On Political Agendas and Bad Stomachs

[Note:  This post may get a bit rambly.  I’m on some new medications and they make me a little drowsy/loopy.]

From my friend Caro’s Tumblr:

An example of obliviousness: on a recent piece I wrote for work in which I praised a game for the monumental act of simply portraying a relationship between women who aren’t presented as sex objects and who matter as individuals, in and of themselves and because of what they mean to each other and not just in relation to a male figure, one commenter said that games should be something we do to escape from such political agendas.

The subtle irony here is that the act of being willfully ignorant and keeping one’s mind closed is also an agenda, whether that person wants to admit it or not.  I haven’t actually played the Last of Us DLC that Caro is referencing, but my understanding of it is simply what Caro says it is – the player isn’t beaten over the head with this relationship, it simply is, and it’s entirely possible that the commenter might not even have noticed it until it was pointed out to them.  Or, alternately, now that it has been pointed out, the   commenter will refuse to play it on some bizarre “principle”, and thus a new cycle of willful ignorance will begin.

Moreover, the idea that games shouldn’t be about anything beyond shooting things is profoundly sad to me.  Frankly, one of the reasons why I’ve been sour on games lately is precisely because of the amount of virtual murder I have to commit in order to have the story play out.  I like to rag on Uncharted, another of Naughty Dog’s franchises, specifically because of all the murder I have to commit; and yet in Bravely Default, I’ve probably killed at least twice as many monsters as I did in Uncharted 3 and I’m only a third of the way through it.

TANGENT:  Speaking of which, I’ve more or less given up on Bravely Default.  I can’t remember if I mentioned that or not, but whatever.  My worst fear did in fact come to light; after clearing the map and awakening all 4 crystals, an unexplained event “reset” the game world and now I have to do the whole goddamned thing again, and I really don’t care to anymore.  I had fun enough the first time around, but I’ve got better things to do than retrace my footsteps.

TANGENT:  And speaking of giving up on things, I sent back Thief this morning, after finishing the insane asylum mission last night.  Insane asylums are as obvious a trope as anything in videogames, but it’s doubly bizarre here because for the first 90% of the mission, you’re the only person in the building.  The game actually does create a palpable atmosphere of dread, except there’s nothing chasing you, and nobody’s looking for you, and so the tension eventually fades.  But then, at the end, the game pulls a series of left turns that render the narrative – which was already pretty obscure at this point – completely incoherent and dumb.  And then, also, I picked up a series of thirteen (13!) side jobs, literally all at the same time, which says about as much as one can say about the game’s sense of pacing.

Getting back to the topic of agendas:  as a straight white male, most games are written with me as their targeted audience (or someone like me, but much younger).  Except:  I have certain anxieties and physical setbacks that are hardly ever shown in games, or movies, or books.  Remember at the top of this post, where I said I was on some new medications?  Right, well:  I don’t talk about this much, for reasons that will soon become obvious, but I’ve been suffering from IBS for the last 14 years or so.  In recent years I’ve taken great strides at getting better – I’ve made radical changes to my diet, I’m on a custom-designed (and very expensive) vitamin supplement regimen, I’ve started going to therapy, I’ve started taking anti-anxiety medication (and that took a lot of convincing, too).  And now I’m taking new medication specifically for my GI tract, and I’m hoping that’ll help further straighten things out.

The point of all this is that while I’ve certainly gotten better over the last few years, I’m still not yet out of the woods, and this specific ailment has been a source of personal embarrassment for years.  (As well you might imagine; I have not actually had any accidents, but I’ve felt like one is imminent nearly every morning commute for the last dozen years.)  I’ve missed any number of social obligations because of this, and I’ve been reluctant to travel long distances because of this, and I’m mostly just grateful that my wife hasn’t left me because of this.

What does this have to do with videogames and agendas?  Well, how many videogame characters can you think of that have anxiety disorders?  Or bad stomachs?  I can think of only one, and even then I can’t remember in which game – possibly MGS4, possibly Bayonetta – some small side character whose intense gastric distress is used as a point of bizarre comic relief.  It might’ve been funny for most 13-year-old boys (or people who think public diarrhea is hilarious), but for me it felt like a kick in the balls.

Now, I understand perfectly well why videogames and films don’t often feature characters like this – people with this sort of condition have a hard time leaving the house (and, in my case, can further complicate social anxiety issues and eventually lead to mild agoraphobia), and so it is hard to make a game starring someone who can’t go out and save the world.  And on the rare occasion when characters like this do show up in films and games, they are, more often than not, punchlines (or, worse, punching bags).  And this sort of thing does not really help to improve my outlook.  It might inspire me to get healthier, but it’s inspiration borne from shame.

This is a long way of saying that when, in South Park: The Stick of Truth, an enemy casts a spell on you in battle that causes you to shit your pants, well, my heart breaks a little bit.

TANGENT:  I am around 6 and a half hours into South Park (probably about mid-way through Day Two), and I like it quite a lot.  Even though I’m not the world’s most rabid South Park fan, I still appreciate the game’s sense of humor, but I’m just as appreciative of the actual game design.  I love how approachable the systems are; I love how deep the modification systems can go (and that you can re-modify new weapons without losing the old ones).  Hell, I kinda just love wandering around the town and seeing what there is to see, picking up random side quests for no reason other than they’re there, and that there’s usually a decent comedic payoff at the end.  I love that you can use the environment to end a random battle before it even starts.  I love the game’s commentary on the ridiculousness and overuse of audio logs and Nazi zombies.  I especially love that tacos are the game’s version of revive potions.

In other news, it’s true that the big game this week is Titanfall, but as you’ve probably guessed this is not the place for discussion about that game; I don’t own an Xbox One and I don’t care about multiplayer shooters, no matter how good they might be.

TANGENT:  I am kinda surprised at how many of my 360 friends own an Xbox One; I am also a little surprised that they stayed Xbox-centric and didn’t migrate to the PS4.  I’m still not sure what it’s going to take to get me to buy one, to be honest; and I might as well admit that at this point, if I had to buy more game hardware, I’m most likely to get a Vita.

But the other big game this week is Dark Souls II, which is arriving later this week, and which I feel compelled to at least try, if only so that even if I can’t necessarily participate in the larger conversation, I can at least understand the gist of it.  I’ve had brief, 30-minute tastes of the previous 2 games – enough to get the general idea, and enough to know that I’d probably not get very far given my current time constraints – and while I still am intimidated by it (and while I’m still under similar time constraints), I’m also still intensely curious about it, and at least want to give it the ol’ college try.  My understanding is that the game has been made a bit more approachable for people like me, while still being brutally difficult and opaque, and so I’m willing to try to meet it halfway.

the first few hours: The Last of Us

Before I start talking about The Last of Us in earnest, I want to mention two interesting things that won’t necessarily fit in the context of the discussion, but are still related to my personal experience with the game:

1.  Slight spoilers – a few hours into the game, you’ll meet two characters named Henry and Sam.  As it happens, Henry is the name of my son, and Sam was the name of my grandfather.   My grandfather died when I was in high school, so Henry never got to meet him.  But there they were, dodging zombies and armed maniacs along with our heroes, Joel and Ellie.

2.  One of the game’s many strengths is how well it conveys atmosphere, especially when you’re in dark basements.  In addition to the sheer visuals, there’s lots of ambient noises and sonic textures that make you feel really claustrophobic and creeped out.  This is doubly effective when there’s an actual mouse in your actual apartment, scratching and squeaking behind the walls, and you’re alone in your living room with a sleeping baby behind a thin wooden door just a few feet away and the lights turned down low.

*     *     *

While I’ve more or less conceded that my desire to be a full-time game journalist is hopelessly impractical at this point in my life, I still occasionally think about getting into the freelance game-review business.  Especially now, given my earlier post about being short on cash.  I mean, I know that reviews don’t necessarily bring in a ton of money, and I wouldn’t always be playing stuff that’s good, but surely there are less pleasant ways to supplement one’s income.

And yet I can’t help but feel that I’d be terrible at it.

For example:  sometimes I feel like it can be a cop-out or a crutch (or, more likely, a habit of laziness) to compare someone’s new work to their old work.   Like:  if you can’t assess a thing for what it actually is without comparing to something that it never tried to be, then you’re probably a shitty critic.

Which is to say, I know that comparing The Last of Us to the Uncharted franchise isn’t fair, because they’re completely different experiences and want to evoke radically different reactions from the player, even if they appear to share a lot of common factors:  the same jaw-droppingly amazing graphics engine, some of the best digital acting in the business (to go along with a very well-written script), a meticulous attention to detail (both in art design and character work), and a relatively even gameplay balance of exploration and combat.

