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Fallout: New Vegas

I really liked Fallout 3, and New Vegas is more of that wrapped up in an Obsidian burrito. A little internally serious, far more interested in letting you non-violence your way out of things with speech, science, repair, medicine, and bartering. A few more bugs per hour, but not all that bad, of course this is who knows how many patches later, plus I'm playing with the unofficial patch off the nexus. This one has me looking forward even more to Pillars of Eternity, after playing Alpha Protocol and Southpark this year.

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AC: Freedom Cry

In preparation for AC Unity and AC Rogue, figured I would run the DLC AC: Freedom Cry, which I hadn't previously played.

Basically it's a smallish expansion for AC4 that is even more light on the exposition than Black Flag was. When I say smallish, I mean the advertised time is 3 to 4 hours of content, although I did pretty much everything and wrung more than 7 out, because I like sailing around blowing shit up.

If you're playing on PC, and really need some more of that while you're waiting for Unity's megapatch to come out and for the late winter release of Rogue on PC, you could do worse.

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Updated review: Tomb Raider Legend

Pretty sure I reviewed this way back in the day. I just played it again. Ran into one 100% repeatable CTD bug in Nepal, as I entered a room full of mercs after the plane crash area.

Was able to get through by loading one of the Checkpoint files from here:

Still a great game. Some objects seemed inappropriately transparent, but that was probably because of a driver override setting I turned on. Controls not quite as good as Underworld or TR2013. Nepal in particularly staggeringly frustrating in the first couple areas where you have to make some ridiculously timed jumps from icicles. On the other hand, it probably should get hard at that point.

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Review: Sonic and SEGA All Stars Racing (PC)

A quality Kart racing game from the guys who brought you the PSP versions of TOCA 2 and 3, Outrun 2006, Outrun Online Arcade, SEGA Superstars Tennis, and Virtual Tennis 3 and 2009.

If Sumo wasn't able to produce at least a half decent racing game, they would never have amassed that kind of resume. The good news is that this is a really good racing game, if a bit flat presentation-wise. Levels faithfully reproduce the look and feel of stages you remember from Sonic Adventure, House of the Dead, Samba de Amigo, Jet Set Radio, and Super Monkey Ball, and all the stages you don't remember from Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. Characters are drawn largely from those popular in the Dreamcast / Gamecube era, with a few real throwbacks to the SMS days like Alex Kidd and the Bonanza Bros (who only serious US SEGA fans would remember at all, since that was pretty much a UK franchise). The announcer is crap, always talking about things that are happening in the middle or rear of the pack and occasionally misidentifying the first place character. Load times are on the long side, but once you're in motion, everything feels great, except the rare occasion when you get hung up by running off the edge of a bridge or on a wall if you miss a jump (which can happen, if you're a little over-zealous drifting to build up your boost meter). When the game properly resets you it's no problem, but if you are on a semi-navigable piece of geometry, getting back up to the racecourse can take too long. Trigger planes should have been put in place to reset you before you could get hung up on that stuff. Live and learn I suppose.

SSASR oddly has very few graphical options. You can crank up the antialiasing and anisotropic filtering through your video card control panel, but there is no in-game setting available.

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Review: Duke Nukem Forever

The infamous and storied piece of crap game that took half a lifetime to make.

It's not awful, it's just really bad. There's a reason this game wasn't ever released and that is that it was never in a state to be released. When Gearbox bought whatever they bought, they seem to have just scraped up all the guts off the floor and tried to squish them into a sausage casing. What comes out isn't quite meat.

Loading zones for different levels are joined together with load screens instead of seamless loads, levels that have no apparent story purpose (maybe they're dream sequences?) just show up in the middle of nowhere. Duke is knocked out, Duke falls over, the screen fades to black, Duke turns tiny, Duke turns big again. Gearbox literally wasn't even interested in bringing in John St. John to record some new dialogue to make the whole thing make sense, they just wanted it done to get it out the door, so they got someone to make a mashup script and delivered the minimum necessary exposition through other characters (marines, a breakaway general, a selfish turncoat president).

