2015 Resolutions and Anticipations

A Preface in Three Parts:

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

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

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


 

Pop Culture Consumption Resolutions for 2015:

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

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

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

THE MUST-HAVES

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

THE RENTALS, AT THE VERY LEAST

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

THE CURIOSITIES

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

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

 

The Last Weekend Recap of 2014

2015 will be upon us in just a few days.  This would be an opportune time to whip up a “Top 10 Games I’m Looking Forward To” post, or even a “New Year’s Resolution” post, and perhaps I’ll get one of those going before long.  I do have material for both of those posts, because I am nothing if not over-prepared.

But I’m finding it hard to be upbeat about gaming right now, and it’s hard to look forward when the present is still dragging me down.  We’re still in 2014, after all, only a few days removed from the PSN/XBL hack that ruined everyone’s Christmas break.

So as far as a weekend recap is concerned, well:  what could any of us do?  As it was, pretty much every game I have stored on my PS4 and XB1 was impossible to play, given that everything needed an internet connection, even the single-player stuff.  Thank God I’d already finished my Dragon Age campaign, or else I would’ve lost my friggin’ mind.    (Speaking of which, for a few days there I thought my Vita was broken, too – although now that the networks are back up, it appears all is well.)

In any event, because Xbox Live came back faster than PSN – and it’s more than a little distressing at how Sony still doesn’t have their online shit together – I did end up getting back into Forza Horizon 2; I’m now only 2 championships away from the Finale.  Goddamn, I love that game.  I can’t tell if the computer AI is too easy, or if I’m really good at it, or what – I win nearly every race, but they’re always close, and they’re almost always really entertaining.

I only found out that PSN was starting to come back online because I’ve been waking up at 3am every night for the last 2 weeks, and so during Saturday’s insomnia I decided to check my iPhone and see if I could log into the PSN app, and – lo and behold – I could.  So I downloaded Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (which was part of the PSN Holiday Sale), and… it’s good?  I liked the first one a lot, and this one seems like more of that same thing, but it seems like it’d be much better with friends, so I think I’ll save that for online buddies.

And speaking of sales, I succumbed to my better judgment and picked up a few things in the Steam Holiday Sale:

  • Divinity: Original Sin
  • Secrets of Raetikon
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Super Time Force Ultra

Of those four, Divinity is the biggest pickup on my list, though after Dragon Age I can’t help but wonder if I’m epic-RPG’d out.


What else… oh yeah, I’m nearly finished with Michel Faber’s “The Book of Strange New Things“, which is absolutely heartbreaking and devastating and maybe not the best thing to read at 3 in the morning during a seasonal depression.  But it’s also really good, and I’m looking forward to diving into his back catalog.

Speaking of which, I already have a sizable book backlog to get to, though I also can’t help but notice that the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy by Javier Marías is finally available on Kindle, and so I’m kinda itching to get started on that, given that I’ve been wanting to read it for several years now.  I’m really trying to not buy anything new until I finish everything old (and this goes for games, too) but this is a special case, and I’ve got some Amazon credit burning a hole in my wishlist.

Also also:  the wife and I watched Don Hertzfeldt’s “It’s Such A Beautiful Day“, which is available on Netflix streaming.  I’ve been a fan of his work for years, and I’ve been eyeing his progress on this film for quite a long time, and then to suddenly find out it was on Netflix was a very happy accidental Christmas present.  The film itself?  Not necessarily what you’d call “happy.”  But it’s utterly brilliant and dark and amazing and considering it was basically one dude working in isolation for 10 years doing these incredible in-camera hand-drawn animations, it makes me feel like I’ve been wasting my creative life.

So look forward to my new album, which I am determined to start and finish next year.

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.

Adventures in Excessive Hyperbole: Forza Horizon 2

Actually, before we get to Forza Horizon 2, there’s three things on my mind that I should get out of the way first:

1.  I’m currently at just under 7400 words for NaNoWriMo.  As I’d mentioned last week, the topic that I eventually wound my way towards is somewhat emotionally charged, and at this point I really don’t care about hitting 50,000 words; I’m mostly just heavily invested in figuring the thing out.  And it’s hard to carve out time to sit and write about stuff that keeps hitting me harder than I expect it to; it’s tough to come home from work and do that when I’m already exhausted, and it’s even more difficult to find time during the day to do it, when I’m expected to be professional and not, say, an emotional wreck (as was the case last Friday).

2.  I tried giving it the benefit of the doubt, but after wading through 2 1/2 missions of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, I realized I’d had enough.  Because I don’t care about, and totally suck at, the multiplayer side of things, I was only ever going to play their campaigns.  And the campaigns have always been a bit silly and convoluted and contrived (and I’m not even talking about “Press X to Pay Your Respects”, although that’s a perfect example of something silly and convoluted and contrived).  As far as CoD:AW goes, I appreciate that it’s going for this sci-fi not-quite-near-future vibe, giving me quasi-superpowers and such… but at the end of the day it still feels like it’s always felt, which is a very tightly scripted shoot-em-up gauntlet running through blandly pretty corridors.   I don’t play enough Call of Duty to have an already-intuitive grasp of the controls, which makes the campaign trickier than it should be; I try to melee someone and end up throwing a grenade.  There is clearly an audience for Call of Duty, and I might as well come to grips with the fact that I am clearly not it, and haven’t been it for quite a long time now.  (For the record: my 2014 shooter of the year is still Wolfenstein, and that means Far Cry 4 has a very high bar to meet.)

3.  I finished Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Slow Regard of Silent Things“, a slim side-story to the Kingkiller Chronicles.  As Rothfuss himself says, it’s not the book you should start with if you’re new to his work.  I enjoyed it; it’s a bit of an experiment for him, which he fully acknowledges in his afterword, and I think he succeeded rather well.  The book features no dialogue, and only one character, and it does not explain itself – and yet, at the book’s end, you know this character incredibly well, and you’re given a very interesting, very specific slice of the world of the larger two books that you’d never see otherwise, and it gives him an opportunity to be more playful with language than he usually gets.  I’d recommend it – but, again, only if you’ve read the first two books, and only if you’re aware that you’re not reading a “traditional” story.  To say any more would ruin the book’s magical, ethereal quality; that’s something you should experience as nakedly as possible.


Long-time readers of this site (the number of which can probably be counted on one hand) will know that I am prone to excessive use of hyperbole.  I make no apologies for this tic; it is what it is.  When I feel inclined to write about something, it’s most likely because I’m already fired up about it.

So take this with a grain of salt, if you must, but I think I’m ready to say something ridiculous:  I’m starting to think that Forza Horizon 2 very well might be my favorite driving game of all time.*  The only real thing it’s missing is some sort of crash/stunt mode, which is a feature so closely associated with Burnout that it would be damn near impossible to implement without being charged with plagiarism.

Actually, here’s three more minor knocks that keep it from being a perfect game:  (1) the game looks absolutely gorgeous, but it also suffers from pop-in from time to time and it can be somewhat distracting at times, especially when trees are popping up along the suggested driving line.  (2) I don’t give a shit about car culture, and while I appreciate that the “Horizon Festival” is as good a justification as any for why you’re doing what you’re doing, I don’t really need a narrative justification for driving anywhere, especially if it involves something as contrived as the Horizon Festival – though at least the main guy isn’t that annoying.  (3) But if you are going to go through the trouble of having a narrative justification for doing all this stuff, then why not let me create my own character?  True, you’re behind the wheel of a car for 99% of the game, but I’m there in that other 1%, and while I might be a white guy with brown hair, not everybody who plays this game is also a white guy with brown hair.

Those three knocks aside, I’m loving the hell out of it.  It’s everything I loved about the first game, but better and larger and more beautiful, and I genuinely feel bad that my gaming schedule is about to get crowded, because I’d be happy to keep playing this and only this for the next few months.

More to the point:  it’s a fantastic showcase for the Xbox One, and the more time I spend with the Xbox One, the more I really, really like it.  I took a few minutes during the weekend to load up Ubisoft’s The Crew beta on the PS4, and the PS4’s interface is so bland and dumb.  (Also, The Crew is bland and dumb, and I’m glad I saw the beta if only so that I know to take it off of my GameFly queue.)


 

* I’ve been thinking about what my Top 10 list of driving games might look like, and the list is tricky because while there’s no shortage of driving games out there, there’s only a few franchises that really moved me in any specific way:

  • I’m certainly a big fan of the Forza series in general – and I like it more than I ever liked any of the Gran Turismo games I played – but to be honest, Forza 1-4 all kinda bleed together for me; there’s not one particular title that stands out in my memory.  (As I only just bought my Xbox One last week, I have not yet played Forza 5, though considering the scuttlebutt that surrounded it, I’m not sure I ever will.)
  • Certainly I’d put both Burnout 3 and Burnout Paradise near the very top of the list.
  • I’m a big fan of both DiRT and DiRT 2 – the latter is the better looking of the two, but the former had the best replay system (which was inexplicably changed) and had some of the best UI in any driving game, ever.
  • I loved the first two Rallisport Challenge games on the original Xbox.
  • It’s a bit of a lost gem, but does anybody else remember Midtown Madness 3 on the original Xbox?  That game was awesome.  That was the first real experience I had with online free-roam driving, and to this day I still remember all sorts of silly stuff we used to do – like trying to jump as many trucks as we could fit onto the roofs of various buildings.
  • I was also especially fond of both Project Gotham Racing 2 and 3 (4 was the one where they introduced motorcycles, I think, and that’s also where it fell off the rails for me).
  • Split/Second was terrific and criminally overlooked…
  • I will always have a soft spot for OutRun
  • My loathing of The Offspring is the main reason why I try not to think about Crazy Taxi, even if the game itself is pretty great.
  • I always enjoyed the Midnight Club games, though I never stuck with them that long.
  • I’m conflicted about the Need for Speed franchise, because (a) the driving is fine, but the cutscenes and the “car culture” is just flat-out ridiculous, and (b) while I really enjoyed Criterion’s two Need for Speed titles, it also meant that we weren’t getting any more Burnout games, which is a supreme bummer.
  • Speaking of “flat-out”, I also have a weird soft spot for that first Flat-Out game, especially on PC, because the physics were completely insane.
  • Could I include Night Driver from the Atari 2600?
  • Or Pole Position?
  • Could I get away with not including any Mario Kart games, because I don’t give a shit about Mario Kart?  or Ridge Racer, for that matter?  or Wipeout, or F-Zero?  or F1 on the PC?

Am I missing any?  Feel free to call me an idiot in the comments.

The First Few Hours (for real): Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2

1.  Before I get into the topic at hand, a confession:  I haven’t written for NaNo in 2 days.  Nor am I sure I’m going to pick up where I left off, if in fact I do decide to keep going; the subject matter is a bit more emotionally loaded and intense than I’d thought.  If I’m going to successfully fictionalize it, I need to understand it first, and boy oh boy am I not emotionally prepared to do that at this present moment in time.

2.  And in keeping with things that make me feel depressed, I can’t help but notice that my writing just sucks these days.  Even just emails to friends, FB status updates, and twitter replies – they all feel like they’re coming out wrong.  I’m feeling very much like Salieri; I have a tremendous passion for writing, but I feel that I lack the natural ability to do it as well as I’d like.  I may very well end up taking more classes.

This is all to say that trying to write a novel about super-intense emotional stuff when I’m feeling like I can’t even write a simple declarative sentence that’s enjoyable to read is discouraging, and depressing, and ugh.

3.  It’s November, which means that it’s time to start getting to work on year-end Top 10 lists.  To that end, I’ve been making it a priority to listen to all the 2014 albums I’ve saved on Spotify that I’ve never actually got around to listening to.  I’ll be putting out a playlist of my favorite songs soon enough; but there are also some albums that I’m loving the hell out of that don’t necessarily have one stand-out song.  Case in point:  Adult Jazz, “Gist Is”, which is (to me) a beautiful, melodic mixture of the avant-garde songwriting structures of Dirty Projectors and the latent melancholy that dwells within certain Vampire Weekend songs.  I can see why some listeners might find it incredibly pretentious and off-putting, but it’s been hitting me really deep of late.  Another case in point: the new Deerhoof album, “La Isla Bonita”, which might be the best (and most accessible) album they’ve put out since “The Runners Four.”  Likewise, Run The Jewels 2 and Flying Lotus’ “You’re Dead” are both utterly amazing headtrips, and near-impossible to pick just one or two tracks that stand out from the rest.

