Thursday, August 21, 2014

2014 Play Log - One Night Stand #1

(This is something I've been kicking around awhile and I recently had a chance to put into practice - one game, one night, no commitments.)

Murdered: Soul Suspect Image Murdered: Soul Suspect - San Marcos in August is like being wrapped in wet towels and locked in a sauna on High. I was out getting what passed for food at my local taco joint when I saw her standing on the sidewalk. She was tall, red and...box shaped. The kid knew I liked movies and she had a million of them. Well, maybe not that many. I punched up two that looked worth the price of admission and was ready to swipe my plastic when the dame hit me with one I'd never seen before - a free game rental. "What the heck?", I shrugged, "Free's my kind of price." As soon as I saw what she had to offer, I felt like I'd brought a water gun to a knife fight. "This all you got, sweetheart?", I said in a whisper that only the CVS clerk at the register inside the store could her. Assassin's, soldiers, and football. I either had them already or wanted them as much as a kick to the family jewels. I was about to give her the "Thanks, but no thanks, doll" line when one caught my eye like an overhead cast fish hook. It was Murdered: Soul Suspect and I felt like my lucky numbers had just come up and Big Freddie would be owing me a big payout for once in my...

(Oh, good Lord, Mary-Joseph-Michael-Gabriel-Peter-Paul-Ringo! STOP ALREADY! You are NOT Phillip F-ing Marlowe!)

Well, alright then.

Spoil-sport.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Murdered: Soul Suspect. In typical One-Night-Stand fashion, the game gets down to business pretty quickly. You play a police detective who starts the game by getting pushed out of a fourth-floor window. You then witness your life flash before your eyes and see why you acquired a rather impressive body covering of tattoos. (How you paid for them all is never explained.) While you are trying to stay on this side of the veil, your assailant comes downstairs and uses your gun to make sure (7 times!) that you join the ranks of the dead. What follows is your journey through Salem as a ghost who can move through most objects like you had a clipping cheat on while playing Doom.

The game is a series of Investigations that require you to look at things or possess people in an area in order to gather Clues. This part is a bit tedious and the end result, Deduction, isn't rocket science, but it does as best it can. Most "mystery" games have this problem because you can't expect everyone playing to be as smart as Sherlock Holmes or they'll never finish the game. It becomes more of an exercise in finding the right spots to examine. You also get to interact with the ghostly citizens of Salem and help them "solve" their crimes in order for them to move on. One odd thing I noticed: a number of the things I either needed to look at or people I needed to posses were behind me when I got the button prompt.

I got through the first Investigation before having to send this one packing for the night. All in all, it was a good time and I can see me following up our first date sometime in the future. It will have to be after her "rate" comes down a little, but I'd like to see the rest of what she has to offer. Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but someday. Until then, here's looking...

(Oh, no! No, no, no, no! I'm just pulling the plug right h....

Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Play Log - P.T. and other stuff

P.T. P.T. - (***Spoiler Warning***) I took a break from my current games to play this...thing? It was announced at GamesCon 2014 and at first no one knew what it was. Turns out it was cooked up by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro as a preview of a new Silent Hill game (to be called "Silent Hills"). It has lots of sly references that point back to Kojima like his birthday and the location of his studio in Japan. You can't really call this a game or even a demo, really. It's more of an interactive horror experience/advertisement/nightmare simulator. There are few commands other than being able to zoom in on things and a couple button press prompts. One visual effect I really liked was when you stood in a darkened hallway and waited, your "eyes" would get accustomed to the light level and then you could see more details. Really advanced stuff. It does have an ending which I was never able to get to (I had to watch a YouTube video to see it) along with some other tasks and interactions that are not required to get to that ending. It's extremely creepy, I'll say that for it. Watching a horror movie is nothing compared with being in a horror movie! I found myself trying to stay in lighted areas just because I thought I'd be safer there. When the ghost got me, I have to admit I was pretty freaked out! Toward the end of the game you can avoid her by not moving and I did everything in my power NOT to have to see her. There's no indication that this "playable trailer" will have anything to do with the game (no release date, by the way) but it's unlikely that the full game will be as scary as P.T. If Silent Hills is a long game or even a standard length one (10-ish hours), I doubt most people will be able to stand this level of tension for that long. A scare needs to be delivered quickly, not drawn out.

