Archive for June, 2012

, | Game diaries

Yomi is a Japanese term that’s been appropriated by some gaming communities to mean “reading the mind of the opponent”. Basically, it refers to when you do something because you suspect the other player will do something. Think he’s building Shermans? Respond with Pak-40s. Is he going to jump? Ready that uppercut. Is your boss about to come into your office? Minimize this window. That’s yomi. Yomi is at the heart of some of the most satisfying competitive experiences. When your prediction about your opponent and his actions match up perfectly, it feels like winning twice.

After the jump: Mind games Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Game reviews

After the stunning debut of Zen Pinball on the Nintendo 3DS (read the adoring review here), developer Zen Studios’ next trick is Marvel Pinball 3D, a collection of four superhero tables ported over from the Xbox 360 and PS3 collections. Here come The Fantastic Four, Blade, Captain America, and Iron Man to your Nintendo 3DS.

After the jump, that man is playing something other than Galaga Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Game diaries

Being assigned a target in Revelations is kind of what I imagine an arranged marriage is like. You get nothing more than a picture and a name, and you know that eventually you two will meet and it will be kind of awkward and hopefully there will be penetration. If things go wrong maybe your target will bop you on the head and run away.

After the jump: Uh, moving right along… Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Games podcasts

Returning guest Seth Berkowitz joins us this week with some surprising comments about the new DLC for Mass Effect 3. We also discuss the state of Team Fortress 2, Ubisoft’s latest PC cock-up, whether serious videogamers should be playing kiddie games like Lego Batman 2, and what might be the only must-have title on the Vita.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare

-I’m sorry you don’t get what’s so hilarious about me peeing on you.
-Okay, you are not a good apologizer. Just FYI.

Hannah Horvath sits in a dark theater, watching the tech rehearsal for a friend’s play. Opening night is two weeks out, so the edges are a little rough, but she is entranced. For good reason. The man she is watching, her friend Adam, is utterly captivating. Confident. Sexy. Powerful. Raw. Scary. She is almost alone with him in the theater, and as he shifts from his monologue to the next beat in the tech rehearsal, she seems about to lean forward and give a bit of direction. It’s a jarring moment, since while Hannah is played by Lena Dunham, the creator of the show and a woman undoubtedly able to give direction, Hannah the character could never do that. At least not competently.

Shortly after that theater scene there is a moment in this eighth episode of the first season of HBO’s Girls when the show seems to be directly talking about itself. Hannah is telling Adam why he should do the play when he has decided to quit. But Girls is not only talking about itself–plenty of shows do that–it’s also pulling thoughts out of our heads:

Do you know how unusual it is to see someone doing something like that? Like what you were doing, okay? That’s so open and honest and weird and you’re not making fun of them in your mind?

Lena Dunham has found a way to scramble our brains. She does it naturally, instinctively, just the way Adam does his monologue, and just the way he quits it. She shows us herself and not without fear, but without winking. She’s created something that is open and honest and weird and I’m not making fun of it in my mind.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Game reviews

Do you see that Le Havre screenshot up there and think, “Gah, who could ever make sense of that jumble?” If so, this hard-to-learn/hard-to-master brain bender about not getting what you want might be a bit much for you. Because if you think that screenshot is daunting, wait until you get to the game itself.

After the jump, do you have what it takes to be harbor master? Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Game diaries

There’s a tense, deep, and addictive stealth game in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but you won’t find it in the single-player campaign. It’s tucked away in the multiplayer mode, an addition that sounded so tacked-on I never tried it when it first appeared in the previous game, Brotherhood. For me, Assassin’s Creed was strictly a single-player game: the bizarre, time-jumping story of Desmond Miles and his ancestors’ battle against Templars, or aliens, or something. Assassin’s Creed multiplayer? Probably just an excuse to sell some DLC.

After the jump: Desmond who? Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Features

I pre-ordered Battlefield 3. I had to. Being a fan of the series since its inception, I felt the need to own the latest edition in all of its glory. Oddly, I didn’t feel that need for 2142.

When my copy arrived, I was in the middle of a gaming explosion – October and November of 2011 were chock full of great releases – so I set Battlefield aside. Fast forward to today and I find myself kind of bored. I’ve been playing Age of Empires III with Tom for a week straight (more on that later) and winning well less than 10% of our matches. That’s not a problem for me since I’m stubborn and will overtake Mr. Chick eventually. If nothing else, I’m younger than him, so I’ll go challenge his grave when I’m in my 80s. Hell, he’ll probably still win.

After the jump, I discover that war is intense Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Game reviews

Dirt Showdown is all the in-between stuff from other racing games. It’s those filler events you had to play to get to the next actual race. Basically, driving game gametax, now given its own game. It’s as if someone lifted up all the rally races from the previous Dirts, swept out the detritus that was left, collected it into a tidy little pile, and then slapped a name on it. Dirt Showdown.

After the jump, the lowdown on Showdown Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Games

It’s not only official that Tom vs Bruce will begin again early next month, but it’s also official that we’ll be working on articles with Kelly Wand, Stefan “Desslock” Janicki, and Erik Wolpaw, three of the most talented writers I know. Although Tom vs Bruce is a lot of work, it’s the best kind of work a person can hope to do: alongside someone he knows, likes, and admires. And by helping us meet our stretch goal, our Kickstarter supporters basically let me do this three times over.

We’re particularly grateful for our three full sponsors, one of whom is going to basically crowdsource his choice of game. Which should terrify me given all the jokes folks have made about what games they’d pick. Desert Bus. Pokemon: Conquest. Deus Ex. Lollipop Chainsaw. But I can safely say there is no game I wouldn’t enjoy playing with Bruce Geryk. And that’s why our final stretch goal is a bit selfish. If we can reach another $1000 in the next two days, we’ll fly Bruce to Los Angeles to stay with me, specifically so we can do an in-person Tom vs Bruce on video, most likely based on a boardgame.

If you haven’t wondered whether it’s wise to support two writers making a video, you should. Wonder, I mean. And support us, too. But you should definitely wonder whether it’s wise. I know we did. We initially dreaded doing the mandatory introduction video for Kickstarter. And even though it’s, uh, a bit rudimentary, it’s miles and away better than it was when we first put it together. We got feedback from some friends, Bruce did a bang-up job figuring out how to edit it, and then how to edit his edits, and then how to do those goofy videotoaster tricks with scans of our articles. We can’t claim professional quality, but we can claim that we care enough about what we create to fuss over it long enough that it won’t suck as much as it did before we fussed over it. If that’s not a testament to the kind of video you’ll get if we meet our last stretch goal, I don’t know what is.

Oh, and that picture up there? It’s relevant. You’ll just have to read our latest update to find out how.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Games

The Sword of Islam add-on for Crusader Kings II is out today. When Crusader Kings II came out, I thought it was an oversight that you couldn’t play Muslim dynasties in a game about the Crusades. But it turns out Paradox wanted to either a) take time to do it right because the systems in place to game European dynasties wouldn’t be a satisfying representation of medieval Islam, or b) make money from DLC. Probably a little of both. And frankly, given that they’re right about a) and given the quality of most of their DLC, I can’t complain.

In the list of main features, alongside things like the new decadence concept for Muslim rulers, more countries, culture specific interface elements, the addition of Shia and Sunni Islam, and reworked combat, you’ll find this:

Wife wants to become first wife

That’s a “main feature”. Sure, you wanna-be caliphs can have four wives, but don’t think it’s going to make your life any easier.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Games

How extended is today’s Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3? Nearly two gigabytes, that’s how extended! Electronic Arts says they’re not actually changing the ending. According to the download page, here’s what upset fans get:

Additional scenes and an extended epilogue reveal the impact of Shepard’s choices on the future of the galaxy.

In other words, speaking more slowly and explaining more stuff about things that were intentionally ambiguous. Everything I needed to know I learned while playing Mass Effect 3. But the thinking is that more middling writing is just what this otherwise good sci-fi RPG shooter needs, which says a lot about the fans, the writers, and now the publisher.

I’ve lost interest in the whole issue, but I wonder if angry erstwhile fans will find any satisfaction in these two gigabytes. They’ve done very real damage to a series they supposedly loved, out of all proportion with their complaints. It’s shameful how they’ve hijacked Mass Effect on so many levels: as a story, as a franchise, and even just as a darn good standalone game about an alien invasion. But I’m mostly disappointed that Electronic Arts legitimized their complaints with this DLC. The ending of Mass Effect 3 was no better or worse than the ending of most videogames. And while the Extended Cut may not actually change the ending, it certainly changes the narrative.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Game reviews

Batman rides a gorilla. Robin builds a rickshaw and trundles around the parking lot. Clayface and Hush– Who? Clayface and Hush are in here. Lex Luthor’s hovership is defended by impenetrable electrical fields, yet there are convenient spawn points for Batman’s electricity suits next to every electrical field. There’s no room for Robin in the Batmobile, so he runs along behind it as if you were riding a horse in Skyrim. But Robin can roll around inside his own personal hamster ball. The Batcave explodes. You’ve just unlocked a mime. That’s right, a mime. He approached you on the chaotic and panic-riddled streets of Gotham City and offered to sell himself into your collection for 25,000 Lego studbucks. Of course, you accept. Then you smash a row of hedges to earn a golden brick, which will finally let you buy whatever’s for sale inside the as yet unlocked front door of Wayne Manor. Wait, what’s over here? A little man throws a pie at you.

You might ask, “Why?” You have asked the wrong question. The overriding question of Lego Batman 2 is always and only “Why not?” This is as ridiculous and ridiculously effective an open world game as Saints Row 3, but whereas that game was driven by action movie excesses, Lego Batman 2 is driven mostly by the two things all boys love most: breaking things and collecting stuff. And then playing with them. If you have a toy gorilla and a Batman action figure, Batman will naturally ride the gorilla.

After the jump, toy story Continue reading →

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Movie reviews

If you’re going to see an awful movie about a dude with a flaming skull for a head riding a flaming motorbike, this is probably the one to see. Not to say it’s good. It’s not. It’s laughably bad. But lordy, what awesome shots of flaming skulls and flaming motorbikes, all heavy metalish and trailing smoke and crazy zooms and tilts and God of War style chain flinging and other things going fiery. The Nicolas Cage overacting in between is just gravy. His style complements the CG, as his face gets all distorted and his eyes pop and smoke comes out of his head, like when a character in an old-timey cartoon sees a hot chick. I’m pretty sure he even goes AH-WOO-GA! at one point, like a steam whistle. He wouldn’t be out of place in one of those Mask sequels Jim Carrey passed on. I only wish that when he promised early on that when the demon takes hold, no one is safe, he didn’t then spend the rest of the movie defending women and children. That’s not very demonic.

The bigger issue is how long can Idris Elba maintain being cool when he’s in movies like The Losers, Thor, Prometheus, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance? I wonder if he thinks he’s hidden in Ghost Rider because of his fake French accent, like maybe you won’t know it’s him. I see you, Idris! Look, I’ll allow him no more than eleven or twelve stinkers before I start to think a little less of him. Also, since this is a movie based on a Marvel comic, I looked for a Stan Lee cameo and didn’t see one. Why would he not show up for his cameo? Was he getting his teeth whitened the day they were scheduled to shoot?

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare
, | Games

It’s time for your annual Spider-Man game! The Activision Quebec studio making these games for the last few years has done a decent job with mission-based Spider-Mannery, but now they’re breaking out into an open world. Can they capture the glee of Spider-Man’s previous open-world web-slinging? Is there anything left to capture? Or will this just be another mandatory movie tie-in?

Spec Ops: The Line is 2K’s attempt at their own Call of Duty. I have it on good authority there are no zombies. There’s new DLC this week for Battlefield 3 and Skyrim. “The PC version of an Ubisoft game” is usually a punchline. This week, it’s also part of the release schedule, as we get a PC version of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare