Monday, September 30, 2013

October is the best movie month of the year.

There hasn't been a single month this year at the movies that's excited me as much as October has.  Over the past year, we've seen trailers for this and that and I'd turned to Kayla in the theater and said "okay, we have to see that," and she'll nod in agreement.  Turns out half of those movies are in October.

...except where Pacific Rim was involved - she refused to believe anything positive about that movie.

First up in October is The Next Thing From The Guy Who Made Children of Men, which immediately makes it a must-see - and this one's got one helluva premise.

Gravity comes out on October 4th.

I was less than uniformly thrilled with Machete when I first saw it in theaters (though not turned off enough that I didn't pick up the bluray).  I felt it spent too much time setting up a story to support the zany trailer Rodriguez had originally put together for Grindhouse - but, in preparation for asking Kayla if she was prepared to see Machete Kills, I threw Machete into the PS3 the other day so we could watch it.

It was much better than I remember.  Then, I asked her if she'd like to see Machete Kills.

"It's actually getting made?" she asked.

"It's out a week after Gravity, I said.

October 11th.  Finally, I feel I'm pretty good about not giving a shit about tween idols and Disney stars, but - I must admit - I've really adored Chloe Moretz ever since she stole the show as Hit Girl in Kickass.  She was equally impressive in Let Me In, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her in the Carrie remake.

Kayla's not a fan of scary movies (neither am I, for the record), but we're totally gonna' go see Carrie when it comes out.

And, of course, on the 15th?  Pacific Rim comes to bluray.  Kayla can't refuse to watch it when I sweeten the deal with snuggles.  I'm mad snugglable.

A super-interesting comic about Ayn Rand.


I read Atlus Shrugged over the summer of 2008, entirely because I'd heard it would enrich the experience I'd get from BioShock when it dropped on the PS3 later that year.  I still feel it should have been called The Industrial Adventures of Dagny Taggart - and that it's not a particularly good novel - but it is, at least, interesting.

Also interesting is this deeply-researched biographical comic series on Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand, which paints in stark relief the origins of her objectivist philosophy and the hypocrisy of the social circle she towered over in later years.  Very cool.

If it's a placeholder Beck...

...with a placeholder background, placeholder enemies and placeholder animations (just a test of the Unreal engine, really), can you actually call this thirteen seconds of Mighty No. 9 footage?


Still, exciting.  And with 32 hours to go, the Kickstarter is at $3,057,904 - $250K shy of PS4/One versions and $450K short of the handheld stretch goals.  Three days ago I would've said there's no chance in hell it makes $3.5 million and a Vita version gets made - now, $500,000 later?  I'm not so sure.

It might end up close.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Games of October 2013.

In one month's time, the sky will rupture and crack open, the next generation will haul itself through the breach in our reality and, like a leviathan of promise, crash into these white shores.  Before that momentous event, however, it's still the current gen - and on the current gen, October has a couple interesting titles and the generation-straddling flagship franchises from Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, which drop at the end of the month before taking up residence on the next-gen consoles.

There's nothin' this month that needs a purchase, unless you're giving the next-gen launch a miss until after the platforms have a more robust library (not an unwise tack), and nothing that I'm really falling over myself to lay hands on.   Still.  Batman.

First up, a smaller title I've never had much faith in.

October 1st
Rain - an atmospheric, arsty adventure.
Hype-O-Meter : Myehhh.

I'm a big fan of SCE Japan - a single name for a number of development studios under Sony's banner in Japan who, collectively, have given us cool, weird shit like Siren: Blood Curse, Tokyo Jungle, Gravity Rush and Patapon - but despite its somewhat original hook, Rain doesn't strike me as particularly interesting.

You play as a young boy who sees the silhouette of a girl in the rain.  When you chase after her, you discover you too have become invisible, and can be seen only by the silhouette you form when standing under the downpour.  Under overhangs you can only detect your wet footprints - and off you go, solving puzzles and escaping similarly silhouetted monsters in search of the little girl.

It's like someone over there said "let's try to make something like ICO again, 'cause The Last Guardian really may never come out."

I expect it'll get very positive reviews, but I'm trusting review scores less and less, lately.

October 8th
Game of the Year Editions for

Borderlands 2, a pretty-darned-good lootfest FPS RPG and

Dishonored, a frickin' awesome first-person stealth title in the vein of Thief.

Both games have seen their share of campaign-enhancing DLC over the past year, with cool new areas to explore and villains to fight in each.  The Game of the Year Editions collect all these (rather appetizing) extras along with the core games into single packages, and - I'll be honest - I'm pretty tempted by the Dishonored one.

Dishonored's frickin' awesome.

An interactive drama/adventure.
September 8th - PS3 - Hype-O-Meter : Day One, with some caveats. 

Beyond: Two Souls is an interactive drama/adventure game that sees the player guiding a girl named Jodie Holmes from ages 8 to 23, as she contends with the unique gift she's been saddled with - a sentient, invisible entity named Aiden is mysteriously tethered to her soul, and can never leave her side.

Like L.A. Noire, I found Quantic Dream's last interactive drama, Heavy Rain, easier to appreciate than enjoy. Writer/director David Cage fancies himself a bold agent provocateur, but more often than not his work comes across as tediously over-written and amateurish, despite the phenomenal visual presentation values that Heavy Rain had.

