Hanging The Lamp From The Ceiling

I am now compelled to start a new regular column here at SFTC, featuring the strange and beautiful comments I get in this blog’s spam folder.  This morning’s entry is even more amazing than yesterday’s:

“One third of this area is covered with forest.Let bygones be bygones.I’ll have to try that.Your answer is satisfying.It’s her field.I’m thinking of hanging the lamp from the ceiling.I’m thinking of hanging the lamp from the ceiling.Winter is a cold season.It is Just what I need.Whichever you choose, you won’t be satisfied.”

Meanwhile, my friend (and fantastic author) Ally has been receiving some gems of her own, including this one:

“I can’t afford to go to a restaurant every day.Which would you prefer? I’m home.There is a bridge over the river.It really takes time.Is there any sugar in the bottle? Is there any sugar in the bottle? Not bad.Allow me.That is my idea about friendship.”

If this blog turns into a collection of beautiful robot spam, I think I’ll be OK with that.  Hell, maybe I’ll get a book deal out of it.

the first few/last few hours: Forza Horizon, Dishonored

Before I get started, I want to sing the praises of the WordPress spam filter, which does a great job day in and day out of filtering out all the nonsense.  Like, literal nonsense.  Whoever’s coming up with the text for these spam comments is out of their minds.   Sometimes, though, the spam robots get lucky – and like the 1,000,000th monkey who typed out a Shakespearean sonnet on his typewriter, today’s comment is a thing of beauty.  Just know that my apprehension at inviting sort of spam recursion loop by pasting it here is outweighed by my desire to spread joy and love and poetry wherever I go.

You know what I’m talking about.I quit!A barking dog doesn’t bite!Most people eat, write, and work with their fight hands.You’re welcome.A bad workman quarrels with his tools.Do you realize that all of these shirts are half off?It appears to be a true story.We are divided in our opinions.It feels like spring I’ve been here before

There’s so much to love here.  And not just because “fight hands” yields a marvelous synchronicity with my new favorite iOS game (which just came out last night), Punch Questalthough that is a wonderful touch.

Anyway.  I needed to share that.

As for GAMEZ, I said goodbye to Dishonored last night, and said hello to Forza Horizon.

I had a bad feeling about Dishonored going into last night’s session, to be honest.  I was already in a weird place about it, and there was a part of me that knew that putting it down for 3-4 days wouldn’t soften its edges.  So, yeah; I played for about 20-30 minutes or so and quickly realized that I just wasn’t ever going to get back into it.  The magic was gone.  It no longer felt like an organic, natural environment; I was simply recognizing patterns and exploiting their weaknesses.  The story wasn’t ever compelling enough to keep me moving forward, either – especially since every review more or less panned the ending – and so I decided that I didn’t want to spend my time feeling bad about not liking a game anymore.

I remain in awe of the many things the game does right.  And I salute the developers for taking a chance with a new, bold IP at this stage of the hardware cycle.  I do feel guilty for not finishing it, for whatever that’s worth.

*     *     *     *     *

It took a little while for Forza Horizon‘s charms to become apparent to me.  As much as I love driving games, I don’t really care about cars or car culture, and would never willingly find myself in the middle of the desert at some car/music festival, which is the game’s central premise.  In fact, there’s an awful lot of cut scenes in the beginning of the game – perhaps too many – that go out of their way to sell you on the concept that you’re in this amazing place, doing this amazing thing, meeting all these amazing people, etc.  Say what you will about the problems with silent protagonists; I could not identify with my dude, nor did I ever have any intention of doing so.  I wanted to drive.

And about 30 minutes later, I found myself in driving game heaven.

Once the game removes the tutorial training wheels, you will find yourself on a stretch of open road, free to do whatever you want.  And the game keeps track of everything you do, so even if you’re mindlessly driving (and admiring the gorgeous scenery), you’re also earning points and money simply through the act of drifting, driving on the opposite side of the road, crashing into special signs (that unlock discounts at the garage), narrowly avoiding traffic, etc.  There are also Horizon Waypoints (or something like that – I can’t remember what they’re called) which enable fast-travelling, should you not want to drive to the other side of the map for an event.  Each waypoint features 3 mini-events, the completion of which reduces the cost of fast-travelling.  But that’s besides the point.  The point is that the simple, pure act of driving – not racing, not doing tricks – yields tangible rewards.

love this sort of thing.  This is very much why Burnout Paradise was such a revelation – you were given a huge world to explore, and you were encouraged to explore it.  It wasn’t just window dressing; there were valuables hidden away in every nook and cranny.  I’m not sure how deep Forza Horizon travels down this particular rabbit hole, but the time I spent with it last night was very encouraging.

