Monthly Archives: August 2010

Really Late Game Review: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadows of Chernobyl


So I bought and played Stalker… err sorry, I mean S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (read that to yourself as “S period T period A period L period K period E period R period” every time it shows up in this post and you might get a small taste of something similar to the annoyance I felt playing the game.) Shadows of Chernobyl during the Steam holidays sale, or rather I should say I bought it during the sale back in December and got around to playing recently.

Short version of this post: Blarg, I want my $2 back.

This game got so much favorable press and fanfare and rave reviews, comparing it to Fallout 3, that I was expecting something I could really get into, but I just don’t get what anyone sees in this game.

So many things just irritated the hell out of me from the onset, some of my major qualms with the game (in no particular order):

1. It looks like ass.

I know it’s a 3 year old game, but it looks like ass for a 3 year old game. Gray colored people fighting other gray colored people and gray colored monsters in a gray world with gray rain. Sure, sure, it came out in 2007, but so did Half Life 2: Episode 2 and the first Mass Effect. I mean, look at a comparison between the two games:

Sure, we’re talking a much smaller company vs. a huge multi-million dollar gaming powerhouse company, but still, even in it’s heyday, I can’t say S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was much to brag about in the way of graphics.

But graphics aren’t everything you say? I agree, many games make up for lackluster or dated graphics with other elements. Which leads me to more complaints.

2. Horrible A.I. & buggy as hell.

You start of the game with like a slingshot and soon run into enemies with fully automatic weapons and body armor. Stealth and smart use of terrain etc. are supposed to be the key here, but whereas with a nice spec a modern (not 2007) PC at full settings I still have trouble picking out Mr. Gray Blob 1 from background of gray blobby trees, gray blobby railroad tracks and gray blobby building, they instantly know exactly where I am at all times and and are just predisposed to disliking me for some reason.

Stealth is a lie in this game. The A.I. always knows where you are, even when they cannot possibly see or hear you and are half a mile away.

Except when it is just completely clueless and can’t tell where anything is like in situations where you can go in by an alternate route and the A.I. will literally stand still and let you shoot them in the back head repeatedly and the dumber than dirt allies.

Add to this the self completing/failing missions (I failed missions I never even picked up!) and a host of other technical problems, and it just doesn’t make the game very much fun to play.

Examples: (Videos found on youtube, not mine nor is the terrible music in most of them my choice)
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3. OMG THE HEAD BOB!”#!”$!%!”

Seriously, wtf. This is not “realistic” and anyone who claims it is should immediately visit a doctor, because the world is not supposed to flop around like this when you walk:
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4. Story

Apparently there is one. I know, I was surprised too. I played the game for a total of 7 hours, and still mostly had no clue what the hell was going in. It starts off boring and doesn’t tell you anything. The game makes you work at trying to piece together the story. I don’t mean in an in-game/in-world sort of way. I mean if you, the player do not read tons of text and make a serious effort to try and figure out what the hell is going on and what the point of you doing anything is, then the story is vague at best.

It never really seems to grab you and involve you in the story, its more aimless wandering and doing a bunch of more or less random quests because you just don’t have anything better to do.

Add to this that most of the spoken dialog and in-world text is in Russian, which while making for a “realistic” experience as the game is based in Russia, does not make for a very involved experience for me, because I DON’T SPEAK OR READ RUSSIAN GODDAMNIT.

Now, I’m a translator in my real world job. And I can completely sympathize with the fact that 99% of all things are better in their original language, but that doesn’t help when I don’t speak that language, and I’m not about to try and pick up another language so that I can gain a better understanding of a game that I am angry I paid $2 for.

All of that together just makes for a disjointed, vague, difficult to find and comprehend story, and an overall terrible gaming experience. I put 7 hours into the game because so many people told me how wonderful and great and awesome it was, like a better version of Fallout 3. Well, they wrong. All of them. I enjoyed Fallout 3 about 1,000,000 times more and I rage quit in the middle of that game because of a bunch of bugs that made it impossible for me to progress in half the missions.

The only fun or enjoyment I had at all in stalker was when I finally managed to get a gun with a scope and made my way up to the highest point in one of the towns and went water tower on all the anti-social, boring, buggy A.I. brown and gray pricks who lived there before uninstalling the game and falling into a restless sleep dreaming of the $2 and 7 hours I would never see again.

ALERT! Urgent incoming messages from the corporate alliance!

Persona Team Releasing HD Game – Catherine


I’ve been a huge fan of the Persona series of late. Atlus continues to build on the series in new and interesting ways, and even the re-releases tend to be new and interesting enough to warrant purchasing. so when I heard that they were working on a new HD title loosely affiliated with the Persona series, I was very interested. Atlus was kind enough to release a trailer that was… interesting to say the least. Take a look below.

Catherine Trailer
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Aside from making it more likely that I’ll buy the game online rather than in a store, this trailer shows that the new game is as likely to be as interesting as the previous ones. Providing it receives a US launch, which I find somewhat unlikely given it’s risqué content.

ALERT! Incoming Transmission!

Zelda – Heart for the Hero


Funny little Legend of Zelda video featuring Link from Gametrailers.com

Really Late Game Reviews: Mass Effect 2


Continuing a long standing tradition of mine of playing games well after they are released, I’ve actually managed to play this one in the year it was released, but considering I started it nearly 6 months after release despite preording the deluxe edition, still a late game review.

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Summary: Good game, had a lot of fun. Didn’t notice how stupid some of it was till afterward.

I really like the Mass Effect series. Sure the games leave something to be desire in a lot of areas, and there is a lot of talking etc. but overall I love the characters, the acting, the universe and how engrossing and involving the games are.

I loved Mass Effect 1, played it through twice. Ended being surprised by how much I liked some of the characters (2 playthroughs and I still ended up with Tali and Wrex in my party most of the time through both).

Mass Effect 2 carried on the tradition with the return of a few of your old teammates in various ways (Yay Tali, Wrex, not so much Garrus) and the introduction of some great new characters.

I had a ton of fun playing all the recruiting missions and loyalty missions and doing all the side stuff.

Graphics were nice, acting was superb, dialog was great and the combat was a lot more fun and a lot more challenging than the first game.

Also some of the renegade options were hilarious, although the renegade paragon system itself was not my favorite aspect of the game, more on that below.

Overall I’d recommend the game.

I do have a few qualms with it though (as always in no particular order).

1. Armor and inventory (or lack thereof).
I don’t think anyone enjoyed exactly how the inventory system in ME1 worked, but I’d have much rather they improved the inventory system rather than remove it completely. I might be the oddball here, but I really enjoyed all the different armors and stuff from the first game. I ended up keeping less than the best armors for a bunch of the characters (Wrex) just because I thought they looked so much cooler.

For Shepherd it was alright, because you could customize everything and what not, but there wasn’t shit you could do with squadmates until you had their loyalty and that just ended up with usually 1 stupid pallete swap of their current outfit. The fact that they release DLC that costs money to change appearances really kind of pissed me off.

I also hate the fact that you can’t remove your helmet, or change your armor during the game without going to your special armor wearing contraption on the ship. Wearing the helmet constantly during cutscenes and such got annoying so despite wanting bonuses the helmets provided and having 8 billion different types of headwear from deluxe edition content, DLC, promotions etc. I just ended up forgoing any head protection at all so I could enjoy the cutscenes without sounding like Darth Vader.

Also not fond of the weapon assortment. Am I the only one who barely used the heavy weapons? I used grenades in the first one constantly. Heavy weapons I rarely bothered with. I don’t like the progression of weapons either. No selection, no catering to specific playstyles, just individual, specific weapon upgrades as the story progresses, making it so no matter how often you playthrough you always have more or less the same loadouts at the same points in the game.

2. I miss the long elevators.
Yeah, I know people are shaking their heads at that, but I enjoyed the long elevators rides and their spontaneous conversations and stuff from the first game. Also interactions between companions were painfully few and far between, despite the fact that some of those characters should have been interacting A LOT and some truly great missed opportunities for fun dialogue and story (Tali and Legion, crocodile dundeeZaeed and Grunt, etc.).

I disliked the fact that you barely talked to or interacted with your squadmates except for on the ship, and on the ship you had to run all over hell and back and elevators etc. to get to them. The whole “I am done talking for now, come back later” crap got old real quick too. I’d have booted Garrus’ moody emo taurian ass out of the nearest airlock if it was really my ship.

