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Setho10 Blog

How Many Games Have You Beaten?

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Last year I decided to start keeping track of what games I beat. I split the list by month and by the end of the year I'd beaten 34 unique games. By unique I mean that I didn't count multiple playthroughs of the same game in the same year. This year I continued my stat tracking and a couple nights ago I tied my Jan-Aug record of 25 games. With 1/3 of the month still to come I should have no problem topping my total with 26 or 27 games beaten. I stated at the beginning of the year that my goal was to beat 40 games in a single year. Seeing that I'm only on par with my previous year that goal seems pretty lofty at this point in time. I also don't have any money to spend on games this year, and nothing coming out this Fall really interests me, so it will be up to my backlog to tide me over until next year.

So if you are wondering here is my list of the next 5 games I plan to beat, with the goal of finishing all of them by the end of September.

1. Hard Reset: Extended Edition

2. Infamous 2

3. Darksiders

4. Transformers: War For Cybertron

5. Assassin's Creed Revelations

I also have some PSN+ games I might try to beat in between those:

1. Sideway: New York

2. The Walking Dead

3. Trine 2

4. Shank 2

5. Sly Cooper and the Thevious Racoonus

I have already started all of the PSN+ games but The Walking Dead, and I'm also 2/3 of the way through Infamous 2 and I'm maybe 2 levels away from beating Hard Reset.

So with all that listed, what about you guys? Have you beaten a lot of games this year? Do you know exactly how many? What is on your docket for the next month or two?

Broken Kickstarter Launching Soon

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Hey folks. If you are new to reading my blog you might not know about the game I am currently working on called Broken. It's been in development for about 9 months and we are looking to boost our funding to get the game on more platforms, and to get it as polished as possible. To that end we'll be starting a Kickstarter by the end of the month. I don't have the exact date yet, but we are pretty damn close. We're busy editing a great video we put together, and putting in the final touches on the demo we'll be launching on Kongregate alongside the Kickstarter. So for those unaware I'll give you a quick summary of what the game is about.

In Broken you are Jim, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. Your goal is simple: Cure yourself and merge your minds into a singular whole. To do this youll need help from your pet rabbit, Harold. Harolds death several years ago was the catalyst that split your mind apart. Now, you chase after the ghostly visage of the bunny in hopes that catching him will merge your mind and mend whats broken.

Broken is a puzzle game split into a half dozen areas. Each area is the home to one of your personalities. In each level your actions affect both Jim and his personality at the same time. For example, if I were to press the right arrow on my keyboard Jim would move right. At the same time, his sociopath personality would move left. Each personality in the game has his own movement pattern. The goal of each level is to get both Jim and his personality to stand on Harold at the same time.

Each area evolves over time as new mechanics are added that alter the playing field and increase the difficulty. While early levels see you battling solely against the clock, later levels add in dangerous hazards that can damage Jims mental stability or even kill him.

If this concept sounds interesting to you, or maybe you don't quite get it, don't worry that demo will be free to play and available to everyone. If our Kickstarter is successful we'll be bringing the game to iOS as well as PC, and money beyond what we ask will go towards adding additional platforms and towards testing and polishing to make the game as great as possible for as many people as possible. So the Kickstarter will be starting within the next couple of weeks. I'll post again here as soon as I know the exact date, but until then you can follow us on Twitter @brokenthegame, or like us on Facebook under Broken The Game, or visit our website www.brokenthegame.com. Even if you aren't able to donate to the Kickstarter, be sure to follow us to get the latest updates. Obviously I'll continue to post information here for you guys. Until next time guys!

An Update

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I haven't been feeling much like blogging lately. There is a lot of stuff going on in my life. I'm living with my Mom right now. She is in the process of moving to upstate New York where my Dad has been working for the past couple of months. Every couple of weeks I've been traveling up to Chicago to work with my team on our upcoming game Broken. Things have been progressing well and I'll have news for you all on that front sometime soon. Living with my Mom has been a bit boring. I don't drive and my Mom and sister both worked until today. So for the past month I've just been either working on the game or playing one game after another. I've gone through a bunch of games. I replayed Alan Wake, this time on PC, Spec Ops: The Line, Shogun 2: Total War, STALKER, Hard Reset Exile, Infamous 2, and a bunch of other games. Haven't beaten most of them but I'm getting there. I also found this adapter on Amazon that turns two Micro SD cards into a single Pro Duo Memory stick, the format used by the PSP. Normal Pro Duo sticks cost a small fortune. Over $50 for 16 GB. This adapter gave me 14 GB of space for only $15. Quite the deal. This let me actually put some games on my PSP.

