Friday, November 30, 2012

Almost done.

Hitman: Absolution turns into a very different beast on the harder difficulty settings, and I'm having trouble identifying it as a good thing.  Even armed with an intricate knowledge of each level, the total lack of UI on Purist or even the absence of the Instinct information - which is crucial when moving through populated areas - really frustrate the experience, for me.

I promised myself I was going to dive in to a vicious killing spree, but my Automatic Game Digestion Mode insisted I up the difficulty - and in doing so, I find I'm having less fun.  I'm not sure if I should dial the difficulty down to normal and start killing everything, or crank it to Purist mode and see if I can stomach that most gruesome of challenges.

More time required - but not much.

* * *

In other news...

  • For no reason whatsoever I was poking around the 'net in search of additional proof of the Hitman trilogy getting an HD up-port, and found trophy lists for all three games.
  • If you're in Europe, you can sign up for the God of War: Ascension multiplayer beta

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The briefest of Game Diaries - Hitman: Absolution.

After spending many long, lazy hours backstroking through Absolution - following strict self-imposed Silent Assassin protocols of only using non-lethal force on folks who aren't express targets of my sneaky wrath - I discover it is, in fact, the game I wanted it to be.  It's just lacking a few of the bullet-point features I would assign to a Hitman game - specifically the standardized levels (huge, always with a target to be killed) and the home base with a badass weapons room.

Even without these, it's atmospheric and tense and gorgeous and it plays better than any previous entry in the franchise.  With time came affection, and now, yes, love.

I'm hoping to beat the game (Silent Assassin-style) tonight before diving back in and mucking about with silent but lethal runs, messily taking out everyone in my path without being spotted.  You know a game is good if you're midway through one playthrough, already looking forward to the next.

Five new Dead Island Riptide screens.

Not exactly the belle of the ball, is it?

Do I spy a cover system?  That's new.

Still - it's not the graphics that made me fall in love with Dead Island.  As long as Xian Mei is still a holy terror with the blades and the melee combat retains its tactile, immersive brutality, I'll be a happy camper.

Fourteen new Dead Space 3 screens.

Well, okay - thirteen screens and a nifty bit of concept art.

Pfft - way to stay positive, am I right?

Hey, it's Ellie!  Hi Ellie!  You were awesome in Dead Space 2!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More a short film than a launch trailer.

Far Cry 3's "launch trailer" is over ten minutes long - and does its best to tell you absolutely everything about the game.  Does it hype me a bit?  Sure - but we already know everything it's telling us.  The game has already gotten some fabulous reviews - this should be a thirty-second superhot sizzle reel that packs as much awesome as possible into a few precious seconds.

Still hyped - but man, I gave up on this thing at the eight minute mark.  I'm surprised I made it that far.

The leaked Destiny images.

The next thing from Halo dev Bungie - which they've been very hush-hush about - appears to be coming to PS3.  Good for us!  What do we know?  A teensy bit - sounds ambitious!

Click to embiggen, of course.


Certainly worth keeping an eye on. And now, given that no other news has happened and I can't wait to play more Hitman, I'm not going to.  Wait, I mean.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This is your doing, Mogs.

Kotaku's got an opinion article up about how bad Sony screwed the pooch on the Vita.

Like a good butthurt fanboy, I took to the comments section and fired off a diatribe - mostly standing atop Mogs' sage wisdom last week - and I blathered on for so long I figured "well heck, this is a blog post."

The gist of Schreier's article is that the platform is too expensive and doesn't have enough good games that aren't ports.  Well...

* * *

Sony's platforms have always been the pricy ones, but I fail to see having some seriously sweet ports like Metal Gear Solid HD, (the oh-my-God-gorgeous) Rayman Origins, the upcoming Muramasa: The Demon Blade and yes, P4G as a negative. Those are all games I want to carry around in my pocket.
Sure, Persona 4 Golden is the best all-round game on the system - it's a phenomenally polished, refined and accomplished version of one of (if not the) best turn-based RPGs of all time - but that doesn't make Gravity Rush any less awesome.

Also, I really enjoyed Golden Abyss. It felt like a proper Uncharted to me - though the way they shoehorned in touch controls reeked of the silly sixaxis crap at the dawn of the current gen - and that's what this whole discussion echoes to me. A friend pointed out a disturbing similarity the other day, and he's right:
It's 2012 and "the Vita's got no games." Once upon a time it was 2008 and "the PS3's got no games." What these platforms also have in common is a company behind them which wields the largest and arguably most accomplished first-party development community in the world.
I too feel spikes of fear when I see news that the 3DS outsold the Vita 47 to 1 in Japan a few weeks ago - fear that third party devs may abandon the system for the greener pastures of more popular platforms - but I'm not too concerned about having awesome games to play on my Vita. If Sony have anything, it's talented first-party devs - and a pub fund that gets great-looking stuff like Guacamelee in the pipeline.
Now, if only they would ink a deal with Klei Entertainment and give me someShank and Mark of the Ninja on the go... ignoring the Muramasa port, we've already got a new game from Vanillaware on the way, after all...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Omega DLC trailer.

Hmmm maybe I should give that game another spin.  I've been meaning to return to it prior to my GotY deliberations...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Game Diary - Hitman: Absolution.

After a questionable start, Hitman: Absolution reveals itself to be a proper Hitman game, and satisfying in that regard.  If you love Hitman games, you'll love Absolution.  It makes changes to the formula here and there - some work, others don't - but it's still a current-gen Hitman game, and that's far better than the current-gen Hitman game we didn't have two weeks ago.

Judo kick!

I've always loved the Hitman games.  Even the first one, which suuucked.  I played the demo on PC before it came out (the game was a graphical marvel that ran like crap), and spent about ninety minutes trying to figure the game out before giving up at the fumbly controls and hitchy framerate.

Years later, after I played II, Contracts and Blood Money, I installed a digital copy of Codename 47 and tried again.  Beat the game - it still sucked.

But the others - the PS2 era games - I entirely adored, even when we weren't supposed to like them.  I loved Hitman II with its lovely European locales, booming, grand score and slick animations.  The controls were iffy, but the presentation was phenomenal.  The attention to detail.

God, I still remember the tender thrill that ran up my spine when I would pull the fiber wire out of my jacket and watch 47 twist his wrists to tighten the wire as he snuck up on a target to a gentle shinnng sound.  It was awesome.

...why doesn't Absolution have that animation?

There are a few things Absolution does that are disappointments, when compared to its predecessors.  Not all of these are tied to its presentation.  I was, frankly, expecting more from Io Interactive in the animation department - the wonderful incidental animations (47 pulling a shotgun from a box of roses Terminator 2-style in Contracts, the roses flying everywhere as the barrel slaps down into his left hand... mmm) - are a large part of what defined the series for me, and it's disappointing to see the game take a step backward, here, even as it keeps fine, weighty animations for 47's interactions with the environment.

Absolution should have looked to - honestly - Uncharted 2 and 3 and tried to one-up Naughty Dog in this regard.  There should be slick fucking animations of 47 pulling the silverballers from under his coat, of 47 tightening his fiber wire - of little touches - as opposed to weapons and objects simply appearing in his hands.

That's amateur hour stuff, people.

Additionally, I fucking hate that 47 has lost his armory - which, in Hitman II, remember, could be as simple as a gardener's shack behind a church, slowly filling with all manner of things that cut, bash, slice, stab and go boom - and will now walk into a mission with the shittiest weapons he can find.  Even if, in the mission previous, I walked away with two silenced semi-auto pistols, a sniper rifle, a shotgun and a sweet butcher's knife.  Get yourself tooled up, and 47 will tool himself down, so he's walking into a hospital full of murderous goons with nothing but a snub-nosed revolver.

Honestly, 47?  Didn't even want the silenced pistols?  Those come in handy, y'know.

So, in some regards, Absolution is a disappointment.  It's a Hitman game that doesn't do some things as well as a Hitman game should, but little of that is tied to the actual moment-to-moment gameplay.

The levels, you've no doubt heard, are not the wide-open playgrounds we enjoyed in every single Hitman game since the original. Instead, they are chunks of a larger level - the approach of a hotel, for example, followed by the first two floors, followed by the top two floors - split up by score counts and chapter headings.

This is distressing at first, but what you do within those chunks remains classic Hitman stuff.  You're still setting up unfortunate "accidents", you're still waiting in a cramped space for your target to get done with a lap-dance so you can choke him out, you're still the fellow in the chef's outfit that no one is quite sure they recognize.

Absolution still very much feels like a Hitman game, in all the ways that're good and bad.  The controls still take a great deal of getting used to, for example.  There's been no overhaul, here, and perhaps it was wrong to expect it.

Third-person shooting has never been Io's forte - just look at Kane & Lynch - and it's no better here.

What they should have relied on was their amazing atmosphere and presentation - but even that suffers under the weight of the (gorgeous) Glacier 2 engine.  Don't get me wrong - often when the artists are really doing their thing, Absolution provides some amazing, iconic, beautiful moments - but I often feel I'm more impressed by the tech of the engine than the efforts of the artists working with it, ignoring that the engine's tech is what (I expect) denies us the wide-open Hitman levels of yore.

I've really lost my original point here; I'm having fun with Hitman: Absolution.  I'm having Hitman-style fun, which is a precious and rare thing - and if I'm not feeling too sick today, I really should get back to it.

Those fetish gear battle nuns aren't going to kill themselves.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Technology - the gift and the curse.

My computer decided to seize up and die last night, so most of today was spent sniffling and whining about being sick, re-installing Windows 7 and running a few million updates.  When it was up and running again, the first thing I did was unpin Internet Explorer, grab Chrome and discovered the re-installation didn't manage to carry over any of my bookmarks.

My music library is in shambles - I shall have to redesign every playlist.  The blog images are all safe, thankfully - I was able to copy them on to an external drive with all their folders intact, so figuring out which header should replace Momohime should be less of a hassle.

Still, though.  It's like coming home, finding half your stuff gone and the other half has been thrown about god-knows-where.

A bloody inconvenience, is what it is.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Game Diary - Persona 4 Golden.

A pitched physical and spiritual battle with The Sniffles continues to serve as an excellent excuse to play Persona 4: Golden instead of Hitman: Absolution.  And man it's good.  

Not just good in the same way Persona 4 was always good.  Good in the way that Persona 4 was when compared to the already excellent Persona 3.  With Persona 4: Golden, Atlus have added a ton of new mechanics and content, but it's the little things that push this already excellent title into the quality stratosphere to a degree that... well, no other Vita game can match.  

I'm talking total package, here, and within the confines of its genre.  If you want a sweet, gorgeous platformer, please pick up Gravity Rush (or Rayman Origins, come to think of it).  If you want a game to show off the Vita's graphics and embark on some wholesome high adventure, check out Uncharted: Golden Abyss (or Rayman: Origins or Gravity Rush, come to think of it).

If you want the single most refined, polished, considered, slick game on the Vita... well, turns out it's an up-port of a JRPG from 2008. The screenshots don't look like anything to write home about - they're fine - they're good...

But again, I'm talking total package, here.  I'm talking overall presentation and mechanical refinements. 

This, for example, is the screen that pops up when you finish a battle.  It is stylish as Hell.  

Everything in the game is just slick, in the same way.  The menus fly open like leafs on a breeze, they're all low on clutter and high on style - and absolutely pop thanks to the crazy sharpness of the Vita's screen (the screens above have a lower pixel density than the Vita).  Saves and loads take around a (single, non-plural) second to occur, and all this is still wrapped around a game that - along with 2008's other exemplary PS2 title, Ōkami - made an incredibly compelling argument for how strong art direction can overcome the technical limitations of a platform.  

Beyond its grand style and the game's incredibly fast performance (the likes of which I haven't noticed before on the Vita), Golden has so many tweaks and little re-balances that it feels like - on a mechanical level - it could be Persona 4's sequel instead of an update.  

There are far more little touches than I could name, but it's the little things.  It's discovering the stairs that will lead you to the next floor of a dungeon when you still have exploring to do - so you walk away from the stairs and clear out the rest of that level.  In Persona 4 you had to walk back to the stairs to advance to the next floor.  In Golden, you press square and can zip right up.  

It's the way your characters will remember the last spell you cast with them during a battle.  Instead of tapping down on the D-pad to select my persona abilities, then tapping down a few more times to select a skill called Dia which will heal my friends, the game will automatically recall whatever you did last - so when it's Yosuke's turn (he's my designated healer), all I have to do is tap X three times.  The game will start you off on the last menu you selected, and within that menu it starts off with the last skill you selected, and once you confirm that it targets the last enemy you targeted.  X, X, X.  Slick.  

P4G has these little touches, these little refinements at every corner.  It's just so... accomplished.  

Delicious. It takes what was already a high-performance machine and turns it into an F1 racer, if ever the term could be applied to such a title - and just one of many reasons the folks at RPG Fan, for example (probably the best site to hear from people who know RPGs cold), suggest it's a serious contender for the best turn-based RPG of all time. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Better to hedge your bets.

No less than three friends called, e-mailed or ambushed me today to ask if they should pick up a Vita for $200 on Black Friday. The white Assassin's Creed III: Liberation bundle will be on sale at such a price pretty much everywhere, from GameStop to Best Buy.

The answer is this:  I love my Vita.  I love it about a thousand times more than I loved my PSP, I absolutely cherish some of the games on it (Gravity Rush, P4G, Rayman), and $200 is a steal for it.

That said, I worry about its future.  I worry about news of the 3DS outselling the vita 47 to 1 a few weeks ago in Japan. I worry that a time may come soon when developers abandon this robust but commercially timid platform, and that I may have encouraged folks to invest in a device that in the coming months and years may not have a library that matches the DS, the 3DS, or even the PSP.

