Game Pass takes a big hit on satirical stunts of life in big-budget games

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An upset boy taunts the player into shooting them.

Sure, it’s 16 hours of jokes, but NPCs rarely feel that receptive to the player.
Screenshot: Squanch Games / Kotaku

During the 420 induced blur that was my Christmas to New Years, I spent about 16 hours finishing high up in lifeThe campaign was a nice way to wind down in the final days of 2022, and the game had me laughing quite a bit, not to mention more than a few raised eyebrows and groans. But above all, being remarkably sensitive to both my presence and my actions as a player, high up in life It made me reflect on the rut the mainline games are stuck in and perhaps how they could consider improving.

high up in life is the latest title for Xbox and PC from Squanch Games. With the voice and mind of Justin Roiland (rick and morty) behind the game, many of you may already know what to expect. If you don’t, well, like Kotaku‘s Alyssa Merchant discussed in his review of the game, it’s endless amounts of crude, unfiltered humor that doesn’t know when to stop, and that’s on purpose. You get a cast of talking guns that never shut up and an absurd plot about saving the human race from being turned into drugs for alien consumption. It’s a constant barrage of crude humor mixed with character acknowledgments that they are, in fact, in a video game. It’s meta commentary and farting for 16 hours.

read more: high up in life: The Kotaku Check

While it’s easy to dismiss this game as a bunch of dick and fart jokes (and often is), if we put the humor aside for a moment, what’s left is a standard plot about saving the world from hostile aliens. high up in lifeThe plot, the lore and all the tasks you do, aren’t they so different from what you find in your mass effectyes, Dead spacesand auras. what is different is that high up in life he’s clearly tired of the formula those games (and other big-budget ones) use, scoffing at its predictability and emptiness. Although he doesn’t always aim to disrupt the formulaic structure he mocks, he’s exciting when he does. Some of the best moments are when the game allows your actions to influence how the comedy unfolds. high up in life shows that there is tremendous potential for games to move beyond the restrictive and rather inanimate means of interaction that they so often force upon us.

True to the Roiland pedigree, high up in life does with plots and motifs from videogames what rick and morty does with many TV and movie themes. On that show, there’s an air of cynicism about how mundane, boring, and predictable a movie plot can be. That’s why Rick says, “Come on kids, we’ve got to do a fucking piece of shit.” Star Wars” in the episode “Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri”. stripped of humour, rick and morty it is no different from any sci-fi or fantasy show. That’s why Rick laments making a “piece of shit”. Star Wars; It’s nothing new. It’s the same old space crap that TV shows seem doomed to repeat. Y high up in life It’s the same old first person shooter crap. And that includes the incessant chatter. high up in life It’s not just talking so much because he doesn’t want to shut up, but because video games in general don’t want to shut up. Instead of saying “we need to do shit Star Wars”, he might as well be saying “come on, player, we have to do a piece of shit Obligations.”

It’s thoughtful to look high up in life‘s talking, shooting guns and thinking, “God, this is annoying”, but how are Gatlians (the in-game world species name for talking guns) different from Obligations‘s guns on how much you want to be heard?

high up in lifeweapons beg than “use my trick hole!” and “shoot my glob shot!” in the same way, Ghost tells you to “dig” and “open fire” on modern warfare ii. CodThe weapons themselves are characters; they’re dramatically strong, with pronounced reload animations that don’t always match the way you’d reload their real-world counterparts. It’s a performance, over-the-top for extra impact in video games. It’s all for effect, to hold your attention and keep you engaged in, to put it bluntly, gun shooting porn. high up in life he just makes a face at it, turns it towards you and asks how much you like shooting that gun. And that extends to the rest of the game.

Acknowledging with a wink its own status as a game, high up in life he creates some genuine moments of unpredictability with his characters, often handing the rest of a joke to you, the player, to finish. This way, you integrate more deeply into what the game is doing. Obviously games like mass effect the goal is to make you feel central to the action, but you usually find yourself on a narrow set of paths of possible actions and predetermined outcomes often stopping the action to prompt you with dialogue trees to move on. high up in life It arguably has a similar underlying structure, but often places the player in scenes that actually respond to their actions, not just their choices. You are much more a necessary part of the joke than high up in life tellingly, most of the “heroes” become the actual heroes of a traditional space opera video game. One of those scenes, where you have the choice of whether or not to shoot a child, demonstrates this particularly well.

