Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

GamingRant

BioShock 2… meh?

BioShock 2 logoYou know I’m all up for Steam bargains right? If you don’t mind being a year or so behind the curve of newly released “triple A” games and prefer to pay under £5 for titles that were £39.99 RRP originally, then Steam is a godsend. Yup, I’m a cheap, cheap bastard. A few weeks ago, I took advantage of such a bargain and purchased BioShock 2 for the low, low price of £3.49 – a great opportunity to enjoy the much-anticipated sequel to the 2007 blockbuster, for pretty much peanuts.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about here – what I thought of BioShock 2. I doubt it’s going to matter or be that interesting to many people considering it’s a year old game but what the hey, I’m going to do it anyway. Just on the off-chance someone out there hasn’t played it and still might, I should probably warn you now, there is very likely going to be…

SPOILERS!

There. You were told. Anyhoo, to business.

For £3.49, you can’t really complain too much. I played the game to conclusion and according to Steam, got a good 14 hours worth of entertainment out of it for my pennies. I admit, I did take my time, creeping through the dingy structures, pausing at every sudden clatter of noise and staring like a dope at each period-piece poster that adorned the walls. I spent so long dawdling that the game regularly thought I was lost and helpfully informed me how I could get back to the serious business of blowing chunks out of splicers. I was having none of it. Part of the charm of the original BioShock was how rich the atmosphere was. Exploration is a big part of my enjoyment of games where the environment is so wonderfully detailed. For a let’s-get-this-done ‘serious gamer’, I’d expect a much shorter play through than 14 hours. No matter, it was certainly value for money.

Having also enjoyed the original title, I was looking forward to having more of the BioShock world fleshed out. I didn’t go ga-ga over its first outing as much as some of the really rabid fans as I find tying a so-so FPS with a somewhat watered-down RPG (also known as Mass Effect syndrome) to be a let-down coming from Irrational Games. Still, it was very polished and provided an interesting narrative, which made up for a lot.

BioShock 2, developed by another 2K Games studio tends to stand on the shoulders of the first game, not really bringing much new to the party. Another protagonist is led by the nose through the ruined utopia by a group of people who probably don’t have your best interests at heart. A lot of shooting, a lot of skill-set upgrading and a lot of black/white choices masquerading as a fleshed-out morality system.

So this time round you’re a Big Daddy (nope, can’t think of a legitimate way to work Shirley Crabtree into the sentence) with a mission to re-unite with your Little Sister. There’s a little fluff and manoeuvre in the story but that’s the main thrust of it. You being a hulking monstrosity doesn’t really affect the gameplay that much – you have their customary drill for melee (never bothered using it), can now travel underwater (thoroughly underused and didn’t bring anything interesting to the table anyway) and people generally react badly to you (compared to the legions of splicers who wanted to invite you over for tea and crumpets from the first game). It’s basically business as usual down in the depths in Rapture.

There was one thing that really got my goat about this outing that I don’t recall being such a blatant abscess in the first game and that’s the developer’s reliance on a gameplay mechanic I call Reward Punishment. It’s something that tends to rear its ugly head in lazily designed FPS titles such as the Doom series. See that health/ammo/power-up down the corridor? Go pick it up. Go on, you know you want to. Go it? HAH! Tricked you! Now a platoon of space zombies have spawned down the corridor behind you, pretty much negating the point of any health or ammo you’ve just gained. In small (i.e. rare) doses, it’s a minor annoyance and a surprise. On the other hand, when it happens constantly, it becomes tiresomely predictable and just smacks of amateurish game design.

A large problem for BioShock 2 that is really no fault of its own is that the shine has gone. We’ve been to Rapture. It was a wonderful journey of new sights and experiences in the first game but now the player knows what to expect and even if they don’t realise it at the time, it colours the experience. We’ve faced the choice of how to deal with the Little Sisters and their protective companions, explored the leaky retro-themed corridors of lost splendour with its psychotic inhabitants and endured the duplicitous nature of its misguided leaders. BioShock 2 can’t reinvigorate those elements for the player so has to rely on polishing the aforementioned so-so FPS at its heart.

