Monthly Archives: August 2011

(This has been sitting in my drafts since April, probably time to get it out there, hey? Also, deleted and reposted because it was in the wrong bit)

Portal 2 Review

Months and months of hype, release dates being pushed back and mysterious references to potatoes were finally silenced as Portal 2 was released this week.

It’s took me a little over two days to finish it and I found that my original predictions were correct: This game isn’t worth the hype.

I can’t say that my view of Portal 2 is unbiased. After I initially heard about Portal 2 being released, I wasn’t impressed. “Seriously!” I thought, “How on earth do they justify this?” I am, as I always probably will be, of the opinion that Portal didn’t need a sequel, not until after the sneaky update Valve released.

Now, before the lynching mob start screaming for my blood, lemme give you my review of the game – then you can come hang me by my lower intestines and drain me dry.

Careful all who tread beyond these parts. Ye have been warned...

Now, I can’t really comment on anything in the first 5 minutes or so, when Chell comes out of “reanimation” since it’s meant to be a tutorial to new-comers to Portal. So I’ll move past that. Yay! Tutorial! *learns*

The atmosphere the game, a post-apocalyptic jungle feel, does get the ball rolling and you make your way through the first few chambers from Portal 1 and the voice-over makes comments about what happened in the outside world.

*LOADING SCREEN*

What? Sorry about that. Like in the first Portal game, elevator loading screens are ever present, but Valve have somehow managed to make the short loading screens far more frustrating by cutting away to an Apature Science loading screen. I know this sounds like a small nag that I’m picking at, but when each level takes less than two minutes, the constant loading takes away from the enjoyment from the game.

I do enjoy the commentary by the voice-over. For a game that doesn’t use much language to propel the story-line, it instead uses it to add humour to situations that seem lacking. For instance, the commentator mentions something about how hundreds of robots used in testing have been given a copy of the Rules of Robotics to share and if you feel that a robot has invaded your privacy or completes an action that contradicts the rules of robotics, you should write it down in your notebook and a future Apature Science engineer will file the appropriate paperwork. Horrah!

*Loading screen*

Once you get the Portal gun, things begin to move along quite quickly. Wheatley is your companion during the game and he helps in your attempts to escape the chambers.

Things start going pear-shaped when you accidentally bring GLaDOS back to life and she immediately goes back to testing. GLaDOS does hold a grudge about you killing her and she’s not afraid to call you a horrible person, or make fun of how fat Chell has gotten since the last game. Rather, she congratulates you on “beating the odds” on malnutrition and packing on a few pounds. Aw, you’re so nice GLaDOS.

Valve takes the time to introduce some new game play mechanics. I had so much fun with the repulsion (bouncy) gel and putting in on cubes and turrets (seeing turrets go bouncing around the room was gleeful) and generally having fun with it. The propulsion gel was useful to get across gaps where you couldn’t had a portal and using the two together proved to be a handy mix. The last gel is Conversion gel. A white paint substance that you could splash on a wall (or paint with Portals!) and bam! Instant portal wall.

You learn the history of Aperture Science with a tour through the old labs, which is where the above-mentioned gels are introduced and about the founder of Aperture Science founder, Cave Johnson and his assistant Caroline. Since the messages for the tour were recorded around the 50s, it’s all perky and good-spirits in the beginning. As you travel through the old labs, you slowly learn about the illnesses associated with Science(!) and the game takes a somewhat grittier turn, story-wise and Cave tells you what you can do with those damned lemons life seems to be handing out constantly.

Puzzle-wise, the game isn’t quite as challenging as Portal 1. Portal 2 seems more story-based instead of controller-busting brain teasers. I’m hugely disappointed with this because that’s what I loved about Portal 1. I spent forever (no, seriously. It took me twice as long to finish Portal because I could not move past some incredibly rage-inducing levels.) trying to find the perfect spot for a portal to move through the level. While the chambers can be challenging, I just wasn’t finding the learning curve to be as difficult as I was hoping.

The newest feature for the game is the addition of multiplayer. I’ve had a few rounds with my friends and unless you’re playing it with someone who hasn’t played the multiplayer levels (or played them as far as you have), it seems to be a drag on players. You know what to do but your buddy is still messing around with something behind you, although, it’s good fun when you’re get into it.

I’m completely underwhelmed by Valve’s latest puzzle game. While it works as a stand-alone game, the idea of it continuing the story doesn’t strike me as something the original needed until Valve changed the final cut scene (a dodgy move for a money-grab, imo). A frustrating game that occasionally hits the right buttons.


