31 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Republic Commando 27 - Obliterate the Outpost

Trando fun forts. (How much scrap metal did they bring to Kashyyyk?)

30 December, 2009

Keepalive: GTA4, Red Faction: Guerrilla

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm still moving through GTA4. The key to keeping the momentum in the game is taxis. You hail a cab, pick a destination, and press enter. One short loading screen later, you're there. GTA4 is an open world game where the best way to play it is to completely ignore the open world. "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture."

In some cases, it's your only recourse. Once you've opened up all three islands, any call you get to hang out is likely to be from someone way over on the first island. Unless you've got a helicopter, there is no way to make it to where they are in time. All you can do is hail / call a cab and skip the ride, because if you actually sit through the ride, you'll still be too late.

In all other cases, it's the only way to not fall asleep. When San Andreas gradually opened up new areas, it stuck with them. I got a new base in the new area, then got to explore it through missions. I guess the theme of GTA4 is that you can never escape your past. I suppose Rockstar should be acknowledged for trying to tackle meatier subject matter, but when it hurts the game this much, I'm not sure it's worthwhile.

RFG is already bogging down, too. There are a few pain in the butt missions that have been taking the fun out. I turned the game difficulty down to Casual, but apparently that has no effect on time limits, so the "drive this vehicle really fast from point A to point B" missions still suck.

For one thing, they're trial and error. If you want a Pro time (which I quickly gave up pursuing), you have to memorize both the route and shortcuts. Plus traffic randomly spawns, so sometimes wide marauder vehicles would spawn in narrow places where it was impossible to get around them. Losing hard won progress through no fault of my own is the most frustrating thing in gaming. And RFG has done it to me multiple times.

The problem is these missions are necessary to unlock new weapons and weapon upgrades, so they don't feel optional. I now understand why some players stop focusing on enemy buildings and simply wreck everything they see.

29 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 30, 2009


Republic Commando 26 - The Bodyguards

No hats!

28 December, 2009

The PC Ghetto

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 28, 2009

PC gaming is a ghetto these days. The big money moved to the consoles. So we're the old, run down parts of Gamertown.

We've got the crackheads huddled around their MMOs and social games. The strategy game hustlers are so proud of their Three-card Monte skills, but only other hustlers are still interested in the game. And everyone else (myself included) is trying to pretend that we're suburbanites with our console ports. But we're not. We're second class, at best.

That isn't to say nothing good comes out of this community. Discontent breeds interesting art. And the lack of policing means mods and independent games can exist here that would be shut down instantly in the corporate marketplaces.

Because the platform is more expensive, many PC gamers like to pretend it's high brow. And in a few cases, where people have three monitor set-ups and the graphics hardware to run them and the custom inputs and the two or three games that support all that stuff, that viewpoint can be justified. But for the vast majority of PC gamers, it feels more like we're buying the dollar store versions of games. It's got the same brand name on it. But it's slightly broken, or it's some weird test flavor that didn't make it.

PC gaming ain't what it used to be.

My apologies to anyone who's actually lived in a ghetto. I probably don't have the right to make this analogy, not having lived there.

Keepalive: GTA4, Red Faction: Guerrilla

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 28, 2009

My trek through GTA4 continues. Over the course of the story, you open up new islands. I was getting bored with the game, but the opening of the second island came with some story progression that showed promise. Now I'm very bored again. Crazier stuff has happened, but the mechanics of the game aren't interesting or fun.

This is in sharp contrast to Red Faction: Guerrilla. The mechanics are lots of fun. I run around and smash through walls with my space sledgehammer. And thanks to a bug, the game runs way too fast, which is actually awesome. I sometimes wish all games had adjustable speed settings. It would be very helpful to learn a fighting game, for example, at a slower speed, then gradually increase it. And RFG is much more fun when I'm a little buzzsaw of hammer destruction.

It's too bad RFG is a horrible port. Sure, GTA runs poorly, but it doesn't crash every ten minutes. I'm jumping through all the hoops with RFG (manually installing patches that Games For Windows Live refuses to install, running RFG in a window instead of fullscreen, and turning off the Steam overlay), but it's still locking up, just less often.

