Josh60502, JustMattPwn3r, and LostAddict1993 meet up again to record a new episode of Frayed Wire X. Do they have an idea of what they are going to talk about? No. Does that matter? Def no.
Listen in for discussions about the lack of new posts on the site, the general suckiness of Sonic the Hedgehog, upcoming gaming consoles, and the public’s inability to accept change in games like Metroid: Other M and Final Fantasy XIII.
Due to some issues retrieving the snazzy intro I introduced last episode, this one starts off right away. U mad about that?
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E3 2010 has come and gone, but Josh60502, JustMattPwn3r, and LostAddict1993 still have much to say about it. We discuss our general lack of interest in Kinect, Sony’s Kevin Butler fan service, and Nintendo’s rekindled love for the hardcore gamer (even if Zelda is looking a little shaky). After running out of topics, we fumble around for ideas and end up talking about Super Mario Galaxy 2, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, the Final Fantasy series, and the dangers of going through an “eBay phase.” Also, we remind everyone that Death Note is indeed the greatest manga ever created.
Give us a listen and leave some feedback somehow, so that you might not have to wait months for the next podcast again.
What makes an open-world game good? Is it the variety of things you can do? The size of the world you can explore? The ease of traversing that world? Whatever the special secret is exactly, Just Cause 2 seems to have found it, because I haven’t had this much fun with a sandbox-style game in a long time.
Story in these types of experiences is always expendable, but Just Cause 2 forces you to sit through a couple cutscenes at the beginning of the game nonetheless. They are a little awkward and don’t do much to grab your attention, but you learn that you are a man hired to wreak havoc on the oppressive government of a massive island. From there, you are let loose to run around and do whatever you want. All of this is made an absolute blast with Just Cause 2‘s main “hook” – an extremely versatile grappling hook. Aim it at anything within its range and fire, and you’ll be pulled up to that spot. When I say “anything”, I really mean it. Towers, mountaintops, helicopters… you name it, you can stand on it at the push of a button.
Of course, this great way of traversing the world wouldn’t mean a thing if that world wasn’t interesting, but Just Cause 2 seems to have that covered as well. I say seems because while the area available in the demo was huge on its own, the full game will supposedly have a much greater variety of environments. I know the full island is insanely big – just one trip to the pause menu will show you that – but what I really hope is that the full island would have many different types of places to go to. The demo took place primarily in a desert, but screenshots I have seen of this game reveal snowy places as well as skyscraper-filled cities, among other locations.
Luckily, there is much to do in each singular environment. The map points out government bases that you are expected to destroy, so naturally I headed out to destroy them. Upon arriving in seconds due to either grappling hooking my way up to a mountain above one and then base jumping/parachuting off of it or jacking some random car GTA-style and speeding on over, I found a collection of buildings and people waiting to get blown up. As far as weapons go, you start with a standard pistol, but more powerful machine guns can be picked up from fallen enemies. In addition, there are grenades and your grappling hook, which can either grab and pull people up into the air or be used as a sort of whip if you’re up close. You get a sense that the weapons pack a real punch when each shot sends people catapulting into the air through a shower of blood.
Realistic? Not really, but I’m glad Just Cause 2 didn’t opt for a realistic route. There are already enough Grand Theft Auto clones out there that it’s refreshing to see an open-world game ditch realism and instead go for providing the most fun it possibly can. That’s the feeling I got playing this demo – that the developers just wanted to make the funnest open-world game they possibly could.
For the most part, they have done a fantastic job. The freedom of movement provided by the grappling hook is great, and many of the objectives let you utilize it quite well. Though I must mention that the objectives that restrict your grappling hook usage, mainly ones involving driving, are fun as well thanks to the excellent vehicle mechanics.
If there’s any real annoyance I had with the objectives, it’s how thorough they expect you to be. You can’t check off a base as destroyed until you have gone and shot every last explosive object in it. It’s a little annoying to take down a giant tower or generator in an intense, grappling hook-filled fight and leave the base feeling like you’ve pw3ned it and then realize you have to turn back because you forgot to shoot one red barrel. On the other hand, exploring the island is a very appealing task on its own, so searching around a base a bit more is ultimately probably not all that different from what you were going to do next anyway.
There are a lot of great games coming out around now that will undoubtedly overshadow Just Cause 2, but this is definitely a title that doesn’t deserve to be ignored. If you don’t believe me, go play its fantastic demo. After its 30-minute time limit has expired, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to start it over right away.
In 2007 a game came out that everybody talked about, a game that won nearly every “Game of the Year” award that it could… a game by the name of Bioshock. Fast forward to January 2010, and we have its sequel just about a month away. Most gamers are abuzz about that, but I’d like to take the time to take us back a few years by providing my review for the first Bioshock. I just finished it for the first time a week or so ago, so what better way to get people pumped for Bioshock 2 to than to remind everyone who played the original years back why it’s so great?
Bioshock is, at its core, a first-person shooter like so many of the other popular games around. However, it not only does so many things differently from the Gears of War‘s and Call of Duty‘s that everyone is used to, but it trumps the competition in many aspects as well. One of the most striking and memorable ways is how Bioshock tells its story. The set up is brief, but effective. In the opening cutscene we see the protagonist, known as simply Jack, sitting on a plane when it suddenly goes down over the ocean. Emerging from the burning wreckage, the only path available is towards a lighthouse in the near vicinity. You walk inside and step into a bathysphere, which begins to descend into Rapture, the underwater city below. The scene is set up with a video projected onto the window of the bathysphere – a man named Andrew Ryan created the city to escape the societies of the world above. In Rapture, a man’s entitlements equal the amount he works for them. This view closely resembles that of real life author/philosopher Ayn Rand’s; in fact, you might even notice how the name Andrew Ryan is essentially an anagram of Ayn Rand.
Within moments, it becomes clear that Rapture did not end up how it was intended. Monstrous people with supernatural abilities known as “splicers” roam the many buildings of the ruined city, bloody corpses line the walls, and violence can be found everywhere. After obtaining a radio, which you use to communicate with various characters, inside the bathysphere, you step into the city and discover right along with Jack just how twisted it is, and just how far it fell. One of the greatest things about Bioshock is how you learn the city’s story through experiencing it first-hand. There are no lengthy passages of text to scroll through, and cutscenes are almost nonexistent. The delivery of the story could be compared to the Half-Life games, but unlike in those, Bioshock‘s narrative remains coherent and compelling throughout.
A large chunk of this narrative comes in the form of audio diaries that are strewn about the environment. Only a small handful of them are necessary to advancing the game, but I took the time to find as many as I could anyway because they were actually interesting. Each contains a short snippet of a particular character’s story, so when pieced together, they foreshadow the things to come and ultimately paint Rapture as a fleshed out, fully realized world. One of the reasons that the climax of Bioshock is so fondly remembered by everyone who experienced it is not only because of how genuinely well done it is, but because by that point in the story, we have a deep understanding of the characters – or so we think.
Of course, a game can not be great without stellar gameplay, and Bioshock delivers on that front as well. The main things that set Bioshock apart from its first-person shooter peers are the plasmids and tonics, which are the previously mentioned supernatural abilities that nearly every citizen of Rapture makes use of. These are separated into groups – each one applying to a specific aspect of gameplay. The plasmids are used as attacks, and range from shooting electricity out of your hand to creating a target dummy to distract enemies to even unleashing a swarm of angry bees on opponents. The tonics don’t function as attacks, but rather boost your character’s traits. For example, one reduces the amount of damage explosions do to you, one quiets your footsteps so you can sneak up on enemies better, and another one, my personal favorite, shoots out a jolt of electricity from your body every time an enemy hits you with a melee attack.
Some of the tonics make hacking easier for you, which is useful seeing that you’ll be doing a lot of hacking during your stay in Rapture. Throughout the levels, there are mechanical devices that will attack you. Sentry guns equipped with either machine guns or rockets guard places of importance, and security cameras, if they catch you, will cause sentry bots to come flying in to take you down. However, these devices, if disabled by an electrical attack, can be reprogrammed to fight for you. Hacking them consists of a minigame involving rearranging tubes so that a liquid that starts from one side of the screen can successfully follow a path to the end. The hacking challenges become harder depending on what you’re hacking; for example, it’s easier to convert a sentry bot to your side than it is to crack open a safe. As a result, the hacking difficulty throughout the game ranges from easy to the point of being a somewhat annoying diversion from the main game to ridiculously hard. As soon as I was able to bypass the hacking process later in the game, I took advantage of all those opportunities. It isn’t that the hacking is necessarily bad, it just seems like a halt in the flow of the game most of the time.
