Late game PS3

Had some coin in my pocket and picked up a PS3 this week. I'd owned one previously for a year or so but dropped it off at the folks' place one holiday visit and never looked back. Now that The Last of Us, GT6, Last Guardian and potentially Persona 5 are on their way, it seemed like as good a time as any to jump back in. Got a PS2 late in the game as well, around the time of Final Fantasy XII, and enjoyed mining that backlog on the cheap. Didn't anticipate how quickly a respectable PS3 library can come together though, and for even less.

Stuff I Like

Ah, you're not so bad looking.
  • Free games! The 250 GB bundle cost $270 and came with Lego Batman 2, Lego Harry Potter 5-7 and Little Big Planet Karting. Downloaded some substantial F2P games like DC Universe, Dust 514 and Uncharted 3 Multiplayer. Also came with a month of PS+, which brings me to..
  • PS+. I knew that there was good value in the service, but all at once it's almost overwhelming. For Vita only it didn't seem worth it, now it's no brainier. Not everything was new for me but between Deus Ex, Infamous 2, LBP 2, Vanquish, Pinball Arcade, Joe Danger 2 and Ratchet & Clank, plus old PSN purchases and cross buys (Guacamelee!, Sound Shapes) I've got a full library out the gate without buying a thing except the console.
  • The new model. Turned my nose up at it on message boards initially, and perhaps it's the buyer's justification talking but I'm kind of into the super slim design. In light of all these shifts to digital all-in-one experiences on high end PC's it looks and feels like and old school console, even moreso than earlier iterations this generation. The top loading tray is cheap but it catches nicely - operating it reminds me of popping up a Dreamcast for some reason. It's like a shiny spaceship grill toy, which is about right for video games.
  • Interface improvements. While the 360 has become an increasingly cluttered hub that serves up intrusive ads with sound and video on the regular, returning to the XMB(TM) is refreshing. It's cleaner and more intuitive, with an improved storefront and a better organized hub for media apps. I feel like I can get at what I want fairly easily without menu overload, which is no small feat to pull off.

Stuff I Don't Like

Steady as she goes
  • I t 's S l o w. I don't know what's happening between the internet coming into my house and the inside of that box, but bars take forever to fill up. Maybe not as bad as the early days, but still not right. Even worse are the installation times - multiple hours for 10+ GB games to install, mandatory and unable to run in the background. Just getting all the aforementioned titles into a playable state was a 2-3 day process.
  • The controller. I've only ever tolerated at best the DualShock controller and now that I'm using one again it's even clearer why I prefer the PC and 360 design. The sticks are elevated too high and uncomfortable to rest thumbs upon, it's not weighty enough, material is slippery and the triggers don't feel satisfying. PS4 looks to be a significant improvement, but for now I guess I'm stuck with these.
  • Interface shortcomings. Not everything is great about the way the XMB works. It's too fragmented - separating the store and other contained areas from the UI isn't convenient in practice, just means more loading and waiting during navigation. Again, sounds like they're going to fix this but right now it's a pain.
  • Spoiled by PC. After playing everything from Skyrim to Witcher 2 to Sleeping Dogs to Tomb Raider on my modest gaming rig the past few years, the flaws in current console graphics tend to really stand out. Didn't mean for it to happen - the games are still enjoyable and at times look stunning, but technical limitations are more noticeable than ever for me. Takes a bit of the 'wow' factor out of the whole new system experience.

Looking forward to digging into past gems, my current stash and more as the march to console release season continues. Happy with the purchase overall, though it's not a perfect device I knew what I was getting into and improvements since my last time with the machine are apparent. The perks they've thrown in more than make up for any complaints, which all bodes well for PlayStation 4 if the hardware and OS can match the quality of the services. Of course there's the whole used games online quagmire that's currently unfolding, so who knows which direction the winds end up blowing. Interesting times, but always worth a look back before moving forward.

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Best Game Music of 2012

Looking back, there's been some stone cold jams in the video games this year. I mean there usually is, but this one feels like a real standout. From the chippy to the dramatic and everything in between, here's a 100% comprehensive list of 2012's hottest tracks, both original and licensed:

Best original!
Best licensed!
Best song! (Space Cruise)
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Summer Steam Sale 2012 Action Post!

Let's go to the videotape!