On the movie front I saw Arrietty, the latest Studio Ghibli movie, and of course The Dark Knight Rises. Both were great.

I'm debating over getting Deadlight tomorrow. Reviews have been very mixed with many saying the first third is brilliant while the latter two thirds are only okay. I still have a ton of games to play from my PSN Plus account. I may finish Trine 2 and Outland before I try Deadlight. I also have Assassin's Creed Brotherhood coming from Gamefly. Some of you may recall that I played the first maybe third of that game before returning it. So I decided to give it a second shot. I also think I'm going to give Darksiders a second chance. There's just not a lot coming out that I am very interested in. Darksiders 2 is the closest thing I have to an anticipated game this month. Next month things will pick up a little but for me this has been a pretty dismal gaming year outside of the stunning Journey.

Anyways I just wanted to check in with you guys. I'll try to stop by a bit more regularly but no one on my friend's list has been blogging much so I haven't really felt the need to come here. Until next time, guys.

A 100x Internet Speed Increase

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So for a couple years now I have been living in an apartment on the South Side of Chicago where it's safe to say Internet upgrades are a bit behind the times. My Internet hit various speeds depending on the time of day but in general I got about 120 Kbps. That's not even fast enough to stream a Youtube video. Well last week I moved back in with my parents while I get my finances under control. Unfortunately I didn't get my stuff from Chicago until today. So after a week I set up my consoles and my computer and decided I needed something to play. So I decided to download Stalker which I owned on Steam but hadn't ever played much of. I'm used to a 6 GB game taking a week or so to download at speeds of around 30 kbps. So when my download started and the speed read 3 MB a second I nearly died. I went in to ask my Mom why she had such a fast connection and she said AT&T offered to upgrade her connection for free for six months. She didn't know to what speed. So I did a speed test and the result was a massive 12 Mbps. Yes I got an amazing 100x increase in speeds. So I watched some videos, went on some forums and such and checked my download a half hour later expecting it to be at maybe 25% and low and behold it was already done. I now am looking at my 150 strong Steam game collection and not dreading downloading some of them. I also am a PSN Plus member so I can download all those full games and the full game trials without having to wait a week or two. Such a beautiful connection. At these speeds I could stream 1080p video. Yup no more waiting on Youtube for me. In fact no more waiting at all. For at least a couple months I'm going to download the heck out of things and it is going to be amazing.

The Perfect Run

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Several people who commented on my last blog asked me to share my thoughts on Pixar's so called "perfect run" or the films the studio made from the release of Toy Story through the release of Toy Story 3. Consisting of 11 films it is arguably the longest perfect run of any movie production studio in history and at least the highest by an animation studio depending on your view of Isao Takahata's 90's Studio Ghibli movies Pom Poko and My Neighbors The Yamadas. Should you appreciate those two films then Studio Ghibli's "perfect run" probably extended from the 1986 release of Castle In the Sky (Unless you count Nausicaa as a Ghibli film) to the 2004 release of Howl's Moving Castle or 13 films. Honestly as an American I just can't appreciate Takahata's 90's efforts so the prize goes to Pixar. Comparatively Disney's perfect run ended at 5 films with the release of Bambi. Dreamworks never had a perfect run while Don Bluth's production house under its various names had a perfect run of four films from The Secret of NIMH to All Dogs Go to Heaven. Blue Sky Studios never had a perfect run, and Michel Ocelot's films are arguable too controversial to even mention.

