Red Dead Rumination

So I guess we need to talk about this.

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Here’s my prediction:  tomorrow they officially reveal Red Dead Revolution, for a Spring 2017 release.  While I’d love to see a protagonist that isn’t an older white man – a POC, a Native American, a woman – I don’t think it’ll happen.  I would be surprised to see it as a pure sequel to Redemption; most Rockstar franchises exist independently of each other (with the notable exception of Max Payne, and even then that was Remedy).

The fact that there are seven characters in this image implies that there’ll be some sort of online posse element to the game; Redemption‘s online features were pretty great, all things considered, and considering how well GTAV online is going, I would imagine that this new game will incorporate a lot of those ideas.

But beyond that, I’m not going to speculate, since I’m almost always completely wrong about everything Rockstar does.  I will say this, though:  The Witcher 3 is now my gold standard for the open-world adventure, and when I played Witcher 3 it reminded me of Redemption in all the best ways.  So while I’m obviously incredibly excited for whatever this game turns out to be, I’m also setting some very, very high expectations.


I have not yet bought PSVR, but I’m seriously starting to think about it.  It’s the only VR system I can sort of afford, and it seems to be getting pretty positive reviews, and I know it’s only a matter of time before I succumb to peer pressure and buy it anyway.

It might be the thing that keeps me interested in gaming, actually.  I’m finding myself having a harder time staying engaged with what I’m playing these days – I’m not sure if it’s because of the new head meds I’m on, or if I’m just not playing anything all that great, or what, but I’m not feeling particularly gung-ho about anything right now.

To wit:

I gave up on Mafia 3 after about 30 minutes with it.  The very first mission glitched out on me, and everything about it felt janky.  I very much appreciate and respect what the narrative is trying to do, believe me; but my limited time and my dwindling reserves of patience make it difficult for me to give anything the benefit of the doubt.

I am holding on to my rental copy of XCOM 2 for a little while longer, even if I’m still terribly intimidated by it.  I’d like to at least get a few more missions into it before deciding whether or not I should bail.

I had promised a buddy that I’d play Gears 4 in co-op with him, but he was away last week and so I ended up playing the prologue and a tiny bit of the post-opening credits sequence.  I don’t really know what to say about it; it’s Gears, looking as spiffy as ever, and there’s lots of shooting and hiding in cover and such.  At this point I feel like co-op is probably the better way to play it, since at the very least I can tune out the narrative.

I played the new Croft Manor DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider; whoever described it as Lara Croft’s Gone Home is pretty much right on the money.  I’m missing 2 artifacts, and while I’m eager to break the 100K Achievements mark, I don’t know if I care about it enough to go back and hunt them down.

I also finished Virginia, which had been getting some rather intriguing press of late.  I found it interesting, but I’m not 100% sure I understand what I saw; the use of jump-cuts is rather unique in game storytelling but it’s also the sort of thing that calls attention to itself, and if it’s not serving an apparent purpose it really just becomes distracting.  I found it pleasantly enigmatic but it’s not sticking in my head the way it is for others; so it goes.

 

Lest you think I’m just shitting on everything I touch, I do need to salute Picross 3D: Round 2.  I’ve gotten a Rainbow medal on every puzzle; the only thing I could conceivably do is go through each puzzle where I made one mistake and try to ace it instead.   It’s the most enjoyable puzzle game I’ve played in ages, and I must admit that it was nice having my 3DS back in my rotation for a little while.

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I am most likely sitting Battlefield 1 out, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to rent Titanfall 2 or the new Call of Duty either, which means the next thing on my must-play list appears to be… Dishonored 2.

Weekend Recap: Forza Horizon 3

1. This was a lovely weekend.  Glorious, brisk autumnal weather; met up with friends every single day, both old and new; had one of the best bloody marys I’ve ever had in my life; really, the only way it could’ve been better is if all my sports teams hadn’t decided to collectively shit the bed at the same time.  I’ll credit my new head meds that I didn’t take that too much to heart.

2. I will not be watching the debate tonight.  I mean, look: my mind was made up a long time ago, and tonight’s shitshow is going to accomplish nothing beyond raising my blood pressure beyond acceptable limits.  If this infograph below doesn’t spell out how absurd tonight’s playing field is, I don’t know what else to tell you.  If “smile more” can seriously equal “stop lying” in terms of importance, then this nightmare will never end.

