Sunday, May 30, 2010

Some is not enough.

There is a huge disconnect between what I want Mr. John Marstan to me and what he actually is. All his reactions to events are predetermined, and nothing that I do will change that. This means that even though I am playing him as a truly repentant ex-villain who does everything he can to make up for his past, he still threatens people with death on a regular basis. Even though I use a rifle all the time his abilities never improve, defaulting back to his handgun whenever possible. John Marstan is not mine; I no control over him beyond pointing him in a direction and aiming. This would not be as frustrating if I had not been spoiled by the likes of Oblivion and Mass Effect 2. In Oblivion my character was a dirty, evil thief, and I played him that way from beginning to end. He once killed an old women in her house, stepped out so he only charged with trespassing, then moved into said house, leaving her corpse in the chair for several months. Mass Effect 2 let me control everything Shephard said and did, and this level of interaction made his victory even sweeter. Red Dead Redemption offers none of these things. It is an excellent game, but simply does not create the experience that other games have.

To be fair, complaining about Red Dead Revolver not being an RPG is really stupid. That is not what this game is. I just look forward to a day when genres are no longer barriers between ideas. Fallout 3 was a start, Red Dead could have been another, instead it really is Grand Theft Horses, with all the bonuses and hindrances that entails.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Relaxation

The pace of Red Dead Revolver is wonderfully laid back. Sure, there are always missions to be done, but there are bounties to collect, horses to corral, black, poker, and horse shoes to be plaid, or I could just set off into the wilderness and hunt. The variety is staggering, but not out of place, and not forced upon me. If I wanted to just gut out story missions one after another I could. There is even fast travel between most of them. But to do so would be to miss the point of a game about the old west. Nothing happened quickly then, nothing apart from gun fights that is. Even then it was more about the anticipation of the violence than the violence itself.

I would type more, but my arms are shiny red and throbbing. I ventured into the great outdoors and down to the lakefront for a kite festival today. I enjoyed it, in spite of three separate people tripping over my lines while I was trying to get things ready. Listen people, you are at a goddamn kite festival. There are kites everywhere, do not look at me like an idiot when you trip over strings on the ground, especially when you walked directly between me and my fucking kite.

After the second one I almost left, but being out around people is a good exercise for me. I just hate them so much...

Friday, May 28, 2010

The unfortunate mirror

Nobody like mirror matches. Something about have to deal with all the tricks and moves you normally throw out just sucks the fun out of the game. Last night's PA ranbats say me wade through not one but two mirror matches against another Blanka. What makes it even worse is that they were with the same person, and he is better than I am. He played a very, very patient down-back Blanka, and this play style has many advantages over the way I play. My Blanka is aggressive, but not overly so, because I lack the skills to go into full blown pressure mode. I suppose my Blanka is reactionary and reliant on my knowledge of the opposing player and character, and this really doesn't work in a mirror match. Our first meeting was a route on his part, he countered everything I had and then some. Later, in the losers bracket, we fought again, and I managed to alter my style towards his just enough to win, but it really wasn't much fun.

Beating a dictator player who had in the past given me fits was a lot of fun, and I let him know it.

I came in third, behind the organizer who has fallen back to his Chun Li roots after dabbling with Ibuki. It was a good choice, his Chun is much better. He came in second in Cody, and to here him talk about it things weren't even close. I believe I have played this person, and it was ugly. Still, third place is pretty good for not playing for a week.

Tonight, and the entire weekend, are dedicated to moseying and nothing else. There might be some rustling, possible some whoring, definitely some bounty hunting, but no street fighting, and certainly no fairytale fighting.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Design by committee.

Vice President #1: So we have this Unreal engine licensed. Apparently it's a really big deal. What should we do with it?

Vice President #2: A shooter? Wait, there are some good ones of those floating around. A driving game?

Vice President #3: A brawler?

VP1: Of course! We haven't seen a good one of those in years!

VP2: What about Castle Crashers and Dishwasher Samurai?

VP3: Haven't you heard? Downloadable games don't count.

VP1: Quite right. Now we need an idea for this game, something that hasn't been done before, but nothing too original because I don't want to hire any artists or writers. Ideas? Anyone? Hey, what are you doing over there?

VP3: Me? Oh, uh, research.

VP1: On your laptop? And what was all that screaming?

VP2: (looks) That's disgusting! Why did that rabbit just pluck out the skunk's eyes with a fork? And why does that moose have an upside down antler? Oh god, he skinning the rabbit with a rusty saw!

VP3: (sighs) My four year old son found this after I put him down in front of my computer so I could go drink and flirt with the maid. I just think they are kind of funny.

VP1: ...and easy to copy frame for frame! That will be our brawler! And so we don't have to pay anyone any royalties, we will replace all the animals with public domain fairy tale characters! I'm brilliant!

VP2: Yes, yes, now could you please put your pants back on?

VP1: I will not. Moving on, shall we throw some silly control scheme at this and call it innovative?

VP3: The left analog stick never seems to get used very much. Why don't we use that to control the attacks?

VP2: You mean like Too Human?

VP3: Sure, but instead of holding it in a direction we will force the player to jam it back and forth. Maybe we can get a kickback from Madcatz.

VP1: An excellent premise. What time is it?

VP2: 9:30.

VP1: Let's call it a day, I have an important personal meeting.

VP3: Do you want your pants?

VP1: Of course not. I'm not sure I was even wearing any when I arrived.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm just not a very good cowboy

I am not an evil cowboy, a Snideley Whiplash complete with curly mustache or anything like that. Everything I do is with the best intentions, I just don't succeed very often. For example, I was returning from another botched bounty run (I have yet to figure out how bring someone in alive. The poor bastard I was chasing had taken a shot to both knees and was still firing. A punch to the face and he died.) when a random person ran past me screaming that 'they' were going to hang his friend and that he 'ain't done nothin' wrong!' For a few seconds I contemplated the double negative in his statement. If he hadn't done nothing wrong, that meant that he had indeed done something wrong, and that he deserved the punishment he was about to receive. But did he really mean that, or had the scarcity of teeth in his mouth garbled his words? I decided to ask him, but he had run off. I followed at a leisurely pace and found that there was indeed someone about to be hung, and the people doing the hanging clearly didn't want an audience. I took a few shots at the rope, trying my best to be just like Clint Eastwood from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but had to stop and defend myself just long enough to not end up full of lead. No good, just bad and ugly. The victim dangled from the tree and his friend sobbed. I shot the rope anyway, just to prove that I could when given enough time, and mosied off.

This is just one of many side missions that has appeared randomly as I wandered the countryside. I have run across deputies abusing prisoners who turned their attention to me when I drew a gun on him. There is a man in town who calls me chicken headed every time I walk past, demanding a duel. I found a religious nut dying in the desert, brought her medicine, and left her there when she refused to come back with me. There are all of such quality that it is difficult to tell what is important and what is not, so to avoid missing things I just do them all. This is going to take me a while.

In the interest of keeping the games moving in and out Red Dead Redemption is going to be put on the same schedule as Final Fantasy XIII was, but not because I need a break from it; I just want it to last. Tonight I will jump back into the shallow end of the game pool and give Fairytale Fights a shot. I do not place much stock in most reviews, but this game has received universal hatred, which means I will probably enjoy it on some base, unspeakable level.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Howdy

My initial impression of Red Dead Redemption is about the same as everyone elses has been: holy shit. I only got to play for about an hour and a half last night, but every minute was gold. The minimal introduction works very well; I don't want to know a lot about the hero, he is supposed to be mysterious. But he is not a scum bag either, being quite polite to just about everyone and turning down illicit female encounters on account of being married and faithful, a rarity for any character coming out of a Rockstar studio. Things are opening up very slowly, keeping me a narrow path while I get the hang of the basics. When violence finally does break out the game betrays its grand theft roots, but nothing is offensive, just unremarkable. I am not playing this game for the action, anyway, I am playing for the ambiance (and cool hats), and unless things get incredibly repetitive I am going to mosey my way about, in no hurry to get anywhere. It makes me wonder why there is even a button to make the main character run, no one seems to be in a big rush to do anything, and if they are, just shoot them in the knee.

This day one infatuation with a game is not a new thing. The first few hours of just about anything are the most fun. There is no pent up frustration from previous sessions or dread of upcoming tasks, just a blank slate for the game to (hopefully) lovingly display itself on. This short time of innocence is part of what keeps me moving from game to game. I want to give everything that passing under my thumbs the benefit of the doubt, it's just that they usually end up being shit, which is okay because I like to complain almost as much as I like to game.

Monday, May 24, 2010

There's no place like home...

There was a very good article in this months Game Informer (crazy, I know!) about the bizarre video games legislation in Australia. Just in case anyone doesn't know what it is, there is no rating for 18+ for games there. If a game is deemed worse than 15+ it just doesn't come out, and people who actually are adults are driven to piracy or importing to play undiluted games. I have no problem with rating content. On the contrary I think it is a requirement that there is an easy way for a person to look at a game's box and decide who it is appropriate for. What is insulting about what Australia has done is that they are basically saying that no one over the age of fifteen actually wants to play games aimed at them. The message is clear: games are kid's stuff.

It is easy to blame this on the generation(s) gap between the people making the laws and the people who have to live under them, but I really think there is more to it than that. It is very true that an entire generation of people are mostly unexposed to games beyond the tripe that PopCap puts out, but their opinions cannot simply be dismissed. To do so feeds into their 'get the damn kids off my lawn' attitude. Intelligent, respected people like Roger Ebert are at the forefront, at least in this country, and he has had very few nice things to say about gaming. In a nutshell, he says that they are not art and that they cannot be art (thankfully neither he nor anyone else has made a serious move on actually baning games with adult content, but keep an eye on the religious right, they're crazy). To a certain extent, I agree, but I have to add the word 'yet.' It is easy to forget how new gaming really is. Just a few days ago Pac-Man had its twentieth anniversary, and look how it compares to what we have now. If you compare games to movies, one of their closest cousins, games are still in their infancy; they just have bigger and better toys to play with at twenty years than movies did. Gaming has to pay its dues, survive for a few more decades, outlive its critics and have more history to its credit before it will be seen as much more than a child's activity to people from the outside. I have no doubt that it will make it and I look forward to what the next fifty years of gaming has to offer. And while I do not agree with the people who dismiss games as a waste of time, I do not dismiss their opinions, because I am sure that there will be something that I too will bitch about when I am old and grey.

Plus, eventually, they will all die.

Lost Planet 2's ending consisted of about two dozen guys shooting rockets at a giant glowing amoeba, as if to remind anyone who had forgotten that yes, this game is Japanese in origin. I'm not saying it was a bad ending; it did a very good job of building empathy for the faceless teams that I had been playing, but it was definitely rather odd.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The grand Wii conspiracy.

