Friday, December 17, 2010

2010's most popular gaming videos

Some cool, some yuck, all popular... for one reason or another.

Read Full Article

Monday, November 22, 2010

Minecraft video - the search for diamonds

Read Full Article

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spelunker HD

Of all the games of my NES-dominated youth, I never thought they'd end up remaking Spelunker 25 years later.

Read Full Article

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh Bullshit! (Part 2)

Odd how this seems to only happen in COD games?

Read Full Article

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Minecraft - It's hooked me

So, yeah, I'm playing some minecraft. Here's a video I fraps'd last weekend. Maybe I'll make another one soon.

Read Full Article

Friday, September 24, 2010

What if Civilization had lyrics?

Read Full Article

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Looks like we all just got trolled. GOG.COM is not, in fact, out of business, nor even sold to someone else. The whole thing was apparently a stunt to generate buzz for the launch of their new website.

Since when was trolling (or even worse, a forum GONE FOREVER post) a marketing strategy?

Read Full Article

Monday, September 20, 2010


Too bad. I had hoped these guys would do well. At, there is now:

Dear GOG users,

We have recently had to give serious thought to whether we could really keep the way it is. We've debated on it for quite some time and, unfortunately, we've decided that simply cannot remain in its current form.

We're very grateful for all support we've received from all of you in the past two years. Working on was a great adventure for all of us and an unforgettable journey to the past, through the long and wonderful history of PC gaming.

This doesn't mean the idea behind is gone forever. We're closing down the service and putting this era behind us as new challenges await.

On a technical note, this week we'll put in place a solution to allow everyone to re-download their games. Stay tuned to this page and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

All the best, Team

Read Full Article

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Wings of Prey

I'd been jonesing for a good flight simulator for some time, practically ever since Chuck Yeager's Air Combat fell off the radar. Is Wings of Prey a good simulator? Well, it depends on two things: How much you like or dislike realism, and how important to you the between-mission fluff is in a game.

Wings of Prey is a technologically impressive WW2 flight simulator from Russian developer Gaijin Entertainment. And when I say it's a flight simulator, I mean it's a simulator. The ground, the sky, the planes, the water, the boats, even the cockpits are all very detailed and impressively rendered. Combining 3D rendering with high resolution textures and some very good postprocessing, WoP manages to convey a very immersive flying experience.

There are 3 settings to the game: Arcade, Realistic and Simulator. Arcade mode has lots of HUD "augmented reality" instrumentation like most games do these days, and on top of that it plays "physics nanny" to help keep you from smashing into the ground like a hefty bag full of beef stew. In arcade mode, the game is almost too easy... not much of a challenge at all.

But when you flip that switch to Realistic mode... hooo buddy.

Realistic mode still keeps the augmented reality targeting and instrumentation of arcade mode, but when it comes to flying, physics and damage, the training wheels are most definitely OFF. The phrase "punishingly realistic" kept coming to mind. And I'm not talking "100 different switches and buttons to pay attention to" realism like in Falcon 3.0 (for those of you who remember it back in the day), I mean in regards to physics, damage, and the scientific principles governing flight.

Never before have I played a flight simulator where I could stall simply by maneuvering. I don't mean "whoops I pointed straight up and now I have no speed" stalling like just about every flight sim, this is different. See, what makes an airplane generate lift is the uniform and rapid movement of air past the wings, the shape of which cause lift. In previous games, including my fondly remembered CYAC, I've never experienced a stall by rolling 90 degrees and pulling back on the stick all the way. That, I had been led to believe by every sim ever, was your standard way to turn.

How misinformed I have been.

The performance characteristics of your average WW2 fighter plane apparently are such that you can change your bearing faster than you can change your momentum - IE, if you start out facing north, roll to the right, and pull back on the stick, your nose will be facing southeast about the time your velocity will still be sending you northeast. This means that air is no longer rushing toward you from the front, but rather rushing "up" from "under" you... no longer generating lift, and pretty much guaranteeing you to go into a spin and start spiralling toward the ground. Assuming you can wrestle your way back to control (and you have to do it firmly but gently or it just gets worse), you'll still lose several hundred feet of altitude. Hopefully several hundred feet you had to spare, otherwise you're now an impromptu bonfire.

That's not the only way things "get real." As you take damage to your airplane, it suffers. Damage to your engine makes it harder to maintain airspeed. Damage to your wings (Actually visible in the form of real polygonal holes in them) makes them generate less lift and makes it harder for you to roll your airplane, thus making you easier to kill. And let me tell you, these planes don't take much to kill. I was under the impression (again from previous flight sims such as CYAC) that it took many seconds of sustained gunfire to shoot down a plane... such is not the case. A withering half-second barrage from most planes (especially those with large bore cannons) will start you streaking for the earth... and much more than that will cause such structural damage that a the wind might rip a wing right off you. Also, so many of these planes only carry so much ammo. I had no idea that the machine guns on an ME-262 could basically be exhausted by 10 seconds of continuous fire. Light, quick bursts are the name of the game here. And it goes without saying that you have to lead your target.

Switching from "arcade" to "realistic" mode is a shock, like going from "easy" to "expert" in terms of difficulty... but heaven help you if you crank it all the way to "simulator." In addition to the physics realism of the previous mode, Simulator mode takes away all the augmented reality. You want to know your airspeed, heading, or altitude? You have to LOOK AT THE INSTRUMENTS in your cockpit! That plane coming toward you, is that a friend or foe? Well, I hope you've boned up on silhouette recognition charts, because there's no "targeting" feature or any kind of labels. If you can't distinguish a Messerschmidt from a Mustang in pretty quick order at 100 yards (while being shaken like a wet dog), you're probably going to be having a hot lead sandwich for lunch, and it's all you can eat.

Now, I'm a fella who enjoys a challenge, as long as the BS factor is kept to a minimum. I find Arcade to be too easy, but I find Realistic to be very difficult. Forget about Simulator mode. Fortunately the developer realized that it would probably be too difficult for most people, so the game gives you (now hear me out on this), infinite lives. Well, not lives so much as "do-overs." If you get shot down or crash for whatever other reason, you simply hit enter and you're back up in the air a little behind where you died, at full speed again. "Well, what's so hard about that?" you might ask - well, it keeps track of how many times you get killed, and at the end of the mission it rates your effectiveness. So there's still the achievement factor for those who want it, and yet the content tourists can still progress through the game instead of being denied access because they aren't aces.

These are the guts of the game, and for the most part it's pretty solid. The garnish, however, leaves a little to be desired. Much like other games I've reviewed from Russian developers, the localization leaves something to be desired. While the voice actors don't have inappropriate accents (in fact they usually have correct accents for their nationalities), the verbiage is just ever so slightly off, the emphasis usually in the wrong places, or the vernacular out of place. It's clear they were reading from cards without knowledge of context. Some of the tertiary controls are also a little confusing, and the joystick throttle controls are a little too sensitive - pushing the throttle all the way to the stop takes it past 100% and into WEP, or "Wartime Emergency Power," a kind of super-nitrous flank speed that will burn out your engine before too long... and it becomes difficult to find 100% throttle without bumping over into WEP.

