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April 29, 2016

"Rated M" Month: No More Heroes (Part 3)

So…… Yeah, go read Part 1 and Part 2 of this review if you missed them. As for now, we still have five assassins to defeat, and… yes, that’s what awaits. And… not much else, really. There will be a lot to say here, so I’ll jump right into the plot if you don’t mind.

Most boring level ever. But the Sith-like enemies
are pretty cool.
After collecting the entrance fee, Travis heads out towards Assassin #5, which takes him in an underground passageway, a very, very long underground passageway with sparse but strong enemies. All this time you are weirdly following a guy in a black trench coat that keeps running away from you as soon as you get close. At the end, our protagonist (I ain't calling him a hero!) receives a call from Sylvia, as usual before the “boss battle” against the ranked assassin. You’ll soon notice that she isn’t very creative with these messages. Her calls always follow this simple formula: “Travis? The next fight is now! Win and you gain a rank; lose and you go to Hell. (Sometimes insert a comment about the next opponent here) Go to the bathroom (to save), take a dump in the can, then when you’re ready, step into the GARDEN… OF MADNESS!” Seriously, that’s how she ends each of her calls. Totally not hamming it up there. It’s almost like she’s making it all dramatic to hide something from him. She really needs to get more creative.

Travis gets to Assassin #5, Letz Shake (no, really, that’s his name), and the fight “starts”.

With all the pictures of him that I'm using, you'd
believe he's important or something.

Ah yes, a rain of red. I've gotten used to it by now.
But holy shit, this guy split a giant weapon in two!
Letz Shake is equipped with a giant weapon with a face and what looks like a brain; an earthquake producer I think? I’m not too sure because the rest of the fight is Letz Shake charging this giant weapon and preparing to send the mother of all earthquakes at Travis… but just as Shake’s countdown is about to reach zero, someone drops from the sky, cuts the giant machine in two, and also kills Letz Shake. Hey, my kill!- er, I mean, mysterious guy, you bastard! Travis confronts this well-dressed, cool-looking guy (who seems to have around the same age as Travis, and the same appreciation for beam katanas), but before a fight occurs Sylvia gets in the way. She says that Travis cannot get into a fight with another assassin outside of those that are ranked. And the mysterious stranger quietly disappears.

Holy shit, this guy has a beam katana with four beam cross guards!
AND he's in ann awesome suit! ....Wait a fucking second, he just
stole my kill, why do I act like a fanboy all of a sudden?

Well, Travis did get up a rank, but he didn’t get the fight he wanted. It’s like what he really wants is not the satisfaction of being #1, but just to fight others to prove that he’s the best, like some competitive video game player. And the others are just obstacles to overcome.

Okay, who’s doing that? I’m starting to get really fucking tired to be reminded of the film called Gamer! Who is editing those images into my review? WHO? No answer? Sigh… too bad, I’ll just move on.

So, we collect the money for the entrance fee by doing jobs around town. You want to know two things that annoy me about this game? For starters, for a “wide open sandbox”, there is very little to do. There’s that side-quest with the Lovikov balls, this can take a few hours of your time, that’s good. There’s the Rampage missions, which are pretty challenging since you’re left with a single HP against ten or more enemies. But there are no city-wide quests. And the upper half of Santa Destroy has almost nothing of interest. You could do random assassination gigs or odd jobs… but here’s my issue #2 with this. To enter an assassination gig, you have to drive to K-Entertainment, pick a mission there, then drive through town to reach the place where the assassination takes place. Travis’s X-Wing-themed bike is fast, but it can still take you a minute or two to reach the location of the assassination. You MUST pass by K-Entertainment, there is no other way, because those gigs don’t appear on the map until you pick a mission. Okay, I can kind of understand that, it would add a lot of signals to the map.

No man has been both this cool and dorky while mowing
the lawn since Weird Al in the White And Nerdy video.
However, the same applies to the Job Center; to enter a mini-game to earn money, you need to go to the Job Center, pick the job you want to do, then head out to go play the mini-game. It’s long and tedious, and things would be a lot simpler if all the odd jobs were always available on the map as soon as you unlock them; you could do them to your leisure, without having to drive around this boring, boring city for a few minutes before you can earn the money to get to the next ranked battle. So there, the wide open sandbox in this game is actually rather poor. Now I’ll close this parenthesis and go on with Rank #4.

Paying his entrance fee, Travis gets a call from Sylvia that invites him to watch a show. Said show will be the battle against assassin #4. So Travis takes the subway to get there, and on the way has a weird dream about his favorite game series, Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly. The mini-game is fine, but the less we discuss the context around that mini-game the better. Travis then arrives at his destination.

