Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The bottom

Here are the metacritic scores for the next three games coming down the pipe:

Mindjack - 43

Venetica - 42

Hunted: The Demons Forge - 61

It's odd to say that Hunted is the best thing coming...

So, so indy

So, this is Proun.



What you see is all there is. This sounds like a rip, but it isn't. The game was made, for the most part, by one guy. He took it from a project that he got a bad grade on in school to a polished racer (?) and released it for the low, low price of free, but you can pay him for it a little if  you want to. This is a great way to get your name out there as a game designer, and if he gets scooped up by one of the big guys it would not be the first time someone made out well in this way. I felt obligated to give it a shot, so after a quick download (followed by a much longer download to update my video card driver) I dove in, fully intent on giving him some money when I was done with it.

I never got that far. The downside of giving a game away and hoping that people will be generous afterward is that if a big jerk like me plays your game and doesn't like it, he isn't going to give you a dime. Proun is an interesting idea but not one that I want play. It tries so hard to be different that it succeeds at nothing else. Marble Madness crossed with Wipeout is the best I can come up with, and even that is not an adequate comparison. I didn't even make it past the first 'race' before turning it off and doing something else, and the worst part is that I feel bad for not liking it. We, the gaming community, need to encourage independent developers, and the best way to encourage them is with cold, hard currency. But I am not going to pay for something I don't like.

Sorry, Mr. Joost can Dongen, the best I can do for you is link your site and caution people to try before they buy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

you can take my life, but you can never take my ego!

After spending a solid several hours with Dead Nation I have figured out exactly what I like about it. It's not the weapon selection, which includes a rocket launcher with splash damage that doesn't effect you and a lawnmower blade launcher. It's certainly nor the level design, which rarely wanders far from getting from here to there with the occasional side trip to collect collectibles. It is also not the enemy design, though the sounds that zombies clowns make when dying is one of the few moments of levity in an otherwise depressing game. These are all good things, but what I really like is that every once and a while the game is not afraid to throw you into a situation that is simply not fair.

I am usually not a fan of difficulty for its own sake or tuning a game to keep the majority of people from seeing the end, and Dead Nation doesn't ever do that, but it still manages to surprise you with hoards of zombies that pour out of windows and doors and sewers, usually when you are low on ammo. It manages this by having the zombies threaten something much important that your life; they threaten your score. As you kill zombies (most of them, anyway) they drop yellow and red colored balls. The yellow ones are for weapon upgrades and ammo and the reds ones add to you score multiplier. Getting hit by zombies takes away a little bit of health but a lot of the multiplier, injuring your pride instead of making you start over. For the record, setting your self on fire through reckless flame throwing is even worse that getting beaten on.  It is an ingenious use of 'keeping score' in a game that could have easily slipped into 'just stay alive until you get to the end.'

For the record, I did finally play a little of the other free game I got thanks to Sony's security snafu: Wipeout HD/Fury. It was not impressed by the game or the music, but damn did it run smoothly. Makes me wish it was fun to play.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Loosing its way

F.3.A.R spoiler ahead.

I don't know why I am surprised, but much like every other shooter in recent history Day 1 and Monolith had no idea how to end the damn thing. For seven intervals it had done a pretty good job of keeping things interesting. Giant mechs were used as boss fights, there were new enemies introduced that could phase in and out of walls or spawn more soldiers at will. For seven intervals it was an excellent shooter that was quickly washing away the foul taste that Duke had left behind. There was even continuity with the previous game: the hero of the F.E.A.R. 2 showed up to tell Point Man what was going on only to be blown to pieces by Fettel for his trouble, which after being raped by Alma was probably a relief. It had everything going for it right up until the game forgot what is was doing and jumped backward about ten steps.

After a very intense fight to liberate (and then kill) Beckett you are transported to the research facility where Point Man and Fettel were born, raised, tortured, and trained. There are no enemies now, save for one mostly invisible beastie that had been chasing you and off for the whole game. Instead of fighting it out tooth and nail to the climax you end up wandering through the building watching scenes and searching for memories that need to be destroyed. The game finally comes to a conclusion with a boss fight that simply does not feel like the end of a game. I beat him and was surprised when there was nothing else to do, which is never a good sign. This level should have been at the beginning or middle of things. Instead it a non-shooting ending to a shooter, which makes about as much sense as releasing Duke Nukem Forever eleven years late.

God I am getting old. Nothing is as good as it used to be. Be that as it may, Extraction Point had an excellent ending, though apparently neither that nor Perseus Mandate are cannon just because Monolith had nothing to do with them.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ready for English class?

Behold, the basics of story telling:



This applies to all forms of narrative, up to and including the interactive kind. In order to maintain interest in the story there has to be movement; things have to be going somewhere. And when they finally do get to where they are going there has to be something on the other side to make the trip worth it. Most of the time games that don't have this are described as having poor pacing, but in reality there are simply missing one (or more) of the steps from above.

For example: many, many shooters have little to no rising action. There is a little exposition in the form of an opening cut scene, then it is balls out climaxes until it runs out of steam. Without rising action to build tension (or apprehension) the climax or climaxes are much less effective because there is nothing to compare them to. To pull wording from my college education from a previous life, how do you know what loud is until quiet has been established? If a shooter is all action, all the time, the action never actually goes anywhere and gets boring very quickly.

I feel like an old school example is in order.


The entire first level is exposition, right up to the giant bat. It introduces the character, what he is doing and how is going to do it. From there it is rising action; each level and boss gets more intense and difficult. I suppose it can be argued that it peaks one level early with Death, but the two stage Dracula fight is longer and not that much easier (I never managed to do it without the triple boomerang). The falling action and denouement are a bit muddled together, but I think the end credits with Dracula's castle crumbling in the background still work very well.

Why this old, 8 bit example? Because if 'they' managed to get the pacing so right with a liner game that can be beaten in an hour why can't 'they' do it now? Part of the answer is in the question: linear. It is very difficult to maintain reasonable pacing in open world games. The only one that I have played that managed to keep the plot moving in the right direction the whole time was Red Dead Redemption, and that was only because I chose to follow it. Still, even modern linear games have a hard time pushing things towards a singular climax because they start out to hard and fast. F.3.A.R. is a perfect example: it is an excellent shooter but I have little interest in anything happening outside of slow motion shotgun murders because every level is just as intense as the last. Within the levels there is some rising and falling, but it is limited to 'this is when you shoot things' and 'this is when scary things happen.' 

There is nothing wrong with having a quiet level or two to build mood, then slowly introducing more enemies or items or mechanics to build to the final boss. It's basic, but it works, and all the graphics in the world cannot replace a coherent, well assembled story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Of limbs and dismemberment

Poor Dead Nation got about an hour of play before being supplanted by F.3.A.R., and it deserves to be played from beginning to end. Yes, it is just another twin stick shooter, but it looks really good, the score multipliers actually serve a purpose (you use the points to purchase ammo and weapon upgrades) and it has a refreshingly dark tone more in line with the zombie apocalypse. Not to take anything away from Zombie Apocalypse, the XBLA game, not the end of the world event, but grim dark zombies work better than zombie being fed into lawn mowers and chipper shredders. The only complaint I have is that the camera is zoomed out a bit far for my tastes, making the nicely detailed physics a bit too hard to see. I know that blowing up a car and sending a bakers dozen zombies flying looks good, but it could look better if I could see more.

Dead Nation, as good as it is, was beaten out by one of the only PC shooters (that I play on console) now that I have any loyalty left for, and that loyalty is based on a demo of the game that I saw before it even came out. F.E.A.R. was demoed at one of the old EB conferences (pre-GameStop buyout). They were running thing on God's own computer, which means yes resolution with yes more texture quality at holy shit frames per second. In other words, they were playing a game in a way that very few people would be able to match. It was standard demo fair: look at this weapon,  marvel at the bullet time we stole from Max Payne, behold our destructible environments. All of it was good, but what it created in aggregate was combat more visceral than any I had ever seen.

The demo ended with an encounter that it was clear had been practice many times. Point man rounds a corner and almost bumps into an office containing three clone soldiers. He fires through the windows with the penetrator, nailing the first solider to the wall, then lobs a grenade through the hole and backs up. It was a sequence of events designed to show off both what the engine could do and what the player could accomplish with enough skill. What actually happened this time could never have been predicted. The first two maneuvers went off without a hitch. As the grenade went off Point Man went into bullet time to highlight everybody in the office being blown to shit, and just as it ran out a dismembered arm came flying out of the window and landed at his feet. The guy doing the demo was so surprised that he did a double take with the mouse and the audience went crazy.

Events like this were common place in F.E.A.R., and the third game does not disappoint, but there is still something missing. The first game worked because it started out with crazy things happening in normal surroundings, slowly building to absolute insanity in the final level. F.3.A.R. starts out with crazy, supernatural shit, and has no where to go. There is now build, no tension, so nothing is actually scary. Don't get me wrong, it's a great shooter so far, but it isn't F.E.A.R.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever Review

Duke Nukem Forever arriving in my mailbox in a retail released, legitimate, non-pirated or leaked form is something I never though I would see. Surely the code existed and would be spirited away from the now defunct 3D Realms to be released into the wild, but I never expected anyone to pick of the pieces and finish the game. Gearbox took up the challenge, and I don't know if the pieces that they had to work with were just way past their prime or if they changed the 'get it done' philosophy of its originator to a more modern 'get that thing our the door regardless of how close it is to being finished,' but Duke Nukem Forever is a lot like traveling into your past to revisit your first time having sex: sure, the boobs are nicer than they are now but everything else is more than a little embarrassing and you certainly have done it better since.

