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Offline honk

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #920 on: October 10, 2019, 04:03:56 AM »
Batman: Arkham Knight

After numerous false starts due to an inferior PC build and a faulty PS4, I have finally managed to play through this game. It's good overall, with the same solid combat, stealth, and exploration that the series is known for. As I discussed back in the capeshit thread, Gotham in its entirety is a fantastic setting, and definitely the best depiction of it I've ever seen. It's basically the perfect balance between Tim Burton's industrial dystopia and Joel Schumacher's neon-lit amusement park. Navigating the city by zipping and gliding across the rooftops or racing around on ground level with the Batmobile are both fun, viable options, something that couldn't have been easy to design.

But then then they had to go and make it a tank, so you can have tank battles. Lots and lots of tank battles. Who the fuck thought that a Batman game needed tank battles? They're so boring, and they keep going on. The game will not stop sending tanks at you. It's all part of the plot wherein the titular Arkham Knight occupies Gotham with a huge paramilitary force and it's up to you to take out his army. That might sound cool, but it's really not. The Knight is a dull villain, and the game prematurely makes his true identity incredibly obvious, even if you know nothing about Batman lore. Fighting the army isn't much better. Defuse a landmine here. Fight a squad of tanks there. Take over a militia outpost here. It's tedious busy work, and gives the game a very unfortunate Ubisoft-like feel. Why would they do this? It's not like they ran out of classic villains for Batman to fight or anything, far from it. They did include some pretty obscure figures here, which I like, but there was plenty of room for more, and that would have been entirely preferable to a greater quantity of cheap filler missions against an anonymous army.

The lack of proper boss fights was also really disappointing. Yes, Asylum's bosses were kind of lame, but City and Origins had terrific boss fights. Why get rid of them now?
« Last Edit: October 11, 2019, 03:44:07 PM by honk »
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Offline beardo

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #921 on: October 11, 2019, 08:57:16 AM »
Why get rid of them now?
Maybe they blew the budget on tank battles.
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Offline Crudblud

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #922 on: October 25, 2019, 02:17:21 PM »
The RANDOM LOUD NOISES ARE SCARY approach to horror was already wearing kind of thin for me by the time Observer decided to reveal its spoopy monster. I'm not sure I'm going to finish this one.

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Offline honk

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #923 on: November 09, 2019, 02:54:09 AM »
The Outer Worlds

This had been one of my most anticipated upcoming games for months, and for the first week after its release I excitedly played through it, taking only brief breaks to shill for it on IRC. And now that I've beaten it...I have to say that it's really not a great game, and its shortcomings become all the more clear as I continue to think about it. There just isn't that much to it. The main story is very short. There aren't a lot of sidequests, and most of them are fetch quests or dungeon crawls. The planets are all visually distinctive and look great, but there are only a few of them, and what you can explore on each is limited to a very small area. There's one or two small towns on a planet, and the rest of it is wild terrain with enemy creatures (of which there are only a few different types), abandoned buildings to explore (almost all of which are just boring generic offices) and enormous numbers of raiders that dwarf the number of law-abiding citizens in any given area with no plausible context for their presence and no visible means of even surviving. Sounds familiar. The FPS combat that takes up the bulk of the game is dull and uninspired, with the exception of an ability to slow time that feels like a much better version of VATS from Fallout, and it feels like monotonous busy work to spend so much time traipsing around shooting the same enemies and looting the same buildings.

Of course, what most people were expecting Obsidian to really deliver on was the story and writing, not necessarily the gameplay. They're all right. The dialogue is light and quippy, packed full of bathos and corporate satire. The best comparison I can think of would be to the work of Joss Whedon (multiple characters seem to be largely based on characters from Firefly), so your mileage may vary. I got a few chuckles out of it and don't recall cringing at anything, for what it's worth. But again, there just isn't very much of it. Obsidian very heavily leaned on the idea that this was a spiritual successor to New Vegas, but what's the point of doing that with a game that's so much smaller in every way? NV has more characters, more dialogue, more factions, more quests, better-designed quests, longer companion quests, a longer main story, a bigger and more responsive world, and four separate questlines leading to four different endings. Incidentally, that last point was also shared by Obsidian's two most recent games before this one, Tyranny and Pillars of Eternity 2 (PoE2 actually had five). So how does The Outer Worlds top those games? By waiting until almost the very end of the story and letting you choose one of two options: The unambiguously good side or the unambiguously evil side. Yeah, I didn't put that in spoiler text. It doesn't deserve to be in spoiler text. What a joke.

The game is probably better than I'm giving it credit for. I'm just very disappointed. That's what I said with the last Epic exclusive I tried, isn't it? Hmm. Anyway, you might as well just play NV again instead of this.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2019, 03:20:49 AM by honk »
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Offline beardo

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #924 on: November 09, 2019, 03:06:53 AM »
Okay but you failed to mention the biggest problem with the game.