He seems friendly alright... too bad this game is about
killing people. In Tomodachi Life, we could have been pals.
Rank #4 is Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii. I think I spelled that right. The guy is a stage magician, so Sylvia and Travis watch his show, then Harvey invites Travis on the scene to participate in the final number. Once again, you’d think Travis wouldn't fall for a simple trap like this. And yet, he does! Though he escapes before getting killed. Of note, before the number, Harvey asks Travis Touchdown his full name, and says his parents had flair, that this is a great name. Travis replies that his parents are dead. And he doesn’t seem to mind all that much. Actually, that sounds like the kind of info we should have gotten much earlier…

I don't think that was part of the show. Get me down!
This fight is weird because Harvey likes to teleport left and right between attacks, to avoid Travis. He also likes to play around with the very physics of the game world and flip the screen upside down, also flipping the controls and making it harder for Travis to find his way. As if that was not enough, Harvey has a bunch of annoying attacks, including one where he spins around with his two blades, and another where he throws a barrage of pigeons. Wherever he is right now, John Woo just had an orgasm and he doesn't know why.

Oh, by the way, it’s heavily implied that this whole battle is taking place before an audience. Making a show out of murder, for the enjoyment of the mindless masses. Showing all that violence that we lap up because it looks fun – I mean, I have fun so far playing No More Heroes, but that doesn’t make any of the events any less horrifying. Now where have I seen a similar concept before...

ALRIGHT! FINE! FINE I WILL WRITE THE FUCKING COMPARISON! HAPPY NOW? I WILL GET INTO THAT! In a moment. So, despite Harvey’s various traps, Travis comes out as winner. The laser katana cuts Harvey’s eyes, then his assistants strap him in that same death trap Travis was in at the beginning, and Harvey gets cut in half as the curtains close. And thus Travis becomes assassin #4.

Now, here is what this whole review had been wanting me to say. Multiple times. Fucking flashbacks to that piece of shit film. Now, you might be quick to point out that No More Heroes is actually closer to something like the Scott Pilgrim series; for one, numbered enemies. Second, these works feature two main characters who are not exactly “heroes”, going against people who are even worse, in some kind of quest to serve their interests above those of others. Third, both works try to humanize the opponents by showing more about their personalities, even if they pass by only for a fraction of the whole work.

Yeah, these two guys are not so different.
I can't say one is worse than the other.
But in actuality, No More Heroes has many more similarities with another video game movie, Gamer (which I reviewed, if you guys are interested). In it, death row inmates have control microchips implanted in their brains, which let them be used by gamers in matches of a game called Slayers. And thus we follow John Tillman AKA Kable, a man who has no qualms about ending lives. He doesn’t do it because he likes to, he does it because he has a goal in mind: To retrieve his wife and his daughter, and to rain blows on Ken Castle, creator of those microchips and all-around psychopath. In-game, Tillman is being controlled by Simon Silverton, a jackass teenager who is a brilliant gamer, but also Awful Human Being #978 in the dystopian world of the movie. Let’s be clear here; Silverton knows that the game pits real humans against other real humans, and doesn’t mind that his fame as a gamer has been earned by killing dozens of people through Kable. Yeah, death row inmates who would have been sent off to die anyway, but still; making a show out of murder. In fact, neither Silverton nor Tillman ever consider their opponents as human beings. What’s worse, though, is that Gamer shows a world population that, instead of boycotting the Slayers game and its questionable morals, actually revels in it. Slayers is a big deal, the matches are shown on TV, and very few if any even seem to question anything that is going on. The second side of the coin is shown with Society, where other chip-controlled humans are taken into doing anything disgusting or sexual that you can think of, again for the pleasure of the sex-crazed masses. And we’re shown a gross, obese man controlling a woman, and probably getting her into sexual situations just to jack off, not unlike some real-life video games on other consoles that feature a lot of sexual scenes, only for the Hell of it.

Fuck! I thought I'd never see this guy's face again!
Well, outside of Old Spice commercials, that is.
However, Gamer has little to no self-awareness about this. The general public is still depicted as a bunch of people who willingly watch murders and people being used. We follow Tillman, a dangerous killer who just happens to be in a struggle against an even worse shit stain of a human. And the film still wants us to root for the guy! That he has a wife and daughter don't matter, he's still a willful murderer. The only hints of self-awareness come up when we see the “gamers” behind the characters, and that is also done pretty poorly.

Who knows what kind of creepy fetishes he jacked off
to in that armchair. Neither do I want to know how many
tissue boxes he goes through each month.
No More Heroes is aware of its violence. It knows about its own content. What’s more, it knows its audience. Travis Touchdown is an otaku, a loser who keeps a box of tissues by his armchair in front of the TV, and it's not because he's watching a lot of romantic comedies. He’s so desperate to fuck that he’d cut through hundreds of enemies with a laser beam if this got him into a chick's pants (yet with the thousands of bucks he makes out of assassination gigs you'd figure he'd have enough to pay for such services). He swears like there’s no tomorrow. His motorbike is decorated like an X-Wing, the beam katana is basically a lightsaber. He’s too broke to get a house (or even an apartment) and instead lives in a motel room, which he decorated with dozens of figurines and other anime memorabilia. Travis is also an unrepentant asshole who delights himself in the violence he inflicts, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if he maintained a boner through all of his rampages. Just remember this: Travis is a gamer, a geek, an otaku. He’s described in the game itself as a loser. And I don’t know if you noticed it, but that’s the sad stereotype about gamers and anime fans in general; that they are losers.

It doesn't help either that his opponents are fountains
of blood.

