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2011 in Video Games [GO]
Jan 5th, 2012 by Dan

HAY GUSY! ZELDA GAMES ARE 25!

So maybe I wasn't playing video games at birth nor was this blog running 25 years ago, but this is my 25th year too!

2011 was an odd year in games for me. It started out like any other, filled with joy and happiness, and then it was all wrenched away halfway through, thanks to that burglary, until I was able to start replenishing my stores and getting the ball rolling again for the second half.

This list, unlike last year, will cover the games I played most this year, even if they came out several years ago :cough: Team Fortress 2 :cough:. I think it’s better to reflect upon what I put the most game time into, even if it wasn’t new.

Resident Evil 5 – 2011’s 2009 Game of the Year has to go to Capcom’s co-op survival horror epic. I remember the Giant Bomb guys pimping this game super hard, but I ignored them over and over again for nearly two years because I’m not much of a scary games guy. Then the steam sale happened and I wanted something co-op to play with Min and Lee, so I buckled. This game was so good, guys. According to Raptr, I played 57 hours of this guy just cruising through all the levels, S-Ranking each one, finding all the emblems and upgrading all the weapons, and getting every achievement for the first time on a full-sized game. Then I came back and played it all again with David. RE5 may be some of the best bang I got for my buck in 2011.

Batman: Arkham Asylum – I think it’s hilarious that I played both Batman games this year. Make no mistake, Batman: AA is the better game. Tighter story focus, less wandering and rambling around, and that sharp, crunchy combat system that we all love. It almost literally hurts to watch Batman punch people in the face in this game. Lots of fun, even for a guy who doesn’t really like Batman.

Red Dead Redemption – Man, every game that I played in January came out in another year. RDR has a lot of those Rockstar quirks that I hate (incorrigible supporting cast, homicidal ludonarrative dissonance, etc.), but it also has one of the best realized characters in recent video games in its portrayal of John Marston. Horseback riding is fun, lassoing fools is fun, and the story is frustrating (because of the asshole supporting cast), but also solid most of the time. The only thing that really annoyed me was breaking horses every fucking time. Why? It’s not like it was fun to do…

Magicka – 2011’s Game Most Likely to Make You Strangle Your Friends. Ask Min how many times I killed him by striking him with lightning. I never took this game seriously and mostly tried to speed cast lightning. Fun, but the polish wasn’t there. Buggy as all hell. Not to mention that lightning bolt was the only spell worth using…or maybe it was the only spell I knew?

Ghost Trick – I used this game to try and improve/practice my Spanish. It’s lots of fun, quirky, weird, neat, but I never finished it. I thought it wasn’t taken in the burglary, but I’m having trouble finding it now. I want to finish it soon…Pick it up if you have a DS. It’s quirky and fun.

Costume Quest – Picked this up on sale and played it for a few hours. It’s definitely got that Double Fine humor, but it couldn’t hold my interest.

Pixeljunk Shooter 2 – I don’t know why some of the magic was gone with this one. Maybe the new fluids weren’t as innovative or neat? The fluid mechanics remain super awesome and the game is plenty fun on its own, but even more fun with a partner to troll.

Face Raiders – Shooting at Min’s face is the best thing I did with my 3DS before it was stolen.

Pokemon White (Black) – I got David to try a new Pokemon game with this and I’m super proud of that. Gen V brought a lot of really interesting changes to a game that most people feel is flat and unchanging. I had a lot of fun playing it until the momentum was killed with the burglary. When Grey inevitably gets announced I’ll probably buy it.

Game Dev Story – When this finally hit the Android marketplace I was ecstatic. Then I played it and realized it was a competent, but not overwhelming sim. Worth a few bucks.

Borderlands – Another co-op game for Min, Lee, and I to play. Lots of fun even though the story is stupid as hell. Brings out the loot whore in all of us.

