31 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Friday, August 28, 2009


Blood 2-4b The Overlooked Hotel

Caleb explores secret passages and collects keys to make his way through the hotel.

30 August, 2009

PAX 2009: Meetup

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 29, 2009

I hit save instead of publish, so this post was six hours late.

Whew. It was hot today. I usually wouldn't care about that, but the restaurant we ended up in wasn't air conditioned. Yikes. And the reason we went to a non air conditioned place was because the Round Table Google sent me to doesn't exist any more. :P

Plus there was freeway construction and bad detour signs. I felt pretty guilty, driving up to a bunch of nerds standing in a hot parking lot around twenty minutes late. Luckily, VonXWolfenstein had a nice internet phone to look up a fallback restaurant. And thanks to donated materials from Prof. Pangloss and CaptainTapole, we put together signs to help any late comers find us.

At the restaurant with no air conditioning. Yikes. I took a shower before I left. I took another when I got home.

Overall, I think people had fun. Lots of geeky subjects were discussed and we had a good range of people. (My spelling may be wrong as some of the names I only heard aloud.)

CaptainTapole - Our only returning member from last year (besides me). She was annoyed with me for obvious reasons. I think we're cool, though. She still gave me bonus buttons. :)

- Brought his Chico crew of brand new PAXers, is looking forward to the Street Fighter IV tournament, and wrote up a nice review of the event in the forum thread that I appreciated.

Dan - Dan shares the name of my favorite Street Fighter character. He's been playing Disgaea. And he mentioned other things I should remember, but I'm a horrible person. Sorry Dan.

Dillon - He's a Halo man and Major League Gamer. He also read the jokes off the back of a container of string cheese to keep the other Chico folks entertained on the long drive down. They're all driving together for ten hours to get to PAX. That's a lot of string cheese.

Jonathon - Despite playing Batman and Shadow Complex most recently (and looking forward to Bayonetta at PAX), he's mostly into RPGs. He's obviously well rounded. And he had a cool Jack Kirby era Marvel t-shirt.

Khadre - My fellow Rosevillian, Kadre will be going as an exhibitor for space MMO EVE Online and playing board games after the exhibition hall closes.

Prof. Pangloss
- Is wealth of information on things geeky, and can expound upon them at length. He could wear a mortarboard. :)

Upthorn - Could keep pace with Pangloss better than anyone at the table. I'll be checking out Six String Samurai and giving yet another chance to Babylon Five on his advice.

VonXWolfenstein - Another Chico person who just happened to be down in Sac to pick up her mom from the airport. She brought a clever Twilight hating button to trade. :)

29 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, August 27, 2009


28 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Blood 2-3 Rest for the Wicked

Caleb fights his way through a frozen hedge maze.

27 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 22, 2009


Blood 2-2 The Lumber Mill

The Cabal doesn't use wood chippers for wood.

26 August, 2009

Review: Mercenaries 2

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Ker-BOOM! That's basically the point of the Mercenaries series. They're open world action games set in modern times where you play a mercenary doing jobs for various factions.

Mercs 2, the PC version especially, has a lot of glitches and annoyances.

Here's a boat slowly rotating in the air for no reason. Aiming is sticky because it's designed for a game pad, not a mouse. Sometimes zooming gets stuck, making sniping a little bit of a pain. There are missions where you can lose because of suddenly getting shot by an off screen enemy with almost no warning. Button prompts for certain events are confusing.

I forgive it, though. For one thing, I paid almost nothing for it, which always makes me more willing to overlook glitches that aren't game breaking.

The world the game takes place in is very ridiculous.

There's ordinance and palettes of cash strewn all over. In the picture above, I just found a cluster bomb sitting near an outlying house and called in my chopper pilot to pick it up. He carries it back to base, and now I can have my jet pilot drop it on something. Not only that, but it takes him almost no time to come pick it up. And my jet pilot can drop it on almost no notice.

Speaking of ridiculous, here I am having just used a grappling hook to attach to an enemy helicopter I am in the process of hijacking.

So why put up with all this weirdness?

Because you get to blow lots of stuff up.

And you can have pretty helicopter fights.

And you can call in air strikes. And you can attach an artillery targeting beacon to a jeep and drive it through an enemy base at full speed, staying just ahead of the falling shells. You can plant C4 on a jeep and drive it towards a building. You can use a helicopter winch to pick up a giant gas container and drop it on an enemy base.

It's basically single player Joint-Ops: weapons grade stupidity.

4 of 5

Technically the game has co-op, but it's only through EA's servers, so who knows if it'll be available by the time you read this. I'm hoping to try co-op with Chris and / or my brother.

