Monday, June 27, 2011

Just Cuz

The award for the most out of this world crazy, over-the-top game I've played in a while goes to Just Cause 2.

I love the aircraft, and I love how absolutely enormous the game's environment is. I've run around for a couple of hours and have probably seen about 5%-10% of the landmass, and that includes flying over it in planes and helicopters!

There's also a really cool contrast between creating tons of chaos in the form of towering explosions and then jumping off a cliff and peacefully para-sailing just wherever your whims take you. Missions pop up all over the place and can be done in any order. The game actually encourages you to run around and do whatever by doling out rewards and unlocking story missions based on how many side things you do (mostly destroying government infrastructure). It's great to jump into and mess around with such a huge and good looking open world.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Train, Roll On

I have been very schizophrenic about gaming lately. I'm all over the place here, getting in as many off-the-cuff game playing sessions as possible before the imminent birth of my first child. This all has got me thinking about the backlog,and I'm making a small change to my little system. I'm removing games from the Pile of Shame once I've played them at all, now. Otherwise, it gets bogged down with games that I have tried once and may never get around to playing again. I can't force myself to finish everything, or even prequels to other games I intend to play, like say, finishing Max Payne before trying part 2 or 3.

This doesn't mean I'm considering them complete or even given fair time for appraisal, it just means I got the shrinkwrap off or installed the game and checked it out for a bit. Take a look at the revised pile now, and you'll agree there are plenty of games in there even after culling the ones I'd played before--many of which I do intend to play more of! They're just not really all that shameful, anymore.

I've got a ton of games to write about playing, including WipeOut HD, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Frozen Synapse, Quake, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Just Cause 2, but unfortunately they'll have to wait until later, when I have more time to blog! It's time to go out for Sunday brunch, now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

I've completed the game twice now. The second time was really only the second half of the game replayed to take the alternate path, but altogether I probably spent 40 hours with the game, though I have no way of verifying that estimation. This is very likely my game of the year. No other 2011 release has been or is as highly anticipated by me as The Witcher 2, and it delivered on all counts.

Assassins of Kings not only took what was great about The Witcher and ran with it, but completely revamped the combat system to great effect. It was pretty difficult at the beginning of the game (a patch in the time since I last played the prologue and first chapter did some balancing), but after getting the hang of it and investing some skill points into the various development trees, I became a formidable master swordsman/mage/alchemist hybrid.

The role-playing choices to be made in the Witcher games absolutely shame anything I've seen in any other games. Not only are the consequences truly meaningful to the development of the game's plot, the choices are rarely set up in a neat black/white good/evil dichotomy, and it's almost never immediately obvious what the ramifications of a choice will be. There is no spectrum on which your character mathematically drifts one way or the other depending on these choices; there is only the often harsh realization that a decision you made hours of playtime ago has just now come back around to you through an elaborate chain of cause and effect.

One key decision near the end of chapter 1 completely changes the plot, availability of quests, and mission objectives for the rest of the game, not to mention many of the locations visited in chapter 2. This is the point from which I went back and replayed from after finishing the game initially. Without spoiling too much, you choose to align (but not necessarily ally) yourself with either the elvish guerilla Iorveth or the vengeful special forces commander Vernon Roche and where you are and what side of the conflict you are on in chapter 2 plays out accordingly.

I can't imagine how CD Projekt Red will be able to carry over all 16 possible end-game world states to The Witcher 3. Most likely they will leave behind entirely many of the characters of this game. The overall political situation of the world of the game is pretty much the same at the ending of the game no matter what choices you make, but major characters (to this story) live or die, and individual kingdoms may be with or without a monarch or at peace or at war. Geralt though, is likely bound in the same direction with the same objective no matter how the saga of the kingslayers has played out. The ending of the first game in the series was similar; no matter who you allied with, Geralt's job was done and he was leaving the kingdom with a fat coin purse when things got real complicated all of a sudden. Something ends, something begins, they said, and if I had to guess the same is true here.

I just hope it's not a 4 year wait for the next game in the series. The Witcher 2 uses a new engine that the developers built specifically for this game, and so now that that groundwork is laid, here's hoping they can get The Witcher 3 done in closer to 2 or 3 years. The way the series is built so far, there is an overarching story arc of Geralt recovering lost memories of his adventures before the events of the games (including those that happened in the popular series of Witcher novels that the games were inspired by), and each game is a self-contained story of the witcher becoming embroiled in grand schemes and political maneuvering while just trying to do his profession (monster slayer for hire with a peculiar warrior's moral code) and earn some coin.

