Friday, August 31, 2012

Dead Island: Riptide - first screens!

Dead Island: Riptide, it now turns out, is a direct-sequel to Dead Island - which just happened to be one of last year's funnest, most surprising games, warts and all.  It's due out in 2013.

And, unfortunately, I have a social engagement tonight which I am loathe to ignore - so that's all you're getting from me today.  Much love (chest thump) peace out.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Personal note.

Nothing interesting happened today unless you count a first-act plot synopsis of the God of War movie that probably won't get made, or the addition of Nariko (Heavenly Sword) and Sir Daniel Fortesque (MediEvil) to PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale's roster.

And I'm sick as a dog, so g'night.

Middle Manager of Justice : the next thing from Double Fine.

I really need to start considering an iPad.

Metal Gear Solid : Ground Zeroes announced.

A movie, maybe, a new Metal Gear social game... who cares?  The Actual News from Konami's anniversary celebration is Ground Zeroes - a new, open-world Metal Gear Solid for PS3, 360 and, likely, next-gen platforms.
"The concept behind Ground Zeroes is that this is a "Game without Game Over". So even if a player is discovered in this stealth title, the part where the game would usually end (their discovery) turns into their escape."
The top image is apparently an in-engine screenshot, which Konami calls "a challenge to the world."  It's official - Naked Snake is back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PS1 Classics are playable on the Vita - right now.

*Not actually what it looks like.  The PS1 image - in order not to double up on some pixels - is slightly smaller, and centered.  It can be stretched in a variety of ways. 

Ever since I bought my Vita I've had two PS1 classics sitting, uninstalled on my PS3; Metal Gear Solid and Chrono Trigger.  I would also have T'Ai Fu, but nobody remembers that game - and Resident Evil 2, but I forgot that game.

Well, with today's 1.80 update for the Vita, you can now play PlayStation Classics on your Vita!  The emulation appears nearly identical to the PSP version - replete with the PSP's start-up screen - but similar to the Vita's PSP emulation, you can hold a finger to the Vita's screen to bring up an options menu.  And - just like with the Vita's PSP emulation - the very short list Sony announced does not actually represent the number of games that will run on your Vita.

That list, it should be noted, represents games that you are able to download via the Vita.  Only nine games are available to download through the Vita's store - Arc the Lad, Cool Boarders 2, Final Fantasy VII, Hot Shots Golf 2, Jet Moto, Syphon Filter, Tomb Raider, Twisted Metal 2 and Wild Arms.

If you've got a PS3, though, chances are good you can snag your PS1 classic off the PSN store there, and copy it right over to your Vita using the content manager.  Gamers are already testing, and the list of titles that actually works is growing by the minute.

Mark of the Ninja drops September 7th.

Mark of the Ninja, an action-stealth title - and the next game from Klei Entertainment, the folks who gave us the sublime Shank 2, one of the best games of the year thus far - finally has a release date.  All year we were merely told "Summer 2012" - but now, it's official.  Mark of the Ninja drops September 7th on XBLA.

Day one.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wal-Mart commits crime against art; cannot be reached for comment.

Yesterday I made a quick round through Wal-Mart, secured myself two 12-packs of Pepsi and went into the electronics section.  I hauled the cases up onto the counter and the fellow asked me if that was all I needed.

"No, can I get a copy of Sleeping Dogs for PS3 please?"

He got the keys and went off to the display case.  As I was waiting - wierdly - another Wal-Mart associate came up and asked if it was just the two cases of Pepsi for me.  "Well, these and the game there," I thumbed in the direction of the other associate, coming back with my game.

Having purchased my sundries I returned home, pulled the game out of the bag and saw...

What the... that doesn't look like a sticker... is that a sticker?

That is not a sticker.  One of the best pieces of box art in years and...

I stared at it.  It couldn't be true.  I scratched at it, through the plastic.

No.  No bones about it - it was a unique insert just for sale in Wal-Mart.  My copy of Sleeping Dogs, forever befouled by their corporate logo.

It wasn't too late. I hadn't unsealed it - I could take it back to the store - doesn't Wal-Mart have a no-hassles return policy?

I don't know why I unsealed it, but I did.  I wanted to play Sleeping Dogs and I anticipated my disgust at the cover art would fade in time.

It hasn't.  So, fuck you, Wal-Mart.  On the bright side, Sleeping Dogs is pretty endearing!  Also, sweet soundtrack!  I want to spend all my time in the cars, just to hear the music.  It's up there with Lollipop Chainsaw and Max Payne 3 for best game tunes of 2012.