I can't help but compare the game to Just Cause. Just Cause has cool stunts and lush green environments and clouds you can fly through, but the action isn't nearly as good. That's not to say Mercs 2 has great action, but the action is at least forgiving. If you fail to hijack a helicopter, you can survive the resultant thousand foot fall. You can take a shot in the face from a tank. It's like the game is always on casual difficulty. It feels like Far Cry 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Mercenaries, and Just Cause are very much of a kind.

I hope all these series can continue to get sequels and cross pollinate because I never get tired of hijacking a vehicle, rolling into an enemy base, and wreaking havoc. I love that the fun of Mercs 2 is not winning but in exploring different ways to get the job done. On my first playthrough I took out some tankers by hijacking a helicopter and using the guns on it to detonate the fuel tanks on the deck. The second time I snuck up next to the tanker in a tiny inflatable dinghy and put an artillery beacon on the side, driving away giggling like a fool. I'm in a second playthrough and there are still a lot of vehicles and air strike types I've never even seen.

Mmm. Tasty devastation.

25 August, 2009


written by Blain Newport on Monday, August 24, 2009

PAX is just around the corner. Okay, it's technically more than a week away, but it's taken over my thoughts.

Last year we had a pre-PAX Sacramento lunch gathering organized by VThornheart. Because he moved away, this year we have the pre-PAX Sacramento lunch gathering organized by me. I'm generally not a fan of organizing (or people), but the process has been pretty painless so far. I attribute that to keeping it simple.

1) Pick a time
2) Get a list of interested parties.
3) Figure a geographically central location.
4) Use Google to find a restaurant.
2b) People who express a conditional desire to attend aren't considered interested parties.

That last one had to be added mainly for some Bay Area folks who were only interested if the event was held near to them. It made more sense to me to favor people who were enthusiastic. We'll see.

RT @Weezul Dante, Mass 2, Dragon Age, BFBC 2, Saboteur, Extraction, Warhammer, Brutal, Shift, Nitro, Nerf, MS Agents, Ao2, APB.

For those who don't use Twitter, that's the syntax for forwarding (RT = re-tweet) a tweet from EA.com Czar Jon Weezul, listing games Electronic Arts will be showing at PAX.

I wish all developers / publishers would do this. I'd understand if certain plans fell through and a game couldn't make it. But it still makes it a lot easier to plan my time.

Also, if it's not hands-on, I don't care. I should make that a T-shirt.

Dante's Inferno - I still want hands-on to see if it's worth playing.
Mass Effect 2 - If the action in this game is actually fun, it will be the first Bio-Ware game I'll finish since Shattered Steel.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 - Bad Company is a more story focused Battlefield series. The AI in the original was terrible, but the destructibility supposedly made for good multiplayer. I'll saunter by.
The Saboteur - World War 2 meets Okami. That's a weird enough concept that I'll have to take a look.
Dead Space: Extraction - Potentially the best Wii light gun game ever. :) We'll see.
BrĂ¼tal Legend - Apparently this game is something of a brawler / RTS hybrid. I have grave doubts as I didn't much care for Sacrifice or Overlord. But I want to get some hands-on time to give it a chance.

And that's about it. I might wander by My Sims Agents to watch Jeff Green do demos. And APB is trying to be a Grand Theft Auto MMO, which is vaguely interesting.

24 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 22, 2009


Blood 2-1 Shipwrecked

Caleb, continuing his search for Tchernobog's lieutenants, explores a ship trapped in a glacier.

23 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Friday, August 21, 2009


22 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Blood 1-6b The Great Temple

Caleb's fight through a trap laden Cabal stronghold continues.

21 August, 2009

Review: Call of Juarez

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, August 20, 2009


3 of 5

Call of Juarez is a western FPS. The demo for the prequel came out fairly recently, so I figured it was time to finally finish the game. I started it months ago, but the lousy graphics and punishing gameplay made me put it down.

In case you don't remember the lousy graphics, let me remind you.

If CoJ was of an older vintage, I wouldn't mind. But no game from 2006 should have looked like that. Unreal Tournament 2003 and Doom 3 had both been out for years, so CoJ was a throwback.

And once I'd gotten past the initial bad impression, it was followed up with a bad impression of how the game played. I started playing as Billy, who just runs away from everything. Running while getting shot and trying to figure out how the blasted whip works so I can swing across a chasm made me, as a player, feel just as unwanted as the character I was playing.

