Monday, October 31, 2011

Damned from the start

Usually losing all of your health is the main reason your character dies in an action game. It can be from taking to much physical damage, falling into a bottomless pit or stumbling into a seemingly shallow pool of water that still drowns you, almost all death can be attributed to your hitpoints hitting zero. While health (or constitution, to coin a D&D phrase) is present in The Cursed Crusade, it is not the characters health that matters. Armor breaks off in specific places, an idea that I really liked, and any further hits in that same area reduce your health. Still, I paid much more attention to the health of my weapons that anything else, because once those are gone it was over.

The idea of weapon strength is not necessarily a bad one, assuming that it is at least based in reality. A good sword should last more than a few swings, and even the best swords in Cursed Crusade would break after only a few minutes of use. The games does allow you to walk around with a veritable arsenal: a two handed weapon, a ranged weapon, two one handed weapons and a shield, so you are never short of one to use, but the animation for actually pulling one of the back up blades out and using it can be interrupted by enemy attacks, attacks that you can no longer parry because your damn blade has sheered off at the hilt. You can't run away effectively because there isn't a button to disengage from combat, so you slowly back pedal, waving a glorified pen knife and the bad guys and begging them to let you take three seconds to change swords.

Combat looks like it should be a deep, rewarding experience, at least that is what the pages and pages of unlockable combos would like you to believe. In truth you find the one string for each weapon that you can pull off consistently and use it over and over. Once more, I have been spoiled by Bayonetta; third person action combat without a wide variety attacks that are actually useful is no longer forgivable. She might actually fit in this game, as the templar and his spaniard spend a great deal of time jumping back and forth between the real world and the cursed version of the same level. Picture Soul Reaver's dual world idea, but take out all the puzzles that made use of the mechanic and replace them with pointless collectibles that can only be acquired while in the hell side. Now remember that Soul Reaver hasn't aged all that well, and you have Cursed Crusade.

It's bad, but not funny bad, just depressing bad. It takes itself so seriously that it is very difficult to not hold it accountable for its glaring faults. A little whimsy would have gone a long way, though I suppose finding whimsy in the crusades is not exactly the easiest thing. Genocide is rarely amusing.

Except it Warhammer. Then it is called 'level 1.'

Friday, October 28, 2011

You really need my help

Every Wednesday, regardless of what else I am playing, I swing through the new release section of Xbox Live Marketplace. Usually this ends up with more games placed in the backlog, but this time something caught my eye that I had to play the demo of as soon as the download would allow. Right between a re-release (re-re-release?) of Daytona USA and Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone was The War of the Worlds. A bit late for a licensed title based on that abysmal Tom Cruise project, I thought, which was enough incentive for me to read the rest of the description.

'Based on the original H. G. Wells story.' Ah, an excellent start.

'Side scrolling platformer.' What? Based on War of the Worlds?

'Featuring Patrick Stewart as the narrator' Oh Christ, someone click the download button while I go get a clean pair of pants.



At just shy of 2 gig is took a bit, but later that evening I was ready to sink my teeth into what I hoped would be a spiritual successor to Limbo. Thank goodness that I took the time to sample the demo before forking over my hard earned Microsoft points, because the only two things they got right were hiring the right person to do the narration and how the game looks. As soon as actually have to move the character and make him jump on to things nothing could save it. Remember how Out of this World played? What you told the character to do and what he actually did were usually quite different. It was forgivable then because we didn't know any better, but for a modern platformer to make such basic a mistake as forcing the character jump a second time if the jump button is held down a fraction of a second too long is right out. Leaping from platform to platform should not be the equivalent of a one frame link in Street Fighter.

I have said it before, but who tested this game? Five minutes in and a play tester with any brains at all would submit the following bug report: Jumping is ass. Fix it now. I hereby offer my services to any game company, big or little, to play your games for you and tell you what sucks. This is no joke (well, not a very good one). As an outside agent with no agenda beyond helping people not make idiotic mistakes it would be much easier for me to say 'this part of your game sucks' then some pimply faced intern worried about keeping his minimum wage job. The War of the Worlds is a great looking game; moody, interestingly lit, sparsely detailed in the exact same way that made Limbo so compelling. Patrick Stewart's Star Trek royalties check must have been late, but his misfortune is our boon. If only the game weren't terrible, I would play it.