4.  So:  when I got home last night, both Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 had finished downloading.  I’m enjoying both of them, but it’s also entirely possible that my current weird, depressive mind-state is making it difficult for me to fully engage with either game.

I appreciate Sunset Overdrive’s over-the-top lunacy, it’s vibrant color palette, and that it’s breaking the fourth wall at every possible opportunity, just to show you that it’s not taking itself too seriously.  To that end, it’s also possible that being self-aware of how un-self-aware you are is also a form of overt self-awareness, and so the more bananas it tries to be, the more silly and toy-like it becomes.   It reminds me a great deal of Crackdown – it’s similarly graphically vibrant, non-linear, and you basically jump and soar and fly and blow shit up, but I don’t feel like I’m moving as quickly as I’d like (I suppose that’s something I’ll be leveling up at some point); it also reminds me a great deal of Sony’s Infamous games (especially the grinding and other traversal maneuvers), except that the traversal in Sunset Overdrive feels a bit more convoluted and non-intuitive – two button presses to grind, plus shooting?  I get the hang of it, but I don’t feel like I’ve mastered the controls as quickly as I should.

I’ve only dabbled with one or two events in Forza Horizon 2.  It’s astonishingly gorgeous – far better-looking than I expected – and I’m also really happy with how the Xbox One controller feels while driving.  The rumble is pleasingly intense, the buttons are well-placed, the triggers feel responsive; unlike in Sunset, I felt in control the entire time.  I may end up spending more time with this one, which is fine with me; I loved the first game, and this one looks like a bigger and better model.

As for the Xbox One itself?  I like it.  I like the system.  The dashboard is overwhelming at first but it does make sense, and it’s fun to engage with in ways that the PS4 isn’t.  My wife and I got rid of cable and we have a Roku3, so I don’t think I’ll be using the TV functionality all that much, but that’s fine.  I will still more than likely continue to use the PS4 as my primary console (especially as long as multi-platform releases continue to perform better on it), but I’m glad to be back in Xbox land, and I kinda forgot how much I liked earning Achievements.  (Sorry, Sony – trophies just aren’t the same.)

Random Ramblings of a Sad Bastard

1.  For various reasons, but mostly due to utter exhaustion, I’ve not played much of anything this week, and thus I’ve not written anything here.  But it should be noted that my day job has sort-of put me on notice that I spend too much time on the internet, and so you should know that this blog be somewhat dark for the foreseeable future.  The timing is terrible, of course, given that this gaming year is finally about to get interesting, and I’ll do what I can to keep writing; but a man’s gotta pay his bills, and The Man takes precedence in this case.

2.  Everything I said above is true (about why I’ve not played anything), but I’ll also say that ever since I hit the level cap in Destiny – and then saw what I had to do to level beyond – I must admit to feeling a bit repelled.  I’ll cop to putting in some time at the Loot Cave; and I’ll also cop to feeling a slight twinge of something when I heard that Bungie patched it out; and I’ll even admit that there’s a part of me that kinda wants to check out the new one.  But it’s a hollow sort of feeling, at the end of the day; I’m not being rewarded for any acts of heroism or prowess, but because I had the stamina to fire bullets into a cave for an hour without having to pause.  I’d much rather play strike playlists and get rewarded that way, but the results speak for themselves; I got more quality loot from 45 minutes at the Cave than I did in 2 hours worth of strikes.  And if the goal of the endgame is loot, then why not shoot at a cave?  Eh, the whole thing just makes me tired and angry.

3.  I almost bought an Xbox One earlier this week; Microsoft had sent me a special email that offered me 50,000 Reward Points if I bought one within a certain time period.  Beyond not knowing what Reward Points are (as I thought Microsoft had moved beyond their proprietary currency in favor of real US money), I didn’t, and I’m still not sure if I will or not – the jury’s still out on Sunset Overdrive, and that’s probably the bundle I’d buy.  But there’s a part of me that’s really itching to play Forza Horizon 2.  Furthermore,  I’m a little peeved that nobody seems to be reviewing the 360 version.  I’m getting the 360 version via Gamefly next week, but I’m almost positive that I’ll be playing it alone; I’m pretty sure that almost all of my 360 friends have upgraded to the One.  Oh well.

4.  Speaking of next week, I’ll also be receiving a rental copy of Shadow of Mordor, which is getting surprisingly great reviews.  Unfortunately, the way Gamefly works, I probably won’t be receiving it until Thursday, and I’ll be out of town until the following Monday, so basically I won’t be playing anything interesting until the week of October 7.

5.  I also really really really want to check out The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but due to money/time issues, I probably can’t get to it as soon as I’d like.

This has been your weekly sad bastard update.

Also:  I’m on Ello as jervonyc.  But, as mentioned in #1 above, I don’t know how much I’ll actually be there.  Still, if you happen to get an invite, look me up.

7 idle thoughts

I took some melatonin last night to help me sleep, and it worked – I did sleep – but I’m having a gawdawful time waking up, the sort of awful zombie nightmare hangover that no amount of coffee can rescue me from.  Which is not to say I won’t continue drinking obscene amounts of coffee; I’m just acknowledging how futile everything feels right now.

What follows are some random thoughts – because that’s all I’ve got right now – that are either too long for Twitter, or are adapted from IM conversations I’ve been having with my buddy (and long-ago SFTC contributor) Greg.

1.  King games – Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, Pet Rescue, and my current nemesis, Bubble Witch 2 – are fucking bullshit, and I hate them, and I hate that I’m still suckered into playing them when they’re objectively and obviously horrible.  The games ultimately feel like carnival contests, rigged against you from the moment you get started unless you pay for power-ups.  Skill is helpful but ultimately useless; I fail most levels not because I’ve messed up, but because the algorithm that governs the randomness of the tools at my disposal makes sure that I can’t win – unless I decide to purchase special powerups (at obscene prices).  I refuse to spend money, though, and so I’m stuck banging my head against the wall.  Ironically, the 30-minute wait to refill one (1) life is actually a godsend, because it means that when I run out of lives I don’t have to reload the page for another 2.5 hours, and I can do something meaningful with my life.

2.  I cannot explain why I’m willing to wait for a game like Divinity: Original Sin to appear in a Steam Sale, and yet I’m actually contemplating buying the PS4 version of Diablo III at full price – a game that I’ve already sunk 100+ hours into on PC, and where I can’t transfer those PC characters to my console.  The aforementioned Greg is playing it for the first time, and he appears to be enjoying himself, and I’d love to play co-op with him, and all the big sites seem to indicate that this PS4 edition is the perfect place to play D3, and that it’s worth coming back to.  I did not want to hear this news.

3.  What the hell ever happened to the Steam Box?  I keep hemming and hawing over the Xbox One but if they announced a Steam Box with decent specs (i.e., better than my 4-year-old PC) at a decent price (up to $700), I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

4.  It’s a goddamned shame that the Burnout franchise appears to be dead.  It’s even more of shame that it had to die so that Need For Speed could live.  I suppose I’m bummed that I’ll miss out on Forza Horizon 2; I can only hope that DriveClub and/or The Crew manages to capably scratch my arcade racing itch.

5.  Likewise, I’m ready for a new PS4 DiRT game.  And if Microsoft wants to woo me back, they could certainly find a way to revive the Project Gotham franchise.

6.  Speaking of arcade racers:  as long as they’re making HD remasters of last-gen games, my buddy Greg and I feel very strongly that Split/Second should get a remastered treatment.  That was a criminally underrated (and undersold) game with a ridiculously fun multiplayer side.

7.  I am not necessarily as down on CounterSpy as my friend Carolyn is, but I see her points.  Truth is, the game was never really described all that well; it’s marketed as a stealth game, and it looks like a Metroidvania game, but neither of those impressions are actually true.  For one, stealth is damned-near impossible – you have to kill everyone you see if you hope to find anything of value before exiting the level.  For another, each level is short and procedurally generated, which ostensibly means that no two levels are alike (even though you’ll start to recognize how the different parts repeat and align).  I also wish it performed better on the Vita than it does, because it’s a perfect mobile title – each level takes around 20 minutes to finish, which is a perfect time for a commute – but the load times are horrendous, and the performance is spotty at best.  It plays much smoother on the PS4, but that’s not where I’d prefer to play it – if I do indeed continue to play it at all.