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Friday, June 18, 2010

The Demo Update and Portal 2: A Briefing

Again, apologies for the late hour. Life gets in the way, and habits need to form. Because tonight is still yet later than last, this will be the shortest blog so far, and I feel awful for it. Tomorrow will be better.

On that note, the Demoman's only actual ranged weapon from his update. The Scottish Resistance. The newest weapon, along with the Direct Hit, discussed two blogs ago, it is perhaps the most tactical weapon in the entire game. Remote detonation of sticky bombs with just the press of a button, long a staple of demoman strategy, does not apply with the SR. Valve's design philosophy for their updates seems to be, "How can we make our players play differently, and play smarter?" Their case in point is the Scottish Resistance. Because you have to be directly facing, and in some cases looking directly at, groups of SR bombs to detonate them, placement and detonation takes a great deal of memory and battlefield finesse, something most demoman players, so used to the original launcher, either do not possess or do not wish to learn. This, coupled with the increased amount of sticky bombs allowed on the field of battle at a time, makes the SR the hardest weapon to use effectively. Something that I'll touch on in the future, rocket/sticky jumping, is also made a good deal harder, since the SR requires directional detonation. Therefore, the demoman must look down to detonate the SR bomb, whereas with the regular launcher he need only click a button.

As for myself, while I play demoman only to wear the really sweet hat and get a few laughs, I don't particularly care for the SR. I tax my brain enough with the strategies of TF2, especially playing demo, that I don't need to think any more than I already do. On forums I've seen people say that a skilled SR user can singlehandedly hold down any objective with little trouble. This argument, however, turns stale if you take a moment to look at any class played skillfully. Search YouTube or and see that scouts, soldiers, snipers, demomen without the SR, pyros even, defending the objective with nothing more than their starting weapons, and allowing their team to push back.

While I can't say too much about Portal 2, having seen only scant details (along with everyone else save Valve), I noticed this during the examples of play I did see. Note here that this is more a personal interpretation and critical stance on the game, rather than a review, but it bears speaking to. In Portal, and its sequel, there are sentry drones voiced by the voice of the main villain, indeed the only character to speak at length during the first game at all. These bots add some black humor to the already horrendously dark and funny game by trying to murder you with twin machine guns, then saying, if you defeat them, "I don't hate you." In the original Portal, they seemed little more than drones sent by your nemesis to test and, more than likely, kill you. There were moments, and these were mere moments, where their pleas to be put down before being deactivated seemed somewhat genuine, but, of course, you know better.

In Portal 2, on the other hand, there are many more ways to torment and destroy these sentry bots. Fling them into a high energy wind tunnel, down a bottomless shaft, send them into an infinite loop ending only when you decide to laser beam them to death, or just do it yourself. Fun and merciless as this is, as I watched the demo being played, a disturbing side of me began to feel pity for these little machines. Put in front of us only to serve a very simple purpose, I looked back and realized that their statement "I don't hate you." Is a true one, fully honest and devoid of deception. Programmed with only one action and response, they are innocent casualties in the war between the player character and the antagonist. What makes this yet more powerful for me is that their responses to the laser beams and the wind tunnels now seem to involve pain and distress at their situation. Not robotic any longer, they seem to truly lament the state you put them in for your own survival, and just a little bit, I feel for them as less robot killers but instead beings whose feelings and bodies are tortured only for my and my captor's amusement. It is a sad state, I think, one worth lamenting, if considered in this way.

With this, I leave you.

Good night.

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