Also, a ton of foreign-language rap!

Perhaps I should be playing Dust: An Elysian Tail - the only Summer of XBLA game I was really dying to play - but ten minutes with the title didn't really grab me to the point that I find myself wanting to return to it.  Sleeping Dogs, on the other hand, demands attention.

[update]Oh, and while we're on the subject - remember that cool live-action trailer Squenix put out after they picked up the game?  I'd almost forgotten about it - seeing it after playing the game certainly makes it a bit more... resonant.

Damnit.  I shoulda' called this post "Wal-Mart commits true crime."  A lost opportunity :( [/update]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A short review - Darksiders II.

Imagine The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  There's a great big world to explore - a vast overworld dotted with dungeons, and lots of places you won't be able to see until you return with an item you won't get for another ten hours.  Now add in combat of a smooth, expressive, stylish slickness that's somewhere between Devil May Cry and God of War.  Now toss in comfortable platforming reminiscent of Prince of Persia's 2008 outing.  Now remove anything cutsey - remove the faeries and sparkles and sweetness - and replace the setting with the aftermath of the end of days.  Replace the pig-men enemies with demons and angels.

Replace Link with a rider of the apocalypse.  That's Darksiders II.

If that sounds absolutely wonderful, I assure you it is. This time around Vigil have thrown in a Diablo-esque loot system that works rather well - and their adaptation of Ubisoft's platforming mechanics works beautifully - but the game's design is hampered by such a staggering wealth of content that relatively little of it stands out, and resonates.

The game also has jaw-dropping, progression-halting bugs that run a PS3 player the risk of having to start the entire thing over from the 10- or 15-hour mark, and a few weird choices like the removal of multiple manual save slots, or a system that locks away your ability to perform the first game's God of War-style finishers on your enemies unless you're wearing gear with the +Execution stat.  But it's the bugs that threaten the entire experience.  

Usually I would say "damnit, Vigil.  You're not Bethesda and I'm not going to take this shit from you," but The Legend of Zelda plus Devil May Cry plus Prince of Persia plus Badassness is so damned special.  No other developer is doing this.  No one else offers something even close to this heady mixture.

This combination of shamelessly-cribbed design and mechanics is a joy to play.  There's something so emotionally accessible, something so wholesome about the basic design of rambling through a large world, descending into a dungeon and scrambling up and down it, solving puzzles and defeating monsters, that I can't find it in me to condemn Darksiders II.

Is Darksiders II so special that, like Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas, it gets a pass despite its significant and egregious bugs?

God help me, I think it is.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A word of warning.

Below, you will find the Darksiders II review.  It's very, very long.

My apologies.  TL:DR - Darksiders II is a game I can't help but love - a delicious, unique blend of expressive combat, comfortable platforming and sprawling exploration - always fun, and well worth sixty dollars, even as the pacing lags and bugs threaten to stop your progression dead.

[update]  There, I made a Coles Notes version of the review above.  That feels better. [/update]

REVIEW - Darksiders II.

Dear Vigil Games,

You're not there yet.

When I say this, please understand it comes from a place of love.  I love what you guys are doing.  I love your vision.  I love your ambition and I love your games.  I've been watching you since you put out a (terrible!) gameplay video featuring horrific graphics in which a stocky, nondescript, rumbling character who would become War traipsed around a huge, featureless, brown-on-brown desert.  It looked awful - but your enthusiasm was infectious, and I wanted to believe.  More than anything, I want to play the game you want to make - but I can't help feeling Darksiders II isn't... quite... it.

I can see the game Darksiders could be, through the trees.  Beyond the fumbly menus and the bugs and the far-too-broad scope of your sequel.  Behind the razor focus and the straight-up-theft/homages of gameplay mechanics of your original.

You're getting there.  You've taken two steps forward and one step back.  You'll get there.

I believe in you.

Your platforming is a massive step forward.  Whoever put Death's locomotion together deserves a raise, because no one else has done this before.

For the uninitiated, Darksiders II's platforming is an almost-direct-rip of the mechanics of Prince of Persia's 2008 iteration.  There are less bells and whistles, but it's got wall-running and hookshot-grabs and wall-run extending nubs and you can spring back and forth between walls and... well, a wonderful sense of speed and flow.  It works great - and when I say this hasn't been done before, I mean the combination.

God of War, Devil May Cry, The Legend of Zelda - their platforming sucks.  It's absolutely useless - particularly when compared to comfortable, beautiful mechanics like this.  Prince of Persia may have mastered platforming of this ilk, but Ubisoft always married it to far-below-par combat... and you haven't done that.

Sucker Punch and Naughty Dog have already combined platforming with excellent third-person shooting, but as far as I'm concerned you - you, Vigil games - are the first ones to successfully blend it with great melee combat.

My God.

Whoever refined your combat system deserves a raise.  Where Darksiders' mechanics could be directly traced to Devil May Cry - the gold standard of brawling in three dimensions - Darksiders II's combat feels like... well, Darksiders.  Somehow, just as satisfying as Devil May Cry - and, to this blogger, more enjoyable than God of War's.


Built on a streamlined, accessible system of timed button presses, Darksiders II allows the player a wealth of options in combat - floating enemies, air combos, direct-damage, crowd control and special moves tied to skill trees - it doesn't feel like you've ripped off anything, here.  It's fast, tactical, thoughtful and rewards absolute viciousness.

Throwing a spinning scythe into a boss to watch it explode with blue and green wrath and health souls is so satisfying.  Mastering the timing allows your combat system to feel so... expressive.  And "expressive" is the highest compliment I can pay any combat system.

The way you've designed it to flow from one move to another is wonderful.  Going from a dodge to a heavy hammer slam to elegant scythe attacks to floating a foe to an air combo to the devastating skills... it works.  It works really well.

There are fabulous little touches, here.  The way Dust, Death's sentient crow and constant companion will land on your shoulder when you're stationary is... so iconic.  "See what you can find," Death growls with a press of L3, and Dust will fly off to show the way forward.

It's... unfortunate that his direction isn't entirely reliable.  When he flies to a wall halfway up a tower I'm in, and I've done everything at the top and bottom, he's not offering much help - but he's a great idea! - and far less cumbersome than Navi or The Watcher.  Just... not as uniformly helpful as say, Isaac Clarke's navigation system.

Speaking of little touches, whoever designed the doors in the Land of the Dead deserves a raise. (Each door has around 50 skulls lodged in it, and the eyes of a few skulls light up at your approach.  As you get closer, more of the door lights up to observe you before you push it open).

That's brilliant.

Whoever cast Michael Wincott deserves a raise.  You cast the bad guy from The Crow as Death - and it pays off big time.  Wincott's casual, incredibly gravelly voice is exactly what Death needs - it's as iconic as his familiar, and a perfect compliment to the darkly funny, comfortably merciless rider - it's just a shame he rarely has access to material of the same cheesy, dramatic gravitas War did back in 2010.

Death's story feels almost boring, when compared to War's.  It's not, really.  It's not bad at all - it's punctuated by some seriously cool stuff - it just has abysmal pacing, a sparse introduction and a terrible ending.

And I'm sorry to tell you, but nearly the entire game has pacing that could only generously be described as such.  This is a potential hazard of any and all sandboxes, but Darksiders II regularly drags due to the phenomenal saminess of what you're doing and why you're doing it.  Doubly egregious is the fact that the final boss in your game is mechanically identical to almost thirty other bosses I fought.  It was no grander or more challenging than anything else in the previous twenty-five hours - visually, almost identical to them - and a rather large disappointment, as such.

There have got to be over fifty boss fights in Darksiders II - but almost none of them actually stand out.  They blur together to form a thick slurry of large foes with broad shoulders and huge weapons - usually covered in spikes.

Where was a boss fight to rival Tiamat?  Where was a battle that used my combat tools to the same effect as she, Sithila or The Griever?  Nowhere to be found, I'm afraid (aside from the Arena Champion, I suppose).

Oh, Vigil.  By painting so broadly and offering so much, there is less to remember about your game.

There are moments, of course.  Wonderful moments.  My defeat of the Guardian - the most successful riff on a Shadow of the Colossus-style boss fight since you yourselves offered up the Stygian two years ago - is a hit.  The ringing of the bell at Serpent's peak is super cool, and... well, I'm actually having trouble thinking of others.

The why of Death's actions nearly always feels paper-thin, when compared to War's righteous indignation.  You arrive at X.  To leave this realm you must do Y three times.  Often, in a dungeon, you will have to complete Z three times.  Then, once you triumphantly escape your current realm and find yourself set to explore the next, you stroll up to the leader of that world and learn... you're going to have to do Y.


Compounding this tedium of design is the (philosophically commendable) inclusion of a ton of side quests, collectibles and optional dungeons to explore.  In terms of telling a story - in terms of actually involving me in this fantastical world, Darksiders II is an almost complete failure.  In terms of providing the player with an absolute wealth of content to explore, it's a boon.

