Artwork by CitrusKing46
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Robotic Gaming Monthly, Topless Robot's monthly column devoted to all your video and computer game needs!* And yes, we're working on a Tuesday this month - at least for now - in order to better take advantage of newer game releases. And yes, now I also regret having already wasted the M. Bison joke in the intro to the first edition.
So what do we have this month for you? Well, there's the problems with underwater cities, the annoyances of the Alien cast, wasted potential, potential used perfectly, dead children, lion men, colossi, bullets, bullets, bullets, Neil Gaiman, pills and little tiny blobs. You know, the usual stuff. Oh, and our thoughts on who should play Joel in the upcoming film based on The Last of Us! Intrigue!
*DISCLAIMER: Not all particular needs may be met. Sorry.
Well, it's kind of a relatively slow month in gaming news again, what with the post-E3/pre-Gamescom lull having set in with the traditional summer lull also in effect for major game releases. And at one point I was thinking about actually having a Q&A with some of my fellow Roboteers to give me some gaming-related questions to talk about, but then a few notable items popped up that I could use. Which is kind of a shame, since the particular questions they gave me would've allowed me to use my original plans for a header image featuring a Xenomorph dressed up as a Touhou character, but oh well. Maybe next time.
So where to begin? Well, maybe I should just grab a stick and join everyone else in taking a whack at one of the biggest piñatas of gaming industry trends these days: Pre-order bonuses. And the only candy in a piñata like this is something like black licorice, tolerated by some and treated like poison by others.
But what sparked several conversations about pre-order bonuses this month was a particular penis creature-shaped piñata called Alien: Isolation. After the initial announcement that the game's pre-order bonus would be a set of missions involving Ripley and the rest of the crew from the original Alien - voiced by the original cast, no less - fans were pissed that it would be an exclusive pre-order bonus that they supposedly couldn't get after day one. And thus, as expected, the vitriol started pouring out against the very concept of pre-ordering games.
The cast of characters, truly emotionally devastated over your hatred.
But with this outrage came comments that people who pre-order games are suckers and idiots. And that is where I have to draw the line.
I mean, the notion of pre-ordering a game was simpler back in the day. I could go into a store, tell them I wanted the new Mega Man game when it came out, and then pick up a copy they held for me. And why did I do this? Because from what I had seen, that Mega Man game would kick ass and I was looking forward to it.
Flash forward twenty years. The rules and circumstances have obviously changed a bit (sadly, the Mega Man games didn't remain), but I still pre-order games for the exact same reason: Because I think they might be good games. And I hate people telling myself and others pre-ordering for the same reason that we're idiots because we dared to actually think a game could be good. Apparently, having actual optimism in gaming these days is considered a negative trait. No, the cool kids like to assume that all games are utter s*** and refuse to buy them until they see some reviews, and even then they'll just say "Whatever, maybe I'll buy it during a Steam sale" like they don't even care in the slightest about the actual game.
And yes, I understand that doing so may dangerously endorse the idea of bigger pre-order bonuses. But you know what? If you like a pre-order bonus, there is nothing wrong with that. If you think the game looks good, you were probably going to pick it up anyway, and that the bonus is a cute little addition, then go ahead and pre-order. You should not feel any shame in doing so. You should feel shame if you feel you actually need the pre-order bonus, because yeah, now you're endorsing all the negative traits here. It's not essential content. It won't be.
So yes, you can argue all day about pre-order bonuses as just another scheme by them there fat cats to squeeze another buck out of you, but let us remember that the games themselves are still the most important part of all this, and that actually anticipating a game is not a reason to start hurling insults at anyone.
That being said...
Alas, all my words up there still have to share space with a particular elephant in the room this month, a game abusing the concept of pre-order bonuses that basically made me feel like I was in a sitcom and had just finished a lengthy talk with the police officers about how my roommate is a sane and rational man, whereupon said roommate then kicked down the door, entered the room and announced "GUESS WHO JUST DECAPITATED FIFTY KITTENS!!" while holding a sack that I wish were just simply leaking marinara sauce. And which game was it that now has to deal with the kitten police, you may ask?
Well, one might argue that Alien: Isolation is still a notable contender, since it's withholding what feels like it should be a major part of a game: the Nostromo missions with the original cast. But Sega later announced what any person with half a mind could easily guess: That they were just going to release the missions later as DLC anyway. Besides, while the Nostromo bits probably would have provided a little extra story, it definitely won't be anything essential needed to enjoy the core game. So despite the star power, it's no more different than any other pre-order bonus. You could potentially bring up arguments about how bad DLC these days is because of this, but look, I'm already beating several horses to death this month, so beating on another one that's already gathering flies just seems like overkill.
Perhaps my sights are aimed at Lego Batman 3 and LittleBigPlanet 3 instead, which committed the much greater sin of using multiple retailer-specific pre-order bonuses. Hey kids, did you want both a Plastic Man minifigure and a Lego Batwing miniset with your game? Well then screw you, you're going to have to order two different copies at different stores. This is the type of crap that's much, much worse than what Alien: Isolation has, and is the type of crap we should be fighting against, and yet neither game seemed to be even remotely vilified the same amount. Probably because neither game acted as good enough clickbait as Isolation, and also because a lot of gamers seem turn a blind eye to any flaw about any Lego game. Open your eyes, and condemn this crap as well.
Yeah, nice try, Amazon.
But no, as bad as that was, those bonuses are again non-essential to the actual games. No, for the real culprit in pre-order crimes this month, we have to leave America and head to Japan instead. Why? Because that's where the anticipated upcoming survival horror game The Evil Within is due to be released with the pre-order bonus of "Gore Mode DLC"...because the full game is apparently going to be censored over there, and pre-ordering is the only way to get the full experience in Japan for now. Developers Tango Gameworks have insisted that the core experience will be unchanged, but considering that this is a horror game - where gore can be a fundamental part of the game's atmosphere, as some have noted - and judging by what we've seen so far...
The final version has him spurting confetti and cookies instead.
...I kind of doubt it. So why did they decide to go this route? Because it was either release the original game with an 18-and-up rating, or edit it and go for a 17-and up rating in order to increase sales with a wider audience, because truly gamers that are one year younger make all the difference (though I admit it actually could, since I don't know anything about Japanese game ratings and their impact on sales). Yes, they admit that this is simply due to sales and that they used the unrated version as an incentive to pre-order. They also say that the DLC will be available later, but didn't say how long a wait it would be or whether or not it would even be free. Because truly they couldn't just, say, release the censored version of the game and just have the Gore Mode as optional free DLC at launch, no sir. That'd be silly.
That right there is a complete piece of bulls***. It's one thing to offer up some bonus side missions or a wacky costume or two as a pre-order bonus if it's completely optional, but it's another thing to actually withhold content that could have an impact on the game just to force more people to invest on day one. This is the type of crap that retailers like Gamestop drool over, and may actually be planning, alas. Note to all video game companies: If you are actually insane enough to invest in such crap, you sadly deserve to fail. That kitten blood is on your hands, guys.
But getting back to earlier; while I wouldn't blame anybody if they actually didn't pre-order a game like The Evil Within out of protest, and while I'm definitely not defending pre-order bonuses, what I am saying is to not let one company's feces discourage you from pre-ordering games from saner folk if you actually like the look of what they're putting out. And don't let others tell you you're an idiot for doing so. Besides, you know those people were the same kind of folk who purchased tickets for all their summer blockbusters weeks in advance before the reviews even came in. You know who you are, dang it.