rust and dust


Well, look: I’ve gotta start shaking the rust off now that we’re approaching year-end season. I’ve got Top 10 Lists to write! (That reminds me, I’ve gotta try to fill in the gaps in my spreadsheets!)

In any event, here I am. And there you are. And so let’s begin.

Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, or maybe I’m just trying to be realistic about money and time, but there’s not a hell of a lot that’s jumping out at me in terms of big releases before Christmas. Borderlands 3 had been one of the games I’d been looking forward to, but I rented it and found it stale. (Of course, I checked out right at the moment that most of the reviews say that it starts to pick up (i.e., once you leave the first planet), but that’s a lot to ask.)

Basically, this Friday’s release of Outer Worlds is it, as far as my gaming energies will be concerned. I’m apathetic towards Call of Duty, I’m actively avoiding Death Stranding, and I’m a bit wary of Shenmue III. But Outer Worlds looks like it’s gonna scratch my itch for a deep sci-fi RPG. (Early reviews are calling it Fallout in space, and that’s pretty much all I needed to hear.)

There are certainly some indie games that I’m sure I’ll be excited to try, though for whatever reason indie games tend to not show up in release-date lists. Cases in point: I recently rented both Indivisible and Trine 4, and they are both excellent, and I will most likely buy them when they inevitably go on sale.

Oh, and I’m finally playing Return of the Obra Dinn. That is a hell of a game! I have no idea what I’m doing – the gameplay loop is somewhat obtuse – but I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. As far as the time manipulation / murder mystery / catastrophe at sea / radically minimal graphic design genre is concerned, it’s aces.

I’m also having this weird dilemma common to multi-platform users where I’m torn between what system to play on. I tried the remaster of Planescape: Torment on Xbox last week, and found it quite enticing. (Plus: Achievements! Yes, I still give a shit about them!) And then I considered getting the game on Switch, because portability. And then I remembered that I already own the game on iOS, and if portability is truly an issue then I can play it on my phone if my iPad is too much to deal with.

So I’m an idiot, in other words. But you knew that already.

As far as reading goes, Goodreads says I’m at 78 books out of 80 (I decided to revise my goal a few months back, since I’d easily sped past my original goal). Not everything I’ve read lately has been all that great, but considering how strong the year has been overall, I suppose it’s OK to hit something of a lull. To put it another way, my Year In Reading post will be a lot more detailed than anything else I might put up.

I think that’s all I’ve got for the day. I know it’s not much, but it’s something. And since I’ve been dealing with some unusually wild depression issues of late, I’ll take whatever I can get.

The First Few Hours: Marvel’s Spider-Man

It’s early-mid September, school is back in session, and it’s finally feeling somewhat autumnal in the NYC area; yes, today is cold and rainy, but after 4 straight months of 90+ and humidity, I’ll take it.  I miss wearing jackets and comfy pajamas.

Friday’s release of Marvel’s Spider-Man would also appear to be the official kick-off of the AAA blockbuster release schedule; Shadow of the Tomb Raider comes out later this week, and then we’ve got a few weeks to finish those before my personal big three hit the scene in October:  Forza Horizon 4Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and last but not least Red Dead Redemption 2.  I’m not really feeling all that excited about Fallout 76; I’m hopeful but not necessarily optimistic about Darksiders 3; I’m almost certainly going to buy Civilization VI for the Switch even though I know I won’t play more than 15 minutes of it on the easiest difficulty setting; and then Just Cause 4 is something I’d like to see a bit more of.

And meanwhile I’ve still got a considerable backlog to get through; I’ve put in over 10 hours into Nier:Automata, though I’m kinda stuck at the moment and I’m not sure if I’m even enjoying it.  Then again, I’m not sure that anything is going to pull me away from Spider-Man right now.

Let me back up a quick second.

When it comes to superheroes, I’m a passive but agreeable fan.  I never got into comic books as a kid, so the whole of my exposure to them was from movies and t-shirts.  I don’t think I ever had a “favorite” superhero.   My wife is a hard-core Marvel girl, and so we live in a Marvel house.  I think the Marvel movies are fun enough and competently made – and the DC movies are hot garbage except for the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, but that’s mostly because I’m a Christopher Nolan fan first and foremost.