I, honestly, don't have any higher hopes for Beyond: Two Souls, but that doesn't exclude it from my Want list.  It may very well be cheesy, over-written and poorly-directed (and PR footage to this point suggests that it is), but it's also the only game in town beyond Telltale's The Walking Dead that focuses itself entirely on narrative.

The modern adventure game is the rarest of breeds, and a triple-A, gorgeous adventure game starring Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe is way cooler than that gorgeous, triple-A adventure game we didn't have since the last thing Quantic Dream dropped.

Plus, you never know.  I could end up pleasantly surprised.

October 15th
Valhalla Knights 3, a JRPG.
Hype-O-Meter : I was kinda' hyped, 'till I saw this stupid shit.

When we're talking about JRPGs on the Vita, the conversation goes Persona, Disgaea, Atelier - and that's about it (outside of Japan, at least).  Valhalla Knights, with its unusual 7-on-7 real-time combat system and seriously pared back story, has never really penetrated in the West - Valhalla Knights 2's Metascore is a flat 50 - and I'd be surprised if 3 manages to do much better.

Still, if you're dyin' for an RPG on the Vita, here's one.

An open world brawler/stealth/action game.
October 25th - PS3, 360, PC, Wii U - Hype-O-Meter : I want to love you, Batman.  Day One.

Rocksteady Studios have, since 2009, been the only studio on the planet to have made a seriously great Batman game, with Batman: Arkham Asylum setting the bar and Batman: Arkham City shattering it in 2011.

Batman: Arkham Origins is, one should note, not made by Rocksteady.  It's being made by Warner Bros. Games MontrĂ©al, a studio that suddenly appeared in 2010 (the year Warner Bros. bought Rocksteady) which ported Batman: Arkham City to the Wii U with the Armored Edition.

This is important information.  The folks who made the only two truly great Batman games are not making this Batman game - kinda' like how Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was made by the folks who ported Sly 1, 2 and 3 to the PS3.  Also worth noting is that the enthusiast press has been rather standoffish when it comes to Origins.  Preview articles are, as a general rule, notoriously fluffy fare - rarely having anything bad to say about a given game - but journalists have been careful not to get too deep into Arkham Origins' corner.

The whole thing smells fishy, if you ask me - but Arkham Origins remains an open-world Batman game in, at least, the vein of Arkham Asylum and City - and that's worth rolling the dice on.

October 25th
Batman : Arkham Origins Blackgate, a 2.5D-take on the Arkham formula.
Vita, 3DS
Hype-O-Meter : Could be awesome.  No promises.

Arkham Origins Blackgate, a humble portable counterpart to Arkham Origins is - like Arkham Origins - made by a studio that didn't exist until it ported another game (Armature Studio ported the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection to Vita).

Blackgate looks promising, but not-quite-there.  I haven't heard anything good about the locomotion mechanics (most people say it feels "too slow," but on the bright side it seems they've retained the unique Arkham combat mechanics, and Blackgate has set itself up as a classic 2D homage to the formula of Arkham's roots - a Metroidvania.

It could be awesome.  Fingers crossed!

An open-world seafaring action platformer.
October 29th - PS3, 360 - Hype-O-Meter : maybe this one will be good?

I'm buying it, of course - but not on the current gen.  I'll wait for the PS4 version in November, and will hope to be terribly impressed by all the next-gen-ness.

The Assassin's Creed games have been cranking the ambition and lowering the quality for their last two iterations, with Assassin's Creed III being nowhere near as long on fun as it was on budget (or hype), and its predecessor Assassin's Creed Revelations feeling decidedly phoned-in.

At the same time, though, Assassin's Creed III had those incredible naval combat sequences - and IV looks to have built itself from the ground up around the delirious fun of that concept as you cruise around the Caribbean as a badass assassin pirate.  Also, it's worth noting that if we all just gave up on Assassin's Creed after a shitty game came out, no one would have played the fantastic II or Brotherhood.

It'll be worth a shot, on this gen or the next.

The military-themed FPS that isn't Call of Duty.  It's awesome.
October 29th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One (on PS4)

As far as I'm concerned, the next gen actually began back in 2011 when Battlefield 3 dropped on PC.  It was just a phenomenally good-looking game (and still is), and with Battlefield 4 on the PS4, I'll finally get to sample that ridiculously attractive shooting for myself.

I actively dislike military-themed FPSs, for the record.  I tried Modern Warfare 2 and hated it - don't own a single Call of Duty title - but I really enjoyed what I tried of Bad Company, and so I've been buying the Battlefield games ever since.

...haven't actually played any, but that's beside the point.  At the very least, I can attest to Battlefield 3's multiplayer having remarkably long legs, as my older brother is still playing it.

Finally... Luftrausers may finally come out this month.

October?  Maybe?  Its original release date was August - we have no idea.
Luftrausersa high-flyin' retro flight shooter.
PS3, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux
Hype-O-Meter : yet more indie deliciousness on the go.

