Hypothetical: The Inevitable HD Remake List

My digital copy of Destiny finished pre-loading over the weekend.  I have a thing tomorrow night, though, and I’m not sure if I’ll be awake enough when I get home to do much more than create a character and go through the first 1-2 levels before hitting the hay; therefore, being that anyone reading this will likely have already played through what I wouldn’t get to until Wednesday at the earliest, there probably won’t be a “First Few Hours” post.  And, ultimately, I expect the opening hours to be more or less what we played in the beta, albeit with some additional graphical spit-shining (and (hopefully) some new Dinklage VO).

In the meantime, I think I’ve burned myself out on Diablo III.  (Speaking of which:  if you haven’t yet read Carolyn Petit’s take on Diablo 3 and Dark Souls 2, you should fix that ASAP.)  I find that, these days, I can really only play it for about 30-45 minutes these days before feeling restless and bored; coincidentally, 30-45 minutes is actually just enough time to run some bounties and/or run a Nephalem Rift, get some new gear, and log out.   The bounties don’t seem to change, though; every time I log in it’s the same stuff.  Do I have to finish all 5 bounties in all 5 Acts before they refresh?  That seems… kinda dumb.

So, in order to keep the ol’ wheels turning here at SFTC, and because I’m in a somewhat cynical mood, I’ve spent the last few days guessing what the next inevitable HD remakes are going to be.

We already know about these AAA re-releases, which have either already come out or have been announced as forthcoming.

  • Tomb Raider
  • The Last of Us
  • Metro Redux
  • GTA V
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Saints Row 4
  • Halo 1-4 box set

By the way, the AAA designation is specific and necessary to this discussion.  I’m well aware of stuff like Fez,  Minecraft, Abe’s Oddysee, Hotline Miami, Journey/Flow/Flower and other such indies getting ported to the new consoles; I’m also going to be the first person to buy the Grim Fandango restoration as soon as it’s released.  But I’m specifically talking about AAA titles from the 360/PS3 generation, as those games seem to generate the most press from the big sites – and porting those games also serves as valuable experience for the developers in terms of learning how their existing tech works on the new systems.  (I believe Naughty Dog talked about this specific idea when they ported The Last of Us to PS4 – it helped them learn how to best tweak their engine before getting Uncharted 4 off the ground.)

So, then, what other AAA franchises from the last console era might we expect to see in the future?

  • Beyond: Two Souls is almost certainly getting a PS4 port, according to a number of sources (1, 2, 3).
  • Mass Effect trilogy.  I’ve heard this rumored more than a few times, and it’s not necessarily a bad idea (though it’s asking quite a lot for people who sunk hundreds of hours already to do it again in a higher resolution).  That being said, the boring bits in ME1 would still be boring in 1080p, and the ending in ME3 would still be the ending.  I don’t think Bioware would spend the energy tweaking that stuff when they’d rather work on the new ME game.
  • Bioshock 1, 2, Infinite.  The more I think about it, this seems like a no-brainer.  Consider: the recent iOS port of Bioshock 1; Irrational Studios is all but shut down; TakeTwo surely considers Bioshock a formidable IP that they don’t want to lose.  Just imagine what Bioshock 1 would look like on new hardware.
  • Uncharted 1-3.  Probably a long shot, given that Naughty Dog is already working on Uncharted 4 (and that, as said above, that they learned what they needed to learn about their engine through porting The Last of Us), but it wouldn’t surprise me if Sony outsourced this to another dev house.  Sony’s stated reason for re-releasing last year’s TLOU was because a lot of people who bought a PS4 never owned a PS3; it stands to reason that those same people have never played what is arguably Sony’s biggest exclusive franchise.
  • Gears of War 1-3.  Probably less of a long shot, given that Microsoft needs anything they can get their hands on to get the Xbox One into more living rooms, and given that the Halo box set is a thing that’s already happening.  But this might depend more on Epic and Unreal Engine 4.
  • This most certainly won’t happen, but I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Rockstar come out with their own Orange Box, with Max Payne 3, L.A. Noire, and Red Dead Redemption in one HD package.  For me, personally, that would be my birthday and Christmas every day for the rest of my life.  Hell, I’d just be happy with Red Dead.  It will be a sad day when my 360 dies; RDR is the only reason why I haven’t yet pulled the plug myself.
  • Similarly, I would be very, very surprised to see Bethesda do ports of OblivionSkyrim or Fallout 3/New Vegas.  I’d be inclined to check those out, certainly, but the amount of work necessary to properly port those games seems far too excessive, and it’s all but certain that work on Elder Scrolls VI and Fallout 4 are well underway already.  (And, of course, the PC modding community is also doing a bang-up job as far as those games are concerned.)

What would you like to see?  Or are you done with HD remasters?

like spinning plates

I’m very scatterbrained this afternoon, so rather than trying to focus on one topic, I’m just going to move around as I see fit.

