Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Dr Phil of gaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

The runaway gamer

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

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

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010


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

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

Revenge is sweet, even if it is misplaced.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Terrible news

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A different kind of defeat

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fluid definitions

Last night I played Street Fighter for over two hours, almost exclusively against a Hakan and Makoto. I did not win a single match. A round here or there fell my way, but there was no victory to be had, only oily embarrassment and punches to the gonads.

Hakan's advantages come mostly from no one knowing how to fight him. Sure, I have seen all sorts of impractical combos of his online, but to actually run into someone who can do most of them in a match is a little intimidating. And Makoto? I just needed to stop pressing buttons. My reflexing had be trying to mash out reversals and they never worked, leading only to getting P'd on. I don't know if it was fun or not, but I eventually fell back to Dan and just played like an asshole. I still didn't win, but it felt better than losing.

I was simply trolling, and that was okay.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stupid computers are out to get me

Boring IT related stuff ahead, used as an excuse for why I have missed several days this week.

I never did get SQL 2005 to install on the stupid box. Windows was re-installed (I love being a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner) and as is to be expected with a Dell PC a few of the drivers were missing. One of them was the ethernet controller. This was also not unusual, so I downloaded the appropriate driver, installed it, and then stared incredulously at the device manager because it didn't work. The following morning, after tearing the physical box apart, I find that the on-board nic was dead and that I needed drivers for a PCI nic that had been added later. Fun times.

I also enjoyed the call I got this morning from a panicked co-worker about out new virtual server setup. All the virtual servers were gone. Just gone. It was not a fun morning.

Ok, that's done, back to game stuff.

The demo of Super Meat Boy was about all I needed of the game. It was fun for the fifteen minutes that it took me to get from beginning to end but I simply do not have the masochistic stamina to enjoy five hundred levels of unfair death. Yes, in controls well and yes, what I saw was amusing, but learning how to finish a level by dying fifty to a hundred times is not my idea of fun. The kid of I Wanna be the Guy is an unlockable character, which is all anyone needs to know to decide if they will like the game or not.

Dark Star One has fallen into a nice little pattern that betrays how bad the game actually is. I arrive in a new system, check my star map for where I need to go to get to the next story based mission, then look for a side quest that will point me in the right direction. Repeat ad naseum, only I have not gotten tired of it yet, even though every mission ends with me fighting off several wave of pirates or aliens or intersteller police, depending on who I was doing the job for. I really do wonder how long I will be amused by this, but as of right now it is holding my attention and keeping me from worrying about how I am going to afford the big scary Rock Band 3 guitar that is coming out next week.

One more thing, watch this:

and try, just try, to comprehend what is going on. MvC2 at this level is something I can not understand. It operates at such an incredible pace that I can barely watch it, much less try to see what strategies are being employed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

There is always something worse

As I sit here with two computers humming away, one old tired bastard that I am readying for work and my sexy beast throbbing quietly a few feet away, I find myself getting more and more annoyed that I have to work now instead of playing something, even something as bland as Dark Star One. I remember seeing this game on a shelf years ago, biding its time before brick and mortars stopped selling PC titles completely, and thinking 'Wow. That looks a lot like Freelancer.' I liked Freelancer a great deal. It was one of those games that sneaked up on you, slowing pulling you in until every waking moment was dominated by wondering what you were going to do next in game; essentially Grand Theft Auto in space, minus any controversy. I was helpless to the game for weeks, then it ended and we never spoke again. A brief affair, but a torrid one, and Dark Star One reminded me a bit of this old flame. Until I played it.

There are a few truths that any space based game must either deal with or bypass. First of all, space is mostly empty, so there is shit to do most of the time. A good space fighter simply ignore this and crunches everything down into interestingly crowded, if unrealistic, areas. Dark Star One tried to do this, but everything looks the same and it still take too long to get anywhere. You know when time dilation is an option things are too far apart to maintain any pacing. Secondly, there is no sound in space. No game or movie or television show has ever gotten this right, because doing it right would suck, so this game gets an automatic pass. Finally, why the hell should I have to lead a target when I am firing lasers at them, they move at the speed of light!

Crap, I had this thought out better but the old bastard of a computer just puked all over itself when I tried to install SQL 2005 on it, and now I am all pissed off.


