Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pointless and worthless

I am not going to talk about The Killing Joke anymore, other than to mention that the only game that I have to come home to was Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, itself a massive disappointment. It was not a good time.

Pull away all of the open world parts and Catalyst would be about a good of a game as the first Mirror's Edge. Prettier, shorter, but at least it would about six hours of substance instead of eighteen hours of padding. I could not wait to unlock fast travel between hideouts. A game about running managed to make running boring.

Even its attempts at making the one side mission, getting from place as fast as you can with zero margin or error, worse. How? By adding a stealth element. Get from one place to another as fast as possible with no margin for error without being seen.

You know what? No. Fuck you, game, you've gone too far. I decided to skip all of the collectibles and delivery missions and only play the parts of the game that were worth playing. Surprise, it went from terrible to not bad at all and I still had enough experience to unlock all of the skills.

That's not good. The open world crap was both bad and worthless. This is how I spend my free time.

...and I was right, the whole game was the story of how Faith got her sweet arm tattoo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Killing something

It's taken me a day to calm down. I think I am ready to talk about movie that was supposed to be The Killing Joke.

There were early signs, chronicled in last week's podcast, that this was not quite the movie that people were expecting, most notably due to the 'all new' prologue. I attempted to remain neutral, something that is quite difficult to do when faced with headlines like 'The Killing Joke is a catastrophe 30 years in the making.' It's still The Killing Joke, right? I am not a huge comic book aficionado but in my limited sampling it is my favorite graphic novel. How bad could it be? Mark Hamill came out of Joker retirement for it. Surely he would not have done so if the script was not good.

Sitting in the theatre, eating my overpriced nachos, I was given hope by the audience that filtered in: nerds. All nerds. A wonderful collection of my people. Nerds of every shape and size, every twentieth being a good natured girlfriend, dragged there against her will. Nerds read spoiler filled reviews, nerds love to complain about things on the internet, if The Killing Joke was as bad as had been reported at least some of these beautiful nerds would have stayed away, right?

The theatre was filled to capacity. As the lights dimmed I grew nervous, then excited. This is a movie that I (and a whole lot of other people) has asked specifically to be made. It had the right people involved, the right voice actors, the right director. It opened with a ten minute vanity piece about Mark Hamill. Fine, he's earned it, but god damn if he isn't looking old.

Fade to black. Batgirl's voice.

'I guess this isn't how you were expecting the story to begin.'

Oh shit. What the hell happened.

Let's get my most indefensible opinion out of the way: I have no problem with how Barbara Gordon was treated in the original Killing Joke. It is not her story. She was assaulted as part of an effort by The Joker to drive Gordon mad. In that way, yes, I suppose she is little more than a prop, but her gender is irrelevant. She was family, Gordon loved her, Joker knew that and took advantage. That is the end of her part of the narrative. Her becoming Oracle was not part of the plan, in fact in was added on later. The Killing Joke is a one shot that only had canon implications after it was released.

The Killing Joke movie, in an effort to pad its run time and flesh out a character that was not important in the first place, subjects the viewer to a thirty minute prologue about Batgirl's final few days in the cowl. It is not good, but not because of how Batgirl is treated. It is a bad episode of the old animates series, just with more violence and implied sex. The villain is boring, both Batgirl and Batman behave strangely, the payoff of Batgirl quitting has no impact, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the movie that I paid to see.

Everybody knew that Babs and Bats were going to do the horizontal batusi but I was not prepared for how embarrassing it would be. I am talking the sex scene in the Watchmen movie embarrassing. It just should not have happened. Get your slashfic out of my Batman movie!

Ahem.

I could tell five minutes in that the prologue was going to be bad. It never redeemed itself. But surely, surely the part of the movie that was actually The Killing Joke would be better, right?


