Half-Life 2 Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Half-Life 2 RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Half-Life: Alxy Release Date Confirmed, Other Half-Life Games F2P on Steam https://www.gameskinny.com/nncgd/half-life-alxy-release-date-confirmed-other-half-life-games-f2p-on-steam https://www.gameskinny.com/nncgd/half-life-alxy-release-date-confirmed-other-half-life-games-f2p-on-steam Fri, 14 Feb 2020 12:43:24 -0500 Ty Arthur

Half-Life: Alxy, a VR-only Half-Life 2 prequel that takes place between the two main games in the franchise, is now officially set for a March 23 Steam release date. Though Valve has trouble counting, at least they know fans want more Half-Life

You can check out the original announcement trailer below.

Playing Half-Life: Alxy will require a compatible VR headset, such as the Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest. The game also supports Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

Sadly, there is no indication of a PSVR port at this time. It looks like PS4 owners will have to jump on the SteamVR bandwagon if they want to play  for now at least.

Alxy is up for pre-order now on Steam for 10% off the full $59.99 price. Until the game drops in March, every previous Half-Life game is free to play on Steam.

While a brand-new game is huge news for the Half-Life franchise, fans also have the Black Mesa remake of the original Half-Life game to look forward to soon. After more than a decade in development, Black Mesa finally has a 1.0 Beta version available for testing, with a full launch expected later this year.

Are you planning on picking up a VR headset for your PC to play the closest thing to Half-Life 3 we're probably ever going to get? Sound off in the comments below, and stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Alxy and Black Mesa news!

Enhanced Versions of 4 Valve Classics Now Playable on Xbox One X https://www.gameskinny.com/cp7ja/enhanced-versions-of-4-valve-classics-now-playable-on-xbox-one-x https://www.gameskinny.com/cp7ja/enhanced-versions-of-4-valve-classics-now-playable-on-xbox-one-x Thu, 18 Oct 2018 13:33:03 -0400 William R. Parks

Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb has announced that, starting today, enhanced versions of four more Xbox One Backward Compatible titles will be playable on Xbox One X: Valve classics Half-Life 2: The Orange Box, Portal: Still Alive, Left 4 Dead, and Left 4 Dead 2.

"Xbox 360 games enhanced for Xbox One X run at a higher resolution and 9X the original pixel count," Hyrb's post states.

Without altering the game's original code, enhanced titles "showcase the very best version possible with the existing assets."

With these additions, there are now 21 enhanced Xbox 360 titles playable on Xbox One X, including Assassin's Creed, Fallout 3, and Red Dead Redemption.

While these four new additions may not all be created equal, it is hard to deny the impact they have had on their respective genres, and enhanced versions are certainly a boon for those that have sprung for the more powerful Xbox One.

To close, if you have not played Half-Life 2: Go!

Feast Your Ears on the Fascinating Audio Commentary in These 11 Games https://www.gameskinny.com/t06i8/feast-your-ears-on-the-fascinating-audio-commentary-in-these-11-games https://www.gameskinny.com/t06i8/feast-your-ears-on-the-fascinating-audio-commentary-in-these-11-games Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:56:02 -0500 Serhii Patskan


Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots


Alas, Hideo Kojima, the creator of the famous Metal Gear Solid series, never took to the task of recording a single line of developer commentary on his games. However, the fourth game in the series, Guns of the Patriots, includes such a commentary by Ken Imaizumi, the game's producer, Aki Saito, Konami international product manager, and Sean Eyestone, one of the writers.


This audio commentary is available in the game on Snake's iPod. So if you haven't had the chance to listen to it yet, maybe now's the time.




What's your favorite developer commentary track? Let us know in the comments below!.


Grim Fandango Remastered


Tim Schafer is one of the world's most renowned and consistent game designers. His titles have garnered huge fan followings, and his new games are anticipated by millions of gamers everywhere every year.


Grim Fandango is definitely one of his finest moments. That's why Sony decided to release a remastered version of the game just a few years ago. It was a great decision to include the developer commentary, too, as it reveals the massive amounts of talent Tim Schafer wields.


Fortunately, the entire commentary has been leaked online, so grab a pack of popcorn and immerse yourself in the world of mesmerizing game development of Grim Fandango.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut


The Director's Cut of the first Deus Ex introduced a number of revamped gameplay elements, a fantastic series of developer commentaries, and a whole documentary showcasing the behind-the-scenes creation process.


Even if you've never played the game or have no interest in the Deus Ex series but want to know what it takes to develop a modern AAA title, then be sure to check the entire audio commentary section of the game. Be warned, though, it's long. Seven hours long.


Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2


This survival horror franchise from Valve was another massive success for the company. So it's no surprise that the dev team opted to provide audio commentary in the same fashion as both Half-Life 2 and the Portal franchise: as interactive nodes that could be activated by players during the gameplay.


The sequel, which came out only a year later, had the same team record their thoughts on the development process, too, making it one of the most encompassing game design commentaries you will ever hear.


Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour


Here is another cult title from the 90s -- a true blast from the past: the one and only Duke Nukem 3D. The upgraded version of the original title was released just a year ago to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series.


Allen Blum and Richard Gray, the original designers of the game, return to their progeny and not only deliver additional content to the original game, but also discuss what went into the process of reviving the old files from the ashes.


Tomb Raider: Anniversary


The very first game that launched the epic Tomb Raider series was released in the mid-90s. Ten years later, Crystal Dynamics released a remastered version of that first game based on the new Legend engine.


Fast forward to the Tomb Raider: Anniversary bundle, and you'll find game developer commentary featuring Jason Botta, the creative director of the remastered version, and Toby Gard, the original game's lead designer. 


They discuss each segment of the game as you play through it, and reveal why certain decisions were made in the process of the creation of those particular levels.




Firewatch offers a developer commentary as a part of its free DLC, which adds an Audio Tour mode to the game. It's designed in such a way that allows players to pick up audio players in the beginning of the prologue, and then pick up audio cassettes that are placed in special spots throughout the game.


Each cassette contains a recording from a Firewatch development member who discusses how that particular part of the game was designed. The best thing about this approach is that the recordings are relatively short and don't distract from the actual gameplay too much.


Portal & Portal 2


After the smashing success of Half-Life 2, Valve released another title that is considered to be one of the most original game concepts ever devised -- the Portal series.


As usual, Gabe Newell, the founder of Valve, was joined by the development team behind the Portal games and recorded an accompanying audio commentary for the series. In order to access all of the commentary episodes, players must first complete the game. Afterward, the developer commentary mode will be unlocked, offering over a hundred audio segments for your listening pleasure.


The Last Of Us Remastered


The Last of Us was a PS3 exclusive and international hit. A year later, it was remastered and ported to the PS4 -- bringing with it developer commentary by Neil Druckmann, creative director, Troy Baker, who plays Joel, and Ashley Johnson, who plays Ellie.


This commentary can be accessed through an in-game menu, which shows all of the game's cutscenes in succession -- with audio commentary on top -- making the experience very similar to watching films with director commentary. 


Half-Life 2


Half-Life 3 is undoubtedly the most anticipated sequel to any game ever released. The first two games have set the bar of the quality so high that it will be hard to achieve the same level of intrigue as before.


However, if you want to know how the development of this incredibly popular series began, then be sure to check the developer commentary of Half-Life 2: Episodes 1 & 2.


Unfortunately, the development team didn't record commentary for the first game, but there is more than enough material to study from the two episodes of the sequel. Commentary includes anecdotes and behind the scenes stories from team members such as Gabe Newell, Greg Coomer, Jay Stelly, and many more. 


BioShock: The Collection


Every fan of the BioShock series simply ought to have BioShock: The Collection. Not only does it inlcude the remastered versions of all three games, but it also adds to the experience an exciting commentary track from Ken Levine, the series' creative director, and Shawn Robertson, the lead artist. 


Interestingly, the commentary for Bioshock: The Collection is part of the franchise's world. Throughout each of the stories, players are able to find collectible items that activate new episodes where the developers discuss the design process behind the series.


The commentary uncovers many previously unknown details about the risks and challenges that the development team had to take in order to deliver one of the most praised video game franchises in history.


While audio commentary from directors and filmmakers is typical for most Hollywood movies, commentary from video game developers discussing their creative process on a separate audio track attached to your favorite game is relatively new.


It took some years before game developers decided to adopt the same approach as their Hollywood counterparts. The first game that appeared with such developer commentary was 2000's Star Wars: Episode I: Battle for Naboo.


After that first experiment, other developers also wanted to share their experiences with gamers, and many games followed suit. Here you will find 11 of the most inspiring video game developer commentaries that will not only let you see the the machinations behind your favorite games, but also what drives your favorite developer to keep making great games. 

Beloved YouTube Series, Freeman's Mind, Returns on the Worst Possible Day https://www.gameskinny.com/5uglh/beloved-youtube-series-freemans-mind-returns-on-the-worst-possible-day https://www.gameskinny.com/5uglh/beloved-youtube-series-freemans-mind-returns-on-the-worst-possible-day Sun, 02 Apr 2017 11:27:59 -0400 Dan Roemer

From the brilliant mind of YouTube user Ross Scott of Accursed Farms comes the potential and unlikely return of the beloved Freeman's Mind series.

If you're sitting there scratching your head, not sure what the Freeman's Mind series is, here's a quick run-down. Imagine if Gordon Freeman was self-narrating in his head during the events Half-Life -- Ross Scott delivers exactly that in an almost “Let's Play” style format. It's incredibly witty and funny (at least in my opinion...).  

The series originally started on the Machinima channel on YouTube back in late 2007 -- but since then, Ross has left Machinima and has re-uploaded the videos to his own channel, Accursed Farms.


 The series was so popular it even inspired other YouTubers to create spin-offs for Half-Life: Blue Shift and Half-Life: Opposing Force, in the form of Barney's Mind and Shephard's Mind.

So of course, on April 1, as I was casually going through my YouTube subscriptions and noticed the thumbnail and the episode “Freeman's Mind 2: Episode 1," I immediately thought, “Oh wonderful, another prank video.” But then to my surprise and confusion... There wasn't any sort of prank present in the video. Instead, it was a full and complete 10-minute episode.

So now, I'm left wondering, “Is this still a prank? Is the bit that it's the only episode we're getting!?” I can't say for sure, and obviously, Ross isn't about to spill the beans quite yet. So ... we may have to idly stand by and simply wait to see what may come out of this.

Imagine the Potential, Though ... 

If this is going to be a real full-fledged series covering the events of Half-Life 2, with the prank simply being the date it started on, just think of the potential commentary and comedic gold we could get from this series. From Gordon going to Ravenholm for the first time and meeting Father Grigori to meeting Dog for the first time and using the Gravity Gun and jumping on random bits of metal and garbage to avoid antlions, Half-Life 2 is filled with pure comedic potential for another Freeman's Mind. We could even potentially see a crossover from Ross Scott's other Half-Life 2 series; Civil Protection!

So what do you guys think? Is this all just a big prank or the start of something wonderful? If you're a newcomer to the series, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the series down below in the comments!

As always, stay tuned to GameSkinny for everything Half-Life.

4 Silent Protagonist Characters That Are Actually Quiet https://www.gameskinny.com/0xp0v/4-silent-protagonist-characters-that-are-actually-quiet https://www.gameskinny.com/0xp0v/4-silent-protagonist-characters-that-are-actually-quiet Mon, 27 Jun 2016 10:51:55 -0400 CalendarV


Many gamers just accept silent protagonists without doubts. But game developers often have good reasons for using silent player characters -- perhaps to help players immerse themselves in the game,or because of the lack of technology, or because too much recording would needed, etc. And gamers know that. We accept it.


That is why some actually silent characters becomes special. The real quietness gives some extra characteristics to the characters that are unlike other protagonists.


I believe that there are more actually silent characters out in the world of gaming. When you are playing some game with a protagonist that doesn't talk, it can be pretty fun to think about whether the character is just a seemingly silent character, or a character who is truly man/woman of few words!


4. Chell


Chell is the protagonist in Portal series, a puzzle FPS developed by Valve Corporation. Erik Wolpaw, who wrote the dialogue for Portal and wrote Portal 2 with other people, felt that the personality of Chell wasn't really important for making Portal.


GLaDOS, the nefarious artificially intelligent operating system, is irritated by Chell's silence -- saying "Are you even listening to me?". Wheatley, another AI from Portal 2, asks Chell to jump, instead of talk, to respond his questions. As these examples suggest, characters in Portal series DO understand that Chell is a silent woman.


3. Corvo Attano


Corvo Attano is the protagonist of Dishonored, a stealth action game developed by Arcane Studios. Corvo does communicate inside the game through actions such as killing, hugging, and giving stuff -- but he isn't very talkative.


Even in Dishonored's DLC "The Brigmore Witches", where Corvo appears as an NPC, he does not have a single line. Dishonored's writer has talked about about Corvo's silence before:


I'm biased, of course, but I think Dishonored grips you much more viscerally, more emotionally. And that's on purpose. Corvo doesn't talk and I think it works because everybody knows what Corvo would have to say.


2. Gordon Freeman


Gordon Freeman is the protagonist of the Half-Life series, a famous FPS franchise developed by Valve Corporation. Valve didn't include any lines for Gordon Freeman, so that it would be easier for a player to immerse themselves in the game.


His quietness is not only just something set by Valve. In Half-Life 2, a character named Alyx Vance humorously jokes about Gordon's silence, saying:


Man of few words, aren't you?


1. Red


Red is the default name for the protagonist of the first generation Pokémon games. He does not have his own lines during the entire game, and other NPCs infer Red's situation from the items he has or other things that might show what Red wants.


In the second generation of Pokémon games, he is the hidden final boss of the game. His only line in the second generation games is "......". As such, many Pokémon fans consider Red as a cool and chic, silent character.


"Silent protagonist" usually refers to a player character in video game that does not speak throughout the whole game, except for short sounds or interjections. But quite a number of silent protagonists are not actually silent in-game. Other characters inside the game acknowledge them as a normal person who talks.


For example, in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the protagonist doesn't speak with voice -- but makes conversations with other NPCs throughout the story.


Today, we're counting down some of the most silent protagonists in all of gaming. These characters are not just lacking voiceover -- they're also silent throughout their respective games and don't make any sort of conversation. 

This Real Half-Life 2 City Scanner is the Best Use for a Drone Yet https://www.gameskinny.com/bmc7h/this-real-half-life-2-city-scanner-is-the-best-use-for-a-drone-yet https://www.gameskinny.com/bmc7h/this-real-half-life-2-city-scanner-is-the-best-use-for-a-drone-yet Tue, 31 May 2016 10:50:56 -0400 Chris Cooper

People love bringing fictitious vehicles and animal to "life" by modding the absolute hell out of their pricey drones. We've seen plenty of X-Wings, Millennium Falcons and Enterprises but where's the love for one of the more ubiquitous flying objects from the Half-Life world? 

In Half-Life 2 the City 17 Scanner Drones are one of the first things you see in the game. Their constant presence is always reminding you about the levels of surveillance the Combine is stressing over the citizens of Earth. You wind up shooting many of them down as the game progresses but you never forget their unique sounds. From the buzz of their tiny engines to that sizzle of their cameras when they seek out your identity - you know these little bastards. 

Well this brilliant man found a way to customize his drone to not only resemble one of the little buggers but to pretty much function exactly as one! 

Will VR become just another novelty? https://www.gameskinny.com/lv9ap/will-vr-become-just-another-novelty https://www.gameskinny.com/lv9ap/will-vr-become-just-another-novelty Thu, 07 Apr 2016 07:55:34 -0400 Damien Smith

For the past few years, VR has certainly been one of the top discussions within the video game industry. At this moment in time, it is without a doubt the future of gaming. However, will it just become the next novelty item that is played for awhile before it sits in the corner gathering dust?

Why is VR the future of gaming at this moment in time?

Right now, VR is nothing more than an expensive toy that a player would use for a little while before going back to playing video games the way they already do. Eventually, the VR device will sit in the corner of the room collecting dust alongside the likes of the Kinect and the PlayStation Move. Never the less, it is the future of gaming.

From the early 90s, video games have advanced technologically at an astounding rate. Over the past twenty years or so, the limit to video game graphics and technology has reached its peak. Though there is always room for improvement with current technology, the improvements are so small that they are barely noticeable.

Due to these technological limits, video game developers and technological developing companies are losing their edge over their competition. The gap that existed between companies is getting ever smaller. Developers needed something new and something that would once again give them an edge, not to mention a pile of money.

It is through this that the Oculus Rift is born, the first official working VR headset. It wasn't long before other companies began looking into developing their own versions of VR headsets.

VR allows the player to immerse his or herself into a world far greater than that of looking at a TV or monitor screen. VR allows players to see into a virtual world without the physical world getting in the way.

When the player moves their head, the screen moves with it, giving VR systems an immense sense of realism. It is without a doubt the future, as no other form of video game technology can immerse a player into a game at this level. If you were to look at the upcoming games section on Steam at this moment in time, you would see just how many developers are looking to get a slice of the VR pie.

Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon

For awhile now, various video game developers have decided to jump on the VR bandwagon. There are a ton of games developed for VR technology with plenty more still to come. More recent titles include Apollo 11 VR, SculptrVR, and Cloudlands: VR Minigolf.

This does not include an array of video games already released that have been made compatible with VR by their developers. With all the hype for VR, it comes as no surprise that this is the case. Such titles include Among the Sleep, Elite Dangerous, Euro Truck Simulator 2 and Half-Life 2Video game developers have waited years for such a technological advancement. Now that they have it, they are going to use it to their advantage in any possible way. The question is, have they jumped the gun?

How VR could backfire

There are different ways that VR could potentially backfire. The first and most prominent of the issues VR has is its pricing. Let's be honest; the average gamer does not have $599 hanging around their house collecting dust bunnies to purchase an Oculus Rift.

The PlayStation 4 is at the average price of €350-400, and the Xbox One is €350. That is between $398 and $455 here in Ireland at the current exchange rate from Euro to Dollars. That makes the Oculus Rift a whopping $144-202 more expensive than the latest generation of consoles.

Stated this way, it may not sound like it's too expensive. However, when you take a closer look at the technology of VR and where it currently is, and it may be far more than you would be willing to pay. With a PlayStation 4 or a Xbox One, you buy them and have a ton of games available to purchase and play. There is no fuss: you simply pop the game out of its box, place it into the console and play the game. Using something like the Oculus Rift is not quite that easy. Firstly, you need an Oculus Rift, which alone is $599. Secondly, you need a decent gaming computer. If you don't have one, you would need to buy or build one, which would be another $800+.

That already is a minimum of a whopping $1400 before you even start using the device. Then, you have to get the device set up and working. You require the correct drivers and configuration to get this working which at times can be a headache for those with minimal PC troubleshooting experience. Last, you need actual games to play, priced at an average of $15 each. 

Then, there are bugs and glitches. VR is a brand new technology that has only just hit the public market. It is likely there are issues and problems within the software coding somewhere. 

Right now, VR is not a very consumer friendly product. It is savagely expensive and can take quite a bit of work to get it running even with general PC troubleshooting knowledge. Indeed, this may change with PlayStation's VR when it releases, but you can expect to pay a pretty penny for the convenience that it will provide.

The VR experience

I am yet to have a first-hand experience with VR, but I know plenty of people who have and talked to them about their experiences with it. Almost everyone immediately states that their experience with VR was an amazing one, yet there are common problems.

The first and probably the most common of complaints is motion sickness. When the player moves their head, the game moves accordingly. At first, this doesn't appear to affect too many players but over a period of time using the device, it begins to set in.

It makes the player feel genuinely sick, and forces them to take off the headset and stop playing. Being forced to stop playing is something that is not ideal, as gamers do tend to like playing games for some hours at a time.

The second issue is that some games are not that friendly towards VR. An example of this would be Elite Dangerous. Despite being a wonderful experience, its controls are what let the game down with VR. The Elite series has always been one that contains an enormous amount of different controls, almost to the point you would need a space flight manual. Elite Dangerous is not different. While wearing the VR headset, you are unable to see the keyboard. Unless you know the exact location of each key without being able to see, you are going to have problems playing it with VR. Such an issue means that some games are not going to be ideal to play using VR.

The third issue with VR is the fact that it is genuinely more work while playing a game. Having to turn your head or use various devices like feedback gloves and so on is more work than only using a controller.

The convenience of a controller allows the player to interact with a game almost instantly. Flailing and swinging your arms around takes a bit more work than the instant response of pushing a button. Along with that, there is also the break of immersion, something the Wii has always had problems with in certain games.

For example, if you swing a sword in a game, and it impacts off of something, it is supposed to bounce off what it is impacting on. However, in real life, your arm still continues to move. Even wearing something like feedback gloves won't fix this. Indeed, you will feel the impact, but your arm will continue to move forward. 

Will VR become just another novelty?

We have established that VR is without a doubt the future of gaming, at least at this moment in time. But, with its expensive pricing, the difficulty of getting it to work and the experience issues, it is still a long way from becoming THE next gaming device.

It is a very young technology that has a lot of growing up to do. I have absolutely no doubt that in the not so distant future VR is going to be the way of gaming. It will, however, be quite a few years before it gets to a level that can provide the ultimate gaming experience. Until then, it will be just another novelty device to add to the collection.

What do you think of VR? Do you think it is going to become just another novelty device? Let me know in the comments below.

Image Sources: Technobuffalo, 148apps, Apollo 11 VR Store Page, Gavtrain, Elite Dangerous Store Page, and Engadget.


Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw has left Valve to work on own projects https://www.gameskinny.com/gg2rx/half-life-writer-marc-laidlaw-has-left-valve-to-work-on-own-projects https://www.gameskinny.com/gg2rx/half-life-writer-marc-laidlaw-has-left-valve-to-work-on-own-projects Fri, 08 Jan 2016 07:36:05 -0500 Jessa Rittenhouse

It's time to stop asking Marc Laidlaw about Half-Life 3

The famed sci-fi author, writer of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and lead writer for Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and Episode 2 has retired from Valve.

His retirement was confirmed in an e-mail exchange between Laidlaw and a fan, posted on the Half-Life subreddit. Redditor TeddyWolf e-mailed the writer to ask the now-ages-old question, "What about Half-Life 3?" 

He probably didn't expect a reply, but he got one. In it, Laidlaw offered a brief explanation for his decision to leave Valve:

"There are many reasons, most of them personal. An outwardly obvious reason is that I'm old, or anyway oldish. My nickname when I first started at Valve in 1997 was 'old man Laidlaw'. The little baby level designer who gave me that that nickname is now older than I was then. Imagine how much older I am! I had the unbelievable luck to fall in with the kids at Valve when they could have just dismissed me as an old fogey who didn't know s**t about videogames. The only Zelda I'd ever heard of was F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife. They taught me everything. I had a good run but lately I have been feeling a need for a break from the collaborative chaos of game production, and a return to more self-directed writing projects."

Sorry. Nope. Still not confirmed.

So what does this mean for the future of Half-Life 3? Laidlaw can't say. He knows he'll always have fond memories of and a relationship with the folks at Valve, but he'll no longer be a part of the development of any Valve projects. As he says in the letter, "Where Valve may choose to take Half-Life in the future is not in my hands."

If you're a fan of Laidlaw's work, however, take heart - while he's not writing for Valve (or any other game developer), Laidlaw says he will more than likely return to writing stories of his own, calling this his "default setting."

Is this the final nail in the coffin for Half-Life 3, or do you think another writer could take up the mantle? Are you hoping the game will still have a future, or do you think it's time to let go of the Half-Life 3 dream? Let us know in the comments.

