27 November, 2011

Steam Autumn Sale

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 27 Rowvember, 2011

I picked up a couple games during the holiday sale and was gifted a third. Thanks Chris! :)

Payday: The Heist

Heat was a pretty awesome movie (if you don't find Pacino's yelling too ridiculous). The idea that "someone should make a game like that" has been floating around for years. And while Payday cribs so much from Heat it should probably be paying royalties, I didn't find it to be that game. It's basically Left 4 Dead but with law enforcement as the zombies and a lot more "stand still and defend this area" objectives, which aren't really so fun. They might be on to something, but this first effort isn't that great.


I was hoping Bulletstorm would be a high production value version of NecroVision. But since the game crashes reliably at the start of act two, I'll never know.


(not the best picture, but meh)

Between Saints Row 3 crashing, Minecraft hitching, and Bulletstorm plain not working, I was beginning to think something was wrong with my computer. But Rage runs and looks so good that that scenario is now hard to imagine. I know they were shooting for sixty frames a second on the consoles, but with my aging rig I didn't really expect to see that kind of performance out of a game this pretty.

Yeah, it's not sixty frames a second all the time. Yeah, there's a lot of texture pop-in. Yeah, the game is like Borderlands with less loot addiction and no skill tree futzing. But I think my expectations were set low enough that just shooting dudes and driving around in these pretty environments at sixty frames per second is very satisfying, comforting, even.

20 November, 2011

Review: Saints Row: The Third

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 20 Rowvember, 2011

I don't really do reviews anymore, but I felt this was worth coming out of retirement for.

Saints Row: The Third

Developer: Volition
Platform: PC
US Release: Rowvember 2011
Genre: Third Person Action
Price Paid: $50 (pre-ordered July 15th, 2011)
My Score: 4 of 5

Saints Row 2 was a great game. While GTA was going serious, Saints Row was going crazy. It had missions where you drive around a septic truck and spray poop everywhere and make huge insurance claims by getting flung hundreds of feet by freeway traffic. But it somehow matched that craziness to a brutal story of murder and revenge that played things surprisingly straight. That game had a lot of issues, especially the PC port. But what it accomplished was amazing.

Saints Row: The Third does not fill those shoes, but it's a very fun game. For me the reason it does not measure up boils down to one word: mythology. The Saints are larger than life. But SR3 takes some of them out of the picture in unsatisfying ways and changes the personalities of others to make them unrecognizable.

That might have been okay if there had been colorful, dastardly villains to focus on, but there aren't. The best major villain in SR3 doesn't stack up to the weakest major villain in SR2. There are wonderful new homies in the game, but considering how quickly the old ones were discarded, it's hard to get attached.

So with all this complaining, why is it still a 4 out of 5? Because there's still a bunch of crazy, fun stuff to do. The shooting's better than GTA's will ever be. There are some ridiculously overpowered and entertaining weapons to use. The driving is fast and fun. Some of the scenarios are hilariously absurd. And you can experience it all with a buddy in co-op. And while there are still tech issues on PC, the game runs very well (until it crashes so badly I have to reboot :P).

Heavily armed strippers are by no means the craziest opponents you will fight in SR3.

14 November, 2011

I Want To Be In That Number

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 13 Rowvember, 2011

In under 24 hours, Saints Row: The Third will be unlocked on Steam. Here's hoping it's a better PC release than a lot of what we've seen this year. If the PC version actually works on release it will be ahead of Dead Island, Magicka (multiplayer especially), and Rage (on ATI hardware thanks to ATI releasing the wrong drivers). Of course, just being on time with the console release will put it ahead of the PC versions of L.A. Noire, Costume Quest, Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Renegade Ops, Call of Juarez, and From Dust. It's not a high bar, really.

But hey, Skyrim wasn't buggy enough to precipitate much complaining or any news stories, to my knowledge, so anything's possible. :)

Here's what I've been playing in the meantime.

Nitronic Rush

Nitronic Rush is a student game. The tech is very good. Stuff looks great, and I never saw the frame rate drop (although my wallpaper went away after quitting, so there may be some cleanup issues). It's got some fun ideas. You can make your car sprout wings and fly or just fire your stunt jets to flip around like crazy, which somehow cools your engine so you can boost or fly more. The art design is good, if a bit derivative. Overall I expect the people behind it have a bright future.

That said, I think they need to learn how to cheat. The physics model and camera system are essentially offered up "as is" to the player.

Stunts are easy to land because the game doesn't care if you land right side up. But the flopping around to right the vehicle kills the pace of the game. A few assists in the physics system to make jumps easier to land could keep the pace up.

When flying, the camera stays right behind the car. Often I couldn't see where I wanted to go. A bit of code, angling the camera towards the player's route, could have helped.

Other than that, the game just needs building out. More types of interactive elements like speed arrows, power ups, and breakable walls could add variety. And the tracks don't really develop a vocabulary, building players' skills and expectations only to turn them on their head later. But that's all stuff you do when you have more time. For a free student project, Nitronic Rush is fabulous.

I've also been playing some Saints Row 2, finished Dead Space 2 a third time, and played some Morrowind since I'm too cheap to buy Skyrim yet. But who cares? Saints Row: The Third in 21 hours!

07 November, 2011

Waiting For The Row

written by Blain Newport on Monday, 7 Rowvember, 2011

Saints Row 3 will be releasing in a little over a week. That game has so much wacky stuff in it, I don't even know where to begin. Every other game I play is just killing time until SR3.

Costume Quest

Double Fine, the makers of Psychonauts, have taken to making smaller games to keep their studio independently viable. I'm glad it's working out for them. But while the idea of little kids turning into their costumes to fight candy stealing monsters is fun, I found the humor flat (which is surprising from Double Fine) and the gameplay painfully simple. I'm thinking it's more for 8 to 12 year olds.

Other Stuff

There was a Killing Floor event that some of the folks I hang out with on Steam were into, so I played a few rounds with them. As sort of a scary October holdover I played through Dead Space 2 again. It's still good. I also spent some time watching other people play games on OnLive. Until games are built to account for the lag in streaming systems, I don't think I'll want to play on OnLive, but it's fun to watch people.