Conroy's Batman seemed disinterested. He has always been on the dry side but without the Bruce Wayne counterpart it was almost boring. And Joker? Mark Hamill isn't getting any younger. Joker's voice is definitely different. No bad, just not as good as it used to be. Darker, more gravely, less maniacal. Hamill still hits it out of the park on a few occasions, the moment above and when delivering the classic 'To prove a point. Here's to crime.' line are prime examples but his pre-Joker character voice has very little to it. It pains me to do so but I would describe the overall performance as serviceable.

Every time the movie added something new it stuck out like a sore thumb. Batman fighting the freaks when he arrives at the amusement park was unnecessary (and the fat lady fucking dies). Batman interrogating a trio of prostitutes who seemed overly enamoured with Joker's bedroom skills was just odd. There was also at least one historical anachronism, Joker talking about world war three being started by a flock of seagulls, that could have been updated.

Oh, and this travesty:


This is a very touching moment in the book. Batman lets down his guard for just a moment in an attempt to comfort Barbara. In the movie he refers to himself as Batman. In general, Batman is a dick. He is a super dick in the movie. At least Barbara says so.

*rimshot*

The Killing Joke is a bad movie. I am sure that many will find all sorts of enlightened reasons for its terribleness, all of which miss the point and use failed cinema as a way to advance unrelated causes. As a fan of the graphic novel, a fan of Mark Hamill's Joker, a fan of the animated series, a fan of Batman, I am disappointed. If this was the best that Warner Brothers could do with the classic source material then they should not have done anything at all.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Podcast!

One of these days I will let slip that, politically, I am part of the problem. That my voting record, or complete lack thereof, makes my liberal social leanings irrelevant. While that is true, I counter with this: as soon as someone desires to lead the free world they should no longer be considered. No one seeks power out of benevolency.

Oh, and we talk about games, too.


Chamberlain and Chance - Almost everything is terrible ...

Mirror's Edge Catalyst may actually be a bad game. This depends on what the ratio of good story levels to stupid side missions ends up being. I played for about two hours last night and about fifteen of that was fun. That chunk if time was, in fact, excellent, reminiscent of the first game. Faith scales an under construction tower to disable a counterweight at the top that keeps the whole thing from falling down. It was everything that I wanted from a new Mirror's Edge game.

The rest of the time was a grind, pushing my way through side quests that I had no desire to do but that I needed the XP from to unlock more abilities. Not everything needs to be an open world game! Linearity is not a bad word!

It's such a waste. The game looks very good, if a bit empty. I understand that the rooftops are empty but when I bust into a restaurant to meet a mob boss (whom Faith owes a great deal of money) I expect there to be more people there than just said boss, cooking up a nice meal for his one bodyguard.

If nothing else, Catalyst is going to be the story of Faith's sweet arm tattoo. How can I argue with that?

Speaking of tattoos, where should I get this?


Friday, July 22, 2016

Missing the point

While I do stand by my statement that Mighty No 9 is not a terrible game, merely a plain, rather bare bones version of what was originally teased and promised, it is missing something that it synonymous with Mega Man games: having to fight all eight robots again in the final area. This was true for all of the Mega Man games that I remember playing. In the run up to fighting Dr. Wily (again) you face all of the previous bosses, only this time armed to the teeth with their stolen weapons, making it much easier that the first encounters.

Mighty No 9 does not do that and it does it for *gasp* story reasons. Beck is not destroying the other mighty numbers (terrible name), he is rescuing them, breaking free from the grasp of whatever or whoever has driven them mad. It is just a side bonus that in doing so he steals some of their power.

And to that I say, 'Lame. Laaaaaaaame.'

That is a staple of Mega Man games. To relegate it to an optional boss rush mode is just silly. Almost as silly as the shoehorned bits of drama, like finding out that the bad guy is not the bad guy, or he is a bad guy but he is not the bad guy this time, and that the good guy is actually the bad guy's son, and so on. Mega Man 2 was and is the best Mega Man game and it barely had text, much less poorly voice acted melodrama.

Mighty No 9 got caught up it what it thought people wanted, a modern Mega Man, when what it should been is the classic Mega Man, just in HD. Take a look at Bloodstained, it gets it. For now.

...

I opened up my new Game Informer, a magazine that Gamestop gives me for free that gets thumbed through once and then recycled, and found they had graced Mirror's Edge Catalyst with the dreaded 6 out of 10 review. Not good, not terrible, just forgettable. This can't be, I thought, and I read the review.

Then I played the game. shit.

Catalyst is the Mirror's Edge 'ubigame' made by people who do not understand how the 'ubigame' works. Yes, there is quite a bit of side content, but because this is Mirror's Edge, a game whose entire point it avoiding combat and parkouring your way across rooftops as quickly as possible, every single side mission is exactly the same. Minus the story trappings (and interesting level design) of the main missions they are crushingly boring, yet still almost required, wastes of time.

And did I mention that they are far more difficult than they need to be? Most games that require you to do something in a specific amount of time give the player a margin of error. Not Catalyst - if you are given 44 seconds to deliver something to a dead drop that is exactly long it will take. I have yet to finish one with more than 1 second left on the clock and got stuck on another for over half hour last night (because I am a stubborn ass) in which I was steps away from the goal every single fucking time.

I would skip them entirely but I need the experience points to unlock abilities. 6 out of 10? I really hate admitting that a magazine was right.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Options to turn off

Buying a television as a person who plays games, specifically fighting games, is a reductive experience. Yes, of course I want all of the fancy bits that go along with a new 4K TV. I want the 3D support that I will never use, the motion blurring and upscaling that make old Seinfeld episodes presentable again, the HDR support that won't matter unless I shell out the cash for an Xbox One S or Playstation 4 Neo, both of which may happen. More importantly, I need to be able to turn all of that fancy shit off to avoid loads of evil input delay when I am being bad at Street Fighter.

And so a 55" Sony Bravia made it into my basement last night, quite the upgrade from my old 40" Samsung plasma. It is honestly too big for my needs, so much so that I will need to shuffle my consoles around to make them fit in the entertainment center instead of on the entertainment center (unless I set the PS4 on top of my subwoofer and even I know that that is a terrible idea). There was a designated game mode that does what I want but I will also be able to switch it back to being the television it wants to be for movies.

Did I let it slip that I kind of want an XBox One S?

I know that it is not much of an upgrade but it will support 4K Blu Rays and, as I mentioned on the podcast, I am always looking for a reason to buy Blade Runner again. It's my White Album. If you don't get that reference then get the hell off of my lawn.

...

Mighty No 9 does not deserve all of the hate that has been piled upon it. Divorced from all of the Kickstarter nonsense, it is not a bad game. It is not a good game, either, instead it is a mediocre Mega Man game. But that still means that it is a Mega Man game. It has been a long time since I tried and failed to complete Mega Man 10 so it is welcome, foibles and all.

My one big complaint is how plain the game looks plain and that levels are not nearly different enough from one another, thematically. And the boss robots are pretty lame. And the voice acting is terrible. Maybe I like the game less than I thought I did...

Let's come at this from the opposite direction: the control is tight and therefore the levels and bosses can be very demanding. Beck (terrible name) has a dash that can be used multiple time while airborne, making it very easy to change directions quickly, which is good because the game expects you to master this quickly. It is not Mega Man 10 hard but this is no cake walk.

...I freely admit that I looked up the correct order in which to kill the boss robots. When I was a child I had time to fuck around, now, no way, the game is on the clock and needs to be brought to a close as quickly as possible.

Which should hopefully be tonight as playing it on my new television seems like at absolute waste when the new Mirror's Edge game is right there.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Don't stop, shoot more

Let's get this perfunctory praise out of the way: Doom is the best shooter that I have played in a long, long time.......when it is being a shooter and not actively sabotaging its own pacing.

The action is perfect: fast, smooth, hectic but never out of control as long as you are paying attention, and just a little too easy on Hurt Me Plenty. I should have started out on the next difficulty level as I seldom used the chainsaw and only once pulled out the BFG in a moment of panic. But when I needed it, it was right there. One button away, a pull of the trigger, and everything in front of me was dead.

