21 November, 2013

Humble Pinball Bundle

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 21 November 2013

If you like to play pinball on your computer check out the latest Humble Weekly Bundle.

15 September, 2013

Tomb Raider, The Walking Dead

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 15 September 2013

Tomb Raider (3 of 5)

I feel a bit bad giving Tomb Raider a low score.  It's got art.  It's got spectacle.  I saw a gazillion gals cosplaying the Lara Croft depicted in this game at PAX, so I know it's resonating with a lot of women. But it never really grabbed me.  A fair amount of the time it feels like the game is beating the hell out Lara for no good reason.

I heard that the makers wanted to make the player feel protective of Lara.  But I think that's missing the point of what games are.  Plus it leads to suspension of disbelief breaking tableaus like this.

Don't click on it if you're squeamish.

Otherwise it's a game.  You shoot some guys.  You move on.  Repeat until credits.  The moving on is supposed to be made more interesting because it involves more daring types of traversal.

But because these are mostly automatic actions, they felt like killing time until the next fight or cut scene, neither of which were interesting enough for me to feel they needed to be "earned".

The Walking Dead

Replaying the whole thing to rebuild my save file, there were interesting bits.  I heard some dialog that changed my perception of some of the characters and might have changed the choices I'd made the first time.  But I also found that keeping my mouth shut was the best way to move the game along.  When I finished replaying the main game and tried playing the 400 Days "bridge" episode to the upcoming sequel, it felt like the best way to play the game was generally not to play it.

Combine that with the fact that I know that my choices will only make cosmetic changes to the outcome of the story, and I'm finding myself indifferent.  I feel like I've seen enough dumb people make enough dumb choices in that universe.  It's the same reason I never watched Caprica. :P

13 September, 2013

Keepalive - Metro: Last Light, The Swapper, Saints Row 4, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, The Walking Dead

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 12 September 2013

I have recovered from post-PAX depression and been playing some games. :)

Metro: Last Light (3 of 5)

I feel like there's no going back from Stalker.  There's nothing quite like exploring those worlds.  The Metro games feel like the amusement park versions.  I respect that a huge amount of polish and art goes into them.

But those type of worlds feel so much more amazing when I'm exploring them for myself.  The linear story is never going to be as good for me personally.  I'm the guy who stopped playing Fallout 3 when the big climactic end battle started.

I think I'd play Stalker: Call of Pripyat over any open world FPS at this point.  Well, maybe Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon if I felt like something light.

The Swapper (3 of 5)

I don't know why I keep playing puzzle games.  I don't care about puzzle games.  I'd heard very good things about the trappings of the game, it's premise and atmosphere.  I didn't care.  There's no investment in any of it.  Again, I admire the craft, but there's nothing enduring there.

Saints Row 4 (4 of 5)

I don't really feel like reviewing Saints Row 4.  But I guess I can't avoid it.  It's fan service to the Nth degree.  Some of it was pandering to the point that it made no sense, but I appreciated most of it.

Saints Row 2 will always have the best stories.

The super hero aspect works.  It's silly fun.  The most unique element is the ability to run through a GTA style world at absurd speeds.  I recommend never buying the Tornado upgrade, as it makes weaving through traffic less fun (and you can't turn it off).

Prototype is probably my favorite open world super hero game, which is sad because Hulk: Ultimate Destruction with an upgraded engine would probably instantly take back the crown.  Open world super hero games haven't come very far considering how big super heroes have been in pop culture.

Other Stuff

I got bored enough with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow that I'm not going to bother playing through it.  The boss battles so far have been awful Shadow of the Colossus rip-offs, total wastes of time.  And the premise of killing the evil masters to gain their powers just reminds me how much better Soul Reaver is than this game, hell how much better Mega-Man 2 and 3 are than this game. :P

I can't seem to find my old save game for The Walking Dead, so I'm playing through it again, repeating my decisions.  It's interesting to pick up some different conversations that I never heard the first time.  I find myself seeing other characters in a different light more than I expected to.  I intend to stick to the decisions I made the first time through, but we'll see how I feel when the times come.

03 September, 2013

PAX 2013

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, 3 September 2013


Shadow Warrior

Shadow Warrior was probably the worst of the big three Build Engine games (which also included Blood and Duke Nukem 3D).  But I still liked to turn it down to easy and kill all the enemies with a sword.  The new version gives you crazy magical powers and a scoring system to reward flashy play.  Plus the earlier game's racism and sexism and main character are basically not present, which is fine.  Lo Wang was a one joke character anyway.  But I'm probably still going to talk in his silly voice while playing. :)

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

This looks like one for the folks at work.  Everyone controls a character inside a spaceship, running from station to station to use various thrusters, weapons, and shield arrays to avoid obstacles and fend off enemy ships.  So it's FTL meets Space Team, and it looks like Monaco.  Yeah.  They dug all those games so they'll probably be interested.

UPDATE: It's only two player local co-op, so it's probably much less of a thing for the work crowd.

EDF 2025

I will be playing this game.  But I feel a bit bad for the gal who had to demo it.  She apparently had to demo an earlier version right after the earthquakes in Japan and part of the fun of the game is knocking down buildings with reckless abandon. :(

Dying Light

I liked Dead Island even if it did wear out its welcome after a while.  Dying Light is Dead Island plus parkour plus the slow Romero zombies you fight during the day turn into freaky 28 Days Later run for you life zombies at night, which could be very exciting.  They actually dedicated a button on the controller to "activate slo-mo and look behind you" so you could fully appreciate how scary the things chasing you are.

Oculus Rift

Speaking of looking behind you, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset was available for testing, and more than a few of the booths were using it to display their games.

The Oculus Rift is a fine piece of tech.  Even with the current low resolution development version, you can get an impressive sense of a space simply by moving your head around.  It seemed a little shaky with quicker motions, but the simple fact that the world pretty much goes away when you're wearing it is initially impressive.  And in games where you go to high places, simply looking down feels like an adventure.

The problem is that modern games are designed to have your viewpoint locked to a gun.  When it's not, you're aim isn't going to be as great.  Even sim junkies that play Arma and combat flight sims won't want to use it because Track IR and a high res monitor will always give superior target acquisition versus a Rift.  So games using the Rift will need a different vocabulary than normal games and no one will want to dedicate that much effort to tech with such a small install base.

TL;DR - good tech, no place in the current market

Other Stuff

  • I got a tiny bit of hands on with the XBone and none with the PS4.  There weren't any games on them I'm excited about.
  • I got to fist bump with Legion from Mass Effect 2.
  • I got to play Zombie Dice with a couple guys from Valve while waiting to see the Oculus Rift.
  • I got to watch a particularly silly installment of Acquisitions Incorporated.
  • I got to see the GM of said installment driving around in an SUV in full skull makeup over three hours after the event.
  • I played human scale Tsuro.
  • I had travel snafus and accommodation snafus, but I met a man who had to miss two days of the con to be on a dialysis machine, so I'm not complaining.

19 August, 2013

Dead Space 3, your mother and I are very dissapointed

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 18 August 2013

I haven't finished Dead Space 3 yet, but my completion percentage is over two thirds, so I think it's safe to say I'm not a fan.  There are worse games, but Dead Space 3 feels so much less awesome than Dead Space 2 that it makes me sad to play it.

The opening space section feels like tons of pointless padding.

The crafting system is a huge step backwards.  I played through DS2 three times, leveling up most, if not all of the weapons.  And they were mostly awesome.  I made a bunch of guns in DS3, and many of my initial efforts were pretty weaksauce.  That's partly because in the midst of different frame types, upper and lower tools, upper and lower tool tips, and two different types of attachments, I didn't realize that if you don't slot upgrade circuits with damage and spend the tungsten to slot _all_ the circuits, your guns will be weak.

Even still, giving my guns decent punch didn't really solve things as many ambushes would see a stream of enemies attacking from multiple directions faster than I could kill them.  Just like most of the scares are cheap cat scares, most of my deaths in combat were cheap swarming.  I get the feeling that I'm being punished for not playing the game co-op where I'd have a partner to watch my back.  Worse yet are some of the boss fights and "puzzles" where the mechanics are poorly communicated.  There are three different ways you activate devices in the game and only one is explained, so you will encounter puzzles and think you're doing it wrong when in fact you were never taught what to do in the first place.

And last, but certainly not least, DS3 feels tame.  DS2 showed bad things happen to good people in horrifying detail.  DS3 does not, and the stakes feel so much lower and more generic for it.  Yeah, yeah.  We're saving the human race.  Who isn't?

I could go on. DS2 has pacing and variety and a sense of escalation not present in DS3.  And it's probably got a bunch of other stuff DS3 doesn't have either.  I just... I wish I knew why they let this one get away from them after the hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of person years of work invested in this franchise.

14 August, 2013

Sale Alert! The Humble EA Bundle

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 

The Humble Bundle was originally just about indie games, but it supports charity, so they don't turn their noses up at large corporate games.  So if you want to buy a bunch of cheap games from Electronic Arts (Burnout: Paradise, Dead Space 1 & 3, Battlefield 3; The Sims 3) but give all the money to charity because you hate EA, stick it to the man by buying his games!

10 August, 2013

Review: Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 10 August 2013

Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition (3 of 5)

 There are very few surprises in MKKE
 Here's a colored, elemental ninja doing a colored, elemental thing.

Here's a fight in front of a bunch of monks

Here's some brutal violence that won't mean anything in three seconds.  Oh video games.

The most impressive achievement in this game is that it reboots over a decade of Mortal Kombat history and makes a fairly cohesive (if still full of plot holes) narrative out of it.  I personally don't care about any of it, but for fans of the series, it's probably very satisfying.

Other than that, the experience is largely forgettable.  Fighting games are one of the most demanding genres and if you don't have a community at your skill level, it doesn't seem worth it to get invested.  Still, I wanted to see what had become of Mortal Kombat, and it appears to be getting along fine.

05 August, 2013

Review: Space Marine

written by Blain Newport on Monday, 5 August 2013

 Space Marine (3 of 5)

Space Marine was a bad purchase.  I knew because of the demo that I wasn't going to be getting anything with the same feel as Gears, but I wanted it anyway.  Overall it's a very pretty game, but the combat is closer to God of War than Gears of War, but even less sophisticated.  It's a simple game, design-wise.  But it did give me a chance to put some thought into one my favorite subjects, why Republic Commando's Delta Squad are the best. :)

Here I am cutting my way through a group beside one of the two AI companions.  The AIs will occasionally kill a minor enemy for show, but you basically have to kill over 95% of the enemies yourself, which makes them feel like window dressing more than companions.  Actually that's not fair.  Here's a situation where they're useful.

That's a lot of orcs including a ranged attacker who will prevent your shields from regenerating and a minor armored boss.  But because the AIs are incapable of going into a "downed" state and don't follow the player immediately, I was able to simply back around the corner and deal with the trickle of enemies that weren't wasting time attacking the AI.  But at this point I'm gaming a ridiculous system, hiding behind my battle brothers, instead of living the fiction the game is trying to put me into.

03 August, 2013

Anticipating Saints Row 4

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 3 August 2013

I picked up a used copy of the original Saints Row.  Unfortunately the first game doesn't respect the player's time like subsequent entries, so I bailed and watched all the story missions on YouTube.  I now know the back story on Donny and Luz, who appeared in SR2.  And I know more about Benjamin King, who will be reappearing for the first time in SR4.

People who only know SR3 might think I'm crazy to care about background characters in games that they think are "about" giant floppy purple wang bats and zooming around in VTOL jets with lasers.  But the previous games did a much better job of giving the background characters just enough personality that you'd remember them, just enough to make it feel like the world didn't exist solely for the benefit of the protagonist.  SR3 felt kind of empty that way.

SR4 is a game in which the protagonist begins as President of the United States, so it's likely that it will suffer the same emptiness.  I guess at some level I'm hoping that by experiencing all three games I'll be able to make up for the emptiness with extra appreciation for the fan service.

The truth is it's going to be a very different game, though.  Saints Row has moved on from an open world crime game to an open world super hero game, where the super hero happens to be a criminal.

That could still be awesome.  But I'll miss what Saints Row used to be.

29 July, 2013

Review: Gears of War 3

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 29 July 2013

Gears of War 3 (4 of 5)

There's a lot to recommend Gears 3.  It improves on Gears 2 in pretty much every way: graphics, gameplay, storytelling, pacing, variety.  The improvements are all incremental, but they're worthwhile. I don't really care about any of them though.  Being a simple, shallow man with NO TASTE, the thing that made Gears 3 for me was the Retro Lancer.

The Retro Lancer is a bayonet with a semi-superfluous automatic rifle attached.  I charged into so many guys with that bayonet.  And because you can't charge guys around corners, I kept the regular chainsaw around as well.  I would occasionally get to an ammo box and realize I didn't need any because I hadn't killed anyone with with boring old bullets for a good long while.  That's doing it right. :)

27 July, 2013

Review: Gears of War 2

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 27 July 2013

Gears of War 2 (4 of 5)

This is more like it.  There's spectacle in spades.  The characterization and story are a huge leap forward from the first game.  That doesn't make them good, but they're passable by action movie standards.  And the feel of combat is slightly improved.

I'd say the game is pointlessly long, but you probably aren't supposed to play it in one sitting, so that's probably just me doing it wrong.  It could also be me getting old and having played enough of these types of games that I get bored with them easily.

26 July, 2013

Review: Gears of War

written by Blain Newport on Friday, 26 July 2013

Gears of War (3 of 5)

Gears of War is one of the last big budget console exclusive franchises.  So when I got a 360 I was looking forward to trying it out.  I'm not super into the first installment.  It's got a lot of well made parts, but none of it grabbed me.

The game and I definitely got off on the wrong foot because of it's damage indicator.  There's a transparent red gear in the middle of the screen that fills up as you take damage.  And while it's nice because it doesn't completely obscure vision and can be used as a reticule for blind firing, it's also transparent enough I had no idea when I was in real danger early on.  I'd just keel over dead and not understand what I did wrong.

Gears is known as a showpiece.  It was made by Epic Games, who's Unreal engine powers a ridiculous amount of games.  And since they make the engine, they are the first to get all the fancy new features and make their own games look the best.  But Gears is also old, so I was probably expecting too much.  It looks okay but not at all impressive at this point.

I hear people talk about the squad mates in Gears.  I guess those characters get developed in the sequels because outside of one of them being a former sports star there wasn't much to latch on to in the first game.  It's even worse because the squad is designated Delta, the same as in Star Wars: Republic Commando.  That game remains the gold standard for fun AI companions in gaming and no other game I've played has come close.  (Maybe Half-Life 2: Episode 2 on my first play through.  But Delta Squad is still awesome, and Alyx didn't hold up to repeat playings for me.)

To sum up, Gears wasn't bad.  But it couldn't live up to the hype. I'll see how much the sequels manage to improve on the formula.

21 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale Is Basically Over and Inversion

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 21 July 2013

Summer Sale Encore

On the last day of a Steam sale they put all the most popular items on sale again for people who missed them initially.  As I write this there's about ten hours left.  But I've gotten everything I wanted, so I'm just looking at some of the best deals approvingly.  "People who buy that game at that price and have roughly the same experience I did will be very pleased with their purchase.  What a wonderful thing a Steam sale is.  Good show, consumerism."

Inversion (3 of 5)

That's me standing on the side of a building, looking up at enemies on three different planes.  There's a blue energy field there that I think lets the player jump from this building to the upper one.  And there's a broken building floating in the sky.  At its best, Inversion is a flippy trippy take on Gears of War, with all sort of disorienting running on walls and ceilings and occasionally soaring through zero gravity zones.  Unfortunately most of the game doesn't do much with these mechanics behaving like just another shooter.  Also it crashed to desktop more than a few times.  Still, there's a germ of a much more interesting game in here.

20 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013-07-20

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 20 July 2013

Saints Row 2 ($3.74)

Much like Magicka and NightSky, I always recommend Saints Row.  Admittedly, SR2 is a bad PC port, so it takes a pretty beefy machine to make the driving not terrible.  I'll understand if you want to play Saints Row: The Third instead.  But if you do go with SR2, go to Idolninja's site and get the Gentlemen of the Row mod.  It takes the best and makes it better.

Also, 2013's Game of The Year, Saints Row 4, is one month away.  We are not ready.

19 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013-07-19

written by Blain Newport on Friday, 19 July 2013

Civilization V ($7.49 or $12.49 with all the DLC)

I don't feel like I have time for games like Civ these days, but if you do, here's a deal.

Train Simulator 2013 ($10.99)

I don't recommend this.  But it gives me an excuse to post the following. (WARNING: Adult Language)

18 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013-07-18

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 18 July 2013

Magicka ($2.49)

I always recommend Magicka.  It lets you be a wizard.  :o

The DLC is blah. :(

Torchlight 2 ($4.99)

It's a cartoony click and loot.  I played through it with Matthew's group and we had fun.

I've been playing a goodly amount of Rogue Legacy lately.  It's a die-a-lot fantasy platformer with a lot of clever bits.  Every time you die you choose among your three "children" who have random classes and characteristics (colorblind, dwarfism, OCD, farting) to use as your next character.  Then you can spend money to buy your children better training facilities and equipment.  Then you invade the randomized dungeon to do it all over again.  It's pretty repetitive, obviously, but as long as I earn enough money to afford an upgrade or two between generations it feels like I'm making progress.

17 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2017-07-17

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The new Deus Ex is three bucks.  Batman: Arkham City is seven fifty.  So is Dark Souls if that sounded appealing.  Tropico 4 is six bucks if you dream of running a banana republic.  Grand Theft Auto Four is five bucks.  There's a bunch of stuff that looks like a great deal for someone else, but I can't see my way clear to recommending any of it. 

I thought the new Deus Ex was dull.  Arkham City wasn't bad, but it didn't have much to add to Arkham Asylum besides a pile of unnecessary gadgets.  I talked about Dark Souls already.  Tropico is okay, but it overstays its welcome considerably.  GTA4... I don't know.  I just don't care anymore.  I'm old and lame, apparently.  It's just all stuff I've done before.

NightSky ($0.99)

I love NightSky.  When I was feeling super burned out on gaming in general it made me feel good.  I should probably play it again, eh?

16 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013-07-16

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Alan Wake ($2.99 or $3.99 with all the DLC)

Alan Wake is basically Twin Peaks meets Stephen King meets video game.  That last bit means there's a lot of pointless combat, but whatever.  For three or four bucks, it's a quirky horror game with some interesting characters and nice visuals.

Mark of the Ninja ($3.74)

I didn't fall in love with it like the gaming press did, but I still respect Mark of the Ninja for doing a good job with 2D stealth.

System Shock 2 ($2.49)

At two fifty, this is basically, "I don't want to have to hunt up my CD again" cheap.

15 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013-07-15 and Dark Souls

written by Blain Newport on Monday, 15 July 2013

Terraria ($2.49)

 If you want a 2D game somewhat like Minecraft for 1/10th the price of actual Minecraft, here you go.

There a couple other games I think are pretty fun (Dishonored and Killing Floor), but two of the three people who read this already have Killing Floor.  And Dishonored makes stealth pretty great by adding a teleport ability so you don't have to wait for guards to turn away all the time.

I've been spending most of my time with Dark Souls so far.  It's another game that I can't really recommend.

This is Dark Souls in a nutshell.  I've killed at least 13 enemies to get to this point.  That enemy ahead is larger than most and I haven't fought him before.  There's treasure on a corpse beyond.  If I fail, I lose all my unspent currency and my humanity multiplier which determines how often loot drops unless I can kill all 13 enemies and get back to the spot where I died without dying again to reclaim them.

Some people find risk intoxicating and have the free time to gamble and lose and begin again.  I understand that feeling and the sense of accomplishment that comes from eventually winning out.  I don't think that's me anymore.

14 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013-07-14

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 14 July 2013

Fallout New Vegas ($2.49)

I prefer Fallout 3 because it's less gated / linear, but this deal is pretty absurd.

Portal 2 ($4.99)

Puzzles, comedy, co-op, and a level editor for five bucks. It's also a very good deal.

13 July, 2013

GOG Summer Sale 2013-07-13

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 13 July 2013

GOG decided to throw in a weekend long sale of their own.  If you like retro, these are my recommendations.

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 ($3.49)

Building little parks and coasters and watching my little people run around and enjoy them was very satisfying.  (If you must have 3D you can pay twice as much for Roller Coaster Tycoon 3.  Actually, it looks like Steam will have RCT3 for $5 at some point during the sale.)

Blood ($2.09)

A tongue in cheek horror shooter in the vein of Duke Nukem, I felt Blood was so overlooked it was my second ever Video Talkthrough. The simple pleasures of setting giant spiders on fire with a lighter and hairspray, laying into cultists with dual tommy guns, and nearly killing myself with dynamite still bring a smile to my face.

There are a bunch of other great games on the list, too, but you can browse them yourself.

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century there is nothing for me to recommend in today's Steam sale.  Yesterday's recommendations are still good for 20 hours or so, but that's about it.

12 July, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013-07-12

written by Blain Newport on Friday, 12 July 2013

"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die." - H. P. Lovecraft

That's my way of saying it's been a while.  I can't believe I actually kept writing this blog for so long with the hours I was putting in at work.  I still put in plenty of hours at work.  But I want this blog and doing videos back.  And I shall have them.  And I'm gonna learn basic French.  But that's another story.

I come to you now to provide a basic service (provided you read this soon enough). Steam is having its summer sale.  Here's what I think is worthwhile today, in order of recommendation strength.

The Walking Dead ($6.24)

TWD is an adventure game (not a shooter) about a zombie apocalypse and the decisions that have to be made to survive in it.  If you can stand the bleakness, it's a trip worth taking.

FTL ($2.49)

Faster Than Light is a Rogue-like (i.e. game where you die a lot) in space.  You have a top down view of your ship and try to win / survive numerous alien encounters by telling each member of your crew where to go and what to do.  And there's often a hull breach or a fire or enemies boarding your ship, so there's plenty for them to do.  Plus the graphics are so simple it runs on almost anything.

Just Cause 2 ($2.99 and $1.79 for all the DLC)

Just Cause 2 is an open world shooter with a parachute and grappling hook mechanic that turns you into a kind of reverse Spider-Man with guns. The story and acting are a laughable afterthought, but reverse Spider-Man with guns!