Top 10 best video game dogs https://www.gameskinny.com/s573v/top-10-best-video-game-dogs https://www.gameskinny.com/s573v/top-10-best-video-game-dogs Thu, 03 Sep 2015 12:30:15 -0400 Andrea Koenig

Everyone loves furry companions, especially in video games. What better to connect more with your game than to add a canine friend that you can pet vicariously through your main character? Or dogs that help kick butt at your side? Become the dog yourself?

Dogs and wolves alike, canines are in video games as loyal, useful, and powerful additions to your adventures. These are a few that gamers tend to think of the most today.

Rush (Mega Man)

Mega Man's robotic dog Rush transforms into useful contraptions, flies, heals, and ultimately can fuse with Mega Man to create Super Mega Man. Why wouldn't a robo-hero need a robo-dog like this?

Dogmeat (Fallout series)

Dogmeat is the affectionate companion of Fallout. He warns of raiders, collects supplies, and fights alongside you in the Wastelands. Dogmeat is one of the most loved video game dogs, earning an instant ovation upon appearance at the Fallout 4 announcement at E3 2015.

Dog (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)


If you decide to befriend one of the many Skyrim dogs, they will follow you into battle. Some even have special attributes like tracking enemies and summoning thugs. Even the Dragonborn needs a furry friend.

K.K. Slider (Animal Crossing series)

See K.K. Slider perform Saturday nights in your town. He serves no other purpose than to collect each game's songs and forces you to re-watch the credits, but we all love him anyway. He is a necessary NPC to any Animal Crossing game.

Your dog (Fable 2 & 3)

The video game dog you can name yourself, making them that much more loveable. They find buried items, level up skills, and find enemies. Their good/evil alignment also changes their breed in Fable II, and you can pick the breed in Fable III. They really are the dog that you make your own.

Wolf-Link (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

There's no better companion than you! Talk to animals, use stronger senses, and travel through small spaces. Put the sword away, and rip apart enemies with your teeth. Give the Hero of Time a thirst for blood.

Repede (Tales of Vesperia)

Repede is the dog that might as well be a human character. He limits his circle of trust, carries around mementos of his former owner, and wields a blade and other "people" weapons. In his downtime, he refuses to be pet and smokes a pipe. As you do.

Amaterasu (Okami)

You say dog lead in a video game, everyone looks to Okami. Fight enemies and solve puzzles, all while looking like you just came off the calligraphy paper of a traditional Japanese artist. No better canine to play than one that is fierce and powerful but looks gorgeous while doing it.

Dog (Half-Life 2)

First, there was the dog. Then, the robot dog. Now, the giant robot dog. He's quirky, happy, and has a Zero Point Energy device fused into one of his hands so that he can pick up and hurl heavy objects across the yard. Whose turn is it to fetch, again?

D.D. (Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain)

With the big release of Phantom Pain this week, everyone's canine hype is all over D.D. here. Big Boss got himself the cutest hobbling, chirping stuffed animal that turns into a fierce, eye-patched war dog. He'll sniff out enemies and items, distract, and attack on command like a true Diamond Dog.

These are but a few of the possible canine friends or hero[in]es you can find in video games. Did your favorite make the list? If not, be sure to share them in the comments.

Twelve games undeserving of their critical praise https://www.gameskinny.com/574ei/twelve-games-undeserving-of-their-critical-praise https://www.gameskinny.com/574ei/twelve-games-undeserving-of-their-critical-praise Sun, 16 Aug 2015 18:39:02 -0400 The Soapbox Lord

We’ve all been there before. We have been playing a game that was showered with critical acclaim, and while we don’t think the game may necessarily be bad, we wonder, “Why is this getting so much praise?” While this thought may not occur during playtime, the thought may have crossed your mind after the end credits roll.

To clarify, I am not claiming these games are awful; some of them are pretty good. This list is a collection of games that caused me to question their critical acclaim while playing them.  With that in mind, let’s get to the good stuff!


I have to give credit where credit is due: Bethesda is great at creating gigantic virtual sandboxes for players to muck about in. The problem is they rarely fill those sandboxes with anything interesting. While Oblivion had many of the same issues as Skyrim, I found Skyrim the more boring and uninteresting of the two. With constantly repeated dungeons, floaty combat, shallow game mechanics, and an overall boring world, Skyrim is more repetitive than the Dick and Jane book series.   

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I love a good turn-based strategy game; I’m slightly addicted to them. When I heard the venerable XCOM series was receiving a reboot, I was ecstatic. The original games have not aged well; so being able to play an XCOM game with modern design and sensibilities was a tantalizing prospect. While Enemy Unknown was not bad, it had several design issues and a lack of depth found in other turn-based strategy games.

The game can be easily completed by keeping your squad in a phalanx formation and simply abusing Overwatch like it's no one’s business. Once you get your soldiers promoted, they essentially become all-powerful demigods who laugh at the enemy invaders. A combination of individual classes can make most of the game a breeze. The lack of depth was also noticeable.

I celebrate a game becoming more accessible for newcomers, but there are ways to add depth for those who want it without alienating newer players. It’s far from a bad game. I like the veteran series being thrust into the limelight once again, and now we are getting more, but hopefully the forthcoming sequel will rectify some of the issues found in Enemy Unknown.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

To the time of writing this, I have completed nearly every game I have started. I rarely start a game I do not finish unless the game is awful or just drab in every way. Brotherhood is one of those games.

I endured the uneven first game due to the unique setting and experience (Middle East during Medieval times = awesome!), and Assassin’s Creed 2 improved upon the first game in so many ways, giving me what I enjoyed from the first game with less of what I didn’t. So why in the world was Brotherhood so boring? The game doesn’t introduce many new or interesting ideas; the story was snooze-worthy; and the game was just monotonous as a whole.

Uncharted 2

I debated including this one. However, after the lovely comments on my last piece where I dared accuse Uncharted 2 of not being as great as people think it is, I couldn’t help but include it here!

Yes, Uncharted 2 in NO way deserves the amount of critical acclaim it has received.

Half-Life 2

I’ve really lost it now, haven’t I? (I assure you I haven’t, or maybe I never had it.) Before you discount this thought, though, let’s talk. Half-Life 2 is a good game, but it is nowhere near the perfection people claim it to be. It’s a small game wrapped in a large tech demo. The game was a vehicle to show what the Source engine could do, and at the time of release, it was impressive. Now, though, not so much.

There are some great moments in the game. Ravenholm was tense and dripping with atmosphere. Experimenting with the gravity gun was satisfying. The upgraded gravity gun was even more satisfying. Between all of those moments, though, there is a lot of filler. The game is filled with a glut of boring vehicle sections, some tedious puzzles, and unnecessary fluff which the later episodic release rectified. It’s still a good game, but there’s a reason many fans are still talking about the original Half-Life over the sequel.

Bioshock Infinite

I’ve argued the case for Bioshock 2 before, but I still find people who think BioShock Infinite is the better game because they like to pretend Bioshock 2 does not exist. Bioshock 2 had large locales to explore, gripping combat, depth of gameplay, and was also fun to play. BioShock Infinite was a corridor shooter that quickly devolved into a monotonous slog towards the endgame.

I almost didn’t finish the game due to how boring and predictable the gameplay and design had become. The story was the only thing keeping me invested in any way.

At least it had great art design!

Fable III

The entire Fable series is built upon a foundation of unfulfilled promises and disappointed players. That said, the first two games managed to be enjoyable, even if they came nowhere near the heights they were projected to reach. With Fable III, Lionhead went one step forward and three large steps backwards.

The most egregious change was the abandonment of a menu system in favor of a hub-like area to access your inventory and such. The result was a confusing and ultimately unnecessary system. They also had a ridiculously simple and unfulfilling combat system that was as shallow as it was bland. A bevy of technical issues and a pointless section towards the end add up to one undeserving game.

Grand Theft Auto 4

It’s boring. Hmmm. Is that not enough? Alright, alright, here ya go!

GTA 4 is full of uninteresting characters populating a dull world with failed attempts at social critique, plagued by poor controls and gameplay. Just play Saints Row instead: the controls are better, it is far from pretentious, and it’s just plain fun to play - something the GTA series has yet to learn.

Arkham Knight

Honestly, this one is a matter of principle. Yes, Warner Bros. should NOT have knowingly released such an obviously unfinished PC port. They are completely at fault for pushing this sorry excuse for a game out the door. But why in the world was the game positively reviewed almost everywhere while an entire section of the playerbase couldn’t even play the damn game they bought?

The shady tactics of WB releasing the now infamous PC port should have affected scores overall. After all, Metacritic scores are one of the only ways to get these AAA publishers to pay attention, listen, and learn from their mistakes.

Telltale Games

I really enjoyed The Wolf Among Us. The Walking Dead: Season One affected me on an emotional level only two other games have. Tales from the Borderlands is shaping up to be a solid surprise too. So why are Telltale’s games on this list? Because of The Walking Dead: Season Two and Game of Thrones.

The Walking Dead: Season Two is the very definition of a disappointing sequel. With weaker writing and plot design coupled with brain-dead character decisions and forced confrontations, the game left a lot to be desired.

As a fan of the books who was interested to see what Telltale would do, I am disappointed Game of Thrones has such a poor design base and is just so uninteresting. So far the game has been extremely predictable and plagued with poor design. Now if they would only start from scratch…

Gears of War 3

Marcus and company land on this list with a, you guessed it, an insipid entry in the beefcake versus meat slabs series. While the entire series could be on this list, I managed to somewhat enjoy the first two titles and complete them. Gears of War 3 on the other hand, remains one of those games on my “Do not want to finish list.”

With minimal to no evolution in any way over previous entries, failed attempts at gravitas and drama, and lame firefights, the acclaim heaped onto GoW 3 is puzzling.


Checklist for a "meh" game:

  • Repetive gameplay and embodiment of a Skinner box: Check!
  • Bland and lackluster gameplay: Check!
  • Story that reads like a thousand chimps' attempt at a space opera: Check!
  • Inflated expectations due to misleading ads, coverage, and such: Check!
  • Greedy business practices and insuting comments from the devs: Double Check!

And so it goes.

No doubt you completely agree with my list. However, if by some small chance you do not agree with my choices, sound off in the comments! Have I missed a game that in no way deserves the critical acclaim it has received? Make your voice heard as well!

Now go play some better games!

Top 10 Stories in Video Games https://www.gameskinny.com/05u7y/top-10-stories-in-video-games https://www.gameskinny.com/05u7y/top-10-stories-in-video-games Fri, 12 Jun 2015 20:23:21 -0400 Daniel R. Miller

1.) Half-life series

There isn't a game in the world that more people are clamoring for than Half-Life 3.  A lot of that has to do with just how good the world and its narrative are.  One of the most fascinating aspects about the story is how much of a passive rider the player character, Gordon Freeman is.  The entire video game medium is centered around the idea of control, and most of the time, game characters are in control and/or the center of attention.  Gordon Freeman is the exact opposite of those things, and the result is refreshing.  In fact, the story isn't even about Gordon Freeman, but rather about the world around him, and he is simply the vessel that the player experiences the world through.


What is also compelling about the Half-life experience is how naturally everything unfolds.  There are no interruptions for cut scenes as the story unfolds in front of the player, and Half-life was the one of the first games to really let the player have the freedom to move about the environment as the story unfolded in front of the player. 


Subtle audio cues also helped to enhance parts of the narrative as well and the biggest example of this is the Combine Soldiers.  The game frequently let the player hear their enemy before seeing them, which worked to further imprint the enemy's importance both in terms gameplay mechanics and what they meant to the world.  Because the game was challenging in its combat, the player became conditioned to feel a sense of dread every time one of these audio cues played.




What do you think? What are your favorite examples of narrative in games? 

2.) The Last of Us

The driving force behind the entire experience of The Last of Us is its narrative.  The game is a character-driven narrative that is quite a linear affair but the all of the extra nooks and crannies keep it from feeling too straight forward.  When the player uncovers these hidden places, the game provides some poignant moments between Joel and Ellie that provide context and insight of the state of the world that really drive the generational differences between someone who lived in the world before (Joel) and one who grew up in the current state of affairs (Ellie).  


