Archive for the ‘ PC ’ Category

Portal 2

Portal 2
Still thinking with portals

The sequel to the highly acclaimed 2007 Orange Box physics puzzler, Portal, Portal 2, released April 18th, 2011, offers a continuation of the original. Yup, that’s basically the game. Yes there are a lot more features and “modes” than offered in the original, but I’ll get to that later. Portal 2 is more of the fun portal hopping puzzle platforming that everyone loved in the original. That being said, if you thought the original was good, then the second will not disappoint. If you, on the other hand, never played the first, then I would like to know what rock you were living under for the past 4 years, what with the game’s relative cheapness and free giveaways. Anyway, I digress.

Bidness time.

One big addition in the sequel is that of a story. As simple as it is, the story in Portal 2 is far better than some that I’ve seen in more than a few high budget games of recent release. Yes, there is still plenty of that dark humor that everyone loved in the original, but you also get more of the history of Aperture and everything else involved for a far more lasting and enjoyable experience. I can’t say much more than that in order to avoid spoilers for those who have yet to finish the game, but the ending is absolutely worth the hours you put into the game. Seriously though, Cave Johnson is one of the best parts of this game.

Speaking of time, Portal 2 is about three times as long as the original Portal. So, if you thought 2 hours for Portal was worth it then 3x$20 = $60 should also seem appropriate. The problem is, where Portal was “The perfect length” for a game of its type, Portal 2 seems to drag on forever in certain places and, dare I say it, may be too long. I’m not saying that it gets boring and unplayable, just that the game can be repetitive after solving similar puzzles repeatedly, and with only 3 new mechanics to add to your portal shooting repertoire. Though, once you get past those few dull humps the game quickly picks back up and refuses to let you stop playing.

Graphics-wise, Portal 2 looks much much much better than the original ever did, which is to be expected with Valve updating their Source engine for 4 years. The environments are exquisite and highly varied, but not too busy like some other games.

Really, the only thing I can hold against Portal 2 are the loading screens. Late game they become less intrusive, but early game the screens manage to jar me out of the experience and remind me that I’m playing a video game. I thought loading screens were relics of the past to be forgotten. In the original Valve didn’t have any, why put them in the second? I can understand why certain parts didn’t have screens but I could have gone without being interrupted every minute to be shown a loading screen. Like I said, though, as the challenges become harder this isn’t as much of a problem or a problem at all once you are forced to spend time on puzzles, but early game it is very distracting.

Guess who's about to die

Single player aside, Portal 2 also includes robot controlled co-op mode, where two players cooperate to complete challenging portal based puzzles, at least in theory anyway. If you ever played The New Super Mario Bros then you will know exactly why this style of play can be the most fun and infuriating thing ever created. If you ever die in co-op it’s probably because your teammate shot a portal under your feet leading into a deathtrap of some kind. Now, while this kind of behavior between friends is fun and the novelty wears off quickly in that case, Portal 2 co-op allows you to venture into the internet to enlist help. This is a bad idea. Do you know who is on the internet? Because I do. It’s the kind of people who tend to live under bridges and eat goats. You probably won’t run into these kinds of people, but when you do…remember that I warned you.

Overall, I’d give Portal 29 homicidal robots out of 10 homicidal robots because one of them is broken and the other 9 are homicidal robots and going to kill me if I speak badly about OH NO! NOT THE CLAMPS!

Portal 2 is the best game that will be released this year. You should buy it immediately, [subject name here].

Bulletstorming the gates


From the creators of the hit game Duty Calls, Epic Games, comes a game that will cause children to become serial rapists, Bulletstorm. No, seriously, Fox News said this game will turn your kids into bona fide southern Bubbas. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, read it I’ll wait…AREN’T THEY CRAZY? Anyway, future rise in the rate of rape aside, Bulletstorm is a hilarious sci-fi romp through the blood and guts of some unknown alien race mutants. They probably deserved it anyway.

Bros 4 life

First off, if you are unsure of whether or not you want to shell out the cash for Bulletstorm, a decision not to be taken lightly, try the free demo on your respective Xbox, Steam, or PlayStation networks. Then, after you’ve spent a while thinking “Maybe this is pretty cool,” get the full game and spend a few hours playing before you get back to where you left off. For a game titled Bulletstorm, I for one am a little disappointed that it takes 20 minutes before you can wield your gun toward some unfriendly aliens mutants. I can let this slide even, it’s not a horrible offense, but I expect better.

So what should make BulletStorm so different? The game awards points (which you can use to buy new guns and upgrades) for performing “skill shots,” which consist of things like the standard headshot to the “Fan-tastic” for making an enemy spin on the ceiling using the drill gun. Other such skillful shots, with oft hilarious names/connotations, become available as you collect guns throughout the game. This isn’t incredibly new, Mad World for the Wii did something similar years ago. While Mad World had a lot more variety to what you could do, with the Wii motion controls and all, it was easily mastered during the first level and not really varied beyond that. BS, on the other dismembered hand, had the foresight to add color and different guns, adding some spice to the horrific killing, which you pick up during the game each with their own strengths and skills. Though after an act or two you can manage to perform most of the skills associated with your newest weapon and get back down to shootin’ stuff.

Pretty much this, like, all the time.

Graphics wise, Bulletstorm feels like somebody had great plans for the game to look fantastic but then someone else decided to cheap out and use the Unreal engine. Now there’s nothing wrong with using the Unreal engine, it’s pretty cool, but it isn’t that great. Games using it often look pretty gritty, especially when the oft used dirt filter is used. Because of this, BS doesn’t look a whole lot different from other similar shooters. On occasion, it looks like someone decided that Bulletstorm absolutely needed to have super awesome graphical sequences, but they just never come out right. Half the time you are distracted by things shooting at your face and don’t get to take in the stunning vistas. That’s not to say that Bulletstorm looks bad. It is still a fine looking game, just not very differentiable from other next-genners.

I...I don't...I don't know...

As far as the campaign goes, don’t expect at deep and captivating story from Bulletstorm. It, like the level design, is incredibly linear with the budget of twists and turns spent in the opening prologue (which is the most boring part of the game). After that, however, the game just becomes ridiculously hilarious. Between your rampant path of destruction and the fantastic one liners delivered by Steve Blum (Read: Spike Spiegel) the game remains up tempo and entertaining. Around the end it kinda peters off and the ending seems very labored, but is worth it for completion’s sake.

Once you’ve finished off the single player portions of Bulletstorm the multiplayer modes are worth a try. Anarchy mode features a Firefight style mode where you and up to four other players fight off wave after wave of enemies. The other, Echo mode, allows you to replay certain parts of the single player with teammates. Both reward (and sometimes require) precision teamwork to pull off team skill shots for bonus points and extra carnage. Otherwise, these modes aren’t a whole lot different from the basic game. Still hilarious, though.

Kinda...exactly like this.

Being billed as “Not your average shooter,” I am saddened that I can barely distinguish it from other average shooters of today. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun, but nothing at all new. It still has the realistic brown dirt look that is so common in games today and, while there is some variety, there isn’t enough to actually be called variety. Yes, shooting someone in the genitals is humorous, but only to a certain extent. There’s not a whole lot beyond the standard kicking, shooting, and electric leashing thing. While it is fun, it gets old eventually. Bulletstorm has that quirky, highly immature sense of humor that video game’s target demographic is known for and, if you’re into that, will result in a very fun time. If not, then just hope you don’t leave feeling “one hell of a murder boner” for Epic Games.

I don't know what this is, but it comes up when you google image search Bulletstorm

League of Legends aka LOL DOTA

League of Legends aka LOL DOTA

Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of a little game called League of Legends. It has been around since late 2009 but recently LoL (the official term) has been picking up steam recently. I mean c’mon, with competitive matches as exciting as this who wouldn’t want to play?

Actually actual gameplay

Anyway, League of Legends from the classic DotA mod for Warcraft III (those of you familiar with DotA gameplay should feel free to skip the following paragraph). For those of you who don’t know, DotA (Defense of the Ancients) featured five on five teams each working, for no particular reason, to destroy the other team’s Nexus, the magical building which protects/powers their item shop. The Nexus also spawns minions, AI controlled chump units, which march endlessly in waves toward the other side of the map attacking everything that gets in their way. The minions walk down one of three lanes protected by powerful turrets which must be destroyed through player intervention for minions to proceed further forward. Players (referred to as Summoners in LoL) choose champions with which to attack the other team, each with their own set of unique abilities and attributes, and advance by earning XP (leveling) and gold (to buy items) by killing stuff, including player, minions and turrets. Simple enough but, apparently, this was fun enough and a big enough deal that developers Riot Games, of which several members were contributors to the original DotA, decided it needed to be its own standalone game. And thus, League of Legends was born.

Look at thost huge...harpstrings...

Not a whole lot has changed from the original formula.  The graphics have been heavily updated and new generation of champions has been hand crafted for the newest incarnation, but not a whole lot needed to change, it’s pretty fun as is, at least once you find a champion that fits how you want to play the game, and with over 60 different champions to choose from there is most certainly one for you (personally I prefer Sona). You can be pushy, you can be sneaky, you can be defensive, you can be whatever you want, a touch of variety that was somewhat lacking in DotA.

There is one problem though: It is solely a multiplayer game. This means that you will have to venture out into the dark depths of THE INTERNET! Honestly, though, the LoL community is pretty cool. While, on occasion, some serious trolling does occur it is very rare. It also offers incentive to not rage-quit in the middle of a game, forever branding you a leaver if you do. Light, but enough to keep people in the game to the bitter end, which can very often turn around quickly. One suggestion that should be taken to heart by new players is that it is usually best to play with people you know (making use of the refer a friend) as, is often the case with internet games, random teams formed in the spur of the moment fail to mesh well most of the time and can lead to a bad time. A few people who are at least comfortable enough to yell at each other and give advice as needed can really improve the quality of the game. Personally, I prefer not to play with a team entirely of internet people, but that’s because I’m better than them.

It israther tempting

Though, the price you pay is worth a little bit of noobish-ness. Did I mention that League of Legends is free to play? 100% free. The catch: You can only pick champions from a pool of 10 champions that rotates weekly, at least until you either give them money or play enough to earn enough IP (figure out what it stands for) to unlock a champion of your choice. The upside to this is that you should, at the very least, get a good experience with a variety of champions to find one that fits you. Also available if you give in and purchase Riot Points with real world money, you can purchase purely cosmetic skins which, while looking cool/funny, don’t really do anything but are a nice aesthetic touch.

As far as free games go, LoL is pretty good. Yes, the out of game menus can be slightly unwieldy at times but the in game substance makes up for the mild inconvenience. If you’re looking for 40-50 minutes to kill, there are few better alternatives I can think of than a game of LoL. It is available for download here and, internet connection pending, you should be ready to play in 30 minutes or so. Remember, champions rotate every Monday, so start playing now to get the best of the week’s offerings.


Poker Night at the Winventory

Poker Night at the Inventory

New from Telltale Games is the point-and-click-action-adventure-first-person-RPG Poker Night at the Inventory. OK, so it’s really just a game of Texas Hold’em at its core, but who said there was anything wrong with that? Besides a bit of

Vegas style gambling, The Inventory boasts a cavalcade (four) of popular characters from the internet and your childhood: Strongbad, The Heavy, the snarky Penny-Arcade guy, and some kinda hyperkinetic rabbity thing. The four characters, along with yourself, come together for a night of raucous illegal gambling.

Kanye wishes he could look this cool

Gameplay wise, The Inventory is very simple. Click, bet, mortgage house, etc. Probably as good a poker playing experience as you could find on the internet. The real gold is in playing a game with the four characters, which often results in hilarious levity (Protip: Turn conversation to “The Gift of Gab” for best results). And as far as the actual poker playing goes, it is fairly well done. Each character has their own playing style and strategy, and a bit of dramatic music and facial expression goes a long way toward convincing the player that they are actually playing with The Heavy. And it doesn’t hurt that you can win a freelance police badge, among other things, from the characters, which which all translate to TF2 items.

As for graphics, The Inventory is incredibly nice looking, as much as a back room poker bar can be, anyway. The funniest part is that each of the other four are brought in with their native animation style. This is something possiblylost on those who haven’t played Strong Bad’s game for Cool and Attractive people but seeing vintage heavy sitting next to cel-shaded Tycho is pretty cool, especially if you start think about what had to go into making that happen.

I'm pretty sure that's the announcer.

So, what’s the incentive to actually play? Besides learning how to play poker and winning imaginary cash, you can unlock various tables and card sets. So far, my favorite combination is the TF2 set and the Automata table. Scout’s mom as the queen and a black and white filter is such a classy mix.

Otherwise, the only problem I have with The Inventory falls squarely on Tycho. Snarky MTG references are cool and all, but after the 20th time they get a bit overdone. It’s not that I don’t think his rant on how voluptuous giraffe necks are isn’t incredibly creepy (I do) but hearing the same thing repeated ad nauseum makes it lose a bit of its flair. Oddly, only with Tycho do I find this problem. The other three have yet to run out of funny/suggestive/creepy lines and dialogue. Yet.

That being said, if you have never before had the experience of playing a Telltale Games game before, then this is an opportunity that you should not let pass you by, and for 5 bucks why not buy two and give one away as a Christmas gift.

By our powers combined...

BioShock 2: More of the Same

Before installing BioShock 2, I had only played a tiny portion of the original BioShock but I had enjoyed what little I had and only stopped to do bad computer technology. The whole plasmid, shooting not-magic stuff from your hands was always an entertaining idea, not to mention shooting up Rapture’s various shooters up, so I decided to give the sequel a try.

The BioShocker

From what I have gathered thus far the 2 games are linked only by title and location, so no need to read the Wikipedia article for the first just yet.

BioShock 2’s intro cinematic is, behind only the F.E.A.R. franchise, the creepiest thing in a game I have ever seen. It starts out with you looking into a vent shaped peculiarly like an eye (some kind of symbolism, perhaps, that goes right over my head) out of which crawls Eleanor, a little girl with incredibly vivid glowing yellow eyes. After you get her out of the vent she runs off and you chase after her to discover that she is draining what looks like blood (which I now know to be ADAM) from a corpse and then drinking it from her giant syringe.

Seriously, what are they teaching kids in school these days?

She then climbs on your back and you walk through a party. After you frighten most of the party-goers you rough up some guys with your giant drill arm. Did I forget to mention that you play as a Big Daddy? The Alpha series model, to be precise, the first Big Daddy to be bonded with a Little Sister (The girl you just watched drink a man).

That’s you, on the right. With the drill.

After you drill through a man you are hit with some green glob which freezes your monstrous form. Then you are introduced to Sophia Lamb, the girl you’ve been spending your time with’s mother and defacto leader of Rapture, who informs you that the girl is her daughter and she will not let you have her. Sophia then orders you to shoot yourself in the head, to which you agree and do. Normally, this would permanently put someone out of commission but you only take a ten year nap. After that, it’s time to get up and get back to work in a now ruined rapture. Why no one threw you out with the garbage rather than save you in a closet for sentimental value is beyond me, but I’ll ignore this plot hole, the only hole not caused by the drill on your arm.

The rest of the story, or at least as much as I have seen, if fairly straightforward. Eleanor is trapped by her mother and misses you so you need to spring her but to do that you need ADAM which you can only get by stealing another, modern Big Daddy’s Little Sister, which leads to the awkward line: “New Goal: Pick up little Sister”, which is probably why the newly introduced Big Sister’s are after you.

BTW, the cake is a lie.

The Big Sisters (formed from a discarded Little Sister) are just like you except smaller, faster, and harder to kill. Really it’s only the helmet that’s the same, so expect to get punched in the faceplate more than a few times by these clever girls.

Honestly, I would expect someone covered in metal to be better equipped to take a hit than the protagonist from the previous game, a mere human (with some gene implants), but you to go down after a few taps with a crowbar. In fact, very little has changed from the previous BioShock. You still have EVE powered lightning shooting plasmids (and presumably bee shooting ones as well), still fight the same drug addicted splicers in the ruins of Rapture, and are still drenched in neat water effects and too many religious references. Even the Ammo Bandito and Carnival of Value are still there to comfort the weary fighter in the night. The only real difference I’ve found thus far are that you now lack a right hand and, like a 50s era machine girl, you strap guns and drills to your right arm to kill everything.

Bioshock 3: Under the mask.

One real thing the developers did change was the “hacking” system. In BioShock, there was a neat pipe laying mini-game where you lined up pipes to flow the hacking fluid from the in port to the out port which resulted in control of the system. In BioShock 2, hacking has been reduced to a reflex based “land the arrow in the green part” task. Hacking is no longer a challenge because anyone with any timing can complete them, rather than the minor puzzle of old. I will miss that viscous blue fluid that flowed through the machines.

Now to take a step back for a moment, the two most annoying qualities of BioShock are things not attributes of the gameplay. The first, and the lesser, is a minor glitch that I hope will be fixed in updates that causes a remapped use key to be displayed incorrectly. At first this doesn’t seem like a major flaw but when spending ten minutes trying to hack a door when the on screen text tells me to press ‘F’ when I should have been pressing my remapped ‘E’ can be frustrating. The second, and by far the worst, is the Games for Windows/Xbox Live integration. I realize that Microsoft wants to extend their Xbox Live system to computers and not just their consoles but I don’t want that, that’s what Steam is for. Having to jump through hoops (including entering the product key repeatedly and signing up for Xbox Live) just to start the game, not to mention the drama ruining achievements. The new overlay may be fine for some but I do wish that I could not have to deal with it.

Overall, if you beat the first BioShock and enjoyed it you probably will enjoy the sequel. If you haven’t, play the original BioShock instead. It’s cheaper and more or less the same, but doesn’t have the clanking of your giant metal feet. If you do plan to get it, I would suggest obtaining a copy for console so that you can play it even when you don’t have an internet connection, otherwise you’ll have to stop the next time the network goes down.

Totally NOT a spoiler.
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