Friday, June 28, 2013

Behind

No Demo Friday because I haven't played anything yet. I was in class all last night and will be in class all night tonight and somehow between now and tomorrow morning I need to buy boots.

The rider's safety course is an interesting collection of people. All ages, all experiences. They went around the room last night and asked each of us why we were there and what bike we wanted if we didn't already own one. I of course brought up the Spyder and the instructor got a bit huffy, said he could never ride one because they turn like a car, finally giving me a 'good luck with that' dismissal.

Fuck you, buddy.

I am not interested in the fraternal society of dudes and dudettes who shun the four wheeled cage in favor of the the wind in their hair and bugs in their teeth. This is not a social endeavour. The class itself is a means to an end: to get my license and potentially a discount on my insurance. It is a way to obtain almost all of the information I need before spending too much money on a vehicle I will only be able to use for six months out of the year. I am doing a foolish thing in the most responsible way I can.

So don't sully up my mid-life crisis with your superiority complex. You have my money, teach me what I need to know and then you can fuck right off.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

We got the M rating, might as well show some skin

Video games as an art form are still in their awkward teen phase. There are many things that they can do but there are no sure if they should or what the best to to do them is. For example, what does Mature actually mean? Is it violence, language, adult themes or the overall tone? In the case of Metro: Last Light it's a little bit of everything, plus gratuitously animated boobs because why the hell not.

Games do not often make me uncomfortable. Usually it happens when a game goes past regular old violence to something more sadistic and trips my squeamish side (example: Condemned 2 and the hobo torture chamber). Last Light never even gets close to that but the surprise unskippable lap dance certainly had me squirming.

'Leave a tip? Sure. Oh, that's what you are going to do. Oh. Okay, I'm done with this, where's the skip button. No skip button? I think I need some more chips, be back in a bit.'

This is not the first strip club I have been to in a game and I am sure it will not be the last but this experience was just so skeevy that it made my skin crawl. It's a shame because I really like everything else about Last Light. Even the fabled Big Momma fight came and went without me throwing anything at the screen. Artyom has the worst luck in the whole world: captured by Nazis, betrayed by communists, attacked by monsters, accosted by strippers whose breasts are unfazed by either malnutrition or gravity. He is the same kind of silent everyman hero as Gordon Freeman, just with a taste for vodka and very poor people judging skills.

Last Light is plenty mature without the nudity. Eaking out a living in the subway tubes after Russia has been devastated by nuclear war is desperate and depressing. It has brought out the worst in just about everyone and Artyom still takes the time out to return a teddy bear to a child who has never seen the sky. The violence makes sense as everyday activities have become fights for survival. The boobs? Not so much.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Your eh is not the same as my eh

Much to my own surprise I finished the career mode in Grid 2 last night and even went back to harvest a few easy achievement points. When I reminded myself that I was playing the game on very easy, which may be my go to setting for racing games from now I, and that all I had to do was stay on the goddamn track and I would probably win things went much more smoothly. There were still cars so fast that I spent more time on the breaks and in the wall than not but I muddled through.

I always find it amusing when there is something about a game that I hate that someone who is paid to espouse their opinion loves. This is not to say that my opinion is worth, if anything the contrary is true, it's just funny how people can have completely opposite opinions about the same thing. Grid 2 has a race type called 'live route' in which the track changes from lap to lap. Straightaways are replaced with tight corners, etc. This would not be bad if the game did not also remove the mini-map. These live route races are run completely blind. No mini-map and no way to tell how close trailing cars are.

This may have been done as a nod to realism but it changes a race into an exercise in trial and error. Real life drivers do not have a mini-map but they do spend hours if not days on the track ahead of time mapping out where to turn and when to break. In a game I am going to spend three laps there which is not near enough time to learn a track so a little help on how tight the next turn is going to be is is required. Removing that makes every turn a gamble and just is not fun.

What I found to be one of the game's biggest failings was lauded as Grid 2's saving grace in at least one review I read. In the end we both found it to be a mid-grade racer, just for different reasons. I am not going to say that Game Informer was wrong, but...

...

