Monday, 5 December 2016

Seasons Greetings

With Christmas coming around the corner, that means a nice holiday break that's filled with food, family and (hopefully) gaming. My wife and I build brand new gaming PCs and I bought her a PS4 for her birthday so there are no excuses to not game.

Here's what I've been up to:

Diablo 3 - Season 8
I stopped playing D3 for a while since there didn't seem to be any new content. My wife and I fired up D3 to test out our new gaming PCs. While playing, we saw her cousin online playing D3 as well. One of the things he told us was the fun of playing a seasonal character. This is where you start a character from scratch without any access to the gear and gold of your previous characters. If you progress a seasonal character far enough, Blizz will give you a free set of armor. This had me intrigued, so I rolled a Witch Doctor and it was pretty fun. After a week or two, I managed to get that set and it was even more fun. I'm speeding my way through normal and greater rifts. I've had so much fun, I may roll a season 9 character. 8/10

Overwatch
My wife and I picked this up during the Black Friday sale. Yes, we love Blizzard games. They don't necessarily make the most original games, but they are usually the most polished and the best games of their particular genre. With that high level of expectation set, Overwatch was disappointing. One of the tutorials keep kicking me out because I spent too long reading about the abilities of the characters. I've never seen Blizz make such a poor gameplay design. The gameplay itself was a little underwhelming; nothing really awed me. Granted, we only played a couple of matches, so it's still early to pass a final judgement. Here's my early judgement 6/10.

Saints Row IV
I'm a huge fan of the series and I was curious to see where they'd take the franchise. It starts off with the leader of the Saints (you) as the President of the United States battling aliens on the lawn of the White House. Unbelievably, it only get crazier from there. It's all of the wacky humor and gameplay from previous installments, but now they've added superpowers. Plus, there's plenty of Keith David. Everytime he talks to me, I feel that much cooler. They even recreated his fight with Roddy Piper from They Live. This was a solid entry into the franchise but without spoiling the ending, the next SR should have even more story possibilities. 9/10

Jagged Alliance 2
I finished this game years ago but I don't think I ever reviewed it. This is a classic turn based action game where you recruit and control a team of international mercenaries. Your mission is to help rebels overthrow a dictator on a tiny island nation. The more missions you do, the better gear and skills you get. I really enjoyed the attention to detail as you can outfit your mercs in a variety of ways. Combat was a lot of fun too as it took line of sight into account. This game was released in 1999 and I would easily consider this a classic. 9/10


Hawken
My friend, Scott, recommended this free-to-play online robot shooter. I was a little skeptical as I had never heard of this game. Needless to say, I was surprised at how good it was. Lots of detail went into customizing the mech. Mech felt a little too light and nimble during gameplay, but that's forgivable given the fast pace of combat. The usual online gaming modes were available: DM, CTF, etc. I think it'd be more fun if I played with people I knew. 6.5/10


Divekick
Imagine a fighting game like Street Fighter but without the depth or graphics. That's Divekick. It only has 2 buttons. And I don't mean it has movement controls and then only 2 buttons for punching and kicking. It literally only has 2 buttons. Jump and kick. Each character jumps and kicks a little different so the gameplay is somewhat varied. It's a funny game and is a solid parody of the fighting genre. Due to it's lack of depth, the game does get a little stale after a few hours. 6/10

The Typing Of The Dead: Overkill

I first saw this game in the arcades of Akihabara in Tokyo a few years ago. My wife spent a few yen playing this. It's just like the House Of The Dead shooting games, but instead of using a light gun, you use a keyboard to type out words to kill the zombies. The faster (and more accurate) you type, the faster you'll kill zombies. I did not play as the keyboards looked kind of nasty and I don't know how to type in Japanese. As it turns out, an English version is available on Steam. We bought a couple of copies so we could play co-op together. After almost 20 years of developing software, one would think I could type at a decent rate. Nope. I never learned how to type properly. My wife laughs at how I type. She says it looks like I'm playing a piano. The zombies also laughed at how I typed by eating my brains. I don't think I can finish this on my own. 6/10

Yoshi's Wooly World
A very cute sidescrolling platformer with Yoshi as the main character. In fact, the game is populated with dozens of different looking Yoshi's. The twist is that everything in the world, including the Yoshi's, are made of yarn. In fact the game itself comes with a knitted Yoshi figure. It's very much like a typical Mario game but with a yarn theme. I can't say I followed the plot very closely, but it was fun. Especially co-op where you can toss the other player like a ball of yarn. 7/10




Friday, 28 October 2016

Mega Update

It's been a while since my last post. Many, many games were finished in that period.