Ultimately, it’s… more of the same, but without the fresh-Rapture-smell of the original. Enjoyable, but lacking. If you ever see it for pennies, I heartily recommend picking it up but don’t go into it expecting quite the same wonder that you experience with BioShock. Personally, I’m rather looking forward to BioShock Infinite – the next in the series. No more Rapture and a chance to work out my vertigo issues. Since it’s supposed to be coming out sometime in 2012, I’ll probably be playing it in 2015, courtesy of another Steam sale. Go Skinflints!

MoviesRantTV

Remakes

BeesJust… seriously. Get the fuck over it. Yeah, there’s a film you really, really like. Maybe it defined your childhood, maybe it got you through a time of difficulty in your life or maybe it’s just a film you consider one of the all-time classics. Good for you. We all have films we love but then along comes some asshole in a suit who hasn’t had an original thought in his boss-pleasing, yes-man life and he’s decided it’d be a good idea (read: Ka-ching!) to take another swing at your cherished film. Remake, re-imagine, reboot, recycle – whatever the term-de-jour happens to be, they’re going to get that writer of some Sundance indie flick you never saw, attach a director who has only ever made music videos (did you see his last one? It went viral!) and cast a bunch of unknowns with more enthusiasm than talent, two currently hot TV actors who’ll return to the small screen with their tails between their legs after the film bombs and one fading legend destined to pop his clogs with this turd at the end of their illustrious résumé.

It’ll be shit. We all know it. Sure, it’ll do well, with the fans of the original propping up the numbers along with the regular popcorn munchers but it’ll never be more than a nice try. To top it off, it’ll probably be in ‘3D!’ too because we all know the mindless fuckwits out there gobble that shit right up.

But… so what?

This is my problem. Whenever a remake is announced and yon fansites post the news, you’re guaranteed that 99% of the comments that follow the article will display a subtle “you muthafuckers shot my dog!” type of vibe. The wailing and gnashing of teeth, the how-dare-theys and clichéd ‘noooooooooooooo’s will be deafening. There’s just a few little things I want to point out to those idiots.

  1. You’re not being forced to watch the remake. No-one is holding a gun to your head. Mr. A Hole isn’t going to jet over a platoon of besuited thugs to frog-march you into your local cinema, strap you down and Clockwork Orange your ass into seeing this flick. There’s a very good chance that you could probably go your entire life without ever seeing the remake.
  2. The original will not cease to exist once the remake is made. Easy one to forget. Keep checking your DVD/Blooo-ray collection during the development and upon release of the film and I’ll almost certainly guarantee that your beloved film will not vanish. I say ‘almost certainly’ because the type of moron we’re talking about here probably loses shit on a daily basis so spontaneous evaporation of prized possessions is not completely off the books. But my point is, even when this turkey is released, the original will still be around, available and still standing head and shoulders above the weak pretenders to the throne.
  3. It might be… good? Okay, so chances are it’ll define new depths to which celluloid can sink but there’s always the ever-so-small chance that it might not suck. And even if it isn’t the best thing since freeze-dried instant happiness, it might just be different enough to be entertaining in it’s own right. Remember, Cronenberg’s ‘The Fly‘ and Carpenter’s ‘The Thing‘ are both essentially remakes.

On top of all that, they’re forgetting one of the most important upsides – once the film comes out and their friends go see it, they’ll be able to prance around saying “It’s not nearly as good as the original” with a few “Oh, you haven’t seen the original? You should. You really should!” thrown in for good measure. Yeah, they’ll be able to feel superior off of that doozy for good month or two.

So, when you hear about a remake of a film you consider to be a classic, take a couple of deep breaths, calm your mind and for a change of pace, shut the fuck up.

Rant

“Sigh…”

As much as I love ‘social networking’ sites (and I do, as evidenced by the spatter of 140-character blue bird shits that now litter my site), it has become somewhat clear that there’s basically two main types of comments people regularly post.

The first is a ‘Bragging‘. The planets have fortuitously aligned and people can’t help but rub your nose it in. Big accomplishment or small joy, it doesn’t matter, they need to brag about it in a rather round-about fashion. Maybe even in the guise of a complaint. An excellent term I heard (from Robert Llewellyn on Twitter) that describes this tactic perfectly is ‘moasting‘ – a combination of moaning and boasting. As his example puts it “Oooh I have to get up really early to do an amazing job. Poor me.“. With celebs, it’s pretty much a given but once you start to look for it, you’ll be surprised by the amount of moasting your friends and family do.

