Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ugh, so happy

This features the first and last piece of Christmas music played on the podcast.


Chamberlain and Chance - No escape from the cheeriness

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Magical house elves

Forza Horizon 3 wrapped up last night, at least I played as much of it as I felt like playing, which was a little more than I had played the previous Horizon. Last time around I lost interest after the final showcase race - it ticked the 'the game is over' switch in my head and immediately played something else. Horizon 3 almost did that. What saved it was how lackluster the final showcase was: a race against a blimp, of all things. It was boring.

There had to be more. I kept playing until I had found and completed all of the exhibition races, 63 if I remember correctly, and found all of the rusty old cars in barns. Done enough for me. I will remember the game fondly and be tempted by its DLC.

Except...

I must be consistent in my complaints. One of my serial bitches, and one that I hoped would be resolved by this generations hardware, is consistency in the environment. If I do something, anything, that affects the level, what is in it or where bodies are, I want to stay that way when I turn my back. Doom is to the go example. In the original Doom when you killed something the corpse stayed there until the level was complete. Bodies instead of breadcrumbs, That was not the case in Doom 3 or the otherwise exceptional Doom 2016. Enemies evaporate after death.

This bothers me.

Horizon 3 does something similar and even more unforgivable. Not all racing is confined to the track. Be it an off road race or a lack of skill on my part, shit along the the side of the road gets knocked down. I want it to stay knocked down. Nope. All the wonderful carnage has been fixed on the next lap.

This bothers me. The game is so close to perfect. So close that little chinks in the immersion, like a mailbox that I plowed into during the previous lap being fixed by electronic house else, really stand out.

That's the best complaint I can muster. I feel it is legitimate, if a bit nitpicky.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Still looking

Still playing Horizon 3 and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.

I almost had a complaint about the game! Groove music playlists are integrated into the game as a radio channel. It cannot simply shuffle an entire collection, which I do not like, so I had to create a playlist. I had never created a playlist before and was not feeling very creative so I just dumped every Beastie Boys album onto the list, assuming that the ones in my collection were the correct ones, not the edited versions.

The integration works as advertised, including altering how the music sounds when in a festival area, but I kept getting the edited version of To The 5 Boroughs. Hey Fuck You just doesn't work as Hey BEEP You. Surely the game was intercepting my choices and over riding them with the edited versions because it is an E rated game.

Nope, my collection was screwed up. When I moved my list over to Groove Music it assumed I was a prude and added the clean versions of every album. Even the game's problems are not its problems, they're my problems.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Good times

I don't think I can put into words how Forza Horizon 3 makes me feel. It satisfies like no other racing game. On the spectrum of sim versus arcade, Gran Turismo vs main series Forza, it gets about as close as it can to the old Rush games (San Francisco, etc) without descending into full blown silliness. It is just silly enough, just loose enough, that every moment of racing, even when it is just getting from one event to another, is enjoyable.

And it looks damn fine to boot. HDR really does make a difference. For example, driving at night (there is a real time day night cycle) is impressive enough, but the cars' tail lights pop off the screen in a way that must be seen to be believed. Weather effects are equally impressive, spraying the car with individual droplets.

The game makes me happy, even when I am running the same race for the third time because each previous attempt resulted in my taking second place. If I am forced to muster up a complaint is would be that it is not possible to win races just by tweaking the shit out of your car. My second car was a Porsche Carrera 4 that I dumped the best possible parts into. The result was an uncontrollable beast of a machine, one that should easily outclass similar cars. But it didn't, and not just because I spent as much time sideways as I did pointed in the correct direction.

The game filled events with cars fast enough to be competitive. It made me actually drive the monster I had created. If that is the only negative I can find it is going to be an enjoyable, relaxing few days.

...Amnesia Collection just came out for PS4? Well shit, no rest for the wicked.

Monday, November 21, 2016

It never got better

I gave Exist Archive about five hours. In that five hours it presented an interesting premise: the characters may or may not have been killed and may or may not be in some twisted version of the afterlife. It also offered up a reasonable facsimile of Valkyrie Profile style combat, just with boring looking 3D models instead of sprites.

Correction: the game presented all of this in the first thirty minutes. It then did nothing for the next four and a half hours. No overworld to explore, combat areas that all look similar, recycled enemies and enemy formations, and no plot movement. Nothing happened. Identical quests in identical areas.

It is tempting to blame this on the game's handheld roots and its attempt to be bite sized but even as a staunchly anti-handheld person (no TV, no game) it is not that simple. The game being boring has nothing to do with its venue. It's boring because nothing fucking happens. Give me something between battles, a nugget of plot, more than a few lines of dialogue between characters so I can differentiate them beyond their ridiculous outfits. Anything other than going back and running the same dungeon again to make sure that I am not underleveled.

No sale. Exist Archive is bad, regardless of where you play it. And not the kind of bad that I can enjoy, not aggressively bad or arrogantly bad or even bad due to incompetence. It's not a train wreck, it's a boring bus ride to work that it too short to read a book but too long to do nothing. It is infuriatingly familiar but will never approach the game whose memories it tingles.

I do not say this lightly - it was a waste of time.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Mediocre introduction

You can tell a lot about an RPG by how it handles the first level gained by the player character. Is it going to explain everything all at once, thereby guaranteeing that the player will forget it all? Will the player be thrown in with no explanation, cursed to wade through menu after menu trying to find out what each stat means? Will it hit just the right balance and keep the player invested by forcing them to interact with the leveling system from level two on (Final Fantasy X is still one of the best).

Or, as Exist Archive did, will there be no fanfare, no interaction, and the main character gains a few hit points and a pat on the back? I only play for about thirty minutes last night and the entire experience felt archaic. Yes, it is a spiritual follow up to Valkyrie Profile, and for that it gets about a million bonus points, But come on, at least make an effort to engage the player.

More to come on this on. It will be difficult to stay true to it with Forza Horizon 3 sitting on my desk but I will try. For a little while. 

I love this man




Dr. Tyson for president.

I have never voted in any election. I would break that streak for him.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rolling clouds of smug

That is probably the best thing I have said all year.

On with the podcast!

Chamberlain and Chance - Rolling clouds of smug
ReCore is still bad. I collected to requisite 45 pieces of nonsense to through all five floors of the final area and was rewarded with an incredibly plain looking set of levels, of which I have done two, that are also far and away more difficult than anything that came before them. This is not a problem - the one thing the game had going for it was that Joule controlled quite well. These final areas look like shit but are compelling to actually play.

So, close but no cigar?

...

I finally diagnosed my audio/video issues. Around a year ago I picked up a new 7.1 receiver and speakers and, in a rare moment of forethought, made sure it had 4K passthrough. A 4K television and two 4K consoles later and I have been unable to use the damn thing for what is is for, namely to connect my shit to and run one cord to the television.

What I did not know, and what may not have existed, when I bought the receiver was the new 2.2 standard for HDCP (high bandwidth digital content protection). The new systems and television all require this and the poor receiver is stuck on the old standard of 1.4.

Foiled by high tech security.

Does anyone want to buy a receiver?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

So, so boring

ReCore is bad, folks. Not hopelessly bad, just it could have been fixed with more money and more time bad. The story, at its core, had the potential to be interesting. The Earth is fucked (not to big a stretch) and humanity flees. The problem is that the only plane they can get to needs to be reworked on a global scale and won't be ready for several hundred years. Most people end up orbiting the planet in cryostorage and a few people are sent to the plant along with hundreds of core robots. The people on the planet wake up every few decades to check on the terraforming. Our hero, Joule (ugh) wakes up to find just about everything is destroyed and has to figure out why.

Not a bad start, right? ReCore is trying to be a Rachet and Clank game. Rachet games, along with everything else to do well, are visually interesting, often times breath taking. ReCore offers up desert and more desert. Boring desert filled will boring ruins and boring enemy robots. There is nothing to look at. I played this after sampling InFamous First Light on the PS4Pro and oh god, the jaggies, they are cutting my eyes!

On top of being boring to look at the game is boring to play. Joule has one weapon that can fire four different colored bullets and that is all she will ever have. There are four robot companions so far that have different abilities but you can only have two with you at any given time. Find a puzzle that require the spider core and you have the dog and the gorilla? Hope you like the desert because you ass is walking back, slow movement and all.

And the fourth act is just as terrible as you may have heard. The squanders the stories potential and then realizes that it is only six hours long. Well, how about requiring an arbitrarily high number of collectible doodads before you can complete the final tower? I knew this was coming and took by time, collecting 19 of the special cores before the final area.

I needed 45.

So boring.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Unexpected feels

Country is still here? Check.

Internet still works? Check.

I can still type the work 'fuck' without getting a knock on the door? I'll let you know if a minute.

...

I let slip on the podcast that Call of Duty Infinite Warfare was the best campaign that the series has had since, oh I don't know, Black Ops. They all blend together and that is part of what makes Infinite Warfare special: it doesn't blend in with every Call of Duty since Modern Warfare. There is more to it than the change in time and venue but being in space certainly helps. Very good space dog fights also help. But Infinite Warfare is not just about shooting thing. It is about people and sacrifice and one man's struggle with what it means to be in command.

Spoilers coming. For a Call of Duty game. Seriously.

 After a very Bond-like cold open that introduces the bad guys as a suspiciously Helghast like group (more on that later) the player takes control of Nick Reyes, a hotshot pilot who has problems with authority. Specifically, he takes umbrage with his captain when the order is given to ram an enemy carrier. This decision costs lives but save many, many more.

Reyes doesn't care. He believes that it is the duty of a captain to end the day with all the men he started with, a complaint he never gets to air because one of the casualties was the captain. You can guess who gets the field promotion. For the first few missions Reyes is not a great captain as he either cannot or will not make calls that put anyone other than himself at risk. He is called out on this by several people, one of whom is an ex-captain herself and tells Reyes that if he cannot may sacrifices then he should step down.

He learns. He develops. He has a character arc. In a Call of Duty game. By the end of the game Reyes orders a pilot on a suicide strike, leaves soldiers behind to defend a point that he knows will die, finally blowing himself and most of his crew up on a mission to defend the Earth. The game gives numbers: of the 750 he had only 4 survived.

Numbers are meaningless. Kratos kills 750 people before breakfast on a slow day. To drive the point home there are eight self written and read obituaries that play over the credits, one of them from a robot, and they are devastating. In about seven hours of game Infinite Warfare made me care about these people.

Again, this is a Call of Duty game.

(Reyes' obituary was notably absent. They better leave him dead.)

And the shooting? Excellent but different. Movement had weight, shooting took time. It felt like Killzone, of all things, with intimidating, psychotic enemies to match. And the space combat reminded me of Wing Commander, just significantly prettier. Infinite Warfare stole it best parts from other games, and that's okay, the series needed a shakeup.

The multiplayer? Fuck. Did you forget who was talking?

...

I will dissect ReCore tomorrow. It is not good.

*knock*knock*

Fuck, who the fuck is at the door...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Been a bit busy

So here is the podcast:

Chamberlain and Chance - Don't worry

And my hot take on the PS4Pro is that it doesn't blow my mind but it does make mediocre looking Xbox One game like ReCore look like ass.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Give me the pretties

The Deadly Tower of Monsters is very much like the last pretty good Ace Team game: Rock of Ages. If you enjoy the joke, be it rolling a giant boulder down a hill and crushing historically inaccurate but hilarious caricatures or playing through a fourth wall breaking parody of bad DVD commentary for an even worse movie, you will forgive the game's problems. I will admit that Monsters has issues but I cannot argue with the price of free (with my PSN subscription) and it made me chuckle at least a few times.

First, the bitching. Monsters is a mediocre twin stick shooter/platformer. There are many weapons to find but it is obvious which ones are the best and little reason to experiment. Creating monsters that look like they were animated via bad stop motion may or may not have been a brilliant way to cover up not having any money to spend on actual animators. It has zero replay value outside of collecting movie themed flotsam.

So what does it have? The eponymous tower is impossibly tall and is rendered from top to bottom at all times. This creates some surprisingly stunning (and dizzying) views when looking down and makes for a long fall if you happen to step off the edge. No worries, you can teleport back to the spot of your misstep at any time. Ace realized that just by making a tower people would want to jump off of it, so what the hell, let them do it.

Then there is the narration, a DVD commentary track by the director (who sounds suspiciously like Fred Willard) and the recording tech who would rather be anywhere else. The director veers wildly from funny to oh my god stop talking which is just about right for a DVD commentary track. The game actually manages a twist in its fourth act that was clever but made for a less than stellar final boss. Good idea, funny, but poorly executed.

If you have PSN the game is free. You could do much worse. At around 4 hours, it won't take much time away from bigger, 'better' games. Come on, show Ace Team some love. Tell them that this and Rock of Ages 2 is what we want from them, not that dreadful Abyss Odyssey.

...

PS4 Pro launches on Thursday. In anticipation I have changed multiplatform titles that are getting a Pro patch (which is almost all of them) from Xbox One to PS4 on my queue. It feels like I am betraying an old friend. I just bought the XBox One S, and it is a good piece of hardware, but it doesn't actually run games in pseudo 4K. Even the achievement metagame is losing its sway over me. In a year I will regret this when the same migration happens in the opposite direction and I return home to the sweet embrace of the Scorpio.

But for now, my new television craves 4K content. It wants to push all the pixels it can. I might as well let it. The One S is still the for 4K Blu-rays, shitty ugly games and the occasional exclusive.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nice comments withdrawn

I need to be more cautious about throwing in with a game after only a few hours of play.

Everything I said about Vermintide? I wasn't wrong, but the good things turned into bad things very quickly. The bot AI does do a good job of staying out of your way but it does so by ignoring your, not by taking into account what you are trying to do. Of course this lesson happened at the end of a thirty minute level. And of course there are no checkpoints because this is just a Left for Dead rip off.

So there are rats. You need to kill them. There are little rats, big rats, rats with torches, anachronistic rats with chain guns, rats in full plate armor and, worst of all, pack leaders. Pack leaders wield a long staff with a looped rope on the end and try to catch a you around the neck and drag you away from the rest of the group. Normally this isn't a problem because they don't take much to kill and killing them sets free anyone who they have caught.

If that aren't killed the pack leader will drag you around a corner, prop the stick up in the group as a makeshift gallows and run the fuck away. Still, if another player find you in time you can be cut down. A human player would do this.

Last night I had an AI bot walk past me three times. I am not sure what I did to offend it but it left me there to die on the end of rope. So I got him back by uninstalling the game.

...

Remember Ace Team? They started out with the wonderful and bizarre first person brawler Zeno Clash, then made the best Monty Python game ever, Rock of Ages. Zeno Clash 2 was next, just as bizarre but not as wonderful as the first game and we won't talk about Abyss Odyssey.

After giving up on Vermintide I wandered back over to my PS4 to check out this month's free games. What the hell if The Deadly Tower of Monsters? Top down shooter, kind of funny, looks like an old VHS movie that had been played a few too many times, wait - Ace Team?!

Fine, I'll play it. If nothing else looking it up brought Rock of Ages II to my attention.

How did I miss this?!



Sold.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Better off alone

Attack on Titan literally revealed everything the play can do in the first hour. From there it is just grinding side missions for money and materials, and yes I am aware that this describes most action RPGs. At least once difference, and where Attack on Titan fails first, is variety of enemies and variety of environments.

Boiled down to its simplest elements, Diablo 3 is the same game as Attack on Titan: the player kills things to get stuff to hit harder and kill bigger things. Diablo has more ways to do it, more things to do it to and more places to do said things. There is variety to counteract the repetitive nature of actually playing the game. Attack on Titan has swords and you fly around, which is cool for a while, but all of the first chapter takes place on the same map that looks identical in every direction and there are about three different kinds of enemies: little titans, medium titans and big titans.

There is the occasional abnormal titan but they are just big titans that run funny.

It's so boring. The source material is a handicap as, from what I understand (and keep in mind I made it about two episodes it before giving up) the game is an accurate representation for the anime: lots of talking interrupted by people being eaten. There isn't enough variety to build a game without significantly diverging from the show.

So the game has no reason to exist and is tedious to play. Moving on!

...

I did not know what Warhammer Vermintide was when I added it to the queue. Video looked interesting, giving of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic vibe, but I totally missed the multiplayer part. Which the whole part. Alex broke it to me on this week's podcast:

'Warhammer Left for Dead.'

He was exactly right. Surprisingly enough that game is playable solo as your teammates are not grotesquely stupid. They stay close by, attack and heal with called for, and in general do their best to help you towards you objective. This doesn't make the objective any easier to find due to sprawling maps and no map but at least they don't get in the way.

I am reminded on this comic:


I'm not developing relationships but it is managing to be a good time. Who needs real people, anyway?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Terrifying boredom

In the spirit of Halloween, and because the Amnesia PS4 ports aren't coming out until November, I dusted off the Outlast 2 demo that I had downloaded and forgotten about. Outlast was half a good horror game and half a bad science fiction game, explaining far too much for any of the scares to last. It never got better than the first jump scare. It's expansion, Whistleblower, did things in the opposite order, so again, half of a good game. I did not expect much from the demo.

Good thing, too, as the demo was underwhelming, a mish mash of horror ideas from better games. The spooky community and mumbling locals were from Resident Evil 4, the extreme darkness from Silent Hill 2 and Amnesia, the jumping between the real world and reliving memories from Condemned (and maybe a dozen other games). All it had that was almost its own was some offensive religious imagery I could have done without and a reliance on gore from the first game.

It was not frightening in the least. The demo for Resident Evil 7 mustered up more goosebumps. I talk big but it is a horror game so I will probably end up playing it. I'll just tune out all the upside down crosses and bloody mangers.

...

Attack on Titan suffered the same fate as The Walking Dead: I got bored quickly and turned them off. The game is going to do the same thing: long sections of 'drama' interrupted by engaging but repetitive combat. I got to be a titan for a bit, which was fun in a Godzilla sort of way, but even that got old when I exhausted my three available moves and still had several dozen other titans to kill.

I do not think I am going to finish this. Maybe one or two more nights.