Help Me Play Games: Best of 2012 edition

Well it’s that time of year, again. The last possible moment to post a best of 2012 list has come. Thankfully, I played enough games in 2012 to make some good picks. So let’s get to it, let’s start the show with the showstopper.

#1 XCOM: Enemy Unknown

This is the closest I have ever come to the times I used to play with action figures. I get so fussy with my soldiers and their equipment, I stress over banging them up, and I dread every time a UFO is spotted. Still, I kept playing (and still want to play, as I haven’t finished it at the time of this writing) XCOM: Enemy Unknown and am still having a complete blast blasting apart alien invaders.

#2 Journey

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I thought Journey was pretentious Oscar bait, too. Funny thing though, it’s actually a really great social experiment/experience. The idea of playing with another human player who can’t strategize and coordinate using voice chat made me a little skeptical at first, but the moment when you’re sliding down the slope with your buddy is a moment of sublime playfulness that I haven’t experienced in any other game this year. Or in forever even.

#3 The Walking Dead

Walkind Dead puts normal people into the shoes of an everyman that still has some backstory. As a player, it’s up to you to determine the fate of several people in your group, including the doe-eyed 9 year old Clementine. Clementine is a driving force behind most of the game, but what stood out for me was how they integrated a protagonist that allowed for player moulding, while still having a decent backstory. Props to the men and women at Telltale.

#4 Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami is the best and worst fever dream you’ll have all year. Tight controls, good music, instant respawns, demand for exact and precise timing all make it feel like an even bloodier version of Meat Boy. And this game sure is bloody, it’s got more 8-bit gore than you can shake a entrail spattered stick at. I was a little disappointed with the ending, but I’m still itching to go and get those secrets to unlock the true ending.

#5 Alan Wake

So, yes, this game actually came out in 2010 for the Xbox 360. But it wasn’t until this year that I decided to pick up it’s release on the PC, which version did come out this year. Now that the qualification’s out of the way, I would like to say that Alan Wake is one of the best third-person shooters to come along in a while. It’s story is the star with Sam Lake’s writing taking writer Alan Wake on a crazy journey through the town of Bright Falls and into the beyond, as well. It’s gameplay is good, but it’s really the writing writer who writes about writers that write about Alan Wake that really steals the show.

#6 Darkness II

I hadn’t heard of the Darkness II until about a month ago. It came up during GOTY talks with some folk on giant bomb, and I was so pleased with talk about it that I immediately went and ordered a copy. I was not disappointed when it arrived, but it was definitely shorter than I maybe would have wanted. Still there’s plenty of co-op campaigns that still need doing. Anybody up for that?

#7 Max Payne 3

I wanted a good Max Payne game, but what I got was a phenomenal Die Hard game. I wanted to dive in slow motion more than you get to in Max Payne 3, but that is not the game that Rockstar made. I understand that Rockstar could not do justice to the Max Payne Remedy once crafted, but that still doesn’t excuse this awesome game Rockstar made that inexplicably has the Max Payne name on it. That part in the bar where some punks are insulting Max’s wife? He would’ve stone-cold murdered them right on the spot if they were true to the comic book nature of the first two Max Payne’s

#8 Borderlands 2

I like what they’ve done with Borderlands 2. It feels like an old familiar place with some new trappings, and an awesome new game room. It’s a game that takes what the first one did well, ports that wholesale, and then takes what it didn’t do well back to the drawing board. While the story in Borderlands 2 can be hit or miss but it definitely knows its strengths, delivering monologues via radio is a great way to keep a player informed while he is bounding away from the questgiver to start that next mission. I still want to jump back in for a second playthrough.

#9 Diablo III/Torchlight II

Two sides to the same coin, and while I only played the walled garden side to completion, I still enjoy and want to enjoy Torchlight II. However, Diablo III was somewhat of a zeitgeist at my place of employment. My supervisor even got way into it, how could I not play this game? So I played it...once...and I’ve not touched it since. Still those first ~34 levels were something special that I won’t soon forget. I’ve heard that a lot of balance changes have been made to make the game better. I may check back in again to see what the fuss is all about.

#10 Darksiders II

The most disappointing game of the year, and while it’s not bad, it’s definitely a game that made me want to play the first one again. In fact, you could say that this game is an inferior version of the first one because they both have the same ending. Sure, how you get there is different, but usually a sequel builds on the ending of the first not steal it wholesale. Still, riding around and fighting boss monsters is made more fun with a loot system that should be stolen by more games. Possessed weapons are weapons that get “fed” what is usually vendor trash, and way more games need to steal that idea.

So, I definitely missed a good number of games that I’d love to play. Sleeping Dogs is one I’m currently playing through, and I’m having a blast with it. FTL is another one on my now playing list. I’ve still got to finish XCOM. Still trucking through Mass Effect 3. I want to buy and play Far Cry 3. Still got Dustforce to playthrough, that came out this year. Seems I’ve got a fun-filled 2013 to look forward to.

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Help me play games: The Darkness Edition

So I'm back again, and I haven't come back fruitless. I beat the Darkness II, and I had a freaking blast. It was great and it was short; Steam puts time of death at around 6 hours. So with a new game out of the way it was time to pick another one from the mound of games I had bought and then neglected. However, as I dug deeper into Darkadia's systems, I discovered that there were way more games that I wanted to play than just the ones I owned. Not talking about buying more games again, but I blew out the selection process. So now, I'm not only playing games that I own but games that my family owns that they will allow me to play. This made my list a whole lot bigger than it used to be. Now my "Now playing" list is about 30+ titles deep at any one time. This would allow for a lot more maneuvering in the selection process.

Anyway, here's the list as it stands right now in the order that I want to play them in.

  • Mass Effect 3
  • Syndicate
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
  • Rayman Origins
  • Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers
  • Max and the Magic Marker
  • Metroid Prime
  • Crysis Warhead (Replacing the Darkness II on this list)
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Far Cry
  • Chronicles of Riddick
  • Company of Heroes
  • Penny Arcade Episode 2
  • Warcraft III
  • Hard Reset
  • Banjo-Tooie
  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike
  • Valkyria Chronicles
  • Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • San Andreas
  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Persona 4
  • Mafia
  • Mr. Robot
  • Dark Forces
  • Resistance 1
  • Super Mario 64

And then MOAR PODCAST GAMES (more of the same anyway)

  • Binding of Isaac
  • Dungeons of Dredmor
  • FTL
  • Torchlight II

I kind of threw the ordering together, but I feel pretty alright about it. Still I would love suggestions from youse guys about how the flow of this list is gonna go, what mods/DLC I need to have a good time, and if I'm going to get burned out on a specific genre in this list. Also, suggestions for podcast games would be great. I know that Dark Forces doesn't have a phenomenal voice cast (or any at all) and I think it would do well as a podcast game.

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Help me play games.

I've got a crippling addiction to buying games without playing them. There, I said it, but in my defense Steam and GoG.com make it very easy to do so. So to make amends for this, I have decided to not buy any new game in the new year until I have completed 5 of the hundreds of games I already have. One for five seems reasonable enough, and I 've got plenty of games to keep me busy at the times where I can't finish anything. I've went through the 21 pages of unfinished games that I own, and picked out one game per page. I'm going to do this every time I finish one. To keep things from getting stale or getting stuck not being able to finish anything I have added a couple of good podcast games to play on Tuesday nights and whenever a good podcast comes about.

So now that I've got a strategy, I need some tactics. Particulars, if you will. The first 21 games in this batch are good ones, but I can't decide what order to play them in. Got any ideas?