 War of the Human Tanks Demo - I never got to the actual gameplay because it wouldn't shut the hell up! Too much reading!

 Luftrausers - What do people see in this game?? It's like something from the Atari 800 era...but less fun! Cool music, but crappy controls.

 Sid Meier's Ace Patrol - Now this is more my style! A turn-based WWI aerial combat game that plays like an old-style Milton-Bradley wargame. Very entertaining, but I don't think I want to get any deeper in it than picking up my four trading cards (which I did). I added it to a new "Pretty cool!" category in Steam.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Various Ruminations

Slow day and a good time to do some blog padding.

YouTubers - Maybe I'm too old, but I do not get this fad at all! People (younger ones, mostly) seem fascinated with watching other people (of assorted ages) play videogames and talk while they are doing it. Why??? Wouldn't they rather be playing a game themselves? Are these Internet "celebrities" that entertaining?

Funko POP! figures - I've found my latest Cursed Collectible (as in I can't stop buying them). Not since the days of Beanie Babies have I been so smitten. (Well, at least it's not as bad as that. I haven't bought multiples of any...yet.)

Game systems I still have no interest in - Xbox One and Wii U. When I think of the Xbone, I can't think of a single game I want it for. As for the Wii U, I have to admit that I own one game, ZombiU, and would probably like to play Mario Kart 8, but it seems like such a waste of money to get the console. ("Then why did you buy ZombiU?" Well, if I do get a Wii U, I'll want something to play on it, silly.) I will say that IF I find a new 32gb system, with a game for $200, I'll break down and get it. But that still seems like an unlikely price point. Black Friday, maybe?

Uncharted Frustrations - I almost did a rage-quit on Uncharted the other night. Playing on Easy, I'm still having problems with the gunfights. (Why is "gunfight" one word and "videogame" supposed to be two words?) I need to be able to carry more ammo as I often finish a fight with either no bullets or just a few left. Ok, clap-clap to the development team for tuning it so well, but it gets frustrating to die toward the end of battle and have to start over. I like the story and the setting, but the enemies I'm fighting are starting to feel like just filler between climbing sequences. Lord knows how you could make it through this on hard! I'm on chapter 8 of 22, so there's a long way to go.

Suckered in - There have been some games recently that I really shouldn't have rushed to get. I justified getting Titanfall because I had a new computer and it was the hot game at the time. When I played it, I had my usual multi-player experience - I died a lot. Typically, I would get killed by someone who would flash past me and do some special move that I had no defense against. I've only played it twice. The only good thing about getting Titanfall was that it made me install Origin on my PC. Origin has recently been giving away a free game each month, so I'm sort of making up for buying Titanfall at full price. The other poor choice I have probably made is Watch_Dogs. As a PS4 owner, there isn't a ton of big games out there yet, and, like Titanfall, Watch_Dogs was the game everyone was talking about. But now that it's out, I'm mostly hearing how not so great it is. I have to admit that I did hear some of this before the game was released, but I went ahead and dropped almost full price as soon as it hit Costco. I think I've taken off the shrink wrap, but not much else. Which sort of leads me to....

Destiny - As of this writing, I have a pre-order on a PS4 Ghost edition for Destiny, the new multi-player FPS from Bungie, the Halo dudes. With tax and release day delivery, it's almost $200! Is this a smart thing to do? Good question. As witnessed by Titanfall, multi-player combat is not my strong suit. I also didn't play in the beta, although I did have a chance to. Add to that the fact that my game time is only about 1 to 2 hours in the late evening some nights and you really have to wonder what I was thinking when I pushed the button. (Ok, to be fair, I was thinking, "OMG! This is sold out everywhere and Amazon has it now!! It's got a little plastic ghost-ship-thing that talks in Peter Dinklage's voice!! This is the only version of the game I will ever want!! GO! GO! GO! And I can always cancel it later if I change my mind." Sometimes I think there need to be more things you should need to click on before you buy something online. It's just too easy.)