The game never really loses that. There are instant deaths by falling, rock slides, lucky enemy gunfire, exploding TNT barrels, river rapids, mine carts, and various other traps. The game has a decent quick save feature, which should be used often. I guess they were trying to get across that the old west is a rough place. But I found it annoying and a waste of time.

But for all the failures, the game tries a lot of different things. Sneak through a bandit camp, using thunder crashes to cover the sound of your whip as you take out sentries. Chase a stagecoach. Climb a mountain to get an eagle feather for a spirit quest. Solve the mystery of the missing gold of Juarez.

So while I don't recommend the game, I was interested enough to see what they would try next that I didn't feel like it was a waste of time. I'll probably play the new prequel when it gets cheap enough.

As an aside, one of the characters you play is voiced by Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). It was strange to have a voice I associate with a villain as one of the protagonists. It took the better part of the game before I could think of him as anything other than Gul Dukat.

20 August, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, August 19, 2009


After more wanderings (including hunting a deathclaw that was hunting some people who gave me a treasure map in return), I finally got to Oasis.

It's green. I think it was just about the only green I'd seen outside of Tenpenny Towers. And the people here seemed happy to see me. I don't remember if they considered me a promised one or just a nice guy. (Remember, it was over a month ago that I played Fallout 3.) But they wanted me to meet the tree "diety" that had made this place possible. I just had to drink the sacred beverage.

Sacred beverage is much like Perth Pink from the Monty Python Australian Table Wines sketch. "This is a bottle with a message in, and the message is 'beware'. This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding."

And no beverage is good when it is followed by waking up next to something that looks like this. This is Harold, part man, part tree. Actually, he's kind of not. He calls the tree that has grown over him Bob. That's not its name, but he likes to annoy it by calling it that. Harold claims to have been exploring a military base called Mariposa. He fell into a vat of something green and somehow fused with a tree. The details are both muddy and suspect.

Harold wanted me to go find his heart, underground in Bob's roots, and kill him. One cultist wanted me to put a salve on his heart that would curtail his growth and stop him from spreading into the wasteland, giving away Oasis' position. Another wanted me to use a different mixture which would allow him to keep growing, eventually bringing the wasteland back to life. I took the last option. It was a risk, but one worth taking, I thought.

In real life I probably would have just left the whole thing alone. But I had heard that at the end of the game they would have a section detailing "how things worked out" with all the people and places I'd had an affect on, and I was curious.

Speaking of curious, before I left, the local mystic gave me a fortune. While I haven't finished the game, I'm at the last encounter and still have no idea what this meant. Perhaps it means that sacred beverage rots your brain. :P

Next Time: Deathclaw City

19 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 15, 2009


Blood 1-6a The Great Temple

We begin the next to last level of the first episode with ambushes ad nauseam.

18 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, August 13, 2009


Blood 1-5b Hallowed Grounds

Caleb continues his exploration of a Cabal stronghold.

17 August, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Monday, August 17, 2009


Aside: If you're reading this in an RSS feed, it's worth mentioning that I've been posting on time. Blogger is bugging.

You may or may not remember the giant satellite dishes from when I was exploring the northwest. Well, I decided it was time to investigate them further. One was full of Talon Company, which was handy, as their rocket sniper took out a wandering deathclaw.

I'd hit level 20 already, so fighting enemies myself was only a waste of ammo and gun durability at this point.

Inside the satellite dish, I found a ghoul scientist who was tasked with helping Talon Company take control of an orbiting nuke platform. I decided that was just the kind of toy TC shouldn't have and activated it prematurely. According to the computer logs, the missiles would come down right on top of the dish, which would be awesome. Too bad it wasn't true.

Here I am running away from the satellite building, directly into the inbound nukes.

Luckily they were weaksauce and didn't do much besides wiggle the camera and leave a few mildly radioactive patches for me to skirt around.

Moving on up the road, vaguely in the direction of the remaining satellite dishes, I came across Fort Constantine. Underneath the CO's quarters I found a bunker.

Certain doors in Fallout 3 require keys, no matter how high your lock picking is. Usually this is because they're important to a quest and opening them early would wreck it. Looking back, I'm less interested in what's behind the door and more interested in the fact that the roof is completely covered with hanging nails. Bizarre.

Next to Fort Constantine was a nuke storage building.

There was a radio playing somewhere, indicating rooms I didn't find. But the place was highly radioactive and had a nasty sentry robot I didn't want to fight for fear of setting off all the bombs, so I didn't stick around too long. Who knows. Maybe pulse grenades would have been safe to use (and even rendered some of the bombs inoperative), but finding out the hard way was not in my plan.

I moved on to the remaining satellite dishes.

