Top Ten Games I couldn’t finish in 2010.

I must admit, my eyes are far bigger than my stomach sacule when it comes to buying games.  If I dedicated my few moments of free time each day to the games I have instead of buying new ones, I would save a lot of money.  But then, what would money be for?  Would GOG and Steam still exist?

This year was one of abject failure in the realm of completing games.  I’m simply astonished at the pile of games for the PS2, 360 and PC that languish, unfinished on my hard drive or save slots.  Why? Kids, work, freelance, boardgames and, for the first time in quite a while, reading books outside of the Aubrey/Maturin novels.  There I’ve gotten quite stuck, but I digress.   Below is my list of gamefails along with conjectural excuses of note I care to make, as well as an expounding at how good the games are in most cases.

10.  Bayonetta.  This is not a difficult game, and it is quite a fun platformer, item hunter and boss-fighter.  The plot is ridiculous and if I had finished it in the first week or so, I wouldn’t have had time to mull over what I think is going on between plays.  Since I do, I have to say that they could have kept the plot all very simple and still been successful, instead they went for a really wacky ploto-obscuro that is largely irrelevant when you are fighting building size angels who’s pristine armor comes off to reveal demon-like MEAT as the fights get heated.  I aim to finish this one up this winter.

9. Empire Total War. As I am a Total War freak, this is quite embarrassing as they came out with a new version of the game before I was able to finish the grand campaign to Empire.  I blame it on the fact that I had the victory conditions completed 70 turns before the game ends– and yet saw no victory screen asking if I wanted to stop and savor my victory rather than wait until the end.  I can essentially press NEXT TURN over and over to complete this one, but I just can’t stop myself from mucking about with unconquered Spain or Italy, making the turns take over an hour each at best.  This will be finished or I am not a man.

8. Red Dead Redemption.  Any of the two people that regularly read this blog will remember my lingering obsession over the summer with the Old West action brought on by yet another viewing of The Good the Bad and The Ugly and two reads through of Blood Meridian.  This obsession manifested itself in some stints of miniature painting, looking at various Old West skirmish rules, and of course the purchase of probably the best old west game in existence– one I have barely scratched the surface of.  Frankly, this may never be ‘finished’ insofar as the % complete goes but I’ll give it a good college try.

7. Portal. Just didn’t finish.  It’s great and I know it’s short but I got bored and felt like shooting some shit instead of bouncing balls around.

6. Mass Effect. This is really a movie game with some sort of lame fights in between and some extremely tedious side missions that fail to really keep up the impression that you have the freedom to move around the galaxy.  Still, some really fantastic pieces of game here.  Someday I’ll wrap this up.

5.  Dragon Age Origins. This is long.  It’s a long movie game like mass effect.  I found myself waiting for the good parts people talked about while trying to pretend it didn’t suck.  Bottom line: the combat is just plain bad compared to almost every other party-based fantasy game I have played.  I just wish people would look at Temple of Elemental Evil by Troika and realize that, for all it’s faults, that and Jagged Alliance are the way to do party based RPG combat.  This probably won’t be finished as when I play it I start to daydream about other stuff I should be doing instead, like home repair and basic grooming.

4. Painkiller. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get this one completed as I started playing multiplayer (the same thing happened in 1996 with Quake) and sort of forgot about the single player.  I may try to rock through this again, but it’s unlikely.

3.  Gratuitous Space Battles. This one I really can’t blame myself for. I started the campaign twice only to have a patch to the game invalidate my current save.  Though fun, the campaign game did not live up to my hopes though I still think this little indy game is one of the most important 4X space games for the genre that’s been out since MOO3 destroyed it.

2. Left 4 Dead 2.  I got it late, the year ran out.  We are going to finish this and it’s going to be awesome.  As my buddy Graham says: The undead aren’t going to destroy themselves.

1.  GODHAND. This is number 1 for three reasons.  First, because it is the most difficult game on this list both in terms of gaming stamina and technical skill. Second it’s the most embarrasing because one of my buddies completed Demon’s Souls before I was able to finish GOD HAND, and I started GODHAND in early 2009.  Third, this is one of those games like Metroid, Mega Man, Samurai Shodown, Urban Reign,  and Guilty Gear Accent Core that are truly difficult to complete, a game where by necessity you have to learn the system of play inside and out before you have any sort of chance of victory.  It’s a game so difficult that the hapless and fail-ridden reviewer at IGN gave the game one of the lowest scores to date, totally discounting any review IGN does as valid forever. This has to be finished.

UFC 2010 Demo review

I spanned some time with the UFC 2010 demo on Xbox360, spending about about three hours delivering beatings.  The short version of this very short review is that I am hopeful that the price of the 2009 game will go down when this comes out as I see virtually no reason to get 2010 before thoroughly playing through 2009.

Awesome but stodgy. The model’s skins, the blood, the sweat, the damage– it’s all beautifully rendered. However, the animations and especially how the fighters react to hits is very strange and remind me more of rock’em sock’em robots than a real life UFC match.  I guess the best word to describe the fighting physics as they relate to the models is: contrived.  Nothing looks natural, these are beautifully skinned robots fighting.

Slow, Methodical, technical.   The fighting engine is much slower than most, if not all, fighting games out there: there’s no other word for it, but it’s quite a change from Virtua Fighter 5 and especially the lightning fast 2D fighters I’m used to.  Positioning is key to get the opportunity for big hits– and when you do there is always a chance that one left hook will be the end  of the fight.  I spent most of the time played striking and kicking, but found the ground game very engaging though it probably has the biggest learning curve.

However, the game, at least against the AI in the demo, is extremely easy, on anything but the EXPERT setting (which I certainly am not). I was able to beat all the other fighters on the second highest AI setting using the following: Takedown from medium distance, move to side mount, punch face until opponent escaped, repeat.  After the opponent is semi-bloodied (end of round 1 or beginning of round 2, start punching when both are standing up and you will get a KO rather quickly.  That was every match.  Very little deviation was required unless the opponent got a reversal or moved in too close before the takedown.   Expert AI counters and combos a lot but it’s the only level that gives anywhere near a challenge (even to a n00b).  Compared, again, to Virtua Fighter 5’s incredible AI scaling, this is a disappointment.

It’s a demo
There are many features the game offers outside the actual fights and some of them actually matter I suppose,  like the graphics, extras are important but nothing could make up for a bad fighting engine– something I can’t tell without playing extensively with a human opponent.  It’s a tough call on this one at full price– but hopefully the 2009 version will drop 10-20$ due to this release.

Virtual California Cocksucker

Rockstar “making it fun to kill cops since 2001” entertainment has set loose its new murder simulator Red Dead Redemption. RDR is fun to play, beautiful to look at and filled with all the annoying shit that plagues Rocktar open world games. I have RDR for the 360 and have played for about 10 hours.

Where RD Wins:

– Graphics. The fucking horses look great. The clothes the main character has look badass. The old west buildings / scenery look perfect. The cycle of day and night is well done and adds loads of atmosphere to the game. JUST FUCKING WAIT UNTIL IT RAINS ON YOU SOME NIGHT IN GAME!
– Sounds is fucking great. I’ve a 5 speaker setup and I just love hearing people shooting at me from behind, bullets whizzing past my head as I make my get away. Sometime you hear gun shots echoing off canyon walls, alerting you to trouble near by. JUST FUCKING WAIT UNTIL YOU HEAR THE THUNDER IN THE EVENING WHEN IT RAINS IN GAME!
– The world feels very open and full of lasting consequences. No more shooting up the place and simply driving away to make a clean get away from the cops. In RDR you develop a bounty for all the “bad” shit do you, and that bounty doesn’t go away after you ditch the sheriff and his men, the bounty is on your head, growing ever larger in the event you commit more “bad” shit until you pay the bounty off with hard earned cash or get a pardon. What this does it make you less likely to just randomly shoot the place up when you are trying to progress through the game. It just adds a nice layer of consequence that is sorely missing from the GTA series.
– Multiplayer seems fun. I don’t fucking hate it. I’ve played maybe 4 hour of it. Most of that time was spent in “Open World Mode” which is just unstructured play time with the entire world map as the play ground. Players joining/leaving your game at random free to work together on “quests” to earn XP, or free to fucking open fire and grief like there’s no tomorrow. I prefer the shoot now, listen to players calling me asshole on live later option. I shall need more time with the Multiplayer once some of my real life friends pick up the game, it’s the only way I’ll play nice, playing with real life friends. The idea you can just ride around and shoot things together is a good idea.
– Shooting shit feels wonderful. Shoot some poor assfuck while he’s riding a horse, and the poor fuckass may blasted off his horse but get stuck in his saddle, causing a wonderful scene of man being dragged by horse. Aiming on the console controller is of course a challenge for an old school PC gaymer like me, but i just use the “casual” targeting mode which includes a snap to target feature that kicks in when you aim, which 90% locks onto the intended target. Bullet time! The game has Dead Eye bullet time, a feature you can activate to slow time down and line up 1 to N shots and then blast away hitting each target in real time. I always forget I have this option making for some failed combat encounters.

Where RDR falls flat:

– Fucking boring old west story so far, about 8 hours in maybe? While some of the dialog is interesting, and the character models are wonderfully detailed and well animated, it’s just average story telling. “Hey can you find this for me? Can you kill this person for me?” repeat, repeat, repeat. Ya we have some old west activities in there, herding cattle, roping wild horses, but the main portions of the story and just find this and kill this. What’s to be expected though here? Despite the “no new ground broken” nature of the quests, they don’t detract enough to be faulted.
– Might be getting old fast, the third time it rained on me at night the magic was already gone compared to the first time it happened.

Were RDR Loses:

– Fucking TERRIBLE minigames. I hate minigames, and I hate the minigames in RDR.
– Go in water, YOU FUCKING DIE! This only a problem when you are riding a horse top speed and fail to see a small river in front of you, before you can stop the horse or turn your end up the the water , “YOU FUCKING DEAD”.
– Launch time DLC failure. I bought the game from Amazon, it came with some code for Gold Guns, and for the last 5 days the code entry process in game has FAILED! Fucking Rockstar, er I mean Fucking Game Devs/Publishers that skimp on launch data server capacity/network infrastructure.
– No save anytime any where feature? This happens to me with all Rockstar games though, I play for 10 or so hour,s the missions get more complex and require too many start overs from some arbitrary save point because i didn’t drive/kill fast enough, I give the fuck up and say “FUCK YOU GAME FUCK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME SAVE WHEN I FUCKING WANT TO SAVE”. It’s always some fucking timing mission mechanism that puts me over the edge and makes me quit. LET ME FUCKING GO AS SLOW AS I FUCKING WANT ASSHOLES!

(if/when RDR hits PC, a Deadwood mod will be a must)

Why Don't We Run All The Time?

Walking out to my car in the cold I wondered to myself why do we insist that our characters in games run as near to 100% of the time, only slowing down for some treacherous traverse or to check out some piece of 3-D architecture, yet we walk around slow as molasses?  What’s the hurry we have in games that we certainly do not have in real life?

Given that I was given my right of passage through the parabolic showers of gibs of Quake 1, where it is only possible to be stopped or run at a uniform, top speed at all times, I get confused at the ability with, say, an analog control stick, to move at LESS than a uniform, 100% top speed. With all the years of FPS WASD–I had forgotten that this type of movement has been completely missing from gaming until the most recent generation of consoles.  What’s more, the analog sticks, while ghastly slow for aiming, allow many more directional options than the 8-ways allowed in WASD.  That said, I still see few reasons to go less than full blast running in, say Crackdown, but then there’s Bayonetta–who’s walking animation simply has to be viewed over and over and over from every possible angle.  This post really was just a tangent to mention that walking animation.

Affixing the Bayonetta

smooth!The all-to-brief-time off during the holidays has allowed time for gaming indulgences that wouldn’t normally fit into the schedule.  Along with a marathon boardgame session last night (Dominion, Dragon Lairds and a virgin copy of Nexus Ops hit the table), I was able to take 20 minutes and wrap my fingers around the Xbox controller for a run at the sumptuous Bayonetta demo.   When one is blurting out filthy epithets like  ‘holy shit yeah’ and ‘fucking awesome’ when no one else is around to hear, it can mean a few things, but in regards to the Bayonetta demo– it means you are experiencing the non-stop climax action AS ADVERTISED.  After the short tutorial; the first conflict with the angels takes place on the surface of a shattered clock tower as it plummets off a cliff to the ground below: full on showing off the jaw-dropping visuals.  The character designs, especially the leading lady herself, are truly inspired– massive ‘angels’ with emotionless cherub faces and giant battle axes named “Beloved,”  long, flowing, snake-like dragons in an asylum mix of Eastern and Western mythology.

The controls and basic combos are extremely simple to learn, and many of the moves are conditional to your surroundings; depending on distance, above/below in relation to the enemies.  In fact, most combos will just come out with your flailing fingers button mashing, at least at first.  Much to my glee- the game has an evade button much like Godhand (which, yes, I was not man enough to complete yet), but with the added bonus of allowing you ‘Witch Time’ if you evade attacks at just the right moment.  I haven’t seen many of the torture moves yet, but the two I’ve seen (throwing someone into an iron maiden, and running another through a set of pullies and gears) were fairly impressive.

I’m fighting the urge to span some more time running through it again or wait until the full version is out.  It’s not a fight I can win.