Two games in, and The Witcher has become one of my favorite series in gaming, and Geralt himself one of my favorite characters, right up there with the likes Solid/Naked Snake, Ezio Auditore, FemShep, and the cast of Uncharted. The wait begins for the next entry!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interlude - E3 2011 Day 1

So, today Nintendo announced the Wii U. I don't really know what to say about it, other than time will tell. I do think it faces a bit of an identity crisis, like Nintendo is somehow trying to take all their Blue Ocean success and fold it back into the hardcore game space. Or rather, trying to fold us hardcore types back into the Nintendo space. I think they'll have to do more than just secure ports of all the hot games already coming to the other platforms, though.

Personally, Nintendo properties just don't connect with me anymore. Sure, Mario is fun here and there, but nothing they put out is liable to keep me interested very long, if it catches my eye in the first place. What would make me interested in buying a Wii U? Well, the lower the price, the lower that bar goes, I suppose. At $199 I might get it just to keep up with my Virtual Console purchases, assuming they'll carry over. That controller, though... I really don't know what to even think of the thing.

I saw some video of Uncharted: Golden Abyss today, which was of course, PS Vita video. It looked good. I don't know that the business prospects of the Vita are worth a damn, but it looks like a desirable gadget, at the very least. I've seen an OLED TV screen before at my local Sony store, and it looked amazing. I'm excited to see a Vita up close and personal.

Interlude - E3 2011 Day 0

So today was the first day of this year's round of E3 bombshells.

Things started off pretty slow, as far as I'm concerned, with Microsoft lobbing softballs to the blue ocean crowd. It seems like 90% of what they talked about was Kinect trash. There's a half-hearted Halo HD remake coming out this fall, and Halo 4 is to be released late next year. Good thing they teased it now, huh?

There were also conferences by EA and Ubisoft today, so we learned a bit more about games I am excited about: Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3, and Assassin's Creed Revelations. I hope EA's Origin business is as benign and unobtrusive as Ubisoft's U-play.

Sony seems to have won the day with the announcement that the NGP, now the Vita, will come in a $250 model as well as a $300 3G enabled one. People also seem excited by Uncharted, "transfarring," and cloud save synching like was shown with the game Ruin. I might like a Vita, myself. They'll need to show me the software first, of course. Dust 514, the MMOFPS by CCP that will somehow link to their incredibly interesting EVE Online, was also briefly shown. I've been interested in this one since it was announced quite some time ago. Longtime readers may remember that I've tried a couple of times to penetrate EVE, but just couldn't hack it. The interest is there, but not the will, time, or dedication. Maybe Dust will be the thing.

I just watched a bit of Skyrim being played by the game's director, Todd Howard. It looks good, like a modernized Oblivion. The dragons look especially cool.

Of the new, previously unannounced games to be revealed today, only Halo 4 and Far Cry 3 are of much interest. Halo 4 is a given, and far out. Far Cry 3 may also be far out, but the video shown today was, incredibly, all in-game, and it looked awesome. I enjoyed the hell out of Far Cry 2, flawed as it was. If FC3 is able to retain the incredible atmosphere and improve upon some of 2's weak points, it could be an amazing game. I want to remain skeptical, but you can't deny the fact that when almost every other game shown was nothing but CG, we saw a solid 7-8 minutes of actual play here, and it looked very good.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making This A Thing Again

Blogging has really gotten away from me lately. I blame my job. I hardly have time to trawl the RSS feeds or NeoGAF anymore, much less wax on and on about games. Fortunate then, that I haven't been playing a hell of a lot new or different in the last month. I think it really only amounts to four games.

Bioshock 2 was the last Resolution pick I managed to get to. I played a couple of hours, and was really enjoying it. All the hullabaloo surrounding the original game was about the plot and all it's significance and this and that and  zzzzzz.... did everyone forget how much fun it was? Bioshock 2 is here to remind you. I'm excited to go back and play more, and what's more, the Minerva's Den DLC was recently released for the PC version, which I'm playing. I'll probably have to pick that up--again, as I bought it for the 360 version before catching a RROD to the console's face.

I also finally got around to finishing up S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Now that's a great open-world shooter. It's got some light role-play elements to it as far as choosing which missions to take and choosing who to ally yourself with, and it's got a great big expansive world to run around in and tons of dynamic stuff happening everywhere you go. It's also steeped in atmosphere unlike what you get with many other games.

Also steeped in its own very specific atmosphere is the PC adventure game Blade Runner. A Call Of Podcast listener was kind enough to send me a copy of this hard-to-find gem, and it's quite a find. If you can get it to run on a modern system, it still looks pretty good, and of course the sound is excellent and very reminiscent of the movie. Again I only got to play it for an hour or two, but I was instantly hooked, and mean to get back to it as soon as possible, perhaps when my next game relenquishes its hold on me.

Yes, the long-awaited sequel to The Witcher is out, and I have played it. I have completed it, and gone back to play more. It's good. Very good, in fact, and I'll write more about it, and in detail, in my next entry, due soon-ish.