Sparky's Update - Cat Pee, Gears, and Forza Cheer

By gum and by golly, it's that time of the week again when I rock your eyeballs with some talk of gaming nonsense. No clever opening today, I'm afraid. I'm running a mile a minute around here, and I'm too exhausted to even try to be clever. Or whatever passes for "clever" in my Updates. Anywho, this week, we're going to talk about my 2nd proudest achievement to date, Gears of War 3, and cat piss in a bag. Hooray!

I Hate Cats

OK, really, I don't. But around seven years ago, I was in the middle of a flurry of moves, from college to home to another school to home to yet another school... it was a crazy time. Needless to say, some stuff got lost in the shuffle. One of the things I had chalked up for lost was a duffel bag containing, among other things, my slim PS1 from my college days as well as a bunh of PC games from about 2000-2003.

Today, I found that bag. And I'm not pleased.

Let me be up front about this - what happened is no one's fault but my own. I know how to keep electronics, games, and the like. But this time, I was lazy. I threw everything into a duffel bag, left it somewhere in my parents' house, and ran to do... well, whatever the hell it was I was doing back then. Probably getting drunk and hitting on married women, which was usually the case. Seriously, guys, if you want to make a woman smile, go up to a married woman and shamelessly flirt with her. Never take it further than that unless you want extra holes in your body, but it's the most fun a guy can have at a bar if there's no real game - and half the time, it'll make the single women rethink your scruffy, unshaven looks and the Mario t-shirt you unwisely chose to wear that day.

Back to the point.

I found that bag today. Huzzah. That bag was full of years-old cat piss. Boo. Thankfully, none of the games were worth much. In a way, I'm sort of relieved about that - if it had been my long-lost copies of Quest for Glory, Leisure Suit Larry, and my LucasArts collections, I'd have been upset. As it is, I'm kicking myself for doing something dumb, but oh well. We live and learn.

Chainsaws of War

I really enjoyed Gears of War 3. I need to preface this whole thing because at times, it's going to sound like I'm shitting on this game when I'm really not. I don't need to tell you why it's fantastic - the combat is fuckin' crazy and awesome, the characters are all kinds of cheesy machismo grunty types straight out of shlocktacular military science fiction (something I adore), and the game looks and feels spot-on for this generation.

It's also a deeply moving testament to how far we've come this generation in terms of how accessible games have become to those of us with vision problems. Due to my shades of color blindness, all the baddies in the first game had a tendency to blend into the backgrounds. The game was virtually unplayable for me. This game, though, has rectified that, especially when it comes to the Lambent. Their day-glo yellow body parts make them unmistakeable, but even the Locust have more colors and more details to make them stand out against the background. It's remarkable. In no small way, this game kindles my faith that on some levels, publishers and developers will continue to make games accessible for all while still keeping the heart and soul of the gameplay alive. That's a pretty damn cool thing.

I'd be lying, however, if I said Gears of War 3 was without fault. It is superb in almost every regard, but that quality almost makes its weakest portion stand out glaringly - namely, the story and pacing of the middle third of the game. While opening incredibly strong with Marcus and Cole's unique struggles against the Lambent (as well as Cole's awesome return to his glory days - one of the best moments of the game) and ending in a pitch-perfect moment, the middle third feels like a by-the-numbers affair, completely predictable and incredibly derivative. While some of the environments and gunfights are great, there are moments such as an entire town of infected, zombie-like people that made me roll my eyes. You've seen this in a dozen different sci-fi military shooters, from Halo's Flood to Resistance 2 & 3's infected populaces. Even the "desperate miracle cure" story is played out. It's super frustrating because you can see lots of moments of greatness, and the dialogue is both ridiculous and kinda great. Bro-tastic moments such as Cole's story are met in turn with quiet, reflective moments such as when Marcus Fenix and the character voiced by the great Claudia Black (who, it should be noted, has become one supreme voice actor) share a moment together. Marcus asks the Claudia Black character, "Are you okay?" After a long, heavy silence, she replies, "No. And neither are you." It doesn't sound like much, but there's an absolute ton of levity put into those couple of lines.

So it's a shame then that the individual moments don't quite add up to a better story overall. But Gears of War 3 is still a fantastic game, and a testament to the willingness of publishers to give a pat on the back to those of us with visual problems. Thanks, Epic.

One Hell of An Achievement

I beat Forza 4's career mode like a redheaded stepchild this week. Other than that ridiculously insane Arkham City achievement that required you to fly perfectly through a tiny corridor, this is my proudest achievement on the 360. It takes a hell of a long time, and yet, it's only a fraction of the time required to get the "All Gold" achievement. I may never obtain that one, but at least I can hold my head up proud and say, "Hey! I got a completely meaningless award in a video game time will forget when its inevitable sequels arrive!" Booyah, bitches. Booyah.

Randomness!

-Star Ocean: First Departure continues to be an unexpected delight. I'm a huge fan of the skill system. You essentially have skills that you can invest points into. On their own, these give you minute bonuses and change your stats slightly. But investing into certain combinations of skills grants you special abilities, such as cooking or the ability to dictate your rate of random encounters. It sounds convoluted, but it awards exploration, grinding, and experimentation like little I've seen before.

-On dankempster's recommendation, I've started the His Dark Materials trilogy. So far, I'm enjoying it. More thoughts to come later, but the world is cleverly designed, the dialogue is intelligent, and the novel never feels as though it's condescending towards the reader. That's a solid foundation!

And here's your Internet randomness for the week. Enjoy!

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6 Comments
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

By gum and by golly, it's that time of the week again when I rock your eyeballs with some talk of gaming nonsense. No clever opening today, I'm afraid. I'm running a mile a minute around here, and I'm too exhausted to even try to be clever. Or whatever passes for "clever" in my Updates. Anywho, this week, we're going to talk about my 2nd proudest achievement to date, Gears of War 3, and cat piss in a bag. Hooray!

I Hate Cats

OK, really, I don't. But around seven years ago, I was in the middle of a flurry of moves, from college to home to another school to home to yet another school... it was a crazy time. Needless to say, some stuff got lost in the shuffle. One of the things I had chalked up for lost was a duffel bag containing, among other things, my slim PS1 from my college days as well as a bunh of PC games from about 2000-2003.

Today, I found that bag. And I'm not pleased.

Let me be up front about this - what happened is no one's fault but my own. I know how to keep electronics, games, and the like. But this time, I was lazy. I threw everything into a duffel bag, left it somewhere in my parents' house, and ran to do... well, whatever the hell it was I was doing back then. Probably getting drunk and hitting on married women, which was usually the case. Seriously, guys, if you want to make a woman smile, go up to a married woman and shamelessly flirt with her. Never take it further than that unless you want extra holes in your body, but it's the most fun a guy can have at a bar if there's no real game - and half the time, it'll make the single women rethink your scruffy, unshaven looks and the Mario t-shirt you unwisely chose to wear that day.

Back to the point.

I found that bag today. Huzzah. That bag was full of years-old cat piss. Boo. Thankfully, none of the games were worth much. In a way, I'm sort of relieved about that - if it had been my long-lost copies of Quest for Glory, Leisure Suit Larry, and my LucasArts collections, I'd have been upset. As it is, I'm kicking myself for doing something dumb, but oh well. We live and learn.

Chainsaws of War

I really enjoyed Gears of War 3. I need to preface this whole thing because at times, it's going to sound like I'm shitting on this game when I'm really not. I don't need to tell you why it's fantastic - the combat is fuckin' crazy and awesome, the characters are all kinds of cheesy machismo grunty types straight out of shlocktacular military science fiction (something I adore), and the game looks and feels spot-on for this generation.

It's also a deeply moving testament to how far we've come this generation in terms of how accessible games have become to those of us with vision problems. Due to my shades of color blindness, all the baddies in the first game had a tendency to blend into the backgrounds. The game was virtually unplayable for me. This game, though, has rectified that, especially when it comes to the Lambent. Their day-glo yellow body parts make them unmistakeable, but even the Locust have more colors and more details to make them stand out against the background. It's remarkable. In no small way, this game kindles my faith that on some levels, publishers and developers will continue to make games accessible for all while still keeping the heart and soul of the gameplay alive. That's a pretty damn cool thing.

I'd be lying, however, if I said Gears of War 3 was without fault. It is superb in almost every regard, but that quality almost makes its weakest portion stand out glaringly - namely, the story and pacing of the middle third of the game. While opening incredibly strong with Marcus and Cole's unique struggles against the Lambent (as well as Cole's awesome return to his glory days - one of the best moments of the game) and ending in a pitch-perfect moment, the middle third feels like a by-the-numbers affair, completely predictable and incredibly derivative. While some of the environments and gunfights are great, there are moments such as an entire town of infected, zombie-like people that made me roll my eyes. You've seen this in a dozen different sci-fi military shooters, from Halo's Flood to Resistance 2 & 3's infected populaces. Even the "desperate miracle cure" story is played out. It's super frustrating because you can see lots of moments of greatness, and the dialogue is both ridiculous and kinda great. Bro-tastic moments such as Cole's story are met in turn with quiet, reflective moments such as when Marcus Fenix and the character voiced by the great Claudia Black (who, it should be noted, has become one supreme voice actor) share a moment together. Marcus asks the Claudia Black character, "Are you okay?" After a long, heavy silence, she replies, "No. And neither are you." It doesn't sound like much, but there's an absolute ton of levity put into those couple of lines.

So it's a shame then that the individual moments don't quite add up to a better story overall. But Gears of War 3 is still a fantastic game, and a testament to the willingness of publishers to give a pat on the back to those of us with visual problems. Thanks, Epic.

One Hell of An Achievement

I beat Forza 4's career mode like a redheaded stepchild this week. Other than that ridiculously insane Arkham City achievement that required you to fly perfectly through a tiny corridor, this is my proudest achievement on the 360. It takes a hell of a long time, and yet, it's only a fraction of the time required to get the "All Gold" achievement. I may never obtain that one, but at least I can hold my head up proud and say, "Hey! I got a completely meaningless award in a video game time will forget when its inevitable sequels arrive!" Booyah, bitches. Booyah.

Randomness!

-Star Ocean: First Departure continues to be an unexpected delight. I'm a huge fan of the skill system. You essentially have skills that you can invest points into. On their own, these give you minute bonuses and change your stats slightly. But investing into certain combinations of skills grants you special abilities, such as cooking or the ability to dictate your rate of random encounters. It sounds convoluted, but it awards exploration, grinding, and experimentation like little I've seen before.

-On dankempster's recommendation, I've started the His Dark Materials trilogy. So far, I'm enjoying it. More thoughts to come later, but the world is cleverly designed, the dialogue is intelligent, and the novel never feels as though it's condescending towards the reader. That's a solid foundation!

And here's your Internet randomness for the week. Enjoy!

Moderator
Edited by Mento

I skipped the Gears of War 3 segment and then wondered if the reason you included Claudia Black in your tags is because she was the married woman you were hitting on. I'm an idiot. Not that anyone would blame you for trying your luck should the opportunity present itself.

This week (maybe month, I have no idea how long this game is), I'm going around people's blogs trying to invent reasons to bring up The Last Story. Not only is there nothing to relate it to here (besides the fact it's more or less a cross of a Star Ocean type Action RPG and Gears of War), but I think you're also a UK person* who could theoretically go out and buy it tomorrow. That's no fun. Stop spoiling my fun, Sparky.

*unless that's dankempster. I should write down where all you blog people live. Wait, no I shouldn't.

Moderator
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Mento: UK!?!?!?!?!?!?! I'm American, baby! I feel filthy now! Dirty! UGH! UK!?! Goddamn it, Mento. Just... goddamn it!

But seriously, I'm looking forward to The Last Story. When is it set to be released here in the States? It's looking like a good year for RPG's.

Moderator
Posted by Mento

Perhaps a little too severe a reaction, there. Have you been talking to ZombiePie?

So let me tell you about The Last Story! Actually I said everything of note between those parentheses. I think you guys will be seeing it in the summer? But Xenoblade's out before then so maybe that's worth focusing on first.

Moderator
Posted by dankempster

Oh boy oh boy oh boy, it's a new Sparky's Update! Reading this will most likely be the perfect end to what's been a brilliant day!

Sorry to hear about the unfortunate fate that befell your duffel bag of gaming paraphernalia. I endured something similar earlier this week, when I recovered some of my old strategy guide collection, only to find some of it has been adversely affected by damp. I understand it's not quite as major (or smelly) as your predicament, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, I empathise. Hope it didn't contain anything irreplaceable.

Congratulations on your completion of Forza 4's career mode! Out of interest, how does it compare length-wise to Forza 3's? I remember that Achievement taking me almost a year of on-and-off play to earn. Regardless, I'm sure it's a monumental investment, so it's cool to know it's paid off with some Gamerscore.

I've already told you this, but I might as well re-post it here - I'm eagerly anticipating a more in-depth analysis of the His Dark Materials trilogy from you. As somebody who has incredibly fond memories of those books, but fears they may have been favourably tempered by nostalgia, a rational, honest, adult opinion would make for a very interesting read before I dip back into them myself. On the topic of books, I'm absolutely whizzing through The Waste Lands compared to the snail's pace that I crawled through The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three at. After those two books felt like an over-long preamble, it finally feels like the search for the Tower has actually begun. I'm really looking forward to seeing and learning more about Roland's world. As always, I promise more established thoughts when I come to the end of the book.

@Mento: Yep, I'm most likely the fellow Brit you're thinking of. I'm actually very hyped for The Last Story, but because I have no funds with which to purchase it at the moment, I'm just going to have to stay hyped for now. And apologies to Sparky for having the misfortune of being mistaken for such a poor specimen from these isles.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Mento: I love to get the goats of my friends from the UK. An old, dear friend and mentor of mine is a transplant from there, and it's become almost instinctual to joke about people across the pond. I'm actually hoping to visit there some day on vacation and see the best of Britain (and a guided tour of Europe, while I'm dreaming about it). Before I was sacked from my job a couple of years ago, I had actually been planning said vacation to happen this year to coincide with my 30th.

Wow, that got me rambling. Anyways... yes! The Last Story looks awesome-tastic!

@dankempster: You've gotta quit apologizing for yourself, friend! Trust me, being confused for someone who is entertaining, a good person, and can actually put two words together coherently is a good thing. At least I'm not being confused for (shudder) Graham Norton. That'd be like America's... I don't know... Carrot Top. Now there's a REAL shudder. Brrrr....

I've only read a few more pages into The Golden Compass. I'm afraid it will be slow going, as I have it in paperback in a regular font, so I have to occasionally revert to using a magnifier. That slows me down some, especially given the poor evening light in my apartment, but as I'm going on a bit of a short vacation over the next few days, I should get tons of reading done. From what I've read so far, I think it's a fine novel and I'm sure time has been kind to it. Actually, come to think of it, it seems like the sort of novel that should age beautifully. Glad you're breezing through The Waste Land. I was hoping I didn't oversell that one.

As for the cat pee incident, nothing major was lost. I actually found some pictures that were thankfully preserved in a baggie of my college years, including one of me drinking what is possibly the world's worst and skunkiest beer - Camo. It's mind-bleedingly awful. Sorry to hear about your guides. Now you've got me wondering if I shouldn't go through my parents' basement sometime and box up the rest of my books to bring here. Their basement gets damp as hell. Hmmm.

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