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Thank You, Ryan Davis

A few hours before Ryan Davis passed away on July 3, he tweeted to me the words, "fuckin' AGONY"

Ryan's signature on my PAX badge across 'THREE DAY
Ryan's signature on my PAX badge across 'THREE DAY"

He had tweeted about how much it sucks having to wait for a package to be delivered, to which I replied that I had been waiting all day for three packages to show up. It was indeed a fairly agonizing experience, for I had lost an entire day of summer waiting in a hot house to sign for three separate things.

What I didn't know was that by the time I woke up the next day, a much more agonizing experience had begun. Ryan Davis was gone, though of course we didn't know it at the time. Starting at that moment, every Tuesday would be without "Hey everyone, it's Tuuuuesday!", every Thursday would be without the welcoming introduction from Ryan to their weekly multiplayer show, every day of the week in fact would be without his lovable charm and sharp wit on Twitter and in other videos posted to the site.

I had the pleasure of seeing Ryan at PAX East 2011, 2012, and 2013. I conversed with him directly at 2011 and 2013. And of course, at their panel at PAX East 2013 I saw the man drink breast milk.

He drank breast milk.

Such a courageous and ridiculous act is a testament to Ryan's personality, perhaps somewhat strangely. The thing he cared about most was being an awesome guy who entertained the hell out of people. And goddamn did he do that every day of the week.

Friends and family are often there when you need them, but not always. Such is the way of life. Giant Bomb by its very nature is always there. I've been a huge fan of the site since it first launched back in 2008. Ryan's voice was in my ears in podcast and video form on Giant Bomb every week for nearly five years (has it been five years since the site launched? Almost? Man). I heard his voice 30,000 feet in the sky, in multiple states, while I was bored or sleeping or sick, while I was running, while I was eating lunch, in person.... I feel extraordinarily lucky for having conversed with him face to face. Not many people make me and so many others feel that way.

Ryan meant a lot to me. He was an inspiration and felt like a friend to everyone who loved him and his personality. He influenced my sense of humor, how I thought about games, hell even how I wrote. I remember the reviews from him and Jeff being the ones that got me into writing and talking about games (and basically everything) intelligently. I think I was maybe 12 when I started following them at Gamespot.

It still doesn't feel real to me. It seems like just yesterday when I looked down at my phone and saw Ryan's tweet and chuckled and appreciated how someone I deeply respected understood the monotony of what I was doing.

So thanks, Ryan, for bringing that little bit of joy to a crappy day, no, for ALL of the joy you've brought to everyone every day. You made our lives better in ways that are hard to articulate. Thank you so much.

Oh, and if I see you on the other side, we need to get a damn photo together. You and Patrick are the only ones I haven't bothered for a picture yet.


Making me feel like a pilot for the first time in years

The last flying game I really enjoyed was Ace Combat 4 back on the PS2. I feel I should start this off by saying that Ace Combat 4 will forever be the best flying game I have ever played, which makes the fact that my copy doesn't work even more tragic.

That doesn't mean I can't enjoy other flying games, however. IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds Of Prey is one such game. It's the first game in this genre I have enjoyed since Ace Combat 4, with the most appealing thing about it being the fact that it actually makes me feel like a pilot. The detail of the cockpits is quite incredible, with moving gauges and dials and switches that convey different pieces of information about the current state of the plane. Occasionally, I actually found myself glancing down at these to figure out how my plane was angled in relation to the horizon and such.

The cockpits look great, but the environments look pretty bad up close. Also, the framerate isn't stable, which is always a bummer
The cockpits look great, but the environments look pretty bad up close. Also, the framerate isn't stable, which is always a bummer

I played the game on Realistic difficult, which is the second highest. Simulator, the highest, is basically impossible because it doesn't mark enemies or allies on the screen, which means you literally cannot see anyone. So I went through the Campaign on Realistic instead. The main effect that the higher difficulties has is on the difficulty of flying. On Arcade, you can easily pull off loops and tight turns without worrying about going into a death spin, something that's common on Realistic if you take a turn incorrectly and pull back to hard on the stick. These controls make the flying extremely exhilarating, as you have to fight the temptation to swing your plane around as hard as you can when trying to chase a passing enemy. Furthermore, it makes the combat engagements pretty exciting, since enemy fighters are crazy good at trying to avoid your attacks. Having to keep your plane in the air while also trying to take out Nazis is really difficult, but in an exciting way.

Unfortunately, these challenging controls are a double edged sword. While they do add a nice challenge to the combat, they also make the engagements last a long time. There were some missions that took me nearly 30 minutes to complete, and one mission took me 45 minutes to complete. The reason being is that the enemy fighters, as I said, are great at avoiding your bullets, which means you'll sometimes spend nearly 5 minutes chasing after one single enemy before you actually take him out. This cat-and-mouse gameplay is cool for a while, but eventually it just gets super frustrating. I ran into cases where I spent 10 minutes chasing after a single enemy and still had about 10 more planes to destroy after finally getting him. It can get exhausting after a while.


I suppose that's to be expected, though. This isn't Ace Combat 4, where you just wait 2 seconds for a missile lock, press O, and get an instant kill. What I didn't expect, however, was for the game to do such a poor job of explaining my objectives. The dialogue is pretty bad at best, with your character in every mission waiting until your squad is about a mile away from the objective to explain what the heck you're doing, which is just weird. The actual objectives themselves always seem to end prematurely, and it's extremely jarring when it happens. For example, one mission might have "Stop The Advancing Germans" as a final objective, and the mission ends after destroying 4 out of a couple dozen advancing German planes. It's super strange when you hear the victory music and see "Mission Complete" on the screen, yet there are still dozens of Nazis on the ground and in the sky causing destruction.

Still, I played this game because it had been too long since I enjoyed some aerial combat. For the most part, I got what I wanted. The flying felt like it took a certain degree of skill and patience that wasn't impossible for a normal person to achieve. Although the combat eventually got pretty exhausting as engagements lasted longer than they should have, and the objectives weren't exactly well conveyed, I don't regret my time with the game.

Also, it pushed me over 50,000 gamerscore! Horray....?


Count Those Bodies - Bodycount Demo Impressions (Xbox 360)

Bodycount, developed by Codemasters and set to release on August 30, is a first person shooter that borrows some elements here and there from other first person shooters. Sound familiar? It should. In order to survive in today's competitive market, FPS games that derive some or many elements from others often need to either present those elements in better ways or put a unique spin on them. During the brief demo for Bodycount, I didn't get the impression that the game was trying to do either of those, instead opting to simply appeal to those who enjoy shooting guys and getting points from it, regardless of whether it had been done before.

The lack of iron sights is relatively disappointing
The lack of iron sights is relatively disappointing

That's right, you get points in Bodycount for your kills. The game features a skillshot system akin to the one seen in Bulletstorm, but it's a lot more simple and less creative. Headshots, grenade kills, and blowing guys up who decided that the logical place to stand in a firefight was next to explosive barrels are all considered skillshots. You won't be flinging guys into man-eating plants or catapulting them off a cliff, nor will you be dropkicking them in the nuts. The simplicity of the system makes me wonder why it's there, considering that it doesn't encourage any creativity or imagination when taking guys out. Chaining together skillshots will build a combo that helps you achieve a better grade at the end of a level.

But what would a skillshot system be without some shooting, right? The actual shooting in the game leaves much to be desired, mostly because of the incredibly sluggish controls. There was a noticeable lag in the turning speed, which is especially alarming considering I have zero lag in all other games. Furthermore, there is no iron sight aiming (the camera just zooms in slightly when taking aim), and you have to hold down LT halfway in order to move while aiming. Holding it down completely allows you to duck, lean, and peek around corners, a feature that I'm sure some people have missed in this genre. If anything, at least the game runs at a pretty solid 30 frames per second.

In addition, the A.I. doesn't seem to be too interested in taking cover. An alarming amount of enemies I encountered preferred to either stand in place while shooting or slowly walk forward while shooting. Any cover that they may occasionally take usually goes away fast, since wood and concrete can be shot apart.

Always love it when wooden guard towers explode when shot
Always love it when wooden guard towers explode when shot

Some different features were hinted at at the obligatory "here is how to play" screen, such as an Adrenalin mode and airstrikes (both activated via D-Pad), but the only one available in the demo was explosive bullets. These actually run on a meter that you fill up using orb-like objects that enemies drop. As you might expect, they increase damage and send enemies flying when hit.

As I mentioned before, the demo was pretty brief, and the objectives I completed were pretty standard. I assassinated a high ranking militia officer, activated a radio, and blew up to guard towers at a gate. The objectives are given to you by Cortana.... or at least, the voice actress for Cortana.

The short demo unfortunately was enough to leave a pretty negative impression of the game. The clunky controls and movement speed are probably the weakest aspects of what I have played, yet the action isn't particularly stunning either. Play the demo and decide for yourself if you'll be checking out the final product on August 30.


Love, and a Thursday Night Throwdown Suggestion

In an attempt to take a break from sitting here obsessively listening to Eagles Of Death Metal and Russian music and getting nothing done in the process, I'm going to take a look back on the vidja games I've played in the past few weeks. Should you chose to continue reading past this point, you should do so after listening to that Russian song (I guess it's Russian?), for it is a rather incredible driving song that must be heard!

Catherine, And How I Got Screwed By Catherine

Troy Baker's performance in Catherine is really stellar
Troy Baker's performance in Catherine is really stellar

So, Catherine. I enjoyed it! I'm tossing ideas around in my head about writing a review, which I might even do tomorrow, so I'll keep this relatively brief. Basically, I enjoyed almost everything about the game except a few puzzle segments towards the end and the end itself. My ending, I should say. It was quite literally the exact opposite of what I wanted. If you follow me on Twitter, you were probably a witness to my quick burst of rage after getting this ending, and for that I apologize. But what the heck man. I was with Katherine for almost the entire game. I fluctuated a tiny bit towards the opening parts but shortly before hitting the middle of the game I made my decision and went all the way to the end with the meter 100% in the blue. And ended up with the "Bad Cheater" ending. Explain that one.

Oh well. I have a general idea of how it happened, and I'm not too happy with said idea. Hopefully I'm wrong, but who knows. I started my second playthrough and I'm going to try to get the good Katherine ending like I should have gotten. Then I could go for Laura Bailey.... it was hard turning her down. I feel like I made the right decision though. I know some people dislike Katherine because she's too pressuring, but I didn't mind.

Thursday Night Throwdown - GTA IV Free Mode

How has this not been on TNT? LOOK AT THIS MAN!
How has this not been on TNT? LOOK AT THIS MAN!

Make it happen Giant Bomb! This would be unbelievably fun! I got back into playing GTA IV recently (Packie is still probably my favorite character in that entire game) and spent some time running amok in Free Mode with a bunch of strangers and was reminded of how great that experience is and how I feel it should have gotten a bit more praise. The other multiplayer modes aren't really worth playing when you compare them to the ridiculous shenanigans that you can get up to in Free Mode. In one Free Mode game I played today, I crashed helicopters, got chased by helicopters, got plowed over by a speeding Escalade while engaged in a fist fight with another player, had a shootout in a Burger Shot restaurant, engaged in a makeshift race at the airport, lost said race, got involved in a few horrendous motorcycle accidents, and even hopped in a car with a dude who somehow modded the game (on Xbox 360!) in such a way that enabled him to drive any car at the speed of sound with infinite health and even drive them under water. It was bedlam.

Some users agreed in the "TNT Games You'd Like To See" thread created by Jeff a while ago that GTA IV Free Mode should make an appearance on TNT. Jeff laughed like crazy during the Bad Company 2 TNT when someone was standing on top of an exploding tank, and I cannot possibly imagine how the staff would react when they see a player in GTA IV get launched across the city when they're hit by spinning helicopter blades. It's wonderful.


Well, that's about it. Does anyone here still fool around in GTA IV free mode? Do you think they should do a TNT for it?


I've spent 59 hours playing this game and haven't finished it yet

In between bursts of playing Persona 4 and Catherine and almost spending $300 on a sealed copy of Revelations: Persona because I'm an idiot, I've put over 10 hours into Final Fantasy XIII in a desperate attempt at finally finishing the game.

I got it about a month after it came out and put 20 hours into it before hitting a brick wall that I could not pass. That brick wall was the boss fight Barthandelus (1st encounter), a fight I had no hope of conquering because my party was critically underleveled. So I went on a hiatus and returned several months later. I decided to start a new game.

38 hours of game time later, I'm at the end of Chapter 11 and I have to fight Barthandelus again. Fun! Accept this time he has over 3,000,000 HP. Nice! I decided right then and there to get the fight over with instead of calling it a day so I wouldn't have to do it tomorrow. With my official strategy guide in hand (yes, I still buy strategy guides) I charged forth... and died after spending 20+ minutes fighting him because he cast Doom on me, an incurable status ailment that causes instant death after a few minutes.

Laura Bailey and Troy Baker... strangely familiar after playing some Catherine
Laura Bailey and Troy Baker... strangely familiar after playing some Catherine

This total failure got me thinking about the time I've spent with this game. I quit to the main menu and added up the hours from my two saves (I still had the save from my first playthrough). 20 + 38 + the minutes (which exceeded 60) = 59 hours. 59 hours spent playing Final Fantasy XIII.

I thought about how many of those hours I was actually enjoying. I'd say about 15, maybe 20. 15-20 hours of fun, everything else... something else. Boredom, frustration, exhaustion. I don't even know at this point. I've kinda spent 59 hours waiting for this game to become amazing, and it hasn't yet. The only reason I continue throwing myself at it is because I care about the story and the characters and I want to see it all end. I've put 59 hours into this. How is it going to feel if I officially give up?

But then again, how will I feel when I find myself continuing to waste my time, throwing myself at these boss fights and boring enemy encounters?

As I type this I have a website bookmarked that has every cutscene in the game available for people to watch (including all the cutscenes from the Japanese version). I've considered seeing the end to this story that way, but that would be cheap. All those hours would effectively be wasted. But on the other end of the spectrum, finishing the game myself would mean wasting even more hours.

I'm stuck in between these two decisions. I feel like I should not let my efforts go to waste, but I don't want to continue playing either when I can just see the whole story online. I'm just not really enjoying this game anymore. The enemy encounters are getting longer and longer, and consist of my party just throwing ourselves at enemies until they Stagger, and then continuing to throw ourselves at them until they're dead.

I feel bad because the parts of this game that are good, are kind of amazing. The whole presentation is just astounding. Voice acting, visuals, everything. Hope's random monologues sometimes weird me out, but whatever. The CGI cutscenes specifically look mind blowing. Every game ever made looks like complete garbage compared to these cutscenes.

I want to see the end of this story, but I really kinda don't want to play it anymore.

I do, but I don't.



Ugh, this game. Maaaan....... this game. But hey, Laura Bailey is in it, so I guess that's a big enough motivator to finish this thing.


This is why I dislike Eminem

Once in a while I find a real gem on YouTube. This is one of those gems. A parody of the Eminem song I'm Not Afraid that hilariously outlines everything that I dislike about Eminem.