Monday, October 31, 2016

Less depressing than I thought

I was wrong. Gear of War 4 does not kill Marcus. There is no doubt in my mind that that gut punch is being saved for a later game. Instead the player is treated to an almost heartwarming scene of Marcus, Baird and Cole reuniting after a ten year separation. Marcus becoming a hermit is not explained but it is not difficult to figure out that shortly after Anya, his wife, died he turned his sullen nature up to 11 and consequently drove JD away.

JD referring to Cole as 'Uncle Cole' and Baird as 'that asshole' in spite of Baird bringing two giant mechs with him fills in a few blanks, too.

The boss fight which brought mu progress to a painful stop should have been the end of the game. Nothing after that, including piloting the aforementioned mechs, measured up. It would have been better to either put this boss fight closer to the actual end or just skip the final area and jump right to Kait's mother dying (spoiler, but you knew this was going to happen) and Marcus stating that things weren't over.

That's all I have to complain about. I would change the order of the 5% of the game and eliminate the giant robot combat. Apart from that, this is game is exactly what I wanted.

Time for rampant spoiler filled speculation!

The locust had attached Kait's mother to their biological network, a network that turned cocooned humans into juvenile swarm, a process just as icky as it sounds. Why was a live human required for this? Well...

At the end of Gears of War 3 the locust queen made her appearance - as a very human looking woman in sweet ass armor. Little is made of this and even less explained, then they all died. Kait's mother was the only person not cocooned by the swarm. As she died from being cut from the network she handed Kait a small symbol that had belonged to her grandmother.

Kait never met her grandmother. I am calling this now: Kait's grandmother was the locust queen. She is going to turn evil in a game or two and Marcus is going to die defending JD from her. Armchair videogame story writer powers, go!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Most proper

I may have made a mistake.

At the outset of Gears of War 4 there are four difficulty choices. I do not recall the names but the descriptions were you are new to action games, you are new to Gears of War, the way it was meant to played and fuck off and die. I chose the way it was meant to be played and have been paying for that choice since.

Difficulty spikes are not new to this series. I distinctly remember the mind numbing frustration of theron guards wielding bow casters. There had been a few in the first half of the game, namely the intrusions of horde mode into the game proper. Not a bad thing, it just required a shift in tactics. Last night, though....

Big boss. Brumak. Well, swarmak because it is the swarm now instead of the locust. He is invulnerable at outset of the fight and has weak points that are uncovered by destroying one of four generators spread through the room. In one of my finest moments (of out smarting myself) I destroyed all four of the generators in quick succession. I'll just expose all of weak points at once, right?

What I didn't know is that the destruction of each generator triggered a wave of enemies, each worse than the last. By destroying all four generators I triggered all four waves so now I have juvies, grunts and two goddamn full blooded locust carrying miniguns all coming at the same time. Guess when the autosave hit?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proper fucked.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Never trust Nintendo

Not time to post today. Gear of War 4 is really, really good. If they kill Marcus I will not be pleased.

...they are totally going to kill Marcus.

Anyway, podcast time!


Chamberlain and Chance - Not so fast, Nintendo

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

God out of nothing

I began to get suspicious of Deus Ex Mankind Divided when, after several days worth of playing, there had been no boss fights. There had been several discussions with NPCs that could almost be considered boss battles but nothing to really force me to use my chosen augs to their fullest potential. My hacking Jensen had morphed into a hacking - stealth Jensen as I had grown tired of working for the stealth and instead wanted to stroll about casually whilst invisible. It didn't that martial law had been declared and being seen just about anywhere meant that the cops were shooting at me.

Not a single points was spent in an combat abilities save for one or two in the health category. I never needed any of those abilities as even when combot broke out taking cover and nailing headshots with the same gun that I had received in the tutorial mission was more than enough to get the job done.

