Tag Archives: Games

Risen: Spiritual successor to Gothic 3

Title Risen
Developer Piranha Bytes
Type RPG
Platform(s) XBox 360, PC (reviewed on PC)
Kelly Score ™ 75 / 100

Risen is an old-school role playing game that does very little to make itself appealing to the more “casual” gamer. In terms of overall characteristics, Risen is similar to games like Oblivion- but whereas Oblivion tries to make it easy to progress and overcome your mistakes, Risen makes no such allowances. Interestingly enough, although I generally like “easier” games, I’m actually really enjoying Risen… on the PC. From what I’ve seen and heard, the XBox version should be avoided.
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Bayonetta: Everything that is wrong with this type of game

Title Bayonetta
Developer Platinum Games
Type Action/Fighting
Platform(s) XBox360, PS3
Kelly Score ™ 40 / 100

Action games are a genre that I really didn’t understand until I played Bayonetta. I could therefore say that the $60 I spent on this game was educational: I have been taught that I should not buy this kind of game. The kindest things I can really say about Bayonetta from my perspective are that the graphics are impressive, and the main character has one of the finest digital rumps in computer history.

bayonetta_butt.jpg

If you generally agree with everything I say, you have no need to read further.

Continue reading Bayonetta: Everything that is wrong with this type of game

Wet: definition of a wasted opportunity

Title Wet
Developer Artificial Mind and Movement (published by Bethesda)
Type Action / Shooter
Platform(s) XBox 360, Playstation 3
Kelly Score ™ 55 / 100

The title “Wet” supposedly refers to the term “wetwork”, a word commonly attributed to cold-war era secret agencies and referring to assignments involving killing so intense that the workers hands become literally wet with blood. The game definitely has death and blood galore, with kill counts in the hundreds per chapter as the game’s female protagonist, Rubi Malone, slices, jumps, and shoots her way through room after room of “bad people”.   

I’m all for a bit of mindless violence in my games, particularly when the main character is a sexy but psychopathic woman, but somewhere along the line Wet becomes… boring, and worse: irritating. It is telling that I had to force myself to finish the game- I wanted to call it quits several times after the midway point of the twelve to fourteen hours of playtime I got for my money. This is unfortunate, as there are a number of good ideas in Wet- sadly, it feels a bit like there were one or two hours of good ideas cut and pasted a dozen times to fill out the game.

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Old-style destruction- the return of MechWarrior

There was a series of games I played many years ago. In these games, I was injected into a world where giant robotic machines cut lumbering, awe-inspiring paths of destruction through cities and each other. That was the universe of BattleTech and the MechWarrior game series, and it was good.

Unfortunately, the MechWarrior series came to an end some years ago- the last “real” MechWarrior game was MechWarrior 4, which came out in the 2002 timeframe. The good news: a new MechWarrior game is coming sometime in the next couple of years. And if the video (see below) is any indication, the makers of this “reboot” understand at least a little about what made MechWarrior fun.

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New XBox stuff announced at E3: Natal and full downloads

E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) has suffered through some setbacks in the last few years. The industry show is basically a venue for the manufacturers of computer games and game related products to communicate with the media. Normal citizens like you and I are not allowed to attend. The big vendors like Microsoft and Nintendo decided a few years ago that the show was costing too much money for not enough return, and they withdrew en masse. E3 went through some gyrations to try to re-invent itself, but has basically come back identical to what it was, just a bit smaller. I’m not sure what has really changed, but the big vendors seem to be back.

This post isn’t about E3, though: instead, it is about a couple of interesting (to me) announcements that Microsoft made at the event. Project Natal, a full-body motion interface with no actual controller, and XBox Live full game downloads.

Continue reading New XBox stuff announced at E3: Natal and full downloads

Duke Nukem… now not ever

It was confirmed today that the perpetual developer of Duke Nukem Forever, 3D Realms, is being shut down for financial reasons. If you’ve never heard of 3D Realms or Duke Nukem, this won’t mean much to you. But if you’ve been playing computer games since the early 90’s, you’ll almost certainly remember the iconic Duke Nukem 3D.

Unlike other early “3D” games, Duke Nukem’s greatest strength was its main character- a rough-talking, wise-assed musclebound guy as quick with a one-liner as with his shotgun. This was a game with a sense of humour, and an off the wall quirkiness: I recall the shrink ray which allowed you to shoot a monster or, in multi-player, another player, to reduce them to mouse size… then stomp on them. Or the remote control mines: set down four or five mines in various locations, then selectively detonate them using the remote control. Combine this with a “security station” containing monitors showing camera views of various places in the game, and you could remotely kill your enemies. Brilliant stuff!

Duke Nukem 3D was released in 1996. In 1997, 3D Realms announced their next installment in the series: Duke Nukem Forever. Originally, it was supposed to ship in 1999. 3D Realms was one of the original inventors of the term “it is ready when it’s ready”, and every year after 1999 there was another “not yet” from the developers when asked about DNF. The perpetual delays of Duke Nukem Forever became a long-running joke in the industry.

