Sunday, 25 December 2011

Game Proposal: Heraclitus and the Ginger Wig of Synchronicity

The pre-Socratic philosopher and renowned historical personage Empedocles lies dying on the streets of '70s New York, the victim of a brutal mugging conducted by a cross-dressing former nun called Dirk Adabach and an anthropomorphic talking weasel with psoriasis. As he lapses into unconsciousness, he dreams of his childhood in Acragas, smoking grass with mythological beasts and repeatedly failing to complete the Times' crossword. [At this point, the player will be challenged to complete a series of crosswords without answers. Upon failing, he will continue to the next stage.]

Rescued by the super-gay novelist Edmund White, Empedocles gradually recovers his strength and enters New York's vibrant cruising scene. [Here, the player will perform a series of graphic sexual sub games.] Unfortunately, he is arrested at the scene of an illicit gang bang and deported. In the prison ship he shares a cell with a notorious Hitler impersonator and medium know as Eggs Benedict, who shares with him his grandmother's recipe for banana and walnut carrot cappuccino cake. [The player will now have to memorize the recipe and reproduce it in the game. Failure will result in death.]

The ship encounters a storm at sea, and Empedocles is thrown over board. Shortly afterwards, the ship capsizes, and he is able to ride its upended hull to safety, becoming the only survivor. [This sequence will not be playable. However, it will be followed by a multiple-choice quiz on the court of Louis XVI of France.] Washing up on the shore of 16th century England, he opens an innovative cake shop and wins the approval of Thomas Cromwell, who is then murdered. On hearing of this, Empedocles swears vengeance and embarks on a tough training regime in order to transform himself into a martial arts master. [...] Having completed his training, he awakes to find that everything that has befallen him since his initial beating on the streets of New York was a dream. Edmund White rescues him again, and the two of them have sex for a week. [Playable.]

Batman: Arkham City

Gotham City. This venerable metropolis has been famously imagined and reimagined in comic books, cartoons, and films. Now, we have a new vision of Gotham, and it stands not just as one of the most unforgettable incarnations ever of the city that Batman is devoted to exploring, but as one of the most richly detailed and exciting environments ever seen in a game. Building on 2009's outstanding Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City sets you free in the neighborhood of North Gotham, a charming jumble of antique shops, delicatessens and independent art galleries. As the Caped Crusader, you wander the boulevards, sampling local delicacies and seeking out vintage furniture. With its atmospheric setting, ease of movement, immensely satisfying conversations, and tremendous assortment of secrets to discover, side quests to complete, and other attractions, Arkham City is a fantastic adventure game.

It's winter in Gotham City, but the streets of the part of town now known as Arkham seem pleasantly mild. A light, refreshing rain falls on the citizens who roam this place, making the asphalt shimmer with reflections of the neon signs advertising award-winning Spanish-Moroccan cuisine and fine wines from the New World. Gotham faced a prison crisis in the wake of the events of Arkham Asylum, and certain upstanding characters took advantage of the situation by acquiring the run-down neighborhood of North Gotham, walling it off from the rest of the city, and transforming it into a cultural center for the rehabilitation of socially-excluded unfortunates. It's a humane and moral operation; Batman fully intends to write a letter to the mayor, asking for the originators of the scheme to be awarded the key to the city.

The area of several city blocks isn't especially vast as open worlds go, but what it lacks in scale, it more than makes up for in atmospheric detail. Arkham City is home to an old courthouse, a former police headquarters, a musty museum, a disused subway terminal, and other fascinating places. These structures, with their faded portraits, old billboards, and plentiful other features, convey a sense of history. The exceptional art design draws on 1930s art deco and makes Gotham seem like a once elegant and shining city that has become charmingly dilapidated. It's clearly a work of imagination, but as you explore it, its richness pulls you in, and it becomes a world you can't help but believe in. That allure is particularly strong on the PC, where atmospheric details like blossoms visibly landing on Batman's cape make this charming, temperate environment even more convincing.

Batman has no choice but to explore the alleyways and underground tunnels of North Gotham. Within the city's walls, Joker is dying, and the Dark Knight, being a compassionate soul, is eager to find a cure. That quest brings Batman into contact with the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and numerous other members of Batman's social set. Each character is represented terrifically, with plenty of nods to their histories as established in the comics, and part of the fun of progressing through the story lies in seeing what character might make an appearance next. The excellent Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker, heading up an ensemble of voice actors who never miss a beat.


