Sunday, July 31, 2011

A public, private party

I almost, almost wish that I had stuck with Marvel, having just watched an incredibly intense grand finals at EVO and not having enough knowledge of the game to truly appreciate it (or even knowing who Viscount was, shame on me). It moves at such speed that I am always a bit behind, even when simply spectating. However, seeing Tronne somehow grab Dark Phoenix with a level 3 command throw to kill her will deservedly be on highlight reels for years to come. I honestly thought that Viscount was done; to have the tournament snatched away at the last possible second and to bounce back and take it 3-0 was even more impressive. These guys are absolute pros, the best at what they do, and it is a shame that so few people can appreciate or even understand their accomplishments.

Fighting games will never make it as main stream entertainment. It requires far to much background knowledge and no one is going to help you get it. I cannot imagine starting Street Fighter with number 4. Actually, I can, it would probably be just like me trying to start MvC3 without playing 2. There is no way that a non-gamer is going to put up with that kind of abuse just to understand what is happening on a stream. But for those of us who do know, even if we know just enough, it is an incredible virtual community.

I say virtual because I lack the skill/time/money/balls to actually be present physically at such an event when I can observe from the safety of my basement.

...

Wow, that Balrog movie was awful. Let's get the dive kicking started, I need to go to bed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Do I have to say something nice?

L.A. Noire stopped being fun two days ago. It finally had the sense to end tonight and it did not come a moment too soon. Things started to go south when Phelps left his wife for a German jazz singer/drug addict/jazz singer (with no real warning or foreshadowing). He then was betrayed by the worlds slimiest cop and busted right down to the arson desk. I was bored with questioning people by this point and stopped paying attention enough to get the right answers, which did't manner because I had realized that no matter how poorly I interrogated someone or collected clues the game allowed me to continue. I could literally walk backwards through a case, get everything wrong, get yelled at by the head of the department and the only consequence was three stars as a reward instead of four.

Not content to waste my time with Phelps, the game decides to put me in control of his equally boring war buddy Kelso. He had been questioned once regarding a shit load of morphine that was stolen (that he knew all the details of and lied to police about) and shown up in a few flashbacks, but suddenly introducing him as a playable character was a terrible idea. So was the final set of cases being about real estate fraud. Include all the shoot outs you want, book keeping crime is still boring.


Still, as much as I hate to do it, I must give credit where credit is due. I have complained on several occasions about developers/producers/writers not having the balls to end a story on a real down note. The bad guys never really win and the good guys never really die. No so in L.A. Noire. While it is difficult to call Phelps the good guy, he seems to be one of the only clean cops on the force. At the end of a over wrought shoot out in a sewer (in which you don't eve play him) he saves the girl and the guy is mercy killed. Boring.  But wait, then he drowns in the sewer after saving Kelso and the girl. And the world smarmiest cop delivers his eulogy.

Damnit, L.A. Noire, I wanted to hate you. You deserve to be hated because you are a mediocre game (at best) masquerading as a AAA title. But you killed the hero and let the bad guys win, so I can't. The one things it got right was something that the player has no impact on, and while it does not save the game it certainly must be acknowledged.

That was much to lovey dovey. I must be getting soft. Being furious with the entire internet because my windows live account (and therefore my Tech Net access) is locked will do that to you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

But I want to wear the white hat

Detective Cole Phelps is not just a douche bag, he is an aggressive douche bag convinced that everything he does is moral an upstanding while anything anyone else does is against the law. He assumes everyone is guilty, if not for the crime her is currently investigating than for something else, and treats them that way. He is also incredibly hypocritical, overlooking moral the moral atrocities committed by his partners, neglecting to turn them in even when directly questioned by a superior. In other words, he is not a likable character and playing as him in a series of more and more despicable crimes investigations is grating on my nerves. I understand that he is not supposed to be a hero, but at least give him some redeeming features. Better yet, get some Elliot Ness up in here so I can honestly hold the moral high ground when bringing the hammer down on a suspect.

He doesn't even fail well. Phelps' stay on the homicide desk ends with the killing of the black dahlia serial killer. This would ordinarily be a happy ending (at least if I didn't have to resort to looking up the answers to poorly written riddles on line) but get this: he had sent six innocent people to jail on the way to catch the real criminal. Phelps was convinced that he had the right men, only doubting the guilt later on when the bodies kept accumulating. Instead of working to free the innocent he let them sit, catching more innocent men on the way to just shooting the real bad guy. He is a bad cop who thinks he is a good cop; at least my current partner on the Vice Desk knows that he is scum. The guys smile is so smarmy that I feel like I need a shower after every conversation.

