Monday, December 10, 2012

Saving the world (or not)

It's been a little while.

You might be thinking "Oh, sure. He hasn't had time to ramble because he's playing Halo 4, that snooty bastard."

You would be incorrect...well, mostly. Yes, I am still playing with the Halo 4z but I have also been deeply enthralled in my quest to save the Earth from an alien invasion in Xcom: Enemy Unknown. That's right...your lives all depend on me and my mad management and turn-based strategy skills!!!

That being said, I just failed my first game so you all died horribly. Sorry about that. I'll make it up to you next time, I guarantee. (not a guarantee)

So, Xcom: Enemy Unknown is a reboot of the old Xcom: UFO Defense game from the 90s. Let's all take a moment to reflect on what a great game that was.

...

Okay, moment over. Yep, it was a great game. Xcom: Enemy Unknown is all that and more. Take Xcom: UFO defense, update the AI, UI, slap a new coat of paint on it and you have the new hawtness. It is the same game, but it's not the same game if that makes any sense. And, if it doesn't, I don't care. Go play your Halo 4 (hit me up for some multiplayer, though!).

Aliens are invading and you are tasked with coming up with a way to beat them. You have member countries you must help out along the way and, if you fail, they whine, cry and, eventually, pull their support--and their funding--from the project. Lose too many supporters and, bam, you're out of a job. Oh, and all of the world dies. But--UNEMPLOYMENT!!! Also, death and destruction. no unemployment check for you!

The AI is updated as are the alien types. No more "alien shuffle" where the creature walks back and forth in front of you with no real purpose. No more attempts for an alien to throw a grenade out a window, only to have it hit the wall and land at the creature's feet. This is serious business now!!! Though, I have to admit, that grenade thing was classic laughs. Seriously. It never failed to amuse.

If you have played, and enjoyed, the original Xcom: UFO Defense, then Enemy Unknown is right up your alley. I have a few minor issues with it. For instance, when a soldier is injured, it would be nice if his or her equipment went back into the pool. I don't believe it does (but I could be wrong). Also, it can sometimes be easy to click incorrectly and have your soldier go somewhere entirely different than you intended (such as inadvertently going down a level of terrain).

Also, I did a bit of experimentation to see how the % chance of success mechanics work. For example, if my soldier has a 90% chance to hit an enemy and misses, what happens if I reload the game and try again? Same thing...over and over as far as I can tell. So, from my experience, if your soldier misses or hits, he/she is destined for that course of action. This was in no way a scientific experiment but of the few times I tried it, the outcome was the same each time. I guess this keeps the player from trying to game the system but also seems a bit questionable, maybe?

Xcom: Enemy Unknown is definitely one of my favorite games this year. I can see myself playing it for quite a while. It's one of those games that you can load up, play for 30 minutes to an hour, then quit. That being said, I've noticed that I have been sucked in for quite a bit longer than I intended at times.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Were it so easy...

On Tuesday, November 6th, the world saw a revolutionary event. Millions came together for a common goal and banished evil at humanity's last stand.

Halo 4 was released. Huh? What did you think I was talking about?

Halo 4's release marks the passing of the torch from Bungie to Microsoft's 343 Studios. I've played through it and have somewhat wrapped my head around the whole event, but only about as much as bacon wraps around a filet. I know right? Actually, I just threw that in there because it sounded yummy. I could go way in depth about this game but I think that would put everyone (all three and a half readers) to sleep. So I decided to pull out the tasty marshmallow bits from the cereal and leave the rest to get soggy in the milk of boredom.

From Bungie, we saw five Halo titles. Each successive game was different from the others, but the core of Halo was still there. It just always felt like Halo. Sure, it looked and smelled like Halo but, with each title, there was usually some added ingredient. Nutmeg? Cinnamon? Dual-wielded SMGs?

With Halo 4, the recipe appears to be the same but, upon closer scrutiny, we notice its tasty differences. I'm not speaking of new enemies, weapons, abilities or mechanics. More importantly, I am referring to the game--the makeup of the game--the base. While it is still a Halo title, it has a distinctly different feel, atmosphere, and overall attitude.

First of all, the music. Not counting Halo Wars, Halo 4 is the first game to not have a soundtrack composed by Martin O'Donnell who, I happen to think, is a musical genius. Neil Davidge is at the helm for this soundtrack. To be honest, I've never heard of him and I am unfamiliar with his work (even after looking him up on Wikipedia). The music is distinctly different. I quite enjoy O'Donnell's Halo compositions and listen to them quite often (ODST possibly is my favorite video game soundtrack ever).

Davidge's take on Halo feels more like a movie soundtrack. It has a more epic feel to it. The Halo universe all of a sudden feels larger and the situation is more dire. I've only played through it once but, unfortunately, none of the music actually stood out for me as it has in the past.

While Halo 4 ties into the previous games it also ties into the Forerunner Saga books. The third book has not been released but I assume that it will be consistent as well. If you've read the books you will get a little bit more out of the game. If you haven't, you might actually be a little confused at times. There were many times I found myself grinning at an allusion to the books.

The question I have is whether Halo 4 follows Bungie's original Halo Bible. I am very curious about this. Part of me is of the mind that it doesn't matter--the story is strong. But there is a huge part of me that likes to think my movies, TV series, and video games are planned out from beginning to end beforehand. I know this is almost never true, however. I would at least like to think that it goes the direction that Bungie wanted it to.

As with all Halo titles, I played Halo 4 from beginning to end on Legendary difficulty. I gotta say...343 didn't really make this game that difficult. Usually it takes me a while to play through on Legendary but Halo 4 never felt very difficult. No, I'm not tooting my own horn--I'm not exceptional at Halo games--but 343's idea of "Legendary" is definitely not as sadistically difficult as Bungie's. Is this bad? Not necessarily. Obviously I can turn on difficulty skulls and make the game damn near impossible but, without those, nothing can stop me from being a great green god of destruction, which isn't very challenging. Sure, I died while playing through the game. The pile of bodies in a couple of places would rival The Plague. But this happened more often in Bungie's past Halo games, and I always felt very accomplished when I finally got past these areas. If the story in Halo 4 wasn't as good as it actually is I might have gotten a little bored.

343 has done an excellent job of carrying on the Halo franchise. Sure, I can nitpick on music or difficulty but, when it comes down to it, the game is excellent. In some ways it is better than its predecessors and, in some other ways, not so much. Is it a good game? Absolutely. Is it a great game? I think so. It was good to be back with the Chief and Cortana again, tearing it up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pumpkin-Flavored EVERYTHING!!!

Autumn is here! That's right. Pack it in, Summer. See you next year. Buhbye. The temperature is getting cooler, it's actually raining and people are putting their Halloween decorations out already. Ha! See? I'm not the first!!! Though, if I'd had my way, they would've been out in early September. I know, I'm scary that way.

So I've been celebrating the turning of the seasons by imbibing everything pumpkin-flavored that I can get my hands on. Sadly, it hasn't been much...yet. I've had "pumpkin pucks", a pumpkin shake, pumpkin spice lattes and, very importantly, pumpkin ale! All have been quite awesome. AND I SHALL HAVE MORE!! Yes, yes I shall...my preeeciooouuussss. Go ahead, make fun. But when pumpkins attempt to conquer the world, who are you going to turn to? Who's going to eat them all?? Yeah, that's right. Me. Then you'll understand.

Does anyone else instantly switch stations when they hear a song that begins with "yeah...uh..."?

So I celebrated the first day of Autumn by running in the Roots N' Blues N' BBQ Half-Marathon. Now, unless you have been living under a rock for, oh, the past four months, you know that it's been really stinking hot this summer. Well, that's actually incorrect. It wasn't hot. It was "It's so hot I don't even want to think about moving" hot. It was too hot for even the pool! Seriously! How stupid is that?

What this all boils down to is that I didn't train very well for this half-marathon. The three weeks leading up to it have been stellar weather so I tried to make my training count. I ran hill sprints and longer distances. What I'm trying to say is, I didn't do as well as I wanted, but I did better than I thought I would.

2:00:14.

Anyway, I had a great time, saw a coworker or two, and questioned my sanity...many times.

So here are some thoughts on the half-marathon:
  • If you have a dog that is so well-behaved that it holds the leash in its mouth and walks itself, you've got one helluva dog, there.
  • If you are smoking while running a half-marathon, you're doing it wrong. Also, get the hell out of my way, I'm passing you...at a high rate of speed. Butthole.
  • When you say "free beer at the end of the race", MGD 64 does not count. Seriously. It tastes like water.
  • If you pay good money get up at 5:00 am and get dressed in the dark to run a half-marathon, you had better make DAMN sure you have the two correct running shoes on...not one running shoe and one every day shoe.
  • If you do accidentally put on two separate shoes, you should be glad that you built in the extra time to drive home, yelling obscenities, to put on the correct shoe.
  • When you get your post-race pumpkin spice latte of godliness, don't make the same mistake twice by leaving it on the roof of your car and driving away. I am a true believer in this one, folks. Listen to me, here, I know what I'm talking about.
I really wanted to review Syfy's "Camel Spiders" movie for you guys but...um...how can I put it kindly? It really really stunk...like, really. Like, "What the hell died in the trashcan and fermented?" stunk. We got bored and wandered into traffic, so I have nothing to give you.

Instead, please watch this video about two guys obsessed with "Call Me Maybe"! It's funny, I promise!!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChC51oodmTQ

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Apocalypse is Upon Us!!!

No, I'm not talking politics. Though that could certainly be considered an apocalypse. I won't argue that.

No, I am referring to your average, ordinary, every day zombie apocalypse. Yes, it is upon us. And where have the zombies started  their invasion? The answer would most logically be...um...a random, unimportant piece of land outside a small town...where nobody would actually be harmed or otherwise care.

Okay, I'm talking about the Run For Your Lives zombie run. What's that? You want the gory details? Well, okay...I guess so.

I arrived around 7:30 after downing copious amounts of coffee. Said coffee was dealt with shortly after and I then proceeded to get ready. I got into what was quite a long line for my wave. We were then loaded into one of three, what I call, chutes...yep--felt just like a cow. They were labeled "Appetizers" (9 min./mile runners), "Entrees" (9-12 min./mile), and "Dessert" (12+ min./mile). I chose "Entrees" because, while I can run a 7 1/2 minute mile, I knew I wasn't going to today. Also, I noticed that the "Appetizers" group was not very large. Safety in numbers. Better them than me!

The 5k was mostly through the woods--trod on dusty, narrow paths up hills and down dry gullies and creek beds. The fact that it hasn't rained in ages was a boon in this instance, and the mild August weather helped out a lot.

Then I met the zombies. They're there...standing in your way, looking hungrily at your three life flags (flags worn around your waist). They grope at you, moaning and staggering, hoping to get a taste of my awesomely spectacular brain matter. Most were the slow, "Night of the Living Dead" zombies. But, every once in a while, one would get off their lazy ass and give chase, a la "Dawn of the Dead" or Left4Dead.

There were also obstacles ranging from puny walls to leap over to mud pits, to enclosures with electrified wires hanging from the ceiling. Yep...real live electricity flowing through wires--enough to be uncomfortable and make your body convulse briefly. Tree trunks, mud crawls, and waterslides rounded out these challenges. Nothing like running through a horde of zombies with soaked, mud-caked shoes! I suppose zombies armed with shotguns would be worse. But they'd probably just try to eat the shotguns--except for that one zombie...I've got my eye on you, mister!

I am happy to report that, unlike 80%+ of the poor cattle...er...other innocent running humans, I survived!! Of my three flags, I escaped with one left! I kept two until very close to the end when five zombies bumrushed me at once. I attribute this to the fact that I had to run through them alone...because everyone else was already dead.

The pace was "jog a little, then sprint through large groups of zombies. Then rest a bit...walk a bit...rinse, repeat." When I was finished, I was more mud than anything else. It was good to have a shower when I got home!

This is after I cleaned up a bit and changed clothes. The shirt is possibly one of the nicest shirts I've received from a running event.

