Moody in Manhattan

Serious, heavy-duty case of the Mondays going on here.  I came this close to taking a mental health day, except my son was also having a serious heavy-duty case of the Mondays, and if I can’t set a good example for him, then what am I even doing being a parent?  So here I am, twitchy and over-caffeinated, just trying to make it through the day, one endless hour at a time.

I have a bunch of random, scattered thoughts littering my head this morning, so, look out:

1. I don’t know what else to say about 45 other than I’m exhausted and feeling like I’m approaching some sort of breaking point, where I’m going to have to forcibly remove myself from the news in order to maintain some sort of equilibrium.  This quote from Josh Marshall says it a bit better:

The terror attack in London is not Donald Trump’s fault of course. But his response to it is hard to fathom even for him… Actually, I wouldn’t say it’s hard to fathom. It’s not even surprising. We’ve known and seen this withering deficit of shame and grace before when he tweeted out “appreciate the congrats” in response to the Orlando club massacre last year. I’m not even sure what the word is or if there is one. But the one I am struggling to find is the experience of not being remotely surprised by the President’s action and yet marveling that the expected action – or transgression in this case – has managed to find a new depth of awfulness to penetrate and explore.

Emphasis added.  I spent most of my therapy session this weekend trying to get this stuff off my chest.  A lot of my anxiety issues in my 20s and 30s – back when I was actively avoiding therapy and medication – were because I felt out of control, or that things were happening to me that I was unable to control, or simply that if I couldn’t exert some form of control over what was happening to me, then I was doomed.  I’ve gotten a lot better in the last few years with this; if things are out of my control, then I am (for the most part) able to accept that, and I can instead try to step back and be objective about whatever it is that’s bothering me and take stock of what I can control, and then deal with the rest when it finally happens.  The thing with Trump, though, is that it would appear that nobody can control the nonsense that flies out of his mouth or fingers, and his insanity will have a very real and tangible effect on my life and of my child’s life.  Every day it gets worse and worse and it feels like the worst kind of nightmare.  I do try my best to keep it together, and if nothing else I indulge in every form of self-care I can think of.  But as I said above, it’s exhausting.  I don’t know how this circus can continue.

2. You know what’s good?  Music is good.  I haven’t written about music in a while.  I haven’t written any music in a while, either, but that’s a different story.

I’ve been listening to music a lot lately – or, rather, I’ve been listening to music with great intensity lately.  The new remix of Sgt. Pepper?  Holy shit, it’s incredible.  (And I say this mostly through listening via Spotify on my shitty work headphones.)  If it’s not too much to ask, I’d very much love it if all of the pre-Abbey Road albums could get the same sort of 3-dimensional stereo support that this Sgt. Pepper album got, because it’s amazing.

Sgt. Pepper isn’t my favorite Beatles record – that distinction gets tossed around between Abbey Road, Revolver and The White Album, and I must confess that Magical Mystery Tour is up there, too – but there’s also a mythic quality to Sgt. Pepper that those other albums simply don’t have.  When I think of my favorite Beatles songs, I tend to gloss over the Sgt. Pepper album just because they all feel connected in a way that the rest of their catalog doesn’t.  But goddamn, this remix makes it feel vital in a way that it simply never has before.  “Getting Better”, in particular, is staggering to behold – I don’t think I’d ever appreciated just how magnificent the arrangement of that song is.  One can start to see, now, how mind-blowing Sgt. Pepper must have sounded when it was first released.

Another album that is also blowing my mind, in a completely different way, is Elder’s “Reflections of a Floating World.”  I’d never heard of these guys before last week, and I acknowledge that they’re a bit more on the heavy stoner-metal side of things than what I normally listen to, but whatever – it’s awesome.  Listen to “The Falling Veil”, if nothing else.

3. E3 2017 is next week and I am surprisingly apathetic about it.  This may simply be because I expect that most of what will be announced will be stuff that isn’t coming out until 2018 at the earliest.  Indeed, a lot of the most exciting-sounding stuff from last year’s E3 was for games that still haven’t come out yet.  I may or may not live-tweet the press conferences; I’m not really sure I have the energy to sit through everything.  I don’t even really know what it is that I’d like to hear, beyond a reasonable price for Project Scorpio (and that Scorpio will improve performance to existing Xbox One games the way that the PS4 Pro does for PS4 games).  That’s really all I’m hoping for.  I’d like PSVR to get some new stuff, too, though I’m not necessarily holding my breath.

OK, it’s lunch time.

the fall release calendar

1. I keep waffling on how personal I can allow myself to get on this blog.  But since other social media avenues are closed to me at the present moment, and since it’s been at least a week since I last posted, I might as well explain – I’m on some new head meds, and even though it’s only been a week, I seem to be doing rather well.  So that’s good!  It’s not necessarily an easy thing to admit, but I don’t want to create the impression that I am somehow ashamed of taking prescription medication for depression or anxiety; the quality of my life was not good, for a long time, and it seems to be getting better, and that’s the most important thing.

2.  I am nearly halfway through Nathan Hill’s “The Nix”, and it is amazing.  I’d read reviews that compared the author to both DFW, DeLillo and Pynchon, and so I bought the book almost immediately, like some sort of reflex had just been triggered.  I suppose I can see a bit of that comparison – there are occasional passages in which Hill articulates a particularly neurotic train of thought that covers every conceivable base, in much the same way that Wallace did in “Infinite Jest”, but beyond that the book is very much its own thing.  And while I’m only halfway through, it’s certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year.

3.  I found myself listening to Jane’s Addiction’s “Up The Beach” not too long ago, and I decided to declare it the best opening song on an album post-1985.  (Why 1985?  I don’t know, but I knew that going back farther would make any discussion impossible to reconcile.)  I started a thread on Facebook about it, and got some other very worthwhile candidates, and so I’ve created a Spotify playlist with most of the suggestions that cropped up.  This is by no means definitive (nor is it sequenced in any particular order beyond where they appeared in the original discussion thread), and it is obviously a bit too white-guy heavy, and so if you’ve got further recommendations, by all means send ’em my way.

