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March Update

I’m not dead.

First things first – I found a job and have been working for the past three months. That and the hideous commute that comes with it means much less free time, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t written much here lately. I’ve had a lot bouncing around in my head though, which is why I’ve decided to just carry the laptop with me to write during said commute.  But before I write about any of that, here’re a few short updates on games I’ve played lately:

Mass Effect 2

It’s a little odd how they’ve overhauled the entire system.  While Mass Effect  1 was more RPG than action, ME2 is more action than RPG.  So much so, in fact, that the game is now almost like a third person shooter with a lot of RPG elements.  The production values are still there though, and the presentation of the game is absolutely top-notch.  Like ME1, you can tell they really put a lot of work and attention to detail into making this game.

The cinematic touches they’ve added to the game, combined with the continuation of the story, fits fairly naturally with the same style from ME1.  I still can’t decide if the more dramatic moments feel awesome or cheesy.  It walks the line between those two.

Bioshock

This is one of those games that I meant to catch up on when I got my computer last year, but for some reason it never really clicked with me when I first played it.  But with Bioshock 2 out this quarter, I decided to give it another shot, and it felt a lot better than it had before.  I suspect it has something to do with how the work life has affected me these past few months, but I’ll get into that in another blog post.

The game does a great job of creating atmosphere.  The water effects are still beautiful despite the game’s age, and the entire city of Rapture has a sort of eerie beauty about it that shows up now and then if you look past the typical horror elements (though the focus of the game is in its atmosphere, characters and storytelling, so it doesn’t prioritize scaring you over those things).  The biggest disappointment with the game, however, is the fact that the PC version was clearly an afterthought.  There’s a bug in both Bioshock 1 and 2 where the physics are locked to 30 fps, regardless of the speed at which the rest of the game is running.  The problem is that most gaming PCs these days can run the game at 90 fps or more, so the physics always jitter and look like they’re moving in slow motion in comparison to the rest of the game.  Imagine how much this destroys the atmosphere that the rest of the game tries so hard to create until you learn to ignore the physics.

Anyway, physics crap aside, I enjoyed this game, though probably not as much as many other people because I wasn’t all that absorbed into the story or characters.  I’ve moved on to Bioshock 2 though, and I’ll probably post thoughts about it when I finish that.

Blazblue: Continuum Shift

I’ve always thought Blazblue looked pretty cool since the original version (Calamity Trigger) game out, but have lacked a console that has the game.  Cheatah aka kousaka recently told me about a nearby arcade that has a Blazblue CS machine, so I’ve been dropping by there every now and then ever since.  It’s been rough – everyone there is really good, the only fighting games I’ve really played are EFZ and IaMP, and I’m unfamiliar with arcade sticks on top of it all.  I’m willing to keep trying, though.  It turns out there’s actually a fairly active scene here, and everyone I’ve met so far have been really nice people.  I’ve only played in online fighting game communities until now (which is plagued with lag and people acting like douchebags because of the internet factor), so the prospect of playing a decent-sized community of people in real life is quite appealing to me.

I’ve been trying to pick up Lambda (the nerfed successor of Nu-13) and it’s been confusing in some ways and strangely intuitive in others.  Gameplay-wise, she’s a ranged character that lives off of zoning and lockdown but is vulnerable to rushdown, much like Mio in Long Range mode.  What surprised me though is how straightforward her tools look from watching tournament videos of her.  She has an instant overhead in her 2147D, both melee and projectile launchers, and a command dash that lets you fake the melee launch into a throw mixup.  And all of the above can be comboed if landed successfully.  It looks obvious, but usually I take forever to learn any sort of mixup or tactics for fighting game characters.  Maybe Lambda is just really straightforward in this aspect.  But having said that, just having an idea of how she works is completely different from actually incorporating the proper use of those tools into the way I play her.  That’ll take a lot of practice.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

Typical Phoenix Wright-related goodness.  I like how they managed to make the same mechanics that we liked from the older games work just as well outside the courtroom.  They also managed to minimize the supernatural aspect of the Phoenix Wright world, which is good.

The references in the game continue to amaze me.  They even managed to slip in an “over 9000” joke this time around.

Left 4 Dead 2

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this game.  It’s basically exactly how a game sequel should be.  Valve kept all the good aspects of the original game and improved on the original formula by adding small (sometimes very subtle) adjustments that added to the experience.  The new infected classes throw a huge wrench into the way they are played in versus mode, the new items add interesting strategies to use as survivors, and sheer level design played a large part in rebalancing the entire game to accommodate the abovementioned changes.  Unfortunately I don’t have the time to play much these days, which has seriously screwed with my improvement in it, but this is one of the few games I’ve gladly spent over a hundred hours in.

So much for “quick updates.”  I’ll write about a few things in more detail later.

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