Aliens never seem to be the good guys. At least not in any games I can think of that has both humans and aliens. And arguably, the most iconic aliens are Alien aliens. That’s how I feel about it, and this is my section, so wanna fight about it?

This week, we head back to the world of Aliens with Gearbox’s Aliens: Colonial Marines. I’ve never played an Aliens game before, and I know Gavin is a big fan of some previous ones, so I’m interested in learning more. Maybe we’ll do a review round-up on Tuesday.

Friday, 8:52 am – Gavin

Now I don’t want to turn this into a “HEY, LOOK WHAT’S FOR SALE NOW!” kind of post, but the weekend Steam sale has some great stuff on massive discount until next week

  • Castle Crashers, 50% off
  • FTL, 50% off
  • Serious Sam 3: BFE, 80% off
  • And Yet It Moves, 75% off
  • Cogs, 75% off
  • Penumbra collection, 80% off
  • Space Pirates and Zombies, 75% off
  • Puddle, 50% off
  • World of Goo, 75% off
  • Trine 2, 75% off
  • The Book of Unwritten Tales, 75% off
  • Bastion, 75% off
  • Half-Life, 75% off
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent, 75% off

I’m definitely picking up The Book of Unwritten Tales from that bundle.  Otherwise, I have the majority of them already.  For those unfamiliar, Penumbra was Amnesia, before Amnesia was Amnesia.  Same developer (Frictional Games), slightly different approach but still quite horrifying.  Happy shopping to everyone except Ricky!

Thursday, 10:32 am – Gavin

Nintendo issued a new announcement today in the form of Nintendo Direct, and this one was an interesting one, even if I’m not invested in 3DS titles.  Lots of new titles announced today.  But speaking of zombies, Nintendo is releasing the Wii-U deluxe version with Zombi-U and a pro controller for MSRP $390.  That’s a pretty great deal considering how young the system is.  First of the price drops, perhaps? 

I never played Dead Island despite it sitting in my account.  I pretty much only have interest in playing it multiplayer though, so once the crew is ready to get back to it, I’ll give it a whirl.

The good news though?  Ubisoft is bringing Watch Dogs to the Wii-U!  Not a big surprise, because everyone was pumped at the idea of it at E3 last year, but still, nice to know it’s coming for sure.  They’re also bringing over Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  I wouldn’t buy it because I’ve already got it, but I’d love to see how they integrate the tablet into that one.  I can see lots of potential – radar tracker, hacking, inventory, etc.  Should be quite interesting!

Wednesday, 12:30 pm – Ricky

Off the topic of shitty games, onto the always-awesome topic of zombies!

Preezie and I finished Dead Island last night. The final act and ending were a bit of a letdown, but overall, the game was a ton of fun. In my mind, this took all the best parts of the Dead Rising series (brutal kills, customized weapons, open areas), stripped out the shitty parts (repetitive boss battles, frustrating controls in the 1st, that freaking timer) and put the whole thing in first person.

Truth be told, I don’t think I ever played this game solo. Granted, we first started playing in December 2011, after picking it up in the Winter Steam sale, and we last played it in March 2012 before picking it up again this weekend almost a year later. So, my memory is a bit fuzzy. Regardless, the game absolutely shines when you’re stomping around the island’s areas with a couple of buddies. Most of the game is actually spent exploring each nook and cranny, and every box or table for parts to craft the next great weapon, so make sure your buddies have the same objective in mind. Since using those weapons is extremely rewarding, you’re motivated to continue exploring. But if you were to take that away from yourself by focusing purely on completing the story missions, I could imagine the game being pretty bland.

I had a hankering for a good co-op game, and this scratched that itch. It also has me excited for the sequel, Riptide, coming out this April. I actually told Preezie – one of two folks who are betting against me in the Challenge – that I’d consider using one of my three game purchases on Riptide. I know Dead Island had its problems at launch, but the engine is now more mature and the team at Techland are more experienced, I’m confident they can put out a product that could shine technologically on day one. For now, I’m still looking forward to our March releases, namely Sim City and Lara Croft.

Tuesday, 12:19 pm – Ricky

Looks like we’ve really landed in the shit here boys! Good thing them xenomorphs can’t handle stairs! To the 2nd floor!

This game really looks like it shouldn’t exist. Really hoping Sega doesn’t suffer too badly from this, as they just picked up Relic, developer on Warhammer and Company of Heroes, and they’ve been doing  a great job with the Total War series lately. Maybe they should just stick to blue hedgehogs and strategy games.

Tuesday, 9:51 am – Gavin

A few more Aliens: Colonial Marines reviews.

Eurogamer has it at 3/10

Jim Sterling of Destructoid’s angry tweet: That good looking demo of Colonial Marines they kept showing at events? Not part of the game. It was entirely contrived, and basically a lie

Metacritic shows that everyone is being a bit less than kind.  Destructoid, Polygon, GameSpot, GameSpy, PC Gamer, all unhappy.  The only positive reviews have come from The Guardian (not exactly a bastion of video game reporting) and EGM, which is surprising considering they’re one of the more reputable ones.  However, a quick scan of the article shows that it’s entirely probable the reviewer hasn’t even played the game, considering he lauds the enemy AI, which is what literally every other reviewer is trashing.  Also, evidently, this is the guy who ripped on Halo 4 for not having ironsights.  Take that as you will.

Sega invested a lot of money into this.  I wonder what this will do to them.

Tuesday, 8:46 am – Gavin

The very first Alien game I played was Alien 3 for the NES.  I’ve talked about it on the podcast before, but that game was ATROCIOUS.  I played it and even attempted to enjoy it out of some misguided sense of loyalty towards the Alien franchise and lore, but it was awful.  You play as Ripley, running and gunning through an incredibly confusing side-scrolling game, where your job is to rescue trapped prisoners.  Sound like Alien 3?  OF F***ING COURSE IT DOESN’T.  The levels were incredibly confusing, they were timed (which only made things worse), and the biggest problem was that your character was always presented as being 2/3 of the way across the screen, instead of the conventional 1/4 to 1/3.  Imagine playing Contra if most of the level was behind you.  Yes, it’s that hard.  Plus side, the soundtrack was pretty damn catchy.

I first played AvP for the SNES, when you played as the Predator and had to go up against the Aliens in a Streets-Of-Rage type of game.  It wasn’t bad as a generic beat-em-up, but the whole AvP series didn’t really take off until the PC FPS games came along.  I played exactly half an hour of the first AvP, because I pirated it and then it ended up crashing repeatedly at the same spot.  It was creepy enough – I just wish I could have had a more fulsome experience.

The holy grail of AvP games was always AvP for the Atari Jaguar.  The very first time I came across this game, it was in an advert inside a GamePro magazine way back in the early 90s.  The graphics were unreal, and the advertising was really intriguing to my pre-teen self.  The game was reviewed pretty favourably, but obviously, being on the Atari Jaguar, its lifespan was limited.  If you’ve never seen this game, go and check it out, and then remember that it was released in 1994.  Having just watched Aliens for the first time around that point, I wanted nothing more than to grab a pulse rifle and unleash hell.

At Ricky’s suggestion, I’ve just started Max Payne 3.  It took me quite a while to get it going, as I had an error in activation with the R* Social Club.  Turns out this is a pretty common error – it simply will not connect to the R* servers through Steam.  There are tons of forum threads about this across the Internet, so I was able to find a few solutions that worked.  I ended up moving all of the files from the steamapps/common folder to my steamapps/gavinthealmighty folder (yeah, look me up on Steam if you feel like it, but only if you’re going to buy me something from my wishlist.  I have no time for cheapskates).  Then, I had to run MaxPayne3.exe as an Administrator.  That got it working quite quickly, and I went from there.  I can’t run it from the Steam library, but it does still log my playing time and my achievements (as if I gave a damn about those).

This does bring me to a salient point though – I own Max Payne 3 quite legally.  Steam is its own type of DRM, so why do I have to go through R* Social Club for this, or Origin for Need for Speed, or whatever Ubisoft makes us do these days?  I understand the perceived need for secondary DRM – piracy is a problem at some level.  But if you’re going to do that, make sure your damn system works.  This problem that I experienced has been going on for at least six months according to forum threads, so why is it still a problem now?  Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they’re punishing the people who want to buy their games legally and support the developers.  Don’t put barriers up to legal game acquisition.  That’s what drives people to piracy in the first place.

Anyway, the game.  Thoughts so far?  It’s slick and hyper-stylized.  The chief art director plainly watched a million Tony Scott movies right before getting down to work, because there’s his trademark “words up on the screen as a character says them” device all over the first hour of this game, perhaps unnecessarily so.  So far, bearing in mind that I’m only about an hour into it, the game doesn’t seem to have the film-noir style that the first two games did, and I haven’t hit any of the comic-style interludes yet.  It’s got Max’s heavy-handed monologues going on, still in the same 1940s style, but it seems so anachronistic, considering the game’s setting and art styles, almost like R* said “OK, do the bare minimum in order to keep it a Max Payne game, but otherwise, we’re changing everything else”.

I’m enjoying it so far, even if it is 90% cutscenes at this point, but it doesn’t feel like a Max Payne game.  It feels like a generic shooter with James McCaffrey doing the voice.  And on that note, obviously it’s been 9 years since the last MP game, but I had to double-check that it was actually him, because at the beginning, it didn’t sound like him at all.

The controls are pretty fluid.  They’re mostly the same, except that there are a few new things.  You can aim down the ironsights of your gun to get a slight zoom in, you now can’t jump, but rather you can vault over obstacles, and there’s cover, which you obviously need to take advantage of.  I also got into a shootout and ended up in “Last Man Standing” mode, where you’re both about to die, but if you can get one more shot off, you’ll end up surviving with minimal health.  Great, except that when I tried to do that, my mouse sensitivity was too low and I couldn’t place the reticle on the enemy quick enough.  Is it a broken feature?  No, I wouldn’t say so, but I will say that it’s a bit unnecessary, at least at this point.

I’m complaining a lot, but don’t read too much into that – it is still a fun game with good mechanics.  It’s just a big change at this point from what I’m used to.  I’m hoping that it starts to feel a little less generic as I progress.

I also started playing And Yet It Moves, a neat little platformer that I got in the Humble Bundle IV.  Goal?  Progress from the start to the end.  The catch?  In addition to controlling your character, you also control gravity, and can change the direction of gravity 90 or 180 degrees at a time at the push of a button.  You also need to use that gravity control in order to guide objects through the level, or guide creatures to specific points.  I had no idea what it was all about when I fired it up, but honestly, it’s really quite interesting.  Another one that I will probably won’t spend a ton of time on, kind of like BIT.TRIP.RUNNER, but worth playing to appreciate the concept.  Surprise surprise, but Ricky, this one is sitting in your account as well.  It’s on sale for $10, but same deal as NightSky – I’m not certain I’m going to get $10 worth of enjoyment out of it.  For what it’s worth, it does have respectable replay value – there are occasionally different paths to beat the levels.

Speaking of Alien games, IGN, the perpetual over-rater of AAA games, has released their reviews of the PC and console versions, and the verdict is…it stinks.  As you may know, Aliens is one of my most favourite movies of all time.  I think that Cameron did a FANTASTIC job with it, as it mastered patience, tension, pacing, and action.  So, I was always going to be hyper-critical of any serious attempt to take that magic and put it into a game.  So, it was both extremely disappointing and entirely predictable that this game would not be received well.  It was in development hell for years.  Has a game in dev hell (not just taking a long time to develop) ever turned out good?

Monday, 1:13 pm – Ricky

Preezie mentioned that he and Albert used to play a lot of Aliens vs. Predator – I’m not really sure how Colonial Marines stacks up, or even what view the camera is in (first or third person). The only trailer on Steam is a cinematic trailer (damn good, but not really representative). Natural Selection 2 was a good time, but I still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what that game has to offer. Instead, Preezie and I went back to Dead Island for our multiplayer fix over the weekend. We’ve progressed to the final act and I’m having a blast getting back into the mechanics of the game after nearly a full year away from it!

March 5th is shaping up to be a helluva release date, with Sim City, Lara Croft and now South Park: The Stick of Truth all scheduled to come out on that Tuesday. Here’s an extended gameplay trailer of Lara Croft, 11 minutes of footage and meant to tide you over in place of a demo. I’m pretty excited for this game, though not enough to pick it up the day it releases. Now that I’m on a tighter leash, I feel like I want to wait for reviews and general public opinion to weigh in first.

Monday, 12:58 pm – Albert

I remember playing Aliens v. Predator quite a few years back when it was mostly a multiplayer game. We used to play it 1v1 but it didn’t make it less fun. It reminds me of Natural Selection 2 – which most of the Gamentary crew played and I think can attest – that it was awesome. Although I am just the worst at FPSs, I really enjoy NS2. It had all the makings of epic battles and just enough strategy and gameplay to make it worth learning how to play.

Not much in way of gaming recently… but I have been playing more Kairosoft games on my Android. (I will keep mentioning Kairosoft until you all play at least one game – and don’t laugh but the one I’m playing is Pocket Clothier. IT’S GOOD DAMN YOU!)

Monday, 6:00 am

So sleepy. Played some good games this weekend though, so maybe I’ll talk about those after coffee.