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Review: Alpha Protocol

I haven't managed to finish Fallout: New Vegas yet, but I think that after South Park: The Stick of Truth, Alpha Protocol is Obsidian's best work.

Playing on Windows 8, the last mission became extremely buggy (I would get kicked to the desktop, without a crash, just flipped over, and then have to click back in, then got a hard crash in the helicopter area from nvidia drivers (thanks nvidia)), changing compatibility settings to run in admin mode compatible with windows xp 3 seems to have solved those issues. I didn't have any issues with bugs in the remainder of the game (playing on patch 1.1).

Alpha Protocol is pretty much Obsidian's Mass Effect 2. The game runs on unreal, it has a similar look, has a similar but not entirely the same conversation system, and gives you FAR more latitude to make choices about your character. You recruit allies from unusual sources and engender loyalty through conversations, you gain perks from allies and actions, and use advancement points to build up your character. There are loads of weapons and armor and modifications to those weapons and armor. There are poorly conceived fights with crime bosses who snort cocaine and are nigh invincible. There's hacking, unlocking, tampering with electrical devices, bugging, sneaking, avoiding cameras, unexpected turncoats, a guy who looks like he escaped from Fist of North Star, killing cops, avoiding killing cops, Russian mobsters in track suits, inscrutable paramilitary groups with a mute teen-aged weapons savant, and at least two romance paths (edit, looks like there are four romance paths, I completed two of them in one session, I left one of the options to die in a mission and the other option was a German gun lunatic).

This is pretty much the greatest game EVER, if South Park wasn't so damn good. Way to go Obsidian.

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Review: South Park the Stick of Truth

I just finished South Park the Stick of Truth on PC. I had no stability problems, but did notice a couple of graphical glitches (character didn't appear or only part of their clothing appeared).

It's everything you've heard it was. Anyone who is a fan of South Park is probably going to love this game and I'm shocked they were able to get away with all the things they did. I guess being "animated" makes it all ok? Worth playing.

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Review: Prince of Persia (2008)

This game has aged remarkably well on PC.

Prince of Persia takes a lot of visual influence from Codehunters (but only the visual style, it doesn't steal EVERYTHING the way that Borderlands did, check it out if you don't believe me (right down to the tilt of Lilith's hips):

It seems to primarily take it's gameplay influence from the idea of trying to remake quicktime events into something that is actually fun and doesn't suck. If you're into rhythm games, then there's a lot of that here, timed button presses, matching visual cues with different attacks (in boss fights, when the enemy is black with corruption, you need to use Elika, when it's sparking orange, you need to use your gauntlet, when it's sparking blue, you ought to attack with the sword), and using the right buttons in sequence to accomplish acrobatic world traversal. The game also does away with player death, in a much more extreme way than Sands of Time (where it was difficult, but not possible to actually game over), replacing it with a mechanic where Elika uses her magical powers to save you from harm (even if, as does occasionally happen in a boss fight, she becomes incapacitated, the one situation where I'm not sure what would happen are the gameplay sequences with in the concubine's towers, where I suppose it might be possible to actually die without Elika being able to help you...I'm sure it would just return you to a checkpoint, but I'm not sure there were actually any ways to really die in those sections (no falls far enough to die, no corruption that was anything but avoidable, I certainly didn't run into any situation where I died in those areas).

The one negative in regards to the PC version of Prince of Persia is that Ubisoft decided not to ship the Epilogue DLC on PC. I've finished the game on both Xbox 360 (some time ago) and just now replayed it on PC, and I think I probably own the DLC on 360, but I haven't managed to actually play it (I suppose I would need to replay the entire game again since my save is surely lost, but maybe you can just jump right into the DLC).

Playing this game after playing the more recent installments of Assassin's Creed give me a bit of insight into how some of the PoP mechanics have embedded themselves into the AC series over time. PoP 2008 and AC1 share the same revision of Scimitar/Anvil as an engine, but some of the mechanics of PoP 2008 didn't get integrated into the AC series until Revelations (certain aspects of combat and traversa particularly in relation to the hookblade, but Revelations does way more interesting things with the hookblade), or even AC3 (the way that game and PoP share a specific type of grabbing hold of a narrow fissure in a wall).

In short: Well worth playing, and looks gorgeous on PC, but if you want to play the DLC (I consider the story complete as shipped), you will need to pick up either the PS3 or 360 version instead of the PC version. The PC version has only the normal Steam DRM, and isn't integrated with either Games for Windows Live or uPlay. The game is also available on GOG, without even the Steam DRM.

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Review: Hard Reset

Hard Reset got some attention when it was released a couple years back based primarily on it's setting, a futuristic Blade Runner (movie) style city called Bezoar. The major detraction at the time was that it was a little short. In the meantime, the game has been expanded by a piece of free DLC that adds another couple hours to the campaign.

Hard Reset's engine has a lot in common with Doom 3's idTech4 engine. The various buttons and terminals that you come across in modern shooters have the same interface on them that are in idTech4 (little mouse cursors on their displays that are moved by your control scheme, be that a mouse or a gamepad), and it has a nice lighting system, no visible texture pop (on a 2GB GTX 670), and an overall nice visual feel (the benchmark told me I was getting 47fps average on my older system with everything turned up). It's a run and gun shooter, you'll spend a lot of time circle-strafing and running backwards, and there's no "take cover" mechanic.

The story is told primarily through suitably gritty graphic-novel style cutscenes with voiceover (inconsistent quality, but at least native English-speakers). The action is predominantly fights against robots of six main types (small round robots that explode, little ones with a sawblade nose, small ones that can fly a little above the ground, medium sized monkey-like robots that launch rockets, and then two larger gorilla-like robots that can suck up a lot of damage). There are three notable boss battles (again very similar to the boss battles in Doom 3, particularly the final boss battle from that one. The DLC contains another five or six types of enemies and outdoor type areas (four larger flying robots/vehicles and two lizard-like robots of different sizes), and a final boss that is too choreographed (it's not that hard to figure out how to kill giant robots with flashing weak spots, but the DLC drops you convenient blueprints explaining all the weaknesses of this boss well before you reach it, and it's frankly not as difficult as either of the two latter bosses in the main content).

Overall I enjoyed myself, but I wish there was more game. The story kind of cuts off in a transit mode, clearly there could be more story, and I'm interested in seeing it, even if the gameplay is not massively engaging (the enemies mainly just run right at you, whirly bits whirling, and good positioning is most of the solution, along with the RPG upgrade for your rifle).

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Review: Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

AC4 is the best AC yet. That's not true of every AC game, but it is true of this one. The ending is a bit of misfortune (I completed all "contemporary" missions and objectives, and that doesn't wrap up satisfactorily, and neither does the main game, I reached the end of the main storyline having already completed every island objective, and was confronted with a map after the credits that shows the assassin/templar hunt missions (which rapidly evolved to my objectiveless map)).

The last chapter is named "saw that coming" and it's honestly more like "I didn't see that coming" in that there's no ending to speak of.

Everything in the game, EXCLUDING the ending, however, is amazing. They've generally cleaned up almost every aspect of the game but there are still a few missions that are frustratingly trial-and-error. The only significant reveal is John's identity, but they don't even play that one up as much as they should (he is a reincarnation of "Roberts").

The observatory is mildly more interesting than the libraries in AC Liberation, the contemporary story is generally stronger (except for leaving the wrapup with Rebecca et al to a text note in your log after you complete their extended hacking mission). Everything has been thrown into the fighting/ship combat gameplay, and at that, it excels. I wish there were more missions (Skyrim has a living world / unlimited quest system, there's no real particularly reason that they couldn't do the same with assassinations in AC at the very least). The ACL shipping missions are improved and expanded, and actually manage to tie into the game somewhat better (items you gain from the shipping missions include treasure maps and outfits/weapons). The hunting/crafting is pretty good, but the pirate's island construction is not nearly as good as the lengthy and satisfying (only satisfying part of AC3) homesteading side activity from AC3.

I'm still working to wrap up the fleet missions to see if there is anything interesting left there, but I've finished all but the final two rewards worth of abstergo challenges (I'm unlikely to 100% sync the game but I'm over 95%), so I think I can say that I've "finished" AC4, after 68 hours.

I guess it says something that I've put probably more hours into AC4 than into any other AC game, and I'm still left wanting more. Hopefully there's enough left in Edward's timeline (should be about 5 years or so before Haytham is conceived, cutting off his storyline unless he archived his memories like Altair did) to give us another game.

It's kind of weird that AC3 came out before this one did, honestly, because this is a better companion game to Liberation (characters from here work their way into that game's backstory but you had no way to know that before this game came out). However, since it has "completed" versions of the fleet mechanics from Liberation and the ship combat from AC3, it would be hard to imagine any way for this game to have been released before either of those two. Worth every penny of the $30 that I spent on it in an Amazon sale.

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Review: Assassin's Creed Liberation

Ok, I've finished ACL now, the game takes through about the third sequence to unlock most of the side mission types. By that point you can hunt alligators and bobcats in the bayou area, but there's no skinning or crafting mechanic. You can buy shops after killing their owners in side missions, but that didn't seem to give you much advantage (maybe lower prices? I hardly wanted to buy anything...never really buy weapons in the later AC games, hidden blades all the way).

The final couple boss sequences will give you some ... trouble unless you go into the first boss sequence with a full satchel of bombs (preferably a satchel that holds more than 5), and have two left for the true final boss (you have to have completed all citizen E missions to complete the true boss, that's not that big a deal). Some of the collectibles in the game are odd, you can buy watches which then claim to be quest items (never found any questgiver for that), you can murder (it asks you to beat them up, murdering works fine) thugs and take their foreign coins, you can charm specific gentlemen to earn brooches, and you can pickpocket hungan(s) to get voodoo dolls. I don't see any of those items in the hideout. You can also collect diary pages from your mother. You need to go deep into the menus to find them and read them, and when you do, you'll already know the surprise twist before you get there.

Overall the game is better than my initial impression was. I do see things in here that seem like they are taken from AnvilNext in terms of gameplay, but I'm not sure that graphically it's up to the AC3 standard in most cases. The bayou is both the best and worst area for environments, you get some awesome naturalistic free running, but it also has a tendency to get you caught in trees, or swimming above the water line (unable to get onto the ground). I've also gotten stuck between two tents in the city until I bounced around and finally out one end. I had probably six crash to desktops in the course of the game (running Nvidia here, but my driver didn't seem to cause the crash).

With more first civilization or modern era material (i.e. anything more than hardly any at all), I would have given this a more enthusiastic review.

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Review: Brothers

Wow. I played Brothers in two sittings today and last night. After a couple hours last night I had to stop because of the emotional density of this game. For every joyful, happy, or celebratory moment it feels like there are two or three soulful sad and despondent moments. All packed into a game that is just a few hours long. With one exception (the animations for one character seem to have gotten sign flopped or something in one scene, a rather key one, possibly a unique error to my PC hardware?) I savored every minute of the experience and was fully drawn into the world of two brothers trying to save their father's life.

I would talk about the little moments, but every one of them is so huge. You really need to experience Brothers for yourself. This is one that I'll be saving to play with my daughter when she is older so that she can appreciate storytelling in games.

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Review: Assassin's Creed 3

AC3 is clearly the least well received of the mainline Assassin's Creed games (including Assassin's Creed, AC2, Brotherhood, Revelations, 3, Black Flag, Liberation HD isn't out as of this writing). You'd think there would be a reason for that, but I'm mostly chalking it up to series fatigue and launch issues with gameplay balance.

Assassin's Creed 3 does some things right and other things wrong:


  • AC3 pronounces Concord wrong, and not just once, every single damn time. The VO director thought they knew the right way to pronounce it and they were wrong. This is especially infuriating because they got genuinely difficult to pronounce names like Faneuil right. I suppose I should thank the gaming gods that they didn't bring the player to Gloucester.
  • Brings back repetitive game play mechanics to gain control of city regions, like those used in the original Assassin's Creed. Luckily they aren't the same in every region, but you end up doing the same thing three times if you are a completionist or want to engage with the trading game (you'll get tax rate reductions for your goods if you take control of regions and trade routes).
  • Collectibles that pay off with only a trophy in your mansion (in particular the feathers, it's not that collecting them wasn't fun, it was, but after you get them all you don't get anything for it).
  • Post credits gameplay. You'd think this would be a positive, but the credits are about 20 minutes long, so most people would have gotten to the end of the game and assumed it was a full stop end. I only knew it wasn't because I checked the achievements list.
  • Scotsmen with axes. Enemies that are just frustrating to fight, this is more a category because there are several types that either just block all damage no matter how much you pound on them, who do damage when you block or counter. In a Devil May Cry type game, that's appropriate, but this series is not really about the combat, so it's just frustrating when you are in the middle of a large battle and suddenly there are three enemies who are resistant in some way or another to your kill skills. Combat is what is happening in between the gameplay sequences, it's not the game. This has been toned down over the series, but for some reason it was particularly bad in this case.
  • Bosses with healthbars. Why? I'm an assassin, why am I not just killing these people stealthily?
  • Climbing objects that repeat. This happened in AC1 and AC2 as well, and to a small degree in Brotherhood/Revelations. Climbing that same one tree or the same one church for the 10th time isn't as much fun as the first time. Maybe it's our fault that our churches pretty much all look the same from that era, but the trees at least should be different.
  • DLC that wasn't fun. The Tyranny of King George was fucking horrible. I didn't even make it through the entire first episode because I finally got too frustrated during the spirit walk. Trying to follow glowing white wolves through a glowing white environment with 10 foot vision range and invisible walls everywhere while pursuing a magical spirit elk isn't fun. The rest of the DLC to that point wasn't fun either, because missions where you have to keep up with someone and they run off without announcing their intentions immediately after a conversation that you may have inadvertently tuned out of isn't a pleasant experience. You don't even have time to scavenge some equipment from the soldiers you're killing off.
  • Trading. I basically didn't. It didn't seem like there was any point because you could make more money faster by knifing beavers for pelts.


  • Sailing. I finished every goddamn sailing mission. They were quick and enjoyable. Occasionally I'd get my ass handed to me by some man o' war, but it was a quick reset and back in the thick of it again. Blowing up ships is fun.
  • Captain Kidd missions. This is collectibles done right. There are a manageable number of objects to collect, you get a payoff periodically, and you can buy a map to the collectibles early in the game. The experience feels like it ties into the homesteading part of the game as well because you've helped reconstruct this ship. The mission areas are cool and add variety to the game, with arctic and Caribbean destinations. Even the treasure item at the end of the questline feels worthy of the effort (although by the time I collected it, I'm not sure it was relevant to me any more).
  • More complex storyline with a lot of grey areas. Connor's targets don't only believe they're doing the right thing because they have a different worldview, but Connor actually believes they are responsible for things they were not responsible for. People in this game don't have common facts, they don't share information, and everyone is pretty much lying to one another even when they are trying to talk face to face. How like the real world (also how confusing). Connor wants to have a peaceful coexistence with his father, an alliance to protect what he values, but he can't get it because they are unable to communicate with one another about Lee.
  • Haytham and Connor, the Templar and the Assassin. From time to time it feels a little bit like Star Wars, but it's a great way to do this story, and makes their final moment that much more tragic.
  • The death of Lee. Connor is totally fucked up, Lee is totally fucked up, through sheer grit they drag themselves away from the city and if Connor hadn't killed Lee, he probably would have died from his wounds anyway. Awesome, and worth mechanical consistency in the game to get there.
  • The Templar reveal. The player feels that much more predisposed to accept Connor's viewpoint of the Templar's activities because of the shock of that reveal. That tiny betrayal by the developer carries it's way through the entire game and there's a reason everyone remembers that moment.
  • A lengthy and complex homesteading storyline that feels like it pays off. You convince all these people to come to Davenport and they actually manage to become a family and progress before your eyes. This is one of the best things about this game.
  • Taking a more neutral position on the revolutionary war. AC's fiction isn't representative of reality (Israel Putnam was not George S. Patton, although the characterization is probably more right than you'd think), but the "patriot" leaders were the quintessential 1%ers. They were acting in their own self interest and they didn't give a crap who got stomped on in their path to their own success. Minorities were marginalized and damaged in the process. Empires are bad too, but they DO have a tendency to grant some portion of their population more cosmopolitan worldviews (primarily the moneyed part, c.f. Benjamin Franklin, world traveler and terror of the husbands of Paris). The course of endless war creates a forced mixing of cultures. There are communities throughout the United States (as in France and England) full of people who were allied with us in our various attempts at world conquest. The British probably would not have protected the midwestern tribes any more than the new republic did, but it might have taken longer for them to get fucked over. Maybe not.


  • Underground Boston and New York. This is a cool idea but the execution felt like someone was locked in a closet and asked to build these underground areas on their own for 6 months. You open up new quick travel points in Boston and New York by traveling through tunnels built by the Masons (fuck knows why), and traversing some mild climbing puzzles, locks, and lamp puzzles on the way. The repetition is what got to me, but most people probably wouldn't spend an hour straight mapping out the entire New York underground like I did. The amount of time needed to unlock those quick travel points is probably more than you'd spend actually walking those distances above ground in the course of the game, so it's hard to justify it.
  • Kanien'kehá:ka. The Mohawk all speak Kanien'kehá. That's awesome. The delivery is kind of flat for most of the characters, and not necessarily up to the standards of the rest of the game's voice acting. I give Ubi credit for using actual first people's VAs. Kaniehtiio Horn, who voiced Connor's mother, though, is actually part Mohawk and group in Kahnaweke. Bulaagawish portrays Connor, though, and he's Crow, which is totally not even an Iroquois tribe.
  • The main native characters being Mohawk is also possibly a matter of convenience for Ubi. Montreal is right in the heartland of Mohawk country, while Boston is ... um ... NOT. The Frontier is representative of a large area, but I think I'd have preferred that it be split up, it's weird being able to walk from Monmouth (Jersey) to Concord (west of Boston). The Haudenosaunee tribes were important in the revolutionary war though, while the tribes nearer Boston weren't really relevant since they'd mostly been wiped out/resettled/adopted western ways after King Philip's war a hundred years earlier.

Ultimately I think this is a must play. It tries so many new things, it's not going to fire on all cylinders, but it does interesting and complicated things that it should be respected for. Just for gods sake don't pay money for the King Washington DLC.

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Games I played in 2013

This year I shifted hard into PC-only gaming because I'm spending a lot of time in my study instead of in front of the main TV (which is being used a lot by the MiL who has been in town to help out with the adorable first baby).

Games I played this year:

Ittle Dew: Has some good Zelda-ish gimmicks and doesn't overstay it's welcome. Not a difficult game though (I finished with 4 hearts and didn't make much effort to find all the pieces for sure). Some funny jokes.

Shadowrun Returns: This was really good. There was chatter out there about the game being too short etc etc, but it actually takes some of the original SR1 modules and stitches them together into a game in a way that people who liked the pen and paper version will appreciate, and everyone else should just be able to enjoy for it's mechanics.

Tomb Raider: I replayed anniversary as well as playing the reboot this year, and re-started Legacy. The reboot is a really fun game on PC.

Bioshock Infinite: I played it at launch and then immediately replayed it in pretty much three marathon sessions over the course of the week.

Saints Row 3/Saints Row 4: I hadn't picked up a Saint's Row game but when 4 started getting a lot of hype on GB, I picked up 3 in a steam sale. I can't articulate everything that's awesome about SR3 as well as others. I remember playing through the new Deus Ex last year and listening to bombcasts about SR3, and still thinking, you know, this probably isn't my game. I was wrong, it's totally my game. I wrung every bit of gameplay out of it, and then immediately bought SR4 when it became available too. SR4 is a direct follow on to 3, so they're good play back to back. You might not be able to go back to 3 after 4 because of the radical redevelopment of the mechanics. 4 isn't as good a game as 3 was overall, but it has better game mechanics.

The Stanley Parable: I totally played that.

Black Mesa: Played all that was available of it (no Xen), including the uncut versions of on a rail and surface tension, intend to work my way through HL2 and episodes again (haven't played E2 yet). Half Life is still a great game, but what the hell's up with that story?

Ridiculous Fishing (Android): I surprised myself by playing games on an Android tablet this year. I binged on RF when it went into a Humble Bundle because it has great controls and consistent progression.

The Bard's Tale (Android): Fucking horrible. I loved TBT on Xbox, this is that game, but with shitty controls and an awful interface. Do not play.

Star Command (Android): Super fun, but when I got into the second playthrough I blew my orbs trying to set up my ship and wrote myself into the grave with no way to get any more orbs. Oops.

Rymdkapsel (Android): Interesting gameplay, but it escalates quickly to the point where the challenge is higher than I want. I like my real time strategy to be light on the combat and heavy on the exploration and building.

Assassin's Creed 1, 2, B, R, 3: I keep coming back to the AC games. Replayed the entire series through Revelations, and played 3 for the first time. The problem with 3 isn't that it's worse than the other games, it's that it didn't fix any of the things that had been broken in AC for years (jumping off things when you don't want to, not able to disengage in combat, combat scenarios inconsistent - sometimes you can take on 30 guys in 30 seconds, sometimes 2 guys will axe you to death) - and spiking difficulty. I still marathoned that bitch when it went into the holiday sale on steam. Sailing is fun, the weird captain kidd missions give you interesting scenarios that are colorful and exciting in all the ways the main cities aren't, and it gives an interesting spin on historical characters and scenarios. Unlike most people I liked Connor, but then I like watching films with subtitles (I suspect this is where it fell apart for a lot of people). The interactions between Connor and Heyward help to flesh out Connor as a character and mature him as an individual, and the homestead missions helped ground the game in humane ways. Up next will be the PC release of AC Liberation, then 4 when it goes on sale.

Far Cry 2/Far Cry 3/Blood Dragon: Far Cry 2 is still amazing. Far Cry 3 is cluttered and not fun, I quit after 8 hours. I played a couple hours of Blood Dragon and understood the joke, but didn't really "get it." I played FC3 after that, and hated it, so I'll probably go back to BD in 2014 to see if I have a better outlook on it. 3 is a bad game, it is full of so much clutter and crap and nonsense and text all over my screen. AC is kind of that way too, but AC is supposed to be that. My expectation for FC was completely set by 2, and it's a more austere experience about open spaces and barely-directed gameplay, not a series of dozens or hundreds of dots all screaming to be interacted with at every moment with no indication of their challenge level or structure.

Rogue Legacy: I gave it about 4 hours and didn't have as much fun as I hoped.

Punch Quest (Android): Better than Rogue Legacy, fun.

Fruit Ninja Puss in Boots (Android): Fun, but may not hold your attention very long if you're on the non-casual side skillwise, because you'll plow through the challenge mode, unlock all the extras, and achieve all the achievements in a couple hours.

Candy Box/CB2 (Browser): Candy box was interesting, but some of the later puzzles are so obtuse you might need the walkthrough. CB2 was not fun. CB ramped really quickly after a point and drove you to the end requiring you to use items and special skills to progress. CB2 felt more like a slog.

Time Surfer (Android): Fun and relaxing.

Dragon's Blade/Heroes of Larkwood (Winphone): I continue to play HoL kind of compulsively. It's an old school turn based RPG with optional online play (everyone kind of plays alone in a single world, you can assist other characters in battles, chat, and engage in clan ranking activities). I can't decide whether this is better or worse than Dragon's Blade (the predecessor game, basically the same storyline, but older school look to it and some of the mechanics are less developed, but you can ramp to a much higher level faster and some things are different like the way that thieves work).

Puzzle Quest 2 (Winphone): This game is way too hard. I still finished it, but I really enjoyed Puzzle Quest and PQ2 felt like a lot more work for less reward.

Wordament (Winphone and Android): Kind of fun diversion.

Spelltower (Android): Wordament minus the online tournament play. For those who prefer to search their words in privacy.

The Walking Dead Season 1: Didn't start the last episode, not sure I will. I enjoyed the series, but it's super stressful. I kind of hate the comic book (unnecessarily brutal), and don't watch the show, so your mileage may vary.

Cognition episodes 1 to 3: Didn't finish E4 yet, super stressful. Has some puzzles that I just couldn't figure out by any logical process towards the end of each episode. Otherwise great clicking adventure stuff.

Dance Central 3 (Xbox 360): I mainly got this for my girlfriend to use as an exercise (she also plays Zumba Rush a lot). It's fun for me, but I get discouraged when I'm barely choking out 3 and 4 star finishes at the first level and my GF is cranking out 5 stars on the hardest songs at the top levels. May signal a return to console gaming for me in 2014 or 2015.

There's sure to be some other stuff, but these are the main games that stand out to me. Maybe I should check my steam history and see what else I've finished. A lot of my gaming this year came in fits too, I have a busy/stressful work schedule and I was finishing up my MBA in 2013 so I didn't have as much time to play things at launch as I might have years ago.

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Awful Review: Blacksite: Area 51 (Xbox 360)

In one of the most egregious examples of poor timing ever reported, Blacksite was released in November 2007.
Sent to die on a battlefield where the heroes of the day were known well in advance: Rock Band, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, and Modern Warfare (nee Call of Duty 4, and releasing THE SAME DAY), Blacksite never had a chance.  Which is really too bad.  It's not a "AAA" game, but it is the equal of other tier two shooters like Battlefield: Bad Company (which EA had the great sense to release in the middle of the following summer instead of going up against four of the largest titles released in 2007).
Published by Midway and developed by Midway Austin (Tribes Aerial Assault, and the first revival of Area 51 also called Area 51), Blacksite takes the name of one of Midway's venerable yet awful arcade franchises, and then runs the other way completely.  A team of poorly behaved special forces searching for WMDs in Iraq uncovers a bunker containing an alien device.  When activated, the device engulfs one of the members of the squad and the protagonist escapes along with the accompanying science expert.  Years later an alien invasion in Nevada apparently lead by escaped US military forces exposed to alien technology in a super-soldier program brings the protagonist and the science expert back together to kick some ass.
The ass kicking is solid.  Sniping and general weapon handling is accurate and pleasing.  Ammo is just rare enough to force the player to ration their use of various weapons instead of finding a single adequate weapon and using it for the entire game.  Overall the feel of combat is similar to the original Half Life, but in larger open areas.  Some set pieces also feel very specifically inspired by Half Life 2 (which is good and bad at the same time).  Graphically the game could use another pass.  The set pieces that are inspired by Half Life 2 unfortunately invite visual comparisons with that game, which was released in 2004, a full three years before, and still looks better (particularly the 360 release which hit the week before Blacksite, another case of poor timing).  Blacksite also features adequate driving sequences (no worse than those in HL2 or indeed most first person shooters).
The story falls apart at the end and there's a climactic boss battle that doesn't feel right at all.  However, the overall story is interesting, even if certain of the characters are more than worthless examples of humanity.
Overall: Better than Bad Company, really bad timing, not as good as Half Life 2 or Modern Warfare (big shockers there).  A really good rental because you can easily wrap up most of the single player achievements in a weekend.  Sadly, the developers also chose to put the majority of the achievement points into the multiplayer game.  If there was ever anyone playing multiplayer Blacksite, they're almost certainly not playing it anymore.

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