Gears, Dragon's Crown.

No one cares, Marcus.

Hoping to finish up Gears 3 tonight or tomorrow. The game is definitely the best in the series but the combat does get monotonous. Still, as shooters go it's mindless in a good way, things certainly blow up well enough and humanoids gib as they should. I could care less about meeting / rescuing Marcus's dad but instead enjoy the banter between Cole, Baird and Sam. Marcus and Dom are not very interesting at all, and Marcus looks like a constipated honeybadger most of the time. I'm glad they opened up the world a bit with varied landscapes, less rock and metal than the previous two. I kinda yearn to play the multiplayer--I don't know if anyone's still playing at this point but the horde mode sounds like fun. Not paying for Live though, especially with the PS4 coming out in less than a month.

After reaching a stopping point in Gears, booted up Dragon's Crown on the PS3. I like that it's a beat-em-up with a little more sophistication. There's levels to be raised, loot to be picked up, equipment to be repaired. The music is reminiscent of Vanillaware's other game Odin Sphere, both remarkable compared to many video games. I wasn't aware that you could recruit AI party members which allows you to solo without having to open up your game to randoms. I at least want to finish the game once on my own, I hate it when randoms drive a co-op game at a faster pace than what I'm comfortable with, skipping story, cutscenes and what not. I don't know if this is the case with DC but the AI is good enough so far.

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The Binding of Isaac & Bastion

Hearing about Nintendo's decision to reject The Binding of Isaac from their eShop piqued my interest. I think Sw0rdfish gifted me the game during the Steam sale and I never touched it. All I can say is wow, I can see why Nintendo would have issues with this game. Between the amounts of cartoon blood everywhere to making deals with the devil, it was probably a good move considering their image. Think about what would happen if Timmy's Dad decided The Binding of Isaac (if they didn't pick up on the religious reference right away) looked like a cute game for his son, only later to overlook Timmy's shoulder to see him playing a game where the main character resembles Satan with the power to vomit blood-lasers at underdeveloped, fly-spewing fetuses. Nintendo would be my hero, that's what would happen.

I love the game. It's a dual-stick shooter that's imaginative, disturbing, and funny. I like that when you die, you must restart the game and the Zelda-like dungeon is completely randomized, from its structure and secret rooms to the power-ups you can find on any given level. Everything seems hidden with meaning and the cut-scenes of Isaac's nightmares always make me at least grin if not giggle no matter how many times I see them. What ultimately sells me on the game's replay-ability is the music, starting over just means you get to listen to a different music track again, and they're all great. I'm really happy I finally played this, it's a game that combines many different familiar game play elements with a very unique and adult story.

Bastion

Bastion is another game I barely played after picking up during the Christmas Steam sale. At the time I just couldn't get into it, with the familiar problem of having Skyrim, Battlefield 3 and Uncharted 3 to play. Since then I've gotten my fill of the first two and beat UC 3, so I don't have those weighing on my mind as things to spend my free time on. Bastion also sits right above The Binding of Isaac in my Steam library, so after playing a good two hours of TBoI I decided what the Hell. Two hours later of that, and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to play it as well.

I thought a lot of the hype for Bastion was more about cheerleading Greg Kasavin and Supergiant Games, rather than celebrating a really good indie game. I really liked Greg at Gamespot, I always thought he wrote great reviews but questioned his move toward making games. Steam says that as of this weekend, I've put 5 hours into Bastion, and now I think it's one of the best, if not the best Indie game you can buy. I don't think of Supergiant Games as a Greg Kasavin company, but as an entity of its own like Valve or Epic Games. Sure those developers have their public faces, with Gaben and CliffyB, but at the end of the day they're more than just their figureheads. Supergiant Games is now one of my favorite developers, and I hope they continue to show the industry how to make games that are not just fun, but have soul.

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So this is the New Year.

As resolutions go, I'm as good as the best of them when it comes to failing to follow through. That is, I'm like most people. Day-to-day promises to myself start out positive around 6:45 in the morning, and once I'm out of the shower my enthusiasm for changing my life in some remarkable way cools off by the time I'm hanging up the towel. Weekends are a black hole entirely; I rarely shower on Saturdays and on Sundays I'm doing so to wash off the depression of being 2-days dirty--there's no place for "today's the day" pep thoughts. New Year's resolutions are the personal commitment equivalent of landing on the moon.

Something I've always told myself I'd do is keep a blog of video game exploits, a dear diary I could use to archive my hobby while scratching that creative writing itch I always seem to have but never scrape. I like Giant Bomb, I enjoy what they do here and think that as video game sites go, you couldn't ask for a more passionate group of people who enjoy writing and talking about video gaming. I hate clicking on my user profile to see an empty blog, so flying in the face of all likelihood, I'm going to commit to putting something down in this space that Giant Bomb provides that I can look back on and say, man, what was I thinking then.

I tend to reach level 20 or 30 in an MMO and quit. The moment of reckoning comes sooner or later, where a single-sitting's time to get anything significant done increases exponentially, along with new and backlogged games vying for my attention. I've always envied those who reach the level 60s and 70s, the range where your character glows with one or more colors, and you're usually strutting around town with some exotic pet / familiar in tow that's only attainable in the most exclusive of end-game content. I know this is going to be the case with Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I play it anyway, enjoying the low level content with my buddy Joe. He's the best person you could group with, a veritable sage of MMO practices and efficiency. I barely pay attention to which way we run, I'm like the troll from Warcraft who's basic response is "Whoyouwanmekill?"

The story is what separates SWTOR from WoW. Not just in that there's a story, but that your group mates are forced to wait for you to digest it. Quests in WoW irritated me to no end because there wasn't this arbitary period to allow you to read the stories behind what you were doing. Instead you have to either read on your own time or wait for someone to state they were going AFK for a pee break. Groups can skip story scenes provided everyone presses their space bar, otherwise that one guy who's new to the quest enjoys the usually excellent voice acting while the others that have run it several times for loot or on alts stare at "Waiting on other players" or some such notice. It's something I really appreciate as for me, RPGs are just as much about their stories they tell as they are grinding or loot hunting.

Alternatively, Forza 4 soaks up much of my game time. It's annoying that since I don't have Xbox Live, I can't accept any of the "gifts" that appear in my inbox. I have to pay a $50 tax to download supposedly free content from the developer. Otherwise it's been fun, gradually disabling handicap features such as assisted steering, braking line, and even turning off all HUD features. Trying to race a clean race in those conditions is a lot of fun for me, and where I'm at in the tours is a place where the AI becomes more and more unpredictable, aggressive. I'm terrible at painting cars, too. People have filled my head with the notion that I'm at least a semi-professional artist, and god help me if I'm judged by my Forza portfolio.

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Console Gaming's Keyboard and Mouse Moment

Killzone 3 comes out this Tuesday.  Besides being what Metacritic reports is a solid sequel to Killzone 2, it includes full support for the Playstation Move.  Up until now, consoles have managed to host some of the best first-person shooters around, but ask someone with a deep history of playing PC FPS and you’re liable to encounter a tsunami of disdain for console shooters.  For someone skilled at moving and shooting with the mouse and keyboard, attempting the same skills with a game pad can quickly lead to the impression that it’s an inferior input device for shooters in general.  While that’s up for debate, what’s certain is that Killzone 3’s implementation of the Playstation Move will likely change console first person shooters forever. 
          

First-person shooters such as Quake led to the adoption of the mouse as an aiming device.
In 1992, id Software released Wolfenstein 3d as shareware.  While it helped defined the first-person shooter genre, Wolfenstein 3d predated the shooters that came much later in that it was a keyboard-centric game.  Players commonly used the arrow keys to move, CTRL to shoot and the space bar to open doors or activate switches.  id Software later released Doom in ‘93 with similar controls as the default setup. The company’s next game, Quake, moved the genre forward by replacing pseudo-3d with a new game engine that could render spaces in full 3d.  Even still, Quake shipped with a similar control config to id’s previous FPS games.  However, the game also included full support for the mouse as a means of controlling the player’s vision, known at the time as “mouselook”.  This enabled a shift from using solely the keyboard in FPS, with precision aiming and circle-strafing as immediate advantages of including the mouse as an input device.  For multi-player Quake fans, there could be no doubt--switching to the keyboard and mouse was a natural choice to remain competitive.

Guerrilla Games may be to thank for bringing about a similar moment in console first-person shooters.  Its inclusion of Playstation Move support in Killzone 3 helps bring a similar sense of precision found in PC games, although the implementation is much different.  In KZ 3, players use the Dualshock or an optional Navigation controller to move forward and back as well as to strafe left or right.  The Move is used to turn and look.  It feels immediately sluggish compared to using the Dualshock alone, but what utterly damns using the Dualshock by itself is the Move’s additional role as an aiming device.  Simply put, you can shoot anything on the screen at any time.  Having your target in the middle of your cross-hairs to shoot it is no longer a requirement; a reticle flows freely with one-to-one precision while pointing the Move controller at the television.  Using cover while shooting is immediately more advantageous for Move users as they can expose less of themselves while still being capable of shooting whatever they see at the periphery.  Finally, when faced with multiple enemies, the Move can be used to effortlessly paint the screen with automatic fire, increasing the likelihood of surviving such encounters.

 How the Move is implemented in Killzone 3 could signal a paradigm shift in console FPS--at least on the Playstation 3.
The Wii version of Metroid Prime had similar controls, but Killzone 3’s feel more refined and appropriate for online play.  After having played the multi-player beta for over 10 hours, it was  difficult to resume playing with the Dualshock alone.  I found that while it’s easier to turn with the right analog stick, precision aiming trumps precision rotation and I feel my improved kill / death ratio isn’t coincidental.  Moreover, with the seemingly slow adoption-rate of the Move I’ve become a bit paranoid when running up against exceptional players.  Succumbing to enemy fire at a rate or distance far abnormal from what I’m used to, I find myself thinking “Oh they’re totally using a Move,” as opposed to assuming that such impossible shots are based in exploits or hacking.  Alternatively, I wonder if others think the same of me as I manage to somehow survive certain death after defending an objective from a rush of enemies, single-handed.  Part of what convinces me of the Move’s edge is that I’m simply not that good.  Being a long-time player of Quake, it’s déjà vu--after adopting the mouse for aiming, for a time I found myself at the top of the scoreboard.  Eventually though, those keyboard-only holdouts made the transition, and I found myself relegated to the middle of the pack once again.  Given that, it’s easy to imagine something similar happening in Killzone 3, and to console first-person shooters on the Playstation 3 if developers adopt or improve upon what Guerrilla Games has done.    
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Left 4 Dead 2 Impressions

It's...Left 4 Dead, with more weapons and unique zombies.  I picked it up for $33 bucks off Steam, so given that first impression, I can't complain too much.  I mean, that's an expansion pack level price.  My friend Joe and I played through the first two campaigns, we haven't touched any other multi-player modes yet.  The level design captures the feel of the area it's based on, so it doesn't feel the same as the original, locationally speaking.  Characters chatter between each other to help move the narrative along, which seems a bit stronger.  What else...oh, samurai swords.  The new melee weapons are effective in close quarters and makes deciding between secondary weapons a tough choice, especially with no familiarity with what's ahead.  I hope the "new" content becomes more apparent as we continue through the game, as of right now I wouldn't call this a sequel.

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Getting Outside of What's Comfortable.

Knights in the Nightmare is unlike any tactics game I've ever played.  And the more I play it, the more I wish games in general would take risks with breaking with convention.  Having to dodge bullets while giving your soldiers orders seems kind of arbitrary, but it's like throwing hot sauce on what would otherwise be an ordinary burger. 

I like hot sauce.   A lot.

I guess Atlus is ultimately responsible for bringing us Knights, and to me they're endearing themselves to gamers by porting games that would otherwise stay in Japan.  I've been playing the Chinese import of Demon's Souls for a bit, a fun if brutal game, and since Atlus is going to be bringing that to us shortly I'm going to put my copy on eBay tonight.  Not just because of localization or compatilbility with U.S. players when it comes to multi, but because I have this rare sense of wanting to truly give back to a company that seems to have their customers in mind, as opposed to stakeholders.  I guess for a company like Atlus, we should all be stakeholders in that we want them to continue to succeed.
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The New Killzone Controls.

Are fantastic.  I adjusted to the gameplay from playing other online shooters, but after playing with the high precision controls last night, my kill-death ratio jumped like crazy.  Good job, Guerrilla Games.  Also, being able to stay in the same squad is great.

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My Childhood: Rearmed

When people talk of remakes from now on, they're going to probably point to Bionic Commando as a poster-child for "How It's Done."  The game is true to the original in almost every way, while adding little nudges here and there that make it worth revisiting.  Take the Bazooka for example.  In the original, it pretty much fired a big ball or something.  In BC:R, it fires an actual rocket that twists and turns in a semi-unpredictable fashion.  Despite the dramatic graphical shift, the weapon achieves the same effect as it did before.  Take that, and apply it to the overall design of the remake, and you have a game that fully respects the original.  It's also hard as balls, omg hard.  I remember beating the game ten years ago in about 2 hours no problem.  This one seems somewhat more brutal, but then again, it seems the same.  Maybe my skillz have atrophied to the point that I should be focusing on things that are easier for someone my age, like making babies or drinking lemonade on the porch in the hot humid summer afternoon.

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Diablo 2 is Still Alive.

Found this story off Shacknews about how some folks just can't let Diablo 2 go.  In fact, they're so devoted that they only play on the hardcore difficulty setting--you know the one where if you die, that's it?  No respawning in town? 

I continue to mine the Greatest Hits for the PS3, my latest acquisition being Resistance: Fall of Man.  It's definitely a solid FPS, as you probably know leaning more toward convention than revolution. Not too bad though, the action is fun and the game is pretty.  For $30 it's an even value.  Plus multiplayer looks interesting.

Also, Teekazeek sends word that Burnout: Paradise is now hovering around the $30 price point despite not being listed as a GH.  Supposedly the game has some seriously good downloadable content that boosts the title's worth considerably.

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Warhawk is Officially Bad. As in 1980's Michael Jackson Bad.

When I think to myself "Yeah this isn't bad for a console game," what I really think overall is that I could find a more refined and ultimately better use of my time elsewhere.  That's what I think most hermits from the QuakeWorld days react if they manage to put themselves into a situation that has them controlling the foot soldier portion of Warhawk.  They've played Battlefield 2 on the PC to death, and a side by side comparison between it and a seemingly watered down shoot-em-up (granted, Warhawk's over the shoulder so it's not a 1-to-1 taste test) played with a Dualshock 3 just amounts to a mound of meh.

Then you pick up an actual Warhawk (re: the things that fly and go boom in midair), spend a few hours merely getting shot down and running into things.  Finally, you get your first kill, and declare the game the true spiritual successor to the multiplayer component of Starfox 64.  In fact, it's like dogfighting in an Arwing while loaded on ecstasy.  I guess. I've never done drugs, but that's what the kids do these days, I'm thinking.  Anyway, Warhawk's flight combat component is one of the most frenetic and challenging contests you can find online on any platform.  And it's $30.  You should consider buying it.

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