Tag: crackdown

After The Flood

So:  what usually happens when I decide to start writing here is that I’ll have a few free minutes, I’ll start gathering my thoughts and start typing, and then BLAM – huge project arrives in my inbox.  (Or, as another example:  as I typed this last sentence, my boss showed up.)  Last week, I got sidetracked by something else entirely:  a huge storm, a power outage, a flooded basement.

The good news is that we only had about an inch and a half of water, which means that all my instruments and all my gaming stuff avoided getting damaged.  But we lost 3 carpets, a lot of my son’s toys, a whole bunch of luggage that was stored in a utility closet, our Christmas tree, a fair amount of my wife’s tools from her reiki practice, and some other stuff – honestly, the last few days have been something of a blur.

And so now we are going to be several thousand dollars in the hole in terms of renovation and repair.  We were able to find a floor repair service (thanks to our amazing neighbors) and so we’ve had a gigantic dehumidifier and several industrial-grade fans going non-stop since Friday; we have a contractor coming this evening to survey the basement and see about getting the walls/insulation replaced.

My wife and I are exhausted and stressed out, but I gotta say:  the kid is handling it like a champ.


You know what’s been nice, though?  It’s been nice to be away from the internet, and the news cycle, and all that shit.  I desperately needed to unplug, and if it takes an act of God to get me unplugged, then so be it.


Anyway, as you might imagine, leisure time has been non-existent of late.  The basement is off limits, so my wife and I are back to sharing the living room TV.  I’ve been too frazzled to enjoy what I’m reading, and I’ve not had any opportunity to listen to music.  During the power outage, I was actually using my Switch as a shitty flashlight because my iPhone was running out of juice.

That said, I’ve been using the Switch more and more, and I’m suddenly wanting it to get all the indie ports that used to show up on the Vita.  Indeed, I’ve been starting to compile a list of stuff I’d like to see:

  • XCOM / XCOM 2 / Invisible Inc.
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Fez
  • Something – anything – from Rockstar.  (And yes, I know about L.A. Noire, but that doesn’t quite count.)  Ideally, and I know this is never happening, I’d love to see a port of GTA 4, but with the control scheme of GTA 5
  • The 2.5D Assassin’s Creed games
  • the Oddworld New & Tasty remake
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates, or a port of the console-based Civ Rev game (not the iPhone version)

I also heard about the original Crackdown getting enhanced for Xbox One X; unfortunately my 4K TV is in the basement – and while it was well above the water line I haven’t had a chance to plug it in, so I’m just hoping it still works – but in any event, I can’t really see it in all its 4K HDR glory, but I did find my disc and gave it a quick spin, and yeah – that game is still kinda awesome.

It is awesome in the same way that Burnout Paradise HD is awesome – and yes, of course I bought the remake, and because (for some reason that I’ve since forgotten) I’m a member of EA Access, I was able to play it last night.  Those games are both awesome because you can totally forget about the main path and just tool around looking for hidden stuff, and whether you’re picking up ability orbs or crashing through barriers, there’s a visceral rush that few other games have ever managed to achieve.

(Certain other elements of Burnout Paradise have not aged well, of course:  DJ Atomica can fuck right off.  But they have added some new songs to the soundtrack, including LCD Soundsystem’s “Us v Them” which is one of my favorite songs of all time.)

And in the meantime, I’m still finding myself tooling around in Assassin’s Creed Origins, because that game continues to feel right in my hands in a way that other, better games don’t – not even The Witcher 3.  It doesn’t hurt that even after finishing the main campaign and sinking more than 60 hours into it, there’s still a ton of stuff to do, and a ton of question marks to uncover, and etc.  That game continues to surprise and impress.

A Lack of Patience

1. My latest Uncharted 4 correspondence for Videodame’s Co-Op Campaign is up!  Check it out here.

2. Earlier this year I wrote that I was done with Lego games, having struggled to finish Lego Marvel Avengers..  To be more specific:

The voice acting is mostly taken from the movies, except each line reading feels strangely sleepy and deadened in its delivery; the action is relentlessly tedious, endless waves of enemies descending out of nowhere, for no particular reason except to pad everything out.  Plenty of bugs.  A whole bunch of puzzles that do not explain themselves at all, which is all the more frustrating because the game doesgo out of its way to explain the dumbest shit in agonizing unskippable camera swoops.  I know, I know – I’m 40 years old, I’m at least 25 years past the target demographic, etc.  This doesn’t stop a shitty game from being a shitty game.  Remind me that I said all of this when Lego: Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out in a few months.

