Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hey look, my chair!

Actually, in a moment of great sadness, my gaming chair broke in half a few days ago. It survived me sitting on it for many years, made it through a move from one house to another, only to be snapped in twain as I recoiled in abject horror from the bull shit Castlevania occasionally comes up with. That's right, I blame Gabriel Belmont for breaking my chair, and I will have revenge! Justice! Something!

Or I will go back to complaining about his strange game. Castlevania finally started looking like Castlevania last night: environments have become suitably gothic and well known enemies like skeletons and knights with giant axes have started to show up. It certainly took a long time to get there, though. If I had to kill one more werewolf I was going to give up and wait for the moon to stop being full so I could massacre them in their puny human forms. Vampires have finally made their debut and they appear to be blissfully ignorant of the current styles of their kind. They forgo shiny-ness and coy looks and perfect hair to looking like the monsters they are and kicking you ass. I hope Dracula, at least, is a classy chap, if he even shows up this game.

My biggest remaining complaint revolves around something that has been haunting fast paced 3D action games since the first Devil May Cry: what do you with the controls when the camera view shifts? Castlevania is constantly choosing how you see the world. It knows what its best sides are and is going to make damn sure you see them. This also leads to rapid shifts in point of view that literally reverse up and down or left and right. At some point the choice was made to keep the controls relative to the previous camera angle until you let off the analog stick, then it snaps back to the new one. I don't like it now and I didn't like it when Capcom did it then. There are two possible solutions: give me control of the camera (which would require putting more thought into the level is designed) or not using drastic jumps in point of view. Neither is really a good answer, but I know it is possible to do. I don't remember this being a problem with Bayonetta or the most recent DmC. Bayonetta's camera always made sure her ass was in full view and DmC just had big open areas to fight in.

I suppose I could chalk this up to inexperience on the part of MercurySteam, whose previous games were Scrapland (which no one played) and Jericho (which was shit), but they had the assistance of Kojima Productions on this, so no dice.

Which makes me wonder where the rest of the cut scenes are.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Boo, working for a living, boo

I just spent over fifteen hours working in a casino and never saw the gambling floor. It was torture, things are not done yet, and I am still here. I have to do it again tomorrow.

I meant to spent the evening talking about the best things that I played this year, but it is just not going to happen. Right now everything sucks.

Even more than usual.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ho Ho Horse shit

It's the evening of Christmas day and my extended family is gone. Everyone else who lives here has either gone to bed or retired to their rooms. I have a pretty good sized bowl of leftover cranberry sauce and there is deep fried turkey in the fridge. In spite of all of this I am not happy. Why? Because the only game I have to play right now is Castlevania, and I do not want to jump back into it.

I checked the metacritic scores and I have no idea what game these people were playing. It is a linear game and I have no problem with that; it is how to original Castlevania's were and it worked well. What I do not like are items hidden in the linear yet somehow confusingly laid out levels that you cannot get on the first time through. Even if you acquire the appropriate ability or item through the course of the level and inadvertently take one step to far the level ends and the only is to play the entire thing a second time. Of course the second time is not just a replay, it is more difficult and there are additional challenges. This smacks of bull shit, as the only thing is does (besides really piss me off) is pad out what already appears to be a really long game. Going back through a level to retrieve the one missed health upgrade is bad enough, but making it more difficult the second time is just silly.

About the only thing nice I have to say at this point is that Patrick Stewart once again proves that he can do just about anything that he wants to do. This is not the first time he attempted voice acting, and he brief outing as Emperor Septim was also quite good. I do wonder if he actually needs the money or if there just aren't any roles for an ex-captain of the Enterprise.

Oh wait, there are:

Friday, December 24, 2010

New - Old, Old - New

There is something wonderfully satisfying about seeing you gaming setup broken down, put into boxes, then resurrected three days later in a lightly larger basement with a hardwired internet connection. I set up my Xbox as a Windows Media Extender just to see it test the bandwidth to my server and was delighted to find that I can stream whatever I damn well please. My PS3 had a similar experience, yet it still took the thing twenty minutes to apply a system update. It's like the thing doesn't want me to like it.

Enough about my new gaming cave, more about what happens in it. I inaugurated the set up by finally playing Castlevania Lords of Shadow. After the first few hours I have to say that I am disappointed. It didn't feel like a Castlevania, just like yet another God of War clone. It looked good, but there was so much detail and the camera was so far back that I often lost track of the hero and what I was supposed to be doing with him. The last straw came when I was killed for the third time in a row by a colossus directly out of Shadow of Colossus. I will never fault a game for relying on the success of previous titles for ideas; there just aren't many new ideas in the world of gaming to be had. Castlevania, though, has such a history that it would have been better to pull from its own progeny then go rooting around in other genres' graveyards.  There has still not been a high definition sequel to Symphony of the Night, something that the universe at large needs to answer for.

Santa, if you are out there, I have a bottle Chimay Grand Reserve that I will split with you if you can make this happen. We can get nice and toasty before you head out to deliver another sleigh full of Wiis that will get used for a week and then never again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It is done

I have just pulled Cat 5E cable through two stories of duct work to with the only casualty being a slightly larger than expected hole on in a duct and a bit of drywall dust.

This had better have been worth it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Boxed expectations

Rock of the Dead lost track of making fun of its own terribleness and just ended up being terrible in the end. Someone realized that that they had put together a five hour game and panicked. Instead of making more game, which there was no time, money or talent for, they just made you do everything twice. Now Neil Patrick Harris is funny, and him voicing the un-named rocker dude is part of what made things bearable, but even he gets old after a while. Which reminds me, why haven't we seen a Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Video Game yet, or at least a track or two end up in Rock Band?

Things are going to be thin for a few days, as all of my shit is in boxes and all I have left is my computer (which means I played Poker Night at the Inventory until I got bored with it and remembered that I hadn't written anything today). I looked at the Steam sale and nothing caught my eye, then I looked at my Steam library and here is one game that I bought during last years sale that I haven't played yet, another that I tried and failed at, and a third that I have started at least twice and never got through. On the third, The Witcher, actually weighs heavy on my mind. It was a good game and I do not know why I have never gotten past the first chapter. PC games always seem to take a back seat to the endless tide of so so console titles, and that just isn't fair.

On that note it is time to start thinking about the best games I played this year. Amnesia is certainly high on the list, but it is difficult to compare a relatively low budget little title to gigantic releases like Red Dead Redemption. I will need to find a way to segregate these things, best big and best little and best that I never got around to playing. Castlevania is on its way and I fear it will arrive while I am between houses, or worse yet after I arrived to find that my new UVerse wireless just won't reach my man cave in the basement.

Pulling cable sucks, but sometimes it is the only option.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's all in the presentation

Just last week I heaped a great deal of scorn upon Power Gig. It was terrible, to be sure, but what made it even worse is that it tried so very hard to pretend it wasn't terrible that I felt like the game was patronizing me. Last night I started Rock of the Dead, another terrible almost music game. Think about the Typing of the Dead, replace a keyboard with a guitar, and that is the whole game. It's awful, but I played it for two hours last night and enjoyed every minute of it. Why? Because it was so self aware that it managed to poke fun an itself with surprisingly good writing.  I laughed out loud several times, which a lot coming from a game.

Is it bad. Of course it is, but it isn't pretending not to be. A Rob Zombie soundtrack never hurts either. Shit, it almost made Way of the Warrior bearable. Almost.



Man. I paid money for that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The ends never justify

One of the nice things about playing games months after everyone else does is that I can spoil the shit out of the endings and no one cares. Still, be warned, I am going to now going to complain about how a terrible ending can sully the memories of what had been up to that point an excellent game.

Mob stories usually don't have happy endings. Since Vito had already done his stint in the hole fending off butt pirates I was pretty sure he was going to die. He started vouched for a rat, started a gang war, dealt drugs, killed an underboss, then lied about the whole thing to everyone who would listen. Side note: Vito was never a sympathetic character. He was never portrayed as having fallen into the lifestyle or resorting to crime out of desperation. He was a mobster because he wanted to be a mobster, and even he realized that it was about time to pay the piper. To set up the final mission Vito's friend from prison comes back and give him more chance to redeem himself: kill an opposing Don. He's been killing people for worse reasons for years, why stop now?

What follows is a pretty good climactic fight in which many, many men in suits die. Barring one blind stairwell where I fell victim to an out of nowhere grenade (several times) it was a lot of fun. Vito gets to the Don and is about to kill him when his best friend, who he has saved on several occasions, drops out of the shadows and sticks a gun in his back. They talk, make plans, nearly make out, then start killing everyone in the room. Good times. Vito and Joe escape, are escorted into separate limos by the opposing family and ride off into the sunset, or cat house, whichever they come across first.

Except it doesn't end there. Joe's limo splits off and Vito asks what is going on.

'Joe wasn't part of the deal.'

