Backlog Log Blog 8/21/2012

Isn't my picture editing fantastic?
Isn't my picture editing fantastic?

It’s been what...a month and a half since my first entry into the Backlog Log Blog? It seems as though the last two months of summer vacation have flown by in an instant. I feel like the Fourth of July was only last week. Even so, I’ve played/watched a good deal since that time. So much so that I doubt I’ll really remember everything I wanted to say about these topics at the time. If I do, this will probably get to be super duper long. I’ll try to keep it a reasonable length, but we’ll see.

A lot has happened since my last post. I went on vacation, got a little part time job, and of course, played a shit ton of games. As usual, I haven’t really watch any TV (I’d rather just watch the Breaking Bad season on my own time once it’s out), but I was able to catch the two big super hero movies of the summer in The Amazing Spiderman and Dark Knight Rises. Lastly, I managed to finally finish A Game of Thrones, so I’ll be giving a quick rundown of my thoughts on that book down at the end.

Uncharted 3

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How about we start the show off with the show stopper. Sound good? Actually, the reason I decided to start with this game is because I just spent all day Sunday playing through this game in literally one sitting, meaning it’s fresh on my mind. I’ve been itching to express my opinion on this game, so let’s not delay any further.

Oh Uncharted, my dear Uncharted, why hast thou forsaken me? Well, maybe that’s being a little harsh. I don’t mean to give the impression that I hated the game, or that it’s some kind of abomination. No, in fact, it’s actually a pretty well put together game. It has the things you’ve come to expect from an Uncharted game, witty banter, unbelievably realistic character movement, big set pieces, climbing, puzzle solving, terrible combat, and Indiana Jones esque story. Its big problem is the same that most of these late generation sequels are having in that it feels like a by-the-book rehashing instead of a wholly new experience. Developers are playing it safe instead of going out on a limb and trying to make something special. I’m not saying completely refocus what the Uncharted games are about, but sticking to a formula can come back and bite you in the ass, and it has in Uncharted 3.

My most basic problem with Uncharted 3 is that it is essentially Uncharted 2, except worse. I know that sounds like a really lazy, overly simplistic criticism, but hear me out. I’ll start with one of the largest, most important pieces to Uncharted, the story. This story is all fine until you really start to ask why it’s happening. None of the characters have sensical motivations, and if they do, you’re never exposed to them. The game starts off by giving the player some insight into Nathan Drake’s past where you play as him when he was a young orphan boy trying to steal the ring he always wears around his neck. It gives us the impression that maybe we will learn a little something about Nate throughout this story, maybe we will find out what really drives him to do the things he does, and why he can’t seem to stay in a relationship with Elena. It even lends some information on Sully and his past, but from there the game acts as if none of that matters, and the only real reason for that sequence was to establish the main Villain.

Don't know why I'm here, but it's cool cause I'm a Pirate
Don't know why I'm here, but it's cool cause I'm a Pirate

After this, the story goes off the rails. Nate, Sully, Chloe, and the new character Charlie are off finding new clues until Chloe and Charlie decide that they are suddenly in over their heads for some odd reason, and then they just exit the story completely. We never know what happens to them. Chloe just gives us a line about it being too dangerous or some nonsense and then that’s it, they’re done. From there Nate and Sully meet up with who else but Elena (of course), and go looking for more clues until Nate gets captured by a pirate who works for the bad know...pirates are bad right? Then you play through a pretty awesome, but ultimately pointless section of the game at a shipyard with giant rusted ships everywhere. Then you go on a plane, wonder in the desert, find an arab dude, and then decide to stop the bad guys from getting the treasure because, what a surprise, it’s actually some horrible curse/power that no human should ever have access to.

It’s crazy. The game is basically the exact same game as Uncharted 2 except the characters have been through it all before, they should know better, and there is basically no reason for them to be doing anything they are doing. Why did Chloe and Charlie suddenly leave? What the hell is the purpose of that Pirate guy? How did Nate actually survive wondering through the desert? Why did some arab dude help him? Finally, why the hell did they even do any of this in the first place. I guess it could be because Nate wanted to find out more about his “ancestors”, or maybe it’s simply because he can’t help himself, but at one point Elena is even telling Nate it’s obvious what all this means, and he still keeps pushing for no apparent reason. It’s not that I’m totally opposed to what was happening in the game. In fact, would have been fine with everything if there was actually some explanation as to why these characters care, and why I should then care about them, but there was absolutely none of that.

Next, I hate the combat. It’s been three games and Naughty Dog still hasn’t been able to nail down the shooting, and it seems as if they didn’t even try to make it better in 3. Enemies still take too many bullets to kill, the aiming is still awful, the A.I. is still completely insane, and the hand to hand combat gets extremely old after the opening bar fight scene. I felt like every single shootout ended with me beating up a one of those big guys in hand to hand using the same 5 animations over and over again. Also, I’d like to add that I don’t mind a hard game, especially if it’s a shooter. I’m the guy who has beaten all the numbered Halo games on Legendary, a couple CODs on Veteran, and the Gears of War games on the hardest difficulty, but I still find Uncharted to be unfair in a really annoying way. It’s not that it’s so difficult I couldn’t beat it, it’s just that almost every death felt like the games fault and not my own. Realistically, I don’t come to Uncharted for its shooting, but when everything around it isn’t as top notch as it needs to be, its flaws really start to stand out.

This one doesn't look too bad, but believe me, it is.
This one doesn't look too bad, but believe me, it is.

I have a few minor complaints about the game in addition to the big ones. I don’t know why they felt they needed to change the way Elena looked, but her face was really distracting. In a game that is known for its great facial animation and realistic style, her face just completely broke all that illusion. Even if her face wasn’t completely messed up, I still feel it’s a bit strange to change drastically change the facial structure of a character that people have come to know over the course of two games. It just really seems odd that they would even spend time tweaking that part of the game.

Phew. Now that all that’s out there I’m going to conclude by saying I don’t hate the game. I actually had a pretty good time playing it, otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent an entire day playing through it in one sitting. I think the set pieces were even better than in Uncharted 2, and the whole wondering around in the desert thing simply looked amazing. I just really wish this game would have had something worthwhile in its narrative. I had really high hopes after the first couple chapters and seeing Nathan Drake as a kid, but after that it just went all downhill until I really didn’t care about the ending between Nate and Elena at all. I’m kind of sad to see this franchise possibly end on this note. I’d love to see another one of these games sometime in the future, but obviously not until Naughty Dog can come back to it with a fresh mindset.’re telling me I have 7 more categories to write about? Well, I better try to make these next few shorter.

Trauma Team

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Right before I jumped into Uncharted 3 on Sunday I managed to finish up Trauma Team. I never played any of the previous Trauma Center games, and I heard Trauma Team was pretty good so I thought I’d give it a shot. The main reason I decided to play it was because it was an Atlus game, so I knew it’d be story focused, and it seemed unique. Actually, come to think of it, this is the first Atlus game I’ve actually played to completion. Unless of course you count watching other people play Persona 4.

Trauma Team definitely has that Japan feel to the story with overly dramatic characters, and dialogue that is unrealistically on the nose, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The characters are pretty interesting, and the story is pretty decent too. I will say I wasn’t wowed by anything, but I did enjoy myself. The story and characters are not up to snuff with other Atlus games though, and that doesn’t do it any favors when you consider what you’re actually doing in the game.

Every character has his or her own set of “let’s play doctor on my Wii” style mini games, while one of the characters is focused on diagnosing patients, and another focuses on solving how people died. In fact, I found the diagnosing and solving of deaths to be the most interesting part of the game, while all the other medical stuff eventually became tedious. Once I got to the end I wanted to just burn through it to see the story stuff, and the gameplay was more just an annoying hurdle I had to jump over to get to the next cut scene.

At the end of the day, I would probably recommend staying away from this game unless you know for sure you’re going to like it. If you aren’t hooked after playing as each of the characters, then stop playing it because chances are you may get annoyed and put it down even if you start off really enjoying the game like I did.

Day Z

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This is such an odd game...if calling it a game by itself is even reasonable. This mod is one of those things you simply have to experience for yourself. Yes, the framework of Arma II isn’t exactly the best game to do the things you want to do in this game, but at the same time there isn’t another game that could spawn what Arma II has spawned. Even though the game doesn’t look all that great, and the movement and aiming is mediocre at best, there is an odd sense of realism Day Z that most video games cannot capture.

Yeah, it's goofy too.
Yeah, it's goofy too.

Exposing human emotion in games is something that I am only just starting to see and it really excites me. I’m not talking about emotional story telling or a connecting with a franchise, but rather a play off of human emotions that can only be accomplished in games because it is something you are in direct control of. A game like Dark Souls requires a sort of self control of emotions in order to progress, and there’s a weird element to the game that forces you to play a game within your own psyche in order to actually get better and progress. A game like Journey gives you this strange sense of companionship that would never be achieved if you could wholly communicate with other players. There are moments in that game that make you feel as if you are actually on a journey with a companion in a way that can’t be accomplished in other media. I give these examples because, oddly enough, Day Z does something similar.

Although the world is not realistic looking, and actually moving in the world feels like as much of a game as it could, there’s something about the interaction with players in Day Z that accomplishes something I feel MMOs have been searching for for years. The world is alive in a strange way. There’s a sense that things are happening without you, that those things actually matter in that world, and at any moment you could stumble upon someone or something that may kill you just as easily as it may help you. Day Z captures that defining zombie universe trait of making you feel like you are actually in a Zombie apocalypse where survival is your only goal. It does this better than any other game because surviving really is the only goal, and you it is left up to you to figure out what the best way of doing that is.

I will admit, the game didn’t have enough systems at work to keep my interest for more than a few weeks, but the time I did spend with the game was truly amazing. It really gives me hope to one day play an MMO that feels new and exciting instead of the same old rehashing of systems with a new layer covering it. I truly think that games like this are the future of what we think of as MMOs. I’m really excited to see what this game can be when it is developed as a stand alone thing instead of just a mod for another game. I would recommend everyone try it out if they haven’t already, and give it some time to sink in if you are playing by yourself.


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I finally finished the 360 version Doom on Ultraviolence. Now if only I can find someone to help me get the multiplayer achievements. I’m not going to spend long talking about this one because...well, it’s Doom, but I will say it holds up even after all these years. I played very little of Doom and Doom II back in the day because I was young and didn’t really know what I was doing with a computer. I’m glad to go back and have what is basically my first experience with Doom, and find that the game holds up remarkably well. If you haven’t played this game yet, get it on 360. It’s still great and it has achievements too :D

The Walking Dead Episodes 1 & 2

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I’m not a huge fan of adventure games, I’ll say that right off the bat. I simply find the whole item combinations and tropes of most typical adventure games to be painfully boring. Thankfully, though, Telltale has found a way to eliminate the tedium, and focus on what can really make adventure games great. This is the first adventure game I think I’ve ever found myself really excited to play.

For me, the fact that this is a Walking Dead product doesn’t really make it any better or worse. I don’t hate zombies like some people do, and the show never really grabbed me, so my perspective coming in was just about as middle of the road as you can be. Once I started playing, though, I was hooked. I’m really excited to see what happens in the remaining three episodes, and I’m hoping the next one comes out soon.

It’s weird how Day Z and The Walking Dead are such different zombie games, and yet both capture that survivalist desperation, “man is actually your greatest enemy” thing. Day Z does it through a world that is alive and moving without you, and The Walking Dead does it through a fixed set of narrative events that show you the true horror of the zombie apocalypse while forcing you to make tough choices. Both are so different, and yet both are completely valid and great in their own way.

Dark Knight Rises

Yeah, I know, this is getting pretty long. I’m at about 2700 words at this point. I’ll definitely remember to do these more often so there aren’t as many things to discuss.

Batman. If there was one word to describe this movie, that’d be it. I say that because I feel like it is the best Batman movie in the trilogy, and probably the best one of all time. That being said, I still think The Dark Knight is the best movie in the trilogy, and is still up there in one of my favorite movies of all time, if for no other reason than the performance of Heath Ledger. I say all this because I really feel that Dark Knight Rises encapsulates everything that is Batman in the best way anyone could have imagined. The crippling start, the attempt at resurrection, the fall, the climb back to save the city, this movie was everything I could have wanted and more.

As I try to do with most media, I went into the theatre middle of the road. I loved the first two movies in the trilogy, but getting one’s hopes up will only set oneself up for a greater disappointment. I knew it might be great, or it might be middling, so I went in with no preconceived notions about the quality. That being the case, the first half of the movie kind of bummed me out. Batman was pretty much out of the picture, and I felt that it was less an actual Batman movie than either of the other two. I guess I knew he was going to come back in the end and save the day, but after the first half of the movie I felt like his return was going to be hamfisted and awkward. Little did I know setting my expectations in such a way was kind of the point (or at least that’s the way I see it).

The next half of the movie was simply amazing. I felt the whole thing came together brilliantly, and I pretty much have zero complaints about the ending. I actually teared up during the scene at the grave stones because of Alfred being so upset. I really felt bad for the guy. Truly, the only way I could have said the ending would have been better is if Alfred sat down to have his drink, looked up, smiled knowingly, and then cut to title card.

I could probably go into more detail as to why I really loved the movie, but considering this is already super long and supposed to be mainly about video games, I think i’ll just leave it at this. Dark Knight Rises brings a fitting end to what is, in my opinion, up there with the likes of Star Wars and LoTR as the best trilogies of all time.

The Amazing Spiderman

Now we move from a truly remarkable superhero movie, to an okay one. I won’t spend too much time on The Amazing Spiderman because, frankly, I don’t think it really warrents too much discussion. Spiderman was my favorite superhero back when I was a kid, but the previous Toby Maguire trilogy never really hooked me. I don’t consider this one to be any better than the first of the previous movies, but I feel they are both equal for different reasons.

Everything about the first Toby Maguire Spiderman movie was pretty good, but for some reason Spiderman just felt off. The opposite is true of this one. When I first heard that Andrew Garfield was going to be in this movie, I thought it was going to be a terrible fit. Surprisingly enough for me, he is the entire reason why this movie isn’t garbage. I found pretty much everything happening around Spiderman to be run of the mill and not terribly exciting, but I felt the wittier, cockier Spiderman really felt more like the Spiderman I know (yes personally, shhh, don’t tell anyone).

A Game of Thrones

And last but not least, I finished the first book in the ever so popular A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m really itching to get onto the second book, but I’ve been putting it off because I know once I do I won’t put it down. The first book didn’t really hook me until the second half though. the first chapter was a nice lead in to things to come, but I felt the first half to three-fourths of the book was this elaborate drama filled dance of people doing irrational things for the sake of doing something irrational. Once Robert Baratheon died, things started to actually happen, and it got a lot better from there.

I’m actually really glad I read this book for reasons that actually have nothing to do with the actual book. My lack of enjoyment of the first half or so let me come to the realization that Lost (yes the show) ruined interpersonal drama for me. I actually really liked Lost, and it’s actually one of my favorite shows. The thing I hate about it though, is that there is a ton of random pointless drama that happens simply because characters don’t just do normal things any person would do like logically explaining a situation instead of giving arbitrary one off statements that hint at what’s happening. The show kind of made me jaded and picky about dialogue and character motivations. It’s the same reason I thoroughly dislike Mad Men, because that entire show is simply interpersonal drama for the sake of interpersonal drama (but that is an entirely different 3000 word post in and of itself).

It’s the same reason I disliked the first half of A Game of Thrones, because it was all petty drama almost for the sake of petty drama. I realize that the drama in A Game of Thrones creates some good character development and a thorough background into the lives of the people living in this world, there’s just something about it I didn’t like. Thankfully, it started to get better, and now I’m excited for the next book.

So, before anyone who reads this freaks out over my hating of Mad Men and such, I just want to clarify all this by saying I haven’t yet reach an articulate way of explaining why these certain shows and narratives, like Mad Men, really annoy me, while something like Breaking Bad draws me in and doesn’t let me go. Once I completely understand and can explain it, I’ll definitely write about it, but right now I have to end this insanely long blog post.

Next Time

I already have some things I know I’m going to be writing about for next entry. I have Mirrors Edge sitting right next to me waiting to be played. I might jump back into WoW because a friendly GiantBomb user was kind enough to give me one of those invites that gives you a free level 80 character. Plus, I haven't played that game in like 5 years, it might not be a bad idea to go back.

So, here’s the list of things you might see in the next Backlog Log Blog. As usual, let me know which of these games you feel I should play first.