Saturday, 25 December 2010

A Coward Does His Duty

There comes a time when even the most stalwart FPS aficionado gets tired of charging into the fray with all guns blazing. For me, the appointed hour arrived one afternoon a few years ago. I was playing the level ‘War Pig’ from Call of Duty 4, in which you have to escort a tank through a hostile city. Having spent half an hour experimenting with variations of the kamikaze assault, I decided that it was time to try something new. Why not, I thought, play through the level as a coward? Not all soldiers are heroes, after all; even duty can call a wrong number.

To begin with, my new approach worked well. Having restarted the game, I immediately took cover behind a wall, far from the enemy’s front line. Bullets rattled against the brickwork, but the effect was strangely comforting, like the pattering of rain on a sturdy roof. My comrades exhorted me to advance, but I stayed where I was. Let them do the work for a change, I thought. What does a tank need a human shield for, anyway?

It wasn’t long before my resolution began to falter. Lying in the dirt is fun for a while, but once you’ve run out of pixelated blades of grass to count, there’s very little left to do. More importantly, from a military perspective, my squadron wasn’t making much progress: the tank was still parked right where it had started, bullets pinging impotently from its armoured frame. The crew appeared to be asleep. This state of affairs was unacceptable: a coward I may be, but that doesn’t make me a good loser.

I crawled out of cover and took up a new position behind the tank. For a moment I fretted that this behaviour—situating myself next to the enemy’s primary target—was insufficiently spineless, but it soon became clear that I was in no more danger than I had been before. However, neither did my relocation appear to have effected a tactical improvement: the tank was still motionless, and no amount of pushing was going to help. Reluctantly, I decided that it was time to enter the fray, or at least to knock quietly on the door of the fray, in the hope that the fray wouldn’t be able to hear me over the sound of itself.

I crept out from behind the tank and made my way slowly along the periphery of the battlefield. A distant adversary fired a couple of rounds in my direction, but they missed by a comfortable margin. All the same, I couldn’t help but feel that I was failing to respect my true nature: a coward must have the courage of his convictions, or he might just end up brave and dead.

Happily, I soon found myself back in cover. Not only that, but my expedition appeared to have roused the occupants of the tank from their slumber. The vehicle began to inch forward, following the trail that I had blazed just moments before. Could it be? Had I instigated a victory without firing a shot?

As it turned out, no. The tank came to a halt just short of my position, its driver seemingly unwilling to advance in his armoured vehicle to the point that I was occupying with my fleshy body. The enemy had abruptly vanished, and my comrades were rallying around me, but it appeared that we would make no further progress until I had personally evicted from the road ahead every one of the 500 Kalashnikov-wielding insurgents who had taken up residence there. This honour I declined. I have my principles, after all, and chief among them is the conscientious objection to the prospect of my own demise. With this in mind, I made a swift battlefield resignation. As the saying goes, you should always quit while you’re not dead.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Wasteland Lover 3: The Rise and Fall of the Powder Gangers

With the shit town of Goodsprings saved, Felix definitely had no reason to stay there a second longer. He heads out in to the wastes, following the road to a town called Primm, which is where the trail of clues was currently leading. I guess I should point out that there is some sort of narrative thread to this game, namely that you get shot in the head by Chandler in the opening scene, and he takes some macguffin you were carrying from somewhere to somewhere else; it's not that clear. You want to find the person who killed you, and that's pretty understandable. Once you do that, you very quickly get wrapped up in the overall narrative of the area, and the link's a little hazy, but by then you probably have enough opinions, or at least enough curiosity, to want to get involved in that. It doesn't get in the way of messing about, but it's definitely more present than say, the storyline of Fallout 2, which is about 3 scenes.

So yeah, that's why Felix is going to Primm, because that's where the guy who shot him in the head was going. I said I followed the road to Primm, but that's more like a good idea that I had rather than what happened. Every fucking barrel and possibly-exciting plant was enough to drag Felix 200 metres off the road and get him involved in all kinds of terrible shit. Felix met a dickhead who was wearing a nice jacket, so he borrowed if off his corpse. Geckos were all over the place though, so the Powder Ganger armour we got back in Goodsprings stayed on for now.


Of course this is a diguise and of course I forgot and the NCR trooper outside Primm started shooting at Felix. Just because he was dressed like a wanted criminal? What an asshole. After hiding behind a rock and getting changed, I guess the guy forgot about us. He was happy to talk nonsense to Felix about his job, so I guess that's cool. However, he'd also just chased Felix in to the wastes whilst shooting at him. This made him pretty unpopular, and also in the middle of nowhere. He was also wearing an NCR disguise, which Felix could really do with having if this pans out anything like I expect. So, Felix puts some dynamite in to his pocket, which is a great feature that is still great the twentieth time.

Primm is a surprisingly big town containing surprisingly little. By the time Felix arrives, it's been more or less taken over by Powder Gangers in great outfits. The little western side of town has a handful of NCR troopers in tents, and the original residents of the town are holed up in the Vikki and Vance casino (a building Felix would quickly and thoroughly burgle), but mostly the town was dominated by aforementioned prisoner types, holed up in the Bison Steve Hotel. Irritatingly, it turns out the guy who knows where Felix's would-be murderer went has been kidnapped and is being held inside said Hotel. Never one to want a fair fight, Felix sneaks in, frees the captive and sneaks out with him, only having to beat two innocent criminals to death with a tire iron in the process. Turns out the man who shot Felix in the head continued along the road. Couldn't have figured that shit out without having to run in to a hotel full of insane criminals I guess.


Felix Kluge outside the Bison Steve Hotel, October 2281


The guy Felix was forced to rescue is whining about how the Sheriff died or whatever and how Felix should get a new one. You get pretty inured to this shit, playing videogames. I'm basically just accepting of the fact that obviously they'd choose Felix for the role of picking the new sheriff, on account of how he's never been to this town before and knows nothing about law enforcement. Deciding to repay their trust, Felix walks to the prison nearby and selects a convicted felon to rule the town. This goes down very well with the local population. With a sheriff installed, the citizens finally leave the casino, getting in to a big fight with all the Powder Gangers I didn't kill earlier, and doing Felix's 'job' for him. It wasn't really his job anyway so he doesn't even feel bad a little bit. After he's finished looting all the corpses, he notices one Primm resident has a rather baller outfit. Sadly the old dynamite-in-the-pocket routine didn't run so smoothly because the guy noticed it was happening. He also had some beasty revolver so we had to run outside of town and hide behind a rock until he was close enough to beat to death with a baseball bat.

By this stage Kluge has killed four people purely because he wanted their clothes. Someone is coming out from the town to investigate what was just happening though, some weird young really tanned guy with a white flat top. Looks god damn hideous. Don't really want to be caught next to the corpse of this guy's friend whilst wearing his clothes, so Kluge runs off in to the wastes. After maybe 10 steps a Powder Ganger shows up and says he has a present for Felix. It's a lie though, he just wants to kill him with his friends.
There are a shitload of Powder Gangers in this game. All from that one little prison? I mean that prison is still full of guys, and even discounting all the ones over the wastes, they have four camps, those guys in the Bison Steve, the ones in Vault 19 (this is a spoiler) and the ones in Nipton (also a spoiler), with a few more dotted around, like the ones who attacked Goodsprings. That's a lot of guys, but whatever. Anyway these guys have attacked Kluge because apparently they hate him. Not really sure how I've wronged them so severely, and a few hours ago they were letting me walk around in their prison, so fuck these guys. Felix heroically runs back towards Primm, where that rancid grey flat-top guy is investigating the murder of his pal (by me) and gets him to fight the Powder Gangers for him.

