Archive for October, 2012

World of Tanks: adapt or die

, | Game diaries

If you’re a veteran player who has not played for a while, World of Tanks offers its own new set of challenges. Prior to the introduction of the new physics patch, you may have routinely scraped the edges of bridges, lakes, or ravines while maneuvering. It was never a problem, since invisible walls kept your tank on track, leaving your hands free to use the (terrible) chat interface, or whatever.

Today, if you stop paying attention by a lake you’ll end up drowning in it.

After the jump, change kills. Continue reading →

The worst thing you’ll see all week: Safety Not Guaranteed

, | Movie reviews

In the twee hipster-than-thou comedy Saftey Not Guaranteed, twee hipster Aubrey Plaza comments on someone’s laptop.

“Why do you have flames on your laptop?”

“It’s a gaming laptop. It’s really fast.”

Then hipster Jake Johnson picks them up for some putative time travel shenanigans. It’s like Looper, but more hip. Guess where such a hip movie is set. If you guessed Oregon, you’re close enough. A dude makes Aubrey Plaza fall in love with him by playing a zither. That’s right, a zither. Not since The Third Man has a zither been used so effectively.

Safety Not Guaranteed is mostly just an appeal to people who think Aubrey Plaza is hot. Which, sure, she is. But for any sort of convincing emotion, you’re left with Jake Johnson trying not to cry while driving a go-cart, smoking a cigarette, and swigging whiskey from a bottle. Dig it. There. I just saved you ninety minutes. It’s enough to make a guy want to catch up on The New Girl.

At least Mark Duplass as a mentally unbalanced time traveller — or is he? — lends the movie some sincerity. To see Duplass in a better movie, I cannot recommend strongly enough the hilarious Hump Day, which exists completely outside the usual studio conventions and the typical twee indie vibe. And for the non-grating version of Safety Not Guaranteed, see Happy Accidents with Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Safety Not Guaranteed is out now on DVD and VOD (here’s an link to support Qt3).

Indie team-based shooters come not single spies, but in battalions

, | Games

Okay, whose idea was it to simultaneously release Natural Selection 2, Primal Carnage, and Guns of Icarus Online? And to furthermore do it at the height of the holiday release season? All three games are gunning for the same audience. Namely, people who dig the camaraderie of team-based online shooters, but who are looking for the sort of twist that only an indie developer can provide. So the question you have to ask yourself is, “What flavor do you want? Aliens, dinosaurs, or zeppelins?”

World of Tanks: let’s get this show on the road!

, | Game diaries

World of Tanks is a strange hybrid. Part online arena shooter, part sim, and part MMORPG, there are few games that seek to occupy the niche it has carved out. This makes the game compelling, delivering an experience that is not available anywhere else. However, the very factors that separate the game from the rest of modern gaming also serve to confuse and alienate new players. It’s easy to jump into a game, maneuver, and shoot. WASD moves your tank, the mouse moves your turret, and left-click fires. Basic stuff.

But just when you think you’re getting the hang of things, your tank mysteriously explodes. Uh-oh! How did that happen?

After the jump: why you are dead Continue reading →

Forza Horizon’s cool easy cruise

, | Game reviews

Although this Forza is unlike any Forza you’ve played before, it will feel familiar to anyone who’s played Smuggler’s Run, Fuel, Test Drive Unlimited 2, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Burnout Paradise, or Driver. Basically, there’s a lot of driving between the driving. How do you do this without making it feel like a commute? Forza Horizon mostly handles this adroitly. It’s a laidback road trip with lots of road running through lots of scenery. Kick back and drive.

But if you’re looking for a well-made open world, you’ve taken a wrong turn into the sort of festive racing fest you’d find in an EA game or one of Codemaster’s latest games. You play yet another mute character racing against a bunch of trash talking douchebags, but this time you wear the world’s ugliest watch. What, you don’t drive from the cockpit view? Given that timepiece, I can’t say I blame you.

After the jump, where would you like to go today? I hope you said Colorado. Continue reading →

World of Tanks: war is (still) hell

, | Game diaries

A lot has changed on the virtual battlefields of World of Tanks in the 18 months since Dave Markell’s excellent series of articles. The matchmaker has been improved. Many new tanks have been added, including French and British tanks and tier X medium tanks and tank destroyers. The roster of available maps has grown significantly. Two new game modes have been added. The graphics have been improved through the use of a new renderer. And a new physics engine has radically changed the gameplay on certain maps.

But to those who are quick to dismiss freemium games, the biggest change is still to come: In the upcoming Version 8.1 update to World of Tanks (currently available on the public test server) premium “gold” ammunition (purchasable only with real-life money) will also become purchasable through the in-game “silver” currency. With a stroke, has eliminated your excuse for refusing to try the game!

After the jump, your new excuses for not trying the game! Continue reading →

October 29: wallet threat level red

, | Features

Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is an uncanny Unreal 3 remix of the original Painkiller, which is my favorite Doom game of all time. It’s every bit as good as it was in 2004. Actually, better. I forgot how awesome it is to play a shooter that doesn’t need a reload key. And this time it’s got co-op support. If there’s one thing better than replaying Painkiller, it’s replaying Painkiller cooperatively.