America, fuck yeah!
If you take the time and effort to separate Duke Nukem the 'game' from Duke Nukem the 'aesthetic,' one of two come out of this decade plus long drama looking pretty good. Here's a hint, it's not the one about if the game is fun to play or not. You would not think that making a game that is crass, sexist, gory and funny all at the same time would be difficult, but striking a balance between juvenile/funny and juvenile/annoying is a difficult thing. Duke is juvenile, hitting all the notes that a person who giggles at the mention of the word 'boobies' would hope for, but it is also funny in ways that betray a separate intention, that of parodying the jingoistic machismo that oozes from other shooters. It also manages to poke fun at a lot of little things that happened in the game world during its long development, my favorite being Duke quipping 'power armor is for pussies' after passing up an exact replica of the Master Chief's getup.

There is also the possibility that I have exaggerated much of the last paragraph up in an attempt to justify wasting several hours of my life on a game whose high point was exceptional breast physics, and low point was every other time that I touched the controller.

Dissecting a game into its various parts is a fun exercise, but what matters is how much fun it is to play when everything, all the bad and all the good, are mashed together. Duke, as the shooter it either is or is making fun of, just isn't any fun. It is an awkward mash up of new and old ideas that interfere with each other most of the time. For example, Duke no longer requires health packs. His ego (which can be bolstered by interacting with the environment, the one thing that was new and worked well) serves a his shield/magically rejuvenating health. Add that to old school enemies that can kill you in one or two hits regardless of the size of your ego and Duke finds himself jumping from cover to cover, shooting a few rockets and then running away in a manner exactly opposite to balls of steel. Oh, and sometimes there is no cover, in which case you just die often.

Then you wait for the level to load which can take longer than it will take you to die again.

I do worse than kill you, I waste your time.
All of the weapons from Duke Nukem 3D are back, but you can only carry two at a time. I ended up running through 90% of the game with a rocket launcher and machine gun because that would take care of most situations. Experimenting was not possible because other weapons just didn't have enough ammo (the sniper rifle) or you had to be able to smell the pig cop's breath before it would do any damage (the shotgun). Others just didn't work at all, like the shrink ray or freeze gun and the default pistol did laughable damage. Weapons being boring in a shooter is difficult to forgive, especially when that is all you see of yourself when playing the game.

Everything else is right out of the 'this is how you make an M rated FPS checklist. Bosses? Check, but you can only hurt them with one of your weapons, so make sure you have it on you at all times. Underwater level? Check, but it is quite difficult to control what is going on, there is precious little ammo to be had, and there is one of those bosses you can only hurt with one weapon at the end. False ending and loud voice acting? Check; the only person who sounds like he is having a good time here is Jon St. John, and who can blame him for relishing in the Duke-ness of things when one of his other gigs is a narration on Legoland theme parks. Nudity? Check, and excessive, but anyone who expects political correctly in a Duke Nukem game is really missing the point.

Duke is embarrassed for you. Really. 
It is difficult to find fault with Gearbox, in spite of how terrible the game is. No one knows what they had to work with. I get the feeling that this was done just so Gearbox could add 'released Duke Nukem Forever after over 11 years of development' to its resume. They have a keen sense of history, including previous E3 videos and screen shots of old versions to remind the player how far the game has come. Duke Nukem Forever did indeed come a long way, but so has the genre. So have videogames in general. Duke's time is past, his game is bad, and his attitude is no longer amusing.

The first achievement I unlocked was called 'turd burglar.'  I got it doing exactly what is sounds like, and it was definitely appropriate. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

You expected something else?

For all of the drama surrounding Duke Nukem forever, I was never that interested in the actual game surrounding it. Duke Nukem 3D was before my time, PC gaming wise, and I never went back and got it. Honestly, when I think over the top first person shooting, Serious Sam comes to mind (at least his first two games). Forever eventually coming out did come as a surprise, and it was added to the list because just about everything, but I do not have over ten years worth of anticipation built up. It's just another shooter, and I am playing it as such.

So it should come as no surprise that it really being a terrible game does not offend me as much as you would think. It is an odd mix of very old ideas shoe horned in with modern day changes just because they were in the old Duke game so they should be here. For example, I have been told that all of the old weapons are here, but in the old game Duke could carry all of the weapons at once. Now you have the new standard of the two weapon limit. This leaves you without the wrong weapon most of the time and some weapons, like the handgun, are just never used. I walk around with a rocket launcher and whatever I have ammo for, and it has been that way for several hours.

Years of revisions have not been kind to the graphics, either. Forever has changed engines many times over the years, settling finally on the Unreal 3 engine, but it certainly doesn't look like it. All the effort seems to have gone into breasts and nipples, as environmental textures take forever to pop in but the boobs are just about always ready to pop out. Speaking of misogynism, I am confused that a few people out there on the internet have been complaining about how women are objectified in the game. This is god damn Duke Nukem game, how could any expect anything else? The level in question is filled with naked women who have been impregnated by the aliens, all of whom are wailing in pain and begging to be killed (which makes running out of ammo and having to pistol whip them to death a real possibility). Is it tasteless? Of course, but no more offensive than things I have seen in other games.

Part of what caused the issue was how Duke reacted, or didn't react, to the situation. Once again, this is one dimensional character faced with boobs, it doesn't matter what they are attached to or what is going to happen to them afterwards; boobs

I can't believe I an defending Duke, but come on people, lighten up. The game is terrible, it might as well remain true to its roots.

...

Watching NorCal regionals in blatant disregard for my cold turkey desertion of Street Fighter. All the actual tournament matches involving Yun have been a bore, but Diago is running his Ryu back against Filipino Champs Dhalsim. It is an excellent match that will never again see in a real match, and the game is poorer for it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer nights

I have been trying to come up with a theme for summer, an old game that I should have played and haven't yet. There is always The Witcher, which still sits in my Steam queue, purchased and ready to download, but with the announcement of its sequel making its way to consoles (eventually) I have new hope that the original game that was announced and then canceled will make its way out. It's foolish hope, but enough to keep me from trying to play through the game for the third time. Something on my PC does make sense; it is closer to my refrigerator and there is bathroom just down the hall. Should I try Torment again? I actually have the discs for that laying around somewhere. Maybe Baldurs Gate 2, another game that I started and never finished because the damn thing is hundreds of hours long? Wait, I know.

Confession time. I have never played Diablo 2 through to the end. I think I started it once, but my computer at the time just couldn't do it. Let's see how much this costs. To GOG.com!

...

I should have known that it wouldn't be on GOG.com. Far be it from Blizzard to let any tiny bit of revenue slip through its fingers. I suppose I will check their site.

...

$40 for the battle chest! Are you fucking kidding me?!  Diablo 2 came out 11 years ago and they are still soaking people for 19.99 for it and its expansion? That is absolutely ridiculous. I refuse; I wont do it.

Really, I wont.

Really.

I'll just go play Duke instead.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The first problem was being sober

Children of Eden promises the world by being the unofficial/official followup to Rez. After a few hours of play last night I must say that I am a little disappointed. It's the same game played the same way, but it doesn't look as good or sound as good (or feel as good) as I remember. Rez HD wasn't out that long ago, and by the looks of this review I wrote for it, I kinda liked it:

Describing Rez in literal terms is a great way to keep people from playing it. It is an on rails shooter with interactive music set inside a computer system with the player being a hacker who itrying to shut everything down, and on top of that it is over 5 years old, originally came out on the Dreamcast and can be finished in just over an hour. Meh, on rails shooter will never get better then Panzer Dragoon Orta and Rock Band has the interactive music genre tied up quite nicely, why bother. Thankfully, Rez can be much better described as a sixty minute acid trip that gets better every time it is taken combined with a potential female masturbatory aid. If that doesn't catch a person's attention, nothing will.

Rez is a shooter superficially. Yes, attacking enemies must be destroyed before the player is destroyed. That sentence describes 95% of all the games ever made, EVER, and the basics of the game work well enough. There is a targeting reticule that will lock on to up to eight enemies at a time and bombs for when things get out of hand. The controls work well enough that they are not intrusive, which is important because Rez isn't about shooting things. It isn't really about anything at all, it simply is.

If that sounds a bit existential then good. Rez is about as pure of an experience as a game can be. The shooting aspect has been distilled down to the simplest parts allowing the focus of the game to be on assaulting the senses instead of assaulting the player's reaction time. Every action, from locking on to an enemy to things exploding, makes a unique sound. Each sound fits with the music that is playing, creating the soundtrack on the fly. The player's actions affect the music in a very real way; as he or she improves, the music gets better. Rez must also be seen to be understood; it has lost nothing in the five years since its initial release, and the jump to widescreen high definition is a marvel. The environments of each of the five levels are varied and colorful, building along with the music from simple wireframes to incredibly busy scenes that throb along with the beat. Each level is a character, culminating in bosses that are difficult without being frustrating and that serve as the perfect climax to each area.

As enticing as it can be to see and hear no experience is complete without touching. Most games treat vibration feedback as a coarse indicator of what is already happening on the screen. It becomes little more then another status meter, relentless and imprecise. Vibration feedback in Rez works right alongside the visuals and sounds to pull the player further in. The beat is in the players head and in his hands, everything that is seen is also felt. Rez is not played, it is absorbed. Three additional controllers can be added as trance vibrators (this is the game's definition, not mine) which give separate feedback from the main controller. What happens with those depends on the player's powers of persuasion and how big of a geek his significant other is.

Mine said no. Your mileage may vary.
As a port of an older title Rez has made the transition to current gen very well. The only downside is the previously mentioned vibration. The XB360 does not provide the same strength of feedback as either the Dreamcast of PS2, but that is forgivable. The original version of Rez is included for the purest or the poor and HD-less, which means there is no excuse for anyone not play this. Rez is unique, accessible, and more then a little sexy, just like that cute girl who works at the coffee shop that you never had the guts to talk to. Here is your second chance.


Enough whoring out things I wrote last year. Though I do like it...


Children of Eden is noticeably less edgy, if that makes any sense. The was a darkness just under the surface of Rez. You were fighting a nebulous, intelligent thing that just happened to look cool while being blown up. The music was more intense, lending inescapable malice the the latter boss encounters. The only inescapable malice in Children of Eden are the damn purple bullets that you have to shoot down. It is significantly harder than Rez was, seemingly designed to be played whilst failing ones limbs, and it is no secret as to how I feel about that. So I sat there last night playing it as god intended: with my thumbs.


I got stuck on the penultimate level last night, something else that I don't ever remember happening in Rez. I desperately want to see all the game has to offer, but that requires playing through old level several times to earn enough stars to advance, and then beating your head against a boss that takes ten minutes to get to and then kills you in less than one. I think concessions could have been made here in the name of letting the player have a good time. Save the hard shit for the hard difficulty level. I will still eventually get the end, I just wont have as fond of memories of the trip as I should.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ya gots ta chill

Some mellow times are in order, but distraction is also going to be required to make good on my cold turkey decision from last night. Both Children of Eden and Duke Nukem Forever have been shipped, which is good, but I will not see them until tomorrow or Friday, which is bad. I have turned to my savior in times of nothing to do, XBLA, and it has not disappointed. A new digital version of Magic is exactly what I need. It will fill the hours, is fun, and its tactile requirements fall well within the range of a beer or three. According to the write up on the marketplace site it has all new this and improved that, all of which are fine and good, but I am just looking forward to new cards and hopefully more balanced decks.

...

The one thing missing from Red Faction: Armageddon was the large scale wanton destruction that could be wrought in Guerrilla. There were entire cities that could be leveled and mini-games built around doing it quickly and without wasting ordinance. There was nothing in the main game like that; it is hidden in a different menu and, surprise, there is a code required for it that only comes with a retail copy of the game. It is going to by a bit hypocritical to complain about this as I said nothing when Mortal Kombat had similar requirements for getting all that you paid for. Armageddon is not the first game to do this, but it is the first game that I know of that locked out portions of single player content instead of just multi-player. I understand publishers attempting to glean as much revenue as they can from the rental market, but this has gone one step too far. Take the following example: you live in a goddamned shack. We are talking a unabomber style, run down, no indoor pluming affront to all the is decent in the world of not getting rained on. You have electricity, but you have no internet connection.

You have scraped together all of your pennies from selling meth and purchased two games: Mortal Kombat and Red Faction: Armageddon. Mortal Kombat has a code that you have to enter online to play online and you don't care because you couldn't play online anyway. Armageddon has a code that you have to enter online to access single player content. This also happens to be the content that Red Faction games are pretty much known for.

Things spiral out of control. You can't get your fix of mass destruction virtually so you go down to the local fireworks warehouse and buy the biggest mortars you can find, aim them at the neighbors house, and blow the shit out of it. Lawyers get involved. Lots of them. They decide that it is THQ's fault in the first place for being dick heads and sue them into oblivion.

One could only hope.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This time I mean it

No really.

I quit Street Fighter once when vanilla was out, and have told that story many times. It's amusing in retrospect, but also fairly embarrassing. Things have gotten there again with AE, only this time there will be no good story. No melodrama, no theatrics, no scissors. Just me losing all night, capped off by some random Evil Ryu who spammed ducking jabs. So congrats, random dude who wandered into a lobby, you are the last person I am going to play.

I had no answer. It's time to go. I just can't do it any more. I cannot take seeing something happening on the screen, knowing that I should not be falling for it, and getting hit anyway. I cannot take winning the first round handily only to lose the second by a sliver and the third by a mile.

Game saves have been deleted. Arcade stick is wrapped up and put away. Discs will find themselves at the local brick and mortar tomorrow, most likely to be put towards my copy of Skyrim.

Discs?

Oh yeah, fuck Mortal Kombat, too.

...

It occurs to me that I should find something else to do with my free time, but for the life of me I don't know what.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The end of balance

Enough whining, time to talk about the new Red Faction.

I do not pay nearly as close attention to gaming news as I used to. My evenings used to be dividing equally between playing games and reading about games that I might play in the future. Shortly after leaving gaming retail the self exposed expectation of 'gaming encyclopedia' fell away and my time was better spent playing just about everything. This is a long, boring way of explaining that I was expecting Red Faction: Armageddon to be the same kind of open world game as Red Faction: Guerrilla. I played for the first two hours waiting for the game to open up so I could grab some explosives and start knocking shit down, which is exactly what I did and had a blast doing in Guerrilla. After two more hours of modestly entertaining but linear levels I turned it off and looked the game up. Silly me, this isn't supposed to be like Guerrilla at all, it is more in line with the first Red Faction. It took a bit to reign my expectations back towards what was actually being presented, but once I did I was left with a pretty good shooter.

The Red Faction games have always been about doing damage to the environment, but the level of damage was always limited by the fact that you had to be able to walk out of the destruction you wrought. Armageddon finally gets around this by letting the player magically repair almost any damage that has been done. This would have been better if there was still the free form destruction from Guerrilla, but it does make for some much more interesting combat when the monsters can blow up the stairs you need to use to escape. I'm all for environmental permanence whenever possible, so seeing the path I need to follow to get out littered with debris and bodies is a nice touch, even if they had to include an environmental reset button to get there.

