Weekend recap: oh no you didn’t

Operation Backlog went a bit sideways this weekend.  I was hoping that my attempts at frugality and my desire to actually finish something I started would last longer than 2 weeks, but, well, here we are.

Let’s start with the Backlog itself:  I finally finished, at long last, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, which I’m not sure I ever want to play again.  It started out quite well, as I recall, but towards the end it became endlessly frustrating – controls being flat-out unresponsive, boss battles with game-stopping bugs and/or glitches so bad I had to quit to desktop, cheesy dialogue that often doesn’t make any literal sense, puzzles with absolutely no context, or hints, or even an acknowledgement that the thing you need to do to enter the next room is to solve a puzzle; plus, after 12 hours of play, I’m only 20% complete.  I’m not enough of a Marvel geek to appreciate how deep the roster is and to soak in all the fan service; nor am I interested in slogging through each of those levels at least twice in order to find all the hidden bullshit.  I may very well be done with the Lego games, I think – at least until the kid is old enough to start playing them, and when that day comes they’d damn well better start shipping these things in a shape that actually works.

Still; it’s off the list.

The first bit of news that would put the Backlog project on hold was that DoubleFine’s Broken Age was entering Early Access on Steam this coming Tuesday.  I’d backed the Kickstarter (like everybody else in the Western Hemisphere above a certain age) but deliberately stayed away from the forums and the videos and such; I didn’t want anything spoiled.  Assuming I get the code, I will start downloading that IMMEDIATELY…

…except that the second bit of news that might even put Broken Age on hold is that…. um… I was finally able to buy a Playstation 4.  After a month or so of tracking its in-stock status on Now In Stock and getting shut out each and every time, I was actually able to get a PS4 into my Amazon cart without it disappearing on me… and so I finally pulled the trigger.  It’s scheduled for arrival on Wednesday.

Coincidentally, I was able to play a PS4 for the first time over the weekend, too; we were at the lovely home of my wife’s childhood friend, and at one point the husband took me upstairs to his game room, put his PS4 controller in my hand, and fired up Assassin’s Creed 4.  The difference between the PS4 and my old-ish PC is pretty staggering – as I expected it might be, but still.  Wow.  Right from that first island, the level of detail on the PS4 is jaw-dropping – the foliage, the depth of the water, the vibrant colors of the leaves, the textures of tree bark.  It’s still the same game, of course, but I’m kinda tempted to rent it and play a little bit more – I’d love to see the modern-day stuff moving at more than 5 frames per second, and I’d also love to see some of the towns, cities, and ports; hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing what the ship battles look like, especially during thunderstorms.

I also played just enough of Resogun to make sure I remind myself to download it as soon as I finish plugging the PS4 in.  Also, in perhaps the biggest surprise of all, I played enough of Battlefield 4 to actually consider renting it and maybe even play it online with people.

Speaking of which – if you’re reading this and we’re not already PSN friends, feel free to send me a friend request: I’m JervoNYC.

weekend recap: patience and more patience

It’s hard for me to admit this, but I feel I must be honest; I’m starting to get a little squirmy for the new consoles, even though (a) there’s nothing on them that I need to play just yet, and (b) I simply can’t afford them.  My plan has always been to wait until the spring, when more (and better) games are due to arrive, and each console would have had their chances to get the inevitable patch-jobs that fix the many things that need fixing, and – most importantly – that I’d have enough information to make a definitive decision between the PS4 and the Xbox One (since, at this point, I can really only buy one).  See, while my heart is with the PS4 right now, I’m still a 360 fanboy, and I’d like Microsoft to get their shit together and make a more compelling case.  (To wit:  I’m gonna need more than Titanfall.)

In the meantime, I’m still working on the 360/PS3 farewell post(s).  I’d like to think I can get them up by the end of the week, although who knows; every day for the last week, a new category will pop into my head that’s mind-bogglingly obvious, and I wonder why I hadn’t already thought about it, and then my lingering paranoia rears its ugly head about this thing not being as comprehensive as I want it to be, and on and on.  Even so, it’s over 5,000 words now, and I don’t have an extra set of eyes to make sure it’s doing what it needs to do.

