Dishonored Review

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So I originally wrote this for my school newspaper almost a year ago, but it was never published. And I just remembered I had written it. :P Anyway, enjoy! 

http://www.gamespot.com/dishonored/user-reviews/814933/platform/ps3/

Many modern games offer a certain amount of player choicemultiple ways to complete tasks or progress the storybut few manage to achieve the satisfying consistency of Dishonored. Some games often only have one or two worthwhile options in gameplay situations, whereas every different approach to combat or traversal is engaging in Dishonored. Whether you want to be a silent assassin, a sneaky pacifist, or an overt murderer, youll have a fantastic time. And you can incorporate different tactics at any time, so youre not pigeon-holed in one style of play throughout the game. Its just a shame its story doesnt have as much of a lasting impression.

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You play as Corvo Attano, former head bodyguard to the Empress now turned assassin. After being framed for the Empresss murder and escaping prison, Corvo joins a rebel group and is assigned to take out important targets of the new tyrannical regime. The prologue sets up an interesting revenge tale set in a rich steampunk world, but only the latter is offered. The story is a predictable one, featuring a cast of mostly dull and forgettable characters, a plot that wraps up too quickly, and a poor, anticlimactic ending. It serves its purpose of transitioning you to new levels, but its entirely a missed opportunity. The city of Dunwall in which the story is set, however, has a rich and interesting history founded on whale oil that is fleshed out in books around its dreary, atmospheric environments.  Personal journal entries and audiographs also found in the games levels reveal the citys current troubled times dealing with a widespread rat plague, an oppressive government, and religious conflict.

The religious conflict involves an established order opposing the heretical worship of The Outsider, a mysterious supernatural being who grants Corvo magical abilities early on in the game. The first of these is Blink, the power to teleport silently across a set distance in any direction. The skill is key in getting around the large levels quickly without being noticed, and its exhilarating to blink behind an enemy, take him out, and blink to the top of a lamppost just before another enemy spots you. The levels in Dishonored are designed for frequent use of Blink, with plenty of rooftops, ledges, and catwalks to take advantage of, so youre not required to sneak or fight your way through the alleys and hallways of Dunwall. Although Blink is generally a fun and effective skill, some areas within reach are inaccessible, which can be devastating in moments of escape, and its sometimes difficult to tell at a distance whether youll vault onto a ledge or miss and plummet to the ground.

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The rest of the supernatural powers must be unlocked and upgraded by collecting runes around the environments, a task much easier with the help of a creepy talking mechanical heart which locates hidden objects as well as reveals characters secrets. The problem with this method is that you wont unlock certain abilities until very late in the game when theres not much time to experiment with them, or at all depending on how you spend your runes. The only way to acquire unearned powers is to start a new game, relinquishing your current powers, so you can collect runes again and spend them differently. With so many ways to play, Dishonored is a game youll want to revisit, but having to start from scratch diminishes its replay value.

Though the list of magical abilities is short, their applications are numerous and creative. For instance, you can possess a guard, walk him into a closet, and knock him out, or, you can walk him to a balcony and use another power, a forceful blast of wind, to throw him off. These powers combined with your arsenal offer a staggering number of ways to deal with an area of enemies. To avoid killing anyone, you can freeze time and run past guards unnoticed or knock out enemies one-by-one with sleep darts and hide their bodies in a nearby dumpster. Deadlier strategies might involve calling forth a feral swarm of plague rats to overwhelm and devour guards or rewiring security systems to vaporize nearby enemies instead of you. The standard approaches of stabbing clueless guards in the back and rushing into the open with a shotgun pistol in one hand and sword in the other are viable options as well and preserve your mana and ammunition. All of these tactics are satisfying, but Dishonored is most rewarding when you combine uses of weapons or magic for brutal attacks or clever escapes.

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Most of the levels in Dishonored involve infiltrating a building and taking out a key target and both offer freedom of choice just like the combat. There are always rooftop entrances, secret side doors, and underground passageways to get to a targets location, and there are even some opportunities to possess a rat and travel through vents. Set situational options are offered in getting rid of your targets, both lethally and non-lethally. For example, in one level you can poison your preys drink or find a way to excommunicate him from his religion, thus dismissing him from power. You can also choose to kill your target like you would any other enemy, and the many creative ways which you can do so offsets forsaking the unique options laid out for you.

With so many ways to go through levels to oust the illegitimate authorities, Dishonored fully embraces the philosophy of player choice and pulls it off remarkably well. Both the stealth and the action are rewarding and enjoyable, and the ability to improvise using an array of powers and weapons makes Dishonored an accessible yet deep gameplay experience throughout. Its intriguing dystopian world may not have been put to the best use with such a weak story, but this and its other minor flaws can easily be overlooked, because its excellent gameplay alone lets Dishonored stand as one of the best games of 2012.

Score: 9.0/10

 

The Internet: War, Peace, and Fish

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So I'm at a point in my life where I get, on a regular basis, three simple questions: What colleges are you looking at? What do you think you're going to study? What are you going to do afterwards? The first two are relatively easy. I've pretty much narrowed down where I'd like to go to school, and I want to major in English. But I don't like to answer the last one and usually come up with something vague and misleading like, I want to be a writer. Someone might then say, Do you mean you want to write books? I would reply, No, I want to be a journalist, and I leave with the inquirer with an impression that I want to write for some newspaper about recent disasters, political scandals, celebrity gossip, or sports.                                                                

I'm embarrassed to say I want to write about video games for a living.

