Hello, and welcome to the final post in my Looking Ahead series. I was surprised that there isn't more titles dropping in the time leading up to Christmas, but at least I was able to find one I was interested in.

Far Cry 3 - December 4th

I've played every Far Cry game in the series, and I'm really excited to see where they go with Far Cry 3. Far Cry and Far Cry 2 were so different that there is no road map that might tell you where 3 will end up. Far Cry 2 was also (in my opinion) a big improvement over the original, so I'm anxious to see if there's a similar kind of betterment with this next iteration. However, that desire to see something new is a little marred by my hope certain elements that made Far Cry 2 awesome stick around. Of course, I'm talking about fire. It seems like such as simple addition to a game, fire that actually spreads, but I don't think it's something we've ever gotten in a game with one potential exception. It was kind of amazing to see an explosion catch a building on fire, which spread to neighboring buildings and dry grass. It added a whole new exploitable element to the environment; a tool that was never fully at our disposal before now. Being able to throw your last Molotov on the ground behind you to create a wall of flame between you and the literal army pursuing you was awesome and effective, and I hope there's more stuff like that to come. Also worth noting, the Far Cry 3 booth at PAX probably had the best promotion of the expo. Each morning, they gave a free copy of the game away to the first 50 people to get a mohawk from a girl they had working at their booth. It's a bit of a price to pay, but it's also a free game. I hadn't seen a vendor do that for a long time, and I really appreciated it. So yeah, shout out to whoever at Ubisoft came up with that one.
Today, we're continuing my Looking Ahead series with what's coming out in November. There might be other games dropping at the start of the holiday season, but these two are the ones I'm most likely to pick up.

Post-modern warfare?

CoD Black Ops II - November 13th

If you're disappointed in this choice, I really don't know what you'd expect. My first game review on this site was a Call of Duty title, and in it I outlined the reasons behind my affinity for the franchise. Such as it is, I'm optimistically excited about Black Ops II. Truth be told, I haven't looked into it much at all. In this iteration, I believe the intent is to be set in the future. While this is certainly not the first attempt at this in the genre, it is a first for for a Call of Duty title. Granted, they have little in the way of new time periods to exploit; and with Turrok's relative stranglehold on dinosaur-era shooters, the future seems like the next logical choice. Kidding aside, I am looking forward to Black Ops II. A lot of my time playing games is spent wading into the maw of an RPG. I've spent an ungodly number of hours playing those in my time, and sometimes it nice to have a break and play something with a linear story line where I don't have to manage character relationships. I know that at the very least this title will provide that periodic, necessary diversion, but I was pleasantly surprised by Black Ops I, and I'm hopeful that I'll be surprised again.

Because America, that's why.

Assassin's Creed III - November 23rd

Oh yes. This is exciting. Like really exciting. This was one of the few things I waited in line for at PAX this year, and even though it was just to watch a gameplay demo (and get an inflatable tomahawk), it was totally worth it. One of my friends had a pretty impressive Ezio costume, and the grin on his face when he got called up to be showcased by one the Frag Dolls was priceless. He was less impressed with the demo, which apparently had been out for a while by then, but I (who generally avoids those kinds of things) got to see gameplay for the first time. All the new elements they showcased were money. There are new weapons, you can free-run in trees, and you can assassinate people from moving carts. The new weapons are a point of interest to me, and not just because it reveals new ways to do something repetitive. In Revelations, Ezio's arsenal of weapons felt a little OP'd by the time you started using your one-shot hand cannon against an almost exclusively melee enemy force. The block/counter mechanic took quite a bit of fear of death away from the start, but assassinations still required a bit of finesse. Cut to the most recent title where you still have your counter-kill security blanket, and you can also select your favorite, extremely accurate ranged weapon to take your targets down with relative ease. So I'm hoping the new weapons available to Connor spice things up a bit, and I also hope the greater abundance of rifles in the hands of your enemies gives a player greater pause when thinking about breaking cover.
Welcome back! This marks my next post on upcoming games that I'm looking forward to. Yeah, Borderlands 2 was really the only oddball one that I could care less about.

Resident Evil 6: President Evil

Resident Evil 6 - October 2nd XBox/PS3, PC TBD

Ok, this is exciting! I'm a Resident Evil fan to the point where I really enjoy it and pretty much everything that has to do with it, but I'm not at all militant about how it's presented to me in terms of cannon accuracy. That last part may cause some to disqualify me as a fan, but trust me, it's a lot easier this way. It's a lot less stressful, and it allows you to enjoy things you probably wouldn't have otherwise enjoyed. That being said, I'm blissfully optimistic about Resident Evil 6. I'm a little less optimistic about the lack of a PC release date. I've learned that this kind of thing comes with being a PC gamer, but it still kinda sucks that I have to wait an unknown amount of time to play something on a system that can actually present a game to it's fullest potential. My girlfriend suggested just getting it for both console and PC, and while that seems wasteful to the Depression Era values previous generations have passed down, I'm seriously considering doing exactly that. It would have likely bought two PC copies anyway for my girlfriend and I to co-op (an, but the lack of release date makes me unsure of how long I will be able to make myself wait. I'll probably end up waiting. I've got more games than I know what to do with right now, and there are a lot of good games coming out that don't feature this particular dilemma. Case in point, the fact that I can write this post and several others about games that only interest me without having to look beyond four months.

I don't have anything snarky to say about
this. It just looks awesome.

Dishonored - October 9th

You can check out the trailer on their website, it's all you need to see to get excited for it. Nearly everything about this game looks incredible; the story line, the setting, everything. I saw it at PAX and I while I checked out a little of their demo, I didn't have the courage to get in line and wait, for fear of spoiling something in the game. Unfortunately this time, my fear has prevented me from assuaging the only real doubt I have concerning this game, which is the gameplay itself. I know, kind of a basic element upon which the whole game hinges, but it's a caution I am going to dismiss regardless. My worry arises from this being a first-person oriented Bethesda game with a focus on melee combat. Anyone who's played the Elder Scrolls series, or really any melee-heavy RPG, knows where I'm coming from. Still, what I've seen is more akin - thankfully - to Mirrors Edge than Skyrim when it comes to the combat, so I'm hoping this will pull through for the better. And I'm sure it will. The nice thing about Bethesda is that they make good games, and I'm sure this won't be an exception. Besides, the worse case scenario that the combat is a little too reminiscent of some of Bethesda's other titles still means that it'll take away a substantial portion of my life. Just like every other Bethesda game I've played.

No, it doesn't stand for Big Friendly Giant.

Doom 3 BFG Edition - October 16th

If you first saw this a PAX, you were probably thinking the same thing I did, "Didn't they already do this? Are they rebooting a reboot?" Well, all signs are pointing to yes at this time. The new edition, featuring an updated engine, gets an HD facelift as well as some other considerations. I'm am less sure about my acquiring this particular title, simply because I've already played it. I know it comes with some extra missions, but it's still the same game. I remember it; it scared the shit out of me. It's one of the few times a game has genuinely terrified me; it's in elite company with Silent Hill and it's damn inside-out dogs. It's going to a take a bit of encouragement to go through that again except with more realistic detail. It's going to take a relatively cheap price tag, but I don't think that's something I'm going to get. When the developers are emphasizing that this is a new game and that they've done a lot of work to make it more than just a re-release, this tells me that one of two things are probably going to happen:
  1. It's a new game, and it has a new game price tag, OR
  2. It's the same game as before, and it has a new game price tag.
One thing gaming conventions (yes, I'm still talking about PAX two weeks later) is that they get you thinking about the future, usually in that wishing it were here now kind of way. For me it's a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I'm pretty optimistic. So here is the first of several posts featuring some of the more high-profile (and still relevant to me) titles currently scheduled for release before 2013 and my personal feelings towards them.