Planescape: Torment – Talk about old! Didn’t get anywhere close to finishing this. It seems interesting, but never captures my interest enough to play it for longer than 20 mins.

Portal 2 – This is, bar none, the greatest example of story and comedy narrative laid out in video game form. Portal 2 has just brilliant writing and pacing. Everything from Wheatley to the history of Aperture Science to the origins of GLaDOS is perfectly realized. Then you have the game itself…Portal 2 is not a bad game at all. It’s just not as hard or interesting, with respect to puzzles, as Portal. This was a result of narrowing the possible solution space (story-justified by the decay of the facility, but still) in such a way that it was mostly obvious where portals needed to go, removing that aspect of figuring things out. It’s still probably the best game of this year, but I wish it they hadn’t pared it down as much as they did.

Pro Yakyu Spirits 2011 (Professional Baseball Spirits 2011) – I had a fun, challenging season going with my 2011 Hiroshima Carp before that jerk (those jerks?) came and stole my copy of a Japanese baseball game (in Japanese, mind you!). What were they gonna do with a game in Japanese featuring teams they weren’t even familiar with?! PYS 2011 was a huge step forward from 2010. Home runs may have been a little easier to hit (ok, a LOT easier to hit), but 2011 looked sharper and had enough new, interesting features (the player development was cool) that I was super stoked…until it was all taken away from me. Assholes.

L.A. Noire – I got about 1/5 of the way through the game before someone stole it. I still remember the forensics guy asking me if it was any good. Here’s the thing about L.A. Noire: It’s an adventure game skinned with GTA. Getting anywhere in LA is unsatisfying because driving is a bummer (and property/car damage lowers your rank), the devolution of most cases into shootouts feels a little artificial, and, worst of all, most of the chases (car and foot) let you see how the sausage is made. What I mean is, you can tell that you can’t catch up to a perp before a certain point and you can also see where the game just makes a perp crash or fall intentionally to just let you catch up. The face modeling stuff is super cool (and eerie if you watch Mad Men) and works pretty well minus one or two people. A tremendous achievement, but ultimately a mediocre game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – I’m combining these because I don’t have much I want to say about either. The shooting is good, but the missions are kind of lame. I can see where this might be fun, but it’s also not for me.

inFamous – This was my free mea culpa game from Sony after the big hack fiasco. Decent open world game, but it suffers from being an open world game, in my eyes. The electric powers were fun, but the story was stupid. I don’t regret beating this game or getting it for free. Skating on the rails and then getting hit by a train is awesome.

Shadows of the Damned – I wish I’d taken the time to actually beat this game. It plays exactly like a Resident Evil game, has a super cool aesthetic, kickass soundtrack, and some of the funniest, most Japanese characters I’ve ever seen (come on, Garcia Fucking Hotspur is the greatest character name of the year!). Maybe I’ll beat it in 2012.

Hot Springs Story – From the devs what brought you Game Dev Story we have Hot Springs Story. See the entry above. It’s equally meh to me. I think I just don’t like playing games on my phone.

Torchlight – Gave me my Diablo fix a whole year before I’ll ever see Diablo III (I bet D3 is still not out in 2012). It’s fun and addictive, but it can get a little repetitive after a while. Good for loot whores/junkies.

Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyu 2011 – I got this expecting to have as much fun with it as I did back when it was the only Pawapuro/Konami-style baseball game I could play. In a post (Dan Mesa) PYS world, the simplifications of the engine don’t quite work for me. I need the extra systems that PYS layers on top.

Team Fortress 2TF2 has always been good. The addition of large-scale achievements made it even better, but the real tipping point for me was Strange Weapons. Once I learned that there were weapons which tracked the number of kills you had on them…well I couldn’t go back. This year probably saw the most TF2 playing from me since its launch. This game is barely recognizable to what it looked like in 2007. It’s free to play now. It’s got so many new maps and weapons and hats. It’s still the best competitive shooter a person could play right now.

