Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Real talk, or something like that

I am not easily offended. Everyone is entitled to their views, foibles and failings, and as long as they aren't lorded over me or beaten into me with sticks I am okay with everyone going about their daily business. The same is true for games. I am amused by games of poor quality, but rarely offended. Similarly, overt violence and the objectification of women usually have little effect on how much I enjoy a title. Racial stereotyping , though, for some reason always sticks in my craw. It really shouldn't, as more often than not what appears to be a negative portrayal of a given race is more ignorance about that race on the part of the people who made the game. Never attribute to malice what can be more easily ascribed to ignorance.

Binary Domain is not going to get that free pass. I have a hard time believing that anyone, in any country, thinks that anyone talks the way Big Bo (yes, that is his name) does. The closest comparison I can come up with is Barret from Final Fantasy VII. He is comic book ghetto, and it doesn't end there. The player character is a over confidant, loud, destructive, smooth but awkward with the ladies cowboy, the British characters are an uptight git and manish looking woman, and the Chinese sniper looks like she was poured into her jump suit and can't pronounce her L's. These tropes do not bother me because they are racist, because they are not. They bother me because they are profoundly lazy.

Gritty, realistic, or 'urban' characters do not need to be this shallow. Take Cole from Gears of War. Obnoxious? Sure, but that was not the extent of his character. He has a history, motivation, and is like-able, all in the limited context of a game about killing things. Characters do not need to be cardboard cutouts or national stereotypes. With a little time and effort (and actual writing ability) that can be memorable, so when they die or betray you (spoiled this for myself when browsing You Tube) it will actually mean something.

Once I get past all of that, Binary Domain is not a bad cover based third person shooter. It get points for trying to include voice commands as part of the game, a few more points for making them optional, then loses them all for the non-voice related choices not making any sense. All the NPC's have a very RPG style like/dislike meter; the more they like you the greater the chance that they will actually follow any given order. As levels progress each gets his or her own soliloquy and you need to decide how best to respond. Herein lies the problem: the responses you are given to choose from do not always make sense, usually boiling down to Yes, No, and random profanity. This makes building a rapport with any of them a guessing game at best.

Not shooting them helps, but how else I am going to get them to duck.

I do like the so far unexplained rash of robots who think they are people all showing up at the same time. It of course makes me think that one or more of the characters in my party are robots, so I am preparing for a betrayal/showdown by always lagging behind so I can shoot any one of them in the back if necessary. There was just a touch of effort put into the story here, too bad they couldn't come up with better people to put in it.

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