Saturday, 31 January 2015

Metro: Last Light Redux

I guess being a full fledged Ranger makes this game less scary than its predecessor.

This is the continuing journey from where Metro 2033 left off where we once again play as Artyom in the dark, mutant infested tunnels of the Metro. I quite like the story here, as we learn a lot more about our protagonist and the "dark ones" (the main antagonists of the first game). I also very much like the Stealth mechanic too, though those throwing knives seem to be overpowered since the last game (guess Artyom did a lot of pushups during the time gap). Also cool is that people that don't like it can choose a different setting right at the start for a more Actiony experience. I can't comment on that because I obviously didn't pick it.

If going via stealth, don't stand in the light like this dunce.

The graphics are again top notch and both the claustrophobic, poorly lit tunnels and the often misty radioactive surface, which you visit a lot more in this game, are detailed very nicely. New critters are also equal parts cool and scary, especially those light-hating spiders but as I alluded to at the start, if you have played the first Metro, nothing here will really scare you.

The only two things I didn't like about the game are the "checkpoint mechanic" which can happen to save your game just as your air filter is almost empty and you are low on health, and the "view for voice" mechanic where you must actively turn to look at whoever is speaking to get the loudest volume. Maybe Artyom has something wrong with his ears from all that gunfire and grenade blasts in enclosed spaces? Whatever the case, I give this four and a half bullets out of five and recommend it to people that liked the first game, the Thief series, and to those that like shooters in general.

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Rum Diary

Much like the main character, this movie suffers from a long, drunken stupor.

I came across this on TV the other day and after hearing some good music and Johnny Depp catching me by surprise as being the main star, I decided to watch this whacky film set in 1960's Puerto Rico. Depp is certainly likable as a writer looking for work, though he does have some really poor choice in friends and many vices that get him into trouble. He also meets the rich and sly Aaron Eckhart who serves as the "bad?" guy from Johnny's perspective anyway, since Johnny really likes Aaron's hot girl friend played by the beautiful Amber Heard.

Definite hotness.

There are quite a few funny and entertaining parts to this film, the main problem for me is that of all the little story arcs that start up nothing gets resolved. Yup. Absolutely nothing. Even most (not all) of Steven Seagal's B-grade films get this part right. Hell, even Sharknado gets this right. I'm going to spoil the movie for you now so you don't have to watch it: the closing text is "... this is the end of one story and the beginning of another." Followed by a block of text that tries to to tie everything up in 5 seconds. That is what I call bullshit. BULL SHIT. Given the star quality in this film I am surprised to find myself giving it 1 empty beer bottle out of 5. Don't bother watching this crap.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Assassin's Creed 3

New characters and beautiful maps really make the game worth exploring again.

It's great having first played Black Flag then going backwards to see the development process for the naval ship idea. In Revelations there was a segment where Ezio had to break out of a harbor which was pretty cool. The whole sailing part was already introduced here as sort of a side game, one of many given that there are board games and QTE hunting to do too. It's no secret the sailing segments are my favorite, but what else did I like?

The killing! Wait, you mean apart from the killing?

The many huge maps to explore, not just cities either. The open frontier is awesome, especially on horseback. At least when they give you the horse whistle ability. I also quite liked Desmond getting a chance to do more than just sit in the Animus, more than usual anyway in modern settings. Obviously they were testing to see how that could be done with the lack of haystacks these days. The solution is one they looked to be testing here: BASE jumping. I also quite liked the story of the whole thing and found the voice acting to be superb.

Having six unique recruits with their own abilities was also a lot better than the bunch of hard-to-remember throw aways added in Revelations, but ultimately unnecessary. After getting used to the slightly different controls it is business as usual for the assassin heroes who are like gods that can't even be put down by enemy firing lines as you regenerate quickly over time. Well, I still got thrashed by someone named "Rope Beater" a few times but he was a rare (and honestly, refreshing) exception. :P

This also seems to be where they worked on the notoriety system though it is a bit flawed in the execution here - why bribe criers or newspapers when pulling down three wanted posters is just as easy? Oh well.

On to the things I didn't like: There is a whole chapter in Native American. Yep. For some reason, the Animus which translated Altair and Ezio almost fully to English, fails to do it here. Why? That whole bit felt alienating but whatever. As a result I really disliked one of the main protagonists (Connor), not just because he's a douche bag but because of that. When he finally speaks English it's almost like I'm being introduced to a new character. One I don't really give a stuff about.

Moving on, the lock picking mini-game - stupid and a waste of time since there is really no threat to you while you do it. It's just there to slow you down. On the same vein, spelunking in large underground maps devoid of life is annoying (yet I still did it). Yes, I know they were trying to get the scale right or whatever but I'm just equating it to my maps in Neverwinter Online, no way would anyone get away with making such a sprawling and simultaneously boring place. 15 minute quests man. 15 minutes tops.

More to add to the useless list are: Hunting, Crafting and that god awful mini-management game. Why do they insist on putting that shitty management game? I know it continues on to Black Flag but I'll be glad if it is destroyed entirely. Fortunately it's not needed here and can be skipped, just like in the next game. I hope that people wise up and spend resources on something better than this crap. You also get a TON of tools you can use, but really you just need a sword, pistol and horse and you are set. Everything else is fluff.

Also, the Homestead missions. They are both really cool, and exceptionally stupid. Unfortunately, more on the stupid side of the scale. Oh, I could go try stop/win a war or you know, I could take the time to pick some flowers. The game also suffers from a long, unskippable credit roll and once again has some sort of PvP multiplayer attachment which instead of Abstergo training their own people is now better presented as an entertainment game. This sits a lot better and is followed through in Black Flag's main story, but is still just on the side content I'm not really interested in. If only they made a coop multiplayer version... I think that one is called Unity, right? :P

A definite improvement over Revelations but still nowhere near as good as Black Flag, I give this game three and a half arrows out of five.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Taken 3

The Mills family continues its terrible run of luck forcing Liam Neeson to get violent once more.

I quite liked the previous Taken movies, unfortunately this one just doesn't seem up to par. Yes, we get to see the hero from the first two films do his thing again here against an unknown threat which makes an interesting premise. The enemies also seem to be higher level / last longer in this movie but the problem is that there is a shortage of them. Actually, more to the point is that there is a shortage of the hero doing his thing, and that he has mellowed out a little I think.

Still likes to feed the bad guys lead though. Literally.

I'd say maybe a third or a fourth of the movie focuses on the police as they try do their thing, ineptly. They could have easily been nameless characters to let the movie go faster. The hero's daughter is also more of a place holder for a plot device than in the first movie, yet possibly gets more screen time here where she doesn't really do much - that is a pretty impressive feat when you think about it.

Lesser problems for me would be switching Xander Berkley for Dougray Scott (probably unavoidable due to scheduling) and having a long credit opening that does nothing to advance the story other than fly around a city. Woo. I'm nitpicking on credits these days, I think I'll make a post on that in the future... for now though, I'll finish up by giving Taken 3 two and a half bullets out of five and recommend watching it only if you liked the first two movies a lot. Don't expect that level of quality here though.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Assassin's Creed: Revelations

Ezio is back as an old and tired guy - and that's kind of exactly how this game feels.

I know I played the Assassin's Creed games out of order when I skipped ahead to Black Flag after Brotherhood, so I was slightly expecting a reduction in quality when playing this older game. I just didn't realize how much. Right after the "Lucy Event", we find Desmond trapped / being kept alive in the Animus. Unlike the previous games we actually get to learn a fair bit about Desmond this time around, and it reveals that he is a fricking liar in the previous games (from what I remember anyway).

As usual his part is second fiddle to that of the now aged Ezio Auditore who seems to run just that bit slower that before, but is wise enough to carry parachutes for when the player does stupid jumps off the really high buildings of Constantinople. It's a pretty city, but it is the only main site in this game. There are only... what, two other explorable maps? Ezio has also brought with him his knowledge of city investment which really makes gaining money a breeze but is slighlty tempered by the "Templar Awareness" meter which goes up everytime you do an "illegal" action - like investing. Lol.

If you anger them too much they attack one of your hideouts in what has to be one of the stupidest tower defense mini-games ever. Yup. You setup barricades and your assassin minions to defend against a horde of invaders but the whole time the only thing I really needed, and wanted to do (but could not) is just jump down there and personally slay all of them. Because you are still Ezio and your counter kills are still as deadly as before. Segments with Altair are here too, and those are even more fun to play - almost more rewarding as in brings his story to a close.

The ultimate tag team?

The mini management of recruiting assassins and sending them out in a mini-game is present here, and gels far better than the same system in Black Flag (it was Kenway's fleet there). This is because your rookies can become Den Masters at level 10, opening more quests for you in the city and again at level 15 at which point they prevent the silly tower defense game themselves.

I guess I should mention you also have new gear in the form of a hook blade (you can flying fox down ropes and do some other minor things) and bombs, complete with a bomb making crafting segment. Honestly? They come in handy here and there but are totally unnecessary to someone who knows the combat system. Hide? What hide? Just draw your sword and walk right up to the elite guards and kill them. Sure the Janissaries have some nice moves but they don't carry as much meds as Ezio. No regen here, but it doesn't matter. :P

There is also a PvP multiplayer aspect present here again (Templars using the Animus as training) but I'm not sure it's even worth a mention as every single game type has "Low Player Activity" (old game). All up, this is a decent romp through the Assassin's Creed universe but nowhere near as neat as Black Flag. I give it 2.5 hidden blades out of five.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Nameless: Sisters of the Sand

[This is the start of my Creative Writing Experiment.]

The crowd cheered as Ash rolled to her side, just before her opponent's heavy stone axe slammed down on the spot she had just been. The ugly brute didn't have time to raise it again as an arrow suddenly found it way through his neck, spouting blood like a fountain as he fell to his knees and slumped forward - dead on the sand. Blowing a strand of red hair out of her face she nodded thanks to her savior, the blonde archer Gigal. The woman reciprocated the nod and let her piercing blue eyes find her next target. There weren't many to choose from.

The brunette sisters Nerith and Nessa were finishing off one more opponent between their jagged bone knives while Indas, the towering and muscular giantess was busy choking the life out of her adversary - his legs kicking the air in vain as he tried to pry free from her grip. With a loud snap the kicking stopped and the broken body was tossed like garbage to the side, much to the pleasure of the crowd. Ash grinned as she retrieved her spear. These were her team mates. These were...

"The Sisters of the Sand win again!" exclaimed the green robed announcer from a high balcony, his skinny arms outstretched. "Surely their luck cannot hold out forever! Send in the next group!"

Ash cast the announcer a deathly sideways stare as the rest of her comrades regrouped around her. That name was something he branded them after their all female group happened to win a few rounds in the previous weeks. They weren't expected to survive as none of them started out as fighters. They were all slaves. Slaves gone "bad" in the eyes of their masters, and now just entertainment for the crowd. Even the lecherous Merzol and his gang of rapists - the ones now lying dead in the sand were just entertainment.

"Always time for a fuck," was Merzol's motto, and Ash heard it a lot in the shared slave pens beneath the arena. Women, men, girls, boys, dogs, rats, dead, alive - it didn't matter to Merzol. That's why she made sure to kill him first.

As she watched the next group of five men march in she knew their next fight would be a lot different from the last one. Different from any they had already fought. It would be their last. This was Scar's team, the reigning "champions" composed of barbarians and renegade soldiers. People who were adept at the art of killing. People who long lived in the underbelly of the bloody arena.

The bald, muscle bound leader signaled his men to stop just as they neared Ash and her girls. The crowd hushed in anticipation.

"Are you ready?" he asked in his usual deep, monotone voice. Ash looked to each of her friends and nodded.

Both teams suddenly sprinted in unison for the old, and often unused western gate of the arena. It took a few seconds before the onlookers cottoned on to what was happening.

"GUARDS!" yelled the green robed announcer. "THE GLADIATORS ARE TRYING TO ESCAPE!"

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Today I Smiled: I Has Zomboid

I won a free game! :)

Super short post just to give big thanks to Isey of IhasPC for running a random draw of people to win a free copy of Project Zomboid. By extension thanks to Eri (aka J3w3l) of Healing the Masses for doing the same thing first (which inspired Isey to do so). I haven't played it yet, but free stuff always makes me happy.

Just for kicks, here are some short and cute animal related videos for you to enjoy: a cat's reaction to a giant spider, a kitten nibbling its tail, and a four year old girl feeding a pack of pitbulls.

Lastly, I'm going to try crank out posts daily again. Let's see how long that lasts!

Hope you all have a lovely day. ^_^