Just need to say something

I know many others have said their piece, but I'd like to add to the tribute to the one Ryan Davis.

What an incredibly emotional day in the history of Giant Bomb (dot) com. We been through and seen a lot over the years but this out-strips all others by a mile. There have been many crazy events over the years: the hiring of Vinny and Brad, the Endurance Run, the Matrix Online stuff, Premium stuff, Patrick arriving, the CBS acquisition and the disappearance of Dave and Patrick. I followed Ryan and the gang back in the Gamespot days (I got into their stuff right as Rich left, so I was a bit late to the party. I've listened to all the "good" HotSpots plenty of times, mind you) and followed them ever since their second Arrow Pointing Down podcast over to Giant Bomb. I vividly remember my excitement when I heard that Jeff and Ryan have finally set up shop and started a new podcast after "Gerstmann-gate". And it was so good. So good. Giant Bomb appeared from there along with Brad and Vinny and (eventually) Patrick et al. It's insane to look back over those years and think that the man who has been at the core of it all; he is no longer with us.

As many have said, it was a testament to who Ryan was that he could be so many people's friend without ever meeting the guy. I've never even been near the guy but I feel like I've lost a great friend, regardless. From now back to early '08, Ryan and Giant Bomb have seen me through my teenage years. Here I am now, at the footstep of going to college, and we have lost such an incredible person. I've only ever known him though years of camera and audio work (I can even comprehend how much of my life I have spent on watching him or hearing his voice) but he was such an effortlessly funny guy, with an incredible ability of being biting yet lovable at the same time. I was shocked when I saw the news on the site's homepage. The news was about 15 minutes old and I really believed I have mis-read something. I thought he had left the site/or it was some kind of silly joke by Matt Rorie. But now, depressingly, it certainly is no joke.

But there is one thing we can all do: look back over and celebrate the life and times of Ryan T. Davis. Over these next few days myself, personally, will be looking over many hours of incredible entertainment associated with Ryan. "Fucking Devastation" barely even covers it. I can't comprehend nor believe what I have witnessed today. I can't even believe I am saying this but but: rest in peace Ryan Davis-- you sir were a shining light in this industry and in my life. My thoughts are with his family, friends and, I'm sure, his devastated newly-wed wife.

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Too Little, Too Late.

I never saw the original ending to Mass Effect 3 as some kind of "OH MY GOD THIS IS FUCKING AWFUL" sort of moment. I didn't like it. Most people don't. I would list out as to why, but that laundry list has already been discussed ad nauseam. It was too vague, didn't account for prior decisions and generally contained too much hokey "faith" overtones. Needless to say, they could have done better. BioWare released the new Extended Cut to appease fan vitriol but, in my humble opinion anyway, it is a case of being late to the party.

Overall, I think Mass Effect 3 is a bit of a let-down. It is still a good game but it misses the bar set by Mass Effect 2 (I am a ME2>ME1 guy, by the way). It seemed as if the game was going to be a mix of the original's high points and the progress made in the subsequent sequel. Personally, it went in directions I didn't enjoy. It nailed that Mass Effect feel in some regards -- conversations with the crew, good character development, boning, WREX -- but ultimately I think it's direction is flawed from the get-go. To me, Mass Effect excels either when it's super0shiny space warfare (Star Trek) or went it gets down and dirty in the shadier side of the galaxy (that darker Empire Strikes Back sort-of feel). When the game goes into all-out warfare, I think it loosed the plot somewhat. The ending sequence in the original may have been full scale combat but I believe it to be a much better mission than ME3's finale. Personally, when Mass Effect goes for a small scale feel, I believe that to be when it's at it's greatest.

Back to the Extended Cut, I knew going in that the changes I wanted weren't going to be factored it. In the ideal world, the original ending would have been discarded altogether. Of course, there was no way that was going to happen with limited resources and such. (It would also look pretty poor for BioWare to jettison their entire ending) The core of the ending, in my mind, just isn't great. The child catalyst? The three lights? Nah, I'm good. So even when taking in that the ending would only be extended (as subtly hinted at by the title) I knew it wouldn't matter.