Look, me on a rock! I am not the woman nor am I the swole gentleman is shades, in case that needs clarification. I am the thin, pale thing in the back that looks like he escaped from the basement a scant few days ago.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Oh god, everything hurts

As threatened, I climbed Cleopatra's Needle in Devil Lake yesterday. This is not an impressive feat, it is not a difficult climb, especially when I didn't lead it or clean it. Someone else did the initial climb and then belayed me from the top. This is not me:


On my second ascent three of us sat on the top for a picture that I may or may not post at a later date. Getting back down proved more difficult with three of us in such a small space. I heard a phrase that I never want to hear again: I am taking you off belay for a second. This was while I was hanging off the side, waiting to be lowered down. An unpleasant three seconds, to be sure.

Other routes for the day were Queen's Throne:


And King's Throne, my favorite of the three, and the only one that I straight up fell on:


Again, none of the pictures are me. I got them all from mountainproject.com. 

Climbing was good but the approach and escape from the area were terrible. It was far too wet and muddy to have taken the way down that we did. After nearly dying at least twice two of us roped up and lowered each other down and still managed to get banged around. Then we forgot how bad it was and spent a good six hours climbing. There was a different way out, a drier way, but the end of it was a ten foot climb with no protection. Bouldering to ten feet at the gym with a padded floor is no problem. Bouldering to ten feet when falling backwards means bouncing down rocks is a problem. That last ten feet was the hardest thing I did all day.

I survived but everything hurts. 

And I am still playing Grid 2. Last night the game arrived at the same point of frustration that almost all racing games do for me: the cars are just too fast for me to control. It will get one more shot tonight but I have other things to play now so even a little frustration will result in the game being dropped in the mail.


Friday, June 21, 2013

This would be Demo Friday, but nostalgia got the better of me.

I am not normally one to fall for re-releases of old games as my list of new games that need to be played never seems to get any shorter. That and, for the most part, I already played them and have no patience for playing a game twice. Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is a different story. I don't remember ever seeing it when I was a young arcade rat and, at first blush, it appears to have aged pretty well. I am also quite excited for Dragon's Crown and this should tide over my desire for side scrolling brawlers.

...and I needed a break from Grid 2.

For the most part I was right. Of the two games in the compilation Shadows over Mystara is easily better. Not only does it have more characters and better animations but it includes the best bits of Tower of Doom, including the giant red dragon with attacks that kill in one hit. I can only imagine how frustrating he was when it cost a quarter to continue. Good sprite work never really goes bad, so the characters and monsters are all still acceptable. The only thing that annoyed me was the looping music. I am completely spoiled by modern games with full orchestral soundtracks so fifteen second midi loops just hurt.

It was a good blast from the past that was kind enough to not limit my continues. If I can make a recommendation play the game on an arcade stick if you have you. I am not sure about Tower of Doom but I know that there are Street Fighter like motions for special moves in Shadows over Mystara. By the time I was done I had figured out actual juggle combos that did respectable damage. Now I want to play Dragon's Crown even more.

Just for fun, a one credit clear:




Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blanka is a troll



In case it wasn't already clear.

...

There is nothing that I can post today that will top that video. Nothing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gorgeous boredom

I didn't think it was possible for a game that looks as good as Grid 2 to be so yawn inducing. It easily equals if not surpasses all other racing games, including Forza, in that department. The problem is that sharing space with Forza Horizon, the racing game I have enjoyed the most in a long damn time, is an impossible task. Forza Horizon was the perfect mash up of open world exploration and arcade/sim racing. Grid 2 is just a racing game with a story shoe horned on top.

It took a few races to remember how to drive a car without a green line telling me where to drive and when to brake. If I haven't already made it clear, I love Forza, but it can makes things a bit easy. Grid 2 leans just a little bit towards the sim side by removing the line but the physics engine is no more 'realistic'. Once I remembered how to actually drive (and dropped the difficulty down to easy) I stopped spending all my time kissing the barriers but I was still getting bored much more quickly than expected. In Forza Horizon I never ran the same race twice and even getting from race to race was interesting. Grid 2 starts reusing courses almost immediately. Yes, they are gorgeous, but after the third race of the same track I just don't want to see it anymore.

