Yep, Company of Heroes 2 comes out this week. I’m getting it because I pre-ordered it before the 2013 Backlog Challenge was a twinkle in my eye. The team at Relic has been through a lot, so I’m happy to see their most recent baby actually get released.

With that out of the way, I’ve been presented with an interesting dilemma. Albert has presented a proposition that is particularly peculiar. Details in the Monday 8am post at the bottom of the page!

Friday, 3:05 pm – matt

thats a compelling letter, he clearly enjoyed “The Last Of Us” and wants others to know about it. I seem to remember having similar feelings for a little ps3 title known as metal gear sol… … … …

Friday, 10:43 am – Ricky

Great, spoiler-free review. I have to imagine that it’s tough to be in the game industry when these kinds of games release. Even though I’m not in the industry per say, it felt the same way with Bioshock Infinite: People were rushing to play the game because they feared having it spoiled or over-hyped. Still holding out on The Last of Us myself – I hope it slips by a bit more quietly as we hit the summer lull. I can then come back to it after GOTY talks.

That said, I once again dreamed of buying games last night. BUYING them, not PLAYING them, or even some fantastical dream where I was IN a game. Stupid subconscious.

Just placed my order for my new PC parts! I’m grabbing:

Parts should be here in a couple of weeks, but I’ll be in full-on wedding mode at that point. My sister’s fiancé will be in town, and he’s a bonafide, PC-building computer geek, and he’s graciously offered to assemble the pieces into my tower. So, coming back from my wedding, I’ll be ready to game at a ridiculous level in August, and for many years beyond.

Friday, 2:23 am – Albert

Early post, but i’m on the West Coast. Just thought I would start all the East Coast peeps’ day with an open letter from a fan to NaughtyDog (username: Wandyr)

“I work for a major game retailer in the UK and have been desperately trying to get through the game before someone spoiled it for me at work. It happens, it’s part of the job; people want to talk about great games. So this? This is going to have me talking for years. I’m going to look back on this game when the PS4 is at the end of it’s console cycle and say “remember The Last of Us? That was the reason I kept my PS3.”

So I’ve just finished The Last of Us. I just.. I… Urgh. I honestly cannot even. I felt compelled to write this, so you guys at Naughty Dog understand how huge an accomplishment you’ve achieved. Even if this is just one fan’s opinion, whether it is reciprocated across the community or not, and even with the unbelievable reviews and sales this game has earned, I hope you understand the meaning behind this post, because I have never, ever in my life deliberately sat down to write a thank you letter to a company for a game before.

I have never been on such an emotional roller coaster of a game. So intense, riveting, suspenseful and desperate all the way through it. But even through to the very end, hopeful.

I don’t think anyone will ever make a game to match this one. It is officially my all-time favourite game, and that’s saying something out of my mouth. I’m ranking it up against my first, now nostalgic, play through of Pokémon Blue when I was a kid. It’s better than Ocarina of Time. I’d pay the entirety of my WoW subscription over again to play this game again (and that game must have cost me nearly a grand by now).

I’ve never teared up so many times through a game. And was it worth it all that emotional struggling?

Yeah. It was.

Every day, it’s part of my job to recommend suitable games to people, and I do occasionally come across ‘that’ parent. You know, the one who refuses to believe that games are a good thing, and that their child is better off doing something “less destructive” or “wasteful with their time.” I’ve worked in games retail for a while now; I’ve got lists and lists of reasons why this is so entirely wrong. However, I wanted to adapt some of those reasons specifically to the example of this game.

People say that video games don’t have the same impact as a movie or a TV show. But they’re wrong. You get to play that story yourself. You get to live it. You feel everything that character does and you feel it 10 times harder because you know it will eventually end.

People say that a video game is worth less than a book. But they’re wrong. Yes, it’ll cost you more, but your imagination can only do so much. These people are artists. Literally artists in the sense that they create images and music, sure, but a game like this reminds you that there are phenomenal writers in this industry as well, not to mention the game directors and leads and producers that tie it all together.

People say that a video game is a waste of time when you could be outside, or socialising; learning. They’re partly right, but it doesn’t diminish the effect a game like this can have on your soul. You learn something about yourself when you know in your heart you would do anything and everything that your character did and could for his cause, for the right thing. You can fall in love, you can hate something more than you have ever hated anything real, you can be in another world, another time. It releases something in you that just doesn’t come close to any other medium. It can change you.

People say video games are bad for you. I’d like to see those people play The Last of Us and repeat that statement.

So well done, Naughty Dog. You have set the bar so high, it is going to take a LONG time for someone to clamber over.

And you have my personal, heart-felt, deep and honest thanks.”

Thursday, 11:30 pm – Albert

Thursday, 5:47 pm – matt

My name is matt, and I play consoles.

My initial foray into PC gaming came from a commodore 64, and I didn’t touch a computer afterward for 10 years. During mine and Ricky’s misguided attempts at being a teenager, we were lucky enough to have skateboard companies sending us free shit, so we decided to film said shit. Digital editing was just emerging and I plunked down a significant amount of money on a rig for video editing purposes and played the occasional game on it, but never felt the same connection to a game on a stiff computer chair instead of a soft comfy couch. Anyway a a year or so into owning my PC literally burst into flames from the mother board overheating due to a fault power supply. I lost my hardrive and all it’s contents, fried motherboard and ram, it pretty much became a total loss…

My name is matt, and I play consoles…

Thursday, 1:47 pm – Albert

I concur! PC MASTER RACE!

Now i’m not saying I won’t be getting a PS4, just not at launch. I’ll get it eventually. MAYBE, MAYBE even an Xbox One. But at this point i’m more inclined to buy a Wii-U than that. The sole reason is that the Wii-U is quite different and i’m been itching to play Zombi-U, and of course the incredible backing from our own Nintendo Guru – Gavin.

I downloaded the beta for COH2 and when the game was released, Steam automatically updated COH2 Beta –> COH2. However, when I start the game I’ve been getting “Your game is out of date… something about XP not being counted”. I deleted local content and tried downloading it again so we’ll see if that solves the problem! I’m really looking forward to seeing if there are any significant changes between the Beta and the released version but i’m assuming its more along the lines of polish. Either way, COH was my go-to RTS game even years after its release and I see COH2 following the same trend!

Strangely enough, The Bureau is not on my radar at all. I know it’s X-COM but i’m more a nostalgic fan of the franchise. This new twist is great and I hope it does well but i’ll wait to see how it does. TECHNICALLY, all games are GOTY material. It just depends on which games you play that gives you the vision for making an accurate choice for the actually GOTY. And the choice is Last of Us for me at the moment. Will that change? Who knows? A lot of people agree. When reviews come out and the game is rated the best in the last 2 years and receive the highest praise from all outlets, it’s tough to disagree. BUT, is that enough?

That’s for the fan to decide!

Yay!

Onward towards more games! Mush!

Thursday, 12:25 pm – Ricky

Nice, thanks for picking up on that! I thought the duality of the title was too subtle! Master wordsmith for hire. Will work for games.

Great call on the cost Albert. It’s interesting: My PC is now almost 3 years old and I paid … well, let’s just say I could have bought 3.5 PS3s for the price I paid. Investing more in my computer is a tough decision to make. I already have a pretty sizable library on Steam that would shine with my current set-up – but it’s the upcoming titles that I’m concerned about. Things like Company of Heroes 2 are already showing that I could benefit from the power of an upgrade.

I have a couple other factors that are helping inch me towards making the upgrades:

  • First, I like a lot of games that are PC-exclusive. Strategy games like CoH2 and indie games are often only found on PC.
  • Second, I get free Ubisoft games. That means I’ll be getting things like Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed 4 on the PC, but I’ll also be getting titles that have yet to be announced – think about Watch Dogs 2, Far Cry 4, etc.
  • Finally, Steam Sales. Make that all digital distribution platforms on PC: Greenmangaming, Humble Bundle, even Origin from time to time. Buying games on PC is just cheaper right now – that’s not to say it’ll never happen on PS4 or Xbox One, just that the precedent for PC and console has been set.

In the end, yes, there will be a PS4, and there will be an 800 series graphics card from nVidia, and there will be Maxwell chips to replace Haswell chips from Intel. But all we can do is make purchase decisions based on the information we have on hand. Right now, the info I have on hand tells me I’d benefit from a PC upgrade immediately, and well into the next 2-3 years.

Oh, here’s a cool trailer for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. Not a single shot fired by the player, and very reminiscent of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Looks cool! I’m sure Albert will buy it. I’m sure he’ll tell me it’s GOTY material. I have a feeling that’s his go-to for the remainder of the year, regardless of quality.

Wednesday, 8:41 pm – Albert

“You either fail the challenge a hero, or you stick with the challenge long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

– Batman

We have a duality in our post title this week as Ricky fights the good(or bad) fight in the challenge? WILL HE SUCCUMB TO PRESSURE AND MUD SLINGING? Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, in between harassing Ricky, we both discussed new PCs. I want to follow his lead and grab some new components for my computer to bring it more up to speed with new releases. For you guys who have always been more a console-based gamer, do you find it that PCs are more effort? There was a time when I would find that PC gaming was a little more hassles as it was not ALWAYS a guarantee that games would work on my computer. Sometimes it would be a driver issue. Or a download issue. Or something that would need to be addressed. While on the console, you put in a game and boom – works. That’s more rare these days for me as my computer works quite well and Steam has made loading games much easier. The reason this is on my mind is i’ll be spending my money (more money in fact) on upgrading my computer than buying the PS4.

Wednesday, 4:09 pm – Ricky

HAR HAR HAR you guys! Backdoor! Poopshoot! Butt!

There we have it then, I’m the bad guy in the game of the Backlog Challenge. Well you know what? Just like Dishonored, I’m embracing the chaos. I made sure the terms were clear – is it my fault we might have had a few beers when we made the deal? Sometimes beer helps people see more clearly! How was I to know this wasn’t the case here!

Played a bit of Company of Heroes 2 last night – just option tweaking and the 1st mission in the campaign – and it’s fun! More of the same so far, but I can see how the line of sight and weather changes will shake things up. The game did demonstrate to me something I think I already knew: My PC is getting a bit long in the tooth, and I think it’s almost time for a partial upgrade. I’m looking into doing just he CPU, motherboard and graphics card to keep costs down. The tower I have right now is fine, and so are the power supply and RAM. Changing those three things should give me a big bump in performance, and last me at least another couple of years. Compared to the cost of a new PC, it’s a fraction of the cost to upgrade piecemeal – the only problem is, I have built a computer since I was 16.

Minor inconvenience, right?

Wednesday, 1:52 pm – Albert

I was totally going to pull that joke, then I thought, nah. But now i’m regretting it.

Ricky loves pulling off backdoor negotiations… usually behind dumpsters.

AND we’re back.

COH2. Installed. Ready to be played.

COHMeta

Tuesday, 5:05 pm – matt

any backdoor negotiations Ricky’s pulling off wont be involving videogames… 🙂

in all seriousness I contributed Resident Evil for his birthday, that all I personally know about. my only comment on the backlog challenge and Ricky wavering on it would be the choice of three games for the entire year? in a industry ruled by quarterly results, I think it would have made more sense in aligning the purchase totals more in line with that, maybe even giving some leeway since he’s gone from 100+ games a year to three is pretty drastic, even with the PS+ goodies and Ubisoft freebies (speaking of which, I have a backpack I’d love to give away for a lifetime of free games if anyone is reading…?)

Tuesday, 4:25 pm – Albert

Kekekeke! The important thing is that more amazing games are coming out every week. Company of Heroes 2 has come out – and I know it will be glorious. I also learnt that Deadpool was released today. The love child of Marvel, Activision, and High Moon Studios. This game has mainly flown under my radar. Check the GB quicklook below!

Dishonored is another game that’s loaded for me. I’ve had it installed for a LOONNG time but I have not gotten into it. I am the opposite of Ricky where I am usually the good guy in games (Fallout, Skyrim, Infamous, Fable), but I find that if they are counting “bad” as killing enemies in a stealth game, then i’ll probably follow Ricky’s footsteps and just kill everyone.

But first, Company of Heroes 2!

Tuesday, 8:21 am – Ricky

I’m just going to throw this out there: I haven’t had any “backdoor dealings” per say. I had a birthday, people looked at my wishlist and bought me a couple games. I actually received more board games than video games! That said, odds are probably stacked in my favour for this challenge. I do get all Ubisoft PC releases for free, and I have a PS+ membership…

And today is Company of Heroes 2 day! Although I probably won’t have time to dig into it tonight, I’m definitely looking forward to booting up the campaign later in the week. I just played the one campaign mission they provided as part of the open beta and enjoyed it, but didn’t really get a full feel for the new systems they’ve put in. True Sight (a units ability to see only what is in it’s vision, not “through” or “around” buildings, trees, and other solid items) and the dynamic weather should both prove to be interesting additions to the long-running RTS series.

I did get to play some more Dishonored last night. Speaking of stealth… I’m not doing any… Dishonored is kind of like Deus Ex in that way: You can complete objectives a number of different ways, lethal and non-lethal. In Dishonored, there is a penalty of sorts for killing people – this increases the spread of the plague, and the likelihood of the getting the game’s “dark” ending.

I’m not going to lie, I normally play an evil dude in games, so I’m ready for this. I think the developer, Arkane Studios, was ready for it, too, because they give you a myriad of tools to complete your dirty deeds. They also have some awesome special powers tailored to killing: I can summon rats to devour an entire patrol, or produce a tornado at the flick of my wrist that will send enemies plummeting over a ledge to their death. It’s fun being a powered-up assassin. Sure, I tried the stealth route too, and it was OK. There were a lot of options there, too, particularly path options to make getting in and out of locations smooth and quiet. Still, this way is more interesting, and the combat is fun!

I think I’m about 6 or 7 hours into the game now, so almost halfway through. Overall, I’m enjoying it, but it’s not sinking its hooks into me the way the past few games have. I play a mission, which takes about an hour, and then I’m ready for something else. Not that there’s anything wrong with taking a game in small doses, it’s just that I’m missing some of the magical pull that kept me playing sessions of Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite and The Walking Dead for hours on end.

Monday, 2:01 pm – Albert

I’m going to Bill O’Reilly this and just caps lock my answers to rebuttal against Gavin’s arguments.

  1. Ricky is getting married in a month – EXACTLY, GAME WHILE YOU CAN
  2. Ricky has a ton of games already – NOT THE NEW HOTNESS THAT WILL FADE COME NEXT YEAR – HE’S PRATICALLY PLAYED ALL NEW GAMES THIS YEAR, LETS KEEP A GOOD THING GOING!
  3. Weddings are expensive – ONE GAME IS CHEAP + HOURS OF HAPPINESS
  4. The Last Of Us can be had for free in January 2014 – NEW CONSOLES + NEW GAMES = NEW FOCUS – STOP PLAYING OLD GAMES
  5. GTA V will occupy a ton of Ricky’s time when he gets it – STILL NEEDS TO PLAY TLOU FOR GOTY DELIBRATIONS
  6. Ricky is on vacation for several weeks this summer – MORE TIME FOR GAMES?! OF COURSE!

CONCLUSION: BUY THE LAST OF US (“SUCH A GREAT GAME YOU’LL SLAP YOUR GRANNY” – IGN.com)

Naughty Dog deserves every purchase of the game. As gamers we should punish those who make games purely for profit, but let’s do the other extreme and reward developers who create games for us. For gamers. This game is the best showcase of modern games that shows that good story can be told through a variety of devices, gameplay/realism can be achieved without sacrificing fun, and the voice acting and graphics really can help a person connect with the virtual people that you control, and the AI is stellar. Enemies will tactically retreat, call backup, actively flank, and work as a team against you. All in all, after finishing TLOU – I can say that this is the game of the generation. What an amazing game to end the cycle for PS3.  Since NaughtyDog is exclusive to PS4 I will be buying my PS4 ASAP.

Most do not believe the hype, but I have come to save the day gamers: Buy this game. Buy this game now. Buy a PS3 for this game.

Oh and there’s a new game +

I tried to play TLOU stealthy, but when the inevitable came I survived buy running away and hiding, or sometimes fighting to stay alive. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to be sneaky, got caught by a bandit, had to improv by throwing a brick, charge at the enemy, hit him with a pipe or whatever, grab him while stunned, face his allies, shoot one or two of them in the head, throw this guy down and bolt out of there before more backup showed up. Conversely, I always found in the Splinter Cell series that once you got caught, you had to immediately restart the level as it was difficult to recover from being spotted. Speaking of which, I’m really looking forward to the new Thief series and I am interested on how they will handle stealth.

It’s going to be tough for the next couple of weeks to not compare TLOU to every game I play now, but i’ll try my hardest to say: “I TOLD YOU SO!” But as I was reminded, i’ll have to play Bioshock: Infinite and Tomb Raider to make my choice for GOTY. Although, really, we should just call it now.

As for the offer: Yes, I offered Ricky the chance to easily break his challenge and purchase the game in lieu of purchasing me a game but he has respectfully declined and THUS, the offer is now off the table. Also I recently have learnt of his backdoor meetings! Telling people games he wants and influencing people towards helping him in his challenge! I say, “Well played Ricky… well. played. There is conspiracy AFOOT!”

Monday, 9:31 am – Gavin

I’m firmly in the camp that Ricky should not buy The Last of Us.  Not because I don’t want Ricky to have fun; it’s a simple matter of economics.

  1. Ricky is getting married in a month
  2. Ricky has a ton of games already
  3. Weddings are expensive
  4. The Last Of Us can be had for free in January 2014
  5. GTA V will occupy a ton of Ricky’s time when he gets it
  6. Ricky is on vacation for several weeks this summer.

As such, through a combination of no time and already spending a buttload of money, Ricky should not get The Last of Us, no matter how awesome it is.  An awesome game today will still be awesome in six months.

I’ve been stealthing it up in Splinter Cell: Double Agent.  My opinion continues to evolve about this game.  I wasn’t crazy about it, but it’s definitely warming up to me.  For those who never played or who aren’t familiar, you continue as Sam Fisher, but you’ve gone undercover.  You have to complete the covert operations of the NSA, while also working with a terrorist organization as a mole.  It presents some interesting challenges.  You can fail a mission if you lose the trust of either the NSA or the terrorist organization, so you have to actively work towards completing the objectives of both organizations.  You now als0 have “undercover” missions, where you have to do things for the terrorist organization in their own headquarters, but you also have to sneak into restricted zones to complete objectives for the NSA.  Except now, you can’t capture or knock ANYONE out.  Those are damn hard, and not desperately fun, especially since you also can’t control your walking speed except in the restricted areas.  Oh, and there’s a timer.

The physics are generally representative of improvements to Chaos Theory, but nothing desperately stands out.  The animations are certainly better, but you’d expect that with a generational upgrade.  The “sound meter” has been scrapped, so you’re back to basics with just an ambient lighting bar.  That leads me to the point that I’m finding the most: Double Agent is a BRIGHT game.  Darkness was almost omnipresent in the first 3, so the brightness really ramps up the difficulty.  The problem is that you aren’t given any new tools to compensate for it.  I know that a series needs to evolve, and tiny incremental changes like simply giving you daytime missions can accomplish that, but I suppose my gameplay style hasn’t adapted.  I’m having a tough time moving quickly enough to stay in the shadows.

The enemy AI is more or less the same, but now the default sentry-programming of the NPCs is such that they walk into the dark areas where you are.  There’s much less of a safe zone for you as you cling to walls.

I do hate the new UI features, where if you can do something, the action button pops up in the middle of the screen, rather than in the top-left.  It’s very obtrusive.  Also, a bell rings once every time an action is available to you.  Sounds like a goddamn triangle symphony sometimes.

Would I recommend it?  If you’re a fan of the SC series, you’ll enjoy it.  However, it is demonstrably different from Chaos Theory, and not in a good way.  Worth playing, but even if I rated it 7.5 or 8 out of ten, which is an eminently playable and enjoyable score, it’s still disappointing as a followup to one of the best stealth games I’ve ever played, and certainly one of the best games of its entire generation.

Monday, 8:00 am – Ricky

So, Albert has finished The Last of Us. I’m sure he’ll be by any time now to tell us all how amazing it was.

Unfortunately, I’ve purchased the 3 titles allowed by the 2013 Backlog Challenge. For those not up to speed, they’re SimCity, Game Dev Tycoon and I’ve also pre-ordered Grand Theft Auto 5. If I buy 1 more game, I’ll owe Albert and Preezie a game each. If I make it through to January 2014, then they each owe me a game.

However, Albert’s thrown a monkey wrench into this Challenge. Over the weekend, he messaged me that he’d finished the game. He said he feels so strongly that this is a game worth experiencing right away that he’s willing to forfeit the game I owe him if I purchase The Last of Us within the next week.

It’s an interesting dilemma – I’m enjoying the games I’ve been playing from my backlog, and I have a lot more to get to still. I have Company of Heroes 2 coming this week, and minimal time between now and Grand Theft Auto 5’s release to play games. But Albert feels so strongly that I should play this game that he’s willing to forego a free game and the chance to pull an “I told you so”, that it’s making me think the hype for this game is well deserved, and ignoring it could mean that it slips by the wayside forever.

An irrational fear? Something I’m telling myself in order to convince myself that it’s OK to break the Challenge halfway through? Probably yes to both. Still, Albert’s planted the seed in my head, and now it’s growing into the overwhelming urge to purchase The Last of Us and I can’t stop it.

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