Here are the candidates:

Podcast Games:

  • Dungeons of Dredmor
  • FTL
  • Binding of Isaac
  • Torchlight II

Games that don't require other aural stimulation

  • Mass Effect 3 (definitely want to play first, as I'm late and can't avoid spoilers for much longer.)
  • Darkness II ( definitely want to play this second, as I really enjoyed the demo)
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike
  • Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay/Assault on Dark Athena
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  • Little King's Story
  • Metroid Prime
  • RAGE
  • Rayman Origins (want badly to play with siblings on steam big picture)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (I realize that picking this game to play over some other shorter games is a mistake, but I really want to play this game.)
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Knights of the Old Republic II
  • Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  • Zombie Driver

I realize that this is an incredibly eclectic list, but I feel like the giant bomb community could really help me prioritize. Also, I'd like recommendations as to how I should play these games. I know that KOTOR II has that mod that restores and refurbishes cut content, but I don't know of any other games on this list that have any necessary mods. Do you guys know of any more?

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Blade and Charm EP & Differentiation: Battlefield Gaia *SPOILERS*

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP

I just finished Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP. What started out as a breezy adventure game quickly turned into a commentary on death, inevitability, and how much control a video game player actually has. I'm getting ahead of myself. If you don't know, EP is a game by Superbrothers and Capybara games. I wanted to find out a little about the Superbrothers but they/he/she don't seem to know that some of us don't use Twitter or have an iPhone or want to sign up for an email list. Anyway, Capybara games is a prolific iOS developer, putting out such classics as “Monkey on Your Back!” and “Manic Medic AKA Take Yer Meds!”. They also made Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes. You know that game, right? Anyway, they seem pretty proficient in iOS development so it makes sense that they would make a bad iOS to PC port right?

Okay, it's not bad, but it's not great either. Still, the differences between an iPad and my laptop are pretty big. I can't shake my laptop and expect a response, I can't have multiple points of contact on the screen with only one mouse, and onscreen buttons have no place when a keyboard is present. I played the entire game without using the keyboard, but that's because I had forgotten that you could use it. None of these problems break the game, but it does make it an unpleasant experience some of the time.

At least it looks pretty.

The power of my laptop, on the other hand, is a very positive difference between PC and iPad. It means that more lush graphics can be pushed onto my displ-they're using pixel art!?!?! I thought we had moved past pretentious pixel art? Oh wait, it's got an interesting color palette and doesn't bring to mind any specific visual style, game, or platform? Huh, that's a bit different. The music is also a bit different. Composed by Jim Guthrie, a jam man/band artist, the soundtrack runs the gamut from synthesized chiptunes and triumphant rock themes. I especially liked the tones given off by the sprites that tickled my pleasure centers like no other video game noise has in a long time. It's unfortunate that the Humble Indie Bundle V is no longer being sold, because the really great soundtrack comes with that one.

It looks pretty at night, too.

What I really wanted to write about was the ending, but since I don't want to spoil it:

The Scythian is an incredibly interesting character as a silent protagonist. It is a silent protagonist that you cannot project yourself onto. It's not because she's an inhumane monster or an overly goody goody good guy, but because she does everything you say. The game is constantly telling you that the Scythian is on a woeful errand, but they never say why. It's also a dis-empowerment fantasy in the truest sense of the word. It's not a game that takes power away and then gives it back shortly after or gives you something equivalent to solve the same problem in a different way. Instead, it's a game that removes health from your character in the same way that Zelda gives you more health. As you defeat the trigons, you lose health, insinuating that this “woeful errand” will kill the Scythian. Furthermore, the game implies that the Scythian is doing this against her will, and is following the command of an all powerful God (the player) only because he/she is all powerful. This is further cemented by the very end of the game when a numbers station plays off a giant record/magic tome. It's not as if this numbers station woke the sleeper agent inside the player, but it's implying that people who play games do things for compulsory reasons that don't make sense and are self-destructive to their goals. Think of how many times you've played through a game on a hard difficulty to get achievements. Was that fun? Are we a self-defeating people when we obsess over every little tiny thing in a game? Do we play games for fun, anymore? Also, the epilogue seems to draw the conclusion that the death of the Scythian is very happy (the music is happy and jaunty) thing to have happened. Then they (Logfella and dark-haired girl) just throw her on a funeral pyre with little to no fanfare and then go and have a celebration. Making the player feel bad does not make it any more poignant a story, but more importantly it doesn't jive with the rest of the game.

