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#486067 SSLF's GOATest GOTY of the Year 2017

Posted by Ocelot on 19 November 2017 - 03:17 AM

Let me tell you fine ladies and gentlemen about the most stylish video game of all time, a game by the name of Persona 5:




Now, full disclosure here, I haven't finished Persona 5. It's a 100 hour JRPG even when the player isn't studying his or her way past a language barrier, and of course I decided to play it in Japanese, so it might end up taking me years to finish. But I do think I've played far enough into the juicy meat to give my expert opinion of what kind of game it is, and how every little bit of it is just oozing with unique, inimitable style. It's a game where any time I reach a new area I have to pause for a minute or two to properly appreciate the new smooth jazzpop bop that my ears are treated to, where every character portrait makes me feel like even more of a boorish lout with their impossibly stylish outfits, and even the MENUS look so cool I can't stand it:




(I recommend this absolute tune for best results while reading my big thing here, btw. The developers just drop this cool customer on you when they introduce you to the place where you buy healing items, the utter madmen.)


Persona 5 is the story of a young kiddo with the kind of unruly hair that any male model would kill for, convicted of a minor misdemeanour in his home town and sent to stay with an irascible friend of the family in Tokyo to serve out his probationary period. You'll experience the hardship of transferring to a new school full of cool kids in Shibuya, make friends with a crowd of misfits of varying social circles, stick your nose in all of their business and probably eventually kiss at least one of them, oh and every now and then you'll use a mysterious smartphone app to enter an alternate world born of the unrequited desires of certain unscrupulous individuals, where you'll fight demons in a very Japanese-video-game-esque depiction of young people coming of age and dealing with their internal struggles. Oh, and by the way, this time you're all Phantom Thieves, and the whole game is themed around the idea of you being a team of daring cat burglars pulling off impossible heists. It's like Ocean's Eleven, only with impossibly trendy Japanese teens. And demons.


It's awesome, is what I'm saying. While the game doesn't exactly turn the JRPG paradigm on its head, it is at least a perfectly-well-executed one of those with a sense of style that's just second to none. I mean, it seems reductive to boil the whole game down to 'style', but oh man what a style it is! Every moment of the game just looks so beautiful, and sounds even better. It really can't be overstated just what a singular experience it is. All the things you think of when someone describes a game as 'very Japanese'; take that, turn the volume knob up as high as it will go, combine it with a spicy bassline that you just can't help tap your foot to, and you have Persona 5. There's nothing out there that will make you feel more like a cool Japanese teenager who has it all worked out, and I know you might think that sounds dorky when I say it, but what I'm saying is that when you play Persona 5 you won't. This game is a "What It's Like to Be One of the Cool Kids" Simulator.




It's an amazingly well-written game, too. Despite all the fanciful whimsy, they manage to ground the world with surprisingly believable characters. Right at the start of the game, when you're registering at your new school, the game focuses briefly on one of your new teachers who's been saddled with showing you around the place. She's a young woman, presumably fairly new to the teaching gig, without much life experience, and she seems so unsure of herself and anxious about being saddled with this new kid. A transfer out of nowhere, surrounded by rumours of some kind of police record; why did it have to be her class? I found myself feeling sorry for the poor woman even after just a few lines of internal monologue; someone who's ultimately nothing more than a NPC, really. So, if they write their minor characters with such care, you can imagine how well-fleshed out the major players are. It's good stuff. The game taps into that latent trauma we all share just by virtue of having gone to school as young people, and as such feels so much more relatable than your average save-the-world story, but the excellent writing lends it a certain extra effectiveness. You have to give a game credit for making you feel that particular desire to crawl into a hole and die that comes with being reminded of something embarrassing you did in High School that you'll never be able to forget as long as you live.


One day I fully intend to finish Persona 5, but until then I'll keep plugging away at it in chunks and enjoying every moment. This game took so long to make that it all but skipped the entire PS3/360 generation, so I'm OK with taking my time finishing it :P

#486064 What Are You Currently Playing?

Posted by Ocelot on 18 November 2017 - 04:48 AM

To my own surprise, I bought that there Star Wars Battlefront 2. I liked the idea of a Star Wars Call of Duty singleplayer campaign, but I obviously had no intention of buying the game under EA's industry-ruining regime. But then they took all the microtransactions out... so here we are, I suppose. I mean, I know they're going to patch them back in, but I only wanted to play the campaign and then stick the game on Ebay, so it'll be long gone by the time that happens. I don't know, maybe I've played myself by buying it at all, but there's no winning move in this game. If people buy the game, EA gets the wrong idea, and if people don't buy the game EA kills the developer. The problem with voting with your wallet is that money isn't very expressive, so the message of "I'm only buying this because you took out the microtransactions, OK?" gets swallowed up amongst all the "Yay Star Wars! I just want to shoot people online forever!" purchases.


But I did buy it, and I played the campaign, and I enjoyed it. So maybe I'm a huge scab, but at least DICE gets to keep the lights on for another couple of years. Maybe they'll make another Mirror's Edge one of these days? (lol, they're just going to make Battlefronts until EA loses the rights for good)


It's not an especially great singleplayer, but I certainly had fun with it. It's right in line with your standard post-COD4 shooter campaign, which is to say four to six hours of first-person blasting your way through levels full of bad guys, with the occasional slow walk for exposition or vehicle/aircraft section to break the monotony. Battlefront 2 lets you hit down on the D-pad to toggle between first- or third-person at any time, which is nice, but I found I really preferred first-person for this. With no cover system, third-person gets you into that awkward position where you're trying to shoot around a wall but the parallax between your character's aiming angle and the reticle on screen means you're just shooting straight into the wall instead, and first-person obviously doesn't have that problem. 


It's a weird first-person-shooting setup. You're only allowed to carry one weapon, and you can't pick up weapons from enemies, so it really forces you to be conservative and take an assault rifle all the time. There's a special ability (on a cooldown) that lets you use a shotgun for a limited period of time, and another that lets you throw grenades, but long cooldowns really discourage any kind of experimentation. There are all kinds of weapons to use, but the fact that you have to use them as your only main weapon means it's just not worth it, y'know? What if the pistol is just useless and I end up having to start the whole mission over again? Two weapon systems are restrictive enough (particularly compared to something like Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, where not only can you carry every weapon in the game, but you can dual-wield and mix-and-match them, too), but a one weapon system? Why design a game that way? I guess because that's how the multiplayer works, and you can't let people have fun in the singleplayer if they aren't allowed to have fun in the multiplayer. God video games are dumb.


So you play as that pretty lady who was on stage at the E3 show. She's Iden Versio, a member of an elite Imperial special forces team who, spoilers, realise the Empire is bad and defects to the Rebels. It's a pretty neat little story, more or less starting on the ground on Endor as the second Death Star is being blown up and then continuing a little way post-RotJ. It ends with the battle that left all those Star Destroyer husks lying around on Jakku, and then there's a little epilogue set 'Decades Later' which doesn't really go anywhere but kinda sorta leads into Episode VII (apparently they're going to add a little more singleplayer epilogue stuff with DLC somewhere down the line, but I guess I'll just watch that on Youtube).


I suppose the big draw is that you get to play as some of our ol' favourite Star Wars characters during the campaign. They're all voiced by sound-alikes, and have iffy character models, but Luke, Leia, Han and Lando get their own levels, all with their own unique abilities, and all locked to third-person view (which is just fairly irritating). Leia's shooting guys on Naboo, Han Solo's shooting guys around Maz's castle on Takodana, Lando shoots guys on Sullust, and Luke has a particularly stupid level where he cuts down a million Stormtroopers (but then apologises afterwards so you know he feels super bad about it), then spends like eight straight minutes hitting bugs with his lightsabre while an AI character struggles to hack a door. Like, for reals, that's the best they could come up with for a level where you play as Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Bugs crawl out of the walls and you whack them with the lightsabre, for ages. It goes on so long it's just absurd. And the lightsabre-ing controls are actually pretty cool: you have some very video-game-y special abilities on cooldowns, but you can hold down the L2 trigger to block incoming shots and reflect them wherever your aiming reticle is pointed, so you can headshot guys with their own shots. It feels great. And then they just make you mash at bugs forever. What a dumb thing.


And there are some dogfighting levels, too, but they really just made me wish there was a new Rogue Squadron game. You fly TIE Fighters, X-Wings, the Millennium Falcon and a Bespin Cloud Car, and they all feel basically identical. They all have that awful first person shooter control scheme where you do all the flying and aiming with the right stick and the left is only used for throttling up and down and rolling. There's a 'shoot here to lead your target' icon, but the auto-aim is so heavy that it doesn't really matter, and an X-Wing takes just as many shots to kill as a TIE Fighter does. Missiles are on a cooldown timer, like everything else fun in the game, so forget any kind of strategy and just use'em when you've got'em. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just an occasional thing, but there are a lot of these aerial levels, and some of them go on for a long time. It's as if DICE thought they were nailing the Rogue Squadron thing, and let me tell you they absolutely were not.


But, y'know, it's a fun few hours. It's nothing you're going to remember a week from now, and this game is going to be in the EA Access vault in a year, so don't rush out and buy it or anything, but I guess you could do worse. It's fun to shoot guys and fly X-Wings, and there sure aren't any other Star Wars games coming out any time soon.


I've also been continuing my anxiety-ridden journey into the world of playing video games in Japanese, with 大逆転裁判, aka The Great Ace Attorney. Aka the as-yet unlocalised Ace Attorney game set in post-Restoration Japan/Victorian London, where you play as Phoenix Wright's ancestor and meet Sherlock Holmes:



And it's great! I mean, if you've played an Ace Attorney you know what to expect, because they are all more or less the same setup, but the characters are really fun, the writing is great (as far as I can tell as a non-native speaker), and I've really enjoyed the first case so far. I think it's the best-looking game in the series by far, with some wonderful character animations that just brim with personality. Our hero Naruhodo Ryunosuke (I'm guessing he's the great grandfather of Naruhodo Ryuichi, aka Phoenix Wright) is still just a law student, not even a fully-fledged attorney, and it's a lot of fun seeing him work out exactly how it all works. When he tries to slam a table he just gets a clammy-handed slap noise instead :P


This game came out in Japan only in 2015, and is probably past the point of ever being released in English. It wouldn't be the first Ace Attorney game not to be localised, and it's since had a sequel (also un-localised), so that ship has probably sailed. And, playing it, I can sort of see why. It pretty much comes down to the original decision to pretend the Ace Attorney games were set in Los Angeles for the English localisation. They simply took the original Japanese game, gave everyone more Western names and swapped Tokyo for Los Angeles; easy peasy. This got a little more difficult when subsequent entries in the series started getting Japanese-er, and the English localisation team had to pretend that all the traditional Japanese villages and kimono-clad people carrying Samurai swords were still American, but they made it work. Eat your hamburgers, Apollo.


But this game is very unapologetically set in the Great Nipponese Empire. Characters are Japanese, and they speak Japanese, and when the suspect of the first case turns out to be an English-speaking exchange student from the British Empire, nobody can understand what she's saying. In fact, her speech is depicted in-game as illegible fake-cursive script, except when she says some English word that your average Japanese person would be familiar with like 'No' or 'Shut up!'. There's really no way of pretending it's set anywhere but Japan, and it'd be kind of tricky to translate into English. You can do the MGS3 thing and just pretend that everyone's speaking Japanese but we're hearing/reading it in English, but then how do you handle it when a character actually does speak English and the player character isn't supposed to be able to understand it?


I think the answer is to just accept it and lean into the silly situation, because there's really no other way around it. Better for the international audience to be able to play it at all, even if it is a bit daft, than for the game to just stay Japan-only forever. But, oh well, it really doesn't seem likely now. Maybe Capcom will remaster it for the Switch one of these days and rethink things.

#486053 The Video Game News Thread

Posted by Ocelot on 16 November 2017 - 08:18 PM

Yeah, I don't credit them with any compassion or anything, but I'll take what I can get. Whether they're worried about losing sales, upsetting Disney, speeding up the process of getting some gambling regulations in place on this stuff or whatever else, this is still a high-profile backtrack. Hopefully seeing that not even the biggest publisher with the most popular franchise can get away with this kind of rubbish scot-free will keep everyone else honest, for a short time at least. Obviously this isn't going to stop microtransactions in their tracks, but maybe it'll delay the inevitable death of video games by... I don't know, a month or two.


I suppose the other way of looking at it is that EA is selling a game that has no microtransactions at launch, but presumably the same grindy progression curve that was designed to irritate people into buying microtransactions in the first place, so when they do patch those microtransactions in people are going to be even sicker of the grind and even more prepared to get out their wallets. Maybe everything is terrible and nothing will ever be good again.


But before you make that trip down to your local Short Length of Rope store, maybe play Killer is Dead for free thanks to the Humble Store's newest sale.


EDIT - So apparently the CEO of Disney did call the CEO of EA today, and within a matter of hours we had today's little announcement. Don't make Big Daddy Disney upset :P


And Geoff Keighley says to "Expect the unexpected" at his Game Awards in a few weeks. I'm sure I don't need to tell you guys what that means. But, just in case, DMC5 confirmed, obviously.

#486048 The Video Game News Thread

Posted by Ocelot on 16 November 2017 - 06:53 PM

EA has removed all microtransactions from Battlefront 2 and says "all progression will be earned through gameplay".


This story has been blowing up so widely in the last few days that it reached self-sustaining meme status, and even found its way to CNN, so whether EA's analysts worked out it was going to affect their bottom line or Disney themselves stepped in and gave them a jolly good bollocking for bringing this much negative press down on their baby a month before the new movie, here we are.


Now, granted, they also say that "The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.", so it could go back to being just as bad as ever in a few weeks. But, focusing on the positives for now, a stink was kicked up and a change was made. They'll be launching this game and going through its period of heaviest play with no extra revenue beyond what selling a video game would already have brought, no doubt saying goodbye to millions of dollars in profit, because they remembered that it's the customers who pay their salary and the whole idea is to make the customer happy so they'll keep paying your salary.

#486038 Movie/Television/Disney Entertainment Conglomerate News

Posted by Ocelot on 16 November 2017 - 06:43 AM

Album of leaked images from what I assume is an upcoming trailer for Avengers Infinity War. Wolfie, I have a birthday present for you:






EDIT - Remember those stories about how Henry Cavill grew a moustache for Mission Impossible 6, and then they had to get him back for reshoots for Justice League but the Mission Impossible studio wouldn't let them shave his moustache and they had to remove it with CGI? Remember how that sounded like a really smart idea that nothing could possibly go wrong with and that wasn't super dumb at all and? Well...





#486037 The Video Game News Thread

Posted by Ocelot on 15 November 2017 - 11:07 PM



I would like to say again that it is such a shame that EA got the Star Wars licence. In the years since Disney picked up Star Wars and kicked off a whole new era of gigantic cross-media mega success, EA has released exactly two widely-maligned online FPSes that aren't even related to the new movies. Like, for real, how hard can a ball be dropped? The best they can come up with to celebrate a newly-invigorated, universally beloved space adventure universe, with spaceships and happy little robots and sick laser swords and female protagonists is..."What if you played as a random goon and shot people forever in meaningless, context-free gun battles".


This is a sad situation even without EA trying to get you to spend your entire life savings on this game.

#486003 SSLF's GOATest GOTY of the Year 2017

Posted by Ocelot on 12 November 2017 - 03:01 AM

I don't know if you guys have watched Mayor Pauline during the breakdown of Jump Up Super Star, but she does a cute little dance that the internet has identified as her original sprite animation from the Donkey Kong arcade game in 1981:




Which leads me to talk about a little game called Super Mario Odyssey, and how it's so absolutely delightful. You should probably listen to the song while you read this:



3D Mario games have always been the ultimate in making the simple act of steering a man around with a video game controller endlessly enjoyable, and our favourite plumber feels better than ever in Odyssey. I guess, by some kind of transitive property, that might make Odyssey the best-feeling game ever made? I mean, if you want to make that argument, I don't think I could come up with any kind of compelling rebuttal, so let's go with it. Mario Odyssey feels so wonderful from the instant you pick up the controller, in that perfectly video-game-y "easy to pick up, hard to master" way. Mario games are fun for the most inexperienced players to the pro-est of the pros, and Odyssey takes it a step further than ever in both directions, with the fun hat capturing mechanics to take the edge off some of the more difficult platforming for newcomers, to a more extensive set of advanced manoeuvres than ever for the hardcore. People talk about skill ceilings, and Mario Odyssey probably has one of the highest ever, but it also has a remarkably low skill floor, if that's a thing. You do just run and jump, after all.


You don't go ten minutes in this game before the friendly hat man who lives on your head suggests that you might want to be a T-Rex, and that's not a sentence you can write about very many video games. The answer to more or less every quandary in Mario's Odyssey is "throw your hat at it", and the reaction you get is almost always an utter delight. "Can I be that thi- OOOOOOOH I CAN BE THAT THING!" In general, if you can't be a thing, you can at least ride that thing, and if you can't be it or ride it then it's probably at least a nice fellow who'll say something encouraging and give you a Power Moon. Mario's world is such a nice place to be, and every new area you reach on your journey has a whole new race of friendly people to meet. Sometimes they're Fork people, sometimes they're Fish people, sometimes they're talking watering cans, but they all share a lovely sense of supportiveness and amiability... is that a word? They're nice, is what I'm saying. Except that one world that I think accidentally got swapped in from the next Dark Souls game; I don't know what that was about.




I think my time with Odyssey has just about come to an end, after finishing the main story, collecting about 550 Moons and having a couple of attempts at the super hard, super secret final level. There's plenty more out there to do, but I've cleared out all the really fun stuff and it's only the bits that I know are going to make me really stressed out that I have left. Races, crazy hard platforming challenges, and that final looooong level with no checkpoints; I'd like to be able to say I beat the entire game, but these days I just ain't about that life any more. I've had more than my share of fun with a wonderful game, and I'm happy to leave the big boy stuff to the big boys.


I do kind of want to start the game over again on a new save file, though. That feeling of just Mario-ing is so addictive, I can't get enough of it. That particular momentum he has, the need to spend a moment getting up to speed from a standstill, or that exact timing of the sideflip; it's like you build up that skill over the course of the game and you don't want to let it slip away through lack of use. It's such a buzz being able to pull off some sneaky tricks that can get you where you aren't supposed to be, brazenly ignoring the designated path in favour of your own harebrained obstacle course full of walljumps, hat throws, side flips and whatever else you can throw in before you inevitably mess it all up. This is one game where I genuinely hope Nintendo releases DLC, not because the base game is lacking in any way, but because it's just so good that I want moar.


EDIT - btw, one of the late game kingdoms has these things hanging up all over the place:




And I think it's a cheeky little pun. The bottom two characters say something like 'Sky Kingdom', or 'Rule over the Sky' (which will make sense if you know which kingdom this is), and I believe they're intended to be pronounced 'Koopa' :P

#486001 SSLF's GOATest GOTY of the Year 2017

Posted by Ocelot on 11 November 2017 - 11:54 PM

Well, on the subject of Breath of the Wild: The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild


Yeah, it certainly had its problems, and  I can't say it was my favourite Zelda, but I think it's a remarkable game all the same and definitely worth a place amongst the best games of the year. In the grand scheme of things, BotW probably doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before in video games, as an open world game with survival elements, main quests and side quests, a little bit of RPGness, some crafting and puzzle-solving and all that good stuff. What it does do, that sets it well apart from most other games, is combining all that stuff into one and then giving it that ol' Nintendo polish. It's pretty cool.


I once saw BotW described as an unusually 'analogue' game, which I thought was pretty solid. It's a real simulation of a world; not an ultra high-fidelity looker, but a world where if you think something should work, it probably does. It's Far Cry 2 made by Nintendo, with a little bit of Metal Gear Solid V thrown in for good measure; a game built upon a thousand interwoven systems governing how everything should work behind the scenes. It's a game where you walk up to a boat moored at the shore, and instead of hitting a context-sensitive INTERACT button to get it moving, you cut the rope with your sword and then pull out your Korok leaf to blow wind onto the sail. A game where you might not have fire arrows in your quiver, but if you have a few moments you can cut down a tree to make firewood, dump a piece of flint on the wood, hit the flint with your sword to start a fire, then nock an arrow, dip the tip of the arrow in the fire, and bamzo, you've just made a fire arrow. A game where they needed to give you two different types of bombs, because the round ones will roll down hills and you need a square one if you want it to stay where you put it.


In some ways I enjoyed the fervor around Breath of the Wild more than I enjoyed actually playing it. The enormous internet outpouring of surprise and delight whenever someone discovered that "OMG, if you do this and then this the craziest thing happens!". I don't personally have the creativity or patience necessary to think up or execute some of the ridiculous things I saw people doing in the game, but I loved watching them do it. True to form, Nintendo made the Nintendo-est open world I think there's every been, where there's always something interesting to find or something fun to play with. I played the game for about 90 hours and there's still loads of stuff out there I haven't seen, and I don't think people will ever exhaust the possibilities of what you can do with all the rune powers.




And speaking of that world, what a nice place it was! Remember the whole goofy adventure you had to go on to get into the Gerudo village, where everyone is a seven-foot tall Amazon goddess with a six-pack chiseled from marble and thighs for days, and they won't let you in until you disguise yourself as a pretty girl? Remember the first time you decided to brave Death Mountain and literally burst into flame? Remember Eventide Island, when a simple trip to a mysterious island suddenly turned your Zelda into one of them there Dark Soulses? This game felt like a grand adventure in a way very few games do; few Zelda games, even. My unguided trip through BotW's Hyrule was so much more memorable to me than, say, being led by the nose through the Hyrule of Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword. The perverse joy that comes from knowing the game wants you do go one way and then deliberately going in the opposite direction is here in spades.


Although, come to think of it, Breath of the Wild never actually tells you to go here. The game doesn't really do waypoints, as such. Quest design is always a matter of "Go north until you reach ____ geographical marker, then head east", which is a really nice change from the 'follow the glowing dot' design of almost every other game in our current era. Can't let the player get lost, because then they won't meet the next challenge designed to make them want to buy a lootbox, right? Breath of the Wild delights in getting you lost, because that's when you're going to find all the cool stuff. And, on a personal note, that sense of lostness was amplified for me because I decided BotW was going to be the first game I played in full Japanese after I started learning the language late last year. It was a trial by fire of sorts, but it's something I'll probably never forget. The feeling of triumph when I finally solved a cheeky little riddle was at the very least doubled by my self-imposed handicap :P




But onto the complaints, of which there are plenty. Chief among them, for me, would be the absence of so many classic Zelda tropes I loved in the past. While the 120 Shrines might provide more dungeoning than ever before by volume, the quintessential Zelda thing of spending an hour or two working your way through one single dungeon, meeting an ever-increasing challenge as the designers take a given gameplay theme as far as it can go, is gone. I'd hoped the Divine Beasts might provide something like this, but they were like half an hour long at best, and all four were the same thing; manipulating a big machine to alter the level layout was a neat idea, but not one that needed to be repeated four times. Breath of the Wild dips its toe into a huge number of different ideas, but never dives all the way in.


Next up would be the much-derided weapon degradation system. I didn't hate this as much as some people did, but I do think it needed a lot of reworking. As a way of pushing the player out of their comfort zone, never letting them get attached to one gameplay style and sticking with it for dozens of hours, it certainly worked, but it also introduced a lot of silly problems. It completely devalues the idea of loot, for one. You simply don't get excited about opening a treasure chest; partly because you're inevitably going to have to close it again because your inventory will always be full and you'll have to dump your least valuable weapon to pick up a new one, but also because even the greatest weapon in the game can only be used for a limited time before it disintegrates. Oh, an ancient glowing light axe that does 60 damage. Great. Can't wait to take out two mini-Guardians with it and then throw it away. It changes the paradigm of Zelda from "Hit everything with your sword, yaaay!" to "There's a Bokoblin base over there, but if I go and kill everyone in it I'm probably going to break all my weapons and not get enough back for it to be worth it, so I'm not going to bother", and I can't imagine that's what Nintendo intended.


Then there are the little annoyances, like the fact that you can't climb when it's raining. So much of this game is climbing, and it rains really often, and it's just a pain. You know if you go away it'll be hours before you find yourself back at that cliff you want to climb again, and you know it doesn't take that long for the rain to pass, so more often than not you just stand there like a doofus waiting for the rain to stop. I know Nintendo probably didn't want to just give you some ability like climbing spikes that would essentially 'turn off' that element of the game, but I think they should have done something. There are a lot of pretty drab fetchquests, there's a disappointing lack of enemy variety (with most new areas simply having the same enemies in different colours), the framerate was pretty poor at launch, and the English voice acting was surprisingly bad.




No individual problem is enough to spoil the game, but taken together they do lend a certain feeling of not-quite-there-ness. The kind of thing that makes you hope that Nintendo's next 3D Zelda will take the framework of Breath of the Wild and take it in a different direction. Not all the way back to Skyward Sword territory, but maybe a nice middle ground between your more traditional Ocarina style and the BotW design. Keep the open feel, but replace Shrines and Divine Beasts with real Zelda dungeons. Keep the survival elements, but tweak the weapon degradation values (or maybe dump that element altogether). Keep all the different outfits, and then add even MORE different outfits because Link Dress Up was the best part of the game.


I think the unique feel of every Zelda game is one of the series' biggest strengths. Each one of these games is different in its own way, each one has its own list of pros and cons, and Breath of the Wild is no different. But it is also, without a doubt, the biggest shakeup Nintendo's made for the series since Ocarina of Time first popped out into that third dimension, and I think it's pretty admirable just how successful they were. It takes some serious guts to throw a spanner in the works of one of your biggest cash cows, and some serious skill to actually pull it off, so it's lucky for us that the Nintendo of 2017 seems to have both of those.


EDIT - Added a few gifs of the game's best character to spice up an otherwise plain wall of text.

#485997 SSLF's GOATest GOTY of the Year 2017

Posted by Ocelot on 10 November 2017 - 09:45 PM

Would love to vote on this, but literally the online game I have played all year (that was released this year) was Cuphead...and I did quite poorly, to say the least...


Still counts!


Oh no no no, you guys. I'm not letting this one slink away unposted in. I'll discuss GOATees in here all on my own if I have to. IT'LL BE THE BEST GOTY THREAD EVER and you'll all feel really dumb for not having jumped in sooner!


The first game I want to talk about is Prey, which is a totally unrelated non-sequel to the other game called Prey from 2006, and is also completely unrelated to the famously canceled-in-development Prey 2. Prey 2017 is a game from Arkane (makers of Dishonored), and I absolutely loved it.


If you're struggling to call it to mind (because it was, unfortunately, not especially popular or successful), picture System Shock 2, and then stop picturing things because it's that. You're a feller (or a gal) on a space station overrun by nasty things, and you have to go places and complete tasks by doing all the things that make immersive sims so wonderfully addictive: improvising, combining systems with other systems, hacking doors, reading e-mails. I may have mentioned once or twice that I absolutely adore reading e-mails in games; some day Platinum Games is going to make a stylish, hardcore e-mail-read-'em-up and it'll be the last game I ever need to play.


Preyoshock is the true successor to the System Shock games, in a way that Bioshock only ever paid lip service to. It is such a cool game, with so many neat tools to experiment with. It's one of those delightful games that will give you an objective and leave it to you to work out the details, where any given task can be achieved in half a dozen different ways. You have a gun that fires rapidly-hardening blobs of goo, which you can use to stun enemies, to plug up vents, to block doorways, to create impromptu staircases up the sides of walls to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, and even to set speedrun records by shunting your own character model outside the world space and skipping the entire game. There are matter fabricators strewn about the space station that let you break down any items in your inventory into their constituent raw elements, then rebuild those elements into any new toy you happen to have the blueprints for. You can scan the alien bad guys and gradually spec yourself into the alien ability tree to give yourself all kinds of cool powers, but you have to be aware that the more alien DNA you engineer into yourself, the more you run the risk of the stations automated defence systems turning against you.


UMPH it's such a neat game! And in proper immersive sim fashion, everything has its own in-game, in-lore explanation if you dig deep enough. There's a Nerf crossbow you can build for yourself, which is near useless in almost every situation, unless you happened to read the lengthy e-mail thread amongst members of the space station's staff about how they all decided to design a toy crossbow with capacitive darts that could set off eachother's touchscreen computers so they could irritate eachother at work. Then you suddenly realise that you can now activate various electronic locks to open doors by firing your toy crossbow darts through open windows at computer screens, and the whole game opens up before you.


Even the mission design is impressively open. Prey has main missions and story missions, and a fairly linear progression from one mission to another, but the difference here is that so much of the game seems entirely optional. You can kill anyone you like at any moment, including the people who send you on errands, and the game has to account for it. When the ending rolls around, it's less a 'go here for the good ending and here for the bad one' setup, and more just a series of objectives that you can do if you want to. You can destroy the space station, you can make a thing that'll kill all the aliens, you can brain wash the bad guy into flying you home, you can rescue all the people remaining on the station, or if you want to you can do none of those things. You can kill every single person you meet on the station, or you can just kill some of them and hide their bodies and never tell anyone about it. You can follow a certain side quest path that leads to an alternate escape pod you can take all by yourself like a third of the way through the game, leaving everyone else to die. 


The story makes this really interesting, too. Long story short, you're playing as a someone who's had their mind wiped a bunch of times, and you're following orders from a robot one of your previous selves has left behind, programmed with instructions about how to get off this heap. But early on you'll meet another robot, programmed by a different version of yourself, telling you something entirely different. You're constantly meeting new characters who all remember you, but it's never clear exactly which 'you' they knew, and whether that even matters in the grand scheme of things. Reading through different people's e-mails, some of them think you're a saint and some a monster, and all points in between. The game leaves it up to you to decide who to trust, if anyone at all. It's not a game I'd recommend playing for the story itself, but it is a really interesting world to inhabit, if that makes sense. The lore and world-building really add to the game's atmosphere, even if the actual plot isn't the greatest thing. Similar to Dishonored, really; I'm not that interested in the story of a dude taking down a conspiracy plot, but love being in that game and soaking it up.


Prey is such a GOTY, you guys. Oh man. If you've ever enjoyed a Deus Ex, a Dishonored, a Thief, a ___ Shock, you're going to feel right at home. It has some sore points, like perhaps a little too much unavoidable combat that isn't especially enjoyable, and the performance and load times weren't great on PS4 (definitely one to play on PC if you can), but nothing that really stood in the way of me adoring the game.

#485982 The Video Game News Thread

Posted by Ocelot on 08 November 2017 - 11:28 PM

Happy birthday, Ocey! :D




(This is a Chris punch of warm gratitude that makes your head explode with happiness, obviously :P)


My birthday gift to Ocy is tidings of new game from Obsidian being announced soon-ish.


Alpha Protocol 2 for my birthday? You shouldn't have!


EDIT - Respawn Entertainment (makers of Titanfall) have just been acquired by EA. RIP.

#485968 What Are You Currently Playing?

Posted by Ocelot on 07 November 2017 - 09:01 AM

I played that there Call of Duty: World War 2, for some reason. ...I don't know, you guys. I mean, I've enjoyed Calls of Duty in the past. I liked Infinite Warfare quite a bit, and, whatevs, I suppose this one was fine. Call of Duties are fun to play, y'know? You shoot a million guys, you follow the bloke with the big, glowing 'FOLLOW' marker on his back; it's a fun, mindless four hours or so, and then you're done. I can almost feel this game leaking out between my ears as I type this.


So it starts in Normandy, of course. They have the decency not to copy Saving Private Ryan exactly, but there is still an 'everything goes silent as your ears ring from an explosion' moment. Everyone is facial-captured and portrayed by a real actor, and there were a lot of dudes I feel like I've seen before but the only one I definitely recognised was Josh Duhamel, and I feel like if he's your headliner you're probably not doing that well. Gone are the days of Gary Oldman being in these games, I think. Josh Duhamel is the hardass Sergeant who gets all his men killed in needlessly risky manoeuvres, but it's OK because he has bad memories from an older battle where he tried to save his men but just got a lot more killed in the process. I don't really get why that makes sense but... well, that's all you've got in this game. You shoot a thousand guys and you deal with Josh Duhamel being a real jerk all the time.


There's a cool level where you play as a French Resistance member infiltrating a Nazi base, and you have to act natural in a stolen Nazi uniform while looking for your contact. The game pretends it's going to test you by making you memorise the details on your phony papers when the Nazi officers question you, but it only actually does this twice and the second time is just for funsies because the Nazi in question already knows you're a fake. Then you go back to shooting guys more or less immediately anyway. There's a bit where you drive a tank around, which was pretty neat, and then another bit where you fly a Razorback P-47, which was terrible. For some unfathomable reason they decided to make you use the right stick for pitch and the left stick for banking, and it's absolutely awful. Why wouldn't it just control like a plane? Why would you do that?


Overall, the WW2 weapons just aren't fun to shoot guys with, and there's too much 'defend this position' when what you really want to be doing in a COD is pushing forward through a bajillion dudes. We left WW2 FPSes in the early PS360 era for a reason; I'll take near-future/sci-fi stuff any day of the week. Oh, and I guess there's a multiplayer and a zombie mode, but meh I don't want to play those.


What I do want to play is a little game by the name of Super Mario Odyssey, which is the most delightful thing. I've finished the main game, and I'm going back through all the worlds now finding all the new stuff that's been scattered throughout them for the post-game. Something's going to happen with I collect 500 Power Moons, and I have 405 so far. WHAT COULD IT BE!?


This is the best Mario game, you guys. We had to wait a while, but Nintendo finally got all the permutations right: big open levels that encourage exploration, loads of hidden goodies (including more linear, self-contained challenges), normal controls for a normal controller, more fun and rewarding platforming abilities than ever, and a new gimmick that's really fun to use: you throw your hat at things and then you become the things. Goomba Mario, Fish Mario, Tank Mario, T-Rex Mario. At one point I turned into a big slab of uncooked meat and just sort of wiggled around; it was great!


The game is absolutely packed with whimsical, joyous stuff to do, from helping nice people to jumping and climbing and feeling that giddy little thrill of knowing you've reached some area you weren't supposed to see, or getting yourself somewhere you were supposed to go but by a different method. I don't know if you can play the whole game without turning into different creatures, but there are a whole lot of platforming challenges that can be done without transforming and it feels awesome when you pull it off. I even loved the bossfights, which I've always found fairly hit or miss. It's always the Mario formula of "Do this thing three times", but they ramp up the challenge nicely and the things you do are usually a lot of fun. The fights against Bowser have this OOMPH to them that make them feel like they could have been designed by Platinum, and that's the highest praise I can offer.


The only complaint I have is something that is, unfortunately, so Nintendo it hurts. The game doesn't use every button on the controller, instead choosing to double up every move you have; ZL and ZR do the same thing, L and R do the same thing, X and Y do the same thing, A and B do the same thing, and the D-pad and L3 and R3 go entirely unused. Yet, for some reason, Nintendo has mapped a lot of moves in the game to waggle, with no option to change it. To throw your Cap around in a circle you have to waggle the controller side to side, and you flick it up or down to throw in that direction. To climb faster, roll faster or zap through an electric line faster you can hammer the Y button, but waggling your controller will make you go even faster than that. It's so irritating because it just doesn't need to be that way, but Nintendo is such a stick in the mud with this kind of thing. They want you to play the way they want you to play, whether it feels good or not. It doesn't ruin the game or anything, but it lead me to just not using those moves because it's a real pain to shake the Pro Controller around all the time.


I still remember seeing that Switch reveal event and being convinced that Nintendo was absolutely clueless and they'd screwed it up right out of the gate. I don't think I could have been more wrong.

#485959 moving Wicktures that you are watching

Posted by Ocelot on 05 November 2017 - 08:19 AM

Well, Atomic Blonde was a big disappointment. I went in hoping for a lady John Wick, but I ended up getting just a miserable slog of a late-'90s wannabe-Tarantino tonal-mish-mash spy movie that thinks it's really clever but is really just... boring. And miserable. And dull. Did I say miserable? I kind of hated it.


I think the most disappointing thing is that Charlize Theron is just awful in it. I really like her, and she's already showed that she can carry a movie as an awesome female action hero with Mad Max Fury Road. She's so good as Furiosa, and she's usually so good in other stuff, too (remember her on Arrested Development? She was incredible!), but in Atomic Blonde she just plays the most boring, lifeless, emotionless cardboard cutout this side of your average Scarlett Johansson action movie character. She holds one facial expression throughout the entire movie, does her best to conceal all emotion, speaks every line of dialogue in a slow, measured tone... she's just so excruciatingly boring. And she can't do a convincing English accent, either, which is weird because I'm sure she's done one in the past. Here she can't even hold it together for a whole sentence.


With a plot that's mostly just a confusing series of plot twists about some Cold War double agent stuff that really isn't very interesting, the movie really needed a strong performance from the main character. The supporting characters try, I guess. James McAvoy chew some scenery, John Goodman is wasted as a CIA guy who doesn't do anything, Sofia Boutella (a.k.a. Sophie Boots) acts Charlize off the screen by showing some actual emotions and being believable as a human being. I thought we were past this idea that a 'Strong Female Character™' had to be an emotionless robot.


But there is an incredible action setpiece in the middle of the movie which almost makes the whole thing worthwhile. It's one of those faux-single-take action scenes people are so fond of these days, where it's shot on handheld camera and they hide the cuts really well with some sneaky tricks to make it look like a single ten-minute-long take. Yes, really, ten minutes. It goes and goes and goes, and it's really well done. It feels pretty out of place in the movie, very "Look at me, I'm doing a thing", but it's definitely the best part of the whole endeavour. Charlize has this beautifully messy knock-down, drag-out fight against a bunch of dudes all the way down the stairwell of a building, then out into a car, and just when you think it's all over it gets a little bit car-chase-y for good measure. I don't really think any of the other fight scenes in the movie are worth writing home about, with some perfectly mediocre choreography and framing, but if you can find that stairwell fight scene on Youtube one of these days I'd definitely recommend it.


This movie was directed by one half of the pair of former stuntmen who co-directed the original John Wick. It seems they split up after that, with Chad Stahelski going on to do John Wick 2 and David Leitch making Atomic Blonde. I don't want to be too presumptuous about the process of how these here Hollywood moving pictures are made, but, well, Chad Stahelski seems like the better one. #TeamStahelski


But you know what was pretty good? Spider-Man Homecoming. It wasn't life-changing or anything, but I enjoyed it. Really well cast, with a cast full of mostly-unknown actual kids playing the kids, and a nice pace that kept me having fun all the way through. Atomic Blonde felt like it took a whole day to get through, for comparison; Spider-Man was a full half hour longer and it just flew by. I'm no Spider-Man connoisseur, and I'm sure dissertations have already been written on which 99% identical croaky-voiced white guy was the best one, but I like Tom Holland the most. He brings to the role a certain inimitable quality, which I think is best described as "not being a thirty-year-old man playing a High School student". 


It's also really nice that they totally skipped the origin story this time. This movie feels right at home in the Emm See You, where the general feeling is to just get on with it and not worry about having to re-adapt classic comic book characters because they're too colourful and not mature enough. This movie is about a child dressed as a spider fighting an old man dressed as a bird; it's light-hearted and fun, and it also has Jennifer Connelly playing the robot voice inside Spidey's suit so you should probably see it.


(Cap's in it, too, and his parts are hilarious :P)


Posted by Ocelot on 31 October 2017 - 04:06 AM

Nooooo, I can't choose.


In FPSes I really like a kind of a semi-automatic rifle kind of thing that I can bambambam away with. Particularly if it makes that really metallic sound like someone hitting an anvil with a hammer. TINK TINK TINK. Something about that really does it for me, in that wonderful finger-to-screen-to-ear-to-brain connection way video games have.


But then I do like a good shotgun, and sometimes I like the cheeky feeling of holding the trigger down for just a little bit too long with an assault rifle, and then I do like a good meaty pistol, too. And I'm not much for sniping, but I do really like it when a game simulates bullet drop and I nail an amazing long shot where I'm basically lobbing the bullet in. The only thing I really don't like is three-round bursts. It's just three times as many bullets for me to miss with.


I'm a little more confident about my RPG class. I want to be a guy or a girl with a sword. Only one sword. No swords is not enough swords, but two swords is too many swords. Swords are the best things for hitting people with, accept no substitutes. Although I do like a good bow and arrow, too. But only if it has proper controls, i.e. you pull the trigger/click the mouse and hold it, and then you let it go to let the arrow go (or put it away without firing it with some other button). Some games make bows control like guns, and that's just the wrong way, I'm afraid.


And now you're killing me with this last one. You are KILLING me, Scorp. I'm dying here, for realsies. I like video games a lot, and I like all of those things about video games. ALL THREE OF THEM Scorp you're killing me.


OK, let's tear the bandaid off and go with narrative. It kills me to say that, because so many of my favourite games are my favourites because I love playing them so much, but I feel like a good story gets me going even moreso. All my biggest gaming loves over the years, like my Japanese animes Metal Gears, my Mass Effects, my Yakuzas, even my Horizon Zero Dawns from earlier this year; when I get into a video game story I really get in to a video game story.


So let's go Shotgun, Warrior, Narrative, then. I hope you're happy about this wringer you've put me through, Scorp.

#485888 Star Wars: Get Some Porg On Your Fork

Posted by Ocelot on 24 October 2017 - 05:44 AM

So how'bout this new Thrawn book, then? Well, it's pretty readable, or listen-to-able, as it were, but boy if you thought Rey was a Mary Sue you ain't seen nothin'. Timothy Zahn's approach to reimagining Thrawn was evidently, "What if he was just Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes, but also Batman?". He's no longer just a tactical genius in battle, he's now constantly evaluating people's minute facial ticks and mannerisms while he talks, talking about rises in 'facial heat' (his glowing eyes can see into the infra-red spectrum, you see) and drawing conclusions about people that are, of course, always perfectly on the money. The opening of the book is him single-handedly taking out a garrison of Stormtroopers that find his forest hideout with tricks and traps and Rambo tactics.


Early on he gets jumped by a bunch of surly Imperial cadets, indignant that he's rising through the ranks faster than they, and I was pleased to see that he didn't single-handedly kung fu them all effortlessly. He takes serious beating, almost as though hand-to-hand fighting isn't his forte, right? Then later on it's revealed that he can actually fight the leader of a martial arts dojo to a standstill and he was just holding back in that first fight for reasons.


He even has his own Moriarty now: a mysterious fellow calling him/it/themselves 'Nightswan'. The two of them have been trading tactical blows all through the book, with Thrawn tracking him by spotting patterns in what I can only assume are zettabytes of data about galactic shipping logistics.


Zahn tries to pretend that Thrawn's weakness is politics; he can win any battle, but the twists and turns of Coruscant politics confuse him, I guess. It doesn't really ring true, though, because everything still always goes his way. About the only character flaw he really displays is that, despite learning to speak perfect English in like a week (uh, ack-choo-ally, it's called Basic, Ocelot), he occasionally has to pause mid-sentence, say something like "Oogoogaboodoo" to his aide and translator, who'll tell him "Er, that's 'usurpation', sir".


It's interesting to see how they've slotted him into the new Star Wars universe, though (I didn't realise the book was set before ANH until someone mentioned Tarkin). Thrawn was a high-ranking commander in the Chiss Ascendancy (i.e. the blue guys like him), but he was exiled after launching a pre-emptive strike against some mysterious threat way out in the galaxy beyond the Empire's sight. He's dropped off on some backwater planet, and insinuates himself into the Empire after a passing garrison happens to land there. He's taken to meet with the Emperor, and bargains his way into the Academy, quickly getting his own ship and pulling off all kinds of improbable shenanigans.


Eh, Star Wars, I suppose. Y'know? One of these days I might be able to let it go, but as much as I want to think I'm too old or too cool for it, it still just pulls me back in. Next thing I know I'm going to be buying action figures again.

#485862 The Video Game News Thread

Posted by Ocelot on 22 October 2017 - 06:11 AM

First and foremost, calling EA greedy.  So what?  Who honestly cares about them being greedy?


I do because I am a customer and it is not my job to rationalise the way a corporation tries to milk money out of me. EA made a profit of $1.3 billion last financial year and likely didn't pay any tax on it, so if you think I'm interested in any arguments about how they need to keep pushing the microtransaction envelope further and further... I ain't.


But I do get what you're saying. As the industry chases 4K and HDR and Megatextures and Highest Quality Uncompressed Pixels, game development budgets skyrocket. What could once have been made by a small studio in Japan now takes the outsourced efforts of six different Ubisoft asset-generation houses and a credits list of 1,200 names, all of whom need to be paid three, four, five years' salary or more. And nobody wants to pay more than $60 for a game, except the die-hards who'll pay $100 for the game and some cardboard tat in a Collector's Edition, so they opt for microtransactions to give themselves a safety cushion in case the game isn't a massive hit that hauls in profit in its first week like the real heavy-hitters do.


What this ignores is that not every game needs to be AAA. There is a perfectly healthy market out there for games that don't cost the Earth to make, and simply sell perfectly sustainable numbers of copies to grateful fanbases, pull in modest profits that keep the developers and publishers afloat and allow them to make sequels. Games like Nier Automata, where the devs were ecstatic that they'd cracked a million sales, or the Yakuza series that's been going strong with like two games a year for over a decade. Ninja Theory was very vocal about staying indie and avoiding the AAA trap with Hellblade, and it seems to have been pretty successful for them. Look at practically every game Platinum has ever made: low budget, modest sales (sometimes downright mediocre, even), but it's been enough for them to keep plugging away for over a decade now.


Ubisoft knows how to make smaller, cheaper games (South Park, Rayman, Mario + Rabbids). Square-Enix (when they aren't mismanaging Deus Ex into the ground) can make money on everything from FFXV and Tomb Raider right down to I Am Setsuna and Life is Strange. Sony is probably the best at commissioning projects of all sizes; hell, they're still getting people to make those weird anime games for the Vita, and even they seem to turn a profit somehow. Even Warner Brothers, when they aren't lootboxing up their Shadow of Mordors, foots the bill for the Lego games. EA is fairly unique in that they don't want to make anything but gigantic, AAA monster games. They aren't interested in modest games on modest budgets for modest profits; they want all or nothing.


To clarify my complaint about Dead Space 2, it was EA's decision to turn that game into a $60 million blockbuster. The original Dead Space was the perfect example of modest budget, modest sales. That game didn't set the world on fire, but it was reasonably successful and built a nice little fanbase that would have loved a sequel of similar scope. Instead, EA decided that Dead Space 2 had to be a massive, cinematic, action-adventure blockbuster, bigger and longer and louder and explodier than the first game and with triple the budget of Uncharted 2. And when they couldn't make a return on that needlessly inflated budget, what did they do for Dead Space 3? Made it just as big, flashy and dumb, took it further away from what the first game had been, made it even more expensive, and then filled it full of microtransactions to try and claw some money back. And then it still disappointed, so they effectively killed the franchise. A less greedy company could still have been making perfectly successful Dead Space games to this day, but EA ran the IP into the ground within three games.


Ditto Mirror's Edge. Modest sequel to the original game? NO, open world! Side missions! Eight different kinds of collectibles! Throw more money at it for no reason! Oh, it failed? KILL MIRROR'S EDGE, nobody can ever make one again!


Mass Effect went down the same road. A successful first game, a second game that had to be bigger, a third game that had to be BIGGER AGAIN, LOUDER, AND ALSO MULTIPLAYER THIS TIME! AND MICROTRANSACTIONS! DAY ONE DLC! BUY EXTRA DLC THAT EXPLAINS THE ENDING! When Andromeda came around, even handing it off to a smaller, inexperienced studio they couldn't settle for a smaller game, it had to be BIGGER! MORE PLANETS! AN ENDLESS TREADMILL OF CONTENT! MORE MONEY MORE MASS EFFE- oh, it failed? Oh well, KILL MASS EFFECT, nobody can ever make one again!


And, look, we don't know what was going on with Amy Hennig's game. Several years in development and we only ever saw that one gif-length clip of footage from it; maybe it had been in trouble for a while and there was just no saving it. But the reason the kneejerk reaction is to blame EA is that they're a bad company and they do this all the time. They're irresponsible with money and their greed has left a string of salted-earth IPs and out-of-work developers in their wake, moreso than any of the other big publishers. They've killed so many studios because they refuse to change their broken business model of spending too much chasing a market that isn't interested, and then having no backup plan other than 'fire everyone and never make another game in the series'.


What are they doing with Amy Hennig's game now? Spending even more money to make it bigger, wider, 'a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency' and 'a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore'. They only know how to go bigger and spend more money. The thought of making something smaller never even occurs to them. This new version of the game will have an even bigger sales target to hit, and what happens if it can't get there? Yet more heads on the chopping block, no doubt.