Counter-Strike: Condition Zero

Basically, this game is CS for people who want to play by themselves. You get a bunch of bot team mates and fight bot terrorists. Your team mates get "better" as you progress. In addition, there are a bunch of side objectives, like "win in 60 secs". I blew through this as quickly as I could because it was so boring. There's really no reason to play this. Online CS is so much more fun and dynamic.

Imagine a CS round filled with the most boring and incompetent players. That's Condition Zero. 3/10



Saints Row 2

My first foray into the Saints Row franchise. I always thought the SR games were a cheap knock-off of the GTA series. While GTA strived to be as realistic as possible, SR went in the opposite direction. There are trucks shooting poo, beating people to death with TVs, etc. Crazy good fun! And that's the key to SR2 - fun. It was a lot of fun running around doing ridiculous things. The voice acting was top-notch as well.

There were a few problems. I was playing on the notorious PC port of the game. The graphics engine was not up to par. The draw distance was poor. NPCs, targets, etc. would despawn too quickly if the player was a medium distance away. It was very frustrating trying to track down cars to steal when they would mysteriously despawn off your radar. 


Lots of goofy fun with occasional technical problems 7/10



Borderlands

I avoided this game for years because of the cover art. Yes, I totally judged this game by the cover. I just thought the psycho shooting himself in the head was such a lame and stupid thing.

I was wrong and I'm not afraid to admit it. Borderlands is a fun game. 


Sniper Elite V2

The only reason I got this game was because it was free on Steam. I enjoy sniping in FPS games and a game dedicated to that with realistic physics sounded like fun. Ok, so why didn't I buy it before? Well, the Sniper series is not a AAA franchise. It's somewhere between AAA and the bargain bin. I'm very hesitant to spend >$20 on a non-AAA title. So the price of $0 was perfect for me.

5 mins into the game and it's very apparent this is not a AAA title. The maps and missions are very linear and straightforward. Enemy AI and spawning are noticeably bad. I played on hard difficulty and the enemy, regardless of weapon and distance, had aimbot-level marksmanship. That ain't hard, that's just cheating. The enemies also didn't spawn until you reached certain portions of the map. So you could go in blasting down one street and the newly spawned enemies on the next street would be oblivious to the epic firefight that just happened. Very dumb.


Down to the most important question: how was the sniping? It was surprisingly well done. It was clear the developers spent the most time on the ballistics. Probably some of the best bullet-physics I've seen in a game. It was very satisfying hitting a target while compensating for wind drift and gravity. The other outstanding feature in the game was the x-ray cam. Every so often, a fatal shot would be slo-mo'd and then shown entering and exiting the target. The x-ray cam shows the internal damage occurring as the bullet rips through them. Very well done.


A friend of mine also got in on the Steam deal and we got together for some sniping co-op. The Overwatch mode was great fun but I hated the Bombing Run scenario. Bombing Run had far too much CQB and the enemies popped out of nowhere. Get to an objective point and it was like the Nazis were hiding in a bowl of rice waiting to pop a cap in my ass. Those were the only 2 co-op modes we played.
Great sniping, mediocre/poor gameplay. Co-op was an uneven experience. 6.5/10 



Dishonored

I admit, I hate the steampunk genre. Absolutely despise it. Is it historic? Is it sci-fi? Make up your mind! This is the main reason I didn't play Dishonored. It was only after all of my gamer friends spoke highly of it that I reluctantly installed it.