Cahterine – Some people don’t get Catherine. They think the block puzzles are annoying and frustrating and find the whole thing to be stupid, too anime-y, and a waste of time. While Catherine makes a turn right near the end that mucks with its interpretation, it’s still one of the most interesting, adult experiences out there, which isn’t to say that it’s got nudity (none) or sex (none on screen), but, rather, that it deals with a lot of grown-up problems. Vincent’s life is in a rut, he’s being pushed into committing to a woman he’s afraid to commit to, and then he finds an escape in Catherine. I have yet to play a more interesting or convincing game about growing up, taking responsibility, and becoming a man. Catherine forced me to take a hard look at myself, my life, the incidences of cheating that have been in it, and just think about it all. A lot of games don’t do that.

Yakuza 4 – Got maybe two hours in before it was stolen.

Dragon Age II – Man, a lot of people have a lot of beef with Dragon Age 2 and I don’t really get it. Maybe it’s because I came to the game knowing all the complaints that everyone had before I got there, but it’s really not that bad. It “suffers” from the Mass Effect 2-ization of Bioware’s properties, but that’s not all bad. Dragon Age: Origins was bloated, over-long, and caused most people to quit right at the cusp of its climax. The way I see it, there were two things that were glaringly wrong with the game mechanics. First was the way that enemy reinforcements just seemed to pop in out of nowhere, artificially extending every fight and turning them into hyper-frustrating affairs. Keeping things limited to the enemies on-screen would have been vastly preferred. The second big miss was the lack of polish/variety of locations. It was very clear that this game was rushed to market because there were maybe three or four map styles recycled to cover a lot of locations. The minimaps weren’t properly reflecting when doors were shut and it was painfully apparent how much recycling happened. These are not sins worth crucifying the game for. The way that it focuses exclusively on Kirkwall and Hawke’s family is actually a good thing. Rather than be as sprawling as DA:O, it allows for a more personal story. Every relationship in this game is way cooler/most interesting than the ones in DA:O and, arguably, any of the ones in ME2. DA2 gets a lot of shit, but it’s a great game.

Bastion – Considering how much everyone just loves this game I really wish I’d given it a little more time this year. I barely played it, but the narrator was cool and the game seemed neat. I’ve got to beat this in 2012

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – I bought this game to get the pre-order items it came with for TF2. I don’t regret doing so. Played about an hour or two of the game. Haven’t felt compelled to go back yet.

Gears of War 2 – This is the year that Min and I beat GoW1 & 2. It took a long time, but we still managed it. These games are really fun in co-op. Easily among the most fun we had in couch co-op this year.

Gears of War 3 – My GOTY comes down to this or Portal 2. I know I’m way late to the GoW train, but god damn these games are razor sharp. Shooting in this game just feels so right, you know? It’s about as polished and good as a third person shooter can possibly be. Fighting the final boss for two hours because I turned on no ammo drops will be memorable for a long time in a way that I don’t often make memories in video games any more. Thank you, Epic, for this amazing game.

The Binding of Isaac – The second I heard that the dude from Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen, was coming out with a new game, I knew that I would be buying it and that it would be tons of fun. You’ll remember from last year that SMB was the best game I played. The Binding of Isaac is not quite the best of this year, but it is a more realized game than it has any right to be. I mean, the game was $5 at launch, for Christ’s sake, and it featured a free content patch at Halloween. Isaac took 55 hours of my time this year, assuming every one was counted by Raptr, and I anticipate it taking more before I’m done with it. This game is the best $5 you can spend this year.

Galaga Legions DX – Coming off the awesomeness that was Pac-Man CE DX I expected big things from this game. It’s nowhere near as fun, but maybe that’s because Pac-Man is a way more fun game than Galaga ever was.

Batman: Arkham City – I’m pretty sure you already know that I think this game was a major step back from Arkham Asylum. I really don’t think the open world aspects did this game any favors. It’s still got that super-crunchy, razor sharp battle system, but it’s also marred by too many poorly dressed women constantly being called b***hes. This is a game that aggressively pushed me away from it and I was more than happy to be done with it when I was despite being the best thing to happen to brawlers in ages.

Dungeon Defenders – Tower defense made even more fun by allowing us to run around in the environments. I didn’t put in anywhere near as many hours as Min did, but it was fun while I played it.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Man, Uncharted 2 was fantastic, wasn’t it? Try this new one! It’s a lot like the old one, but with a little less charisma. A little less je ne sais quoi. Despite featuring my favorite video game characters of the modern era, Uncharted 3 was lacking in weird ways that the appearance of the The Last of Us trailer makes clear. Focus was diverted. Glad that we got three of these, but I wish it was as much a step forward as the second one was.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Remember how I wrote that article where I outlined everything I hated about this game? Since I wrote it I played another hour or two and said, “Nope. I don’t want to play this.” Will I ever go back? God, I hope not. It was worth spending $60 to drive in the point that I don’t like Bethesda open world RPGs. Here’s a note to Future Dan: Don’t buy any more Bethesda games, you moron.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – This poor game is being victimized by the launch of The Old Republic. Had TOR not come out there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would be playing the most charming Zelda game since Wind Waker non-stop. Skyward Sword plays sharply and is tons of fun.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – My life has been sucked into this game in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I can’t believe that there was a time where I was actively thinking about avoiding this game and staying away from MMOs altogether. Bioware did something fantastic here by adding story to a genre that typically lacked it. This game has already rocketed up the charts for total time played and I predict that it will never be usurped based on how much I truly love playing it. I haven’t even finished one story and I’ve still got seven more to go.

What I’ve Been Doing 5 Dec 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 5th, 2011 by Dan

The Guests at my 15th Birthday Party

Happy Birthday Eric! (Photo courtesy djotaku)

It’s my brother’s birthday today so let’s celebrate by telling you everything I’ve been up to this past week. I didn’t say it would be a good celebration, guys.

Movies

No movies again! I want to get The Muppets in soon. Maybe when I go home for Christmas.

TV

Samurai Champloo – Clip episodes (except for the Community one) are tremendously unsatisfying. The show has entered its “serious about our protagonists backstories” phase. I’m cool with it so far so long as I can keep listening to that ending theme, “Shiki no Uta”.

Chrono Trigger Endurance Run – Giant Bomb has made me a very happy man by returning to the ER. So far Ryan and Patrick have made some hilarious errors, but they’re going strong in the future.

Childrens Hospital – Night Shift was a meh episode. The stuff with the porno was pretty funny. The one about Chet was much funnier.

The Walking Dead – Heavy episode, but really good. I liked it. It’s a good thing that Shane is still around.

Homeland – Poor Dan. Witnessing shit is pretty dangerous. Don’t witness shit.

New Girl – Best line of the night: “Even if they sound like a guy made of bells…falling down stairs…that are also made of bells.” How great is Max Greenfield as Schmidt on this show? Did they know he would be the best part of the show when they cast it, because he totally is.

Glee – That was pretty shitty the way Puck told off Quinn. The story this episode was pretty terrible and not too fun. Musical numbers didn’t really make up for it. This show is so uneven.

The Wire – Got one episode in season 1 left. I’d forgotten about a few of the tiny plot points in this first season that get resolved all the way in S4 or S5.

EDIT: Persona 4: The Animation – The school camping trip episode was AWESOME. Love those setpiece moments in the game and they translate well to the anime. Mixing in the Konishi story was smart too. Can’t wait for the true craziness of Rise’s dungeon to start next episode. Teddy’s insanity is coming too, guys!

Music

So much wobble bass!

Books

So little reading!

Video Games

The Binding of Isaac – Almost died on the first level with ???. He’s tough, but I did finally beat It Lives… with him. Started beating Sheol now. Got it done with Isaac, Maggie, and Cain, but things will be getting harder now. Fetus in a Jar and Brimstone are vital for beating Lucifer.

