Included here are four micro-reviews for major video game releases from a few years ago. You may remember them. You may not. Still, enough time has passed to give them a more thorough, unbiased perspective.
There is tremendous hype and mindshare that influences criticism on creative endeavors. I pointed this out in my study of Paradise Lost ages ago. As they are now, videogames are disposable candy snacks, like a rockabilly single from the 1950's, meant to spin on a radio turntable for a month, only to be replaced by the next single. Then very smart people started enjoying music, listening to music, and producing music of their own.
The same can be said of film. Formerly just little image reels, movies got, uh, big, to put it lightly, and EVERYONE wants to BE movies, be they athlete, rapper, or videogame. That artisitc perspective came with time.
I will not flex any muscle to say the micro-reviews included below are set to become celebrated triumphs five decades from now. None of them is the Citizen Kane of videogames (we won't know that for about 20 years after the assumed videogame is released). Nevertheless, these are THINKABLE games.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate | Micro-review
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is tourism for videogames.
My dad is a snarky jerk. It's funny that he thinks he's funny, and that's okay, because who am I to doubt his grinning, tip-toeing sarcasm. His jokes have sharp elbows.
When I was jamming an ice-infused mega-sword into the flank of a winged triceratopadactyl-beast, half-speaking with my dad on the phone, I mentioned that I was playing a game called Monster Hunter, he told me, without an emotion, "That is the best name of anything, ever."
I imagine myself sitting in an exotic restaurant in a foreign land. Maybe it's the future. Maybe it's ancient Greece, and there's an orgy going on in the next room over. There's a prince in the room. He speaks very little English. We can still bond over our love of videogames and food though.
And Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.
A five-star chef is serving you your meals with no break between courses. Some of the courses are just a glass of water with an exotic fruit floating in it. Others are single bites of steak, alone on a plate, and the next plate is served to you 0.5 seconds later. Don't be surprised if you have to kill the live turkey released onto the table prior to a later course though.
It does not stop. The meal is designed to be continuous. It makes other meals outdated. It's only the peaks.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II | Micro-review
It's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare: The Videogame
The soldiers you're with look like guys. They're jerks and aren't people that I'd want to hang out with. Their haircuts are bad, for one. Compared to the cornbread, jingoist, high school dropouts that go with you in Battlefield 3 or in any Call of Duty clone, the Black Ops II squadmates are at least as entertaining as the rejects in Aliens, as opposed to the guys who end up dead in Black Hawk Down.
I want more Strike Force missions. I want Call of Duty: Strike Force. I want Fire Emblem X Call of Duty, co-developed by Treyarch and Intelligent Systems. These engineered scenarios and firefights are more compelling than the house of cards that the campaign is.
I wish this game wasn't so popular. On a microscopic level, it functions beautifully. With fewer stockholders and Republicans to please, it would be the greatest game series ever. In its current form, it's only one of the greatest.
Instead, Call of Duty: Black Ops II is a custom-made rich kid's diorama, trying desperately to offend a parent and get cut off. I'd rather it be an airplane painted with watercolors.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II has just the right amount of auto-aim to make you feel like the luckiest drunk in the world.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is way more fun than checking Facebook.
Max Payne 3 | Micro-review
You are Max Payne's hands, his fingers, and sometimes his suicidal tendencies.
A majority of shooters don't let you see your feet, and yet they are always about looking at your feet, making you check to see if there's money or cheese (which is another word for money) that you should be occupying your time with. Max Payne 3 is definitely not a game about looking at your feet.
Choose bullets. Choose to live.
You're on a boat. A gargantuan, expensive boat. This level will probably have no guys to bullets, and therefore, no fun. Wrong! This is boat being used to smuggle money through the Panama Canal! Did you expect this level, this videogame stage, this vessel, to have nothing interesting going on?
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance | Micro-review
Fresh off of Borderlands 2, which videogame equivalent of a sleet storm -- high impact, half-snow shards striking exposed skin, and then a frustrating, low-friction commute on uneven ice -- I was thrilled to be high-fiving Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which I will be just calling Revengeance from here on out. It is the best, most made-up word (but ALL words are technically made-up. . .), in that quartet of words. It is so pleasant to see a made-up word making the rounds. There is far too much pretension when it comes to making up words, usually from people that I've never met. I bet they make more money than me. For that, I resent them a teeny bit. Then I remember that they probably aren't very good looking.
It's an even split.
I like it when things are self-inventing though. I like it when I get to be part of that self-invention. Nobody else will get to feel that the way I do ever again. When things get to think themselves up, even if it's a mixture that doesn't make sense by any standard definition, it is going to gain a great foothold, because if you Google "Revengeance" you are going to get that one and only.
And the moronic genesis of Revengeance has helped it carve out its identity and become a unique thing. Kojima Productions, the guys that make Metal Gear games, tried to make it as an inter-quel, a mid-story, a gaiden, within the Metal Gear Solid 4 story. Even if people take a look at it and try to be jerks, and spout off stuff like, "eh, I've seen that before," or "looks like it's dumb, probably," they are doing that as a defense mechanism to keep their material form from being torn apart by an outside force that is scary, mysterious, and funny. A kid would draw that outside force with a ton of squiggly yellow lines with a highlighter he borrowed from his mom's office.
This new thing, though. Revengeance. It might look familiar. It might be an amalgam. It might elicit deja vu. I'm telling you now -- those feelings, those negative feelings you've got going, have more to do with something you read in a magazine, or a lie your brother told you, attempting to convince you that because we don't have a definition for this exact thing, it's gotta be wrong.
I like getting advice from people. I also like ignoring it nine times out of ten. That isn't to say I won't listen to it, please, always listen to advice. And defy it. If it smells funky, chances are the person trying to preach doesn't have the whole story, and therefore, their words are weakened. You aren't learning how to play if somebody else has a hand on the buttons and switches and levers in your brain, so don't be afraid of something that's self-inventing, call the devil by his name, and go boldly.
Revengeance is bold. Revengeance shouts at the devil. Revengeance double-brews its coffee, using boiling French vanilla coffee to brew a Columbian dark-blend in a chemistry set.
Revengeance isn't a great video game.
Revengeance is a three-cheese blend. It's chocolate-on-chocolate. After Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, a game that I played while sitting on a camping stool in a shitty sublet while wearing FANTASTIC headphones, I was pretty sure we had pushed as far as we could in terms of full-on what-the-heckishness regarding videogames, and movies, and stories, and media in general. That was a game so big, so genetically-modified, so super-soldier, and so mad-science, that no government in the world would offer it amnesty after the war-crimes it committed. For god's sake, MGS4 began each of its five chapters by showing actual video footage of a girl cracking eggs over a skillet and singing the numbers that make up Pascal's Triangle to the tune of the game's main theme.
Where are we again? Where are we now? We're at double-hot cheese chocolate coffee.
There was another part in MGS4 where a cyborg-guy in high heels stabbed two-story tall robots that moo like cows. He is also knife-fighting a vampire at the same time. This takes place in broad daylight in an unnamed South American country. These two guys are secondary characters. They're the supporting cast, god-darn it.
Now the robot-guy in high heels is getting his own game: it's Revengeance!
Obviously, MGS4 is barely a videogame anymore. It's the most expensive college senior art / audio / video / literature / underwater basket-weaving thesis you'll see on this side of the Mississippi. But it was also so meticulous that it was begging to be examined. It wanted you to invite the guys over just to fucking see this thing. The game was a rapper's mansion of stimulation excess. It's probably Kanye West's favorite game.
Kanye West plays videogames while sitting next to room-sized mirror.
Kanye shouts, "Man, check this Metal Gear Solid 4 shit out!"
I ask, "What are you playing, Kanye?"
Kanye keeps shouting, "You ain't never seen shit like this! I just had a snow bound sniper's duel with a mechanical wolf, but get this, there's a hot chick inside the wolf! Then balls with arms attacked me, and then I drove a robot dinosaur in a fight against a robot frog at a missile base in Alaska! Now old clones are having a dead-serious discussion about the Singularity after fist-fighting atop a submarine!"
All of this is rendered in high definition 1080p.
MGS4 was already a sequel to the original "post-modern" game, Metal Gear Solid. I mean, that should have been enough, right? No, MGS4 had so many ideas that it couldn't even form complete sentences. It had graphics from the future. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty had already been the "post-post-modern" game in the series, so when MGS4 revealed itself to something else, thematically and dramatically, nobody dared touch it. The videogame industry (and MGS4 was technically a videogame) didn't know what to do with it.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, in Japan. Action games kept right on kicking ass.
Revengeance encourages you to fight like a maniac. Fight like a dog ripping out of a straitjacket. Tantrum! Lash out! Snap, snarl, and destroy! Revengeance has got canned-heat in its heels. Loads of people play videogames in search of catharsis. Their lives are a series of overturned apple carts. They must be nice to people, but they'd rather not be nice to during the daytime. Then they step off of the commuter bus and collapse on the couch.
They look around a half-scrubbed kitchen, and sy out-loud to the emptiness, "shit, instead of being my own man, I had to be a bitch-whipped sucker all day. I want to cut a motherfucker into one thousand pieces."
Except that wouldn't really be a reasonable reaction, literally speaking. The foam-mouthed ghost-shriek brewing in you is reasonable though. Enter videogames. Enter catharsis.
Developed by the folks behind Vanquish and Bayonetta, PlatinumGames -- nee Clover Studios, creators of the deep south fever-dream / fist-fight after a highway car-crash, God Hand -- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is as stupid as videogames should be, and as stupid as a Metal Gear game should be. Metal Gear is already a parody, or it tries to be, at least, of videogames and of media. PlatinumGames takes Revengeance one step further, hence the double-wide lunacy of the title and the dead-serious cyborg that you play as.
Raiden isn't quite the walking satire that Sam Giddeon was in Vanquish, Shinji Mikami's ode to the western-shooter zodiac viewed through a Japanese telescope. He has the unfortunate baggage of existing elsewhere in the Metal Gear universe. His viciousness possesses technical motivation, making the whole thing even more laughable.
You will do better if you play angry and aggressive, and thank God for that. Otherwise your normal-sized guy straight-up tossing an fifty-foot mech would seem a little silly. It's ruthless in its indifference to logic, in so doing, it's tonally-consistent across the board. The game is stupid. The story is Metal Gear. At last, the constant parody this series always flirted with is getting straight-up chucked.
Revengeance is the Craigslist random-encounters of videogames. It's like, balls, of course these two unhinged, aggressive moods belong together. They've been off living separate lives for so long, sad, and unhappy, and now, freakish circumstances have made this copulation possible. Sprinting, hand-in-hand, Platinum is the Nancy to Metal Gear's Syd Vicious, enabling the psychosis it has always wanted to embrace, feeding him drugs, fawning over him and every bit of drivel he spouts.
Platinum puts you to bed. Wet.
Together, they leave the game in ruins, superfluous and unmasked in its stupidity, refusing to apologize. Rightly so.