1.  In my last post I said I was glad that I didn’t have to review Beyond: Two Souls.  But as it turns out, I ended up finishing it on Wednesday, and now I’m reviewing it for the NYVCC, and so I’m hoping to get that turned in by early next week.  I’ll save my larger analysis for the review proper, but the key phrase in this paragraph is that I finished the game, which is more than I can say for Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy.  It’s easy to see why it’s divisive, and even though I liked it I can’t necessarily defend it.  I appreciate its ambition, even if I’m a little turned off by its pretentiousness.

2.  I meant to sit down and play a bit more Shadow Warrior last night, but I ended up getting sucked back into The Stanley Parable for around 3 hours.  I played the original mod and liked it very much; this new, “official” version is a spectacular remake.  As I did with the original version, my first playthrough was spent following all the narrator’s instructions, and then each subsequent playthrough was spent picking various spots to make detours, while keeping tabs on other spots to try next time.  It’s very funny and witty and smart, and it can be more than a little unnerving to see how the narrator is following along with your thought process as you attempt to break the game; and at times the game is genuinely, sincerely beautiful; and there’s one path in particular (the one where you answer the phone and get taken to your apartment) that hit me right square in the face.  I took a bunch of screenshots during my time with it last night, but I’m sorta reluctant to share them here, as they might be spoilery (even if they wouldn’t make much sense without the proper context).  So I’ll split the difference – if you want to see them, here’s the link to my Steam profile.

3.  All my love for The Stanley Parable should not indicate that I intend to neglect Shadow Warrior, though.  I finished the first chapter on Wednesday (as a palate cleanser after finishing Beyond) and it is fan-fucking-tastic.  Two quick observations:

  • I’ve played most of my games this year on the PC, but Shadow Warrior is the first time in years that I’ve played a first-person shooter with a mouse and keyboard, and it’s making me very nostalgic for my Quake 2 years.
  • The whole thing is very nostalgic and old school – lots of secret areas, incredibly fast action, a very goofy sense of humor (the game was co-written by my buddy Scott Alexander), and lots and lots of blood and gore.

I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for this sort of thing; I didn’t realize that old-school shooters were an itch that needed scratching until I booted the game up, and I got hooked almost immediately.

4.  Meanwhile, my obsession with all things Picross has now found a home on iOS, thanks to Paint It Back.  It’s perhaps not as elegant to control as with a DS/3DS, but it gets the job done, and the puzzles are not without a certain sense of humor.  I’ve also found myself getting sucked into Angry Birds: Star Wars 2, which had been sitting on my phone untouched for no good reason.  Other recent iOS pickups worth mentioning are the gorgeous Type:Rider, a gorgeous platforming game that also teaches you about the history of typography; Pocket Titans, which is a hard-to-describe puzzle/combat hybrid that I’m still getting the hang of; and I also continue to be kinda disappointed by, but also compelled to stick with, Marvel Puzzle Quest.

5.  I’m also kinda getting into GTA V Online, though I’m still hesitant to really dive in full-bore.  I guess I kinda miss co-op stuff, like the gang hideouts in Red Dead.  Sure it’d be great to do heists, though I suspect they’ll add those in at a later date; but I’d be really disappointed if they are simply locking co-op missions for higher ranks.   The whole point of an online GTA, for me, is to explore the world and to do things with friends together; if I just wanted team deathmatch I’d go and play Call of Duty.

What are you playing this weekend?

The First Few Hours: Beyond: Two Souls

I am in a weird spot when it comes to David Cage.  On the one hand, I’ve grown tired of shooters and mindless violence and flashy, empty spectacle, and so I’m very appreciative of games with ambition; games that clearly meant something to their creators; games that actively try to do something different.  On the other hand, I’ve played his previous games (i.e., Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain) and have come away flummoxed and disinterested.  

Beyond: Two Souls arrives at an interesting time for me, then, as I’ve just spent 40 or so hours finishing up GTA V, a flashy, spectacle-filled (if not spectacular) game that features both mindless violence and crazy ambition.  While I think I can now say that I ultimately enjoyed GTA V in spite of its numerous flaws, I’m also well aware (and maybe a little sad) that my favorite game franchise is no longer intended for me, or someone my age.  The point is, I’m vulnerable.  I’m in yet another release calendar lull, I’m wanting something to really sink my teeth into, and I’m wanting to play something that doesn’t insult my intelligence.

And so, to that end, I find that I must commend David Cage, because Beyond: Two Souls is (for the most part) a success.  And unlike his previous two games, I have every intention of finishing it.  The game’s technological strengths are astounding – the facial animation in particular is probably the best of this console generation.  The acting is quite good (even if the script is occasionally hokey and/or overwritten), the non-linear storytelling is a novel approach to an already-strange story, and I’ll admit it – I really want to see how this story ends, even if it occasionally gets unintentionally silly at times.

