25 December, 2011

Keepalive: The Holiday Sale

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 25 December, 2011

Steam's having it's usual holiday sale. They've recently added coupons to the service, so they've folded those coupons into the promotion. Unfortunately, the way they've done it is awful. If you perform a holiday task (by completing special holiday Steam achievements), you get an item in your Steam inventory. You might get a game. You might get a lump of coal which acts as an entry in a contest to win games on your wish list. Or you might get a coupon, which is worst of all. The vast majority of coupons are useless during the sale, and worse than that, provide lesser discounts /than the sale/. I can certainly imagine circumstances where the coupons will be better than nothing, but for me, they're worse than nothing because they clutter my inventory with garbage. I couldn't even give them away to other people in the Steam group I hang out with. :(

The contest lets you take seven lumps of coal and turn them into a guaranteed "gift" of a coupon or game. If I could make just one lump of coal from a coupon, I would have a clean inventory and wouldn't see coupons as worthless. OCD whinging aside, I have picked up some games during the sale (though not all from Steam).

Dark Void

I would have put up a picture, but Dark Void tends to crash my computer so badly that the screen goes away and I have to restart via memorized hot keys. Saints Row 3, Bulletstorm, and Dark Void fail spectacularly while Rage, Singularity, Killing Floor, Orcs Must Die, Psychonauts, Magicka, and everything else I've been playing work fine. I have no idea what's going on.

Anyway, Dark Void is only $3 during the sale, and when it works has pretty lousy mouse and keyboard controls, but for $3, I had fun. The best part is definitely the flying. The way you can never quite control your direction on blast off and the way your limbs dangle around in the wind give me the sense that my character is being hurled through the sky by his crazy little rocket pack. But with the controls as bad as they are I'm grateful the designers didn't put any stunt flying challenges in the game. This is pretty much the only game where I actually used my gaming mouse's ability to adjust sensitivity on the fly, cranking sensitivity up so I could actually turn my jetpack without dragging the mouse across the pad four times, then cranking sensitivity back down so I could aim at something without doing a 180 in the on foot segments.

Payday: The Heist

Since the game was patched and my Steam compatriots have taken it up again, I tried some Payday multiplayer. It's better than playing with bots simply because you don't have to do all the objectives yourself, but it's still a pretty bad game, with cops magically shooting you through hostages you get penalized for shooting and solid objects. Supposedly the patch reduced the number of cops and made them hit harder, but when we saw over a dozen of them spawn in front of us on a section of Heat Street with very little cover, I knew that mission was effectively over. And we also lost a couple maps to one hit kill Cloaker enemies coming around a blind corner. It's not a good game.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Amazon was (and still is as of this writing) selling the downloadable version of Human Revolution for $10. You can then get the key from your download inventory and add the game to your Steam account. You also get a $5 credit for any future Amazon downloads, so it's a really nice deal.

So far, it feels like the Deus Ex I remember, which is kind of good and kind of disappointing because it's over a decade later and the gamier elements seem more ridiculous as the production values go up. I'll say more when I'm done with the game.


Prototype is an open world super power game. When it came out, it was frequently compared to Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, which was made by the same developer (Radical). The feeling was that Prototype wasn't quite as good, but hopefully the sequel would be better. Activision fired half of Radical after Prototype came out, so I don't know about that, but I do know that so far a lesser Ultimate Destruction is still better than most of what I've been playing lately. Plus all the different combat modes I can switch to have put me in hot key heaven trying to master all this power, a tiny bit like Magicka.

Also, I'm finding myself having all these weird memories of virtual New York. I've been here so many times. Grand Theft Auto IV was the most recent trip, and at a similar level of graphical fidelity, so that's the game I most often remember. Those were the projects where Dwayne lived. Here's a section of walled street that stuck out in my mind so I start looking for the nearby bowling alley that Niko had to go to so many times.

Some of the buildings in Central Park immediately take me back to Alone In The Dark. Pretty much every structure in the park had to be investigated and cleansed in the eternal night of that game's midsection. I had to use a rope to climb around the burning part of that silly castle in the middle of the park. I think that castle was also the entrance to Alone In The Dark's underworld.

And even though it was much lower fidelity, I also get flashes of Spider-Man 2 once in a while. I'll remember swinging down a particular street, or think I know which building Doctor Octopus' penthouse lab was in.

I may never go to New York, but I feel like I've been there a lot.

And I know there are a lot of cabs in New York, but this is ridiculous!

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