Look, I really like Mass Effect but at this point I have moved on. The game is over three months old now and with the ending leaving a bad taste in so many peoples' mouths, I would have taken an incredible overhaul that isn't feasible. The ending is now slightly clearer, of course, but I couldn't help thinking during the cut-scenes, I just don't care anymore. What's done is done. The franchise has taken a strong bump in my opinion. Any murmurs of a fourth Mass Effect would have me giddy a number of months ago but now, that excitement has dimmed somewhat. Details of new DLC is even floating around the blogs today. Why? Why is there DLC? The series is done. In other games, sure, it's a bit weird to play extra missions when the conflict is over but when your main character effin' dies, it is a very strange prospect. What else is there left to achieve, story-wise?

In the end, the little changes to the ending appear to be superfluous at this point. The game ended, it annoyed a lot of people (of course, the internet over-reacted) and now with a left with a underwhelming ending to a great trilogy. In a couple years time, I'm pretty sure Mass Effect can re-kindle a lot of love. Hopefully the next steps for the franchise are forward progress.

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Shooting from the Hip: Ubisoft's E3 '12 Press Conference

Over the years of me obsessing over E3, there has been one recurring event: year after year, Ubisoft's press conference is an absolute shit-show. It has nearly become dyed-in-the-wool E3 folklore by this point. It is nearly as certain as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Most of the time it is insufferable but every now and then (take Mr. Caffeine for last year's debacle) it can be ironically entertaining. This year, Ubisoft finally threw down a good mix; stupidity and good games.

Let's start with the bad parts - because, hey, why not - of this year's show. My main point here is this Toby guy. IN-FUCKING-SUFFERABLE. I have watched a fair share of poor MCing at press events but he takes the goddamn cake. He was the epitome of awful, no question. The whole time, he was shiting all over the main host Aisha (who was doing a very good job, may I add). Anytime he opened his mouth, I wanted to die. The other negative was the entire ShootMania bit, a complete snooze in my estimation.

Now that the inevitable shit-talking is done, let's discuss why Ubisoft have grabbed the brass ring this year. Quality games. We opened up with Far Cry 3, a game already looking strong after last year's showing, moved up a peg in my book. The new layer of psychedelic effects and surrealism is a nice breath of fresh air on the usual shooter fair. Also, boobs.

It also doesn't take much for a Rayman sequel to get me giddy but they nailed it. Copious amounts of surf rock? Yes please. At the moment, they seem to be pushing hard on the whole "Wii U" thing but some amount of me hopes it hits the current-gen to boot. (I am wanting to be a Wii U more and more, mainly as I just want a new game system under my TV after 5 years). Seriously though, I could do with another portion of Rayman-related tomfoolery this year, I nice break in between sessions of Far Cry.

Unsurprisingly, one of the known quantities of this year's E3, the veritable Assassin's Creed, was a big draw at this year's event. We got some open stuff, Liam Neeson-esque wolf stabbing and a hint at a new mission structure. In a nut shell, it's looking like a needed fresh coat of paint for the stab-happy franchise. Although, personally, I am a very casual Assassin's Creed fan, this may be the first entry in the series I pick up at launch. Stop the presses accordingly.

What's that? A new challenger arrives? What in the hell is Watch_Dogs and why does it look so good? Really, I was very impressed. Consider me hitched on the game' s bandwagon. It's good to see the game already has a burgeoning backlash bubbling away just 20 or so minutes after the press conference has ended (albeit a small one). While, yes, the shooter gameplay reigned me in a little bit, this was across the board a super memorable E3 demo. Even the aforementioned shooting looked appropriately tasty. Seems like an eclectic mix of AC, Deus Ex and Hitman. However, the great debate seems to be, was that running on current hardware? I am leaning toward a no. Yes that may have been a PS3 and/or 360 controller hooked up to it but that it looked too sharp for the Xbox or PS3. Presumably, they were just running off a PC. I'm not saying it will be a next-gen game, but it looks like something that we may not see released 'til 2014. At the very least, the PC version looks sick and the console versions will be considerably less so.

I believe it is time for me to raid the nearest flock and chow down and on a tasty bit of crow. I never thought Ubisoft had it in time to produce a presser that both delivered in entertainment, stupid chicanery as well as quality games. Even with it low lights, it still beats Microsoft and EA in terms of just entertainment. The French are pointing middle fingers in the direction of any Power Points.

I can't believe I am saying this but, so far, Ubisoft is the king of E3 2012.

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RAGE! or: How I Learned to Stop Relaxing and Love the Anger.

Uncharted 3 launched this past Tuesday to near-universal critical acclaim and excitement aplenty from fans of the franchise. Being the excited little boy that I am, I pre-ordered myself a copy and sure enough it arrived in my mail box on Wednesday morning. Hoorah!

Playing Uncharted 3 has made me realise something; I really get angry with video games, like a lot. I flew through the first seven or so chapters in UC3 in my first sitting but since then the game has given me a serious test in patience. Why? I can't quite put my finger on it. I had some grievances with Uncharted 2. I got a bit frustrated in the latter stages, but overall I think UC2 is a fantastic piece of business. However, I was literally seething with anger after my little UC3 session today. It's a problem I have been experiencing a lot with games recently; complete and utter rage.

Frustration has been tapping me on the shoulder and whispering bad things to me for a good while now. Batman Arkham City is a great product but sometimes I got incredibly angry at the combat for no real reason. I couldn't even play Outland anymore because that game just irked me in a strange way. These are all high-quality video games and yet I find myself shouting at the television and wishing death to my innocent 360. Going back to Uncharted, I find myself just getting stuck or just simply dying in a shoot-out an incredible test of my shitty patience.

Looking back on what I have written so far, it makes me sound like a bit of a schizophrenic. Believe me, I'm not (I think). It seems like I can't enjoy these top-shelf games as much as I could be due to my lack of patience. It seems to be getting worse. We are all aloud are little spurts of anger when things aren't going our way but I seem to just be on edge when I playing my games. Even if I respawn immediately (and let's be honest, games aren't particularly difficult anymore) I still find myself swearing profusely if I take one too many bullets.

Weird question but is anyone else also experiencing this stupid reality? I am now getting ready to go beyond this fickle rage. Whether I just remember to stay calm when I am playing through Uncharted or I start taking heavy medication before turning on my PlayStation. Either way, I promise to cool my proverbial jets. *Raises hand* I promise to forever remain chill when I play games. At least when I am not playing Dark Souls.

Sensible footnote: Maybe the Uncharted 3 combat is just a bit sucky.

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Holy Crisis of Video Game Playing, Batman!

Everyday when I look at my 360 I am beginning to give it the stink eye. I want to but I sort of don't want to... play it. I have no idea why. Since late May, I have been out of school to spend my summer dicking about and/or playing video games. I have done a good bit of the former and oddly not much of the latter. It's like I am losing my video game taste, it's all tasting the same.

I'm not too sure what started me on my recent Xbox backlash. Usually, when I don't play my Xbox for certain periods of time, it means I have no new games to play. The thing is, I certainly do have some electronic entertainment to mess about. There's Dead Space to be played, some new L.A. Noire DLC and a new copy of Alan Wake which I have yet to put into my Xbox. Everyday I say to myself "Self, stop the other bullshit you're doing and go shoot stuff in the face" but alas it is to no avail. I still find myself sitting down at my "entertainment centre" (a.k.a. my small bedroom) and just staring at my Xbox for a wee bit before giving up and seeing what is on TV.

I have been casting my mind on what could be the potential problem here. I am still playing some video games, lapsing back into my bi-annual Team Fortress 2 addiction. Oversaturation maybe? At a point toward of E3, I found myself saying I have had enough trailers, gameplay videos etc. That time has passed by maybe that near-constant thought of video games at that time has left a bad taste in my mouth. It could also might just be me needing a break. That would be a strange one. Whilst I do think and play a lot of games (I write blogs on a video game website, for Christ's sake) I use all of that to relax and not think about other things. I don't buy new games every week, I can't afford it. The only reason I think I may be just sick of gaming is that even when playing great games like L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain recently, it has taken me a long-ass time to finish them and I struggle to finish them.

Thinking about it as I write this blog, I am leaning toward a game break. On one hand that seems like a fine idea but on the other more rational side that is, to put it bluntly, shit. I really enjoy visiting Giant Bomb and reading my video game news everyday. I enjoy the game(s) I am trying to play at the moment. When am I just going to far? Perhaps I should just sit myself down, somewhat forcefully, and just play my damn 360. Once I get back into the rtythm of things, I may find it easier just to play away once again. Playing longer sessions and beating games in a more timely fashion may be good for me too. It might be better to get my short games done and not drag them out and grow tired of them.

So that is my spiel for this evening. I will throw it up onto to boards and if anyway gives a shit (do people want to hear my silly ramblings?!?!) then post up a comment. Thanks for reading.

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E3 and the Curious Case of Shooter Fatigue

Electronic Three is a time of the year where I think about video games. A lot. I am manly/nerdy enough to admit that over the past week I find myself thinking about E3, video games and so forth. I enjoy E3 every year, especially at the moment when I'm not in school or have a job. My schedule for the past week has been my sitting down at the computer, trawling through scads upon scads of E3 previews and listening to the Bombcast until my ears bleed. Many of the games I keep an eye on over these last few E3s have been those of the shooting variety. I enjoy my shooters. First-person, third-person,-second person; whatever you got. It's a genre which, through the films I watch, I find myself at ease with. It's my fallback genre, reliable and can hold my interest for 10-15 hours of gametime. There are plenty of shooters to be had as well. The two biggest games at this year's event are big, military first-person shooters. There are a good smattering of other shooters to choose from too, especially at the press conferences. Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Resistence 3, Ghost Recon: Future Solider, Halo 4, Far Cry 3...

Yeah, I get it. Left trigger aims. Right shoots.

I think I have just about had it with the glut of games piling into the shooter genre (bar Uncharted and Mass Effect as both have other reason to why I actually play them). Often times when people say that they have had it with a certain style of game, I usually don't agree with them. Having a sequel not change the core gameplay much isn't something that worries me with video games. I find myself a bit impressionable sometimes. Sometimes when a person is arguing a point (in, say, an article) I find myself just agreeing with it until I actually stop and think about it or somebody says otherwise. This is not how I am feeling now. At a point with the E3 previews and videos, I just could not watch another shooter being played. No more. So far this year I have played Bulletstorm and Crysis 2, both of which I think have used up the last amouts of my love from the Bank of FPS. I am just so tired pf the dyed in the wool style, 8-10 hour, set piece every 10 minutes, shoot dudes in the face video game. It's strange how quickly my mind switch "Yes Shooters" to "No More, Please", and I didn't even play any shooters in the last week.

In terms of innovation and shaking things up some, I don't know what I want next. If I did, I wouldn't be typing this blog but instead I would be snorting cocaine and buying yachts. Battlefield 3 seems like the same old business. People think of it as a revolutionary messiah because they are tired of Call of Duty but it still seems like the usual Battlefield fare. It may look purdy but it's all your usual business. An off-kilter game even like Bulletstorm didn't rile me up that much. A game really does have to part ways with the tropes of the genre for me to really get invested (like Borderlands but I have other problems with that game).

Seemingly, my answer seems to be play less shooters. I know. Working on that. It just worries me about the industry at large (or even through a community like Giant Bomb) about how these grafted, stiff formulas are still finding our way into our game consoles. There isn't wrong with that, mind you, but I don't want the industry to get stuck in a rut or have things go haywire when the current shooter loses it's appeal. I know some people have been feeling this little strain of fatigue (especially after the shooter-heavy E3 2011) so I am asking the community, who else has seems to have been diagnosed with a case of "Shooter Fatigue"?

I'm thinking of getting this blog moving on a semi-regular basis but we shall see. Maybe I'll lose interest like with my "fantastic" reviews... *ahem*. Ah, they're alright.

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Nothing is true. Snaking is permitted.

I just can't get with Assassin's Creed, I really can't. Playing through the first one, it frustrated me to no end. The lack of missions, activities... fun. It would drive anyone over the edge. With Assassin's Creed II, I read so many great things. "Way better than than the original". "Has more than three things to do." I took my time in picking it up but eventually I bit the bullet and picked up ACII last month.
 
Y'know what, just to contradict myself a bit, it is a good game. Looks nice, has a compelling story, interesting characters, and a well-realised setting. Still. Still I find myself clenching my nerdy wrists around the controller and howling at the moon. First and foremost, it does have more things to do. Like, for example, you can actually do some assassinating on a regular basis. You had like 9 assassinations in the original. That right there is an improvement. The problem is that there are so many assassination contracts. Scads upon scads of the buggers. Some of them are annoying, and long to boot. That isn't really much of a criticism however. They're optional and so I can just leave them be. I eventually had to pull the trigger on the completion compulsion inside me and just give up on the fuckers.
 
What I actually don't like about Assassin's Creed is a bit more tricky to put my finger on. The controls, while smooth and groundbreaking for their time, still piss me off and have me cursing to the high heavens. Nine times out of ten it will be fine, but that one time when you miss that one jump, the game should just slap you in the face. Another problem that gets me is the guards. They never seem to stop coming. Ever. I bump into one by accident and suddenly the half the population of Northern Italy is tracking me down. They just never go away. I climb to the rooftops and sneaky pricks are still up there. Peering at me as I try to gain an advantage over the busy Italian streets. I do have more criticism, pointless but hey they're mine, but I seem to ran out of blog stream.
 
Maybe it has something to do with myself always blaming the game when it was my ineptitude that held me back in the first place. I just find myself shouting at my TV every ten minutes, like a homeless man screaming at pigeons in a local park. It's like clockwork. Every now and then the game just ticks me off in some way, shape or form and suddenly I'm up the walls, in a semi-literal sense. Assassin's Creed is a fine franchise and is selling copies by the boatload. I doubt Ubisoft will be crying that one angry person can penetrate their games, they're too busy buying their solid gold houses (all the power to them). Sometimes I think maybe I can describe my relationship with the Assassin's crew in a cliché way. Maybe Assassin's Creed, "It's not you, it's me." 
 

 I feel that this photo of Jon Hamm is appropriate.


 
On a sidebar, I am interested in purchasing Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and therefore render this blog void and I start the cycle of frustration anew where I curse the game and then eventually write a silly blog about it late night on a Tuesday. Circle of life.
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My Monday Night Combat Review

One look at Monday Night Combat and one thing jumps to your mind, "It's a Team Fortress 2 clone!". This really isn't the case, however. Monday Night Combat is a fast-pace addicting little mulitplayer game that just shares TF2's basic art style and general class system. If anything, it shares more of it's concepts with Defence of the Ancients as opposed to TF2.
 

 The always difficult choice.
The primary game mode in Monday Night Combat, Crossfire, involves you defending your base, known as the"Moneyball", against the opposing team. Instead of you and your five other team mates destroying the Moneyball, the teams have a series of bots that are controlled by AI. They will battle it out with one another and you must help them toward the enemies' Moneyball. This is where we see the influence from DotA. Only your bots (or "creeps" as they are known in other games) can take down the shield on the Moneyball.
 
Taunting, a flawless tactic.
Combat in Monday Night Combat is divided between the six different classes (or Pros as they are known in the game), Support, Tank, Assault, Gunner, Sniper and Assassin. Each one has their own four unique abilities you can level up (using money you earn) to be used to defeat the enemy across the game's four maps. These abilities are what bring the unique feels to each one of the classes. The abilities bring a fun twist to the preceedings and keep you wanting to come back for some more. Using the skills makes up for the OK shooting mechanic in the game, which, gets the job done but it can still leave you wanting for a bit more. Custom classes can also be purchased to mix up some of the characteristics of each class, providing a bit more depth to the gameplay.  
 
Visually, Monday Night Combat isn't the most technically impressive game. The artstyle may be very derivative of TF2 but it just doesn't look as good. The colours look a bit washed-out on each of the characters models and it just doesn't look too great. It does the job required but it lacks some visual flair and texture clarity as well as being an un-original artstyle.
 
Support is both a Medic and an Engineer.
The most important thing about the combat, apart from the class and abilities, is that it is just some damn silly fun. Grappling someone to see them fly off screen to the words of "RING OUT" is incredibly satisfying. The combat is very, very frantic. Everything is constantly moving, and when the shit hits the fan, the game can have some real crazy moments. Icing someone in the back as an Assassin feels great, getting a "pancake" by squashing someone as a gunner is just oh-so-satisfying.

There is a second game mode in Monday Night Combat called Blitz. It is a " survival" mode. Essentially, you and three other
 Man vs. Machine.
players have to protect a moneyball from a series of waves of bots. Although this just sounds like your "commoner gardener" survival mode, it is actually a whole lot of fun. The different number of turrents that can be built and the abilities your class can use brings a fresh look at the now overused survival mode. Deciding on where to spend you hard earned cash and trying to keep your turrets alive is really fun and exciting, especially in the game's manic Scramble Blitz. Blitz is a nice change of pace from Crossfire and it's a great addition to the package. 
 
There still chinks in Monday Night Combat's armour, however. A couple of flaws in the game holds MNC back from being a five star game. Firstly, the announcer is atrocious. Some may find his dumb lines funny but there is way too much repetiton to be amusing, the same stupid lines are heard over and over again. The game's performance isn't great either. When playing Crossfire, the frame rate will start to dip better hard when some action starts. In Blitz, the problem is a lot worse. When things start to get real serious, the frame rate will fall very far, which is a shame as you need to ready for all of the onslaught in Blitz. There is also a strange texture problem where just about many textures during gameplay (and weirdly in the menus too) have texture pop-in, which can really bring down some of the visuals.
 
All in all, Monday Night Combat is some good, multiplayer fun. Considering it is only $15, there is a lot of replayability in there. Some things drag it down, OK shooting controls, some graphical weirdness, but Monday Night Combat still backs a nice punch for a TF2 clone that in many ways, doesn't play like TF2 in the slightest.
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The Distant Future: The Year 2010

It feels like only yesterday that I wrote what I was looking forward to in 2009. Then here we are, 2010. My list last year was a bit... short to say the least but with year's very scary Q1 ahead of us, things are looking rosey. My inabilitiy to read game previews doesn't help either. In no real order, here is what I look forward to in the near-to distant future of 2010:
 
1. Red Dead Redemption
 
2. Mass Effect 2
 
3. Just Cause 2
 
4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
 
5. Shadow Complex 2 (Hopefully)
 
6. Dark Void
 
7. Half-Life 2: Episode Three (C'MON! PLEASE!)
 
8. Batman Arkham Asylum 2
 
I'm sure the year will be full of surprises I do not yet know about. I never knew about Batman last January and my God that game was good. I also am not rolling in money so I will be lucky to have bought 8 new games between now and 31 December 2010.

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E3 2009 Top 5 Games

There sure was a lot of good stuff to see and watch at this year's E3. Only if I was there. Anyway, the bestest games in my opinion and in no real order, just the five best;


1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii

2. Left 4 Dead 2

3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

4. Just Cause 2

5. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction/ Modern Warfare 2

There are a lot of "#2" sequels on that list. Uncharted is a surprise as I did not play the first one and Splinter Cell I did not care about at all coming into it but that presentation at the Microsoft Press Conference kicked ass. Great show but.... no Half-Life 2: Episode Three!

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