On Friday night I ventured out of the friendly confines of my corner of the basement and joined a friend for beers. Between rounds of Delirium Nocturne (this is a beer, not a game) he tried once more to turn my mood from anti-Wii to on of general complacence toward it. This time he pulled out a bit of Wii-ware that I had heard about but dismissed: Castlevania Remixed or Revisited or Rehashed, I can't remember which. After I got my hands around using the Wii-mote as an actual controller and not as an imaginary conductors baton I found a Castlevania game very much in the spirit of the original: unforgivingly difficult and full of things that will kill you just for not knowing they were coming. It was still a step behind Super Castlevania 4 (8 way whipping is not something easily forgotten), and it actually allowed you to change direction mid-jump, but I pushed my way through three very good levels before my lives ran out and it was time to play something else. As he was shutting the Wii down he browsed past a few of the 'channels,' intentionally pausing on each of the original Castlevania games, dangling them like bait in front of a reluctantly hungry animal. The Wii version of XBLA is full of these things: treasures from the past (some actually by Treasure) that have held up remarkably well. 2D Castlevania games are ageless, will always be playable, and seeing them has the same effect as mentioning Deus Ex to old school PC gamers.

For a few moments I was tempted; a black Wii would not stick out compared to my other consoles and would open the door for innumerable off color jokes. Then I realized exactly what these re-releases and updates were: a distraction. They are Nintendo's slick way of saying, 'sure, we only have a good new game every few months, but look at all the excellent old stuff we have! Who needs new technology and advancements in graphics and game play, you can live in the past!' I don't have time to replay recent games, much less ones that I haven't looked at for years, regardless of how good they still are. Nice try, Nintendo, but I see what you did there, and I don't have enough interest in Mario Kart Again, Super Mario Galaxy 2: Super Mario 64 3 or Shitty port of XB360 game to warrant the purchase.

It took about an hours worth of fooling around, but I snuck past the train vs sand worm level in Lost Planet 2 last night, and things moved along quite well after. I assumed that I would bring it to a close in short order, but the 'desert pirates with Cheech and Chong accents vs military transport and giant spider' levels took quite a while, and may be the best that the game has had to offer. There were relatively clear objective, an interesting level to run around in, and the game stopped taking itself so dreadfully seriously. I can see how Lost Planet 2 would be a lot of fun with human company, but they would have to be people competent enough to work together and communicate beyond tea bagging and laughing at each others pain. In other words, random people will not work, and would most likely be worse the shepherding the AI.

Dude, did you see that?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just when things are looking up

I could not resist jumping into the PA ranbat last night even though I knew it would take all night and leave nothing for a second attempt at that evil Lost Planet 2 level. Things were actually go very well for me at first. I took five out of six matches in the prelims, my one loss coming from a Dictator, which is not unusual. I played a few casuals while everyone else was finishing up and the other person in the lobby warned me about a really good Dhalsim that had given him the business. I missed who it was, played for a while, then started my round one match up. Of course, it was the Dhalsim, and what is already a difficult match for Blanka became much, much worse as this guy made me look foolish at every opportunity. In the middle of the second match I confessed that I really had no idea what to do, and to my surprise he countered that Blanka's are usually difficult for him. That made me feel great, and it got even better when the person who won the tournament ended up being a Blanka player who I had beaten in a mirror match last week. This really proves that knowing your own character will only get you so far. I was clueless about the Dhalsim match up and it showed. Pick a shoto or Zangief or Ibuki and I know most of what you can bring to the table.

Just as I was about to pout myself right off of the internet an ex-Abel player asked to play a few games with his new main: T Hawk. This guy's Abel was terrifying, so I was nervous but curious about the giant native american. It was not a runaway; I actually took a match or two from him, but I could listen to him talking out new tactics and figuring out what worked and what didn't. For example, a hawk dive is easily countered by Blanka's ducking fierce, standing medium or vertical ball, but only if the dive hits in front or above him. If the dive comes in just past the vertical midpoint or behind none of the moves work and it is best to block and punish, and it's really hard to tell the dive apart. One my one he went through all of my tricks, learning what to do to counter them. By the time we were done I was reduced to pokes and punishing safe jump ins with ex-vertical balls. I'd like to think I rose to the occasion and played to the level of my opponent. If only I could keep this from happening when I play people who are terrible.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Caution, a new turd approaches!

The train level in Lost Planet 2 has a gotten a bit of a reputation as either being really cool or total bullshit, depending on who you ask and how successful they were. It feels a lot like an assault level from Unreal Tournament 2004, just on a smaller scale. You start in the back of one train being chased by another. The enemy train slowly creeps up on you, giving you plenty of time to snipe fools in the distance sticking their heads out (pretty cool). This ends abruptly when turrets begin to lob area affect shells in through the windows of your car, knocking you and your buddies out of the open doors to their deaths (bullshit). The turrets are not invincible, but getting a clean shot at them from one moving train to another is very difficult, and throwing grenades out of the windows almost always results in it bouncing around the interior before killing everyone inside (funny, but bullshit). Eventually the train passes and you end up leaping from one track to the other (pretty cool) with a quick time event in between (bullshit). The fight back up to the front of the train is intense, especially if the bad guys get the mech in the middle first (pretty cool). It doesn’t really get out of hand until you come across all the turrets from the first section that you didn’t manage to destroy. This time they can draw a bead on you through the dusty air, through windows and around corners with more shells that knock you right of the edge to your death (bullshit).

All off of this has been forgivable. A 50/50 balance of cool and bullshit is better than most games manage. Then you get to a puzzle sequence where you need to cool a giant gun, load it with ammo, aim it and then fire it at a refugee from Dune. Oh, and all of this needs to be done without any instructions or useable clues on how to do it (bullshit). The AI guys wandering around the platform, comically lugging shells bigger than they were was not the problem. They knew their part, I just couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do. So I died. No problem, restart and try again.

From the beginning of the chapter.

BULLSHIT.

I really want to pretend to be Doc Holiday. Going back to this is going to be a chore, especially if I jump into the PA ranbat tonight, which I really should do because someone I beat last week won on Tuesday, and he plays Ibuki, who is also bullshit.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

...and I'll be grouchy if I want to

I cannot remember the last time I played co-op anything. Strike that, it was Crackdown, and that was more kicking a friend off of the top of a tall building and following him down with a well aimed rocket. Outside of Street Fighter, gaming is not a social activity for me, so the need for cooperative games is something that I don't understand and cannot in good faith condone. It is a relief that coop-centric games like Left 4 Dead are kind enough to include AI companions; I appreciate the extra effort. I had read that without three friends Lost Planet 2 was just a chore to play, and so far this has not been the case. Sure, some things probably took a little longer because by computer buddies have terrible aim, but that has not been a deal breaker as of yet. The option is there to drag along real people if you are that terrified of being alone, but the hermit way is still viable.

My multiplayer gaming habits have not always been this way. In console generations past, when I actually maintained a gaming computer, I spent a great deal of time with Unreal Tournament, Call of Duty, and other shooters. I never got so into it that I got a headset and discussed tactics with teammates, but it was a lot of fun and I wasn't terrible. When I moved on to Guild Wars I found that AI squad members, while not as powerful as people, were more reliable. They didn't show up late, they never argued about what quest I wanted to do, they never fought with me over loot. If I was looking for social interaction I would, well I don't know what I would do because that is not something I ever look for. This is why I question why a lot of people sink hours of their life into MMO's. Some of them really are there for the game itself, the story and buiding a character. Many, many more are there for a glorified chat room with a night elf fetish. I have no desire to interact with these people; they can have their world, I don't want to be in it.

It speaks to the hobby well that it can house people with such opposing viewpoints and we can effectively stay out of each others way. When our paths do intersect it is filled with uncomfortble silence and the shuffling of feet, then the socialites move on and I am as relieved at their passing as they are to be rid of me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Constipated mayhem

This is actually my second attempt at today’s entry. I fell asleep near the end the first time, closed the window in a panic, actually chose ‘do not save,’ and then wondered where all of my words went.

I have never enjoyed a GTA past the point of stealing the largest vehicle possible and dangerously tooling around the city using pedestrians and peace officers as target practice. This lasted for around an hour with GTA3, Vice City and San Andreas were completely skipped, and was completely unsuccessful with GTA4. After answering my cell phone and playing darts with my douche bag brother or cousin or whatever he was for an hour I have up. The plot and setting were just not interesting, the cars handled terribly, and there was not enough mayhem available from the outside to hold my short attention. Red Dead Redemption has been described as Grand Theft Horses, so I should not be interested. Western games, especially good western games, are so rare that it over rules by prejudice against GTA in favor of big hats, saloons and shoot outs. I enjoyed Gun, and that wasn’t even that good, so my hopes for the new Red Dead are high. And even if it is bad it will give me an excuse to watch Tombstone again and play in the Doc Holiday drinking game. (Drink alone until you are dead. You win!)

Between me and the wide open spaces stands Lost Planet 2, and even that was delayed by another fruitless evening of trying to learn Dee Jay. After losing with him consistently for an hour I jumped back to my main, only to find that failing for so long conditioned me to keep failing. No matter, if I am going to play poorly I may as well play poorly while oiled up or being racially insensitive. Everything is better when it offends someone who takes himself too seriously; that goes double for virtual fisticuffs with pink Native Americans.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It never did get better.

Heavy Rain, which I promised not to spoil but am going to do anyway, never improved. I caught more than few movie cliches, up to and including Hanibal Lector killing a census taker, but it did so without the self deprecating humour required to make such thievery acceptable. There were also quite a few plot holes and things that are never explained. Perhaps it is because one of the main characters died in the final act, but that should be no excuse to let the following things slip through:

Ethan (the father of the kidnapped child) thinks that he is the killer. I thought he was the killer for quite a while, as well, mostly because he has occasional blackouts and wakes up origami figures in his hand. When the police find out about these lapses (by assaulting his shrink) they go out looking for him. In the end, he was innocent, but neither the black outs nor his visions on drowning children are ever explained.

Madison (the biker chick hottie) figures out who the killer is before anyone else. She calls the drug addict FBI agent and tells him the whole thing. He says he already knows, but this isn't true. I had just been playing as the FBI agent and he pointed the finger at another cop as being the bad guy. He may have had the right place, but he had the wrong idea of the killers identity.

The actual killer had been a player character the entire time, which was actually a pretty good plot twist, but knowing he was the killer makes quite a few of his previous actions nonsensical. He had been investigating the murders that he had done, visiting victims parents and fishing for information. He then accused someone else of being the murderer (he was just a copy cat killer), killing about a dozen goons and the copy cats father in the process. He was not a good villain...

(times passes)

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, at least Heavy Rain hasn't left me with a bad game aftertaste. It's more of a mediocre movie malaise. There was a free extra mission that downloaded automatically when I started it up, but I forgot about it and have already sent the game on its way. No big loss as far as I am concerned.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dangerous semantics

Heavy Rain wastes no time in calling itself an interactive drama. In truth, there is no more game here than there was in Dragon's Lair or Space Ace, only now losing a scene does not always equal death. I did not come to this party to be impressed by the controls, I came because I was interested in the story, and Quantic calling it an interactive drama lets me know that I am going to get what I came for. Unfortunately, calling it a drama opens it up to all sorts of critiques that video games aren't normally subject to. Okay, so it's a drama that I have to push buttons, occasionally in finger crunching combination, to see. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the actual drama being terrible because there is nothing else to fall back on to hold my interest. I also have a problem with what they are deciding to make interactive; I have changed my share of diapers, changing one in a video game is not immersive. It just gives me flashbacks to my soon projectile pooping on the wall at 2:00 AM.

The story, an odd combination of Kojak and Saw, is not original, not engaging, full of suspect voice acting, and generally not that much fun to push buttons to see. Indigo Prophecy's batshit insane third act is a relief compared to some of this stuff, and I do not see the completely telegraphed double switch ending as bringing any relief. What this game does have are some of the best looking faces I have ever seen, but the wow factor of walking around a room and opening cabinets ended with Shenmue, and even that had a few real real time fights to spice things up. This game is too new to spoil, so I will refrain from specific plot related bitching, but I will say that not calling the cops when someone sends you a box of origami figures and a cell phone with video on it of you son drowning is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. Almost as dumb as throwing two shower scenes (on for the ladies, one for the men) in the first hour or so of the game. Quantic has a thing for asses, apparently, they certainly hired more then a few to handle the writing.

Wait, where's Gordon?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Off the rails.

Well, it's not as bad as that sounds, but I didn't get anything done last night. Instead of starting Heavy Rain spent far to long trying to get the front inputs on my computer to do something, thinking that just maybe I could use those in combination with Windows Media Center to record match replays. That didn't work (at all) so then I did research on internal and external capture cards. Good ones start at over $100, which rules that out, so then I pouted for a little while and by then it was too late to bother starting a new game.

You can guess what I defaulted to.

I fought a very spammy Cammy last night that confused both myself and someone much better than me. His actions were almost random, but they worked, so I had to go into full defense mode to pull out a win. If I can brag for just a second, I have gotten pretty good at adjusting on the fly to opponents play styles. As long as they are in the same league as I am I will eventually figure things out. This doesn't help when they figure me out first, of course, but I have to hang my hat on something.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Back on track.

It has been a few days since I have mentioned anything about Street Fighter, which makes sense because it has been more than a few days since I had last put any time in on it. Adon has been mostly abandoned; his tricks and combos are simply beyond my ability at this time. He will stay in reserve, to be used exclusively in endless matches when I have no one else to play. Dee Jay, on the other hand, will probably find himself in the regular rotation. He is a charge character, which keeps me from having to fight too many of my Blanka reflexes, and he works in either rush down or turtle mode. Everything he has combos off of his crouching medium punch; moving the good combos from practice mode to real life will take time, but they feel much more attainable than anything Adon had (I think I pulled off rising jaguar FADC ultra II once, and that was is practice mode). On top of everything else he is just fun to play. The new (and completely dissmisable) tier rankings were not kind to him, but I am not good enough for the tiers to actually make a difference.

I think I am comfortable in my mediocre state. While my Blanka would never make it very far into a tournament, it is rare that I am embarrassed, and I am only occasionally free. A few matches I had against an exceptional Abel come to mind. I lost every time, but towards the end I wasn’t losing as badly, so I was at the very least adapting slowly. Last night I ran into a very good Dudley who I took down to the last hit of the last round of a three game match. I panicked, managed to throw out a mostly random super, and it was over, but they were very good matches and I really should find a way to upload them somewhere. After that I fought my way back to the finals of the PA ranbat, just to run into a Cody who has yet to lose. This was the first really good Cody I had ever fought, and while I won the first match, the outcome was never really in doubt. He stayed calm, learned my moves, and I could not come up with new ones fast enough. It was a good loss, a learning loss, as was the loss to Dudley.

Coming in second in the first semi-organized play I have had in Super doesn’t hurt either, as does beating a Chun Li that has owned me in the past.

I am going to try to run through Heavy Rain over the weekend. Indigo Prophecy never really jumped the shark for me. Yes, it got silly in the last third, but most games do. It will be interesting to see what kind of ‘experience’ they put together with more money and time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yes, but was it any good?

Final Fantasy XIII ended right at bed time last night, which was convinient. The last few bosses were actually easier than the monsters that surrounded them, which makes me wonder why I spent so much time killing them for XP. The final opponent has the same out of left field feel at Fate from Final Fantasy X, but in a game that has made little to no sense for forty hours I would expect no less. I am a sucker for Square endings, so when the crystalized child and girlfriend showed up it brought up a relectant smile, but as the credits rolled I was forced to ask myself: was it really any good? Even asking teh question betrays the answer. RPG's like Skies of Arcadia, Nocturne and Shadow Hearts Covenant left me with a feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction with what happened in the plot, and the Shadows Heart's case, a manly tear or two. XIII has the same kind of bitter sweet ending, with two of the characters not making it through to the end, but one of them I had been wishing death upon since first meeting her and the other was so boring I hardly noticed her passing. I didn't care about their sacrifice, even if it did save the whole world. I would have settled for just not listening to them talk anymore.

While this is hardly an endorsement, XIII was not a bad game. It is just not a great game, and certainly not up to what I expect from Square. As Final Fantasy's have moved on their stories have made less and less sense. For example:

VII - Cloud wants to kill Sephiroth, loses girlfriend to lack of phoenix down, finds out he is the same thing as Sephiroth, kills him.

VIII - a group of zany kids finght a big evil queen bent on destroying world, plus a bunch of other stuff I don't remember.

IX - Zidane 'kidnaps' giant headed princess, goes on adventures, defies (and kills) fate, has a happy ending.

X - Tidus has existential crisis, realizes that he doesn't really exist, kills own father with assistance of Auron (who also doesn't exist), Yuna gets emo.

X-2 - Yuna ditches robes for hot pants, yet refuses to have lesbian sex with Payne and Rikku, Tidus still isn't real

XII - um, big evil corporation? bunny girl? judges?

XIII - city in the sky threatened by mechanical gods? underworld full of monsters you can't fight until after the end of the game? I have no idea.

I can't wait for Final Fantasy XIV - shit happens, kill it, level up while doing so. It was not a waste of 40 hours, but it was not my favorite 40 hours of gaming either.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why did I look?

The final area of Final Fantasy XIII is dragging on a bit (okay, a lot) so I decided to take a quick peek at how much I had left. There are no less than seven boss battles to go, each with upwards of 3 million hitpoint to whittle down. I would have been better off not knowing, as part of me really doesn't want to bother with it. I will persevere and finish it, because that is what I do, but that does not mean the odd balance decisions are not going to piss me off. For the vast majority of the game none of the combat has been that difficult. Paying attention to when healing was needed was enough to push through. Now, it the last dungeon, the game has decided to make up for things with random enemies that would make Nocturne jealous. (Note: one of the gaming achievement I am most proud of was finishing Nocturne. That game was hard, but consistently hard, and at least it was fair about it). Not getting the advantage at the beginning of a battle equals death, so I wasting many items and a great deal of money to get it. I have done no griding and I will certainly not backtrack to do any now, I just don't enjoy the sudden spike.

In a stunning turn of events Lost Planet 2 has been sent out, braking by streak of playing games that are more than month old. Hopefully Heavy Rain will no be too long, as it would be nice to get caught up on things before November. This is the most consistent use my PS3 has ever seen, I hope it survives.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Things that never die.

Gamecubes.

I am sitting in a McDonald's that still has Gamecubes set up for kids to play. As far as I can tell (without staring and getting picked up on suspicion of pedophilia) there have some old Madden and a Spyro game, and the kids are loving it. It is easy to forget how simple things can be and still be entertaining, and that once something is fun just aging doesn't take away that potential for enjoyment. It is difficult to get past the technology and graphics whoring, but being hung up on resolution and textures is a great way to miss out on things. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else who went out and bought a TV just for gaming and expects to get his money's worth. I used to love Nintendo; before the Gamecube came out I had summarily dismissed Microsoft's effort as a big company pushing its way in through the out door. Nintendo was where it was at, and the Gamecube did not disappoint (aside from the almost total lack of third party titles, something Nintendo has never actually solved).

Now I dismiss the Wii and have latched on to the Xbox. I dismiss the Wii because I hate motion controls. I dismiss it because Nintendo had the audacity to release a system behind the cutting edge. Sitting here, watching little kids yell and scream while mashing button on immortal Gamecube kiosks, I remember what it was like before becoming a cynical old bastard who passes his evenings playing games that he sometimes doesn't even like. Have I gone astray from what I used to enjoy, or is this the natural progression for someone whose first console experience was an Atari 2600 and has never stopped? Long term study is needed, and by that I mean I really need to finish Final Fantasy soon so I can focus on other things.

Emo goomba is emo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sony and the path of least effort.

So, I didn't like Little Big Planet.

To paraphrase that very old review, my complaints about Little Big Planet were grievous and two fold. First of all it was not a good platformer. Moving from plane to plane resulted to far to many deaths, controls were unresponsive, everything felt floaty and disconnected; it was a mess of a game. Secondly, they barely made a game to begin with. This is Garry's Mod, the full priced game, and it made zero sense to me. Why would I play full price for a game that amounts to shitty platforming and a box full of tools that are impossible to use? Maybe make a good game first, then release editors later. Sony did it the other way around, and for some reason that I cannot fathom people bought into it, paying $60 to make their own game that looks exactly like all the other games that other people are making. These are the same people who live for the thrill of people commenting on their facebook pages, who feel bad when someone unfriends them, and who twitter about how satisfying their last bowel movement was. Little Big Planet was a shell of a game, relying on players' egos and lack of other plans to make the game for them. And they have just announced they are doing it for the second time.

This time around they are going to allow for the creation of games across multiple genres, all of which will be copies of existing games that have already been done to death. If I wanted to make my own levels I would buy a god damn box of Lego's (which, oddly enough, would cost more). I don't understand why this is fun, and yet it will sell millions. There are people out there whose means of feeding and housing themselves is to make games. They went to school for it, work at it for many hours in a day, and occasionally turn out absolute gems that would be a crime to miss. Why would I (or most anyone else) assume we can do better? Or do it at all? And I don't want to hear about people making levels for games like Counterstrike and Battlefield. The people who are good enough to be noticed end of getting jobs in the industry, Everyone else just remakes Face in UT for the thousandth time.

Here it is: Little Big Planet's 'user created' gimmick is a bull shit way to make less game and make more money doing it. And it works. So have fun playing your remake of the mine cart levels from Donkey Kong Country that will disappear into total obscurity in a few weeks. I'll be over here enjoying games made by people who know what the fuck they are doing.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Progress, I think.

It honestly looks like I slept played through about fifteen minutes of battles two nights ago. The area with the save point was recognizable, but back tracking just a few rooms had me scratching my head. This is not the first time I have fallen asleep while gaming (Forza 3 saw me drive into a wall while bobbing my head) but it is the first time I have made positive progress in a semi-unconscious state. Well, there was the drinking game I created around Stuntman Ignition: every time I crashed, I took a drink. Three hours and a six pack of Lion Stout later I was passed out on the floor of my basement, but I remembered to save my game before hitting the ground, and my scores actually got better as the night went along. But that was the only time that happened, really!

Part of what saved the first twenty or so hours of Final Fantasy XIII from being boringly linear, as opposed to just linear, was the constant shuffling of the party. Everyone was not available at all times; on the contrary, I didn't have a full squad of three for many hours, and even then people were shuffled in and out quite often. This hid how boring most of the characters were by forcing them to interact with one another with no one else around. Sazh developed this strange fatherly attitude towards Tenille, up until he almost killed her. Hope developed a creepy crush/new mommy feeling towards Lighting. No one liked or talked much to Snow, which was fine with me. Now that the whole party is together all the time and everyone has kissed and made up, there is no conflict to move things along. Yes, there is still a bad guy, but he is nebulous and unseen; definitely not a character I can hate and use as a focus point to keep playing (see Kefka and Sephiroth for examples of how to do it right). Even the combat has suffered from the freedom. While it is quite possible to create all sorts of different combinations with the six characters, there is no reason to. Experience is shared equally amongst the cast even if they never see actual combat. I have been using Lightning, Fang and Hope for the last ten hours. Not because I like them, mind you, just because I have my paradigms set and don't want to go through the trouble of making new ones.

It sounds strange, but Final Fantasy XIII was actually better when I had no choice about what was going on. It was still (trying) to tell a story. Now I am just grinding through enemies trying to get to the end before the next game shows up, and the next game is Heavy Rain, which will once again monopolize my time for several days.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

This combat is pretty goo...ZZZzzz...

Going back to Final Fantasy XIII after a weeks layoff what not as bad as I expected. I remembered all the wrong ways that I wandered the last time I played so I was able to move the plot along at a reasonable pace. As I made my way through the wilderness it became more and more obvious that there are enemies that I am just not supposed to fight right now. I stumbled across a powered of version of boss that I fought about twenty hours ago who sported 1.5 million hit points. I survived for about twenty minutes, did minimal damage, then had me lead character one shot killed. Retry, thankfully, does not actually mean retry. It started me just outside of the bosses attack range, so I turned tail and ran. This is a optional boss there specifically for the post-game, and I am not sure how I feel about that.

It has taken me a bit, but I have found that my favorite part of combat are the few seconds after I select a command that there is nothing for me to do. This is just enough time to grab a drink of beer from my handy chair side table and be back into the action. The down side is that I managed to fall asleep in the middle of one of these gaps. I am really not sure how much I missed, but the other members of the party were able to finish the battle and I regained consciousness to the post battle recap screen. I limped to a save point, then limped off to bed, realizing that combat that literally puts be to sleep probably isn't that good after all.

Off to watch the Midwest Championchips stream and wonder where my balls went.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's all downhill from here.

Remember when I said that I didn't understand all the complaints about Aliens vs Predator? Never mind. I do now, they just didn't kick in until the end of the game. The final two levels of the predator campaign were bullied through using nothing but his one hit kill javelin. Stealth became useless, melee was suicide (which was okay because it wasn't any fun anyway), the flying bladed disc didn't do enough damage and his laser run dry on power far to quickly. You would think that a creature that can self destruct in such a way that takes out several city blocks would have better batteries. Look at me, applying common sense to a game about aliens killing each other. At least there was a boss battle this time around: a giant pred-alien running around a room filled with lava. It was a silly battle, so silly that the game refills your laser energy constantly, admitting that there was no other way to do it.

I was more than a little disappointed when the alien missions did not start with running around as a face hugger, but they do give a good introduction to what the aliens are (just in case you have never seen any of the movies) and they do make your alien stand out from the rest. Number 6, as is branded on her forehead, is no more powerful than any other, but is just a little bit smarter (and not just because I was controlling her). The alien can walk on any surface, and just like the PC predecessor it sounds great but is very awkward in practice. While the level design keeps it from being too disorienting, making the transition from wall to ceiling, then jumping down on a marine and eating his face is nearly as fluid as it should be. I found myself avoiding the ceiling and walls entirely during combat, relying on speed to get me into and out of trouble. It worked, but it wasn't much fun. Aside from the initial training level there wasn't much new to look at. Both these levels and the predator ones are guilty of retreading a lot of ground from the marine campaign. Yes, it is nice to pull the three 'stories' together, but this can be down without dragging all three of them through the same set of caves. This was a wasted opportunity with only a few moments worth bothering to see.

Now to psyche myself up for another weekend of Final Fantasy.

Sigh.

Work.

Got home late again and decided to play Street Fighter instead of whip up a half assed entry. It was a pretty good night; went about 50/50 but had a lot of fun playing with random characters.

I will be back later to complain about Aliens vs Predator. It never got better.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The wrong end of the spectrum.

After finishing the marine campaign I was still at a lost as to what people have been complaining about. It is nothing remarkable, but it was not offensive either, and I have played some truly terrible shooters (cough Darkest of Days cough). The marine rookie survived his encounter with the only actor from the Alien movies who is so desperate for work he will be in or voice anything (with an achievement called 'GET TO THE CHOPPER!' for the trouble) and it was time to move on the predator levels.

Apparently the predator is made out of glass.

He is, at least in the beginning, completely melee based. This is not a problem for aliens, as the predator has some sort of immunity to their acid blood, but Marines have these things called guns that they like to shoot other things with. The marines can take you out in only a few shots, so getting in and killing quickly is a necessity; invisibility actually working would make this a bit easier, but once they see you the first time it is never very effective again. As soon as an enemy is knocked down there is the option of finishing them off with an overly long, overly gross finishing move that so transfixes the predator that nothing, not even being shot in the back with a smart gun, can break his concentration. Later on new weapons are found that don't eat up your energy to a few shots, but the melee requirements never really go away. I just don't feel like a predator; I feel like the unfortunate offspring of She-Hulk and Wolverine.