Quote from the actual intro of the game: "What do you
say, bro? Join me. Let's see how far we can take this. And
for you there, holding the Wii remote right now? Just press
the A button. Let the bloodshed begins!" The game hasn't
even started and he already sliced apart the fourth wall
with this beam katana!
What’s more, Travis himself is self-aware. He knows that he’s in a video game, and he often breaks the fourth wall, like he is talking to the player. In fact, the player follows Travis around (obviously) and participates in the murder sprees by doing the finishing move against weaker enemies (by swinging the Wii remote the way Travis swings his beam katana), and also moves the Wii remote and Nunchuk when Travis pulls a wrestling attack. For all intents and purposes, these movements are meant to let the player emulate what Travis does on the screen; Travis IS the player. And the game keeps the same attitude towards him, pointing out time and time again that he's a loser. This game, No More Heroes, is calling YOU a loser for enjoying the gratuitous violence it shows.

Just change the names to those of the Gym
Leaders, Elite 4, and Champion, and
switch from "killing" to "beating in
a Pokémon battle" and you can
see what I mean here.
Thankfully, Pokémon also does its best
to humanize its "bosses".
Travis’s quest to become #1, to become “the very best, like no one ever was” (note the Pokémon reference I just made), mirrors many other video games out there where the goal is similar; a flimsy excuse to fight to the end, just to be at the top. All this to gain some feeling of self-gratification. When you think about it, fighting to become the best one at a game, especially one that doesn’t pit you against human opponents, doesn’t matter; this is just a video game. An unimportant piece of fictional media that you interact with. What’s more, the violence it shows should be treated as disturbing, even though the game makes sure that it stays over-the-top and awesome. Most assassins are given backstories, motivations, reasons to be what they are now. But Travis doesn’t see them as characters. He sees them as obstacles to dispose of. Travis has no regards for the lives of the people he kills, yet the game makes sure that for the little screen time these assassins get, we can notice a lot of interesting details about their personalities, something that separates them from the nameless mooks that get slashed in two before the boss fight. And this is the kind of thing that only starts getting noticeable after the fight against Holly Summers: The first opponent that Travis truly respects due to learning more about her, in their final exchange… that is, before she sticks a grenade in her mouth and blows her own head off. When Travis was treating these characters like people to kill and nothing else, Suda51 was calling YOU out for approaching the game with a similar, if not identical mindset; that same mindset that you take for many other violent games out there.

All this violence is wrong, and you should feel ashamed for liking it; that’s the message behind this game. And yet it glorifies its own violence with all the faceless opponents that you kill before a boss fight and during assassination gigs, and makes the violence appealing – and fun – despite the message. The message is hypocritical in its own context, but I guess that’s why they break the fourth wall; to point out the hypocrisy of their message. And to make it clear that they’re talking to the player, that according to this game the player is just as wrong in enjoying this as the game’s developers were in making a show out of murder. Yes, this is fiction, but it can be seen as a denouncement of violent media in general, and calling out those who enjoy it… Not as far as being an insult, but it's definitely the theme that comes out upon analysis of the events of the game. There was no such message in Gamer, where the violence was equally glorified with little, if any, indication that Tillman was as wrong as his opponents. And while Gamer did call out the gamers, those were such ridiculous stereotypes, such strawmen, that they couldn't be taken seriously. Only when a gamer was actually controlling an actual killer, in an actual video game where murder is given center stage, that this message could make any sense. Okay, are we done now? Good? Will I stop seeing pictures of that shitty film now? Yes? Thanks! Let’s FINALLY move on to Assassin #3.

...By the way, sorry for the long tangent. I got carried away.

Just a quick reminder that despite all his depravity,
Travis is still the proud owner of an adorable kitten.
Who happens to be plot-relevant against Assassin #3.

After getting the money – where does all that money go, anyway? – Travis heads out towards Assassin #3, who lives in Speed City, a neighboring town. Travis has to take the bus to go there, but he doesn’t notice his kitten Jeane following him all the way to the bus station, then on the bus, then on the battlefield. Seriously though, how did she do that? Did she hide on Travis’s bike when he was driving to the station? Travis has to be freaking blind not to see his kitty here. Anyway, who’s Assassin #3? Speed Buster? Sounds like a cool name. What, he has super-speed like Sonic? Oh wait, it’s a woman, really? Huh. That’s good, a nice change of pace. Is she cool? What does she look like? …Oh, it’s an old, fat, man-hating woman traveling around with a shopping cart? Um… you gotta be kidding me, right?

No! Thunder Ryu! You were the most reasonable human
being in the entire game! even more so than Bishop,
Naomi, and Holly!
Nope. When Travis gets to the desolated Speed City, he sees his mentor, Thunder Ryu, in the middle of a fight against Speed Buster. You want to know why this woman is Assassin #3? Her shopping cart…it contains a goddamn giant wave-motion gun. It’s, like, longer than a fucking house. I mean, if this was a guy I’d ask if he's compensating for something, but the joke kinda doesn’t work here… Anyway, the kitty Jeane distracts Thunder Ryu. Travis freaks out and goes to get his cat, but Speed Buster uses her big gun and shoots at Thunder Ryu, who parries the blast with his katana and tells Travis not to fear, as Travis is ready for greatness… after which the blast pierces through and utterly vaporizes Ryu. Okay lady, you asked for it!