This is just the kick in the ass the franchise needed, I think.  The regular games are still fine, best-in-class, sure, but they’re also very repetitive – you race the same tracks in the same cars year after year, with marginal graphical improvements and subtle tweaks to performance.  There is an audience for that kind of game, certainly; I’m somewhat of a member, having bought each edition.  But Forza Horizon feels fresh and new and invigorating, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing more of it in the future.

weekend recap: honorable intentions

[I had grand visions for this post, but then (of course) work got in the way, and so I have no idea if what follows is coherent or interesting or what.  Many apologies.]

Lots to talk about, and some of it has nothing to do with gaming.  In fact, I might as well dive in and get this shameless plug out of the way right now:  I’ve finally, FINALLY built a website for all my music-doings.  Please feel free to visit vosslandiamusic.com and check it out; there will be more content coming soon, but for now it’s, well, what it is.

Back to the subject at hand, now.  This was another in a series of inadvertent three-day weekends; I’d been somewhat successfully battling a cold last week but I woke up on Friday having lost the cold war, as it were, and so I stayed home and sneezed and coughed and decided to get caught up on gaming stuff, since the living room was all mine.

Last week I wrote about my Dishonored glitch:

…I completed Slackjaw’s quest, and was on my way to head back to his distillery to turn it in, when the game suddenly told me I’d failed the quest, and even though none of his men were trying to kill me, he certainly was.  I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong.  Tried re-loading several times, tried entering stealthily as opposed to waltzing right in – but no matter how I entered the zone, as soon as I’d crossed some invisible barrier, the game decided I’d failed.  This was very, very frustrating (as you might imagine), and since I didn’t see any solution (beyond waiting for a patch), I decided to take it out of the 360′s tray and leave it alone for a little while.  Some quick googling revealed that a lot of people are having the same problem – not everyone, but enough for me to feel like it’s not just my own peculiar problem.  That being said, since I don’t know when the patch is coming (if indeed it’s coming at all), I might just take the opportunity to start over from scratch, now that I actually know what I’m doing.

As it turned out, there was a patch ready for me to download Friday morning, but when I loaded my last save, the quest was still glitched out.  So I did end up restarting from the beginning, which also made it much easier, since I already knew what I was doing (and had a much better idea of how to do it better).  Took no time at all to get caught up to where I’d been glitched, and everything seemed to be working fine at that point.  Made much progress, then; I happened to glance at a walkthrough online just to see how far into it I was, and it would appear that if the game has three Acts, my next mission would be the end of Act 2/beginning of Act 3.

Here’s the thing; I kinda don’t know if I care enough about the game to bother finishing it.

And yet the game matters enough to me that I would really like to know why I’m feeling so apathetic about it.

This particular problem is made thornier in that after I took my leave from Dishonored on Friday, I also spent a great deal of time with the first bit of DLC for Borderlands 2, which is absolutely fantastic; and also that my weekend eventually got pretty busy with things wholly unrelated to gaming (see first paragraph above).  Also: my rental copy of Forza Horizon should be arriving later this week, which I’m very anxious to get my hands on; and next week comes Criterion’s Need For Speed Most Wanted, which is looking every bit like the spiritual successor to Burnout Paradise that I’ve been craving for years.  (And meanwhile my XCOM campaign lurks on in the background.)  Basically, I’m very much aware that I’ve got a very limited amount of time in which to give the rest of Dishonored the attention it probably deserves, so there’s a weird sort of pressure there.  I fully acknowledge that this isn’t Dishonored’s fault.

HOWEVA.  There are some things that are Dishonored’s fault.

Before I get around to killing it, though, let me first sing the praises of the art direction, which are absolutely wonderful.  Let me also say that my favorite parts of the game are, basically, everything I do before I have to dispose of my target.  I love Blink-ing around* – it’s fun and useful and arguably even more satisfying to pull off than Batman’s quick-evade.**  I love exploring every nook and cranny of the environment, which is very much designed to reward such exploration – every open apartment window on a non-ground-level floor holds at least one goodie (and, also, tells some wordless, sad story in its tableau).  I love doing reconnaissance, basically, and the game’s tools for performing such recon work are exquisitely designed and endlessly rewarding.

But, yeah, then I have to actually go about my business.   And that’s where I run into problems.

The game tells you that it’s better to not kill.  But it also gives you lots of ways to kill.  And sometimes you run into a situation where there’s nothing you can do but kill, unless you decide to reload your last save, and that can be tedious.  Furthermore, as far as I can tell, the game only tells you of the benefits of acting non-lethally during loading screens – nobody in the game actually tells you to not kill anyone.  Indeed, your handlers at the Hounds Pit are asking you to kill people in order to advance their cause.  Your sidequests generally offer you a way to achieve the same result without killing, and after each mission I’ve gotten a rather handsome reward waiting for me in my room, but I’ve also had to kill a number of guards in order to get where I need to go, too, and nobody gives me much grief about that.  It’s not like I’ve gone on a murder spree or anything – my overall chaos meter still reads “Low” at the end of each mission – but I’m certainly not getting the Achievements for mercy, and in any event, that kind of meta-challenge ends up changing the reason why I’m playing in the first place.

**SLIGHT STORY SPOILERS AHEAD, ALTHOUGH THE KEY WORD IS SLIGHT** The story isn’t terribly interesting, either; it’s not bad, but neither is it the sort of tale where I’m wondering what happens next.  The supernatural business seems a little hokey.  Hell, the assassins who appear in the beginning of the game are very much Blink-ing their way around, which leads me to believe that the Outsider isn’t necessarily laying all his cards on the table, and that’s not terribly surprising.  And in looking at that walkthrough I mentioned, I couldn’t help but notice that I’m about to be betrayed, but let’s be honest – that sort of “twist” is something you can see a mile away.  **END SPOILERS**

I suppose it was the end of the mission I’d just finished that really soured my attitude.  The mission required me to attend a masked ball being hosted by 3 sisters, one of whom I needed to kill/abduct.  The recon work in determining which sister to nab was enormously fun, and the mansion itself was a wonder to explore and examine.  But then I actually had to do the deed, and it must be noted that the manner in which I knocked out the sister and carried her to her waiting boatman/captor resulted in one of the most unintentionally hilarious chase sequences I’ve ever had the misfortune of participating in.  Here’s the point, ultimately: while the poor execution in the woman’s abduction was undoubtedly my fault, it was the game’s reaction to what I did that made me wonder why I’d bothered being so careful and stealthy in the first place.   It’s actually a bit difficult to describe just what happened, except to say that in a game that at that point had been remarkably graceful and poised, the game suddenly became very artless and charmless and basically just turned into very obvious AI routines that ultimately were defeated with comically swift decapitations of startled guards.  I’m doing a terrible job describing what happened, I know.  The result, though, is the important thing – all the grace and skill I performed in my stealthy preparation were rendered moot; once everything went to shit I bulldozed my way to the ending and achieved the exact same result, since my mark was never killed.  So why even bother being stealthy?  Why bother performing well?  Suddenly the rich, detailed world of Dunwall instantly transformed into a clunky collection of polygons and AI scripts.

Now, granted, the game’s artifice had already been made glaringly obvious by the aforementioned glitch.  Still, as a regular player of games, you take that stuff as part of the deal; code breaks all the time, the world’s an imperfect place.   It’s only when I’d surrendered to the game’s fiction and then had it clumsily torn from my hands that I started wondering just what the hell I was doing with my time.

* Indeed, I was weirdly disappointed when I jumped over to Borderlands 2 and found that I had to walk everywhere, like a chump.

** I’m blanking on the name of this technique – it’s how you traverse long distances in Arkham City, swinging around, vaguely Spiderman-ish.

weekend recap: the sneeze and the fury

[Note:  this post may be a bit rambly and incoherent; I’ve got a bad head cold and I’m working under maybe an hour of unrestful sleep (though I also did eventually have one of the most hilariously frustrating dreams I’ve ever had).  I did make it into work for some reason, though, so if this post does get rambly, it may also get distracted.]

Things to talk about today:

  1. Had to put Dishonored down due to a weird, game-breaking bug.  May take the opportunity to start over from scratch.
  2. Gave up on Resident Evil 6.
  3. Spent some quality time with XCOM Enemy Unknown.
  4. The difference between bad video games and bad movies.

1.  I was finally starting to get into Dishonored‘s groove.  At first I was incredibly intimidated by it (as I sort of am with most stealth games), as I wanted to try to be as stealthy as possible and not kill anyone, but I kept accidentally screwing up and suddenly finding myself in sword fights (that I often lost).  After a while, though, I decided that if the object of the game is to have fun, and if the game does in fact give you options for killing people in spectacular ways in addition to making it easier to sneak around, then, dammit, I was going to play it however the hell I wanted to.  To wit: mostly stealthy, but if push came to shove, then dudes were getting shivved.  No muss, no fuss.  And so everything was going great.  I was around 45 minutes into the third mission, doing a sidequest for Slackjaw who was going to help me gain entry into the Cat Parlor (or whatever it’s called).  I completed Slackjaw’s quest, and was on my way to head back to his distillery to turn it in, when the game suddenly told me I’d failed the quest, and even though none of his men were trying to kill me, he certainly was.  I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong.  Tried re-loading several times, tried entering stealthily as opposed to waltzing right in – but no matter how I entered the zone, as soon as I’d crossed some invisible barrier, the game decided I’d failed.  This was very, very frustrating (as you might imagine), and since I didn’t see any solution (beyond waiting for a patch), I decided to take it out of the 360’s tray and leave it alone for a little while.  Some quick googling revealed that a lot of people are having the same problem – not everyone, but enough for me to feel like it’s not just my own peculiar problem.  That being said, since I don’t know when the patch is coming (if indeed it’s coming at all), I might just take the opportunity to start over from scratch, now that I actually know what I’m doing.   (I’m still terrible at the melee combat, but I’m much better now at stealth.)

2.  In my annoyance at having to put Dishonored to the side, I decided to give Resident Evil 6 one last concerted push before sending it back.  To that end, I played a little bit more of Jake’s questline – his is the most action-oriented, he runs quickly, and it’s not so methodical as the other two.  Started running into weird problems early on, though, where Jake would only pick up certain objects.  In a game like RE6 where ammo is always scarce, it is INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING when you’re completely out of ammunition and there’s 3 boxes RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU that for whatever reason the game won’t let you pick up.  (And not just that it wouldn’t register a button press – it seemed to imply that I couldn’t carry any more, which was the exact opposite of my problem.)  Now, between the Dishonored bug and this apparent bug, and the fact that my 360’s been making some loud noises when I start it up, I started wondering if there was a larger issue at work, even though I don’t know how a hardware issue would affect lines of code on a disc.  Still, though, I continued to push on until HOLY SHIT THE SAME ENEMY THAT I’VE BEEN FIGHTING FOR THE ENTIRE GAME SHOWED UP AGAIN.  When even your poorly-written characters are incredulous about the shit that’s happening to them, to the point where they actually say out loud how goddamned ridiculous it is that they have to keep fighting the same monster over and over again, MAYBE IT’S TIME TO DO SOMETHING ELSE.

3.  So, what with Dishonored’s unfortunate glitch, and RE6’s bullshit, and the aforementioned loud noises that my 360’s been making lately, I decided to go back to my PC and spend some time with XCOM Enemy Unknown, which had been getting short shrift of late.  I am very pleased to report that unlike some games I could mention, XCOM actually works as advertised.  And even on the easiest difficulty setting, it is still challenging – there’s nothing more terrifying than moving your guys into what you think is appropriate cover, only to have a bunch of thin men show up and move to your un-covered flank, blasting you into smithereens.  I lost one of my best soldiers in such a manner, as it happens, and while I exacted a swift and merciless revenge on his killers, I’m still a little bummed about it.  That this feeling is the game’s intention is what makes the game special, and that it’s executed so well is what makes it remarkable.

