Spec Ops: The Line – Killing Makes me Feel Numb!

Spec Ops: The Line is a game that’s popped up in shit I’ve read surrounded by the oohing that it’s something special. And often used in response to the grand questions “Can games be taken seriously as art?” A very lofty question that the big thinkers spend more time chewing on than is perhaps necessary.

Spec Ops: The Line aka Spec Oops: Tow the Line, a PS3 era game set in a near-future Desert Storm scenario. Everything about the marketing would have you believe it’s just another jackbooted shooter like Call of Duty or Battlefield and that all the fun will come from its tales of camaraderie and valour as you shoot hundreds of real-world guns at NPCs. But soon enough, playing Spec Ops, the game starts fucking with you. The waters get murky. And I loved how twisted it got. To explain any of the story beats would ruin it, as I do recommend it. But I will say that they recreate the military term “FUBAR” (fucked up beyond all recognition) so well. Firefights are shitshows where you haven’t got a clear clue who’s the enemy amongst the gunfire and roaring soundscape of shouting, shooting and swearing from your companions. I soon got into a mindset of shoot everything until the chaos stops. And that’s exactly the state the devs want us to be in as the narrative unfurls. I loved every fucked up moment in it. There are scenes that’d cause controversy had the game been more popular. Yet, in my eye, it made the jingoism and heroism of other games seem more offensive. 

I’ve also been dipping into Call of Duty: Mobile and beyond how well it looks and plays in your hand it’s a fucking joke if you look beyond your kill stats. Flashy and garish gun skins are being pushed and promoted for personalisation. There were Super Bowl-themed guns last week and now they’re shilling Valentine’s themed skins. If that’s the game, then that’s the game. But Call of Duty likes to also veer on the pro-military side of the gun debate. I think if you’re doing that, then do that but it seems off to have these realistic simulations of guns in a game and then have them pimped out like shiny collectable stickers. But then you need to make a lot of money to be rich so I should shut up.

Spec Ops is a military shooter that wants you to shoot people while reminding you that you’re shooting people. And in the midst of it lean in and ask you with raised eyebrows “how you feel about that?” In Battlefield they liked to remind you that every soldier is a human being with a name appearing on screen with the death screen, letting us take a pensive moment to think about the family that will be getting a folded up flag soon. Then the game reloads and we start shooting again. It seems they want the game to be like the Spielberg version of the world wars. Spec Ops veers more towards the dark military themes, like fubar, misinformation, friendly fire, following dubious orders, quagmires and makes a game out of it. And I’m delighted that we have that alongside the AAA Support the Troops games. Specs Ops: The Line is well worth playing. There was a point in it where one of my companions shouted that we need to “hold the line” and I smiled because at that point in the game we had well and truly crossed the line and it was light years behind us. There are a dozen memorable moments in it that I’d never seen in a game before. As well as a great jukebox soundtrack. The controls and some of the mechanics are a bit janky I have to say but worth persevering with.

So to the question “Can games be taken seriously as art?”  my answer is “Who cares” and “of course”. Firstly it makes no difference to me how games aren’t perceived by academics or high society. So I’d scratch the serious part from the question. To the “Are games art?” question the answer is a unanimous “Yes”. Anything that’s been created or made to express something is art. Is it good art? That’ll always come down to individualistic preferences. I hate what a lot of people love and a lot of people hate what I love. And, you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take my money and leave me the f*** alone

Handheld Gaming Recommendations

Coming from a big family I found it tough to commandeer our one TV to fully get lost in games. But playing on a handheld let me play in the corner of the living room while my four sisters rewatched Titanic on videotape. The last few years I tried to recapture the simpler times and have dumped too much of my scratch on the latest iterations. I bought a 3DS, sold it, bought a PS Vita, sold it, bought a 3DS xl, sold it, bought another PS Vita, sold it and then figured I should stop being a fool and just play games on the phone I already carried around everywhere.

But you gotta be careful with the games out there. They’ll either mug you of your time or your money. Free-to-play games would ration my progress to keep me hooked while trying to coerce me into in-app payments. But last year I broke out of my click prison and recaptured that proper joy of earlier gaming times. Paying upfront for a game that’ll leave me alone and let me finish it. 

It feels apparent that mobile game studios now have departments that work on the Squeeze Math. Number nerds that work out the stats, cooldowns and progression chokeholds into a couple of cranks that the CEO and stockholders can turn to keep the money flowing as the market wanes or quarters approach. 

I was playing Marvel Future Fight to get that Marvel Ultimate Alliance type of game on my phone. And at quick glance, it looks like an update to those games and there was a load of things I really liked about it, for one they’d update missions, characters and costumes with every MCU movies. But it soon felt like it’d never end, the goalposts would be moved further and further. And I even unlocked an auto-attack button that pretty much let the game grind its self leaving me to just thumb my chin and think of how much hero-bucks or whatever I needed to buy to get the most stars for each character. I dragged it into the bin not long after and decided I’d get Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the Switch once I could afford it. At least then I’d be left alone to finish the game without being pestered hourly (besides for the purchase of their DLC). 

But as mobile games are concerned, there aren’t much out there that’ll take your money and leave you alone but here’s some I’ve discovered.

Reigns: Game of Thrones

Pitched as Tinder for ruling kingdoms this was cheap and plays well. You get petitioned with requests from your peons and you swipe left or right to accept or refuse before ultimately being stabbed in the back or thrown into a bath of wildfire. And like Tinder you don’t know you’ve swiped on a lunatic until it’s too late. It’s also out in non-license versions but the GOT tropes are great to get into.

Bully

Rockstar Games have been class with putting upgraded versions of their old game on the Play/Apple stores for a few quid. Bully is a game I never played when it came out on PS2, it came to Ireland surrounded by the noise of concerned aul wans that invaded the media and made it difficult to have it bought for me. 

But as with most Rockstar games, they have got a lot more to say than the tittering mob would give them credit for.

I’m loving it on my phone although the controls took a few hours to get used to. But stick with it and you’ll soon be zipping around soon on a skateboard letting those bastard jocks eat your dust.

GTA Liberty City Stories

A nostalgia trip that plays really well as it was originally on PSP. Cruising Liberty City is a great trip down memory lane and cruelly losing a long mission at the last moment and having to drive all over to try it again is also a trip down memory lane. Remember, not all memories are joyful ones.

Football Manager

I find myself forking out for this every year, getting tunnel vision for a few days, playing relentlessly and getting into a strop with my players. I stop when the club is ruined or am fired and then leave management to for the cushier job of TV analysis. It’s a romp until it isn’t and I have to uninstall it to get back to the more important things in life like doing the dishes and paying attention to the bus arriving at my stop.

It seems a daft idea in the current landscape of live-games and games as service to 1) pay once for a game and 2) to actually finish it. But I easily forget that gaming began with the pocket-money swallowing arcade machines. And the corporate execs are loving the return to the shaking us loose of our spare change. Perhaps it’s easier for the ports I mentioned to stick to the old retail model cause those games have long since made their money and anything now is just a happy top-up from the whiskey bottle they thought was empty. No one is going to spend the standard fifty quid on a phone game so they can hardly fund a AAA development cycle. And honestly, my “ya fucking serious?” point on pricing is anything above a tenner. So I get that companies would rather uncap their returns and sell limitless gems, gold or whatever spurious shite their game begs from its players. But it’s nice to have a few games out there that the introverted kid in me can pay and play and be left alone in the corner of the room. 

And I’m looking to get on to KOTOR, Max Payne and the other GTAs as I finish these ones. (any other good I should check out let us know)

Dawn of the Dread

Uncharted Lost Legacy and the reluctant anticipation of Last of Us Part 2

Trying to finish Uncharted 4 Lost Legacy aka Uncharted4daGurls has left me dreading Last of Us Part 2. Now, I loved the original Last of Us in every way except actually playing it.

I remember being so taken after finishing it that it took weeks before I could watch movies again. My flatmates were watching Mad Max Fury Road the night I finished LOU, and as much as I have been informed since that it’s a great film, I couldn’t be arsed with it and walked out after half an hour of scoffing. It was boring and passive. Were we to cheer at the decisions the characters were making? That felt like an empty gesture. It wasn’t even Mad Max or your one Furosa. It was actors. Cunts I’d seen in all sorts of shit before. Hardy did a Sky Mobile ad, Theron was in a Budweiser ad. In LOU when it had cutscenes it was me as Joel. I’d done what got him there. Naughty Dog were very good at making you feel like you’d made the decisions independently. Like a magician asking you to pick a card knowing that he had a showstopping reveal of the 10 of hearts already tattooed on his arse.

I loved LOU but I hated playing it. It felt like toil. I’d have to gear myself up to play for an hour. Like rolling up my sleeves to unclog the toilet. I didn’t enjoy it but persisted cause I owed it to the characters to get them through it. I couldn’t leave them stuck in the machine with clickers shuffling. That just didn’t seem fair to them, it was my duty or our duty (me and Joel’s) to get them to some sort of resolution. I’d never felt that before in a video game. Traditionally your through-line is mastery. Getting more powerful until you beat all opposition in the world and the credits roll as there is nothing left for you to conquer, like a weeping Alexander the Great when there are no more challenges. And I was fine with that sense of having truly “beaten” a game. You’ve bested it and the game agrees, the devs’ names scroll passed in acknowledgement that you can move on, you can walk out of the cinema and let them clean up the spilt popcorn.

LOU was anything but fun. And I get that they weren’t going for that. Uncharted was about fun though, wasn’t it? I got the remastered PS4 Uncharted in anticipation for U4. Syposising quickly, I gave up 1 at the boat barrel bomb level, got frustrated with the opaque stealth system in 2 and played 3 for a fair bit until some other game glimmered on the horizon and I traded the Uncharted disk in. But when 4 came out I played it all the way through and from my recollection I enjoyed it. There was a lot of great ideas, blockbuster moments and more focus on character. It was a cool caper. I think anyway.

I started Uncharted 4 Lost Legacy last week on PS Now and it’s been a slog. The systems and structure are all there, as far as I can tell, the same as U4 but the fun seems to be missing. I’m planning to finish it any ways, not so much that as an obligation to the characters but to the developers. I’m taking game development more seriously now and wanna see how they play this one out. But it’s been making me wonder more on whether the game has changed or I have.

The play cycle is the same, usually a sequence of:

  • Exploration
  • Puzzle
  • Stealth
  • Combat

But I’ve been struggling to enjoy any of them and none feel insanely fun though. U4 had stand out moments that stuck with me but Lost Legacy just feels played out. Like they’ve pushed the systems to breaking point with U4 and this is just a retread. The exploration is samey, the puzzles are a chore, stealth is too fleeting and combat is laborious. And I hate to say it, but I feel without the veneer of the graphics and characters taken seriously, it’s an overly rigid platformer. They made a point of recalling Crash Bandicoot in U4 and it’s anything but flattering in Lost Legacy. Too often I’m reset having fallen of what I thought was a jumpable ledge or shot by an off-screen sniper. “Here we fucking go again” I tut as I hit X to continue.

And that’s what has gotten me worried. Uncharted is about fun and Lost Legacy isn’t fun. And if the fun is a drudge then what’s it going to be like with LOU2 when it is supposed to be a drudge? I will play LOU2, again I feel I have to for the characters. I would have also prefered that LOU2 never existed. I would be completely fine with them closing the book after the ending of the first one. But that’s not the world we live in and I know they’re taking their time with Part 2 to make it justify its existence. But for me, that means a few weeks of grimacing, elbows deep in sewage as I’m obligated to unblock the u-bend.

Scrag Supper – #04

My girlfriend was complaining that the thrill had gone from her life. And typical bird-brained me, I thought she was talking about the soppy wankers “The Thrills” that had blandly snook through the middle of the road and into the spotlight in the early 2000s. I was trying to relocate them to play a reunion but they were nowhere near either of the pubs in our estate so I stopped looking. And when I got home, surprise surprise, herself has left me. Some days you just wanna forget

All this talk about equality of work opportunities for women has got me going “wah?”. Why do they want to work their way through promotions when the tried and tested approach of old, sleeping your way to the top, still applies as men have all the jobs of power? The mind boggles

I saw Carol Vorderman is desperately flogging Life Insurance on daytime TV now. It’s quite sad that she made a career out of numbers and it was numbers that saw her get kicked out of the limelight. No matter what algorithm she could muster she was never going to have her age lower or her sexy higher than Rachel Riley’s

(Cont’d) …I mean I’m not in a job of power but I need to be given some motivation (female attention) for working hard. If it’s a meritocracy for meritocracy’s sake you can forget it

Why are all lunch baguettes cut from end to end but whenever I buy my favourite, a garlic butter baguette, it’s cut across a dozen times?

Elon Musk? Donald Tusk? Is it just me or is this -usk suffix in surnames of men in the news getting dangerously out of hand?

I had a go at watching the “Bollywood” channel last night. None of the people looked or spoke like me and it was turned off within seconds. I will be ringing Sky to have the channel blocked.

I was saddened to hear all the news come out about Wacko Jacko. I was shocked and decided to do my own research. I listened to his albums and hate to say it but the evidence is there, clear as day. He gloats in the song/ confession “Bad” that “your butt is mine”. Further research indicates that “butt” is what American kids say in reference to their arseholes. How were we that naive?

It’s a shame the Jews don’t eat pork. Rashers and sausages are always very cheap

The Rock? Emma Stone? Pebbles from The Flintstones? Is it just me or is there a geology craze going round?

They say “pink to make the boys wink” but when I see the pop thing P!nk on TV I close both eyes, cover my ears and scream until someone changes the channel.

That Bob Marley song about cricket would be a great song if it was sung by salamanders, small snakes, frogs, toads, rats, bats, shrews, mice and insect-eating birds

I see Jennifer Aniston is the face of Smart Water. What’s next? Ross the face of Smart Bread? Or Peebee the face of Smart Beans? Honestly, though water that’s crisp, clear, vapour distilled and re-mineralised with electrolytes is as good shite as anything else to shill

Keira Knightley? Tess Daly? Is it just me or are our celebrities’ surnames becoming time-sensitive?

I know from the bottom of my heart that comedian Jeff Dunham is not racist but to portray that, without a shadow of a doubt, he has to stop associating and cut all ties with Achmed the Dead Terrorist, Bubba J, José Jalapeño on a Stick, Melvin the Superhero Guy, Walter and of course Peanut

It’s sad to hear about that bad thing that happened. I couldn’t believe it. I mean it has to stop

Scrag Supper – #03

Every week we send out a delicious meal of Scrag, Chips and a Drink. All you gotta do is tell us why you deserve it with #ScragSupper

One morning, while I was still in bed, I heard the screams of someone being attacked. The next day I found out it was the Gym Class next door. But now I know that had it been an attempted murder I’d have stayed in bed. What a coward. Any chance of a supper?

I approached a girl in a pub and said she was a “Pig”. And before I could explain that it meant “Pretty Irish Girl” I was wearing her Malibu and Diet Coke. Surely I deserve a Scrag Supper.

To the lady who fell asleep on the plane and thought that a kid had stolen her Honey Nuts. It was me. I’d like her to get a scrag supper. And also to the kid that got an awful hiding from his Da.

To those fine folks in advertising. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t know what I like, who I was or what my life goals should be. They really aren’t paid enough in my opinion. Thanks guys.

I found the key to a better life. Just ask yourself: If you were to die tomorrow how would you wank today?

There’s a lot of talk now about the types of toys we should let kids play with. Should we have girls’ toys and boys’ toys? Well back in my day, we were too poor and I got neither and had to play with the dirt. Any chance of a bitta grub to treat me now?

I managed to use the jax in Brown Thomas without buying a single overpriced thing. Let me say it was the height of luxury but the deed was as pleasurable as if I’d shat in a bin. I’m glad of the experience but also glad that it hasn’t changed me.

I often think that we’re like robots. Or me anyway. Only instead of Duracell Batteries, I run on cans of budget beer. Beep Beep Lad-Bot! Any chance I could line me stomach?

I was really looking forward to Hallowe’en and all the dressing up parties until I remembered that I’ve no mates. Giz a birra Scrag.

To me Ma that I slagged off for watching Jeremy Kyle every day. But now years later I have also grown bored of all other media too except for good auld Jezza. So sorry. Save us a chip Ma.

I found out a way to feel hallowed when you’re low. Just have a few cans outside a church. All the auld wans will bless themselves as they pass you like you’re something of a saint.

To my wife who realized I plagiarized our vows. I stole all the words from an episode of Four Weddings Australia. I didn’t mean any of it, especially the “Love you unconditionally” bit. I have many conditions, like giving me a moment’s peace when Sky Sports News is on.

To Anthony McGuire the talent agent. I’ve never seen better tribute acts. You should all check out The Faux Fighters, Melting John and The Rolling Smokes.

I’d like to give a home-cooked meal to all of the socially malformed castoffs on Reddit. Maybe some warm wholesome food instead of the processed shite they do be eating might calm their rage and bitterness a bit.