That's not even half the length of that cannon. Seriously,
it's like, 300 feet long. Minimum. A cannon this long
should be too heavy to stay in midair! How does it stay up?
That's a riddle for the ages.

Yes, that was a nuclear antimatter beam.
Courtesy of an old woman.
Now, this boss fight is… particular, to say the least. The fight is not you slashing at Speed Buster time and time again… you have to reach her. She’s very far away, but don’t worry, her wave-motion gun’s blast can and will reach you, and can and will kill you almost instantly if you don’t move out of the way. Thankfully, she can only shoot in a straight line, although the blast covers the entirety of this corridor, so Travis can survive by hiding in the openings on both sides. There can be some enemies to defeat in those decrepit homes, so be still ready to fight if need be. And make your way towards Speed Buster, the long way towards her… you can parry her attack with the beam katana, but it uses up a lot of battery and pushes you back quite a bit, so your best bet really is to hide on either side, and move forward while she recharges her gun. Soon Travis knocks down a pole that knocks down another pole, causing a domino effect resulting in another pole falling on the gun. And as Speed Buster tries to get it to work, Travis comes in and splits the cannon right down the middle.

I don't care who Speed Buster is. This has got to be the
most awesome attack I have ever seen in a game.
This old lady is Badass.

"I'll be as good as Thunder Ryu was? Sorry, I'm not a
hero. Not even an anti-hero. I'm closer to villain
protagonist, or even nominal hero. But hey, we nevcer
know, things might change."
For an old ugly woman whose first words of banter were “Fuck you, ya little prick”, she sure becomes a lot more polite after Travis says he was Ryu’s apprentice. You could say she accepts defeat – and her death – with open arms. Travis beheads her, and thus ends the fight. As a result, Travis earns Thunder Ryu’s Japanese katana, which he can then bring to Dr. Naomi, just behind the motel, so that she can build the "best" weapon in the game out of it.

Okay, this was not a “boss” in the normal sense of the word, but damn, this was fucking awesome. Well, like I said earlier; the game and its violence are actually pretty cool, there's just that underlying feeling of wrongness that never goes away. However, this review has been going on for too long, so I’ll cut here for today. See you in Part 4 this Monday.

April 25, 2016

"Rated M" Month: No More Heroes (Part 2)

Missed Part 1? Go read it here. But don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. Outside of explaining Travis Touchdown and going over the first three plot-relevant kills (the 11th assassin, Death Metal, and Doctor Peace), not much happened. So now, Travis has to get ready to face the eighth ranked assassin, but before that he needs to collect the money required for the entrance fee.

See, No More Heroes is a wide open sandbox. It’s not nearly as intricate or detailed as Liberty City. Still, Santa Destroy has a few places of interest. I’ll take a moment to list them here.
-Near the No More Heroes Motel, there’s Beef Head, Bishop’s video store where Travis can buy different new VHS tapes (true collectors don’t care about DVDs!). Watching those tapes can give him new suplex moves, which can help quite a bit against the bosses of the game.
-Just around the corner, behind the motel, there’s Doctor Naomi, gadgeteer extraordinaire, who will work on new beam katana models and upgrades for Travis, given that he shills out the amount of cash she demands. She can make a beam katana with five laser blades, the best weapon in the game. Also, getting the final, true ending, requires that Travis buys everything she has to sell him. You might say she’s hot, really hot… but beware, she’s 63.
-The ATM used to pay the entrance fee for each Ranked Battle is located on a building in front of the No More Heroes Motel. Travis can easily run there to pay his fee and go back to the motel to get ready.
-The Thunder Ryu Building is owned by Travis’s old wrestling coach and mentor Thunder Ryu. At any moment, you can go there and, for a small sum of money, Ryu will train Travis to increase either his beam katana combo attack, his overall strength, or his Life Bar (represented by a pixel heart).
-Area 51, a place where Travis can buy all kinds of jackets, shirts, pants, given he has the money of course. This is not GTA, you can’t just kill the store owner – nor can you put a bucket on his head – and steal everything, as tempting as it may be.
-As the game progresses, blue Ms will appear on the map. Those are bonus fights, similar to the Rampage! mini-game in GTA: Chinatown Wars, where Travis must kill as many opponents as possible without getting hit once. There are neat rewards for completing these.

April 22, 2016

"Rated M" Month: No More Heroes (Part 1)

The trend with M-rated games is to make them more explicit, more sexual, more vulgar, more violent. As if any of that actually made the games more mature. I mean, everyone knows that adding vulgarity and random sex jokes is a cheap way of making something more suited for adults. Having more mature themes may help, although most themes can be brought up even in works aimed at children – the best example is Zootopia, the recent Disney film, which discussed racism in a more mature way than you’d ever expect a Disney movie to. However, a common trait of M-rated games is that they’re openly sexual and offensive, just for kicks.

Not only are these games violent and vulgar, they know they are violent and vulgar, and are not ashamed to tell you. The characters of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, which I reviewed in the past two weeks, slip blowjob and transsexual prostitute jokes at the drop of a hat, when they’re not in the middle of plotting to kill each other. The announcers of MadWorld, which I played (but haven’t completed yet), make more offensive remarks than you can shake a stick at. It’s like South Park’s influence, to be as vulgar as humanly possible in order to get laughs, has perverted all of adult-rated media. The difference being that South Park usually adds an interesting message about society. Even the so-called “comedians” using video games as basis for their songs and parodies join in; Egoraptor’s band Starbomb is using those as if they were afraid the Apocalypse was coming and the only way to stop it was to make as many dirty jokes and innuendos as possible. Case in point, the old man in the cave wants Link to give him a handjob, and Luigi and Mario are on a race to see which of them gets into Peach’s privates first. Both catchy songs and the animation’s pretty good (and yes, it is rather funny), but completely immature.

"Destiny" here refers to a wrinkly old dick.

Another common trait of M-rated games is that they don’t hide any trace of cynicism about the world. That’s a theme I’ve seen in both Chinatown Wars, MadWorld and today’s game: Cynicism and fatality. These worlds are dark. These worlds are depressing. They’re full of monstrous people who are only the villains because your character is marginally better than them. And sometimes, not even better. There's nary a good guy in sight. These stories are deep on the cynical end of the spectrum. Violence is a part of their world, it’s an undeniable fact of life, and no matter how cartoony it may become, it remains disturbing, often unpleasant too. The comedy is there to counterbalance the horrible world shown to us. Want some idealism? Go watch some Disney. Go play Super Mario. There is no place for idealism here; Today, I’m tackling No More Heroes, one of the darker Wii games. Gear up, this will get bloody.

April 15, 2016

"Rated M" Month: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Part 3)

Part 2 was pretty hectic, what with all those missions we had to complete from no less than 7 different guys. Go read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t. There is a lot to take in, this game’s a soap opera about criminals.

Our latest mission comes from Hsin himself. He’s pretty pissed that we’ve been attacking the Massina family under Rudy D’Avanzo’s orders. Huang explains that there’s a tape revealing the Mole, but Hsin replies that Huang has likely been played by D’Avanzo to do his bidding… Hsin then orders Huang to kill D’Avanzo. Well, that’s alright, I felt he was too much like a second Chan Jaoming, always getting ambushed and whatnot. Hm, maybe I shouldn’t be saying that in front of Chan’s dad. Fuck, I should really watch my mouth. Well, Hsin is the big boss, and when the big boss gives you orders, whether it’s to jump, to go kill someone or to shove a zucchini up your ass, all you can do is ask how high, who, and which size.

Ah, what a motherfucker. Yup, there's no better word.
So we head out to look for Rudy in either location we met him in before. Huang finds Rudy’s car and enters the place, and hears Rudy speaking to someone else. Guess what? D’Avanzo had arranged the whole thing, putting Huang into situations that would oppose him to the Massina family – whom the Triads, Huang’s original gang, are friends with – to stir up some shit among the Triads Ah, the motherfucker! Huang comes out to confront them… and finds D’Avanzo in woman’s clothing. Wait a second, D’Avanzo, you’re a closet crossdresser? Ha! Ha ha ha! Bwa ha ha wa ha ha ha ha ha! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to kill you for reasons completely unrelated to your little crossdressing secret. I’m killing you because you played me, fucker! Boom, there goes the car you were escaping in! I'd tell you to rest in pieces, but the joke's been done.... to death!

Pictured: Not hacking skills.
Anyway, not very good hacking skills.
We get a message from Wade Heston; he says that the real mole is discussed somewhere in the files of the federal police, and that in order to find the culprit, Huang has to break into the wi-fi signals and gather the data. This means standing precisely between any two wi-fi stations that belong to the cops, something easier said than done since the cops quickly become aware of Huang weakly hacking skills and start chasing him down. Hey, leave me alone! After that’s done – and you get rid of the three-start Wanted signal you get from doing it – you go back to Wade Heston, who explains that there were two informants… Chan, and Zhou, who kept giving information to the federal police about the other’s whereabouts! Well, I didn't see that coming! Heston doesn’t want to deal with those two and spark another gang war, so he bails out, leaving behind his dreams of becoming a hero in Liberty City and having a movie about him. Hum hum, if you ask me, it wouldn’t be a movie, it would be a Netflix series, and the “hero”, however nominally heroic he is, would be Huang. So farewell cop, let’s never see each other again.

April 11, 2016

"Rated M" Month: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Part 2)

Oh great, what the Hell kind of troubles did I get Huang Lee into?  Following Part 1, as if it wasn’t enough that he’s almost wiping clean the asses of three wannabe successors to the greatest criminal empire of Liberty City, now he’s got to help a goddamn cop?

Am I going too far in the vulgarity? I mean, M-rated games have fun going overboard with vulgarity, I guess I should still keep some self-respect and not do like they do… forget that awful metaphor in the previous paragraph. Either way, now with four people to receive missions from, Huang is busier than ever.

