Nick's Gaming Blog

“Game in Progress” #1

Chances are, if you’re visiting this site, you probably enjoy video games.  And, more likely than not, you’re “working on one” at the moment.  No, not like this very moment (unless what you’re playing is turn-based, or you have a remarkable talent at multi-tasking), but in general.  If you’re someone other than the most casual of gamers, or a Madden or Halo junkie, there’s a good chance that you’re juggling multiple titles at once.

Guess what?  I want to know just what game/s you’re playing, how long you’ve been playing them, why you started, and your general take on them so far (careful, of course, to make sure that spoilers are avoided or properly marked).  I know that if you run into me on a regular basis/game with me/are a co-worker, you probably get asked these on a regular basis.  While those of you who have experienced this might brush this off as a “geek’s salutations” the truth is that I really am interested.

This game's on the "to-do" list. Anything that has you in Vichy France sniping Nazis and endangering your lungs simultaneously gets my vote.

Maybe it’s the liberal art student in me (You know, that’d be the one that’s been silently strangling my “inner child” for more than the past four years) but I’m always fascinated by the games that people choose to play, why they pick them, and how they play them (do they very thoroughly go through one game at a time, juggle several projects, or bounce around, never completing much of anything?).

So, ultimately, I want to hear just what you guys are working on: what are you playing, do you enjoy it, are there certain things that keep you playing or, alternately, have you reaching for the console’s power button…or another game altogether?  I’m not looking for formal critical statements in concise paragraph form; informality accompanied by spell check and basic punctuation will be fine.  And considering that most of you are smart buggers in your own right, none of that should be a challenge.

Now, of course there’s a chance that some of you are still like, “I still don’t know just what you’re looking for.”  Fear not, as I shall spend the remainder of the post divulging just what I have been up to.

Let me again restate that my character looked much more likely to debate the merits of a Roth IRA with you, than shoot you in the face. Which...is probably why it was so easy to shoot people in the face. Well, that or my rapidly nosediving empathy for humanity.

So, I finally did it.  About three weeks ago I finally had the courage to slice open the shrinkwrap that sheathed contents that may well land me in Hell: Saints Row 2.  Since then I’ve maimed/killed hundreds of Saints Row pedestrians, driven around escorts as they “service” their clientile in the back, imitated an officer of the law on multiple occasions (in addition to killing a fair share of them), destroyed the town’s casino and the upper levels of the city’s fanciest hotel, mutilated corpses on a regular basis, and that’s the very very short list.  Oh…and I captured a guy, and buried him alive in the coffin of my #2′s recently deceased girlfriend (who, you know, the guy we buried alive…he had killed her).  I expected to remain skeptical and emotionally aloof, while attempting to analyize why so many people love these “toss morality out the window” titles.  Instead, I got sucked in, if only to see how far down the rabbit hole goes.  Let this be said: those with an extremely dark sense of humor will enjoy Saints Row 2.

Though, to be fair, part of the reason it might have been so vastly entertaining was that I strived to make my gangasta’ as un-gangsta’ as a gangsta’ can be…if you follow.  I made an Aryan with an Australian accent, and first chance I got, bought the Pirate suit from the costume store in the mall, and ran around killing people in that.  It was Paul Hogan meets Jack Sparrow bloodbath.  The mission types are varied and the respect system (though a bit unbalanced) ensures that you at least try out some of the secondary missions, instead of blazing through the very over-the-top campaign.  *Trying to keep myself from turning this into a formal review*

Other than that, I’ve been slowly making my way through Alien Breed: Evolution, a remastered version of this.  I always like to have a “pick up and play” title that requires little assistance from the cerebral cortex in order to play, and this suits that quite nicely.  It’s a top-down shooter, using the Robotron approach of navigating with the left stick, and aiming your gun with the right one.  Yeah, the gameplay’s a bit dated, and the menu system’s lack of intuitive-ness often has one losing half their health before fumbling around for the gun they’re looking for.

Still, senselessly slaughtering what I can only imagine were fully-functioning alien families with stories and dreams of their own is quite wonderful, and the variety of weapons with which to accomplish alien genocide only amplify the fun.  Equally wonderful is getting to see a small-scale Xbox Live title competently utilizing the Unreal 3 Engine.  In a lot of ways, if you enjoy Dead Space for it’s “oh, now that’s broken on the Ishimura, better go there and fix it” approach to level design, with a mild survival-horror approach, there’s a lot you’d like in Alien Breed: Evolution.