Cargo Commander is an indie space dungeon exploration game. Think of it as a sci-fi Rogue-like with unique space-based qualities and the catchiest space honky-tonk aesthetic this side of Starcraft 1. Here’s how it plays.

The last few Assassin’s Creeds are kind of a blur for me. Kind of like they were a blur for the folks who made them. Zing! So I had very little enthusiasm going into Assassin’s Creed III. After playing for a while, I still had very little enthusiasm. Assassin’s Creed III starts slow, despite an interesting idea for how to do a prologue. It’s ponderous and familiar. It features way too much Desmond (at this point, any Desmond is way too much Desmond). For those of us burned out after a few years of cavorting around cities that weren’t as good as Venice, Assassin’s Creed III feels like just another Assassin’s Creed, but with dishwater dull Colonial architecture. Here we go again. But then you get past the first five or six hours and, holy cats, the Assassin’s Creed series is good again! At this point, I couldn’t be happier with how this is turning out. Consider your wallet imperiled.

After an extensive beta period, Natural Selection 2 finally goes live this week. This team-based aliens vs marines multiplayer shooter/strategy hybrid has a following from the first game for a reason. And lest you worry what you’re getting into, this is no free-to-play grindfest. It’s a straight-up, two-asymmetrical-but-equal-teams-against-each-other, reset-to-zero-when-you’re-done complete package.

And speaking of team-based multiplayer shooters with a twist, Guns of Icarus launches this week. This release doesn’t yet include an intended adventure mode where your airships fly around trade routes to make money and buy upgrades. Instead, it’s an airship vs airship skirmish game in which players crew the airships. Considering the dearth of airship deathmatches since Flying Heroes, I’ll take what I can get.

Electronic Arts releases Need for Speed: Most Wanted. No telling how long the servers will be up, so hurry up and race before it’s sunsetted!

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is some sort of Kinect fighting game that poses the question “who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Wolverine?”. The correct answer is “Spiderman and Woverine aren’t Avengers”. I also would have accepted, “I’ve already played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and I didn’t need a Kinect to do it”.

A view to a kill in XCOM

, | Games

XCOM is elegant and simple except when it’s not. For instance, ever wonder why you are or aren’t flanking a particular alien? Like so many things in XCOM, it’s all about the cover. MarinusWA’s excellent diagrams of various tactical situations shed light on the inner workings of XCOM. Plus, I can’t get enough of those weird alien smiley faces and frowny faces. Check it out here.

Here lies the empire of Magnar, latest casualty of Fallen Enchantress’ AI

, | Games

Magnar is a slaver race. When they raze enemy cities or defeat human armies, they boost the population in their nearest city. The idea is that they take slaves. Furthermore, they can train slave armies who they don’t have to pay. The emperor Magnar (some relation) can basically eat these slaves for health. Or he can boost these slaves in battle with a spell called death lash. Because it’s a death lash, the slaves die after the battle. But who cares? They’re slaves.

In case you can’t tell, Magnar is bad guys.

After the jump, sometimes bad guys finish last Continue reading →

Skylanders Giants is a giant hit with the kids and a giant hit on the wallet

, | Game reviews

Just before Halloween 2011, Activision unleashed their toy/game hybrid Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure onto the marketplace. This Frankenstein experiment probably slipped under the holiday radar of most Gamers, a group so hardcore they get a capitalized category. It most likely drove parents batty as they competed with scalpers for limited product. And it definitely turned out to be a gold mine. Now Skylanders is back and “boomier” than ever as Skylanders Giants.

Was the lightning rod struck again to bring life to these plastic creatures? How does Giants work for Gamers, parents, and gaming parents? Let’s cast the bat signal towards the sky over Forced Metaphore Castle and assemble the elite Skylanders team of Kiddo, Mommy and Rob to find out why a seven-year-old is roaring around the house while making slow motion stomping noises, why it’s a great time to be a Gaming Dad, and why Mommy fears going to birthday parties (hint: it’s not keriophobia).

After the jump, abandon all fiscal hope, ye who enter here Continue reading →

The stupidest thing I’ve ever said?

, | Games

While recording an interview with an actual non-gaming broadcasting network about XCOM, the host introduced me as the guy who didn’t like Deus Ex. I confessed that was baggage I carry around, at which point he asked me how long it had been. I noted that was back in 2001 and then, while casting about for something to say — I thought we were going to talk about XCOM — I said something to the effect of, “well, a lot of bad stuff happened back in 2001”.

As the words were leaving my mouth, it was like that moment when you’re swinging the car door shut just as you realize the keys are still in the ignition. “A lot of bad stuff happened back in 2001”? What the…?

I later asked him to edit that out. In case he didn’t, I would like to preemptively apologize for being the sort of dillhole who compares a game he didn’t like to 9/11.