Bah, Dark Star One is a bad game, and it is still more fun than this.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Death Knell

On a whim, after finishing up Quantum Theory's single player, I decided to see if there was any life left in its multi-player offerings. I had no intention of playing anything, I just wanted to know if anyone, anywhere, was online in this game. I did a targeted search on each of its undoubtedly generic modes and came up empty each time. Finally I attempted to find a quick of anything, and it didn't even bother taking time to think.

'No one is playing this shit,' came the reply, 'why the hell are you?'

If I must say something nice about Quantum Theory, and since I feel like stretching the truth at least a little bit, some of the level design was at least interesting. The higher I got in the tower the more organic and malleable everything became, culminating in areas that changed shape as I was going through them. I will not go so far as to say that they were good, but they did successfully break up the tedium. Nothing else went right, up to and including the way achievements were handled. Locking away a good chunk of them in a multi-player that no one is playing anymore (and that no one ever played) is bad form. Giving out less than 200 for finishing the bloody thing on Normal is also not acceptable. I am not exactly an achievement point whore, but I do like to have at least a little bit to show for trudging through another bad shooter. Giving out ten points for killing the last boss is just adding a little more salt to the wound.

This defiantly was a total loss from beginning to end, but it still wasn't as bad as the ten minutes of Naughty Bear I played. That was true torture.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bizarro Gears

Goodness, I have been neglectful.

Alright, two nights ago I spent the entire evening in a Super Street Fighter IV lobby with two people who were significantly batter than I am. In was a night of ass kickings, but it was it still a great time. These two guys went from their mains to their backups right down to the characters that mess around with for fun before I even had a chance. What was even more fun was watching them play each other with characters they normally didn't use, at it proved to me once and for all that good fundamentals will server you well with any character. It never hurts to know specific characters magic tricks, like canceling a teleport into Ultra 2 with Akuma (which is serious, serious bull shit when it hits), but there are by no means absolutely required to not embarrass yourself. The only time I truly looked like an idiot was trying to work my way in with Honda vs Gouken. It was hopeless. Sure, the guy I was playing told me to FADC through the fireballs and ochio throw him, which is all fine and good, but I simply can't do that with any consistency. Practice, practice, practice.


So, Quantum Theory.

This is how I picture how this game came into being. Someone at Tecmo was handed a document describing Gears of War in great detail. Everything technical about the game is there, so the developer tries to give it a try, just with an Eastern slant. It should be noted that no one from Tecmo actually played Gears of War, or even looked at any screen shots, they only read about it. What came out on the other side of development hell is a game aimed at a market that doesn't know how to play Gears of War, doesn't really want to play Gears of War anyway, and whose art style has been manga-fied in an attempt to disguise it. The instructions themselves break things down so far that it is almost laughable. For example: try shooting from behind cover, you will take less damage. Really? I learned that two generations of consoles ago.

Tecmo gets a few points for trying, but not many, because the only thing that really matters isn't very good: the shooting. Aiming is loose and inaccurate, enemies have excellent aim from a distance but have no idea how to use cover when up close, and the story and voice acting are of course terrible. Still, there is something fascinating about a game made by people who had no idea how the game was actually supposed to work and tried to copy one that does, right down to the Cole train (who dies about two levels in). I will see it to the end, but only because I enjoy train wrecks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bring out your dead!

But I'm not dead yet!

Just busy.

I spent fur hours in a plastic factory. Now all I can smell is the foul odor of milk cartons.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to waste a day

My first taste of episodic gaming came with Sin. I had never played the first, but the 'new' one was only $20 and promised new installments every month or so. Sin Emergence was pretty good, and I waited for a good long time for the follow ups, but they never came. Ritual ended up being purchased my MumboJumbo and relegated to the emerging casual gaming market, an early casualty in giving people who don't game what they want as opposed to giving people who do game even the smallest taste of what they crave. Things have changed since then, with Sam and Max and Wallace and Grommit being excellent examples of how it can be done well and make money at the same time. There are still broken promises (like OTRSPOD, like I mentioned yesterday), and I still have the little tinge of doubt when one game ends just as the next is beginning.

'Sure, you'll be in business,' I say, 'or at least you hope you will.'

Hell, the sequel to DeathSpank is already out and I had the same feelings. Of course the ending sequence had DeathSpank walking out of his medieval setting into World War II, proving that we still are not done with that war. It doesn't make much sense, but I am sure I will play it eventually.

