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  1. E3 2018

    I was very struck by the fact that almost all of the gameplay in the trailer for The Last of Us: Part Deux could have come directly from the first game. The ritual of sneaky approaches and stealth attacks that soon falls apart into scrappy shootouts and, eventually, running for your life - it's pretty much exactly the same stuff. (Although have they added a backstep/dodge move? I think they have.) But it had me totally gripped. And it looks astounding. I don't think I've ever seen the hair on the back of somebody's neck rendered in such loving detail. I watched the trailer for Ghost of Tsushima and thought it looked all right. Then I watched the trailer for Sekiro which seems to eat its lunch, combat-wise. I think I'm finally about to play The Witcher 3 so maybe that'll get me psyched for Cyberpunk. Little else has caught my eye so far. I was pleased to see that there really is a new Fire Emblem coming to Switch, for when I get around to buying a Switch, but the footage in the trailer looked a little rough to me. A bit budget, compared to the lush pocket-sized 3DS experience. But I'm sure it'll be good. Probably.
  2. E3 2018

    I worry that the title of Doom Eternal implies they might be doing something slightly different to a conventional linear single player game. Could it be that they've leveraged SnapMap (tm) to produce a sort of procedurally-generated world in which you could scamper around doing Doom, possibly with other players doing Doom too? Luv 2 do Doom but I don't know about Doom-via-Destiny. I watched the new Death Stranding trailer this morning over breakfast, as I have done for what seems like two or three years now. It looks entrancing, and I still have no clue what the game is or if it will ever come out. It occurred to me that the baby-powered clicky-flash arm is not a million miles from the directional sound indicators in MGS4 and Peace Walker. And presumably there is some more conventional combat in there that we haven't seen yet - what with your baby-man having a gun, and Mads Mikkelsen out there somewhere, also with a gun. But what happens in between, who knows.
  3. Recently completed video games

    I finished Life is Strange: Before the Storm. On the whole I was left quite disappointed by this. It's an extended prologue to the first game made by a different developer using a different engine and a different cast, and none of that would especially matter if the overall standard of the experience was kept high. But the whole thing feels sub-par - the video game equivalent of a straight-to-Netflix tie-in that nobody asked for. The quality of the voice acting by the temporary (and, it should be noted, strike-bustin') cast is…patchy, to put it kindly. It is passable at best, and sometimes flat. They managed to get Ashly Burch back to do Chloe for the 'bonus' episode and she makes such a vast difference to that character. The game doesn't look great. Some of the backdrops and character animations look hastily thrown-together, and there's a great deal of stuff that seems over-familiar from the first game. But the original had a lush, heartfelt quality to the art direction that was incredibly endearing. This game has a certain amount of the same attention to detail but for the most part it feels like a pale imitation by comparison. Perhaps I'm being unfair. I think the developers really tried to understand the tone of the first game, but for some reason they weren't fully able to recreate it. I can't deny it has some really nice moments. The little dungeons and dragons session in the first episode! The school play! The cute dog! I kept wondering why they couldn't have just made a game about these nice moments - just small, quality moments of character drama happening in this universe. Where the game trips itself up is when it tries to yoke everything to a hokey, half-baked attempt at grand tragedy. A couple of spoiler-ish things that especially irritated me:
  4. Movie/TV recommendations

    I finished watching American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. It's a really impressive piece of work: beautifully crafted, with a stunning central performance from Darren Criss. It's also one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I've had lately. It flies closer to the sun than most shows I've seen in terms of - I don't know that 'glorifying' is the right word - but in terms of presenting the audience with a sympathetic story about a person who did horrible things. Because there's a strong argument for saying that these are not stories we should be listening to today. You could call it a toxic story. If you feel like depiction, especially through stylised recreation, equals implicit endorsement no matter what the context, you will probably find little to appreciate here. Part of this is because Criss, playing Andrew Cunanan, is so good; partly this is because the story somewhat struggles to find equivalent interest in Versace's life. It takes a while before it becomes apparent what the show is about, in a political or societal sense. For several episodes I wasn't convinced it was going to be about anything except stylised violence - but it is - and when it finds its grip, it digs in hard. I really think it is better than The People vs OJ Simpson. I liked that series, but it felt inconsistent to me - too many scenery-chewing performances from John Travolta and Nathan Lane, and I was never really convinced by Cuba Gooding Jr. (Also for me at least it was entirely outclassed by OJ: Made in America, which is a masterpiece.) But it feels weird to compare them because they've essentially gone full speed in the opposite direction with this season. This is a thing where - and perhaps this is because it was written entirely by a single author - every episode feels like a genuine unfolding of the next part of a story. It's novelistic rather than journalistic. I would be very surprised if I see anything better than it this year.
  5. Id's Rage