The first thing that got my attention was the art direction. This game is just really pretty to look at. The characters all have a very unique look to them. Kinda like a comic book. The voice actors did a fine job too. Susan Sarandon, in particular, was great as an old woman.

The game promotes and even rewards stealth and non-lethal play. I, on the other hand, killed everything that moved. I played it like a ninja and I have no regrets. It was immense fun sneaking up on enemies and shanking them. Killing so many enemies made the game a little harded as it went on. Nothing more killing wouldn't solve. One small complaint, all of this killing made some of the boss fights pretty easy. The final boss stage took me almost no time. It was somewhat anti-climatic.

One thing that struck me as really weird was the control layout. By default, the left mouse button controlled the characters right hand and vice versa. WTF, why? That threw me off so much in the beginning. I ended up remapping that control.

The story was somewhat clich├ęd and predictable. I saw the "twist" a mile away. However, it was an enjoyable experience.

Beautiful looking game, satisfying combat, with only minor complaints. I still don't like steampunk. 9/10


Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY Edition

Years ago, I tried the demo for Batman. I loved it. Classic Batman action. I finally got around to purchasing it and installing it.

This Batman is from the cartoon series and not the Nolan or (shudder) Schumacher franchises. I think that was a good choice as it lends itself better to a video game. The game looks fantastic. It was a living, interactive comic/cartoon. They got most of the cartoons voice actors too. Mark Hamill does some of the best voice acting in the industry and AAs Joker is no exception.

AA seemed like a long game but HowLongToBeat.com only lists it as 12hrs to complete. I found the missions and combat getting repetitive. I hated the Scarecrow mission. Combat turned into button mashing and the quests made me run back and forth to the same locations. The game could've been 1/4 shorter. Like any Michael Bay movie, this game needed some editing. Sometimes less is more. Except there were too many Bat-gadgets. I only used them when I absolutely had to. I even stayed away from the Batarang during combat.

Excellent production values, but the game got repetitive. 7/10


Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon

As a big fan of Tom Clancy's books, I was curious to see how his non-book IP translated to a game. The Rainbow 6 series is a classic. How would GR stack up?

The answer? Meh. GR and R6 are both 3rd person (depending on the R6 game) squad based shooters. Classic R6 has a lot more planning and strategy to it. GR just plops you into the map and you plan from there.


It's difficult to fairly judge a game that's 13 years old. I'll definitely have to let the graphics slide. The world was made of triangles lol. This was less evident in city environments, but it was very noticeable in jungle maps.

The AI was insane. If they saw you, you almost always died. The graphic engine made far off enemies hard to spot, so there were a lot of times where you'd get shot and have no idea why. The enemy could shoot you in pitch darkness with an AK from half a mile away without using NVGs. So very many quick saves/loads. My own AI troops would get stuck on staircases, corners, etc. Combat was frustrating to say the least.

The attention to detail for the guns and plot was what I would expect from a Tom Clancy inspired game. This was not enough to make up for the crappy gameplay.

A frustrating game, even by 2001 standards. 3.5/10


Gunpoint

Someone at work told me this game could be finished in a few hours. After the long hours on Batman: Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Dishonored and Saints Row 2, I could use an easy title to scratch off my list.

A simple puzzle game. Get your detective into an office building to steal data. There are guards in the building trying to stop you. You can rewire trap doors, security cameras, doors, etc. to your advantage. 
The graphics are of the basic 8-bit, old school variety.

The missions were repetitive. Each one added a new "mechanic" but the mechanics are so similar that it didn't make too much of a difference. Basically, re-wire things to make it do what you want.

An easy, and somewhat boring game with uninspired artwork. It's really short so it's got that going for it. 3.5/10


World of Guns: Gun Disassembly

This game really isn't a game. I stumbled upon it in Steam as a free-to-play game. The "game" is to assemble/disassemble real-world guns in an AutoCAD-like environment. You get timed, and then you try to beat that time. This is something you would do to keep your sanity if you got trapped beneath a pile of old newspapers in your garage.

