Call of Duty: Ghosts is a rip-off of the game Homefront and film Red Dawn – 11/26/2013

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Acclaimed screenwriter Stephen Gaghan created a story for Call of Duty: Ghosts that breaks from the typical “America’s the best” bravado and instead takes players to a vulnerable America that is fighting to protect its sovereignty.

You may feel like you’ve played this game before (besides the fact that every Call of Duty game is the same), and that’s because Gaghan has ripped off Homefront, the 2011 first-person shooter written by John Milius and inspired by his classic film Red Dawn.

This makes me wonder what the point is of working with an accomplished screenwriter if he’s just going to copy from the plot of another video game. Here are five examples of how Call of Duty: Ghosts is nothing but a piss-poor remake of Homefront.

The Middle Eastern war

Both Homefront and Call of Duty: Ghosts are set in a world where a war in the Middle East has crippled the world’s oil supply, which ushers in an age of global instability.

In Homefront, the conflict is known as the Oil War, and it was fought between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both nations are competing for influence in the region after the U.S. withdraws its military. The U.S. military also participated in the conflict, but its actions were very limited. The end result is that the Middle East is no longer a reliable source of energy, which brings about a global economic crisis.

In Call of Duty: Ghosts, the conflict is known as the Tel Aviv War, and it’s fought between Israel and other Middle Eastern nations. The conflict began with an attempted invasion of Tel Aviv that grew into a major war that destabilized the region. Part of the conflict involved 60 Tier One operatives deployed to protect a civilian hospital from 500 enemy soldiers on the Iranian Border (Operation Sand Viper), in which the legend of the Ghosts is born. The end result of the war is that the Middle East is no longer a reliable source of energy, which brings about a global economic crisis — just like in Homefront.

An unrealistic superstate emerges

The aftermath of the Middle Eastern conflict allows an unrealistic superstate to emerge as a world power that challenges the United States. A superstate is a larger nation that has united its territory under a federalist political structure.

Homefront is set in a future in which the Korean peninsula is unified to establish the Greater Korean Republic under the rule of Kim Jong-un. With a powerful economy and military, the GKR begins to expand its borders by conquering or annexing other countries in the region. Meanwhile, in Call of Duty: Ghosts, South America becomes the world’s dominating producer of energy, which leads to the unification of the region’s nations to establish the Federation of the Americas.

Now this is unrealistic because, given the global political climate and history, it’s not possible for these superstates to be established. North Korea would not have the will power to create such a superstate or maintain it due to its dirt-poor economy and poorly equipped military. Yes, America is too weak to act, but the People’s Republic of China or Russia isn’t going to sit back and let Pyongyang fill the void. Also, South Korea with its political stability and strong economy has a more realistic chance of establishing a united Korea.

Meanwhile, the chances of South America merging to establish a superstate is unlikely because one used to exist. It was called the Spanish Empire. After the South and Central American nations achieved independence, there were many attempts to form a unified republic, which failed. In the modern era, because of the political differences and rivalries between the regional powers, it’s unlikely for the continent to unify and establish a superstate.

America is crippled by an orbital superweapon

After gaining enough influence on the world stage, the superstates aim their ambitions at the United States. Despite all that has happened, America is still a formidable opponent and will not be easy to conquer. Hence, these hostile powers use an orbital superweapon to cripple the U.S. before launching a full-scale invasion.

The Greater Korean Republic (in Homefront) uses an orbital EMP (disguised as a communication satellite) that cripples the western United States. The Federation (in Call of Duty: Ghosts) deploys commandos to hijack ODIN, an orbital-stationed weapon, and uses it to attack major cities in the U.S. The attacks cripple the federal government while bringing about the economical and social collapse of the nation, which results in America no longer being a world power.

That follows with an invasion and occupation

A full-scale invasion is launched after the superweapons have made America vulnerable. The invading forces quickly overwhelm the U.S. military (forcing them into disarray) while parts of America are under enemy occupation. In no time, the occupying army begins to round up civilians to either execute or send to a “re-education” camp.

Players have to infiltrate a re-education camp in Homefront, where they witness horrendous atrocities against civilians and uncover mass graves. In Call of Duty: Ghosts, players witness civilian executions by Federation soldiers and hear horror stories of people being rounded up.

The last battle is a turning point

Both games conclude with a battle that turns the tide of the war in America’s favor. After years of holding the lines, the United States military pools all its resources to launch one massive strike against the enemy.

In Homefront, the American Resistance, along with the United States Armed Forces, unleash a massive military operation on the Korean People’s Army in San Fransisco. The objective is to cripple the GKR command in occupied America and to liberate the Bay Area. The main force takes the Golden Gate Bridge before moving into the city while a SEAL team raids Alcatraz Island. The battle becomes a turning point as San Fransisco is liberated while the European Union begin talks about sending aid to America.

In Call of Duty: Ghosts, a joint Marine and Ghost force-attack a Federation Satellite Array in Chile while the USAF deploys a squad to hijack LOKI, an orbital-stationed weapon based on ODIN, and use it against the Federation (a little payback). The battle becomes a turning point as the Federation’s fleet and several major cities have been decimated by the LOKI attack.

Written for GameBeat
11/26/2013
Original Article: Call of Duty: Ghosts is a rip-off of the game Homefront and film Red Dawn

Waiting to buy a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One could be the smartest thing you do – 11/5/2013

The gaming industry is going to enter the eighth generation of consoles this month, but it may be better to wait before wasting your hard-earned money on a product that will probably be defective.

Like all new technology, the first models will suffer from software glitches because the development team was under pressure to release them on the market around the same time as the competition. Looking back at past trends and current problems in the industry provides a strong case for waiting to purchase these systems.

Xbox gamers will recall the early days, when some of the first models of the Xbox 360 had a defective disc reader. This flaw resulted in a circumferential scratch on the disc that rendered it unusable. It was discovered that some disc drives lack a mechanism to secure the disc solidly in place.

If an Xbox 360 owner was lucky enough to have a proper disc reader, then he risked facing a hardware problem that resulted in the system crashing and the console becoming inoperable: the Red Ring of Death. Affected gamers had to mail their defective console to Microsoft to have it repaired. Microsoft never officially revealed what caused the Ring of Death, but speculation was that it was either a central processing unit (CPU) failure or the use of a poor-quality solder.

Meanwhile, the first models of the PlayStation 3 had hardware that was difficult for developers to work with, which resulted in fewer games being released at launch. Also, the new software was incompatible with so many PlayStation 2 games that the feature had to be abandoned in the slim models.

Back when PlayStation 2 dominated the market after the failure of the Dreamcast, the first models had a disc reader that would wear out and result in the system being unable to read any disc inserted into the console. Sony offered to fix the disc reader and provide a free game while some retailers offered a trade-in for the new PS2 slim.

So has the game industry learned how to minimize potential hardware failures? Of course not! The market has grown so that highly anticipated games will compete and outperform movies at the box office. However, the industry is under such great pressure to move products that testers may overlook serious hardware flaws.

Rumors have emerged that there may be major problems with the Xbox One’s operating system and that Microsoft will be unable to resolve it in time. Adding to the speculation are several games journalists claiming that Microsoft is allegedly pressuring them to not publish reviews until after the official launch.

Supporting the rumors is the fact that Microsoft had to redesign the Xbox One after its Orwellian features and draconian style of digital rights management (DRM) caused an uproar in the gaming community. The system had been in development since 2011, but after its controversial unveiling, the development staff had eight months to remove the unpopular features and ensure the console could function properly. Hence, it’s very likely that gamers might experience major system problems with the first models of the Xbox One.

On a smaller scale, there have been countless examples of how ill prepared the industry has been for highly anticipated launches. Most of these nightmares have been in the last few years.

The most recent example would be last month’s launch of Grand Theft Auto Online, which suffered from technical glitches on day one of its release. Due to system problems, gamers were unable to play the game, and the few that could ended up losing their characters after developer Rockstar fixed the glitch.

