Is it worth remembering Remember Me?

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Remember Me came out with little fanfare, and was forgotten by the end of the week. In this respect it might have one of the most depressingly funny titles ever. I’ve been curious about it for a while, if only because Capcom of today intrigues me. While they cop a lot of flak, Capcom is at least trying. Sometimes they fail because they try too much and miss what made a game entertaining in the first place (they tried to please everybody with Resident Evil 6 and largely failed). Sometimes they fall flat because they try and do things differently, or hand their ips over to others (DMC reboot under Ninja Theory was a surprising move by Capcom). But the more interesting success story was Dragon’s Dogma, which came out of nowhere and kicked ass. It was my game of the year for last year, and I eagerly pounced on Dark Arisen when it was released. It was an interesting move from a company known for constant rehashes and dead horse beating; a new ip with a western slant.

And that’s what got me interested in Remember Me. A new action game, with a female protagonist to boot, set in future Paris where people steal eachother’s memories. Curiosity grew into a strong desire to play it, so once the price hit a low enough threshold I picked it up. Now I’ve played through it. So the question is simple; is it worth remembering Remember Me?

The answer, sadly, is no. Not really. Remember Me brings a lot of interesting ideas to the table, but their execution is off. It has an interesting world, but never capitalises on it. It brings up interesting themes, but sidelines them to focus on a fairly basic story, It has a dull combat system that had potential if they’d just tweaked it. And, most harming of all, it has some great ideas that are underused, leading to missed opportunities.

~

Set in Neo-Paris, year 2084, the powerful Memorize corporation has created a monopoly on memories through Sensen, a digital implant everybody has that allows people to interact with their memories. People can share memories with loved ones, and erase bad ones. Memorize exploits this by monitoring and collecting people’s memories. Sensen also has the unfortunate side effect of mutating some people into insane sewer-dwelling subhumanoids called Leapers. An underground resistance group known as Errorists are also running amok, trying to bring Memorize down.

For a story and world concerned with treating memories as commodities, it’s somewhat fitting that Nilin, the protagonist, begins the game with amnesia. At the game’s onset she escapes from a research facility, with the assistance of an Errorist named Edge, then embarks on a quest to find her memory and put a stop to Memorize’s experiments. It’s a fairly basic story, helped along with an interesting world.

There are a few interesting themes the game briefly touches on, but disappointingly never delves into. The division between rich and poor (the slums are prone to Leaper attacks, while the rich are none-the-wiser) makes up social commentary for the first few levels (where the vastly differing settings could have been used to make a point). The actions of the Errorists also bring up some concerns, which are briefly mentioned, but then never get mentioned again (Nilin spends most of the game just doing as she’s told, only briefly pondering on the consequences).

The biggest theme the game could have delved into is the ethics regarding sharing and stealing memories. Nilin, at times, steals and remixes character’s memories, often having a profound effect on them. This opens up all sorts of ethical issues but, disappointingly, the game never bothers to follow that thread. Any concerns about philosophy and ethics are thrown out so the game can focus on killer mutants rising up from the sewer.

The story, likewise, is mostly a straightforward affair, with Nilin learning a little about the world, herself and other characters as she takes steps to bring down Memorize and regain her own memories. There are a few end-game revelations that have varying effectiveness. Some come as genuine surprises, while others are plainly silly (the final revelation is profoundly stupid, leading in to a big dumb final boss).

The visual design is quite fantastic. The slums and sewers are suitably dirty, filled with trash and graffiti. Conversely, the upper-class neighbourhoods are exquisite and affluent, with a pleasingly feasible Europe-but-in-the-future aesthetic. Character models are quite good, with nice details (though the creepy voluptuous robot bodies are odd). The Leapers are a freaky bunch as well (the Johnny Greenteeth encounter is all sorts of creepy).

The sound design is alright, with futuristic tunes that often compliment the design. The voice acting however is often embarrassingly bad. While Nilin and a few of her colleagues perform quite well, just about every villainous and ancillary character is a hammy, overacting mess. It’s amplified with some asinine writing (one recurring villain, a corrupt security guard, talks like a dude-bro, while Leapers sound silly when they talk).

The actual gameplay, sadly, is lacking. There are ideas here, but their execution is wanting, leaving some missed opportunities. Combat is a combo-based affair that doesn’t quite work. As you play, you earn experience you can use to learn ‘Pressens’, which are basic strikes performed with either the square or triangle button. Pressens come in four varieties; power deals damage, regen heals you, cooldown reduces the cooldown for special attacks (more on this later) and amplify simply makes the preceding strike stronger.

You fill combo templates with strikes you unlock, but it’s a limited system. There are only four templates (for a 3-hit, 5-hit, 6-hit and 8-hit combo) and you spend most of the game without enough strikes to fill them. It’s a messy, restrictive system that could have been made much better by simply allowing players to create their own combos outside of the templates. The timing for combos is often unclear, leading you to fail a basic combo because the game thought you were trying to do another one. It doesn’t help that enemies constantly attack you, meaning you rarely get to finish a combo. There is a dodge button, and something of a dodge-offset combo feature, but they don’t help too much. Combos only continue if you hit an enemy with every strike, causing you to flail around at times.

S-Pressens are special attacks. After dealing a certain amount of damage, you fill a focus gauge that lets you perform a special move. These are quite varied, ranging from simply making your hits vastly stronger for a short time, turning invisible for an insta-kill and hacking robot enemies to fight for you. After using a special attack, it will have a cool down period of a minute or two. And this is what slows down a lot of combat.

