this is more like it

Topics covered today:

  • Darksiders 2
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • discovering new bands through game soundtracks

I’m actually going to start with the last thing first, because despite the mega-marathon sessions I had this weekend with both Darksiders 2 (hereinafter, “DS2”) and Sleeping Dogs (“SD”), it’s the third thing on this list that’s made the deepest impression on me.

To wit:  I am obsessed with the band White Denim.  I had never heard of them before, though it’s entirely possible that I may have noticed their albums reviewed with mid-level scores at Pitchfork and the AV Club and simply skipped past them.   In any event, at some point last week (i.e., before my rental copies of DS2 and SD arrived), I was playing Saints Row 3 on my PC with my headphones on, kinda just screwing around, looking for hidden packages, not really interested in any of the missions I had to do, when I suddenly noticed that whatever was on the radio was really, really good.  I stopped what I was doing, pulled out the radio song list (in order to make a custom mix – a great feature in SR3 only limited by how little of the music I actually like), and discovered that the song in question was White Denim’s “Paint Yourself.”

And from there, I quickly went to Spotify, found all of their albums, and now it’s all I’ve been listening to ever since.  They are some perfect hybrid of Broken Social Scene, Deerhoof, Blitzen Trapper and Phish – which shouldn’t make any sense, but it does, and then some.  I was annoyed with myself that I hadn’t noticed them sooner, when I was playing SR3 on my Xbox – but, then, I’m not sure I would’ve noticed it coming through the TV instead of my kick-ass studio monitor headphones.

This is not the first time I’ve learned about a band through a game – Rock Band turned me on to Maximo Park and Silversun Pickups (though, in those specific cases, I mostly just like the songs they picked and not the albums as a whole).    Frankly, the way certain games shove their soundtracks down my throat really just turns me off (I’m looking at you, EA.) GTA4 turned me on to a few things – somewhere out there, someone’s made a fantastic mp3 playlist of every GTA4 radio station – and, really every GTA game’s had a fantastic soundtrack.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten this obsessed with a band before simply by hearing them in a game, and I think that’s kind of awesome.  (And the weird thing is, the song they picked isn’t even necessarily a lead single-type track.)

(Should you be interested in more of their stuff, I’ve made a Spotify playlist with all their albums, which can be found in the widget below (except I don’t think the widget can contain everything – the native Spotify application should, though).)

Moving on, then.

If my Raptr profile is to be believed, I spent twice as much time in Darksiders 2 than in Sleeping Dogs last week, though that doesn’t necessarily feel right.  I kinda rotated between the two of them for a while, switching if I found myself frustrated or if I came to a natural break in the action.  Funny thing – while the two games couldn’t be more different – one is a GTA clone set in Hong Kong, the other has you playing as Death (one of the Four Horsemen), slaughtering demons, traversing platforms and solving puzzles in strange, fantastical realms – their melee combat is just similar enough to make the combat a bit difficult to adjust to right after a switch.  

I guess the Raptr timing is right, though – I have no idea how far I am in DS2 but I suspect I’m at least at the halfway point, being that I just picked up my 3rd special ability (out of 4).  I’m enjoying the hell out of it, just as I did the first.  Great art style, great story (and great voice acting to boot), and the game experience is pretty much exactly what I want to be playing right now.  My only frustration is that I’m just not as good at the combat as I’d like to be, leading to boss battles that take forever to get through; and, well, on rare occasions the camera makes the platforming a bit more difficult than it needs to be.  That aside, it’s really quite good.  Maybe it’s not a WORK OF ART, but it’s a really enjoyable experience all the same, which is the part that really matters the most.

The thing I said above about not being great at combat applies in equal measure to my experience with Sleeping Dogs, which is (again) a pleasant surprise.  (I’m not great at the driving, either, though I’m getting better – the cars are a bit floaty and the handbrake takes a lot of getting used to.  OH, and people in Hong Kong drive on the wrong side of the road, so there’s that.)  But the thing about the combat is that, by and large, it’s how missions get completed, and sucking at the combat means that the game can be quite frustrating at times.  And yet I still find myself enjoying the experience, at the end of the day.  Hong Kong is a fascinating location for an open-world game, and it feels pretty authentic (not that I’ve ever been there, of course, but it still feels like a real city).  The story is definitely interesting, with quite a few compelling characters, and I’m certainly invested in what’s happening.  There’s lots of little side things to do, there’s tons of hidden packages to locate (which is one of my favorite things to do in these games – this also applies to DS2, which has hidden packages galore), and in spite of its occasional jank, it’s a compelling experience.  There’s some neat social touches in it, too, which (unfortunately) I can’t really explore, since I’m apparently the only person on my friends list who’s playing it, but in any event the game keeps track of various things you do (like how long you can drive without hitting anything), and then it ranks you with your friends.  I’d like to see Rockstar’s Social Club incorporate more of this kind of thing in GTA5, frankly.

Anyway.  It’s nice to be playing new games, again, finally.   My hands will be full with these two for the foreseeable future – or at least until Borderlands 2 arrives in a few weeks.

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