Once upon a time I made a blog about video games. And this is what's left of it (mostly tweets).

2 June 2010

I’m glad the Blur betademo is back on. I’d almost consider buying the game if there weren’t more interesting releases just about now.

9 June

A fucking cougar just killed my handsome stallion.

Scratch that; two fucking cougars killed two of my horses in succession.

10 June

Zero Punctuation : Red Dead Redemption

Heh, I forgot to mention: the very first thing I did as soon as I got to Armadillo was… shoot a dog. Bam, $5 bounty (with not a penny in my satchel), and I have no idea why I did that.

I also like how Yahtzee captures the satisfaction of shooting your first fucking cougar after you’ve been killed several times by its cousins.

12 June

The depressing atmosphere of Red Dead Redemption is having a visible effect on my mood.

14 June

I’m so traumatized by Red Dead Redemption’s cougars that I have a little adrenaline spike every time I see the cat move in the hallway.

15 June

“360 250GB “Slim” hands-on, full details”

I won’t be convinced by everyone on the show floor saying that they find it sexy when they see it in real life: I just don’t like the design. But a smaller console, with less noise, less heat, better connectivity and a 250GB hard drive for the same price as the existing model — all of that sounds pretty good, even in an awkward package.

Funny that they didn’t announce the “Arcade” equivalent of the new model, yet did confirm that they’re not manufacturing the old console anymore, but waiting for stocks to wear out. It’s not like anyone can believe they would kill the lower price points and only keep the $299 option, so they’re really aiming the old consoles still on the shelves at suckers.

I’m quite impressed by their pulling a Google at the E3 conference, offering a brand new 360 to everyone in the audience; all in all, the keynote had a fairly uneventful lineup, but was really well done (except for the random hipster — loved when one of the devs he introduced thanked “Lorenzo Lamas” and the guy went, in the background, “what the f… fuck!”).

“GameStop gives Kinect $149.99 price”

US retailer GameStop has whacked up pre-order offers for Kinect and various Kinect games, revealing that it intends to charge $149.99 for the add-on.

While its standalone Kinect for Xbox 360 listing carries that price tag, a separate “Kinect Arcade Bundle” - perhaps meaning an Xbox 360 and Kinect, or perhaps meaning a software package - is listed for $299.99.

I’m not sure that GameStop actually knows more than we do (I don’t think they’re above pulling the price out of thin air, and I’m somewhat surprised that they’d have gotten a definite price even though the thing will only launch in November) but the point is that Microsoft didn’t name a price during their keynote, and at this point in their media plan it can only mean that it won’t be cheap.

This is mind-boggling because, apart from the consultancy fees to imagine that dreadful name (which, to make matters worse, is apparently pronounced “connect”), the thing is just a couple of webcams and a tiny motor! (Okay, I know, the magic is in the software. But the thing with software is that you do make it up in volume.)

Chances are they’re counting on the $299 pack to seduce non-gamers who bought a Wii. That price point is indeed affordable, but there are two big mistakes here: First, those people have already bought a Wii, and I doubt they can easily be convinced to spend $299 again for another console they won’t use (much) either. Second, the Wii’s success was mostly viral, and existing 360 owners would love nothing more than demo Kinect to their relatives in order to convince them to buy one — if the standalone Kinect was cheap enough for them to be interested. At $150, a huge majority of them will not be.

Ubisoft introduces home laser tag that interfaces with your PC. It’s all Barney Stintson’s fault.

The Zelda presentation is a complete mess, but it’s very interesting they’ve given up on pointing at the screen, and use MotionPlus instead.

16 June

“PlayStation Move coming in September starting at $50”

No, it’s not, and I’m disappointed to see that headline on Ars Technica. Move “starts at $50” for people who only want the main controller (i.e., without the nunchuk), intend to play alone, and already own a PlayStation Eye. Who the hell does?

PlayStation Move starts at $99. Which is relatively reasonable, except that it still means it’s for only one player and doesn’t include the nunchuk. (Not to mention that some games, such as the bow simulator, seem to require two main controllers for a single player.)

 

At least now there’s no way Microsoft can launch Kinect at $150. (I hadn’t realized that the reason why they didn’t announce a price yesterday might just have been that they wanted to see what Sony would do.)

Red Dead Redemption (360)

Have you ever wondered what a GTA game would be like if it took its story seriously? If it had human characters, a realistic atmosphere, desolate brown trees with a ten-mile draw distance, and goddamn motherfucking cougars?

Well, a masterpiece is what it would be.

 

I don’t like westerns, so I didn’t expect to enjoy myself that much — but I couldn’t resist the universal praise and, more importantly, the splendidly animated fauna in the videos. And, as a matter of fact, I didn’t enjoy myself so much in the first half-dozen hours. Yet I could tell that the universe was great, the characters were more believable than I’d ever seen in a Rockstar game, and the game mechanics were sound. (Not to mention that the animals were, indeed, gorgeous. And horse riding felt like riding a horse, which is not such a given when you’re coming back from Assassin’s Creed.)