3. I tweeted last night:

I meant to follow this up with some further observations, but I couldn’t put my controller down long enough to type them out.  In any event, Forza Hoziron 3 is wonderful.  I think the thing I appreciate the most is that it’s genuinely and sincerely interested in me having fun on my own terms.  Indeed, the game’s earnestness and sincerity encompass almost every facet of the game’s design; even the cheesiness of the “narrative” seems well-intentioned.  Unlike other “car culture” games whose hyper-machismo bullshit gets incredibly irritating after just a few minutes, FH3 is inviting and welcoming and friendly.  I have no idea if car festivals like the one Horizon is attempting to recreate actually exist; I have literally no interest in car culture or anything beyond making sure my own car is gassed up and not falling apart.  I am very content to simply drive around and explore FH3’s vision of Australia, and the game actively encourages this sort of behavior.  In a way, I’m actually kind of glad that the Xbox One’s screenshot capabilities are so clumsy, because otherwise I’d be taking pictures nearly every other second.  At one point last night I was driving in the outback, and the in-game sun had begun to set, and suddenly the stars started to appear… and kept appearing… and suddenly there were, like, millions of them, and it was so breathtaking that I could barely keep my car on the road.

4. I may have hit the wall as far as Picross 3D: Round 2 is concerned.  I’ve seen the credits roll, I’ve unlocked all the stamps, and so all that’s left are some brutally difficult puzzles, and I’m the sort of perfectionist that needs as few errors as possible or else I automatically restart, and I find myself accidentally selecting the wrong color (which I still can’t believe I’m doing after all this time)… the short version is that I’m getting more frustrated than anything else.  So I think I’ll take a little break from that.  At least – I won’t bring it into work with me anymore.

5. The Nix continues to be amazing.  There’s a chapter right in the middle of the book that takes the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure, and it’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve read in ages.

I think that’s all I’ve got for the time being.  I’m hoping to get my hands on XCOM 2 for console later this week, as my PC did not meet minimum specs when it was released there earlier this year; I’d like to post some impressions of that, though it’ll be tough to get FH3 out of my mind.

Midweek Meanderings: Witcher v Fallout, Picross Praise

(Props to my buddy Greg for helping me find a temporary alternative to Random Ramblings.)

1. My future as a professional games journalist is, obviously, going nowhere.  So I’m grateful that Patrick Klepek keeps saying what I’m thinking, and saying it much better than I can – in this case, about how The Witcher 3 has ruined Bethesda RPGs for us both.  As he notes, I think the biggest reason why I couldn’t get into Fallout 4 – a game I’d been anticipating like crazy, a game I was so excited about I spent an extra $50 or whatever for the special Pip-Boy edition, which I’ve used exactly once – was because Witcher 3 raised the bar for open-world RPGs so incredibly high that FO4 was doomed to be a disappointment from the get-go.  Fallout 4 doesn’t feel particularly different from Skyrim or Fallout 3 or anything – nor does it even look that different, for that matter – and it suffers for it, I think.  I never felt the pull to just go in a random direction and explore the way I did in previous Bethesda games, and I think it’s because, for whatever reason, Fallout 4 felt particularly uninspired.  The whole thing looks and feels very last-gen – which is not necessarily a bad thing, given how much I adore Fallout 3 and Oblivion – but I couldn’t help wanting something new and fresh.  Bethesda owns iD, right?  Shouldn’t it be able to use their graphics tech?

2. I am reminded, yet again, that I need to get back to Witcher 3 and finish Blood and Wine.

3. OK, so have I mentioned yet that Picross 3D – Round Two is one of my favorite games of the year?  I have only two complaints, and neither of them are necessarily the game’s fault:

  • I’m about 180 puzzles into it, and I’m playing on the hardest difficulty, and I’m usually able to finish every puzzle with 1 error at most.  And that 1 error is, 99.9999% of the time, because I hit the wrong button, not because I made a mistake in deduction.
  • The 3DS is murder on the wrists after more than 20 minutes, especially when lying down in bed.

Other than that, it’s easily in my top 3 for GOTY.

4. For the bulk of this current console generation, my platform of choice has been the PS4.  As I’ve mentioned, however, I’ve been hoping to crack 100K on the ol’ Achievements by year’s end, and so I’ve been mostly playing Xbox One games of late.  And I must say – while it’s true that multi-platform games look better on the PS4, I really like the Xbox One experience.  For starters – the Elite controller is, bar none, the best controller I’ve ever used.  The Xbox One’s interface is so much more enjoyable to navigate – sure, the store could use some work, and neither of the two consoles has quite figured out the ideal way to look at your cloud-stored games – but, by and large, I’ve really enjoyed using the Xbox One over the last few weeks.