Saving Private Chan, Episode 218. Just another day for
Huang Lee.
After completing a few more mission with Chan (which includes saving his sorry ass from an ambush by a rival gang), we get to meet Hsin Jaoming, the big boss of the entire criminal world of Liberty City. Chan made himself look good by saying that he was the one to save you from the ambush; and Hsin is smart enough to know his son is a moron, but not smart enough not to believe everything he says. Thus Hsin orders Huang to go blow up the ambushers’ gambling place with a leaking oil tanker. Fine, old bag, just spare me all the stupid discourse about family honor that I’ve been hearing from Kenny all the time, and I’ll go. I don’t have a choice either, it’s a vital story mission.

Getting screwed over by five guys at once. If I was a chick, I’d like that better, but I’m not. And besides, why would the player character in a GTA game be female? This game is a world of dicks. Literally and figuratively. I believe in the criminal talent of women, but I get a feeling this world is super-sexist and would make quick work of women…

Oh, excuse me, I think I just had a PTSD-induced flashback.

Now Wade Heston gives Huang a few missions related to a Korean gang that’s been causing trouble; after which Uncle Kenny tells his nephew to leave the Koreans alone and direct his attention to the Spanish Lords. Jesus F. Christ, this thing’s becoming a crime wars version of The Young And The Restless, escept with less weddings, breakups and breasts! Kenny tasks Huang with protecting his merchandise from the attacking waves of Spanish Lords, who for some reason are really pissed at Kenny. Gee, I dunno, maybe it’s because of the orders I received from Kenny himself to go and shoot them all down! Huang then follows the Spanish Lords’ helicopter through town, discovering their warehouse. In the next mission, we raid that warehouse and steal a truck, bring it back to Kenny’s hideout, and open it to find some nice free drugs. That’s actually another fun mechanic of the game; when you feel like taking some free shit, you can steal it from trucks passing around the city, or head to any warehouse you find, break in and steal some nice stuff. Sure, that means you have to shoot a lot and kill a bunch of people, but don’t you spend most of the game doing that already?

Oh great, am I gonna have to start saving Heston
all the time too? If I keep saving people, why
don't I become a good buy? ....Oh, right, I save
these people by killing MORE people.
We get another mission from Wade Heston, and then we have to save him from a group of assassins hired by the Koreans. Including one with a machine gun, which counts almost as a boss of sorts. We need to kill the machine gun guy, but as a result we lose the only track we had to retrieve Yu Jian and the boss behind the whole operation. Yay… So after that’s done, we get a message from Uncle Kenny, who has another mission for his favorite slave-er, I mean helper. He does seem pretty pissed that we’re attacking the Koreans, though… Anyway, he asks Huang to help the mafia smuggle a boat full of “merchandise” into the city. Following this, we learn that Chan has bought most of Kenny’s properties, so Kenny is pissed, Chan is being a smug asshole, and then there’s Zhou also getting in on the fun. What the Hell did I do to deserve that much trouble? *checks list of crimes so far* Oh. …Never mind.

Chan, always the smart one, goes on a boat race with Huang until they get ambushed by Spanish Lords and Huang has to gun them all down. Hey Chan, since you’re always being attacked, here’s a suggestion: Just die already, that’ll spare me some fucking troubles. You’re a pain in my ass, and not a fun kind. But I don’t swing that way, so to me, there’s no fun kind.

Sometimes I wished I could kill the blue ones.
They're my allies, but I hate to call Chan an ally.

Trouble brews in Hsin’s criminal empire as there appears to be traitor in the ranks, and the federal police forces are cracking down on whatever crime gangs they can get their hands on, even capturing Chan. (Yay.) Hsin thus orders Huang to smuggle a lot of dirty money out of the country by bringing it to a heliport, then shoot an informant from the high point of a hotel. Hey, when did this become an assassination game? I thought we didn’t have precise targets, just members of rival gangs and sometimes cops or people on the streets. Come to think of it, how come we lose some of our star rating by destroying cop cars? Wouldn’t this actually make us even more sought after? I don’t think I should question the logic of that world too much.

I'm sorry, from this point on I have been unable to find
a walkthrough that covered the rest of the game in the
DS version. So the next screenshots might not be
from the DS version.
Now both Chan and Zhou are willing to dispose of the other. Well, it would be mighty fun to see those two at each other’s throats, but we’re kinda in the middle of the fight… Zhou wants to pick up two famed criminals and bring them back to his lair; the only problem being that Zhou attracts a bit too much attention and many paparazzi are following him now. Which means that in the next mission, as we pick up the criminals, we must gun down whichever paparazzi take photos. Okay, look, I’d be against criminals killing people, but if there’s one thing I hate in the fields of journalism, it’s paparazzi. Kill those? Oh, this will be fun. After that’s done, we help Chan kill all the people he believes are traitors – it’s implied he’s just blindly killing his own gang, because admit it, that would be a Chan Jaoming thing to do – while riding in a helicopter and shooting fiery rain – an infinity of Molotov cocktails – down on the helpless folks. Honestly, I don’t know how Chan managed to fit an infinity of Molotov cocktails in the helicopter cockpit. Then we help Heston by blowing up a dealer who’s blackmailing him, using a bomb car. Holy shit, is there one thing in this city that we can’t buy? …Oh, right, prostitutes. We’re also tasked by Heston to blow up a Zhou-owned boat and destroy a truck containing merchandise that belongs to Zhou. I totally don’t see this going wrong and causing major trust problems anytime soon.

Killing with a sword has got to be one of the best things
in GTA, period- What do you mean, most video games out
there already have you killing with swords? Dammit!
Of course, Zhou’s next mission has Huang fishing up crates of merchandise. And then we get a message from Hsin… Uh oh. He’s pissed, he knows where traitors to his order live, and he wants to see heads roll. Literally. He entrusts Huang with a sword – not Yu Jian, sadly – and tells him to decapitate the traitors. Wow. That’s bold. I mean, I know Hsin is the head of a criminal empire and all, but damn, that’s a badass query. I can see why he’s the chief, and why no one else so far does the job right enough to replace him. Huang does the job then meets with Uncle Kenny and Hsin at the amusement park. Hsin brings up that these troubles began after Huang joined the ranks… oh wait, I am not a mole, I’m just helping a deadbeat asshole cop who’s supposed to help me find the sword- wait… scratch that, I said nothing. Kenny manages to calm down Hsin and convince him that Huang is not the mole, but Huang doesn’t feel very much welcome now. But Hsin still entrusts him with the mission of finding the hideout of a group named the Midtown Gangsters, followed by stealing files from them.

Bleh. This is the worse cop of the two.
That’s when we get e-mails from two new people: Some guy called Lester, a cop (another one), and an Italian named Rudy D’Avanzo. Starting with Lester, the gross, fat cop who is trying to infiltrate a group of bikers known as the Angels of Death (I suppose Hells’ Angels, Rock Machines and Elements of Harmony were taken), and of course Huang has to do his little motorbike stunts for him. Which includes gunning down members of a rival gang and blowing up a statue. Of course that’s not enough for the guy, as he soon contacts Huang again to sell off a bunch of drugs; Lester was supposed to sell them himself but apparently he's a coward. You know what, when I’ll be done with you and your quintuple chin, I’ll never talk to you ever again. Actually, do you even have a neck? It looks like you have chins and then a belly. Do note, I’m not making these jokes to mock people who suffer from obesity, I make them to mock Lester, who happens to be an asshole like all other bosses Huang works for. And honestly, don’t all assholes deserve to be mocked?

I don’t know why, but Donald Trump ios the first example that appeared in my Canadian mind when I said that.

What better than a graveyard as a place for a shootout?
Okay, time to meet Rudy D’Avanzo. He says that once the mole is done destroying the Triads, he’ll go for the Italian gangs next. And thus, despite the Triads and Italian gang being enemies, they need to help each other on this. D’Avanzo even knows who the mole is: Jimmy Capra, a member of the Massina family. Huang and D’Avanzo get ambushed and Huang needs to kill a whole bunch of gun-happy people trying to kill his Italian boss. Well, he may have the same problem as Chan, but he’s way more useful…

We help Heston deal with some nasty guys using machines to scramble signals around his part of town (a difficult task because it also scrambles your GPS)… after which we help Hsin deal with some weapons dealers who would start representing a danger… then we take care of a small gangster group that wants its independence… Then we help Lester get into the Angels of Death’s graces some more by protecting some stuff… and then we help Rudy steal a car that belongs to the Triads because it may be the Mole’s car and it contains something that listened in on the Mole as he was revealing secrets… ah yes, because that will not cause me any problem with Kenny and Hsin! Jesus Christ, by the end of this everyone’s gonna want me dead. What am I, a fucking carousel? Each of you, have a turn on the Huang Lee ride! One at a time, but don’t worry, you’ll all get your turn to screw him over!

Caaaaan you feeeeeel the deeeaaaaaaath toniiiiiight...
D’Avanzo soon welcomes Huang in his office to tell him that there were not only one Mole, but three. And thus he tells Huang to shoot the three of them down… after which Huang will get a copy of the recorded discussion. Let’s go do that, sure! Then we help Heston by taking his car, repairing it, and destroying evidence that would incriminate more of Heston’s policemen associates. After which we try to get the recording from D’Avanzo – come on, god damn it, I have three other fucking bosses that want me dead until I bring them this! He agrees to give it back after we’ve – oh, pardon me, after he’s – killed Jimmy Capra. So we bring him to a meeting where D’Avanzo gets ambushed – again – and we need to kill all the attackers coming his way. This would be simple, if bullet-wasting, if we were on the ground, but dear Rudy had the brilliant idea to have Huang be on a nearby roof with an assault rifle. With that weapon and at that angle, we’re not quite as efficient…

Any idea how many bikers I had to kill so that this guy
could ger a simple blowjob? Me neither. Way too many,
that's for damn sure.
We also get another mission from everyone’s favorite grossout cop Lester, who decided to get more info from the wife of the Angels of Death’s boss… by fucking her in a private apartment, and tasks Huang – who else – with – what else? – shooting down all members of the Angels of Death trying to stop their car, as well as any Angel of Death that shows up near the apartment once they’re in safety. Lester gets all the info he needs – with a large side-order of STDs – and tells us that his arc was all for nothing, because the Mole is not a part of the Angels of Death. Well, thanks, fuckbag. Now, Lester, do me a solid and never show me your fucking ugly face ever again.

