Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blue isn't scary

Dead Island has teased something that I really hope it has the ability to deliver on. The trailer featured a zombie child be tossed out of a window, but killing a zombie child is so much worse than killing anything else that it could never appear in a game (because the ESRB has no balls). I knew going in that it was not going to actually happen, so I was not expected anything to even potentially raise an eyebrow in unexpected interest. Surprise, surprise, last night I ran across a recording that described a zombie gorilla. This may not sound like much, but remember, a gorilla will kick your ass even before being undead, and I sincerely doubt that dying and coming back did much to improve its mood. I am really hoping for something like this:


Best. Bear. Ever.

That's a tough act to follow, but I really think that a zombie gorilla chasing me through the jungle could provide a little lift to a game whose lack of real penalty and unfair ways of killing me has gotten rather boring. I seem to remember zombie gorillas in something else...


Oh yeah. Congo. Now that was some grade A+ shit right there.

Yes, I know that my topic is wandering more than usual. Dead Island has not given me anything new to be happy or complain about; just wave after wave of similar zombies. Sometimes I kill them. Sometimes they kill me, and then I come back after losing some money. It's been twenty hours of this and I do not know how much more I can take.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beginning addiction

I saw what a hardcore Spyro Skylanders addiction looked like last night, and it was frightening. Having dismissed the game as a collectible card game based cash grab I had not actually seen how it works, so the first time one of the little figures was dropped onto the magic usb device and it popped up on the screen was actually pretty cool. Then I saw a grown man and his two children dive into a large Tupperware box filled to the brim with the figures, spouting off names whose absurdity is equaled only by the latter generation Pokemon, complaining that they are still missing a few of the really good, and I understand what it was. Skylanders really is the successor to the paper crack that Magic: The Gathering was, and I dodged a bullet by never even starting.

The last time I saw something like this almost work was Eye of Judgement on the PS3. It was actually a very good card game first and a shoddy interface with a camera that needed perfect lighting to work second. For the first month or so the gaming 'economy' worked. Rare cards were powerful, everyone had different ones, and every match or two you saw something new. Then people figures out that you could make photo copies of the cards and they worked just fine and it all went to shit. What Skylanders has done is create 'cards' that you can't make copies of and packaged in a a more child friendly way. From what I saw the game itself was nothing special, but the intrusion of the game characters into actual space is the hook, not how the game plays.

...

Dead Island continues to decay. It will nice to take a break from it tonight and indulge in the first of two WWE pay-per-views that I care about. I just wish that it was on a Saturday night instead of a Sunday. Having to work in the morning severely curtails how much I can eat and drink.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Almost all singles have trace amounts of cocaine on them, you know

The economy in Dead Island is a bit of a mystery. Cash still has worth, which makes sense because people assume that eventually the zombies will be cleaned up and things will go back to normal. Buying and selling items at an inflated price is also to be expected. Upgrading weapons and repairing weapons requiring large amount of cash is just silly, especially when you are doing all of the work yourself. You roll up to the repair table with a beat to shit ax and a new weapon to enhance. Repairing the old weapons costs more than the weapon is worth and attaching a battery and wires to the new one with some duct tape and chewing gum is also not free. I can only assume the money is either burned as an offering to the gods of commerce or ground into a fine powder and smoked to pass the time.

And where do the zombies I kill hide the money I harvest off of them, anyway? Sure, some of them have pockets, but most of the women on the beach don't, and I don't want to think about the level of stank present in a postmortem g-string.

These are things that were dumped into Dead Island because RPG's have them, but no thought was put into if they would actually make sense. Finding the bits and pieces of junk needed to apply mods to weapons is already difficult enough, having to throw cash at the problem is unnecessary. Weapon degradation makes sense, but happens too quickly. Slow the process down and the need to repair weapons is removed without losing the tension of watching your blades group duller with time. It seems like Dead Island picked a genre and did everything it could to fit into it, right down to poor, often unfair melee combat.

I finally have a gun and bullets to fire from it, but they somehow do less damage than a flaming bat or scythe dipped is a paralyzing venom (and why would poison work on a zombie, anyway). Its best use is for killing other humans, all of whom think standing behind cover means crouching down just far enough so their heads are still exposed. They are just as dumb as their brain eating counterparts, they just take fewer shots to kill.

This is so disappointing. Maybe I should go read World War Z again.

...

 I just watched the announcement 'trailer' again. It's still the best thing about the game, and I am pretty sure Deep Silver had nothing to do with it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Undeath is boring

It appears that I need to take back all of the nice things that I said about Dead Island. In the span of another three hours of play it has regressed to little more than a Dead Rising/Call of Duty cross over. The melee combat was already iffy, but now that zombies are coming at me six and seven at a time the shortcomings are plainly (and painfully) visible. Judging distance is almost impossible and it really seems that a zombies arm can extend to impossible lengths while by tonfa with nails driven into it is a constant victim of Zeno's paradox. It certainly looks like I am close enough to hit them, but it always turns out that I miss by that much.

Dead Island has also managed to lose points for moving away from a recent outbreak to one that has been brewing for months. Zombies in a bright, sunny resort is unsettling. Zombies in a mostly destroyed city has been to do *ahem* death. This area has been destroyed long enough that industrious residents have set up shops and a gang of thugs has taken over the police station. Didn't Resident Evil 2 do this in 1998? The ransacked city looks like a leftover from either Call of Duty or Battlefield whatever, take your pick. I do not understand why the game has suddenly retreated from the one thing that made it interesting.

...

Read this:

http://kotaku.com/5879202/sources-the-next-xbox-will-play-blu+ray-may-not-play-used-games-and-will-introduce-kinect-2

Then laugh.

Until we arrive and a 100% digital market a console will not survive if it completely prohibits the resale of games. Remember Sony's digital only PSP? How did that go?

This is not going to be some sort of rant on the violation of an owners right to do as they please with the items they own or a rabid defense of Gamestop's willingness to capitalize on this market (though both are very, very true). I am not even going to remind people that this would also be the end of the rental market. Instead, I will state this: used game are, more often than not, traded in towards the purchase of new titles. People who buy the used games do so because they are cheaper than the new ones. Kill the used market and the new market will suffer. Sony flirted with this for the PS3 and wised up. I have no doubt that Microsoft will do that same.

The only way to convince people to purchase a game that they can never get any money back from would be to halve the price, and even still if a game wasn't a AAA sequel it would suffer. Most gamers aren't collectors, so if their software suddenly loses all value after the first time it has been played than aren't going to buy any more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tis but a flesh wound

I am aware that I have posted the European cover. It looks better.

Dead Island has the misfortune of existing in the same general space as Skyrim. It is not as big, but it is a free roaming, quest based, first person RPG, complete with somewhat awkward first person melee and a shortage of ammunition for projectile based combat. Replace all the monsters with zombies, the frozen north with sunny beaches and the fully clothed character models with bikini clad flesh eaters and Dead Island arrives.

It's really not a fair comparison, but Dead Island doesn't try very hard to do anything different or better than the 800 pound dhovakin in the room. I can tell that a lot of effort was put into hand to hand to head violence, but it still doesn't have the sickening crunch of Condemned or the refined feel of Breakdown or Zeno Clash. If anything asking me to aim while the camera bobs up and down increases the difficulty, but it still isn't much fun. I would still rather shoot things, so I took the gun specialist. Of course she doesn't actually start with a gun; she can't even use one until level 10. So much for that idea.

What Dead Island nails is the atmosphere. I got tired of everything in Skyrim being in a state of decay and disrepair. A lot of would have been more interesting a thousand years ago. Dead Island features a catastrophe that has just happened. Everything looks normal, save for the pools of blood and half eaten torsos. This juxtaposition of the every day with the impossible works very well, making even random zombie encounters disturbing. Again, it is not the first game to do this, but it takes it self more seriously then Dead Rising, so this is about as close to World War Z, the game, as we are liable to get.

(until the movies comes out)


It is fun and I do want to play more. Dismembering zombies looks good, especially when you knock off both of their arms and they just keep coming. I should reach the arbitrary gun level tonight, so I can see if popping heads from across the room is better than lopping them from up close. I would imagine so. Less laundry to do that way.

...

Damn, why are all the American Psycho 'Hip to be Square' excerpts not embed-able?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Age old complaints

Complaining about a ten year old game that is an admitted classic is probably a bit low. It actually feels a little skeevy to have complaints about Diablo 2 since it is my fault that I am playing when I am playing it, but the one real issue I have is (I assume) a design decision and not a hardware/software/game engine limitation. It is also not limited to old games and a few modern RPG's do it as well.