 

4. I’ve been trying to finish most of the games I play this year, but I decided to give up on finishing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.  This is mostly due to the fact that I was right near the end of the game and I was suddenly asked to make a choice, and I realized that not only did I not care about either of the options presented to me, but that I had literally no idea what the hell was going on.  I’d been content to find sneaky and non-lethal ways to infiltrate buildings and do whatever task needed to be done, and had stopped paying attention to the why at some arbitrary point that was, I realized, too far back to return from.  There are a lot of interesting critical analyses of why DE:MD’s story is fucked up and/or irresponsible and/or bad and/or misses an opportunity to take current political issues and do something interesting with them, but I never got anywhere close to seeing the game’s story in that sort of detail.  I instead found myself focused on the mechanics, because that was the thing that was enjoyable; the story was never particularly engaging, and then by the time I realized that the story mattered, it was too late.

5.  We are about to enter the fall release schedule, which means shit’s gonna start getting real.  I’d already bought the ultimate edition of Forza Horizon 3, which means I get to start playing it tomorrow.  (Possibly tonight at midnight?  If I’m awake?)  But I’m not sure there are any must-plays that are grabbing my attention more forcefully than others.  I mean, I’ve got a bunch of these upcoming games in my rental queue, and I did pre-order Gears 4, but I’m not quivering with anticipation.  Maybe it’s the meds?

I did stop myself from ordering the Bioshock remasters; I still might get them, but I’m waiting for a Digital Foundry verdict first.  I’m currently replaying Batman: Arkham Knight on Xbox One, because (a) cheevos and (b) procrastination.  That game still holds up, though I can say definitively that the PS4 version looks better.  If that matters.

Anyway, as far as the schedule is concerned, Kotaku posted a release calendar; my personal picks are in bold.

September 23

  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided System Rift | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Story DLC

September 27

  • FIFA 17 | PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One | Sports
  • X-COM 2 | PS4, Xbox One | Strategy
  • Forza Horizon 3 | PC, Xbox One | Driving
  • Dead Rising 2 HD | PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure
  • Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice | 3DS | Platformer
  • LEGO Dimensions Wave 6 | PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U | Action Adventure
  • Darkest Dungeon | PS4, Vita | Dungeon Crawler

September 30

  • Yo-Kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits | 3DS | RPG
  • Yo-Kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls | 3DS | RPG

October 4

  • Warhammer End Times: Vermintide | PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure

October 7

  • Paper Mario: Color Splash | Wii U | Action Adventure
  • Mafia III | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure
  • Five Nights At Freddy’s: Sister Location | PC | Horror

October 10

  • 100ft Robot Golf | PS4, PS4 VR | Robot Sports

October 11

  • Gears of War 4 | PC, Xbox One | Third-Person Shooter
  • Dragon Quest Builders | PS4 | Action RPG, Sandbox
  • WWE 2K17 | PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One | Sports
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience | PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider | PS4 | Action Adventure
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider Blood Ties/Lara’s Nightmare | PC, Xbox One | DLC
  • Duke Nukem 3D 30th Anniversary World Tour | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Memories

October 13

  • PlayStation VR | PS4 | Hardware  [I will obviously need to read some reviews and/or determine if I need to upgrade my OG PS4 to the Slim or the Pro before plunking down any money on this.  People appear to be having cathartic, out-of-body experiences with Rez Infinite, though, and who am I to say no to something like that?]
  • Batman: Arkham VR | PS4 VR | Action Adventure
  • PlayStation VR Worlds | PS4 VR | Action
  • Battlezone | PS4 VR | Action
  • Harmonix Music VR | PS4 VR | Music
  • Hustle Kings | PS4 VR | Pool
  • Rez Infinite | PS4 VR | Music Action
  • Shadow Warrior 2 | PC | First-Person Shooter

October 16

  • Skylanders Imaginators | PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U | Action Adventure

October 18

  • Batman: Return To Arkham | PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure
  • Lego Harry Potter Collection | PS4 | Action Adventure

October 21

  • Battlefield 1 | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Horse Simulator
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization VI | PC | Strategy

October 25

  • Dark Souls III: Ashes Of Ariandel | PC, PS4, Xbox One | DLC

October 27

  • Just Dance 2017 | PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Wii U | Dancing
  • Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Fighting
  • World of Final Fantasy | PS4, Vita | RPG
  • Harvest Moon: Skytree Village | 3DS | Simulation

October 28

  • Titanfall 2 | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Third-Person Shooter
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition | PC, PS4, Xbox One | RPG

November 1

  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, Vita | 2D Platformer

November 4

  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare | PC, PS4, Xbox One | First-Person Shooter
  • Mario Party Star Rush | 3DS | Party

November 7

  • Lego Dimensions Wave 7 | PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U | Action Adventure

November 10

  • PlayStation 4 Pro | PS4 | Hardware

November 11

  • NES Mini | Nintendo | Retro Console
  • Dishonored 2 | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure

November 15

  • Watch Dogs 2 | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure
  • Road Rage | PS4, Xbox One | Racing
  • Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection | PS4, Xbox One | Action Adventure

November 18

  • Pokémon Sun | 3DS | RPG
  • Pokémon Moon | 3DS | RPG
  • Killing Floor 2 | PC, PS4 | Survival Shooter

November 29

  • Final Fantasy XV | PS4, Xbox One | RPG
  • Star Trek Bridge Crew VR | Oculus, Vive | Simulation

December 1

  • Syberia 3 | PC | Adventure

December 2

  • Gravity Rush 2 | PS4 | Action Adventure
  • Steep | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Extreme Sports
  • Super Mario Maker 3DS | 3DS | Mario Maker

December 6

  • The Last Guardian | PS4 | Action Adventure
  • Star Trek Bridge Crew VR | PS4 VR | Simulation
  • Dead Rising 4 | Xbox One | Action Adventure

E3 2016: much ado about nothing

I’d hoped to have posted my impressions of Sony’s press conference much sooner, but events have conspired against me.  I suppose it’s for the best, since I have the benefit of hindsight now and I feel that I can be a bit more objective about what Sony had to offer.

Did Sony “win” E3?  Was this “the greatest press conference ever”?  I’ve seen several tweeted headlines that answer in the affirmative to both of these questions, but I’m not convinced.  Again – I’m writing this a few days after the presser, so I’m not nearly as breathless with anticipation as I might’ve been during the actual event.

Sony’s actual press conference was certainly not the epic, no-doubt-about-it mic drop of a few years ago.  (And when I look at that recap, I am simply stunned by what I managed to be stunned by.)  I did find it much more substantive and tasteful than Microsoft’s, though that could’ve been the live orchestra.

More to the point, the games – or, rather, the portions of new games that were presented to us – seemed more mature, more sophisticated.  This new, Norse-themed God of War reboot feels like a Naughty Dog game, with a nuanced relationship between a father and son.   Horizon similarly looks quite astonishing, although it’s hard to know how to extrapolate a full game experience from that 7-8 minute demo.  We have a 2016 release date for The Last Guardian, which is nice, even if I haven’t read any preview coverage that managed to get a clear handle on what it is.

Honestly, I’m mostly excited about the Crash Bandicoot remasters.  And also the PSVR, which comes in at a price point that I can most probably survive.

This is all well and good, but now that’s it’s been a few days I’m more concerned about what we didn’t see – like No Man’s Sky (which I suspect was withheld simply because they’re in crunch time and didn’t have time to show anything without severely cramping their style).  And of course Sony did not talk about the “Neo”, which begs the question – will my PSVR work better with the new hardware?  Can I afford a Neo and a Scorpio while still paying my mortgage?  Will my wife leave me if I buy them both anyway?

* * *

With regards to the rest of the show: I am the wrong dude to ask.  Work has been crazy, and whatever free time I’ve had this week has been devoted to posting about gun control and how horrible Donald Trump is. But I can run off a few bullet points:

  • I bought Trials of the Blood Dragon after hearing about it at the Ubisoft presser because I love the Trials games, and after 15 minutes with it I can tell you that whoever decided to make a Trials game where you get off the motorcycle and engage in shitty platforming/shooting segments needs to get fired immediately.
  • The South Park game looks awesome.
  • Ubisoft’s winter-sports thing looks promising, though I’ve heard some absolutely dreadful impressions.
  • I must cop to admitting that Call of Duty in space actually looks pretty neat.
  • I very nearly pre-ordered the ultimate edition of Forza Horizon 3 earlier today.  I don’t know why, nor do I know why I stopped.
  • I’m willing to give that standalone Gwent game a look, though I never played more than the tutorial in Witcher 3 proper.
  • Speaking of which, I need to get back to that Blood & Wine DLC.
  • Also need to get back to Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, though to be honest I’m not enjoying it all that much.  It feels like EA’s first draft of a Ubisoft open-world game, and you can take that however you want.

the inevitable Rockstar wishlist

In this interview with Take Two Interactive’s Strauss Zelnick, it is tantalizingly revealed that something is happening at this year’s E3:

With a number of new games, plus its eSports plans, 2016 is shaping up to be a far busier year for the teams at Take-Two. But could there be more? What about Red Dead Redemption 2? Or Ken Levine’s new project? Zelnick is tight lipped, but points towards E3 as an event to look forward to.

“We will be there in a big way,” he concludes.

This can only mean one thing, and that is:  Table Tennis VR.

Well, but also, surely this means we’re going to hear something definitive about Red Dead Redemption 2.  Right?  There is no other existing Take Two-published property that is in greater demand.  A remastered Bioshock Trilogy for current-gen consoles is inevitable.  A new Borderlands is probable.  And yeah, I’m sure we’ll hear something about Ken Levine’s new thing, though if it’s a small indie game made by a small team, I can’t imagine it’ll dominate their news cycle.  XCOM 2 for PS4/XB1 makes sense.  Civ Rev 2 for Vita is a thing that is supposedly still happening.

Listen, people:  I want my Red Dead 2, and I want it now.  Please and thank you.


Very pleased to see that Superhot is getting terrific reviews.  Assuming the boy goes to bed at his usual time (and nothing is certain on that front anymore), I will be checking it out this very evening (presumably while my rental copy of Far Cry Primal installs on my PS4).

The (Obligatory) 2015 Fall Release Calendar Review

Today is Madden Day, which also generally marks my obligatory annual looking-over of the fall release schedule.  I’m not feeling as gung-ho about it as I usually am, however, and I suppose there are several reasons why.

1. I’m looking over the upcoming releases and there’s not a whole hell of a lot that I’m terribly excited about.  We’ll get to that in a bit, of course, when I run over the list in detail, but here’s the larger point:  of the 14 games that are in my upcoming rental queue, 3 of them are remasters of last-gen games, and 9 of them are sequels.  One of the remaining two is a movie spin-off, and the other is a port of a PC RPG (which I also apparently already own on PC, though I don’t remember buying it – my PC appears to be dying, however, and so if I’m ever going to play it, the console seems like the only place to do it).  There are surely some indie/downloadable games that I’m forgetting about – No Man’s Sky comes to mind, though I can’t recall off the top of my head if that was ever guaranteed a 2015 release date – but that’s neither here nor there.

2. Being a homeowner means paying a mortgage, and even though the house is wonderful and the new town is lovely and we’re all very happy, I’m now – more than ever – very aware of my financial flexibility (or lack thereof), and so when I look at this list, there’s not really all that much that I feel that I can commit to, financially.  (Nor am I certain that I will have 400 spare hours to play Fallout 4 – I would like to spend some time with my wife and child, after all, and I also need to get back to work on the album.)

3. None of these upcoming games are doing anything to cure my general malaise towards gaming in general.  Even my current NG+ playthrough of Witcher 3 is being done in a very half-hearted manner; that game is still my current pick for Game of the Year, but I’m not sure I have the energy to do everything again for another 80 hours, especially since it’s hard for me to make different choices.  There are certain large-scale events that I know I’m going to handle differently, but the smaller conversational stuff… I always feel like I need to answer truthfully, especially when the writing is so good, and so I find myself saying the same things a second time.

It’s strange; I’ve got my gaming situation all hooked up, with a new TV and a new entertainment center and a couch and a table and I’m free to play whatever I want without worrying about making too much noise, and this is a welcome return to all that I’ve ever wanted since I was playing my Atari 2600 (and my brother’s Genesis) in my mom’s basement as a kid, and yet… I kinda don’t really give a shit anymore.  I’d like to think that some of these games are going to be fun to play, but I’m not really feeling pulled towards any one of them in particular, and that’s an awfully strange feeling to have after all this time.

Before I get into this thing, here’s a general question – should I even bother holding on to my 3DS anymore?  I recently plugged it in for the first time in maybe a year, and I was unable to get it to properly update on my home wi-fi (which doesn’t make any sense, but then again, I’ve never had much luck getting a reliable internet connection on that thing ever since I bought it).  In any event, the only thing that interests me on the 3DS’s horizon is Picross 3D 2, but according to this article there’s no North American release date scheduled, and I’ve been so out of the loop as far as Nintendo is concerned that anything involving Amiibos makes me nervous; I don’t know what they are, but neither do I want my 2.5 year old kid to suddenly want them, because I literally can’t afford to get sucked into a toy ecosystem vortex right now.

Anyway, here we go – all titles and release dates via Game Informer.

August 25

  • Calvino Noir (PS4) – I’ll need to read some reviews before I download this one, but it definitely seems up my alley.
  • Dishonored: Definitive Edition – I’ve rented this for the Xbox One, mostly because I guess I’m more of an Achievement Whore than I care to admit.  I’ve already played it on PC, but I never did finish the DLC.  This is more of a curiosity about the graphical upgrade than a sincere attempt at a playthrough, even if I like the game a lot.
  • Gears of War Ultimate Edition – I did pre-order this, for some reason, and it’s sitting on my XB1’s hard drive right now.  I don’t know that I need to play this, but – again – I’m curious to see the graphical upgrades.  And I wouldn’t mind having access to the backwards compatible Gears 2 and 3, either, especially as I’m not sure I still have those 360 discs anymore.
  • Madden NFL 16 – the reviews seem pretty positive for this one, surprisingly enough.  I haven’t really cared about Madden since my brother and I played together – and even then, our sports games of choice were NHL and/or NBA Jam.  [This might be as good a time as any to admit that I joined EA Access on the XB1 a few weeks ago, if only to have a free copy of Dragon Age Inquisition to play (and get Achievements for).  I’ve played maybe the first hour or so, and while it’s still a good game, it made me want to play Witcher 3 again instead.]  Anyway, so – as an EA Access member I was able to download a trial version of Madden, and… I still kinda don’t give a shit.  It’s not bad, per se, but rather – I don’t know enough about how football is played to be able to learn how to play Madden well anymore, and I’m never going to start caring enough to bother to try.

September

  • Mad Max – I’d like this game to be good.  I loved the movie, and the little I’ve seen of this one makes me think that there’s some genuine ambition behind it – that it’s not just a simple, easy cash-in.  But I’m certainly not pre-ordering this one – or anything, actually – and I’m not necessarily keeping my fingers crossed.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – There is no other game on this year’s calendar that’s causing me so much agita.  On the one hand, I think the Metal Gear franchise is the most comically overrated franchise in all of videogames; I think Kojima is the sort of dude who thinks there’s something profound about the smell of his own farts; and for every genuinely thrilling moment I had with MGS4, there was at least an hour’s worth of the most gawdawful cutscenes that would follow.  I also played Ground Zeroes once or twice and found it technologically impressive but also impenetrably dense and ridiculous and not necessarily all that much fun.  On the other hand, it’s being called a genuine masterpiece, far and away the best game in the series, and would appear to be the consensus frontrunner for Game of the Year by everybody who’s played it, even more so than the aforementioned Witcher 3.  With hyperbole like that surrounding this game, it’s going to be impossible for me to not play it.  I will do my best to keep an open mind.  But I’m very skeptical.
  • Tearaway Unfolded – I played about the first third/half on Vita and found it rather delightful, but after putting it down for a while I think I ended up deleting it in order to make room for other stuff.  I wouldn’t mind seeing if it translates to a big TV, but I’m not sure it’ll work in the same way – that game was very specifically designed to show off what the Vita could do, and the PS4 is a completely different animal altogether.
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime – I’m curious about this if only because I love that title.  I don’t know anything about it.  (quickly finds a YouTube trailer) Well, it certainly looks charming, but it also looks like it needs a good couch co-op partner, and I don’t think my wife’s gonna care about it.
  • Destiny: The Taken King – I deleted Destiny off my PS4’s hard drive at least 6 months ago; I’m so far behind in terms of levelling that I can’t possibly see myself going back.
  • Forza Motorsport 6 – I think I prefer the Horizon side of the Forza franchise, but I’ve always enjoyed the Forza games in general (even though I skipped F5).  I can see myself playing this for a few days, but I’m not sure it’s going to capture my heart enough to warrant a purchase.
  • Lego Dimensions – Ordinarily this is a no-brainer- I like the Lego games a lot, and I’m sure my kid would love this, and the mish-mash of licenses is super-appealing.  But if I’m not mistaken, isn’t this game going to be coming with physical toys and such?  I’m looking at GI’s “4 Reasons to Get Excited” and they have this pricing breakdown that makes my stomach hurt just from looking at it:
  • Starter Packs: $99.99, contains Batman, Wyldstyle, Gandalf, Batmobile, and Lego Gateway
  • Level Packs: $29.99, contains an additional new mission-based game level along with a minifigure, a vehicle, and a weapon.
  • Team Packs: $24.99, provide two minifigures and two vehicles or weapons, all with their own unique abilities.
  • Fun Packs: $14.99, provide a new minifigure and a vehicle or weapon.
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 – obviously I’d be lying if I said I felt confident that this wasn’t going to be a huge steaming piece of shit.  But a boy can dream.

October

  • Rock Band 4 – I’m a little annoyed that the Xbox One version will cost a bit extra if I want to be able to use my Xbox 360 instruments (which I still have), but can you really put a price on family fun?  Especially if I can still have access to my gigantic 360 DLC library of songs?
  • Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection – my PS3 is currently set up in the living room – not the man-cave – and I recently tossed in Uncharted 3 just to see if it still looked good, especially on my new TV.  And yeah, it still does!  It’s still also jam-packed with bullet-sponge enemies, and I still hate the PS3 controller with a fiery passion.  I was excited to see that Digital Foundry’s recent analysis seems to indicate that this collection is the real deal, though, and Uncharted is one of the few franchises that I’d gladly buy again on better hardware.  I thought The Last of Us was a vastly better experience on the PS4 if only because the PS4’s controller is so much better to use, and I’d like to think that the same will apply to making Uncharted’s endless combat sections much less annoying to deal with.
  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – As much as I enjoyed Black Flag, I actively loathed Unity, and I don’t know why I should keep any hopes up for this one.  This franchise, which I used to adore, positively exhausts me now.
  • Halo 5 – It’s on the list almost purely out of obligation; I own an Xbox One, I should play this.  I haven’t cared about Halo at all since maybe 2 or 3, and unless this wows me from the get-go (and most Halo games take a while to really get going), I can’t see myself finishing it.
  • Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition – this is the aforementioned port of a PC game that I don’t remember buying.  I’ve heard too much good stuff about this to ignore a console version, even though I don’t know if it’ll translate all that well – but, again, my PC is dying and if I’m ever going to play it, this is the only real way I can do it.

