Friday, February 28, 2014

forma.8 announced.

Coming to PS4, PSVita, Wii U, iOS, PC, Mac and Linux.



...how're you gonna' control this thing on iOS?  Either way, while the idea of the game totally appeals to me, I can't help but feel it looks like the less-polished little brother of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet - which, I'll admit, I felt needed a more involved flight mechanic.  At the very least, forma.8's got that going for it.

According to the press release, the game features...
  • An expansive world to explore 
  • An intriguing and mysterious story 
  • Action! 
  • Puzzles! 
  • Dystopian visions! 
  • Combat! 
  • Secrets to uncover 
  • Lots of enemies 
  • Lots of BIG enemies 
  • Some more B I G G E R enemies 
  • ...and all the power-ups you need to take care of them and to avoid all the nasty stuff you'll face on the remote, alien planet 
  • 60 frames per second super fluid action

Game Diary - Thief.

This is the "it's time to load your game" screen.

I'll reiterate this multiple times when it comes to the review, but I love Thief.  I loooove Thief.

Thief, if you're reading this?


...when I say Thief, though, I'm not talking about Thief.  I'm talking about Thief: The Dark Project. 


Thief: The Dark Project (1998)

Which is a very different beast.  The room above, alone, illustrates the difference between Looking Glass Studios' The Dark Project and Eidos Monteal's Thief.  Eidos Monteal, you should remember, gave us the lovely Deus Ex: Human Revolution - but even here, the differences are vast - the difference in vastness, to be precise.

Eidos Montreal's Thief is not vast.  Anywhere.  There isn't a vast space, room, view to be found. At least, not yet - I've spent at least four hours with the game, nearly all of them in the initial hub, completing side-jobs of breaking in to poor peoples' homes and making off with their meager treasures.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that once I get in to a job proper it'll present me with... I dunno, a house?

Like one big-ass house with a half-dozen potential points of ingress. A house where every room, closet, hallway is present and accounted for, and not inexplicably disconnected and blocked off from the mansion that surrounds it.

This is my problem with Thief, so far.  Its twisty urban routs and indoor sections - in The City hub, at least - don't actually make any architectural, living sense.

I broke into the attic of a house and overheard a woman downstairs talking about how she hid something up here - but unless she climbed her ass up onto the rooftops and jimmied the upstairs window, like I did, I can't imagine how she got in there.  I snuck into a writer's home - and again, could hear him talking through the walls as I rifled through the important documents in his study - but his study was a single room with a window for access.

It didn't have any doors that led to any other part of the writer's home.  It was just this little nugget for me to thieve my way through - which is fine, in spirit - but in execution, it slaps immersion in the balls.  This doesn't really feel like that writer's study and it didn't really feel like that woman's attic because we feel, within ourselves, that people's living spaces connect to their homes.

The whole thing feels terribly... streamlined, perhaps is the word.  I think I'd be happier with it if it didn't call itself Thief.  If I didn't go in to it associating the game with my beloved memories of exploring huge, sprawling, intricately-constructed levels that made architectural sense, I think I'd just be thrilled to be thieving in first-person again.

...and then there's the Dishonored comparison.  I'm sorry to throw this out there, but - just in terms of gameplay, locomotion, physicality, the feel of it - Dishonored did Thief better than Thief does Thief.

Caro Emerald - I Belong to You.



Now that's a music post.  It's like the theme song for a Bond movie that hasn't been made.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Quickpost.

There's a lot to get to today, but I'm feeling rushed and wanna' keep snooping around Thief.  So...



Episode 2 of The Walking Dead season 2 drops on PS3 this Tuesday.  Also coming to PSN this Tuesday is...



Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition, which will be free for PS+ members.  Also free for PS+ members in March will be...



  • Tomb Raider on PS3 - frickin' awesome. 
  • Thomas Was Alone on PS3 - free's a good price. 
  • Lone Survivor : Director's Cut on PS3 - meh.  Spent 2 hours with it, didn't need to spend more.
  • Unit 13 on Vita - alright, I guess.  The demo didn't blow my skirt up.
  • Monter Hunter: Freedom Unite (PSP) which also works on Vita.  Meh. 
What else... oh!  That PC indie critical darling from 2013, The Swapper, is coming to all things Sony - PS3, PS4 and Vita.  That's pretty cool. 

Okay - gonna' go check out more Thief.  G'night everybody!  Remember the season premiere of Hannibal's on tomorrow! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Godzilla movie trailer makes the new Godzilla movie look awesome.



Can it be killed?

Kayla, this is happening.  On your love for me, this is happening.  Brownie points will be cashed in, VIP theater tickets will be purchased.  Oh yes.

