Monday, December 10, 2012

Not Bad For An Older Human

(This is an entry I started last December that needed to be cleaned up before posting.)

I did something over the weekend that I'm pretty proud of.

I've mentioned Timesplitters 2 in this blog before, partly because it's always been one of my favorite games, partly because it's a game that deserved more attention than it got, and partly because I was never able to complete the first level on Normal difficulty. That last one deserves a little explanation.

Even on Easy, this is a tough game. Built before the Halo School of FPS Design took over the gaming world with health bars that refilled if you could get out of direct fire, it has virtually no health packs, very little body armor to pickup, limited ammunition, and one (count them ONE) mid-level checkpoint. This in a level that goes on for probably 30 minutes. I had been able to get through the first level on Easy, but that's because you basically only have to play half the level. I've only ever seen one other game do something like this (an old Tiny Toons SNES game) and it is the only way I'd ever feel the need to play a game on anything other than the Easy setting.

I make no excuses - I like to play games on Easy. If the experiences in the game are the same, why should I make the enemies harder, my bullets do less damage and my health run out faster? That's all most games do when upping the difficulty level and it's not fun to die a lot. But in Timesplitters 2, playing on Easy mode gives you a shorter level and fewer locations to have to clear out. If you want the "whole game", you have to play on at least Normal mode. And I was never able to finish that first level on Normal...until this weekend!

The final part of the game has you on top of a dam trying to shoot down a helicopter gunship (that is shooting back at you, of course) with three  mounted turrets, while trying to not get killed by Special Forces soldiers who are chasing you. I actually got to this part many years ago when I used to play it on the Gamecube (this time it was on the PS2). By that point I was so low on health and ammo that success seemed impossible. But maybe age and experience counts for something. It took two tries and I died the first time (sending me all the way back to that mid-level checkpoint!) while trying to use the middle turret, which turned out to be a rocket launcher (too slow). The second time, I ran for the first turret and it was a machine gun. This did damage to the helicopter and the guys trying to kill me on the dam. (Interestingly, the gun turret itself was cover from both the helicopter and the soldiers.) When the gun was empty, I figured that the turret at the far end of the dam might be another machine gun and I was right! I finished off the helicopter and got the objective completed message along with the glowing, blue Time Portal (very reminiscent of the Stargate portal, now that I think of it). Praying I wouldn't get cut down by the remaining Special Forces guys, I ran for it...and made it, getting the long awaited "COMPLETED" message for the level! I think I stared at the screen for five minutes, just letting it all soak in.

I honestly thought that my best gaming days might have passed (50+ year old reflexes aren't the greatest), but I guess there's still some fight left in the old hands.

Friday, November 30, 2012

That Was The Year That Was 2005

I’m not one to really keep with a specific project for very long, but sometimes I surprise myself. I started this blog seven years ago, and with the exception of a two year break where my access to it was curtailed, I kept it going with (occasionally) interesting entries. Now that I have been able to get back to it, I thought I should do a recap/update of some of the items I posted to see how things have changed.

10/26/05 – I brought up a problem in all zombie shooting games (like the awful movie tie-in one for the excellent Land of the Dead), that if they wanted to make it “realistic” to the way zombie movies work, that one bite would be fatal for the player. Interestingly, that is just the way the new Telltale Walking Dead game I’ve been playing works. It took awhile, but someone finally got it right.

11/1/05 – It was a few weeks before the Xbox 360 launch and I did a brief mention of HD-DVD’s – the Zip discs of the home video world.

11/15/05 – Seven years later, this hasn't changed - I still feel that Call of Duty style games illustrate what would happen to me in a real war situation – and it’s not good news.

11/22/05 – Release day for the Xbox 360. Seven years later and they still sold 750,000+ UNITS ON F-ING BLACK FRIDAY WEEKEND 2012! By this time next year, we will probably be able to buy the Xbox 720 (or whatever they end up calling it).

11/28/05 – I never did get that Mario Kart DS I was lusting for at the time. At this point there was also my first mention of our (Morbo, Mews, and Ratheon’s) playing of FFXI, but no indication of levels.

12/2/05 – I had put in some random notes about game stuff and was talking about Nintendo’s next console – The Revolution. I really miss that name.

12/7/05 – Here I started embedding pictures of the covers of games I was “reviewing”, but they are all broken now because since then Cox has taken away the Webspace I used to store stuff on. Guess I’ll have to use Imgur now. I made a mention that I thought I’d never need another Katamari game – but just the other day I got the one for PS3. Never say never, I guess, something that becomes a rather recurring theme in my blogs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bad Luck?

OK, do I have a little 8-bit black cloud following me or what?

First, the other day I go to test my PS2 setup on the new "battlestation" (more on that in a later post) and at random pick Bloodrayne 2 from my Wall of Games (ditto). This was the PS2 I had connected to the front room TV which used to be on the bedroom TV in the old house, which means it never got a lot of usage. But for some reason, it couldn't read the disc. It looked pristine and I even tried it in Sarah's PS2 and it worked fine. Another game (this time Baldur's Gate) did work, but I knew I had to swap it out for another unit - one I fortunately found at a Goodwill for all of $20.

Second, I decided to play some PS3 last night and, for some reason, pulled out 3D Dot Hero. (A post about the problems of deciding which game to pull from a large collection is forthcoming.) All was fine, until the game locked up during a scene transition. (I hate it when the screen goes black...and never comes back!)  I was able to go back into the game after a PS3 manual reboot and all was fine until I tried to quit out of the game...and the PS3 rebooted itself! So, now I have to wonder, does this PS3 have problems or is it something else? This unit was bought for our new bedroom and was going to be our Netflix streaming unit, until we dropped Netflix because they got greedy. Other than the occasional Blue-Ray, it has had very little usage. But it did get me thinking - could it be a problem with this game and the fact the system's firmware has gone through multiple updates since its release? Going over my old posts, I realize that this was not a problem with last generation's systems.

And thirdly (wow, that's really a word!), I'm having problems with my misfit PSP. I took it to Starbucks today to check for firmware updates (the primitive network protocols on this unit don't support WPA-2 on my home router). I've done this before and it's worked fine in the past. This time, I couldn't get the network to link up. Now, it's possible this problem is related to the way most free WiFi works these days - when you try to connect, you are forced to a page where you are forced to see a) an usage agreement you have to accept, and b) advertising for the company providing the free WiFi. If that's the case, I think I know what I should have done, so I can try another time. What really bothered me though (aside from the sickly sweet Peppermint Mocha Frappicino) was that the game I put in the PSP, Twisted Metal Head-On, wouldn't load! UMD discs were designed to be basically indestructible and this one has no visible scratches I can see. True, it was a Gamestop used purchase and maybe someone traded in a dud, but I've always been worried about the sturdiness of the PSP's drive. If it ever dies, the whole PSP collection is going up on eBay.

*** Update #1*** : Looks like the PS3 might be fine after all. I did some checking on the Atlus message boards (they made 3D Dot Heroes) and the "fade to black" freezing issue is something other users have had happen too. They mentioned it happening early in the game (not a big deal), but it also happens later as well - in some cases after the person had gone deep into a dungeon, losing an hour or more of play time. Time to leave that one alone.

*** Update #2 *** : Well, maybe UMD discs aren't indestructible after all. The actual disc surface is pretty tough and mostly hidden, but the case is still plastic. It seems that my problem was caused by the clear plastic front of the case being pushed into the top layer of the disc, or at least far enough that it kept the disc from spinning. Other UMD's I've tried have worked fine. Crisis averted.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three Years later...

It just occurred to me today - I can get to my Video Game blog again!

About three years ago, my company decided to put a content filter on our Internet access. They figured that any site that "talked" about video games must, of course, allow people to "play" video games, so they blocked anything that even mentioned video games - including Gamestop, Metacritic's game ratings, and my blog. Mind you, this content filtering never interfered with access to any sporting site or any other not-really-related-to-work site, just video games. But that ended a couple of months ago, so here I am again.

Needless to say, A LOT has happened in those three years, both personally and in my gaming. I'll leave out the feely stuff - it's not what this blog is about. The game stuff will take some time to catch up on. I'm going to start by going back over my old posts (each one like a mini-time capsules at this point) and post updates on them before I head out into the new spaces of late 2012.

OK, one "feely" *feels* great to be back.