Monday, March 23, 2009

Crysis/WoW Weekend

I almost didn't play games over the last week. Much of my free time was spent watching season one of Battlestar Galactica, but I played a little bit of SSFIITHDR one night, and just a smidgen of Burnout another. I kicked off the weekend well, though, with some Crysis and then jumped headlong into a wild weekend fling with World of Warcraft.

Crysis is really cool, but I'm going to be progressing at a snail's pace because it's fairly difficult, seeing as I'm playing on the hardest setting. When you go to choose your difficulty level, they give you a brief description of each, listing what features are present and what configuration they are in. For instance, on "Delta" (the hardest), enemies speak Korean instead of English, your binoculars are normal type instead of simplified, and you have no crosshair, which forces you to use iron sights or other gun-mounted aiming aids, like scopes and laser sights. It's a unique way to do things, and Delta sounded the coolest to me, so I went with it.

I played for an hour or so but probably only made about 10 minutes of real progress, if that. Most of my time was spent just running around the rather large coast and bay "corridor" (mountains on one side, open ocean on the other) open to me trying various angles of attack and just playing around with the nanosuit's capabilities. I died a lot--over and over while experimenting--and finally determined that for the moment my best shot at it was to get to high ground or behind some cover and try to set up a sniper ambush to headshot one or two guys in a squad at a time. Once I gave away my position, however, the enemies would hardly ever let up unless I really lost them and then turned on the suit's cloak. I need to find ways to better exploit the strength and speed modes to kill guys with more than just guns.

I'm not sure what triggered it, but I was finally ready to jump back into WoW this weekend. I got a couple of levels, up to 34, and finished a bunch of quests. My lvl 80 brother-in-law ran me through the Scarlet Monastery instance several times, and I got some really good gear to use once I get to levels 37-39. I also pretty much finished up the Ashenvale quests, and it looks like from here there are 5-10 seperate zones that are viable, and I have no idea which ones to tackle. So for now, I'm concentrating on finishing my Warrior-unique Brutal armor set. I have 2 of the 4 pieces so far. After I'm done with that, I guess I'll just continue on with my green and yellow quests and see where they lead me. I really just get a kick out of exploring Azeroth, but I should probably focus on ones that will get me the most gold and warrior-oriented gear. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Game Soup

Though I finished GTA IV's story last week, I found myself drawn back to the game several times this week to tie up loose ends and because I guess I really just hadn't had enough.  I hopped back into Liberty City three or four nights to finish the Assassin missions, find all of the random stranger encounters, and mess around trying to get a few achievements.  I think I'm finally done, until I feel like playing The Lost and Damned.

Another nice time-waster for me this week was iDracula, a 99 cent iphone "twin stick" shooter.  You play a guy with a gun, several guns, killing various monsters that try to swarm you.  The controls aren't flawless (my left thumb doesn't slide all that well on the left "stick", but maybe that's just me), but they work well enough.  It's nothing revolutionary, but it's pretty fun and it's got freaking great graphics.  It's two dimensional and sprite-based, like a higher resolution Diablo II.  Someone really needs to take this "engine" and make a Diablo clone.  It could totally work, but I fear for the world's economic recovery if that were ever to come to pass.

I had occassion to try out a couple of new games this week, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and Crysis.  Hulk is pretty good, but kind of ugly these days, being a PS2 game, and also very simplistic.  It feels good jumping around an open city and smashing stuff, but this game's time was definitely 2005.  We're in a post-Crackdown world now, and the team that made Hulk should be coming out with their new game, Prototype, this year sometime (barring delay or cancellation, of course).  

Crysis, though--awesome.  All I'd ever heard about it was that there was some sort of suit involved and that it is pretty much the de facto standard PC benchmark these days.   I didn't know how amazing it would look on my PC (the game defaulted settings to high, but I should probably back it off a bit for a smoother framerate--I'm still new to the PC thing), or much about how open-ended the mission structure seems (I'm only about half an hour in so far).  I sat down with it out of curiosity more than anything, since I'd picked it up for only ten bucks.  I came away pretty impressed.  I knew I liked this game when I put the nanosuit into maximum strength mode and punched down my first tree.

Otherwise, I played some SuperSFIITurboHDRemix.  There was like one other guy online when I wanted to play, and he beat me over and over.  I lost with every character, except Akuma, who I don't have unlocked.  It was fun, though, and I won a few rounds here and there.  I stretched out my Noby Noby Boy some, tried out the Just Cause demo on Steam (not great as a PC port), and lastly spent a couple of hours killing stuff in WoW.  Ropvanks is now level 32 Warrior, with craptastic gear.  I'm using this mace I found and this goofy tiki head shield and random junk armor I've gotten from quests.  I'm still in Ashenvale, but I'll be leaving there soon, I think. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Murder And Mayhem In Liberty City

Apart from a little bit of Team Fortress 2 and World of Goo, which I picked up for $5 on Steam yesterday, I spent all my game time this past week playing GTA IV.