3. Renegade, Paragon, I’m the guy with the gun.
You get bonuses for being either realllllllly good, or realllllly bad. In fact, one could easily argue that doing one or the other is required to finish the game in the best way possible because otherwise you can end up unable to resolve some situations in a satisfying manner.

There really needs to be a more middle of the road option. Some of the people I wanted to slap around (TAKE THAT REPORTER!) and some people I felt bad for or whatever, but the game kind of railroaded me into being one or the other.

4. Weird bugs.
I got the weird clipping bugs, often requiring a reload of an earlier saved game, way too often for my liking. I would walk into a desk or something and the game would propel me onto the desk and up through the ceiling or some other stupid thing. Got annoying after awhile.

Or else armor and weapons clipping into itself/other pieces during cutscenes and such (this was a huge issue for Dragon Age with it’s ginormous armor)

Some examples:
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5. Main storyline (SPOILERS BELOW!!!!! )


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I didn’t really notice until after I had finished the game, but in regards to the main storyline… well, there really wasn’t much of one. 90% of the game was spent on companion characters, which was good and a lot of fun. But the game was shorter for me than the first one (finished in 60 hours doing pretty much everything I could do), and I bet it would have been a lot shorter if I just did the main storyline.

It was short, not much meat to it, and honestly, didn’t make a whole lot of sense. There was a lot more that could have been delved into, and the ending of it and lack of some options was disappointing.

Specific story problems include:
A.
The council just decided to forget about the reapers? Come on. Making it more an intentional cover up or something would be interesting. But willing themselves into disbelief, it just seemed stupid and not well thought out. Seemed like they thought, “how can we make it so Shepherd is forced to be alienated from the council again despite conclusively proving the reapers were real and saving the council from them in the previous game”, and then decided to apply an afternoon soap opera type of solution. Very unsatisfying and made me want to reply the first game again just to kill the council because they are obviously mentally deficient.

I get that they are trying to paint the council as not perfect etc. But they are still supposed to be the people essentially ruling the galaxy, they cannot be completely incompetent or else the entire world that mass effect is based upon starts to come apart at the seams.

B.
I also hated the entire stupid concept of the human reaper, seriously, what. the. hell.? They are a race of sentient space ships, machines that hold all organic life in contempt, but now all of the sudden they base themselves off of other races? Races that they think are disgusting and beneath them? How does this make sense? I hate cockroaches, so somehow I think I should make my children look like one? And so what race was sovereign, you know, the SPACESHIP, based off of? Some other race of sentient spaceships?

Just dumb, needs to be retconned out of existence, make it something else. Not a reaper, but just some weird experiment they were doing or something, the whole concept was just dumb.

C.
Also, really wish there was an option to not destroy the collector base but not give it to Cerberus either. Again lack of a pragmatic option, I would have given it to the alliance. Unfortunate oversight there, and one I’m afraid I’ll end up paying for in the next game because I chose not to take a potential benefit because I didn’t want to give it to the marlboro man (also, seriously, we get that he smokes, give it a rest, don’t need half a cutscene of him taking puffs on a poorly animated cigarette).
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Conclusion:
So overall, great game, lots of fun, enjoyable, but not without its negative aspects and wtf moments, and in all honesty, I can see how people wouldn’t like it. I enjoy it because story is vital to me in a game. It’s often where I get most of my enjoyment from in single player games. Immersion. An engrossing story and world can be the single most definitive factor for me in deciding whether a game is good or bad, so I didn’t mind the hours and hours of cutscenes and talking and dialog options and such, but I can see how some people would not enjoy it as much.

To each his or her own, I enjoyed it, and I’d recommend it. Good acting, good writing (except for a few story points mentioned above) and dialog, amazing cast, fun combat, awesome world setting with a lot of potential.

Gummi Bear Surgery



A post over at instructables.com shows how to perform various gummi bear modifications.

Kind of neat, terribly amusing, worth a shot if you have nothing better to do :)

The website is fairly annoying as it locks a whole bunch of features except to members but still interesting content.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Gummi-Bear-Surgery/

BONUS!
Buy a 5 pound gummy bear.

http://www.vat19.com/dvds/worlds-largest-gummy-bear.cfm

DOUBLE BONUS! Neat image of gummy bear anatomy: