Sunday, 25 December 2011
Saturday, 3 December 2011
Alun makes a character on Skyrim.
Me: "What's yr name again?"
Alun: "It's Hamas...Klemp. Yeah it...it's not a very good name."
"I'm going up to the highest point in the world and AH!" (kills rabbit)
Tentatively kills two bandits.
"haha, you poor fool. You've gone indoors to use your arrows. I wonder what these idiots were up to. I've got an arrow right through my brain. Ohhh I don't want to explore this fucking place. There's a box at least. I want to get back to civilisation. How much is a lot of money in this world?"
"Why am I here? Why am I here on a mountain? I just want to go back to civilisation."
"Are these guys fighting a giant? I'm going to kill it. Oh, it's dead. I'll take all its stuff." (It has only an arrow).
(this lady complains alun didn't help with the giant.)
"What? I don't care. They're all idiots." (he sighs) "Is this a tavern?"
"How do I get into this place? I want to return to civilisation."
Guard: "Halt. City's closed with dragons about."
Alun: "I have news about the dragon attack."
Guard: "Fine, we'll let you in."
Al: "Yeah, shut up."
"Can I ever have a bath in this game? Well I should be able to."
I leave for a minute. When I return:
"I seem to have broken into the house of the poorest person in the whole world. I've stolen a couple of bowls and that's it."
"Cast iron pot, that's what I've been reduced to. Ugh. Nine gold coins. A roll of paper. 'A Brief History of' ughhh'. A bowl. A plate. Ugh."
"I'll break into this house. It's a hall of the dead??"
He's caught pickpocketing. Guard comes to arrest him. The guy he tried to rob is attacking him throughout the conversation.
"I didn't think he'd take it so personally since it was called ring of resist magic."
Pays off the bounty, walks outside. Someone says, "Uhh, you've got no clothes. You should get some." He had been wearing fine stolen clothes. His weapons have been removed. He goes into the castle to get them back.
He spends five minutes reading all the perks after levelling up from lockpicking a display case. Choose speech perk "Haggling". Then after ten seconds of silently looking at that says, "ok."
A child calls the guards when Alun trespasses. The bounty is five gold. He chooses the option, "I would rather die than go to jail!"
He is chased to the battlements of the castle. He almost jumps off, doubles back, runs out through the lobby and leaps over a flying arrow.
"It's all gone horribly wrong for Hamas Klemp."
"Ahhhh, ha, ha, haaaa. My crimes were only childish pranks."
His health is very low due to arrows.
He is hit by an arrow and killed, just one metre from the city gate.
"I choose not to wear armour because it doesn't look so cool. I'm jason bourne-ing my way outta here. Ow. I hate it when they shoot me with an arrow in the spine."
He has reloaded. And escaped! leaps from a wall.
"Can I steal a horse?"
He steals a horse. Arrows everywhere! Rides off across the tundra.
"Why is this horse so lazy? Faster, you piece of shit! Why are these guys? Guards! Can I run them down? No. They still missed, the idiots. Yeah, just canter along. My big escape. This all happened because a kid said 'get out' and I tried to. Well, this is a nice scene."
He stands too close to some mammoths and they go hostile. He runs away.
"Is that where I just came from?" It is.
"I've discovered a farm! I want to kill the inhabitants. And my horse."
"It's quite tough. I might have to use a weapon."
He is punching the horse.
"Goddamn stupid horse! Don't run away. I can't keep up with you. This is the battle of my life. Yeah horse. You asshole horse. I am a blood thirsty berserker. Now this chicken. A bounty has been added for the murder of this chicken."
He hits a guy, knocks him to his knees. Then the guy gets up fully healed.
"Oh, I can do without that."
He runs for a new horse. The horse runs away.
Me: "You need to use a potion."
Alun: "I haven't got a fucking potion."
He gets on the horse.
"I burned my bridges in that part of the map. I've already reached a point where I feel I can't recover."
Gets off the horse at a tower to kill a bandit. The horse helps kill the bandit, then runs round the other side of the tower and is found just standing there, staring at the sky.
Al goes into the tower. Horse comes in after and starts killing the other bandits. Alun mounts it, and cannot get off. He runs up the stairs and gets off. The horse kills another bandit.
Al levels up fighting a bandit chief. Upgrades haggling again, mid fight.
"Where's my faithful steed? There he is. He's killed several people. He's paying for himself. And I didn't even pay for him."
Al has stripped all the bodies naked.
"Do I want to go over there? Maybe I will. Give the horse its freedom. I have no idea why it would be so loyal to me after I only stole it five minutes ago."
Reads a book and gets a skill increase. "Great, what was it?"
"Ohh I want to climb this mountain. I want to be free. What happens if I fall off that waterfall?"
He dies. He reloads.
"Where's that horse? Now I have to run everywhere. I want a town. I want to sell things. I'll kill this baby fox. I don't even want it."
"Hey crab. Crab asshole!"
Goes into a dungeon. Steals 46 gold. Hit by enemy. Immediately catches vampire disease. Leaves back to the path outside.
Sneak attacks someone he meets. She nearly kills him. He eats all his food for health, i.e. raw rabbit legs. Sheathes his weapon to flee. The woman backs down.
"Yeah, thanks babes."
Finds a new city. Approaching the gate, "Oh, let me in you bastards."
Meets two Nords bullying a dark elf. She asks him if he hates the dark elves. "Yes, I do hate the dark elves."
"I just want to sell." He finds a guy who offers him a tour.
"I thought this would be a shop."
In game character: "Is it true? Is Aventus trying to do the black sacrament?"
Al: "it must be true, it sounds lame."
"I hate it, why can't I sell my stuff?"
"Market? No, it's a graveyard."
"What's this? Oh, the Atheron residence."
"Used wares, second hand stock. Ahhh."
"I'm so wealthy." (864 gold)
"Oh. I don't know why that's worth money."
Me: "It's a magic item."
Al: "Oh. Fuck it."
Alun has bought some more fine clothes.
"I look like a hideous queen. I feel very important. I don't want to fight anymore shit. I'm so tired. I want to start again. Nyeerr. Naaa." (He is making these noises to represent the face of his character.
He steals loads of stuff and tries to sell it, but cannot.
"Damnit. Damnit, damnit. I'm going to sell all my weapons."
Shopkeer: "Do come again."
"I'm not at all satisfied with Hamas Klemp. I find her a petty, ugly, dirty woman."
He attacks someone after he fails to break into their house.
"Ow. I'm a woman. I can't believe you'd attack a woman after I tried to hit you after breaking into your house."
Hammas beats the guy to death.
"Now I can get into his house."
"What can I steal? What can I steal before they kill me? Oh, he's a farmer. He's poor. Oh. Shit. Oh. Five gold c- Hardly worth murdering this guy. These guys are terrible archers. Dogmeat. I stole the dogmeat. Nope. Nope. I just want to look into this dresser."
Hamas is shot to death by arrows.
"Noooo. Ok. That's enough of that. I'm done. I'm done! Hamas is a bastard. I hate Hamas."
Thursday, 13 October 2011
So that Bioshock Infinite E3 demo huh? Looks pretty good.
What struck me was how natural everything felt, which is actually kind of a red flag when you’re watching a gameplay demo. Because whoever is controlling Booker, the main character in Bioshock, he knows where the good stuff is. He knows what Elizabeth, yr pal, is going to say at certain times. He knows the Songbird, this kind of weirdo villain, is going to appear at the window, and in true Half Life fashion, this little moment isn’t really a cutscene. You’re still in character. Booker goes over to Elizabeth and hides behind a counter, out of sight, away from the Songbird.
In the video commentary for the Bioshock Infinite e3 gameplay video, Ken Levine, creative director for Infinite, claims,
“We don’t talk over our demos, we let our demos speak for themselves.”
But I appreciate that they made a commentary because I want to know how much of this game I’m going to actually be playing, and I was hoping they'd address that, and they absolutely don't.
If I don’t make myself duck behind the counter, if the songbird sees me, what happens then?
This scene looks so natural, but who would duck in time? This is why games have infinite lives now, because the story is the thing, even though 99% of games’ stories are like helping your dad try to do something good and oh he’s sacrificed himself and you’ve been tricked this whole time and you’ve been captured but you escaped.