27 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Friday, November 27, 2009


Republic Commando 25 - Hard Contact

a blast from the past (and lots of obnoxious hooting)

Also I say it's the 25th, but it's the 27th. I wrote it down wrong.

26 December, 2009

Keepalive: GTA4, The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, December 26, 2009

GTA4 picked up a little. Some bad things happened that gave me hope the plot would pick up. Unfortunately the game is not getting bogged down in "friend activities", basically boring minigames I have to play if I want to get special benefits from being friends with certain people. I'm staying friends with my cousin (who I brought a lot of trouble down on), a Jamaican gangster (who saved me in a firefight and can sell me lots of guns), and the undercover cop who's pretending to be my girlfriend. Trust me, that's not a spoiler. If you can't tell Michelle's a cop, you should never ever ever consider committing a crime. Things will go badly for you.

I also started up The Witcher. It's based on books and short stories by Polish author Andrjez Sapowski. The game even gave me the option to have Polish voices and English subtitles, which is good. The voice acting is usually better in the native language of the developer.

The world seems to have interesting lore, and the opening cinematic was the best action scene I've seen in years. The best fights tell stories, and that was a very chatty fight (with no words). The fighting in the game is very lackluster after how cool the opening fight was, but I'll persevere to see what the story has in store. It's definitely dark fantasy, but that just inspired me to draw silly hats on everyone in screenshots.

Also the "bounciness" of the one female character I've met communicates pretty clearly that this game is not to be taken seriously.

25 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 26, 2009


Republic Commando 24 - The Rescue of Tarfful

Worst. Covert ops team. Ever.

24 December, 2009

Keepalive: Divinity 2 Demo, GTA4

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not really knowing anything about it, I downloaded the demo for Divinity 2: Ego Draconis.

Oh look. It's Gothic 3. Actually, Ego Draconis' world seems to have more interesting lore. There are knights who are infused with the memories of dragons so that they can fight them. This has a strange side effect of allowing the knight to see the spirits of the dead. Apparently there's a city of spirits somewhere, which sounds like a fun trip. But the gameplay consists of pretty much the same mediocre combat and busy work fetch quests of Gothic and its ilk. Ho hum.

I picked up The Witcher from the Steam store's awesome holiday sale. I've heard many good things, but I waited until it was $14 because I fear it will also fall into the same category.

And speaking of the holiday sale, Grand Theft Auto IV was $7.49. Even if it is a mediocre port, at that price I feel somewhat obligated to play it.

I know how games can have their time come and go, but I really don't get the amount of love GTA4 got. It's not a bad game. But the driving is worse and the character animation isn't in the same league as Half-Life 2. I'll keep playing and see if I can figure out what the big deal was.

23 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Republic Commando 23 - Deus Ex Machina

Too many droids!

22 December, 2009

Keepalive: Indie Stuff

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I saw an article about the best indie games of the year and downloaded the ones that sounded appealing. Color me incredibly jaded, because I didn't find any of them really worth reviewing. The few that I even bothered to finish were totally derivative.

The Parade of Pain

Enviro-Bear had deliberately gimped controls that are clever in the abstract and boring in practice.

Meat Boy is an exercise in punishing precision platforming that I outgrew almost two decades ago.

Journey to the Center of the Earth had nice presentation but not much substance. And because I apparently clipped the jeep while jumping over it to get to the final treasure, I instead got the bad ending. Seriously? Your cute little cartoon exploration game where it's impossible to die has a bad ending where your guy dies in a car wreck? And you start over at square one if you want the good one? No thank you.

Run Man is memorization and execution. This type of trial and error is awful game design.

Star Guard was decent. It has super simple graphics like Berzerk and pretty simple gameplay. But the level design, enemy AI, and pacing were mediocre. I never felt taxed, partly because the game gives infinite lives but also because the game was either very easy or hard in ways that weren't possible to anticipate. It never developed a vocabulary.

Canabalt struck me as being pretty much like Run Man, an exercise in memorizing and executing. I'm not interested.

I saw Machinarium at PAX, and not being a big adventure game fan, ignored it. I should have continued ignoring it. Most adventure games are a bunch of padding and a mediocre cartoon. The best ones are a good cartoon and make failing entertaining. Machinarium has nice atmosphere and art style, but is nowhere near the top of the genre.

"When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." - Despair.com

21 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 23, 2009


Republic Commando 22 - Holding the Line

The clanker invasion.

20 December, 2009

Keepalive: Torchlight

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, December 20, 2009

They had a sale, so I decided to pick up Torchlight for further podcast listening fodder. It doesn't improve. I still frequently find my ranged character running up to enemies I meant to shoot and just flat out missing when I use the shift key to hold my ground. It's no Titan Quest. But it's got novelty on its side, so I may keep playing.

I get the impression from the Torchlight achievement page, that most people feel the same way I do. Heck, only fifteen people in a thousand have bothered to play the game as far as I have if the stats are to be believed.

19 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 23, 2009


Republic Commando 21 - Wrath of the Republic

Get off our ship!

18 December, 2009

Keepalive: Republic Commando, Jericho, Zombie Driver, Mercenaries 2

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 18, 2009

The Republic Commando walkthrough is done. The novels have made it a bit less wonderful. And playing in front of people in a walkthrough always makes me painfully aware of every glitch and design flaw, not to mention the large quantity of filler in most games. I would never consider doing a Mass Effect playthrough. :P

I played through Jericho again, mostly as something to keep my hands busy while listening to podcasts. The game has plenty of flaws, but it's still fun to pop monster heads like melons and use various super powers.

As a similar hand busying diversion I picked up Zombie Driver, an overhead game where you run over zombies. Much like Madballs it was a nice, disposable diversion. Actually, Madballs is a little better. But running over zombies is still pretty fun.

For Co-op Thursday, more Mercs 2 was played. It wasn't as much as usual because Comcast fell down for a bit and the game requires an internet connection for local multiplayer. :P

The bit we did play was pretty cool, though. Story time!

We had an assignment to take out another oil rig. Chris calls in a two person chopper to fly us there. As we approach we take a missile hit from nowhere and hit the deck of the rig quickly to avoid getting blown out of the air. It turns out an enemy attack chopper had come in behind us. While Chris decided to go wreak havoc on the rig, I decided to duck into the maze of cargo containers on the deck so that the enemy chopper would come close enough to grapple.

After zipping up to the enemy chopper and chucking the pilot out, I turned back to the oil rig to see it covered in explosions. It's possible some other damage I'm not aware of weakened the rig beforehand, but all we know for sure is that Chris attached one block of C4 to a fuel storage tank and when it detonated the whole rig started to go up.

Trying to play it up like an action movie, I flew in as close as I felt I could to where Chris was and yelled for him to grapple onto my new chopper. He did and we flew away from the sinking, burning platform. Unfortunately an enemy chopper from another faction saw our escape and attacked us. Our chopper was already smoking, so I tried to gain altitude in anticipation of a daring stunt.

As our chopper finally caught fire and went out of control, I jumped out of the cockpit, found the enemy chopper, and grappled to it in mid-air. After ejecting the pilot, I found Chris had hit the water and hijacked a civilian boat. I winched the boat and flew us to an enemy oil tanker. I dropped Chris' boat on the deck (gently) and started using the chopper's minigun to clear enemy soldiers in his way.

Chris planted C4 on a fuel canister. (Can you see where this is going?) I flew in low figuring I'd pull him off, then we'd detonate from a safe distance. Everything, including my chopper, exploded and Chris and I began a long swim to shore.

Do you get why I don't care about action movies any more?

17 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 19, 2009


Republic Commando 20 - Lockdown

I guess we know how long Trandos can hold their breath.

15 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Republic Commando 18 - Tactical Supremacy

The name of this installment is highly misleading.

14 December, 2009

Observations on Music

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, December 13, 2009

Music is vital.

Music is tone.

Music is setting.

Music is pace.

Music is vital.

Just keep repeating that mantra until the words lose their meaning, and you'll have a vague impression of how I feel about music in games. It's so inextricably linked to the feel of a game, it's sometimes more important to the experience than the mechanics.

Blaster Master contains some good examples. The game forces you to abandon your tank and swim until you can find an underwater propulsion system. The process of exploring and fighting underwater can get pretty tedious once the novelty wears off. But the tone set by the bubbly music is how I remember that part of the game. By the same token, the sewer area that played okay but had music that sounds like the before music from an ad for intestinal gas medication I do not remember so fondly.

The ending credits of Mass Effect are another example. For me, there was as much drama in the song that plays over them as in the rest of the game put together. Part of the reason I played through that game a second time was to see if that feeling was hidden somewhere inside it, which indicates another aspect of music.

Music creates subtext. Doing the exact same actions but for different reasons is one of the best ways to get more mileage out of the same mechanics. One stealth section may feel like a desperate escape while another feels like a cunning plan swinging into action just because of different music. It's best if the story, animation, level design, and mechanics reinforce those feelings. But music can carry a lot of weight by itself, when necessary.

A lot of times I overlook the music for a game. If a game's broken, music can't save it. And if a game's great, the music just reinforces the experience. It's generally only in mediocre games with good music that it really stands out.

Oh dip! Did I just call Blaster Master (the game who's protagonist I use for my forum avatar) mediocre? Twenty years later, it really is. But the music's still good. :) (Well, from some stages.)

13 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Republic Commando 17 - Jailbreak

Delta secures Sev and goes after Scorch.

12 December, 2009

Keepalive: Co-op Thursday

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 11, 2009

Co-op Tuesday has moved. There is now co-op Thursday. Therefore there is Mercs 2.

This is me being air dropped into an enemy base. We were trying to drop me on the guy with the green arrow over his head. We missed, but we almost creamed him with the truck I landed on.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

And this is me dropping a boat onto an oil derrick.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

What? That's a thing that people do.

on Crazy Earth

11 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 15, 2009


Republic Commando 16 - Troika

We're getting the band back together.

10 December, 2009

Keepalive: Back to No Gaming

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm so bored with so many things. Call of Cthulhu stinks once the action gets going. Mass Effect was a nice mild boring, but I tried to play it on hardcore where it's boring and painful. Bleh. I lost interest in KotOR, again. And the patches for Borderlands seem to reduce its performance. I paid Gearbox $10 for the DLC, which made the game unplayable. It's just sad. I played some Jericho just to assure myself that I still like shooting stuff, then I uninstalled Borderlands. I uninstalled a lot of stuff. It's finally time to back up a bunch of files and reformat this thing.

It'll take hours, and I'll probably do it over a couple weeks while I'm finishing the Republic Commando walkthrough. (I've already recorded all of the rest of the Batman walkthrough, but it's a lot of video to edit, render, and upload.) Then I'll have a nice clean hard drive for the end of the year LAN party.

I just feel grumpy lately. Part of it's that I know I should play less and I take it out on the games. But part of it's that I'm just too old for all the little disappointments that come with most games. Their shortcomings are so obvious there's no way QA missed them. They fail to learn from previous titles. Some overreach. Some play it safe. So many developers aren't competent to develop for PC anymore (or farm the PC versions of their games out to incompetents). Nothing's worth playing until the patch comes out.

"The good Lord lets us grow old for a reason: to gain the wisdom to find fault with everything He's made." - Abe 'Grandpa' Simpson

"Dad, I love you...but you're a weird, sore-headed old crank, and nobody likes you." - Homer Simpson

A little from column A and a little from column B.

09 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 12, 2009


Republic Commando 15 - Alone

Trandoshan ambushes get more elaborate.

08 December, 2009

I Am the Master of Unlocking

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 7, 2009

Repetition is comforting. Getting frequent rewards is comforting. I've been sinking into the oblivion of unlocking stuff in Madballs and Mass Effect lately.

In Madballs you have to give up your unlocks and start over. I went through the entire progression three times on unpopulated multiplayer servers so I got credit towards unlocking a player skin at the same time. It was mostly an exercise in efficiency accompanied by blowing stuff up.

In Mass Effect, if you accomplish certain things in game, you get certain abilities for subsequent playthroughs. I hadn't even looked at these awards until a couple days ago. It turns out that because I rocked the house with Jayne Shepherd, any new character I create can select either Assault Rifle or Shotgun proficiencies, even if their character class wouldn't normally allow it.

Neither game is good enough that I'm playing them to enjoy them. I do get to see some content in Mass Effect that I skipped the first time around, but outside of snippets of backstory, it's pretty worthless. Nope, I'm using the pretense of unlocking stuff in games I don't really care about to avoid doing useful, less interesting stuff.