So who cares about perfect runs? Well a lot of people. A studio that has a perfect track record can say to its audiences that regardless of the quality of the marketing or the subject of the film, there is no reason to not believe that their next film will be great. The longer the perfect run lasts the more certainty the studio can say this with. To make a video game comparison look at Blizzard. Ignoring the company's porting work, Blizzard has arguably had a perfect run from its release of Blackthorne till the present day. Some people like some of Blizzard's games more than others, but it is safe to say that Blizzard has gone 20 years without ever making a bad game. These days a new release by Blizzard is treated as one of the largest events in a gaming year. Until the studio releases a bad game there is no reason to believe they ever will. Especially considering the complexity of their ownerships and the staff turnover it is hard to imagine any bad game coming out of Blizzard.

Of course the thing about a perfect run is that it only takes one film or game to ruin a perfect run and no matter the amount of successful products you release before and arfterwards there is suddenly an uncertainty about quality that you simply cannot ever remove. Blizzard has been pressured by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to release games on a more regular schedule and this has arguably jeapordized their status as the premier PC game developer today. So what events lead to Pixar's perfect run and what events lead to its demise? Let us examine.

Pixar was founded by George Lucas in the early 1970's as a computer graphics company. It wasn't until the mid-80's that Pixar transitioned into making CG television shorts after the success of John Lasseter's CG Short films including the now iconic Luxo Jr. It was 10 years later that then owner Steve Jobs agreed to let Lasseter attempt to make a feature length CGI movie. The film was called Toy Story and it was distributed and marketed by Disney. From the 1995 release of Toy Story to the 2003 release of Finding Nemo, Pixar's movies were created by a dedicated internal team. At the head was John Lasseter. Acting as co-directors were Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Pete Doctor and Joe Ranft. Music for the films was done mostly by Randy Newman while audio was designed by arguably the greatest sound designer of all time, Gary Rydstrom. Stanton wrote the scripts with stories from himself, Lassetter, Ranft and Doctor, among others. This core creative team were the masters, the insiders responsible for almost every Pixar movie throughout the 90's and 00's. Following Steve Jobs' dedication to quality at any cost, the team worked to better themselves, always attempting to top themselves with each successive release.

In 2004 Pixar brought in its first outside director, The Iron Giant creator Brad Bird. His first film was The Incredibles and it brought with it a new age of quality in which Pixar made arguably its best films. The Incredibles was followed by Cars, Ratatoullie, Wall E, Up and Toy Story 3. Pixar, it seemed, could do no wrong. At least to outsiders. Inside the studio changes were afoot. Pixar was purchased by Disney moving Lasseter to a new position in charge of all Disney animation. Suddenly the head man was no longer making individual movies. At the same time Ranft died in a tragic car accident. With two of its top creatives gone pressure fell on Stanton, Doctor, and Unkrich to keep the float aloft and they did so admirably. The one, two, three punch of Wall E (Stanton), Up (Doctor), and Toy Story 3 (Unkrich) was an amazing cinematic achievement. But things were about to go sour. After Wall E Stanton took a break from Pixar to work on John Carter. Brad Bird, meanwhile, was working on the live action movie 1906, before transitioning to the latest Mission Impossible movie. Pixar's two top writers were out of commission and Pete Doctor and Lee Unkrich had several years before their next films would be ready.

Before its acquisition by Disney, Pixar would often take off a year if it didn't have a movie ready. But Disney demanded regular releases and with none of its regular team of directors and writers available, Pixar turned to fresh new faces to direct. Their first effort was Cars 2 directed by producer Brad Lewis. Meanwhile Gary Rydstrom began work on a film entitled Newt and Dreamworks director Brenda Chapman began work on The Bear and the Bow. Suffice to say things went poorly from the start. Within a year Newt was cancelled and Cars 2 was rumored to be unwatchably bad. The Bear and the Bow was renamed to Brave and pushed up to a 2012 release. Less than six months before the release of Cars 2, John Lasseter realized that the film needed more help than anyone but he could give. So he fired Brad Lewis and personally went in to retool the film. Time was short and the end result was reportedly a lot better than Brad Lewis' version, but there was no doubt that Cars 2 was simply a bad movie. With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 34% it was more than 40 points below the first entry, the already barely 4 Star rated Cars. Pixar's perfect run was over.

This year Pixar attempted to get back on track with Brave. But, again, less than six months before release Brenda Chapman was removed from the director's chair and replaced by long time Pixar employee Mark Andrews. The result was a film vastly superior to Cars 2 but not as great as the Pixar films leading up to Cars 2. With Newt cancelled Pixar looked to its catalogue for a new idea. Monster's University hits next summer directed by Dan Scanlon. Following that we have what should be a return to form for Pixar with films from Pete Doctor, Lee Unkrich and Up co-director Bob Peterson. Stanton also is due to return for a new film. Regardless of the quality of Pixar's films over the next five years, though, there is no doubt that the legendary perfect run ended last year with a disastrous cash grab that felt like something coming from the Dreamworks B team not the masters at Pixar.

In the end, though, if Pixar had to end its perfect run, it couldn't have chosen a better movie to go out on. With Toy Story 3 Pixar arguably ended an era. 15 years later the kids that watched the original Toy Story with their parents were now parents themselves and they were taking their kids to the movies. As I said in my last blog, Pixar's tales often involve letting go. Toy Story 3 is indeed a story about letting go, both physically with the toys themselves, and emotionally as Andy goes off to college. But for many Toy Story 3 also is about letting go of the dream studio that spent 15 years creating some of the greatest films in history. As I said at the start, perfect runs are abolished by only a single film and can never be earned back. Whether Pixar can return to form in the future or not, it will forever have that mark on its record. And that is truly a shame.

Ranking Pixar

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For the past 17 years Pixar has delighted audiences with some of the best films ever made. Spanning numerous genres and covering a variety of subjects, Pixar's animated masterpieces have replaced Disney as the animated films of choice for a generation of young people. Unlike many Disney movies, though, which appeal far more to children than adults, Pixar movies transcend age and gender barriers, proving themselves enjoyable for people from any wakes of life. 13 films in, Pixar has had an incredible run. Ranking Pixar's movies is mostly an effort in choosing which masterpiece is more of a masterpiece, with only a couple duds among the bunch. Suffice to say that except for number 13 I would heartily recommend any of these movies to anyone looking for a great film to watch. Even the second worst film on this list is better than the top efforts of most other studios. So without further ado I provide you with my personal ranking of Pixar's mighty movies. Feel free to leave your rankings if you have seen all of the films.

13. Cars 2

The sole dud among Pixar's films, Cars 2 isn't a bad kid's movie but it is exactly that - a film that will appeal only to children. Highly preachy with a weak story that never sounds as genuine as it could be, Cars 2 is the only Pixar film I simply wouldn't recommend to adults. As a kid's film it is serviceable but Pixar can do much better.

12. A Bug's Life

The second Pixar movie is great as far as animated movies go but not on the same level as later Pixar movies. Telling the tale of an Ant trying to save his ant hill it is a relatively touching film that will appeal to kids. Still it lacks the complex relationships that define later Pixar movies. Don't doubt that it is brilliant, but keep in mind that comparatively to other Pixar films it doesn't hold a candle.

11. Brave

Brave is a film with stunning animation and a great mix of action and drama. Director Brenda Chapman brings a woman's touch to Pixar's films and the great female heroine Merida is a much better princess than any Disney has ever created. For once a movie with Disney involved features a princess who isn't falling in love. The only reason this film falls towards the bottom of this list is its preachy beginning. Hitting the audience over the head with morals isn't the Pixar norm and this heavy handed approach cheapens the film. Still it is easily the best Disney Princess movie ever made, and is the best animated film I've seen since Toy Story 3.

10. Cars

Cars for me is Pixar's most underrated film. It doesn't do anything as ambitious as the remaining 9 films but it is still a brilliant film that tells a touching story and has a great soundtrack. As I said at the start of this blog, every film on this list but Cars 2 comes with my highest recommendation, so don't take its low place as evidence that this film is bad. It is in fact one of the best animated films ever made. It just isn't as great as the next batch of films.

9. Monster's Inc

The second half of Monster's Inc is a powerful and wonderfully written tale that mixes messages about the bonds of friendship and the power a child can have over a parent. It is among the best pieces of animation ever made and is near the top of Pixar's work. But to get to that half you have to sit through the first half which is the second worst thing Pixar has done. In the end the amazing second half and unique concept outweigh the dull first part, but this film still sits near the back of the list.

8. Toy Story 2

Who says sequels are never as good as the first entry in a series? Toy Story 2 is a sequel done right. It is filled with action, humor, and drama including a hugely powerful montage that ranks among the most powerful 5 minutes of filmmaking I have ever had the pleasure of watching. That sequence alone makes Toy Story 2 better than the bottom 5 films, but don't forget the intriguing questions about death and mortality that serve as the backdrop of the film. While children will enjoy watching Woody and team going on another adventure, parents will appreciate the deeper messages the film presents in ways subtle enough that you may not even notice it.

7. Toy Story

Sitting at the halfway point is Toy Story the original Pixar movie. It's a film that is wholly universal. What person on this planet didn't grow up imagining that their toys were real people? Toy Story takes the magic of childhood and transforms it into a landmark piece of animation that changed the movie industry forever. It catapulted director John Lassetter to the top of the animation industry and is simply a great film all around. Though not as deep as the second film in the series I place it ahead of Toy Story 2 simply because of its place in film history as the first ever computer animated feature film.

6. Ratatoullie

Leave it to animation master Brad Bird to turn the story of a rat into a relatable tale of dreams untapped. I think this film is actually more enjoyable for adults than children. There is much less action than in other Pixar movies. Instead the focus is on the coming of age story of a young man and his pet rat. Touching and moving, Ratatoullie is a great film, no qualifiers needed.

5. Finding Nemo

The funniest Pixar movie also has its fair share of action and drama. The story of a father trying to rescue his son is timeless but the highlight is Dory a fish suffering from short term memory loss. Dory is a truly hilarious character and her interplay with Marlin, Nemo's father is brilliant. Finding Nemo is Pixar's second most successful film ever and there is a reason for that. The humor works great for children while the complicated themes about love, parenting, friendship, and letting go resonate with adults. Truly a masterful film in every regard, Finding Nemo is easily one of the greatest animated films of all time. That statement alone tells you something about the quality of the next four films.

4. The Incredibles

It's rare to see an animated film that resonates with middle aged men but Brad Bird's greatest success manages it almost effortlessly. There is the great Pixar mix of action, drama and comedy but the family dynamics at play here are so masterfully created that The Incredibles easily takes its place as one of the truly great family movies in film history. Honestly the only three animated films better than The Incredibles are the next three films on this list and maybe Disney's mighty The Lion King.

3. Up

The first 10 minutes of Up may be among the greatest 10 minutes of a film ever. Pixar somehow managed in 10 minutes to tell a love story greater than those found in thousand page novels and mega movie series. The tragic end of this story sets the stage for Pixar's most affecting film. There is a point near the end of Up where the main character manages to move on from his loss. It's one of the most powerful scenes I have experienced in a film. Some may complain that the final third of the film has too much action, but seriously the 2/3 leading up to that are simply astounding and so stunningly powerful that they brought me to tears several times.

2. Toy Story 3

Leave it to Pixar to make the single greatest threequel ever made. Outside of planned trilogies there has simply never been a third film in a series even close to as good as Toy Story 3. It somehow is better than 90% of Pixar's original movies and easily eclipses the first two films in the series. The final third of the film is an emotional rollercoaster and the 2/3 leading up to it are filled with more humor and drama than most any live action film released this century. A lot of Pixar films involve letting go of something. Toy Story 3 is maybe the pinnacle of that message. For children who saw the original Toy Story back in 1995, Toy Story 3 comes at the perfect time as they enter adulthood. The parents watching this film were maybe seeing it with their parents 17 years ago, and their parents surely can't help but be moved by this film about growing up and moving on. This film is Pixar at the top of their game, and if they never reach this height again I think I can safely say that Pixar's perfect run ended on the perfect film, a closing of sorts for a generation that grew up experiencing the films on this list.