I do understand that this moral relativism is important to the story. It does have 'noire' in the title after all. Playing as a cop could have been better. I was looking forward to actually being the good guy in a Rockstar game ( John Marsten doesn't count, and you know it) but it was not to be. This lack of confidence that the general public would enjoying being the white knight in a dark world is a little disturbing.

This could be a good exercise. How many current games have the player controlling a scruple-less hero? Lets see....

Wait to ruin the challenge, Portal 2. Unless Chell really is evil and Glados is the hero...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Don't tell anyone

Time for a confession. A terrible, embarrassing confession that is just as difficult to personally acknowledge as it is to tell anyone about.

I am, just slightly, interested in the Wii-U.

Wait, don't go! This interest have very little chance of turning into a purchase. It probably wont make it past the end of the week. It has nothing to do with the system itself, the first party cavalcade of sequels that I have no doubt will be metered out at a snails pace, or the supposed graphical prowess that just barely surpassed what can be achieved now. It is the controller that has captured my eye, mostly because I don't understand how it is going to work. I have seen mock ups with the television screen completely freed of all extraneous information, all of it delegated to the giant, battery sucking touch screen. At first this seems like a good idea, but think about it: you know have to look in two places at once to do what you could do by looking in once place before. The inclusion of a more tradition button scheme is nice, but using it will make taking advantage of the touch screen very difficult (unless you to use your nose, but there's the looking in two places problem again).

I just don't understand it. I didn't understand the Wii, either, but at that, less jaded, point of my gaming career I trusted Nintendo to put out a product that I would on some level enjoy. It wasn't until I got a Wii-mote in my hands that I became completely disillusioned with the silliness of motion controls. This will probably turnout the same way, but I have to see it for myself. Someone thought this was a good idea, put a lot of money behind it, sent it out to third party developers and gave it a stupid name. There has to be something there, right?

Then again, they did just release the 3DS, which isn't exactly flying off the shelves at the same pace the DS did.

...

Oh shit, EVO is this weekend. I cannot wait for Daigo to win the thing with Yun and get booed right off the stage. Last year the stream died during the final moments of the final round. The anger was palpable right through the inter-tubes. Here's hoping they get Seth Killian back to do commentary and someone dive kicks him in the face.

Just kidding, Seth, you know I love you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

But they have cool hats

What was that I said about assumed quality?

L.A. Noire has taught me a few important things about police work. First of all being a detective is boring. Every case plays out the same way: person, usually a woman, is killed in some grotesque manner. Detective arrive, find victims address in her purse, question the husband, husband runs away. Detective find one other suspect who may or may not be the actual killer, charge one, and never actually have to go to court to testify. Every case is this way, all that changes is the location of the body and how far the suspects run before you catch them/run them over with your car.

Secondly, everyone lies about everything even when they don't have a reason to and there is no space in a detectives questioning technique between bleeding heart softy and douche bag extraordinaire. Even passers by who just happen to have seen something get surly when pressed to give more information, though it doesn't help that the only way a detective can press to get more information is to try to pin the murder on every poor bastard who walks past. This just might be the fault of a terribly questioning interface. All that I am given to respond to a suspects answer are 'Truth,' 'Doubt' and 'Lie.' Accusing them of lying only works if you have evidence to back it up, but good luck choosing the right piece. Doubting what they have said is also a crap shoot because you have no idea what you are actually going to say, and more often that not just piss the witness off to the point where he or she stops talking to you.

I understand that I am supposed to be watching the 'intricately rendered' faces for clues of how big of a liar a person is. If all I could see was the person's face that might work, but the good looking faces (and I do admit they look disturbingly good) are stuck on top of poorly animated bodies. The total effect is one of a disembodied head stuck on top of a mannequin, clawing its way up the uncanny valley in a stilted manner right out of The Exorcist.


Well, she was going down the stairs, but you get my point. L.A. Noire is not good. It thinks its good, acts and looks the part, but beneath the shiny exterior and promises it's a choose your own adventure game, and all the choices are wrong.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Below minimum wage

I bought Kill Team after spending a scant five minutes time on the demo. It scratched the same dual stick shooter itch as Alien Breed and I have yet to fins the console equivalent Shadowgrounds so it seemed like a safe buy. There was actually a little more depth here than I was expecting, with four distinct classes to choose from and a whole host of perks to unlock. I am sure that everything the game offers is of some significance in the 40K universe, but not being what I would call 'a fan' I just shot orcs with big guns. I suppose I could have chosen one of the melee classes but why change the way I always play these games now; I am much to old for that.

In retrospect I probably should have. The shooting was good, with large detailed areas, a few boss fights, and just enough enemy variety to keep me interested in unleashing more death. Here's the problem: the game was only three hours long. Five levels and I was done. All through my initial (and only) play through I was unlocking weapons and abilities that were of no use to my chain gun wielding space marine. It the game's subtle hint that it is really meant to be played through multiple time. I tried to go back and give the survival levels a run. They forced me to use a different class, and while it was nice tho have to not go into battle with a dull butter knife and rubber band shooter, it was still just more of the same (and the melee itself was rather clumsy). Now I am not going to say that got burned, because I did get exactly what I was looking for, I will go on record that the quantity, even for 800 Microsoft bunks, was lacking.

The sting of money that could have been better spent still fresh in my wallet, I then turned to the Bastion demo. It's really good, but I do not know if I can justify buying another arcade game right now. It would be the third in three weeks and there are other, retail released games that need to be played. Good one even. Tonight will see me dive into L.A. Noire and Dungeon Siege 3 is on the way. So much quality all at once, I have no idea what I am going to do.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I have forgotten my point

As I feared, I played through to the end of Portal 2 with my laptop open to a rather detailed and spoiler ridden FAQ. It's not that I was having that hard of a time figuring things out, I just didn't want to wait around for my brain to kick in and took the easy way out. I will go on record right here and now and say that access to the internet, specifically search engines, makes you stupid. At the very least it makes pulling up meaningless facts much more difficult because the lazy (and dominant) part of your brain sits back and says 'you want me to get all your god damn gerbils running on their their god damn treadmills just so you can remember the black and white, single set movie Alan Rickman starred in? Fuck you, use IMDB. Or Google. Or Wikipedia. Bing, what's that?'

It took me almost five minutes to come up with the answer (Closetland), and it is a movie that you don't really ever forget.

My point is, if I can hold on to one for more than a few seconds, search engines do so much work for me that when I try to exercise the atrophied brain muscles to pull out old, useless facts it hurts and more often that not doesn't work. And if my brain has been slowly but surely clearing space by deleting things that it knows can be found within 10 seconds elsewhere what is it filling the newly found vacancies with? Nothing. Nothing at all. Well, apathy, tension, worry, anger and hunger, but nothing productive. The internet doesn't make anyone smarter, it just makes it easier to be dumb.

Back on topic, Portal 2 had an excellent ending that I wish I hadn't spoiled for myself ten minutes before I got there. Even after the game was over there were a few twists to be thrown. At the very end Chell gets what it is assumed that she wants: freedom. Freedom, though, equals an empty field with nothing else for miles around, so I am not sure where they are going to go from here. What I would like to see if some sort of Portal/Half Life crossover, with Gordon stumbling across Chell and getting the portal gun and cool looking boots in an incredibly awkward encounter during which no one talk. This is assuming that there will be a Half Life 3 while my hands still work well enough to play games.

Unless Valve plans to inject the next installment directly into our brains.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You know what I need

Portal 2 has much in common with Ms. 'Splosion Man. The goal of every level can be boiled down to getting there from here, there is very little combat, and there are sections where the only way to proceed is to plummet to your death a few times and then cruise to victory on the shoulders of your previous lives. There is a big difference here, though: Portal 2 is a prime example of fan service, and it works because Valve knew exactly what people wanted more of. We wanted puzzles with portals, talking turrets, flying long distances and landing on hard surfaces without being injured. We wanted more Glados, and we got a Glados potato on the end of the portal gun. The first Portal hand a wonderful bare bones stores that served as a guide through the tests. The story is just as import as anything else now, with Glados becoming a character that changes and grows as the game progresses instead of just trying to kill you with Goldberg-esque machinations.

Ms. 'Splosion Man only gives you what Twisted Pixel wants, and it is lessened greatly by this.

Playing two thought/reflex heavy games in a row has driven home that I am not as young, as dexterous or as patient as I once was. Getting stuck for more than five minutes in Portal 2 had me diving for a walk through. When I finish it up tonight it will be more of the same. I rationalize this to myself by saying that I just don't have the time to be stuck. It is Summer of Arcade time and I need to try Bastion, plus I bought that Warhammer twin stick shooter while just a bit drunk and I should try to get my monies worth out of it. Not to mention that GameFly continues to show no mercy, shipped LA Noire at the same time. Feast or famine when it comes to quality, I suppose. Watch them be really mean and send me Infamous 2.

Actually, I would appreciate that. My PS3 has been lonely, as I haven't found the money to by the Lord of the Rings Blu Ray yet.