Special thanks go out to my family who stood by me through the whole event, even though they weren't able to stay and watch (because, stupidly enough, you had to pay to do so...screw that).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Let the Games Be...er...Continue!

The Olympics!

You might be saying "Bah, humbug...what do I care about the Olympics? I hate sports...grumble grumble grumble." Yes, I am sure that's exactly how everyone says it...with their arms crossed in front of them and a frown on their sour face. Think Scrooge...with a beanie hat, clown shoes, and a parrot on his shoulder.

So I am a huge fan of the Olympics. I will watch them day in and day out and it doesn't really matter what sport they're showing.

And it's not so much the sports themselves. That's about half of it. I really enjoy the spirit of the Olympics. It's a time when countries come together to play games, hang out, and experience other cultures. What can be better than that? Were we all so lucky

Sure, there are moments of tension or people who can't control their mouths but, on the whole, I truly believe most everyone simply enjoys being there to represent their country and have the chance to win a disc made of some metal that we humans have assigned a value to.

And the Olympics produce some amazing stories of triumph, defeat, and courage. I would say that the Olympics is probably the best reality show ever put on, and it's definitely the longest-running.

Yes, I think it is unfortunate that professional athletes are allowed to compete in the games. And, also yes, the definition of "professional athlete" can sometimes be ambiguous. But I am of the opinion that, if you get paid for your sport and, especially, if there is a professional circuit in which you participate, then you have no place in the Olympics. Give the everyman his chance in the sun.

Anyway, that's it. A quick blurb has escaped my cranium.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's the Random Show, starring me

I think I'm just going to get right to it this week.

Syfy Saturday Presents: Arachnoquake.
Aw yeah. There is nothing like a good giant spider movie to warm the heart and take your mind off all other things...unless you were originally thinking about giant spiders. In which case, you really should find a hobby or, perhaps, try not to think about polar bears.

It would appear that, to make a giant spider movie, you are arbitrarily required to not make it a serious movie. Case in point: Arachnophobia and Eight-Legged Freaks. This particular piece of cinema follows suit.

So, anyway, you'll recognize Tracey Gold (Growing Pains) and Edward Furlong (Terminator 2) in this movie. Tracey Gold is Edward Furlong's wife. He's a high school girls' softball coach on a trip back from an away game and...you know what? Screw that. Nobody cares. THERE ARE GIANT SPIDERS ABOUT, MAN!!!

See, there is this earthquake that opens up the ground and lets these little buggers out. Of course, the first thing they do when they escape their prison, is find out if the Cubs have won the World Series. The second thing they do is go see The Avengers. Then the third thing they do is run amok, wildly killing people and just basically ruining vacations for tourists. How rude.

Later on we find out that...wait for it...wait for it...THEY BREATHE FIRE!! Aw yeah, baby! Fire-breathing giant spiders! I was totally hoping they'd start using guns but, alas, I was disappointed. But my rage subsided quickly when the momma of giant spiders was discovered and went rampaging through the city streets.

In the end, the deadbeat son/bus driver saves the day by suiting up in an old diving suit, being swallowed by the spider and, subsequently, "number two'd" by the behemoth. Doesn't sound like a real good plan, I know, but I guess he left some explosives inside. Spider go boom.

With the momma suitably asploded, all the other giant spiders miraculously drop dead! We're all saved!!

Here are your Drive-In Totals:
Godzilla spiders: 1
Terminators: 0
Kirk Camerons: 0
Human-spider excursions: 1
Baseball bat-fu
Gun-fu
Aerosol can flamethrowers
Bus trampolines

3 stars

Friday, June 1, 2012

Alright, Look

This type of thing is not really my fortè...so I'm just going to be brief.

Don't take people for granted. Appreciate them while they're here. Miss them when they're gone. Love them always.

We're only immortal for a limited time.

That is all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What the Hell is going on??

I haven't been very active on this blog lately. It isn't that I don't have a lot to say, but more that the things I have to talk about, I don't want to talk about. This is certainly not the forum for those things. So, skipping over them, we'll get back to what really matters...

I recently saw a pretty good movie. You may have heard of it. Basically, it's a movie about a group of fantastically powerful heroes who, through acts of derring-do, battle for supremacy. That's right. I'm talking about Pirates: Band of Misfits. Wait...what did you think I was talking about? Avengers, you say? Yeah, that's most certainly the next movie I want to see...I just have not had the time to do so. Now that the crowds have probably thinned a bit I will venture out and most definitely see it.

Anyway, Pirates is claymation, done by the same dudes who created "Chicken Run" and all of the "Wallace and Gromit" episodes that I have not seen. So there's that.

This movie has it all--a plague ship, a ghost ship and a...dodo bird. Long story short--it's a very enjoyable family movie with plenty of humor. Five words: "Prepare to be boarded--NERDS!"

Diablo 3 comes out tomorrow and I suspect a lot of employers will have many employees calling in sick as they all log on en masse at 12:01 whatever their time zone and proceed to neglect all bodily functions for as long as they can, frantically clicking their poor mouse into a terrible oblivion from which there is no return. I will be one of those fools as soon as I get my copy (it is currently sitting in my state, hopefully en route to my house tomorrow). No, I'm not calling in sick. But I still plan on tearing through a few mice before all is said and done.

Lately I've been having a pretty ridiculous problem--too many video games to play. My backlog has gotten big enough to where it actually stresses me out a little, and I end up playing nothing. I am still playing games I've previously finished because I enjoy them so much. But I also have many games I've either barely touched or not at all. And there are other games on the horizon: Halo 4, Bioshock 3, Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm...and Diablo 3 comes out tomorrow!! Did I mention that?

Yeah...crap.

I still have three episodes of Archer to watch, two episodes of Game of Thrones: Season 1, and all of season 2. It really is a good thing I don't watch much normal TV.

This is a seriously awesome problem to have, I guess. But it isn't slowing down. And Steam...Steam, you bastard...you keep providing me quality games at insanely low prices. Damn you! Damn you all to Hell!! Also you, you damn dirty apes!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Old Friend Returns

Way back in the day (something like 1998) PC games really seemed to take off. The rise of 3D graphics add-on cards was in full swing and games were taking advantage of the technology. 28.8k modems were all over the place, opening up new worlds of online gaming for the masses. Yes, 28.8k modems. Broadband was still a few years away.

I was playing the likes of Half-Life and Unreal, immersed in rich worlds the likes of which I had never experienced. Half-Life would go on to spawn Team Fortress, Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and my beloved Portal and even more beloved Portal 2. Unreal? Well, I swept that game under the rug and moved on.

But there was another game--a third little gem in the triumvirate that provided me joy for years. It was spawned from another franchise that started with promise but didn't do nearly so well. But this game got it right.

Starsiege: Tribes still holds a place as one of my favorite games--well, franchises. I played the living hell out of Tribes. And when its successor, Tribes 2, came along, I was once again immersed in the large scale battles with jet packs propelling soldiers across the battlefield while they fired their spinfusor discs wildly and with reckless abandon.

I skipped Tribes: Vengeance. It looked like a huge bundle of failure and, apparently, lived up to that assessment. But now...

Now Tribes: Ascend has dropped onto the gaming community like a um...wait, I've got something for this...um...two-ton...er...heavy thing!

Skeptical but hopeful, I downloaded it and fired it up. I had nothing to lose because, well, it's Free 2 Play. Free is good. Even if it is worse than a zombie clown hiding under my bed, it's free so I lost nothing except a little bit of time.

But if it's good...oh man, if it's good...

Is it good? Yes, I say. It was as if I'd never left. I strapped on my jetpack, armed myself, and was immediately flying through the air majestically like an eagle...piloting a blimp! Okay, yeah, I had a few manuevering problems at first but, well, I had those problems in the past. So nothing had changed. Perfect!

There are still some mechanics I am getting used to--vehicles are "bought" with credits (if I remember correctly) which are earned in-game. And many of my weapons are still locked. I assume I can unlock them by leveling--yes, Hi-Rez has added a certain roleplaying element to the game--but only a touch. You won't be assigning stat points to your character but I did see special abilities that you could apparently acquire.

Honestly, I'm fine with just flying through the air, running into stuff, and shooting things. Again--FREE! As far as I'm concerned, I've already gotten my money's worth out of the game. But, yes, I will continue playing. I do not plan on spending any money on the game so we'll see just how "free 2 play" it is.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Doldrummer

So there has been quite a bit happening. Most of it has to do with family members passing, rifts with friends I've had since college, and pet issues but it's enough to keep one's mind constantly turning like wheels on a train...that has pushed up against a wall but doesn't know it--not really going anywhere but working hard nonetheless. This has all kept me quite busy and not in a creative mood at all. Hell, there hasn't even been a Syfy movie worth making fun of. I thought there were only three guarantees in life: Death, taxes, and Syfy movies. I guess we'll just go with the first two, then.

I recently bought Mass Effect 2. Every fiber in my body told me not to do it for a couple of reasons. First, I hated the first Mass Effect with all my determination. It sits on my shelf, collecting dust and crying quietly to itself while I sometimes glare at it, quietly mouthing threats. Second, EA is a bunch of evil bastards who market buggy, crappy games (not all, but many) and practice shady business.

But Mass Effect 2 was only $10. So if it sucks, I'm only out 10 bones. Also, I only really paid EA $10 so I barely gave them any money. But enough of that.

Mass Effect 2 is decently fun thus far. The inventory system is much improved from the first...but that is sort of like saying "Oh yes, this car is much improved--it explodes %10 less often than the original!" Seriously, the inventory system and leveling system in the first Mass Effect was horrible. So I am glad to see them both improved. The plot is also somewhat better thus far.

But my main issue with Mass Effect was its constant "Talk to this person for 40 minutes, get quest, run across a starport, talk to several people for another hour, fight maybe once, then talk to the end person and turn in the quest...then talk for another 30 minutes." Seriously, it was like playing "Soap Opera: The Game". It was a snooze fest of the epic variety. If there was a "Triangle Hero" game, chances are it would be more fun than Mass Effect.

Honestly, I should've just written an entire blog on "Why I Think Mass Effect is a Steaming Pile of Poopy." But, anyway, Mass Effect 2 improves on a lot of the shortcomings of the first. It is not my ideal game but it seems to be worth $10 so far, a statement I cannot make about its predecessor (which I got used for $10, and want my money back).

Also, I started up another D&D group. I am quite happy about this. I am having trouble finding time to actually write the game and we have only met for one session but, so far, it looks very promising. I think we will have a good time. Sadly, it has been so long since I played D&D that there is a ton of common rules and such that I no longer even remember. It took us all quite a while just to make the characters. But roleplaying for me has always been 50% playing and 50% socializing so I find it difficult to complain. And since the gaming group sort of fell into my lap unexpectedly, I figure it's a good thing.

In addition to a time crunch, my creative juices seem to have either dried up or simply clotted. Regardless, it has been very difficult lately for me to do anything creative. If you consider building retaining walls or cutting the grass to fall under the "creative" category, then I am doing spectacular. Personally, I do not. Hopefullly it will pass. If it doesn't, my D&D group may just end up facing nondescript, unidentified monsters named Bob.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where I talk about...

Alright. I feel the need, every so often, to extoll the virtues a particular video game that made a huge impression on me. Positive or negative, I feel I should get my feelings down in writing. Whether anyone agrees with what I say is irrelevant, though I am definitely open to counter arguments. And, no, I am not trying to convince anyone to buy a particular game or not to--it's an opinion. I respect others' as long as they respect mine.

I am not going to expound on specifics, since most everyone reading this has probably played this gem.

So I replayed Portal 2 for the third (fourth?) time over the weekend. I truly love this game. I know it's not new and most players have probably moved on to other games (heck, I have too) but Portal 2 is one of those games that is always there, waiting for you to pick it back up and hang out with it for a while like a true friend. If you beat it once, it is still fun to go back and replay it, especially because there are little easter eggs and inside jokes to find hidden throughout the game.

The game itself is a wonderful--but not too difficult--puzzler with a crazy plot. But not only does it have that going for it, it also has humor--wry, sarcastic humor. And it is plentiful. The first time I played through, I found myself laughing constantly, sometimes to the point of tears.

So it is no wonder why I still enjoy Portal 2 now as much as I did during the first playthrough.

The game's atmosphere is amazing, making the player feel truly alone as he or she discovers the secrets hidden in the bowels of Aperture Science ("we do what we must because we can"), all the while being harangued by an insane artificial intelligence or two. The voice acting is superb and the music is very fitting to the atmosphere. The game engine is not super awesome, but it easily gets the job done. This game is not about eye candy anyway. Chances are, if you're looking around, you're trying to figure out where to shoot a portal, not admiring the scenery (unless hunting for easter eggs).

And the puzzles are not of any normal variety. They are unique and intriguing. And, sometimes, you actually feel quite good when the light bulb clicks on and you solve them...and then you get berated in some way by a bitchy computer AI, which is almost always hilarious. There is very little fear of dying and, when it does happen, the player respawns at the beginning of the most recent area (or you can simply save early, save often, which I heartily recommend).

Valve, the makers of Portal 2, is classy. Not only do they make an all-around solid game from every aspect, but they even offer nice extras, including the entire soundtrack and a webcomic, for free. The game itself lasts probably 10-15 hours on the first playthrough but you're missing so much if you simply speed through it. I definitely recommend playing through it at least twice, even if you use a cheat guide to find the secrets and easter eggs, because they're well worth it.

Also, play the original Portal first. :) I know Valve have offered it for free at least once, possibly more times.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Let's talk about...

Joysticks.

No, that's not a euphemism. I really want to take a second to talk about joysticks. Weird, huh? See, the joystick was one of the first video game controllers invents. I'm guessing it might have been the first controller but I have not found any definitive proof of that.

This is why it pains me to discover, after multiple "Battlefield" games, that EA and DiCE can't seem to figure out how to code a game to properly use a joystick. In all honesty, I have to assume that DiCE is inept and simply doesn't know how to code a game to take advantage of a joystick. Somehow, I got my joystick to work in Battlefield 2 but in no other game. Why is this? A scant few individuals have gotten theirs to work in different Battlefield games but that seems to be pretty rare.

To be truthful, the Battlefield games are really fun. But they are some of the most poorly-coded games out there. The game browser has always been dismal and the games themselves have always been unstable and full of silly bugs that never should have made it out of beta. Alas, I am as guilty as everyone else--I sometimes buy their games even though I detest EA as a company. I am working on that.

So, to adequately fly a jet or helicopter, I had to buy a wired Xbox controller, leaving my perfectly good joystick to sit and gather dust. The Xbox controller works flawlessly but, if DiCE could code for that, why couldn't they code for a PC joystick?

That is all.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Getting My Thoughts Together

WotC have announced that they have been working on a new version of Dungeons and Dragons--since 2010. This both surprises me and doesn't surprise me.

On the one hand, 4e was not the resounding success that they thought it was going to be. In my mind, it was a complete failure--it was nothing that I wanted in my D&D brand. On the other hand, it surprises me that they have given up on it so quickly. In 2010, 4e was literally only 4 years old.

On a third hand (yeah, I'm a freak!), Paizo's Pathfinder RPG was literally showing WotC how it's done. Now, first, I must say that I've only played a couple of games of 4e. Those couple of games did not impress me. I had fun playing, but that was because I was among friends, cracking jokes and having a good time. I also have not actually played a Pathfinder game, ever. But I've read up a bit on Pathfinder. Paizo did it right. WotC did it wrong. Obviously that is simply my opinion, and I respect those conflicting opinions.

When 4e came out, I was at Gencon. I was disappointed. I was hot into 3.5 and loving it. So seeing WotC drop it and move on really made me sad. I attempted to embrace 4e but, the more I tried, the more I rejected it. There is next to no information about the next version but I see it as "WotC learning from mistakes" and, hopefully, they have.

I haven't played D&D since I basically quit my gaming group, but I still love the game. So, WotC, please don't screw this one up, k? That being said, should I ever go back and play again, it'll probably be Pathfinder.

Okay, onto lighter topics, like...

Syfy Saturday: Snow Beast

Starring John Schneider (yes, Bo Duke himself) as a single father with an angst-ridden teenage daughter, this movie tries to accomplish...well, I'm not really sure what it tries to accomplish, actually. Sure, there is snow, and there is a snow beast but...there is a lot less snow beast than I thought there would be. In fact, I think this movie is mostly about the father and the daughter, with some random snow beast interaction and mutilation.

So the father is part of a team that travels to a remote cabin in Canada once a year to track the lynx. He is punishing his daughter for fighting at school by bringing her along for the ride. She, of course, is thrilled...and sarcastic...and rather all-around unpleasant.

Once they meet up with the other two individuals of the team, they all start becoming stupid. I am not sure what the writers were thinking, but all of these characters started out looking rather intelligent and then devolve into stupidity. But enough about that.

So the snow beast is apparently a ninja of awesome ability. It moves silently and quickly and kills pretty much everything that moves...which makes the following even funnier.

See, instead of using crappy CGI, at which I am accustomed to laughing, they used a crappy costume with a dude inside. So when it was just brief flashes of snow beast, it was fine (still funny, though) but, when it came to actually seeing the whole snow beast run through the snow, it was absolutely hilarious. It looked, well, like a dude in a crappy costume.

There is, however, one lesson we can all take away from this movie--don't take a leak in the middle of nowhere. this is key. If you remember nothing else, keep that in mind. Seriously.

Here are your Drive-In Totals:
Dudes peeing in the middle of nowhere: 1
Ranger chow: 1
Snowboarder chow: 1
Snowmobile-fu
Tranq dart-fu
Knife-fu
Head-crushing
People-munching

2 stars

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA

This post is simply to urge you to read up on SOPA and PIPA and decide how you feel, then take action. Obviously, I am not going to tell you what to do about them--that is for you to decide.

As for me, I am staunchly against them.

Here is a good rundown of what they are about: http://blog.reddit.com/2012/01/technical-examination-of-sopa-and.html

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Somethingorother

It's a new year. I hope everyone is having a wonderful one thus far. If not, you only have 358 more to improve it. Just saying.

In this, the new year, I find myself mired in games. This is a very good problem to have, so I cannot really find the energy to complain about it. But I do tend to get into the mindset of, no matter what I play, I feel like I should be playing something else.

I'm Playing Starcraft? Shouldn't I be playing some Halo: CE Anniversary? After all, I haven't even touched multiplayer yet. If I'm playing Skyrim, am I not missing out by playing some Starcraft 2 with friends? And then there is Battlefield 3...maybe I should just play some Envirobear 2000?? (ha ha) I also downloaded Freespace and Freespace. Then there is Fallout: New Vegas that I snagged off of the latest Steam sale for next to nothing. I'm saving Amnesia (also from the Steam sale) for next Halloween. :)

And, yet, more games are on the horizon. Diablo 3 is obviously on my list. I'm not sure there is a gamer on this planet who isn't looking forward to it. There is the Heart of the Swarm expansion for Starcraft 2. Tribes: Ascension has promise. But, dammit, where the hell is my Mechwarrior V? Seriously, I 10 ccs of battlemech IV push...STAT...or something. I'm also guessing Skyrim will have some DLC. You know, horse armor or a toilet to decorate your house with--very important additions.

And people wonder why I don't badgewhore on Kongregate anymore. Heh. (Well, badgewhore less).

I'm toying with the idea of getting a Kinect for the Xbox. Hell, I'm toying with the idea of finding a cheap Xbox and Kinect and using it for the kids. I'm really not sure I myself would use a Kinect very much but I know the girls would totally love it. I also kinda find the idea of two Xboxes in our house to be a little silly.

Lately, the roleplaying bug seems to have bitten me. I think it's cyclical. But I've been missing a good roleplaying group. Not sure anything will come along to scratch this itch, but it's there...nagging me much like that one itch that hits you while you're playing Rock Band or, for us old-schoolers, Breakout, and you aren't able to take your hand off the controller to scratch it.

Also, I recently acquired a copy of DungeonQuest and kinda want to play it, too.

Guess we'll see what happens! So many games, so little opportunity!