Alright, so this blog has been up for a few months now, and so far I've only blogged about IT topics, Windows Server, networking... those sorts of things. I've not made a single post yet that hints at what a life-long video game junkie I am. I'm about to remedy that with this post by going over some of the video games that I've been playing recently.
BF3 is my bread and butter. It seems like I play it almost every day. I've been an avid fan of the Battlefield franchise since Battlefield 1942... I thought it was great, and its Desert Combat mod made it legendary, so when Battlefield 2 came out, I was right there and played it regularly for years. Then I skipped Bad Company 1, but I did play a lot of Bad Company 2. Now we're at Battlefield 3. Every game in this franchise is amazing - at least from an online multiplayer standpoint. On the other hand, the single player campaign in most all of the Battlefield games that I've played is nothing spectacular. BF3 is no exception. I played through the single player campaign once and then never looked back. But no one should be buying a Battlefield game for the single player. For multiplayer tactical military warfare that will have you shooting people in the face with buckshot, dogfighting with other fighter jets, blowing holes in buildings with your grenade launcher to get at that sniper, and ripping your victim's dogtags off with your combat knife, all while coordinating with your team to ensure victory... there is simply no better game than Battlefield 3 right now. The graphics are unparalleled, the controls are responsive, the ballistics and hitboxes feel right... it's just a great game. One of my favorite things is that even though I've been playing the game for months, it seems like I'm still hearing new sound clips from the people around me that I've never heard before. Things like "there's a machine gunner settin' up over there!" and "holy shit grenaaaaaade!" There are lot of those little voice clips that add to the immersion.
There are only two things that I don't like about this game and its publishers - bring back mod support, and kill Origin. (I know neither of those will ever happen, but I can dream.) I hate Origin. I am seriously considering not playing Mass Effect 3 (even though I want to) simply because Origin disgusts me.
Modern Warfare 3
I bought Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 because one of my coworkers talked me into it. The single player campaign in MW3 is pretty good. Better than Battlefield 3's, for sure. It's action packed and entertaining, but mostly in the sense that an action movie is action packed and entertaining. I still would not consider it to have any replay value. The graphics don't appear to have advanced at all from the last Modern Warfare game. The multiplayer is absolutely no comparison to BF3. Modern Warfare's multiplayer game is arcade-like and twitch-based... it still feels like you're playing Quake III Arena, running down halls and hoping you pull the trigger faster than the other guy. There are no vehicles to drive, no open maps to roam around in... I don't know - it's not a bad game, but it just doesn't hold nearly as much interest for me as BF3. Also, it suffers from this horrible multiplayer synchronization bug where I keep getting "out of sync" with the other person that I'm playing with. E.g., it will appear to me like he has died, so I run over to go revive him, but then on voice chat he says "what are you talking about dude, I'm fine!" And it doesn't seem like the problem is getting patched. It still happens. Inexcusable.
Assassin's Creed Revelations
I have strong feelings about this game and franchise. I think the Assassin's Creed games are fantastic games, and a pretty damn good story to boot. I didn't play the first Assassin's Creed when it came out. But Assassin's Creed II went on a Steam sale so I picked it up. I was floored. What a great game! (Seriously, Leonardo da Vinci building contraptions for me? How much cooler can you get?) After finishing it, I immediately got back on Steam and grabbed AC:Brotherhood. Again, extremely fun and interesting. Then because I was loving the storyline and the style so much, I grabbed the first Assassin's Creed game and tried to play through it. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it through because AC:II and AC:B were so much better than the first one, they had spoiled me. I waited eagerly for months for AC:Revelations to come out. I watched the trailer at least a dozen times.
I bought it on day one. It's still good, but I don't think it's as good as ACII or AC:B. It's short. The whole Lucy/Shawn/Rebecca/real life part of the story is gone. The characters are not as interesting or as vivid as the characters from Italy like Rodrigo Borgia and Caterina Sforza. There are no more beautifully rendered chapels full of artwork. (They tried, and some scenes from AC:Rev do look really awesome, but there's only so much to work with in the Middle East.) And when it ended, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. I literally sat there watching the credits roll, waiting for something else to happen. I felt cheated by the lack of resolution in the ending. I guess I expected that a game called Revelations was going to offer some... revelations, or tell us something that we didn't already know. Honestly, it left me feeling like maybe Ubisoft actually wasn't concerned about telling this story in a rich and artistic way as much as just making those yearly releases on time so they can make some more money.
But, a few months after finishing it, I've pretty much come to terms with it. It's still a good addition to the franchise, and I've come to accept that all of Ezio's life and part in this story is pretty small in the grand scheme of things. I was expecting too much out of Revelations and out of Ezio himself; as if I expected everything to be resolved and wrapped up right there and then by this game.
I'm ready to see the next assassin - a whole new generation, a whole new time and place. I hear it's going to be taking place during the American Revolution, with some Native American influences... but it's going to be hard to outdo Ezio. Ezio was an incredibly memorable character, and we got to know him literally from the moment of his birth, until his death.
