weekend ramblin’

Ever since I finished Mass Effect 3 last week, I’ve been in somewhat of a holding pattern as far as writing goes. Hell, I guess that extends to playing, too – I honestly haven’t been playing very much, aside from half a dozen apps on my “the new” iPad.

I suppose I should talk about the iPad, right? It’s my first venture into the iPad universe – when they announced the first one, I didn’t understand why it needed to exist, and when they announced the second one, I found it a bit more intriguing but felt I could wait until they hooked it up with a retina display. Which is what I’ve got, now. There’s no question that it’s a stunning bit of tech – say what you will about the sexiness of the Vita’s display, but when I first laid eyes on the iPad screen I was like Alex in “Clockwork Orange”:

Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now.

Frankly, the display is so amazing that it kinda renders my iPhone obsolete, as far as game-playing is concerned. It’s so goddamned tiny in comparison!

The problem with the iPad, then, isn’t the device itself – it’s that there aren’t a hell of a lot of apps that really push the hardware. Sure, stuff like Infinity Blade 2 and Angry Birds Space HD look amazing, but Infinity Blade 2 looked great on my iPhone 4, too, 6 months ago (or whenever it came out). Honestly, the iPad game that’s taken up most of my time since I bought it is Draw Something, which – while fun and entertaining and frequently hilarious, especially given that each person’s drawings appear in real time, so you (the guesser) can watch the artist try to figure out how to draw their subject – is not exactly taxing the hardware. I think it’ll be at least 6 months before we start getting some serious business on the new iPad, and I’d imagine that a lot of iOS developers would be concerned about pushing the hardware too much and therefore alienating the owners of older hardware.

I don’t regret the purchase, though, by any means. There’s plenty to do on it as it is – my compulsive/impulsive nature means that I already had, like 100 apps for it when I first plugged it in – and there’s lots of cool music-making apps on it, too, which is partly why I was able to justify the purchase in the first place. It’s a gorgeous device and it’s everything I’d hoped it would be. If I’m disappointed, it’s that I was hoping it would somehow exceed my expectations and do some truly next-level shit right out of the gate – and I’m fully prepare to concede that I’m being a little bit unfair in that regard.

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What else, what else… I had a weird dream the other day where I was either playing or actually in the motorcycle gang in GTA4’s “The Lost and the Damned,” which was strange, since I never got particularly far in that particular bit of DLC. In any event, it caused me to pull GTA4 out yesterday afternoon and I jumped back into what appears to be the last few missions of “The Ballad of Gay Tony”. Time has not been kind to GTA4, which is a painful thing to admit. It’s just that, for me, Red Dead Redemption is a superior game in pretty much every way that matters – combat is far more approachable in RDR, for one thing, and the penalty for mission failure is a lot less devastating, which makes the overall experience a lot less frustrating. There’s no doubt that Liberty City is an absolute marvel of game design – I still love driving around and seeing what there is to see, and I especially love that the developers really understood New York City and its feel. Even if GTA4’s gameplay is antiquated at this point, it’s still got the finest open-world city ever designed. The city makes sense. It has personality. Every block is different – there aren’t any cookie-cutter building designs. You might get lost at first, but it wouldn’t be because everything looks the same. I fully concede that my status as a life-long New Yorker might bias me in this regard, but I must also acknowledge that it’s the only videogame that ever got New York City right.

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According to my to-do list, the next must-play GOTY contender is Max Payne 3, which doesn’t come out until mid-May. Yikes. Tiger Woods 13 comes out this coming Tuesday, and I will play it because that’s what I do, but I’m no longer as enamored of that franchise as I used to be. Ever since the current generation of consoles came along, that series has lost its way – the games on the original Xbox were insanely addictive and goofy and fun as hell, even if they weren’t truly groundbreaking on the graphics side. As the series has embraced realism, though, it’s lost a lot of what made it truly engaging on a primal level. So let’s just say I’m keeping my expectations suitably lowered for this year’s edition.

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I went back to KoA:Reckoning yesterday, just to see if some time apart from it would make a difference. (I hadn’t played it since before Mass Effect 3 came out.) It’s still pretty mindless; I don’t know that I’m ever going to finish it, beyond just pecking away at it during slow periods in the release calendar.

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Hopefully there’ll be a new Couchcast this week, schedules permitting.

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