But because I’m also a fan of clever wordplay, I cannot commend the game without also condemning it, because some of the game’s controls are the absolute worst.  The game is played almost entirely via Quick-Time Events, which is not necessarily the end of the world – it’s just that they’re woefully inconsistent in terms of responsiveness, or even necessity.  I mean, I get having to do it when I need to climb out of a window or ascend a rock wall, but do I really have to use them in order to draw a picture?  Moreover, there are some times when the game wants you to mash on a button.  But the cue to do so is inconsistent – it’s unclear if you need to mash it in a certain rhythm, or at a certain pace, and often you’ll fail the cue and have to do it again.  Even worse are the combat scenarios, which eschew on-screen prompts entirely – instead, you have to follow Ellen Page’s arm or leg movements, wait for the game to enter slow-motion, and then move the right thumbstick in the same direction as Ellen’s limbs.  That the game doesn’t tell you that it’s the right thumbstick is bad enough, but the ultimate problem is that even if you fail, it doesn’t seem to matter; you’ll take a few more punches than you should, but you’ll end up finishing the scene anyway.  So what the hell is the point?

The game is much better at immersing you in quieter moments.  A particularly brilliant example of this comes early in the game, when Ellen Page’s character Jodie is a teenager, attending her first party with a bunch of strangers.  I actually want to go back and re-play this particular chapter, because the first time I did it I found myself responding to questions and situations as I personally would have, which is to say – very awkwardly, and with disastrous and humiliating consequences.  There is an option to go back into the party and get revenge, and I opted to not do that; I know it’s a pussy move, but it’s what I honestly would’ve done, and it was neat that the game let me do it, and that Jodie responded in a very real, touching way.  (But believe me, I very much want to go back into that room and set everyone on fire.)

I’m glad that I’m not reviewing this game for any particular publication; it seems to be an impossible task to tell a potential consumer if this game is right for them or not.  (Judging from the reviews, it seems a lot of reviewers felt the same way, and the wide range of scores bears this out.)  I came in without any real expectations; like I said above, I appreciated what Heavy Rain was trying to do but found it exceedingly tedious and very much in love with itself, and I couldn’t finish it.  For whatever reason, I’m finding Beyond to be far more approachable than Heavy Rain.  The visual technology is strong enough to overcome my frustrations with the controls, and Ellen Page’s performance is more than strong enough to keep me involved in the story, despite the story’s goofier sci-fi ambitions, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it all winds up.  

“the texture of the search itself”

“It’s all right,” dialogue boxes assure her, “it’s part of the experience, part of getting constructively lost.”
Before long, Maxine finds herself wandering around clicking on everything, faces, litter on the floor, labels on bottles behind the bar, after a while interested not so much in where she might get to than the texture of the search itself.
– Thomas Pynchon, “Bleeding Edge”

I’m 8 chapters into the new Pynchon book, and I am continually amazed at how such an famously reclusive author who is also, at this point, an old man, can still get it when it comes to popular culture.  The quote I pulled above describes a Second Life-esque game experience (the book takes place in 2001, 2 years before Second Life was officially released), but that phrase at the end – “the texture of the search itself” – is the thing that’s hitting me square in the solar plexus.  It’s precisely that feeling of pure exploration for exploration’s sake that makes games like Journey feel so utterly transcendent – or, likewise, of simply wandering around in Skyrim (or other Bethesda RPGs) and seeing what pops up along the way.

And it’s also very much why I’m still playing GTA V, despite my weariness of the game’s many faults; for as much as the game’s narrative can fly off the rails, and the characters are simply poorly motivated (when they’re not being actively repulsive), the world is so incredibly detailed that I tend to tune the other stuff out.  Kotaku’s been featuring some videos that highlight just how subtle some of these details really are (this one in particular is pretty amazing); my personal favorite thing that I’ve seen is how, after a head-on collision with an oncoming car, the driver of the other car will silently, but with great anger, flip you the bird.

Rockstar’s Social Club says that I’m 65% complete.  I’ve finished 59 of the game’s 69 missions, plus a few miscellaneous activities here and there.  I’m definitely in the home stretch, as it were; there’s “one last job” to pull off, though we haven’t started planning it yet.  The point I’m slow in getting to is that I’m probably not going to write any more about it until I’ve finished the main story, so that I can then try to put the whole thing together.

Other things that I’m hoping to write about this week include:

  • Beyond: Two Souls, which will probably arrive on Thursday or so from Gamefly;
  • Marvel Puzzle Quest, which came out on iOS last week and which I’m pretty disappointed with;
  • Cookie Clicker, which is currently running on my browser at home (I’m generating 4.5 billion cookies per second);
  • Picross titles that I just discovered are in the 3DS eshop (sadly, they are only 2D puzzles, which are not nearly as interesting or as fun to solve as Picross 3D (on the 2DS), but it’s still Picross, so…); and
  • Minerva’s Den, which I got for free when 2K upgraded everybody’s copy during the switch from GFWL to Steam.  I’d originally played Bioshock 2 on the 360 and was summarily disappointed by it, and so I’d sent it back before Minerva’s Den was released; I then picked up Bioshock 2 on the PC during a sale but couldn’t access Minerva’s Den, for some reason; now I have it, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try, being that I’ve heard such amazing things about it.  I actually gave it a quick spin over the weekend and realized that I’d forgotten how to play the original Bioshock – and while the PC version offers controller support, they never re-wrote the in-game button prompts to tell you how to do things with the controller, so it might be a little while before I get the hang of it.

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.

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