One thing that is well done in Bioshock, however, is the sound design. The eerie ambiance is one of the main contributing factors to the game’s excellent atmosphere. The various public radio announcements that can be overheard as you traverse the city go far in establishing the feel of Rapture, and the other sounds that come from vending machines sound exactly right in place with the rest of the creepy 1960’s style of the city. Actual music is sparse, but the transition from ambient sounds to full-scale instrumentals when something dramatic starts happening is always so well done that you barely notice the sounds have changed completely.
The art style is fantastic, and the visuals do a great job of conveying Rapture as a place of both wonder and horror. One small gripe I have with them, though, is within the animations. When you kill a splicer, many times their body will fall to the ground in what appears to be a rigid and unnatural manner. If you ever happen to hit a dead body with your wrench or some other weapon, this same rigidness can be seen as well. I also noticed several textures not loading correctly at times. I would walk up to something and it would be void of any real detail when all of a sudden all the intricacies of the model would pop up. Interestingly, this happened mainly when I went back through areas that I had previously beaten.
That in its own right is interesting as well – that I would backtrack through levels I had already beaten even though I didn’t have to. Once I reached the ending of the game, I immediately wanted to go back to the earlier areas and get things I had missed. It’s not like Bioshock is a particularly short game, either. However, it feels that way when you beat it because, twisted and disturbing as it is, Rapture is a place that you want to continue to explore even after you have gone through it all. It’s a testament to how well the environments are built and how fun the gameplay is that I would want to return to them so quickly. The fact of the matter is that even though Bioshock might be considered old news to some, the game is still one of the best first-person shooters available on the Xbox 360, or any system really. If you want a game that will disturb you, wow you, and completely engross you all at the same time, there aren’t very many better choices than this work of art.
Pros: Fantastic atmosphere, excellent and rich plot, unique and fun gameplay, some of the best sound design I’ve ever seen, surprisingly high replay value
Cons: The hacking minigame halts the flow of the game, some small texture issues, death animations seem rigid, the Vita-Chamber system of respawning isn’t perfect
Final Score: 9.6 out of 10
We did it last year at Frayed Wire, and now it’s time to do it again – vote for the best game of the year! I’ll try to get a handful of our editors to make personal lists, but what we really want to know is what YOU think deserves the top honor! Keep in mind that, just like last year, we are asking for your FAVORITE game of the year – not necessarily what you think is the BEST of the year. You’d have to play nearly everything that came out to make a judgment call like that, and believe us, not even we have done that.
Vote in our poll on the sidebar of the site, and the results will be shown in a later post.
I have been playing the demos of all the Painkiller games on Steam lately. Why? They looked like the kind of games that focus just on having fun with ridiculous guns and swarms of enemies. And even though they do have some ridiculous guns and swarms of enemies, there were more than enough flaws in each of them to make me want to move on to the next demo. Still, I haven’t been motivated enough to write a demo impressions post on either the first or second mediocre Painkiller games. That’s about to change with Painkiller: Resurrection, a game that’s so bad I can’t help but speak out about it.
Honestly, it didn’t seem like it would be all that terrible at first. There is an opening cutscene for Resurrection, something that was completely absent in the other two demos. Instead of being fully animated, it’s just a bunch of comic book panels that appear as they are narrated. Sounds kind of boring, but the backstory it sets up is kind of interesting. An assassin dies trying to save innocent people but gets sent to Hell… the cutscene takes its time delivering this simple plot, but it stays surprisingly engaging throughout. Once it was finished, I immediately noticed the level selection screen and loading screen were exactly like the other two games. (Really? Is it that hard to change things up a bit?) Unlike the other Painkiller demos, however, this loading screen lasted a ridiculous amount of time. The game finally loaded, and as I began to play I found more similarities between this Painkiller and the other ones. The only weapon I had was the weapon I started off with in the other two demos – a close-range spinning blade type of thing. Also unchanged was the HUD – the arrow at the top pointing to my next goal… the health and ammo count… the laziness of the developers showed through more and more.
Find it hard to tell what’s happening with all these view-obstructing objects? Welcome to Painkiller: Resurrection.
