More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

Overwatch competitive season 4 is upon us and let’s just say that I’m not enjoying it. A combination of bad teams and the unilateral ranking system during placement meant that I ended up far below my potential. However, working my way to more fulfilling games has let me see the dark underbelly of the Overwatch competitive scene and so I am back with more advice for any players willing to listen.

1. Provide cover for your healers. Your healers are a collection of DJs, doctors, snipers and monks. They may have potent healing abilities but they are squishy and fragile, with around 200 hit points each. This means that your healers can’t take a lot of damage before they die or have to retreat. So maybe, as a big, buff tank or high damage offence character, you could maybe take that damage for us? Tanks should be intercepting Reinhardt charges instead of jumping out of the way to maintain their precious KDR and offence characters should be sticking to their healers so the team can actually get heals. Ensuring that your healer is still alive is the best way to win a match.

2. Learn the abilities of the characters you don’t play as. Right before I began to write this piece, I was in a competitive match (we lost). At one point, the team’s Reinhardt was screaming at me via voice chat for me to heal him (I was Lucio). Funny thing was that I was stood right behind him, providing Lucio’s AoE healing abilities. Sadly, Lucio only heals 12.5 points of health per second so to a 500 hit point character like Reinhardt, it can seem like Lucio is slacking off. Players should also remember that characters like Ana and Lucio have heal boosting abilities with substantial cooldowns. Take the time to learn what characters can and can’t do so that you don’t have to waste your time berating a healer for doing their job.

3. Accept the fact that healers aren’t gods. Healers can’t keep you alive in a firefight, it’s part of Blizzard’s checks and balances in the game to ensure balance. To emphasize that, let’s do some math, using the Reinhardt scenario from the previous point:

Reinhardt has a base health of 500 (300 health and 200 armour) as well as a 2000 hit point strong shield. In this scenario he is defending against an attack from Soldier 76, whose primary weapon does 20 damage at the distance he is from Reinhardt, as well as an attack from Hanzo, whose primary weapon at full charge is doing 125 damage. Reinhardt is being supported by Lucio, who has just used his healing boost and is current doing 12.5 points of AoE healing. However, Lucio cannot heal damage to Reinhardt’s shield, only Reinhardt himself.

Reinhardt is a large stationary target, meaning that Hanzo and 76 aren’t missing him. This means that Reinhardt’s shield, something that can’t be healed unless he stops using it, is going to last around 15 to 20 seconds when reload times are factored into the equation as Hanzo and 76 pump 262.5 points of damage a second into it. This has been something of a protracted fight so Reinhardt it already injured at the start of the scenario, sitting at 312 health. This is when he starts demanding to be healed. With Lucio stuck in the 12 second cooldown for his amplification ability, he is stuck doing 12.5 of healing per second.  Reinhardt is calling for healing because shield is at about 400 health, and will last another second and a half.

Here’s the problem- it’s going to take Lucio 15.04 uninterupted seconds to fully heal his teammate and he only has 1.5. Once the shield goes down and the 76/Hanzo combo press the advantage, not only does Lucio come under the threat of fire, at the very most he can only reduce the damage to Reinhardt to between 250 and 226.5 per second. Reinhardt is either going to die or have to retreat to a health pack, as the rest of the team is frantically defending the point.

And substituting any other healing in the scenario doesn’t help. Mercy only need 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt but that’s still double the amount of time his shield can hold for and once that’s down, Mercy can only reduce the damage to 202.5 per second. Ana needs 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt and even with perfect aim, she only reduces the damage to 206.25. Finally, Zenyatta would need 6.2 seconds for a full heal and then can only reduce the damage to 232.5 per second.

What all of this shows is that if you are under fire, your healer can’t keep you alive, especially if you there is not one returning fire on your attackers. Please accept this.

4. Don’t insult your healers. In another match I played today,  the team’s Soldier 76 boldly proclaimed ‘No Heals’ at the end of a lost round, suggesting that he had not received adequate healing from the team’s healers. My fellow healer and I were understandingly confused, having done a combined total of 17,000 healing across the round. If you aren’t near the healers,we can’t heal you. This isn’t Call of Duty or Battlefield with healers, it you aren’t at the objectives, you’re not getting healed. The player proceeded to get increasingly abusive towards the team healers until, as he had said, we gave him no heals.

Remember this: If you are going to give your healers shit, your healers aren’t going to be nice to you. We own your ass because we’re the only ones who will keep you alive.

What advice do you have for Overwatch players? If you haven’t check out my previous instalment of angry healer advice, click here!

Prey: What I want

Prey: What I want

Prey is an upcoming FPS survival horror game from Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks, the development-publisher combination behind 2012’s DishonoredPrey is a re-imagining of a 2006 game of the same name but only really takes the name and concept of ‘survive being the prey of an aggressive alien enemy’ from this game.

What we know so far from teasers, trailers and reviewers being given is the first hour or so to play is that you play as Morgan Yu (with both male and female models available) who appears to live in 2032 San Francisco. However, this takes place in a timeline were JFK survives assassination, the US and USSR work together to defeat an alien force known as the Typhon, who are attracted to Earth by their space technology and thus, we have a future with much more advanced space technology. However, this reality comes crumbling down in the first ten minutes or so as it is revealed you are actually on Talos I, a space station orbiting Earth, and you have been the subject of repetitive neural modification testing, with the removal of mods wiping the memories of their implant time, meaning that you as Morgan have been experiencing the worst Groundhog Day ever. In the only testing time you see, it all ends abruptly as you watch a researcher get attacked by a shape-shifting monster known as a Mimic. It is then revealed very quickly that you are essentially alone on Talos I with the mimics and their ‘evolutions’, with only an AI called January for company.

From what we’ve seen, Prey looks to be a tense blend of Alien: Isolation open-world survival horror with the smooth, fluid combat of Dishonored and Bioshock, with the powers and uneasy atmosphere of both those games also added to the mix. Prey is out worldwide on the of May but before then, here are 4 things I want from the game.

1. It stays scary. Horror can be one of the hardest elements to maintain in a game. Sometimes a game can just run out of steam and the horror/scare elements just don’t spike the player’s heart rate towards the end of the game. Or the introduction of a security weapon mean that I don’t have to be scared because look at my awesome gun.

It seems there is no end to what the mimic class enemies in Prey can shape-shift into- coffee cups, bins, even discarded guns lying beside corpses. However, the game needs to be careful that we go into every room so terrified that we miss the third shoe in a pair or waste an entire clip of ammo because a basketball lazily rolls across our line of sight and that we don’t go into every room, ready to sigh at a cheap mimic jump scare.

Towards end of the reviewer played content (Here are a few videos if you want to watch some of that or hear people who play video games for a living talk about the game), you are teased with the sight of a Phantom through a window. This enemy class is bipedal and distinctly humanoid, rather than the four-legged, spider-like mimics. Trailers for the game also tease gargantuan, presumably boss-fight creatures that, personally, give off a definite Cthulhu vibe. Only time will tell if the proper introduction of these enemies diminishes the horror and suspense of the game.

2. Tools are sparse but useful. Prey will feature degrading weapons and a crafting system, requiring you to build new tools and weapons to replace your equipment. From gameplay, your main weapon appears to be a hefty wrench but pistols and shotguns also feature, as does the Gloo Cannon, a gun that fires a quick hardening expanding foam that can be used to freeze enemies, create alternate paths through the game’s various sections and can even put out fires if needs be. However, there are two things that will destroy this game- durability on your tools is too high due to the tools being too sparse, making the crafting system useless, or the inverse and having weak tools in plentiful supply. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite are two examples of perfect balance for this, with new powers being introduced at a nice pace and ammunition for your various firearms being in good supply but not in enough abundance to allow you to shoot your way through every mission objective. And speaking of powers…

3. Balance across Neuromod trees. For players of Dishonored and/or Bioshock, neuromods will be the games version of Outsider powers and plasmids. For everyone else, neuromods will be the skill trees of the game. You find neuromods lying around Talos I and they give you upgrades to your skills in a variety of areas such as security and physical attributes. These mods will not only aid your game, but also give you access to specific areas and alternate paths through the game,. For example, a terminal that allows a route around an area that looks like it could be crawling with mimics may only be usable with a specific neruomod installed. However, for the game to deliver on this, there needs to be balance- if I’m shoving my mods into A and neglected B, I shouldn’t have to miss out on everything because a majority of the off the path content is unlockable by B.

4. The multiple endings can’t be a cop-out. Lead designer Ricardo Bare has stated that the ending of the game falls into one of two major narratives depending on how you as Morgan interact with the world and the surviving humans along the way. Now, multiple endings can be very hard to pull off. A good example of this is the recently released Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Spoilers ahead for that game). At the end of the game’s second act, you have a choice of who to administer the last syringe of mind-control mold counter-acting serum to- your wife Mia, who has been missing for three years and is visibly affected by the mold (she cuts off your hand with a chainsaw in the first twenty minutes of the game) OR Zoe, the enigmatic stranger and black sheep of the Baker family, who has been infected along with the rest of her family but has not actually succumb to the crazy. If you choose Mia, the two of you get on a boat and speed off towards the tanker that was carrying Evie, a supernatural little girl who is the cause of the mind-control mold. Evie crashes your boat and then you play as Mia for a little bit before you jump back to main protagonist Ethan just in time for a tearful goodbye from Mia, who pushes you out of a door and seals you off from her so that she won’t hurt you any more (again, she did cut off your hand). However, if you choose Zoe, the two of you get on the boat, go towards the tanker and then Evie just straight up kills Zoe and crashes your boast before you then wake up as Mia, who is now just there at the tanker. After some more Ethaning around, you defeat Evie and are rescued by Blue Umbrella (another blog post for another time) and fly away with a now fully cured Mia. But that’s if you cured Mia, if you used your cure on Zoe, you get saved by Blue Umbrella, rewatch a video message Mia made you before her disappearance, toss your phone out of the helicopter and then fly away. While Resident Evil games have always had a good ending and a bad ending, this seemed less like that and more like Capcom having the game as having a right ending and a wrong ending.

This is what Prey needs to avoid. If multiple endings are going to be part of the game, then they should be equally satisfying and serve as a reflection of how I played the game, rather than as a ‘punishment’ for picking a choice that the developers deemed to be ‘wrong’.

Are you looking forward to Prey? What are you looking for in the final game? Let me know in the comments below and if you’ve got some time, why don’t you have a look at some of the other things I’ve written?

An angry healer’s guide to Overwatch

An angry healer’s guide to Overwatch

Hi, I play a healer in Overwatch and let me start by saying “F**********k yooooooooooou”. While most healers in the game are not ranked very highly in terms of difficulty to play, being a healer in Overwatch is a harrowing experience and 95% of this trauma will stem from the actions of your five team mates. And so, allow me to give you a whistle-stop tour to playing Overwatch, from the perspective of an angry healer.

1. No, we didn’t lose because of my actions: Overwatch is a game of winners and loser, every match has got to have one (except in competitive mode but that is more of a points based league so it makes sense to have ties in that area of the game). However, I will guarantee you now, even before we get into the match itself, the team healer will not be the reason we lose. You see, unless your healer AFKs or spends all their time trying to get the gold medal in eliminations for some reason, we spend the game frantically running around the map trying to keep five people alive. Please consider the following reasons why we might have lost:

  • Everyone ran around merrily engaging in 1v1, off the objective battles and so we either failed to defend effectively or never launched coherent group attacks
  • You, in your lofty role of offense or tank, negated the healer of your beleaguered Mercy,  Zenyatta, Lucio or Ana by continuing to engage in heavy firefights will being healed. Remember, your healer is not a god who can keep you alive, most characters will deal more damage than the continuous healing a healer can provide.
  • Team composition was wrong. I’ll come back to this later but maybe the structure of the team was wrong? Think about it, did we really need a Widowmaker in the battle of Illios: Lighthouse?

It’s very simple, your healer was doing the best they could and there are very few viable scenarios in which your healer will be at fault for a defeat. And speaking of how you treat your healer…

2. Healer etiquette: So, you’ve found yourself pinned down with the edges of your screen going red, your character breathing raggedly and your bottom-left health bar in low double digits. With panicked motions, you select a message and I need healing! rings out across the map. Nothing happens, no Brazilian DJ, Egyptian sniper, Nepalese cyborg monk or Swiss healthcare professional appears to bring you back to full health so you can maintain those four gold medals you’ve got going for you. You hit ‘I need healing’ again. And again. And again and again and again until Blizzard times you out for tripping the spam filter. For the love of God, please don’t do this. I heard you, alright? I know that you need healing but newsflash, there are a number of reasons why I’m not attending to you:

  • Most healers use a triage system, like a real hospital. This means we attend to injuries based on severity and in a combat situation, such as an Overwatch match, we also need to factor in strategic value. You might be the best goddamn Reaper in the world but in terms of the game, but I’m going to prioritize this half-health Reinhardt.
  • You may be in an area that I’ve deemed too dangerous to get to. Most healers have low base health and so if there a Widowmaker or high damage offense character near where you are, it’s unlikely I’m going to reach you without dying.
  • If you are engaged in a firefight and calling for healing, no. Like I said in point one, the healers of Overwatch can’t keep you alive. Our healing abilities heal over time and don’t give you a health dump like the health packs, so if you’re engaging members of the enemy team, I’m can’t do much for you.

Furthermore, if you have backed off from the fighting for healers to reach, stand still and get healed. Please Tracer, don’t run around me in circles spamming I need healing, I will just leave you alone. And speaking of annoying things people choose to do…

3. Team composition and character play styles: There is no golden rule to team composition it depends on the map, whether you’re on attack or defend, the game mode and even the composition of the enemy team. However, there are definitely some things that can be said to avoid when it comes to team composition- two to three varied offensive characters is usually a good call, a tank or two never hurts, don’t play snipers on payload attacks, Torbjorn will never be effective on attack period and of course, despite her character overhaul, Symmetra is not a substitute for an attack or a high damage offense character. Once again, a healer can only do so much if team composition is bad enough to mean that you are respawning every three or four kills. As for character play styles, most characters can be utilised in more than one way. Mercy, my main character, can be a straight up healer or more of a battle angel, helping pick off low-health enemies and providing damage boosts while providing healing when necessary. Mercy cannot be your personal health pack, dealing death in 1v1 battles and sticking to a single character as the run around the map. When you pick a main, find the best ways to play that character- for example, Reinhardts who only use charge  and constantly over-extend themselves deserve the terrible KDR that approach brings with it. As a healer, I can’t do much for you if you aren’t utilising your character.

4. I see your medals and raise you actually winning the game Overwatch awards gold, silver and bronze medals for number of eliminations, number of eliminations on the map’s objective, time spent on the map’s objective, amount of damage done and the amount of healing done. I’m sorry to tell you Mr. Four Golds, but these medals don’t actually mean anything. You see, medals don’t actually reflect how the game went and more reflect your play style and class preference sure you got gold eliminations but your team was shut out on Oasis because you never once stepped on the point. Let’s take me as an example in the most recent competitive season- I played 48 matches and from those 48 matches, I won 61 medals, 44.3% (27) of which were gold. However, my actual record was 15 wins, 29 losses and 4 draws, which is not fantastic. There are also 48 matches in 3 regular seasons of the NFL so I crunched the numbers for the last three seasons of pro football (splitting the ties and adding two to both the win and loss totals because ties are uncommon in American Football) and found that I am the St. Louis/LA Rams of Overwatch (they’re not very good if don’t follow football). The thing is that, as I mentioned before, medals are weighted towards certain classes- eliminations go to offense and tanks, damage goes to offence, defence and tanks, objective time is weighted towards defence and tanks and healing is almost exclusively for the supports (unless your supports really really suck or your Roadhog spams his health canister). And so, if your team is screaming for you to switch from Symmetra and play someone else, don’t argue that you shouldn’t be the one to change because you have two golds and a silver at the moment.

5. Let’s be nice to one another (to an extent): Peer interaction is an integral part of human life. However, when you lose (or are losing) at Overwatch, you might be tempted to scream at the other players on your team. But here’s a quick guide to how to do this:

  • If your automatic response is to tell someone ‘KYS’ or something as horrific as telling someone to kill themselves, log off Overwatch and go rethink your entire life outlook because why in God’s name do you think that is even a vaguely acceptable thing to say someone?
  • ‘It’s just a game, why are y’all getting so salty?’ is the gamer version of ‘We have to respect a Nazi’s right to believe what they want’. It doesn’t help anyone and in case, it’s just a game is correct but I come to enjoy myself on Overwatch, not slogging through the chore of bad game after bad game. I have a right to get angry if people aren’t pulling their weight, impacting on my enjoyment of how I choose to spend my free time.
  • Don’t belittle the other team by saying they won by carry (one player did all the work). They won, suck it up.
  • Don’t blame your healers

Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have to say, I guess I should put some cliché Overwatch rant trash at the end of this to drive up views so here goes ohmyfinggodsymmetraisobrokenandneedstobenerfedandwhiletheynerfhertheyshouldmakeTracercannonstraightbecauseitspoilsmyheadcanonalsothepayloadshouldmovefasterandIshouldnthavetopointmygunatpeoplebecauseaimingishard (Note: This is parody and does not reflect the viewpoint of the author). But yeah, I can hear Genji screaming for healing so I better go devote all my attention to ignoring that. Thanks for reading, what advice do you have to Overwatch players, are you also an angry healer? Let me know in the comments!

