tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Holiday Steam sales will be the end of me

Here’s what I picked up, during both the Thanksgiving and Christmas sales on Steam:

  • Mirror’s Edge (already beaten – they weren’t kidding when they said this was a short game)
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
  • Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
  • Prince of Persia (the new one)
  • Crysis Maximum Edition
  • Torchlight
  • Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition

Backlog doubled, just like that :(

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I keep forgetting to update this thing

I haven’t been updating because of some real-life issues I’ve been having that I’d rather not go into here. That said, here’s what’s been going on with me:

  • Added some more titles to my backlog thanks to Steam holiday sales: Mirror’s Edge and the last two titles of the PoP trilogy (as well as the newest one).
  • Immediately removed Mirror’s Edge from my backlog because I beat it in 3 days
  • Removed Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword from my list after beating it over Thanksgiving weekend.

More significantly, I upgraded my PC pretty much as far as I think I can take it – swapped out my old Core 2 Duo E6750 for a Core 2 Quad Q9650, which is about as fast as I can take it without buying one of the ridiculously priced Core 2 Extreme models. More cores certainly make a huge difference in games like Left 4 Dead 2, and to a lesser extent in Team Fortress 2. I also replaced my 8800GTS 512 with a GTX275, which has helped with some of the more graphic intensive games that I’m still working through (like Lost Planet). I also needed a new power supply for the new card, so I grabbed a simple 650W Antec one.

Just those three parts set me back a fair amount, so much so that I think my next ‘upgrade’ will probably involve just building a new box so I can get in on all the awesome i5/i7 action.

That said, I’m tempted to download the Crysis demo again to see how well these new parts hold up.


Disappointment beckons


It looks like my worst fears about Mirror’s Edge might have come true – great platforming mechanics hobbled by substandard level design. The best I can hope for is that the PC version comes with some sort of map editor so that the community can pick up where the developers seem to have failed.

In other platforming news, Sonic Unleashed arrives next week. I’m still not sold on the game, given that long sections of the speed part of the game seem to be on autopilot (or something very close to it) and that the Werehog sections are basically all the platforming bits that SHOULD have been in the main game mixed in with a pale imitation of God of War.

At the very least the sidescrolling parts of the regular levels remind me a little of Sonic Rush, although dumbed down – the level design is a good deal simpler, lacking for instance the multiple routes present in Sonic Rush Adventure and replacing the trick system with (of all things) QTEs.

I actually have a lot of things to say on the subject of Sonic Unleashed (as you might suspect) but it’s almost 1am so I think I’ll save that essay for another time.


Razor sharp

A demo for Mirror’s Edge hit PSN today, so I took it out for a spin.

The demo consists of a tutorial level and what I assume is the first level of the game, that takes place on a series of building rooftops. Incidentally, this is the same level that was shown when the game was revealed for the first time.

Amazingly, I must say, the demo lived up to my expectations. Somehow DICE has managed to craft a first-person platformer that feels right. It reminds me of old-school (read: Genesis) Sonic the Hedgehog games a whole lot, as in there are multiple intertwining routes you can use to navigate the level (although the progression is still very much linear) and there’s a heavy focus on maintaining momentum through good timing and using it to pull off platforming stunts in the game world.

Where it differs, of course, is in elements like combat (which, again, focuses on disarming and incapacitating your opponents quickly rather than engaging in shootouts with them). Combat is fairly simple, in that you have a single button for melee attacks and another button for disarming. The trick is to combine your melee attacks, jumps/slides and disarming moves in such a way as to get the opponent out of your way as quickly as possible – in other words, to minimise their impact to your momentum.

In addition, there’s a mode called ‘reaction time’ that lets you slow down time briefly, allowing you to execute maneuvres like frontal disarms or precise jumps with more leeway. This ties neatly back into the core platforming since the ability to use reaction time is granted when you successfully manage to maintain your momentum for an extended period of time.

If I had to nitpick, there are a couple of things I would mention:

  • The game uses Unreal Engine 3, meaning that things like dynamic shadows have aliased/jagged edges, which impairs the look of the game for me somewhat. On top of that, while the NPCs are modeled and animated extremely well, they seem rather crap at emoting, much like Mass Effect and other UE3 games I’ve seen.
  • I found it a little tricky to use the right analogue stick to line myself up correctly for precision jumping – this is probably more of a personal preference, though, and I imagine you can tweak the sensitivity settings to get them exactly where you want them.

Overall, though, if the final product manages to maintain the quality of the level design through to the end, this should end up being a pretty damn good game. I imagine time trial nuts (myself included) will have a blast exploring the levels, trying to find that one improvement to their route that knocks precious seconds off their best times.

(Speaking of time trials, the demo also has a time trial mode, but to unlock it you need to have preordered the game on either Xbox 360 or PS3. I’ve already decided to wait the extra two months for the PC version, so I wasn’t able to try it out)


Convention Tales

I spent most of the day at PAX today, since I’d never been to a gaming convention and there were a few games I wanted to check out. I actually didn’t get to play too many of them (the lines were way too long for me to be standing around) but I did get a reasonable idea of how some of the games I’m looking forward to are shaping up.

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Electronic Entertainment something or the other

There were only a few things I was looking for out of the gaggle of E3 propaga- er news:

  1. Mirror’s Edge news (this game still looks bloody awesome)
  2. Sonic Unleashed news (hopefully my dreams don’t come crashing down around me)
  3. Any news out of Valve (this had better come to Steam, damn it… and Episode Three details kthxbai)

Blizzard is a no-show because they just held their Worldwide Invitational where this little game called Diablo III was revealed, and where Starcraft II was shown off in a competitive match for the first time.

Anyway, on to the few other tidbits that caught my eye.

Apparently Nintendo has announced some thingamajig that will improve the motion sensing of the Wii remote. How it does this, I have no idea. I’m more concerned about the fact that plugging that thing into the remote seems to preclude the attachment of a nunchuk for smoother aiming in Resident Evil 4.

Microsoft’s presser was largely uninteresting to me since I don’t own an Xbox 360 and they hardly mentioned PC releases. The reaction on the Internet to the news that Final Fantasy XIII would be coming to Xbox 360 has been hilarious, though. It’s a repeat of the NERD RAGE that erupted when Devil May Cry 4 became a multi-platform title instead of a PlayStation 3 exclusive – somehow they feel betrayed because Square Enix decided to widen the game’s potential market. Whatever. I’ve given up on trying to analyse the psychology of lunatic fanboys.

Oh yeah, that two-player co-op in Resident Evil 5 is pretty cool. I doubt I’ll buy it unless that rumoured PC version materialises though. For the life of me, I just can’t aim with a thumbstick at all. Don’t ask why.

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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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