Can't see the apocalypse for the 'splodes

It pains (really) to say negative things about Ms. 'Splosion man. It is an excellent, one of a kind game whose good points more than out weigh most of its failings. Complaining about the difficulty like I did yesterday is a lot like eating a habanero pepper and the bitching about the coating on your tongue being seared off: it comes with the territory and you should have known what you were getting into. That being said, it does manage to sully itself with an absolutely baffling ending. I have been 'sploding on and off since the game came out, watching the average time per level deteriorate from five minutes to ten minutes to over twenty. Having given up on the ridiculous 3-6 and left the other hidden levels alone I made a bee line for the final boss, expecting something on par with the octopus from the level before (who was very good in both design and execution).

What I got instead was, I shit you not, an homage to Punch Out.



I was appalled. Not by the eye boobs, those were kind of funny, but by the game deserting everything that made it unique for a kitschy reference to a game that, frankly, hasn't aged well. If it was just a round or two of this and then back to an actual boss battle I could let it go, but this is all there is.  Twisted Pixel was so busy being weird that they forgot why people were actually playing the game.

There is a second half to this game, one that requires another human being, that I will mostly likely never play. I have no one to 'splode with in person and I cannot imagine orchestrating things with random internet denizens working very well. Three optional levels are left, and now that I have found a video of how to do 3-6 I will go back and get them.

Portal 2 have been on the marquee for several days now and I have not spoken about it yet. This post is actually from yesterday and never got published, so the plan is to make a few remarks about potato GlaDos later today.

Oh, did I give something away?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'Sploding bank accounts

Been a few days and there is much to catch up on. Some now, some later as time permits.

...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: Now Rowling has all your money warranted a trip this weekend. I have read none of the books and have only a cursory knowledge of what happens, so I went looking for nothing more than a good summer movie. Deathly Hallow Part 1 was actually pretty good, so imagine my surprise when Part 2 wandered around for about two hours and got the ending wrong. I don't mean that the ending was not accurate to what was in the book (for all I know, it was), I mean that it was handled poorly and the movie was not very good. At all. In case there are any other luddites out there just like me I will try to explain this without spoiling anything: Harry kills Voldemort.

Shit, that didn't work.

Regardless of the size of the rock you live under, you knew this was coming. It was anticlimactic. It was boring. When I got home I laid out how the final battle could have been exciting, tense, had more gravitas, something like this:


What I described turns out to be exactly what happens in the book. Maybe I should read those things one of these days.

...

Ms. 'Splosion Man is indeed awesome, and no matter how many people but it not enough people will buy it, but Twisted Pixel has tuned up the difficulty one notch too high. 'Splosion Man was a solid ten the standard scale, but the difficulty always came from getting the timing right on your 'splodes, not figuring out what needed to be done. Ms. 'Splosion Man still has that, but it also has sections where the way to move forward is so obtuse that I ended up dying in the same place, in the same way, for over half an hour. It has gone right past ten, right on to eleven, and I don't think it was a good idea. 'Splosion Man is all about momentum; always moving forward with proper timed 'splodes over increasingly ridiculous obstacles. Continuously dying in an area and having no clue how to get past it kills the momentum. If I wanted to be frustrated I would play I  Wanna Be the Guy.

I have never played I Wanna Be the Guy.

Also, it really doesn't help the best videos of Ms. 'Splosion Man stop one level before the one I cannot get past. I don't care if it is an optional level, I am going to beat it. Eventually.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Early mid-life crisis

Warning, mostly not gaming related, semi-sober post incoming.

Ms. 'Splostion man continues to be excellent, but even a beer or three's delay of reflexes is enough to nudge it from difficult to physically impossible. After surrendering for the ending I sat staring at my eclectic movie collection for a few minutes, contemplating how to spend the rest of my evening. Getting drunker and being entertained were both in order, and thus there was only one option: The Wall.

I have a history of watching Pink Floyd's The Wall without warning while in varying degree's of drunkenness. This started with my first exposure in college and has continued on a semi-regular business ever since. It had been quite a while this time around, so getting blindingly drunk was not in the cards. I knew I wanted to watch it, but I could not remember why, so being at least cognizant of my urges seemed appropriate. I will not attempt to explain the movie; either you have seen it sober and don't understand, seen in while your consciousness has been altered in some way and think you understand, or you have not seen it and need to get off my damn lawn. For me the whole movie builds to one line right in middle, a line that speaks directly to me in a way that I am hesitant to admit to anyone, myself and faceless internet denizens included.

'I have a strong urge to fly
but I've got nowhere to fly to.'

...

More than a few minutes have passed and I do not know how to articulate what is in my head. I want something, and I know that I want it, but I do not know what it is. Perhaps that is why I am constantly trying to lose myself in other peoples' worlds; I hope that they have found whatever it is that I need and are willing to share it.

It never works, and the  subconscious search continues.

I have had more than my share of opportunities and possibilities in my life. I could have been a musician, or a music teacher, or a retail big wig, or the head of IT for a law firm, yet I do what I do know because it is relatively easy and affords me the time to... what? Wonder what it is that I am supposed to be doing? Seems a bit circular and pointless to me, but arguing with myself while buzzed and fresh off The Wall is a bad idea. Tomorrow the daily pattern will return and I will play Ms. 'Splosion man or the new warhammer shooter or just maybe Street Fighter again, all the while hoping that the next thing is the last thing that I have been looking for.

Right now all I need is sleep.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pink is manly, right?

There is something wonderfully primal about Ms. 'Splosion Man. Your goal? To get from one end of the level to the other without dying and possibly grab a new pair of shoes on the way. Your enemies? Helpless scientists who you can reduce to low quality cutlets with little effort. The controls? There are only two things that you can do: move and 'splode. And all of your buttons make you 'splode. I suppose a fair comparison can be made to the old Sonic games in that everything is timed and there is a definite right and wrong way to do each level, but Sonic couldn't 'splode. And his music wasn't as good. And there was never a Ms. Sonic (thank god).

Ms. 'Splosion Man is everything that a sequel to a good game should be. It takes all of the good ideas from the first game, retains them, then adds new mechanics on a consistent basis. Almost every level has brought a new toy or obstacle or enemy. First there were deceptively simple zip lines: nice and easy until you have to jump between three of them while avoiding electric barriers. Then there were large panels that allow you to continuously 'splode and hover: also easy until exploding barrels are added that you have to avoid. Then there were geriatric scientists in mechanical wheel chairs that you light on fire and send careening into their peers. Then there is the giant fat lady that Ms. 'Splosion Man jumps inside and uses for cover. Oh, and don't forget launchers right out of Donkey Kong Country. This was all in the first of three Super Mario World style areas, and the game shows no sign of slowing down.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Ms. 'Splosion man, the character herself, is actually a let down when compared to her volatile precursor. 'Splosion Man was manic and funny. Ms. 'Splosion Man is shrill and annoying, but at least you can turn her voice off in the menu. I will not let this deter me, though, because everything else about this game, from hidden levels to the homo-erotically charged unlock-able videos, is absolute gold.



Calling it right now: Ms. 'Splosion Man is a transvestite. Where is Rue Paul when you need him/her.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Dom, you've changed (wink, wink)

Comparing Hunted to Gears of War is still amusing, at least for me. This is not meant a slight towards either franchise, though it is quite obvious who is trying to steal from who (and which game is clearly superior). Gears really is a buddy cop action film with drug pushers replaced by chainsaw gun wielding monstrosities, and it is better for it. The interaction between Marcus and Dom is just deep enough to get the player to care about them as something more than a 'toon that holds the gun they want to use (side note: Dom mercy killing his wife in Gears 2 is just not right, in a 'I'm not gonna show that I care, but damn' way). Hunted is really trying to do the same thing, they have just replaced a space marine with attachment issues with a pointy eared elf in a slutty getup who enjoys blowing things up just a little to much.

'It's not slutty, it's strategically placed'

A direct quote from the game, and one that made me laugh out loud.

They almost make it. Caddoc maintains a fatherly attitude towards E'Lara, chiding her for her outbursts of violence in spite of being only half her age. Later in the game when Caddoc is ready to drop the whole quest because there is no profit in it it is E'Lara who pulls him back in by reminding him that her race suffered the same genocide that they are now seeing. It almost works, but (and I can't believe I am saying this) Epic just put together a better written story with characters you can more easily empathize with. When you steal from one of the best third person shooters there is you have to expect the unfair comparison, even if you did try to change the setting without changing the mechanics.

Now if you'll excuse I am going to go wash out my mouth with soap for saying 'Epic' and 'good writing' is the same sentence.

...