They should have just re-skinned Outland.

...

Yes, I am playing The Cursed Crusade. Yes, it is the second crusade themed game that I have played recently. No, crossing over into hell themed versions of the level to look for crucifixes with beating hearts does not make any sense. Yes, it is an Atlus game, so that renders all previous questions and concerns moot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Placed in the wrong company

There are occasional gaps in the availability of disc based console titles. Not because my queue is empty, just because I play games faster than they can me shipped to me. Another, secondary, backlog is always there, thankfully, to prevent me from have to put effort into what I do in my free time: XBLA (and to a much less extent Sony Marketplace. When is Journey coming out, anyway?) If an arcade release grabs my attention I will buy it on the spot and play it through, if for no other reason than to play something at the same time everyone else is playing it. Other titles will sit on my hard drive for months at a time waiting for a sale. This fate befell Bastion, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Renegade Ops, three games that deserve my time just as much as anything else I play but had the misfortune of arriving at just the wrong time.

Bastion was first on the list, so Bastion is what I have been playing for the last two days, and it is easily one of the best games I have played this year, regardless of genre or delivery method. It was initially left behind because I subconsciously placed in the same company as Braid, a game I found so pretentious that it took me nearly six months to give it the time of day, and then it was only with a walk through. Braid walked through a part with its collar up, drinking Zima's and talking about books no one has read and bands no one has heard of. It was a hipster game and to this day I think very little of it. I lumped Bastion in with that based only on how it looked and the off name of its developer and I was completely wrong to do so.

Everyone who cares about Bastion has already played it, so I am not going to go into the boring details of how it plays and what its few shortcomings are. Suffice to say that the last weapon found is so much better than all the previous ones that you feel dirty for having used them, and I can't imagine new game plus being anything but a bazooka fest. None of that matters, though, because Bastion hits emotional notes that my cold, cold gamer heart has not heard since Flower, another simple, downloadable title I fell in love with. The sparcity of the environments fits perfectly with how little you know of the story. The world is gone, save precarious paths and an old guy with a cool voice that talks about everything you do. The narrator tells you exactly what you need to know and nothing more, just as the ground rises to meet your feet when you are going in the right direction. Eventually there are a few more characters and your world grows, rebuilt by the sweat of your brow (side note: more freedom with the world building would have been excellent, see Dark Cloud 2 as an example).

At the end you are faced with two choices: reset the entire world to a time before the calamity that killed everyone and everything or escape from the city with the few companions you have saved. What sounds like a simple choice is made more difficult by the narrator; nothing sounds easy when said with his level of gravitas. He could ask me if I wanted fries with that and I would question why I was on this Earth in the first place. To decide I put my self in the protagonists shoes: was his life better now than it was before the calamity? Honestly, it was just as shitty, and his current heroics where known only to a few people. I chose the reset, giving up the fortune and glory for the lives of everyone who would never know to appreciate what I had done. I saved them, and even I wouldn't remember doing it.

This arcade game told a better story in two and half nights of play that any full priced game I have played yet this year. I should have played it sooner, but at least I played it, and if you haven't you need to fix this as soon as possible. Games like Bastion remind me why I play anything, and the distance between them just serves to remind how special they really are.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anti-badassness

Once again I have returned form the wilds of Kentucky, this time having got at least a little bit of gaming done. Catherine is one of the only game that I have ever played that actually got easier when moderately intoxicated. There were still three or four levels after the final (bizarre) twist, levels that would have been much more frustrating without that pleasant warm feeling brought on by one too many stouts. Once it was done and all my suspicions proved correct I was relieved, but also still very confused. Katherine was a succubus, Catherine never was pregnant and took Vincent back. According to the achievements the exact opposite ending is possible: Vincent ends up with Katherine and Catherine leaves him. How this drastically different ending can be brought out by a series of yes or no questions is a mystery, as the puzzle levels were good enough to do once but not good enough to do again, so I will have to rely on the internets to see the other endings.

...

