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7:38 PM on 06.12.2015

E3 2015 Previews!!!

It's E3 time once again. You've got questions, and the video game industry has a convention center filled with answers to those questions.

Before you get too caught up in the pre-outrage portion of the game release cycle, why not take a look at some of the stellar titles said to be making an appearance at this year's show? It couldn't hurt, and it'll be a nice break from trying to perfect your fake media credentials so you can get into the event.

Not that I'm saying that review you posted on Amazon doesn't make you an honest-to-god journalist...

Assassin's Creed Victory

In what is to be the 15th installment of a series that has only been around for 8 years, Ubisoft hopes to further grind their fanbase into a state of unprecedented supplication. For years, they had been steadily wearing down the resistances of people like me, who were dumb enough to buy game after game where you did little more than wait for some guy to swing at you before stabbing him in the throat with the world's sharpest cufflinks.

Past titles have included such infamous assassin activities as renovating neighborhoods, crafting and selling furniture, and collecting feathers. Oh, where is there left to go? Can our delicate constitutions possibly handle anything more exciting than that naval combat minigame that made Flappy Bird seem esoteric and involved? Better still, can we count on this installment to introduce more of the non-assassin stuff that takes place in the future because they thought it was a cool twist on the first one but no one really liked it and now they're kinda stuck with it even though everyone and their mother would just love for it to dry up and blow away in time for the next game to come out five or six months later?

But you know, as long as there are iconic cities around the world, you can count on Assassin's Creed to take you there and clumsily tie you into every important event and person that has ever been in that place. This one's in Victorian England. I hope we get a wisecracking cockney sidekick! Ooh, and a bulldog (spoiler alert:  the bulldog is preorder DLC).



Boy, I love collecting orbs. That was what got me into playing Crackdown in the first place:  jumping around a city collecting orbs that in turn made me jump higher so I could collect more orbs. They even got me to buy into the second Crackdown, which was pretty much just a shortened version of the original with very nearly the same damn map. And it never occurs to me that when you get into the full game, you find out that it takes way, WAY longer to get enough orbs to start clearing entire buildings in a single leap. And so yeah, that's what I'm expecting here.

Crackdown, not to be confused with Crackdown, is the third game in the Crackdown series. As you can imagine, the cracking has never been more down than it is now:  as you'll recall the second game ended with... something. I think there were mutants involved and a bunch of bombs that shot UV light, or some other silly thing like that. Well now we get to find out what happened to all your favorite characters like the silent, nondescript agent you control, along with that narrator guy who is constantly talking trash about your sucking, and don't forget about... Actually, that's really it. Not exactly a deep bench in the Crackdown series.

Man, I can't wait to collect those orbs.



Doom. Not Doom, or Doom 3, which was a remake of Doom. Just Doom. Why bother messing with something that works? The answer, of course, is that you tweak it just a bit so that you can continue to wring the dollar bills right out of it while reminding everyone that once, long ago, you made a game that changed everything, but is now not really changing anything.

We first heard about this one 8 years ago, but that is no reason to be worried about how this one will turn out. We've been reassured that this one will feature a return to the run-and-gun gameplay of the original (i.e., no more struggling to see bad guys because you can't figure how to hold a flashlight and a gun simultaneously) and you can carry as many guns as you want. But just in case you long for the trappings of modern AAA gaming crap, the game will also feature brutal executions and death animations, because nothing says "nonstop action" like stopping to watch a scripted kill sequence for the 20th time in ten minutes.

Fun fact:  the phone in my pocket is 1000 times more powerful than the PC I used to play the original Doom more than 20 years ago.  


Gears of War 4

Are you getting the itch? You are, aren't you? How long has it been? How long since you last sidled up to a chest-high wall and clung to it like a nursing infant? Don't you want to just hunker down and engage in some good ol' pop-n-shot? Don't you miss the days of you and your best pals playing refrigerator-sized men taking pot shots at each other from across an arena of oddly-convenient wreckage either 3 or 6 feet in height?

Well let me tell you something:  if you thought things couldn't get any better, you were wrong. If you thought space marines couldn't get any bigger, wait until you see the sides of beef we're calling character models. If you thought the same plot about these brave bricks of meat fighting off mutants or whatever couldn't be recycled yet again, you were wrong. If you thought a modern shooter couldn't support the idea of shooting from behind chest-high walls without having some other interesting hook, well... we'll have to wait and see about that.


Titanfall 2

Titanfall blew the living piss out of all gaming when it was released. Don't believe me? Just ask the marketing team. And then ask them what "oversaturation" means. When it came out, people couldn't believe they were playing a game where you could be doing sci fi parkour one minute, and piloting slightly larger, slower versions of themselves the next. They loved it. They couldn't get enough.

Sadly, like the Mountain Dew and Doritos that helped push the game into the spotlight, people eventually got sick of Titanfall. Now, EA does everything short of giving the game away. I mean, technically, they HAVE given it away on Origin, but only for a weekend. It was just bad luck that two days is exactly how long it takes to get bored of it.

But now the sequel is on the horizon, and the devs have promised an expansion of the Titanfall lore. I hope they expand on what they've already told us about General Braxos and the skirmishes he fought during the Resource Wars of the last century. In particular, I hope they include a map that simulates the infamous Battle of Northface Crater, the largest battle ever to take place on the surface of Mars.

Now I ask you:  is any of what I just wrote true? You don't know, do you? I could be making this shit up and nobody would have the slightest idea because the only reason you play a game like Titanfall is to shoot your friends and teabag them with that one Titan that looks like it has a giant titanium scrotum.


Just Cause 3

This might very well be the only game in which I have even the slightest interest. The second installment still holds the title of Biggest Goddamn Free-Roaming Shit Everywhere Dicking Around Jet Flying Under a Bridge Fuck You Grappling Hook Everything Game Ever, so I'm kind of hoping they can top themselves. Maybe they'll let you airdrop a fucking space shuttle so you can go into outer space and lasso an asteroid into the fucking moon! You hear that, Little Prince? Je viens por vous! Por vous!!!

Okay, truth time:  Just Cause 2 was super huge, but there were tons of spots where you can tell they just cloned an enemy installation, or mountain town, or whatever to fill in the empty spots. If the game map gets much bigger, they would probably just clone that entire map and stamp it all over the even larger new map. But you know what? That still might be good enough. The amount of pure destruction you could unleash on a totally undeserving third-world country is something I wouldn't mind seeing more of. I don't even care that no part of this game makes any sense, from surfing on top of a jet to firing your grappling hook into the ground to save yourself from falling to your death. If they can figure out a way to crank the mayhem up from 11 to 12, that's Game of the Year as far as I'm concerned.


Mass Effect 4

Ah, Mass Effect. I'm old enough to remember when you were a respected space shooter-RPG hybrid, and not just a punchline about how big publishers will invariably fail to deliver on their big promises.

Regardless, now that we're done with Commander Shepard's disappointing arc across the cosmos, it's time for someone new to take the reins. Regardless of what gender this person is, or what choice of backgrounds they come from, or whether they choose to be a giant hero/dick to everyone until they gain bonus powers, one thing is for certain:  some part of their experience will be chopped up and shipped out as DLC over the course of a year, possibly longer.

But how will the DLC present itself? Will a krogan at a bar tempt Nu-Shep with some tantalizing tales of adventure in the far-flung corners of the universe, only to have a popup appear telling you you'll need to pay for this quest a la Dragon Age? Will content from the previous titles be stripped out and added in later via DLC a la The Sims? Will the new game turn out to be a mobile title that takes monetization to such a perverse extreme that you'll swear that CEO Andrew Wilson is in fact the human incarnation of Mammon, a la Dungeon Keeper Mobile?

It's too early to tell. We'll just have to wait until we see the first images of the main character as he/she will appear on cups at 7/11.


I know it seems like this list is for the most part a tale of mediocrity and woe. A forecast for a year that promises to be nothing less than the largest producers of video games doing their best to remind you of their best days by repackaging their early successes infinitely until each title is so thoroughly sapped of life and creativity that even seeing the letters that form the name of your once favorite game will make your furrow your brow in disgust.

That's because it is. I am here to tell you:  don't believe the hype. Everything is terrible, and the minute we are born, we begin to die. Our lives, our ambitions, the things we've built, the people we love, all of it will one day be no more than dust.

And a year after that, there will be three more installments of Assassin's Creed.


8:08 PM on 02.26.2011

Groundhog Day: The Killing Joke

This isn’t a blog post. It’s a cry for help.

It all started during the last Steam holiday sale. Dozens and dozens of games for less than ten bucks, and suddenly my iron grip on my wallet loosened. For $5-$7 apiece, I had no problem buying dozens of games and then shoveling them directly into my already massive backlog. Most of them I had heard of, but opted to pass over because I wasn’t interested enough to buy them at full price (and because in all likelihood, they would end up not getting played for months, maybe years).

This time around, though, I happened upon a little game called Killing Floor.

“It's more of a steel grating that allows material to sluice through so it can be collected and exported.”

Killing Floor started as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004, but was so wildly popular that it became a standalone game in 2009. The gist of it is that Horzine, a sort of Anglo-Umbrella Corporation, was secretly making dangerous mutants when wouldn’t you know it, they escape. Now, you have to step in and push these “specimens” out of what’s left of England. You do this by surviving wave after wave of specimens, with breaks in between to buy weapons with money you’ve earned from the bounties on each specimen.

A few months prior to the big sale, Steam held one of their free play weekends for Killing Floor, but I never got around to trying it. Multiplayer in general has never been that important because I can rarely get enough people I know together to try a game, and trying to cultivate a good team of players from all the random jagoffs on the internet tends to be a long, unrewarding process. Why then, I wondered, should I pay any attention to Killing Floor? Because it’s only $7!

So I got it and installed it. Didn’t play it right away, oh no. Had to give my new purchase time to breathe. Also, I had forgotten about it. A few days later, though, I spotted the icon on my cluttered desktop and gave it a shot.

