Myrmidon's Mighty Mass of Merriment



  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian

    When will someone correct dan's spoiler tags?

  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian

    @Tushon said:
    When will someone correct dan's spoiler tags?

    Vanilla IS open source, you know ;)

  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian

    I'm pretty sure this is correct usage, not bug.

    test 1

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited October 2015

    Project: Snowblind

    Not worth. Move along.

    Project: Snowblind is a first person shooter game set in the near (ish? not really far, but not near, either) future. The game was published by the same guys who did Deus Ex, and revolves around a guy who got a bunch of cybernetic augmentations to save his life... so, I mean, you'd expect this to be some pretty good shit, right? Unfortunately, you know how it goes: not the same devs, not the same game. But you might be forgiven for giving it a chance: image *Look! Robots and shit! Yes!*
    Sadly, even sweet flying robots could not save this travesty. This came out around the time Call of Duty 2 came out, so we were full-on in the swing of linear first person shooters with dull, caricatured foils for characters. I guess Crystal Dynamics wanted to capitalize on this scene. P:S, then, is a linear FPS. Nothing more, nothing less. There's really little to say about it... but I'll try. Storyline is thin, AI belongs in an on-rails shooter, animation is cheap and crummy (even for a 2005 title), characters are IMMENSELY caricatured, and the setting is unbelievable (my favorite part is how you're up against what is basically the chinese... but they got what seems like 100% white midwestern american voice actors). P:S's saving grace COULD have been the toys - bionic augmentations and silly weapons - unfortunately, they're all half-baked and poorly thought out. They gave you INVINCIBILITY and INVISIBILITY and BULLET TIME and SEE THROUGH WALLS, plus, like, one other tacked-on instakill augmentation. Real original, guys. And the gadgets? They're really just guns. SO MANY GUNS. The main character carries like fourteen guns at once, and to switch it either takes you A) years to scroll through them all in combat, or B) out of the action while you peruse your inventory. P:S's other saving grace could have been a simply enjoyable game - I like Call of Duty 2, for instance, although it was a super linear game with many of the same problems - but it isn't. Combat AI is garbage, level design is uninspired, and you're overpowered even WITHOUT invincibility/invisibility/whatever other bullshit. I stuck it out to the bitter end. The bitter, bitter end, when this soldier who was dying on the battlefield and only survived because he was pumped full of life-saving bionic enhancements literally TURNED THOSE ENHANCEMENTS OFF BY TOUCHING HIS NECK SO THEY WOULDN'T GET BROKEN IN AN EMP BLAST. A little more. Just for good measure, let's do some graphics comparisons. image *One of Project: Snowblind's easily forgettable characters. I think the main character is excited to see him, then he dies five minutes later and you never hear about him ever again.*
    image *One of Call of Duty 2's random soldiers, courtesy of These games were released the same year.*
    Nope, Nothing to see here. All done.

    OH. OH MAN WAIT. I ALMOST FORGOT. THIS THING: image You know what this is? IT'S HALF LIFE 2'S GRAVITY GUN. They jammed it into the game on, like, the first level, and promptly never spoke of it again or gave you a reason to use it... almost as though it was an afterthought. Half-life 2 came out in November 2004. This was popped in like, February 2005. Is that enough time to rip something off? Skip it. Skip it a million times. Project:Snowblind wasn't even worth your trouble to read this review.
  • HeroHero formerly known as XGPHero Icrontian

    Lookin forward to the psychonauts review. One of the few games on your list I have played.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    I'm loving it so far. Put about ten hours into it while recovering from surgery this weekend. Controls are a bit clunky, but fuck, the humor is great.

  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian

    Psychonauts was amazing. Here's my take

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    That review sums up in entirety exactly how I feel about the game (although I'd have spent a bit more time dissecting the reason why 3D platforming doesn't work well for this game).

    ...Like, I don't even want to write another review, because you've hit this one on the head so well.

  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian

    @Myrmidon said:
    That review sums up in entirety exactly how I feel about the game (although I'd have spent a bit more time dissecting the reason why 3D platforming doesn't work well for this game).

    ...Like, I don't even want to write another review, because you've hit this one on the head so well.

    Oh no, please do. I want to hear your take on it, particularly on the writing and humor.

  • HeroHero formerly known as XGPHero Icrontian

    An @Myrmidon rant would be entertaining...perhaps about the 3d platforming you mentioned above?

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited October 2015


    tl;dr: you absolutely must play this one.