In March 2013, Electronic Arts had major problems with the release of Sim City. The game suffered from gameplay glitches while server crashes made it unplayable for a weekend. Worse is that the DRM required players to be connected to a dedicated server even if they were playing the single-player game. This contributed to EA being voted “Worst Company in America” by The Consumerist readers for the second year in a row (beating Bank of America).

That pales, however, to how ill prepared Blizzard Entertainment was with the highly anticipated PC release of Diablo III in 2012. After a decade in development, the game suffered from major glitches when players tried to create a profile and was followed by multiple server crashes. Blizzard underestimated how well the game would sell. Even though Diablo III was a major hit, its success was overshadowed by its disastrous launch.

The first models of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are going to have some major problems while later models will have those resolved. It’s better to wait until they do rather than have a system crash just as you’re about to play a brand-new game.

Written for GameBeats 
11/5/2013
Original Article: Waiting to buy a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One could be the smartest thing you do

The Best of Gaming Horror- “The X-Files: Resist or Serve” – 9/28/2013

The X-FilesThe season of fear is upon us once again and this time I would like start of the Best of Horror Gaming with a game that is sure to bring back some 90′s nostalgia, The X-Files: Resist or Serve for the PlayStation 2.

The X-Files: Resist or Serve was one of those horror games that not many gamers are unaware of unless they are X-File fans. Yet it was a well crafted horror game that incorporates the elements of the iconic series.

A quick recap for those missed out on the 90′sThe X-Files was a science fiction horror drama that focused on the exploits of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully who investigate cases that involve extraterrestrial along with paranormal phenomena. The main story arc focused on the agents looking into the actions of the Syndicate and their work in helping the Colonist plot of conquering earth.

The series lasted from 1993 to 2002, becoming one of the longest-running science fiction series in television history whiling have a great influence on pop culture. The series also spanned two movies, two spin-off series  and a few video games with The X-Files: Resist or Serve being the only good one.

The X-Files: Resist or Serve is set during Season 7 (November 7, 1999 – May 21, 2000) with Agents Mulder and Scully investigating a series of murder in Red Fall, Colorado that allegedly involves witchcraft. During the investigation they uncover that something more sinister is happening that involves the Syndicate and the Colonist.

Being 2004, this was a time when movie/TV-games were guaranteed to fail and yet it was able to surprise critics for being an exceptionally crafted game that stayed true to the X-Files mytharc.

The game was able to capture the essence the series was achieved thanks to the work of X-Files writer Tom Schnauz along with the performance of the original cast. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reunited to play their most iconic role while Mitch Pileggi returned as FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner and William B. Davis as the Smoking Man. Also appearing in the game are Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund as the Lone Gunmen.

The gameplay uses the elements of Resident Evil as a template to give gamers a sense of familiarity but adding content that accommodates the traits of the playable characters. Agent Mulder scenario will have him encounter a series of surreal events while Agent Scully scenario will focus more on critical thinking and puzzle solving.

When the game was released in 2004 (three years after the series ended) for the PlayStation 2, it was met with mixed to positive reviews. Critics praised it for keeping the theme of the series while panning it for what they saw as a weak gameplay along with some repetitive action and confusing puzzles. But to be fair this was a time when Resident Evil featured the only good template to use for a horror survival game.

Overall, The X-Files: Resist or Serve for the PlayStation 2 was one of those great works of horror that was ignored by gamers when it was released. While the gameplay has aged the story is one that every horror gamer and X-Files fan will still appreciate.

Written for GameBeats 
09/28/2013
Original Article: The Best of Gaming Horror- “The X-Files: Resist or Serve”

 

What Cigar Does Big Boss Smoke? – 6/29/2013

Snake-Smoke-0-1024x811Big Boss is one of the most iconic video game characters for his duel role as a hero and a sympathetic villain. With Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero and The Phantom Pain on the horizon, gamers are excited to once again take on the role of the Legendary Soldier. Yet one thing some gamers have always wondered is what cigar does Big Boss smoke?

