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It's genuinely funny to me that so much discussion around hype these days is surrounded by the mantra of "I hope this isn't the next Cyberpunk!" because, while I get that, more games could seriously use the level of attention to detail that Cyberpunk put toward immersing you in its world, and I'm hardly being facetious with that statement. Case in point: You can only see your feet in Starfield if you're in third-person mode. It's such a minor detail that really shouldn't matter. But it's as close of a clue as you'll get to what the overall Starfield experience is within the first five minutes or so.
What you're going to hear a lot about Starfield, and what you've likely heard already, is that, yeah, it's a Bethesda game. It's buggy and kinda janky; its main story has interesting ideas but lacks enough of a personal touch to really engross you in the potential of its overall premise. It's predicated on the belief that exploration is BALLIN', and it would be if the overly mechanical interactions you have with the world here were more sparing. The stealth system is still laughably dated, utilizing duck-and-cover methods for combat that make it more a test of patience and your reliability to quicksave at the right times than most games with tacked-on Stealth systems do. And the absolutely bonkers scale here is really just an excuse to fast travel everywhere. I shit you not; you could move in the same direction for ten minutes and not be an inch closer to your destination from where you started. It is actually just egregious. If all of these are deal-breakers for you, then Starfield is best experienced as a bonus for subscribing to Game Pass and little else. But if you're a sucker for building characters and side-questing, Starfield has you more than covered. The icing on the cake here is that the combat is pretty solid. Shotguns in this game feel like shotguns, and the typical RPG thing of enemies being spongier until you put the right amount of points into your proficiency skills doesn't do much to hinder this. Put it this way: I'm twelve hours in, and I'm still having fun using the starter pistol. I'll be damned: the First-Person Shooter part of this First-Person Shooter ain't half bad! The quality of the side content occasionally suffers, but there are still some serious winners in here. It is right to call Starfield a Bethesda game because, like most of their output, it will have you hooked if you let it.
I really wish there was more to say about this than that. I'm sure that, when I inevitably interact with systems like base building and ship customization, I will either love or loathe my time with Starfield. My impression after twelve hours so far is that this is the quintessential 7/10 game: there are enough holes in this for me to understand and relate to both opinions regarding it without resentment or reservations. Before that riles anyone up: a 7/10 is a good score, and you're missing out if you automatically assume that means a game's bad or not worth your time in any meaningful capacity.
There was a copy of this that went unsold, right next to a sealed-in-box copy of Mafia II for the PC, for years at our nearby Target. Sometimes, I wonder what brought this eyesore to the store in the first place. I wonder how long it sat there for, where it went after my Target dealt with its clearance, and where the games like it go. I can envision a time in which a con like this was successful. More peaceful times when you came home from the grocery store, hugged your child, pat them on the head, and gave them a copy of this and Big Rigs that you bought from the local Walmart as a last-minute gift. I wonder about the capitalist grief that fuels those purchases—the thought process that led to my cousins giving us GameStop gift cards every Christmas, which is why we have a UDraw Tablet for the PS3 sitting somewhere around here. I wonder about the Wii U Gamecube adapter and NES mini and SNES mini that my father had to stick his neck out to get, and I wonder if, at all, he'd go back and stop himself from the hassle, knowing full well those are all items collecting dust in cabinets we hardly ever look at anymore. And it all beckons me to ask: Is there affection in hedonism? Is it more appropriate to let our memories of such gestures settle like the wind, or should we all laugh at associating such a concept with a product as half-hearted, inherently dated, and embarrassingly corporate as 700,000 Games is? If IGDB is right, this came out in 2013. How anyone thought stocking store shelves with this 20 years after it would have been viable is fucking insane. I'm assuming it was pitched to Viva less in terms of being a successor to Action 52 and more as an attempt to bank off of the momentary success of Flash Games. I can see that pitch meeting going down in a board room, and what I would have been willing to tell the average Joe behind this if I were in the room is this: You don't understand Flash Games. You have to understand Newgrounds was popular, not because it was a nice, civil place, but because it was transgressive, abhorrent, and, at times, pornographic. You have to understand that the tamer examples, like DuckLife, Papa's Pizzeria, and Learn to Fly, were practically phone games played by kids who didn't own a phone. EdsWorld was a counter-cultural icon that never made it to TV because, sometimes, what following your dreams really means is knowing how to ingratiate yourself to a board room that will boot you off the air multiple times if the imagination of you and your crew don't provide enough dividends. What school computer is going to stock 700,000 Games on the device they use for their math or literature classes? And that's not even getting into how much of a boneheaded decision it is to name your game 700,000 GAMES. Do you think Activision or EA could make 700,000 FATHER-FUCKING GAMES if they wanted to? Do you know the absurd amount of resources that it would take for even one of those games to function in the slightest? I mean, of course, they knew. This doesn't actually have 700,000 games in it... which means that NES pirate carts with the same games repeated a million times are less intellectually dishonest than this. Think about that for a second. Holy shit.
But you know what the real crazy part of all of this is? Viva published a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game before this. Talk about range, man.
Hi! What you've just read is a sample from my list Errant Thoughts On Games I've Never Played Before/Haven't Played Too Much. I figured I'd share the most recent addition to that list separately because I like it enough to feel like it warrants that. I do update that list every now and then. Do be forewarned if you intend to look at it, I do get pretty political in a couple of areas. But anyway, hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
There's something about Just Cause 2's anarchic sensibility that still somewhat resonates with me. It cares about its world as much as you do, and thus there's an explosive barrel around almost every corner. This is the kind of game that prioritizes head-empty fun, the likes of which are stereotypically associated with 1980s' action-blockbusters usually starring Stallone or Schwarzenegger. With that in mind, I can absolutely see why both this and its successor are revered in the way that they are. Speaking as someone who originally played this as a child, that's how me and my siblings felt about this, too! But we never got that far in it, and having revisited this recently, I don't think it boggles the mind to wonder why.
See, it's fun to blow stuff up. It's fun to blow a lot of stuff up! But at some point, just blowing stuff up begins to feel kind of threadbare, and the lackluster combat and mission design really don't do this any favors. A game this simple isn't as enjoyable on a map this big. Military bases are initially exhilarating to clear, but at a certain point, it gets very annoying having to practically pixel-hunt for the one thing you didn't destroy to get a 100% completion rating. Both cars and planes are far less breezy to use than your parachute and grappling hook, with planes and helicopters feeling like the weakest of the two. But given how spread out everything is, aerial traversal becomes a necessity very early on. If this were a less ambitious game overall, I'd say it lives up to my nostalgia. But I get why we moved on to other games.