4.  The wife and I re-watched Prometheus this weekend.  We’d seen it in the theater, and I can’t speak for my wife but I found it to be one of the most disappointing movie experiences I’d ever had.  Part of this is certainly because my own expectations were sky-high – those trailers looked absolutely amazing, and I was very much looking forward to what was appearing to be a well-made, hard science fiction / horror movie.  Instead, what I got was an exquisitely photographed piece of shit, with plot holes larger than the actual movie, stock characters that were loathsome when they weren’t being mind-bogglingly stupid, and Guy Pearce in some of the worst old-man makeup in cinema history.   I am not surprised (but still disappointed) to report that it’s even worse upon a second viewing.  Frankly, it was the sort of terrible that is normally associated with video game storytelling – indeed, one might make an apt comparison here to Resident Evil 6, another highly-anticipated game that ended up being a piece of shit in part because of its awful approach to narrative.  At least with Prometheus, the movie ends, eventually, thankfully, and I never felt like it was my fault that it was so terrible; it’s not like I could ever get better at watching it.  Whereas with RE6, I’m sure I could get better at shooting enemies, even if the game is maddeningly inconsistent at telling me if I’m doing any damage; I could also scour every nook and cranny of every level in order to find hidden skill point packages, and then replay every level over and over again to find those same skill point packages, and then eventually have enough points so that I can level up my characters with more powerful weaponry, higher ammunition counts, better defensive skills, etc.  This, in turn, might make the combat a little less dreary (if only because I could get through it a lot faster).  The game’s narrative problems, though; that’s not something I can improve with skill points.

the first few hours: promising, very promising

I put an hour into both XCOM Enemy Unknown and Dishonored last night, which is obviously not nearly enough time to give those games their proper due.  That being said, I am a firm believer that what a game shows you in its first 10 minutes is very often a good indicator as to the general quality level of the experience you’re about to embark on, and on that note, I feel pretty confident in saying that these games are looking very good indeed.


Two things I should point out before I start:  (1) I am very intimidated by strategy games, be they turn-based or real-time, which also means (2) I never played the original XCOM games.  I am approaching this game as a recent convert to the genre, specifically because of the noob-friendliness of Firaxis’ own Civilization Revolution (which, in turn, got me into Civ 4 and Civ 5).  I have no allegiance to the original games.  What I’m interested in, then, is a compelling experience, and with an option to turn the difficulty down to the easiest setting (just so I can get my feet wet, and so that I can better understand how the game systems work without getting vaporized).

The tutorial walks you through each move; the first two missions still hold your hand a bit, but you have a bit more freedom to work with.  I managed to finish the first post-tutorial mission with everybody alive (though one dude got dinged up a bit); in my second mission, I lost a rookie and two other soldiers are in sickbay, out for at least 2 weeks with some serious poison damage.    (I have not yet renamed my soldiers, but I am already somewhat attached to my most powerful guys, and I can already see myself making sure they have the most cover at any given time.)

I am still intimidated once I’m on the battlefield, but in a way that’s a boon – my abundant need for caution at every turn also happens to be the proper way to play the game, and because the controls are incredibly easy and intuitive to use (I’m using a 360 controller, though I’m playing on the PC), I find myself getting more and more comfortable.  Even though there’s no greater feeling of dread that moving your guys into what you think is a proper cover position, only to see enemies suddenly appearing directly behind you.  Ordinarily I’d say this is a cheap shot, but the game never makes it feel unfair – there’s almost always a better vantage point that I should’ve seen, and in any event, this is war – people will die.

I love the in-between bits the most, I think.  I love looking at the base of operations (presented as if it were an ant colony, which is a useful subliminal reminder of that old saying about a boot stomping on an anthill), talking with my various departments, starting research projects, outfitting my soldiers, etc.  It’s elegantly presented and does a fantastic job of making you feel like you’re a vital part of the story.


I am already enjoying the hell out of Dishonored even though I’ve died a lot in the game’s first hour.  Quite a bit more death than I’d anticipated, if I’m being honest.  My intention was to play as non-lethally as possible, but it’s not always easy to tell when you’re hidden in shadow and when you aren’t, and thus I’m forced to shoot and stab in order to escape, and since I’m still getting the hang of the controls, I don’t always escape.  I’m tempted to delete my current save and just start over from scratch, in an attempt to really make sure I understand what I’m doing and how the stealth mechanics work.

My terribleness at the game aside, I love everything I’ve seen thus far.  The art direction is quite stunning (even if some of the textures on the 360 are a bit blurry and pixelated) and the little of the city I’ve seen looks remarkable.  And I love how many hidden secrets there are, and how well the game rewards you for going off the beaten path.  There is remarkable detail in every corner of the world.



maybe the last RE6 post for a while

As noted here and elsewhere, today marks the release of 2 probable GOTY contenders, XCOM Enemy Within and Dishonored, which means that any plans I might have made to finish Resident Evil 6 will most likely be put on hold for the foreseeable future.  I’m sure no one will mind/notice.

That being said, I played one more chapter of the Chris/Piers storyline last night, putting me at 2 chapters into each story.  I had to fight a boss that I’d already beaten (in Jake’s story), but even though I now had a much better idea of what the hell I was supposed to do, I still had a very difficult time doing it.

Part of the problem, as you’ve surely heard by now, is that each storyline has its own gameplay style/focus.  Leon’s story is classic Resident Evil – slow, methodical exploration of scary-looking buildings.  Jake’s story involves a lot of running, jumping and obstacle avoidance.  And the Chris/Piers story is mostly combat-focused – Chris is a machine-gunning heavy, and Piers is a sniper.  That each story has its own style is fine, I suppose, but why then is each story bogged down by the same contrivances?

Specifically, Chris/Piers start each mission with very little ammunition.  This is a classic staple of the Resident Evil experience, but in this particular case it is literally nonsensical.  Considering that Chris and Piers are military personnel, why the fuck are they chronically low on ammo?  How would they expect to win any battles or kill any monsters without bullets?  (I am reminded of a similar complaint during a pivotal scene in the movie Aliens – “What are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?”) 

Indeed, if Piers is the sniper, why does he almost never have any sniper ammunition, especially considering that his other weapon is a piece of shit machine gun that requires at least 5 headshots just to slow an enemy down?  This makes absolutely no sense, and consequently leads to extreme frustration; I spend most of my time running around kicking dudes to death just to save my ammunition (even though I have not yet sufficiently leveled up my sniping skills so that it would make much of a difference – Piers jerks his scope around as if he’d drank 8 cups of espresso before heading out into the field, making long-distance sniping comically impossible).  In a way, I suppose it actually helps that the J’Avo – the mutated insurgents in the Chris/Piers storyline – display some of the least impressive AI I’ve ever seen in a game this side of 1998; they either stand in place, oblivious, or they run right past me.  (However, their snipers are better than Oswald, those fucking assholes.)

So, to get back to the top of this post – I’d already beaten this boss as Jake, who doesn’t have that much ammunition to begin with.  But I figured Chris and Piers, being military dudes with powerful guns, would be able to take the B.O.W.s down with a little more finesse.  No such luck; I had to do the same exact shit in the exact same way, still receiving no apparent feedback as to how I was progressing – and this time, without being able to rely on my weapons.  What’s the point?  I didn’t learn anything in the 2nd encounter that I hadn’t already learned in the 1st, except that I had a better idea of who Chris and Piers were (though I didn’t need to replay the boss to learn that stuff).

I’m starting to wonder, now, why I’m so determined to see this game through to the end; the more I think about it, the angrier I get.

it gets better

1.  This weekend was insanely busy for me, and so I’ve advanced no further in Resident Evil 6 since Friday night’s session.   Here’s the weird part:  despite everything that annoys me about it, I must admit that I kinda want to keep playing it, even if I can’t really explain why.  I suppose it’s partially because I want to check out the 4th campaign, which only unlocks after you finish the first 3.  Finishing the first 3 campaigns, though, looks to be a rather sizable time investment, which may be a problem, because…

2.  …have you seen what’s coming out this week?  Between XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Dishonored, both of which are getting superlative reviews, my plate is full.  Not to mention that Episode Four of The Walking Dead lands later this week, too.  I think my earlier pronouncement of 2012 being a huge disappointment is about to get kicked in the ass.  I’d kept an eye on Dishonored but only ever considered it a rental, something to check out in an idle hour.  From everything I’ve read, though, it looks like it might be my GOTY.  (So much for keeping my expectations in check.)

3.  I did play around an hour’s worth of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, thinking it might be fun to play with the wife.  I shall not be making that mistake again.  The solution to the tutorial mission’s crime – which is to say, the very first thing you play – is so convoluted and insane that I found the game impossible to take seriously.  The voice acting is stilted beyond belief – and it’s certainly not aided by some of the poorest lip-syncing in recent memory (seriously – if you can’t get it right, don’t even bother trying).  I’m sending it back ASAP.  I love a good adventure game, but this one’s flaws outshine whatever strengths it may have.

4.  On the mobile gaming front, I’ve been addicted to Super Monsters Ate My Condo, an updated release of  PikPok / Adult Swim’s strange yet endearing puzzle game.  It’s a vastly improved package over the original, with meta-missions and challenges and power-ups and boosts and the rest of it.  The only bummer is that you can’t listen to your own music while playing; otherwise I’d never put my phone/iPad down.

5.  I feel terrible for saying this, but I think I’m going to give up on Torchlight 2.  I squeezed in another hour or so over the weekend and I just don’t care about what I’m doing.  I may still be burned out from Diablo 3, or maybe I’m just turned off by how “cheap” T2 continues to feel.  Oh well.

It is entirely possible that a new Couchcast will arrive this week, depending on schedules.  I’m also hoping to line up some new guests for future episodes, too, just to keep the thing moving.  (I’m well aware that tiny podcasts for tiny blogs are not necessarily the most compelling content to seek out, but I’d like to get better at the format.)

the first few hours: RE6

After all that, I didn’t take my own advice; home with a shitty stomach (as per usual), I’m now 5 chapters into Resident Evil 6.  Per Kotaku’s advice, I skipped around a bit and did 2 chapters of Leon, 2 chapters of Jake, and (at the time of this writing – late Friday night) I just finished 1 chapter of Chris.

So after 7 or 8 hours or so, here’s what I can say:  it’s not the gigantic turd I’d been led to expect; but neither is it hot shit.  It is a weird, frustrating mess, to be sure, but it’s also really ambitious, and I can certainly appreciate that they’re not just recycling the same old crap like other big-named franchises I could name.

Because it’s getting late and because this upcoming weekend is busy, here are some random, unedited thoughts that I’m just going to throw out there:

  • you can’t pause, which is ridiculous.  no reason for it.
  • there is a tutorial to keep you up to speed on how the QTEs work, but not one for how to manipulate your inventory so that, say, you can toss a grenade.
  • not scary.  at all.  the monsters aren’t creepy, and can also be a bit unintentionally funny at times (like the upside-down lobster-monsters in Chapter 1 of Chris/Piers).
  • the script is ridiculous; cliche after cliche; there is no context for anything.  things just happen and it’s unclear why you should be concerned about them.
  • if one character has something to tell the other character, they should have a very good reason for waiting to tell them besides “you wouldn’t believe me if i told you”, especially when they’re shooting monsters.
  • the melee controls are awful and inconsistent, and sometimes are hilarious; at least the AI looks ridiculous when they miss on their melee attacks, too, though.
  • i was super-addicted to the medallion hunting in RE5; consequently I’m looking at every nook and cranny in RE6, although I’m still missing some (which is annoying, especially when the game shows you one right before a door closes that you can’t open again); more annoying, though, is that the payoff is simply a text description for a story beat.  on the plus side, though, the environmental graphics looks great.
  • enemy placement is absurd.  the 2nd chapter of Jake’s story is in a dark snowy mountain pass with no visibility, which follows a sudden helicopter crash.  why are there enemies there?  hell, why are there LADDERS there?  that whole level is insane.
  • i’m fucking done with enemies who won’t die.
  • the game is remarkably inconsistent in terms of telling you how you’re doing.  some regular zombies die in one shot; other regular zombies take a whole clip to the face.  some regular zombies die with one boot stomp; other zombies will override your stomping animation and chew your face off.  and forget about boss monsters; there is absolutely no way of knowing if anything you’re doing is working or not.  if you stay alive long enough while pumping bullets in its direction, you may end up killing it; or you may get killed by a random zombie who’s suddenly spawned behind you, because the camera is terrible.

And yet, despite all this, despite how nonsensical the story is and how stupid the characters are, and despite the fact that I’ve wanted to give up on the game at least a dozen times today, I’m kinda still compelled to keep going.  I don’t know that I’ll end up finishing it, especially with XCOM coming out, but I kinda want to keep pressing on.  So we’ll see how that goes.

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