RoboCop: Rogue City - title

If not for overall "nostalgia fatigue", I probably would have been a lot more excited about RoboCop: Rogue City. I, like every other young boy who grew up in the 80's and early 90's, loved RoboCop. But the old 8 and 16-bit games of the era didn't really do the character justice. I'm honestly surprised that it took this long to get a modern RoboCop shooter. I would have thought that such an idea would have been perfect for the PS3 and XBox 360 era of dull, brown, military shooters. Maybe there were RoboCop shooters then, and I just missed them.

In any case, I had other games that I was playing when Rogue City released, so I put it on my eBay watchlist and waited for a cheap, used copy to come available. Joke was on me, as the game went on sale and was $5 cheaper on the PSN like the day after I bought my copy. But I wanted the disc anyway, so that I could pass it around between a couple friends who were also timidly interested in playing it, but not so much as to pay full retail.

If Teyon and Nacon really wanted me to buy Rogue City, then they should have given it full VR support. The RoboCop property seems like an ideal candidate for a VR game, and this game in particular seems well-suited to the VR medium. I mean, you're playing a first-person perspective as a cyborg! Being able to simply turn your head to point your gun in different directions to take down enemies from all sides would be perfectly in-line with the source material. Heck, it would even allow for blind shots with your back turned to an enemy. The slow walking speed of the character means players would be less likely to get motion sickness from free movement controls or nauseatingly-fast motion. Eye-tracking software could have potentially been used for tagging or locking onto targets, for some of the game's detective mechanics, and maybe to assist in setting up trick shots.

RoboCop would be perfect for a VR game! Too bad this isn't a VR game.

But alas, RoboCop: Rogue City does not have VR support. The potential is squandered on a simple first-person shooting gallery, that occasionally stops to be a light RPG about narc-ing on homeless people and writing parking tickets.

Robo-Narc

Honestly, the narc-RPG was actually the stuff that I liked most about Rogue City. I was having the most fun when I was patrolling around Downtown Detroit, issuing tickets, resolving citizen complaints, rescuing cats from burning buildings, and occasionally shooting up a drug den. There's a cathartic wish-fulfillment quality to spotting someone parked like an asshole, and slapping a ticking on their windshield. I think all of us (who aren't cops) dream about doing that from time to time.

Ticketing homeless people for loitering or littering is significantly less fun, which is why I usually let them off with a warning. I mean, it's not like they can pay the fine anyway, and they have nowhere else to go. I appreciated the game for giving me the freedom to let people off with a warning, and to not punish me with poor performance reviews, or something like that. I think upholding the law grants more experience, but there's plenty of opportunity for gaining experience without feeling pressured to have to throw the book at every loitering teenager or hobo sleeping on a park bench. In fact, the game often rewarded me for letting people off with a warning, by improving my "trust" rating with the general public, which resulted in better story outcomes at the end of the game. Apparently people like cops a lot more when they aren't callously writing tickets or gunning down perps without a second's hesitation. Who would've thought?! I'm sure it also helps to be a really cool, shiny robot man.

Writing tickets for asshole drivers is so cathartic.

There was probably room for Teycon to put more pressure on the player to uphold the letter of the law. The public trust system would probably also be more interesting in a larger, more open game, in which civilians are more present, and in which civilians might help or hinder the player depending on the public perception of your actions. Maybe that's an idea for any potential future sequel?

There's even a handful of characters who have branching stories and different outcomes based on whether you throw the book at them every time, or simply play the role of good-faith friendly-neighborhood narc. There's even a set of still vignettes at the end of the game (Fallout-style), telling the player how all these side characters fared in the end, and how your decisions influenced them.

This is some genuinely good stuff. The player is free to do some open-ended policing and make moral and ethical decisions about any given suspect's specific circumstances. I wish more of the game were this!

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Disco Elysium - title

It's kind of hard to play a lot of video games while holding an infant child. It's certainly possible, but I had to accept that I was going to be less precise in my inputs whether I was holding a PlayStation controller or a keyboard and mouse. It seemed like a perfect time to try out a game that only requires a mouse to play -- a perfect time to finally try out Disco Elysium!

Disco Elysium is a unique and experimental RPG that straddles the line between RPG, point-and-click adventure, and walking sim. Most RPGs have combat of varying degrees of complexity in order to give all the various character stats and progression systems something to do. Disco Elysium completely eschews those conventions. I think I fired a gun maybe three times in my entire play time with the game (across a campaign and a half that I played prior to reviewing), and one of those gunshots was against a corpse hanging from a tree. Oh and I roundhouse kicked a a racist beefcake (you know, in order to establish my own racial superiority). Not exactly Call of Duty over here.

