Crysis 3 Beta Impressions

Before I say anything else, this needs to be said: Crysis 3 is beautiful. I have played the game on both PS3 and PC (not on Xbox yet, I’m running on trial live time), and I am impressed not only with the quality of textures in the game, but with the entire design scheme. I am so used to seeing grey in my post apocalyptic games, but Crysis 3 does a great job of emphasizing how the plant life has taken over, especially in the map “Airport.” “Museum was much darker and more dreary, but the vertical gameplay more than made up for it. In fact, the level design was just as impressive as the art design. Both available maps were highly a-symmetrical, featured multiple floors (some areas only accessible with the Hunter’s enhanced jump), and multiple pathways to just about anywhere. They looked beautiful, played wonderfully, and kept the pace fast.

Sadly, the gameplay didn’t quite stack up, especially in “Hunter” mode. “Hunter” mode is similar to infection mode from Halo, if the infected had one-shot-kill long range weapons, were nearly completely invisible, faster, could jump higher, and had all the humans visible on their mini-map at all times. The game is divided into five two minute rounds, and almost every time the Hunters win. The only way I have seen humans survive is by hiding in a corner and hoping that the Hunters ignore them. The worst part was that, because humans are so quickly taken out, only a few Hunters actually get to Kill. The game-mode was a great idea, but it was totally unbalanced, and I hope that they fix it before the game comes out.

“Crash Site” is far more entertaining. All players have Nanosuits, and the team based game mode takes great advantage of the level design. It is essentially Headquarters mode from Call of Duty, but with far more emphasis on vertical gameplay. The “crash-site” moves around the map, and teams score points for holding it. The movement of the objective keeps players scattered all over the map, and ensures that the players make use of every pathway and play-style. The classic game mode feels great in Crysis, and holding the crash site really keeps you on edge. Constantly scanning for that telltale outline of a cloaked player, checking sight-lines for snipers, and listening for the detonation alert. (Oh yeah, when it is time to move to a new crash site, the old one explodes…it got me once…just once). It all adds up to a really fun experience, and enough unique content that makes it worth playing.

After a few hours of play, I have to say that the game looks better on PC (medium settings), and I prefer a mouse for FPS games anyway, but I really don’t see myself getting deep into the multi-player. It was fun, but it takes a lot for online multi-player to keep me coming back. (I’m looking at you Team Fortress 2). I’ll pick it up on PS3, beat the campaign, play a bit of multi-player, then trade it in when I can’t afford to pick up another game I’m planning to get this year. Crytek needs to balance the “Hunter” mode, but other than that, they have a really good multi-player experience that will stand out from the crowd. I just have too much on my plate to dedicate a great deal of time to any one game.

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Four for February

This last year has left me with a backlog of games that is truly frightening. I have yet to beat the following:

Borderlands 2 (And the season pass content)

Hitman Absolution

Ratchet and Clank: Full Frontal Assault

The Walking Dead

Mass Effect

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 3

The season pass content for Assassin’s Creed III

Call of Duty Black Ops 2

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Journey

A Game of Thrones

Dragon’s Dogma

Spec Ops: The Line

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Lego: The Lord of the Rings

Darksiders

Darksiders 2

Far Cry 3

Tropico 4

Just compiling this list has made me a little bit anxious about just how many hours I will end up investing in these games (if I ever get to all of them). What scares me even more is just how amazing 2013 looks like it is going to be. I am averaging a game a month between now and August, and I know that the last quarter of the year will be even more densely packed.

Recently, an initiative called Four for February has started to call out people like me, people with a massive back log of games. It is challenging them to beat four games in the month of February, to begin to chip away at that back log. I plan to participate with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Crysis 3 (not exactly chipping away, but I am preventing growth), Borderlands 2, and The Walking Dead. I will also begin to post four games at the beginning of every month this year. I will beat those four games, and by the end of the year, I will be caught up.

2013 is going to be fun.

(Update: I have added a list of games that I will be playing between now and June to the sidebar on the right of the page. It is, of course subject to change, but I will stand firm on the number of games per month.)

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State Sen. Leland Yee’s recent comment wasn’t very well thought out.

State Sen. Leland Yee, a major player in the effort to restrict the sale of violent video games, was recently featured in a San Francisco Chronicle article. In the article, Yee is quoted as having said “Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry’s lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest.” I find this statement not only offensive, but also disturbing. Yee is an elected official that does not understand how reasonable arguments work. If any other medium, music for example, was in the middle of an argument focusing on  free speech, the primary proponents of granting First Amendment protection to music would be musicians and music lovers. If Yee believes that game developers and those of us who play them have no credibility in this case, then I would love to know who he thinks should argue for games. Would there be anyone left to argue against him if anyone who appreciates games had there opinions instantly dismissed.

It is no wonder that he is such a proponent of these restrictions (which have already been turned down by the Supreme Court). If he believes that every person who is arguing against him is only doing so because of their “lust for violence” and “vested interest” then he is quite possibly dismissing every argument that could counter his own before even considering it. It is a highly disturbing thought, and I feel sorry for those whom he represents.

Many of the most highly publicized video games on the market are violent, depict sexual themes, contain foul language, and feature more content that is highly unsuitable for children. Grand Theft Auto IV features full frontal male nudity, language that would make a sailor blush, and freedom to commit violent acts at a scale that would make Al Qaeda proud. I could go into the game, hire a prostitute, force her to watch as I murdered dozen by running over them with my SUV, then execute her so I could get my $70 back. Clearly, this is game that is not suitable for children. I understand that State Sen. Yee wants to prevent this content from getting into the hands of children. What he seems to fail to understand is that the only way these games are getting sold to children is if their parents give consent (or they convince another adult to buy the game for them). The ESRB holds such a great deal of influence within the industry that all major retailers require State issued, valid, photo identification when purchasing games with Mature ratings. Most also do not sell games that have received an “Adults Only” rating.

I work as a sales representative at Gamestop, the largest video game retailer in the country. Since I was hired in July of 2011, I have never sold a mature rated game to a minor without parental consent. I have angered many people because of how strict that policy is. Gamestop does not tolerate it, and a single instance of breaking that policy would result in termination. I inform the parent of the mature content, and ask for their identification and consent before allowing their child to purchase it.

The video game industry understands that it must be self regulating, and it does that job incredibly well. The blame does not lie with those who are making, playing and selling the games, it lies with those who allow their children to play games that they know nothing about. If a child watches a film that contains nude scenes, violent and graphic images, and foul language, is it the fault of the filmmaker, or is it the fault of the parent.

We need to be more aware of what we are allowing our children to play. In my household, my mother has entrusted the filtering of games that my 10-year-old brother plays to me. She trusts my judgement, and my knowledge on the subject. I allow him to play certain “M-rated” games, such as Halo 4, because I have played them, reviewed the content myself, and saw nothing that would cause my mother to want my brother to stop playing. She will often come and watch him play, and has never expressed concern with what he was exposed to. We both are comfortable with what he is playing, and we know that he is not being exposed to things that he should not be exposed to at his age. We have taken this responsibility on ourselves, and because we are actively engaged in what he is playing we know that the content he is exposed to is appropriate.

There is no other way to ensure that our children are kept safe from inappropriate content. If parents do not care enough to review what their children are playing, those children will be exposed to violent games. I am glad that this issue is gaining awareness, and that the legislative action taken against the industry has sparked internal action within the industry to continue to get parents involved. What I do not appreciate it being told that my opinion is invalid because it disagrees with Leland Yee’s. I am just as capable of making a rational argument as someone not involved in the industry. In fact, because of my knowledge of the industry, I would argue that I am more qualified. If Leland Yee truly believes that statement, I have trouble believing that he is not an idiot.

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Every time I hear something about EVE it makes me want to play more.

Today, a 2800 player battle took place in EVE. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars worth of ships were permanently destroyed. The battle was so epic that it crashed Dust 514. I love the idea of a player generated universe with a free market and this kind of scale.Sadly, I just can’t commit that much time to one game. For those of you who want to see what 2800 ships killing each other in EVE online looks like, follow this link.

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Sly Cooper Thieves in Time: Demo Impressions

I am a huge Sly Cooper fan. In fact, I might go so far as to say that he is my favorite character from any video game ever. When I heard about the new Thieves in Time game, I was over the moon. Naturally, when the demo came out, I had to play it. The demo played wonderfully, and managed to feel modern, despite the similarity to previous entries to the franchise. It allowed me to play as all three members of The Cooper Gang, and each of them played just like in Sly 3. The game looked good, although some of the models could have been smoother, especially for a title of this generation. It was a short demo, but from what it showed me, I am very excited to pick the full game up on the 5th, especially considering the recently announced $20 price drop. For those of us who enjoyed Sly’s adventures on the PS2, or for kids looking for a cartoony but challenging adventure on the PS3, this game looks to be a perfect choice.

 

The demo is available for download on the PSN right now!

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DmC: Devil May Cry Review (PS3)

[This post contains spoilers]

I was as skeptical as anyone about this reboot. It wasn’t the change of hair color that got to me, it was the change in attitude. Dante was always self assured and didn’t have to say “I don’t give a shit.” He was the coolest character in any video game, hands down. This new Dante was a turbulent child, always looking for trouble. When I saw that I was very annoyed with Ninja Theory, and Capcom, who passed off this great character to another studio.

After beating the game, I saw what Ninja Theory did with this kid who called himself “Dante the Demon-Killer,” and I have to admit, I am very impressed. Dante grew up in this reboot/prequel. He grew up into the Dante we know and love, and for that I thank the developers.

That isn’t to say that the journey from annoying rebel to suave slayer of demons was easy. The new Angelic/Demonic trigger system works wonderfully, and after getting used to, can lead to some beautiful, creative combos and kills. From a gameplay standpoint, my issue was mainly the camera controls. Without a manual lock-on feature, I felt myself fighting with the right stick to align myself to the correct target (something that should never happen in a game that requires the precision and timing that this one does). I also found the lack of moves disappointing, but that might be because I have spent too much time playing as Dante in DMC4. The combat always flowed smoothly, and the introduction of new enemies right into the last sections of the game kept things interesting. I also liked the way the game kept throwing new combinations of demons at me, each of them requiring a different strategy. This kept me on my toes and the challenge felt satisfying.

I played through the game on Demon Hunter, since it has been quite a while since I have touched any kind of hack-n-slash game, and found it to be approachable, even for newcomers to the genre. In fact, with the exception of a couple of boss fights, I’d say the game was too easy, even for someone as lacking in skill as myself. Doubtless the Hell or Hell and Son of Sparda difficulties will keep the more extreme fans happy, but for the average player, Demon Hunter is a good place to start. The game also scaled well as you progressed. New weapons were unlocked frequently, giving you new skills to purchase, and the constantly changing patterns of Demons increased the challenge perfectly as the game went on.

Aside from the camera issues, I had two other grievances with the game. The first was that on PS3, cut-scenes were crap. I have not had the chance to play the game on PC or 360 yet, so that could just be a hardware issue, but I am annoyed that a game that never loses FPS in gameplay, even with the most detailed environments I’ve seen in a while, can’t handle cut-scenes. Secondly, I was thoroughly tired of the platforming sections by the time I finished the first half of the game. I thought they would be there to show off Limbo and the grappling skills, but they just kept coming, right up to the end of the game. Yes they were cinematic, but I know that Dante can jump really high and move quickly through his environment. I play this game because I like to kill things in awesome ways, not to jump from floating bus to floating bit of road.

Speaking of floating bits of road, the game is gorgeous. It is incredibly colorful, the lighting is really well done, animations all look great, and limbo might just be the most beautiful (in a horrific, vulgar sort of way) place that I have visited in a video game in a long time.

The relationships between Cat, Vergil and Dante were really well done, although Vergil makes such a sudden turn at the end, with very little leading up to it. I was waiting for the relationship between the twins to break down for the whole game, but it takes until a cut-scene right before the final fight to do so. We all knew this game would end with a fight between the two, but I think we also expected a better story leading us to it. Vergil goes from love-able terrorist fighting for the people to tyrannical dictator in the space of ten seconds, then expects Dante to accept and embrace this massive ideological shift. Virgil claimed to be the smarter of the two brothers, and I am inclined to agree, but this scene could certainly be used as evidence against that claim.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game, despite the control issues and Dante being an insufferable idiot for the first third. It was far from perfect, which is disappointing, because it could have been absolutely fantastic if it just had a few tweaks and fixes. As it sits, I will give the game a 7.5 out of 10, for fun gameplay, a compelling story, gorgeous visuals, and making the player feel like a badass.

 

7.5/10

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Just a thought I had last night while playing Team Fortress 2

For those of you who don’t know what Team Fortress 2 is, first of all, I’m sorry. Essentially it is a game in which two teams of mildly cartoon-like characters shoot, blow up, and set each other on fire. It is a first person shooter that is available for free on Steam. I was playing as the Sniper class, and making generous use of the chat feature, the best part of which is that I am not only able to communicate with my team, but also with the opposing team. As usual, there were some rivalries building. What I found interesting is that even while in direct competition with one another, we were being friendly and respectful. I was part of a community of players, divided into two teams, pit against one another in a violent manner, but there was no animosity. In fact, I was making friends with my opponents that I was interacting with (read:killing and getting killed by) the most. I am constantly seeing arguments that video games are making us more violent, but what I saw last night was a group of people, who were all aware that what they were doing was playing a game, who were able to separate the violence of the game from reality. Games are just that, games. If a player is violent outside of the game, then it is the fault of the player. I have no doubt that some of the things in the game (such as what happens when a Demoman has his way) are not appropriate for children, but for a group of mature players, the game was nothing but fun. Just a thought.

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