As to that last point, I feel obliged to point out that The Last of Us and Uncharted also share another, more disconcerting feature, and one which is relevant to my attempt at criticism:  when it comes to Naughty Dog’s games, I hate the combat.  I am willing to concede that I might hate it because I suck at it; but it should also be noted that – at least in my opinion – there is always too much of it, and it gets in the way of all of the non-combat stuff which is infinitely more enjoyable.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve never liked the PS3’s controller, especially when it comes to action games, but I always feel ham-fisted and clumsy in combat situations, and even on Easy I die a lot.

I ended up finishing Uncharted 3 on Easy because I wanted to see the end of the game, and shooting bulletproof soldiers had stopped being fun after the 300th kill.  While The Last of Us has a much different combat feel – indeed, the game implies that you can (and should) sneak your way around combat rather than rushing headlong into it – I also am playing it on Easy (after an earlier combat scenario took me 30 deaths and around an hour of frustration to complete), because while I try to sneak around, I always get found, and because I don’t find the combat all that fun (possibly because, as I said, I’m terrible at it), I just want to get it over with as quickly as possible so as to keep the story moving forward.

*     *     *

Tangent #1:  My complaints about the combat in Naughty Dog’s games (and The Last of Us specifically) remind me of my complaints of another of 2013’s major releases – Bioshock Infinite – in that both games feature incredible worlds that you can’t help but want to explore, except for all the crazy people who want to murder you.  I am far more interested in exploring and scavenging and crafting than I am in the combat.  But if there were ever two companies that could actually make the game that I truly want to play in this coming generation – games with fantastic visuals, well-crafted stories and interesting characters  and worlds that beg for exploration and interesting puzzles instead of  combat as the “filler” to get you from point A to point B – I just know that Naughty Dog and/or Irrational could pull it off.

*     *     *

Tangent #2:  I would love it if this new generation of consoles made it possible to invent a new kind of gameplay “filler”.  I suggested “puzzles” in the paragraph above because it was the first thing that came to mind (and because Portal 2 proved that you can make an amazing, full retail product without having to fire a single bullet) but surely there must be something else that can be done.  As I am not a gameplay designer, I have no idea what that might be.  But I would be VERY EXCITED to find out.

*     *     *

Wow.  This was supposed to be a post about my overall impressions of The Last of Us, and I’ve already spent 900 words horsing around, so let’s get to it.

I am around 10.5 hours into TLOU, Naughty Dog’s swansong on the PS3, and judging from the chapter listings in various walkthroughs (not that I’m using walkthroughs – I honestly just wanted to see how much was left), I’m just over the halfway mark.   (I keep feeling like I should defend my using a walkthrough with the express purpose of determining length, even though nobody cares; it’s just that unlike books, music and film, it’s impossible to judge a game’s length while you’re playing it – and this doesn’t even take into account personal play style.  If I weren’t so interested in exploring every single nook and cranny in TLOU, I suspect I’d have arrived at this halfway point after only 5-6 hours, as opposed to 10.)

Leaving aside my personal displeasure at Naughty Dog’s combat system, and my weariness with zombies and the end of the world as a storytelling trope, it is immediately apparent that TLOU is a staggering technical achievement, and deserves all the respect you can give it.  But it is also – at least for me – a difficult game to enjoy.  TLOU is relentlessly dark and grim, with horrific, gruesome violence at almost every turn, and where terrible things happen to good people pretty much non-stop.  (My wife watched me play a little bit yesterday, and she said it felt like a combination of The Walking Dead and I Am Legend – which is pretty much spot-on.)  It is a game that probably shouldn’t be played in long marathon sessions, which is what I usually do with games like this; instead, I’ve been getting little hour-sized chunks here and there for the past week or so and that’s pretty much all I can take before I need to switch over to something a little less gloomy.

I’m not quite sure where the story is going, but I have a pretty good feeling about certain upcoming plot points.  I’m normally not all that quick in terms of picking up that sort of stuff, but I knew what was going to happen to a number of characters long before their fates were inevitably decided.  Of course, this is what happens when you set your story in a gloomy post-apocalypse and you establish early on that anybody, no matter how “innocent”, can die at any moment; you stop being surprised when the plot twists, and instead you find yourself simply wondering how the plot will twist, which (to me) isn’t nearly as interesting a question.

That being said, now that I think about it, I’m starting to think that this is deliberate; the game is trying to evoke a sense of dread, and since the inevitability of death hangs over every scene and character and action, you can’t help but feel a little terrible.  You know that bad things are going to happen; the best you can do is to make sure you have as much ammo and supplies as you can find and hope that you can press on long enough to get to the next cutscene.  This is very much like real life.

