WARNING: Higher geek content than normal. Prepare yourself as you see fit.
As I said the other day, one of my oldest friends is in town. She’s been with us for Thanksgiving so many times that it’s basically assumed she’s going to be here by now. She is not remotely the geek that I am, but we still spend a fair amount of time when we’re together playing video games. The PS3 (which arrived this morning, and I had time to take out of the Amazon box but not actually hook up) was entirely her fault half her fault at least a quarter her fault slightly her fault, and she bought Lego Marvel Heroes (or whatever it’s called) for me, both of us believing that since it was co-op it ought to be a fun thing for the two of us to do for a while.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (that’s it) has a fun game hiding in there somewhere, I swear it does. It combines LEGO and superheroes, for shit’s sake; I like both of those things, and the combination all by itself ought to be enjoyably goofy enough that it carries the game. It does not. There’s too much bullshit in there getting in the way of your fun:
- The camera. Sucks. Suuuuuuucks. There are two different kinds of split-screen: static horizontal split, where each of you get half of the screen and you can’t see anything because your field of view is shit, and dynamic, where the border between your screen and your partner’s screen shifts and slides around and sometimes you’re on the same screen together and holy Jesus is it completely impossible to ever figure out where you are or what’s going on. Even in the static mode you seem to inexplicably shift sides of the screen every now and again, and combining that with the fact that you can shift characters just makes keeping track of your character on screen a pain.
- In addition, you’re frequently just out of view. The camera’s almost completely not user-controllable, and there’s all sorts of stuff hidden behind game geometry or walls or just random junk that you can’t manipulate the camera to let you see behind. Combine that with the game’s penchant to stick you in hallways or small areas and the inherent problematic nature of 3rd person 3D gaming, and the result is garbage.
- Related to the last point, most of the time there’s very little indication of what you’re actually supposed to be doing. For example, there’s a battle with the Abomination early on where you’re supposed to shine lights on him to stun him so that the Hulk can beat him up (because, uh, that’s how he works, I guess…). Now, I’ve been a gamer since I was tiny; I speak Video Game with a fluency that my friend doesn’t, so between being trained by the game’s do-this-then-lather-rinse-repeat strategy of previous bosses and being familiar with the “weaken, then attack” trope because it’s so common in other games, I figured this out immediately from the game’s one comment that light bothered him.
- Sub-gripe: this is your second fight with the Abomination; the first one was outside in full daylight. And light isn’t a weakness for the Abomination. This is dumb.
- Anyway, I was busy as the Hulk fighting off hordes of minions and occasionally fending off the bad guy, so it was left up to her to handle the light issues until the frustration just got to be too much and I took over. I managed to get the second light shone on him and she beat him up, then ran over to where the third one was and… nothing. No spotlight. I managed to flash a light green and then had nothing to hit or break or anything. I figured I’d forgotten to do something elsewhere on the stage, so I ran around looking for it. For fifteen minutes. While she beat up minions and the Abomination’s smell-attack, which shoves you away and keeps you from doing anything, got more and more annoying.
- This is the point where my wife looked over and said “Are you guys actually having any fun? Because you’ve both sounded really unhappy for about half an hour.”
- At this point I discovered what I’d missed: a couple of bricks, invisible and hidden behind a wall, that I’d not managed to smash and which turned into something I needed to get the spotlight up. At this point we quickly dispatched the beast and ended the level. But it took twenty minutes to find an invisible brick. This is not good game design, not at all. And the game is stuffed full of things like this, plus lots of LEGO shorthand where you’re supposed to play a level through multiple times with multiple different characters so there will be bits blocked off… but if you don’t know that, you’re just frustrated, because there’s a big shiny thing right there and you can’t get it to do anything.
- Fucking fetch quests. Game developers who use fetch quests should be punched in the dick. And if I’m playing as the fucking Hulk and someone asks me to help him wash a window, which actually fucking happened, I should get to respond by picking that person up and throwing him through said window. You have got to be fucking kidding me, game.
So, yeah. Shoulda been fun. Isn’t. And it’s not like I haven’t played the LEGO games before; it may just be the co-op that’s magnifying the game’s/genre’s issues, but right now I’m upset that my friend paid $50 so we could play this thing. Blargh.
(You may have thought that was nerdrage. It was not. What follows is nerdrage.)
Now let’s talk about Man of Steel, which I watched most of last night. I was initially really excited about this movie, but I didn’t manage to go see it during opening weekend and the reaction to it convinced me that it was a terrible idea. And yes, yes it would have been a terrible idea, because this film gets every single thing about Superman wrong except for his powers. I’m not seeing any more superhero movies attached to Christopher Nolan; his Batman films were terrible (well, the first one was; I refused to see the next two) and this movie sucks too; that’s enough strikes. I’ve said several times that I might have liked Batman Begins had it been called Ninja Bat-Costume Dude, and Man of Steel would have been a decent movie had it been called Strong Laser-eyed Alien with a Coward for a Father who Lets him Die because, well, why not? Crying builds character.
Fuuuuuuuuck that movie. I would have walked out of the theater at the point where Jonathan Kent– Jonathan fucking Kent, the man responsible for Superman’s fucking moral core, which is the single most important thing about the character– blithely suggests that letting a busload of children die would have been just fine because letting people know about Kal-El’s secret (and I’m calling him Kal-El; there’s no “Clark Kent” in this movie, and the fact that they invent Clark Kent at the end is ridiculous) would have been inconvenient. And if I hadn’t left the theater then, I certainly would have been gone (and, in fact, did leave the room and go read for an hour) when Kal-El lets his father die in the stupidest way imaginable because he goes and runs off to save a dog.
Fuck this movie. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, and I haven’t even gotten to the part where Superman lets millions of people in Metropolis die at the end without any real remorse at all until the point where three more are suddenly important, and he breaks some moral code against killing that he doesn’t have any reason to have because no one in his life up until now has been a good person. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it.