It seemed that, in an effort to prevent people from tech treeing themselves into a corner the devs just made the game easier instead of forcing the player to be creative and smart with their choices. Doors and computers important to the plot always had the lowest hacking rating. Heating ducts were always right there when I couldn't think of what else to do.

When a boss finally came I was ready. I had been hoarding armor piercing bullets for the entire game. He was flanked by two flying drones and a robot and packed a fairly good punch himself. An EMP grenade took out the robot and, while I could have hacked the flying drones from a distance that was just a temporary fix and it required the same line of site and amount of time that shooting them did. So my hacking stealth Jensen morphed into combat Jensen with none of the combat skills and no worse for the wear for it.

I didn't even bother turning invisible to avoid the boss. I just ducked behind a chest high wall and shot him as he approached. He died and the game ended. Yawn. This would have been an acceptable expansion pack. As a full priced game it feels oddly truncated, like the ending only became the ending after either time or money ran out. It's a shame because, aside from the terrible facial animations, the game looks good and during the few moments it decided to be challenging it was enjoyable.

Oh well, it's almost November and there are plenty of other game to play. Like the king of chest high walls, Gears of War 4. Crank old Marcus Fenix is the best Marcus Fenix. As proof, an actual line, delivered while killer robots are being dropped into his greenhouse:

'Aw, they're going to fuck up my tomatos!'


Friday, October 21, 2016

New(ish) news from Nintendo

New console announcement! The Nintendo Switch.


No! That's not, well, I suppose it makes sense and I see where you could come up with that, but...

On a pedantic, I may be an asshole note (have you listened to the podcast?) Nintendo Switch is a terrible name, just not terrible in the same way Wii-U was. The average parental non-gaming consumer was confused about what the Wii-U was and what it actually did. They will at least understand that the Switch is something new. It's still a stupid name.

Seriously, remember when consoles had good names? Dreamcast. Game Cube. Xbox. At least Sony has the courage to stick with what works, though the jump from PS4 to PS4Pro is going to cause problems for technically handicapped grandparents who want to appear hip without buying nothing but gift cards. 

As a person who follows and plays video games, I had already seen the leaked photos and speculation on what the NX was going to be. I did not at all expect just about everything to be true. It is a console that connects to a television but can also work on its own as a slightly oversized handheld with little baby detachable controllers that will inevitably disappear into the cracks of couches and the back seats of cars.

But is it really new? No. Nintendo has done this before, just in the opposite direction. For years and years Nintendo had two platforms running at the same time: console and handheld. There were great games on both but to play them all you had to own both pieces of hardware. Until you didn't anymore and they released the Super Gameboy for the SNES and later the Gameboy Player for the Game Cube. These were brilliant accessories, especially for people (like me) who had no interest in playing games anywhere other than the couch.

The DS ended this trend, in my opinion intentionally. It offered an experience that could not be duplicated by shoving the same game into is grown up sibling. I do not mean to say that the DS was not a good system, it was, but ugh handhelds is something I will never get past, regardless of the quality of titles it causes me to miss.

Present day Nintendo has one reasonably healthy console with the 3DS (and 2DS) and one console that everyone has forgotten about, including them, the Wii-U. It is a good move to try to bring these two sides together but will the resulting frankenstein's hardware make the loyal to either side happy? Handheld players crave battery life and, well, portability. We will know nothing about battery life for quite some time and the Switch looked a little on the chunky side to me when compared to the Vita or 3DS. Console players want technical parity with Sony and Microsoft, and with both of the grown up companies upping their game (one more than the other) this is just not going to happen.

And don't bring up the graphics aren't important argument. If graphics weren't important Skyrim would not have featured so prominently in the reveal trailer. I call bull shot, anyway, or bull battery, one of the two. Playing Skyrim for half an hour on a full charge does no sound like a good time.

At the very least I understand where Nintendo is coming from and I agree that it is an idea with merit. I do not think that they will be able to pull it off while maintaining a reasonable price point, and since they have already said that the Switch will not break the bank in the same manner everyone expects the Scorpio to do I expect slightly better than Wii-U graphics that I can take with me on an endless quest to find another plug or hot usb port for my 'portable' system.

Which means that I will spend another generation not playing Zelda or Metroid. It's okay, Nintendo, I have gotten used to not having you in my life.  Know, however, that my constant desire to see you abandon your hardware shenanigans and just make games for the real consoles gets darker with each Mario game that I do not get to play. I don't necessarily want to see the Switch fail

but it would amuse me if it did. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Not as deep as it pretends to be

Deus Ex Human Revolution was the last big game that I played on PC. It came free with a new video card so I played it on the small screen. I remember it being, at best, OK. It was far enough after the release that I knew what builds to avoid to not be tripped up by bosses who care nothing for your verbal or hacking skills because all that want to do is shoot you in the face.

That Adam Jansen was a boring soldier and the game was boring because of that.

This time around I have fallen into a hacking build for the same reason that all of my Elder Scrolls characters are thieves: I hate not being able to open doors. It has worked so far because said virtual keys have help me avoid larger confrontations. That and liberal save scumming, anyway. Without the silent legs and invisibility the stealth is much more honest. I have to watch where guards can see and where they are walking. Only once have I thrown in the towel and just started shooting people. Religious zealots awaiting the singularity, if you must know. They did not put up much of a fight.

The game feels oddly small. Hub areas are detailed but take no time to get through and most buildings cannot be entered. Those that can are limited to a room or two, the largest so far was a strip club (because of course it was) and even that was about two floors and a balcony.

It is also in no way subtle about drawing a parallel between aug/natural relations and modern race relations, right down to the all encompassing Fox New blaring from every channel, saying that creating a separate but equal place for augs to go is what they want and what is best for everyone. It's a little cringey in a 'this is not as far removed from the way things really are' sort of way. Jensen keeps getting stopped by the cops and asked for his papers.

He hasn't killed any of them yet. I kind of wish he would.

Mankind Divided is still what I would call and great game. The character and facial animations are laughable and the cover based shooting, when it happens, just makes me wish I was playing Gear of War 4 instead of this. The game is trying to be important. It desperately wants to be. But I guarantee that Mankind Divided, just like Human Revolution, will not be reinstalled just because someone mentions the name.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The wait begins

Aside from the obvious good news that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a real thing that will never, ever achieve its projected fall 2017 release date there is this tidbit:



Amnesia: The Dark Decent is my favorite modern horror game. It even holds its own against the giants: Silent Hill 2 and Fatal Frame 2. A machine for pigs, not so much, but it will be nice to play that at a normal frame rate.

I am pleased. They can have my money.

....

Yesterday was a crankiness educing day. We did this anyway. Hope you enjoy it.


Chamberlain and Chance - The wait begins

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nothing can stop us!

Chamberlain and Chance - Nothing can stop us

It's been bottled up for a while

Caution! This is going to be a very, very bitchy post.

In spite of its issues I was enjoying The Technomancer. It had the same kind of charm as watching MST3K riff on ancient Gamera movies. I knew it was bad but it was still appointment playing. Combat had settled down to a more manageable morass and I was all set to sick forty plus hours into a generic version of other excellent games.

Last night, after cleaning up all of the side missions, I attempted to advance the story. My parties rover had finally been repaired and I was instructed to talk to the pilot. There was a big star on my radar, I walked there, talked to her and nothing happened. There was no option in the dialogue tree about the rover.

Broken quests are not a new thing, they happen all the time, especially when your game has 'scrolls' in the title. I had seen them before and usually leaving and coming back, forcing the area to reload, gets things moving again. So I left, quick travelled away to a different corner of Mars. And then I came back, and it was still broken.

I quit the same and started it up again. I uninstalled the game, deleting my save and loading it from the cloud backup. Nothing worked and I did not have any backup saves from before the quest broke. Frustrated, I entered 'technomancer broken quest' into the google machine and the first five fucking entries were about the same exact quest that I was stuck on.

From the PC version. From four months ago.

Uninstalled, sent back, pissed off.

...

In the midst of this debacle I played another hour of Thumper and have decided that I have been misled. Someone out there vouched for the quality of the game but that someone did not venture past the second level and therefore was not exposed to the games real problems.

Rhythm games need to have good mechanics, look interesting and have good music, not necessarily in that order. Mechanically Thumper is fine. It operates on the same 'push button in time with things flying down a track at you' as every other rhythm game, ever. There is nothing special here, nothing like the brilliant Gitaroo Man or Elite Beat Agents, but it works.

Visually the game is an absolute drag. Yes, it runs smoothly, but that is because there is nothing going on. And when the game does turn on the fireworks it obscures what it really important. There is a boss at the end of each level, which is a good idea, but after four levels I have yet to see a new boss.

All is not lost, there are many very good rhythm games that are not much to look at. Rock Band had never been better than serviceable and the Guitar Heroes were outright offensive after the first three. Audiosurf has a very similar look to Thumper, similar mechanics as well, but these are all saved by the good music.

The music in Thumper is little more than white noise with a beat to it. Worse still, starting with level five (as far as I have made it due to a vicious difficulty spike) what the player has to do has less and less to do with the beat. If it is playing with off bears of syncopation I have yet to discern it, meaning that game is less and less about reacting and more about memorization.

Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. No one site read the end of Green Grass and High Tides or Free Bird, they memorized the movements. The same is true for Thumper, starting with the fourth level. This is where the final nail in the coffin hits: the levels are way, way too long and the individual sections repeat.

I do not like it and wish I would have spent that money on Rez instead.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Budget constraints

The limitations of not being EA or CD Projeckt are beginning to be more apparent in The Technomancer. Aside from mediocre graphics, bad voice acting and repetitive quests, I mean. There is a somewhat hidden karma system. Doing basically good things nets you good karma and shoving a needle into unconscious enemies, draining their essence and killing them is bad karma. Supposedly companions may or may not like this, though I have not been jamming needles into brains as there are much more efficient ways to earn money, like running errands for crime bosses.

In better games the side missions you took part in had some sort of effect on the members or your party. This led to either shaping up or finding a party that was complicit with your evil dealings. They don't seem to notice much in The Technomancer. I have a gigantic and surprisingly well spoken mutant and a very angry pilot (who I may or may not have kidnapped at one point) and neither of them said a word while I was extorting money from merchants. I didn't get any bad karma points, either, so there was no reason not to go full on criminal lackey.

No repercussions. No consequences. No budget to take into account all the awful things that a player may get into. It's a small, big game, if that makes any sense.

...

I need to vent about an audio/visual problem.

Having recently purchased a mediocre 4K television and two more speakers I set to the task of rewiring all of my shit for pseudo 7.1 sound. Previously I had the consoles going directly to the television via HDMI for video and to my receiver via digital audio cable for sound. It worked, sounded good, but it was a lot of wires.

HDMI is just as good if not better for sound. In an effort to consolidate cables, and because the television will control the receiver, I moved the consoles to go directly into the receiver via HDMI and then connected the receiver to the television via another HDMI. No dice, the 4K pass through was either not there or not good enough. The Xbox One S complained that it was connected to a less than optimal set.

So I swapped it, connected the consoles directly to the television and then went back from the television to the receiver via HDMI. This works, save one problem: a very slight delay to the audio. We are talking around a tenth to two tenths of a second. Just a few frames but god damn once I noticed it I can see and hear nothing else.

I went back to using the digital audio cable, thus defeating the entire purpose and settled on being pissed off. It dawned on me that I have no idea if the cable I was using to go from the television to the receiver was a newer or older HDMI cable. There is a difference in speed and the older ones cannot handle 4K signals.

