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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Games: I Want to Give You VD

posted by on April 17 at 12:49 PM

There’s comfort in the Van Damme genre of video games—better known as the “beat ‘em up,” which kicked off in the ’80s with arcade brawlers Renegade and Double Dragon. You’re typically a dude with issues and a burning desire to walk from left to right. I call them Van Damme games because everything about them is stupid—the testosteronicious plots, the simple, button-mashy fights, the fact that enemies rarely attack two-at-a-time, and so on.

While straight-up fighting games have gotten smarter and crazier over the years, the button-mashy Van Damme titles still stomp along. Blame swords—all the big games in the genre now employ ‘em, God of War most famously of them all. Anybody can run around and punch underlings, but in that one, you’re a shirtless Greek god with a flaming sword-whip and a jones for ripping heads off of Minotaurs—right after you fuck busty maidens by pressing buttons to the rhythm, no less. Arrogant, horny, and violent? Van Damme lives! That game just saw a prequel come out on PSP, but since I don’t own one (I just borrow Michael Strahan’s), two other recent, decent games riddled with VD are after the jump.


Devil May Cry 4 (360, PS3): You’re an attitude-laden devil hunter, chasing the series’ former attitude-laden devil hunter, who’s now the bad guy, only he’s not, and you’ve got the devil in you as well, and… guh. More to the point—you’re killing strange creatures with a big-ass sword because you want to bang the figurative prom queen. For a dumb game, DMC4 is a gorgeous one, and its Japanese cliche setting (neo-gothic mix of Baroque castles and cyberpunk excess) and drawn-out cinema scenes are pulled off well enough to make this a bit more engaging than a faceless kill-‘em-all.

To some extent, this game caters to your preferences—burn through and kill stuff mindlessly if you want, or master new twists to the series’ “combo system” for more rewards. This twist, admittedly, outdoes the other VD games by forcing thought and planning into the mayhem, and if you’re a jaded, beat-‘em-up old-schooler, this is your shit. But once the game gets tough, it carves itself into isolation. Too hard and complicated for folks looking for a simple, uptempo kill-‘em-all. Too stupid and boring for anyone over the age of 15 who isn’t falling for this game’s pseudo-toughie protagonists and dialogue whose only aims toward maturity involve repeated use of the word “hell” in (gasp!) vain. And don’t get me started on “secret” quests that have to be redone dozens of times in a row because they’re so asinine—if you get too deep into DMC4, it will punish you for trying to enjoy it.

Recommendation: For a game rated ages 17+, DMC4 sure pushes the patience of anyone beyond their teen years with an allegiance to overly tough, gotta-do-combos gameplay. I preferred replaying God of War—if you’re gonna play a stupid fighting game, you might as well play one that is far more visceral and shameless. But if you fit into the above-described niche (or are starved for something new on your 360 before GTA4 in two weeks), you’ll get more than your money’s worth out of this really, really large game.


Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword (DS): New Ninja Gaiden ain’t much like old Ninja Gaiden. In the NES days, the series was all about wielding a tiny sword and dying after excruciating jump challenges—a “mature” Mario at the time. Times’ve changed, as NG has become a bloody 3D slasher in which you’re rewarded for how many things you slash, attack and kill in a row—a simpler version of what DMC has going on.

DS versions of big home-console games have been rough lately; Call of Duty 4 and Assassin’s Creed, for example, were raw beatings. NG rises above this with touch-screen control similar to the latest Zelda game. You hold the DS sideways like a book, then tap and sweep on the touch-screen to run, sword-slash, throw shurikens, jump, and so on. For a speedy 3D game like Ninja Gaiden, this is the only way the game works—you couldn’t pull off this game’s bloody melee with the DS’s buttons, and even after playing for hours, there’s still something unique and engaging about sweeping your stylus on the screen to cut a fool. The rest of the game—its plot, its enemies, even its graphics—aren’t going to blow your world away, but the game runs fast and bloody, so the target audience should be sated.

Recommendation: If you really need a stupid slasher on the go, this is the best one on the DS. Sadly, it gets repetitive mighty quickly—the one thing DMC4 doesn’t have going against it, by the way—so you’ll probably wear this one out after the few days of a rental, but it makes for a way better game on the bus than Brain Age, at least.

Next time: Shit-talk about GTA4? Maybe.

RSS icon Comments


This has gotta be one of the most embarrasing video game reviews I've ever read. Have you even seen any of these games?, cause its obvious you haven't played em.

Posted by Wurm | April 17, 2008 1:32 PM

Re: your first two paragaphs
You say all that like it's a bad thing.

Posted by torrentprime | April 17, 2008 1:37 PM

hey sam (and sloggers),
i'm a gamer's girlfriend, not much of a gamer myself. but i LOVED Portal. any ideas about other good, wickedly simple non-FPS games for 360?

Posted by M1 | April 17, 2008 1:41 PM

I hate DS games that require holding the system "like a book." I feel like it gives my stylus hand carpal tunnel.

Posted by T | April 17, 2008 1:42 PM


The 360 doesn't predominantly cater to what you're asking for, sadly. That is, until you peruse its Xbox Live Marketplace, where you can try demo versions of a bunch of games that may fit your bill. Suggestions:

* Puzzle Quest (Bejeweled as an RPG)
* Rez (a trippy rhythm-shooter)
* N+ (a super-simple, physics-loaded side-scroller... if Mario was redone by the Slashdot crowd)
* Alien Hominid (cartoony shoot-em-up)
* Bomberman Live (simple, bomb-filled multiplayer)

Also, my girlfriend swears by Viva Pinata, and there's a surprisingly deep demo of it on Xbox Live as well. Same goes for Virtua Tennis 3. Lemme know if you need help digging through any/all of the demos in the Marketplace thingie, but really, it can be fun to get lost in the insane pool of Xbox demos. Lots to play for free there.

Posted by Sam M. | April 17, 2008 1:57 PM

I agree that DMC is a button mashing fashion frenzy, but GOW series has such an amazing story line, thus negating a simple slash plot.

Posted by jerry falls well | April 17, 2008 2:08 PM

God of War is insanely amazing. I just bought a PS3 and one of the driving factors was GOW3. Sure, it's arrogant, horny and violent, but it's SO MUCH MORE.

Posted by The General | April 17, 2008 2:13 PM

You neglected to mention that Alien Hominid is hard as fuck-all.

Posted by sprawly | April 17, 2008 2:14 PM

I'll join in the God of War FANBOY ORGY and confirm that Chains of Olympus completely justifies the purchase of a PSP.

Posted by kid icarus | April 17, 2008 2:18 PM

Make that FANBOY and FANGIRL ORGY, please.

Posted by The General | April 17, 2008 2:26 PM

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