Games Played: Mass Effect 3, Saints Row: The Third, Team Fortress 2, Playstation 1 Games, Misc. games
Other Business: I have started posting this blog on WordPress and Giantbomb for the time being as I either make the migration completely to GB, stay on WordPress or just be lazy and continue to post both places.
Mass Effect 3
I mentioned last week that I broke down and bought Mass Effect 3 on a 50% off sale on Amazon. I then went through that whole discovery of how badly Amazon and Origin play together, but that is in the past now. I still don’t like Origin, but at least its not very intrusive. Its probably data mining my hard drive any time I have it running, but so is Steam so its not that different. The difference is how I see it in my mind’s eye: Steam is represented by a fat, smiling man who is politely flipping through the imaginary book that is my computer and Origin/EA is some sort of amorphous black hole or evil grasping hand that just absorbs all useful data from my hard drive and leaves me feeling cold and violated. Don’t judge me. Anyways, most of my gaming time this past week has been taken up by Mass Effect 3. Most of that ME3 time has been in multiplayer, despite how curious I am about the rest of the singleplayer campaign. The multiplayer is addictive, fast paced and seemingly very rewarding. I like how you constantly have to keep moving and changing your tactics otherwise you can get flanked or overwhelmed very quickly. I also like that it benefits from teamplay with communication, but it is not essential to the experience. My other favorite part about it is that even though I have given it all this praise, it can still be played fairly mindlessly. More often than not, I sit down at my computer and think, ” I want to play Mass Effect and get further in the story” but then I find a video online, usually Giantbomb related, and I want to watch that too. I start the video, boot up ME3 multiplayer and watch the video on my second screen while I run around and shoot dudes. Default audio levels are perfect so that pretty much anything else I have on is just a bit louder than the game so that I can hear videos or mumble channels better than the game but I can still hear important sounds from the game. I like it and I will keep playing it.
I have gotten back into playing through the story as well. I made my peace with my character and have just decided I will play through with this game and then ever so slowly work my way through a play through of the entire series. This incarnation of Shepard is an Adept and since I have been playing a Soldier in multiplayer, I forgot how to play this character. It did not occur to me until about 15 minutes into the game that importing a character means that they come in with their skills from the last game. That means that rather than getting a nice easy ramp into learning how to play a Mass Effect game again, I have to jump in the middle and remember how the hell these biotic powers work. Its still fun though, still Mass Effect, but damn if there doesn’t seem to be a lot of shooting going on. Shooting is definitely improved over the first one, which I have most recently played, and maybe a bit better than ME2. I still haven’t quite got into the flow of combat in this game though, especially the spacebar, which is responsible for so many different actions that whenever I press it, its more like rolling dice than performing a certain action. I feel like I spend most my time just hammering the spacebar to make sure Shepard is jumping over shit to get to the other side instead of sticking to them and waiting for whatever is gunning me down to finish the job. I think I just hit two and a half hours of game time in the campaign and I don’t know how much in multiplayer, so I have plenty of time to get the hang of things, lots more Mass Effect to shoot and talk to. Speaking of talking, I don’t feel like I am contributing as much to conversation as in previous games. It seems more like I am giving Shepard her motivation for a scene rather than prompting her responses. Example: Doctor ” Are you here about the Major?” My options “How is he doing” Or “No”, I chose “No” because I have no idea why the hell else I would be here, Shepard says “No, actually I am here for you. We need a doctor on our ship, you are the best around. What do you say, do you want to join?” It is at this point that I remember how the rest of my ME2 suicide mission played out: the crew died, all of them. Then, I get a prompt to charm or intimidate; my Shepard is a stone cold war hero, I make my choice and the doctor wanders off. Two prompts feels a little light for a two or three minute dialogue. Maybe it gets heavier when you start making decisions that effect the mission, instead of just demanding everyone do what I say because of the mission. Either way I am looking forward to meeting up with more teammates from previous games and shooting more stuff.
Saints Row: The Third Multiplayer:
Late Friday evening, early Saturday morning I had another session of multiplayer with my Saints Row buddy, screen name Ravenlight. We picked up carving our path of destruction through Stilwater right where we had left off earlier in the week, see previous post for screenshots. That game is still amazingly fun and awesome to play, I enjoy every moment I get to spend revisiting that world. This session involved more mission progression and more experimenting with how co-op is handled for the activities. Thus far we have determined that any activity that does not directly involve shooting (Trailblazer, Escort, etc) has the host character completing the activity as they normally would if they were playing alone and then the co-op player is contributing through some other means. In the Trailblazer activity for example, the host player drives the ATV as normal and the other player has unlimited Molotov cocktails to do as they will. A better example of the asymmetric gameplay is that during the Escort activities, the host player again is the driver keeping the car away from the press vans. Meanwhile, the other player plays a mini-game to help pleasure the client during the activity. Between bloody rampages down the streets, explosive activities and skipping merrily through missions, Ravenlight and I took some time to customize some cars. Mace truck nuts, bicycle baskets with beer and porn, hovering scooters, and horrifically colored everything, oh and nitrous, lots and lots of nitrous. In the practical aspect, we now have a wide assortment of vehicles to call upon for mayhem and also mission completion… probably mostly mayhem. I had taken a good number of screenshots of that evening’s events, well I thought I had except that I had also forgotten that my Steam overlay crashed as soon as I started the game. So…no photographic evidence of the evening, which is a shame because I had some good shots, including one where the truck that Ravenlight was driving got stuck in a garage door, which was raising and lowering. All the while he is laughing over the mic and asking me what was happening and all I could tell him between grins was to hang on while I got a screenshot. I think it might be connected to the new AMD drivers I downloaded to even get Saints Row running, but that has caused my overlay to crash in other games and makes Skyrim look awful with parts of the world geometry missing. I know Ravenlight and I will continue popping into that world and wrecking havoc now and again, especially after alcoholic beverages have been consumed. That game is just good fun, way to go THQ and I hope you guys make it out of this hole that you have dug yourself.
Team Fortress 2
I like to jump back into TF2 now and again, not just to keep my stats alive on the servers I visit (check out the Trashedgamers and their site at Trashedgamers.org, sorry for the shameless plug, I used to be an admin) but also because its one of the only competitive multiplayers I ever had any skill at. I played a bunch of Counterstrike: Source Gun Game mod before I played TF2, I got pretty good at that, but never amazing and Counterstrike skills seem to be the skills that degrade the fastest so I am terrible again. With Team fortress on the other hand, I have played something like 950 hours of that game over a three year period (about 940 of those hours in less than two years of consistent playing, not to mention that a bunch of that time is probably just server idling time to help fill Trashedgamer servers) so I have a pretty good foundation that I can go back to whenever I want. Also, I primarily play the soldier class, which when you cut out all the fanciness that a pro solider player can do, is basically shoot rockets at dudes’ feet, reload and repeat. Its not that hard to get kills as a soldier, the difficulty comes in trying to climb the ladder into the upper levels of soldier craziness. Just check youtube for frag videos with soldiers, I spend most of my time with my jaw on the floor watching what those players are capable of. Anyways, I can go back and slide into my soldier role easily. More importantly, I love the feeling of jumping back into that game and after only a few minutes remembering how it all works and just start kicking ass. Going back to that game has become even easier since Valve switched to the free-to-play model. Now there is always at least half of the enemy team that has very little to no experience with the game and no concept of teamwork. Easy pickings. Once I get into the flow of things I can average a 1.5 KDR (Kill: Death Ratio for the non-competitive gamer) and as much as 3:1 in a good round.