Saved games in Skyrim record you characters stats, abilities, inventory, quests, and most importantly his or her location in the world. Think that there is doom waiting behind a door? Save your game. If you die (and you will) very little progress is lost. In Diablo 2 when you save your game your location is not recorded, only your character. This means that every game starts out in the hub area for that act, and if you did not find the checkpoint in a new area prior to saving then everything you have done is lost. I found this out the hard way the first time and ended up slogging through a pretty large area a second time. Last night, knowing what little use saving really is, I quit playing about twenty minutes early just to make sure I didn't have to do anything over.

The only explanation I have is that Diablo 2 was designed primarily around battle.net. Only then does this make sense, because saving your location in an online world where death can be permanent defeats the entire purpose. But I am not playing on battle.net, nor will I ever, so this save system is an annoyance.

I would put money on this being how Diablo 3 is going to work as well, which does not excite me.

...

My remaining list from last year is shrinking quickly. With the completion of Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, the backlog is as follows:

Dead Island (just shipped today)
Assassin's Creed Revelations (shipped today as well)
Batman: Arkham City
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Forza Motorsport 4
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Goldeneye Reloaded

That is actually looking manageable. I just pulled off the Halo re-issue because, well, fuck the flood.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Total disconnect

Been a few days, time to catch.

My dance with the very old devil lasted all of one night. I have far too soft a spot for Ratchet and Clank anything to ignore a game in that series when it arrives in my mailbox, even when it is a spin off lie All 4 One. Thankfully I can report that even though it is certainly a mutiplayer focused games Insomniac went the extra and made sure that it was playing be a single person. The game works all by yourself, it just isn't a very good Ratchet and Clank game. Remember Deadlocked? Yeah, this is better than that, but not by much.

Everything feels scaled back to accommodate four simultaneous players. It does not look as good as A Crack in Time, the levels aren't as big and there are almost no puzzles to speak of. What is left are long, linear levels filled with combat and nothing else. There are more than enough weapons to keep this interesting, but they no longer level up with use. Instead you just dump bolts into them to buy upgrades. The leveling function worked in the previous games because it forced you to spend time with all the weapons, even the ones that are just not as cool as the rocket launcher and Mr. Zurkon. Now I can neglect the ice gun and still have it at full power when I need it.

Side note: Mr. Zurkon does not need bolts, his currency is pain.

Mr. Zurkon will fuck your shit up.

Even mediocre Ratchet and Clank is more fun than the lion's share of other games, so my complaints are pointless. I knocked it out in three days and it was fun from beginning to end. I will say that there were more laughs this time around; having Dr. Nefarious around the whole time will do that. Insomniac just needs to get around to the next full blown release while avoiding half-assed downloadable excursions like Quest for Booty.

...

Might as well take care of 'tomorrow's' post now since I have the time. Last night was filled with four and half hours of Street Fighting. The lobby was a bit full and not a one of us was playing very well. There were random ultras and wake up uppercuts and all sorts of hilarious, scrubby bullshit. At around 11:00 someone said the magic words 'HDR' and the lobby scattered. While I was re-downloading the game I tried to remember why I stopped playing it in the first place. It wasn't because I wasn't very good, that doesn't matter much when matches last all of twenty seconds each. Plus it only took me around half an hours to remember that HDR Dhalsim is actually cool and works as a rush down character.

After just a few matches, when the first person de-synched and was kicked out of the lobby, I remember. Yes, the netcode in HDR is still better than either AE or Marvel, but when it goes bad it goes really bad. The match doesn't just slow down, the two sides literally stop talking to one another. I had been fighting a very good boxer player all  night, but in my last match for some reason I was dominated him. He was just walking forward into my throws. At the end we both ended up in the lobby long enough for him to ask why I stopped blocking. We had both won, at least from out own perspective. Just as I began to wonder if there had been some kind of temporal anomaly he was kicked out of the lobby.

That's why I stopped playing HDR. Oh well, it was fun (again) while it lasted.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The devil can wait a long, long time

This time the Now Playing image does not lie.

