(Update: Welcome, Slate Gaming Club readers! Scroll down for the bit about Gears of War 2 and Contra.)
Because you can't make fun of defenseless kids all the time, enjoy some scattered musings.
All you need to know about why Rock Band is better than Guitar Hero can be summed up in five words: "Mission of Burma track pack."
Which of these is the best joke:
"I can't believe I missed the first three Left Dead games!"
Or: "I can't believe I missed Left 1-3 Dead!"
Or: "Will I know what's going on in Left 4 Dead if I never played Left 3 Dead?"
Or are they all failures? (All based, by the way, on somebody I knew in college who saw a commercial for Cradle 2 the Grave, starring DMX, and said, "I didn't know they made a Cradle the Grave 1!")
Last weekend I played Call of Duty 4 online for the first time in my life. Within 20 minutes of my joining, someone had called somebody else a "fucking little bitch" en route to mocking him non-stop for the remainder of my time in the game. Sometimes I think I unfairly generalize about the level of discourse in multiplayer video games. Then I, you know, play multiplayer video games.
Sub-musing: Why should it even bother me when a stranger cusses out another stranger during a game? I don't know. But it does.
I never realized the extent to which games these days are just rip-offs of older games. It was suggested to me that a sequence near the end of BioShock, in which you assemble the pieces of a Big Daddy suit, was directly influenced by the plot of Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, in which Simon gathered Dracula's body parts in order to put him back together and then destroy him once and for all. Who would have guessed?
Gears of War 2 doesn't even hide its influences. There's an entire sequence that's basically the last level of Contra. It's not just that your squad gets swallowed by a giant worm and has to fight its way out. You have to avoid giant chomping teeth, kind of like this:
Arachnoid parasites leap from the ground and scurry toward you, just like this:
At the end, you must destroy the creature's heart, which bears more than a passing resemblance to this:
The big difference, of course, is that in Contra you were never in danger of drowning in a quickly rising pool of arterial blood. Lack of technology -- or failure of imagination?
(Thanks to this dude for taking so many great Contra screenshots, which I stole with glee.)