Space Marine is a perfect weekend game: you can knock it out in two days, it is fun from beginning to end and you never, ever stop feeling like a bad ass. I know very little of Warhammer 40,000, though every time there is a thread dedicated to its art I will admire every page. Every unit, every soldier, ever weapon from the puniest pea shooter to the gigantic titan that you use to shoot down a space elevator look amazing and are intimidating as shit. Ultramarines are all impossible tall, dwarfing the standard soldiers who do their very best to keep up. The orks lake the same technology by apparently breed like rabbits, as they never show up less than fifty at a time. And just when you get tired of shooting green skins in the head this guy shows up:


That's Nemeroth. I don't if he is canon or not, but just look at the guy. The skulls on his back were his breakfast. His goal is to curry favor with the old dark, god and look even meaner. He succeeds, and I could not wait to fight him.

Final level, I killed all his minions, and my ultramarine knocks him off the space elevator. Ok, mid-air combat, I can deal with that. Nope, quick time event.

Whoops.

Nothing kills feeling like a bad ass like having to press X to not die. This is an incredible blunder in an otherwise excellent game. I wanted to fight Nemeroth in a city leveling, obnoxiously destructive battle, not mash B until the credits rolled. Did anyone actually play the end that played the rest of the game?

...

I bought Super Street Fighter IV on the way home again. This has moved past idiocy to beaten wife syndrome. It only hurts me because it loves me, right?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fooled me twice

Oh my, was I wrong about Catherine being almost over.

The plan was to knock off the last fifteen minutes so I could start something else. The plan was that all of the puzzle sections were done, I had abandoned evil blonde Catherine and that Katherine would take me back with open arms. Vincent woke up, Katherine showed up on his door step and Catherine was there. Cue a lot of yelling, Vincent being useless and then a goddamned knife fight. Evil blonde Catherine is dead and the other two get sucked into the nightmare world for what I then thought was the last level. It was a very Ico like setup, and Katherine did just fine keeping up.

Then Vincent woke up again, Katherine showed up again and promptly dumped his ass.

Cue both me and Vincent wondering what the hell just happened.

I cannot explain the next half hour of cut scenes. Vincent doubts his sanity, his friends doubt his sanity, the hot waitress at the bar (who I think was once a dude) doubt his sanity. Eventually Vincent realizes that the only other person who ever say Catherine was the bar tender, who he intimidates into accidentally revealing himself as being some sort of ancient god that goes around breaking up couples who aren't getting married to keep the species going. Again, what? Vincent makes a deal to end the nightmares for everyone, everyone gets nice and drunk and now I think I am on the last level.

Normally I don't enjoy final act shenanigans, but this time it was very well done. I still don't know what ending I am going to get, but it really doesn't matter anymore. The ride itself has been enjoyable. It makes me wonder what came first, the story of a hapless thirty year old loser getting sucked into a metaphysical plot to further the species by weeding out the non-breeders, or the perfectly good block pushing puzzle game? We may never know, but I would not doubt that some recreational drug use was involved.

So no different than any other Atlus game.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This is easy?!

It only took three chapters to realize that playing Catherine on medium was not a good idea. I used up all my retries on one level, though all having no retires does is force you out to the main menu to reload your last save. It is worse than losing progress, it wastes your time. Dropping it back to easy ensured that I have plenty of retries, but I swear the puzzles didn't get any easier. There was a very interesting difficulty curve, with new blocks introduced each level, and the penultimate level throwing them all at you simultaneously. It made for some frantic puzzling, but the difficulty was always in doing things fast enough, not doing things smart enough.

That changed dramatically in what I assume was the last puzzle level. They got much, much shorter and the block variety dwindled down to almost nothing. Gone were the endless cliffs of ice blocks, spike blocks, explosive blocks and spring blocks. What was left were two or three very short, very difficult puzzles. I had to start each of these over more time than I can count, urged on because I could literally see the end of the level from the very beginning. It was a good change of pace, though I do hope that it is done now. I am left with more story segments that are making less and less sense. I had assumed that Catherine (the cute blonde one) was all in Vincent's head, but if that is the case then who kicked his ass in the bathroom after he dumped her? Are well dealing with Fight Club level dis-associative disorder?

After looking at the achievement list I know that she doesn't exist, so unless there is last minute reveal or another level I must have done the non-puzzle part of the game completely wrong. I just don't know what else I could have done; you talk to people and answer texts. The only options are what you say in the texts, and even that is just choosing between several canned responses. Apparently I am as bad at fostering and maintaining virtual relationships as I am real ones.