It's a pleasure to play, and that is your saving grace.

The fact that This Dungeon looks and feels identical to the last five I went through is unfortunate, but that doesn't stop the combat that fills it from being thrilling, stylish and satisfying.  Scampering up this wall may be exactly like the last ten walls I had to climb, but that doesn't stop the platforming from being slick, comfortable and well-implemented.

Dashing across the fields of the Forgelands and hopping off my spectral steed to snap up a page of the Book of the Dead (I know a demon who'll pay handsomely for this) or a power gem (to feed a sentient construct of stone) doesn't get old, and successfully taps in to every gamer's completist compulsions.  Riding towards my next waypoint and deciding to detour into an optional dungeon containing I-know-not-what is never boring.

Darksiders II - much more than the original - is a game that's endlessly fun to just play.  It's just that the game is spread so far and so wide that the rare crests of inspired storytelling or epic vistas - of anything memorable - are washed away under buffeting waves of identical-looking dungeons and (far more varied than the original, and yet) limited enemy design.

And then... there's the bugs.

Nearly absent on my first playthrough, Darksiders II has repeatedly stymied my desire to continue playing by way of occasional and cruel coding gremlins that make a Bethesda game look like the pinnacle of quality control.  There are less bugs here, to be sure, but they are absolutely devastating.

A major side quest may be entirely shut out.  The final dungeon of the first act may suffer a crack, and prevent you from moving any further in your game.  An NPC may stubbornly refuse to speak to me - even though he is my next waypoint - and I am denied access to the entire last third of the game.

What the Hell, Vigil?  You don't seriously believe that a game your players may never be able to finish is ready for release, do you?

At times, I worry Darksiders II is taking too much of my good will for granted.  The way you bludgeon me with suggestions to buy DLC every time I start up the game is just...  unseemly.

I want better from you.  And I believe in you.  I believe you can do it - so here's what I want you to think about, between now and Darksiders III...

One : You make very good games.  What elevates a good game to special is, more often than not, the small touches.  I want you to look at everything in your game and ask yourself how you can make it more memorable.  How you can add more character to it. Why isn't there a slick animation for Death pulling out his resolver, for example?

Fill your game with moment of genius and style akin to the doors of the dead.

Two : With Darksiders, you stand to enter competition with some of the best developers in the industry.  Don't come back with Darksiders III until your presentation can stand toe-to-toe with Sony Santa Monica or Sucker Punch.  I want Darksiders III to represent a leap of overall quality that echoes the difference between inFamous and inFamous 2, Assassin's Creed and Assassin's Creed II, or Uncharted and Uncharted 2.  That means, I'm afraid, better graphics - but "better" does not have to mean "more expensive."

Delve deeper into the artistic sensibilities of your key art, and make worlds that more closely resemble a moving painting.   The next Darksiders needs to be gorgeous - and look like nothing else.  Continue to separate yourself from the rest of the industry, by doing what they're not.

Three :  If it's not a set piece, I don't want to see it in any story dungeon. You've created an amazingly cool fantasy universe.  I want everything in it to be so striking and memorable that I don't need a map to navigate the overworld - and I want a narrative that thrills me with the details and grand opera that's surely been driving this series, 'cause I've seen far too little of that, here.

Four : Continue to refine your two core gameplay tenets - the combat and platforming - but don't give us combat tools unless they're actually useful.  I didn't use my revolver for anything but shooting insects and gemstones, and rarely needed the Death Grip for anything but the platforming.

I love you, Vigil, and God help me but I love your latest game.  I love it despite the relative tedium of its boss encounters even as I thrill to its supple combat.  I love it despite the blatant saminess of my objectives, despite the identical-looking dungeons, despite the occasional puzzle that seems to defy all logic and mechanical progression, despite the awful ending and (comparatively) limp opening.

I love playing this game - and that, in and of itself, is all one should ever need - but the game-stopping bugs must be fixed.  They represent such clear and present danger to a gamer's enjoyment of Darksiders II that I hesitate to even give it a recommendation - but my faith in you remains.  I believe you'll patch this game, even as I condemn you for releasing it in such a state.

Darksiders II is a grand vision - a vision I can't help but share.  It's regularly beautiful, inspired and inspiring - even as it's dragged down by the sheer volume of its content.