November

  • Fallout 4 – I was going to violate my “no more pre-ordering” rule for this one, specifically for that Pip-Boy thing, but because Bethesda wasn’t entirely forthcoming about whether mod support was going to be available for both PS4 and XB1, I didn’t know which system to get it for – in my experience, most multi-platform games run a lot better on the PS4, but the XB1 having PC mod support felt like a strong reason to lean in that direction.  I’m still not sure where I’m going to play this; I will probably wait for Digital Foundry’s analysis.  I’m more concerned about how to play this while still having a job and a family.  I’m also concerned about whether or not I’m going to enjoy this game the way i did with Fallout 3 and Oblivion and Skyrim; Bethesda’s made some great open-world games, to be sure, but those games are hard for me to go back to after spending hundreds of hours with more recent games like Witcher 3 and Red Dead Redemption – which is to say, Bethesda games can get janky sometimes, and their specific jankiness has become somewhat irritating to me.  I’d love to be proven wrong on this one.
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider – honestly, this is the game I’m really looking forward to more than anything else this year.  I adored the last one, so much so that I ended up playing it on 360, PC, PS4 and XB1.  And I had a great time with it each and every time.  And while I was among the many super-pissed-off fans that reacted poorly when the game was announced as a timed Xbox One exclusive, I’ve come around to appreciate the idea that it’s almost certainly in the game’s best interest to have only one console system to design for.  I’m sure the PS4 port will be worth playing – and I suspect I’ll play it again there, too, because I am a whore – but in the meantime, this is how I plan on spending my November.
  • Star Wars Battlefront – Let’s hope this isn’t terrible!
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III – I’m including this only so that nobody thinks I forgot about it.  I don’t see myself playing it unless it reviews extraordinarily well, and even then, I’m not gonna do much of the multiplayer, which probably begs the question:  why even bother?

December

  • Just Cause 3 – Because why not.

E3 2015: What Are We Excited About, Really?

I’ve always wondered who cheers and claps their hands and loudly yells “WOO!!!” during E3 keynote presentations; I’d been under the impression that they were press-only events, and even if “common folk” were allowed entry due to winning a contest, they’d still be outnumbered by the press by a wide margin.

But, then again, here are some of my Tweets during the Microsoft and Sony press conferences the other day:

in response to Microsoft announcing backwards compatibility:

in response to a Cuphead trailer:

in response to the Minecraft/HoloLens demonstration:

in response to the beginning of Sony’s press conference, before we realized we were seeing Last Guardian footage:

in response to the No Man’s Sky demo:

in response to FFVII Remake:

in response to Shenmue III:

So, yes, in the heat of the moment, I was very much jumping up and down and hooting and hollering, and if I’d been in the actual room surrounded by actual journalists, I probably would’ve forgotten myself and jumped up and down and hooted and hollered.   GUILTY AS CHARGED.

But now that it’s been a few days, and I’ve had some distance and some time to process everything we all saw, I’m feeling… well, maybe I’m still a bit pessimistic.

For starters:  almost all of Sony’s announcements, as dramatic and breath-taking as they were, did not contain any release dates – and when they did, almost none of them were for this year.

For another:  almost everything I hooted and hollered about above involved a known quantity.  I’ve already played Final Fantasy VII (well, the first 8-10 hours of it, I suppose); I’ve played ICO and at least half of Shadow of the Colossus and so while Last Guardian is technically “new”, it’s certainly somewhat familiar; I’ve played Shenmue 1 and 2 (and I have more to say on that in a bit); my primary reason for being excited for Xbox 360 compatibility (and cross-save support) is only because I love Red Dead Redemption too much to let it die (as do a lot of other people, too, apparently).

I’m very excited about what we saw of the new Tomb Raider; I’m hoping that Uncharted 4 doesn’t disappoint me the way that U3 did.  (The gameplay shown of each game at their respective presentations goes a long way towards explaining why I feel the way I do; both were exciting, but in very different ways – Tomb Raider’s slice was a very exciting and tense environmental gauntlet, whereas Uncharted 4’s slice began with gunfire and a car chase.  My favorite parts of both of these franchises are the non-combat environmental platforming, and Uncharted seems to be putting more emphasis on shooting people, and this is disappointing for reasons I’ve already talked about.)

I suppose I’m excited about Fallout 4, but when push comes to shove, I gotta say:  The Witcher 3 has raised the bar so fantastically high in terms of open-world RPGs that I’m not really 100% sure that Fallout 4 can hack it.  (And this is coming from someone who has devoured all of Bethesda’s big games, at least since Oblivion; the first time you play them, they’re quite stunning, but when you come back to them later they feel awfully stiff and archaic and janky as hell.)

I was impressed that Sony followed the Last Guardian reveal with a brand-new IP from the makers of Killzone, and which stars a female protagonist; I’ve already forgotten the name, and I don’t really know what it actually is.  I’m still really anxious to get my hands on No Man’s Sky, though even after the presser’s demo I’m still not 100% sure I know what that game is, and/or how I won’t eventually get bored with it.

And Shenmue… yeah.  We should probably talk about that.  I feel more than a little weird about the Kickstarter, as do a lot of people; on the one hand, I’m glad that people are giving it record-setting amounts of money, and I’m glad to know that I’ll eventually be able to play it, but it seems more than a bit strange that Sony would announce it in the form of a Kickstarter without also disclosing that they were going to contribute to its development.  I don’t pretend to know anything about Yu Suzuki or what he’s been up to for the last however many years, but up on that stage he looked like a man who’s been through hell, and the Kickstarter felt like some sort of strange attempt at maintaining pride and dignity.

And when I think about Shenmue 3…. do I even know what it is that I’m hoping for?  I finished the first game and got a few hours into the second one before getting incredibly frustrated by the controls and putting it down; I have no idea how the story ended.  Did I love the first game?  No, not particularly – I bought it because I owned a Dreamcast and I was contractually obligated to buy it, especially since its pre-release hype was breathtaking and deafening and I wasn’t yet properly cynical of these sorts of things (I have a memory of reading about its development – probably in the Official Dreamcast Magazine – and read something about how the game was so detailed that when Ryo went to drink a can of soda, the soda itself was motion captured), and yet it’s stuck with me in ways that many other, better games haven’t.  Something about it deeply resonated with me, even as I’m at a loss to explain what it was.  I remember it being somewhat stiff and clunky (especially Ryo’s voice acting), and I remember wanting to explore the city but always feeling pressured by the real-time clock and my in-game curfew; I remember the combat being better than expected, and the QTEs being interesting and innovative (Shenmue might’ve been the first game on that sort of grand scale to use them to their greatest effect), but also some ridiculously absurd forklift business towards the back third.  (Which, in a way, reminded me a little bit of GTA V‘s big heist, wherein part of Michael’s subterfuge involves literally mopping the floor.)   Above all else, I recall that Shenmue felt very honest and sincere about its intentions; it wasn’t being clever with its technology, but rather tried to be generous and inviting.  It had a story to tell and a world that the story inhabited, and the game very much wanted you to live that story in a way that no other game I’d played to that point had ever tried.