My highlights from E3 2016

My highlights from E3 2016

Annual gaming industry expo E3 is coming to close and as usual, it has been a mix of disappointments, exciting upcoming games. However, I do have some personal highlights:

1. Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2

Dishonored was a fantastic 2012 action-stealth game in which you play as Corvo Attano, a former royal bodyguard seeking to clear his name after being framed for the murder of his employer, the Empress of fictional Dunwall. What made Dishonored so good was the way it allowed the player to progress through the game in their own style and accommodated for this with a number of different endings. Bethseda announced Dishonored 2 at E3 2015 but then largely went silent on the matter. However, this year came with a whole heap of new information and gameplay. Dishonored 2 will take place 15 years after the events of the first game and you will be able to play as both Corvo and Emily Kauldwin, the young heir of Dunwall you rescue partway through the first game and who is more than likely Corvo’s daughter with the Empress. Gone are the tightly packed streets of Dunwall and instead, the game looks to be largely set in the more mediterranean styled city of Karnaca. The option to kill or not to kill returns as well as a third option, in which you reject the signature supernatural powers of the game and play the game with a vanilla character, surviving on your stealth and skills alone. Speaking of supernatural powers- Emily will have her own powers that appear to be variations of Corvo’s powers from the first and Dishonored 2 will see a larger, branching skill tree, as opposed to simply making your supernatural powers better over the course of the game.

The game promises to be a more varied and more challenging experience and has a release date on all platforms of November 11th, 2016.

2. The Journey-FIFA 17

FIFA 17

I have not been a true FIFA fan for a long time, sure I’ll play a few matches when I visit my football loving friends but I’ve felt that the games have become a lot more serious as the series as progressed. However, I was intrigued by the introduction of ‘The Journey’, which will premiere on FIFA 17. The Journey will be the game’s story mode, following the journey of young Clapham born Alex Hunter as he tries to make it in the Premier League. The whole thing will be fully voiced and you will control Alex’s actions and choices on and off the field. While it is a FIFA game, I think it’s nice to see them trying something new with a series that has been repeatedly criticized for making the exact same game, just with updated kits and squads. FIFA 17 will also utilize the Frostbite Engine, one of the latest game engines and to be honest, the game does look visually stunning. EA have also said that they have consulted with Bioware, makers of Dragon Age and Mass Effect on how to create branching dialogue and choice driven action.

Football fan or not, it is refreshing to see a series as long-running as FIFA to be trying something new. If it’s your sort of game, FIFA 17 has a worldwide release of September 29th 2016.

3. Mass Effect: Andromeda

MAss Effect

If you haven’t played Bioware’s space opera trilogy, then you are sorely missing out. The original Mass Effect trilogy followed the trials and tribulations of The Normandy under the command of the player characeter- Commander Shepard. You were tasked with saving the universe from the biomechanical Reapers, who mainly just wanted to kill everything.

Set centuries after the original trilogy, Andromeda will follow the trials and tribulations of Captain Ryder and their ship, The Tempest, as they fulfill their role as a Pathfinder and try to seek out a new world for humanity to inhabit. A lot of details are still being kept secret but we do know that many fan-favourite races such as Krogan, Asari and Salarian will be returning, as will Bioware’s branching narrative, tell your own story format. While it may not be the originals, a strong showing by Andromeda could lead to a brand new ME trilogy

Another game running on the Frostbite Engine, Mass Effect: Andromeda hits the major platforms some time in the first quarter of 2017.

 

So those are my highlights. Personally, I was a little disappointed by E3 2016 but I also know that we are yet to see a lot of upcoming indie games and there is always Gamescon in August. What were some of your highlights of E3? Let me know in the comments below!

 

How Overwatch has redefined first person shooters

How Overwatch has redefined first person shooters

The first person shooter market is one of the most saturated within the gaming industry- Call of Duty releases an increasingly generic iteration every two to three years, Battlefield tries to do new things in an attempt to undercut Call of Duty (most recently it was playing as the police, next time they are taking to the trenches of World War One) and most other games in the market become CoD-like to boost sales.

Then Overwatch came along. Overwatch is the latest project from Blizzard Entertainment, who might know as the gaming dynasty behind World of WarcraftDiabloStarCraft and Warcraft. In Overwatch, you play as members of The Overwatch, a UN sponsored peacekeeping force who are cast aside and must regain their greatness after a series of setbacks…such as their base of operations being destroyed and allegations of corruption springing up. But here’s why the Overwatch has redefined the first person shooter genre:

1. The characters: The characters in most first person shooters are some variation of the tried and tested format of “man who holds a gun and shoots are people of various nationalities”. At launch, Overwatch has twenty-one characters across four categories (offense, defense, tank and support) and each character is quirky and unique-

Tracer

Like Tracer, pictured above, who is a fast paced Cockney with teleportation powers. As well as zipping around the map, Tracer certainly has a mouth on her and can be heard spouting numerous quips and jibes in her exaggerated London accent.

Soldier 76

Or Soldier: 76, who is a parody of faceless first person shooter protagonists. He plays like a traditional first person shooter, with a high power automatic rifle and a rocket launcher and runs about yelling various military-esque slogans, such as “We are all soldiers now”.

Mei

And if you prefer to play a more defensive game, how about Mei, the Chinese climatologist? She runs around the map with an ice gun and a little weather done.

Other characters include a robot who likes birds, a genetically engineering gorilla and a Brazilian DJ.

My point is that unlike most first person shooters, Overwatch’s cast of characters is varied, fun and a refreshing break from “man who shoots people” and “man in a slightly different uniform who also shoots people”

2. The format: Overwatch is a first person shooter with elements of MOBA within it. There is no single-player because you know, this is Blizzard, but the fast-paced team based action and excellent voice acting on all characters is still very enticing (plus there is a vs. bots mode if just want to hone your skills or don’t fancy taking on other players. At launch, Overwatch has four game modes- assault, escort, assault/escort and control. If you’re looking for team deathmatch, basically every game is a TDM and if you want deathmatch/free for all, go back to Call of Duty.

3. Skills and special abilities: As well as their primary attack or ability, every character has two special skills that can be activated at any time during a match, but then can only be activated after a brief cooldown. Characters also have a super ability, which is unlocked through filling your ‘ultimate meter’, which is filled through making kills or doing actions beneficial to the rest of your team.  This does away with things like killstreaks, where you only get your special equipment and abilities by making a certain number of kills.

4. Maps: There are 12 maps at launch, each vibrant, colourful and based on a real-world location such as London, Japan, China, Hollywood etc. I don’t know about you but I definitely prefer these to “dingy Russian hellhole” or “really cool but way too small town”.

Hollywood- Overwatch

There are also a number of Blizzard easter eggs dotted around the maps as well if you need a break from healing your team or killing people.

Murloc sound
Yep, that’s a truck with a Murloc decal and the Murloc sound

In short, Overwatch has proven that your first person shooter doesn’t need to stick to the Call of Duty criteria and it doesn’t need to be hyper-realistic or super-gritty to be fun. The cast of characters is far beyond what Call of Duty has ever provided and to be honest, the small splatter of story that Blizzard has thrown is much more compelling than “You are Rank X, star soldier man who must SAVE THE WORLD AT ALL COSTS FROM Y” like the most recent Call of Duty  games.

I don’t expect the established franchises to suddenly change their MO in the light of Overwatch’s popularity but I think that this is a great example and message to other developers that the Call of Duty format is not the only way to make a great first person shooter.

A twist in the tale: 5 well-executed plot twists

A twist in the tale: 5 well-executed plot twists

When creating a book or film or video game, including a plot twist is often a good way to keep the audience on their toes. However if not executed properly, a twist can leave their audience scratching their heads. This can be because a certain character has just suddenly become evil or the big reveal has to suspend all kinds of logic to be vaguely feasible. That said, the large amount of underwhelming plot twists only serve to make the decent ones all the more enticing. So here are 5 of my favourite, well-executed plot twists. Spoilers ahead for Bioshock, Attack on Titan, Spec Ops: The Line, The Usual Suspects and House of Cards (US).

1. Would you Kindly- Bioshock

In Irrational Games’ undersea adventure Bioshock, you play as ‘Jack’ a man who survives a plane crash and subsequent discovers an underwater city which has fallen into ruin as its residents have gone insane. As you navigate the hallways and shops and sections of the once great Rapture, you make contact with a man called Atlas, who hopes to overthrow the tyrannical ruler of Rapture, Andrew Ryan, and essentially free those who are imprisoned there.

Atlas gets you to complete various tasks around Rapture, politely asking ‘Would you kindly do X’ in his soft, trustworthy Irish accent. Well, turns out that Andrew Ryan, founder and ruler of Rapture is actually your dad and that you are basically a sleeper agent programmed to follow any order preceded by the phrase ‘Would you kindly’. In a brief flashback, it is then revealed that you caused the plane crash at the start of the game and Atlas reveals himself to be one Frank Fontaine, Andrew Ryan’s biggest rival. Yaaaay!

What makes this twist so good is that it plays on the basic logic of video games- you receive an objective, you (eventually) complete said objective. Much like Jack and his programming to obey ‘Would you kindly’, the player doesn’t question the objective given to them.

2. The truth about abnormals- Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan is a popular one season anime which follows the trials and tribulations of Eren Jaeger, a young man who lives in a society that lives in fear of Titans, large humanoids that love to eat humans. Of the course of the early episodes, the Titans attack after 100 years of peace and quickly begin to overrun the humans. Things don’t get any better when ‘abnormal’ Titans begin appear, such as Colossus Titan, who is just a really big hard to kill Titan, and the Armoured Titan, who is immune to basically everything the human military has. Later, the Female Titan appears, who is a combination of both the Colussus and the Amoured.

After Eren is devoured by a Titan during a particularly calamitous mission, his friends think him dead. However, he is later revealed to be the ‘Titan Killer’, a Titan that only attacks others of its kind. This leads to one of the show’s biggest twists- the abnormal Titans are ‘controlled’ by a human host. Not much is known about these ‘Titan Shifters’ as the anime series lasted a season, with a second season coming at some point, and the manga it was adapted from still ongoing.

This is a big twist for the show/manga as it redefined the human/Titan relationship. Up to the point of the reveal, many saw the Titans as simply being a beast that sated its hunger with humans. However, now it raises the question of just what is human and how many Titans are in fact humans.

3. Rumours of my life- Spec Ops: The Line

[Call of Duty: Black Ops spoiler included]

In military shooter Spec Ops: The Line, you play as Captain Walker, a Delta Force commander who is sent into war-torn Dubai to conduct recon. This changes when Walker decides to hunt down rogue brass Colonel Konrad. In a story that borrows heavily from Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, you fight your way across the city in order to take down Konrad. Over the course of the game, you experience the true horrors of war, including a white phosphorus attack on what turns out to be a number of innocent civilians.

Eventually, you make it Konrad’s hideout and finally get to confront…a decaying corpse. Konrad’s been dead for months and the voice that has been taunting you and communicating with you since the white phosphorus attack, which it turns out you initiated, has been a hallucination.

That’s right, the entire game has actually chronicled your descent into madness. This twist is almost a trope in itself but it does raise questions about the definition of reality and what it means to be a soldier. This twist beats out the ‘Reznov is Dead’ twist from Call of Duty: Black Ops because it’s done with slightly more nuance.

4. The cork board- The Usual Suspects

Byran Singer’s The Usual Suspects follows the questioning of Verbal Kint, a small time con man who happens to be one of two survivors of a mass killing and subsequent fire aboard a ship docked in LA. Kint’s story grows more and more complex as he reveals a web of interconnected events, all leading back to notorious crime boss Keyser Soze.

The customs agent questioning Kint is skeptical of the story and slowly breaks down each piece towards the end of the testimony, eager to pin it on a man that he holds a personal grudge against. Eventually Kint admits to this man, Dean Keaton,  created and orchestrated the elaborate plan told over the course of the film. Then Kint’s bail is posted and he leaves.

In a beautifully shot scene, the customs agent questioning Kint begins to notice that some of the names that Kint had mentioned in his story match those on random flyers and pieces of paper scattered within Kint’s eyesight. Meanwhile, Kint’s limp disappears and Keyser Soze slips into a waiting car and disappears into the city. Soze had just managed to personally get the police off his back.

This is one of the twists that is consistently quoted as one of the all-time greats and it works because it is just so ballsy and well executed.

5. Basic rail unsafety- House of Cards

The American iteration of House of Cards, chronicles South Carolina Congressman and Democrat Majority Chief Whip Frank Underwood as he slowly climbs the political ladder towards the highest office in the land.

For the best part of the first season and moving into the second season, Frank engages in a sexual relationship with young reporter Zoe Barnes, whom he also leaks stories to from time to time. However, after he begins to distance himself from Zoe, beginning to find her tiresome and untrustworthy, Zoe begins to dig into the death of Peter Russo, a congressman from Pennsylvania and a hopeful for the state’s governorship. Now, as a ploy to get himself for the running for the vice-presidency, Underwood had vetted Russo and then orchestrated his downfall, finally setting up Russo’s ‘suicide’ by leaving him unconscious in a locked garage with the car engine running. This led the vice-president, and former Governor of Pennsylvania, to be coaxed into re-running for his position as governor, leaving Frank to eventually secured the vice-presidency.

