CyberPunch83's Blog - Jan to Mar 18 (40 followers)

PermalinkReview Cavalcade Part IV
In the last week, I did a sort of my game collection here on TA. I found a great many games were in the 1-2 hour range for completion estimate. Knowing this, I decided to complete a handful of these games. Technically, I completed one of them twice, but that's another story for another time. For now, we have two games to review. Both are indie games brought to our consoles through the ID@Xbox program, which should be a name popular to many of those achievement hunters out there on current-gen consoles. Read on and enjoy.

Gone Home: Console Edition Micro-Review: For better or worse, and despite this game being listed as a point-and-click according to TA, when I started this title and first entered the house in which the entire game takes place, I was sure this would be some sort of atmospheric survival horror title. Instead, what I found was an atmospheric point-and-click open walking simulator that has some good ideas, but is let down by some story cliches and some strangely absent controls to help you navigate.

First, the good. You play as Katie Greenbriar, returning home from a trip in Europe. For a multitude of reasons, you are returning home to an empty house, and are free to explore and piece together as much as you like about what has happened in your absence and where the family is going. Being set in 1995, expect such cliches and not too much overly-modern technology. For example, there is a room dedicated to audio-visual equipment, of which VHS seems to be the prevalent media of the time. The house is quite large as well, complete with secret rooms to find.

To say much more would be to spoil the story. You walk around with LS, move the camera with RS, and pick up items with A. While holding an item, hold either trigger to examine the object in your hand. This does give insight to the game and its world, and makes it that much more believable and real. The use of an ongoing thunderstorm outside the house adds tension to the point you were sure this game was a horror title. One thing I will say against the game is a run option, or at least a fast walk option, would have been much appreciated.

Expect to knock this game out in one evening. There isn't much achievement-wise with only ten achievements available. Two of which are earned by playing the game in a specific way, either completing the game in under ten minutes and in under one minute. Have fun with the latter, as it leaves basically no margin for error and you have to get it done with near-perfect accuracy. Otherwise, a nice atmosphere and great tension somewhat falls flat with story cliches and overuse of trying to scare the player with darkness and music stings.

Verdict: she should have stayed in Europe. 4/10


Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition Micro-Review: Some indie games are called walking simulators. This game is what I would call a driving simulator. Most of the game takes place in a conversation had over the phone while driving through the cornfields and more cornfields of rural Nebraska. You play as Kelly Myers, driving home from a day out of the house. As the conversation unfolds, more is learned about the family, their own issues, and what has gone on to bring everyone to this point. I've seen the game described as a visual novel, and this is not an entirely unfair description.

The game uses a monochrome colour style which can be described as bleak, however given the main game's setting of Nebraska in what appears to be summer and the epilogue's location of Minnesota during winter, this all makes complete sense. The game likes to use what can almost be described as the motif of the family's house seemingly picked up and carried by the impending storm, which gave off a possibly-intentional Wizard of Oz feeling the first time I saw this in-game. It's part of the loading screens, along with popping up depending on your dialogue choices in the epilogue.

There is no voice acting, and all of the game's dialogue is presented on-screen, along with your dialogue options. The only real sound effects to speak of are some phone feedback and lightning from the storm raging on around you as the story progresses to its conclusion. The on-screen rain goes over the text in an interesting move as well. Gameplay protip: the conversation options in square brackets in the epilogue are more childish or rude answers. Play the game and you'll see why you need those. Not going to spoil that here.

This game can easily be completed in one afternoon. While care must be taken to achieve certain endings on the game, especially in the epilogue, if you're just doing a quick run through the game for another completion, just hold RT, mash A and occasionally hit X. That's it. The story can be over and done within 15 minutes with this in mind. The single longest time sink has to be some of the side achievements, since one requires listening to around one hour of music tracks seen elsewhere in the game. Put it on, go do something else for an hour, and then come back to you achievement probably waiting for you to unlock it.

