Last Friday I graduated from university. I would have liked to play that off as something other than a big deal, but I am unable to do so. It is a big deal. For the first time in my life, I don't know what happens next. I'm not going to lie to you here... I'm pretty fucking terrified.
The last week has been... well... it's been fast. I like to think there's a difference between drinking and celebrating, but those two lines draw dangerously close as each night progresses. And then E3 started, and then the alcohol stopped being an excuse and started being a result. This is what happens when you take an extremely exhausted, malnourished, lost human being and expose them to an overwhelmingly crippling wealth of information: Simply put, after the first day of E3 I pretty much mentally surrendered. I took note of events but my ability to care was significantly hindered by both my psychological and physical state. I spent the last seventy two hours on autopilot, sub-consciously water-skiing; terrified that if I stopped moving I would sink and drown.
I'm leaving university, where I have lived for 3 years, and I might never come back. I'm leaving all my friends and I might never see them again. I have no money, no job, nowhere to live except back with my parents. These are problems to which solutions must be found. For the first time in a long time, shit is happening. Things of relatively great importance. E3... well... E3 can wait.
It's times like these that you have to stop and look at what you are doing, what you have done, and what you are going to do. Fresh perspective is hard to find, and being granted such perspective is an opportunity, a privilege, that cannot be wasted. So right now I'm looking at myself and I'm trying to figure out if I like what I see.
In a lengthy interview with Develop, Newell said: "The industry has this broken model, which is one price for everyone. That's actually a bug, and it's something that we want to solve through our philosophy of how we create entertainment products." Rather than pricing a product based purely on what that product is worth, Newell talks about pricing a product based on what the customer is worth as well. "Some people, when they join a server, a ton of people will run with them," Newell continued. "Other people, when they join a server, will cause others to leave." "So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get DotA 2 for free, because of past behavior in Team Fortress 2," Newell added. "Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice."
Which is a pretty interesting take on the whole pricing system that currently exists, though it opens up several glaring issues that i'm sure you are all immediately aware of.
Firstly, a system like this would be hugely exploitable
and would be consequently exploited. Mercilessly. Communities would group together to either bump or drop individual scores in the name of getting free stuff for themselves or depriving others.
More interesting, however, is the idea of a developer having direct control over how their games are played. What if someone's enjoyment from a game comes from annoying other people who play that game? That might not be particularly honorable, but is that not fair? If they are paying money for the product, aren't they entitled to use it however they want? This echoes the entire "Should people be able to jailbreak their iPhones?" argument that was held not long ago. I seem to remember that the court ruled that once a person has bought a product then they own it and can do with it as they please. Where do you draw the lines?
For example, I sometimes play Eve Online (shaddap), and one of the main sources of entertainment in that game is "Scamming" or trying to embezzle in-game money from other players, which is a legitimate way to play. Doing so is obviously inconveniencing other players of the game, but it's still a legitimate way to play. I appreciate that Eve is a pretty extreme example given the free-from nature of the game, but the fundamentals still hold true.
The other side of the argument is that Valve should have the right to reward their loyal customers. If they deem you a dick there is nothing to stop them from treating you like a dick. If you own a store then you can give personal discounts to your friends while refusing to serve other customers. That's their right as well.
I know people that consider themselves entitled, having paid money for a game, to fair and honest gameplay.
I used to play Gears Of War 2 with a good friend who would rage at anyone who wouldn't work as part of our team. His argument was "I'm paying to play the game, I shouldn't be forced to deal with other who are paying to fuck about". This sense of entitlement is also core to the issue, though this is of course highly subjective. Who is to say that one way of playing the game is better than another? That mentality reeks of the arrogance of Denis Dyack who, after people gave Too Human poor review scores, claimed they "Didn't get it."
I have also had lengthy discussions (arguments) with MattBodega because, having discussed a game I was currently playing with him, he told me I was playing it right. I was outraged at the suggestion that any experience other than the one I was having could be considered anything other than "right". It's my experience within a videogame, something that is personal to me alone. That's the whole point. If everybody was supposed to play in an identical way then we might as well be watching a fucking film. In that sense, is there a wrong way to play a videogame?
Yeah, that's right Bodega! I'm calling you out!
So what does Sweep think about all this?
My own opinion is that; if the game is well made then the incentives of the game should be enough to dictate how the game is played. I shouldn't need to be told, the rewards of fair and balanced play should be all the incentive required. If there is room for others to abuse the scenario in which they have been placed, who is at fault? The developer, who left the game exploitable or didn't give the player enough incentive to not act like a dick, or the player, for finding an alternate source of entertainment.
I can see Gabe looking at the current system and saying "We need to mix things up a bit" and mad respect to him for that, but this does somewhat seem like a slightly idealistic system being applied to a far from ideal userbase. Still, very interesting.
Inbetween working off physical extremities and moderating you chimps on the forums, I have actually managed to salvage some time over the past few weeks to play some goddamn videogames. Let's talk about them!
Participating in demo's or, as they are apparently now known, "Beta's" are opportunities which I relish and, since getting my PC a couple of years ago, have actively sought out. Being so immersed in vidoegame culture means knowing specific videogames inside-out months before they are physically available, and any opportunity to decrease the time between "knowing" and "playing" should be leapt upon. Like a rapist.
I love Gears Of War, and you can read all about my beta impressions over here.
The Gears of War 3 beta has been thoroughly exhausted by myself and a great many other enthusiasts. I love the changes and weapon balances, the new game types, and the general refinement of the game's controls. The level design remains dynamic, the characters look and sound fantastic, and there even seems to be a much more Unreal level of humour in the game which was painstakingly absent in the previous two Epic titles. In short, I'm super excited for Gears Of War 3. However it's probably for the best that my time with the game was not overwhelming, my university workload preventing me from spending any great lengths of time signed into Xbox Live. I managed to get a few good sessions in, notably with my good friends Tanuki and Brukaoru, and also managed to unlock the retail loot like Thrashball Cole and the Golden Retro Lancer, the latter of which I will treasure and the former of which I will not. Having clocked a sizeable amount of hours with the beta already, I'm almost relieved that it's drawing to a close. I'm desperate to avoid exhausting the game before it has even been released, and playing the same 4 levels repeatedly, for experience points that shall be wiped in a matter of days, seems overtly excessive. No, it's time to slow down and back off. Whilst I do not look forward to the inevitable withdrawal once the beta ends, right now I have more pressing concerns.
After reading some previews of the Witcher 2, there were multiple reports of the game leaning heavily on the assumptions that players had experienced the original. The Witcher is a game that had been recommended to me many times by folks here on Giant Bomb, specifically Claude, who insisted that it would be worth a look. With the Witcher 2 looking increasingly jaw-dropping, I decided that it was probably worth £10 just to see what all the fuss was about and pick up on some of the history.
I am not a big RPG fan.
The closest I have ever really got was getting about halfway through Dragon Age: Origins. I didn't like Oblivion, as I have blogged multiple times, and I never played Diablo or any other dungeon crawler. It's just not a virtual aesthetic that appeals to me, the closest I have come to ever really enjoying an RPG being Mass Effect of Final Fantasy. Despite that, I decided that I should at the very least attempt what was being hailed as "one of the greatest RPG games ever made" (thank you MattBodega) and, with a few apprehensive clicks, bought the game on steam.
I'm fairly embarrassed to admit that the age of the game is cripplingly obstructive to my enjoyment of it.
The animation is poor, characters sliding around and clipping through objects, and awkward posing makes the atmosphere immediately uncomfortable for me. The textures look cheap and rushed, though I appreciate that at the time they were no doubt considered masterful, but the combat is not to my liking either. I have only played for a couple of hours, so my initial impressions are very... initial... but I shall continue to play through the game with a slightly resigned acceptance. It's not usually my style to judge a book by it's cover, and I have little doubt that I'm completely missing the point when criticising the aged technology powering one of the best RPG games around, but it's something I can't overcome through mere willpower. I don't like the way the game looks. There, I said it.
This is a personal issue that I have had to deal with repeatedly over the years. I find it increasingly difficult to go back and play older games, the relative drop in quality being absolutely mind-numbing for me. But there is still hope. I shall continue to play The Witcher, and some more extensive impressions shall no doubt feature in the blog in the near future.
Everything really is great at your Junes.
Having submitted my graduation project on friday, I now find myself with large (relatively speaking, of course) amounts of time with very few educational obligations. I have exams in 3 weeks, but 3 weeks is a loooong time. So, in order to bridge the gap, I started playing Persona 4. It feels slightly weird playing through the game solo, and the game takes on a much more sincere tone without Vinny making goofy jokes. I'm still getting weird flashbacks of Vinny and Jeff echoing throughout my playthrough, which is pretty bizarre, and has made me randomly chuckle on more than one occasion. I tried naming my character something other than Charlie Tunoku but it just felt... wrong.
No doubt my affection for Chie will soon become manifest, too. Fuck, I can't remember the word to describe someone with multiple sexual partners? Other than "winning", obviously...
Years ago a user named SuperMooseman wrote an adventure featuring many of the members of the Giant Bomb IRC channel. At the time the entire thing was written, and I want to make this clear, WITHOUT MY CONSENT, SUPPORT, OR KNOWLEDGE. It's worth checking out the original thread if you don't believe me, as the initial batch of responses were pretty hilarious. As a result of my non-involvement, I was predictably bewildered. However, in retrospect, this is a reminder of some of my best times in Giant Bomb history. SuperMosseman has since left the Giant Bomb fold and upon his departure all of his posts were removed. However, using the magic of internet technology, I have just stumbled upon the original post in all it's glory. Ladies and Gentleman:
00SWEEP: QUANTUM OF BOMB
THE LATEST ACTION PACKED FILM FROM THE ACADEMY AWARD WINNING MOOSEMAN STUDIOS
PACIFIC OCEAN Sweep was an agent for GiantBomb. He worked for them and was dedicated to his job, and never left lose ends. He had come to see Rowr, one of the finest spys from his time, but he had now retired to his luxury yacht in the Pacific Ocean. He donned a monocle and top hat, which he wore to impress the ladies. "Tell me, Sweep" said Rowr, swirling the his cocktail around with his finger "why did you come to me?" "I need to ask you a favour" replied Sweep, behind his black shades. Rowr let out a wild laugh. "HAH! You? A favour?" he sniggered again, leaning back in his chair and letting the sun hit his face "Sweep, I'll give you the favour. I'll give you anything you want." "Good, beca-" "But. I need you to make the kill." Sweep looked confused. Rowr put his hands in his pockets and pulled out a passport, handing it over to Sweep. The passport belonged to Wallace, a notorious criminal from the Tri-City area. Sweep smirked. Wallace was an old acquaintance of his, and he would be happy to get his revenge at last. "00Sweep at your service, sir."
CREDITS ROLL FEATURING TOP MUSIC ARTIST CARTMAN SINGING THE EPIC SONG
LONDON, ENGLAND Sweep ran through the bustling city of London, pushing past commuters and young children out with their parents to Christmas shop. He was here to meet Lies, a Russian arms dealer and a long time friend of Rowr's. Sweep trusted Lies with his life, and would always go to him for any weapon needs. Sweep turned down a side street, his swish, white Nike trainers smoothly bouncing from the uneven brick path. A gun shot sounded in the distance. Picking up his pace, Sweep twirled round the corner and came to his destination.
All was silent. Glancing around, it appeared Lies was out. But where did that gun shot come from? A voice sounded from behind Sweep. "Friend, friend!" It was Lies, instantly recognisable due to his lack of a left ear. "Glad to see you, Lies. It's been a while" Sweep grinned, embracing his companion in a hug. Suddenly his grin dropped. Lies' hands were soaked in blood. Sweep pulled away, a look of surprise in his eyes. "It's been a while, yes! What can I do for you?" said Lies, apparently unaware of Sweep's shock. Out of the corner of his eye, Sweep noticed a movement in the background. He looked closer and fear took hold of him. Fellow agent Hamz was tied up in Lies' shack, on the floor in a pool of blood. Sweep turned his eyes back to Lies and was greeted by a Magnum revolver. A smirk took hold of Lies. "Foolish, foolish Sweep." he said, the words rolling from his tongue with utter disgust. "You really thought I worked for you? That I was your FRIEND?" He let out a dirty laugh. Sweep paused, emotionless. "No." he said, pulling out his gun and shooting Lies' straight in the head. Lies flew backwards, hitting the wall and dropping down. Sweep checked Lies' pulse. He was dead. Picking up Lies' gun and delving into his pockets to retrieve identification, Sweep glanced over at Hamz, as if to show emotion, but turned his back and walked out of the alley. Sweep glanced down at himself and brushed away rubble that was on his suit, took off his jacket and slung it over his shoulder and walked down the street.
Suddenly a car pulled up next to him. A heavily built man was in the drivers seat, and had a face that challenged you to mess with him. "Get in" he said gruffly. Sweep obeyed and sat down in the passenger seat, unaware of who this man was or what he wanted. The driver put his foot down instantly and sped off down the street. "Lies, isn't it?" the driver said, eyeing him up. "I didn't expect you to look so..." he rolled his tongue around in his mouth, thinking of the word "posh.". On the word, he held out one of hands to Sweep, curling his fingers back and forth as if asking for something. "Come on, give me the papers" he said. Sweep hesitated. This was all the driver needed to realise something was wrong. He slammed on the brakes and pulled out a gun from his side, firing directly at Sweep. Without flinching, Sweep knocked the man's hand sideways, causing the windscreen to shatter. The man took aim again. "You dirty little-" Sweep didn't wait to hear what he was, but instead twisted the man's hand round and pulled the trigger. The bullet flew out and hit the man in the heart, causing his body to twist and fall on the steering wheel. 00Sweep leaned over to the glove compartment and opened it. An identification card and a map fell out. Unfolding the map, Sweep traced a marker pen line with his finger, following it from London to Oxford. He then picked up the identification card and placed it on the man next to him. Casey had been laid to rest.
LUCHAISLAND The rumours and stories that surrounded Luchaisland were vast. It was said the island was for criminals to lie low, spend time relaxing in the various pubs and sandy beaches and generally put their feet up. It was also said that these criminals never left the island. People assumed that the criminals merely turned over a new leaf, and had become accustomed to their luxury lives. This was far from the truth. Luchaisland was run by Wallace, known and respected throughout Europe by the underground class. Criminals looking to evade the flashing blue lights came to island, and their money would be safely secured in Wallace's bank account. But when it ran out, the relaxing life became a job in the mines or on the land farming crops. Attempting to escape would result in you trying to complete a rat run, a self-made pit full of horrible stages which would undoubtedly result in death. Crocodiles, eels and scolding hot irons were on the menu.
Wallace was preparing himself for a meeting. He'd received reports that one of his trusted men had tried to send a letter to a friend outside the island to help plan an escape. He didn't know who it was, but alas it was foolish. Wallace had connections with people everywhere. The room was large and had ceiling-to-floor windows, with the sun shining in and settling on the modern interior. Expensive paintings hung on the wall, and a large desk occupied the middle of the room, laid with food and drink. Wallace leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. He was fairly young, but the wrinkles on his face said otherwise. He had swept back blonde hair, and all his facial features were in proportion. You could say he was an attractive man, except his eyes were stone cold. He wore a yellow fez on his hat, which he was never seen without. A knock sounded at the door.
"Come in." he called. Seven casually dressed men entered the room, each looking equally nervous. It was rare that they would all be called together like this. They sat down in their chairs and all turned their attention to Wallace. "Welcome, welcome." Wallace calmly said. "Please, help yourself to snacks" he said, gesturing with his hands. "I'm sure you're aware that something is wrong, so I'm going to cut to the chase. One of you has been trying to escape the island. We all know the rules. No-one leaves the island once they've arrived." he paused, not showing any sign of anger. Wallace took a deep look at each of the men in turn, but they all showed apparent confusion. He placed a bottle on the table, full of a blue liquid. "This is an antidote. The person who tried to escape has been drinking from a poisoned glass. If they own up know, I will pass them the antidote and all will be forgotten." There was a pause, and then a sudden scream from one of the men. MattBodega was standing up and had his hands wrapped around his throat, and had gone bright red. "I'm choking, I'm choking! It was me! I tried to escape! I'm sor-" he spluttered "I'm sorry!". Wallace smiled, and then let out a small sigh. "Sit down. You are not really poisoned. It was only to get a confession out of you." said Wallace. MattBodega let go off his throat, and stood on the spot, panting. "MB, take him to the rat run." There was a sharp intake of breath, and MattBodega was no longer red in the face, but white.
OXFORD, ENGLAND Sweep was on a train to Oxford, and was sitting opposite a man who had been reading the same newspaper the whole journey. Outside the window the empty landscape whizzed passed, the occasional sheep or cow coming into view. The train came to a halt, and the voice over announced the termination of the service. Sweep picked up his jacket from the seat next to him and put it on, stood up and waited for the doors to open. A voice sounded from behind Sweep. "You dropped this." It was the man who was reading the newspaper, and he was holding something. Lies' ID card that Sweep had taken earlier. The newspaper man held out the ID to pass it to Sweep, and looked down at it as he did so. Sweep leaned forward to take it, but the man pulled back and studied the card with great intent. He looked up again, and Sweep clocked the man's broken nose. "Really? Well, have a nice stay, Lies" he said, almost sarcastically. Sweep looked into his eyes and took the card, pocketing it instantly. "Thanks" he replied coldly, and walked off the train.
He glanced around and took in his surroundings. It was fairly clean, as far as train stations go. There were many people bustling about, many with suitcases and determined looks, not wasting time to get to their destination. A particular figure caught Sweep's eye. He was holding his ear and talking, staring directly at Sweep, but glanced away quickly whenever he looked. Sweep ignored him, and instead headed for the map that the man was leaning against. In response to this, the man jumped from where he was and started sprinting through the crowds, unaware that he wasn't the target. Until now. Sweep ran after him, pushing his way past people, ignoring their cries. Sweep could see the man's black head of hair dashing in and out, heading towards the station tunnel. Sweep followed, jumping over the barrier and sign that denied anyone access due to future maintenance work. He entered the tunnel, but darkness hit him. He stopped and listened. Nothing. Had the man already made it out of the tunnel? Suddenly there was a bang and a flash of light. Sweep ducked to the floor and frisked for his gun. He pulled it out and fired a bullet into the distance as a response. "SHOW YOURSELF!" Sweep shouted. "The lack of lighting proves a problem." a deep voice replied. Sweep fired again, illuminating the tunnel once more. A shadow in the distance revealed a figure running away. Sweep jumped to his feet and followed. He rounded a corner and was struck by light. This time not from gunfire, but the tunnel exit was straight ahead. Sweep emerged from the tunnel and saw the man jumping on a nearby train.
Jamming his foot in the door and pushing them apart, Sweep followed the man on the train and looked around. The mystery figure had already made it to the next carriage, and a portly woman pushing a confectionery trolley was blocking his way. This was no time to stall. Taking a running jump, Sweep hurled himself over, knocking open drinks and plastic-looking food to the floor. Sweep hammered on the sliding door's button, cursing under his breath. The doors hissed open and Sweep slid through. An over-head announcer advised passengers to take their seats, as the train was about to set off. The escaping man was no-where to be seen. There was a tap on his arm, and Sweep looked down. A man with a broken nose signalled opposite him. Sweep looked and saw an open window. Wasting no time, he climbed on the table and pushed the top half of his body out. A blast of air hit him, causing him to jolt and tighten his grip on the inside of the window. He quickly moved his arms out of the window and grabbed the top of the moving train, hurling himself up. He laid flat, not knowing what might be ahead. He did know what was pushing down on the back of his head, though. Sweep rolled over and a shot, followed by the sound of metal crunching, could be heard. Sweep jumped to his feet and tried to throw a punch at the man's face, but he ducked and placed a blow in Sweep's stomach, causing the 00 to keel over.
The train was picking up speed, and the wind was becoming increasingly difficult to battle against, let alone the pain running through Sweep's stomach. He rolled up in a ball and closed his eyes, just wanting for the pain to vanish. Why had that punch hurt so much? "I know why you're after me," came a voice from above Sweep, which sounded like it was from another world despite the speaker being right next to him. "I've got the antidote, and you want it to stop my plan. And let me guess? You think I'm about to tell you how you could stop me, how you could use the antidote and how you would save the world. Alas, that isn't going to happen, Disgaeamad." Sweep let out a smile through the pain. This criminal had obviously mistaken Sweep for someone else. Not someone from his department though, for he'd never heard the name before. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do now," he said, rolling Sweep over so he came face to face. "I'm going to leave you on top of this train. I could kill you, but I think that punch a moment ago will." The man let out a wild laugh which highlighted his obvious gold tooth. "Au rov-- au revao - goodbye, Disgeamad." And with that he moved over to the side of the train and climbed back through the window. The pain was still throbbing throughout Sweep's body, and was making its way to his head. Sweep tried to stand and suddenly realised he couldn't move. At all. His legs and arms were completely paralysed.
The train started to slow down, obviously coming to its next platform. Suddenly, as if appearing from nowhere, a helicopter appeared above the train. Sweep hadn't heard it approaching due to the wind, and didn't know if the people inside would be friend or foe. A ladder fell down from the 'copter and swung beside Sweep, tempting him to climb up. The lack of movement in his body proved a certain challenge to that. Moments passed until a figure starting climbing down the ladder, taking one step at a time, as if ignoring that both the helicopter and train were moving. Finally the person reached the end of the ladder, swinging off from it while holding on with one hand. Sweep tried to make out who it was, but his eyes were blurring up. "Take my arm!" the person called. If Sweep could, his palm would have been in his face. This was the voice of CrunchUK, the lunatic agent from GiantBomb. He had only been on one mission so far, and that was to get a cat out of a tree. He'd failed it. "I can't." Sweep called back, hoping this was a dream, "I'm paralysed". "Oh, right, right, no problem. I come prepared for everything." CrunchUK replied. "Really?" said Sweep, full of surprise. "Well, I've got my hand!" chuckled Crunch, reaching out and grabbing Sweep's arm. The crazy agent nodded up to the helicopter, and the ladder started to detract into the motor vehicle and lift the agents to safety. The pair rolled into the helicopter and Crunch settled Sweep on the first-aid bed. "You need some rest, buddy!" Crunch said, winking. Sweep groaned with pain and annoyance. "I'm not going to sleep. I've got to get back to HQ and tell... everyo...--" his voice trailed off as he fell into a deep sleep. The chase and fight had completely worn him out without him realising. "Goodnight, sweet prince." said Crunch, tucking into a peanut butter sandwich from his lunchbox.
TO BE CONTINUED...?
You thought that was bananas? Well that's not all, my friends! Next up comes "Sweep & Hamz - The Early Years", a short story about a detective agency Hamz and I supposedly worked at before I became a 00 agent. Yes, I appreciate how absolutely ridiculous this is. Guess who wrote it?
Sweep & Hamz: The Early Years
"When are we gonna get another case, Sweep? Surely the local lawbreakers must miss our esoteric brand of personalized criminal justice." A dart flew across the room and missed the board once again. Hamz rolled his eyes after his unsuccessful throw and picked up the newspaper on the table next to him, opened it up and pretended to read. A tall, well-built figure pulled himself off a chair and strolled over to the dart, muttering under his breath as he picked it up. He turned to face Hamz. "As soon as you learn how to aim, pal." he said, chucking the dart towards him. Hamz threw himself to the floor instantly and pulled his knees up to his chest. Laughing, Sweep went into the back room to make a cup of coffee. Getting up from the floor, Hamz moped his brow and glanced around. "You could have killed me, you maniac!" he shouted into the other room. Sweep came back out carrying one black coffee and a Fanta Fruit Twist, handing the latter to Hamz. "Don't be stupid. Ever since the incident," he pointed to the broken lightbulb "I only let you use rubber darts." This was Sweep and Hamz, and they owned a detective's office in the centre of Oxford, a city known for its education rather than crime. Nevertheless, the pair boasted their own plaque and desk to entice anyone wishing to hire out their services, something which had been in little demand recently. The pair's last case involved them trying to find Hamz's car keys, a mystery which was still on-going. The office itself was untidy, with left-over food, papers and conspicuous shards of glass scattered on the floor. "Make yourself presentable, will you?" Sweep said to Hamz. "We open in ten minutes." "Oh, yeah, right," laughed Hamz "because we're really going to get any customers." "Just do it." said Sweep bluntly. Hamz sighed, but obeyed, and pulled himself up the stairs. There was a crash from upstairs and Sweep rolled his eyes. He attempted to collect together the rubbish that engrossed the floor, but gave up halfway through, instead opting to slump on the sofa and watch the next episode on his Tom & Jerry DVD boxset. The clock struck nine and there was a prompt, loud knock. Sweep glanced up the stairs and was greeted with Hamz's confused face peering down. "Was that you?" they said in unison. Sweep looked around the room, and his eyes settled on the door. Hamz must have guessed where he was looking. "You don't think?" Hamz whispered. Slowly Sweep got to his feet and walked over to the door. He opened it slightly, the chain stopping it opening fully. There was a man in the street on the other side, wearing a suit and tophat, looking very angry. "Are you going to let me in or what?" he demanded. "Erm. Do you know who we are?" Sweep said hesitantly. "Of course I do, you silly man! Why else do you think I'd be here?" "Right. Yes, yes. One moment." Sweep closed the door and looked at himself in the mirror, adjusting his hair. "Who is it?" Hamz said, coming down the stairs. "I've no idea you fool, but he looks important." Sweep said impatiently, taking a seat behind his desk. "Quick, let him in and pretend we are professional." Hamz went over to the door and opened it fully. The man looked angrier than before, if possible. He did not wait to be invited in, but instead ignored Hamz and walked straight over to the desk and sat down. He stared at Sweep for a while before saying anything. "Would you turn that childish TV show off?" he said forthrightly.
Sweep buttoned up his jacket and put one leg on top of the other. He stroked his chin and rested it against his hand. Unsure who this man was or what he wanted, Sweep decided to start conversation. "Nice weather?" The man ignored him and put a black suitcase onto the table. Sweep leant forward and run his hand across it, pretending to be an expert. An expert in suitcases. "I'm being traced." spoke the man. Sweep looked up from the suitcase, took out some glasses from his pocket and put them on. Hamz winked at gave two thumbs up to Sweep from behind the man. "Traced?" replied Sweep. "As in, someone followed you here?" "Precisely. I hate to be so gruff, but I fear someone is watching me." This sentence alarmed Hamz, and he turned his head in all directions, searching for who or what was tracing this man. "My name is Rowr," he continued "and I understand you're detectives?" Sweep nodded, and Hamz pulled up a chair next to Sweep. "Only the best!" beamed Hamz. "You better hope so. This suitcase here," he said, nodding at it "contains something very important. I want you to look after it." "And if we don't?" said Hamz. Sweep elbowed him hard in the ribs and Hamz let out a yelp. "If you don't I fear we could all be in trouble. I'll give you £200 now, and a further £100 when I come to collect this in a weeks time." Hamz snorted and sat upright in his chair. He had never seen that kind of money, let alone been offered it from a top-hat wearing man. Sweep had been taken this all in, and finally spoke. "What's in the case?" he asked. Rowr paused and considered. "Alright, I'll tell you... a packet of Cadbury's milk buttons." All three of them laughed for a while, but were soon cut short. "--all joking aside, don't open it or you're dead." Rowr said seriously, silencing Sweep and Hamz. Rowr rose from his seat, tossed £200 in notes onto the desk and left the office. "What the hell just happened?" asked Sweep.
"Pub?" asked Hamz. Sweep nodded. "Pub." The pair made their way down to the Jayge's Head, a favourite bar of theirs. They took a window seat and ordered two pints of Coke. Hamz put his feat up on the two-seater sofa and relaxed. "Are you insane?" said Sweep. "You know Jayge doesn't like people putting their feet on the furniture!" Hamz let out a light chuckle. "Don't worry, it isn't even the usual bartender" he said, nodding towards him. Sweep sighed and took a glug from his Coke, getting strange ideas of chugging it and timing himself. "What d'ya suppose is in the box, then?" said Hamz eagerly. "Keep your voice down, idiot" shushed Sweep. "I don't know what is truly in the box, and to be honest, I don't really care. We'll just wait for the week out, collect the money and then lose it all gambling." "300 pounds. 300 smackers. 300 quid." Hamz kept repeating, as if considering the amount of money, completely unaware of Sweep's ever-increasing stare. "Toilet." muttered Sweep, getting up and walking over to the far of the building, disappearing past the swing door. Hamz murdered something in response, trying to stop himself falling asleep. "More Coke?" Hamz jumped from his seat and looked up. It was the new bartender. "What? N-no, I'm fine, thanks." said Hamz, closing his eyes again. "More Coke?" the gruff voice repeated. Hamz sat up in his seat and found himself face to face with the barrel of a gun. "Please, I insist" he said with a sly smile. "Not today." Sweep said from behind the man, smashing his head down on the table and grabbing the gun. He fired a shot into the air, mainly to impress any women watching. "Did you wash your hands?" asked Hamz quizzically. Sweep turned the gun back towards Hamz as a threat, and then grabbed him by the arm. "Do something useful for once and RUN!" he shouted, kicking the man in the back of the legs and pulling Hamz out of the pub. They both sprinted down the street as fast as they could. "You know when I said I was going to the toilet?" said Sweep. Hamz nodded in reply, too busy running to talk. "I didn't wipe my hands. I planted a bomb." Hamz turned his head and had an expression that said 'are you insane?'. "3... 2..." a loud explosion sounded in the distance. "Damn, one second out." cursed Sweep. The pair rounded the corner and sprant into their office. Hamz bolted the door and collapsed down the wall. "How did you know how to plant the bomb?" panted Hamz. "I recognised that bartender, and everyone else in that bar." said Sweep darkly. "That's BiggerBomb's crew."
Good times... Weird, slightly creepy times. But also good.
I'm experimenting with a new blog title. It looks sticky, so I might stick with it.
So, Portal 2, huh?
Does anyone else find it deeply ironic that Wheatley has a head like a fucking orange?
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Portal 2 is it's cast.
Wheatley, GLaDOS, Cave Johnson, even the sentry turret; Portal 2, and indeed Valve as a developer, exceed in crafting a world that extends far beyond the physical limitations of the screen. Large chunks of Portal 2 take place throughout landscapes rich with history, which consequently beg exploration and drive the player to continue. I was frequently reminded of Fallout 3 as I portalled my way through the extensive mausoleum that is Aperture Science laboratories. I wanted to soak up as much of the fiction as possible.
This, in turn, can be credited to the fantastic script from which it's characters read.
For all the time you spend in empty rooms there is seldom a moment where you ever truly feel alone, constantly buffeted throughout the campaign by it's robotic menagerie of personalities. Portal 2 has a fantastic sense of humour that oozes from every pixel. GLaDOS is a wonderful antagonist, hilariously funny whilst maintaining a deeply sinister undercurrent of loathing aimed at the player. It's hard not to laugh at Wheatley, the endearingly moronic sidekick, as he frequently offers you useless advice. I don't think I will ever get bored of pushing over Sentry Turrets and hearing them bleat helplessly as they struggle with gravity. Cave Johnson, the millionaire entrepreneur, is similarly entertaining with his hazardously dismissive and upbeat messages, brusquely explaining the origins of Aperture Science and his involvement in it's managerial decisions. It becomes hard to resent the man who is ultimately responsible for your intense and gruelling sequence of tests, despite the fact that he is clearly a complete arrogant bastard.
It's these characters that make Portal 2 really shine.
By giving these characters their own agendas, valve gives them consistency beyond their pre-recorded messages, allowing the player to fill in their characters as complete entities and not just hollow robotic tour-guides. As the story progresses, these agendas become clear and the empathy the player has with it's cast increases - making the finale of the game tremendously tense and exciting. It is Valves understanding of this that makes Portal 2 such a vibrant and engaging experience.
Also there were some puzzles and things? I dunno, I wasn't really paying attention.
Those that follow my blog will know that I'm a big Gears Of War fan.
Usually that knowledge is accompanied by some form of bewilderment or confusion, which is understandable. I can't really explain why I love the Gears franchise so much. I play the games obsessively, I have read all the fiction (yeah, there are Gears of War books. They suck, for the record), I filled out a chunk of the Gears wiki pages here on Giant Bomb and I even have a few Gears of War action figures and T-Shirts. It's bordering on unhealthy. So when I heard that I could get into the Gears 3 beta by buying a copy of Bulletstorm, I immediately did so. I didn't particularly enjoy Bulletstorm and it was promptly returned to my local GAME and exchanged for store credit. I had entered the DLC code into my account already, so my plan was to simply rent the game on the 18th and play that way. My Gears 3 pre-order would come into effect the following week, so it didn't seem like a big deal.
However on Friday I was scrubbin' around at home when Cliffy B started tweeting out Gears 3 ViP beta codes. This would save me some money not having to rent out the game from blockbuster, as well as getting me into the beta 3 days early, so I was pretty excited at the opportunity. After some quick investigation it became apparent that there were actually a large number of Gears Devs tweeting the codes, so I followed the ones with the fewest followers, to minimise the competition, and sat there in front of my computer hungrily waiting for codes to get dispensed. I set up TweetDeck with a filter so it was only showing me posts with the #Gears3Beta hash-tag and bumped up the refresh rate to max which meant the posts were hitting my feed up to 10-15 seconds before they were going up on Twitter. I made sure I was logged onto xbox.com as well, so I could instantly copy across the code and hit enter. After about 20 minutes of desperately scrabbling for codes that were being snatched up within SECONDS (literally two or three seconds) I managed to tag a code. I raised my fists triumphantly into the air, turned on my Xbox to begin the install, and went to get a beer while the Gears 3 Beta Downloaded. Big shout to Mark Rein for my beta code. Cheers, buddy!
Since Friday I have clocked a lot of hours with the Gears 3 beta.
You unlock new character + gun skins by completing a certain amount of matches. For example, 20 King Of The Hill matches get's you Cole, 50 Matches in total get's you Cole Train (Thrashball Cole) and 90 matches get's you the Gold Retro Lancer. I had unlocked everything except the gold lancer within 24 hours. Yeah... I played a lot.
So there have been multiple news articles explaining what the beta involves, what guns and game-types, but very little actual information about how the new features will effect gameplay. This blog is designed to address exactly that. I played the fuck out of Gears 2, and I know all about the Gears fiction, so i'm probably in as good a position as any to fill in the gaps. So... here we go:
Probably the best feature I have seen on the beta is the matchmaking.
Finding and joining matches is quick and painless, the interface is clean and the game loads fast. Once a public match ends players are instantly taken to the next match and thrown right back into the action, so there is never more than about 30 seconds where you aren't shooting someone. It feels very dynamic as a result, and it's very smooth compared to the Gears 2 Lobby system which felt somewhat clunky. Players can quit at any time and their scores will be kept, as well. This means if you drop out of a game while the scores are still showing, or while the next level is loading, you will still receive all your XP and points. The drop-in drop-out nature of the matchmaking is to the games credit. The only flaw with the system I have found so far is with the team-balancing, and the game has frequently dumped me into a team full of AI against a fully human set of opponents. I give them a good run for their money but the AI is still pretty docile, meaning that unless you get some real people on your team you are probably going to die.
The questions that seem to be getting thrown around most frequently regard the shotguns.
The Gnasher was obviously one of the most popular guns in Gears 2 for it's brute force, and it's similarly favoured in the beta. However the new guns make the game a lot more interesting by addressing many different playing styles. For example, in Gears 2 I favoured the Lancer over the Gnasher, but often had to resort to the Gnasher because of the range at which most conflicts were taking place. The Lancer was pretty redundant, designed for long-range precision as oppose to spraying up close. The Retro Lancer addresses this by being more powerful, yet moderately less accurate, and with some pretty brutal recoil. The optimum range for the Retro Lancer, therefore, seems to be just between those of the Lancer and Gnasher, making it perfect for countering players who just like to roll in close with a shotgun. Considering this was the main tactic of Gears 2, this makes it useful for killing just about everyone. To make the standard Lancer more versatile, the recoil is practically non-existent (as with the hammerburst) and the clip size has been almost doubled, meaning you get a beefy stream of bullets to hose down your enemies with. The HammerBurst has been plugged as the marksman's weapon of choice with minimal recoil and extreme accuracy in Iron-Sight mode. It's also very quick to reload, and can score headhots. Which is nice.
The Sawed Off is only really useful in certain circumstances.
It takes an age to reload (two or three seconds, even with an active reload) so it's only really useful against single opponents unless they are all clumped together on a capture point or something. It also requires you to be right up in a dudes face, almost the same range you would be to chainsaw a guy, in order to be effective. The result, however, is insta-death for anyone on the receiving end, and without the paralysing animation of an execution or chainsaw kill. Because of it's terrible range the Sawed Off is most effectively used to ambush and blind-fire round corners, or to sneak up on enemies who haven't seen you yet. A frontal attack will fail when countered with any other gun, so you really have to pick your battles. It seems to work well as a complimentary weapon with the machine-guns, for example. I'm currently rockin' the Retro Lancer as my main, as it's versatility works in most situations, but switch to the Sawed-Off whenever I want to get the drop on somebody. So far the results have been spectacular.
A lot of people seem worried that the power of the Sawed-Off is going to make the Gnashed redundant, but they have nothing to worry about.
The Gnasher is still super popular and most of the people I play against still seem to favour it over all the other guns. It's still the best weapon for a direct attack, and any time the Sawed-Off can kill you, the Gnasher would be just as effective in terms of power, though getting that precision shot is slightly more difficult. Players still seem to be adapting to the wider range of guns like the Sawed Off and Retro Lancer which really even the playing field when it comes to close quarters combat. The best thing about the Sawed Off is that it has put an end to those stupid shotgun showdowns from Gears 2 where the last two players would strafe in circles shooting at each other for 20 seconds unable to hit anything. The Sawed Off clears the screen, literally. However, if you miss with it then you are fucked, so be careful.
The smoke grenades are now officially useful again, creating a larger and more impressive cloud of smoke that actually serves as some pretty decent cover. If enemy players are too close to an exploding smoke grenade then they will cover their face with their hands, making them unable to fire, but are not rooted to the ground like they were originally in Gears 2 (Until they patched the flinch out, making the smokes useless) and are still able to roll away to safety. A pretty solid tactic is to stun enemies with a Smoke and then use the time when they are stunned to get in close with a shotgun or rev up the chainsaw bayonet. The Incendiary is the new flame grenade that works very much the same as the Ink in that it leaves an area on the map which will hurt any enemy players who venture too close. The blast radius of the Ink has been reduced and it is now no longer a large cloud of smoke, but a more focussed patch of poison. As such I tend to keep hold of them and tag them onto meat-shields as a distraction rather than a meaningful weapon. Because of their reduced radius, the Ink and Incendiary aren't particularly good proxy traps either, so I haven't really been sticking them to walls much.
The One-Shot is an absolute beast that will destroy anything it touches, as the name implies. However it makes a sharp beeping noise when aimed, and there is a laser to accompany it so it's pretty easy to spot when it's being aimed at you. The Digger Launcher is pretty cool as well, frequently replacing the traditional boomshot, though the path-finding of the projectile is somewhat unreliable. I have frequently had shots explode on contact with walls and objects, instead if digging under them as advertised. Many people will be pleased to hear that the Longshot is now a lot less accurate outside of the scope, so it's a lot more difficult to down people with a quick active-reload up close. Lastly, the Gorgon Pistol now fires a continual stream of bullets as oppose to it's burst fire in Gears 2, making it a much more useful SMG. I use my pistol a lot as the Retro Lancer downs people before killing them, so I frequently find myself grabbing enemies as a meat shield, and the Gorgon is very useful.
The Multiplayer Modes
Is kinda fun, though I prefer objective based gameplay so I haven't really played much of this beyond what I needed to unlock the new characters. The limited number of lives makes sticking in a group a key tactic as it makes it much easier to revive squad-mates. It's very similar to the Rush tactics of Battlefield, where you need medics to prevent your reinforcements from being depleted. It's a smart way of promoting organised team-play and communication.
Capture The Leader
Probably my favourite of the new game types. It's like a cross between Guardian and Submission from Gears 2, a cross between capture the flag and ViP mode. One player on each team is made the leader and the other players must protect their leader whilst trying to capture (meat-shield) the enemy leader. Once captured they must be held for 30 seconds. If both leaders are captured, the countdown timer stops until one leader is dropped. The main reason this game-type works so well is because the leader is actually given the tools required to be a valuable asset to the team instead of just a helpless AI that needs babysitting the whole time. The tac-com ability (pressing LB to see your team-mates on the HUD) now shows x-ray positions of friendly players, very similar to detective vision from Batman: Arkham Asylum, but the leader has the ability to also see enemy players as well. This means they can keep their team constantly updated as to enemy positions and respawn locations, etc. This is especially useful on the map Trenches, which features a sand-storm that covers the entire map in a blanket of sand, minimising visibility. Being able to see your team-mates and enemies through the sand is therefore very useful, and your team relies heavily upon your communication skills. Lastly, if you are the leader and you are captured by the enemy you have the ability to struggle against your captor by pressing B - this sounds kinda pathetic, but when you do so it effectively prevents them for firing or moving for a couple of seconds, potentially giving your team an advantage over your captor.
King of the Hill
Pretty much the same as it ever was, though the King Of the Hill matches currently last stupidly long amounts of time - up to 20 or 30 minutes for some of the longer games - so after unlocking all the characters I needed I haven't really gone back to those. Hopefully they will make them a bit shorter when the game hits retail.
The Characters and Levels
The characters are pretty basic, not much to say really. The one notable exception is the Leader for the COG is Prescott, not Hoffman. Prescott served as a COG soldier (as did all politicians) during the Pendulum wars before Emergence day, however it was considered only a formality and he never actually saw any action. It's an interesting inclusion to have him here as by the end of the third Gears Of War book, Anvil Gate, which bridges the gap between the second and third games, Prescott has lost all power and authority as Leader of the COG and Hoffman is pretty much doing whatever the hell he wants. I think Cliffy B even mentioned that the third game is set when the COG had dissolved and Prescott had fled to an unknown location, so his inclusion here is somewhat strange. But then again, they have Cole in a fucking Thrashball uniform, so attempting to find continuity amongst the Gears 3 multiplayer characters seems somewhat futile.
The levels look really great.
My favourite is probably Old Town, which is set on Vectes island, where the COG re-established themselves after Jacinto was sunk. The island is situated behind a deep sea trench which had prevented the Locust from tunnelling there, and housed an old naval base which had been de-militarised because of supposed toxic leakages. This is soon discovered to be false and when the COG arrive they find a small community of COG citizens who have been living on the island since the Pendulum wars and have never even seen a Locust before. Knowing all this, it's nice to finally get a chance to see some of the smaller COG settlements before they got all fucked up, and the level looks appropriately beautiful. I especially like being able to kill chickens with a Retro Bayonet. Good times.
So, I think that's all the important stuff covered. If anyone has any specific questions then I shall do my best to answer them. Otherwise I guess I will see some of you in the beta when the Bulletstorm kids get in tomorrow.