That B-roll footage from The Order, direct from Sony.

Now with sound effects and music!



This game needs a proper trailer.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What to play, what to play...


The Genroku Legends: A Cause to Daikon For DLC for Muramasa Rebirth - the full game which, by the way, just saw a price drop to $24.99 and is totally frickin' awesome - is downloading as we speak, and a no-brainer.  That's what will entertain me through my lunch break tomorrow.

Beyond my Vita, though, I'm suffering a quandry.  I'm enjoying Lightning Returns.  Like actually enjoying it - which a Final Fantasy has never accomplished before.  I don't really want to put it down to check out Thief and Castlevania, as I fear that - should I hit pause on my progress, there - I'll become swept away in the next few games and forget to care to come back to it, and continue to be The Gamer Who Never Finished a Final Fantasy.

Right now it's Thief and Castlevania, next week it's South Park: The Stick of Truth, one week after that it's Dark Souls, one week later it's Metal Gear Solid V : Ground Zeroes, and then we're in to inFamous: Second Son territory.

It's a reasonable worry.  That said... Thief is one of my all-time favorite franchises, and it runs on my hot new PS4.

Seriously, how am I to resist?  I'm not, that's how.

But I swear, Lightning Returns, I swear I will come back to you.  Some day.

Persona 5 (and everything else) announced for localization.


Shin Megami Tensei : Persona 5 for PS3 was announced last November, along with 3DS dungeon crawler Persona Q : Shadow of the Labyrinth, PS Vita rhythm game Persona 4 : Dancing All Night and PS3 fighter Persona 4 Arena Ultimax.  Today, Atlus USA announced that all four titles are headed west:

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth drops Fall 2014.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax drops Fall 2014.

Persona 4 : Dancing All Night drops some time in 2015.

Persona 5 drops some time in 2015.  So yeah.  You'll still be using your PS3 in a year's time - good to know!

Usually we have to wait years to discover if a hot-looking Japanese-developed game is getting localized. Good on ya, Atlus.  I love you.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dragon's Crown goes on sale for $17.50 tomorrow.


Dragon's Crown, the title that dominated my Game of the Year 2013 deliberations and walked away with the big prize, will get the biggest sale of its young life tomorrow when it becomes available for $17.49 on PS3 and Vita to PS+ subscribers, and $24.99 to those without.

Kris?  It's time to buy Dragon's Crown.

The sale itself is pretty huge, with all kinds of cool stuff getting pretty major sales - Ni No Kuni, Guacamelee, The Wold Among Us, Velocity Ultra, Killzone Mercenary, Hotline Miami and Castlestorm are all present, here. Check out the full list over on the PlayStation Blog.

inFamous : Second Son - 30 second gameplay spot.



Aaaaugh I can't believe I still have to wait another monnnth whyyy Sony whyyy...

Grounded : The Making of The Last of Us.



A ninety minute documentary on the making of The Last of Us?  Sign me up.  Just... not right now.  Later.  I might have time later.

Xbox One cuts its price to £399.99 in the UK.


No mention of a price cut in North America, yet - but the new price in the UK includes an upcoming Titanfall bundle. Yep - An Xbox One and Titanfall for just 400 pounds. Man, Pachter was right - it didn't take Microsoft long to cut the price.  Now, to see if Sony will rise to the challenge...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Music!


It feels like it's been far too long since I did up a music post.  Let's remedy that with a music post that's wayyy too big.

I don't think I mentioned it here, but I've got a new job.  Readers who've been with me for a while may recall I worked as a low-level supervisor in a government office.  I've earned a minor promotion to full-fledged public servant, which permits me my own little office, a ton of paperwork to go through each day, and a major perk.

I'm taking over for a woman who's been with the organization for 30+ years, and has kept a tinny little radio on her desk for as long as I've known her.  The other day, when our regional director was strolling around, he chatted with me a bit about the position and I said "I do have one question...", and pointed to the radio.

"Oh, I think it's fine that you keep that," he said.

"I don't want that," I clarified.  "I want to bring in a little docking speaker for an MP3 player."

"I don't think that would be a problem, so long as we're not talking about death metal."

Oh no, we're not talking about death metal.  We are talking about some abjectly weird shit, but we're also talking about a massive variety of shit.  I went through my playlists and threw in everything, trying to be thoughtful of excluding anything with non-radio-friendly lyrics.  I refuse to listen to the radio edit of Cee Lo Green's Fuck You or Kanye's Gold Digger, so those will just have to sit on the sidelines. Additionally, Bed Intruder Song will have no place on my work playlist.  Shame.  That shit's catchy as fuck.

Still, all things told, the playlist ended up at 1007 songs, but I'm sure I'll pare that back given the amount of doubles I'll likely find on there.  What we've got is... eclectic.  Or so I'd like to think.

Now... this post is massive and contains forty or so embedded YouTube videos so, for the sake of your browsers, I'll toss this behind a page break.


Review - Gunslugs.

Gunslugs is a 2D platforming shooter that dropped for the iOS in January of 2013.  Just over a year later, it arrives on Vita for the very-iOS price of two-fifty, or less if you've got PS+.

I paid two dollars for it, and don't feel gouged.  Having played it, though, I don't feel particularly enthused, either.

A screen from Gunslugs' original, smart phone version.
Vita controls are identical, but utilize buttons - all you need is left, right, shoot and jump.

Gunslugs has its endearments, not the least of which is a pretty catchy chiptune soundtrack and a sense of humor in the randomly-generated encounters you'll find in the bunkers you come across.

The game's hook is that it has the shade of a roguelike on it, with its procedurally-generated 2D stages offering a slightly different gauntlet to shoot through each time you start up a campaign. The intricacies of it may change, but the flavor does not as you run and jump and mow down cannon fodder.

The randomness is most apparent in the contents of the single-room bunkers you come across, which may contain a girl who insists "shhh!  I'm hiding!" before showering you with coins or some crates to break for ammo or any number of nicely weird encounters.  If you're lucky, you'll find a continue you can buy for 100 coins - the only way to survive beyond the single life the game provides - and when you're unlucky you'll step out of the bunker to find yourself mysteriously and instantly killed.

That happens a lot, for the record.  Sometimes I'm pretty sure a barrel just blew up near me, but half the time - seriously - I'll instantly die and have no idea what just happened.  Which is kinda' frustrating.


...but not really frustrating, because I can't admit to ever feeling quite absorbed in Gunslugs' manic action.  I didn't care enough about it to be disappointed, as the entire thing feels very inconsequential.

The game is nicely chaotic when a dozen different things are blowing up at once - when you step into a beacon bunker to deactivate it at the moment an enemy chopper zips overhead, splashing the chopper, which sets off a few explosive barrels - but that same chaos denies the player a clear understanding of just what the heck is going on at any given point.   Gunslugs is deeply retro in spirit as well as form - and I'd suggest it leans towards the old-school Nintendo challenge of the NES era if its random generation didn't ensure the player can never really master its challenge.

We've become so accustomed to old-timey, pixellated graphics in our modern games, it's easy to forget such art was born of a time when games were equally simple.  Gunslugs offers such simple play in spades, but can't overcome the limitations that left, right, jump and shoot impose on it, and provide something... interesting.


There are hints of something more, here.  When you push your hero in to a box and mash shoot, they'll take cover behind the box and lay down fire by sticking their gun above the box.  It's as if Gunslugs knows there are a million interesting things it could do with such simplicity, but chooses not to.

In the spirit of the game, permit me the simplest review I can offer :

Meh.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Game Diary - I'm loving Lightning Returns.


I think the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn beta is up on PS4 right now - it seems intelligent to give it a shot, given my affection for XI Online, but I've avoided it entirely. I think, worst-case scenario, I might like it.

That would be awful.  MMOs are a double-edged blade in that, in video game terms, they are somewhat the alpha and omega.  A video game's principal pursuit, one could say, is the rendering of an artificial reality for the player to lose themselves in - and few genres are more capable than the MMO at utterly absorbing a player and their imagination.

World of Warcraft addiction is a well-documented affliction - I myself would get up, go to work, come home, play WoW until I was ready to pass out and crash.  Rinse, repeat for years on end.  Literally.  There's a /played command in the WoW console, and my /played tally was in the years when I finally tore myself free of that virtual prison.

The play of MMOs is often the worst you'll ever find - a dangling carrot that's always just out of reach, the pursuit of which is never quite fun.  No, there but for the grace of God go I - but, again and thankfully, I haven't felt very tempted to - because something downright miraculous has occurred.

Stylin'.

I'm really enjoying Lightning Returns : Final Fantasy XIII.  Or at least, I'm enjoying it enough that I look forward to coming home and playing it every day, exploring more of its world, gaining new strength and seeing Lightning generally be a total fucking badass.

This is deeply weird.  I have never, ever, ever really enjoyed a core Final Fantasy game.  I've tried repeatedly for years - but Lightning Returns is the only one that I really feel like I want to see through to the end (naturally, this occurs with two day-one purchases due to arrive in four days).

Chamberlain's already written quite a bit on the subject - but what you need to know about Lightning Returns is that it is both quite traditional and totally insane in terms of RPG standards.  For example, this is an RPG that doesn't include experience points in any way, shape or form.  You don't level Lightning up.

Period.

Lightning's method of returning lost Moogles home must be seen to be appreciated.
She does get steadily stronger - but only via the completion of quests, which instantly grant you more life, strength and magic points.  You can find and purchase new outfits for her, which - in addition to being at times badass, sexy and stylish, are often the only way to grant her the most powerful spells and attacks.

She can equip three different "schema" - outfits - into battle, switching between each instantaneously with a tap of R1, and each outfit always comes with its own active skill (like a powerful melee strike with a desirable passive effect), and can then be customized with standards like block, attack or magic spells.

Right now my opening schemata is called 'Passion Rogue' - it came pre-equipped with powerful second-tier debuffs I hadn't seen before.  I now begin each battle by tapping square, triangle, circle and X in quick succession to lay down Slow, Deprotect, Deshell and Imperil before switching to either my hard-hitting (and blocking) melee outfit or my souped-up caster gear and unleashing the pain - which has made previously powerful enemies like Reavers such pushovers that I can farm them for the precious Energy Points they grant.

Now, I have no idea what "Imperil" actually does - and fuck this game for not explaining what any ability does, anywhere - but it makes my magic hit harder after I cast it, so I'll keep it up.


Defeating enemies grants you a sliver's worth of EP - energy points - which you'll almost always spend on freezing the clock and buying yourself an extra in-game hour to run around, complete quests and save the world.  In-game time is the most precious commodity you have, as the world will end in six days.

The entire population knows the world will end soon, by the way - but they're pretty easy-going about it.  They've all been cursed with immortality for the past half-millennium, and kinda' feel like the apocalypse would be preferable to this hellish and unnatural eternal life.

It's very weird - but it's weird in all these ways that make it more interesting, more endearing.  It's traditional in all the things you want from an RPG.


You wander across a sprawling, magical overworld with a day-night cycle, attacking enemies as they appear on the field like you would in an action-RPG - which then brings you in to the game's very weird, very fast-paced, quite satisfying combat system.

You go here and there, meeting folks, completing quests, earning new abilities and becoming steadily stronger - the core of any good RPG is here, and well-represented - but where the standard RPG formula can be spiced up, made more interesting, more efficient, Lightning Returns does its best to offer something creative and original.

I'm gonna' go keep playing it.  And by the way,


I started replaying Gravity Rush on breaks at work, and..?

It's so good.  It makes me think back to last fall when everyone way saying Tearaway was "finally" the Vita's killer app.

No, son.  No, not by a long shot.  Gravity Rush is fantastic in all ways.  Nice story, gorgeous visuals, fantastic animation, wonderful music, totally fun and very unique gameplay.  If you have a Vita and you haven't played it, do yourself a solid and download Gravity Rush.  If you're walking through a store and you see it, buy Gravity Rush.

You owe it to yourself to experience this.

Friday, February 21, 2014

19 minutes of sweet, sweet Galak-Z.



I wish this thing was coming to Vita, but I guess I'm okay with it coming to PS4.

Eee!

Deep Down trailer.



When is Dark Souls II coming out again?  March?  Cool.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thief launch trailer.



Problematically, I'm really enjoying Lightning Returns so far, and will be displeased to put it aside.

But, y'know... Thief.

Genroku Legends : A Cause To Daikon For drops on February 25th!


At least we got some warning this time.  Siliconera reports on the DLC's release dates, and notes that the ghostly apparition who assists Gonbe (far left) in his fight for fair government oversight is his wife, who'll raise him from the dead and offer powers of flight.

After the delightful Fishy Tales of the Nekomata, I'll be day-oneing this.  February 25th is looking terribly busy.

Ubisoft teases something for Far Cry.

-source-

I'm hoping the Olympics thing is a red herring and and the text indications we'll be getting a higher-definition version of Far Cry 3 for new-gen consoles. ...or it could just be that some sports person redefined how far you could jump on skis...

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

REVIEW - TxK.

TxK is a ten dollar shooter, for Vita.  It's...

It's like...

Hm.

It's exactly what I thought it was the first time I saw its gameplay.


It is trippy as hell.

It's as if the spirit of the eighties, rendered down to a pure, undying soul of indelibly bad taste, sought out and seduced the most socially-awkward aspects of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! with its pulsating neon wiles. In a continued fit of weirdness, these hideous parents then, nine months later, squeezed out a vector shooter called TxK.

The act of playing it feels distressingly like being drunk or, perhaps more accurately, under the influence of acid - an inability to concentrate or comprehend, with a side order of nausea.