Squanch Games / FazyGaming

early in high up in life you’re up against a trash-talking “kid” who dares you to start something with him. If you pull the trigger, Kenny, your first talking gun, will repeatedly protest that he won’t shoot a kid. Whether you shoot it or not, whether you stay or walk away, all result in an outcome that isn’t just about choosing an option in a dialogue tree. Or at least it doesn’t feel that way.

In other games, how often does walking away from an NPC produce such an emotional feeling as “Don’t you want to hear all the great things I have to say? Fuck off! Because why do you walk away? This is content! Don’t want to participate in the content? And if you shoot and kill the boy, well, Kenny will be there to literally say:

I didn’t think they’d let us kill him. Yeah, it’s not normally allowed to kill children in games, but… he’s dead. We killed this boy. Are you happy now? We killed a child! The boy is dead now. There goes our E for everyone!

Every engagement I had with an NPC was a guessing game of when the fourth wall would show up, when I would or would not be allowed to shoot someone, when my involvement would factor into the joke. The reality that these moments were scripted and prerecorded fell away, as the immediacy of the characters’ reactions to me made them feel like actors improvising, improvising, and responding, often to my actions, in real time.

Normally enemies you’d shoot, these two are so busy arguing with each other that you can steal a warp crystal from them without them noticing.
Gif: Squanch/Kotaku Games

Such was the case when I came across two enemies yelling at each other in the world of bear-like moplets. I didn’t have to shoot them. They were so busy yelling “Fuck you!” each other that he could have walked around them and stolen their warp crystal. Or it could have killed them. Was he supposed to? I really felt like I was as much an actor in that scene as those who recorded the voice lines. It’s a level of response to your presence and your actions that we’ve also seen attempted in games like the equally comical Stanley’s Parablebut I’d like to see games that don’t just laugh out loud and explore the very immediate and organic feeling in the way they react to you.

scenes in high up in life that I would have expected to play by the book in a “normal” first person shooter orbit around this game feeling like “yeah we know what we’re supposed to do”. And we probably will. Or maybe not. Who cares? Do you mind? Are you going to stay there? Who do you think you are? Fuck off! like a comedy Special Ops: The Line, high up in life it calls out to you for going through the motions, which highlights how formulaic a game like this often is.

Squanch Games / Manugames92

Playing high up in life It was like hanging out with friends, complaining about how predictable most modern games are, and we still played them. He also proved that a traditional first-person shooter doesn’t need to be as formulaic. Trades with these NPCs feel fresh and alive in the way they respond to your actions.

I want to have characters in something like a sorcerer the game feels that receptive to my presence, without needing to drag me into a locked-in, scripted scene with dialogue options as if to signal, “Hey, pay attention, this is important.” high up in life let me participate in your comedy for my fair being there. Just getting close to a character can elicit an unexpected response, which is sometimes just an NPC reflecting on how they are just an NPC whose job it is to stand around and state facts. high up in lifeComedy makes this, in a way, a little easier; it can be just absurd and silly. I could see in a more serious game, like a sorcerer, an NPC who chooses to inform you about monster contracts on a board upon seeing you; or maybe a blacksmith identifying what weapons you have, mentioning the strength of the blades they’re selling to lure you in if you turn and walk away from them, all without a menu system, just organic to where you stand, where you stand. you’re looking at, what you’re wearing, and so on.

high up in life it shows that, at least in the realm of comedy, a video game can do more with its standard NPCs and AAA formulas. Admittedly, it manages to do this with a very specific brand of comedy that may not be to everyone’s taste (and not all of the jokes fell for me, to be clear). But as a proof of concept, it shows that the NPCs and their relationship to the story and you as the main character can be more lively, dynamic and less frozen.

And maybe such a break from the formula, for now, is not possible without some swearing and rude jokes.

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