Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hello, again.

It's been a long time. And I shouldn't have left you - without some dope beats to step to.
Step to, step to, step step to, step to, step to - chicka-chicka.

Anway. Yes, I've been gone. Deal with it. I could lie to you, and say I simply didn't have anything to say, but... well, now that I already mentioned I'd be lying, what would be the point? I did say stuff, I just didn't say it here.

What kind of stuff? Well, where to begin?

Will Technology Tell the Difference?
I had a pretty strong opinion about the next-gen consoles, but since "180-Day", a lot of that has somewhat changed. Yes, I am referring to the Xbox One... 80 and the PS4 reveals. Did I really have to point that out, just to do that "180 joke" again? Probably not, but I am so loath to talk about these new consoles by now, I need a few stupid laughs to put things in perspective.

Xbox simply screwed up. What else can you say? You cannot tell people "This is the way it is. It's for your own good. Deal with it." and expect nobody to bristle at that. It was like all the crazy conspiracy theories ever made about Microsoft actually became truth through the magic of popular belief. And no matter how much good would come out of it, people would always complain.

If someone told us tomorrow morning that we all had to get inoculated against the plague or we all die, tomorrow afternoon the streets would be filled with protesters burning WHO flags, singing "We shall overcome (the plague through sheer force of will because we choose to do so, and having a choice is all that matters!)".

Sony must've laughed themselves senseless during that E3 presentation, and while MS was desperately trying to saw off the foot they just had shot into so vigorously,  the PS4 seemed like the holy grail of gaming. The roles had reversed. Playstation 4 was all about Games, while the Xbox One wanted to rule the living-room. It was kinda spooky, really, like a "Walternate" version (that's a "Fringe" reference, by the way) of the PS3/Xbox 360 reveals.

And Sony came out smelling like roses. They might slow down the inevitable future of digital gaming, but it was apparently still better than Xbox ramming that future down our throats.

Then came 180-Day, and things changed. And, truth be told, I lost even more of what little respect I still held for the Xbox brand. If they really believed in what they were doing, they wouldn't have folded quite so quickly - or consummately. It was like that scene in "Full Metal Jacket", but Private X-bone changed their tune, and got slapped real hard by my personal Drill Sargent Gunny Respect.

In the end, what you get should be what you want to get. It's your money, after all.
Sony's PS4 is a really good offer, but lack both a good track record and experience when it comes to the online-part of gaming.
Xbox wants to be your entertainment center, and if you like all the fancy features, why not got for the Xbox One?  They do have the experience with Xbox Live, and all those dedicated Azure servers, just waiting to host your games, do sound very attractive.

Personally, I am still looking at a possible consoles switch from Xbox 360 to PS4. Or I just might get a PS3 real cheap and play all those PS3 exclusives. Microsoft has lost a lot of credibility for me, and purely on principle I am not sure I want to support these people anymore. And yes, "purely on principle" is a very valid reason to do pretty much anything you want with your money.

What else have I been talking about? Let`s see...

Batman: Arkham Origins gets Multiplayer. And despite the usual hate that comes along when Single-Player dominated franchises try something new - fine, the fact that the studio that committed the "Brink"-Disaster is responsible did also not go over well - I find myself mildly interested. Asymmetrical MP has been, on the few occasions somebody had the balls to try it, quite enjoyable. For me, my only experiences were Left 4 Dead 2`s Versus and Scavenger modes and Aliens vs. Predator (which was actually not half as bad as reviewers made it out to be, but by the time I got my hands on it, the multiplayer was pretty much deserted). Asymmetrical MP is all about the gameplay. If it hooks you, it's great. If it doesn't, there's really no redeeming factor.

One thing I am curious about though, is how the 3vs3vs2 MP will affect and work with parties. It's one thing to have asymmetrical but numerically equal teams, but as asymmetrical MP is often dominated by communication and teamwork (i.e. parties), what happens when a party of 3 is split up when one or two of them will play on the two-spots-only Bat-Team? It is, for sure, a  potentially questionable design decision.

The Campaign gameplay, though, already looks wonderful, and more complicated riddles and crime-scene-investigations are always welcome in my book. But then again, you'd have to work really hard to screw-up the Batman Arkham franchise, Rocksteady or not.