It's as if people were working on multiple Duke games without even greyboxing/orangeboxing a full experience or ever writing a script or a plot or a framing story or a premise. Four basic enemy types, but four or five bosses. A minecart level, an underwater level, sewers, truck driving, a burger joint, a strip club, Duke's mansion, a casino that looks a lot like the casinos from Rainbow Six Vegas, but not as visually interesting.

There are multiple vertical slices here just stitched together, and a bunch of areas that just aren't complete. Zones that are POCs for different puzzles all stolen from Half Life 2 (truck rolls over, flip it back up, runs out of gas, fuel it up; weigh down a lever with some heavy barrels; turn a wheel to open a sluice-gate), with nearly no enemies at all in some areas, like, uh, they aren't finished.

It's clear that Gearbox was interested in the IP, not in the game. This game was released to get back what they paid in cash to the owners who had flushed their careers down the toilet working on the ultimate Duke Nukem experience. The real Duke game is unannounced, running third string to Gearbox's main franchise Borderlands and whatever junk they're half farming out to some other developer who is way in over their head for SEGA.

Pass. Really not worth your time even if you get it on a Steam sale.

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Review: Far Cry 3 (PC)

I'd started Far Cry 3 before and got about three hours into it before I was just pissed off and couldn't go any further.

The game's UI is just incredibly cluttered with crap, it's popping up missions and tips and hints and reminders every few seconds.

This time I disabled enough of those UI popups in the gameplay menu to be able to see the game on the screen, and had a pretty good time. There are some pretty radical shifts in tone throughout the game, the first half is full of surrealism and weirdness, the second half is full of offbeat odd humor and a villain that reminds you of the worst kind of bond villains (think License to Kill).

There are also some odd missions that were bonus DLC from the digital deluxe edition that tie into other Ubi games, one set interfaces with Assassin's Creed and the other set ties FC3 to FC2, further enhancing the idea that all Ubisoft open world games take place in the same universe.

Worth playing, has more systems than FC2, possibly too many for it's own good. Disable the popups and enjoy yourself.

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Review: Far Cry 2 (PC)

I love Far Cry 2. I've played 20+ hours of the game in at least four separate stretches, first on Xbox 360, and then twice on PC, both times reaching a point where there were no missions left available, and chalking that up to a game-killing bug.

This time I critical-pathed it and was finally able to finish the game. I'm pretty sure that one of the two times I had played it on PC before, I probably just couldn't find the objective at the game's choke point because it was up a ladder that I didn't realize was there (oddly, you have to go up that ladder earlier in the game, so not sure why I wouldn't have realized it was there).

Even acknowledging aside the possibility of missions just breaking because you can't find the quest-giver (I did not encounter this at all in my final playthrough, in previous playthroughs it was normally fixed by doing a resistance mission, so I suspect that one of the conditions the game uses is to check if you have at least one malaria pill, if you don't you can't engage a new mission), FC2 is definitely among the all-time great games. The open world is fully realized, but not as cluttered as Far Cry 3 or Assassin's Creed are. Some of the things you find in the more recent open world games, like factions that are continuously battling one another in remote locations of the world (Skyrim and FC3 are probably the best examples of it, but even Oblivion had predator/prey behavior modeled, and occasionally had spontaneous lawbreaker/lawman behavior) are not present in FC2, so it's not quite as dynamic, and has a tendency to feel extremely hostile to your presence (every vehicle contains an enemy, those who are neutral are in fixed indoor locations, and allies only appear in the external world when you have been lowered to zero health, every major crossroads has a checkpoint for one of the factions, and almost all the mission areas are near large concentrations of enemies).

The side missions are interesting, but not necessary to achieve most of your main goals in the game:

  • Weapon shop missions let you get access to new weapons in the shop, but you will also gain access to large numbers of new weapons as you progress in the storyline (not all, but almost all of them), which means they are entirely optional. You can easily finish the game with the basic sniper rifle that opens up almost immediately anyway.
  • Radio tower missions are assassinations that just give you diamonds. There are plenty of those, and if you stick with a small family of weapons you'll have way more diamonds than you'll need, so no point.
  • Resistance missions typically are more like underground railroad missions. You're bringing documents to refugees in exchange for medication to control your malaria. Again, as you progress through the game, eventually you will reach a gameplay gate where you won't run out of malaria pills anymore, pretty much at the point in time where you need to take them most frequently. You aren't actually notified about it, but it's clearly there.
  • Predecessor missions involve finding letters and then recordings from the person who was previously sent to kill the Jackal. Probably the most optional of optional quests, because there's not really any importance tied to the previous guy. I've done them all of course.
  • Jackal tapes involve scouting remote areas looking for interviews of the Jackal. These ones are interesting because they provide a more detailed look into the Jackal's philosophy, but you'll learn enough of the Jackal's personality in the denouement of the game to understand what is going on even without them.

Since the game is set in the savanna, there are lots of wide-open spaces, making it advantageous to engage in long range warfare, especially when you encounter enemies with rocket launchers parked in convenient perches. It's optional to scout stations with your monocle, but you absolutely need to take out snipers and RPG enemies to be successful at any difficulty level.

The quick travel system often doesn't get you where you want to go. You can pretty much only move from the center to the corners of the two larger zones, and you can't travel between the north and south zone via quick travel, you have to walk or drive over the border. This forces you to engage with guard posts and encourages you to drive vehicles.

The game holds up well visually. It is nearly 8 years old now, and runs super hot on modern hardware. With a two-year old 2GB GTX670 I was able to run the game maxed at 1080p/60 with vsync and 8x AA with no issues. GeDoSaTo 0.5 downsampling from 4k was not able to achieve a consistently high framerate on this hardware at max settings, even after turning off AA. Later gen video cards or a dual-card solution would probably be able to handle it. Character and enemy models are a little low-poly, but otherwise there aren't any particular items that make the game feel less than photo-realistic.

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Games I didn't play

The Cave, played through the intro puzzle, and got stuck in the time traveler's puzzle. The game has no charm or personality to encourage me to continue banging my head against the wall, and I don't care enough to look up a FAQ. There are GOOD games to played played, ignore this one.

Binary Domain. Third person shooter with voice rec abilities where the voice rec doesn't work to any appreciable degree. Controls are crap, and the PC version doesn't show 360 button prompts when playing with a controller, and it pops up key prompts CONTINUOUSLY. Not worth my time after the first five minutes.

Max Payne 3. Enjoyed the first half hour, then it crashes before returning control after the cutscene after the sniper in the stadium mission. Seemed awesome, so I'm kind of bummed about it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Shitty shit shit shit.

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Review: Bulletstorm

Been a hell of a weekend for finishing up some stuff I had some hours into. Just finished up Bulletstorm, in time to give it a farewell as GFWL rides off into the sunset.

Overall it's an above-average first person shooter that looks like it happens in the Gears of War universe. The skillshot system is mildly funny because of it's shot titles, but I'm not sure how much it adds to the experience in terms of gameplay, I probably would have kicked guys off ledges and into cactus plants even without the points, because it's just the easiest way to make your way through the game. I had way too many points all along the way, making it simple to unlock all upgrades as soon as they were available and have no urgency on the ammunition front.

The sense of humor is beyond puerile, but the characterizations of the main group are interesting anyway. The big bad is a ridiculous pastiche, which is fine. I did encounter a bug in his AI where he just disappeared during what amounts to an escort mission though (he can't die, so it's not really that kind of escort mission).

On a couple occasions I also was "shot in the back" for not eliminating all the enemies in a zone even when I thought I had done a pretty effective job at wiping them out. The game is pretty inconsistent on that account, it wants you to generally kill everything, but there are a few zones where you can slide through and not get an instant game over without killing everyone.

If you think you're interested, now is your time to try it because it's going to get harder to play without some sort of hack/crack, and it's already impossible to buy on PC since the steam version dropped off the store.

Given that EPIC pretty much isn't doing games now, and with EA having bigger things to fry than their partners program, I wouldn't count on it being patched with steamworks or even having the DRM removed anytime soon.

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