The most used one, and the one that essentially breaks the combat at times, is the DOS Attack, which stuns enemies. DOS Attack is required to fight every single boss and many recurring mini-boss enemies. Boss enemies tend to turn invisible, grow shields or teleport, and the only way to opent hem up for attacks is with DOS Attack. The cooldown for it is a whopping two minutes. You’re meant to use cooldown pressens to lower the time, but doing so means you deal minimal damage to bosses. This essentially limits your combos, turning most boss battles into endurance contests. If the cooldown time was halved combat would have a much better pace. You also have access to a projectile weapon, but it’s quite weak with a huge cooldown and is mostly just used for puzzles.

The game funnels you from one battle to the next, interspersed with basic Uncharted-style climbing traversal. There are limited opportunities to search for some of the numerous collectibles (many of which tend to be in plain sight), so you’re mostly following a fairly straight path. There are some puzzles, often involving pressing switches, so they’re mostly busywork. There are to late-game puzzles that break the pattern, but they’re almost bizarrely obtuse leading to confusion.

The biggest missed opportunity and the game’s most interesting – but underused – mechanic is memory remixing. At certain points in the story, Nilin has to change a person’s personality by delving into their head, finding an important memory and changing it. These segments act almost like limited editing software – you view the memory first, then rewind it and change certain details. You might switch the safety of a gun off, or cause a computer to malfunction, or unfasten a seatbelt. Each change alters the memory, and you have to puzzle it out to reach the desired outcome. It’s the game’s most interesting aspect, yet there’s not enough of it. You only remix memories four times throughout the game. These segments also bring up massive ethical implications that, as stated before, simply never get addressed.

~

Remember Me has a lot of good ideas, but most haven’t successfully bridged the gap between concept and execution. It’s a game of small disappointments, missed opportunities and brief, underused moments of greatness. With tweaking and improvement it could have been something special, but as it stands Remember Me ends up being mostly forgettable. If found it at a bargain price though, I’d recommend trying it out, if only to just see the missed potential.

Xbox One impressions

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I suck at impulse control. If I feel the need to do something I just do it, caution be damned. I also tend to quickly get ideas and act on them in a heat-of-the-moment kind of way. This happens a lot with videogames.

I bought an Xbox One on release day because I am an idiot. It was a move that went against a lot of things for me. Number one was that I’m predominately a Sony gamer. I essentially gave up on Xbox 360 when my console died for the second time. I kept it around to play Gears of War and Alan Wake, but by then my gaming had exclusively moved over to the PS3 (my absolute favourite console of this gen). When the Xbox One was announced in all its embarrassing glory, I joined in on the mocking parade. It was a joke more than a console. In fact Microsoft would have you think it wasn’t a console at all – it seemed like a piece of hardware that was embarrassed that it could play games.

Microsoft did a lot of backpedalling, but not much of it filled me with confidence. I put MS out of my mind for a long time. Game announcements were more interesting; a fair few interesting titles were announced for it, along with some concerning ones. Of the good stuff were titles like Dead Rising 3 (I love the franchise), Sunset Overdrive (essentially seems to be what Overstrike was meant to be, before they buckled to pressure and turned it into Fuse), Quantum Theory (I liked Alan Wake, interested to see more about this) and a few others (that game by the Deadly Premonition guy intrigues me, mostly because DP was amazing for its story, but horrible for its gameplay). Still I was determined to wait out the next gen released until sometime next year, and then go for it when all the bugs and issues were worked out an more games were available. I was also pretty determined to get a PS4.

So what the hell happened? I don’t know. Too much disposable cash around holiday season for one thing. Vague interest and curiosity for another. Also I really wanted to play Dead Rising 3 (which is fantastic btw).

Full disclosure, I would have bought a PS4 if the console wasn’t sold out here until March next year. That’s the big thing. I never pre-ordered because I thought I wouldn’t need to and then the first batch got sold out. The second batch would be available early December, so I thought I’d pick one up then but that got sold out as well. It’s reached freaking late February now, and looks like there’s no signs of stopping, so my PS4 dreams will have to wait until around infamous (which might not be so bad).

So now I’ve got an Xbox One. How do I feel about it? Eh. But that wasn’t my initial response, oh no. I’ve had the thing for two weeks and I only started to warm to it during that second week. Initially my impressions were pretty bad. And so I’m going to relate them to you, the invisible people who will read this (because nobody will read this because Gamespot’s community is dead).

Ok, first things first, I got the console release day, so some of the initial issues can be attributed to first day blues, server overloads and general bugs and glitches not being known. These were my experiences, others might feel differently, but all in all I’ve been pretty underwhelmed. I’m not going to talk too much about the games. In fact I’m initially just going to talk about the basic console experience: the start-up, the user interface, general performance, stuff like that.

~

Xbox One

The initial start-up is a pain. It instantly needs to connect to the internet to download an update. Without an internet connection, you can’t do the initial start-up – the Xbox One needs the internet to work (more on this later). Without the update you can’t use the console, so if your internet connection is spotty or drops out then you’ve just got an expensive brick. If your controller goes into battery saving mode (leaving it unattended for several minutes) it stops the update, so you have to sit there with the controller pressing a button every few minutes or the update doesn’t happen. I turned it on on release day, when servers were overloaded, so it took me a long time. It failed twice for me, and took about three hours as a result.

The console is not user friendly at all. In fact you’re given a frustrating lack of information about how to use it or anything. There is no instruction manual, just a little sheet that shows you how to plug it in. It never eases you into anything, it just assumes you know what you’re doing or what things are. The lack of information is worrying, as you can’t check your save data or harddrive space. Even the settings menu is sparse. There is a help button that appears on the options of every app, game and menu, but all it does is link you to the internet browser and the Xbox support page, which is completely useless.

The days of putting a game disc in and playing it instantly are gone. Xbox One needs to spend an inordinate amount of time to load, download and install. Games have massive install sizes and need updates to begin the installation. Your internet connection dictates how long this will take. If your console is online, it will need to download any patches or updates first. It doesn’t tell you how long these take so you’ll be waiting a long time. It took a day for me to get Dead Rising 3 and Battlefield 4 working, mostly due to the updates.

Xbox One needs to be connected to a strong internet connection otherwise its useless. I had to move my modem directly next to the One for it to start working well. Granted once I did that things were smooth as silk, but before that it was painful. Without an internet connection, Xbox One doesn’t do anything. Two thirds of the UI won’t load up and you can’t even look at your profile if you’re offline. It’ll begrudgingly play games (after accusing you of stealing them) but all the halfbaked features won’t work and the console will continually remind you that it wants to go online. While Microsoft might like to try and spin the truth after the backlash, Xbox One is an ‘always online’ console.

A big issue is how slow things work. There’s always a brief moment before the console does what you want. Looking at achievements takes far longer than you’d expect it to, as it loads up each page. Going from the dashboard to the settings takes far longer than it does on the Xbox 360. A lot of this is because the console needs to consult the internet first. You can’t check your profile without being logged in, and when you do it loads up each individual page. Same with achievements.

The User Interface is disappointing. The main screen shows your profile on the side, whatever games or apps you’ve recently been using in the middle, and various ads for stuff on the Live store on the right. It’s sparse and a bit ugly. If you scroll the page to the right you just get more links to the Live marketplace. Scrolling to the left gives you a page you can pin things to. So if you want games and apps to be easily accessible you pin them here. And that’s the extent of the dashboard. Your ‘Games and Apps’ tab is an ugly mess, offering little information about anything. The settings menu is brief and lacks information.

For clarification’s sake, you never need to plug in Kinect 2.0. Having it unplugged will simply remove voice commands and motion controls from the Ui and games that use them, and leave a symbol on the top right corner of the UI. With it plugged in, it is creepy how much the camera sees. It’ll pick up when somebody enters the room, will recognise you (it will log you in just by seeing you, though if you change clothes it’ll forget who you are) and it has a nightvision and thermal filter. Kinect 2.0 is useless for motion controls, but the voice commands work better than expected. Don’t even bother trying the motion controls, they’re frustrating and don’t work. When it’s a struggle to get through the tutorial then you know it’s broken. The voice commands, however, are pretty awesome. Telling the Xbox One to start up Dead Rising 3 is pretty satisfying, and it’s useful in the game as well.

Once you start using your Xbox One (two days and a lot of frustration later for me) things improve greatly. Game performance is great and online multiplayer is smooth. Dedicated servers in Battlefield 4 are great and alleviate many frustrations about hosts and ping. Other features aren’t so great. You can record game clips, but the process is never explained nor is it very intuitive, and finding clips to edit and mess around with is just more of a hassle than it should have been. Apps work decently, though many require that strong internet connection again. The Live store is sparse, which makes sense since the console’s only been out two weeks, but its lacking information and isn’t the easiest to navigate.

By pressing the Xbox symbol on the controller you can pause a game or app at any point and immediately go to the Xbox dashboard without the game/app shutting down, then you can watch a movie or do something else, then return to your game/app with no performance hiccups, loading or slowdown. It’s smooth and really cool. Of course people have been able to do this for ages on smartphones, and my Vita does this, but it’s nice seeing a console doing it so well.

I’m not too much a fan of the controller. I’ve always preferred the PS2/3 dualshock over Xbox controllers, and this one isn’t changing my mind. Mostly its fine, the face buttons and analogue sticks are great and responsive. The D-pad is disappointingly shonky though – better than the 360s, but still not ideal for fighting games. My big issue is the bumpers. The triggers are fine, but the bumpers feel tacky and don’t give good feedback. I press them accidentally all the time. The controller also uses batteries and it absolutely chews through them, even when on standby. I only played it a little bit, but by the end of the first week the batteries were dead and I needed new ones.

~

Final Impression: Xbox One is initially a frustrating mess, forcing you to jump through numerous hoops to get it working. Once it does work it’s initially disappointing, and its complete dependence on your internet connection is worrying. Once you start using it to play games, the frustrations begin to fade away slowly, but it’s a long frustrating journey to get to that point. It’s very much a work in progress, with some baffling design decisions and features that feel unfinished or intrusive, but if they get ironed out (and they probably will) then Xbox One will become a solid gaming platform.

I was initially frustrated and annoyed and a little disappointed, but now I’ve warmed up to it a bit, though I remain fairly underwhelmed. Once I got the system and the games working, and started having fun, the frustrations began to disappear, but it was a long road to get to that point and I don’t understand why it had to be.

Game wise I got Dead Rising 3, Battlefield 4 and Crimson Dragon and I’ve tried the Killer Instinct demo. Only one of them feels like a next gen title (DR3). I’ll talk about them in another blog.

Fuse - generic third-person sci-fi co-op squad cover shooting nonsense

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I’ve been playing a fair few games recently, going through the more forgotten and forgone titles that swept under the radar. I’ve just got through one of them. Fuse, a game that released with no fanfare and quickly disappeared. Here we go with another massive overlong rambling review that offers no score. I was going to put images in put I can't because GS is terrible, and honestly it probably won't matter because I doubt anybody will even read this. but futility has never stopped me before so here we go.

Initially titled Overstrike, the game was going to be a fun and ridiculous spy-orientated affair, with the initial trailer offering colour, goofiness and the sort of ridiculous weapons we’ve come to expect from Insomniac games. Then it disappeared for a while, reappearing with a new trailer, a new title and, sadly, a generic new look. It was now Fuse and it was a gritty, serious co-op cover shooter, and everybody’s interest died quickly.