More shopping - Other pre-orders today that I probably don't need were Diablo III for PS4 ($60) and an urban camo colored PS4 controller (also $60). Diablo III is like a monkey on my back - I played a little on the 360 and didn't really get into it that much. So why am I getting it for PS4? Because it's got the expansion, a new character class (the Crusader), and it's on the PS4. And...because it's Diablo and I'm a gamer, and gamer's should worship Diablo games! (I'm trying, I'm really trying!) As for the controller, well, it looks so cool and if I'm lucky Sony will work out the rest of the compatibility issues with using PS4 controllers on the PS3, and then I can use my original PS4 controller on it and keep this one just for the PS4. And I probably shouldn't be allowed to shop online. Ever again.

Monday, August 04, 2014

2014 Play Log - Putting up some mile markers

One of my all-time favorite B.C. comics had the main character, B.C., asking Thor what he was doing hammering number signs into the ground. The one he was working on was around 200 or 300 (I forget the exact number), and he tells B.C. that he is putting up these mile markers so people can tell how far they've gone. B.C. then asks what Thor has against the number 4. The last panel shows Thor in tears when he finds the start of his markers, at the edge of a cliff, go 1, 2, 3, 5!

Now, this story has absolutely nothing to do with my gaming or, really, anything else except maybe to underline the importance of the saying, "Measure twice, cut once".

Gaming-wise, I've been playing just two games - Persona 4 Golden on the Vita and Uncharted: Drakes Fortune on the PS3.

Persona 4 Golden Image I'm about 11+ hours into P4G and still finding it engaging. The script they must have wrote for this game probably looked like a novel! I'm really enjoying being with Chie, Ukiko, and Youske - oh, and Teddie too, of course. My only problem when adventuring in the TV-Land is that I don't find many items to bring up my characters Skill Points (SP) which are needed to summon the personas. But, that's what makes it challenging.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Image I've been hearing a lot about Uncharted recently (#4 was announced at E3 this year) and I figured that I should finally get around to playing #1. Part of the drive is that I want to play The Last of Us soon and I've heard that the experience of seeing Naughty Dog develop from the Uncharted series to TLOU is worth the effort. I know that Uncharted 1 suffers a little from the "original IP experiment" syndrome where the sequels are much better then the original, but I'm willing to give it a fair chance. So far the platforming has been fun with some really spectacular sights - a lost WWII U-boat in a waterfall and a deserted fortress in just the first few chapters! However, I will say the gun battles are wearing a bit thin already. I've killed over 50 guys with my pistol alone! Anyway, I'm still enjoying it and as long as it doesn't get suddenly harder, I think I can go the distance with this one.

Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 Play Log - Valiant Hearts, Steam games, and SDCC

I'm going to mash some stuff together in this post so I can get back on track. It was originally supposed to be an in-depth review/essay on a great game I played, Valiant Hearts: The Great War. However, I put the following paragraph together (which I think came out quite nice)...

 Wars represent the worst of Mankind's creations. And it is arguable that the most abominable of these was World War I, or as it was known at the time, The Great War,  there having been no conflict before it that affected so many peoples. Never has there been a struggle between nations that was so wantonly profligate with human life over such trivial stretches of land. It was birthed from the Industrial Revolution gifting the Old World military's with killing power that they neither understood or could control. What was expected to be a short, "traditional" European battle turned into four years of trenches, machine guns, artillery barrages, and gas attacks.

Onto this blood-stained parchment of human created horror and suffering, Valiant Hearts writes its story.

...and everything I wrote after that was awful. Part of this was due to the fact that I wasn't able to write more right after playing. The lapse in time diminished some of my inspiration for better writing. I wanted to put down how the game made me feel and how the game played, but it all seemed too heavy handed (me, not the game). This is a wonderful story that is told by playing the game. Some of it is easy and some of it is even entertainingly silly. Some parts, like the repeated cries of the injured, are haunting even if you know that they are just looped sound clips. And it keeps a respectful connection to the actual struggle with historical notes and item descriptions, something more games should strive to do. The experience of playing Valiant Hearts will stay with me a long time as we head into this centennial anniversary of The Great War.

Now, on to some quick Steam game plays...

 Alan Wake's American Nightmare - I loved playing all the way through Alan Wake and the bonus content, and I was looking forward to exploring his ongoing adventure in American Nightmare. But I just couldn't take it. The whole tone of the game was different. Lost was the ominous tension, the tweed jacket, the quirky townsfolk, the tortured writer, the haunting music at the end of an episode, and the lush Pacific Northwest scenery. Instead we get some moron trying to do a Rod Serling impersonation every time something happens to our now automatic weapon equipped hack! Even Rod knew to only talk at the beginning and end of the show. Anything more is just idiotic parody.

 140 - If we received a video game from another planet, this is pretty much what it would look like. Interesting, but not worth staying with.

Adventures of Shuggy - I think I got this one free and that's good, because it is not my kind of game. Aside from really floaty platforming, the goal of levels is to pickup all the gems. I stopped playing games like this back on the SNES.

And that brings me up to date. Yes, I did go to Comic Con 2014, but game-wise it wasn't much to write about. But it does give one an idea or two for a game. For example, someone should make a game about how to sneak into Hall H, or the quest process of getting a Funko exclusive which includes defeating Stoner Dude to get into the line!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2014 Play Log - Alan Wake - UPDATED

Alan Wake Image It took about 15 hours of play (ie, almost 2 weeks by my usual gaming schedule) but I finished Alan Wake.

You play the game as Alan Wake, a famous writer along the lines of Stephen King. He's "the good guy", but he has his flaws - a drinking problem, writer's block and a slightly rocky relationship with his wife, Alice. When she and the cabin the two have rented in a small Washington state town disappear (an event that appears to have happened years before but is never explained), Alan has to fight through numerous encounters with The Taken, people and things that have been possessed by The Darkness. His main weapon is unique to survival horror games - light, either from handheld flashlights or overhead lamps. However, to finish off the creatures he needs to go all Guns and Ammo on their asses with either a revolver, shotgun, rifle or flare gun. Who knew a writer could be such a good shot? Pools of light can also defeat The Taken and act as welcome checkpoints.

I played the game on Easy since I'd heard that you can get into trouble quickly by running out of batteries and/or ammo. Even with lots of both, I still found some of the fights challenging. The Taken will attack in groups and usually from more than one direction.

The game had an entertaining roster of characters (his agent, Barry, was funny) and good game mechanics for the shooting, probably a result of having been developed by the studio that did the first two Max Payne games. The particle effects when "killing" a Taken never got old. The graphics for the scenery, the great outdoors of Washington state, were very well done and especially nice on the PC.

Then there's the story. Sigh. Maybe the story sounded better when they were working on the game. Something in the lake, this Darkness, is making creative thoughts come to life and it seems to affect authors the most. Wake is the second writer to fall under it's spell, we being told about a previous writer and his troubles, but I never really understood who was who. A better backstory with real character models for cut-scenes would have helped. It was the kind of story that would have gotten a one star rating on Netflix. Let's face it, any game (or movie) that ends with the line, "It's not a lake. It's an ocean!" can't be expected to make much sense. But the thing that kept me playing this game was the way the story was presented, being narrated by the writer himself and him finding pages of the novel he's supposed to be writing. There were also the amusing Twilight Zone-esque TV shows that kept everything more than a little weird.

While it isn't a true sequel, I will be playing Alan Wake's American Nightmare very soon. It takes place after the events in Alan Wake and I'm hoping it will explain the ending.

*** UPDATE (7/16/14) *** - What do you call included DLC you didn't know was there until you finished the original part of the game? For me, I call it a welcome surprise!

