samedi 29 novembre 2014

What Am I Playing NOW - Part VII

Considering the flurry of new titles released in the past 2 months, you might expect someone "running" a gaming blog must have played most, if not all, of the noteworthy titles. In most cases, you'd be 100% right. However, in my case, it most certainly wasn't the case. For various reasons (No free time, because I have a 3 months old daughter, and no money, because I have a shitty job that doesn't pay well enough for a man to take care of his wife, baby, rent, car AND gaming hobby. Sometimes you have to pick something to sacrifice. In this case the choice was pretty obvious!), I haven't played a more recent title than Destiny. I actually own an even more recent title in Borderlands : The Pre-Sequel! (pre-ordered with the E3 deal), but I haven't even opened it yet since I'm still not done with all Borderlands 2 DLCs. I also should mention that I played more recent games given away for free with the PS+ subscription.

The Sequel before the Pre-Sequel

Let's begin with Borderlands 2. Since my PS3 died last year and that, for some unknown reason, my saves weren't being uploaded to the PS+ cloud, I had to restart a character in Borderlands 2. I usually play as Zer0 (like I did Mordecai in the first game), but I wanted to try something different. Very different. I went with the Mechromancer, Gaige. I kinda regretted it at firt because I really liked Zer0's skills, but now I'me getting more used to her, it's not that bad. Anyway, I'm nearly done with the main game, after which I'll do the 2 DLCs (Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt and Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep) I didn't have time to play before my PS3 died. I loved the first two DLCs, so I'm glad I'll finally get to try the last two. Eventually. Hopefully before Christmas (I was not kidding when I said that I have no free time).

Destiny, still

It seems, when I listen to gaming podcasts, that everyone was done with this game 2 months ago. Not me! I'm level 15 and I did, if I remember correctly, only one story mission on Mars. It's a very fun game, although the story is very lacking. Uninteresting, to be exact. But the gameplay is so freaking solid. And I haven't unlocked all the abilities of the one class (out of three) I have tried. Looks like many hours of fun are still ahead of me.

South Park

I started South Park : The Stick of Truth about a month ago. Played it a bunch during a weekend when my wife and baby were away. It's a very, very funny game. It really feels like a South Park episode. The combat system is pretty basic and can get a little repetitive. But you don't play South Park for its innovative gameplay, you play it because it's freaking South Park. Because you get to hang out with Princess Kenny, Cartman, Butters and the likes.

No time = small and/or portable games

The subtitles says it all. I don't have much free time, so I often resort to quick little sessions of games you can start quickly and, especially, quit at a moment's notice without losing (too much) progress. Obviously portable games are perfect in that case. I've played a bit of Vita games, especially Dragon's Crown (though even after 4-5 hours, I can't "get" into the game that much) and other smaller titles like Luftrausers and Pix the Cat. But I've played a lot more 3DS during that time, most notably Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time 3D and Mario Tennis Open. To my surprise, the former isn't quite a great as I expected. Don't get me wrong, it IS a good game, but the controls aren't as intuitive and sharp as I would have hoped. Anyone who has ever played a core Mario title knows the controls, essential to the platforming genre, have always been stellar. Here, they're not bad, but they're not stellar. Otherwise, the levels are short and sweet, perfect for short gaming sessions.

There's not much to say about Ocarina of Time. It still is the greatest game ever, no matter the format or number of screens. Mario Tennis Open, on the other hand, is disappointing. I absolutely loved the Mario Tennis game for GameCube, it was pretty much perfect. I used to turn off the special/power shots most of the time to get a truer tennis experience. The special shots are fun at times, but in the long run, the mini-cutscenes before each one become tedious. In this one, you CAN'T turn them off. Seriously? That really sucks. It's a stupid choice by Nintendo, as far as I'm concerned. The minigames are still fun and the gameplay, other than the special shots, is still very solid. But man. That's a bummer...

Anyway, let's hope next time I'll have a newer game to write about!

mardi 16 septembre 2014

The Gamer Problem

During the last generation of consoles, I started following gaming news more intently than ever before. I subscribed to many gaming websites, podcasts and even two magazines, participated on gaming-related forums mainly on GameSpot and reddit, started following a slew of gaming channels/websites on Youtube and Facebook, etc. In other words, I dove in the gamer community/culture like never before.

The gaming community is extremely big. Bigger than it has ever been and it's growing by the minute. I've been entertained by the immense creativity of many and by the sheer madness of others. I've enjoyed some passionate discussions on forums and read the most interesting and/or hilarious comments on Youtube. I've read thoughtful letters in magazines and listened to heated debates which swayed my opinions in many ways. I've learned a truck-load about the gaming industry as a whole, the relationship between developers and publishers, how critics tend to analyse games, the meaning of terms like DRM, Third-Party, DLC, Indie, etc. I know also a lot more about gamers in general, how they react to certain companies and genres, how they interact with each other, which games they tend to venerate or hate and how they feel about basically everything gaming-related.

And that's where it started to fall apart for me.

First off all, the amount of hatred generated in gaming circles is staggering. Hatred towards certain publishers (mainly EA and Activision, but not a single one is safe), hatred towards the gamers who own that "other system" or towards the company itself, hatred towards anyone who doesn't adore whichever game/genre/franchise you love with a passion, hatred towards developers for delaying an otherwise-unfinished product, hatred basically towards anyone who doesn't think exactly like you do.

It's mind-blowing. It has become a problem to the point where I'm genuinely surprised whenever I read some love or positivity in forums and/or comments. I'm aware there are people who like to write anything just to piss off others - the so-called trolls - but it's only a fraction of the gaming population.

I've read some of the most spiteful, degrading and inhuman stuff on the Internet for video games. People wishing death, painful sickness and generally horrible things upon others for reasons such as delaying a game a few months. I've read some people on forums who received threats of bodily-harm in their private inbox because they had a different opinion of whether or not a game was good. On this very blog I received a comment which was basically "awful blog, kill urself" (Side note : I gladly accept criticism, let's just be constructive and not suggest suicide). And, obviously, we've all heard of the multiple death and rape threats developers, critics, journalists, publishers receive on public media (mainly twitter), of all places.

I mean, are you fucking serious? Really?

I know "Internet hate" is a phenomenom which has repercussions well beyond the small-but-growing world of video games. I'm a basketball and football fan, and man, the hatred in there is immense. Towards teams, players, journalists, leagues, managers, agents, commissionners, owners, etc. Hatred knows no bound in sports. I get that you don't like the rival team, but wishing painful death upon the whole coaching staff might not be the sanest thing you can do. You might not agree with this national writer, but don't go insulting his whole family whom you've never met and will likely never do. "Internet hate" is prevalent everywhere where religion is mentioned, where politics have a role to play, where movies are discussed, where journalists abound, where religion is debated, etc. Basically everywhere. But this is a gaming blog, so we'll stick to gaming.

The second problem of gamer is closely connected to the first. It has happened quite often that people will display hatred whenever they feel they're owned something. Gamers have an IMMENSE sense of entitlement. If a game is delayed, many will completely go beserk and claim that the company owes them the game or something. Which makes absolutely no sense ; since you haven't bought it, you aren't owed anything. Or when a "weaker" month of PS+ free games come around, thousands will claim that Sony owes them better games than those. Which, again, makes no sense at all. You subscribe to a service which promises two free games per month. It never says anywhere that the two games offered will be $100'000'000-budget games or that you will even like them. If you don't like the games offered, then unsubscribe or simply don't "buy" them. It's really not that hard.

I feel that people need to understand the notion of "voting with you wallet". I've read countless gamers rejecting an game because of the amount of content it proposes. That's fine. If you don't like what the game offers, don't buy it. Simple. The game isn't worth 60 or 70$ for you? Don't buy it. If you buy a game and feel like it's not enough, you can voice your opinion saying that the game isn't as complete or vast as you thought, but not that the developer/publisher owes you anything. YOU chose to buy the freaking game. Live with the consequences. Give it a low score on your blog, don't buy the sequel or whatever, but nobody owes you anything.

Finally, the constant whining in video game-related media is impossible to ignore. It seems like every single gaming-related post, forum, video, comment or other is filled with negativity. Nobody is ever satisfied with anything. That game is too short, too long, controls are too complex, graphics suck, the colors are weird, not enough guns, too many guns, killing someone isn't satisfying, too much gore, not enough gore, not realistic enough, "too" realistic, whatever.

Look, I understand the concept of "not settling for less" and "striving to be better". I'm all for it. It's disappointing when a game fails to meet expectations. However, there's a way to voice our opinion as gamers without sounding like whiny kids. Constructive criticism is what we should aim for as gamers, especially adult gamers. There's a difference between saying "Tis gaem sux ballz" and pointing out what you found lacking or unsatisfying like a normal, rational human. It doesn't help anyone to be overly negative and critical if you're not being constructive and coherent.