...browsing the internet counts as leaving the house, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

C'mon c'mon listen to the money talk

Sunday evening was filled entirely with the crappy Seasons Beatings stream (no offense to Spooky, it's not his fault that the venue had internet access from ten years ago). I see the same people commentating in every stream; Ultra David was there, so was James Chen, and Skisonic and Yipes, and of course Spooky was there wondering what the government was going to seize from him this time. Ultra David was talking about going to the Canada Cup and Ski was going to some other tournament. What do these guys, players included, do for money? Does being sponsored actually pay enough to live on, or do they just comp you your hotel rooms and you end up living off of Taco Bell and chicken wings (which would explain Marn)?

I am showing my age by asking this, but are the big guys actually making a living with this? I know that Justin Wong works for Sony either as his main gig or on the side, but how does Spooky hold down a job? Maybe I'm just jealous, both of their skill and their ability to just drop everything and fly across the country to play in a tournament that they might not win any money in. I work every day to pay for, among other things, my three hours of gaming every night. It takes a full time job to support this, at least if you include the house that I do it in and the food I eat while doing it. I cannot imagine being able to trapse from city to city and play Street Fighter.

Mostly because I am terrible. Hiyooo.

...

Catherine is one of the strangest games I have played in a long time. On side there are the trademark Atlus relationship building mini-games that I didn't enjoy in Persona IV but am able to stomach now because they are not integral to the actual game. On the other is a very strange puzzle game that feels like a slimmed down Devil Dice populated by a guy in his boxers and homicidal sheep. Individually the parts are a bit anemic; there really aren't that many choices to make when dealing with your drunken friends and the shoving blocks around to climb a tower gets old almost as fast as it gets insanely difficult. Alternating between the two, just like jumping back and forth between Deus Ex and Dirt 3, makes them much easier to enjoy. I want to get the end of the tower to watch Vincent sweat as he tries to hide his sexy imaginary girlfriend from his sexy, pregnant bitchy one, and then I want to get the most out of Vincent's uncomfortable situations to move on to the next kind of block I get to push around.

It works, somehow. Atlus fills their games with a deep black magic that smooths over almost all flaws, leaving games that feel very niche, almost haughty, and you can't help but feel a bit arrogant for enjoying them.

And no, that black magic is not Vaseline.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A new start

It has been a difficult weekend. Anyone trying to get to his blog yesterday would have found it missing. Indeed, it had actually been deleted, and by my own hand. As tempting as it is to go into the sordid details, I will not, as they are both embarrassing and inappropriate to share on a blog about playing relatively old, shitty games. Suffice to say I have learned that breakaway cords on heavy controllers are a good thing and that CDs bend quite a bit before they shatter after having been warmed in a console for a few hours. I have also slipped into an even more cynical view of any one persons importance in this vast digital jungle, but that will pass. Thankfully Blogger has an 'un-delete' function, lest this little corner of meaninglessness fall victim to the same bits of repressed rage that victimized several of my other possessions.

What has come out of this is my decision to keep this blog a little more focused; a little less bitchy and little more analytic. Ok, a lot less bitchy. I was complaining about the littlest things in Deus Ex without offering up any ideas on how to improve them. That places me dangerously close to Comic Book Guy, and I have neither the vitriol nor the girth to pull that off.



It would be tempting to write off the ending(s) of Deus Ex as a way to give everyone their cake and let them eat it to. After blowing up the last boss, a computer set up right of Minority Report complete with humans processor tied into it, you are presented with a room containing three button (with a fourth button down the hall that lets you kill everyone in the building, including yourself. This is the 'fuck you' button. Guess which one I chose?) Each button plays a different ending for you, and as long as you talked to the right people in the last level you can choose any one, regardless of how you played the game prior to that. This is lazy writing, and I will reference InFamous 2 again as a game that actually got the morality scale correct. In Deus Ex I had been siding with the pro-augmentation agenda the entire game, so I should not have been allowed to turn my back on them at the eleventh hour. I also find that the deciding the fate of the world literally with the push of the button to be terribly anticlimactic.