Verdict: doesn't really work as a driving simulator and not interesting enough for a visual novel. 4/10

Coming up on Monday: more 'good' ideas gone horribly wrong.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 27 January 18 at 04:50 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkOut of Their Depth
Sometimes an executive walks into a meeting with a great idea that revolutionizes their respective field, marks said executive as a genius beyond their years, and everyone laughs all the way to the bank with their successful gamble. Other times, these ideas are awful, have many glaring flaws, and for one reason or another will not and cannot work out. In video games, this happens when a developer mostly known for one type of game branches out into another, with predictable results. These are stories of two of said developers.

First, some backstory. Rumours have been circulating in the last week or two that Playground Games, whose only development credit is the excellent Forza Horizon series, have been tapped to develop the next Fable title. We don't know at this time whether this will actually be Fable 4 or some sort of continuity reset/reboot like we saw with Mirror's Edge Catalyst back in 2016. This seems like a weird pick for many reasons, least of all that a developer only known for racing titles is being asked to develop a third-person RPG for consoles.

I like the Fable franchise, and would like to see it return on Xbox One. Let's get that clear first. However, Playground Games is a bad pick. Sure the original developer Lionhead Studios is no more and Bizarre Creations was shut down in 2011 after the release of the surprisingly good Blur. The thing is Microsoft has a game developer in their own stable who could more than take on development duties: Rare. Granted as of this writing they are putting the final polish on Sea of Thieves, currently set for release in March, but why not take this on afterward?

If it's the spirit of the original games and their sense of humour Microsoft is worried about, Rare is a British developer and could fit the bill quite nicely in that regard. This is the same developer known for the Banjo-Kazooie titles, so there's more than enough pedigree there. Being a first-party developer, Microsoft would likely still retain most creative control over the game, and would step in if development took a turn they did not agree with or otherwise like. No problem there. To my knowledge Rare does not currently employ any ex-Lionhead, but this shouldn't be a requirement.

The other reason this move worries me, if it is indeed the case, is the results of previous, similar experiments. A publisher taps a developer known for games from a very specific genre, and tasks them with developing a game from a completely different genre than anyone was used to developing. It would be like asking Infinity Ward to develop a sports game, or getting Bungie to develop a turn-based card battle RPG game. Sadly I know some of you out there would gladly pay for and play Call of Duty: Madden Warfare or a Halo-themed version of Catan.

So what exactly are these games that worry me so much about Playground being tapped for development duties? I have three examples. Some of these will make you cringe if you have had the displeasure of playing these titles. The first one is EA Tiburon. No awards for guessing who their parent company is. Tiburon develops a lot of sports games for EA. Madden NFL, PGA Tour, NBA Live, NCAA Football, and even NASCAR for a couple of years. IN 2006, they developed the tie-in game to the film Superman Returns. Let's say the film did better overall.

The game was a disaster. While no one was expecting much for 2006 anyway, it didn't even live up to those low expectations. The controls were clunky at best. Movement was awkward and stilted; more movement was simulated than actually done. Combat boiled down to using the same counters and moves on the same enemies since nothing else worked to any appreciable extent. The wide-open Metropolis was dull, boring and lifeless. Someone leaned way too hard on the brown side of the palette when designing this city, and Superman's comparatively-vibrant outfit prove it's not a filter.

This game is so bad, I even covered it for Crappy Game Week in 2017 along with Battleship and Cars 2. Comparably, those games are masterpieces to this near-abomination. Bonus unlockable outfits for Supes only go so far to ease the pain of flying around a decently-sized but ultimately boring city. I've mentioned this a few times before, but Spider-Man 2 for the original Xbox generation is still my personal gold standard for open-world superhero games. Before you ask, no I haven't played Batman: Arkham Knight yet. Yes, I will eventually. You will know when that time comes.