Not to be confused with a shoot 'em up or bullet hell game (though you do shoot them up, and there is a helluva lot of bullets flying around), Luftrausers is the latest thing from Vlambeer, an indie darling studio responsible for Super Crate Box and the Apple Design Award-winning Ridiculous Fishing.

Your little custom-built plane (which has three interchangeable parts and a ton of possible combinations) swoops and loops around the game's 2D plane, taking out enemy fighters and laying waste to their ships.  Looks like a nice, twitchy little actioner.

* * *

...and that's October!  A pretty thick month for folks not jumping right into the next gen - and either way, I'm super curious about Batman and will be quite happy to sit down with something very, very different when Beyond drops.

Nine whole minutes of direct-feed Starlight Inception.

Softpedia (which I'd never heard of before today) has a preview article up about Starlight Inception, the Kickstarted spiritual sequel to X-Wing and Wing Commander - but more importantly, they've offered up almost ten minutes of direct-feed footage of what appears to be the game's first mission.  If you're looking for stunning next-gen presentation, look away.  If you were a fan of those classic spacefaring shooters, however, there's a lot to get excited about here.

For some reason, the thing I'm happiest about is the shockwave when you destroy an enemy ship, and the dust and debris field that lingers afterward.  Little details like that really sell the experience, for me - but I'll admit, I'm crossing my fingers that that's placeholder voice work.

That last guy called in his distress signal like he was ordering his morning coffee.

Battle Tapes - Made.

I agree a bit with Mogs in that GTA V's soundtrack is not as gleefully and uniformly impressive as those past (unless we're talking about the original ambient score), but there are definitely nuggets of joy here and there.  One such track is Battle Tapes' Feel the Same, which naturally prompted me to go hunting for their other stuff.  There, in the deepest mists of the Internet, I found Made.  Dig it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I can't believe I didn't have a Galak-Z label.

Well, I do now. You may recall Galak-Z as one of the indie standouts of Sony's E3 presser.

A free-roaming arcadey space shooter, it's been very high on my list of PS4 Indies to Care About (which is actually a pretty long list) since it first got highlighted, but I haven't followed it as I should've.  At some point in late August they put out two new trailers demonstrating that its combat is more than a bit like Luftrausers', but in zero gravity - and there are some really cool use-the-environment options like getting your foes caught up in sticky space spores or shooting a lava pool to make the molten rock spring up at your enemies.

First, here's the style trailer :

And here's pure gameplay :

Sooo smexy.  Why this isn't on Vita I have no idea.

Twelve direct-feed minutes of The Evil Within.

Y'know what bugs me most about this footage?  The way there isn't an animation when he tries the door the first time and finds it locked.  And the not-quite-there animation for pulling the keys off the hook.

It's next-gen time, people.

Otherwise?  Looks fantastic, can't wait, day one.

Here's Shahid Ahmad talking indies at the Eurogamer Expo 2013.

The biggest news he dropped is that, finally, Keiji Inafune's Kickstarted Mighty No. 9 is going to have a Vita and 3DS version stretch goal - but don't get too excited yet.  I'd bet my bottom dollar it's not going to hit it.

In order for Mighty No. 9 to come to a handheld near you, the Kickstarter has to hit $3.5 million.  It's got 4 days to go, and is currently at $2.6 million - after having been open for just under a month.

Yeah, no.  Not gonna' happen.  Shame, that - but still awesome to see Shahid giving another talk!

Comic Conquest looks pretty cool.

Occasionally I'll get an email from a PR person who's mistaken my blog for something important.  It's usually an iOS game I'll never get to play or something so esoteric I can't bring myself to care - but Comic Conquest looks like something I'd actually want to lay hands on.

It's about a quarter of its way towards its base funding goal of $20,000.  Which is pretty darned low for a video game Kickstarter - what are they paying these people?

It's free-to-play which, I agree, is an instant turn-off at the thought of all the microtransactions we're gonna' be nailed with - but it's also being made with the Unity engine, which gives hope of a version coming to PS4 or Vita one day - which would be pretty cool!

A turn-based tactical RPG coming to browsers, iOs and Android, Comic Conquest pits the player as one of the many geeks attending the San Diego Comic Con when a mysterious villain known only as The Hoarder strikes - supernatural energies ripple through the Con, and ordinary cosplay gear is magically transformed into avatars of power, where plastic toys now really shoot lasers and that home made, wooden sword can cleave bone.

  • Amazing Art: Emmy-award winner and well-known comic artist Jeff Matsuda brings his distinctive style to the game!
  • Fast-Paced, Tactical Combat: Less time looking for fights, more time kicking ass!
  • Cooperative Play: Team up with friends to battle epic bosses, complete insane challenges, and earn massive rewards! ·
  • Extensive Customization Options: Change up your costume, tweak your abilities, and upgrade your booth to provide your character with special powers!
  • Monthly Content Updates: New maps, exclusive items, celebrity villains, and a whole lot more!
  • In-Game Trivia Challenges: Outwit your opponents with your vast knowledge of all things geeky!
  • Famous Cosplayers: Seven of the world's top cosplayers will be available to add to your party as recruitable characters!
  • In-Game Theater: Take a break from the action and catch up on the latest movie trailers and other exclusive content!