That is ultimately because I'm afraid people won't take me seriously and will judge that it's not a proper contribution to society for me. There are a few reasons for the idea. One is that I believe people might think it a self-indulgent, childlike fantasy to play games and get paid, and at low points, I sometimes even believe that.  Another is the fact that most people think games are just fun toys for teenage boys and are not in the same league as established media such as books and films. The last reason can be illustrated by some recent nonsense going on.

Nonsense #1

So I have no interest in being a developer. I don't believe I have the creative talents nor would I ever have the programming skills to make games.  However, I don't particularly want my career to be associated with people who have violent verbal cataclysms when a virtual gun is patched in an attempt to make a game fairer.

If you believe that this is just some freak case involving a terrible community within a terrible game and that this kind of abuse is only towards developers, have you BEEN on gamespot.com? I'm not saying our community is bad (I'll talk more of it later), but if you've glanced at the comments section of a review of a major game, you've seen widespread, unwarranted hate of the game, the review, or most commonly, the reviewer:  WHOEVER REVIEWED THIS IS A COMPLETE IDIOT. GameSpot's Tom Mc Shea and his review scores that frequently dissent from the Metacritic average are an easy target for overly impassioned gamers (which is putting it nicely), as is any review really, since it's impossible to please everybody with a single opinion. Kevin VanOrd said just that and more in his insightful blog shortly after reviewing Star Wars: The Old Republic.

There's even a show on GameSpot highlighting horrible, often abusive comments on the site. While I adore a hilarious Feedbackula episode and Johnny Chiodini's attempts to satirize and ridicule the ridiculous, I feel like it possibly harbors more stupidity and hate from the commenters. The users who post the garbage that's featured most likely aren't ashamed of what they've written but are proud to be the stars of the show.

At any rate, gamers' out of control use of ad hominem, death threats, racial slurs, and misogyny, all while the English language weeps in the corner, are obviously terrible for games. How can the world at large respect games when it's so easy to see immature sociopaths surrounding them? Frankly, they probably shouldn't. The contrast between the severity of some of the threats and the triviality of the causes is not only embarrassing, but also pretty scary.

Then Nonsense #2 happens. If you're unfamiliar with all the details, you should check out Patrick Klepek's excellent article about it, which covers some of what I'm about to discuss.

So back in grade school (were talking at about 5th grade here), I remember a lesson in which we learned about writing business letters (because 11-year-olds write so very many business letters), specifically requests for refunds. Our teacher told us that if we were ever to write a letter to a company about a remote-controlled helicopter we ordered that was broken upon delivery, we must write a polite and explanatory letter in order to receive a refund or a replacement. Some of the class thought a more threatening approach would be more effective. Of course our teacher said that companies would either ignore these types of letters or file a lawsuit.

So here not only do we have fans who can't get past a 5th grade concept, but professionals in the game industry, both journalist and developer, reduced to petty name-calling and suggestions of suicide, all over quotes about a story. "Yeah, Uncle Joe, I totally want to get into the video game business!"

Now I don't like Phil Fish, or at least, the things he says. I don't like his attitude about Japanese games, his attitude about PC games, or his attitude in general on Twitter as evidenced here. Also, I believe the controversy with the FEZ patch was a mess on both Microsoft's and Fish's parts. Fish releasing a broken game, Microsoft letting Fish release a broken game, Microsoft demanding money for a patch, Fish refusing to patch; a catastrophe!

Regardless, FEZ is an ambitious, interesting game (though I've never played it), and it's sad to see its sequel canceled for such arbitrary nonsense.

I feel like so many words have already been written about Internet hate regarding sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. that we might be asking too much of a barbaric race to, you know, be nice. "Welcome to the Internet," one might say. This tweet from GameSpot's own Martin Gaston sums up the state of gamer culture pretty well:

 

bloody hell the games industry is depressing, and twitter is depressing, and everybody seems to hate each other. what a mess.

Martin Gaston (@squidmania) July 29, 2013

 

But that's just too cynical of me. After all, I found great friends online at a time when I had scarce in the so-called "real" world. Just yesterday, I had a great experience in Journey in which my companion stayed with me to the end and even made sure to show me some of the game's secrets. He or she sent me a thank-you message for sharing the journey with me and a friend request on PSN. And how can we forget the endless outpouring of compassion during the passing of Ryan Davis?

So here's to you, all the people I've enjoyed talking to on GameSpot, in unions or on blogs, and to all the gamers who've graciously helped me out in co-op games (most recently Journey and Dark Souls), and to all those in the industry, both writers and developers, who put up with the hate in order to give gamers awesome content. You've all made following games for the past four short years an unforgettable delight.

