Friday, April 05, 2013

Finishing up in 2012

(I never got around to finishing this...which I guess is highly poetic. Finally, here it is.)

Well, here we are in 2013. Time, I think, to look back on 2012, but not, as in previous years, to just games I've played. This year my post will be about games I've actually finished!

Oddly enough, the tail end of 2012 found me at the end of more games than I can remember being at in any previous year. I am famous for buying games (usually in large and unreasonable quantities), and I do actually play some games, but I've had problems over the years "going all the way" in nearly everyone I've started.

The reasons vary for why I stop playing a game. Most of the time it's boredom. A lot of games just reuse the same mechanic over and over again to the point that I just don't want to keep playing it. Some games get ridiculously difficult toward the end and unless I turn on God Mode (which I've done before *cough* Fear Effect *cough*) there's no way I have enough time to work through it. Also in the past, I haven't had as good a setup for my gaming as I do now, and Steam has helped considerably since I now no longer have to keep finding the boot up disc for the game before I can play it.

But, before I get further afield of where I was going, here are the Games I Finished in 2012:

 Rage - Time to complete: ~26 hours. This was the first game in a long time that I really decided to get serious about finishing. While not a critical success with anyone (a trend I seem to follow for games I end up playing), I found it rewarding and fun to play. Guns went boom, targets (ie, mutants) went splat, and the environments were entertainingly post-apocalyptic with remarkable rendering. I never felt like I was on an interminable level or mission, and when I got time to play, I was able to finish a section, save and feel like I had accomplished something.
Favorite Thing: Shooting an armored guard in the foot, with the dynamite-loaded crossbow under his riot shield, having him jump around in panic, then blowing up behind his shield and taking out two other guards behind him. That and the opening cinematic.
Worst Thing: Finding the dune buggy, jumping into it, backing up, turning around, driving to the enemy barricade, and finding out that I could have walked there quicker - and without getting blown up by a rocket!

Duke Nukem Forever - Time to complete: ~20 hours. I'll admit, I drank the Kool-Aide on this one when it came out and dropped full price for the "Balls of Steel" edition. I've mentioned before on this blog that I was a big fan of the original Duke 3D game since it was the first shooter I played where I was walking around something that looked like a city. I waited and waited and laughed at the unbelievable timeline this game took to market, but in the end, I think they made a pretty good game. It's completely un-PC, but that's the point - if it weren't, it wouldn't be Duke Nukem! I played part of this when I got it in 2011, but got stuck in the alien ship and stopped. After finishing Rage, I thought I'd give it a try again and was able to break through and get all the way to the end without hitting too many problem areas. Mind you, I did turn on the option that allows you to hold 4 weapons instead of just 2. That tip was one of the most useful things the loading screens ever told me. And I'll say to anyone who thinks this game is dumb, ugly, or stupid, just look at the art work and demo reels for the version of the game they were working on while it was still at 3D Realms. We should be very happy that isn't the version that got released!
Favorite Thing: I'm not proud - I'll say the "lap dance" Duke sees when he's recovering from his injuries. I admire a game that says "Nudity" on the box and delivers!
Worst Thing: Being inside the alien ship and not being able to figure out where the F**K I had to go!

Limbo - Time to complete: ~7 hours. I got into Limbo primarily because it was one of a handful of games that had become a "must play" title for anyone who was serious about video games. The art style is bleak, done entirely with black and shades of grey. It consists of a little boy's journey to find his sister, or so I've been told. There's nothing in the game that tells you this, or anything about where you are, but it would seem, at least from the title, that you are in a place between life and death - Limbo. Environments range from calm lakes and grassy hillsides to industrial nightmares and giant cogwheels. There are no clearly defined stages, no "World 3-1" signs, but you know when you are done in an area. Each section presents you with a puzzle to solve with a very limited number of variables. I always felt like I had done something special each time I put it together (I only had to look up an FAQ once) and made it across to the next one. I died a lot, and each death had a singularly visceral feel to it. They were brutal deaths, made even more so by the fact the victim (me) was a small boy. I only played this game at night, with the lights off and headphones on. I felt sometimes like I was controlling myself in a nightmare, and even now, months after finishing it, I still get a profound feeling of dread and gloom when I think about the world I traveled in. (The spider-leg creatures will probably give me nightmares for the rest of my life!)
Favorite Thing: Seeing my character's "sister" for the first time. I felt like all I was going through was going to be worth the struggle.
Worst Thing: For all that I (the virtual "I") had gone through, the ending was painfully short.

The Walking Dead - Time to complete: ~16 hours. It's no secret that I love almost anything related to zombies. When I first heard of this game, I was immediately interested because I was already a fan of the comic and TV show. It also helped that the game was being sold in $5 episodes, so I knew I had a good chance of finishing the whole group. I also felt a certain community push to keep up with the story, like not getting too far behind a popular TV show. It's a fantastic experience, but I don't know if I'd call it a game. More than any video game I've played, this felt like I was controlling a character in an animated TV show. When you get to the end you realize how tightly controlled your actions have been the whole time. The "game" allows you to make different choices at certain points, but you basically just take a slightly different route to the same destination. But those little differences (who you save or don't save, things you choose to do or not do), shape the story for the player. This isn't a game of points, or leveling up, or weapon hoarding, or blasting walking corpses. The action elements are very simple and are there to give more interactivity to the experience, but they are purposefully designed (at least, I think they were) to be easy enough to breeze through and not derail the underlying story you are dealing with. If you miss something like hitting a zombie, you die and have to start over from a checkpoint. That happened to me a few times, but it didn't happen so often that it kept me from concentrating on the story.
Favorite Thing: Being Clementine's protector and replacement "dad". 
Worst Thing: That stupid pillow in the motel parking lot! The only time I had to look up an FAQ because I didn't see it on my dimly lit TV display (I finished the game on the PC).

Journey - Time to complete: ~3 hours. Journey was another of the games to come out in 2012 that fell into the "must play to stay current with video games" category. Everything I heard about it said it was an amazing, if short, experience not to be missed. At its core, Journey is a very simple, 3rd person perspective platformer. There are a couple of very simple instructions given at the beginning as to the controls. You have no "hearts" or "lives". You can't die and at the start you know where you are supposed to go - just keep heading for that big beacon on the mountain in the distance. The "game" is your "journey" there and what you find on the way. And what you find is nothing short of magical! If Limbo was my nightmares, than Journey was my dreams. Pillars supporting huge bridges, towers of lights, oceans of gleaming sands, a mysterious series of tapestries, and always there is the mountain to climb. What the game lacked in mechanics, it more than made up for in the experience of getting to my ultimate goal.
Favorite Thing: Occasionally, I would see another caped avatar like myself, traveling to the mountain as well, and he (it?) would even try to help me. What I didn't know at the time I played it was that it was actually someone else playing the game at the same time as me, merging into my (assumed) single player instance. When I found that out later, it kind of blew my mind!
Worst Thing: That I haven't had a chance to go back and replay it and look for another traveler!

Dead Space - Time to complete: 15/22 hours (first time is what the save file listed, second is how long Steam said I played it). Looking back on this one, I truly wonder what kept me going to get through it. As video game stories go, it was fairly lame. You play as a mute (figuratively, not literally) crew member of a stranded party on a ship filled with monsters that make the ones in The Thing look like cuddly kittens. When the game starts you get separated almost immediately and spend the rest of the game talking to 3 or 4 of the other crew members as they tell you what "must be done right away" in order to get something else to work if they are ever going to have a chance of getting off the derelict space ship, the Ishimura. After awhile you just want to shout, "Do it yourself, if it's so important to you!" I know it necessary to make objectives in a game, but it would have been nice if I could have just explored the ship more and not had to always just run around and do someone else's tasks.
Favorite Thing: Seeing the Marker for the first time was pretty cool. I also like the way Issac struts out of the booth after his suit gets upgrades and then admires his new outfit. You have to look good when mutants want to eat your organs.
Worst Thing: Hearing "Thanks, Issac. It's working fine now....Damn! Issac, you need to..." all the time!

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