Today is the punchline, and it isn’t very satisfying. The employees of 3D Realms are, no doubt, even more disappointed than I am, and are stuck trying to get new jobs in a challenging economy. Will Duke Nukem ever reappear? Supposedly Take Two (the “when it’s ready” publisher of DNF) still owns the rights to the publication of the game, but all of the intellectual property (I.E.: the game in progress, the story, the artwork, etc) is locked up in the collapsed company. I suspect we’ll never see Duke Nukem as he was intended to be seen, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a never ending stream of cheap knockoff Dukes on various platforms like the the Game Boy and PSP.

Farewell, Duke: as you walk off into the sunset, may you always kick ass and chew bubble gum, and may you always be out of gum.

SHOCK: Microsoft makes a good XBox video

I like my XBox 360. It entertains me, and when I want to play a game it basically just works (ignoring that RROD incident a while back…). But Microsoft has, in my opinion, had trouble in the past coming up with good advertising that appeals to the mass market. This little Youtube video from Microsoft that plays off the avatars in the “New Xbox Experience” user interface changes the tone, and it seems to me that it has appeal that extends beyond the hard core gamer:

Here’s hoping that Microsoft can win over a few of the less hardcore who may be getting tired with their Wiis…

D&D’s Dave Arneson moves on to the last great Campaign

Dungeons and Dragons arguably started its life as a simple set of miniature rules called Chainmail. But it wasn’t until Dave Arneson‘s Blackmoor that the concepts most people think of when they contemplate “role playing games” came together. Instead of simple sets of stats and numbers played out like a war game, Arneson and his rules focused more on story and acting a role, with combat being arguably less important. These rules and concepts formulated by Dave Arneson were the foundation of Dungeons and Dragons, and although Gary Gygax is often credited as being the father of D&D, Arneson played a huge role as well.

Dave Arneson passed away in his sleep on April 7th. He was only 61 years old. I’m am personally indebted to Mr. Arneson for the many years of joy his ideas brought me. But an entire industry of paper and computer games spanning several generations, parents, children, and grand children, owe their enjoyment of an entire genre of entertainment to this man. My thoughts are with Mr. Arneson’s family: many thanks for sharing this man with those of us who know him only through his ideas.

Tributes from the Order of the Stick comic; a nice memorial article from Tor.com; and another interesting memorial article from Twincities.com

PC Gamer jumps the shark, fires columnists

I have been a subscriber to PC Gamer magazine for six or seven years now. I have enjoyed the magazine: its humour, the generally well thought out reviews of computer games, and most especially the regular columns by people like Andy Mahood and Desslock (Stefan Janicki). I could rely on these industry observers to give me something enjoyable to read whenever the games being reviewed failed to interest me… which was more often than not. Each of these writers focused on genres: RPGs, Simulations, First Person Shooters, and so on: I could get reasonably intelligent snapshots of entire industry segments from these folks.

In the April issue of PC Gamer, the new “Editor in Chief”, Gary Steinman, announced the end of the “back of the magazine” columnists. In a failed attempt to be humorous, Mr. Steinman described those who enjoyed these sections as expressing some sort of defect, reading the “wrong” parts of the magazine instead of the stuff he deems “interesting”. Any marginally competent editor would have actually surveyed some readers to see what they actually, oh, I don’t know, enjoyed about the magazine? That might have been wise, but Mr. Steinman didn’t do this.

I have to assume that Gary Steinman isn’t totally incompetent, and that there was really some other reason for the butchery. My best guess would be that the change was made because Mr. Steinman has been assigned the role of “hatchet man”, sent in to brutally hack off the limbs from PC Gamer and reduce costs. The whole thing will now be rubber-stamp written by largely personality-free drones from the British division of Future Media, the company that owns the publication. This will undoubtedly reduce costs. I know these kinds of things happen and, although I wish the new hatchetman…er, editor, could have been more honest, I don’t wish ill upon those who remain.

The problem I have here is that the magazine is now basically a hollow shell. It is nothing more than a bunch of miscellaneous reviews that I could get online for free without having to wade through dozens of pages of stuff I don’t care about. Months ago they actually started reprinting content from the GamesRadar.com website: yes, a print magazine reprinting web content. It would be different, I suppose, if the reprinted content was actually *good*: but instead it is insipidly written “top 10/top x” lists, barely worth reading on a website and a total waste in a print magazine. And let’s not forget the massive “cell phone games” reprints from their sister publications they keep bombarding me with: if I wanted coverage of cell phone games, I’d go buy a cell phone game magazine. With no genre focus areas and no regular personality columnists there really isn’t much left for me to pay for.

I have no plans now to renew when my subscription runs out. I wish Norm, Andy, Desslock, and the other regular columnists who got canned the best of luck. As for PC Gamer and the new editor in chief… I’m sure you just had a job to do, and did what you were told. Good luck pretending it was an improvement.