Game Finished: Gears of War 2

Gears of War
Image via Wikipedia

I’m still on a roll, finishing games at a rapid clip. Susan was out of town for several days at a conference which also helped.

It’s clear Gears of War 2 was written for 15 year old males, and for the most part I hated it. I disliked the first one and traded it in before finishing it, and ended up with the sequel because of a buy 2 get 1 free sale at Gamestop. I’d heard the sequel was an improvement on the original, and it probably is on a technical level, but the abysmally stupid plot, awful dialog, and mediocre game mechanics all drag the thing down into ‘don’t bother playing this dog’ territory. The script writers are channeling braindead hollywood action flicks from the 80s, think, say ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando‘ level dumb dialog. Lots of folks loved this game (it’s got a 93 rating over on metacritic for example) – I guess I’m just not in the target audience for this one. My appreciation for it wasn’t helped by the fact that I played it right after Halo ODST, a game with a refined combat and gameplay aesthetic that Gears of War 2 compares very poorly to. The one positive thing I can say is that the game does have some imaginative settings with impressive scope, especially when you venture underground into vast cavernous areas with ancient temples, sunken cities, and a giant worm out to get you – that part was a visual treat. Everything else…I disliked.

The clip below plays some of the cutscenes from the game and gives a pretty good idea of why I disliked the game. Video quality’s not that great but the audio is really the point. Don’t play this with other people around, it’s definitely NSFW.

Game Finished: Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty
Image via Wikipedia

I’m on a roll thanks to one of my New Year’s resolutions. I finished Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty earlier in the week. It’s a short coda to the previous game, Tools of Destruction, and explains how Ratchet figures out where Clank is after he…disappears at the end of Tools of Destruction. I scored the next game in the series, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time on sale over Christmas and I wanted to finish this game so I could move on its sequel. This is the 8th (!!!) Ratchet and Clank game and it doesn’t bring much new to the table. There’s more of a focus on puzzle solving than in the previous games, and it’s really short, maybe 3-4 hours long, but it’s still got the trademark Ratchet and Clank humor and I enjoyed it well enough. The series features run and gun arcade adventure with some light puzzle solving, a lot of saturday morning cartoon humor, and generally great graphics. I’ve played all of them and solved several of them, including this one, but if you’re going to skip one, this is the one. Counterbalancing that is it’s cheap – I got it for $9.99 from the Playstation store as a download. Below is an ~8 minute video showing off some of the gameplay. Bottom line, if you’ve played the previous games and enjoyed them, you’re likely to enjoy this one as well.

New Year’s resolutions

I’m a bit behind, granted. I have a good excuse – came down with pneumonia and it really knocked the stuffing out of me. I’m just starting to feel myself again after fighting this off for three weeks, and I’m still fighting a cough and dealing with fatigue issues. Anyway, I made two resolutions this year: To get back on track with my diet and exercise regimen, and to follow an example I set myself several years ago with my buying habits.

The diet and exercise resolution has turned out to be easy thanks to the bout of pneumonia. My weight had been creeping up and by this fall I was over 180 for the first time in a number of years, something I had begun to worry about. Stomach issues and a generally slacker attitude to exercise had me off my regimen for almost all of the summer and fall, so I figured, time for a new years resolution to address it. Pressures off now though – I’m down under 170 for the first time in at least 4-5 years. I just need to keep it off. As soon as my stamina is back it’s back on the exercise regimen, possibly adding in running, which I haven’t done regularly since I left Maine.

The second resolution is inspired by a successful resolution from years ago. At that time I had gotten addicted to buying books off of Abe books, ebay, and Amazon, and my to-read pile was growing faster than my read pile was decreasing. I resolved to only buy a book after I had finished at least one, and to generally focus on bringing down the number of books in the to-read pile. It worked. I still have a huge to-read pile (>20 books) but it no longer grows and it’s no longer close to 100 books. This year I’m applying these principles to videogames, because my to-play pile is like 15 games at this point and maybe higher. I’ve resolved to not buy a new game unless I finish one, and to focus on finishing off games I’ve left partially completed. I have this terrible habit of starting whatever new game I acquire, playing it obsessively for a week or two until the next game comes, then moving on, rarely finishing anything. No more! I’m working my way through games at a rapid clip, and not opening anything still in the shrinkwrap until I knock games off the list. So far it’s working – I’ve finished 4-5 games since the year began, and this was with me unable to play games for two weeks thanks to the pneumonia.

I’m such a hopeless nerd.

I’ve also put myself on a budget. rocks for helping you see where you spend your money. I spend too much of mine on games, and that’s stopping as well.

Anyway, to sum up a rambling post, figure on a lot of  ‘Game finished’ posts from me, especially over the next couple of months, as I focus on a game at a time instead of flitting from game to game.

Friday fun: adventure games, old school style

Graphic adventures have made something of a comeback over the last couple of years, thanks in no small part to the success of the wonderfully funny episodic Sam and Max games, but they’re still very much a niche game genre. This wasn’t always the case – back in the 80’s graphic adventures were one of the most popular genres, and one of the biggest producers of this genre was Sierra, now sadly long gone. Their games live on though, and is this week’s friday fun link – they have many of the classic old Sierra games from the 80’s available to play for free in your browser. If you fancy a walk down memory lane from back in the day, check them out.

Friday Fun: excellent little arcade soccer game Kickabout League

Today’s friday fun is Kickabout League, a browser (java) based arcade soccer game that’s great fun and evocative of old SNES soccer games of years past. It supports multiplayer and league play and it’s free, loads quick, and is super fun. Check it out! I’ve posted a video below to give a sense of how it plays:

Finished Dead Space on PS3

Susan and I finished Dead Space on the PS3 last week. All in all it’s a pretty great game. I handled the controls while Susan played copilot, mostly because of her lack of familiarity with 3d gaming. We had a lot of pretty creepy fun playing through it. The game’s a 3rd person action adventure game which seems to be inspired by the Resident Evil series of games. In many ways it’s superior to most of the games in that series. It’s also clearly been influenced by the System Shock series and it has some light RPG elements in the form of suit and weapon upgrades.

Graphically the game is beautiful – in fact it’s one of the best looking games I’ve played on the PS3. There’s great use of light and shadow, very detailed textures, excellent models and animation, and great art direction.

Audio is similarly superb – it’s one of the best sounding games I’ve played on the PS3 as well and the voice acting was great.

Gameplay is a mixed but mostly positive bag. On the downside, the game’s fairly repetitive, and while the ship is realistic and the game breaks up the corridor crawling with some great action set pieces in very large spaces, there’s still a ton of corridor crawling and it can get old. The controls are tight but the weapons are a mixed bag – some seem much more effective than others no matter how you upgrade them and it’s difficult to know where to spend your resources effectively. The difficulty seemed pretty fair on medium. There are a number of physics and logic puzzles to work out, often while under fire from multiple enemies, and these were some of the highlights of the game.

The plot was just ok – it starts out like a riff on the plot from Aliens, with you and your crew dispatched to rescue an orbital mining operation that sent out a distress signal then stopped communicating, but it morphs into a muddle of religion, government conspiracy, double crosses, alien artifacts and a mutating alien lifeform that’s has some similarities to the one in the classic John Carpenter movie The Thing. It wasn’t bad by any means but by the end Susan and I were weary of it.

The game has one other superb attribute – it’s got one of the best interfaces I’ve seen in a game. Most everything you do and interact with in the game you do via a 3d computer interface that projects out of the spacesuit you’re wearing or out of objects you encounter. It’s really well done and I hope more games mimic it.

I picked this up used for $35 but would have been just as happy paying $60 retail for it – it’s a really great game and well worth a look.

Here’s a video to give you a sense of gameplay and graphics:

Game finished: Monster Madness

This is possibly the worst game I’ve ever finished. Susan and I played through the action game Monster Madness, finishing last night after a couple of weeks of chipping away at it level by level. If you’re familiar with the old arcade game Gauntlet, or more recent action brawlers like the Xmen series of games on consoles, you have a general sense of the gameplay – top down camera, 1-4 players romping through the gameworld bashing the badguys.The best thing I can say about the game is that the concept was solid – fight your way through a modern day world overun with all the monsters from horror movies and legend colored with a satirical spin. Everything else? Terrible. The audio was apparantly downsampled or recorded at a really low bit rate, the voice acting was awful, the plot itself (4 heavily stereotyped teens out to save the world) was terrible, and the game was full of bugs – your character gets stuck on and in things, you randomly warp around the screen if the game gets bogged down, the framerate is highly variable but trending towards too low, and while it featured a ton of variety in weapons I ended up spending most of the game just whacking things with my default melee weapon because it was just overkill with the gadgets and dozens of alternate weapons.

Why we managed to finish this thing is hard to say. We like playing through coop together in games and we didn’t have any other handy options is I guess the main reason why. Anyway stay far away from this even if you find it cheap is my advice. I think I paid around $15 for it and that was too much. It’s available on PC, XBOX360 and PS3. We played on the PS3. Here’s a brief video to give you a sense of how the game plays:

Friday fun link: Robokill

Ok ok, so you lack imagination and don’t appreciate my other friday fun link. Fine. I missed a week last week anyway, so here for your frenetic mouse clicking pleasure is Robokill, a flash-based action game built along Robotron 2084 lines. This is one of the best action games I’ve seen in flash, with great graphics and sound and tight controls. The link takes you to the demo, but it’s long enough that you’ll almost definitely get your fill, and the game is good enough that it’s worth considering a purchase.
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