So, what, is that scene scripted? Do you lose control of Booker for that little bit? Or can the story change utterly at that point, or does the Songbird just kill you instantly if it sees you?
They don’t talk about that at all in the commentary. The printed interview featured on the gamespot site mentions the improv elements to the game, which extend only to little asides the character makes, and a few scenes where the player can initiate combat or not. So it’s like yeah, you can interact with this game, but only when the game says so.
We’re at a stage with games where this game could have a massive improv element, like Mass Effect or Fallout: New Vegas. I’m not saying it should, but the game looks so fluid and nice, you can’t tell if it’s scripted or just well played.
Admittedly this article is all hyperbole and I’m about to fall victim to a criticism I’m going to make in a minute or so. My point is, it’s so unclear, what’s playable and what’s not here. The demo cannot speak for itself, because it’s speaking in another language almost, hiding behind how cool everything seems.
I want this game to be great, it looks great, and I will almost certainly buy it, and hopefully I won’t be disappointed. What if a game was judged not by its strongest moments, but by how it treats its weakest? Every game has downtime. Not just breaks in the action, but breaks from being worthwhile. Like do I really need to take Roman Bellic bowling AGAIN and do I even need the Gears Of War 3 campaign at all?
Bioshock Infinite, two words which make no sense together (one of which isn’t a word anyway), has been growing up in the public eye, kind of. The Songbird has been mentioned plenty, and it’s a neat element. This monster, stalking you throughout the game, has this relationship with Elizabeth. It’s been her carer, and her prison guard, for years. But I only know this because I’ve been told it, by the games developers, in interviews.
Infinite compares itself to a novel. In what novel do you already understand the relationship between the main characters before you even read it, because the author already told you? Maybe you’d get a hint of something on the inside sleeve, but the inside sleeve isn’t out like a year before the book.
This isn’t so much a criticism of this game, but all games. Mass Effect 3 isn’t out until next year, along with Bioshock Infinite. We, as gamers and consumers, rely on theoretical information, opinions given by games journalists, as to what a game will be like. We’ve been waiting for Skyrim for almost twelve months at this point. No other medium builds our hype as much, and has us queuing so long. In no other medium are the negative reviews so outnumbered by the blindly positive.
It would be nice if the games could speak for themselves, but even the demos don’t get a chance, assholes like me always want a word in. But at least I don’t get paid for it.
Bioshock Infinite is being developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K and will be released sometime in 2012, apparently.
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Man, ‘I’ve got to overcome that by learning more about who I am.’
So like discovering I can shoot an ak47 and that I’ve killed people before?
Yeah that’s what gets me. He’s staying this stuff we say, about games shouldn’t be films, but his game sounds shit as hell.
Yeah, like, when Enslaved came out, it came out the same time as Medal Of Honor, or around then. But Enslaved had Andy Serkis and I wrote that piece about how that shit was the way forward, in terms of realism, and not like ‘real world locations’ and ‘beards’. Having actual acting and subtle emotional engagement.
Now Rockstar and these clowns Ubisoft are following suit.
But this is a shitcrock too. That shit you said about the AK. What human has killed another guy with an AK before? No one that buys this game. Why do they still think we want to play as film heroes.
Yeah, he talks about how games shouldn’t be films, but is making a game that is exactly like a dumb action film, with almost no appreciation of what a game can be that a film cannot.
But I think a lot of people do still want to be those film heroes. It just seems like we’ve grown up faster than most games developers, or the industry anyway.
Maybe we should stop calling them games and start referring to them as films and see what happens in our minds. Like would a film about a guy who has to fight modern pirates be even remotely interesting?
The thing is we like good music and good films. We like games but there basically aren’t any good ones. We’re stuck around playing the videogame equivalent of queens of the stone age or a baz luhrman film.
Yeah but QOTSA have two really good albums and one great one. Even in the shittest games there’s probably one bit that’s ok.
Ok gayman. I love qotsa. I’m Roland, qotsa qotsa qotsa.
Hey man it saves typing out their stupid long name.
Hey man that last burn on you was A*
Yeah, A for Asshole. You asshole.
I think mostly it’s a lack of broad influences that damage games.
Yeah. All protags are so same like same person. Or ridiculous Japanese shit.
Yeah. I remember when Half Life was coming out, and this is a game I love. Some games journo saying like, Gordon Freeman is a scientist, so he has to learn to survive. That actually meant nothing, because I’d played shooters before. I know how to point and click, you know?
Yeah, that sort of shit is ass. Only time I’ve felt like that before is in that like Supernatural Detective Game 2, when you get a gun and you’re pretty fucking awful with it, and you have like 8 bullets.
That’s sort of like learnng that anew. Feel like you’re doing something new that you don’t quite grasp.
Yeah, Condemned 2. That game had some brilliant ideas, but I’ve never heard a games developer talk about it.
But like for Left4Dead Valve were studying the Spanish flu epidemic. Just to give the world a realistic epidemic grounding.
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Felix goes outside to the dirty tank of irradiated water that he uses as drinking water. Probably as a shower too, when my Xbox is off. In exchange for quenching his thirst, the vat gives him radiation poisoning. But shit, Felix's endurance is already 1, so whatever. We can fix that when it gets worse.
I check Felix's gear before we head out and I notice he only has 36 caps. What the fuck. They're not in the lockers back in the ranch, they're not even inside ED-E. Try to think back to that murky play session lost in the mists of time (I cba blogging it) and what I did inbetween Vault 19 and here.
Felix had gone to New Vegas Square after Vault 19, all pumped up on victory (>40 gecko steaks!) and drugs. I think the guys that hang out here are the sort of people Felix wishes liked him. There's that cool guy in the picture above, who will never talk to Kluge because he doesn't know enough about guns. But I'd just raised Felix's guns a little to snag the Cowboy perk, and if he read one of the magazines he had, he could bluff through a conversation with this guy. It worked out great; right after the guy started talking about survival, and Felix loves that stuff, so they hit it off great. So great, he even told Felix a secret recipe for making special .44 magnum rounds. Kluge thinks he's hot shit right now. He goes straight to the Gun Runner's vendor robot and buys a .44 magnum and a trail carbine. Then he buys a scope for the carbine and a customised frame for the magnum, even though I don't know what that is.
I find them in one of the lockers now, underneath all the baseball bats. They cost Felix all of his money. He doesn't know how to shoot guns. He isn't good enough to make the bullets that guy told him about. He doesn't even have enough money to buy normal bullets. Felix leans over and is sick into the bucket next to his bed. Sick with disgust at himself, and radiation poisoning.
So we need money. Felix's drug habit isn't going to support itself. I think it's about time we checked out Black Mountain. We go to Jacobstown to get Lily first - if we're going to mount a raid on a radio station run by an insane mutant, I figure it can't hurt if we bring one of our own.
There's onle really the one path up the mountain, and at the foot of it we run in a mutant. He's called Neil. He doesn't sound moronic and can form sentences so I guess he's one of the good ones. It turns out that this mountain is some kind of colony for all these bad mutants. Whatever man. He says if we meet him at the top of the mountain he'll help us turn it over. Then he says it will be a lot harder for Felix to get to the top than him, and runs off. He's a dick but whatever, having one mutant following Felix is enough.
The sun sets as we head up the path ourselves, all maximising our 100 sneak skill and Lily's stealthboy prototype. It's a big, zig-zagging path up the mountain, with little scrap metal checkpoints here and there. We make it past the first two just fine, but after that some nightkin manages to sneak up on us and starts smashing ED-E, because I guess he can't sneak so good, or at all. The mutant doesn't last a minute against Lily and Kluge though, and nor does the next one.
