My Exquisite Taste in Video Games


I have exquisite taste in video games.

When Hideo Kojima bemoaned the unrefined habits of American gamers earlier this week, I couldn't help but agree. Much like my French and Italian fellow intellectuals, I can appreciate even the most mentally challenging and innovative experiences and have nothing but disdain for the basic gamer.

As far as I'm concerned, Madden can fucking do one.

I have played all the good games and have insightful takes on each of them. I transcend the critic-hobbyist divide with my exceptional think-skills. I can smell a bad game from a mile off, and won't waste my time with anything but the best.

That being said, I spent most of the last month playing Anthem and Left Alive. Because I am a complicated boy.

In my defence, they were both heavily discounted. Rewind to earlier this year, and I was fascinated with the speed at which the price of Left Alive tanked. It was under ¥1000 within a month of release - a decrease the likes of which I had never seen in Japan. I pounced on it once it hit ¥800. I loved the Yoji Shinkawa artwork, and had had some genuine interest pre-release; I figured I'd be able to derive at least a few minutes entertainment from it.

Anthem suffered a similarly abysmal debut. Glitch-riddled, it garnered middling reviews and quickly became yesterday's news. The worst fate for a online multiplayer experience, but all the better for me, the cheap-game liker! I bought it used for two hundred measly Yen, which turned out to be a steal. I finished the main campaign - around fifteen hours - and mostly enjoyed it. Anthem is a solid six out of ten, or a seven if you are corrupt.

It's easy to see why people were disappointed. The over-arching narrative is very forgettable, as are the vast majority of periphery characters. Some of the dialogue is appallingly bad and the lead is entirely devoid of character. On occasion, I found the mission start-points near impossible to find, even with the help of maps and markers, and there was far too much grinding. The only persistent glitch I experienced was invisible enemies, but it was very annoying and forced me to restart a handful of missions.

So yeah, Anthem was a bit shit at times, but mostly it was not. The shooting is fun and simple, the sandbox is interesting, and flying your robot space suit is really enjoyable. It has that monotonous shoot-loot-move loop down pat, and it's pretty on the eye too. Some of the story is forgettable, but the on-off relationship with your ex-colleagues Faye and Haluk is not. They are superbly voiced, decently written, and fantastically animated. When I think of Anthem, I recall them first. Them and the bastard invisible enemies.

With Anthem done and just a week left until Death Stranding, I decided to put a few days into Left Alive. It is an atrocious game, yet its aesthetic kept me coming back for more. Specifically, it was the setting and it's PS2-era sensibilities that fascinated me.

Left Alive has a deliciously depressing setting: a war-ravaged, near-future Eastern European state where mech run amok and cities crumble. Everyone is dead or dying. It's always dark and/or cold, and most things are on fire. The blurry visuals perfectly complement the bleakness of the surroundings. It's as if the lens has been smeared with Vaseline. A nod to Metal Gear Solid or a trick to hide the last-gen visuals? Yes. And when it all gets too much, you can enjoy a little comic relief every time someone calls a mech a "Wanzer".

Left Alive is a bad video game, but one that I was oddly drawn to.

You'll be happy to hear that I have since moved on to something more refined. Death Stranding is an exquisite game, perfectly suited to my exquisite tastes. I'll tell you all about it another time.

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