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.”

During the video review (available here: 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

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.


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.