So there's the bitching, but here's an idea to make it better. First off, implement the morality scale from Fable or InFamous, but don't tell the player. Keep it hidden and use to determine the player's options at the end of the game. The climax should be the culmination of what the player has done previously, and last second twists really don't work very well (just ask M. Night Shyamalan). Secondly, the boss battle against the giant computer was actually pretty good, why not use that to determine the ending? The path to victory that I could see during the battle was to kill the humans being used by the computer to shut it down. I happily did so, as I had been filling things with bullets for the entire game. There should have been more ways to do it, say rescue the humans or hack into it to take control or walk away from the entire situation and let all the victims of the augmentation scrambler stay zombies. This would have been real choice, and it would have meant more than just pushing a button to see an ending, then loading up the last save and pushing the next one to see a different ending.

...

There is a great deal of excitement surrounding Dark Souls and I feel bad that I cannot share it. My experience with Demons' Souls was so awful, so much the antithesis of fun that I cannot being myself to give the series a second try. I read about people having deep experiences it in, about their grim satisfaction when finally surpassing an enemy that had killed them a dozen times before, and while I will never debate with someone why or why not that should enjoy something (anyone who looks at my playlist knows that opinions are simply not to be trusted) I do need to ask: can't this be done without killing the player every five minutes? From Software has given up on creating a difficulty curve, opting instead for a difficulty straight vertical line that they use to beat the player about the head and neck. Gamers who use this to build their own narratives are better men and women than I, and I almost envy their ability to do so. I cannot stand being killed for the sake of being killed; victory on a pile of your own corpses is not victory at all, it is moving forward by attrition.

The whole idea of difficulty for the sake difficulty feels very antiquated to me. It hearkens back to to when full price games were only a few hours long and their length had to be padded. The easiest way to do so is to make progressing balls hard. That just isn't necessary anymore. I submit that games like Dark Souls would actually be better with an actual difficulty slop instead of cliff. Teach the player how to play the game without killing them (example: Bayonetta) and they will come for more. Save the true bull shit difficulty level for a subsequent play through.

And no, I haven't played it so yes, my opinion holds little value. I said I was going to temper the bitching, no remove it entirely.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Secret secrets

While trolling the SRK forums (at work) I found a universal defensive option select that I had never heard of. Blanka does not have many option selects of use, and the one that is (jab X electricity or slide on teleport) I cannot do because I gave up on piano-ing anything a long, long time ago. This one, though, seems so simple and so good that it can't possibly work.

LK + LP + MK + MP, back dash after a few frames.

LK + LP counters an incoming throw, MK + MP starts up a focus attack that is then back dashed out of. It really seems to simple to be true until you realize that it cannot be mashed. The timing needs to be perfect lest you FADC into nothing or, worse yet, whiff a throw and get punished. Still, an interesting idea that I will try. Blanka has a pretty good back dash and you can only whip out EX up-ball so many time before it just gets blocked and punished. At least in the upcoming patch EX up-ball knocks down.

On that note, I wish I could do stuff like the first combo on display here:



Two one frame links in a row. Online.

...

I may need to break from Dirt 3 and finish off Deus Ex tonight. It has to be right at the end; I just talked the megalomanical main bad guy into feeling sorry for turning every augmented person on the planet (except for me) into raving lunatics. I feel bad killing them, but I have been turning my nose up at non-lethal combat the entire game, why start now. The bastards charge me while begging me not to shoot them. Of course I do, because I do not want to die, and they don't even have the courtesy to drop some ammo or even reward me with XP. It doesn't have the epic feel that the end of the firs Deus Ex had, at least not yet, but Adam Jensen does finally feel like a bad ass. I can stroll right into enemy fire, kill people with precisely placed head shots, then saunter back into cover to regain what little health I have lost. Using every augmentation point I got making myself bigger and tougher was the right call; I can't imagine playing this game 100% stealthy, not when there are a few forced encounters with giant mechs.