    So, not to cop out too bad, but Psychonauts is a game that's a bit hard to explain. I'll give it a shot, but... damn. image *Even the screenshots are less descriptive than I remembered.*
    The trouble with explaining Psychonauts is that it's like explaining the first time you got laid, or your first kiss, or something. It was incredible when it was happening to you, but somehow the phrase 'and then we were all like WHOAAAAAAH' just doesn't have the same effect when you're telling it to a group of your ~~cats~~ friends during a ~~trip to the vet~~ sweet party. You can't do the experience justice using words. Psychonauts is humorous. Best of all, it's humorous in that way that a really solid Pixar movie is humorous - most of the jokes fly over the heads of younger audiences, which makes you feel like you're part of an inside joke at all times. In a world where most of our humor is either satire (Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert) or direct and shocking (Archer), Psychonauts's brand of humor is super refreshing (the way, you know, a Pixar movie is refreshing). Not that satire or shock humor isn't a blast... just that sometimes something different can really brighten your day. I found myself laughing out loud more than once. Psychonauts is absurd. It doesn't even TRY to approach reality. The art style is nothing short of affected (which is a trend I LOVE in video games). The premise involves being a kid of unspecified age at a summer camp for psychics (think telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis... not hokey-ass Reiki bullshit). The animals around the camp are also psychic, and prefer to use their psychic powers over their claws. Most of the game involves diving into the brains of NPCs of varying states of sanity. image *This is a dog in a flat, high-contrast imagination painting shit. He is one of four, who all talk about playing poker.*
    Psychonauts is creative. I promise that you have absolutely never heard of any story anything like this. The main character is teased by a bully... "I heard you were born in a circus!" and you shrug it off... then later, you're talking to one of the counselors, and you find out that the main character was _actually born in a circus_. Every character has their own backstory, if you want to find it. Oooh, that brings me to a REALLY cool mechanic. Psychonauts rewards your exploration with **story**! Each character - down to the most minor little snot at camp - has their own backstory that is told by finding them, talking with them, tickling them with feathers, casting clairvoyance on them, reading posted camp notes, or what have you. Take, for instance, two EXTREMELY friendly children who are constantly cheering for the main character - turns out they're also suicidal as shit, drinking poison and jumping off cliffs. Or consider the girl who is in a hurry to grow up, and so gets an easygoing southern kid to agree to 'date' her, changes his name for him and goes out of her way to let everyone know that he is HERS, and not to DANCE with him, or TALK to him... all while he continues throughout the game to not give a shit. image *He drinks poison at one point. Totally doesn't die.*
    Honestly, the storytelling is nothing short of brilliant. Diving into some of the minds (levels), you are treated to a pretty solid depiction of varying states of sanity. Sure, the obvious stuff is there - the calm, organized German has his entire mind packed inside a fifty-foot cube, the guy with split-personality disorder is literally playing his ancestor in a game of Waterloo - but it's the less obvious stuff that really hits you. A (spanish?) painter, heartbroken from losing his world-class flamenco dancer love to a toreador, can only paint pictures of bulls. In his mind - clean, bright, flat brushstrokes and flourishes against a jarringly black background - he is building a gigantic card castle but is terrorized by a massive bull. Except... as you progress through the level and talk to the dogs in his mind (literal statement), you find that perhaps the game has lied to you completely. I'll spare you spoilers (because it's REALLY good), but you actually DISCOVER repressed memories, and the depression within that turns him into a monster. The characters are well developed, too. Every motive is perfectly in place, every quirk of every profession is on display (the actress's mind is a perfect example). Furthermore, the voice acting... my god, it's superb. It's just fucking SUPERB. You know you've found good voice actors when you read the wikiquote page and _it's less funny in your head than it was in game._ That's the good. And yeah, the good is REAL good. This is a game that is full of depth, but doesn't try to cram it down your throat. You legitimately feel like you're sleuthing the information out. You go wherever your interest takes you. The ideas are fresh and new. The art is a joy (if dated). The humor is spot-the-fuck-on. There's some bad, though. It's not enough to ruin the game, but if one looks, one can definitely spot some unpolished bits. First off, this is a 3D platformer in a game where gravity does whatever the fuck it wants. When the mind you're exploring is a twisted, curvy mess, you're never sure which direction 'down' is... which makes platforming very frustrating. Furthermore, your shadow is missing - that wonderful, overlooked companion that tells you WHERE YOU WILL LAND. In a game where the story is so good you want it written in a book, getting stuck on a jump because you were forty feet off to the side can really impede the dialogue. image *There are full on 180 degree curves in this game. This is but a fraction of the problem.*
    Second off, this was ported from a console, and the game grew up in the time where it was totally okay to skimp on porting to PC. "Nobody uses computers to play games," they said. "Just remap the controls and it'll be fine." Since my mouse is NOT a thumbstick, I had a very hard time _looking the fuck around._ I've since gotten over using WASD instead of a thumbstick (look, diagonal movement is not that hard), but I can see how anyone else would have the problem. Worst of all are the bugs. At one (horrifying) point, loading my save file crashed the game. I have no idea what eventually fixed it, but on the fourth try, all was well. Depending on the time of day, some 3D models may straight up disappear. At one point in the milkman level (one of the BEST levels... seriously, go watch a 'let's play'), the post office bugged out and I was forced to load an earlier save. image *Two examples of bugs: first, there should be a mesh around this psychic dead zone holding up all those signs...*
    image *...and second, the signs were blinking in and out of existence the whole time anyway.*
    Third, there IS an irritating 'collection' mechanic going on. Yes, it's cool that 'figments of the imagination' are 2D stick figure drawings of random shit - that's very clever - but don't make me collect 2D shit that twists and moves in a 3D game. Trying to figure out where it is is just a headache, and I want to pay more attention to the clever level you've designed. Also, yes, sorting 'emotional baggage' by finding bag tags and returning them to their owners is a very funny play on words, but I never could get into that Banjo-Kazooie 'gotta find all the extras' shit. image *Although the transition from sad emotional baggage to happy emotional baggage is nothing short of adorable.*
    Worst of all is the hunt for arrowheads. The currency of the game seems very extraneous - you can buy 'dream fluff' (the equivalent of health potions), change the color of your psychic powers (vanity), magnets to make collecting arrowheads easier (cute), and I'm totally okay with that... it's more fun for people who like to collect currency. Trouble is, there's a part of the game where you MUST buy an item to continue (a la the shovel in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening). At that point, I had 20 arrowheads. I needed 900. And no, there are no quest rewards, or big arrowheads falling out of bosses. You have to dig them up the old fashioned way. This was a HUGE thorn in my side - I went straight to the internet to find the fastest way to farm currency. Forced collecting is not my idea of a good time, and I wasn't about to spend three hours grinding numbers without content - I'll go play WoW for that, thank you.

    The thing is, though (and you may have noticed)... I really have to dig for complaints. Honestly, I feel bad airing the complaints, because the good about this game makes up for the VERY minor bad a thousand times over. This is a masterpiece of a game. I will absolutely trade a little frustating grinding or collection fever or bugs for the wealth of story and depth of character that I found in Psychonauts.
    **They don't make games like this anymore.** Go purchase and play this game right now... or if you're too lazy, go watch a Let's Play during lunch. It is 100% worth it.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian

    Nailed it. Psychonauts is indeed a masterpiece.

  • HeroHero formerly known as XGPHero Icrontian

    Glad you decided to give it a proper review. I especially liked the dogs and poker reference as an example of the humor style. I missed that joke when I played it, though more due to the fact that I didn't get out much, than age.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited November 2015

    Rogue Trooper

    Verdict: nope.

