Clive Barker’s Jericho is not Clive Barker’s Undying

I have a lot of love for Clive Barker’s Undying. It oozed Clive Barker from beginning to end. It was a colorful, imaginative, and well-made first person shooter. Jericho is basically the polar opposite of Undying.

The premise of Jericho is that you play a member of a team of witches, warlocks, priests, and other occult figures sent to investigate an opening hole in the middle east. A bad guy is trying to open a breach to release The Firstborn, the thing the Christian god created before he created mankind. The team jumps back through times in which others have tried to unleash The Firstborn and so goes from modern times, to World War 2, to the crusades, to ancient Rome, to Sumeria.

So your guy dies early on, but he can possess the other members of the team, which gives the game its strongest hook. You can freely jump from team member to team member, each with unique weaponry and special abilities. The weapons all sound and perform really weakly. It takes a full magazine to kill the most basic enemies and it sounds you’re firing a rapid-fire BB gun. They all lack power. Of the special abilities, only a couple are worth using. There’s one that lets you shoot a guided sniper bullet, which will kill three enemies in one shot, and another that shoots a fire demon that automatically hits enemies and sets them on fire.

The design also suffers. No matter what time period you’re in, the game’s color palette has three colors: black, brown, and red. The enemies lack imagination in their design. Take a body, wrap it some straps, put a bag on its head, and color it brown and black. Ta da! And they all just run at you until you’ve put enough bullets in them to put them down.

The ending, like the rest of the game, is a complete disappoint. Spoiler alert, that childlike figure that has led you toward The Firstborn is The Firstborn. The Firstborn is a glowing green toddler. Like the previous bosses, it takes a little use of your special powers to beat The Firstborn, and then the game very suddenly ends. No epilogue, no resolution.

I don’t know what to say. I’ve tried really hard to like Jericho but it just doesn’t measure up to Undying. Supposedly a sequel is in the works. Hopefully it’ll fare a little better.

Deep Fry Everything

Last night we got together at Jim and Andria’s and had a “deep fry everything” party. It was at least twice as amazing as it sounds. Katie made a batter and we just kind of ran with it. We deep-fried avocados, which were pretty amazing. We stuffed some jalapenos with Daiya, but I didn’t get to a hold of one of those. We also deep-fried some of the standards, round tater things, onion rings, tofu (which fried better without the batter), and sweet potato fries. We had grand plans to make things before deep-frying them, like taquitos, but we just kind of went nuts with the deep fry everything instead.

Then we played a whole pile of Rock Band 3. After moving all of our songs onto one hard drive, it turned out that Katie and I had a total of 358 songs. That’s with all of our Rock Band 1, 2, and 3 songs, but that’s an unholy amount of songs. The plus side is that there was a little bit of something for pretty much everyone. The down side is “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”.

Capital City Biathlon

Yesterday I finished my first biathlon! It was a 3.1 mile run followed by a 15 mile bike ride. Leading up to it, I was mostly concerned with the run because I haven’t done much running in the last six months. I spent the last three weeks running three times a week to build up my endurance again. Katie and I did a casual bike ride last week and that was about all the bike training I did. I placed 86th out of 153. I finished the run in 26:36, spent about a minute in the transition area, and finished the bike ride at 53:55. Here are some pictures!
Finishin', finishin'!
That’s me crossing the finish line. It was chip timed, hence all the mats. I rode my mountain bike with commuter tires because a friend of mine was also in it and she only has a mountain bike and I didn’t want her to feel left out. I beat a lot of people on much more expensive bikes than mine, and I’m pretty sure I was the second person on a mountain bike to finish. The first was a 15 year old boy. I’m okay with that.
Finishers!
Here’s how I’m supposed to feel after I finished! You can’t tell but I’m giving a thumbs-up behind that water bottle.
Finishers!
Here’s how I actually felt. Sweaty, tired, hungry!
"Put your medal on so I can take a picture!"
And here’s Erika shoving a banana in my face.

What if someone made Gothic without half of the jank?

It’d be something like Arcania: Gothic 4. I’ve spent all day playing it. It looks better than any other Gothic. It has normal game controls, unlike Gothic 1 and Gothic 2 (I haven’t played Gothic 3 yet). The combat is fluid. It has only crashed twice in 5 hours. The voice acting isn’t god awful. It’s almost an enjoyable game.

I also played the Risen demo, which is basically exactly like Arcania. They’re so similar that I got a bit of the Risen storyline confused with the Arcania storyline and spent some amount of time wondering why I wasn’t running into any Warriors of Order or the Inquisition. And both of these games are unreasonably similar to Two Worlds, except they’re both a lot less awful.

I’m going to keep playing Arcania until I get bored or find something better. Which will definitely end on May 17th, when The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings is released OH MY GOD I CAN’T WAIT

XUUU

I just finished XIII. It’s an old, cel-shaded first person shooter based on a Franco-Belgian comic book of the same name. It’s a spy game, more along the lines of Jason Bourne than James Bond and it was totally fucking awesome! This is a spy game done right. You plant bugs, blow stuff up, sneak around, stab people in the eye with bottles, and save the president. It has a grappling hook. If your spy game doesn’t have a grappling hook, it doesn’t count. Alpha Protocol fails on this account.

Speaking of stabbing people in the eye with bottles, improvised weapons are done fantastically well in this game. There’s a relatively limited number of items that can be used as weapons, but they’re available when they’re necessary, and usually hanging around somewhere when they’re not. It is exceptionally satisfying to throw a shard of glass into someone’s face for a stealth kill. Also used to great effect in this game, throwing knives. I guess if I had to choose one thing, XIII does stabbing people in the face the best.

My only complaints are that it’s a little short, and the cel-shading led to some interesting artifacts. The game moves along at a pretty fast pace, but the levels never feel too short or too long. The locales are varied and you spend enough time in each area to enjoy it without overstaying your welcome. The cel-shading is used very well in the game, but it resulted in some abnormally thick black lines in unusual places, like the corners of the nostrils, or around the rims of eyeglasses. The nose thing is a little distracting in in-game cutscenes, but the eyeglasses thing really sucks. Characters wearing eyeglasses look like they’re wearing some kind of sci-fi goggles. These effects, however, may be a result of eight years of hardware progress, or a variation in how my graphics card presents the game. I’ve seen screenshots of the game from other people who do not have the same weird artifacts.

I’m really glad I picked this up. I got it off of GOG for $6 and it was totally worth it.

Agent Michael Scarn, FBI

I’ve started Alpha Protocol. It seems like a logical next step after finally finishing Deus Ex. The reviews weren’t joking when they said the character customizations were limited. The choices are hipster douchebag or hipster douchebag with a Castro beard. I went with hipster douchebag with a Castro beard. My first actual mission did not go well. I kept getting spotted or I was too loud or something because alarms kept going off and I had to shoot my way out.

Hacking in this game sucks. It involves matching patterns in a constantly shifting sea of characters. I am apparently not great at telling the difference between a quickly changing letter and a letter frozen because it’s part of a string. Thankfully bypassing electronics is not that hard and lockpicking is dead simple. Because this is a spy game, I feel like I should be more sneaky than destructive so I’ve been dumping my experience points into stealth, which is paying off. I’ve gone from setting off every alarm everywhere to being able to sneak up behind dudes and stab them in the throat. I only set off an alarm in the last mission because I failed on an electronics bypass.

Anyway, it’s not Deus Ex but it is pretty enjoyable. I’m playing it seriously but I kind of wish I could play it like a shitty James Bond.

Bullet sponge

I’m nearing the end of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I play it in between games because I can’t handle playing it for long. I can’t handle it because the game is beautiful and the weapons are mostly well done and the missions are almost fun but the main character is FRAGILE.

There are few things that really turn me off of a first-person shooter but instant death or quick death to the point of where I am forced to memorize where the bad guys are is one of them. I’ll get to a point in Bad Company 2 where I get stuck and die repeatedly in the same spot. It’s frustrating. I hate replaying sections and I most certainly hate dying from the same thing over and over. It’s even worse when I’m getting stuck on geometry.

Most recently, I kept dying in one spot on a level, as I do, and I noticed that my friendly AI companions were not advancing through the level with me. They were just kind of stuck in one spot and wouldn’t proceed past it for whatever reason. After inching through this section, because I hadn’t reached a checkpoint in a while and I did not want to repeat it all over again, I finally reached one (and more enemies) and my AI friends suddenly popped into existence right next to me! What the hell. Obviously they were supposed to be following me, and didn’t, so I fought through most of that section solo. It’s annoying.

I’m really only grinding through it at this point just because I’m almost at the end and I want to clear it off of my hard drive. I enjoyed the early game, when every encounter wasn’t absolutely lethal.

An Apology to Deus Ex

Dear Deus Ex,

I was wrong about you. So wrong. You and I were speaking different languages for years. This week I decided to listen before speaking.

Instead of trying to do everything and see everything and crawl through every nook and cranny, I accepted you for being a bigger game than one playthrough can encompass. Instead of trying to do everything in one run, I just did things my way. I blasted my enemies to death. I tossed out all non-lethal weaponry. I explored whenever I could but accepted that not every door could or should be opened. I dumped skills into computers so I could hack turrets and cameras instead of sneaking around, which I hate. I played you the way that I enjoyed the most.

And it worked! I finished you today, having put in almost 15 hours over the course of four days. It was awesome!

In short, Deus Ex, thanks for being you. I was wrong about you all along.

Love,

brian

Buried

I am completely buried under a pile of games that seems to be getting bigger. Just a couple weeks ago I was lamenting having something new to play (hence all the expansion pack playthroughs) but now I feel like my backlog is getting completely out of control.

A friend of mine went to PAX East and brought back a couple of t-shirts she didn’t need/want that she gave to me, one of which was a shirt for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. My love/hate relationship with Deus Ex is well documented. Nonetheless, I was interested in Human Revolution and now I am super-hyped for it. The front of the shirt says “The Truth Will Change You” while the back has a silhouette of the main character filled with a bunch of words and phrases relating to the game or series. My favorite of these is “it’s not the end of the world but you can see it from here.”

I’m giving Deus Ex another shot. I played through all of Invisible War not that long ago, and I’ve never finished the original despite owning it for 11 years. I’m doing this my way: save the good guys, kill everyone else. I think I’m doing rather well! My inventory is constantly full but I’m also full up on medkits and bioelectic cells and ammo for the two guns that I use.

I spent seven hours playing it today and I’m about to get out of Hong Kong. I will finish this dumb game.

This class is ridiculous

Tuesday I had my second plant bio exam. Now, leading up to this exam, I hadn’t gone to lecture between the first exam and now. I got an 86 on my first exam and attendance is not required because the points from attendance come from the same pool as the points for the quizzes posted on Blackboard. The quizzes are far more helpful than the lectures because the exams come straight out of the quizzes.

Going into this exam, I was a little worried! The study guide for the first exam had literally all the answers needed to pass the quizzes, and there was a practice exam posted that I could take over and over without consequence. It was great for memorizing questions and answers. This time around the study guide was not complete and there was no practice exam. I had to go through lecture slides to get through the quizzes, and then I studied off of the quizzes but I didn’t get that feedback of what I retained and what I couldn’t remember by taking that practice exam. But I felt confident that I at least passed the exam afterwards.

I got an 88. I did better on the second exam with an incomplete study guide and no practice than I did on the first exam. Obviously, I’m doing something right!

Ne Cede Malis