31 January, 2012

Keepalive: Demos and Such

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, 31 January, 2012

It's pretty quiet on the gaming front.

I tried the demo for The Darkness 2. I own the original game for the 360, but haven't bought the 360 to play it on yet. The games are about a gangster who shares his body with an evil entity that is not entirely under his control. It's an interesting combination of melee and gunplay. You can flip an enemy into the air with a tentacle, then shoot him with a shotgun. It's not entirely novel, but it's not old hat, either. For now I'll just say that the sequel runs well on PC and I look forward to playing it someday after I have a 360 and have played the first installment.

I also tried the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning. There's way too much travel time in the game, and the combat isn't enough to carry it. I'm not saying it's a bad game, but I'm old and have run through enough fantasy forests already. It takes something more for me to part with my time now. Plus all the characters speak in the same "dramatic narrator" tones, which kills the potential for personality and gets monotonous very quickly.

The most fun I've had this week has been Nations at War single player. I've been messing around with the jets and the helicopters some more. Also, since it's just me and I don't have to be concerned with crashing the server I've been playing maps we can't play at the LAN party.

I had forgotten Wake Island. That was a rough map back in Battlefield 1942. And it's still a bugger in Nations at War. Destroying enemy armor convoys with a Comanche helicopter while contending with enemy helos and jets is a very different experience, but the basic dynamic is still intact. I wish the editor worked so I could fix / recreate some of these maps.

Also, possibly because there's been some clamoring for a sequel recently, I replayed Half-Life 2 and episodes. I found myself waiting for people to open doors a lot. Yeah, yeah. You have a lot to say. Finish and let me out of here. It's symptomatic of me not really caring about the struggle or the characters in the game. It's not really a world worth saving. Part of me wishes I'd never played episode two a second time.

23 January, 2012

Keepalive: Immigrants and Aliens

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 22 January, 2012

The main games for the week were Tropico 4 and Aliens vs. Predator, with a little Prototype because it's awesome.


I enjoyed Tropico, mostly. The challenge of the game escalated in ways that made me explore different parts of the game for a while. But by the time we got to level sixteen out of twenty, I felt like they had run out of ideas and were throwing constant natural disasters and artificial restrictions at me because "games should get harder".

Also, as the game gets harder, you're forced to spend more and more time micromanaging and poring over the various data screens to figure out your next move. Basically you have to spend more and more time with the least interesting parts of the game. Plus the closer you look, the more broken bits you find.

I had an island with a large enough population to keep two grade schools completely full. But I had no students going to high school or college. Maybe that was my own fault for keeping enough low level jobs open to keep people employed, but there's no part of the interface that will tell you that. And that would basically indicate that my charges have so little ambition that they'd rather work on a banana plantation then spend four years in high school to make half again as much money and not have to toil outside. Meh. I've probably given it too much thought already.

Aliens vs. Predator

I watched Alien the other night and felt like being a sneaky, wall walking monster. Aliens vs. Predator 2 is probably the better game, but I didn't feel like digging around in my old box full of CDs. The new AvP is fun. But, like Tropico, it gets less so as you go along. By the end you're fighting combat androids with built in motion trackers. As an alien you can do a ridiculous move where you use a light attack to put them off balance then whip around behind for the "stealth" kill. But that's pretty cheesy, and probably wouldn't even work with a game pad. And as a predator, you're not even fast enough to do that, so you pretty much have to throw spears, which is very easy and very very boring.

Still, I remember loving the atmosphere when the multiplayer demo for the game came out. Plus it strikes a nice balance between the ridiculous twitchiness of AvP 2000 and the somewhat plodding multiplayer of AvP2. Basically, I wish they would make AvP cheap enough that we could play it for one LAN party. :)

Nations @ War

Speaking of the LAN party, I tried downloading some editing utilities in the hopes of being able to fix / create some Nations @ War maps. I'm not sure the resources to do that are available anymore, though. There are files that the editor needs to know what's what, and I can find those files for other BF2 mods. But the BF2 Nations @ War forums appear to be gone at this point. Since that means I can't place vehicles (even the default BF2 ones), I think I'm stymied at this point.

This stinks because Nations @ War is basically the only game of its kind. It's arcade combined arms fighting with bots. Arma's too realistic. BF3 and Bad Company have no bots. Ghost Recon is all infantry. :(

15 January, 2012

More Holiday Leftovers

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 15 January, 2012


Sequence is to DDR as Puzzle Quest is to Bejewelled. Basically it's an RPG, but instead of making matches to fight your opponent, you're completing DDR step sequences (Get it? Huh? Huh?) using your keyboard. Since I like DDR better than Bejewelled, I found it much more engaging than Puzzle Quest. The writing is also a lot better. I also enjoyed the credit sequence where all the voice actors got to say thanks for playing.

A big part of my enjoyment also came from being able to rebind my controls. I changed them so that my right hand was using J, K, L, and semicolon to input arrows. And my left hand was selecting which note track with D and F and selecting spells around the spell wheel with W, S, X, Z, A, and Q. Using "JKL;" felt a lot more natural than trying to remember that the third column is the up arrow and the second column is the down arrow.

Hard Reset

Hard Reset is a game where you shoot robots a lot. It's pretty repetitive, and the main gimmick, transformable guns, is cool to watch but doesn't really add much. Also this picture is of me shooting a metal robot with a shotgun, which isn't very smart but works fine for some reason.

Tropico 4

Ah, Tropico 4, the the game about ruling a banana republic. No wait. That picture's from Tropico 3. Let's look at Tropico 4.

See how different?

Tropico 4 is basically the same game, which is fine if you just want to mess around. But I can't imagine trying to really dig into the gameplay side of Tropico. The interface does a terrible job of highlighting important information and has probably needed a major overhaul for half a decade now. I generally just play the first few missions until I start failing without knowing why and call it a day.

I wouldn't have bothered with Tropico 4 at all, but it's free with my GameTap subscription. Technically it's my defunct GameTap subscription, but I was paying by the year, so I'll still have access to GameTap until sometime in the fall.


GameTap was one of the first services that you could pay money to in order to legally play old arcade games. The companies that owned the rights were happy to pretend those games simply didn't exist, and I didn't feel right about just downloading them off the internet. So GameTap made it legal. But they laid off most of their staff and sold the business to another company and stopped updating their software to work with any browser besides IE, so it was well past time for me to give them the boot.

I'm still a little sorry to see it go. I tried some games I wouldn't even know about because of GameTap.

Magicka DLC


07 January, 2012

Steam Backlog

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 7 January, 2012

I rarely have a backlog, but a ton of games I was curious about hit sub ten dollar prices during the Steam sale.

Prototype (4 of 5)

(ridiculous violence not pictured)

Prototype is great fun. It's not Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. You can't catch missiles and throw them back. You can't hammer toss tanks. You can't smash a bus flat and surf on it. You can't rip a car in a half and wear the halves on your fists like gauntlets. But there are still piles of awesome things you can do, and it looks better. And second best to Ultimate Destruction is still more fun than most other games.

And playing on New Game+ with all the powers unlocked is extra great. The game almost feels like Magicka, where the speed of your brain is the main limit on your power.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2 of 5)

I think this is a high tech military installation near the end of the game, but it could be Detroit, China, or pretty much anywhere in Human Revolution because the vents are the same wherever you go. Even on normal difficulty, you die super fast and there are large bonuses for going through segments unseen. But I dislike stealth in most games, and Human Revolution's is no exception. Late in the game I would see a new area, with enemies patrolling and cameras all over, and make the sigh of the damned.

Hunted: The Demon's Forge (3 of 5)

Hunted is basically trying to be Gears of War meets Lord of the Rings. It's okay. Your AI companion often gets in your way. Aiming isn't so great. The color palette is so dark and samey that you can't even see the giant gargoyle statue in the above picture. But shooting orcs with arrows is still pretty fun.

Alice: Madness Returns (4 of 5)

My computer wouldn't load any save games of Alice, so I had to play through it all in one twelve hour sitting. So while a lot of the segments (especially the China one) went on way too long for the way I was playing, Alice has more variety than all the other games on this list put together. So while the story felt contrived and the collecting elements seemed a huge waste of time, it was still an experience I was glad to have had.