It would be easy for me to remain irrationally upset with Crysis 2 and call Red Faction a better game, but it most certainly is not. It does not look as good and lacks even the modest variety that Crysis had; it's just not a AAA title, somewhere in the single A or perhaps the B range. Still, Crysis 2 felt like an arrogant graduate from a high end school flaunting all the big important things in learned by doing big, important, annoying things. To run with that analogy, Armageddon is a product of the frat house filled with people who may or may not actually graduate. It's fun, but playing through it from beginning to end may very well kill brain cells.

...

Street Fighting as a spectator sport is a relatively new phenomena. I am not what would be described as a stream monster, but I did have both CEO and ReveLAtions running at the same time. CEO was probably the best top 8 I have ever seen, mostly because the twin invasion was snuffed out before the top four. I am afraid that this will be the last time we get to see one like it; the pros who jumped on Yun or Yang simply had not had enough time to comfortable enough with the characters to keep up with the players who stuck by their men, regardless of 'balance' changes. It made me quite happy to see the top three consisting of Mike Ross (Honda) Sabin (Dhalsim and Rose) and Tokido (Akuma). Mike Ross in particular made a huge through the losers bracket, taking out Justin Wong for the first time in his life. The grand final was a bit of a let down, but ti was still better than what RevaLAtions ended up with.

While I cannot blame Daigo for finally leaving Ryu, watching Jun mirror matches is not a good time. Watching Yun fight Fei Long in the grand finals was not much better. In the end, this is what Street Fighter will have to offer from this point forward. As the pros with less character loyalty (and that is not meant as a slight) migrate over to the clearly top tier characters the 'product' will become less enjoyable to consume.

I really, really hope that Daigo doesn't win E3 with Yun. Come on Mike Ross; I believe.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

That gif

...also describes by level of success with Mortal Kombat and AE last night.

It was ugly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

They teach this in high school english

Crysis 2 spent about three hours trying to top itself last night. Each encounter screaming as loud as it could 'you think what you just did before was awesome? Check out this shit!' Apparently the developers disagreed with the concept of rising and falling actions, opting to keep pushing things up until the games ends and you fall off a cliff of disappointment. It has called back plot elements from the first game more and more often as it hurtles towards the inevitable third act collapse, another decision that I really do not understand. First of all, most console players will not have played the first game or its stand alone expansion, and even if they did, it was long ago and thin enough that I don't remember any of it.

For example, this Hargreaves guy was apparently pretty important, but I have no idea who is is, so when I found out that he was actually being kept alive in cryogenic chamber filled with blue goo it made little difference. It was not a surprise or a twist because I had no preconceived expectation. He could have been a velociraptor  for all I knew. Actually, that might have made the game more interesting. A new Turok game I can get behind, at least it would have a built in excuse for its mediocrity. Seriously, it's Turok, what more can you expect?

I sincerely hope that Crysis 2 ponies up a better boss fight for its finale than the the previous and identical one. The three legged pinger, no to be confused with the tall things from Half Life 2 that they look suspiciously like, will kill you if they see you in front of them and are only vulnerable in the GIANT RED ENGINE on their rears. The only strategy that works is to turn invisible, run behind them, fire something of high caliber and explosive nature at their baboon-esque asses, then run away. They trot this guy out three times, and the only difference is how many other bad guys there are or how little ammunition they give you. It was moderately interesting the first time. After that it was just like rest, shiny, but repugnantly familiar.

The game should end tonight which will give me an evening or two to spend with AE before diving into the latest Red Faction, a game which I do know if any else has actually played. I do look forward to investing more in AE in spite of the blatant balance issues. In the the two hours I have played there were two people who quit after the character selection screen. This is by new barometer of success: if I choose a character that you are so loathe to fight that you drop out before the match even begins, I win. Every piece of hate mail after a win counts as another win. And every scrubby Jun that think they can win just because they heard the character is over powered counts as three.

If I can't actually win at the game, I will just invent my own rules.    

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Some not as bad, some much worse

There is an awful lot of people wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth regarding Yun and how overpowered he is in AE. It has quickly become the fashionable thing to do, much like it was to hate Sagat in Vanilla (and Vanilla Sagat was indeed bull shit). I played against a few of them last night, only one of which was any good, and I can see where this angst is coming from. Every damn move he has feel difficult to punish, and a missed punish leads to silly combos into ultra. He's bad, but I do not think that at the level of most online play he is actually broken. It will take a while for people to figure him out, and there will eventually be better strategies to use against him (note: apparently T Hawk has a good matchup). Frankly, I am more worried about Fei Long. There were two different Fei players last night and both of them took me apart with six and seven hit strings of soul crushing abuse. Every time I got knocked down I had to decide to block or throw, and each time I guessed wrong. I couldn't even  use the Blanka catch all - EX upball - because even on hit I was left with by ball hanging out there just waiting for further abuse.