I’ve never really cared all that much about Spider-Man, if I’m honest.  Never particularly liked the Sam Raimi movies; can’t even remember if I watched the Andrew Garfield one(s); the most recent iteration is fine, if only because I adore Michael Keaton and I’ll see him in pretty much anything, and he’s been good enough in the Avengers.  The character himself is… well, I don’t know.  The endless quips come off as annoying to me, and while I could certainly relate to being an adolescent teenager who is lovesick and having strange issues with puberty, that’s about as much as we’d ever have in common.

My son, on the other hand, is a fanatic.  When I told him there was a new Spider-Man game coming out, he couldn’t wait to check it out.  And this is how he looked while he watched me play.


Who am I to discourage him?

Anyway, holy shit, this game.  My god.  It’s as if all the best parts (traversal, combat) of the Arkham Batman games met all the best parts (narrative) of the better Naughty Dog games, while throwing in tons of collectibles like this was an Assassin’s Creed game, all while being visually sumptuous and exhilarating.   Zipping around the city is as much fun as I’ve had in a game all goddamned year.  Hell, I even found my office:

The game’s depiction of Manhattan geography is a bit wacky, but I did find my office building and it’s remarkably accurate.

I’m maybe 5-6 hours in – honestly, I lost track of time yesterday while playing it.  I’ve been staying away from the main story and am mostly focusing on exploration and collectibles and opening up the map, and it’s been absolutely glorious.  It’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about today, and until Tomb Raider drops on Wednesday (yes, I pre-ordered, don’t judge me) it’s all I’m going to be playing.

Who knows if the rest of the game is as fun, but whatever – as far as first impressions go, this is knocking it out of the park.

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

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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?


  • Just Cause 3 – Because why not.

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 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.

What’s Next: Budgeting For the End of 2014

For the second night in a row I’ve woken up in the middle of the night to pee and then been unable to fall back asleep.  And so I’ll find myself looking at Twitter, and looking at Twitter in the twilight hours over the last 2 nights has been, shall we say, deeply unsettling – between the horrifying insanity of Ferguson at night and the horrifying hostility against women in the video games community at all hours of the day, I’m amazed I can sleep at all.

So, then, I’m finding myself compelled to prepare for the inevitable retail therapy that I’m going to indulge in.

And as it happens, I have just been made aware (via Kotaku) of the Always Up-To-Date Calendar of Upcoming Video Game Releases, which is a good thing to be aware of.   And now I’m trying to figure out how the rest of the year is going to shake out.

As always, I’m still on the fence about the Xbox One.  I am tempted by the Sunset Overdrive/XBO bundle, and if I were to go through with that I’d certainly pick up a copy of Forza Horizon 2 as well, and thus it stands to reason that I’d eventually end up with the Halo box set.  But I’m not sure that’s enough, you know?  Forza looks amazing but I’m not sure how much mileage I’m going to get out of Sunset Overdrive, and I’ve already played Halo 1-4.  (Well, a couple hours of 4, at least.)

So, then:  I’m doing this mostly looking at PS4/Vita/PC titles.  What follows are my cherry-picked titles of interest.  Bold indicates a definite buy; italics indicates a curious rental.

August 26:

  • Metro Redux

August 28:

  • Infamous: First Light (I forget that Infamous came out this year.  Haven’t really thought about it at all since I finished it.  If this reviews well, I’d be happy to check it out, but it’s gonna have to review really, really well.)

September 2:

  • Danganronpa 2 (haven’t played the first one, but people rave about it.  If you’ve played it, I’d love to get your impressions.)

September 9:

  • Destiny (I think I pre-ordered the Digital Guardian edition.)

September 23:

  • FIFA 15 (if only because I still have some residual World Cup fever floating around; I don’t expect to hang on to this for very long, and I’d like to think I’d still be deep into Destiny)

September 30:

  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (I’ve heard too many good things about this, and so now I’m irrationally excited)

October 7:

  • Alien: Isolation (god I hope this isn’t a piece of shit)

October 14:

  • Sleeping Dogs DE (really just want to see the first hour or so in HD.  no intention of playing the whole thing again)
  • The Evil Within (I’m not the biggest fan of horror games, but I’m curious.)