1. Wall E

It was a tough choice between this film and Toy Story 3 for the best Pixar film. In the end Wall E is in many ways simply perfect. The first third of the film is easily the greatest piece of animation ever created. Who would have thought that anyone could create such an amazing love story featuring two voiceless robots? But Pixar manages it. With no voices Pixar creates a romance for the ages. It then combines that with an amazing sci fi story filled with all the humor and action that Pixar is known for. Maybe in the end it isn't as solid all the way through as Toy Story 3, but when Wall E is at its best it is better than most any film I can think of. It's truly the pinnacle of a studio whose films seemed too perfect to be true. It is Andrew Stanton's crowning achievement both as a writer and director and it is the best animated film ever made.

Tactics Vs Strategy

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In my last blog post about Max Payne 3 I made a mistake. This mistake confused quite a few people so I wanted to apologize for it and maybe educate some other people about the issue. When talking about games most people use the term tactics and strategy interchangeably. I'm not one of those people, but unfortunately in my previous blog I got the two mixed up and used the term tactics where I meant strategies. The difference can at first seem small but when you examine it more closely you can see that while virtually every game includes tactics, only the best games include strategies.

So what is a tactic versus a strategy? In the simplest terms a strategy is what you are going to do and a tactic is how you are going to do it. So a strategic shooter would let you choose how to engage in any situation while one lacking in strategy will give you only one path in which to go through the game. Max Payne 3 (and 1 and 2 as well) lack strategic planning. By this I mean there is only one way to resolve any given situation. Compare this to the highly strategic Halo series. In Max Payne 3 there is one entrance to an area and one exit. In most situations there is only one path to get from one to the other. Halo, however gives you sandbox style arenas where you can take multiple routes to any target. These alternate routes allow for different strategies. For example, I could choose to use heavy force and drive the enemy back through sheer firepower. Halo lets me do this by giving me tanks and rocket launchers and other heavy weapons. Choosing which of these to use is a tactic but we'll get to that in a moment. I could also choose to be stealthy, sniping enemies from a distance and hitting them in the back. In Reach I could even turn invisible momentarily. My last major strategy in most situations is to go in guns blazing and hope that my tactics are strong enough that I don't need stealth or heavy weapons to overcome my foes. Even in these situations, though, I can use broader strategies about how to fight a battle to overcome the enemy. For example, taking out a powerful Elite often causes the weaker grunts to route, a key strategy that has been used since the beginning of war.

Now compare this to Max Payne 3. In that game I have only one way to go about any situation. I simply go in guns blazing. There are no other options. Just shoot until everyone is dead. What Max Payne 3 does include, though to a lesser extent than Halo, is tactics. Tactics involve how I go about applying my strategy on the battlefield. In Halo this would involve choosing what weapons to use, what paths to take, what enemies to take out first, and in Reach, what armor abilities to use. In Max Payne 3 I have to choose what weapons to use, when/if to use bullet time and shoot dodge, and what enemies to take out first. You could also argue that the moment to moment decisions about what way to dodge and what cover to use also falls under tactics. Now the first choice (what weapons to use) can be either a major choice or a smaller choice depending on the game. Let's end my Halo analogy and use another game that demonstrates this really well. The Resistance series, especially the third game, features a vast array of weapons with very unique abilities. The tactics in a Resistance 3 battle are very high, maybe even higher than Halo, because each weapon offers such a different way of going about each fight. In Max Payne 3 there really is only one choice to make when it comes to weapons - long range or short range. There are multiple types of each weapon but in most cases you can only choose between a couple weapons in any situation, and when you have the option for, say, two different rifles, one is almost always better than the other. In Resistance 3 the choices are far more extensive. The Bullseye can tag enemies and let you shoot without aiming and around corners. The Auger can let you see and shoot through walls. The Sniper can slow down time and the distance rifle (don't remember the exact name) can lay down turrets. Those are just some examples. Point is, there is a lot more to choose from than distance and strength.