This would not be the last time this was tried by a game developer out there somewhere. In 2007 Take 2 thought it would be a good idea to take a development team known for sports games and give them another superhero-licensed game. +10 internet points to anyone who can figure that one out and drop it in the comments before next Monday. The same goes for a developer best known for hunting and fishing games being given a movie license and being told to make a game in that universe. Another +10 points to anyone who guesses that one. Check back next Monday for the answers to both of those little puzzles.

Coming up on Friday: a review and a final Progress Report.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 23 January 18 at 03:07 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkBoot to the Head
I've tried some new games in the last week. Some of them I completed, others I tried a brief snippet via someone else's account. Read on for my thoughts on those games.

Cuphead First Thoughts: A sadly common theme among games with long development cycles is the tendency to accidentally create unrealistic expectations of a game to which the finished product could never fully strive toward. This can be done in the form of endless trailers, developer interviews, or even multiple playable demos, rare as the latter are these days. Cuphead succumbed to none of this, instead turning in an incredible run-and-gun experience not seen in a very long time with this level of polish.

The game is designed as a spiritual successor to both the animations of Walt Disney and Max Fleischer. This is evidenced in the entire presentation of the game, the exaggerated proportions of the main characters, brothers Cuphead and Mugman and the very consistent level and character design. Not to be undersold by its somewhat-cutesy image, this game is difficult. Not Dark Souls levels of hard, and certainly not the 'Dark Souls of run-and-gun games'. That term needs to die forever in a fiery pit. Consider this title to have a steep difficulty curve instead.

Each boss has a unique strategy to beat them, at which point the game moves into muscle memory and remembering the attack patters and fight stages. While it may not seem immediately apparent you are making progress, a handy indicator when you die (and you will die a lot) informs you just how far along certain stages you were and if you really did die just before the end of a boss fight. I'll leave it up to the comments to decide if players should be made aware if they died right before the end of a fight or not. There are arguments for both sides of course.

I'm looking to playing more of this title as soon as schedules allow. This game can be played in co-op and anywhere, thanks to the Xbox Play Anywhere program. Someone with the right dedication could indeed play this on the go with a tablet and a controller either Bluetoothed to the tablet or through direct wired connection. There's an interesting thought: playing the best and newest games on the go, provided you don't mind the setup. If there ever there was a reason to get a Surface tablet not for business reasons, there may be one here.


Fight Night Round 3 Micro-Review: If ever there was a case for broadly grouping all games within 6-8 months of a console's release as 'launch titles', this is Exhibit A. Released in February 2006, Fight Night Round 3 is every bit a product of its time as you think it is. Repeated textures, copypasted audiences complete with synchronized movements that make for bland backdrops for a game based around a sport I do not and probably never will understand. I do however understand illegal kicks to the groin until your opponent falls over.

According to the walkthrough here on TA, the best way to get through this game is to buy and repeatedly use the illegal groin kick move. I can safely say this method is effective and probably the fastest one out there. Long as you can avert your ears from the colour commentators repeatedly calling our your moves and how they are detrimental to your career, to no actual detriment since you didn't lose anything from spamming this method. No less winnings or a reduced rating boost from destroying a man's nether region.

To quickly cover the game's career mode, you start as an up-and-coming boxer and must fight your way to the top, gaining a reputation and taking on title fights. In that sense it seems to accurately cover a fighter's career, from small venues all the way to title fights brought to you by ESPN2. The moveset is probably complex and innovative and leaves room for unique fighting styles. If you follow the walkthrough for this game, you will never see any of it. Rather just hold LT and B until the game gives you achievements.

This game can be completed in one sitting, in around three hours if you're unlucky and lose one or two fights. Only eight achievements on offer here, all based around certain high-profile events in your fighter's career. Disable the autosave in case you lost one of the four fights you can only play once per career to save backtracking with a second fighter later on. Make sure you manual save occasionally as well. For extra fun, try creating the ugliest fighter ever known with the in-game creation tools.