Next Time: Raider Homes and Gardens

16 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Blood 1-4b 1-5a Hallowed Grounds

Caleb escapes the carnival and swims through an underwater cave to find himself at a castle full of Cabal minions.

15 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Monday, August 10, 2009


Blood 1-4a Dark Carnival

After crashing the train, Caleb finds himself outside of a carnival. An evil carnival.

14 August, 2009

Demo Impressions: Batman: Arkham Asylum

written by Blain Newport on Friday, August 14, 2009

In my opinion, the Dark Knight Returns is the finest Batman story ever told. The animated series (started by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini) is collectively second. Kevin Conroy is Batman. Christian Bale is some guy talking in a funny voice. The new movies are undoubtedly well made, but they feel generic. The gadgets could be Bond. The city could be anywhere. Batman is a cardboard cutout. And the Joker isn't even crazy.

So when I heard Dini was writing the script for a game with Conroy playing Batman, I thought, "That's cool. I hope the developers don't mess it up." I began hearing about how everyone in the game was musclebound and feared the worst. I didn't even download the demo right away. A few days after its release I hadn't read or heard anything about it and felt almost obligated to take a look.

If you want to read the short version, skip to the bottom. If you want details, read on.

The intro showed that the production values were definitely high, but that the musclebound aesthetic was definitely in full effect. I'm almost glad they used a different voice actor for Jim Gordon. He looks like a different person. Everyone looks different really. It's a Gears of War gritty dark edgy (grardgy?) aesthetic. Batman even seems meaner for no apparent reason. Gordon warns him "You know it's a trap." And his reply, "Of course it is", makes him sound genuinely disgusted. That's not how Batman talks to Jim Gordon.

There are a couple other times in the demo when Batman seems to be posturing without motivation. At the point the game takes place, he's rounded up every single supervillain in Gotham. Why is he acting like he's got something to prove? I'm thinking the developer (Rocksteady) should have hired the animated series' Andrea Romano as a consultant / voice director. If someone was acting out of character on the animated series, you knew there was a reason.

Pointless edginess aside, by the time the preliminaries were almost done, I was ready to bust some heads. For one thing, if the game is all hard edges and focused on conflict, combat should be where it shines. For another, I was feeling the music. It's original, but obviously Batman.

The combat tutorial is simplicity. Here's the attack button. Attack these three goons. Here's the counter button. Counter and attack these four goons. Then it was over. It felt a little simplistic, but I knew from looking at the control configuration that there was more to learn: batarangs, throws, and cape attacks at least. The more off putting part was the way Batman would slide across the environment to attack an enemy far away. It felt like too much autopilot, and reminded me of the underwhelming Too Human.

There was a little bit of a batarang tutorial next which was mediocre. Manually aiming them seemed pretty pointless when the quick fire button was much faster more accurate. Manually aiming seems like it would only be useful in making precision attacks from hiding.

Next was a nice theatrical touch. In a long hallway lined with video monitors, a recorded message from the warden was interrupted by video of prisoners running through the corridors while an automated warning system started rattling off all the different levels that were experiencing security breaches. Then the game gave the prompt to press the space bar to run. It was a great little touch that gave gameplay information and a sense of urgency to the situation. Plus you got to watch the cape. Supposedly they dedicated a guy to cape visuals. Just don't put your camera too low while running as bat butt can be off putting.

Next came the stealth tutorials, using the grapple to move around on stone gargoyles near the roof. It's a little ridiculous to have stone gargoyles indoors, but who cares?

The more important part was the introduction of detective mode, which lets you see enemies through walls and highlights interactive objects. Detective mode is a mixed blessing because it's so advantageous that the only reason you turn it off is because you want to double check that there's a wall between you and a bad guy. Well, that and sometimes you just get sick of seeing the entire world in blue. A charge mechanic that forced you to ration your detective mode use a bit might be advisable. Then again it might make the forensic aspects of the game (which weren't in the demo) a pain in tuchus.

Last but not least was a large open room where you were free to roam around with five armed thugs and figure out how to take them out. This section forces you to learn through trial and error that every attack except the designated stealth attack will bring every guard in the level running. It also teaches you how enemies break from their patrols and check their backs more often when they start finding their pals knocked out.

Overall I'd say the game looks good. The combat may be a little simplistic. The theatrics are a bit off. (The facial animation was bad enough that I preferred looking at Batman's back when he was talking.) And the jury's still out on the forensics, but the production values are high and the appeal of being Batman is undeniable. When crawling through vents, the view switches to first person. The first time I saw the shadow with the horns on the wall I was shocked at how excited I got.