    Let's kick things off with this: image *That's you. That's what you look like.*
    Scene from a sexy alien pinup calendar? Nope. That's the main character. One of them is, I mean. Probably. The setting: you take on the role of a genetically modified infantryman - a "GI," in fact, named Rogue. This plot device neatly bypasses the need for any backstory, so, like, that's good. Also genetic modification is apparently perfect, because every GI comes out super excited to fight. Like, SUPER excited. You're fighting a war on a planet called Nu Earth for some undetermined reason. Cool, right? Like, maybe we'll get into it a bit? Maybe talk about what it's like to be a genetic soldier in a war you never wanted to fight? Nope. The whole thing seems more like it was supposed to be a comic book. A plotless, dull comic book. Your character runs around some highly linear rambo-style levels in the far flung future where they have tanks as big as city blocks. Somehow genetic modification is 100% perfected and insta-healing medication can be created from scrap metal, but the military thinks sending soldiers into war topless (or with a super tight wife-beater, per the woman GIs) makes sense. Bullets, interestingly enough, still exist, and _still kill these shirtless people._ Tanks? yes. Body armor? no. Laser-bazookas? yes. Something better than a fucking bullet? no. Characters, plot, dialogue... it's all what you'd expect from a shoot-em-up like this. image *Don't worry, soldier I barely know and have just met six minutes ago. I'll use my knife to indelicately pull a computer chip out of your neck and put it in my gun.*
    What's funny about it is it's ALMOST ludicrous enough that you think the game isn't taking itself seriously. If they'd gone THAT route, it'd have been a masterpiece. But alas, the game is quite serious. No humorous spoofs or French aliens here. Instead, the lead character stumbles through awkward 'tell, don't show' methods of vowing vengeance for people he doesn't know, invokes varying military 'hoo-ah' tropes about not leaving men behind and taking bad guys down, and spouts immense boring platitudes chock full of broseidon machismo - "That's what I'm talking about!" "Good shooting!" "Nothing can stop us!" etc. Wait, that last one... that's not the main character, that's _his gun._ Turns out those blue bodies are just shells - the GIs are actually contained in chips, delicately implanted in the back of their necks... and forcefully ripped out and implanted in guns, helmets, backpacks, or my aunt bertha's metal plate. image *This is one of the main characters. He's currently making an impassioned speech, I think. Also, he's hacking a terminal with the opposable thumbs he doesn't have.*
    The character in the screenshot above is named "Helm." He dies in the first twenty minutes and gets implanted, as you might guess, in the main character's helmet. Other characters who suffer the same fate are named "Gunnar," placed in the character's gun, and "Bagman," stuck to the character's sweaty gym bag. Oddly enough, the main character's name is "Rogue." Since there's no such item as a "Rogue," I guess he gets to live out the war? Oh, but just for some contrived irony, after he spouts a "no man left behind" phrase, let's say he "went rogue." Genius, right? *barf* Man, if I'd hate to be the GI launching from orbit with the callsign "Fleshlight." Speaking of hackneyed writing, here's the main villain: image *Those damned power rangers may have escaped this time... but I'll get them next time!*
    He LOOKS like some mad supervillain, but in reality, he's a motiveless turncoat general that you don't meet until after giving him severe burns from shooting his helicopter down. After that, he somehow basically assumes command of the opposing army, and commands them to beat you up. You have to stop his vile plan of giving away your army's defensive strategy, which is pretty moot considering he's, you know, somehow basically commanding the army you're fighting. Oh man, and then this happens: image *Nyah! You'll never get me inside this massive shield generator that I've built inside this city on top of a skyscraper for literally no reason whatsoever other than to have this final showdown!*
    So yeah, Rogue Trooper is pretty much poop, but I feel like with a decent budget and a couple firings on the writing team, it could have been interesting. You get loaded down with a bunch of varying gadgets, some of which are legitimately interesting to use (if VERY cumbersome. Throwing a grenade feels sluggish and inaccurate). Some of the futuristic ideas are actually quite interesting when considered in a vacuum (massive bolo tanks, war over a hostile planet, manhacks from Half-Life 2). You really don't need three other computer chips yelling inane shit in your ear, but with a little bit of exposition (and an insightful idea of what the far future might look like), the 'team of four in one body' idea might actually be mildly cool. If the game had just made itself a futuristic superhero jaunt OR a lampooning of shoot-em-up games instead of "GI Joe meets the nazis in space but nothing quite makes sense," they might have had a shot. As it stands, this was a waste of time. ...oh, except for this billboard: image *A cat, showing its ass, likening the appeal of "Cat's Ass" beer to a cat's ass, inside a cat-ass-trophe of a video game.*
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Well, Shattered Horizon has a single player, that's good... because I remember severely disliking this game (shame, too, because it is beautiful and has an interesting idea).

    Trouble is the single player is bugged to hell. After a while, bots will become immortal, non-shooting entities floating by control points.


  • _k_k P-Town, Texas Icrontian

    There are two servers still up, I will play with you if you want.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited February 2016

    Shattered Horizon

    I originally purchased this to play with Icrontians and maybe mess about in one of the Expo tournaments but... well, I don't think I put but a half hour of play into the game before reaching it on the backlog. Turns out over the last five years or so since purchase, not much has changed.

    To my chagrin, somehow I've missed out on getting screenshots. I'm not terribly disappointed by this - after getting over how well the rocks (and ice grenades) are modeled, there's really very little to look at.

    The first thing that you must know about Shattered Horizon is that it's multiplayer only. The second thing that you must know is that it was made at the time by a company who specialized in computer benchmarking software - suggesting that they were really, really quite good with graphics. The third thing that you must know is that I put in precisely ten hours over the last four months, so... my notes are rather scattered. Shattered horizon is a very typical, very cookie-cutter shoot-em-up with a single major gimmick - it takes place entirely within space. Not in spaceships or on space stations or on a moon with low gravity - in space. Zero gravity. I'm sure this major gimmick was used by some marketer somewhere to say the game 'turns shooters on their head.' Fucking marketing. As I mentioned, the game was made by a benchmarking company. Originally, when I was younger and dumber (though some would argue I'm still as dumb), I was under the impression that the game was made to showcase how much the company knew about graphics to pump its benchmarking software. However, now that I have multiple friends working on major blockbuster shooters, I have a better idea of just how much work this damn thing must of been to build. Too bad it lacked imagination. I really believe that if you'd handed this game off to, say, the guys who made Unreal or (heaven forbid) Valve, you'd have a real historical game on your hands. Unfortunately, beyond its single zero-g gimmick, the game is really quite boring. I don't need yet another team-based capture-the-flag or team deathmatch shooter - I am particularly not in need of a game that is trying to ride SO HEAVILY on its gimmick that it actually LACKS things that games of its time had. Environments? Dull and boring. In SH, you are floating on rocks in space. Seldom are rocks the object of anyone's interest (barring the odd geologist in the room). Instead, rocks are more often used in a literary sense as a foil to other humans or objects, e.g. "Dumb as a," or "Solid as a." The only entertainment that the adjectives 'dumb' and 'solid' conjure in my mind is professional wrestling. When you're not on a rock, you're on some man-made shit that is usually a piece of metal, generally white, very flat, often painted with a stripe or two. There might be a blinking light, or an antenna. This shit is generally in the center of the map, and often contains whatever objective you're trying to stand near. At times, two of these manmade shits (sometimes three!) will exist on the map. To be fair, the rocks are quite pretty, for rocks. Really good bump mapping. On the rocks. As your only landmarks in the entire map are "Rocks" and "Shit," it becomes very difficult to navigate. Memorizing the precise shape and orientation of each piece of rock and shit is rather more dull than a catholic wedding without the booze (though not QUITE as bad as cataloging drying paint), and since there are of course other (very small) players to watch for, one tends to spend most of one's time squinting at the monitor rather than painstakingly drawing a map of what looks to be chunks of fruit in jello. And let's talk about watching for other players, because this really gets at the heart of why the design of this game is garbage. You're not watching for danger in a 360 degree field, as in other shooters. In fact, since it's possible (and likely) that your feet won't touch any 'ground' a good majority of the time, you're watching for danger in a 360-degree-by-360-degree field. This means you're often wildly swinging the camera around, lost because you don't recognize the unique markings on that one damn rock when you're sideways, ultimately turning the game into one great big point-and-click adventure. Why is this bad design? Couple reasons: 1. Your field of view is a god damned unrealistic flat rectangle of pixels, due to 2009 gaming technology... but you have a 360-by-360 field to watch. 2. Everything else in that field of view is a rock that bears significant resemblance to every other rock in the game, so you have almost no way of orienting yourself at any time. 3. Your astronaut is extremely fragile, meaning whoever shoots first will probably get the kill... so your best bet is to reduce your chances of being seen. These three reasons are why Shattered Horizon games are boring as hell. Thrilling space action? Heart-pumping, gut-wrenching, vomit-inducing wild shoot-em-up in space? No. Hide in a corner on a rock to reduce your field of view to 70 degrees and wait for some other idiot to drift out far enough away from the rocks that they can be picked up against the boring-ass black backdrop so you can shoot first? Yep. I'm sure I'll have HOURS of fun doing that. I've transitioned into another gripe - the idea of 'stealth' in Shattered Horizon. If, while spacewalking, you actively fire your thrusters, you have a great deal of control and speed - but you light up the surroundings and are easier to spot. While this sounds clever on principle, let's remember that the people who play twitch shooters tend to be quite adept at picking out human-shaped objects in camouflage even WITHOUT big bright lights, so this really does nothing but make it harder for new players (who will tend toward movement and won't spot the experts as fast) to climb the skill curve. Coupled with no death recap, no killcam, no nothing but a jarring camera switch to your astronaut dead and flailing through space, it's no wonder this game had the turnover it did. It's frustrating to die, and hard for newcomers to learn. ...and from a balance perspective, the only real 'stealth' you have in the game is not being in your opponent's very small flat rectangle of a view. The whole thruster-stealth thing was not thought through. The design is no good - but what about some of the features? Bots, maybe? Thank God for bots - at least this wasn't another iteration of Lead and Gold! Unfortunately, the bots are a major source of bugs. It was always a crapshoot whether I'd be thrown into a match with no bots, a 3v1 (or 4v0, that was fun), or invulnerable bots (that last one is my favorite... unholy, mindless enemy astronauts, out of ammunition or whatever (they weren't shooting, who knows), camping the objective... staring... staring into your soul as you unloaded clip after clip into them. Too bad they didn't include a votemap to reset shit (although which map would you vote for anyway? The one with the rocks, or the one with the rocks?) The bots aren't the only buggy thing in this game - so are the graphics. _The graphics._ In a game built by a benchmarking company. To be fair, I'm playing with a card and an API from seven years into the future (as far as the developers are concerned), so I'm not really holding this against the game. It was pretty interesting, though, to watch my camera zoom in to infinity, invert vertically, and zoom back out again in a loop after looking through my gun's ironsights. More interesting than the random blackscreening, anyway. Storyline? Two three-letter acronym factions both want X objective, go secure it. lol this is a war or rebellion or something? Fuck if I know. Physics? You'd think for a game set in zero-G that physics would be a major concern... but nope. Space drag. SPACE DRAG. What is this, 1995? We have a TERM FOR THIS PHENOMENON IN VIDEO GAMES NOW. FIX IT, AND LET ME ACCELERATE INDEFINITELY. Surely there must be something good in this game? There was. The grenades are actually really neat to use. The Ice grenade in particular. Too bad there's like seven different flavors. Liiiiiiittle bit cumbersome to switch between them all in the heat of battle. Man, even the cool shit was badly done. 1/10, would not play again.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    I'm going to go ahead and pre-emptively start my review on Shellshock 2: Blood Trails: before I finish it:

    This game fucking sucks.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Shellshock 2: Blood Trails

    I want these games to be good. I really do. Why won't they cooperate?

    Shellshock 2 is a survival horror shooter that has just enough freedom of movement to not be called a shooter-on-rails. Barely. You play a protagonist named Walker who speaks like he's Seen Some Shit (TM), but never really says much beyond "I have to find my brother" and "nothing really matters lol." The game takes place in Vietnam-era Vietnam (or possibly Cambodia), where a LOL MOST MYSTERIOUS zombie outbreak has occurred, possibly because rogue scientist/sekrit medicine/military-funded-project or something that isn't really discussed beyond showing you a french doctor in a hat that you don't care about. Your 'brother' was patient/zombie zero, and somehow you magically see through his eyes sometimes (not discussed). The protagonist apparently cares for his brother. We're never SHOWN this, or any other emotion - it was enough for the writers to tell you what the main character was feeling, apparently. "Show, don't tell" is, as always, lost in shooters. Lord. It comes as no surprise that this extremely formulaic storyline is complete bunk, lacking in such paltry, mortal things as 'motive' (Vietcong are happy to fight your or the zombies), or 'character development' (one of the bad guys, a VC with a scarred face, springs fully-formed into the narrative, wants your brother for a never-determined reason, and is killed off a few seasons - er, levels - later for no reason. Level design is effectively one long hallway with a couple turns and some cars or plants or doors here or there. Combat is painfully imbalanced - except on some 'bosses' (which are used again and again - more on that in a minute), a headshot is an instant kill from any weapon. On Hardmode, it's the only way to go. Thankfully, the VC haven't invented 'cover' and like to reload in the open, and zombies walk at a glacial pace toward you. Good job, AI. Bugs are fairly nonexistent, except for a major one that showed up in early levels - if you moved the mouse too fast, it simply stopped responding (this is a well known, reproduced bug that made the game almost unplayable for a bit). The thing is... if you pay attention to the early levels, you come to realize - this game SHOULD have been REALLY GOOD. The first/second level are really, really solid - it's as if a bunch of suits got ahold of the creative types and said 'welp, that's some good content you've got for the first hour. Now extend it for the last few. Here's zero dollars to make any more content.' Ambient sounds are used so well in the first level - babies crying and women screaming while you sneak through an apartment building, police sirens in the distance for a second, piano riffs to accompany frightening events, your heart pounding in your ears, the sounds of someone butchering someone else as their screams cut to an end choppers flying overhead - and all used very sporadically, at appropriate times and properly heighten the tension. Compare and contrast to later levels, where chopper sounds are heard for no reason, babies are crying in the middle of a quarantine zone where there's not a single non-infected person (babies wat?), inhuman zombie screams originating from empty corners of the room you're standing in, heart pounding in your ears for five minutes straight when nothing interesting is happening... ...I guess the audio director burned too bright and spontaneously combusted by level 3, and the rest of the team were left to figure out what to do next. It's an absolute travesty. The audio was so close to perfectly used. And take the weird narrative at the beginning - juxtaposition between a harsh, stereotypical asshole sergeant, and the smooth, quiet, distant voice of the narrator. This is pretty damn good cinematography, but we never see it again throughout the game. Oh, and the gas scene? You watch an actress get eaten alive by a zombie, then get poisoned with some sort of gas... and suddenly she's there as a ghost, haunting you as you make your way through some nondescript cave, being very foreboding and creepy. AWESOME! Why couldn't we do that sort of shit all game? Guys, come on! You were SO CLEVER in the beginning! Alas, Shellshock 2 eventually falters into the stereotypical tone-deaf shooter we're all used to. It's too bad. This could have really been something. 3.5/10, only because the beginning showed real promise - the rest of the game isn't worth your time. Some of my notes, interspersed with photos: "Quick-time uses letter names instead of arrows, which is surprisingly jarring. Almost like it wasn't tested. Come to think of it, every quick-time event has really unrealistic 'standoffs' thrown in... kind of like someone was told to go back, pause the animation, and jam a QT event in." image *This was probably about the best quicktime event there was. This VC busts around the door, murders a GI in front of you, then leaps at you with a machete. When you hold him off, you hold him back by the neck... later in the game, you hold off zombies by holding onto their hands. They could easily bite you, but they don't, they just sit patiently while you have a blast with quicktime events.*
    image *I actually failed this three times... when you're playing a WASD controlled game, you tend to think of the buttons as 'forward, left, back, and right,' not 'W, A, S and D.' I eventually figured out it was easier just to switch to typical home-row qwerty typing during QT events. I don't think these were ever tested.*
    image *This game is quite violent. They doubled down on the amount of red... at the expense of any actual frightening content.*
    image *Like... really violent. This guy is alive. I'm not even sure stuff like this is necessary. In some games, gore is important, or a tool for the atmosphere. I feel like it doesn't help this game at all.*
    image *One of the more clever ideas. Dodge vietcong traps, or trigger them and quicktime out of the way.*
    image *Easily the highlight of the game. This whole level happened while you were tripping balls on gas, and you were haunted by the ghost of an over-sexualized actress whose death you just witnessed. Whoa. Too bad the innovation stopped here.*
    "AI is absolutely awful. 'stand there and take bullets' seems to be the order of the day." "Firefights weren't polished at all. Call of Duty 2 made firefights seem like a goddamn frantic tornado - extra explosions, gunfire in the distance, screams, events where you got shellshocked, crazy shit flying by you all the time... firefights in this game are just WYSIWYG - six guys on each side shooting. This is a scripted event in a warzone! Come on! What is this, a nerfgun fight?" image *One of the firefight locales. Also pictured: lol AI.*
    "ZOMBIE HAUNTED HOUSE TROPE. OF COURSE." image *If you can spend the entire night here...*
    "Game balance is bullshit. Every zombie dies to a headshot. Every VC dies to a headshot. But this grunting asshole machete-zombie-'boss' took 50 or 60 shotgun rounds to the head. Are you kidding?" image *Google him. Zombie machete boss. This thing is pure bullshit - the devs just increased the numbers for 'hard mode' - no mechanic changes, nothing, just bigger numbers. Also, they reused this 'boss' two more times throughout the game for no reason. No explanation what he is, but he's floating out in various zombietowns, always dressed the same. A sure sign of an unfinished idea jammed into a game to meet quotas.*
    "The horror bit is more like a ride in Disneyland - scripted and unsurprising." "Calling Cal 'brother' seems to be cheap character creation. It's literally all we know about Cal. Are we supposed to give anything resembling a shit about him? Hell, the protagonist doesn't even have enough substance for me to feel sorry for him, how is his brother supposed to do it?" "Oh, so when I have a gun, I instagib zombies... but when I have a machete, it takes a solid minute of hacking away. Well balanced." Oh, and also, I laughed out loud when this character showed up. Sex on a battlefield - how on-the-nose can you get? Are we going to start yelling 'HOOAH' next? Must everything be depthless and stereotyped? But she ended up being an important part of what was probably the most interesting part of the game - the tripping-balls bit. image *Oh, hi, I'm only here to make a pass at the main character and titillate the audience for some cheap reviews. OH NO I'M NOT, I ACTUALLY HAUNT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU WHILE YOU'RE TRIPPING BALLS.*
    I wish they'd made this game work well. I really do. It almost makes me MORE mad that this game could have been great.
  • UrbanJediWillUrbanJediWill Jedi Knight Southern California Member

    I really wish I'd been a part of this forum earlier so I could've ridden the roller coaster that is @Myrmidon's reviews.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Oh, they ain't done. Seven to go!

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited February 2016

    Super Meat Boy

    This is the sort of design I'd like to see in more games. Would play again so hard.

    If you haven't heard of Super Meat Boy by now, you should pat yourself on the back - you did it. You've lived under your rock long enough to legitimately miss a chunk of pop culture. Super Meat Boy is a very fast paced action platformer, which is about all you need to know about that. No fancy gimmicks or weird twists here - just a 2D physics engine, a start, a goal, and some obstacles. This is a game worth playing. Everything about this game is rock solid. Let's dive in a little deeper: image *Note the intense stylization. This persists throughout the game, and is wonderful.*
    Super Meat Boy is super cute... but not cute in a 'cuddly animals' sort of way. Cute in the sort of way that @TroubleBaker's drawings of unicorns vomiting rainbows are cute - like, gross-cute. Someone-drew-eyeballs-and-a-mouth-on-a-cartoon-turd cute. You're inundated with it the whole game - the titular protagonist is literally a chunk of meat with a very simple, round-eyed face. One of the bosses is a trio of angry-looking, screaming worms with the same simple face, but a single tooth in each mouth. At one point, you meet little red crawling meats that are the happiest little dudes (and who will also rip Meat Boy's face off). Cute, cute, cute. image *Even with a black-eye and a missing tooth, look how happy that sumbitch is.*
    SMB is full of social media humor - not the twitter kind, the reddit kind. As you enter each world, a three-note riff commonly associated with dramatic chipmunk is played. The earth beneath Meat Boy's feet has a face that looks like it came straight out of a rage-comic (and in fact, the community-driven download center opens with a picture of Forever Alone Guy). Characters from other video games show up, too - the headcrab from halflife, or the protagonist from bit trip runner. image *After dying and visiting hell, Meat Boy returns to find that apparently the rapture has happened? Note the earth's face.*
    It's worth noting that the humor is more than a little juvenile... I mean, you're playing a slab of Meat trying to save his girlfriend - who is wrapped in bandages and dripping calamine lotion - from the evil Dr. Fetus. You will fight and then befriend a literal piece of shit. You will watch characters flip one another (and you) off. It'd be eye-rolling if it weren't so absurdly cute and silly at the same time. The game doesn't take itself seriously, either, which is a real breath of fresh air in this day and age (and in this backlog). A game that can laugh at itself really goes the distance - I can think of more than one pile of trash that I've reviewed that could have been infinitely better had they just been willing to prod the fourth wall a bit! As an example of this self-awareness, the characters are well aware that Meat Boy dies and respawns, which is an interesting dynamic (in fact, when visiting Hell, Meat Boy sees some of his old corpses... and in a cutscene later in the game, Meat Boy gets killed and spawns behind Dr. Fetus). As another example, PETA made a spoof of Super Meat Boy called "Super Tofu Boy," which (naturally) didn't have NEARLY the reception... but for giggles, SMB then released an update for _their_ game, which made our good-old soy-based friend playable, too! To add even more humor to the mix, the SMB version of Tofu Boy doesn't run as fast or jump as high (due to iron deficiency), and is constantly saying 'kill me.' Hee hee! SMB throws back to retro-style video-gaming days, too, complete with useless scores and start screens - each reference is usually on the other side of a purple portal (heralded by the sound of an overexcited man yelling "WARP ZOOOOONE!"), and is usually in the shape of a couple 8-bit levels set in what looks to be an old handheld device. image *The view after blowing in the old Meat Boy cartridge.*
    image *Remember when games started you with a base score, as if score ever mattered?*
    The artwork for the game is also spot-on - every level fits the overarching theme of the world very well - backgrounds are interesting enough to matter, but not so interesting to take away from the foreground. Parallax and shadow are used to give the levels a real 3D-feel, but the art is never so complex that it loses its whimsical, cartoony feel. We should talk for a minute about the audio. Whoever directed the audio in this game is an absolute genius. The music is pumping, makes it hard to get upset with the game (more on that in a minute), and gets you good and energized. The sound effects are nicely detailed - down to the 'squick-squick-squick' of Meat Boy's feet, or the "CHOMP" sound made by the only enemy with teeth taking a bite out of you! Missiles sound like proper missiles, but somehow... cartoony. Everything just _fits._ No sound is out of place. And now, dear reader, my favorite bit. The gameplay. This game is HARD. But what's brilliant is that it's hard in a careful fashion. The game knows you probably won't down every level, so they don't require you to - you can skip ahead (to a point), and only need to complete a threshold of levels to work on the boss. The game knows you'll be dying left-and-right... so they got rid of any lengthy spawn animation, the music won't skip during a death, and most levels are very, very short (meaning dying doesn't put you back very far). There are maybe three or four exceptions to this rule, and they're absolutely awful - these are the only levels that spurred me to massive frustration as I played. The game has additional extra levels - a 'dark world' for levels you've already completed, outrageously difficult 'warp zone' stages, and an entire extra-hard world devoted to Bandage Girl after beating up Dr Fetus. The game even has an "A+" rating for completing levels within a certain (doable) time. But do you need to play these extra levels or meet the A+ requirement to beat the game? No, gentle reader, you do not! SMB lets YOU decide how hard you want it to be! The game realizes that it requires careful positioning and split-second timing, so it provides you with a (perfectly thematic) method of charting your mistakes: Meat Boy leaves a trail of meat goop on anything he touches! image *A fresh, untouched level...*
    image *...ends up covered in meat after a couple attempts!*
    Because the game knows it's hard, it's deliberately reduced the anti-fun feedback associated with losing - which is a sign of mighty good design! The player may never notice the lack of spawn time or long spawn animation, or the continuity of the music, or the general brevity of each level - but very careful design consideration must have taken place for each of these EXCELLENT features, which to me is positively beautiful. And look at the result! I have a game where when I lose, I often laugh at the tension release rather than throw the keyboard (YES KEYBOARD) across the room. A game I can pick up for five minutes, push through a few levels, and set right back down again. A game where I can really get some momentum rolling and start to feel very skillful, despite dying twenty times for every success. TWENTY TIMES. Can you imagine dying that many times to get through a level of Super Mario Bros? You'd pull your hair out! I am VERY pleased with Super Meat Boy. I would give this sucker a firm 10/10, and pray that more game designers take its lessons to heart! We need more games that know what they are, laugh about it, and structure in-game penalties in such a way that players don't feel punished for playing. Good on you, Team Meat. Good on you.
  • RahnalH102RahnalH102

    recalls some Super Mario Maker levels and shudders deeply

    the Green Devout, Veteran Monster Hunter, Creature Enthusiast New Mexico Icrontian
    edited February 2016

    recalls some Super Mario Maker levels and shudders deeply

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited March 2016

    System Shock 2

    System Shock 2 - games like this are why it's worth it to play games. No screenshots ahead, just a wall of text!


    So, SS2 is the spiritual predecessor to Bioshock, released back in 1999. It's a first-person techno-horror... er... kind of. Kind of the way you'd call Bioshock a first-person retro-sci-fi-horror.

    ...yeah, no, I guess that's probably how I'd explain it. Right, moving on.

    I can't really gush enough over the Bioshock line of games, so it's only right that I jump into SS2... and boy, am I glad I did. In the current climate of juvenile video games, I tend to think that I look back at the 'classics' with rose-colored glasses... "were they not as sophisticated as I thought? Not as brilliant?" No, Dan, they were EXACTLY as sophisticated as you thought.

    SS2's premise is is good and chilling. You're a UNN marine/navy/psiops who's just transferred to the Von Braun, humanity's biggest, baddest scientific starship... and you've got no memory. As you exit your stasis pod, you find quickly that things aren't alright - the ship is falling apart, strange alien-human creatures obsessed with their flesh and their oneness are roaming the halls, the ship's AI has gone rogue, and a mutiny has taken place. As you piece together the story from timely emails, audio logs, and well-decorated sets, you find that things are much, much worse than they appear.

    SS2 uses the 'lol everyone keeps audio diaries' method of introducing you to its world, similar to the way the Bioshock series do. I LOVE this storytelling method (despite its unrealism) - no character sounds more human than when they're just a disembodied voice (contrast with a voice attached to a polygonal, awkwardly wiggling human-shaped model). Disembodied audio is so good for sparking the imagination - with only a snippet of background noise and inflection from the actor, you construct an entire scene. I'd have to say that these diaries were easily my favorite part of the game - that, and the dictated emails!

    Everything talks to you. The aliens talk to you. The rogue AI talks to you. ANOTHER rogue AI (Shodan, the main antagonist from the previous game) talks to you - and boy do they talk. Commands, reprimands, explanations - bit by bit, you find out where everything came from and what they horrible things they have in store for you. All of them. The lot of them. Honestly, the bulk of the game's size is probably from audio alone!

    It's a shame that SS2 had such a low budget, however - it shows in some of the supporting voice acting. Sure, Shodan's acting and vocal production is an absolute treat; sure, Captain Diego sounds like a real gruff son-of-a-bitch; sure, Prefontaine's audio up to and including his death recording is probably the spookiest in the game... but more than a few supporting voice actors hadn't read the script beforehand. Rosie from engineering might emphasize the wrong word, or talk about watching some new horror unfold with a perfect monotone. Lucy in the medbay is "surprised bullets do nothing, bullets, Jesus! uh... I hadn't even held a gun before this morning..." instead of being "surprised bullets do nothing. ...Bullets, Jesus, I hadn't even HELD a gun before this morning!" What's worse is that the writing was spot on, even for these small roles, but still got ripped to pieces. If only they'd been allowed to stay in the recording studio just a little bit longer! Thankfully, these poor acting jobs are few and far between - and most of the time I was so on my toes, I didn't notice.

    There are other concerns. The last few levels are dull and uninspired - well, possibly inspired, but definitely not fleshed (pun!) out. Actually, no, QUITE inspired, and not at ALL fleshed out - the only saving grace was Prefontaine's audio diaries. Blame this on lack of budget - the last few levels feel like they should have been so much more, but The Many (the aliens) go out with a whimper, and Shodan's Reality is too short to matter. We're in her mind! Where are her memories? Where are the physics gimmicks? Oh! To think what this could have been with more money and more work. And that ENDING! It seemed so badly like they needed the game to end, but didn't know how. "Nah." NAH?! Give the player some choice! Make the final blow more than a bullet to the screen! Make the cybernetics fight to control the player! And for the love of god, don't break the Silent Protagonist!

    Now, I know I complain a lot, so I want to make this caveat - those two preceding paragraphs aren't in anger or disappointment - that's me begging for the game to be made again, fleshed out. That's me settling for small flaws because the overall experience was... well... an experience. I WANT this game to be even more incredible. I WANT it redone, so it can sit beside the Half Life 2s and Bioshocks of the world as One of the Greatest Games of All Time. This has the potential, and delivers on more than a little of it - oh, what wonders we could work on this story with a bigger budget and today's technology! But enough wishing, on with the review.