I have to say this is probably the best Russian game I've played since Tetris. Unfortunately, as loyal readers will no doubt recollect, this is relatively faint praise. There's also a point where it becomes possible to have too much realism. Wings of Prey flirts dangerously with that area, yet I can't bring myself to dislike it. It's not a bad game, but it'll never replace Chuck Yeager in my nostalgia hall of fame.

Verdict: B-, or if you aren't into realism, C+.

Read Full Article

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Split/Second Velocity

Read Full Article

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Starcraft 2

It's been over a decade in coming. Starcraft 2. Probably the most anticipated and definitely the most hyped title of the last couple years. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. It's interesting the road that Blizzard/Activision has chosen to go down.

I'm going to get this out of the way right off the bat: Starcraft 2 is fun to play. Starcraft 2 is beautiful to see. Starcraft 2 continues the story that we were left hanging in the middle of back in the 90s. The cutscenes and production values are top notch, which is what we've come to expect from blizzard as long as we've known them.

Now that that's all out of the way, I can start griping uninterrupted.

A lot of people say that instead of Starcraft 2, it should be called Starcraft HD. That's what it feels like. The game is a lot prettier and fully 3D, and despite the addition of new units and situations to the game, it still plays exactly like Starcraft 1/Broodwar. The units still clump the same, behave the same, are ordered around the same. Unlike the transition from warcraft 2 to 3, Starcraft 2 does not have the option for your units to move in formation (they just all clump and move the exact same way they did in starcraft). There's the same amount of moderate micromanagement, the same resource gathering, the same... well, everything. It feels like a pretty polish job on a new starcraft 1 expansion.

Now, that can be good or bad, depending on your perspective. The original starcraft definitely had its merits - there was a reason why it sold so well, and why in Korea, to this day, they still have professional Starcraft Leagues where players can pull down 6 figures... from playing starcraft. This sequel is probably the least jarring sequel I've ever experienced - an expert at Starcraft 1 will find no real new learning curve to starcraft 2, as no inputs or tactics have really changed all that much. It will make the Koreans pretty happy, I'm guessing. But for those of us who long ago moved on from Starcraft to Company of Heroes, Dawn of War, and Supreme Commander, it feels like going back down to the minor leagues. The genre has grown and developed since 1998... evolved. Cover dynamics have come in to play, new gameplay modes and victory conditions, epic changes in scope and scale... but starcraft 2 remains stubbornly loyal to its roots, and it feels like going back to read Dr. Seuss after you've spent the last 10 years reading Tolkien, Heinlein and Tolstoy. Sure, it can stir good feelings of nostalgia, but it's a bit bland.

If you've got steam shooting out of your ears at this point, just go back and read paragraph 2 again. It was fun to play, I guess I was just expecting something as revolutionary again today as the first Starcraft was in 98. Perhaps that's my fault for believing the hype. But the blame for that hype rests firmly on Activision/Blizzard's shoulders.

So those were the design decisions that I found "interesting." Sticking to the formula of what worked in SC1, not breaking out into any new experimental paradigms, for better or worse. Now we get into the business decisions... most of which are the reasons why the amazon ratings for Starcraft 2 are pretty much evenly split between 5 stars and 1 star. Bobby Kotick, head honcho of Activision/Blizzard has made it no mystery where he stands when it comes to gamers. He sees them as cash cows to be milked and discarded. He has no love for video gaming. If you needed an example of the stereotypical businessman who cares about nothing but the bottom line, you need look no further than Bobby Kotick. If he could find some way to legally kick you in the crotch and take your money from you while you twitch on the pavement, he would form a business empire around it. His influence is clearly felt in the business model for Starcraft 2.

There's no LAN play allowed, for one. The game is absolutely, positively, inseperably married to the service. Plainly, Blizzard was in mind to curb piracy AND to force every single person who wanted to play multiplayer to buy their own copy. I can't speak to how successful the latter has been, but judging from statistics on torrent sites, there's still been quite enough piracy to go around. Despite that, however, Starcraft 2 has been the fastest selling strategy game in video game history. Tell me again how the PC gaming market is dead, Mr Video Game publishers? "2.0" also doesn't let you play with people outside your region. If you live in australia or europe and want to play with an american friend, you're pretty much SOL. Features from previous games are missing, to the annoyance of many. Also very unsettling is the idea that adding "friends" or posting on the official forum reveals your real life information to the not so tender mercies of the internet. Maybe you don't care if your name is John Smith, but people with unique names or who are revealed to be "a girl IRL" might find themselves unduly harassed. Now, Blizzard HAS decided to back off on this requirement... for now. The uproar was just too overwhelming I guess, but I personally do not feel comfortable that they might not do something else similar in the future and NOT back off from it, considering their recent track record of bad ideas and disregard for their customer base as individuals (to which anyone who has ever tried to get support in World of Warcraft can attest).

But, by far the most egregious sin of B/A and Starcraft 2 is the pricing and the division. Starcraft 2 only comes with the terran campaign. It costs 60 dollars. We've been told that the other two campaigns will be made available later as for-pay expansions. Can't you hear Bobby Kotick wringing his hands and smiling? In my opinion, it is NOT a good thing that games have been becoming shorter and shorter over the last decade. Probably the most blatant example of this are the notoriously short single player campaigns of the Modern Warfare games. These days, 9 or 12 hours of single player content seems to be the average, and that's just sad. Remember how many levels there were in Doom 2? Remember how long you spent on Starcraft 1 and its expansions? It's more than a little disappointing to find that the only concept that Starcraft 2 has adopted from its contemporaries is diminished length of content. And don't give me "multiplayer," every game has that (or should), and it doesn't count any more than the ability to make custom maps - it's players making the game longer and more interesting, not developers.

So let's sum up my impressions of Starcraft 2: Expensive, content starved, fun but dated gameplay, flashy and pretty visuals, no LAN, and a dash of invasion of privacy thrown in.

All in all, I'd have to say my recommendation for this game is to wait until it all comes out in a battle chest, then wait for that battle chest to hit the bargain bin. You waited 12 years, you can probably wait a couple more. Not that you ever listen to me.

Grade: B-.

Read Full Article

Friday, August 13, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Shadow of the Colossus

Yahtzee refuses to review Starcraft. I expect to have my review of Starcraft 2 done by next week.

Read Full Article

Tropico 4 goes to the dogs.

Via Kotaku:

Fresh from the success of last year's Tropico 3, Kalypso Media and developer Haemimont Games bring El Presidente into the 21st century, adding in Facebook and Twitter functionality into next year's Tropico 4.



Read Full Article

Friday, August 06, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Deathspank AND Limbo

Read Full Article

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Singularity

Read Full Article

Saturday, July 17, 2010

So apparently I write like David Foster Wallace

After trying a few of my posts in this analyzer, the most frequent author that came back was -

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

One thing that was interesting though, was my review of Necrovision came back as William Gibson.

Read Full Article

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Super Mario Brothers Galaxy 2

Read Full Article

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review: Singularity

I left this title languishing at the bottom of my to-do list, mostly because it's gimmick sounded a little too similar to that of Timeshift, a game which thoroughly failed to impress me. Now, after having played it, I must say that was a mistake on my part.

Singularity is a first person shooter that borrows a lot from previous titles. One could almost use the word "derivative" except that this word carries a negative connotation of unoriginality which would not entirely be deserved by the title. Rather, it does what I wish so many other games and genres would do - they take good ideas from myriad previous games and use them all in a new game. Sometimes it gets a little obvious, even egregious, but for the most part it serves to make the player comfortable and pleased with the gaming experience because the damn game plays like it should. I suppose as some others may have pointed out in other reviews, the comparison that most readily leaps to mind is Bioshock, as the game uses the same health meter and first aid kit dynamic as Bioshock, and also has a second bar that is EVE in that game and E99 in this game. You're also gathering a numbered resource to buy upgrades to your equipment and yourself, and there are a number of abilities of Singularity's "Time Manipulation Device," or TMD, that mirror plasmids from Bioshock, such as the ability to catch airborn projectiles and hurl them back at enemies. There's also the fact that everything around you is rusting, falling apart and awash in 50's paraphenalia, but that felt a little more to me like Fallout 3 than Bioshock, slim differentiation though that may be. The game also borrows the "aiming down the barrel turns anything into a sniper rifle" dynamic from Call of Duty, as well as the grenade danger indicator and the ability to only carry two weapons. There's also a heated spike launcher that feels suspiciously like the Half Life 2 crossbow (not to mention you also get a gravity gun power later), a boss fight right out Borderlands, a "sidekick" NPC that looks suspiciously like a certain L4D survivor, the "listening to audio logs that fill in the backstory" dynamic that just about every game has used since Doom 3, quickdraw/shoot sequences like in Call of Juarez, and a weapon called the "Seeker" which fires bullets you remote control in slow motion that brings back memories of the drones you use in Frontlines - Fuels of War. There's even a little bit of "companion cube" type puzzling a-la Portal.

It's all crammed together into the Unreal 3 engine (the prolific nature of which is why so many games these days all feel like each other) in a way that plays well. As much as the game might have borrowed from Bioshock (another U3e game, incidentally), it left behind the clunky, plodding, inaccurate feel of the controls and also reduced the operation of the TMD to one or two context-sensitive keys, making the use of multiple effects easy and intuitive without having to juggle and switch between umpteen plasmids. The conventional weapons also perform well, being as accurate down the sights as in Modern Warfare but unlike it, still being acceptably accurate when fired "from the hip" instead of turning your assault rifle into a rapid fire blunderbuss. The rate of turn feels natural, and the movement speed feels right as well - two areas that bioshock didn't quite feel like it got right.

But enough about what Singularity borrowed, let's talk about its originality. The game takes place on a moon-shaped island called "Katorga 12" just off the Kamchatka Peninsula. Back in the 50s, the Soviets discovered a new element deep underground there called "E-99" which (apparently, apart from displacing Einsteinium in the periodic table) causes chronological distortions in matter. Unfortunately for the Russians, research involving E99 proves to be hazardous and fraught with accidents, and as such the research is suspended indefinitely and the island is abandoned. With anomalous radiation readings coming from the island in 2010, the Americans decide to risk international incident to send a military expedition to the island to investigate. An EMP burst of unknown nature causes the helicopters to crash, and in trying to reach the extraction point after the mission is aborted, the protagonist unknowingly stumbles through a time rift to the past where he saves a Russian scientist who would have otherwise perished in a fire. When returned to the present, suddenly the only two remaining soldiers are unable to contact their base, and the statuary around the island has changed from depicting Stalin to depicting the scientist you rescued. Something in the timeline just got screwed up... and you're about to spend the rest of the game trying to figure out how to fix it.

Soon after, you are contacted by a member of a resistance group who call themselves "MIR-12" who helps explain what is happening and gets you to once again travel to the past to prevent the scientist you rescued from killing another scientist to co-opt his work. This leads to you getting the TMD, which for the rest of the game lets you rejuvinate or decay various objects and organisms around the island (there being a convenient plot device in place that the TMD only affects things that have been "infused" with E99... a plot device it happily ignores whenever convenient). But it seems no matter how much you try to fix the timeline, it only gets more and more screwed up, leading up to a dramatic final confrontation and decision that will decide the fate of the entire world. Not that I'll spoil it any more than I already have.

The trek across Katorga 12 involves a lot of shooting, both of mutant beasties and more mundane soldiery and some basic problem solving, but by and large the path through the game is linear to the point of almost being on rails. What little side-trips there are are extremely short, mostly of the nature of opening a room off the main hallway to loot it for items. The story is interesting (and unlike Timeshift, actually able to be followed) and keeps you wanting to play further. The graphics are excellent, and I am very thankful that the developers saw fit to let you customize your visual experience to your liking (IE, letting me turn off bloom and depth of field, two of the most overrated and overused visual abominations of the current generation of games). I was a little disappointed that there was no subtitles option, but I suppose it didn't hurt too much.

The game does have some shortcomings, even if you don't consider a vast repertoire of borrowed paradigms to be a negative. Sometimes textures are a bit slow to load, some details have been left out (such as walking in front of a movie projector doesn't cast the player's shadow on the screen), and probably the biggest gripe of mine is that the game's autosave points have been tailored in such a way so as to always let you know when something tense is about to happen, even more obviously than the spike in the music's soundtrack. The flashing words "SAVING - DO NOT TURN OFF" at the top of the screen might as well be saying "GET READY TO DO A LOT OF FIGHTING IN A SECOND." On the sound front, Steven Jay Blum is everywhere. He narrates some parts of the game as well as voicing the primary antagonist. Now don't get me wrong, he's a great voice actor and he does a good job, it's just he feels a little overused in this title. And, of course, there's also the fact that as you start to progress through the second half of the game, your character has become so strong that the challenge noticeably depreciates. The game clocks in at about 7 or 8 hours on the single player campaign, which is not as long as some but certainly longer than others... still, it feels like it could have gone on to have a much more epic storyline if it wanted to put in the time.

But all in all, it's an enjoyable experience I recommend to any fan of first person shooters. Your time is not wasted in Singularity.

Verdict: B+. And that's the word from Bandit Camp.

Read Full Article

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Via Kotaku: A Visual Guide to the First Person Shooter

Article here.

Every time somebody talks about how good a FPS Goldeneye was, I feel a little sicker on the inside. It wasn't bad.. for a CONSOLE game. But it couldn't hold a candle to Quake, Duke3D, Unreal, or even the original Doom.

