Monthly Archives: May 2012

Wildly Implausible E3 2012 Predictions, Vol 1: Microsoft

Around this time last year I did a series of E3 posts with predictions on what each company could do right and wrong. It’s that time of year again, and Microsoft is up first because I use alphabetical order to avoid accusations of bias. I’ll also be throwing some wild predictions in here, and avoiding things I already know for a fact, for obvious reasons.

I’d like to be more confident of Microsoft this year, but I’m really not sure what they could blow us away with. Its line-up is mostly known quantities, and the big surprises it could pull out would likely be undermined by being multiplatform. It’s a nice get for your presentation, but if everyone knows it’s coming to PS3 too, the impact is lost. Between the big three hardware manufacturers, Microsoft is strangely the one I expect the least from, despite probably being my most-used gaming console. At this point it feels reliable, but not exciting.

Actual Predictions: New features for Halo 4, another stab at a decent Kinect line-up, more set-top services being added to the Dashboard, an on-stage demonstration of Black Ops 2, and exclusive footage and/or gameplay demonstration of the new project from Respawn or Bungie.

Wildly Implausible Prediction: A brand new in-engine demonstration of Unreal Engine 4, promising the specs of the Durango will be able to deliver that graphical fidelity, and a list of a half-dozen franchise games with currently in development for the next system.

Check back tomorrow for Nintendo’s turn at bat. Also give a look-see to my latest Escapist piece, Something Other Than Soldier. It’s about non-combat roles that are under- or entirely unrepresented in games.

  • The PS3/Vita cross-compatibility is a smart move, but I doubt they’ll really get anywhere until you can get both versions for $10 above the cost of one. It has to be impulse to get the other. Latest example: Battle Royale.
  • It’s awfully odd that a ship this leaky and with the release coming so soon still hasn’t gotten an official confirmation.
  • If Final Fantasy Dimensions is a retro throwback similar to the old games without being lifted directly from them, I’m totally there. But I doubt that’s what it is.

Oh Comcast, you tricksters

I’ve been looking forward to the new Harley Quinn DLC, and I planned to purchase it lickity-split today. My wife had to work on a project for work tonight, so it seemed like the perfect time to dive back into Batman. But from roughly 30 minutes after finishing my writing, until about 30 minutes before she got home, Comcast cut out. No cable, no Internet. 

What I’m saying is that it was a very boring night. First world problems. But this entry is going to be short so I can get to trying out more Batman story content.

  • I’m not sure how realistic the walking tank is, but sure. I like the idea at least.
  • I thought we wouldn’t have it confirmed until E3, but yep. More Castlevania.

Fresh Friday Night Notes

Another Friday, another quick recap of some stories I covered today. Join us, won’t you?

  • I can’t exactly blame Sega for holding onto its properties strategically, but I’m not sure when would be better than summer for Anarchy Reigns. Maybe this means they have confidence enough in it to go toe-to-toe with the fall releases.
  • If you have not yet, you should watch the Mad Riders trailer.
  • Given my experience so far, I have very little faith in Kinect games as a general rule. But I bet Harry Potter for Kinect will at least be fun for kids if nothing else. Also, what a goofy name.
  • As someone who has built my Minecraft castle with everything I could think to include, the Adventure Update can’t come soon enough. I want more stuff to do. Minecraft XBLA is oddly relaxing. It’s not as good as the PC version, and I stand behind that, but being able to lounge on the couch makes it more of a calming casual thing.

Tonal Schizophrenia Inc.

I’ve used this term before, coined by (as far as I know) Dan Wiessenberger’s review of Grand Theft Auto 4. Sometimes a piece of media just doesn’t seem to have decided what it wants to be, and so it presents such a scattershot, unfocused narrative that you have no sense of definition. The RedLetterMedia review of Star Wars: Episode 3 brings this up too, though it doesn’t use that exact phrase. But in general, the gist is that the first few minutes of Ep3 do a really poor job of setting the tone for the rest of the movie.

It’s a slow week for comics, so I only picked up two, one of which was the first issue of Batman Inc. I tend to at least sample every Batman book. Some don’t work out (The Dark Knight, Detective Comics), but others have become part of my rotation (Batman, B&R). No harm in giving one a shot and seeing if I like it. And I was hopeful for Batman Inc, since I like the idea but wasn’t into comics before the N52 reboot.

Tonal schizophrenia: when a story seems to have no idea what it wants to be. Is this a screwball comedy? A dark drama? A buddy cop flick? Batman Inc seems to want to be all three, all in the course of one book, sometimes in the course of one page. It jumps from slapstick, goofy expressions, and Robin pouting to incredibly dark, grisly scenes and serious motifs. And this isn’t joyful revelry interrupted by a sudden tragedy; it’s constant revelry and constant tragedy, swapping back and forth. The narration is incredibly unclear and the dialogue seems overwritten. Batman and Robin are both too talkative, both to outsiders and each other. The story is unfocused and doesn’t connect its scenes together in any kind of coherent way. It’s trying to shove so much stuff into one comic that when the ending comes, it has no emotional punch. By that point, I had emotional whiplash from all the messages I had been fed.

So, another Batman comic joins the “no” pile. Maybe the strongest no yet, and if you know my opinion on Detective Comics, that is saying something.

Flash this week may have finally lost me. I love the art and the character, but the book just keeps shifting so rapidly that we as the audience have nothing to hold on to. The rules of the universe seem to change, inexplicably, every issue. We get new characters dropped in and old characters dropped out on a dime. It has no stability. Maybe that’s what they’re going for — some kind of meta-commentary on Flash himself — but it’s just confusing as all hell to someone who only recently got into comic books. Then again, I’m told by at least one experienced comic veteran that he dropped it out of sheer confusion too.

  • Ruh roh.
  • I’m not up on all the balance and class variations in Diablo 3, or Diablo in general really, but when a game developer uses terms like “drastic” and “mistake” it’s hard not to take notice.
  • I imagine we’ll know more about this Ron Gilbert project soon, but for now I can say I enjoy the art style.

The Importance of Being Spider-Man

I played a bit of DC Universe Online, but my progress was interrupted by a broken PlayStation 3. I never got back into it, and I’m not totally sure what to fault for that. Maybe I just got overwhelmed by other games, or maybe I just wasn’t that drawn in by the combat. Whatever it was, I think its time has probably passed.

I liked my character (“Nicolas Rage”) just fine, but he felt a little out of place next to comic book royalty. I slowly became more convinced that Marvel’s proposed MMO method, letting you play as one of the various famous superheroes, was a better way to go. Today the company announced Marvel Heroes officially, and I feel more confident of that than ever. Making it a Diablo style dungeon crawler should help avoid some of that MMO fatigue to start with, and I’m sure they’ll have some silly explanation for why a million Wolverines can be running around. Alternate or multiple universes come to mind.

So instead of feeling like my character sticks out like a sore thumb, he’ll fit naturally into the continuity, and any tweaks I make to my version of Iron man or Captain America will be because that’s how they exist in my universe. Brilliant. Hopefully that extra edge helps hold my interest where DCUO could not.

  • The Activision case just keeps getting messier. These latest e-mails aren’t particularly damning, but do show that Acti knew the can of worms they were getting ready to open, and for good reason.
  • Most of what I remember hearing about Red Orchestra 2 is that it was insanely hard. So making a more casual-friendly option is probably the way to go to catch more players.

Backlash Squared

Peoples is weird.

Getting angry about things and complaining about them via Internet anonymity has basically become a national past-time. We’ve raised a generation of reactionary iconoclasts, who love to point out the flaws of anything that people generally love and praise things that people generally hate. When the Internet does speak with one voice, which is rare, it’s called a backlash. But inevitably, it’s only a matter of time before people start complaining about how those people complaining are complaining too much, and should stop complaining.

Take the Avengers. I liked it, but some people were understandably upset about how the Jack Kirby estate isn’t getting compensated for his creations. Today it seems like the reverse-backlash is starting, as Scott Kurtz of PvP penned an essay on why they should all just simmer down. Regardless of his individual points, it seems like these things are cyclical. The backlash starts, then quiets down, setting the stage for responses.

Another example, on a longer scale, is Mass Effect 3. I wrote a story today about the voice actors returning for the extended ending, and judging from the responses, people don’t seem to care all that much. The people who liked or felt ambivalent towards the ending don’t see the necessity, and the people who hated it have already had the experience scarred for them. Which is why of the two comments we got in response to the story, one was just shrugging it off.

(You may notice this was part of the argument that people like me presented against changing it in the first place. In trying to please everyone, they’re inevitably going to please no one.)

Internet rage goes in phases, and I’m sure whatever controversy flares up next will be followed a week or two later by people telling those first people to shut the hell up. Ah, Internet.

  • Call me an optimist, but I always hope that new 007 games will be good. The idea behind 007 Legends is cool, at least, even if the footage itself didn’t wow me.
  • The revised Wii U controller looks a bit better than the old one, mainly because I favor analog sticks over the circle pad if there’s such an option.
  • I have a lot of respect for Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada for sticking to his guns on paid DLC. I mean, not enough to play the game, since fighting isn’t really my beat, but good on you, man. Golf clap.
  • The DS Castlevania games weren’t all winners, but they certainly weren’t losers. Even Circle of the Moon was pretty good. So without knowing pretty much anything Mirror of Faith (or Fate, as I’ve seen it called), I can say with reasonable probability that I’ll play it.

Mario creates such a racquet

My first review for Joystiq went up today, on Mario Tennis Open. I’m pretty happy with how the review turned out, and it looks like I’m on the low end of the consensus at Metacritic. I don’t check other reviews before I write mine, but afterwards I always get a little curious how other people reacted and if I’m off the average. Plus it helps gauge how angry people will be with me!

In general terms, Mario Tennis Open is fine. I enjoyed it. It just didn’t have all that much to do. I kept skipping out of the main tournament modes to go play the special modes, just to mix up the experience a bit. That’s why I recommend playing through the main modes slowly. It’s an occasional time-waster, not a finish-in-a-weekender.

  • Man, I remember when Dragon’s Lair looked so rad. But then I tried playing it and missed the first button prompt in about five seconds, and the game was like “now we have your dollar robble robble.” This was back when most arcade games were a quarter so a dollar was for the premium stuff.
  • A lot of the commenters here seem to be questioning EA’s motives for this Origin promotion, but at the end of the day I think I can just accept that it’s a good deal for developers.
  • I keep telling myself to get back into Gotham City Impostors, and other games keep getting in the way. It’s still in my quick-play because I start it up every time I do a story on it.

Revenge of the Night Notes

Also known as the thing I do when I’ve been working late on a review and just want to jot some quick thoughts about news stories before I start heading to bed.

  • I can’t imagine shelling out at least a hundred bucks for a Borderlands 2 SE, maybe because physical tchotchkes don’t appeal to me as much as in-game DLC or extra content. Still can’t wait to play that game, though.
  • This series of moves by Activision reads a lot like they’re clearing the arena for an ugly legal battle with West and Zampella.
  • I’m not the one who generally chooses the leads or wrote this particular headline, but honestly it never even occurred to me that people might consider this Diablo 3 news a spoiler.
  • Holy cow, guys. $675,000 in three weeks? Republique just barely managed to make $500,000 in a longer timeframe. I am not optimistic about Conquest’s chances.

Wonder Woman goes dark. Really, really dark.

I commented on my Twitter account earlier that Wonder Woman is tied up in this month’s cover, sort of a reference to how this used to happen all the damn time. The actual book doesn’t ever feature a scene in which she’s tied up, but it’s disturbing in a bunch of other ways.

We have a cheeky reference to “filling a hole” in a wedding chamber — a double entendre to WW’s bullet wound — forced marriage, slit wrists from a failed suicide attempt in hell, a man (god, technically) being bound and used as Hades’ throne, and a wedding dress with severed hands decorating the train. Oh, and Diana’s wedding ring is a noose that will kill her if she’s not truly in love, so there’s that.

It’s not Preacher, but I’m surprised they rated it a T.

That said, the plot is actually going somewhere. For the first several issues it was very meandering, and I just followed it for their super-creative takes on Greco-Roman mythological figures. Now the plot actually stands up on its own, and I still get the clever myth references.

Avengers vs X-Men (the fight book) remains heads-and-shoulders above AvX (the plot book), though I did think the fake-out in the latter was really pulled off well. The art in the plot book is weirdly inconsistent, and the writing in the fight book is just always fun and snappy. Meanwhile, Justice League is setting up what could be an interesting villain, and I like hopping between various “buddy” scenarios with small groups. It helps each of them breathe a little. Flash and Green Lantern are a perfect pair.

I skipped the Shazam portion of JL, partly because I don’t care about that character and partly because so far he’s been an entitled little ass. Maybe they wanted to make him relatable to kids or something? But basically, I just want to smack him. All the time.

  • I’ve maintained that Dragon Age 2 got far more hate than it deserved, but considering the reaction it’s probably a good idea to solicit feedback before rushing into a third one.
  • I have no idea what a “Phoenix” is as far as the Mass Effect races go. Maybe a new one?

Morbid Lightning curiosity

My thoughts on the lack of resolution in Final Fantasy XIII-2 are pretty well-documented. I wrote the Shacknews review, and then followed up with even more specific thoughts regarding a sequel. I even wrote up a piece on the Sazh DLC because I was genuinely curious if it would wrap up any loose ends. (It didn’t.)

So today I do a report on the final pieces of DLC. I suppose the more substantial story bit would probably come from Lightning, but do we really need to see her epic battle in its entirety? Is that going to shed more light on the events of the game, or just be more half-baked quasi-philosophizing? You could say I’m cynical, but to be fair, the game has given me good reason to be.

I’m tempted to try out the DLC, just to see if it resolves anything whatsoever. I can’t imagine it will, and Square doesn’t promise that it will. That means we’ll either be left hanging, or FFXIII-3 is coming. I’m guessing we’ll see an announcement at E3, but I have to imagine it won’t be a major tent-pole announcement from Square.  It feels like that sub-series has run its course. Another sequel would deliver on the tease, but only because they have to at this point.

  • I hope that the price of this Pokedex app was vastly inflated for Japanese audiences, because if it hits here for anywhere near $18 people are just going to laugh.
  • On the other hand, patches? In a Nintendo game? For non-game-breaking bugs? Truly we have arrived at a golden age.