But the most disappointing signs of neglect were yet to come. Let’s start with the environment: the cutscene tells me the main character is in Hell for all the murders that he committed during his life, but he starts the game off in a cathedral. A mysterious voice tells him that he can earn his salvation if he proves himself worthy… by doing more killing. So, the way to earn forgiveness for murder is to murder even more than you did before, in more brutal ways than before (I doubt the protagonist brought a spinning blade to his enemies’ faces while he was alive)? I get that you have to kill demons and such, but still… it all seems a bit inconsistent.
I didn’t come for the story though, so whether or not the game took place in a location that makes sense wasn’t a huge deal. The broken AI and poor level design is, however, a deal breaker. The visuals are nothing special, yet they still chug along at a slow rate. Even after I moved their quality down from high to medium, they still didn’t run quite as smoothly as even the older Painkiller games. The levels themselves are just battlegrounds for the redundant and boring enemies to run after you, only even the game can’t seem to get that right either. I remember more than one occasion where I was walking down a straight line seeing nothing before me when suddenly enemies appeared out of nowhere. But even with the cheap element of surprise that they had, they could not get to me more often than not. I swear, it seems the level designers were purposefully trying to highlight the awful AI in the enemies. The generic demons can’t find their way around obstacles to move forward? Let’s make a room filled with benches! Speaking of these benches that actually were a part of one section of the demo, they could not be destroyed or anything. I spun my little blade thing on them and heard the sound of metal on metal. Are you telling me these are indestructible metal benches painted to look like wood? I would stand at one side of the bench and look at the brutish thing trying to run at me from the other side, but the bench blocked his way even as his running animation continued. If one thing can be said about Painkiller: Resurrection, it’s that it doesn’t feel like a game that came out in 2009. Even if it came out in 2004, a year where its slow frame rate, bad level design, and atrocious AI might be more forgivable, it wouldn’t be very good.
Unfortunately the horrible design was not limited to that bench section. Each and every location I encountered after that had its own annoyance. There were tunnels that were nearly pitch black yet I had no way to light my path. There were low places I had to get through, but with no crouch button I was left to glitch myself through somehow. There were places too high to reach, but with some determined jumping on some awkwardly shaped section of the wall, I could barely make it over. There was a checkpoint that was supposed to save my spot and restore my health, but the first time I passed by it, it didn’t register. There were boxes nearly identical to each other – some had to be walked over, some had to be shot open, and some, if shot, could explode and kill you faster before you could curse out loud at the game’s inability to make simple boxes look different enough from each other. There was a part where I had to climb up a winding staircase that not only required incredibly tricky jumping to different sides of it to pass through, but resulted in a huge fall to the bottom of the staircase if (and believe me, when) you fell. There was a room that had horizontal wooden planks blocking my path – any sane person encountering them in real life would think to crawl under them (which you can’t do) or climb over them (which of course, cannot be done either), but because of their position I could not get directly over them or shoot the suicidal things with bombs strapped to them running right towards me in time. Whoops, I died. Wait for the 90 second load… now it’s time to do the staircase part again.
After dying at that section a second time I exited the demo. So yeah, I just wrote an entire article on a demo that I never actually finished. Am I being unfair? No, the abysmal game was unfair to me by making me go through all that I did just so I would have enough to write about. I think maybe Painkiller: Resurrection could have reached at least the ho-hum level of mediocrity of the previous games’ demos with a few more months of polish and bug-fixing, but without any of that, I think we can count on this franchise experiencing a painful and embarrassing death with this latest iteration. Painkiller: Resurrection deserves to be shown the same astronomical level of neglect that its developers showed it.
For those who don’t know how to click on a picture to make it larger, I’ll type out the paragraph (spelling errors intact) that I found on Wikipedia today through a Google search:
Valve software is currently owned by Gabe Newell who currently is the fattest man on the planet earth. His mass has been acumulating exponentially over the last few years. Dayton Haywood (Expert in fluctuating trigometric anomalies) was asked to see if Gabe’s mass would ever cause a problem to his health. Dayton replied “It’s not a matter of him being a danger to himself but rather saving our world. Through my reaserch I have discovered that by the year 2012 Gabe’s mass will be larger than that of the world and all living things combined, thus the apocolypse of 2012 will NOT occur. Gabe’s mass will simply take the blast of any oncoming apocolypse and will be absorbed into the mass that is Gabe Newell.”
“By the time 2012 rolls around Gabe Newell will not only be the fattest man but also the richest. Valve will own the world economy and be the new corporate powerhouse.” Economist Gordan Freeman prdicts. “As their new 2012 motto goes, We Rule the World!”