Saturday, February 26, 2011

Never mind, now I give up.

MvC3 for sale, barely used, just brush the salt off before using it for the first time.

Where are my goddamn charge characters?!

I never did throw my arcade stick last night, which I suppose is a good sign.

There is an incredibly stark divide between what is possible in the practice room in MvC3 and what can actually be pulled off in a match, and not because of latency (though I wish there was a way for me to ascertain the quality of someone's connection hitting me with a fight request). My initial plan, and yes I did have one, was to use Zero, Thor and someone else; Zero because I really liked what I saw of him in videos and Thor because he hits like a truck. Zero is a great fit for me in spite of his below average hit points. Thor, though....

I was able to hit just silly combos with him against someone who was standing still, but in a real match that just never happens. There are a dozen things flying around the screen and he's just too damn big and slow to get close. I tried Hulk and had slightly more success, but even he has trouble moving from one side of the arena to the other. The real problem is I am not actually building a team, I am trying to pick individual characters that I can play, and I know why: in the middle of a match I forget that I have other characters. Calling in assists never even occurs to me; it just is just my one character against the revolving door of ass kicking that my opponent is rolling out.

Figuring out what moves have priority is also very difficult. There were many time where I blocked something and wanted to punish but could not because not a single move that I had was fast enough to intercept the other guys furious mashing. The whole concept of bait and punish just doesn't seem to work because baiting requires you to not attack for a few seconds. The moment my offense stopped (and it was often) I lost. Add to that supers that have no frame invulnerability and some assists that do and I was feeling like a giant donkey last night. I won twice all night and spent most of the time in a player match with someone who was quite drunk (thanks Folken!).

This is not me throwing in the towel, this is just bitching because I suck. And I really don't like sucking.

After (and minus money and common sense)

Well, that was a waste of $60.

What the fuck, I could have bought Bulletstorm. Or half of a new TE stick. Or beer. Or thrown it under a fucking bus.

Anything would have been more fun than the last four hours.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Before

Truly, I am a weak man.

Facing a weekend with no terrible games from GameFly to play I found myself in a Best Buy with a copy of MvC3 in my hands. It just finished installing and I am putting off stating it up. Tonight will be hours in the practice room trying to find a few characters that I like.

I just wish I had stopped at the liquor store. A little something something to lubricate the learning process would have been a good idea.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

00-Who?

It doesn't feel quite right to describe a Bizarre Creations as ugly, and making Judi Dench attractive is completely impossible, but when you put real people into a game the first hurdle would be for them to actually look like people, not lifeless, hollow mannequins. Bizarre Creations (up until this and Blur) created incredibly detailed worlds in which to drive amazing looking cars in a pseudo realistic manner. The Project Gotham games are probably my favorite racing games, striking the perfect balance between simulation and arcade handling while still giving Forza and Gran Turismo a run in the looks department. It also doesn't hurt that they spawned Geometry Wars, the game that easily got more play than anything else in the early days of XBLA.

Then came Blur, which I either didn't get or played wrong, because it wasn't any fun. And now we have Blood Stone, an odd departure in genre and quality that may or may not have been the developers death knell. Blood Stone is little more than an average looking shooter with ugly characters and muddy environments that takes itself entirely too seriously. It feels like an early beta test of Uncharted minus Nathan Drake plus the new angry, unsexy Bond. The shooting is actually much too easy, and you should feel nearly invincible as 007, but making the player aim would not have been a bad idea. Everything is trying so hard to be cinematic that I feel like I am interfering with a movie, fighting 'wow look at that' camera angles just so I can shoot the bad guy who I was supposed to kill in the previous scene when the focus was on him.

It only gets worse when Bizarre remember s what kind of games they actually make and get back to driving. I was quite pleased to see the Koenigsigg make an appearance. I mean, look at the thing:


I played through most of Project Gotham 3 in one of these (or was that 4?) so jumping back behind the virtual wheel should have been a great time. Only it didn't handle like an over powered should, the roads offered no freedom to actually race on, and it was a chore. Taking a page from Stuntman, the driving sections need to be played the way they were intended or you have to start over. This worked for Stuntman because, A. the courses were about a million times better designed and B. building excitement was not really the intention, it was a puzzle game on wheels. Restating sections of Blood Stone over and over kills the mood and makes me thing that Bond should have his license revoked.

While I am not one to lay into a company for a bad game... Actually, I am exactly one to do such a thing. I don't know what Bizarre Creations was thinking, but Blood Stone is so far out of their comfort zone that it makes me uncomfortable playing it. To make matters worse this was the last game they made before closing up shop. So Bond killed Project Gotham (more or less), the fucker. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hado-ramblings

I played Street Fighter last night for the first time in quite a while, curious as to who was left after the mass exodus to MvC3. The average skill level of anonymous online players had already been improving and the people who have stuck with it seem to be the upper 50% of the player base. In other words: no more free wins for me over people who don't know how to deal with hop shenanigans. On top of the upward trend in ability I ran into an even higher ratio of Ryu's to everyone else than I was used to. It was so bad that I was actually relieved to see a Ken.

Then I recognized the Ken I was playing. He and I had crossed paths before, and by crossed paths I mean he beat on me without mercy. I stole a few rounds from him this time around, which was a moral victory, but I still do wonder how people pull of sequential one frame links online. Blanka has like two or three of use and I can only nail them about half the time in practice mode. There is only one answer: clairvoyance. Everyone is a freak but me, and if you don't agree then you are one of them and I don't want to play against you anymore for fear of you probing my brain for political secrets.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The grey side

A brief summary of my day:

Drove two hours, spent two and a half attempting to update a piece of software, spent and hour and a half putting everything back because I failed gloriously, drove two hours home.

Oh, and it snowed more, and my eight plus year old snow blower as decided it has had enough. It's not the only one.

One to more interesting things, I managed to play through Star Wars The Force Unleashed II from beginning to end and neglected to mention anything about it. This is not a condemnation, it was just that short. In truth I do not think that Force Unleashed II deserved all of the derision that was heaped upon it. It plays just like the first game, looks better, and is actually better 'Star Wars' than anything else that has oozed out of Lucasarts recently, as long as you don't take it as canon. This game is an excellent what if scenario, part two of the what if Vader had a secret apprentice bit from the first game. Starkiller is a clone this time around, at least that is what he is told at first. He is saddled with all of the emotions and attachments of the original, bound by love for a woman that he has never met. It is never really made clear if he was a clone or not, but if he was it makes him a wonderfully tragic character. And if it wasn't? Then it's a lame plot device, but at least he didn't have floppy ears and an annoying accent.

I can understand why hard core Star Wars geeks could despise the light side ending; seeing Darth Vader captured by the alliance and in a cage does not sit well with his image. Then again, neither does this:



Vader is not as cool as he was when you were ten. And if you are ten now get off my fucking blog, this is no place for you.

It's not a good game, but it isn't terrible, making it an excellent rental. I question the decision to make this a physical game instead of a lower cost downloadable one. Hard Corps cost me 1200 points and I still haven't beaten it. The bull shit final boss is far more intimidating than anything the empire threw at me over the last six hours, and these guys did it on a much tighter budget.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Money saved

As promised, I spent a few hours with MvC3 last night with a friend whose total sum of fighting game skill amounts to mashing buttons and churning butter with a PS3 analog stick. He likes the game because it is full of comic book characters, and I will not hold that against him, but I had more fun after we were done fighting each other just going through and watching peoples level 3 supers than actually fighting against him.

It is not right to compare MvC3 to Super Street Fighter 4. Neither game is perfect for every level talent, but even with my limited skill l I understand that Street Fighter is an incredibly defensive game. Down back is a viable, and often successful, tactic. Reckless attacks are punished but they do not end the match. Ultras are still kind of lame, but I do not think they are game breaking. In contrast, MvC3 is a purely offensive game. Down back is not an option, but filling the screen with projectiles and assists is. I just watched a first to ten run between Marn and NerdJosh and there were times that Arthur and Sentinel had so much on the screen that Magneto might as well have been playing a bullet hell shooter, threading the needle by the thinnest of margins in an attempt to get inside and do some damage.

I will never, ever say that either MvC3 or Street Fighter 4 are scrubby games. When high level players call them such I am exactly the kind of player they are talking about. I don't mash (much) but I see what others have success with and try to mimic it. What I will say, though, is that at the niche level between 'I can push buttons and cool shit happens' and 'most people are better than me but I don't get P'd on too often' Super Street Fighter 4 is just more fun. If I have to put a label on this group that is probably populated only by myself I would call it casual but informed and incredibly lazy. I know what is possible in MvC3, but I do not like what I have seen enough to put the time into learning it, so I am not going to play it.

Oh, and X factor is lamer than ultras any day of the week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I didn't the know the island was alive

Everyone else is talking about it, so here, watch this trailer is you have not done so already.




That would be an excellent trailer is it were for a movie. It is moving, manipulative, gorey, and quite memorable. Zombies eating children is not something that you see every day, and zombie children attacking their parents is even more shocking. If this were a snippet from a movie version of World War Z (which I understand is actually being made and will be terrible, I promise, just read the book and then drink heavily to fight off the inevitable depression) I would be more excited. But this trailer is not for a movie, a mini-series, or anything else non-interactive. This is a trailer for Dead Island, the game, and if Sony's shenanigans with Killzone bull-shots has taught be anything, it's that I shouldn't get too excited about something until I see someone controlling the action in real time. Will I play it? Of course, I play everything eventually, but it has not surpassed, say, the new Elder Scrolls on my 'gotta have it so bad that I might actually buy the damn game' list.

Granted, open ended Dead Rising minus the camp plus deeper RPG elements in an area somewhere near that of Just Cause 2 sounds like the absolute shit, but who knows if it will actually happen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's the 80's but in a higher definition

Playing Fist of the North Star on easy did not actually make it any more fun, it just put the game of its misery and off of my hard drive a little bit faster. Spoiler: the good guy wins and the bad guy turns out to not actually be that bad. I took a quick look at the other modes and they all take place in the same brown/grey areas, just with more dudes to punch. The Dream mode at least attempted to mix things up by making the map larger and adding opposing army basses that you need to occupy. And how do you occupy them? By killing a whole bunch of dudes. It was actually a lot like Guilty Gear 2, minus the creative character designs and passable graphics. I played Guilty Gear 2 for less than two hours and Dream mode for about fifteen minutes. There were about five more characters to try and I couldn't muster any interest in them either. Gore and violence are just not enough to hold my interest, even when they come from exploding heads and over the top martial arts moves. Perhaps I am maturing?

Nah.

Speaking of Guilty Gear, did you know that Arc System Works was tasked with re-imagining Contra Hard Corps? And did you know that it came out yesterday? Also, it is awesome and you should buy it. Hard Corp stretches gaming muscles that I had forgotten I had, bringing the old school 'you will die and use all of your continues in the first level' mentality to some damn fine looking high res sprites. I will confess to never having played the Genesis Contra Hard Corp, so to me this feels like Super Contra IV with a health bar, and this is not a bad thing. The weapons are all there, the level design is very reminiscent of 16 bit mode 7 laden shooters and there are even little tidbits of classic Contra music from time to time. Arcade mode is brutal as it should be, but there is an RPG-ish mode that allows you to buy all sorts of power ups that will help the mortal gamer through the latter stages. I am partial to the 'buy more lives so I can force my way to the end on a stack of my own corpses' approach, but there are weapons powerups and new moves available as well.

I only wish that Hard Corps was more consistent in its presentation. Enemies, weapons, explosions and the levels themselves look to be right out of Blaz Blue, but bosses are crudely built out of polygons and really stick out when compared to everything else. I know that full screen high res sprites can be problematic (remember Odin Sphere? Massive slow down ahoy) and I know that the XB360 is not exactly overflowing with RAM to store them in, but come on. How am I supposed to get a high res hand drawn sequel to Symphony of the Night at this rate? If Hard Corp is any indication, it can be done, just not for under a gig download and 1200 MS points.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hideous side projects

I don't know why I am surprised, but the last boss in Fist of the North Start is total bullshit. Three stage fight with no health recovery items, giant environmental hazards that the bad guy can juggle you off of, plus he can become completely invincible for not so short amounts of time and if you don't have the right special move equipped all you can do is run away (guess who didn't have the right move ready). I tried about four or five times before calling it evening and resolved to give it one more try today - on easy. This will not be the first time that I have wussed out on a game just to get to the end. Dragon Age is the greatest offender, as I did not know until after the fact that I could have been calling allies in for the whole fight. Prototype was another, but that was dropped down to easy about an hour in and was a much better experience for it.

Once Raoh is defeated I am done with this game. There are several other characters who each have their own story mode, plus a dream mode that let you play as bosses, so it looks like there is a lot more content. Every level looks exactly the same, and sections of areas are revisited constantly. There are only two or three different small enemy types, and maybe three different big guys, and about three different boss types. So really, why have I been plaything this?

I have been trying to avoid thinking about MvC3, of course.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sumo cares not for Jenny Craig

I stopped by Best Buy today, as they were supposed to have playable demos out of MvC3 and I should probably give it at least a cursory try before writing it off. They had the signs up for it but still had the most recent Madden in the main XB360 kiosk and a Little Big Planet 2 demo on the PS3. You couldn't pay me (well you could, but it would not be cheap) to play those, so I left. No matter, a friends of mine who is a tremendous comic book geek will be purchasing it on day one and I will abuse his indiscretion over the weekend. He is also pretty terrible at fighting games, so this will be a true test it it is worth my time or not. If I can't scrub out victories against him then playing the game would be a fools errand. I already have one of those, it's call Street Fighter, and even that needs to be given a little space right now.

There is no way that I will even think about brining the game home until they patch spectate mode into player lobbies. I would be spending more than my share of time on the bottom the list waiting to play so not being able to watch what is going on is an instant deal breaker. Online is my only option, and while I know for a fact that there is a reasonably active SRK group in my area I have no real desire to try to get in on their ran bat nights or tournaments. Something tells me that I would just not fit in. Either that or I am painfully shy/a hermit/get paid to deal with people's bull shit all day and don't want to interact with other human beings by the time I get home (hint, it's all three).

Fist of the North Star continues to be terrible. I had to quit last night after losing to a boss and I really hope that the checkpoint is part of my save file. Most levels have all the charm and variety of the early Dynasty Warriors games, right down to highly abusable area attacks and bosses who can interrupt any of your moves with their own, so it is understandable that I just don't want to do it again.

Hey look, Honda lost a ton of weight:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Close, but no punch in the face

First of the North Star is not a good game. A game about punching people until their heads explode should strive, above all else, to get the punching part right. When attempting a combo send you careening of in random directions you are probably doing something wrong. When the only way to stop certain animations is to dive roll, a move that grants little to no invulnerability, you are definitely doing something wrong. And when you lock away significant portions of the players move set behind the usual 'get points by killing dudes' storefront but make everything so expensive that little to no advancement is seen between levels you should stop what you are doing and seriously reflect on you career choice.

The one thing that is right so far is the way that people explode, and that kind of gratuitous gore will only keep me interested for so long. I don't know why I am surprised, look at the source material:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What if Morpheus was the bad guy

If you plan on playing through Enslaved (which you should) and care about the ending being a surprise, do not read on.

Very little is explained in Enslaved. It is clear that there was some sort of cataclysm that wiped out most of humanity and that robots are in control, but the robots appear to have to no agenda beyond rounding up everyone who is left and slapping funny looking helmets on them. The game provides a guided tour of what New York would look like after several hundred years of neglect and it manages to do it without being depressing. Trip and Monkey have no concept of how many people there were at one point; upon discovering a large building Trip remarks, 'Hundreds of people must have lived here.' Monkey replies 'wrong, maybe thousands.' They have no concept of what the old world was, how filled to the brim with humanity every nook and cranny could be. All they know is running from machines that are hunting them, and they don't even know why they are being hunted in the first place.

At about the half way point, after Trip's village has been wiped out, the 'bad' guys get a name: Pyramid. That is still all that anyone knows about them, and even then no one knows if it is a person or a place. Cue stealing a giant mech and heading west. It is a real place, a shining pyramid in the dessert surrounded by angry, angry robots. Battles are had (I do not mean to slight the actual game part of Enslaved, it was good but unremarkable), one of the heroes dies in a rather stereotypical moment of self sacrifice, and Trip and Monkey find their way into the pyramid. The game is essentially over at this point. There is nothing left for the player to do besides watch the epilogue and then figure out if any of this made sense.

Inside the pyramid are thousands of humans, all with the same mind control helmets on. In the center is Pyramid himself, an incredibly old but spry little man who is constantly monitoring hundreds of screens, making adjustments with very quick, mechanical movements (he looks like a refugee from Silent Hill). The screens each show little snippets of the old world, prior to the machine take over. Sound familiar? Pyramid is running his own little Matrix here, with the kidnapped humans not being slaves but citizens in his fantastical world based on his own memories. There is a great deal of moral ambiguity here. In The Matrix the machines created the matrix to placate their human batteries. Pyramid was as much a victim of the apocalypse as anyone else, but he created his virtual world to shelter humans from the dangers of the real one, whether they wanted to be saved or not. The machines in this case are just left over from a conflict that destroyed both sides, still doing what they were programed to do hundreds of years ago.

Is Pyramid really evil? Surely kidnapping people is wrong, but does the end result of them living a happier existence justify it? Monkey is not a smart man, he hits things with a staff for a living, so it doesn't take much for Pyramid to convince him to try on a mask and see what he has been  missing. Just as he is about to lose himself Trip (who appears to have significant daddy issues) starts pulling the cords out of Pyramids back. Monkey's view of paradise fades and he is left with an old man thrashing about, leaking black fluid from his back and Trip standing over him wondering exactly what she had just done.

When Pyramid died his world died with him. Thousands of people wake up from the greatest dream they ever had to a world that could give a shit if they survive the night. Trip even asks 'Did I do the right things?' and Monkey doesn't answer.

And that's it. Fade to black, roll the credits. The person Monkey had been protecting for the entire game, whether he wanted to or not, turns out to be the real villain, and even she didn't know it. An excellent little game, it's a pity it didn't sell better.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It went there

An invisible line has been crossed in Enslaved. I have seen and heard countless murders, gratuitous boobage, foul language, sadism, masochism, deformities, and many, many other visuals that would simply not be possible in a 'more real' format. Last night was the first time I had ever heard any character in a game refer to a dong by its proper name. Yes, last night, when all three protagonists were crammed into a very small escape module, Pigsy (who looks a little to close to Peyj from Beyond Good and Evil for my tastes) begins to look uncomfortable. Monkey's hand is right on his stiffy, and he asks Monkey to give his dick a little breathing room. Aghast at his proximity to a dirty fat man's tadger, he acts like the world's biggest prick and attempts tells him there is nowhere to go.

'I don't care if your willy is crunched or your John Thomas is bent out of shape,' he yells, 'my one eyed trouser snake is just fine and that is all that matters!'

'My piece of pork is your wife's best friend,' snorts Pigsy, 'it's no wonder you can't get enough of my percy.'

Trip has had enough.

'Would you both just shut up about your cock! You can tie it up in ribbons, you can slip in a sock, but don't take it out in public or I'll throw you in the dock, and you won't come back!'

...

penis


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You go out in public like that?

I am a bad, bad gamer.

Never in all my days had I bothered to play any of the many versions of You Don't Know Jack. From what I understand it has been around on the PC for ages and I was just never interested. A quiz party game? Feh, I could just watch Jeopardy. Then 1 vs 100 came along and it became appointment gaming time. I never got a chance to be the one, never even made it into the mob, and it was still a blast. That died, for some reason, and I picked up the new You Don't Know Jack yesterday, partly to fill the trivia void and partly to keep myself from buying MvC3.

My god, it's full of awesome.

Yes, it is nothing more than a multiple choice quiz game with a few other interesting question types thrown in, but the questions, no all of the writing, is so well done that I was laughing out loud all by myself in my cold, chairless basement. It was funny the entire time, and not just for me. I picked up three random xbox live-ers to play with and they were as amused as I was, at least I hope I what I heard coming out of my head set was laughing. There is a lot of content here, though each 'episode' is static, so I am going to meter this out for as long as I can. At $30 it's a no brainer. I have heard that the cheaper Steam version is to be avoided, sporting two less players and local only play. The Wii version of a multi-platform game is not the worst one? I am shocked.

It took about thirty seconds of playing Enslaved to recognize it as a Ninja Theory product. First of all the facial animations are excellent, portraying emotion that rivals almost anything that Cameron threw up on the screen in Avatar. Secondly, apart from the face every single character is as ugly as sin. Whoever dressed these people should be beaten with a stick. For example:


That tube top is held up by either black magic or technology so far beyond what we know that it might as well be mystical. She is a disaster from shoulder line to shoe. It really is a shame because from the neck up she is a very sympathetic character with an excellent voice actor. As soon as you see the rest of her she becomes impossible to take seriously.

I will talk more about Monkey tomorrow. Suffice to say that he is far to forgiving of the scrawny bitch who put some sort of pain/death inducing helmet on him, promised to take it off when she got home, then went back on the deal just because her whole family was dead.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Forced desisions

I got tired of my own waffling about Marvel vs Capcom 3 and forced my own hand.

Yesterday at I pre-ordered the new You Don't Know Jack with the cash I would have spent on it, justifying the expense as a replacement for the defunct (and free) 1 vs 100.

So that's that. Until I see my friends list lit up with the fucking game. I am a weak, weak man.

Neglected acquaintances

I need to start posting in the morning. Afternoons have actually gotten busy at work, and evenings are for playing games, not just talking about them.

Saturday night was a demo night. I had nothing sitting on the GameFly stack (which doesn't happen very often and makes me very sad when it does) and I was not in the mood the drop several more hours into a fighting game that I hadn't actually enjoyed to last several times I played it. I don't like playing demos of games that I know I am going to eventually play the full game of, so this means that most console demos are just out of the question. There is a whole other, often ignored console two floors up from my man cave that can do more than surf for porn and then remove the viruses acquired from said porn, and it was time to pay it a visit.

I booted up the now slightly aged sexy beast and starting rummaging around sites looking for interesting demos. It took around fifteen minutes of finding nothing to remember that my PC is not just a PC anymore, it is my Steam console. Sure enough, hiding in a task bar icon I found a wealth of little games, some of which I had heard of, many I hadn't, and most of which deserved at least a few minutes of my time. Add to that my fat bandwidth from being the only AT&T Uverse customer in the area (1.5 meg down, oh yeah!) and I was set.

First up was Guardians of Graxia, a card based strategy title that makes no effort to look like anything other that Magic the Gathering tactics (which, oddly enough, is a thing now, a thing that I will not try for fear of spending real money of pretend cards again). Honestly, it has more in common with Eye of Judgement than anything, and that game was a tremendous idea saddled with terrible hardware. Graxia seemed to have less strategy to it, but that may be because the starter deck had about three different kinds of creatures and four spells; not a good way to pique the interest of an old MtG nerd who still has a few of his old cards squirreled away. It wasn't bed, it just was interesting enough to purchase, even at the discounted price of a Chipotle burrito and soda.

Magicka is a little better known than Graxia, looks to have had at least a little more money thrown at it during development, and has a small but stalwart fan base. It really looks like Torchlight, but while Torchlight plays like Diablo lite Magicka is a completely different animal. Eight different varieties of magic are mapped to the key board and be combined into thousands of different spells. Some work, some don't, and some will kill you immediately upon casting. It is aimed at co-operative multiplayer, right down to the 'don't cross the streams' nature of several of the spells. That being said, either some of the encounters were not balanced down for one person or I was just missing the point, because the first time I had more than a few goblins to deal with at once I got waxed. When the first goblin sapper showed up and I accidentally blew myself up right along with him it was amusing. The second time it was not, and subsequent deaths did not improve my mood. I can definitely see how Magicka could be a blast with four understanding friends, but I can also see it ending long standing relationships the same way a blue shell in Mario Kart can cause bloodshed between family members. It's good, it's just not for me.

Finally I gave Winter Voices a shot, an episodic strategy RPG that I downloaded just because the art looked interesting. The first hint that it just might be full of shit were the names of the character attributes that I had to distribute points to. I am all for non-traditional, or at least creative, character traits (hooray for the SPECIAL system) but when one of the categories is perspicacity someone is really trying too hard. I soldiered on after visiting dictionary.com and found a game that took itself so seriously that it was damn near unplayable. I checked  and BeyondThePillars is a small startup French developer that employs around five people, so I am suddenly not surprised by its tone. Still, I played it for five minutes and I was depressed, and that was before I got to the ugly, ugly combat.

This three strikes and yer out evening made wonder if I had simply lost interest in PC gaming. The last two games I honestly attempted on the platform, Torchlight and The Witcher, I had not finished, and not because they aren't excellent games. Both titles have sequels coming this year, and they both look awesome, but will it really be worth it to buy them? Console titles never stop coming; I am still not even close to caught up on last year's games and this year has already seen at least one blockbuster title that I haven't played yet.

I need a goddamn time machine or I need to stop sleeping.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

There ought to be a law

I am trying to remember when screen filling boss fights became a must have for every action game. The more I think about it, it is not a recent fad. Step into the wayback machine with me: R-Type. Every R-Type that I have ever played featured a giant spaceship as the third level. It was usually about three screens long and two high, bristling with turrets and rockets and all sorts of cool looking ways to blow you up. Here is it from the exceptional R-Type Final:



My point here, aside from R-Type final being an amazing game that I probably need to own again, is that we have been fighting bosses that do not fit onto one screen for a long time. It's become old hat, passe even, and when Mysterio (a pretty lame villain when compared to Juggernaut, Carnage, and a retooled Goblin that was absolutely chilling) morphed into a three story torso the effect was probably not what Beenox intended. Instead of 'oh shit, he's really big' they ended up with 'really, that's all you've got? Well, this shouldn't take very long.'  And it did not, but it really didn't detract from what was otherwise a good action game that happened to star Spider-Man as imagined by four different out of work comic book writers.

Speaking of not lasting long, I started and finished Hydrophobia last night. The demo never really got much play, so I am not exactly sure what was fixed in the giant patch that was put out a few weeks after the game's release, but what I saw was really not that bad. The water moved in a way that was much like I would expect it too. Well, water would have to have the same consistency of jello and still be completely transparent, but it was still pretty convincing. Waves pushed the protagonist around right along with explosive barrels and other traditional flotsam, and it all looked good doing so; not good for a downloadable game, actually pretty damn good. There was only one problem: the game had no end. It didn't even have a fucking middle. A problem was presented: a giant ocean liner has been taken over by sadistic eco-terrorists who plan on either sinking the boat or forcibly converting all the passengers to level five vegan-ism (they haven't decided which is worse yet) and you need to survive and save your plucky Scottish friend who has gotten himself captured. It's a good start, and just when it looks like there might some sort of plot development or change in scenery it ends.

There isn't even to be continued message, or any attempt to recap what has happened. It was as if the coffers ran dry and the game shipped out that same day. This does not make me want to play the next game, and if one does come out it will sit there on the 'to be plated eventually list' until it drops down to 400 points and remember that I was interested in it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Over exposure

The more I watch videos of Marvel vs Capcom 3 the less I want it. When I watched preview videos of Street Fighter 4 I could understand and relate to everything that was being shown. This is probably because I had been playing HDR for months on end, but I had been playing Street Fighter in one form or another for so long that it was going to be a guaranteed purchase no matter. MvC3, on the other hand, continues to look more foreign as its release approaches. I might as well be trying to learn Chinese by watching old kung fu movies with no subtitles. It is going to take a long, long time to develop even the most rudimentary of skills and even then the native speakers will still beat on me unmercifully. This is no indictment of the games quality, no one should actually listen to the opinions of a man who played through Darkest of Days on purpose. I have probably been spoiled by Street Fighter IV's intentional approachability so much that a game that moves fast and makes you think faster just doesn't look like much fun.

[fanboy]

Plus, no Venom?!



 GTFO.






[/fanboy]

The various Spider-Men have lost most of their individuality of purpose and skills. Everything still looks different, but the last several levels have boiled down to fighting goons over and over until a door opens. It is a cheap way to add length to a short game, but so many titles are guilty of it that it is difficult to find fault with it being used again. Making new levels takes money and time; palette swapping dudes and adding hit points is much easier. I will probably finish it tonight and move on to Hydrophobia, a game that was demoed and skipped originally, but a 400 points sale and a developer who listened to community complaints and revamped an already released game have me quite intrigued. The game was seriously flawed when it first came out, I am anxious to see what they did to it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stan Lee has bills to pay, too

Let's get his out of the way: Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions is easily the best Spider-Man game since Spider-Man 2 on the PS2, and not because it got the swinging mechanic right. It didn't, no game since (save perhaps the Bionic Commando reboot) has even come close, and I don't really understand why. What Shattered Dimensions does to sidestep that unrepeatable lightning bolt of a game is just be in a different genre entirely. It is a linear beat 'em up/platformer/stealth action game that never tries to be open world or recreate the miraculous freedom that Spider-Man 2 did. In short, it is barely a Spider-Man game at all, and as bad as some of the recent ones have been, that is actually a compliment.

This is not to say that there aren't problems. Every once and a while you do have to swing and do so accurately and quickly. Sometimes it works, like last night when I was running from an avalanche of sand with Sandman's face pushing it forward. The camera angle swung around to the appropriate vantage point and all went well. Other times the camera does not give you a usable view, instead turning wildly back and forth, obscuring not just where you are supposed to go but where you have been. Only the ability to recover from any fall by pressing the right trigger saves these moments from being truly game breaking. If I died every time I fell during the last 2099 level that would have probably been the end.

Each level, regardless of which Spider-Man it stars, does a very good job of staying focused on one major enemy. Think of it as how Mega Man's robot masters had entire worlds decorated to their tastes, then replace Metal Man and Air Man with a noir Vulture or futuristic Hob-Goblin. (No, I am not saying that Shattered Dimensions is as good as Mega Man 2, it's just an analogy that I would hope everyone would get) This keeps things from getting visually boring, if only what you do in the levels was as nicely varied. Noir Spider-Man is always stealthy, regular Spider-Man is platforming with some fighting. The other two, symbiote suit Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099, are almost all button mashy brawling. The game isn't terribly long, so none of them will have enough go arounds to get truly annoying, but the 2099 worlds are almost impossible to look at. It's as if someone watched Tron and decided that it wasn't neon enough; it honestly hurts my eyes.