It's depressing, because the only reason the PC gaming market isn't completely dead right now is because, despite having perfectly good USB ports, console makers and developers are still inexplicably ignoring the mouse as the world's best analog input device, one that is prerequisite for FPS dominance. When they DO figure that out, you can pretty much kiss PC gaming goodbye. There were already some PS2 games that had USB keyboard support... keyboard and mouse support on XB360 would mean you no longer have to spend ~$1000 on a gaming computer, when you can get a console for less than $500 that plays every bit as good, has less support issues due to hardware standardization, and is much less complicated for your average person to use... all while now getting the same games and comparable experiences.

With the glass barrier of input type shattered, other genres that have been up til now largely exclusive to PCs would also be fair game... particularly MMOs and RTSes. Heck, the PS2 might have had a trimmed down version of Sims 2, but you know with access to KB&M, the next Sims sequel would blow away all sales records if released on consoles.

Then we'll ALL be console 'tards.

Read Full Article

Monday, July 05, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: E3 2010

Motion controls and 3D.

Read Full Article

It doesn't look good for APB

Too bad, I had hoped it would be better, but aside from the comments section ranting of some rabid fanboys, the reviews coming in are calling APB mediocre to bad. For example, says:

I first saw APB in action almost exactly 12 months ago. It looked spectacular. The room, filled with developers and members of the press, was buzzing. When the demonstration finished, the conference was alive with applause.

The game I've been playing this week is a feeble shadow of that impressive first look. While it's conceptually the game we were told it would be, every component is so underdeveloped, the game world so patently artificial. Only the customisation tools stand tall, but even they're of so little consequence that they're almost instantly forgotten. Initially fun, initially somewhat impressive, APB ultimately remains a game that a lot of people are going to aggressively hate. They'll be quite justified in their position, and one suspects Realtime Worlds will have quite some explaining to do.

Read Full Article

Monday, June 28, 2010

Layout Changed

So I finally ditched the desert background tile. Now you guys can stop ridiculing my terrible site layout and start ridiculing my terrible authoring.

Read Full Article

Subscription Fees, DLC, and In-Game Advertising

A surprisingly level-headed soapbox rant from Tim over at Ctrl-Alt-Del today about the above topics and why they're here to stay. Recommended reading for all three of my readers.

I mostly agree with him - MMO games need subscription fees because servers and patches take money. Lots of money. In-game advertising is fine, if done right. The geico billboards in my Burnout Paradise do not harm my experience in any way, shape or form. DLC usually is a good thing, there have been countless times in the past where I would have gladly paid $5 more to have a favorite game that I just beat have more content... EXCEPT! Here is where I differ - all too often (I'm looking at YOU, Dragon Age) DLC content feels like it is NOT a bonus. It feels like it was developed concurrently with the title, if not being ripped right out of the main game itself to be sold separately. That's the kind of DLC I object to - the kind where it was ready before the game launched and should have been in the game to begin with. If you wanna see DLC done right, take a look at Borderlands and the General Knoxx DLC. DLC should be that. An expansion pack that adds new content beyond the main arc of the game. Now, some games abuse this a little, charging you 5 dollars a pop for things that should have all been lumped together as one single DLC (cough*MassEffect2*cough), but if the market will bear it, more power to them, I suppose.

So yeah, that's my two cents.

Read Full Article


Charger during intro sequence FTW.

Read Full Article

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review: Split/Second

One thing's for certain, I never thought Disney would put out a game in it with more 'splosions than a summer action film festival.

Split/Second is a heavily marketed racing game with a destructive twist. While playing it, you can't help but be reminded of the Burnout game series. There's a very manifest difference between the two properties, however - in Burnout, you bump and smash your opponents off the road with your own car; in Split/Second, you remotely detonate explosives, collapse buildings, crash planes, rupture dams and otherwise devastate the world all in an attempt to work your way to the front of the pack - where the other racers will all do the same to you.

The game can basically be summed up in such a manner. While the graphics are on the cutting edge of today's expectations (and I hope you like motion blur and post processing), the feel is actually closer to that of mario-kart, where everybody gets multiple blue tortoise shells.

Speaking of Mario-Kart, let me digress a little bit to tell you a story. Years back, all my school buddies and I would often play Mario Kart 64. There's one track in there that has a boulder roll down a cliff and across the road, always with perfect accuracy to smush at least one player. This became known to us as the "Exquisitely Timed Boulder." It became something of a metaphor for us, representing unexpected and unfortunate events. Your particular "Exquisitely Timed Boulder" could be getting extremely sick the day you were supposed to take a trip, or it could be getting a traffic ticket right when you had no money to pay it off, or it could be getting kicked in the nuts by a child as you traveled to your girlfriend's house to spend the night.

Well, Split/Second is a game that revels in, courts, marries, and has babies with the concept of the Exquisitely Timed Boulder. Then it sends those babies to "Coincidentally Unfortunate Happenstance" university, and populates the track with the graduates. The better you race, the more danger you are in of having something extremely unlikely come out of nowhere and squash you or shred you or send you plummeting 800 feet to a wet and rocky demise.

It's actually pretty fun.

The game doesn't concern itself with trivialities such as speedometer, course maps, or anything of that nature. The HUD consists entirely of your standing, the lap counter, and your "power" bar. You build power by drifting, tailgating, jumping and avoiding opponent-triggered explosions and whatnot, and then you can use the accrued power to set off those ETB's on the other cars. The power meter has three levels, and most simple attacks use one level of power, and huge ones that can alter the actual racecourse take a full 3 bars to activate. The lesser ones generally involve a single explosive set off at the side of the course or dropped in the middle by a helicopter, but the big ones involve things such as collapsing a building onto the course, crashing a plane onto it, launching a ship out of drydock across it, flinging a dump truck down a long straight stretch of it, destroying a dam and wiping out half of it, and so on. They can be very satisfying to trigger, and can potentially take you from last to first place.

There are also a variety of race modes. There's the standard race with laps, of course, but there's also an elimination mode where every 20 seconds the car in last place is 'sploded, continuing on until there is only one car. There's also a timed lap where you drive solo and the course itself tries to kill you, a race that involves passing the most semi trucks you can while they fling explosive barrels out of the back at you, and a mode that involves dodging missiles shot at you by a helicopter. Your standings in these events gain you "credits" which then unlock further races and cars.

While there are a variety of cars to choose from, the way it presents them is a little disingenuous. They have ratings for speed, drift, strength and acceleration, but the difference between the cars is a lot more subtle than the stats would lead you to believe. Furthermore, the stats of the different cars have absolutely no bearing on the performance of those cars when being driven by AI - the monster trucks (in the hands of the computer) can outrace the formula 1 racers for example. The AI is very "rubberbandy," a vice most racing games these days have. If you don't know what that means, imagine a giant thumbtack shoved in the top of the cars, and a rubber band strung around the tacks between your car and your opponent's car. When you pull ahead of the enemy car, he suddenly drives faster. When you fall behind the opponent, he inexplicably drives slower so that you catch up. The intention is to make for a better experience for the driver, but to pull it off you have to make it subtle - and this game where everything gets BLOWED UP is anything but subtle. So the obvious rubberbanding gets a little demeaning at times. Of course, the farther you progress in the game, the rubber band stops being attached to YOU and starts being attached to the finish line, and you'll constantly have to be blowing things up and smashing things down all while driving perfectly to stand a chance of placing in the top 3.

The game styles itself as a "reality show," with opening and closing credits around each "episode" and previews of what's coming up next... but during the race, there isn't much of that. I guess the developers thought that a play-by-play would get a little annoying after 50 races, and they're probably right. But what is still annoying is the multiple layers of unskippable "information" presented to you before and after each race that won't hurry up no matter how much you press the key it is telling you to press to continue.

The game has good replayability though, with single races being selectable after you beat them, and multiplayer both in the form of online and split screen competition. The video options are rather simplified (only letting you select with a slider between 4 presets), but the game runs well on previous gen cards on low settings (which still look pretty good) and looks very impressively cinematic on the highest setting. Some of the audio seems a bit off, as every explosion and crash is actually lower in volume to the "whoosh" of your car passing a signpost. I suppose that again is meant to heighten the experience rather than overwhelm you with a constant cacophony of catastrophe.

In summary, I found Split/Second to be a solid, enjoyable title with impressive visuals and engaging gameplay... even if it is gameplay built on making other players scream "OH THAT WAS BULL%#@*!!!"

Verdict: B+

Read Full Article

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

E3 Warhammer 40k MMO trailer: Nerdgasm Ahoy

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy

Read Full Article

Friday, June 11, 2010

Broke into

My apologies for the delays. I have a Split/Second review in the pipe, I promise, but between experiencing a home invasion (with some stuff stolen) and a family reunion... it's going to have to wait a little longer.

Read Full Article

Starcraft 2 Theatrical Launch Trailer

I guess I couldn't rightly call myself a gaming blogger if I didn't copypasta this.

Read Full Article

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lolwut video

Read Full Article

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I like this article.

About the women who pretend to write about video games. You know, girls like this:

So go read this.

My favorite quote?

Yes, we like large-titted women in games. And we like washboard-riddled male jocks and giant hulking stupid space marines also. We also like lanky useless fucks who are just accidental heroes and people in horrible situations. I AM SORRY LARA CROFT HAD BIG TITS, GOD, LET'S MAKE A CAREER OUT OF COMPLAINING ABOUT IT.

Read Full Article

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Nier

Read Full Article

Monday, May 17, 2010

Starcraft, 1984

Read Full Article

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review: The Settlers 7

Ok, Ok, I know. How comedic is it that immediately after ending a review with "starting next week, I'll start reviewing new games" I immediately disappear for umpteen weeks? I don't know why you people continue to put up with me.

Ok, enough of that. Here's what I got goin' now-

Settlers 7. My first thought upon seeing this title was "There were SIX more of these?" I remember hearing of "The Settlers," and maybe Settlers 3 I think at one point, but holy under-the-radar, Batman! Let's start off, though, with that boxart. I guess Ubisoft thought Americans would be put off by the game if the box art actually conveyed an accurate portrayal of the game. For that accurate portrayal, we turn to the UK box art -

Kind of makes the US box art look a little.. disingenuous? Perhaps even fraudulent?

It's a little hard to classify S7. To me, it sort of seems to be the sheltered child of an RTS and an Economics Sim that heavily favors its mother. "Heavy on resource management" doesn't even begin to describe what's going on here, though thankfully a great amount of it can be automated. This is good, because otherwise managing said resources would be a real nightmare and not give you time for anything else.

The basic premise of the game is that you, benevolent monarch that you are, want to conquer your neighbors so their people can experience your enlightened leadership. Now, to do so, you don't actually have to go kill the rival monarch. In fact, I've never actually completely eradicated one of the opponent characters by obliteration. Victory conditions are usually defined by having a combination of largest population, most territory, most money, biggest army, most combat kills, most trade routes, most prestige, most research done, and so on and so forth. Whoever gets 5 out of 7 or so of these conditions met is simply declared the winner.

So how you go about this sort of thing is rather convoluted. You need territory, obviously, because everything you do takes a building (or two, or three) and buildings take space. So you need an army to conquer neighboring provinces (or lots of priestly types to proselytize them), and to raise an army takes resources. You can just recruit men at your local tavern, but that costs a lot of gold and food. It'd be more economical to train them from scratch, but to do that you have to build a stronghold, which requires a prestige upgrade be claimed, and it requires weapons, which have to be made at a blacksmith, which requires coal and iron, which has to be smelted at a smelter, which requires iron ore, which has to be mined (along with the coal from earlier in the chain), and all this stuff has to be carried from the mine to the smelter back to your blacksmith to your stronghold, all of which might actually be miles apart. Oh, and the blacksmith needs wood, too, for the weapon handles I guess, so you better have somebody cutting down some of that, too.

It should also go without saying that the computer can usually do this faster than you. So it's lucky that if you set up things well, it will usually happen semi-automatically.

So you're building armies and conquering lands, all while trying to keep your populace fed, and keeping trade goods being manufactured so you can make money or get resources you're short on via trading with distant lands, and also trying to research technologies to gain the upper hand in production and war. I find it slightly ironic that the sole vehicle of technological advancement in S7 is basically the Catholic church... and that researching these technologies somehow actually physically consumes the clergymen involved. Oh, and the primary resource for training up more priests? Beer. (Which is made in a brewery you have to build from grain and water, which you have to grow at a farm and build a well to get respectively, etc).

I mean, really.. does it REALLY take the ritual sacrifice of four priests to teach your people the ability to chop down a tree if it is in the way of something you want built?

Combat also is incredibly mundane. Because there's no strategy or tactics involved, it pretty much 99% of the time comes down to who's got the most guys, and the most "advanced" guys. And considering there's a whopping 4 different types of units in the game, there's not a whole lot of advancement to do.

And don't even get me started on the whole "plain food/fancy food" dichotomy. Many of the tasks that can be performed in the game for no food cost double in output if you have it consume plain food, and QUADRUPLE if you let it consume fancy food. Explain to me exactly how it is that eating sausage makes a given artisan produce twice as much beer, cloth, whatever from the SAME raw materials as he did when he was only eating fish?

Anyway, once you get your mind wrapped around the bizarre rules of the economy, you then have to learn to contend with the "gotchas." I hate "gotchas." Gotchas are surprises (usually intentional) that developers put in to force you to replay a given section of game multiple times. For example, in one level of the single player campaign, when invading a given territory I was forced to fight double the number of static defense emplacements as was present in EVERY SINGLE OTHER part of the game. It looked like it might could have been accidental due to poor pathing, but there it was.. because there were twice as many cannons to go through, my army got annihilated and the CPU stomped all over me. And this was already over an hour into that level... so I was forced to replay the whole level from the beginning.

