Thursday, September 30, 2010

More than the hands can handle

Guitar Hero-ing can never happen on concurrent days, and my wrists are too flimsy and weak to handle the strain. The last half hour was agony, and even as I began to miss notes because my fingers would not longer respond I pressed on. It's not like I don't have a tone of other stuff to play, so why suffer for multiple days in a row?

Next on the list of old games that were missed and still need playing is Transformers War for Cybertron. Hopes were high with this one, as Half Moon studios released Darkwatch. Darkwatch was very good, though it does hold the dubious honor of being the game that finally drove me to GameFly. I bought it and was done with it in two days, then traded it back in for half the money. Not a good investment, to be sure. Anyway, Transformers seems to have nothing to do with the recent movies, as it is set on their home planet of Cybertron instead of little Le Bouf's backyard. Aside from the nostalgia factor it is unremarkable, with the actions descending into chaos so quickly that even the mighty Megatron ends up getting taken down by cheap shots from unseen opponents. Once I figured out that I am better off starting and finishing all encounters from as far away as possible it got easier, but sniping from several football fields away doesn't feel very Megatron, it feels all smarmy and cheap, like Starscream.

I will say that Megatron is evil, through and through. Everyone is expendable, and he doesn't take shit from anyone or anything. Case in point:

Megatron: Decepticons, into the tunnel! (it was some sort of giant subway tunnel, complete with trains quite capable of crushing you)

Nameless Decepticon: Are you kidding?

Megatron: Yes, I am famous for my sense of humor. Now get in the tunnel before I dismantle you myself!

Hmm. It doesn't look that good on paper, but trust me it pretty awesome. Or at least amusing. Ok, so it wasn' that great, but it is better than watching that awkward, fully clothed sex scene from Darkwatch again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Epic proportions

Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock is a goddamn tragedy.

I make no secret of my fanboyism for the Guitar Hero franchise. Having been aboard since the PS2 debut of the original and having thrown obnoxious amounts of  money at the franchise, I see no reason to stop now. Sitting quite neatly on my gaming shelf are Guitar Heroes 2, 3, Aerosmith, Metallica, World Tour, 5, Van Halen and now WoR. They and sandwiched between Rock Bands 2 and Beatles (I just couldn't muster up any interest in Green Day, so shoot me). The only guitar that I like is the original XB360 version that came out with 2, so I have a stock pile of at least two back ups that I picked up on clearance at Best Buy. In spite of all of the I was more than a little hesitant yesterday. Even as I walked up to the register, game in hand, I was second guessing my investment. Of course it was a waste of $60, but was it going to be any fun? It didn't help the the media monkey in the game section didn't seem to know that the game had come out, and it really didn't help that it was in an unlabeled space at the bottom of the rack with a only a few copies available. I am far more stubborn than I am intelligent (and I am really not that bright) so I picked it up anyway, tucked it in my bag, and forgot about it for the next six hours.

As I rearranged my basement one more time to make room for standing I thought about how many hours I have spent strumming a plastic guitar or banging on rubber headed drums. These easily outnumber the hours spent being mediocre at Street Fighter; if all the Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands were one big game more effort would have been put into them than any other game I have every played. As soon as the game actually started all my reservations were gone. It was still Guitar Hero, nothing more. I never bothered to look at the set list so every song was a surprise. The story mode is just as silly and ignorable than ever, but this time you are forced to play a set with each character, with the songs in each set fitting the character theme. Johnny Napalm has a punk set, Judy Nails has playful 80's rock. The new characters are even better, with Echo receiving the industrial treatment and Austin's classic rock bunch being one of the best selections of songs I have ever played. There is a thematic consistency now to the character's bands and venues, with everything actually looking good together for the first time in, well, ever. And right when everything finally starts to gel together, it all goes right to shit.

I am completely sold on 75% of what the game has to offer. I smiled like an idiot during Bohemian Rhapsody, singing along (badly) even though I have never plugged my microphone in. Finally, after all these years, getting to play a little Dire Straights was a blessing. All that Neversoft had to do was stop there. It would not have been innovative, but it would have still been fun. I can even deal with there being somewhere around twenty stars available on every song because it has no effect on how I play the game.

Can you imagine the abortion of a meeting that spawned the idea of the characters transforming into the love children of Tim Burton and Todd McFarlane?

'You know,' says exec number one, 'I like what I see here, but I think it just might be too normal. What ideas do you have?'

'Well,' says exec number two, 'my kids, whom I neglect in a nearly criminal manner, like to shop at Hot Topic. Lets turns our now recognizable players into something that looks like that.'

'An excellent idea! Would your care for a baby as a light snack?'

And then the wonderful idea gets handed down to the people who actually make the games, who have actual babies to feed and not eat, and they have no choice. Someone deserves about a thousand nice hard kicks to the scrotum for this, and I aim to find out who.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Explosive intrusions

One sure way to judge the overall quality of a game is by walking away form the game (or finishing it) and seeing if anything comes back to haunt you in daily life. I was terrified of mannequins for weeks after Silent Hill 2, but that may be a bad example. In the few days after I played as much as I am going to play of Just Cause 2 I have done a considerable amount of driving. Every time I pass a cell phone tower I think about the best place to pull over so that I can lob a grenade out of the window and watch in collapse, crushing the poor fools who try to drive under it before it blocks the highway. I have also decided that this is more funny than creepy, mostly because I don't like thinking of myself as the unibomber type. Just Cause 2 got decidedly sillier as it went along, up to and including machine gun wielding ninjas and missile riding. In a game chocked full of ridiculous occurrences by literally having me jump between four intercontinental ballistic missiles while dodging the attacks of a bond villain with compensation issues. It was the perfect way to end a game that was much more self aware than any sand box I have played in for a long time.

After the credits rolled I was dropped back into mercenary mode. In other words, it was time to clean up all the little things that I missed the first time around. After a brief explanation I was told how little of the game I had actually done: 33.55%. After cleaning up the last faction that I missed, I checked the number again: 33.85%. Then I packed it up and sent it away. I liked the. Actually, I liked it a lot, but I cannot imagine anyone have the patience that would be required to drag that number all the way to 100%.

Of course it was been done, I just don't have the time to do it myself.

Xbox Live Marketplace has a knack for releasing things at just the wrong time, ensuring that I never get around to playing some of its offerings. I was shocked by the release of another Death Spank when I haven't even gotten around to the demo of the first one; talk about striking while the iron is hot. What did get purchased and what is being played right now is Alien Breed 2. I have a soft spot for dual stick shooters, especially when they go out of their way to mimic Shadowgrounds, the best game the sub-sub-genre has ever produced. Alien Breed 2 is little more than an excuse to blast things from an isometric viewpoint, but damn if it isn't a good time. Things are more difficult this time around as well. I spent a good portion of last night running backwards with a sliver of health and a worthless handgun, lobbing grenades in a vain attempt to keep the monsters at bay.

It didn't work.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's so big


Looks impressive, yes? And the kicker is that there is actually stuff to do in all of it. Just Cause 2 does not have a large, barren wasteland filled with generic trees and repeated textures. It is a living world where things are going on with or without your intervention. For example, I was tasked with landing my helicopter on the top of a skyscraper and defending it while other lackeys did nefarious things. On the way there, before I was close enough to have caused it, a plane flew right into the side of the building, exploded, and fell to the ground. I have no idea why this happened, but it was funny. There are of course larger worlds...

...but there is a point of diminishing returns. Fuel, for example, was shit. It was massive and there was nothing to do. Guild Wars Nightfall is interesting because it contains all of the original Guild Wars plus its own additions, so I am not sure if it really counts. It is not possible to simply walk from one side of the map to the other with no loading screens as it is in Just Cause 2 or Fuel. And Daggerfall, which I admit to having never played, it another giant empty space.

Thus ends the lesson in why size matters, but not as much as you would think.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Droogs stole my bits

There is nothing quite like irrevocably losing around 500 gig of unbacked up data to destroy your afternoon and completely negate any desire to do anything past sit and feel sorry for one's self, but I will soldier on.

Just Cause 2 has gotten something wonderfully backward, ensuring that I will spend much more time on it than I had planned. Usually the meat of a game is in the story missions, with side missions comprised of fetch quests and silly races. Just Cause 2 has races, of course, and they are silly, but there is really no reason to do them. Even better is that so far the side missions have been the highlight of the game, with the few story quests I have bothered with being downright pedestrian in comparison. Last night I stormed an island guarded my some sort of lightning machine and populated by Japanese World War II veterans who thought the conflict was still going on. It was both ridiculous and awesome, proving that Just Cause 2 made the right choice when it decided to never take itself seriously.

I have never managed to finish a GTA game even though the actual game play is indistinguishable from Just Cause 2 or Red Dead Revolver. They get to bogged down in un-fun minutiae and quickly lose my attention, where as giving me new and creative targets to blow up on a regular basis is a great way to keep me glued to your fantasy. Look at The Saboteur: from a distance the game really wasn't anything special, yet I had much more fun blowing up Nazis and driving away laughing and drinking a Guinness that is healthy. Just Cause 2 has the same drama, and I fear that following this with Crackdown 2, a game that got a resounding 'meh' from the community at large, will not be a good idea.

It looks like the only way to get my mind off of failed raid arrays is a bit of the old ultraviolence. So be it. 


Hmph. Still didn't work.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Living in the past

You would think that in the year or our lord 2010 most places that see themselves fit to charge even the most nominal fee for a place to sleep would contain a television produced in the last ten fucking years. I diligently packed up my 360 las night, thinking I would have av few hours to get work done on Just Cause 2, only to find a fossil of a CRT taking up the space that should be filled by something much thinner.This level of frustration is almost enough to goad me into running across the street, buying a PSP and some random game, then playing it for the two hours between now and when I go to bed. Only knowing that I would very rarely use such a device stops me. It has been a long, long time since I have owned a handheld, and it is only on boring, sober nights away from home like tonight that I miss them. Handheld games have never held the same immersion for me as sitting to close to a TV and turning off the lights. I am never able to forget that what I am playing is nothing more than a game, mostly because my hands are always in plain sight. No matter how interesting the game is it is always bound by my grubby mitts, pulling me back to the real world.

The most fun I ever had with a handheld was trolling pictochat at a video games convention. Nothing like a room full of video game store managers, all of whom had been given a DS the year prior, to bring out the anonymous dickheads. It's a wonder we weren't all fired.

Oh god, I just turned on the TV. It's like I am back in the early 90's. Shoot me now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I wish my TV fit in my car

Actually, it would, but it is going to be full of other shit.

Of on another hotel stay tomorrow. I really hope there are component inputs on the TV.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bitter with boxing gloves

I really didn't want to talk about Just Cause 2. It is a relatively old game and there are much newer ones that I should be playing but am not because I am cheap and lazy. Then I realized that I talk about Street Fighter all the damn time, plus no one reads this anyway, so why am I censoring myself? I posted pictures of Cho Aniki several months back and have made at least one if not two drunken rambles. How much worse could it possible get?

How Just Cause 2 look or how it plays aren't really what I want to talk about anyway. Both get the job done with minimal flair and maximum vehicular homicide. But how the game sounds, specifically the voice acting, demands attention. Our hero, whose name I have actually forgotten, sports some kind vague Hispanic accent that is both moderately offensive if I was one of those people who is easily offended (I am not) and incredibly generic. For hours there was something about it that bothered be, but I could not pinpoint it. Finally, after this line was uttered:

"You have two choices. Either you come with me quietly or I will cut off your hands and bitch slap you with them until we get to where we are going!"

that I realized that he sounds exactly like Strong Bad.


It was uncanny. He even acts a bit like Strong Bad, making occasional asides about how awesome he is and how well thing seem to explode when he is around. I know that this was not intentional and it is probably the result of having spent far, far too many hours of my life in front of a screen of some sort, but yet I have convinced myself that I am somehow playing Homestar Runner, the free form action game.

Even bringing up Strong Bad dates me a bit. I have no idea if they still update anymore, or if they are 'cool' are not, but it is certainly not a new thing.

On that note, I came across a site called 2old2play today. My first reaction was 'gah, learn to spell, losers,' but then I decided to take a quick peek at things. Maybe they really were trying to appeal to the growing market of 30 somethings who are reluctant to give up on childish things. So I wandered into their forums.

When did mid twenties become old?

This is a bit of an exaggeration, as there were a few people who were approaching my advanced age, but that is not the lesson learned by this little exercise. The only true thing to take away from a site that I will not be returning to is that douchbagery has no age limit. On the contrary, at least people in their late teens/early twenties have an excuse: they are all idiots and don't know any better. You would think that by 30 people would learn how to not be a douchebag. It turns out they just distill the art into some sort of hyper-douche.

...

Okay, this is also not fair, I didn't even look at much there, I just like to complain, and they have a dumb name. And I wanted to say hyper-douche.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Universal limitations

Warning, non game related post incoming!

This is just a friendly reminder that Tim Reynolds is cooler than you. He is cooler than me. He is cooler than anyone related to you or any one you have ever know. He is also cooler than anyone you like and anyone you think is talented in anything.

Need proof?

Don't know who he is?

Here you go:



Nothing more needs to be said.

Reversal

I hate Gamefly.

It never fails that when I start to enjoy a game that is going to make more then a few days to finish they ship me another one just like it. Today I got a text stating the Crackdown 2 has just shipped.

Jerks!

I've got nothing today, and probably nothing tomorrow, as I am going to go watch a movie instead of game.

At least for two hours.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Unintentional avoidance

There really isn't much to say about Just Cause 2. It is leagues better than the first game was, is nice and sand boxy, and will fill the time between now and when the next game arrives. It is also several months old, so everyone who wants it play it probably already has, me being the only exception.