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Skyrim Review

Alun makes a character on Skyrim.

Me: "What's yr name again?"

Alun: "It's Hamas...Klemp. Yeah's not a very good name."

"I'm going up to the highest point in the world and AH!" (kills rabbit)

Tentatively kills two bandits.

"haha, you poor fool. You've gone indoors to use your arrows. I wonder what these idiots were up to. I've got an arrow right through my brain. Ohhh I don't want to explore this fucking place. There's a box at least. I want to get back to civilisation. How much is a lot of money in this world?"

"Why am I here? Why am I here on a mountain? I just want to go back to civilisation."

"Are these guys fighting a giant? I'm going to kill it. Oh, it's dead. I'll take all its stuff." (It has only an arrow).
"Oh, what?"

(this lady complains alun didn't help with the giant.)

"What? I don't care. They're all idiots." (he sighs) "Is this a tavern?"

"How do I get into this place? I want to return to civilisation."

Guard: "Halt. City's closed with dragons about."
Alun: "I have news about the dragon attack."
Guard: "Fine, we'll let you in."
Al: "Yeah, shut up."

"Can I ever have a bath in this game? Well I should be able to."

I leave for a minute. When I return:

"I seem to have broken into the house of the poorest person in the whole world. I've stolen a couple of bowls and that's it."

"Cast iron pot, that's what I've been reduced to. Ugh. Nine gold coins. A roll of paper. 'A Brief History of' ughhh'. A bowl. A plate. Ugh."

"I'll break into this house. It's a hall of the dead??"

He's caught pickpocketing. Guard comes to arrest him. The guy he tried to rob is attacking him throughout the conversation.

"I didn't think he'd take it so personally since it was called ring of resist magic."

Pays off the bounty, walks outside. Someone says, "Uhh, you've got no clothes. You should get some." He had been wearing fine stolen clothes. His weapons have been removed. He goes into the castle to get them back.

He spends five minutes reading all the perks after levelling up from lockpicking a display case. Choose speech perk "Haggling". Then after ten seconds of silently looking at that says, "ok."

A child calls the guards when Alun trespasses. The bounty is five gold. He chooses the option, "I would rather die than go to jail!"

He is chased to the battlements of the castle. He almost jumps off, doubles back, runs out through the lobby and leaps over a flying arrow.

"It's all gone horribly wrong for Hamas Klemp."

"Ahhhh, ha, ha, haaaa. My crimes were only childish pranks."

His health is very low due to arrows.

He is hit by an arrow and killed, just one metre from the city gate.

"I choose not to wear armour because it doesn't look so cool. I'm jason bourne-ing my way outta here. Ow. I hate it when they shoot me with an arrow in the spine."

He has reloaded. And escaped! leaps from a wall.

"Can I steal a horse?"

He steals a horse. Arrows everywhere! Rides off across the tundra.

"Why is this horse so lazy? Faster, you piece of shit! Why are these guys? Guards! Can I run them down? No. They still missed, the idiots. Yeah, just canter along. My big escape. This all happened because a kid said 'get out' and I tried to. Well, this is a nice scene."

He stands too close to some mammoths and they go hostile. He runs away.

"Is that where I just came from?" It is.

"I've discovered a farm! I want to kill the inhabitants. And my horse."

"It's quite tough. I might have to use a weapon."

He is punching the horse.

"Goddamn stupid horse! Don't run away. I can't keep up with you. This is the battle of my life. Yeah horse. You asshole horse. I am a blood thirsty berserker. Now this chicken. A bounty has been added for the murder of this chicken."

He hits a guy, knocks him to his knees. Then the guy gets up fully healed.

"Oh, I can do without that."

He runs for a new horse. The horse runs away.

Me: "You need to use a potion."
Alun: "I haven't got a fucking potion."

He gets on the horse.

"I burned my bridges in that part of the map. I've already reached a point where I feel I can't recover."

Gets off the horse at a tower to kill a bandit. The horse helps kill the bandit, then runs round the other side of the tower and is found just standing there, staring at the sky.

Al goes into the tower. Horse comes in after and starts killing the other bandits. Alun mounts it, and cannot get off. He runs up the stairs and gets off. The horse kills another bandit.

Al levels up fighting a bandit chief. Upgrades haggling again, mid fight.

"Where's my faithful steed? There he is. He's killed several people. He's paying for himself. And I didn't even pay for him."

Al has stripped all the bodies naked.

"Do I want to go over there? Maybe I will. Give the horse its freedom. I have no idea why it would be so loyal to me after I only stole it five minutes ago."

Reads a book and gets a skill increase. "Great, what was it?"

"Ohh I want to climb this mountain. I want to be free. What happens if I fall off that waterfall?"

He dies. He reloads.

"Where's that horse? Now I have to run everywhere. I want a town. I want to sell things. I'll kill this baby fox. I don't even want it."

"Hey crab. Crab asshole!"

Goes into a dungeon. Steals 46 gold. Hit by enemy. Immediately catches vampire disease. Leaves back to the path outside.

Sneak attacks someone he meets. She nearly kills him. He eats all his food for health, i.e. raw rabbit legs. Sheathes his weapon to flee. The woman backs down.

"Yeah, thanks babes."

Finds a new city. Approaching the gate, "Oh, let me in you bastards."

Meets two Nords bullying a dark elf. She asks him if he hates the dark elves. "Yes, I do hate the dark elves."

"I just want to sell." He finds a guy who offers him a tour.

"I thought this would be a shop."

In game character: "Is it true? Is Aventus trying to do the black sacrament?"
Al: "it must be true, it sounds lame."

"I hate it, why can't I sell my stuff?"

"Market? No, it's a graveyard."

"What's this? Oh, the Atheron residence."

"Used wares, second hand stock. Ahhh."

"I'm so wealthy." (864 gold)

"Oh. I don't know why that's worth money."
Me: "It's a magic item."
Al: "Oh. Fuck it."

Alun has bought some more fine clothes.

"I look like a hideous queen. I feel very important. I don't want to fight anymore shit. I'm so tired. I want to start again. Nyeerr. Naaa." (He is making these noises to represent the face of his character.

He steals loads of stuff and tries to sell it, but cannot.

"Damnit. Damnit, damnit. I'm going to sell all my weapons."

Shopkeer: "Do come again."
Al: "No."

"I'm not at all satisfied with Hamas Klemp. I find her a petty, ugly, dirty woman."

He attacks someone after he fails to break into their house.

"Ow. I'm a woman. I can't believe you'd attack a woman after I tried to hit you after breaking into your house."

Hammas beats the guy to death.

"Now I can get into his house."

"What can I steal? What can I steal before they kill me? Oh, he's a farmer. He's poor. Oh. Shit. Oh. Five gold c- Hardly worth murdering this guy. These guys are terrible archers. Dogmeat. I stole the dogmeat. Nope. Nope. I just want to look into this dresser."

Hamas is shot to death by arrows.

"Noooo. Ok. That's enough of that. I'm done. I'm done! Hamas is a bastard. I hate Hamas."

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Let the products sell themselves

So that Bioshock Infinite E3 demo huh? Looks pretty good.

What struck me was how natural everything felt, which is actually kind of a red flag when you’re watching a gameplay demo. Because whoever is controlling Booker, the main character in Bioshock, he knows where the good stuff is. He knows what Elizabeth, yr pal, is going to say at certain times. He knows the Songbird, this kind of weirdo villain, is going to appear at the window, and in true Half Life fashion, this little moment isn’t really a cutscene. You’re still in character. Booker goes over to Elizabeth and hides behind a counter, out of sight, away from the Songbird.

In the video commentary for the Bioshock Infinite e3 gameplay video, Ken Levine, creative director for Infinite, claims,

“We don’t talk over our demos, we let our demos speak for themselves.”


But I appreciate that they made a commentary because I want to know how much of this game I’m going to actually be playing, and I was hoping they'd address that, and they absolutely don't.

If I don’t make myself duck behind the counter, if the songbird sees me, what happens then?

This scene looks so natural, but who would duck in time? This is why games have infinite lives now, because the story is the thing, even though 99% of games’ stories are like helping your dad try to do something good and oh he’s sacrificed himself and you’ve been tricked this whole time and you’ve been captured but you escaped.

So, what, is that scene scripted? Do you lose control of Booker for that little bit? Or can the story change utterly at that point, or does the Songbird just kill you instantly if it sees you?