And that is the main reason why, instead of spending a few hours per week on gaming websites, I now try to spend less than 30 minutes, if not 15 minutes, per week. And it's a shame because I know I'm missing out on some good stuff and some great people to meet.

mardi 9 septembre 2014

Seventh Generation Review - The Best Games

The games being released exclusively on seventh-generation consoles are getting - unsurprisingly - more and more scarce. I know there are still some AAA titles coming on those platforms, most notably Assassin's Creed Rogue, Borderlands : The Pre-Sequel! (which I'm eagerly waiting for and is even pre-ordered) and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD.

As far as my personal tastes and budget are concerned, only The Pre-Sequel! has a chance to make some noise in my personal "Best games of the Seventh-Generation" list. The rest of this homemade list is pretty much set in stone. For the sake of "transparency", let's look at the list of all the seventh-gen games which received a rating of 9.5 and higher on the list and the console I played them on. I won't put the exact scores next to them, as it would be useless if you know the first one has 9.9 and the last one 9.5. Keep in mind that the order is not final, since it's very possible my opinion changes during another playthrough if it ever happens. But usually it really doesn't move around that much. Also, it has to be said I'm usually not big on online multiplayer, so I put an * next to the titles I haven't played much. It doesn't mean the MP isn't good or even great, it only means I honestly didn't try it that much.

The Last of Us* (PS3) - Best Overall Game / Action-adventure Game / Survival Horror Game
Bioshock (PS3) - Best FPS

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) - Best Platformer
Fallout 3 (PS3) - Best RPG / Open-world Game
The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim (PS3)
Bioshock : Infinite (PS3)
The Orange Box (Half-Life 2 and Portal only) (PS3)
Portal 2 (PS3) - Best Puzzle Game
Batman : Arkham Asylum (PS3)
The Walking Dead (PS3) - Best Interactive-Adventure (??) Game
The Legend of Zelda : Skyward Sword (Wii)
Tomb Raider** (PS3)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Uncharted 2 : Among Thieves (PS3)

Batman : Arkham City (PS3)
Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare (PS3)
Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)
Uncharted 3 : Drake's Deception** (PS3)
Mass Effect 3** (PS3)
inFamous (PS3)
Borderlands (PS3)
The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess (Wii)
Journey (PS3) - Best Indie Game
Battlefield : Bad Company 2 (PS3)
Borderlands 2 (PS3)
LittleBigPlanet (PS3)
Red Dead Redemption* (PS3)
Bioshock 2** (PS3)
Dishonored (PS3) - Best Stealth Game

Best Racing Game (None were 9.5 or better) : Tie between Gran Turismo 5** (PS3) and Forza Motorsports 4* (X360)

* I haven' tried those games' multiplayer component.
** Those I did, but I merely scrathed the surface (usually less than 3 hours).

Now, the first reaction might be "Holy crap there are so many games you think are 9.5 and up". Yes there are, I realize that. The way I see it, the faults of a game have to be massive in order to downgrade the score if I'm really enjoying myself playing said game.

For example, I don't think the first Borderlands and Kirby's Epic Yarn are without faults, but I enjoyed myself so much playing both those games (in fact, I went through Borderlands 3 or 4 times) that I really didn't care if Epic Yarn was really too easy and that BL's characters were almost all massively under-developed. That's why I gave them such high scores, because I freaking enjoyed them. And while I love games that give you unique experiences (see : The Last of Us and Bioshock, unsurprisingly at the top of the list), I also like - forgive me cliché - having "good ol' fun".

Anyway, we had a truly great Seventh-Generation of consoles and games. And I'm pretty damn sure I missed many gems along the way, most likely exclusives to the XBox 360, which I owned for 3 years but only played 6 or 7 games on, or to the PC, many of which I can't play because I use a MacBook with limited gaming power.

jeudi 4 septembre 2014

What Am I Playing Now - Part VI

Damn, it's been a while.

As far as gaming is concerned, this summer has been particularly light for me. I moved in early July, been stuck in boxes for basically 6 weeks and - more importantly - my wife gave birth to our first child (it's a girl!) two weeks ago. So I was missing both time and money in the last 3 months to truly enjoy every shiny new game on the market. Thankfully I didn't really miss that much.

I bought a Wii U (the Legend of Zelda limited edition) so I played a bit of Wind Waker, which put a massive smile on my face for the 5 hours or so I've put into it. Even my wife enjoys watching me play it. It truly is a joyful, colorful and still - 11 years later - very beautiful game. You can't help but be happy playing it.

Also on that same Wii U I found the Call of Duty : Black Ops II game for a whopping 4.99$. I'm not known to be a massive CoD fan, but a few days earlier I played a bit of Zombies mode (in the first Black Ops) with my brother at his place and rather enjoyed it. The way I see it, I bought the CoD Zombies mode for five bucks, and that doesn't sound half-bad, even if the Wii U GamePad is quite massive to handle for a twitchy FPS like this. I might do the Single-Player campaign at one point. More on that if it ever happens.

At the hospital for basically a week with the wife and baby, I had time to try a few handheld games. I got to the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time 3D and through the first two worlds in Super Mario 3D Land on my 3DS XL. Zelda is awesome because it's freaking Zelda, and Mario is great so far but I'm still getting used to the control scheme. It feels a bit unnatural how they did it. Anyway, the level design is - so far - simple but still very enjoyable.

Still at the hospital, I started Dragon's Crown on the PS Vita. Fun game so far, since I'm a sucker for loot-driven games. The story so far is uninteresting and most ladies involved happen to have exceedingly massive breasts (which at this point are a turn-off more than anything else), but the satisfying gameplay makes up for it. I'm not even two hours in though, so we'll see how this goes.

Back home, I played a lot of Fez (Free on PS+) on the PS4, but I still don't feel like I get that game, however fun it is so far. It's kind of funny because before starting it, a guy from a podcast I listen to weekly talked about how that game made him feel not smart with all its secrets and weird stuff going on. I understand how he feels I think. The game says I'm more than 70% in, but I don't feel closer to the end than 6 hours ago.

With the PAX sale going on this past week on the PS Store, I got Transistor and Trials Fusion for 13.49$ each, but I still haven't installed them on the console. They're definitely next on the PS4 list along with Plants vs Zombies : Garden Warfare, which I got for 18$ (!!) brand new yesterday. I can't wait to give all those a try, but it will be hard since Destiny is right around the corner...

And on the PS3 I'm veeeeery slowly going through MGS3 HD, enjoying it somehow even if I'm really terrible at stealth games. I'm almost 7 hours in but I'm pretty sure it took me 15+ realtime hours to get there. After that I'll go through Crysis 3 (free last month on PS+) then it's all Borderlands 2 DLCs and The Pre-Sequel.

Reading all I've just written, I realize this summer wasn't THAT light. But when something as important as the birth of your first child is involved, everything else seems insignificant!

mardi 15 juillet 2014

Bara_Chat's 2013 Games of the Year

Looking back on what I tried to do a year ago while recapitulating the best games of 2012, I realize the idea of picking nominees and winner in a dozen different categories, while ambitious, was a tad unrealistic. I liked it at the time and I'm glad I tried it, but for this year I shall go in a completely opposite direction : short, sweet, simple. I'll simply pick out what I think are the five best games of 2013 and why they deserve to be there. While I'm here I will also point out a few honorable mentions and some other games I didn't have the time or money to try in 2013 but I plan to later on.

Best Games of 2013

5. Rayman Legends (PS4)
Now I'm cheating a bit here because the PS4 version actually came out in 2014, but it's basically a 2013 game since it was first released in early september of last year (NA). Anyway, I had to include it because it's in the running for "Best 2D platformer of All-Time". The gameplay is exquisite. It's a very beautiful game and it has astounding replay value in daily and weekly challenges. You can't ask for more.

4. Tomb Raider (PS3)
I first played a Tomb Raider game only 2 or 3 years ago when I tried the Tomb Raider collection. I liked the game, but couldn't truly appreciate what I was playing since it was more than a decade later. My guess is that if I had played that game when it was first released in 1996, I would have fallen in love with it. I could finally see why people were calling Nathan Drake "Dude Raider" when the first Uncharted was unveiled.
Anyway, this series reboot is almost on par with what Naughty Dog has done for last-generation gaming. Gameplay is very solid, the story holds up pretty well despite a few weaker spots and it looks fantastic. It lacks the charm of Uncharted (can't help but compare the two franchises now...) and its flair for Hollywood-worthy moments - although it had some - but it's a superb game in its own right.

3. Bioshock : Infinite (PS3)
Being deeply in love with the first Bioshock game - until very recently my "best game of the seventh generation" - and completely sold on that world-class reveal trailer a few years ago, I had HUMONGOUS expectations for Bioshock : Infinite. It was almost unfair to Irrational. I would've bet 100$ that it would run away with the 2013 GoTY award. It nearly did, as my top 3 games in 2013 are very, very close to each other.
Infinite almost impossibly delivered on the enormous hype they've gained before release. It's one of the most compelling and well-thought plot I've ever seen in a video game, practically on par with the first Bioshock and The Walking Dead (Telltale). It produced memorable characters (see picture above), varied gameplay and a otherwordly (literally) setting. It's not perfect though, but that's me being very picky. It's a great, great game. Being only third on this list speaks of the quality of the next two titles.

2. The Legend of Zelda : A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
It really does feel like I have to include a LoZ game every time one comes out. One could think it's because I'm unequivocally biased and so in love with the franchise that they could release a bag of poop and I'd still rate it a 9.2 out of 10. While it's true I have a bias, the games themselves are definitely almost always worth a sky-high rating. This one isn't different. It's very special. It's the successor to perhaps the best LoZ game ever (not by my LoZ standings, but I know it's atop many fans' lists). It had to be good.
And boy it is. Nintendo has mastered the art of merging old-school nostalgia with innovation. For example, at first I thought "Wait, so you have to pay to use items like the bow or bombs? And you have arrows/bombs, but an automatically-refilling magic meter?" But the process works magnificiently in both cases. Yes, it's fun to discover the boss-beating item in dungeons, but this does the neat trick of letting you decide which way - read : weapon - is more suited to defeat the boss. The game is a bit on the easy side, even with a couple of truly bamboozling dungeons, but you'll be having so much fun you won't really care.

1. The Last of Us (PS3)
Yes, you could see this coming from a hundred miles away. Yes, it has won numerous GoTY awards from magazines, websites and the likes. And you have heard all about it. The grim atmosphere, that clickers noise, the heavy storyline, the opening sequence, Ellie hunting, everything about Ellie, in fact, the beautiful, desolate world, throwing bottles to distract enemies, the characters you encounter, the list goes on and on.
Look, I don't need to sell you on The Last of Us, it's been praised countless times and will be praised even more when the PS4 version comes out. It's a masterpiece of a game. As the magazine EDGE pointed out, it truly is the culmination of everything (good) this generation has been about.

Honorable mentions

Ni No Kuni : Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Gran Turismo 6 (PS3)
DmC : Devil May Cry (PS3)
Metro : Last Light (PS3)
Battlefield 4 (PS4)
Brothers : A Tale of Two Sons (PS3)

Games I couldn't play for some reason but that I'll definitely try later which could have ended in the running for GotY 2013

Tearaway (PSVita)
Pokemon X/Y (3DS)
Super Mario 3D World (WiiU)
Assassin's Creed IV : Black Flag (PS4)

vendredi 17 janvier 2014

A brand-new PS3 has arrived.

Last time I announced, with much sadness (insert doge meme here), that my old, fat PS3 broke for the last time and that I will have to look around for a new one. After a few days' shopping, I came across a deal at a very well-known electronics store I usually dislike. But for one of the increasingly rare times in the past few years, I swept my principles aside and bought a brand-new PS3 there. It's the Uncharted 3 bundle 250gb PS3. I got it for 225+ taxes. Since it comes with a One-Year PS+ membership, I figured I "saved" a future 50$ expense when I will inevitably renew my membership anyways. And I will probably be able to sell the controller (I already have three) and the copy of Uncharted 3 : Game of the Year (I already have the collector's edition), so that's an extra 50$ in my pockets. Considering all that, I'd say it was a good deal.

Sadly, for some odd reason, many games (but not all) I've played in the past 2 years didn't save on the PS+ online storage. I don't understand why, but I got all my saves from The Last of Us, but none from Borderlands 2. I will have to restart a few games, but none will take more time than Borderlands 2, on which I had probably over 60 hours, if not many, many more.

Overall though, I'm glad I got that new, "SuperSlim" PS3.

lundi 30 décembre 2013

My PS3 broke for the last time.

I've owned a "fat" MGSIV-bundle 80GB (upgraded to 500GB) PS3 since 2008. It has been my main companion in gaming-related activities (i.e. : gaming). This evening, it got the infamous Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) for the 4th or 5th time in the past 18 months as I was just done playing the highly-anticipated Gran Turismo 6. Now the dude I usually go to for that repair charges me 50$ for a YLOD, but I'm done paying more and more for that same console which keeps breaking down.

So I've decided to retire that very console and buy a new PS3. Now, since I don't have 200$ laying around and considering the fact I've bought a PS4 at launch, I can't justify buying a brand-new console just yet. I will buy that next PS3 new, probably a Slim/SuperSlim version, which breaks down waaay less often. When? I don't know, but I hope I'll have the money soon enough as I have many games to finish on that console, mainly Zone of the Enders HD Collection, Katamari Damacy, Dark Souls, Ni No Kuni and the aforementioned GT6.

I was mildly pissed when it happened, but I'm certainly not going to complain about it when I have a Wii, a PS4, a 3DS XL and a PSVita lying around.