Friday, March 26, 2010

March Game Blitz

It's been a hell of a busy month. First, a Road Map re-vamp:

I've been playing a crapload of Bad Company 2, lately with a friend who I got to buy the game. She's new to it, and hasn't played that many shooters, but she seems like she's having fun when we're in the squad taking out guys together. What a great game; this might be the best multiplayer shooter, or at least on a level with Team Fortress 2.

Playing Bad Company 2 (and it's veteran system) got me really interested in trying out other games in the series (and outside it, even). First, I picked up Day of Deafeat: Source on Steam for 10 bucks. It's a WWII-themed multiplayer shooter on smaller maps, more in the classic form of the genre, but updated with modern UI and achivements and such, being a Valve game. It's fun, and I found a newb-friendly server to play on, too. Next, I was in Best Buy and saw the Battlefield 1942 Complete Collection (all expansions + BF Vietnam) for another 10 bucks, and so I picked that up for the veteran status and to see what the original was like on PC. It's kind of archaic, but definitely functional, and there are plenty of servers still up and going. I only messed around in 3-4 matches so far, but you can see the lineage, especially when you look forward to Battlefield 1943, which I purchased on PSN for $15. This was released only last year, if memory serves, and it's "a re-imagining" of 1942's Pacific theater maps. It's very good, especially for a downloadable title. It runs on the Snowblind Engine, same as Bad Company 2 (and the original). It's got Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Coral Sea, which is a planes-only map. I'd recommend it to anyone wanting a quick-access shooter on their box without needing to toss in a disc after they've watched a movie or what have you. I think, along with BC2, this one will have the longest half-life with me, just by virtue of its convenience.

MAG, incidentally, is having a double-XP weekend this week, along with some free DLC. I'd like to check that out after a good week of nothing but Battlefield (as far as shooters).

The rest of my console gaming lately has been playing God of War (the first). It's good! It's not f'ing amazing or anything, but it's plenty fun. It's not been since Ninja Gaiden Black that I played a game in this genre, and that was a while ago, but leaving aside graphics (resolution) I think I like God of War better. I think NGB has the advantage as far as depth of the fighting system, but I'm not one to delve into that stuff. I'm a button masher when it comes to this type of game. I vastly prefer the story and presentation of God of War to Ninja Gaiden's senseless jumble of random anime tropes. It seems like Ninja Gaiden's combat was a lot faster, though. Kratos definitely lumbers at times, and hits with force, whereas Hayabusa is all about speed and precision. I guess both games have their moments.

Repeated issues with my PC led me to wipe it and install Windows 7, along with replacing the GPU and Motherboard (courtesy of Dell), meaning that the last few weeks of PC gaming has been more about re-downloading and re-installing and re-modding than playing very much. Just last night I re-downladed Torchlight, and thanks to the magic of the Steam Cloud, it installed and there was my savegame and all my settings, just waiting for me to jump back into the game. Awesome! I want to finish this one up reasonably soon (and start another playthrough, probably).

I also have really been meaning to get into and play and finish the Dawn of War II campaign, to get some more of the 40K goodness up in this bitch, and to then get the new Chaos Rising expansion and maximize my Space Marine Glorious Brodiosity For Make Benefit Of Glorious Emperor. Since re-installing the game I've just played a few rounds of The Last Stand mode as I mentioned on the podcast.

Having finished up Far Cry 2, I now have a real taste for the open-world shooter. Also possessing three STALKER games, I was debating on which to dive into. I'd started Shadow of Chernobyl (the first) before, but had recently heard that the new one, Call of Pripyat (the third) was definitely the one to play. I tried starting with CoP, but the sense of backstory and availability of kick-ass mods to the original led me back to it, tweaked out with the Complete 2009 mod that makes the UI better, fixes tons of bugs, and just all around makes the game better (and waaaay better looking, too; even better than vanilla CoP). A couple of hours in, STALKER feels like Oblivion with guns (ignore the fact that Fallout 3 has been tagged just that), which to me, is AWESOME.

Last but not least, I let my curiosity get the better of me and resubscribed to EVE Online, creating a new character and starting off a new career as a space explorer. I think I'm supposed to make tons of money charting unknown places and salvaging stuff from them. I managed to piss off the agent giving me my missions, though, and now she's not talking to me. I have no idea what I need to do to get back into her good graces. In the meantime, I'm starting on some of the military training missions in order to be able to defend myself against rats (the npc mobs in the game) and other player-character pirates and such when I'm out in the wilds of the void. What a crazy game. It's very cool and sci-fi-economic-political, but dense doesn't even begin to describe the complexity of EVE. I need a lot more time to acclimate.

