Saturday, September 15, 2018

Forza Horizon 4 Demo - Cautious Optimism

Just picked up the demo for the upcoming Forza Horizon 4.  So far...so good...bearing in mind that this is a demo.  I'm rolling in a '69 Dodge Charger and from the initial impressions the handling seems much better than H3.  One of the major bones I've had to pick with the series is that the super-duper Hypercars seem wasted on the tiny roads they give you to play with.  FH2 gave a nice selection of Road Rockets and then stuck you on these twisty little European back roads.  FH3 kinda got it but kinda missed it in that the roads were a little straighter but just boring and crammed with traffic in single player.  With the quarter of map in the demo at least, there's a little more room to cut loose and maneuver (although the traffic still is a bit of a problem)

I like the handling too.  Again, this is a demo so the car they give you is tuned and modded by pros so obviously needs to be taken with a tiny grain of salt, but the drifts are nice and smooth and there's more all-around stability in cornering than in previous titles.

The graphics?  They're about on par with FH3 and that's okay with me.  Not only do I have low standards when it comes to graphics but I don't see obsessing over them in a racing game.  Gran Turismo Sport gets it right.  The GFX are all but last gen but the work went into making the cars go vroom so who cares? 

I'm looking forward to seeing the full game, so I guess the demo did it's job!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Doom 3 BFG - Buildng Future Games

Of the two killer apps that came out at roughly the same time, Rainbow 6 Lockdown and Doom 3, I actually went with R6.  I was a little leery at first since, to play either I would have needed to upgrade my video card and I was on a R6 bender, having memorized Athena Sword at this point, so I hoped to continue the magic with Lockdown, but - Doom 3Doom!  Or, as I call it, "How I spent the 90's".

I went with Lockdown.  Geez did I feel stupid.  Gone were the planning stages and the deep fire team management, gone was the stealth and the open levels.  I guess I should have been grateful they left "Tango Down!" in as I was left with a liner arcade shooter.

Lesson thus learned I saved my pennies for Doom 3 and...well, the first try left me rather cold.  Graphically, it was a vast improvement over the then-recent Half-Life series and, even as jaded about GFX as I am, I still was impressed by the lighting and animation.  I just got turned off to the mobbing tactics and the still-awful cut-scenes.  I like a little action but Benny Hill Boss Fights (where you frantically run back and forth flailing away at a pack of baddies who have a wee tad bit too much health) never sit well with me.  It's a question of balance, really.  You can have a few tough-to-kill enemies or a lot of easy ones.  And simply pinning the player to the wall and smashing them down doesn't really count as the advanced AI Doom 3 promised.

I took a break from it and came back to it a couple of months later.  On that second view I got past the things I didn't like and found a game I did like.  I actually liked the audio logs.  For me it adds a degree of immersion as you find a safe spot to open up your PDA and then hearing the (badly acted) voice of the red puddle now in front of you.  I liked the environments which were a step-change from the environments of the Half-Life series, even if you tend to get turned around now and then.

With open-world becoming all the rage I'd like to see some devs turn the clock back and maybe rewind back to where we just had level-by-level shoot-em-ups.  Fewer puzzles, fewer commutes - just some guns, some baddies and no goddamn RP elements.  Maybe we can keep the iron sights if they must be had (in my most recent playthrough, I keep turning on the flashlight when I take aim so why not keep a little modernity?) and maybe - just maybe - a brief turret and/or vehicle section but that's it.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fuck Mandatory Multiplayer

And now the Forza Horizon series has succumbed to the scourge of Mandatory Multiplayer.  Have Developers not noticed that other players are unbridled cock-monkeys when you set them loose online?  Does it not occur that maybe, just maybe, some people enjoy facing a challenge alone without extra subscription fees and online requirements even when technically offline?  Do we need more loot boxes or pay-to-win walls in-game?

 Evidently, we do.  And don't tell me that all the content will be available single-player.  Because it fucking well won't.  And you can bet that they'll be pestering you non-stop to go online and play with random douchebags who can't stop screeching epithets through their cheap gaming mikes.

We introverts let this happen.  When there wasn't enough of a backlash when Mass Effect 3 held the best endings hostage until you ground through a kinda lame MP campaign they knew they could push a little further.  

Monday, August 6, 2018

It's a Cruel, Cruel Dungeon

This is a genre I just don't get.  Maybe, I'm not the gamer I thought I was but I truly do not see the appeal of this.

My first taste was with Lords of the Fallen.  I'd heard about the Dark Souls "thing" and how difficult it was and LotF was free with Games With Gold, so why not take a gander?  I thought the mechanics were clumsy and the environments overdone, but those were minor complaints when it came to the gameplay itself.  It seemed that the general buzz was negative and, well, I agreed with them.

I decided to give the genre another try with Ni-Oh.  It was different than the still as-yet untried Dark Souls and maybe I had judged the genre unfairly.  The mechanics were smoother and better flowing, the visuals and the monster design much better but the same frustrating repetition was there.  I managed to get to the second boss this time before packing it in - although I'm always kinda promising myself I'll get back to it one day.

So, I'll give Dark Souls a try.  Maybe doing so may help me master the other two.  Nope.  Almost the same experience, you get to a certain point, fight legions of baddies to get to a boss who curb-stomps you in two seconds and - shazaam! - you have to go through the same legions again to maybe last 3 seconds this time.

I'd almost given up, but I'm stubborn like that so when PS+ offered Bloodbourne for free, I decided to give it one last shot (I'm stubborn and cheap - a deadly combination).  All the same shit.  The painful repetition, the Dodge and Block "suggestions" (since they never seem to work when I need them I don't think "command" is the right word - and yes I know about stamina), more painful repetition and even more painful, painful repetition.

But it was here that I had my revelation and knew why I didn't like the Cruel Dungeon.  It's basically Donkey Kong.  It is a platformer or old-school arcade game brought to increasingly better graphical life but it's that same grinding repetition that you found it the arcades.  Fight bravely towards the boss, make one stupid mistake and boom - you have to do the whole fucking thing again just to get to that point.

It reminds me of what made me steer clear of consoles and remain part of the PC Gaming Master Race.  I'll make no bones about what some call "save-scumming" (and I happen to think that that's properly defined a lot narrower than is used commonly, but that's another post).  Platformers are frustratingly full of the forced repetition and hey, if I've just beaten most of a level with no more than %15 health at any given time, I'd really hate to have that performance go to waste, to say nothing of having to take it from the top.

But the cruel dungeon has the spirit of the arcade platformer in all it's tricked-out 3D glory and it can keep it, as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Movie Of The Game (Part Two): Warcraft

On second thoughts is there really anything else to say about Warcraft the movie?  If you've seen one sword and sorcery movie then you've seen this one.  Sword and sandal might even fit the bill as well.  A charmingly rugged cast of plucky heroes with vaguely "European" accents.  and mostly white men save for a few blacks and women so the creators can earn the Diversity Achievement.  A swarthy pack of ruthless otherworldly villains, some of whom betray their cohorts because they want to find out about "this thing called humanity".  And there's a good guy who turns evil for reasons never adequately explained.

And with regards to the above...the movie just does not make sense if you haven't played the game.  Even being a rabid WoW fan I was lost.  And I'm sure even the die-hard fans of the TBC game felt left out as events and characters are mashed and split so that a long game can be squished into a two hour feature.

The Good:  Some good dialog.  Not deathless prose, but a few bit of witty exchanges and funny gags.  The VFX were...okay.  Kind of broad and cartoonish but it works in this kind of popcorn fantasy flick.

The Bad:  Game movies really shouldn't exist.  The games themselves are a far deeper narrative experience so a movie is superfluous.  If they absolutely must be made then, as I said previously, use the world that was built rather than trying to film an unavoidably interactive story.  Just a little originality might have made this film better.  It's a standard S&S film with Warcraft brand merchandise stretched and squeezed around it.

The Ugly:  I liked that they at least didn't' wallow in the "gritty" fad but they went to far the other way and just left things kind of bland.

Next up, some thoughts on the Cruel Dungeon genre!