2014: the battle between old and new

You know, I can be full of shit sometimes.

I just wrote this 800-word post about 2014, and how I feel strange because for the first time in a long time I feel like I have absolutely no handle on what’s happening this coming year, and how I’m feeling a little cut off since I don’t have either of the new consoles just yet, and how I’m still not even sure if I should get one or wait for the Steam Machine or just buy a new graphics card for my PC, and how all of this is ridiculous since I have an absurd backlog of games to get through…

… and then, to prove my point, I listed the 27 games in my Steam library that I would like to get through, games which I either never finished or barely started, and which I was posting so that, later in the year when I inevitably start whining about not having anything to play, one of you could call me out and say, well, what about that gigantic backlog, and I could say, OH YEAH, right, the backlog…

… and then, after taking a brief moment to clear my head and open a new browser tab, I decided to check out the latest offerings in the Steam sale, and for some bizarre reason I actually came this close to buying Metro: Last Light, which is a game that I’m not even sure I liked all that much when I rented it on the 360 earlier this year.

NOT EVEN 5 MINUTES HAD PASSED SINCE I’D FINISHED PUTTING THAT LIST TOGETHER, PEOPLE, before I almost spent $10 on a game that I was only interested in buying because it was on sale.

I am an idiot.

Here’s the original post, and the backlog list, and a formal request – please punch me in the face, either in person, on this blog or on twitter (@couchshouts), if I do any whining about not having enough to play next year.  THAT’S my new year’s resolution – to finally get punched in the face.

(Please do not literally punch me in the face.)

*     *     *

I don’t “do” resolutions, but two things I’d like to start doing in 2014 – or, rather, stop doing – are (1) apologizing for taking long-ish breaks at this blog (i.e., anything less than one post a week – it should be understood by now that my available blogging time is in short supply these days) and (2) apologizing in general, but specifically if I let real-life intrude into this space.  This is a game blog, and I try to keep this blog focused on that topic… but it’s also my only blog at the moment (since my tumblr page is simply a place where I re-blog other people’s stuff and/or repost stuff from this blog).

I’d like to do a “What I’m Looking Forward To in 2014” post, but the truth is that this is the first time in a really, really long time where I feel like I have absolutely no idea what’s happening in terms of upcoming software.  I don’t have either of the new consoles yet (though I sorta came close to buying an Xbox One this past weekend, even though I’d still rather get a PS4 first), and so I’m not quite yet invested in either of their forthcoming lineups beyond obvious stuff like Watch Dogs and Destiny (and indie stuff like The Witness and Transistor).  I’m also still kinda waiting to see what the Steam Machine is all about, and I’m also wondering if I should just forgo new consoles entirely and just invest in a new graphics card for my PC.

(From my outsiders perspective, I’m starting to feel like this year’s E3 will be the first E3 in a long time that will actually matter; the new consoles are already in people’s homes, and everybody wants to know what’s coming next.  And it’s not even just about continuing older franchises – this is the best possible time to show off new IP, now that we’re all hungry for something to really put these consoles through their paces.)  

And yet, and yet, and yet… the truth is, all of this prognosticating is silly, as far as I’m personally concerned; I simply can’t afford to play all this new stuff.  I can only realistically afford one (1) console next year, and unless I start getting my freelancing career in order and can get review copies of games without having to pay for them, I will have to start being a lot more selective in terms of what I end up playing, Gamefly notwithstanding.

Moreover, I’ve got an absolutely absurd backlog of games in my Steam library, and I can’t keep ignoring it or pretending it’s not there.  I’ve said this before, of course, but it bears repeating if only so that I can remind myself that it’s out there.

If I start to bitch and moan that I don’t have anything to play, I want one of you to remind me of the list that I’m about to post below.  This isn’t everything that’s unplayed in my Steam library, but this is the stuff that I intended to play but never got around to finishing.

  1. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (played the first 30 minutes or so)
  2. Antichamber (I’ve already played quite a lot of it, but I never finished it)
  3. Dishonored DLC (I got halfway through the first one, never started the second one)
  4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (did the first 15 minutes and then got distracted.)
  5. Guacamelee!
  6. Gunpoint
  7. Hitman: Absolution (I’m maybe halfway through this one.  I found it somewhat distasteful, but I’m also compelled to stay with it, for some bizarre reason.)
  8. Kentucky Route Zero
  9. Lego Marvel Superheroes (which I was enjoying quite thoroughly until AC4 came along)
  10. Magrunner: Dark Pulse
  11. Outlast (which I just bought yesterday, for some reason, I don’t know why)
  12. Papo & Yo (which I played a bit of on the PS3, but never finished)
  13. Path of Exile (in case I need a free-to-play Diablo fix)
  14. Rayman Legends
  15. Resonance (which I have literally no memory of downloading, but I’m glad to see it’s in my library)
  16. Rochard
  17. Rogue Legacy
  18. Shadowrun Returns
  19. Shadow Warrior
  20. Spelunky (which I also just bought yesterday, and which I’m afraid of, if that amazing Polygon eggplant run story is to be believed)
  21. System Shock 2
  22. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
  23. The Last Remnant (these last 2 were picked up during a summer Steam sale)
  24. The Swapper (need to finish)
  25. The Witcher 2 (which I need to re-start and get back into)
  26. Torchlight 2
  27. XCOM: Enemy Within

That’s 27 games of generally excellent quality that I’ve not finished – and in some cases, have barely started.  This is ridiculous.  This is financially irresponsible.  This is why I have no business buying a new console any time soon, and why I should maybe not worry so much about trying to stay on top of all the new stuff.  Until I put myself in a position where I can play new stuff and get paid to offer written opinions about them, I have more than enough to keep myself occupied for the time being.

*     *     *

I also finished Batman Arkham Origins over the weekend, though “finished” is a relative term, of course – there’s so much side stuff left to do, and I’ve already done a great deal of it, but I don’t think I can do any more.

The game itself is… OK.  A little disappointing, and certainly very exhausting, but I sorta knew going into it that I should keep my expectations low, and so in that respect I feel like I got my money’s worth.  I guess it’s just that I love these Batman games, and even if I knew this was a B-team effort, I can’t help getting excited for them.  The combat just got to be too much after a while – there’s combat involved in nearly every single part of the game, and like I said in an earlier post it gets to be ridiculous.

There’s also some annoying technical problems, at least on the PC; while the game looks terrific for the most part, it did lock up and crash on multiple occasions, and there’s one boss fight near the end where the frame rate got very, very jittery (where you’re fighting Bane (and minions) with your shock-gloves turned on) – and in a game where combat is very much timing-based, my constant deaths in that sequence felt very, very cheap.

From a narrative perspective, it’s certainly conceptually interesting to see a prequel with these characters, but it feels like wasted potential.  The voice acting is woefully uneven – the new Batman and Joker voices are certainly good enough, but Jim Gordon couldn’t have sounded more bored and stiff if he tried.  Moreover, Joker’s character arc does not make any sense to me.  ***SPOILERS*** Joker and Batman have that post-Bane standoff at the hotel; Joker falls out of the building (can’t remember how) and Batman saves him; Joker, now incarcerated and being interviewed by the future Harlequin, appears to have some sort of epiphany about his relationship with Batman; but in the game’s final confrontation, nothing about his epiphany appears to have affected his plan AT ALL.  And I’m still confused about the bounty and Black Mask’s part in all this, and how if Joker was Black Mask all along, why was he trying to kill Batman in the beginning of the game?  Especially since Batman appears to be relatively new to the scene, and this game is where he originally learns about Joker in the first place?  ***END SPOILERS***

All that aside, there’s nothing quite like entering a room filled with bad guys and taking them all out without ever being spotted.  And even then, the difficulty on those particular challenge rooms is very, very uneven; I had a beast of a time in the early game because the room layouts made for very crowded enemy AI paths, but towards the end I was clearing them with ease because the room designs meant that enemies generally walked alone a lot more often.  I’m not complaining, necessarily, because it’s still a rush to clear those rooms regardless, but it’s odd.

I am now trying to figure out what to play next.  And before you remind me that I’m also playing Zelda on the 3DS, let me retort that I’m not having nearly as much fun with it as I’d hoped.  I may try some of the shorter games in that backlog above; Kentucky Route Zero has been on my mind a lot lately, and I wouldn’t mind getting deeper into both Lego Marvel and Rayman Legends.  And also Shadow Warrior.

Have a very happy new year, everybody!

Delayed Reactions: Gotham – a city worth saving?

[This post is kicking off the new Delayed Reactions* feature that will likely see a lot of action in the coming months, as it’s going to involve impressions and review-ish pieces about stuff in my backlog (which is quite large at the moment).  I already did a “First Few Hours” post about Batman Arkham Origins, and so this piece (and pieces like it) will go a bit more in depth about what’s working, what isn’t working, and how I’m feeling about the game without being influenced by current review scores.]

If I had to pick one word to describe my feelings about Batman Arkham Origins at this point, I think that word would be “absurd.”

Absurd point #1:  Considering that the game is about a comic book superhero, I’m more than willing to suspend my disbelief in order to preserve narrative coherence.  And I’ll also note up front that my familiarity with Batman is strictly limited to the first Tim Burton film and the three Chris Nolan films; I don’t read the comics, I haven’t watched the cartoons or animated features.  But I understand that Batman is, among other things, a vigilante hell-bent on saving his city, a man with near-infinite resources and an ethical code that prevents him from killing, but doesn’t prevent him from beating the crap out of anybody in his way.  THAT BEING SAID, I’m 9 hours into the game, and I’ve probably taken out at least 500 bad guys already, and so it begs the question:  with the notable exceptions of Alfred, Jim (Not-Yet-Commissioner) Gordon and his daughter Barbara (more on her in a second), are there any citizens of Gotham that are not crooked, corrupt or just plain evil?  Even the police that I’ve come across are all mobster-controlled scumbags, which makes it very odd that Batman still feels obligated to have Alfred leave anonymous tips to the GCPD every time he captures a particularly notable baddie.  More to the point:  Batman’s need to “save” Gotham is, at this point, pathologically insane, because there is nothing worth saving, anywhere.  Frankly, the bad guys who keep saying that Gotham is past the point of saving are clearly speaking the truth.  There are never any citizens out and about on the streets, but there are gangsters on nearly every street corner, rooftop and sewer tunnel that you come across.  If there’s that much criminal activity, who on earth is there left to steal from?

Absurd point #2:   The key phrase in the previous point is that after 9 hours of gameplay I’ve had to fight what feels like 500 dudes already, and yet the game is telling me I’m only 20-25% complete.  There is SO.  MUCH.  COMBAT.  Let’s all agree that the Batman games have the best melee combat system out there right now as far as third-person action games are concerned (and I say this as someone whose never been particularly graceful as far as the combat is concerned, going back to the first game – I like it, of course, but I could never get very high scores in the Challenges, and that still continues in this game – I very rarely get graded above a “B” in the game unless it’s just one dude and I sneak behind him and perform a silent takedown, and the XP bonuses for shitty scores really rub it in, how not amazing I am at the game).  But let’s also agree that too much of a good thing ceases to be good and starts to become very, very tedious.  In this game, it’s not enough that you clear out a room full of a dozen guys armed with guns; halfway through the battle another wave will come in, for no apparent reason other than the developers seem to think that more combat is always the right answer.

Absurd point #3:  When you’re not endlessly beating dudes to a pulp in service of the main story, there are literally dozens and dozens of side quests which also involve beating dudes to a pulp, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m being reminded of Assassin’s Creed Revelations, where you literally can’t move 10 feet without something popping up on your HUD – a crime in progress, a Penguin arms cache, a hidden Anarky tag, an Enigma henchman and/or datapack and/or radio signal thing.   I can barely catch my breath and just look around without having to hit something.  On the one hand, I appreciate the desire to provide content; on the other hand, almost all these side missions end up being nearly identical in how they play out, so it doesn’t actually feel meaningful in any way – and considering that bad guys seem to respawn endlessly, it actually feels like I’ve done nothing to clean up the city.

The crime scene activities kinda sorta break up the pace a little bit, to be fair, but they’re also a little hackneyed and ridiculous (i.e., the “reconstructions” are cool but completely beyond the bounds of reality, and because there’s so many of them they eventually become a little eye-roll inducing, and in any event the crime scenes are not puzzles beyond you simply finding the next thing to scan), and they also almost always end with you finding the suspect in a group of baddies and you have to beat them all down, which, again, enough with the combat already.

Absurd point #4:  Origins is a prequel to the previous games; I’m not yet sure if it has any direct ties in to those games, or if it’s merely set on a previous day.  In any event, it’s “neat”, I suppose, to see Gordon in his pre-commissioner days, and to see Alfred looking a bit less, er, old.  Another notable event featured in this game is how Batman and Barbara Gordon meet and become allies – in Arkham Asylum, they’re already working together, and I was always a little curious to see how they met.  I won’t give it away (although it happens pretty early in the game, and the game is already a few months old, so I’m hopefully not spoiling anything), but the scene in question is so short that it comes off as silly.  He startles her; she recognizes him and immediately gives him all the info he needs; the end.  I was hoping for something a little more interesting; perhaps it’ll arrive a little later, but for now it just feels dumb.

I’m trying to enjoy the game; and there are times when I’m having fun.  I did ragequit the game last night, though, during a boss battle with Deadshot; I’d cleared out the room and took out most of Deadshot’s health, and then the room flooded in with armed bad guys again, and one shot killed me, and then it started over from the very beginning of the fight, and so I promptly turned the game off and went on with the rest of my life.

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* Alternate titles for this feature include “Poor Lag Time”, “Telling You Things You Already Know”, and a revival of my little-used feature, “Everything Old is New Again.”

the first few hours: Batman Arkham Origins

When Bioshock Infinite was released earlier this year, the first wave of reviews were positively glowing with praise; it wasn’t until a few weeks later that the game’s more glaring flaws started to show.  A similar thing happened with Grand Theft Auto V – that first wave was all 10/10, 9/10, near-unanimous accolades, and then, as the rest of us sunk our 60+ hours in over a more reasonable amount of time, the game’s problems became a lot more apparent.  I can’t help but wonder if the insane timecrunch that most big-league reviewers have to undergo in order to get their pieces out by release day means that they can’t see the larger picture.

I’m not saying those reviews are wrong, necessarily; I’m just saying that there are two different ways of spending 50 hours with a game, and that the one in which those 50 hours are spent non-consecutively are obviously going to have a certain degree of perspective that the time-crunched player simply can’t have.  This is the nature of the beast that is video game journalism.

This is partly why I tend to avoid official “reviews” here on this site, and why I prefer to write these pseudo-real-time documentaries instead.  While it’s dumb to describe the life of a non-profit videogame blogger as “luxurious”, the truth is that I, as a non-big-league writer, have the luxury of not having any deadlines.

In any event, I’m around 90 minutes into the lukewarm-reviewed Batman Arkham Origins, and – at least so far – it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be.  Perhaps it starts off strong and then peters out?  Perhaps it’s simply that it’s keeping to the well-worn formula of the previous two games and doesn’t add or improve anything of any significance?  No matter; it’s doing what the Batman games do and it’s doing them well enough for the time being.

If I have one particular nit to pick, it’s that if you happen to get into a random combat encounter, enemies will seemingly spawn in from thin air; you might have a strategy to deal with the 4 or 5 dudes that you can actually see, but then 10 more will fly in from nowhere, and it’s the sort of thing that makes these fights become longer and more tedious than they need to be.

I suppose another nitpick isn’t actually this game’s fault, but rather my own; I just spent 50 hours playing Assassin’s Creed 4, and while a lot of the controls between the two games are similar (especially when it comes to melee combat), there are a few that are very much not; a key example is that in AC4 the run button is mapped to the right trigger, whereas in BAO the right trigger makes you sneak.  I suppose this is actually something that could come in handy, as it’s usually not a good idea to run around as Batman, but it’s still the sort of thing that makes my brain hurt every once in a while as I struggle to get acclimated to a new control scheme.

All that aside, I’m enjoying it.  Maybe it’s not as inspired as the previous two games, but it’s still doing what those games did and doing it well enough, and for the time being that’s quite enough for me.

a slight change of plans

Sorry for the recent radio silence here.  The day job has been absurdly busy and time-consuming this week, and my evenings have been busy with work, social events and non-gaming-related activities, and the small amount of remaining time I’ve had to carve out for games-relating writing has been strictly focused on the upcoming Year In Games 2013 post.

Speaking of which, I’m nearly 2200 words into that post, but now, suddenly, I have to put it on pause for a little bit.  I recently came into an Amazon gift card, and just this morning I happened to see that Amazon has the PC download (i.e., Steam-able) version of Batman Arkham Origins available for 40% off.  I’d been waiting for a Steam sale to pick it up, but it hasn’t been discounted there at all this year – and meanwhile I think this is the second time Amazon had it on sale.  In any event, the gift card meant that I didn’t have to pay for it anyway, so it’s now currently downloading on my home PC.

Of all the notable games of 2013 that I had not played, BAO was the one that I’d most hoped I’d get to.  (Is that the second most-awkward sentence I’ve written this year?  Not sure anything beats the first paragraph of this post.)  The two previous Batman games are among my favorites of the entire console generation, and even though I know that this newest entry is (a) not developed by Rocksteady, (b) apparently pretty buggy, especially on the PC, and (c) probably not going to bust into my Top 10 (if the general review-scape is any indication), I’m still kinda jonesing to play it.

So, then, that’s the plan for this weekend during baby nap-times: to finish as much as I can of BAO, maybe try to squeeze in a bit more of Zelda 3DS, and also get the apartment ready for hosting Christmas next week.  And so the GOTY post will have to wait just a bit longer.

Also: pretty much everything on iOS is on sale right now, and so if you have some room on your iOS device, you should get busy.  Angry Birds Star Wars II is currently free.  I picked up the Deus Ex game for iPad this morning for 99 cents, and I think I might get KOTOR when I get home ($5, down from $10).

Also also:  The Room Two is fan-fucking-tastic.

Also also also:  While the control scheme is a bit wonky, I still find it amazing that I have GTA: San Andreas on my fucking iPhone.

Also also also also:  Halfbrick (who made Jetpack Joyride and Fruit Ninja, among others) have a new game out today, and it’s called Colassatron, and it’s pretty rad.

weekend recap: fun in San Andreas, not so much in Blackgate

There was good and bad over the weekend as far as games are concerned, so let’s start with the good.

THE GOOD:

1.  This is something I never thought I’d say, but here goes: GTA V Online is starting to grow on me.

Right off the bat – it is 1000% more stable than it was at launch, which means it is now, more or less, working the way it’s supposed to. Load times are still a bit long, but the important part is that game sessions do finish loading instead of being endlessly hung up, and once you’re in a race or a mission people don’t seem to teleport or glitch out the way they were a few weeks ago.

More to the point, though, the online game is starting to make a bit more sense.  I should back up and say that I didn’t even really start playing online until I’d finished the main story, and so it seemed sort of insane how little there was to do at the outset of my online career, considering how much I’d done in the single-player campaign.  But I’m now up to Level 10, and the activities and customization options that have opened up with each level-up are enough of an incentive to keep me coming back.

For example:  I took a nice chunk of the money I got from being in the beta and bought a deluxe apartment with a 10-car garage.  The apartment itself isn’t necessarily useful except that it’s nice to be able to spawn into it, as opposed to spawning on a street corner and then immediately getting gunned down before I’ve even had a chance to set “passive mode” on.

Another thing (though this feels like an exploit or something) is that you don’t have to play Missions with other people if you don’t want to, and so this is a rather easy way to make money and XP without dealing with jerks and/or long stretches of boredom while you wait for your lobby to fill up.  Nobody seems to want to play the Missions, is the thing – whenever I get into a group with people, the pre-match voting results are almost always a 50/50 split between races and deathmatches – and so it seems silly to sit there doing nothing when the Missions are just as easily doable by yourself.

But, that aside, the more I time I spend with it, the more it feels like it’s the primitive first draft of what a true next-gen GTA should be – one where you design your own character and create your own narrative, and make your own way in the big city.  (Which Saints Row is already sort-of doing, and which the Elder Scrolls games have been doing for ever.)  And it also proves, conceptually at least, that GTA III‘s model of a silent protagonist isn’t necessarily bad.  (Which also works for The Elder Scrolls games, too.)  Like: I’ve decided that I don’t need a fully-voiced character reaction to every minor traffic infraction; if I’m playing as Michael, and I crash into someone while missing a corner at high speed, and then Michael screams “YOU ENTITLED PIECE OF SHIT” at the person I just hit (because he’s certainly not saying that to me, the player)…. well, if it wasn’t funny the first 100 times he said it, it certainly doesn’t get any better.  Truth is, whenever I drop back into the story mode for whatever reason, I find that I’m immediately irked by whoever I choose to play – Michael is just a terrible person, Trevor is, well, Trevor, and Franklin seems like he’d rather be doing something else.

I don’t think Rockstar will go that route, though; they’re too committed to this endlessly repetitive vision of American Satire, and they take their “storytelling” very, very seriously, and in any event they already did the silent-protagonist-climbing-up-the-ranks story in GTA III.  And considering how much money GTA V has just made, it’s easy to presume that the Houser Brothers would feel justified in staying the course.  It’s just that there’s no story quite as compelling as the one you make yourself, and when you’re given a world like the one in San Andreas, every action you take in exploring it becomes more meaningful because it’s you doing it, and because you want to do it.  I’m not saying they can’t have scripted missions – those are still fun, when they’re done right – but I think I’d be a lot more engaged with the next game if I had more control over who I ended up playing, and especially if I could like or at least empathize with the person I was playing.  (And as it turns out, this ability to create your own character and shape your own narrative is something that a lot of my favorite games of this generation  have in common.)

2.  I finished Enslaved.  I was surprised at how much of that game I still remembered – the game feels pretty epic in size, but I forgot how short it is.  It’s not without some problems; a lot of the story beats feel like they come too quickly, and there’s quite a few camera glitches that make the game downright unplayable.  But the action feels good, the platforming is quite fun (albeit completely devoid of challenge), and I still think that the relationship between Monkey and Trip is genuine and convincing.  (Especially the facial animation, which I’d put right up there with the best of this generation.)

3.  I managed to not spend any money in Steam’s Halloween sale, and I also managed to not buy Batman Arkham OriginsLego Marvel, or pre-buy Assassin’s Creed 4.  I will probably end up buying AC4 when it shows up on the PC in a few weeks, but at least I didn’t splurge on it now.

THE BAD:

1.  Part of why I was able to hold off buying Batman was that I’d heard that the game had some crippling, save-corrupting bugs that Warner Brothers actually came out and apologized for; the other part was that I was playing the 3DS version of Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate, which I was hoping would sate my Batman fix.  Alas, it did not, and if anything it further soured my hopes for the PC game.  I can’t speak for the Vita version, which is apparently the better of the two handheld games, but the 3DS version was tremendously annoying to play; and this is very disappointing, because when I heard that the game was trying to mashup the console Batman games with a side-scrolling Metroidvania experience, I expected something amazing.  Instead, it feels very obligatory and uninspired; the map is all but useless; the sidestuff (i.e., evidence for random detective cases) feel utterly meaningless and devoid of any real purpose; and the combat is not nearly as much fun as it should be, because the 3DS buttons are often unresponsive and I ended up taking far too many hits that I shouldn’t have.  I spent about 2 hours or so with it and eventually gave up; I just don’t have the time anymore to push through with games that aren’t doing anything for me, and I especially don’t have time for games that feel like they’re deliberately antagonizing me.

THE UNRELATED:

Saw this link this morning, in which The Verge plays with the Steam Machine, and now I’m really glad I’ve waited on buying a new console (or, alternately, a new video card for my PC):

http://www.theverge.com/2013/11/4/5063760/we-try-the-steam-machine-valves-video-game-console-of-the-future

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.