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5:13 PM on 03.01.2010

Fallout New Vegas details from U.S. PC Gamer, summarized

All info taken from the news blurb on the Fallout wiki

Awesome Gameplay info:

You can have 2-3 companions at once. (combined with the companion control menu, this should be the most advanced party system a Bethesda franchise has ever seen. Good on Obsidian for pushing things forward.

Karma doesn't effect NPC disposition as much. Individual town and faction reputation mostly replaces this. If you murder somebody without witnesses or otherwise commit crimes no one knows about, you'll lose karma but your reputation will remain intact.

Weapon mods effect damage, ammo capacity, accuracy, rate of fire and more.

Story/Lore info:

Raul the ghoul mechanic might also be Raul the Enclave vertibird mechanic from FO2.
The trenchcoat guy from the trailer is wearing NCR Ranger armor, which is modified LAPD riot gear.
Deathclaws and Radscorpions are mentioned. Not that surprising, but still good to know.   read

4:33 AM on 01.25.2010

A Dark Prediction for Mass Effect 3 *ME2 spoilers*

What we already know of ME2 tells us that all the important decisions of ME1 don't have an impact on ME2. Whether you let Kaiden of Ashley live doesn't matter because after the opening act they'll be gone. Letting the council live or die doesn't matter because you'll be playing through an entirely unrelated plot that doesn't involve the council due to working for Cerberus now. Wrex might show up for a conversation, but that'll be it.

What we know about the ending of ME2 is that it's ambiguous. Shepard can LIVE or Shepard can DIE. And because it's an important choice in ME2, we can pretty safely assume it won't have any major effect on ME3. Shepard will be the character that gets spotted or heard from once and then never seen again. I'd guess that goes for most of his new team, too.

Now obviously I can't say that for sure, but that seems to be where Bioware is going with all of their "important story effecting decisions." Total cop out.

I'm not going to even bother trying to save Shepard. Might as well get as much drama as I can squeeze out of the new crew before I say goodbye to them for good.   read

8:00 PM on 12.07.2009

Licensed Game Love: Jurassic Park

With the recent release of Avatar, I've been thinking about making a few blogs on all the licensed games I've played that really struck a chord with me, some of them even being my favorite games. There are a lot more than people give credit for, usually either because expectations are way out of whack or because they don't care about the license enough to appreciate them for what they are. Most people are capable of appreciating a game even if it doesn't revolutionize the entire industry as long as it uses its own established elements well, yet the bar ironically seems to be raised when it comes to licensed games. It's almost as though the stereotype is so entrenched in the minds of gamers across the world that nobody wants to admit one can be good unless it reinvents what it means to be a game.

To start off I'd like to showcase a game that would have been awesome without the license. So awesome that they didn't even need to put the director's name on the box or subtitle it with THE GAME. Most of that probably had to do with the fact that no director would have been caught dead putting their name on a game box in the mid 90s, though. >_>

I always loved SNES title screens. Even the crappy games usually had good titles. ;_;

Like most licensed games, Jurassic Park mostly builds upon ideas that were first innovated by other games, but it drew from multiple areas and used them to make something that stood on it's own as a unique and memorable experience. The simplest way to describe it would be to say that it was equal parts Zelda and Doom, but at the time I would have described it as survival horror if such a genre had been established yet.

Zelda influences the overworld by giving you a huge area to explore with multiple dungeons laid out across the map, and in order to progress you have to make you way through each one. The only flaw there was that unlike Link to the Past you basically had to figure out where you had to go on your own, but the dungeons made up for that. They're all first person shooter maps with multiple floors and basements that totally scared the shit out of me, and I think they probably still would even now. Part of this was achieved through using some of the best midi music of the era (at least among western games), and part of it was the fact that the dinosaurs were terrifying enough on their own. Regardless of which mode of exploration you were in, pretty much everything but the "compies" could kick your ass if you didn't know where threats would pop out from. Actually even those were a bit of trouble in the closed in maze portions.

The stuff nightmares are made from.

What made Jurassic Park feel like its own game instead of a Zelda clone was the top down shooter combat and the fact that just getting from one place to another was almost as much of a challenge as the dungeons themselves. Sometimes multiple packs of raptors would pop out as you crossed thresholds in the mazes and what would look like innocent clearings would instead end up being T-Rex territory. His running speed was set up so that you'd always get out by the skin of your teeth if you reacted fast enough, but that didn't make it any less scary every time he reared his ugly head. Everything would get... why is it so qui-OH SHIT!!!!!


Despite how scary the game was in tone you still had multiple lives and finding extra wasn't that big of a deal. The catch was that you had to complete the whole thing in one sitting. Not so small a feat if you didn't know where you were going or were running out of ammo.

I don't have a whole lot more to say about it, especially since I haven't actually played it in years, but I remember it as one of the best SNES games I ever owned. If you're a "retro" gamer and still haven't given it a chance then I would really recommend it. I don't think there were many genuine "Zelda" adventure/dungeon crawler style games back then, and there definitely weren't many good ones.   read

11:47 PM on 11.22.2009

Assassin's Creed II: Made for people that "didn't get" the original.

The sad part of this blog's title is that the people who truly didn't like the first game probably still won't be awed by this one, but it will be more accessible.

The game is too finely polished for me to say it's a bad game, (in fact if I were judging by the gameplay alone, it would be above average) but it certainly won't stick with me as one of my favorites like the first one did. In fact, if I were to pinpoint all my problems with the game down to one cause, it would be that the sequel is overproduced. That goes for everything. From the graphics, to the plot, characters, presentation, atmosphere...everything.

Too be fair, if you're one of those people that got really put off by the Desmond sections of the first game, or didn't like the repeating recon missions, so much so that you didn't care about how much fun it was to climb buildings or to watch the story unfold, you'll probably really like this game. But I can't help feeling that the first game was something that was really special if you were willing to accept it for what it was, whereas this game feels like a bit of fluff that everyone can enjoy once before they forget about it.

For starters, graphically speaking, everything is too shiny and pretty. So much so that nothing ever feels real, despite there not being anything that feels overwhelmingly wrong, either. It looks a moderately realistic city blended with a colorful Disney cartoon, but then faded just enough to try and trick you into thinking it's still attempting to be realistic. Despite the fact that for plot purposes you're always pretty aware of being in a simulation (in both games), the world of the first game looked and felt the way I expected it to. It wasn't afraid to be dirty when it had to be (which was most of the time), and everything felt lived in. The same can't be said for the sequel. At no point did I ever really feel immersed, and that's coming from someone that really enjoys the the Animus aspect of both games. It's not that I'm unwilling to suspend my disbelief, it's that the game is trying so hard to be pretty that it never allows me to forget that it's a fraud, especially since as in so many cases with this sequel, I still have the first game to compare it to.

This cartoony aspect doesn't just effect the graphics, either. It totally dominates the plot and characters as well. In fact it's worse in these cases, because they play a much bigger part of why I can't respect the game.

In the original game, the main character starts out as basically an arrogant jerk, but through the course of the game learns to respect what it means to take a life, and who also respects his enemies and their goals, even if he disagrees with the way they plan to achieve them. In the sequel, the main character starts out as a smarmy ladies man, and ends as a smarmy ladies man. He still has these token scenes with the assassination targets where he goes through the motions of pretending to be a messenger of death or something, but it's never believable because that's just not who he is as a character. He's a happy-go-lucky sort of character, and he's taking part in a happy-go-lucky sort of story. The fact that your enemies want to take over the world never has any weight to it, because they're all cut from the same thin cardboard as the new main character. To drive home this fact, one might point to the fact that they all have pale skin and dark baggy eyes. SERIOUSLY. And as far as I can tell they don't have any real motivation for taking over the world other than that they're descended from people that wanted to take over the world. SERIOUSLY.

And beyond the revenge motivation for the first couple hours, there's never really much motivation for stopping them, either. It's basically "Well kid, you're descended from assassins. Go assassinate bad guys. They're the ones with baggy eyes." If you could actually respect the bad guys long enough to take them seriously as a threat, (if not as people, at least as characters) this wouldn't be an issue. In the first game you didn't at first have much reason to kill beyond the fact that it's your job, but it made sense because the people you were killing actually felt like they were trying to dominate the land, because you could tell they actually wanted to achieve their goals. The villains here just randomly kill their own henchmen for failing them, because, hey, that's what bad guys do. At least that's what they do if you can't write to save your life. And that's basically what you have to look forward to for plot and characters. There's a "big twist" at the end, but if you don't care about the rest of the game, then like me you won't care much about the ending either.

The cutscenes also really detract from the experience for me. In the first game the camera almost never left your control, and when it did it still felt very much tied to the playable character. The camera work here isn't any worse than in most other games, but the fact that they didn't have to do this in the original because the story was dramatic enough on its own just made it feel like one more area where they cut quality for accessibility. Mainly to gain access to an audience that probably won't care any more than they did the first time around.

If I could sum the story up into a single idea, it would be to say that if you ignore all the blood, it's basically a dumbed down, kid friendly coming of age story, except with extra knives where there should be some kind of character arc. In fact the entire story could be told relatively unchanged without it involving any kind of conspiracy or assassin/templar backstory at all. If you REALLY like knives, I won't lie. It might still be really appealing to you. Parrying someone's sword and moving in for your own kill is as entertaining here as it is in any other game with similar mechanics.

The side missions have a lot more variety to them, but that mostly doesn't matter because you no longer need to do them to progress to the story missions. On the upside, some of them are worth playing just because they're fun. Stalking a target and dropping down on them from above, or chasing a thief across rooftops takes a long time to get old. Like I said earlier, if you're here just for the gameplay, it's all pretty solid.

I have some other gripes about the presentation and atmosphere, like the fact that enemies are never a threat because you now carry health packs that'll get you through every fight you could possibly get yourself into. Or that the factions you can hire don't feel like a part of the world they're in at all, and stand out as even worse caricatures in a cartoon world. How about the fact that the player's costume is way too busy and out of this world and doesn't look at all like a badass assassin, except compared to something even more unbelievable, like Optimus Prime or Daffy Duck?

I could go on, but these are just more symptoms to a larger problem I've already described over and over again. This game tried so hard (and might have succeeded) to be a big blockbuster, that it forgot to try to be worth your time. If you can ignore everything I just described, or if these things actually make you like the game more, then you should definitely check this out. The free running is even better in this game than it was in the first, and it was already good then.

For a lot of gamers just being fun to play will be enough. But if you're one of those people that has to respect what you're playing, there's a good chance it won't live up to what you might have expected considering the original isn't that far out of memory.   read

8:39 PM on 10.08.2009

Terrible To The Point Of Being Obscene: Fable II

The game has been out for about a year, so I've had a lot of time to ponder whether or not I should really be offended by this game, or if it's merely disappointing. I've finally decided that, yes, this game is so unnecessarily horrible that it actually offends me.

Now, I want to clarify that. I wouldn't be saying it if my only problem with the game was that I didn't have fun, or because I felt ripped off. There are lots of games I don't enjoy, but most of those games have reasons for being bad. They had a tiny budget, creative differences with the publisher, schedule limitations, inexperienced developers, all the above...whatever. But Fable and its sequel had the backing of Microsoft, and because his name is a brand, Molyneux was given free reign to make pretty much whatever game he wanted.

And apparently what he wanted to make was a game where distractions like making your character have implied sex, buying real estate and making funny faces at little kids are more entertaining than ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GAME.

Now to be fair, the distractions are all very well made. Social interaction is all designed to be very cute and charming, and it mostly succeeds at this. The dog is very endearing. Buying property is a nice and easy way to make the player feel like they're getting somewhere, even if it's only superficial. The art design of the whole world feels very cozy.

Which would all be well and good if there was any actual game to attach this fluff to. To begin with, it's described as an action RPG, but there's no role playing to be found in the game. All the character upgrades for combat are so absolutely necessary and linear that the only way you could possibly make a unique character is if you specifically went out of your way to avoid upgrading anything just to make the game more challenging.

The action is barely there, because while I suppose you could use a variety of strategies, you'll never actually HAVE to use anything beyond tapping the gun button to fire from afar, backing up as more enemies approach, and shooting some more. Tap that Y button until it jams. Occasionally you'll have to stop just to absorb all the experience you'll be racking up. (Way to go guys, make something that should be done automatically by the game into a chore. That's innovation for you.) If you're completely surrounded you might have to use a health potion, but the previously mentioned property system will be providing you with so much gold that you'd have to be a complete moron to ever run out of health. Not that a strategy would even help in those cases, since the only time the game ever tries to challenge you is when it's just throwing wave after wave of respawning enemies at you. But just keep tapping Y, maybe throw in a tap of the X button here and there for a melee attack to spice things up, but why bother?

Beyond the art design, the environments are so linear you might as well be playing in a hallway. No matter how big the environment there's always basically one entrance and one exit with a few boring grind fests in the middle. Maybe a better analogy would be...a 2D beat-em-up. Except I think Captain Commando and Alien VS Predator might have had more depth. Landing attacks in those games actually feels like you're landing blows, providing at least a superficial satisfaction to the combat. In Fable your sword just kind of swishes right through people until they fall down. The only time you'll get any real visual feedback for attacking is when the bad guys decide to block.

There's also the really tedious and annoying job system that basically amounts to a single mini-game. It's really repetitive, but you'll only have to deal with it for about an hour or two before you start buying shops and houses so that the game will give you heaps of gold every ten minutes anyway, so...

What else is there? Oh yeah, the fluff. The only stuff Molyneux put any effort into. Once you get bored of actually playing the game (which you WILL), you can get married, have little virtual sex, catch little virtual STDs, and have little virtual babies. Slap random people on the street and they'll get mad at you. You can toss a ball and your dog will chase it. Except...why would you even bother? There's no reward or punishment for any of these things, but apparently you're supposed to be awed by the sheer novelty of it.

And this is where the bulk of the creative energy got put in the game! An entire big budget, super-hyped, well marketed exclusive was developed for the sole purpose of allowing Peter Molyneux to screw around and make a game where you can sleep with hookers and a little stat in one of the menus will say you caught an STD. REVOLUTIONARY!

I've also heard some people claim the story is one of the draws of the game, which I can't figure out to save my life. It's your standard revenge story, except it's so compressed and bare bones that all of the dialogue in the entire game would probably only take 30 minutes to listen to. I don't know, maybe an hour. Either way, it's not exactly deep stuff we're dealing with here. Bad guy kills big sister, bad guy tries to take over the world, kid grows up and kills bad guy. There are also 3 or 4 support characters that have about a paragraphs worth of lines each. Which in retrospective is actually kind of a lot for a game as short as Fable II is.

There's no excuse for this! This didn't happen because Lionhead is a small company with budget limitations. It didn't happen because they HAD a real game planned, but then they had to scrap a lot to meet a deadline. It didn't happen because they had a big concept that they had trouble executing, because this is a sequel where they had every opportunity to add everything they couldn't include before. It didn't happen because the publisher thought the original concept was too risky. It happened because Molyneux is an asshole that spends more time thinking about what sort of novelty bullshit would be neat to say he's crammed into a game the next time he goes to E3 than he does thinking about what would make his game worth playing. Real games with real quality and real innovation fall by the wayside due to a lack of consumer awareness while this guy sticks his thumb up his butt and gets a paycheck for it.

The highest praise I can give the game is that it contains one of most powerful and honest metaphors that speaks to the heart of the human condition that I've ever seen in a video game.

The game opens with a video of the main character being crapped on by a bird. This is an even more effective use of the main character as a metaphor for the relationship between the game designer and the player since Kojima used Raiden to tell people to quit wasting their time pretending to be Snake and go live their lives in the real world. Except in this case the metaphor is that Molyneux just took a crap on you, because you're wasting time playing his game.

This game is downright obscene. PERIOD.   read

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