Saturday, December 31, 2011

TL;DR Top Games of 2011

Well holy shit, you guys; where has the time gone? Where have all my blog posts gone? I swear I've been dropping three or four posts a week for the last six months, what is this I don't even.

OK FINE. I haven't been around. Sorry, but it really isn't like those who read this know that I've been busy, and that everyone else apparently has as well. However, since this is New Year's Eve, I suppose I shall grace this Earth with a Top 10 of the year, even though the shelf life on this list is about another six hours.

This list is a compilation and combination of what the contributors of this site (or, just the list) have provided. I have some perspectives on some games, others I haven't even had the ability to get into yet because I've been so busy playing other games on this list. One of my resolutions for next year is to be more diligent about wasting time reviewing games that you've already played and won't even read this. However, here goes anyway:

Now the Contributors of TL;DR present:

10. L.A. Noire

Earlier this year, I was torn between the awesomeness of the presentation and beginning of the story, and the eventual letdown and WTF moments in how that story unfolded at the conclusion. Even if you could boil this game down to Grand Theft Auto of the late 40's playing good guy, that really isn't a bad place to start.

9. Dead Space 2

Some of us really liked it, some of us didn't, but Visceral Games' follow up to a Sci-Fi horror classic is back for more with less frights and more action. I, for one, was perfectly fine with less fright because I can now sleep at night. While the multiplayer is very forgettable, the campaign doesn't disappoint. 
8. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

(from IGN): 

"While Deus Ex: Human Revolution can't be the revelation that Deus Ex was in 2000, it's an achievement nonetheless. It's a visionary, considered piece of work, and while my thoughts drift to the things that could have been and the compromises made due to the possibilities of video games in 2011, they're just as quick to consider playing through it again. Human Revolution is a smart, rewarding piece of transhumanist noir that does justice not just to Deus Ex, but to the fiction that inspired it"

7. Dead Island

I mean, come on, who can hate a game with ZAMBIES? Dead Island was almost exactly like Borderlands for me; a game that came from out of no where when I was waiting for other games to come out. It pretty much is Borderlands. On an Island. With Zombies. The game was insanely addictive from start to finish, as I pretty much went to look to upgrade killing utensils. By the way, in playing this, prepare to die: A LOT. 
6. Uncharted 3

(from Lord Bling): 

"Here's a franchise that lives and breathes set pieces.  No matter where Nathan Drake is in the world, expect everything to go tits-up and you'll be racing to escape a crashing airplane, a sinking ocean liner, etc.  They also included some multi-segmented MP maps, which felt different from everything else I've played this year.  So why isn't the game higher on this list?  Part 2 was #2 in 2009.  Unfortunately, this one doesn't live up to the gold standard of that game.  The campaign's story and dialogue aren't nearly as sharp, and weakly ties the set pieces together.  The aiming and shooting mechanic was tweaked, and now it felt a lot sloppier (Naughty Dog has since patched this, but I haven't replayed any of the campaign since).  Worst of all, I wasn't really rooting for Nathan in this one.  His motivation is largely selfish and stupid.  But wow, those set pieces."

5. Gears of War 3

Another in my failure to get on the 'reviewing games' ball. Gears was one of those games that kind of got lost in the flood of games that came out between September and November.

Gears was a very satisfying conclusion to one of the better shooter sagas of this console generation. Both single player and multiplayer were solid, as I finally got to enjoy Gears' multiplayer instead of being pulverized by people running around using Host Shotguns to their advantage. Horde Mode was great, but the best part was the 4 player co-op campaign. Finally, as the franchise concludes, Epic gets it. 
4. Batman: Arkham City

Batman is so hot right now. But in seriousness, Arkham City is a great expansion of Arhkham Asylum of a few years ago. One of our contriubutors, who will not be mentioned, put this game as their number one game of the year.

(from GiantBomb):

"If you want to be reductive about it, Arkham City is more Batman, and if you want more Batman, there's no question: you should play this game. But there's more to it than that. In the two years since Arkham Asylum, there hasn't really been anything like it until now. Getting another chance to use Batman's considerable combat talents as you engage in one of the best fighting systems going today is a joy. The city looks terrific, like it's one step away from just bursting into flames as criminals crawl across every single surface doing... whatever it is that criminals do when they're locked in a city-shaped prison. The interior areas look just as good, giving you a sense that, again, this is a realistic place that's been overrun. The voice acting, featuring plenty of the same cast members that performed so perfectly last time around, is incredibly sharp, with writing that fits what you'd expect from most of the different characters you face. But to sum it all up, it's hard to imagine any fan of action games coming away from Arkham City disappointed. It might not rewrite the book on Batman video games, but when you're building off of such a strong position--and you're only shipping the second game with such similarities, rather than a third or fourth--it's hard to bicker too much about what changes the developers did or didn't make."

3. Portal 2

(again, from Lord Bling)

"Expectations can be a bitch.  When The Orange Box was released, Portal was the sleeper hit of the year, and for good reason.  The first-person puzzle gameplay was one-of-a-kind, and the writing was whip-smart and laugh-out-loud funny.  It not only told a compelling story, but did so in about two hours.  So here comes a sequel, which is around six  to eight hours long, and adds a meaty 2-player co-op mode.  And people still flooded Metacritic user reviews to complain.  "It's too short!  It's not worth $60!"  Wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG.  They added to an already deep and rich universe, with new gameplay mechanics that somehow don't break what had been established previously.  That alone is worth celebrating.  And then there's Wheatley, the best character in a video game in a long damned time.  I had very high expectations for this game, and it met every single one of them."

2. Battlefield 3

This is THE BEST Multiplayer Shooter of the year. I don't care if the single player campaign is dull, un-original, short, and forgettable. There isn't a better place to squad up and shoot other people in the face. The fact that many here will still be playing this game well into 2012 is one of the reasons we all voted this game so high on our lists. Gameplay is well balanced between classes, you actually HAVE TO PLAY AS A TEAM, and kill-whoring basically gets you nowhere. Did I mention, you get to fly FUCKING JETS?!? 
1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

(from Joystiq):

"This is the deepest, loveliest world ever created for a single player to explore, and one that no one should deny themselves. This is a game about following Emerson's advice, leaving the trail and finding that the most powerful force on Earth or Tamriel isn't fire or sword, but the ever-insistent desire to know what lies beyond."