But what can we do about the haters that ruin our passion? Can we ignore them? Should we ignore them? I really dont know. But maybe part of the problem is the number of sane people out there who stay mute in fear and exasperation of the dreaded comments sections. I think it may be time to get more vocal. I dont mean writing blogs like this that don't change the way a single troll thinks, but participating more in the content sites like GameSpot put out. I'm going to try to think of something meaningful to comment for the majority of videos and articles I consume here. It may not be a real solution, but in numbers, maybe there's hope in drowning out some of the hate.

 

 

Well That's a School Year Finished: An Update

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And what a school year its been. As you can see, I havent blogged all year, and I owe those who remember me a long overdue update. If you were wondering where Ive been on the internet, Ive still been on GameSpot at The Gamers Sanctuary and post there regularly (but not now with forums being messed up :P).

I took some AP classes, one of which helped me understand writing better (while the other one I wrote a scathing essay about and was my highest scoring essay :P). This year held the best season of tennis, both for my team and me personally. Despite the year being the most stressful in terms of work, this was the first year I enjoyed parts of student life.

Outside of school stuff I listened to lots of music, read some books, watched a television show, and even played some games! Here are the specifics on them:

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Music

My best friend in school is a huge music fan, so this year Ive listened to more unfamiliar music than any year before by his recommendations (and some of fellow GS users) and on my own. In the beginning of the year I started listening to Radiohead, and for about 3 months I listened to OK Computer every day. Ive listened to all of their stuff except for the wholes of Pablo Honey and The King of Limbs, but its easy for me to say that theyre my favorite band. There were days were I would spend ALL DAY watching Radiohead concerts and old interviews. Im so obsessed. :P Some other bands and artists Ive gotten into or started to get into are Porcupine Tree, David Bowie, Jeff Buckley, The Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins, The Strokes, Sonic Youth, Fiona Apple, Joy Division, and more.

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Books

Im just gonna list em:

The Great Gatsby- an excellent, short classic

Heart of Darkness- short, but a very difficult, abstract read; had a fantastic end

Catching Fire- the second book in the Hunger Games series had more consistent writing than the first and was still easy, exciting reading

Mockingjay- a lot of people dont like Mockingjay, and while some plot threads were wrapped up poorly, I found it to be the most tense and interesting of the trilogy

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- hilarious and one of my favorite books; really need the rest of the series

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Arrested Development

Fellow GameSpot friends have been raving about this show for ages, and I finally started watching it this year. Its exceptionally funny and brilliant, and Ive woken up my parents plenty of times watching it late at night laughing hysterically. I finished the first 3 seasons before the revival of the show that released this May. I finished Season 4 just a few days ago and loved it. I understand some of the criticisms of the season; focusing mostly on one character per episode makes you desperately miss other characters for stretches of episodes. However, the ridiculously intricate timeline and path-crossing that the members of the family have throughout the season make it thoroughly worthwhile, especially in the later episodes. The new season is much more funny for fans of the old seasons, so if youre interested in giving the show a watch (which you should!), begin at the superb first season. Watching Arrested Development gave me Anustart at life and using obscure referential humor, and it would do the same to do, Im sure.

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Games

Again Ill list em:

Dishonored- fantastic gameplay! Bad story! Overall awesome.

Sound Shapes- great platformer with sharp controls and a catchy music mechanic and very easy user creation tools (I made a short level that was actually pretty good! Those who have it should search for Night Harp). I would play Sound Shapes over LittleBigPlanet any day.

Spec Ops: The Line- a very important game that everyone should play. Its not perfectly executed and some understandably wont be affected as others, but Spec Ops affected me more deeply than perhaps any game. Its a haunting experience that made me want to stop playing violent games for a while. A much more effective experience than the book it was influenced by (Heart of Darkness).

Paper Mario: Sticker Star- a good return of Paper Mario, but not a great one. Boring for the first half and ultimately too easy. One of the most charming games visually and aurally but its story falls very short of its hilarious predecessors.

Depression Quest- another important game but more an interactive novel. As someone who lives with depression on and off, this is a very accurate depiction, even if the characters situation is far different in the details.

Super Mario 3D Land- As addicting as it is fun, this game had me in its clutches during Easter break. Not as grand or inventive as the Galaxies, but still awesome.

Ratchet and Clank- (on HD Collection) This game has not aged well but was still good fun. Wish it just had strafing, better aiming, and more interesting weapons.

Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando- This game had all of the above that I wanted! A great Ratchet game.

Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal- the best game on the HD Collection by far and second best Ratchet game only to A Crack in Time (also known as Clock Blockers)

Metal Gear Solid 2- Also on the HD Collection. It took a while to get used to the gameplay but I ended up liking the stealth a lot. Then some crazy things happened in the story and my mind blew up. Excellent game.

Metal Gear Solid 3- I just finished this a few hours ago. Like the other MGS games Ive played, it has very interesting gameplay and a superb story. Also some of the best concepts for Boss battles.

Summer Plans

I did get a job this summer and I have more AP summer work, so I wont have as much time for games as I might like to. But I do plan on playing Peace Walker, Dark Souls, finishing Skyrim, Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Max Payne 3 this summer. Hopefully Ill get to blog about those more in-depth and maybe even write some editorials. I also need to learn how to drive and do some college searching, which tend to fill me with fear and angst. :P

Im sad to tell you my family just had to put down our dog two days ago. Shes been with us for 10 years, and it was a terrible way to start an otherwise promising summer. Though Im writing this without a sleepy dog next to me on the floor, Im excited for the next few months of rest and work. Hopefully youll hear more from me on this blog too (perhaps Ill write something about E3 on Monday or Tuesday), and I hope you have a good summer too (or winter for those below the Equator).

-Dapski

The Summer of Mixed Reactions

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And again, with the blink of an eye, summer's gone. Or at least, today is my last day of summer. Whereas last years was excellent, this summer was not at much, especially the middle of it. Thats not to say I didnt do some awesome, occasionally productive things; it's just that I had a lot to do that seemed to shorten vacation by about 4 or 5 weeks. So first I'll just note the cool stuff I did this summer (most of which you can find in my last blog):

- was on some podcast thing
- completed Metal Gear Solid 4
- read Catch-22
- watched Fight Club
- completed Max Payne 2
- played almost 100 hours of Skyrim (blog for that soon, maybe?)
- jet skied multiple times (it's rrrrraaaaadddd)
- platinumed Drakes Fortune
- played a bunch of The Binding of Isaac (that game is touggghhhh)
- purchased but havent played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Dark Souls

And here's some of the stuff I sadly didn't get to do this summer that was originally planned:

- FINISH Skyrim
- play Dark Souls
- write more than one review and write some editorials
- replay Journey, inFAMOUS 2, and Mass Effect 2
- read The Great Gatsby (read one chapter last week)

My schoolwork could have been handled better if I started it before July because what I dealt with for AP English and AP Chemistry were mostly nightmares. The three books I read for English (This I Believe, The Elements of Style, and On Writing Well) were relatively satisfying to read, but I disliked writing about them because I just wanted to get the work over with. Chemistry was even worse with 7 packets and over 50 textbook problems, some of which being impossible. I think I know which class will give me the most grief this year. :P

When I wrote my last blog, I was just about to leave for Summer Camp, which was probably my last. It was fine, but not nearly as awesome as last year since fewer older kids went. I did spend the week jet skiing though, which was super fun. I also completed an Eagle Scout project, which was refurbishing a wall in the rectory building of my church. That was an amazing experience in which I had a bunch of help doing something I would have otherwise known nothing about (stuff like drywall, spackling, painting, etc.) though now I have to compile a report of the project which is on the backburner now because I wanted to enjoy some parts of summer and now because school is about to start. :P And last week I was on the beach! It was pretty fun, I bought a Pink Floyd shirt. :)

Most of my summer, though, was spent discovering some of the awesome content on GameSpot. Gameplay podcast, Quoted for Truth, The What If Machine, Community Service, and some of the staff's personal livestreams; I kept up with them all! Something I sadly won't be able to do as well with school coming around. Though perhaps its for the best; I did spend quite a lot of time reading and watching features I previously couldn't, and as entertaining and enlightening as that all was, it is time to get back to school.

Though that doesnt I'm that excited for this busy year of AP classes, learning to drive, getting a job, taking SATs, and gorramit, I'm already overwhelmed! Hopefully thatll all get sorted out soon enough, and I'll get to take a study hall next year. :P

If you're going back or have already started another year of school, college, or university, I hope you have a great one, and if you're beyond those days, I hope the real world's treating you well!

Thanks for reading,

~Dapski

Oh, and a new episode of Critical Path podcast will be recorded soon! I may not be on it, but be on the lookout!

Update Blog: The Summer So Far and What's On the Horizon

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Hello, all! I just wanted to share with you what I've been up to so far this summer and what's to come in terms of both gaming and, well, non-gaming.

Critical Path Podcast

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First of all, I'd like to talk about the up and coming Critical Path gaming podcast. I've been on the show a good number of times, and it's grown to have its own website, be on iTunes, and has an email that I forget right now (perhaps criticalpathpodcast@gmail.com). :P So please check that out and give us feedback, and please notify us (PM me, stephenage, or eiji1 until I'm certain of the Critical Path email :P) if you'd like to be on the show! However, we're not certain of the podcast's near future due to some of us being away and not having access to a computer and whatnot, but stay tuned!

Metal Gear Solid 4

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I completed Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots a few weeks ago, and it's a new favorite of mine! Some people prefer MGS4's story to its gameplay, some prefer the gameplay to the story, and others love both equally. I fall into the first camp, as I think that MGS4 has the best story of any game, but its gameplay is at most times amazing as well. The story succeeds because its storytelling, characters, and politically charged themes come together in an absolutely mind-blowing way. While some details of the plot that allude to previous Metal Gear games can easily go over your head (especially for a newcomer of the series like me), the events of Guns of the Patriots itself are easy enough to follow. Many people complain about the series' frequent and lengthy cutscenes, but I find it strange for one to do that, seeing as those cutscenes are incredible and are often interactive in one way or another. There are some dumb attempts at humor within the story, but it's better to focus on the extremely tense and emotional moments of the plot and a few awe-inspiring action scenes. The gameplay in MGS4 is unlike anything I've experienced before, and there's so much going on with it, that I was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning trying to get the hang of the controls while a bunch of different (and really cool) mechanics were being thrown at me. I just love how open-ended the gameplay is, letting you approach an area of enemies is so many ways. For instance, you could go guns-a-blazing and murder everyone in sight, sneak by in a barrel, place Playboy magazines to distract guards, use a remote controlled robot to stun enemies, etc. I tried playing most of the game stealthily, knocking out enemies with a tranquilizer more than killing them. Most of the games mechanics work excellently, but certain techniques such as close-quarters combat aren't effective because the controls for that style just don't seem to register sometimes. There's a good amount of variety in gameplay and settings, but there were some areas I got frustrated with either because I was just playing stupidly or the very few times when I was forced to play a certain way. Overall though, MGS4 is a phenomenal game you should all play.