Verdict: I still don't understand boxing. 3/10

Coming up on Monday: sometimes it's best to stick to what you know.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 19 January 18 at 23:41 | There is 1 comment on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkGlitch Raider
Anyone looking at my recently played games will notice two things. One is a rather-significant lack of ROBLOX being played, and while all it requires is playing once per day for twenty consecutive days, my current schedule does somewhat preclude me from even going after that. More on that little situation in a bit. The other thing you may have noticed is a recent spike in playing Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. After finishing the Campaign in June, I effectively left the game as it stood for a while, with all that remained being the game's multiplayer.

I was not looking forward to this. Crystal Dynamics crafted a great single-player experience in their 2013 reboot of the series, officially known as the first entry in the 'Survivor Timeline'. The mechanics were solid, the story was very interesting and relatively easy to follow, and the characters were mostly memorable in their own right. It was yet another game that did not need a competitive multiplayer aspect tacked on just for good measure or for increased sales or average play time. Despite all of that, we got one anyway, and while they tried to bring the same elements from the single-player, it didn't really work.

For one, the servers used to power these multiplayer matched may not be the best around. In playing the multiplayer over the last week or so, I could play 4-5 consecutive matches with no issues whatsoever, people coming and going as they please, only to be suddenly met with a very long loading screen, far longer than usual, at which point I'm kicked back to the main multiplayer menu. I didn't have a connection hiccup, everything else seems to be fine. Seemingly the game decided I'd had enough of playing with these people and had to now go elsewhere. Quite annoying to encounter this more than once.

The game types on offer, of which there are four, do offer the potential for creative games and an engaging experience. You have your standard deathmatch and team deathmatch, along with two unique modes. Rescue is round-based, with team Survivor trying to secure medical supplies and tem Solarii actively preventing this. Think CTF with a twist. Cry for Help has the Survivors activating radio beacons while again the Solarii are preventing this. More like Hardpoint, with the twist of both teams having different goals, with the teams switching places at least once per best-of-3 games, which comes as the default for matchmade games.

Any game with a competitive multiplayer will have some sort of meta gaming taking place at the same time. The players react to changes made to one or more of the multiplayer's main elements and as a result, popularity and overall use of certain weapons and tactics change over time. This is normal, expected behaviour for any multiplayer game. The meta for Tomb Raider has evolved to a point that sufficiently skilled players make their way around a map by jumping everywhere and always wielding shotguns while doing so. This makes for hard to shoot, and hard-hitting enemies.

For someone who was actually trying to play the multiplayer, and just happened to have some achievements along the way that needed to be earned, these players made the game into quite a hassle to play. These players were seemingly everywhere, could down you in no more than two shots most of the time, and you usually had little to no way to counter or fight back. This is not meant to come off as being overly whiny about the game or complaining about where the game has gone, but it could scare off first time players if this is their first experience.

The somewhat ironic thing about that last point is if someone is totally discouraged and they find themselves on this very site, they could always set up a boosting session for whatever achievements they were trying to earn legitimately and get it all done far sooner than the other method. I did that same thing, and made a session that may or may not have happened by the time you read this. At the time of this posting, the session is the following day and is also full at this point. Many thanks to all who applied or otherwise showed interest. As always happens with this sort of thing, any extra applicants are recommended to make their own session for around the same time.

So what state has this left the multiplayer for Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition? To try and put something of a cap on it all, there is no one playing the ranked matches, which is annoying due to an achievement tied to those specific games. People only ever participate in player matches, and when you do get one together there is always at least two people who have prestiged at least once, know all of the maps and strategies, and are almost always the aforementioned jumping shotgunners. Juxtaposing that strategy with the ancient Japanese armour these players wear is good for a laugh though. The players must know how ridiculous they look in that instance.

Coming up on Friday: the return of a modern PC classic.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 16 January 18 at 04:52 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkArt Thief
As promised, both some Halo and some World of Tanks news. One comes from some gameplay over the last month, give or take a few days, and the other comes from a game I am yet to play this year. I'm sure I'll get to it eventually since more achievements will doubtless be added, but other games I want to finish have come up and taken center stage. Expect to see some of that on Monday in my continuing adventures to complete some games I have had sitting on my card for months on end. One thing to keep in mind is multiplayer boosting still sucks. That could probably become the subtitle for this blog and little if anything would need to change.

Halo: the Master Chief Collection Progress Report: Last stop, Halo 3: ODST DLC. Between the day this goes up and the last time I posted a Progress Report about this game, I decided to submit myself to the grind and just get the last 60 or so Environmental kills remaining for the 'Rock and Coil Hit Back' achievement. This means a lot of hours spent sitting in the 'Team Halo 2 Anniversary Playlist' waiting for enough players to show up and form a game. From there it was hoping Lockdown was a map option, and it was voted on, and only then could the grinding begin.

This came after a few attempts to organize boosting sessions for this very achievement. As anyone who has ever tried to boost Halo: MCC is well aware, the hardest part is always trying to match up with the other half of the boosting party. During each of these attempts at getting matched, we were lucky if we got matched two or three times over a three-hour session. Very disappointing. The few times we did, one of two things would happen. Either Lockdown was not a map given to us as an option, or we would get Lockdown, vote on it, only to have the game collapse and disconnect everyone before it loaded.

Boosting obviously wasn't going to work, so off it was to the untamed wilds of matchmaking. It turns out a surprisingly high number of people still play this game, and just this one playlist, over three years after the game's launch. At least this meant getting games to work on this achievement didn't take as long as it could have. Of this, I am grateful. It got to the point where I would actively ignore the ongoing game on Lockdown and focus on just the Environmental kills, to the detriment to my team during those games. To anyone who played with me during this time, I'm sorry. You probably were looking for someone who could contribute to the team.

But this is all finished now. After 'Rock and Coil Hit Back', it was just boosting out the remaining wins, which can be done solo with a rather-handy crafted map type of Construct in Halo 3. Long story short, it's a CTF variation where you win the game before it even finishes loading in. Back out of the results screen, start the game again. Rinse and repeat until achievements unlock. With all of this out of the way, it's now just a matter of getting the ODST DLC and completing its related 99 achievements. Chalk that one up as an end-of-year goal.

In other gaming news, Wargaming stole some artwork from a DeviantArt user. Around the start of the year, Wargaming released a new Premium tank. Don't all act shocked at once. This time it was a variation of the already-Premium vehicle VK 45.03, a Tier VIII German Heavy for those interested. Known as the Adler VK 45.03, it featured a dark grey body and stylized German flag wrapping around the turret. This had been announced by Wargaming for probably less than 48 hours before the community at large noticed this and called them out for the theft.

While Wargaming were relatively quick to modify their own news story to give credit to the original artist, greyweaselUK, the fact this had to happen at all is some unacceptable and somewhat shady behaviour from a relatively-large gaming company like Wargaming. I'm all for using player-created artwork with their consent and permission, but those last two points were quite flagrantly violated and Wargaming seemed to just act as though nothing was wrong until the community response became too large to ignore. Only then did they relent.

Wargaming has arguably done a lot wrong and mishandled much over the lifespan of World of Tanks on console, but this is a special kind of unacceptable. If this blatant theft of someone's original artwork has been done once, they are just as likely to do it again, and next time it will be a smaller user on a smaller artwork platform where it will go unnoticed for longer, possibly indefinitely. One can only hope that last point doesn't come to pass and people notice before long. To think all of this could have been avoided if Wargaming had simply asked permission instead of deciding to just take something that looked pretty.

However that would require Wargaming somewhat listening to their community, now wouldn't it?

Coming up on Monday: Tomb Raider multiplayer is a glitchy jumping mess.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 13 January 18 at 02:33 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.