2 February 2009

12 February

Black Cat-vertising

To mark the occasion a new horror video game is launching the world’s first “superstitious ad campaign” — turning specially trained black cats into walking adverts for the launch of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin on the day itself.

 

13 February

God of War III

I don’t know — sure, it’s kinda pretty, and definitely epic (and the trailer’s last images make me want to… go to there), but there’s still something in the visual style that doesn’t work for me. Look how wrong the lighting is on those blood splatters. No, I’m not kidding, it’s just an example of what looks wrong.

And I still have no idea how it actually plays, of whether this is the way it looks when you have a Sixaxis in hand, or they just move the camera all over the place just for the trailer. (Not sure which I’d prefer.)

Screenshots and first impressions on Kotaku.

H.A.W.X. (360 demo)

We already knew the game looked great, so let’s get that over with: the graphics are very nice, and even flying close to the ground looks almost realistic (there aren’t quite as many building boxes as drawn on the floor, but you’re flying fast enough that it doesn’t really matter).

 

Interestingly, the demo’s first mission (and I never realized there was a second mission until I checked out internet writeups) focuses on the game’s original, ambitious and controversial “assists off” mode, which pulls the camera wayyy back and lets you actually see what your plane is doing — not even letting you move the camera manually, so that you have to focus on how to reach your target.

If you’re the kind of simulation guy who insists that the right way to play a car racing game is in the dashboard view, you’re gonna hate this; but I’m not, because I’ve long realized that in order to drive you’re supposed to be aware of your surroundings in a way that can simply not be emulated by a video game unless you’re using an external viewpoint. And, since planes are so much faster and more nimble than cars, the external camera has to pull back farther in order to be useful. It’s a little less pretty and shiny, with your plane so small on the screen, and it doesn’t make you feel like you’re really in the cockpit, but it’s a fantastic way to make you actually feel how your plane handles. Although I guess people are justified to complain that there’s no way to mix and match — either you play with all assists and the cockpit view (or nose or tail view), or you turn them off and you can only use what commenters are describing as “radio-controlled plane” view.

Now, with the camera hovering so far away from the plane, and aligned with your target rather than your jet’s nose, the question is: how do you actually control it? There are two modes: the “expert” controls leave you with the plane’s stick under your thumb, but they’re exceedingly hard to master because you have to always be aware of your orientation — if you roll upside-down, the camera doesn’t follow you, so you have to mentally adjust (think driving in reverse, only to the power of a thousand). The “normal” controls, without which they could never have shipped that external view, remind me of Halo’s vehicles: you still control pitch as you would, but left and right become stage-left and stage-right instead of roll; if you keep your stick all the way to the left, for instance, your plane will do clean horizontal donuts instead of rolling on itself.

Like I said, this is heresy to any simulation fan. But it just makes sense. This is the first time I’ve actually been aware of what my plane was actually doing when I was maneuvering to dodge a missile or align with a target; the first time I could feel, and comprehend, what happened when I cut the gas and hit the brakes to loop back behind an enemy. In a nutshell, it’s arcade-y in a Project Gotham Racing way, not a Mario Kart way — the physics and everything feel pretty right, but the controls are a bit assisted.

And it’s so fun.

 

Once you’re done learning how to recover from a stall, the second mission drops you in the middle of a big invasion of Rio — which feels overwhelming the first few times, then more manageable and not so threatening after all (and you might want to replay it if you enjoy the gameplay, because you have three different fighter jets to unlock with your experience points). Other than the frustration of being offered to load from the last checkpoint when you crash, only to find out that there’s a huge first chunk of the mission that doesn’t have any checkpoints, it’s also a lot of fun.

Bear in mind, I’m not a flight-sim nut. But I’m not a mindless arcade fan, either — I’m the kind of gamer who prefers Project Gotham Racing over Forza, but can’t imagine playing Saints Row because you have to drive with the face buttons. And why am I always coming back to car-racing analogies? Because I don’t think there’s ever been a flying game quite like Hawx, such a mix of realism and accessibility.

Oh, speaking of accessibility, I forgot: the triangles-in-the-sky assistance that you might have seen in videos, which helps you evade attackers or position yourself behind an enemy or drop a missile on a tank hidden between buildings, is a great tool to learn the right maneuvers, as I expected, and it’s also optional — you have to trigger it by pressing’ X.’ Which I didn’t expect, and is great for people who don’t want the training wheels.

 

The game also nicely embeds Xbox Live right into the campaign menu, showing you how many open games are available for joining as you’re about to start, but… as you should already know, I don’t do co-op with strangers, so I haven’t tried it. According to xbox.com, it’s four-player co-op, so that’s not too shabby.

 

It’s too bad that the immediate reaction of aficionados will be to reject the compulsory outside view; for once, I think Ubisoft, in its neverending quest to dumb down gameplay, has done something really new and interesting. Fortunately, the Tom Clancy brand should help sell the game to the people who will actually like it. Definitely recommended, and I insist you force yourself a bit to try and get used to the game’s unique perspective.

17 February

New GTA IV Lost and Damned multiplayer modes detailed

I didn’t expect this — it’s all about bikes. Well, now that you say it, it makes sense, obviously, but I figured they might take the opportunity of a DLC to improve multiplayer games in a more general way.

There’s still the possibility that the add-on will be accompanied by a free game update, as often happens, and that might bring some long-awaited fixes. But, either way, I’m not very interested in buying The Lost and the Damned — don’t care much for GTA stories, and don’t care for the bikes at all (even if they’re supposed to have been tweaked).

GTA IV The Lost and Damned “Full Frontal” clip: Nice marketing plan. But why is it non-animated like a Second Life prop?

19 February

Hey, Rockstar: Can We Get ‘The Lost And Damned’’s Motorcycles In ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’? The fix doesn’t apply to the regular game, seriously? Screw that, I’m not putting the game disc back into the tray. Got to find myself a used Call of Duty 4.

24 February

Mirror’s Edge neuf déjà à trente euros ? C’est triste.

26 February

Xbox Live Sadly No Place For Lesbian Gamers • “Xbox Live gamer Teresa found herself on the receiving end of a ban from the service for a surprising reason. She identified herself as a lesbian in her Live profile.

360 Freezing With Checkerboard Pattern? • “I’ve recently been in the same position, you have little hope of resurrecting this unit for a satisfactory period of time.” Well, fuck me and my brand new Mirror’s Edge disc. That was bound to happen sooner or later, wasn’t it.

27 February

Microsoft admits to, defends banning Lesbian Xbox Live user - Ars Technica • “As stated in the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use, a member may not create a gamertag or use text in other profile fields that include comments that look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate content of a potentially sexual nature. […] In regards to sexual orientation, for gamertags or profiles we do not allow expression of any type of orientation, be that hetero or other.” That reminds me of the occasional “This story acknowledges the existence of sex” (semi-ironic?) parental warning in some episodes of This American Life, and kinda makes sense in a way.

BTW, I forgot the obligatory “MIrrors edge killd my xbOX!!!111!!11!1” when your console dies as it encounters a brand new game.

Ils demandent explicitement de ne pas envoyer le disque dur, c’est bien ; il faut fournir sa propre boîte pour le transport, moins bien.

28 February

Je sais que ça faisait bien marrer les blogueurs, que les livreurs UPS reconnaissent les “cercueils” de Xbox 360 du premier coup d’oeil, mais est-ce que ça faisait vraiment une telle mauvaise publicité qu’ils doivent se ridiculiser à insister lourdement pour que les colis soient désormais aussi peu identifiables que possible ?

C’est juste que ça me donne envie d’accrocher en réaction une banderole “Ma Xbox 360 a grillé !” à ma fenêtre — alors qu’à la base je ne suis pas plus vindicatif que ça, je savais bien que ça allait arriver un jour.

Enfin, ça me gonfle quand même pas mal de devoir trouver (voire acheter) un carton moi-même. Rien que pour ça…

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