Anyway, I liked the game, but I thought that there was a lot in the way of my enjoyment. The moon stuff was clever for about the first five minutes of thinking about it, and then it just became tedious and boring even with the ability to change it whenever you want. The social media nonsense is also layered pretty thick in a way that makes it look super gross. The pattern based memorization in the boss fights reminded me of Punch-Out!!!, but in a bad way somehow. Ultimately, though you'll have to get past the touch-based nature of the game on a device that doesn't let you use that input method. Also, the game didn't credit me for some achievements that I know I achieved. Sucks.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth

You know what else sucks? Tower-defense games. I mean, tower-defense games with checkpointing in them. In my opinion, if your tower-defense mission is long enough to need checkpointing, then your level is too long to be in a tower-defense game. I say this in reference to Anomaly, but it's not a fair comparison. Anomaly is not a tower-defense game, you see, it's an “anomaly” (c wut I did thar?) of a tower-defense game. You play as a convoy of various vehicles trying to make it's way through a series of defense towers much the same way enemies do in a traditional tower-defense game. This has led some to call it a tower-defense game in reverse, but I beg to differ. The core mechanics of a tower-defense game are there, but on different sides of the same coin. Instead of blocking the enemies path, the enemies block you, instead of you surrounding your enemies they surround you, but at least the story is par for the course in a tower-defense game.

Fake Jason Statham stars in.....it's a video game?

You play as nameless(although not numberless, everyone calls you 14) soldier/field commander man commanding said convoy attacking said defense-towers. Said defense-towers are protecting the titular anomaly, a force-field surrounding a crashed alien spaceship. Two of these anomalies have appeared very close to one another in time, but not in space. Your journey takes you inexplicably to Baghdad, Tokyo and back with many racial stereotypes helping you along the way. Racial stereotyping isn't the only kind of stereotyping your gonna get, however, not only is there a bad Jason Statham impersonator but there's also a damsel in distress character (that turns out to be an alien?) that grants you shielding/healing powers! How many video games can claim to have that!?!? Wait, Princess Peach does that....in a lot of different Super Mario games...well at least it looks better than those games, right?

Right?

That's a little unremarkable, Mr. video game, your paused game overhead map has a better sense of style then your real-time graphics do. Your music also doesn't inspire deeds of glorious tower-offense, I even turned it down to listen to a podcast. Anomaly, you should be ashamed of yourself for making such a game as this. A game that is competently made and designed, but does very little to differentiate (hehe, c wut I did thar?) itself from other games in the very crowded tower-defense genre. It's so unremarkable that this last paragraph won't be about Anomaly: Warzone Earth. Instead, I'm going to talk about my disdain for tower-defense games.

I want to like Tower-defense games, I really do. It has lots of things that I like. It's got units that are well defined in their roles, units that are upgradeable and super-powerful as a result of said upgrade, and there is a delicate unit balance that is not usually found outside of a MOBA like League of Legends or DOTA. Tower-defense also has that amazing feeling that an RTS gives you when you crush your enemy (lamentations of their women, &ct, &ct), but without that overwhelmed feeling I get when I play an actual RTS. So why is it that I can't enjoy this genre? I don't know exactly, but I have a few ideas as to why and all of them have to do with my impatience with death in video games. The first idea I have is that experimentation is an essential element of a good tower-defense game. Trial-and-error has never really been a thing that I enjoyed. So, naturally, I try to avoid trial-and-error whenever I'm at my leisure. But when a game that I want to play and enjoy demands that I use trial-and-error to pass a challenge I simply throw up my hands and say “no, Monsieur Developer, I will not do that because you are supposed to have come up with a better solution.” Yet so many games don't even try to eliminate the frustration inherent in trial-and-error. I've thought about solutions and come up with (what I think is) a decent solution. When I start to lose in a racing game, I usually restart and try again (to the detriment of my enjoyment of racing games). I do the same in most RTS games, but I never really want to do so. Because why can't I rewind to the moment that it all went horribly, horribly wrong? Why do I have to go back to the beginning to get to that moment? Why can't I move backwards from where I'm at currently? I know you don't want to break immersion in several cases, but is that worth frustrating the player and potentially souring him/her on the game? You're going to offer me the power to fast-forward, but not rewind? That's kind of dumb, what if you accidentally miss the part where you wanted/needed to interact with something? Am I the only one that thinks this?

