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.

The Post-Turkey Blues

Here’s hoping you all had a lovely holiday; we certainly did.  Lovely extended family hang time, minimal traffic, and then we got home and did our holiday decorating.  Life is good.  Even though I’m turning 40 in just over a week.

1. As of this morning’s commute, I am 76% into City On Fire, which I am very much enjoying after somewhat of a slow start.  All of the disparate narrative arcs and character threads are suddenly converging with extreme haste, and I feel like I could probably knock out the remaining ~200 pages in an hour or so (if I could find an hour to spare).  I may have said this before, but it bears repeating in any case – for a 900+ page book, City on Fire is paced incredibly well; you don’t often think of these sorts of massive tomes as “page-turners”, but, well, there you go.

I won’t be finalizing my Books Of the Year posts until I finish this one, especially given that it’s got some of my favorite sentences tucked away in its corners.

2. I’m a few more hours into Fallout 4 and my disappointment grows with each step I take.  As my available gaming time shrinks over the next few weeks (my wife and I have been devouring Jessica Jones of late, which is excellent; I’ve also gotta get my ass in gear and start finishing this album), I find myself becoming less and less forgiving of games that make me feel like I’m wasting time, and unfortunately that’s where I kinda am as far as FO4 is concerned.

I will concede that this might be my fault, somehow.  That my expectations for a Bethesda open-world RPG on new hardware might have been asking too much; similarly, it could be that my recent experiences playing other open-world RPGs like Witcher 3 – and also having just finished the finely polished Rise of the Tomb Raider – might have influenced my thinking and judgment.

Still, though, there’s something somewhat… hmm… amateurish about Fallout 4.  It’s ugly, it’s buggy, it doesn’t explain itself well (even when it’s tutorializing), and its UI is fucking horrendous.

I recall reading something, somewhere (it might have been this?), about how Bethesda’s teams are small on purpose, that they are willing to sacrifice certain things (bug squashing, graphical fidelity, etc.) in order to better focus on other things (atmosphere, narrative, etc.).   I suppose that’s admirable in certain respects.  But it doesn’t make me less inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt.  Again – I know I’m repeating myself here – I’ve spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours playing Bethesda games, and there’s a certain amount of jank that I know I should be expecting when I play these things.  But I’m finding the lack of polish more and more distracting, and it makes the stuff I do like that much more frustrating.  I want to explore – Bethesda still creates that feeling, that yearning to see what’s behind the next corner, better than anybody else – but I don’t want to be miserable while I’m doing it.

3. The irony in my disappointment about Fallout 4 is that I’m now finding myself really, really, really wanting to play Just Cause 3.  For all the times I’ve whined about how tired I’m getting of having to kill things in order to advance, I’m finding myself in the perverse position of sitting on my gaming couch and, more than anything else, wanting to explode the shit out of everything I possibly can, and JC3 would appear to be the answer to this desire.  As of this moment – 1:30pm – there aren’t any reviews out that I’ve seen, though the early scuttlebutt on Twitter is that there are some atrociously awful loading times.  This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, though, as long as it’s the sort of thing that can get patched quickly.

 

 

Wrapping up the Knight, and Looking Ahead to the Fall

1.  I’ve been toying with the idea of reviving my personal WP blog, which I’d impulsively shut down a few years ago for reasons I can’t quite recall anymore.  But I did want to revive two specific lists – my top 50 albums of the 80s and 90s.  I liked writing those lists, and they still feel more or less accurate, and I figured they ought to resurface.  (Speaking of which – please let me know if, for some reason, those links don’t work for you; I’m not 100% sure I’ve figured out how to mass-edit privacy settings.)

2.  Unlike games, which I have no problem giving up on if I’m not enjoying them, I am debating giving up on Joshua Cohen’s “The Book of Numbers“.  It’s a difficult book, but usually that’s not that big a problem; it’s more that I started reading it right before work got crazy, and I put it down, and when I pick it up now I’m totally clueless as to what is going on and, to the extent I remember any of the characters, why I should care about them.  I’d like to get back to it at some point – he’s extraordinarily gifted with words and phrases – but I think I need to read something a little bit less obtuse.

3.  I finished the main Scarecrow-centric Batman Arkham Knight storyline the other night, and yet I’d only completed 64% of the game.  I took a much-needed sick day yesterday and ended up finishing almost everything else – there’s only one or two more militia-themed sidequests to finish, as well as some kidnapped firemen to track down – which brings me up to around 91% completion.  That said, I’ve only found 25% of the Riddler’s question marks, and if I have to find all of them in order to fully activate the Nightfall protocol, I’ll just watch it on YouTube.  Can’t be bothered with that bullshit.

Overall – I think it’s fair to say I liked it, though I did find it tedious and repetitive at times, and almost all the militia-themed quests are straight-up filler and get super-ridiculous towards the end.  (The bomb quests in particular, where you eventually have to fend off 50+ drones, are just flat-out stupid.)

It’s hard to discuss the story without spoiling everything, but I did find it both effective and affecting; if this is indeed Rocksteady’s last Batman game, they went about as all-out as they possibly could, and I commend them for that.  I don’t know that I’ll find myself itching to play it again, though, the way I did with Asylum.

4.  Speaking of what to play next…. I’m looking at the release calendar and it looks pretty goddamned depressing.  Next week is the new EA golf game (which I can’t not call Tiger Woods, just out of habit)… and then:

  • Mad Max (I want to hope this isn’t terrible – there was an interesting-looking preview video a little while ago that suggested it was a bit more ambitious than you’d think – and the fact that it’s telling its own story and isn’t necessarily a naked licensed cash grab seems promising – but I haven’t seen any coverage about it since that video in April, and its September release date isn’t that far away)
  • Metal Gear Solid V (I’m renting this and I fully expect to send it right back.)
  • Forza Motorsport 6 (I missed Forza 5; I’m curious as to whether or not I’m going to like this, given how much I prefer the Forza Horizon games.*)
  • Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 (wouldn’t it be great if this game didn’t suck?  I miss the old THPS games like crazy.  I have little faith that this won’t be a piece of shit, but little > none, so…)
  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (I’ll play this for at least a little while, I suppose.  It’s gotta be better than Unity, right?  I just need to figure out its nickname; AssSyn?)
  • Halo 5: Gaurdians (I’m at least renting this because I own an Xbox One and I feel obligated to, but I haven’t enjoyed a Halo game since maybe Halo 2.)
  • Fallout 4 (I cancelled my PipBoy preorder, mostly because I couldn’t figure out which system to get it for – has anyone confirmed whether the PS4 is getting mod support the way that the XB1 is?)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (This and FO4 are the only two games I could see knocking Witcher 3 out of the top spot in my GOTY ranking.  For some reason – perhaps simply my desire to play a good, fun action/platformer – I think I’m going to like this one more than Fallout 4.)
  • Star Wars Battlefront (I’m not really a multiplayer shooter kind of dude, but I loved the original games, and I’d like to think this would be fun enough for a little while)
  • Just Cause 3 (sure, why not)

And then there’s a bunch of remastered editions which I may/may not check out purely out of graphics-whore-ishness, like Uncharted, Gears of War and God of War.


* I forgot to mention that I tried the PS+ edition of Driveclub the other day; I did about a lap and a half of the first race and couldn’t figure out whether it was meant to be arcade-y or a sim, and while it’s pretty it didn’t grab me, and I promptly uninstalled it to make room for future HD installs.  Much ado about nothing, I guess.

%d bloggers like this: