Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I certainly must have made someone mad

Monday night was harrowing, hardware wise.

I have been in the Xbox preview program for several months but had put off jumping to the new dashboard due to reports of it being a buggy mess and not working with Rock Band controllers. On Monday, in the middle of a race, the system kicks me out of Forza 6 and insists on installing the update. Okay, fine, I have never had a problem before and it was a boring race anyway, I allowed it to proceed.

Instead of staring at a green progress bar I switched over to me PS4 and ran the install for Tales of Zestiria. My PS4 has had the same disc ejecting problem as many other launch systems. I have been fixing it myself as it is not that hard to tighten a screw. Installing Tales worked but the drive got louder and louder as it ran which is saying something because the PS4 is not a quiet system to start with. I got nervous and pulled out the disc, shut down the system, then switched back to my XBox.

My Xbox was stuck on the update screen. It had been stuck the whole time I was screwing around with my PS4 and remained stuck for the fifteen more minutes I stared at it, wondering who or what I had pissed off. One hard reboot later and it was stuck at the boot screen. I disconnected my external hard drive, unplugged everything, paid obeisance to the dark gods of electronics, plugged it back in, nothing.

I deal with software and its accompanying hardware for a living. Stuff breaks, sometimes for no reason, so I was not mad about this. It happens, all I could do was fix it. What I needed was a thumb drive to load up the offline update tool that Microsoft is kind enough to offer, only I didn't have one and it was too late at night to buy one. It would have to wait.

Yes, I left work early the next day to fix my Xbox,

Attempt one at booting to the thumb drive did not work because I copied the files to the root of the drive instead of just leaving them in their folder. Attempt two booted to the drive but the OS version was not recognized because I was in the preview program. All that was left was the factory reset, which worked, only when it came back online it was on the new version of the OS and it found all of my downloaded games on my external hard drive.

Except for all the Rock Band DLC which I had to download again.

Still, I defaulted the system and essentially lost nothing. But I have yet to turn my PS4 back on.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Or maybe I just need to go to bed earlier

'Racing fatigue.'

This term (that I just made up) does not mean that I am tired of racing games, it means that racing games make me tired. I do not believe it is due to repetition, running around the same track again and again and then doing it again a few races later because the game is a little short on variety. No, I believe that it makes they tire me out mentally, that the need for constant concentration is more than my little brain can bare.

Races in Forza 6 average between six and ten minutes. That is between six and ten minutes of eye balls on the screen, rarely blinking, hand on the controller, white knuckle concentration. Even with the ability to rewind mistakes I find myself completely invested in the turn by turn action that the end of each race cannot come soon enough.

No other genre does this, not even fighting games. Action games constantly ebb and flow between frantic murder and then the collection of spoils. Role playing games can go for minutes with nothing happening. Fighting games have natural breaks between round and games that give the brain time to vent the built up heat and remind the eyes to blink.

After two hours of Forza 6 I am ready for a nap.

...

The list on the right has made its yearly jump from 'what do I play next' to 'oh God, when will I play these.' There are eight more games that will be added by December 31st. Odds are all I will have played by then are the new Tales game and the new Assassin's Creed game. Just like the end of every year.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Excelsior!

Finished the final chapter of Tales from the Borderlands last night.

Oh my. I can, without reservation, say that this was the best TellTale game since the first season of The Walking Dead. Perhaps even better, because for the first time in any of their games choices made during the previous chapters had a concrete effect on at least part of the game's outcome.

To elaborate, and without major spoilers, the player is tasked with creating two teams of four for the final showdown with REDACTED. Characters' availability is based on previous player choices. One of my potential choices was dead, so he was out. Another was not interested in working with me, and just so I was not left wondering what was going on, the game explains why or why not an NPC is available.

