Monday, April 30, 2012

This is actually very funny, but it could be funnier

Stolen from All Games Beta (who stole it from somewhere else, most likely):

That's pretty good, but they forgot a few people. Let's start with

The Arbiter
I can indulge Halo with two characters, but no more, and certainly not Cortana. It's impossible to GIS her without getting images that are NSFW anyway.

Marcus Fenix

Gears gets similar considerations, with two recognizable fighters. I suppose that I could include the locust queen, but she would be a little creepy, even for a fighting game. 10 more? I can make it...

Joanna Dark
Yes, she hasn't has a good game since the very first Perfect Dark, but what better place for a characters swan song than an ill advised Smash Brothers rip off?

'Splosion Man
'Splosion Man has moves that would actually make sense in a fighting game. He 'splodes. 

Jack of Blades
What do you mean that you don't know who this is? Did you even play Fable?


Just because you deny playing the game doesn't mean it didn't actually happen.

Digging deep, now. No one played Bullet Witch, but it was an exclusive, and she certainly is better than Kameo.

Kaim might be just a bit broken, since he can't actually die, but at least he has a sword.

Kinectimals Tiger
Think Gon from the Tekken series. Little, hard to hit, frustrating to fight, perfect for the kiddies.

All snark aside, this would be pretty damn cool.

Once again, you can deny it all you want, but I know you played Onechanbara, so you know exactly who this is. Aya would have at least a dozen outfits. At least.

Damnit, running out. Going to have to go back a generation for my last roster spot.

The time sweeper. Fuck yeah.

So there you a go, a list of Xbox exclusives for their very own Smash Brothers. If I had any skills with photoshop I would make a new character select screen.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The internet lies

The Bethesda buying out the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. license turned out to be fake, and I am rather disappointed by that. Instead of a franchise changing hand it has now ceased to exist, and it certainly deserved at least one more game. If the gaming market can support a new damned Call of Duty every year then surely there was room in its heart and wallet for a new S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. The world will never know.


After putting out the call on PA for fights and getting snubbed (because no one plays on a Thursday night, apparently) I spent thirty minutes winning Street Fighter X Tekken and then thirty minutes losing in AE. It had been well over a month since I had touched AE, and making the jump back was surprisingly difficult. I have no proof, but I swear that charge time in SFxT are shorter than AE, so even though I do not have a Blanka to play in SFxT I was still a mess with him in AE. Even after I remember to hold down back for those few extra frames success still was nowhere to be found. Capcom has splintered its own market to the point that the only people still playing AE are ht ones who are really, really good at it. I am not one of those, but I am stubborn, so I try to hang in with them anyway.

It does not work.

I spent most of my time losing on the Couchtech stream, hoping that no one was actually watching. There was a Makoto player there cleaning house. I took two rounds off of him (not in the same game): one with a bull shit random ultra and once with good old fashioned Blanka shenanigans. The ultra was embarrassing, but the shenanigans were glorious. I had finally remembered what to do when Blanka has the life lead and time is running down: nothing. Sit there holding a charge and make them come to you. This would have worked, but I was nervous about this Makoto getting even one hit, because once his pressure game started I was done. He had already shown that he could ultra random balls on reaction and focus rainbow balls, so I did neither. Sort of.

I EX rainbowed right over him. He through out his ultra and I landed behind him. A moral victory.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I wont sleep for days


Anyone remember S.T.A.L.K.E.R.?


Of course you do, especially if you are a fan of semi post-apocalyptic shooters with RPG elements that take place in the area surrounding the worst nuclear disaster of our time. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has a very specific but dedicated fan base, and even the buggy mess of Clear Sky, a game I tried several time to play without success, did not temper our desire for a true sequel. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has been in the works for a while with screen shots sneaking out here and there, but there was no real new until it was officially canceled, or frozen, whatever that means, earlier this week.

This of course sucks, but, news has come out today that maybe, just maybe, Bethesda now owns the license. It does seem a bit redundant to me, as they already have a similar, if less dark franchise that fits into the same mental space in Fallout, but then I thought about a new S.T.A.L.K.E.R. running on the Fallout New Vegas engine and got excited. As long as Bethesda can maintain the the correct mood, less gallows humor and more just gallows, I am all aboard them getting a shot at it. It doesn't hurt that Bethesda will give the game a console release, something that had no chance of happening otherwise. The original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. tham is now hard at work on a massively multiplayer something or other that will not be nearly as tolerant of their general bugginess, so I hope they all can find new jobs.

All rumors, of course, but fun ones.


Forty hours into Amalur and it shows now signs of slowing down. Every new area is filled with side quests, and even though I am hopelessly over leveled and the items I receive are immediately sold for coin I still feel compelled to complete them. Once I hit the level cap I might start skipping them, as they will move from limited benefit to actual wastes of time, but that is still eight levels away.

A few levels ago I gained the ability to fire a spread of arrows instead of just one, and that had lead to the very effective tactic of a quick juggle hit with my daggers followed by a close range, shotgun like volley of enchanted arrows that killed most things in a rep or two. I still have a difficult time with crowd control, but when I finally do know someone done they usually do not get up again. All the abilities that are left in the thief/assassin tree are useless, but I need to keep dumping  into them to unlock the top level assassin destiny. I have certainly leveled myself into a corner, but at least I can respec every single point for a fee.

That should't be a problem. My wallet is currently filled with around 1.2 million gold coins.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The hideous list revisted

I've got nothing on the mind today, so let's examine the current queue.

On deck (and at home)

Neverdead - So bad it's good? Maybe. Yahtzee hated it, but Yahtzee hates everything.

Syndicate -  Another game whose point I will miss because I loath even virtual contact with the xbox masses (outside of punching them/getting punched by them)

In the queue

Prototype 2 - A game that I actually want to play on purpose. The first one was quite good when I finally swallowed by pride and dropped the difficulty down to easy.

Silent Hill: Downpour - Just because I always play the Silent Hill games. Word has it that it is the best of the American releases. That is not high praise.

Binary Domain - I was hooked by the the trailer in which your comrades decline to offer you assistance because they think you are a dick. Hopefully I can get them to actually shoot at me.

Ninja Gaiden 3 - It supposed to be easier than the last two. Maybe I will be able to finish this one.

Asura's Wrath - I could go for some quick time based game play where the goal is to not look at boobs.

The Witcher 2 - I still feel bad about not finishing the first game and even got as far as downloading it for the forth time to see how well it ran on my new card. My computer may be aging, but it looked pretty damn good, so I may put this one off until I can get back to the original.

Birds of Steel - No one else will ever play this, and it has been quite a while since I have played an arcade flight game.

Blades of Time - Not going to lie, this is on the list just to give me something to complain about.

Tales of Graces f - PS3 exclusives are few and far between, so this JRPG needs to get played to justify my other consoles continued existence.

Goddamn that is getting out of hand, and I know full well that Amalur has at least twenty more hours in it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I see what you did there. We all see

Spend enough time with any game and the cracks will begin to show. Sometimes little things that are easily forgiven in the first ten (or twenty) hours of play work their way up past quaint, bothersome and infuriating to mindbogglingly aggravating so quickly that the controller has hit the wall before you even know what has happened.

Maybe that's just me.

Other times you luckily avoid the broken bits of a game and build an illusion of competence about it that is unceremoniously shattered when you finally stumble onto something that just doesn't work. Such was my weekend with Amalur. Amalur handles crime in very much the same way as Fable or Skyrim: if someone sees you do it you are screwed, otherwise steal to your larcenous hearts content. Or so I thought. I had been given a task of delivering an offering to the local church and then guarding it. There was a thief in town (besides myself) who had been emptying the poor box when no one was looking. I dutifully made the delivery and then waited. And waited. And then got bored with waiting so I took the money back.

No one in the church was awake and no one had walked in while I was watching. First of all there was less in the box than I had put in, so it appears that the box itself is the thief, and secondly about a dozen guards all show up at the same time, summoned by a medieval alarm system. Instead of attacking they demand I pay a fine, which was nice of them, and just as they are leaving the real thief showed up. I should have killed him.

