Better Late Hands On Impressions – Doom (PS4)

Note: This is an impression of roughly a couple of hours of campaign and more mulitplayer than I’d like to admit.  SnapMap, the game’s level editor, wasn’t touched.
The Bottom Line: I would buy the crap out of this game – in a sale.
The original Doom induced some nightmares in my already frightful child mind.  Watching my step-mom mow down demons with shot guns and a chain saw probably mostly lead to my lifelong weariness of horror games and movies.  Snap to 2016 and Doom is a frantic, and ultra-violent (parents be warned), shooter where you run around and mow down demons with a shot-gun and chain saw, among other gleefully destructive weapons.  The “nope factor” is still in the back of my mind as gore-streaked, dimly lit, hallways mark my path of progression.  It’s the draw to the kinetic, and surprisingly vertical, action that keeps me moving forward.
The story seems to be neither here nor there, which is appropriately deliberate.  I am Doom-Marine, I’m worshipped by Martian scientists and buried in a sarcophagus and my power armor is surrouneded by a makeshift shrine.  I’m also a pissed off bad-ass.  I punch screens and push them harshly against walls, as if they’re as offensive as the invading demonic imps chucking fireballs at me.  The metal soundtrack is the icing on the cake, making me realize that what developer id is going for is more important and fresh than what most recent big FPS’ have done.  They want me to have fun.
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Moving, and Doom-Marine moves really fast, feels fluid.  Shooting, running, jumping and punching/ tearing at flashing demons for much needed health or ammo looks amazing and plays great.  Being the main mechanics in the game, I do them a lot and glory kills add to the gamey immersion.  The game looks really nice too with a lot of debris floats around and wind whips up clouds of sand.  The explosions are super pretty and movement blur gives a great sense of speed and adds to the chaos.  The game just exudes nerdy awesomness.
There were some odd loading moments.  The game once briefly froze when I threw a grenade and blew up a red barrel (there are a lot of them).  Platforming and jumping feel a little laggy and sluggish, especially when compared to the frantic fluidity from combat.  It still works and is the best first-person jumping this side of Far Cry 3.

I played Team Deathmatch in multiplayer and came away impressed.  As someone used to CoD, and have been playing multiplayer since Halo 3, it’s nice to see a change of pace.  The fast and chaotic nature of the campaign carries over to the multiplayer.  Load outs are the name of the game, but the number of weapons are limited – even when you’ve unlocked everything.  The big glass ceiling comes from customizing my and my weapons’ appearances.  Like in the campaign, there is no auto-regeneration of health, or reloading of weapons.  Fleeing is a legitimate strategy.  Special weapons and power ups spawn at certain locations on the map and knowing where those spots are becomes as vital as winning those fire fights.

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I may have found that the best way for me to play Doom is in chunks.  The original game may have been the literal stuff of nightmares for me when I was little, and I may be a little weary of stuff jumping out at me, but this new Doom is both distantly familiar and a blast of fresh air among a genre mostly stuck in “Modern Warfare”.  The feeling of playing offensively rather than duck and covering to reload ammo and health is very welcome.  I get giddy from the idea of playing more and finding those much talked about secrets.  I didn’t think I would say that about a Doom game and much less one in 2016.
My potential grade: A –
Feel free to comment and/ or like.  I’m on PSN as bad_gamer83, feel free to add me or say “hi”.  And thanks!

What’s in the Name

I had a moment of realization today that what may have started off as a self-deprecating joke, as is often my way, may have more truth to it than initially thought.  When I first bought my Xbox 360, I came up with the screen name bad_gamer83.  One of my good friends found it funny and we continued on.  Today it hit me, due to my growing “pile of shame” and continuing habit of not finishing anything, and jumping from game to game, I actually may be a bad gamer.

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As time lapsed since sticking to the name, to my dismay, I realized the name may be a bit of a repellent to other gamers who I try to connect with outside of the games I play.  I tell people my name and they mostly say nothing, the most recent, and probably longest response from someone on social media was “oh, well there you go”.  As shy and quiet as I can be, it was never my intent to repel fellow game-players.  This hasn’t been proven, of course, but it is a pretty solid theory.

