Thursday, August 28, 2014

The (Problem with) Walking Dead Season 2 - Oh, Clementine. Hello, Alice.

 I have to admit that I'm still having "issues" with the second season of The Walking Dead. With the imminent release of the last chapter, I thought I'd get back into it thinking that I stopped playing because I was waiting for all of it to be available. But, I think I'm just having trouble with the whole Telltale games design in general and this game in particular. Mind you, I LOVED the first Walking Dead game! Playing as Lee, I felt a very paternal drive that made me want to do ANYTHING to protect Clementine. I think it's that motivation that's sorely missing from season 2. The actions and words I'm picking for Clem just don't seem to matter. (Worse, I'm starting to "see behind the curtain" when I realize that whatever response I give will end up with the same outcome, just with a different NPC reply.) There are lots of characters, but none of them make much of an impact. Their living or dying has no real affect on me playing as Clem. I don't know if part of this disconnection is magnified because the main character is a little girl and I'm a 53 year old man? I guess you'd have to get more input from female and/or younger gamers. Also, the last game I played, Uncharted, was a action heavy, controller based game. TWD has, at best, crude action sequences that involve WASD presses and Q/E fast button mashing (obviously I'm playing on PC - I found aiming with a controller in this game very difficult and investigating the environment tedious). Maybe it's a matter of hitting a slower paced game too soon? As much as I'm going to regret having to listen to my podcasts undoubtedly praise The Walking Dead S2 as a masterpiece (and I suspect it will be unpopular to even speak ill of it ), I think I'm going to have to abandon it for more interesting fare.

**Update** - Well, not everyone thought the finale was a "masterpiece". Joystiq gave it 3 out of 5 and basically criticized the developer for "fixing" the game to placate the objections of players who said their choices didn't matter in the ending. (Yeah, I guess I'm in that group too. Mea culpa.) The result seems to be a watered down experience that may not make anyone happy. I still think that the main problem with the game was that the story wasn't that engaging, certainly not for me. For now, it's been removed from my hard drive and I've moved on to...

 This may end up being the most gorgeous game I never finish. A sequel to the first Alice game from 2000, it kicks up everything in the Lewis Carroll world several notches in the weird category. The scale of the levels is amazing - giant factories with lava-falls, lush gardens with massive statues, and moving platforms over bottomless chasms. I think I tried the first game and didn't get very far into it, but it was a long time ago. I know that the kind of sights I'm seeing in Madness Returns could not have been rendered back then. But, while I'm blown away by the visuals, I'm not sure I'll be able to play the whole game. This is one of those titles that really should have been shorter since there is a lot of repetitive combat, one-shot platform jumping, and needless room exploration. But it's soooo pretty!!!

(After some thought on the matter...) I'm going to do some Defiance over the weekend and maybe some PS4 gaming too. After that, I'll see how I feel about Alice.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Play Log - Uncharted Charted!

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Image Uncharted: Drake's Fortune - Well, I can add this one to my short list of games finished in 2014. It took me a little over two weeks, but it was worth it. I never felt like I was just playing in order to just say I completed it. However, that's not to say I didn't have my frustrations from time to time. I must have played the ending battle for half and hour before I got it! This was a blend of Raiders of the Lost Ark inspired Tomb Raider-ish gaming with an interesting dose of The Descent weirdness thrown in toward the end. And, either I was getting better at it or there was more ammo in the latter part of the game because I didn't have as much trouble during the gunfights. If I didn't have The Walking Dead S2 to play and Destiny coming up, I'd be starting Uncharted 2 this evening! These are really my favorite kinds of games - single player, exploration/action games.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Winding down the year: Plans and Thoughts

As I write this, there's only about a week of August 2014 left and it's gotten me thinking about what I'm going to be playing as the year ends.

Currently, I'm about 2/3 to 3/4 done with Uncharted. If I'm lucky, I hope to finish it this weekend. I've definitely been enjoying it, but there have been some controller-twisting-in-anger moments. Last night I had to traverse the upper rafters of a ruined cathedral and kept missing a jump which made me do it all over again from the beginning. Not fun. My biggest fear with this game is that I'll get stuck on some sort of final boss challenge. That would really suck!

Next week is the release date of the last episode of The Walking Dead Season 2 (the game). I've played the first two episodes and put it aside until the rest were done. Now I'm going to want to dive into that and get through it before I hear too much on my podcasts about it. Those episodes usually take me about 2 hours each, so that's about 5-6 hours or a week's worth right there.

Then, of course, there's the matter of Destiny. As I mentioned here before, I impulsed a purchase of the Ghost edition (along with some other items that I cancelled, by the way) and it will be here on launch day, 9/9/14. Will I keep it? Haven't decided yet. The resale options are good enough that I didn't want to cancel, so it will come down to how much I want a little Peter Dinklage sound chip toy. I can always get another copy of the game itself which probably everyone will be playing. But I feel like I fell into this same trap with Titanfall, even though I know I should have thought that one through more. At least Destiny will have a single player mode. To get anywhere in this game will likely take a loooong time.

And those are just the heavy hitters! I still have a desire to go back into P.T. and try to get the ending myself if for no other reason than to reset the game (I haven't found any other way without deleting and reloading). Diablo III just released for the PS4 and I'd like to give it a try again. I haven't done anything with Watch_Dogs or Infamous: Second Son, both titles that I got for my seldom booted up PS4. I got two versions of Skylanders, Giants and Swap Force, that I need to try to see if I want to continue buying sets for. And then there are the occasional games that pop up on my radar after I've heard about them on a podcast. It just never ends!

On the good side, I won't be bored.

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 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.


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.