Well, for some stupid reason I decided to rent Lego Star Wars TFA, and, lo and behold, everything I said in the above paragraph applies to this new game as well.  I am no longer interested in having to repeat the same platforming exercise dozens of time because the game is too stupid to recognize where I’m jumping.  And while it’s great that they added some new stuff to break up the formula – 3rd-person cover shooting, space combat – the new stuff is so poorly executed that I’d rather they kept it out.  I barely got through 2 chapters before deciding I’d had enough.  I’d rather watch the movie anyway.

3. I realize that I never updated my progress with respect to INSIDE.  Well, I finished it, and… um… yeah.  I stand by my initial assertion that it packs one hell of a first impression, and that the animation and sound design are particularly excellent.  That being said, I have literally no idea what the hell happened there at the end, and I was left with a lingering sense of “what the hell did I just play, and why?”  Hard to explain unless I get into spoilers, though even with spoilers it’s not like it gets any easier.  Would be curious to discuss it with someone who got it.  Otherwise, I’m starting to wonder just what it is about PlayDead and their fascination with child murdering.

4. I’m kinda drifting along through my gaming library at the moment.  I should be focused on finishing Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, but that requires a time commitment that I simply don’t have right now; that’s not the sort of game that I can play for just 30 minutes and then log off.  For some reason I bought the PS4 editions of Saints Row 4 and Gat Out of Hell, probably because they were stupidly cheap.  I do kinda love how ridiculously dumb SR4 is; it’s the Crackdown sequel I always wanted.  The PS4 edition barely qualifies as a “remaster”, but that’s not necessarily enough to ignore it completely; it’s a fun, dumb game, and I’m happy to mess around with it unless it completely crashes (which it actually did the other night).  I’d never played Gat out of Hell, and after 30-45 minutes with it I’m not sure I need to.   I am obviously going to start playing Red Dead Redemption again on Friday, once its transition to the XB1 is complete; I don’t know if I’m going to start over from scratch or just pick up where my cloud save left off, but all I really want is just to hang out with it again.

The Last Weekend of my 30s

1. I had an epiphany the other day.  I’ve been reading “The Monster at the end of this Book” to my son for the last week or so – he loves it, and I love reading it to him.  It’s the sort of book that I can’t help but act out; I immediately hear it in my brain in Grover’s voice, for one thing, and certain words are drawn in such a way that I instinctively react to them as I say them out loud.

The epiphany part of this is that, as I continue to read this book every night, and re-live my own childhood as I read it to my son, I’ve realized that the book’s emphasis on conversational rhythm has had a profound effect on my own writing style.  I know I’m prone to excessive hyperbole, but I’m also prone to italics and digression and I have a very informal writing style; I try to write as if I were talking, or at least as if I were transcribing my thoughts in the way that I think about them.  (I hope that makes sense.)  There are plenty of books that I’ve read in my life that I’ve unconsciously absorbed into my writing style, but I’m not sure that any of them ever had the same sort of influence that this one did.  I mean, look at those pages!

2. The wife and I finished Jessica Jones last night; wow wow wow, is all I can say.  I don’t really watch that much TV these days, but I’d heard too much good stuff about JJ to ignore it, and my wife is as big a Marvel fan as anybody, so it seemed like a no-brainer for us to watch it together, and I’m so glad we did.  At the pivotal moment of the finale, I literally jumped off the couch, did a touchdown dance, and high-fived my wife.  There’s so much to be said for the show’s unconventional casting, and feminist point-of-view, and this and that and the other – which is a terrific achievement in and of itself, and better critics than I can explain why; at the end of the day, it’s a rich world with (mostly) well-drawn and well-acted characters, and David Tennant is possibly the best villain in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Very excited for the forthcoming Luke Cage show, and in the meantime I’ll probably have to go back and watch Daredevil now.

3. I was going to do a “first few hours” post about Just Cause 3, but I honestly don’t even know where to begin with it.  Yes, wing-gliding is amazing, and once you get the hang of the traversal system there’s really nothing quite like it.  And yeah, shit blows up real good.  But it’s abundantly clear that it’s not a finished game, and it’s lacking some sorely-needed optimizations; loading times are atrocious – hell, even the in-game map doesn’t load all that well, frames drop all the goddamned time which greatly diminish the impact of all those awesome explosions, and I often have no idea what I’m supposed to do next.  But there’s also a weird tone issue, where I can’t tell if the game is meant to be super-ridiculous and over-the-top (Saints Row), over-the-top but also maybe a bit grounded in some subtle geo-political observational satire (Crackdown), or just a playground where it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing or why you’re doing it (fucking around in GTA).  It’s clearly ridiculous, but it also feels like it’s lacking purpose beyond simply blowing shit up.  Which makes the experience feel a bit more shallow than I’d like.  I’m not saying I need this game to mean anything; I’m just observing that without any real narrative motivation, I’m finding it hard to stay interested in it.

4.  I’m not necessarily ready to give up on Fallout 4 just yet, but I haven’t played in a couple days and I haven’t found myself missing it.  I’m going to get to Diamond City, which appears to be the first real “hub”, and if the game opens up in a pleasing way, then I might find myself drawn in.  Otherwise, I’ll have a PS4 Pip-Boy Edition for sale, if anybody’s interested.

5.  I’m going to be 40 tomorrow.  I’m not as freaked out by that as I thought I might be; I think turning 30 was a bigger deal, if only because I distinctly remember waking up on my 30th birthday and having my entire body ache for no particular reason.  Frankly, I’m in better health now than I was back then; my hair is grayer, of course, but I’ve gotten a lot of my various physical and mental health issues dealt with and as such I’m able to enjoy myself, my family and my life a lot better than I’d been able to.  So it’s all good.

on collectibles

Collecting stuff always comes across as filler at best, psychological manipulation at worst. Most games do a poor job of justifying collecting other than giving you a reason to pick stuff up. I’m OK with the collecting being about further exploring the world, but even most games don’t seem to pull that off. I know that someone people really like that base level of completion, though, and it’s just not my thing.

(from Patrick Klepek’s tumblr, answering a question regarding the selling of Steam cards, which is something that has now netted me $5.68 since yesterday’s post)

[Note: I’m not trying to turn this blog into a Patrick Klepek appreciation/stalking site; it’s just that a lot of the stuff he says/writes resonates with me.]

Let me throw out two questions to you.  I’ll answer them (because that’s what I do), but I’m curious to get your feedback as well.

  1. Do collectibles matter to you?  Have they changed the way you play?  Do you prefer games with hidden collectibles, or do you avoid them?
  2. Are there any games that have successfully made their collectibles relevant and worth pursuing beyond simply getting a trophy or an achievement?

1.  I used to be obsessed with finding the hidden areas in games like Quake 2 and Duke Nukem 3D.  I’d turn on God Mode and just wander around, looking for hidden nooks and crannies.  The loot was usually nice, but that wasn’t even necessarily the pull; it was simply the idea that in these intricately designed worlds, there was always a reason to venture off the beaten path.

When Achievements became a thing, I couldn’t help but notice that games started putting hidden stuff back into their games with greater frequency.  It became a sort of status symbol of how hard-core you were in a given game; yes, I found all 500 Orbs in Crackdown; yes, I killed every pigeon in GTA IV, and here’s the proof.

Maybe that’s a bad example; I never found every pigeon in GTA IV, or even came anywhere close.  Some games were better at hiding their collectibles than others, and Rockstar’s worlds in particular were so huge, and so dense, that hunting down those specific things would’ve taken hundreds of hours that I simply didn’t have (unless I used some sort of map, which would – to me – defeat the purpose of the hunt).

Other games are less about obscure hiding places and more about simply overwhelming you with sheer numbers.  The Assassin’s Creed franchise comes to mind, as do the two most recent Batman Arkham games; both of these games feature so many goddamned things to find that the hunt stops being enjoyable and simply feels like busywork; a lazy way of implementing “added value”.  When you finish the game and see that you’ve only completed 70% of what the game has to offer – and this is after you’ve already sunk 20-40 hours – it can feel downright discouraging.

I don’t feel the pull towards these things the way I used to, though it also depends on the game.  I couldn’t be bothered to look through every viewfinder in Bioshock Infinite, but I was kinda pissed off that I missed a few of the voice recordings – especially since I apparently missed some pretty major plot points as a result.  And I’d thought I’d been pretty thorough, too!  

2.  When I started this post, I figured that by the time I got around to answering this second question I’d already have a list of games that offered worthwhile collectibles, but it turns out that I’m coming up somewhat empty.

I seem to recall that while some of the hidden objects in Psychonauts got a bit ridiculous in number, the “mental vaults” were quite important – one in particular (in the disco level) added a level of backstory to the disco teacher lady that was absolutely jaw-dropping; I made it a point to find every single one after seeing that.