Speaking of abusing my balls, Blanka balls are no longer something that you can just throw around. It used to be safe to just lay them out there against T Hawk and Zangief once I was sure that they didn't have the reaction time to punish with a jab. Yes, it was lazy, but it also pissed people off. Now the only ball worth using it the light one, and even then it has to be on the end of a combo to make a difference. I refuse to complain, because all it really does it force me to not do stupid shit. I really should learn to end things with electricity, but that is a project for another day. He doesn't feel that different, and that coupled with the fact that no one seems to be playing him put me in the top 100 of all Blanka's after one night's play.

I know it is meaningless, but it is a nice number.

Crysis 2 needs to be finished, but I do not know if I want to play it tonight. Dee Jay got no attention at all yesterday, and I really need to decide if he is going to be by alternate. Or I could just pick up Jun, like everyone else.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I stand corrected...

but I was correct.

Assuming this is real...



Fuck that.

mEh 3

I am surprised at  how little enthusiasm I have been able to muster regarding this years E3. There has been no time to watch the press conferences, so I have been reliant on other to recap it for me (Thanks Chance!). Getting the details in small, pre-chewed bites suits me just fine; it is much easier to ignore what I don't care about. This year that would be most of it.

Microsoft's presentation seems to have been dominated by Kintect nonsense. It is tough to blame them, it sells like hot cakes and all the games are on rails and take minimal effort to produce. The 360 always was supposed to be an all encompassing set top box, and lo and behold: it is. They at least have the common sense to keep putting out the games that got them to where they are, and as little as I care about Halo 4 and a remake of the original, they are staying at least partially true to their roots.

Let's see, what else was interesting. The new Rayman? Awesome, probably one of the coolest looking 2D games I have ever seen. Insomniac's much vaunted debut as a multi-platform developer? Yawn, it's Borderlands crossed with Team Fortress 2. A new Sly Cooper? Cool, but wait, Insomniac isn't doing it, so any anticipation needs to be cautious. The new Wii with a swanky new controller? Look at it this way: the only thing we have seen, graphically, was no better than anything the Unreal or Crysis engines can do, both of which run handily on current generation hardware that still matters. Add to that a controller that sounds (not looks, because no one has seen it yet) like the hideous offspring of the Dreamcast and Jaguar controller. Do you want to put this in your hands?

Plus


I don't care if I can walk away from the couch to get something to eat and never stop playing, I have developed arthritis from using the damn thing!

The absolute worst part is that every time Nintendo has a new idea I make fun of it and they turn around and use the thing to print money for a few years. As a company, I love them, they make money hand over fist. As a purveyor of games and gaming accessories I despise them and will be hard pressed to give them any of my money.

Oh, and AE has already been downloaded. I will play it tonight, but I have no doubt that the Blanka nerfs will frustrate me just as much as the little buffs given to Dee Jay will thrill me. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

You can shine that turd up all you want

E3 is coming and I am honestly not that interested. There will be veiled talk of a new console from Nintendo console, but after the silliness of the Wii it would have to shine like diamonds, not have motion control, and be forward compatible with whatever the next audio/visual fad after 3D is to get my attention. Regardless of whatever wiz-bang technology they put into it, the same games will appear in shinier renditions, and I am no longer interested in Mario or Zelda (or even Metroid, as hard as that is to say). Nintendo can pledge greater third party support all it wants, it will never actually happen. When the next boxes roll out from the other big two you can bet that the Microsoft offering will be easier to develop for and the Sony machine will remain a vast reservoir of untapped potential. In other words, nothing is going to change.

Speaking of things looking better while getting worse, Crysis 2 has been started and really needs to be finished before AE comes out. Crytek hit on something with Far Cry. It was a relatively open ended shooter running on a en engine that only the biggest and nastiest computers could handle. With the exception of the final act it was excellent, featuring frighteningly intelligent enemies for its time that required quick thinking and creativity. It was the first time that I remember AI opponents using suppressing fire on me while their buddies flanked me. The game fell completely apart when the monsters showed up, but that it was god mode is for.

Crysis continued the trend of hardware nerds wringing their hands over what resolution it could be run at, but there seemed to me to be a definite trade off between graphics and game play. Sure, Crysis looked amazing, but it just was as good of a shooter as Far Cry was. Combat was still open ended, but the levels themselves were smaller. Stealth was less viable in spite of being able to turn invisible for short periods of time; most encounters devolved into turning on max armor and running to battle. Plus, it still featured a total third act collapse and non-ending even worse than Far Cry.

Which brings us to Crysis 2. Lets go through the check list. Does it look better than Crysis or Crysis Warhead? Definitely, and I am not just saying that because I am playing it on a console this time. Does it strip away even more of what made Crysis and Far Cry interesting shooters? Yup. Levels are linear in nature with enemy spawns that belong in Doom 3. Suit powers beyond extra armor are less important. Enemies take a silly amount of damage to kill. Instant death moments abound right before checkpoints (which are much to far apart as it is. Where is my god damn quick save?) It is not fun to walk around the corner into a tank that kills you and start over twenty minutes earlier.

The first achievement unlocked (for watching the intro, by the way) is called 'Can it run Crysis?' It can, but I don't really care.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Swing and a miss

Well, it certainly was nice of Sony to give away two PS3 games when they finally got their network back up and running. I am not even going to complain about the store being nearly inaccessible as long as they keep my credit card information safe this time. About the only thing that does suck is the slightly ass backwards way you go about claiming your freebies.

Step one: download the 'choose your first free game' pointless item
Step two: hit the circle button to back up after the download is complete
Step three: choose your free game

Doesn't sound too bad, but I still managed to screw it up the first time, thus screwing myself out of Wipeout HD (the other choice was Dead Nation, a game that demands my attention since its creators went on to produce Outland). It is no one's fault but mine. But it still sucks.

...

The God of War franchise, in spite of consisting of three fine games, has released a terrible plague upon the gaming world. It is a game mechanic as prevalent as it is useless and lazy, providing a back door for developers who have great ideas of what should happen but no way to get the player to actually being involved past pressing buttons when prompted. I am of course speaking of quick time events, something that I had enough of after Dragon's Lair. They are lazy when used in the middle of the level, lazier when applied to a boss, and reprehensible when used for a final enemy. Bulletstorm managed to stop being awesome just in time for me to kill the evil general by hitting the right bumper. No lengthy fire fight forcing me to use all the weapons and abilities I had picked up through the course of the game, just literally


I don't understand. It is like they literally ran out of ideas and decided to script the ending using the least possible amount of effort. This terrible ending left such a terrible taste in my mouth that I couldn't even be bothered to go back and play the echoes levels. I just didn't care anymore, and the blatant sequel pandering after the credits was even worse. 

Perhaps this is Epic sabotaging the game just enough to keep it behind Gears of War 3, whenever that decides to come out.

/tinfoil hat

Thursday, June 2, 2011

So few lines

I am going to start traveling with riders: no hotels with televisions of the non-flat screen variety.

That being said, I did play about four hours of Bulletstorm two nights ago (got drunk last night instead) and honestly feel like I missed about three quarters of the what the game had to offer. It was still pretty, but not as pretty as it would have been at home, and the text was impossible to read. The longer I played the more reckless I became which oddly enough kept me from dying all the time. When I first started Bulletstorm I was playing like any other first person cover based shooter and wondered why the cover didn't actually work half the time. I'm ducking behind something that is smaller than I am which works in every other shooter ever, why am I still getting shot? This game only rewards you when you play in a matter befitting the main character: running full steam at guys, kicking them into the nearest sharp object and generally not giving a shit about anything. Oh, and drinking in game nets you more points for kills along with a startling realistic depiction of have about three beers to many.

Bulletstorm came from the strange union of People Can Fly and Epic. People Can Fly put out Painkiller, an exceptional shooter whose name has been sullied by several mediocre to terrible follow ups, but the balls to the wall nature of Painkiller is present in Bulletstorm and is its best feature. And what did Epic bring to the party? Well, on the plus side they know how to use the Unreal engine to great affect, but they also carry the baggage of questionable character design, lame stories and profanity for the sake of profanity (I like a good F-bomb as much as the next guy, but some of what is said just doesn't make sense. Kill your dick? Really?) These things worked in Gears of War, but there was a certain levity of mood and movement in Painkiller, in spite of being set in hell, that is just barely there in Bulletstorm. There are brilliant moments here, but there is also a fair amount of slowly jogging to the next area so bad guys can spawn out of the ground and take up defensive positions.

I am not going to play the game again until I have returned to my personal, more appropriate venue, and I am certainly not going to saddle Crysis 2 with a mere 480 interlace vertical lines.

...

There is much to be said about Dragon Age 2 but I don't know where to start. I don't know if it was a better or worse game than the first, just different. The combat was still not what I would expect out Bioware, stuck somewhere between the real time frenzy of Mass Effect 2 and the psuedo-turn based old school RPG's and not being as good as either. It got the job done, especially when I stopped trying to deal with monster closet encounters and dropped the difficulty down to casual. Contrary to popular opinion, the story and my lack of control over it never really bothered me. Judging from the achievements that I missed there was quite a bit of freedom with how I dealt with my party members that I missed, but then again I played through the game as organically as I could. None of the characters were very interesting in a romantic way, so I did not pursue any of them beyond a tryst with the female rogue who was never in my party because my character could do everything she could, only better. When the final twist came and I had to choose sides only one member deserted me, and when he showed up to fight me later he went down with an arrow square between his eyes, so no big loss.

I did feel that I was locked into a specific party makeup because I chose to play a rogue. Having two rogues in the same party is not worth it, so that ruled out Varric and the pirate chick with the nice ass. I needed a tank and a healer, and since I didn't muck with the other characters abilities when they leveled up there was only one choice for each of them.

Aha, I just hit upon what I did wrong: I assumed that Bioware would inject some variety into their player builds, but that was my job. Damn, foiled by my own laziness again.

Dragon Age 2 was not great, but it wasn't terrible either. I would have sooner played The Witcher 2, and it is looking like that might actually happen on consoles this time around.