A game blog for grown ups (sorta).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Starfox 64 3D and why Nintendo is evil (another Fanboy Rant)


I know I have a bias opinion. I haven't owned a current Nintendo system since the N64 and even that only had one really fantastic game (Mario 64 was garbage and doesn't hold up. Goldeneye was garbage compared to Quake on the PC).

I was in high school when this game came out and I loved it. It was fast paced, fun for everyone (not a kiddie game), had multiple paths and level paths, and was in general a great game with a great story, world, and mechanics. Win all around. Great job Nintendo.

Starfox 64 originally was released in 1997. 14 years ago. Now it is being released and packaged as a brand new game. I am a huge fan of people who release their back catalog and make it accessible on modern hardware. I bought Doom for $5 on XBLA. Hell I love gog.com. My big problem is adding a gimmick and using it to justify a new game price tag.

When was the last time Nintendo put out a new franchise? When was the last time Nintendo did something new and different? I just really feel like I am in the movie soylent green and I am the only one who knows the truth; that Nintendo is content to milk it's past success's and will continue doing so as long as the unwashed masses fork over whatever sums of money Nintendo ask for.

Thankfully the awful 3DS is doing so miserably. How ya feelin' now if you paid full price for that hunk of junk? My phone plays better, cheaper games and it makes phone calls too.

I will end my rant with a best case scenario. I think it is great when a publisher or developer releases old games at a discounted rate to supplement income to develop new properties. I love that Square Enix gave Eidos Montreal the artistic freedom to make Deus Ex Human Revolution. That used to be Nintendo. I don't think it ever will be again and if you buy the same game 14 years later for full price it's your fault.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Thoughts on Deus Ex

I am now about 10ish hours into Deus Ex and I do have to say I am enjoying my time with the game very much, but I think I rested it on too high a pedestal. Anticipation has a funny way of helping us set unreasonable goals for a work of art, and especially one so ambitious from first time developer Edios Montreal.

Don't get me wrong or misread my criticisms here, this is certainly a $60 purchase. With that said...

Deus Ex is what Metal Gear would be like if it were well written and had a sense of artistic direction. It is very deep and conspiracy-ey (totally a word, despite what spell check would lead you to believe), but the characters and plot actually make sense and it has a very strong visual and aural tone. Deus Ex certainly gets an A+ for writing and for environment. I actually find myself reading most of the emails and eBooks I find lying around.

I think it is really funny that all of the voice acting is so top notch except for the lead. Seriously, did anyone actually listen to his dialogue? All I can ever hear him say is "Harvey Dent.... CAN WE TRUST HIM?!?!" That aside this is the best voice acting in a game, well since this.

The biggest glaring misstep is really what the game expects of you. A lot of reviews have stated the game rewards you for playing your way, but in my experience that is only true if you are an explorer who likes to spend hours combing around maps searching for every last detail. When I have a game that has such a thick plot and engaging scenarios, I don't want to spend the next hour and a half breaking into people's apartments or doing fetch quests for strangers. I get a strong feeling though if I don't I will miss valuable experience points and loot to sell.

I know Edios Montreal spent a lot of time making these sprawling, beautiful and grotesque environments for us to explore, but I would say it was too much. With a story focused game I want to focus on the story. It really rips me out of the immersion when I have a team of experts waiting to support me in my mission and I am running around doing errands for the local Triads. I know that is how it is in this post GTA3 world, but I really wish the game was probably about 66% of it's length and more focused, because the highlight of this game is the great mission levels and sneaking/fighting your way through.

I have only been through one boss fight so far as well, but I can say it was a battle of attrition. Having a character that is solely focused on stealth and hacking and then having to have a shooting match with a human tank..... it can be frustrating. Needless to say there was a lot of "load last autosave" going on until I finally figured it out.

Now, in my old and stuck in it's ways mind, the greatest cyberpunk game ever to be released was the legendary Shadowrun on the Sega Genesis. The game has not aged well beyond the prism of nostalgia, but it was GTA3 7 years earlier. With RPG elements. And cyberpunk. And an actual plot. And actual GOOD writing. In 1994. On the Genesis. The game was awesome. I dream and opine daily for a current-gen update to this game. I imagine a cyberpunk elder-scrolls with hacking, corporate espionage, a huge urban sprawl, and spectacular writing.

Deus Ex is the prefect example of a really great game that could have been legendary had it been a little more focused. Granted I still have easily 50% of the game to get through (and I will actually finish this game), but my mind still dreamily thinks about what could have been rather than what is.

Some day Shadowrun, some day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Deus Ex and Batman Arkham Asylum Similarities

So I am pretty gosh darned (excuse my colorful language) excited for Deus Ex: Human Revolution releasing tomorrow. In anticipation I've been thinking and the release really reminds me a lot of similar circumstances to the release of BAA. Edios Montreal is a new developer, so was Rocksteady. Both developers got established franchises with lots of room to maneuver and, pretty much, creative autonomy. One is a game I paid full price for and one is a game I will pay full price for tomorrow (esteemed praise in my book).

When BAA came out it really wasn't much on my radar. I knew it was a Batman game, but there really hasn't been a single Batman game prior even worth mentioning, never mind playing. Despite being arguably the greatest super-hero ever conceived, Batman had a terrible track record in the interactive medium. It really took pretty much universal critical praise (and summer boredom) for me to resign to giving the title a shot and, much to my delight, it was an absolute pleasure.