October 24:

  • Civilization: Beyond Earth

October 28:

  • Assassin’s Creed Unity
  • Freedom Wars (Vita)

November 11:

  • The Crew

November 18:

  • Dragon Age Inquisition
  • Far Cry 4
  • Little Big Planet 3

November 30:

  • Project CARS

December 9:

  • Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris


The Summer Doldrums 2K14

Every night after we put our son to bed, my wife and I will ask each other if either one wants the living room TV.  I use it to play games; she’s currently hooked on Orange Is The New Black.  Last night, she asked me if I wanted the TV, and I suddenly realized that I’m not going to need the TV for months.

We have officially entered the summer doldrums, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  The next game on my to-do list, according to Game Informer’s Release Calendar, is Oddworld: New & Tasty which is released for PS4 on July 22.  After that, it’s mostly odds and sods until Destiny comes out in September.  I haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to purchase the remastered The Last Of Us or not (July 29), and while I’d like to play Diablo III (August 19) with my PS4 friends, I’m only doing it if I can carry over my PC characters – and there’s no direct confirmation that I can do that.

I’ve still got quite a lot of backlog to get caught up on – plus a ton of Vita stuff to try – and there are new rumors that Steam’s Summer Sale is starting this Thursday.  Thankfully, my Steam wishlist is very eclectic right now; it’s mostly weird indie stuff that I don’t necessarily need right this very minute.

(the top 5 titles on my wishlist)

  1. Goat Simulator
  2. NaissanceE
  3. A Story About My Uncle
  4. Vertiginous Golf
  5. Escape Goat 2

Lots of goats on my wishlist, as it turns out – the original Escape Goat is further down the list, too.  2014 is the Year of the Goat, I guess.  So it goes.

Looking at that release calendar, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed.  There are certainly a few highlights to look forward to, and I remain hopeful that there’s enough stuff between DestinyAlien: Isolation, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Evil WithinEvolve, Middle Earth Shadow of MordorAssassin’s Creed Unity and Far Cry 4 to fill out the year’s presumptive top 10, but I’m definitely missing some of the notable titles that were delayed until 2015 (especially that new Batman game).

There’s also the notable absence of Civilization: Beyond Earth on that list, which I was pretty sure was still coming out this year, and which I’m very excited for even if I remain incredibly intimidated by the Civ franchise as a whole.

So, then:  what are you going to do?  Tackle the backlog, or go nuts on Steam?  Or both?  Or neither, and spend time with your family and read books and enjoy the summer weather?  Or maybe go back to writing music on a regular basis, which you’ve pretty much stopped completely ever since your son was born?

a light glimmers in the dark

Not to be too melodramatic here, but I’ve been feeling bummed out about games lately, and I came pretty close to shutting this blog down.

To be more specific:  I felt disconnected from a hobby that I’ve been passionate about for almost 30 years.  I felt like I wasn’t able to connect with games anymore, and I wasn’t sure if it was because I’d gotten older and harder to reach, or that the games themselves simply didn’t care about trying to reach me.  I felt increasingly at odds with the community at large, what with hostile comment threads and Twitter bullying, horrendous attitudes on sexism, sexuality, race and equality.   I’d begun to feel alienated from one of the only things that really made me feel like I belonged anywhere.

And then, all of a sudden:  Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons comes out and hits me square in the solar plexus.

And now, earlier this week: sterling reviews for the latest DLC for Dishonored (which prompted me to go finish The Knife of Dunwall), Saints Row IV, and possibly one of the most anticipated indie games of the year:  Gone Home, which I’m in the process of purchasing right this very minute.  Not to mention Plants v Zombies 2, which I’ve been doodling around with on my iPhone.  And also Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, which I’ve played about an hour or so and which so far is a very good-looking Mario & Luigi RPG, which suits me just fine.

Oh, and then this GTAV trailer, which is fucking insane:

Maybe it was just the summer doldrums bringing me down.  But I’m back, baby!

EDIT:  I can’t believe I forgot to mention Papers, Please and the inexplicably well-reviewed new Splinter Cell.  Sweet mercy, it’s been a pretty amazing month.

belt tightening

Last night, the wife and I had a tough conversation about money.

Our 3-month old son (that’s him in the site’s header image, by the way) had his first “transition” daycare visit this morning, and he starts going in earnest in 2 weeks.  And for us to be able to afford daycare – and keep ourselves in baby supplies, and pay the rent and the rest of our bills, and also eat – well, we’re already cutting it pretty close, and there’s not a hell of a lot of wiggle room.  I’ve also got some rather sizable debt to pay off, too, and while I’ve made considerable progress on that front I’ve still got a ways to go, which makes this all the more anxiety-inducing.

Something’s got to give, basically.

And after some online banking and some soul-searching (and a little bit of drinking), I came to the realization that the only thing I really spend any extra money on these days is games.

This kinda sucks, as you might imagine – I am a self-professed consumer whore – but the more I think about it, this is not the worst time to be a broke gamer.   If I’m truly honest with myself, there’s really only one game coming out this year that I need in any sort of non-negotiable way.  Steam will have having its Summer Sale any minute now, too, and I could probably see myself picking up one or two things on my wishlist if they’re discounted enough – but let’s be honest here, after all the previous Steam Sales, there’s really not all that much that’s left for me to buy.  And I can certainly pare down my Gamefly account to one game at a time, as opposed to three, to be able to handle the rest of the to-do list.

Hell, let’s look at that to-do list (aka my GameQ) while we’re here, and I’ll take this opportunity to debut a new feature I’m calling Keep or Cut:

  • Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS) – I don’t even know what this is, to be honest – I’d just heard some positive word of mouth, and I wanted any excuse to keep my 3DS busy.  Will most likely CUT.
  • Mario & Luigi Dream Team (3DS) – if I can finish The Last of Us quickly enough, I should be able to rent this close to its release date.  Since Mario Golf: World Tour got pushed to 2014, this is the only must-have 3DS game I can see for the rest of 2013.  KEEP.
  • Saints Row 4 – I’m a big Saints Row fan, but I’ve had my doubts about this ever since they first announced it.  I do not expect high review scores, though I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.  KEEP, but with reservations.
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist – this was always only going to be a rental.  Chaos Theory was the high watermark for the series, and everything since then has been pretty disappointing.  Haven’t seen any indication that I should revise my expectations.  CUT.
  • Rayman Legends – Assuming this is as delightful as Origins was, this is an automatic KEEP.  Though I really ought to go back and finish Origins first.
  • GTA V – I’m not sure why this is still on my rental queue, as I’m probably going to pre-order it as soon as I finish this post.  (Still hoping for a PC release, though.)  KEEP.
  • Beyond: Two SoulsIs this the PS3’s final swan song?  More to the point – do I care?  While I remain in awe of David Cage’s wild ambition, I never finished Heavy Rain and didn’t really enjoy what I’d played, either.  Still, I’m cautiously optimistic, so this gets a KEEP.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins – as far as I can tell, this is the last “big” release of 2013 for current-gen consoles that I have any real interest in, since I don’t care about Call of Duty and I’ve lost all my faith in Assassin’s Creed.   But we all know this isn’t a Rocksteady joint, and this game is starting to smell like a cash-in.  CUT.

Now, you’ll notice that there’s no next-gen titles on this list.  That’s because I probably can’t afford a next-gen console this year; but even if I could, I still haven’t yet decided between the PS4 and the Xbox One.  I’m obviously leaning towards the PS4, but if Microsoft continues its backtracking ways and decides to play ball with indie developers by putting a less-restrictive self-publishing policy in place, well, that might keep the pendulum swinging the other way.  In any event, the only real “next-gen” game that speaks to me in any meaningful way is Watch Dogs, and that’s also coming to PC – which is a platform that already speaks to my current gaming habits anyway.

And speaking of the PC, the other clear upside to being on an austerity budget for the foreseeable future is that there’s really no excuse anymore for me to not finally tackle the GIGANTIC backlog of unfinished games I have in my Steam library.  Hell, even if I only stuck to seeing all the stuff in Skyrim that I never saw on the 360, that would be plenty.  (Now I just need to get over my seething Skyrim rage, which I’ve never quite managed to quell.)

I kinda don’t feel so terrible about this anymore.  I’ll call that a win.

%d bloggers like this: