tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

The E3 post I should have written a month ago

Yeah, I’m late. I’ve been busy :p

There was some interesting stuff at E3, I guess. Of particular interest to me were the following:

  • Left 4 Dead 2 – yeah, I’m looking forward to it. There’s been a lot of bitching about the timing of the release (just a year after the first game came out) and I understand some of it, particularly since L4D has only gotten two significant updates since its release (the first being the major patch that buffed the Infected in versus mode, and the second being the Survival Pack). However, the point of a sequel is to improve upon the original’s mechanics, and it looks like L4D2 will do this, with more weapons, more enemy types (the new Charger special Infected should make corner camping a fair bit harder) and the Director now being able to control the weather (which affects visibility) and the routes you can take through the level. Given that, I’m very much willing to shell out another $50 to try it.
  • Metroid: Other M – This came out of nowhere, really. The fact that Team Ninja is developing something for the Wii is pretty much enough to get me excited. While my experience with Ninja Gaiden is limited to the DS version (lol) and the demo for Ninja Gaiden Sigma, as well as an hour or so playing Ninja Gaiden II on my friend’s 360, and if this new Metroid game is anything like it then it will definitely be worth playing.
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 – more Mario Galaxy? Yes please.
  • Mass Effect 2 – I thought Mass Effect was a game that failed to live up to what it could have been – it had an enormous universe to explore…which mostly consisted of barren planets with abandoned mines/military bases/laboratories, all of which must have been built with prefabs or something seeing how they repeated the same 4 level layouts again and again. The combat system was decent enough, although the much-hyped dialogue tree system wasn’t really anything that hadn’t been done before. If anything I’d have preferred a system that didn’t separate your options into ‘Obvious Good Choice’, ‘Obvious Neutral Choice’ and ‘Obvious Bad Choice.’ There have been games that have done this already, and I’m not sure why so many devs seems to be married to it. In any case, Bioware claims that ME2 will have less barren planets, and that the choices you made in ME1 will have actual consequences for your ME2 game. On top of that they’ve apparently beefed up the combat with new features like location-based damage and an improved cover system. I guess I’ll keep an eye on it.
  • Assassin’s Creed II – I’m playing the first game right now, and while it’s a pretty fun action game, all the people who called out the pointless overworld (which can fortunately be skipped after you’ve visited all the cities) and the lack of investigation types are pretty much right on the money. While this game seems to have added a bunch of new combat moves, I don’t know that it’s addressed the real problems with the game. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it has, but interviews like this don’t really do much for my confidence.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – The first Uncharted is still one of the best PS3 exclusives out there, and its sequel seems to improve on it with a more involved melee system and more enemy variation. Hopefully the combat set-pieces are just as exciting as the first game’s.

That’s basically it, I guess. Borderlands seems kind of interesting, but I want to know more about it before I decide whether I should look forward to it or not – right now it seems to be a first-person Diablo II with guns.

Tomorrow being a ‘special occasion’, I’ll have a more in-depth post on a game I’ve been playing on my PS3 for the last week or so.

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The list of doom, August edition

Here’s last month’s edition.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Devil May Cry 4 – Beat it on Devil Hunter, although honestly I don’t think I’m really done with it yet. I can’t say that I’ve really mastered any aspect of the game (except maybe Nero’s Devil Buster but it’s LOL EZ anyway).
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – I’ve gotten all my C ranks and unlocked the true ending to the game, so it’s leaving the list. I’ll still keep trying for A ranks and better scores from time to time, though (it’s a freaking score attack game – who wouldn’t). Maybe I’ll put some footage up here when I try it out.
  • Zack & Wiki – I’ve beaten the main story quest, but I haven’t found any of the hidden treasures yet. Still, that’s good enough for me for now.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Beat it shortly after my last list of doom post. I’ve fiddled around a bit with the other modes (the Ada side missions and the Mercenaries minigame) but I haven’t gone back to the game yet.

Games still being played:

  • Super Mario Galaxy – Would you believe I’m still stuck on that one Luigi purple coin mission?
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Really haven’t touched it at all.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – That last Sol Emerald is a bitch.
  • Mass Effect – I’ve just finished up the Noveria story quests. It seems that there really aren’t that many main story quests which is a little alarming, but I’ll see what happens. I’ve started to get a good feel for my final opinion on the game, too…and it’s a little uneven.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – Still fun – I’m right after the part where Pey’j gets kidnapped (spoiler).

Games that were started and beaten over the course of the month:

  • Metal Gear Solid – Great boss fights, great sneaking areas, terrible gun controls, WALL OF PLOT is annoying.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance – Boss fights are somewhat less great, sneaking is much more fun, gun controls are better, WALL OF PLOT is still annoying.

New entries on the list:

  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence – Not too far in. I can’t say I’ve gotten the hang of CQC yet – for some reason every time I try to grab someone from behind I end up throwing them and setting off an alarm.
  • Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword – this is surprisingly good for a handheld conversion of Ninja Gaiden. There are some cutbacks (simplified combos, only one melee weapon and two ranged weapons) but otherwise it’s fast and furious just like the console versions.
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – my first PS3 game! Think Gears of War crossed with Resident Evil 4 with a minimal bit of Tomb Raider splashed in for good measure. Very polished and slick – nothing to complain about so far.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed – I never played the NES version, but even so this game is pretty cool. While the levels and bosses themselves are pretty well-designed, I particularly like the Portal-style Challenge Rooms.

And that’s it for August!

It just occurred to me that my Wii backlog is basically empty now (except for Galaxy). Any Wii game recommendations? Keep in mind that I’m a lonely bastard who plays games by himself all the time.

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The list of doom, July Edition

Here’s last month’s edition.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition – well, Dante’s route on normal anyway. I’ve started a Vergil playthrough, but it’s more like something I can do if I’m in the mood. With this I can finally claim to have beaten a DMC game!

And that’s the only game I managed to beat last month.

  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Still on Mission 5-2.
  • Zack & Wiki – No progress here either.
  • Super Mario Galaxy – Took a few stabs at clearing that Luigi coin mission, and the closest I came was 80-something coins before my reflexes failed me.
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – I set my sights a little lower and decided to go for all C-ranks first so I could unlock the true ending to the game. Unfortunately this is easier said than done because some of the side missions are really fucking stupid.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Gathering dust. For some reason I simply can’t bring myself to finish that particular mission.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – Set a few more personal records in time attack, but otherwise nothing else. I’ve noticed that the physics in this game are quite broken (at least as far as Sonic games go).
  • Mass Effect – I’ve unlocked my character’s specialised class (went for Shock Trooper) and after spending ages on sidequests I’ve finally started on the main story quests again. Still pretty good so far – the universe is interesting, and conversations with the supporting characters tend to reveal some interesting nuances over time.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – Played a bit more. This feels like a Zelda game with most of the tedium/treating the player like he’s five years old stripped out. So far, having a lot of fun with it.

The only “new” entries on the list?

  • Diablo II: Lord of Destruction – Nostalgia got to me after the Diablo III announcement. I’m rebuilding my old Zeal/Fanaticism Paladin (boring build, I know, but it was the first D2 character I ever made). In addition I’m playing a summoning Necromancer for playing online with PenPen.
  • Devil May Cry 4 – So far it’s definitely easier than both Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3, but still rather fun. The Devil Bringer isn’t quite as interesting to me as the instant rev and other frame-specific moves like Table Hopper and the instant Exceed, which are the main source of depth in Nero’s play style.

Stay tuned for next month’s update, when I reveal pretty much the same list with no changes whatsoever!

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The list of doom, June Edition

Here’s the original list.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Psychonauts – I didn’t get all the scavenger hunt items, etc, but I was level 50 by the time I hit the final boss, and he didn’t give me much trouble.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Excellent game, but that final boss was far less challenging than the platforming area that led up to him.

Updated progress for the remaining items:

  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition – No progress made. Haven’t touched my PS2 in a while, actually.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Mission 5-2. @#%@ Regenerators.
  • Zack & Wiki – No progress made. I don’t expect any will be made for a while, actually…
  • Super Mario Galaxy – No progress made. That Luigi purple coin mission is really hard if you just bumrush it without any planning (like I tend to do)
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – Finished the main story on both sides (not that it was hard, there being only 3 levels on each side and a common final level + boss fight). But I always try to play platformers to completion, so my next target is A-ranking everything. Yes, that includes that music mission in Memory Forest, a mission whose designer really needs to be shot.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – I, uh, played a few more turns of mission 13. Still haven’t beaten it.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – I’ve been doing more time attack runs than Sol Emerald hunting, if you get my drift.

New entries on the list:

  • Mass Effect – Level 20, just picked up Liara T’Soni. I’m playing as a Soldier, and will be going for a Paragon rating, like the goody-two-shoes that I am.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – I actually haven’t gotten very far in this game because of a weird bug that causes my framerate to drop like a stone when I’m in the overworld. Just to remind you all, this is a 2003 game having problems running on a 2006 video card.
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MASSIVE DAMAGE

So, Mass Effect for PC is here. I’ve put a few hours into the game, and just beat the prologue as well as most of the first chapter.

I’m more used to run-and-gun type shooters where things like cover and tactical commands aren’t really a factor, so this is something new to me. Luckily the squad commands are fairly intuitive, and you can tell your squad mates to do a fair number of useful things like lay down cover fire, hold a position, advance to a particular spot, regroup, or use any of their equipped weapons/abilities. As I mentioned, it’s not quite straight run-and-gun, as your characters’ statistics as well as their equipment influences the battles a great deal, as well as your ability to use cover to minimize the damage you take.

The story is just getting started, so I can’t really say too much about it, although the universe Bioware has set up for the game is quite well-fleshed out, and you can find out lots of information about it by talking to various NPCs. I also like how all the major characters are pretty understated for the most part – not quite like your standard JRPG where your allies are pretty much cardboard caricatures. You pick up party members along the way, and each character’s relative strengths and weaknesses are listed out for you to see on the Squad screen, making decisions on who to put in your party fairly easy…in theory, at least.

Performance wise, though, my rig seems to be chugging a bit with it. I don’t know if it’s just because of the quality of the port, but running this game at my monitor’s native res with all the bells and whistles turned on appears to be out of the question for now. I’m currently running it at 1280×720 in a window, with textures and particles turned down to medium. Oddly there doesn’t seem to be any option for anti-aliasing, which is very strange for a modern game. There is a movie-like grainy filter you can apply to the output, as well as a motion blur. The former mitigates the lack of anti-aliasing a bit, but the latter doesn’t seem to work particularly well with my sketchy framerate.

Perhaps it’s time to get a new card. Although the game apparently has resolution switching issues with 8800 series cards – from the readme:

The the NVIDIA 8800 Series of video cards can require significant time (30 seconds or more) to change resolutions. This is due to a required recalculation of thousands of video shaders.

This is a very strange limitation for this particular card (and even stranger that the 9xxx series cards apparently don’t have this problem).

In any case, Mass Effect has proven to be a fairly interesting experience with some kinks so far.

On a side note, the in-game history suggests that Singaporeans were the first people on Earth to develop psychic abilities. I loled.

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Miracles do happen!

EA scales down copy protection for Mass Effect and Spore

Angry people on the Internet actually caused change…I WA SHOCK!
The new scheme still limits you to three installs, which is lame, but the need to activate every ten days has been replaced with a check every time new content is downloaded, which is more reasonable. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s about where BioShock’s copy protection was, which is slightly annoying but acceptable.

In other EA PC gaming adventures, both this and this are looking really cool. I don’t know what’s more surprising – the fact that DICE is making something that isn’t a Battlefield game, or that said game is an Unreal Engine 3 game whose predominant palette colour isn’t brown.

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Beating the dead horse

I was hoping that I could write about something unrelated to gaming today…it’s not like I’m lacking for topics in any way.

But then EA goes and pulls a stunt like this with two of the biggest upcoming PC releases; games which I had been very much looking forward to.

I guess the appearance of security (and mind you, it is only for appearances – the probability that this copy protection will be broken by an enterprising hacker is pretty much 100%) is far more important than customer goodwill.

(BTW, anyone who suggest I should buy a 360 to play Mass Effect can go die in a fire)

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The list of doom

Some of you know that I have a pretty sizeable gaming backlog. A lot of it is games that I want to play but haven’t gotten around to buying yet (Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection is currently #1 on that list), but there’s also a pretty big backlog of stuff that I own but I haven’t gotten around to finishing yet:

  • Psychonauts (I put some effort into beating it this past weekend, and finally reached the endgame…I had to skip a lot of optional stuff to do it though)
  • Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (I’m at about 60% completion)
  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition (level 15, right after beating Vergil for the second time)
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (mission 3-1…which is proving to be annoyingly long. Oh, and I have almost no ammo left)
  • Zack & Wiki (the last puzzle is so ridiculously hard)
  • Super Mario Galaxy (technically I’ve ‘beaten’ this game already, but I need to get one…last…star!)
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams (2 levels in on each side)
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (I’m on mission 13 of the campaign but for some reason I can’t bring myself to finish it)
  • Sonic Rush Adventure (Blaze’ last Sol Emerald is giving me trouble)

This is not a state of affairs that I’m particularly happy with, given that there are other high-profile releases coming up that I’d like to devote my time to…in particular Mass Effect drops at the end of the month, and the PC version of Devil May Cry 4 arrives next month.

So much gaming to do, so little time :(

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I love it when my decisions are vindicated

Mass Effect coming to PC

*Strikes one game off the list of 360 games he wanted to play*

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