BAA was a game that not only embraced all of the lore of it's high profile license, but really built and innovated on what that license meant. For the first time in my video game career I knew what it meant to control the iconic Dark Knight. Also, it was about as dark and gritty Batman as you can get, but nothing resembling the real world tone of the recent movies.

Deus Ex also reinvents an epic license (although the history is not quite as storied or well known outside the PC master race). It is a game that has been marketed as a reboot/spiritual successor of the cyberpunk cult classic. It is also created by a freshman developer with an auteur vision of bioethics (I'm comparing this to BAA, not BioShock mind you, but that might be another great post after I actually play the game).

Now it took critical acclaim for me to pay my hard earned dollars for BAA, but it took one trailer for me to buy into DEHR hook line and sinker. Bottom line is that it makes me happy that these are both games created for, and marketed to me; the 24 to 40 year old male gamer who makes up the core consumer base for video games. Both games take great geek topics (one game takes a Blade Runner-esque dystopian near future and makes it awesome and the other one is Batman) and creates a mature, fun, well polished story that makes more sense as a video game then a movie or book (speculation of course on the DEHR front, but I am comfortable that it will be epic).

Regardless it instills great hope for the future that new developers like Rocksteady and Edios Montreal have the money, license power, and the artistic freedom to take established franchises and make them awesome.

Is it tomorrow yet???

BTW, special thanks to @antaydos for the AWESOME graphic above!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Tropico 4 Demo

In a vein effort to keep my mind occupied until Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes out on Tuesday I have decided to play the Tropico 4 demo available on Steam. I have always had a very fond place in my heart for the Tropico series (well 1 and 3 at least) and I was excited to see what Kalypso came up with for a new installment.

I adored Tropico 3. When it released last summer newcommer Kalypso media quickly made a great first impression on me. Tropico 3 really captured the spirit of the original, while giving us gorgeous next-gen graphics and an updated interface. When the Tropico 3 demo came out I played the one level they offered 4 or 5 times just because it was that exciting. The music, as everyone who reviewed the game mentioned without fail, was absolutely spectacular and really helped create the banana republic island dictatorship theme to aplomb.

With Tropico 3 being so innovative and chock full of the things us PC master race strategy gamers dream of, you may be surprised to find I was not anticipating Tropico 4 in the slightest. Since the release of Tropico 3 last summer Kalypso has also released Dungeons, a "tycoon" type game focused around building dungeons for heroes that was marketed as Dungeon Keeper 3, and the Last Templar, a budget 3rd person slasher that no one really paid any attention to. Not releases that would suggest that Kalypso is a company focused on delivering quality products rather than releasing mediocre games that cost nothing to develop.

Enter the Tropico 4 demo. The first thing I noticed is, well, look at the 2 screen shots below and tell me what you notice.

The games share the exact same graphics. Only thing is Tropico 3 actually looks better! Tropico 4 has the same buildings, same character models, the same fountains, the same mechanics. The only thing really different are the menus. The game has a few more buildings and a perfectly imbalanced "quest" system that does nothing but inflate your income. Even the biggest community problems with Tropico 3, namely the gigantic footprint of garages and the non-existent difficulty (side note: turn up the difficulty on Tropico 1 and it is brutal!) are completely ignored in Tropico 4. The game is, for all intents and purposes, a map pack marketed as a full priced release.

I had the pleasure of meeting the North American head of marketing for Kalypso at Pax East this year and he was a very pleasant guy to chat with. He let me know that Kalypso is profitable. This really concerns me. Now Tropico 3 has proven to me that there is definitely talent in the publisher/developer. They are capable of great, but they make more money producing mediocre. This is bad news for us PC fans and for the future of Tropico in general.

Hasta lavista El Presidente.

Is Deus Ex out yet??

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Diablo 3 In Game Auction House

I am still alive, I swear. So.... I have really been meaning to weigh in on the whole buying IG items for RL monies.... in a pve focused game. If you don't know what's going on with Diablo 3 by now check out the story over at The Escapist.

As I may or may not have mentioned before I have probably spent more hours of my life playing Diablo 2 then any other game ever (even Oblivion GASP!!!!). In case you couldn't tell from reading this blog I love Blizzard and I have loved pretty much every PC game they have ever released. Now anyone who has spent any time with Diablo 2 on Battle.net may have seen something to the effect of:

"mulXXXbot224: Come to www.annoyingspam.com grand opening for D2 EPIK LEWTZ!!! On Sale Now!!!!"
"mulXXXbot224 leaves game>"

(See above screenshot I captured after joining a game for 15 seconds. This was just taken today.)

It's really annoying. It keeps happening, 12 years after release. Why has nothing happened? Why is this so commonplace? Because people keep buying IG items for a 12 year old game for RL money. People make a living by item farming in Diablo 2. It happens in pretty much every online game, and especially Blizzard games.

I actually really like the idea of Blizzard taking the reigns on this and, instead of trying to fight it and fail, is trying to control the obvious and overshadowing IG black market and make it not only safe and secure for people, but also try to curtail cheating and hacking. Imagine a world where we can play again and not be subject to the situation as detailed above, but the newbs who want to pay $50 for a SOJ can do so and give their money to Blizzard instead of Chinese gold farmers?

That is a world I want to live it.