So Joe is going to die. And what does Vito do? Nothing. He is armed to the teeth with no one in his way but a frail old man and some dumb muscle in t e front of the car. He has killed hundreds of made men with relative ease but decides that enough is enough and lets Joe die, probably by being beaten to a bloody pulp with bats and dropped into a hole like Joe Pesci in Casino. Bullshit, I say, bullshit. It would have been better to have killed them both then set up this betrayal. Maye this was more realistic (not being a mobster, I wouldn't know) but it still does not make for a satisfying ending. Now instead of all the good things all I will remember about Mafia II is how the screwed up the ending. And to think I almost downloaded the DLC missions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Breaking worlds

Allegiances shift quickly in Mafia II. First I am buying drugs from a Chinese gang then they are hacking one of my crew to death in broad daylight. The guy that they sliced up was a good friend, he let someone he was supposed to kill go just because the main character asked him, but he was also an undercover federal agent, or so the Chinese boss said before he died. Suddenly Vito owes a mafia loan shark something like $27,000, so he goes to another boss to earn some money, only to kill him and everyone who works for him after finding out the boss killed his father. Keeping up? You are doing better than I am. It feels like Goodfellas in a blender, but it is still fun. Thing are about to open up, as I still need to come up with a few more thousand dollars, mostly because I want to keep my elbows from being bent the wrong way, and the only way to earn money that quick is to resort to petty burglary. I held up a gun store and the cashier whipped out a shotgun. It did not go so well for him. I held up a diner and some customers pulled out pistols and started shooting. It didn't go so well for them either. The entire city appears to be packing heat, but they all have terrible aim

Mafia II has done such a good job crafting a believable world that these little breakdowns become much more noticeable. I was being chased by the cops at the end of a quest, but instead of escaping them I led them to my house, shot them dead on my lawn, then walked inside and took a nap. I though about adding their car to my growing collection of pilfered classics, but taking it on a drive by just would not work very well. This was a complete failure of the semi-realistic world I had been enjoying and I almost felt guilty doing it. I had bought in to the story and setting so much that I did not want to break it. But it was still just a game and I had to go to bed, so pragmatism won against playing guns and wearing snazzy suits.

The final list of Super Street Fighter IV AE changes is out and everyone's main has been nerfed. There is a lot of bitching going on, some of it warranted and some of it silly, but we still don't even know if this is going to be made available to console users. For all we know it may be twelve months and $40 off. I have a hard time seeing it as DLC, as it would split the user base even more than the relatively quick release of Super did, but putting out even a moderately priced expansion with only two new characters in it doesn't seem right either. If they wait too long it will run into Marvel vs Capcom 3 and start cannibalizing their own market. If only the arcade scene in the US wasn't so terrible. Who am I kidding, going to an arcade means leaving the house and that just doesn't happen very often.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

30 seconds is a long damn time

Sitting at a stop light usually doesn't feel like it takes that long, mostly because there is no alternative to doing so. Sure, it might be possible depending on your vehicle to off road it around or simply go over the person in front of you, but that will most likely result in going to jail. Going to jail in real life sucks and is motivation enough to obey traffic laws. Enter Mafia II, a game that offers almost as much freedom as GTA but will punish you accordingly for abusing it. Example: it is the middle of the night and I have true drunk goodfellas in the car along with a body in the drunk that has been there long enough to start oozing through the floor boards. I obviously need to get rid if this thing and my boss (who happens to be one of the drunk guys) tells me to drive to the other end of town and drop it in a hole that he had already dug. Easy enough, but they are tons of cops around, so I have to obey all the mundane traffic laws that I would normally ignore. Sitting at a light with a cop behind me for thirty seconds was one of the most uncomfortable moments I have ever had in a game.

Almost as uncomfortable as the shower rape scene. Heyo!

I remember Mafia II be derided for its lack of freedom. It really does guide you by the hand from mission to mission, but sacrificing freedom for a better narrative makes it a better game. I am sure there will be time enough after the story is done to wander around town as a made man and extort mooks for protection money. Right now enough random things happen during the story missions to keep me occupied. It reminds me a lot of Oblivion in this way; every gaming session produces a story or two that no one else will have scene. Last night I went to another bar to retrieve another drunk friend. This time he managed to inadvertently shoot the bartender. I shoved him out into a car, dragged the body half way out into the yard, then stopped in my tracks. There was something I was forgetting, something very in character that had to be done.

I forgot to empty his cash register. Someone had to pay to clean the blood off my suit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Into the booth

'Hey Chamberlain! I know you don't really know how to use this software, or much about IIS, and have only a passing familiarity with Server 2008, but it's super important that you get *insert product name here* working!'

That was my day. Bleh. I wish I was rich. On the other hand this puts me in the perfect mood to complain about Power Gig.

I knew that Power Gig wasn't good. All one has to do to understand this is catch a glimpse of all the unsold boxes of Power Gig bundles collecting dust right next to the Guitar Hero Aerosmith and Green Day Rock Band one. The music game genre has been tapped out; Rock Band 3 is the last hurrah. So I knew full well that Power Gig was not going to be much fun. It was only only my list because of a few songs (ok, I admit it, three Dave Matthews Band songs) that I wanted to play. I was not prepared to be assaulted with some hack designers attempts to do everything different than everything else, regardless of how much sense his decisions made or if they actually worked or not. It was an act of pixelated violence, a rape of my senses, a waste of the very plastic it was printed on. There is only one thing that can be done to atone for such a heinous act: confession.

...

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It has been, well, forever since my last confession.

The Lord forgives, my son, what burdens your conscience?


Well, I put out Power Gig, and there are quite a few things in there that are, shall we say, of questionable worth. Remember how much everyone made fun of the story in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock? Power Gig is pretty much the same thing, only without the transformations, moderately interesting character design, or animated cut scenes. Plus I became infatuated with the word 'mojo,' so I wrote it into the script as often as possible. Mojination, uniting mojo, aligning mojo, mojo meters, you name it, I crammed the word mojo into it. I seriously though about getting Mike Meyers to do the narration, but his agent told me he was busy washing his hair and counting his money.

Many games have poor stories, my son, but that cannot be all that troubles you.


No, father, that was just the beginning. Music games have pretty much looked the same since the first Guitar Hero: colored things move down one of five lanes and you have to hit them at the right time when they get to the bottom. Why not shake things up a bit, right? So I took away the lanes, allowing my little blobs to float down the track all by themselves. Without the lanes I can highlight my terrible backgrounds and ugly stages! Never mind that it makes it very difficult to keep track of where the notes are, I am not going to give you any visual feedback when you hit then at the right time anyway. Oh, and I put the guitar track in the bottom right hand corner of the screen even when no one else is playing. I guess I just really liked by poorly animated mojified rock stars and wanted to make sure they got plenty of screen real estate.

Go on.


I didn't really put any effort in the the note layouts or sound balancing, either. I actually got a few good tracks somehow, but none of them really sound very good. They are locked behind a ridiculous 'Unite the Clans' quest mode, anyway. The only way to get people to play this for more than a few minutes is to keep the interesting stuff hidden away as long as possible, so I managed to make the career mode feel like a poorly designed RTS tech tree! That actually took time, I had to shorten a few long lunches.

Oh, and my drumless drum simulator's only purpose it to make the player look and feel like an ass.

What you have done is wrong, my son, but if you are truly repentant...


Father, I allowed the use of Rock Band of Guitar Hero guitars, but the only way to activate mojo power is to hit the back button. And if you accidentally hit the start button instead? The pause menu comes up but the track doesn't stop. It just keeps right on going under the pause menu and you miss all the notes until you unpause it.

Father? Father?

Go to hell, my son. Go to hell.

Work, work, work.

I would type more, but am swamped at work.

I would post from home, but Mafia II kicks ass and demands all of my time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The good and the ugly, no in between

Free offerings on XBLA have had a mixed history. Dash of Destruction was shit. Aegis Wing, on the other hand, was actually pretty good. I like to think of these gratis game-lets as public proof of concept propositions. The developer has confidence that the idea will work, but no one else does, some some larger company foots the bill, slaps their own advertising all over it, and lets the public decide. I have no idea if the Aegis Wings guys every saw any money for their work or if they got jobs in the industry, but they should have. Those responsible for Dash of Destruction (or that damn Yaris game) should never be allowed to touch a video game again. This week two more freebies dropped, both thanks to a contest Doritos put together that I had never heard of. The results? Surprisingly better than quite a few games that actually cost money.

The easiest way to describe Crash Course is Wipeout the game starring your avatar. You move from left to right as quickly as possible, dodge all sorts of stuff, get to the end as fast as you can and then do it again. Simple, yes, but also quite well done. The level design is an excellent balance between twitch reactions and planing due to repeated, embarrassing failure. I am sure there are people who will do the levels over and over trying to get the best time, but I had fun just getting through them once. Controls are responsive and rarely get in the way, an important step that other platformers *cough*Little Big Planet*cough* often miss. I even appreciated the balance mechanic that keeps you from just holding down the run button all the time. If you avatar pick up too much speed he will fall forward and face plant, much like we all did as kids when running down hills that were just a bit to steep to handle safely.

