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10:14 PM on 08.01.2014

Random Frustrations: Gods Will Be Watching Review

Don't play Gods Will Be Watching.

In fact, you CAN'T play Gods Will Be Watching, so don't even bother trying. The game gives the illusion of choice, but in the end none of it matters. All one can do is pray to the aforementioned Gods that the random number generator is kind enough this time to allow Sgt. Burden to advance to the next chapter. What could have been a fascinating look into how far someone is willing to go to survive quickly turns into a back ally shell game that always feels stacked against you.


This one scene sums up how playing the entire game felt.


Each of Gods Will Be Watching's seven chapters takes place from the viewpoint of Sgt. Burden, a name so laughably heavy-handed it gives Avatar's unobtanium a run for its money for the Captain Obvious Award, a deep cover operative infiltrating a galactic terrorist organization knows as Xenolifer. Xenolifer fights for the emancipation of all alien life in the galaxy, and while their goals may seem noble, their actions are not. In pursuit of those ideals, Xenolifer resorts to kidnapping, murder, and genocide to create a better universe.

This idea is what Gods Will Be Watching's largest selling point is supposed to be. How far are you willing to go to accomplish the mission? Do the ends justify the bloody means? Well, regardless of what you do, the Gods clearly don't care. No matter what series of choices you make, the end result doesn't change one damn bit.

In one chapter there wasn't enough food for the entire group to survive the twenty some-odd days it would take to be rescued. My plan was to work the engineer to death repairing the radio I would need to contact the ship. After all the work he put in I would get rid of the tubby bastard. I said all the right things, forced him to work through out the night, and the moment it was finished, I blew him away. This, in turn, caused the group's doctor to run off screaming into the woods never to be seen again. Great, I thought, I needed two fewer mouths to feed if I wanted to make it through the next couple of weeks anyway.


"Enjoy that meal, fatty. It'll be your last."


So alright, it was a harsh thing to do, but if I hadn't, we all would have starved to death. After twenty days without further incident, the rescue ship arrives and the rest of the survivors escape. The next chapter starts up and I fully expect to be reprimanded for my actions, but nope. You see, the fat-ass engineer and the cowardly doctor are both right there in the briefing room as if nothing had happened.

Here is where one of my two largest complaints about the game lies. If my actions have no consequences, they have no meaning. There is nothing preventing me from blasting the hell out of everyone the moment they stop being useful to me. There is NO REASON to keep anyone safe beyond the bare number of people needed to accomplish your goals. Everyone else can chomp on a laser sandwich with Burden suffering nary a care in the world since nothing influences the next chapter.

When the entire premise of your game is living with the burden (do you get it yet) of command, yet nothing you do affects the end outcome, then every action feels hollow. Sgt. Burden could be a living saint or history's most terrible mass murderer and not one damn would be given. The next chapter would start up, everyone would be fine, and the game would continue.


Just kill the little bastard if you get what you need. It doesn't matter anyway.


I would be a tad more forgiving of what Gods Will Be Watching is trying to accomplish here if it weren't for the broken randomness of its game play. I have no problems with chance in what I play. A bad room in The Binding of Isaac or poor jump in FTL can cripple a run. In both of these cases, however, I at least feel as if dying is my fault. I can adapt, learn, and come back with the skills needed to get around the problem.

Gods Will Be Watching makes no such concession. Sometimes you will just die and there is nothing that can be done about it. No matter how many stragglers you abandon, no matter how much water you ration, no matter how hard you press there are times your random number just comes up and you will die with nothing to show for it.

At no time is this more apparent than when the game places Burden in the hands of a rather sadistic torturer early in the game. After days of the Sargent being knocked around, burned, stretched, and having his teeth pulled out, the torturer loads a gun and literally plays Russian roulette with both the Sargent and your progress. There is no strategy here. No matter what you say or do, there is the chance of Burden's captor pulling the trigger and blowing his head off, forcing you to replay the last 20-30 minutes of scene over again.


No, please do, for the love of the Gods please do.


I went through this torture, in more ways than one, four separate times only to get Burden's brains splattered against the wall within the first two clicks before finally catching a break on his fifth attempt. Each death forced me to replay the chapter from the very beginning, over and over again, without any relief in sight. There was no crafty way of getting past it, you just have to hope you get lucky.

I would normally never talk about the ending to a game in a review, but I feel it necessary to bring it up here. Without spoiling anything, the plot tries to justify the randomness and the apparent lack of continuity between chapters in its final moments. I'm not going to go into detail, but in no way did I feel the game earned the way out it presents itself with.

Not until the last quarter of the game is the ending even hinted at. The reveal comes at you so fast that there is no sense of build up, no feeling of suspense as the game gives up its secrets. Like a arrogant dying man, Gods Will Be Watching spends its last few moments shouting out "Look how clever I am!" before breathing its final breath with a faux choice that simply felt like one more parting troll from the developers.



I'm positive there are those out there who will claim Gods Will Be Watching is a great game. These people will point out that the punishing difficulty and reliance on chance help serve the narrative, that the entire game itself is a case study in futility and nihilism. The problem is that unless someone is feeling particularly masochistic, they will never put up with the game's bullshit to reach that sense of rushed clarity at the end.

Gods may be watching this game, but no one should be playing it.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) prays he will never have to think about this game again. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything.   read


8:44 PM on 05.23.2014

The Man in the High Castle: Wolfenstein The New Order Review

Flak cannons open fire upon the incoming allied air invasion of Germany. The joint US/UK operation is a last gasp effort to kill the mad German General Strasse, whose twisted inventions have already caused World War II to stretch into 1946. Impossibly fast jets scream out from Strasse's headquarters, a massive spire looming over the German coastline, wreaking havoc upon the invasion forces. Fierce resistance from cybernetically enhanced stormtroopers and massive Nazi war engines crush the few, meager troops that managed to make it ashore. It's amongst this carnage that Captain B.J. Blazkowicz's surprisingly entertaining tale of resistance starts, but it won't be until 14 years later when it finally ends.

MachineGames takes the standard Wolfenstein formula of "enter room, kill Nazi" and expands on it while still keeping the feel of the franchise intact. Taking place in a nightmarish 1960, during which the Third Reich rules the planet with a iron fist, The New Order gives the normally two-dimensional Captain Blazkowicz a far more human side. Trapped in his own body as he recovers from injuries sustained in the intro, he watches a world rapidly trampled over by jackboots from his room in a Polish hospital.


The Doctor will see you now


The narrative to any of the previous Wolfenstein games was always laughably thread-bare. It always served as a simple vehicle to explain why Blazkowicz was marching down corridors and hallways blasting Nazis across the room. The New Order, however, does an excellent job of highlighting just how bleak this timeline is. Stories of cruelty from resistance members that share your hideout as well as a few disturbing scenes later in the game perfectly illustrate what happens when infinite power is combined with infinite sadism.



I want my scalps


While far from award-winning, the voice acting and writing is significantly better than past entries. Resistance leader Caroline Becker is appropriately hardened from years of guerrilla warfare, while Blazkowicz himself could easily fit into the cast of Inglourious Basterds. Not everyone fits the tone of the game, however. Jewish scientist Set Roth is a walking stereotype who doesn't fit the seriousness of the setting. Roth feels like he should have been in an episode of Seinfeld, not fighting back against an oppressive regime.

There is one special note I want to bring up in regards to the plot. The New Order had possibly one of the most well handled sexual relationships I've seen in a game. Most games use sex as a reward for doing X and it usually consists of a topless scene and a woman grinding up and down against someone, a visual "atta-boy" for picking the right dialog or finding the right room. MachineGames handled sex here in such a way that it didn't feel forced, nor did it feel like a cheap reward for doing a good job. This is something that needs to happen more in games if they ever want to grow as a story-telling medium.


Just as grim as you think it is.


Wolfenstein very much plays like its predecessors. Waves of brainless soldiers and mechanical monstrosities roll toward the player waiting for their turn to be gunned down. Health and armor don't regenerate fully and rely on pickups to be replenished. Hidden files, notes, and treasure are scattered across each map to be found, some of them requiring a bit of Indiana Jones-like pulling of swords or candles to uncover.

One major annoyance was that nothing could be acquired by simply running over it. I was constantly pressing the "pick up" key over and over during my playthrough to make sure every medkit and bit of ammo was retrieved. Other than trying to stay true to its roots I can't think of any reason for this mechanic to be here and damned if I wasn't tired of smashing the same button repeatedly as I moved through a level.

Feeling as much a reboot as an homage, The New Order incorporates several things found in more contemporary games as well, with mixed results. A simplistic stealth mechanic rewards those willing to silently remove officers while not forcing itself upon the player.  A level up system not based around experience, but completing different challenges, feels almost ripped from the Call of Duty playbook. While uninspired, it does add incentive to try out everything the game has to offer in exchange for perks like faster reload speeds or quieter footsteps.

Scripted events much likes those of several other triple-A shooters are sprinkled throughout. With their Michael Bay inspired mayhem they are over-the-top but enjoyable. One Tarantinoesque conversation with the sinister Frau Engle over an Aryan purity test stands out in my mind. While bordering on the cheesy side of tension, it did convey a sense of dread and powerlessness. Knowing there was nothing that can be done as she carries out the test adds to the absolute feeling of helplessness that comes with this new world.

Not everything Wolfenstein tries to include works out for its benefit. A basic cover system was so clumsy and awkward  I ended up ignoring it except to complete the few challenges that required me to get a certain number of kills using it. The intro is bogged down with a lackluster rail-shooter that is the lowest point in the game. A shame since it's the very first thing the player is introduced to and starts everything off on the wrong foot.


Doomed to fail


My biggest complaint comes from The New Order's signature gun, the Laserkraftwerk. The Laserkraftwerk is an upgradable weapon with all manner of modules that can be added to increase its power, and if that is all it was it would be fine. The problem comes from its secondary function, a laser cutter meant to carve holes into aluminum boxes and chicken wire. Used to open passages or bust open metal crates, the Laserkraftwerk's cutter is cumbersome to use at best and outright frustrating at worst. There were several instances where the hole I cut was not big enough to progress through and trying to trim away any excess bits I missed was nigh impossible as the physics of the gun won't allow for small corrections. There was more than one instance where I had to restart from the previous checkpoint, which are thankfully plentiful, in order to try to cut again. What could have been something that made the game stand apart from most other shooters instead turned into a burden forced upon the player.

Much like Blazkowicz himself, the game feels stuck between two different ages. While MachineGames attempt to merge both the classic with the modern works for the most part, they bring some of the bad of each along with a lot of the good. Blasting Nazis always feels satisfying and fleshing out B.J. beyond a floating gun adds gravitas to what otherwise would have been another unremarkable frag fest. It's a shame that a few mechanical problems hamstring what was an enjoyable 12 hour game, but not so much that I can't overlook them.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) reads The Grasshopper Lies Heavy every night before bed. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything in general.   read


1:34 PM on 05.13.2014

Gearbox Embraces Cosplay Community with Cosplay Guide

Gearbox President Randy Pitchford has always been sweet on the Borderlands community. When not handing out SHiFT codes on his twitter feed, he is often posting pictures people send of their Borderlands tattoos or costumes they have made imitating Pandora's memorable inhabitants.

Today, Gearbox released assists for its upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel designed to allow that rabid fan base and early chance to start crafting their costumes for all of those midnight launch parties.



Inside the pack is a series of high-res pictures detailing the outfit, tattoos, and weapons of former Crimson Lance assassin Athena, one of the new characters staring in the upcoming Pre-Sequel.

Gearbox states that they will release one of these guides for each the four new classes so if Athena doesn't do it for you, don't worry, the rest will be coming soon.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) is just a lowly vault hunter in a sea of Handsome Jacks. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything in general.   read


3:46 AM on 03.14.2014

Moebius: Empire Rising

Adventure games have had a bit of a comeback as of late. Recent titles such as Telltale's The Walking Dead and HD re-releases of the Monkey Island series have reignited interest in a genre that once dominated PC gaming in the late '90s.

Jane Jensen's (Gabriel Knight, Grey Matter) successfully Kickstarted project Moebius looks to tap into that renewed base by introducing the eccentric antiquities dealer Malachi Rector as he investigates the life of the recently murdered socialite Bianca Cardolo in Venice. Malachi's photographic memory and extensive knowledge of history makes him the perfect candidate when a shadowy government organization hires him not to investigate Bianca's death, but into how she lived, and if there were any other connections between her life and those of other historical women.



Much like her previous work, Gabriel Knight, Jensen's Moebius has its own paranormal twists to it. Malachi's ability to read people goes beyond just a Sherlockian wit and has more than its fair share of paranormal intuition. His ability to just "feel out" the background of an item or a person along with his strange hallucinations hint at a far more mystical story than just the adventures of a withdrawn academic researching a murder victim.

Malachi has his own share of figurative demons to battle as well. Borderline paranoid and prone to panic attacks, Malachi loves to pop Xanax like it's Halloween candy. This combined with his strange visions led to one scene in which Malachi falls screaming to the floor in the middle of the night with his bodyguard and companion, David Walker, rushing in to care for the crazed man.

The interactions between Malachi and David seem to hint beyond being just friends, but nothing explicitly stated was ever shown. Given all the issues with games and the LGBT community lately, it  will be interesting to see how far Jensen is willing to push this relationship past the two just being business partners.



Moebius plays a lot like other traditional point-and-click adventure games. It sticks to the basics: find the object, solve the puzzle, watch the story unfold. My short time with Moebius didn't let me see if it falls into the "collect everything" trap that I feel plagues a lot  of these games, nor did I see any Rube Goldberg-like puzzle solutions where I had to use fishing wire to lure a cat to eat the rat and puke up a key, but until I can get a more complete hands-on experience, I can't promise they won't be in here.

While looking a tad unpolished, lets face it, people don't play these games for cutting edge graphics or tight controls. What I DID see, however, was an interesting story that will lure in both history buffs and those who like a bit of the paranormal thrown in with their mysteries. Add in a dash of a Dan Brown novel and you have what could be a great, compelling entry to Jensen's already excellent portfolio.

Jane Jenson's Moebius is looking to release in 2014 for PC, iOS, and Android devices.
 

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) is just a random guy who lucks out into seeing games before they come out from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear him ranting about more or less anything in general.   read


12:21 AM on 01.08.2014

2013: A Year of Disappointing Moments in Gaming

Make no mistake, despite the rather pessimistic tone of this article's title, 2013 was a GREAT year for gaming. On top of several excellent games such as Bioshock: Infinite, The Last of Us, and Tomb Raider there were also two seemingly successful console launches. The 3DS had a strong year with a new Fire Emblem, Pokemon, and Zelda all releasing while the indie scene continues to pump out quality content covering almost every style of game imaginable.

However, 2013 also had some rather dark moments attached to it. Broken promises, studio closures, and extremely disastrous launches all plagued last year. An industry that claims it wants to be taken more seriously keeps demonstrating a Peter Pan mentality over and over again with petty name calling on all sides of any discussion derailing any real chance of change. All of this darkened what should have been a banner year for games.

2013 was paved in gold, but the tarnished spots need to be highlighted in hopes that 2014 will be even better. I'll be showing off some of those moments in hopes that they can be avoided in the future.

Bullshots! The Lies Behind Aliens: Colonial Marines




There is absolutely no nice way of saying this. Gearbox sold the consumer something that was not advertised. The atrocity that was the game itself is only matched by how deceptive the trailers were. I've gone off on how terrible the game was and how nothing was near the quality of what was promised. Using high-res shots and "gameplay" that is unable to be replicated for the normal player is common in the industry, but Gearbox took this to the next level with its extremely immoral advertising.

The thing to take away from all of this? Don't buy into the hype of anything. Resist the buy it now, play it later pre-order culture that has been fostered over the years. These days, short of a small handful of releases, nothing will be sold out and if it is, it will be back on the shelf in days. It costs nothing to wait to verify what a company is telling you.

The Never-Ending Penny Arcade Controversy


Make it stop!

It no longer matters who is right or wrong about this. Both sides have dragged this down into the muck and the supporters on each side have devolved into rabid dogs. Once vicious death-threats and insults start being tossed about casually by both sides, it stops becoming a debate and turns into a third-grade playground fight.

What could have been a legitimate, teachable moment about sensitivity vs. political correctness has become a clusterfuck of callousness and arrogance all around. When people start having their heads shoved so far up their asses they can taste they own breakfast, it's time to move on.

If you want to have a real discussion, then have respect for the opposing side and, for the love of god, understand that sometimes people will never see things your way. It's going to be alright, your life will go on if someone disagrees with you.

On-Line Server Woes

Meanwhile, at EA...




So EA is the clear target here with both SimCity and Battlefield 4 having MAJOR issues at launch stretching weeks past the first day. Companies will try to explain these away with spin claiming that it's due to how well the game is selling and that the game is so popular they couldn't anticipate the server load.

Let me make this perfectly clear. These are no longer valid excuses in this day and age.

A major publisher like EA or Take-Two, who also suffered launch issues with Grand Theft Auto Online, knows full well at least ballpark estimates as to how well a game will do before it comes out. They have the ability to perform massive stress tests and make sure that any problems at launch are kept to a minimum as well as years of botched launches in the past to learn from.

The real culprit is a justifiable fear of their stock prices dropping from delaying any AAA game more than a week or two to address these problems. The result is that they launch what's essentially an "early access" game, still in beta, filled with game-breaking bugs in the form of disconnects, server crashes, and lost progress.

Releasing a buggy game to the public is infuriating, but then lying to me about it with spin trying to tell me the reason is that your game is selling so well insults my intelligence and is a lame attempt at an apology for ripping off a day-one buyer. No more. This idea of "ship it now, patch it later" needs to stop NOW.


Joel McHale's Blatant Disdain for the VGX Awards



"Just give me my God damn check, Keighley"


If there was one thing to take away from the VGX, it was how much of a professional Geoff Keighley is. Only a true pro would be able to put up with what an ass Joel McHale was during the entire show.

McHale spent the entirety of the show making fun of everyone ranging from the guests, to the viewers, to Keighley himself in a style that went far beyond simple comedic riffing to outright offensive. Insulting and insufferable, McHale was clearly here for an easy payday and made sure everyone knew it.

Microsoft's Xbox One Reveal



It takes a lot to unite the entire gaming community but Microsoft pulled off this feat with its Xbox One reveal conference. A overwhelming "Hell no!" was collectively screamed out in terror by multiple media outlets and gamers in general.

With its need to "check-in" through an internet connection every 24 hours, the always-on Kinect, used game restrictions, and the inability to play games on different consoles the Xbox One quickly became the punchline to several jokes and memes on the internet. Even Sony was unable to resist poking fun at their biggest competitor, themselves having been on the other end with their own lackluster E3 conference when the PS3 was first shown.

All of this combined with several mixed messages from Microsoft executives in the days that followed as well as former Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth's "deal with it" comment only angered the already upset fan base. The outrage was so great that Microsoft even reversed some of its policies before launch.

Looking Ahead

I've come not to bury 2013, but to praise it. The good far outweighed the bad and anyone who claims 2013 sucked for gaming needs to re-examine their priorities. However, that said, it was far from perfect.

As spiraling development costs lead publishers and developers to push out broken or extremely restrictive products, the public needs to be ever watchful to call companies out on their patronizing bullshit and demand to be respected as consumers.

Gamers need to realize that this is a two way street, though. If people want companies to treat them like adults then they need to ACT like adults. This asinine, horrifying need to not just disagree with, but to destroy anyone and anything that someone might not like needs to stop. There will never be anything that is acceptable to everyone. Everyone has different lines and there is room to discuss where they are, but let's keep the conversations civil and not let it turn into a flame war.

As 2014 starts I'm sure there will be a fair share of controversy, but lets at least try to show a bit of humanity about it.

Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) is someone who thinks he knows WAY more than he actually does about gaming and isn't afraid to share that with the world. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to hear more of his ranting.   read


6:49 PM on 11.05.2013

Five Quick Things About Call Of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts has been released and the reviews are in. Most seem to feel it's a solid, albeit familiar, addition to the franchise. A few outlets, such as Destructiod's review by Jim Sterling, were far more critical of how little innovation there was and the limited risks Ghosts was willing to take, especially in light of Black Ops 2's attempt at a branching campaign and changes to its venerable multiplayer.

I finished up the game earlier today and I'm going to share a few quick thoughts about it here. There could be minor spoilers for those reading, so if you want to go into the single player completely blind, stop reading now.

1. You could take any level from Ghosts and tell me it was from Black Ops 2 or Modern Warfare 3 and I would believe it. I noticed very few changes to the look and style of the game. It's more of the same with all the good and bad that comes along with that.

2. For all the hype about Riley the dog, he wasn't really in the game all that much. It feels like the marketing team was trying to find any reason to make Ghosts stand out from previous installments and the only thing they could find was that damn pooch. I get it, dogs are popular in games for some reason, but the messaging should match the payout.

3. Who the HELL names their God damn kid Hesh?



4. I felt like I was going through the Call of Duty checklist the entire time.


Flashback mission? Check.


Player character dies? You bet.


Stealth mission where you crawl through a bunch of tall grass? You better believe it.


Blasting things from the air in a gunship/airplane/flying pasta monster? Oh yeah, we got that.


Rail shooter on the back of a truck? Did you even have to ask?


Ends with a slow-motion quick time event? Well, it's Call of Duty right?


5. Ghosts has what I felt to be one of the silliest endings since Sci-fi movies from the 70's used  "The End...?"






Please feel free to comment below and tell me your thoughts and ideas on the game. Also, follow me on Twitter if you want to listen to me babble even more about games.   read


11:00 PM on 09.08.2013

Welcome Back, Chummer: Shadowrun Returns Review

"Yo, Chummer. You wanna set up a run? I got what you need right here. See my crew over there? That elf ain't just fo' show. He's one of the fastest Matrix runners in the city. That boy will slice for ICs like it ain't shit. The scary bitch next to him? She slings magic like a dealer slings BTLs. You need someone ta watch their asses, you got 350lbs of orc muscle right here. So what da ya say, Mr. Johnson, gotta deal?"

-Jackson Bonebreaker, six hours before his death.

The Shadowrun universe has close to 25 years of history behind it. The pen-and-paper RPG is just as recognizable in some circles as Dungeons & Dragons. Its fans can recite the history of the sixth age from the Awakening all the way up to the "current" year of 2050. Dozens of books have expanded the universe beyond the core system and added to the already deep lore Jordan Weisman created in the late '80s.


Never stops raining in the City of Dreams.


Clearly this cyberpunk universe lends itself well to the idea of a video game and there have been a few attempts at bringing the table-top to the screen. Fans recall the SNES and Sega versions fondly while lambasting the 2007 FPS multiplayer focused remake as having no heart. Since then, the guys at Harebrained Schemes (led by original creator, Weisman) launched a Kickstarter to right the ship. Enter Shadowrun Returns, a carefully crafted throwback to those golden days of the 16-bit age.

Fans of the older games will have plenty to celebrate. Shadowrun Returns goes back to its roots with a story that tries to not only maintain the spirit of the previous games, but also tries to bring them both into the current pen-and-paper edition of Shadowrun. Weisman does a good job of trying to tie everything together in Shadowrun's ten hour campaign, packing each moment with the style and flair fans love. Sadly, this also is one of its greatest weaknesses.

Weisman tries to make sure a little bit of the entire lore toolbox makes its way into the game. The problem, however, is that to give the world the attention it deserves, it requires a game much longer thanthis one. By trying to fit everything into such a small package, nothing ever feels expanded on. I was left wanting more from the game, which is to its credit, but I also had a lot of the gaps filled in from prior knowledge. If you have never experienced anything from Shadowrun, then things will be confusing at best.

The game is NOT friendly to newcomers when it comes to the setting. Shadowrun Returns assumes the player is familiar with its world. Terms like SIN, Lone Star, and Tír Tairngire are tossed about casually with little to no explanation. For long term fans, admittedly the target audience, not having to explain itself with each time new slang is used is great and keeps the story moving along. For those not in the know, it can be extremely frustrating trying to piece together all the different terminology. There is a small glossary that explains some of it, but it could easily be five times larger to fit in everything thrown at you.


This is the 7th time I've seen this, damn right you do.


Equally aggravating is the complete lack of a manual save system. The entire game relies on autosaves. Nothing induces a keyboard-snapping rage in me faster than having to repeat the past 30 minutes of a mission because of a couple lucky blasts from a group of shotgun wielding orcs.

The combat is a lot like the also recently re-booted XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and that's a good thing. Each runner gets a set amount of action points per turn to accomplish whatever it is they need to do, be it shooting, reloading, casting, etc. The cover system is also heavily influenced by Enemy Unknown as well. The interface gives you an idea of exactly how well that rickety crate will shield you from a corporate mage's fireball. Here is a tip: Find something bigger to hide behind.

Shadowrun is a game that will get better with age. It comes with a robust level editor and Steam Workshop support for the modding community to play with.  Already in the works are full conversions of the SNES and Sega games as well as several player-driven stories. While the campaign the game comes with, Dead Man's Switch, is well told and full of your typical Shadowrun intrigue, I'm personally looking forward to seeing what will be crafted by the franchise's rabid base.

Another satisfied Lone Star customer.


At the end of the day, I really enjoyed Shadowrun Returns, but I have reservations about recommending it to all but the most hardcore fans of the universe. There is just too much left unsaid through out the game. From it's complex, unexplained
lore down to the inefficient tutorial Shadowrun is just not welcoming to strangers. If you are just interested in solid, turn based combat without having to worry about story or how everything works, this game is great. Those looking to draw a bit deeper from the well, however, will find themselves at a loss unless they make the effort to look outside the game for answers. Fans, however, will be pleased with just how much is packed into the experience. Shadowrun Returns is a welcome sight for sore eyes with a bright future ahead of it if the content keeps coming.

Cheers, Chummer.   read


12:49 AM on 07.17.2013

Bid For Greatness

So you have this stockpile of gold trophies from all the PlayStation 3 games you beat and nothing to show for it other then an impressive user score?

Well Sony is looking to change that with its Bid For Greatness campaign.

What exactly is it? Well, a few weeks back Sony launched their "Greatness Awaits" PR blitz with the following trailer.




Now that the trailer as been out for a few weeks, Sony is giving its most hardcore fans a chance to win some of the props used in video. Between now and the end of July, PlayStation 3 owners can log into bidforgreatness.com with their PSN accounts and use the gold trophies they have earned as currency to bid on props or concept art all the way up to the full outfits worn by Deslin Rowe (inFamous: Second Son), Edward Kenway (Assassin's Creed IV), and others.

Much like an eBay action, those willing to throw their hat in the ring will sign-in, make an offer, and outbid each other until the time runs out. Don't worry, the disclaimer on the front of the page says your trophies won't be lost in the bidding.

Sounds like an excellent chance to get some cool gear as well as finally have a practical use for achievements. Go forth, eager Sony fans, go forth and show your devotion.

And if anyone reading this DOES happen to win something, please let me know. I'd be interested in seeing what they look like in the wild.   read


1:56 PM on 05.01.2013

GameStop to End PS2 Trades

With next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft just around the corner, it seems that GameStop is pulling out of the PS2 business to make room for the upcoming systems. As of June 1st they will no long be taking in anything related to the PS2 for trade so if you've been waiting to get enough money to buy that lunch at McDonald's for all of your stuff, better start pulling it from your closets now.

If you are a collector or just like to revisit the past, however, keep an eye out for deep discounts that tend to follow such moves.



What a long, fun trip its been



What are your favorite PlayStation 2 memories? I still remember thinking how beautiful Final Fantasy X looked and how Silent Hill 2 showed me you can tell a mature story in a video game. With any luck, the next generation will bring the same sense of wonder the PS2 did for me.   read


11:46 AM on 04.24.2013

Creating Ambiance: How The Right Music Can Improve A Game

Music has been a part of gaming history almost since its inception. There are few out there who can't at least hum the opening bars of Super Mario Bros. main theme and most would at least recognize the intro to Sonic the Hedgehog or the crystal theme to any of the Final Fantasy games. Music, or the lack of it, can set the tone of the entire experience.

A horror game might place the protagonist in a silent, darkened hallway where only the sounds of his footsteps and labored breathing can be heard, creating an atmosphere of being completely alone. A knocked over paint can followed by an unintelligible chattering can cause the paranoia of being watched set in without having to show anything at all.

Licensed music can have the same effect as original efforts if done properly. One of the last missions of Saints Row the Third presents Bonnie Tyler's "I Need a Hero" in such a way that it matches perfectly with the game's overall satirical and over-the-top tone. Both Borderlands' intros capture the viewer's interest with the first game in particular, setting the pace for the game's irreverent feel. The right song can also give a scene emotional weight, much like in World in Conflict, where Audioslave's "Shadow on the Sun" accompanies a group of marine helicopters attempting to retake Governors Island from the invading Soviet forces.



FarCry 3 highlights just how important music can be during a scene. Early on in the main campaign, Jason Brody has to burn down a field of marijuana in an attempt to create chaos and disrupt the flow of drugs for the island's despot, Hoyt Volker. As he closes in on the crops, the music starts to slowly change into "Make It Bun Dem", an appropriate mix of reggae and dubstep by Skrillex and Damian Marley. The upbeat, almost surreal tune emphasizes the glee that the once hesitant-to-kill Jason has further devolved as he excitedly destroys the crop and murders anyone in his way, laughing and cheering the entire time. This scene, one of the highlights of the game, would have been easily forgettable without the song playing in the background.

Play this scene with the music off and you will know exactly what I mean.