That said... why not plan for the future, just in case?

If you're a PS3 player who has PlayStation Plus, you can get in on the free Vita games right now, via your PS3.  You can "buy" the games, download them to your PS3, and they will still be available for access if you choose, at some future date, to invest in Sony's newest handheld when the platform's library has expanded and the purchase becomes a bit more confident.  As long as you still have your Plus subscription, of course.

So while I am very happy with my Vita, my fear for its future makes it hard to freely recommend.  It has a half-dozen great games, and many more pretty damned good ones - but if you're holding off buying it just yet, there's no harm in planning for the future and beginning to assemble yourself a kickass library of the platform's best titles.

The DMC demo is out!

It dropped on Tuesday, but I was all swept up in the free-Vita-games, Persona 4 Golden, Hitman: Absolution thing.  Ohhh I've been waiting so long to try this out!

I'm gettin' on this right now... and then probably heading straight to bed 'cause I'm still sick as Hell.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shit, why did I do that?

I am still under the weather.

Today I went to a walk-in clinic (do they have that in the States?  Where you just show up, see a doctor, get some advice and go on about your business?) due to the troublesome symptoms I'm suffering, so like the beginnings of my traumatic illness in October.

I brought along my Vita 'cause sometimes the wait can get a a bit long, but got in and out so quickly that I just headed on to work and sat downstairs for two hours, playing Persona 4 Golden and waiting for my shift to start.  That... may have been a mistake.

I'm less deeply offended by New Chie, but I still miss the original.

Anyway, that's not my problem.  I already have a sound grasp of Persona 4, and if you're curious about it let me assure you it's frickin' awesome. And this is coming from a guy who hates JRPGs.  Any review I could write about P4G would merely echo what I laid out in 2009, with a little side-note that Golden has even more content, even more art, characters, music and is pretty much (thus far - Chie aside) in all ways superior to the PS2 original.

If you have a Vita, buy this game.  It's one of the best Vita titles of the year, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Gravity Rush - and it's only neck-and-neck with GR because GR is original and this is a four year old PS2 game.  If Persona 4 were an original game, it would probably be the Vita's GOTY.  And that may be my problem.

It's a wonderful game, and I long to keep playing it.  On my breaks at work I would slip the Vita out of my pocket for a stolen few minutes, backstroking through the story and cutting my teeth on the game's combat system... but there's nothing productive for me, here.

I'm already ticked right off that I haven't put in the time I feel XCOM requires to legitimize a review, and now I want to not play Hitman: Absolution.

I'd rather just lay in bed with P4G.

But y'know what?  I'm sick.

That makes it reasonable.

Another rumor says Mirror's Edge 2 is on the way.

This time, it's from a dev who used to work at DICE's Stockholm studio in Sweden.

Ben used to produce the Battlefield games and still lives in Stockholm, working at a new studio.  To be honest, I trust this more than all the doublespeak we've been getting from EA since ohhh 2008.

Oh God let it be true.

Happy American Thanksgiving, Americans!

Here's a semi-related pic Kayla found.

I'd be all over that.  And I ain't talkin' about the bird.


All of Chie's lines in Persona 4: Golden were re-dubbed with a new voice actress.  Oh God, it's like nails on a chalkboard - and she says every line the same way. Oh Chie - what have they done to you, my sweet kung-fu flower?

Maybe... maybe it'll work out.  Maybe she'll get better - it's like a hundred-hour game, she's got time to get better...


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Today is a delightful day for a Vita owner who happens to subscribe to PlayStation Plus.  Sure, I've got physical copies of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush, but that doesn't mean I'll turn up my nose at free digital versions.  So, I now have digital copies of Uncharted, Gravity, Jet Set Radio and WipEout 2048.  Also, Persona 4: Golden (thanks, Blue!).

And I also picked up a physical copy of P4:G.  'Cause, y'know - Atlus faithful. (Thanks, Mom & Dad!)

And Hitman: Absolution.  Once again, my cup runneth over.

Unfortunately, when I woke up yesterday I felt a disturbance in the force.  Specifically, my sinuses felt a bit irritated - exactly like they did before I spent those two weeks bedridden in early October - so now I'm terrified I'll get sick again and miss more work.

Tonight, I'm just gonna' head to bed, swirl my toes lazily against the water's edge of Hitman: Absolution and see how she tastes before getting more than enough sleep.  G'night everybody!

Guhhh I don't wanna' be sick again...

[update] Hm.  I just went through an entire level without being seen, without killing anyone but the target, and I didn't get a rank called "Silent Assassin."

Initial impressions: this game may be a travesty.  Further investigation required.

Also - oh my God P4G is sooo gorgeous... [/update]