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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@ArbitraryWater:

I've only found one thing I really, really like about the game, and that's the choices and morality systems that are in check. I didn't think too much about it until I got to a mission where I had to sneak around civilian guards to do... well, whatever generic ass thing that mission had me doing. Me being me, I ended up getting into gunfights with all of them. It led me from having great relations with my handler to her hating me within minutes. I know stuff like that has been done before, but actually seeing the effects of my choices later has kept me playing the game. It's not nearly enough to save this from being a shit game, but it's enough to make me at least want to finish it.

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Posted by WatanabeKazuma
@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

@WatanabeKazuma:

I appreciated the series of videos they included to get the user caught up on the series so far, but there were an absolute ton of characters with whom an in-game database would have been incredibly handy (besides the few quick lines about how they're involved in the current game).

Having played all the games in the series I agree with you, the videos are pretty useful but only really cover the broad strokes of the general storyline. The series always has a ton of callbacks to previous games, both in the main game as well as the sidequests.  
 
Of all the games in the series, I think 3 is the weakest one in terms of standing on its own, it really works best for fans who are familiar with the material. The long introduction sequence is evidence of this, I doubt newcomers would find Kazuma running the orphanage all that interesting without he necessary context. Although 4 never shy's away from the same sort of referencing the introduction of the new playable characters means that newcomers will not feel overwhelmed or confused in that regard. 3 is a strange beast.
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Well.... that about sums up my experiences with the gameplay for the entire thing, although I did play stealth and allow me to tell you: Don't play stealth. Putting all your points into that and pistols, while cool from a roleplaying perspective and such, makes you woefully underpowered in situations where you do need to fight (i.e. the horrendously bad boss fights). I also didn't think much of the story and characters, but I'll leave that to your personal discovery. That game has a lot of good ideas. Unfortunately, as so many games developed by studios that spun off of Black Isle have proven, you need more than just good ideas to make a good game.
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Claude: @ArbitraryWater:

Some quick early thoughts on Alpha Protocol:

As I've mentioned on my status update thingie (heheh, thingie), Alpha Protocol's feels weirdly subpar in almost every aspect so far, save for its RPG elements and its dialogue choices. Even the basic controls such as looking around and moving never feel quite right. It's not abysmally bad in any one area, but it's never quite good, either.

The AI is ridiculously stupid and gets caught in little glitchy problems or has been obviously given a set path to follow. The guns feel like pea shooters (and good luck hitting ANYTHING with a SMG, even with recoil suppression upgrades and a high SMG skill). I completely ignore the stealth aspects of just about any game if they're optional, so I can't speak much to that, but the combat never has any real punch or thrill to it. The actual dialogue itself is bland (but I'm still relatively early in the game). Even something as mind-bogglingly easy to have fun with like chucking grenades feels like I'm throwing paintballs.

It's not so much of an awful experience that I'm going to put it down quite yet. But it is, by and large, the most generically bad game I've played in quite some time.

And I installed Burnout Paradise yesterday on the PS3. It is a fantastic game. I like everything about it, but I think maybe I accidentally cheated or something - every car is unlocked. It's a riot to blast through the city in an A-team van looking for stuff to do.

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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@WatanabeKazuma:

I appreciated the series of videos they included to get the user caught up on the series so far, but there were an absolute ton of characters with whom an in-game database would have been incredibly handy (besides the few quick lines about how they're involved in the current game).

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Posted by WatanabeKazuma

Well if you thought that Yakuza 4 was too involved in its own mythology, you obviously haven't played Yakuza 3. To say that is starts off as a slow burn is an understatement. I can only imagine that anyone new to the series at that point would have felt like they had fell victim to false advertising, you spend the first few hours embroiled in running an orphanage and dealing with the plights of children. its unfortunate that it seems to be the only exposure a number of people have had to the series, it certainly deserves a little more attention. 
 
It does look a little creaky around the edges now but can still look impressive for the sheer detail of the streets. The cut-scenes look amazing too, although I will admit the standard dialogue scenes drag the whole package down considerably.

Posted by Claude

Burnout Paradise sounds like crazy fun. I've been meaning to buy that on the cheap. Looking forward to your thoughts as ArbitraryWater says on Alpha Protocol. I've never played it, but I've heard the horror and love stories.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I'm interested to read your thoughts on Alpha Protocol. I've made my stance on that game fairly clear, and it will be interesting to see exactly how much piss poor gameplay you are willing to endure for the sake of the closest thing to a dynamic story in Video Games there is. Oh, and Burnout Paradise is like the only racing game I've ever really enjoyed, so there's that. 
 
From watching the quick looks of various titles in the Yakuza series, I can tell they really aren't for me, despite my well documented propensity towards the niche and obscure. It's nice to see that you liked it, I guess, although your being incensed about the treatment of women in that game kind of just brings me back to my general but probably flawed assumption that that is how women are actually treated in Japan. Whatever, despite living there when I was like 5, I can't claim to be an expert on Japan.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Truth be told, I haven't been playing many games over the last couple of weeks, due to a problem with my glasses. That problem was resolved yesterday, so hopefully I should have more progress in individual games for next week. On with the update.

THE MOST APOLOGETIC BAD GUYS YOU'LL EVER MEET

A numbered rating system of any sort just sort of falls flat when it comes time to write a review about Yakuza 4 (and one will be eventually incoming). It's certainly a very fun and engaging game, filled to the brim with all sorts of content to justify the purchase. And its core systems are pretty good. I like the RPG mechanics in regards to how you build your characters up throughout the game. The combat could stand to shy away from the animation-driven moves that start to feel awkward when you really get into the guts of the later game, but it's surprisingly fun to beat the holy hell out of opponents. There are an absolute ton of substories (basically sidequests) to complete, many of which are intriguing in their own right.

But in a lot of ways, the game feels too entrenched in its own past, both in terms of the story and the gameplay. There's this feeling permeating throughout the entire time I played that this wasn't quite designed to be a giant current-gen game. It felt like some of it was - the character facial models are superb and the CGI is shockingly good. But then little details start to fall through the cracks. NPC's have limited ranges of animation. Special moves cut to canned animations that don't quite jive with what was just happening. The little details of the city's design start to feel flat and regurgitated. All of these sound like little details, but when you start adding them up, it leads to this really jarring feeling that the game's basic core is still very much last-generation.

If you want to think about it metaphorically, Yakuza 4 is like a poorly kept 60's muscle car. It's still damn fun to drive, but once you get it up to 70 miles an hour, little niggling problems keep it from being what you know it could be.

I've also talked at length about Yakuza 4's approach to women, and my distaste for it. That's something I feel can't be properly expressed with a numbered review. How do you convey in a 3 star rating that it's one of the most sexist games I've ever played without hoping that the person looking at the review will actually read it to find out why? How do you explain to them that it's a hell of a fun game, but it needs serious retooling in its next incarnation? And believe me, when there's a Yakuza 5 (and there damn well better be), I'll be taking a look. But if it feels remotely like this stubborn, cranky old car of a game, I'm not sure it'll be worth a purchase.

WHAT I WANT FROM FUTURE CONSOLES

I'm seriously starting to get pissy with my PS3. It's this magnifient beast of a machine, but it's time for the next generation, says I. What's my latest irritation? Storage space. Anyone with a modest collection of PS3 games and an Internet connection will tell you the same thing - no matter the size of the goddamn hard drive, the PS3 chews through storage space like Cookie Monster at a bakery. It led me to wonder what it is exactly I want from the next generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles. Note that I'm leaving out the Wii U, as I no longer feel like the Wii is a direct competitor of the two. Well, it kinda is, but I think Nintendo is heading in another direction with their consoles. Whether that'll be to their benefit or not will be seen eventually, but for right now, I just can't hold it up against the two.

1) Bigger and better everything. I want more hard drive space in everything, and the option to add external hard drives without mess or fuss. I want big goddamn graphics cards that developers can actually work with, not some damn obtuse concept of a graphical powerhouse that has every game developer banging their head up against a wall. I want motherboards that make fatherboards weep for shame of their lack of manliness.

2) Cable integration. Let's face it. Sooner or later, Microsoft and Sony are going to start offering some way to connect to cable television through their systems. I doubt it'll be this generation, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts it'll be in the next. Is it something I'll use? Fuck yeah, especially if it's cheaper than my regular satellite now (it can't get much higher).

3) Refined d-pads and grips for controllers. Forget the Six-Axcess nonsense and focus on making an ultra-responsive controller. I don't think either company needs to change much in terms of layout. Microsoft could possibly widen the bumpers just a hair and maybe reduce the width of the controller just a smidge. Sony should think about making triggers that actually feel like triggers (in a FPS-heavy environment, it makes a difference). Both should include rechargeable battery packs via plug-in cords standard.

4) Find some way to do away with huge-ass game installs for Sony. Seriously, Gran Turismo 5 and Yakuza 4? Fuck you.

5) Expand upon cloud storage ideas for both systems. Pretty self-explanatory.

6) Resizable font sizes. Please, please, PLEASE include this, especially you, Sony.

AND THAT'S ABOUT IT

This coming week, I expect to play some Alpha Protocol and possibly Burnout Paradise. Expect some thoughts on the state of Lord of the Rings Online next week, as I sing the praises of a free-to-play system and curse the generic feel of fetch and slaughter quests.

If you're looking for a good read, I've stated it before, but Gamer_152's blog is pretty damn great. I may not agree with him on all his points 100% of the time, but that's a good thing. Give it a shot.

And if anybody out there cares to answer a question of the week, here you go. Do you have any serious irritations with the current-gen systems in terms of hardware?

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