As you can see, I've got a lot on my plate right now!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Places You'll Go

Something that's occurred to me lately is that gaming puts me in a lot of different places, and not just in terms of game settings, but also states of mind. No one who reads this blog will be surprised to learn that I think a lot about the games I play; not specifically about the games themselves, but about which games I play, and when, and where, and that I think about them in groups of genres or in groups according to their IP, or what have you.

Lately, the new Final Fantasy hitting the shelves and the large pile of neglected DS games I have here (all very Japanese) have been thrown into contrast with the large amount of 360 and PC and PS3 games that are coming out that I want to play, and that I already have and want to play (95% very Western). What I've noticed here is that over the long years that I've been gaming, my tastes have evolved from one type of thing to another. This would hardly be remarkable at all if I were talking about music, films, or literature, but in this case my tastes have evolved and changed right along with video gaming itself.

A large portion of this phenomenon can be attributed to there not being, until very recently, any form of "alternative" gaming, or almost any form of video gaming at all that was outside of the mainstream. There are these machines you play on, and here are the games for them. Some are more popular than others, but by and large they're all available for everyone to access, and most people who play a lot of games are at least aware of pretty much every genre and even series that there is. This mostly holds true even for PC gaming, with the only standouts being independant and totally underground things like the various variants of Rogue or things even more obscure.

There are hundreds of genres for those other media, and thousands of people authoring them, but in gaming there are more like tens, and hundreds. So, it's no real surprise that as Western games have risen in prominence, especially in the console market, that the tastes of your average gamer, caught up in the groundswell, would be swept along for the ride. I've been exposed to new things as new things came about, or within a reasonably short time from their appearance on the gaming scene.

It's just a basic shift in tastes that are, of course, ever evolving, but to see it now because it seems only now possible (or at least more likely), is kind of interesting. I'm left with games I see and feel like I should be interested in, but am not. Mega Man 9 and 10, for instance. All of the recent Zelda titles. Pretty much everything Square Enix is putting out these days. Many of these by happenstance are the Japanese games I was way into 10-20 years ago, but it goes beyond those, even. I've recently kind of decided that I'm not that into super linear, guided-experience games, the way a lot of FPS and third-person action games can be, despite the fact that I have a bunch of these waiting to be played. I'm more into mechanics-gaming, open worlds, and role playing games of the western sort, and systems-gaming than I have been prior to this point. Some of this may be just from delving heavily into PC gaming in the past year. A lot of it probably is.

We'll just have to see where it goes from here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shooting Lots Of Guys (Slicing A Few)

It's been a violent week in gaming. Aside from the odd game of Chess or Words With Friends, there's been a whole lot of dying going on.

It started with the bitter rivalry between two warring factions of an unnamed African nation coming to a head. I was put in a position to help an infamous and terminally ill arms dealer known as The Jackal bring to an end this conflict, and at the same time to help millions of refugees find a safe way out of the chaos. This was the final resolution of the mission given to my character in Far Cry 2, which was a very satisfying game in the end, and one of the most well-realized worlds I've had the pleasure to play in; a feat that was aided, no doubt, by it's novel choice of settings, a lush and realistic cross section of Africa's many types of geography.

I ordered Battlefield: Bad Company 2 from Amazon on the strength of it's multi-player demo for the 360, and the game arrived this past Tuesday, ushering a renaissance of XBL/PSN fragging into my living room. Together with MAG, another arrival this week, I've spent as much time shooting guys online in the last five days as in the last five months. Both games are a ton of fun, and both have the ever-addicting experience point and unlock system. I'm still level bullshit in BC2, but I've reached level 8 in MAG, which is when you get access to the biggest (256 players) game mode. EA has been having problems maintaining the servers for BC2 (guess it sold big), so this weekend I've mostly been playing MAG instead. I really like it, but the selection of maps seems pretty limited. I'll need a lot more time with both of these games to come to any real conclusions, but at first blush both are brilliant.

For some reason I got the itch the other day to finally start the God of War series. No one needs any explanation of what God of War is, but I have actually never played one up until this point. I played for a few hours, enjoying it, to a point where Kratos is storming his way through Athens on the way to encounter Ares. I have no real idea of how long the game is, but I'd guess it's 12-15 hours or something, putting me probably 1/5 of the way in.