Fallout 3

December 7, 2009

I really hate Oblivion.

Trust me this is on topic.

It’s ridiculously easy when you know what you’re doing and absolutely punishing when you don’t, every creature and person in the game is completely stupid, the combat is boring, it doesn’t even look that pretty and there is no incentive to do anything in the game as any rewards given for anything are worthless.

But you can mod the Hell out of it, as I did. Frequently. By the time I was finished it didn’t even resemble the original game save for setting, and was actually somewhat playable.

So someone suggested to me I should try Fallout 3, the game generally considered to be Oblivion With Guns.

I’m glad they did.

Because I haven’t modded it once yet and I’m loving it.

I have a mixed history with Fallout, loving the series but being completely unable to play properly. For some reason I just have the worst luck with combat, cannot make a character worth a damn and end up reloading at least a dozen times every battle. Then when I try to avoid combat I end up fighting things anyway.

To begin with, I thought I was having this same problem with Fallout 3. I was getting jumped by people, dying frequently and accidentally killing people. But then it got better. I’m not sure how, but now I was jumping people, carving my way through Raiders and I found out that character was going to die anyway by the way I did the quest. I got myself a cool hat though, so it’s all cool.

Everything that was wrong with Oblivion has been fixed. You’re encouraged to explore, with XP for finding places and no cities to fast travel to straight from the beginning. The world itself is far more varied, with a very obvious difference between the cliff covered north, the barren wastes of the south east, the ruins of DC and the collapsed bridges that cover what’s left of the river. With random encounters, your journeys never become predictable either. While trying to reach the location of a distress signal, I shot through a Raider group that had holed up down an alley and then found a group of Hunters shooting at Mirelurks. A couple Super Mutants across the river started shooting at them and I used the distraction to sneak away and take some of their Mirelurk meat.

The scaling enemies are actually manageable with honest to God levels. It gives a clear sense of progression, making you feel more powerful even when confronted with more dangerous enemies. It also achieves the original goal of opening up the entire gameworld from the start. I’ve never once entered an area and felt incredibly outmatched (Point Lookout doesn’t count), while nor have I fought an enemy and found it too easy (Molerats don’t count).

The first person view makes so much more sense when presented with a gun, rather than the random flailing of Oblivion’s melee combat (the melee weapons do the same in this game, but it’s acceptable since most players won’t be using the much). The VATS system means those unskilled with FPS combat can still make those specific shots and fight properly. I play the game mostly is third person view which makes all combat look pretty stylish.

The quests are also much more varied than Oblivion’s “Go here. Kill them. Bring me that.” My favourite so far being the quest chain to write a survival guide, involving me having to break an arm, get radiation poisoning, go to the super market and blow up Molerat heads. I don’t think I’ve had a single quest where I’ve been told just to kill someone, they’ve all involved some sort of hook to make them different to all others, whether it’s trying to get two people to have sex, being told to shoot people in the head or told to go steal the Declaration of Independence.

And my favourite element of it all, the immersion. Oblivion was clichéd out the wazoo, playing as a walking lizard man felt no different to playing a big blonde viking and the only difference betweens regions was the architecture. In Fallout 3 I walked out of a settlement build in a crater from jet parts, walked through the burnt ruins of a suburb, across the burnt wastes towards the broken highway in the distance. Attacked by two guys clad in whatever metal they can forage armed with baseball bats, I found myself in what was left of a baseball field, now home to the men I just killed.

That is how you make a bloody game. Attention to detail.

Also I hate Point Lookout and find it completely horrendous YOU CHEAT.

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Kane and Lynch: Dead Men

November 26, 2009

I’m off to a very positive start by sharing some gripes about mainstream shooters, so now I would like to talk about a shooter I absolutely love.

 

Kane and Lynch: Dead Men.

 

Yes, the game that may have lost Jeff Gerstmann his job.

 

Kane and Lynch was released back at the end of 2007 to a very mixed reception. Some people called it trash, others thought it a decent shooting game. It had a lot of advertising, especially on Gamespot, and was made by IO Interactive, the team responsible for the Hitman series. The fact it was forgotten so quickly speaks wonders of just how swamped by shooters the industry was and is.

 

So what was the game like you ask? A third person shooter with a cover system and squad commands. You could carry around a sidearm and a primary weapon as well as grenades. There was a general mix of automatics, a couple shotguns, a sniper rifle and a silenced handgun in later levels. You could blindfire from behind cover, and give your squad the command to defend a spot, move somewhere or attack someone.

 

Yes, I have just described every shooting cliché ever. Yes. This is probably the point where other people forgot it, while it stuck with me. Since I play so few shooters none of this felt overplayed or too generic to me. Don’t mistake me, I knew it was, but I wasn’t desensitised to the medium yet so it was still an enjoyable experience. It did have a very nice revive system, where should you or your team get killed, just smack a needle full of adrenaline into their heart to get them up. Revive too often in a short space of time and you’ll overdose.