So you learn how bizarro-economy works, and you start to expect the "gotchas," and it's about this time that the game crashes. Yes, the game has some serious technical problems. The fairly regular game crashes are somewhat mitigated by the autosave feature at least, but the problem with the autosave feature is that when autosaving, the game locks up for about 45 seconds. And to top it all off, this is a ubisoft game, which means (you guessed it) "Go go gadget super-tattle DRM!" Sickening. And speaking of revolting game components that connect to online servers, the game asks if I want to post my latest achievement to my facebook status practically every time one of my settlers sneezes. Ugh! Of all the horrible things game developers have done to us over the years, I'm putting facebook integration right there at the top of the list of "most abhorrent."

Well, despite all that, it was a bit engrossing for a few days. But I don't feel the need to play it any more.

Grade: C-.

And speaking of disingenuous promotional media... I can't believe they seriously expected this audio to match this video.

And that's the word from Bandit Camp...

Read Full Article

Friday, April 30, 2010

Why I didn't review: Metro 2033

[17:58] (overflight> What I really wanted to try was Metro 2033
[17:58] (overflight> But I'm not sure if my laptop will run it
[17:58] (overflight> Plus, it's currently on the fritz
[18:00] (gasbandit> hmm, metro 2033..... google... wiki.... "and mostly the player has to rely only on their flashlight to find their way around in otherwise total darkness" PASS.
[18:00] (overflight> lol
[18:01] (overflight> Not only that, but it's a flashlight that you have to MANUALLY recharge!
[18:01] (gasbandit> Got tired of "our game is goddamned dark" years ago. Doom 3 was the final straw
[18:01] (overflight> You actually have to hold down a button and see him pumping his portable generator thingie
[18:02] (overflight> You also have a dart gun that you have to manually pump
[18:03] (gasbandit> That just sounds like a great big 55 gallon drum of irritation

Read Full Article

Team Fortress 2: How to backstab

I always knew "sprays" could be abused. How right I was.

Read Full Article

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Just Cause 2

Read Full Article

L4D2: The Passing trailer

Read Full Article

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: God of War 3

Read Full Article

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Final Fantasy XIII

Read Full Article

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photoshop CS5 - All Too Easy

Ok, I know this isn't exactly gaming, per se, but holy crap on a crap cracker, this "Content-Aware Fill" thing in the upcoming Photoshop CS5 is a freakin' forum goon's wet dream.

Read Full Article

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Battlefield Bad Company 2

Read Full Article

Monday, March 22, 2010

Review: Battlefield Bad Company 2

There are some constants in the universe. The sun will move from east to west. The Yankees will be in the playoffs. Even numbered Trek movies don't suck. And, of course, the bots in a Battlefield game will be hilariously buggy.

I never played the first Bad Company game, so it's a new experience to me to have a battlefield game with a narrative other than "here's some guys and flags, shoot them and take them, respectively!" The Bad Company series apparently tries for a more cinematic FPS experience, much like Call of Duty... but it takes itself less seriously. Where Call of Duty games feel like action or war movies, Bad Company is definitely a "buddy flick."

The gist of the game is this - It's an alternate reality world where the russians are invading, and this time they're digging up an old WW2 Japanese superweapon project codenamed "Aurora" to try to use it on their current-day nemesis: The US of A. The secret weapon is what is called a "Scalar" weapon, which if you google, you'll have to spend hours afterward trying to scrub the grease off your skin from all the tinfoil hats you'll rub up against. It's like the holy grail of WMDs - part EMP, part Nuke, with all the heat and electronics frying goodness and none of the pesky fallout. And apparently in the Battlefield universe, it takes a few minutes to power up, and during that time it bugles loudly in the distance, sounding like Godzilla rising from the depths.

Anyway, the russians are digging up this old scalar tech, and the only ones who can stop them are a squad of four stereotypes - A nerd, a redneck, a token gruff black authority figure, and an everyman (played by you, of course). It sounds like the recipe for a really bad movie, but it makes for an entertaining game, actually. The banter between the other 3 members of Bad Company really do a lot to enhance the game.

At least, it would, if not for the fact that 9 times out of 10, the three of them get so bugged they completely stop moving to have their conversation, and then never start moving again until you pass a magic plot point. And some of these banter sessions are astonishingly long, like the "do you believe in God" conversation which lasts a good 7 minutes. But the banter is entertaining enough to stop and listen to. And I had a good laugh at the "What? I can know stuff!" line delivered by the redneck when everybody was shocked that it was him, and not the nerd, who rattled off a name and detailed description (complete with trivia) of the plane they were observing.

And of course, the writers aren't above putting in a few digs at "the other guys." The end showdown felt directly like the end of Modern Warfare 1, where all you have is a pistol and you need to squeeze off a fast headshot or it's all over... only in the name of one-upmanship, here in B:BC2, you have to make that shot AFTER JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE WITH NO PARACHUTE. I have to admit I laughed when the nerd member of the group said "Come on, Sarge, if not us, then who? You know they'll just send a bunch of douchebags with sissy heartbeat monitors out here otherwise!" - a clear dig at Modern Warfare's propensity to make you rely on gun-mounted heartbeat monitors in snowstorms. But at least I didn't have to physically use my body to constantly jostle Gaz or Captain Price toward the next objective, DICE, so careful about the stones you throw.

Sometimes it's just easier to leave them behind, really. When an important plot point comes up, they'll magically warp right next to you, and then it's back to business for a little while until they are once again struck with catatonic amnesia, and stand there in a state of torpor pointing their gun at nothing in particular.

I know I'm harping on that a lot, but you know, it's only annoying sometimes. Most of the time it just elicited a roll of the eyes from me, because honestly they're not that much of a help anyway. If left to their own devices, the bots in this game would shoot at the same entrenched position forever, waiting for you to flank the enemy and dig them out. So really, it only makes it marginally less easy if they aren't there, and only then because they have a chance to draw the enemy's fire while you absolutely murder all 20 of them. In fact, I most got worried when my comrades stopped moving forward because I thought I might miss out on another banter session while I was slogging my way up Hamburger Hill alone. And you wonder how they manage to miss the enemy so much, when you yourself are aim-assisted all to hell and back, where even a casual spray in the enemy's direction will usually headshot them.

What was far more annoying was the massive performance hits I experienced during cutscenes. I don't know what they're doing differently in cutscenes, but almost every cutscene struggled along and desynched the subtitles from the audio, whereas every part of the actual gameplay was pretty much seamless and fast, abarring one or two parts that went completely over the top with fog and lighting effects. They're also doing something wierd with the audio processing, as every house I entered suddenly sounded like I was in the most echo-inducing of tunnels, and even when there were explosions and gunfire all around me, it was somehow quiet enough to hear the sergeant grumble about how he's gettin' too old for this shit.

All in all, though, the game was an enjoyable playthrough, even if it was only 6 hours long. I can honestly say I'm just as likely to go back and replay B:BC2 as I am COD:MW2. I like that you don't HAVE to have your eye jammed against the butt of your gun to stand a chance at hitting something. I like the convenient supply drops that let you change weapons loadouts at convenient intervals. I REALLY like how damn near every structure in the game is completely destructible, which is the real selling point of this engine as I understand it. And, of course, I like the dialogue, and the cheesy, goofy plot. It goes a long way to making up for the AI bugs and other minor annoyances... and the one major annoyance of having no LAN hosting mode for multiplayer. I mean, I know it's a console port and everything, but that should have been a no-brainer for PC, guys. Bad call. Also, I would have liked a co-op mode for the SP campaign.

Verdict: B-.
And that's the word from Bandit Camp.

Read Full Article

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Alien vs Predator

Read Full Article

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Bioshock 2

Sorry, forgot to post this last week. So today is a two-fer.

Read Full Article

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Review: Supreme Commander 2

I can't remember the last time I was so pumped over a game coming out. Supreme Commander 2. The sequel to, hands down, the best RTS game ever made. It had some pretty enormous shoes to fill. All these high expectations, though, are probably why I find myself disappointed in the direction they took with the game.

Supreme Commander 2 takes place 20 years after the defeat of the Seraphim in the Forged Alliance expansion for Supreme Commander 1. In the absence of a greater external threat, the various races have found one thinly plausable reason or another to start shooting each other again, if only on a small scale. But nobody really cares about the plot, right? The Supreme Commander franchise attracts those who value complex strategy without micromanagement, right?

Well, that may not be the case any more. While still mercifully devoid of micromanagment, the game has been stripped of the vast majority of its complexity. Why would they do this, you might wonder? Well, here's another travesty the blame for which we can lay at the feet of a developer's desire to dumb things down for the console tards. Since SC2 is being released on both PC and XB360, the lowest common denominator of both man and machine had to be pandered to.

So what did they do? Sheesh, where to begin... The very first thing I noticed was that they bolloxed up the "right click and hold" formation command, which irritated me all the way through my time in the game. They also removed the tech tier system, and now instead of building and upgrading structures and units in this method, they've added a third "resource" to the game called "research" which is generated by combat and by "Research Lab" buildings which constantly generate it akin to mass extractors. You can then spend these resource points to buy new unit types and upgrades to existing ones, and the effects immediately propogate to all your existing forces. This means there's no such thing as a "tech 2 tank" or a "tech 3 gunship" or anything like that. You never have to ramp up to the higher tech generators nor upgrade your mass extractors. There is only 1 kind of point defense gun per faction, and one kind of air defense turret, just to irritate more those of us who liked the old paradigm. Additionally, the bonuses you used to get from placing resource structures next to other structures is gone. There's also no cap on resources anymore (or rather, every resource is capped at 99,999 and that cap doesn't change ever), so no need to build storage structures. As the company promised, there are more experimental units... but they do less. Take the good ol' UEF "Fatboy." For some reason, the Fatboy 2 is *weaker* than the first incarnation - its guns are less devastating, and it is no longer a self-contained factory. It's gone from the must-have unit of the UEF to a unit I only use if nothing stronger is available, a pale shadow of its former glory. Cybran fans take heart though, your precious experimental gunship is just as overpowered as it ever was... which I guess is a good thing because the rest of the cybran military seems to be paper mache and terminally nearsighted, but I'm getting off track. The tradeoff for simpler (and in some cases weaker) experimental units is that experimentals now cost much less to build in both time and resources. The longest build time is 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I remember in SC1 having to use every engineer at my disposal to get certain experimentals done in as short as 20 minutes. That reminds me - engineers can no longer assist each other in building or repairing. What this means is that instead of grouping 3 or 4 engineers to build things more quickly, you have to get used to using 1-engineer-1-project concepts and strategies. They've also dumbed down how resources are spent. Instead of using the resource cost over time as in the first games, and slowing production (or stopping it) if and when resources run out, you now have to pay the full resource cost up front like every other RTS in the genre. Way to stop standing out from the crowd, GPG. Energy management is also practically a non-issue because energy generators are now the cheapest structure in the game, and are fast to build and take up little room, so if you're ever actually low on energy, you're a goddamned idiot who needs to be kept on a leash to stop you from wandering into traffic.

The one thing I can say that HAS improved since the first game is engineer AI. Engineers will now, by default, repair any damage within their range and salvage any wreckage in range without being told to do so. This means an idle engineer or two amidst a cluster of defensive structure dramatically increase its longevity, and therefore utility. So they did find a way to improve something.

But there's also some things they made worse that can't even be explained by the console factor - when building shields, the radius of the shield generator no longer is displayed during placement, so you have to sort of "guess" where the furthest extent of the shield will be. None of the defensive structures are particularly long range, so the few units that DO have range longer than your basic tech 1 point defense cannon are suddenly a whole lot better at tearing apart a base from outside the range of its defenses (hello, Megalith). Most of the maps are smaller (so small in fact that I wonder if Demigod slept with Supreme Commander 1's wife), and even on the ones that aren't tiny, it doesn't particularly matter. There are new "cheese factor" experimentals that let you put units right smack into the middle of an enemy base with absolutely no countermeasure other than to keep a huge number of units or defensive structures built throughout the entirety of your base at all times. Because if there's any part of your base not defended like fort knox, that's where the opponent's "noah unit cannon" or "Space temple" or whatever is going to drop a bajillion units that will rip out your guts through your back door and leave them steaming gently on the pavement. The funny thing is, the AI never thinks to do this, but once YOU do, you can pretty much beat any level pretty quick. And you DO think of this strategy soon, because there's a mission in the early part of the single player campaign that SPOON FEEDS YOU THIS STRATEGY. Then, in case you're dense, there's ANOTHER level later that has you do it again! At this point, even the console kids who other console kids think are slow, the ones who only have a brain stem, will be thinking "gee, this 'teleport into the enemy base' tactic sure makes this easy. I should do that all the time, huh?'"

Ok, all snarkiness aside, you know what? It's a passable RTS. If there was a world where SC1 didn't exist, and this came out, I'd call it a pretty, somewhat bland RTS that doesn't really stand out from the pack all that much. But you know what? This is supposed to be Supreme Frickin' Commander. I expect better from you, Gas Powered Games. Shame on you. Shame. On. You.

Grade: C. And that's the word from Bandit Camp.