Perhaps sooner than later if Quantum Theory is as bad as I have read.

I have the day off tomorrow. A strange man is coming to my house to do work in the bathroom that I lack the talent/resolve to accomplish, so I am going to do the only logical thing: hide in the basement while he works and play Street Fighter. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lonely ear worms

Did anyone else play the Bard's Tale remake on the PS2 or oXbox?


Didn't think so. But if you if you would have played a perfectly serviceable Dark Alliance clone that was moderately amusing and had many of convenient shortcuts built into it. Weapons and armor auto-equipped so you were always ready with the best of what you had and old items could be broken down on the fly for gold so there was very little inventory management and running back to town to sell your backpack full of half broken weaponry. It also had the the beer, beer, beer song.

Truly, a marvel to behold.

I bring it up because DeathSpank reminds me of it in all of the good ways and a few of the bad ones. It is funny, at least as funny as games can be. Most of the extra bits have been removed in favor of keeping the action rolling (as is the style these days *cough*Mass Effect 2*cough*). But it is also a little difficult to look at and the combat boils down to block, swing, block, swing.  I will say that it feels quite large for a $15 downloadable title, and with a quick follow up that seems to be set in World War II, it must be making money.

It is almost enough to get me to forgive Hothead Games for killing On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness after only two episodes. Almost, but not quite. Fuckers.

..., beer, beer, tiddily, DAMNIT MAKE IT STOP!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Never let me imply that I am actually intelligent

Every once and a while I will take a tentative step outside of my comfortable genres. Those comfortable genres being anything not sports or strategy does not make it any easier, but still, I must try. Several months ago I picked up Kings Bounty: Armored Princes based entirely on reviews and the endorsement of a certain web comic writer. That, and it could be obtained for the low, low price of almost nothing during the last Steam sale. It has sat, installed and waiting, for quite a while. Fresh from my unpleasant experience with Naughty Bear, I was ready to give it a solid try.

This is NOT effective armor.

Everything started out well enough, if a bit slow. Princess warrior, blah blah, attacking demon hordes, blah blah, sent to another dimension to retrieve mentor, during which I will undoubtedly become powerful enough to save the day, blah blah. Leaving your home world framed the tutorial battles quite well. It made sense that people would not take you at your word when you literally dropped out of the sky, complete with horse and unarmored midriff, into their castle's front yard. Combat plays out almost exactly like Disciples or Heroes of Might and Magic, two series that I am familiar with in passing but never put any time into. Things seemed to be going well in the first fight until I looked down and realized that I was getting my ass kicked, quickly, during the battles that were supposed to teach me how to not get my ass kicked. After emerging from the first battle having lost my entire squad of archers and half of my bears I came to the second that was supposed to teach me how to use magic. My princess was not a magician, but I was assured that even the thickest headed sword swinger could use scrolls to pick up the slack, and was even supplied with a few. Just before I was dropped into a battle with a walking venus fly trap and two ents the instructor quipped 'I hope you have some fire spells!' and vanished.

I did not have any fire spells. I was not a magician. None of the scrolls I was given had any way of causing damage. The only fire ability that I had died with my archers in the previous battle. I had a baby red dragon, but fire breathing must be a side benefit of puberty because he also had no such abilities. So there I was, getting murdered in the second fight of the goddamn tutorial by semi-sentient plants. And then I turned it off.

It would be foolish of me to say that this was the games fault. It would be equally foolish to say that Armored Princess was not a good game. Apparently I was missing the bone in my head that would allow me to deal with turn based strategy in an intelligent manner. This absent ability is even worse when it comes to RTS: I know full well that StarCraft 2 is an excellent game, but I also know that I would fail so quickly, boldly, and without hope of ever getting any better that the Zerg themselves would simple chuckle and walk away, shaking their heads in disbelief.

DeathSpank is stupid fun and requires little strategic thought. Give me my dunce cap and off I go.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Profound sadness

I have said it before, though my rental queue may dispute it, I do have limits.

There are games that are so bad that I will not play them. Naughty Bear is such a game.

It was not really clear to me what the developers were attempting here, but it feels an awful lot like re-hash of the that Burger King game where you sneak around different areas scaring people and then handing them lunch. Only now instead of a king you are a bear and instead of lunch you wail on them with a dull machete. That actually makes it sounds more interesting than it is.