 

It’s other distinction was where I ended up finishing the game, co-op. Offline, splitscreen co-op which around this time developers just forgot about. For some reason this most basic of multiplayer techniques had just disappeared in favour of online co-ops and it was killing so many games. I have only ever spent money on 1 month of Xbox Live, and so I have never played online multiplayer, meaning half the content was shut off to me in so many games. Shadowrun, for example, would have just been a total waste.

 

After struggling on a level due to a total barrage of bullets I invited a friend round to try it on co-op to see if we could make it. Starting on the first level under the intention of training we ended up playing the whole game through in one sitting. This makes it sound short but we were having so much fun it didn’t matter. Especially hilarious was the in game cutscene that we messed up at least 50 times because we thought we should be shooting.

 

And now for the main reason why I liked the game. The story. Good God the story. It’s like if Guy Ritchie was American and given a giant budget. This is not a space marine game or an elite military task force, this is a game that knows perfectly well that you are playing criminals, you are committing murder with every bullet and they make sure you understand this the whole way through.

 

The titular Kane and Lynch form our main characters, who will be playable throughout the whole game. Kane was a family man until his son got hold of his gun and shot himself by accident. His wife left him and took his daughter away, and Kane went on a self destructive path that eventually landed him as a mercenary. After being enlisted by a group called The7, a job goes wrong and Kane leaves them to die and makes off with the goods. He is then arrested and put on death row.

 

Yes, you’re playing a murderous, ageing, depressed traitor. His motivations are clear and his personality well developed. The only weakness is we’re never told how he became a mercenary, but Kane is so ashamed of his life it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’d never mention it. This grants him a believable mysterious past as it becomes clear that Kane has never been the most moral of people and meeting people from his mercenary days during the game tells us that nobody, and I mean nobody, likes him.

 

His counterpart is Lynch, a schizophrenic with possibly multiple personalities. He is heavily medicated and lives happily with his wife for many years. Then he comes home to find her brutally murdered. Lynch claims he didn’t do though evidence says contrary and he too is put on death row. The7, not dead yet, contact him about a deal regarding Kane. They’re going to break out Kane so he can return their goods, and Lynch is going to watch him in return for his freedom and joining The7.

 

And that’s where the game starts, in the middle of a huge prison transport bust as Kane and Lynch both cross a city under orders of a small group of mercenaries. And then it just gets worse. You go from daring bank robberies to high speed chases to high profile kidnapping until you’re breaking into prisons, waging a small war on the streets of Tokyo and fighting an actual war somewhere in South America on a roaring rampage of revenge. And it all feels like a natural flow. The jump into said war is a might jarring as there’s not as much build up as other elements of the story but you’re soon acclimated to the situation.

 

There’s a real attention to making characters real. No one is a hero, and no one is a villain. The7 do bad things to Kane because Kane did horrible things to them. The people you recruit will constantly whine and argue and sometimes even threaten and it is only the promise of a big pay off that keeps them going. Kane himself is emotionally dead and approaching his 40s now, he won’t run that fast and fights dirty with a bladed ring. The subtle bald patch adds tons to the character. Lynch is a ball of rage with a receding hairline who kills for fun and more than once he royally screws up everything when his pills run out. In fact in the co-op mode you can enact these psychotic episodes as visions, enemies and NPCs all shift and change without any warning.

 

Just a heads up, this game has multiple choice endings and they are both of them depressing. Seriously.

 

With so many incredibly bland, meaningless plots that were just a shuttle from one battleground to another and characters who could be replace with bricks with trigger fingers it is just amazing to be given this real person to play as. No, you’re never going to sympathise with them but you’re damned if you don’t actually care about what happens to them, even if it’s a need to watch this plane crash through to the end.

 

 

So that’s Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, a game that needs all the love it can get.

 

Yes, I’m the only person looking forward to the recently announced sequel.

 

Sorry this wasn’t funnier, as an apology accept this joke:

 

Two men were standing on a building suit arguing about who was strongest. They decided to settle their argument by seeing who could throw a brick the highest. The first man got his brick and hurled it straight up. In a few seconds it came plummeting back to Earth. He smiled smugly at the second man who stood up to take his turn. The second man gritted his teeth, steadied his feet and with all his strength tossed the brick skyward. They watched as it went up and up and up…

Me and the Mainstream

November 24, 2009

I do not approve of the mainstream.

 

Yeah, short article.

 

 

 

No I’m afraid there’s more.