Fry: I'm gonna be a science fiction hero, just like Uhura or Janeway or Xena!

Leela: Fry, this isn't TV. It's real life. Can't you tell the difference?

Fry: Sure. I just like TV better.

07 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 12, 2009


Republic Commando 14 - Unwelcome Visitors

Trandoshans for days. Plus a few NPCs that don't die. :O

06 December, 2009

Game Journal: Knights of the Old Republic

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 4, 2009

Star Wars


There's a little free association for you. KotOR both gains and loses by being linked to Star Wars.

Lightsabers are cool. The rules of the universe are common knowledge. There are a lot of races and cultures and planets to draw on for the setting.

But Jedi are so lame now. All they ever do is form stuffy councils and die en masse to the villain of the week. And there's almost a fatalism in the Jedi outlook that seems to guarantee they'll never be effective protectors of the galaxy.

Caring enough to fight for something means you're breaking the code.

When I was a kid, learning the ways of the force was about becoming a hero. Now it's a path to enlightened nihilism.

It's changed enough that I often find myself having no gut reaction to some of the dialog options in the game. I want to do it like Luke would. Learn to plan. Save my friends. Kick ass. But maybe they want me to do it like Obi-Wan would. Stay objective. Protect order. Fight like nothing's at stake. Lie to people and call it "a certain point of view".

I should stop second guessing and just do it my way.

05 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Republic Commando 13 - Delta Down

It's not a good day for Delta Squad.

04 December, 2009

Game Journal: Knights of the Old Republic

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 3, 2009

This is my favorite environment so far in KotOR (Knights of the Old Republic). Futuristic architecture all feels pretty generic. Concrete. Shiny bits. Maybe some flashing lights. And that stuff's still present here, but the land itself is kind of like coastal grassland with the occasional plump tree, pretty clouds, flocks of birds, and flying manta rays.

Part of me wishes they'd "futured up" the manta rays a little. Come on, gills? But I was enjoying the tranquility too much to let that get to me. Of course a lot of that tranquility is thanks to turning the combat down to easy.

The first time I played KotOR, I quit very early. The first serious opposition in the game are poisonous monsters and my entire group got poisoned immediately. We ran out of antidote in frightently short order.

The rules for KotOR are based on Dungeons & Dragons, but unlike a game with a flesh and blood dungeon master, KotOR has no idea when the dice rolls are going so badly that they need to be fudged to keep the game viable. My first experience with KotOR was so brutal that I thought I'd never touch it again. But turning it down to easy has made it much more bearable, and I'm glad I came back.

KotOR feels so much better than Mass Effect. Well, the combat's equivalently mediocre, and KotOR's got more fiddly bits than I care about. But in terms of characterization and storytelling, there's not really a comparison. I think it largely comes down to how conversations are handled.

Mass Effect gives me a little wheel with a few choices that often don't resemble what comes out of my characters mouth at all. KotOR still does that sometimes, but not nearly so much.

Mass Effect basically has a handful of core missions. After a core mission, you can go down in your ship and talk to your group, but it never feels like they have much to say. In KotOR, if you have a character in your party, you'll periodically stop to chat (or not, if you don't feel like it). It breaks up the travel in a way Mass Effect could have used.

Additionally, every character in your party gives you a quest to find out about their past. This encourages the player to see where these conversations lead and to swap out party members to hear everybody's story. This in turn forces experimentation with different combat strategies. Clever, eh?

Perhaps it's just a cyclical thing. When the tech makes a leap, the other elements suffer for a bit. Once the tech and tools have stabilized a bit, it's easier to produce richer content and more effort can go into design again.

We'll see. Mass Effect 2 is due around the end of January.

Well, I won't see. I'm super cheap. But I'll hear about it. :)

03 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 9, 2009


Republic Commando 12 - Ghost Ship Recon

Delta squad's old home isn't what it used to be.

02 December, 2009

Review: Mirror's Edge

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Developer: DICE
Platform: PC
US Release: January 2009
Genre: First Person Running
Price Paid: $5
My Score: 4 of 5

Not enough pictures lately? You'll like this update. Are you using a 56k modem? You'll like it less. :)

Mirror's Edge is the other big EA "new IP" from 2008. Dead Space didn't do it for me. This game does, to the extent my cynical old man heart can still be reached. I think I felt it beat once, faintly. It was more of a wheeze than a beat.

This is how far you have to go to get my heart to beat at this point.

I'm leaping towards a building in first person. I might not make it. I'm reaching out for it. There's speed lines everywhere. There's scary wind noise. It's a really long way down.

The problem is that if I fail, I just want to start running again. The game is about momentum, both in gameplay and pacing, and you if you fall you fall all the way down. I frequently got bored and impatient before I hit the ground. I know I failed already. Let's go.

The first person perspective can also be confusing sometimes. This is me landing in a roll from a long fall. That's a helicopter shooting at me. Disorienting, eh?

Strangely, I found breaking through doors / windows was the most discombobulating bit.

Awwww. First person hugs! Also, click on this one. The gal's face is a good example of how the game looks like an illustration. The city looks pretty spiffy too.

Enough warmth. Where's my violence? You can pass the game without shooting anybody, but it's generally safer and easier to do so. The shooting feels bad. It takes three shots just to make the deputy sit down. You also run slower and can't do cool stuff, so it's obvious the player isn't supposed to use guns much, which is fine.

It kind of made me feel like I was getting away with something I shouldn't when I picked up a SAW and killed lots of dudes.

This is another good picture to look at full size as an example of the style of the game. I never quite came to terms with the white foliage. I suppose it might be the future. But I can't shake the feeling that at the point where science has found enough free time to go back and solve the "make chlorophyll white" problem, there should be flying cars, space ships, and laser guns.

This is what it looks like when the game fails to load a section in front of you and you fall into a void outside of the level. There were a lot of issues with the port. For one thing, all of the prompts still show Xbox controller buttons. Plus the frame rate drops to unplayable if your PhysX drivers aren't up to date. Plus it crashes even if they are, so you have to turn off PhysX, which was the one advantage the PC version had. Oh well. For $5, I can live with it. Plus it's a DICE game. Being able to turn off the thing that makes the game crash is a huge step up for them.

Also, I've heard the Steam version doesn't have access to the DLC (which are special running courses that extend the life of the game beyond the five hours or so the story takes). Honestly, I haven't looked into it yet as I expect it would be normal PC platform neglect and make me sad.

The flash animation cut scenes were less great. The real game looked so nice that these were powerfully bland. When they were doing fast action, they were okay, even good. But for slow walking animations and talky scenes, they looked creepy and bad.

Sorry Rhianna Pratchett. I do not care about your story. The first person hug was good, and the voice acting was okay, but the dialog was generic and throwaway. "Because you're my sister" was a terrible payoff line that highlighted how flat the characters felt. And in a game that sparse, the amount of time you spent establishing a certain relationship made it obvious it was just there to set up a later betrayal. When it finally happened it didn't upset me in the slightest. It was more of a relief that the pretense was lifted.

(Some people hate the word gameplay. So I'm calling it mechanics. I'll probably use them interchangeably, just to maximize the people I annoy.)

Physics defying free running is the main activity in the game. The sounds and camera wiggle and tunnel vision and all that stuff are well done. But the activity itself never feels that great. Maybe that's just because I'm bad at it, but it felt like I never had the feedback to feel good about it. Did I time that slide right? Am I going the right way? (The inclusion of an "instantly look where we meant you to go" button is something of an admission that they didn't get the visual cues right.)

But I was never thinking hard enough to make the puzzly bits interesting. And It never felt like I was building enough momentum to make the action exciting. If I have to know the level already to find the entertaining running lines, your game isn't fun. I'm not going back to make it fun for you.

Well, I might go back. It is a pretty game. But I still won't spend my time looking for the perfect line. That's dull (and nonsensical when dodging gunfire).

A lot of the game architecture feels like it's just sort of around: a slide here, a vault there. It's boring. I never feel like I'm chaining crazy moves together and cutting a sweet line.

Basically, I don't get the rush the camera and sounds indicate the game was going for. Here's hoping the sequel does it better.

01 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 8, 2009


Republic Commando 11 - Belly of the Beast

Everything blows up.

Now with captions so you can read what people say even when I'm talking over it.