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2:59 AM on 11.27.2009

The Blame Game: ASS-ASS-in’s Creed 2 is to blame not Jim.

Do not ask me what caused me to write this, but I figured I had some strong feelings with regard to Jim’s review. It is not that I hate him, I totally agree with him. Go through the actual thread of the review and or go have a laugh at Gamefaqs’ thread on the topic. The sheer amount of hate for Jim leaves me wondering: Have the people actually played and finished the game? Or are the blinders on to maximum effect? Or is Jim’s sexiness that oozes out of him just turning people on to hate him?

The game is much better then the first ASS, make no mistake about it. But, those wacky canucks over at Ubisoft still snuck in the suck and filler. Jim said that the game has a lot of filler, and when all is said and done it is true. The receptiveness of the first game is still here, and that is a problem when working in sand box type games. No matter what you do for missions, there will always be filler. One example of the types of filler are the “200” side missions that are available for Ezio to do. Naturally one would want to do the side missions for money. The problem with this is that an upgraded Villa technically breaks the game.

Once you upgrade the Villa, the notion of need for money disappears, thus the need for the side missions. Also the more you upgrade the Villa, the more money you can hold in your chest. It would have been nice to have the money be directly deposited in your coin purse. All the side missions come down to are the following: Beat ups, Courier, Assassinations and, I believe, Races. So how is this any different from the first game? If I remember, it was four types? Yet this game is being heralded as a much deeper game. Bullshit, really they put this padding over a LONGER time frame in order to extend the need for the gameplay. But like I said, once you get the Villa, I never did a side mission again. It is a choice, but the outcome would be to receive money. But once the Villa is upgraded this outcome is irrelevant, a game breaker for the side missions.

With this reward of money gone, the filler of side missions is gone. You could do them, but why do the same missions over and over again? Then again, why did we do it in the first game? The walking along side said person is just plain dumb. There were times when you had to do it, the last time was with Leonardo who just walks a bit then disappears. The walking missions are Ubisoft’s versions of the taped diaries from Bioshock. Instead of a machine you pick up, you have the walking Equivalent, nothing more nothing less. They vary it up a bit when you get that big guy who likes to fight, you have to walk with him and fight with him.

The one thing I think could have been fixed was the story. Jim states that “the story is mostly forgettable” and, while I agree, I have a few notions about it. For me, the ending was completely dumb, Stargate did it better, and even then it still lacks a punch. I will not ruin the ending, but if you picked up the Stargate reference you will get an idea on where they want to take it. The central story has been told better, but I think if they were to cut five or six hours of fluff of the game then it would have been tighter. The game takes play from 1476 to around 1499, that is a lot of fluff they crammed in there. It took Ezio around 20 years to get his revenge and still it does not feel done. That is the problem with the story; it is just part two of a great “epic.” Also, I think with regards to the story, putting a big name like Da Vinci was not really used. Yeah, he decoded your codex, but half the time it was the same animation or cutscene. Maybe it was too early in his life to fully use him, but I would have loved more missions with the flying machine.

Navigation is critical in these big sandbox games, and ASS 2 lacks it considerably. Two of the biggest points Jim brought up were the “fast travel” system and the map. The fast travel system was a great idea in theory, but there really is nothing fast about it. When you get to the bigger cities of Florence or Venice, traveling back to your villa or to another city is a pain. You have to locate and mark it and run there, no real other way there. Now, the fast travel locations most of the times are on the edge of the cities, which would be good if this was an actual historical game. But this for all intent and purposes is The Matrix: The Historical Edition. Yeah it is in Desmond’s head, but it was given life through a computer. So why not just input commands to give the player (Ezio/Desmond) the ability to do this. It is a computer like creation based on the memories of Desmond. I mean you de-sync when you die, which is funny. You never technically “die” in ASS 2 and no one really complained about it. But when something like Prince of Persia gets rid of death, everyone complains.

The map could be and most likely is the most important tool in a big sand box game. But, in ASS 2 they overcrowd the map with ALL the icons. I know that you could get rid of them by doing the actual mission, but with the villa there is no point. What Ubisoft should have done is put a filter on the map. You can filter the locations, glyph landmarks and ASS tombs but that is as far as they take it. I played it the game between two TV’s: one 42 flat screen HDTV and an old 32 standard TV. The map is made worse by the fact that half the time I could not really tell what landmarks were where. I know that HDTV’s are becoming the standard throughout America, but there are still houses that have the older set, or a like me, a patio with random crap in it.

The two TV’s made it interesting to compare how HD really does affect the game’s engine. On the big screen, the areas and people were all right, the Carnival part of the game was the prettiest there was. But, holy fuck are the character models and textures ugly. Later in the game you run into a guy who was elected the new Doge, and his long hair and beard remind me of the old Smackdown Vs. Raw games. They always had really bad hair (like Ron Burgundy) and it really shows. Not only do the graphics call attention to themselves, but also Ezio himself does Parkour as well as a drunken Rhino on LSD. The game really has no challenge to it, however Ezio is your own worst nightmare. In certain missions, the game asks for precise control, thinking that Ezio can do his best. Yet, most of all my deaths have come from the way Ezio perceives what precise controls mean.

What Jim had written I fully agreed with, and really cannot understand why people hate him? When I read his review, it was everything I had seen in the game myself. Maybe it is just Jim’s way of saying things that gets under people’s skin. Or that his honesty is just so BRUTAL that it gets people the wrong way. I really do not have a proper ending to this, so like George Carlin did in one of his stand ups, I will simply take a bow.   read

2:10 AM on 11.14.2009

Do the wrong thing: Evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

Isaac Asimov once said “…For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.” The notion of evil has been hot-wired into our DNA since the beginning of our existence. Good vs. Evil has made for the best stories, games and movies. But lately the idea of being evil has implanted itself more so in today’s video games that it ever has. Rarely do we ever hold the weight of our consequences from a bad deed. Game developers know this and leech onto it making us, the gamer, feel like big badass gods. But, at the same time, it can be used as a crutch these same developers lean on because they cannot put the same power into making an equally appealing good guy or good moral system.

Games have always tried to emulate Hollywood, and with their development, this guy has done more then anyone else. Vader represented pure power, when he walked into a room people stopped and looked. He was the original badass motherfucker (sorry Jules) so naturally every bad guy has to be raised to Vader’s standards. Gamers naturally want that freedom of feeling free to do whatever they want in their gaming experience. Vader’s open use of the Dark side made it cool to be evil. And once the Emperor showed up with lighting, the Dark side was the only side. Give into hate and get lighting? Sounds easy and rewarding. There is always something of a hook to lure people into the bad side of things. When Star Wars: The Force Unleashed came out it boasted all these amazing force powers. Naturally the Dark side was given full show and boy did people choke a bitch or two. It was celebrated as a game that reveled in being a bad guy granted there was a lame flip flop moment in the game that the developers never really capitalized on, but for the most part it was an instructional video on how to be a bad guy. Star Wars was honest in its approach, you are a Sith, nothing more nothing less. There are worse offenders out there that claim to be “Good.”

Alex Mercer is a good guy; yes read that again HE is a good guy. Prototype is a game that tries to veil the idea of a “good guy.” He has become one current model for an anti-hero, but this one eats people to gain levels. Radical Entertainment took what they did in Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and bathed it in browns and reds. In Hulk you were well, the Hulk a good guy (Depending on who is writing him) who well destroys stuff. But the point is that he a good guy, and that is what the game is telling you. However in Prototype the game allows you to Macho Man-style elbow drop a tank and then throw it at innocent people.

Many games nowadays use that Grey area of being an anti-hero way to often. Developers should know ahead of time, through the story and character driven moments what they want their protagonist to be. It seems games that were made a couple of years ago had a clear understanding of what a hero stood for. Yet now, it seems all right to kill people for the sake of being good. That little evil is needed in order to tell a good story. Radical failed as developers, that the sheen of being a good guy is just moral padding to let them develop powers to commit evil. If killing tons of people was the point of the game then just come out and say it.

This is the face of being good in gaming nowadays. Kratos for all intent and purposes is evil. He has no redeeming factors, no real grow, he is just rage given human (or godlike I forgot) form. But it seems that this is what the growing public likes, or even loves. The idea that they can kill tons of people and have nothing really wrong happened to them. Morality in video games is still in its infancy and until it more accurately reflects the human condition it will never work. That is why being evil is so easy, it gives us all the power and none of the responsibility. Violence solves everything in video games, epic war? Love one lost? Red Rings of Death, all solved by a little violence.   read

11:23 AM on 09.30.2009

Monthly Musings: Damnation needs to be forgotten.

What happens when you get Marcus Fenix and Lara Croft plastered on Goldschlager and stick them in a hotel room? One would think, a pretty good third-person shooter with good platforming elements right? Nope, instead you get this afterbirth that decides to live and latch on to this world in the form of Damnation.