It was rumoured that the game was reworked and rebranded due to extensive focus testing with teens and then drastic changes were made, adding four-player co-op, copious blood, a lot more shooting and that tiring ‘hard edge’ many shooters tried to go for. Insomniac sold their souls and compromised their vision to cater to mass appeal, thereby creating a mediocre product appealing to nobody. That certainly would explain how a game this generic came about.

You play as the members of Overstrike 9, a small mercenary group. You get sent by an unknown client to investigate a laboratory where you find the titular Fuse, a devastating new element with a variety of military uses. Raven, a rival mercenary group, quickly swoops in and takes the Fuse, and you set out to stop them. It’s a weak story, nothing more than an excuse to throw you from one area to the next. You get to play as one of four merecnaries, each with their own special fuse weapon, along with minimal characterisation, with most simply having something of a brief backstory. Dalton used to work for the bad guys, Naya’s dad runs the bad guys, Izzy might have been sexually assaulted or something while Jacobs, the token black guy in the game, has nothing. Actually Jacobs features very little into any of the game, with minimal incidental dialogue and no impact in any cutscenes.

The Fuse weapons themselves turn out to be fairly standard and boring, especially compared to insomniac’s other arsenals in Resistance and Ratchet and Clank. Izzy’s machinegun can crystallise enemies, Naya’s rifle creates black holes, Jacob’s crossbow can pin enemies to walls and Dalton has a shield that can disintegrate enemies that get too close. The guns just aren’t that great. The same goes for the levelling and perk systems. You earn experience and money while you play, through defeating enemies and collecting pickups. As you level up you earn points you can put into various skills. For the most part these are exceptionally specific, almost useless abilities (one has you gain a 4% chance that your next shot is a critical hit after you’ve revived a partner). At certain milestones you earn special abilities, such as Izzy’s exceptionally useful healing grenade or the invulnerable Fuse armour mode. Perks require you to spend money to buy generic boosters that increase gun damage for AI buddies or such. While levelling at least provides some useful abilities, perks are all but pointless, and the game never actually explains the system to you so you can finish the game without even realising that features there. Speaking of miss-able features, it took me a long time to realise that, when playing solo, you could switch at any time between teammates. Holding down select allows you to switch from one player to another. I rarely used it, only switching when I ran out of ammo.

The AI in this game is inconsistent. At times they seem to work perfectly well, while at others they’re useless. They will all rally at the next objective, but they will never push a switch or open a door. They’ll fire at enemies and do a decent job of damaging them, but they’ll be oblivious to enemies standing behind them. You’ll constantly find yourself rushing to your AI partners to revive them.

Missions break down into monotony, following a dull floor plan from level to level with no variety. You’ll enter an area filled with chest-high walls and cover and there’ll be a few enemies. You’ll start a firefight and kill them and then a seemingly endless stream of enemy reinforcements will show up. You’ll kill them all and then be quickly hurried to the next waypoint so you can hack a door/open a grate/use and elevator/blow up a wall to move on to a corridor section that carries you to the next firefight. Often these areas allow some limited stealth action. If you sneak behind an enemy and press the melee weapon, you’ll instantly kill them. With human players you can clear out a fair few of the initial enemies that occupy each battleground, but with AI teammates you’re flying solo so it’s based mostly on luck whether you get seen or not. There is little variety.

The game trips over completely when it tries to mix things up. At odd intervals in missions you’ll be forced to do some awkward climbing sections, similar to in the Uncharted games. These sections add nothing to the game – there’s no fear of failure, you’re just climbing to the next firefight instead of walking there. These segments also tend to mesh with asinine ‘hacking’ moments, where a doorway or corridor is full of gun turrets and one player needs to clamber around and turn them off while teammates draw their fire. These parts are really dull, and if you’re playing solo the AI won’t assist you at all.

The enemy list is quite basic, with only a handful of different enemies in your way. Enemy soldiers act as you’d expect – they shoot at you while popping out of cover, or sometimes while just standing in the open. Most enemy types are annoying – jetpack-wearing snipers can down you in a single hit if you don’t take cover, and there are often several of them at once, meaning if you try and take one down the others will get you. Infiltrators and the jet-pack wearing shotgun troopers only exist to tackle teammates and hold them down, forcing you to rescue them. Then there are the mini-boss enemies, heavily armoured mech suits that soak up bullets. These fights are battles of attrition as you throw everything at them and watch their health bars whittle away slowly. In fact all enemies, barring the exploding robot bug types, have more health than you’d expect, often taking repeated headshots to down.

Each of the game’s six missions ends in a boss battle of some kind, and while initially they may seem impressive it because clear quickly that the only defining thing about them are their bloated health bars. Take the first boss, the Enforcer. It has no weak point and more health than all the enemies you’ve murdered in that level combined, turning the battle into more of an endurance contest, questioning whether you’ll run out of ammo before you down the boss.

Conversely you and your companions are incredibly squishy, to the point where even on normal difficulty if you stick yourself out of cover for more than a few seconds you’ll find yourself downed. Your AI buddies can revive you, though they tend to take their sweet time, often prioritising staying in cover or taking pot shots at any number of enemies. This essentially forces you to play through the game as a bog standard cover shooter, taking shots at enemies who duck behind cover every few seconds.

Outside of the short campaign there is a horde mode, allowing you to kill waves of enemies in medium-sized areas ripped from the campaign. If you’ve ever played a horde mode before then know this is as standard as it gets, though the challenge ramps up quickly as it throws minibosses at you constantly.

So at this point you might be wondering, complaining aside, what exactly is wrong with Fuse? It’s not that there’s much wrong with it. The shooting can be satisfying, the game is still colourful in places and with friends (even just one) the experience is greatly improved. It’s just that the game is so overwhelmingly mediocre that it’s astounding. A generic average game with nothing special is somehow worse than a substandard game with ambition and ideas. And that’s true of Fuse; it’s made worse by how uninteresting it is. There are also some technical issues. At times the game freezes completely (usually when you kill a miniboss, the game locks up as it explodes).

Fuse is an inoffensive, generic game that does what it does as adequately as a game can. And that’s its biggest sin. It’s a nothing game, definitely playable but completely failing to define itself against the dozens of dozens of superior titles in the same genre. Fuse is a game that makes me sad. Sad that Insomniac caved to the dreaded beast of broad appeal and compromised their vision and integrity to churn out just another forgettable shooter in a market drowning in them. It's overwhelmingly forgettable.

~

Apparently Insomniac’s new game, the Xbox1 exclusive Sunset Overdrive, will be closer to how Overstrike was going to be. In interviews, Insomniac devs state that Sunset Overdrive will be a thesis to who they are as a dev, and will be fun and outrageous. My question? Why wasn’t Fuse like that? Insomniac actually owned the Fuse ip, it was their first original intellectual property, and they were the ones who compromised it and churned out an unoriginal, generic cover shooter.

My Concerns About Multiplayer

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This next gen seems geared towards being multiplayer-centric. The games with the biggest hype, such as Titanfall and Destiny, are multiplayer-focused, focusing on online interaction between players. Multiplayer has always been an important aspect of gaming, but it seemed this generation that it was being forced into games that didn't need it. The general sense was that a game needed multiplayer to be good, and I really don't agree. Many single player games have suffered as a result of thrown-in multiplayer. Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Dead Space, and even Arkham Origins have all had unwanted and unneeded multiplayer thrown in, and it's never really worked out.

The next gen looks to focus much more on multiplayer-centered titles. And while many are appealing, this focus on multiplayer is concerning to me, because to me multiplayer has always had an element of risk. Titanfall looks great, but it's multiplayer only. No campaign, no offline modes - it's solely online mayhem. And I don't think I would be willing to pay full price for that, because of the risks I associate with multiplayer gaming.

I like multiplayer games, but they've always seemed like a bad bet for me. They're a risky proposition. So much about multiplayer gaming is dependent on outside factors it's astounding. Multiplayer games, to me, are always a bit of a risk because there are so many outside factors that can affect it. First there are the connection and infrastructure issues; there might be heaps of lag or a lack of matchmaking options, or maybe you just can't get into a match. Geography comes into play, maybe you can't find people in your area so connection speeds are terrible.

Some of the biggest issues are caused by other people. How others play the game has a direct effect on your enjoyment, mostly adversely. There are cheaters and hackers, there are griefers and glitchers and spammers; it's getting to be like a freaking Dr Seuss book. You get people who quit matches when they're about to lose, people who spew verbal insults at you and send hate messages. Somehow co-operative games are worse. The aggression some people bring to co-op matches of games like Left 4 Dead or Borderlands is scary. Many people are aggressive and rude in games about teamwork. Any little screw-up and you get abused, harassed or kicked. I hate playing co-op with random people, because many don't want to work together, they just want to do their own thing, but they joined a co-op match for some baffling reason. Communication also screws things up. If nobody has a headset then there's no communication and it becomes a game of interpretive dance as people jump around, spin and shoot the air to get each other's attention.

But the worst aspect of multiplayer games, the truly crippling factor for me, is that, unlike single player games, multiplayer games have a short shelf life. Depending entirely on popularity, multiplayer games can live or die within weeks. Titles like Call of Duty blatantly have a half life of a year. The community shifts to the new iteration every twelve months, some stay and others return to older versions. By the time two years have passed a COD game's community has dwindled considerably. That's the biggest, safest example. Other games suffer worse in comparison.

Case in point? Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. It was released only two months ago and the community is completely dead. I just spent twenty minutes trying to find a match, any match, to no avail. I can't find anything - it's completely dead. And this is a fighting game; multiplayer is a big part of the genre, and it's dead.

And this is why I'm concerned. I like multiplayer, sure, and I like to log in every now and then and play either competitive or cooperative multi with friends and even strangers, but it has always been very much about the right mix of elements. I've had more bad experiences playing online than good ones. And that's why I'm concerned on the next gen's apparent focus on multiplayer gaming.

Morbid Curiosity

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I'm a pretty curious and adventurous person when it comes to entertainment media. I like to go outside my comfort zone and try new things, and I’m happy to give anything a go. This is true of movies and books, but this is also true of games. I’ll play just about anything, from violent action games to rhythm-based ones, to games for children and indie titles. Every now and then I’ll throw myself a curveball and try something out I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. That’s how I got Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed and Puppeteer, mostly on a whim but also to try something I usually wouldn’t have.

But I have a special, morbid curiosity for mediocre, middling and inferior games. I’ll be drawn to a terrible game. If it’s got a bad reputation, I’ll be intrigued and will have to try it out myself. This can go for games that were just designated mediocre or ordinary, to games that have been called horrific and a pox on gaming.

I’ve played a lot of games that were critically panned, and I’ve often found many of them to be alright. Some were perfectly fine. I like Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, Dark Sector kicks ass and Alpha Protocol, despite its faults, is a truly unique and special game (individual choices actually mean something). Nier’s story and music are both great, and it mixes up its gameplay surprisingly well. And I really like The Bureau, despite it not having anything to do with XCOM.

Some games were in the middle. Knight’s Contract is entertaining, but is brought down by completely confusing level design and the absolute worst boss fight QTEs ever. Wet had fun gameplay that wore out its welcome, coupled with a truly terrible story. Alone in the Dark is filled with issues, but it does have genuinely awesome atmosphere and some cool ideas. And despite all its faults, for some reason I really like Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (to the point of buying the DLC campaign, which is actually better than the normal one).

Other games were completely terrible. Stormrise is the absolute worst game I’ve played this generation, an unplayable mess of terrible controls and design, a RTS where you actually can’t order your units to attack. Haze is total garbage and Dark Void put me to sleep. Eat Lead had failed humour and the most generic third person shooting mechanics possible (which it made fun of, but making fun of yourself doesn’t excuse being bad).

One example of my process is NeverDead. I first heard about it two years before it came out, when I saw some very early trailers and gameplay footage (which made the game look pretty fun). Time passed and I thought it had been cancelled or something, but instead it was suddenly released. The reviews came out and they were almost universally negative. Nobody had anything good to say about it. Yet I was still interested. It got to the point where I needed to play NeverDead and see just how bad it was. So I waited, found a cheap copy, and played it. And it turned out it was pretty freaking awful. It’s a game you could, in theory, finish in under four hours but whose terrible, aggravating gameplay causes the game to drag out for double that number. It’s a game where you can actually die during cutscenes because enemies still attack you and you still take damage. It’s a study in terrible game design, where several mechanics have zero purpose (throwing limbs does absolutely nothing outside of one boss fight). It was a total mistake of a game, yet I had to see it for myself. Until I had played it my curiosity would never be sated.

To be honest, a lot of these sort of titles tend to have a bigger impact and leave a bigger impression than bigger, ‘better’ games. Middling games with interesting ideas that have shaky implementation typically stick with me more than overall good games that play it safe. And that’s why I’m always somewhat eager to try out games that get middling-to-bad scores.

Following this trend, today I picked up a cheap copy of Remember Me, the most ironically named game of all time, and I’m searching out a cheap copy of Fuse. Because of my curiosity. The former I’d been curious about for a while. Despite all the negativity and dumbass decisions, Capcom has actually been trying. Dragon’s Dogma is fantastic, and Deep Down looks great. Remember Me seemed like an interesting project, although apparently the execution wasn’t the best. I’ll have to see for myself. The latter, Fuse, I’d played the demo and thought it was horrifically generic. Yet the curiosity remained, and I’d like to just see how the whole game plays out.

I actually get more excited about playing a game that might be garbage than by playing a game that’s just good. That might explain why I haven’t touched Splinter Cell Blacklist at all this month, despite liking it, while I’m eagerly booting up Remember Me. It’s that morbid curiosity thing. I’d rather play a bad game that’s interesting than a good game that isn’t.

Batman's Stupid Story

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I get the impression that the writers of Arkham Origins started with a list of sequences they wanted to shove in, then wrapped a loose story around things to accommodate them. That would be a valid explanation to whatever the hell Origin's story and structure was meant to be. It begins with a simple story, discards it pretty quickly, turns into a series of wild goose chases leading to set pieces then quickly decides to up the stakes leading to a finale that fizzles more than anything else.

The game starts with a simple enough, yet interesting premise. It's the early years of Batman, when he's younger, brasher and just getting used to vigilante work. Criminals and cops treat him as an urban legend. Local criminal Black Mask does believe in the Batman and puts out a hit on him, hiring eight assassins to take him out. Thus Batman goes out to Gotham to stop them.

It doesn't take long before the assassin plot is discarded completely, becoming a vague series of events that string the player around for its ten-ish hour main campaign. Hell, its possible to finish the game without even encountering half of the assassins (they're mostly relegated to side quests). The rest of the game is a wandering series of set pieces and story 'twists' that seem disjointed and odd. You wander around Gotham City, often following a lead or rumour, then a 'big' sequence happens (often feeling out of place compared to everything). Example? The Deathstroke encounter. It begins suddenly and randomly, with no context or build-up. It honestly felt as though the game had gone for too long without a boss fight, so they threw him in there.

Young Batman seems, if anything, more capable than older Batman. He's certainly more aggressive, but same old Batman won't resort to killing, only harming. It feels like a missed opportunity, they could have explored Batman's early struggles as a crime fighter, coming to terms with his ideology, capabilities and limitations. But, since its the Batman, apparently he has no limitations so early Batman is perfect and his ideology is flawless. It's also meant to be Batman's first time encountering important series characters, like Chief Gordon, Bane and series' flogging boy Joker, but none of these encounters are particularly interesting or exciting. Once again, the Joker love goes overboard. Every single scene with the Joker is made out to be some big meaningful event. The game even decides to constantly reference The Killing Joke seemingly because the creators thought it'd be a cool few sequences. Troy Baker does the voice, but he's almost too lyrical (I can now imagine Joker singing in A Nightmare Before Christmas). It made me miss Mark Hamill.

Origins largely just imitates sequences from Asylum and City. Deadshot's encounter is begun in the same way (investigating a murder), while Mad Hatter's encounter is yet another trippy experience mimicking Scarecrow. Hell in the first few hours you spend some time chasing the Penguin in his domain. Batman has a large rogues gallery, but Origins plays it safe by copying Aslyum and City (even Bane and Killer Croc show up).

Its almost an annoyance. The game itself is fine enough (its Arkham City again, but missing most of the heart and passion) and I'd rate it a 3/5, but that story just sucks.

The Next Gen

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I've been visiting a lot of game sites recently, flicking through forums and comments, and it seems I hadn't quite grasped just how earth shattering the release of the new consoles is meant to be. Apparently the entire next generation will be won or lost on release day. Apparently the launch titles will determine the quality of the entire next generation of gaming. Apparently if any console has any issues on day one, then their respective company will suddenly collapse and its executives will be forced to perform seppuku as penance. Apparently when everybody tries to log into Live of PSN, then the internet will collapse onto itself, causing all power sources in the world to shut off permanently, leading to a nomadic apocalyptic wasteland where it's kill-or-be-killed. New hardware will let the game companies invade our personal lives and blackmail us.