The Old Republic – Got in a few hours in the beta before they closed it down on Monday. My mind is consumed with excitement for my Sith Inquisitor come ~15 Dec. Can’t wait!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Beat the second temple and moved out to the desert. The time travel thing is suuuuper cool. I love it.

Gears of War 3 – Finally got that four-player achievement. All I was missing was the prologue chapter, but that’s done now!

Civilization V – This game consumes your life. It’s ridiculous. Started a new game yesterday at 2200 and, in what felt like an hour, it was 0240 when I quit this morning. Love this game.

Uncharted 3 First Impressions [GO]
Nov 2nd, 2011 by Dan

Uncharted 3 single player Gamescom 2011 screenshot

The best adventure serial you'll ever play! (Photo courtesy naughty_dog)

Everyone’s favorite treasure hunter, Nathan Drake, is back once again for his third journey! What’s it like? I’ll tell you. I’m about eight chapters in, but you can expect some degree of story spoiler if you read this post. I don’t think anything huge has happened yet, but if you don’t want to know about which characters are in the game or what happens at all, DON’T READ THIS!

– Transitioning from the super-solid hand-to-hand combat of Arkham City to here is jarring/kind of disappointing. Speaking of going from one game to another, the slightly different cover buttons from Gears of War 3 has also caused me to pop out of cover prematurely/accidentally. Whoops!

– The most common complaint is that the aiming dead zone is kind of big. I actually noticed it on one of the pistols, but on the rifles I think it’s mostly absent. Still not the smoothest aiming (and it never has been), but we’re three games in, Naughty Dog.

– Fighting the brutes was fun…once or twice. Why are there brutes EVERYWHERE?!

– All this emphasis on how old and tired Sully is along with how Drake is letting things get too personal worry me. I don’t want Sully to die, guys!

– Young Drake! Young Sully! Columbia! I wonder if they just pitch-shifted Nolan North’s voice, because Young Drake sounds a little weird in an unnatural way.

– Chloe’s back! I was worried that she wouldn’t make it since we’d only seen Elena. I haven’t met Elena yet, but I can’t wait to see her again. Both of them are so great!

– The new guy, Charlie Cutter, is pretty cool too. He looks like someone I’ve seen on TV/movies before. I checked the IMDB page and his voice actor, Graham McTavish, isn’t familiar to me, but I learned that he voiced Lazarevic last game, which is insane! I like how he’s a know-it-all to Drake and how Nolan North plays the annoyance in a subdued fashion. It’s still early, but at least we’re seeing that not all Englishmen in Uncharted games are evil.

– Chloe seems really familiar with Cutter too. I wonder if that’s the original crew where she met Drake.

– There are some seriously devious puzzles in this game. The main one in the chateau with the tiles…Devious. It took me a while to figure out all the elements in the room, but it’s kind of brilliant.

– Oh my god the spiders! So fucked up. No more. No. I hate it. If they reappear later…

– I don’t love the inverted camera angle chase/escape sequences. It’s hard to see where you’re going when the obstacles pop up split seconds before you have to react.

– Thank god someone has a brain! When Chloe is all, “Hey, remember the last time we tried to unearth a huge treasure and there were evil blue monsters everywhere?” I was all, “YES!” It’d be funny if you had an option to say, “You’re totally right, Chloe.” Credits.

– I actually stopped myself from playing too much last night so that I could spread the fun out. Can’t wait to run into Chloe (my favorite character!), but I’m having a lot of fun in Syria in the meantime. I got killed by rocket launchers maybe six times before I got them all with the sniper rifle.

What I’ve Been Doing 24 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 24th, 2011 by Dan

The Civil Wars (With Milo Greene) 022

The Civil Wars were absolutely beautiful. What a fantastic show.