We're at the final checkpoint when it all kicks off. Some mutant up on the cliff above us is literally raining fire down on us. Lily's got the same gun he has though, so I let them shoot clumps of fire at each other until my one wins and the other one dies. But more mutants take this opportunity to rush us. There's four or five down with us and two more up on the cliff. Lily wades in to it so I get Kluge to drug up and follow in, chainsaw in hand. When we're done cutting them up, I see ED-E, with his little laser, is locked in a shootout with the two mutants up on the cliff, who have miniguns. By the time Felix runs over, ED-E is on 1hp. He tries to give ED-E stimpaks but it's not enough. Probably because he is a robot and they are medicine. He drops to the ground. Lily and Felix run up around the cliff to kill the last two mutants. The minigun shreds through Felix's non-armour and very nearly kills him. But he's all mad so he doesn't care. That robot was probably really expensive. With them gone Felix heads back down to ED-E.
Felix doesn't know anything about computer or robots, but he's pretty sure you don't bury them. He looks at it for a minute, checks to make sure we didn't leave anything valuable in it, then go.
we made it to the village at the top and Neil's there like he said he'd be. He says his plan for helping us is that he'll say there's an intruder in the village to draw the nightkin out. We point out that there is an intruder in the village, and that it's Felix, and that this plan doesn't help me at all. He tells Kluge to sneak past them and then he runs off.
So we sneak. Lily has an advanced prototype stealthboy, Felix's sneak is 100, and ED-E is dead so won't mess us up again. The nightkin spot us instantly. Neil is a dick. It's another horrible fight going toe-to-toe with giant mutants who are way stronger than Kluge. He makes it through thanks to buffout and the fantastic anti-limb properties of his chainsaw.
Neil comes back now (thanks!) and tells Felix that it's now a clear run to Tabitha, the mutant who runs the radio station. He doesn't want to come with.
We walk up to the station. On the broadcast tower before we get there, is a nightkin who isn't Tabitha, but does have a rocket launcher. The first missile hits Felix dead on. He's on less than 20hp. Fuck you Neil. I hide Felix behind a rock and have him eat one of our precious but fantastic desert salads. Back to full health, and back out from behind the rock. Straight in to another missile. 27hp. Come on. Another desert salad, but this time Felix doesn't stop running. We're underneath him when he's reloaded so he can't shoot us. Felix is on him before he has a chance to turn around. He's fucked, Kluge has got a chainsaw. Cut his head and all his limbs off. take his rocket launcher. It has a girl's name on it. Gay.
There's three buildings here. Felix goes for the one in the middle. It's full of crap. Some good but mostly bad. There's a robot lying on a table in one corner that doesn't work. it's that Rhonda from the radio show. I don't really give a shit about this, and Kluge definitely doesn't. But if he takes some mentats, then reads a science magazine, he can just pass the skill check to fix Rhonda. So we have to. We follow it as it goes outside and Tabitha is there, all enormous and definitely insane. She's just really happy that Kluge fixed her stupid robot though, and leaves peacefully. Stolen so much shit at this stage that I just fill up Lily's inventory with it and send her off for home. One of the other buildings is a prison. Inside is a ghoul. He's called Raul. He's sarcastic and snarky but he wants to come with me becaue he's scared of dying. Felix says ok, he can come.
Felix and Raul walk around a few days, talk about Raul's life. He used to do some stuff but he's like 200 years old now so is kind of past it. Kluge says that if he wants he can stick around and fix his shit for him so he can feel useful. He's happy with that. And I could really do with the maintenance. This chainsaw is the only one I have.
Because one of the guys you need to talk to for Raul's supposedly-organic-quest-that-totally-isn't-because-I've done-it-before-already is Corporal Sterling, we find ourselves in Camp Mccarran. So I figure we can do Three-Card Bounty. Felix still needs the money. I don't care if the NCR are Caesar's worst ever enemy. He's been a dick to Kluge and not been paying him enough at all. If these guys want to pay Felix to kill some guys he'd probably kill anyway, then I'll take that paper.
First bounty on the list is Cook-Cook. Felix talks to a bounty hunter in the camp about him. The hunter is full of shit but he knows he is, so I guess he's okay. Felix ignores everything he says anyway, and just runs in a straight line until he's at Cook-Cook. He's in some ruined house. Raul actually has a gun, unlike basically anyone else who will follow me around, so that's a nice change. He just stands at the back and starts putting rounds in to the house. This draws out all of Cook-Cooks pals and Felix can just cut them down with his huge axe one by one, until it's just Cook-Cook left. He's got a flamethrower and probably thinks he's a real cool guy but Kluge chops his head off so whatever buddy.
Back at camp Major Dhaltri and his huge beard gives us all this shit about how Felix messed up Cook-Cook's face and so he can't pay us the full bounty. Cook-Cook wears a mask covering his entire face, and Dhaltri never met the guy anyway. So Felix steals shit from around the camp until I figure we're square.
Next bounty is boring. Have to cut a bunch of dogs up and then a woman. One of the dogs breaks Felix's leg but I'm used to that now. Clean kill so full caps from Dhaltri.
Last bounty on the list is some guy called Driver Nephi. Dhaltri tells Felix to ask First Recon for help. An opportunity to get paid for no work appeals to Kluge so we take up the offer. We meet the whole gang and hear their plan. It's a real doozy: they all sit around hiding while Felix runs out on his own. Nephi and his friends will then supposedly come out to kill me, and when they do, the First Recon guys will gun them down. It's a huge open flat space between the Recon guys and the Fiends. The sort of place Kluge is absolutely helpless in. But he runs in anyway because he's not about to let the NCR know he's a little bitch or that he cares that the NCR's plan fucks him over.
But man does it fuck him over. The Fiends only run out a little bit. The Recon guys aren't firing. Nephi isn't here at all yet so I guess they don't want to spoil their incredible plan. So it's basically Kluge in a field getting shot by a bunch of lasers. This fucking sucks and he's dying so I pull him back to near Raul, who starts shooting the Fiends. This makes them switch to shooting him, cause I guess they figured out I wasn't doing shit. So I run back in to the field and try and get close. They're not as dumb as they look though, and start throwing dynamite at Kluge. The lovely flash of crippled limbs on the screen. Nephi's finally shown up though. He runs fast as fuck and is barreling straight for Felix. I try to run him back towards Raul on his broken legs but it's really not that impressive. First Recon finally start firing right before Nephi gets to Felix. They're shitty shots though and don't manage to hit him even once before he hits Kluge, crippling his head instantly. But he dies pretty much after that. We take his head back to base. Turns out First Recon shot him in the face over and over so I only get half pay again. Thanks guys. They pay me some NCR money though, and Kluge stole some more shit before we left.
Felix goes to see Usanagi to get all his limbs healed and cure his radiation poisoning.
I'm pretty sure Raul is my favourite companion and Three-Card Bounty is one of my favourite quests. It's not a very exciting quest. It's short, and it's easy. But there's just a lot of characters, of things happening. The one big problem with the Fallout series for me is that nothing ever happens when you're not around. You can go around and meet a whole mess of cool people, but they never meet each other. In Three-Card Bounty you have Dhaltri and all the First Recon guys, the three Fiends you have to kill, and even that Little Buster bounty hunter guy. It's nothing major, but it's just nicely done. You know who you're killing and who's helping you do it, and it just adds a lot to what is a very bare-bones quest, ultimately. Even the Nephi bit with all the sniper ambush is basically just smoke and mirrors, but it's cool because the big walk down to the crushing plant combines with the stories you've heard from everyone to get some proper build up. Telling Betsy you killed Cook-Cook (and telling Pretty Sarah, too), and getting her help from Dr Usanagi, and sending First Recon off to Forlorn Hope after you take care of everything (only that didn't happen this time on account of how I've wiped Forlorn Hope out), that shit just breathes a little life in to a world that, while awesome, can feel a little static and lacking in characters at times.
As for Raul, he's just the only one who really fits as a sidekick (although Arcade is pretty close). Boone's dead as a human, basically, and can't really do things like make friends. Lily's insane. Rex is a dog, ED-E's a robot, when it comes down to it Veronica is Brotherhood, and I guess I haven't given Cassidy a fair run yet. But Raul just slots right in to the role. The self-deprecation, the fatalistic jokes about your decisions and actions, even his maintenance perk all set him up as a great complement to your guy. His character quest deals with this too, about taking a back seat but still helping, which I guess is why I tend to finish it that way, rather than the way where he becomes a vaquero. The latter way, he's just another gun you bring around with you sometimes for fights, same as Boone or whatever. But as the sidekick mechanic, he's the only guy I can really see sticking around with the main guy as a proper 'companion' (no homo).
As for Kluge, he's level 22 or 23 or so now (I actually did all this like three weeks ago and can't remember properly), and grabbing Raul was the last of the main Mojave sidequests I wanted to do. Which means it's DLC time. Next four posts will be the four DLC stories (I figure Lonesome Road will be out just about the time I finish up the first three), and then we'll hopefully steamroll on to the grand finale at the Dam.
Sunday, 4 September 2011
The DLC for this game has become perhaps my favourite aspect, in terms of the weird territories it takes you to, the microcosm of difficult choices you have to make, and the way it expands on the mythos and world of Fallout in a way that far surpasses any of the DLC of Fallout 3.
It's like the stuff Obsidian did with this game and it's content, what they wanted to do with it, never even crossed the minds of the Bethesda boys and girls. That's not to discredit the Bethesda team, at all. The engine of Fallout 3 is prety fantastic, and the grimy architecture of everything was, well, not the only good thing about that game, but one of like maybe three good things about it.
Having said that, the DLC for Fallout 3 was basically just a couple of standalone missions, pretty uninspiring stuff, whereas you're geared up for the DLC in New Vegas from the first time you spot some weird graffiti on some half demolished wall. There are references to it all throughout the main game, subtle things that don't get in the way. And when you get to explore them (granted, you have to pay 800 points for each) you get this sense of how well the world of Fallout is thought out and plotted.
So Old World Blues, the third and penultimate DLC realm made me love my main character again.
And I was bored of him. His build is nothing spectacular. He had guns and speech as his main skills, I can't even remember the third skill I tagged, you know? He's done so much shit and he's called Harvey From Sabrina which at the time I thought was hilarious but now is just ridiculous and I'm a little embarassed about it even.
But the world of Fallout, the world of Harvey from Sabrina, feels so vital and important, and it's not because my dad died and I purified a lot of water, but thanks Fallout 3.
It feels like it matters because people can die whenever, not just at scripted times. You can mess things up, so the choices feel much more real. It's like Bethesda wanted to tell a story, and they got so caught up in that story they didn't want you to mess with it.
New Vegas is all about messing with shit. Obsidian have faith in their players and if you kill a quest giving character then too bad, but that will lead you on to other things and the result is so much more rewarding than the limited Fallout 3.
With all that in mind, things happen at the end of Old World Blues that made me sort of reassess and everything clicked into place and felt poignant and bittersweet. That's not to say Old World Blues is a bum trip, it's funny as hell.
Easily one of the funniest games I've ever played.
And when I get back to the Mojave after all that craziness is done I don't know what to do with my guy. I've got a few side missions I could be getting on with, sure. But I'm so geared up for meeting Ulysses, I have no idea what that will be like, and it feels like it will actually be the pinnacle of these introspective and lonely journeys I've taken outside the Mojave.
But that won't be the end. I'll have to come back and fight the second battle of Hoover dam and initially I thought this was a bad thing, but it might be one of the most mature examples of mood manipulation in a game to date.
For starters the DLC, with the except of Honest Hearts, is mostly to do with itself. Like the characters you meet there, they've affected and are often mentioned by people who live in the Mojave, but the characters in the DLC have removed themselves, or been removed, from that world and it's like this weird behind-the-scenes shit you get to experience.
So it will finish up the DLC stuff nicely. Plus this meeting with Ulysses is being billed as this final showdown sort of thing, except I'll have to go and deal with Lanius after.
And that will become a joyless affair, like something I just have to do, some business-like conclusion to the whole thing. Without realising it, Lanius will become the final voice of the game, a voice of combat (as long as that doesn't sound too pretentious, which it probably does) because War Never Changes.
It's like I'll fight him, and kill him, but the greatest battle of Harvey from Sabrina's life will already have been fought against, and with, characters I can never meet again, in realms I cannot, for the large part, revisit.
And that makes Harvey from Sabrina feel sad. But now I want Obsidian to make all the games I ever play, and they have totally killed my jammedness for Skyrim.
Skyrim, it's like it's there in the Mojave, and it'll be an ok game, it'll be big and showy and it will have taken control of Caeser's army, since Caeser is dead now. But it won't be Fallout: New Vegas. My great battle will have been fought by then. But I guess Skyrim has dragons.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Caesar's kind of a dick though so Felix just goes to Primm instead to pick up ED-E, since I accidentally opened the wrong locker in my Wolfhorn Ranch base and realised I'd had the stuff to repair him stashed in its own locker since fucking January or whatever. So Felix fixes ED-E and goes to Nellis AFB with him and Lily in tow.
Now I don't know how I feel about the Boomers really, I guess. Or like, there's not a lot to say. They're one of a couple if things in this game that when you read/hear a one-line description of you're like 'man, what is this, Fallout 3???' The Kings are another one, but they pretty much pull that off and the Kings are great. The Boomers aren't bad. I like how they dress and I like that their base is realistically huge and contains shit like that biofuel refinery in the picture with Felix. There's no reason for it to exist beyond a little verisimilitude. But I like that. So much I didn't even steal all the maize (but only because it's not an ingredient in any of Felix's favourite dishes). But there's just nothing really going on. You'd never want to hang out there by choice. I guess it's just very homogenous (they're all Boomers) and none of the characters there are interesting at all. Plus the fact that it's basically just this one big mission you have to complete for all 4 of the endings in basically the same way, it's just some lame plot thing you just autopilot through after doing once. You do at least get your pick of the missions though, and Felix duly picks the lazy good-for-nothing ones (watch the kid tell his shit story, give that surfer guy scrap metal) because fuck killing a bunch of ants by myself or whatever. I do decide to fix the solar panels though, so I have to head way south to Helios One for those.
Helios One, on the other hand, I think is great. It's pretty similar to the Repconn site, in that you find them both at around the same time, and they're the first two of, and kind of the biggest, sidequests. All very self-contained and more-or-less unrelated to everything else, and once you're done with it you never really go there again. It just has a great feel to it I guess. I ran out of opinions a bit earlier than I thought I would here.
He fills Felix in on the situation, which is basically a 4 way choice between doing what the NCR wants (giving their bases power), doing what the Followers of the Apocalypse want (giving everyone power), taking all the energy for yourself to power a superweapon, and this weird option that makes no sense, giving power exclusively to Westside and 'Fremont', a location that doesn't even exist. I have no idea why that last one is in the game. I thought a while about how Felix would play this one. Obviously he wouldn't help out the NCR, and the super weapon isn't really his style. The last option makes no sense, so I guess we're just doling out power to everyone. I don't see a problem with that, Felix is more or less fine with everyone being their own people or whatever. I chicken out of also using the station to electrocute all the NCR soldiers outside. Mostly because all the NCR would hate me, and I can't really deal with this (stopping in on one of those little shacks around the wasteland, I was attacked by three giant rats and died).
That said, when Felix gets down there, they're all asleep on these weird outdoor beds they have, in the middle of the day. Whatever, I guess. I figure I'll steal this guy's dogtags to sell to the Legion, but when I set up to do it, a little menu pops up and asks me if I want to pick his pocket or murder him. I had totally forgotten I picked that Mr Sandman perk and have never used it. I feel a bit guilty for not lasering everyone outside, and Felix still feels like he has something to prove, so I go for it. It would be really brutal and unpleasant, only when you do it, this little percussive refrain plays. The best way I can think to describe it is the sort of sound effect that would play in the Sims if you made your sim do a magic trick. It's just like, so moronically light-hearted. I just love it.
I'm pretty much hooked right away, and gleefully dispatch all the other guards in the area the same way. I can totally see this becoming my modus operandi. That little jingle, man.
So yeah I got that nice scene where all the sunlight is reflected right in to your face and you are blinded by blissed-out wasteland progress, and I go tell Ignacio Rivas what I've done and he's pretty pumped for me. All that shit he was explaining about Helios One before also triggered that ED-E dialog, and in a little minute the Brotherhood of Steel guy Lorenzo comes and asks Kluge to hook up with a Brotherhood patrol and give them ED-E at the Repconn HQ. We figure okay because Felix hasn't been there before. It's all mad nerdy shit that Kluge has no interest in, geeky computers and displays of the universe and shit.