Exploring a huge, expanding world, getting in awesome fights with supernatural foes, zipping effortlessly around ancient ruins.  That's the Darksiders II that I love.  It's far from perfect - and perhaps even a few fathoms short of the game you had in mind - but it's still something special.  Something wonderful.

Something no one else is doing.  So thank you, Vigil games, for that much.  I can't wait to see what you do next.

With love,

  • just fun to play, all the way
  • there are many, many improvements over the original Darksiders - and more than a few people at Vigil deserve raises
  • supple, expressive, fun combat that makes you feel totally badass and really rewards thoughtful aggression
  • I love the way you access different scythe moves when you mix alternate weapon attacks into your combos
  • Easygoing, comfortable platforming very akin to modern Prince of Persias.  Even swimming is totally natural - and I love that you made L2 a button to jump backwards off ledges/pillars a'la tilting the controller back in Uncharted.  More games need to do that.
  • often wonderful art direction
  • excellent music!  I want the soundtrack.
  • Michael Wincott as death is awesome
  • an absolutely massive amount of content.  Tons of side quests, and (what feels like) ten optional dungeons on top of a fifteen or twenty-hour campaign
  • The Crucible is very cool
  • a good sense of progression - you feel like an absolute badass by level twenty, and a true harbinger of death by 30
  • there are a few wonderful little touches
  • The system for possessed weapons is wicked cool.  I love my +attack power +crit chance +crit damage +health on crit scythes.  I named them Ravenous. 
  • I rather like that I can customize Death's abilities to suit my playstyle.  Harbinger tree FTW. 
  • the Guardian was cool
  • I like meeting characters from the original game again - and kind of wish more time was spent exploring their relationship with Death
  • Most of the dungeons and bosses in the game all kind of blend together.  Even the final boss - which is pretty much a hate crime against your fans, and almost none of the boss fights really compare to the major bosses of Darksiders.
  • You need a way better system for comparing items in the shop/on the ground to what's in your inventory.  It's like sometimes it shows you all the differences but other times it won't - what's up with that?
  • The loot system lends itself regularly to imbalance in combat.  I'm level 30 and still wearing a level 20 shoulder piece because nothing better has dropped.
  • I hate that as a melee/crit-centric Death, I'm obligated to wear heavy, spiky armor. I feel that the character would be more striking and iconic if you'd just made one design for him and stuck with it. 
  • It's great to have an overworld as vast as what you've got, here, but I'd like to see more striking set pieces that differentiate areas better. 
  • Bugs!  They're under my skin!  Get them out, get them out!
  • the story feels about 50% as cool as the story in Darksiders, most notably the opening and the ending
  • uneven pacing
  • if your game world is going to be so big, it'd be nice to have it a bit more densely populated.  The bases in the Land of the Dead and the Forge Lands never really feel like towns. 
  • the final third was a bit of a disappointment after what came before - even as it massively improves the pacing
  • fumbly, inelegant menus
  • tying the God-of-War-style finishers to a stat on my gear was... a weird choice.  I'm sorry I didn't get to see all the cool finishing animations you made, Vigil :(
  • the lack of multiple, manual save slots was a bad idea
Darksiders II is a game I can't help but love - a delicious, unique blend of expressive combat, comfortable platforming and sprawling exploration - always fun, and well worth sixty dollars, even as the pacing lags and bugs threaten to stop your progression dead.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tons of gameplay in this Tokitowa trailer.

Well... maybe not tons - given that tons is a weight - but at least a good 40 seconds worth!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The malevolent bugs of Darksiders II. Also, Nickelback.

I'm still playing Darksiders II, and you're still not getting a review.  I'll explain in a moment.

First of all, why do I like this song?  I've been listening to it all day, and it's like Korn does their best Nickelback impression - very... for-popular-consumption - but I do like it.  Speaking of Nickelback?  I don't get all the hate.  I appreciate that everyone hates Nickelback, but I don't get why.  Do you know how many albums these fuckers have sold?  A kajillion.  They're like the most commercially successful rock band since U2 - and by all accounts, they're super-nice guys.

I even had a friend who was at a music festival out in British Columbia, and Chad Kroeger shared a "festive cigarette" with her.  I can find nothing hateful in that.

Seriously - listen to Animals and tell me there's nothing wonderful and joyous going on.

I'm not a Nickelback fan.  I've got like, two songs of theirs on my iPod - this and Rockstar - but I seriously don't understand why folks flip out when they get booked for a halftime show for their favorite sport.  It's friggin' pop-rock - why so serious?

by Patrick Brown.

Meanwhile... I'm still playing Darksiders II.

Last night, I was playing through it again and having a fabulous time.  There's a system in the game for essentially customizing your weapons, but it's not introduced as such.  As items and weapons dropped, they are surrounded by a green, blue, purple or red outline - or none at all, which denotes a base-level item.

The red ones are the rarest - "possessed weapons" which have no inherent qualities.  They are basically base-level items - with no cool added stats - that you can level up by feeding other items to.  Now... here's the awesome part (though it's never explained in the game); they take on the attributes of the item you feed them, that dings them to the next level.

This redefines the value of all the other crap items you pick up.  "The scythe I'm using has +20 strength and +15% critical hit damage - but this green scythe just has +15% to critical chance.  Might as well sell it..." is no longer the internal dialogue.  It becomes "yes!  Plus crit!  I'm throwing you in the leveling pile!"

You want and need these piddly green and blue items because, with proper application, you can design yourself a scythe that hits like a truck with +25% crit chance, a +25% critical damage bonus and +60 to strength which reaves fifty hit points out of your enemy each time you land a critical strike.

With a crit-centric build (71% crit chance!), the melee spec tree and my custom scythes, I am a fucking monster.  It's wonderful.  

One combo, buddy.  That's all you're gonna' take.

And I'm prancing through New Game+ as one imagines they would prance through a field of tulips, were they an energetic and free-spirited eight-year-old girl.  It's just so pleasant.  So wholesome and comfortable.  Now I'm poking around an optional mini-dungeon.  Now I'm performing some fancy platforming to grab a collectible.  Now I'm hopping off Despair, my malevolent and loyal spectral steed, in order to stroll up to a massive stone arm and awaken it.

It hauls itself off towards its body, and I leap into the air as Despair rises out of the ground beneath me to fly off to find adventure!  It's so nice...

But man, it's got bugs.

I didn't want to believe it when I saw the Kotaku review which advises gamers not to invest in Darsiders II yet because of bugs.  I didn't think it could possibly be that bad.  I mean, I've played and loved Bethesda RPGs for years, and that's as bad as it gets - right?

Wrong.  These bugs aren't as copious - but when they appear, they are far more severe.

Not all bugs in DII are awesome bugs.

During my first playthrough, there was a side quest that I simply could not complete.  Upon entering the dungeon, there is a book you have to read to activate a portal - and each time I touched the book, the game would hard freeze.

I tried for an hour.  I shut my PS3 down and booted it back up.  I fast-traveled to another part of the map and rode back manually.  I tried every possible permutation of actions prior to arriving at the dungeon in the hopes that somehow it would fix itself, but eventually I abandoned my pursuit of the Soul Arbiter.

There were a few other random freezes - Bethesda-quality stuff - but it didn't stop me from completing the campaign.  Then, last night, I was working my way through the final dungeon of the game's first act, and a bug stopped me cold.

An NPC - who'd had no issues on my initial playthrough - was stuck on a door.  I had knocked an item loose it was to pick up, and - being stuck - it couldn't.  So I walked away in the hopes that the NPC would re-spawn and grab the thing...

For two hours I worked my way up and down that dungeon - leaving, returning, going back to the item, cursing at the NPC, trying my damnedest to get its AI head out of its AI ass, but there was nothing for it.

This wasn't some option side quest I could take or leave - this was the final dungeon of the first act.  The character wouldn't pick up the item, and I was fucked.

Git funky now. 

This would have been easily remedied, were I able to protect myself with the multiple saves which are so handy in buggy games - but Darksiders II doesn't permit that.  My only hope, I reckoned, was going back to my latest PlayStation Plus cloud save and working my way through the two or three hours I'd put into DII yesterday.

And that, I decided, was that.  I wasn't prepared to give a final word on the game - not yet - but Darksiders II had given its own.  Like Kotaku, it's impossible for me to give a hearty recommendation to a game that can toss the last thirty hours you poured into it out the window and request your start over.

That's... really messed up.  It makes me wonder how bad the game was when they decided to delay it from it's original June launch - and really makes me wish they'd given it another three months for a second barrage of quality control.

After work today, I arrived home prepared to download my PS+ save in order to see if I could continue - but just to be safe, I deleted the most-recent autosave and loaded up the previous one (weirdly, it seems to store two - which is handy).

The second-last autosave was still after the game had screwed up - but just to be safe, I returned to the room with the item.  The NPC was stuck in another room now, halfway across the map - and there was the item, back up in its pedestal, as if I'd never knocked it loose.

Well, what the heck?  I climbed back up, knocked it loose again, and the NPC came lumbering up to scoop up its prize.


And now I have the option of continuing my NG+ playthrough, and I find that's what I want to do.

I don't know if another bug will rear its hideous head an deny me passage, but when Darksiders II is really doing its thing, it's some of the most pleasant gaming this side of Link to the Past.

"I feel jus' like a leetle gurrrl."
You're probably too young for this reference.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Personal note.

I think, by all rights, I could write the Darsiders II review.  I finished it on normal difficulty - that's the line, for me - but I can't, yet.  Going back through it on New Game+ is such a significantly more pleasurable experience, I need to see how deep this rabbit hole goes.

So that's what I'll be doing for the rest of the night.  Laters.

State of Decay.

Well this looks pretty cool - I'm not even going to bitch about the jerky animations.  PC/360 exclusive.

"The end is here. Life as you knew it has gone to hell after the mother of all zombie outbreaks. Now you and the few scattered survivors must band together to survive and rebuild in a 3rd-person action game set in a dynamic open world. You choose where to make your stand, designing and fortifying your home base, performing daring raids for food and ammunition, and rescuing other playable survivors with unique talents. The open, sandbox world develops in real-time, shaped by your actions, dynamically generating content based on your choices and the ever-increasing zombie threat. 
State of Decay is an open world zombie-survival game, currently under development at Undead Labs for release on Xbox 360 / Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tokyo Jungle drops September 25th on PSN.

I've been aware of this game since its announcement, and I've followed it as it's progressed - though, oddly, this is my first post on the subject - but even I, upon watching the above trailer, had to exclaim "what is this I don't even."

If you even, you can buy it for $14.99 this September.
"Tokyo Jungle puts you in the shoes (paws?) of over 50 playable animals ranging from Pomeranians to Lions. Playing your animal of choice, unleash your inner beast to hunt your way to the top of Tokyo’s post-apocalyptic food chain. 
There are two game modes: in Story Mode, you’ll play as a range of different animals whose lives are intertwined as they struggle to survive in the Tokyo wilderness, while unraveling the mystery of mankind’s disappearance. In Survival Mode, you will hunt, occupy territories, and produce offspring to secure future generations and resist extinction. As you progress, you’ll also obtain survival points to unlock playable animals and purchase costumes to increase your abilities."
-PlayStation Blog-

New GTA V screens confirm planes, bikes.

Also, cars.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

MOVIE - ParaNorman.

Paranorman was a fun time at the movies, and just as strange as Coraline in that 'should-little-kids-be-seeing-this?' way.  It also doesn't feel quite like such a singular vision as Coraline - perhaps because that was based on a novel, while Paranorman's story is original.

Still, it delivers a sprinkling of well-timed jokes, a wholesome lesson for the kids and the the visual delights you expect from the studio.  Just don't see it in 3D - the darkening of the glasses really hurts a movie like this.

* * *

I beat Darksiders II today, and I'm sorry to report it has one of those "seriously... that's it?" endings.  The game felt like it should have gone on for another full act at least - something replicating the grandeur of the Forge Lands or the realm of the dead that followed - but it never returns to those splendorous, wide-openish playgrounds once you get into act 3.  

This is a game that exemplifies the question "which is more important, the journey or the destination?" And with that, I have to get up early - so g'night.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A little of this, a little of that.

I'm entirely absorbed in Darksiders II, even as I acknowledge that something was lost between now and 2010.  Combat is just as satisfying, if not moreso, traversal is vastly improved, and the game is just as gigantic as Vigil promised us - but it still manages to feel less grand than the original.

It was easily sixty dollars well spent - imperfect, but ambitious and definitely capable of scratching that certain itch that only Darksiders, Okami and Zelda have scritched before - but there are a few minute changes that I don't feel are for the best.

Still, I hear it picks up in the second half - fingers crossed!

Two notable blurays dropped this week.  The Raid: Redemption is just all kinds of awesome, and is pretty much the best martial arts movie you've seen since the last thing Yuen Woo Ping did fight choreography on.  Upon obtaining it, I offered it to my parents, as my father is in the habit of tailoring his viewing to my mother's tastes, and I thought he could use a good Man Movie.

When I checked on them, they were watching A Dangerous Method. My primary concern was whether or not it would be polite to make off with my bluray.  "So... you're not gonna' watch The Raid?"

"We watched a bit of it," said my father.  "You said it was an action movie but it's got pretty gratuitous violence."

"Yeah.  It's an action movie."

"Avengers is an action movie.  Spider-Man is an action movie."

"Those are adventure-"

"Those are action movies."

"Oookay then - no more R-rated movies for Dad..."

Kayla has read The Hunger Games books, but I felt no great need to see it.  To me, The Hunger Games was both Twilight Redux and The Thing That Copied Battle Royale.  It was the next popular action/romance novel to get turned into a movie, and who cares?  Twilight was awful, so this should be awful too.  My only interest in it was as an event movie - something that everyone's seen, so I might as well see too.

Well, shit.  The Hunger Games was a good show.  I feel like it actually handled the premise better than Battle Royale did, and found greater deposits of insight and narrative threads to mine from it.

That feels weird to say - but it's true, for me.

Once the credits rolled I turned to Kayla and was all "okay, she doesn't actually give a shit about Peta, right?" Because, somehow, by that time, I actually cared.  So good on ya, Hunger Games.  I'll see your sequel - if you get one.

And now, back to Darksiders II.

Friday, August 17, 2012

REVIEW - Sony's Wireless Stereo Headset for PS3.

Last year, I purchased the Wireless Stereo Headset for my PS3.  I don't have the space (or desire) for a big, woofing sound system that keeps the rest of the household awake - but I was still bothered by the fact that I regularly play games featuring fabulous audio design, boasting 7.1 surround sound capabilities, which was then squeezed through the flat stereo of my plasma screen's basic speakers.

My headset was promptly borrowed by my brother, and I pretty much didn't see it again until I bought him his own damn set for Christmas.

He really, really loves these things - and, for the record, so do I.  It fits my requirements to a T.

Sizzle video with authentic paid actors!

The headset creates "virtual" 7.1 surround sound - effective to the point that you can hear events in games whooshing over your head, and you can sense enemy placement by sound alone. It is, really, a game-changer when it comes to atmospheric titles like Dark Souls, Dead Space and Skyrim, but it's just as effective at getting the most out of any well-made title - Lollipop Chainsaw, Max Payne 3, Mass Effect 3 all feel somehow grander when hearing all the little things through these 'phones.

It wasn't unusual, for example, to discover all sorts of little audio touches I'd never noticed in Dead Space 2 when playing through it again, with this thing gently cradling my tender ears.  The experience is just richer, for the headset.

It's ideal - and perfect - for multiplayer, where others sound perfectly clear and I've never had a teammate tell me they're unable to hear me.  It's a bit odd that I can always hear my own voice through the headphones - but that's the closest I can come to a complaint about it.

It helps that the thing is comfortable, reliable and sturdy.  It should be noted that the first time I bought one, it had a lot of static in the right ear - some variety of manufacturing defect that wasn't present in my replacement set or my brother's.

The battery life is fine - there's surely an official duration, but I can say I've never drained a fully-charged set in a day's gaming.  If it gets low while in the middle of some grand adventure, you can jack in to it with the same USB cable you use to charge your Dualshocks and keep right on playing.

It's a large device that sits comfortably, and the earpads themselves are so big that they entirely ensconce  one's tender ears, never leaving them feeling pressed upon or bruised.  You can wear it for hours, no sweat.

Really, there's nothing to complain about with this little baby.  After about a year with the device, I am wholly satisfied.  It's ideal for late-night gaming when you don't want to disturb your friends and lovers, and it delivers excellent audio quality, offering a surround-sound option for folks who aren't compelled to put together a full-on multi-speaker setup.

It has super-accessible controls for controlling master volume, the surround sound, the voice chat/game audio mix all right on the headphones themselves - as simple to tweak as raising a hand to your ear.

A hundred dollars might seem steep for a pair of headphones, but these things are excellent, for their purpose.'s got them up for an easy eighty, right now, and if you're in the market to improve your gaming experience or just don't want to worry about bugging others with your volume levels when playing games or watching movies through your PS3, this thing is perfect.

What it comes down to is that these really do significantly improve my experience with games.  Highly recommended.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Almost five minutes of Okami HD.

...not really sure why they show this sequence.  I mean, sure, it's still a video of a prettied-up version of one of the prettiest games ever, but why not show the blooming of the Guardian Sapling?  That's the super-cool part.

Devil May Cry gets box art.

It's a promo image we saw a while ago, but jazzed up with the logo.

Personally, I woulda' preferred the NSFW one where he's being set upon by a harem of sexy angels in shiny metallic underoos:

...but I doubt Wal-Mart would let it on their shelves.