That was at least amusing and not quest breaking. Later that night I had to get into a guarded military barracks and no one was being let in without an officer's pass. I didn't have a pass, but the officer guarding the door did, so I crouched down behind him (this rendering myself invisible) and started rummaging through his pockets. The odds of me getting it unnoticed were not good, but I went for it anyway.

He noticed, and he and all the guard immediately attacked. No asking for a fine or a bribe this time, they drew their swords and went full aggro. I ran to the nearby town only to find that all the NPC's in the area already knew about  my crime, and they all wanted to kill me as well. To kill time I did a distant quest, and the character from that town who was locked in a basement also knew what I had done and would not talk to me. I had angered the entire region with my failed pickpocket attempt.

This is not good. In Skyrim if  you are caught doing something wrong you can always kill the witnesses. As long as you get all of them before they can talk to anyone you can get away with it. Not so in Amalur, where all residents of a city share some sort of hive mind. Eventually I sold the stolen officer's pass to a fence and did other quests for a few game days. When the guards calmed down I repurchased the pass from the fence and gave it to the same guard that I stole it from.

He let me in. Amalur's veneer is peeling and I have no idea how much of it is left.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Diablo 3 has a public stress test this weekend and I do not  know if I want to participate. On hand it will determine once and for all if my aging machine will be able to run it in a manner befitting a game of its caliber, but on the other if it does run I will end up playing it all weekend instead of getting work done on Amalur, and them I will end up buying the game and will have already played the first several hours.

Truly, first world problems.


I almost always make a point of investing in conversation or intimidation skills in RPG's regardless of what class I play. Victory by snarking someone to death is just as sweet as killing them with a sword. For some reason I did not do this in Amalur, instead dumping all of skill points into sneaking, unlocking and finding hidden things. Unfortunately have a conversation skill of 0 does not mean that I am missing dialogue choices, it just means that the best ones only have a 5% chance of working.

It gets even funnier the person who wrote the quests couldn't find a way around a failed intimidation attempt. I was assigned the simple task of rooting about and 'taking care of' traitors in three separate camps. This was simple because each spy was named and their locations were highlighted on the map. I quick traveled to the first one, woke him up, and started a conversation.

'What do you know about (insert bad guy's name here, I forget what it was)?'

'Why, I have no idea what you are talking about!'

Option 1: 'I know you are a spy.'

Option 2: 'I know exactly what you did (5%).'

Option 3: 'Oh, my mistake, carry on then.'

I tried the intimidate option and it failed, so I went with the less subtle approach. The spy was so insulted that he attacked me. So instead of failing the quests because my character lacked the verbal skill to get his point across the wimpy spy goes full aggro on a guy whose weapons are literally dripping with fire and poison. It did no go well for him, and I got my reward.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Excitement is where you find it

That was a Can Am Spyder, by the way, and I will have one someday. And yes, it is indeed an early symptom of my mid-life crisis.


No news on the Amalur front yesterday. I suppose that is an issue with long games filled with pointless but enjoyable quests: there just isn't much worth talking about on a daily basis. I tried to keep an in character journal of my time with Skyrim. That lasted all of a week or two and I just ran out of ideas. Amalur lacks the wonderful randomness of Skyrim, so the quests I am doing now and the same quests that everyone else has done, and we probably did them in the exact same way. I have made the comparison before, but it still stands: Skyrim is a world, Amalur is a game.


Here's something exciting: I just spent an hour and a half fighting with the SQL 2008 R2 install on a new SBS server. Yes, I know that SBS sucks, but it just for testing. SBS comes packed in with two separate instances of SQL 2008 R2 but it doesn't bother giving the domain admin account administrative SQL access. And the SA is disabled.


I had to open up one of the instances in single use mode and force feed SQL the domain admin account.

It was exciting for me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

But does it cause decay?

I haven't been avoiding Kingdoms of Amalur, there just really isn't much to say. It's RPG chewing gum, but it is really good chewing gum. The flavor changes just often to keep me going. Last night I arrived in what any other game would call Lothlorien, complete with impossible architectural flourishes and long lived, pointy eared residents. There were about five or six quests that popped up just for walking in, one of which was an old fashioned 'put the things in the correct order with just barely enough information' puzzle. It was a nice change of pace from the combat, as I am finding out that a straight rogue build may not have been a good idea.

Against one opponent it works very well, even without a back stab to get thing going. Soften then enemy up from a distance with the bow, then stun lock them into submission with many, many little hits. Even when an enemy decides to no sell a few hits I am able to run away and start the process over. There is almost always more than one thing to kill, sometimes up to ten, and my poor rogue starts drinking healing potions like they are going out of style. Honestly, he feels like the assassin class from the first Guild Wars expansion: terrific for the first two seconds of a battle but screwed if what he was aiming at isn't dead after the first few shots.

Speaking of Guild Wars, in pains me to say that Guild Wars 2 (the PC version, anyway) is not going to get played. My computer is not up to the task, and there are other things that I want more preventing me from spending the money to get one. The same will also hold true for Diablo 3; I know that Blizzard game scales very well, but I don't want to play a half assed version of an excellent game. One of the things reigning in my spending is knowing that new consoles are coming out next year, of which I will need two. Putting aside money now for new Playstation and Xbox is really not a bad idea. The other thing? Don't laugh...

It could happen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The games in my head

There are a few songs by random artists that create fully fledged video games in my head whenever I hear them. At first I thought it was, maybe even a little strange, but then it occurred to me that spending as much time as I do in pretend places interacting with things via my thumbs it is not surprising that my mind works in this way. After a while these individual songs gave way to ideas for whole games, complete with stories and graphics and game play. As soon as someone invents a way to plug my brain into XBLA these games will actually come into being, but until then my words will have to do, as I have no programming ability and enjoy playing games much to much to spend time learning how to make them.

Love me some Rage. One of these ideas that has been bouncing around in my head for some time is a horizontal shmup where everything that happens on the screen is directly tied to the music. I do not mean that the game makes the music, as this has been done, but the music actually makes the game. Every shot, every explosion, every action is tied to to song. Specifically I see enemy attacks being determined by the drum beat; as the song gets faster, more shots come your way. If you happen to get killed the song vamps for a few bars until it can you loop you back in at a pre-determined checkpoint. Writing it out makes it sound pretty lame, but that is only because I can't get out the picture out of my head and onto the page.

This song is the first level, starting it in some kind of planet sized prison. Our nameless hero steals his ship back and is trying to escape. The quite(er) parts of the song are stealth areas, spotlights searching through underground caverns, until the prison guardian realizing what is going on. Picture the giant space worm from Empire Strikes Back, smaller and meaner and covered with cannons. The good guy runs for half the song, barely surviving, until he gets fed up, pulls a 180, hits the afterburners...

Bring that shit in.

The giant worm is caught off guard, takes some big hits, and the ship slips buy. Horizontal shooting changes to vertical as he makes a run for the surface.

Freedom. Yeah.

He can see the stars at the top of the cavern, but the guardian is chasing, getting closer, throwing everything he has at the escaping ship.

Freedom. Yeah right.

Of course he gets away, and the guardian destroys most of the prison trying to catch him. It's only the first level, after all. This is the last:

Bullet hell. Oh yeah.

Monday, April 16, 2012

In which I pretend to know what I am talking about

I did not intend to spend my entire evening watching the Power Up stream, especially when I tuned in just in time to see the last two matches of the AE grand finals. They were running Skullgirls next, a game that I have been on the fence about since its release in spite of the tiny $15 price tag. Seeing it in very early tournament play has helped me make a decision: I am certainly not going to purchase the game, as it is firmly the 'games I cannot play at all, ever' camp along with Marvel, but I really look forward to what top players are going to come up with given more time with the system. Skullgirls has been out for less than a week prior to Final Round, so the play was a little rough, but the players were also adjusting teams and making discoveries on the fly. It has a ratio system very similar to Capcom Vs SNK 2, so there were one character teams fighting two character teams, and when that didn't work people were adding good assists just because they saw someone else use them.

There is one very smart addition to Skullgirls that will prevent many future issues that I want to highlight. It is inevitable that players will find infinites. There are too many people out there hammering away on the game engine that are good at what they do to prevent this. It took all of a week for easy, abuse-able tactics to appear in Street Fighter X Tekken and novices like myself are at the mercy of Capcom. They will patch it when they feel like it, probably over correct the problem, or just ignore the issue altogether. Skullgirls has a built in infinite counter: if a combo uses the same same set of moves too many time in a row the character getting hit has in invulnerable counter. This of course can be baited out an punished by stopping the combo short, but still, it a very nice way to allow players to experiment and push what is possible as far they can while still keeping things competitive.

It really makes me wish I could get my head around vs games and their extended combos.

Power Up also featured the most boring/intriguing grand finals in Marvel that I have ever seen. Ultimate Marvel buffed a lot of the zoning characters, so a few players began to experiment with defense, zoning centered teams. It should come as no surprise that Dieminion, who plays Guile in AE, settled on a Morrigan team. Morrigan's hyper that splits her in two allows her to literally fill the screen with soul fists coming from every direction. Get him by one and you are eating several more. Sit and block and get chipped to death while Morrigan builds enough meter to do that same thing all over again. It is certainly not impossible to beat, but with a a counter pick team it is very difficult to crack. This grand finals ended up with Dieminion's Morrigan team up against Chris G's Morrigan team.


Not really. It didn't look like Marvel (it looked like touhou, the fighting game) but I was thrilled. These two guys had not just changed strategies, they changed games. Chris G won because he had a better assist backing him up (hidden missiles all day, erreday). Power Up was a small crowd, and some of the biggest hitters were not there, so I do not know if zoning teams really are the wave of the future. Just imagine this kind of cerebral snooze fest as the headlining grand finals at Evo. What a wonderful, terrible idea.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Old hobbies

Chance shared on his exceptional blog a few of his resent game based figure indiscretions. I, too, once had disposable income, and built a small but growing collection of figures, knickknacks, baubles, and other pointless but cool items that do nothing other than look cool. They have been sitting in a box since I moved just over a year ago, so this was as a good a reason as any to pull them out and catalog them.

Please excuse the shitty picture quality. I love my new Windows Phone's ability to automatically upload pictures to my sky drive, I would just like it more if it took good pictures.

That Jabba is really, really old.

The only Alice figure I am missing is the jabberwock, which I have never even seen in person.

Yes, that is Angus Young rocking out behind Pinky and the Brain.

Worth price of the collectors edition right there.

'Uhh, your game sucks.'

Gah, the glare is terrible, but I do not think I am ever going to open these.That's Haruko and Kanti from FLCL and, well, me.

Skeksil, huh? I had no idea.

Last one. The Rancor is as old as Jabba. There are both, as far as I remember, the original releases of both of these toys. If they were in the box, they might even be worth something.

A drop in RPG

For all my complaining about the 'game-ness' of Amalur versus the 'world-ness' of Skyrim, Amalur certainly makes the hours fly by almost as well. I find myself grouping side and guild quests by area instead of following one arc until it is done. This works both because there are quite a few quests in every area and because they are in now way connected to each other. The most interesting one so far was a fetch quest that morphed into the quest giver trying to sacrifice me using the items that I got for him. He just didn't understand why I wouldn't comply; he assumed that I knew that the seeds I was gathering were for plants that spawned pixies whose first urge would be to rend the tender flesh from by bones. How in the world did I miss that.

What little plot I have uncovered so far centers on an immortal race, the fae, becoming annoyed with the mortal races and attempting to wipe them out. I am sure there is going to be more to it than that, but it seems kind of silly to me. If you knew that you couldn't die, and that even if you were 'killed' you would simply reappear somewhere else, why bother with messiness of war? Let the ravages of time do the work for you. You still get what you want, don't have to deal the weapons and armor and blood and all that, and in the mean time you can watch the mortals destroy themselves. Schadenfreude is the only joy an immortal being has.

It doesn't really matter. I am not playing Amalur for the main or sub-stories. I am playing it because the actual act of playing the game is fun. The combat forces the use of more than one or two skills, there is a reasonable flow of new items and armor (though I have read that this tapers of at higher levels), and it just plain looks good. It is not a sandbox, and I cannot do whatever I want, but it is a very good guided tour through an amusement park where even waiting in line gives me something to do or look at.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Not the same genre

Kingdom of Amalur is, well, it certainly is a thing. It is a big thing, a sprawling thing, with many things to do to other things with sharp things. There are quests things all over the place; I would often stumble across two new things to do on the way to do a different that also had nothing to do with the main thing I was supposed to be doing. Volume does not necessarily have anything to do with quality, so while there are many, many things to do I have found myself not giving a damn about any of them.

Last night I dropped off of a cliff and landed on top of thief. Instead of killing me for my gold he assumed I was looking to join his illustrious cadre and told me where to find the leader. Let me say that again: a thief told a total stranger who fell out of the goddamned sky where the head of his guild was. At least the fighters guild made me run one cursory fetch quest before whoring out the details. Amalur's problem is certainly not the variety or quality of side quests, it is how they are presented. In Skyrim the guilds are part of the world; they make sense and have full stories all their own. So far it feels like Amalur is putting these things in because there is a rule in the big book of western RPG rules that says they have to be there.

This poor narrative and completely absent world building is a shame, because as a game Amalur is quite good. The third person combat is crisp and responsive, rewarded timed attacks instead of massing X over and over. Stealth actually feels like it works. The leveling (or fate) system is very customize-able, allowing people with short attention spans to grab abilities from three different classes, creating a Frankenstein class of their very own. I have an incredible fear of change and multi-classing, so it will thief all the way for me. Back stabbing a sleeping bear is one of the coolest things I have ever done in a game.

Amalur is certainly not better than Skyrim, but I am not certain they are even the same thing. Amalur is an very good game, but I will develop no affection for the world and its characters. Skyrim was a place that I went every night for over a month, a place that I would to go back to as soon as Bethesda gets around to releasing some DLC for it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

But, my items!

Clash of Heroes made an interesting turn last night, one that will actually make it easier to not spend all of my free hours puzzle battling demons. The quest is divided up into four or five parts, each one centered on a different race and area of the world. I finished the first section last night, having fully leveled up most of my units. It was a good boss fight, just different enough from previous ones to require a different strategy but no so difficult that I didn't make it through on the first try. The star of this section, the female elven archer stereotype, rescues the human warrior stereotype and send him back home to stop war between the races. The new character arrives just in time to be branded a traitor and attacked, and then *surprise* he is level one, with level one units, no big units, and no items.

It's a new game, a game that I have already played. All sense of progress has been lost. The first section didn't take much more than five hours, but it would be nice to earn new abilities and units instead of everything be reset to zero. The game is still fun, but I will need to take a break from it for that awful specter of 'familiarity' to go away. This works well, as Kingdom of Amalur did indeed arrive yesterday. I have been told it is quite good, even better than Skyrim, though this came from someone who didn't play Skyrim because first person anything makes him motion sick.

I don't think I can take advice seriously from a man whose personal fortitude is too weak to play most of the games that I enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Puzzling when I should be working

I know from the few minutes I spent with the demo months and months ago that actually purchasing Clash of Heroes would be a mistake. It hits such a well defined sweat spot of mechanics that I swoon over that it taking up residence on my hard would be a death sentence to anything and everything else that I should be playing. I know that the game is not for everyone, but it was too good for me to play when it came out. Now, during the briefest of slumps in the queue, during which I could have gotten work done on Diablo 2 or starting The Whitcher for the fourth time or practiced Street Fighter X Tekken, I have managed to purchase the full game. It is exciting and terrifying, because all I want to do is play this silly little puzzle game with quaint looking 2D sprites and RPG mechanics.

Puzzle Quest is the closest comparison I can make, but that game relied much more on luck than Clash of Heroes does. The developers swore up and down that the AI didn't cheat by looking ahead, but I was hit by matches dropping out of the sky so often that I find that hard to believe (I know it didn't cheat, the machine made its own luck by always looking for matches near the bottom of the screen, but still.) Clash of Heroes still has the luck factor, but there is more that the player can to do have an impact on things. The number of units can be restricted, and I found out quickly that rolling with everything is an easy way to get stuck with no matches to make. The biggest units take up four spaces and are quite difficult to get going, so I have gone with a more speed friendly army. It's just so enjoyable tweaking my little army that I can't stand it.

If I had to level a complaint it would be as the way losses and retreating are handled. You can walk away from any fight for the cost of some gold, but if you ride a battle out to the end and lose you can restart from just before the fight and lose nothing. This quite often leads to wasting time waiting to lose instead of wasting money retreating. An odd choice, but not a deal breaker.

I want to spend all sorts of time on Clash of Heroes, having spent real money on it, but Kingdoms of Amalur should be arriving in a day or two and Skull Girls comes out on Wednesday. I love the game, but once again it may be too good to spend time on.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Shoot it in the head!

On paper, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City sounds like a reasonably good idea. Take a venerable, possible stagnated series and inject it with a genre about two steps removed from the original. This isn't Resident Evil, the RTS, but it is Resident Evil, the squad based shooter. Sprinkle with liberal fan service, up to and including canon shattering events like 'killing Leon,' and the end result should be at least interesting. Contrary to what I read about the game beforehand, it actually is.

One of the earliest Resident Evil rewards was a rocket launcher with unlimited ammo. This made running back through the mansion, city, etc incredibly easy, but it also made me wonder why the good guys didn't just load up with better weapons to begin with. The bad guys in Operation Raccoon City actually have experience dealing with zombies, hunters, lickers, and tyrants, so they brought along the appropriate hardware. If all the game had you fighting were zombies this would make it easy, so it throws nameless soldiers that have the audacity to shoot back into the mix early and often, not to mention the meanest version of lickers I have ever seen. It's not enough that they can cling to any surface and take a ton of abuse, they also play dead and will attack from behind with  no warning.

Where the game stumbles is not in its ideas or atmosphere, it is in the application of the different genre. Squad based shooters are everywhere, and they are at their best when the non-player character members of the squad are both effective and autonomous. The other Umbrella members in Operation Raccoon City are neither, barely edging out the zombies they are trying to kill in the intelligence department. They have terrible aim, get stuck on the environment, and generally are much more trouble than they are worth. I found myself keeping them alive just so there was something else for zombies to chase.

The zombies themselves end up being the games other problem. Early on they work just fine as canon fodder, occasionally showing up from behind the squad to keep them on their toes. The first time the crimson heads from RE:make appear they are a welcome addition because they are the exception, not the norm. As the game nears the end the crimson heads are all that are used, and the last level sees them re-spawn forever until at least one member of the team (read: you) makes it to a ladder. They may be able to tear you to pieces in two seconds flat, but vertical obstacles are still their downfall.

At five or so hours the single player campaign ends just as it gets annoying, so it knew when to cash the chips in and go home. I even tried a game or two of the multi-player (there were actually people playing!), and it was unoffensive but unremarkable. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City certainly gets points for trying, and a Double Dragon inspired ending that sees the squad split into to parts, each trying to kill the other is a nice touch, but it is not something I am going to remember for long.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I wish I hadn't seen this

Read that, and despair. Bioware is not infallible (they put out Dragon Age 2, after all) but this kind of disrespect for their own work sickens me. This is not a Directors Cut in the film making sense, it is a kowtowing to pressure from whiny bitches so they keep giving us money cut.

I have nothing more to say about this, or Bioware.

Fuck 'em.


Ok, I just had a thought. There is the possibility that the truncated feel to the ending was not intentional, but a symptom of EA pressuring them to get the game out on time, but that is really now how the press release reads. The fuck stands.

How the worm turns

I should have known that after saying several paragraphs worth of nice things about Forza 4 that I would soon grow tired of it, but I had no idea that it would happen so quickly. Two night ago I split the evening between racing and fighting and all went well. Last night I couldn't even make it through a race before I was bored. As much as I enjoy racing game, I can only take going as fast as possible in a irregular loop for so long. It starts as a being restless, not being able to sit still. Then it moves on to a little twinge in my stomach, reminiscent of the feeling I used to get as a child as I would sit down in front of test that I was not prepared for. Eventually I want to be anywhere else doing anything else.

I have fought through this feeling before for much worse titles, but since there is no 'end' to most racing games Forza 4 joins in predecessor in not getting near enough attention. It's a shame, too, because the only other game I have to play right now is Resident Evil: Raccoon City Chronicles (or something like that) which has gotten almost universal derision.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Now everyone is just as bad as me

It took about a month, but the ranked area of Street Fighter X Tekken has sorted itself out. Early adopters of fighting games are almost always the serious players, so setting fight requests to people with the 'same' rank had a pretty good chance of matching you up against someone way, way out of your league. Last night I played people more or less on the same level as I am (read: still stuck but know the moves) and it was much more fun.

I have identified the most immediate failing that requires correction, and it has more to do with muscle memory that anything else. In Street Fighter I have the bad habit of using throws as a punish too often. In Street Fighter 4 it isn't that bad of an idea; regular throws are actually pretty quick and have decent ranges, so using them in wake up games actually works. Throws in SFxT are terrible: they come out slowly and have a tiny range, yet I keep trying to use them. In my head I know that the proper whiff punish in chaining MP to HP, tag launcher, big finisher. My team is built specifically around this. Guile builds meter, tags in Paul who has a power gem go off just from the tag. Paul had really east combos into his super. In practice mode, this works great. But in a match?

'Sweet, whiffed uppercut! Time for big damage!'



There is another issue that needs fixing, one that requires no time at all, just money. My stick is long past end of life. I have been playing on the same Madcatz SE since the first version of Street Fighter 4 came out. Years of down/back have created an enormous dead zone on the stick itself: I can move the thing most of the way to the edge of the gate before anything actually clicks. Being broken had no real effect on Blanka or Guile, but now that I have an honest to goodness command character that I need to use it would be nice to consistently cancel crouching medium kick into a phoenix smasher. What I want is one of these:

Works for XB360 and PS3 and a pretty good deal at $130. I just need that $130.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The worst thing I have ever seen

But wait, there's more.

That's it, I officially swear of anything Star Wars related. I am purging all memory of it from my head. Seeing Han Solo and Slave Leia dance has tainted everything.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A clean pass

Racing games are a vacation. No plot, no characters, just getting from one end of the track to the other as quickly as possible. The come in varying degrees of realism, with Gran Turismo on one end and Burnout on the other, but the best one are the games that find a nice, comfortable middle ground. This used to me Project Gotham for me, but since Bizarre Creations met their end after the unfortunate James Bond: Bloodstone by affections have turned to Forza. Forza 4 not only hit the middle ground between arcade and boring realism perfectly, it also lets players shift that focus in either direction as will.

Difficulty settings in Forza have always turned on and off various assists. The player can get help with little things like a racing/braking line all the way up to ABS, traction control and steering assists. I have always played Forza on medium and have become completely dependent on the racing line. In Forza 4 medium also means braking assist beyond ABS: if the game thinks you are coming into a corner too hot it hits the brakes for you. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes I want to bomb into the corner too fast and use the quarter panel belonging to the car in front of me to slow down. Braking assist doesn't like that. 'Surely, this man is not that big of an ass and he just missed the breaking point.'

No, I am that big of an ass. Thankfully Forza lets the player change these settings in a very granular fashion. It really is the racing game for anyone. Even the tuning process, which previous had been home to all sorts of things that I did not understand, has been simplified for the rest of us. Yes, you can still go in and purchase aftermarket parts, then go in and fine tune settings to your hearts content, but not I can going into a different menu and say 'make my a car a B' and it will do it, assuming it is possible. This is the right kind of streamlining: the kind that removes things that aren't fun for most people but leaves the option to go back to them.

I will not 'finish' Forza 4, nor will I ever attempt to race online. But I will certainly enjoy my time with it because Turn 10 has made it very easy to do so. Polyphony Digital should take notice, that have just been beaten soundly as their own game.