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Joker_Wylde Blog

Beyond: Two Souls first thoughts

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Having succeeded in avoiding all spoilers at Eurogamer this year, I was happy that I got this on release date. However, the adverts were getting harder to avoid, so I'm also glad I finished today.

Firstly, I think the graphics are amazing. The motion capture was great and didn't look out of place on the character models. I think it also made great use of the range that both Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page provided. The acting was moving and believable, and I think a step up from Heavy Rain. The score was also brilliant, and was barely noticeable, in the same way that Skyrim achieves.

The story was well written, and I am glad that this is a high profile game that is willing to put its budget into story, script writing and visual effects. I didn't enjoy the narrative as much as Heavy Rain though. The multiple perspectives kept the story interesting. I really like noir crime stories, and this slightly Sci fi philosophical treatise on the nature of the afterlife wasn't really my thing. They could have gone a lot heavier on the sci fi for me, but most of all, it just wasn't enough of an exploration on the nature of humanity and what lies beyond. As a character study, it was good, but again, I think the choice to focus on basically one person didn't give me the depth I was expecting. The story was a little reminiscent of Fahrenheit, my biggest criticism of which was the fact the story basically didn't make any sense about half way through. This was much improved, but the theme of an unknowable race of creatures coming to take over seemed like a retread. Willem Dafoe's character arc was a bit predictable too, and unnecessarily so. I think the guy could do without further typecasting, and there was no reason he couldn't have been a more sympathetic character.

I found the methods of interacting to be disappointing. The controls have been simplified, which in one way is a good thing. Fahrenheit was very tricky at times, and it wasn't always obvious what was going on. While Heavy Rains controls were more responsive, they were sometimes too complicated, but not in a way that ruined the story. One scene where Jayden is trying to take drugs and becomes very shaky is a really hard button combo challenge to pull off, but it reflects the state of mind of the character. In Beyond, I think they have tried to go for minimalist controls so they don't remove you too much from the absorbing environment, giving a feel of more of an interactive story than a game. But for me, this is its downfall, as it isn't a game any more. The controls are far too simple, so I don't see the point of playing. The emotional link with the character was lost through the removal of the interface. In its place the actions of the two characters are supposed to express their feelings, but too often I chose something for the character to not carry it out. I wanted to take the coins, I wanted to take Nathan's photograph, but the game saw fit to deny me this through poorly implemented controls.

The greatest block to my absorption was the camera angles. The third person view was so bad, most of the time I could not see what to interact with. I nearly gave up on the game in two places because it wasn't obvious what I was supposed to do. The controls were almost a step back to Fahrenheit, which after the sophistication of heavy rains controls makes me angry. I don't understand how it got past the ux testers honestly. The walking pace of the game also threw up a huge barrier to my absorption, as it showed the short walking animation cycles.

Although I approve of the polished nature of the script and consistent story line, i take issue with the way in which the story is presented through game play. The story is linear and choices don't feel meaningful. At least in Fahrenheit, the only choices that affected the outcome were at the end, but the story was constructed by the choices you made for the characters. And in heavy rain, some of the choices vastly affected the outcome, which made going back and replaying the game more interesting when you understood what was going on, but the main outcome had been decided before the game even began. Both these games were in a sense very linear, and were lacking in interactivity but they did a much better job of fooling you into thinking they weren't.

Overall I am not sorry I bought this, and I think it is a great improvement in interactive storytelling. I see the medium evolving over the next few years, as people become bored with improvements in graphics and want richer storytelling experiences. However I really hated the controls, so much so I don't think I will play through again. I hope quantic dream continue to make this sort of game, as despite its flaws, is still far more interesting than many of the main big budget games out at the moment.

Recently finished and abandoned games

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Finished:
Enchanted: Oddysey to the West
Fable 3
Mass Effect Add Ons (Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station)
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy)
A House in California
Journey
Vandal Hearts 3, Flames of Judgement

Abandoned:
FFXIII
Halo 3
Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword

Shot Game Suggestions

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After about 2 years of lower arm pain, I have been able to return to gaming and regular Internet use. I cannot describe how grateful I am that the pain I felt was not related to overuse, and that it has in many ways improved. As a result, I have started to play games again, in an effort to clear the backlog of games I own that I haven't completed. The process I went through during my treatment and recovery allowed me to reassess my choice in games. Sadly most of these are RPGs, and take hours to play, and although I am mostly free of pain now, I don't relish the thought of spending hours on repetitive grinding for low pay off. Some of these I may well abandon (FFXIII I'm looking in your direction), but I think it has given me a renewed appreciation for shorter action games, such as Enslaved.
I recently started studying chronic pain, and I am interested in other people with an RSI diagnosis. Since my problems are not repetitive strain, I do not concern myself with the pain I feel from time to time. I know it isn't causing me any long-term damage. But considering how many people there are who play games, and the increasing use of computers and smart phones, the diagnosis of such a condition must be increasing. I wonder how it has affected other people's playing habits. I wonder if there are other people who have had to make the same choice I did, and decide to stop playing, at least until the problem went away.
To return to the title, I would welcome recommendations of console games that are short (less than 30 hours), with good story lines or engaging puzzle mechanics. No console is too old, between my Xbox, PS3 and Wii I can play most old games, and DosBox works for the older PC games. I feel like I want to make up for lost time now, and 150 hours of gameplay is still a little daunting.

There is justice!

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/27/supreme-court-violent-video-games_n_884991.html

I have far too much to say about this to include my personal thoughts with this link. When I have formed a cogent argument I may come back discuss this issue further. Needless to say I am pleased with the result.

Top 10 most shocking moments

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Because everyone loves lists, right?

This is entirely based on games that I have played so it is somewhat skewed depending on the age I was and also quite short. I like to think I am fairly unshockable, but some of these items made me stop playing. It contains both horror shocks and moral outrage, but also massive spoilers for the games contained in it - Shadow of the Colossus, Heavy Rain, Rule of Rose and Sanitarium especially.

1) Abe's Oddysee - carcasses.
I am squeemish, and I'm not a big fan of meat. I first saw my Aunt play this game when she got her PS1, and sound of the main character getting hit by a blood covered rib cage haunts me to this day. The fact that he had his lips sewn together also creaped me out.

2) Silent Hill - corpses hanging off chicken wire
I know many people hated the ghost babies and crotch-biting children but I didnt even get that far. Turning the corner of that first alley was enough to put me off.

3) Rule of Rose - children
These guys were horrible, but I think the worst thing they did was beat your dog to death, put him in a burlap sack and bury you in a coffin with him as a pillow. This happens within the first half an hour - wtf!

4) Sanitarium - plot reveal
This game had some amazing moments, and the cut scenes were truly terrifying, but I think the most shocking part for me was the realisation that the guy you were up against was killing children for his research.

5) Bully - general game design
I hate this game, perhaps irrationally. In my opinion there is nothing good about it, lazy plot, bad voice acting and general bad game design left me with little desire to play, but the weak nature of your character was the worst. His lack of backbone to stand up to the ginger twerp annoyed me, and the fact the game made you do some terrible things through this weakness made me sick to my stomach. Children should not need to beat up old men for fun, and you should not get out of doing this because the ginger twerp gets distracted.

6) Okami - sexist bug
I really liked most of this game, but the bug was completely unecessary. Sexist and crude, forever looking at and landing in women's cleavage, and arrogant with it, he should have been eaten by the wolf within the first 5 minutes. I genuinely couldnt believe that he had been allowed in a children's game.

7) Shadow of the Colossus - death of Agro
I seriously didnt see this coming. I was so surprised when they kill your horse off, partly as I realised I couldn't ride around the world anymore, but also as it forshadowed your own character's death. In a somewhat heartless mood however, I was unbothered by his loss, as that horse more than earned his name. The amount of aggro he gave me with his poor handling and reluctance to come when called left me with little sympathy for his untimely demise.

8 ) Heavy Rain - Ethan Mars
Lots of things they made you do in this was fairly unpleasant, but the finger... and for those who have done, it the butcher award just takes the cake as the most disgusting thing you can do in the game. He cuts off his finger with a pair of scissors! ugh

Games that didn't make it:

Custer's Revenge
I have never played it, and see no reason why anyone would want to. The concept is horrible, but frankly having seen gameplay on youtube, if you hadn't told me what was going on I wouldn't have been able to work it out. The graphics are so poor it is hard to see what is going on.

Thrill Kill
I have played this game, but I don't see what the big fuss was about honestly. I thought the characters were funny, and to me the finishing moves were no worse than Mortal Kombat in it's day. The Sado-Masochism I could take or leave. The pioneering 4 player fighter game mechanic was too good to waste so it got made into "Wu-Tang Taste The Pain", although I will never understand how a gritty street fighter about gangs and rappers was less "shocking" than a brutal fight to the death in a secure mental ward... well moving on.

Awesome game rumours

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This is actually a misleading title, as really it is one game title and I have no idea what its about as there is no information... Sky Blue (or skyblue) is supposedly a Playstation Exclusive, as discussed on IGN, but there is absolutely nothing about it. Wouldnt it be awesome if it were connected with the film though? For a game that is suposedly being released this year, perhaps someone else has heard about this?

