Category Archives: Entertainment

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Scale in Borderlands 2

This is far too much to tweet about.

Borderlands 2 is fantastic. It’s a great first-person shooter. On top of that, it’s a loot game that’s very fucking long. It’s 30+ hours, and that’s just the base game. Each of the DLC campaigns adds another five something hours.

But it’s not just a long game, but it’s also a huge game. Each map is fairly enormous! Most have an hour or so worth of things to shoot, items to collect, quests to complete, etc. It’s really incredible. And the environments are varied!

But beyond even the length of time you’ll be playing and the amount of land mass in the game, the scale of the fights in Borderlands 2 further convey the enormity of the world. Early on, every fight is a struggle. There are enemies everywhere, and the guns suck. Even as I got better guns and better skills, it still felt like I wasn’t overly powerful as I went through the later parts of the game, and the DLC.

But then I go back through earlier levels to clean up quests, and I am at a much higher level than I was the first time around, and suddenly I’m death incarnate. I can choose not to fight and run right through the area, or I can lazily fire away in the direction of bad guys and they die. I can breeze through the whole level in a quarter of the time it took me the first time around.

I find it fascinating how Gearbox managed to make the world seem much larger than it is by throwing appropriately difficult challenges at me, and how those challenges slow me down and create the sense that the game is much bigger than it is in hindsight.

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.

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?

N64 games currently disappointing me

I never owned an N64 when I was a kid. I had a SNES but I got a Playstation because the Playstation had better games. I always thought the N64 was kind of an overhyped relic. I mean, it was a cartridge system in the burgeoning days of the CD-ROM. And the big joke was that the games were few and far between, and if it wasn’t from Nintendo, it probably wasn’t worth playing. But I got an N64 a couple years ago, and now I’m trying to fill out my collection of games, so I hit eBay recently to do so. I (generally) know what the “best” games for the system are, but I’m unexplainably attracted to first-person shooters, even if they’re bad. So I got Goldeneye, Turok 2, Quake 2, Doom 64, and Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer. I’ve probably put about 20 minutes into each of these, so bear that in mind.

Goldeneye is the game that everyone else said was the best game ever way back when. I never got to spend much time with it, except when friends would want to play it multiplayer, and then I’d get destroyed because I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Well, now I have it in my hands and I don’t get it. The controls are mostly competent, but it seems like the AI has laser aim, and the game is too low res for me to tell what’s shooting me from a million miles away. I’m going to give it more effort but it’s currently not drawing me in.

Turok 2 has guns and lizard people. It also has like a 10 minute unskippable cutscene at the start of the game. I was not impressed by Turok 2. I can’t remember if Turok 2 is supposed to be the good one or if Turok 1 is the good one. But I do know Turok 2 came after Goldeneye, and they both suffer from a lack of decor. It’s also got some controls that felt weird, but I’ll discuss that later.

Quake 2 might be a bad port. The first two levels don’t even resemble the first parts of the PC game! Don’t get me wrong, it looks pretty good compared to the other games, but it’s weird to play Quake 2 and not see the familiar sights. It also suffers from N64 FPS controls.

Doom 64 is almost enjoyable! I knew going into it that the levels were all new from the PC versions, and the enemies are redrawn and they’re not an improvement (the cacodemon is awful!) but it’s Doom! But it’s fucked by the controls! What the fuck, Doom 64?! Why are the strafe buttons on the shoulders? And the movement feels best using the D-pad, but the shoot button is Z, which means either using the analog stick for movement, or stretching a finger to reach arguably the most important button in the game! And if the shoot button is the most important, then the strafe buttons are number 2 and 3, and there’s no sensible way to keep fingers on all three!

Surprisingly, Episode 1 Racer is the best of all of them. It’s almost like Wipeout, and I fucking love Wipeout. The controls feel good and make sense, and the sense of speed feels right. Sure, it’s set in Episode 1, which was awful, but it’s a racing game. The details are kind of secondary to how the game feels, and Episode 1 Racer feels great.

But let’s talk about N64 FPS controls. Look is bound to the analog stick, which feels right. So why is look inverted on all of these games?! Unless I’m playing a flight sim, I want to look up when I push the stick up. Even worse the being inverted, there are never any options to fix it! Horrible.

So obviously, N64 isn’t ideal for first-person shooters. But I’m going to keep playing them. And constantly looking at my feet when I want to look up at the thing shooting me.

I played Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I got some wild notion that I wanted to play an MMO so I started up Star Wars: The Old Republic. SWTOR is free-to-play and I’ve got quite a bit of experience in free-to-play MMOs. I’ve put quite a few hours into Champions Online and Star Trek Online. I also happen to play MMOs like they’re single-player games. I don’t group or guild.

I could compare features between the Cryptic MMOs and SWTOR, and what’s for free and what’s for pay, but I don’t find that very helpful. So what I will say is that SWTOR feels like it’s a demo of the subscriber game, whereas the Cryptic MMOs feel complete and if you want some bonus stuff, you could pay for it.

SWTOR specifically removes more than convenience features for free-to-play players. One of those convenience features is “sprint”, which simply lets you move faster between combat. Subscribers and former subscribers get it at level 1. Free-to-play members get it at level 10. It’s a little faster but not that much faster. But then I noticed that quests were withholding completion rewards from me for being a free player. That feels mean, right? “Hey, here’s what you could have gotten if you were a subscriber! But you’re not, piss off.”

I feel like that was a real turning point for me where I went from onboard despite penalties for being a free player, to not worth my time. I’m already playing it like a single-player game. Why not just go back and maybe finish KOTOR? And on top of slighting free players, the game feels tenuously Star Wars. I don’t know when it takes place in the Star Wars universe, but it feels more Star Wars-ish than Star Wars itself. It’s kind of a strange game.

But the bottom line is that other free MMOs have felt like I’m getting the commercial product, and that compelled me to put some money into them. SWTOR feels like a demo that’s pushing me towards buying it, and it doesn’t feel good.

One of my favorite moments in Fallout 3

After wandering the wasteland and exploring countless buildings and locations, I stumbled across a clean toilet. Every other toilet was post-apocalyptic: broken, dusty, dry. This one was a normal toilet, full of water.

Curiously, you could “use” this toilet. Surprising because you can’t use the broken toilets, but there’s plenty of precedent for usable toilets in video games. So I press the use key and expect a stream of video game urine, or at least the sound of peeing.

Nope. Just a slurp. As if I had found any other water source. Because if I had been wandering the wastelands and drinking dirty, irradiated water from puddles, and fighting mutants, and struggling through a world where clean water is a commodity, I’d probably drink clean toilet water too.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at something in a video game in my life.

BUILD engine games have the best opening lines.

I’m playing Shadow Warrior, and it has reminded me that BUILD engine games always start with the best lines. Not that these are the best lines in their respective games, but the first spoken line really sets the tone for these particular games.

Duke Nukem 3D

Blood

Shadow Warrior

Giving up

I don’t actively quit on games often at all. I’m far more likely to get bored and just stop playing them, or jump on something new before finishing what I’ve already got. But I very rarely give up on a game on purpose.

I’m probably not going to finish Resistance: Fall of Man. I got it because it was cheap and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Resistance 3 and I wanted to start the series from the beginning. But Resistance was a PS3 launch title, over six years old, and it has aged poorly. It’s a fairly good looking game, but it seriously lacks color and the gameplay is very bland. Then it has a problem with checkpoints being too far apart, and where I am in the game is getting fairly difficult. So now it’s not exciting, and it’s not fun.

So instead of forcing myself to play something I’m not enjoying over and over until I get through it, I’m giving up. I read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia, and I’ve started Resistance 2, which is a better game so far. I’ve got way too many other games to play to suffer through something I’m not enjoying.

What am I doing?

Moving!

Okay but I’ve been half-heartedly playing Resistance: Fall of Man, Guacamelee, and Vanquish on PS3. Resistance is underwhelming but it was a launch title and actually quite old at this point. Guacamelee is beautiful and fun but I think I’ve either encountered a bug, or I’m stuck. Vanquish is sliding around on rocket boots.

I’ve also recommitted to finishing Darksiders 2. Jake finished is not that long ago, which reminded me that I never finished it myself. I thought it was because I’d gotten stuck in it but I loaded up my save and found that I’d just stopped playing.

Here’s the thing. I loved Darksiders. I love to tell people it’s the best Zelda game ever made, because it’s the only one I finished even though it’s not actually a Zelda game. It’s so close it might as well be. Anyway, it’s fantastic. Darksiders 2 isn’t bad, but it’s different. It’s a little more loot-y and a little more grind-y and kind of less Zelda-y. And I think one of my mistakes is that I started on Apocalyptic (hard) difficulty, and I can’t go back now because I’m over 16 hours into it and dying on most large fights at least once.

But everything is going slowly because I’ve been trying to get this house closed on, which I did today, and spending this weekend moving. I might not even have internet again until Monday or Tuesday, which is kind of a bummer. Oh well, awesome house!

What am I doing?

It’s only been a week but it feels like I’ve not done enough. On consoles, I’m floundering between God of War 2 (because I have the PS3 collection, and I want to play 3, but I somehow feel the need to finish 2 first) on PS3 and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on Xbox 360.

I picked Lords of Shadow back up because that new 3DS game is out, and I’ve been playing God of War 2, and I figured I could quickly wrap it up. I was wrong. Last time I played it, I was stuck on the music box level because I rage quit during the lightning bolt section. When I picked it back up again, I managed to stumble through that part and finish the level, but now I’m fighting monsters again and I’ve completely forgotten how most of that game works, so I’m rage quitting for being frustratingly shitty at it. I still want to finish it but I have to summon up some real willpower to do so first.

On PC, I’m lazily replaying Bioshock 2 because Bioshock Infinite is coming out in a little more than a week and I want to get myself in the right mood. Then Steam had a sale on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning that I couldn’t resist. I’ve wanted the game for quite a while. It’s not bad. It’s kind of like Fable crossed with Elder Scrolls. There’s a shitload of stuff to do, but it’s mostly fetch quests, which are disappointing. The world is very rich and full of lore, but it’s really hard for me to get invested in it because I know nothing more will come from the series. Since I bought it with all the DLC, I ended up with some DLC weapons from the start, which made the beginning of the game entirely too easy, but I’ve finally gotten to points where I had to think about what I’m doing. I’ve put 10+ hours into it within the last two days, but I still feel like it’s something I’m playing until something better comes along.

I got the wild notion to reinstall Fallout 3 so I could continue my quest to complete its DLC. I hope that doesn’t go anywhere because that’s a rabbit hole I don’t need to fall into any time soon. Gears of War: Judgment comes out this week, and I couldn’t be bothered to get excited for it. Nothing leading up to the release has really excited me, and the middling review on Giant Bomb doesn’t help matters. I still feel Resident Evil 6 calling my name, but then I also keep thinking of playing Silent Hill: Downpour too. And of all the stupid things, I’m playing Chaos Rings on my fucking phone. Seriously. But I’m not that invested in it.