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I need to play more video games.

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Black Mesa sucks

This was going to be my very long winded review of Black Mesa but GB seems to not be allowing review posts for the game for some reason so eh, it'll have to be a blog post instead.

*cough* anyway...

I never played the original Half Life but I always planned to some day, such is the games legacy and reputation it always seemed like one of those "you have to experience this" kind of releases for the video game medium. Eventually I would wait so long that it ended up getting a fan remake that started development some years ago and would eventually see its completion in 2020 with the release of the final area.

Naturally I thought to myself oh, I'll just wait for that then it'll definitely be way more modernized and streamlined and fun and do away with a lot of the more prototypical elements of games from the 90s where many have aged poorly due to the fundamental nature of early 3D gaming and how innovative and experimental the decade was for games to both positive and negative results.

Having played and thoroughly enjoyed Half Life 2, its episodes and other source engine games I naively assumed that Black Mesa would take a lot of lessons from these and have itself polished to a fine sheen. After all with how much time had passed and how long this remake was in development how it could possibly not be amazing and perfect.

Upon finishing Black Mesa I now look back on everything everyone has ever said about the original Half Life, and how highly many have spoken of this remake in particular and wonder what in the hell is wrong with everyone.

I have played some terrible games in my life, some absolute utter trash but its rare for one to infuriate, bewilder and absolutely confuse me in the ways Black Mesa has. I don't know why I forced myself to suffer through this endless series of dull or miserable fight encounters, horrendously terrible traversal and endless numbers of bugs, glitches and just unbelievably poor design elements.

Where do I even begin. This is a game with a crosshair cursor that is so small and colored and designed to work in such a manner that it literally vanishes when you point it at enemies. You cannot literally see where you are aiming in this shooter.

The flashlight illuminates so little I was often thinking why did I even bother to click it on? why not allow me to see more? some areas are so dimly lit it was strange, gave me flashbacks to Doom 3 but I liked Doom 3. Consoles, door buttons, elevator buttons, items for opening things, anything you need to push can often be so small and out of the way simply visually locating them at all can require far more patience than one should need for a game such as this I would have thought.

Sometimes I would activate switches simply by mashing E over everything I could and going oh, I guess that was the thing. Pickups for slotting in to things would regularly get stuck in places and I'd have to grenade them to be able to grab them again or simply reload. Sometimes something would need blowing up, I'd use two explosives no dice, ah but the SPECIFIC explosive that works with it got it done, silly me, how foolish of me to not realize Black Mesa.

Worst of all the game uses green and red glowing details to reckless abandon which make the actual interactive things blend in that much more. Later areas literally have you shooting both green and red things as well, the visual player feedback of this game is a complete mess. Why are explosivies, doors, healing, powups AND ammo refuels all glowing green? for god sake pick some other colors. Logical visual consistency, where the hell is it.

Spots you can get Gordon to or through or not can be wildly random at times as well. So often was I finding my way around a level through seemingly pure dumb luck. I constantly felt like I was glitching him through something for progresses sake, going to spots in any other game would be unreachable and no one would ever think was otherwise the case. Many times I was so absolutely stuck a walkthrough was mandatory. Thankfully youtube exists but I should never have to do this to simply play a game from more recent times. Unbelievable.

Mesa is constantly doing things like this where you always think "do the people who made this understand what video games are? have they ever played a good one in their life?" I sincerely wondered this a lot. Some really basic stuff has gone neglected here.

The shotgun has such a narrow cone of fire it may as well be a rifle. It felt really underpowered too. A few of the weapons feel redundant or awkward to fire with no real satisfaction to them. I'm still not even sure how the sharks work, I throw them at enemies, on the ground and I could never really tell if they were attacking sometimes. Ammo runs out constantly and is peppered so oddly around the levels you basically are in a permanent state of either having near zero ammo or all of the ammo. Yet your crowbar is so overpowered it feels like a cheat to melee the dopey AI with. Yet somehow whacking headcrabs in this game feels worse than it ever has, and I'm not sure how they managed to make even that feel bad awkward. It's weird.

Some enemies dart around and move so insanely fast at times 9 out of 10 of your shots will miss them unless you are captain agility of maximum precision which I'm not, but still. I played this game on normal and felt like I was playing on extreme when these guys showed up. Which granted is partly me getting older but I can play plenty of modern shooters just fine but some of these enemies just seemed broken they were so unfair.

At least the alien enemies, in the initial levels are slower, and lean more on the side of annoying than challenging. It's mostly the soldiers and later Xen guys who seem to run around like they do. Despite having many powerful guns I still never felt like I was quite being given a fair challenge when enemy numbers got over two or three. A game that insists on using cover when their is little that seems intentionally placed and I honestly think any shooter that does this without it being a dedicated system is pushing the boundaries of what it should and shouldn't be doing on a fundamental basic gameplay design perspective. Just bad encounter design is constant here.

So the general combat is busted but I did feel like I could endure it and manage it to some degree, even when my cursor vanished or five invulnerable sniper rifle enemies were shooting me at the same time or forty enemies were attacking from all directions while I wondered why I decided to do this I still somehow, through some miracle managed to get by. I'm not going to lie though some encounters had me dying so much I had to cheat. Thank god all source engine games have the same console commands.

Even cheat codes didn't make this game that much better though. I felt like every time I had to resort to them it was a perfect summary of yeah this is really fucking bad, so bad I have to negate the gameplay almost entirely and yet I felt zero shame in doing so. Rather that than repeat the same dull or irritating fight once more.

Compared to the satan's asshole that is this games traversal though the combat is joyful. I literally had to noclip Gordon to make progress at times it was so infuriating. I cannot over state how much of an abject nightmare it is; so bad, so broken, so poorly designed it constantly felt like I was engaging with someones idea of masochistic fetishism. A game who's levels seem specifically made so you would hate it, so you would cry and scream and wonder why why whyyyyyy.

Even crouching to get in a vent in this game somehow manages to be more difficult than it should be. The amount of times I had to re-align, angle or jump just right just to get anywhere simple at all sweet mother on a cracker. I was in non-stop fear that I'd somehow nudge Gordon just enough off something to fall and sure enough the majority of my deaths were being a millimeter off where the game wanted me of course. Nothing about getting this right was rewarding, its just pure tedious frustrating level design. The opposite of a Mario or a Portal completely.

Almost nothing was ever challenging or satisfying, I constantly felt like I was just being forced to do things I didn't want to in a game that does all of it poorly.

Black Mesa is the kind of first person platformer where you will nail your long jump but upon landing will get stuck on the lip of a platform you only just barely made it to and then because of how the collision detection works will spend a minute desperately mashing your space bar and praying somehow you get Gordon up and on to the part he needs to get to in order to be allowed to continue walking.

Source engine games have always had a weird feeling like this to their traversal to some extent and a lot of what I experienced in Mesa seems to be down to the people working with this engine not understanding how to design levels around its limitations. Precise platforming in 1st person is always annoying at best unless your engine and levels are very smartly built with it in mind and automate much of it (Portal's secret to its greatness) and even the biggest budget releases can still screw this up as evidenced by a lot of the terrible parts of Doom Eternal this year as well.

So what kept me going, what was the real reason I wanted to play this game finally. Stupidly it was story and narrative and being able to appreciate Half Life 2 in particular a bit more I think. I wanted some context for that great game and the broader Half Life story and it seemed like playing the original would be important or was, as I long assumed. But I guess that's just not the case.

So did I get something out of this experience? I understood some callbacks in the sequel better now. I do like a lot of the visual elements, some of the re-created character models, enemies and especially later ares of Xen are pretty visually fantastic given I am familiar with a lot of that having watched plenty of gameplay of the old game. But its a small couple of positives among an ocean of misery.

It's just a shame that all that visual effort is ultimately wasted on a game I never want to touch again, you could not pay me to replay Black Mesa. But I did it, I endured it, I went through it and now I can say yeah, yeah I played Half Life 1 and I fucking hated it.

Or maybe I didn't? maybe the original ironically holds up a lot better than expected, I could probably play it and find out I suppose but between this, Alyx's VR exclusivity and the abandoned Half Life 3 the franchise sure has left a bad taste in my mouth in recent times. Maybe I hate Half Life now.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I just suck unbelievably at this specific game. I get the feeling I just had some real bad luck with it to some degree and maybe knowing the original intimately would have helped a lot with level navigation at least but ah well. What's done is done.

I really need to find better things to do with my time.


In regards to Jeffs post on recent events

I've personally tried to not comment on this entire thing too much myself as I just think its too much of a giant mess with too many people saying and thinking just the worst things no matter where they stand on whatever subject one is specifically discussing around all this. And that's ultimately the worst aspect is that its so rarely even a civil mature discussion, its an endless shit flinging contest and no-one has "won" or is "winning" everyone is losing.

All I know is whenever I read "gamersgate" now I definitely do not think of defending transparency and fairness in games media, all that comes to mind is misery, anger and hate being encouraged or forced upon others by a certain sub sect of the general gaming community and a lot of it being very specifically targeted at women in either the coverage or development industries, but seemingly most of the time its aimed at just about anyone daring to critique or analyze video games in general now. Their has always been a bit of a kneejerk reaction to this kind of thing form some people, like the ones who do react this way truly believe the world wants to take away the kinds of games they love or some nonsense when that has never ever been a possibility. Dead or Alive XBV and Mortal Kombat aren't going to cease being what they are just because some random person said they'd like to see less games of that nature.

I don't know why these people decided this had to be something they needed to do, I don't know why some people think that Anita Sark is the devil (she really isn't that huge a deal, her detractors just turned her in to one ironically) or why anyone who would think saying video games aren't perfect and change is needed is some kind of crazy-talk "SJW" (I despise that label so much) spewing pile of lies.

I've been one of those people saying for many years now that video games have grown tiresome and samey at a very rapid rate, that I'm sick of the "big triple A budget" studios focusing so intensely on the same old perceived market, the same old ideas, the same old sensibilities and creativity being at an all time low outside of indi development.

So when people say we need diversity, we need new ideas, we need better more balanced representations of different kinds of people and things in games I don't interpret it as "censorship is needed" or "this sick filth needs to not exist" (which seems to be exclusively what GG supporters think is being said) I interpret it exactly as what it is; acknowledging that the industry is still very flawed, still in need of a lot of growth, change and maturity and all of that is inevitable and impossible to stop no matter what any gg'er might claim. It doesn't matter how many GGers their are, how loudly they yell, how aggressively they act in the end the market decides what it wants. And the market already has as far as I can tell.

The simple fact of the matter is, their are more girl and women gamers now than ever before, their are more non-straight, non-white, non-male (or male identifying anyway) people who love games than ever before. More so than a lot of game players out there will ever realize, especially those running publishing companies. And if anyone has the right to criticize this industry the most it is people like them - the ones not being treated as fairly as people like myself. And I'd say even to some degree their mistreatment harms me too in a roundabout way, though I'd certainly never claim to be in the same position. I'm not a feminist nor do I spend much time passionately asking for "social justice" in any form but I completely respect the desires of people who do fight passionately for these kinds of things because lets face it, the world is fucked, its cruel, its unfair, at times so grossly uneven it makes me a little depressed, and the only way we humans will ever fix this is by having the passion, courage and motivation to do so.

I'm a straight white male gamer, I love boobs, I love gore, I love explosions, I love all the same stupid shit anyone like me most likely would. I never take offense to pandering content, I never think lesser of any person or group of people for making whatever they want to make no matter how creepy, sleazy or otherwise depraved and awful it might be in taste or content. All forms of media have a right to exist and I think all forms will continue to exist. But like anyone with healthy interests in entertainment I like diversity, I like having all kinds of stuff to choose from based on whatever mood or mind set I happen to be in. When I was a teenager sure I probably only ever wanted to see boobs and blood 24/7 but as I'm getting very close to the big three O my interests in the kinds of media I consume have only gotten more and more non-specific. I can pretty much enjoy just about anything now. No matter how childish and "safe" it is or how horrific and "wrong" it may seem (provided its within the safety of fictional content of course) and anything in between those two extremes.

Video games are still a young art form, their are still countless concepts and ideas that have not been explored much if at all and even on a very basic level their hasn't really been that much in the way of unique stories with unique original characters.

I am still waiting patiently for a studio to make an action adventure game with the production values and execution quality of an Uncharted 2 or a God of War 3 (two of my all time favorite games) that not only stars a female character but stars one that is objectively cool and likable without seeming like she were some cliche pandering cardboard cut out of a character.

Bayonetta is an amazing character staring in a set of amazing games, the new Tomb Raider was freaking awesome but the former revolves around the games winking at the player (presumed to be male and straight) 24/7 and the latter turned the suffering of a woman in to a marketing gimmick that didn't really benefit the character or its story in the way I think the developers thought it would so much as it kinda just came off feeling creepy and excessive. I would never ask a developer like Platinum to not make Bayonetta the way they do; after all a big part of the charm of that series is how self aware it is that the protagonist deliberately panders to the player as part of her character. But I can't help but wonder what if a developer made a game that plays as well as the Bayo games do that stars a female lead and she isn't used for any kind of pandering, that she simply were a cool lady doing cool shit and the same old baggage of "well if our lead is female she needs to fill requirements X, Y an Z solely so we can market this" weren't adhered to. Just food for thought that I personally spend a lot of time thinking about. I don't need such a game to exist, but I just think it would be super nice and kind of awesome, and it still hasn't happened and that kinda bums me out.

And that's why what people like Anita are fighting for matters to me, why I just can't stand by anyone who supports GamersGate, in the end I just want more games that aren't the same tired old thing and if achieving that also happens to allow people who aren't just white straight doods like me get more in to games then I don't see any downside to this at all.

Thankfully it seems like things are headed this way regardless of what anyone says. The market always decides what is and what is not and if the market continues to want change then change will happen and that'll be that. Harassing women in the industry just makes everyone look bad, it benefits no one and nothing and only serves to paint the picture that we are all still sad basement dwelling social outcasts. And that is what makes ME angry because that's not what we are.

And even though I doubt any would ever read this, I ask GG supporters; what are you really fighting for? Because just like Jeff as far as I can tell its for a world that hates, despises, mocks and belittles video games even more so than it once did. You're fighting for games to go back to being little more than a childs past time and deep down I don't think anyone, anywhere, ever, truly wants them to only ever be that. This is a medium that deserves to be so very much more than just that and we aren't going to reach that goal by continuing to tell a large percentage of the community surrounding games we don't want them here or that harsh critique and analysis and all kinds of opinion are not allowed.

Anyone who truly loves video games should absolutely not support GamersGate at all as I sure as hell do not.

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2012 Games you Might Not Be Aware of but SHOULD!


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Good 2D fighters that aren't 60 bucks and don't feel like they're clinging to ancient outdated design mentalities are extremely rare so indi fighter Skullgirls is one of kind as far as I'm concerned and I can not wait to play it. Never mind the fact it's an all female cast fighter, which is fucking awesome in of itself, everything about it screams must play to me from the art direction and brilliant animation to the devs making sure people know how serious they are taking its balance and feel and how important a good tutorial is. Even the best AAA high budget fighters fail at doing tutorials, I hope Skullgirls shows them all how to do things right alongside just being as plain awesome as it already looks it will be.

Asura's Wrath

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Almost everyone at every game site, absolutely everyone has been cynical, doubtful and downright insulting to Asura's Wrath so far and no doubt the reviews will reflect this. Personally I view the game as an experiment, a unique set of ideas that might not fully pan out but are well worth experiencing. It might very will just be "Dragonball Z with quick time events" but I seriously don't care. Games need to do this kind of presentation more often god damn it. I don't care how simple and linear the mechanics are, I want to explode MORE CYBER SPACE GOD BUDHAS using nothing but the power of anger and fists! If I have to play a cross between Afterburner and Dragon's Lair to do so then so be it.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

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The last Cybertron game was fan-fucking tastic. It was by far the best Transformers video game made to date and the sequel is set to improve and add on to everything the original did and more. Wer're talking giant space T-Rex's, combiners, bigger crazier robot guns that will seem like they belong in Ratchet and Clank. How can any self respecting nerd not want to yell fuck yeah at all that! Plus Shockwave is in it and this time around the art direction won't be dipped in a bland sesspool of brown and grey metal due to the vast improvements in Unreal Engine 3's tech since the originals release. Though I'm sure some people will still bitch about Soundwave not turning in to a casette player.


The Laziest Aza Awards for 2011 part Ni

Biggest PC Version Fuckup: Rage

Utterly incredible that the company who invented the PC first person shooter managed to at last ship a game on PC that was completely unplayable upon release and the subsequent "consolification" managed to make it that much worse an experience. The days of Id being a studio to care about seem to have passed unless Doom 4 manages to be incredible, and PC centric.

Runners Up: Batman: Arkham City, Renegade Ops

Game I Regret Buying Most: Duke Nukem Forever

In a year with as many dissapointments as crazy awesome surprises Duke by far took home the gold when it came to games I felt I had been outright tainted by owning. It wasn't just that I'd wasted 70 fucking dollars, but that absolutely nothing about the game was good. Even Duke himself just came off as a sad pathetic piece of shit, completely unfunny and out of place in the 21st century.

Runners Up: Crysis 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Most Annoying Sequence: The Asshole Demons Room - Uncharted 3

Very rarely do I play a game and get so intensely frustrated I have to lower the difficulty in order to simply progress. Uncharted 3 on my first playthrough was a game that at times drove me to madness. Man did they fuckup how that game played compared to 2. I just wish the alternate aiming option were there at release.

The Asshole Girlfriend Boss Fight - Dead Space 2, The Asshole Shao Kahn - Mortal Kombat


The Laziest Aza Awards for 2011

I was inspired by Sarumarines awesome blog post and decided to do something similar. And by similar I mean totally rip-off his layout but come up with my own categories.

Most Addictive Co-op Game Mode: Last Stand - Dawn of War: Retribution

Dawn of War: Retribution's Last Stand, a mode carried over from Dawn of War 2 and Chaos Rising respectively became one of my biggest game addictions this year. 153 hours according to steam I've played and I am all too aware that at least 90% of that time was spent in Last Stand. If they actually kept updating it with new hero's I'd still be playing. Why aren't I? I... got all the hero's to max level.

Runners Up: Horde - Gears of War 3, Multiplayer Mode - Sanctum

Game that Most People Hated or Ignored but I Enjoyed Alot: Bulletstorm

God did I love Bulletstorm, I buy alot of games on console and PC now but this was one where as soon as I started getting ready to upgrade my PC for this year l could not get a copy of the PC version fast enough. Such an incredible game, so naturally its also on my proper GOTY list as well but it deserves this too since it made zero prophet, which is absolutely baffling given how incredibly fun, refreshing and just so good it was.

Runners Up: Alice Madness Returns, Shadows of the Damned

Most Shit I Collected in a Game: Riddler Trophies - Batman Arkham City

Seriously what the fuck Rocksteady, it's like you were trolling OCD people such as myself. Give us a reason to collect shit in a game and if we enjoy playing it enough we'll do it, yes we will. Hours upon hours of annoying pressure pads and batarang throws and standing in places I had no idea were worth standing in. In Asylum it was fun, in City I wanted to kill whoever decided 300 trillion trophies to collect was a good idea. You literally covered an entire game world in trophies!

Runners Up: Treasures - Uncharted 3, Servo Skulls - Space Marine

The Best Shotgun: Boneduster - Bulletstorm

2 things a shotgun needs to be: extremely powerful and very lowd. You need to feel like you are blowing a hole through space and time when you fire your shotgun, to not achieve this in your game is to fail at making a shooter. The Boneduster wins because Bulletstorm had one of the best arsenal of guns in any shooter ever, I would even say it rivals the likes of Doom and Half Life 2, the guns were that good.

Runners Up: Sawed-Off Double Barrel Shotgun - Uncharted 3, AS3Ultimax - Saints Row the Third

Most Disappointing Game: Crysis 2

Between clearly being built and designed for consoles instead of pc's, the fact it launched without DX11 support, the fact it was a super simplified and super streamlined and vastly less intersting or compelling to play than Crysis its sequel wins outright. I was so excited for this game, I was all set to push my pc to the limits I was excited to play a shooter with dynamic branching paths, clever AI, fucking DESTRUCTIBLE BUILDINGS and it had none of that, zero. Everything that made Crysis so amazing was almost gone. They practically removed the suit powers, somehow even making those less fun to use.

Runners Up: Dragon Age 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Best Stupid Cursing Drunken Asshole: Grayson Hunt - Bulletstorm

Dicktits, dicktits! DICKTITS DICKTITS DICKTITS. "I'll kill your dicks!" "What? you'll kill my dick? what does that even mean? I'LL KILL YOUR DICK!" - he says this to a female character. Any excuse to give more praise to Bulletstorm is a good one, Grayson was hilarious and awesome to play as. Steve Blum's voice is featured twice in this category, the man really knows how to curse and act like a complete drunken moron which I imagine is way harder to do in acting than real life.

Runners Up: Garcia "fucking" Hotspur, Duke Nukem

Most Respectful Female Character: Ellie - Dead Space 2,

Alot of talk goes around the internet all the time about how women and females in general are portrayed in games. Thankfully the outright awful pandering and often creepy stuff seems to be getting fewer and fewer. Most noticeable if you look at future titles like Dead or Alive 5 and Soul Calibur 5, series notorious for their past portrayals of women finally seeming to clean up their act and be more dignified in their costume designs and proportions of their female characters. This however isn't enough, because we still don't get enough well written, interesting and perhaps even bad-ass female characters in games so we can only hope this changes over time. Luckily this year was decent for these and so I picked the top 3 that I believe did a fantastic job showing the ladies can be as if not more awesome than the doods in games. Ellie wins not just because she reminds everyone of Sigourney Weaver from the Aliens films but because she was written as well as any character should be, interesting, cool, reliable, likable and hopefully returning for Dead Space 3.

Runners Up: Trishka - Bulletstorm, Kinzie - Saints Row the Third

Best Use of Music: Saving npcs to Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler - Saints Row the Third

Licensed, unliscenced, doesn't matter which a game that uses music tremendously well is rarer than you'd think. And by far this year one game did it better than any other; Saints Row the Third. Never before have I heard the song Holding Out for a Hero and been so god damn pumped and motivated. Nothing was going to stop me, absofuckinglutely nothing.

Runners Up: Crysis 2 menu music by Hans Zimmer, Mad World during that scene in Gears of War 3




Just saw Avatar and man, that was one hell of a movie.

I thought it was going to be another 'all effects and nothing else' but I was dead wrong. I dont think I have ever gone to see a movie and actually ended up caring more about the cgi models than the people until now.  The most amazing thing is that the vast majority of it is cgi but you never really notice it like you do in other movies because it is so well animated and well lit and well textured.  Its not perfect and I dont think cgi ever can look photo-real perfect but its damn close.  It was all constantly believable, I never saw odd physics or weird lighting or strangely low res surfaces, at least none that I noticed.

The technology they developed for it all is mind blowing.  Just thinking about how they rendered the forest scenes makes me go 'how the f*** did they do that without killing their render farms?' 

A friend of mine twittered saying it apparently rips of Nausica and the Valley of the Wind which I would agree with to some extent, but saying that you could also say it rips off any story where humans are once again killing and destorying life for their own selfish greed.  Thats what it primarily was, an old story people are familiar with but it was done amazingly well.

The ending wasn't surprising and their was no real major things that happened I didn't see coming but I dont care because it was utterly brilliant from start to finish.  

If someone hated this movie it would be like hating a really awesome video game that borrows mechanics from other games and pulls them all off flawlessly.  It was familiarity combined with incredible visual artistry and its now one of my all time favorite movies.

Also the blue chick is pretty hot.

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