Over $5:

$5:

Under $5:

Total: $368.74 / $84.93

Total Savings: $283.81

I GOT THE BEST DEAL ON TRAINS, YOU GUYS

Not bad, not bad. Played a few hours of Alan Wake, really liking it so far. Grimrock is engrossing, Trine 2 is pretty, and Gal Civ seems like it's going to be my biggest time sink from the haul. Perfect timing for SR3 DLC being 3/4 of the way through (finished it since then) and DA:O Awakening is reminding me what I enjoyed about that series.

Only a few regrets - shoulda bought the Tribes: Ascend Starter Pack, shoulda bought Ys, and Yesterday still has that awkward character animation style that makes me not like Pendulo games.

Other than that, I'm all set until winter! No more videogame buyin' for this guy, that's for dang sure.

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Bad End.

(no ME3 spoilers).

I'm trying to think back to the first time I was genuinely disappointed as to how a video game wrapped up. Sitting there as the credits rolled in, questions left unanswered, festering in silent resentment. Or maybe just aching to get it over with, stumbling again and again with a sequence that's been going on far too long to do anybody any good. It happens all the time in other narrative focused mediums, so it was bound to become a recurring issue for games as well. Sometimes despite best efforts, things just go to shit.

Could be worse.

Growing up with score based arcade games, an ending always meant the literal "GAME OVER" screen. How satisfied you felt at that moment and where it was going was not the point. Doing a little bit better the next time was enough of a reward. Even on 8-bit consoles as storytelling evolved the emphasis was always on the journey. The ending to The Legend of Zelda was never controversial in my circles, it just ended. Every once in a while you'd get something memorable, like Metroid (Samus is a LADY) or a burger with Ronald Reagan. But on the whole the technology just wasn't there to create engaging story beats and thematic hooks, so the games rightfully focused on what they were good at.

Cool, we beat Zelda. What's on TV?

On computers things were a bit more interesting, perhaps because the demographic skewed towards the older crowd. Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? on the Apple IIGS was probably the first time I was completely enthralled during the end of a game. All those hours spent chasing Carmen's henchmen around the globe, looking up clues in a goddamn Almanac, and never even coming close to catching the big fish. Then when you finally find out you're on her tail for real, the stakes are immediately raised. You get to see the big, one-off chase, the master crook behind bars and a long congratulatory fax from Interpol. I felt like the smartest person alive at the time. Feeling smart, feeling rewarded, feeling like you've accomplished something - those are still the hallmarks of a pretty decent ending today.

Of course if every game we played wrapped up in a bow with a high five, great job, you're the best kind of message, gaming would never really evolve as a narrative platform. Main characters dying, surprise twists, multiple endings, post credits sequences - it's all old hat at this point and people are always going to have opposing opinions about what works and what doesn't.

Great endings can make a good game unforgettable.

To truly be a bad, miserable, fuck-all-that-shit ending, to become something that was or easily could have become zeitgeist pre-internet, it's got to stand out from the pack. Introduce contradictions, plot holes, betray established characterizations and themes. Make it clear for all to see that you just plain ran out of time and/or money and yeah that sucks, here's what we squeezed out. Or perhaps drop the ball in the closing moments when things were going so well earlier - by stringing along the player with sequel fodder or refusing to wrap things up altogether. The more enjoyable the meat of a game is, the greater the potential for letdown.

Quit while you're ahead.

Not all the bad ones leave a lasting impression on me. I can barely tell you what happened in BioShock after you jump into a Big Daddy suit and head out guns blazing, but I remember it being awful. That game is still brilliant as a whole and a highlight of the generation. I loved the last bit of gameplay in Fable II, even if many felt cheated out of a final boss. Other notable cases do stand out, however - Knights of the Old Republic II was painfully unfinished after a pretty intriguing and lengthy main game experience. Arkham Asylum's ending would have been a whole lot better if they'd gone the Fable II route instead of the big boss fight. And Resident Evil 5's denouement, oh man. From mindless fan service and button mashing to bad camera angles to QTE's to a cheap and prolonged Wesker fight that I kept replaying over and over again, when it was finally over I was left pretty much numb to any story implications or any positive takeaways from earlier in the game.

Quest for Glory I was a big deal back in the day.

I suppose in the end, like most things for me, it all comes back to early PC point and click adventures. That's where I first started giving a shit about where a game was going and where it ended up, so naturally that's where I first felt the nasty sting of the memorable and lasting bad end. It's also where I started to become a fan of not just games but entire series - Leisure Suit Larry, Monkey Island, Space Quest.. and Quest for Glory. Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero, aka Hero's Quest was a game way ahead of it's time, establishing a lot of the hallmarks that branching action/adventure RPG's still use today. The ending was satisfying, and the sequel was even better on all fronts. You could even import your character.

Then came Quest for Glory III: Wages of War, a game that technically was never planned for by the developers. The gameplay was overly reliant on combat which completely negated my Thief from the previous two games. It was a glitchy mess that crashed constantly. It was also maddeningly easy. The story was tacked on, convoluted and not up to the standards the series was known for. And then, it ended.

What, no DLC?

A bunch of nonsensical revelations, you can fall in love out of nowhere, a wizard happens, and you're hit with the twist that all those events that transpired in games I and II? Those people you saved, the bad guys you stopped? Never happened. Sorry bout that, everything is actually pretty terrible. And then while gathering with your travel buddies pre-credits, dark magic happens. Your character flips out, and you're rewarded with a nice big TO BE CONTINUED... IN QUEST FOR GLORY IV: SHADOWS OF DARKNESS. While two wizards look over you in an orb. You lose no matter what. And all this despite the fact that one of the hallmarks of the series was how open ended it was, how you could jump in again as a different class and make different decisions to change your experience.

Quest for Glory was never the same for me after that point. I had been disappointed in multiple ways by not only a game, but a groundbreaking series I'd been heavily invested in for years. It left a mark.

Happens to the best of us, Shepard.

I must say I get what the kids are going through these days. But at this point, I wouldn't want it any other way. The spectacular collapses, over time, have proven to be at least as interesting as the satisfying conclusions. Sometimes even more so. We'd all be a lot happier if we just embraced the cold, unfulfilled reality of bad endings, and instead of the usual cacophony of outrage we'd join hands in unison to appreciate the finer nuances of the truly remarkable ones together. After all, they only come around once every so often.

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now playing

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

Saints Row: The Third (PC)

Assassin's Creed: Revelations (360)

Dota 2 (PC)

Infinity Blade II (iOS)

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This is Dark Souls.

*falls off cliff*

"OH so that's how it's gonna be Dark Souls? You're just going to fuck me like that, aren't you? Make some easy enemies rage up on me, fall off a cliff, lose all my bloodstain souls? There was at least a few levels worth in that thing. Well guess what, I'm shutting you off. HA. Who wins now Dark Souls? Me. I win now."

[30 Minutes Later]

"Well I could probably grind on some guys for a bit, gain a level or two.. yeah.. my bloodstain wasn't even in a bad spot before, I could have gone farther. Might as well try. I paid 60 bucks for the game, I can't just give up on it."

[One Hour Later]

"WHAT IS THAT. Oh shit oh shit, there's fog and I can't run back, I guess I'll try to stab it aaaand I'm dead. Okay. That room has a ridiculous boss in it but I did get a couple of hits in. Bonfire isn't too far away, I can do this."

Seriously wounded

[One Hour Later]

*dies to boss in seconds*

"FUUCK THIS I'M OUT"

..

[Later That Night]

"Alright, I'm ready. Get my humanity on, wait for a summon symbol to appear, I need some help from another player but fuck if today isn't going to go by without me killing this demon thing. Here we go."

[15 Minutes Later]

"I AM THE BEST DARK SOULS PLAYER ALIVE AND THE CO-OP IN THIS GAME IS AMAZING"

*makes avatar do cheering motion*

"Oh shit.. where am I? No health potions left. I can't die now, not with all these souls. Got to make it to the bonfire. Heart pumping out of my chest... please.."

[5 Minutes Later]

"Too easy, I'm in the zone now. Bring on the new area, I'm hungry for more souls."

[One Hour Later]

"HOHOHO that thing just fell on my head and ate me. Well ain't that a big pile of fuck! Fuck it. Fuck this game. Turning this off, I don't need this stress."

..

..but the soul still burns

[The Next Morning]

*brews some coffee*

*boots up Dark Souls*

"It's... going to be a long day."

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