November 30, 2008
This game certainly lives up to its potential of being a candidate for game of the year, and it was definitely worth the wait, even if it was incredibly short. Left 4 Dead is so good that all of my criticisms are proved trivial by ‘the game is so freaking sweet’ factor.
You start out with normal weapons, either a submachine gun or a pump shotgun (and a pistol). They’re not that weak, but they don’t even compare to the second tier of weapons: auto shotgun, hunting rifle, and assault rifle. The game is going to run you dry on ammo unless you take the shotgun. Fortunately, the shotgun is incredibly strong; unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as fun as the hunting or assault rifles.
There’s not much more about the game I can say other then the painfully obvious: this is linear gameplay with multiple entry routes. Also the hyped AI director, which makes the game different every time you play it, works surprisingly well. You never know exactly what is going to be around every corner, which adds an additional creepy factor to the game.
There’re four campaigns, or movies as the game boldly calls them. Each one of them runs around 40-90 minutes, depending on how often your team dies. Sadly there are no checkpoints other then safe houses, which can be as far as twenty minutes behind where you died.
The bots are fairly competent as game AI goes. Sometimes they’re complete idiots, but not that often. You’d definitely be robbing the game of its awesome factor if you played the whole thing with bots though, for several reasons.
- You’re playing co-op with people, people who hopefully know what they’re doing.
- Bots follow you, you have to tell them where to go. [Ed: Bots will not take any initiative. If you're not leading them they will stand around looking at one another.]
- Bots can’t jump out windows (as Bill and I learned the hard way). [Ed: Bots will only take 'obvious' paths, such as running down a hallway and some stairs to get to the street, instead of following you out a second story window.]
Like I said, playing the game is pretty straightforward; each one of the campaigns has the same linear storyline as the one before, just a different setting and different method of escaping. It feels like you’ve seen the area before in a movie, or another game, it’s because you probably have. It also gives this feeling of completeness when you finish a movie–there’s not a cliffhanger, just a ‘survivors escaped’ and then it’s roll credits. You can easily stand back up in that hour, and be completely satisfied.
Skip it: The only way I can tell you to skip this is if you’re under the age of 13, easily scared, or don’t like zombies.
Rent it: Hey, why not? You can beat it on Xbox Live with a few friends in about three or four hours, and it might convince you to buy an incredible game!
[Ed: I'd also add people who game alone. I don't think there's enough here to warrant a purchase for single-player gamers. It would be worth a rental, perhaps a pass entirely depending on how you feel about Valve titles otherwise.]
Buy it: It’s an incredible game with a few flaws, but nothing’s perfect. If you like playing FPS games vs AI then this is definitely for you. Also if you like incredible co-op games. [Ed: This game really shines with 3-7 friends.]
P.S.: The airplane crash in Dead Air is AWESOME!
November 16, 2008
Well I’m going to get straight to the game this time, and not go off on tangents about anything, because Mr. Bill wouldn’t let me publish my last review until I took all of my diatribes out. Well damn, there I go again.
Age of Chivalry! A game full of decapitations, arrows, fire, and objectives! AoC (that looks familiar) is
an extremely buggy overhaul of the Source engine; but it comes out very fun. Some of the beginners decide not to stick with it because it takes a lot of time to practice with all nine of the classes and master one of them enough to not just run up in a map and swing randomly at passing strangers hoping for a kill here and there.
Let’s talk about the classes. There are three main groups, Archers, Footmen, and Knights. Archers either chuck spears at you, or shoot arrows out of a long bow or crossbow. It’s extremely difficult to figure out how to aim with any of those when you first begin playing. All of the archers come with an extremely awesome sword that’s crazy fast, and crazy strong. Also they come with daggers that are only awesome when they’re in the hands of a super-geek.
Footmen are ‘the backbone’ of the armies in the Age of Chivalry. There are three classes, long sword, mace, and halberd. The long sword is actually more like an excuse to annoy the hell out of other players with it’s extremely fast speed and easy maneuverability. The mace is for people who like to bugger around the trees like ferrets until they see someone with their back turned, then they start flailing like crazy with the half second (fastest in the game) attack. Halberds are generally for fighting big mobs of people who didn’t have the common sense to join your army. They swing like crazy, and usually kills every living thing in it’s path. It also takes about 3 seconds for their swings to fully connect with the enemy, then you have to wait another second to do it again. All of the footmen come with some sort of short range worthless weapon, be it knife or axe, and have an extremely worthless fire bomb. It takes some sort of auto targeting system not yet invented to hit your target with them, and even then it only takes away 1/4 of their health, making it a mere distraction as they hack off your head.