Catch-22

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As MGS4 is a new favorite game, Catch-22 is a new favorite book, which I read just after MGS4. It's a hilarious satire of bureaucracy in war in which I loved the characters and each of the unique staples of their personalities, the brilliant circular dialogue and oxymoronic writing, and the book's ability to simultaneously laugh at and ponder about its themes. Go read this book!

Platinum Trophy for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

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After Catch-22, I completed Drake's Fortune on Crushing difficulty to get the platinum trophy (which is also my fifth)! I had to adjust my play style because on Crushing you die in 4 shots or less, meaning I had to stay in cover but use it dynamically so enemies don't flank me. There were some really tough bits in open areas, but I found it surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. Anyway, it was really nice to replay a game I love and to get its plat!

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut

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So I was one of the people who downloaded the 1.8 gig Extended Cut for ME3 and replayed the ending level of that game (on the shockingly easy Narrative mode :P) and watched the rest of the endings on Youtube. The Extended Cut definitely made the endings better, giving some much needed context before and after the final choice as well as filling up some (but not all) plot holes, but I think it's just too little too late. We got this ending 3 months after the fact, so it's just not as impactful as it would have been on a first playthrough. However, those who plan to play ME3 and have miraculously avoided knowing the endings will definitely benefit from this.

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

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Good friend stephenage gifted this to me on Steam, and I finally got to play it this week! This just happened to be my first PC shooter, so the controls were entirely alien to me at first (still kinda are :P), and some of you may know about my embarrassing blunders in the beginning of the game. :P Eventually I got the hang of the controls and learned that Max Payne 2 has rather excellent shooting! Shootdodging and bullet time just never get old because they make for such stylish and satisfying takedowns. The storytelling is also fantastic from Max's narration to the comic-book style cutscenes to the many humorous conversations you can have with NPCs or eavesdrop on and to the amazing TV shows Max can watch from time to time. I also loved the different ways you can handle a situation both in and out of combat. You can choose to kill, ignore, or interact with innocent NPCs and interact with objects (I made turning on sinks and showers the trademark sign that Max Payne paid a visit :P), and there's some really entertaining dialogue for some of the different ways you handle things. The quicksave and quickload were very, very helpful in these situations. :P In combat, you can choose shootdodging, bullet time, explosives, and many different weapons to take out your foes, and the physics and some dramatic slow-motion camera angles for finishing attacks are extremely satisfying. Max Payne 2 is an excellently paced game with plenty of gameplay and storytelling surprises to keep you invested from start to finish, and for a 2003 game, it holds up superbly in every single way.

Fight Club

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Last night I watched Fight Club. As you might know, I don't watch many films (that should change with the Cinematic Studies course I'm taking next year)! So this was an experience. Anyway, Fight Club is an awesome film that's really been stuck in my mind all day.

What's to Come

So tomorrow I'm going away for a week to Boy Scout Summer Camp as I have for the past 5 years. This'll be the last year I go most likely, so hopefully I'll have a good time. I got a boating license two weeks ago by taking an online course, so I'd be able to jet ski at camp, which I'm looking forward to! But lately I've been kind of dreading going because a lot of my friends aren't going this year and because it's a whole week being taken out of my summer. This is disconcerting to me because I still haven't started any of my summer assignments, which include 3 books to read, 4 essays, 7 chemistry worksheets and about 30 textbook problems (some of which I probably won't know how to do). I'd normally be somewhat ok with this, but the next two games I want to buy are Skyrim and Dark Souls. I really don't want awful schoolwork to get in the way of playing such massive and absorbing games. I'd also much rather review some more and perhaps do some editorials on games than do tons of AP work... Ah well, hopefully that'll get all sorted out when I get back (maybe I'll just brute force the work in a week or two).

See you guys next week, and as always, thanks for reading!

~Dapski

Start of Summer Bonanza Blog!: E3 Awards, El Shaddai Review, Games Completed

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Hello, summer! Wednesday was officially my last day of school, and I have already been enjoying the liberties of my time off this week. This school year was much better than my last, but of course I'm glad for the summer. I'm going to try to enjoy as much of it as possible and play and review as many games as I can. In the midst of LOADS of AP assignments to prepare for next year I plan to play Metal Gear Solid 4 (which I'm playing now and is fantastic), Max Payne 2, Skyrim, Dark Souls, and some others (I have a good idea what). Hopefully I'll get some movies and books in there as well. I'll definitely start Catch-22 over since I didn't get very far when I started it in the middle of the homework season. :P I also have to read 3 non-fiction books for school: On Writing Well: The Classical Guide to Writing Non-fiction, Elements of Style, and This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, so hopefully those will be interesting and the two former help me with reviewing. Also, I'll definitely watch Fight Club sometime this summer.

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First order of business is catching up on E3 thoughts. Instead of writing impressions like last year, just check out this very awesome podcast. You guys should keep up with this podcast, listen to the old ones, and keep an eye out for new episodes. One was recorded tonight, so that should be up soon.

Next up is my latest review! I haven't done one of these in ages (sadly, I say that just about every time I write one...). It's on El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, and you can find it here.

Now it's time to briefly catch up on the games I completed since my last blog: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Assassin's Creed. (It's late and I'm tired, so I won't include pictures or emblems. Or maybe I'll edit some in later.)

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The Force Unleashed is a great Star Wars game with an excellent story (light years better than anything in the prequel trilogy). The combat can certainly be fun in TFU, but the lightsaber does not feel like an elegant weapon. The force targeting system can also be a pain. Despite some gameplay problems, I love TFU for its amazing story, visuals, and physics.

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Assassin's Creed is another game with an amazing story that makes up for some other issues. This time it's repetitiveness. The same missions that crop up in a cycle that occurs 9 times are a bit of a bummer, but the game's astoundingly lively world and fantastic assassination missions make the game well worth playing.

As always, thanks for reading!

~Dapski

Now I will leave you with this creepy sun:

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Top Ten Games of 2011 Part II: #5-1

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PART I

Here's part II of my list! This part (especially 3-5) was much harder to order than part I.

#5 Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

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Uncharted 2 is one of the best games ever, and its sequel is still damn amazing. Uncharted is such an awesome, polished series, and Drake's Deception brings back all that makes the series so including some excellent shooting (though it?s a little shakier than UC2's), fantastic set-pieces, heart-pumping action, and some spectacular sights. I don't like it as much as Uncharted 2 because of some story issues and a bit too much familiarity, but I still had a wonderful time with this game that you should all play. The multiplayer (while somewhat unbalanced) is lots of fun an ultimately a step up from UC2's, and I still play it on occasion.

#4 To the Moon

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To the Moon might be less of a game than an interactive story, but the story is one that surpasses most, if not, all games'. It gets themes across in brilliant ways, touches my heart, and makes me laugh. Without getting into detail, To the Moon is something truly special, and I'm very glad to have been enlightened to play it. I recommend you do the same. Also, cant wait for the next game in the series!

#3 Outland

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Some of you may become a bit unhinged seeing this game above To the Moon, but Outland is simply one of my favorite platformers. It's challenging, unique, and beautiful. The focus of the challenge being on the core gameplay while also including light exploration was spot-on for me, and movement feels like an absolute dream. The Ikaruga mechanic is a super satisfying tool when faced with some tough bullet-hell sections, and the boss battles (especially the final) are some of my favorites in gaming. Outland is also one of my favorite PSN games. It?s just a shame the co-op was so laggy; its levels were designed awesomely!

#2 Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Image

Ghost Trick is possibly my favorite DS game. An awesome story wrapped in a great, original gameplay premise is proven to be a formula for an amazing game here. The plot is exciting and suspenseful and filled to the brim with light-hearted charm and quirkiness. The environmental puzzles are good challenges and progress the story in a very natural way, and it's very neat to see things play out as you interact with different objects as a ghost. The story takes its twists and turns until it reaches a truly shocking conclusion that some have come to dislike, but I loved it. If you own a DS, play Ghost Trick. Also, Missile is the best new character of 2011.

#1 Portal 2

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So here we are, number 1. I expect many of you to have played this game. 1, because it?s multiplat, and 2, because it's absolutely incredible. Portal 2 is something close to perfect, and I almost gave it a 10 and possibly will change my score after I play co-op. Portal 2 is brilliant in every regard. The writing, dialogue, and characters are among the best and most hilarious in gaming, the atmosphere is ominous while everything else is awesomely goofy, the puzzles are varied, SOOOO SATISFYING, and hold the perfect difficulty, and the ending is nothing short of amazing. The first Portal is another near-perfect (though short) game, and it's astounding that Portal 2 surpasses it while not retaining the whole of its predecessor's novelty. I really want to get the platinum trophy for this, so I will need to play co-op at some point (still haven't :P). Contact me if you'd like to do so, especially if you haven't touched that part of the game yet. I can play it with people on PSN and Steam. I'd also really like to try that new level editor if it ever comes to the PS3. Anyway, this is a game all people should play, so go on and get it already if you haven't.

And that's my list! 2011 was truly an excellent year for gaming, and let's hope 2012 shapes up to be as well (it's been good so far). I may post an update when I get some of those games I listed in part I this summer.

As always, thanks for reading! And as they say in John Green's hometown, don't forget to be awesome.

~Dapski

Top Ten Games of 2011 Part I: #10-6

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Yeah, I know I'm pretty late with this, but I just today finished completing 10 games released in 2011. So, time to make a list! You should note that this list is subjective, and games that may be better than others may have been ranked lower because I personally liked them less. Admittedly, I didn't play nearly all the games I would have liked to from last year, and I know I'll be playing more of them this summer. Some of those games I want to try include:

The Elder Scrolls V(for Vendetta): Skyrim

Dark Souls

Rayman Origins

Catherine

Bastion

Saints Row: The Third

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Fun fact: I finished 21 games for the first time in 2011.