Therefore the main tactics of Max Payne 3 involve bullet time and cover selection. Those let you have some decently tactical battles, I don't deny that. But Max Payne 3, as well as numerous other linear games, have no strategy. In Call of Duty, Battlefield 3 single player, Killzone, or Gears of War there is only one strategy and very few tactics. Compare this to shooters that give you greater options like Resistance, Halo, Half Life, Deus Ex, or Battlefield Bad Company and you can see that while one style may give you greater control over player actions, the sacrifice is in the depth those shooters have compared to the wealth of strategy and tactics available in the best shooters. Max Payne 3 is a game with no strategy, and whose tactics are middle ground.

Hopefully people understand the difference between tactics and strategy now and understand more of what I was getting at in my previous blog. Thanks for reading everyone!

Max Payne 3 And Creative Bankruptcy

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Today Max Payne 3 arrived from Gamefly. I played through the first disc and have very mixed feelings about it. On one hand it is a perfectly competent game. It always works. It controls well, the level design is solid, the graphics are decent for a console game, and the story is interesting and well written. But after playing it for several hours I have to say it is one of the most creatively bankrupt titles I have played in recent memory. This game has not a single unique mechanic or idea to its name at least so far. You walk down incredibly linear corridors and shoot dudes while hiding behind cover and slowing down time when you have the juice. It's just so average. I'm enjoying it but I just keep thinking how Rockstar, at the very least, usually brings something new to the table with each of its games and this game just doesn't have any of that.

I have to take a shot at the level design here. Now just a couple lines ago I said the level design was solid. I say that because it is virtually always obvious where to go. The levels are clear and feel natural. But they are also some of the most linear levels I have ever seen. They make Call of Duty look like a sandbox. There is no room for tactics in this game. There is always just one path to take and it is a very narrow path with a couple boxes thrown up to hide behind. What's more, the combat here basically plays itself if you set it to auto-aim. You can choose to manually aim, but how anyone could aim well enough to shoot grenades out of the air without help is beyond me. Maybe if I was playing with a mouse and keyboard but not with a 360 controller. So you have to choose between making the game all but impossible to beat and having the game basically play itself for you. You spend most of the game hitting forward and pulling the left trigger to lock on and the right to shoot. It's fun on a visceral level but there is literally nothing to it. That isn't to say it isn't hard. I'm playing on the easiest difficulty and enemies still do enough damage that using the shoot dodge mechanic is akin to committing suicide. So you walk forward, hide behind cover, slow down time, and take some pot shots until everyone is dead. Then you watch a cutscene before repeating.

Speaking of cutscenes, there are a ridiculous number of them in this game. Almost every single door you walk through (essentially after every battle) leads to a cutscene. These vary in length from 30 seconds to 5+ minutes. And chances are if something cool is happening in the game it is happening in a cutscene. Once in a while you are asked to shoot some people in slow mo at the end of said cutscene, but I never escaped the feeling that I really wished I was playing what was being shown on screen. I think some of the worst examples of non-interactivity in this game occur in the hostage-swap level. I was shocked that after the sniper started shooting, the game put the HUD up and theoretically gave me control, but Max just started running without me doing anything. In fact I tried to walk the other way or stop and he just kept running. It was like they pretended to give me control but really I was just experiencing another cutscene. Later, while sniping the game decides it is going to move the reticule for you. It follows along the path of the person you are supposed to be protecting, and then gives you control for five seconds to shoot a couple dudes before taking control away from you again. I really hate that critics praised the story aspect of this game. If you want your games to be movies then become a movie critic. This is a game. I want the gameplay to be exciting as well as the cutscenes and I'd prefer if the ratio of cutscene to gameplay was a bit less than 50/50.

