Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Last Of Us

Honestly, I'd be more interested in a post-apocalyptic game that doesn't rely on monsters. The Road was so depressingly effective (and so effectively depressing) because it was just about society falling apart, without needing a zombie infestation to cause it.

It would make a better game too, in my opinion, to leave the zombies behind; the use of (mostly) inhuman monsters as enemies in this seems like a cheap way to get around the "lead character as murderous psychopath" problem that the Uncharted series has started to run into, and doesn't actually leave the unnecessarily combat-heavy gameplay behind.

If they're really serious about driving storytelling forward, Naughty Dog need to commit to pushing their themes through gameplay, not just cutscenes. The problem with the story in Uncharted 3 is how most of the stuff you play seems non-canon for Drake's character; all the murdering is just something you do to keep you entertained as you move from point A to B.

There's such a disconnect between the flawed-but-fundamentally-good guy you see in the cutscenes and the remorseless gunslinger you actually play as. If that dichotomy isn't resolved effectively in The Last Of Us then I don't think the story is going to have the resonance Naughty Dog are hoping for.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Another Uncharted 3 post

There are many moments in Uncharted 3 that exist to drive the fiction to a place of resolution, and they are barely played at all. It's nearly impossible to screw up the key moments in the game by making a wrong turn or messing up the timing. Those moments leave players with only the most rudimentary control: While running from deadly spiders, press down. While moving through a tight crevice with a claustrophobic friend, press forward. While fighting a giant while being sucked out of a plane, hammer on X – sometimes press Triangle. You're in control, but Uncharted is directing your every move, like your dad teaching you to hit a baseball off of a tee for the first time."

A more detailed examination from Kill Screen of what Penny Arcade's Tycho referred to as "Dragon's Lair 2012"

Monday, November 07, 2011

Fable 3 capsule review

In the bag, as of last night. What a miserable chore of a game. It's got absolutely no soul, which I think was the only (vague, non-specific and ultimately quite useless as a metric) thing that rescued the previous games from this third installment's tedium.

I liked the first game, preferred the second, but this one felt like a cash-in sequel farmed out to a different development team.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Finished the Uncharted 3 campaign last night (final playtime clocked in at just over eight hours), and I think I'm ready to call this one as "not as good as Uncharted 2". I don't think there are any spoilers in this; I've been as vague as possible and have avoided mentioning any locations or plot points wherever possible.

It's technically better than the previous game in a lot of ways, and the dialogue is just streets ahead of anything else I think I've ever played (although the plot is a bit too similar to, and it shares a few too many set-pieces with, the previous game), but some of the mechanics just don't feel right and the design doesn't feel as polished as I was expecting.

I'm also pretty sure that the combat in this game is garbage. As it progresses, more and more of the gunfight environments feel (as Minx pointed out) like multiplayer arenas, with so many paths for enemies to flank on that you can't just dig in to plan out your strategy, or even just to regain health. A lot of the areas seemed really dark to me, too - I'd often lose sight of the floor in the gloom, or run into an obstacle I couldn't see when trying to escape one of the armoured bastards later in the game.

Another issue I had with the environments was how huge they are; the ship graveyard in particular sticks out as the best example of this "problem". They've obviously been designed to look EPIC, but the downside is that it feels like it takes forever to get through them. Uncharted 2 had a lot of similarly-themed locations, but I always felt like I was progressing through them quite quickly. In Uncharted 3, I felt like I was in that shipyard forever.

Generally I thought the shooting mechanics were decent enough, apart from some of the bullet sponges you're up against in the final third of the game - but to make things a bit frustrating when shooting, aiming has an "assist" that slows the reticule down when you're close to an enemy. Which is fine against static bad guys, but slows it down so much that you can't catch up to a running target.

Coming from Arkham City really underlines how poor the hand-to-hand stuff is, too - I think Rocksteady have made the gold standard in fisticuffs, and it's a shame Naughty Dog didn't rip it off a bit more directly. The "counterattack" prompt in particular is shonky; several times I've hit the button while the icon is still on-screen but failed to block or dodge the attack that triggered it.

This seems like a big list of complaints, but I think I enjoyed more of the game than I didn't. There were a couple of sections that frustrated the hell out of me, but never to the point of rage-quitting. I think part of the problem, for me anyway, was the amount of time I spent with Uncharted 2 - the vast majority of my time with it was playing on lower difficulty levels with unlocked weapons and one-hit-kills, so maybe my expectations were wrong. I think being in basically the opposite position from Gar (I loved the last one, and had big expectations) might explain why I'm relatively disappointed.

I'm glad they sorted out the final boss fight, though. The first and second game both had, in my opinion, unfairly-designed showdowns with the Big Bad, but they've done something different with this one - and while it still felt a little unbalanced it wasn't anywhere near as frustrating as the Lazarovic fight at the end of U2.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Drake's Deception

Man, Uncharted 3.

Be warned: if, like me, you consider someone's vague, general opinion about a videogame to be spoilers for that videogame, LOOK AWAY NOW.

I'd been on something of a blackout re: Naughty Dog's latest installment, avoiding everything I could - especially reviews. Some blogs endeavoured to defeat my embargo by posting articles with provocative headlines like, "Uncharted 3: totally awesome".

I didn't want to risk knowing anything about the game going in, so even that little morsel was irritating to see. One non-specific article, ostensibly about upcoming releases, posted what I consider to be a genuinely spoilerific image as the story's lead image.

But in the end, I needn't have worried. It's great. The writing, somehow, is even better than the second game. Combat's still a necessary evil rather than a fun thing to do in its own right, and the puzzles can be a little obtuse as a result of the limited way you can interact with the environment.

But those characters? I would follow them everywhere.

Man, Uncharted 3. Way to make it so hard for other videogames to be as great.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday, August 09, 2011



This seems specifically designed to traumatise children. "Beat Winnie the Pooh to death if you want chocolate!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Norwegian Ninja


Based, allegedly, on a true story.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ché Guevara finger-puppet


Found in a shop full of weird toys and books in Edinburgh.

-- Sent from my Palm Pre

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Undead Gamertags

When I originally set up my Xbox Live account, I couldn't get my first choice gamertag. Someone had already claimed "aniki" as their own at some point during the original Xbox's lifespan, but as far as I can tell they've not used it on the newer machine. I could have added a string of numbers, and in fact ended up with "aniki2121", but that seemed kind of pointless - and I've never liked online names that stray from the alphabet.

So I took a line from a Yoko Kanno song, The End of All You'll Know, and used that instead.

In the last few days, Microsoft have announced that they're starting to free up unused tags. I've considered, briefly, trying to claim my original choice, but I've grown kind of attached to demondownload (I've been using it as the title for every blog I've had for years) and I think it's got a better ring to it than "aniki", as far as online handles go.

That, and I don't want to spend 800 points on the name change.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


-- Sent from my Palm Pre

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Suave, Agressive, Professional

I started playing Alpha Protocol last night, but haven't got very far yet. I've just finished the training section (although the achievement didn't drop, now that I think about it).

The conversation "stance" mechanic is a pretty good idea -- probably the game's best -- but a bit off-putting. The fact that each NPC builds an opinion of you, that will affect your missions1, means that every choice you're given has a chance of changing someone's mind about you, and could tip the scales against you if you pick the "wrong" one.

All of which means I end up frantically changing my mind over and over as the timer ticks down, before usually settling for the "safe" professional option. I think it's because of the way the character is presented, somewhere between the blank-canvas Wanderer in Fallout 3 and Commander Shepard in Mass Effect.

In Fallout, the only thing really governing what your character does is your own moral compass (or lack of one). There's no character background that you don't have control over, even from the moment of the character's birth. They are you, essentially, and don't have player preconceptions colouring their motives.

On the other hand, to me at least, Shepard has a back story (or several you can choose from). I've always picked the Earthborn War Hero, so I had a mental picture of who Shepard was going into the game, and the high expectations the galaxy has for the first Human Spectre meant I tended to play the noble, heroic Paragon options rather than the selfish, mean Renegade ones - because that's how I thought Shepard would act. (This is similar to how I approached Heavy Rain - I felt that the emotional connection for events came from not wanting the character to do something, but knowing that they would because that's who they were, and then making them go through with it.)

That difference could also be partially because of the switch from first- to third-person; in Mass Effect I'm not physically inhabiting the character, I'm following Shepard around and controlling him2 by remote.

In Alpha Protocol, there's just enough of a back story to stop Michael Thorton being simply my presence in the world, but not enough to weight my conversational decisions towards any of the three options. I don't know who he is, but I know he's not me - so I don't know how to act as him. I'm worried this will turn the dialogue sequences into another mini-game, trying to guess the right stance to progress to the "best" option rather than playing the story as myself (or who I thought the character should be) and seeing how it turns out.

Also, I customised him a little bit and now he looks like Wil Wheaton.

1 Apparently. I'm not far enough in to know if it actually works like that in practice, but the training section emphasised this pretty heavily.
2 Am I the only person who played a male Shepard? Everybody I know seems to have picked the female version.