Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

It is 2013, right? Good.
So, another year lived down. I briefly visited the army again at the start of 2012 and quickly left again with bad knees and for the rest of it I spent a lot of money on new video games and a lot of time procrastinating when I should've written blog posts and recorded videos, but that's all something I probably did write about previously.

A few things I don't think I wrote about since it was ages ago I last posted anything here.
I played Max Payne 3, on Hard difficulty from the getgo no less. It's pretty good, started out as awesome, but I was a bit disappointed with it at the end. The damn awful loading times (hidden behind cutscenes but still) make it a painful second playthrough, the arcade mode is nearly unplayable because of the loading and that mode's something that could've kept me playing on, and I felt the story was largely meh at times, like scenes were artificially made longer just to have enough footage to cover the loading screens. Some bits of writing were substandard considering the usually outstanding writing we've come to expect from Rockstar Games, and I personally hate the colour/blur/distortion effect.
I bought, played and recorded Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise, but that you probably already knew since I uploaded it last November. I was excited when I heard about the disguise system and other new abilities, but sadly it wasn't nearly as good as I had expected. I enjoyed the dark humour and the narrative in the original Naughty Bear, but Panic in Paradise has no narrative and instead of dark humour it's just plain dark when it's not dull or glitching and kills are shared between weapons so even though you are offered a good hundred items to kill with, as far as the animations go you only really have a handful. Even at it's best the game is just more of the basic gameplay of Naughty Bear with none of the flavour that made it special.

As a big stealth man I, naturally, bought and played Dishonored on release day, and it's a good game. It's very reminiscent of the Thief series in many ways, but goes it's own route so much that I wouldn't really say a fan of Thief would definitely be a fan of Dishonored. Instead of open like in Thief the levels in Dishonored are more in alternate paths and choices, and there is no reason to go through more than one path in one playthrough (it is often impossible anyway) and Dishonored is at it's best when you take advantage of the tools and play ever so slightly more aggressively, whereas Thief was at it's best when played with absolute stealth.
There are some problems with Dishonored and in my usual fashion I'll pick it apart as well: the enemy detection is so buggy that I highly recommend playing it on Normal difficulty even if you're big on stealth games like me, because all the improved vision, hearing and reaction times of the guards on the harder difficulties do is make it clear just how broken the system behind it can be. The randomization of things in Dishonored bugs me a bit, because while it can be entertaining on several playthroughs, it annoys me immensely that some interesting bits of text from books and enemy dialogue can only be experienced on SOME playthroughs, and it especially annoyed me when recording my walkthrough that the steam-room assassination of one of the Pendleton brothers wasn't available to me. Yes, an entire kill sequence, a pretty entertaining at that, is only randomly available to the player and you may be forced to do a boring old stab or rat attack at other times. Killing the Pendletons is actually one of the most boring tasks to accomplish in the game anyway, so I don't see why the steam room kill couldn't just be set to always be available to you. Rewiring alarm panels ahead of time NEVER works for me as the alarms will still ring eventually, only it might take up to a half a minute longer in which case I might as well not ring the alarm at all, and enemies can apparently trigger the alarms WITHOUT actually activating them, which I noticed during my walkthrough. I thought they were supposed to run to the panels to activate them when they see Corvo, but I guess not. Or perhaps that was a repeating glitch? I also feel that many of the powers available to Corvo are there only to make you feel like you have choices even though only some are really useful or work at all and I'm fairly certain most people who play Dishonored will have unlocked all the powers they want before they're halfway through the game. Turning knocked out/killed enemies to ash? Might just be me but I really don't see the point in that no matter how you play. Dark Vision, for me anyway, ruins the fun and atmosphere of sneaking around and it has such a short range anyway that might as well not use it. Vitality and adrenaline, while pointless to a stealth game fans, I could see as potential choices for somebody who just fights his way through everyone, but the wind blowing power, whenever I used it, never did anything even at level 2. Possession is an easy way to get one of the trophies but I have to personally plan and work to try and make it more useful than simply sneaking past things, and the rest of the powers are something you almost can't be without. Blink 2 is almost mandatory since the entire game was planned around the power, faster moving and double jump are required for navigation of the more complex areas as Corvo can't jump for shit, and who doesn't want to stop time, although I admit I also often forget I even have that power since I do just fine without it. So there, those are all the powers you can have, and I personally always end up with more runes than I can spend.
But regardless of some of the game's shortcomings and despite it not being even close to the top of the list of my favourite stealth-based video games, it is still  a good game that will surely warrant several playthroughs and I can easily recommend to people. I am very grateful for the fact that it exists and that along with the releases of other games like Hitman: Absolution, Far Cry 3 and Mark of the Ninja this year and Deus Ex: HR and Batman: Arkham City last year, and the surprising popularity of all those games, stealth games may just sneak back into the mainstream for a short while and maybe spawn more new stealth games than last time. I wouldn't even mind if some action games were bastardized and made more stealth-based, as opposed to the previous trend of bastardizing stealth games and turning them into shooters.

I have plenty more to say about what happened at the end of last year, but I guess I should try to get in the habit of writing little but often and leave it for a later post. I'm not expecting anything to happen in the upcoming weeks so I don't think there's any rush.


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