Something else that I noticed, and honestly this could be completely imagined, was how erratically the AI cards behaved. Sometimes they would be so stuck to the racing line that they would driver directly into my car even if I had legitimately gained the position next to them instead of nosing them out of the way. Other times they would go out of the way to put me into a wall, something that I haven't seen since the last (good) Burnout. It was surprising and a bit frustrating but difficult to call foul on because it is the exact same thing I did to them every single race. In my way? *slam* Enjoy the median.

If I had anything else to play, I would. For the moment I do not so mediocre racing game it is.

...


THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. I was going to but both anyway but this way the status quo will be maintained. The Xbone will be the primary console with the PS4 there for the superior exclusives.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Short post on climbing and other stuff

Going to climb this on Sunday, weather permitting:


Excited. Scared.

...

Going to buy this about three weeks:


...assuming I pass the motorcycle license test.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Demo Friday: Three games, two ideas, two days late

I was right to wait for an extra day. Two extra games came out on Friday and both of the demos were worth seeing. Unlike the following, which was offensive.

This isn't a remake of Jungle Strike. Why isn't this a remake of Jungle Strike?
Thunder Wolves screams shovelware. It looks terrible, resembling bottom of the barrel Wii titles more than anything else. XBLA games getting a pass on visuals ended many, many years ago. There is no excuse for a game to be this ugly. Enemies are so indistinguishable from the background that they are highlighted for you. I wasn't shooting enemies, I was shooting the targets around them. It also plays terribly: a helicopter should not feel like an airborne truck that is missing a wheel.

There is no reason to play this game. I could not even enjoy it for being terrible. It was that bad.

Not endorsed by Beavis, unfortunately.
Fireburst is a game I can get behind because it takes a crowded genre, racing, and throws an interesting idea at it. The entire game is about managing your cars heat. The boost button does exactly what you expect as well as throwing flames out to the cars left and right so it double as the attack button. There is only one heat gauge making it quite possible to boost yourself to death or get fried by an opponent for boosting too much and too close to them. Add in environmental variables like explosive barrels and waterfalls that either heat or cool the car and the game sounds very good on paper.

Racing games in general are less forgiving towards poor controls than other genres. A racing game like Fireburst in which the line you take can be the difference between life and death is even less so. This is where Fireburst stumbles. Had this controlled like Motorstorm or the rally section of Forza Horizon it would have been a great game. It does not and that kills it. Cars are far too floaty making it impossible to use the flame attacks. I wanted to like this one but good ideas cannot make up for poor execution.

So calm. So serene. So ZZZzzzz....
Student 1: Hey, I really liked Flower but the motion control was kind of lame. Let's do that for our final project!

Student 2: But 2D, gotta keep it real. And 3D is hard.

For the record, the motion control in Flower was not lame.

Storm put me to sleep, literally. I know what they were going for and I think they succeeded: it is a very calm puzzle game built around different weather events. Bonus points for it all being real time; no setting up events ahead of time, if you want to hit the seed with lighting to make it jump you actually have to do it manually. I am not faulting the ideas here of even the execution. Everything works, it would just work better as a flash game that I would visit occasionally, not a game I can sit down for any length of time with.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Smaller is better?

I am going to save demo Friday for one more day because I think something new snuck out today. If I did it today it would just be a paragraph about how bad the last game. With another game I could up that to two whole paragraphs.

Remember everything that was wrong with Resident Evil 6? There was a lot, but near the top of the list was that it just didn't feel like a Resident Evil game anymore. It was a bloated, over complicated, quick time event filled mess. Resident Evil: Revelations is none of that. It is almost, almost a traditional Resident Evil game. Not complicated, simple maps filled with key based fetch quests, all the things that make people look back on RE1, 2 and the REmake fondly. Someone in the bowels of Capcom remembered that what they were making was a Resident Evil game and didn't use the fact that it was for a gimmicky handheld as an excuse to be lazy.

Truthfully, I did not know this was a handheld release that had been ported over to the big boy consoles. With the exception of very poor lip synching it certainly doesn't look it. Either the 3DS is a much more powerful device than I gave it credit for or the game was built big and scaled down significantly to fit. This port of a hand held, and by extension the original, is more fun than its big brother, the giant numbered flop.

Maybe we don't need bigger and better hardware, we just need companies to remember what game they are making and not try to make their game just like all of the other games, reducing everything to different shades of Call of Duty.

Who am I kidding, I am just killing time until the new systems come out. Revelations is just a surprisingly good way to do it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bait and switch

My first reaction to 'Free Tekken!' was that I already have Tekken and don't play it. Tekken Tag 2 is an excellent game that would improve my play in everything else and I don't play it. It seems that everyone else who plays online has been playing forever, and they aren't shy about telling you all about it. And all about your mom, either. Free is free, and it is good to turn on my PS3 occasionally, just to make sure it still works.

Tekken Revolution may be free to download but it is not free to play for very long. Ranked matches require coins or tickets to play. Tickets can be obtained by winning ranked matches. So far, so good. Coins can be conveniently purchased from the PSN store for a quarter apiece. Tekken Revolution brings back the one thing that no one misses about the arcade: getting your ass kicked and having payed some bastard to do it.



Put a quarter in your ass cause you played yourself.

This system guarantees that people who aren't very good (*cough*me*cough*) don't play for very long. The game also prevents anyone from improving because there is no practice mode or move list and many of the characters are locked out. My team in TTT2 was Bryan and Nina. Nina was fraudulent but Bryan actually had a combo or two. No luck on either of those so I picked Paul, phoenix smasher/death fist, and all that. I never played Paul in TTT2. I hadn't really touched him since Tekken 3 so I have no idea what any of his moves are anymore. My free five coins were quickly lost and it was time to quit.

It appears that some concessions were made to try to make Tekken Revolution more approachable. There are new moves that work like Street Fighter reversals, invulnerability and all, and they make it a little easy to escape pressure. Without a practice mode I could not experiment with anything, so who knows. The only people who I can see having fun with this are people who have already honed their skills on Tekken Tag 2, but if they own that there is literally no reason to play Revolution.

Nice try Namco, now get back to work on Tekken vs Street Fighter.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I am of two minds

I hit up the closet Gamestop at 10:00 this morning and put some money down on a PS4. At 4th on their list I feel pretty good about getting one on the first day. Even better, I feel no trepidation about the purchase. Assuming that Sony was telling the truth last night I may never have to lol-Sony again. It was what I wanted, what the Xbox 360 started out as and slowly wandered away from - a machine on which to play games.

Speaking of Microsoft, I also have a pre-order for an Xbone directly from Microsoft's online store. For everything Microsoft has done wrong, and it is not a short list, buying an Xbone was very easy. There was even a way to do it directly from the 360 dashboard. Talk about perfect ad placement. Unlike the PS4, though, I am wracked with doubt on if it was a good idea or not. I bought a PS3 60 gig on day one for $600. It was not a sound choice as the system sat for long periods of time between exclusives. I am glad that I have it now but did I really need it then?

Will I really need an Xbone on day one? The final decisions will most likely be made in August when Microsoft finally addresses the DRM issue. Until then I will wait and worry.

...

Time to cherry pick one or two good things out of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct to temper the embarrassment of having played it through from beginning to end. One: the zombies look pretty good, in a gross, in your face way. Two: um...

Well...

Damnit, I had something.

Actually, that was it. It was a terrible game and the time I wasted on it should have been spent playing Scrolls or paying more attention to E3. Thank goodness there are much more dedicated people than myself who have done all of the hard work for me.

 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Home run

Sony wins.

No restrictions on used games means the rental market, at least for the PS4 will survive. Sony kicking ass and taking makes most likely will force Microsoft to fall back in line.

Plus, $400 vs the Xbone's $500?

Not going to cancel my pre-order form the Microsoft store quite yet but I will be in line at Gamestop tomorrow at 10:00 to try to get on the list for the PS4.

Strikes one and two

I have been in a car for 12 hours over the last two days so I am completely ignorant on most of the current E3 happenings. This absence has also cost me an Xbone preorder and Gamestop. By the time I called their pitiful initial allotment was gone. I called in some old favors and there may be another batch hitting later on this week that should still be on launch day, but hope now rests on an online order.

An online order that I will cancel if I can get money down on a system that I am not forced to buy a game with.

I should be excited. I should watching trailers and picking out games. But I'm not. This generation has become an obligation, a monetary right of passage that needs to be endured so I can play the games I want to play. Even then, I may not be able to play them the way I want to.

Rumor has it PS4 preorders will open up tonight. I don't know what to do.

Edit: canceled Gamestop online preorder. Going right to the source on this one: Microsoft store, no shipping, no bundle, on day one.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

More mistakes have been made

I have spoken in the past of my old affection for Magic: The Gathering. It has never really been cured, hiding beneath the surface, waiting for a suitable replacement. That almost happened with Eye of Judgement, a damn good card game saddled with the Playstation Eye. If that setup had worked without having to flood the entire room with light I would never have stopped playing.

Other games have come close. The Duels of the Planeswalkers series would always work for a short time but the inability to tear a deck down to nothing and start over killed it.

Scrolls is Eye of Judgement in a bigger arena, without the logistical problems. In a patch or three, when card balance has been figured out and there are more than three factions, it will almost perfect. Even now it is all I want to play and it has only been one night.

My one complaint right now is the music, which can thankfully be turned off. I can't wait to see this game evolve.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Demo Friday: All zombied out

Proving that you can eventually have too much of a good thing...

State of Decay is different than all the other zombie games! Really!
I think that I have finally had enough of killing zombies. This is a bad thing because State of Decay deserves more time than I gave it and the terrible Walking Dead shooter is on its way to my mail box as we speak. Neither of these games are straight action, dabbling into actual survival and base building, but I am not sure if that is enough to keep me interested in killing the undead.

Also, I don't like base building games. It's just another name for tower defense.

Let's be more reasonable: State of Decay is tremendous idea for a game. The player starts out on a camping trip where he and his friend are jumped by 'cannibals.' They fight them off, run for the ranger station and the game quickly shifts from action (which wasn't very good, honestly) to exploration and supply gathering. I assume that the next part would be building fortifications and relationships with other survivors. This all sounds great and if I wasn't so tired of the zombie plot device I might have given it more than a passing glance.

Everywhere I look there are zombies in games and movies. First person zombie fisticuffs - Dead Island. Funny ha ha zombies - Dead Rising. Funny wtf zombies - Resident Evil. Zombies as a way to force impossible decisions - Walking Dead. Zombies as a way to add multiplayer legs - Call of Duty. Zombies in a post-apocalyptic world that pits players against other players in a giant douchebag contest- DayZ. Zombies in a movie that completely misses the point of its source material - World War Z. Zombies who get better via the magic of hot chicks - Warm Bodies.

I am sick to death of zombies. State of Decay is a great idea but it was a lot of work to play even for a short time. It certainly is not enough to relieve my zombie fatigue. For the record, the Walking Dead shooter probably won't be played for more than a night.

Notable exception - The Last of Us. I have no doubts that the game will be amazing and will gladly make an exception for cordyceps zombies. 

...

The non stop bad news regarding the Xbox One has soured me attitude on just about everything. Chance talked me off of the ledge once today already. I am far too old of a gamer, far too set it my ways, far too stubborn about playing things the way I want to play them to handle this without getting cranky. I want to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that Sony won't pull the same shit, that Microsoft will listen to the throbbing internet brain that now hates them.

For the first time I am afraid of E3.

To distract myself I am crossing an old line, jumping back to the PC, and am going to play Scrolls. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I live.


Damnit, why can't I get my profile picture and avatar over at PA to actually play the gif...

Mistakes have been made

In spite of my trepidation about the upcoming generation I am getting quite bored of the current one. I know that I will need to keep both of the 'old' consoles for quite some time. My very nice arcade stick will most likely not work on either of new the systems and there are still quite a few exclusives that will not make the jump. I am looking at the PS3 and the steady drip JRPGs that just don't come out anywhere else. The rest of them, the ones that I know will be up-ported or cross-ported of whatever name you want to give to selling the same game twice with marginal improvement, I want to play them on new hardware, and it really doesn't matter which of the big two it ends up being.

PS4 looks more and more appealing by not throwing up all over itself with every announcement. It looks like a game console, which is what I want. Microsoft has a few intangibles, like my gamerscore, and many years worth of gaming momentum. It has been my primary console longer than any console in the past. There is no affection involved with this, it is just what I am used to.

The true test will be which of the online services I subscribe to. Paying for both Xbox Live and PS+ is dumb. Right now I pay for Xbox Live because that is where the majority of people I play fighting games with are. Well, that and fighting game themselves just run better on the Xbox. If the next run of cross platform releases performs better on the PS4, and rumours floating around the internet are saying they will, what is the incentive to stay?

...

Thanks to Chance for correcting my errors about the first Dead Rising. A quick look at Wikipedia proves him correct: the virus did come from the indigenous people but there was already a big, evil corporation working on it. This renders most of my complaints about Riptide moot. In my defense, Dead Island came out in 2011. I barely remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.

And there have been a lot of zombie games between then and now.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I feel little shame

One of the best things about the first Dead Island was actually what it wasn't. It wasn't Resident Evil. The game took place at the beginning of the catastrophe, the were not over wrought cut scenes every few hours and best of all there was not some giant corporation using the general populace as a gigantic petri dish. The zombie virus has existed for quite some time and had been managed by the indigenous peoples in gruesome and barbaric ways. No conspiracy, it just got out one day and no one else knew what to do with it.

Riptide breaks all of that by bringing in a nameless corporation using a few pacific islands as a giant petri dish. It might as well have been Umbrella. Why?! Why do this? Why copy a game that is long overdue for a reboot and whose last installment was met with a resounding 'meh' from critics and players alike? Just because I don't play a game for a story, and anyone who played Riptide for the gripping plot is looking in the wrong place, doesn't mean that I am willing to let overused bull shit go.

My guess is that the development of Riptide went improve the game engine, add a new character, create some new areas, and oh yeah and give the characters something to do there. What do we have laying around to copy? Resident Evil 2? Done! Ship it.

...

I cannot justify the fact that I am enjoying Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel. It is everything that is wrong about the medium, namely it both glorifies and marginalizes violence at the same time. Remember this?


Yeah, there is a lot of fist pounding after murdering people. Devil's Cartel has wandered further away from the first Army of Two in that it is even more accommodating to the single player than ever, which I cannot complain about, but to keep it from getting too easy more bad guys are thrown at the player. Piles of bad guys representing the most blatant Mexican stereotypes possible.

It is an embarrassing catharsis.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gremlins?

Dead Island Riptide continues to amaze and disappoint almost simultaneously. I have still not gotten tired of the gritty take on the zombie apocalypse, the cookie cutter side quests or the B movie voice acting. On the plus side, I have a shotgun that that can one shot kill the toughest enemies if I get a close range head shot and it criticals. Firearms are actually good in this game and ammunition is pretty easy to find. Just walk far enough away from one of the hub areas and every respawns. On top of zombies the Dead Island world is populated by house elved, busily refilling all of the abandoned suitcases with random amounts of cash as soon as you turn your back.

Tee hee, that's not all I hid!
The way the game handles death is still infuriating. Last night I died and was dropped ten seconds later into an area that I had not yet explored and then killed again by zombies who were as surprised as I was by my sudden appearance. When no hub or building or transition is close the game just guesses at the best place for you and it almost never guesses right. I believe that this is a byproduct of the game's multiplayer side; it assumes that you will have help so it doesn't take into account enemy location. It's not even the lost money that hurts, it the frustration of spawning directly into a waiting zombies arms.

Dead Island Riptide is still fun and it proves that people are still not tired of killing zombies. I probably could have finished that game last night but I decided to go to bed instead, a weakness I wish I could get around.