Mystery games are always the most interesting. Lets hope this doesn't end up being another "Kinectimals"

Bad Graphics Make Me Cry

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After what feels like years of being trapped in the endless cycle of dissertation write-ups, I emerged to find my consoles dusty and unused. What were once cherished posessions lay neglected, only shining where my cats had chosen to sit on them... And the worst part is, I have time but I dont know what to play. Its not even the burdon of too much choice, its the soul destroying cry of apathy. Every game I pick up I get bored of or stuck within half an hour. I cant remember a time when I had so much I could do and no desire to do any of it. So, eventually last night I decided to play through Skies if Arcadia again. It is a particular favourite of mine, no annoying voice acting, entertaining story and fairly forgiving battle system. One slight drawback, having never played it on my awesome enormous HD TV screen - it looks terrible. Should this be a barrier to my enjoyment? I have decided on balance that it isnt, as I have the power of nostalgia on my side. But my thoughts move to my stockpile of unplayed and unfinished PS1 and 2 games (and others) I have spent so long collecting. Grandia 1, Panza Dragoon Saga, Wild Arms 1 - 5, Persona, Shenmue. Are the low resolution blocky graphics going to destroy for me what are by all accounts brilliant games? It almost doesnt bare thinking about... Old 2D console games on the Nes and MegaDrive are fine now, because as old as they are, they are stylised, and they reached the peak long ago. They are simple, but iconic and representative of people, or houses, so playing it isnt so painful. But old 3D graphics are just bad.

I never thought that graphcis would mean so much to me, it never spoiled my enjoyment of the game at the time. Going back and replaying Link to the Past still holds the same excitement as it did when I first opened it, but perhaps for my PS1 and the games I never got around to the time has passed.

Assorted life events

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Well, exams are finally over for the whole college, I am working on my dissertation and have finalised my PhD application. If all goes well, I will be studying adaptive videogames and their effects on stroke rehabilitation. The class organised trip to Portugal was a sucess, no one was seriously burned or got food poisoning, although our fight back to the UK was delayed by 6 hours. I'm sure everyone knows this, but EasyJet suck, and could have made the whole situation a lot more bearable than it was. I guess you get what you pay for.

I have recently got two kittens as pets, and they are very cute, but they chew absolutely everything. They dont like me gaming either, as the noise scares them, but I think they will get used to it in time.

In gaming news, I have abandoned FFXIII for now, and am focussing on other games. I have completely finished Oblivion now, and done every quest. I have also finished Brutal Legend and Fable 2 again.

I recently went to a gaming Expo in the docklands in London, and will put some of the better cosplay photos up on my blog later this week.

As I have been ill since Thursday I have been catching up on some games. I have nearly finished Crisis Core and Star Ocean: Second Evolution.

Although I loath paying for games more than once, the new HD Earthworm Jim pictures look good, and I am tempted to get this. I have also been recommended Modern Warfare 2 by most of my gaming friends, so I may also get this when it is cheap.

FFXIII... more like FFZzzzzzzz

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I label this "Rant", as I think most people will vehemently disagree with me... which is your choice! I respect your opinion. I think I am suffering from buyers remorse due to the massive amount of hype surrounding this game. I hate it, simple as that. Squeenix you let me down! Again...

I am about 15 hours in and to date it is one of the most boring games I have ever played. I would go as far as to say I find it more boring than "Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon", and even heavier on the moral sentiment if that is possible.

The levels are long, and very linear. Every FF has been linear, but this is just taking the p***. They dont even try to fool you into thinking it isnt. There is no exploration, no choice, and as far as I am concerned, no interest.

Gamespot says: "The most beautiful Final Fantasy game yet is an imperfect but still impressive saga that will touch your heart." - It would touch myheart if I cared about any of the characters, but I don't. Lightning is just Squall with... well, actually there is very little difference. She is a bigotted self obsessed idiot with no redeeming features. The boy/girl kid is a spineless wimp who needs kicking off a tall building. I was hoping Lightning would do that but apparently she is developing a heart/ conscience. The Australian girl is annoying, I have to say the voice acting is even worse than Infinite Bordom, I mean Undiscovery, and the plot is sooo paper thin the 11 hour revelation that she was from the place they all hate for no reason irritated me no end. Everyone else is just a bit 2D.

It's such a shame, they could have really made this good. I dont see why each one has to have a different fighting system, FFX suited me just fine. I mostly just press the autofight button. The crystal grid is a good idea, but the 3D representation just makes it hard to look at. Everything else is brilliant. The graphics are great, the monster design is quite good, some nice twists on old classics. The music is fantastic, I'm glad I got the special edition as it contains the soundtrack. I like the world they inhabit, it reminds me of Panza Dragoon Saga. Ah now there was a good game.

Anyway, I'm so unhappy this was such a let down I dont know I can even bring myself to finish it. I already put up with it for 15 hours, life is too short!

Imperial give me my life back!

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After what is apparently four months offline, I have decided to return. School got hectic, and a family member died, but its nearly easter, so all is well. I hope things haven't changed too much!

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