Just try to get that picture out of your head.


plus




At least they both probably survived the encounter. But ew.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

1 + 1 + 1 = none

As an idea or plot device, Aliens vs Predator should write itself. You take the aliens (or xenomorphs, since this age of political correctness knows no bounds) and you put them in a room with a predator at a ratio of around ten to one. That's all there is too it; throw several million dollars of special effects at it and how can you lose? There have been two movies of this so far, and neither of them were very good. The problem? People. People should not be the hero's the story, they should be the squishy things full of red goo that get splattered about while the two actual stars of the show go toe to toe. The two series had a few independent successes (before sequels and trilogies ruined them both), but every attempt to combine them in movie form has been decidedly less than the sum of its parts.

Video games have been a little more forgiving, as silly things like 'plot' and 'acting' are not as important. I never played the first game, but AvP2 on the PC was actually pretty good. Marine levels were tense and understandably difficult. Predator levels had you collecting skulls and spines for a good time and the alien levels induced vertigo at a rate not seen since Descent 3. I tried many times to play as the alien in multiplayer, always to find myself sticking to a wall when I wanted to be disemboweling someone, but it was fun none the less. The AvP reboot from Sega has all the right pieces so far; I do not understand many of the complaints that have been leveled against it. Of course it's a stereotypical shooter: you are killing monsters in dark places (with a working flashlight this time). This game has been made hundreds of times, but that doesn't mean that when I am creeping through a half flooded tunnel with a scant few rounds left in my smart gun that I don't nearly crap myself when a fully grown alien slides off of the wall and gives chase. It is tense but not frightening to play as the marine, and I really have no complaints.

The Predator and Alien may be a different story, but we will see. The one predator I fought as a marine went down a little too easily, which is a direct consequence of giving me a gun that reveals things that are invisible. I am hoping for the same stealth approach from the PC sequel. The alien campaign was especially deranged, with you starting off as a face hugger, stalking underpaid scientists in search of the perfect gut to develop in. It moved through each stage of the alien life cycle, getting quicker and more violent on the way. I do fear that the alien - walk on anything - mechanic will not work without a mouse and keyboard, but until then I will shoot everything that moves and enjoy it for what it is.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Game over, man!

Played very little last night, as I was out of the house until 1:00 am. What little time I had was spent in Street Fighter, and my lack of excitement proved it is time for a few days break.

Alien vs Predator has arrived. I know that it is not as good as AvP2 on the PC, but I am hoping that running around levels as a face hugger is not as difficult as I have heard.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Walking in circles.

No sooner had the training wheels come off of Final Fantasy XIII than I ended up wandering in circles for around four hours. These new sub-quests are just bounty hunts, but they are are a convenient way to make grinding now feel so grindy. The XP was good, but when the final plot moment I came across was little more than 'you really should have gone north like we told you to,' it felt like the game really didn't know what to do with itself. Oblivion did open world right. Fallout 3 did open world right while maintaining a compelling narrative. Final Fantasy never really was about an open world, which makes it small attempts feel all the more awkward. As much as I complained about the beautiful hallways the the previous hours were made up of, at least I was going somewhere.

A quick breakdown of an average hour of Super Street Fighter IV for me:

First thirty minuted - lose consistently with Adon. I have yet to figure out how to get in against anyone who can control spacing. And even when I do get in it still feels unnatural for me to stay there.

Second thirty minutes - I get tired of losing and go back to Blanka, who I am maintaining a 75% win percentage with. This is doing my Adon no favors, but it keeps me coming back to the game. Eventually I would like to branch out further to Dhalsim and Dee Jay, but that may require splitting away from my green friend completely.

Speaking of green protagonists, I have decided that Blanka has this creepy crush on Juri. To deal with this I have my Blanka set with his sixth taunt, which looks very much like he is purring. Then I purr at Juri at every opportunity. It looks ridiculous, has cost me a round or two, but it is completely worth it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Too much, too late.

I had seen quite a bit about how the tutorial for Final Fantasy XIII lasts over 25 hours. While this is clearly an exageration, it does take at least that long to feel anything like its name sake. For the first 24 hours of playtime I had this nagging feeling that I had put in a Star Ocean game and than Square was actually not invovled. Nothing in the environtments looked at all fatansy-ish; it was all techno-magic againt machine gun bearing soldiers. Now, after finally leaving Cocoon, it has settled down into a fanatasy setting. The area I am in now might as well be the Veldt. I half expect Gau to jump out at any moment and accost me with gutterals. A sub-quest has also made a long overdue appearance. These changes are all welcome, but they should have occured around 15 hours ago. Think back to Final Fantasy VII: how long did you really spend in Midgaar before the plate fell and Aeris died? Imagine spending an entire game there.

D&D warning!!!

Seeing Cocoon from the outside reminds me a great deal of Sigel from the Planescape universe. Sigel, the city of doors, exists inside a sphere that rests atop an infinately tall spire. It is the center of the multiverse, with portals to everywhere and nowhere. Cocoon is also the inside of a partially broken sphere that sits atop a tower. There area surrounding it is mostly barren, save for the roving beasts and ruined towns. I have no idea of any of this was intentional, but it is a little to spot on to be a coincidense.

Wait, what was that noise? Ah, it was just copy of Torment sitting in my drawer. Yes, I am sorry I never finished you, but I don't think you work in Windows 7!

The nameless one is not pleased with me.

Your soul is forfeit.

I'm screwed.