Borderlands 2 - September 18th

I'll cut to the chase and say that this is not a game I really care about, but I always feel like I should. I played quite a bit of the first Borderlands when it came out; and I liked a lot of things about it (mostly the blended shooter/RPG elements), but there were a few things I just couldn't get past. First, was the enemy spawn patter that just never changed. Every time you left your first little town, TA-DA! Here come 4 or 5 dooders out of a little canyon pathway to a base on the right. What's that you say? You just cleared that base out 30 seconds ago? Well too damn bad, because you just left town and that means it's enemy spawn time. In my opinion, a major hurdle of any action RPG is avoiding, or at least disguising, the redundancy inherent in a game where your mission/quest/thing options are to interact with an item (retrieve/deliver it, activate/deactivate it) or interact with a person (talk to them, kill them, or talk to them and then kill them). Maybe if there was some kind of explanation for it, even a weak one, I probably would have stuck it out, but it added points where you were constantly being grounded in routine. What has impressed me about Fallout 3: New Vegas (yes, I'm still playing that after 10 weeks) is it's ability to make the things that I've been doing over and over again seem new and meaningful. I've spent 10 weeks taking a long time to go from point A to point B so I can do a relatively simple task and then fast-travel back to point A. but I'm having fun doing that, and I didn't have fun doing in it Borderlands.

What's he going to do when they get to Borderlands 3? Do you think they'll give him an extra arm?

Also, I wasn't super crazy about the animation style, and that was kind of it's shtick. It's not that they didn't do it well or anything like that, it's just that I don't like it in many - if any - games I play. I don't even like TF2 very much for that reason, despite it being a great game. The spawn things is probably something that could be done differently in Borderlands 2, but the art style just leaves me with absolutely no urge to acquire it. I don't know why I even decided to write about it (especially this much) in this psudo-segment (haven't decided if this is going to be a thing or not). Maybe because other people like it so I should write about it for them, but I know who my only reader is, and they don't like it either. I guess I just want to note that while I don't particularly care for it, this is still a good game; and it's release in four days is worth noting.

Brought to you by someone who definitely did not also make NFL Blitz.

Injustice was one of the few games I waited in line to play at PAX this year. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I'm usually not big on things that just give me a glimpse of something I'm really interested in like trailers or demos. However, there are a lot of exceptions to this tendency of mine, and fighting games (where there is no story to spoil) are one of those exceptions. Truth be told, fighting games are really the main reason I own a console; my affinity for computer gaming has claimed the remaining genres. Not that I haven't tried fighting games on a PC. I have and it was a mistake, but I'll digress. Injustice is a head-to-head fighting game set in the DC Comics universe. It's being developed by NetherRealm Studios, who you may recognize from last year's Mortal Kombat title, because when you're eight or nine games deep in a series, you might as well just start over with your numbering convention. This may also sound familiar to those of you who remember the Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe crossover title from 2008, but lucky for us, that was a different developer. Moral Kombat vs. DC Universe was developed by Midway, the people who brought you what was always the loudest and most obnoxious game from your childhood arcade / bowling alley / sports-themed pizza buffet restaurant.

The absence of Midway games in development probably means no Big Head Mode for Injustice. Sorry.

Regardless of whether know who the developers are, if you have played the most recent Mortal Kombat game, you'll instantly notice similarities in the look and feel of Injustice. The dark but polished look of the character designs (at least from who was playable at PAX) and the character movement was almost identical in the classic forward/back, up/down options with minimal running. The Soul Calibur series is a good contracts in terms of movement and combat styles, I think. Injustice doesn't seem to be trying to keep up with the level of gore you expect from it's Mortal Kombat counterpart, but the combat is a lot of fun. Characters introduced so far seem to fall somewhere on the acrobat/strength-focused/gadget-focused Venn diagram. My girlfriend and I played as Harley Quinn and Nightwing, respectively, and as I was getting my ass handed to me, I got the impression that there are a lot more extra combat elements than what we were able to discovery from a single round with no other information. On a couple exchanges, the combat would become more cinematic (beyond what you see with a lot of grabs), and it seemed to do this in the form of special attacks for a single character as well as kinds of mutual attacks that trigger some kind of quick-time or button mashing challenge between the two players.