WINNING LETTER

I want to apologise to that Hen Party that was drinking outside a Pub in Temple Bar. I was in a bad mood. I shouldn’t have burst your cock balloons with my smoke. Have a plate on me.

Rosé Buds by Tiffany Swank ((S)exclusive extract)

Tiff Swank has got it all, only the universe hasn’t decided to give it all to her just yet. But she’s a fighter and she’ll work as hard as she can to get it. And by work she means being an absolute superstar and attending the best parties their are in Dublin City (southside obvs). If this opening chapter doesn’t get you racing to the shops to by the full book than you probably have a screw loose and most likely need a wash too.

Chapter 1
The Morning After

I don’t know how gay lads do it. I’ve enough trouble getting jizz out of my bed and hair after a nocturnal romp with ONE erupting cock. They’ve to clean up from two. And that’s at least. Most of them have a general admissions policy on their beds. Chat to any queer, jiggling his denim hot-pants-ed arse on a dance floor, and they’ll tell you that if they bring home just one lad they might as well as be wanking solo.

Himself from last night had bolted pretty much after our entwinement. And that’s fine with me. He was nothing special. I like big men. This was a boy. It’s like eating an egg when you really want a cooked chicken. But food is food and girl ya gotta eat.

I doubted there was anything in the fridge. I was supposed to do the shopping yesterday after work but being a wicked alco bitch I just went to Liza’s, my mate’s gaff, with three bottles of rosé. And bubbles destroy troubles. We changed into something less dull and zigzagged to the club, Bernardo’s. We’d been going there since our tits were big enough to impress the doormen. Bernardo’s is like a home for me. Some culchies would be all onion-breathed in exclaiming Croke Park their home. But for me and the girls, it’s Bernardo’s. Remember that show Cheers and they’d say the pub is where everybody knew your name. Well in Bernardo’s everyone knows my name, what I drink and for the half of them, what me minge and hole look like.

Liza is a beast of a woman. Don’t get me wrong she’s a total slut and an excellent pal but she’s built like a carnival strong man. I’ve seen her lift bar stools over her head and fling them at a gang of cowards that called her a cow. That’s a real woman, someone that can fight their own battles. Just a fyi, if you want to avoid a conflict with her just always buy an extra portion of chips “for the table”. But I love her to bits and pieces. And we’ve made a pact that if we’re both still single in ten years time we’ll les up as a pair a gash hounds. It was supposed to be a joke but she’s taking it seriously. She’ll sometimes not shower or shave and wear them caterpillar boots. Cool the jets hun, we’re not dykers yet.

Saturday mornings always made me feel like a tampon machine in the ladies that’d after been kicked to shit to ruffle the coins out of it. I felt spent and hollow. I rifled the bed for my phone, I wanted to text Liza to hear about the narrow rip of piss she brought home last night and guilt her to call over here with remedies and pizza. And what’s more, I wanna tell her all about the goss from last night. It’s Earth-Shattering! I don’t know much about politics or science but what I know about who is who in Dublin and this IS A GAME CHANGER! That cow will not want to miss this. No one would!

Available to Buy in Shops and Select Niteclubs Now

Formula Pun – #01

There’s been some Vroom-belivable puns speeding around the course this week.

Who is the best Italian actor to burn a CD? Robert de NERO

How do you drive out of a field of sheep? A ewe turn

What does Berlin singer Terri Nunn say to the wait staff when she’s on the Atkins diet? Take my bread away

What the difference between a bodybuilder and someone who won’t take the stairs up to the top floor? One lifts weights and the other waits for lifts

What’s a dog’s favourite whiskey? Jack Spaniels

How does a Rasta exercise? On a Dreadmill

What do you call a light-fingered funeral director that’s also a pirate? The Plunder-taker

What did Joe Goddard, Alexis Taylor, Al Doyle, Sarah Jones, Owen Clarke, Felix Martin, Grovesnor, Charles Hayward have for dinner? Hot Chips (they all were or are members of keyboard band Hot Chip)

If you listen to NPR while you sleep at night you’ll be WOKE in the morning

The Pits-Stop for Dirty Jokes

Did you hear about the poor prostitute, she was living Gland to Mouth

The Internet has more porn than you can shake your stick at.

Where can you get shoes for your dick? A Knob Cobblers