There probably is a way to pussy foot around them and turn them off from behind, but why bother when I have a shoulder mounted laser cannon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It wants to be real, but not real enough

After another evening my time with Dirt 3 is rapidly coming to an end. It has run out of new things to show me, instead showing me the same things with slightly faster vehicles, and taking a days break between sessions will not cure that. I also noticed last night vehicles in in specific classes all handle the same. Yes, the big trucks feel different than the buggies which feel different than the rally cars, but within each group they are identical with the exception of top speed. I am undoubtedly spoiled by the like of Forza, the game the proved to me that rear wheel drive cars are dumb (I have floored it coming out of the corning, now why is my back end ahead of my front end). Dirt 3 is not a simulator, but I think that an all wheel drive monster should be more difficult to control than the puny cars you start with, especially when the top speed and been jumped up by a few dozen miles an hour.

I really want to finish the last season before diving in Catherine, but I will also need to finish Deus Ex. Catherine is unique enough that it refuses to share mind space with anything else, even residents of completely separate genres.

Back in topic, Dirt 3 is certainly the best looking of its series, both in the actual courses and the presentation, but it is missing some of the little touches that I really liked about the first game. During loading screens of the first Dirt (and keep in mind this was before you could install games to the hard drive) meaningless but interesting stats on you progress were displayed. I can't explain why, but it was nice to know that I had drifted a total of eighteen miles and had spent thirty minutes with the car on its roof. Dirt 2 and 3 have tried to put you in the shoes of a fledgling racer coming up through the ranks, which would be more fun if there was more to do than race, and I miss the more 'gamey' aspects. Someday someone will make a racing RPG (and I don't think B-Spec in Gran Turismo counts, that series is old, tired, and needs to be laid to rest), complete with skills to level up, relationships within the team to build....

Wait, that would be lame. 'I am a level 23 drifter, bring it on!' Yeah, never mind. I'll go back to going fast while sideways.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I am of two minds

I just had a few panicked moments of 'oh shit, it logged me out and I cleared my cookies, what the hell was my password?!'

Anyway.

It has been quite a while since I have had reason to split my effort between two games for any length of time, not including my constant love/hate relationship with Street Fighter. For almost two weeks now I have been alternating days, jumping back and forth between Deus Ex and Dirt 3. Dirt 3 has barely been discussed, mostly because I do not have much to say about it, good or bad. There are a ton of tracks, and they do repeat, but they very rarely repeat on the same day. My age addled short term memory is finally soft enough that I am able to enjoy a track again a few days later, thus I have gotten much further into Dirt 3 than either of the first two. There are still large chunks of the game that I will never touch, such as the 'championship' sections that are really just all the previous level strung together in a row, but I will make it through all four seasons before sending it on its way.

These daily breaks also make Deus Ex's failing much more forgivable. The only thing left that I find annoying is the shortage of ammo, even for the starting pistol (which I have pimped out to Halo pistol standards. We're talking combat evolved pistol here). I was almost out when until I back tracked through a section of the city that I previously emptied out and found the streets littered with discarded hand guns. It may have been my doing, it may have been a scripted even, or it may be a welcome bug. Don't care, I have bullets again.

It would seem that the game was listening to me complain about the moral choices being much to blase, as it threw out at me last night without the benefit of a dialogue choice to remind me that yes, what I am doing right now will have impact on what will happen later. After being shot down my pilot, the one person who has not been a dick to me yet, tells me to leave her and make a break for the exit. Jensen helpfully says that if he does, she will die, so I at least know that I should do something. There were a lot of dudes, far more than I had fought at once before and in greater variety. Snipers took pot shots from the roof tops, generic baddies hit behind explosive barrels, two heavy machine gunners flanked from either side and a big ass mech was dropped in via helicopter.

Thank goodness I had been hoarding heavy machine gun bullets and typhoon ammo. It also didn't hurt that my armor was completely leveled up so I could be reckless. After a few tries I saved her, she thanked me and flew off. I have no idea how important this will be, but the more organic nature of the choice I had to make was infinitely more effective then a dialogue wheel with 'kill the bad guys' or 'run away like a bitch' options. It still isn't a perfect game, but it has taken a step in the right direction.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Seriously, it's been all week?

Damn, time flies when you are not having fun.

I am being much to harsh. Deus Ex has improved a great deal. There was a definite turning point where I went from tin man to man of steel and it had nothing to do with any augmentations. Honestly, for the way I am playing, they have had very little effect on what I have been able to do. No, it was a series of gun enhancements that I found/purchased, all of which went towards the beginning hand gun. What I have now instead of a pea shooter is a silenced, laser sighted, impossible long clip having dealer of death. I am able to shoot people in the head from across the room and no one notices. Screw stealth from close up, I just kill everyone before walking into to room. Add this to a fully powered up typhoon attack and even the bosses die in two or three salvos. I may have broken the combat part of the game. Serves it right for making me sneak around for the first several hours.