It's already got too many rough edges to be the Batman game of my dreams, but it looks to be a good game, and it feels like Batman, which is something I've been missing for years.

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Friday, August 14, 2009


Deathclaws: the nastiest animals in the Capitol Wasteland. I had finally gotten up to a high enough level where I felt like I might be able to take them on, the operative word being might. Fighting a deathclaw is suicide.

In the background is a deathclaw. In the foreground are two of the four bears it killed single-handed. Even fighting bears is dicey. No, the only way to take down a deathclaw is a sneak attack from a powerful weapon. With a perk called Improved Critical Strikes, I can kill a deathclaw from stealth in one shot, or wound it enough that I can finish it off before it closes the gap. But without the element of surprise, I'm likely dead, which is what made the following encounter so nerve wracking.

While exploring a section of broken freeway, a deathclaw saw me from a distance and came to investigate. I don't know if hiding behind the tire was really necessary, but I didn't want to leave any chance that it might see me. Eventually, it gave up and went to resume its course.

I followed, with grave misgivings. I had taken a perk that allowed me to crouch run instead of crouch walk, but that made me only slightly faster than the walking speed of the monster.

Ordinarily I'd want to move up behind that tree in case it turned around, but my crouch speed was so slow that I didn't feel like I could afford even a tiny detour.

The entire pursuit probably didn't take two minutes, but I was so intent that it felt like an eternity. Step by step. Inch by inch. I took this picture just moments before I pulled the trigger.

And this one just moments after. I had managed a daylight deathclaw hunt. I don't recommend it for the faint of heart, or the sensible.

Next Time: Military Leftovers

13 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Monday, August 10, 2009


Blood 1-3 Phantom Express

Having hitched a ride on the front of a train, Caleb fights his way through it.

IdolNinja from the PA forums adds:
"The zombies cry out for "Brains! More brains!" [a little after 7:55] which is an homage to Return of the Living Dead. Interestingly, Return of the Living Dead is the only zombie where zombies crave brains instead of just regular human flesh."

12 August, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Wedneday, August 12, 2009


I was exploring. In truth, I was trying to find a Chinese radio signal I heard on a previous exploration. But I could never seem to find it again.

What I did find was a point of interest on the map that looked like a small town. As I approached it, I encountered a storage shed with a Very Hard lock on it. Very Hard locks are usually reserved for heavy military installation or places that store nuclear material. Even though it would cost me some Karma, exploring it was a must. This town obviously had a serious secret.

Yep. That's serious. Plus, the refrigerator you can't see (left of frame) was full of "strange meat". I'd met some hunters selling strange meat before. One of them was killed by a raider and I looted him. So I had some strange meat in my inventory. That creeped me out, so I dumped it. When I exited the shack, the townspeople appeared out of nowhere and attacked. I maybe could have talked my way out of it, but if they were the type of people who would kill a person just for disapproving of them, they needed killin'. No court in Texas would convict me. (I wonder what happened to Texas in the Fallout future.)

It turned out there was an old man and two kids who lived there. Life's gonna suck for them the next time some raiders roll through, but the game gave me no option to let them move into my Megaton house I never use or any of the empty houses near my place in Grayditch. I guess it was a sense of my fatigue with the game as a whole that I really could muster any moral outrage or even disappointment that the designers didn't bother to give me any good options in this situation.

And here's a picture of me trapped in an overturned railroad car while a super mutant behemoth beats on me.

If I backed against the back wall he could still hit me, but wouldn't try to hit me very often, so I survived. The funny part was how this ambush was triggered. I found a cage with a teddy bear inside in a super mutant camp. I opened the cage. The teddy bear started waving, which could have been intentional or could have been a physics bug. But I suddenly got this really weird feeling that the teddy bear wasn't waving at me and turned around to see the behemoth loping over the horizon. It was freaky.

This was also freaky. You might remember back in the day when I was running errands for Moira. Well, I was helping her write this book to help people survive in the wasteland. When we finished it up, I didn't think about it again. But now people were walking up to me talking about it. When I told her I helped write it she called me "the great survivor" and said "Bless you, oh bless you for sharing your wisdom with mankind! You've given us all a chance to hope again!" It was awkward but cool that it was helping people out.

Next Time: More Stuff That Happened in Fallout 3

11 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, August 9, 2009


Blood 1-2 Wrong Side Of The Tracks

Caleb blasts his way through a train station to continue his journey.

10 August, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, August 9, 2009


Having felt that I'd accomplished enough downtown, I decided to explore some more near Grayditch. There weren't so many map markers in the area, but there was a surprising amount of weird stuff out there. On my previous explorations I'd seen some empty cages on the freeway. I guess I'd just been there at the wrong time of the week because this time they weren't empty.