They don’t talk about that at all in the commentary. The printed interview featured on the gamespot site mentions the improv elements to the game, which extend only to little asides the character makes, and a few scenes where the player can initiate combat or not. So it’s like yeah, you can interact with this game, but only when the game says so.

We’re at a stage with games where this game could have a massive improv element, like Mass Effect or Fallout: New Vegas. I’m not saying it should, but the game looks so fluid and nice, you can’t tell if it’s scripted or just well played.

Admittedly this article is all hyperbole and I’m about to fall victim to a criticism I’m going to make in a minute or so. My point is, it’s so unclear, what’s playable and what’s not here. The demo cannot speak for itself, because it’s speaking in another language almost, hiding behind how cool everything seems.

I want this game to be great, it looks great, and I will almost certainly buy it, and hopefully I won’t be disappointed. What if a game was judged not by its strongest moments, but by how it treats its weakest? Every game has downtime. Not just breaks in the action, but breaks from being worthwhile. Like do I really need to take Roman Bellic bowling AGAIN and do I even need the Gears Of War 3 campaign at all?

Bioshock Infinite, two words which make no sense together (one of which isn’t a word anyway), has been growing up in the public eye, kind of. The Songbird has been mentioned plenty, and it’s a neat element. This monster, stalking you throughout the game, has this relationship with Elizabeth. It’s been her carer, and her prison guard, for years. But I only know this because I’ve been told it, by the games developers, in interviews.

Infinite compares itself to a novel. In what novel do you already understand the relationship between the main characters before you even read it, because the author already told you? Maybe you’d get a hint of something on the inside sleeve, but the inside sleeve isn’t out like a year before the book.

This isn’t so much a criticism of this game, but all games. Mass Effect 3 isn’t out until next year, along with Bioshock Infinite. We, as gamers and consumers, rely on theoretical information, opinions given by games journalists, as to what a game will be like. We’ve been waiting for Skyrim for almost twelve months at this point. No other medium builds our hype as much, and has us queuing so long. In no other medium are the negative reviews so outnumbered by the blindly positive.

It would be nice if the games could speak for themselves, but even the demos don’t get a chance, assholes like me always want a word in. But at least I don’t get paid for it.

Bioshock Infinite is being developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K and will be released sometime in 2012, apparently.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

chatting shit on farcry 3 because who is going to stop us


Man, ‘I’ve got to overcome that by learning more about who I am.’

So like discovering I can shoot an ak47 and that I’ve killed people before?


Yeah that’s what gets me. He’s staying this stuff we say, about games shouldn’t be films, but his game sounds shit as hell.


Yeah, like, when Enslaved came out, it came out the same time as Medal Of Honor, or around then. But Enslaved had Andy Serkis and I wrote that piece about how that shit was the way forward, in terms of realism, and not like ‘real world locations’ and ‘beards’. Having actual acting and subtle emotional engagement.

Now Rockstar and these clowns Ubisoft are following suit.


But this is a shitcrock too. That shit you said about the AK. What human has killed another guy with an AK before? No one that buys this game. Why do they still think we want to play as film heroes.


Yeah, he talks about how games shouldn’t be films, but is making a game that is exactly like a dumb action film, with almost no appreciation of what a game can be that a film cannot.

But I think a lot of people do still want to be those film heroes. It just seems like we’ve grown up faster than most games developers, or the industry anyway.

Maybe we should stop calling them games and start referring to them as films and see what happens in our minds. Like would a film about a guy who has to fight modern pirates be even remotely interesting?


The thing is we like good music and good films. We like games but there basically aren’t any good ones. We’re stuck around playing the videogame equivalent of queens of the stone age or a baz luhrman film.


Yeah but QOTSA have two really good albums and one great one. Even in the shittest games there’s probably one bit that’s ok.


Ok gayman. I love qotsa. I’m Roland, qotsa qotsa qotsa.


Hey man it saves typing out their stupid long name.


Hey man that last burn on you was A*


Yeah, A for Asshole. You asshole.

I think mostly it’s a lack of broad influences that damage games.


Yeah. All protags are so same like same person. Or ridiculous Japanese shit.


Yeah. I remember when Half Life was coming out, and this is a game I love. Some games journo saying like, Gordon Freeman is a scientist, so he has to learn to survive. That actually meant nothing, because I’d played shooters before. I know how to point and click, you know?


Yeah, that sort of shit is ass. Only time I’ve felt like that before is in that like Supernatural Detective Game 2, when you get a gun and you’re pretty fucking awful with it, and you have like 8 bullets.

That’s sort of like learnng that anew. Feel like you’re doing something new that you don’t quite grasp.


Yeah, Condemned 2. That game had some brilliant ideas, but I’ve never heard a games developer talk about it.

But like for Left4Dead Valve were studying the Spanish flu epidemic. Just to give the world a realistic epidemic grounding.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Wasteland Lover 7: The Poverty of Felix Kluge

We rejoin Kluge as he wakes up at the Wolfhorn Ranch after a long day of killing geckos beneath Vault 19. It's just us and ED-E. We are apparently afflicted with the maximum amount of drug addictions, the game not giving me any more, despite taking about 15 doses of jet the previous day, and we are in withdrawal from all of them. And we're thirsty.

Felix goes outside to the dirty tank of irradiated water that he uses as drinking water. Probably as a shower too, when my Xbox is off. In exchange for quenching his thirst, the vat gives him radiation poisoning. But shit, Felix's endurance is already 1, so whatever. We can fix that when it gets worse.

I check Felix's gear before we head out and I notice he only has 36 caps. What the fuck. They're not in the lockers back in the ranch, they're not even inside ED-E. Try to think back to that murky play session lost in the mists of time (I cba blogging it) and what I did inbetween Vault 19 and here.
Oh yeah.

Felix had gone to New Vegas Square after Vault 19, all pumped up on victory (>40 gecko steaks!) and drugs. I think the guys that hang out here are the sort of people Felix wishes liked him. There's that cool guy in the picture above, who will never talk to Kluge because he doesn't know enough about guns. But I'd just raised Felix's guns a little to snag the Cowboy perk, and if he read one of the magazines he had, he could bluff through a conversation with this guy. It worked out great; right after the guy started talking about survival, and Felix loves that stuff, so they hit it off great. So great, he even told Felix a secret recipe for making special .44 magnum rounds. Kluge thinks he's hot shit right now. He goes straight to the Gun Runner's vendor robot and buys a .44 magnum and a trail carbine. Then he buys a scope for the carbine and a customised frame for the magnum, even though I don't know what that is.
I find them in one of the lockers now, underneath all the baseball bats. They cost Felix all of his money. He doesn't know how to shoot guns. He isn't good enough to make the bullets that guy told him about. He doesn't even have enough money to buy normal bullets. Felix leans over and is sick into the bucket next to his bed. Sick with disgust at himself, and radiation poisoning.

So we need money. Felix's drug habit isn't going to support itself. I think it's about time we checked out Black Mountain. We go to Jacobstown to get Lily first - if we're going to mount a raid on a radio station run by an insane mutant, I figure it can't hurt if we bring one of our own.
There's onle really the one path up the mountain, and at the foot of it we run in a mutant. He's called Neil. He doesn't sound moronic and can form sentences so I guess he's one of the good ones. It turns out that this mountain is some kind of colony for all these bad mutants. Whatever man. He says if we meet him at the top of the mountain he'll help us turn it over. Then he says it will be a lot harder for Felix to get to the top than him, and runs off. He's a dick but whatever, having one mutant following Felix is enough.
The sun sets as we head up the path ourselves, all maximising our 100 sneak skill and Lily's stealthboy prototype. It's a big, zig-zagging path up the mountain, with little scrap metal checkpoints here and there. We make it past the first two just fine, but after that some nightkin manages to sneak up on us and starts smashing ED-E, because I guess he can't sneak so good, or at all. The mutant doesn't last a minute against Lily and Kluge though, and nor does the next one.
We're at the final checkpoint when it all kicks off. Some mutant up on the cliff above us is literally raining fire down on us. Lily's got the same gun he has though, so I let them shoot clumps of fire at each other until my one wins and the other one dies. But more mutants take this opportunity to rush us. There's four or five down with us and two more up on the cliff. Lily wades in to it so I get Kluge to drug up and follow in, chainsaw in hand. When we're done cutting them up, I see ED-E, with his little laser, is locked in a shootout with the two mutants up on the cliff, who have miniguns. By the time Felix runs over, ED-E is on 1hp. He tries to give ED-E stimpaks but it's not enough. Probably because he is a robot and they are medicine. He drops to the ground. Lily and Felix run up around the cliff to kill the last two mutants. The minigun shreds through Felix's non-armour and very nearly kills him. But he's all mad so he doesn't care. That robot was probably really expensive. With them gone Felix heads back down to ED-E.

