Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My kingdom for fast travel

Seriously.

The soundtrack is great but if I hear Paint it Black one more time.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Unfavorable comparisons

I've been patient beyond what is normal for me, focusing on the good parts and glossing over the bad. The time for mincing words has passed. Mafia III is about to get whacked. To do so with any sort of coherence I will need to briefly revisit two things that Watch Dogs 2 did very well.

First, fast travel to any location was unlocked immediately. No parts of the map were arbitrarily locked out for plot reasons and you were not forced to walk or drive to a location first before being able to jump there (like every Elder Scrolls game ever). Every landmark was accessible from the first time you step onto the map. You don't even have to climb a tower and jump head first into a wagon full of hay. The tedium this saves is amazing.

Interestingly, I still drove to most places a few times because that is how collectibles are found. Once a path had been cleared out fast travel took over. Open world games tend to settle into the same pattern around mid game: pick up new side quest, travel for fuck all time, do side mission, repeat. Watch Dogs 2 eliminated the fuck all time in the middle, allowing the player to jump from activity to activity with no down time.

Second, the collectibles in Watch Dogs 2, and there were a lot of them, focused more on doing things than picking things up off of the ground. There were races and side missions with interesting content and a selfie minigame that I spent more time on then I care to admit. The point is each of these was active, not just walking to a location on a map and opening a chest. I am willing to call Watch Dogs 2 an evolution of the Ubi-game.

Mafia III, on the other hand, is everything that the Ubi-game used to be. It is tedious on the same level as the old Assassin's Creeds. Each neighborhood has a telephone junction box that needs to be hacked for collectibles to appear on the map. One of those collectibles being items required to tap into the junction boxes so you are collecting things to unlock collecting more things. The other collectibles are literally collectibles: things laying on the ground or a shelf to pick up.

One of those things are classic issues of Playboy, some with fully reprinted articles. Playboy was actually pretty conservative in the last 60s, at least compared to now. Who knew.

And there is no fast travel. None. You want to do that mission down in the bayou, a barren place that you have been three times already? Fuck you, drive there. And then drive back, usually in a slow ass semi filled with weed.

It's a grind; a grind made worse by how good everything not involved with playing the game is. Between missions the story is advanced or explained by documentary style interviews or grainy senate interrogations, none of which include Lincoln, the main character. You know what is going to happen, that none of it is going to be good, and you want to see it play out, but damnit, you have to play the game to get there.

...

Receiving a code for Resident Evil 7 last night is not going to help me focus. Shout outs to old friends.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Read the details

I am not going to talk about Mafia III yet as I would like to pretend for a few more days that I am enjoying it as much as Watch Dogs 2 (I'm not, don't tell). Instead I will tell a story about how susceptible I am to techno babble and internet lists.

Digital Foundry put out quite a bit of content, a fair amount of which goes right over my head. That is what being a console luddite will do to you. When they do talk of consoles and frame rates the PS4 and by extension the PS4 Pro always come out on top, performance wise. The difference is not always huge, in fact it is sometime imperceptible, but it was a part of my decision to desert my poor Xbox One S and its turgid epeen of gamerscore.

Mark my words, I shall return when the Scorpio arrives. The PS4 controller hurts my hands.

Last week they did a list of games that run at true 4K 60FPS on the PS4 Pro. Sweet, I always require validation from strangers! A few on the list I already had: Thumper (which is bad) and Rez (which is better than sex). There were several sports games that I was not interested in and then there was Neon Chrome, which appeared to me to be a brightly colored sparsely textured twin stick shooter. Good bye $15, you could have been a trip and half to Qdoba. Oh well.

What was left out of Digital Foundry's piece, and a bit of information that I would have liked, is that Neon Chrome is a twin stick rogue like shooter. Whoops. After my initial shock and disgust I found it was closer to Rouge Legacy than anything else. I liked Rogue Legacy, so this should be good, right?

It is good but it is also very hard. The second boss has killed me twice, once more than I find acceptable. The game will fill time deemed too short to play anything else, meaning that I will probably never finish it, but I don't hate it. Much.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I may have been in a mood

Or perhaps I just like to complain. Chance and Alex did their best to indulge me.


Chamberlain and Chance - Never good enough

Too muddy for me

I went on record, both here and on the podcast, that I thoroughly enjoyed Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. It was far more than it needed to be. The last several games in the series were roller coasters in isolation and Infinite Warfare was the full Disney experience. The line was fun, the ride was great and even the exit was well designed.

Battlefield 1 is missing all of the touchy feely extras that made Infinite Warfare so good. Instead of sticking with on cast in jumps between time, location and characters at the start of each mission. The player doesn't know any of them long enough to care about them living or dying and, being set in World War I, there is plenty of that.

The games goes to great pains detailing the horrors of trench warfare. War has never looked so bleak, so terrifying. No man's land is indeed a fire laced muddy hell. It does this so well for four of the five chapters that it becomes almost depressing to play. Setting Infinite Warfare in space added some levity to all of the death in the same way that Star Wars is more palatable than Saving Private Ryan. It's not that less people die in Star Wars, it is that the event is more fanciful, almost sanitized.

Perhaps that is the point of Battlefield, that war cannot be sanitized. If so, well done, but that does not make it a game that is fun to play. Just as I had about had enough the game opens up, adds some color, and puts the player in the shoes of a bedouin fighter working with Lawrence of Arabia. Muddy trenches are replaced with beautiful dunes. Corridor running replaced with large, open areas that support multiple approaches, and I was left wanting a whole game of the last chapter.

Lawrence of Arabia, the game. I would play it, games have been made about worse people.

I must emphasize that these reactions are, just like Infinite Warfare, based completely on the single player campaign. The thought of playing multiplayer never entered my head, something that is at least partially explained in the bitchy section of this weeks podcast.

...

Remember those shit hot Mafia III trailers? Those are the best parts of the game. Coming off of Watch Dogs 2, this is going to be a chore.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Curses!

What do you mean I have to work at work?!

I want to tear down Battlefield 1 and then wonder how Mafia III got playing the game so wrong and everything else so right!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Catch up time

Okay, busy weekend and much to catch up on.

...

Watch_Dogs 2 was definitely a better game than the first one, if for no other reason than the main character is likeable. There is one thing it lacks - nothing builds, action or plot, towards the end. Watch_Dogs built up to a crazy chase sequence through a city going mad. The player was being pursued by all of the police while streetlights exploded overhead. Even the end, a quicktime event on top of a lighthouse, at least felt like a climax, even if it was nothing more than pressing a button at the right time.

The sequel kind of fizzles out at the end. There is a 'main' bad guy who is clearly patterned off of the alcoholic CEO from 'Ex Machina' (watch that movie) but, for all of his bluster and intimidation of government officials, he goes down without throwing a punch. The final mission is the same as the dozen missions before it. There is no whiz bang ending, no breathless climax, nothing to leave me wanting more because it felt like I had already done everything.

It's a shame because, apart from that, I can fully endorse Watch_Dogs 2 as an improvement over the first game and as an example of what Ubisoft can do when they aren't busy flogging older franchises for a few dollars more.

...

I would not blame you for not believing this, but The Walking Dead: A New Frontier actually runs at an almost constant frame rate. Gone are the embarrassing visual problems and performance issues that have been a staple of every console game they have produced since season one of The Walking Dead. It still does not look like a current generation game but I am willing (almost) to chalk this up to choice rather than hardware limitation or shoddy coding.

No one really wants to talk about that, though, not when Clementine is back. Not as the main character, mind you, but as a ally/enemy of Javi, the protagonist. She's, well, she's not very nice anymore. In fact she is a liability. Not only was Clementine a member of the eponymous New Frontier but she shoots a guy in the face at point blank range accidentally shortly after she is introduced.

My Javi treats her as such. He doesn't know her or what she had been through and he has his own family to take care of. Seeing Clementine scowl at him each time Javi throws her under the bus is a treat. She may kill him. Eventually.

A New Frontier starts off very much in the mold of the previous two seasons. Chapter one builds a relationship between characters and then kills one without warning in a grotesque manner. It gave itself away when happy music started to play. Chapter two had a great reveal that I will not spoil here. This season is already better than Season Two an I hope it stays that way.

...

Battlefield 1 is not as good as Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. More to follow. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I am not an X-Men guy

Nor am I a Marvel guy. I have passed on the majority of the new cinematic universe out of disinterest.



Holy shit that is a good trailer.

Stop feeling so good!

I cannot hide my excitement.


Chamberlain and Chance - Unhealthy optimism

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I got better

I am sitting here, alone, in my office, with nothing to do, thinking about how I could pass the time if I had my Switch. There are at least two other, cheaper alternatives that I could have right now: a Vita or a 3DS, but I don't want those and their sizable libraries. I want the new, flawed hotness that I could plug into my monitor (if I spent $90 on a second dock).

This is a problem. I have lost all perspective on this machine which leaves me unable to bitch about the things that need to be bitched about. Am...

am in I love?

With Nintendo?

This can't be. I am a bitter old man, one who relishes in hating things that everyone else likes. The Switch has very real problems beyond its anemic launch and overpriced peripherals. For starters it is far and away less powerful than either the Xbox One S or the PS4 Pro, to say nothing of Microsoft's monster machine that is supposed to come out later this year. This all but guarantees a total lack of third party support, at least as far as translating AAA games goes.

But that is not why I want one. I don't want to play Call of Duty: The Next One but in Space or Battlefield: Muddy Trench Simulator on a Switch, I want to play the games that I have not played since the god forsaken Wii came out. I have a 4K television for those other, bigger titles.

I hated the Wii. Loathed it. Its very existence made me angry, both because motion control is stupid (it's still stupid)  and because I did not want to share what I did for fun with dementia riddled retirees whose only understand of gaming was Wii Bowling. This was not a healthy attitude and, surprise, a battle that I and other basement dwelling, old school nerds lost. Video games are for everyone now, and that is a good thing.

To be fair, I was still running an EB Games/Gamestop when the Wii came out and was a much angrier human being. My heart has grown a few sizes since then and is ready to give Nintendo another chance.

Don't burn me, big N.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Just silly enough

I am not going to defend my childlike enthusiasm for the Switch from the internet based throngs of naysayers. They are all correct. And I stand by my hype because hype is not a logical thing. My disappointment will come later.

...

The Saint's Row series always slid just under my radar as it looked to me to be a slapstick take on GTA games and I, for the most part, have never liked avGTA game. That and the first Saint's Row was ass. It is apparent that my avoidance of the series is my loss as that dose of silliness is just what GTA needed.

What does this have to do with Watch_Dogs 2? Watch_Dogs was a pretty good game that took itself far, far too seriously. The protagonist was a pent up asshole, everything he did was dour, the hacking itself was in no way self aware. Watch_Dogs 2 fixes that by adding just a dash of Saint's Row. No giant weaponized phalluses, thankfully, but the game does acknowledge how ridiculous its central premise, that you can use a phone to do anything, is.

It also takes pot shots at giant, easy targets. So far that rich douchebag who bought the latest Wu Tang Clan album (Martin Shkreli - I got his name by doing a search for wu tang clan rich asshole) has been lampooned along with a blatant shot at Scientology. It's funny. The hackers are not a bunch of pale script kiddies hiding out in basement, they have personality and are willing to poke fun at themselves. The game is just lighter.

This does not mean that you can't forgo all stealth and just shoot your way through most scenarios, my default way of solving things, it just means that the violence is what feels out of place now. Trying to be sneaking feels better because it is what these characters would want to do.

I am just not that patient so my Marcus is a homicidal maniac. Your mileage may vary. The game is unwilling to tackle this disconnect in tone as the other hackers react the same way no matter how you accomplish a mission. I am not looking for a morality scale but them saying 'did you have to kill every mother fucker in the building' would be a nice touch.

Friday, January 13, 2017

My cockles!

I should write about how Life is Strange is four episodes of build up to a wet fart of an ending or about Watch Dogs 2 being the epitome of the 'Ubigame' in that I played for about two hours yesterday and did nothing but motorcycle race mini-games but neither of those are what I am thinking about.

Watch Dogs 2 was abandoned last night to watch the Nintendo Switch press conference, at the end of which I was stoked enough to start calling in favors from old friends who still run Gamestops. I wanted one even though, of all the games that were shown, only Zelda, Xenoblade 2, Octopath Traveler and a new Shin Megami Tensei (!!) actually excited me.

The SMT trailed got me out of my seat. Seriously. I stood up and went 'oh my' to no one in particular.

There are a litany of problems with the system. To sum up, online play will require a subscription fee (not a problem in itself but Nintendo's track record of supporting online play is spotty at best), voice chat requires a companion cell phone app, the joy con harness that comes with the system does not charge the actual joy cons, no ethernet connection, the pro controller is currently not available for preorder anywhere, the online subscription comes with one virtual console game each month that is only playable for that month and, as far as anyone knows, digital purchases are still tied to the physical console instead of an account.

A lot of forehead smacking bullshit in that list. Nintendo is still years behind what Sony and Microsoft offer. I migrated both collections to new systems last year and lost nothing. Doing that from one Switch to another would most likely have cost me all of my digital downloads.

But I still want one and I am not sure why. The Zelda trailer did things to me. It warmed parts of my cold gamer heart that have not been touched since I was a child. Zelda has been absent from my world since Wind Waker because I refused to jump on the waggle train with the Wii. That nonsense is still there, in fact Nintendo seems to be doubling down on motion control with tech demos/launch titles 1-2 Switch and Arms, but it also will allow me to play a Zelda game as god intended: sitting on my ass with a beer on the end table and chips in my lap.

Internet reaction has been mixed. Understandable - Nintendo burned a lot of good will with the WiiU. I can be excited because I have skipped the last 11 years of their silliness. The console's failings, of which there are many, are for me nostalgic reminders from a company that shaped my youth, not the doddering attempts of an out of touch toy manufacturer trying desperately to be hip and relevant.

I will get there. I am sure that, after the damn thing has sat unused for months or been farmed off to my filthy children in favor of the grown up consoles, that I will rue the day that I in weakness threw money down on this venture. But that is not today. Nor will it be March 3rd when I get to play a Zelda game again.

Now where the hell can I preorder a pro controller?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A classic episode

In which we fondly remember a generation past and maintain that Resident Evil 4 was better on the Gamecube.


Chamberlain and Chance - A classic episode

Monday, January 9, 2017

That didn't take long

I didn't have to wait long for the first stinker of the year. Fresh off the unapologetic glow of World of Final Fantasy I jumped into Earth's Dawn, a game added to the list after playing the Odin Sphere remake. Vanillaware does not exactly pump software out on a regular basis so another 2D side scrolling RPGish game would have to do, right?

It would if the game was any good. For starters, Earth's Dawn cannot even approach the visual fluidity and clarity of either Odin Sphere or Dragon's Crown. It has the stiff animation and poor color depth of a browser based flash game. Not a good one like Alien Hominid, I'm talking the old, terrible New Grounds shit that you needed to run a virus scan and clear your browser history after playing.

Odin Sphere did not have complicated combat. Moves were limited but they all were useful and made sense. Earth's Dawn starts out with two attacks on two buttons, one for your left hand and one for your right. The right hand is a sword with the standard mashy combos and the left is a gun that for some reason does much less damage than the sword. That a double jump and an air dash is about as deep as it gets. Even juggling enemies is prevented from being useful by inconsistent hit detection and odd moves.

Yes, there is more to unlock, but Earth's Dawn has the most convoluted weapon and skills upgrade system I have seen in years. Weapon crafting is the lesser offender in that it is easy to figure out how to add items to increase a weapon's level but the game does not show you how a newly crafted weapon will compare to an existing one, meaning that you need to flip back and forth between menus several times to make sure it is work the money and resources to make a new sword or gun.

The skill 'tree' is going to give me nightmares. Skills unlock at random and can be assigned to one of five presets: balanced, attack, defence, technical and fuck if I remember what the last one was. Skills take points to activate, points that are gained by leveling, but leveling does not seem to have anything to do with the unlocking of said skills. Then there are bonuses that can be unlocked and then linked to an existing skill. You literally drag a line between the bonus and the skill, mucking up an already difficult to see menu.

Ages of clicking and dragging to add 1 damage to the first hit of the mash A combo.

None of this broke me. It came close when I realized that tutorial messages show up once and then are gone forever but I soldiered on...

Main story missions are separated by an in game timer. The timer counts down, albeit slowly, when in menus and disappears in chunks when a side mission is done. No problem so far, in fact in creates the illusion of having to get everything done as quickly as possible. Urgency is not a bad thing. The side missions, though, all take place in the same area. There are also side missions that cannot be completed when they are first unlocked. I ran across two that included monsters that I could not damage. Again, no worries, I would just skip them until I leveled up.

Then I ran out of other missions to do with a significant amount of time left on the in game clock before the next story mission, It expected me to grind through previously finished levels. We all know how much I like repeating myself in a game.

Earth's Dawn is officially the first shit game of 2017.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The show must go on!

One of us was sick, one of us was recently mugged and the third was slightly inebriated. But we still bring the hype!

Chamberlain and Chance - Hype list 2017!

Not quite that cute

Twice people of a younger age walked behind me whilst I was playing World of Final Fantasy and said 'are you playing a Pokemon game?'

No this is not a Pokemon game! Go away!

Alone again, I thought about it. What was I actually doing in the game? Exploring a world, capturing mirages, just another word for monsters, with shiny balls, training them, leveling them up, and sometimes evolving them into better mirages.

I was playing a Pokemon game, the only difference being that in World of Final Fantasy I could stack them on my head and in Pokemon...


Yeah, it's the same damn thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Heck, one of my favorite JRPGs of all time, a game that I consider it a triumph to have finished, Nocturne, was just Pokemon with demons. As a game mechanic it works and it works well, without or without the sickeningly cute characters designed to push merchandise.


Oh god damnit. Everything is the same. Yet I have never played a Pokemon game because I cannot imagine investing time in a game that I cannot see on a big screen. I have an aversion to handhelds that I will never get over and have missed some great game because of it.

...

It appears we have the first stinker of the year in Earth's Dawn. It's Dragon's Crown minus everything that made Dragon's Crown good, plus unskippable cutscenes and the most convoluted upgrade system I have ever seen. I played it for about an hour last night and learned nothing of how anything works and they is no way to review old tutorial messages. What did I do to deserve this?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Worst of the Year 2016

It's a new year! And what better way to celebrate than to look back at the last year and pick out the worst of the worst. Games wise. Only games wise. To pick put the actual worst of 2016 would take more space that I have available and send me into clinical depression.

I will admit that I cheated a bit last year when I said that nothing I played deserved to be on a worst of list. A bad year for bad games, I called it. No so this year! I do need to divide things up more than previously thanks to my newly found ability to stop playing games that cause physical pain. There are going to be three categories: worst game I finished, worst game I did not finish and game that is absolutely not for me, regardless of it quality.

No Man's Sky is disqualified because no one wants to talk about that game any more.

Worst game that I did not finish: Alekhine's Gun



Stealth is the least forgiving of all genres and the most difficult to move past acceptable to enjoyable. Hitman games know this and, even though their stealth is very good, always leave the option open for the player to get frustrated and shoot every motherfucker in the room. They also provide many possible solutions to any given problem. 

Alekhine's Gun does none of that. There is one possible solution to each area. Finding that solution is next to impossible as they require leaps of logic that would make old Sierra point and click games proud. If shooting does break out you will die, every time, thank to terrible control and targeting. Two levels was all I could muster before throwing in the towel. 

Oh, and it was ugly, too. Really ugly.

Worst game that I did finish: Lichdom Battlemage


No Man's Sky may have lied in its advertising but Lichdom Battlemage lied in its in game tutorials.

First person shooter that has the player character wielding spells instead of weapons. Not completely original but not seen very often (Hexen and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic are all that come to mind outside of Elder Scrolls games). So, potential! As new attacks are unlocked a video is played that shows what the attack looks like, how to use it, and what damage it can do. These videos all run at a crisp 30 frames per second.

This is about 15 more frames per second than the game ever manages. The videos, I have been told, were captured from the PC version. The PC version would run if you threw far more computer than you should need to at it. The console version never made it past slideshow.

So why did I finish it? Spite. I did not want to be beaten by the game's poor performance so I played on. According the the true achievement site, only 3% of people who started the game actually finished it on 'battlemage' difficulty. I am part of that 3%. I should not be proud of this.

But I am.

Game most not for me (that I attempted to play): Exist Archive


Dark Souls III would win this if I attempted it.

To be clear, I am not saying that Exist Archive was a bad game. It's not good but I can see the attraction. If you want to do is grind through boring combat against the same enemies over and over for minimal gain, this is the RPG for you. It's pretty and there just might be a story in there somewhere that it just might get around to telling.

Maybe.

...

Honorable mentions go to No Man's Sky, for taking the fun out of playing a game drunk, and Ghostbusters, for being the most overpriced game I have every forced my way through.

On to 2017!