Saturday, December 20, 2014

Music minipost!

Just three.  For starters, my baby love the western movies.



Second, The Black Angels' The Sniper,



and Black Rebel Motorcyle Club.  Enjoy!

These Final Fantasy XV trailers are still workin' on me.



The director explained a bit about the game today, too - take that town and the camping scene, for example.  Your heroes will need to rest at inns or by camping in order to keep themselves at top performance - you'll get a buff for resting, for example, and may end up with a debuff if you go too many days without sleeping.  Cool!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Variety! Part II : The Varieting.


Kayla and I do this thing where we (try to) have a nice date night once a month, and last night we went out to dinner, visited a local games store and saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  It's the best of the trilogy, in terms of never being bored throughout it,but it makes me want to revisit the second one just to get a bit more Smaug goin' on.  What Smaug Five Armies has is the best Smaug that's ever Smaug'd.

The theatre was kinda' screwy in that all of the pre-show audio was super-low and out of synch with the video, and the guy in the seat next to me was... a large gentleman, so as I had to kinda' twist my whole body to accommodate this imposition on my personal space, I spent most of the movie with my muscles threatening to go into full-on cramp mode.  Also, that there were no trailers - which made me want to go find a trailer for Into The Woods that wasn't all teaser-y... annnd...  let's see here... YouTube's got nothin' -  oh my God they're making Kite into a live-action movie?



That's... weird.

Anyway, at the games store, Kayla procured my Christmas present - a fully-paid preorder on Dying Light for PS4 (woo!) - and I procured the game of 2014 I feel guiltiest for not playing.


In other news, I've slipped right back in to a feverish Don't Starve obsession on my Vita.  Today, I finally survived the duration of an absolutely brutal summer, and the rainy season has begun - thank God.

I find it kind of incredible that we're nearly three weeks into December, and there is still a release in 2014 I'm hyped for - Resogun on Vita.  Can't wait for that one.

Anyway, after the movie we got home by like 9:30, and were responsibly in bed by 10:00.  Then my digestive tract began revolting against some offensive aspect of my dinner, and I was up till 02:00 dealing with that.  So I worked all day today, I'm totally exhausted, and I'm going to...

I'm going to...

Well, heck.  I'm gonna' check out Dragon's Age.

Oh, also, I've decided I'm getting this Nendo.  Somewhere, beyond the far edge of our galaxy in the unknown depths of the universe, a legendary device known as the All Seeing Cute-O-Meter sensed the existence of this Nendoroid upon its creation, overloaded, and shattered into infinite tiny sparkling pieces.  Its caretakers could only send the briefest of messages before the explosion - "too cute."


I don't even watch Nichijou, but this thing is totes adorbs. This is happening.

[update]  Oh, also, I wanted to mention.  Sony pulling the release of The Interview because of some vague threat.  I doubt you were going to see The Interview, and I certainly wasn't, either - I'll wait for it to be on Netflix or something, like I did with Pineapple Express and This Is The End - but I think it's safe to say that we all feel like that's total bullshit, and gives a green light to anyone who wants to threaten violence to force companies, people, artists to kowtow to... bullies.

Film/Book/Game X features something you don't like?  You just threaten to bomb a store selling it - yoink - off the shelves.  Wasn't that easy?

On the other hand, remember when that Danish cartoonist drew a comic and extremists got all pissed off and killed him?  That shit happens, man.  I just wish that the people making these threats would do so without a mask on, so they could be subsequently whacked across the head with a large explosive device.

It's a terrible precedent, that's been set here. [/update]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Variety!



This is probably the coolest gaming thing you'll see today.

There are a few semi-interesting other bits, I suppose.  This week's PSN Holiday sale has Child of Light for Vita down to a reasonable price, and I'm considering snagging it despite my tepid reaction to the game on PS4.  Two sale prices you should really be paying attention to is Don't Starve's - it's down to nine bucks on Vita with a PS+ membership, and that is a steal - and my cherished Dragon's Crown, which is down to $20, even without a PS+ subscription, on PS3 and Vita.  If you don't have it, get it.   Oh, and Hotline Miami for three bucks is an absolute no-brainer.

I also find myself considering Sleeping Dogs' PS4 version - it's down to thirty bucks with a plus membership - but if I'm being honest with myseslf, I'd rather have it on a disc.  Speaking of up-ports, the excellent DmC: Devil May Cry is also getting a new-gen up-port (due out in March), and Devil May Cry 4 as well.

Hmmm let's see what's new on the PlayStation channel... ooh, this The Order: 1886 trailer is nicely creepy.



Oooh, and they've got the opening cutscene for Dying Light but it's... pretty meh.  Still super-hyped for the game, though.

What else, what else... oh!  Disgaea 5 is coming to PS4 in North America.



Annnd Guilty Gear Xrd and Loadout dropped today for PS4, and Loadout is free - which is ample reason to give it a shot.

...but I think I might just end up playing more Don't Starve.  I turned it back on today.  That might have been a mistake.

[update]  I didn't play Don't Starve.  I played with my Nendos and moved them to the upper shelf of my Detolf, away from Momo, Gwendolyn and Harley.

They are not happy about it.


[/update]

Monday, December 15, 2014

Beautiful. And terrible.


A week and a half ago, I fleshed out my collection of Shun Classic knives with the bread knife (verdict: makes my old bread knife look like a bat with nails in it), and promised myself I would get Shun's Blue line kiritsuke.  I was so pleased with my purchase that I decided to poke around the internet and see what reviews of the knife were like - someone must have tried the Shun Blue, after all.

I wound up at cheftalk.com, which, as it turns out, are forums for people who are as crazy about cooking gear as we are about video games.  These people know their shit, and the consensus at those forums is Shun knives aren't worth the price.  There are tons of better options for slightly more money.

The first bone of contention I stumbled across was that Shun knives are measured in inches - not millimetres - which, these folks advise, instantly denote them as mass-produced products tailored to mainstream American sensibilities, and not purely designed as articles of Japanese craft.  Sure they're beautiful, but they're also kinda' terrible.

And it was like...


This news struck me like a thousand pointy arrows, and I desperately went through the forums for something I could understand - something that explained why the knives were shit without using terms like "profile."  I don't know what the fuck that means.  It must be like what people feel like when they stumble across Penny Arcade and see us throwing terms like "mechanics," "pacing" and "expression" around without any context.

The ultimate point of these learned gentlemen and women was that Shun knives aren't bad, they're just painted up like some sort of silly knife-clown with their gorgeous Damascus cladding and for a hundred or two hundred dollars more, you could get a Formula 1 instead of a Challenger Hellcat.

I paid $200 for my Shun Classic chef's knife.  I could have paid $350 for the 240 millimetre Mizuno Hontanren Blue #2 Gyuto, which was literally hand-crafted, hand-forged, hand-hammered by members of the ancient Mizuno family.


These are real knives.  These are the Formula 1s.  And my Shuns..?

They're just the sports cars from a mainstream brand. They roll off assembly lines - and sure, they're hand-sharpened, but... they're not art.

Are they art?

I don't even know, man.

I stopped looking for reviews of their Blue kiritsuke and started drooling over knife porn for like three days, pouring over thousand-dollar hand-crafted Japanese knives.  But what's the point?  I'm not paying $1000.00 for a fucking knife.  For $400 I could get an Xbox One, and I don't even want an Xbox One, but that seems like a more valuable investment.

Whatever.  Fuck it, man.  Fuck it.  Y'know what, cheftalk.com?


After the last post, I brought it up in conversation with Kayla - had I really never made my lasagna for her?  Turns out, no, I hadn't.

So I procured a bunch of ricotta and some fresh mozzarella and some large noodles and set to work creating a layered masterpiece.  I like the sauce to be really thick in my lasagna, so it's not just a big wet mess, and the beginning of that is a really hearty mirepoix.  I used my ten-inch chef to halve the carrots and switched to my seven-inch beveled santoku for the finer work, and in no time flat I had a nice stock of finely diced veggies, ready for the pot.

I deglazed the pot I'd browned my burger in with some wine, scraped up the brown bits and once that had reduced I added some oil and the mirepoix, and in my head, I was mulling over how sub-par these knives were supposed to be.

They're doing a pretty damned good job, for the record - and the cheftalk folks say what knife you use doesn't matter - what matters is what you're able to produce with them.

Apparently I'm supposed to hone them "once a week with regular use."  Well, I don't cook that much, so I don't hone them all that often, but it's been a few months since I got the santoku, so I decided to tease its edge back to perfect.  

Being careful of the angle, I thwipped it down the honer - three times on this side, three times on that, then two, then two, then one, then one.  And that's one sharp motherfucker.

Then, I decided to knock up my mirepoix a bit with some garlic.  It had cooked down a bit - was getting nice and mellow-gold - so now would be a good time to add garlic without burning it.  I smashed the garlic, removed the skins and took to chop chop chopping and sheared off a big dragonscale-shaped chunk of the nail of my middle finger on my left hand.

I didn't even feel it, at first.  There was no resistance.  It had gone through my nail and flesh like it was butter.  No blood, even.  The cut was too perfect.


I held up my finger and the blood slowly began to seep up through where the nail had protected it.  I picked the nail and the sliver of tissue that clung to it off the cutting board, went upstairs to find a first aid kit, wrapped it up and finished my lasagna.

The lasagna turned out very well, for the record.  Though Kayla has confessed she's not very fond of lasagna.

Heheh.


On the bright side, this throws in to stark relief the fact that if I had a real top-of-the-line knife I'd probably mutilate myself beyond repair or comedy.  The Shuns are infinitely better than the crap knives my parents own - the crap knives I grew up using - or the knives you'll find in any department store.

So what if the cooking crazies think they're less than spectacular?  I'm less than spectacular, and I get a lot done.

They're better than any high-end German knife you'll find, and the important part is they make creating awesome food for my loved ones a bit more pleasant, a bit more beautiful - and if I disrespect them for a moment, they will take pieces of me.  Beautiful, and terrible as the dawn - like that elf chick in Lord of the Rings.

For God's sake, I'm not on Iron Chef.  I just want to make something delicious for the ones I love - and I can certainly do that with a set of Shuns.

Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is headed to new-gen consoles.

Ohohoh this is gonna' be gorgeous. Click to embiggen.


I enjoyed Ultimate Ninja Storm and its sequel on the PS3 - they were fun little diversions, but most of all they were unbelievably gorgeous, with combat sequences and animation that put TV or film animation to shame.

I'm not the biggest Naruto fan - or a Naruto fan at all, in fact - but I am a fan of gorgeous, and given what CyberConnect2 pulled off on the PS3, I don't think I'll be able to ignore their first game on the PS4.

Should drop in mid/late 2015.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Best of 2014 - biggest surprise.


There were relatively few shockers in 2014 - nothing, at least, that entirely took us by surprise or rocked us to our core - but there were a few pleasant realizations, and troubling revelations.  Let's break it down.

honorable mentions


In 2013, when Microsoft was weathering the online backlash to their planned digital rights policies on the Xbox One, they did a complete about-face and stripped everything out of the platform that differed from the norm, in the hopes that would effectively reposition them for the late-year launch of the Xbox One.  When that launch came - and throughout 2014 - the One was outsold at every turn by the PS4.

Is it because the PS4 is a more powerful platform with better games and an inviting self-publication policy to attract indie developers?  Of course not.  It's because the PS4 is cheaper.

In another reversal, they pulled the mandatory Kinect 2.0 usage from the system, and offered the console without the suspicious camera - effectively negating the price difference between their platform and Sony's.  That didn't quite do it, so over the holiday season they're offering the Xbox One for around $350 - fifty bucks cheaper than Sony's closest price.

It didn't completely turn the tide - some reports have the PS4 selling within 10,000 units of the Xbox One's 1.2 million over Black Friday weekend - but it's yet more proof of how much of its own blood Microsoft is willing to shed in order to win the console war.


It's less surprising, to me, that Assassin's Creed Unity sucks.  Flip a coin, any given AC game may suck or may be awesome - but with Watch Dogs, one really got the sense that Ubisoft were taking this thing seriously.  Watch Dogs was to be their statement about what open-world games could, and should be, literally telling us it would "go beyond the limits of today's open world games."  The enthusiast press was almost universally-hyped about the game, and I remember folks at work insisting that Watch Dogs would finally keep the promise of open-world games and emergent gameplay.

It didn't.  It's a pretty boring game with decent stealth and downright bad design when it comes to its more spectacular action beats, with a boring character and a boring story.  In aping Rockstar, they soundly proved that they are no Rockstar - who only release open-world products of uniform excellence consistently and reliably - keenly aware of the fact that each masterwork is a statement on the quality of their brand.  Ubisoft, it seems, are comfortable burning the public's perception of their games to the ground with titles that roll off their conveyor belt without a meaningful quality-control check.

With Watch Dogs - and perhaps, then, cemented with Unity - it's become pretty clear in 2014 that Ubisoft thinks very little of their consumer, and doesn't think very much about how to make fun video games, either.

Note: Ubisoft also release Far Cry 4 in 2014, and it is frickin' amazing.


It can happen, of course.  Every now and again you get Rocksteady making Batman games or CyberConnect2 making a Naruto game, but in 2014 we got two excellent games from huge properties that had never, before, managed to get themselves into a decent video game.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is far and away the shiniest, most-polished game Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol) have ever released.  Beyond being an excellent semi-traditional RPG, it bursts with the unique flavour of South Park that only creators Parker and Stone could have given it, as the two were deeply involved in the game from creation to release.  It is the definitive South Park game, and one of the better titles of the year.

Alien: Isolation - a first-person stealth/action/adventure from a developer that specializes in real-time strategy games - is the polar opposite of every single Alien game we've been offered in the franchise's history.  A game totally uninterested in letting us mow down hordes of xenomorphs with high-powered future weapons, it concerns itself entirely with re-creating the iconic world and thick atmosphere of Ridley Scott's seminal film, and permitting the player to feel the clawing terror of being alone in the dark with a few chunky gadgets and a superpredator.

It's a lesson games often prove - that teams can offer singular and meaningful experiences, if the folks with the money will have a bit of faith in a vision, and permit something unique to be produced. Of course, it helps if the developers are insanely talented.




runner-up



The early days of the PS3 saw a similar resurgence in survival horror - but that felt more like the last gasp of a genre that had been eminently popular on the PS2, with the heyday of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame.   On the PS3, the genre petered out with the excellent Siren: Blood Curse, a few middling western-developed Silent Hill titles and an egregious Alone In The Dark reboot.

With the PS4, though, it feels like a whole new world of horror, as legendary auteur Shinji Mikami gives us The Evil Within - basically Resident Evil 4-2 - and indies are offering us high-quality jump-scares with Daylight and Outlast or thoughtful pixel-driven stuff like Home: A Unique Horror Adventure.  Even the triplest-of-As are getting in on the action with the internet-rocking P.T. and Alien: Isolation - probably the most effectively-immersive experience of the year.

The problem horror had on the PS3 was twofold.  One, it's always been a somewhat niche genre, and whole swaths of gamers will avoid them entirely.  Two, in order to achieve the immersion necessary, a great deal had to be spent on visuals and production values, as shitty graphics are a deal breaker when it comes to suspension of disbelief.  The limited audience and skyrocketing production costs rung the death knell of games concerning death.

It is, perhaps, that new-gen gamers are hungry for fresh experiences - given the relatively slim libraries of each new console - that permits production of these riskier properties at this point in the platforms' life span.  It could also be that Sony has been actively courting PC indies - long the guardians of this forgotten genre - to ensure stuff like Outlast and Daylight appeared on its platform.

And here's the lovely part - also in the pipeline are Among the Sleep, The Call of Cthulhu, Dying Light, Forgotten Memories, Grave, The Forest, Home, Human Element, Koduku, Silent Hills, Soma and Sony's own Until Dawn.

After nearly ten years in the wings, survival horror is back - and it's just getting warmed up.


biggest surprise(s) of 2014


This is actually an update to this post - I originally had horror's resurgence in the top spot, but that seemed like a... standoffish answer, and not an honest one.  To be honest, the biggest, most shocking and thrilling industry moments of the year came at Sony's press conferences.  Take, for example, when Sean Murray walked up onstage at E3.

The trailer begins, we see the cave, we walk out of the cave and oh my God, is it?  There was a stunned silence in the auditorium, followed by whoops and applause when the lights came up, and Murray was standing there.  Yes, the most exciting indie game introduced in the past year - No Man's Sky - was coming to PlayStation 4.  Sony gamers across the world shrieked in excitement.

There are a ton of awesome-looking indies coming to Sony platforms. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Not A Hero, Wanderer, Hyper Light Drifter, Night In The Woods, Y2K, Salt and Sanctuary - too many great-looking ones to name, in fact - but there are a crucial few that ended up being some of the games I'm most excited to play.

I was stunned when they announced gorgeous strategy-RPG The Banner Saga was on its way to PS4 and Vita, but - personally - the biggest and most unexpected thrill of the past year was when Adam Boyes came onstage at PSX, showed a trailer for Killing Floor 2, and then announced that Red Hook Studios' Darkest Dungeon was coming to Sony platforms (PS4 and Vita).

Sony's well-chosen indies - a massive list of games I'm dying to play, top my personal list.  To put it another way, there were only two times in the past year where I blurted out "oh my God, yes!" - the No Man's Sky announcement, and the Darkest Dungeon announcement.  There was no greater industry shock in 2014.

I literally needed a cigarette after.

Oooh a half-hour of Cosmic Star Heroine...

I've always felt a bit guilty for not playing any of Zeboyd's previous games - Cthulhu Saves the World, the Penny Arcade titles - my excuse being they were on the 360 and PC, not my preferred platform for adorable little RPGs, the Vita.

Well, this'll be on Vita - and I can see myself putting some time into it.



...I wonder if Darkest Dungeon has some new footage out of PSX?

Two Street Fighter V matches, and a longer trailer.

Skip to about 1:35 to see the match.



I actually watched quite a bit of the Capcom Cup yesterday.  It started innocently enough - I turned in for the first few matches and found myself kinda' getting caught up in the drama of it.  I didn't see the match that knocked Daigo or Justin out, but I caught all of the final matches.

I was really in Xian's corner come the finals - mostly just 'cause I wanted to see a Gen win - but no, a Ken.  Oh well.  Here's the extended trailer.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Aw man there was a new Dying Light trailer and I totally missed it.



Be the zombie. Takes cues from Dark Souls (invading other players' games), still permits the game's badass platforming, looks terribly fun and cool for all involved.

God I love you, Techland.