There's a couple of things to steal but not a whole lot of interest, and when Kluge finds the Brotherhood patrol they're fucking dead or whatever, like a roof fell on one of them and the other one just died of sadness or some shit. I get a password to their little base off the corpses, and Felix is on his way there when the Followers call him and say to take ED-E to them instead. Fine by Kluge - I don't even know these Brotherhood assholes and it would probably be a little awkward what with Felix being entirely responsible for Veronica's death. Also he's still pretty cut up over that shit. So at the Mormon Fort we hand over ED-E and Felix talks to ever-lovely Julie Farkas, who just loves him so much at this stage that she asks him to join the Followers (after a couple of questions, Felix accepts. Why not, I guess.) and gives him the key to their little safehouse. Which isn't bad, although basically all the free shit on the beds is stuff Felix can't or wont ever use. Has some nice chairs for Felix to hang out on though.
He's starting to look pretty old. Maybe it's just the hat and glasses combo or the way he's sat. Felix is a pretty vain guy though. First Veronica, and now his looks? Plus Caesar was kind of a dick earlier. All his gains are accompanied by equal or greater losses. What is the point of being the king of the Mojave if you are ugly?
Anyway, pushing those thoughts out of his mind, Felix hightails back to the Nellis AFB, fixes the solar panels, reports back to Pearl (the leader of the Boomers) who is pretty happy, then he gets told to raise a bomber plane from the bottom of a lack using 'deployable ballast,' the physics of which I don't understand at all. How does it work? It's a long-ass walk to the lake too, made much longer by the fact Felix sneaks for more or less the entire way, since there are fucking deathclaws right by the roadside and my compass thing has little red marks on it the whole time and I'm too scared to even go three metres off the road to grab some prickly pear.
There are cazadores inbetween Felix and the lake, so we have to fight them. They're only young ones so Felix and Lily manage to fend them off, although Kluge picks up another addiction (Buffout) to add to his growing list. I did get a poison gland though, so I can make some poison of my own or maybe even some Turbo later, if Felix ever learns anything about science. But yeah it's all fine and the Boomers get their bomber and everyone's happy and I go to Caesar for some praise and reward but he's just a dick again, all 'waa, my head,' standing up and not even finishing telling me what he wants me to do, then swearing at me and saying he'll kill me when I ask for more information. Felix also gets what is essentially a written warning from the NCR, saying any more pro-Legion activity will leave him branded as a terrorist. I guess shit just got real for Kluge.
Saturday, 30 July 2011
First up was Benny. Benny fucked Felix over. Shut him in his suite and sent in a bunch of people who can be described perfectly as 'goons'. I like the fights on the Strip because no one else wears armour either, and it's normally indoors, so I feel like I at least have a sporting chance. I also have Veronica with me, and she took a cue off the pool table in this suite-death trap, and pretty much beat them to death herself while I hid in the dining room. We broke out of the Tops, but without Benny or that platinum chip we need. Outside on the steps of the casino, both the NCR and the Legion have sent a representative to talk to me and request my services. Yes Man is there too, and Mr House, who wants to see me as well, is across the street. And so the game has elegantly set up the 4 paths I can choose to take to finish the game. Only not elegantly at all, because those NCR and Legion guys just running up to me together the second I leave the casino is mad terrible bullshit.
Anyway, Felix goes to the Fort like the Legion guy asked. Because that's where Benny went with the chip, and because I was going to be Legion anyway. So we sail to the Fort and meet Caesar for the first time and he gives Felix his big speech. Now this speech is great, I think. I read about 30 reviews for this game as some weird thing to prove to myself that games journalism was terrible, and the only good review I found, some 5 page review on some nothing website, said this speech was bad (the other reviews didn't mention anything like that because they were facile garbage). But I think it's great.
I think the Legion aren't handled particularly well in this game, for a couple of reasons. First off is the look, just think it's too Roman. They're wearing american football outfits and using lawnmower blades as weapons, but you can hardly tell - people don't even realise they're american football outfits until you point it out. They just look like Romans in the wasteland, which is fucking weird. Which is a shame, because I thought the american football thing was cool, and very 'fallout' or whatever.
But the main one is that they're the bad guys. Making it so that you can be one of the bad guys and help them win in an rpg puts a big onus on you, as the maker of that game, to make them relatable and justifiable, and not just some evil nonsense. When they're just the bad guys that you have to kill to win, that gives you a bit more leeway (but even then, in F1 the Master has a pretty appealing plan, at its core at least, that you could see getting on board with). And the game is set up for them to be the bad guys. The amount of game devoted to NCR places and NCR quests far outstrips the amount of Legion places and Legion quests, and this is a common thing in games.
But yeah, I like Caesar's speech. It's about the only thing you get that justifies what the Legion are about and why they're doing this (besides a few lines from Raul and a couple of comments about trade being safer), along with making Caesar a character rather than just some Frank Horrigan clown you have to kill. I remember the first time I heard it, I was kind of tempted to switch sides and go Legion. Which is exactly what you want from a speech from a guy who is supposed to be mad smart and charismatic, and exactly what you want from a game where it's supposed to be a sensible choice for you to pick the bad guy. That one review I mentioned said the voice acting was bad, but I like it. But maybe just because I could tell it was Sgt Rawls.
Anyway Felix goes in to the bunker to do what he was told. He's not good enough at science or repairing to deal with the computers and faulty door thing at the start so he has to get shot up by all the lasers on the way to the reactors. We throw dynamite at each of them and put on our radiation suit and head out. Now the little faulty door thing I managed to sort out on both of my previous playthroughs, so I was not aware that a bunch of those horrible monster robots were going to roll out. I was expecting more of those useless walking guys. Felix is killed in under a second. I reload and use the 5 pulse grenades conveniently stored at the start of the bunker, but it's still a hell of a fight and Veronica has to save my ass for the 300th time. But we're okay. We fuck the place (and Mr House) up, Caesar's cool with me and we're back to Freeside.
This goes on for a good while pretty uneventfully until it comes time to eliminate the Scorpions gang from the Monte Carlo Suites for the good of humanity (one of them has a ripper and I want it).
This was always going to happen. Veronica was the reason Felix was still alive, pretty much handling all of his fights for him single-handedly. But it looks like Kluge got her in to one she couldn't handle, and now she's dead, crumpled in the corner of the Monte Carlo Suites next to some gangster. To his credit, Kluge doesn't take this lying down, and viciously murders the rest of the gang in a display of violence we haven't seen out of the guy before.
But Veronica, Felix's only friend is still dead. I did get that ripper though.
So Felix needs a new friend. We try the usual suspects. Arcade Gannon refuses to be seen with me because I like the Legion. Boone walks with me a while, but after Felix blows up the NCR monorail (the first quest I did with him - had to test this guy's loyalties) he says he's lost respect for Felix and leaves immediately, and wont even speak to me anymore. I pick up Cassidy, but she hates my low karma (Felix still survives almost entirely through burglary and petty theft). After a few lengthy moans about what a terrible person Felix is, he decides against this partnership and takes her to Jean-Baptiste cutting to have her murdered in exchange for 250 caps.
It seems the events in the Monte Carlo Suites have scarred Felix. He lost the only person who would accept him for the meritless shit that he is, and he picked up a couple of drug addictions (Psycho, Hydra) that give him awful screen-ruining headaches along with various other physical ailments.
So I clean him up and get him a dog. Dogs love everyone; they are morons. The only dog on offer is a sort-of-charming hideous half-robot dog with a broken brain called Rex. Felix has to go on an incredibly long walk to Jacobstown to find a doctor who specialises in the brains of robotic dogs, and then an even bigger walk (or incredibly quicker fast-travel) to the Fort to kill a dog with a machete in ritual combat in order to honourably claim its brain to be implanted in Rex. I guess it gave Felix something to do to take his mind off his horrific drug withdrawal.
After a little while they are pretty much a team. Rex isn't quite the powerhouse Veronica was, and I'm now more afraid of him dying as I realise there's not a whole lot of replacements going, so Kluge has a more 'hands-on' role in combat now. We go to the Repconn facility together.
I think I like this quest. It's pretty much not connected to anything at all. The guys you're doing it for are these very weird guys you don't really understand, seem kind of dumb/retarded and you can't take them seriously because they're a bunch of quasi-religious idiots who want to go in to space. But you help them anyway and it all ends with some kooky set-piece with a nice emotional payoff, like some New Hollywood film. It's a nice feeling, even if it doesn't make sense for it to be.
After that, I cross the street and kill Mr House. If only it was that easy. Companions can't go to the penthouse, so I have to take on all those securitrons, and receive all their bullets and rockets, myself. Felix has 4 pulse grenades he got from somewhere, and that does a lot of the work, but there were a few failed attempts. Eventually got it working where I'd separate one or two off from the rest and just hit them over and over with a sledgehammer. It kept them knocked down basically all the time, but took forever. Then I smashed Mr House's gross face in with it.
So Felix is pretty much king of the Strip right now. As a favour for my Legion pals, who were feeling pretty ignored, Kluge dons that fantastic NCR engineer outfit and minces in to Camp Forlorn Hope, casually (and frankly, much too easily) slipping dynamite into the pockets of all the officers. The NCR troopers around seem to just take it in their stride that sometimes people explode, and that it isn't anyone's fault. It's retarded, but I really couldn't handle the NCR being hostile to Felix and I'm running a pretty narrow reputation with them already. Plus what the hell else did I put all those points in to sneak for?
Anyway, this goes down a storm all over. In Nelson, a guy called Dead Sea gives me a unique (and excellent) machete called the Liberator. At the Fort, my boy Lucius hooks Felix up with a key to a Legion safehouse right by the ranch he uses as a home, and over at Red Rock Canyon, Papa Khan likes the cut of Felix's jib so much that he names him his heir.
The safehouse is full of stuff for me. Mostly shit I'll never use (armour that is much too good, guns), but there are some lucky glasses which are pretty great, a guy who pops by Tuesdays and Thursdays and will give me 2 stealthboys each time (excellent), and there's a fucking chainsaw on one of the beds. Fantastic.
So, king of the Strip, poster-boy of the Legion and heir to the Khans. Felix is moving up in the world.
Taking it easy in his new digs, Felix Kluge plots his next move.
Wednesday, 6 July 2011
One of the greatest achievements of this game was the faction system. A lot of named characters you'd meet would have standing with various factions. Helping them out by completing quests improved your standing with that group and the areas they held influence in. Acting negatively, like, killing those questgivers, would mean you couldn't pursue that side of the storyline any further.
It helped the world of Fallout: New Vegas feel like people were living in it, and doing things, and that those things at least kind of mattered. Even though I was going to kill them as soon as they finished talking.
So, I love this game. It's great. I love it and it's great. But I don't really want any of the new DLC that's out.
I mean, I bought Dead Money, and I played it, and it was amazing. It was unbelievably atmospheric, by which I mean it was incredibly immersive and effective, sharing some ideas with Silent Hill 2 and the Thief games to create this extremely eerie horror style sideline to New Vegas. I became really attached to the other characters I met there, partly because the world was so hostile the air was even killing you. In terms of loneliness, man, it amped it up, making a practically empty desert seem like the ghost of christmas present in The Muppet's Christmas Carol.
So, that bodes well for the other three DLC releases, one of which are already out (Honest Hearts), one of which is out any day now (19th July - Old World Blues) and one of which is out, I don't know, whenever it's out (Lonesome Road).
Writing this has nearly got me back in the mood for it. I loved making those big decisions that affected the shape of the world. And yet...
I think what it is is how seperate these add ons feel. It's like they would have made more sense if they were kind of stand alone, rather than revolving around this one courier who has to deal with everything.
On the one hand there are several hints throughout the game, and in Dead Money, as to what these other add ons have in store for you, and I love stuff like that in a visceral way.
But I don't like how you, this courier who holds the fate of this world in his hands, can disappear into caves and deserts, practically entirely different worlds, and when you come back nothing seems to have changed.
A nice change of pace for a game would be for the world within it not to revolve around you, for things to be happening which you could influence if you found the right time and place to be, the right person to talk to, then maim.
Probably I'm just being fussy. I don't know really why I'm not into the idea of these DLCs. Maybe it's just how long everything takes in New Vegas. Even killing things is kind of a chore, and my attention span is like milliseconds.
Or maybe it's because the game doesn't affect anyone in the real world. I've been playing a lot of Halo: Reach, and I'm pretty sure I'm only in to that because I can unlock these crappy magic hats which do nothing and look shit.
Perhaps it's just New Vegas I'm tired of, and with Skyrim coming up I only have enough love in my heart for one massively open world RPG?
I don't know. I'll probably get the DLC and love it.
New Vegas is still a great game.
Fallout: New Vegas Old World Blues is developed by Obsidian Entertainment, and it's out on the 19th July for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Friday, 25 February 2011
So why has the trailer already been released? A teaser trailer a week ago, and now a loosely titled "gameplay trailer", which features the gameplay of walking around, then sneaking around, throwing some spells around and being around some monsters you're throwing spells at. And you nearly see a wolf, or something, get shot in the face by an arrow.
Hype is perhaps the answer. Obvlivion, the precursor to Skyrim, was an ok game. For all the stale voice acting and characters who looked like old potatoes, it was very compelling, almost entirely because of the world within it.
But Skyrim is set some 200 years after the events of Oblivion. This might be an excellent call, since the events in Oblivion will have passed into legend, and whilst that will lose a lot of the dynamism created by those events (how great is it in Mass Effect 2, or Knights of the Old Republic 2, to be reminded of characters and events in the first game?), everything in Oblivion was overblown and ridiculous, the way legends tend to be, so that is fitting with the vibe of the game.
But where is the trust in that world? There's a heritage there, to some extent. I spent so much time playing that game, all because of the scale of the world. Even though I hated Fallout 3, basically, and when I think about it Oblivion was very boring, I still believe I will enjoy Skyrim.
I would buy it if it was out tomorrow, and I would probably love it, because I haven't been told how amazing it is. When it finally comes out, in nine months time, the time it takes to gestate a baby, a human baby, imagine all the shit we will have been told about it. People will be writing fucking fan fiction by then, for fuck's sake. And the game will only disappoint.
Perhaps this symbolises the dire problems of the games industry. Is it so expensive to make games you need to hedge your bets almost an entire year in advance, trying to get everyone so amped up they're writing "Skyrim" on the walls of their bedroom in their own blood, to ensure sales?
Yeah, well, it's already happened, in this article: http://raidingparty.net/featured/five-things-we-can%E2%80%99t-wait-to-do-in-the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim/
Games Journalist "Rob" writes: "We reckon this points to a more robust morality system than the simple ‘Notoriety’ meter from Oblivion..."
It's speculation, and hope, from the journalists which sets us up for the fall. So when Skyrim comes out and it's morality system is as robust as a pile of something not at all robust, perhaps buttons, or dry sand, we will shrug and not give a shit because of dragons.
Now, without wanting to pick on the raidingparty.net writers, have they been hired by Bethesda to shine the shoes of Skyrim wherever it walks?
"It’s coming! The brand new Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim trailer with in-game footage! We can’t wait, and are excitedly counting down the seconds until we get a peek at what Bethesda have in store for us come November, when our most hotly anticipated RPG of 2011 hits the shelves."
- Rob, again, writes that. They are counting down the seconds, excitedly, until they get a peek, much as a curious teenager waits by the hole in his fence hoping his middle aged neighbours start having sex in their backgarden. Rob, who are you, man?
In their third post about Skyrim, the raidingparty.net writers, personified in this instance by Rob, tell us what the new creation engine, created by Bethesda, means for Skyrim. It means it will look nicer than Obvlivion. That is ALL THAT IT MEANS, but thanks for trying to sell me a game it is your job to critique.
Previews should be only pictures, gameplay footage (from random moments in the game) and maybe an interview with the developer, basically as close to a wikipedia entry as you can get. Then, maybe, if games journalists had any balls at all they could write an actually honest review of the game, when it came out, based on its merits and flaws.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is out on 11/11/11.
Thursday, 6 January 2011
I don't actually know if Don't Ask, Don't Tell got repealed, I wasn't following the story that closely. So apologies to any homosexual Americans actively serving in their nation's armed forces who get their political news from this blog: I may have given you false hope.
The rest is true, though. I more-or-less lost interest in single player games in around 2004, when I stopped playing San Andreas. Between then and 2010 I played, as far as I can remember, two single player games 'properly': Shadow of the Colossus, the only videogame I bought for over five years, and Bioshock, which my erstwhile flatmate owned. Although I'm pretty sure both these games have come up repeatedly on this blog before, in case I've not made myself clear, I found one of them to be alright, and one to be catastrophically poor. Bioshock. When I started buying games again at the tail-end of 2009 (is tail-end a cliche? Do they say not to do it in style guides?) I had exactly zero desire to play any single-player games ever again. However, a charming migrant student called Santamaria bought me Mass Effect as a late Christmas present. Possessing a keen sense of astronomical appropriateness, Santamaria gave me the game at around about midnight on December 31st 2009, both giving me a nice metaphorical book-end and saving me from having to look anything up on wikipedia, like I probably should have for San Andreas' release date. Since then I've been unstoppable, buying three completely single-player-only computer games, two of which aren't even sequels to Mass Effect. Although I haven't really played one of them yet.
That is a brief history of single-player videogaming.
I didn't play much Fallout: New Vegas this week, on account of how I've played so much of it recently that I am conducting my real life conversations by standing directly in front of the person I'm talking to with a completely blank expression, and handing them a card detailing the three things they are allowed to say to me at this juncture of the conversation. I also make sure the things they can say to me make them sound really dumb!
I was on that little XBox website looking at my profile, in the vain hope that someone I liked would show up in the online list playing a game I wanted to play (this never happened) when I clicked my gamerscore icon. This showed me that I had played all the games I owned within the last few months, even shit like Modern Warfare 2, except for Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, which I had not played for a really really long time. The reason for this is because it is not a very good game, but I did not realise this at the time, and instead put the game in my XBox and played it for several days. I apparently only had around 200 of the achievement points for this game, and I'd definitely completed it at least once, so what the fuck? I had to explore that if nothing else. I've got no great love for achievement points, but this did seem to indicate I'd only really extracted a fifth of the available fun from this game. Turns out that half the achievements on offer are for playing it multiplayer, or 'adversarial' as the game calls it. In fairness, there are also two co-op multiplayer modes, but the word contributes to the almost creepy feel to the game which I'll get on to in a moment. That explains the bulk of why my score is so low: this game is terrible multiplayer. It is just not built for it at all to the extent that in some ways it's barely even a first-person shooter, at least compared to all the ones that are good. It's definitely the only fps I've played that is significantly better offline (or co-op) than online. It's just not set up for it at all, which is weird considering all the achievements and the 'persistent' character that you play in all multiplayer games as well as solo. By persistent, I mean you can dress yourself and slowly unlock guns and new kneepads and shit. Being able to dress yourself improves any game considerably (except GTA IV; don't give me the option to dress myself and then only provide 3 types of blue jeans as my options) and it even has an effect in this game, letting you pick a balance (or no balance at all) between protection and mobility as you choose what bits of armour to wear. But it's all for nothing, on account of how the game plays like complete shit online. All the problems with it can be encapsulated or at least symbolised by simply throwing a grenade. Everything about the experience is horrible. The grenade looks horrible and you look stupid throwing it. It flies really slowly in this bizarre physics-ignoring arc, and doesn't roll around or move, at least in any normal way, when it hits the floor. Where you aim it only has some resemblance to where it goes, on account of how the grossly unnatural throwing animation involves moving you quite a lot sideways and vertically. This being a cover-shooter, the amount of times this leads you (me) to bouncing grenades off doorframes, corners and windowframes (that you specifically aimed to avoid) right down to your own feet and killing yourself is truly obscene. And, even if you did manage to somehow compensate for this, your highly trained "rainbow operative" can only throw the grenade maybe six metres, and only if you really make him try. It also takes about five seconds for him to do this (doubled if you need to switch your grenade type using the awful equipment menus). Needless to say, the grenade often fails to kill people it lands directly next to, for reasons that are not at all clear. Except for the fact it kind of fits with the theme. Gears of War isn't quite so bad, but basically the key problem with cover shooters is that they're obviously completely based around cover, and that it's always suicidal to use it in multiplayer. The mechanics are clumsy, it's slow to get in to it and out of it, slow to fire out of it, and invariably some elbow or foot is poking out of the cover that the computer will apparently ignore but a human will not. There's no point using it, so you're left with a weird half-game that's played in a way it wasn't designed to be.
I said before that in some ways Rainbow is almost not a shooter. At it's best (which invariably means in the single-player), it's almost a puzzle game. You have rooms full of baddies that you need to 'solve' with your choices of equipment, entry point, method of entry, what you do with your squadmates (or co-op pal), and so on. Often you'll die a couple of times trying to clear a room, only to notice that you can go upstairs and rappel down the side of the building and shoot the guys through the window whilst your chums go in through the door. It's all broken up in to these little rooms or sections, and you respawn at the start of each section if you didn't solve it/died. The actual shooting part of it is fairly unimportant and most shootouts are essentially won or lost before they start. You have to occasionally move from bits of cover to other ones, but shooting when exposed is more or less suicide, so you don't really move. You aim and pull the trigger the same as ever, but that's about it.
This isn't a bad thing. It is genuinely fun to to plan out your little strategy, to spend a minute or two sorting your equipment, your RoE, deciding to be silenced or loud, positioning your squadmates and yourself, in preparation for a shootout that lasts maybe three seconds. It's the planning and problem-solving that's the fun bit; the brief action scene is just catharsis and a little bit of satisfaction of how efficient you were. Less excellent plans that don't involve you dying take longer, are messier and scrappier, maybe your squadmate will die. It's more like a little grading on how well you planned, like after you spent hours finally completing Metal Gear Solid, only for it to present you with a disapproving scorecard and deem you to have only achieved "Facile Horse" rank. The reasons it's different and interesting single-player are why it's terrible online. Spending a full minute using the slow and clumsy 'radial menus' to put on a silencer, turn off your laser sight, switch your grenade from frag to flashbang and decide if you want your gun to shoot one or three bullets at a time is only fine if the people on the other side of the door are patient computer baddies without the ability to open doors themselves.
The other big problem with this game is that it's creepy amoral murder-porn. It's GTA and Call of Duty and so on that make all the controversy for being violent and making children shitheads, but I never got that vibe from them. There was always something happening. I need to kill this guy to save my brother, we're ruthless killers but we're at least presented in a fairly even-handed way and at the end we're all killed for our sins anyway. Sure sometimes in GTA you kill a guy just to steal his car. Well, lots of times. But, you still did it because you wanted to go drive around in a nice car, and it's all so exaggerated (GTA) or bromantic (Call of Duty, Gears of War) that you're never really focusing or caring about the fact you're shooting dudes. It's just a thing you have to do to finish the story and save the world/your bro/whatever.
In the world of these 'dumb' and violent shooters, Rainbow Six has a bit of a reputation as the intellectual choice, something for the discerning player, and I've never seen any criticism levelled at it. I've completed both Rainbow Six: Vegas games twice each, and I have no clue what the bad guys were fighting for. Genuinely no idea. They're referred to as terrorists and they plant bombs and whatever, but what for? It's not important. You're not killing them to achieve something. In this game, the killing is the goal. You just need to kill the people, it doesn't matter who they are or why you need to do it. The game promotes a cold, efficient approach, right from using terms no actual human would use like 'adversarial'. You can switch your gun to fire only one or three bullets at a time instead of being automatic, because you shouldn't waste bullets. You should be really good at killing. Throw a flashbang so they don't see or hear what's happening, kill them then. If you shoot someone in the head, they die right away. With a silenced pistol, you can shoot everyone in the head with one bullet, never missing, killing them before they knew they were in a fight and being the best killer ever. The whole game is just completely devoid of humanity. "I had to shoot, he was going for his gun," your character says after killing a prisoner. "Shit, that bitch owed me money," a baddie says, after you kill the man he was stood next to. It's odd, the game is set in Vegas, very different territory to other shooting games I've played. All during the day, very naturalistic. The sound is excellent. You storm a convention centre, loud punky skater music plays with the tinny sound of an overworked PA system. A fight in a garden and you can hear a baby crying inside one of the houses. Walking through a hotel you have a point-blank fight-to-the-death in a bedroom to the relaxing classical choral music left on by the recently-alive occupant sprawled on the floor.
