Man, am I going to miss @drewbert.
I'll admit, it took the longest time out of all the staff for me to warm up to the guy. Back in the day, if Drew ever appeared on camera it was only fleetingly, as if to remind us that the video production work was never Vinny's burden alone. It seemed he was happy enough just fading into the background and letting the others establish the whole "personality-driven website" dynamic on their own. What snippets we did get painted a guy completely unlike myself: outdoorsy and adventurous with an indefatigable patience for the driest vehicle and military simulators on the planet.
It's only around 2013 where Drew started to appear in content more often that I really appreciated what he brought to the site. Though his interests - beyond video games and cheesy action movies, at least - still ran perpendicular to my own, his sense of humor was almost identical: dry, and with a subtle delivery that most of the other Bomb Squad often missed. Fortunately, Drew was savvy enough to know he was performing for more than just the three or four people in the room, and slowly built a legion of fans who appreciated his mini-expressions and stealth puns. It's hard to imagine what Giant Bomb will be like without him, and I sincerely hope one of the new employees Giant Bomb will recruit this year can match his low-key energy and under-the-radar goofs. If they can also match the number of incredible stories on topics such as learning to fly or visiting North Korea, all the better, though I'll keep my expectations in check.
Before this gets any more uncomfortably effusive for the modest fellah, I'll leave him and you all with this special send-off comic I made. I drew Drew for maybe the last time:
(And hey: When Extra Life rolls around again this year, I'm sure someone will lend you and Alexis a key to the CBSi building. Just sayin'.)
Discussing Drew is always fun, but I'm always more inclined to talk about myself. So here's this week's regularly updated blog content for your perusing convenience:
- The Top Shelf celebrates the last week of its svelte size, as we're moving onto ten games per week as of March. Even with just five games, though, we got an exciting first: Jak and Daxter is our first game to be instantly approved to the shelf! That means it gets to saunter past the many games queuing up for a chance at the shelf, taking the red carpet to their especially reserved place on the shelf. I also bring the hammer down on Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Max Payne, Project Zero (Fatal Frame) and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, so be sure to give that entry a read.
- The Indie Game of the Week was N++, the ninja-smushing minimalist masocore platformer of a truly astronomical size. I cut my losses at the tutorial levels, since I'm a big wuss and I didn't think I'd finish 500 levels of grueling difficulty and precision in time for a weekly blog, but besides generally not enjoying particularly difficult games I can't really fault the game's level of fluidity. It will take a while to get used to its momentum and mechanics if this is your first ninja rodeo, but the tutorial's long enough that it's unlikely you won't have it figured out before you're ready for prime time. That's a high-quality platformer that will last you for months, probably, so I can't fault it too much.
Just Cause 3
I'm still fairly early into Just Cause 3 - finishing up the last few trophies and substories in Yakuza 4 took longer than I anticipated - but so far it's elicited a mix of emotions. I bought the game despite its middling reception because I didn't think you could screw up Just Cause 2's endless cycle of grapple hook-assisted destruction, and for the most part the game stays the course. It does feel like the game controls slightly less well than its predecessor, and there's something slightly disappointing about the lack of evolution the series has seen since 2010, but there's still plenty to enjoy here.
Just Cause 3 moves the action to the fictional Mediterranean island nation of Medici, which feels like a mix of Sardinia and the Greek archipelago from my hazy memories of vacationing around that region as a child, and the game makes the wise decision that The Witcher 3 did and increases the hues to make the geographical topography stand out. The grass is really green and the seas are really blue, and it helps the country feel both beautiful and vaguely cartoonish: the latter hardly detrimental to the already cartoonish levels of violent gameplay and eccentric characters. Another cute element I enjoyed is that the oppressive ruling party apparently kidnapped a celebrity tourist to be its "propagandist minister", forced to incredulously read euphemistic responses to the recent victories of the revolution: the game's yet to mention who it is, but there's no mistaking David Tennant's voice. That guy's been popping up in all sorts of places since Doctor Who - I particularly liked his sinister turn as the mind-manipulating antagonist of Marvel's Jessica Jones.
The game's also remarkably lenient and streamlined too, taking a few pages from Saints Row: The Third's book in minimizing a lot of features that felt unnecessary. There doesn't seem to be any kind of currency to worry about with regards to gear/vehicle drops, all destruction progress is saved even if you happen to die mid-spree, and all targets are clearly visible with their stark red paint (or, if it's night time, a whole bunch of glowy red lights) and their icons placed on the map for your convenience. You still liberate military bases and towns by destroying all "chaos objects" - propaganda trucks and loudspeakers, fuel tanks, electrical transformers, etc. - and are able to sweep the map of these bases almost immediately after starting without being concerned too much about following the story missions. However, the story missions will eventually allow you to take on the final "boss" base of a particular island region - completing certain missions reduces its defenses, for one thing - and the goal of the game is to liberate all three regions from the petty despot Di Ravello. It probably goes without saying that foiling the plans of an egotistical dictator one explosion at a time is particularly cathartic in the current political climate.
The game also makes the same slight error the recent Grow Up did: in order to expand the game's content, which wasn't strictly necessary because it's already large enough, it fills its world with various "challenges". These include destroying a base as quickly as possible with a specific type of weapon or vehicle, flying through rings with a wingsuit Pilotwings-style, driving through rings with a boat, plane or car, and a few slightly more off-beat challenges like one where you have to use your grapple hook to attach a magnetized ball to your vehicle and use it to corral invaluable metal ore into a pit for high scores. I kinda wish there were more challenges like the last, but the vast majority of them fall under "go through rings" or "blow stuff up" (and as much as I like doing the latter, I already have plenty of it in the main game). The challenges are also what unlocks new abilities - you can earn up to five "gears" per challenge depending on how well you did, and reaching new target milestones is what unlocks new abilities, like extra grenades or a very useful detection device that points out vehicles in the world you haven't yet taken to the chop shop. The game will at least throw you a lifeline for the challenges if you're having trouble earning all five gears: acquiring new abilities and unlocking new vehicles and weapons will allow you to use them in challenges, making them considerably easier. In order to mitigate frustration, I've been earning three or four gears per challenge just to get closer to some new abilities and choosing to come back when I have better tools at my disposal for the full five. Naturally, I'm doing this because there's a trophy in it for me.
Just Cause 3 is as generic an open-world game as they come if I'm being frank, but it's just the tonic I needed after the much more involved (if equally big) Xenoblade Chronicles X and Yakuza 4. I'm hoping to breeze through it all soon enough so I can finally get a start on the new Deus Ex or Dishonored - two stealthy games that'll require a lot more concentration, no doubt - and try not to think about how good Zelda is until it finally gets drops to a reasonable price. For those of you bought a Switch to play it: kudos. I hope that system does well - between Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade 2 and the hopefully nearly complete Pikmin 4, it looks like I'm going to have to buy one eventually. If it doesn't crash and burn as quickly as the Wii U did, I'd be ever so grateful (as will, I'm sure, Nintendo).