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Some more spoilers for the cruise ship level in Uncharted 3; vague references to some enemies in The Last of Us

Butch:

Well. That was quite the level, wasn’t it?

That was great. The big fight in the ballroom, the mix of running through teeny tiny corridors, then being in big open places, on the boat, the huge chandelier, then tight again, swimming, very tense. The bits where you were climbing through horizontal rooms was amazing design. And hard. All told, from the bit where you’re abducted to this point, almost perfect level design in terms of tension, mix of activities, ways to approach things, visuals, all around. And, I thought, the cutscene as it ends, with Elena, and him saying “I’m sorry,” was great. Especially as it ends zooming on HER, not him. That was effective. It’s more than just traipsing through awesome levels. There’s people here, Nathan. You’re a dick, Nathan.

Great stuff.

Which is why I feel bad for what I have to do next.

We like narrative, right? We do. So you know where I’m going with this.

That whole bit, from when you’re abducted to now, makes no, I mean ABSOLUTELY NO narrative sense. None. It was like someone said:
“Dude I have the BEST idea for a level…ship graveyard, cruise ship…”
“Wait wait wait. Game takes place in the desert.”
“I know I know I know but it’s SO COOL.”
“Hmm… Lemme see…Yeah, that is pretty cool…..but it so doesn’t fit….”
“Well…he could be chasing Sully!”
“Nope. I need him to be chasing Sully in the main story.”
“Well….um…..FAKE Sully!”

I mean, it was “And now an interlude to do some awesome levels. Done? Ok. Now, where were we…let’s see…Sully, Elena, plane AH YES…here.”

And its placement was even weirder. I mean, we JUST did the bit with evil Helen Mirren. We JUST had backstory. We JUST had “Don’t trust Sully.” Things were MOVING in the story, man! And then….weird pirate who was like a boss but wasn’t….cool levels….fake Sully…..total story shut down.

So I don’t know how I feel. I mean, in terms of gameplay, awesome. Some of the best I’ve seen in a long, long time. On so many levels. But as a story/narrative fan? So very many problems……

How’d you take it?

Feminina:

I took it pretty much the way you did. Awesome level, great fun, good climbing/fighting/sneaking, absolutely no connection to the main story.

I guess generously speaking we could read it as an example of the way life itself often makes no narrative sense: even when you’re very focused on something important, really trying to get a specific thing done, random crap interferes…and when you’re Nathan Drake, random crap obviously takes the form of hundreds of dudes trying to kill you among the rusting hulks in a ship graveyard, under the command of an angry pirate from your past, maybe, who pretends to have your friend but really never did but set up a nice decoy of him under the assumption that you would definitely make it past all the hundreds of dudes trying to kill you to SEE the decoy, because you’re Nathan Drake…and then once you deal with all that annoying side stuff, you’re once again free to focus on what matters!

Other people, and your actual quest to find your actual friend…let’s just put all that irrelevant pirate stuff behind us, OK? It was meaningless. Good fun, though!

Butch:

No connection at all. Indeed, it was like some other remnant of some other game that got tacked on. New villain (“I’m a pirate!”), new setting, no characters from the game we’re actually playing (not one). It was like an expansion DLC that somehow managed to take up 62%-74% of the main game.

And No. Stop making excuses. This was just plain bad storytelling.

Which, frankly, exposes something of a rift in the way people analyze video game writing. Remember, these games were praised as great video game writing. Now, there’s good moments. There’s good dialog. There are good characters. There are nice little twists to conventions and tropes and cliches. But what there ISN’T is good big picture narrative arc. The main stories are cliched as hell. Sometimes there’s just complete disconnects that rely on convenient conveniences AT BEST. (I did like how Drake, upon washing up on shore, says “Well that’s convenient.” Yes, Drake. Yes, it is.). And, let’s face it, good WRITING takes big picture narrative arc into account. Indeed, takes that into account FIRST. Video games? Seems they take the moments first, THEN the arc, and that’s not a good sign.

I keep trying to remember if it was better in TLOU. I was thinking last night, how would we have reacted to these games (and TLOU) if we had done what most people did, which is play these games before TLOU. Are we judging the writing here too harshly because they got it right in the first game we played, which is really the last game they did? Or not? I wish I remember TLOU better, but I ain’t gonna replay it.

This level was great fun, though. Which is why I’m going to forgive it. If it had been anything less than great fun, not so much.

Feminina:

Maybe it was going to be a bigger part of the story, like the plot at one point was that they were looking for regular Atlantis and it was under the ship graveyard, but then they decided to go with Atlantis of the Sands instead, but they already had this whole awesome section mapped out and couldn’t stand to get rid of it.

But you’re right: it adds nothing to the narrative other than clarifying that Nathan still cares enough about Sully to try to rescue him, even though Evil Helen Mirren recently tried to turn him against his oldest friend. Which is a fair point, but could easily have been made by having him just, you know, go after the Secret Order that DOES have Sully, which he is going to proceed to do anyway. So yeah: total random interlude, sound and fury signifying nothing. But an awesome couple of levels! So we forgive.

I also don’t remember the flow of TLOU that well. (But hey, if you’ve got a few spare hours, check out our extensive coverage of it!)

I feel like even the parts that were not specifically about the overall goal of finding the Firefly hideout or whatever were pretty focused examples of the horrors of the post-fungus world. Those randit Hunters, David and the Cannibals (in concert tonight!!!), various Infected-infested locations, etc.

The story was episodic, as video game stories pretty much always are (perhaps almost have to be? although I’m sure there are examples that push that structural convention, or will be), but each episode highlighted an aspect of the world, and clarified some point about how generally dreadful things are. (Can’t wait for the cripplingly depressing sequel…can’t even wait.)

And Uncharted games have generally followed a similar model, if one with less of a mood, in that they basically just proceed like scavenger hunts, and each section leads you on to the next via some clue found and/or challenge overcome.

And then there’s this section, which we agree has nothing to do with anything. Unless it’s oh-so-subtly priming us for the next game, which is about pirates? (Sorry, spoiler. Also, very weak argument.)

Butch:

It did contribute nothing. I feel like I’d be here, about to get on a plane anyway. Cuz I would.

As for our coverage of The Last of Us, I can’t bring myself to face how rough our blog was in the old days. The shame.

Though they all say written by you, so your shame, really.

I gotta get a better agent.

Feminina:

POSTED by me, man. They say posted by me. I make no claim to the writing. ANYBODY could have written that. I had nothing to do with it.

I could have plagiarized anyone, is what I’m saying.

Hm. Perhaps I’m not helping myself here.

Butch:

You so would.

I’m back. Strong like bull.

But I couldn’t pay all that much attention to the overall arc in TLOU because my soul kept getting crushed.

I, too, am not looking forward to a sequel, if there is one. But let’s face it: we’re gonna play it.

Feminina:

We won’t be able to help ourselves. It’s as if we WANT to be emotionally ground into dust. As if we’re trying to atone for our past misdeeds. What is it we did that makes us so angst-filled and moody that we feel we deserve this?

I’m going to go buy an exoskeleton.*

Butch:

You could pull that look off.

We’re angst filled cuz we’re artists, man. Art is pain. Pain is art. If you’re happy, it isn’t ART.

Feminina:

Good point. That’s why we always have to complain about games that are presumably fun. To make sure people know we’re suffering for our art. Which is playing other peoples’ art.

I’m confusing myself.

Butch:

The more you suffer, the more cred you have.

If you ever have a third kid, go into labor at the MFA. Or a poetry slam.

Feminina:

That will never happen. Good idea, though! I’ll suggest it to all my pregnant friends.

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