I hate to think that I’ve gone so off the deep end that I say that sort of thing but… when do I go back to selling drugs? I kinda miss those days. And now we get a message from Hsin. Nothing except the e-mail title, “Traitor?”, and the message, “Come to see me. Right now.”


That’ll wait for Part 3!

April 8, 2016

"Rated M" Month: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Part 1)

One of the most violent franchises of all time delves into one of the most racially insensitive plots possible. What can go wrong? A lot can go wrong. Although maybe it won’t be so bad…

Everyone here should have at least heard of Grand Theft Auto. Maybe not everyone has played it, but here goes: GTA and all of its sequels are Wide Open Sandbox games, which means that you have the freedom to do just about anything you want to do (in the limits of the game’s program, obviously). There IS a Story Mode but you’re not forced to play through it, although some parts of it explain certain mechanics present in the game at large. There are dozens of side-quests, as well as many things to discover around the sandbox world known as Liberty City. You can be the biggest criminal ever, or you can look for ways to get yourself killed. You can steal cars, do crazy stunts, swim from the main land to the island, meet dealers, and earn a nice sum of money… Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

As you can guess, it’s also a game series that has a lot of detractors, like the concerned parents who didn’t know the ESRB’s M meant “for Mature audiences” and bought this game for their little dearie child who’s far too innocent and perfect to even want to participate in a bloody shooting, however virtual it may be. Then there’s those famous words that describe games like this one as a murder simulator, which puh-lease, if you want to see an actual murder simulator, it’ll have to be a lot more detailed than this.

Taking stuff from bins, stealing cars. Just a normal day
in the City of Crime.
Even more impressive is how Rockstar got to fit such a big game in a small DS cartridge. Quite the achievement, considering you can spend days and days looking for every single little element you may have missed to get to 100% completion. Now, the title specifically states “Chinatown Wars”, so you can guess that this will not be the most racially sensitive game around. Most of the action involves the Asian-led crime rings. Not that anyone else has it much easier anyway; after all, in GTA, every main character is a criminal, and even the policemen are terrible people. Random passersby respawn after they’re brought to the hospital. The cops are so nervous, they’ll chase you down like you’re Adolf Hitler about to start a new Reich even if you got a single Wanted star for jaywalking. Since you go from a car to the other, you never need to fill the tank, so gas stations are used to create Molotov cocktails. Weapon salesmen are all united under the same Ammu-Nation brand and will gladly bring to your door every weapon you order from their online website, accessible from your PDA, no questions asked, because obviously this is the way of the future and there is no reason to be afraid that their clients turn out to be sociopathic criminals about to go on a mad killing spree across town… wait a second…

It was a mad world, before Mad World was a thing. …The Wii game, not the song. Alright, I could spend many parts discussing only the Wide Open Sandbox aspects of this game, but I like to tell a game’s story. And even though the plot here is split between multiple mission givers, we can still follow much of what’s happening, as well as the clash between the personalities of the different crime leaders. Alright, let’s start this slow descent towards complete and utter criminality.

April 1, 2016

"Rated M" Month: Sexy Poker

Hello my fellow perverts! This is Nicolas, and I’m back again for our famous segment! You see, the other day I was reading an old Summum from my personal stash. I’ve said it previously, I’ll say it again for the new readers, Summum is basically Quebec’s answer to Playboy, so they’ve got excellent articles to read between full-page pictures of almost-naked ladies. As a fan of good journalism, and as an admirer of the female figure, I heartily approve of this. Anyway, I stumbled on an article about famous Quebec poker player Jonathan Duhamel, who won the main event at the 2010 World Series of Poker. This got me thinking… I rarely ever play card games, so I’ve never played poker with friends. For some reason, the article made me want to try something like it. But how to play poker… I mean, I already had a little poker game for my Nintendo DS, though it was part of a collection of games. But that was not enough. Especially not for my dirty brain. Therefore, I looked around and found a little game on the Wii Shop Channel called Sexy Poker. Sounds right up my alley. And 500 points? 5 dollars? Not bad for a little game.

For those who cannot guess from the title, Sexy Poker is basically a strip poker game on the Wii. You’ll tell me a game like this has no reason to be on a console aimed at children, but then again there’s been a Grand Theft Auto game on the Nintendo DS, and the Wii has the No More Heroes series, MadWorld and a few other M-rated title. Obviously, Sexy Poker is also rated M. It does remind of the skewered priorities of American censors, though; we have no problem subjecting kids to heads cut off, Mexican stand-offs and random acts of ultraviolence, but you better hide that breast! We’re a lot more lax about those things in Canada; Hell, the Deadpool movie was rated 13+ in Quebec rather than R! And it has a pegging scene, for Christ’s sake!