If those groups aren't enough for you, we'll have to collectively throw about eighty grand at the project to open up some really interesting options - the "Horror Group and Gear" unlocks at a $50,000 stretch goal, and the "Anime Group and Gear" unlocks at $80K, with a level creation system at $150,000.

Looks cool.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The end of The Last of Us, if The Last of Us were an opera.

Spoilers, natch.

You may be familiar with the story of how they were trying to inject more emotion into the game's climax, so the director told the actress in the scene to sing her line, instead of speak it - and how Troy Baker doesn't miss a beat, but goes right along with it.  Totally worth watchin'.

Atlus isn't as dead as we'd feared.

This is the teaser site that went up yesterday.  First of all, it's good to know that Atlus's studios are truckin' right along without any big problems coming from the Sega buyout.  Second, can you tell what the really important part of this image is?

That's the Persona team logo, which as far as I can tell only ever appeared on the box for Persona 4 Arena.  It's possible the above teaser has something to do with the newly-announced update for P4A, the insanely-named Persona 4 The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold.

...which is a real thing and not something I just made up, as evidenced by this actual and genuine trailer.

Let us cross our fingers and our hearts, and hope that it may actually, really, truly be Persona 5 for current-gen consoles.  And not Persona Whatever for the 3DS.

Oh - also - Yukari's outfit in P4U is dumb.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

South Park : The Stick of Truth has a really real release date.

December 10th, 2013.  They also announced a special edition today - the Grand Wizard Edition for an extra twenty bucks, which nets you...

• South Park: The Stick of Truth Game - The full game on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. 
• Grand Wizard Kidrobot Cartman Figure - Own the Grand Wizard Cartman and his stick of authority with this six-inch replica figure from Kidrobot. The Grand Wizard Cartman figure is not available in stores and can only be found in the Grand Wizard Edition. 
• Kingdom of South Park Map - The entire town of South Park has been mapped for the first time in South Park history. 
• The Stick of Truth Ultimate Fellowship Pack - Unlock the ultimate fellowship with the one pack to rule them all! Choose your class and pick your perk with four exclusive Stick of Truth costumes that come equipped with special abilities. Suit up as the Necromancer Sorcerer to increase your fire damage, earn extra gold by equipping the Rogue Assassin outfit, deal extra weapon damage with the Ranger Elf costume, or raise your defence with the Holy Defender outfit. The choice is yours, New Kid.
...which I do find rather appealing for an extra twenty bucks - and given that it's dropping after I'll be spending way too much on the next-gen launch, I might just go for it.

New trailer!


Over a half-hour of Metal Gear Solid V : Ground Zeroes.

Direct feed!  Here's the opening cutscene...

And here're the two gameplay vids:

...which I am not gonna' watch because (1) spoilers (2) I already know I'm buying this game, I don't need to be sold on it.

Nosgoth announced.

Dear video game enthusiast,

We at Square Enix would like you to know how much we value our relationship with you, the consumer gamer.  We know you've spent decades loving the worlds and characters some old studio we bought created, and make no mistake about it, we intend to exploit honor that love.

Some folks though the next Legacy of Kain game should be a non-linear story-driven action-RPG, like that crappy game you played back on the PS1 - but we challenged ourselves to come up with something way cooler than an epic narrative of cursed immortality and revenge - a free-to-play third-person multiplayer game!  Kinda' like Aliens - where one side has ranged weapons and the other side are highly mobile melee fighters - but with vampires!

We hope you'll spend a lot of money really enjoy it!

In closing, fuck you.

-Square Enix.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dragon's Crown patch 1.03 is live in Japan.

Word is it buffs the Amazon's Berzerk (almost impossible to maintain 'zerk with the current patch), and offers the option to remove the circle markers and large glowing triangles seen above.  Thank goodness.  If this holds steady with 1.01 and 1.02, North America should see the patch within a week or two.

Game Diary.

Another great track from Rockstar's latest.

Like every other gamer in the world, my past week has consisted of a steady diet of Grand Theft Auto V, which I'm very pleased with.  Unlike IV or San Andreas, V doesn't make the strongest first impression.  After ten minutes with San Andreas I was prepared to call the game a masterpiece.  IV's opening was so confident and dazzling in its details that I couldn't help but be swept away despite the relatively humble beginnings of Nico - V's pleasure is a much slower burn.

Now, with about thirty hours of V under my belt, I'm confident in suggesting I love this game - more for its story than any previous Grand Theft Auto entry.  V has a strong and more thoughtfully-designed narrative, which actually enjoys nice cliffhangers and peaks and valleys that really permit it the magnum opus presence that Rockstar is going for, here.  Unlike the adventures of CJ or Niko or Claude, V feels less like a sprawling one-off than a season or two of a pleasant crime melodrama - a series, instead of a film.

Because its beats are all in service to this more focused narrative, because its heroes are less swept away in the tide of other people's desires and more driven by their own survival instinct or greed or hope or rage, the story has actually grabbed me.  I really want to know where Michael, Franklin and Trevor end up, and my Gamer Sense suggests I'm wading my way through the last third of the game, so I should find out soon.

But not tonight.  For at least the next half-hour, until it's Too Damn Late To Be Up Playing Video Games, I'm gonna' go check out Lone Survivor Director's Cut on my Vita.  Feelin' kinda' hyped for that one.

Seven pure minutes of Battle Princess of Arcadias gameplay.

Still looks lovely, still not impressed by the animation, but I can see it being fun.

Not as fun as that other gorgeous 2-D sprite-based RPG-brawler Dragon's Crown, of course - but nothing really is.  Except great sex.

The hierarchy of enjoyment goes like this:

There's great sex, then Dragon's Crown, then a really good steak, then the cigarette you smoke after being in a movie theater for two and a half hours, [update] beer,[/update] then everything else in the world.

Monday, September 23, 2013

All the GTA V myths are true.

Check this out.

We already know bigfoot made it into the game (finally), but this video showcases a half-dozen interesting little mechanics I never would've known about.  The backfire from your car can light a gasoline trail!  You can escape the cops by hiding in bushes!

I wonder how many more of these there are.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Deep Down is free to play.

Well.  Hm.


I had a similar reaction to much of Shu's Twitter feed to this news : well, shit, there goes some of my Deep Down hype.  And yeah, that's an unfair reaction.  There are some spectacular F2P games like DOTA 2 and Team Fortress 2 - but there are many, many more that are crap on crap, that see you paying through the nose for extra lives or energy or bigger swords.

I was always skeptical about Deep Down - it just looked like Capcom's attempt to capitalize on From Software's success with Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, which rarely works out well.  Then it looked like Capcom's attempt to rip off From Software's baby while mixing in some Assasson's Creed (the game actually takes place in 2093).

Deep Down has only ever shown four enemy types and a bunch of very, very similar hallways and rooms.  Beyond the cool fire effects, it doesn't look that impressive and I'm beginning to feel that Sony got the short end of the exclusives stick, as I gaze upon those impressive Dead Rising 3 demos.

Lone Survivor : Director's Cut finally has a really real release date.

First due out in July, Lone Survivor has been pushed back a time or two but now - finally - it's time for it to drop.  This Tuesday, to be exact - September 24th.  Let's look forward with a few screens and the old trailer from its Steam launch (keeping in mind, the Vita version's got a lot of new content like new endings and locations to explore.)

Over my Dead Body 2 gameplay trailer.

And when I say "gameplay trailer" I mean "have some patience 'cause there is some gameplay here, and it looks lovely."

Watch right up to the end. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Game Diary & the music of GTA V.

I'm still playing Dragon's Crown, for the record, which is why I care that the recent update seriously nerfed the Amazon's core skill - Berzerk - which allows her to attack progressively faster so long as she doesn't get knocked down.  The recent patch gave the skill a minor buff in that she gains a Berzerk tier (there are 3) every time she successfully parries an attack.  It also significantly nerfed the skill in that getting knocked over is no longer the only thing that resets her 'zerk - now, simply getting hit will force her to lose a 'zerk level.

Or it sure seems to.  I simply can't maintain a long Berzerk with her any more.  She feels like a very, very different character now.  Still very fun, but I don't feel as powerful any more.  It's disappointing.

Far more disappointing is the addition of the big glowing triangles you'll notice at the bottom of the above screenshot to the point that many, many fans from here to Japan have requested the option to remove them, if the player chooses.  Today an Atlus USA rep responded on the publisher's official forums, thusly:
"Passed this request on to the project lead. He mentioned that people in Japan have had similar complaints, so there might already be a good chance that Vanillaware would implement the on/off option in a potential future patch. No promises, though, and I wouldn't expect to hear any sort of confirmation about it until said potential patch would be ready to release in Japan."
So here's hopin'!

It is, I should note, downright weird that I'm still playing the game.  Weird in the larger sense of how I consume video games.  Even in the case of something wonderful like The Last of Us, I generally get my fill of a game and move on - but late at night, when Kayla's gone to sleep I'll pull out my Vita and run a few dungeons.

When I know I'll have some spare time before work - when I have to get something else in the area done, and expect I'll show up at the office a half-hour early - I bring my Vita, and run a few dungeons.

Perhaps the convenience of it is a big part, but I've never been moved to invest so much time in..., I'm having trouble thinking of the last time a game actually did this to me.  Moving on - Grand Theft Auto V is enjoying a somewhat-successful launch, what with the whole fastest-entertainment-property-with-1-billion-in-sales thing.

It's good.  It's really, really good and I'll get in to the specifics later - but today let's enjoy the music, shall we?

I didn't find the game as immediately impressive as I did San Andreas or IV, and the same goes for the radio stations.  There's no Radio Broker in V which I can always tune to and find exactly the vibe I want - but, as with all GTAs, there's a great deal of quality tracks to find across all the stations.

As usual, the game's turned me on to a few weird and catchy country tunes I'd otherwise never listen to in a million years.

There's a lot of rap and punk, but I can usually turn to the East Los FM station or The Lowdown 91.1 for mellow Latin rhythms or some classic groovy soul.  I'm finding the characters less distasteful than many reviewers I've seen - it's the sort of... uncomfortable selfishness one expects of a GTA hero - and it sets the stage for capable gameplay.

Between that and the stellar production values, I really don't need much else.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yay! Gravity Rush is getting a sequel!

Totally the best news to come out of TGS so far.  And there's not much news, but at least there's some actual gameplay footage.  A few seconds worth.

Dragon's Crown gets another mostly-cool patch.

Here's the details :

[Bug Fixes]
  • Improved gameplay stability.
[New Features]
  • Added an option to join random online games in the Labyrinth of Chaos to the Network Menu. 
  • To enhance player character visibility, a triangular cursor has been added to the bottom of the screen.
  • Wizard: Charging MP when the MP is already at maximum will cause magic power to increase.
[Feature Modifications]
  • (PS3 version only) When playing offline multiplayer games, the story progression will now be saved for all characters. 
  • If a network communication error occurs in online play, the game will now continue in the same stage rather than kicking the player back to town. 
  • Amazon: A successful Parry raises Berserk level by 1. 
  • Amazon: The Necksplitter attack can now be cancelled. 
  • Various Skill effects of all character classes have been adjusted. 
  • Other tuning and minor improvements to various gameplay elements were made.
There are a lot of changes that aren't listed here.  The big ones all are - the Wizard's overcharge is cool, the Amazon's parry giving her a Berzerk stack is fantastic, and the triangular cursor at the bottom of the screen sucks and please Tweet Atlus and tell them to get rid of it or at least give us the option of turning it off.  It's absolutely terrible - hugely distracting, and a major detraction from such a beautiful game.

Not mentioned are cool little tweaks like the Sorceress's Blizzard spell having a new, more-transparent effect so you can actually see what's going on when you cast it - and word is a lot of minor nerfs have come down on the Amazon, reducing the duration that she stays at Berzerk and (sob!) reducing the damage done by her Brandish ability on each hit.

Oh well.  It's still Dragon's Crown, and Dragon's Crown is still totally fantastic.

I really want the option to turn off the gigantic glowing cursor triangles, though.  Those things suck.

Dark Souls - Aching Bones trailer.

Plus info on the special edition, which doesn't look half bad.

Naturally, what you're thinking at this moment is "what on Earth is that song?"  It's Aching Bones by Nadine Shah off the album Love Your Dum and Mad.

Bayonetta is getting her own anime movie.

...and it does not look all that great.

Hohokum - the Guano Factory trailer.

I know what Hohokum is, and I'm familiar with its brand of dreamy silliness.  That being said,

what is this I don't even.

Final Fantasy XIII : Lightning Returns still looks pretty cool.

Ten minutes of Metal Gear Solid V.

Word is Kojima was really worried about doing a live demo because the enemy AI is so unpredictable. Looks cool to me!  I really like the ability to mark enemies so they'll always be visible, a'la Far Cry 3.

This is the sound of a heart shattering.


Ever since Shahid Ahmad gave me a sliver of hope that I'd see Klei games on Vita, I've been remaining mostly-silent on the subject and waiting for Mark of the Ninja's one-year anniversary before bringing it up again (most exclusivity deals only last one year.)  For some reason, I had it in my head that the game released on September 19th.  I was wrong - it released on the 7th - but today I started digging and found the above tweet from Klei.

This makes me way too sad.  I'm gonna' go play Grand Theft Auto before I start postin' the TGS news.  There's some awesome news from TGS, by the way.


This baby looks as sad as I feel.

Keep in mind, it wouldn't make me so sad if Mark of the Ninja wasn't so totally awesome.  If you have a 360 or a gaming PC or Mac, this is one game you need to have on it. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sega owns Atlus.

Last night, around midnight, a great disturbance in the Force was felt.  As if millions of voices suddenly cried out, and were silenced.

You'll recall that earlier in the year, Atlus's parent company Index Holdings was in a bit of a pickle, having filed for bankruptcy. At the time, rumor had it about twenty companies bid on buying Index, but there was no word on who won the sale.

Sega won the sale.  Sega.  The folks who barely localize their Yakuza games and have been doing their best to drive the Sonic the Hedgehog brand right into the ground for twenty years.

Let's not freak out.  Try not to freak out.  These are also the people who gave us Valkyria Chronicles and Resonance of Fate.  ...and then abandoned RoF when it failed to perform well against Final Fantasy XIII, the biggest RPG brand-name in the world, and refused to localize the latest Valkyria Chronicles title...


Best-case scenario, Sega will appreciate that the Atlus video game brand was the one part of Index Holdings that was actually profitable, keep their management, keep their talent, keep their teams and let them do their own thing in creating fantastic gaming (and localizing said games through Atlus USA, one of - if not the - best localizing houses in the west).  Hopefully we'll still get Persona 5 and new Shin Megami Tensei spin-off games and wonderful stuff getting published in North America like Dark Souls and Dragon's Crown.

Please, Sega.  Please, for the love of God, don't muck with Atlus.  They are a gem in the crown of video gaming.

Let them be.  If you wanna' do anything super-crazy, let it be something to do with Valkyria Chronicles or Resonance of Fate.  Lord knows we could use more of those.

Hyper Light Drifter reaches PS4/Vita stretch goal.

Having reached $220,000, Hyper Light Drifter is on its way to Sony's platforms - which is awesome news.  The game looks wonderful. [Kickstarter.]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Battlefield 4 multiplayer trailer.

It's very, very weird that the PS4 launch title I'm most looking forward to is a military shooter.  But it's just so pretty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mighty No. 9 only needs another $16K for a PS3 version.

With 15 more days to go in the Kickstarter, console versions of Keiji Inafune's love letter to Mega Man are looking very likely.  PS4 and Xbox One ports don't open up until $3,300,000 - but PS3/360/Wii U versions unlock at $2,200,000 - and it's currently at $2,183,446.00.

Not too far to go!  [update] It totally $2.2 mil - PS3 version inbound! [/update] (Sigh) I wish there was a Vita version... But at least we're gettin' Liege!

In other news, Grand Theft Auto V is enjoying a somewhat-positive critical reaction.  It's currently at 97 on Metacritic, making it the second highest-scoring PS3 game of all time.  What's the highest?  At 98, it's Grand Theft Auto IV.

Additionally, on a personal note...

Tuesday is not merely the launch day of Grand Theft Auto V - it also marks my two-year anniversary with a rather special lady.  So unless something crazy-cool happens that I simply must blog about, I think I'll take the day off.

Simply assume I'm being terribly romantic and/or taking my first rapturous steps into a current-gen San Andreas, buffeted by powerful waves of pleasure on all sides.

It'll be a good day, I reckon.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Early night.

I gotta' go to bed early tonight, so I intend to recline and play some Killzone Mercenary or Dragon's Crown 'till my eyelids grow heavy.  In the mean time, I discovered the next thing from (Adventure Time's) Pendleton Ward last night, and you should totally check out Bravest Warriors, a YouTube-only series of five-minute shorts. Here's the first episode, and it's got Ward's fingerprints all up in its business.

Absolute abject zaniness and untethered creativity? Check.  Hilarious?  Check.  A cool arc that seems to be slowly building over the course of the season?  Check.

It's part of a YouTube channel called Cartoon Hangover, and was enough of a success for an additional five little Bravest Warriors even-shorter shorts, each focusing on a different character of the series - by far the best of which is the one which focuses on Catbug, an adorable and rarely-seen character voiced by a child who deserves an Emmy.

Cartoon Hangover has a few other shows, but the only other one that's really worth watching is this ten-minute one-off called Bee and Puppycat.  It's just as batshit crazy as Adventure Time, but with a very different vibe to the whole thing.

Just the other day I told Kayla I haven't allowed myself to get lost in YouTube in what feels like a year, but even I felt compelled to check out a video called Kung-Fu Cooking Girls.

It's slightly not safe for work (there's gainaxing and an areola slip) to the point that you can't see the uncut version on YouTube.  Check it out here. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

REVIEW - Killzone Mercenary.

Killzone Mercenary is the latest in what has amounted to a short and unfortunate series of attempts to deliver on the Vita's promise of full-feature console-style games on the go. Uncharted worked out well, but Resistance tried, and failed.  Call of Duty tried, and (laughably) failed.

Killzone knocks it out of the park.  First of all, miraculously, unbelievably, the game really does look this good:

And I know what you're thinkin'.  If you have any critical bone in your body, you're thinkin' "really? On the Vita?  Really?"

Yes, really.  I too did not believe it, when I saw screenshots like the one above.  I instantly declared them bullshots, and decided that was some sort of target render that in no way reflected the reality of the project.  I expected something bland and matte.  Something mechanically functional but not particularly engaging, not particularly fun, and certainly not particularly attractive.

Guerrilla Cambridge, who've previously attended to small fare like the LittleBigPlanet PSP game, casual crap like TV Superstars and other licensed fare, have come out of nowhere and delivered the first portable FPS that truly, honestly (shockingly) delivers.  It's engaging, it's fun and it's supernaturally attractive.


This is a direct-feed screen, captured straight from my Vita.

We're told the game boasts "tone mapping & color grading, high dynamic range, filmic post processing, volumetric fog, dynamic lights" and "screen space reflections."  Beyond "dynamic lights" I have no idea what any of that means, but I'm confident in suggesting that Killzone Mercenary is the most technologically impressive game to appear on Sony's handheld, besting even the (lovely) Uncharted: Golden Abyss with its thick action, solid framerate and delightful effects.

While the game's stunning presentation is certainly what gets its foot in the door, Mercenary is just as capable when it comes to laying iron sights on a Hig's head.  It plays as beautiful as it looks.

Again, direct-feed.  This image has been cropped to show full detail (keep in mind the Vita's pixels are super-tiny.)

While the feel of Uncharted: Golden Abyss's controls took some getting used to, I found myself splashing into Mercenary's smooth surface like a duck on water.  L1 to bring up the irons, R1 to shoot, square to reload, X to jump.  One is instantly comfortable with the game and its flow, which (like Killzone 3) is a bit lighter than the slightly-sluggish sensation of early Killzone titles, leaning a bit closer to more arcadey shooters without entirely giving up the tactile weight that the series enjoys.  Dash into a room and tap circle to slide to a stop in cover.  Hold L1 to peek over it with your iron sights up, pop a few heads and release L1 to slip back behind the wall's protection as a hail of bullets comes your way.

It feels... natural.

There's the odd option to pick up and use items by tapping the touchscreen (the touch button is smack-dab in the middle of the screen - very unwieldly), but all of those interactions may also be accomplished with the traingle button.  Why they even gave the option to touch to pick up ammo is beyond me - but thankfully, all other touch controls feel normal and natural.

Your thumb can dart off the analog stick to tap the switch weapon or grenade selection virtual buttons with ease, and activating your game-changing Van-Guard is on the left side of the screen.  Van-Guards are buyable, selectable custom abilities like optical camouflage, a forward-facing energy shield, a tiny drone that head-stabs foes or my personal favorite - the Porcupine - which turns the entire screen into a tap-fest as you launch ten tiny self-guided missiles from a launcher attached to your shoulder, a'la Predator.

Beyond those comfortable and intuitive examples which can all be accomplished via the d-pad if you so choose, touch controls only rear their head in the (boring but inoffensive) hacking minigame and (satisfying) melee combat.  Tap triangle to grab a dude, swipe your finger up, down, horizontal or diagonal to drive your blade home.  It quickly becomes perfectly comfortable, and chaining three melee kills makes you feel suitably badass.

While the areas you fight your way through are never as sprawlingly open as those in the console games, within their smallness they still encourage a bit of exploration and permit the player some personal expression in our approach. The game makes a good go of providing stealth options at the onset of every mission or new section, permitting you to take down foes with a blade or silenced weapon, hopefully maintaining your anonymity until you grab a commander by the shoulder and (with an extended melee swiping minigame) interrogate him for intel on the current mission, and a cash bonus.

The cash bonus thing is important, because you're not a Helghan and you're not a Vektan.  You have no ideology.  You're here for the money.

A'la Bulletstorm, every thing you do in the game earns you cash money to spend on ammo and gear.  Every armor type offers a different bonus (lowering your defense in exchange for extra credit rewards for every action, muffling your footsteps, increasing your ammo capacity, et cetera), and Van-Guards are worth every pricy penny.

It doubles down on the inherent satisfaction one gleans from rattling off three perfect headshots when you get extra cash for doing so, and makes everything you do - from hacking an intel terminal to shooting out a security camera to sneakily knifing an enemy caught unawares as opposed to alarmed - all the more rewarding as your paycheque tics ever higher.

Shoot a drone out of the sky?  You're gettin' paid.


The narrative is also - again, surprisingly - a feather in the game's cap.  Wading through a moral gray area that was almost abandoned in Killzone 2, Mercenary casts you as a for-rent killing machine working for the Vektan-based ISA before the tables turn and you find yourself running missions for the Helghan forces.
A Quick History of Killzone
Once upon a time, there was an interplanetary community.  Sorta' like The Federation in Star Trek.  One planet - Vekta, a beautiful Earth-like world - had some of its citizens rise up against the community and attempt to declare independence.  In response, the government cracked down and kicked all the rebels off Vekta, banishing them to the forbidding, toxic mining planet of Helghan - where they survived, thrived, and grew into a military-industrial state.  The Vektans aren't necessarily the good guys, and the Helghans may have a lot of Nazi-esque imagery, but they have a legitimate beef.  It's too bad they can't just talk it out
The game does a wonderful job of painting the war as more than good versus evil early on, in a mission that sees you attempting to breach the Vektan embassy on Helghan to rescue Vektan Ambassador Harkin, his Helghan wife and their mixed-heritage child.

Boris, giant bodyguard of the Harkin family, and an all-around cool dude.

As Helghan forces close in to eliminate the family, you find yourself fighting side-by side with the Harkins' towering, heavily-armored Helghan bodyguard against Helghan forces - for, Helghan though he may be, the bodyguard sees no honor in slaughtering a defenseless family, and swore to the ambassador he would keep the child safe.

The story abandons all pretense of your standard good versus evil and military heroics, and instead suggests the player rely on their own sense of right and wrong - a welcome, capable and clever turn for the series - though never quite as explosively affecting as the (incredible) ending to Killzone 3.

Mercenary's multiplayer is a small affair - 4-on-4 team deathmatch, free-for-all or a team-based warfare type game with rotating objectives - but like the game's campaign, the mechanics and tech supporting the experience are rock-solid.  I never found myself cursing a missed shot due to lag - when you draw a bead on another player's head and pull the trigger, you won't be cheated.

The whole game just works.  It works really, really well.

I'd say the campaign clocks in at about six hours, but the length felt correct and I do feel a pressing need to experience it again (particularly the gorgeous levels on Vekta).  The multiplayer is similarly small in scope, but rich in ability - and across it all, the tech remains reliable and capable.

It's worth noting that this is no BioShock.  It's not a game that redefines what an FPS can be.  It's a Bulletstorm or a DOOM 3 or... well, yeah - a Killzone.

With that in mind, Killzone Mercenary is, I believe, the single most-successful portable FPS ever made.  Its gameplay is excellent (fun enemy AI), its controls are beautifully comfortable, its presentation is frankly shocking for a handheld and its overall experience is unmatched in this space.

If you've been waiting for a good first-person shooter on the Vita, Killzone Mercenary is it.  Buy with confidence.