Okay, let's get to the list!

#10 inFAMOUS 2

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So the game I beat today is also the lowest on the list. Well, inFAMOUS 2 is quite the disappointment what with its story being something of a travesty compared to its predecessor's, bad pacing, uninspired missions, and annoying enemies and characters. But I do still quite like this game. The combat can still be a blast, though it's less of a challenge, and the movement is super fantastic; better than the first game's. Traversal and collecting are possibly the best things about inFAMOUS 2. Cole's powers are upgraded in some awesome ways, and damn, it makes me want lightning powers! The level editor is also interesting, and I've played some great and not-so-great levels made by people. I might even try to use the editor in the future, though I've been proven to be uncreative and impatient with such tools...

#9 The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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I'm not really a big fan of Zelda, but this is easily my favorite of the 3 games in the series I've played... Though still not good enough for a higher place on this list. The level and dungeon design in the game are phenomenal, and I usually love the WiiMotion+ controls as well as the boss battles, but lots of boring padding in the form of fetch quests as well as a virtually empty overworld hold Skyward Sword back. Zelda is kinda stuck in the past, still using a Z-targeting camera and not including voice-acting, but Skyward Sword proves that a relatively untouched Zelda formula still stands up as something that's great today. ...Okami is better though. :P

#8 Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

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MvC3 is the first "real" fighting game I own (not counting Super Smash Bros. Brawl), and I loved it. I mainly bought it because Amaterasu was included in the roster and because the fighting looked super awesome and flashy. I was right; the fighting is super awesome and flashy. Sadly, this game has very little content to support such a good fighting system, which is why it doesn't reach a higher spot on the list. My best team was usually Ammy, Dante, and X-23. I played some multiplayer with my good pal, stephenage, and I'd like to play some more of it with him, but he's too pretentious for that, it seems.

#7 El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Image

Okay, this game has some ABYSMAL platforming sections and an incomprehensible plot, not to mention it's astoundingly weird and won't appeal to many, but I liked it a whole lot. The abstractness of it was enrapturing. The visuals are varied and super trippy, and the soundtrack is excellent. Most surprising about El Shaddai (besides some of the bizarre and possibly awesome things that happen in the story), is that its mainly one-button combat system is actually very good thanks to its rhythmic challenge and fluidity. El Shaddai is not for everyone, but I thought it was well worth playing and will remember it as one of the most unique gaming experiences I've had.

#6 Okamiden

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Most of you know that Okami is my favorite game. Okamiden, despite being on a handheld, manages to be really great and a worthy successor (check out my review). It's certainly nowhere near as exceptional as Okami, but it knows what made that game so incredible and does its best to retain that. Okamiden draws you in with its awe-inspiring sights and sounds and keeps you going with a very well told story with some emotional moments (better than Okami's, I think) and good puzzles using that still-amazing gameplay mechanic: the Celestial Brush. This game's cuteness factor is also through the roof, which made me smile and "awww" many, MANY times through the game. Chibi is awesome.

So that's all for part 1. Hopefully I'll have the rest up sometime soon!

PART II

Thanks for reading!

~Dapski

Catching Up On Games I Completed

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As I've promised, here's my blog to discuss the games I've completed all the way back to the beginning of the year. I'll try to keep my thoughts for each as short as my need for detail allows. :P

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Image

I actually completed El Shaddai on New Year's Day. This game has some very glaring issues including a strangely paced story that is at times utterly incoherent and some absolutely abysmal platforming sections due to a poor camera that does not do depth perception well. Despite this, El Shaddai remains one of the most unique gaming experiences of last year and a very good one at that. Even though the story itself is inaccessible, the narration of the archangels, phone conversations with Lucifel and God at save points, environmental storytelling, and flashy cutscenes make the storytelling very interesting. The combat in El Shaddai is very simple on the surface, mainly utilizing just one button, but taking out your foes requires a bit of finesse. Pressing buttons and attacking rhythmically makes it easier to defeat demons and also feels very satisfying, especially when the camera allows a cinematic angle when you finish off an enemy. It almost goes without saying that El Shaddai is a fantastic-looking game. Each environment has a different (and sometimes drastically different) theme, and all of them are striking in styIe. The music in the game is similarly varied and also excellent. El Shaddai is a rather bizarre game and certainly not for everyone, but it's a very unique and mostly entertaining experience.

The Good: good_outstanding_design_s.gifgood_great_sound_track_s.gifgood_ohsnap_s.gif
The Bad: bad_camera_s.gif

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Image

I'm happy to have finally played a full-length game heavily utilizing WiiMotion+, and I'm even happier to say that that game was great. The controls are certainly not perfect (damn climbing walls of ivy and swimming...), but for most of the items and mechanics (aiming, flying, throwing, etc.) in the game, the controls are super satisfying. Swordplay is made very engaging with Motion+, but when precision swipes are required, things can get a little frustrating. Boss battles are also awesome, if a bit easy. The dungeon design in Skyward Sword is fantastic, and though it's a relatively easy game, completing puzzles that utilize the many different items are moves at your disposal to progress is always satisfying. My main gripe with the game is padding. There are just too many boring fetch quests in between making your way through the awesome levels and dungeons that make the pacing dreary in parts. Also, the overworld is basically empty besides tiny floating islands with chests that award you with mainly useless stuff, and thus, super boring. Also uninteresting are the sidequests, which are mainly fetch quests and doing things like balancing pumpkins? At it's best, Skyward Sword is amazing (my favorite of the 3 Zeldas I've played), but these problems keep it?s issues as well as partially being stuck in the past keep it from being superb.

