might decide we could become friends. It might also get ugly. Though considering how ugly it could get and how little people like being threatened where they live or work, it would be inconceivable, unless one or more participants were truly psychotic that it might escalate.
Interestingly the culprit for this is not the people at the office and not the potential legal entities that might enforce any element in it. The towing guy isn't even in the picture, either. The culprit is some company out of state, which, arguably, is run by an amorphous protoplasm of people very much like us, who have no personal stake in it, either, but are attempting to get money out of tenants while remaining unimpeachable, legally. They have no relationship with anyone who's a party to the actual problem, and yet, brilliantly, as the driving force, have managed to offload all the actual aggravation, stress, and risk, onto the shoulders of we, the participants.
Warhammer 40k: Space Marine is a game very much about a working relationship between the player and the game world built upon a degree of civility arranged by force. First, within the gameworld, there is the threat of an Ork, and later, Demonic invasion of a human industrial world, in a future impossibly distant. This is a universe in which an empire of humanity so vast that members among it are often not aware of its extent has only a single remaining purpose--to fight a desperate losing battle on dozens of fronts, as various aliens from this and other dimensions put increasing pressure on a failing religion, bureaucracy, and technology base. The soul of humanity is the last remaining asset--the single minded focus on pride and comraderie--personal ties that bind you to other human beings who are under threat.
The game is a shooter and a beateump. When the enemy charges at you, you fire into the. When you charge the enemy, you fire until you collide with their lines, and then hack, stomp, and dismember them until you can move on. The enemies are you best friend. When you tear them apart, they give you health. The fate of the planet and the soldiers who are valiantly attempting to stem the tide are the ultimate achievement of the escort quest. Instead of making a lodestone to carry around your neck, the entire environment is your escort quest. Each step you take is one made to save this world. There is no Call of Duty style abstract supposed win for democracy. No gray areas.. You are not a complicated figure hell bent on revenge. In fact, the only meaningful enemy is your own government, who, ultimately, punishes you, 1984 style, for having the audacity to care about your fellow human beings enough to risk everything to save them and their world. The appropriate behavior in the realm of this fiction is to, upon hearing that there is the potential that the entire planet might be written off, write it off with nuclear fire.
As a beat em up, the game has a simple formula. A single combo that achieves what it needs to. You tumble and hack. Some of your moves involve timing changes, like the simplest of processes from yesteryear. The guns are your true combo mechanic. The stature of enemies measures their relative value.
This is a game which is civil. Not because enemies stand in a circle waiting to kill you. Not because of an easy difficulty curve, where killing enemies at the right moment nets you health. It's civil because there is no external pressure. You do not level up. You are not expected to unlock your moves. When there is a weapon on the ground, you pick it up and you use it for as long as you like. Ammunition is plentiful. For your basic weapons it is unlimited. Melee weapons do not get damaged. When you are equipped with a jump pack, you are not limited in the number of jumps you can make (though when the sequence with the jump pack ends, you are informed that it ran out of fuel). There are no de rigeur pseudo puzzles, like a God of War where you must pull some crank and realign some block for its own sake. When you reach an objective, you are rewarded with spectacle and new variations on things to punch. Your gun punches, and your sword punches. Eventually, you punch everything. The final sequence of the game is a cinematic which you must punch your way through. While in modern parlance it is the Quick Time Event from hell, it is my opinion that you could not end a razor sharp experience in any other way.
In the multiplayer portion of the game, there are levelups and unlocks and classes. A dlc offering gives you the option of playing as a mortally wounded brain in a jar entombed in a giant robot armed with cannons and horrendous pneumatic crushing fingers. No level up is required to play well, and nobody 'earns' the robot. Their job is to be an entertaining monster and to enjoy being an entertaining monster. It's a multiplayer in which all enemy classes feel stronger than you, and all friendly classes feel like your favorite.
Each pellet coming out of the smallest pistol feels like a punch. Getting gunned down feels like a compliment. Hammering someone into oblivion after you land on them with your jetpack makes a satisfying crunch. While Assassin's Creed plucks at your neurons with dozens of metaphors and contexts, it communicates nothing about its strange update to Ninja Gaiden. Each interaction is downy soft as you absorb a ledge with a fancy climbing animation or destroy a soldier with a timed eviscerate Guitar Hero response. While the company that runs my apartment complex wants the most money for the least risk, and doesn't really care what it has to do to get it, they manage to put all the actual stress on their employees and their tenants. While Warhammer 40k is not a classic BEU, it gives you the feeling of focus and care in the simple interactions and variety of encounters missing from set pieces.
Warhammer 40k is a huge punch to the face, and I take it as a compliment.