I am now at the final mission(s), a choice that boils down to either money or revenge, or more likely, Niko's cousin or love interest. My choice is for revenge, but I'll probably end up doing both to see what's different in the ending. I attempted each path once so far but died, and had to go to bed. I had already been playing like 6 hours anyway.

This past week I managed to crank through all the rest of the Irish mob jobs and then the Italian mafia jobs so that now all that's left is the ending of the main thread and the Assassin missions, and the tons and tons of side stuff you can do in the game. I'll probably end up doing some of that stuff and going for achievements, too, after finally finishing off the story.

There are a few choices you have to make in the game, whether to kill guy X or guy Y, or whether to kill guy Z or just walk away. The former scenarios, I opted to kill Playboy X, Francis McReary, and now Dimitri Rascalov. There was one odd mission where it looked like I was going to be given the choice of killing Phil or Ray (mafia capos), but the boss decided for me and had me go kill Ray, which would have been my choice anyway. In each of the kill/walk away scenarios, I used my better judgment, which as far as I can recall, was walking away each time save Vlad, whom I remember killing. The most interesting was Niko's long-awaited confrontation with "that special someone," Darko Brevic. I figured that it would have been the height of hypocrisy to kill him for having been only what Niko has become over the course of the game, a hired killer with little allegiance to anything but money. I'm not sure what impact any of these decisions have on the outcome of the game, but at the very least, a few of them helped me to define for myself what sort of character Niko would become, and I like that.

I've seen and heard a lot of people saying they don't like the person he becomes in the game, and that's fine for me. I don't have to like every character I control in a game (though I do happen to like Niko), as long as they're somewhat well defined and believable as a character. Aside from the necessary exaggerations and implausibilities (it is a game, there has to be insane fun stuff), Niko passes this test in my eyes. It's a tough line to walk in this series, though.

As Rockstar takes it in a less cartoon-ish and more serious crime fiction direction, it's hard not to lose some of the outlandishness (Area 52 jet-packs in GTA: SA), which often means losing some of the fun (no planes in GTA IV). I think GTA IV is a sweet spot, pretty satisfying on both ends, without undermining one hand with the other. This story just would not work in Crackdown, nor would Crackdown's insane (and awesome) gameplay work for this story (or any story, really).

Addendum: I finished the story last night, choosing the revenge route. After checking out the other ending on Youtube, I'm happy with my choice.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Phantasy Star Portable

Hi! Remember me?

Anyway I've been busy doing actual PhD work, so I haven't had much time to play games! But recently I found Phantasy Star Portable and figured I must have it (I'm a great fan of the PS series) so I played it most of yesterday when I really ought to have been doing something else ^^;

Anyway I wanted to review it, so here goes!

Things I like about Phantasy Star Portable:

1) the graphics are quite good, with gameplay smooth and quite impressive for the console. I was quite surprised to see such good quality graphics and such!
2) It reminds me of PSU! It has much nostalgia factor because it basically has the same maps and bosses and such as PSU. A couple of differences here and there but certainly it is basically PSU again in a singleplayer hand-held console form.
3) It has good upgrading and such for weapons. Only one type of grinder, which makes upgrading much simpler, seems to be a fairly standard upgrade per grinder too, so if you're into the nerdy details you can probably work things out a lot more than my "gut instinct" eyeballing. :)
4) Has partner machines! They don't craft or anything but you can bring 'em along with you. I've found I don't really need it, but I might if I go and do a B level dungeon without grinding a bit first. I like the challenge of doing it without a PM :)
5) Achievement rewards! These are cool, they're rares and whatnot for completing various achievements. I got a double-bladed axe-sword thing with the blades in the shape of love hearts that whoosh love hearts around when I swing it. LOL. It also deals a good deal of area damage so I love whooshing through large groups with it, haha. Feel the love!!
6) Music's good too. Same music as PSU pretty much, but it suits it all.
7) No stupid hackers. Hated this about PSU.
8) Controls aren't too bad. They were a bit fiddly to start with but now I've got the hang of them they're okay. Not as good as keyboard controls though, haha.

Things I don't like about PSP:
1) The story. BORING. Seriously.
2) The story cutscenes. Cardboard cut-outs with various stances do not a cutscene make.
3) Full voice acting. While I appreciate the effort of full voice acting, the voices annoy the fuck out of me. Why do they find such fricken whiny-sounding women to do the female voices, seriously?!
4) It's much the same as PSU. De Ragan, RELICS, etc., all the same maps, all the same grinds. Though it's nostalgic, it'll probably wear pretty thin after a while.
5) NO PURPLE CARPET ROOM OMG. Why do you have most the same maps/etc. and not have Grove of Fanatics at Neudaiz? You'd better unlock it for me later or there will be hell to pay! (My favourite PSU level.)
6) "Random encounters": I call them this because after you finish a general grind mission (not story) you will probably have a random encounter back in the city with some character or other. Cut to 5 mins of boring cardboard cut out cutscenes with whiny voices. Just let me go kill shit!
7) No purple carpet room *hmpf*
8) The shops and cities are basically just maps with clickables. No running around cities like in PSU. Fair enough, and good for cutting down on time, but yeah.
9) No online play. WTF? Local area multiplayer only is teh suck.

So yeah, in all an entertaining distraction for the day; I'm lvl 27 and haven't really hit too much of a challenge yet, though that could be because I know most of the boss weaknesses ^^; I actually miss being my PSU CAST ranger; shooting the crap out of things makes taking down flying bosses a lot easier than my Beast hunter... though being able to do massive area dmg is good fun too. I think things were a lot more challenging on my CAST in PSU, I might make a CAST to compare!

Anyway I'd recommend it for PS series tragics like myself ^^; But if you were bored with PSU you probably wouldn't enjoy it since it's much the same but on a smaller scale.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The One Where I Got An iPhone

I have to write these posts more often. A week goes by and I play so many different things that I can hardly recall them all.

I replaced one mobile platform with another this week. Well, I actually sold my PSP months ago, but this week I finally sold my stock (games) in it, upon seeing the lastest crop of (seemingly credible) rumors about the next PSP. Whether it's the PSP 4000, PSP2, PSPi, or whatever, sooner or later they're going to come out with one done right, with a second analog, no shitty UMD drive, a download service (to be fair, they kinda already have this), and maybe a touch screen. I'll pick up one of those. For the moment, I'm fine with my 10+ DS game backlog, and my new iPhone.

Yeah, my 2 year contract with Verizon was up, and for only $20 more per month I was able to go from a shit phone I never used for anything but calling to a fucking revelation in mobile computing. The iPhone is god. The Internet in my pocket, accessible anywhere, not to mention a phone and iPod in one, and a decent (potentially great) mobile gaming platform. I've had it for 7 days, and I already find it indespensible. But the games--I've downloaded and tried out a small handful, and found two so far that I really, really like.

One is Galcon, which is sort of mini-RTS. There are a bunch of planets on the screen, and you face off against one or two enemies (CPU or humans online, if you can believe that) sending ships from planet to planet to conquer them and take over the entire system. Incredibly accessible, and crazily addictive. One game of Galcon can be over in 10-20 seconds, and they rarely last longer than a couple of minutes. It's pretty much the perfect mobile game to sit and play while you wait. There's a free demo version, and the full thing is $5. Well worth it, in my book.

The other is called Tap Defense, which is pretty much your standard tower defense game. Most people pretty much know what they're getting with this type of thing, so suffice it to say that it works really well on the touch screen, and it's a lot of fun. I hadn't ever actually played one before, but this is cool. And free!

Elswhere, also in the cheap and novel category, was Noby Noby Boy, the newest creation from the guy behind the Katamari series. It is insane. I picked it up about the time everyone's cumulative stretch length had reached the Moon. I wouldn't really call it a game, it seems more like a toy, just one that you download and play with on your TV using a Playstation controller. That's not to say it's not cool, it's just literally unlike anything that there's pretty much ever been in gaming. I like it, and I'll probably mess with it from time to time to contribute to Girl's space expansion.

I felt like knocking through some more of GTA IV this weekened, so I had a couple of sessions of that, totalling 6 or 8 missions done. According to the game's menus, I'm about 45% of the way done. The story is probably only about 65% of the total, though. I'm liking playing this like Oblivion--doing a bunch at a time, taking a long break, and then coming back later for another hit. At this rate I'll be ready for Lost & Damned around the time the next DLC pack comes available.

And finally, triumphantly, I finished the Starcraft Terran campaign. That last mission was giving me hell for a while. I kept trying to go back to saves I made along the way, but I had painted myself into a corner more or less from the beginning by being slow to gather resources and not discovering a Vespene geyser in a key base location. I must have spent 4 hours across a couple of days to no avail, and finally went online looking for strategies. That convinced me to try out the seige tanks' special seige mode and use them for offense and defense both. The mission is to take out a giant ion cannon on the other end of the map, but to get to it you have to fight off two seperate and very well entrenched Terran armies and then make your way past all the turrets, ghosts, and other guardians to blow it up. In the end I had like seven battlecruisers and a host of tanks, goliaths, marines, and ghosts storm the cannon and take it out with a combination of Yamato guns and nuclear missiles. It still took an hour and a half, not counting failed raids and stratagems gone awry forcing reloads along the way. It was an oddyssey in and of itself. Hard to believe that's only a third of (half of) the game.