You know that great feeling when you find a great game? I’m feeling that now.

I was looking on Steam for a new RTS because Boyfriend has been playing Shogun 2 for ages and it made me crave an RTS. I was thinking of buying Shogun 2, but seeing the $90 price tag I decided against it. Ahh, the joys of being an Australian gamer.

/sigh.

Anyway, I browsed through Steam’s RTS section and Trapped Dead caught my eye. Inspired by the 80’s horror movie genre, I’ve played it all of 20 minutes and I’m already in love.

The beginning cut-scene is compulsory, but it sets the scene for the theme in the moviegame.

The graphics and character styling is alluring with speech bubbles and portraits of the characters appearing like comic-book-like squares. The game play is (so far) well paced and makes learning easy with the tutorial being built into the first few levels, which is normal these days. Oh, you’ll also want to wear headphones. The sound of the zombies chewing on people is… delicious.

One annoying thing is if my friends had this game and just wanted to play multiplayer straight off the bat, they couldn’t. You “earn” multiplayer after a few single player missions. That’s my only gripe so far. However, it’s redundant since my friends are playing League of Legends or Deus Ex 2 at the moment.

All round? For ten bucks? I’m pretty happy so far. It’s a nice time killer and I’m sure the more I play it, the more I’ll find it bloody charming.

I never was one for making a hard decision and when I do make one, I tend to backtrack on it and retreat to a safe place. Preferably under a doona somewhere with the quiet hum of my Xbox running in the back ground.

My hard decisions don’t seem to particularly hard of late though. In fact, the hardest decision I had to make in the last week is what pre-order of Batman: Arkham City to get. FYI, it was the Steelbook Edition.

I had three pre-orders I could realistically choose from with this game. EB Games had the Steelbook Edition which comes with a shiny Steel case for the game, a 70’s style Batman DLC (Downloadable Content) suit, Joker Carnival Challenge Map DLC and a copy of “Batman: Under the Red Hood” on Blu-Ray. All for the nifty price of $98!Steelbook

This may seem a bit of an excessive price for a video game, but I should remind non-Australian readers and my readers who don’t buy games that $98 is roughly the price of a brand-new copy of an Xbox 360 game. So being able to get a case, two pieces of DLC and a DVD for less than $100 is a bargain.

EB Games also have the Batman: Arkham City Collectors Edition which would have set me back about $150. If I had forked out that much money, I would have gotten a Batman statue, a collectable art book, four collectable cards, early access to the Iceberg Lounge Challenge Map and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns skin, Batman: Arkham City album from WaterTower Music and a bonus animated movie “Batman: Gotham Knight”. Again, for $150, that’s a decent amount of loot! But that wasn’t for me. I’m not really into the statues and such.

GAME also had a pre-order but their standard pre-order only had a Batman Begins suit for the Gotham vigilante for $78. But for the loot I could get for $100, I’m happy with my choice and come September(? I should look that up) I will indulge in happy Batman goodness.

My boyfriend went looking for an elopement present for his friends and came back with a pre-owned copy of Skate 2. So far, there has been lots of falling over and not much skating. Some laughing, too. Generally, they’re just being cynical and getting very bored.

Skating games seem to be hit-or-miss when it comes to development and subsequently enjoyment and the only people who seem to be able to get it right is Tony Hawk. They’re mildly enjoying to say the least.

The graphics are half decent (since it’s a PS3 game), but it’s the controls that ruin it or maybe Boyfriend and his friends just suck at the game. Either is possible.

I think Boyfriend could have gotten more for $8, though.

Image representing Nintendo as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

This week I started Pokémon Heart Gold a re-release of what is said to be one of the best Pokémon games. This got me thinking about Nintendo and the company. Even more than that, it got me asking myself, “Where did the Nintendo ingenuity that made them a household name go?”

Nintendo has released a new coloured Wii to attract a different demographic, Super Mario Brother Wii is almost the same as other Super Mario games, the new DS XL, which is the 4th redesign of the DS and the re-release of Heart Gold and Soul Silver.

What troubles me about Nintendo’s new design philosophy is that I haven’t noticed any new series’ that are worth the money it cost to develop them. Anecdotal evidence suggests that even though the Wii is winning the pissing contest between Sony and Microsoft, people buy the Wii and soon move on from the novelty of motion control and the gimmicks wear off quite soon after. And the DS isn’t much better. With games varying from Barbie Fashion Show to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Mobilised, the handheld device can’t decide if it wants to accessorise humanity or blast it to hell.

I’m starting to think that if Nintendo can’t release anything that isn’t in the same league as games from the glory days of the late eighties and early nineties, they might be looking at the beginning of the end and in ten or so years, Nintendo might only be a memory.

Xbox logo

Image via Wikipedia

“Addie, you love me right?”
“May be, why?”
“Can I borrow the Sexbawks for a little while?”
“Why?”
“’cause…”

This is a conversation with my friend, who I’ll call Jerkface to protect his identity. He is on school holidays and has decided this week would be the week that he’d steal my beloved Xbox and play Assassin’s Creed 2.

What’s interesting about this is he’s a PC gamer, and by rights would be my enemy if the platform wars ever decided to break free of the internet. Also, I know he’s got money to buy the game. You know, he probably would if Ubisoft didn’t have that silly “Permanent connection to internet” DRM that’s been rubbing people the wrong way.

Anyway, I think I’m starting to slowly turn him towards way of thinking about console! He even thought about buying an Elite. Not that he’ll ever admit it. If he keeps following my lead, he’ll be swooning like a woman when Nathan Fillon is on Castle.

The UK version of the box art shows the back o...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in for a long weekend…

On Thursday 22nd, Valve released new DLC for Left 4 Dead 2 known as The Passing. This includes a new campaign which is hard as concrete, an in-game blog and a new game type called “Mutation.” Mutation cycles different game types such as realism verses which combines the difficulty of realism with the interesting concept of Verses (which I’m still not sold on) or Chainsaw Massacre where you just run around with chainsaws.

This new DLC irritates me a bit. While I’m a great fan of the original Left 4 Dead, and still believe that Left 4 Dead 2 probably could have just been added as DLC to L4D, I’m wondering just what Valve are doing at their development studios. Portal 2 is set to release very soon, all new DLC for a game that was released a year after the original (it shows in the feel of the game) but the game a lot of people have waited for isn’t set to be released this year or anytime in the future. The game I’m talking about is Half Life 2: Episode 3.

I thought the idea of episodic gaming was to get games released quicker. But Valve seems to subscribe to the well known Valve Time timetable and that doesn’t sit well with Valve supporters. I would rather be fighting Headcrab zombies than Boomers, Smokers and Jockey’s right about now.

I see the same question asked around the interwebs, “How do I get my girlfriend into gaming?” There’s a two real answers to that question.

Answer one:

You can’t. Sadly, your girlfriend is not one of us and she is never to be assimilated in to our culture. Don’t stop loving her for that. I’m sure she’s a nice person anyway.

Answer two:

Success! Your girlfriend has shown interest in our world! You may be able to bring her into the hive mind with a few handy ideas:

  1. Sit with her and try to keep your harsh instruction to a minimum. If she’s stuck try “Hey, try looking over at (object x)! Last time I played his game, I think that did something.” You’re not telling her what do you, just a helpful suggestion.
  2. Don’t start off with CoD or Halo. Not only is the opinion of this writer that CoD is a horrific game, it’s not a good starting point. Beginners (under no circumstances are you call your lady a noob. She will smack you down) will probably find the learning curve of an FPS to be too overwhelming. Try an RPG, something that your girlfriend customise to what she’d want. If she plays a new character, she’ll feel as if it’s her game and not just borrowing it off her.
  3. DO NOT TAKE THE CONTROLLER OFF HER.
  4. Don’t play two player. If you’re playing a game that you’ve already played, you’ll speed through and get frustrated with her which will only lead to fighting and hurt feelings.

If your girlfriend has shown interest but none of these tips help, you’ve tried your best, she tried her best but she’s not a gamer. If you succeed in your quest, don’t rush her. Take it in baby steps. You’ve just introduced your lady to a whole new world which is wide, often scary and very overwhelming for a new player. Introduce her to new games similar to the ones she’s enjoying or enjoyed and then expand on themes. Soon enough you might find that she’d enjoy CoD or Halo and even beat you from time to time!

Not 20-minutes ago while I was washing my hair, I was thinking about video games and their recent history as an excuse for vile, immoral behaviour. The people who blame video games may be trying to escape responsibility for their own actions.

For as long as I can remember, the English-speaking media blamed video games such as GTA (Grand Theft Auto) for children as young as 12 rioting and looting, but quickly revoked that idea from intense pressure from outside sources. The ACL’s  (Australian Christian Lobby) representative Jim Wallace blamed the Norway massacre on video games after he leaned that Anders Breivik’s manifesto was made mention of how he used the game Modern Warfare 2 as “training.” This pushed his anti-gaming agenda into the public spotlight again. The ACL also neglected to mention that Breivik was one of their own, a conservative Christian.

I’m in agreement that there is some evidence video games can impair a young person’s attention span, desensitise them or even lead them to violent behaviour, it’s not the only cause of such personality changes. There is evidence that aggressive children were already displaying these tendencies before they began playing video games.

I was at a GAME store one afternoon after I finished work. I was looking for the Batman: Arkham Asylum game. While I was talking to a staff member a young mother came up to the counter with her son who didn’t look any older than eight. She held a copy of Call of Duty 4 in her hand.

“I’d like to purchase this please,” she placed the copy of the game on the counter. The MA15+ sticker on the cover was clearly visible. She placed her hand on the back of her son’s neck. For a second, I thought about telling this woman off. Thankfully, the clerk restored my faith in gamers. “You realise this game isn’t suitable for your son? This is rated R18 for adults. I’d recommend buying him a different game,”

Maybe she hadn’t thought of it; he had provided her with a reasonable suggestion. She might not have been aware of the contents of the game, but she blew him off with, “I’m sure he can handle it. He’s mature for his age.”

This is where I really wanted the clerk to make her sign a legal document waiving her right to bitch, moan, complain or subsequently blame video games on her son becoming a deviant.

Thankfully, the government will soon be introducing an appropriate rating for adult-themed games ensuring that young people won’t be able to buy games so easily and get the rest of us in trouble.

As the gaming community’s voice grows, I feel we need to take a greater responsibility for our actions and the actions of others around us. As I wrote above, the ACL found it easy to lay all responsibility upon the shoulders of video games without looking his own religion. What I took away from his speech was that he thought the entire gaming community to be a bunch of murdering, corrupt psychos-in-waiting and that we’re all as bad as each other. A counter-statement during the same interview was presented by Seamus Byrne. He said, (sic) “Breivik referenced the Bible and Christianity hundreds of times, but I don’t hold all Christians to blame.”

Somehow, Wallace’s close-minded statement can be related back to an old proverb, “People fear what they do not understand”. The gaming community is a hard community to understand from the outside. We play games where we shoot people, pilot spaceships to far away galaxies and even simulate real life. We indulge in games that take the player away from reality. Often, we could take an active role in the activities we’re simulating in the games we play if we were motivated enough, but we instead sit on a comfy chair and switch off for a few hours. I understand how we might be seen as brainless miscreants, but I’ve seen the gaming community do more. We have been pro-active in our quest to ensure that our pastime isn’t misinterpreted as merely an interactive cartoon for children, but we also aren’t the most understanding people in the world either.

Those who play games tend to interpret criticism as a personal attack and respond as so which perpetuates the idea that we’re aggressive, short-tempered people. I know I’ve been guilty of it from time to time myself. This is another part of gaming responsibly that we need to be aware of. While others may bait gamers, tear gamers down or call us horrible names. We collectively need to remember that words should not hurt or worry us and we can take the high road.

Gaming probably will always be looked upon as an easy target for blame because of the topics that are sometimes encountered in our hobby. While gaming can be used to bring people together, discuss difficult topics, educate,  and engage us in new ways , those who don’t devote time or try to understand it will find it easy to abuse their lack of knowledge or use their own agenda to over-shadow the good video games can do.

When I say the game developer name “Valve”, what comes to mind?

Great games, but poor development time. In fact, Valve has its own time scale known as Valve Time and it’s known to be more correct than Valve themselves. When Valve say they’ll be releasing a game every Wednesday! They actually mean, “We’ll release a game for the Mac for the next three weeks theeeeeen… whenever we feel like it.”

This sort of behaviour has resulted in frustrated gamers waiting for months.

Valve had an answer for this, and in the beginning it kind of worked. Release shorter games more frequently.

Unfortunately for the gamer who is holding their breath for Half-Life 2: Episode 3, they’ve since expired because it’s been almost 3 years. Valve have released two full games since The Orange Box was released and are remaining tight-lipped about any plans to release the final episode.

I, for one, am pissed off. I wanna know what happens, damnit!