While I don't think we're going to see a spine removed, it's still pretty intense.

Again, we didn't get much opportunity to experiment, but even the normal combat was fun. Your choice of characters gives you a lot of variation in terms of weapons or no weapons at all, and even individual characters give you options on how you want to use them. For our experience, Harley had a interesting mix between acrobatic combat and weapons like pistols or a giant hammer and Nightwing had two different play styles based on whether he used his two Eskrima sticks separately or joined together as a staff. Really, there was little chance I wouldn't pick this up, and there's also little chance that I wouldn't spend a fortune on DLC if they keep adding characters to the roster. It's the characters I'm really in this for, and I'm guessing it also is for 99% of the people who eventually buy this game. Games like this mix the childhood joy of nostalgia with the adulthood joy of decimating your opponent. This game in particular also provides a medium to settle those "who would win in fight between..." discussions, and allows you to champion your hero and kick the crap out of anyone who doubted that they were the best. Not that it will likely help you and your friends settle those discussions, but you can still have fun trying.

PAX Prime: lessons and looking ahead

September 7th, 2012 | Posted by Emmett in Games & Gaming - (0 Comments)
Besides the whole feeling a bit like death on Sunday part, each year of PAX yields new insight on what you can do better the next year. The main lesson I learned is that costumes need to be durable - like really durable - to last an entire day. I made two costumes this year, and my Link costume almost held up all of Saturday, until the grip for my shield broke off the actual shield part. I used a bunch of different epoxies this year for various costume bits, but nothing really beats welds or rivets. And mine wasn't the only thing to break; my girlfriend's mock hostler for her Han Solo costume didn't last as long as I'd hoped and both of my friend's hidden blades for his Assassin's Creed costume bought it before the day was up. Granted, these are pretty minor issues, but it's nice to know that you don't have to baby everything you're wearing, especially in a crowded convention center. Another thing I've learned is that it's hard to negotiate PAX with a large group. First off, the expo hall is packed 99% of the time, and trying to get through crowds with more than five people usually results in losing someone. Also, if you stop to look at something as a large group, half of you won't be able to see what's there. I suppose in these ways, the PAX Prime expo hall kind of breaks down that large group dynamic and relegates it to after-parties or PC free-play. I think four is a pretty good number to roll around with; it's easy to chain four people together and get through a crowd and the natural pairs help with certain game demos. Still, PAX hindsight isn't all about what was bad and could have been better, each year also provides ideas for new things that can add to an overall PAX experience. Last year, it was wearing a costume. This year, it was taking my girlfriend and wearing a better costume. Next year, I want to catalog the things you see at every PAX; like Pokemon Snap: PAX Prime Edition. PAXemon Snap? Whatever, you get the idea. To me, that would add another fun dynamic to the weekend, and you end up with a bunch of cool pictures. These little +1's aren't too hard to think of, and it's things like them that make it hard not to get excited for PAX year after year. And it's why I hope to always go to PAX, even if I have to go to Australia to do it.

Only 360-ish days until the next PAX Prime.

PAX is a unique sort of animal. On the first day, you've never been so excited to wait in lines your entire life. On the second day, everything is still awesome because most of the cosplay people are out on Saturday and you've already seen everything in the expo hall so waiting to play games you want to play doesn't seem like a waste of time. However, day three marks a kind of tipping point where you reach critical mass and become what I'm sure others also call "PAXed out". This condition makes my typical PAX Sunday a wrap-up for the whole weekend that should only take an hour but instead takes most of the day because my body isn't physically capable of moving quickly. First, I get up; it takes a long time to get up. After that I'll make my way down to the Convention Center and wait in line to get my badge signed, during which I usually pound a few bottles of Bawls so my body is able to propel itself up the stairs leading up to the riser Gabe and Tycho are on and manage a thank you. By that time, people are usually ready to eat so I'll meet up with some friends and grab a pint (assuming I don't shudder at the thought of putting more alcohol in my system) and something to eat. At this point, I maybe make one last trip around the expo hall or go straight to where they're holding the last rounds of Omegathon. Finally, it's time to make the rounds and say goodbye to friends. By Sunday at about 4pm, I'm pretty much through with PAX. I'm sore, malnourished, exhausted, and ready to sleep for the next week. Even now, five days later, my body doesn't feel quite pre-PAX but I'm already starting miss it. That's part of the magic of PAX; no matter how close to death you manage to get, you're always ready (and anxious) to do it again the next year.

Quite possibly better than Christmas.

PAX Prime is easily in my top 3 things I look forward to most during the year. It's absolutely amazing, and it's amazing for a lot of reasons. First, is the convention itself and what it's about. Unlike the very few comic conventions I've been to, PAX is a much more interactive convention. That's not too surprising seeing as how it's a video game convention, but it's a notable distinction to make. At comic book conventions, I'm usually looking at art that's available, buying everything in sight because I can't help myself, and meeting people. With PAX, you get to play the games that on display there, and it ranges from PC and console games to CCG and tabletop gaming. You can buy stuff and go to pannels and meet people at PAX too, but it's the ability to not only see the new things coming out but to actually put your hands on them and play them. Maybe this is just an advantageous aspect of games in general, but even so, in my mind it's a big part of what I'll probably refer to often as the PAX experience. But getting back to the subject of the convention and what it contains, it's everything I like and nothing I don't. Another aspect of PAX that I love are the people I go to it with. My group of childhood friends has dispersed rather profoundly to many different corners of the nation and globe, but we all manage to get together for this event. That alone is something impossible to place value on; and each year we go, it's like adding another chapter to a long chronicle of our collective history. For me, the group adds an extra dimension to my PAX experience through group traditions. Certain things change, but some things never go away, and it turns PAX into something that couldn't be recreated any other time of the year. Also, PAX has costumes, and I love costumes. Last year was the first year I wore a costume to PAX, and I'll never go without one again. This year, I'm bringing two. I love putting costumes together, and this gives me an outlet to make all the awesome costumes that just won't be appreciated the same way they would (or more likely wouldn't) in a lot of other places. Plus, being in a costume makes you feel a lot less obtrusive when asking other people in costume for pictures. There are a lot of other reasons PAX is great, and I think those reasons are a little bit different for everyone. Each person's PAX experience is a little different depending on these reasons. Some may go just to wait in line to play that game that's coming out, others may not wait in a single line all weekend. I plan on doing what I do every year, which usually amounts to three days of little to no sleep, the only time during the year where I eat at Taco del Mar, one lunch at PF Chang's, drinking nothing except Bawls and alcohol (usually not mixed together), waiting in lines to play games, avoiding lines to get free stuff, and just walking around amazed at how much awesome they can fit into one event. By the end I usually feel like a depleted husk of a person, but I immediately look forward to next year. I can't wait.

A friend of mine posted this on his Facebook page early this morning, and I think it's pretty awesome. My Dad used to take us on these marathon driving trips anytime we had to go someplace west of the Great Divide; at that point in time, gas was cheap enough to make this the economical means of transportation. My most enduring car game was similar to the one in this video where an 8-bit guy jumps from object to object, never touching the ground. Except in my case, the guy couldn't touch any of those objects. Instead, he had to jump over the reflector posts and speed limit signs and anything else affixed to the side of the road. I do this even now on the rare instances where I'm in a car and not driving. I think the person in the video is right in that we all play games like this, and for me, one of coolest aspects of it was to see how similar certain examples were and how unique others were. I think not stepping on cracks is a fairly universal game, and any kid who has ever held a stopwatch in their hand has tried to get it to stop perfectly at a whole second or has enlisted their friends to see who could get the fastest time. Trying to get in the same number of steps per crack or per sidewalk segment (which apparently are called ribbons, didn't know that until now) was something I did a lot. I always thought this was something unique to me, if a little neurotic, so it was fun (and a bit reassuring) to see that featured. I'm assuming that every other person plays or has played mental games like this, but I wonder if that's actually true. I think it is for the most part, but I wonder if it's something that's only present over a few generations. Video games were still in their infancy stages when I was growing up, but they were an important interest early on for me. I don't think this was the reason why I have this shared experience and others would not, more so, it probably had more effect on the shape my games took (e.g. the side-scrolling, jumping guy car game). Still it's interesting to think about how these games might have looked in past generations, and wonder whether things will continue the same way in future generations.
Steam logs hours played and not days played, so hours are becoming easier to track in the long run. So, as the title suggests, I'm about 33 hours into the game; and to keep up the pattern, there are three things I'd like to talk about. The first is another gameplay aspect that's new to New Vegas, companions. No, not that kind of companion. Your companion options seems to be a pretty select list (if run into four so far), which may or may not be determined by what DLC you happen to purchase. The eyebot, ED-E, who is currently one of the maximum two that you can have follow you around seems to be a likely candidate for that last item. So far, they don't seem to be much other than extra guns that follow you around. Sure, each has their own little story, and perhaps I haven't gotten far enough to see where those stories become relevant, but so far they haven't added much more than some extra inventory space and firepower. Not that I don't appreciate either of those things, but it's not Dragon Age by a long shot. Then again, I don't think that's what they were aiming for either. The second item on my list is an update on factions, and holy shit are there a lot of those now. Their basic function hasn't changed since what I observed on day 1, but there presence and pervasiveness do have a notable impact on how I play the game. Primarily, this comes in the form of who you can talk to (and therefore accept quests from) and who starts randomly sending assassination squads to kill you. This is where that extra firepower comes in handy. The story seems to be shaping to a point where the various factions and your relationship with them may play a larger role, but I haven't found out for sure and I probably wouldn't mention it here if I had. You know, spoilers and all. My third and final item for today, is quests. Oh my god, quests. I finally get to New Vegas and suddenly, I've got new questions coming from all over the place; main quests, side quests, optional quests within quests, quests-that-don't-show-up-on-your-quest-list-type quests... we've got all kinds of quests going on. It almost at a point where it's overwhelming, not really because of the quest volume, but because it's nearly impossible to figure out where you want to start. There's something about this game that makes everything feel very connected. Very few side-quests seem like detached errands, and I think the various factions help with this. Suddenly you're not just doing something for someone, but you're also doing something against another group. I think it's also overwhelming in that I just don't have the time I'd like to devote to playing through the game. I can get in a few hours at a time here and there, but it's not enough to make any kind of rapid or even semi-rapid progress. Still I've been very impressed with the quests so far. Like I mentioned earlier, the side quests and everything feel very much a part of the game; they don't feel detached. Sure, the story behind every quest isn't amazing and exciting (e.g. Missing laser pistol, please find. K thnx bai!), but I get a really different feeling from them than say the side quests in the Elder Scrolls series. I remember reading a reviewer describe questing in Morrowind as a prolonged game of fetch, whether it's for some item or someone's head. Not to say that this didn't stop me from sinking what was probably close to a year of my life into the game, but that was a feeling I often had. I can even recall that same tediousness in Fallout 3, but this time it's different. I can't quite put my finger on why that is exactly, but it's better; and for now, that's what's important.