#33 – Battlefield 3 (PC)

I play Battlefield games wrong. I’m not really interested in the multiplayer, which is pretty much the whole purpose of the series. And I’m not really into modern military shooters. The only reason I even own Battlefield 3 is because it was part of the Humble Origin Bundle.

But I might as well play it, right? It does have a single player campaign. The first turn off is something I read about but forgot a while ago: Battlelog. When I launch Battlefield 3, it opens a tab in my browser for Battlelog, which is kind of like Battlefield’s social networking site and server browser. Even though the single player doesn’t really touch Battlelog, I have to launch it from Battlelog, which means having to keep a browser plugin up to date. It’s a hassle. I don’t know why none of this is actually in-game.

The campaign itself is nothing special. It looks really good, but it’s still just shooting pop-up bad guys with automatic weapons and occasionally getting into a vehicle to shoot other vehicles. I guess it serves as a competent introduction to Battlefield’s multi-platform warfare but not much else. The story is senseless and there’s nothing exciting here.

So uhhh I don’t know. I’ve got Medal of Honor to play from the same Humble Bundle, and I realize that Battlefield isn’t really a single player game, but this isn’t changing my life.

Don’t apply for that IT position at Penny Arcade

Have you seen that fucking ridiculous Penny Arcade IT job opening? If not, here it is!

http://www.linkedin.com/jobs2/view/9887522

This is not one position. They outright say this is four jobs in one. In most other companies, this would actually be four job postings with four different salaries. Except in this case you should expect modest pay because Penny Arcade is not a money-motivated environment.  Not only that, you’re the only one doing IT for Penny Arcade. You are always on call. There is no downtime. It’s all on you to keep that organization running. So what about the guy who’s leaving this wonderful position?

http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/185114/about-the-penny-arcade-job-posting

Read that carefully. That is what Stockholm Syndrome looks like. He can’t get away for anything. He’s on an email/phone leash at all hours of the day. The only break he got was when he popped a fucking lung and he’s thankful that they pushed a project back because of it. I think the worst bulletpoint is this:

General IT: yes, everyone at Penny Arcade is fairly technically savvy. I’m pretty sure every one of them are the respective go-to IT professional for their families. Sometimes weirder stuff comes up – you need an FTP dump set up for clients, a local fileshare, “the thing isn’t working and I don’t know why”. Whatever. This is honestly the smallest drain on my time by far, but it is part of the job and there’s no one else to foist it onto. If you don’t know how to fix it, you’re the one who gets to figure out how.

When I see that, I read “fuck you, fix it”. Because that’s what it is. I’ve got this thing, I don’t know how it works, you figure it out. They’re taking their problem and making it your problem. This is not a collaborative effort. This isn’t asking for help. This is “your time isn’t as valuable as mine” and it fucking sucks every single time it happens, I don’t care how infrequent.

When I was enlisted, I was on duty 24/7. That’s everyone in the Army. Everyone is subject to recall. But even I could get two weeks away in the middle of a deployment. There are plenty of highly motivated, highly skilled people out there working at all hours of the day but this kind of commitment is usually reserved for making your dreams come true. Building your startup. Paving your own road.

This isn’t that position. This is a service position. What you’re doing is supporting someone else’s dream coming true. And you’re going to do it at all hours of the day. Your life is not your own, it’s in support of everyone else at Penny Arcade. Kenneth notes that they’ve been nothing but upfront and honest about the level of commitment needed for this position and I can’t fault him for that. But it doesn’t make it any less of a shitty position that sounds more exploitive than beneficial to the poor schmuck who actually “wins” the job.

The best games of this generation

Tomorrow’s the day that this long console generation finally dies, and it has been an amazing ride. Huge changes are a big mark of this generation, particularly in the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Those consoles are not the same in form or function than they were from the start and they only got better with age. This is my entirely biased list of my favorite games of this generation. I simply couldn’t bear to reduce it to 10, so you’re stuck with the odd number of 14. Every single one of these games is a classic.

  1. Batman: Arkham Asylum – What can I say about Arkham Asylum? Did anyone ever expect a good Batman game? But it happened, and it’s amazing. There’s no point in that game that is not dripping with Batman lore, and makes you feel any less than the one of the most legendary comic book heroes of all time.
  2. Mass Effect 3 – The Mass Effect trilogy is amazing, but the third one is my favorite. The ending does not tie up every loose end, but the whole sequence of events leading up to it are amazing. It also improves upon nearly every aspect of the previous two games.
  3. Halo: Reach – I love Halo, and not just for the multiplayer. I love the Halo lore and the single player. Halo: Reach has, hands down, the best Halo campaign. Being a prequel, it’s no spoiler to say that Reach has to fall for the Halo series to start. It’s the story of the spartans on Reach and the sacrifices they make that give Reach weight.
  4. Borderlands 2 – I was a huge fan of Borderlands, having played through all of it twice, and Borderlands 2 is more Borderlands with more variety and better writing. Borderlands is funny. Borderlands 2 is funny, dramatic, serious, and silly.
  5. Alan Wake – Alan Wake has the best parts of Twin Peaks combined with the solid action of Max Payne. Instead of a slow-mo shoot-out, you manage enemies with a flashlight. It does an amazing job of establishing atmosphere.
  6. Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Human Revolution is the sequel Deus Ex deserved. It’s got cyborgs, conspiracy theories, and humanity. It kind of feels like a Metal Gear Solid without a lot of the nonsense story.
  7. Killzone 2 – I came to Killzone 2 well after its release, but it really grabbed me with a story that was better than I expected. This combined with some excellent first-person shooting makes it one of my favorite PS3 games.
  8. Fallout: New Vegas – I loved Fallout 3, but Fallout: New Vegas is much bigger, much more varied, and slightly improved. I mean, FO3 is great, but New Vegas allowed for more viable character builds that didn’t always rely on shooting. It also has some of the best DLC this generation with Honest Hearts taking things tribal and Old World Blues sending the game into the 50’s sci-fi movies it often draws inspiration from.
  9. Left 4 Dead 2 – Left 4 Dead 2 made coop easy and fun. When you have friends to play with, it’s some of the most fun you can have with a game. Even solo, it’s still pretty good. What’s not to like about blasting hundreds of infected with your friends?
  10. Rock Band 3 – Another game that gets better with a room full of friends, and Rock Band 3 didn’t even require everyone to be in the same room. It built on the madness that is plastic musical instruments that were introduced in Rock Band and my Rock Band 3 song library is enormous in no small part to the ability to bring the songs from previous games with you.
  11. Spec Ops: The Line – Spec Ops: The Line has no rights being as good as it is. The Spec Ops games for Playstation were generally dumb action games. Spec Ops: The Line is far more insidious. It appears to follow the dumb modern military genre but almost immediately starts questioning everything about it.
  12. The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings – Assassin of Kings took the best parts of the first Witcher and gave the story more complexity, more paths to take, and kept the swamps and drowners to a minimum. Many third-person action RPGs aspire to achieve what The Witcher 2 accomplished handily.
  13. Bastion – This generation of games was huge for indie developers and Bastion is absolutely one of the best. It’s got relatively simple gameplay but there’s so much charm in it. The music and narration in this game is better than that in games which cost millions more to develop.
  14. Shadow Complex – I love Metroid games and Shadow Complex is Metroid in everything but the name. It’s criminal that this game only came out on Xbox Live Arcade but I will never not own an Xbox 360 because of that. It hits every action platforming game note perfectly.

#32 – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (X360)

This one barely counts because I played most of it a couple years ago, but whatever. I had to come back to finish it. I got really jammed up on the music box level, which is an awful platforming sequence. Then it was immediately followed by a level full of the most difficult enemies (creeping coffins) in the game, so I dropped it again. Yesterday, after finishing God of War 2, I decided to buckle down and wrap it up. I’d heard so many good things about the ending.

Which is important because the ending is the whole reason I played this game. You see, this is not Castlevania as anyone really knows it, unless you’re one of the few who enjoyed those PS2 or N64 Castlevania games. This is God of Whip. Or Belmont May Cry. It’s 3D third-person action. It doesn’t really bear much resemblance to the better Castlevania games besides some of the names and some (some) of the monsters.

It’s not a bad game by any means. It’s pretty decent, if overly long. It’s far longer than any game like it. This fatigue, combined with the difficulty in later stages, is what caused me to drop it so close to the end. You’ve got to have a reason to continue and that music box is a real buzz kill.

Does it pay off? Well, kind of. But I’m a pretty enormous fan of Castlevania and I’m not sure all that was worth it.

Edit: I forgot to mention, this game somehow manages to cram in a Portal reference. I can’t even joke about that. It’s not as tasteless as the Portal reference in Duke Nukem Forever, but it’s just as out-of-place.

#31 – God of War 2 (PS3)

Wow, it’s taken me a long time to finish this one! I mean, this game came out at the end of the PS2 generation. I got halfway through it back then and never wrapped it up. But I got the God of War Collection for PS3 and felt the need to finish God of War 2 before I play the third one.

What is there to say? It’s better than the first game. There are less balance beams, and less Hades. Those two alone are a huge improvement.

#30 – Dust: An Elysian Tail (PC)

Dust is a great game in the metroidvania style, but here’s the amazing part: the credits are very short. Basically the whole game except the music and vocals were done by one guy. It’s got a great cartoon style, along the lines of old Disney shows like Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers or Darkwing Duck. I’ve read that plenty of people are turned off by that because they see it as some kind of furry thing. It’s got bipedal talking animal-people. But it’s a video game, right? Lots of video games have talking animals.

#29 – Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of the best horror games ever made. A Machine for Pigs isn’t. I mean, it’s creepy, and unsettling, but so is The Dark Descent, and The Dark Descent is also horrifying. A Machine for Pigs is a bit too safe. There are pretty clear instances when you’re going to be avoiding the only monster in the game. You get an unlimited light source and there’s no inventory. One of the hallmarks of A Dark Descent (and most of Frictional’s games) is that pretty much everything can be moved around. This is not the case in A Machine for Pigs. It’s also short. Steam clocked me in at less than five hours, which is about half as long as A Dark Descent.

I don’t want to be a complete downer about it, as it’s definitely a creepy, dark, well put together game. But it’s more like a blood soaked version of Dear Esther than the previous Amnesia game.

Halo

I love Halo. If I see someone playing Halo, it makes me want to play Halo. Here’s the perverse part: I play it for the single player. I’ve played a lot of Halo 1 multiplayer. Despite how awesome it is, I don’t feel the need to play Halo multiplayer.

And I’m not even good at Halo. Legendary destroys me. I can finish the game on Heroic, but I’ll only do this once. I spend so much time on that Heroic playthrough just beating my head against difficult spots that I don’t even want to play them again. I’ll only play it for the second time on normal. I used to have this notion that I could only replay it on Heroic or give that Legendary run just one more try. Those ideas made me quit playing more often than not.

Reach is easily my favorite Halo. It tells a solid story with an excellent variety of gameplay. My least favorite is probably Halo 3. It’s still a good game, but it has nothing but brutes and flood. I think the brutes and the flood are the least interesting enemies to fight. Even though ODST is all brutes from beginning to end, it’s still more interesting than Halo 3.

One of my favorite Halo levels is that first level with the Arbiter. It’s so perfect for setting up the character. It’s the blend of stealth and risky action. The Arbiter is both a hero out of mythology and a dead man walking. He’s sent to hunt down the heretic and will do anything to stop him. I was just as shocked as anyone else to be playing as anyone but Master Chief. Unlike when Metal Gear Solid 2 pulled the main character bait-and-switch, The Arbiter was a pleasant change of pace that complimented the typical Halo action well.

Man, what was up with Halo 4?