Category: Video Games

Condemned: Criminal Origins

What do you mean, it’s the wrong Condemned?

It’s a sad fact that I have a natural affinity for cheap games. When I saw the PC version of Condemned sitting on a shelf, mocking me with its $5 pricetag, I couldn’t help but snap it up. I think that, falling victim to the siren song of “cheap” games, I may have spent three or four hundred dollars on video games across multiple platforms that week. Am I ever going to play them? I’ve got stuff I bought in 2004 that’s never been out of its packaging, so the jury is out!

The amazing thing about Condemned is that I bought it about seven weeks ago and have already completed it. I judge it: worth the $5 I pay for it. It has the distinction of being the first FPS that I’ve managed to complete with a mouse and keyboard set up. I have the original Half-Life on this computer (not Source) and it’s somehow impossible to play that way. At least now I have learned that it’s a valid control scheme for a game to take on.

As to the game itself? Basically, FBI Agent Ethan “Officer Matt Parkman” Thomas has to investigate a bunch of serial killers – but, mid investigation, some of his comrades get killed with his gun and he’s on the lam! Somehow his lab access isn’t cut off, though, so he teams up with Lab Tech Rosa (Klebb), digitally transfers fingerprints, blood and general DNA to her with technology, and busts all of his cold cases wide open.

There’s not that much to say about it, but it tells a fairly compelling story, has okay melee combat and is entirely too dark. I would like to play an FPS that features its share of brightly lit areas and has more colours in its pallet than brown, grey and black. When I say this, it does not mean that I want to play Perfect Dark Zero, because nothing could be further from the truth: no one in the history of humanity has ever wanted to play that game. Those of us who have would likely testify to having been caught up in a lost wave of brand loyalty to Rareware.

There are reasons to play Condemned: it made me wonder why anyone would play any given FPS over another, and that is something that I will tackle later. All you need to know is that I’m shallow enough that the price tag of a game can render it much better than it would have been at a higher price point – which makes you wonder how people who never pay for games can sleep at night, knowing full well that there are serial killers to be stopped and weird pseudo-mystical BS to tamper with their minds.

Mass Effect in Brief

My initial impressions of Mass Effect‘s overall package:

Prologue planet: This isn’t a war, it’s a moider.
Citadel incursion: Politics, eh? You’d better give me some of those.
Planet the first: Save the Diva Plavalaguna!
Planet the second: Protect the fidgety colonists from themselves!
Planet the third: Deal with red tape, then slaughter … Zerg? … yeah, okay.




Council: You are charged with having saved the galaxy and rendering the threat to our continued existence moot. How do you plead?
Shepard: Awesome.

Shepard dons sunglasses and walks away as explosions go off behind her.

Roll credits.

Yeah; it was worth it in the end.

Grand Theft Auto IV: Genetically Superior?

Look, it’s the game of the year! It has an “Oscar worthy” storyline!
… then why is it so limited in scope, even compared to GTA III?

In the things you can’t unsee department: she has six fingers on her right hand.

On his first day out of prison for armed robbery, Jake Blues is picked up by his brother, Elwood, in a repurposed cop car. When they discover that the orphanage where they were raised by Cab Calloway is on the verge of being closed by the state, they decide to get their band back together and raise some righteous dough! Unfortunately, Elwood has not been the most diligent of drivers, kicking off a series of cross country car chases, run ins with Nazis, and good old fashioned rhythm and blues! With cameo appearances from Aretha Franklin, Carrie Fisher and James Brown.

Wait, am I thinking of the wrong game here? Niko Bellic, from somewhere in wartorn Eastern Europe, is picked up from the Liberty City docks by his dear cousin, Roman. Niko wants money, Roman has criminal connections: what could possibly go wrong? The line of dialogue “I’m barely struggling to make ends meet, Bernie!” when Niko has $400,000 in his pocket, that’s what.

Grand Theft Auto IV is, more accurately, the seventh in the series (nine if you count Liberty and Vice City Stories, ten if you count that London expansion way back in the day), but it’s the first one to use the shiny new engine, so it’s IV. Is it automotive insanity? Is it a dating simulator? Is it ridiculously obsessed with homosexuality (way more than I ever have been[!])? Yes, it’s all of the above. But I don’t know, I think it’s missing something.

Mass Effect: I don’t think you want to do that.

You may recall that I wrote a very tangential piece a few months back that was, in theory about homosexual paths in video games, which then developed into a general theory that, for the most part, choice in video games is an illusion – and is closely tied into character or lack thereof.

I think that, in finally obtaining Mass Effect, I have discovered true choice and character! I have become quite attached to my plucky redhead Spectre LL Shepard and her ragtag squad consisting of a reptilian wonder, a Protoss with Saiyan technology, a blue hermaphrodite, a Snifit and, I guess, a couple of humans.