With the release of Modern Warfare 2 recently we’ve seen one huge surge in video game interest. Excuse the indie kid in me here but this does not make me happy. Seeing an article about video games in the Guardian should excite me, knowing that a well respected source of fantastic journalism has lowered itself to the gamer level to report on us should feel incredible.

Wait, no it shouldn’t. It should feel insulting that it takes 4 million sales and some celebrity to get us noticed. Last game I remember getting this sort of coverage was Halo 3, and I can’t help but notice a correlation here. Namely, the multiplayer.

Now I consider myself a ‘hardcore’ gamer, meaning I am deeply invested in the industry and play as huge a variety of games as I can. In the past few weeks I’ve been playing an RPG, an RTS, an FPS, a TLA, a sandbox game and an adventure game. I’ve been reading various video game blogs daily, watching many game trailers and eating a donut. The last one isn’t really related, but it kind of made my day so I’ll count it anyway.

I’m also living with two people who I would define as ‘casual’ gamers. I mean that they own a games console each (a PS3, who continues to entice me with a handful of exclusives without any incentive to actually play them), and they play one game at a time for a while before switching. The most they know about games is what is coming out, when, and what DLC is around.

They are the kind of person who sits and plays multiplayer with random people for a couple hours each day, usually without wearing any trousers, to earn trophies/achievements and waste some time. I am the kind of person who switches games every few hours and arranges games with well known online friends for the wealth of the experience and the rich conversation and wow I sound elitist.

What I’m trying to get at is this is the kind of person Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 2 attracts, people who just want to waste some time online for a while with strangers. This isn’t a bad thing, not at all, and I’m not saying the multiplayer is itself bad. As much as I detest the Halo series, Halo 3’s multiplayer is polished stuff and is brilliant fun and what I have played of Modern Warfare was similarly fun, if not chaotic due to the belief amongst my group of friends that knives are awesome when guns are around. It’s kind of like playing with Heath Ledger’s Joker in combat gear. Which is kind of a scary thought.

What I do find bad is this open public play is why we’re noticed. These time wasters and brief jumpers draw all the media attention when there is so little to define them. Though different games the goals are the same, kill people with these bullets, occasionally with something pointy in desert/snow/industrial settings. The difference to me is one has an awesome vehicle called the Ghost which is awesome and there are some aliens who made the awesome vehicle, the other has no collision on walls where bullets are concerned and no awesome vehicle.

Team Fortress 2 has this weird fusion of Pixar cell shaded 50s spy fiction cartoon warfare where I once punched Adolf Hitler to death as a giant Russian then ate a sandwich upon his corpse as a mute in an asbestos suit tried to flame me to death. I’ve never seen a newspaper article about that.

And that’s just the multiplayer. Then I get into the exquisitely designed shocks and scares of Silent Hill 2, hilarious and abstract gameplay in Portal and shockingly detailed galaxies like Mass Effect. All of these I feel deserved some newspaper recognition (or in Mass Effect’s case, other newspaper recognition) and they aren’t even my favourite games. I can’t imagine how the mainstream media would grasp Crackdown, Assassin’s Creed or Dwarf Fortress. Maybe some story reporting on how a crazy man shut himself in a room for a year straight and modelled all of the universe down to an atomic level yet still gave fish superpowers.

I sound bitter and maybe I am. Maybe it’s because films like Jennifer’s Body get attention when Drag Me To Hell doesn’t. Maybe it’s because for the past few weeks people think playing games means Call of Duty. Maybe it’s just because of the chocolate from that donut on my shirt. Whatever it is that made me bitter, I know that while people think games are these silly distractions to daily life that maybe lets you tamely shoot civilians sometimes I’m not going to be happy with the newspapers.

More donuts could be the solution.

Jibar Uses Revive

November 24, 2009

I am opinionated and oddly hostile when discussing media. If you’ve ever spoken with me you’ll know I have very strongly held beliefs about many films and TV shows and will talk at length for no good reason about why x is a terrible y.

You may also know I am a writer. Writing dark horrors, bizarre comedies and just plain weird… things. Cat-Muffins being but one expression of what is surely an undiagnosed mental illness that amuses others.

Now I shall put the two together.

Or… something.

What I mean to do is put up a review of whatever I am playing or watching each Tuesday and Thursday, and then… something on Sunday. I’ll leave it up to you, my mysterious and non-existent fans to decide what this is to be.

As part of this, I’m commandeering the Cat-Muffinominicon site as my new front for war upon the senses. InksGuy will be bugged to give the site a small redesign, mostly so the focus is no longer on Cat-Muffin Radio (which due to the many miles between the team is on an indefinite hiatus).

Following this post will be the first and surprisingly bleak of my opinion pieces as I proceed to inform everyone that I know that I am doing this.

Be prepared. This is going to get ugly.