Saturday, March 23, 2013

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire game multiple times as light/dark.

My most recent play through as a dark side character was my third. Revisiting Knights of the Old Republic was a bit of a slog due to my memory of the first planet (Taris) dragging on way too long. My save game confirmed my suspicion. It was 6+ hours when I finally left. Taris, while arguably a bit long, is actually fairly interesting. I just started exploring with a negative attitude (a bit like how I recalled Manaan as well). One major issue is that there are times where your experience is limited to just running around for minutes at a time. Even with quick loading between sections you are just running to/from various points.

Fortunately my memory had a few gaps from my previous experiences so I was surprised occasionally by events/locations within the game. In addition to not recalling story elements I actually forgot some other critical things: If you are a dark side player then using light side skills costs additional force. While understandable who is going to ignore critical light side force abilities like Cure/Heal?

The story and characters provide plenty of entertainment. It is especially humorous to see them react in horror after you make a terrible comment/decision. The opposite is not really true. As a light player the reactions of "negative" characters are not as interesting. HK-47 might be an exception as he becomes very disappointed in the meatbags.

While the combat is fun I find it to be a bit rough around the edges. After my first play through I decided that there is no point to making combat difficult so I just default to easy so I can continue through the story without too much concern for having to repeat battles (though some can still destroy you if you are too lazy). There are too many problems with characters becoming caught on walls/objects/enemies for combat to be taken too seriously. This is not a hard core combat-strategy game.

Gut: Knights of the Old Republic is a great adventure with entertaining combat, characters, music, and choices. I am sure the third is not my last play through.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dead Island [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire campaign with my spouse. (most, if not all side quests) 

This was the second cooperative-quest game I played through with my spouse. The first was Borderlands. Dead Island brought more of an edge and different survival experience than Borderlands.

The joy of decent teamwork and coordination of attacks was rewarding and challenging at times. When split up it was especially difficult. It really reminded me how critical a teammate in Dead Island can be. Just having another person watch your back (and the obvious pick you up when you are on your way to death) is very important! Zombies like to run from out of nowhere and chomp on you.

The lack of ammo (and/or ability to carry much) meant that this game was very heavy on melee combat. I was initially put off on the concept but as I played the game I found it worked well enough for me. The ammo problem was really stupid... you basically could take down a set (small) number of zombies and then you had to switch to melee. 

After many hours of trying weapon types I found only one that was reliable and not dangerous to my partner. Electrified one-handed weapons were the way to go. Anything else was too risky. 

The ongoing plot was a bit muddled by so many side quests. I literally lost track at one point... I did not even understand what was going on in the plot because we had done so many distractions and so much exploration.

Gut: A lot of fun! While it has a couple of issues related to easily tracking quest locations and occasional spawn point problems, all of them were forgivable as the experience was fun and kept us challenged.

Homefront [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire single player campaign.

I was reminded of the edginess attempted in Spec Ops: The Line when playing Homefront. Unfortunately I felt like it was a bit rammed in. North Korea taking over everything and invading the US... and you need to fight back and experience the atrocities of a horrible occupation first hand. It was a bit too heavy handed for me to take seriously at times.

The game plays like a standard on-rails FPS with lots of scripted events and activities along the way. While the campaign was short it does remain fairly interesting throughout. In many cases I felt the game required the Call of Duty style "rush ahead and everything will work out" game play. I can understand the design decision but I am not sure so much of it was required. The game really punished you whenever you were separated from your squad. In particular there was a sequence requiring you to enter a church to reach the bell tower. Without the squad around I died numerous times to memorize where the enemies were as I took each step. It was brutal to get through it. I could be terrible at this game... or I was too spoiled by my squad taking a lot of bullets for me.

Gut: Not bad. It's nothing too incredible. Everything is certainly not roses for the Americans for the sake of the plot. Unfortunately it came across a slight bit cheesy in comparison to Spec Ops: The Line. As the first in a likely series of games I have to say they did well for an original IP.

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire single player campaign. 

This is an awesome game.

30 minutes later...

This is getting old.

5 hours later...

This could be getting better... (this is when you stop fighting orcs as much)

1 hour later...

When does this end?!

Space Marine has fun combat marred by the inclusion of a heal method via slaying your enemy in awesome-dramatic-animation-slow mode. Unfortunately the rest of the game continues on so you might be covered in grenades and filled with holes by the time you get your heal from slaying the given enemy. The combat and running around gets old fast... the environments do look good, but they just were not all that interesting. The plot was acceptable but it was way too long. I would have enjoyed multiple small campaigns over one huge one.

Gut: Nope. Sorry this game was cool in concept but the campaign was a long slog.

Raising Hope [Television]

Amount Viewed: Everything just about up-to-date as of this entry. (late season three)

Initially I found Raising Hope intriguing in that it was a version of Modern Family with a more small town American stereotype feel to it. The plots were outrageous at times but it still felt grounded overall. This changed over time and everything became out of control and bizarre. The writers also often forget the title of the show. I guess you can't base a show on a baby after all... with such a cast of oddballs that provide more interesting characteristics.

Raising Hope deserves some credit for being first in line to parody and steal from other shows and/or forms of entertainment. While always fairly blatant in borrowing concepts it felt like the show was always mocking itself. It never took itself too seriously which mostly worked and produced some laughs and occasional endearing charm.

Gut: Slow long death. There is so much garbage to wade through in the later seasons. Having fun with the characters/world is "great and all" but it turns too far into stupid too often in the later episodes. I gave up because apparently the writers did too. It was fun, now let it go Fox. Bring on something better to cancel in half a season.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fallout: New Vegas DLC [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: All four DLC played in this order:
  1. Honest Hearts
  2. Dead Money
  3. Old World Blues
  4. Lonesome Road
Honest Hearts: This sequence of events in some lost canyon is sadly boring and did not entice me to explore much... *yawn*

Dead Money: Another fish-out-of-water DLC where you never seem to get a foothold/advantage over things. The enemies are tough and you can die around every corner. It was interesting enough but I never really felt like I knew what I should be doing... I just kind of ran forward and hoped it worked out.

Old World Blues: Plenty to explore and learn about. This was the most fun of the DLC though it had way too much voice acting... Exploring the wasteland of high tech was interesting enough with a ton of unique weapons/additions to be found.

Lonesome Road: This DLC is basically a point A to point B journey with a lot of melodramatic scratchy voiced guy criticizing and confusing you along the way. The activities were fun enough but I lost interest and was just hoping it would end about half way through. It does build out the story a bit so at least it has that going for it.

Gut: Fallout: New Vegas DLC is a mixed bag of fun/frustration/challenges and a lot of dialogue. I will narrow it down per DLC with a simple yes or no.

Honest Hearts: No
Dead Money: Yes
Old World blues: Yes
Lonesome Road: Yes

Parks and Recreation [Television]

Amount Viewed - Up-to-date as of this entry.

I ignored Parks and Recreation for the first four seasons. I only heard about it in passing. Eventually I decided to check it out and found the first season to be a mixed bag. There was a lot of potential in everything but the main character... who was a bit of a dopey moron. Fortunately the writers/producers/warlocks found that Leslie's character was not working out and was modified to be more intelligent but still ultra blindingly passionate about her beliefs.

Much of the fun of the show is the presentation of political views through different characters (main or episode specific). As the show targets a mostly left leaning audience it is humorous to see right leaning characters generally demonized (though not as badly as possible). The show has a bit of a propaganda edge to it though arguably subtle.

The main cast of actors/characters all bring something special to the show. The swap of actors/characters at the end of season 2 into season 3 actually worked out for the best. The Mark character was an alternative "normal" person which meant that he was actually second in line for the "normal" person to Ann. Everyone else has quirks that push them well out of the realm of normality (which is why the show is so fun).

Gut - Well worth watching even with a short-but-rough first season (only 6 episodes). The show shines best when it takes on issues, even when it's a single joke. Fortunately it also does well when it simply falls back on having the cast just interact in different pairings.

Gut Media Review Format Change

Previously reviews were written in a long form with a lot of details that were factual. In an effort to encourage me to actually write opinions from the gut I am going to shorten the reviews and concentrate on the elements that really impact my feelings toward a given topic.