Choice? Check. An explanation of why these choices were important? Even better. Now I highly doubt that the game would have let me play myself into a corner and not have enough people available to fill out my team. That would be early King's Quest levels of bull shit. The fact that what I did months ago actually made a difference is good enough and more than I can say for their Game of Thrones series. I am honestly dreading that game final act. But I have already paid for it, so it is going to be played.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Shenanigan-less

Forza Motorsport 6 is more of the same with new cars and a greater selection of tracks. This is not bad but I do not know how long I will play it. My usual time based love affairs with racing games have been getting shorter and shorter, to the point that I am not sure if I really enjoy them any more. Forza Horizon 2 being just about the perfect open world racing game may have also spoiled me a little bit.

I didn't even start it up last night, instead opting to put more time into the Street Fighter V beta. In the two hours that I played I had precisely zero online matches so it was nothing more than practice room and fighting the computer and steadily higher difficulties. CPU Ken is an absolute motherfucker. Crouching medium kick xx fierce uppercut my ass.

All of that time was spent learning Necalli and while he is not the shenanigan heavy character I was looking for to replace Blanka he is still fun to play. Necalli operates on the threat of things happening, not necessarily the mix ups created by him actually doing anything. Crouching medium kick xx light stomp is a good medium range poke for okay damage. Once someone start blocking that change over to his command overhead. Once that start blocking that its time for a command throw. So and and so forth until they get frustrated and Necalli lands a brain dead easy jump in combo for 40% health and 90% stun.

Those numbers are not a joke and I expect his damage output to be nerfed. Jumping HP, standing HP, medium stomp xx crouching MP xx EX berserker charge (not the real names of the moves) is a combo that I can do that does silly damage. Getting the jumping is the hard part but that comes by conditioning with other moves.

I discovered none of what you read above, I am only reaping the benefits. Necalli will most likely be my main, depending on who else is announced, but I reserve the right to have a shitty pocket Ryu. Just like everyone else who plays Street Fighter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Back with a vengeance

I am quite conflicted about Guitar Hero Live. While I did go all in on the Rock Band side of things I did always buy the Guitar Hero games. They felt less serious to me, just for fooling around and not for building a collection of DLC for. I did not mourn its passing in the same way I did Rock Band 3 so its return does not fill me with the same loyal nostalgia.

It is back but it is not the same. Rock Band 4 is exactly more of them same, only less, but with more DLC (eventually). I bought into it as a platform on the promise of most of my already purchased DLC being moved over, the point being that the songs that I owned I still owned. Guitar Hero Live has nothing of the sort - no legacy DLC support (which is not a surprise) but also no DLC at all in the traditional sense, at least nothing that be purchased and kept.

There are only forty two songs on the disc but there are two hundred or so more available via their streaming service, for free (almost) but with a big catch: you cannot choose what song you want to play when without spending in game currency, called 'plays.' This is Pandora, but Guitar Hero, and I do no think that I am a fan.

It's a shame because I really do want to get my  hands on the new controller and see how it feels. Instead I may end of canceling my pre-order and spending the money on more songs for Rock Band. I mean, I only have about 400 songs, not including the Rock Band 4 on disc songs or the Rock Bands 1, 2, 3 and Lego songs that should eventually available.

That is a difficult investment to walk away from.

...

Transfomers Devastation was quite good but also quite short. Platinum set up a fighting and weapon upgrade system that could have carried a game well past the twenty hour mark and I only had four hours to explore it, and even then saw several areas recycled. It did press a number of very pleasurable nostalgia buttons, which I do appreciate (triple changers!) but there was not enough game there to warrant the price of admission. It was a quaint diversion, at best, and not as good as some of the older High Moon Transformer games.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Anger issues

On Friday night I finished up Mad Max and followed it up with a few beers and a second viewing of Fury Road. I am now sufficiently prepared for the coming resource wars and water shortages and plan to take full advantage of my location in the great midwest, just a few miles east of a big ass source of fresh water. There will be a shop with my name on, guarded by toughs with big guns, and the prices will be exorbitant.

Now it is time to discuss the ending of Mad Max and how Fury Road is still an amazing movie that contains about thirty seconds of unforgivable bull shit. As is the new custom:


My Chumbucket betrayal prediction was right on the money but it was done in a way that didn't taint the character. Chum was never in Max's life to help Max. Max was just the best way Chum to get the parts he needed to finish the magnum opus. When the car was complete he knew that Max was leave him so Chum waited for the the perfect moment, one that he thought Max would not return from, and he stole the car.

Max survived his encounter with dozens of scavengers in a buried airport because of course he did, he's Max. Max rescued the little girl, delivered her to her mother and was all set to right off into the sunset when, surprise, no car. He steals one, finds Chumbucket and does not kill him, instead fighting off a pack of war boys who saw the car and assumed that Max was in it.

For a moment it seems that Max will forgive Chum, his recent dealings with the child having softened him up from homicidal maniac all the way down to crazy guy who will kill you for looking at him funny. Then Chum confessing to giving up the location of Faith and Hope, the mother and child who Max has helped.

Yeah, they're dead. Max arrives just in time to hold the child as she expires.

To his credit, Max still does not kill Chum. He saves that for when he has Scrotus teetering over the edge of a cliff in his war wagon. Instead of shooting it again to knock it off he rams it with the magnum opus, destroying it and crushing Chum to death.

He has anger issues.

Max in the game was never likable. Since the game started off independent of the recent film I can understand, even support the decision. He was all about survival. By the end of the game just about everyone he had come into contact with was dead. All he has left is his car, which appears in a moment of auto ex machina in the game's final encounter, a picture of his wife and child and Hope's snow globe. But he's alive.

This was a good, if a bit depressing, game. Shout outs to the thunder dome showing up. Maybe there will be a Mad Max skin in Just Cause 3.

...

You already know what moment in Fury Road I am going to complain about. In the theater I was still too numb from everything that came before it to register it as being terrible but at home, in a much calmer mood, it sticks out far too much to be let go. The final crash and Nux's sacrifice were terrible. Not Nux's actual act, per say, but why he had to do it, his final words, and the results of the explosion, all terrible.

For starters, the big dude tearing the top of the engine off looked cartoonish. The movie had managed to look at least plausible for an hour and fifty five minutes and then gigantor rips the head off of one of the engines. Nux looks up at him with the same WTF expression that I had. Nux's last words are not the problem, they were perfect, but the audience should not have heard them. They should have been mouthed, in silence, and seen from Max's perspective.

Those two are forgivable. Hell, I am probably quite wrong about them both. After the crash, when the doof warrior's guitar and Immortan Joe's emblem are thrown at the screen in a moment of 'of shit, do something in 3D so we can charge more for tickets', is a tragic moment. It's terrible. It looks amateurish, like something out of a direct to DVD release. When did Peter Jackson sneak on to the set?

/sick burn

Thursday, October 15, 2015

At least it got it out of the way so I can ignore it now

I don't really watch much television anymore. My screen time is dedicated to much nobler (don't laugh) activities and I have found more boring documentaries than I can ever watch on YouTube. That being said, this is the funniest thing I have seen in a long, long time:



Much like South Park, the new Muppets has most likely peaked in its first season. Pack it up, it all goes downhill from here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The real star of the story

This is your, or Max's, conscience in Mad Max:

Over and over Max asserts that he does for others only when it will benefit him and unlike the most recent movie it is true. Max in the game is no better then the raiders or gang members he kills. He murders others for supplies on a regular basis and thinks nothing of it. In the movie he tries to pass himself off as such but it doesn't work, or he is redeemed in much the same way as Nux, depending on how much credit you give him.

There are no good guys or bad guys in the game according to Max, just people who survive and people who don't. A convenient excuse for him to justify killing a man for his pots and pans. The Ephialtes looking gentleman above is Chumbucket, a blackfinger (mechanic) who finds Max, dubs him a saint, and dedicates his life to designing the perfect car for him. He also does he best to keep Max on task. When Max spends too long pillaging camps he gently prods him to get back to 'the angel's mission.' He never actively dissuades Max from killing but when Max decides to ignore a stronghold being destroyed by raiders and get what he needs from the leftovers Chum convinces him to help.

Max, who would not do good on his own, is convinced to risk his own life by Chum, making Chum the moral center of the game.

This is a good start, story wise. Far be it from me to hope for more plot in my open world game but I really hope that Chum sticks closely to his spartan lookalike and betrays Max at the worst possible moment. You are no saint, he should say, just look at the chaos and death you have left behind you. And Max would have no answer because it would all be true.

...

Random wasteland resident, speaking to Max: Look at the smoke on the horizon, the flames coming Scrotus' camp. Surely, this was not your work.

Chum, from the back of the Magnum Opus: It certainly was. And don't call him Shirley.

...Chumbucket needs his own game.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Occupational hazards

Yes, I am still playing Mad Max. I would like you to read that as if I was confessing to still killing puppies or still snorting crack off of expensive escorts' taught abdomens. It is not something I am proud of. Indeed, there are better things that I could, nay, should be playing. If it were not for a rather embarrassing injury that I will chronicle shortly I would at least be playing Rock Band. No, night after night I return to the wasteland and in my hunchback carrying car wander from settlement to settlement murdering people for their metal odds and ends, all in the name of some end game that I have long since forgotten.

It is not necessarily something I am ashamed of but it leaves me with very little to talk about. Enjoying mediocre offerings more than much better games is nothing new. Indeed, it is was one of the original points of this place. But Mad Max isn't bad enough to make fun of. It's pretty good. But it is not good enough to gush over, mostly because I know that Just Cause 3 is coming and it will do everything Mad Max does, only better. And it too will eat up an inordinate amount of my time.

So instead of games I will talk about how I broke half my ass playing Rock Band.

I was never a fan of the Rock Band guitars. They never felt as good as the Guitar Hero guitars so I bought, and still have, a back stock of Guitar Hero 2 instruments in the dark corners of my basement. A combination of Microsoft laziness and Madcatz wanting to sell new accessories has rendered them useless so I am forced to use the new Rock Band 4 guitar.

Surprise, it's actually very good. The strum bar still feels a bit mushy and I will never use the small buttons close to the neck for solos but after a few songs of adaptation I was quite pleased, so much so that I didn't even sync the drums up until Saturday afternoon. Since the game was on I had to play a few songs, which turned into about an hour of songs, and later that evening I played some more.

Apparently I overdid it because my right gluteous maximum hurts like you wouldn't believe. Not only did expert drums in Rock Band 4 kick my ass, it broke half of it. And I haven't even purchased the cymbals yet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Just want it needs to be

I have spoken at length in the past about my affection for plastic instrument based music games. This goes all the way back to Taiko Drum Master and Donkey Konga, though those two were played in my store and always to demo them for people. People who may or may not have been in the store at the time.

Rock Band 3's demise as a platform was supposed to be the end. Its pro-guitar experiment had further divided a niche market that was already reeling from Activision's abuse. When Harmonix announced Rock Band 4 I almost didn't believe them, but it is in my basement now, complete with a new set of plastic instruments and at least some of my old songs, and I couldn't be happier.

The way I played Rock Band was not typical: I never played online and rarely if ever played it with another human being. It was a personal fantasy for me, at least that is my excuse for being too self conscious to allow anyone to see a grown man bouncing up and down to Paramore or Hailstorm. Rock Band 4 has no online multiplayer. It is a casualty of Harmonix doing the game on their own, almost as an indy title. And I don't miss it.

Nor do I miss the avatar customization. It is still possible but the options from the beginning are quite limited and are all terrible. My guitar player looks nothing like me - there was no hair choice between bald and dreads. Further options can be unlocked but I doubt I will ever go back for them. It's just not what is important to me.

No, I play Rock Band the same way a child plays pretend in the yard with a box on his head, in his own mind fully convinced he is going to the moon. Rock Band 4 still does that. In spite of none of the exports from previous games working yet, in spite of the game clearly being made on a smaller budget, in spite of the actual track list not being as strong as previous games (or Guitar Hero Live, for that matter) it still works.

There is magic here. It comes from Harmonix loving music first and wanting to share that love of music in game form. Their intent this time around is for Rock Band 4 to really be a service, not just a game. There will be no Rock Band 5, just incremental (hopefully free) upgrades along with a regular flow on new songs.