Then, there's Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. One of the first big comparison titles coming out on both current- and next-gen. And damn, if it doesn't
look pretty nice. Despite the main male pirate character wearing eye-liner. And it does look huge. Islands, open sandbox Caribbean, seamless transition between foot and naval gameplay. If Ubisoft manages to limit the many technical flaws AC3 has become somewhat infamous for, it looks like a good game...

...That sadly still retains one of my main-gripes with the Franchise: No crouching. Taking cover at corners did so much for AC3`s immersion, that keeping the "Sneaking-Up on someone on rooftops or in restricted areas through Fast-Walking totally upright"-mechanic seems less understandable than ever.
Or maybe THAT'S what's important...
I mean, come on. Really? Walking upright to blend with a crowd and kill blade-in-the-grass-style, somehow looses its credibility when there are no crowds.

And I fear that is has become so ingrained in the minds of the series' creators, that the people at Ubisoft stopped being bothered by it.
Well, I still am. And that's what's important. Right?

I talked about Mobile Games, as in Games for your Cellphone, but only briefly.
The market is still mostly dominated by "Free-mium: Free2Play but quite expensive to enjoy"-games that lack, most of all, quality.
There are a few gems out there, some relatively cheap only-pay-once games (Wild Blood, comes to mind), but the more complicated and elaborate the games become, the more gamers will feel the lack of a gamepad, joystick, mouse or keyboard.

To me, the best mobile/tablet games are the ones that keep things simple. As such, I actually have a few recommendations of free stuff:

If a combination of Zombie-Killing, an On-Rails-Shooter and, curiously enough, a reaction-based "driving game on foot" sounds like fun to you, I can recommend "Into the Dead" for Android. I know the description doesn't really make sense, but play it once, and you'll see I`m right. It's addictive, if repetitive, zombie-fun. It does have some payable options, but it's neither obvious nor forced on you. Actually, if you like the game, you'll be likely considering to just buy something anyway to support the creator.

Then there's something that's not really a game, but a path to games, some of which are possibly the greatest ever made. I am speaking of the ScummVM engine for Android, that allows you to play old LucasArts Adventures like Monkey Island, Loom or Maniac Mansion on your Android device. If you're old enough to remember the magic of those games, you`ll laugh with childish glee once you see them on your mobile screen in all their glory. It takes a bit to setup, and you still need the old PC files for the games, but it is so definitely worth it.

Finally, there's the "Splinter Cell: Blacklist" Companion App: Spider-Bot. It's actually three games in one, and at least two of the top-down games are very enjoyable.
Spider-Bot is a Pacman-Variation with security drones, laser-grids, automated turrets and soldiers.
Stealth-Bot is a sneaky version of Spiderbot, with soldiers, cameras and motion detectors trying to prevent you from subduing scientists and stealing their research.
Strike-Bot is a dual-stick arena shooter Robo-War. It can be fun, but my fingers are really not quite up to it.
You can use the in-game currency you earn for unlocks and money in your Splinter Cell: Blacklist main-game (yes, Ubisoft finally fixed the issues with those), but it's actually way too good, to only play it for (pretty much useless) unlocks.

Which brings us to the last real "thing" I laid out my wisdom for: Splinter Cell: Blacklist. I love it. I loved pretty much all of the SC games, with Conviction a little less than the others, but Blacklist delivers on almost all aspects: Single Player, Co-Op, Replayability, Variety, Player Choice, Challenge... it's all there. Okay, Ironside isn't, but unless you're really just sitting there, waiting for him to not be there, I don't think you notice (probably because you don't relate the person you see on screen with Sam Fisher, but you really don`t notice).

Noticed that I didn't mention the Spies vs Mercs  Multiplayer? Well, it's there. And I like it. It has it's issues, both technical and balance-wise, but it's a solid MP system - and requires a bit more thought than the usual fare. In fact, with all the equipment and abilities, it can become a bit overwhelming at first (the terrible matchmaking doesn't help with that), so I will post a few pointers for newcomers soon. Yes. Soon. Within the week. Maybe.

And no, it's not like SvM was in Chaos Theory or Pandora Tomorrow, not even in "Classic Mode". How do I know? Everybody says so. I can't tell. I never played those back then, so what am I supposed to say?

So, that's what I did. I've been gone. I might be back. Deal with it.