Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Apologies, oh most angry one

I may have been a bit hasty in my dismissal of God of War: Ascension for not being as compelling or engaging as the previous game have. My evening ritual is as follows: retrieve Coke and possible chips, sit on couch, play until unconscious. The Coke never makes it past the first thirty minutes. Last night I forgot about it and was left with two inches of flat disappointment when the evening was done. On the plus side that means Ascension had my full and complete attention for a solid three hours.

Almost everything I did last night was on or around the giant statue of Apollo, topped off by Archimedes' trial. Back in March Archimedes' Trial was nerfed, to use a fighting game term, and I am glad that it was before I got around to playing it, as I had a hard time with it last night. I can't image finishing it without the health and magic boost between rounds. It was still hard, just not controller throwing hard, which is somewhere near the right place.

The story is still not as interesting as any of the previous games and I miss cutting a swath through deities and demigods that I actually know. I did not know what the furies were before starting the game. Yes, powerful beings that are neither god nor titan have potential, but I would still like to have thrown does against Hades. At least, I don't think that ever happened. There have been quite a few games.

God of War needs to rest now. The series isn't dead but it is one that could benefit from the untapped power of new hardware. Just give it some time off to avoid series fatigue.

A total remake of the first two games could be pretty cool...

Monday, April 29, 2013

God of zzz

I am actually catching up. The bottom of the list is in sight and releases are slowing down in advance of impending hardware. I imagine that a good chunk of fourth quarter games will see next generation ports, which doesn't bother me. The point of a new toy is to use it, not belabor it for not being everything it can be within a week of bringing it home.

Between sickness and NorCal regionals I did not play as much of God of War: Ascension this weekend as I had planned. It is telling that I could walk away from the game so easily; fever has not been an obstacle in the past if the game was good enough and I had forgotten that there was a major this weekend. Rooting against Chris G took precedence over killing things with Kratos, and thus the die was cast.

I did play enough of Ascension to figure out that it was definitely missing something. It had Kratos, who I like, though he is in even less of a talking mood than we have seen him in previous games. The combat is still there and I do not mind the bigger moves being hidden behind a rage meter. There are still giant set pieces that force the camera into a position so far from the action that distinguishing the flailing mass you control from the ones you are trying to kill becomes almost impossible. All of the pieces were there, but nothing fit together. This is the first God of War that I have found in no way compelling. Kratos just seems to be moving from place to place, killing things, without a main theme or quest to guide him.

The problem I see is that very little is explained. Kratos wakes up as a prisoner of the furies, captured after having betrayed Ares. So is this between 1 and 2? Not sure, and before any clues are given the games jumps several weeks into the past to before Kratos was captured. When is the greater story arc is this? Why is nothing spelled out in even the most basic way? What's left is a mess of great individual levels with nothing in between them. God of War: Ascension is less than the sum of its parts.

Need proof? I actually fell asleep during a puzzle two nights ago. I woke up when the controller his the floor. The last game to do that to me was Final Fantasy XIII. How's that for inauspicious company.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Demo Friday: All in?

This one actually came out last Friday and I missed it. Finally got around to it on Monday and its fate was determined in near record time.

Check me out! I'm from like five other games!
God Mode. Ewwwwwwwww.

Okay, I will elaborate, but only because it is after 4:00 and I don't want to work anymore.

Arena based third person shooter plus watered down RPG elements plus really annoying announcer voice. You want more? The action is clunky, the default weapon does almost no damage, I was not able to find anyone to play online with so I was forced to suffer alone and the story was insipid: a game designer (that's you) dies and is sent to 'hell in a toga' to pay for his sins. How does he have to pay for his sins? By playing through areas based on his own bad games! It's justice, see! See how meta this is! See how hard the game is trying to be different from other, better, team based shooters!?

No. Just no. All this makes me want to do is play Painkiller again, and I can do that all by myself. Alone. For less money.

Glados never stops cheating. For science.
I bought Poker Night at the Inventory because it was cheap and I wanted to see Tycho interact with Strong Bad. It being a poker game was secondary. I, like most people, think I am better at poker that I really am, so it was nice to have a game play poorly on purpose for my enjoyment. Poker Night 2 is not as cheap, at least on XBLA, but there is more of everything. There are four new players, plus Glados as a dealer and a cameo by Moxxi from Borderlands at the bartender. Unlocks actually do something this time: using all three from the same character's game changes the whole theme and the home character's costume. There is actually a reason to grind games for coins.

The special prizes from each opponent are also back and getting them is much more straightforward. You are given three randomly chosen, usually reasonable goals that do not need to be achieved in the same game. Once those are done the next game is for a special prize. And if you lose? No problem, just play for it again in the next game. The entire process of unlocking goodies is much better and makes me want to play more instead of less. I may even figure out what this mysterious other kind of poker is.

Poker Night 2 was purchased sight unseen on XBLA because I crave achievements and that may have been a mistake. Not because it was twice as expensive but because it runs like ass. There are constant pauses in the action where the game is loading the next set of animations and dialogue. I really hope that it is just my Xbox or the hard drive dying because there is no reason for something with so little going on to run this poorly.

You heard me. I am complaining about the frame rate of a poker game. That means it is time to stop writing.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Old crushes

Buried in an article about the Ratchet and Clank movie, which is itself very good news, is this little tidbit:

"In addition to Ratchet and Clank, Blockade is also producing Heavenly Sword, a CG-animated film based on the videogame that will distributed direct to home video"

Twing twang?



Twing twang.

...

I am sick and at work because calling in sick is really not an option. This is a terrible thing.


Monday, April 22, 2013

14 again

All signs point to me not going back to Injustice any time soon. After finishing the story mode, which was as good if not better than the story mode in MK9, is jumped online for a bit. This time it was someone from PA and the connection was better but the matches themselves were decidedly not fun. He was playing Superman and I still had no idea what I was doing. Defeat came quickly and often and I plain old rage quit after about twenty minutes. I don't blame the guy at all, he was doing what one is supposed to do in a fighting game and if I had any interest in playing Superman I would have done the same. I don't want to play Superman. I can't find anyone that I do want to play. Being bad is one thing. I am bad at most of the fighting games I play. Not have a character feel right is another, and it is something that I cannot get past.

...

CoDBLOPSII!

He said CoDBLOPS. Boi - oi - oi - oing.
What can I say about Call of Duty: Black Ops II other than it is just another Call of Duty game: all spectacle and no substance. There may be story here but I can't remember who any of the characters are. The plot jumps back and forth between times and locations that I wouldn't be able to follow it if I did. So I have turned off my brain and enjoy shooting things for the last day and a half. It has all the same problems as the other games have, worst of which is dying when you have no idea what killed you, but it the same buttons and swells your chest in the same jingoistic manner if you can manage to not be offended.

I don't have a problem with the half of the Call of Duty games that I play. If I were to step into the multiplayer arena no doubt my opinion would change, but as a way to kill a few days between other games they never cease to amuse. This one seems a little more frenetic and poorly focused than the last few but that may just be me aging further and further away from the target demographic. It is also chock full of political fan service/fan disservice depending on your left or right leaning. I found the aircraft carrier Obama amusing, other may see it as sacrilegious  Seeing Noriega run around with a gun was pretty hilarious, too. I just need to do a little research and see if that level really was supposed to be the Bay of Pigs invasion or if I have my dates and possible my continents all wrong.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Demo Friday: Poor Timing

Castle Crashers / Dragon's Crown?
Yes, that is exactly what it is, but not a PS3 exclusive and less than one fifth the price.

Sacred Citadel is in some way or another a spin off the Sacred franchise. It has been so long since Sacred 2 that I do not remember any character or place name. For all I know it is a direct follow up, not that it matters. This is a brawler and the storytelling in brawlers peaked with 'are you a bad enough dude to save the president?'

It is unfair to compare how Citadel looks to the way Dragon's Crown is going to look as it has much more in common with The Behemoth's games than the dark magic Vanillaware spins onto discs. Characters are sparse on detail but are still recognizable and are animated very well. There was also no slow down no matter how much was going, something that Odin Sphere couldn't even manage. The game itself has been similarly simplified. Weapons and armor are dropped by boss monsters but there is no menu to go into to equip them. The character just walks over them and a comparison between what is already equipped and what is already on the ground is displayed.

Avoiding menus keeps the game moving along, which is good, I just wish there was more to do in the levels. Combos can be very repetitive: once I found an attack string that I liked there was no reason to use anything else against the small variety of enemies. Boss's required a much different strategy, as getting close to them equaled almost instant death. I had chosen the archer so I just ran away and chipped him to death with my bow. This would work for the mage as well but I do wonder how the fighter would have managed it alone.

If I keep in mind exactly what this is, a downloadable title, then I think it is pretty good. But it is the same kind of game as this:


And how can anything compare to that?

Friday, April 19, 2013

As(s) expected

Injustice is not Mortal Kombat, but it isn't Street Fighter, either. It a weird amalgam of the two with a dash of Darkstalkers thrown in for good measure. The way characters are animated and the juggle heavy combos are distinctly Nether Realms, and please note that I did not say the characters were animated poorly, they just move in a different way they do in Capcom games. There is no block button and crossups and meaty attacks are actually useful. You can even change the usual Mortal Kombat special moves to their Street Fighter counterparts in case you can't adapt. There was a lot of work put into to this to make sure it was not just MK9 with different skins. But is it any good?

Yes and no. The story mode is just as ridiculous and enjoyable as it was in MK9. I am not familiar with the books it is based on, so I have no idea how faithful it is being, nor do I care. In the opening section The Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois and destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. Superman does the unexpected: he looses his shit and kills Joker (off screen, boo-urns). It just gets sillier from there, but it is fun. I have been given a taste of most of the heroes and tried a few of the villains in practice mode and have run into my first problem: I cannot find a character that I like.

Started off with the Joker because he has a one button counter and had a hard time doing anything else with him, plus his counter is not usable online for reasons I will get to later. Moved on to Bane and he has some interesting practice room combos that are easily blocked by a human who is paying attention. I even tried Green Arrow: he has great combos but doesn't do any damage.

The real problem is not that the game doesn't have a good selection of varied characters, the real problem is of course me. I enjoy playing reactive characters. Blanka in SF works best when he is played conservatively with occasional shenanigans thrown in to keep the opponent guessing. Paul if SFxT is just waiting for you to jump at him so he can juggle you with a shredder into phoenix smasher. Hell, I even tried to play Tekken that way, just waiting for a whiff so I could land Bryan's big, slow combos. I just can't find anyone in Injustice that works that way.

I also am not going to try very hard to find one because the netcode is, as reported, booty.


Input delay kills me. I can't adapt to it, so even easy combos like Bane's bnb air throw chains become impossible. The games I played online last night all consisted of me trying to do something that worked offline while the other guy jumped around mashing the intractable button because all of those do more damage than any of the combos he could pull off. Bottom line is that it wasn't much fun. I will try again after I finish the story mode and put in more practice room time with Green Arrow, but odds are that my decision to not buy this was the right one.

...

Demo Friday will be one day late. I have been hypnotized by Spider-Man's rockin' booty.
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sam Neill is never scary

It case my last post about Dead Space 3 was not clear, I like it a lot. It is an action game that manages its pacing very well. There are quiet puzzle solving sections and intense fight for your life sections and a boss fight against a moon sized pile of organic material with teeth and a bad attitude. Removed from its heritage it tells a story with a mysterious beginning and a reasonable ending, at least until the post-credits teaser that Isaac did not actually die (in other words, buy the DLC for the whole story). When taken as the capstone to an existing series it because a hard left turn. The same kind of unwanted turn as midichlorians or *gasp* Highlander 2.

'Highlander 2: The Quickening is the most hilariously incomprehensible movies I've seen in many a long day - a movie almost awesome in its badness.'
     - Roger Ebert 1/1/2000

...any excuse to quote one of Ebert's reviews of bad movies is a good one. God bless that man.

Dead Space 3 is not awesome in its badness but it does ruin the narrative created by the first two games. The markers in Dead Space were completely unexplained, but definitely evil. Just their shape was enough to make me uncomfortable, but they way it drove people crazy and then didn't let them die was terrifying. Were they alien or was this something straight out of Doom? No one knew and that made it better. The third game has rolled around and by the end we are told that they are part of an interstellar network of carnivorous moons, each made up of the resurrected biomass of the host planets inhabitants. Not a bad story for a one shot game but there is no mystery there, no fear, nothing to worry about when the story is done.

Dead Space was scary. Not shit your pants and hide in the closet scary like Fatal Frame 2 or oppressive like Silent Hill 2. Think Event Horizon, the game, minus Sam Neill. The scariest moment of Dead Space 3 was the boss fight again an out of control crane. It was a great fight, very creative and tense, but nothing that is going to stick in my head when I walk up the darkened stairs on the way to bed.

...

Early reports on Injustice's online play come down to it being 'booty.' The demo didn't really click with me, so I am not exactly upset, but I still want to play the story mode through and putz around in the training room. GameFly was kind enough to ship a copy on Monday so I should see it any day now, and I may even be persuaded to but the online pass to see just what kind of booty the online play is. At the very least I want to pick a character to know just well enough to play at UFGT.

Monday, April 15, 2013

And still no Sigourney Weaver

Crysis 3 pulled off one good level before it came to an end. It was nice and open with all sorts of different things to do but I ran out of enemies to fight before it could get really interesting. I will also admit that it pulled of a very good giant monster final boss, something that few first person shooters not named Painkiller of Serious Sam even attempt. In the end, it was good, but it was not as good as the first or even second game. I sense the work of a committee here, one that care little for a game and its narrative, whose entire reason for being is to make red number turn black.

Dead Space 3 gives me the exact same feeling.

I think it is safe to call the first Dead Space an excellent horror game. Between the dead or not dead girlfriend and the supernatural aura of the markers the whole game gave me the shivers. Nothing is really explained, there isn't much closer, and certain images stuck on my head for days. Dead Space was Alien. Dead Space 2 was not as scary and moved along much more quickly. There were more things to shoot but there is more ammo to do the shooting with. It is still tense, and that damn nursery bit was just wrong, but not in the same way as the first game. Dead Space 2 is Aliens.

You can see where I am going with this.

Dead Space 3 is not Alien 3, it is Alien Resurrection. This is not meant to be nearly as insulting as it sounds. I actually like Dead Space 3; it is a great looking, atmospheric 3rd person shooter. It just has more in common with Gears of War than Dead Space. The markers are demystified, you spend almost as much time shooting soldiers as you do necromorphs and the weapon crafting bit feels totally out of place. It just isn't a horror or even action horror game anymore.

The same committee that shaped Crysis' transformation had a hand in this one, they just did a better job this time.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Demo Friday: Mad, mad engrish

Two weeks worth!

The most dangerous game?
Actually, yes, BattleBlock Theatre does take many queues from The Most Dangerous game. It may be a direct rip off but I gave up on the intro about half way through and skipped it. It was funny, then it stopped being funny, then I was embarrassed for it and had to look away. To sum up what I know: a wealthy benefactor throws a wild party on his boat. The boat crashed on an island and everyone onboard is captured and put through a series of trials. The story is just an excuse for a room based puzzle platformer drenched in the best kind of humor: sick.

I seem to have pulled this comparison out a lot lately, but it reminds me of 'Splosion Man. Small levels filled with one hit deaths but a respawn so quick that dying is not a chore. What BattleBlock Theatre gets right that other games like it have gotten wrong is not piling too many weird mechanics on the player all at once. What the player can do is pretty straight forward, it is the levels themselves that keep it interesting. One minute the player is bounced off of red hot coals trying to avoid being impaled on the ceiling and the next he has been ingested and shat out a monster. Intentionally. Without dying.

The Behemoth  may not be very prolific but what little they produce is both charming and just plain wrong. It is also more playable than most everything else out on XBLA. There is a reason that Castle Crashers is still at or near the top of all time downloads. It starts out fun, either by yourself or with others, and it never stops being fun.


What am I? WHEN AM I?!
Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons. Even the title doesn't make any sense. This game is an '80's refugee, but not the good kind of refugee that you on through rose colored glasses and call 'quaint' and 'old school.' This is the refugee that has been hiding in a poorly ventilated bomb shelter for the last twenty odd years who is neither 'quaint' nor 'old school,' he's just awful.

Wander of the Dragons may be one of the worst games I have ever played. The only appropriate reaction to being exposed to it was to laugh out loud and then go take a shower. Everything is bad. It looks like a PS1 game run through the smoothing filter on a PS2. Its music consists of 8 bars repeated over and over and over. There is a blocking gauge for both the player characters and bosses, only it doesn't actually allow the player to block most attacks and it must be drained before a boss can be damaged but it refills faster than the player can do damage. The only way I was able to actually hurt the boss in the demo was to die and use the resurrection area attack. I literally killed him by killing myself.

To top it off, here is the original game description (which has since been replaced):

This is a remake "Double Dragon II" a 80's game. The story line takes same as original game story. However, the graphic, character, action, system etc. are change. Also we are including new stage and enemy in the game. The player will be addicted to new version of Double Dragon II. Also, characters are undressed from 80's style, and recreated with modern sexy and beautiful style that amaze you and feel never been experience world before.

Don't believe me?


Classy.

...

Going to use a video for the next one:


That actually doesn't look that bad. What you can't tell from the video is how the game feels. Racing games, good or bad, simulation or arcade, need to feel good. It needs to feel like your car is actually interacting with a physical surface. Burnout feels different that Forza which feels different than Gran Turismo, but they are all good. Motocross Madness doesn't feel like a racing game. It doesn't feel like your avatar is actually in contact with a motorcycle that is in turn in contact with the ground. You slide around corners, do tricks, crash, get up and then do it all again, all while your rag doll avatar gets abused by the games physics. 

Motocross Madness would work if it was free to play like Happy Wars was. There is a ton of content that I might explore, but only if I didn't have to pay for it. It's hilariously bad like Double Dragon II, it's just boring. I can't even laugh at it because it is my avatar up there being made to look foolish and my avatar deserves better than that.







Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pay no attention to the ceph behind the curtain

I remember reading an article about the great lengths Bungie went to when playtesting the Halo games. This was not the standard 'lock underpaid interns in a room with no air conditioning and then ignore their bug notes because the game needs to ship on time' routine. There were see through mirrors involved and copious notes taken by people watching the people who were actually playing the game. Bungie would graph how long it took players to get through sections and if too many of them got stuck in an area because they didn't know where to go or what to do it was back to the drawing board. The results were games that, if absolutely nothing else, played smoothly. There was a flow to levels that kept the player from running around in circles because he couldn't find the door out.

This kind of testing takes time and money, two things that EA is not as willing to part with as other publishers. They spend their money on licenses and annual releases, regardless of what it does to the quality of the titles. Crysis is a fine example of a property going in the wrong direction. The first Crysis was an open ended level tour-de-force. Running it well was the measure of quality for new computers. It worked for the first two thirds of the game because it was a playground filled with violent toys and the player was given free reign to use them all. Crysis 2 came along a little short on both freedom and graphical prowess but the same feel was still there. The player is just better than most of the opponents and the fun came in coming up with interesting ways to dispatch them.

Less than a year later and we have Crysis 3, a game nigh indistinguishable from Call of Battlefield: One more time, please. Enemies disappear into very detailed but very narrow and dark levels. The best option is not flying through the air and tearing the room off a building but waiting for the AI to stick its head out from behind a chest high piece of wall and shooting it. It has succeeded in playing exactly like everything else, and by that I mean that it isn't very exciting.

Which brings me back to how action games should be tested. One way to hide a lack of interesting content is with breakneck pacing. There is no time to analyze something if the next thing is already in your lap begging for your singles. Crysis 3 tries very hard to hide from the player. Look, aliens! Pay no attention to there being only two different kinds that are boring to fight. Look, the aliens are blowing up mercs! Look, you can wield alien weapons and turn people to mush from half a mile away! Look, you have no idea what to do and have wandered in a circle for twenty minutes getting progressively more annoyed! Breakneck into a brick with that one, and apparently no one noticed or I am just not as good at video games as the average tester.

Monday, April 8, 2013

M Night who?

I seem to be backing down from BioShock Infinite. Something happens, I get all riled up and post silly things, then a day goes by and I feel bad for ripping on a game that doesn't deserve it. When I finished the game early Saturday evening I was not happy, yelling out loud at the screen:


Infinite is still too new for me to spoil, suffice it to say that I did not get it. I did not understand what had happened and it made me mad. Or, worse yet, I did understand what happened and it didn't make any sense. Consulting two higher powers, Wikipedia and Chance, whose review you should read, I have a handle on the who, what, why and whence but I still do not like how it came to a close.

Again, without spoiling anything, there is no way for the player to deduce how the game is going to end prior to the final cut scene. There is no foreshadowing and no aha moment. The 'would you kindly' bit from the first BioShock could not have been predicted but after the reveal came I could remember evidence from the previous hours of the game that gave it context. It made sense. BioShock Infinite forgoes deus ex machina for furta finientem ex machina. The trick ending comes out of nowhere and feels tacked on, like the twist was a requirement that was forgotten until crunch time.

'We need a tweest!' screams Levine. 'I forgot the tweest!'


I should be ashamed of posting that image, but I am not.

...

After that heartfelt post on Friday I forgot to actually post anything for Demo Friday. Battleblocks Theatre is awesome and deserves to be talked about at length. I am going to dump it into this weeks just so I can play the demo again.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I was trying to be nice

The ending of BioShock Infinite makes no goddamn sense.

That is all.

Friday, April 5, 2013

This is supposed to fun!

I do not go back and read my own posts as often as I should. My initial reaction to BioShock Infinite is a little embarrassing: I sound like a self important ass hat who frowns on games not built to his own very specific wants and needs.

Worst. Self reflection. Ever.
This is not how I want to come off, even in a blog that next to no one reads. I love games. I love all games, even bad ones. BioShock Infinite is very, very good and deserves most of the praise it is getting. Just like an armchair quarterback criticizes his favorite team of love (and hate) I am the basement developer with no actual talent but lots to say. It is not what I would have done but no one has seen fit to give me $200,000,000 to make a game so what does it matter.

What worries me most is that Infinite Backlog, now it it's fourth year, has become an 'in character' outlet. Chamberlain is not a new name as my 10 year anniversary badge on Xbox Live shows. It is the name I have kept the longest and it seems to have developed a personality of its own. Almost this:


but classier, if that is possible. What was chosen after watching The Dark Crystal for the nth time has become who I am online. This is neither good nor bad, but I would like to think that I am a little nicer than I sound when spoken to in person. Quieter too. With a cleaner mouth.

At least this blog has not been static. My love of making lists has led to cataloging every game I play and linking to every time it has been mentioned. I tried my hand at Elder Scrolls fanfiction and let it go when it became clear that I lacked both the talent and discipline to produce anything of worth. More recently, and most successfully, has been Demo Friday. I really look forward to this and plan on playing every XBLA demo that comes out this year. It works for me because it forces a knee jerk, often uninformed reaction based on around ten to fifteen minutes of a game. It is an entire exercised based around jumping to conclusions. Sometimes I am dead wrong (Mark of the Ninja) and other times it is exactly right. 

Anecdote time: I am, in spite of being a music major in college, a terrible singer. This does not stop me from singing when all alone in the car and once in great while when playing Rock Band. Sounding bad is only part of the problem. I do not have my own singing voice. Everything that comes out of my mouth musically is an impersonation or the real artist. This is fine because no one else is exposed to it. There is only one internet and relative anonymity or not, this is how other people on the internet who stumble across this know me. I do not want this to be an impersonation, or even a character. This is not a work of fiction, it should not have a life of its own. 

The solution, for me, is to accept what it actually is: the musings of a middle aged family man who plays more games than anyone else he knows because no one else he knows plays games at all anymore. I am the guy who won't grow up because he is afraid of feeling old, the guy who talks about games by using other games as a reference. I am not going to stop laying into terrible games but taking out the daily frustration of having to work for a living on games that don't deserve it has to be curtailed. 

Thanks for listening and hope you come back.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Goodbye old friend

I meant to bring this up yesterday and forgot.



American Pie is the last piece of Harmonix DLC for Rock Band 3. There will still be Rock Band Network releases on the XB360 for as long as Microsoft allows it so the game isn't completely dead on one of three systems. It breaks my heart that we will never get Rock Band Led Zepplin or Pink Floyd. I have my doubts that this genre will make a resurgence any time soon, if ever.

In many years someone will ask me about the great plastic instrument experiment. I will smile and with a tear in my eye quietly say 'You had to be there.'

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Not quite infinite quality

It would be foolish of me to say that BioShock Infinite is not a good game. It is an excellent one, filled to the brim with creative, detailed environments that beg to be explored and a combat system that rewards creativity without punishing players who lack it. Difficult issues like racism and classism are not avoided but are not beaten to death either. Almost everything the player needs to know about Columbia is explained by their hero worship of John Wilkes Boothe and villainization of Lincoln. Still, I am not reacting to Infinite the way I was hoping to. I went in expecting one thing and got another and in spite of the quality of what is there I am a little disappointed.

What I wanted was more BioShock and that is not what I got. The change in venue from impossible underwater city to equally impossible flying city is not the problem but the change in tone is. BioShock drops the player into a situation not of his or her doing. The entire game takes place in the horrific aftermath of genetic modification gone too far. There is no victory for any of its inhabitants, only survival. BioShock was dark, gritty, tense and more than a little uncomfortable. In contrast, Columbia appears to be working just fine. The player is the catalyst, not the victim, of events. Had he not shown up with a gun and bad attitude nothing would have gone wrong.

Of the two Rapture is the more realistic take on what humans in isolation would become. Plasmids created a genetic arms race. They were easy to get, easy to use and not having them meant getting killed by those who did. The vigors in Columbia should do the same thing but no one is using them. Availability is not the problem, they are giving them away in the street and selling them from vending machines, and still, no one takes advantage. Rapture is a failed utopia and Columbia is a successful one, at least externally. It's inhabitants don't wield the bigger and better weapons because they either don't need to or don't want to. This is too great a stretch, even for a game.

Elizabeth is also a problem, at least in how she is presented. Yes, she is motion captured and every move she makes is very believable. She looks and moves so much better than everyone else that every other model in the game looks worse for her being there. I don't know if this was a money or hardware limitation but I am having a difficult time looking past it.

BioShock was/is a classic. BioShock 2 was just BioShock again and I can forgive that. Everyone has to get paid. BioShock Infinite just feels off, like it was actually the first game and it never came out. Everything it does the first game did better. Again, Infinite is a very good game, better than nine out of ten other games that come out, but it will not be taking a place next to the first game in any best of lists for this generation. Maybe Irrational should have waited nine months and made it a launch title for the next one.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I am no fool

Most April Fools jokes are dumb.

But this:



and especially this:


are both exceptional. I knew the Eye of Sauron desk lamp was not real and I click on the the 'BUY NOW' button anyway, hoping that they are tracking interest and decide to make it a real thing I can spend money on.