The weapons were familiar and each had their use. I preferred the standard shotgun to the super variant as you never know when launching a grenade will be required. The plasma rifle was for revenants, the assault rifle was for heavy soldiers, the chain gun was for mancubi and cacodemons. The rocket launcher was a last resort mostly because I rarely needed it and the rail gun was in the wrong game entirely. Maybe it snuck in with the sound for quad-damage that was ripped from Quake.

It was always obvious when an encounter was coming up but that never made it less exciting. Monsters would appears in waves, not always in the same places, and I would kill them. Sounds simple, and it is, but it worked. It worked well and I wish there was much more of it as I would run out of things to kill long before I ran out of things to pick up in the level and that is where the problems begin.

Doom now has some very basic RPG elements and I do not think it needed them. Collectibles are scattered all over the maps but there was not enough action in said maps to keep the wandering interesting. Anything would have been better than empty rooms with hidden power ups, even monster closets. Instead I *gasp* got bored.

This got much better in the later levels when there was more to shoot and less to collect. Three wimpy boss battles later, it ended. Seriously, this version of the cyberdemon was a wuss. At least the spider mastermind put up something resembling a fight, but even that was nothing compared earlier battles filled with hell knights backed by cyber-manucbi.

I absolutely loved most of this game, the parts of the game that were actually Doom, not parts of other games bolted on to Doom because someone thought it was not a deep enough experience. It's not supposed to be deep, it is supposed to be about shooting demons by the truckload. Maybe the expansion, and you know there will be one, will trim the fat.

...

Did anyone else notice that there was another installed of Telltale's The Walking Dead?

Yeah, neither did I until I was hurting for something to play a few weeks ago. It's a short season, only three episodes, centering around Michonne, a character from either the television show or the comic book (or both). It took its sweet time getting anywhere but there is a stomach dropping moment and the beginning of episode three that rivals anything Season 1 managed. Even though I knew that there was no avoided (as these games are more about the illusion of choice than actual choice) it still got me.

I felt bad for something I had done in the game and that never happens.

From a technical standpoint, Michonne runs better than anything else Telltale has put out which is certainly a step in the right direction. It also integrates the prompts for button presses in quick time events right into the action. Instead of a giant, bland A on the screen it swoops in from the side, following the path of Michonne's machete as she beheads another zombie.

It is still just a quick time event, once of many, but at least it looks more interesting.

...

And that third game I was going to make fun of? Didn't start it yet. Couldn't work up the courage to do so.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

I live!

Just no time to write anything.

Big post tomorrow. I have Doom and The Walking Dead and possible Mighty Number 9 to talk about.

One of those was excellent. Another was better than expected. The third, well, my acerbic wit needed a target anyway.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Little games and great big games

Playing something small or out of my comfort zone between big, AAA releases keeps me from getting too jaded. Not everything can, or should, be Uncharted or Doom. There is space for little games, experimental games, and when I stumble across a little, experimental game that is also (supposedly) frightening? I would say a fool and his money are soon parted but it was only $3, so I am not that much of a fool.

Anatomy is by horror indie developer KittyHorrorShow. She has quite the collection of very small, very experimental horror games over at itch.io but Anatomy is the first that that she had asked for any money for. It received quite a few good reviews from quite a few sites, including one from The Cool Ghosts declaring it the best horror game ever.



It's not the best horror game ever, not when Amnesia The Dark Descent, Fatal Frame 2 and Silent Hill 2 are still out there, skulking in your peripheral memories, reminding you that horror is not a dead genre, it is just waiting (for the record, Outlast clamboring for your attention with cheap jump scares does not count). But it is interesting, especially as an example of how little it takes to actually scare someone.

Anatomy has no monsters. No jump scares. No blood dripping from the walls. No ghosts, no goblins, no thinly veiled satanic references. It has a story told through cassette tapes and a lot of closed doors, doors that may or may not have something behind them. They never do, there is no release, no payoff, and that just makes it worse. The game ends several times, closing itself, forcing you to open it up again, and then being different from the last time you played. It remembers, it's lonely, and it may or may not have teeth.

Cynically, I must say that it looking the a PS2 game really does not work for me, not when the fox engine is out there and PT is still the most frightening thing I have played in years. But Anatomy was made by one person on no budget with nothing more than a basic understanding of the unity engine and of what is unnerving versus what is simply annoying. For $3 you could do much worse.

Oh, and avoid old abandoned houses. Especially their basements. They may be hungry.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Hooray, I get to play new things

Uncharted 4 lurched to its conclusion last night. And I do mean lurched. I am going to talk about this with little regard for spoilers as everyone else has already finished the game. Still, to be polite:


Things got awfully convenient as the game entered the third act. Raef and Nadine just happen to find Nate and Sam at just the right time. Elena just happens to be in the right river at the right time (on the right island) to keep Nate from drowning after falling off of a cliff. Nate just happens to forgive Sam for tricking him into giving up his whole life for a lie. All this and more occurred simply because 'the plot required it' but for a character based drama, and that is exactly was Uncharted tries to be, plus near constant gun violence, it is not enough. I want to know why someone does something.

The only character whose motivation is clear is Nadine, the mercenary boss bad ass who just wants to get paid. Once Nate and company along with several hundred year old still functioning exploding mummies wipe out almost all of her men, what does she do? She says 'fuck it' and leaves Nate and Raef to kill each other on a burning ship. That makes sense. That I understand. Nate going back to save Sam a second time after saving him a first time when he finally got back in the good graces of his wife? No bro, you are out of chances. Raef going crazy because everything in life has been given to him? What? That is not a thing that happens. People like that have no problems that a hot tub and expensive champagne can't fix.

The series ran out of things for the characters to do so it started to make it up as it went along. Nate being unsatisfied with a normal life? That I get. Nate not even attempting to explain to Elena what is going on before leaving with his long lost brother? Nope. Elena finding them before the mercenaries do just to drop some tears on the floor before leaving again? Nope. The old lady in the mansion dying just as the police arrive followed by the delinquent Drake boys leading said police on a keystone cops worthy chase? Nope. That was just stupid.

If I didn't know these characters I wouldn't care, but then again if I didn't know these characters all Uncharted 4 would be is a gorgeous game with reasonable writing that has been surpassed by the Tomb Raider reboot and sequel in all matters regarding how the game actually plays. It's a bit of a relic, really. It belongs in a museum.

Uncharted 4 is not a bad game, it is a game with impossible to meet expectations. It was the flagship for the last generation and maybe it should have stayed that way. And Nate is still a douchebag. I don't know what Elena sees in him.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Rushing is not good

I am trying to power my way through Uncharted 4 because I want to play Doom and I believe that this rush to the finish is hurting what I think of the game. Unlike the previous three this Uncharted has a few open areas to explore. The player is guided, more or less, to the next objective, but if some ruins are happened upon they can be explored. I jumped down into one of these in the volcano level, found it was just a collectible, and decided that I didn't have time for that any longer.

This runs contrary to how I play Ubi-games. Why?

Most Ubi-games (Watch Dogs, Ass Creeds, etc) have little to offer beyond collecting all of the doodads on the map. A modicum of story here, some mediocre dialogue there, but nothing to distract me from why I am there in the first place: to collect stuff.



That is not why I am playing Uncharted and the fact that there is a game that I want to play more sitting below it does not help. I play Uncharted for the snappy dialogue, the impossibly huge puzzles built into ancient temples, the chase scenes that would make Bond blush (Craig at least. Maybe not Brosnan). Taking a detour to pick up an ancient tea cannister may make sense for the character but I, the player, am looking for the next time Drake is dangling from a crane, blowing up jeeps with a handgun fired from his off hand.