    New trailer with actual gameplay is out. Looks...quite good? Like they've welded the combat from DOOM to a generic openworld postapocalyptic world, with a light seasoning of the colour scheme from Splatoon. Plus points for Andrew WK.
  6. Recently completed video games

    I finished The Last of Us (on PS3) and The Last of Us: Left Behind (on PS4). I had this sitting on my account for years, but I told myself I wasn't allowed to play it until I'd finished the first three Uncharted games; I have now done this, albeit approximately at the same pace as they were originally released. The PS3 version is basically still fine, though it takes a million years to download/install. Some of the textures look a bit muddy today, and Naughty Dog's trompe l'oeil techniques for handling the mid/long distance have never stuck out more - but it still plays quite well. It sure was cool booting up Left Behind and being able to read all those signs on the wall. 60 FPS is nice too but not essential; I feel like these games are tailored for 30. The game is basically very good, even though the first few hours are…really quite bad. I went back to an old Idle Thumbs episode where they discussed this extensively just after the game was released, and I found myself agreeing with absolutely everything they had to say. There's stuff throughout which is really incredible but there's so much padding too. I found the combat very enjoyable but there's probably too much of it - and though I'm looking forward to the sequel, I sure hope they can find some better mechanics than just messing about with ladders. Oh god, the ladders. I think the best I can say for it is that I can easily imagine myself playing it again at some point. I feel like I missed almost all of the optional convos and Ellie's jokes, and I really want to go back and clear up that stuff. Even playing on Hard, there was never any point which makes me cringe to think of having to do it all again; whereas with the Uncharteds there are too many of those moments in all three games. Some disconnected, spoiler-filled points:
  7. That's quite an interesting interview although it is about as much detail as I was expecting (i.e. not much). Which is fine. I would have liked to have seen a question or two about how they feel now about working in proximity to the murkier side of the Hat Economy stuff they've talked about over the years, but perhaps it would be unfair at this stage. I confess I'm still a little confused about the existence or otherwise of Campo Santo as a company, just because this was commonly reported as Valve 'acquiring' them. But it sounds like they are all just Valve employees now with the company as a separate entity still owned by Jake and Sean? This is probably just me being ignorant about something, sorry. Excited as ever to see what comes next, anyway.
  8. God of War (and a little bit about subjectivity in reviews)

    MGSV springs to mind as a game that maintains a pretty consistent 60 FPS with a 1080p image on the base PS4. I can't recall if it used dynamic resolution scaling or not. Dynamic scaling is a trick, I suppose, but only in the sense that pretty much every tool of game development is a trick. No matter what level of hardware you're working with, the end result is going to involve a compromise between artistic vision and technical limitations. I think dynamic scaling can be a valuable tool for ensuring a relatively consistent experience across platforms - but of course if this becomes something you notice and it starts bothering you, it stops being a convincing trick. I guess they could have made God of War a game with fixed camera angles throughout. I imagine it would have become an entirely different sort of game. But if we assume for a moment that the close camera angles, cinematic style, and limited FOV of the new game were imposed due to technical reasons - it is quite possible that they could have used those limitations to create something good. Video game history has all kinds of examples of devs coming up with cool, creative solutions to difficult technical problems which actually enhance the experience rather than detract from it. Still, if the result isn't to your taste there's not much you can do about that. Some people seem to like this game a lot. I think the only way to negotiate this kind of uncertainty is to find some critics whose opinions match your own, and follow them. Perhaps the worst thing about games media is the focus on hot takes about new releases, to the extent that it sometimes feels like I'm missing out when I'm not playing the latest, greatest thing. I feel this too (and I've felt it lately about God of War). I guess I try to ignore it. If I feel any uncertainty at all about the quality of a game at release, I just don't buy it. For the most part I prefer to come to games later, once things have settled down a bit. I'm actually playing The Last of Us for the first time at the moment (on the mighty PS3!), and I like it, but it's scarcely recognisable as the heartbreaking work of staggering genius that it was hailed as at the time. Encountered today, its flaws are perhaps more evident, as are its similarities with the Uncharted games. But all of that is okay. I wouldn't even say that it has become a worse game since 2013: I can file these thoughts alongside the original hyperbole in my brain. Everything adds to the picture.
  9. Recently completed video games

    I finished Shadow of Mordor. (No, not the new one - yes, the one that came out in 2014. Gosh that seems like a long time ago now.) It was fine? It's enjoyable to play, aside from the murky visuals and the characterless world and a storyline which is totally devoid of interest. The climbing and stabbing and shooting is fun, and it's all carried off with a certain amount of flair. I skipped all the cutscenes without remorse - and I never skip cutscenes in games. But I think I broke the Nemesis system. I never had all the good orc dating sim experiences you're supposed to have with this game. Apparently this is not an uncommon problem! It seems that if you don't die often, you never use the 'Advance time' function, and you simply kill or brand every captain you encounter, the game doesn't really know how to cope with you. I ended up just rending these gaping holes in the orc army which were never properly filled. Once or twice I was ambushed unexpectedly by some captain…but then I just killed them, and that was that? Nobody ever seemed to want to hunt me down, and I never found a captain I couldn't handle. Often I'd get low on health but then I'd just run away, or scamper up the side of the nearest building, find some plants to chew on, then return to the fray and thin out the herd before exacting my revenge on the captain. In particular it's strange to me that 'time' - in the sense of the thing that enables orcs to move around their hierarchy - only seems to advance in this game when you want it to. And I couldn’t see any reason why I would want to hit the 'advance time' button. Perhaps there were system-related reasons that meant it couldn't happen any other way. But the problem with that is that the events in the game end up feeling like discrete instances that can be indefinitely postponed. I never felt like I was making any meaningful decisions between, for example, helping one captain ambush another, or helping one of my own captains build up their forces. Because you can do all of that, if you want. It's all just stuff. You never feel like the world is actually ticking away in the background without you. It's all very odd. I'm curious to see if Shadow of War handled all this in the same way - but I will probably never be curious enough to buy it now.
  10. Missions that made you quit

    What a great idea for a thread. When I was a kid it was almost every game. The Command and Conquer games were always particularly galling in this regard because it was always so satisfying to see the next cutscene (and so depressing to see the 'fail' cutscenes). Mafia, the original one, is a murderously hard game. A sadistic saved game system, fixed single-use medkits - no recharging health in those days! - and semi-realistic gunplay. I probably gave up on that game all the time back in the day. But I always used to find a certain satisfaction in squeezing my way through it. Even to this day the sounds of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt give me flashbacks. I don't abandon games very often anymore. If I do it's usually because I've lost interest, rather than because I hit a wall. I stopped Deadly Premonition for that reason, even though I really wanted to like it. There's a bunch of moments in Metro 2033 which are really rough, especially if you're playing on Ranger/Hard mode. And not even hard in a rewarding way: just wave upon wave of horrible relentless clawing monsters. But somehow I got through it even though I didn't really find it that rewarding. The one which I really did abandon, and which I sometimes regret, is Dark Souls 3. It remains the only game in the Souls series which I haven't finished. I got quite far but I set it aside around the time I got to Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. I can't quite explain why. It is in many ways a very good game. The difficulty was part of it, I suppose; were it an easier game I would have blundered through for the sake of finishing it. I guess it was just a sense of exhaustion - a feeling that, in spite of all the wonder and mystery, I'd somehow seen and done all this before. Or perhaps my real problem was that it wasn't Bloodborne, which is still (IMO by some distance) the best of those games.
  11. Marmite is one of those condiments which is relatively limited in what you can do with it, but I'd never want to be without it. As well as toast, it is also quite good with butter and spaghetti. You can also add a teaspoon of it to add that salty-sweet umami richness to other dishes, a bit like Worcester sauce -- some people like it with bolognese or chilli or onion gravy. You would never want to eat it straight out the jar. That way lies madness. But the endorsement of soft boiled eggs with Marmite soldiers was nice to hear. It is a favourite breakfast of mine. I used to have this extremely good Mario egg cup when I was a kid and I really wish I still had it. I was slightly confounded by the mention of the strange device for removing their tops. I've never heard of an egg clacker. It sounds rather indecent. For me there's a tactile pleasure in denting the top of the egg with the back of a teaspoon, followed by tapping a collar around its neckline with the tip; and then you wedge the spoon in the crack and lever the whole thing off, decapitating the poor creature. It's a delightful sensory experience. A soft-boiled egg accessory I would endorse is the egg cosy. It's a little hat for your egg! Boiled eggs have a rich and storied history. I think often about the moment in Of Human Bondage where the narrator's uncle, a vicar, allows him to eat the top of his egg if he's been a good boy -- it's a perfect little Dickensian image for stinginess masquerading as generosity. There's a great bit in Gulliver's Travels about a dispute between the 'little-endians' and the 'big-endians': two nations at perpetual war over whether boiled eggs should be cracked at the 'little' or 'big' end. (Interestingly these terms have since been adopted in computer science to describe something to do with the way bytes are arranged that I don't really understand.) The writer M. R. James was said to be able to time the cooking of his soft-boiled egg by the time it took him to finish the crossword in the Times; though how hot he had the water I suppose we will never know. Sorry for the digression. I could probably write a book about soft boiled eggs. I think it would make me very happy.
  12. Far Cry 5

    Can your buddies die? I'm guessing there is no Far Cry 2-esque option to execute them while they lie writhing in pain... (God that game was grim. It seems inconceivable now that it ever got made in the way it did.) More importantly can the dog die? What happens when the dog gets hurt? Is the dog going to be okay? These are the important questions which the reviews do not tell me.
  13. Movie/TV recommendations

    Yeah I watched Annihilation over the weekend (on Netflix, in the UK) and I have to wonder if there isn't something iffy with the version of the film that exists there. Typically I have no problems with streaming a clean 1080p picture from Netflix - their own shows like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why look absurdly crisp and bright - but there seemed to be something odd going on with the levels of saturation and detail in some of the scenes, and I honestly couldn't tell whether it was down to the quality of the picture or the quality of the film making. I had less trouble with the faces shrouded in darkness and the staring out of the frames (much of which, as you suggest, seemed deliberate); but some of the special effects looked amazing, and then some of them looked like cutscenes from a PS3 game. Very odd. I think it's a film where the quality of the image matters more than most but I feel like they over-egged the pudding on the effects front. Still! I liked it, with reservations. For anyone who enjoys unusual sci fi or weird horror fiction it's certainly worth a look.
  14. Best Third-Person Shooters

    Somebody smarter than me ought to write something about how the popularity of third person action/shooter games tracked against the popularity of those games on consoles. It always seemed to me that third person games feel better when controlled with modern game controllers rather than a keyboard and mouse - though no doubt a great deal of work has been put into them making them feel that way over the years. Resi 4 is an interesting example because the aiming in that game feels very unique compared to similar third person shooters of the era. With that laser sight, you felt like you were holding one end of a very long pole that extended infinitely in front of Leon, and trying to sort of maneuver the far end of that pole into the face of your enemies was a game in itself. It felt deliberate - an extension of the 'awkward deliberate' movement popularised with the tank-like movement controls in the original Resi games, perhaps. I really liked The Evil Within. It is a game that actively delights in brutalising the player, even more so than Resi 4, but if you're up for being brutalised I would recommend it. The combat is still super satisfying when everything clicks but it can also be quite overwhelming. Or you might just go straight to the second one, which has been received well and is apparently a bit more accessible (though I haven't played it yet). Nier: Automata has a neat, unique take on third-person shooting: you're doing melee combat with the face buttons but you're also locking on and firing constantly with this little drone that floats behind your head with the triggers. It's something like an extension of the way the guns are used in Bayonetta to distract enemies and carry on combos, but they do a bit more damage here. (I like also that the camera actually seems to be locked to the perspective of the drone, and not to the player-character's eyes - it raises the question of who's controlling whom in this situation.) Splatoon got a lot right in terms of the feel of movement and shooting. It helps that the weapons are splashy (splatty?) but I also really liked the subtle use of motion controls - you still use the analogue sticks for moving and turning, but you make little adjustments to the angle of the controller for fine tracking of your aiming. Interestingly, I think they patched this in to the Switch port of Doom - a sign, perhaps, that motion controls are catching on again... Tomb Raider (the 2013 one) is an obvious choice for a game that did everything very well. I love the way Lara tucks herself into cover in that game without you having to 'snap' to it. It's another one where the sequel is also quite good where, inevitably, I haven't played it yet. Oh and Metal Gear Solid V is probably the ultimate refinement of third-person stealth and shooting. I don't know that it's been surpassed yet in terms of mouthfeel (handfeel?). Just extremely smooth and snappy where when you get good you feel like you're unstoppable irrespective of the equipment you're carrying.
  15. Redo of the Colossus (Shadow of the Colossus thread)

    For some reason my first thought when I read this was 'oh of course they're doing Metal Gear Solid 4 next!' Which would not be totally outside the realms of possibility, given that they did such a great job on the MGS HD collection. MGS4 would certainly present some unique challenges - not least the frequent, loving and totally gratuitous references to the power of the PS3 - so I'm not sure it'll ever happen. It is perhaps a bit too niche, too expensive, too weird. More likely answer is Demon's Souls. Which is weird in its own way but people do love those Souls games - and there's a lot you could fix if you went back to that one. Ico could happen but I find it hard to imagine them putting that out as a full-price remake again.