I had gone back to play some of the video commentary in the game and noticed that there were two new chapters in the menu - The Signal and The Writer. These were apparently purchaseable DLC episodes that were included for free in the complete edition that I got on Steam. They take place right after the end of the main game, when Alan has been sucked over into the other world where The Darkness lives. I can't say it's doing anything to improve the overall story (you spend most of the time following the previous writer, Zane, as he tries to help you escape/wake-up from wherever Alan is), however it's been extremely entertaining - in some cases more than the original game. With only one exception (that I can tell), the location, character, and creature assets are just reused from the original game (saves on developer costs), but the dream world you are in has many surreal challenges to overcome like a rotating house and rocks that float in mid-air. There's also more humor (from Alan and an ethereal Barry) plus more explosive encounters. In some ways, if feels like the developer had a chance to go back and really push the engine (which they now had a better feel for) and be more creative without having to worry as much about ratings and deadlines. If anyone has played the full game and liked it, it would be a shame if they didn't also play these two DLC chapters.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

2014 Play Log - Somewhere in the Middle

You could probably just call this one a "filler". Since my last post, I haven't played any new games and I haven't finished any old ones. On the PC, I'm working my way through Alan Wake and on the Vita, Persona 4 Golden. I will obviously be done with Alan Wake way before P4G!

Like many games these days, I wish Alan Wake was about half the length it is. Don't get me wrong - it's not boring. I'm enjoying the story and exploration, but part of me would like it to be closer to movie length (or at least mini-series). Maybe what game designers need to do is make games with normal running times then have an option to play the "extended edition".

Persona 4 Golden is holding my interest and makes for a nice break from gaming at my desk. I'm only about 8 hours in, so there's a loooong way to go.

I behaved myself pretty well during the Steam summer sale. Of course, now I have a bunch of new games that I want to get to so finishing Alan Wake will be my primary goal.

It's been 6 months since I started my "24 Games in 2014" project. So far, I've gotten to play:

  • Alan Wake - Not originally part of the list, but I realized it should have been, so I swapped out Max Payne 3. (It can be part of the 2015 list.) Loving the storyline and doing a pretty good job of the combat. The game may be a little too combat heavy, but at least the "light-as-weapon" mechanic is different.
  • The Stanley Parable - This didn't take very long, but I'm glad I played it to see what all the fuss was about. Honestly, not that big a deal.
  • The Wolf Among Us - I've played 2 of the episodes of this, have the 3rd and 4th, but am having trouble getting back to it. Frankly, I don't really connect with the characters; not in the same way I did in The Walking Dead.
  • Diablo III - I really wanted to dive into this game and be enthralled...but it feels so "sterile" when you compare it to something like Skyrim or Amalur. Worse, I picked a character class who might as well be armed with magical Uzi's. Not enough up close and personal sword swinging.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - The only Zelda game I have ever finished was Link to the Past back on the SNES and I think that is making it hard for me to really get into this one. So much of this game was copied from LttP which is great for anyone who didn't play it. For me, it still feels like an update/mod of the original.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team - *Sigh* Why do I keep getting games that I know I probably shouldn't have gotten in the first place because I didn't like the previous ones? These games are hard RPG's buried under the Mario license along with lots of annoyingly "amusing", overly redundant, and time-eatingly long dialog trees.
  • Tearaway - Ok, this one I really liked! Not only was it a fun platformer, but it gave a chance to really get to know what it was like to play on the Vita. And I found I liked it, better than my 3DS.
  • Device 6 - And back to the "not so good side". I gave this weird, text bending iPad game a try, but got stuck on the first "puzzle" and lost interest pretty quickly.
  • Infamous - I played a fair amount of this one (3 or 4 hours), but the actual story didn't work for me enough to continue with the it. As a starter game for a franchise, you get this problem where the "new thing" (in this case the main character's powers) becomes the designer's main focus and you start to feel that the rest of the game is just there to show it off. So you start to see repeated locations, repetitive tasks, and uninteresting side characters.
Well, that's 9 out of 24 - not even half. And a lot of the games still to play are pretty major titles. I guess I picked some of the easier ones to start out with!