Let us all be honest with ourselves: this comes as a surprise to precisely no one, considering Skyrim is pretty much on everyone else's GOTY lists.
Bethesda pretty much writes its own ticket when it comes to these type of Role Playing Masterpieces. This game is like Second Life with Dragons; you can engross yourself in the world of Skyrim for hours upon hours, and not even touch the main storyline. Some complain that there is somewhat of a lack of overall story, but I disagree: Skyrim is a world where you can dictate your own story, at your own pace. Do you want to mine ore and smith? Ok. If you want to affectionately count blades of grass, and cultivate flowers? No complaints. People have leveled multiple times over without having killed a single creature. Skyrim is what you make it; and for us, we've made it the best of 2011. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever Review

Screw the naysayers, Duke Nukem Forever is a fun game. 15 years ago, shortly after Duke Nukem 3D successfully released, 3D Realms (and even though Gearbox's name is on the cover, this is still a 3D Realms game, their last one) decided that the sequel to their game would be called Duke Nukem Forever, and began initial work on it. At the 1998 E3, the first trailer was released to the public. 13 years later the game finally released. Is it perfect? No. I'll get to that in a minute. Is it Raucous, immature, and humorous? If you played Duke Nukem 3D, I don't need to answer that. And if you are expecting anything different, this is not the game for you. It's Duke Nukem, not Call of Duty, Halo, or Dead Space (there are references to all of these in the game). It never takes itself seriously, which is exactly how it should be.
First the good. As the game opens, an Alien Mothership has returned to Earth claiming goodwill. It doesn't take long before they start taking our women, and Duke is called
back into action (against the President of the US's orders) to save them and all of humanity. The levels are linear, but well designed. You'll fight aliens in a stadium, a Vegas casino, a fast food joint high above the Vegas streets, the Nevada Desert, and on top of, inside of, and even deep underwater by the Hoover Dam. The FPS action is mixed up between mini games, turret battles, and little distractions scattered throughout the levels, that once you try for the first time, add to your EGO Gauge (life meter). Things like turning on a hand dryer in the restroom, peeing into a urinal, playing a game of pool or pinball, and several others. There's a few levels mid-way where you are headed to the Hoover Dam (the first part of the game takes place in Las Vegas), and you are given a monster truck to drive. These were some of the funnest levels I played. The truck never felt like it was floating or skating. There are areas where your truck runs out of gas, and you have to go out on foot, find gas, and bring it back to the truck before you can move on. In several places, you are shrunk down to action figure size. These areas consist of mostly platforming sequences that other than a couple of hiccups, work surprisingly well. A lot of this takes place at Duke Burger in Vegas, another area, that was one of my favorites.
The weapon variety is pretty good, although except for boss battles and a few other instances, you'll probably find yourself sticking to the Ripper. There's some fun to be had with the Shrink Ray and the Freeze Gun, but you'll always come back to the Ripper. You can find several "power up" items throughout the game as well. You use them by pushing a specific direction on the D Pad, however you can only carry one of each at a time. Beer will make you stronger, and you take less damage. Steroids make you almost invulnerable, and you get one punch melee attacks. The Holoduke creates a hologram of you, while turning you invisible so that enemies focus on him instead of you. And finally, you always have Dukevision, this game's version of night vision.
As I stated above, this game isn't without it's faults. After you beat the game, you'll unlock some extras, including videos of previous trailers, and art from previous versions. There's also a nifty little timeline for the game. Based on all that, I'm guessing this game was visually finished in 2008. And since I'm guessing, I'll go one further, and say that the visuals are based on the engine
from another 3D Realms game, Prey, which released in 2006. And it shows. The graphics are far from what is coming out of most games this far into the consoles' lifecycles. And there are some framerate issues. I would be surprised if the game is evening running at 30 FPS in some places. But perhaps the most surprising and disappointing thing about the game is the load times. I could forgive the sub-par graphics and the framerate issues. Between each, level you will wait 40-50 seconds for a level to load. If you die, you also have to wait that long. I didn't die a lot (playing at the normal level), but there are a couple of boss battles that are very trial and error, and it doesn't make things any better having to wait almost a minute after each death. According to the timeline in the extras, the single player was pretty much done in 2009. While they used the extra time to get through legal and ownership issues, as well as add a multiplayer component to the game, you'd think in two years they would be able to fix the load time issues. It's disappointing.
And while there is a multiplayer part included in the game, I didn't play it. Didn't have any interest. I got the game for the singleplayer campaign, so I won't be reviewing the MP.
This game should never have released at a full $59.99 retail. Had it been released at $39.99 or less, I would probably give it an 8 out of 10. At full price though, I can't give it anything higher than a 6.5. I'd recommend it at a lower price point or as a rental.

TL;DR: Fun, entertaining game with 2006 visuals, and enjoy those load times!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

REVIEW: L.A. Noire

For once, I’m in a quandary about how to proceed. I just completed a game that had my full attention, that blew me away in terms of story telling and visual effects, but also left me with a lot of questions and frustrations. Am I being to greedy for wanting more in a game that is already fantastic? Am I being overly critical for totally enjoying a twenty hour experience but still having a bit of an empty feeling. Am I looking too much into a game that gave me all the answers and yet I still have questions?

This is the enigma that is L.A. Noire, from Rockstar Games. Set in 1947 Los Angeles, you play as Cole Phelps, a undeserving war hero turned driven, overachieving LA Police Officer working his way through the ranks one case at a time. As in Rockstar’s last bestseller, Red Dead Redemption the protagonist has a troubled past, trying to make things right, playing out through a twisted maze of friends turned enemies and the mystery of an overarching conspiracy driving the story.

If you've played Red Dead or Grand Theft Auto, you’re familiar with the basic set up. Driving around a large landscape, doing tasks that drive the story, and filling time doing small minor tasks not necessarily germane to the overarching plot. L.A. Noire is really no different in that simplistic presentation. There are, however, a few new elements that you have to grapple with to move yourself throughout the game. Since you are a Police Detective, you must master the art of interrogation and “reading” people’s reactions in order to determine whether they are telling you the truth, they’re hiding something from you, or just flat out lying. If you are correct, you will get the info you need to lead you to the next clue or solve the case quicker. If you are incorrect in your assumption, you’ll get the run around.

Cole Phelps’ troubled past is as a marine lieutenant serving in the horror of the WWII’s South Pacific. He is a meticulous and all too “by the book” as a platoon commander, which draws the ire of both marines under his command, and fellow platoon commanders who feel that Phelps’ dithering is costing time and lives. This storyline is presented in flashback form throughout the game, with characters in that flashback appearing throughout the present day Los Angeles. When you begin the game, Phelps is a gum shoe beat cop, who’s potential catches the eye of his superiors, who advance him to detective based on his stellar performance and reputation as a war hero.