Yep. Raiders were holding giant mutant mole rat races. I could have broken it up and killed them all. Raiders are evil, after all. But it was too charming.

As I continued on, I met these two similar looking gentlemen.

Then they told me they were looking for some place called Oasis, which I'd already heard of and even gotten coordinates to. They were planning to go loot the place and didn't want to share, so they committed suicide by attacking me. (It's a leading cause of self-inflicted death.)

I explored a sewer system near me and was surprised to find out it was connected to a teddy bear manufacturing facility. Apparently someone with a sense of humor had been through.

My looting instinct kicked in for a second, but I quashed it. This was art, and should be left for the next person to enjoy.

Yes, I know it's a single player game. I'm role-playing.

Shut up.

Speaking of art, I also came upon the sewer lair of a ghoul named Gallo. The game called him evil, but I didn't feel like killing him. He had a really nice lair and wore a party hat. He seemed like a guy I might like if he was less homicidal. And judging him too harshly for being homicidal seemed like a pot / kettle situation. Plus his stash was a masterpiece.

Just look how organized. I can tell you, having explored upwards of 90% of the game that this is the prettiest collection of crafting materials in the entire capitol region. Because of my respect for Gallo and this work of art, I once again resisted my looting urge and let it be.

I then encountered the reverse situation where I found a piece of art that I would have preferred to obliterate, but it was a non-interactive decoration.

This was decorating the wall of a Talon Company outpost. Confirmed: Talon Company eats babies. :P

Next Time: Strange Diet

09 August, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 8, 2009


Yes, it's time once again for a video walkthrough / playthrough of another underappreciated gem. I know these aren't the most popular among my readership because they take ten uninterrupted minutes and can't be enjoyed at work, but they're the best way to share the experience that I know of.

Blood 1-1 Cradle to Grave

A playthrough (with my own uninformed commentary) of the opening level of Blood by Monolith Productions.

Please go vote for Blood at Good Old Games (go to http://www.gog.com/en/wanted and search for Blood) so that there will be an easy way for new gamers to enjoy this forgotten classic.

IdolNinja from the PA forums adds:
"The canisters [at around 4:30] are an homage to Phantasm, where the tall man reanimated the dead and compressed them into canisters so they could work as a slave force on a planet with lower gravity. The funeral home level is also eerily familiar."

08 August, 2009

Keepalive: Postal 2, Capture Stuff

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 8, 2009

This post was a half hour late.

Good Old Games is a web site that sells its name. I already own most of the good old games I enjoyed, but when I was perusing their list I was surprised to see Postal 2 on it. The Postal games mostly traded on controversy and shock value, but I enjoyed the Postal 2 demo and was a little annoyed that I could never find a used copy for cheap. Good Old Games sold me the game, expansion packs, and other extras for $10. I took some screen shots and should have a writeup of my Jesus walkthrough (which happens when you don't kill anyone in the entire game) tomorrow or the next day.

I spent most of the night fiddling with my capture setup, but I think I finally got it all in order and will soon begin posting my video playthrough of the forgotten classic Blood.

Getting to this point has been a whole lot of futzing. I've had problems with interlacing, jumpy video, capture software lockups, and ambient sound. It's a lot of work, but Blood deserves the recognition. For my money, Monolith never did a game as good, before or after.

07 August, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Friday, August 7, 2009


On my way to collect my reward from Reilly for rescuing the Rangers, I came across a guy in an unusual predicament.

Apparently some crazy jerk with a loudspeaker had trapped him between some super mutants and a minefield.

There he is, preaching random madness with his finger on a trigger. If you look closely, you can see that there are Mini Nukes in the alley. I shot the crazy guy and collected four Mini Nukes. It was kind of a letdown that the guy who was trapped never moved on. I've been by his position weeks later and he's still on the same corner.

Eventually I found the Rangers' headquarters. Reilly offered me some armor or "one of Brick's miniguns". My armor was fine, so a unique minigun sounded cool. I didn't know she was going to give me Eugene. The connection between a soldier and their favorite weapon is a special one. I vowed to take good care of Eugene. I would use other miniguns for parts to fix him up and use him for a special purpose.

Things were going pretty good in the Capital, so I went back to the Mall. I'd cleaned out the Museum of History already. So this time I went for the Museum of Technology. I guess the game developer couldn't get clearance to use the name Smithsonian.

Maybe it's just me, but seeing a super mutant hanging out by the wreck of the Wright Brothers' plane is particularly surreal.

They also had a 50s style rocket ship and a lot of other displays which talked about the fictional history of the Fallout world. It seemed cool, but I wasn't in the mood. I decided to fight my way to Congress.

As it turned out, the fighting was already in progress. Super mutants were fighting off a Talon Company assault. Who do you root for?

Here's a picture of a TC merc running into the dome to fight a super mutant behemoth.

And here he is being crushed into lasagna filling. Blegh.

I was somewhat worried about having to fight the behemoth, but he got stuck in a wall, so it was more time consuming than dangerous. Lame.

I finally found Congress. There wasn't anyone (but some super mutants) there, which worked out as I hadn't actually prepared a speech. I would have thought there would have been some Ultimate Leadership Bomb Shelter under the building, but apparently not. I decided I was bored with D.C. and it was time to do some exploring elsewhere.

Next Time: Oddities

06 August, 2009

Review: House of the Dead: Overkill

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, August 6, 2009

Well, I got my video capture setup hooked to my TV. Too bad the Wii comes out as a black and white checkerboard.

The Xbox picture looks fine, so I don't understand what the problem is, perhaps the Wii has some sort of anti-recording technology. Regardless, it looks like I'll still only be able to give verbal descriptions of Wii games for the time being.

House of the Dead: Overkill is a rail shooter. In case it's not self explanatory, a rail shooter is kind of like rolling through a shooting gallery on a predetermined path. The ride may stop at certain points where you have to shoot a bunch of stuff to proceed, or you may "switch tracks" based on what you shoot.

The basic fun of a rail shooter is how the shooting works. For my part, the shooting in Overkill is good but not great. For one thing, there are framerate hiccups. If you happen to pull the trigger during a hiccup, you don't shoot. Since the scoring system is entirely based on maintaining a combo, missing a shot can wreck your score. The combo mechanic also makes every weapon that isn't the automatic shotgun a complete waste of time to use. And there are piles of guns to unlock which would seem to indicate that there's a point to unlocking them. But it's just a waste of time, a way to incent the player to play over and over since the game isn't terribly long.

It's also worth mentioning that the game encourages low balling. Essentially, you get the best money every time you break your old high score. So the smart way to play is to just barely beat your old high score, then quit. Actually attempting to do your best is punished in this game.

But those are basically annoyances. For a regular playthrough and a second playthrough on Directors Cut (which ever so slightly changes the path through the level), I enjoyed shooting zombies.

3 of 5

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention something about the game's theatrics. It's styled after Grindhouse and exploitation movies (I think. I'm a game buff, not a film buff). Every other word is a swear. The buddy picture aspect is formulaic. There's gratuitous cleavage and a final boss that exposes more than you want to see. The dialog tries to be self aware and so bad it's good. The self aware stuff mostly worked for me, but the so bad it's good stuff is just bad. Overall, the theatrics are meh.

It's probably also worth mentioning that going through the maps in two player changes nothing in the game. It just makes it impossible to get a high score because you have to split kills with the other player. Oh well. Mediocre co-op is better than none.

05 August, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I found a house in D.C. It had a domestic robot in it. I told it to read the children a bedtime story. It left its housing, went to a bunk bed with a couple of skeletons in it, and recited the following.

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

It was an interesting poem to ponder. The world didn't seem to be recovering so well. According to Wikipedia it was a poem about World War I. It occurred to me that the poet (Sara Teasdale) couldn't even have imagined that we would eventually be able to devastate the world to this extent. That, and earning the "Doesn't Play Well with Others" achievement for killing 300 humans, made me think that maybe Fallout me needed a sanity check.

The mannequin was very supportive and advised me to try and do something helpful for someone. So when I found an underground entrance to Our Lady of Hope Hospital, it seemed fortuitous.

Naturally, there was no one left to help. The super mutants had chopped them into parts and hung the sacks of parts from the ceiling. It was less life affirming than I might have hoped. And even my righteous vengeance was somewhat blunted. I killed this super mutant, but I felt bad about looting him. It seemed like I was emasculating him somehow.

After a time, I came to a room in the hospital which had a big hole in the floor. I generally don't like to go into any place where I can't easily get back out. But I was feeling adventurous. It was pretty cool. I got to go out over some kind of fallen radio tower to an adjoining building.

And from there it was killing everything. There were super mutants and traps all over. They even trapped a toilet. Unconscionable scum. But because I had no way to return to my stash, I was forced to carry only what I most wanted. It was liberating. It was also kind of cool to use every gun that dropped for spare parts. Eventually I had multiple assault rifles in perfect condition.