There was an option for “solo”, so I gave that a shot first, setting up a short, 4-wave game. This was during their big Christmas event, I found out, so all the monstrous specimens were decked out in yuletide attire. Even so, it turned out to be a surprisingly intense game, fleeing from one group of specimens only to run into another, and having to desperately shoot my way past while hoping that there wouldn’t be an even bigger group beyond. Things were going pretty well, until I was murdered by a giant roaring nutcracker wearing a suit covered in festive lights.

When that light turns red, guard your bunghole.

And so, I was treated to a giant “Your squad was wiped out” message and a few seconds of monsters chewing on my mangled corpse just in case there was any confusion about what had just happened. I tried again on another map and did a little better, but it still ended with me being pulped by angry mutants. Well that stinks, I thought to myself.

But wait, what’s this? I’ve upgraded my “Commando” perk. Now I can deal a little more damage with assault rifles, and those very same guns are cheaper now, and I can see the enemies’ health bars! I wonder what I’ll get for the next level...

And that was the beginning of the end.

Just 2000 more headshots ‘til Rank 6...

I was hooked. Since then, I’ve racked up almost 200 hours playing the damn game. What started as mere fascination with the perk leveling system grew into a genuine affection for the game.

The specimens no longer seemed like shrieking monsters as I documented their different behaviors like some kind of armchair biologist. I knew each sound they made and what each one meant. I knew what sorts of things made them angry. I knew where they were likely to appear in any given map. Also,
I knew the best way to kill them, but that was less interesting to me than knowing how long each one could survive after being decapitated!

I spent time exploring the different weapon combinations, getting to know the different weapons as though each one was a friend of mine. Where I had scoffed at the idea of a sniper being forced to use a crossbow and an old lever-action rifle, now I saw the possibilities that each one represented. Fifteen hundred pounds for a couple pipebombs? I knew the best place to put them for the best return on my investment. And the achievements for the different weapons, my god... There’s an achievement for scoring 25 headshot kills IN A ROW! I balked at the idea of popping that many heads consecutively, yet one day I happened to glance at my own achievements and there it was. When did that happen?

The Patriarch: World’s most dangerous never-nude.

Each set of waves would conclude with a visit from the Patriarch, a mutated mad scientist with a chaingun/rocket launcher arm and a trio of healing vials neatly cuffed to his enormous jean shorts. And he can turn invisible. He once loomed larger than life, his bum eye looking at me sideways while he mocked another abortive attempt at shaming him into putting on a shirt. Now, I wonder about how many pipebombs I can make him walk over before his shins say “enough!”

It’s not all good. The relatively small number of maps means I’m glad I don’t have a stat showing how many times I’ve played each one. In online games, the “kick” feature is disabled all too often, forcing you to carry the additional weight created by AFK’ers, trolls, and players who are all heart. Most annoying of all, there’s a bug that occasionally pops up in which a grenade, no matter how far you throw it, will explode as though you pulled the pin and dropped it into your underwear.

I’ve actually gotten quite good at the game!

So why do I keep coming back? If it’s a co-op survival horror game I’m after, why don’t I just play Left 4 Dead?

As I mentioned earlier, the perk system is what drew me in initially. What can I say; I’m a sucker for xp systems like that. It adds a certain something to what would otherwise be an ordinary case of pouring boxes of bullets into hapless mutants. The multiplayer adds to it as well, as every new group of players means even a map played over a hundred times could unfold in any number of ways. Did I just jump into a match with experienced teammates who will play to their perks’ strengths and watch each other’s backs, or will I be picking up the pieces after a near-wipe on the second wave? There’s also the distinct British flavor to the whole thing, which you don’t often see in FPSs. I particularly enjoy the voiced insult component of the quick chat system (who is Wayne Rooney, and why is he smarter than me?).

To be fair, he did know “football = soccer” before I did.

The thing that really grabbed my attention about this particular horror-survival type game is that even in multiplayer games, it’s possible for a player to strike out on his own and actually help out his team. I’m not really sure how to explain this bit all that well, but let me see if I can break it down a little better than that: the typical squad-based shooter stresses that you stay with the group and focus on working together. You can ditch your teammates in Left 4 Dead, but you’ll more than likely wind up being a dick that gets killed and ruins everyone else’s good time. In KF, straying from your teammates means you’ll be fighting off a much larger number of specimens alone, but it also means there will be fewer will be assaulting your teammates. And even if you get killed, one of your teammates can swing by and drop a grenade on the mutants that are chewing on your “lone wolf” corpse.

At least... that’s what I tell myself when I realize how I keep turning back to this game at every given opportunity. Do you know how many times I stopped in the middle of writing this to play more Killing Floor? Four times! Oh sure, I told myself it was because I needed to get some nice screenshots to illustrate my points and break up the wall of text. When I bought an AA12 and starting unloading fully-automatic shotgun fire onto a crowd of freaks whose only real crime was walking slowly toward me in a straight line, I knew what was really going on. It’s got me. It’s got me so bad...

Steam ID: Flea_Friend if you want to play some Killing Floor. :(   read

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