Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Walking Dead: Episode 5 - No Time Left

* Read this review as it originally appeared in the November issue of Adventure Lantern.

No Time Left marks the fifth and final installment of the first season to Telltale's The Walking Dead series. Throughout the entire series, the goal for Lee Everett and company has been to protect Clementine and their loved ones from the horrors of the zombie apocalypse, and to reach the coast in hopes of finding a seaworthy boat to escape the droning hordes of undead. With Clementine kidnapped by an unknown voice on the walkie-talkie and Lee bitten by a walker at the end of the previous episode, No Time Left commands an unprecedented sense of urgency going into the finale. Everything is at stake, no one is safe, and time is of the essence.

As another episode in the series, No Time Left is a fine experience, but as a series finale it leaves a little something to be desired. The final moments are easily some of the most emotional I've ever seen in a video game, but most of the other major things the series had been building towards were kind of anticlimactic, and the post-credits cutscene basically only serves as a teaser for season two without offering any conclusive resolution to this particular story arc. If you've been keeping up with the series, you pretty much have to play Episode Five, but I find it difficult not to feel conflicted over Telltale's handling of the final episode.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Reviewing Moment Games' Life in the Dorms

* Read this review as it originally appeared in the November issue of Adventure Lantern.

Ramen noodles, plastic lightsabers, frisbees, lumberjacks, black bears, psychotic resident assistants, and splenectomies -- these are all things you may or not encounter in college life, but they're certainly a major part of Life in the Dorms, a $1 adventure game currently available on Xbox Live Indie Games. You play as Dack Peeples, a college freshman experiencing his first few days in his new dormitory. Dack's time in college starts out reasonably enough as he adjusts to a new environment, but the situation quickly escalates as his RA comes up with increasingly devious and maniacal ways to get his new pupils to bond.

Life in the Dorms plays like any typical adventure game: you talk to characters, collect items, and solve puzzles to advance the story. Most of the puzzles are pretty creative, but what really makes the game enjoyable is the setting and its unique sense of humor. Not many games specifically focus on college life, and I frequently found myself laughing or smiling at the absurd situations happening around Dack. And for a $1 game, there's quite a bit of content to experience; it took me roughly 5.5 hours to finish the game, so you can definitely get your money's worth.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Killing Floor Twisted Christmas 2012

Christmas is just around corner, which means there's another "Twisted Christmas" event for Killing Floor. The folks at Tripwire Interactive have been holding these Twisted Christmas events annually ever since 2010, and it's always fun to get free content updates for one of your favorite multiplayer games. This year's event features a return of the usual Christmas-themed specimen skins, the chance to get all of the old Twisted Christmas achievements and character skins, a new map, three new weapons, and two paid DLC skin packs. 

The gimmick this year is that, after besting Evil Santa in his own lair, and then a year later in his ice cave, Evil Santa has set up a new base of operations on the moon. You follow him all the way to his moon base to fight Christmas specimen in low-gravity. The update itself is pretty good, but honestly, it's beginning to feel like Killing Floor has jumped the shark. I've been feeling less and less excitement about Killing Floor events lately as each one continues to add controversial, game-changing content and marketing policies. My full run-down awaits after the jump.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Impressions of Forge

Forge is a fantasy multiplayer action game (with light RPG elements) that recently launched on Steam. After failing to reach its fundraising goal on Kickstarter, Dark Vale took the project to the Steam Greenlight, where it succeeded and made its way to an official release. Described as an MMO FPS that blends the tactical combat of end-game PVP from MMORPGs with the typical action of an FPS, I was immediately intrigued once I saw the game in Steam's "new releases" tab. 

After playing about eight hours, I'm rather enjoying Forge. There are some shaky things going on with its launch, there's obviously a lot of content missing, and there are certain aspects of its current design that kind of bug me, but the overall experience has been satisfying despite these kinds of initial issues. The controls are tight and responsive, the combat is tactical and visceral, the classes are nice and varied, and the maps are really interesting. Dark Vale are still working on the game, and with the things they've promised, I have high expectations for the game to continue improving. More of my thoughts after the jump.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Insert Stairway to Heaven Reference: Skylight

Here's an interesting little game. Skylight is a first-person indie platformer by Moment Studios with a simple goal: ascend a flight of platforms to reach your home at the top. The arrangement of platforms is randomly generated each time, and landing on a platform causes it to play some kind of musical note, so that the soundtrack progressively generates itself as you go along. There's not a whole lot of complexity to the gameplay, besides landing your jumps and trying to build up a new high score, but the whole experience is pretty relaxing and enjoyable.

At least in theory. For as much potential as Skylight has to be a nice, relaxing game, I actually found it kind of frustrating. For whatever reason, I had problems consistently landing on platforms and controlling my momentum while using the first-person camera. It became much easier in third-person, but it was a little less immersing seeing my little robot character on screen. Even after a few dozen attempts I'd only managed to make it 30% of the way through the game, and it only gets harder the further you go, with platforms becoming more and more scarce and the sky becoming darker until you have to rely on the light of a headlamp to see.

I kind of wish, therefore, the game were a little easier to complete, with more complicated strategies for building high scores; as much as I enjoyed sailing through the air and generating random musical goodness as I went, it was incredibly frustrating for me to fail so badly (as the result of simple, easy mistakes) at what should be a relatively easy task. I feel like the purpose of the game is primarily to enjoy the aesthetics, rather than to master the nuanced challenge of platforming. Either way, whether you're interested in the aesthetics or the platforming, you can buy Skylight for $2.49 from the official site or on Desura, or as part of Kyttaro Games' current Bundle in a Box (provided you beat the current average price). 

Averse Reactions to Eversion

Seems like indie platformers are a dime a dozen, and indie platformers "with a unique twist" are even more common. Eversion is an indie platformer with a unique twist. Initially evoking nostalgic memories of the likes of Super Mario World, Eversion quickly takes a dark turn to the strange and twisted. The gimmick, here, is that you can use a special ability to "evert" into alternate dimensions -- essentially different versions of the same level with different graphical styles, background music, enemies, and hazards. Navigating to the end of the level and collecting all of the gems along the way requires clever use of the different dimensions.

Eversion is pretty short; it only took me about 45 minutes to reach the ending, despite spending a lot of time dying and replaying segments of each level. Despite being so simple, the game sometimes reaches levels of "Nintendo hard" that had me dying repeatedly because of stiff controls and unpredictable hazards that required me to die, learn the hazards, and memorize the layout in advance. Using the everse function to navigate the maps is a decent idea, but it's a little annoying when you know you have to evert but can't find the right spot in the level to do so. 

I wasn't terribly impressed with Eversion. Indie platformers have to be really special to stand out in my eyes, and Eversion seemed kind of average. When I reached the end, I was happy to be finished with it and didn't have any desire to go back collecting gems for extra secrets. If you're curious to give it a go, you can download it for free on the official site, or you can buy the upgraded HD version on Steam for $4.99 or as part of Kyttaro Games' current Bundle in a Box (pay what you want, minimum price of $0.99). 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Defibrillating Russian Mini-Horror: Fibrillation

Fibrillation is a short first-person psychological horror game by Egor Rezenov, currently available on Desura for $1.99 or as part of Kyttaro Games' Bundle in a Box (minimum price of $0.99). Officially dubbed a "mini-horror" game, Fibrillation takes about 20-30 minutes for a single playthrough as you wander about mysterious landscapes and locales, trying to figure out where you are and what's going on as you attempt to escape from a mysterious black cloud. 

Unlike other so-called horror games, the horror in Fibrillation isn't based on blood, gore, startle scares, menacing foes, or dark creepy environments. In fact, according to normal horror conventions, Fibrillation isn't much of a horror game, but it still manages to skirt the edge of the definition with enough bizarre content. The horror stems mainly from disorientation; you walk down a corridor and then suddenly find yourself in a completely different, unnatural area, trying to find a way out. It's a little unsettling, especially when compounded by the mysterious skull shrouded in a black cloud that seems to stalk you through the environments. 

All the gameplay really amounts to is walking. There's nothing to actually do in the game and there are no clear objectives. You just walk forward looking for the next new area, just so you can progress the game. When I first started playing, I really wanted a better motivating factor to continue going forward, at least some kind of basic explanation of who I was, where I was, or what was going on -- some kind of hook to lead me forward. It wasn't until the second half of the game that hints started cropping up and it finally became clear what was going on. The game became much more interesting at that point, and I really liked the gameplay mechanics of the final "decision," which didn't even seem like an option when I actually played it.

Unfortunately, parts of the game are intentionally boring and repetitive, in order to lull you into a state of complacency to make the disorienting changes and bizarre events effective. There was one part where I spent about seven minutes walking through a seemingly infinite span of corridor grids, my eyes glazed over from the sheer monotony, waiting for something to happen. Fibrillation is definitely not a game for people seeking instant gratification, and it has a couple kinks and flaws, but it can offer a decently cerebral experience for anyone seeking something a little different and out of the ordinary. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Scarlett's Booty is Kind of "Meh"

The first DLC campaign for Borderlands 2, Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty, sends you to the town of Oasis, a former beachfront resort, in the hopes of eventually finding the legendary lost treasure of Captain Blade. There you meet with Shade, the lonely and somewhat deranged sole survivor of Oasis, and eventually ally with Captain Scarlett in rebuilding the compass that will point the way to Blade's treasure. There are some interesting things going on in this DLC, but the whole thing is kind of "meh." Its best aspect is simply the fact that it's more Borderlands 2, but it's not all that invigorating for someone who's already exhausted their time with the base game.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bundle in a Box: Eclectic Delights

Allow me to direct your attention to the third Bundle-in-a-Box by Kyttaro Games, a pay-what-you-want bundle including a nice variety of five DRM-free indie games, with the option to unlock four extra indie games if you pay more than the current average price. The minimum asking price for the bundle is $0.99, with a portion of the sales going to charity and $10 being donated to the Indie Dev Grant for every 100 bundles sold. There are a lot of games here for you to enjoy for a small asking price, and you can support some good causes in the process. As for the games included in the bundle, I'll just go ahead and quote the press release:
"Paying anything above $0.99 will get you:
-elegant RTS War of the Human Tanks
-Lovecraftian yet cute platformer Eversion
-gloriously pixelated adventure/strategy Delve Deeper
-Russian horror offering Fibrillation
-point-and-click mystery Shadows of the Vatican, Act: I 
Beating the average price will [also get you]:
-award winning platformer Adventures of Shuggy
-surreal horror game The 4th Wall
-FMV rhythm-action-fighter Stay Dead
-retro-tastique, hilarious maze-‘em-up Flibble"
So there you have it. Head on over to the website to check out game descriptions, screenshots, and videos, as well as the other bonus goodies that come with the bundle. I'll see if I can find the time to review one or two games in the coming week. The bundle is currently active and will be available until Tuesday, December 18th.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gearbox: Why You Nerf "The Bee" Shield?

A few days ago, Gearbox released a hefty patch for the PC version of Borderlands 2. Among the various bug fixes, they slipped in a controversial tweak to the already-controversial Bee shield, significantly nerfing the capabilities of The Bee and all other amp shields. Before the patch, The Bee was insanely over-powered, especially in conjunction with high pellet-count, rapid fire weapons like the Conference Call, because the extra amp damage of the shield was applied to every pellet. If a Conference Call shotgun normally did 5,000x20 (100,000) damage, a Bee shield would add 50,000x20 (1,000,000) extra damage, essentially multiplying the total damage by a factor of 10. It was able to kill epic raid bosses in mere seconds

The new patch changes the behavior of amp shields so that the extra amp damage is now divided among all the pellets; instead of dealing 50,000x20 damage per shot, it's a flat 50,000 damage per shot. The Bee itself now also has about a 50% longer recharge delay, maybe a 20% slower recharge rate, and deals about 15% less damage (these are just estimates based on memory). Even with all of these changes, The Bee still offers the best offensive damage-per-second in the game, compared to any other shield, but the nerf feels like Gearbox just gave us the middle finger in what may be the biggest "fuck you" from a game developer in my recent memory. Why do I say this? Well, for a lot of reasons.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Belated Review of Borderlands 2

The reason I didn't post much for the first three weeks of October was because I was too busy playing Borderlands 2. It's fun, it's addicting, it's better than the first game, and I couldn't pull myself away from it to do much of anything else. I'm still playing it. I've already clocked way more hours in BL2 than I have in Skyrim, and I still feel invigorated to continue farming loot and replaying with new characters and other friends. That alone should tell you how good of a game it is.

If the first Borderlands was an imperfect experiment, Borderlands 2 is the refinement of that formula. Everything that was great about the first game is back in the sequel, with all of the bad parts trimmed out and replaced with something new and interesting. This is how sequels are supposed to be done, and it's no wonder BL2 has sold so much better (and faster) than BL1. In the full article I'll look at how well BL2 stacked up to my prior hopes and expectations, as well as detailing the extra things I've liked and (in some cases) disliked.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Walking Dead: Episode Four - Review

*Read this review as it originally appeared in the October issue of Adventure Lantern.

If you've been keeping up with Telltale's The Walking Dead series, either playing it for yourself or merely reading reviews, then you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Episode Four: Around Every Corner. The style of gameplay remains just the same as all of the previous episodes, so there's really not much for me to talk about on that front, and not much else has changed since the last episode except for the continuation of the story. Which, if you have been keeping up with the story, is all the reason to get Episode Four. The rest of my quick review continues after the jump.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Adventure Lantern Double Feature

It's taken a few months, but it looks like we may finally be getting back on schedule with the recent publication of the September and October issues of Adventure Lantern, the finest adventure gaming fanzine on the web. As usual, each issue comes with a hefty news section of new and upcoming releases, great for keeping up to date in the latest goings on within the industry. The September issue features a preview of Death Ray Manta and reviews of Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land, and a gaming-related piece of literature, The Myst Reader and the Story of the D'ni

The October issue features a number of reviews fit for the Halloween season (better late than never), including: Anna, Ghost in the Sheet, Pathologic, The Five Cores, The Walking Dead: Episode 4 - Around Every Corner, Erie, and Slender. Both issues are now available for your enjoyment, free as always.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Impressions of Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth is a game I'd been interested in for a while now, ever since I read player comments describing it like a multiplayer Fallout, crossed with hints of STALKER. I'd been very wary about playing another MMORPG, however, because it seems like every MMO out there insists on being a huge waste of time. But since Fallen Earth went free-to-play a little more than a year ago, I thought maybe I'd at least give it a shot. The promise of a post-apocalyptic MMO was fairly interesting at first, but then it quickly bogged down to usual MMO nonsense; tedious level-grinding via repetitive tasks in a laboriously over-stretched world.

The game starts out with an instanced tutorial sequence that explains the premise, tells you a little about the backstory, and shows you how to perform basic actions within the game. It contains an awful lot of cutscenes and dialogue which lend the tutorial a compelling narrative thrust, unlike lots of other MMOs I've played that just dump you aimlessly into a starting town. Once you're through with the tutorial sequence, it's clear that there's actually a main questline to follow -- with an actual story -- but that's also when it turned into mindless MMO-style content and lost its appeal for me. Continue reading for more of my early impressions of Fallen Earth

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Viel Dinosaurier in 1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg

1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg is a free indie horror game by students of the Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment. Set during World War I, you play as a German soldier trying to escape the creatures that hunt you through the narrow, claustrophobic trenches by reaching the ladder at the opposite end of the territory. The creatures hunting you are dinosaurs, and you have no way of fighting them. You just run, using whatever tools you can find in the death-ridden trenches.

The game is ultimately fairly short and simple -- it only takes a few minutes to beat if you know what you're doing -- but odds are it'll take you several attempts before you really start to figure it out. The main criticism I have if that it takes too much trial-and-error to learn the basic mechanics of the game, which may turn people off, but once you understand how things work and what you're supposed to be doing, 1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg is a really tense, heart-pounding experience.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You Can't Escape From Nightmare House 2

Nightmare House 2 is one of the coolest horror games I've ever played. What's even more remarkable is that it's a free source mod for Half-Life 2. A first-person shooter with a light emphasis on action and a heavy emphasis on horror, the game begins with you gaining consciousness next to a wrecked vehicle in front of an abandoned house. Which also happens to be haunted. After escaping the house, the rest of the game takes place in the Never Lose Hope Hospital, where you regain consciousness in a padded cell only to find that something else has gone terribly wrong. 

For comparison, Nightmare House 2 feels a lot like the original F.E.A.R. with hints of Condemned: Criminal Origins (both by Monolith), both in terms of quality and content, if you were to take those games and condense them down to about 2-3 hours. NH2 features some very good attempts at horror as well as some decently enjoyable puzzles and action, all tied together with an interesting story. There are a few hiccups in its design, which I'll discuss in the full article, but it's a great game that's definitely worth playing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Team Fortress 2: Halloween 2012

I'm not a very big fan of Meat Fortress 2. I play it very infrequently, basically only coming back to it whenever there's a major, game-changing update (or whenever friends try to drag me back), and then quickly lose interest all over again. It's like an old acquaintance whom I occasionally speak to out of a sense of obligation, but I don't really enjoy doing so. But since Halloween is approaching and Valve released yet another seasonal event, I figured I'd check it out.

I never bothered with any of the previous Halloween events so I don't know how this one compares to events in the past, but this one just seems like a clusterfuck, full of rage and confusion. Speaking as someone who doesn't enjoy Steam Fortress 2 that much in the first place, the stuff in this event makes me like it even less. More of my pseudo-review of the Scream Fortress 2 Halloween 2012 event after the jump.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Slender Man is Always Right Behind You

Slender is a free indie horror game based on the mythos of the slender man, an abnormally tall, faceless man in a dark suit and tie. Occasionally spotted in the background of photographs, people reportedly go missing and disappear in his presence. He is an entity of pure fear, silently stalking people until they go mad. And then he takes them.

The premise of the game is pretty simple: you're alone in a pitch black wood with nothing but a flashlight at your disposal, tasked with collecting eight pages scattered about the woods. Who you are and why you're searching for these eight pages is never explained; it's just an arbitrary goal to give you something to do whilst being terrorized by the silent madness-inducing presence of the slender man.

My review continues after the jump.

Erie: Somewhat Eerie, Not So Scary

Erie is a free first-person horror game made by students of the University of Utah's EAE Master Games Studio Program, using the Unreal Development Kit. You play as Oliver Victor, a Red Cross investigator circa 1966, sent to search for missing workers after a nuclear power plant suffers a partial meltdown. Once in the facility, you become trapped and have to flee from the mutated horrors and escape with your life.

In terms of horror, Erie is competently designed at first, with effective (albeit somewhat crude) audio and visual effects contributing to the game's immersive atmosphere. For the first several minutes, that's basically all the game is: atmosphere. Your walk through plant provides a basic tutorial for controls, which should be perfectly familiar to anyone who's ever handled a keyboard before, while providing a few atmospheric scares to put you just a little on edge. Bats fluttering out from a vent in the ceiling, a woman crying behind a locked door, sudden noises, monsters darting past a window, and so on.

My reviews continues after the jump.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Killing Floor Halloween 2012: Hillbilly Horror

The folks at Tripwire Interactive recently launched a Halloween event for Killing Floor, their popular co-op zombie shooter. Unlike last year's Halloween event, which was sort of underwhelming because it featured entirely recycled content, this year's introduces entirely new content including completely original specimen skins, a whole new map, eight new weapons, new character skins, and new achievements. Rather than go with more traditional Halloween imagery, TWI have instead elected to poke fun at redneck culture by having you fight mutated hillbillies around a series of trashy mountain homes complete with beer can wind chimes and flame-etched cars.

After the last two weapon updates, I kind of felt like new weapons were the last thing Killing Floor needed, but these new weapons actually feel new and different -- I'm actually excited about working many of these new weapons into my regular arsenal. I'm much less excited about the new map and specimen skins, for various reasons, but the one thing that's got me somewhat annoyed is that TWI are charging money for four of the new weapons. Something they said they'd never do. More of my thoughts on the Hillbilly Horror Event in the full article.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick Impressions of Borderlands 2

The original Borderlands was surprisingly fun -- it held my attention for approximately 200 hours across multiple characters and playthroughs -- but it had its fair share of flaws and blemishes which hurt the overall experience. A year ago I wrote an article briefly discussing the kinds of improvements I hoped to see in Borderlands 2, and with 15 hours now clocked in the sequel, I'm pleased to say that Gearbox have taken great care to polish their product. The changes are not particularly dramatic, mind you, but Borderlands 2 offers more of the same great fun from the original with lots of subtle, crucial refinement in the formula. 

Perhaps the most important improvement I've noticed thus far is that they've put a lot more effort into the quest structure. In the first game, quests were shallow, mindless objectives simply there as a means to promote more killing and looting, which sometimes made the game a tedious chore. The quests in BL2 are a little more involved than they were in the first game, giving you more of a storyline setup (ie, a reason to care about what you're doing) and generally more interesting, varied objectives. It feels like the quests are connected to the main story (and your progression through the game world) in a more meaningful way, as well. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 - Long Road Ahead

Long Road Ahead marks the third entry in Telltale's The Walking Dead series, continuing the story as Lee Everett and his band of survivors set out from the motel in search of safer lodgings. Compared to the previous episode, this one feels like its ambition is a little reeled in -- it's not as thrilling or exciting as Starved For Help, but it provides a satisfying experience that keeps the pace moving all the way through.

The story this time around seems pretty straightforward, but it manages to feature some of the most emotionally engaging sequences of the series thus far. A few moments were particularly shocking to me (much more so than the previous episode's twist with the St Johns), and others handled a somber, morose tone so well that they had me sincerely empathizing with the characters. As it turns out, I care a lot more about these people than I've cared for most other video game characters.

More of my review awaits after the jump.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Adventure Lantern - August Issue

Things are running a little behind schedule, considering it's currently September and we're heading into October pretty soon, but I'd like to take a moment to direct your attention to the August issue of Adventure Lantern, the online adventure gaming fanzine. As usual, this issue contains a hefty news section on upcoming adventure games, as well as reviews of Bell's Heart, A Grain of Truth, Deponia, as well as my own reviews of The Walking Dead: Episode 3 and Mirror's Edge. For those of you interested, you can read through it here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Demon's Souls vs Dark Souls

Now that I've played both games, it's time for the inevitable "Demon's Souls versus Dark Souls" discussion. When I played Demon's Souls back in April, I was immediately hooked. The combat just clicked for me, offering a far more satisfying and engaging experience than any other fantasy combat system I'd ever played. There was such a remarkable precision in every aspect of that game's design, making it one of the most unique and rewarding games of recent memory.

With Dark Souls came a promise of "more of the same" in a supposedly bigger and better package, complete with a new open-world design, more areas to explore with a greater variety of aesthetic themes, new online multiplayer mechanics, and an expanded range of weapons and armor. While Dark Souls does deliver in some aspects of the "bigger and better" promise, there are still a number of things I prefer about Demon's Souls. Detailed comparisons await after the jump.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Black Mesa Released, Rather Impressive

Black Mesa: Source, the fan-made source engine remake of the original Half-Life, has been in development for the better half of a decade now, and it finally saw an official release this past weekend. As I understand it, the last few levels are still yet to be completed, but what I've seen so far has really impressed me. The new visuals look just as good as (if not better than) the things Valve have been able to do with their own engine, with remarkable fidelity to the game's original designs but with all kinds of exciting new variations, as well.

It should be noted, however, that Black Mesa is not just a graphics overhaul -- it also spices up the gameplay by incorporating certain mechanics from Half-Life 2, such as a greater emphasis on physics manipulation and being able to light headcrab zombies on fire with flares. I've also spotted a number of retroactive continuity references to Half-Life 2 (such as a more prominent meeting with Eli Vance, among others), which help tie the two games together a little better and which serve as fun easter eggs for fans. 

Perhaps most importantly, it seems that the development team made a deliberate effort to fix some of the illogical architecture and engineering that bothered me so much in the original game. At the very least, I've noticed the tram ride from the start of the game is now designed so that lab operations no longer obstruct the path of the tram, so I'm especially impressed with that. So far I've only played up to the "We've Got Hostiles" chapter, but playing Black Mesa has been a wonderful treat for my nostalgia, because it's almost like playing Half-Life for the first time again.

Anyway, I have a bunch of comparison screenshots of the original Half-Life and the new Black Mesa scenes for you to peruse in the full article, to get a feel for just how much work went into recreating the environs of the original game. Note in particular several occasions where there's now something where there used to be nothing, meaning there's a whole lot of new stuff to see and experience. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dark Souls Screenshots & Wallpapers

Dark Souls is a very pretty-looking game with great artistic direction and some really memorable environs. It looks even better with the 1080p resolution fix by Durante. I took over 400 screenshots of Dark Souls, all at 1920x1080 resolution -- I probably would've taken even more if the game didn't have me constantly occupied with fascinating things to do. Since I have so many screenshots, I figured I'd share some of my favorite ones from the PC version of the Prepare to Die Edition. Lots of pretty pictures await after the jump.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How the Community Ruins the Day Z Experience

Day Z is the sort of game that's really fun and interesting for a while, but then quickly loses its appeal. I played consistently for about a week and then lost interest, largely because I started to realize there was no real point to anything; it was just a never-ending cycle of spawn, scavenge loot, get killed, do it all over again. The whole point of the game is to survive long enough to assemble some ultimate set of equipment, but even once you accomplish that, there's not much to do with that equipment besides killing other players because there's just not enough actual content.

The longer Day Z has gone on, the more it's turned from an innovative survival game full of uniquely challenging and rewarding gameplay ideas, to a stupidly boring and pointless PVP deathmatch shooter. Don't get me wrong, the open PVP system is a crucial, integral element in making Day Z such a compelling experience, and I would never suggest scrapping it -- but it's gotten to a ridiculous point where people only play to grief other players. In the end, the survival mechanics create a vicious cycle where grief begets grief, to the point that even honest, honorable players end up devolving to a "shoot on sight" mentality which ultimately ruins the game experience.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Adam's Venture Episode 3: Revelations - Review

The third and final episode in the Adam's Venture trilogy, Revelations, brings closure to Adam's quest of uncovering the secret of the Garden of Eden and putting a stop to the Clairvaux Corporation's evil schemes. Left for dead in the crumbling tomb of King Solomon, Adam loses consciousness and experiences a flashback of how he met his partner, Evelyn, and how they came to be involved with the Clairvaux Corporation. When he comes to, he feels reinvigorated in his promise to protect Evelyn, and sets out to rescue her from the clutches of the Clairvaux leader.

The majority of Revelations takes place during the flashback, as Adam explores the hidden depths of the University of Oxford, the French town of Luz, and a Templar mausoleum. While the flashback offers some backstory to the game's premise, it doesn't offer much newfound depth to any of the characters. Interactions with Evelyn, Adam's father, and Professor Saint-Omair scarcely go beyond the mechanical necessities of what needs to be said or done to advance to the next puzzle or location. Learning how Adam met Evelyn doesn't prove to be all that interesting because their depictions remain as flat and shallow as cardboard cutouts.

Once the flashback has concluded, the rest of the game is over with so quickly that it leaves the entire experience feeling abrupt and underwhelming. After regaining consciousness, you watch a few cutscenes while solving the same two puzzles over and over again, and follow extremely linear paths to the next cutscene or puzzle. At one point the villain just flat-out tells you his evil plan in a matter of just a few sentences. Nothing in this episode really builds towards this big revelation -- it just comes out of nowhere for one fleeting moment, so it feels cursory and unsatisfying. To top things off, once you solve the final puzzle, the game's practically over with no real resolution to everything that's happened.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Walking Dead: Episode Two - Review

Much like its source material, The Walking Dead: Episode Two - Starved For Help is less about zombies and more about human relations in the wake of an inhuman apocalypse. Set three months after the conclusion of Episode One - A New Day, Lee Everett and his band of survivors have taken up residence in the Travalier Motel. With the walls barricaded, they seem set to survive until things blow over -- until they start running low on food. Forced to hunt the local wildlife, tensions mount on how to ration their remaining food supplies and whether or not to set out for a new location. As the group becomes more restless and malcontent with their situation, they meet a pair of brothers who own a dairy farm, and offer to trade gasoline for food.

The rest of Episode Two plays out like a suspense thriller as you try to gauge whether the St John family is trustworthy, and whether their farm (with its gasoline-powered electric fence) is really as safe from the zombies (and bandit raiders) as they claim it is. On the walk to their farm, the brothers ask oddly specific questions about your group, and once you arrive at the farm, they're rather selective of where you're allowed to roam. Are the St Johns up to no good, or are they just being overly cautious around a large group of heavily-armed strangers?

Besides trying to assess the potential for new living arrangements with the St Johns, with your group desperate for food and a safer shelter, you also have to contend with occasional zombie encounters as well as the mutual threat of bandit raiders. Human conflict takes center stage in this episode with even more tension dividing the group. All of your decisions from the previous episode carry over into this episode, meaning that characters will hold different opinions of you based on your prior actions within the group, and these tempered relationships get pushed to their limits in some of most tense and dramatic moments the series has offered thus far.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Vegas is a Better RPG Than Skyrim

When I played Skyrim, it was obvious to me that it was a pretty shallow, mediocre RPG with a lot of problems. I had a whole bunch of criticisms to lay against it, and I still don't understand how people consider it such a great, phenomenal game. Replaying Fallout: New Vegas made it painfully clear that Bethesda really has no idea what they're doing when it comes to implementing RPG mechanics and designing sophisticated, compelling gameplay. New Vegas is a better RPG than Skyrim, and here's why.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mannaging in Mann vs Machine

I have a bitter relationship with Team Fortress 2. I tried to get into it a few times (once in 2008, then again in 2010) and just didn't see much lasting appeal in it. I'm not a big fan of PVP shooters in the first place, and once TF2 became a hat simulator I almost completely wrote it off. Then more and more of my friends started playing and I got dragged back into it. I still hold very mixed opinions of the PVP modes (sometimes it's real fun, other times it's stale and monotonous, other times it's pure rage-inducing), so my curiosity was piqued when a new co-op mode was released: Mann vs Machine.

The concept sounded vaguely similar to that of Killing Floor, a game in which I've invested hundreds of hours over the past two years; both are co-op shooters with six players per team, both task you with fighting waves of mindless droning enemies, and both have you spending collected money at a trader between waves. Essentially, Mann vs Machine is Killing Floor with TF2 classes and its own unique premise, and I think it has the potential to be a really great game mode. I've had a lot of fun with MVM over the past week, but I do have a few issues with it. Here's my pseudo-review of MVM.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Impressions of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

As an ardent PC gamer, I've long lamented the fact that the Souls series remained exclusive to the console boxes. When I'd heard that Atlus were planning to take down the servers for Demon's Souls, I bought a PS3 just so I could have a chance to play Demon's Souls before its final curtain call. I haven't done much with the console since. So when I'd heard that Bandai Namco were planning to release a PC port of Dark Souls, I was very excited.

As news poured in that it was going to be a straight port with no fancification for the PC, my hopes dwindled to reserved skepticism. Over 100,000 PC gamers signed a petition asking for a port, but I don't think this is exactly what anyone had in mind. I've played about eight hours of Dark Souls now, and I can confirm that it is a rather rubbish port. If not for the new content, the Steam integration, and the fan-made resolution patch, I would almost recommend against the PC version. As for the game itself, well, I have a few opinions on that, too. My thoughts await after the jump.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ranking the New Vegas DLCs

I first played Fallout: New Vegas shortly after it was released (back in the fall/winter of 2010), long before any of these DLC packs had been released. I'd spent so much time in my first playthrough that I had no desire to go back and do it all over again, just for the sake of some new content. I needed to let some time pass for everything to feel fresh again, so I'm only just now getting around to playing the DLCs. For the most part, they're all enjoyable and add a lot of variety to the game, each with their own unique charm and personality (though I still may have preferred a single extensive expansion than four separate, smaller DLCs). Either way, here are my thoughts on the four New Vegas DLC packs.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Adventure Lantern - July Issue

For those adventure gaming enthusiasts out there, I'd like to direct your attention to the latest issue of Adventure Lantern. Adventure Lantern is a monthly pdf magazine produced by fans, featuring news on upcoming adventure games as well as interviews and reviews of both old and new games -- whatever we happen to be playing, really. This month's issue includes reviews of Botanicula, Metal Dead, Lume, and Scratches: Director's Cut, along with my own reviews of Adam's Venture: Episode 3 - Revelations and The Walking Dead: Episode 2 - Starved For Help

This issue is 39 pages long with a lengthy news section providing the scoop on dozens of upcoming games. It's also the first issue to introduce a new design and layout (courtesy of Constantin Starodub), making it the most visually impressive issue yet. There's a lot of great stuff crammed in here, so I hope you'll check it out and enjoy reading through it. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

At the Smithsonian: The Art of Video Games

A while ago I visited the Art of Video Games exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. I spent about two hours looking at all of the exhibits and was generally pleased with the experience. It's nice to see video games getting some national recognition from such a reputable institution (and by extension, the government), validating the notion that video games may indeed constitute art. After all, video games are just as expressive as other visual art forms, but with the added element of interactivity potentially enhancing the individual's experience.

The exhibit itself is divided into three main sections: one section chronicling the history of video games with video displays of iconic examples from every notable gaming platform; one section with playable demos (on large-screen projections) of about a half-dozen games; and one section for concept art and displays of specific gameplay mechanics. It's quite an impressive set-up, but I have to wonder how educational it really is for gamers and non-gamers alike. As cool as it was for me to see and experience everything, I didn't feel especially enlightened when I walked out of the exhibit.

I would have liked to have seen a little more emphasis on the underlying characteristics of video games as art. For the most part, the exhibit felt like it was glorifying video games themselves, as specific entities, rather than the medium as a whole. They have a handful of monitors set up rotating video loops of developer interviews and commentary which is where most of the deeper substance is to be found, but these often felt like they were preaching to the choir, telling me things I already knew or understood. Still, they were interesting to watch, and I imagine they'd be more enlightening to a non-gamer.

I feel like they could've tapped the subject matter a little better by discussing things like how games are created, the challenge of making effective games, how developers specifically approach artistic decisions, and so on -- the things you don't get to see in the games themselves. That would've been a little more interesting for someone like me. Either way, it's an impressive exhibit with a lot to experience, so if you find yourself in DC before the exhibit closes at the end of September, it's worth checking out. I've got more pictures and descriptions in the full article.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Disappointed Movie Review: The Batman Rises

For the first time ever, I'd like to talk about something other than video games. You see, I recently saw the latest Batman movie, the one with the derivative suffix for a title, The Dark Knight Rises. Like most people, I thought it would be nearly impossible to top the excellence of The Dark Knight, and therefore didn't hold particularly high expectations for the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. But while I didn't necessarily expect it to be a great Batman movie, I still expected Rises to be a good movie. There's a lot to nitpick here -- plot holes, inconsistencies, illogical character behavior -- but what disappointed me most were ordinary shortcomings in things like structure, pacing, and story.

The movie starts out interestingly enough, but reaches a low point (both literally and figuratively) about midway through where the narrative momentum sort of falls apart. Despite these kinds of problems, Rises is still a pretty good movie that deserves positive praise, marred primarily by the fact that it simply can't outshine the legacy of its predecessor. But whereas most people would simply say "it's good, but not as good as The Dark Knight," my take is more a matter of "it's not as good as The Dark Knight, and not even as good as it had the potential to be."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Diaries From Day Z: Day Five

Day five of this place. Seems like every time I start to get myself properly equipped, I get killed by bandits or end up starving to death. A harsh circle of life that seems more apt to punish me for no great failing of my own. I do the best I can with the knowledge I have, and always seem trumped by poor luck and circumstance. So I keep coming back to this place, hoping to make it longer in my next life, to learn from my mistakes, hoping to find better loot and more interesting locations, wondering if I'll come away with any unique and exciting stories. I respawned on the coast near Balota in the middle of a sunny day.

A small village was visible on the horizon to my left -- presumably Balota itself. Ordinarily, that would be the first place to go, with a large number of houses guaranteeing at least some sort of valuable loot. But I saw something that looked far more promising: an enclosed camp of military tents. Military tents crawling with zombies. Zombies in full military combat dress, and even a few in officer's uniforms. Accustomed as I am to sneaking past zombies unarmed, I managed to get through two or three segments of double-gates, crawling through the grass to avoid detection, slinking into every tent in sight. 

And there was nothing to loot. No food, no ammo, no bandages, no tools, no weapons. Not even a pile of empty tin cans. Losing hope for finding anything worthwhile, my eyes lit up when I found a rack full of AK assault rifles. Yes, this was what I had come here to find. This is what would make all of this careful snearkery worth the time and effort. My eyes, formerly filled with bright optimism, shed a tear as I discovered those rifles were merely pieces of environmental decoration, not actually programmed to be usable items. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Diaries From Day Z: Day Four

When I logged back in for my fourth day in Day Z, it was dark. Another pitch black night that had me awkwardly juggling a flashlight and a Lee Enfield rifle, unable to use them both at the same time. I was stoked about the Lee Enfield, but it doesn't do much good when you can't see what you're shooting at. Either way, I had enough firepower for self-defense, but was still in need of other supplies, so I set my sights on some nearby factory buildings. Inside, I found a bunch of machinery and equipment for repairing cars -- completely useless to me.

I went up the stairs onto the upper-level catwalks and found a hunting knife, good for cutting up meat from animals. If only I had some matches to start a fire, I might be set. Feeling fairly content with that find, I headed back for ground level and stepped outside, ready to search the next building. There were still a lot of zombies around, so I had to be careful; the darkness would make it easier for me to sneak past them, but it would be much harder to defend myself if one saw me. With my flashlight drawn (zombies don't seem to notice the light), I slowly crept to the next building, holding my breath as unseen zombies moaned and snarled alarmingly close to me. And then I heard the sounds of a helicopter approaching.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Diaries From Day Z: Day Three

I found my first gun and encountered my first bandits in my third day of Day Z. When I logged back in, I respawned somewhere near an industrial harbor, in the middle of another pitch black night. I turned my flashlight on and discovered that I was standing in front of a large crane with a ladder running up its side. Some part of my brain thought there might be loot up there, so I approached it and started to climb the ladder. When I got to the first landing, I had to walk around the structure to another ladder, but because of how useless the flashlight is, I couldn't see anything and ended up walking straight off the edge of the crane. Two broken legs, massive blood loss, no idea where to go or what to do to fix my situation. Off to a great start. Time for a suicidal respawn and hopefully a little more longevity in my next life.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Diaries From Day Z: Day Two

I was joined by a friend in my second day of Day Z. My friend, JSL, had spawned on the coast like all new players do. Without an in-game map by which to navigate, we had to describe notable landmarks to each other as I attempted to back-track towards the coast. "I can see a lighthouse from here." ~ "I vaguely recall seeing a lighthouse at one point. Do you see any piers?" ~ "No, but I see railroad tracks." ~ "Maybe we should follow the railroad tracks to each other, because I also see railroad tracks." ~ "But are we looking at the same rail line?" ~ "And if we are, how do we make sure we're going in the right directions?" ~ "Where's the sun? Can we guide by it?" ~ "Can't tell. It's cloudy."

In the midst of all of this, JSL managed to get himself killed, and thus respawned at a completely new location. With nothing else to do, I decided to loot some nearby houses, figuring if I died, I'd at least respawn somewhere on the coast and we could find each other more easily. At this point, I was already over half-dead from various zombie encounters, and didn't have any valuable loot to worry about losing. But when I found a hatchet in a farm house and figured out how to equip it as a weapon, I found a whole new thirst for life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Diaries from Day Z: Day One

My first day in Day Z was painful and unforgiving. Venturing into Chernarus, the post-Soviet countryside where the dead walk freely and bandits prey on every feeble survivor, is a task best done after consulting every handbook and survival guide available. With a rash desire to seek my thrills and treasure in the desolate zombie wasteland, having heard tales of glory from many survivors, I dove headfirst into the conflict and quickly found myself overwhelmed by the harsh brutality of this world. I realized only too late that I was unprepared for this endeavor, and met my gruesome fate huddled in the corner of a small farmhouse as the dead came for my cold, shivering flesh.

These diaries aim to serve as a warning to any fellow survivor who might dare to brave the certain death that awaits them in Chernarus. Let you who reads this text know what to expect from the phenomenon known as Day Z, based on my own experiences within this world.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Condemned 2: Not as Good as Criminal Origins

The original Condemned: Criminal Origins from 2005 was a surprising success at the time, offering a splendid survival-horror atmosphere with a brutally visceral melee combat system. Creepy and immersing, with lots of good scripted scares, it quickly found its way into my list of favorite horror games. Its 2008 sequel, Condemned 2: Bloodshot, was one of my most highly anticipated games. I waited years for some kind of press release saying Monolith would port it to the PC like they did the first game, but that news never came. It wasn't until 2012 that I finally got a chance to play it, and I found myself rather disappointed with the game.

As it turns out, Bloodshot is the type of sequel that tries a little too hard to be bigger, better, and bolder than its predecessor, and ends up losing most of its unique charm in the process. With a greater emphasis on combat, a bizarre supernatural premise for everything, the wider availability of guns, and a nearly constant presence of other NPCs, Condemned 2 effectively undermines the very qualities that made Criminal Origins such a suspenseful survival-horror experience. Despite some crucial improvements with the crime scene investigations and a more robust melee combat system, the overall experience proved far less enjoyable than the original.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Year of The Nocturnal Rambler

On July 12th of 2011, I published my first article on this blag -- my rambling thoughts on the good and bad elements of the first Mass Effect. Since then I've continued to write reviews of whatever games I was playing at the time while offering occasional commentary on the industry in general. In the past year I've published 152 articles and still have 22 drafts kicking around that may one day develop into full articles. Over 60,000 total page views and 109 published comments. And still no six-figure endorsement money. Perhaps it's time I start posting obnoxious PayPal donation links everywhere.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of praise and acknowledgment that regular and incidental readers have had to offer; it's rather validating to know that you all appreciate the thought I put into these things. Even though this is basically just a frivolous hobby, I feel like I've done a fair bit of good for gaming by criticizing everything that's wrong with Skyrim and Twilight Princess, and for giving the spotlight to some lesser-known gems. I've had a lot of fun reviewing TV episodes that use video games as their central plot device, and it was fun putting my psychology background to use interpreting a news piece on video game violence.

As year two of The Nocturnal Rambler rolls on, I hope to continue growing with my writing while keeping pace with reviews and opinionated editorials. I'd like to remodel the aesthetic design of the blog some day, and find inspiration for some new periodical series to run (anybody have any ideas or suggestions?). Free and effective publicity would be nice, too, but that seems like a lot of work. Either way, thank you to everyone who visits this humble site, and a special thanks for all of the kind words so far. Hard to believe an entire year can go by so quickly. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Content

A common complaint with video games is that they're sometimes too short, or just generally lacking in content; I don't think I've ever heard a professional reviewer claim a game had too much content. With video games, it seems almost universal that the bigger it is, and the more stuff there is to do, the better the game turns out. Well, I'm beginning to think that there is such a thing as too much content. The acceptable length of a movie, for example, is anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours -- much longer than that and the film can become a burden to continue watching. Likewise, I feel that certain games can outstay their welcome by being too long or simply having too much content to experience.

There are obviously major differences in the way we consume video games and movies, however. Like novels, video games are meant to be experienced over multiple sessions, so when you get tired of playing the game, you can just stop and come back to it later, and you can often pick and choose what content to experience in a video game -- something you can't really do with a movie or novel. These two elements are what make the acceptable length of video games range anywhere from five hours to 100 hours. Generally speaking, longer games are more "epic" and "grandiose," but some games are at their best when they're short and sweet. Because some games are too long for their own good.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Killing Floor Summer Sideshow 2012

On July 5th, Tripwire Interactive kicked off the second annual Summer Sideshow event for Killing Floor, their popular zombie co-op shooter. This update features a new map, new weapons (sort of), new achievements, and a return of the unique "circus sideshow freak" skins for each type of specimen. As cool as it is for TWI to put on these themed events and to continue releasing free updates for a three-year old game, this one just doesn't seem as cool as previous ones have been, and certain gameplay changes have imbalanced the game significantly. Continue reading for my opinionated review of the 2012 Summer Sideshow Event.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Vague and Confusing Process

I'm not really sure what to make of Process, a free indie game by TrainYard in which you're given 20 minutes to stop a train from an accident that will send it flying off the rails at high speed. It's basically a point and click adventure game rendered in a fully 3D, first-person perspective; you explore a few train cars solving puzzles and trying to find a way to escape from the train's inevitable fate. Process boasts some good atmosphere and an interesting premise, but the execution of its gameplay made it difficult for me to appreciate the game as a whole.

The thing that bothered me most is that everything is so intentionally vague. There's something to be said for games that leave themselves open to interpretation, but you really need to have some kind of concrete foundation upon which to base your conclusions, which Process makes no effort to establish. There are some really bizarre "cutscenes" that remain completely unexplained, and the ending offers no hints as to where you are or what's really going on. The ultimate effect was for me to sit back with no idea what I'd just played and no idea what to make of it.

The game's vague intentions even permeate the gameplay, with many of your actions not producing a clear effect on the environment, and with some of the puzzles not following a clear logical direction. There's one control panel, in particular, that's meant to fix an "unknown error" message that pops up when you try to engage the emergency brakes, but there's no indication anywhere that it has any connection to the brakes, it's not readily apparent how you're even supposed to interact with it, and it's not even clear what you ultimately have to do with it. You just kind of bumble around doing random things, not really understanding what it is you're actually doing.

I don't understand what Process was really all about. The game's development blog claims that "it's a game about predetermination of events and the subjectiveness of perception of the surrounding world," which sounds like kind of a pretentious way of saying they wanted to have weird, vague, unexplained things happen in order for different players to experience and interpret them differently. That's an interesting idea, but I'm willing to bet most people had very similar, confused reactions to the game as I did. If you're interested in trying it out, you can download it here

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Great Games You Never Played: Cryostasis

"Fine, obscure gems." Part of a periodical series: Great Games You Never Played.

Cryostasis is one of the more novel takes on horror that I've played in the last several years. Set in 1981, you play as Alexander Nesterov, a geologist working at a North Pole research facility, who stumbles upon a derelict nuclear icebreaker, the North Wind, which has been floating around the arctic circle since 1968. The ship is entirely frozen over, parts of it wrecked and destroyed, with no power running through it, and with seemingly all of its crew dead or missing. As you explore deeper into the vessel, the past manifests itself before your eyes, occasionally letting you relive past events leading up to the ship's untimely demise, all-the-while being stalked by murderous monstrosities coming out of the metalwork.

A unique ability called the "mental echo" gives you the power to take control of a deceased crew member's memories and change the events of the past to alter the condition of things in the present. A section of the ship is flooded with ice, a dead man lying near the surface; touching him gives you a chance to succeed where he failed, to seal the emergency doors and prevent the flooding, thus clearing the way for you in the present. By using this ability, you're able to progress through the ship, piecing together the story of what happened and, should you succeed in your endeavors, alter the fate of the North Wind.

As a horror game, Cryostasis does a pretty good job of mounting tension and making you feel vulnerable. One of its unique twists is representing your health meter in the form of body heat, with the intense cold of the ship lowering your health to extremely low levels and forcing you to seek the scarce warmth of electric lightbulbs, steam valves, and turbines. The things attacking you can look pretty disturbing, and as an ordinary geologist you're stuck fighting them with improvised weapons (e.g., a loose pressure valve as a bludgeoning weapon) and antiquated firearms (like the bolt-action Mosin-Nagant 1891). Combined with the health system, this makes each encounter tense, as you try to survive on your way to the next heat source.

I hesitate to call Cryostasis a "great" game, however, because there are a number of flaws holding it back from true excellence. Glitches and performance issues aside, the game is almost detrimentally linear, there are too many instant deaths resulting from unconscious errors, and some of the mental echo "puzzle sequences" rely a little too heavily on trial-and-error. There are valid reasons leading to the game's mixed reception, but what it does well, it does incredibly well. The story and atmosphere are absolutely top notch, and the unique premise lends it a lot of personality. Imperfect as it may be, it's a novel game worth experiencing.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Things I Hate About Console Games

It's no secret that I'm an ardent PC gamer -- they're measurably superior to consoles in most regards -- but I don't harbor any resentment towards consoles or console gamers. Consoles are fine for what they are, but I prefer the wider versatility of a PC, and the style of PC-exclusives are generally more appealing to me. Despite this, I recently bought a PS3 in order to play a number of console-exclusive games that had somehow managed to elude the almighty PC. I was genuinely looking forward to these experiences and have enjoyed my time with the ones I've played so far.

However, there are a number of things about console games that really annoy me -- problems that generally don't exist in PC games, unless it's a bad console port. For the most part, these things don't ruin the experience, but they do get under my skin a little bit and just go to remind me of how limited the current consoles really are in comparison to a modern PC. So if you're still reading and haven't disregarded me as a snobby PC elitist, I have a list of five things that I hate about console games, in the full article.