Felix doesn't know anything about computer or robots, but he's pretty sure you don't bury them. He looks at it for a minute, checks to make sure we didn't leave anything valuable in it, then go.

we made it to the village at the top and Neil's there like he said he'd be. He says his plan for helping us is that he'll say there's an intruder in the village to draw the nightkin out. We point out that there is an intruder in the village, and that it's Felix, and that this plan doesn't help me at all. He tells Kluge to sneak past them and then he runs off.
So we sneak. Lily has an advanced prototype stealthboy, Felix's sneak is 100, and ED-E is dead so won't mess us up again. The nightkin spot us instantly. Neil is a dick. It's another horrible fight going toe-to-toe with giant mutants who are way stronger than Kluge. He makes it through thanks to buffout and the fantastic anti-limb properties of his chainsaw.
Neil comes back now (thanks!) and tells Felix that it's now a clear run to Tabitha, the mutant who runs the radio station. He doesn't want to come with.
We walk up to the station. On the broadcast tower before we get there, is a nightkin who isn't Tabitha, but does have a rocket launcher. The first missile hits Felix dead on. He's on less than 20hp. Fuck you Neil. I hide Felix behind a rock and have him eat one of our precious but fantastic desert salads. Back to full health, and back out from behind the rock. Straight in to another missile. 27hp. Come on. Another desert salad, but this time Felix doesn't stop running. We're underneath him when he's reloaded so he can't shoot us. Felix is on him before he has a chance to turn around. He's fucked, Kluge has got a chainsaw. Cut his head and all his limbs off. take his rocket launcher. It has a girl's name on it. Gay.
There's three buildings here. Felix goes for the one in the middle. It's full of crap. Some good but mostly bad. There's a robot lying on a table in one corner that doesn't work. it's that Rhonda from the radio show. I don't really give a shit about this, and Kluge definitely doesn't. But if he takes some mentats, then reads a science magazine, he can just pass the skill check to fix Rhonda. So we have to. We follow it as it goes outside and Tabitha is there, all enormous and definitely insane. She's just really happy that Kluge fixed her stupid robot though, and leaves peacefully. Stolen so much shit at this stage that I just fill up Lily's inventory with it and send her off for home. One of the other buildings is a prison. Inside is a ghoul. He's called Raul. He's sarcastic and snarky but he wants to come with me becaue he's scared of dying. Felix says ok, he can come.

Kluge pulls a special 'angry face' when he's using the chainsaw. I love it.

Felix and Raul walk around a few days, talk about Raul's life. He used to do some stuff but he's like 200 years old now so is kind of past it. Kluge says that if he wants he can stick around and fix his shit for him so he can feel useful. He's happy with that. And I could really do with the maintenance. This chainsaw is the only one I have.

