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 …

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1. Achievement Unlocked:  we have a surround-sound system in our living room.  We don’t have to worry about annoying our downstairs neighbors, because the downstairs is still our house.  I’ve been wanting some sort of surround-sound thing for maybe 20 years, and now I have one.  Have I actually watched anything with it turned on?  No, …

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weekend recap – birthday boy makes good

December 10, 2012


I’m having a tough time getting words to come out of my brain today.  I started writing this post around 4 hours ago, and between constant work interruption and my utter inability to maintain any semblance of focus, I’ve made it no further than this introduction.

It’s not that I went all wild and crazy for my birthday this weekend; far from it, in fact.  But it is true that I’ve not been sleeping well lately, and when my alarm clock went off this morning I felt very much like I was dead.  I took one of those mindless 20 minute shower-trances where I would stare off into space and then suddenly wonder if I had already put shampoo in my hair, or if I was simply waiting the required 3-5 minutes before I could rinse.

Anyway, here I am, in a quiet moment at work, with my mind (when it’s working) far away in the land of Far Cry 3.

I suppose it’s good that I can’t really think right now, because even though I’m having an enormous amount of fun with FC3, it’s the sort of game where I’m afraid that over-analyzing it will ruin it.  It’s like, yes, it was enormously astute of some critics to point out how bizarre it was that eating years-old potato chips in Bioshock actually granted health bonuses instead of taking them away, but the game was still awesome; likewise, if I spend too much time thinking that even though the protagonist in FC3 goes from “I’m afraid of even looking at a gun” to “Holy shit this flamethrower is fucking amazing!” in a very short amount of time, killing human beings by the dozens along the way, he still says “Ewww…..” while skinning his hundredth animal.

I mean, look – there’s a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief that any gamer needs to have while playing a game with guns.  Leaving aside mechanical tropes like regenerating health and the ability to take more than one bullet hit and not immediately fall down dead, there’s lots of things that gamers need to ignore in order for a game’s narrative logic to not completely fall apart.  I’ve talked before about Uncharted‘s Nathan Drake and the dizzying amount of cognitive disassociation necessary for the gamer to accept that Drake isn’t a serial-murdering psychopath (who, according to my stats, murdered over 700 people in Uncharted 3) but rather a fun, charming ruffian who gets in and out of “scrapes.”   This is all to say that while I appreciate FC3’s writers trying to make the player character less of a mutant super-soldier and more of a normal dude, they either need to fully commit to the premise and have him get used to skinning animals, or just leave it alone altogether.

As for the game itself.

I’d finally gotten to the point where I’d done so much dicking around (exploring, ascending radio towers, reclaiming outposts, hunting and crafting, etc.) that I actually had too much XP – i.e., it seems that a lot of the skill tree is locked until you do more story missions.   And while screwing around is fun in and of itself, it turns out that you can have more fun if you have access to some of those locked skills.  So, I turned back to the story last night and decided to see what’s what.

Whaddya know, the story missions are also pretty awesome.  I escaped from a burning building and rescued my girlfriend, and now I’m on some sort of vision quest for the island’s high priestess, where I’ve made my way to a shanty village called “Badtown” and hooked up with some far-out CIA dude who’s having me run errands for him.

The narrative is still taking shape; there’s now apparently a super-villain that even the psychopathic Vaas must answer to, and I’m not quite sure where this high priestess / jungle mysticism thing is going, but as long as I get to continue running around and do the things I’m already doing, I’ll be happy.

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I also finished the story mode in Lego Lord of the Rings, which was a lot of fun (albeit with the same stupid platforming bullshit that has plagued the Lego games since the beginning), and I’m slowly going through the game again with the intent of getting 100%.  My wife is a huge LOTR fan, too, and she’s been having fun watching the strange incongruities that can happen in the post-completion phase of the game, like having Sauron and Frodo run around together solving puzzles.

3 amazing things

December 7, 2012


I don’t know what this says about me as a person, but I find that I’m generally much happier when the books I’m reading and the music I’m listening to and the games I’m playing are really good.  As it happens, I’m reading a great book,* and I’ve been getting back into some old music I’d forgotten about,** and after the crushing disappointments of both Need For Speed Most Wanted and Assassin’s Creed 3, I’m fully invested in at least 3 great games.

 

1.  Let me continue to sing the praises of Far Cry 3, for starters.  I hereby fully apologize for any disparaging comments/thoughts/opinions I might have had pre-release.  I never really cared about the earlier games, and the E3 presentation didn’t do all that much to impress me, but MAN.  Now that I have it in my hands?  It’s giving Borderlands 2 a serious run for its money for Game of the Year.

I spent 2 hours last night in the game, not even doing any story missions – just hunting and crafting, liberating outposts and climbing radio towers.  It’s quite shocking to see how pretty much everything AC3 got wrong, FC3 is getting right – starting with those radio towers.  In AC3, you basically climbed the same 2 or 3 buildings, or the same 1 (one) tree.  In FC3, though, each radio tower is its own mini-platforming puzzle.  It’s nothing terribly difficult to figure out (at least, not yet – I’ve only unlocked 4 or 5), but it keeps the experience fresh each time – not to mention, of course, that some radio towers are also festooned with assorted wildlife.  I managed to climb one tower last night before almost getting eaten by a fucking leopard, who jumped out of nowhere – and by the time I got up to the second floor, the leopard was being stalked by 3 fucking gila monsters.

There are real, tangible incentives for doing at least some of this side stuff – the hunting in particular is actually pretty necessary as the amount of stuff you can carry at the beginning of the game is barely enough to keep you alive.  I haven’t done any of the assassination missions, and I’ve only done one of the Great Hunt missions, but I’ve also been plenty busy as it is just exploring and opening up the map.  I’m almost a little reluctant to truly dive into the story until I’ve crafted enough stuff, actually – and it’s just as well, since I’m still having a blast.

2.  I’ve mostly found the Lego games to be quite charming and fun and playfully respectful of their respective franchises, if also occasionally stuffed with maddeningly frustrating platforming elements.  But I’ve gotta hand it to Traveler’s Tales – Lego LOTR is one hell of a package.  The Lego formula works to absolute perfection with this IP, and the improvements they’ve made – to the camera, to the hubworld, to pretty much everything – are quite staggering.  The trademark Legoese has been replaced with actual dialogue from the movies, which is a little odd at first, but it generally works quite well.  Precision jumping is still shitty, but thankfully there’s not a tremendous amount of it.  If you’re a fan of either Lego or the LOTR movies, there is absolutely no excuse not to play this game – this is a guilty pleasure that’s 100% guilt-free.

3.  I’ve made no secret of my fanboy status with respect to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and so I gobbled up yesterday’s iPad release of GTA Vice City before I got out of bed.  Ironically – and I know this is a somewhat controversial thing to admit, given that I’m most certainly in the minority – Vice City is probably my least favorite entry of the post-III-era console games. ***   Still, that said, it’s obvious that there’s still a tremendous amount to love, and the fact that I can play it on my iPad – and the fact that it looks and sounds as good as it does – is nothing short of amazing.  The iPad controls are about as good as they can be, given the nature of the touchscreen – they make sense, and it’s pretty easy to get up and running in a short amount of time.  I don’t know how much time I’m going to spend actually playing it – I didn’t really play all that much of the iOS version of GTA3, either – but I love knowing that I have it on my iPad.  (It stands to reason that San Andreas is in the works, right?  I would definitely play the hell out of that one.)

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* Justin Cronin’s “The Twelve“, which is perhaps not quite as good as “The Passage” but it’s still pretty great.  Also, I can’t say enough good things about the new Kindle Paperwhite – it’s totally worth the upgrade.  And the X-Ray feature is indispensable.

** including stuff like Cornelius, Tony Allen, and especially Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate’s “In The Heart of the Moon”

*** This is something I’ll most likely have to address when I get around to the inevitable GTA5 wishlist post, which is most assuredly in the works.

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