My gaming habits have tended to follow other patterns in my life.  There would be excitement about the game, followed by brief but intense affairs and ending with me moving on to a different game, or one that was safe and familiar.  I do believe the last RPG I actually finished was “Mass Effect 3”.  There’s a lot to be said that I finished “Firewatch” within four hours and celebrated.  Unfortunately, this also has resulted in a form of hording –though trading in games tends to keep the literal pile small, though still ever-growing.  Even if a “new” game is easy, I tend to get nervous and drop off and just go back to what is familiar.

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Today I semi-committed to finishing “Fallout 4”.  I’ve never played through a Fallout game before and the franchise has always interested me.  It’s my way of taking another step in an actually important life-altering thing: stepping outside of my comfort zone.  Am I actually a “bad gamer”?  I think so.  Over the years, I kind of have become an undertaker of many, master of none.  It’s a label I want to stop living up to.

Better Late Vicarious Videogame Impressions – the Division (PS4)

In short: I want this game.  It makes more sense that I would be interested in Destiny: it’s a sci-fi space opera massive multiplayer-light first person shooter from the people who brought us Halo.  My affair with Destiny was intense, but brief.  Once I stepped away from it, I never felt that twinge to go back. I also never played the Diavision demo.  So, when a “realistic” Tom Clancy massive multiplayer-light third person shooter comes about, why am I excited?

Even in Destiny, I tend to play alone, mute my mic and ignore anyone who tries to talk to me.  I match-make for instances, and PvP, but that’s pretty much it.  In The Division grouping seems even more integral for main-mission progress unless you’re either really good at the game, or you want to throw your pricey controller out of the window.  I have been wanting to come out of my shell more in this type of game and this is my chance to branch out.

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The story seems compelling enough, even if it is inspired by Clancy’s more-pulpy plots.  Money is laced with a man-made virus and spread among the denizens of New York City (and maybe the rest of the country?).  The results are catastrophic and in a matter of weeks, Manhattan is quarantined.  You play as a member of the second wave Division group, a secret military group that exists only for such circumstances.

The RPG roots seem to run deep.  I like the typical satisfying insta-kill head shot as much as the next gamer, but there is also something compelling about the RPG bullet-sponge systems.  Maybe it’s the fact that I adore Borderlands and love seeing numbers flying all over the place.  There seems to be a lot here for those who love loot: different color-teared weapons, mods for your weapons, upgrades on various clothing, and a deep crafting system.   The upgrade system seems deep and forgiving, letting you switch to different abilities on the fly.  The PvP, set in the lawless and contaminated Dark Zone, is also the freshest multiplayer idea I’ve seen in years.

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There are things I have to look past.  There is a threat of the missions getting monotonous: running to point A, duck and cover to destroy enemy wave B, do that three more times, destroy boss C and get to mission point D.  When I’m playing alone, would I be able to team up?  I have heard that the main missions do scale based on how many people you have in your group, but they seem best played with groups.  The third person shooting is also my other concern: is it hard to get precise shots when DPS does matter?

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The game looks damn good and that’s just another reason for me to get excited about eventually playing the Division.  As it stands right now: the Metacritic user score for the PS4 version is 7.4, which is “average” in most rating circles (I have my issues on the number scales, but this isn’t the time or the place).  Though I have never been one for more “real life” settings, I’m quite compelled to sink my teeth into this meaty shooter.

“Tom Clancy’s The Divison” is rated M for Mature for: blood, intense violence, and strong language.  It is released by Ubisoft and is available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

If you enjoyed, please like, and feel free to comment.  If you want to send me a friend invite, my PSN tag is bad_gamer83.  And thanks.