Raul Tejada

Because one of the guys you need to talk to for Raul's supposedly-organic-quest-that-totally-isn't-because-I've done-it-before-already is Corporal Sterling, we find ourselves in Camp Mccarran. So I figure we can do Three-Card Bounty. Felix still needs the money. I don't care if the NCR are Caesar's worst ever enemy. He's been a dick to Kluge and not been paying him enough at all. If these guys want to pay Felix to kill some guys he'd probably kill anyway, then I'll take that paper.
First bounty on the list is Cook-Cook. Felix talks to a bounty hunter in the camp about him. The hunter is full of shit but he knows he is, so I guess he's okay. Felix ignores everything he says anyway, and just runs in a straight line until he's at Cook-Cook. He's in some ruined house. Raul actually has a gun, unlike basically anyone else who will follow me around, so that's a nice change. He just stands at the back and starts putting rounds in to the house. This draws out all of Cook-Cooks pals and Felix can just cut them down with his huge axe one by one, until it's just Cook-Cook left. He's got a flamethrower and probably thinks he's a real cool guy but Kluge chops his head off so whatever buddy.
Back at camp Major Dhaltri and his huge beard gives us all this shit about how Felix messed up Cook-Cook's face and so he can't pay us the full bounty. Cook-Cook wears a mask covering his entire face, and Dhaltri never met the guy anyway. So Felix steals shit from around the camp until I figure we're square.
Next bounty is boring. Have to cut a bunch of dogs up and then a woman. One of the dogs breaks Felix's leg but I'm used to that now. Clean kill so full caps from Dhaltri.
Last bounty on the list is some guy called Driver Nephi. Dhaltri tells Felix to ask First Recon for help. An opportunity to get paid for no work appeals to Kluge so we take up the offer. We meet the whole gang and hear their plan. It's a real doozy: they all sit around hiding while Felix runs out on his own. Nephi and his friends will then supposedly come out to kill me, and when they do, the First Recon guys will gun them down. It's a huge open flat space between the Recon guys and the Fiends. The sort of place Kluge is absolutely helpless in. But he runs in anyway because he's not about to let the NCR know he's a little bitch or that he cares that the NCR's plan fucks him over.
But man does it fuck him over. The Fiends only run out a little bit. The Recon guys aren't firing. Nephi isn't here at all yet so I guess they don't want to spoil their incredible plan. So it's basically Kluge in a field getting shot by a bunch of lasers. This fucking sucks and he's dying so I pull him back to near Raul, who starts shooting the Fiends. This makes them switch to shooting him, cause I guess they figured out I wasn't doing shit. So I run back in to the field and try and get close. They're not as dumb as they look though, and start throwing dynamite at Kluge. The lovely flash of crippled limbs on the screen. Nephi's finally shown up though. He runs fast as fuck and is barreling straight for Felix. I try to run him back towards Raul on his broken legs but it's really not that impressive. First Recon finally start firing right before Nephi gets to Felix. They're shitty shots though and don't manage to hit him even once before he hits Kluge, crippling his head instantly. But he dies pretty much after that. We take his head back to base. Turns out First Recon shot him in the face over and over so I only get half pay again. Thanks guys. They pay me some NCR money though, and Kluge stole some more shit before we left.
Felix goes to see Usanagi to get all his limbs healed and cure his radiation poisoning.

I'm pretty sure Raul is my favourite companion and Three-Card Bounty is one of my favourite quests. It's not a very exciting quest. It's short, and it's easy. But there's just a lot of characters, of things happening. The one big problem with the Fallout series for me is that nothing ever happens when you're not around. You can go around and meet a whole mess of cool people, but they never meet each other. In Three-Card Bounty you have Dhaltri and all the First Recon guys, the three Fiends you have to kill, and even that Little Buster bounty hunter guy. It's nothing major, but it's just nicely done. You know who you're killing and who's helping you do it, and it just adds a lot to what is a very bare-bones quest, ultimately. Even the Nephi bit with all the sniper ambush is basically just smoke and mirrors, but it's cool because the big walk down to the crushing plant combines with the stories you've heard from everyone to get some proper build up. Telling Betsy you killed Cook-Cook (and telling Pretty Sarah, too), and getting her help from Dr Usanagi, and sending First Recon off to Forlorn Hope after you take care of everything (only that didn't happen this time on account of how I've wiped Forlorn Hope out), that shit just breathes a little life in to a world that, while awesome, can feel a little static and lacking in characters at times.
As for Raul, he's just the only one who really fits as a sidekick (although Arcade is pretty close). Boone's dead as a human, basically, and can't really do things like make friends. Lily's insane. Rex is a dog, ED-E's a robot, when it comes down to it Veronica is Brotherhood, and I guess I haven't given Cassidy a fair run yet. But Raul just slots right in to the role. The self-deprecation, the fatalistic jokes about your decisions and actions, even his maintenance perk all set him up as a great complement to your guy. His character quest deals with this too, about taking a back seat but still helping, which I guess is why I tend to finish it that way, rather than the way where he becomes a vaquero. The latter way, he's just another gun you bring around with you sometimes for fights, same as Boone or whatever. But as the sidekick mechanic, he's the only guy I can really see sticking around with the main guy as a proper 'companion' (no homo).