'Hey this is fun! Wait, wait, OH SHIT!'

SPLAT



Good stuff. It could have used a bit more variety in both visuals and obstacles, but whoever laid this thing out has potential. Someone should give him a job.

The same can be said for Harms Way, but for different reasons. Harms Way tries to be two games: a racing game for one member of the team and a turret based shooter for the other. The racing is mediocre at best. It reminded me of everything bad from Motorstorm, so after a race and half I was done with it (which is about as long as I played the second Motorstrorm). Manning the turrets surrounding the track was much more fun that it had any right to be. On the first shot of the first lap I caught a truck right in the windshield and one shot killed the driver. After that I popped tires on his friends vehicles, unlocked mines that fell from the sky and blew the shit out of everyone else. It was a blast, managing to hold my interest through three almost identical courses. I do no know if this could be supported for an entire retail game, but I would pay the usual XBLA price for a this kind of thing spread out across ten or so different tracks with more vehicles, weapons, and fun ways to humiliate opposing driver. Concept proven, now give these guys money to make a real game.

So, free stuff can be quite good. How about a retail release that forces its way into an established, if not fading market by trying to avoid all the coat tails it can, thereby doing absolutely everything wrong?

Power Gig is aggressively bad. I will catalog its multitude of sins tomorrow, suffice now to saw that no one should play it, ever.

Ever.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Old green accomplice

It was good to spend a solid three hours with Street Fighter again last night. I was still outclassed most of the time, but then again I caused a rage quit just by choosing my main. Come on, how can you run away from this?


Yes, I have used that image before, and I will again.

In advance of his final nerfing I have decided to try out Dee Jay again. He is getting quite a few buffs in AE that makes using him a welcome alternative to my middle low tier character who is unfriendly to noobs and was therefore made worse. Again. (You want to see some salty people? Check out the Blanka boards over at SRK. Even the bug guns like Mullah are not exactly pleased with things.) We don't know when it is coming out, or if it is coming out (HA, like Capcom would pass on more free money) but it would be nice to have a actual sub that wasn't just Blanka minus the green plus some fat and with better normals. I think I understand how to zone with him a little better than I used to, as I was able to keep a Bison at bay who normally stomps me without mercy. I didn't win, but he couldn't just lk - lk - lk scissors me over and over either. I still can't do a lot of his fancy links, but Dee Jay doesn't really need them. Crossup into ducking mk is infuriating, and I will abuse it often. Add to that an invulnerable vertical wake up kick and I might have a chance at some success.

And Hat? www.afuckerwhoplaysblankaandtalksaboutgames.com is available, though a bit much to type.




Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Passing the time

Steam is a dangerous place to wander around with any spare money in your pockets. There is almost always something indie and cheap there to take up your time, and this is of course only made worse when they run their year end sales. I have no idea if the GREAT STEAM TREASURE HUNT is actually their sale in disguise. Really, I don't even care, as it has capitalized on the same metagame that achievements works on and created a very compelling reason to visit the site every two days: winning lots of free stuff. Every two days four new objectives will be revealed, most of which require that you actually own the game featured. Bullshit, you say? Hold on, so far the featured games have been ridiculously on sale. Case in point, I was not planning on purchasing Poker Night at the Inventory. It is just another poker game and, big surprise, they play exactly the same way. Then those magnificent bastards put it out there for $2.50, and while that is really not that much less then the original price, it comes in under some subconscious  monetary level, below which I will purchase just about anything.

It doesn't hurt that the game is actually pretty good. Poker is poker, but poker with Strong Bad and Tycho is something more. The only bad thing I have to say is that I do no really approve of Tycho's voice. The other characters have established, bizarre voices; Tycho is downright generic by comparison. This is most likely unavoidable when voicing a character who has never had a voice before; no matter what you do, someone is going to be unhappy. As a poker game it is perfectly serviceable. Even if I play it more than once I will have gotten my monies worth, which is much more than I can say for playing real poker with people.

Can you tell than I have nothing big to play right now? I might just wander back into Torchlight tonight, and that is never a good thing for anything else that needs to be done.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nope, still don't like it

Really not a lot to say about Alien Breed 3. Is it exactly like the first two, only with some so-so water effects and this time everyone dies in the end. They scratch a very specific itch, on that almost led me to purchase the new zombie dual stick shooter on PSN: Dead Nation. More on that in a bit. The price is right and they are good for a one or two night stand. Anything past that and you would need more weapons, items, and some sort of character advancement to hold your interest. At that point you might as well play Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance or Torchlight, so Alien Breed is better off being nothing more than it is: you move, you shoot things, they die. On a few occasions it does wander off into different territory, including a very unfortunate over the shoulder section which obscured by aim so much I just shot everything regardless of how much it was or was not moving, but that was over quickly enough to be forgiven.

After Alien Breed it was finally time to give a little time to the elephant in the room, a game that was delayed so many times that I was reluctant to believe it actually existed until I saw a physical disc: Gran Turismo 5. I played the 'demo' almost a year ago, savaging it in a rather nasty review I wrote for a now defunct site. The words 'shiny and hollow' were tossed around. Everything looked so clean that it was sterile and boring with nothing about the way the game worked or played having changed from previous entries. Months and months later, the actual game has come out, and everything is still the same. Gran Turismo really is a 'driving simulator,' not a game, and I do not mean than as a positive. I took a few license tests, went through a few races, failed terribly at NASCAR school, was mildly amused by the open wheel go karts that topped out at almost 100 MPH, but I never had any fun playing it. Once I made a little money I was paralyzed by how many cars there were to choose from. There were simply too many options: do I buy a new car and if so what make? Do I start working on the current car? Do I start playing B spec, the choose your own adventure of racing games?

I probably just don't love cars enough to enjoy Gran Turismo, and when I do want to race I want it to be fast and fun, not laboriously slow. I am sure that it would get there eventually, but I have no confidence that I would actually be able to control the cars at that point. Before shutting it off I gave the Zonda supercar a shot in arcade mode and spent more time in the grass than on the track. It was a pretty good allegory for the whole experience, having spent more time updating my PS3 and installing files than actually playing the damn game. It wouldn't even uninstall without a fight, sitting there at the deleting screen for almost five minutes before giving me my system back. It was then that I wandered into the Playstation Network store and almost bought Dead Nation. I am not really sure why I didn't; perhaps I was questioning the whole owning both major systems thing, as this was the first time I had turned the thing on for months and it was another disappointment. Just as I began to doubt its worth the bluray copy of Blade Runner waved to me from across the room. It's a good thing the system only does everything, I might settle for one that does everything else otherwise.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's alive! Worst of the Year 2010

Mostly. Both URL's will work, and I do plan on freshening things up a bit, but that can wait.

I am not planning on doing a best of the year list, mostly because there are excellent games that came out this year that I have yet to play. Instead, keeping with the new 'less bitchy' theme I have adopted it will be a best games that I actually got around to playing this year. There will also of course be a fair amount of trashing, mostly because I still like to complain, so I am going to do the worst first.

It is quite difficult for me to look back over nearly twelve months of gaming and pick out the worst of the worst, primarily because I play so many terrible games. I am going to add the caveat that it has to be a game I finished, other wise I could name Divinity II and walk away feeling pretty good about my choice, or Last Rebellion which was in my PS3 for all of fifteen minutes before I had to turn it off. Had I played any more of Naughty Bear it might have taken the dishonor, but I really think there was something that went over my head with that game. It felt like there was a joke somewhere in there that I was just no getting, but I was too repulsed to bother trying to figure it out.


I am actually embarrassed to admit that I finished this game. It has precisely zero redeeming features. Fairytale Fights doesn't even get points for effort as it is clear that no one who had anything to do with the game was putting any effort into it whatsoever. As a glorified downloadable title pressed to disc and sold for an exorbitant price it offends me economically. As an action platformer is offends my hands by forcing me to bash the right analog stick in one direction over and over to attack. As someone who appreciates satire and occasional bits of low entertainment it offends my sense of humor by never once being amusing in any way. It was bloody without reason, attempting to ape Happy Tree Friends without all the wonderful awful torturous creativity involved. Difficult to look at, hear, play, or simply be in the presence of there was just no reason for Fairytale Fights to even exist.

And I played it. What does that say about me.

There were of course other disappointments this year. Alpha Protocol sounds awesome on paper (current day espionage RPG? Fuck yeah!) but just didn't work, mostly because I was rooting for the bad guys to kill the douche bag protagonist. 3D Dot Game Heroes proved once and for all that From Software and I disagree on the fundamental meaning of the word 'fun.' Lost Planet 2 missed most of the point of the first game, morphing into some kind of forced squad based shooter that wasn't much fun by yourself or with friends. Samurai Shodown SEN was the worst fighting game of the year, allowing the computer to bring a shotgun to a sword fight is never a good way to make friends.

I played 57 different retail releases this year, plus a ton of downloadable games that I do not want to catalog for fear of certain people realizing how much I spent on them. There are still 17 games from this year in my queue that will get played eventually. That's a lot of shit to troll through. Fairytale Fights, I salute you. You have topped the likes of Darkest of Days and Jurassic: The Hunted on my list of shame. But count yourself lucky, had Rise of the Six String or Rock of the Dead made in into my Xbox you may have gone from worst of the worst to just another bad game in a long series of games that have wasted my time.

...

Of course Rise of the Six String just shipped.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nothing to see here

I think I registered the infinitebacklog.com domain from Google and pointed it here, but DNS can take quite a while to propagate, so I will have no idea if it worked until tomorrow.

In the mean time I will continue to enjoy another guilty pleasure: Alien Breed 3.

Friday, December 3, 2010

An odd moment

My surviving Grandfather fought in World War II. There is not much to be gleaned from the bits and pieces of stories I have gleaned from a proud, private man, but I will say that there is a definite mystique about it, an almost automatic respect that has been ingrained for the greatest generation. This is a large part of why the original Medal of Honors worked so well: in the smallest of ways the player is stepping into the shoes of someone that fought in the last good war, if there can be such a thing. There was pride to be found there, and humility, all of which tempered the natural machismo that accompanies crushing ones enemies. The first few Medal of Honor games, along with the Call of Duty's that eventually surpassed them, were moving experiences. I am not a military man, nor do I come from a military family (my father enlisted to avoid the draft and ended up tending bar in Goose Bay, Canada. Not a bad way to not get shot in Vietnam). I've never even fired a god damn gun, much less killed a man who was intent on killing me. In spite of that the World War II setting just worked; it pulled at my sarcastic heart strings and kept me invested long after I had killed more Nazis than actually existed during the entire conflict.

This brings me to the new Medal of Honor, or CoDBLoPs, for that matter. Medal of Honor, as a game, does not hold a candle to even the last Call of Duty, stumbling on simple things like maintaining a solid frame rate and keeping me pointed in the right direction. I expected a bit more from it on the emotional side, but only because I remember the misplaced swelling in my chest that I felt when the music kicked up and I survived the final onslaught in the early Medal of Honors. It just wasn't there. It just doesn't work, and it certainly isn't for lack of trying. I am quite sure that there are men and women of equal or greater worth and fortitude that gave their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq as made the same sacrifice in France or Germany, but the difference is that I just don't care. Current military service has been so sickeningly glorified that the backlash observation is that it is just a career choice; a career choice that could get you killed, but still something that is done simply for a pay check. This is of course not true, but not nearly enough time has passed for all the bull shit to fade into obscurity and the simply service of men willing to die is left.

I mean no disrespect to people who choose to do this, but as a casual observer it simply doesn't work as fodder for interactive diversions. In this case time does not provide detachment, it provides a clouded perspective. There are probably all sorts of terrible things that soldiers did in WWII that have either been forgotten or just swept under the rug; current wars don't have that luxury. Medal of Honor tries to touch on this, with the blow hard general calling shots and getting people killed from the comfort of his cushioned Washington chair, but it still does not provide anywhere near the impact of liberating an overrun town on the outskirts of Paris.

It is probably very, very wrong to reduce events in when men die to how entertaining they are in simulation, but I make no apologies. This is the world in which we live, and when I can pretend to kill people in ever increasing detail the context in which I kill them becomes more and more important.

Name change?

After nearly a year of this I am thinking about changing the name, once I figure out how to export all the posts and settings that it.

Look for Infinite Backlog in the relatively near future. I may even buy the domain name.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

No farsi

Time to catch up. Things have been busy at work, and on top of that I (that is, we) have managed to purchase a new house and will closing on the 20th, with occupancy that very day. It's a great time to up-size, but a rotten time to sell off the old house, so I am seriously looking into becoming a slum lord and just holding on to it, wringing every drop of rent I can out of various meth heads before calling the cops in and starting over.

The Wanfest did not go well. My initial opponent never showed up. I waited until around 8:30 and then declared myself the winner. Content with things going about as well as they could, I went back to Assassins Creed, only to get an invite from my second round match. He had also won his first game and wanted to get a jump on things. No problem, I joined in and sent him an invite.

...Rufus.

Of course. The guy's gamertag was fLoE, and I think there is a high end player with that name, but I am not totally sure and I have no idea if he actually plays Rufus. Regardless of who he was, after taking the first round because he misjudged his Ultra 2 chip damage I was bodied. The second game saw me attempt to lame it out, but even that didn't help work. Every time I pushed a button I was either nailed with a jesus kick or juggled. It was just not a good time. His 'ggs' message at the end felt rather incredulous, but I will take what I can get before Blanka gets hit with the nerf bat in AE.

My opinion of Assassins Creed Brotherhood peaked a few days ago and fell back down as I played through the final two chapters. Ezio ceased being an assassin and became some sort of Conan character, replete with giant sword and magical item that killed everyone he looked at. With the stealth element gone all that was left was a mediocre hack and slash that took itself far to seriously. By the time I got to end and was back in a present day Tomb Raider rip off I was bored. Yes, the platforming worked well, but it was also very easy. I was reminded of the Price of Persia reboot (Prince of Persia: Easy Mode) and now dread the third game more than ever. If takes place entirely in the present day and stars Desmond the sleep walking assassin I will still play it, but I will complain about it he entire time.

Which is no different than normal, I suppose.

Please note that I never did play any of the multiplayer, so there may be magic on the disc that I will never see. The whole thing feels like overgrown downloadable content. At least this way I was able to play it without actually buying it.

Medal of Honor is about as generic a shooter as you will find. Not good, not bad, but missing any of the punch that made the previous Call of Duty's memorable. Here's a hint EA: calling the bad guys the taliban is not really going to raise that many eyebrows. Killing a terminal full of innocent Russians is the way to go if you are trying to shock someone. I never thought I would utter these words, but I suddenly miss shooting Nazis. Or Russians.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lame, lamer, lamest

I suppose Assassins Creed: Brother cannot be nearly as blase as I have made it out to be if I managed to spend over four hours at a time on it for several days in a row. Now that the entire map has finally been unlocked I realized that locking me out of large sections was necessary to keep me moving it at least the general direction that they wanted me to go in. I still think that there must have been a better way to do it than semi-transparent walls, but you get what you pay for, and this really is just Assassins Creed 2 version 2. It should come to close in a day or so, depending on how much time I spend wandering around looking for that one blacksmith shop that I didn't open (hint: not much). The whole process of Ezio walking through newly freed areas and buying up all the abandoned shops has such a wise guys mafia feel to it that I keep waiting for the assassins cloak and dagger to be replaced by a bowler hat and tommy gun. Think about it: the assassins kick out the borgia and renovate all the landmarks and stores, but there is now a protection fee to go with it, a fee that has quickly become my primary source of income. Don't have enough money for that broken viaduct? Give it twenty minutes, it will be there.

The Newegg Winter Wanfest starts up tomorrow and I am woefully unprepared. My first match is with some guy whose gamertag is 'ZeroNineteen.' I predict a one bar flowchart Ken and will probably lose in spite of know exactly what move is coming (FIERCE SHORYKEN!) so I plan on laming it out with Blanka just to see what happens. The matches are set to best of five instead of best of three so there will be plenty of time to adjust to what the other guy is going to do. This will only matter if I actually have a chance at beating him, it could just give him more time to wait for me to beat myself. Being forced to practice again will be a good thing. The last time I played at all I was was remapping buttons to try to get piano jab X electricity working with no success. I am just not consistent enough to add in into my game right now, so I will have to rely on shenanigans and Blanka's magic crouching fierce punch to scare away jump ins.

Of course if I do win Mr. ZeroNineteen will just say that Blanka is cheap and skulk of into a corner. I am okay with that.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dirty tricks

After two more nights of playing I have come up with one hundred and one more trivial complaints about Assassins Creed: Brotherhood. The combat, though slightly improved, still is a mess. There have been startlingly few actual assassinations in the first eight hours, to the point that it feels more like an italian Prince of Persia than a game about sneaking around and sticking sharp objects into people from behind. For all the platforming it does I still do not like how the free running system works. Far to often I find myself watching in resigned frustration as Ezio flings himself off of a ledge when all I wanted to do was climb up to an outcropping that was at chest level.

Yet I keep playing. There is something here that I cannot explain, something that Ubisoft has secreted away between fetch quests that keeps me from unwrapping the wonder that is an actual copy of Gran Turismo 5. Perhaps it is how real the city feels, teeming with aristocrats and soldiers and bums and harlots (side note: every single free faction house is being given to the hookers guild. My Roma will be just like Vegas, baby). It is a pity that the city feels somehow more empty of things to do than previous games, even though I am sure that it is larger, square footage wise. A great deal is being teased at right now, with large sections of the city simply blocked off by partially invisible walls. This is especially frustrating when I can see missions on the other side that I want to do. If I can't get get them done at this point don't show them to me, it will allow me to better focus on the missions that I can do and not get bored trying to do the ones I can't.