The main story puts you working cases progressing through four department desks; traffic, homicide, vice, and arson. Traffic will get you acclimated to the procedures of gathering clues, interviewing persons of interests, tracking down potential suspects, and eventually making the collar. As you cruise through the streets of Los Angeles, you are also alerted to “street crimes”, emergency calls that you can either tend to or ignore, as mentioned before, they are something that doesn’t really relate to the overall story.

Once you have things down in Traffic, Phelps is promoted to Homicide, where you begin working murders. This desk is the largest of the game, and as you gather evidence and clues, you begin to notice strange ties that string all these murders together. I’m not going to spoil the story from here, but each re-assignment to a new desk is the result of an event in the last case of the last desk; something that continues Phelps down to the realization that in these cases he’s worked lies a deeper and complex plot at hand involving people he’s encountered earlier in the game either through interview and evidence.

There are a few things that really stand out throughout L.A. Noire; first of all the environment and landscape is absolutely stunning. Apparently, Rockstar used footage both through aerial still photographs and landscape photos to faithfully recreate late 1940’s Los Angeles to 90% accuracy. The city is vibrant both day and night, sometimes I found myself driving around the city instead of ‘fast travelling’ to a location just to see the different points of interest.

Another thing that has been made a very big deal about the game is the technology used to create the facial and voice animations, which, quite frankly are the best I’ve ever seen in a video game. And its not just lips moving to words; its facial features expressing emotions like frustration, anger, intimidation. You can just see without hearing anyone speak that they are being coy, smug, desperate, deliberate, or scared. Aaron Stanton who plays Cole Phelps delivers a really remarkable performance that is exemplified by how well his face and body language are rendered. The game does a pretty good job of giving you characters you can both relate with and enjoy like Phelps’ partner Det. Rusty Galloway in homicide, and also distrust and annoy in Earle, your partner in Vice.

Now, here is my quandary. I really enjoyed my time playing L.A. Noire, and pretty much could not put it down from the moment I bought it on release day. However, there are things that if I really sat down and picked the game apart, I would find almost as much if not more things find negative than positive of it being a great looking game and something that did keep my attention.

The “action” of the game is soft. Yes, there are car chases and gun fights, but they are really kind of substandard when actually compared to similar third-person action  games but even other Rockstar games. You’re trusty weapon of choice is your handy pistol, which you have to bring into every gunfight and hopefully take down the bad guys who always are out-arming you with Tommy Guns and Shotguns. There is a cover system but it just seems a bit awkward going from cover to cover, when you can just run around, auto aim and take people’s heads off.  As Lord Bling eluded to below, street fighting is a button mash fest, though the fights get slightlymore difficult later in the game.

Car chases are very problematic as the fugitives’ cars drive like they are on rails and you’re car varies from having absolutely no power steering to maneuvering like your driving on a sheet of ice. Again, the later I was into the game, I got a better hang of driving. Still, though, I found myself having to restart car chase after car chase because I would get hung up on a light pole that won’t collapse or would be on the heels of the suspect’s car and they would take a perfectly executed turn into an alley and I would sputter onto oncoming traffic.

Truth? Lie? How the hell should I know?
As I mentioned before, while interviewing a person of interest, the answer to your question would be met with three responses: truth, doubt, or lie. If you knew the person was lying, you’d better have evidence in hand to prove it, and you’ve made the right choice. However, sometimes choosing between truth and doubt was pretty much a 50/50 decision. I mean why would a witness to a murder hide something from me when she was obviously shaken and the victim meant something to her? Well apparently, I wasn’t good at figuring that out when I would mistakenly think “yeah, she’s telling the truth”. In OXM’s review of L.A.Noire, they gave the good advice of “when in doubt, choose ‘doubt’”. I’d stick with that practice.

In the end I don't think it really matters because it doesn't appear that the results of some of your interrogations and miscalculations in interviewing people of interest actually affect the result of a case, only how well you were rated on solving the case. And I don’t think (or at least haven’t been alerted to) your rating on the case has any bearing on how the story plays out. Sometimes you have to multiple people tied to a case as a possible suspect and you have to decide who to charge, or you are in a situation where you have to decide to charge someone and you aren’t sure if they are the right person.

Having completed the game and knowing its outcome, I get the latter in why the game’s story makes you charge someone you aren’t sure is the actual culprit. Without spoiling anything, it kind of ties back into the whole concept that you’re not putting a person away because you think they are really the killer, but you have enough evidence that a DA will put them away, and that there is a gray area in Justice that never quite vibed with Phelps.

Phelps is the wanna-be White Knight. As you work cases, you see that he is a guy who wants to do things by the book, but also be someone who is ambitious and yet not content with the status quo of finding the convenient suspect and building the evidence around putting them away. He is thorough, and deliberate, which draws the consternation of everyone around him; the player gets that. Then he does something completely out of character at the end of Vice that hardly set up before hand and you are like “WUT”. It really doesn’t make any sense and sets off a weird tone for the final desk of cases.

Having said all that, I just have to play the hypocrite and look beyond it and say I loved playing L.A. Noire. But don’t discount what Lord Bling and NIN have said below because I cannot really argue with them (sometimes repetition can be mundane and L.A. Noire definitely has that). I've already downloaded the DLC (which was really pre-order bonuses made available to the general public) and am looking forward to getting through that. While I do think there are things that can definitely be improved upon if Team Bondi and Rockstar decide to make future installations of the game (which they’ve hinted to be interested in doing), I think this has been a pretty good first step.

TL;DR- Your mileage may vary.

L.A. Noire?

More like L.A. Bore, amirite?

I'm barely kidding here. I'm on the third disc, and I'm wondering if it's even worth my time to see it through. I have six cases left, and I'm just over it. Each case takes about an hour, and if that means I have six hours of this left, I don't know if I'm gonna make it. If this is what it was like to be a detective in the late 40s, I would've let myself get shot just to have some paid vacation.

First of all, the writers are clearly big fans of L.A. Confidential. As well they should be. It's a masterpiece. But did they have to be so blatant about it? There are thousands of other books and films from this era that they could've borrowed from. And yet, the typing when you get to the scene of a crime? Stolen from L.A. Confidential. An Irish department head who calls you 'boy-o'? Facepalm.jpeg. I'm sure they borrowed from other stories from the time, but they made a couple of easy thefts from a very obvious source.

