Monday, November 29, 2010

Lame, lamer, lamest

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

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

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dirty tricks

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

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

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

I blame Activision.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, the future of gaming

Death by killing

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hardly titan

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

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

'Perseus, tell them men did this.'

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

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


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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spectator Fighter IV

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Soothing my inadequacies

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


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

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nothing has changed, nothing stays the same

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 12, 2010


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

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More armor, less cleavage

Okay, time for a real post.

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

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

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

This is how I used to roll

No, I am not one of the neckbeards pictured.

But I kind of wish I was.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

He's alive?

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

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

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taking on the big boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comfort clicks

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I have no agenda

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

But no one says douchebag like George Takei.

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

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

Fear and loathing in my basement

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

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

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

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

Fuck that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bright light! Bright light!

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

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

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

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

Shit, there goes the week.

Monday, November 1, 2010




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

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

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