Everything in the below trailer is a lie. - GB

Read Full Article

Friday, February 26, 2010

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Dante's Inferno

Read Full Article

Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: Borderlands

The fourth and final chapter of the "why the hell hasn't Gas Bandit reviewed a game in 4 months" quartet. Next week or so I'll start reviewing much more recent games. Borderlands is a genre-spanning titan of a game, blending RPG elements with FPS action, with the campaign being both single and multiplayer friendly. It had a lot of hype leading up to it, and rightly so, as it was such an ambitious endeavor. I must admit that the hype biased me against it a little, as is usually the case in overhyped games, but I have to admit: The hype was there for a reason.

Borderlands is the story of (up to) four mercenaries of varying origin and motivation, none of which makes absolutely any impact on the progression of events whatsoever. What was Roland's reason for leaving the Crimson Lance? Who is the woman Lilith came to this planet to find? Does Brick do steroids? Who knows? Who cares? The game certainly doesn't, because on a bus ride across the garbage-strewn dystopian planet of Pandora, they have a vision of an ethereal woman calling herself their guide, their guardian angel, and that she will help them find the Vault. The Vault is, apparently, something every child on Pandora heard about growing up - a hidden cache of treasure and alien technology guaranteed to make whoever finds it stupidly wealthy. So, they all completely shed their backstories and motivations, never to be mentioned again, to take up hunting for the Vault.

Pandora is a pretty desolate place, but I'm convinced that half the mass of the planet is made up in firearms. There's so many firearms the local wildlife seems to often attempt to ingest them as food (of course, they spill out for you to pick up once you kill the critter). There's a lot of shooting, a lot of dodging, a lot of reloading, and a WHOLE lot of deciding whether gun A is better than gun B. Most often it will not be, as despite the fact that it was ripping you a new one 10 seconds ago, as soon as you put it in your hand it suddenly devolves into an airsoft pistol.

There are those around the 'net that will tell you that Borderlands is "the next Diablo." In many ways, primarily the good ways, they are correct. The items you get are randomly generated, and the flow of time seems rather arbitrary because at any given time (depending on who is hosting the game) you could be entering the plot either near the beginning or the end of the story. But, like Diablo, Borderlands is a game best experienced with friends, and a diverse group will fare better because the classes compliment each other. Having more people in your game makes the enemies tougher, but also makes them give more experience and better loot.

The game gives you a pretty linear string of quests, along with a multitude of optional side quests. Most of the missions are pretty straightforward - go here and kill this, or go here, kill these until you collect x of those and bring them back. There's also the occasional scavenger hunt. Of course, the main drive of all these missions and rewards is to level up and get better gear. The health bar paradigm is in use here, and healing can often get pretty cumbersome - unless you have a special shield to enable you to do so, you won't heal on your own, and health kits take up precious backpack space and are cumbersome to use in a pinch. Fortunately, you get a personal force field that will take the brunt of the damage, and if you can stop taking damage for a few seconds it will start rapidly recharging itself.

As you level up you will also be able to spend points to get new passive abilities added on to your character, such as rapidly healing or repairing your shield every time you kill someone, better accuracy or more damage with certain weapons, decreased cooldowns for your class-defining ability, and so on. There are also special items called "Class Mods" which are only useable by certain classes and drastically alter how your character performs - it may boost damage by 40% on a certain type of weapon for example, or grant you and all your allies ammo regeneration, etc.

In addition to regular guns, there are many guns all throughout the game that do "elemental" damage - that is, they do damage based on fire, electricity, corrosion or explosion. This damage is considered different from regular bullet damage, and usually these guns have a chance to cause a special damage type, such as setting your target on fire to burn for damage over time, electrocuting to stun, exploding for area damage or corroding to cause damage over time plus take more damage while corroding. Different shields also can have added resistance to these 4 elemental damage types, though electricity always seems to do the most damage to shields and fire always does the most damage to bare flesh. When you start out, you have a small backpack, limited resources, and a sucky gun. As you level up and complete quests, you'll make money, find better weapons, be able to keep up to 4 ready for use and also increase how much you can carry. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that elemental weapons are definitely the way to go - no normal gun, no matter what its stats say, can compete with a similar level elemental weapon of roughly equivalent quality.

The game's graphics are pretty good. I'm sure its performance is augmented by the simple textures used - as the game is going for a "comic book" artistic vibe we've seen in other games such as Champions Online. The textures are a bit on the cartoony side and post processing adds a thick black line to the outline of every model. Even so, there are times (especially toward the end of the game) where framerate does start to suffer a bit, but you can quickly remedy this by killing off some enemies. There's lots of voice acting of good quality, and the game's auditory experience is very pleasing.

In addition to running around on foot, the game provides you an unlimited supply of vehicles (after a few quests enable you to get to them) which let you traverse the areas of the game faster, although the mounted weapons soon become nigh-useless because their damage doesn't scale appropriately with level. In fact, neither does the vehicle's structural integrity (though it looks like it is trying), so that toward the end of the game they're more prone to explosion than a Ford Pinto.

Borderlands blends RPG elements into FPS action, which is a fun way to game, but it also makes for some audaciously dischordant situations... for instance, enemy humans will take more damage if you shoot them in the head rather than the body, but there are some humans so tough that they can take multiple dozens of bullets to the face before they die, despite wearing no visible armor. This is, of course, part and parcel of RPG fare and those familiar with RPGs primarily won't even consider it odd, but FPS diehards might consider it a bit odd, or in some cases, outright BS.

Once you beat the game, which you will do long before you reach maximum level, you are then permitted to go through again from the start on a more difficult setting. Believe it or not, this is funner than it sounds. Also, two expansions have been made available via DLC: The Zombie Island of Doctor Ned, and Mad Moxxy's Underdome Riot. What these two DLC packs do is introduce new areas to the game that aren't connected in any way with any other event going on in Borderlands. As the name suggests, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a horror-movie type setting with zombies and werewolves and whatnot, with more quests and such to do. Mad Moxxy's Underdome Riot is an expanded arena system where you (and your friends, if you want to get anywhere in the second tier) take on wave after wave of multiple enemy badguys, culminating in repeat appearances of many of the bosses from the Borderlands campaign proper - all level adjusted for challenge, of course. While the loot isn't as good and no experience is gained on your character, you will get the opportunity to get extra skill points, basically letting you spend more points than you would otherwise have gotten at maximum level. All-in-all, however, I'd say the DLC is primarily for those who absolutely can't get enough of playing Borderlands, because the experience of playing them is supposed to be its own reward.

In summary, this is an excellent multiplayer co-op game. The campaign is designed around it from the ground up, the writing includes a lot of silliness and grim humor, and the dialogue is often hilarious ("He's my friend, and by friend, I mean 'asshole what messed up my mama's girl parts.' You may want to get what you can from him while he's still alive from me not having killed him yet and whatnot.") While I can't say I'll still come back to play it years down the road, for a brief period there was a time where Borderlands was king of the roost, and it wouldn't let me go till I had played it to death 3 times over.

Verdict: B+. And that's the word from Bandit Camp...

Read Full Article