If you like the idea of an Xbox 1 or a PS4, then apparently you're a fool or a sheep/cow/goat/some other kind of farm animal (since system wars is seemingly inhabited by people whose education finished in kindergarten). If you think that anything about the new generation is 'good' then you're obviously naïve, or stupid, or paid off by the corporations to spread lies and propaganda.

The next gen will destroy gaming because reasons. That's the basic summary of every panic posts, angry comment and paranoid video. A lot of people seem to be acting like impatient, paranoid, panicky idiots about a freaking videogame console. For some retarded reason, people have it in their heads that this latest gen should have been like some kind of glorious galactic event where everything is perfect. When PS4 and Xbox 1 were announced and it was apparent that they were just videogame consoles with better hardware, a lot of people seemed to lose their shit. It's like when it hit 2001 and people were pissed off that we hadn't had a space odyssey, or that there were no jetpacks or flying cars.

As release days for both consoles loom ever closer, any positivity and good will has turned to panic and confusion. All positives have been warped into negatives, and people are treating things as though instead of shipping out consoles, Microsoft and Sony will be setting off unstable explosives, ready to go off at any second. And I'm sick of it.

I'm tired of hearing it from all sides. I'm tired of hearing Microsoft and Sony fans sniping at each other over every little detail. I'm tired of PC fans being PC fans in general. I'm tired of gaming websites upping the paranoia. I'm just freaking tired of all of it. They're just freaking consoles.

And I used to be excited about the next gen. In some ways I still am. I like the look of Killzone Shadow Fall and Dead Rising 3. I like the look of the consoles and their controllers. More than any of that, I just like the idea of a new generation of consoles leading to a new generation of gaming. Because for me, it's all about the games and the next generation looks to bring us a lot of new games. A lot of the games we've enjoyed this gen wouldn't have been possible or have had the same impact last gen. I'm hoping the next gen can do the same. It's not just the titles that have been announced that have me excited, its the ones that haven't. It's the knowledge that, in the future, new games will be released. New franchises and new titles.

But no, apparently people only care about whose favoured platform can 'win' whatever generation. It's almost a spectator sport, and a console launch is a grand final that lasts several years, although the winner is claimed on release. People are already talking about who is going to 'lose' the net gen. And if you have to ask that question, then it is you who has lost.

Why the hell can't we just be happy? At the end of the freaking day, regardless of if you get an Xbox 1 or PS4, you'll end up slipping a disc into the console, sitting in a chair/couch/sofa and playing a freaking game. It's not hard, it's not going to change much from how it is today. Fundamentally, playing games is the same. Why the hell do we all have to act like it isn't anymore? Why do we have to pretend that gaming is, on some basic level, getting worse?

The next gen is going to be fine. The games will play similarly, the graphics and performance will be improved somewhat and there will be more online capabilities. We'll get sequels to games we've all played, but we'll also get new games and experiences.

This gen, across the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 I've played well over a hundred games, some good, some bad and some fantastic. Next gen I look forward to another hundred more.

I'm falling into the Assassin's Creed trap again

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I think I'm falling into the Assassin's Creed trap again. This is the trap where I somehow convince myself that I'm going to like the latest instalment, despite not liking the previous one. It happened before, with AC3, and it wasn't long before regret fell into place and I found myself powering through it joylessly so I could just say I finished it before I traded it in. That was only last year, and now it's happening again.

I used to like AC. I liked the first one despite its issues and dumbass ending, but I avoided AC2 for a long time since i felt it would be more of the same. But it wasn't, so when I picked it up I was really pleased. But then brotherhood came out and turned out to be more of the same, and then revelations was the same, and then AC3 was a mess... AC turned from a series I liked to one i just didn't anymore. Within a few short years the AC series turned into a bad bet for me, much the same way the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series have after a decade for many other people.

But Black Flag looks really good and the reviews have been positive, but then I'm reminded that it's an Assassin's Creed game. The pirating/adventuring stuff looks really fun, but then I remember it's got AC's combat and controls. I'm constantly reminded of all the things in the AC series that I just don't like, and I'm realising slowly that each entry in the sequel has sort of taken the things I did like and twist them into ugly forms until I don't like them. Climbing used to be fun, but now it's a chore. The lustre wore off back in Brotherhood for me, and since then they've just made the buildings harder to climb. Other things, like the combat and stealth mechanics, also became chore-like to the point where I still question (despite having owned and played all main titles) whether I actually like the series at all.

There are certainly elements in the series that I really hate. I despise everything outside of the simulation. I though Desmond's entire story thing was garbage and I loathed being forced out of the Animus to play with his rag tag group of asshole acquaintances. Each title continued to add more time outside of the Animus, adding to the stupid convoluted sci-fi nonsense when I just wanted to run around stringing up redcoats. I also hated every time the game would remind me i''m in a simulation, with the glitches and digital crap everywhere. Apparently they've remedied this, and there's no Desmond or his funky bunch, and instead you only have to spend as little as twenty minutes outside the Animus in the whole game.

I'm constantly reminded of AC3, which fooled me into getting excited. It looked really good, it looked fresh and exciting, as though they really had fixed up everything about the other AC games to make a proper sequel. Then I found myself slogging through the dull story in the boots of a boring character, dreaming about better games. So while Black Flag looks really good and the reviews have been backing this up, it's still an AC game, and it's still going to have all the elements I don't like.

Another note is that multiplayer in the AC series has never worked for me. I don't mean that in a 'it wasn't for me, I didn't like it' way, I mean it fundamentally - I never could actually get into a match in any of the online AC games. I tried for a long time in AC3, but I always got the message about servers being full and was thrown into offline mode with the AI. Kinda killed it for me.

But still, Black Flag looks really good, and being a pirate looks really fun and the naval battles were the best thing salvaged out of AC3. It was actually released on Monday here, so I've held out for three days, but my will is pretty weak.

Rambling Venting Nonsense

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Well since GS still hasn't dealt with the stupid wall/feed system and we can't filter blogs I doubt many will even see this. The feed/wall thing only keeps the last twenty activities. For my friend feed that's fine - I'm following/followed by 100ish people but only maybe twenty of them seem to be active. Other people, however, have friend lists around 1000 so this'll be drowned out pretty quickly methinks.

Thus I'll just vent out all the gaming bullshit from my system.

My PS3 has only four gigs left on my 320gig harddrive thanks to installs. I've been purging a lot of games I don't play anymore but some take too much (why do Tom Clancy games need so mych space? Future Soldier and Blacklist take ~8 gigs each).

I've been looking over the games I've got, and noticing just how many I never finished is a bit depressing.

Dynasty Warriors 8 is more therapeutic than anything. I can mash out a battle or two at a time, but there's a lot of content there and i don't know if I'll get through it all. I've done everything in other similar games, like Samurai Warriors and Fist of the North star, but they had relatively small rosters (20ish and 8 respectively) while there's freaking 70 different characters with their own weapons and skills here.

Splinter Cell Blacklist sits there like a constant reminder of my pretty short attention span. I impulse bought it, liked it, then just stopped playing it completely. I did a bunch of the side missions, an hour of the multi and the first three story missions then just kinda stopped. I like the game, but I'm not playing it.

Saints Row 4 is another game I've had for a while which sort of got sidelined (due to GTAV) but now I'm just not playing GTA (finished the story and, just like that, my interest died completely - haven't bothered with the multi due to the negativity). Been really enjoying SR4 actually, its like a celebration of the Saints Row franchise, as well as other random things (such as Keith David and the film They Live). Actually one mission involves a re-enactment of the ridiculously long fistfight from They Live which is hilarious.

Batman: Arkham Origins is an entertaining game that has the misfortune of having had two superior and highly similar Batman games directly precede it. It's still got all the elements (the freeflow combat, the stealth, the gliding through the city) but there's that feeling that something's missing. It just seems to lack the heart and attention to detail of Asylum and City. The map is huge, but it's mostly empty and bare. There are puzzles but they're simple and not particularly interesting, and I feel as though I'm constantly getting thrown into combat. It has a few interesting ideas (like the crime scene reconstructions) but their execution is a little off. It's still a fun Batman game, but we have two better ones.

Disgaea D2 and Ni no Kuni have joined Star Ocean 4 and Resonance of Fate in my pile of 'JRPGs I haven't finished'. There's hope for Disgaea, but Ni no Kuni is quickly approaching that time period of 'I don't remember how to play' which is the bane of many games for me, since I feel like I need to start over but can't be bothered.

I haven't touched Tomb Raider or The Last of Us since finishing them, even though I really like both games. For me it's sort of a time issue. Both games start relatively slowly, and require maybe two hours for things to get into full swing, and I just want to pick up and play at the moment.

I'm thinking of getting rid of my Wii. I've been thinking about it for a long time. I never touch it, it sort of just sits around and reminds me that I'm not into Nintendo anymore. Honestly it makes me feel a bit grim. Yet I feel conflicted about selling it/trading it, maybe because I've never sold a console before. I'm pretty sentimental, so I think of the good times. I've got fifteen games on it, but I can (and, in some case, have) got superior versions of them on other platforms. Another stalling point is my low expectatios on what i'd get for everything (I'm not optimistic, I'm pretty sure I'll get shafted). I'll see what I can get for the whole thing then make a decision. By the same token my 360 sits mostly untouched, but again I'm conflicted about getting rid of it (I still like Gears).

Speaking of consoles, I'd like to get a PS4. I'd planned on waiting until mid next year, one a decent few games are released and any kinks or issues with the console have been worked out, but impatience is something I struggle with. But I'm reminded that all the stores here have sold out the pre-orders, meaning I'll have to wait until next year anyway. Which is fine, since the thing is pretty expensive anyway. While other countries enjoy their lower prices, it's rocking a tag of $550 here (with the Xbox 1 at $600). Granted it's cheaper than PS3 was on release (and even PS2) but it's still a lot. You can get a bundle with a 500gig model, an extra controller, the Playstation eye thingy and Killzone Shadowfall for $700.

That's it for now.

Perseverance

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So the site changes haven't been great. I dunno about other people, but i'm having a massive amount of trouble keeping up with other people's blogs. Also I've been struck by the bug where my Feed/Wall/Whatever is full of updates from random other people who aren't on my friends list. I'd mentioned this on the GS support forum and was told they were working on it. That was over a week ago.

Anyhow, I'll persevere.

Muramasa Rebirth got released on Vita here! With little fanfare it appeared on the PSN store as a download for a decent price, so I've loaded that up and have been playing through it. It's more challenging than I remember it being on the Wii, and really fits well on the system. I've also been playing Dragon's Crown a fair amount, levelling my Elf up so I can tackle some of the harder bosses on hard mode (Red Dragon is a jerk).

Arkham Origins comes out this week and I'm unsure of how it'll turn out. The late review embargo is worrying. And I just noticed there's this game called The Guided Fate Paradox that's made by Nippon Ichi. Never freaking heard of it, but now I'm intrigued. I'm wondering whether it's like Phantom Brave or Soul Nomad or something.

Ok. Random rambling nonsense over.