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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Let It Die.

TranscriptEdit

I remember a time when the word 'free' always had positive connotations: free food, free drink, and the city of Paris is free of the bourbonite menace, and if you followed the signs for free candy, it usually resulted in making many interesting new friends in the back of an unmarked van. But not anymore. Now I regard the word 'free' with immediate suspicion - yet another word ruined by the world of video games alongside other once-perfectly good words like 'connect', and 'virtual', and 'Molyneux.' So you can imagine my mixed feelings when a free-to-play game comes out on the PS4 with the name Suda51 hanging off it, a word that hasn't yet been ruined for me.

If you're just joining us, Suda51 is a Japanese game director inexplicably named after his car license plate, who made his name with quirky alternative post-punk games like Killer7 and No More Heroes. But in his more recent games, to my mind, he's been trying a bit too hard to live up to that reputation. The words 'lollipop' and 'chainsaw' spring to mind.

Let It Die kicks off with a skateboarding grim reaper wearing funky sunglasses which is an image that leaps straight off the front cover of The Complete Dullard's Guide to Creativity. See, it's a traditionally grim thing acting in a lively and lighthearted way. That's all almost as clever as putting a hat on a dog. "Shit on a midget mince biscuit! A dog in a hat? DOGS DON'T WEAR HATS! I hope the government are keeping a watchful eye on this dangerous subversive."

Anyway, Let It Die is a Roguelike survival action-adventure. This is fun, isn't it? Let's throw out a few more words that don't actually mean anything, 'blinking', 'kangaroo', 'stovepipe'. Alright, it plays like a cross between Dark Souls and ZombiU with a dash of Manhunt sprinkled on the top represented mainly by unnecessarily violent finishing moves with improvised weaponry. "Hey, we're smashing someone's face with a steam iron. That's not a thing traditionally done with a steam iron! Someone put tha crazy Suda51 in the terrorist watchlist before he breaks wind in front of the Queen or something."

You play a succession of men and women dressed like an Olympic swimming team that got about one fifth of their way to being assimilated by the Borg and your task is to fight through all the levels in a mysterious tower in order to get the prize, the prize being not having to fight through the mysterious tower anymore. Combat is superficially Dark Soulsy in that it's based around stamina management and whiff-punishing, which incidentally is one word that video games hasn't ruined and I think I should invent more meanings for whiff-punishing just so that I could use it more often. "Darling, I need to make an omelet. would you mind whiff-punishing some eggs for me?"

But I know my Dark Souls and you, Sir, are no Dark Souls. The thing about Dark Souls' combat is that it's best suited to one-on-one. You and your opponent try to wiggle around each other like a pair of hedgehogs ballroom dancing inside a tubesock. But Let It Die constantly makes you fight groups of two or three. Mind you, the enemies can damage each other, so I just keep dodging and let them accidentally clip each other to death, which works but just isn't as satisfying as the proper way like hammering in a nail with a saucepan.

Also - and you might wanna get a pencil because this is a fairly technical suggestion - it'd be nice if the dodge button actually fucking worked when the game's going "Well he got you with the first hit of the combo so you might as well keep standing there sputtering indignantly while he does the rest of it." The game also assigns more than one commands to some buttons like it's passive-agressively trying to get them married. You throw your current inventory item by touching the track pad and eat it by touching the trackpad in a subtly different way. And I'm sure you can imagine there's very little overlap between 'Things you want to throw at people' and 'Things you want to eat'; the list starts and ends with custard pies and there aren't a whole lot of custard pies in the Tower of Barbs. You also cycle your inventory by touching the trackpad in a third subtly different way. Blimey, this is like trying to seduce your lady friend in a darkened cinema, and discovering that all along you were fingering her bacon sandwich.

Maybe it's part of the challenge but the primary challenge of a free-to-play game is figuring out when and how the game's going to start stinging you for dosh 'coz it's unusual for a single-player game to be free-to-play - at least ones not aimed at housewives with empty nest syndrome or kids with itchy microtransaction fingers and yes, Let It Die is a single-player game . Don't let those international leaderboards fool you. There's asynchronous multiplayer sort of arrangement where you invade other people's hubworlds and wreck up the place for cash. But you can't interact with other players directly. You only fight random johnnies they assigned to defend themselves, and it's no different than fighting random johnnies in the actual levels, except instead of fighting them in samey environments you fight them in the same environment, a subtle but crucial difference. I'm sure you'll agree.

You don't even get better stuff from doing it. So I'm not sure why you'd want to, except that you get to imagine another player somewhere in the world shaking their tiny fists in impotent rage, which sounds petty but it's the kind of petty satisfaction you need after you yourself had to shake your tiny impotent fists because someone broke into your hubworld and widdled in the drinking fountain.

So let's get back to the actual game and how it stings you for micropayment. See, micropayments' of buying continues to keep going after death, and you get a generous free sample of those that lasts just about long enough for you to start getting invested. But I didn't realize you're not supposed to be getting invested. You're supposed to quote, 'let it die.' So once you hit level 10 you're supposed to ditch your current favorite avatars and start leveling up new higher-tier ones with better stats, level caps and go faster stripes, so you can tackle the new batch of levels with getting your face steamironed onto a hilarious souvenir t-shirt. I didn't know that. And I noticed the game wasn't in much of a hurry to inform me of that as I blew all my continues trying to get my tier 1 character to level 13.

Perhaps it was churlish of me to expect a free game not to try to cover its costs, but this was also the point where the game started getting grind-elicious. You see, after my best character died and had no continues, I needed to pay in-game money to resurrect him instead, for you see, permadeath is only a thing that poor people have to worry about. But to make that money I had to grind with my second best avatar. But but his stats were lower and I got him killed as well. So I had to grind up with my 3rd best to bring him back so I could continue grinding up to bring my best one back. And that's when I knew I had to get out before I got caught in an inescapable vortex of failure. I learned that lesson from Hillary Clinton campaign.

AddendaEdit

  • Dead and loving it: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Maybe micropayments wouldn't be so bad if they had a better name, like "whiff punishing"
  • Still there are worse places to wake up in wearing only your underpants
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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