SteelAttack / Member

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SteelAttack Blog

3D Man.

Got a new TV set recently. My old LCD 32" Samsung hasn't aged gracefully and started showing signs of old age, so I took the plunge and nabbed a nifty LED-LCD 42" 3D enabled sammy. Nothing fancy, but still a very noticeable upgrade. Besides it came with a bundled BluRay player and a couple of those aggravatingly expensive 3D glasses. I almost got nostalgic about the time when 3D lenses were made of cardboard and blue/red cellophane...I mean, not really, but almost.

After marveling at the IQ from most of my BluRay stuff, and being horrified about the way my regular cable stuff looked like, I proceeded to try out a few of the games I already owned that allowed 3D. Most of them looked neat but not mindblowing; stuff like GT5, Halo and Superstardust HD looked fine, although in Halo's case I started to get severe eyestrain after a bit, which caused me to yell obscenities to the people I was playing with. Most of those insults were not really directed at them, but since this is Xbox Live and people are used to be told to go f*** themselves as a regular greeting process, I blended in perfectly.

That still left me with a massive headache, but at least I got to insult a couple people in the process, which didn't help me with the headache, but somehow soothed my soul.

The one game that actually made me go "oh wow" was Wipeout HD. Seriously the 3D effect in this game is outstanding. The solid framerate and 1080p visuals improved the overall experience, although unfortunately eyestrain and migraines prevented me from playing as much as I would have liked to, and since I wasn't online there were no people to insult, so I ended up turning everything off to apply a huge-ass bag of ice to my forehead.

3D isn't really for me.

But I shot a man in NY, just to watch him die.

Today I finished the first Max Payne game. It was a good ride, overall. I can definitely see where the people that fell in love the series came from. It has great writing, amazing atmosphere, good dialogue, some unforgettable characters and a plot that is easy to follow, but that doesn't disappoint. Gameplay hasn't really aged gracefully, at least in some aspects regarding enemy AI and a penchant for cheap deaths around corners that can make the game a bit frustrating. The slow motion gimmick is cool, but tiresome after a while.

Still, I can easily understand why this game has become a true classic and am excited to see what the second game brought to the table. I am slowly becoming a fan of the franchise. I hope that doesn't mean I'll start to whine anytime soon about Rockstar's third game and its bald lead character.

For Those About to Rock.

Rocksmith is a music game developed by Ubisoft Montreal, released on Oct 18th 2011 for PS3/360 in North America. It loosely follows the same structure than previous music games (such as GH or Rock Band) had, but with one critical difference: you get to use an actual, real guitar in this one.

I picked the PS3 version this weekend and I can't praise it enough. It provides both education and entertainment in a convenient package that has something to offer to both newcomers to the instrument as well as seasoned guitar aficionados. The package includes the game disc and a special cable that allows you to plug your guitar directly to your game system. There's a more expensive bundle that includes a Les Paul Epiphone Jr. guitar, if I recall correctly.

What you do in this game is not really that much different than what you did on GH/RB. Game is about hitting the right notes in order to rack up points as you progress through a career mode of sorts that allows you to play at different venues and unlock gear. The thing here is that you are actually learning the song as you progress through it, starting out real easy and dynamically adjusting the difficulty of the song to how your performance is. A notable feature, that easily diminishes the frustration that can be pervasive in most music games, is that the games doesn't actually punish you for failing. You hit a bad note? No problem, you still get to keep trying throughout the rest of the song, no angry crowd booing you out of the stage.

It has a very comprehensive library of videos with common playing techniques as well as tips for everything ranging from how to string/tune your guitar to advanced stuff. It has a built-in tuner that works amazingly and autostarts whenever it detects your guitar is out of tune before starting a song. Another great feature is a technique challenge section, which makes you perform different techniques until you master them, such as sliding, hammer on/pull offs, bending/pre-bending and more. It even has weird minigames aimed to improve your speed, coordination and skills.

Song selection is good, not great, with acts ranging from the Stones and the Animals to Lenny Kravitz and Radiohead. Like I said, the game adjusts the difficulty in a dynamic way to accomodate all ranges of guitar playing skills, and evolves with you in real time, so if you're just breezing through a song, it'll raise up the difficulty accordingly. Strings are color coded and frets are marked the way you would find them in an actual guitar, color coding is a bit confusing at first, but it's nothing that can't be overcome. As you progress through the career mode, you earn points that allow you to unlock different gear (guitars, amplificators, pedals and different effects) which you can fiddle around with. Progress unlocks bigger venues and more complex songs, but I think all of them are already available in the song catalogue from the beginning. You can practice them, use a riff repeater to work on difficult parts, or try them out in their different arrangements (chords, individual notes, etc).

It is a very well made game, I kind of expected it to be a half-assed effort, but it's really complete. It has a clunky user interface, though, and HDMI users will probably find audio lag, but there are workarounds for that. At any rate, it's a great tool both for learning the basics or honing your skills. If you ever had a slight interest in learning to play guitar, this is a game you shouldn't miss.

For the Emperor!

Demo of WH40K: Space Marine is now up for PC, 360 and PS3. Give it a try inbetween Deus Ex: HR sessions, if you wish. It's intense, relentless, quite fun, and unlike any shooter I've played before. It's...kind of a different beast.

Stockholm Syndrome.

Trials HD

I have owned Trials HD for about a year or so. Got it discounted on one of those summer sales at XBLA, and I guess I started playing it right away. Got pretty far on it, managing to clear the first four tiers of tracks, and even charting on my XBL friend list on a few of them. Unfortunately, I was promptly discouraged of completing all sets of tracks because of the offhanded rise on the difficulty curve of the last track set, Extreme. I tried as best as I could, but I could only complete the first one.

Got back to it this past week, don't really know why, and started working my ass off on the remaining three tracks. I seem to remember reading somewhere that more than 90% of the people that bought this game never finished all tracks, and now I understand why. All of them are hard, unfair and aggravating. I quickly went from having a good time with a very challenging game to anger towards the developers and frustration at my own shortcomings. After a while, I wasn't even having any fun with it anymore, while I kept going on and on over the same spot trying to do a seemingly impossible jump. I wasn't having fun, but I also was devoid from any other feeling. There was no anger, or frustration anymore. There was nothing inside me.

After more than 2,000 tries, last night I cleared Inferno 2, the last track of the set. I thought I would be pissed off and delete the game immediately after finishing it, insulting the developer team that chose to devote 25% of their time and resources to create those 4 evil nightmares. But I didn't. I couldn't. I was greeted instead with a wave of satisfaction the likes I hadn't felt since beating Demon's Souls.

I got up my seat, smiled, stretched, and watched my 6 year-old daughter clear the beginner set of tracks and start working on the easy ones.

This game is a weird beast.

War: What is it good for?

Having spent a bit of time to finish Shadow Complex (short, but fun game in the Metroidvania template), I finally ended up facing one of the most eagerly awaited games in my backlog: Company of Heroes.

The first thing that strikes me about this game is how intense it is. I'm only 3 or 4 missions in, but even from the first one, the overarching vibe of this game is of urgency and tension. AI defends fiercely every building, road intersection, chokepoint or resource point, in a back-and-forth struggle that is never easily won. Because of that, every small step forward feels like an accomplishment, a hard earned one.

As usual with RTS games from this talented developer, CoH does away with the usual staples of the genre in regards to resource and base management. Resource points only need to be captured for them to provide you with what you need to further develop your squads, without the need for dedicated units for gathering or building. That allows for a more dynamic pace, free styIe playing, and ever evolving battle tactics, instead of the usual turtling and sim city-like gameplay that other titles tend to favor or even encourage.

I'm quite happy to finally be able to focus on this game.

City of Love.

Last night, I finished Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (Steam version). Since my puzzle solving skills leave a lot to be desired, I never was too much of a fan of the point and click adventure genre. However, I reckon that same genre has some of the best writing gaming as a whole has to offer, so I would be remiss on not trying at least a couple of the most well known games.

Broken Sword is a point and click adventure game that takes place mostly in Paris, but it has you jumping through locations scattered through Europe in your hunt for an ancient Templar artifact. The game has good things going on for it, and very few (if glaring) flaws. It offers an entertaining story, some truly unforgettable characters, mostly good dialogue and logical, well done puzzles that are not frustrating and help you both focus and further advance through the main plot, good music and nice artstyIe that holds surprisingly well considering the time passed since its release (just play it on windowed mode).

On the bad side of things, i can say the story gets kind of sloppy by the end, with some twists that are grating and hard to swallow, as well as some character development feeling forced and a few bits of dialogue on the cheesy side. Fortunately, those are far from deal breakers, so I feel confident enough to recommend this game to anyone looking for a good adventuring experience. Since it's a vintage point and click game, it can run on any PC working right now.

Full of Itself.

Finished a few more games since the last entry. And started a couple more as well.

Beyond Good and Evil turned out to be an alright game, but far, far from the masterpiece its most vocal supporters claim it to be. It has some really good things going on for it, such as an outstanding musical score, a wonderful lead character, and a very well done gameworld. Unfortunately, it has some serious camera problems, a story that felt rushed at the end, and obnoxious stealth segments that add insult to the injury caused by its simplistic combat and almost as simplistic puzzles. I enjoyed most of what it had to offer, but I certainly won't shed a tear if a sequel never gets made.

Batman: AA was an unforgettable ride from beginning to end. Nicely paced, with great visuals, kickass voice acting and an elegant, deceptively simple combat system that rewards experimentation and has a great flow to it. Not to mention a truckload of secrets, modes and unlockables waiting to extend its replay value.

Braid, on the other hand, was quite disappointing. Whatever the message this game had for me, it flew too high above my head, and got lost within the frustration caused by its aggravating puzzles, that more often than not felt hard just for the sake of being hard, and not always as logic as its developer claimed them to be. It does have interesting game mechanics, and it's a must have for genre aficionados, but other than that, I got little else out of this presumptuous collection of puzzles.

Right now I'm working my way through Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars and Shadow Complex. I'm about 50% done with the first, and loving its art styIe most of its dialogue and characters, as well as its down-to-earth puzzles. The second has made a nice first impression in the hour or so I've spent with it.

Adventuring in different flavors.

Recently, I played and finished Darksiders, an action/adventure game I picked up for cheap-ish back in the holidays. I've never been the adventuring kind, at least when it comes to game genres (I've had my fair share of adventures but that's perhaps a subject for another blog), and especially when said games are loaded with puzzles of different kinds. I just don't like them, and I have taken every possible measure to actively avoid them, including the holiest of all sacred cows with golden udders, Zelda. Bleh.

However, there was something about Darksiders that made me stomach its increasingly difficult and increasingly annoying puzzles. Maybe it was the cool cast of characters, maybe its candid approach to combat, maybe the way it kept introducing new mechanics even at advanced stages of the game. In the end, something clicked and I managed to beat it. And considering I don't really play these types of games that often I'm kind of proud about it. In a weird kind of way.

Without me knowing it was another Zelda-like game, I jumped into Beyond Good and Evil immediately after finishing Darksiders. It's...alright I guess. Combat is very rudimentary, probably because the puzzles are more relevant to the gameplay, but I really haven't found anything engaging regarding puzzles yet either. It does have some nice things, especially its WTF-inducing stereotypes, and the picture taking, which is almost more fun than the actual game. Oh, and the lead character is very likeable, unlike her porcine sidekick. But other than that, I'm kind of starting to struggle to remain interested in this game.

And simultaneously, I started playing Batman: AA, which I picked up for a laughable $7.50 in this week's ongoing Square-Enix week at Steam. They've had some pretty cool deals since monday, so anyone interested should check it out this weekend. Batman is easily the best game of the group I'm discussing in here. Polished, with an engaging story, fun combat and lots of stuff to discover as you make your way through Gotham's worst hellhole, it is definitely a title nobody should miss.



I've been playing a lot of Demon's Souls. Easily more than 25 hours in my first week with the game. That amount of time has allowed me to clear a grand total of three stages. 1-1, 2-1 and 3-1. I have found, in this limited time, that everything that has been said about the game's ruthless difficulty is completely true, and then some. And it's not because the game is cheap. Quite the opposite, actually. It's more honest and upfront that most other games around.

Enemies are always the same. They always appear at the exact same spots. They always attack you in their own predetermined patterns. If you do your homework, you'll soon find out their weaknesses and strenghts. The fact that after all of this the game still manages to challenge you at every single step of the way, punishing you with exceeding force and mopping the floor with you the second you let your guard down, is a testament to the solidness of what is probably one of the best and more polished features of the game: An impressive, complex and exceedingly well fleshed out combat system that puts many other RPGs to shame.

Couple that with a wide array of cIass selections, that can be further customized depending on your playstyIe preferences; a robust selection of weapons to suit practically every need in regards to combat, whether that be melee in close quarters or long-range sniping, and everything in between, an equally impressive set of spells and miracles, and a variety of settings that ooze an oppressive atmosphere, and it's easy to understand why I'm hooked like this to a game that keeps kicking me in the teeth and spitting on my corpse.