Speaking of Joel and Ellie, they are the very foundation of the game itself, both narratively and mechanically.  The loneliness of the journey, the forced cooperation, and the ugliness of the people and the world around you helps to create an authentic sense of protectiveness over Ellie.  It is very much a journey of you against the world, and every time Ellie is forced to leave the safety of your side for the sake of cooperation, it is an authentically uneasy feeling.  


While the post-apocalyptic zombie-esque world isn't particularly unique when factoring in The Walking Dead's immense popularity, it is the journey and the interactive delivery of Joel and Ellie's journey across the country that helps set it apart.  The Last of Us is an ever lasting example of the evolution of interactive story telling and will always hold a significant place in gaming history.

3.) The Walking Dead (Telltale Series) 

Telltale Games has made an entire business around being able to tell quality stories.  But they really didn't take off until they released their first season of their episodic Walking Dead series.  Its popularity isn't derived from the AMC blockbuster series, but employs a style that is closer to the comic books.


The journey of Lee Everett and Clementine is one of the most compelling arcs ever crafted in interactive narratives.  Despite the fact that there isn't much of a challenge (or game depending on who you talk to), the narrative drives a satisfying set of in game prompts that mean the difference between life and death.  In this zombie apocalypse, death rears its head around every corner and isn't afraid to take your heart strings, rip them out, and throw them in the dirt before stomping them into submission.

4.) The Witcher Series

The Witcher series can be tough to get into if you haven't read the books and/or choose to skip the first game.  The series' second entry, Assassin's of Kings more or less assumes you know what is going on from the start and is unapologetic about it.  However, it doesn't take too long to realize that you are dealing with one of the most unique video game narratives around.  Most stories clearly state who is good and who is bad at every turn, but in this universe, it's not that simple.


It's said that there are two sides to every story and that ideal is the foundation of The Witcher's narrative.  Almost nothing follows the path of "this side is good, this side is bad". In fact almost all of it is bad on some level.  The world operates in shades of grey rather than light versus dark.  Villains are not representations of the Evil Railway Baron trope, instead having legitimate goals that you, yourself might be trying to accomplish had things been different.  


In fact, Assassin's of Kings offers up a choice between following two different leaders, a murderer fighting for the rights of non-humans and a human trying to uphold the peace, but whose actions are perceived as racist by some.  Neither are good, neither are evil, it all just depends on the player's perspective, much like the world we live in now.  The result is a very believable and grounded story in a high fantasy world.

5.) BioShock series

Yes, in many ways, BioShock is basically System Shock 2, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the most compelling and hotly debated stories in the history of interactive narrative.  I mean, would you kindly take a look at that insane timeline of BioShock Infinite.  


The original BioShock was a master class of its own in balancing functional level design, with a believably lived in space and the events that lead to Rapture's undoing let the combat mechanics fit the story like a glove.  It can be debated that despite its critical appeal, BioShock Infinite never quite achieved the same heights as the original, but it doesn't exclude the fact that the series as a whole tells one of the best stories that video games have ever seen.

6.) Final Fantasy VII

It wouldn't be a list of narratively focused games if the semi-divisive Final Fantasy VII wasn't on the list.  


Of course, this entry is more or less on the "it's cool to hate" spectrum by a lot of Final Fantasy purists.  However, its impact both as a game and as a narrative cannot be denied in terms of its ever lasting legacy.  A lot of that has to do with "the death."  On the outside, it seems kind of silly that one event could make an entire narrative that famous, however it has done just that.  That death of course is everyone's favorite flower girl, Aeris.


Never have I seen so many gamers live in such denial about one death in a video game.  Even now, coming up on 20 years after the game's initial release, there is a sect of players that are still convinced that there is a legitimate way to bring her back from the dead.  *Spoilers* there isn't.  As much as I love this game and its story, I admit Aeris' death is a bit illogical given the fact that Cloud and Co. should have had at least one Phoenix Down in their back pocket.  Bah, details.

7.) Metal Gear Solid (PS1)

Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation is widely recognized as one of the greatest games of all time and for good reason.  Despite its relatively short length of 12 hours, it has great story pacing and tight gameplay.  At the time, Metal Gear Solid was renowned for being one of the most cinematic experiences and it was obvious that a lot of care went into trying to be accurate with smaller details, which is a bit ironic considering how super natural many elements of the game are.


David Hayter's performance as Solid Snake was revolutionary at the time for how good it was, and his voice has since become arguably the most iconic in the industry.  The story humanized a couple of the supposed villains in the game like Sniper Wolf and Psycho Mantis upon their deaths which effectively blurred the lines between the player's side and the antagonist's.  


Despite the fact that the series has become quite convoluted in its logic over the years, Metal Gear Solid's emphasis and delivery on story telling is in in some ways unmatched even today.  With Hideo Kojima's tenure at Konami looking like it's end is near, it's important to appreciate the impact that the Metal Gear series has had on interactive narrative.

8.) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Before Mass Effect and Dragon Age's enormous impact on the Western Role Playing game market, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was BioWare's flagship role-playing franchise.  KOTOR, as it is known, released back in 2003 during the early days of the original Xbox and took place 4,000 years before the Original Star Wars trilogy where a Sith Lord, Darth Malak, the former apprentice of the feared Darth Revan, has commenced a fierce attack on the Jedi Knights with a large armada, forcing them to scatter across the galaxy.  


Its narrative formula would build the foundation that both the Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises would come to lean heavily on.  KOTOR featured teams of three allies in combat and had the player travel from planet to planet, finding new allies on each one that represented a different class or class combination.  


Arguably the biggest reason that KOTOR's narrative is so fondly remembered is the big twist around the halfway point in the game that takes its inspiration from Darth Vader's infamous "I am your father" reveal.  YOU are the villain, Darth Revan.  Before the big reveal, Revan's role is little more than a reference to give context to present events, much like Luke Skywalker's references to his father were.  But once the cat's out of the bag, it revolutionizes the way the player views the entire story in the same way Vader being Luke's father did in Empire Strikes Back.

9. ) Minecraft

Sometimes the best stories in video games aren't directly told to you, but rather the story you tell yourself.  Minecraft accomplishes just that with the personalization, tools and authentic sense of discovery that lies at the heart of the experience.  Imagination is the name of the game, and Minecraft's formula is built to appeal to ours.


There are so many different ways to play the game, and it all depends on what kind of character the player wants to role play as.  Are you a survivor that washed up on a mysterious land?  Are you a farmer that wants to herd the land's animals?  What about the threats that befall the land?  Do you hide from them at night while planning for the next day? Do you brave the night to slay the monsters for their resources?  How do you deal with hunger?


Minecraft is the poster child for individual story telling, spawning a whole host of survival adventures that permeate Steam's Early Access page that have evolved on Minecraft's principles.

10.) Portal Series

Portal's narrative begins simply enough.  You awaken inside your room in the Aperture Science labs, and are instructed to begin testing by the soft, robotic voice of GLaDOS.  Like the character we inhabit, we follow the instructions without question.  The player has no concept of what is going on outside of the casually comedic tone, the task that is laid out before us and that there's cake at the end (Yum!).  This setup allows us to effortlessly step into the shoes of Chell, the Aperture lab rat.  But as the player progresses, we quickly find out that "The Cake" is a lie. 


Portal is especially good at tying dialogue into in game accomplishments.  As the player masters more and more puzzles, GLaDOS in turn becomes more and more talkative and goes from being mockingly hilarious to being mockingly cold and murderous (while still being hilarious).  It is this dark comedy that really helps make Portal stand out on its own from the Half-life series in terms of its tone.


Not everybody plays games for story.  And as a result, ludology vs narratology is one of the hottest debates in gaming.  And to be fair, a lot of games tell some pretty crappy and/or cliched stories, and sadly a lot of them are actually trying.  However, there have been some legitimately great stories that have come from the interactive entertainment medium and in many ways their impact is best felt as a video game.  


These games were chosen on the basis, of not only the quality of the narrative, but how well the story utilizes the mechanics of the interactive medium.  I think it goes without saying that massive story-ruining spoilers follow.  Here are the Top 10 stories in video games.

Ten Ridiculously Overrated and Overhyped Franchises https://www.gameskinny.com/kxgy7/ten-ridiculously-overrated-and-overhyped-franchises https://www.gameskinny.com/kxgy7/ten-ridiculously-overrated-and-overhyped-franchises Thu, 19 Mar 2015 19:18:03 -0400 The Soapbox Lord


Disagree with my selections? Feel I left some deserving ones off the list? 


Let me know in the comments. Just keep it civil please. 




Whoa now! Let’s put down those pitchforks, stop typing your angry comment, and hear me out. The Half-Life series is a great series. The games have been hugely influential on the game world and launched Valve to the astronomical heights where the company now sits. Since the release of Half-Life: Episode 2 in 2007, players have been eagerly anticipating the next release in the franchise, be it an episode or core release. It has been eight years now, and Valve is still holding their hand close to their chest. To say the next entry in the series is anticipated is an understatement. Every year, rumors swirl like a mysterious fog on the shore. Maybe this year we will finally hear some news from Valve but to no avail.


Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the next entry in the series too, but the hype for this will probably backfire. When a game gets hyped to ridiculous heights, the game usually fails to meet expectations. So can we forget about Half-Life until Valve makes an announcement please? 




You had to know this was coming. Honestly, every franchise Molyneux has worked on since the closing of Bullfrog could be on this list. At the end of the day though, Fable has to be the most deserving of a spot. The first Fable was one of, if not the most, anticipated games of its generation. Molyneux worked his magic filling our heads with grandiose dreams of acorns which would fall from a tree and then grow into tree themselves. Players should have been more skeptical, especially after Black & White, but the hype train could not be stopped. Surprising no one, many features Molyneux promised were nowhere to be found in the game after launch. Say it ain’t so!


Molyneux has continued to get the hopes of players worldwide to astronomical heights for each subsequent release in the series, only to disappoint. Jim Sterling is one of a few who has the gumption to call him out on his shenanigans he has perpetuated for years now. Each release has been missing features and more which were promised beforehand. On top of Molyneux’s self-perpetuating cycle, the games are also just basic ARPGs at their core with elements of The Sims. Let’s put an end to this cycle eh?


Five Nights at Freddy’s


A relative underdog in this sea of AAA overhyping, Five Nights at Freddy’s is an odd choice but deserves its place on here. This is the only series on this list not subject to hype from the press but rather the fans. Let me be clear here. I am a metalhead; I play Magic the Gathering; I play and write about video games; I read comic books. But Holy Toledo Batman! This fan base is the most rabid and fanatical one I have seen yet, and I have seen bronies.


I like Scott Cawthon. He is a nice guy and is open about his faith, something you rarely see in this industry. The reason we have FNAF is because Scott took some criticism about one of his games and decided to listen to what the criticism said and improve, rather than lashing out or acting infantile. The results have paid off tremendously for him, and I applaud his success. I stand by my assertion about this overrated series though. Also, the games are not scary. They are good for putting me to sleep after a long day though.


The Elder Scrolls


Imagine there is a pool fifty miles square but only one inch deep. It would be a terrible pool right? The Elder Scrolls series is that pool: a gigantic Tolkien influenced fantasy world with less depth than a papercut. On top of shallow mechanics and poor leveling systems, you lucky players also get atrocious, floaty combat! You lucky people! I have had staring contests with my googly-eyed plants that were more intense than the combat in these games.


I like a good sandbox game, but when every texture, house, and dungeon looks the same, things get monotonous fast. I’ve written before about how Elder Scrolls needs to evolve past a shallow, generic fantasy sandbox or just do something different for crying out loud. If players want their sandbox unchanged (because we know how much players love change) then fine, let the series stay as it is. However, the press should stop over hyping this series, and players should not lose their collective mind when the tiniest tidbit gets announced. Seriously, please just stop. 


Gears of War


Ah Gears of War. I remember renting the game with a friend and blasting through the co-op. To our fifteen year-old selves, the game was absolutely amazing. It was visceral, action-packed, gory, and had flipping chainsaws on assault rifles! Until this point, third person shooters had been rather middling affairs (with some exceptions). The series reinvigorated the third person shooter and has spawned countless imitators.


However, the series digressed into self-infatuation and taking itself WAY too seriously, no mean feat given how serious the first game took itself. I understand the series wanted to tell a dark tale of humans struggling against a merciless invading force, but it is hard to take the series seriously in any way given how the dialogue and character models were ripped from the 80’s and 90's beefcake film universe. At least those movies had a sense of self-awareness in some cases, or they went all out bonkers. Gears of War is a good action shooter in some regards, but as a gripping tale of human survival? Please. 


Assassin’s Creed


Assassin’s Creed blew us away at launch showing what the 360 and PS3 were capable of achieving, and we had only seen a fraction of what these powerful, new systems could accomplish. Despite being more bug-infested than the Capital Wasteland, players enjoyed the then unique premise and setting. The sequel improved upon the first by leaps and bounds. Then Ubisoft decided to be Ubisoft and the yearly releases started.


For perspective, since releasing in 2007, the series has seen nine titles, not including spinoffs. The Metroid series, which first released in 1986, has had the same amount of core release in twenty nine years. 29! Yet again, each release in the Assassin’s Creed series is eagerly anticipated. Despite the underwhelming and astonishingly buggy Unity, players are already talking about the next entry in the series. Unity had perhaps the biggest hype train of any game in the series and failed to meet expectations or playable standards on launch. It’s time to be skeptical of the series if you weren't already.


Grand Theft Auto                                                                   


The Grand Theft Auto series has had an impact on the gaming world like few other franchises have or ever will. GTA 3 revolutionized the sandbox genre and showed what the Playstation 2 was capable of achieving. San Andres and Vice City were by all accounts great games, so what happened with GTA 4 and GTA 5? I tried to play GTA 4 sometime after its release and was utterly dumbfounded at its myriad issues. Both GTA 4 & GTA 5 are among the top ranked games for their systems on Metacritic. All I can ask, is why?


The series has seemed to become more interested in attempting some smug stabs at satire instead of a game franchise. The games have issues with sloppy mechanics, but even worse is that they are simply boring. Yes, boring. Anything you can do in a GTA game has been done elsewhere much better. Despite being as boring as watching grass grow, the series continues to be catapulted into the stratosphere on the hype/overrated train. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go surf a jet liner in Just Cause 2. 


Call of Duty


The Call of Duty series has had some great entries. For better or worse, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has completely reshaped the way the FPS multiplayer is designed and played. However, the series has been treading water for some time now. For every decent or good entry, there is a weak entry in the franchise. Even the weaker entries receive a hype train some developers would love to have for their game. Players and the press complain of stagnation, yet continue to dole out heaps of praise, coverage, and money onto the series. My amazement never ceases at the hype each yearly release incurs. Can we give it a rest?




The Borderlands series is a battered, one-trick piñata with only a single, fragile leg to stand on. The main hook of the game was a “bazillion” or so guns and co-op play. The series really has several key flaws. The game worlds are as barren and lifeless as the surface of the moon. The gun mechanics are not only underwhelming but also poorly designed. The games tout themselves as some sort of action RPG/ shooter hybrid, but no self-respecting ARPG would limit the players to one skill. Yes, ONE skill. Sure the skill can be upgraded, but the upgrades are more underwhelming than my rare book collection. The game has more grinding than a gear manufacturing factory set in a JRPG. The best thing about the series was the writing of Anthony Burch in Borderlands 2 and the voice cast used to bring the script to life. 


I mean really, ONE skill??




Ugh Uncharted. Where to start? The poor shooting mechanics? The haphazard game design? The extremely unlikable main character? Or maybe the lack of respect for the player? The series has all of this and more.


Uncharted 2 though is where I really questioned the appeal of the series. Sure, the train sequence was a gripping and well-done opener, but the rest of the game is just, bad. Is the game, like some think, the worst ever? No, but it is nowhere near deserving the amount of praise and awards heaped upon it. Uncharted 3 proved Naughty Dog put story second to gigantic spectacle set pieces; you know, kind of like a Michael Bay film. On a perfect day in an alternate, perfect universe, the series would be considered average at best. With Uncharted 4 looming on the horizon, the hype shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. 


First things first, I am not claiming any of these series are bad (except one or two maybe), merely overrated and overhyped. Secondly, I am not singling out individual games or this slideshow would never end; instead, I am giving you ten of the most overrated franchises in gaming. With that out of the way, let's proceed!


Oh hype, where would the game industry be without you? Without those exclusive cover stories, in-depth previews, and bold, attention-grabbing headlines, which games would we know to build our hopes up for? The hype industry is a key part of the game industry, but sometimes the hype and overrating stays around long after the game’s release. Long after. Sometimes the hype and overrating follows each entry in a series, like a faithful puppy.  These ten franchises have the most loyal of puppies. 

The Problem With Backtracking https://www.gameskinny.com/5727y/the-problem-with-backtracking https://www.gameskinny.com/5727y/the-problem-with-backtracking Wed, 25 Feb 2015 18:36:24 -0500 Elijah Beahm

There's a lot of decrying these days for games that add filler content, just as much are there are complaints for those that don't have "enough" content like The Order: 1886. One of the most hated aspects of games with filler are backtracking sections where you must traverse a level you've already gone through before. I've thought a lot about this, and I'm beginning to question if we're looking at things the wrong way.

What is Backtracking and Why is it so Horrible?

So, say you've never played a game with backtracking -- what does that mean? Well, it would mean the levels never go back to any previous rooms and/or set pieces you may have participated in before. Every part of the level design forces you forward, and you can never go back.

If your mind is thinking back to NES-era gaming, you are on the right track. Mario in particular forced you to never go back, and always keep moving forward. While you could go back an inch or two, you really couldn't go back and try again for that 1-UP block or get all the coin boxes you missed.

Now, take a game like Halo: Combat Evolved, where on several occasions you walk back the way you came and/or reused path ways to reach new areas of levels. One level in particular is a reversed and expanded version of a previous level in the game. When Halo: Combat Evolved: Anniversary  released, it was criticized for this. In particular, in Game Informer's review, Matt Miller wrote:

Unfortunately, because the gameplay has been left unaltered, players are also stuck with some of Halo’s less fondly remembered features. Disastrous checkpoint placement can regularly derail the fun. You’ll backtrack through almost every level in the game at some point. Shields recharge slowly, and the health system regularly leaves you badly damaged right before a big fight. The lack of objective markers will often have you searching through empty corridors long enough to push your patience to the limit. We were more accepting of these flaws a decade ago, but time and advancing design make the frustrations more noticeable.

Now for comparison, a review by Eurogamer of the original 2001 release:

The one downside to this heavily scripted story-led malarkey is that the game is depressingly linear at times, shuffling you from one encounter to the next and rarely giving you any real choice in where to go or what to do. While running around space ships and Halo's interior you will find an amazing wealth of locked doors which keep you from straying from the one true path, with occasional neon arrows conveniently painted on the floor to point you in the right direction in case there was any doubt. The outdoor settings look fairly open at first sight, but although there's more freedom of movement there are still only one or two paths open to you most of the time thanks to steep-sided canyons and the occasional rock fall.

You see, as gaming has evolved, our priorities in level design have shifted. Once upon a time, a game like Halo: Combat Evolved was seen as too-linear, which is almost laughable now. Instead, now we're complaining about it requiring us to explore its levels thoroughly and backtrack. This is the tip of the confusing iceberg when it comes to backtracking's acceptance in the gaming community.

Bats, Dragons, and Inconsistencies

You see, this isn't a problem exclusive to shooters and platformers. Even role-playing games like Dragon Age have had to grapple with this. Dragon Age 2 attempted to focus on a single city for its campaign, and as a result you often went through familiar districts, outskirts, and streets. It was heavily criticized by fans for this.

Responding to this, Bioware released Dragon Age: Inquisition not even a whole year ago, with two large regions to explore, on top of hours of unique story content. Now, Inquisition has been criticized for doing the exact opposite of Dragon Age II. Not all games have had a problem with this criticism though, and that's where things get really weird and nonsensical.

Why is Batman here? Well, because Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham series is, amongst other things, a Metroidvania game. The subgenre involves unlocking upgrades for greater traversal and combat options, a tightly woven yet large world to explore, and lots of backtracking. Somehow though, I doubt you've heard anyone complain about repeatedly visiting the Arkham Library or having to go back into Intensive Treatment at the Medical Wing.

This is where the criticisms start to feel awkward, as backtracking truly is something the Arkham games have leaned upon. Not only can you backtrack, but completing each entry to its fullest extent and several specific missions require you retrace your steps. And yet, Rocksteady's gotten by pretty well with minimal complaint. What does this mean?

The Real Problem

You see, the problem itself isn't backtracking. It's both how the backtracking is executed, and modern gaming trends. On the former front, I feel Jon X. Porter at Venture Beat put it best, in his article Backtracking: You’ll Need the Blue Key to Read this Article:

What's important about these games is that you never backtrack for a single-use device. Doom's system of red and blue keys is fine for its small levels, but when put into a larger game, such as the original Devil May Cry, it becomes not just irritating but unsatisfying to wade back through.

Contrast this with the previously mentioned Morph Ball from Super Metroid and the numerous places throughout the game where you can use it. It's not just some throwaway item you immediately discard — it's an essential part of your arsenal that you'll use for hours to come.

Whenever we're reintroduced to a level in a game, we need something new to keep us invested and interested. Some games like Alien: Isolation let us unlock new areas and obtain new gadgets, much like Arkham and Metroid. Other games like Halo 3 and Half-Life 2 use a consistent flow in their levels to give a sense of cohesion and making the levels feel like real places.

The best consistent flow games also change the scenario within their levels as you retread them. In Halo 3's level Crows Nest, as you defend a UNSC base, you face different enemies as the siege progresses and you run around the base helping your allies. You go from turret sections in wide hangers to tight corridors constantly, rarely given a moment to breathe. The level design in such games needs to be dynamic and flexible, supporting a variety of approaches.

The other part of the problem is that as games have progressed and yearned for being more like "cinematic" and being more "like a real movie", we've stepped away from older styles of design that properly used backtracking. Shooter level designs were maze-like once, yet now games like Crysis 3 and The Last of Us are praised for offering us minor amounts of non-linear level design.

With games like Uncharted, Gears of War, and The Order: 1886, any ounce of backtracking can become an annoyance due to just how restrictive it can be. The more scripted the level design, the more a player has to follow what the designer intended instead of changing it up how they want. So then it feels more reptitious, and is far more obvious and lacking in fluidity.

The backtracking becomes more contrived, and doesn't even have an exploration element to lean upon. Thus, it feels more forced than it already was. While some games like Batman: Arkham City find a happy middle ground, it's clear a lot of developers still can't find the right footing for this. Unfortunately, this is also impacting the latest generations of games.

For instance, in Techland's Dying Light, while the open world offers you plenty of options, it's linear sections are some of the worst backtracking in recent memory. This is especially clear during the climax, where you constantly are being made to retread through incredibly specific paths. These paths that might only make sense coming from one direction, but you have to go both ways regardless.

As much as we jest and joke about how developers design single-player campaigns, there's a real issue here. Backtracking alone is not the solution to expanding modern level design, nor is it the lazy, corner cutting level design trick some take it to be. The problem is that we are seeing a marked decrease in proper backtracking.

When used properly, backtracking can be a great asset and add to the experience. We should praise games for doing backtracking right, along with criticizing those that do it wrong, as we would any other facet of a game. That way developers can improve it, instead of attempting to abandon it altogether.

Top 10 Alien Races in Games That May (or May Not) be a Threat https://www.gameskinny.com/zpnq1/top-10-alien-races-in-games-that-may-or-may-not-be-a-threat https://www.gameskinny.com/zpnq1/top-10-alien-races-in-games-that-may-or-may-not-be-a-threat Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:20:32 -0400 Jay Prodigious


So how did my list compare to yours? Did you find that some of my Threat Levels were too high? Too low?