That shit dealt with, Felix heads over the wastes to Nipton, on the way seeing a horrible mutated dog-human get beaten to death by a herd of Bighorners. Turns out Nipton's gone to hell, it's all on fire and shit, and the only guy around is this complete tool that Felix was going to bludgeon to death before being distracted by barrel cactus plants. I mean hey, that guy was a dick, but maybe I can cook some cool shit with this fruit. Is what Felix would have thought.

So yeah Nipton all got burned down and all the population killed of enslaved by the Legion, using some fruity lottery. I guess these guys have a certain style if nothing else. The leader of the group, with his weird voice like out of date caramel, or a rat pretending to be a sexy mouse, is cool with Felix just strolling around though, and even gives him a little job to do. So he's okay in Felix's book. After doing his job, Felix continues on up the road, getting in to a few fairly unexciting encounters until finding a pretty radical ranch.


It's got some boxes to put my shit in, some plants, a campfire, a bed, and I guess some fences and shit too. Kluge duly stores his shit in said boxes, steals the unique cleaver 'Chopper' from the stovetop, and has a little nap. It's nice to have a house, and this one is a shitload better than that shitty presidential suite you get later on (that is a spoiler).

On the final run to Novac (Novac is where our current tidbit of clue is leading us), we pass a little unit of NCR troopers. They look okay, I guess. The uniform's okay. They're out patrolling, which is maybe fairly noble. It seems a lot like work, though, and Felix isn't really feeling this shit. And he doesn't really mind when they get slaughtered a few dozen metres up the trail. Continuing on, pretty soon Felix sees a couple of dudes he can totally get on board with.

Hell yeah. Whatever Felix is up to, it's not as good as whatever these two lads are doing, and he wants to be a part of it. Sadly right now he still has to deal with the fact that someone shot him in the head and then stone cold walked away like he didn't give a shit about it. Passing a ranger station, Kluge ducks in for a minute. There is one solitary ranger in here. Great station assholes. Put some dynamite in her pocket to steal her shit, works like a charm. Annoyingly, her ranger outfit isn't a disguise. This shitty NCR uniform Kluge stole outside of Primm weighs 26 fucking pounds for 2 DT. Shit is most definitely hampering his ability to operate effectively (i.e. carry 200 bottles of nuka cola and pretend to be those Legion vets he saw earlier). Felix trashed the outfit then, because he aint wearing some fruity shit with a neckerchief just for no reason.
It's night time by the time he rolls in to Novac, and the god damn hotel desk is closed. Isn't night time when people want to use hotels? This place is being run terribly. Nothing to do except wait around in the lobby for daytime.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Wasteland Lover 2: Felix Kluge

Now that this is going on a blog, suddenly my character has to have a name. Can't run around the wastes under such monikers as Sweet Baff or Cram It. I hate thinking up names, so for a little while, whenever I need one for whatever reason, I've had a few tactics. Went with my favourite one this time, which is stealing names from the Bundesliga. Heard about a midfielder playing for Schalke 04 called Peer Kluge, which is just a fantastic name. Took the surname for my own, then added the first name of his Schalke 04 manager. I'm like the Tarantino of names, except I'm not a complete fucking imbecile.
Name down, next up is face. I followed what I outlined before, and it ended up like this:

I am not some fruit, I had no real goal here beyond making something I wouldn't completely hate looking at for ages. Hopefully you feel the same way. If not, fuck you, that shit took me ages. Like five minutes just on his jaw. The Mass Effect facemaker is much better. This shit has a lot of options that make no sense. Like there is an option in 'tone' called 'eyebrows' and it does absolutely nothing as far as I can tell. All the options for changing the nose use fucking esoteric terms for different parts of the nose. I thought I was doing okay knowing what a philtrum was, but now I have to know exactly how wide I want this guy's sellion to be. And ultimately you can hardly change it anyway. Poor facemaking software.

Anyway, next came stats, and I went for hell-of-generic and standardised.



Bearing in mind I pick up Small Frame in a moment, we have 6 6s and 1 5 (sorry Charisma. I didn't drop you down but you are still terrible.)
Right after you pick the stats you have to answer all these questions, and then it tells you what skills you should have. Then it lets you change them, which everyone who has ever played this game definitely does. This interview shit is fucking terrible. Nobody wants it. It didn't use to be there. At least, knowing it was meaningless, I could just skip through it all and pick Melee, Sneak and Survival like I already knew I was flipping gonna. Also picked up Small Frame and Good-Natured like I fucking said I was going to.
Then I stole everything of value (and several things of no value) from the Doc's house, and stepped out in to the wasteland.

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This game is marred by its opening frankly. This whole town is fucking awful and has almost nothing to do with anything. All the characters in it are gross verisimilitude-destroying failures. I can just about see why you'd need a tutorial, in case somewhere in the world there existed a person who had never played a single videogame before in their life, but had still managed to ease through the fucking cheek-sallowness sliders. Yeah, there's really no one this tutorial is for. People know how to play games, and people that don't know how to play games tend not to give a shit and do not want to learn. There are good ways to do tutorials, like Left 4 Dead, which has a tutorial you don't even fucking realise is being given. This is the exact opposite of that. It's very weird having this stupid town and its population of children's tv presenters in the same world as the rest of the game.

Not really going to go in to it, because it really is that rubbish. I helped out around the town and eventually fended off the 'invasion' of the town (by six people, three of them wearing only shorts). But mostly I just went from house to house stealing everyone's shit.

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Because:
A) Fuck this town and everyone in it.
B) It's really easy to do and I probably need all these boxes of detergent.
C) Feeble Felix Kluge can't really get in to fights that often on account of his small frame and all that, but the audience still has to know he isn't made of the finest moral fibre. Probably a poor fibre e.g. flax.

This goes down mostly successfully. Highpoint being stealing from the leader of the people who were about to invade whilst he has an argument with one of the residents (he had a stealthboy). Lowpoint being when I got cocky, stealing from the shelves of the shop while the shopkeeper was right there, and then selling everything back to him. He caught me and nearly shot me to death before I ran far enough away and I guess he just forgot it all happened, and I sold the rest of his shit back to him.

So yeah, I was born, I ran around and looted the town, then saved it from the bad guys. All set for heading off into the wastes in chapter 3.


I got to level 2. Picked Confirmed Bachelor, which is the perk that lets you chat up other guys who are in to it. Hilariously, there is much messageboard moaning from guys who somehow selected this perk without realising that it blatantly makes your character gay. I took it because it's great that it exists, and because I need as many non-violent ways to get through shit as possible. This was the stupid tutorial town and I came extremely close to dying twice. I might pick up the corresponding perk to make me a multi-gender smoothtalker, or maybe I'll just stay the most desirable homosexual in the Mojave.
Along with the stealthboy, I got the Powder Ganger guard armour off Joe Cobb and a baseball bat off one of his friends. A decent weapon, the equal-best armour I'll ever be allowed to equip, and my first disguise. Hooray. I also did some cooking at the campfire. This shit is way more radical than I thought. I cooked the legs of a giant mantis in wine! I thought this shit would be much more caveman. This is fantastic.

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Wasteland Lover 1: The Intro. What and Why


I thought about writing a review. I read a lot of reviews, even after playing the whole game. I'm not exactly sure why. Played the game a lot when it came out, more than I have played any other game since I was 18 even. Didn't want to review it when I could be playing it, and by the time I had got over wanting to play it all the time it had been out 6 weeks or so, and reviewing it felt pointless. I mean, it would have been pointless anyway, but this just made it especially so. Plus I'd already stated most of my most trenchant points in conversation anyway, so there'd be a lot of retreading, or whatever. So yeah, I never did.
Fallout New Vegas has four endings, and I wanted to do them all. I left a lot of quests unfinished and places unexplored on my first go through the game, so there would be new shit for later ones. Goes against my innate completionist/perfectionist, but that side of me has totally faded as I've grown up anyway. Much rather do something enjoyably than well.
So, the main problem with New Vegas isn't the bugs, like I'd say if I was some weak journalist. It's that it's too fucking easy. My first go through I had it on 'Hard' setting (normal mode is for wimps, babies, toys and lame fucks) with the Hardcore more also enabled. It really wasn't that hard, so next go, I put it up to Very Hard and decided I wasn't going to wear power armour (like older Fallouts, it's the armour, especially power armour, that really reels in the difficulty). But, since I knew the game fairly well by this stage, it was actually even easier than before.
So, I got to talking with videogame journalist-for-hire Sam Balthier about ways to make an additional playthrough difficult enough to be engaging enough for a third run-through of the game.
The shit we discussed piqued my interest. Seemed it would necessitate playing the game slightly differently, require more thinking or whatever. Basically, I wasn't most likely going to bother playing this through a third time before, and after I wanted to fucking write this shit down.

I guess the restrictions and their reasoning run roughly like this:

No wearing shit with a DT above 5

Like I touched on before, it's the armour that really makes this game easy. No PA is one thing, but nothing over 5 is crippling. Can't even wear a leather jacket. Basically all this allows is the little grimy clothes with radical names like Merc Cruiser outfit and Raider Blastmaster Armour. Luckily, that contains all the best looking shit in the game anyway. What it also allows, and I get a feeling this might be crucial, is disguises. There are Legion, NCR, Great Khan and Powder Ganger disguises all at 5 DT or below, so that whole thing is open to play around with. They're not really necessary at all normally, but I'm guessing they might get more mileage when any sucker can kill you.
This was the idea the rest were based around, the nexus of the whole concept or whatever. A DT of less than 6 means you'll look way better (and we all love taking photos of our guy, hence this whole fucking thing) and the game will be hard enough to make you think.

No getting your fucking addictions cured by the doctor lady in five minutes for like fifty woolongs

Drugs are powerful shit. Even with essentially no armour, a shitload of drugs could still make you pretty baller. This way, you can still take them - and as this much of a wimp, it's likely I'll want the aforementioned shitload - but you have to deal with the consequences like a big boy.
Addiction curing is much too easy and cheap in this game anyhow, making shit like Fixer totally worthless except for a couple of quests in Freeside. My most memorable and fun playthrough of Fallout 2 was as a jet addict (in Fallout 2, you couldn't cure addictions at the doctor, but they did pass over time. Except jet. Jet was for life (yeah, there is a quest to make an antidote, but that shit is for babies and I did not touch it)). Being a legit addict if you play around with drugs, searching for Fixer, saving your last dose for either a big fight or to stave off a headache, should be fun.

No repairing shit

This one is another pretty big dampener on a lot of dudes' parades. I'm not sure how far I'm going to go with it. What's definitely out is swapping caps for CND with some repairing NPC behind a counter. Repair kits, maybe. But I don't have that much of a problem with like-for-like merging in the Pip-Boy, especially for the sake of saving some unique weapon or whatever (some of them look nice, plus they're sad to lose), but probably Jury Rigging should be out. Or maybe not, I don't know. Repair isn't amazing without it.

No companions

Companions are overpowered. And by companions I mean Boone. Although in fairness, most of the rest are too - especially Veronica - but Boone is just fucking egregious. I'm actually going to break this one for a couple of reasons:
I'm playing Hardcore mode (obviously) and if they die, then they're dead. No reloading that shit. I'm aiming to side with Caesar's Legion too. Not a lot of the companions are cool with that, notable fan-favourite Arcade Gannon and Boba Fett-fan-favourite Boone. So I wont get a whole lot of free reign. The reason being, I'm writing this shit up on here. Figure a companion dying or leaving me will make this shit better reading.

No save-scumming

Ironman that shit. If you die, you can reload. Anything else, fucking deal with it.

Character

Guess I might as well laden myself with a few more restrictions during character creation, huh?

Stats

Min-maxing is still as good as ever (pro-tip to beef up your character: dump CH, probably PE and possibly LK depending on your build. Over 6 IN isn't really necessary, especially if you take educated early). So this time I am having no part in it. Gonna put my free points where I want, but those 5s are sticking around. I'm going to be a lovely well-rounded human being.

Skills

Tagged guns before, plus it's very good and very generic/boring. Done explosives before too (can't recommend them enough though, they are too fantastic) and unarmed as well. Melee seems like just about the worst combat skill going (except perhaps having only explosives), so lets go with that.
Speech is too fucking good. Might build it later, but I'm at least giving the wasteland a chance against me.
Mostly I just didn't want to tag anything I've tagged before. Along with melee, sneak and survival are my picks. Sneak for running away from everything that can effortlessly kill me (everything), and survival for getting by in the wastes after I run away.

Traits

Small Frame and Good-Natured. I'm already going to get dicked in fights, so I might as well fucking emphasise this aspect of my personality or whatever. Plus the good sides of these traits will be nice.

Physique

Black or hispanic, clean-shaven.
Every motherfucker who played this game played a white guy with a beard. So fuck that. And since I'm a white nerd, by playing as an asian guy I might as well just get a fucking Thane Krios tattoo, or kill myself, or whatever. No.


So i guess that's pretty much my brief. My plan is to side with the Legion, be a dick to the NCR, be a dick in general, see Lily's little quest because I haven't yet, maybe activate ARCHIMEDES if I feel like it, finish as many quests differently to how I've done before/how most people do them/avoid the 'best' endings, and most of all just have this not be boring shit.

keeping people playing games

The way to get people to revisit games in not with achievement points.

This, for me, could be said to sum up a lot of the problems in games development today.

“If we put more achievement points in people will keep playing the game.”

That’s true, for some people. But what do achievement points mean? Nothing. They are some made up currency of excellence.

Games like Fallout: New Vegas, or Mass Effect, which feature a variety of ways to interact with the world and its characters provide replay ability through depth, exploration of a world and character. It is a good, intelligent and mature thing for games to do. Unlike Gamerscore, which is the exact opposite of that.

open letter to games developers who want to make games like films

Why do you want games to be more like films?

There are a lot of films. Hardly any of them are taken seriously. The big blockbusters are often derided by critics, who praise the more personal, or artistic, to use a semi-bullshit phrase, works of Peter Greenaway, Ken Loach or Terry Gilliam.

What is it you want from games? We already have blockbuster games, and they’re still looked down upon, if anyone looks at them at all, generally. A lot of people know almost nothing about, for example, the Call of Duty franchise. Even less know anything about fucking Limbo or any of the indie games.

Do you think any of this is to do with the fact that most people think video games are for kids because they’re played mostly by kids?

I mean yeah, if you’re male and aged 20-30 you might play games. But more killing, more explosions, more weapons aren’t going to make games be taken more seriously. That is all impulse attention grabbing bullshit, which is some MTV technique used to grab the attention of young people, kids, the same as the summer blockbuster films. Is it any wonder, then, that people think games are for kids since they seem to be designed for kids?

Games already make money. You don’t need to churn out blockbuster games.

Wikipedia:

The total revenue from first day sales in the U.S. and the UK was $310 million, making Modern Warfare 2 the biggest entertainment launch in history, surpassing (in revenue) its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto IV,[84][85] as well as items from other media types.

No one really cares about those big films either, they’re almost always just brief entertainment.

Why not let films be like films, because they’re films, and let games be like games?

Fuck you Rockstar

Hot off the heels (not really that hot. Like a year and a half) of producing what was undoubtedly the most boring game I've played in the last five years, Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games have flopped out some kind of trailer and interview about their next project, L.A. Noire, being developed by Team Bondi, who I also hadn't heard of. There are some quotes from Brendan McNamara, the head of development (he founded Team Bondi, worked on The Getaway, and apparently is British, despite being called Brendan McNamara), and producer Jeronimo Barrera (he's all downhill after his name), and some other shit too. They haven't said a whole lot though, so I'm surprised they've made it sound so awful.
"I want this game to be the flashpoint where people start to think of games and film as being on the same level, because I'm confident they already are," whines Barrera, declaring his somewhat flawed perception of his own importance and the fact that he is an idiot very concisely. Just in case there was any doubt as to what he was getting at, he also says, "we're definitely blurring the lines now [between games and film]." Yeah, he's another one of those guys. The best bit is, he also says, "it's been a challenge to be viewed as a legitimate medium."
No shit you fucking shill. Your dream is for games to be films that take forever, look weird, are shit, have achievements, involve 30 hours of superfluous shooting and the ability to jump. This is the equivalent of a comic maker, frustrated at the lack of prestige accredited to his medium, releasing a graphic novel where every single panel is completely full of text in the search for legitimacy.
Rockstar has always, at least since Grand Theft Auto III, basically just been trying to make films. It used to be alright and they used to make great games. Perhaps they used to have a better sense of scale and purpose. A half-dozen years ago they put out San Andreas and The Warriors fairly close together. Where the promise of this Rockstar went I do not know. Those were interesting games. The Warriors was a game version of a film, but it wasn't some tie-in. The film was over 20 years old, pretty off-beat in its production, and the demographic targeted by the game contained almost no one who'd even seen it. They weren't doing it for money and they didn't feel the need to explain themselves. They were confident that the game was good enough to stand on its own, and it fucking was. San Andreas, obviously, was about a black guy. Hilariously, even now, years after this game came out and was a big success, this is still completely left-field, a wacky radical move to take which has pretty much not been repeated. I could get in to it more but it's apparent enough if you've played it, at least two other games, and met a couple of real people, or even just watched a few films.
Now though, it's all a lot of bullshit. Red Dead Redemption was the most tired and flat setting, collection of characters and plot they've scraped together yet, and this is the company who made Grand Theft Auto IV. A trick I've noticed Rockstar doing of late when hyping their own games, is just to lie and say the opposite of what has happened. For both GTA IV and Red Dead the pre-release spiel went on about how they'd completely redone the combat system, when in actuality it's exactly the same alternate-trigger-tapping shit from GTA III, which was already dated in San Andreas, and so ludicrously poor by now that it makes Red Dead essentially unplayable, unless all you wanted to get out of it was watching a really, really, really long and completely fucking shit film, with over 3 hours of blood spraying on to the camera as the protagonist skins animals, exclaiming, "Hoowee! Stinky!" And other such statements, on account of what a conflicted and complex character he is. I'm guessing the same system will be in L.A. Noire, probably with a meter-based "Hardboiled Mode" where the screen goes black and white and gets smoky and you just press one button to kill everyone with your revolver whilst making wisecracks, on account of how conflicted and complex you are.
The same system, too, is evidently being used when it comes to hyping this game. "We know we're asking a lot from players," lies Robert McNamara. No you're not. You've called this game fucking L.A. Noire. You're not even asking them to work out what this game is by looking at the cover picture, or to have to remember what it's about later. You've just named the game what you want it to be like, a testament to the glib, facile and meretricious piece of shit it will undoubtedly be. Red Dead Redemption was a lot of things, but it wasn't called Angry Cowboy Dad.
And fucking complex, moody characters. "The character Aaron plays is conflicted and has quite a lot of depth," lies McNamara again. No he doesn't, I bet all my money. These unshaven, bad tempered, extremely white characters have always cropped up as game protagonists, but the last few years it's been pretty much just them. And they are all, literally all of them, every single one, fucking awful. It's not just aping films, it's aping a really tiny view of films, and mostly aping other games what did make all the £££.
CJ from San Andreas wasn't moody and conflicted. He knew exactly what the shit was up, what he had to do, and how he felt about it. He even gave off the vibe of knowing that he was the protagonist of a videogame, with the gallows humour and detached, fatalistic wit of someone who just spent nine hours driving over women and being shot by police because a 14-year-old boy wanted him to. He was pitched perfectly for the game, and the medium. Rockstar is now giving us protagonists from films (and awful ones from shit films, at that), all serious and gruff, whilst still making games that are at by far their most enjoyable when you're flying a helicopter whilst wearing disco pants, being chased by everyone in the world because you shot the hot dog seller by mistake and you don't want to go to prison (for 5 hours) because you'll lose all your cool guns and because it was just the fucking hot dog seller why does everyone care so much, he's just one guy, how did this get so out of hand why are there tanks after me? That is what these games are for, what they have always been for and still evidently are for. But they're shoehorning all this awful shit in in this totally misguided and frankly massive unwanted push for legitimacy. Riding your golf kart through town in your disco pants, casually shooting pedestrians with your TEC-9 as you pass them before getting out and talking to David Cross and shooting down hundreds of toy planes with the four miniguns he has on the roof of his downtown toyshop, that was fine, because it was San Andreas, you were CJ, and that was what happened. Riding through the desert on your bull in your inexplicably pristine suit, casually lassoing nuns as you pass them before getting out and talking to an insane grave digging hermit with a silly voice is not fine, because you're playing Red Dead and you're fucking John Marsden and you have conflicted emotions and are so complex and it's just fucking jarring and awful.
By deciding you weren't happy just making games, and that you had to try and make them films too, you went from making great games that were genuinely trying new things out and forming what 'games' were as a medium, to making shitty, bland, overblown boring games. And they aren't even like films. And, if they somehow were films, they would be fucking atrocious films.
So fuck you Rockstar Games, you big pile of dicks.


L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, Rockstar Games) is expected out in the first half of 2011 for PS3 and Xbox 360.

Monday, 13 December 2010

i was just watching the matrix

There is no spoon/nothing good about the matrix.

You know what the matrix is?

It is the greatest comment on life in our times.

I talk, first, specifically about the lobby shoot out scene. It is interesting that a group of humans, dedicated to saving other humans, don’t think twice about killing humans to save humans. There is that phrase that circulates the internet, and protest signs across the world: Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity.

There is no absolute idealist theory behind the motives of Neo, and Not Samuel L Jackson Lawrence Fishburne. Just fuck these security guard humans, Morpheus is more important.

Fuck a lot of people, save whoever you want.

At one point Neo is hidden behind a pillar whilst these security guards uselessly pound round after round into the barrier he hides behind. After a while when, I assume, the guards are reloading, Neo runs out and starts shooting.

The guards haven’t even started reloading, they've not even stopped shooting, he just runs out for no reason. His tactic is to run, in a straight line, whilst shooting.

He fights like someone who has learnt to fight through playing video games, which I guess is what he is exactly.

This is a very subtle and clever comment by the Wachowski brothers, or whoever made the film, and they are clearly not just dumb shits who wrote this film because they saw a mobile phone once.

But where the commentary of the film really comes into it’s own is in the final chase between the Agents and Neo.

Neo runs up a fire escape and the Agents fire their guns and miss with every shot.

Even though they are scientifically completely perfect in every way and have complete control of the universe and all physics.

The moral of the matrix is not to do with the take over of technology, but this:

Whoever you are you will always be shit at what you do.

The Wachowski brothers are a shining testament to this.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Review: The Trial

When Franz Kafka released The Trial in 1925, computers did not exist. It might take a moment for that to settle in: no YouTube, no Wikipedia, no email. Even the word processor was an invisible speck on the horizon of the future. Given all that, it’s unsurprising that he never quite got around to finishing the book. It’s a wonder he ever got started. Nevertheless, The Trial has done very nicely for itself, and now it’s finally received the greatest accolade available to any narrative artefact: a videogame adaptation.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Od, the studio behind such esoteric releases as Trigger Toe and The Lonely Berserker, has created what they call a “hyper-version” of the classic novel, an “exploding of Kafka’s brain-world, cut out of time and digitised for a generation of people who find books too heavy to enjoy.” The original plot has been ditched in favour of a multi-stranded narrative, although the strands converge at numerous key points. In fact, they barely diverge to begin with: no matter what you attempt to do, you invariably find yourself performing the same actions again and again. The clever part is how the game makes you feel that this is entirely natural, that your freely made decisions lead inevitably to the same conclusion.

In one sequence, you have the option of calling on a young lady who lives in the apartment opposite your own. It’s late at night, so there’s a chance that she’ll resent the disturbance, but it’s also possible that she’ll fall madly in love with you. Brilliantly, the game ensures, through subtle sleights of hand, that both outcomes occur every time. You have the thrill of making a new romantic contact, coupled with the pathos of immediately severing it. Similar events occur throughout, with the result that every possible permutation of human experience is condensed into 30 hours of playing time. This is one game that represents definite value for money.

There are, however, a few areas in which the good people at Od take avant-garde game design too far. Most notably, there’s a sequence that occurs in total darkness: the player has to navigate a labyrinthine office building by feel alone, responding to the vibrations of the controller pad. Although this is a nice existential touch in theory, it’s marred by the fact that it takes about 40 minutes to complete, during which time dozens of anonymous characters interrogate the player about the most mundane of his daily habits. Scrolling through dialogue options like “Why, I bathe every day without fail. Good hygiene is essential in the modern world” gets tedious pretty quickly, especially when each one provokes the same response: “The judge will be very glad to hear that, or perhaps he’ll hold it against you. One can’t be sure.”

Other aspects of the gameplay are equally frustrating. The controls are occasionally re-mapped without warning, sometimes at incredibly inopportune moments, such as when the player is standing by an open window. For a game with no enemies, in which the most hazardous feature of the environment is a balcony with a broken guardrail, The Trial has an exceptionally high mortality rate. (It’s actually impossible to play it through without dying at least once.) And if you’re thinking “Good, I like a challenge,” think again: the arbitrary nature of each death means that you never get to learn from your mistakes.

Despite these problems, The Trial is ultimately a success. It’s worth sampling just for the queasy, claustrophobic atmosphere that permeates its every scene. Silent Hill might be scarier, but then it has the advantage of being populated with disembodied legs and pyramid-headed rape monsters. The most frightening character in The Trial, by contrast, is a dwarfish court clerk with psoriasis (whatever you do, don’t agree to bathe with him).

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Review of Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's New Vegas review

Whilst I appreciate the old school sort of humour story telling nature of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s review of New Vegas, it harks back to the kind of shit they used to do in PC Zone in 1997, and I have had to resist the urge to do that sort of shit myself, it seems like Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw has been broken by sequels.

About Fallout: New Vegas Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw says this (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/2435-Fallout-New-Vegas):

New Vegas is functionally just an expansion pack of Fallout 3 and I said everything I needed to say about Fallout 3 in my Fallout 3 review of Fallout 3.”

I’m not in favour of sequels generally either, Half Life 2 being the exception in terms of me actually wanting more of that story. In fact I think sequels, instead of having numbers should have the word "Again", so Assassin's Creed 2 would be called Assassin's Creed Again, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would be called Call of Duty Again, Again, Again: Modern Warfare Again. (can't remember if that idea is already on this blog so fuck it)

I wouldn’t have asked for New Vegas, I held out as little hope as possible, seeing as I’d wanted Fallout 3 to actually not be shit and was so, so disappointed. But as things turn out New Vegas rams the shit out of Fallout 3, so it’s all ok.

So, in this instance, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, we need to go beyond the standard Christian concepts of Good and Evil and judge each game on its own merits.

Fallout 3 defined the game Fallout 3, as you may well expect, but New Vegas is actually worth playing, being so much more refined, and subtle, and what a game should be. There’s nothing more to say about the engine, sure, but a game is not an engine and no one should ever buy New Vegas for the fucking engine.

Also, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw: reply to my fucking emails DAMN.

And, seriously, those “Day One” panel things in that New Vegas review went on for far too long.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A review, basically, of Fallout: New Vegas

The amount of times I climb a hill, turn a corner, and I’m confronted by some huge valley or mountain range on Fallout: New Vegas is frankly ridiculous. The best part of Fallout 3 was when you left the vault for the first time. You’re on this ridge, and when your eyes adjust to the sunlight you can see this vast, lonely wasteland.

Except it’s not that lonely, it’s fucking annoying and every five seconds you’re attacked by some generic raider, a crazy robot, or a couple of wild dildos.

The only thing I liked about Fallout 3 was the feel of the wasteland, when no one was around. It evokes an overwhelming loneliness, which can be affecting, but by having hostiles randomly strewn throughout the world it, like a premature ejaculation, ruined entirely the atmosphere it had going on.

New Vegas doesn’t make the same mistake. In this game it’s rare to encounter animals wandering aimlessly in the desert. Humans tend to gather around camps. Scorpions pick around the ruins of a gas station, ants have colonised an old barn. Shit like that makes it feel like the world of New Vegas is a living one.

However, the openness of New Vegas means there is often very little tension in your travels. There are moments, for example your initial approach to the Strip, where the environment works particularly well, but at other times journeying around can be tedious, and I find myself leaping from rock to rock, perilously trying to descend a radioactive cliff face to get somewhere ten seconds faster. It more or less depends on my mood how I feel about this. If you're feeling sort of ponderous, it's kind of cool, trudging through the desert. But, man, it’s almost always great when you turn a corner and there’s this freaky forest, or a massive lake that appears out of nowhere. I am in awe a little bit of those things when I see them.

New Vegas is also like a better version of Red Dead Redemption. I liked that game, but not because of any kind of message it tried to tell me. It felt like it was trying to make this point about revolution, the rise to power, the impact of which was lost because even though it is an open world game, you’re basically following a script, killing certain people at the times you’re told to.

New Vegas deals with that. In Fallout 3 you couldn’t kill certain characters, because it would mess up quests. New Vegas doesn’t give a fuck. Normally, you kill a character, it affects your standing, and what quests are available, with a faction. Different NPCs belong to different factions and all your actions affect how they see you, a bit like when you make one Sim kill another in The Sims and those red minus signs appear above their girlfriends head. I mean what did you do in The Sims?

This system increases the level of interactivity in the game, making it unique from, say, a film, and thousands of other games, and making it feel like your actions and decisions have actual resonance in a world that could feasibly exist (sort of). I didn’t hate Red Dead, I thought it was a good game. It’s just a lot of things you’d do in that didn’t seem to affect anything at all, even though the events themselves seemed like they were meant to have significance.

For a world to feel lived in, in games, the characters need to feel real. Mass Effect 2 is a good example of a game that does this really well, as is New Vegas. You get a feel for various characters through quests that don’t involve combat, where you sometimes have to deduce things, or you can talk your way out of a potential conflict. It is a subtlety missing from most games.

One character you meet, when you ask about her goals, wants a dress. She’s also some kind of technical whiz, and she probably just punched the head off a guy, but when you talk to her she feels like a real person, not just a single purpose tool, and is captivating as a result. Conversations with characters have actually made me laugh because they contain actual jokes.

Dungeons are absent from this game, by which I mean the shit dungeons from Fallout 3 are gone. I stopped giving the tiniest bit of a fuck about dungeons in Fallout 3 after my second dungeon. Here’s what would happen: I’d find a dungeon, go inside, discover the interior of every single building had been designed by the same architect, explore the whole thing, find nothing of any consequence, grab some stimpaks and bottle caps and call it a day. It was like trying to jerk off and abandoning it half way through. And you’re masturbating over a picture of some rusty tins.

In New Vegas the buildings, vaults and things you can enter in the wasteland relate to various quests. It feels like they were built, like buildings in real life, for an actual reason, and they’re worth exploring to discover another angle to a quest, or the world.

Without Fallout 3 we wouldn’t have New Vegas, probably. That is the closest Fallout 3 will ever get to being worthwhile. I don’t know why Gamespot thinks Fallout 3 is better. They probably got erections from reading the words rusty and tins.

Someone writes an article about Philosophical games, and I write this

Someone linked me to a forum, or blog, or something, this article a guy called ChristOnIce wrote about “philosophical” games. He writes this, about Bioshock:

Is our culture so bankrupt that something this lacking in any originality qualifies as brilliance? http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/christonice/philosophical-my-ass/30-30442/

Yeah, frankly, I think it is. There is very little brilliance in games. It’s not even subtle stuff. “Brilliance”, it seems, games like Portal, Shadow of the Colossus (my go to games for “games that aren’t utter shit”), is just not doing the awful shit that games normally do.

Bioshock’s big point of “You are a mindless killer” is a point made in Half Life 2 in a much more gradual, subtle way, as you start to realize the character you control (ha ha) is under some kind of cosmic contract, and it seems you’re helping these people you’ve grown to like out of some arbitrary reason you have no way to comprehend.

But people, gamers, I guess, see guns, and aliens, and they want to shoot those aliens with those guns and so what if there’s some creepy guy with a briefcase, or it’s all under water, as long as your gun has a chainsaw on it.

In Half Life 2, yeah, you’re shooting guys, things, because you’re been told to, but, unlike Bioshock, it doesn’t act like some 1st year art school student trying way too hard to prove it’s different. It just gets on with being brilliant. Or shit, if you hated it.

See also, please, because everything I write is brilliant and to the point: http://makehands.blogspot.com/2010/04/make-games-that-arent-shit-please.html

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The bugs of Fallout New Vegas

On the one hand Fallout: New Vegas is a phenomenal improvement on Fallout 3. It feels like the middle ground between Fallout 2 and Fallout 3, and is what I wanted its predecessor to be. Options are prevalent, and that is the spirit of Fallout 1 and 2, and what should be the spirit of all games. It’s so open ended, and the faction system gives you the feeling that your actions actually have consequences.

The dialogue and characters are so much better than in Fallout 3 it is actually embarrassing. I’ve met interesting characters, who have made me laugh. I can’t remember anyone I met in Fallout 3. My guy was like one of those assholes who never remembers your name (so also like someone with Alzheimer’s).

But Fallout: New Vegas is not a finished game, at all, and the bugs featured range from comical (I’ve seen an old lady slide across the wasteland as if she were sat in a chair), to freaky (the fucking possessed doctor bullshit), to game ending (every time I use the scope on my gun now a computer monitor appears on my screen, as if I’d activated a computer in the game. I don’t know if this is some meta commentary on the person I am but what the hell).

How is this shit allowed? Yeah, I bought this game the day it came out, I wanted to play it. But I would have waited a few more weeks whilst this shit was sorted, you know? This is like going to see a film and the sound is really quiet, and when you listen it’s all been reversed anyway. Or you go to a restaurant, order a meal, and then you have to eat it off the floor, and someone else already ate half of it.

Or you buy a pair of pants from a shop and they fit nice but everyone now and again the person who made them rubs shit in your face.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have just learned I was born on the same day as Gene Kelly and I look nothing like him and this must change.

Also: Kevin VanOrd, if you're reading this, and I know you are, I totally understand what you were saying, and I apologise for using you to illustrate how bad your review was.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Review of Fallout New Vegas Review

On Gamespot, in their reviews, at the start, they break down the game into the good and the bad.

For example, in Fallout New Vegas, they have this to say:

The Good:

Incredibly huge and detailed world, loaded with stuff to do. Etc.

The Bad:

Some quests are not enjoyable. Main story isn't compelling.

And yet Kevin VanOrd, who wrote this review, sums up by saying:

“Fallout: New Vegas is periodically awesome and consistently compelling.”

http://uk.gamespot.com/xbox360/rpg/falloutnewvegas/review.html?tag=topslot%3Bthumb%3B3&page=2

During the video review (available here: http://uk.gamespot.com/xbox360/rpg/falloutnewvegas/video/6282519/fallout-new-vegas-video-review?hd=1) he talks about the numerous problems of the game, which seem largely technical, and always counters by insisting the game is “really good.”

“Make no mistake, this is an outrageously buggy game, with major technical problems….manages to be totally fun in spite of it all.

Multitude of bugs…things break in pretty amazing ways….crashes are common, the game slows down the more you play, and the loading times get longer and longer. These things wouldn’t be so bad but…missions are broken too. And of course that doesn’t include the problems associated with the aging engine powering this game, that includes horrible pathfinding, NPCs bumbling around in rather pathetic ways and so on.

But make no mistake this is still a really great game. Some of the surprises, like an assassin that chases you round a casino, aren’t really that good.

You probably weren’t expecting things to break to the extent that they do in New Vegas. And yet this still is a really good game.”

I know I’m nitpicking here, arguing semantics, being a pedantic motherfucker, but this review is the culmination of how shit reviews for games are.

They’re so general, so generic and basic, devoid of all personality. They’re so even handed, saying, basically, this game is perfectly average by being so bad and so good at the same time.

I’ve been playing New Vegas, and enjoying it.

I was bored, admittedly, by the time I finished creating a character, but the sense that the world exists outside the player is something absent in so many games. The faction system is a great way of letting the actions of the player affect the world, and shape the experience of New Vegas.

That’s what I hated about Fallout 3, it just had nothing going for it. The combat was tedious, the characters were fucking dreadful, nothing you did had any consequence whatsoever.

New Vegas is what I wanted Fallout 3 to be. Now, do you see there how I wrote I wanted. I’m not saying this review, of a review, is any good, but I have quickly laid out what I didn’t like about Fallout 3, and what I did like, by contrast, in New Vegas.

I can say something is good, or bad, until my tongue wraps round my eyes, and not in a good way, but until you have context, and opinion, that doesn’t mean shit.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Realism in games

I have this idea about why maybe games aren't taken seriously.

Games are art, technically, but there isn't a single fucking headshot or sex mini game or bulging bicep that can compare to Picasso's Guernica, or Kevin Spacey's disappearing limp in The Usual Suspects, or, I don't know, fucking Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah. Not that a close up of a chainsaw to the face wouldn't have improved any of these works.

Games won't be taken more seriously because you've given characters beards, or because geo coordinates featured in the game correspond to real world locations, and I'm looking at you, Medal Of Honor.

Quote from Greg Goodrich, Medal of Honor executive producer:
"If you plug those geo coordinates those into google earth you'll actually be represented by the actual location... I guess some people, most people, probably won't notice..." - Greg Goodrich (quoted from a gamespot uk inteview, available here)

Yeah, or maybe literally no one will notice even though you have actually told actual people this.

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West features acting, voice and motion capture (I presume, though obviously I have researched this not at all), from Andy Serkis. Fucking ANDY SERKIS. The story is written by Alex Garland, author of, most famously, The Beach. Though the game follows the God Of War formula (take an old folk tale/myth and give it a top down view and special moves), it's working really fucking hard to go beyond that and make an impact in the games industry.

Garland and Serkis are well respected artists, with proven talent, working on games. The game they're featured in has nothing to do with a real world war, but it builds a stronger connection with you than Medal Of Honor, through actual acting and characterisation.

Soldiers, by definition, are meant to be characterless. The HBO mini series, Generation Kill, features soldiers who are characters with actual personalities, and you learn who those people are by spending time with them, in and out of combat. Modern games are flawed, in that sense, in being constant stimulation shit fountains, but there's a balance to be found between exploding heads and artistic expression.

When I say artistic expression I don't mean games like Limbo or Braid, the go to indie arts games. I mean shit like acting, poignance, atmosphere, craft. Call of Duty 4 has shitloads of this in moments such as when Captain Price grabs you and pulls you into a helicopter, or obviously in the aftermath of the nuclear explosion mission. Modern Warfare 2 has none. We've seen it all before, in the first game. All the subtlety is lost in the sequel.

Maybe I'm way, way off on this, and the people making those big FPS games aren't trying to even be taken seriously, don't care about games being taken seriously, and just want to make money, because any game with quadbikes, sand and guns is going to fucking sell right now, but if they are trying to make something artistically valid, the only way to do that is to express something personal and to involve people who know how to do this, and are really fucking good at doing it. Or, if you're going to do it yourself, watch more than just Quantum of Solace and fucking Black Hawk Down.

Realism is people, emotion, not just beards and numbers.

Medal of Honor is out on October 12th, yesterday, (US) October 14th (AU) October 15th (EU) and October 21st (JP) 2010 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It is a first person shooter. There will be sand in the game.

Pre-ordering Fallout New Vegas

I never used to pre-order games. Final Fantasy Nine I did, and it was the fruitiest game of all time. I pre-ordered it because of Final Fantasies Seven and Eight. But Nine was set in the least masculine universe ever designed and I had to be a guy with a tail who dressed like a stripper version of a 13-year-old son of a noble from Venice in 1500. It wasn't totally awful or anything, but it wasn't great either, and it was as gay as hell. I shouldn't have pre-ordered Final Fantasy Nine because of Seven and Eight, I should have pre-ordered Seven and Eight because of Seven and Eight. Which obviously doesn't make sense.

So I didn't pre-order any games for a long time. I guess I didn't even really buy many games for the next half a decade or whatever. But whatever fuck you.

My teen reasoning was pretty sound. I liked Eight right after Seven, and this one was also made by the same people and was about saving the world like all the rest. But that massively did not stop them inserting a treehouse city for rat people or a king who was a frog with a moustache in to Nine. I learned my shit. I would not fall for this again. No one would catch me ringing magic bells in Gizamaluke's fucking Grotto or running a postal service for a fucked up race/society of mentally undeveloped cat pandas. But yeah, about a year ago I forgot all this shit. I pre-ordered Modern Warfare 2. And it was fucking awful. Exact same shit as last time. I bought MW2 because I liked a different game (MW1). This is the reasoning of a moron. Still, the punishment didn't fit the crime even remotely. Modern Warfare 2 is fucking atrocious and nothing warrants that shit.

Anyway, fuck what I'd learnt. Maybe I just wanted to spite whatever weird didactic narrative was running through my life (because fuck you, right?) or more likely, not that at all. Regardless, I pre-ordered two more games in the next couple of months and they were both fine. Fuck you, everyone, I win this round etc. As far as I can tell, the main goal of this industry is to trick me in to buying games that are shit. I don't think this is even particularly far from my actual opinion.

Obviously I pre-ordered a game yesterday (I guess it's not obvious if you are a fucking idiot). Half of why I started doing it again is probably due to me rarely being out shopping and feeling like a huge dick if anyone sees me in public with a videogame (had to buy some fucking Xbox charger the other day and I knew the girl behind the counter. Only my wearing a suit saved me from pure shame. She probably thought I had a good job or some other fallacious shit). Plus I guess I have money, and after years of poverty I'm probably reveling in consumerist disposable income joywanks. Actually that's pretty much all of the reasons.

Anyway, game I ordered is/was (the shit is the right tense there?) Fallout New Vegas. After the painless pre-ordering non-upsets that were Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, this thing is already giving me prescient vibes or being a big shit that I got tricked in to willingly paying for.
I liked Fallout a lot, and I think Fallout 2 is more or less the best game ever made, so I guess I hate Fallout 3 a bit more than it merits for just being a shit game. And this game is more or less Fallout 3. But, three people who made Fallout 2 have important if somewhat ambiguous roles in the making of New Vegas, including Chris Avellone and Josh Sawyer, who seem like the two guys who give the most shits about the created world that Fallout takes place in overall. Q.f. Avellone's Fallout Bible and Sawyer's 'pen and paper' Fallout RPG. I should mention Feargus Urquhart too, but I'm writing this on my phone so can't really check up on him. Don't even know if I spelt his name right. I got the impression he was more or less the number two guy behind Fallout after Tim Cain anyway. Basically, pretty much the best 3 guys you could get. And apparently it's going to largely ignore Fallout 3 and be a lot more related to 1 and 2. And you can look down the fucking sights of guns, apparently. Which is I feel fairly useful in games where you have to shoot guns. But yeah, the guys who made Final Fantasy Seven also made Nine. But I guess I felt I was being too fucking cynical or whatever, and decided I would buy this game and play it without deciding that it will probably be shit. And, if you pre-ordered it, you got the one-sleeved leather jacket from the first two games (and Mad Max I guess, but I don't like it because Mad fucking Max wore it), and I'd avoid the ignominy of having to go in to a games shop and all that shit. So, decided I'd do it. Went on the website. For no good reason, the 'buy' button is unnecessarily small on this website, even if it is in the right place, so I missed it. Spent a second looking down the page, and there was a video for the game. Fuck, man. I should not have watched that shit. It was atrocious. It was like one of those hordes of meritless Modern Warfare 2 videos where morons who don't know any better upload edited clips of themselves 'no-scoping' their equally worthless opponents. This was interspersed with clips of the eponymous city which made it look way too much like Red Dead Redemption, which I guess wasn't an awful game, just unbelievably boring. I am pretty sure there is not a single line of dialogue in the video. For a series that was originally way more about talking and shooting, a video consisting of no talking, and loads and loads of shooting, is a fucking great sign. Maybe my pals Avellone et al had nothing to do with the video. Maybe that 3 minute video is the whole 20 hour game with all the non-shooting bits taken out. Maybe it is just a really shittily targetted and made video, created by some shit asshole, and the game's actually great. Like how the cover/poster of In Bruges makes it look like complete shit. But probably not, you know? I don't like to form opinions about shit from trailers and demos and press releases, but it's hard to avoid them. Told myself I wasn't going to be put off by that shit video and I ordered the game anyway. If I make a big stink about not buying a game because the demo was good, can't exactly go and not buy a game because the trailer was awful. But god man that trailer was really fucking terrible. Only worse things I can think of are those adverts for Halo. Which are genuinely the worst things that have ever been on television.

So yeah. As I get older, I think I'm going to be ordering nearly all my games online. So I'm likely to order a bunch of shit in my time, like quite possibly Fallout New Vegas. I could probably pre-order shit less though. That would dodge a whole lot of shitty bullets. I'd miss out on my one-sleeved leather jackets, but it would probably be cheaper, and I could feel legitimately superior to all those Ciaran Howleys who will buy something because it's new out and has a big release.

But I'll probably just end up buying a whole load more awful pieces of shit like Modern Warfare 2.


Fallout: New Vegas is out on October 19th (US) October 22nd (EU, AU) and November 4th (JP) 2010 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Infinity Ward: truth speakers

"The old maps were ditched due to gameplay reasons, according to the developer, because some of the new features being added didn't gel well with the size, layout, and design of the old maps." - Randolph Ramsay, GameSpot AU

http://uk.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/modernwarfare2/news.html?sid=6227722&mode=previews&page=2

Ok, yeah, so this is coming a bit late, but it still sums up exactly what is so shit about dlc in games today.

I mean, I didn’t just imagine that some of the cod4 maps have been brought out as dlc for mw2, did I?

So when the developer of mw2, Infinity Ward, said they ditched the old maps because some of the new features being added didn’t gel well with the size, layout and design of the old maps, what they meant is the new features actually fit to an acceptable degree, we’re just going to suck more money from you so you can play them. Is that right? Is that what I was just fucking told here?

And then there’s the story of anthonyaisrael8, who managed to hack the mw2 disc and uploaded a video showing that the dlc maps were already on the fucking disc that you paid money for. If you paid money to download those maps you paid money to unlock THE REST OF THE FUCKING GAME.

When did pride in your product and good value for money stop meaning a fucking thing? When computer games moved onto consoles, apparently.

anthonyaisrael8 was banned, incidentally, from xbox live and youtube for exposing that shit, by this fucking guy, Robert Bowling, director of Communications and Community Manager for Infinity Ward:


















And we lap this shit up every day because we’re fucking bored out of our minds.

It reflects badly on the quality of modern warfare 2, and the production values at Infinity Ward, or their moral character, if they can say “some of the new features being added didn't gel well with the size, layout, and design of the old maps,” and then put those maps in anyway and compromise the quality of their game, or just fucking lie to us, the fucking dicks.

THIS GUY:

What Bungie are doing to make me keep giving a shit about Halo (which I never really did anyway).

Halo Reach only exists because of me, and I am not alone in that, and the reason I own any games now is because of Bungie. When I was a kid my dad had a Mac and I bought all three Marathon games because they were weird and I didn’t understand them and I didn’t finish a single fucking one but, hey, computers ran on magic back then, as far as I was concerned, and the upshot is that I'm now pretty good at pretending to shoot someone in the face.

Marathon, obviously, was Bungie’s first big release and without me, and people like me, buying those games, they would never have gone on to create Halo, and its, at present, ultimate incarnation, which is, sort of, the best Halo game to date.

But would you expect anything else when the series has been steadily improving, shedding fat, tightening things up, with every release? No, I guess probably you wouldn’t, unless you’re someone who ignores causal blah blahs.

But it’s only so good because of the other Halo games. I played this game having only played most of the first Halo and all of the third, so didn’t really give a shit about the story, but I sort of half understood it. I knew there was a story and there was a big war and all that shit, and that it has something to do with this ubermensch, the Master Chief, who is also maybe the single most boring character in any game since the blocks in Tetris and while you could probably argue that the blocks aren’t even characters, I just won’t listen, and Master Chief will still be boring.

If they made a film of Halo it should have been Reach. The campaign expands on the mythos in a way that makes me want to go back and play the series. By giving a different perspective on the war, and giving this sense of struggle, victory and loss, it gives a greater meaning to the events in the games. If you made a film about the Master Chief it would just be like watching someone play a flashier version of Halo, and no one, no one, fucking needs that.

And though there are a few clich├ęs in the story it doesn’t really matter. I mean, they build all this tension to the discovery of the Covenant on Reach, and then you see these aliens and they’re all fruity multicoloured fruits shooting pink pencils at you. The game does an ok job of making you forget you’re fighting monster fruit pastels, but it gives it this sense of tongue in cheek, which is what I think is weird about the bonus dialogue.

I say bonus dialogue, and I mean optional. You can turn on the option to hear “funny” extra bits of dialogue, which appear randomly in combat, though I’ve never heard any and I always have it on. Why make this optional? Why not just make a funny game, what the fuck? YOU DON’T NEED TO BE ASHAMED IF YOU MAKE ME LAUGH, BUNGIE.

So who buys Halo for it’s single player? Haha! No one! That’s who! Fucking right, am I right? Let’s talk multiplayer.

Yeah, it’s ok. It’s ground in gimmicks though, which is sort of its strength.

It’s fucking fantastic that it is nothing like call of duty. Halo is needed in the world of games. But you can boot up Halo, go onto multiplayer, expecting to shoot a motherfucker, and end up racing around on a quadbike trying to reach checkpoints to score points. Then you’re like wtf I thought I was going to shoot someone and the game, and everyone else playing, is like fuck you.

But the reason this is good is because you can play Halo all fucking night. It’s like some kind of multiplayer computer game DJ set. You start with some huge team battle, then a small objective based game, a couple of free for alls, a race, some kind of rocket only game. You can have an evening of this shit, and it works. I can get burned out on COD or Battlefield.

The voting system, the party system, these are the best they have been in any game that has ever been made, as far as I am aware, and whoever designed and implemented that shit should be hired by every computer games company in the world that wants to have multiplayer in their game.

Now I am going to stop writing because I’ve just remembered no one is going to fucking read this.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Review of Hydrophobia Trial game

The big selling point of Hydrophobia isn't the story. Set in the future, two factions fighting.

It's about water. Revolutionary new water physics and etc, etc. I was interested in this game for a couple of years, now it's out as an arcade game.

To be honest, that's for the best. Sometimes it seems like physics are the reason a game gets made, there's too much of a fuss around physics. I mean it's cool and everything, but fucking The Force Unleashed had all this shit about the physics of breakable objects. I didn't notice that shit at all whilst playing that game.

So fuck it, here's Hydrophobia for £10 on Arcade.

But you know, if the selling point of your game is the physics of water it's a good idea to show more than an 8 second long corridor of water in the fucking trial game, because I'm sure as shit not going to buy the game based on the dreadlocks of the main character, the Irish accent of the tech sidekick or the 1992 graphics/playability/storytelling.

Show me why the water physics are awesome. Let me wipe out a squad of 2nd rate Deus Ex terrorists by flooding a room with sea water. Give me a puzzle. Don't make me watch 10 minutes of boring cutscene and have me run up and down some stairs.

Despite the simplicity of everything I did, and how tedious I found it all, I approved of the details. The amount of climbing equipment strewn around the main character's apartment explains why she is so good at climbing around elevator shafts, for example. The hacking minigame was sort of nicely done too.

It's not a bad thing that this isn't a big budget game, but it seems like it's tried to pretend it is, and that isn't working for it. More water in the demo, and maybe I would have bought the whole thing.