Sigh. Back to the store again.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Poor man's blogging

The designation 'poor man's' is not always a bad thing, right? Poor man's lobster is still pretty good. Poor man's beer will still get you drunk, you just won't enjoy the process nearly as much. The Technomancer is either poor man's The Witcher (on Mars!) or poor man's Mass Effect (on Mars!). Either way, the new Mass Effect is still off in the hazy distance and there is no new Witcher planned at the moment. Take what you can get, right?

Spiders, the developer, has a history of middling offerings, one of which was the thoroughly mediocre Bound by Flame, a game that I only remembered playing because I looked up said developer on Wikipedia. The Technomancer has the exact same problems: big ideas but not enough experience and technological prowess to make them stick. Some very good visuals, the parts of Mars I have seen so far are right out of the dingier sections of Total Recall, and other terrible ones, characters models from the previous generation and facial movements from the pits of hell.

And then there's the combat. The stinky, stinky combat. A man I respect called Witcher 3's combat 'whiffy and unsatisfying' and I resisted the urge to call him names. The Technomancer has bad combat, regardless of which of the three stances you try to use. There is little to impact, visually or otherwise, when an attack lands and enemies will ignore block stun to apply cheap shots. Guns are ridiculously overpowered, at least when enemies have them, so death can come quickly and without notice.

But you can save scum and I have been save scumming like a motherfucker. Before every fight, before going around a corner, before every conversation I click that safety checkbox and feel no remorse for it. When a game's combat feels as random as this one there is no shame in using every advantage available.

Still, somewhere about the game has me hooked. I can tell what the story wants me to do, to shift from buttoned up soldier guy to being sympathetic to 'the resistance' and I am intentionally choosing the opposite. This may be like by KotoR 2 run: all dark side points, all the way.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bad, bad things

An apology.

For the first time since Chance and I started doing our podcast we have missed a week. It is not for lack of trying. We were ready to go and Cast, the site that we use, simply did not allow anyone to connect to the same session. I have run into issues with Cast before and they replied quickly and professionally. This time is not going as well. I emailed them last night and have received nothing more than an automatic response.

My reach is incredibly small but my wrath is mighty. Cast, do not fuck with me. I pay to use your site. It may not be much but it is money exchanged for services, services that you failed to deliver. A response would be nice, even if all it says is that a human has seen my problem.

...

Where were we, oh yes, shitty games.

Ghostbusters put me to sleep last night - full on unconscious on the couch with the controller in my hands, drooling slightly from one corner of the mouth. That last game to do that was Final Fantasy 13 during the twenty hour tutorial. It is not a good sign.

The problem, well one of the problems, is that nothing in the game changes. You move from room to room, shoot many of the same ghosts until you run into a more powerful ghost that needs to be trapped. There is a button mashing mini-game (seriously, what the fuck) and the cycle starts again. The first few levels took about thirty minutes to complete. The level I fell asleep in the midst of last night took fifty, though I am not really sure how long I was out.

I am not fighting annoyance or anger with this game, or even the games poor quality. I am fighting fatigue.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Again?

Does anyone else remember Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime? No? Good for you, it shows that you are much more discerning with your limited number of leisure hours on this good earth. I played it, it was terrible, and I never finished it because the game was so rooted in co-op play that lonely players were saddled with three suicidal AI companions.

That game was really, really bad. It made top three is my worst of the year (in 2011, wow that was a long time ago). The newish Ghostbuster game loosely based on the new movie couldn't possible be as bad, could it? Oh, it is, in exactly the same way. It appears that they took Sanctum of Slime, slapped in into the Unreal 4 engine and called it a day.

Sure, a few annoying quips were recorded to be repeated ad nauseam during gameplay. If I hear 'lights out ghoul friend' one more fucking time.... Apart from a sideways reference or two to the movie it is the same game.

And I am playing it.

I really, really hope it isn't very long.

...

No pictures of yesterday's addition. It is not finished and partially finished tattoos look terrible.