Prep To Move

If all goes according to plan, we close on our house this coming Friday, and we move the following Saturday, August 1.

I left for work this morning and as I walked down the street I started becoming hyper-aware of my surroundings – the view of the Hudson from the top of my hill, the sketchy hourly-rate hotels that are inexplicably littered along my street, the greasy-bacon-and-eggs smell from the diner on the corner, the stifling heat of my subway stop – and couldn’t help but observe to myself that I’m only making this specific walk 3 more times after today.

I’ve been doing this same thing for the last few days – I can count on one hand the number of my remaining trips to the laundromat, the grocery store, the coffee shop.  We can only eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant a few more times before the trip becomes impractical (it’s a great place, but we’re not driving 45 minutes through Staten Island traffic for it).

I’ve also been feeling a lot less melancholic than I’d anticipated, regarding this move.  An old work colleague had posted something – “17 Quotes Every New Yorker Should Live By” – and after reading it I found myself inexplicably feeling somewhat hostile.  Quite a few of them required a response:

4. “The city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience—if they did they would live elsewhere.” —E. B. White

That’s true, and that’s partially why I’m moving.  I’m ready for a different tempo.

8. “Every true New Yorker believes with all his heart that when a New Yorker is tired of New York, he is tired of life.” —Robert Moses

Oh fuck you.  I’m still working here; I’m just sleeping in a town where motorcycle gangs and 16-wheelers aren’t drag-racing outside my 2-year-old’s window every night.

9. “If you want to become a real New Yorker, there’s only one rule: You have to believe New York is, has been, and always will be the greatest city on earth. The center of the universe.” —Ellen R. Shapiro

I still do believe this with all my heart.  I just don’t have to live here to know it.

16. “When you leave New York, you ain’t going anywhere.” —Jimmy Breslin

Again – fuck you.  I’m gonna be a 30-minute train ride to Penn Station.

All that aside, I can’t help but wonder – am I losing part of my identity if I’m no longer a full-time New Yorker?  I was born here, I went to college here and I’ve been a full-time resident since 1996; does all that go away once I become… *gulp*… a resident of… *gasp*… NEW JERSEY?

I am suddenly aware that my long-standing email address – not to mention my gamertag across each and every gaming service – JervoNYC – will no longer be 100% accurate.  There’s a part of me that wonders if I should change it.

*     *     *

Posting’s going to be light for the next few weeks.  For starters, I’m not really playing that much right now besides replaying Tomb Raider on Xbox One, for some reason*; I’d also rented the new EA Golf Game but it hasn’t yet shown up, and given its poor reviews, I’m not really all that committed to playing it even if I happen to receive it.

After the closing, I won’t be back at work until August 10.  I’ll have internet access pretty much the whole way through (minus one brief hiccup immediately following the move), and I’m sure I’ll need to decompress at some point after the unpacking, but I’m probably not going to be doing any posting here beyond a simple “I am here and my internet works”.

* That reason is simply that the definitive edition is currently on sale for < $10.  I’ve already beaten it twice, on both PC and PS4, and I’m not really sure what prompted me to buy it again beyond that it’s a fun game and it was cheap and I hadn’t used my Xbox in a while, and maybe I’m more addicted to Achievements than I care to admit.

Wrapping up the Knight, and Looking Ahead to the Fall

1.  I’ve been toying with the idea of reviving my personal WP blog, which I’d impulsively shut down a few years ago for reasons I can’t quite recall anymore.  But I did want to revive two specific lists – my top 50 albums of the 80s and 90s.  I liked writing those lists, and they still feel more or less accurate, and I figured they ought to resurface.  (Speaking of which – please let me know if, for some reason, those links don’t work for you; I’m not 100% sure I’ve figured out how to mass-edit privacy settings.)

2.  Unlike games, which I have no problem giving up on if I’m not enjoying them, I am debating giving up on Joshua Cohen’s “The Book of Numbers“.  It’s a difficult book, but usually that’s not that big a problem; it’s more that I started reading it right before work got crazy, and I put it down, and when I pick it up now I’m totally clueless as to what is going on and, to the extent I remember any of the characters, why I should care about them.  I’d like to get back to it at some point – he’s extraordinarily gifted with words and phrases – but I think I need to read something a little bit less obtuse.