A lot of gamers have asked this question on message boards but no clear answer has ever been given. Most people have just listed common cigars followed by a discussion about what cigarette Solid Snake smokes and after that everyone just gives up. Someone has even asked this question on Answers.com to no avail.

Besides being an avid gamer (also a Metal Gear-fan) who has written about video game culture; I’m also an avid cigar smoker and a cigar critic in the Bay Area. I’ve had the opportunity to sample a verity of premium cigars, meet respected people in the cigar industry, and blog for the Campbell Cigar Club.

To answers this great cigar riddle I visually examined the cigar Big Boss is smoking in the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, then compare and cross match it with other cigars. With the small details given, the cigar Big Boss is smoking has the following details:
* It has a pyramid figure (often mistaken for a torpedo figure)
* It has a mild to full-bodied strength (based on the cigars texture)
* Its of Cuban origin

The cigar brand, Habano (a reference to the Cuban state tobacco company, Habanos S.A.), is obviously fictitious. However given the amount of details and hidden content in the series, the cigar has to be inspired by a real brand.

With the details presented, I have speculate that the cigar was inspired by the H. Upmann No. 2 along with some details of the Montecristo No. 2. Both brands are among the most popular and sought after Cuban cigars while being almost identical. Besides being having a pyramid figure and identical ring gauge, the two cigars also share a similar designed cigar band. Both cigars are also well known for having a smooth draw along with a cream and ceder flavor.

It’s also no accident that the cigar Big Boss is smoking is inspired by an H. Upmann as it was also the favorite cigar of President John F. Kennedy. A day before authorizing the trade embargo against Cuba; President Kennedy had Pierre Salinger, White House press secretary, acquire 1200 H. Upmann’s. The Kennedy Administration is also credited with establishing the modern special forces to combat the rise of communists insurgences in Asia and Latin America.

With the historical context along with his background in the Special Forces and being a protege of The Boss; it could be speculated that Big Boss was given a few H. Upmann No. 2 as a gift from President Kennedy.

This is however not the same cigar he is smoking in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Despite several good opportunities to examine the cigar band, I was unable to identify or guess the last cigar Big Boss smoked in Guns of the PatriotsI was able to identify the cigar smoked in The Phantom Pain. After closely examining the cigar featured in the trailers and E3 previews, its obviously a generic Cohiba based on the yellow, white and black decor of the the cigar band.

All the conclusions are based on the details presented and critically analyzed using my knowledge of premium cigars. Other gamers who also have a rich knowledge on cigars are welcomed to present their own hypothesis on what cigar Big Boss smokes.

Written for GameBeats
06/29/2013
Original Article: What Cigar Does Big Boss Smoke?

Yippee ki-yay: The legacy of Die Hard games – 6/23/2013

die-hard-arcade-cI would like to talk about the video game history of one of the greatest action films of all time, Die Hard.

Hopefully, you were lucky to skip the awful A Good Day to Die Hard, the latest sequel in the gun-happy franchise. Don’t even bother renting it. It’s not worth it.

Like the James Bond spy series, Die Hard has become a significant part of cinema, electronic entertainment, and literature (yep). The film we all love is an adaptation of the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which itself was a sequel to another book, The Detective. That novel, however, had already received a silver-screen adaptation staring Frank Sinatra in the main role.

Die Hard is the classic story of New York Police Department detective John McClane going to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife for Christmas. Things don’t go according to plan, however, when a group of terrorists take over the Nakatomi Plaza in an attempt to steal $640 million in bonds.

The film became a hit after its release while ultimately cementing itself as a hallmark of modern American cinema. Die Hard is such an iconic film that the Smithsonian Institution features the undershirt worn by actor Bruce Willis, who portrayed McClane in the film.

Die Hard has had a checkered history when it comes to interactive entertainment. One would think that making a game based on the archetype of the modern action film would be easy. Instead, attempts have been rocky.

Most gamers will have good memories of wasting quarters playing Die Hard Arcade during the ’90s. The beat-em-up title started out as Dynamite Deka in Japan and released later in North America with the new name and film license.