 

Better Late Game Reviews – Firewatch (PS4)

Developer Campo Santo’s first game, “Firewatch”, does something rarely seen in the world of video games – it makes a truly mature, story eccentric, experience with no visceral violence to be had.  What brings the game down a notch isn’t the exclusion of such things, but rather some of the more technical elements.  The game successfully tells an emotional story with a unique graphical style, while using a first person perspective to hammer home a sense of isolation and the vulnerability one can truly feel when alone in the elements.

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It’s the summer of 1989.  You play as Henry (voiced by Mad Men’s Rich Sommer), a man whose marriage has gone through an unfortunate disaster.  To escape the pain and hardship of his everyday life, Henry decides to take a job as a Firewatch ranger in the Colorado mountains.  Human life is scarce in these woods and the only regular contact you have is through a radio with your boss, Delilah (Cissy Jones).  She sends you on errands and the two of you talk at various moments, trying to get to know each other.  Errands include such things as warning skinny-dipping teens about the dangers of setting of fireworks and finding the end of a downed phone-line.  This is the name of the game, until you find out that someone’s following you.  The contextual dialogue trees while having these conversations provide the game’s most fast-paced gameplay.  Exploring, with your trusty map and compass, and interacting with different items provide the bulk of the roughly four-hour mystery.

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The game is a real looker, with a style that’s a mixture of impressionist painting and Pixar inspired designs.  The few humans you do come across are cleverly kept at a distance and in silhouette.  Movement is smooth, though it is sometimes slowed by loading and there is some minor pop-in in the PS4 version.  Also, sometimes seeing things at a distance can be a problem, as certain elements may not load entirely properly. The fact that you can see your own torso, arms, and legs, as you move almost totally makes up for it.  Between loosely deciding what to say as Henry and only seeing through his eyes, it’s not hard to empathize and, at times, fear for him.

The writing is the real star of the show.  Henry and Delilah’s interactions help flesh out these characters and the relationship they build throughout the story, which is partially up to the player, makes these characters as real as those in a really good book or movie.  The mystery unwraps in an unusual, but satisfying way.

Some oddly placed invisible walls may be annoying when roaming, but this is the best use of virtual scenery-chewing in this gamer’s memory.  Rolling hills of trees and jutting rocks pop with color as the sun sets on the horizon, painting everything in vivid yellows and reds.  Hopping over rivers and cautiously crossing dangerous cliffs across downed trees feels harrowing and fun.  “Firewatch” may not be a wholly unique idea, but its great characters and beautiful graphics are plenty of incentive to give it a chance.

 

My rating: A-

 

Firewatch” is developed and released by Campo Santo.  It is available for PC, Mac, Linux and Playstation 4.  It is rated M for Mature for: suggestive themes, nudity, drug and alcohol reference, and strong language.

If you enjoyed, please like.  Feel free to comment.  And thanks!

Better Late Impressions – The Witcher: Wild Hunt

Yar! Thar be light spoilers ahead! Ye be warned!

   

(This is an impression of the first twelve, or so, hours of gameplay. It is said to take up to two-hundred hours for 100% completion.)

  The Witcher: Wild Hunt, Developer CD Projekt RED’s third and final Witcher game, brings Polish author, Adrezej Sapkowski’s, fantasy book series to digital life with incredible detail and authenticity. As a result, Wild Hunt feels like much more than just another fantasy RPG. 

 You play as Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher. What’s a witcher, you may ask? They are pretty bad-ass mutated monster slaying bounty hunters. People aren’t exactly thrilled with their existence, but they are necessary means of ridding the world of pesky ghouls, murloc like drowners, angry ghosts and other monstrosities. You just happen to be the most popular of the dwindling witchers.

 The Wild Hunt refers to a band of ominously black-armored knights hunting down Ciri, your none-altered apprentice. Finding her, and why she is being hunted, makes up the bulk of the lengthy main quest. The subtitle is also a generalization for the game. Exploring the literal wilds plays a big part in this brutal epic. Fore-mentioned monsters share the world with wildlife, common folk, bandits, kings, barons, gnomes, dwarfs and elves.

 There is a constant sense of various tensions in the world, politics play as important a role as monster-slaying. You have some tough choices to make. None playable characters are rarely black and white and their intentions may not be ones that you agree with. Choices themselves are more natural, no gage depicts how “good” or “bad” you are, things just are. Choices play out with natural feeling consequences that are not always immediately apparent..

Unusual for recent games containing similarly moody tales, the world pops with bright vivid colors, bringing the digital world to glorious life. This world feels lived in, not just by people, but by the various creatures who inhabit it. Wolves and bears attack wild life, and you, if you get too close. Wind can violently blow trees and rain spatters against the game camera.

Travel is made easy by giving you a horse named Roach, who you can summon almost anywhere, and also by widely placed fast-travel sign posts. Question marks pocking the map give reason to explore as there is often loot and something very cool to see and experience and also kill. Likewise, the side quests add more to the world, not feeling tacked on or redundant, and some of them can lead to quite extensive and enthralling stories of their own.

Even on the normal difficulty level, hacking and slashing can only get you so far, as sometimes even preparing with various oils and potions (created through a deep alchemy system) can make a huge difference of survival. Different signs, your magic spells, add offensive and defensive elements and can be enhanced in various ways.  

 Fighting isn’t always smooth, but dodging blocking and parrying is fun and require skill, while using various signs is fast and satisfying. Potions can be taken, enhancing health-regen or attack power, but each potion has a toxicity level, so just chugging them is not encouraged.

 Outside of combat, control takes some getting used to. Your movement seems to be momentum based. Stopping on a dime is not often an option and looting can be a little bit of an issue. You sure can book it on foot, though! You also often use your Witcher-sense (think “detective vision” ala The Batman: Arkham games) to play detective, make looting easier and to pick flowers (seriously).

 Character models look great and everyone you have to speak to is fully voiced. The acting performances aren’t always great, but that doesn’t take away from the immersion. Some chugging on the PS4’s frame rate during more-frantic battles and cut-scenes can be distracting, but the game still looks gorgeous and plays fantastically.

 The Wild Hunt is something special. It’s just the meaty sandwich of a game you may have always wanted. Being truly open-world without sacrificing story, or character, in this manor feels like a major game breakthrough. There may be some flaws, but a game this deep and fun has a chance to not only define this generation of gaming, but the RPG genre moving forward.

The Witcher: Wild Hunt is developed by CD Projekt RED and published in the US by WB Games. It is rated M for Mature for: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol. Available for PS4 (played on), Xbox One and PC.

Feel free to comment. If interested, I’m on PSN as bad_gamer83 and twitter as badgamer83. And thanks!

Wildstar Impressions

As someone who has poured hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours into WoW and has had a hard time fitting into another MMO, Wildstar quenches that MMO thirst. Carbine’s MMO takes elements both familiar and new to the genre and blends them together in an engaging, highly stylized package that, so far, has me excited for the game in a way that few games have. Fair to say I’ve only leveled a character to 11 in the beta, but what I’ve played has mostly left me impressed with what Carbine has managed to create.
The sci-fi tale told is a familiar one: two factions are warring over the naturally-lush planet of Nexus for colonization. In a nutshell, the imperialistic Dominion wants to level it and use it for its resources while the rebel alliance-esque Exiles just want a place to call home. Of course, one does not simply land a ship and call it “home” as Nexus is as dangerous and mysterious as it is beautiful and bizarre.
Each faction has 4 races to choose from (both with robot, human and cat-people things) as well as 6 classes to choose from. The classes fall into “healer, DPS, tank” elements, but that’s an element that still proves to work well. As someone who prefers ranged DPS to melee (though melee classes are still fun), I chose the ESPer (Exile cat person race) who conjurs telekenetic weapons and spells to deal damage and heal with.
Combat is where Wildstar really starts to stand out, aside from its brimming personality. Both you and your enemies attacks are telegraphed before they’re casted, the marked area being where the majority of damage will be aimed. This makes dodging and jumping (yes, jumping) during combat vital tactics, especially in post level-5 quests, not just in butt-kicking, but merely surviving. Dodging out of a telegraph also doesn’t mean that the enemy totally misses, but it also means that you won’t neccesarily be buying a farm either. The result is a frantic and fluid feel to the action that requires strategy and relying on line of site attacks rather than simply tabbing an enemy and hitting a number. The evolution of the action makes the game feel more, dare I say it, hardcore. I’ve died a lot, complete with a voice over mock, and feel like I have no one to blame but my own stupid self. For long-time WoW players, the questing mob difficulty is on par with pre uber-nerfed WoW (it could be difficult).
Speaking of brimming personality, Wildstar is brimming with it! This game does the best job of making you feel awesome every time you level up, no holds barred. Huge lightning bolt letters and sparklers go off every time you Level Up, complete with voiceover commentary, and presents fantastically. The quest themselves are pretty cut and dry, but the writing (that of which you can read, which I’ll get to in a bit) and cartoony artistic style makes me smile and help keep me drawn in. The episodic feeling to each zone adds a comic book or TV show vibe that’s pretty unique to MMO’s.
Lore and plot are there if you want it, but you have to seek it out, especially for the plot. Often after turning in a quest to a quest-giver (I much prefer the ones that can be turned in over communicator for this very reason), a dialogue bubble appears that’s often hard to read because it’s either hidden behind the quest-rewards screen, or it’s just hard to see. What also pours salt in the wound is if you’re in a zone with an active chat community, relying on the text box for the dialogue can be a drag and kills some of the immersion that the game obviously works hard to build.
Wildstar is something special and I’m glad I’ll be there for its launch. I’ve ran into very few performance issues and am impressed by how well everything holds up with me playing the game on low-settings. I’m excited for the dungeons, I’m excited for the adventures and I’m excited to see what craziness Carbine has in store for me.

Digital Ethical Dilemma

Ethical dilemmas in video games is a very tricky fish with me. I’d never really want to take out an entire police squad with a bazooka or run over an entire block of people with a tank, but damn it’s fun to do so in a video game. I’ll be honest, I’m probably one of the few campaign gamers who hasn’t been able to get into Grand Theft Auto. Sure, I’ve had fun with the sandbox and randomly driving places, but the aimless progression and overly emotionless feel of the world doesn’t do much for me. Believe me, I have enough narcissism and am cynical enough to “get it”, but sitting and playing it never does much for me as a gamer, despite the fun and absurd physics.
Seeing Grand Theft Auto 5 (V) in action fires this desire to play a series I’ve never immensely enjoyed playing outside of endless nights at my best friends house playing 3 on his PS2 what seems like eons ago! I’ve kicked myself in the ass for breezing through the reviews and seeing the high scores for the game I should have no interest in. I make it my business to keep up with games, being a gamer, but my wanting to play something so shiny and new comes with a cost of something much more serious.
My wife has issues with the game. She doesn’t have absolute rule over what I play and rarely voices her disgust against the brutality of some of the games I play. She gets why I enjoy gaming, but she doesn’t do so herself.
The fact that you get money/ points for going around and killing pedestrians, especially hookers, disgusts her. She doesn’t want it in her house. I understand that and while I know it’s a virtual world and I’m well beyond that point of influence (I don’t even go near hookers!), I defer to her on this.
As much as I don’t enjoy being over misogynistic, I do enjoy being a male. I love a lady as much as the next guy. However, scantily clad women wearing bikini-esque armor as useful as a butt hole on one’s elbow strolling through snow does little for me. Likewise, women’s sole purpose being sex objects for these characters don’t do anything for me. I get the parody and commentary and laugh at that aspect of it in the GTA series, but I don’t much enjoy feeling disgusted and slimy as I play a game.
Being a gamer is full of hypocrisy. I love racing games, yet haven’t played a racing game I enjoy on the current generation of consoles. I’m a console gamer, yet love gaming on my i Pad. With those things in consideration, it’s hard to take and keep a sound ethical stand on gaming. In my life outside of games, I’m pretty sound in my beliefs, but should that stop when I escape with a controller in hand?