Two behemoths arrive on the scene this week – what a welcome to 2013! Lara Croft is back and we’ll experience her origin story/reboot. SimCity also returns with a new online-only approach. Notably, SimCity is available only on PC, and while Tomb Raider is on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, the PC version is being handled by Nixxes, the folks who took on the PC port of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and it looks to have some extra bells and whistles.

Is the end of a console generation the best time to be a PC gamer? That probably still remains to be seen. What IS certain is that PC gamers will be spoiled for riches this year. The question is, can a standard PC gaming computer run all the stuff games will through at them?

Saturday, 6:47 pm – Gavin

Great work by Maxis, even though it totally wasn’t their fault.  This was an EA issue through and through.  The game is superbly detailed in the right places and streamlined in the right places, which shows that Maxis did a good job (even though I don’t care for the multiplayer focus) – it’s more that EA dropped the ball.

But if more people get NFS: Hot Pursuit, then we can commiserate!  I like it!

Saturday, 7:11 am – matt

some positive news regarding SimCity’s disastrous debut, Maxis has decided to give all players a free downloadable game from EA as an apology for selling a BRAND NEW game that doesnt work…

now i have a feeling the choices will be NBA LIVE 2009, Mass Effect 2, or Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, seeing how this IS EA we’re talking about…

Friday, 1:57 pm – matt

Great news for any gamers who might experience problems with the discs their games are on, as I just received my new copy of NBA 2K13 from 2K Sports this week, I’m talking factory sealed brand new! After having scratched a copy of my game because my Xbox was jilted while the CD was running, a permanent ring scratch was embedded into the disc, making it virtually unplayable. after a very brief session of online investigating I contacted 2K to inquire about a possible disc replacement program, and was informed for a mere $7.50 I could send in my old copy for a new one, which has worked exactly as described and I couldn’t be happier. For anyone who has a game lying around they need repaired try checking with the company first and see if a similar program exists!

Friday, 10:55 am – Gavin

Awwww, thanks matt, for thinking about me with ZombiU!

I know you’re a big RE fan, so it must be really disappointing to have the game not live up to your expectations.  I hate it when games change something essential like the health system, perhaps for the purposes of modernization, but practicably for the purposes “oh shit we need to change something so it’s a different game”.  Metroid: Other M did that, where instead of finding items, you were “authorized” to use them by your boss (that opens up a whole can of worms re the feminist argument, which I agree with but won’t make at this time).  It didn’t materially change the gameplay, but did change it from a system that worked great, just for the sake of change.  Deus Ex: Invisible War did the same with ammunition.

As for EA and Sim City…yikes.  What a flub.  I got to see the game very briefly at Ricky’s place yesterday, and it looks fantastic, has wonderful systems in place, and looks like the kind of game I could absolutely lose myself in; my previous SC experience was Sim City 2000, which was excellent, but was WAY too deep for my brain to comprehend.  So, the new one is streamlined in the right places.  But if you’re going to have always-on DRM and always require a network connection, make sure people can connect to your network.

This is the kind of thing that can fundamentally alter sales plans.  If you rely on explosive sales from day 1, which is what Activision does with COD, then you’d better be able to handle a huge influx of players.  Say what you want about the COD series, but those servers have never been hit the way that EA’s and Blizzard’s have been.  On the tech side, they know what they’re doing.  If people are hesitant to immediately invest in your product, you’re instead relying on the slow-burn sales methods that tend to happen with Nintendo’s games (Pokemon aside).  That affects sales forecasts, but more importantly, future investment capital that depends on those initial sales.

In other words, test your shit, and make sure you can handle things from day 1.  Under normal circumstances, there weren’t going to be fewer people playing this game a week from now, or two weeks, or a month – this is the kind of game that has a huge attachment rate.

It also speaks to the ridiculousness of always-on DRM and single-player games that require an internet connection.  DON’T MAKE PEOPLE DO THAT.  Don’t make me rely on something that is outside of my control in order to be able to play the game.  I’ve had no issues connecting to the R* Social Club, but if I do, that will prevent me from being able to play Max Payne 3.  I know that I can play any other game in my Steam library from Offline mode, without even connecting to the internet, and that’s the way I like it.

On the plus side, I’ll be living la vida bachelor for a few days with my wife out of town, so I’ll have nothing to do but game until my eyes fall out.  If I don’t finish Max Payne 3 by next Wednesday, I will have failed.  What’s up for me after MP3?  Skyrim?  Half-Life 2: Episode 2?  Mark of the Ninja?  Mass Effect?  Mirror’s Edge?  Or do I take on a beast and go for The Longest Journey or Syberia?  TOO MUCH CHOICE.

Friday, 10:02 am – Ricky

This review sums up SimCity’s current state.

So, instead of SimCity, I finished Assassin’s Creed 3 last night. It was … OK. Certainly not the best in the series, but probably one of the more ambitious. There were some things that worked really well, like the new free-running mechanic and naval missions. And of course, there were some things that didn’t work well at all, like Connor (the main character) and open expanses of frontier land that held nothing of interest or consequence.

In previous games, I got into the side missions in a deep, deep way. I was recruiting and leveling all of my Assassin’s in Brotherhood and Revelations, I was constantly buying art and opening more shops in my hometown in Assassin’s Creed 2. I even did more than the required number of “reconnaissance” missions before each assassination in the first game, just to make sure I had all the details. I invested only the bare minimum amount of effort into Assassin’s Creed 3, doing only what was required to beat the game.

Maybe I’m burned out on the series, but I think it’s more likely that the systems they put in place to motivate me to do the side quests were broken. For instance, we still have a “home”, called the homestead. There are people we can recruit to live in our homestead and produce raw materials based on their skills. Raw materials can be modified by other homesteaders into goods and products, which can then be traded off into the ether for cash. Thing is, the tutorial for this system is less than useless, and beside that, there’s nothing I NEED money for any way.

Sure, I could use the money to upgrade my ship, giving it more guns or the ability to ram other ships head on. This would be cool if the naval battles weren’t a piece of cake. Of course, nailing the difficulty curve for this sort of thing is tricky – make it too hard to beat, and people will give up, make it too easy (as they did) and people won’t invest in the systems you created.

Then there’s the whole hunting and crafting thing. I was HUGE into hunting in Red Dead Redemption. I mean, no critter in that game was safe. For that matter, no flower was safe either. I wanted to explore the vast openness of that world for all of the cool things they included. In AC3, there were some neat hunting and trapping mechanics, but there was no … reason. I didn’t see the point.

All in all, it feels like the kind of things that are there for those who want to put the effort in and spend more time in the world Ubisoft created. Good for those folks, I see. They got a lot of game for their money. For me, I wish there was a carrot at the end of the stick that would have drawn me in the way previous versions did. As it was, I enjoyed the game, but wouldn’t say it was a spectacular accomplishment of modern game making. Oh, and the credits went on for 20 minutes. Twenty. Minutes. This Kotaku article sums up my experience pretty nicely, but it omits what’s in the Epilogue. Strangely enough, it’s something that might actually make me revisit the game in the future. But I’ll save that for another post.

Friday, 8:46 am – Ricky

Right, this is going to be a long one, so tuck in.

EA, you done fucked up. It’s official. I have played a total of 4 hours of the new SimCity game (which anecdotally, seems to be more than most people have been able to play), but 3 of the hours were on the night of the launch, while the remaining hour was early morning Eastern Time the day after. I’ve had time to play this game Wednesday night and Thursday night – peak times for certain – and after multiple tries on both nights, I haven’t been able to log in and load up my city.

I get it. It’s popular. You’re doing some stuff server side, and you’re doing some stuff client side. There are bugs. There was a European and Australian launch going on at the same time.

But I don’t care any more. There are a lot of people that gave you a lot of money based on what we’d heard, seen and experienced of the game, and you couldn’t deliver that experience out of the gate. That means you misrepresented what this game IS, and instead showed us (hopefully) what it WILL BE when you get your shit figured out.

Let it be known: You accepted the challenge of launching this game with an always-on connection, much the same way other games have done before you, like Diablo and other MMOs. You knew the risks. You’ve seen triumphs and failures, and you had the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes. But you couldn’t do it, and it’s made all the more worse because you issued the always-on challenge to yourself. We didn’t need this, and we didn’t ask for this, so your failure is on you.

You know who I feel sorry for in all of this? Maxis. There’s a great game here, and when I can play it, man do I love playing it. But this is going to be a black mark on the title – I’m an early adopter of games, and games rely on people like me to spread the good word about how awesome the game is to others who may not seek out the title. While, guess what EA? You pissed us off.

Sure, I’ll stick around for the ride, but only because I’m already invested – I won’t be recommending this game to anyone for a while. Not until you fix this mess. So, jump into your Scrooge McDuck money bin and fix it, despite the cost and the hit to your bottom line. Use that Madden money. Chalk the cost of the fixes up as a lose, bite the bullet with investors, and make it right for your customers. You’ll get a little respect for that – just know that you’ll still need to work long and tireless years to get it back in full from this gamer.

Thursday, 11:16 am – Ricky

Well, that didn’t last long.

I have very limited gaming time these days. Of course, I also have a lot of games on the go. Still, when I have time and the inclination to play a specific game in my library, I want to be able to play it.

I tried to play SimCity last night, and I couldn’t. I don’t know if they were doing server upgrades, or if I was just having an issue with my service, but either way, I couldn’t play the game I bought only the day before. It sucks, and EA says they’re adding servers to handle the load, but with the European launch today, I highly doubt I’ll see any improvements tonight.

Instead of building a glorious city, I played a mediocre Assassin’s Creed game. I have one or two sequences (chapters) left in the main storyline, which I’ve been mainlining and focusing on exclusively. I’m thoroughly disheartened by the lack of quality in this story: There’s so little that makes sense, and Connor is a complete bipolar nutjob. One second, he’s murdering mad fools, and the next second he’s chastising someone for killing a known Loyalist officer. He really isn’t an engaging character, and I don’t really care what happens to him. I do care what happens in the present day though, so I’m trucking on. I’ll probably wrap it up tonight if SimCity shits the bed again.

Wednesday, 3:55 pm – matt

I started playing Resident Evil 6 last night with a co-op friend and while extremely disappointed in the “this is not classic RE gameplay”, I did find myself enjoying the first hour or so into the game. The game launches right into the story after the initial boot up, with no clue as to who the characters youre guiding are or where the hell you even are. The intro was honestly a bit of a mess, without even a brief tutorial covering button layout of the ENTIRELY NEW HEALTH SYSTEM AFTER 6 FUCKING GAMES, yeah I’ll just figure it out on my own, no problem?!…

With that out of the way I finished the intro and actually opened up the main menu where you can choose one of 4 campaigns involving new and classic characters from the series. I naturally chose Leon Kennedy (star from RE 2 and 4, in my opinion the best entry in the entire series) and hosted a multiplayer match with a co-op buddy taking the role of a woman named, well I actually cant remember… Helena maybe? Either way Ive never seen this woman in previous games and they made no mention of who she is, but this seems like it will be a common theme going forward. When I started the game the first thing to notice is how fast this game plays, gone away is the slow pace of previous games, it’s a full blown action game involving zombies; the menus and inventory all occur in real-time, and the beloved health system of green and red herbs has been played with significantly. health is now a sectioned bar that can be healed with single shot herb pills (mixing herbs give you more doses, but they are all the same strength) and your character now has a stamina guage for the melee attacks yes that’s right, characters now have melee attacks to fend off zombies when low on ammo, and there are some pretty cool co-op kills. Each character has signature move for dispatching zombies, but how does it fit with other resident evil games?

The series took a drastic shift with the previous installment when co-op play became the focal point of Chris and Sheva adventure. however the pace, story and gameplay for the most part still “felt” like resident evil, where as 6 seems to have lost its place with the recent additions to the zombie gaming market in Left 4 Dead, Dead Island, and Zombie U (just for you Gavin). Resident Evil seems to want to be all these games mixed into one, rather than remaining focused on the aspects that made the series so compelling, and what prompted other companies to look at the genre differently. Instead of getting a TRUE resident evil game we essentially get a knock off version of Left 4 Dead with a MUCH, MUCH, MUCH bigger budget. I understand Capcom wanting to innovate their series, but it seems they just wanted to make a game too similar to the fast paced action games that are popular right now and creating a big budget title rather than sticking to the series root. If it were named Capcom Zombie Time I would appreciate it more because they have taken the franchise in such a different direction it would make more sense to start a whole new franchise, but alas Capcom is a cash cow when it comes to their titles, and certainly slapping on the Resident Evil name helps push more sku’s.

Wednesday, 10:21 am – Ricky

June 25th. My body is ready. Bring on Company of Heroes 2!

Wednesday, 8:26 am – Ricky

I still need to play Fable 3… But not while SimCity is here!

I had no trouble loading up and installing the game yesterday morning, and not a single second of wait time at 7PM EST last night – arguably peak play time on the day of release. I’m not sure why, but I’d wager a guess my Canadianess helped on that one, as it sounds like the majority of complaints have come from ‘Murika.

Here’s how this went down: I picked a region with 7 cities, with the expectation that I would take a few city spots and Albert would take a few. The region also has a “great works” spot for us to collaborate towards a space program, airport, or some other stuff. I left the tool-tips enabled and slowly started growing my city. First, residential and commercial zoning. Then very quickly after, a water tower and wind-power plant. I LOVE the fact that water and power are hooked into the roads – just make sure your shit touches a road, and you’re golden. This is a huge difference from previous Sim games and a welcome change.

Things were chugging along nicely. Sure, I had a lot of low-value land and shitty houses, but it was a start! I even started building out my industrial area, making sure it was downwind from the residential area. And then disaster struck. I had a hard-crash and had to force close the game. Lo and behold, logging back in was not an issue, but my entire city was gone because I hadn’t synced with EA’s cloud. An hour of work gone down the drain.

And you know what? It sucked. Why can’t it just save periodically? Why must it only save on exit? I asked myself these questions for a couple of seconds after the city booted back up as a blank canvas. And then I got back to work. This time, I knew where I wanted to place my zones, how I wanted to lay my roads, and I got off to a better start. In a matter of minutes, I’d completely put out of my mind that I was doing the same type of starting work that I had done an hour before.

I didn’t care.

This is the biggest endorsement I can give this game. Granted, I only lost an hour of playtime and it was the humble beginnings of a soon-to-be-great city. I can imagine losing a city after 4 or 5 hours of play would be way more traumatizing. But the fact that I could just jump back in, barely batting an eyelash and re-immerse myself in my city makes me realize I’ve fallen in love with this game. Soon, I’ll be creating more cities in the region. I have firefighters, a garbage dump, an expanded clinic, and more essential services. All of these will assist my gambling metropolis, which will provide funds for my downtown/residential, high-land-value cultural utopia.

I can dream it, and I can build it. Again and again.

I won’t be forgoing any responsibilities. Waking up early is actually a good way for me to avoid forgoing responsibilities. I still exercise 6 out of 7 days, I head out with friends, and I spend time with my fiancée. It’s definitely not like the old days, where I would come home, turn on my console and veg out for 5 hours. There’s no doubt that we’re older and have more responsibilities, but we still get excited about games, otherwise we wouldn’t be here!

Tuesday, 12:41 pm – Gavin

John Cleese was your butler in Fable 3, but there were also other good actors running around that one:

  • Michael Fassbender
  • Naomie Harris
  • Nicolas Hoult
  • Stephen Fry
  • Ben Kingsley
  • Simon Pegg
  • Sean Pertwee
  • Bernard Hill
  • Zoe Wanamaker (yes, she was in the second one as well)

Sadly, not even that stellar talent could save that miserable turd.

I’m passing on Sim City, but every review has been spectacular, and I admit that I’m curious to know what it plays like.  A few passing online comments have described it more as a Tycoon game than a conventional Sim game, but that’s obviously not an insult – just a perception.

I can’t immediately recall the last time a game made me so excited that I wanted to get up and play it early.  I’ve had plenty of games that I’ve loved recently, but nothing that’s made me go “I NEED TO FOREGO MY RESPONSIBILITIES AND PLAY THIS GAME”.  Perhaps the original Deus Ex, when I first played it in 2004?  I definitely skipped studying to continue playing that game.  I long for that feeling again.  I don’t forsee any games doing that to me in the near future.  Maybe the next 3D Mario?  That’s enough to make me buy a whole new system, so it’s a fair shake to suggest I’ll be up early for that one.

The most anticipated I have ever been for a game was easily Mortal Kombat 2.  I bought it through one of those mail order catalogues in my GamePro magazine that let you pre-buy games.  I bought it months in advance, and sweet Jesus, those were some long months.

Heads up, Sim City servers have been getting hammered.  Gotta connect to the servers to play your single-player game.  Rock Paper Shotgun had a video up of Total Biscuit waiting 30 minutes to get into a single-player game.

Tuesday, 10:17 am – matt

I really enjoyed the limited experiences ive had with simcity, maybe the reason i went into urban planning so long ago… but not sure if i can get in on this new edition so…

speaking of early morning videogaming, i tend to allow myself a good half hour before heading out to work of game time. for a long while i was addicted to waking up and entering SSX buy in trick competitions online, now its resident evil 4. im still waiting to try 6, i better not turn into ricky and start amassing a large pile of games without playing.

its the digital titles you have to worry about the most, because you never actually see them reminding you of the depreciating value…

…and then tomb raider hit stores, i think it took me about 20 mins after waking up before sending ricky a text proclaiming my love for lara croft…

Tuesday, 9:17 am – Ricky

I woke up this morning, prepared my breakfast, and sat in front of my computer while SimCity installed. Then, I played the 15 minute tutorial. It took all my willpower to turn off the game after that.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about a game that I’ve woken up early, or made plans to play it during the release week. This just feels like something special – SimCity games call back to my youth the way only a handful of series can. I can’t wait to dive into the game more tonight! Servers were steady and all green across the board this morning, though admittedly it was early. I’m sure we’ll hear about any server issues as the day progresses.

Monday, 12:41 pm – Albert

Awesome week ahead! I have joined Ricky is purchasing the new Simcity (Deluxe-make-you-buy-more-things-that-you’re-not-sure-is-worth-it but I’ve been assured by Ricky that it is). As for Tomb Raider, i most likely won’t get around to it for a while, maybe even this year. There will be a steam sale i’m sure 🙂

Good to hear that the sales are rolling in for all platforms. I definitely want your impressions RE6 matt, I hope it’s better than what i’ve heard so far. Also, John Cleese was your butler in Fable 3 (I think), anyways, I really enjoyed that. Probably the best part of that game. Nothing like witty witty British humor. 

As for last week’s quick discussion about Dota 2, I didn’t know that Dota had put in recommended items since I last tried it so it might be time to give it another shot. Of course between that, and LoL and Simcity… we’ll have to see…

Monday, 11:30 am – matt

the sales keep pouring in for me, as I picked up the ps vita game Smart As…, a brain training game akin to brain age but this has John Cleese from Monty Python guiding you, which is very cool.

I also picked up resident evil 4 and 6 during the Xbox sale. absolutely love re4.

Monday, 8:14 am – Ricky

Leaked last week, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will be coming this Fall. Here’s the pure CG teaser-trailer. I’ve been trying to work through Assassin’s Creed 3 as part of the Backlog Challenge, and I have to say, I’m enjoying it, but not as much as previous installments. That said, AC4 will bring a new protagonist – Edward Kenway, grandfather of Conner from AC3 – and an interesting new setting. I’m still a sucker for the series, so I’ll be eagerly anticipating more news.

Monday, 8:00 am – Ricky

We just renewed Gamentary’s domain! You’re stuck with us for at least another year. Sorry.