Lastly are the knights, which are essentially footmen who decided to work out a bit more in their high school gym class. The three classes are an even longer long sword, flails, and depending on which side you’re on axes/hammers. Long swords are long, and they take awhile to hit, but when they do the enemies health is just hacked away so quickly, unfortunately it takes awhile for you to block after a swing. Flails are incredible weapons that you can swing all over the place, and will kill people constantly. It’s very simple, click attack when you’re close enough to your enemy that you could pick his nose. The axe is on the Agathian side, and it’s essentially a short ranged flail that does even more damage. The only way you could really use it is if you sprint constantly to your enemies. Hammers, on the Mason side, are halberd-length warhammers that can pretty much kill anything. It just takes one swing, but takes so long to recover. All of the knights come with a long sword, and knives or axes that you can throw at your enemy, which will take one hell of a percentage off their health.
So there’s a basic run down of the classes, let’s talk about what makes this game fun.
What blew me away when I first played the game, is that all of the buttons on a standard (read: two button one scroll wheel mouse) had it’s own individual attack. Left click was swipe, right click over head attack, scroll in stab, scroll out block. I’m not sure why, but I thought it was interesting, just made the game felt a bit more immersive then it was when I started.
The game is so buggy that you will constantly be annoyed by the fact that you had your shield up but still got hit in the face with some renegade halberd that was five-ten feet away. That’s what gives this game it’s excitement. That’s what makes it fun! If it were completely realistic it would be so slow that you would just quit the game in frustration.
What else is fun? Oh I don’t know this game is just a clone of counterstrike, except you’re swinging medieval weapons at each other! I mean how is that not fun? What sounds bad about that? It’s free anyways, so freaking get it!
I feel like I should mention, this game is definitely the slowest first person shooter ever created, ever. If you go into the game rushing into fights wanting to slaughter everyone, you’ll never get a kill. You have to pick out your targets, and if playing on an ff server (like I do) you’ll have to deal with less ganging up on people and actually have something called skill.
Editor: Caleb “Ripskin”‘ <Jailbait minor>’s Steam ID is Ripzerskins. Feel free to challenge him to a game of AoC, he’s almost always playing it. Despite Ripskin’s glowing recommendation, this game is pretty buggy. If you want an experience that’s 100% predictable, take a pass. It’s also very slow paced, so consider that as well.
November 16, 2008
I’ve covered the basics of this game previously, so I’m not going to spend time discussing the nuances of graphics, sound, plot, etc. Not a lot has changed, but those few changes are what I’ll discuss here.
The gameplay still relies on waiting for your special attack to become available and then playing a minigame to determine your damage. The Minigames have changed a bit since episode one, but it still lacks any significant depth. Figure out what your enemy’s weak to and exploit that weakness if you want, there are only ~6 possible weaknesses (weapon type, special/basic attacks, and one of your support characters) but simply waiting for the minigames is all you have to do.
This game does force some backtracking on you. In my least favorite instance you’re forced to run to the end of a level, then go back to the beginning, and then back to the end. It turns three loading screens into nine. There’s no justification for that. If you want six more screens in your game, make them. Also, if you’re going to spawn enemies I need to kill in rooms I’ve already cleared, give me some notification. Don’t make me run through six rooms to check on it after I return to the hub without the requisite items.
This game feels like a bit of a step back from episode 1. Hopefully one of the next two will justify the series’ existence.
Skip it: This isn’t the game to get you started on the series. If you felt the first game was mediocre this one will not win you over.
Demo: Five minutes of this game will tell you all you need to know. If you’re curious this is the way to go.
Buy it: PA fans who loved the first will love the second. It’s more of the same.
November 15, 2008
So a lot of people asked "How do I enable developer’s console?" The first minute of this video will address that, show you how to enable Steam Cloud, and a tip about subtitles. From there I do a quick run through of the demo levels. Enjoy
November 9, 2008
Fanboys, get ready to write some angry emails.
Fallout 3 is a fps/rpg hybrid from the creators of the Elder Scrolls series. The game appears to use the same engine as Oblivion, which inherits all it’s merits and faults. Weapons and armor degrade with use, characters are ugly for the most part, third person perspective is broken, and you’ll find large tracts of land barren with nothing to do. My favorite problem is the draw distance. I’m well above the minimum requirements, yet I’m constantly taking hits from pistols wielded by people I cannot see. Walls pop up to obscure windows I could plainly see upon approach. No amount of fussing with the settings completely alleviates this issue for me. I’m sure if I sink more money into my PC the problem will go away; but if that’s the case maybe the minimum requirements should be raised a bit? Could the NPC’s range be tempered to coincide with the display settings?
With all that said I’m not going to get caught up in the technical issues with the game. No, I have conceptual issues to address. First: The setting is bleak. Life is all-but-gone, color has faded from the world and it requires leaps of imagination to see anything worth saving or protecting.
Every step in Fallout 3 is another step into someplace I do not want to be. If you were able to navigate the city streets you could at least get the morbid satisfaction of seeing actual locations destroyed. Sure you can use the dank, dark subways to get from one dank, dark landmark to another, but I would have liked to see some of the points in between. Specifically the IEEE Society office. That’s what you get for ratifying 802.11b in the blink of an eye while debating the merits of 802.11n for years, punks!
I believe Washington D.C. is a symbol of modern Democracy, a safe harbor for science, culture, and free thought. If you don’t, then maybe this game will impact you differently. In crafting this distopian vision of America’s capitol Bethesda has created art. There is a message here, and it’s not one I agree with. If I were to buy into this vision of humanity I would certainly need to increase my reliance on alcoholic beverages.
Skip it: If you have no investment in the series or Bethesda you can live a long and healthy life without trying this title. You will be missing out on one of the strongest pieces of art in the medium.
Rent it: I could imagine this game satisfying an itch if you’re particularly angry at the US government, or the world in general. Some times, like when you’re pondering a standard that requires the use of a special “crossover” cable for one specific task in computer networking, it’s okay to pretend to revel in humanity collapsing under its own stupidity.
Buy it: There is a broad, deep, and potent world to be explored here. The game combines some of the most horrifying aspects of Alas Babylon with hints of 1984 and I Am Legend.
November 9, 2008
Fallout 3 uses the same engine as Oblivion albeit tweaked a bit to allow for more ranged combat and V.A.T.S (Vault-tech Automatic Targeting System). V.A.T.S. allows you to freeze the game and target individual parts of an enemy using your action points. It also gives you a great view of some of the more brutal hits that can be accomplished.
There is a handful of clipping issues especially around the edges of the map and the barriers in the DC ruins. Running this game at max settings did get rid of the view plane problem Bill was having. Occasionally while car hopping you will fall through a car, and have the car then fall on you, and you die, which is upsetting.
Fallout3 is beautifully bleak. I really liked the artwork done by Bethesda here. Most everything is dead and gone, which is what you would expect after a nuke dropped. The buildings are very well done and very recognizable. You can see the Washington monument and the Capitol from your starting location. The washington monument is still standing oddly enough, but is in shambles. The Capitol has obviously seen better times as well. There is one place that is not bleak… the Oasis. I wont give any spoilers but its a very interesting place. I am glad that Bethesda got rid of the weather cycles as the rain in Oblivion was just plain annoying. Theres none of that in Fallout3, only light and dark ever change.
The controls of Fallout3 are very intuitive and you will get used to pressing the V.A.T.S. button. Be very careful of stealing as you will lose karma and it is very easy to accidentally nick stuff from shops and other people out in the wasteland. Your character’s skill in whatever weapon you are using will affect your controls as well. Expert FPS players will not be able to jump out of the vault and head shot everything straight out of the box. With low skill your weapons aim will suck, bad. Bullets will go every which way but where you aim them if your character isn’t skilled.
Weapons…oh beautiful weapons. The weapons are broken down into 6 groups as all the Fallout games have done before. Small guns, Big guns, Energy weapons, Explosives, Melee and unarmed weapons. For my first run through i used small guns, which are incredibly effective if you have the ability to snipe at all. One shot to the head from stealth will kill most any enemy. Energy weapons are wicked fun, as you get to melt people from time to time, but they are kinda difficult to find, and to find ammo for. Big guns (my favorite) are exactly that. Massive amounts of ordinance headed in your enemy’s direction is what its all about. Explosives would be grenades and mines, really they are a supplement to any other weapon type. Melee weapons you will use, a lot. Ammo is scarce and if you can get away hitting something with a stick…do it. I never used unarmed combat because I never had a reason to do so.
The navigation in this game can get a little bit boring and annoying from time to time. The map is massive and the landmarks are spread out, especially if you head to the northwest area of the map. In the DC ruins you can explore the subway system and the actual ruins of DC itself. I made a goal to actually visit the Capitol building which was magnificently done. There is complete chaos at the Capitol, and a behemoth that is incredibly fun to fight. I have logged over 30 hours in this game already since release and have yet to explore even half of the sites available.
Skip it: If you never played the Fallout series before, or you didn’t like other Bethesda games.
Rent it: You played Oblivion and liked it, but haven’t touched Fallout before.
Buy it: This title smashes Fallout together with Oblivion, and I think its masterwork. If you played both games before and enjoyed both worlds, you will love this game. You can’t get more bang for your buck than from a Bethesda game.
October 19, 2008
Jon Snow, a dark elf soldier, spit as the outpost commander declared the Ellyan’s as the target. “We’ll bleed their nobles, slaughter their warriors, and terrorize their citizens. Hell, I want you to bring me the heads of six thoroughbred mounts.”
Jon had no taste for battling the Order’s riffraff, but slugging through their fodder was the best way to gain influence in the outlaying areas. Jon would later leverage this influence for armor and potions.
But these petty raids were not Jon’s joy, pestering the dim-witted commoners offered little challenge and less glory. To him mass destruction felt like a chore.
As a Disciple of Khaine Jon felt his duty was to perform in realm conflicts. Here other soldiers would gather along alliance lines and battle in team combat. Horns would blow, keeps and camps would be taken and lost, men and women from both sides would scream and die, chaos would become incarnate on the battlefield. Blood, renown and honor would be plentiful for all who participate.
Today the son of Khaine needed to do as he was bid. When he began to scout Jon saw a green recruit fleeing from a boar. “Turn and fight, coward!” Jon threw a small change purse at the combatant’s feet, “Take the coin from a single Ellarian foe and you need never fear the consequence of death.” The disciple returned to his mission without looking back.
Money was not a concern. Other than mounts there simply was not enough to spend currency on. Still, Jon enjoyed fueling the war economy by pumping raw ingredients through his garden and then the apocrathy lab. He’d sell whatever his guild couldn’t immediately use, and his stockpile of gold grew endlessly.
Over the last few weeks Jon’s guild grew strong, they single handedly reclaimed keeps from the forces of Order. In scenario combat enemies fell as they were spotted. The guild grew, and profited as if it were a corporation. The coffers inflated, the vault bulged, and all members were stronger as a result. Truly the guild had a life of its own.
As Jon absentmindedly tore through the riders of Ellyan he thought back to the guild’s last keep raid. The order presence in the area was, on average, in the third tier of training. At least a quarter of the guild members present were on their second tier. If an equal sized army arrived to stop the guild from claiming the keep they’d likely outrank Jon and his friends. In order to siege the keep successfully it was wise to capture the two support camps in the area. The dim-eyed guards went down with no problem. Several of the mounted guild members fanned the area to watch for Order retaliation, but none came. After spending a few minutes securing the camps the guild moved deftly toward the area’s keep.
Catapults, battering rams, and ballistas were deployed. The front line fighters took their marks as the lower ranked members manned the siege weapons. For a moment all was quiet, and then the catapults loosened a thunderstorm of rock and debris. Highly trained, but still dim-witted, guards flooded out the doors to great the waiting soldiers. Jon’s comrades made short work of the first
wave, and as they approached the keep lord another Destruction guild arrived. The newcomers came en mass and killed the old lord before Jon was able to locate him in the swarm. Credit for claiming the keep was whisked away after hours of grueling battle. It was then that Jon realized they weren’t only fighting against Order, but they were also working to best every other guild that counted themselves as allies.
Skip it: If mmo’s aren’t your thing, War won’t change your mind.
There’s still a lot of grind, but it is more attractively dressed.
Wait for trial: If you enjoy playing team games against other people,
or WoW’s Arena/BG systems, there’s a lot to get excited about.
Buy it: If you don’t mind losing your life to a video game this title
improves a genre that people thought was perfected.
October 12, 2008
Note: As I’m writing this I have yet to complete the game. I’m currently on level 19, which I understand to be the final level. My criticism found in the ‘spoiler’ may not be valid. You have been warned.
Portal: Prelude is an independent mod for last year’s best $20 game, Portal. The game is set before the events of the original, and you’re presented with new puzzles with a familiar veneer. GLaDOS has been replaced with a cast of four scientists, seemingly voiced by SimpleText.
The writing is not on the same level as the original, but I’m willing to cut a fan-made game some slack on this point. Just know going in that you will not be getting your yuks from this download. After the first few levels the writer(s) give up on trying to be funny. Near the end they seem to just give up, resorting to profanity and overt violence to keep the plot moving. Possible spoiler: at a certain point one character seems to murder another. Later another character apparently enters the room, and no one mentions the dead body, or even seems to notice the character is missing.
The pacing is also a little off. You’ll encounter a chamber that will force you to pull out your hair, followed immediately by two or three quick and easy chambers. I understand that they’re trying to break up the frustration, but it feels strange to be stuck for twenty minutes on one stage and clear the next with no thought.
Speaking of thought, most of the puzzles are not intellectual in nature. Often you’ll find yourself tested on accuracy and reflexes. Many chambers are set in such a way that you will be ambushed by turrets, moving ceilings or falling terrain when you attempt to take the obvious path. They’ll kill you the first time you discover them, without fail.
When they do a puzzle right it’s really right. You get a feeling of satisfaction from solving the more difficult puzzles that I haven’t felt since the original title launched last year.
The level of polish is very high, but that is to be expected. It seems most of the textures were reused from Portal. There are a few pictures hidden in the levels and the skin for your character stand out as different, but they’re not of such a poor quality to warrant demerit.
The music, when it’s present, is atmospheric and brooding. I’ve been informed at least one level uses a track from Nine Inch Nail’s “Ghosts.” The audio occasionally drowned out the omnipotent voices, which was actually welcome.
Skip it: if you did not enjoy the original Portal, or found it too difficult.
Download it: It’s free, it has some of the best fan-made levels I’ve played, and it will often leave you scratching your head. If you liked the gameplay in Portal, Prelude should be on your radar.
October 9, 2008
I’m posting these as I make them, all to this page. Of course the embeded movie player on the front page will have them too.
To get started on this one, simply run behind the turrets.
Laziness wins. Thanks to the Portal: Prelude team for putting this together.
I found this puzzle became easier when I attempted to jump into the top of the orange portal.
This one is difficult. The first orange portal I’m shooting needs to be as near the platform as possible. The game seems a little glitchy here as not all shots will work, use the indicator around your aiming radical to see if a shot will work. The second part took me a few tries, sorry about the choppy edit. If you miss the taller platform to the left you may as well start over, the time it takes a second try will eat up too much of the clock.
This one took forever. There might be a better way to do it, but this is how I managed.
The key to making it across the poison is to get the portal above it as close to parallel to the ledge as possible.
I broke this into three pieces: dealing with the turrets, getting around the door puzzle, and jumping to the ledge. Remember to crouch jump to get on the ledge.
Another straight forward, albeit complicated, level.
I tried to demonstrate this in the video, but that last room doesn’t give you much room to maneuver. If you crouch or stray too far from the box you’ll get shot. So.. enjoy getting shot.
My computer isn’t beefy enough to run Fraps and render flames in a Source game. Sorry if it’s a bit choppy. I opted to fast-forward through the parts where it’s me watching a companion cube fire for 20+ seconds at a time.
Call me lame, but I couldn’t figure chamber 19 out. Fortunately the Official Guide has already been completed. Enjoy.
September 28, 2008
Here we are at the fourth Lego something game, and nothing has changed.
For me the charm of the franchise is wearing thin, and some of the tropes that were merely tolerable previously have become downright annoying. I’m looking at you, vehicle levels. I’d also like to call out levels that have off-screen entrances/exits in multiplayer. This series has been going long enough for the developers to know better.
The character selection doesn’t feel as rich as previous titles, but Batman has always been about Batman and Robin on the hero side, with a diverse cast of villains. The game tries to deliver, but it just feels short in terms of cast.
The only thing I can say that’s positive here is my wife still loves it. Your non-gaming family member might too; but I don’t think there’s enough here to hold your attention.
I really wish there was something substantive to say about this game, but it’s like Diet Coke. It’s nothing you’ll worry about your kids consuming, it doesn’t satisfy your cravings, it’s a pale imitation of something greater, and it’s probably bad for your health to consume in high doses.
Skip it: If you played any other title in the series and/or you will likely play alone.
Rent it: Fans of Batman will probably find something charming here; and if this is your first Lego game a rental is a solid option.
Buy it: It’s still good fodder for a family game night.