Robotic Gaming Monthly #2 - Splatoon, Sunset Overdrive and Shoveling Up The Past

By Kyle LeClair in Video Games
Monday, July 7, 2014 at 8:00 am


Welcome back to Robotic Gaming Monthly, TR's monthly column focusing on the latest happening in the video game world and then some! Thanks for the kind reception with our debut last time, by the way, even if your enthusiastic efforts to help promote this column wound up with us getting posted on a blog for nudists and swingers. Still, if any of them were gamers as well...

So what do we have for you this go around? Loads and loads of insanity, mud, steampunk, cartoons, Diamond Dogs, and a trip into sheer hell populated entire by loathsome beings that must be destroyed. Fun, fun, fun! Also, come see our column's new video game reviews and one of the very first incarnations of Topless Robot from the '90s (sort of)!

So let's start things off with a little post-E3 discussion or two or three. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Still?" And yes, some of you questioned how relevant a monthly column could be last time, and I can agree with you. But here's thing: Nothing else major has happened so far this month. All the gaming companies both big and small already revealed their hands at E3, and those that haven't are more than likely waiting for Gamescom or PAX. So we've kind of hit a Summer lull for now, hence why we're still talking about E3. Of course, the Critic's Choice Awards from the show having been announced helps a bit (and yes, No Man's Sky thankfully cleaned up along with Evolve).

So on to some E3 talk. Now, I already chimed in with my own picks for the best games of the show, which one of our perennial trolls described in the comments as "cartoonish looking piles of shit that look like they should be played on the N64." Oh, you lovable scamp! True, why should we care about trivial things like "creativity" or "effort" when we can just cover more shooters with purdy graphics? In your honor, let us start off with a discussion on those exact games you deemed piles of shit! Yay!

I mean, CLEARLY this could only be 64-bit feces, am I right?

Specifically, let us start with Splatoon and Sunset Overdrive, two of my choices for E3's best games (along with several other critics). Why did I have them as my top picks? Well, aside from the reasons I already mentioned, these kinds of games receiving major attention and promotion represents not just a breath of fresh air for the industry, but also a return to form - which is kind of contradictory.

But allow me to explain. Years ago, there was this sort of point in the gaming world where - to pull two titles from the same time out of a hat - games such as Crash Bandicoot 2 and GoldenEye 007 would occupy the same store shelves, get the same amount of promotion, get the same amount of media coverage, and basically be considered equals despite being two completely different games. I just felt like there was a wide spectrum of games for all audiences and ages, is what I'm saying.

But then around 2006 or so, the spectrum began to dim. Actually, it was more like the spectrum split into the world's worst double rainbow. One rainbow consisting entirely of greens, grays, and browns that led to a pot filled with "realistic" shooters and supposedly mature games where there was no room for joy in the world of uber-realism, and the other was a rainbow consisting of blindingly bright, cheerful colors that led to a pot filled with games designed to abuse the hell out of the term "casual" and pander to the family crowd. The last generation gave us some absolutely terrific games, no doubt, but at the cost of mainstream gaming basically having to commit a form of segregation, at least in terms of tone and presentation.

And that is why games like Splatoon and Sunset Overdrive should be praised and anticipated: For finally getting around to re-bridging the gap between serious, mature games and colorful, family-friendly games. We have shooters being designed for all audiences and action games putting the emphasis on color, humor, and as little realism as possible. Well-received games like Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and WildStar have already proven to be a success in selling game with a more comedic tone and vibrant visuals, and Fortnite is almost a complete 180 from the folks behind Gears of War that's getting some major attention. And heck, look at the debut trailer for Dead Island 2 at E3 compared to the (in)famous trailer for the first game.

Obviously, I'm not saying that there's no place for more serious games in this world. I'm just saying that we need a wider range of triple-A titles again if we actually want to get out of this rut we're it and the rift that has apparently divided several types of gamers. Because ironically, it's going to take a bunch of immature games to hopefully get the medium to mature as an art form.

It's a known fact that the road to maturity is paved with bubbles.


But moving on to something just a touch more serious: there are moments at E3 where you can actually notice specific trends developing, which isn't surprising for a show whose tagline was "The Future Revealed." And the future of gaming apparently that place a large emphasis on the late 1800s/turn of the century setting. Huh.

Okay, so maybe games with this type of setting didn't take the show by storm, but it just kind of surprised me as to how many big games at the show modelled their worlds after this particular era. The Order: 1886 is obviously the big standout (if only because it's right there in the freaking title), but we also had the likes of Bloodborne, BattleCry, Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age, and Project S.T.E.A.M., to name a few. And you have this many games on display with a particular shared element, you can't help but wonder why the sudden fascination with it.

Now I now some of you are ready to belt out "STEAMPUNK!!" as an obvious answer, but Bloodborne and Hunt don't really carry a steampunk card. Is it that the Industrial Revolution just offers up so many opportunities for unique tools to play with? The fact that weaponry from this era seems to fall right in between modern and antiquated, allowing for more creativity and skill to work around/with? Do the various bits of horror, fantasy, and folklore from this part of history just makes for better foes, challenges, and overall stories? Or is everyone here just riding the coattails of BioShock Infinite's numerous GOTY awards?

It's the muttonchops, isn't it? Totally the chops.

Well, I honestly don't have a straight answer for this one. Hell, I don't even know if I'm making sense here, since I'm not an expert on history from this era or the various bits of fiction inspired by it. Much like what the great C+C Music Factory once talked about, it's a thing that makes you go "Hmmm..." It's just an odd little trend I took note of, and one that thankfully appears to hopefully let some quality games with unique stories and universes upon us.

Especially Project S.T.E.A.M., since it involves Abraham Lincoln entrusting you with ridding the world of aliens. Why are we only now just getting around to a game based around that?

Seriously, why did we hesitate to try this again?

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