The second is a ‘Fishing‘. When they’re not busy bragging, the attention seekers out there will spend most of their time fishing. Whether for sympathy or compliments, they desperately want it and expect you to supply it. Putting themselves down, hoping to receive a flood of “Nooo, you’re great! Stop that! You know you’re fabulous and if it wasn’t for the fact that you cover your backside at all times, I’d probably have to take to wearing factor 60 sunscreen in your presence!“. A lot of the time, they’ll be feeling a bit sorry for themselves. Luckily, depression only happens to people who constantly engage in fishing for sympathy on social networks. Thank fuck for that, eh? I mean, how much would it suck if everyone felt like shit from time to time? Small mercies, my friend, small mercies.

You’ll be amazed how many status updates, tweets and comments you can divide into just those two categories when you think about it. If the general output from your preferred social network isn’t one of those two types, it’s most probably going to be about what that person had for lunch, instead.

I had a ham sandwich.

GamingRant

DLC me?

CashSo the Steam Holiday Sale ended yesterday (6pm for GMT people round here) and during the event, my heart grew three sizes. And by heart, I mean games collection. It was bargains galore and I feasted, to a budget, which is probably the best kind of feasting to be had. I picked up some Indie classics that I’ve long overlooked, some on-the-fence AAA titles that I just wasn’t prepared to blow 40-quid on when they were first released, a strategy game I didn’t even realise had been made, a couple of FPS titles in the “don’t play them alone, with the lights off during a stormy night if you value your underwear!” variety and some DLC. That’s what I want to have a wibble about today – the DLC.

It’s no secret that I’m a little wary of the DLC bandwagon. Knowing the games industry and the people involved – I’ve always felt the prospect of withholding content that would have normally been part of the regular full-game release and later packaging it as a separate ‘added value’ release at an additional cost just seemed like it’d be too tempting. More money for the same work? Ka-as-they-say-Ching! Is it already happening? Always going to be difficult to say but we know the industry isn’t above trying it on (remember Oblivion’s Horse Armour?). Of course, not all DLC has this tainted vibe. Some of it will be honest-to-goodness extra effort, above and beyond, game expanding content. Of course, we have that murky grey area of proper DLC developed concurrently of the original game, using resources that could easily have been part of the full-game but let’s just stick our fingers in our ears and ‘la-la-la-la-not-listening-la-la’ that concept for now, shall we?

I recently purchased DLC for two of the games I own, both for slightly different reasons. The first game was Grand Theft Auto 4 which I have to say (and will probably annoy some blinkered zealots by doing so), I didn’t enjoy half as much as I did the games from the earlier GTA3 series. For all it’s shine, I felt the core was spinning slightly off-kilter. It just didn’t seem right. The main problem I’d cite would be that driving felt waaaaaaay too loose, as if I was directing barges across an ice-rink. Add to that a game design/mission layout that emphasised long-distance to-ing and fro-ing (drive across two islands to a mission hub, pick up the mission, back across two islands to the mission site, usually involving more driving). They even put toll-booths on the bridges! Throw in an over-reliance on scripted chases (“So, there was no point in me weaving about like a idiot, emptying my entire ammo supply into your vehicle for the past ten minutes – you were unrealistically invulnerable until you passed some completely arbitrary location?“). I know it’s more ‘dramatic’ to have scripted missions but if I have acquired the tools and the skill to complete the mission early, let me. It is a sandbox game, after all, FFS.

Anyway, I purchased ‘The Lost and Damned‘ and ‘The Ballad of Gay Tony‘ as every review I’d seen for them had emphasised how much they improved on the core game. I’ve already consumed the biker gang portion of the DLC but have yet to finish my night-clubbing escapades as Gay Tony’s bouncer/business partner. Of the two, I think I’m enjoying TBOGT more and for the same reason that blighted the main game for me – driving. But, I hear you cry, they tidied up the motorbike handling specifically due to all the ‘in-formation’ posturing you do in TLAD. Yeah, but the way I got around all that mind numbing commuter-sim business between missions in GTA4 was to taxi ride the entire game. Once I realised I didn’t have to endure that lousy snorefest aspect of the game, it was a revelation. One that TLAD stomped all over with it’s insistence that I needed to be staring at hairy biker arses for 90%  of the DLC. So TBOGT wins big time in that respect.

The other game I purchased DLC for was Borderlands, an MMO-esque FPS that I didn’t really think would be my cup of tea but turned out to be a game I thoroughly enjoyed (and would recommend). It has four pieces of DLC out and since I’d heard that ‘Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot‘ was a bit of a weak cash-in and people thought that ‘Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution‘ was a little ‘meh’, I decided to try out the other two – ‘The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned‘ and ‘The Secret Armory of General Knoxx‘.

One thing I’ve noticed playing both these DLC and that’s the desire of the devs to pad out the experience somewhat. There are no fast-travel points within the DLC apart from the one you come in on. In the regular game, you’d wander off to a new zone, splatter whatever needed splattering and then hit the closest fast-travel point back to town to complete your mission. Since new missions would regularly send you back to those other zones, the fast travel points were also handy for skipping ahead to where you needed to be. In the DLC, they’ve tried to artificially extend the lifetime of the content by forcing you to traverse from point A to point Z and all the dreary letters in-between. I can see why they did it but they’re not really fooling anyone and all they managed to achieve is to introduce a major annoyance that hampers my enjoyment of the DLC. It’s more apparent in TSAOGK as it features highways to drive through (again… and again).

While on one mission, the happy little Claptrap announcer informed me that new missions were available to me back at the main hub, two zones away. So finishing up, off I drove. And drove and finally reached the hub, only to be told the new missions take place all the way back in the zone I’d just come from. Desire… to… finish… DLC… ebbing.

All-in-all, DLC can be fun and we’re only going to see more and more of it appearing. We buy it. If you ever get that niggling feeling that the game you just laid a wad of cash down on was a little short just as the devs announce a plethora of upcoming DLC, we’ve no-one but ourselves to blame. And padding? That’ll probably be with us forever too. Sure, there’ll be some stand-out examples of great DLC in the future but for every downloadable self-contained hunk of pure joy, there’ll be a mountain of flimsy, light-weight fluff strung out for much longer than the content can sustain. And we’ll buy that too.

By the way – Happy 2011! Hope it kicks your 2010 in the nuts like I’m hoping it’ll do to my past year.

GeneralRant

How’s the cheese?

“You’re through to customer relations, how can…”

“How’s the cheese?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“You’re the factory that makes the Asda branded ‘8 Cheese & Garlic Slices’, yeah?”

“Ah, yes. That’s one of the items we produce here.”

“So, how’s the cheese?”

“Erm, er, right. Well, on that particular product, it’s a blend of Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, locally sourc…”

“Is it bubbling?”

“…”

“Is. The. Cheese. Bubbling?”

“I’m not sure I’m quite following you here, sir.”

“In the cooking instructions, it says to heat the slices in the oven ‘until the the crust turns brown and the cheese bubbles’. Since there’s no sodding cheese on my god-damned slices, I can only surmise it’s still in the bloody factory with you tossers!”

*click*

RantTV

Angus freaks me out!

Charlie Sheen, Angus T. Jones and Jon CryerThis post is about Angus T. Jones, one-third (or should that be one-fifth?) of Two And A Half Men. I’ve nothing against the kid and it’s not even that Angus specifically, as a person, that freaks me out. It’s that damn title sequence for the show. It’s gotten decidedly creepy and all evidence points to it getting worse for some time to come.

If you were one of the imaginary visitors who used to read my old site, you’d know I sometimes get a bit obsessed with TV show title sequences. I mean, we’re into season 5 of ‘Lost‘, people, and the BASTARDS still haven’t fixed the god-damned gaps in that rendered logo that flies past. The only way I could forgive it now is if the thing was integral to the plot and given how screwy the show has gotten, there’s actually a fair chance of that being true!

Anyway, back to Angus. Like I said, I’ve no problem with the actor. Sure, he’s no Olivier but that’s not really what the show demands. My gripe is with that morph they do when the little ditty they’re lip-syncing to comes to an end and ‘cute as a button’ little Angus goes all you-wouldn’t-like-me-when-I’m-angry and stretches out into teen Angus. Then he grins. Yeah, maybe that last little bit of creepiness is all Angus but the morph? Ick!

And it’s only going to get worst. This morph is something they’re updating every season, so that as Mr. Jones growth-spurts his way further from the cherubic mug that started this gig back in 2003, I can only assume he’ll start disappearing off the top of the screen. They’ve already announced the series has another three seasons all signed up. It’s going to be grotesque!