Then I really got into the story, and I really got depressed. Because that’s a damn depressing universe, the Old West in the early 1900s, wouldn’t you know. The graphics are bleak (but gorgeous), the story is bleak, every single character is miserable and the side missions make you want to shoot yourself in the head. Like I said, it’s a realistic story that takes itself seriously — and the fact of the matter is, that wasn’t a nice place and a nice time to be.

Where I felt closer to giving up, though, was around the midway point of the game, when you unlock Mexico and the story essentially reboots — new characters, new quests, and the same arc starting over in the most predictable way. But it just takes a few hours to realize that Mexico actually provides a breath of fresh air: the story is still cynical and disillusioned, but the dialogue is funnier, the environments look less murky, and they’re even less dangerous. A welcome respite, before you go back to America and get that grim story over with. (Sorry if you consider this a spoiler, but I figured out that structure as soon as I realized the boundaries of the — huge — area you’re restricted to as you start the game.)

And what an ending you get then. That’s about all I’ll say about it, because I don’t want to give out hints, and I don’t want you to think too much about it either, because in retrospect it’s not all that hard to guess what might happen. You just don’t see it coming. At least, I didn’t. And, if other people had seen it coming, the review scores wouldn’t have been so good.

There are two things Red Dead Redemption does splendidly, that you don’t expect from a GTA-like game. You know it’s gonna be superb, and immersive, and basically a state-of-the-art sandbox, but you don’t expect these: human characters brought to life with subtle hints (yes: subtlety), and fantastic pacing of the story, both the main arc and the sidequests.

I still can’t get over how well-designed, well-rounded that experience is — those perfectly weaved together forty hours of gameplay. There are adrenaline highs and there are slow trudges, but it’s all part of a plan to make you inhabit the world and bring you to that ending. And I realize some people could say the same thing about games that I found boring, but the bottomline is those people would be wrong, and I’m right about Red Dead Redemption. Because, beyond technical excellence (I know, not the right term considering all the glitches, but they don’t matter) and pitch-perfect voice acting (except for Junior — though that might as well be intentional, because it ultimately serves the buildup), what this game displays first and foremost is a fantastic mastery of interactive storytelling. Move over, Heavy Rain. This is how you tell a story in a game.

Westerns are clichés. And they’re dirty. And so heterosexual. This game is all of those things, absolutely all of them, unabashedly — and I love it for that, and it makes me appreciate a genre I never thought I could.

Oh, and it’s also a great hunting simulator. And just an altogether pretty place to visit. But, damnit, does it give me late-night frights when I see our cat move in the dark while I’m crossing the long, dusty, weedy hallway that separates my room from the toilet. Fucking cougars.

 

This is a must-buy. By which I mean, it’s an I won’t talk to you anymore if you have a console and you don’t buy this game.

 

And I haven’t even started multiplayer yet.

 

(You might just want to turn to Wikia to learn how the minigames work, though, because they’re as complex and poorly explained as ever — including the duel mechanics. Seriously: the inline help encourages you to disarm your opponent instead of killing them, but most of the story duels will kill you if you try to do that, because the story needs your opponent dead. Ah, and I can’t cheat at poker without being detected, because the goddamn help only begins to show up after you’ve started, and failed. These things need real tutorials, not just inline help. Damnit, I hate Texas hold’em, and I need to win one game if I’m gonna reach 100% completion.)

“Impressions On Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s Multiplayer”

Once you get close, you can use the information at the top right of your screen, which displays a portrait of whom you’re tracking […] The game is more about stealth and perception–keeping an eye for suspicious characters, hiding when being pursued, setting traps for your target, and not giving away your position.

I can’t see the Xbox Live crowd going for that, but it sounds like a very cool concept — going for more real stealth than the single-player can afford to, because the AI would cheat (or it would feel like it did).

“PlayStation Move controller gets ray gun accessory”

That’s kinda-really cool. It nicely complements the controller’s design, and is a pretty good compromise between looking too threatening and looking too much like a toy. (But there’s gonna be some cognitive dissonance when you start playing Killzone 3 with this.)

17 June

Forget it. I’ll never win the poker game in Blackwater, so I’ll never get 100% completion.

“Mad Catz: Microsoft ceasing production of Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel”

It’s Mad Catz’s understanding that Microsoft are exiting the wheel market. So, Microsoft are no longer going to be producing their first-party wireless wheel for 360.

If true, this is great news — meaning that Forza Motorsport will not be restricted to using Microsoft’s crappy wheel anymore, and we should soon be able to get Logitech wheels. Just in time to counter Gran Turismo 5, but a little too late as it should have happened in time for the release of Forza 3.

If there isn’t a free update to version 3 to support third-party wheels, I’m definitely not going to buy Forza 4.

21 June

Not impressed with Crackdown 2 so far. And a time-limited demo, really?

23 June

Crackdown 2: “Pacific City Comparison”

This confirms my feeling when I played the demo: they screwed it up. Except for co-op, they didn’t improve on what should be improved, and made it a bit worse in other aspects.

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