Anyway, that's another edition of Now Playing over and done with. Stay tuned next time for something, I guess.

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Spectral Prank: Apparition Inspector and Citadel

So, I created a list that will kind of act as a backlog/pile of shame sort of thing. Mostly because I am good at buying games, but I'm not very good at playing them. Whenever something comes off of this list I would like to write something about it. Sometimes I will write about games that stay on the list because they are super awesome, we will just have to go with the flow.

Anyway, I bought this first game for my little sister for Christmas this past year. I had heard a lot of great things about it, and how it was not selling super well. Being the good at buying games guy that I am, I picked it up post-haste. Again, it was for my little sister so I obviously didn't play it until well after she had finished it. Cooties and whatnot. However, I was in for some kind of surprise when I finally played through it.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

I know what you're thinking, “colonelpopcorn, why did it take you a year and a half to play this?” I'm glad you asked anonymous internet person. I didn't have a DS at the time, no job, super into the Xbox 360, there was a flood, tornado, smaug. I DI'NT DO IT OFFICER! Anyway, I was being lazy/poor, that's why.

Ghost Trick is an adventure game in the vein of Phoenix Wright. No, I am not kidding, this game about ghostly tricks is about the same thing as lawyering it up in the courtroom. Not only do you click on stuff with your stylus in both of these games, but you also solve murders in both games! It's almost like they were developed by the same large Japanes company... Yeah, so that comparison is a bit of a stretch, but Ghost Trick definitely brings up fond memories of DS adventure games.

You play as Sissel, wait that's not....nevermind....

Speaking of adventure games, Ghost Trick is one of those. It is also an adventure game that combines unique puzzles and an interesting (dare I say, compelling?) narrative involving a ghostly spirit named Sissel that is trying to solve his own murder. To do this, he must use his Ghost “Tricks” to save people from being killed. In these sequences, Sissel uses his ghost tricks to manipulate objects like a rolling stepladder, or a rock star's toilet messenger contraption, and maybe even a giant submarine. All of these objects are well defined as interactive objects in the environment. It's this quality that, I think, makes Ghost Trick a really special adventure game. Not only does it keep you from getting stuck in the game, it also makes that oh-so-byzantine adventure game logic make complete and total sense. The puzzles are also nice and compact with lot's of story vignettes between, making sure you don't lose track of what you're doing in each puzzle. All this adds up to make an adventure game that has interesting and engaging gameplay, but never keeps you from the humorous and engaging narrative.

It's this story that kept me coming back to Ghost Trick's seemingly long, but surprisingly brief 18 chapters. The characters are so nebulous in a way that really makes you question if this is not just some crazy fever dream, but never crazy enough to escape to the realm of impossibility. At least, the realm of impossibility that exists in Ghost Trick....Anyway, the characters. The characters are super interesting from a video game point of storytelling because they start out as blank slates that get filled in as the game goes on. One character may be a murderer, but she doesn't know if it's true or not. One character may also be a mass murderer, but the player doesn't know if he is or not. All questions do get answered satisfactorily, and it surprisingly wraps up a lot of plot for the short time that it runs. And in an industry where sequels are built into the game from the very beginning, it's refreshing to see some actual closure in a video game. Boy does this game ever close....

Bastion

Holy crap, where to start with this game? It's not only a great baby's first action-rpg, it's also a challenge for seasoned veterans of the genre. And that's where Bastion's strength lies. It truly is an all ages game; the closest video games have ever come to Pixar quality. Not only can the youngest of the young play this game and enjoy it, but older gamers can find an incredibly deep and satisfying story that deals heavily in themes of forgiveness, loss, and genocide. Parallels between the Calamity and the Manhattan Project are pretty obvious, so it's no surprise that Braid and Bastion share similar themes.

