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Archive for November, 2008

While looking through some “Black Friday” sales ads this morning, I noticed that Eidos has a new Tomb Raider game out for the Nds. “Tomb Raider: Underworld”. It blows my mind that this franchise is still making money. Do people actually play these games? More so, do people actually get excited out the release of a new Tomb Raider game? Obviously the answer to both of these questions is yes. I remember past frustrations anytime I would encounter a jumping puzzle in an FPS or Third Person game. Every single time they would harvest a fresh crop of expletives from my mouth. But these people who play (and enjoy even) the Tomb Raider series actually yearn for these jumping puzzles!

This boggles my brain.

In my opinion, jumping puzzles in any environment other than a side-scrolling game are flawed. This is especially true for first person shooters. Game developers who implement jumping puzzles ask for accurate, precise jumping maneuvers and foot placement, while in the same instance, don’t let you see your fucking feet. Third person improves the situation quite a bit, but it is still far from perfect. In these games you can see your entire character, and use your character’s size as a scale to judge distances and heights. Generally scale and lack of depth perception is the flaw in the third person perspective. You often see a platform which looks obtainable from your current position, but as soon as you leap into the air you start trying to remember where you last quicksaved. Also, I’m surprised that after all the years of this style game, developers have yet to fix all the clipping and edge dectection issues that plague third person. Anyone who’s ever played Tomb Raider knows exactly how to nudge Lara Croft to the edge of a cliff until she is left hovering in midair like some scantily clad Wiley Coyote. They must be into at least the tenth installment of this series by now, and I would bet money that you can still do this. Additionally, I would bet money that at some point while playing I will curse aloud because of a shoddy camera angle that prevents me from seeing anything useful, and I will notice my head, back, and appendages gracefully disappear into at least twenty solid brick walls throughout the game.

Basically my point is that the Tomb Raider games are built on a foundation of flawed gameplay mechanics and idiotic jumping puzzles. However, people dont seem to mind, afterall, they’re still making (and selling) them. I guess it’s a love/hate thing. Either you can’t get enough of Tomb Raider and eagerly await each new installment, or you only played through the first TR until the charm of the nude patch wore off, then you went back to playing Action Quake over the LAN.

Update: Out of curiosity, I checked Gamespot for some Tomb Raider: Underworld player reviews. Here’s what I found:

tr_reviews1

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Branston Pickle Review

…if you can keep up.

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Dating: Fallout style

Last night, while venturing through the wastelands, I came across a new point on the map. Due north of Vault 101 lies Big Town, or Little-Big Town, or something to that extent. The whole place is boarded up and surrounded by a gate made of random junk that allows you only one point of entry. Now, as anyone who’s also playing Fallout knows, you find many areas like this scattered about the lands during your travels. They are usually chock full of bandits and super mutants and reward you with a few stimpacks. “Hideouts” if you will.  So upon arrival of this town, I expected just another hideout. I snuck up to the entrance to find a fellow waiting with rifle in hand. I quickly dispatched of him with a VATS style shotgun headblast (my preferred method) and then aimed at the woman next to him (who is running at me with a lead pipe). I targeted her, fired, and crippled her head (whatever that does) with the last of my action points. With only one bar of health left, she stopped attacking and ran for cover. I didn’t want to waste ammo in FPS mode, so I let her go and explored the “hideout”. Well, as earlier explained, it wasn’t a bandit nest. It was a town, and the two people I shot were not enemies. 

I explored some of the buildings and the few people inside didn’t care that I just exploded their friend’s head outside. This was to be expected, I’ll justify it by thinking they were napping and the booming shotgun blasts were not loud enough to wake them. However, I then walked outside and saw a skinny woman who looked oddly familiar. Sure enough, it was the woman with the newly crippled head. Her name is Bittercup. 

I “use” Bittercup and start up the dialog. Apparently she’s not too pissed about the headshot, she’s more concerned that the other townsfolk think she looks funny. I saw that as a perfect opportunity. I give her a wink and a smile and say, “Hey girl, I dig your pasty white skin and sunken eyes.”

Man, she couldn’t get enough. She immediately asks if I’m single, and I give the affirmative. Now she wants me to come back later and see her. I feel like Bittercup and I really hit it off. That critical hit to the head went straight to the heart.

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I think I just found a Fallout killer.

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Fallout 3.

Here it is, the inevitable Fallout 3 post.

I guess I’ve been playing for about 2 weeks now, off and on. I was right in the middle of a game of SOASE when Fallout came out, and I’ve yet to finish that game. While I don’t entirely agree with the ratings the game has been getting, I do agree that it is a good game. Many reviewers out there shrug off the accusations of “Oblivion with guns” like it is a scarlet letter, but I really feel that it is an accurate statement (and not necessarily a bad one). Overall, Oblivion itself was a good game as well that stole many hours of my life away. While I didn’t find the storyline very original or engaging, it had an addictive quality about it that compelled me to jump into every burning Lord of the Rings eyeball I could find scattered across the expansive terrain. Fallout 3 has this same quality to it. I don’t really care about finding my dad or finding some wasteland kid a new home, but crawling through abandoned subway stations infested with giant irradiated ants and roaches is pretty fun, and at times, suspenseful.

Fallout 3 IS Oblivion with guns.

A very polished, refined version of Oblivion that does away with the idiotic world-levels-up-with-you-so-goddamned-rats-can-still-kill-you-at-level-83 system (which is the reason I ultimately stopped playing Oblivion). The weapons are done right, and VATS, albeit sometimes awkward, can be satisfying. The dialog is just a cheesy as Oblivion and the dialog options are not very clever. The enemies are overall pretty dumb, and the NPC’s even dumber. While these gripes do not necessarily make Fallout 3 a bad game, I feel that they do make Fallout 3 a bad “Fallout” game.

While I am not a diehard Fallout fan like most who complain about these things, I did enjoy the old games quite a bit and will readily admit that the latest installment just doesn’t have “the feel” down right. In the classic Fallout games, a random encounter with and enemy actually got my heart racing as I watched the action points run out as I tried to run away, only to be barraged with another wave of gunfire. In Fallout 3, I just turn and run away, occasionally stopping to eat some irradiated dog meat for a health boost. Also, in the classic games, I enjoyed finding new towns and talking to all the NPC’s to hear (or read) their whimsical, tongue-in-cheek stories. The writing was clever enough to make me save before many dialogues so I could go back and try the different choices, like cheating in a choose-your-own-adventure novel. In Fallout 3, I find it a chore to listen to all garbage the NPC’s spew out of their mouths. I cannot click the mouse fast enough to get through many of the pointless (repeated) conversations, many of which even “advance” the storyline. Bleh, who cares? I know if I just keep finding new places and killing all the inhabitants I’ll eventually find dear ol’ dad anyways.

Finally, the AI. I don’t remember the AI being the shining point of the classic Fallout games, in fact, I remember many instances where I was caught stealing and then had to wait nearly 20 minutes for EVERY SINGLE TOWNS PERSON to take 5 steps away from me so I could make my move, and then go through the whole process again. However, I also don’t remember being able to exploit the age-old FPS technique of “waking up” the enemies and then letting them march at me in a single-file suicide lunch line as I mowed them down one-by-one. However, in Fallout 3, this is what I regularly find myself doing. Thanks to VATS and a high small weapons skill, I can ensure a gory shotgun headblast with each round fired. I literally walk into a room, fire off a round, step around a corner, and wait for the raiders, ghouls, etc. to come pouring through the doorway and shower me with gibs. It pretty much kills any suspense the environment has built up, and is surprising to find in a game that’s received 10/10, A++, 100%, sent from God ratings. (note: the exception to this so far is the fire-breathing ants, those things require slightly more planning ammo.)

Like I said, overall I enjoy Fallout 3. It is fun, and I find myself wanting to play it anytime I get a free minute. For those who have never played a Fallout game, this is an introduction that may inspire you to pick up the old ones (for cheap, I might add!), but you probably won’t enjoy them if you’re looking for more of the same thing. I’ll be very surprised if I actually finish this game, but for now, my SOASE game will stay on hold.

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So I find myself in an odd place between being a casual and a “hardcore” gamer.

When I was younger, with fewer obligations, I was able to get fully immersed in video games, spending countless summer vacations in front of a computer screen. However, now my time is much more limited. I still play games, but I am often left with a guilty feeling. I know rather than becoming proficient in the different races of Sins of a Solar Empire, I should be working on a school project, or studying, or doing laundry or whatever countless tasks you can think of to obligate my time. Due to this, it takes a lot for new games to really bring me enjoyment. Not only does the game itself need to be good, but it must have a certain level of addictiveness in order to make me overcome that feeling of guilt. I suppose this makes me a little over-critical of a game the first time I play it, however, this is how it has to be. Due to my time constraints, games with save-points are pretty much out of the question. I need something I can pick up, get into, and then put down just as fast without losing any progress. I know that this quality is what puts me closer to the casual gamer status, and I do, in fact, find myself gravitating towards more casual games like Boom Blox  and various DS titles. However, I do occasionally set some time aside to get into an RPG or RTS, and despite the guilt they bring, in them I find the most satisfaction.

I guess the point of this is a semi-introduction to my current state of approaching games. I assume I am not alone in these feelings as there must be plenty in my generation who grew up immersing themselves in videogames, only to grow up and find that the real world tries to steal them away from you with all of its needs. I guess that’s just how it is, and we’ll all have to just deal with the guilty feeling. For some reason, the idea of writing about the games I’m playing, or anything gaming related seems to make me feel better about wasting several hours in front of the computer or xbox. So this blog is just my feeble attempt to shake that guilty feeling that I am not doing anything productive by playing computer games. Enjoy.

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