    SS2's formula mimicks Bioshock's formula (or rather, vice versa) to an absolute T. You never interact with another friendly character - they're behind glass, or dead by the time you find them. You gather money, buy things from vending machines (WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS OF VALUE), upgrade your weapons (and yourself), use psionic powers (think plasmids). Each clearly-defined level is a nonlinear labyrinth with different areas waiting to be unlocked, and once you've unlocked the whole thing, only then can you leave. You receive objectives from some bigger, meaner being using you as a puppet, pulling your strings. Corpses are placed near their items of demise. There's a 'research' function that allows you to learn the weaknesses of your foes. Enemies spawn randomly (making backtracking a real thrill). Enemies talk as they fight you - "I'm sorry," say the alien-possessed-humans. "Your flesh betrays you," they say, as they hunt for you. It's a formula, I guess, and it apparently hasn't changed at all with time.

    Speaking of time, SS2 really shows its age in the graphics department. I actually couldn't get any screenshots because of a nice bug I was running into (namely: screenshotting just didn't work), but if you google a couple photos, you'll see what I mean. Whoa. We used to think that was the future? Another interesting place where SS2 shows its age is the controls - no WASD, keyboard keys to look up and down - waaaaaaow. I remember playing Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight with these controls, and not a mouse in sight.

    Eh. Graphics be damned; the best judge of the game is how I felt while playing it:

    • I couldn't put it down. I wound up awake at 3AM the first night.
    • The story was so interesting that I found myself a million times wishing they'd go back and remake the game. Not just with better graphics - redesign the later levels, flesh out the ending, get the voice acting perfect - in short, polish it up to Bioshock standards.
    • I found myself creeped out. Spooked. I ran to give my wife a hug when she came home after leaving me in the apartment alone to play.
    • I was obsessed with finding every audio diary, just so I could have a little more story.

    My recommendation: play it. You owe it to yourself, and to video games in general. You have to go back and see your legacy. This is where we're from as video gamers - the good, the minor bad, the mechanics that clunked, the mechanics that worked, the suspension of disbelief while staring at a six-polygon'd bad guy. This is what we need more of - games made by devs who love games, not devs who love money.

    What are you waiting for?

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Tomb Raider: Legend

    Something about old games makes Steam's screenshot system fail to work properly, so I don't have any screenies of this one, either. I swear I'm not just forgetting.

    I wasn't sure what to make of Tomb Raider. I'd never played any of the games, but I'm familiar with some of the controversy involving Lara's... gifts. The movie was fair at best, but not awful. I know the franchise has been immensely popular and still sees releases to this day. However... so does Call of Duty. What was I to expect? Turns out there's a solid reason. Unlike Hitman - a franchise whose popularity escapes me - Tomb Raider has some significant potential, which really showed up in this game. However, there were also some GLARING problems that, while possibly due to age, served to shatter my suspension of disbelief more than once. The good does outweigh the bad, though, and at the end of the day, that's all we can ask for. One of my favorite ways to judge a game is to look at the voice acting... and TR:L absolutely _delivers._ Sure, the male counterparts deliver their lines in a fairly "I want to be the lead" fashion, but the delivery is done with believable vocal ups and downs, and done by people who were at least literate (which is saying a lot, compared to the rest of the games on my backlog). As for Lara's voice actress, well... I had to look her up. This is Keeley Hawes, and I tell you true, this woman _performed._ Not once did I feel like she was simply in the studio talking to the microphone. I felt the whole time like the character was the one doing the talking - not the writers, not the actress, not the HR guys that might have had to change a line or two - the character. Sadly, the writers didn't throw Lara's voice actress into any particularly memorable scenes, other than a rather awkward apology and a very angry ending - it speaks volumes that she was able to make rather forced scenes like these believable. Miss Hawes has done an excellent job, and the game is certainly better for it. About that writing... the real theme of this review is that the POTENTIAL is there, and the story is no exception. It COULD be really interesting. I'd read a book about it. I'd watch a movie about it. But... it doesn't seem to be as much the focus as I'd like. Villains are shoehorned in, with little introduction and even less motive; Lara's response to them is entirely unwarranted. It's very clear that the writers needed a reason for Croft to have guns and, from time to time, fire them. About firing those guns: one of the most massive let-downs on the dev's part is combat, and the approach to combat. At the beginning of the game, you're confronted with what is probably one of the most generic 'bad guys' any video game has ever had. He's a 'mercenary' and has a gun. He's standing in a picturesque little canyon as you gleefully romp about, and you're only option is to shoot him. What? Why? Just... murder this guy in cold blood? Who's he work for? Why do we care? Do archaeologists have some murderous rivalry we should know about? As we're about to find out, human life in this game is SUPER cheap. So you go to shoot him... what does he do? He GRUNTS, and then TURNS AROUND. So you shoot him again. And again. After around 15 bullets, you start to think maybe you're doing something wrong... but you're not. The game is tuned like some ancient arcade shooter - not only do the bad guys take thirty bullets apiece, their AI prevents them from covering and shooting for too long... and LARA, in her MADE-OF-CLOTH-OUTFITS, also takes thirty bullets to knock over! Now tie the nigh-invulnerability and infinite ammunition with the fact that the game auto-aims (even for bad guys OFF SCREEN), and combat is a real yawn-fest. Now, If I were a fairly small archaeologist armed with peashooters up against six or seven guys with proper assault rifles in a Bolivian canyon, I'd probably - and this is just me - _not engage directly._ Or, you know, at all. The devs missed a perfect chance to show Lara doing cool things - using distractions, stealth, the environment, whatever - and instead just made her a tank. Like I've been saying - the POTENTIAL was there, but it wasn't even CLOSE to realized. Hey, let's talk about Lara moving around the environment. One of the major expenditures of this project must have been the animation of her body. Rather cartoony proportions aside, the animation was _really_ ahead of its time. While standing on split-level terrain, Lara doesn't have one leg hanging off into air (as is common in many games) - both feet touch uneven ground. If you only just make a jump, one of her legs trails out into the chasm behind her for balance. If the jump is long, she reaches for the ledge with a single arm in desperate fashion. Cutscenes and quicktime events that involve acrobatics look (texture mapping aside) quite realistic. Now, this is a detail that is REALLY appreciated, and it just goes to show you - someone at that studio was well worth their paycheck. More games need to focus on the animation the way that TR:L did. I mentioned the proportions - really, we need to take a look at Lara's character in general, because the conversation is fairly deep. There are some absurdly stupid and over-sexualized things, sure - she shows way more skin than is necessary for anyone going into combat, someone spent way too much time rendering her boobs and ass (and not nearly enough on her ears or eyelashes)... but there are also some excellent things about her character. The animations of her holding guns, swords, using machinery, doing acrobatics - all this makes her look like a tremendous badass. She attempts to take charge of every situation in a collected British fashion, displays enthusiasm for danger and confidence in its face without making many cheesy quips, and reacts with lightning speed and clever thinking to all sorts of hidden problems. Who does this remind you of? Cuz it reminds me of James Bond. And when I compare these two things - the sexualization and the badassery - I find that, although the sexualization exists, the badassery outdoes it a million times. Writers didn't spend any time making her flirt with any of the men, or making them lust after her, or putting Lara in compromising situations, and that would have been an easy, cheap way to draw attention from their target market. Again, the potential is tremendous - the writers wanted Lara to be awesome and put a lot of work into it, but they weren't QUITE willing to jump away from the easy thrill of cleavage-in-every-outfit. Take the leap, guys! While we're focusing on Lara, let's say a small thank you for those game developers who have learned what it takes to make good camera work - none of whom worked on this game, it seems. No, the camera doesn't need to be centered on Lara's ass. It needs to be centered on what she's looking at. Yes, I know you spent a ton of work drawing her ass... trouble is, you didn't spend that much work drawing the ground, and that's mostly what my video card is rendering because that's where your camera wants to point. Yes, I know we can see down her shirt when she's on a motorcycle, but if you insist on turning the camera to face Lara's front while she's doing 60 miles on a rooftop, we're going to crash. Can we please put the camera back to a sensible location? (seriously, the camerawork while Lara is on a vehicle is nothing short of a travesty). One last enjoyable moment before wrapping it up. Lara walks into a Japanese corporate party wearing the slinkiest little black dress for the second or third level, intent on meeting a Yakuza boss. "Ugh," I say. Trope, trope, stereotype, trope. When the bullets start flying, Lara ducks behind a bar, kicks off her heels, and suddenly has both of her guns, her holsters, her grenade belt, her backpack, and everything else over top of her little black dress. She's dancing around blasting bad guys left and right. "Okay," I say to myself, "I need both hands to count the number of ways that this is unrealistic... but damn, that was cool." Potential. So much potential. 6.5/10, and I'm interested in seeing where Tomb Raider has gone in the modern day. This franchise might be incredible.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    You know, I spend so much of my whitespace writing ACTUAL review content, that I don't get to talk about the particularly cool shit in the game.

    Can we talk about how much I'd like to have a place like Croft Manor? Fuck, man... castles just don't exist in Los Angeles!

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    We're starting on Tomb Raider: Underworld, and it seems SO FAR like many of my concerns From The Future have been heard. More work has been put in on the details - creepy environmental events a la Half Life, new body animations - they've even properly detailed Lara's ears, rather than gluing pancakes to her temples.

    Camera is still a bitch, though.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Too bad they didn't listen to the really important concerns. The camera work is now distracting to the point of annoying, and your biggest enemy is NOT bats, or bugs, or tigers, or gunmen - it's the controls.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Tomb Raider: Underworld

    Some things get better, some things get worse. Screenshots didn't get fixed. :/

    Most of the things I said about Tomb Raider: Legend can also apply to Tomb Raider: Underworld. This time, instead of exploring the King Arthur mythos, you're now exploring the Thor mythos (interestingly enough, Lara has been both King Arthur and Thor in both of the games I've played. Interesting shoes to fill). I was really pleased with the motion capture in TR: L, and similarly, the motion capture in TR: U was spot-on. Come to find out they hired an Olympic gymnast to do the modeling, so good on them! Lara has multiple flashy stunts to pull, and sometimes it's hard to figure out how to make her do that one sweet flip or whatever that holy crap did you see that? Unfortunately, Lara doesn't interact with the environment quite as smoothly this time around. More than once, I found myself clipping through walls. Worse off are the controls - the devs went ahead and added a bunch of new tricks for Lara, but there are only so many direction buttons I can push... the interpretation of which is muddled by the direction that the camera is turned. Seems like they tried to be a little consistent in deciding things like whether the 'back' button means backward as Lara faces or backward as the camera faces... but it didn't quite deliver. To be fair, it's a bit of a hard task. In MOST cases, Lara gives you clues as to which way she thinks you want her to jump, but... well, if she's running along a wall while hanging from a grappling hook, those clues don't show up. That camera needs some work, too. In what seems like an effort to give the player more control, the camera is now quite twitchy (I wound up turning the sensitivity down), and really dislikes clipping through walls. If you try to turn the camera the wrong way, it will zoom in very close, very quickly... and in a very disjointed fashion. Jumping and climbing cause it to shake unnaturally as it tries to decide exactly where to point - it's extremely annoying. This new camera DOES significantly improve the vehicle-based levels... which is good, because there are more than a few of those! Combat hasn't gotten any better, either. Without any meaningful way to cover or aim, the name of the game is simply shoot faster than the other guy. Thankfully, most of your opponents are melee-based... which means shoot fast and back up faster than they can run. Lara and her opponents are still arcade-game tanks, though, unfortunately. I was really excited during the first (underwater! Cool!) level, when a monstrous octopus tentacle that I had mistaken for a piece of scenery slithered out of view - gave me quite a start. Unfortunately, this was about the only in-game event that really struck me - the rest were all focused on in FMVs, which, while still beautiful, didn't really let the player get into Lara's skin. Indeed, observation is not really a trait that a Tomb Raider player needs to possess to play the game (unless, I mean, they're looking for every stupid hidden treasure). Speaking of levels, many of the maps in TR:U are graphically gorgeous, and have really enjoyable ideas. Big, ornate, overgrown temples really bring out that gut-tightening 'whoa' feel. Enormous statues of viking warriors and Hindu gods. Sadly, too many of them are monotonous climbing, button-pressing, linear puzzles. Oh well. They nailed the atmosphere, at least (ignoring some of the monsters... vampire bats in a sunken temple on a Norwegian island? Come on). I was pretty disappointed by the character banter. This time around, Lara isn't talking to her operators 24/7 - in fact, they completely leave the picture about halfway through the game! Sure, this means you can concentrate on the game easier, and sure, it means some of the inane tropes from the previous game isn't being blasted at you, but... it also means they don't have a good way to showcase Lara's character, which was one of the things I really enjoyed from the TR:L! And the other characters... lord. What motive did the main antagonist had? "LOL I'M GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLLLLD!" Uh... why? Like, I mean... you still _live_ here, idiot! They didn't portray her as mad (the opposite) or insanely vengeful, or even immune to the apocalypse (hell, she died in the damn poison that was supposed to cover the world)! What the FUCK? And I'm still waiting for closure for why the Amanda bitch hates Lara. Like, there's no reason for that! "Sorry I couldn't get you out of the dig site. I ran out of breath. I tried, though, you saw me, I was totally down there holding that gate, at great risk to my own life, as the water filled up over my head! You saw me and everything." "NO. THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AND I HARBOR A MASSIVE GRUDGE TO THE POINT OF WISHING TO MURDER YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES. ALSO LOL I'M A GOTH NOW." No, the antagonists played no role except to serve as a convenient reason to go explore shit. Come on. Lara Croft deserves better. Sigh. Potential, potential, potential. Welp. Still an enjoyable, short little action game. 6.5/10, would recommend with caveats (play the first part, maybe the second part) to someone bored (who didn't want to play my MAJOR recommendations). Probably not going on my 'best of' list, but I will definitely keep an eye on the Tomb Raider franchise now. All Lara needs is one REALLY solid game, and I'll be firmly in that camp!
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian

    Have you tried both F5 and F12 for screenshots? Also there is something called a PrtScrn key and ... hey... FRAPS! :p

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