It is interesting to look at my friends list and see just about everyone playing Halo. It reaches right across fans of disparate genres, pulling them together into a single frantic orgy of tea bagging and high explosives. I would join them, albeit briefly, but my monies are allocated to a new (bad) Guitar Hero, a new (good) DJ Hero and a new plastic guitar that frightens me so much that I must own it. Oh, and the good music game that goes with it. It is fun to mock Halo, but it is also foolish. Now that the series is officially done I would love to see Bungie release some multi-platform masterpiece in a completely separate universe in a totally different genre. These talented people have been a slave to the Master Chief for an eternity. I long to see what else they are capable of.

I just hope they don't end up like Rare.

Burn.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dodge this!

I love Gamefly.

There are so many games out there that are excellent but only warrant a few hours of my time. OK, excellent is a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps there are lots and lots of really good games and not enough hours in the day. Who am I kidding, I have little else to do but limited funds. Regardless of the reason, Deathsmiles got its allocated three hours last night and I could not be happier with it. I always enjoy smups in small doses but never have the patience or skill to actually get good at any, so spending an evening burning continues like there is no tomorrow on a game that I will never look at again is actually a pretty good time. Deathsmiles comes from Core, famous for any number of other shooters, and while it never actually reaches true bullet hell levels, it is defiantly never a walk in the park. It would have helped if I understood at least some of the game mechanics instead of hammering at button wondering why I kept dying to the only bullet on the screen. A quick summary, and I am not making any of this up:

Choose one of four underage girls who have wings somewhere (head, back, etc).
Fly around the screen with a demon or two in tow.
Kill lots and lots of stuff.
???
Profit!

Somewhere in there hides an incredibly deep bonus system that trades the skulls of defeated enemies for extra power and a points multiplier. I don't really understand how it works, but at least once I did everything right and racked up about a billion points in just one section of one level. That is more than I managed to score, cumulatively, for the rest of the night, so some practice would really have paid off. In this way it is a lot like Ikaruga: there is surviving, and there is looking good and scoring a ton of points doing it. I never looked good, and didn't really live very long either, but it was still a lot of fun.

Once I got past one of the selectable characters being eleven years old, that is. I don't really understand the choice, but I suppose there is precedent for little girls flying around and killing things, at least in Japan-land.

For your enjoyment, this is final section and boss, played on difficulty level 999. (it goes 1, 2, 3, 999. The jump from 3 to 999 is akin to walking around the block and then deciding to circumnavigate the world without a fucking boat. I did not attempt it.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I am not confused, really

I get the feeling that there are large chunks of Kane and Lynch 2 sitting around on the floor over at Io. Maybe they were just to graphic or too violent, maybe there were just not very good, or perhaps they were just too lazy to go back and polish up their old ideas. This really is about half of a game. What is here was not terrible, in a grainy 'I want to be like Manhunt now that Manhunt doesn't seem so bad anymore' way. There was an odd reverse difficulty curve, as the weapons you start with and that the introductory thugs drop when murdered are universally terrible. I couldn't hit shit with them, yet Asian miscreants are able to pick me of at ridiculous yardage with Uzi's. It's just not fair. Things even out later when soldiers start dropping fanciful rifles that are accurate to hell and back, but they come at you by the dozens so it is pretty much a necessity.

There are of course plot holes and completely implausible things happening all the time, but none of them are so far past what other mediocre actions games have done that they are deal breakers. One of the final sections find you being ferried around a skyscraper in a helicopter, knocking out windows (and entire sections of the building) with large caliber machine guns. This was the first and only time that the poorly recorded VHS filter actually made sense, lending the same kind of eerie plausibility to what was going on as whatever Call of Duty saw you shooting insurgents from a gunship at 30,000 feet (seriously, they all blend together after a while). It was the best part of the game, and it was basically on on rails shooter section, which is not really a resounding endorsement, but it is better than playing nothing and watching television instead.

Until House starts up again. Hugh Laurie.... **SWOON**

Um, er, must recover this...

MANLY THINGS: The New Dante!






Shit. That didn't help at all. What the hell is that? That's Dante? Looks more like a refugee from Trainspotting who listens to too much My Chemical Romance.

Apparently some Halo related thing came out recently. This would explain why no one showed up for ranbats last night. But at least we got our team battle in. I wish understood where my flashes of competence came from. After stinking up the whole place for several matches I ran through the members of the team by myself. Granted, one was not playing his main, and if he was he would have (and has) murdered me, but another was right about equal to me skill wise. The third was someone whose Chun Li I had never beaten and I may never beat again.

Looks like there is some life left in the old balls still. Perhaps it is not quite time to desert him.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Whoops

Heh, I actually forgot to post today, and I wanted to talk at least a little about Kane and Lynch 2.

Oh well.

For a brief, shining moment tonight I played far, far above my ability. Then one of the people I beat started to take things seriously and it got quite ugly.