Remind me of this paragraph when the PS4 Pro comes out in a few weeks, by the way.  I don’t have an HDR-enabled 4K TV, nor do I have any inclination towards getting one at this particular moment in time, so there’s literally no reason why I should get the PS4 Pro beyond having a marginally better experience with PSVR (assuming that PSVR is worth picking up in the first place); and so if Microsoft’s upcoming Scorpio console is as amazing as they’re touting it to be, I kinda feel like that’s the upgrade I should continue saving for.

5. My 3-year-old has started being interested in games.  And I’ve been struggling to figure out what to let him play that he could actually make sense of.  I bought Minecraft: Xbox One edition because I figure that’s an inevitability, and he liked chopping down trees and such, though he can’t figure out the controls.  So I’m opening up the floor here:  are there any good games for 3-year-olds with super-simple control schemes, where he wouldn’t necessarily need my help in terms of moving around?  Is 3 too young to expect that sort of thing?  Do I have to buy a Nintendo console?

Random Ramblings, Thursday edition

Today’s song of the day:

It’s been a while, so let’s get caught up.

1. The more I think about it, the more underwhelmed I am by Sony’s reveal of the PS4 Pro.  Let’s leave aside the total lack of anything regarding PSVR – nothing I saw yesterday compelled me to upgrade my current PS4; if anything, I’d rather spend that money on upgrading my PS4’s hard drive.  I mean, if I want to get the most out of the PS4 Pro, I’d need a 4K TV (which I don’t have), and I’d also need to make sure that it supports HDR (which, apparently, not all 4K TVs do).  Fundamentally, the content simply isn’t there yet to necessitate the upgrade, and while HDR is certainly intriguing I’m not sure it’s essential – and in any event, my OG PS4 is getting the HDR upgrade next week anyway.  If I have to shell out money for a console upgrade at this point – and I’m nto sure I do – I’m leaning heavily towards next year’s Microsoft Scorpio.

2. I’ve successfully completed my Goodreads challenge, and am now currently at 37 books finished for the year.  I don’t have a secondary number to hit; I’d rather just take my time and enjoy what I read from here on out.  I’m also probably not going to participate next year; it’s an extra layer of stress that I definitely don’t need, and as far as record-keeping is concerned I’m already tracking what I read in a GoogleDoc, because I’m ridiculous.

2a. My end-of-year “Favorite Sentences of 2016” post might end up being on the short side of things; while I’ve enjoyed a lot of what I’ve read, I haven’t found myself highlighting a lot of beautiful phrases.  To wit: I just finished reading Ted Chiangs’ “Stories Of Your Life and Others”, a rather remarkable collection of speculative science-fiction-ish stories (mostly because the title story is the source of the upcoming film “Arrival“, which I very much want to see); each story is incredibly fascinating and certainly very well written, but I never found myself lingering over a particularly affecting phrase.  This is not an indictment of the book at all, but rather just something I’ve noticed in terms of my own reading.  I think it’s fair to say that in order to meet my Goodreads Challenge number, I opted to read shorter books with heavy genre trappings, and while those kinds of books are highly enjoyable, they don’t necessarily feature poetic prose.

3. I’ve hit something of a wall with respect to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with it.  There’s a sudden difficulty spike at my current stage of the game – all of Prague is on lockdown, which makes getting around town incredibly difficult, at least in terms of my current character build – and I’m so far removed from the narrative’s motivations that I’m tempted to call it a day.  While I do enjoy some of the gameplay loops – i.e., enter an area, scout out hidden pathways, sneak around, hack stuff, get out without being seen – I’m struggling to stay invested in the story, which is just this side of Kojima-esque silliness.

4. On the flipside, I am thoroughly addicted to Picross 3D: Round 2, which is the first thing I’ve used my 3DS for in maybe 2 years.  It is a little strange that you’re not actually solving the puzzle on the 3D screen – that is, in fact, what I’d been hoping to do – but whatever; I love it anyway.  Solving a puzzle feels like sculpting a figure out of marble, in much the same way that playing Rock Band feels like playing music – it’s not 1:1, obviously, but it produces the same creative euphoria.  I worry that if I continue to bring my 3DS to work, I will get fired.

5. I’ve also been playing some indie games on XB1, as I continue in my quest to hit 100K.  I finished Valley, which I don’t really know how to talk about – there are parts of it that are wondrously exhilarating, and other parts that are a bit of a slog, and the ending – such as it is – felt a bit underwhelming.  I’m also about halfway through The Turing Test, a first-person puzzler not unlike Portal or The Talos Principle; the narrative is a bit clumsy in its execution but the puzzles themselves are satisfying to solve (at the moment, at least).


I’m continuing to feel somewhat withdrawn and hermit-like – this is something I’m working on, privately – so please bear with me if it gets even more quiet around here than usual.

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