OK, now that my history of Team Fortress 2 has been explained, I played some on Friday night. In addition to keeping my 160ish ranking on the Trashedgamer server active, I also like to play TF2 because that is where I met most of the people I play games with online. Many an hour of drunken TF2 was passed. Anyways, I played Friday with friends and we destroyed free-to-players and had a grand old time. The downside to jumping in and out and also the groups of free players is that I end up stuck playing the soldier class because that is what I am best with and what I can help a struggling team push forward with the most success. Early in my TF2 career, I was a decent Sniper and at some point lost most of that skill. I have since been chasing the dream of becoming a good Sniper again. The problem is that you can’t really practice as a certain class if there are already three or four other people playing that class and not really contributing to the team (also read as, “they suck”). The long and short of it, is that I can’t play TF2 for very long because I end up only playing Soldier and I have gotten just about as good as I can at that class without moving up into serious competitive gameplay and that is just something I don’t have the time or the drive to do.
Playstation 1 Games:
Featured games: Blast Chamber, Roadrash: Jailbreak, Worms: Armageddon, Bomberman: Party Edition
Recently, I heard a podcaster mention offhandedly that the PS3 emulates PS1 games at the software level so most or all games can be played with no problems. I have a pretty hefty archive of PS1 games that I like to dip into now and again, but my PS2 tends to struggle on a few of and I can’t hook it up to my HD monitor like my PS3 can. So this weekend, my girlfriend (a budding gamer, but still pretty new and with no history of Playstation games) and I dove into my stash to discover what the late 90’s and early 00’s could deliver.
The first one I dug up and then immediately grinned as deep sinister memories poured forth from the depths of my mind was a game called Blast Chamber. My friends and I used to play this game and would frequently end up at each other’s throats in rage. It was glorious and we eventually were able to strike a balance of game time that was entertaining but ended right before physical violence. Anyways, after a few rounds in the game my girlfriend, between laughter and frustration blurted out “This is the ultimate ‘Fuck you’ game.” Shortly after that realization, we moved on to the next game.
Now, I grew up loving Roadrash. I played my copy for hours and hours and came close to the end of the singleplayer at one time, but one shiny thing or another drew me away and I never finished. I pulled it out of my stack of games because I remembered it was great and I loved it and wanted to show my girlfriend this weird game about racing bikes and beating dudes. I also had vague memories of a co-op mode with sidecars and midgets that I thought might be alright since I would be the one doing most the work. My girlfriend likes hitting dudes with a piece of lead pipe. She likes it a lot, like a lot a lot. The giggles of joy as she smeared guys across the asphalt and commented about how great it was that I did the steering and she got to just hit dudes, amazing. Basically, I spent the next hour and a half trying to navigate the early polygon roadways while also trying to get up broadside next to as many other bikers as I could so they could be bludgeoned unmercifully by my giggling girlfriend. Needless to say, Roadrash is staying out of storage for later use. After that I convinced her to try a couple other games and then we could come back to that one if the others were boring.
Worms: Armageddon played much slower and without the explosive fast paced violence that I remembered from playing it with my friends when I was younger. The girlfriend was bored and also with the significantly steeper learning curve instead of the “press button, hit dude” mechanic of the Roadrash did not mesh with the general mood and we passed it by after only a little bit of time spent. She did comment that she thought it would be better when played on a computer with a mouse. I found it interesting that she would pick up on that considering that I believe that was where it had originally been released and they had ported it to the PS1 at some point after.
The last game we got to that evening turned out to be Bomberman: Party Edition. I have played Bomberman with my girlfriend before, she likes it, I like it, its usually good times. We still had fun playing it, but we were tired or something because we were playing just terribly. The moronic CPU characters were more than a match for us, not because they killed us so often, but because we would end up killing ourselves more often than anything else. As a result, we spent a lot of time watching the computer players fight each other. They run a very obvious pattern that takes awhile to intersect and cause one of them to die. The whole situation was fun but also pretty embarrassing for both of us because we hadn’t even been drinking that night. That lead us to turn off the game and making up some drinks.
The girlfriend and I spent more time in copy of Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 that my brother gave me for christmas. That game is still fun to play and great to just zone out to. We had started drinking by the time we got there however and had to stop when too much shit was happening on screen that neither of us were following. All in all a good night for games!