Plastic instrument based rock and roll fantasy, from them to you. I hope it lasts.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The crush

Rationally, I know that the 'Coming Soon' list filling up is a good thing and that it happens every year at this time. More games come out all at once than it is possible to play and the subsequent backlog will keep me entertained through the long, boring months of summer. Still, my anxiety does rise when I think about how I am less than a third of the way through Mad Max, have yet to touch Forza 6, there are two JRPGs coming out in quick succession and to top it off Rock Band 4 comes out tomorrow.

So in the face of this hideous bounty, what did I do last night? I spent three hours downloading as much of the old Rock Band DLC as I could. Songs that I forgot I had, songs that I purchased and played once, if it was available and I owned it, I wanted it back. Not everything made it: nothing from Rock Band, Rock Band 2, Lego Rock Band or Rock Band Blitz can be downloaded. This leaves some glaring gaps, most notably no Bohemian Rhapsody, which is a tragedy. Also Blood Sugar Sex Magic is just gone. The entire album has been removed. I don't even like it all that much but the sting of 'wasted' money cannot be ignored.

Perhaps it will not be as easy to retire the Xbox 360 after all.

...

I have had little to say about Mad Max because I feel just a tad hypocritical for liking it as much as I do. What I like about it are some of the exact same things that I did not like about MGSV - the side missions and how many there are. Mad Max is full of side missions, to the point that I play it the same way as I would an Assassin's Creed game: discover new zone, empty it, move plot along only when necessary. It works it Mad Max because, while many of the tasks remain the same, the locations are always different. Even the most basic task, raiding an encampment for scrap, remains interesting when done for the hundredth time because the camps themselves are always different. The game does not revisit old locations ad naseum with different objectives. The preserves the all important feel of progression. It feels like I am getting something done because it is in a new place.

Is Mad Max as good of a game as MGSV? Probably not. But what I am doing as any given moment, be that attacking a caravan in my spiky car or murdering war boys for their silverware collections, is always enjoyable. That is more than I can say for MGSV.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The days blend together

Oh man, where does the time go. Mad Max and Hearthstone? Yeah, that would probably be it.

I will most likely never be 'good' at Hearthstone. The game is over a year old now and the its meta has been defined, redefined, and then honed a third time through expansion sets and extensive player use/abuse. There is certainly some skill required, just having the right cards will not win all the time, but having the rights cards certainly doesn't hurt. As of a few days ago I had one of the right cards so you can imagine how well that is going.

But it is fun because Blizzard got the free to play aspect and progression correct, especially when compared to the game's most direct competition: Magic: Origins. Both allow the purchase of packs with an in game currency that can either be earned or obtained with real world dollars. Hearthstone simply offers more way to earn this currency through its different game modes and daily quests. If I were to really grind the game I could a net a free pack every day. These packs may contain duplicates of cards that I already own but they can be ground up into dust and used to create new cards. Obtaining the correct cards still would take a lot of time but it feels less random and the grind itself is less arduous.

My favorite way to play Magic was the booster draft. Every player gets a starter and two boosters and makes the best deck he or she can. I still requires skill but removes the pay to win aspect that is a part of every CCG, physical or virtual. Magic Online had this and I spent an undisclosed amount of money on it before I swore the game off. Magic: Origins has nothing of the sort. Hearthstone has the arena: for the price of one and a half packs of cards you create a deck from a random selection or cards and are then matched against other arena players. Three loses and you are out, the parting gift being a pack of cards and a little gold. But win a few, say three games, and you come out ahead of the price of admission. Win more and the prize is better.

It is easily the most fun way for me to play. I don't have the skills or the cards to grind ranked so the slightly more even playing field of arena mode is where I spend my time at work when I should be working (or writing this, for that matter).

...

Mad Max is better than many reviews have led me to believe. It is a competent sand box game with a Mad Max overlay. More Australian voice actors would be nice, as would the game not forcing me to scale back the awesomeness of my car for story missions, but I look forward to playing it every night and will continue to look forward to it until next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday is Rock Band 4 day, or the day Chamberlain learns if he can still play the drums or not.