Since I actually own Deus Ex I have been platooning my time with a rental just to keep the queue moving. This week it has been Dirt 3 (which I also got for free with the purchase of my new video card, but if I am going to play a racing game on my PC it is going to be Trackmania 2). It is just as polished and arcadey at the medium difficulty as the previous games. This time I have even managed to get the hang of gymkhana, getting silvers instead of skipping them entirely. I doubt I will 'finish' it, instead playing it until I begin to fail races over and over. I have never liked a racing game enough to spend time practicing or learning a track. Project Gotham 2 came the closest, but that may have been because there was nothing else to play back then.

...

That was an incredibly boring paragraph. Time for some self analysis. Wait, I'm sober, that won't work. Time for, what then? Reassessment? This is a blog that no one reads, does it matter if the quality of my recorded internal dialogue has slipped? Yes, as a matter of fact it does. I can't use 'but I am waiting for Skyrim' as en excuse for everything, much less half assed entries after three days of absence to what is supposed to be a daily exercise. The point to this is supposed to be an ongoing discussion of what I am playing and it has degenerated to 'this is good' or 'this sucks' without any details or justification.

Stream of consciousness time. Why am I disappointed in Deus Ex? Because all of the moral choices fall flat or aren't moral choices at all. Should I talk this guy out of killing himself with the click of the button or assist in his suicide? Should I harass a senile old lady or leave her alone? Should I waste my precious ammo on street urchins or save it for people who are actually trying to kill me? There is about as much of a moral choice here as in a GTA game: sure, I can do terrible things, but there is no benefit to doing them. Being good is also the most efficient way to play the game. There is probably some kind of Shyamalan twist coming, but it will not effect the way the game plays, only the ending that I see, and I will be able to turn my moral compass on a dime if I want to.

Even Infamous 2 got this part right, forcing to me lay down in the uncomfortable bed of evil I had made for myself.

...

That was better. Not great, but better. Maybe if I wasn't doing this as 12:30 AM...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Frank N. Furter knows what's best

My antici-



-pation for Skyrim is reaching unhealthy levels. It is all that I really want to play and it is more than a month away. Everything else is just filler to pass the hours. If it sucks, by god I will quit gaming forever.

...no I won't.

It occurred to me last night that my writing has lost what little focus it ever had. Originally I was going to review most of the games I played, but that fell by the wayside as my gaming habits changed from current and good to old and shitty. I may write up something for Deus Ex, and it won't be pleasant, but I need to finish it first. What I need is a dose of something new, something to write towards instead of just at. So here's the deal, and yes, it does sound an awful lot like fan fiction. I grew rather attached to my character in Oblivion. He was an awful, awful man who did as he pleased, stole from just about everyone and murdered defenseless widows just to have a place to stash his loot. By the time the Shivering Isles expansion came out I had been through an Xbox or two and my save was corrupted. The idea of starting over was so repulsive that I never played the expansion, and this was after I had actually paid money for it.

The plan is to dedicate a paragraph or two a day to my new characters adventures in Skyrim. It has been a long, long time since I have tried my hand at fiction, but even I get tried of doing nothing but bitch, so it should be a good exercise. Skyrim posts will be in some other, more period font, so if you want to avoid them (and you probably should) feel free.

I have from now until 11-11 to come up with a name for my new thief/assassin. Oblivion's was Garret of Thief fame; this time I will need to be more creative.

...

Transformers 3 was criminally short. From beginning to end the single player was less than four hours, including the few spots where I managed to die over and over again. I really liked what was here, but I needed about twice as much of it. More weapons, larger areas, more Megatron. I'd be pissed, but it looks like another War for Cybertron is in the works, and I have a soft spot for High Moon, so all is forgiven. For now.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In the future nothing is fair

For the first hour of Deus Ex last night I was more annoyed than anything else. Performance issues (entirely traceable to the lack of ram in my rig) didn't help, but what was really pissing me off was being forced to play a stealth game when that was not what I was in the mood for. It took another half hour of skulking through air ducts to get to where I wanted to go in the police station, and when I got to the computer I was looking for I didn't have the correct code and my hacking level was too low to force my way in. So I sneaked my way back out and turned to other side missions. Surprise! More sneaking!

It's not that I have anything against stealth in games. I played Thief 3 and enjoyed stacking the shanked corpses of guards in the courtyard as a warning to everyone else. Oblivion was over one hundred hours of jumping from shadow to shadow and I am planning on playing Skyrim exactly the same way. The whole point of Deus Ex is choice, but only one choice is really effective in the early stages of the game. I made it through the second sneaking side mission thanks to liberal quick save abuse, got the extra aug point I needed to finish the last one, then went right back and killed every single person I had to avoid the first time. Leaving the scene filled with corpses was much more satisfying than no one knowing I was there. I have guns, I have put all my points into being better with them, let me use them!

All of the drama comes from knowing that the boss fights are bull shit and trying to be prepared for them. It finally paid off last night when the first guy showed up: I ran directly at him an used my newly acquired typhoon attack (I spun in a circle filling the air/ground/everywhere with explosions). It didn't kill him the first time, but after a second volley he was done. 'That was it?' I thought. Then I realized that if I didn't have that attack, if I had been attempting a no kill run and was loaded for bear with stun guns and tranquilizer darts and PETA pamphlets, then I would have had no chance. There were no turrets to hack or dialogue options to talk him into killing himself out of guilt. It was just a big metal dude with unlimited ammo in a room with just enough cover to keep you from dying right away.

There is only one way to play this game: cheat.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's opposite day!

I have two games to talk about: one that I should be paying (not Trackmania , actually) but am not and one that I am playing but really shouldn't be bothering with. Confused yet?

Movie licensed games are almost always terrible. The reasons are many: incredibly strict release windows, overbearing property owners, developers chosen not for their ability but for being the cheapest and easiest to bully. The results are almost always the same and look a lot like Tron, which I played earlier this year. Every once in a while a good one sneaks out and unfortunately no one notices. Remember High Moon Studios? With Darkwatch, The Bourne Conspiracy and Transformers: War for Cybertron to their name I have come to expect solid is relatively quirky games out of them. In truth, I did not know that they did Transformer 3, the game of the movie that had everything worth seeing revealed in the trailers, when I added it to my list. I am relieved that they did, as the game is much better than it should be.

War for Cybertron was a very good third person shooter first and then about the Transformers second. Transformers 3 is actually saddled with a movie this time so it is forced to be more character centered, but they change often enough and play differently enough that it still works. Having not seen the movies I do not know why Bumblebee doesn't speak English or what happened to Megatron or why Soundwave looks like an Escalade with sweet rims and a tricked out sound system (but that last one at last makes sense). But I do know that there are giant robots shooting one another, they have the correct people doing the voices that matter, and it is fun with very little effort on my part. It's not good, but it's fun.

And now for something completely different. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is, of course, a very good game. It looks good, making fine use of my new card and proving the PC's still are where high end graphics live. It plays well, but it does not necessarily play the way that I want to play it. This is the first PC shooter that I have played in years, so just getting my head around mouse and keyboard controls again took quite a while. Once I remembered how to shoot people in the head while circle strafing it got better, but I still could not play the character that I wanted to play. Spoilers are a difficult thing to avoid, so I know ahead of time that the boss encounters favor fire power over stealth or eloquence, so from the very beginning I wanted to play a guy with big guns and a bad attitude. Regardless of personal skill and perc allocation, frontal assaults just don't work. I wanted to kick down doors and shoot people, not crawl through heating ducts and strangle them from behind.

My last save has my characters cowering in an office, waiting for the guards to pass because I cannot kill them fast enough when an alarm is raised. This is not the game I want to play, it the game I am being allowed to play. Is the gaming scale of quality sliding and subjective? Of course it is, but when you slap the name 'Deus Ex' on a box it means something.

Or maybe it doesn't.


Being 'good' and being 'fun' aren't always synonymous. I will continue to play both, and Human Revolution will improve once I get better guns and some body armor, but for out of the box enjoyment the movie licensed cash in is somehow coming out ahead.