If it seems I am bashing this game to hell, well I am. It manages to be everything that is wrong with games today. Relentlessly simple and heavy on special effects over substance it is barely a game and more of an interactive movie. Even the shining example of interactive movies, the Uncharted series, gives you control during the action sequences. That is what makes Uncharted work. Because you are in full control during the cool parts. In Max Payne you are rarely fully in control at any point in the game. Max Payne 3 goes down easy because Rockstar does its best to avoid frustration. Checkpoints are numerous, and the easy difficulty is easy enough that most players should be able to make it through without much difficulty. The game is kind enough to end cutscenes with you facing in the exact direction you need to go and since cutscenes bookend almost every room you are almost never lost or confused on what to do. This is shooters for dummies. An experience so easy going down that you can't hate it. But there is no meat on this game's bones. There are no clever mechanics, no tactical depth, no variety. I'm enjoying it in the same way I enjoy a movie, so I'll play the second disc, but the first has left me utterly underwhelmed. I know I rag on Rockstar a lot, but in a way this is a worse offense than their normal games. My problem with their work is often that the story and the gameplay don't mesh. In this game the story and the gameplay are one in the same. But unlike a game like Braid where the story is cleverly wrapped around the mechanics, in this game the gameplay feels like merely a way to get from one cutscene to the next. The challenge here comes not from intelligent scenarios requiring skill and strategy to overcome, but by putting a ridiculous number of enemies in front of you and having them do a ton of damage. Your only solution is to press forward and make sure bullet time is engaged. After all it will probably only be 30 seconds until another cutscene shows up.

I'll say again that I am enjoying Max Payne 3. It does go down easy. But I feel like I'm enjoying it in spite of the gameplay, not because of it. I love a good movie almost as much as I love a good game, but Dan Houser, as good a writer as he is, is no master screenwriter. If I want to watch a movie I'll go see a movie. When I play a game I want to do just that, play it. Watching cutscenes and holding down forward and right trigger are not what I call a game. That's called an interactive movie and I honestly am glad I didn't pay $60 to experience one of those.

Just Watched The Triplets of Belleville...

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And it was weird. American animation over the past decade has become more and more sterile. Pixar often deals with very adult themes, but it does it in a way that is appealing to children as well as adults. Most other animation studios simply make movies that solely cater to those under the age of 10. There are occasional moments of brilliance such as the original Shrek, Happy Feet or Coraline. But all in all American animation has become the bastion of politically correct children's movies that have a great deal of trouble appealing to an older audience. Now I like a lot of these children's animated movies. I'm a huge Disney fan and enjoyed Tangled, Princess and the Frog and Winnie The Pooh (their three most recent efforts). But every so often I yearn for something a little more edgy. Now you could mention anime, and there are "adult" anime, but 90% of anime either involves either high school drama, endless battles or, most often, both. Now again, I like anime as well. Studio Ghibli especially puts out amazing stuff, but when anime gets mature it tends to just become exploitative. Which brings me to Triplets of Belleville. It's a French film by Sylvain Chomet and it is decidedly not something you would want to see with children, or your up tight parents, or your otaku friends. Featuring some graphic nudity, disturbing violence, and dark thematic elements this is a film that reminded me to some extent of the much more extreme works of Ralph Bakshi. Surreal, and featuring almost no dialogue, Triplets is a unique and decidedly odd film. The story can be somewhat hard to follow as most of it is told through visuals which can take a turn for the weird at almost any moment. And the whole film is over before you know it, but it was refreshing to watch an animated film designed for the art house crowd with mature elements and a dark, disturbing story. I've criticized mainstream American animation in the past, and Triplets shows exactly why. Animation can be bizarre, surreal, and expressionist in a way that live action films cannot. Too often today animated films ignore the animated part, telling a story that could just as easily be told in a live action scenario. Triplets for me is defined midway through the film at a club where a waiter serves diners while bent in manners impossible for the human body to attain. It's incredibly strange but it is something that would only work in an animated movie. It's something unique to the medium, a medium which should celebrate the weird and the macabre but has become far to intent on appealing to family audiences. If you want to try out a weird and unique piece of animation that is like nothing coming out of either the US or Japan I'd suggest Triplets of Belleville. Chomet directed a new film a couple years back which I'll have to get a hold of. While he may not be the brilliant storyteller that Miyazaki, Stanton, or Bird are, he dares to offend in an animated film and that makes him, to me at least, something pretty special.

Help A Gamer Out

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Hey folks. I am taking a marketing class right now and we're doing a project on bottled water. I know it's not the most interesting of subjects, but if you have a moment I'd appreciate if you took this survey for me. It will only take 5 minutes. For the final question please answer Seth like my user name. Thanks guys! Hope everyone enjoyed E3!