Let me hear some of your thoughts and give me a piece of your mind. It's time we get prepared for the coming invasion, with your lists we might be able to survive!


The Chimera


These vicious looking baddies are some of the worst you could hope to encounter when it comes to an invasion. They are grotesque beings who have been coming and going from Earth since before mankind was fully realized. Their sole purpose seems to be to wipe us off the planet and they have gone great lengths to do so.


The Chimera have multiple forms, including Hybrids and Feral. With mixed tactics and the ability to use our own weapons against us as well as their own advanced weaponry, we would be in for a hard won fight. 

Threat Level: High

They not only wanted to annihilate us in the Resistance series, they also wanted to convert us into one of them and use us as soldiers. Whether we fight and die or survive long enough to be converted, we can't all fight off the coming threat. They were also living on the planet millions of years before us, so they clearly have a "home field" advantage. Very dangerous.


The Awoken


Now not much has been learned through the campaign of Destiny about the Awoken, other than they are governed by their own monarchy and were apparently human who fled the Earth when The Darkness arrived. Living at the furthest reaches of the solar system, they have become a very sequestered people.


They are unwilling to help without first gaining something in return and even then always have a motive behind their aid. The also seem to hold immense power as their Queen seems to have control of her own Fallen minions. 

Threat Level: Unsure

With them being a relatively new species to us, we don't have much to go on in what we see. Maybe their story will become more fleshed out if Destiny DLC has anything to add for them.


The Helghast


This race was technically Human once before. Leaving to try colonizing efforts on the planet of Helghan, the humans found living on the world uninhabitable. Lightning storms and harsh atmospheric conditions made it impossible to live on, but after they felt they were betrayed by their former Earth comrades, they revolted and started their own nation.


They chose to go back to this planet to live. Many of the first generation died off but some survived, while their future generations evolved biologically to survive the harsh planet.


Now that is a quick summary, but as Killzone taught us they are not to be trifled with. They are formidable opponents who have mindset that leads them to believe they are superior. They invade and attack other colonies just to assert their dominance.

Threat Level: High

This race willingly inhabited a harsh planet that is constantly hit by lightning storms, put themselves into a dictatorship, and adapted to everything that was thrown at them. Include the fact they invade other planets, I can see them being a hard race to handle. 


The Xenomorph


One of the more dangerous aliens in the universe, the Xenomorph have a knack for keeping their enemies on their toes. From their larval stage of a Face Hugger, to their more dominating evolutions like the Hunter (pictured above), they are all capable death machines.


And if it wasn't bad enough, if you do manage to fight them off, you can still be damaged as their blood is a highly corrosive acid. They seem not to discriminate between what enemy is what, beside not attacking their own, so everything is considered a target.

Threat Level: High

While they skitter in the shadowed hallways, Xenomorphs have hunting, hard shells, acid blood, and their pure viciousness on their side that can lead anyone to wet their pants. Unless we're talking about the Alien: Colonial Marines version of them, then just wait 5 seconds and they'll fall through the floor. 


The Reapers


This race, just like the Covenant, is not actually a single race. The original base race were synthetic machines adapted to the ever changing universe. Over the decades and  after assimilating various races to form their own army, they have become a highly fearsome race.


Mass Effect 3 showed us the full extent of their assimilation by forcing the Humans, Turians, and Asari races to fight while imbuing them with their sentient technology. Living ships size creatures were also seen and attacked the whole of every race in the galaxy. Their Goal?


The assimilation of the new races and abilities then go back into hiding. They leave the last race standing to regrow and let the universe begin again. They wish only to repeat this cycle and serve as monitor and decider.

Threat Level: High to Highest

You cannot avoid the gaze of the Reapers, in fact they have most likely already seen us. All we can do is prepare for a huge fight and band together with other races in order to put a stop to this vicious cycle. However since we have yet to reach past our own Solar System, I'm fairly certain we're safe. 


For Now...


The Quarian 


One of the two smartest races in the Mass Effect galaxy, only second to the Salarians. This technological genius race may have weakened immune systems but they have a frightening capacity to repair their ships on spare parts alone as well as a knack for creating synthetic artificial intelligence.


While they aren't particularly hostile, it's one race that definitely is advanced way beyond our comprehension. Maybe they could explain what those crop circles mean?

Threat Level: Minimal

The Quarian are not an overly violent group, more of a governmental race. However, if a strong willed individual comes into the picture, they can be rallied to war with all the tech they have amassed over the years.


Something to fear in terms of fleet size (50,0000 with 17 Million Quarians). 


The Vortigaunt


The Vortigaunt are actually a very misunderstood race of alien invaders. Under mind control by The Nihilanth, a powerful alien that mentally enslaved the Vortigaunt as well as other races, they were used to attempt to destroy the world.


As shown in Half-Life 2, while not under mind-control, the Vortigaunt are peaceful and ritualistic. They have been seen as healers. In fact, when gathered in a large group they can heal others quite quickly. They also use the same power to shoot bolts of energy at enemies and create localized shock waves. They became allies to the planet's inhabitants after the invasion and release from mind control. 

Threat Level: None (Free minded) Medium to High (Mind controlled)

It says something when the species that invades wants to help, especially if they feel remorse after causing so much harm in the first place. I could see the Vortigaunt arriving to help us and enrich our culture more than causing us problems.


The Forerunner


The Halo series has been giving us information on the Forerunners since the beginning.


This race existed before the current Human and Covenant forces and have surpassed their descendants in many ways. Technologically, they are something to be feared as they have installations that can eradicate life on many planets in one blast, as well as weapons that appear standard but can vaporize enemies in an instant.


However, their one flaw is they no longer exist, openly anyway. They have many technological installations to visit and one that is even its own planet. The Forerunners were amazing people, but their designs can become evil if they are used with evil intent. 

Threat Level: Minimal to Medium

The only deciding factor in this profile is the fact that they are no longer in existence. If they aren't alive, they can't attack. The only way they can really affect us is if someone else misuses the items they have left behind. 


The Furon Empire


While the games haven't had much in terms of longevity, Destroy All Humans has shown us that the Furon is indeed trying to annihilate us all.


From the stereotypical abduction of cows and farmers, to the mindless destruction, this race exhibits all the signs we need to look out for. However, they are also shown to be slightly poor at achieving their job on the surface, given resistance, we could possibly stand a chance during an inevitable invasion.

Threat Level: Medium

Sure they seem dangerous, but with their blatant attack standards and following closely to stereotypes we've set for alien fiction, we have a good chance of survival. Just start placing explosives in the cows and keep an eye on the skies.




The Covenant 


While technically they are built up of several races, from the Grunts all the way to the Brutes, the Covenant is a fearsome group indeed. With an army of front line fighters who are willing to blow themselves up for their cause and higher ranking generals who are know for their tactics as well as their brute strength, they have most their angles covered. It is safe to assume that they will stop at nothing to stomp out the Human race.

Threat: High

With the multitude of races gathered in their ranks, their technology is more advanced than we are capable of to match. Mixed tactics, greater technology, and religious zealots behind their purpose for fighting, the Covenant is one race to prepare for. 


Is there more to Space than just the stars and planets? Is there life out there? Can no one hear the farmer's scream as they are probed for the sake of weird alien science?


With the release of  Alien: Isolation, these questions and more have been coming to the surface. So it's time we build a profile of what could be beyond our intergalactic borders by listing the Top 10 Alien Races in Gaming and see just what kind of threat they pose.


Disclaimer: This List is in no specific order, only the order in which I thought of them. 

Valve's Third Announcement? Half-Life 3 Is the Only Possible Answer https://www.gameskinny.com/uggae/valves-third-announcement-half-life-3-is-the-only-possible-answer https://www.gameskinny.com/uggae/valves-third-announcement-half-life-3-is-the-only-possible-answer Thu, 26 Sep 2013 23:56:46 -0400 Brian Armstrong

There's only one possible answer. It can only be one thing. If Valve doesn't announce Half-Life 3 Friday, I will be completely shocked.

It's entirely possible I've built this third announcement up in my head way too much, but the mystery and intrigue Valve have created around it leads me to believe there is no other answer. So far they've made two big announcements, with the first being a new gaming software in SteamOS.

SteamOS is built around the Linux architecture and designed to make PC gaming on the big screen the optimal way to game. They also announced their own line of PC gaming consoles called Steam Machines. While we (disappointingly) don't have any specifications as to what is actually inside these boxes, what they look like, or how much they cost, we do know they are building several different models out of the gate.

Presumably we can expect a lower-end machine, an ultimate gaming machine, and something that falls somewhere in between. This variation in models will allow Steam to sell its console to gamers who want to spend as much or as little money as possible, while still providing a uniform experience to all.

What Better Way to Sell Steam Machines?

So there's an operating system and there's a machine. What could possibly be worthy of this mysterious third announcement other than some amazing thing to play on these new creations? And what better title to help ring in a new era of PC gaming than one of the most anticipated titles of all time?

Half-Life 2 has been ranked as one of the best first-person shooters on many lists over the years, and has even garnered a few best-game-ever awards. And the original Half-Life is my one of my favorite games of all-time, and I’m not alone in that opinion. It stands to reason that releasing the next chapter in the series, potentially as a Steam Machine timed exclusive, would be something that Valve would be pushing very hard to make happen.

Valve has other games they could announce instead, such as a new Team Fortress or Portal or Left 4 Dead, but none of those would move units like a Half-Life game would. Half-Life 3, exclusive to the Steam Machine would be as hot as Halo on the original Xbox was. Valve simply cannot miss this opportunity.

Heading for A Letdown? 

It's entirely possible that we won't be getting a game announcement at all, but perhaps just an unveiling of a new kind of controller, or worse yet, an announcement that they are taking on Kinect and joining the motion-gaming "movement" (see what I did there?). I certainly hope it's not anything as dull or dumb as that, but it's really hard to say.

I've never really been disappointed or let-down by a Valve unveiling before (like I was at the Xbox One reveal or the announcement of the PlayStation 3 price), but come to think of it, I'm not really sure Valve has had any announcements this big in a long time, if ever.

It's certainly possible my expectations are ridiculously high, and we're really just going to get an announcement that Steam is entering the mobile phone market (wait, that would actually be really cool... I'll have to touch on that another time), but I have to believe that Valve has something big planned.

Three Little Words...

And for my money, the only way to end this week of mystery and unveiling is by dropping the words Half-Life 3. They don't even have to give a date, just a hint at a timeframe of when it might be available, and there will be much rejoicing in PC Land.

We'll find out Friday at 10 AM Pacific, 1 PM Eastern, so stay tuned. It could be an exciting day.

The Best Sidekicks in Gaming History https://www.gameskinny.com/91pkb/the-best-sidekicks-in-gaming-history https://www.gameskinny.com/91pkb/the-best-sidekicks-in-gaming-history Tue, 20 Aug 2013 17:08:42 -0400 Eli "The Mad Man" Shayotovich

When you hear the term "sidekick" do you think of Robin the Boy Wonder? He's probably the most famous sidekick ever. Or maybe it's Chewbacca, Tonto (from the old Lone Ranger TV show, not the lame film that just came out), or even Spock.    

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a sidekick is "a person closely associated with another as a subordinate or partner." They are as much a part of the team as the glory grubbing main hero, but sidekicks are like sweet potato french fries or sea-salt and vinegar kettle chips. They aren't the main meal... but dammit if they don't make the main meal more delicious!

So, what about video game sidekicks? Who comes to mind then? These are the best sidekicks according to me, myself, and I... ones I've actually had by my virtual side when the going got tough.