It may not require the twitch reflexes that many "gamer bros" expect every game to have, but games like this have been a godsend for those of us who only have one free hand to hold a mouse, because the other arm is holding a sleeping infant. It also happens to be a really good game.

I maybe fired a gun thrice, and roundhouse kicked a racist once, in 40+ hours of gameplay.

Inner dialogue

Instead of channeling character stats into gauntlets of filler combat encounters as a way of accumulating experience to improve those stats for the next combat encounters, Disco Elysium channels all of its character attributes into conversation trees. But these conversations aren't just with the other characters who I interview as part of the murder mystery plot. These conversations are also with the character's own inner monologue.

You see, the skills in Disco Elysium aren't like the skills of most other RPGs. They don't determine the character's physical strength, or agility, or skill with various weapons, or a blanket "charisma" attribute that determines if people believe your lies or are swayed by your arguments. No, instead, all of the skills of Disco Elysium represent elements of the protagonist's personality and psyche. Those skills will even pop up during dialogue and allow the character to have arguments or conversations with his own inner monologue. Each skill is like a voice in the protagonist's head, telling him what to do, or how to interpret the events he encounters. Each skill is sort of a character in its own right.

The character's skills talk to him, giving the player insight into the game world and current circumstances,
and also (sometimes flawed) advice about how to proceed.

I'm reminded of the psychosis voices of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, with each voice shouting over the others trying to tell Senua what to do or telling her that she's worthless and can't do anything right. Except in Disco Elysium, the player can actually have conversations with those voices. You can talk back to them.

These skills will pop up from time to time as interjections during conversations to make observations about what is happening or to recommend specific courses or action or responses. It's also a great way of delivering exposition and ensuring that the player knows any relevant details that the character should know. But they aren't always completely reliable. Sometimes blindly following the advice of these skills can land you in trouble.

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Her Story - title

Having a little bit of free time between playing Madden 20 and starting out this year's indie football games, I checked out a couple indie games that I've had sitting around in my Steam library for months. Both are player-driven mystery games about trying to deduce the events of the past. The simpler of the two is called Her Story, which is a game that released all the way back in 2015. So I'm quite a few years late to this party.

Her Story attracted my attention because it was developed by Sam Barlow. Barlow had previously worked as a writer for Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Personally, I felt he and the other writers at Climax had butchered Origins. His work on Shattered Memories, however, which was not bound by the constraints of established Silent Hill canon, went in a more interesting direction. Maybe not as interesting as if they had gone with the initial Cold Heart pitch, but whatever. I was curious to see what Barlow would do when completely free of the Silent Hill namesake.

I was curious how Sam Barlow would handle himself when free of the Silent Hill namesake.

Down the deductive rabbit hole

Her Story stands out because it is a completely player-driven experience. You have almost free access to a database of interview answers from a woman who is a suspect in the disappearance (and murder) of her husband. The game consists of searching through a series of live-action videos of interview questions, in which every word of her answers have been indexed for search. The catch is that you can't simply watch all the clips in order, and the game will only give you (at most) the first five clips at a time (in chronological order). You also don't know what questions are being asked, so you don't necessarily have the context for her responses.

Each response is laden with bread crumbs of keywords that you can pick out and search in subsequent queries in order to find related videos and discover additional details about the suspect's life, the victim's life, and the events leading up to the disappearance of her husband. This is where Her Story really shines. The game starts with the word "murder" in the search bar, and each clip that you watch will reveal new names and places. This should lead you towards going down the rabbit hole of searching for each new name or place until you eventually come to the weirder and more interesting testimony.The scripts is expertly designed to distribute bread crumbs in such a way to dole out the story over the first hour or two in order to build up the mystery.

Pick out key words from her testimony to find related statements.

There's also no hand-holding or guidance of any kind. It's just you and the search engine. It's entirely up to the player to input the words you want to search for. You can follow-up on a particular clip by searching for a keyword in her response, or you can search for some completely different, random word(s) instead. The game doesn't highlight the next words for you to search. It doesn't stop to tell you that you've "solved" some mystery or completed some objective. There's a widget that shows you how much of the database you've viewed, but other than that, there is no in-game progress-tracker. In fact, there's not even a real end goal.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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