Ezio lives to a ripe old age and apparently dies a natural death from a heart attack on a public bench in Florence, Italy, with his wife and daughter nearby. Not at all a bad way to go for someone who spent their entire life as an international assassin.
Ubisoft - if you're listening, I just want to say this: Remember that you have a chance to tell an amazing story here. A work of art. It can be more than just a video game. It can live on long after you and the game's profits are gone. Please don't ruin that opportunity.
Batman: Arkham City
Not a whole lot to say about this game other than "it rocks." I got Batman Arkham Asylum bundled with a video card upgrade a couple years ago, and I freakin' loved it. Extremely nice graphics, combat that made you feel like a real badass, and more gadgets than you knew what to do with. So I knew that Arkham City - the sequel to Arkham Asylum - was going to be an instant buy for me.
Arkham City is just more of what made Arkham Asylum great. The combat is even better, the gadgets are even cooler, and the world is more open and free-roam-able. Plus, you can play as Catwoman, who is even more agile than Batman. Talk about kicking some major ass, ninja style.
The only downside I can think of is that there is a bit of a DirectX 11 stuttering problem, but you can easily switch DX11 off.
The only thing that gets me about Batman, is that doesn't he realize that he's actually putting more people in more danger by keeping criminal masterminds like Joker alive? I get that there is sort of a dynamic between Joker and Batman where they subconsciously keep each other alive because without each other, they would both lose their sense of purpose, even though they'll never admit that... but still, Batman's absolute refusal to kill anyone, even when it results in putting everyone else in mortal danger, annoys me.
This game is interesting in that it doesn't seem like it was very well received. When the trailer was first released, everyone gawked at how awesome it was. You know, that video where everything happens backwards to the tune of a melodramatic piano and it turns out that it's a family fighting off a zombie invasion? It's here by the way. You owe it to yourself to watch it if you've not seen it. It's probably one of the best video game trailers ever made.
Alright, well the actual game didn't turn out much like that trailer, and I think that disappointed a lot of people.
However, I still really enjoyed Dead Island. (My current love of the TV show "The Walking Dead" may be related.) It's got that sort of multiplayer where teammates are free to come and go sort of like in Left 4 Dead. The acting and story line is pretty bad, but the scenery is beautiful, the zombies just keep coming, ammo is scarce so you're always feeling desperate, and the game world is very big and you're free to roam around in it.
If you had a small group of dedicated friends with voice chat - this game could simply be an amazing multiplayer experience. In that sort of "OK, you go to the lifeguard station and I will go get some gas from the gas station, and then we'll meet back here. Watch out for zombies" kind of way. However, just dropping in on a random game with one or two people you don't know... may not be so great.
Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
I love the Warhammer 40k universe. It would make a fantastic MMO universe... just sayin'. It's got pure testosterone-based badassery like 8-foot tall genetically engineered space marines that destroy all of the emperor's enemies... and it also has a touch of comic relief like an "Ork" race that is ostensibly stupid, but apparently so prolific that there is no end to their numbers. When Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War came out years ago, it was a real-time strategy game like Starcraft, and I absolutely loved it. Dawn of War II took that similar RTS concept and boiled it down to where you only controlled one or two squads at a time, basically took away all of the base-building, and it was up to you to tactically maneuver those one or two squads around the terrain. That was met with mixed reactions. Some people enjoyed the more personal, tactical aspect... but some people preferred the more large-scale war-like feel of throwing hundreds of troops against one another in an epic battle.
Warhammer 40k Space Marine distills it even further to where you're actually just controlling one single space marine in a 3rd person over the shoulder type of game. There are a couple of other people with you at various parts of the game but of course they're largely useless. It's up to you to blow the heads off of endless hordes of Orks and Chaos Marines. I still enjoyed the game for what it was - stomping the heads of Orks, mowing them down with your auto-bolter, etc... the graphics are nice, the controls are nice, multiplayer is fun, but it does get old after a while.
Nothing too out of the ordinary.
Skyrim. This game was hugely popular. I played Morrowind in 2001. I played Oblivion a few years later. They're OK... but none of these games have ever really knocked my socks off. I can't just complete the main questline without feeling like I'm missing out on all those side-quests and free-roaming, yet at the same time, if I just go off and do my own thing, then I feel like I have no sense of direction or purpose. I can't just do the side missions without feeling like I'm letting the dragons/demons/bad guys rape and pillage in the meantime.
Anyway, the graphics are fantastic, obviously. The combat is fine. I hate fighting trolls. I'd rather face a dragon than a troll I think.
Anyway, I finished the main story line, but I'm just not as excited about it as most people are. I might have put 40 hours into it. I still prefer modern or sci-fi themes... see above with the Warhammer 40k MMO idea.
All that said, I will enjoy coming back to this game in a year or so, after the modders have had some time to create some really cool mods for this game.
I've been playing quite a bit of this game. It's very fun. It's addictive, and possibly most importantly - it has a fantastic soundtrack. Seriously. Just do a Youtube search for "Dustforce OST". It's good stuff.