It's all perfectly pitched to provide huge amounts of humanity to the story in the way that Burger King defence level on Modern Warfare 2 tried and failed magnificently to do. But it is completely ignored. There's never even a reference to the fact that you're having your battles in places where people live, where people were seemingly until five minutes ago, food left unfinished, tvs left on. The game completely ignores it. Feels like the sound guy and and level artist were making a completely different game. Because this game is dead inside. The closest it comes to an emotional scene or even an actual conversation is when you fail to save some hostages.
You: There was nothing you could do. It was my call.
Squadmate: We're a team.
You: And I'm team leader.
And I'm team leader. That is the grand total of your characterisation. You aren't CJ, or even Snake. You are a faceless nothing who exists purely to kill people the best. There's no torture here. Screaming, all that, too emotive. Just kill them when they don't know you're even there, be the best most efficient killer of humans there ever was. You can even (and this unlocks another achievement that I will never get) take a picture of yourself and map it to your guy's face, so you can actually be him as you go around killing all the people so well, so efficiently and emotionless. What the fuck?
Sunday, 2 January 2011
Maybe thirty metres beyond the ambush point, there's a 'gas station' with an armed and friendly caravan of traders and guards. Thanks a lot, dickheads. They all get up to leave when Felix rolls in, and they're heading the way I'm going, so Felix tags along. The road goes along the side of a big dry lake for a little while, then hits a T-junction, with the city I want to go to on one side, and a trading post just a couple of metres the other way. The radical pathfinding of this caravan means that instead of following the road to the junction and then going left genuinely about twenty metres, they cut across the dry lake. This place is completely full of fire ants, radiation-enlarged ants that are bigger than a person and breathe fire for no reason. There are so many of them, I really should have taken a picture. It's a big firey mess. Thanks a lot, dickheads.
Both caravan guards and one of the traders are burnt to death, as is one of the pack brahmin, the other one having run off or something, I never see it again. The sole surviving trader, limping he's so near death, eventually makes it to the 188 Trading Post, glad he took that shortcut to save time, and I arrive with him, glad I managed to get 23 portions of fire ant meat (for making fricassees), not to mention all the equipment of the slain guards, without getting a scratch on me.
The 188 Trading Post is one of my favourite locations in the game, despite being tiny and not really containing anything. Basically in Fallout games you get places that were already there before the war, and places that weren't. Of the places that were there before, you have the above-ground stuff, chiefly towns, and then the bunkers and vaults and shit that were all sealed and whatever. For me, and I guess I'm influenced heavily by Fallout 1 and 2, they've got these mostly all wrong. The towns and buildings, they're all too good. They look like they were squatted for 20 years, not like there was an apocalypse 100 years ago and no civilisation since.
On the other hand, the pre-war stuff, the BoS bunker, the Vaults, they're all too dilapidated and grimy. In the first two, these sorts of places are fucking pristine, because why wouldn't they be? No one's been in to fuck about or whatever. The electricity still works because it's had no reason to break, there is no one popping in to smear shit on the wall and drop Nuka-Cola bottles everywhere. Not really sure why this is the case in New Vegas. Reminds me of the trailer for the abysmal Fallout 3, in which the voice-over declared, more or less: "Vault 101, where no one ever enters, and no one ever leaves. Your father just left, so now you're going out to find him," and then it cut to you approaching the first town, and the guy on the gate waving, "Hi, you must be from that Vault!"
Having everyone know about all the old shit is fine, but then it makes no sense when you go there and find some magical plasma rifle. And that couch is fucking fine.
Anyway, my point was supposed to be that the places that were built after the war tend to be nicer and more interesting, all the way from Junktown in F1 to places like the 188 here. I guess there's less opportunities for them to make no sense. Of course, there are still plenty of opportunities for them to make no sense, see Kansas City in Fallout Tactics, a town built around an unexploded nuclear bomb, or Megaton in the abysmal Fallout 3, a town built around an unexploded nuclear bomb (really Bethesda?). But there's also more scope to play around with them too.
Anyway, Felix fucking Kluge has been sat around the 188 for ages while I talk shit. He got talking to Veronica Santangelo (in the grubby robes in the picture above. She never looks at the camera), a sassy techno-lesbian who wants to follow Kluge around so that she can see more of the world, because it's not safe enough to go alone. Little does she know, all fights from hereon out will involve Felix running off and hiding while Veronica has to kill them all for him. With her in tow, we fuck off to Boulder City. I guess if I was a settlement with maybe 6 buildings in, I'd make sure that City was in my name with a capital letter too. Eagle eyed viewers may have noticed I'm wearing some overalls in that poor picture of the 188 above. I was sick of carrying those 26lbs of NCR rookie costume around, and this 1lb NCR engineer garb is clearly way better. Plus Kluge is a pansy and could never pass for a soldier.
Some little stand-off has been going on in town. The Khans, who were there when I got shot in the head, and I think buried my body, got in to a sticky situation, and have taken a couple of NCR suckers hostage, but then been surrounded by all the other NCR. Probably because he heard about me installing a new sheriff in Primm, the NCR guy in command of the situation instantly lets me get involved in whatever capacity I see fit. Cannot abide that shit, and I repay his trust excellently. Using the stealthboy I stole off Joe Cobb all the way back in chapter 2, Kluge moves like an invisible Agbonlahor (before he put on all that muscle mass), planting dynamite on every NCR sucker in sight, including this wacky commander. With them all exploded, and their possessions duly robbed, Felix can have a nice uninterrupted chat with the Khans. Turns out they were played too, or whatever, and that the guy who shot me in the head is called Benny, and disliked by more or less everyone. He runs a casino in Vegas called The Tops, which is finally a lead of some worth. The Khans can walk off freely, and I can stroll off to Vegas. Veronica didn't seem to care about what Felix just did, which I guess bodes well for their relationship.
I almost like this 'quest,' because it is I guess the anti-quest. No questing involved. You just stand still for five minutes. Makes you feel a little bit embarrassed by the lame terms such as 'quests' which sit on top of videogames and shit themselves whenever people suggest videogames aren't just for children.
But the downside to this is that it's fucking boring. The guy guiding me through it is a completely flat tool, and is voiced by the same VA who does nearly all the black people in this game (and even, weirdly, quite a few of the white people). And at the end, in an event I don't remember from the last time I did this quest, I have to help him clean up a corpse from infront of the shop. He walks up to it and doesn't seem to be doing shit, so I grab the corpse and start dragging it down an alley. Then he accuses me of stealing the gun and armour he gave me to help guard the shop, and kills me effortlessly. So I have to reload and sit still again for ages, and this time he just cleans up the corpse by himself instantly. I try and pass the time by taking a photo where Veronica isn't just looking straight at the door, but it never happens.
After this, though, and a little (lots of) well-executed burglary, Felix Kluge has enough caps to be permitted entrance to The Strip, for his big showdown with Chandler! See you next time, everyone.
I didn't write about the sewers. I went into the sewers this time through, having avoided them the first two. I just stumbled across them and thought it might be interesting. It was pretty gross. I was in a sewer, killing giant rats, with a fucking dagger. That is one of the very things I never ever want to do in videogames, and the big reason why I can never bring myself to play Dragon Age or Baldur's Gate or Oblivion or any of those games. Get it the fuck out of Fallout. There were also a bunch of ghouls in there for no reason, and even a bunch of Fiends, who very nearly killed Veronica, and past them, a room filled with even more ghouls. After way too much sewers, I finally break in to a bit of the sewers, right on the far side of the map, that is fine. Just a bunch of guys sat around smoking and hitting on Veronica. As you walk past them, they say things like, "don't go farther in to the sewers, it's full of monsters."
Fuck the sewers.