But at least I had to be taken seriously!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Clarity

Alright, some catching up is in order.

Amnesia ended on Friday night, and while I could still see straight by the time I was done it did not help the ending make any more sense. After around six hours of build up there was pretty much no where left to go with the story, so the game end on a cheap 'chose you own adventure' of three possible, equally worthless, endings. I am okay with this because the story, while interesting, was never really the point. All of the diary entries and back story were just means to and end: creating more atmosphere and unnerving the player, and it always worked. Resolution was not important, as there was no good guy here. The last minute repentance of Daniel is rather pointless, as instead of using what he knows to stop the 'bad guys' he decides to wipe his own memory and then send his clueless future self back to do his dirty work. He screwed himself, then left little notes behind to make sure that he hated himself by the time he was done. It makes sense, in a horror story kind of way, which was good enough for me.

I know I complained about the monster design earlier, and I was mostly wrong. They do not show up very often, and when I opened a door in one of the last areas and two of them barrel out and dump me in a cell with no exit I would be lying if I said I wasn't pretty damn freaked out. They were always wandering around in the distance while I was skulking from one torture room to the next, adding just the right amount of terror between episodes of disgust. Some variety would have been nice, but not required for a game of this length. Speaking of length, did you know that Frictional games has all of five employees? And they do not even work together in the same building? Frictional has produced an excellent game at a reasonable price and they don't even sit down together to talk shit at lunch. The lesson here is that you do not need to spend X-million dollars to produce a quality experience. I hope Frictional makes a ton of profit on this, enough to avoid the evil acquisition claws of Activision and EA. They need to be left alone, release a new game every year or two, and I will be an fan for life.

I have forgotten most of the rest of my weekend (which is not really a good thing) but last night I dove into the grime of Kane and Lynch 2 and am a dirtier man for it. They were going for grimy realism here, and they have succeeded, and I do not think that it is nearly as bad as Zero Punctuation made it out to be. It is worthless people shooting and being shot at by other worthless people, proving that I do not need to care about anyone for an action game to me at least moderately entertaining. Io does get about a million negative points, though, for making me spend an incredibly uncomfortable level with two naked men running around in the streets of Shanghai. Not since Raiden ran around with his junk cupped in his girly little hands had I less a clue about what a designer was thinking. Realism? This is realism? Realism is me turning it off or skipping the chapter for want of not staring at some dudes ass from behind cover.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My head

I was doing fine until that Horny Goat, then it got out of control.

It was time to quite playing last night when I tried to piano some electricity and nothing happened.

And apparently I use even more multi-syllabic words than usual when loaded. Must be a flash back to college when I was smarter.

Meanwhile, in the real world

There is a bottle I keep in one of the recesses of my basement.

If was given to me years ago by a few long since lost dear friends on the occasion of my bachelor party. Labeled "Chamberlain's Nameless Bottle" (well, except it has my real name) it is an unfortunate collection of high proof liquors that is as foul tasting as it is foul looking and smelling. It very, very rarely makes an appearance, as it serves no purpose other than getting the drunk drunker and its use is paid for harshly the following day. It is a collection of past memories, distilled into the harshest of proofs, that waits for the most/least appropriate times to demand consumption. Tonight is such a night, and following the realization that my grasp of Street Fighter is so tenuous that even a few beers pushes it past mediocre right on to scrubby, it has been ingested, my mind churning and my stomach reeling from the unfortunate after affects (thank's Mr. Matthews, I will steal from you whenever possible). 

There is no point to this drunken, self serving ramble, other than the hubris-tic personal pity that comes from another past birthday. I look at what I have and there are no realistic complaints: a house, a car, a family, a reasonable job with reasonable play. More time to waste on electronic dalliances than any middle aged loner rightly deserves. And yet.

And yet.

I am where I am because this is where I have chosen to be. There is more ability hiding in my head than anyone, most importantly myself, knows, and decisions made in my past may not have always been in its best interest. Perhaps I could be directing the games that I now play to pass the hours between when my offspring go to bed and I lose consciousness. Over a decade ago I chose the easy way out over a musical career, party because that is what I though was best and partly because I am incredibly lazy, and everything that I am now is a product of that personal branching point, but I cannot help but wonder.

There is nothing I have chosen that I would change, and I would not trade the life I live now for anything, but it would be nice if there were two me: one that chose the easy way, and one that managed to remain selfish.

So here I am, a product of years upon years of the path of least resistance, three quarters of the way into the bag with nothing to say. And I turn to an imaginary audience that does not react to, much less judge, what I am: words on a page, anonymous sound through a microphone, dropped links in Street Fighter. Isn't technology grand?

Tomorrow, I will be sober, and I can delete this post. Heh. No one likes looking like an ass, especially to one's self.