Like I said above, I’m playing the game on Easy after struggling for a bit on Normal because the story and the characters are far more interesting to me than the combat, and as such I’m having about as good a time as I can stomach.  I’m still dying, a lot, but I’m still able to press ahead.  I’m finding the core relationship between Joel and Ellie to be authentic, even if it’s maddeningly obvious why Joel acts the way he does and it’s incredibly frustrating that he won’t admit it to himself.   (This Guardian article, which has been linked to a lot on Twitter and which I haven’t yet read all the way through, has a different take on their relationship.)  Still, the digital performances are quite powerful and moving and real, and even if the Guardian is right and the game’s central relationship of an older man taking care of a helpless girl in the face of the apocalypse is yet one more entry on the ever-growing pile of stories featuring male dominance over subservient, weak females – or even if the core problem is simply that the game is being told from the man’s point of view, LIKE IT ALWAYS IS, I still find that, at the very least, TLOU has its heart in the place.

I find myself compelled to press on, even if I don’t really want to.

*     *     *

Amazon is having a gigantic Digital Games Summer Sale, and at the prodding of a friend I ended up buying Need For Speed Most Wanted for $15.  I’d previously been rather sour on the game (1, 2), but the PC version seems to be a completely different beast.  It looks far better than the 360 version, and it also seems to be playing a bit more fairly, too – the AI still rubberbands from time to time but it’s not freakish and unfair, and what constitutes a crash seems to be a lot more consistent.  If you have it and need some Autolog friends, my username (as it is everywhere else) is JervoNYC.

of zombies, peaches, and time

I’ve had very little game-playing time in the last week or so.

This is actually a good thing, as far as The Last of Us is concerned; its relentlessly grim atmosphere can start to feel suffocating after a while.  I’m not sure how far I am into it, actually, because my time with it has been so stuttered; if you’ve already played the game, then you’ll know where I am when I tell you that I just recently picked up the bow and arrow for the first time, and am in that booby-trapped town, trying to help this guy find auto parts so that he can build us a car.

It’s weird how I can binge-watch a show like Hannibal and have a really great time (even if I end up having trouble sleeping), but that I can’t play TLoU for more than 30 minutes at a time without feeling restless and agitated.  Of course, I’m also having trouble enjoying TLoU.  It’s an incredibly well-crafted experience; it’s probably the best-looking game on the PS3 (which is no mean feat; how Naughty Dog managed to top its own Uncharted 2/3 is beyond me).  But aside from the oppressive atmosphere and the overwhelming sadness that pervades every inch of this apocalyptic wasteland, it also suffers from the same kinda-shitty combat that plagued the Uncharted games.  To be fair, the body count thus far is much, much lower than in Uncharted, and the stakes feel much higher – the violence actually means something this time around.  But it still feels awkward, and I die an awful lot (even on Normal), and one-hit kills stop being devastating after you’ve been one-hit killed 20 times in a row.   I feel compelled to push on, as it’s one of the last truly significant games of this generation, but I can’t honestly say I ever look forward to playing it.

I suppose I’ve also reached my saturation point with zombies.  In the mid-’00s, I was getting tired of killing Nazis; now it’s zombies.  They’re a very convenient enemy – you don’t feel bad killing them, you won’t offend anybody by making them the bad guys, and it’s easy enough (if you want) to drape your own morality tale over whatever metaphor you want the zombies to represent.  I get it.  And zombies are still a hot commodity right now, and if there’s anything you can do to get a new IP off the ground, zombies have a proven, successful track record.  But how many more goddamned zombies are we going to have to kill before the industry feels comfortable inventing something new?

*     *     *

The having-no-time thing is a bit of a drag, though, with respect to Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  Ordinarily I’d appreciate the slow pace and the do-what-you-want gameplay, but because my time is so limited, I feel this weird sort of pressure to try and finish all the town maintenance stuff I need to do as quickly as possible.  Now, to be fair, it’s not the game’s fault; it doesn’t necessarily punish you for not staying on top of things all the time (though it does mean there’s more weeds that need to be picked up, and sometimes you’ll end up missing on certain special events).  I fully acknowledge that my previous addictions to stupid timer-based town-maintenance shit like Farmville have informed my approach to AC:NL.  Still, though, it is what it is, and my weirdness about not having any time is making the game less fun to experience.  Which is a drag, because it’s clearly something that everyone else on my twitter feed is madly in love with.

compare/contrast: Tintin vs. Uncharted 3

Last week marked the DVD and On-Demand release of a whole bunch of films that the wife and I wanted to see in theaters but missed, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which was pretty good), David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (which was OK), and The Adventures of Tintin.

I have no connection with the Tintin source material.  I recognized the cartoon character’s visage but never read the books, and my only interest in the film was that it looked amazing, and that it had a bunch of voice actors that I liked (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost) and that Edgar Wright had a hand in the script.  And, of course, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson considered this a passion project of sorts, and who am I to argue if two titans of film want to collaborate on something near and dear to their hearts?

The movie itself?  Kinda dumb, actually.  I mean, it looked incredible – it’s probably the best looking CGI film I’ve ever seen – but we had a lot of problems with it right off the bat.  Tintin looks like a teenager, but he lives alone and carries a loaded gun, even though he’s just a newspaper reporter.  (Indiana Jones never carried a gun!)  Tintin befriends a sea captain locked away in his cabin – this captain turns out to be, among other things, a serious alcoholic, and this is ostensibly played for laughs even though the depths of his cravings become somewhat ludicrous.  It’s also got the worst score that John Williams has ever written – I mean, it’s bad, to the point where it was literally distracting from the scenes it was meant to accompany.  (His scores have always been emotionally manipulative, but that’s usually the point.)  And the film doesn’t really end so much as kinda peter out, like a slowly deflating balloon.

It kinda felt like we were watching a videogame, to be honest.  And the more I picked up on that feeling, the more I realized just how similar Tintin was to Uncharted 3.

from inappropriatelyadorable.tumblr.com

(Amazing Nathan Drake pic via inappropriatelyadorable.tumblr.com.)


  • Tintin has incredible visuals and features highly realistic motion capture animation; Uncharted 3 is one of the best looking games ever made and features highly realistic motion capture animation.
  • Tintin stars Andy Serkis, a ubiquitous presence in motion capture performances; Uncharted 3 stars Nolan North, who is arguably even more ubiquitous in video games than Andy Serkis is in CGI films.
  • Tintin is followed by his trusty sidekick, Snowy; Nathan Drake is followed by his trusty sidekick, Sully.
  • Tintin is a nice enough kid, but isn’t afraid to fire a gun; Nathan Drake killed over 700 bad guys in my U3 playthrough.
  • Tintin, in his search for a lost artifact, finds his way to an old chateau; Nathan Drake, in his search for a lost artifact, finds his way to an old chateau (although Drake’s chateau also has millions of spiders and is consumed by fire.)
  • Tintin then finds his way onto a gigantic ship, although I forget exactly why; Nathan Drake also finds his way onto a gigantic ship, and I also forgot why.  There are even parallel shots in both the movie and the game with the main character running along the ship’s sides.  (I’d find youtube video here, but I’m lazy.)
  • Tintin is involved in a plane crash in the middle of the desert; Nathan Drake is involved in a plane crash in the middle of the desert.  Mirages galore.
  • Tintin is involved in a chase scene in a Middle Eastern market; Nathan Drake is involved in  several chase scenes in Middle Eastern markets, although Drake is also pretty heavily drugged.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  I’m not suggesting that there was plagiarism at work; both the game and the movie were in development for years, and aside from Nathan Drake’s obvious inspirational debt to Indiana Jones, the two intellectual properties couldn’t be more different.  But the similarities were striking – not to mention the fact that despite the enormous technological prowess that went into making these two entertainments, they were both, ultimately, disappointing.

Uncharted 3: Gut Check

I was home sick today, and so I ended up finishing Uncharted 3.  Some key statistics:

Time played: 8:42
60 treasures found (out of 100)
791 enemies defeated
156 checkpoints failed/restarted

791 enemies defeated – that’s a lot of bad guys.  That’s a militia, is what that is.  That seems like maybe too many enemies.  I’m not sure I’ve killed 791 bad guys in all three Gears of War games combined.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with all three games in the Uncharted franchise.  When I’m away from the game and reflecting on what I’d seen and done, I’m swept away by the game’s technical merits.  The presentation in U3 is, as always, outstanding.  Attention has been paid to every last pixel.  The voice acting is terrific, and they’re working from a great script, which goes a long way.  The story is maybe a little silly, but it’s nothing that would seem out of place in an Indiana Jones movie.  The action set-pieces are out of this world.  I had a smile on my face for much of the cutscenes, and I genuinely cared about Nathan and Sully and the gang.

But when I’m actually playing the game?  That’s a different matter.  Enemies continue to soak up large amounts of bullets – it’s not as egregious as it was in the first game, but it’s still pretty bad here, with enemies sometimes requiring 4 shotgun blasts to the head from point blank range before falling.  They can see me when I’m hidden; they outflank me before they have any right to know where I am.  They have uncanny aim.  They do like throwing grenades an awful lot – so much so that I actually got pretty good at throwing them back.  If you see above, I failed/restated 156 checkpoints – I’m assuming that number is specifically related to how many times I died.  That’s a lot of dying, and not all of it was my fault.

I do want to play it again at some point – I want to get all the hidden treasures, because that’s always fun.  Actually, another reason as to why I’d like to get all the treasures is so that I can actually look at the world, instead of looking in the corners and tucked-away places.  Every time I play these games, I get distracted by shiny objects.

A number of reviews have all said something along the lines of Uncharted 3 being a great game although it fails  to surpass the lofty highs of Uncharted 2.  I’d agree with that, for the most part.  Uncharted 2 was unexpectedly great – indeed, it’s probably still one of my favorite games of this generation.  Uncharted 3 has some pretty amazing moments – the burning chateau, the sinking ship, the crashing plane, and the finale are all pretty jaw-dropping.  But the combat remains my least favorite element of this franchise, and unfortunately the combat is what ends up overwhelming the experience.

It’s still a must-own if you’re a PS3 owner, there’s no question about that.  I haven’t even touched the mulitplayer, which is robust and feature-packed and probably pretty fun.  Just know that the campaign can get a bit frustrating, even in spite of your jaw being on the floor.

Batman and Uncharted and GTA5, oh my

1.  I just finished watching the GTA5 trailer.

So it’s Los Angeles.  And it looks like it’s keeping the gravitas of GTA4.  The most impressive thing to me is how colorful the trailer is – not that GTA4 was bland, but everything here is crisp and bright and beautiful.  Didn’t catch a release date, but I’d guess it comes out next spring/summer.


2.  So I’m a little over 2 hours into Uncharted 3; I finished the “burning chateau” section and that seemed like a logical place to stop for the night.

The good:  it looks absolutely phenomenal.  It is, hands down, the prettiest game of this generation – which includes Uncharted 2.  The dialogue and voice acting are terrific; I like these characters and care about them and I enjoy watching them interact.  The platforming is still engaging, and the few puzzles I’ve encountered so far are interesting and have been immensely satisfying to solve.

The bad:  the melee combat is really awkward and unsatisfying, and this sticks out specifically because I’ve spent the last 20 hours of my game-playing life beating the shit out of every living thing in Batman: Arkham City, which does 3rd-person melee combat better than anyone else.  The gunplay is still awkward, too – the early enemies aren’t bullet sponges, which is much appreciated, but it’s still a bit touchy, and it’s also a bit off-putting to consider how many people Nathan Drake murders over the course of an adventure.   (As noted above, I’m only 2 hours or so in and I’ve already killed dozens of bad guys.)   The walking/running animations are, for the most part, really beautiful and fluid – except when they’re not, like when you suddenly change direction.  And there are quite a few chase sequences when you’re running towards the camera, and the controls in those sequences are pretty rough, and you’ll die a lot, and in doing so you lessen the impact of the chase itself – it becomes less about HOLY SHIT LOOK AT WHAT I’M RUNNING FROM and more about rote memorization and hoping that the controls move the way you intend.

I’m still enjoying the hell out of it, but I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I’d hoped.  Its strengths are still top-notch, but its weaknesses are becoming glaring.


3.  I’m more or less done with Batman: Arkham City.  As noted above, I’ve put at least 20 hours into it; I’ve found almost 300 Riddler trophies, and that’s probably enough for the time being.  I may put it in every once in a while during a release lull to try and get all 400, but it’s not a priority.

My first impressions were not overly kind, to be honest; in my excitement for the new game during the summer I’d replayed Arkkam Asylum on the PC and so the first hour of AC was pretty much the exact same experience.  But I grew to really enjoy it.  The story is ludicrous if you look at it for more than 5 seconds, but if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief it’s an enjoyable ride, and the ending is easily one of the best endings I’ve ever seen, in any medium.  (Again, keeping my disbelief suspended.)  And I was certainly excited to know that after I finished the story I’d still have more to do – and for the most part, that was true.  But I’m a little fatigued with it now.  Knowing that I have over 100 Riddler trophies to go is not enticing – it’s exhausting.

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