I made it about ten minutes in, just past the tutorial, and then the Teletubbies inspired narrator began to give me fits. The game had to go, for the sake of my health.

It also saddens me to say that Comic Jumper will not be purchased. I very much wanted to give Twisted Pixel more of my money, but Comic Jumper is trying much to hard to one up the humor of Splosion Man, and it just never quite makes it. I am sure there is more to offer than was shown in the demo, but was shown in the demo just wasn't very good. It draws an unfortunate parallel with Shank: really damn pretty, but shallow and not worth a second look.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lazy agents and kosher beats

Well, that was just barely amusing.

All of the 'story' missions in Crackdown 2 were finished in just a little over eight hours. That pretty anemic for a sandbox game, especially when all of the non-story missions are boring. Supposedly there was a winged suit hiding in the world somewhere, but I either never found it or never ground my agents abilities up high enough to earn it. After about three or four levels there just was not reason to go searching for glowing orbs anymore. Plus once I could get the homing missiles from every drop point no other weapon was worth my time. There was something of a boss encounter in the end, but it was filled with the same freaks that I had been fighting for the rest of the game, just with more hitpoints. Honestly, if this came out as a twenty dollars expansion to the original Crackdown (and came out two years ago) it would have been a good time. Now? It feels empty and low budgeted, which is odd coming form Microsoft Game Studios.

There was only one 'wow' moment in the entire thing, and even that was less of a 'wow' and more of a 'well, that was cooler than everything else that has happened, which still isn't saying much.' After defending the agency tower from freak invaders (who just happen to be infected agents from the previous game, an idea that would have made sense if used in the beginning, thus creating natural bosses to go out and hunt, but feels needlessly tacked on and silly this way) the leader of the only other faction in the game shows up in a helicopter, ready to start blowing shit up. The faceless narrator yells at you, in cut scene form, to stop her no matter what. The agent leaps off the top of the tower, firing a machine gun at the copter as he falls. He succeeds in forcing it to break off the attack, but neglects to avoid the spinning blade. It a moment more graphic than the rest of the game combined, he is hamburgerized, the largest piece remaining being a hand that lands in the cockpit as it makes an emergency landing.

You can see where this is going. After the credits the hand is shown in a lab, setting up Crackdown 3 where you are a cloned agent working for the other side. This is all fine and good, but it defeats the entire purpose of a sandbox game by killing the character you want to wander around as. Take Red Dead Revolver: yes, John Marston dies, but you are introduced to and play as his son in an excellent final chapter, so when being allowed to free roam as him makes sense. In Crackdown 2 the only way for them to make the free roam work is to reset time back to before the final mission. This is just lazy story telling in a game that has been lazy from beginning to end, and I am glad that it only took eight hours.

I wish I had a good game to play, but Naughty Bear is next, a game added to the list just because it was produced by the same guys who did Wet. And after that is Quantum Theory, which most reviews have placed somewhere between cringe worthy and actual self abuse. Neither of these may matter, as I have to decide very soon is Activision gets any more of my money with DJ Hero 2 dropping very soon.

There better not be any pig men in it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Some things should not age

Why is it that when I am trying to quit playing for the night and I see a collectible sitting of in the distance I always feel compelled to take a few final minutes to go get it? And then when I get it and see a few others within walking distance there is just no stopping the downward (or onward) spiral. Crackdown 2 doesn't play this game of breadcrumbs better than any other game, but the floating green agility orbs are an almost impossible to resist. The stationary one are, anyway, the ones that actively run away from you, not so much. Power ups that avoid you, especially when they start floating over buildings and leading you like the pied piper to your watery doom, are better off being avoided. There are just one item on a long list of things that the game has that I will not bother with. Joining them are freak breaches, where hundreds of the things pour up out of the ground and all you are tasked with doing is killing them, and the races. I tried one race: the path led straight through several crowds of innocent civilians. Not being one to sacrifice speed for civility, I ran them all down. The peace keeping forces didn't approve and they did a pretty good job of stopping me.

It's hard to get my head around the XB360 turning five this November. It certainly doesn't feel that long ago that I first took it home, un-boxed it, then was completely underwhelmed by Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero. And Gun. And King Kong. And Quake 4. Really, the only good launch title was Project Gotham Racing 3, but even that serves as a fine example of how much things can improve over time on the same hardware. Crackdown 2 is also a good example, but of the opposite. The first Crackdown came out in 2007. The ensuing three years have seen huge leaps in what games look like and can do and Crackdown 2 has not kept up. It looks like the first game plus a disaster movie, so not good. All these new fangled devices have turned me into an even greater graphics whore than I was in the past, so a game looking three years old simply does not cut it.

No excuses here, this is an internal Microsoft production. They have all the keys to the kingdom, but they did not have the smarts to use them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Deep voiced narration

It has been a good year for open world games. It would have been a good year even if Red Dead Revolver was the only one, but Just Cause 2 came out along with Mafia 2 (which I assume is good even though I have yet to get my prohibition era violence on), so Crackdown 2 would have been behind if it had just been mediocre. It isn't even that, coming in at more of a Crackdown .5 than a 1.5. I don't really understand why Microsoft did this, but it is actually less than the first game. Crackdown had a large-ish city full of random collectibles, three feuding gangs, lots of stuff to throw around and just enough story to keep you interested. Crackdown 2 has one gang, refugees from Dead Rising, a large-ish city full of things to collect, and no story at all. It did bump the player cap up from two to four, but no one I know is still playing it, so I am alone in a big empty city fighting undead vampires and generic thugs. Not content with offering less, the game also actively mocks any single player. Giving bonuses to people for playing multi-player is fine, but showing these bonuses to the lonely people, taunting them, is just not necessary.

On top of all that the opening three hours are totally obnoxious. There are quite a few low point achievements stacked there, and every time you get the one you handler chimes in with 'that was quite an achievement!' or 'what a worthy achievement' or 'stop by the viagra stand for me on the way back to the citadel for an even better achievement.' The little popup is recognition enough, I don't need some deep voiced announcer validating how I spend my time.

Then again, maybe I do.

'Way to finish that giant burrito, it's an achievement!'

'You've made it to work on time every day this week, what an achievement!'

'That is the 100th nerdy thing you have done today, enjoy your achievement!' nerd score would be in 100k range. Suck it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I float, but not in the cold

I spent a good chunk of yesterday on a boat, and the rest of it in a casino where I was contractually prevented from gambling, so it was not a very fun day. In order to pass the time I was reduced to the terrible version of Texas Hold 'em on my Blackberry, and even that bricked up on the way back. I never wanted a smart phone, but now that it is there it was if one of my appendages had ceased to function, and Blackberries suck. Imagine if I had a good one.

Warriors of Rock is done for now. I have played through all of the songs on hard, moved over to quickplay+ (which is exactly the same as all previous versions) and decided to give it a break. Frankly, I am afraid of the move up to expert as hard had my fingers cramping on the longer metal songs. You would think that people angry enough to produce black metal would be concise, but no, they take eight minutes to tell you how pissed off that are at God, the world, people, your dog, their shitty manager and themselves.

Crackdown 2 is next on the list. It seems to be Crackdown 1.5, which may or may not be a good thing. The first game was one of the only titles that I have every enjoyed playing cooperatively. Jumping from building to building was great. Jumping from building to building while throwing cars at one another was better, and getting to the top of the building first only to drop kick my friend into a fifteen second free fall was amazing. I doubt that the sequel will duplicate this, but playing as an evil Superman should be fun for a while.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hey, who moved my bar?

After a shuffling around the lineup of my rock obsessed freak show I was able to get past the second to last song in Warriors of Rock (on hard, cause I am really not that good), only to find that there is one more after it that was even more ridiculous. Only this time I had all eight powers working at the same time. I think I understand why this choice was made, but it doesn't really fit with what Acitivsion themselves said that the game was all about. The exact quote escapes me, but a rep for either Activision of Neversoft said that 75% of players were playing the game on expert, so the new game is aimed directly at them. It shows, as the usual meadly meadly bullshit has filtered down into Hard where I usually hang out to avoid it. Now that all eight of the 'cheats' are working together, though, it really doesn't matter. Off the top of my head I get a full star power bar for ever completed phrase, I generate more star power for every ten consecutive notes I hit, I have two shields that prevent a chain loss, my minimum multiplier is 2 and my max is 8, my star power multiplier actually pushes it up to 32, I can out and out fail the song up to five times before it's game over, and then there is Johnny's power which just grants stars when do you cool things. It is almost impossible to fail a song. So the game throws more notes per second at you in seemingly random knuckle cracking configurations, but it is actually easier.