This story, told through the unique narrator, not only provides for great atmosphere and sweeping narrative, but it also has it's place when playing the game over again. It's as if the game is just a story, and whenever you play it over it's as if this wizened old man is telling you the story again. Not only does this old man tell your story of restoring the Bastion, he also tells the stories of the strangers you meet on your journey. Where the narrator really shines, though, is in the reflections. In these survival mode levels, the narrator tells a single story over the course of 20-30 waves of enemies, one story bit before each wave. It's a great concept, not only because it entices players who play only for the narrative to see more gameplay, but it also gives gameplay focused duders something more to chew on.

Kid finds himself stranded on a rock in the sky...

Speaking of gameplay, the actual game part of Bastion is satisfying in that “easy to pickup/hard to master” sort of way. The game eschews a randomly generated loot system that so many other ARPGs can't resist, and trickles out new weapons over the course of the game. These weapons are always interesting, but never obsolete and each new weapon has its own unique purpose. Need to kill a bunch of enemies very quickly? The Fire Bellows (basically a flamethrower) is your answer. Need to focus down a large enemy quickly? The Galleon Mortar or Calamity Cannon are both powerful in their own special way. The only weapon I could say wasn't really that useful or interesting was the Cael Hammer. In fact, after awhile most melee weapons have no purpose, as there are no enemies that have no melee ranged attacks. So that sucks a little bit, but it's definitely a personal complaint and definitely not a huge problem in any way.

Basically, Bastion is the one game everyone should be striving to make. It's a great games for kids that has more for them as they get older. It's a great game for adolescents because it reminds them that good games aren't necessarily splattered with gore. It's a great game for adults because it's just a great game that knows that it's small and becomes so much bigger for that recognition.

Anyway, I hope to write more of these more frequently, but I don't finish games that often. These may be few and far apart, but I hope the quality is good enough to excuse that. If it's not, I would like to hear why so that I can improve it.

Cheers,

The Colonel

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The proper art of griefing

So, I had a really awful match in SMNC recently. The problem didn't lie with my own preternatural skills (naturally), but with my team. My team literally spent $0 during the course of the entire match with the exception of a few ejectors. So instead of rage-quitting like a regular griefer would do, I actively chased the other team for them to kill me. I know that what I did was absolutely deplorable and unsportsmanlike. I should be banned from ever playing the game again for what I did. The community should lift it's collective banhammer and remove from my steam account even the original MNC. I'm sorry for what I did, I will beg for your forgiveness if I must, and it won't happen again.

All that being said, how do you combat ignorance of a game's mechanics when you can't communicate fast enough? Teammates who don't know the power they hold in their hands, how do you tell them about when they refuse to do anything but type? If they would only heed my pleas, we could do a lot better than we did in that match, heck, we could even win one sometime. Alas, it was not meant to be. So I carry on, misplacing my anger on the assassin and all of my seething rage upon teammates who refuse to spend their money.

Anyway, I finished Orcs Must Die! recently. That was a very refreshing experience, similar to Borderlands. Like Borderlands, it mixed two things that I love very much (fast-paced action games with real-time strategy/tower defense) and made it into a brand new experience that I also enjoy a lot. The best parts are when you realize you can use a new strategy that you never thought of before. However, that strategy is no longer a static thing that requires little input from the player (like in tower defense), but a multi-layered batlle-plan that requires pinpoint accuracy and timing on the part of the player. I think Orcs Must Die! is a pretty special game because of that synergy.

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Here's the Score

So, a lot has happened in the past two days. A LOT. Not just inventory at my job, either. Giant Bomb as we know it is about to change. Jeff and Dave said as much in the video, but hopefully those changes are for the better. That seems likely, due to the massive amounts of money behind CBSi and Gamespot. However, there are still some fears that only time can allay. I feel like throwing out some of those hopes, dreams, fears, and warnings. Here they are.

Positive Changes

  • There will be more money/space/people available to do dumb stuff: Giant Bomb has always been a great place to see some dumb stuff done with video games. Whether you're a fan of the endurance run, quick looks, or the numerous behind the scenes/mailbag/office features there is something dumb for everyone on giantbomb.com. With the money from CBSi, it will only get bigger and dumber.
  • The wiki can finally be sorted: This is more of a hope than something that's been confirmed, but this video teased the possibilities of the wiki really well. I want this. I need this.
  • Big event coverage doesn't have to be done by GB: Because Gamespot will be covering E3, Giant Bomb doesn't actually have to go to E3 to cover it. In fact, I like the idea of Giant Bomb being the home team commentating on all the news as it's coming in. No Bomb House needed. Other events could be covered in this manner also.

(Possibly) Negative Changes

  • There will be more money/space/people to manage and Vinny is only one man: 'Nuff said
  • Gamespot is competing for your attention: I'm not suggesting in any way that Gamespot is a worse editorial outlet than Giant Bomb. They are different, however, and it ends up competing for your attention. This could be an incredibly positive thing! It would drive the quality of editorial content and video features way up. And like Jeff said it would be great to have Kevin Van Ord on the Bombcast occasionally. Ryan MacDonald can come too, but I don't want the editorial voice of Giant Bomb to be drowned out by Gamespot's voice. But that will never happen, right?

Anyway, what do you guys think of all this news? Is anyone mourning the seeming death of Anime Vice? Where does Whiskey go from here? I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I ready, willing, and able to come along for the inevitably video game fueled ride.

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I shouldn't like bullet hell shooters this much...

Good evening, giant bomb, I would like to speak to you this evening about Jamestown. Jamestown is a two dimensional, vertically scrolling, shmup. It's also one of my favorite games of last year. However, I'm not one that usually enjoys games with punishing difficulty, something that Jamestown has in spades. So what drew me to this indie game from June of last year? Yes the price point in the humble indie bundle (cheap as free) certainly did help, in fact it was only it's inclusion in the 4th humble indie bundle that got me to play it all. I was unimpressed with the quick look, thought it was incredibly stupid, not worth my time. Eventually, I came around to playing it because of it's short run-time. I still haven't finished the game and I'm having a blast with it. Here's why.

Jamestown is brutal and unforgiving in it's difficulty. The game can only be finished on the third difficulty level. Jamestown is a game that was not designed like most games today that have a follow icon over their NPC tour guide.

And to our left you will shoot some more dudes.

It's games like Jamestown that set games about tourism, into games about true exploration. While Jamestown is a linear game in the truest sense of the word, indeed, it's more a shooting gallery than any Call of Duty game is. However, it's combat and challenge provide different depths of exploration that are far greater than any of Call of Duty game's combat could ever be. That's where Jamestown shines, it's a game about challenging the player and giving a sense of accomplishment with every try at that last level. It reminds me, in a way, of Guitar Hero. I can remember trying so many times to beat Bark at the Moon on Medium difficulty, and finally doing it was exciting. The same feeling, I'm sure, will finally come when I conquer the Conquistador. That's why I press on playing this game that I'm not really progressing in. It's fun, and it challenges me in ways I haven't been challenged before. I think that's what all games should strive to be first and foremost. Too often the experience side of 'experience-wrapped-in-a-challenge" get's top billing. Sure this means that you're able to play more games, but the games that you do play start to feel shallower and shallower after awhile. Jamestown is a game I will remember for the time I spent fighting with it, and for me that's not a bad thing.

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Max Payne: What I thought, and what I think

So I just finished Max Payne about a week ago and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne about five minutes ago. Here are my thoughts about both of those games, and where the series as a whole is going.

Bullet Time!