The hidden skulls in the Halo games offered a great deal in the way of replay value… although I was never the world’s biggest Halo fan, and I only ever found those (when I was inclined to hunt for them) by looking at YouTube videos.

I’m reminded of Valve’s games, suddenly, even if their games were never particularly prone to hidden collectibles.  But scouring the environments always yielded interesting rewards in terms of story (i.e. the hidden rooms in the first Portal, the hand-written messages in the Left 4 Dead games).

If you can come up with better ones, by all means, let’s hear ’em!

Infamous 2, DNF, and other ramblings

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since the last post, so for that I apologize.  The good news is that I’ve got a LOT to talk about today.

The short version:

  • finished Infamous 2
  • played a bunch (perhaps too much) of Duke Nukem Forever (PC)
  • played a tiny bit more of The Witcher 2, escaping prison and getting to the first real town
  • played a bit of Child of Eden and wished I still did drugs
  • got thoroughly obsessed with Plants v. Zombies
  • did a bunch of Achievement-hunting in L.A. Noire
  • speaking of which, hit the 70,000 mark in Achievements

The long version:

I was home sick for 2 days last week, and that fact directly correlates to the first two bulleted items above.  I had gotten a few hours into Infamous 2 over the previous weekend, and ended up powering through the rest of it last Monday.  I’m a little bummed out about Infamous 2, to be honest with you.  It’s a better package than the first game – it looks better, for one thing, and the first game looked pretty good already.  The game lets you start with all your powers, too, so you’re kicking ass right from the get-go, and the new powers are, for the most part, pretty neat.  The voice acting is surprisingly good, even if the script is kinda hokey.  The city itself is visually interesting.  The “good” ending is satisfying, and shockingly devoid of cliffhangers – I have absolutely no idea how Infamous 3 would start, is all I’ll say.  (I didn’t see the “evil” ending, and maybe that’s where a sequel would pick up.)

So, then, if I was such a big fan of the first game – a game scratched my Crackdown itch in a big way – and the second game is, by and large, a better iteration of the first, why am I bummed out?  I guess it’s because the game is, ultimately, forgettable.  The story isn’t particularly interesting or unique, and the moral choices lack any ambiguity whatsoever – good and evil are very clearly defined and color-coded and you’ll never spend more than a second or two making up your mind.  The city, for all its visual flourish (and let me reiterate that point, as the city really does look fantastic and the sky is especially jaw-dropping)  is curiously devoid of audio – cars don’t make noise, nor do most of the pedestrians, and sometimes the player’s footsteps don’t even register.  I don’t know if it’s just a bug, or if the audio was simply unfinished, but it creates a very strange disconnect – it makes the city feel lifeless.*

I’m glad I played it, I suppose – it certainly filled the idle hours of an unplanned sick day – but I’m also glad I rented it.

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So that was Monday.  Tuesday was a second sick day, and since I’d already finished Infamous 2 and sealed it up in its Gamefly envelope, I was a bit at odds as to how to occupy the hours.  And then I remembered that Duke Nukem Forever was finally out.  And even though I’d read tons of horrible reviews by then, I succumbed to 14 years of temptation, and clearly went against my better judgment and downloaded it on Steam.  (To be fair, the PC version is, supposedly, the least horrible of the 3, at least in terms of visual fidelity.)

Here’s the thing – after playing the first few hours, I’d actually planned to write something of a defense of DNF in this space last week.   Yes, it’s grotesquely misogynistic and sexist and incredibly stupid, even in terms of adolescent humor (which is odd, since it’s rated M and young teenagers aren’t supposed to be able to play it).   It isn’t funny, it isn’t erotic, its cultural references are incredibly dated and probably wouldn’t have been all that funny if it had been released when all those references were still relevant.  First-person platforming is almost always a bad idea, and there’s way too much of it in the first few hours.  Still, though, there was something about it that brought me back to those heady days of 1996, when I was playing Duke Nukem 3D on my brother’s computer on my weekends home from college.  I was trying to put myself back in the mindset that I might have been in if the game had come out in the late 90s – early 00s, and there are brief glimpses in the early hours that brought me back.

Of course, the game is, ultimately, a piece of shit.  I got hung up on a boss a little more than halfway through the campaign and ended up putting the game away for a few days; I eventually beat that boss (no idea how) and then got stuck about an hour later, and that’s where I currently am.  I don’t really want to go back to it.  I suspect that I will eventually finish it, but only because I’m avoiding doing something else.   It’s just that, well, the game makes me sad.  I was one of the many that had been looking forward to this game’s release, and while it wasn’t necessarily in the front of my mind for the last 14 years, I’d never forgotten about it.  When the first few advance reviews came out and killed it, there was a part of me that figured that those scores were somewhat reactionary – they were so aggressively negative that they were almost hard to take seriously.  As it turns out, they were right.  There is absolutely nothing in the game, from what I’ve seen, that would explain what the hell took so long.  The gameplay is dated in all the worst ways, and for a game that goes out of its way to break the fourth wall, it has a surprising lack of self-awareness.

The biggest problem with DNF, I think, is that there’s too much Duke.  Back when I was playing DN3D, I wasn’t really paying attention to Duke at all – I was paying attention to the crazy environments, to all the hidden secrets, and to all the cool shit I could do.  Duke would spout out some one-liner from a movie every so often, and that was fine – it’s just that for all intents and purposes, his bad-assery kinda spoke for itself.  In DNF, Duke won’t fucking shut up, and nobody in the world tells him to shut up.  The world of DNF is a monument to Duke, for some reason, and that gets old incredibly quickly – especially since he’s such a fucking douchebag.

It is true that DNF could never hope to compete with expectations.  But it is also true that the game looks like it wasn’t even tryingSerious Sam rewrote the rules when it came to over-the-top gunplay, exploration and crazy enemies, and this year’s Bulletstorm further refined those rules and created something genuinely unique and fun to play.  DNF was created in a vacuum by people who apparently hadn’t played anything else since 1997, and was written by sociopathic 13-year-olds who love boobs and kicking monsters in the balls.  I still think that there’s a future for Duke – I don’t think Gearbox would’ve spent the time and money acquiring the IP if they weren’t going to do something with it – but I worry that the travesty that is DNF will sully that game’s potential.

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I don’t have all that much to say about The Witcher 2.  I enjoy my time with it, but it’s also somewhat intimidating and I don’t really know what the hell is going on.  I play for 30 minutes at a time and then put it aside.

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I don’t have all that much to say about Child of Eden, either.  It’s trippy as hell, and I suppose I’d have spent a bit more time with it if I were still doing drugs.  I’m sober, though, and as such there was only so much craziness I could stand.  It plays like a psychedelic Panzer Dragoon, I guess.  It’s certainly aspiring to be… something, which is more than I can say about DNF.  I read some review of it that bemoaned its attempts to revive the “Games as Art” debate; but that’s exactly what this is.  You would expect to play something like this in a children’s museum, or something.  It’s certainly interesting, but there wasn’t really all that much to it that kept me involved.

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I can’t explain my sudden obsession with Plants v. Zombies.  It’s been out for a few years now and as a long-time Popcap fan I’ve certainly been aware of it; I think it was one of the first apps I downloaded for iOS, but I never played it.  I guess at some point last week there was an iOS update for it that included a bunch of intriguing features, and that got me interested enough to fire it up, and now I’m a man obsessed.  Which is weird, because my general experience playing that game is one of intense stress and anxiety.  There’s so many plants to keep track of, and so many zombies to plan ahead for, and when a level is really humming along the board is absolutely chaotic.  I’m already dealing with anxiety issues as it is, and so I can’t explain why I would torture myself with non-stop PvZ sessions.  But such is life.  I finally beat the adventure mode on my iPhone, and now I’m thoroughly entranced with the Zen Garden and all the meta-stuff there is to do.  And I suspect that I’ll get around to playing my XBLA and PC/Mac versions as well.

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I ended up doing a lot of Achievement hunting in L.A. Noire this past weekend – I finally 5-starred all the cases, found all the film reels and landmarks, drove 194.7 miles, completed all the street crimes, etc.  According to the Social Club I’m exactly 94% complete.  I don’t know that I will ever find every single vehicle, nor am I sure I want to.  Honestly, it was just nice to finally get to actually explore the world; I never bothered with it when I was actually playing the game, as I just wanted to focus on the cases.  There’s a surprising amount of city to be found, as it turns out; the game itself uses hardly any of it, which seems a bit wasteful.   I do kinda wish that I had the PS3 version; I didn’t really mind the disc swapping when I was playing the story, but in a weekend like this where I’m doing a bunch of completion-ist stuff, it’s somewhat of a pain in the ass.

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I can’t quite remember which Achievement it was that put me over the 70K mark, but, well, it happened.  I’d like to hit 75K by the end of the year, although that might be a little bit out of reach.

 

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*  This is a big deal, actually.  In my experience, open world games live or die based on the worlds themselves.  This is why Crackdown 2 was such an incredible disappointment; this is also why Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece.  Infamous 2 takes place in New Marais, a fictional city inspired by New Orleans; you would think this would be a slam-dunk in terms of atmosphere, but instead it feels, well, dead.

>Weekend Recap: Orbs and Time

>I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a change of heart regarding Crackdown 2, but rather a change of attitude. It’s still not a very good 3rd person open-world shooter, but I think the mistake is on our part, for assuming that it’s trying to be.

As with the original Crackdown before it, the game is merely a playground, and the main treat – the collection of Agility Orbs – is the real goal. All the people that you end up killing are merely obstacles in your path. It’s sort of ridiculous that such a simple premise can make for such a compelling experience, but there it is.

I do not care about the story or the objectives or anything else – I’m just all about leveling up my dude. I’ve collected a little over 300 Agility Orbs so far, about 30 hidden Orbs, 5 or 6 of those Renegade Orbs, and so my Agility level is now just over 5. (The gliding ability that I just unlocked is not quite as awesome (or useful) as it could be.) I’ve started to relent and actually do the “game” stuff as well, if only so that I have more respawn points (such points also let you keep any new weapons you find out in the world), and that stuff continues to be uninteresting.

I’m still of the opinion that it feels more like a huge expansion pack, rather than a $60 retail purchase. If you’re a fan of the original, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting here. If you’re new to the series, this is certainly a good place to start, and (probably) well worth a rental.

————–

I also did a little dabbling in Singularity over the weekend, which looks and feels a lot like some sort of high-concept Bioshock mod. (Seriously – it looks just like Bioshock.) It’s not bad! It’s got some neat time-manipulation puzzle business mixed with all the shooting and the killing. I’m maybe 2 hours in, so I’ve got a lot left to see, but it’s definitely better than I was expecting it to be.

>Compulsive Collecting

>I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating (at least in terms of giving this post some sort of thematic focus): of my 57,908 Achievement Points, the points I’m most proud of were the 50 I earned for finding all 500 Agility Orbs in the first Crackdown. Yes, I earned them. I didn’t use a walkthrough, I didn’t cheat; I found all those motherfuckers on my own, and all the hours I spent in doing so were totally worth it.

The hunt for Agility Orbs more than made up for the game’s many flaws, and the rewards for leveling up were tangible – Crackdown’s Pacific City was made for running around and jumping, and having a maxed out Agility stat meant that running around and jumping was more awesome. In retrospect, I can acknowledge (well, admit) that the first Crackdown was not a particularly good game; it’s just that it did this one particular thing exceedingly well, and that one particular thing was so much fun that it kinda became the heart and soul of the game, for me.

And so I pre-ordered Crackdown 2 without thinking twice. You can’t put something as addictive as Agility Orbs in a game called Crackdown and not have collection junkies like me foaming at the mouth.

I got my copy yesterday, and guess what? It’s almost the exact same game as the first one. This ought not to be too big a deal – hunting Agility Orbs is still fun – but the sense of deja vu is overwhelming, and the game’s differences are mostly superficial. More importantly, the game’s flaws are much more apparent, especially when compared to games like InFamous; the shooting is janky as hell, the driving is more or less unnecessary (and certainly feels like it was under-designed, as a result), and the city feels somewhat lifeless (which is odd, considering how many people are wandering the streets). Hunting Agility Orbs is pretty much my only real motivation for finishing the game, now, and I’m not entirely sure that I want to “play the actual game” unless I have to, in order to access a new part of the city. This makes me a little sad, frankly. This makes me feel guilty for slogging through a shitty game just so that I can find a new Orb.

—-

My wife was out of town for this past 4th of July weekend, which meant that I had the TV all to myself. And this meant that I could play the hell out of Lego Harry Potter. There’s not a lot that needs to be said about this game; if you like the Lego series, this is the best one of the lot. If you’re a fan of the movies, you will appreciate this game a lot more than if you’re just a fan of the books. If you’re totally unfamiliar with the Harry Potter brand, this game will not make any sense, but it’s still incredibly approachable and easy and if you’re a compulsive collector, you will have a hard time pulling yourself away from it. I decided I’d had enough when I got up to 98% completion; I was never going to find every last character token. But I did get all 200 gold bricks, all 50 students in peril, all 20 red bricks, and the few Achievements I missed are not necessarily that hard to get; if I really need to, I’m sure I can go back and get the full 1,000 without too much trouble.