3.  I finished the main Scarecrow-centric Batman Arkham Knight storyline the other night, and yet I’d only completed 64% of the game.  I took a much-needed sick day yesterday and ended up finishing almost everything else – there’s only one or two more militia-themed sidequests to finish, as well as some kidnapped firemen to track down – which brings me up to around 91% completion.  That said, I’ve only found 25% of the Riddler’s question marks, and if I have to find all of them in order to fully activate the Nightfall protocol, I’ll just watch it on YouTube.  Can’t be bothered with that bullshit.

Overall – I think it’s fair to say I liked it, though I did find it tedious and repetitive at times, and almost all the militia-themed quests are straight-up filler and get super-ridiculous towards the end.  (The bomb quests in particular, where you eventually have to fend off 50+ drones, are just flat-out stupid.)

It’s hard to discuss the story without spoiling everything, but I did find it both effective and affecting; if this is indeed Rocksteady’s last Batman game, they went about as all-out as they possibly could, and I commend them for that.  I don’t know that I’ll find myself itching to play it again, though, the way I did with Asylum.

4.  Speaking of what to play next…. I’m looking at the release calendar and it looks pretty goddamned depressing.  Next week is the new EA golf game (which I can’t not call Tiger Woods, just out of habit)… and then:

  • Mad Max (I want to hope this isn’t terrible – there was an interesting-looking preview video a little while ago that suggested it was a bit more ambitious than you’d think – and the fact that it’s telling its own story and isn’t necessarily a naked licensed cash grab seems promising – but I haven’t seen any coverage about it since that video in April, and its September release date isn’t that far away)
  • Metal Gear Solid V (I’m renting this and I fully expect to send it right back.)
  • Forza Motorsport 6 (I missed Forza 5; I’m curious as to whether or not I’m going to like this, given how much I prefer the Forza Horizon games.*)
  • Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 (wouldn’t it be great if this game didn’t suck?  I miss the old THPS games like crazy.  I have little faith that this won’t be a piece of shit, but little > none, so…)
  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (I’ll play this for at least a little while, I suppose.  It’s gotta be better than Unity, right?  I just need to figure out its nickname; AssSyn?)
  • Halo 5: Gaurdians (I’m at least renting this because I own an Xbox One and I feel obligated to, but I haven’t enjoyed a Halo game since maybe Halo 2.)
  • Fallout 4 (I cancelled my PipBoy preorder, mostly because I couldn’t figure out which system to get it for – has anyone confirmed whether the PS4 is getting mod support the way that the XB1 is?)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (This and FO4 are the only two games I could see knocking Witcher 3 out of the top spot in my GOTY ranking.  For some reason – perhaps simply my desire to play a good, fun action/platformer – I think I’m going to like this one more than Fallout 4.)
  • Star Wars Battlefront (I’m not really a multiplayer shooter kind of dude, but I loved the original games, and I’d like to think this would be fun enough for a little while)
  • Just Cause 3 (sure, why not)

And then there’s a bunch of remastered editions which I may/may not check out purely out of graphics-whore-ishness, like Uncharted, Gears of War and God of War.

* I forgot to mention that I tried the PS+ edition of Driveclub the other day; I did about a lap and a half of the first race and couldn’t figure out whether it was meant to be arcade-y or a sim, and while it’s pretty it didn’t grab me, and I promptly uninstalled it to make room for future HD installs.  Much ado about nothing, I guess.

the first few hours: Batman Arkham Knight

Every year I tell myself to stop apologizing for long blogging absences, and every year I almost immediately backtrack and apologize for even the smallest hiccup.  Given that I haven’t posted here since June 22 – a 2-week hiatus that did not involve a vacation – I feel compelled to explain what happened:  my day job involves working as a legal secretary for a corporate law firm, and the two associates I support work in the real estate department, and the end of June is a particularly busy time for corporate real estate.  Point being:  I was here until 1:30am pretty much every night for the week and a half – including the weekend – and was basically a shambling wreck.  I did not read books, I did not listen to music, and I certainly did not play any games that weren’t on my iPhone.  It’s only now, after the craziness has subsided and after some much-needed during the 3-day weekend, that I can finally start talking about whatever I talk about here.

So, then:  if I were to pick up from my last post, I’d say that the ending of Witcher 3 was perhaps a bit of a letdown compared to what had come before it, but I’d also put some of that on myself for having rushed through it (knowing that I wanted to have a fresh slate for Arkham Knight, and also because I had somewhat of an inkling that I’d have – to put it mildly – limited access to my consoles for the following few days, and that if I didn’t finish the story before having to put it down, I’d be thoroughly lost and confused if I ever came back to it).  There’s been a few post-release DLC things that have come out and I don’t think I’d touched any of them; I’d like to get back to them at some point, perhaps during the next few weeks when notable new releases are still few and far between.