Of course the maximum number of stars available in a song is now forty, and the demi-god of rock expects me to revisit all the previous venues with my new group. Sure, I'll do that, on drums. Quest mode doesn't actual keep score, so I won't feel so bad failing around on my re-purposed Rock Band drums.

The pansy Autobot side of Transformers ended with a giant, multi-stage boss battle that would have been pretty epic if it was anywhere near what I was looking for. Over the course of the last eight stages I had fought Starscream and Soundwave, let them both live, and all I wanted to see was the epic showdown between Optimus and Megatron. Truth be told, I have never seen the original animated Transformers movie, so have preconceived notion to base this on, but it seems like the natural progression of things. Instead I fought an orbital gun who turned into Godzilla. Not bad, but not good enough. High Moon is probably saving this for the sequel: Transformers the Game of the Movie of the Cartoon of the Overpriced Toys.

Unless they somehow squirreled this litte nugget into the muliplayer. If so then fuck them, I'll never see it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Occasionally I do leave the house

So today was a first for me.

I attended a professional football match in person and have suffered no injury for it. On the contrary, getting in and getting out of the frozen tundra was surprisingly easy. The view was excellent for the price I paid, though the actual football I saw from said view was decidedly not. There was also an important lesson that I will have to remember when/if I return, and it had to do with the bathrooms.

The bathrooms were a bit gross, but serviceable. That is to be expected from a place that will hold 70,000 people, most of whom started drinking before 10:00. What was unfortunate was that in a bathroom with well over twenty urinals, there were only three stalls. Can you imagine the constant horribleness occurring there, especially when the default setting for food is brats, sour kraut and Miller Light?

Remember kids, do not poop at Lambeau  Field.

Oh, and I did play videogames last night, but there is not much to talk about beyond Optimus Prime not being near as cool as Megatron, but everyone already knows that.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My instincts are honed

It took several days of playing, but I have finally found something that is honestly new in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock. After hitting the roadblock that I knew was coming today in the form of a Megadeth song that I swear was written just to mess with people playing Guitar Hero (and apparently ten stars is just not good enough, I need twelve to continue) I finally had to run through a song twice. The second time through this monstrosity I got a phone call in the middle of the song, forcing me to pause it. In the older Guitar Heroes and the first Rock Band this was almost a guaranteed chain loss because un-pausing the game dropped you right back into the track. Later games provided a short count down that at least let you get a feel for the tempo again and hold down any sustains that might have been going on. Warriors of Rock actually rewinds the track by about two second, filling in notes that you already have hit. This makes it much easier to continue on after having the audacity to pay attention to something else for a few minutes.

So there you have it. In this morass of bad ideas covering up old standbys there is one actual improvement that every subsequent iteration (if there are any) should steal.

It doesn't make up for the pig man, but it still should be recognized.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's not emo, it's darker than that

It is easy to look at the depiction of Lars in Guitar Hero and assume that he is an exaggeration. If anything, he sells the insanity of Norwegian black metal quite short. Spend a little time reading about the bands Gorgorth and Marduk, or about the front man Gaahl (whom Lars appears to be modeled after at least in passing) and you begin to wonder what the fuck is wrong with people who live in Norway. I've actually been there. It was one of the cleanest, nicest places I have ever seen, which is exactly why the polar opposite oozes out of their concert halls.

Anyway, I do not plan on running out and buying any of it, but the tracks in Lars' set were just about as metal as you can get. Make that Metal. Or maybe METAL. METAL. This does set up an odd drop in difficulty after, but I appreciated the slight relaxation in tempo. It allowed me to get one more warrior of rock recruited before I had to surrender. There a few more excellent tracks there, not the least of which being a little Thorogood. It's a shame that Activition has managed to produce a game that no one wants, and that even the apologists are having a hard time dealing with.

In truth, a lot of these songs are going to make their way to Rock Band 3 in one form or another, so when I trade in my complete Guitar Hero collection to fund the new plastic torture device with 151 buttons I will not have lost that big of a library.