Much as I had feared, my pro-guitar sites idly next to one of my speakers, untouched in over a week. If this had been a peripheral for Rock Band 2 instead of 3 it would see nearly constant use. Every week I bought all the downloadable songs available, weather I liked the songs or not. Now I am still a bit burned out from the initial five button play through, making much less ready to tackle the monster with 100 buttons.

I blame Activision.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, the future of gaming

Death by killing

It took around three hours for the new Assassins Creed to get past the hand holding stage and allow me to wander the streets of Rome as I saw fit. In those three hours it made it abundantly clear that it has very little new to offer, that it is content to rest on the laurels of the previous excellent game, and that Brotherhood's entire purpose is simply to rustle up the funds for the next game. Think of it as Pixar's Cars (or Cars 2, blech): they need to sell some mediocre shit so they can indulge in the better stuff later on. I would me more accepting of this mediocrity if Assassins Creed 2 hasn't sold upwards of 8 million copies, making Brotherhood's very existence superfluous. Ubisoft, please don't pull an Activision on us and begin to 'exploit' you properties on a yearly basis. We don't need a new Assassins Creed every year, just give us a third game that eclipses the previous two in every possible way. Is that so much to ask? Apparently yes, as even the mighty Epic has pushed Gears of War 3 back another year to make sure it is up to the task.

Brotherhood is being held up to such impossible standards because the second game was very nearly perfect. Instead of an honest sequel what we have here is a side story picking up exactly where the last game left off. Points for continuity, but when I am doing exactly the same things in exactly the same way as the last game the tedium normally reserved for the last few hours of a title sets in almost immediately. It feels like I just got done jumping off of roofs into hay bales and stabbing fools in the back with hidden blades. Now I am doing it all again in another city that looks just like the last one.

Time out. Listen to me, complaining about how a very good game isn't good enough after having stomached Clash of the Titans, a bad movie cash in even on the drastically lower scale used to measure games of its ilk. Assassins Creed 2 wowed me in every way. It was an improvement over the first game from beginning to end. Brotherhood is simply more of the same with a multiplayer aspect tacked on that no one will play correctly no matter how good it is supposed to be. What's next, Assassins Creed: The MMO? Assassins Creed Licensed Kart Racing? Pizza by Ezio or Altair's Carpet Warehouse? I am so leery of brand over exposure that as soon as I see a second or third game with the same name on it I start trying to not enjoy myself. It's a wonder that anything Capcom does every gets my attention at all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hardly titan

It is very rare for a game to be worthless all the way through, but Clash of the Titans was approaching it. The one thing it had going for it was a rather in depth secondary weapon upgrade system, but when I realized that I had either missed most of the necessary pick ups or they were absurdly rare I gave up on it and went right on to mashing the X button. One or two bosses did require their use, including one terrible gimmick boss who should have been easy to take out with a bow, only the auto targeting barely worked and the manual aiming was even worse. This flying corpse dragon thing had be a few minutes from turning the whole thing off, but a quick trip to GameFaqs cleared up what I was not engaged enough to learn on my own. I am actually glad that I made it, because much like Darkest of Days it manages one short moment of pseudo excellence before dropping off into the deep end with single button quick time events that pass for a climax.

Anyone who remembers the original Clash of the Titans (and probably the remake which I have not seen) knows that the first two thirds of the movie is just a lead in to Persues' confrontation with Medusa. This is also not the first time that gorgons have been used as enemies, most recently being God of War, but the individual snake women there were no more than throw away grunts and while I am quite sure he fights Medusa herself the actual encounter escapes me. This time around Medusa takes a whole party to bring down, with each and every one save Perseus dying before the battle is over. As the party dwindles both your tactics and how Medusa fights you grow more desperate, with her flailing her entire length from one end of the room to the other taking out anyone who forgets that the dodge roll is video games one true escape. When it is down to the last two, Draco and Perseus, Draco of course gets to make the grandest exit of all, knocking a stalactite down and severing most of Medusa's tale, but what he says before he dies is a little gem of writing that was out of place in its quality:

'Perseus, tell them men did this.'

This was not screamed in violent rage, simply said in a moment of pride in what they as mortals had overcome. Then Draco is turned to stone and Perseus, one of the many bastard sons of Zeus, has to finish things of, thereby nullifying the idea that man did it alone, but you get where they were going with things.

Come on, these are video game writers, you cannot expect them to think ahead beyond what Chinese place they are getting dinner from.

...


Gran Turismo 5 apparently just shipped via GameFly. I don't believe it. They could say that a miniature hippo was just dropped off on my porch and I would probably give that better odds of being true.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spectator Fighter IV

Last night instead of trying to knock out Clash of the Titans (which continues in its terribleness, but is still amusing in the same way a hanging that takes too long is amusing) I got as comfortable as I could in my computer chair and watched the NorCal regionals stream. That's right, I did not play or even practice Street Fighter, I watched it, and I must say that is almost as fun as playing online without any of the stress. Super Street Fighter IV really could make it as a spectator sport. All it needs is a better presentation, 1080p would suffice, and more consistent announcing. Seth Killian is the perfect example of this: he obviously knows what he is talking about but never gets so excited that his speech regressing to that of the toddler who has been given a shiny new toy. On several occasions Juice Box was reduced to grunts and dancing. I can't hold it against him because, hey, it's Juice Box, but that shit will simply not fly in a more serious presentation.

If ESPN was able to turn poker into a spectator sport, why not Street Fighter. The top eight could be easily reduced to an hour program, complete with annoying little bios about the players. Seth was already throwing in little tidbits about Daigo's father and his support of the wandering virtual warrior lifestyle. It was interesting and provided back story for the match without guys like Filipino Champ talking about 'bodying faggots.' There would have to be some moderation, both on the players' and fans' parts, but it could definitely work. And as much as I liked Ricky Ortiz' nazi/dictator hat, he probably should not have worn in in front of a camera. Or in public. Or ever.

I was on the Vangeif train from the very beginning, but he ran in to a bad matchup and was not able to get around it. One trick ponies like Vangeif and Gamerbee are fun to watch, but they always seem to come up short when they run into someone whose tool box is not limited to one move set. Not even Daigo is that one dimensional; his Guile is really good and his Boxer in HDR is terrifying. See? There is more than enough going on here for a series of one hour specials following the majors into EVO, and I wouldn't have to watch a choppy stream with my headphones on to enjoy it. Someone needs to make this happen. I am looking at you, Mr. Seth Killian, only you could talk Capcom into doing something that actually made sense.

Of course, I don't actually have cable, so I would still never see it, but I would buy them on DVD later.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Soothing my inadequacies

This happened two days ago, but I missed a day, so oh well.

Dead Rising 2, after many hours of reminding me why I didn't go back and play the first game a second time, finally did something that made me cock my head to he side and mutter 'now that was pretty cool' to myself. Of course it was a cutscene, which is not exactly a resounding endorsement of the game. The fake final boss finally had his health whittled away by boxing gloves with blades taped to them and it still looked like he was going to make an escape anyway. He deployed something like a reverse parachute that a passing plane was going to snag and pull him off the roof to safety. Chuck sees this, grabs a clip off of his belt, and then attaches the guys vest to the building. The plane makes the snag, tearing him in half in the process. There had been a few vivisections already, but this was easily the best and I wish that the camera had not been so squeamish. He was a bitch to fight and seeing him torn asunder was a nice bonus.

And then Chuck runs back to the safehouse and finds his daughter's backpack laying on the floor. Fade to black. Credits. I was floored. After all this the only non player characters with character simply disappear?  Angered by what I saw as a pretty blatant shilling of future downloadable content I skipped the credits. Much to my surprise the game was not done. Overtime! Excellent! Oh, a multi tier fetch quest for ridiculous items (fancy champagne, what?) and another lame boss fight. Never mind. Capcom's heart was in the right place, but the game had actually stopped being fun several hours ago. More of the same was not going to save it, but at least in the end Chuck gets a girl. The girl took a bullet to the forehead when the bad guy made his well foreshadowed reveal, so the only girl left was a tree hugger who decided she liked zombies instead. At least she was good with the kid.

I find it difficult to not complain about my attempts at Pro Mode in Rock Band 3. The human hand is simply not meant to bend in the ways that are required for chords. This is of course a false statement, but it makes me feel a little better about how terrible I am at the game. Years upon years of five button pretend guitar have conveyed exactly zero actual skill. I just got better and better and pretending. Now that I am being asked to do something a few steps closer to the real thing it stops being fantasy fun and becomes actual work. Going from sight reading just about anything to feebly plunking away at one string (and still fucking up most of the time) is an incredible blow to the ego. The only thing saving me is the picture I have in my head of rocking out to real songs with chords and solos, fingers nimbly dancing from fret to fret, but I have no idea if I will ever get there.