Blue Omega, (who laid off everyone involved with this game) thought it would be a good idea to place this in the Wild Wild West universe. Since Steampunk worked so well for Will Smith’s career, they thought the success would transfer over. I think that even Will “welcome to earf” Smith could not save it. The game itself however, is just afterbirth of greater games that came before it. It is sad though, cause despite all the horrible foulness that came with it, they had some ideas that did work.

The story of Damnation is, about an evil military being evil. Well, it actually says some nonsense about the United States Civil War lasting 20 years longer. So instead of ending in 1865, it would have ended in 1885 and we would have had cool flying ships? Maybe we need Day of Defeat to use its shitty time travel to have General Lee not surrender. I mean, flying ships and guns would have been cool. But that story becomes a non-issue very soon after you meet your leading man, Hamilton Rourke.

Now, it seems that there is a mold for lead characters that kill things. For me the formula is this:
1. Muscular body capable of heroic deeds
2. The “I’m a badass” look, most of the time ripped off from Clint Eastwood.
3. Kung Lao’s Hat.
4. Really big guns.
5. A dash of Yul Brynner for added Badass-ness
6. Mix till you vomit.
That gives you Rourke, the man born without a personality, and his sidekick?

Bolt on boobs Aka Yakecan

This is one of your early partners, yes sexism is alive and well in this Alt History/Steampunk era. How does her shirt stays on with her Lara Croft like moves is beyond me. Now, I know that girls with HUGE tits will never go out of style, but Jesus Blue Omega what the hell? When you were designing her, did you even think to ask around to see if this was a good idea? I mean hell, does her shirt have bolts that attach to her implants. I’m all for tits and ass in video games, but this just screams Steampunk hooker. Did I mention she is Native American?

Now besides the horrible character creations, and non-apparent story, lets talk about gameplay. When you have a mutated afterbirth, one would guess nothing works right. So this translates over into Damnation’s controls. Lets take a look at the father, Mr. Fenix and wonder aloud his involvement in this mess. Ok, so I am not really blaming Marcus, but damned if Blue Omega didn’t get on their knees for him. It has the same stiff-arm shooting that does not look normal and would hurt you, unless you here created from super formula mix. I have also read reviews that have mentioned Uncharted. Personally, I have never played Uncharted because I don’t play games on my PS3. The shooting aspect of the game is the lesser offender here. But, it could use so much more work in getting the game to register hits from far away.

Poor Lara, your genes have turned against you.Damnation wants so badly to hang with the platforming greats. Despite what you think of Tomb Raider it had a hand in the expansive free-roam environment that Damnation so desperately tries to copy. One thing that needs to be perfect is the camera. Unfortunately, the camera for Damnation is retarded. The camera loves to play hide and seek with you while you are trying for a ladder that is right in front of you. But the camera decides that it will not let you see it. You can manually pan to see the ladder, but it still takes work to get to the ladder. Remember early on in Lara’s life she would jump a few seconds after you press the button. Damnation is like that, but even slower. Besides a great camera, your character has to be fast, like that Usain Bolt guy. Either Blue Omega didn’t want to make Rourke faster, due to how he looks in the game, or because the engine would suffer. Whatever the case, when you think of platforming, you want a nice smooth entry. The Prince, Lara and hell even Faith from Mirror’s Edge got it right. Is it wrong for me to assume that big buff guys are not athletic enough? The Prince is the only one I can think of, Kratos was more of a button masher guy. For platforming in today’s video game environment, only tight assed women can do it right. Yes, Sexism is here, what did you expect from a guy whose name came from a GWAR song.

Damnation also gives us the tacked on multiplayer. Now, I don’t know if anyone has ranted on this or C-blog it but this must stop. I wont go too far into this, but why do developers feel the need to do this? Long story short, the utter reliance on expanding a games’ length just to add multiplayer is horrid. This afterbirth latches on to all the great and horrible aspects of current game design. The game is really bad, lets try to save it by adding on multiplayer and suck off Xbox Live for a few more hours. Ever notice really shitty games add on a multiplayer aspect for salvation? Damnation, Blacksite Area 51 and Timeshift all did this in an attempt to gestate their games into our minds. Please stop this, for the children’s sake.

Did Damnation do anything right? Should the whole game be forgotten and never seen again? The only shining beacon in this game is the level design, granted even that’s fucked. Think of it as a hot tranny, you know what you’re getting but you don’t care. The tits on the girl/guy/it fool you into thinking that it’s good. You want to only focus on the tits, but eventually you will have to come face to face with its other parts. Damnation is like that; the HUGE worlds that you can explore are great, but the fact that you have difficulty getting around them is the bad part. From what I can tell there is no map, there is no beacon that gives you a kick in the ass to point you in the direction on where to go. The only thing you have is a lame “spirit vision” that paints everything in blue.
The reason this is helpful, is because your partner loves to leave your ass in these HUGE areas. Other times, after clearing an area, you take off to the next part of the map while the A.I stands around waiting for something important to happen. But you know what? Fuck them for standing around right? Nope, they are waiting for you at the next checkpoint, with a look on their face of “what the fuck took you so long.” I know I was suppose to talk about the good things, but the loading times make these HUGE areas flounder. I suppose, since they are so huge, mid-map loading takes place frequently. Remember in Half Life 2 for the 360, it would load mid-map? Same thing happens here, but where as we can forgive Mr. Freeman, we cannot extend the same courtesy to Rourke.

This game should be forgotten, and with the developers getting laid off it seems that it will happen. But, it would be nice for the level designers to get signed on with someone who knows how to work a video game engine. The level design brought on by the developers at Blue Omega would bring some much-needed help to Tomb Raider. The level of mediocrity would balance each other out. Since I heard Lara is getting younger the next trip around, why not give these guys a call. Lets face it they’re not doing anything right now.   read

1:46 PM on 09.08.2009

How to Improve Gaming Communities: An Open Letter

How to Improve Gaming Communities: An Open Letter

Dear Publisher X,

I am writing to you because I believe that your company has been promoting hate and laziness. For a couple if months, I have watched, NO! I have battled with myself on trying to get away from the pull of video games. I am not addicted, but I am writing because I believe you are to blame for my state of health. For years I have been a healthy member of a community of FPS gamers that meet weekly online for some friendly games. Yet, as time has gone on, I have seen a drastic change in the attitude of my fellow gamers. When I started gaming, I loved playing for the win, but never trying to attack or “tea-bag” my fallen opponents. As in real life, you have to say "good game" to the losing team. Never has this come across in online competition, and I personally blame you. This is not a false idea, no we have talked about it, but I am the only one who recently has been assaulted by this online community that you and your games have helped create.

The company that you work for, X Games, has been putting out the same FPS shooter for years. Each year the company you work for puts out a “new” chapter in the franchise. But when you look back upon the various games in said “franchise,” they come off as weak re-skins or outright lazy level editing. But once your game is released, the people who defend and cherish your game come out of their caves and eat it up. At first, if I remember correctly, you had a single player campaign early on in the game's childhood. But as time went on, the online community that you helped create took over the beast you designed. So now this “newest” incarnation has no single player campaign at all, just a multiplayer sequel. What I am trying to get at is simple, by recycling the same, old, tired and generally flawed FPS game; you have had a hand in its community. And may I add,, what a “wonderful” community that is.

Never in my life have I considered myself a thin-skinned person. Yet, as I ventured into an older edition of your game, I was greeted with the warmth of hostility and vile that is only reserved for those whose place in hell is deepest. The amount of hate and bigotry that comes from those so-called “people” is horrible and you should be ashamed of yourself. The constant flow of the same game gives these people the added leverage and ability to dominate the weaker players and or casual ones. By giving the community the “Food” they need for continual life, you are destroying one's fun and building a greater beast. So I guess I am asking for you to stop making the same game, and in essence create something new.

I know it may be hard, because from the looks of your other titles; nothing has sold as well as this franchise has. As an avid gamer, it pains me that creativity is frowned upon in this industry over what sells. If you could help drive some new stuff down the creative pipe, this could act like a breath of fresh air. The FPS you create has given you some money to screw around with it. There has to be some kind of creative bone in your body with which to brew something up. Would you want your son or daughter to hear what you have had a hand in creating? Take the first step, the company you work for has enough clout, that by doing this and stopping production, you could bring in another era of gaming. I mean, make it work in your favor that you could get more girls gaming - something that has suffered by your company’s hands. I am not asking for a 100+ RPG or a great old school hack slash, but just anything different from the formula that I am pretty sure even you are tired of re-hashing.

In the end, I am personally blaming you and your company for the attitudes of the online community that you have help create. Perhaps if you read this letter and have some spark of creativity, you will listen. But I am afraid that you will just gloss over it, like the community glosses over the insults and/or feelings of the people on the other end. I thought I was out of high school and away from the childness of cliques and elitists. Yet, as I finish this letter, I am drawn back to the online community which I am afraid, thanks to companies like you, will never change.

A Jaded Gamer   read

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