26 August, 2012

Alan Wake

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 26 August, 2012

I finished Binary Domain. For the most part, last week's opinion stands. It's a big dumb action game with some gimmicks that kinda sorta work.

I ended up resenting the trust system because getting the best ending would have meant so much pointless praising and gaming the system that it would have detracted from the experience. And the ending made no sense. But it was a fun ride for $10.

Alan Wake

You are looking at the major strong point of Alan Wake. It has very nice environments and a quaint mountain town with some likeable characters.

Unfortunately you see less and less of them as the game goes on, and the "serious" parts of Alan Wake aren't nearly as interesting. The combat is mediocre, suffering from little variety, a flaky feeling dodge mechanic, camera issues, and unavoidable deaths due to chaining stuns. The plot obviously isn't going anywhere and is just a pretext for scares and psychobabble, neither of which add up to much.

Still, it was a good PC port, and I enjoyed the production values, the atmosphere, and the short time spent with AI companions. I should probably just watch Twin Peaks.

Northern California Pre-PAX meetup

I was too slow to get passes for PAX this year (The three day passes sold out in six hours.), but I still got to visit with the Nor Cal folks who'll be headed up there next weekend. It was good times, and I was assured they'd have some extra fun on my behalf. :)

19 August, 2012

Binary Domain

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 19 August, 2012

Binary Domain was Sega's attempt at a Gears of War style game, released in February this year, less than a month before Mass Effect 3. It pretty much went nowhere sales-wise. But for ten bucks on a Steam sale, I was still willing to see just how bad of a train wreck it was. (It should be noted that I did skim the Steam forum for the game first to make sure there weren't major technical issues. Between From Dust and Toy Soldiers I've been burned enough lately.)

It turns out it's not much of a train wreck at all, just a big dumb action game with a few gimmicks that kinda sorta work.

Let's start with the big dumb action game stuff.

Big Dumb Action Game Checklist

Silly body armor? Check.

Multinational team of stereotypical bad asses? Check.

Gears of War camera and mechanics? Check.

Traumatic childhood memories likely leading to an endgame revelation / catharsis? Check.

"Extreme" Quick Time Events? Check.

Late title card? Check.

Initial meet-up in E. Honda's stage from Street Fighter?

Check? (Of course for all I know, half the bath houses in Japan have cloudy Mount Fuji murals.)

Regardless, it definitely qualifies as a big dumb action game.

Additional Gimmicks That Kinda Sorta Work

You Fight Robots - That's not a new thing, but it's well done. Shoot off limbs to cripple them. Shoot off heads to make them turn on their allies. It works.

You Have Companions - While they may be stereotypes, the companions still feel like a net positive on the experience to me. They're not in the same league as Delta Squad in Republic Commando or Alyx Vance in the Half-Life 2 episodes, but they do have one advantage over both.

You Can Talk To Them - It's janky as heck, but the game has a voice input system. After I learned a few phrases that actually worked it was cool to be able to compliment an ally on a nice shot, apologize for friendly fire, call out tactics, and respond to simple questions from the team. There is definitely some convoluted irony around the jankiness of the voice system forcing the player to talk like a robot to be understood by his or her computerized companions as they fight against robots.

They Might Matter - Every companion has a trust meter. If the player does well in combat and gets along with them, it will rise. Since the player gets multiple opportunities to pick which team members they'll be working with, this makes for some interesting choices. "I like so-and-so, and so-and-so's combat specialty might be useful for what's coming up. But so-and-so's trust meter is maxed, so it might be wiser to take someone else." Not having finished the game, I can't say whether this will ultimately be rewarding or a waste of time...

Good Bad Theatrics - While it's definitely a big dumb action game, it's pretty good at it. The pacing and variety are the keys. Shoot some robots. Slide down a long tunnel. Shoot some robots. Meet up with some allies and chat. Shoot a boss robot in the glowy bits. Jump in a vehicle for a turret sequence. Enter a new setting. Meet some new characters. Shoot some robots.

So far I'm liking it. We'll see if I manage to finish it by next Sunday.

12 August, 2012

No Post

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 11 August, 2012

I didn't play much this week and there was a death in a friends family.

05 August, 2012

Splinter Cell: Convition Spoilers

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 4 August, 2012


Sam's daughter lives. Sam gets three-eyed goggles.


Stealth games are really hard to do well. If the opponents are too easy to sneak up on, it's busy work. If they're too hard to sneak up on it feels unfair. Waiting for patrols can be super dull. There are a lot of pitfalls.

Conviction gets around most of them. There's fair warning when Sam's close to being spotted, so there's less trial and error. There are often multiple viable ways to get through a section, so it didn't feel too constrained or monotonous. The way enemies peek from cover gives the player a nice window to sneak from hiding spot to hiding spot and flank them. It's stealth I don't hate, which is an accomplishment.

The always online DRM disrupted my game twice, which is probably also an accomplishment, but still lousy.

UPDATE: Not only is it the DRM lousy, but I just started reading the gaming news for the week and apparently the browser plugin Ubisoft installs with all their games has a vulnerability that opens your PC to scripting attacks.