Alyx Vance (Half Life 2)

Gun-toting, hacker, fighter, and scientist... Alyx Vance is one of my personal favorite 'kicks in video games. Alyx's role is crucial in the series for a number of reasons. Since she does all the talking (Gordon might have a crowbar, but he apparently doesn't have a tongue), her character really has become more three-dimensional than the main protagonist. And since we know so much about her we've become emotionally invested in her well-being. In fact, she brings a level of emotion to the game that likely wouldn't be present at all if she wasn't around. One could even argue that she has carried the series on her shoulders since she first appeared. Alyx saved Gordon's life more than a handful of times, and obviously has feelings for him, which "The Free Man" seems oblivious to. What will happen between these two? Maybe we'll get an answer when/if Episode 3 is ever released. Maybe.

Any of BioWare's Star Wars companions

BioWare's attempts at redefining the "sidekick" began with the assassin droid HK47 in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It was violent, ruthless and loyal, but also funny... in a sociopathic-killer-droid-who-had-his-memory-erased sort of way. HK wasn't your lovable 3PO or R2-type sidekick, but when you were fighting a galaxy full of scum and villainy... you could do worse than having a literal killing machine at your side. When Star Wars: The Old Republic launched, their vision came full circle. Any of the dozens of companions (Corso Riggs, Kira Carsen, Tanno Vik, Qyzen-Fess, Mako, Vette, Khem Val, Kaliyo D'jannis, etc.) in TOR can be counted on for more than just their blaster or lightsaber... they are comrades-in-arms with their own personalities that actually evolve as the individual stories progress. If you're mean to them, they'll end up hating you. If you make a real effort to be their friend, they reciprocate in kind. Each companion also has a special set of skills that unlock and level-up over time. They can fill in a group during Flashpoints, gather information, or search for pieces to complete crafting recipes. If that's not a useful sidekick... I'm not sure what is. 

GLaDOS/Potato GLaDOS (Portal series)

Yes, the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (aka GLaDOS) is the surly, condescending, psychotic antagonist that torments you through most of the two Portal games, but her constant aural presence wasn't just antagonistic... it was funny. In effect, she was the Nurse Ratched who led you through test chamber after test chamber like a rat in a maze. Whether you want to admit it or not, she was your sidekick that entire time. When she gets turned into Mrs. Potato Head (by Wheately, the other psychotic computer), everything changes. Through some revelatory CPU searching she becomes your friend, and for the brief time she's actually a by-your-side "sidekick" and her surly, condescending, psychotic behavior becomes even funnier because now she's on your side. When Chell eventually gets GLaDOS her powers back, GLaDOS becomes Chell's savior. She even sings a little ditty. Granted, it's about her hate for you, but...  

Cortana (Halo series)

Cortana is to Master Chief as Oracle is to Batman. She's his out-of-body sidekick who guides him safely through every conceivable scenario a Spartan can get into. While "just" a computerized holographic AI (based on Dr. Catherine Halsey, the genius behind the Spartan program), she was an artificial intelligence that became real. Witty when possible, but deadly serious when it came time to complete the mission at hand. She provided tactical information, unlocked doors, hacked into computers, and listened in on Covenant chatter... all of which saved the Chief's life innumerable times. But more importantly, she became his disembodied conscience, and the only emotional bond he could cling to. Without it, Master Chief would have likely ended up as just one more mechanized, one-man wrecking crew without a soul.

Claptrap (Borderlands series)

I don't know what it is about the condescending, smart-ass attitude of a sidekick that make me like them more (see GLaDOS), but I do. When my virtual tag-along acts like comic relief they instantly become more engaging. And Claptrap is a lewd, Jewish (he had a Bar Mitzvah remember), smart-ass robot that fits the bill perfectly. And likes to dig through trash. This "cute" robo-sidekick guides you across Pandora, unlocks doors and chests, and even upgrades items in your inventory... but he does so begrudgingly. And in Borderlands 2 you are nothing more than his minion (so he thinks). Still, you can't help but love the little guy. Specially when he breakdances.

Weighted Storage/Companion Cube (Portal series)

There's nothing like having a six-sided companion to toss around willy-nilly because it doesn't talk or carry a grudge. And since it's weighted it can hold down pressure pads, allowing you to solve GLaDOS' devilish physics puzzles. Without them you'd be screwed, blued, and tattooed. Even though these helpful cubes can't talk, they are sentient... at least according to GLaDOS (which might just be a trick). Because of this uncertainty you start getting attached to the only ally (with pink hearts emblazoned on its sides) you have in GLaDOS' sterile maze. In fact, when the psychotic bitch informs you that if it could talk, "it would tell you to go on without it, because it would rather die in a fire than become a burden to you" - you cringed. Admit it. Silent, helpful, and willing to sacrifice itself for you... seems to me sidekicks don't get more sidekicky than that!  

Elizabeth (Bioshock Infinite)

If asked to pick between Alxy Vance and Elizabeth as the greatest sidekick in all of gaming... I'm not sure I could. Elizabeth's combat abilities are relegated to tossing you supplies and opening tears in space-time to yank things through. During combat she's merely a tool - a pack mule really - to be used at your discretion. Some may consider that a knock, but it allows the player (you) to take all the credit for every firefight won, hardship overcome, and victory earned. Where Elizabeth really shines is when she's interacting with you (Booker DeWitt) and helping to drive the mesmerizing story of a city in the clouds forward. The whole adventure in Columbia is better off with Elizabeth at your side because she is so emotional and so full of artificial intelligence that you can't help but get attached to her. In fact, Elizabeth is so special that in the upcoming two-part Burial at Sea DLC (set in Rapture two years before it falls)... you'll actually get to play as her (in the second episode). Hey, she even has her own Facebook page. If you haven't played Bioshock Infinite yet... you're missing out on one of the most emotionally driven A.I.s in gaming. 

Dogmeat (Fallout series)

Maybe it's because I recently had to put my real-life dog of seven years to sleep (RIP Osa), but I couldn't complete this list without putting man's best friend on it. In the real world, or the virtual one... there is nothing like having a good dog at your side. Dogmeat is not only loyal and ferocious in a fight, but able to scrounge up supplies like ammo, food, and weapons for you. When enemies get too close, your faithful pooch growls at them and pulls enough aggro to draw attackers away. A better sidekick there is not.  

Don't agree? Then tell us... who are the best 'kicks? 

7 Game Heroes you Could Probably Take in a Fight https://www.gameskinny.com/4rvi8/7-game-heroes-you-could-probably-take-in-a-fight https://www.gameskinny.com/4rvi8/7-game-heroes-you-could-probably-take-in-a-fight Sun, 04 Aug 2013 13:00:33 -0400 Eli "The Mad Man" Shayotovich

Game heroes are usually big, bad, and downright brutal. But not always. Let's take a look at seven of these less than macho "heroes" to see exactly why you could probably take them in a fight without breaking a sweat. 

Gordon Freeman

As much as we all love the protagonist from the Half-Life series, Gordon Freeman is not your prototypical game hero. Basically, he's a big nerd. In fact... is that white tape holding his glasses together?

Strengths:  Gordon graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. degree in Theoretical Physics and likes to work on experiments that open interdimensional portals which bring aliens to our world, so his big brain is his biggest asset. The Hazardous Environment (HEV) suit he wears is pretty nifty, but beyond that... 

Weaknesses:  He's a freakin' theoretical physicist! Do you think he spent a lot of time in the gym or at the Black Mesa gun range?  Plus, his "weapon" of choice is a crowbar! Well, until he gets his mitts on the gravity gun in Half-Life 2.  Although Gordon has a Ph.D. we don't actually see him do a lot of smarty pants type stuff. In fact, Barney (the security guard) cracks on Gordon for only being able to flip switches and plug things in. And as much as we may like that stoic "no talking" schtick of his, not saying a single word is actually a big red flag. Everyone knows that in order to be a good hero you must be able to drop witty one-liners. Just look at Duke Nukem (who you could not take in a fight)... and virtually anyone in The Expendables movies. Wait, scratch that last comparison.

How You Can Take Him:  There are a few ways you can go about this. Gordon, being the nerd that he is, never really knows what to do with Alyx Vance. So try bringing a pretty woman to the fight and watch him get all twitchy and nervous. Or, ask him to explain Albert Einstein's (one of his heroes) theory of relativity to you. As he's writing out lengthy quantum physics equations on the chalkboard, knock him over the head... with a crowbar. 

Pac Man

The dude - we'll we're assuming he's a dude since "Man" is in his name - is basically a sports ball with a mouth.  'Cept we really don't know what the frak he is... which makes him kinda creepy. 

Strengths:  Never-ending hunger for dots. If he downs a "power pellet" he can temporary eat his ghosty enemy things ( Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde). He also has the uncanny ability to move, despite...

Weaknesses:  Not having any arms or legs! Or eyes for that matter!  

How You Can Take Him:  When Blinky, Pinky, Inky or Clyde touch him... he dies. That should work for you too.  If not... stick your foot in his gigantic pie hole and kick him like a soccer ball into the nearest garbage can. He can't climb out because he has no appendages! Seriously, how did this "man" get so damn famous?

Sonic The Hedgehog

In real life, hedgehogs are smaller than cats. They have no offensive moves because their spines can't detach like porcupines. To defend itself the 'hog "heroically" rolls up into a tight ball causing the 6,000 or so spines on its body to point outwards like a Koosh ball made of needles. Oh, and they have incredibly poor vision (they're actually born blind). The hedgehog known as Sonic though... is a freakin' legend. Why? 

Strengths:  Apparently this little blue bastich is capable of running faster than the speed of sound, which is ironic since real hedgehogs move slower than a dinosaur through a tar pit (they have short little legs). Thus, Sonic must be a mutant along the lines of the X-Men's Beast.  Hmmm... they do have the same blueish hue.  Under no circumstance should you let him collect the seven Chaos Emeralds.  If he does... you are screwed. These shiny green stones turn him into "Super Sonic", which makes him faster, gives him the ability to fly, and turns him invulnerable.  Like we said... screwed.  

Weaknesses:  According to the folks at Sega, Sonic's only weakness is his inability to swim. But that's not his only weakness. Sonic is a daredevil who can't pass up showing off his mad skills. He also becomes incredibly impatient with things that are slow... like turtles, lines at the DMV, and load screens. 

How You Can Take Him:  He's not very big, so if you can sneak up on him and drop an Acme Corporation anvil on him you can turn him into a blue pancake.  Stepping on him will probably work too.  If you're not fond of up close and personal wet works like that, be sure you stage the fight near a large body of water, say Lake Erie. Set up a ramp at the edge of the water and dare him to jump to the other side. He's an adrenaline junkie... he won't say no.

Nathan Drake

Hey, we all love the guy, but for the most part, Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series is a bumbling fool who only manages to avoid getting killed (repeatedly) through sheer luck. It's like he has an enchanted, Tibetan rabbit's foot in his pocket or something. 

Strengths: Quick witted, athletic, fairly proficient with guns. Still seems like he'd shoot off his own toe as much as hit an enemy though.  He's also persistent, resilient, and tough as nails... kind of like the John McClane character from the Die Hard movies - always in the right (wrong) place at the wrong (right) time. 

Weaknesses:  The ladies. It's bad enough that he's running around ancient ruins in hostile jungle environments with bad guys chasing him, but he lets his lady friends - who he's obviously been romantically involved with - get him in all kinds of unwanted, extra trouble.  Nate doesn't know when to say when.  He's gotten so used to luck carrying him through certain death situations that he doesn't realize that he only has so many lives left... and someday those lives will run out (see what we did there?).   

How You Can Take Him:  All you have to do is stand in front of him... and wait. Probably not for very long either.  Something, or someone, is bound to try to kill him.  


Despite being one of the most iconic "heroes" in gamingdom, Mario is nothing more than a short, portly, plumber from the Bronx.  When's the last time this guy actually threw an effective punch in a game? 

Strengths:  He jumps.  A lot.  So he must have some pretty strong leg muscles. But when your only offensive weapon is jumping... really?  As with Sonic, collecting certain items (power-ups) gives ole Mario additional powers.  Don't let him collect them and you'll be fine. His power-up item of choice is the mushroom, which comes in all shapes and sizes. For instance...  the Super Mushroom makes Mario grow bigger; the Fire Flower lets him toss fireballs; the 1-Up Mushroom gives him an extra life; the Mega Mushroom allows him grow very large; while the Mini Mushroom shrinks the lil plumber.