That level of frustration makes Clash of the Titans, a terrible movie cash in, a welcome relief. Here is a bad game that I can enjoy in an ironic way that takes no effort whatsoever. Trust me, it's terrible, and that is just what I need to sooth my crooked digits.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

After

There is a feeling you get during the extended seconds between losing control of your car and careening into an immovable (or sometimes four legged and running) object where you know something bad is going to happen but there is nothing you can do to stop it. You become an observer, curious yet apprehensive of what grievous injury may be in store. This is the exact feeling I had after putting together my pro guitar and starting up the tutorial. It was pleasantly narrated by an smooth sounding woman, but there was just a little tinge of mockery in her voice, as if to say 'you think you can do this, mister five button toy guitar? Here, I want you to hit this fret on this string at this time, nothing more, and I know you are going to fail.'

And fail I did, for almost an hour. The lessons provided are actually very good, breaking down songs into individual riffs that must be memorized. Sight reading is not longer an option; I am going to need to know what is coming and be prepared for it, lest I flail about the fretboard trying to find the correct string. This isn't even the same game anymore, and if last night was any indication of how things are going to go, it isn't going to be fun for a long, long time. This is work; starting over from scratch, hand mangling, wrist straining, why the fuck did I spend $150 on this work. At this point I want to succeed. I want to learn this because I think in the end it will  be more satisfying and I might actually learn something. We will see how long that lasts.

After guitar practice I went back to finish Dead Rising 2, only to find another brick wall waiting for me: bull shit bosses. The first game was guilty of this, too, so I should have expected no less, though for a game that is purportedly about zombies none of the actual undead have provided much of a challenge. They all pale in comparison to the old guy I am fighting now whose dive roll bends space and time, causing my attacks to pass through him as if he weren't physically there.

Or whoever programmed the collision detection hated gamers, one of the two.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Before

My pro guitar controller is waiting for me to pick it up after work. Right now I am excited and more than a little nervous. A great deal of money is about to be dropped on a peripheral that I may touch once and then bash to a million pieces. Honestly, I can see bringing it home and not touching it in favor of finally finishing off Dead Rising 2.

No. That is the cowards way out. I am going to buy the damn guitar and use it. Right ba

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nothing has changed, nothing stays the same

I think I am paying Dead Rising 2 wrong. There is a great deal of nonsense available to fill time, if time was something that could be wasted in this game, that I am skipping over entirely because simpler, more effective options are available. For example, every time I leave the safe room I can find the materials to create two excellent combo weapons: a bat with nails in it and an axe duct tapped to a sledge hammer. There are something around 48 other combo weapons, not to mention swords and guitars and stuffed animals laying around everywhere, but no reason to use them because two are more than good enough for most purposes. Even when I do come across a better weapon, like filling a leaf blower up with precious gems, the necessary ingredients are few and far between.

Not that you need much more than a spiked bat to deal with the shambling undead. Zombies are diluted to being part of the environment: they are nothing to fear, only an annoyance to be avoided. The only real threats are the psychos, and then the pendulum swings wildly in the opposite direction. Most take far more hits to kill than is reasonable. This creates a very big problem with the games consistency. Chuck is able to take out ten zombies at a time with a single swing of a makeshift weapon, but when confronted with a living opponent shotgun blasts to the torso are simply shrugged off. There are some rednecks hanging out on the roof above a courtyard, taking pot shots at everyone I bring past, and I cannot find a way to get up to them. Instead I found a handgun and started to shoot back. Drawing upon years of ingrained shooter reflexes I drew a bead on the first giant, pale melon and squeezed off a few shots. He barely noticed. Now I know that heavy drinking and do some wondrous things, but making a person bullet proof is not one of them.

There is one more complaint, but it is not one that is specific to Dead Rising 2, or to any other game for that matter. One of the biggest things I was hoping for when new hardware was forced upon us five years ago was consistency in the environments. Specifically, if I break a window in a store front I want it to stay broken. I want to be able to walk by the damage later and think to myself 'Now what hardcore mother fucker did this? Oh yeah, that was me.' Dead Rising 2 doesn't have this and it would be so much better if it did. As it stands every time I walk past a bank of slot machines money is laying on the ground in the same places. If I break into a closed store and trash the place it will be better after a loading screen. The 3000+ corpses that I have bashed to pieces simply vanish when I turn my back. Fuck motion control and body tracking and voice commands and all that bull shit, I what the world I create in a game to be the same when I walk out the door. Right now almost all of gaming is like Groundhogs Day without Bill Murray.

You know what got this right? Doom. How sad is that?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Re-Un-Dead

There was a definite moment of hesitation when between when I sat down in front of TV and actually starting to play Dead Rising 2. This first game was good, but there was an odd mix of tedium and desperation that was difficult to bare. I do not like being given options or quests that I cannot conceivably accomplish with the abilities I currently have, and Dead Rising did this constantly. Here, rescue this person on the opposite end of the mall when you are just not powerful enough to wade through the undead horde and make it back in time to accomplish the next mandatory objective! Eventually I gave up and just let all the innocents die, something that I want to avoid in Dead Rising 2. Things did not start of well, with an old lady that I was trying to lead to safety wandering off and being eaten and a stripper who I had to desert to make the time limit for another quest dying to an errant broad sword swing when I made it back to check on her. This is game that wants to be played more than once, or at least started over when I die, and I really don't want to play it that way.

Maybe I will portray Chuck as one of the psychos he runs across and just murder the living along with the dead. That was how I ended the demo, with Chuck beating two fans to death just because he did not have the time to jump through the hoops that wanted in exchange for an item that was useless to them. Why stop now?

It really is exactly the same game in a different setting, identical to the point that I wonder why it took so long to get it done. Maybe Capcom need the extra time to squeeze in more fan service to their other games. So far Chuck's daughter is playing Mega Man on her generic hand held and there is a Blanka mask for sale in the pawn shop. It can only go down hill from here, so I might as well put on a hoop skirt, wield a gold club, and enjoy the hand basket ride.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More armor, less cleavage

Okay, time for a real post.

I only realized that Vanquish was by the same studio that unleashed Bayonetta onto the world after I looked them up on wikipedia, but having learned this everything about the game suddenly makes more sense. I liked everything about Bayonetta that had nothing to to with the titular character. It was only fun if I ignored that gratuitousness. Vanquish is down right tame in comparison, with a protagonist trying very hard to be Snake, right down to smoking between every fight and complaining that he never gets to finish one. I am not going to say that the actual combat in Vanquish is better than Bayonetta. It is not as deep and a little more friendly to mashing out rocket launcher shots. But I will say that Vanquish was much more fun simply because it was much less in my face about everything little thing it did. It is proof that you can have a relatively frantic action game without filling it with t&a and still make fun to play.

There were much more difficult modes to go through, including God Hard which I unlocked after finishing it on normal, but such personal abuse does not hold my attention. I walked away from Demon's Souls because it was hard for no reason beyond being hard, so I am certainly not going to subject myself to games modes designed to drive revenue towards replacement third party controllers. Work and life are full enough of stress, I don't need to add more in my few hours of daily leisure time.

Which makes me wonder why I still play Street Fighter. Nothing angers up the blood like losing to flowchart Kens. I can't blame them for using tactics that work, though, and it is no ones fault but my own for not simply slowing down my own game and punishing blocked flaming srk's. There are plenty of fireball spamming Ryu's out there, too, but I ran into a completely different kind last night: a turtle Ryu. As soon as the match started he hit down back and sat there, throwing out a fireballs at annoyingly safe intervals. This is actually a reasonable tactic to use on Blanka, as as soon as a Blanka player gets impatient (not that that ever happens to me....) he will beat himself with unsafe moves. Sure enough after half a match of doing nothing I got reckless, attempted hop in throws, and was punished accordingly. Next time I was smarter, got a life lead, and turtled him right back. It was at this point that I realized this Ryu player was not nearly as good as I gave him credit for: he had no other plan. He was a toothless Ryu, incapable of mounting his own offense even when I started coward crouching under fireballs. It was still not at easy fight, but I did win and it was a good test of my nerves. Doing nothing only works when your opponent is afraid of you doing something. Without conditioning an opponent to hesitate you are just wasting everyones time.

This is how I used to roll



No, I am not one of the neckbeards pictured.

But I kind of wish I was.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

He's alive?

Sunday's post, after re-reading my Rooney impression (note: I honestly thought he was dead, but the cranky old bastard still lives, God bless him), can be distilled into one complaint: Halo is just not exciting anymore. I came into the original Halo late, having put off the purchase of an oXbox in favor of a Gamecube, a decision that to this day I stand by. On top of that I was already a veteran of fast paced PC shooters like Unreal Tournament, one of my favorite modes being low-grav instigib, so the Master Chief felt like he was constantly walking through hip deep mud. In spite of this the game was still exciting. It was incredibly polished, had great music, interesting physics and a story that was leagues ahead of most shooter fair. Then Bungie did it four more times and the whole formula is just old. Yes, each version got a little bigger, but it also got more and more multiplayer focused, and the single player suffered as a result. After the credits in Reach there is a message from Bungie thinking the fans, telling them to keep up the good work online and in the forge, saying nothing about future story installments of the franchise. It read very much like a good bye, and it is about time.