In any event, I agree with my earlier assessment; it’s the best game I’ve played since Portal 2 and/or Red Dead Redemption, and it’s my clear front-runner for Game of the Year.

But what of Batman: Arkham Knight?  I’ve been able to sneak in some time here and there over the last few days, and if the percentages are correct I’m about 2/3rds of the way through the main story.  The best word I can think of to describe my experience thus far:  exhausting.  Which is not to say that I’ve not had a good time – I’ve very much enjoyed what I’ve played so far (with one notable exception*), and I’m looking forward to finishing the story and perhaps a few of the side things.  I don’t even really mind the Batmobile, though I still prefer the grapple-and-soar approach to traversal.  And the studio’s decision to focus solely on PS4/XB1 development clearly paid off on the presentation side of things (PC port notwithstanding); I’m hard-pressed to think of a better-looking game I’ve played on the new consoles.

That being said: I’m with Kotaku on this one.  There’s way too much stuff to do.  There’s so much stuff to do, in fact, that at one point, after running a bunch of story missions in a row, the game actually stopped me from progressing (by saying that Lucius Fox needed some more time to develop new gadgetry) and then gave me 5 or 6 more side storylines to do (in addition to the 5 or 6 other side storylines I’d already accumulated).  Let’s also leave aside the however-many hundreds of Riddler challenges and trophies there are, which is something I’ve already decided I’m not going to bother finishing.  If you somehow finish a mission and don’t immediately pick a new one, and decide to just wander around, you’ll come across a new mission within seconds.  It’s almost as if the game refuses to let you stand still; which is a shame, since the game is absolutely fucking gorgeous and I’d like to be able to look at the scenery every once in a while.

It’s hard to not keep thinking about Arkham Asylum when playing Knight, or any of the other sequels for that matter.  I hesitate to use the word “perfect”, but Asylum got pretty much everything right – it was paced incredibly well, it had a clear sense of progression, it used its smaller and self-contained size to its fullest advantage by utilizing nearly every inch of available real estate, and even if the final boss battle was a little silly it still didn’t matter in the grander scheme of things; I’ve played that game to 100% completion on both the 360 and the PC and had an absolute blast both times, and that final boss battle took 5-10 minutes each time.  Every minute of that game felt like it meant something.  Here, though, in Knight, it’s easy to feel that there’s all this stuff to do because the developer felt that there had to be that much stuff to do; it’s hard to know if any of it actually matters.  And when you can’t tell if something really matters in a game, it becomes even harder to justify the actual, literal act of playing it; sure, each activity is “fun” in and of itself, but it feels like a hodgepodge as opposed to a cohesive whole.

Ironically, I didn’t necessarily feel this way while playing Witcher 3, and even though I beat that game and did a fair amount of side stuff I still have a ton of leftover things to do, and I look forward to getting back there and doing them.  It might be just busy work, but it felt justified in the context of Geralt’s character and profession.  In Arkham Knight, the main thrust of the story is that Scarecrow is trying to deploy his fear toxin all over the Eastern Seaboard, and he must be stopped.  But also: Two-Face is robbing a whole bunch of banks!  And Penguin is hoarding weapons!  And there’s an opera-obsessed serial killer!  And Firefly(?) is torching buildings!  And firefighters are being held hostage!  And there’s a weird mutant flying creature that’s doing weird mutant flying creature shit all over the city!  And Riddler needs me to drive my Batmobile through all these obstacle courses in order to free Catwoman!  Etc. etc. etc.  Each of these things starts to feel a bit silly and ridiculous as this endless night drags on and on, and it’s hard to feel invested in any of the urgency that these tasks are supposed to impart.  I usually only end up doing this stuff if the game happens to tell me that I’m right next to one of them, and it’s only because I’ve been going all over the place that I’ve done as much of it as I have.

I’m tired enough as it is.  I’m kinda hoping that part of the game’s season pass DLC has Bruce taking a little bat-nap.

* The one notable exception is the last Batmobile race you have to run before (presumably) freeing Catwoman.  I say “presumably” because I haven’t beaten it yet.  Lap 3 of that goddamned race is a whole bunch of cheap-ass bullshit and I beat my head into the wall for a good 45 minutes last night before saying “enough is enough” and moving on with the rest of my life.  There’s some combat sections that are tougher than others, and there were a few other things that I had to restart several times before finally solving them, but that one lap is a motherfucker and I hate it and I have better things to do with my life right now.  Catwoman can – and will – wait.