Tag: pc

Not Without My Brain (or Body)!

by on Jul.01, 2010, under games

Historically, Sam and Max has never been as funny as Monkey Island, but “They Stole Max’s Brain!” has plenty of moments. The episode opens with a delightful Film Noir in which Sam somehow spawns a five o’clock shadow and starts beating clues out of rats and foreigners, which is probably a good idea in situations where your rabbity partner has had his brain obsconded. Their episodic adventure games occasionally feel like they end abrubtly, Telltale absolutely nailed the pacing.

The writing “hit” a lot more than had the last few outings. There were literal lulz emanating at several points in the adventure, something which didn’t show up in the first two episodes of this “season.” Is that what we’re calling them? Absent are Sam’s signature exclamations, which tend to be over-long and over-written (the punchier of the lot work, the rest sound like they’re trying to hard). And the back and forth between Sam and Max is psychic comedy balm.

Puzzle solutions (particularly later on) were satisfyingly obfuscated, requiring gentle proding and exploration to unravel. All in all imminently satisfying.

Feast on this wonderful Jedi Knight Easter egg!

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Please Step Away from the Star Wars

by on May.07, 2010, under games

So this is happening. Sigh. If you like SW:FU, you should just skip to flaming the comments.

The timing of the announcment is interesting as I only recently tried to make myself play it. Steam tarted it about on their front page for fifteen of my dollars, and my resolve lapsed.

The main problem with this game is that it isn’t Jedi Knight 3, or Jedi Academy 2, or whatever Raven’s next entry in that treasured series might have been. It’s just not fair to either of us to keep playing SW:FU like I wish it were something else.

‘FU’ is certainly an appropriate appelation for this game. Every time I load is a new way for the game to screw me. A giant stormtrooper has a tiny lightsaber and lightsaber-blocking shield on his arm, and that affront to the Star Wars fiction isn’t even the bullcrap. When he rears back his arm to swing, I figure cutting his legs off with my lightsaber should be an effective strategy. Not only do his legs not come off, his attack continues uninterrupted. Is the player granted the same courtesy? Of course not. There must have been a transitional period between episodes 3 and 4 where an uncommonly lightsaber proof grade of stormtrooper armor was being produced. Perhaps they were changing vendors or trying to get the costs under control.

And how is the force being unleashed, exactly? Can’t we agree that putting “unleashed” at the end of your title doesn’t create automatic, vague awesome? In fact, I posit that the opposite is true. Someone must have leashed the force again in the intervening time, to require a second unleashing. I wish they’d quit it.

I wonder who likes quick time events? A lazier game mechanic is hard to imagine. Rather than allowing the player to continue to interact during crucial moments, the game turns into a movie propelled by arbitrary button presses giving the illusion that the player is still involved somehow. I suppose I’m supposed to be on awe of just how much Force is being unleashed at those moments.

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Pirates defeat Ubisoft DRM. Are ninjas next?

by on Apr.26, 2010, under games

I hope you like angry verbage.

This week will see the release of Splinter Cell for the PC. On the surface, this seems like an excellent idea. A gaming machine will render Mr. Fisher and his victims beautifully. I heartily welcome rich, cooperative experiences on PC. That’s partly why WoW kept me coming back for two and a half years. And all that moody sneaking being lovingly rendered by your expensive rig will immediately halt if you lose connection to Ubisoft’s servers.

This isn’t the first volley of incendiary equine excrement Ubi has lobbed, they’ve promised it won’t be the last, and I’m certainly not the first to vent my ire in regards to it. The concept of having to ask permission to use something I purchased on a moment to moment basis is enough to incite apoplexy. It is truly horrible to know this is a real thing. And they’re not the only ones doing it.

Enough anti-DRM hate speech for now.

An obvious retort is that most PC gamers have a constant broadband connection. Certainly this is necessary to support the torrents we’re constanly downloading. Folks who live in the sticks who can’t get fancy big city internet are stuck. Even an always on connection might not be good enough: a glitch in your LAN, ISP, or Ubisoft’s servers will interupt your game with prejudice. This means Ubi can literally turn your game off at a whim.

Another rejoinder offered is to blame software pirates, not Ubisoft for this move. Ubi has every right and a fiscal responsibility to prevent the wholesale theft of their goods, and the problem wouldn’t exist if there were no software pirates. They probably know that not every instance of a pirated game represents a lost sale. Many people who torrent games simply don’t have the money to spend or wouldn’t have bothered with a game if they had to pay for it. In rare cases it can result in purchases by gamers who feel guilty or who treat it like an extended demo. Interestingly enough there isn’t a PC demo of Splinter Cell: Conviction.

My objection here isn’t that Ubi is trying to protect its intellectual property, but how they’ve gone about it. Stealing a page from government playbooks everywhere, Ubisoft has implemented an innefectual solution with a high profile for the sake of being seen to be doing something. Predictably, there are already multiple ways to circumvent the system, methods available to legitimate and illegitimate users alike.

My fervent hope from all this is that other companies see how useless this approach is and try to combat piracy by working with gamers, by treating us with respect rather than contempt.

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Regarding Due Provocation

by on Apr.14, 2010, under games

According to Steam, I’ve spent just over thirty-eight hours in Panau, yet to undertake any of Just Cause 2’s story missions. Surely this trap tastes familiar to anyone who remembers falling into a Grand Theft Auto game for the first time to discover that the game is more about messing around than about experiencing a piece of fiction. You literally play with the game.

Experiencing the demo through several of its enforced thirty minute intervals (I can’t remember the last single player demo I played more than once) assured me of the graphical fortitude of the title. From the amazing variety of the landscape of the ocean floor, to the postcard evoking vistas (just wait until sunrise/sunset), the attention to detail in the world design and the visuals is flattering to the “PC enthusiast gamer” as our ilk are now known. No shoddy port of a console game here, thank you. And the world is monstrously huge without resorting drip fed area unlocks. There are no arbitrary barriers blocking off entire regions of the map, nor does entering an area before the game intends provoke a nuclear response or automagically jack up your Heat (pronounced “Wanted Level”).

I did find trying to control the plethora of mechanical contrivances available with the keyboard to be untenable. The Xbox 360 controller seems to be the preferred instrument in this case. If you have a wired 360 controller laying around, then great. Maybe you do, but the wireless model included with the console requires the purchase of an adapter to be useful here. A Dualshock 3 USB alternative exists for the more adventurous gamer, which is how I’ve been playing. Being able to not only guide my careening vehicles via analog inputs without buying additional hardware but subvert a device and lash it to a platform for which it was not intended makes my world a happier place.

Everyone is already talking about how crummy the narrative is. While I haven’t played through the story, the cutscenes I have seen are atrocious. The dialog is a steaming pile of manure that sounds like the lines were uttered wilst gripping action figures in each fist. The saving grace here is that, like popcorn action films, the story is nearly irrelevant to the experience. But I can’t shake the feeling that Avalanche Studios and Eidos missed an oppurtunity with this game. With a compelling story and multi-dimensional characters driving the action (like GTA IV or Vice City), we could have had a Matrix instead of an Avatar.

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