On the opposite end of things I find myself really enjoying Vanquish. It feels a lot like Ninja Sword with tighter controls and better graphics, and I really liked Ninja Sword. It is also brutally difficult, but deaths are rarely cheap shots, so it does not fall into the Ninja Gaiden category of  'fuck this game, it is bad for my heart.' It even has the audacity to keep score and display it on the screen at all times, something that I thought had been lost generations ago, The Club not withstanding. I can tell simply from the way that I sit in my gaming chair that I am invested, leaning forward far enough that the beer on my table is just out of reach but not having time to drink from it anyway. It is a stark contrast to Reach, which was played from a slouched position, interrupted only when attacked by multiple hunters who could one shot kill me from across the level, and then it was just to turn things off.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taking on the big boys

For a series that has received (almost) universal praise over the years, Halo still has a lot of out and out bull shit in it that everyone, including myself, has simply been looking past. A game being really good for around 90% of the time makes it easy to do so, but no longer! After five games across two generations of hardware there is no excuse for a few of these things. I spent a solid five hours with Reach last night and by the time I was done my tolerance for Halo's warts was just about gone. So now it is time to vent, Andy Rooney style.

Did you ever notice that the warthog has been almost undrivable since the first Halo on the oXbox? Many, many games have come and gone since that feature vehicles as a part of their game play, and every single one of them is easier to get to move in a straight line than the warthog. It's not that Bungie can't make good vehicles, most of the Covenant hardware actually controls very well. The warthog is so bad that even the games own AI can't handle them, blundering into the now intricately detailed scenery over and over as you try to draw a bead on frog hopping elites with the chain gone. This little bit of bull shit has been forgiven for years, even though at least two of the games' ending sequences forces you to drive one of the damn things over impossible terrain and against a time limit. If Reach ends in a gauntlet against the clock I am just going to let Number Six die, the whole planet is going to be glassed anyway.

Did you ever wonder why a Spartan's ability to take damage is wildly inconsistent? I can survive bullets, plasma fire, most grenades and god damn orbital re-entry, but one hit from an elite's energy sword of a swipe of a hunter's shield and I am done for. It gets even worse than that: one of the other spartans just dies to a single sniper bullet to the head even though I had been absorbing the same punishment for a half dozen missions. Why? Because the plot required it. No spoiler here, everyone on Reach dies, but at least obey your own established rules while you kill them off.

Have you ever asked yourself why Bungie can't seem to wring as much out of the now five year old hardware as other developers (ie Epic)? Reach has the same texture pop in that plagued Halo 3. It is better than it was, but it still shows up in cut scenes of all places and is very distracting. There have also been a few moments that got so out of hand that the frame rate dropped down into the single digits, something that I have not scene in a 'AAA' title for along time. Here's a hint Bungie, if you design a section that the hardware can't handle, and everyone playing the game is on pretty much the same hardware, maybe you should rethink what you are doing.

I could go on with complaints like why can I only hold two different weapons at a time or only two of each kind of grenade, but those are nothing new to Halo. Reach has a few new oddities, like not giving you a new way point until you wander around the level for five minutes. When the levels are full of things to shoot they are fun, but as soon as the action stops and you are looking for the next door they become as boring as any other shooter with unintuitive level design. The new space combat is excellent, better looking than anything I played in my twenty hours of Dark Star One, and with a little bit of tweaking could be a game onto itself. But no, after a bit of ham handed self sacrifice I was literally thrown back down to the surface for more of the same shooting that hasn't changed in nine years.

Halo Reach is exactly what I thought it was going to be, so I shouldn't be disappointed. It is still better than most of the other shooters that I fill my time with, yet it still feels stagnant and old. Remember the subtitle of the first game, Combat Evolved? Evolution this time consists of underused space levels and a jet pack stolen from Tribes 2 (poorly, I might add). Bungie should have let this series go two titles ago. It just isn't much fun anymore.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comfort clicks

There is something comforting about a good Diablo clone. I am not going to talk about Torchlight much, as it is over a year old and everyone in the world with a reasonable computer and clicking finger has already played it, but I will say that sitting down in front of my keyboard and mouse was a little like coming home again. I have no idea if I will finish it this time, as I have started this game on three separate occasions, but the three hours I spent with it made me wonder why I neglect my PC so much. It is an entirely different experience than console gaming, a more personal one fraught with greater danger and more compelling rewards. There is also much more frustration, which seeing Cryostasis sitting in my un-played virtual pile of Steam game reminded me. I like knowing that what I bring home will run without questions. Upgrading a computer is of course fun, but I lack the fund to do so on a regular basis.

Thank goodness Torchlight would run on my phone if it had to.

Back to Rock Band 3 this evening. There are around twenty songs that are left out of the career mode, most of which will force me to drop the level down to a more manageable difficulty to get through.

Maybe I should just give up and buy the keyboard, or upgrade my drums, or finally be a TE stick?

Bah, I am disgusted by my wussiness. Soldier on, and be terrible!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I have no agenda

No agenda, no political leanings, no feeling about this issue whatsoever. I am not trying to make a point or point out anyone else's points, good or bad. I don't vote, don't care and think everyone should leave each other the fuck alone.

But no one says douchebag like George Takei.



If I weren't straight I would kiss him full on the lips. I might do that anyway.

But that song on the end isn't helping anyones cause. Good lord.

Fear and loathing in my basement

Guitar Hero 2 came out in 2007. I bought the game twice, once on the PS2 and once on the XBox 360. I will never tell anyone that I am any good at the game, but I did manage to get through every song on Expert, save one: Free Bird. That song haunted me for years, right up until Smash Hits, when they replaced all of the hammer on meedlies with the touch pad. Strumming was no longer an issue, I could just mash on the buttons and get two thirds of the notes. In other words, that didn't count. Free Bird is back as an Impossible tier song in Rock Band 3. At the beginning things felt good. 'I have three more years of experience under my belt,' I thought, 'surely this time I will at least squeak by with three stars.'

I failed in exactly the same place that I would fail in Guitar Hero 2. Then I failed Rainbow in the Dark. Then I failed 25 or 6 to 4. Guitar Hero Warrior of Rock's assists had allowed me to forget what difficult really was. It was not much fun to have it come roaring back and knock me right down off of my comfortable perch. At least this time I was able ti finish the songs thanks to no fail mode, but it was like wearing the pink ribbon in Ninja Gaiden: it just means that I suck.

If I can't even do this, why in the world am I going to subject myself to a controller with around 100 more buttons? Sadism? Perhaps.

Only Halo Reach and Vanquish shipping kept me from pull that $60 of credit and buying something with it (probably Fallout New Vegas). Perhaps I should avoid it this evening and play something else. It would be nice if there was a XBLA release worth playing. YuGiOh? Still?

Fuck that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bright light! Bright light!

Gamefly has betrayed me and I have nothing to play right now. I was desperate enough to re-download Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light just to play its free five level add on. It was as good as I remember, but these levels were incredibly difficult. Had they been part of the main game I would have complained more, but as a bite sized zero cost gift they will do just fine. Having gotten through them, though, I have no desire to go back.

The new dashboard update is hideous. It feels like the entire thing was designed around a peripheral that I will never purchase, one that requires lots of space, abundant light and a complete lack of self respect. I play in a seated position with a controller in a darkened room, so I guess I am screwed.

Watching the video I posted yesterday for a second time again has me second guessing the impending purchase all over again. That is some scary, scary shit. I want to believe in the dexterity of my digits but there is a limit to the shapes they can be forced in to. It also doesn't help that I have nothing to play right now other than Rock Band 3, am about ready to take a break from Street Fighter, and have $60 of credit hiding out with the Gamestopo.

I never did finish Torchlight, so there is always that.

Shit, there goes the week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

AHHHHHHHHH!!!!



AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Ahem.

So here's my problem with the way Dragon Age plays fast and loose with its fiction. Take into account other excellent Bioware titles. No where in Mass Effect are there blatant ads for un-purchased downloadable content. NPC's did not walk up to you in Neverwinter Nights and offer you quests that will only cost you $15 to attempt. Romances in Baldur's Gate 2 were not locked out just because you had not yet purchased the latest chapter. All of these games did of course have excellent add ons, and in the case of Neverwinter Nights the add ons were better than the game itself, but they were never advertised by 'in character' characters. The first Dragon Age had a quests available from the main camp that would dump you out to the Xbox Live marketplace if you didn't already have it. Some would call convenience. I would call it reaching for your wallet right through the fourth wall in a way that is both intrusive and unnecessary. I have no problem with downloadable content, but keep the ads for it away from what I am already playing.

Which brings us to the Penny Arcade belt. I would not call Dragon Age, as a series, very funny. There is not much levity to be had when you parents are killed and the monstrous hordes are rampaging across the countryside, destroying whatever they cannot eat. It is a dark game. That is one of its strengths. A belt that offers immunities based on what happened to kill the previous owner belongs in Deathspank, not Dragon Age, and not to pick on Gabe's art, but he does funny much better than serious. To me it just feels out of place and is pandering to a market that they already had. Like nerds need another reason to play Dragon Age (note: I did not actually think the first one was anything better than okay).

I find no fault with Gabe and Tycho for this, they are running a business and I seriously doubt that this was created for free. Given Bioware's history I find it hard to believe that this was their idea, either. Nothing of the sort has appeared in any other of their games. So who is left? Why, if it isn't an old evil that had been looking pretty normal lately: EA. Come now, EA, just because Activision is now bigger and douchbagier doesn't mean you should go and try to get your old title back. You have an excellent stable of developers now making profitable games and releasing timely content to keep the money rolling in. You gotta know when to stop, and it was about two good ideas ago. Let the game be the game and keep the ads somewhere else.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Dr Phil of gaming

Sometimes I really wonder what 'professional' writers were expecting when they write bitchy reviews. When I come across a game that tickles my fancy, currently Front Mission Evolved, I will go back and take a peek at what people who are actually paid for opinions thought about it, simply out of curiosity. It usually serves as a reminder that what I like and what I am supposed to like are rarely in line with one another. Case in point, Front Mission Evolved is a relatively simple third person shooter with rudimentary customization options that looks good, controls well and sport nice big explosions. I had fun with it last night, will finish it tonight, because I am taking it for what it is, not complaining about what it isn't.

Now read this review (it isn't very long).

It is quite clear to me that our reviewer friend went in expecting an experience on par with Chromehounds, got a souped version of MechAssault, and never got over his disappointment. Most of his complaints are simply not applicable, as this is just a dumb action game, the equivalent of an 80's action flick, and is not supposed to be some deep experience in micromanagement and battlefield tactics. You are encouraged to blow shit up in a giant robot, occasionally get out the robot in levels that should really have been left out, then get back in and blow more shit up. What's not to like? Every game does not need to be a giant sandbox allowing you to pick and choose everything little thing, waste time with pointless activities, then gather up a dozen AI partners to lead an assault in which you must simultaneously be commando and general to succeed.

Is Front Mission Evolved a AAA title that I will come back to years from now as a shining example of anything? Of course not, but it is fun and a good way to kill a weekend, and I was not expecting anything else out of it.

This was an oddly positive entry. I know, tomorrow I will complain about how Bioware is cheapening their own fiction in Dragon Age II by incorporating silly items designed by web comic writers. Imagine if Count Strahd von Zarovich had a Pepsi machine in front of his Ravenloft castle, because that is where this is going to end up.

+50 nerd points if you know who Strahd is. Or were Ravenloft is. Or if you ever rolled a 1 there and killed yourself with a vorpal sword.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The runaway gamer

Not much to say today. Played Rock Band 3 until I couldn't anymore. Sultans of Swing makes me happy. Beautiful People is oddly out of place. And this:



This is supposed to be an easy song, and it frightens me. I am honestly getting cold feet. Is it worth dropping $150 on this new controller? Will I have enough time to get good at it? How long until I bash in on the ground out of frustration? There is already around $70 out down on the thing, so I could get a game instead. I meant to pick up DJ Hero 2. Or I could finally bite the bullet and pick up a TE Madcatz stick.

I just don't know. This is all preemptive excuse making and there is no denying it. I went in planning on getting it and I should follow through on it, if only to potentially develop a usable skill beyond five colored buttons and a plastic strum bar. It's just that I am already mediocre at so many things, do I really need one more?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Retribution!

I never once accused Dark Star One being anything beyond derivative, but ending the game with a death star trench run is the height of laziness. It was nearly frame for frame the same, right down to the meeting before hand with a holographic display and the hero ship just barely escaping. There were a few non-space levels before this one, and they were all terrible, this one being the worst of the lot. The physics that the game used did not translate well to a non zero gravity environment. Add in no longer knowing which way is up and you have a more nauseating, less interesting cousin of Descent. Anything would have been better, even just you against a giant capital ship in a fight to the death. I should not have expected more, but was disappointed anyway. My delusions failed me and I was left knowing that I had wasted a week on this game that I cannot have back.

The night was not a total loss, though, as I trolled ranked in Super Street Fighter 4, and I do mean trolled. I went in with the intention of playing the biggest asshole Blanka I could, just to see what would happen. And guess what? I went something like 14 and 1, losing only to a pretty good Akuma who knew how do deal with my bull shit. The rest? They fell victim to crossover hop throws, jab xx electricity, and other general shenanigans. One person dropped out of the match as soon as he saw who I was playing, which I count as a win. I like to imagine the Ryu that I beat by the skin of my teeth with an empty jump throw hurling his controller down in disgust, cursing my name and stomping around the room, but only because I have done that exact same thing more times than I care to admit.

Revenge is sweet, even if it is misplaced.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sassy

Playing Rock Band 3 last night was like the return of an old friend who had only gotten cooler in his absence, but was still for some reason willing to hang out with me. A few things had changed, most of them for the better, a few (like the angle of the note highway) for the worse, and the Rock Band 2 import didn't actually work until I was about to go to bed, but the months of absence had indeed made my heart grow fonder. Throughout the evening I received several invites to play with other people, none of which I accepted. Rock Band is not an online multiplayer game for me. It is about me regressing in age by many years and playing pretend with plastic instruments, something that I do not want to share with anyone else. I have only engaged in full band in person rocking on two occasions, and neither time was it nearly as much fun as doing things at my own pace. The first time the gulf in skill was so great between myself and everyone else playing that I got bored, and the second? The person singing was so bad that I had to take over, and I don't sing.

Ever. At least when anyone is around. And I still held a tune better than he did.

In an act of malicious irony, GameFly shipped Green Day Rock Band a few days ago. That shit is getting sent straight back.

As much as I would like to give Rock Band days and days of contiguous attention, my fingers lack the stamina required and I will have to take a day off. I suppose I could play the drums instead, but I really want to finish Dark Star One. There is no excuse for me enjoying this game. It is not the game that I am fooling myself into thinking it is. Perhaps my desire for a true sequel to Freelancer is so great that I have unconsciously deluded myself into accepting this unworthy imitation. I want it to be better than it is, so I just pretend that it actually is so.

Hey, I just figured out why so many people play Halo.

...Damn, that site didn't like my hot linking. At least it wasn't goatse.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Terrible news

I walked into a GameStop this afternoon, arms laden with every Guitar Hero game that I had ever purchased, fully intent on trading the lot in and buying Rock Band 3 with that scary new controller. The register biscuits drooled over my loot, only to tell me that the new guitar has been pushed back to next month. I didn't want to believe them, so walked over to Best Buy and asked the person walking around media department with a clipboard and walkie talkie, trying very hard to look like she knew what she was talking about, and they had even less information. I was crushed, but I bought Rock Band 3 anyway, deserted the entire Guitar Hero franchise by trading in all of the games for a pre-order, and now will just have to wait until next month. I had not made up my mind until I got out of my car in the parking lot and the gods of gaming decided to turn me away.

At least this way I will be able to get through all of the songs at a reasonable difficult before starting over again. The same thing happened when I made the move to drums, and even then I have yet to make the leap from Hard to Expert. Having worked up the courage to be terrible again once I can only hope that I have the stones to do it again.

I would buy the keyboard, but I am already having a difficult time justifying the expense when I know that it will eventually get left behind and replaced by terrible games that I have rented. And yes, this means that I am still playing Dark Star One for no good reason. I have been doing the same thing in the game for the last several days, am still amused by it, and don't know why.

Repressed childhood fantasies of being Captain Kirk and following my penis around the galaxy, blowing shit up and chasing Technicolor women. Or not.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A different kind of defeat

I have been bested in just about every game I have ever played with another person. I have seen defeat in everything from Catan to Halo and not felt like less of a man for it. Either I learn something from the loss or I just don't care enough about the game to bother trying again. It is not often, however, that I am bested by a beer.


First of all, I freely admit that I bought this beer just because it has a kick ass name, but I am not unfamiliar with high proof stouts. A few years ago I spent an unfortunate New Years Eve alone with Stuntman Ignition and a six pack of Lion's Stout. It turned into a little drinking game: every time I crashed, I took a drink. Being a Stuntman game, it ran me through five of the six rather quickly. Upon realizing that I could no longer make it up the stairs to my bed I curled up on the floor and listen to Miles Davis, 'Kind of Blue' until the room stopped spinning, which took several hours.

Last night I had one Old Rasputin and I was finished drinking. Every sip was a kick, and compounded with having eaten very little, it was more than enough. I was reminded of the drunken emergency scramble mission in Wing Commander 3 as I skipped around the universe in Dark Star One.

Of course, thinking about Wing Commander 3 made me remember how bad Dark Star One really is. Why am I still playing this?