The series creator, Chuck Lorre has joked that the show remains ‘Two And A Half Men’ despite Angus becoming a ‘whole’ all to himself since both his co-stars are shrinking as age takes it’s toll. Given how he’s grown, I think either Charlie Sheen or Jon Cryer are going to have to lose a limb or two by season 9 just to even things out.

GamingRant

Team Fortress 2 – The Mumbling

TF2 Spy!Pretty sure this is my first ‘rant‘ on the updated site. Quite surprising really. I used to do quite a few of them on the old design. I guess I generally had a lots of insignificant things to spend far too much time losing my rag over than would ever sanely be considered necessary than I do these days. Going to have to change that. There’s plenty of non-events to blow out of all proportions and I’m just the man to do it!

The reason for today’s diatribe-lite is the comms chat on Team Fortress 2. I’ve been playing the game a fair bit recently. I’m still shockingly bad and I seem to have the ‘Wanted‘ effect on sniper bullets – as in they will bend around walls, rock formations and even other team-mates to find their way to my skull. To say I’m a bullet magnet would be unfair to the shot, flame, grenades, bombs, bats and axeheads I also manage to attract with alarming regularity. If I’m anywhere higher than mid-table on the team leaderboard, you know I’m stuck with a bunch of hopeless players sailing on the good ship Sure Loss.

But it’s the people who use the voice comms system to chat to team-mates that I want to talk about. Basically, I’ve boiled it down to a simple rule of thumb for spotting people really who shouldn’t use voice comms. It’s ‘Do you have voice comms?‘. If you answered ‘Yes!‘ (or most probably ‘Why, yes I do, I’m often regaling my team-mates with a highly amusing running commentary!”), then it’s fairly certain that you damn well shouldn’t be using voice comms because it’d be a miracle if you’re actually one of those one-in-a-million players who makes good use of it in-game.

There’s a pretty limited number of phrases you’ll hear over voice comms, it seems…

  • “Spy!” – my personal favourite. Do they give you any indication of his location? Or what class it might be parading as? Do they bugger like. Pointing out there’s a spy is like pointing out every other damn thing you’ve passed as you’re running along to the capture point as it’s always a safe bet there’s a spy playing on the opposition. I fully expect to hear “Steps!”, “Barn!”, “Resupply Locker!” any one of these days.
  • “Go! Go! Go!” or “Get ’em!” or “Capture the point!”. I call these the ‘stating the bloody obvious’ selection. The worse thing about the chuckleheads usually spouting these lines is they just love the sound of their own voice and they’re most probably tin-pot generals with it. I know hearing isn’t particularly finite but I always feel I’m wasting my ears just having to suffer these idiots.
  • “Mmfghmuuhhgaafurrmt!”. Yeah, I’ve no idea what these fools are saying but if they’re trying to pull off the perfect impression of the Pyro, they’re almost perfect. Seriously, if you’re going to pollute the game with your voice, at least make sure you’ve got the mic set up properly and all the volume levels checked. If you’re too quiet, mumble like you’ve been kicked in the mouth by a mule or just sound like you’re playing through a flash flood that’s submerged your room, shut the fuck up, you’re not helping anyone.
  • “Spy! To your left!”. Probably worse than the first case as these people believe everyone else playing the game possesses special psychic powers that allows them to divine who the hell they’re talking about. End result, the fifteen other players on the team are suddenly distracted checking to their left and take a bullet. Sorry… fourteen players take a bullet, one takes a knife to the back as the damn spy has circled around him already.

And this is before you’ve even got on to the morons who think they’re at an open-mic night at the comedy club and are providing lacklustre improv entertainment to their team-mates. No, you’re not funny. You never were. Go back to applying homophobic spray images to the base walls.

Sometimes, you come across a real gem of a player. They provide useful information on opposition movements with reference to actual locations in the map. They offer up strategy and advice (not in that “Do this… NOW!” way that makes you just want to do the opposite right off the bat, either). And mostly, they’re speaking clearly while they do it. But these people are soooo few and far between.

So if you’re one of the clueless listed above, stand. Stand up from your computer desk and slowly turn in a circle. Keep turning. Hopefully you’ll not notice the cable of your voice comms headset tightening around your neck as you turn and with any luck, we’ll be short one moron with a mic before too long.