I would like to finish the game tonight, but I doubt it will even be turned on. Ms. 'Splosion Man is finally out and there is nothing else that I want to play. Plus it is almost time to stop being a whiny bitch and begin the arduous task of downloading all of the updates for AE again. I wonder if deleting my save will have reset my ranking. I hope so, those damn numbers cause much more stress than they are worth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Conflating annoyances

Hunted's odd mix of Gears of War and Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance is actually starting to grow on me. In the first  level cover was pointless because I never fought more than a few guys at a time, their arrows did not damage and I could one shot them from across the map with arrows to the head. They have gotten steadily more aggressive and accurate, topped off by 'sniper' who have arrows that 'explode', forcing you out of cover. It doesn't make sense, but it works. The combat is more than good enough to deserve more variety, but two two characters only have six skills each, three of which they share, so learning everything before the game is done is a real possibility. Even the skills they don't share are not very creative: the archer has several different power shots, but they break down to hitting a guy really hard or hitting him really hard and starting him on fire or hitting him really hard and freezing him. One for each of her moods, I suppose.

This lack of variety extends to equipment as well. A good part of the fun in an action RPG is messing around with newly found equipment, trying to squeeze out just a little more damage or defense. Hunted only allows two weapons, a main and a sub, and you can only hold one of each in an obvious nod to the shooters that it stole its cover mechanic from. These weapons are found by randomly destroying racks. Most of the time they are not better than the one you already, so I have gone for several hours stretches where my equipment doesn't change and I can get by with the same two attacks. It really is a shooter masquerading as an action RPG, and it really isn't hiding very well.

I have other, ever nerdier complaints. For example, E'Lana (the elf, if you can't tell from her fruity name) is supposedly on of the last elves left. Their entire species was wiped out by minotaurs. As one would expect they eventually show up and you have to kill them. I was prepared for a difficult battle. The first one ran head long into an explosive barrel and killed himself. The second went down to a quick four arrow shots. It was disappointing to have an enemy built up and then go down with so little effort, though it does solidify the idea that the vast majority of elves are pansies. I mean, look at this guy:


'I can hear something in the distance. Yes, yes, I believe it is the sound of me sucking. In several different movies.'

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stranger in a familiar land

About an hour south of where I live there is a Renaissance Fair that runs every weekend from now until the end of summer. This is the second year in a row I have went, and as usual it was equal parts coveting all sorts of cool things in shops that I cannot afford and playing the 'she should really be wearing more than that' game. There were artisans and performer of all sorts, but it was the audience that proved to be most amusing. In the parking lot my 'party' (of whom I was the only one not dressed up) ended up behind four teenagers of the nerd variety. They were mostly in costume, with one in a robe that covered him from head to toe.

'You are going to be so hot' said the chain mail bikini clad girl next to him.

'Now we know why there are no necromancers anymore' he deadpanned, 'they all died of heat exhaustion.'

My people. I was so proud.


...

Hunted brought the day full circle with a barely clothed elven maiden sporting a poor British accent shaking what the great mother of the wood gave her. At least she filled but did not spill out of her impossibly tight top. What? The game? It is better than Venetica, that is sure, but I do now know if cover based shooting really belongs in a genre piece. It feels a bit like colorizing Casablanca, actually.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A little Death right now would not be so bad

Just finished Venetica and there really isn't much more to say about the game. There was an unexpected detour to Africa, of all places, caused by a boss doing something that you really don't see very often: running away from you. She poisoned me with some sort of venom curse whose only cure was her death then jumped on a boat and headed south. I commandeered a vessel and gave chase, persevered through another poorly constructed boss battle, and it came out as a time. Thankfully the game forgot about the poisons only cure and the main character simply got better. I can only assume that the developers figured anyone who made it this far into the game would be too drunk to notice pieces of the plot being discarded left and right.

I certainly wish I was.

Things actually managed to get sillier from there. The undead princes who I hit with a sword until she saw things my way gave me a vial of her tears (in dust form). This dust had to be woven (?) into a dress that I could use to sneak into the Doge's palace. Once there I was betrayed by my half brother whom I didn't kill but never saw again, got involved in a political struggle between a corrupt council, the guards, a rebellion and a summoned ghost of an old elder, and finally killed the main bad guy who had absorbed the souls of every living thing in Venice and still went down with little effort (and Venice got better).  Side note: the guy doing the voice acting for Vincent, the head evil doer, sounds very much like Malcolm McDowell, circa Keslee from Tank Girl. It was one of the only highlights in what was otherwise a waste for twenty or so hours.

At the beginning of the credits there was a thank you to all the people who had to quit before the project was finished. Think about that for a second: they are actually mentioning and thanking people who got the fuck out of there when it became apparent that the game was going to be a steaming pile. I suppose that they should be congratulated, but for knowing when it was time to take the money and run, not because they assisted in producing something that actually deserved to be impressed on a disc.

...

Falling asleep in my chair. Time to call it a night. All my energy has been drained away by a terrible game. I need to recharge so I am ready for Hunted tomorrow. It can't possible be this bad,can it?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Come back with my money!

When did this happen?!

Someone needs to physically restrain me right fucking now, lest my wallet leap from my pocket and hurtle my credit card number through the inter-tubes at Amazon. I have been waiting for this forever, and now that it is available I have no money for such frivolities. Buying movies that I already own makes sense to me, but certain other people frown upon such monetary abuses.

I want it. I want it right now. No one else can have it, my precious.

My precioussssssss.....

Good lord, cover that up

I was joking about the brothel. Far to many games start things that they cannot finish within the confines of an 'M', or in this case a 'T', rating. That's goes doubly so for a game as ugly as Venetica. Sure enough, I wandered into surprisingly vertical section of town to find a house of ill repute tucked into the corner. Later in that same area there was a side quest to find a missing husband; you get one guess where he was hiding out. Only he was sitting alone at a table and screamed 'Can't you see I'm busy!' when I approached him. If there was a dialogue choice of 'Show me your hands!' I would have taken it; instead I just ratted him out to his wife for the experience points.

If I had to pick one thing so far that has been different from all the other second, third, and fourth rate action RPG's I played I would say that Venetica features female armor that actually looks like armor. In a genre (shit, in gaming as a whole) armor on the ladies looks like this:



Venetica has plate armor that looks like this:


Please, pay not attention to her head being to large for her body or that red triangle in the upper right hand corner which is most likely cause by the camera clipping through a wall.

That's it. That's the best I can come up with for a compliment: reasonable armor that accommodates the female frame and looks like it will actually prevent damage. Thank god Ms. 'Splosion Man comes out next week. I will finally have something good to play again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spoon to the lighter to the lighter to the thumb

Somewhere in the annals of game developing lore there exists 'The Idiots Guide to Making an Action RPG.' Chapter 1 is entitled 'Establishing Character and Conflict' and has the following bullet points: outcast/orphan main character lives in village which is attacked/razed/harassed for no reason. Main characters loved ones/lover/cat killed. Mouth breathing villagers cast out main character.

I wish I was joking, but it goes on.

Chapter 2 - Opening up the world. Main character arrives in first major location, must join guild/take meaningless side quests/explore local sewer.

Venetica was written with two eyes on the crib notes and none of the game itself. I would compare it to using a fake book in jazz, but you at least need to know how to play the instrument to use a fake book. I haven't gotten to the next chapters in the how to book yet, but I am sure they will include obvious betrayal, blatantly telegraphed and ultimately meaningless sacrifice, and at least one trip to the brothel. One of these is just a pipe dream.

...

A few days ago I found myself sitting on the floor (because I still have not purchased a couch for my basement) staring at my arcade stick, muttering to myself that I don't use that for anything anymore. My desertion from the genre was almost complete; the only remnants are the physical discs and controller. All remaining downloads and installs have been deleted, which is almost as good as trading the actual media in for pennies on the dollar to the Game-stopo. But I haven't done that yet. They have been moved out of the DVD shelving into a more prominent location: right next to the 360. This was initially to remind myself to pick them up and get rid of them, but they were quickly buried under the next shipment of digital shit from GameFly. Between rentals I still see them and wonder what would happen if I just put one in, just once, just for a little while. It was fun for a long time before it became something much less, something insidious and vulgar, something that led me to fling heavy objects about the room in rage.

Just a little couldn't hurt, right? I just want to see Oni's new costume. And then Evil Ryu's. And then check up on the replays. And then see if the two hit rock crusher really will link into crouch medium kick. Oh god damnit.


Monday, July 4, 2011

The same could be said for Medusa

The semi-annual Steam sales are truly evil occasions. It would be better for me to simply avoid turning on my computer for the duration, but even then I receive email reminders to keep me from missing the 'astounding savings!!!' The last big run in brought The Witcher, Cryostasis and Armored Princess home. Two of which I tried and did not get far in and one I have yet to ever install. This time around I was doing well, with console ports of most games being the norm, but $1.99 for Trine is not something I can pass up. I may never actually play it, but it is there should the need ever arise.

Looking at my Steam library makes me want to re-install Trackmania United just to see the insane user created tracks, or Audisurf just because I haven't play it in a while, or Zeno Clash just because, but for some reason that I do not fully understand Venetica has my interest still. It's faults are many and obvious; a useless mini-map that does not allow you to highlight the spot of interest you want, a bizarre skill system that forces you to use a skill slot if you want to block, graphics that make oXbox games look next gen. All the game does have is reasonable combat and loads of charm, which it seems to have come across almost my mistake. The voice acting, save for only the main character, is terrible, but Scarlet comes off as believable. As believable as a woman who finds out that she is Death's daughter and accepts the fact with little questioning can, anyway.

As ugly as Venetica is, the character models do have one bright spot, probably done by the one artist who had actual training and went on to find a decent job following the games release. Faces are poorly animated, usually featuring features so out of proportion that they wouldn't even make good Muppets, but their eyes and eye movements are eerily well done. It's like talking to corpse, and everything about the corpse, from the way it looks to the way it moves to the way it smells, is very corpse-like, but the eyes are alive and act accordingly. It's very jarring, and much like the rest of this train wreck very difficult to turn away from.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One bad, one even badder (sic)

The moment that I extolled messing with people I knew that someone would find me and return the favor tenfold. Sure enough, Friday night saw a guy three times my level drop into my game and kill me right before the end of the level. I took my medicine twice, then re-started with the option for people to intrude turned off. Mindjack was not good enough to play the same level over and over, even if it is because I am allowing the game to do the one thing that sets it apart from the hundreds of other third person shooters out there. There was a subtle attempt at being 'meta' towards the end with the revelation that you were not actually playing the main character, just the disembodied mind of a murdered scientist trying to finish his life's work. While this almost makes sense, I was left wondering how the main character came to grips with soldiers on the brink of death suddenly coming to back to life and fighting on his side. Maybe several bullets to the dome as all it took to turn them around to his point of view?

Mindjack lurched across the finish line with a battle versus some sort of cyborg that was never alluded to or explained afterward followed by the one and only time you were forced to posses someone or something else to solve a puzzle. This would have been at least novel, but F.E.A.R. 3 did the exact same thing with Fettel, and it did it better, and it was not painful to behold, hear, or play. There was good idea in Mindjack, but no game to go with it. I suppose this is what I deserve for adding a game to the queue because Yahtzee panned it even more violently than usual. One of three shit games down.

...

Oh help, Venetica is so bad it is good. It goes right round the bend past hideously unplayable to 'oh my god, did you see that, was this coded by below average interns?'

I would write more but I am on vacation (and sober), more or less. I usually do my writing whilst slacking at work, so writing at home when I could actually be playing something just doesn't feel right.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I have to find some way to enjoy myself

It is difficult to defend a game as band as Mindjack, even when it contains a single new idea so awesome that I think it would fit seamlessly into just about any shooter. More on that in a bit; I have to soften the game up with a few body shots before I lean in and give it a conciliatory kiss on the cheek for having at least one redeeming feature. In all the ways that matter Mindjack is terrible. Being a below average cover based third person shooter just won't cut it. There are so many examples in the genre of getting most of it right and just enough that nearly perfect (Gears of War 2 ahoy) that being kind of bad is actually complete shit by reason of comparison. First and foremost, the cover doesn't work. More often than not I saddle up to whatever waist high piece if scenery has been provided only to be shot in the head anyway. So run and gun, you say? Only if you have an incredibly steady hand, as killing an enemy with anything less than a head shot takes a clip and a half.

Mindjack looks like the follow up that no on wanted for Winback 64, complete with textures that look like they are coated with vaseline. It sounds on par with old Resident Evils. The weapons are all equally bad and whatever stockpile of ammunition you have is removed between missions. What story it has is never explained, so all that is left is moving from room to room shooting guys. So what could possibly be keeping my interest? One word: trolling.

Mindjack's one good idea is to let other players hack into your game, either to help you or hinder you. They start out a either a red or blue cloud. Blue is on your side, red is going to try to kill you. I started out with this turned on, figuring that no one was playing the game anymore so nothing would happen. Two areas in someone hopped into my game on my side. I was quite surprised. Imagine, a random person on Xbox Live was given the choice to help or hurt, and he chose to help! Actually, he was just there to kill all enemies before I got there and take all the XP. This didn't really bother me as getting pulled through a game this bad by someone who appears to actually care about it was amusing in itself. Later that night another person jumped in against me, only he couldn't seem to find me, so I sniped him in the head from across the level. He didn't like that too much, and logged off.

This level in internet douchbagary was something I had to be a part of. Before shutting down for the night I chose a quick match and hacked into the first game I could find. It was a guy on the very first level, still level 1, so he clearly didn't know what was going on yet. He probably had no idea why some giant red cloud floated past him, settling on the first enemy soldier. I would like to think he started to figure things out when that soldier suddenly got much better aim and killed him. Him kicking me out of his game right afterward supports that.

Mindjack: terrible game, excellent for trolling. Not that I ever indulge in that sort of thing.