Weaknesses:  He's two feet tall (or thereabouts).  He doesn't throw punches, and has a nasty addiction to shrooms. 

How You Can Take Him:  Since he's a fungus freak drop a few "magic mushrooms" (of the hallucinogenic kind) in front of him and tell him they're some new power-up.  Once he gobbles them up wait until the psychedelic effects kick in and bonk him on the cabeza.  If we're being honest here... there isn't a single "hero" in the Nintendo pantheon that you can't take out with a good pair of steel toed boots and a sturdy bat. Right? 

Max Payne

Max Payne has been through a lot of... pain (sorry, we had to) in his life, and we feel bad for putting him on this list, but just look at him.  Is that a Clint Eastwood scowl... or is he constipated? 

Strengths:  Since Max is a former NYPD cop and "renegade" DEA agent he's been extensively trained to handle firearms and knows hand-to-hand combat. He also possesses the superpower known as "Bullet Time", which he uses with great effectiveness.  Sounds like someone you simply don't want to mess with, right? 

Weaknesses:  He's addicted to alcohol and pain killers, and is still haunted by the ghosts from his past.  Max has been shot so many times there probably isn't a square inch of his body that hasn't been hit, so he's all kinds of mentally and physically beat to hell.  

How You Can Take Him: Give him a fifth of Jack Daniels and a bottle of Percocet. Sit him down in front of an episode of The Mentalist... and walk away.  He'll beat himself up for you. 


What can we say about this cute, mischievous "boy" made of sackcloth, fluff, and ice cream (yes, ice cream) that inhabits Little Big Planet?

Strengths: Sackboy is a chameleon, capable of changing his appearance at the drop of a hat... which he'd probably pick up and wear.  Since he has no bones you can't "break" him.   Don't worry about the version of Sackboy you see in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale either. He has a few good wrasslin' moves, but he'd rather slap you (literally) and dart around the ring with his jet pack than actually fight you.  

Weaknesses: He's an 8-centimeter tall puppet made from sackcloth. And ice cream. 

How You Can Take Him:  Pull out a BIC lighter and torch his ass. 

We thought about putting a few gals on here, but since we're gentleman gamers... we don't hit women. 

So, what do you think?  Agree with this?  What other "heroes" should be on this list?  Let us know!

Omni by Virtuix: A Gamer Super Race https://www.gameskinny.com/sczp6/omni-by-virtuix-a-gamer-super-race https://www.gameskinny.com/sczp6/omni-by-virtuix-a-gamer-super-race Thu, 13 Jun 2013 21:31:30 -0400 Post_Mortem

Gamers Will Be The Most Fit Demographic in the World!

Gamers and nerds alike are constantly trying to improve the level of immersion in video games. Many people have heard about devices such as the EPOC Emotiv or the Oculus Rift, but using these devices only marginally increases immersion. Certainly the EPOC Emotiv is a great idea, but it appears very bare bone and does not necessarily put you into the game like many would hope. The Oculus Rift is an incredible feat, however when you stand up and use it, the experience is so disorienting that people often lose their balance and then the immersion is lost. 


Enter: Omni by Virtuix

The Emotiv and Rift both serve really neat purposes, but apart from visual and audio experiences, kinetic engagement really causes immersion. By that logic I propose that the Omni should be paired with the Rift (which is already common practice by the developers) and the Emotiv. With this pairing gamers will be able to move around as they normally would while being completely visually immersed. The digital world around them would immediately become real. Using the Emotiv among all of this, controllers would become unnecessary as all triggerable actions would be mapped to brain patterns that are associated with those specific actions. For example, you make the motion of reloading and shooting and all you need is a toy gun in order to mimic the actions. There is no better way in this day and age that you will be immersed on every level that matters. That is unless smelling something really makes it real for you. If that is the case... Don't play video games, be a chef.


So Why Are We Going to Become A Super Fit Community?

Well, let's be honest, how many people are actually able to play Skyrim or Guild Wars 2 for just a half hour a day? I know that when I find an amazing new RPG world to explore I spend hours running around to simply explore that world and that is without the immersion of the Rift, Emotiv, and Omni. We will be able to completely log in to another universe, one that is as living and breathing as our real world; one that we can wholly become engaged in. Although I may not be able to run for 6 hours straight, I do know that being able to actually live in a game world in a very similar way that we live in the real world is the most enticing thing in modern gaming news that I have yet to see. 

Women in Gaming: Anita Sarkeesian Goes too Far and an Insidious, Power Fantasy-Loving Man's Point of View https://www.gameskinny.com/4kaw9/women-in-gaming-anita-sarkeesian-goes-too-far-and-an-insidious-power-fantasy-loving-mans-point-of-view https://www.gameskinny.com/4kaw9/women-in-gaming-anita-sarkeesian-goes-too-far-and-an-insidious-power-fantasy-loving-mans-point-of-view Thu, 30 May 2013 12:53:41 -0400 Max Jay

Recently Anita Sarkeesian has been making some videos that have people all up in arms.

Sarkeesian is making a lot of noise by heavily criticizing games for misrepresenting women and forcing them to be “insidious plot devices that are only used to move the male power fantasy along on his journey of manliness." As mentioned on this site, people legitimately hate her for this. Like in the same way that people hate Hitler and every season of Heroes after the first one. Sarkeesian is combative, yes; I’d even go as far to say that she is even accusatory, but what people are missing is that she’s right about some of this.

**What're you lookin' at...? It's creepy, stop. Seriously.**

Misguided Marketing

Playing games with my girlfriend is hard. Not hard in the way that I don’t want to spend time with her playing games, but hard in the way that she is not a gamer. She doesn’t really like the mainstream titles; first person games give her motion sickness and she detests gratuitous violence. Both of which I happen to love (in games, I’m not a crazy person… I think).

The other night we decided to go into Best Buy, (to be clear: I love Best Buy, and she puts up with because she thinks I’m cute). We eventually moseyed over to the game section to poke around and something crazy happened; I started walking to the Xbox section and she bee-lined for the Wii as if a magnet were implanted in her brain. She looked at the covers for Fortune Street and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, saying they looked “fun” and “cute” respectively. I tried to explain to her that Fortune Street was an abortion of a game that deserved to be stockpiled and send to a landfill to be burned, but to no avail. She liked the cover; the “little blue guy” (a.k.a. Slime from Dragon Quest) and Mario giving her thumbs up had her sold. Several hours later I said to myself: this is a problem.

**I wonder how much Mario got paid to do this game. Must have owed someone a favor.**

The marketing of AAA titles has become all about the sense of the 18-34 male demographic. I recently read an article surrounding some controversy with Capcom’s new title, Remember Me. Jean-Max Morris, creative director of Remember Me told ‘The Penny Arcade’ that many publishers denied the game funding based solely on the fact that the main character was a female, and as a result the game would be a complete failure.  Saying something like this is akin to a movie studio refusing to cast a woman as a main character, and forcing a script to be completely changed in order to market, thereby crushing creativity and progress. Just imagine how terrible it would be if we never got movies like Million Dollar Baby.

Women make up a little over 50% of this planet, and I maintain that women are better than men at most things, except for maybe weightlifting and having penises. Companies cannot continue the blatant sexism raging throughout the industry because they think an entire gender is not marketable; it may make for a quick buck but in the long run it’s hurting them. Women buy stuff all the time, I’ve worked retail – I’ve seen it literally thousands of times. I’m not saying that the developers need to change their games and make them cutesy or anything, but I do think that an entire medium is being looked over by the fairer sex entirely due to accusations of sexism  (sometimes justified, sometimes unfounded) and perceived differences between genders that have no legitimate existence in this specific culture.

**That battle attire is both ineffective and inappropriate... There are children here!**

Portrayal of Women Versus Portrayal of Men

There are few games in the history of time that give woman a good spotlight in a game. I honestly don’t care what gender I’m playing as providing it’s a good game with a decent story, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some more Alyx Vance-type women in games. If you break it down there are far more Lollipop Chainsaw type games in the world than there are Beyond Good and Evil’s, and that is a damn shame because Jade was a really deep, cool character that I (a straight man--GASP) loved playing as.

For example: if my girlfriend saw any trailer for ANY DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball (or any Dead or Alive game really…) she would likely be disgusted by its mere existence, which I believe is valid as it's borderline exploitation, and some pretty bizarre exploitation at that. Furthermore, this could cause her to completely write off “sports” games (which I happen to hate anyway), or all fighting games. See where I’m going with this?

**I want to be Nathan Drake when I grow up.**

Companies design leading men to reflect the kind of person that they think the gamer may want to be. Nearly all of them have similar build and facial structure; they’re supposed to be all handsome and witty and yadda, yadda, yadda. Women, however, are designed to be the kind of character that men want to… “hang out” with at bedtime. It’s smart marketing and I would probably do the same thing in similar situations where massive amounts of money are at stake, but wouldn’t it be just as easy to make realistic looking woman the main character and flip those rolls? A dedicated gamer wouldn’t care, and it could potentially make women feel like total badasses and by extension bring in more women that have misconceptions about games.

**I don't have a joke for this one, it's just messed up.**

Within the Industry too!

Beyond the blatant disregard for women’s taste within games, there is also a major problem with how women are treated in the industry itself. In November 2012 Kotaku reveled a very interesting story surrounding women in the gaming industry. Females in the industry flocked to twitter using the hashtag “#1reasonwhy” to say what they think their #1 reason is that more women are not in the industry. The accounts are sobering, and the spread to every corner of the industry; even in the games we all love and play.  One woman said that she is mistaken for receptionist, and often assumed to be a booth babe at conventions. This is sickening, and it’s a legitimate flashback to the 1920’s.

To clarify: I’m FULLY aware that women play games. Many even play first person shooters, and probably laugh just as loud as I do when someone’s head blows up in the coolest possible way. But numbers don’t lie, and they say that far fewer women play than men do, and the fault of that lies partially on the marketing of the games and partially on the execution within developers and publishers. In order to be respected as an art form, let alone a viable medium women need to be included and respected in both the marketing ad production of games.

**This happens a lot, but I want it to happen more.**

Anita Sarkeesian is not completely wrong, but she is misguided in her efforts. She’s making people talk, which is great, but she’s making people talk about how much they hate her for ripping on games that they love. Hey Anita, if you’re listening: you’ll make more friends with a handshake than you will with a fist! This community as a whole will respond more favorably to less use of the word “insidious” (which literally made my blood boil) and more talking to people like human beings. You can guilt an industry into change, no matter how necessary it is.

**Fair is fair, right?**

Do you think Sarkeesian is pioneering women’s rights in gaming, or is she just making a lot of loud noises? Do you think I’m totally off base and women are represented well in the industry? Sound off in the comments and maybe I’ll fly or bus to wherever you are and take you out to a nice seafood dinner!

Steam Trading Cards Released in Beta https://www.gameskinny.com/hpyov/steam-trading-cards-released-in-beta https://www.gameskinny.com/hpyov/steam-trading-cards-released-in-beta Wed, 15 May 2013 18:47:07 -0400 Amanda Wallace

In what sounds like an April Fools day post, Steam Trading cards are entering Beta, meaning that Steam itself has now been gamified. Now you can collect trading cards, earn XP and level up--all as part of Steam

In what one writer referred to as "the next 10 gallon hats from Valve," Steam has created a trading card game using game specific trading cards to gain "game badges, profile backgrounds, emoticons, coupons, and more." 

Steam calls these "virtual cards earned by playing games on Steam. Sets of cards can be turned into game badges and tradeable Steam community items." Steam users will now have levels, and gaining levels will grant you "non-tradable items like profile showcases, extra friends list slots, and more." I was unaware there was a limit on friends list slots, but evidently there is? 

Games participating in the Beta include Don't Starve, Dota 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, Portal 2, and Half-Life 2. You can participate in this Beta by turning on beta participation in Steam settings.