The game had a similar story to its theatrical counterpart. A group of terrorists led by White Fang took over the Nakatomi Plaza building and kidnapped the president’s daughter. Players take on the role of John McClane and Chris Thompsen as they fight waves of enemies in an attempt to foil White Fang’s evil plot and rescue the girl.

Another classic game in the franchise was Die Hard Trilogy, a retelling of the first three Die Hard movies through different types of gameplay. Die Hard was a third-person shooter that had the player battling terrorists and rescuing hostages in the Nakatomi Plaza. Die Hard 2 was a rail shooter that had the player fighting waves of bad guys who had taken over Washington D.C.’s Dulles airport. Finally, Die Hard with a Vengeance had the player go on a joyride through New York City finding and defusing explosives.

Trilogy’s success inspired a mediocre sequel, Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas, which used the same gameplay concept but with an original story that was very forgettable. Sadly, the next installment, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, was a slow-paced first-person shooter that was less of a tribute and more of an insult to the first film’s legacy.

Finally, I come to the most recent McClane interactive adventure, Die Hard: Vendetta for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, and Microsoft Xbox. This time, the action hero went up against terrorists spearheaded by Piet Gruber (son of Die Hard’s villain Hans Gruber) on the streets of L.A. The first-person shooter received mediocre reviews, but looking back, one might have some appreciation for the game’s fast-paced action.

It’s disappointing to see how nobody has bothered to make another Die Hard title. Any developer should create a game based on the original film using stealth action and an open-world setting that retells the classic story while reuniting the original cast (similar to 007: From Russia With Love).

Die Hard has been a significant part of pop culture. While the last movie failed to live up to its legacy, hopefully, the gaming industry could give it another chance.

Yippee ki-yay, mother f***er!

Written for GameBeats
6/23/2013
Original Article: Yippee ki-yay: The legacy of Die Hard games

‘Metal Gear Solid V’: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer? – 6/9/2013

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Konami shocked the gaming community when it unveiled that actor Kiefer Sutherland will play Snake (aka Big Boss) in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The news comes after months of speculation when its was learned that David Hayter, the actor who has provided the iconic voice of Snake since Metal Gear Solid, will not return.

Obviously fans were shocked by the change up and have been sharing their mixed reactions. Some have welcomed the change as a new perspective on the character while others are furious that the game has rejected the spirit of Snake. Its common to find gamers having some doubt that Sutherland could bring the same character motif as Hayter. The fans do have a valid point.

When gamers get the chance to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain; will it feel like they are taking the role of Snake (aka Big Boss) or the role of Jack Bauer?

Despite his reputation as an respected screenwriter; Hayter’s performance as Snake has been engraved into his legacy (like Sean Connery as James Bond). Meanwhile Sutherland is iconic for his role as Jack Bauer in the acclaimed series, 24an espionage-themed drama that focus on the 24-hours time period of Agent Bauer and members of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU).

The linguistic dialect and its personal traits of a character have always been driven by the actors who have portrayed them. Yet the problem presented is the actor who has been synonyms with Snake is being replaced by an actor who is synonyms with another iconic character. While they may be iconic heroes admired by action buffs; Jack Bauer and Snake are two different characters.

On the surface; Snake was influenced by the character Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell) from the classic John Carpenter film, Escape From New York. After the events of Snake Eater, Snake (aka Big Boss) has become a character driven by resentment who at first is trying to find a purpose to fight. By the start of Peace Walker; Snake has established his own private army to provide needed service regardless of nations or ideologies. Meanwhile he seeks to fight for a cause that he believes in which brings him into conflict with his former colleagues. Hayter’s performance gave Snake the same kind of tone projected by Kurt Russell but with a more dramatic respectability.

Unfortunately Bauer as a character is nothing like Big Boss.

Jack Bauer is the personification of a hero America needed to look up to in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He is a loyal government agent who has to do what is necessary to protect American citizens from terrorist threats. Like Snake; Bauer shares a similar military background with his involvement in clandestine operations as a member of Delta Force. During the series, he has made so many personal sacrifices while his loyalty has been tested at the hands of incompetent bureaucrats, trusted colleagues and crooked men of power. Sutherland’s performance as Bauer has developed a character that is guilt ridden and trying to overcome past regrets.

Therein lies the problem; Sutherland’s performance as Snake may not be the character gamers want but instead a projection of Bauer. For gamers who have been playing the series from the beginning we have grown accustomed to having Hayter as the voice of Snake. But by using Sutherland; gamers are going to have a radically different mental projection of Snake. At best gamers could play a Snake that has become more battle harden in a way that only Sutherland could depict. Or gamers may have a mental projection of two characters morphed into one.

In the end all speculation games have will be put to rest upon the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Written for GameBeats
06/9/2013
Original Article: ‘Metal Gear Solid V’: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer?

Why is gaming culture misogynistic? – 12/3/1012

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The question was brought up recently in the Mother Jones article “Why It Sucks to Be a Woman in the Video Game Industry” by Interactive Editor Tasneem Raja.

Raja’s article examines the sexism women deal with in the gaming industry from sexual harassment and disparity in the compensation structure to having female developers go unacknowledged for their accomplishments.

One could just brush all that off as some liberal publication trying to preach about feminist ideology. Unfortunately, Raja is not the first writer to bring up the misogynistic aspect of video game culture.

Back in 2010, David Wong, Senior Editor of Cracked.com, examined the gaming culture’s attitude toward women and the industry’s depiction of them in “5 Reasons It’s Still Not Cool to Admit You’re a Gamer”.

Most notably, Wong cites an article from The Guardian about the sexual harassment women gamers are subjected to online. The best example of this is when females play with male avatars just to avoid the “Tits or GTFO” remarks.

Several months after Wong’s article, Seanbaby (iconic humor writer and avid gamer) wrote in his column about the misogynistic undertones of Red Dead Redemption. He even explores the obvious sexism in the “Dastardly” achievement/trophy, which is unlocked after the player sets a hogtied woman on the train tracks and witnesses her death.

Flash forward to July of 2012 when Cracked writer J.F. Sargent wrote “5 Prejudices That Video Games Can’t Seem to Get Over“, which had a section dedicated to games that degraded strong female characters. The article gave a lot of attention to the feminine traits displayed by Samus Aran in Metroid: Other M (a lot of it based on Abbie Heppe’s review for G4).

Why is gaming culture so misogynistic?

The best answer regards the upbringing many gamers had during the ’90s up until the mid ’00s. During this era, gaming was part of geek subculture and so was often ridiculed by mainstream culture.

Gamers were more likely to be outcasts in high school, which made them the victims of taunting and teasing. It’s likely that many had bad experiences with women or relationships in their youth while being stereotyped as “virgin for life.”

Later in life, these gamers became adults and entered this industry just as video games became accepted by mainstream culture. Unfortunately, these gamers still harbor the old animosity toward women.

Their life experience has conditioned them to see women as nothing more than useless sources of pain and pleasure.

Another perspective is the influence of pop culture on the narratives of video games. Cinema and comics of the mid ’70s to late ’80s has had a major impact on the development of video game stories; however, most of these films often placed women into the “useless chick role” or had strong but overly sexualized female characters.

Sure, there’s exceptions to the rule that gaming culture is misogynistic. But trying to write up a list of “strong video game heroines (not overly sexualized)” tends to be limited when all you have is:

· Jill Valentine (Resident Evil & Resident Evil 3)
· Rebecca Chambers (Resident Evil 0)
· Claire Redfield (Resident Evil 2)
· Samus Aran (Metroid)

End of list!

Gaming is supposed to be a fun way for people to escape their boring and mediocre life for a few hours (or more). Video game culture has recently become part of pop culture, but it won’t become socially progressive if it continues to have such a demeaning outlook toward women.

Written for Bitmod
12/3/2012
Original Article: Why is gaming culture misogynistic?