This week, we get to see the long-awaited return of Master Chief in Halo 4. And by “we”, I mean me, and by “long-awaited”, I mean he wasn’t in the previous two Halo games. I’m looking forward to the release, but as the glut of games has reached a critical mass, I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. 

Others have been finishing games – Albert polished off Max Payne 3 last week and Gavin beat Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so you’ll certainly hear about those, as well as whatever they pick-up next. Who knows what the rest of crew will contribute! The excitement is palpable.

Friday, 5:11 pm – Albert

Happy Friday!

I’ve just finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution under the encouragement of Gavin and I have to say that i’m glad I finished it. I played it when it first was released but ended up losing interest as it was an extremely long game. Well, it turns out as I suspected to be close to the end when I left and I only have two very short chapters to complete. My view of the game is most likely different from Gavin’s as I haven’t been as closely attached to the series and my play through of this game was during a two year stretch of time. When coming back to the game, I had forgotten most of the story (but I caught back up by the end) and I had forgotten about the mechanics. I have to agree with Gavin that I horded so much ammo and guns that I never used any of it. In fact, I tried to play the stealth approach as well but found it tough as there were almost zero ammo refills for the tazer or the other stun gun. I ended up using a battery life to melee the baddies. That’s probably my biggest gripe with the game. It gives you so many lethal options but not enough non-lethal. Not to mention that in order to engage in any CQC i would waste a battery life which could be better used on stealth or other functions which never regenerate. When I finally beat the game, I was able to make my decision and without spoiling anything, I have to say that it was easy to just reload and make other decisions to see the end which really made my decision hold no weight. Unfortunate for such an environmentally and functional game. All in all I am happy that I beat it and i’m sure Gavin and I will have some lengthy discussion about it sometime on a podcast.

I’ve recently cracked and purchased my second sports game of the year: Fifa 13 (through Origin). On a sidenote, I’ve noticed that Steam only has MLB 12 and 2K13 as the other titles are EA games which is understandable, but i’m happy to see sports games are coming to digital downloads. As for Origin, they only have Fifa 13, they are missing Madden 13, NHL 13, etc. It makes me wonder why they would risk having one sport game and not any other? Anyways, I’ve been playing Fifa 13 and I am very impressed. I’ve maxed out the resolution and i’m happy the port of the game onto PC looks fantastic. The game is very well polished (which says a lot considering this is their top franchise) and the physics have been improved. Jostling for the ball and the motions of the player are very lifelike and the ball bounces as it would in a real game. If you’ve played previous Fifa games, then this does not change everything but the changes are noticeable. One feature that I’ve been throwing a lot of time into has been the FIFA Ultimate Team. This feature showcases the addictive side I’ve been craving in a sports game. You start with a small squad of individuals who rank around the 50-60s and are considered bronze players. The difference from this mode and season mode is your players (all from people IRL) are given to you in the way of cards. Each time you complete a match, fulfill a criteria, etc, you are awarded points in which you can use to buy “packs” of cards in which you are randomly given different cards that are either players, managers, fitness, kits, badges, and so on. You can apply cards to your squad and customize your team any way you want. The mode also features an auction house (Reminds of that game I used to play…) and you can put bids on whatever you want. EA also has an APP for you to stay in contact with bids and make sure you are on it and also allows browsers to fiddle with chemistry between players by switching different players, formations, and managers in to make the best fantasy team. Chemistry is extremely important in the game and can be achieved by matching the players with other players who follow the same formation, country, or club. The PC version has a lot of people on it and I’ve had no problem putting out a lot of bids. It’s great to see that the game is constantly evolving and improves every year.

Dota 2!!! I used to play Dota when it was first a mod a long time ago and I thought I knew the basics of Dota 2. Unfortunately for me, the game is far more complex than I could have imagined and I am definitely down to joining the next round of Dota 2! I was generously donated the game so I cannot wait to get in and start running some MOBA love! I used to be decent at the game but the interface is just completely different and I forgot about the characters. I love the breakdown Ricky and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Friday, 10:09 am – Ricky

Wow, what a ghost town around here… I’ll liven it up!

I played my first ever game of Dota2 last night. Scratch that, it was my first ever MOBA or lord management game ever. Luckily, I knew sort of what to expect – I’ve watched my fair share of The International, Valve’s yearly Dota2 tournament with a multi-million dollar price pool. I’ve also read the guides and heard the lingo. Still, I felt like I would strained or overwhelmed by the players and systems.

I ended up playing with a couple of buddies who knew the game well enough to explain it to me. I picked Lion, a support character whose job it is to jump into fights, stun, and run while the tanks and carrys (late-game high-level characters) clean up the mess. Still, I was the first person to die, and I was woefully under-leveled as we got to the mid-game.

Let’s step back a second. The biggest thing I learnt was that every Dota2 game goes through 3 stages:

  • Early game, where you level-up by killing “creeps” (AI controlled characters who follow a lane and attack other creeps coming in the opposite direction);
  • Mid game, where you try to take down a number of towers and begin attempting to get kills on the other team’s heros.
  • Late game, where I have no fucking idea what’s happening, but we were able to get lots of good kills from our carrys and storm the other team’s base.

Once you get to the base, you need to take down a bunch more towers that are guarding the opposing teams “ancient”. Hence, Dota = Defence of the ancients.

I slowly figured out Lion’s various abilities – most were centered around stunning, and one allowed me to siphon mana from magical creeps (the only character with that ability). I also had an “ultimate” that could cause some pretty good damage when unleashed early in the game, but progressively falls into uselessness as players level up. I also tried to figure out the shop, where you can purchase items that help you heal, defend yourself or kill others. There’s also a secret shop where I eventually assembled a high-level staff – I was able to do this because I hadn’t been spending my money or leveling up, and was told that, at the near-end of the game, it was pointless to invest in early or mid-level items.

I really enjoyed the game I played, and it helped that we were behind for a while and able to come back for the win. It taught me that the game isn’t overly complicated, it just takes some time to learn the systems, but in the end, it’s a video game. If you play video games, you’ll know when to help out, when to attack, when to run etc. in Dota2 because you’ll grasp the overall concept behind the game. In that regard, I feel like Dota2 is a very accessible game given it’s genre. Even though I died early and often (known as “feeding”, because it helps the other team level up quickly), I was never chastised by my teammates or made to feel like an idiot. The team carried on and did what it needed to do to support each other and win the match. I’m not claiming every game will be like this – it IS free to play, which often attracts the kind of people who should be put to pasture – but it was a great first experience. It left me wanting more.

Wednesday, 8:24 am – Ricky

Amazing write-up Gavin. I read most of it, safe for the spoilers, and I definitely plan to play the game at some point.

For now, it’s Assassin’s Creed 3 for me. I ended up taking a pass on picking up Halo 4 yesterday – I’m really engrossed in the story of AC3, and I want to make sure I give it the time it deserves. I’ve finally gained my assassin’s garb, I’ve learned about naval combat (it’s awesome), plus I have a homestead where I can entice people to settle down. It takes the “shop” aspect of the previous games to a whole new level. Instead of purchasing a shop, I have to complete a mission to recruit someone to settle on land near my home. It started with a lumber mill, and now I have a guy that makes boxes and crates. I can’t carry the boxes and crates and smash them on Loyalists, but I can purchase them and send a trade caravan to a merchant who wants them, pocketing the profit but taking the “risk” of the caravan getting jacked.

The stuff that’s happening in the present day is REALLY intriguing. I actually played a mission as Desmond last night – I cannot wait to see where they’re going with this part of the story. It feels like, after 4 games, Desmond needs the most pay-off. I think we’re going to get it.

Tuesday, 11:46 am – Gavin

If you blame me for you getting sick, then you must blame the filthy disease-tube that is the subway.  I don’t encounter people in my daily job, and my house is clean, so that can be the only answer.  Filthy peasants.

I won’t talk too much about Gamercamp as we discussed it in detail on the podcast, but I will say that it was a great event with good talks, good games, and a good atmosphere.

I will say that I’m finally moving on from Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  I’m sad, because it was such a phenomenal game, even with its quirks and flaws.  It fosters an incredible amount of replayability, as you would expect from a proper Deus Ex title.  As with the original, it has significant RPG elements associated with it to the point that the action and stealth are simply vehicles for delivering an RPG game.  Customized skills and development trees, custom conversation strings, multiple outcomes for quests and sidequests, character development – it is effectively an RPG title by all metrics.

It’s probably easier for me to talk about what I didn’t like about the game than what I did like, because there’s so much that I adored.  The mechanics, stealth play, upgrade system, voice acting, animation, story line, level design, enemy AI, physics, weapon systems, music, and fan-service to the first game are all top-notch.  I know, I’ve basically laid out everything.  If you take nothing else away from this post, know that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a spectacular game and as it stands, is my favourite game that I played in 2011.  I acknowledge that there are a few solid titles I didn’t play like Mass Effect 2, Skyrim (yeah yeah, I’ll get to it), LA Noire, The Witcher 2, and Bastion (yeah yeah, I’ll get to that one too), but among the major titles I played in 2011, DE: HR has edged out Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Portal 2 to take that top mark.

So, what didn’t work for me?  I’ll start with the well-documented elephant in the room and acknowledge that the boss fights didn’t work with the flow of the game.  It’s designed to be a game that you can beat without killing a single person.  That’s a tag that was given to the original Deus Ex (but I don’t believe it – I think there’s one part in Area 51 where you need to kill  a MiB in order to activate the next piece of dialogue) and ostensibly it’s supposed to fit in here.  Indeed, even despite my screwup in killing someone I didn’t mean to, you absolutely can get by every level without killing a single person.  It’s hard as hell, especially in the Montreal level, but it can be done.

But then you get to the boss fights, and you HAVE to kill them.  That is required in order for the game to proceed – you cannot simply render them unconscious.  So regardless of what stealth skills you’ve been upgrading and regardless of the fact that your inventory is filled with a tranquilizer rifle and a stungun and a bunch of gas grenades, you need to pick up a weapon and use it.  Every single boss fight location has weapons available for you to use, and you can tell when you’re approaching them as all of a sudden, there’s a ton of ammo and weaponry stashed outside a door, but even with that, it doesn’t fit into the flow of the game.  In the original Deus Ex, you did need to deal with two specific bosses – Anna and Gunther.  You had to kill them as well, but the game did not necessarily require that you engage them in combat.  A series of decisions would allow you to learn their “kill phrase” – a phrase that you say out loud and they die immediately.  A hokey mechanism, sure, but it allowed you to focus on a stealth run of the game without any major problems.

Fortunately, I knew about this problem in advance, so I made sure to always carry at least one lethal weapon with me at all times.  By the end of it, I was a complete tank with sniper rifles and grenades and combat rifles out the ass, but I always had at least one weapon.  But take note – this is not a game-breaking issue.  Anyone who said that “Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a terrible game and the boss fights ruined the game” is simply being a complainer.  It’s a checkmark against it, for sure, but the rest of the game EASILY makes up for it.

The game really tries its best to push you to your limits in terms of stealth vs lethal gameplay.  There are several sequences where it is EXCEEDINGLY difficult to maintain a nonlethal playthrough – specifically the (highlight for spoilers) second time in Hengsha, where you are ambushed and you need to try to save Malik from the attackers, and in the final mission, where you’re repeatedly being attacked by crazed augmented workers in a very Left 4 Dead-esque environment, but it’s all done well.  You CAN beat those sections without engaging in lethal activity.  I absolutely didn’t, because what the fuck good is a gigantic fuckoff sniper rifle if I’m not going to blow someone’s head off with it? 

I didn’t like the hurried way with which the game finished your interactions with Reed, Malik, and Pritchard.  Those three were set up to be major supporting characters from the get-go, Reed especially, but in the final mission, there’s barely a word spoken by any of them.  Darrow steps in to become a more important figure (though if you read the books placed around the environment, you can see that he is set to be a major figure regardless.  But more surprising was the inclusion of Taggart as a major character at the end.  Taggart appeared to be designed as kind of this character who’s always in the background, but never really emerging as a major player in the game.  Given his involvement with Humanity Front, you could be excusing for thinking that when they are no longer the major (or even a minor) focus of the game, that Taggart isn’t really in the picture anymore.  He kind of just shows back up in the final mission.  Also, and I know this was a big complaint with the game, but the way in which you obtain the multiple endings was very rushed.  You beat the final boss and then simply enter a room and press one of four buttons.  That’s it, nothing more.  At least in the original, you had to accomplish specific tasks to obtain each of the three endings.  Poor scriptwriting, in my opinion (sorry for this paragraph – massive spoilers).

There is considerable fan-service in place for the adventurous explorer.  Hack into computers to see plenty of e-mail strings that reference the original, but not in a hokey or cheesy way.  You may recall that prior to starting up DEHR, I played a legacy run of Deus Ex.  It was a worthwhile idea, as it reminded me of plenty of the elements that would later get brought up in DEHR.  The music is incredibly inspired and references the original’s music in plenty of places.  They knew what the fans wanted and gave them exactly that.

In retrospect, I think my favourite character in the game was David Sarif.  You never quite knew if he was playing for the good guys or the bad guys.  He was one of the strongest-developed characters with respect to conversation – you really felt like you knew about him by the time the game ended.  There weren’t a ton of in-game artifacts or texts about him, so everything was developed in conversation strings and in the odd e-mail.

Above all, I think my biggest complaint with the game stems from how I personally played the game.  I stockpiled ammunition for the boss fights and for “trouble spots”, but I generally took a stealthy, non-lethal approach to the game.  However, I suppose it’s because I had it on normal difficulty, but I found the boss fights to be pretty straightforward and easy.  My combat rifle had been upgraded with a target-seeking system, so the second and third boss fights were a breeze once I figured out how I was being attacked and what I needed to do to avoid it.  Anyway, because I had saved so much ammunition, I had so much inventory space occupied that I didn’t get to take advantage of some of the weapons, like the heavy rifle, the laser rifle, the rocket launcher, the grenade launcher, or the plasma rifle.  There’s a significant gameplay experience that I missed out on.  Heck, I never even used the Typhoon once, because I never needed to.  Every time I came across a robot, I had found the security computer and hacked it to work for me.  And that is not a failing of the game at all – that’s just how I played it.  Next time, I’ll do my stealth thing as much as possible, not because I want the Pacifist achievement but because that’s just how I like playing the game, but I’ll be a little less discriminatory in my use of in-game items.  I also only used three grenades, three EMP grenades, one remote explosive pack, and one concussion grenade.  Seriously.  Hell, I still had Praxis points left over by the time I reached the end of the game because I hadn’t upgraded things immediately – figured I’d save them until I got to a trouble spot.

So, despite a few comments and complaints, I still think it’s top-to-bottom an incredible game.  I look forward to giving it some time and then replaying it.  If you haven’t played it yet, all I can say is that you’re thoroughly missing out on a game that is a worthy successor to one of the greatest games ever produced.  It’s not universally better than the original, but on the whole, I’ve yet to come across someone who didn’t find it to be one of the best games on 2011.

Tuesday, 9:16 am – Ricky

I’m feeling better today, in case any one cares. No one? Screw you guys.

I won’t even dignify Albert’s comments with a response. What I will say is that I’ll likely pick up Halo 4 next week, with an eye on getting through some more Assassin’s Creed 3 this week. Unfortunately for Albert, I uninstalled Max Payne 3, and I won’t be able to go through the 33 GB download until mid-month when my cap resets. Digital downloads are the future, but Canada is still stuck in the past.

I also plan on playing some Letterpress on iOS this week. The s/o and I have been getting into some heated wordy battles, and I love the fresh clean interface. If you have an iOS device and a fascination with word games, I definitely recommend pickup up the free app. Think of the game as a mix between Boggle, Scrabble, and a word scramble.

Monday, 9:18 pm – Albert

Oh the joys of being sick!

WOW! Halo 4? AMAZING. I CANNOT WAIT.  What’s that? I can’t believe people are still loving this space game with some dude named chief. YOU’RE IN SPACE. Why are you a chief? Why not a commander? Or something cool. Yeah you’re a chief. Great. I bet you his voice is super high.

Not much to write about today other than the fact that I beat Max Payne 3 the other day. That is a really graphically enhanced game. I’m excited to try the multiplayer soon with Ricky and I might even go back and play some arcade mode. The shooting and the cover mechanics are great, although, it doesn’t really remind me of the old Max Payne, but it does energize the series. We spoke about it on the podcast, but I like the direction that Rockstar went with it. Definitely my favorite third person shooter this year.

This definitely ends well..

Meanwhile,  i’m working on beating Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I’m on the last chapter and I hope to have a great chat with Gavin about it. I left the game for a while but coming back to it tonight has really reminded me how great and wonderfully immerisve this game is. Nothing like sneaking behind someone and zapping them with the stun gun and then reprogramming the robot/turrets to kill your enemies. Ahh, technology. The movement takes some getting used to again and there are definitely a lot of different moves I had to relearn but I have a feeling i’ll be seeing the ending quite soon.

Monday, 6:36 am – Ricky

I’m sick. I partially blame Gavin, and I partially blame Gamercamp. No blame falls to me whatsoever.