Tempest (1981, arcade)
To back off a bit, TxK is the latest product of gaming madman Jeff 'Yak' Minter, a developer who's been in the industry for over thirty years.  Notably, for our discussion here today, he developed Tempest 2000 for the Jaguar in 1994, which was itself a sequel to the ancient arcade shooter Tempest.

Checking out screens of Tempest and Minter's Tempest 2000, TxK comes into clear focus as a spiritual sequel to these ancient wares.

The gameplay surface is the edge of a long geometric shape, comprised of flat channels.  You can only guide your "ship" along the topmost edge of the shape, launching projectiles down the surface to destroy waves of enemies that approach.

If they reach the top edge, where you are, they'll creep along it - reducing the area you have to dance across - and when they collide with your ship it makes this creepy dying/screaming sound...


The game explains itself in broad strokes - it points out what power-ups are, how to use jump (a lifesaver, which flings your ship high above the edge of the shape to take out any enemies who've made it to the top), and what those mysterious warp triangles are - but leaves the minutae entirely up to you.  I almost quit the game after I got insta-killed a half-dozen times, before consciously slowing my mind and trying to observe how it got me.

Like many of the indie, retro-flavored titles that have called the Vita home lately, it's not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination - but it earns one's affection through gameplay that recalls the olden days.  Days of pulsating, lurid graphics and the flat-out requirement that the player's eyes glaze over as their conscious thought processes slow down and they begin to play entirely on instinct.


There is depth here that belies its throbbing presentation (the music is as hallucinogenic as the visuals), and the more you play, the more you learn, the more you find yourself drifting into gaming's sweet spot...

...but even so.  Even though I find I have little to complain about with TxK, I feel a bit ripped off at its price tag.  If I were to recommend a shooter on Vita, there are a half-dozen titles I'd suggest you check out before considering this psychotic little game - unless you're ravenous for something totally, willfully different from anything else out there.

It's certainly that.  Most of all, TxK is a game that feels like it exists only for gamers who loved Tempest and Tempest 2000.  If you don't fall in to that category you may - like me - play TxK for a bit, trip out on its neon fireworks visuals and trance-y sountrack, and quickly move on, to find something more purely enjoyable.


I don't know if TxK is worth the stellar reviews its earned elsewhere. It can't maintain my interest for long enough to find out - but I am sure of one thing.  This game is trippy as hell, and odds are if the words Tempest mean nothing to you, you've never played anything like it.

Standby for Titanfall trailer.



I don't even like multiplayer shooters but it looks so good!

Dark Souls II lullaby trailer.



That is the most uplifting Dark Souls trailer you will ever see.

Wolfenstein : The New Order - preorders get you the DOOM beta!

New trailer!



Release date!  May 20, 2014.

Preorders net you access to the DOOM beta!  It's that last part that made a million ears perk up, and yes, Wolfenstein, you may consider yourself preordered.  I don't think I've ever even played a DOOM multiplayer.  Quake, sure.  Don't care - it's a new DOOM, it's coming, and I'm dying to get my hands on it.  id aren't giving away any details about DOOM, but there's a little evasive FAQ on their site, if you're curious.

Fortunately, The New Order looks like some good silly fun - so no skin off my nose, there.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Order 1886 trailer & gameplay footage!


Eee!  The media's been hyping this for weeks!  They saw 40 minutes of gameplay last month, and now, finally, we get...



...um.  That... oh come on!  That's your trailer?  Is that seriously supposed to give me the Uncharted 2 debut trailer tingles?  'Cause it didn't. Twenty seconds of in-engine footage does not a trailer make.

But okay - okay, we get three minutes of B roll footage - that's worth checkin' out... (Thank you, AGB, for giving it to us without some silly journalist talking over it.)

Too bad it's compressed YouTube quality... not... not very pleased.  It's gorgeous, but it looks suffocatingly linear. It's my fault.  I over-hyped it to myself.  ...here's another big, beautiful screenshot - and the hope that one day we'll get pure, uncompressed footage to judge.

A nice long gameplay demo at E3, maybe.


Sigh.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Quick personal note.


I've finished Left Behind, but I don't feel the need to write a review quite yet.  Maybe I need to replay it, or somethin'.  It's not bad - far from it - I think I just need to give it a replay.

Also, I've discovered I'm enjoying Lightning Returns, so I'm just gonna' go play that.  The Order gets a new trailer tomorrow!  Eee!  And I'll be at work and unable to watch it!  Ehhh...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chamberlain and Chance on Outlast.


You know the drill - Chamberlain does that, I do this, and sometimes we do it together.  In a comforting return to form after last time's strange reversal of standards, Chamberlain cannot unsee everything wrong with Outlast, while I found it quite successful, despite its missteps.

* * *

CHAMBERLAIN : Going to be careful with my comments because, judging from your trophy list, I played more of this yesterday than you did.

As a first person adventure (-ish) title, Outlast is pretty good. It does not leverage the power of the new hardware, in fact the frame rate chugs there are a lot of thing burning or when it tries to load the next section of a level.

This pops up more than you'd expect.

CHAMBERlAIN : There are fetch quests and notes to collect and dead ends and all of the general tropes associated with combatless games. The whole thing feels like an adaptation of the Russian Sleep Experiment short story. Just like that story it falls flat when it tries to be scary because it tries way too hard.

Outlast isn’t mood scary like Silent Hill 2 or Fatal Frame. It’s jump scary and that wears off really quick. Quests fall into a strict pattern – look for item(s), pass scary things that don’t do anything, find item, back track while being chased by aforementioned scary things. This happens over and over and it less effective each time.

I slept well last night. This was not what I was hoping for.


CHANCE :After I played it on Tuesday, I switched to Tomb Raider after a few hours as I felt myself becoming saturated with hellishness, and - as I played TR in the dark - a bit of light was shining off the leather of a chair in the next room, about as big as someone's eye.  I had to pause the game and look very closely, to assure myself some demented inmate wasn't sitting there, motionless, staring at me.  

Outlast gives itself a pretty big challenge by way of making the player almost entirely passive - all we can do is flip switches, close doors and run like hell - and so, we understand that each scenario with an enemy has only two outcomes.  You either successfully run and hide, or you die - which actually grants the player a bit of comfort, and confidence.  We're aware that this game is meant to be seen through to the end, so the chases are less scary when we're assured a survivable outcome is on the other side - but for 90% of Outlast, it's not chasing you - it's building its creep factor.

I find its creep factor very affecting.  It's got some really good ideas - not the least of which is the entire game being viewed through the lens of a camcorder.  This is a found-footage movie in which you are the person recording everything - and when the lights go out, everything is creepier in infrared. It also helps that it covers up the blemishes of Unreal Engine 3.

I'm gonna' go play it more, now. 

CHAMBERLAIN : Let me know when you are done, I don’t want to spoil anything.

CHANCE : Deal. 

Dr. Trager.

CHANCE : Okay done.  I enjoyed it - I'm sticking to my assertion that it's no Fatal Frame II, but it gets the job done.  I particularly liked the Dr. Trager sequence.  

You play this thing in a dark room with a decent sound system or headphones, it will freak you out.  Just the player character's panicked breathing was enough to give me the willies.

CHAMBERLAIN : I played it in a windowless basement with a 5.1 surround setup. Not quite 7.1 headphones but still pretty good.

The  game never got me. After the first jump scare I could see them coming. After the first key quest I knew how they were all going to play out. The Dr. Trager sequence was good until he actually started to chase you. Then it broke down into a Laurel and Hardy routine.

It's not a bad game, I just didn't find it as frightening as others did.



CHAMBERLAIN : And that ending? My god, that was shit.


* * * 

At this point, things go spoilery, so I shall hide them behind the protective shield of a page break.

Another 17 minutes of Thief.

This time pure, uncut and un-commented.



Kayla and I were watching it today and I found myself wondering - is Square Enix trying to make white paint its own visual shorthand for "platform here"?  Crystal Dynamics did the same thing in Tomb Raider (and it worked really well).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

REVIEW - Outlast.

Outlast is a first-person survival... is survival horror the right genre?  It's certainly horror... stealth horror?  Exploratory horror?

It's a first-person horror game, set in an insane asylum awash with the blood of countless victims, its denizens having been physically and psychologically brutalized by the terrors they witnessed (and participated in) at the hands of evil, ambitious men.

This is all the context the game gives you before it begins. I love it when a piece of media acknowledges that the stuff in its warning advisory are selling features.

If you're looking for a horror game on PS4, or the eighth console generation entirely, the list currently begins and ends with Outlast - which is an enviable spot for any genre piece.  Thankfully, it doesn't squander its position, or really disappoint - I'm looking at you, here, Knack.


I love the game's premise.  The setting of a lunatic asylum could be viewed as a cliché as much as classic, but I lean towards 'classic.'  There's a reason it works so well - mad shrieks in the night, indecipherable ravings scrawled on the walls and the often-horrific things people with degrees and white coats will inflict on those most in need of their help.

Set in this classic cliché, it bases its gameplay in another - the found footage horror movie.  In Outlast, you play the person holding the shaky camera, dutifully documenting the terror you've stumbled in to for posterity.

That's brilliant.


That's so inspired but so obvious for a video game, one wonders why it hasn't been done before. Possibly because the horror genre went largely (not entirely) dormant on the 7th console generation (PS3, 360) before it gained a foothold on the PC in recent years (Outlast dropped on PC last September, and the Amnesia series has been keeping the home fires burning for years).

Like many horror games, the narrative here is peeled back via documents you discover through your exploration - but half of these are written by player-character Upshur himself.  If you have the camera pointed at an event or scene - if Upshur has proof - he'll scribble down his thoughts on the evolving mystery, which encourages the player to have the camera up at all times.

Outlast doesn't use it as a mere narrative device - it's terribly functional.  The game constantly requires you to stumble your way through pitch-black darkness, with not so much as a shadow to guide you - which is where your camera's infrared light comes in handy.


Ewww.  That got too real.

Like the setting, its central mechanic relies on what's worked well historically - and seeing an environment in the eerie green glow of infrared has been creeping people out since Buffalo Bill stalked Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs.  Heck, even watching the noble lions of the Serengeti becomes chilling when they turn towards the camera at night and you get that evil reflection from the backs of their eyes.

If there is a "survival" aspect to Outlast, it is the batteries your camera consumes, only while infrared mode is active.  Batteries drain quickly, and - along with documents to flesh out the narrative - are almost exclusively discovered when you wander off the game's expected path.  It consistently rewards you for such exploration, and so the player spends most of the game nervously rifling through broom closets and offices in search of a little double-A or file folder.

Creepy.

The game is a series of similarly wise choices, all equally reverential (and referential) of classic horror.  The player-character, for example, is utterly powerless against the demented inmates that stalk him.  Your options are to run or die as a giant madman pounds down the hall towards you.  The chase itself is intimately prepared, with nice mechanics thrown in like the ability to close doors - which takes a second or two as you zip the camera around, tap the button and slam it before taking off again - but it slows your enemies down as they bash the wood to splinters before resuming their search for you.

Once they've broken a door off its hinges, you can't use it to slow them down a second time - and if they catch sight of you, the chase is on again.  As you dash away with an enemy tearing after, Outlast thoughtfully includes the ability to look behind you - trading, for a moment, your ability to gauge what comes next in the chase for the knowledge of how much breathing room you have to spare.

Nice.


Not every choice indie studio Red Hook (comprised of industry vets) make, here, is the wisest one.  Unfortunately, load screens can appear as you, for example, walk down a hallway (?), and while pop-up objectives are terribly handy, they shatter one's suspension of disbelief.  Their function could be retained without damaging the atmosphere if Upshur simply wrote them in a journal for the player to discover.

While the game's chases - perhaps its most meaningful sequences of player interaction - are thoughtfully-assembled, there's something pallid about them.  From the very first time you hide in a locker and watch a monstrous inmate stalk by, the player gets the sense that Outlast doesn't actually want your enemies to catch you.  They can, of course, and you can die via mildly horrific means, but after the first few encounters, the player becomes instilled with confidence when a foe appears at the end of a hallway instead of terror.

The game's pattern emerges - "all I have to do is run away, and if I keep running, I'll find a vent or crack I can squeeze through that my enemy can't."


Take these two beasts, for example.  Two of the better villainous characters in the game, you meet them through the bars of a cell block, where they're discussing whether or not to kill you.  They stalk you for the rest of the game, and there's one potentially-brilliant moment on a narrow walkway overlooking a large room.  As you move forward into the dark, one of them emerges from the shadows in front of you, a machete in one hand.

If you turn around (I'm told) and try to run away, you'll turn smack into the other one, coming up behind you.  I didn't, though.  I turned to the window, hit the action button and shimmied along a ledge as they discussed how stupid they both were for having lost you.

I love you boys, but you are.  You are stupid.

This doesn't stop the game from, largely, achieving its ambition - but it's worth noting that part of its mystery and so, crucially, its ability to immerse the player, can be lost through its buttery-smooth design.

That being said, Outlast is still a first-person game on the PS4 about exploring a totally creepy insane asylum. That, alone, is pretty awesome.

By this point in the game, the player understands that this fellow's lack of genitals is an artistic choice.
It has dongs, is what I'm saying.  Floppy, uncircumcised dongs.  In infrared. 

The game's greatest strength is, perhaps, its audio.  Turn on some surround sound, put on some 7.1 headphones and the game wraps its icy tendrils of terror around your heart, purely informed by the panicked breathing of Upshur as an enemy stalks past.  Even opening and closing the menus is accompanied by a horror-movie sting - just enough to send a chill up your spine before you return to the game - and the game, un-examined and all alone, is an excellent horror experience.


The simple act of feeling your way around in the dark as Upshur struggles to stop himself from screaming, nosing around offices and crypts in suffocating darkness, making sure you check that dead security guard at the end of the hall for the battery in his radio - as a pure exercise, in the moment-to-moment 'play it offers - Outlast is a success.

It's worth noting, its ending sucks.  Chamberlain is right, the last hour - which should have been the game's crescendo of pressure and tension - begins by utterly deflating any sense of mystery the game had earned up until that point, and sends you on a frightless fetch quest down brightly-lit hallways in service of the narrative's final, disappointing twist.

It's a good game.  In its finer moments - and for most of its duration, in fact - it's a great horror game.  The ending?

The ending is stupider than the two boys - but let us not close on that.  In its finer moments and almost all of its moment-to-moment gameplay, Outlast is an excellent horror experience.  It's not entirely consistent and falters at the finish line, but it remains worth its $20 asking price, and your time.

Steamworld Dig is coming to Vita.



A steampunk robotic-western mining-Metroidvania platformer!  Yes, please.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The first 13 minutes of South Park : The Stick of Truth.



Can't wait.  It's so close!

Battle Princess of Arcadias is getting localized!

Yay!  English trailer!



The game is coming exclusively to PSN, for some reason, as won't be getting a disc release, for some reason.  The release date is "2014," and that's all they're willing to tell us.  Also worth noting, there will be no audio localization - the in-game voices will remain in Japanese.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bayonetta 2 - Did You Miss Me? trailer.

The Last of Us : Left Behind launch trailer.



Left Behind drops tonight at 06:00 GMT - that's 24:00 central standard time!  ...but I need to go to sleep early, so I'll have to (try to) remember to start the download before I go to work tomorrow.  It's like 5 gigs!

Also, Naughty Dog wishes you a happy Valentine's Day.

Lords of the Fallen looks okay!



Hints of Dark Souls - the boss fight is a lot less impressive, though.  Very nice-looking.  I particularly appreciate those particle effects.

And you are on my radar.

Bound by Flame trailer is pretty meh.



That's three trailers in two days I've been quite nonplussed by - which I feel somewhat guilty about, as a team of folks far more talented than I worked their butts off on this, and it's infinitely better than anything I could muster.  But I look at it and I think "looks kinda' like Kingdoms of Amalur.  Meh."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Three Things.


First up, a crapload of inFamous: Second Son stuff went up today, the embargo after the recent Sony summit being lifted.  All Games Beta is the place to go, here, as they've kindly put up (1) a YouTube rip of footage that isn't supposed to be shared, (2) a MegaUpload link to a direct download of the uncompressed footage (!) and links to all the preview articles from major sites.

Endless, you're frickin' awesome.

Second - again, from All Games Beta - 1080p, 60FPS Titanfall beta footage (but like the uncompressed footage above, you'll have to download 'em).

Third - Ubisoft announced that, as of today, work on South Park: The Stick of Truth is complete.  The game has gone gold, and will make its March 4th release date.  Eee!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Darkest Dungeon funded in one day, first stretch goal reached.



The Darkest Dungeon Kickstarter is already up to $98,000, which means the first stretch goal - the Houndmaster class, unlocked at 90K - is going in the game!

I really hope Shahid Ahmad or Gio Corsi jump on this and lock this thing down for Sony.  God this would be awesome on Vita.

Lightning Returns : Final Fantasy XIII launch trailer.



Gets me hyped, and I don't even like this series.  Reviews are pretty middling so far, with a Metascore (after 30 reviews) putting it at 68.  Still - curious to check it out!

[update] Two hours in - like it so far. [/update]

Broforce!

Watch this.



Retweet this.




Get it on vita.

Evolve - Happy Hunting trailer.



Like Dying Light's trailer, this trailer sucks.  Much better is this seven-minute preview video from Eurogamer, which offers a ton of gameplay and an explanation of the game's systems.  It sounds interesting.

Dying Light on PS4 trailer.



Not... the best trailer.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Darkest Dungeon is up on Kickstarter!



The above trailer is actually - stupidly enough - exclusive to GT (I guess they wanted fewer people to see it?) [update] for one day, I guess [/update], so go there if you want to watch it on their weird proprietary player.  Until the above YouTube rip gets taken down, however, enjoy it however you please!

Darkest Dungeon is, of course, the ultra-stylish 2D Lovecraftian dungeon crawl with psychological damage we got a glimpse of last October.  A...


...is now up, and already almost two-thirds of the way to meetings its $75,000 goal.  I strongly encourage you to head over there and read the entire Kickstarter page, 'cause this game sounds awesome. For me, the most thrilling part was the discussion of its platforms (PC and Mac), and the mention that they are "very interested in consoles."

Naturally, I gave Corsi and Ahmad a heads-up.


Fingers crossed!