Friday, September 10, 2010

No one expects the Spanish inquisition

Ghosts? No problem. Scary monsters? Bring 'em on. Doors opening and closing on their own? More power too them, it's less work for me. Vivid descriptions of medieval torture devices?

Fuck that. Seriously. Ew.



Things have gotten a little more gross in the world of Amnesia. The main character just discovered that his last few weeks have rivaled the 90 Days of Sodom, complete with iron maidens, ritual sacrifice and overdoses of laudanum. It's not the visuals that have disturbed me, but the narration and written flash backs of both the torturer and victims that are difficult to bare. A man is placed, standing, in an iron maiden. His knee is nicked by a razor sharp spike and he instinctively flinches forward, only later realizing that the gooey parts of his right eye are now leaking out. Another is sealed within a metal bull and a fire lit beneath it, and a third is broken on a wheel. When I say broken, I mean his limbs are twisted until they fit between the large spokes, giving him extra joints in all the wrong places. There are three more of these rooms that I have to find, and I am not looking forward to it. It is no wonder that Daniel chose to forget all he had done; it was the only way to remain sane. And as awful as all of these things are, not seeing any of it actually happen is so much more effective then forcing someone to model every little pustule in the worst possible detail.


I predict Amnesia will end this evening, allowing me to return the relatively safe console world of Just Cause and Kane and Lynch 2, but it has certainly reminded me of what I have left behind when I deserted PC gaming. Little gems like this usually don't make it to consoles, the arrival (and subsequent ignoring) of Zeno Clash on XBLA being the notable exception. Sitting in in moderately uncomfortable chair with my face inches from the screen, head enclosed by over sized head phones is the only way Amnesia would work, and I am happy my computer still had the resources to play it (at maximum resolution, the only way to go).

Side note: why did I just spend ten minutes looking through the site that I found those images on? What is wrong with me?

Oh no, what the hell, a torture device coloring book? Stay within the lines, or else.

 What have I done.

P.S.: Yes, I know the images are broken. That's what I get for hotlinking to a site that is full of implements of torture.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Less is more

This is going to sound strange from a admitted graphics whore, but I prefer my horror games abstract. Just because modern consoles are capable of displaying appalling in the most finite, gooey detail doesn't mean that it's a good idea (I'm looking at you, Condemned 2). There is a reason that older scary games like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame worked so well in spite of their graphical limitations: force a person to fill in the holes them self and what he comes up with will be worse than anything that could be put on the screen. In this way, Amnesia is a very solid physics based adventure game. For the first two hours you never see anything threatening beyond the architecture and the occasional door opening by itself and is it still very creepy. I would not call it terrifying, but I have played most of the games out there that are supposed to be frightening and am somewhat numb to things. The first time that the isolation is broken is just a quick glance of something moving from one side of a hall to another.

It was excellent and when it was done I had to laugh at myself and my reaction. These come and go for quite a while, each more tense than the last, until I opened a door and there was one of whatever it was right in front of me. I did what any sensible person would who does not have a proton pack or double barreled shotgun: ran to another room, closed the door, and hid behind a box. The monster beat on the door several times, all the while the screen shook and blurred as the character quickly lost touch with his senses. Then he broke it down and walked into the room and all the tension and horror evaporated; the monster was nothing more than a reject from Silent Hill. Not a bad model, but nothing that will leave a mark on anyone. It would have been better if the door had been destroyed and nothing followed it, something that did happen later on, but it was already to late. Amnesia showed all the cards it had far too soon, and by doing so I could comfortably call its bluff. 

Those few moments between when the door came down and the monster came in, though....

Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.

Oh. Never mind.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yes Russian

I have never been a fan of multiple endings, especially in linear action games where the only choice the player is ever given is 'do I shoot them with this gun or that one'. I still think thank narrative and story are always important, but tacking on several what if resolutions smacks more of laziness than creativity. At least in a game like Singularity, that centers around time travel and fixing things that you inadvertently screwed up fifty years ago, there make a little more sense as it possible for them all to have happened. There is a good ending, a bad ending, and a 'fuck you all, I am taking over the world myself' ending that you get my shooting both your ally after he asks you to go back in time and kill yourself and the evil dictator after he asks you to be his toady for the rest of your life. This is also the ending that best sets up the sequel, with rumors of a time controlling hero slowly but surely taking over what used to be the United States. Raven was also nice enough to drop an auto save point about two minutes before the final choice is made, so jumping back and seeing them all (and sneaking out sixty extra achievement points) is very easy.

But enough of this touchy, feely stuff, how was the violence? As usual, and as my schedule nearly always demands, I played through Singularity on the normal difficulty. I wanted to see all there was to see, but I did not want it to be a walk in the park either. This was probably a mistake, as I was able to waltz through the game using nothing more than a souped up assault rifle and the occasional shotgun. There were many other weapons available, I just never needed them, as I had dumped all my weapon upgrades into one gun and it was clearly better than all the others. The same could be said of all the extra abilities. Sure, I could catch grenades and rockets as they came at me and throw them back, but why bother when the enemies have very poor aim and they generally don't do enough damage to worry about anyway? I am being terribly picky, as the game was certainly fun and I did enjoy it, but I feel like they gave me what looked like a very complicated project and all I needed to complete it was a screw driver and some Ikea instructions. There should have been enemy types that forced improvisation instead of just aiming at the glowing area or waiting for them to stick their head out from behind cover. There should also have been more than two different puzzles where moving back and forth between time periods was required. All the evidence of my jaunts through time were plot related; it would have been really cool to murder a bunch of Russians in the past and return the to a grotesque pile of skeletons in the present.

If you think that just might cross some sort of line, think back to the last Call of Duty. Remember No Russian?There is no line anymore, it comes down to how much you can stand before you start feeling guilty for enjoying it or are disgusted by what you are seeing. I am sure there is some sort of lesson here, but that is a discussion for another day.

I want to go home and play Amnesia so much it hurts.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The new black

Playing Street Fighter (poorly) as I type this.

Not much time to post, as I spent a good chunk of the afternoon being dragged around the lake front by 20+ MPH and my kite, but I will make the following declaration about SSFIV:

Bison is the new Blanka.

Singularity was quite good. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Now where is the backwards R button

There is one distinct problem with playing as many games as I do, and it is surprisingly not vitamin D deficiency. I unconsciously pick apart every title into the bits and pieces that were borrowed from other games, then list them back to myself as a sort of personal nerdy checklist. Sometimes, with games likes Darksiders, it is so easy that the list is very short: hey, goth Zelda, all right! Singularity is a bit more subtle, but the influences are definitely there. Please not that I am actually not being negative about this. There are one so many ideas, so many ways to save the princess or slay the evil alien, that I am not surprised at all that every new game is just bits and pieces of old games. The movie industry has been doing it for decades; it is a sign of maturity (and stagnation) for the genre. Back on topic, Singularity is an interesting mix of Half Life 2, thanks to the Alex Vance look alike and fancy shmancy scripted events, and BioShock, with some interesting but ultimately superfluous upgrading of weapons and abilities. Add to the (most likely) coincidently sharing of alternate Russian history it shares with Metro 2099, and it feels a lot like a giant communist Frankenstein, but that does mean that it is not enjoyable. Things die when you shoot them, the time abilities are fun, if a bit limited, and the game really does look very good, though it seems like most shooters look good these days, I suppose we should that the Unreal 3 engine for that.

Great attention was spent of the story here, which is unusual for a shooter but nor for Raven Software (remember Soldier of Fortune? think about that and NOT Quake IV), so much so that I have found myself spending quite a bit of time watching videos and reading notes scattered about trying to get a handle of the divergent timelines. The Russian propaganda videos featuring Uncle Sam as a vampire toothed demon leering over the globe, its foul capitalistic talons always waiting for the workers will to fail, are hilarious and just campy enough to be believable. Little bits of atmosphere like this make a huge difference, though they should never interrupt the flow of the game. Doom 3 (and System Shock 2, to go back even earlier and better) got this right by playing back audio clips while you wandered around dark hallways. Singularity misses this by just enough to be annoying, tying these bits of audio to tape players in the environment, forcing you to stand still to hear them. Standing still in a shooter is just not a good idea, so I have been missing about half of each tape. I am sure there is good information there, I just don't want to hang around in one location long enough to get killed in order to find out what it is. 

Singularity is on a strict timeline, with Amnesia arriving on Wednesday. The Russians aren't the only ones who could make good use of a time machine.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quick note

In case anyone out there is still playing Puzzle Quest 2, the green dragon is bull shit.

That is all.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cthulu dance party

Betrayed by the US postal service, I was forced to find a way to pass the evening without the benefit of a new shooter. I started out by doing something that I am usually loath to do: play a demo for a game that I have already paid for and comes out in a scant few days. Amnesia drops on the 8th, and I was not planning on looking at anything about it until then, but then I remembered that video card is around two years old, an eternity in computer time. The demo plays just fine at my giant monitors ridiculous native resolution, so know I am left knowing what the first thirty minutes of the game are all about. It is definitely worth the $20 I laid down for it several months ago, but to be honest I was hoping it would be more frightening. Wandering around in the dark was certainly a little unnerving, but I had shut all the lights off in the house and donned my headphones in anticipation of unnameable cyclopean horrors. What I got instead was some very well done water effects and something invisible stomping around in it. Granted, this is just the first thirty minutes, but I wanted to lose sleep over this game, staring into the dark corners of my room for fear of something being there that was just waiting for me to close my eyes.

The remainder of the evening was spent in stark contrast to the Poe/Lovecraft fan-wank that started in. I took the opportunity to finish up dropping phat beats in DJ Hero. The mixes actually became less listen-able as the difficulty increased, with less and less of the original songs left, replaced by long sections of scratching. This would have been more interesting if I was brave enough to edge the difficulty up past medium, but that will be left for another time. Suffice to say that DJ Hero 2 is now on the buy list, a guilty pleasure to the highest degree.

Yo.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Does being undead have to be so dour?

I swear, some people (and companies) should not own computers.

Back on topic, once I got over paying $5 for an extended demo of Dead Rising 2 I had a pretty good time, mostly because I have paid more than $5 for "full" XBLA that don't last as long and don't allow you to save experience and money for the full game later. This is a trend that was started Fable Pub Games and I approve, as long as the game itself is a good on its own. Every good and/or bad about Case Zero (and Dead Rising 2, by extension) can be summed up by saying this is still Dead Rising. Very little has changed, and everything that I learned in the first game is still applicable, so running around with a carton of orange juice and a mannequin torso are still perfectly sound strategies. More emphasis is placed on weapon customization this time, to the point where kills with jury rigged explosive devices net you more experience than normal. I don't know if driving nails into a propane tank works the way hey show it, but I can't argue with the results.

On the down side it is still Dead Rising. There is a great deal to explore, even in this little demo town, but the time limit is completely unforgiving. You game is going to end after a specific amount of time, and it is not near long enough to rescue all the survivors and keep you daughter from being taken away by the evil military, at least not the first time. Like the first Dead Rising you are allowed to accept death with a smile an restart the game with your accumulated experience. I managed to avoid this unpleasant option the first time and i sure as hell don't want to go for it now. This time they have given you three save spots instead of one, but it is still possible to get into a time restricted problem that you cannot get out of. For example, I took a little too long beating Zed, the shotgun/pitchfork wielding manic whose gas station I was hiding out in. After I finally took him down I was still missing the last piece of a motorcycle I was building (in spite of there being about a hundred perfectly good cars around, but never mind that). I only had about two minutes of real time left before the game ended, so I frantically ran around the town searching for handlebars. I found them being wielded as a makeshift weapon my two biker dudes hiding behind the grocery store. I am sure that there was some quest they would have wanted me to do to get the handlebars, but there was no time.

So I beat them both to death with a spiked bat.

This kind of freedom in quests is welcome, but it does represent a slightly darker tone in Dead Rising 2, or at least in Case Zero. Dead Rising never took itself seriously, and most of Case Zero doesn't either, but when the main character's infected daughter looks up at her father with innocent eyes and asks 'why did mommy bite me?' things begin to veer a little too close to World War Z for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, World Was Z was awesome in an depressingly awful way, I just prefer my zombies with a side of humor, not nihilism.

I tried to play Blur again, I really did, but the last thing an arcade racer should do is feel bland, and that is exactly what it did only a few races in. Oh well, that made time for DJ Hero before Singularity shows up for the long weekend. I plan to celebrate Labor Day by shooting people and manipulating time, so nothing out of the ordinary, really.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

You mean do what I get paid to do?

Feh, actually had to work all day at work. Imagine that.

I have a few things to saw about the $5 Dead Rising 2 demo, and not all of them are bad, but they will have to wait.

My phone just rang again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One move win

I take back what I said about Guile being more complicated than I though. He is actually significantly less complicated than I gave him credit for, at least as far as the general match flow goes. There was a lot of Guile played last night. When I back dashed and sonic boomed over and over I won. When I tried to put forth any sort of offense I did not win. There has to be more here; I want to play him aggressively and lack the ability to do so. He did help me avoid a mirror match with a superior Blanka player. The guy was surprised enough by my choice that I snuck a match out of him before the shenanigans kicked in. It is the pinnacle of frustration to fall for the same tricks that I use on people. What was even worse is he does them better.

Anyway, back to Guile. I want to be able to stuff like this (skip to around 1:45)


That is a fine link into super there. Then there is the ridiculousness of FADC-ing a flashkick into Ultra 2. There are ten minute tutorials on it, complete with slow motion video of hand movements. This Guile thing is some sort of cult, and I want in, if only to have someone to fall back on for Balrog, Honda and mirror matches. Sonic booming all day is fine, but I have to learn a few punish combos for when that falls through. And I have to remember that jumping backward is just not that great of an idea.

And I have to get used to playing someone with a normal hitbox.