  • Max Payne as a series is dripping wet with atmosphere, droplets of story running in rivulets from mouths of your enemies. The televisions spout nonsense that reflect the situation around you. And when everything goes black with gang wars and mob bosses at each others throats, he shows up.
The ferocious young mob king, Vinnie Gognitti, imprisoned by his own obsession.
  • The gunfire ripples around you in slow motion as you dodge incoming fire from all sides. You pop that one guy in the face only for another to show up. Diving at him will knock him down, but not for long. He gets back up, you fire again and again and again. They're still firing at you; one false move and you die. Don't worry it happens all the time, hit F9.

Yeah, that's pretty much the only two bullet points I could come up with. Anyway, I wanted to talk more about where Max Payne 3 will take the series.

Bullet Time Two!

  • I'm worried that Rockstar can't pull together the same atmosphere and character that the Remedy managed. Specifically, Max Payne as a character was never a blank slate character to explore other characters. Unfortunately, Rockstar seems to know no other way to write main protagonists then to simply make them do a bunch of dirty work for a bunch of dirty people. This coming from the guy who has only played Bully. As long as they get Max's character right and soak the environments in throwaway story bits that flesh it out, then nothing below matters.
  • A cover system for Max Payne?..... Did they even play the first two?
  • Only two weapons seems like a strange (but understandable) choice for a Max Payne game. You shoot so many bullets in the first two that having multiple weapons ensured you never ran out of ammo. Hopefully ammo will be plentiful.

Anyway that's what I got, I'm out.

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Story Time: Battlefield 3 with a hint of spoilers(?)

In a long time past I once had the username w00tie. If you want to know why you should care about old usernames from sites not related to Giant Bomb, then it's because there is a grand new user with a username similar to that past alias of mine. His/her name is w00ties, and he/she recently posted a blog entitled "Story Time: To Lag or Frag?" in it he wrote many-a-thing about single-player campaigns and quests. Since I recently finished a single-player campaign with neither engrossing narrative nor thrilling gameplay, I thought I would answer the question he posed there. By the way, for those too busy to read his blog or welcome him to the site, his question was "Do we really care?".

Being a Battlefield game, you'd think that you would have full control over this jet. Not so.

In Battlefield 3's single player campaign there is a great answer to this question. You see, Battlefield 3 is one of many in the long line of tightly controlled shooter experiences. It moves at a very specific pace, it has many set-piece moments made to look good in trailers, and it is heavily scripted. Because of these design decisions, Battlefield 3's story is delivered in a very cinematic way. However, the story that Battlefield 3 chooses to deliver in a cinematic way is not a good one. I could go into why I dislike the story or point out some of the many plot holes, but I don't think that is within the scope of the question posed. What I want to talk about today concerning Battlefield 3 is why I choose to sit through the lackluster single-player campaign. I chose to play through the campaign because of what video games mean to me.

Video games are by nature experiences wrapped in challenges. Recently, however, the challenge has been played down in favor of the experience. Take for instance Battlefield 3; I died perhaps 10 times playing through that campaign, and dying is not the hurdle it once was in video games. Frankly, the challenge has been eschewed in favor of games that are designed to be finished. However, there are still several games that play up the challenge or variety of gameplay over the story. Take for instance games like Borderlands and Terraria. They both have deep systems, variety in enemies and items, and a non-linear structure. However, neither of these games show a lick of affection (eww) for gaming narrative. Yet many people show great affection for playing these games by themselves. What are we to make of this? Do we really want games that are a tad more interactive than a light gun game? Do we really want games where we grind over and over to get meaningless rewards? Can we find a happy medium? The best answer to these questions that I can think of is Mass Effect, and even BioWare is now acknowledging this growing rift between challenge and experience.

Even Mass Effect 3 has succumbed to the Rail Shooter Bacteria.

At the end of this blog, I really do care. I really care about playing through single-player experiences, and seeing what it has to offer. Whether it's an interesting story or storytelling method or an adrenaline-pumping combat system, we don't have to keep them separated. Because, at least for me, finishing a video game is a reward in-and-of itself. Finishing a video game gives you something to talk to your friends about outside of multiplayer. It gives you an experience that you can look back on to chart the history and development of this medium. It's another video game to put up on the shelf and say "Yeah, I beat all of these". And you know what, sometimes that's all I need.

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