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Posts posted by marginalgloss

  1. 13 hours ago, Thyroid said:

    Does RDR2 have wild west stuff, or am I going to spend my time riding a carriage with a sleazy oil salesman and chasing a random man who :devil:MaY oR maY noT be GoD?:devil: I can endure a smidge more "Go to Point A, to be told to go to Point B, shoot someone" if there's a mission where you, I dunno, strategically stick-up a bank or something.


    There's certainly wild west stuff. If anything the atmosphere of the old west is stronger because of the ridiculous abundance of detail. You can rob pretty much anyone at anytime, and at times it becomes imperative that you do so (if only to pay off a bounty elsewhere). Quick Draw is still a thing, and seems to work a bit better than it did in RDR.


    But the other stuff is there too: the dubious writing, the quirky stranger encounters. There's a lot of that. But the tone of those has changed a bit. Whereas in the first game you were a rootless free agent for almost the whole game, the concept in RDR2 is that you're part of a gang from the first moment. And the gang is more like a family of settlers -- they happen to be heavily armed and occasionally murderous, but they are a family, complete with women and children, and so you're given to feel like you have responsibility for them as well as for yourself. You're encouraged to bring back hunted animals for food, and to donate a cut of your cash every so often, for the good of the group. And so if you do something really nasty in one of those stranger encounters, there's a possibility that could come back not just on you, but on your 'family' as well.


    It's a vaguely post-apocalyptic vibe that owes a good deal to Mass Effect and The Walking Dead. But this being a Rockstar game, I feel like there are never going to be any serious consequences to opting not to support the family. To put it another way, nobody in the camp is going to starve if I choose not to bring back a deer for dinner tonight, because the game has to support the infinite variety of other choices I might make. I may of course be wrong about this but at the moment, supporting the camp seems less like a thing I'm going to do because it's good and right and because it enables nice interactions between the characters, and more like a thing I'm going to do because if I bring in enough Perfect Badger Carcasses I can upgrade my satchel to carry more Wild Oregano.


    Or maybe it's both? I don't know. Coming back to the camp and checking in with everyone is really nice, in the same way that coming back to the Normandy in Mass Effect was nice. I might even say it is nicer than any version of the Normandy that Bioware have made (including, for example, the keep in Dragon Age Inquisition). It is also largely optional: I suppose you could just smash through the story missions, as in any GTA game. But there's a lot more to see outside the story missions than in anything Rockstar have made before. (I stumbled on some crazy stuff last night which I won't dare to mention, even with the spoiler tag. There's weirdness in this game that rewards exploration.)

  2. 4 hours ago, Roderick said:

    Even if it's, like, arbitrarily, 20% better than RDR, it's still 'just another RDR, but better'.


    Yeah I think there's something in this. There are moments when RDR2 feels like something entirely new - and it certainly *looks* like nothing else. But there's times when those old GTA bones start showing through the flesh.


    I've seen a lot of people write about how many more opportunities there are here for peaceful interactions, compared to previous open-world Rockstar games. And it's true that you can spend a lot of time riding, foraging, hunting for treasure, skinning rabbits, fishing, greeting strangers, gambling, playing with dogs, cleaning your guns, shaving, brushing your horse, and taking baths (complete with button prompts to wash each individual limb).


    At the end of the day it's still a game about pulling up a map, going to a marked point, watching a cinematic cutscene, and then going somewhere else to engage in a bit of the old ultraviolence. But if everything else is just set dressing, it's the most obsessively detailed set ever designed.


    Still, I'm curious as to whether Nick will get anywhere with his lasso-only playthrough. I suspect it'll be almost impossible. You can die pretty quickly in this game.

  3. I put five or six hours into this over the weekend. Early thoughts:

    • It looks astonishing, but then you probably knew that. The lighting and animation is unlike anything I've ever seen in a game. (I'm on the regular PS4, sitting close to a decent 32" HD TV; I'm sure the 4K machines do it better, but I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.)
    • The animations for coming off your horse (especially at high speed) are probably the most horrifying thing I've seen in any Rockstar game. Remember the first time you got knocked off your motorbike in GTA? Imagine that, but you have to watch the motorbike whine and struggle to get upright again. Or sometimes your motorbike will be dead.
    • From a writing point of view this still very much feels like a Houser Bros joint, for better and for worse. (Mostly for worse, imo.)
    • There are so many systems here to do with the look and feel of the game intended to make the player feel grounded in the world. They're mostly cool and sometimes absolutely amazing. But sometimes there's a grinding of the gears when the black bars descend on the screen and we enter a cutscene and suddenly I feel like I'm playing the original Red Dead again. Or any of the GTA games, really. Which is not to say the cutscenes are bad, or that the story isn't interesting; it's more that Rockstar's commitment to delivering a grand cinematic experience gets in the way of the remarkable experience they've made. I sometimes wonder what the game would've been like had they made a similar commitment to the one Valve made with the original Half-Life - to never depart from the first-person perspective, even if it made things really difficult in storytelling terms. (I always thought it incredibly strange that GTA V, and now RDR 2, could be so blithe about allowing players to play everything from a first-person perspective. It's hard to know which of those RDR2 was designed for. Surely not both?)
    • They are, however, doing a bit more in the way of environmental storytelling now. (Hot tip: read every note, every poster you find lying around. There's important stuff there that the game won't always point out to you.)
    • Morgan's journal is beautiful. He draws pictures of dogs in it. But only once you have examined the dogs.
    • For the most part it is remarkably slow-paced. Much like Breath of the Wild it is content to let you amble through the world at your own pace; in fact, in often demands that you do exactly that. (To that end, they've repurposed the old GTA 'call a taxi' system into a sort of slow-fast travel system. It's very clever.)
    • But on the other hand, remember how Breath of the Wild deliberately didn't bother with an animation for picking up items, because you'd be picking up so many? Well, I hope you have the patience to enjoy an approach which is precisely the opposite. (I think the labourious approach to picking up stuff is cool right now but ask me in another ten hours.)
    • Shooting the guns is pretty good fun.

  4. Yeah it's good. The new season reminds me somewhat of the better metafictional moments in Community; in the same way as that show, it is extremely self-conscious about its own indulgence of sitcom tropes, especially the clanking machinations required to introduce characters to one another.


    I hope it still has room left to surprise and excite by upending our expectations. I hope it gets weird. Community eventually became kind of inconsequential, but at its best it was fantastically strange.

  5. I'm six episodes deep in the latest (fourth?) season. Funnily enough, the glacial pace, and the lack of tension/resolution in each individual episode, is exactly what I love about the show. On paper so much of what they are now covering is extremely boring, verging on the kind of 'lore' excavation that I normally wouldn't look twice at -- and there's plenty of sequences here that are deliberately intended to portray things which are dull, mundane, unremarkable -- but I still find myself utterly gripped.


    That we know (broadly) how it all ends doesn't bother me. I like the way the show uses its position as a prequel to open up ways of looking at and thinking about characters that the dogpiling cliffhangers of Breaking Bad didn't allow. And of course there's so much we don't know: what becomes of Jimmy/Kim, or Mike's family, or Howard.


    It also helps that it is consistently stunning to look at.

  6. I think I have given up on Metroid: Samus Returns for 3DS. I was tempted to pick it up at launch, but I waited quite a while so I could pick up a physical copy for under £30. I'm glad I did, and I'm slightly confounded as to how it received such overwhelmingly positive reviews on release. It is a perfectly acceptable version of a classic side-scrolling Metroid game that adds nothing to the genre and does virtually nothing to surprise or excite. You could buy all three Steamworld games on 3DS, and still have a bit of change left over, and you'd have a much better time.


    It plays fine. It is made very well. It looks nice, if unremarkable (and unthreatening). Some of the sound and music is what you'd want. Some of the puzzle design is good. But why bother exploring and solving the puzzles if the only reward is a paltry +3 missiles? Can't we do better than this today? It is devoid of environmental storytelling, or any meaningful sense of progression. Battling the same metroid-infected creatures every time, with only slight variations in the boss chambers, is boring. The whole thing feels strangely tired, indifferent, and humourless.


    I guess some of this repetition could be explained by the idea that it's essentially a remake of Metroid II for the Game Boy. Certainly if even half of what happens here was replicated on that little machine, I'd be impressed, but the 3DS version does nothing so impressive with the hardware by comparison. The ability to parry enemies and free-aim feel like a worthy concession to modern game design - no more awkwardly mashing jump while shooting - but the game never asks you to use those abilities in ways beyond the obvious.


    All of which got me wondering what could be done with a new Metroid game on Switch. Something more is required, I think, than a simple retread of the Metroid Prime games -- and I'm hoping they push the boat out as they did with Breath of the Wild. But if anything the format of the Metroid games has been tighter than Zelda, less prone to the fits and starts of innovation that make even the middle-ranking Zeldas worth replaying from time to time. 

  7. Thanks everyone for your very helpful comments! At some point this is going to be a thing I'm actually doing and enjoying instead of a thing I'm worried about organising, haha, oh god.


    Think I'm gonna go for Overcooked and the Jackbox Party Pack. I wonder if anyone has any strong feelings about Overcooked vs Overcooked 2? It sounds like the sequel is perhaps more challenging so I might go for the first game...

  8. I have a slightly unusual quandary that I was hoping to get some advice on:


    I'm getting married in a few weeks, and as part of the thing afterwards we've booked the mini cinema room in the hotel. My plan is to plug in my Switch to entertain the kids (and some of the adults) for a while after dinner.  


    Can anyone think of some local multiplayer Switch games that would be suitable for this occasion? In terms of content they would need to be suitable for everyone (i.e. 5 to 60ish years old) and easy to pick up and play without much guidance.


    I have an extra pair of joy-cons so up to four players is doable. Mario Kart 8 is the obvious candidate, and I already have that, but I haven't got much further. If anyone has any suggestions I'd be extremely grateful...

  9. Last week my gf/fiancée gave the (semi-)surprise of a Switch as an engagement present. I got Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with it, and I picked up Mario Odyssey over the weekend. Both of those games are great! I'm sure nobody needs to be told this.


    It is early days yet but I'm extremely impressed by the device itself. The interface is much more responsive and user-friendly than the 3DS and Wii U. And I actually appreciate the lack of Nintendo non-gaming bloatware (video chat, AR cards, Face Raiders, etc). It feels less like a toy and more like a serious gaming-specific platform. The build quality seems good - I can feel myself being slightly precious around handling it in a way that I wasn't with the Wii U gamepad. Already I have a little of that new device anxiety; last night saw much futzing around with screen protectors, worrying about the dock scuffing the screen, warping and bending, etc. No doubt in a few months I'll have forgotten about it and it will resemble my phone, which currently looks like it has been through a washing machine full of gravel.  


    We played a lot of Mario Kart 8 over the weekend. I played quite a lot of that game on the Wii U; she played hardly any of it in those days, but for some reason she is a lot more interested in playing it on the Switch than she ever was on the older system. (I wonder why that is; something to do with the streamlined start up/shut down, perhaps. It just feels easier to get into. Certainly I appreciate that they've ironed out a few things that annoyed me, like how if you started a local multiplayer race in the Wii U version with horizontal Wiimotes, there was no way to turn off motion controls other than by pausing in the middle of a race.)


    Anyway it occurred to me also that Mario Kart is actually a very difficult game to teach someone, once you get past the basics. The game offers virtually nothing in the way of a tutorial, so to learn about things like drifting, 'holding' items, where you can get boost-jumps, etc - all of which are pretty much essential techniques - you have to go outside the game entirely. (They have added help screens to the new version, but they're fairly cursory.)


    Once she started to get a feel for how drifting works we found it useful for her to race solo, and for me to watch her and just say things like '…and drift now...' - '...and pop the drift, now drift again...' - '...yo hit that big ass ramp'. Which was kind of fun in its own way, though weird for me; it felt like I was giving driving lessons or something? For my own part I'm all about discovering things for myself in games, and I don't want to mansplain to anyone, but she was insistent that I help. She's picking it up quickly. Soon I will be getting trounced, I hope.

  10. On 7/15/2018 at 12:11 PM, Erkki said:

    I'm trying to remember a movie which may or may not exist. In this short film course I'm taking, one of my fellow students came up with an idea/partial script for a short film where a jewish person is escaping a concentration camp through the forest, he is wounded and ends up meeting a child. At some point he realizes that he is already dead. It kind of stuck in my mind as I imagined the visuals, but now I'm thinking maybe it was because there already was a movie like this... Does anyone know? Probably it was a short if it exists...


    I cannot think of anything exactly like this but it sounds a bit like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas with a dash of Grave of the Fireflies.

  11. I finished Papa & Yo on the PS3. I feel like this is one of those games that was talked about intensely on its original release, but which subsequently faded away into the background. But it's still worth a look. There is some really beautiful imagery at play here. I loved stacking and tilting the little favela houses like building blocks. The music is excellent too. And there's a long sequence at the end of the game -


    a sort of cable car journey into the sky

    - which is absolutely spellbinding.


    It doesn't always play smoothly. I got stuck a few times on some unwieldy/repetitive puzzles. (The bit on the football field in particular.) Some of the imagery is a little direct in a way that's sometimes typical for games which lean too hard on their central metaphors.


    By the end of the game you're feeding Papa actual liquor bottles instead of those brightly coloured frogs. It is a little much.


    It is also notable as one of the few games I've played that feels like the product of a culture that isn't North American, European or Japanese. Perhaps that speaks more to my habits as a player but games from other parts of the world still don't receive the attention they deserve; in that way at least it felt very refreshing.


    A couple of other titles I finished on 3DS, mostly on my commute:


    Steamworld Dig 2. Yes, this is out on 3DS as well as Switch, and it's actually a very good version. It plays at a seamless 60fps (on New 3DS at least). The art looks a little pixelated around the edges, perhaps because it was intended for HD screens and then squeezed down to fit the 3DS; but the stereoscopic 3D is nice, and it's extremely useful having the mini-map on the second screen for a game like this.


    Anyway, it's another excellent Steamworld game from these guys - charming, whimsical, fun, pretty, thoughtful. Once again the basic format is digging down and sideways through cave systems, picking up treasure and upgrading your robot person, but you have a lot more movement options now, and you're very much expected to use them. At times you gotta go so fast it reminded me of Sonic. And I was surprised to find an emphasis on challenge rooms, almost in the style of Portal or Breath of the Wild. Some of them are puzzle-based but others are just really hard finger-twisting platform bits. Fortunately there's a lot of room to upgrade your character to get an advantage in those situations.


    Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia. Another very good handheld Fire Emblem from the Fire Emblem guys. The overall presentation is really nice; the characters are good fun, though there's fewer opportunities to hang out with them because they can't make babies; the story is fine, though I'm starting to tire of saving the world in these games. Since their chief appeal is in enjoying the interactions between your team, I wish they would build the story around that, rather than yet another trek to kill a wizard king who is also secretly a dragon. I don't expect much will change in the forthcoming Switch installment; if anything I suspect some of the RPG/open world stuff demonstrated here will be carried over into the next game.


    On balance this might even be a better introduction to the series than any of the other 3DS Fire Emblem games. Certainly the difficulty is better balanced than in the previous installments; I finished it on Hard Classic and I didn't encounter anything that made me want to snap the console in half. Perhaps that's because Awakening and Fates leaned very hard on the pairing up systems, and those are almost entirely absent here. Units can still have support conversations and give each other little boosts when placed side by side, but (as with the original GBA games) this isn't a huge deal. You can also rewind turns if you lose a character, which takes the edge off the threat of permadeath.


    A few peculiar design decisions: I'm not sure why they dumped the weapon triangle, since it takes a certain amount of depth away from melee combat encounters. Ranged units, particularly mages, end up somewhat overpowered towards the end of the game. The food and fatigue systems are totally inconsequential. And the reliance on enemies who summon endless waves of weak mobs comes to be quite irritating as well. (The likely explanation for all of these points is 'because that's how it worked in the original Fire Emblem Gaiden', but…….weh.)

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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:



    They fluff the ending of the main game by including a pointlessly grim post-credits teaser of Rachel Amber's eventual fate, which otherwise isn't referred to at all. And they fluff the ending of the bonus episode by choosing to settle on the moment where Chloe learns of the death of her father - which had already been dwelled on at length, for the first three episodes! - rather than just leaving us with a nice story about Max and Chloe having a nice final day together. Why couldn't they just have a nice day pretending to be pirates without a pointlessly manipulative emotional climax! Arrrghhh.


  15. 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.

  16. 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: 



    Did anyone else think that the way the game outed Bill as gay was…kind of horrible? The sticky magazines and such. I've never really heard anyone talk about this. I think we are supposed to feel like the adolescent sniggering belongs to Ellie, but I really wasn't sure if the game was trying to make me laugh as well. (Robert Atkin Downes though! What a guy.)


    I've since read that the relationship between Tess and Joel was considerably reshaped compared to what it was intended to be. I think you can really tell. The whole section of the game before and just after you meet Ellie feels kind of superfluous in retrospect. 


    I was expecting a little more from the ending. I'd previously heard it described as a masterpiece of ambiguity but it was so much more concise than that. It's a dry, cold, stark expression of the horrible strange place Joel and Ellie have found themselves in. She's become a sort of prisoner to his devotion. I like it a lot.


    Left Behind is a brilliant and really odd thing. Exactly half of it feels like more of the same sneaking/scrapping from the main game, albeit under harsh survival-focussed conditions. But the other half is this remarkable, almost experimental sequence, where it seems Naughty Dog try everything they can think of except for combat.


    I think the part where Ellie and Riley are 'playing' the broken arcade game is the best thing they've ever made. What a beautiful idea, for a company known for its graphical prowess to prove that video games can be real and meaningful without any graphics at all.



  17. 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.

  18.   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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.


    23 hours ago, clyde said:

    The explosion blows my buddy into the woods, so all I hear is "Help me, I'm not going to make it much longer." I don't have the HUD on so I'm moving around searching for him by the sound of his suffering.


    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.

  23. On 3/14/2018 at 10:35 PM, Erkki said:

    I don't know if it's a Netflix blooper, combined with Internet problem, but Annihilation was one of the most uncomfortable movie watching experience I had.

    • Movie is shot with willfully ignoring many photography good practices:
      • Big light sources in frame, causing lens flares and contrast to disappear
      • Actors often in darkness
      • Actors on the edge of the frame, staring out
    • Due to some of the above, loss of detail in actors' faces
    • Bad compression exacerbating the above. Even when I'm watching some DivX or whatever, I don't notice it this much, here they wanted to create some cool visuals, then ruined with bad quality


    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.

  24. 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.