Finally, I’ve gotten the chance recently, thanks to the wonderful selection at GameBoss in Grand Haven, to get my hands on a used copy of Max Payne.  Those of you who know the title might wonder why I’m, oh, eight years late in getting to play it.  Well, quite simply, the answer is Alan Wake.  You know how when some music artist finally “makes it,” they see the sales of all their old albums skyrocket?  It’s the essentially the same thing.  Seeing as I’m fascinated by Remedy’s Alan Wake (even though I’m pretty certain the game’s been in development before I even entered college) I figured the next best thing was to play their past games.  Do any of you do this?  I know I’m not the only one, Andy told me yesterday that he loved Naughty Dog’s title Uncharted 2: Among Thieves so much that he’s hunting down copies of the original Crash Bandicoot and the first Jak and Daxter game.  You’ll have to let me know how much one pays for an original copy of Crash Bandicoot, Andy.  I have a feeling that…*looks on Ebay* well, looks like $15 will land you a copy in good condition.

It might seem a bit cheesy, but with great voice acting the comic book approach works. In this panel, we learn that quitting smoking will eventually result in the demise of your entire family.

As for Max Payne, I LOVE it.  For those uninitiated to “Rockstar games that aren’t  Grand Theft Auto” it’s the first game to introduce the “bullet-time” mechanism.  Don’t know what that is?  Remember the slo-mo bullet dodging of The Matrix?  Well, Max Payne was the first to incorporate that into a game.  The game’s emphasis on narrative above everything else is what drew me to it.  You don’t have to worry about leveling up, upgrading/buying guns, or scrounging around for power ups.  Just make sure you use enough painkillers to keep your health bar in the black and that’ll be enough.

Level design is, for the most part, an uncomplicated “straight-shot” but with an attention to detail that for a 2001 release, is shocking.  More or less, you’ve just got to stay alive long enough to *SPOILERS*  Get to the bottom of who killed your wife and child *SPOILERS*  The two things that won me over, however, were the internal monologues that Max delivers (which simultaneously set a film noir atmosphere and offer guidance as to just what the player should do next) and the beautiful comic book-esque cutscenes, which can be replayed later as a collective work.  In a later entry, I’m probably going to write more about how Max Payne manages to emphasize narrative, while still maintaining semi-challenging gameplay.

Anyway, what have you been playing?  (And..honestly guys…don’t leave me hanging here, feel free to keep it as short as a sentence or two)

6 Comments

    At the moment I am playing Darksiders. I love is game, for it’s over the top non-Apocalypse. Any other game would have given you a real end of the world, but no not this game. Instead you get some treacherous angels who start a false end of the world before it is actually suppose to happen and the best part is God did not see it coming.
    My only problem is it copy’s heavily from the Zelda style of adventure of open world, find dungeon, explore,kill boss God of war style…in a bloodbath. There are also some technical problems,but luckily a patch is coming to fix that.
    I’m also playing Space channel 5, though I just started that.

  • I think you mean to say “Rockstar games that aren’t Grand Theft Auto or Midnight Club”, as the Midnight Club series was also one of their big ones. Unless you mean to say games from Rockstar that people actually play… then you are spot on. ^~^

  • Nick: You are not the only one who goes back and plays past games. I always feel a few years past the current curve of games.

    There’s two right now:

    DJ Hero: Playstation 2. I had only played the current, Activision-developed wave of rhythm-based games (rock band and the * Hero series) a handful of times at friends’ houses. There was a sharp learning curve for DJ Hero for 3-4 days [probably 5 hours or so total].
    After that, the game seemed to be a bit underwhelming, actually. There’s about 80 tracks and I’ve already unlocked them all [about 10-12 hours of play].

    I’ve had the most fun with it while drinking and taking turns with friends though less playing alone. There’s no story to it (which I’m not too surprised about)…the game just seems short. I almost have 5 stars on every track (so my game completion is in >95% ) and I don’t feel compelled to try to do the same on increased difficulties. I’m considering selling it in the near future, especially if the sequel will not appear on PS2 (which is my guess).

    (re: Andy, I feel ripped off. I sold my copy of Crash Bandicoot 1 in the past 5 years for $2-3 on ebay).

    Shenmue 1 – DC. Great Story. Sometimes can be tedious as the main character [3rd person] has to walk from place to place, taking what feel like 3-4 minutes just moving your character to a certain place (it takes place in a city comprised of neighborhoods as you walk through them talking to people and completing tasks).

  • I JUST GOT SHENMUE 1 FOR THE SECOND TIME!!!!

    WHAT DOES BB STAND FOR ANYWAY?!

  • “WHAT DOES BB STAND FOR ANYWAY?!” Best Buy.

  • Sigh… glad I can plow through my games as well as I can. I love, and hate, being a completionist -_-

    Currently playing:
    Torchlight
    Little King’s Story
    Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers
    Modern Warfare 2
    Assassin’s Creed 2
    COD Classic
    FFCC Echoes of Time
    Dead Space Extraction
    FFCC My Life as a Darklord
    FFIV The After years
    Magic the REAL cardgame

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