Which is a thing that happens and it is more silly that I can describe.

And yes, I am aware that picking up pointless treasures is not new to the series, it is just more annoying now than before because my 'to be played' list is impossibly long, a good portion of which (Mirror's Edge 2, Quantum Break, Odin Sphere, Grand Kingdom, Lego Star Wars) are actually good games that are worth playing.

The idea of retreating from physical releases and playing nothing but little games keeps coming back. But that would mean no Doom and that is not happening.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Well, hello there

The Killing Joke is getting a one day theatrical release.

http://www.fathomevents.com/event/batman-the-killing-joke

Tickets have been purchased.

Who am I kidding, one ticket has been purchased.

Self control. And then the podcast

Looking back at old entries, I did not like the first three Uncharted games much as I remember. I ripped on them collapsing in the third act, I complained about Nathan being a dick all of the time to everyone. I complained because that is what I do with games that everyone else likes.

I think I am still right, though I am somewhat embarrassed at my unfair harshness. Talking with Chance once a week is making me soft, tempering by bitchy edge.

Of course Uncharted 4 is good but it is not as good as The Last of Us. The hand to hand combat is week, the shooting is not up to the bar that has been set by the Gears games. What is different this time is that Nathan is more likeable, mostly because his brother Sam is an obvious scum bag. Everyone but Nathan can see that he is being taken advantage of. Nathan is blinded by the guilt of having left Sam in a prison for fifteen years.

Which, I suppose, is believable.

It is difficult to separate my contradictory nature from my my more critical one. Am I being overly critical of Uncharted 4 because it has problems or because everyone else seems to love it? Time will tell. And then I will play Doom.

...

Behold, the podcast!

Chamberlain and Chance - There's more?!

Friday, July 1, 2016

If only I could sleep less

Another busy week. Remember when you were a kid and summer meant not having anything to do? Yeah, that doesn't happen anymore.

...

Inside is the Fight Club of video games. I cannot talk much about Inside without spoiling it but I desperately want to talk about it. In the most general terms it is the spiritual follow up to Limbo, a game that has the distinct honor of me playing in through twice. Same company, same bleak, side scrolling physics based puzzle platformer, but somehow much, much more disturbing. That is saying something when Limbo was about the final moments of consciousness of a boy who is killed in a car crash.

Inside, as a game, is easier than Limbo was. That is not to say that the puzzles aren't interesting, it just means that when the player arrives at a solution it takes minimal finger gymnastics to get it done. Most are just a matter of pushing the right item in the right direction but there is just a little bit of Oddworld mixed in here and there. Only more disturbing and without flatulence to break the tension.

And the deaths. Good lord, when the dogs eat you. It was not a good time.

I finished Inside in one sitting of about two and a half hours. The last fifteen minutes (that I will not describe) was intensely bizarre. I think I know what is means, at least I have a theory, but no one else is spoiling it, so I won't either. At least not yet. Give me a few days and will spill the beans about my ridiculous idea.

...

Uncharted 4 is a little slow.

Of course it looks amazing and of course it is good to see Nathan again and of course it has some of the most normal, human interactions between characters to have ever graced a video game. I could have watched Nathan and Elena sitting on the couch, playing Crash Bandicoot forever (hearing the original Playstation boot sounds gave me chills).

But I played for around three hours last night and the game never got any momentum going. There was a very Bond-like cold open and then you are sneaking around an orphanage with little baby Nathan and his irresponsible brother. Then you are mashing your way through mediocre melee combat (admit it, hand to hand combat in Uncharted has never been that great) before some platforming and just as it gets exciting you jump forward fifteen years to Nathan slowly dying of boredom in his attic.

I get that it is trying to be cinematic and is telling its story out of chronological order for effect but I am still waiting for the excitement of the last games to arrive. It will, probably, but how much of the game will have been wasted getting there?

And I will not retreat from my statement that the hand to hand combat is not good. Just steal the Arkham combat and call it day. Everyone else has.