Not a game. No score.



South Park: The Stick Of Truth

I'm not the biggest South Park fan, but I've watched a few episodes and have enjoyed them. My personal favourite episode was "Make Love, Not Warcraft". A close second is "Child Abduction Is Not Funny". Usually, TV shows and movies do not make for good games. Studios don't give those kinds of IP much love as they figure it already has a built-in audience so they don't need to try as hard. To my surprise, The Stick of Truth is an original and entertaining game.

The game is an "open world" RPG. The art work is exactly like the show. In fact, it's pretty much like being in an episode of South Park. The storyline has many similarities to the recent 3-part Game Of Thrones parody. And much like the show, the writing in the game is sharp and hilarious. Lots of references (of course) to the show. Easily the funniest game I've ever played. The boss fight of the gnome stage takes place in the most original environments in a video game.

Combat was turn-based and became repetitive by the end of the game. The GUI was a little too cluttered. It could've been streamlined a lot. The world could've been bigger with more options to explore buildings.

This game takes everything that funny about the South Park franchise and puts it into a video game. Absolutely hilarious with only minor problems. 8.5/10


Saints Row: The Third

SR2 turned me into a huge SR fan. I liked the characters, I liked the wacky gameplay and I even enjoyed the plot. What I didn't like was the technical problems. I was hoping SR3 would fix those issues and boy, did they deliver. SR3 is a solid experience on the PC. No more drawing problems! Yay!

SR3 takes place in a different city but it doesn't make that much difference. The story is a little similar to SR2 (having the Saints gain power and defeat rival gangs) and also wacky. The missions and overall gameplay are streamlined in SR3. It made for an overall better gaming experience. However, I still prefer the story from SR2 as it was a bit more interesting. That's not to say SR3 was boring. It certainly had memorable moments and character arcs. The wrestling subplot was genius and surprisingly authentic.

One complaint I have is the DLC. I bought the franchise pack and it came with everything. So when I started the game, I had all of the end game vehicles, weapons and bonuses. I started with a freakin' VTOL in my garage and 35% bonuses to money and respect. It made the game so easy. Also, not enough Johnny Gat!

I enjoyed 3 as much as I did 2, and that's a lot. Plus, no technical problems! I'm excited to play 4. 8.5/10


Animal Crossing: New Leaf
This isn't a Steam game, but still a game that I finished recently. It's a weird little 3DS game that let's you be the mayor of a town comprised of animal citizens. The fact that they're animals is irrelevant. They might as well be humans because their animal natures are never explored.

The goal of the game is to grow the town and collect things (e.g. butterflies, fossils, etc) for the town's museum. I'm not sure if there's a definite ending to the game, but I grew it to a fairly large size with all of the store and store upgrades. I also maxed out my own mansion.

After all of the expansion, the game doesn't really go anywhere. The only thing left is to pick fruit and go fishing. The co-op can be quite as some of the mini-games were interesting on the island. However, it's not enough to make up for a lack of endgame activities.

A cute little game with not a whole lot to do. 5/10


Tomodachi Life

This is another 3DS game I "finished" recently. Much like Animal Crossing, this game is also a town simulator. The big difference is, the inhabitants are comprised of Miis. This means you can populate it with people who look like your friends and family. You can also add celebrities if you want. I have Shaq, Captain Picard, Tyrion Lannister, Naruto and the main cast of Frozen living in my apartment complex. The most entertaining part of the game is seeing your "friends & family" interact with one another.

Gameplay is fairly simple. Buy food. Feed the people. Solve their problems. Help them with their relationships. Eventually, couples will pair off and get married and have kids. Once the kid is old enough, they have the option to go travelling (i.e. SpotPass to other 3DS'). At that point, the credits roll. You can continue the game after that, but it's just more of the same. Right now, I'm trying to collect all of the food and find everyones favourite meals. One interesting technical feature is the text to speech engine. The Miis say everything and it can lead to funny results sometimes.

Unlike Animal Crossing, co-op in Tomodachi Life is even more limited. It only involves trading items with another player. They can't even look around your town. Not that it really matters since all towns are laid out exactly the same.

A cute little game with not a whole lot to do. 5/10

If you've made it this far, I'm sorry for such a long post. I'll try to update more often.

Update: Steam Summer sale happened last weak. I bought quite a few titles. I'm making this quest a lot harder on myself.



Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Guns....lots of guns

Spec Ops: The Line
Hadn't heard much about this game. It grabbed my attention immediately when the main character had to fight with renegade US soldiers. That isn't too common in games. Most games don't make you think about the consequences about violence. It's a core theme in Spec Ops. As the violence escalates in the game, the characters are drawn more and more into a bloody hell. War crimes are committed and the characters have to face the moral consequences of their actions.

Technically, the game looks great with it's dust storms and semi-destructible environments. However, artistically, it was somewhat bland. All of the action takes place in the desert and the game is mostly shades of brown. The controls were a little awkward for getting into and out of cover, but nothing too bad.

With a title like Spec Ops, I was expecting a shooter. What I got was a shooter with a conscience. It was a very pleasant surprise. 8.5/10


Alpha Protocol
When ever a game advertises itself as an "espionage" game, it means stealth with very little killing. Alpha Protocol gives the option of stealth, but also lots and lots of killing. I'm not a big fan of sneaking around. For me, the action is the juice.

Things the game did well:
 - RPG elements. Lots of choices, lots of consequences.
 - voice acting. Each character sounded authentic.
 - character customization. Tons of gun & armour mods. Could've used a few more character options.
 - map design. even though this wasn't a completely open world game, the maps felt spacious with many options to move around.

Things the game did not do well:
 - camera movement. This PC port seemed like an after thought. The camera controls were clunky and sometimes, there would be long pauses while panning around. It was extremely annoying.
 - pistols are broken. Chain shot is completely OP. Boss fights are trivial with this ability. I ended the Sis fight in 1 second.

Overall, I enjoyed Alpha Protocol. The game ended with the possibility of a sequel. I'm looking forward to it. 8/10




Thursday, 15 August 2013

Welcome to Earf!

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I know Will Smith actually says the line correctly, but it's standard greeting for aliens coming to earth. In this case, the aliens are from the X-Com franchise dating back to the mid 90s. First of all, I must preface this review by saying I was a HUGE fan of the original (not so much the sequel). And after playing this game, I think the developers were fans too. There were a ton of homages and nods to the original. What they did was take the original game, beef up the graphics, streamlined the gameplay a lot and delivered one of the most satisfying and original games I've played in a while. Original may be a strange choice of words considering it is a sequel in a franchise with lots of entries. I say original because the gameplay is so unique. I don't think I've played another game with the same mechanics. The first X-Com comes closest, but that was released almost 20 years ago.

When I first started playing , I encountered a serious bug. Occasionally, the game would crash during a specific cutscene. This happened even if I exited the game and reloaded my previous saved game. This essentially corrupted my save game file. I had to restart all over again twice! I finally figured out the Steam cache was getting corrupted. After refreshing it, the game was fine.

Aside from that bug, the game was a fantastic experience. Lots of fun, strategy and satisfying alien murder. The bug keeps this from being a perfect 10. 9/10.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Games I've Already Finished

Just for the record, I had finished a few of the games in my Steam library prior to starting this blog.

Aliens vs. Predator
Atom Zombie Smasher
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
COD: MW3
Counter-Strike
Counter-Strike: Source
Defense Grid: The Awakening
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Dungeon Defenders
FEAR
Fallout: New Vegas (and all DLC)
Far Cry
Freedom Force
Frontlines: Fuel Of War
Half-Life
Half-Life 2
Kane & Lynch
Kane & Lynch 2
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead 2
Max Payne
Max Payne 2
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Plants vs. Zombies
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
Team Fortress Classic
Team Fortress 2
Warhammer 40k: Dawn Of War
X-Com: UFO Defense
X-Com: Terror From the Deep



Jamestown: Legend Of The Lost Colony (of crap)

Jamestown: Legend Of The Lost Colony
Vertical scrolling shooters were popular when I was growing up. Games such as 1942, 1943, Truxton, Twin Cobra, and Raiden consumed many childhood hours. However, since the 90s, these types of games seemed to be on the decline. Jamestown is supposed to be an homage to this old-school genre. It's even done with 8-bit graphics.

Frankly, this game was terrible. The graphics are passable, but nothing special. Forget about a story. The maps were too small. That is, there isn't a lot of room to manoeuvre your ship. When the screen fills with enemy ships, bullets and missiles, there has to be somewhere to go. Unfortunately, the view is zoomed in way too much. The ship takes up a large chunk of real estate and the enemy projectiles are also big.

There are 4 ships available to play and all of them are boring. The only power up is a temporary shield and increased damage. That's so lame. All of the old games I listed above have lots of power ups and bombs. This reeks of lazy design.

When I started, I wanted to get through the game as fast as possible so I choose Normal difficulty. The first couple of stages were no problem. Seems like I'd finish in a couple of sessions. However, the subsequent levels requires you to go back and finish the previous level on Hard. Ok, fine. The level after that required me to go back and finish the previous levels on an even higher difficulty setting. That's a cheesy and bullshit game "design" to get more replay out of the game. It's inexcusable that I'd have to replay the same levels 3-4 times each just to finish the game. What they should've done is add increasingly difficult maps.

I'm happy I never have to play this POS again. Congratulations Jamestown, you get my first 1/10 rating.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

All aboard!

Metro 2033
Ukrainian-developed, post-apocalyptic, FPS set in the Moscow metro system. This game was based on a book of the same name. I had never heard of it, let alone read it. I expected the story to be deep and involving. Instead, I was disappointed at how disjointed it was. The plot has your character going through the subway tunnels trying to find a way to beat The Dark Ones. The Dark Ones weren't shown very much until the very end but every time they were on the screen, it was scary! They were these ghostly shadows which blended into the environment very well. The problem was, The Dark Ones has so little screen time. It was mostly fighting mutants and Nazis (wtf, why?!). Cut out the unnecessary Nazi story element and focus more on the Dark Ones. The ending gave you a choice and I went with the obvious "kill everything" one. I read about the other ending and it made no sense to me. There was nothing in the preceding hours of gameplay that would lead me to that conclusion.

Each "station" was a mini-town and could've been an interesting setting, but they weren't given a lot of attention. No interesting characters. No cool places to hangout. Basically a vendor and the next quest giver. Boring!

The missions themselves were too short. 5-10 minute mission, followed by 3 minute cutscene. Repeat for a few hours. And the mission layouts were confusing. You don't get an in-game map so I figured there'd be multiple ways to finish a mission. Nope. Only 1 exit and you have a useless compass to help you navigate. Some maps were so frustrating because I couldn't find the damned exit. A compass doesn't tell you which floor of a building to go to. Bad, bad level design.

So what did this game do well? The graphics engine provided some of the best lighting and environmental effects I've seen on a PC game. Lots of great looking fog and shadows. It helped create a creepy atmosphere, but unfortunately, the story could not utilize it.

The other neat thing was the voice acting. A fellow gamer & friend recommended I switch the audio to Russian with English subtitle. It was nice little touch.

6/10


After Metro 2033, I was supposed to move onto Jamestown: Legend Of The Lost Colony, however, I get derailed and played Diablo 3.

Diablo 3
Ok,  I had finished Diablo 3 a week or two after it came out. A pretty looking game without the brilliance of the first two (fuck you, Jay Wilson). It held very little replaybility value so I shelved it for a year. Only recently did I get back into it so I could solo it on the hardest difficulty level. I'll admit, Inferno is pretty hard with the crap gear I had. Instead of grinding endlessly for better gear, I just went to the AH and bought a set of kick-ass Legendary-class equipment. One I had my new gear, it didn't take much time to kill Diablo. Time to shelve it again.

7/10


Next: Jamestown (it's so bad)...