Yes, thanks to a timely bit of charity, I have started playing Diablo 2 a mere ten years late. I have no idea if I will finish it, but it is very interesting to see where most modern action RPG tropes originated and how much even this masterpiece has been improved upon by its successor. My favorite game of this type is (and probably always will be) Titan Quest, and after only a few hours with Diablo 2 I can confirm that Titan Quest committed wholesale theft. So have all the other game like this, it's a simple idea: you kill things to get better items to killer bigger things. Diablo 2, unlike even Titan Quest and all other modern examples, gets this flow of new items just right. Weapons and armor are dropped and exactly the right pace: just often enough to keep me picking things up off the ground  but no so often that the criminally small inventory feels like a limitation.

I am playing an assassin, and probably doing it wrong. Of the three skill trees I have chosen the easiest, passing over the one with martial arts stances and attack points for I just want to to hit things harder with my starting weapon.  I don't like that I can only have two skills equipped at a time (I think...), but I only know two skills right now, and one of them is passive. Of course it is ugly, but its ugliness does not change the fact they the monsters at least are designed well. Over sized levels with nothing in them I could do without, and the way the game saves is stupid, but I really do need to keep in mind how old this game is. I was running an Electronics Boutique (before EB Games, even) when it came out. My store was had a significant PC following, so I rolled out hundreds of copies. My entire PC wall was nothing but Diablo 2, and by the end of the day it was nearly gone.

This was also back when they let employees do crazy things like open new product and take it home for testing. I did just that with Diablo 2, and I remember liking it, but I couldn't run it the way that it was meant to be run. Familiar story, yes? My neuroses are more deeply seeded than even I remember.

Is it still fun now? Of course, but it hurts my eyes and has been done better since. Where the hell is Torchlight 2, anyway?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The frame rate of life

The Now Playing image lies. I would like to be playing Serious Sam 3, but my machine refuses to run it at an acceptable frame rate. The homogeneous nature of consoles has warped me to the point where I have a very hard time running anything on the PC with settings less than the maximum. I want to see it as it was meant to be seen, not endure the meager approximation that my hardware is actually capable of. It came to a breaking point last night with the deadly combination of inconsistent frame rate and near instant death situations. I was dying and it was not clear what killed me. I want to be serious, but my rig is not serious in the least, so I had to uninstall it.

What followed was a pathetic scene. In spite of a three game plan from GameFly I have nothing at home right now. I waffled back and forth at Blizzards digital store, wondering if now was finally the time to play Diablo 2. I worked my way chronologically backwards through the XBLA list, finding a few that I could play. Eventually i settled on a little Trackmania 2 and still did not enjoy myself.

Perhaps the constant flow of games has taken its toll.

Nah. I just need something better to play.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It never rounds the corner

Who here like escort missions?

Wait, let me preface that: who here like escort missions in games not named Ico?

Put your hands down. No one likes escort missions. Amy is, at it core, an entire game based on an escort mission, so that is strike one. Note that it is not impossible for games containing bouts of NPC babysitting to be fun. Enslaved was excellent (and no one played it) because your charge could take care of herself in most circumstances. The titular Amy is very young, mute, probably autistic girl, so needless to say she can't do much for herself. The babysitting is literal.

But that is only one strike. Strike two are the archaic controls. Remember Silent Hill? If you go back to it now it will be much less fun than you remember. Struggling against tank controls is not fun, especially when it has been proven time and again that there are better ways to do it. The controls in Amy are actually worse due to the silly button combinations required for running and fighting. It's almost funny. Almost. That it only two strikes and I have certainly played games that have had three or more to their bad name. So what in Amy pushed me over the edge, forcing me to delete the demo after a single death?

A terrible game is playable if it has the decency to be easy. Fine, be awful, but don't make me work too hard to see all of your awfulness (side note, I just made bad games sounds like cheap hookers...). Amy is not only sports Siren level difficulty and directionlessness, it also spread out the checkpoints so far that each death sets you back quite a bit of work. On top of that it kills you for not knowing what to do even though it has made no effort to communicate what it wants from you. If I wanted that of abuse I would go back to playing Marvel.

So yes, Amy is just as bad as you have read. It is also precisely the wrong kind of bad. It is the kind of bad that you cannot make light of, that is immune to snarky remarks and biting commentary. It is critic proof because even the critics don't want to actually play it. I salute any of them that actually made it to the end. They are braver men than I, and I followed up Amy by discovering how lame playing a light gun game with no light gun is.