However, Zoe and her colleagues were slowly getting places in their investigation into Russo’s death and at the very least, they were tarnishing Frank’s name and reputation. And so Frank invites Zoe to a secret meeting on subway platform, where he offers he a ‘fresh start’- they clear all their history and he begins to give her political leaks once more. Zoe accepts and wipes her phone of any trace of Frank. Satisfied, Frank pushes Zoe in front of an incoming subway train, killing her instantly.

This is a classic American twist, blending shock to add that extra kick to a plot twist. However, it serves to reinforce the audience’s perception of Frank- when push comes to shove [too soon?], he won’t passively engineer his way to success, if he needs to do, he will do what needs to be done.

What are some of your favourite plot twists? Let me know in the comments below!

Ben talks video games: The Lego Batman Trilogy

Ben talks video games: The Lego Batman Trilogy

This summer sees the release of Telltale Games’ episodic Batman game (for my two cents on the game, click here). In order to kill the time between then and now, you should check out the Lego Batman Trilogy from Traveller’s Tales.

The Lego Batman Trilogy (Lego Batman: The Videogame, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham) are a charming collection of action-adventure games similar to the Lego games for Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Pirates of the Carribean etc. in which you play as iconic DC characters in lego constructed environments. Levels tpyically take 20-30 minutes to complete and can be repeated in Free Play mode, where you will have access to more than just the story characters. Free Play mode allows you to repeat levels to either gain more money to spend on characters, upgrades and extras or to acquire collectables unavaliable in the story playthough of that particular mission.

Lego Batman: The Videogame

In the 2008 start to the trilogy, you play as Batman and Robin and work through 15 missions across three story arcs. Each arc is headed by a different villain (The Riddler, The Penguin and The Joker) and each mission sees you face off against a villain that the arc’s big bad has recruited (Clayface, Mr Freeze, Poison Ivy and Two-Face for The Riddler; Bane, Killer Croc, Catwoman and Man-Bat for The Penguin and Mad Hatter, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow and Killer Moth for The Joker). You progress through a Gotham City location, solving puzzles and collecting studs (the game’s currency) before completing a boss battle. The levels are not hard per say but they do require you to think and explore. Some sections require either Batman or Robin to don a special suit, in order to traverse a water section (Robin’s Diving Suit) or shatter glass (Batman’s Sonic Suit).

Once you have completed the main story, you can visit Arkham Asylum and take the villain questline. This is essentially an origin story, with you setting up the missions you completed as Batman and Robin.

When it comes to free play mode, you are spoilt for choice when choosing the roster for the mission- don’t face Batman and Robin? You can switch them out for Batgirl and Nightwing as many characters share the same unique traits such as superstrength, explosives and a higher jump ability.

The controls may be clunky at times but the game is definitely engaging and a great way to kill time.

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

The sequel makes everything that bit bigger. Rather than have a hub that you launch missions from, Lego Batman 2 has an open world that requires you to travel to a mission#s locale to start it. On top of that, the roster is expanded from just Batman characters to. well, primarily the Justice League and it’s associated villians. This brings new mechanics into play, such as character flight for Superman and Zatana.

The sequel is all in all more of the same stuff that made the first game so enjoyable, with the added bonus of having a much larger roster to play around with. However, the controls are much smoother AND the game is fully voiced, unlike the sequel, with the talents of people such as Laura Bailey, Troy Baker and Nolan North, with many voice actors reprising their roles from a number of the Batman animated series or previous Batman games.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

The trilogy’s conclusion sees the game world get even bigger as it expands to encompass much of the DC Universe with the inclusion of the Lantern Corps and many members of the extended Justice League to name but a few.

Again, they don’t really took on the format but my only complaint is that much of the roster is only avaliable to play during freeplay, keeping it very much a Batman game for the primary story mode.

Once again, the game is fully voiced and it definitely feels like a bigger, more dynamic game. Furthermore, we see a primarly non-Batman villain as the big bad, as you face off against Superman’s Brianiac (as opposed to the Batman villains in the first game and the Lex Luthor-Joker combo in the second game)

Overall, I would give the trilogy a well-deserved 8 out of 10. While nothing ground breaking, they are certainly some of the better Lego games and do hold an appeal to fans regardless of age.

Have you played the Lego Batman games? What do you think of them?