Friday, June 1, 2012

Gaming update . . .

I haven't chimed in in a while.  I have been all over the place when it comes to gaming,  I'll try to give a semi-non rambling version of what I have been up to, since it is all over the place.


For a while I was churning along in Mass Effect 3.  I was enjoying the game and I was real curious to see how this saga would end and how all of my prior choices would come into play.  I heard about fans being upset with the ending, but I didn't let that sway me.  I made it until the end, or very close to what I assume to be the end, and I was in a particularly intense section, fighting off very tough waves of enemies while buying time for some missile to arm (or something, I forget).  My health was low, my shields were down, and I was surrounded by enemies and I get the call to finally activate said missile, so I run over to it and press "A" to activate . . . except that stupid "A" is also the button you press when you want to dodge.  The game thinks I am trying to dodge (of course) so instead of activating the missile, I dive off to the side.  My screen is blurring red now from the damage I am taking and I run back to the button and press "A" again.  And AGAIN my stupid ass Commander Shepherd thinks it is a good ideal to dive off to the side, instead of activating the damn missile I have been waiting for!!!!!  I died.  I stared at the scream in disbelief for a long while.  The fight had been so intense I was really caught up in the moment.  I was THERE.  I was having a great time.  I felt the overwhelming enemy force.  I felt the desperation in the entire situation.  And it was ALL immediately erased because of the game's controls and it thinking I wanted to dodge.  That one moment took me out of the game and left me so enraged and depleted that I removed the game from my 360 and I have yet to get the urge to play it again.  That must have been a month ago.  After playing through practically all three games (like I said, I was right at the end of this one) I seem to have lost all interest to continue because of that one incident.  Go figure.


Next up, The Witcher 2.  I never played the first game and I knew very little about this series.  But I have been interested in this sequel since its release on PC last year.  Looked great and the gameplay sounded right up my alley.  I snatched it up on 360 and immediately was disappointed in my first few hours with the game.  Hell, maybe even longer than that.  It took almost all of Act I before the game finally started to click with me.  The game does many things well, straying from the normal gaming conventions.  And then others are so straight up gaming clich├ęs that take you out of the moment.  By the time I made it to the second Act I was having a great time though.  I was enjoying the story and liked the characters.    Decisions you make in the first act really do change the course of the game and are pretty significant.  But then it happened again.  At some point early in Act III, I just lost all interest.  It came out of nowhere.  I completed a certain mission and I just did not feel like playing anymore.  Very odd.


So I did the logical thing.  Instead of maybe going back to Mass Effect 3, or the 25 other games I have yet to complete, I decided to start playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (for like the 6th time) since it was offered as a free download for PS Plus subscribers.  I still own my original copy of SotN.  I played and beat it several times.  I also own the Live Arcade rerelease and also played through and beat it then as well.  So I started playing this again and became just as hooked as the first time.  I absolutely LOVE this game.  I played through it, all the way through and even started a new game after that!  I was on message boards, FAQ pages, reading old reviews of the game, it was pretty pathetic.  I wanted more old school 2D Castlevania!  So I ended up getting Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclesia on the DS.  Yup, I have serious problems.  I haven't played either, and knowing me, I may never play them, but I bought them because I was riding on a Castlevania high.


Next, due to Gabe's texts about co-op, I picked up Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.  I've played a handful of the single-player game and it has its ups and downs.  It is not a bad game, but doesn't feel very Ghost Recon-y to me.  Worst of all, Ubisoft totally killed the co-op in this series.  Playing GRAW and GRAW 2 co-op with Gabe and our other Xbox friends has been some of the most fun I have had this generation.  Each co-op level consisted of one HUGE map that was completely open and you had objectives to complete.  You had to be very stealthy and really plan out your attack.  Plan poorly and you and your team would get destroyed.  It was insanely fun since it encouraged improvisation and trying different tactics.  If something didn't work you would try something else the next time.  You spent a lot of time in the prone position, using your UAV to mark enemies and basically being STEALTHY, which is what Ghost Recon has always been about.


Co-op in Future Soldier is complete garbage.  The standard co-op mode is nothing more than playing through the story-mode with your friends, which removes EVERYTHING that made the previous co-op so enjoyable.  The open ended nature of the game, the huge map, taking everything at your pace and using your own tactics, all gone!  The other mode, Guerilla, is just as insulting to Ghost Recon fans since it is just a horde mode where you face off against waves and waves of enemies.  The mode itself can be fun, and if it was included along with the traditional co-op the GRAW series was known for, it would have been a fun diversion.  But because the old co-op mode is completely absent, the addition of this horde mode instead is just another sign that this series has moved to a more action-oriented, Call of Duty-like game.  Very disappointed.


My last bit of gaming news is tied to a new purchase I have made.  I recently got rid of my lovely, original HDTV (which was so old it was a big, heavy CRT model! 200 lbs in fact!) and grabbed me a brand new, top of the line model, LED LCD.  The Sony Bravia HX929.  It is absolutely gorgeous and after I spent countless hours calibrating that puppy, I had to pop in every bluray and game I own to see what they looked like on my new toy.  Side note, Avatar on bluray is the best looking thing I have ever seen from a picture quality standpoint and I cannot think of better demo material to show off a new display.  On the games side of things, all my games looked better than ever but there was one in particular that looked worlds better than it did on my older set.  God of War III.  Holy crap that game is gorgeous.  The textures are unbelievable and because of this new tv I now consider it the best looking game I have ever seen, taking the crown from Killzone 3/Uncharted 3.  I was so impressed by the visuals that I decided to play the entire game again.  So there you go, I am playing GoW3 again and loving it more than the first time.


So to recap, I have had mixed feelings about the 3 new games I tried yet I have been having an absolute blast playing through older titles which I have already beaten.


Makes sense to me.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


So of course I never posted my top games of 2011, that is just how I roll.


Here is the short version.


2011 GotY:


Dark Souls


Honorable mentions:


Rayman: Origins

Portal 2


Let me proactive and already name my GotY for 2012: Journey


Buy this game already.


Friday, March 30, 2012


If you have a PS3, you should also own Journey. Log on to PSN, buy it, put on some headphones and devote 1 ½ hours of your life to this game. Or I should say, to this experience, since to me, that is what Journey is.

Now, I don't want to hear anything about how $15 is too much to spend for a 1½ hour game. Remember, this is not a game. This is an experience. If you have ever spent $15 on a dvd, an IMAX movie, or a CD, or anything that ever left you feeling emotionally stimulated, then the $15 cost of Journey is money well spent.

Everyone's experience with Journey will be unique to them. A large portion of the experience is dependent on the extremely innovative multiplayer and the "travelers" you meet along the way. For my first playthrough, everything came together magically to create a gaming experience unlike any other I have had. I experienced a huge range of emotion in my 1½ hour session, from awe, to happiness and joy, to sadness and loneliness, to fear and companionship, all manifesting naturally through my interactions with a total stranger who you cannot communicate with outside a few "chirps" and audio calls. Even without being able to speak to them directly or knowing anything about them (name, gender, gametag) I found myself creating a real bond with them and caring for them far more than any other co-op experience I have had.

I'm going to keep this short, because I've started writing about Journey in my head many times and it always results in a 20 page post full of hyperbole and pretentiousness. I'll save you that ordeal.

Journey. 2012 Game of the Year. Go buy it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Skyrim, The Simpsons, and Saints Row the Third

Skyrim continues to be my go to game.  130 hours in.  My stealthy archer character is now so powerful that I can take down most foes with one well placed arrow from my legendary Daedric bow armed with Ebony arrows and benefitting from the 3x damage of the sneak attack.  It is extremely satisfying, but in the long haul may be what makes me finally stop playing.  I am pretty unstoppable at the moment.  I was obsessed with making my character the ultimate archer.  Leveling up my skills, aiming to craft a daedric bow for the first time, finding or crafting enchanted armor to improve my bow damage.  I am now where I want to be.  As a result my character hasn't died is a really long time.  I fear no creature in all of Skyrim.  Even Elder Dragons go down easily.  Now that any really threat is gone, I feel like the game may become dull.  We'll see.


On the PS3 side of things my HDD has been filling up quickly with all these free games you get as a Playstation Plus subscriber.  Sony's online service and functionality may still be far away from Microsoft's, but I do feel like I am getting my money's worth from my PS+ membership.  So many free or discounted games.  My library is full of these things and most of them I haven't even played once.  I have the entire original Resident Evil trilogy, the new Back to the Future game (all episodes), countless classic games, and the list continues to grow.  One of the recent titles offered is the classic Simpsons Arcade game.  I had fond memories of sinking countless quarters into this thing.  I was really excited at the thought of playing it again, now for free!


Man, funny how clouded your memory can be.  Maybe it is just that my taste as a gamer has changed, but holy crap this game is terrible!!!  I also never realized how absolutely ridiculous its premise was.  It makes no sense.  Smithers robs a jewelry store and then kidnaps Maggie?  Are you kidding me?  Did the creators of this game ever see a single Simpsons episode?  The entire game doesn't make any sense in regards to its use of characters.  And the game is unbelievable cheap and difficult, which is a staple of these old arcade games and how they were programmed to take your money.  Anyway, word of warning, avoid this game.  Don't let your childhood memories fool you into thinking it was ever any good.  Because it's not!


The last bit of gaming news is that I picked up Saints Row the Third because of all the good word of mouth it received.  I heard it was over-the-top crazy and in my limited time with it (played for about an hour last night), it is.  Plenty of potential here for good, escapist fun.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stupid Skyrim

I finished Uncharted 3.  The game definitely had its ups and downs.  I won't lie, the game had me on the edge of my seat at times.  When it did, it was fantastic.  But a lot of times it was also too formulaic, repetitive and not much fun.  Too much of the "been there, done that" syndrome.  I won't complain if Naughty Dog takes a break from this series and concentrates its resources in other franchises.


I haven't played Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath in a while.  In fact, I completely forgot about the game until I started writing this post.  Not sure if that says something about the game or my terrible gaming habits of leaving games unfinished and forgetting about them.


Speaking of which, I have completely stopped playing one of my favorite games from last year, Rayman: Origins.  I love the game but I just stopped playing.  Yeah, I have problems.


Which leads me to Skyrim.  Stupid Skyrim.


I've had a rollercoaster ride with this game.  I like it.  I hate it.  It is fun.  It is boring.  It is enormous, detailed and immersive.  It is shallow, bland and repetitive.  It is realistic.  It is extremely gamey and dysfunctional.


I could go on.


Regardless of my problems with the game.  Regardless of me actually trying my best to not like it so that I can stop playing the damn thing.  And regardless of all the things I wish I could change, the bottom line is this: I have logged in 120 damn hours into it and I am more addicted to it now than I was 80 hours ago.


Like I said, Stupid Skyrim.


A funny thing happened recently.  I stopped playing Skyrim in a "realistic" way.  I stopped trying to role play.  I stopped playing my character with the imaginary morale code I instilled in him.  I stopped trying to immerse myself fully in this world.  And as a result, I began enjoying the game much more.  Its silly, game-like, unrealistic parts stopped bothering me.  In fact, I started exploiting them.  I stopped caring about any of the characters and  story and I began concentrating on using the game world as my own personal "funbox", its sole purpose to be a playground to level up my character and become as powerful as I could.  All was fair game.  If a saw something I liked, I would steal it.  Even if I liked the owner.  Morality be damned.   If someone mouths off to my character, or shows a hint of attitude, I take them out.  I joined the Dark Brotherhood (something I was against previously since I was a "good" character) and I am more than happy to kill anybody any of the many Daedric gods want me to kill.  They are all just obstacles in my new goal of leveling up my skills to the point of eventually taking out Dragons in one hit, or walking into a town and wrecking havoc.


I didn't want to have to enjoy the game this way.  I wanted to enjoy it by being fully engulfed in the story and game and playing it straight.  But that just resulted in frustration.  Too often the veil of immersion is broken by the game.  So I just gave up.  As compensation I kinda gave a story-related reason for this recent change to my play style.  I finished the main quest (a first for me in Elder Scrolls games!  Yay for me!).  And when I did, not much happened.  I just saved all of Skyrim from annihilation, single handedly too, and I wasn't honored for it.  I'd still be put in jail for stealing an apple from a merchant's cart (hey, a Dragonborn has to eat too!).  Here I am, the savior of all of Tamriel, and I am treated as any regular commoner!  Blasphemy!  After all the dragons I had slain, all the sacrifices and dangers I faced, I was rewarded with nothing.  So my character snapped.  All the power he acquired went to his head.  He felt entitled to praise, gold, women, a lavish castle, and instead the world shunned him.  As a result, he is now in a quest to get all by force.  He is not dumb though.  He plays by the rules when watched, lies and acts accordingly to get his way, but when the time comes he will show Skyrim the true power of Dovahkiig!


Hey, I do what I can to enjoy the damn game.  Stupid Skyrim.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some more complaining . . .

I really dislike the new Xbox Dashboard.  Instead of streamlining things it seems to have made everything more difficult to find.  Looks like it was designed with Kinect in mind and  is not very intuitive in my opinion.


For example, after the update I downloaded a few game videos from the Game Marketplace (after I managed to find them in the new interface).  So I try to watch these new videos and when I head over to my "Zune Video" section nothing happens.  It tries to launch the video player for a split second and it just stops.  I never get any kind of error message.  No prompts. It just refuses to let me access any game videos I may have saved.  I check under my memory settings to make sure I have videos and sure enough I have about 5 saved which I seem to be unable to access.  Frustrating.  I give up, thinking it may be a bug and will be patched and feeling too lazy to look for a fix online.


About a week later I try again (I want to see those damn videos) but the same thing keeps happening.  The Zune video player refuses to launch.  I am locked out of being able to watch the videos that are saved on my HDD!  After much trial and error I end up clicking on the "Zune Marketplace", a place I never go to.  I am immediately told that I need to download the Zune Video App.  Umm, ok?  I download the player and voila, I can now launch my Video player.


Now, why in the world do you not get this message when you try to launch the player in the first place?  Why do I have to go to the stupid Zune Market place to trigger this?  That is just ridiculously stupid!


Bring back the original Dashboard with Blades!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Starhawk Beta . . .

I played a match of the Starhawk Beta the other night.  I had no idea what was going on.  I had no idea what the controls were.  I had no idea what the objectives were.  And I was not having much fun as a result.


Prior to launching the match I did try to prepare myself.  I looked in the options menu for a controller configuration screen.  Didn't find one.


I looked for a section describing the play mechanics or goal of a match.  Didn't find one.


C'mon folks! I don't find it much fun to play a game blind, learning the controls by trial and error, and figuring out what I should be doing by dying over and over and eventually figuring it out.  Why can't you include a very simple "How to play" and "controls" screen?  That would make the experience so much more enjoyable.


Ok, rant over.


Note, if the game does have this buried in the menu system, then I retract all my comments.  But I really didn't find anything.