And as for games – I continue to plug away at Lego Marvel Heroes, which continues to be fun and frustrating in equal parts.  Also, Steam had Rayman Legends for 50% off this weekend, and I felt compelled to pick it up at that price.  (I’d very much enjoyed my time with it on the 360, but had to send it back to Gamefly before I was done with it in order to keep the Queue moving along).  The PC version looks and plays flawlessly, as you might expect.

All that gets pushed aside this week, though, because the PC version of Assassin’s Creed 4 will be at the top of my to-do list.  Oh, and I think that new 3DS Legend of Zelda game comes out later this week, too, and that’s been getting really great reviews.  And once I’m finished with those two titles, I think I can start putting together my 2013 Year In Games post – I don’t think there’s anything of any significance due to arrive this year (except maybe Walking Dead Season 2, which I’m not 100% sure I’m going to pick up – as great as the first game was, there’s only so much darkness I can deal with these days).

the first few hours: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

As I said last week, I am now in the process of wrangling together my retrospective(s) of this console generation.  This is no easy task; I played a lot of games since 2005, and while I’m doing my best to make sure that certain games don’t get lost in the cracks, it’s inevitable that I’ll forget something.

So I’m saying this up front – I don’t want to sleep on the LEGO games.  I’ve played almost all of them, and while I don’t think any of them have ever appeared on any of my year-end top 10 lists, I’ve generally always had fun with them, and they’ve always been great in terms of fan service.

As it happens, I’ve been a bit stressed out lately, and I felt like indulging in some minor retail therapy, and so I treated myself to a PC download of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes over the weekend, even though I knew my weekend schedule was going to prevent me from really digging in.   (Side note – this is my first PC Lego experience.  I’ve played everything else on the 360, and I’d been hoping to score a 360 rental copy of Lego Marvel from Gamefly, but the timing wasn’t going to work out and in any event I don’t care about Achievements the way I used to, so here I am.)  I did manage to sink around 2-3 hours into it, though; I did the first 5 or 6 missions, and then spent a bunch of time running around Lego NYC.

Here’s what I can offer after such a short play experience.

On the one hand: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is by far the best Lego game yet, which is saying quite a lot considering how good the recent Harry Potter, LOTR and Batman games have been.  Even though I’m not especially knowledgeable when it comes to comics (my familiarity with all things Marvel these days is primarily through the films and my wife’s rabid Marvel fandom), I can still appreciate the unprecedented levels of fan service being offered through its absurdly deep character roster, and even in the early going I can get a kick out of pairing Wolverine, Spiderman and the Hulk.  (And the fact that each character has their own specific idle animation is sure to tickle the most die-hard Marvel fan.) The game also features a surprisingly impressive graphics engine – even if, on my PC, frames tend to lock up during mid-mission saves and level loads.  Most impressive, though, is the open world simulation of New York City that serves as both a between-missions hub world and a full game unto itself, complete with side quests and hidden Lego bricks and races and all sorts of diversions to mess around with.  It’s LEGO GTA, basically, and it’s pretty amazing.

On the other hand: the game is still janky as hell, in the same maddening ways that all Lego games have been janky ever since the first Star Wars game, and it’s absolutely mind-boggling that these sorts of control and camera issues have never been adequately addressed.  Characters still get stuck on geometry; platforming still is successfully achieved mostly through trial and error; some puzzles are still never adequately explained; the controls still never feel as responsive as I want them to.  Iron Man can fly – which is great! – except that controlling him is a nightmare, especially in tight areas.  Certain objects can only be used by “web-slinging heroes”, except that Hawkeye can also interact with them via bow-and-arrow.  Combat can grow tedious, especially as most enemies are one-hit-kills.

Still, though, I can (usually) look past that stuff, because when the game is working it’s an absolute delight.  And the amount of content on display is nothing short of ridiculous; as in previous Lego games, each level is designed to played multiple times and with multiple characters in order to unlock all the hidden areas and find all the hidden stuff (and in this case, to help free all the Stan Lees, too).  And – again – did I mention the Lego New York City that binds all this stuff together?

Barring some sort of game-breaking catastrophe that I’ve yet to encounter, this seems like a very easy recommendation for the Marvel fan in your life – even if you’re just a fan of the movies.