« Last Edit: November 09, 2019, 03:09:17 AM by beardo »
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Offline rooster

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #925 on: December 08, 2019, 02:33:44 AM »
I don't really enjoy that you have to say exactly the right thing in exactly the right order to achieve the right outcome. I've had to re-load my game a couple of times to get it right.

But it does have a lot of feeling to it. For example, I missed out on a side quest to gain someone's trust so I wasn't able to get two factions to compromise because of it. So I ended up having to kill off the other faction which.. really fucking sucked. I don't often feel like I made a really shitty choice in a game so it does have weight to it. So I hated that I messed it up by missing something, but appreciated that it made me at least feel a way.

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Offline honk

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #926 on: December 24, 2019, 05:22:56 AM »
My new thing is Western vidya, inspired by RDR2's recent PC release.

Red Dead Redemption 2

I feel like most people here who would have cared to play this game have probably already done so by now, but I'm still going to share my thoughts on it. RDR2 is largely carried by its two biggest strengths. One is the enormous, beautiful world, packed full of people to meet, animals to hunt, secrets to find, crimes to commit, and all of that other open world shite Rockstar gives us. I really like that the animals behave like actual animals, and that even the predators will usually try to flee rather than attack you. It's a pleasant break from franchises like Far Cry that deliberately make their animals insanely aggressive because they think it's funny. I didn't think I'd like the heavy focus on realism when I first heard about it, but it grew on me, and managing the more realistic needs of your character soon became an interesting new detail to complement my explorations. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I like that you have to eat and sleep, care for your horse, store most of your equipment on your horse, etc.

The other key strength of the game is its writing. It's wonderfully sincere and tragic from start to finish, and it's incredible for me to think that these same writers were just a few years ago churning out shallow, dated, cynical pop culture references with the GTA series when they were capable of this kind of strong dramatic work the whole time. The basic setup is of course that it's a prequel to RDR, focusing on a gang of twenty or so outlaws led by eventual RDR villain Dutch van der Linde. Every one of these characters is distinctive and interesting in their own way, and it's a joy to hang around in the camp to watch them chat, play games, sing songs, party, and plan robberies - and take part in any of these activities yourself. The player character, Arthur Morgan, is the best of them all and the worst of them all. He more than anyone else seems to recognize that no matter what wild promises Dutch makes about their future, the gang's activities just aren't sustainable in the modern world, and yet his life of crime and violence has left him unprepared to do anything other than continue down the same destructive path. Outside of a very ill-advised decision to break up the gang in the fifth chapter and put the story on hold for a few action-heavy, plot-light missions, and maybe a couple of nitpicks like the fact that I didn't find Dutch to be even remotely charismatic or compelling, and an unnecessary late-game twist about a traitor in the gang that I felt weakened the thematic clash between Arthur and the game's main antagonist, I'd call RDR2 a narrative masterpiece.

I just wish the rest of the game could have lived up to the strength of the writing and the open world. The biggest flaw for me are the controls. Yes, I know that Rockstar games have never had great controls, but this game feels like a major step backwards from the first RDR and GTA V. The controls aren't just bad, they are buck wild. They feel like they were designed by aliens. Like, the aim button is also the button you have to hold down to non-violently interact with people. That's led to me accidentally threatening innocent people I only wanted to chat with more than a few times. And the fire button can also just be the aim button, depending on the context. How do you do that? Seriously, what is the thought process that leads to such a batshit design scheme? And there's more! What the hell is up with those shitty radial menus for your equipment, where you have to highlight your wanted gear (but don't hit a button), wait as the game does absolutely nothing, and then pull up the menu again to highlight the gear so you can use it? I don't even know if it's just a glitch that the first time you use the menu you almost never actually can activate your equipment. That's how bad it is! Continuing on, why do you have to hold a button for a couple of seconds instead of just tapping it for so many mundane actions? Why do you have to keep tapping a button to sprint or gallop? Why is the reload button the same button you use for melee attacks?

Speaking of the combat, it's not good. It doesn't seem to be any more sophisticated than the first RDR's combat. The cover system still feels very rudimentary and awkward, with your character seemingly confused on a regular basis about what he's supposed to be crouching behind and how to emerge from it, and the aiming is so slow and sluggish that you're pretty much forced to rely on the auto-aim system. "Slow and sluggish" could be applied to the game as a whole, really. Like I mentioned earlier with the inventory, there are a lot of issues with responsiveness, where the game simply does not do what you're telling it do via the controls, and then doesn't bother telling you why either. I'm not the first person to have suggested this, but I honestly think that Rockstar prioritizes its animations remaining smooth and consistent on screen over promptly responding to player input. For example, if you're sprinting past a shopkeeper and you hit the button to interact with them, pretty much any other game made by any other dev would have you stop mid-sprint and begin your transaction, whereas Rockstar will ignore your input and have your character continue their sprint and not let you interact with the shopkeeper until you stop sprinting and stand still in front of him. That sort of design philosophy is frustrating. Yes, there should be a balance between having things make sense on screen and allowing the player a certain level of convenience, but Rockstar leans far too heavily towards the former. The lengthy, elaborate animations for everything, requiring even more precise positioning, don't help on this matter. It's neat the first few times you see your character carefully skinning an animal, looting a corpse, or searching a cupboard. It's not so interesting after you've seen them a hundred times.

Despite its flaws, this is still a terrific game, and one that I would recommend pretty much everyone play. The things it does well, it does arguably better than any other game out there.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

I haven't played the other Call of Juarez games yet, although they're coming up. This one's good, though. It's a fun, stylish Western FPS that encourages you to rack up points by killing enemies in quick succession and in unique ways, and maximizing your score is a lot harder than it seems when you first start playing. The main story is essentially a retired gunslinger entertaining a few people at a bar with a series of tall tales in which he claims to have fought alongside and against pretty much every one of the Wild West's most famous outlaws, with the details of every level changing whenever he remembers new facts or his listeners interject with objections or corrections. It's not a very long game, but it's reasonably-priced to compensate, and I had a blast playing it. This is another one I wholeheartedly recommend.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2019, 05:59:36 PM by honk »
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Offline beardo

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #927 on: December 25, 2019, 12:26:29 AM »
I can't play Gunslinger after Destiny 2 made me get used to toggle aim.
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Offline honk

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #928 on: January 09, 2020, 02:13:37 AM »
A few more thoughts on RDR2: If the abysmal control scheme is its biggest flaw, then the general mission structure is a close second. The story and side missions are all rigidly linear and scripted to a painful degree. You're almost always partnered up with an NPC who's always telling you exactly what to do and when to do it. Switch to your bow. Take out your spyglass. Search that room. And if you want to stop and do something, like loot some bodies, he will continue to nag you until you finally do what you're "supposed" to. I could be wrong, but again, I feel like there wasn't this much scripting in the first RDR and GTA V. It really makes me question how much I'm going to want to play through this game again in the future.

I don't want to end my musings on a negative note, so I'll just return to a subject I touched on above - Arthur is great. Unlike John Marston, who comes across as a decent guy who's put his life of crime behind him from the very beginning of the first RDR, Arthur is seen at some of his lowest, darkest points. His villainy is openly and frankly presented as what it is, and while Arthur is superficially a likable and endearing character (examples of this include his loyalty to the gang, his affection towards his horse, his dorky habit of writing and sketching in a journal, and even how he pronounces the word "sure"), that's never used as an excuse to simply brush off his behavior like it would be for a GTA protagonist. It's only over the course of the story, as Arthur examines his dark life and the legacy he'll leave behind, that he manages to achieve the "redemption" of the title and make it feel truly earned.

GUN

When life robs Colton White of all that matters, the only thing he can trust is his GUN.

I'd probably have liked this game a lot more if I had played it when it came out in 2005. It's an open-world third-person Western shooter, and there is absolutely nothing in it that both RDR titles don't do considerably better. At least the Call of Juarez series is distinguished by being first-person. To look at it more objectively for what it was for its time, it's okay. The run-and-gun action is okay, the story is okay, the voice cast is solid, the soundtrack is actually pretty good, and I enjoyed it well enough. The open world is really lackluster, though. It's very small, with just two tiny towns, and despite the nominal presence of NPCs on the streets, the world feels eerily dead. There's no chatter, no bustle, no energy, no sense that there's a real world you're interacting with. A number of games that came out around that time or even earlier had much better open worlds, like Morrowind, Spider-Man 2, and the three latest GTAs. I guess this game does bear the distinction of being the first open world Western game, but that's not worth much if the world isn't any good.

GUN is an interesting game more for its role in the history of Western vidya than its own qualities. I'm glad I played through it, but I can't really recommend it to anyone when you could just be playing either RDR instead.
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Offline Crudblud

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Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« Reply #929 on: January 14, 2020, 08:13:34 AM »
Some disorganised thoughts on Darksiders: Warmastered Edition.

Competent but incredibly boring mindless grindfest in which various voice actors attempt to out-gruff each other in a post-apocalyptic setting. Maybe I'm misremembering the state of gaming in the good old days of 2010 but this is just a bunch of nice-looking but empty areas stuffed in which you fight the same five enemies over and over and clear occasional barrages of arena time trials and I'm kind of surprised it got a sequel, let alone being revived more recently with a third instalment. Mark Hamill voices your Navi-type character, which I guess is neat, but his script is just kind of "I'm sassy and I have a slightly dark sense of humour". I only played a couple of hours so I don't know if the game somehow opens up later, but those two hours were quite a snore/chore to get through.

Also, at least Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition makes use of a pun that kind of works, even if it is terrible.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 08:16:18 AM by Crudblud »