As for Kluge, he's level 22 or 23 or so now (I actually did all this like three weeks ago and can't remember properly), and grabbing Raul was the last of the main Mojave sidequests I wanted to do. Which means it's DLC time. Next four posts will be the four DLC stories (I figure Lonesome Road will be out just about the time I finish up the first three), and then we'll hopefully steamroll on to the grand finale at the Dam.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

If I owned a bar in the Fallout world I would call it "The Good Luck Kid"

A bit ago I wrote this really adolescent thing about how I wasn't really up for any more New Vegas. And then that game kicked my ass, and now the absolute opposite is true.

The DLC for this game has become perhaps my favourite aspect, in terms of the weird territories it takes you to, the microcosm of difficult choices you have to make, and the way it expands on the mythos and world of Fallout in a way that far surpasses any of the DLC of Fallout 3.

It's like the stuff Obsidian did with this game and it's content, what they wanted to do with it, never even crossed the minds of the Bethesda boys and girls. That's not to discredit the Bethesda team, at all. The engine of Fallout 3 is prety fantastic, and the grimy architecture of everything was, well, not the only good thing about that game, but one of like maybe three good things about it.

Having said that, the DLC for Fallout 3 was basically just a couple of standalone missions, pretty uninspiring stuff, whereas you're geared up for the DLC in New Vegas from the first time you spot some weird graffiti on some half demolished wall. There are references to it all throughout the main game, subtle things that don't get in the way. And when you get to explore them (granted, you have to pay 800 points for each) you get this sense of how well the world of Fallout is thought out and plotted.

So Old World Blues, the third and penultimate DLC realm made me love my main character again.

And I was bored of him. His build is nothing spectacular. He had guns and speech as his main skills, I can't even remember the third skill I tagged, you know? He's done so much shit and he's called Harvey From Sabrina which at the time I thought was hilarious but now is just ridiculous and I'm a little embarassed about it even.

But the world of Fallout, the world of Harvey from Sabrina, feels so vital and important, and it's not because my dad died and I purified a lot of water, but thanks Fallout 3.

It feels like it matters because people can die whenever, not just at scripted times. You can mess things up, so the choices feel much more real. It's like Bethesda wanted to tell a story, and they got so caught up in that story they didn't want you to mess with it.

New Vegas is all about messing with shit. Obsidian have faith in their players and if you kill a quest giving character then too bad, but that will lead you on to other things and the result is so much more rewarding than the limited Fallout 3.

With all that in mind, things happen at the end of Old World Blues that made me sort of reassess and everything clicked into place and felt poignant and bittersweet. That's not to say Old World Blues is a bum trip, it's funny as hell.

Easily one of the funniest games I've ever played.

And when I get back to the Mojave after all that craziness is done I don't know what to do with my guy. I've got a few side missions I could be getting on with, sure. But I'm so geared up for meeting Ulysses, I have no idea what that will be like, and it feels like it will actually be the pinnacle of these introspective and lonely journeys I've taken outside the Mojave.

But that won't be the end. I'll have to come back and fight the second battle of Hoover dam and initially I thought this was a bad thing, but it might be one of the most mature examples of mood manipulation in a game to date.

For starters the DLC, with the except of Honest Hearts, is mostly to do with itself. Like the characters you meet there, they've affected and are often mentioned by people who live in the Mojave, but the characters in the DLC have removed themselves, or been removed, from that world and it's like this weird behind-the-scenes shit you get to experience.

So it will finish up the DLC stuff nicely. Plus this meeting with Ulysses is being billed as this final showdown sort of thing, except I'll have to go and deal with Lanius after.

And that will become a joyless affair, like something I just have to do, some business-like conclusion to the whole thing. Without realising it, Lanius will become the final voice of the game, a voice of combat (as long as that doesn't sound too pretentious, which it probably does) because War Never Changes.

It's like I'll fight him, and kill him, but the greatest battle of Harvey from Sabrina's life will already have been fought against, and with, characters I can never meet again, in realms I cannot, for the large part, revisit.

And that makes Harvey from Sabrina feel sad. But now I want Obsidian to make all the games I ever play, and they have totally killed my jammedness for Skyrim.

Skyrim, it's like it's there in the Mojave, and it'll be an ok game, it'll be big and showy and it will have taken control of Caeser's army, since Caeser is dead now. But it won't be Fallout: New Vegas. My great battle will have been fought by then. But I guess Skyrim has dragons.