While the right song can make a good sequence great, it can also save what would have been an otherwise boring stretch of gameplay. During the climax of Max Payne 3, the game reaches a moment where Max has to cut his way through seemingly endless waves of hired goons down a long airport terminal hallway. What would have been a generic showpiece is made into something memorable by HEALTH's haunting theme to the game hanging in the background as Max slaughters his way from one end of the hall to the other. The music flows perfectly with the bullet-cam and slow down mechanics saving what would otherwise have been a frustratingly long turkey shoot.

"One second, let me turn on my iPod."


Sometimes in a game, it's not a single song, but a soundtrack as a whole that brings the entire thing together. It would be easy to point to the massive licensed discography is that is the Grand Theft Auto series, but I would argue that those games stand alone just well enough without the music. There are those games, however, that when they are mentioned one of the first things brought up is the amazing soundtrack. Katamari Damacy wouldn't be anywhere near as beloved without its catchy, lounge singer crooning, absurd beats. Anyone who has played this is already thinking about their favorite tune from Katamari just by naming it, it's that infectious.

In a similar vein is Persona 4. The entire breadth of Persona's soundtrack serves to help one embrace the culture of a high school student in a small Japanese town. From the J-pop battle music to the cheery tunes that play while exploring town, the music serves to pull the player into the world itself. By immersing someone so fully it makes what happens to the characters have a greater impact. These aren't just some nameless NPCs made to give quests or act as cannon fodder, but living people with lives that are cared about. In combination with a great translation, the music helps breathe life into what would be nothing more than another JRPG in a modern setting.

Sometimes it can just suck you in.


And then there is Bioshock: Infinite, where the music in the game in part of the plot itself. While wandering around the floating city of Columbia, barber shop quartets sing covers of songs which are several decades from being released. 80's pop hits are changed into carnival music and ragtime tunes hinting that there is something very off about the entire setting. Anachronistic uses of well known songs like this do far more to build a world mythology than any cut scene could have conveyed.


Best use of licensed music ever.


As games continue to grow as a storytelling medium, it's important that all aspects the experienceare covered. The most amazing action packed set piece can fall flat without an appropriately epic musical score driving the player forward. Likewise, a forgettable moment can be given an extended life by simply choosing the right song to play alongside it. The atmosphere of a game can be completely ruined if something breaks the immersion, pulling the player out of the experience and killing any emotional attachment that might come along with the game. Much like how a good meal can be made exceptional with the right combination of spices, the right music can make a mediocre game better or a fantastic game into something that will truly be remembered.

Steven Brown falls asleep listening to the Skyrim soundtrack every night. You can listen him on Twitter to hear his thoughts on damn near everything.   read


12:59 PM on 02.26.2013

Five quick thoughts in my head about Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Seems like Ubisoft is moving on to the next chapter of Assassin's Creed rather then expand on the previous games protagonist Conner as they did with Ezio.

A few quick thoughts on this:

1. To me this shows just how unlikable Conner from Assassin's Creed III was by not handing him the lead role this time.

2. The whole pirate theme of Black Flag seems to suggest the sailing segments of AC3 must have been given a lot of positive feedback.

3. Who would have guessed that Henry Rollins supported the Assassin Order.

4. Given how AC3 ended, how the HELL are they going to introduce this one?

5. Please give me a fully controllable, customizable ship to serve as my base of operations as I travel the rumored Caribbean setting.

Feel free to add your thoughts/hopes/complaints below.   read


3:19 AM on 02.18.2013

Five Things I Picked Up From the Vita Live Stream

It's late so I'll be somewhat brief here. At midnight PST Sony had a live stream conference about the Vita and its plans for the next few months. For the most part nothing new was announced as far as games go. Everything here should be considered for the Japanese market ONLY. If I get something wrong, PLEASE let me know.

1. The Vita is dropping roughly 20% in Japan. IF that price drop comes to the US, that would be
from $249.99 to $199.99.

2. The Vita REALLY wants to have a Monster Hunter-esque game. Losing Monster Hunter 4 to the 3DS was a major blow to the system and they are desperate to find a replacement.

3. Dragon's Crown still looks really pretty, much like any other Vanillaware game does.

4. Final Fantasy X HD is STILL in development with no real trailer shown, just a few character models of Tidus and Yuna. The lack of anything else on this makes me believe that this game is STILL months, if not a full year away.

5. While this conference was focused on games that will be released over the next few months, the lack of anything new being announced is troubling to me. At least tease something at the end to give us hope. To me this just shows that the Vita is struggling even in its homeland.

Let me know what you took away from the conference below.   read





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