So, how is the gameplay?

Combat? What combat? Mash X and A, profit.

I'm not expecting a deep fighting engine, or someone to stop during a fight and yell 'MORTAL KOMBAT!', but it's so base-level, it could've been done on the NES.

Gunplay? Hope you like the 1911. Half the time, you don't even get to go to your trunk to get a better weapon. At this point in the game, I don't even waste the time to go to the trunk because that's just more time I have to spend playing. Again, I'm not expecting Modern Warfare here, but at least be as engaging as the gunplay in previous Rockstar games. This feels like a big step backward.

Street cases? Meh. They're always popping up when I'm in the middle of something more important. Even worse, they're almost all exactly the same, except that one time I saved some dude from jumping off of a tower. Climb to the top of a church, grab the guy, the end. Then I thought, 'What was the point of that?' Oh yeah, I know: Padded game time.

Pic related -- It's me while playing this game.

The framerate is terrible most of the time you're driving or out in the open world. It took Sony 4 1/2 years, but I actually regret buying a game on the Xbox 360. (EDIT: I loaded all three discs onto my hard drive, similar to NIN)

Film reels? I haven't found a single one. Am I doing it wrong? Is there a reason why I should care?

Newspapers? Blah blah blah, bad actor doctor dude, blah blah blah. To quote Stan in the Towelie episode: "Don't care, don't care, don't care."

Lastly, I can't overlook a glaring issue with the story about half-way through the game. I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum, but let's just say that feeling you have that you might be putting the wrong person behind bars? Yeah, it bothered me. And you don't have the option to do any different. For an open world game, I found the lack of freedom in the investigations to be extremely disappointing.

There are plenty of things L.A. Noire does right. The interrogation sequences are strong, even if they're not a step up from the conversation control you have in an action RPG like Mass Effect or even Alpha Protocol. The atmosphere, the look, and the score all are amazing. The mo-cap is fantastic, of course. But those things don't make a great game without the gameplay. I give Rockstar and Team Bondi credit for trying something different, but it would've been a better cable miniseries than a game.

TL;DR -- L.A. Noire is all sizzle and no steak.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

L.A. Noire First Impressions - Spoiler Free

I'm only a couple hours into L.A. Noire, and I thought I would share some of my initial impressions of the game. What Team Bondi and Rockstar have accomplished with this game is evolutionary. It's not without it's criticisms, however, which I have peppered throughout this article.
The acting (and that's what we need to call it. This is no mere voice over) is impressive. It will be debated, but I think this could be the first game to actually breach the "uncanny valley," at least when it comes to the character's faces. Heavy Rain made a valiant attempt, but the process Team Bondi uses to capture actors' emotions and facial animations is what sells it. However, this same process, which puts that fully video-captured head onto a computer generated body also causes my eyes to occasionally question what it is seeing. Most of the time, the complete package sells itself. But there were a few times during my first case as a Traffic Detective that something just looked a little off. I think it's because of how real the characters look, but I have a more empathetic connection to Cole Phelps (the character you play in the game), then I've ever had in a game. And hopefully he grows as a character as the game goes on. I think it's safe to say, Cole and I would probably not be friends in real life. In fact, I think he's kind of a douchebag.
I'm playing the Xbox 360 version, and because of Microsoft's extremely small disc capacity in comparison to the PS3's Blu Ray disc, the game ships on 3 discs. I took the time install all 3 discs onto my 360's hard drive (FYI, took about 45 minutes and uses up 20 GB of hard drive space), which in doing so is suppose to reduce the load times and increase performance. While load times are not an issue (amazingly, there are virtually none), I've had two instances where I saw significant frame rate drops that turned my game into a slide slow. Has anyone else had this problem? And if so, are you playing the game off the hard drive or off the disc? Also, are you playing in color, or have you tried playing in black and white? I haven't had any overheating issues, but apparently they're out there.
My favorite part of the game, and what I believe is the killer app for L.A Noire, is Los Angeles itself. This is the most fully realized open world city ever. As most of us already know, Team Bondi used over 180,000 period photos to recreate 1947 L.A. And when you are driving around in the game, you can see they put those
photos to good use, right down to the Hollywoodland sign. The roads are worn and beat up. Trash cans and dumpsters are full, and trash is strewn about the city. Kick a can, a box, or a pile of wood in an alley or side street, and rats shuffle away. The traffic lights even have those old school "Stop" and "Go" signs that pop up when a light turns red or green.
Call the city the Yellow Pages because it's been used and abused and completely feels lived in.
I've spent well over half my time just driving around the city. I cruised Sunset Drive and
Hollywood Blvd. I drove passed Grauman's Chinese and the Roosevelt Hotel. Driving down Sunset I passed the Palladium, where late last year, I saw Faith No More play a show in real life. It's cool to see these locations that I'm familiar with as they were 64 years ago. Something I didn't know until recently was that most of the cars that are in the game are based on the cars from Jay Leno's collection. The section of L.A. that was recreated for this game is a huge chunk. In fact, if you were to drive from the L.A. River on the East side of the map to the West side of Hollywood in game, it will take you 25-30 minutes driving at full speed. And yet, I'm unjustly disappointed in the size of the map. Since I live in Hermosa Beach, I'd like to venture out to the Beach Cities, even if they were barely there in the late '40s.
All this, and I haven't even talked about the main story and the investigations you do as a cop rising through the ranks of the L.A.P.D. In keeping with the no spoilers theme, all I will say is I'm very much digging it. It reminds me of the old school PC adventure games I played in the late '80s and early '90s. Yet, not in a retro way. More of the sense of accomplishment you feel from discovering all the clues and using those to ask the right questions in your interrogations to get the conviction.
If you are playing this game, and haven't joined the Social Club, just do it. The stat tracking alone is impressive.

TL;DR: Get your dic on and experience L.A. Noire for yourself! It's well worth the trip to 1947.

Monday, March 21, 2011

REVIEW: Homefront

I absolutely hate it when I have to do this. I understand that there are a lot of people more talented than I, who work harder than I do, who pour a lot of time and energy into something that the last thing they want to hear or see is some dippy thirty-something-amateur-video-game-blogger shit all over it. I'm not one of those assholes that ridiculously trashes a game to make some point or has some preset agenda just to sound cool. I try to dissect a game by looking at what works, what doesn't, and whether you should buy it or rent it. I'm not going to say "avoid this game at all costs because it sucks royally".

However, I'm going to come very close to saying exactly that today. (/suspense)

I was really looking forward to Homefront, which dropped this past Tuesday. I was a big fan of Red Dawn, a movie from the 80's which I understood was an inspiration for this game. John Milius, who wrote Red Dawn was writing the story. Kaos Studios, who did Frontlines Fuel of War was going to develop it; I didn't think Frontline was groundbreaking but if they could build on that and make a better game, this could be something enjoyable.

Last week, an article circulated that Homefront's Single Player Campaign was only five hours long. Red Flag. Ok, maybe that was just someone breezing through the game on easy; hell, Dead Space 2 would probably clock in at that time on the easiest difficulty. Then after release, investors took wooden bats to the mailbox of THQ's stock price , upon the news that the game's reviews have been rather negative. Red Flag number 2. Then when I had the game in hand and tried to play online multiplayer, we failed over and over again. THQ issued a statement saying they had more traffic than anticipated which meant some delay in getting into online multiplayer games. Red flag number 3: There is no joy in Gameville, my wallet has struck out.

If you are familiar with Red Dawn, then you get the premise of Homefront. Input North Koreans for Russians, grown-ups leading the resistance instead of kids, and you are the essentially the Powers Boothe character. Now, as Homefront begins, you get the notion that this game has some potential. You get the back story behind the decline of the America's power, how their economy cratered and left it susceptible to internal choas and occupation by a foreign regime (basically everything that people expects to happen after the oil crash). You open to what is a grizzly scene; while being escorted as a prisoner, you witness the horrors of occupation: military outposts sitting by the neighborhood drugstore, "processing areas", people murdered on the street corner with their infant children crying over their mangled bodies. Its all pretty powerful and a good setup.

Its playtime.
Unfortunately, everything that comes after that setup is a letdown. You are freed by the local resistance freedom fighters and as you escape, you alert the KPA, who are none too happy.  As you get into the action and weave your way through suburban neighborhoods, you find yourself in a few situations where you are facing 10-15 bad guys who have you pinned down and seem to have all their gun sights trained on you (this will be a recurring theme filed under "things that make me rage").

(Spoilers below)

To be totally honest, for a single player that's very short, there certainly is a difficult time discerning what the hell you are doing. Basically, you are doing a fuel heist: since gas is a rare commodity, the American resistance is going to take the opportunity to seize some fuel tankers and deliver them to the United States Armed Forces in San Fransisco (I guess the coming and going of Peak Oil, the US ignored its pursuit of alternative energy sources by the year 2027). Your role as a former marine pilot is to help gather information about how to track these fuel tankers, then steal a helicopter in order to hijack the convoy and escort them to the military and turn the tide of the occupation. In case you were wondering, yes the Single player campaign is rather short. Don't be stunned if you beat this game in one evening or maybe two at most.

I think Homefront had the opportunity to tell a more compelling story, something that could have immersed the player more into the world of despair and desperation. There is a scene where you happen upon a community baseball diamond that's become a dumping ground for the dispatched local dissonants. Instead of using this moment for tension and drama, its cheapened when your co-hort feigns rage and alerts the bad guys directly to your position. I would have rather liked it if that was left to you to be disturbed by this sight. You'd think that the people in the midst of resistance would have some knowledge that all their buddies are being disappeared in the middle of the night.

You will also happen upon a fellow enclave of freedom fighters later in the game, that are somehow interested in killing you as well. After a fierce gun-battle in the opening sequence, you infiltrate the camp to steal a helicopter, encountering more sentries in your wake. I had a hard time believing that a fifteen minute firefight would leave the remaining guards totally unaware or even ignorant about bullets flying not 1000 feet away.

These guys: not your friends.
Beyond the plot hole elements, the gameplay is infuriating.  As I've eluded to before, there are moments where you will find yourself grossly outnumbered by enemy. The game wants you to use cover and move around to the flanks, but the problem is the friendly AI does nothing to help you in terms of drawing fire away from you, and the enemy AI are nothing but sharpshooters who completely ignore your friends and trains all their weapons on you. There were many points in the game where I was completely pinned down, could not train my sights on a bad guy with enough time to shoot him before he dropped about 6 rounds right in the ten-ring. You could do your taxes in the time it takes to aim down your sights, even then its rat-a-tat-tat: you're dead. While I did find the scenery and the sound pretty good, some of the animations are frankly substandard for this generation's console first person shooter. Throwing a grenade is pretty laughable. As well as enemies that attack you head on with little to no cover themselves.

For a short single player game, there is another part that cheapens the experience and that is when you are controlling a remote "Goliath" that will put down enemies in your stead. I really would rather have used some basic combat tactics of having one group lay down some cover while you moved around to the sides and flanked your entrenched enemy, instead of just having your RC Bigfoot with minigun do it all for you. There is a similar scene in Bulletstorm (that I just reviewed); wasn't cool there, wasn't cool here.

As of right now, Multiplayer is a mess. I tried for two evenings to bring a party of four into a multiplayer match with no success. Here's a few hints to THQ: You know how many copies of the game you pre-sold (anywhere from 200,000-300,000), and you figured that a good majority of those presells were going to pick up the game in the first few days and want to play online. So when you tell people that you had a higher-than-expected capacity on your dedicated servers, it totally comes off as amateur hour, ESPECIALLY when your game comes with a code to "unlock multiplayer".

Once I got into a few games, I found the classes were totally unbalaced. Your score becomes currency to unlock new things, weapons, abilities, vehicles. Well people that managed to put in more time than you online have already the capability to unlock a chopper that just rains death upon you and is near impossible to take down. Your games are going to be pretty lopsided; either you have a 10:1 kill/death ratio or 1:20 because you can't go 5 steps without getting mowed down.

Now again, I hate to belittle anyone that puts a lot of time and effort into something that had promise and just does not come close to delivering. I won't tell you to not play this game, but you certainly wouldn't want to drop $60 on it unless you hate money. You could rent it, but kiss off playing multiplayer or else you'd have to pay $10 for your online access code. I wouldn't recommend that, either. If you rent it, just play the Single Player collect your 150ish gamerscore achievements and send it back in. You get the feeling though, upon finishing the game, that THQ/Kaos kind of leaves you hanging; that more will come in the way of a sequel or more missions via DLC. If that's the case, its a sham money grab and you needn't waste your time.

TL;DR- "... In the early days of 2011,  the hopeful - mostly suckers - bought the game Homefront. They were shown great fail and gave up their money, so that 'this nation shall not have to waste their time on this Earth'. "

Monday, March 14, 2011


Recent photo of Lord Bling.
I wanted to take a moment and highlight another opinion of Dead Space 2. I, of course, fellated it, but not everyone on the TL;DR staff agrees. Lord Bling posted his take in the comments section of my review but I wanted to do one better and pull it out and place it in its own post.

"Well, I tried, but fuck this game. I just couldn't get into it like I did the original. The 'story' is threadbare compared to the first, and most of the twists you'll see coming a mile away. You're constantly low on ammo (even on Normal), no matter how much you buy at the Stores. For a survival horror game that throws a shit-ton of enemies at you, it's unfair to limit the ammo found in the environment. Apparently, you're supposed to use telekinesis and objects in the environment a lot more in this one, but that's quite a change from the first (where I played through it entirely with just the Plasma Cutter) and there's not enough time to coordinate all of that when you're constantly getting raped by three or four monsters. And raped you will be. Every fucking hallway sees you getting jumped and overrun, and the 3rd person perspective doesn't help when you're surrounded. And to this point, why can't your character stomp while reloading? This was never an issue in the first game, because you rarely got so outnumbered. It's an issue in multiple instances in this one. There are 'puzzles', but they're barely a diversion from the next raping you're going to get (and in many cases, you'll get attacked in the middle of solving them, which defeats the purpose). Power Nodes are sparse enough to where you'll have to pick and choose what you upgrade (and they expect you to play through it again in order to level up more than a couple of weapons and/or your rig and stasis module). Sorry dudes, but I couldn't even finish one playthrough, much less start a second.

Having said that, the voice acting is great. The audio and graphics are top-notch yet again. And a couple of strong set piece moments stand out.

Basically, Visceral tried to pull an 'Aliens' by taking the atmospheric original and going all-action, all the time, but they should've put more ammo in the game if they wanted to go that route. They also should've given us a reason to care. 

TL;DR -- Save your money and play the first one again."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

EA - Why are you so #$%& Stupid?

I am usually the "water off a duck's back" kind of guy... go with the flow... not prone to hate in general but dammit if the retarded customer service at EA didn't piss me ... at least enough to bitch about it publicly.

So I've been participating in the upcoming Darkspore Beta, which I'd planned on reviewing but now refuse to offer an opinion on. To hell with EA and their incompetence I'll not pander their wares. Sufficed to say I enjoyed the beta enough to preorder and to sweeten the deal EA sent out an email announcing that if you preorder Darkspore you get a free digital copy of Dragon Age. So Sweet! Or so I thought......

So I preordered Darkspore last night ~10:40pm CST... so even if these asshats are on eastern time I got my order in before midnight on the 8th.

I got an order confirmation at 10:47pm on the 8th confirming my order. I look it over the morning (the 9th) and notice that Dragon Age isn't mentioned anywhere in the order detail. I get on my EA account, no mention of it there either. Hmmm suspicious, but I figure maybe they won't offer the download until Darkspore is released. Not one to just let it lie I get on the EA site and decided to just confirm that the free copy of Dragon Age would eventually be forthcoming... Here is the chat which followed much to my dismay:

Corey: Hi, my name is Corey. How may I help you?
2374929329: Just inquiring about the Dragon age offer.. per my question
Corey: Please let me know
OK WTF Did I type in my long ass question when attempting to contact Customer Support if I'm just going to have to do it again... sigh, I trudge on.

2374929329: I'd preordered Darkspore which offered Dragon Age for free. the invoice made no mention of Dragon Age and I don't have it for Download so Just wanting ot be sure it will be made available to me (I assume whenever Darkspore is)
Corey: You pre-ordered from our EA store?
2374929329: yes
Corey: Please provide us the order number
2374929329: k looking it up
Corey: Sure, take your time
2374929329: #############
Corey: Hold on. Let me have a look
Corey: Please give me a few more minutes. Am still checking it

Christ WTF how hard is it to look up an order #

2374929329: k
Corey: Thank you for waiting
Corey: I have checked your order and found that the order is for DARKSPORE Limited Edition only
Corey: There is not additional offer of Dragon Age game with it

OK at this point I'm like, "WTF do you mean... ok maybe there was a mix up, lets see about correcting the order. "

2374929329: I followed the link on the EA page for the Dark Spore with Dragon Age offer. Can you correct my order then?
2374929329: Here is a link to the offer if that helps
Corey: One moment please
Corey: I am so sorry for the misinformation. I have just confirmed again that the game Dragon Age doesn't come with the pre-order of Darkspore
2374929329: Why then does the website say that it does?
Corey: I sincerely regret any inconvenience caused due to this issue.

WTF? The game doesn't come with it... Not only did I get an email from your fucking store it was on your god damned front page last night you dillhole and you are acting like it never fucking existed! Lets press him further about the link which gives the offer details.

2374929329: The link I provided you is still active
Corey: I have re-checked the link and couldn't confirm any information that you mentioned

Seriously you have GOT to be fucking kidding me man! That link could not be any more fucking straight forward. Preorder Darkspore and get Dragon Age for free Offer ends 3/9. Are you hard of reading? Did you even click the link you jackass?! Lets regurgitate what the site says for him.

2374929329: Says Dragon age free if Darkspore is preorderedfore
2374929329: Offer was good until 3/9, i ordered on 3/8
2374929329: If EA isn't going to honor its own offer, please cancel my order.

Maybe if I get a little more haughty this'll spark something in this retard... maybe the threat of canceling my order will help... =)

Corey: Please accept my apologies. This is a misinformation. We do not offer any game with the pre-order of the Darkspore.

This is misinformation? So EA sends out an email for a special offer, also has said offer on their front page so this isn't a fucking limited to email offer, and I am somehow misinformed... by EA?


2374929329: Seriously. I received an email plain and simple that offered Dragon Age with Preorder of Darkspore... That link i gave you is where i was directed... it still shows the offer when i open it... Since there appears to be serious incompetence on the EA side.. Cancel my order.
2374929329: I've been participating in the beta, got that email

Maybe if I brag about being in the Beta I'll earn enough cred to turn this around... coupled with my threat to cancel the order again... sure its a longshot but what the hell.

Corey: Okay if that is what you want, then I will unwillingly do it for you.
2374929329: Not going to participate in a bait and switch.. please do so. thank you

You will unwillingly do so? Do you even realize how oxymoron-ical that fucking sounds? How can you use "Will and Unwilling" consecutively in a sentence you retard?

Needless to say at this point he did indeed find the willpower to cancel my order.

EA... Gratz on sucking! Perhaps that's why I haven't bought one of your games since Ultima Online... Rejects! Fucking Fail!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

REVIEW: Bulletstorm

There is something vaguely familiar about all of this. I feel like I've been here before. You know, they say nothing is original anymore, and you see it everywhere. Music samples from earlier music (which usually ends in the new music sucking). Newer music samples from the music that just sampled the older music (also sucks). Movies are being 'rebooted' (sucks). American television shows are being either rebooted, or are directly ripped off from British Television (the result of which is pretty sucky in nature). With video games, its more there is a trend that gets set and is repeated and then variants are built from it. The side scroller. The first person shooter. The RPG. The JRPG. The MMORPG. 3D. Even with that, I think video games can differ from other media in that although they follow a certain predictable pattern, if done properly, they can stand out as unique through milieu, presentation, and gameplay.

Bulletstorm doesn't.

I could just end things right here and simply tell you what this game Frankensteins together. However, that wouldn't be fair and that lets me off the hook way to easily. So I'm going to show you but also say a couple of good things as well. I will start of by saying that Bulletstorm is not a bad game. There shouldn't be points taken away because a game isn't extraordinary, or redefines a genre, or is life altering. Which is good, because this game isn't extraordinary, genre definitive or life altering in anyway.

You are Marcus Fenix Grayson Hunt. You're a wayward mercenary, seeking revenge on the commander that you feel betrayed you and cast you out of your elite military unit. In the attempt to take revenge, you crash land on a once populated resort planet that is now overrun by mutants, convicts, and indigenous creatures.  Your mission is to escape the labyrinth of dilapidated buildings, cavernous terrain, and war-torn urban chaos, and figure out a way to exact your unpleasant reciprocity.  You aren't alone in your run of terror; your main companion from the get-go is Ishi, a fellow crewman who, during the first engagement, suffers a catastrophic injury and must become half cyborg in order to sustain his life. You will also gain another companion about a third of the way in that knows the ropes of the city and will help you get through (though she doesn't trust you much).

C'Mon, Sal. The Tigers are playin'!
Early on you will acquire your trusty machine gun, and...what I can only describe as your "power whip". Its an attachment that you'll use to grab either items or people. As you move through the game, you are able to grab more weapons, upgrade them, and enable their special abilities.

You earn your upgrades and are able to buy ammo through points you accumulate through kills. You just shoot a guy a billion times until he dies? Ten points and boring. You aren't buying a lot of bullets with that. Kick him into a a mutated cactus? How about a hundred points. Blow up that explosive object next to four guys? Fifty points each (times four). THAT is how you accumulate your experience currency. Its simple to grasp, and pretty fun to toy around with, trying to pull of 'kill trick shots' just because you can. Its very arcade-like, and something that you may have experienced before.
Whoops, wrong game. But do you see what I mean? 

One thing I do want to point out that is an overwhelming positive about the game, and something that is praised in almost every review I've read, is that the environment and look of the game is totally gorgeous. Though the controls are somewhat clunky (you can't jump, buttons can be slow to react when you want to change weapons or target something), but the landscape, the action, the characters, movement, all just fantastically rendered. There are times where it almost has a Borderlands feel to it, some have that cell shaded feel, but there are definitely elements that are staples of Epic games style animation.

If you had honestly told me that Bulletstorm was a 'Gears of War' side story, part of the cannon, just sans the main characters I would have believed you. Its first person instead of third, but when you run, the camera gets that familiar blur. When you shoot, you need a hailstorm of bullets to take someone down, if you can get in a good decap, that feels the same.
Ishi the Killer. 
Even the banter and speech in which Grayson carries himself is all very...Gearsish. That banter, among other things, landed the game under a little bit of scrutiny from our resident mega media squeaky wheel. They felt that the crude sexual comments Grayson (and later on General Serrano) makes, the names of some of your killing moves, extra bonus points awarded for shooting enemies in their nether parts, all made Bulletstorm the beacon that summons young children to mischief.  Trust me; there are better other games more vulgar, more gratuitous, and more gore-laden than Bulletstorm. This is not the pole in which to waive the "video games corrupt children" flag. The game is rated M for a reason: and honestly, its not really even a very good one. The crudeness is forced. The gore isn't anything new. You've seen it before, you've heard it before.

This is where I talk about the multiplayer aspect of the game, but instead of deathmatch or anything like that, we get a co-op horde mode. I played a few games, and was pretty much done with it. I've mentioned in years past that games with good stand alone single player campaigns really don't need multiplayer. Bulletstorm needs multiplayer. Although I usually suck at Epic games that have multiplayer (Gears, Unreal Tournament), I think I would have enjoyed what they could have thrown together in close spaces or a large landscape using the weapons from the campaign. While I won't count the lack of true multiplayer against the game, the fact the single player campaign clocks in under seven hours playing on normal difficulty, it would have been something nice to extend what is otherwise a rental at best.

Bulletstorm is what it is. Short and unoriginal. But what it also is, honestly, it is fun. Its a quick ride, but despite what you may think reading the words above, I didn't hate the game. Its a quick, not very frustrating (at least at the level I played), sometimes smirk-inducing, mindless game thats fun to look at and fun to play. In short...


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yes, please.

November can't come here soon enough...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

REVIEW: Dead Space 2

Before I dive in, I want to take a moment to give some advice for new fathers. When your new baby is big enough to be out of a bassinet and into an actual crib, (around the 2 or 3 month mark) you should give your wife a break on the overnight feedings. What you do is whatever night you don't have to work the next day, take your infant, put her in one of those little bouncy chair things, and just rock her to sleep while you play video games until about 5 in the morning, stopping only to feed and change the baby. That way the Mom can get a solid night's sleep, you get some good gaming in, and you look like a hero. 

I give you this advice because that is how I played the first Dead Space game two years ago. It was one of those games that in the cold and darkness of a November night, and with surround sound speakers sitting behind you, really made you jump when startled by a man you once knew turned necromorph. As Isaac Clarke (an obvious nod to classic sci-fi writers), you were part of a team that tried to figure out what the hell happened on a wayward excavating vessel only to discover that things are no bueno in the worst kind of way.

Well, you're back and and so are the necromorphs. This time you wake up three years later in a space station type setting and there really is no moments of peace before the chaos. From the second you are able to control Isaac, you are evading people getting eaten, begging for help, and screaming for their mothers.

The first chapter of Dead Space 2 really sets a great tone for the game. You don't get any kind of weapon except a flashlight through most of the first 25 minutes or so. After you've evaded the initial chaos of the psycho ward you just escaped, you are now trying to traverse dark rooms and shadowy corridors in order to find something that you can use to fight back. The game does a great job in the beginning of giving the gamer a sense of anxiety as you hear things that may or not be there, you try to find your way to escape, not knowing what lurks around the next corner.

Your first encounter with the necromorphs, you won't even have a weapon. You acquire a kinetic ability to objects and have to use it to impale the first batch of baddies that come your way. Once you get the all familiar plasma cutter, then the strategy is conserving ammo and your med packs to survive. You'll always have your ability to kinetically throw objects at enemies and potentially kill them if you run out of ammo, but you will have to be very deliberate in which you can take down necromorphs; shoot off their limbs, then run up and curb stomp them to finish them off.

I got a great sense going through the first part of the game that reminded me of the first Alien movie: quiet, tense, and not sure where the next attack is coming from. Scaring people is more than just jumping from a dark corner; Dead Space 2 gets psychological on your ass. Throughout the game you are haunted by the memory of your dead girlfriend, who appears to you in the form of a vision trapped inside your mind, making you wonder if you are personally responsible for the terror that has befallen this settlement. There are also moments while you are traversing the living quarters of people that have gone crazy and lost it. Candles with alien writing, people crying out for their lives in the distance, later a mother holding her infected infant only to see them both explode; that is where the real fear resides and where Dead Space 2 can seriously creep you out when you're playing all by yourself in the middle of the night.

I'm so ronery. 
As the game progresses, the action becomes more fast paced. You go from the feeling of Alien to more like Aliens as the necromorphs begin to come at you in higher numbers, actually making you fire forward but be mindful of your blind sides as some of the different varieties of baddies flank you as you're fighting.

The scenery also changes up a bit, right at the right time. You will go from fighting in a cult-like church, to open room shopping area, to trash compactors in zero gravity and more. I was really impressed with the amount of different environments and varieties of weapons you're able to employ to dispatch enemies. As with the norm these days, you have someone there to guide you through the game, but you also have another voice of one of your fellow test subjects who is slowly descending into madness and foreshadowing what is next in store for you if you can't get through to the end of the game.

I don't have a lot of bones to pick with Dead Space 2. I do recommend that you play on a higher difficulty than casual. I played on Normal and got through the Single Player campaign in about 9-10 hours total. I then began a second play through (New Game plus) on casual to pick up some achievements (you pretty much have to go at least two playthroughs to get the majority of them) and that's probably going to finish up around 5 hours. At a higher difficulty, again, ammo is going to be at a premium, so don't just go firing blind. I also left myself in a few sticky situations where I had no health, no ammo, and bad guys surrounding me in opposite rooms. Be sure to use your stasis packs sparingly and only when you are in serious trouble. Higher difficulties will make the game more enjoyable for you. Beating the game once unlocks hard core mode which only allows you three save points in the entire game. I am not that glutton for punishment that I am going to try and beat the game on hard core (which you have to start from scratch; no New Game plus), even though doing so would unlock one of the coolest guns evar.

There is a multiplayer component to Dead Space 2 but I never really bothered to get into it much. I played a few rounds and it seemed very Aliens v. Predator to me (not a knock against AvP). Its something to play to say you've played but its something that will neither add nor significantly detract from the overall experience. If you don't want to buy a game that is about 20 hours total of gameplay (considering the number of playthroughs), that's fine, but you definitely need to play it. Its fun, terrifying, and visually stunning. With this, the original, and last year's Dante's Inferno, Visceral Games is becoming one of those studios that I've totally bought into. You should too.

TL;DR - A fantastic ride.

Stop Your Grinnin' and Drop Your Linen...

...because shit is about to get real around here.

Living in the midwest is a treasure on its own right. You get to be considered a "flyover state". You're a red state! And when it snows heavily, people are asking me if I've made my peace with God since we are in the midst of the end times.

As of today, schools in my area has been closed 5 times. Today will be six, and probably tomorrow will be seven. The University of Kansas cancelled classes in consecutive days for like only the second time in 30 years.

People are totally freaking out around here. The good news is I don't have to go anywhere. The fridge is stocked, I have some work I brought home to finish, and have plenty of time to type up some stuff I had meant to post for awhile. As long as this stuff doesn't turn into ice, I won't have to worry about this:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Battlefield Bad Company 2 -- 'Arica'

Quite possibly, the best fan-song for a video game I've heard in a long time.


I hear a gunshot echo in the night
It's quiet here on Nelson Bay when wookies get their camp on
I take him out with my 4x Noob sight But he'll be back
To piss me off as soon as he can respawn

I see a camping asshole in our base
Waiting to steal our chopper so he can fly around and rape us
I take my engineer kit in my hand and say
Hurry Boys! The Hind is after you!

Gonna take more than Black Ops to drive me away from you
Ain't nothing that a million C4 Whores could ever do
Let's bring the pain down in Arica
While we're at it let's tear them a new one on Port Valdez Too

Gonna squad up and play some rush tonight
Hoping to find a lobby that isn't mostly full of douchebags
C4 on the UAV ain't right, If that's their plan
We'll raid their base and steal the driver's dog tags
Better fall back 'cause victory's in sight
Hurry Boys! The Tank is after you!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dark Tower - Old School Reminiscing

This is just a random bit of verbal spewage. I've pretty much been playing games since man first figured out how to connect a controller to a TV. Ok, that dates me a bit. But seriously, I used to play Pong at my grandparent's apartment clubhouse.

Anyway, I was chatting with a friend of mine about the good old days, we'd play games like the Bard's Tale series (Not that joke of a game released in 2005 that sullied the franchise's good name), Gold Box Games like Pool of Radiance, and the like. We'd literally play 24+ hours straight. Good times!

It got me thinking about other computerized gaming and one item that's oft overlooked is Dark Tower, yeah, the board game. Man I can't tell you how many hours I spent playing this as a kid. We were die hard about this game. We'd listen carefully while our opponent played for clues as to if they received a Wizard, or a Sword, or the much needed Keys to the Dark Tower its self. I still to this day can remember the sound effects to this game, the music that plays at the Bazaar is still imprinted in my brain.

At its core though this was one of the more innovative board gaming interfaces of the day, not to mention a crap ton of fun. If you know what I'm talking about you can actually play a single player Flash version of the game HERE. May Dragons fall on your Sword.

Sorry for the random spewage, but felt like reminiscing.