The thing about this game, I’m finding, is that it probably naturally gravitates towards the way that the player would consider situations in real life. If you know anything about it, you know that you get an answer wheel that can best be summarised by reading this page of Ass Effect. The upper options are the more “good” actions while the lower are the “evil” choices. The way I read the options, to be a rogue you’ve pretty much got to be a dick. I don’t feel like being a dick for no reason, so that’s not the way I’m playing the game. I don’t quite know why I, who tries to avoid confrontation in real life, am playing a game which involves shooting people and making their internal organs implode and disabling their brains the same way. If I break into someone’s compound and hold a brief meeting with them, well, this is the way it’s going to go:

Bullrush Antwerp: You should not have come here, Commander Shepard! I now command the galaxy’s entire ice cream supply!
Shepard: Are you sure that you need all of that ice cream? It could be used to assist the survivors of Eden Prime!
Antwerp: You fool! With all of this ice cream at my disposal, the children of the universe will be at my beck and call!
Shepard: Whoa, back off there, Antwerp. I can’t even remember having seen a child since I left Earth. All you’ve got here is a frozen asset that needs liquidation.
Antwerp: Now that I think about it, you’re entirely right. I guess I’ll go home. Here: have a tub for the road.

1250 EX +
Paragon 8+
Ice cream

However, maybe someone else would prefer to play it like this:

Bullrush Antwerp: You should not have come here, Commander Shepard! I now command the galaxy’s entire ice cream supply!
Shepard: Cut the crap, Antwerp: the sweet stuff’s all mine.
Antwerp: You can’t just take my ice cream from me! Do you have any idea how hard it is to organise the space freight on all of the ice cream in existence? I only stole the damn stuff because I couldn’t afford it after buying this storage station!
Shepard: That’s enough out of you!
Shepard shoots Antwerp, and kicks him into a vat of ice cream. As Antwerp sinks out of sight, Shepard puts her finger in the vat and tastes some of the ice cream.
Shepard: Aww yeah; that’s the stuff.

1250 EX +
Renegade 8+
Ice cream

That’s a really bad example because I actually like the idea of drowning someone in ice cream and tasting the spoils of victory. But the point is you can talk people down from stuff, like the time I dismantled a criminal syndicate through the power of words. Words that I had to level up to be able to use, mind, but words nonetheless.

The rest of the gameplay isn’t too shabby either, but the point I’m trying to make is that I feel like my choices have some small bearing on the outcome of the situation, while still making Shepard into a reasonable character. Of course, sometimes it strains credulity to be entirely Paragon like in nature, or just a total dick – and you can make contextual decisions without totally breaking character. It’s like in that other hit game I’ve quite enjoyed, Bass Effect: each time you catch a fish, you can choose to let it go, hit it with a hammer until it dies, or give it to a starving orphan. Different situations call for different solutions.

I’ll get back to you some more when I stop playing so many side missions and get further into the story proper. I’ll let you know, though: from 12 hours play, I’m enjoying this far more than I did GTA IV, but that’s another story entirely.

Runaway: Drag Queens in the Desert

When it comes to Runaway: A Road Adventure, I’m pretty sure I’m not trying anymore. I had forgotten how obscure video game solutions could be, and was grateful that Pendulo Studios were kind enough to have created a game that didn’t lead to horrible deaths or irreversible mistakes that set you back hours of gameplay (yes, again, I am looking at you, Sierra).

Mention of story and solutions to an obscure multi-year old game contained within!

Marching for fake rights in video games

I’ll admit that I get frustrated when a video game offers a lesbian option for your protagonist but not a gay one. (And, for the sake of this write-up, “gay” and “lesbian” are two sides of the same coin, divided by gender).

I was thinking of this because of the Mass Effect discussions, one of the classic rebuttals of which is “It’s not a lesbian relationship, that’s a blue alien in whose species only one gender exists”. Well, if it looks like a blue woman, talks like a blue woman, and copulates like a blue woman … for all intents and purposes, it’s a woman. Who is blue. I did read a good argument about this, though:

Who gives a shit if there’s fag sex in Mass Effect[?]

A valid point and well made; can’t argue with that.

Video Games Hate Me, or: Saved by the Spanish

A few weeks back, I got Megaman Powered Up for my PSP. You may have heard of the PSP: it’s that machine which is used to remake PS One games and not much else, really. Well, Megaman Powered Up is a remake of the original Megaman for the NES. It has all of the old levels, plus retooled levels which can be played as any of the other bosses.
Capcom, for the last twenty years or so, have blatantly been leading the field in sadistic programming. The “Powered Up” stages are frustrating enough, but in playing the old stages you realise just how watered down a challenge you’ve been handed down. I’m not fool enough to throw my PSP around when I die, but I am going to stomp the ground (and not in the dance movie sense).
Ice Man’s stage is enough to make me want to destroy the world. Precarious jumps, and I’m being shot at? Hells yeah, Capcom. Hells yeah.

So I decided that I would put down my PSP (and this story is a bit lie-filled, because I haven’t devoted myself to MMPU [side note: PU. Think about it.] for a couple of weeks and got it out tonight) and venture into the land of the PC. Having recently acquired a computer that can actually function without attempting to start a new ice age, I decided naturally to play Grim Fandango, a ten year old LucasArts adventure game. Controlled solely by the keyboard. Yeah, I know: what the heckfire? And whenever I access the menu, the sound cuts out. The patch only part fixes that.
I decided that, despite the game’s high interest factor and the fact that you’re playing as Betty Suarez’s father, I will put it aside for now because navigating with the arrow keys is sending me mad.

So I put in the other game that I bought today (and again, these are lies: I bought Grim Fandango about six months ago without having anything suitable to play it on – the other other game I bought today was the new Sam & Max Series One: Episodes 1 to 6), a Spanish adventure game called Runaway: Dream of the Turtle, which kindly came with its predecessor, Runaway: A Road Adventure.
I have a sort of love for adventure games; I say a “sort”, because this genre can be absolutely unforgiving. I would not be surprised if Roberta Williams had sent many men to premature graves – and not through Phantasmagoria induced fear heart attacks (or fear orgasms, dependent on who you are). Yeah, screw you, Sierra.
Anyway, Runaway: A Road Adventure has a strange appeal to it that makes you forget that the sight of the characters talking is enough to make your eyes explode thanks to the quality of the cel-shaded character models. Watching the characters with beards – well, if you dwell on it life will cease to be worth living. It follows a brand of logic that is somewhat frustrating in the age of the FAQ (and that’s another thing about adventure games: in their “golden age”, which coincided with the days of easy disk copying, the guide books sold infinitely more copies than the games themselves).
You can’t sequence break because Brian, your character, has to have a reason to be doing what he’s doing. For instance, you can’t take a coffee packet from a garbage bin until you need it (when, surely, in an adventure game, you should be able to take whatever’s on offer within reason, “just in case”), but for some reason you can steal a Mayan figurehead with a giant ruby implanted. The solution to getting the ruby is actually pretty clever, but why you need to steal it is a pretty obscure idea that I would never have come up with if I didn’t have an FAQ open in another window (and who uses liquid nitrogen to charge a battery?! There’s no suggestion that this might be an idea until after you do it!)

Anyway, I’m only partway through the game, which has so far only used very limited environments and has yet to lend much of a character to the protagonist’s female counterpart beyond her accusing your character of trying to bail all the time. It’s interesting to see such a “dead” field brought back to life, and with such a begrudging logic, at that. At least no one will shoot at me while I try to make a tricky jump from one moving object to another. Damn you, Capcom.

(Further proof that video games hate me: I finally got XBox Live this week – and accidentally started my account separate to my 18 months’ worth of saves and achievements. Seems that nothing can be done to rectify this situation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve gone completely off my 360 and am back into anime[!].)

Godless Liberals: The Ruination of America

Shamus has put me in the mind of the past with his talk of Mass Effect and its HARDCORE NONEXISTENT SEX. I know that this post doesn’t exist (this one does), but it’s like a time capsule for me. This is another one of those instances where I fail pretty spectacularly to talk about video games, movies or pop culture, so you’ll have to forgive me.
Penny Arcade has also covered the ground, but not entirely accurately: like a great many Rightist sites, Town Hall likes to take their shots where it hurts – the gays. You can go to a great many of these sites and see, apropos of nothing, lists of reasons why gay people are awful and must be stopped.

Live from the Moon!

Fellow citizens! I come to you from a strange and wondrous place. You see, I find myself in Doenau Wine Country, tapping this to you on my Wii. It is easier than expected while still somewhat tedious.

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way …

I used to hate Microsoft, but I’ve turned that situation around 360 degrees!

My XBox 360 appears to be taking something of a nap. A nap with its friend the Red Ring of Death. Now, I don’t think that the life span of an innocent console should be a mere eight months, but that’s all that me and my companion were gifted with. I’ve composed an ode to it:

Two of a kind
That’s what we are
And it seemed
Like we were always winning
But as our team
Is torn apart
I wish we could go
Back to the beginning

The time has come
It’s for the best I know it
Who could’ve guessed that you and I…
Somehow, some way
We’d have to say goodbye.

Somehow today…
…we have to say goodbye.

I’m choking back the tears, now. I’ll miss you, old friend.
Actually, that may have been the time that I thought I was freeing my Pikachu, but our bond could not be broken.

So the bond between myself and my 360 will not be broken! We have had too many good times together! Also 120+ hours of Oblivion, at least sixty of which were pure masochism!
To this end, and also to the fact that the mythical beast was still under warranty, I called the 360 hotline today. This call, of course, connected me to India. Across the bad connection I gave my details, and I was told that it is suspected that my power supply is at fault. The light is the wrong colour.

It will be good if I don’t need to replace the HD or the console itself, because then I would presumably lose my saves, and have to play through everything in Dead Rising again. This was a happy thought at first until I realised that I had spent an entire weekend in a room watching My Name is Earl one one half of the screen and playing Dead Rising on the other to earn the incredibly tedious Zombie Genocider achievement.

Let’s hope that my 360 lives, and does not become one of them and I have to run it over with a jeep kindly left here by a group of convicts! I will keep you posted as to my console mortality … and then weep if I have to restart Enchanted Arms if I ever want to see the ending.