(It's really lame).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Idle threats

In spite (or perhaps because of) all the negative press Amy has received I am about to go play the demo. While I am quite willing to waste my time, wasting my money is not as easy, so if I can avoid throwing 800 Microsoft fun-bucks out of the windows I will.

It really depends what kind of terrible it is. If it just uncontrollable and not fun, I will pass. But if it is bad and deserves to be lampooned, MST3K style, then at least some good could come of it.

Come to think of it, I contemplated records 'let's plays' in the past, but lack the equipment. Let's plays of terrible games are almost always more fun than good ones. There may be some investigation that needs to be done here. Of course editing the recording into something watchable would be a huge drag, and listening to your own voice is always uncomfortable...  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tiny epic

For being only two or so years apart the difference between Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta is staggering. I have never really spent any time with a PSP. Chains of Olympus looked like a PSP game to me, an opinion born solely out of ignorance, but it did not bother me because it was the first time I got to play as Kratos in quite a while. Ghost of Sparta, though, damn, it actually looks good. Not handheld good, not even PS2 good, it hold up very, very well. Perhaps my intentional dismissal of handheld gaming has been a bit hasty. If Sony's new device really can put out visuals on par with the PS3, maybe it does deserve a second look.

My only real hesitation, besides finding $250 that no one will miss, is adding yet another platform to my already impossible queue and knowing that would probably never use it. Even though I show no love for the PSP, DS or 3DS, I am not fool enough to think that there aren't excellent titles out there that I am missing. On the contrary, I know they are out there, I just don't think that I would enjoy them as much on a relatively tiny screen. For example, Chains of Olympus has a section right at the end that boils down to 'mash O to alienate deceased daughter forever.' That's some heavy shit, and it worked on a very primal level, but I don't think I would have been as affected if the window into that world was framed by my own grubby hands.

So I get warmed over re-releases years after the fact. Sometimes they work very well, sometimes they are unplayable (that Silent Hill PSP game was shit). These two God of War games were gaping holes in my gaming resume, I am just glad that I will get to see them in a venue of my choosing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And in this corner

Not more than a few days ago I talked about how a well thought out, well written, respectably voice acted character can elevate a game from just playable to an enjoyable experience. When all the stars line up and a game that is good on its own is married with such a character, magical things can happen. For example (and these are limited to console specific characters because I enjoy being adversarial):


Before you say anything disparaging, yes, I know that Master Chief is not exactly brimming with personality, but he does manage to be the driving force behind the main series of Halo games. Take away and the games that are functionally the same just don't work as well. He is also about as close to the silent protagonist (think Gordon Freeman) that has been managed in a shooter not made by Valve. 


This is more like it. For my money Marcus Fenix is a better character than Master Chief in just about every way. He is manly when he needs to be, quiet when the time is right, actually changes throughout the course of his series and deals with grief in a realistic manner. Again, Gears of War would work without him, but playing the whole game as Dom just isn't very appealing.

For the record, those two are all I can come up with for the XBox. 


I have no idea if anyone is going to throw in with me on this one, but it is criminal that Nariko hasn't gotten a second game. This is probably because she was the best thing about Heavenly Sword, but come on, bad third person action games come out three times a month. I played two last year that were set in the god damn crusades, and no one can pony up the funds to give this lady a second shot?


The look on Drake's face sums up exactly how I feel about him. He's whiny, for one thing, but in a realistic manner. Maybe he changes in Uncharted 3, but for the first two games I just kept waiting for him to grow a pair. It also doesn't help that Nolan North is not exactly selective about his voice acting jobs. I understand that the guys has to work, but I swear every third game I play has him in it, which further dilutes Drake's identity. 

I suppose I should get to my point instead of padding a post by gis'ing names. Even though I am terminally behind on my list of games that needs to be played I almost never jump back a hardware generation. The leap backwards, graphically anyway, is just too much. It takes an awfully big par of sandals to convince me to play prettied up versions of PSP games.


Now that is a tragic hero. Think about all of the awful things the Kratos has been through, either at the whims of the gods or by his own misguided hand, and it is easy to understand why he is so pissed off all the time. There is more too him than that, and right now in Chains of Olympus is it clear that his primary motivation (at this early in his history) is that he wants to forget. Kratos wants to forget that he is Kratos. Knowing how the whole saga ends (or how it should have ended, fuck Sony right in the ear if they don't let this poor guy die) does nothing to lessen his torment. He is an iconic character in a game that would have been just fine with paper cut out characters.

...

Mario doesn't count, so stop asking. Neither does Link, he has zero personality. Samus does, but every time I try to fins a picture of her that I can be viewed safely at work I need to close my browser.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Console possession

I am not sure what to make of this:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-01-10-diablo-3-console-release-confirmed

On one hand, I am not a tried and true PC gamer, have not even played Diablo 2, I have a machine that will probably run Diablo 3, and I have the money with which to purchase the game if it does actually sneak out sometime this year.

On the other hand, holy shit would I much rather sit on my couch and play this on my TV. Heresy? Perhaps.

I also wonder if the console market will embrace the return of Blizzard, who has not put out a console title since Starcraft 64 in 2000. Time are different now, so instead of the low resolution, watered down cash grab that Starcraft 64 was a console Diablo 3 would look and play pretty close to its PC big brother. They could even charge you extra for access to battlenet, enable cross platform play, allow mouse and key board controls...

Yeah, none of that is going to happen. It should be noted that the game in question is a Diablo product, not Diablo 3, so there is no guarantee that it is not Diablo 1 and 2 as slightly higher resolution for XBLA. Which I would buy.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sam Raimi had nothing to do with it

I don't know why I respond to the current version of Spider-Man (at least the first two movies, never subjected myself to the third one), but I do. He almost regrets his responsibility, but sticks to it, regardless of personal cost. It's cliche, it's schtick, but it works, and Spider-Man: Edge of Time sticks to the established trope. It even highlights how 'special' Peter Parker by contrasting him with Spider-Man 2099, an arrogant, selfish, general douche bag of a super hero. None of this has anything to do with the game being fun or not, but it does help to turn a so so action into a pleasant weekend diversion.

If you just count the minutes than Edge of Time only took an hour longer to complete than Hard Reset. Edge of Time has the good sense to separate the campaign from all the nick knack generating challenge, and as much as I love me some achievement points I did not bother with a single one. There are probably six more hours of frustration there, if you want them, but they are best avoided. Hard Reset had a hoard mode that was added after the first set of mediocre reviews, so that doesn't count, either. The point is, as vehicles to pass the time between now and when I die they are of roughly the same chronological value. From a technical and graphical standpoint I would also place them as equals, understanding that if my PC was not slowly shuffling off this mortal coil Hard Reset would have run significantly better and that this late in the 360's life cycle there are enough existing game assets to make just about anything look pretty good.

But if you ask me which was more fun, the answer is simple. Edge of Time wins, hands down, and only because they took an existing character that I was familiar with and put him into an interesting situation. I do not read comic books, so I have no idea if this was new or simply cribbed from last years trades, but Parker running into an alternate future version of himself that took the phrase 'with great power comes great responsibility' as an excuse to accumulate more power was pretty cool. Creating a mutant amalgam of Doc Oc and Antivenom was also pretty cool (in concept, anyway). There was just enough cool to help me gloss over how the combat is just as mashy and loose as the last Spider-Man game, that the web swinging was just as terrible, and that the majority of the levels boiled down to 'kill this guy to get his key'.

There was at least one reference to Spider-Man, the musical. Bonus points there.

As corny as it sounds, Spider-Man (at least his version) is likable. The guy whose name I have already forgotten from Hard Target was not. Game play may be king, but having well written, well voice acted characters can absolve a multitude of sins.

...

I just looked up Raimi to make sure I spelled his name right, which led me to the prequel the The Wizard of Oz he is making, staring James Franco as the wizard. No sir, I don't like it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My god, it's so big

At four hours, forty eight minutes (yes, playfire's ability to track Steam activity along side everything else is pretty nice, I have have to forgive the site for being a spam factory) Hard Reset is not the shortest game I have ever played, but it is getting close. I tried to find more information about Flying Wild Hog, but all I can come up with is that they are leftovers from People Can Fly. This probably translates to whoever wasn't kept on when they became a subsidiary of Epic. This would also explain the re-heated feeling that the game provides. Hard Reset isn't yesterday's Chinese, it is the Chinese that has been hiding in the back of the fridge behind the bad beer, just on the friendly side of being inedible.

I will go to bat for it for one big reason: it was a first person shooter that has actual boss fights. Most modern shooters (read that as all the games copying Call of Duty) don't really have big, end of level bosses because it wouldn't be 'realistic.' Apparently regenerating health gets a pass but a giant nazi wielding two miniguns to too much.

Kiss my ass, political correctness

The science fiction setting gives Hard Reset a little more leeway, and we get a twenty foot colossus and eight legged construction robot with fricken laser beam eyes gone bad. These were good fights, finally coming close to the last boss of Serious Sam, the second encounter. Special note must be made regarding the end of the construction robot fight, as it was never made clear how big it was until you knock off enough legs and it starts falling towards you off of its tower perch. At first I looked up at it, simultaneously entranced by all the bits and pieces falling off of it and and repulsed but it happening at slide show frame rates. Then it got closer, and bigger, and a real life 'oh fuck' was blurted out when I turned tail and ran.

Perhaps it was good that Hard Reset ended right after this. There was no way it was going to top that.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I have no mouth, but I must scream

I am actually going to play the spoils of the Steam holiday sale this year, I swear. Honestly, I should start with last years as I still have not bothered to download Cryostasis and Trine has gotten a sequel before I played the original, but that is not what I am in the mood for. Rage left me wanting more, faster and more difficult shooting, so Hard Reset will get its time under the microscope. The first thing that I have learned is that shoehorning a new video card into a swiftly aging rig is not a magic panacea for low frame rates. As soon as things start bouncing around the level the game starts to crawl, and there are an awful lot of things that you can send careening around. Just about everything is explosive, and those explosions can trigger other, larger ones. On more than one occasion enemies on the other end of the map killed themselves off by brushing against an explosive barrel that was leaning on a stack of god damn fire bombs.

At least the game is being consistent.

Hard Reset got a lot of flak for being itself: a modern(ish) take on Serious Sam. The only problem I have regarding this is that there is another modern take on Serious Sam that I also bought during the Steam sale: Serious Sam 3. Every moment spent with Hard Reset had me wondering why I wasn't playing the other game, and for one reason: Serious Sam may play functionally the same but it has the good sense to not take itself in the least bit seriously. Shooting a million guys running at your is absurd and should be portrayed as such. It should definitely not be interspersed with angsty cut scenes that are too noir even for Max Payne. For example:



And then they kill you, but it's funny,so it's okay.

Hard Reset has sections kind of like that, though I can't find any video of them, but the are played straight. You really are trying to save mankind from a limitless army of two legged robots with saws for noses, and the character you play drinks to silence all the voices in his head, voices of people whose personalities have been digitilized to save them from death, and the machines want these personalities to help with the next stage of their electronic evolution, and the bad guy is a good guy and the good guys are the bad guys...


AAAAAHHHH!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Suppressed Rage

Well, there goes my idea of posting every day.

...

The end of Rage reminded me very much of the end of Crysis: a sudden change from an environment that was creative, if a bit worn out, to generic, shiny, corridor running. We have seen more than our share of post-apocalyptic wastelands in the last few years, but I will admit that Rage had the best looking one. They looked so good there were enough quests to send you through each one twice, ala Halo. (I guess I feel like game name dropping today) There were drippy, gooey parts where mutants had made nests out of hastily stolen human entrails. There were wrecked buildings tilted to impossible angles. And it all looked noticeably better than Fallout and on par with Gears of War 3. I don't understand why the abandoned it for a climax set in the levels that Bungie threw out with the breakfast banana rinds and used coffee grounds ten years ago.

Ok, time to stop talking about a game by talking about other, better games.

Rage was so hollow that when it was done all I thought was 'that's is?' Three discs, a terabyte of uncompressed data in the final build (according to Cliffy B, at least) and all they managed was around five different areas across less than twenty hours of gameplay. It wanted to be big and free roaming, but there is just not enough content there to make it work. What you end up with is a corridor shooter strung together by driving sections that are actually more entertaining than the shooting. Not a recipe for success, much less a reason to make a second game to use the engine it is trying to sell.

And yes, Chance, the shotgun was good, but not that good. The weapons were so pigeon holed as to what they were for killing that the combat became paint by the numbers. The shotgun was for killing mutants, the regular assault rifle was for killing unarmored raiders, the authority assault rifle was for killing the authority, the sniper rifle was mostly useless as the handgun did the same thing when combined with half a binoculars, I never used the crossbow or the glaive that looked like a refugee from Krull and the rocket launcher was for anything big. Perhaps I was spoiled by Resistance 3, but boring.


No, it wasn't cool then either.
...

I have seen just enough best of the year lists now to have my opinion of Bastion validated. It is a nice warm feeling that every once and a while my opinions line up with the rest of the gaming populace as opposed to being in stark opposition. Everyone liked Bastion, and for mostly the same reasons. Best of all it was a self contained experience. It tells a story from beginning to end, and while it's action may not keep up with Outland, the other downloadable heavyweight from last year, it never got in the way of anything either. An excellent game, regardless of delivery method.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

More chunks please

It may have been a mistake on Id's part to embed a semi-respectable racing game inside their visually vibrant but otherwise cliched shooter. With a little more variety in track design and vehicles this could be a damn fine arcade off-road racer, a few steps away from Dirt towards Sega Rally Championship. Yes, I know that game already exists, but Motorstorm Apocalypse is a terrible, terrible game. And I don't think it had rocket launchers on the cars, which is always an improvement. Let me blow the shit out of the guy in first place and I promise I wont get bored/frustrated with Forza so quickly.

I do not mean to say the that the actual shooting portion of Rage is bad, just that it is so paint by the numbers that it even self aware achievements for running through a level backwards are more groan inducing than anything else. It doesn't have the interesting arsenal that Resistance 3 has, instead ponying up a shotgun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, a few machine guns, and a handgun instead. This is the same pile of weapons I have been using since *gasp* Doom, so I should expect nothing else. It doesn't (yet) have the epic sized levels or intense scripted events that Call of Duty and Battlefield have. The closest it has come so far is a giant monster whose weak points glowed.

Like I said a few days ago, this is an engine, nothing more, and as Chance pointed out Doom 4 may not actually every happen, so I don't know who is going to actually do something worthwhile with it. It is a shame, because in spite of the texture pop in that the Unreal engine has also yet to solve it looks really nice. Everything runs smooth, enemies gib when hit with grenades just like they should, and errant fire has at least some effect on the environment. If anything the game should be more gory. The way enemies animate when shot is crying out for the same morose attention to detail that Soldier of Fortune featured, not just gussied up rag doll physics that we have been seeing for years. I want a point blank shotgun blast to the chest to embed ribs in the nearest wall, not just send the poor bastard flying.

...

I have missed so many good titles from last years that it makes me feel ill. That's the problem with intentionally playing bad games and still trying to make time for the good ones: no one else plays the bad one so they arrive quickly. Oh well, the new Spider-man can't be that bad, can it?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Take that, fatty!

I had forgotten what it was like to now have one game dominating my free time. Other games had been played in  the interim, some very good, so not so much, but since November 11th all I had actually been playing was Skryim. I celebrated my renewed freedom last night with about four hours of Street Fighter. I didn't hate myself when I was done, which is certainly a success, but my PP and BP didn't move up much. I have run into quite a few people with B ranked character that have since dropped down to 4000 BP, just like my Blanka. I think actually having to pay for the expansion weeded out all of the people my bull shit worked on. Far to many people still mash crouch tech after cross up on wake up (allowing my random ultras to not look so random) but this 'technique's' time is limited.

One of  my nemesis characters has always been Rufus. I don't play against very many of them and his dive kick, unlike the freshly nerfed Yun one, is actually difficult to anti-air with Blanka's crouching medium. Even terrible Rufus players gave a problem. Last night I had what can only be described as a Yoda moment. I have watched enough of Wong's Rufus to know that his wake up option (without meter to FADC) are actually pretty limited. This Rufus liked to wake-up EX messiah kick when he didn't have the extra bars to cancel out when I blocked it. The first time he did it I guessed right and blocked it.

Download complete.


I knew he was going to do it again. It was his go to panic move, like my stupid EX-up ball that I default to when I don't know what else to do. Sure, in knocks down in 2012, but it can still be safe jumped, and just blocked it leaves me wide open. Just one on a long list of things I need to stop doing. Anyway, I knew this guy was going to EX messiah, and I knew when he was going to do it. Bait. Block. Ultra.

For a moment the game was that simple. I boiled right down to knowing what my opponent was going to do before he even knew he was going to do it. And just when I was about to get smug I ran into a Ken who actually knew how to safe jump be and kicked my ass with jabs.

I hate this game. I love this game.