The Good: good_outstanding_design_s.gifgood_boss_s.gif
The Bad: ...

Mass Effect 3

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Mass Effect 2 is at least in my top ten games of all-time. Mass Effect 3 is a faithful and fantastic sequel with emotional familiarity and some much-welcomed improvements, but several disappointments prevent it from standing up to its predecessor. What you come to expect story-wise from a Mass Effect game is all present: fantastic characters, great writing, excellent voice-acting, many emotional moments (from somber to hilarious), and interesting and sometimes difficult moral choices. This aspect of the game remains at the forefront of its appeal and excellence. The combat, though still with problems of heavy controls and a not-very-good cover system, is improved as the enemy types have good variety, the level design is more dynamic, and the powers at your disposal are still awesome to use (I played as an Adept). Mass Effect 3's main disappointment lies in its side-content. The Citadel is the only place you'll find sidequests, and most of them are boring fetch quests, some of which make you go planet-scanning in another system (which is possibly worse this time thanks to Reapers). It's still fun to explore what the Citadel has to offer, but you'll feel like you're spending way too much time mucking about there. And eventually, the Citadel loses its novelty completely, which breaks immersion. The game looks amazing as expected, but strangely I thought the music was so very lacking in punch when compared to Mass Effect 2's soundtrack. A lot can be said about the game's ending, but I will just say that the final decision is an interesting one (though super contrived), but you?re not given adequate context of what may happen before the choice and the result of the choice doesn't say much at all. There are also terrible glaring plot holes that seem to break the Mass Effect universe, but the internet has blown the controversy out of proportion, I think. So Mass Effect 3 is amazing, and you should all play it!

The Good: good_great_story_s.gifgood_outstanding_design_s.gifgood_sucks_you_in_s.gifgood_terrific_voiceacting_s.gifgood_greatsequel_s.gifgood_ohsnap_s.gif
The Bad: ...

Journey

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Another game you should all play is Journey, and it may be the best on this blog. Journey is a very short (2 and a half hours or so) and very minimalistic game, but it?s also an immensely powerful experience. It's amazing the things you can take away from playing it. You may learn something about yourself as a person, how you deal with other people in your life, your struggles, your goals, or your philosophical views. Journey allows itself to be one of the most personal experiences in gaming. For example, the co-op feature made me realize that I played the game similarly to how I live. I wanted to go through the game at my own pace and not slow anyone down or go too fast for someone else. But when someone does enter my level, I make it my sole mission to stick with that person. I think this applies to my life in that I rarely go out of my way to interact with people, but when someone, especially a stranger, approaches me to talk or perhaps for assistance, I'm willing to be as helpful and friendly as I can. Journey goes beyond its astounding artistic aspect by also being a joy to play. Sliding down sandy slopes and gliding through the air feels smooth and electrifying. Taking in the magnificent sights as you move through the post-apocalyptic land is amazing as is the music, which shifts with your actions. As short as it is (short is the appropriate length here), Journey is a must-play.

The Good: good_outstanding_design_s.gifgood_sucks_you_in_s.gifgood_plays_well_with_others_s.gifgood_unique_s.gifgood_great_sound_track_s.gifgood_terrific-animation_s.gifgood_art_house_s.gifgood_ohsnap_s.gif

Noby Noby Boy

Noby Noby Boy Image

Oh my. This game is scary. O_O I?ve never played a game of this caliber of weirdness. But it's also super awesome! You stretch Boy to make Girl grow in this game. Other than that, there are no real objectives (besides the trophies I guess, and yeah I got ALL of them :D). This game is odd enough that it doesn?t tell you what the controls are; it QUIZZES you on them before you even know. Speaking of the controls, they are quite unruly due to the nonsensical physics, but this is kind of an awesome thing (unlike LittleBigPlanet) once you get used to them. So, I ate a floating fish and then a person, and then I pooped out a person with a fish for a head. Yeah... You can do a lot of crazy **** in this game, but it?d be a bit boring before you figure out how to experiment and do these things. Some of you probably don't even know what I'm talking about, so I'll just show you what this game's generally like...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N1jWYdo4TE

This game is super awesome and only $5, so play it. :P

The Good: good_sucks_you_in_s.gifgood_ohsnap_s.gifgood_unique_s.gifgood_great_sound_track_s.gifgood_moremoneythanworth_s.gifgood_art_house_s.gif
The Bad:

So this blog wasn't as short as I'd have liked it to be, but at least I'm done with it. :P I could write a lot more about all of these games though and might like to review some of them. That will just have to wait... Darn it, other responsibilities!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Dapski