I eventually made it to the roof, where there was some noisy fighting in progress. When I finally made it to the topmost terrace, it looked like someone had been very busy.

I approached very carefully, as I didn't really want to mess with whoever was holding the line against a couple dozen super mutants. Luckily, they were friendly.

They needed my help with repairing the elevator so we could escape as they were low on supplies and lacked the parts they needed. I handed out some ammo and fixed the elevator. Then we blasted our way out of the lobby. It was awesome.

Brick was laying waste with her mini-gun (named Eugene). Butcher was popping heads with his sub-machine gun. Other people who's names I forget were there. It always feels good to be part of a team kicking ass. After cleaning out the lobby, they took off and said to come check out their base. Their boss would have a reward for me. That was cool. But I was just glad to be shaken out my angst.

Next Time: A mercy killing, reward, and museum visit

04 August, 2009

Keepalive: Stranglehold, House of the Dead: Overkill

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This post was an hour late. I've been doing mostly little things. I submitted my button designs to PureButtons, the official button makers of PAX (they're actually sponsoring the event). I think I overbought. We'll see.

I've been playing through Stranglehold, mostly while listening to podcasts. I was looking at my review spreadsheet (which I added a link to in the side bar) and thought, "was that game really a four"? It's still fun, so I'd say it holds up. Maybe I'll do a walkthrough of the game. It's not long.

I've been playing House of the Dead: Overkill on Wii. I want to hold off on the review because I'm finally getting set up to capture console video and pictures. I'm pretty excited about it, but that's my boring life. :)

Tomorrow, though, I will stockpile lots of Fallout 3 posts so I don't ever have to worry about content ever again ever.

03 August, 2009

Review: Deadly Creatures

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 1, 2009

Score 3 of 5

Deadly Creatures is a game with a novel concept. You play through the game as two arachnids, a spider and a scorpion, fighting other vermin. Parallel to your wandering and fighting, two men of dubious moral fiber (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper) are looking for buried treasure. The game tries for a creepy tone throughout and largely succeeds thanks to the music. I guess if you have an inherent fear of creepy crawlies, that would play into it as well, but I guess I don't have that.

For me, the game was a mediocre brawler with insects as the main characters. It was also hard to get around sometimes, with invisible barriers impeding progress and certain glitchy areas making it easy to fall (occasionally to my death). The cool thing about the environments was that occasionally there'd be a surprise or flash of recognition as I'd suddenly realize I'd been crawling around on a very familiar object but hadn't realized it because of how different it looked up close.

Aesthetically, the game does well, but in terms of the gameplay, it's all rough edges. Enemies attack at random, meaning sometimes they'll wallop you constantly without giving you a chance to fight back and sometimes they'll seem like they're just standing around waiting to be killed. Also there are special moves that require particular Wiimote and nunchuck movements. If I flailed, they worked. If I tried to be precise and do only the motion as pictured, they didn't.

As the score indicates, I enjoyed the experience, but it was mostly the novelty of being tiny and focused production design / direction. If the gameplay had been interesting and well implemented, Deadly Creatures could have been one of those weird gems a core gamer would own a Wii for. Oh well.

02 August, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 1, 2009


This installment is photo heavy.

City fighting is more my character's element. It's super dark in the metro tunnels, and there's lots of cover in the streets, so it's easier to sneak around.

That means lots sneaking into position, lots of VATS, and lots of headshots.

It's hard to say whether the resultant gore is silly or grotesque. The idea of it is grotesque, but the parts of the head are obviously too big to have actually come from what I was shooting and look like they're made of molded plastic.

This image really isn't very good, but I like the sense of vertigo it produces. I can almost feel the rubber sole of the boot on the rough edge of the concrete, because if I was actually up that high, my mind would be very focused on the one piece of leverage between me and a plummet to the asphalt.

This guy was doing the Thriller dance. Too soon.

Here is a female raider, sitting politely, hands in lap. I'll kill her in just a second (Hey, she'd do the same to me.), but first a bit about the robot in the tube on the right.

The D.C. metro has a lot of these inactive security robots lying around. I'd picked up a metro pass at some point, so the robots wouldn't attack me. The weird thing was, I didn't really want to activate them. They generally got their butts kicked by raiders, ghouls, or super mutants in short order, and it seemed cruel to send them off to die like that. My brother confirmed having the same feelings.

Now back to the carnage.

Again, it's hard to take it too seriously when heads go bouncing around like volleyballs. But I can understand if others are appalled and horrified. For me, it's just part of the process of traversing D.C., something to keep me busy on the way to finding the next story or quest.

Next Time: A Story and a Quest