Time and technology have changed rather dramatically since those first two games, of course; I was 24 when I last played the first Shenmue, and when Shenmue 3 comes out – which, if it holds to its Kickstarter promise and is released in December 2017 – I’ll be 42.  I am curious; that’s about as optimistic as I can allow myself to be.

Heading Off Into the Wild Blue Suburbs

1.  First thing’s first – I’m in a much better mood today.  We had our house inspection yesterday, and it went far better than we could’ve hoped – the first house’s inspection was an utter disaster, and this inspection was really almost perfect – and basically now we’re just waiting for the bank to hold up their end, and for there to be no more hiccups between now and the closing date.  We even got to meet our neighbors, and they’re super-sweet and awesome, which is a huge relief.  And so if all goes well – I’m not naive enough to say that nothing could go wrong, but I’m hopeful – we should be moved in to the new digs in the first weekend of August.

1a.  It occurs to me, suddenly, that my gamertag for the last howevermany years is going to be out of date.  How can I continue to call myself JervoNYC when I’m living in New Jersey?  It also occurs to me that I’m gonna be 40 in December and I think it’s safe to say that I no longer give a shit about other people think.

2.  The Steam Summer Sale is happening and here’s how out of it I am – I had no idea it had even started until late last night.  I’m not particularly going out of my way to check out the deals.  Sure I’ve got a bunch of games on my wishlist that are dirt-cheap right now, but I’m so thoroughly consumed by Witcher 3 at the moment that it seems silly to spend money on games that I’m not going to get to for months (not to mention that my PC backlog right now is utterly, ludicrously huge anyway – I’m so, so sorry, Invisible Inc.).  If Pillars of Eternity comes down by more than 40%, I might pull the trigger; otherwise I’m going to sit it out.

3.  Re: Witcher 3:  I’ve played enough of it by now (currently level 22, most likely on my way out of Skellige) to know that I’m never going to 100% it, and I’ve accepted that reality, and it’s totally OK.  In the early going, I was doing nearly every sidequest and monster contract and treasure hunt I could get my hands on, and now I’m at the point where I’m at least 7-8 levels above the recommended level for the main story quests, which is maybe not the best way to experience that content, especially as the rewards I get for those quests aren’t necessarily all that hot anymore.  All the questing I’ve done so far has been enjoyable, in and of itself; it’s just that the rewards are starting to become less impressive, and that’s solely because I’ve done possibly too much questing.  (An additional bummer is that I’ve got a whole bunch of crafting recipes for enhanced items, which are sadly useless since I never found the recipes for the original, vanilla items.)

There are some minor nit-picky tweaks that I’d like to see implemented in future patches, especially when it comes to crafting (which I’m finding myself spending a lot of time doing), such as:  if there’s a recipe for something where you currently lack an ingredient (i.e., a silver ingot as part of a sword), but you do have the materials to craft that missing ingredient, you should be able to directly jump to the missing ingredient and craft it and then jump right back to the original recipe.  I’m also holding on to, like, a bazillion flowers and monster parts that I’m not sure I’m ever going to need, especially since any alchemy item I craft is auto-replenished after a meditation period; it’d be nice to have the game tell me as much, or at least let me sort my items by relevance.

And while we’re at it, re-loading saves TAKES FOR-FUCKING-EVER.

Still – these are very minor concerns.  The overall experience is nothing short of breathtaking.  This is the most into a game I’ve felt since probably Red Dead Redemption, and I’m doing my best to savor each and every moment I can with it.  You know that feeling where you’re reading a book and you love it so much that you literally can’t put it down, not even when you’re half-asleep?  That’s how I’m feeling with Witcher 3.  It’s my GOTY and I’ll be very, very impressed if anything can knock it from the top spot before the year’s end.

4.  I still kinda can’t believe that E3 is next week.  My day job is going to be nuts, and so I’m pessimistic that I’ll be able to follow any of the main press conferences beyond a cursory nod every once in a while.  I’m sure my wishlist is the same as yours (i.e., Fallout 4 gameplay footage), and I’m also sure that my dream wishlist (i.e., any news whatsoever about Red Dead 2) will most likely remain a dream.  But I’m also becoming more and more wary of E3 and similar events, where the hype is so overwhelming that, at the end of the day, it’s hard to know what I’m actually cheering for, or even why I’m cheering in the first place.  Most of what we’re gonna see next week is going to get delayed until 2016 anyway, and a great deal of it will have changed radically between next week’s reveals and the final release code.  So I’m going to be looking at next week’s news with a highly cynical eye.

That’s it and that’s all.

Asleep at the Wheel: E3 2015 prognosticaions and other ramblings

1.  Now that Fallout 4 has been officially revealed – and a new Gears of War game has been very strongly implied by the formation/re-naming of its development studio – it was put to Twitter to determine what unannounced game could possibly upstage those two.

I have two answers:  Red Dead Redemption 2, and/or Portal 3: Cake or Death (co-starring Eddie Izzard, obviously).

I’d of course love to see release dates (and gameplay footage) for Mirror’s Edge 2 and the new Crackdown, and certainly I’d like to know what Criterion is up to (as well as what Three Fields is doing (the new studio formed by Criterion’s founders)).  No Man’s Sky should be getting a more thorough rundown, and I’d love to get more information about The Witness.  I’d be incredibly surprised and pleased to hear more definitive information about the new Mass Effect game (and less surprised but certainly intrigued by a seemingly inevitable ME original trilogy HD remaster, and I’d buy that in a heartbeat if I could somehow import my save data from my 360 playthroughs).

On that note, now that the Uncharted HD trilogy has been more or less announced, one wonders what other last-gen games will be announced at E3 for a current-gen treatment.  I still maintain that a Bioshock HD trilogy is a no-brainer, though perhaps it would make sense to release closer to whatever’s next for that franchise; I also maintain that a Rockstar remastered box set of Red Dead 1, GTA4, Max Payne 3, and/or L.A. Noire is an impossible (but near-orgasmic) dream.

As I write this, I see that the first official Steam Machines will be coming out this fall.  If the specs are good, I might end up getting one of these – my current PC is starting to show its age, and it’d be nice to keep my gigantic Steam library as part of my rotation.  (I will hopefully be moved in to the new house by then, too, and so having a Steam Machine will make my gaming man-cave more or less complete.)

Beyond that, I’m kinda just curious to see how it goes.  I have no real expectations.  I am hopeful that I can live-blog my impressions of each press conference, though that may be impossible for various real-world reasons.

2.  A whole bunch of boffo iOS games have come out lately.  Last night saw the release of You Must Build a Boat, the sequel to the much-beloved 10000000, as well as Hitman: Sniper, which is very much like that PC demo from a few years back.  I’ve also been playing the shit out of Lara Croft Relic Run, which might be the most ambitious endless runner ever made; and I’m also helplessly addicted to Ball King, which is a free basketball shooter with lo-fi graphics but really good physics, which makes hitting tough shots ridiculously satisfying.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Twenty, which is a maddeningly addictive hybrid of Drop 7 and Threes.

3.  I’ve taken a 2-day break from The Witcher 3.  I’ve been meaning to write about it all week but haven’t been able to put my thoughts in order.  (I’m about to hit level 15, and I’m kinda just messing around with side-quests in Novigrad.)

My original thesis was that I loved it to death, and that I loved it specifically because I didn’t feel alienated by how it goes about its business (the way I felt about, say, GTA V or Far Cry 4 or any other AAA game of recent years).  Witcher 3 scratches a lot of the same itches that Red Dead Redemption does (which is great), and it also solves some of Red Dead’s narrative problems by making Geralt exactly the sort of person who would do random things for people – that’s his job.  And I also love that when he’s given stupid stuff to do, he’s really funny about it – for example, there’s an early story sub-quest wherein you have to find a goat for the local witch doctor.  Geralt rolls his eyes but knows he has to do it, and when he finds the goat (by ringing a little bell), he says something very much like “Hurry up and follow me, you stupid piece of shit”, which is something that had me literally laughing out loud right up until we both got jumped by a bear.  I love that each person you meet has their own quest line, which makes you feel more invested in what they have to say and how they’re helping you along in your own quest.  I said this before but it bears repeating – I love that the conversation system isn’t always obviously good/bad, which makes role-playing that much more immersive; more often than not, Geralt will have an option to say the thing that I personally would say, and I appreciate the level of nuance that the writers have carefully crafted into each situation.

That being said, I can’t help but notice that everybody is white, and that all the ladies with speaking roles have their boobs hanging out all the time.  I suppose I can appreciate the argument that, while more diversity in games is necessary, it isn’t always appropriate, but I can’t not notice that of the hundreds and hundreds of digital people and dwarves and elves and monsters and fiends and such that I’ve come across in Witcher 3, not a single one of them is a person of color.  Again – I appreciate that this is a Polish-made game that reflects Slavic mythological fantasy, but I also note that nearly every speaking voice is that of a Brit, and that this game was built to be sold to a Western audience.

On the lighter side, I do hope they patch in a photo mode.

4.  I finished Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves earlier this week; I’m not about to write a full review of it here, but the short version is that it’s my favorite thing he’s written in quite a long time.  It has more than a few spots where it’s a little dry, and the subject matter of the final third is a bit…. hmm… troubling?  Is that a good way to describe eugenics, even if it’s done out of necessity and not out of some sort of Hitler-inspired craziness?  In any event, it’s stuck with me ever since I put it down, and I may end up needing to read it again soon.

2015 Resolutions and Anticipations

A Preface in Three Parts:

1:  I finished the Forza Horizon 2 Finale race last night.  I’ve apparently still got more to do, as the credits didn’t roll, but that was the big one.  If I were still keeping track of Achievements, and if I still had a category for “Favorite Achievement of the Year”, I suspect the 50 points I picked up for winning that 20-minute gauntlet would rank right up there with anything else I did this year.  After soaking in that victory for a bit, I then headed over to race in Storm Island, and WHOA, that shit is crazy.  Extreme weather, terrain, lighting and visibility – total madness, a complete 180 from the relatively calm and serene mainland campaign.  I’m not sure what the rest of the island is like, but that first race makes one hell of a first impression, and it shakes up the already-excellent formula enough to make it worth spending some more time in.

2:  I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I should buy it; I’d already sunk in a fair amount of time, and felt like I’d seen what I needed to see even if I only got halfway through…. but I also felt like I needed to finish it for real.  And so, in the end, Alien Isolation was on sale for $30 on PSN, and I picked it up, and it remembered my last save point from October.  So that’s something to look forward to.

3: I want to join the chorus in wishing Patrick Klepek the best of luck in his future endeavors.  His is a necessary, vital voice in this business, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.  On a purely personal level, he’s also single-handedly responsible for the biggest spike in traffic this site’s ever gotten (scroll down to #3), and so if nothing else I’m indebted to him for keeping this site visible, however marginally that visibility may be.


 

Pop Culture Consumption Resolutions for 2015:

  1. No more pre-ordering.  As you’ll see below, my “must-have” list of games for 2015 is relatively small, and given what we’ve been through in 2014 with nearly every significant AAA release bogged down by serious issues on release day, I don’t necessarily have any faith that these future releases will be released in an acceptable shape.  I can wait; I can rent.
  2. Along those lines, I’m going to try and beef up my commentary skills this year.  Maybe I’m being overly hard on myself, but most of my analysis is pretty superficial, and doesn’t necessarily get to the core of what’s actually going on.  Even this Cameron Kunzelman piece about how he doesn’t know how to describe Super Time Force Ultra still explains more about his experience playing it than I do on an average day.  I’m always aiming to be a better writer, but now I think I have a better idea of what “being a better writer” actually means (for the purposes of this blog, at least).
  3. I am going to stop.  playing.  Clicker Heroes.
  4. The backlogs are getting dealt with.  And if it means that I’m going to start keeping widgets on the sidebar to further shame myself into finishing stuff that needs finishing, then that’s what it means.
    • As far as my PC goes, I’m rapidly approaching the point where it’s not really capable of performing on par with my PS4 and XB1, but I still have a frighteningly large backlog to address on Steam that it can handle, and I’m gonna have to deal with that at some point.
    • And I still have a bunch of games on my PS4 that I haven’t finished – Shadow of Mordor and Far Cry 4 perhaps being the largest omissions, though there’s also Transistor, Valiant Hearts, and Oddworld New & Tasty.  (And also Sunset Overdrive on the XB1.)
    • Regarding my Kindle backlog – I’m cutting myself off and not buying any more books until I finish my to-read pile, which at this point is probably 20+ titles deep.  (I did end up buying the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, but that’s it.)

I also further resolve to SPEAK UP and SPEAK OUT when stupid bullshit is happening out there in the world.  I can’t call myself an ally if I’m not doing anything to back that up.  I sincerely hope that 2015 provides less opportunities for shouting, but if it doesn’t, then I aim to shout as purposefully and effectively as I can.

Game Anticipations for 2015:  (with special assistance from this handy Game Informer page)
* denotes a game that I’m not 100% convinced will be coming out in 2015

THE MUST-HAVES

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Witcher 3
  • Uncharted 4 *
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider *
  • Firewatch *
  • Superhot
  • Below

THE RENTALS, AT THE VERY LEAST

  • PGA Tour Golf (EA’s first without Tiger, after a year-long hiatus)
  • Crackdown 3 *
  • Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
  • Final Fantasy XV *
  • Mad Max *
  • Inside (from the makers of Limbo)

THE CURIOSITIES

  • The Order 1886
  • Bloodborne
  • Halo 5
  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain
  • Silent Hills *

Here’s hoping we all have a safe and happy New Year’s, and may 2015 be everything that 2014 wasn’t.  Cheers.

 

The Rest Of The Year

I seem to have picked up a number of new followers over the last few weeks, ever since I decided to expand the scope of this blog’s subject matter.  For those of you new to the blog, hello!  I’m glad to have you here.  That being said, today’s post is probably going to be of very little interest to you; for today is, more or less, the beginning of the fall videogame release deluge, and you might as well know what you’re going to be in for, if you’re coming here on a regular basis.

I’ve said this before, and I’m saying it again because, well, why not:  I am not a professional game journalist, and the readership of this blog is relatively small, and yet despite all this I still feel compelled to play as many of the big game releases as I can, if only so that I can talk about everything in short bursts that are not nearly as insightful and helpful as if I actually sat down and focused on one thing at a time; this comes out of a desire to be part of the larger conversation about games, even if I am but a tiny voice in the throng of much more well-informed speakers.

As it happens, I’d originally started writing this post yesterday afternoon, listing (in order of priority) the games I planned on playing for the rest of 2014. This list, of course, contains no critical insight; I’m putting it here so that (a) I can remember what’s coming up, and (b) you might have an idea of what I’m going to be writing about over the coming weeks.

But after this morning’s astonishingly good reviews for Dragon Age Inquisition and this afternoon’s equally astonishingly disappointing reviews for Assassin’s Creed Unity, the list has gone all sideways on me.

So, then:  here’s what’s coming up.

  1. Assassin’s Creed Unity (PS4) – Thank God I was able to successfully cancel my pre-order – of the super-deluxe edition, no less.  That being said, the rental copy is still on its way, and so I’m probably going to at least try it out for a few hours, time permitting.  I am wary of this franchise; it was a slow and steady climb that peaked for me with Brotherhood, fell apart completely between Revelations and AC3, and somehow was built back up with last year’s Black Flag.  I’m glad to hear that the last-gen Rogue is getting better reviews, though my 360 is dead and my PS3 is in a similarly unplayable state.
  2. Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4) – Meanwhile, holy shit, have you seen the reviews this has been getting?  I was a bit on the fence about this one – the first game didn’t really appeal to me, and the second one played a bit better but had some very significant and unfortunate flaws – but WOW.  When I need a long, deep RPG to sink my teeth into this winter, I’ll be very grateful to have this one around.
  3. Grand Theft Auto V (PS4) – I felt conflicted buying the HD conversion, because I find the story abhorrent and – well, look, I’ve already written about it.  But at the end of the day, I still have a greater affection for the world than I do for the narrative, and so being able to explore it again on my own terms is a far more appealing prospect.  Maybe I’ll even muck around with the online side of things a bit more, who knows.  And some of the forthcoming single-player content sounds intriguing – like that murder mystery bit, which is a nice knowing nod to L.A. Noire.
  4. Far Cry 4 (PS4) – Given Ubisoft’s worrying track record when it comes to next-gen AAA titles this year, I’m not necessarily holding my breath.  But I already pre-ordered it, so, I guess I’m stuck with it.  I’m not necessarily feeling as conflicted about it as I was with Far Cry 3 (which coupled my already-heavy shooter fatigue with the heavy, sorrowful feelings I had regarding the Newtown massacre), but I haven’t been paying a great deal of attention to the preview coverage, either.   
  5. Little Big Planet 3 (PS4) – I’m renting this one, and this might very well mark the first time I let my 19-month-old son put his hands on a game controller.  I have a fondness for the franchise because how can you not, it’s the cutest goddamned thing you’ve ever seen, but let’s be honest – the platforming can be a bit fussy and floaty, and I’ve never really given the creation tools much of a go.
  6. continue playing Forza Horizon 2 (XBO) – I don’t know that I’ll ever 100% it, but I plan on keeping this in the rotation for as long as it continues to be entertaining, and given that I’ve been putting 2-3 hours into it every day without getting tired of it, it’s going to stay in the rotation.
  7. continue Sunset Overdrive (XBO) – This has taken a back seat to Forza, obviously.  I haven’t forgotten about it, but I don’t know that it’ll be high on my to-do list, either.  (Ironic, too, given that the Sunset Overdrive bundle is the Xbox One bundle I’d had my eye on in the first place.)
  8. try to finish Shadow of Mordor (PS4) – I expect this game to rank pretty high on the various GOTY lists that will start going up at the end of the year, but it never quite did anything for me.  I don’t want to give up on it, necessarily, but I had a hard time staying with it and it’s been so long since I picked it up that I may just have to start over from scratch.
  9. try to finish Mind: Path of Thalamus (PC)
  10. try to finish The Talos Principle (PC) – These two are very enjoyable (though somewhat obtuse) puzzle games, but I’ve gotten to the point in both of them where I’m just not quite smart enough to advance.
  11. maybe try the Halo collection (XBO) – You can’t beat the price, but:  I was never the biggest fan of the campaigns, and I’d wager that the main reason this is coming out at all is so that hard-core Halo fans can continue to play their favorite maps on their new console.  I suck at competitive Halo, so the pull isn’t quite there.