Thursday, 16 December 2010

Fuck you Rockstar

Hot off the heels (not really that hot. Like a year and a half) of producing what was undoubtedly the most boring game I've played in the last five years, Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games have flopped out some kind of trailer and interview about their next project, L.A. Noire, being developed by Team Bondi, who I also hadn't heard of. There are some quotes from Brendan McNamara, the head of development (he founded Team Bondi, worked on The Getaway, and apparently is British, despite being called Brendan McNamara), and producer Jeronimo Barrera (he's all downhill after his name), and some other shit too. They haven't said a whole lot though, so I'm surprised they've made it sound so awful.
"I want this game to be the flashpoint where people start to think of games and film as being on the same level, because I'm confident they already are," whines Barrera, declaring his somewhat flawed perception of his own importance and the fact that he is an idiot very concisely. Just in case there was any doubt as to what he was getting at, he also says, "we're definitely blurring the lines now [between games and film]." Yeah, he's another one of those guys. The best bit is, he also says, "it's been a challenge to be viewed as a legitimate medium."
No shit you fucking shill. Your dream is for games to be films that take forever, look weird, are shit, have achievements, involve 30 hours of superfluous shooting and the ability to jump. This is the equivalent of a comic maker, frustrated at the lack of prestige accredited to his medium, releasing a graphic novel where every single panel is completely full of text in the search for legitimacy.
Rockstar has always, at least since Grand Theft Auto III, basically just been trying to make films. It used to be alright and they used to make great games. Perhaps they used to have a better sense of scale and purpose. A half-dozen years ago they put out San Andreas and The Warriors fairly close together. Where the promise of this Rockstar went I do not know. Those were interesting games. The Warriors was a game version of a film, but it wasn't some tie-in. The film was over 20 years old, pretty off-beat in its production, and the demographic targeted by the game contained almost no one who'd even seen it. They weren't doing it for money and they didn't feel the need to explain themselves. They were confident that the game was good enough to stand on its own, and it fucking was. San Andreas, obviously, was about a black guy. Hilariously, even now, years after this game came out and was a big success, this is still completely left-field, a wacky radical move to take which has pretty much not been repeated. I could get in to it more but it's apparent enough if you've played it, at least two other games, and met a couple of real people, or even just watched a few films.
Now though, it's all a lot of bullshit. Red Dead Redemption was the most tired and flat setting, collection of characters and plot they've scraped together yet, and this is the company who made Grand Theft Auto IV. A trick I've noticed Rockstar doing of late when hyping their own games, is just to lie and say the opposite of what has happened. For both GTA IV and Red Dead the pre-release spiel went on about how they'd completely redone the combat system, when in actuality it's exactly the same alternate-trigger-tapping shit from GTA III, which was already dated in San Andreas, and so ludicrously poor by now that it makes Red Dead essentially unplayable, unless all you wanted to get out of it was watching a really, really, really long and completely fucking shit film, with over 3 hours of blood spraying on to the camera as the protagonist skins animals, exclaiming, "Hoowee! Stinky!" And other such statements, on account of what a conflicted and complex character he is. I'm guessing the same system will be in L.A. Noire, probably with a meter-based "Hardboiled Mode" where the screen goes black and white and gets smoky and you just press one button to kill everyone with your revolver whilst making wisecracks, on account of how conflicted and complex you are.
The same system, too, is evidently being used when it comes to hyping this game. "We know we're asking a lot from players," lies Robert McNamara. No you're not. You've called this game fucking L.A. Noire. You're not even asking them to work out what this game is by looking at the cover picture, or to have to remember what it's about later. You've just named the game what you want it to be like, a testament to the glib, facile and meretricious piece of shit it will undoubtedly be. Red Dead Redemption was a lot of things, but it wasn't called Angry Cowboy Dad.
And fucking complex, moody characters. "The character Aaron plays is conflicted and has quite a lot of depth," lies McNamara again. No he doesn't, I bet all my money. These unshaven, bad tempered, extremely white characters have always cropped up as game protagonists, but the last few years it's been pretty much just them. And they are all, literally all of them, every single one, fucking awful. It's not just aping films, it's aping a really tiny view of films, and mostly aping other games what did make all the £££.
CJ from San Andreas wasn't moody and conflicted. He knew exactly what the shit was up, what he had to do, and how he felt about it. He even gave off the vibe of knowing that he was the protagonist of a videogame, with the gallows humour and detached, fatalistic wit of someone who just spent nine hours driving over women and being shot by police because a 14-year-old boy wanted him to. He was pitched perfectly for the game, and the medium. Rockstar is now giving us protagonists from films (and awful ones from shit films, at that), all serious and gruff, whilst still making games that are at by far their most enjoyable when you're flying a helicopter whilst wearing disco pants, being chased by everyone in the world because you shot the hot dog seller by mistake and you don't want to go to prison (for 5 hours) because you'll lose all your cool guns and because it was just the fucking hot dog seller why does everyone care so much, he's just one guy, how did this get so out of hand why are there tanks after me? That is what these games are for, what they have always been for and still evidently are for. But they're shoehorning all this awful shit in in this totally misguided and frankly massive unwanted push for legitimacy. Riding your golf kart through town in your disco pants, casually shooting pedestrians with your TEC-9 as you pass them before getting out and talking to David Cross and shooting down hundreds of toy planes with the four miniguns he has on the roof of his downtown toyshop, that was fine, because it was San Andreas, you were CJ, and that was what happened. Riding through the desert on your bull in your inexplicably pristine suit, casually lassoing nuns as you pass them before getting out and talking to an insane grave digging hermit with a silly voice is not fine, because you're playing Red Dead and you're fucking John Marsden and you have conflicted emotions and are so complex and it's just fucking jarring and awful.
By deciding you weren't happy just making games, and that you had to try and make them films too, you went from making great games that were genuinely trying new things out and forming what 'games' were as a medium, to making shitty, bland, overblown boring games. And they aren't even like films. And, if they somehow were films, they would be fucking atrocious films.
So fuck you Rockstar Games, you big pile of dicks.

L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, Rockstar Games) is expected out in the first half of 2011 for PS3 and Xbox 360.

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