Movies

50/50 – What a great movie. It was funny and emotional at all the right times. After seeing it I just wanted to go home and hug my roommate (like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, she got cancer at a young age). I’ve seen her in a grand total of four movies now, but I love Anna Kendrick. She is absolutely adorable and she will go far in this business. So cute!

Solaris – A heady movie about a man who chooses to reject reality for a chance at fixing his mistakes. So muted and quiet and sci-fi without being sci-fi really at all. It’s not gonna blow you away, but it’s remarkably well acted. Potentially could be a stage play if it wasn’t for all the flashbacks.

TV

Homeland – Claire Danes is just perfect at her insecure, crazy, competent role. Morena Baccarin has the most unenviable role. The wife who thought her husband was dead and moved on is not one that audiences attach to. Also she got to take part in the most awkward sex scene ever. I guess I don’t have to keep worrying about this harem subplot (thank god!)

The Walking Dead – I really hate that nonsense with the “He told me…it doesn’t matter what he told me.” plot contrivance. Setting up suspense by explicitly hiding information from the viewers is one of my pet peeves. Hey Merle, a motorcycle in the zombpocalypse is a TERRIBLE IDEA. The premiere was tense and pretty awesome most of the time. I like how it’s going so far, but if they ever kill Glenn…haha.

Music

Eleanor Friedberger – The opener for Wild Flag, she was definitely interesting. All of her songs crescendo to these great endings, but can often sound similar. I fell in love with “Roosevelt Island“, but know that all of her songs aren’t that funky.

Wild Flag – I plan on writing more about both of these concerts, by the way, but these women rocked the stage like they owned it. They were having serious fun up there dancing and playing and almost showing off how great they are at this. I can’t say I love the mix that Black Cat had going (and Mary Timony seemed to agree with me. She kept motioning for adjustments), but it’s never a bad thing to be struck by a wave of sound. Great show, heard some new songs, a lot of fun.

Milo Greene – Super busy on stage as the four frontmen swapped instruments repeatedly during the show. They had some great songs, but their set was so short! The song they closed with was stellar.

The Civil Wars – This concert was…wow. Best show I’ve seen in a long time. More to come later, for sure, but The Civil Wars are a quiet group. It’s just Joy singing (occasionally on piano too) and John Paul on guitar (and also singing) and in moments of silence during the songs you could have heard a mouse sneeze. I heard someone crunching five rows behind me. The audience was rapt and Joy and JP just totally rocked the stage. Just beautiful. I can’t think of a show I enjoyed more this year.

Books

The Last Best League – Coming to a close on this one. I was expecting the team to suddenly turn things around during the summer, but it seems like they might close in last place. Wasn’t expecting that.

Video Games

Batman: Arkham City – Batman’s face isn’t so obscured that he shouldn’t have any expressions. He’s seriously like a robot when he talks. It’s…unnerving. Makes him seem like a sociopath. I might explore it more in this space, but I don’t think the open environment served the game well at all. Arkham City was superior and, while Arkham City was definitely a good game, it’s very far from the best of the year for me and nowhere near as impactful as the previous game.

Gears of War 3 – Shotgun event means…I get killed badly. Not my thing.

Mass Effect 2 – My game was so glitchy yesterday that I quit after making 10 minutes of progress over an hour. Bleh…

Wild Flag Drum Kit

Wild Flag knows how to rock

Arkham City First Impressions [GO]
Oct 19th, 2011 by Dan

Batman: Arkham City Box

Nifty White Aesthetic For The Box

Arkham City is out! I played it for a few hours last night. Here are some initial thoughts:

– Have a backup game on another console ready. Play that until the free (with non-used purchase) Catwoman DLC finishes downloading (mine was Gears of War 3). I guess Rocksteady Studios was thinking, “If the Catwoman DLC is on-disc DLC people will get mad at us. Let’s split it out and force a 200 MB download so they know we’re not ripping off used game buyers (PS: We’re so ripping them off)”

I have tremendous doubts that the Catwoman stuff wasn’t done simultaneously or that it couldn’t have fit on the disc. Seriously, I’m 98% sure the 200 MB download is largely symbolic.

– Arkham City (the environment) is pretty big. Getting around it is fun! Finish the AR missions ASAP to get a (free) neat traversal upgrade. After you get the upgrade either be like me and be so obsessed with completing the Advanced AR Missions that you repeat them ad nauseum until you get them right (you can fail them within 5 seconds and it takes maybe 10 to get back to the start) or you can be a healthy individual, pace yourself, and just let it be if you fail a few times. Come back later and all that.

– I always forget “payaso” is spelled with an ‘ll’ instead of a ‘y’. Subtitles will help you learn to spell in Spanish!

– Arkham City does not Metroid you. Batman has all his gadgets from the last game. It also does not do a great job of reminding you how to do anything again right off the bat. This could be because I started on Hard, but maybe not. I don’t know.

– Beating on henchmen is still super fun! I think that they regenerate in the overworld, which is a nice departure. If they don’t…well that’s a bummer. Speaking of the overworld: some sections have guys with guns. Don’t hang out in the Penguin section if you’re not prepared to run into like five guys with guns by accident. You can also do what I did and just get shot so much you die. I did that a lot trying to complete the last Advanced AR Training mission.

– Man, crooks be hating on Bruce Wayne. Even the crooks who don’t know he’s Batman! It’s true what they say, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

– Ever wanted to apply Super Mario World cape mechanics to a game where you can dive bomb crooks so hard you knock them unconscious? This is the game for you. Seriously, within a second of learning I could dive bomb into a glide and back again I flashed back to SMW and I instantly knew what I was doing. If only they had licensed the bouncy noise from SMW. If only.

– Batman is not afraid to straight up hit a girl. Damn, son. That’s not cool.

– Catwoman is the worst maintainer of a secret identity ever. People call her Selina and Ms. Kyle all game long. Hey Catwoman, you’re terrible at this super villain thing.

– Some reviewers have lamented that Catwoman controls too much like Batman. Remember how awesome it is to control Batman? That’s not a problem, guys.

– Counter indicators even on Hard mode? Not fun, guys. No achievements for beating it on Hard? Lame. Word to the wise: play the game on Normal, at the very least. Can’t unlock New Game+ without doing so.

– If you get this game before Halloween, be sure to explore the basement of the courthouse on Halloween for 1/12 of an achievement. I’m worried about how I’m gonna get the one on Christmas without cheesing the system.

– Everybody should go and apologize to Kotaku. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I love the meta-joke at play there. Cool stuff.

EDIT: This Kotaku story reminded me that Arkham City leans a little too hard on “b***h.” Like, uncomfortably so. I wish that word had a more negative stigma to it to the general public because it is not okay the way we’ve been using it nowadays. It should have way more force and be deployed way less flippantly than Arkham City has been doing it. Makes me super uncomfortable to play the game.

What I’ve Been Doing 17 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 17th, 2011 by Dan

Scouts

Those stupid hats everyone makes fun of actually do motivate me to play sometimes.

Movies

Bran Nue Dae – Disappointingly mediocre. I was expecting something interesting from a musical about aboriginal life in Australia, but it just wasn’t there. Uneven pacing, bland characters, and, worst of all, completely forgettable music. That’s the one thing you have to do right in a musical!

TV

How I Met Your Mother – The Jenson episode was great and the roommate episode brought us tantalizingly close to the “Mother”, but I’m catching up on this show by virtue of inertia alone. HIMYM is not a great show, guys. Not anymore.

The League – My favorite kind of crappy show. Can be super hilarious some days and middling other days. It’s a shame that they had to come up with an excuse to not have Nadine Velazquez on the episode. She’s funny and hot.

Homeland – Bizarre opening theme. So weird/surreal/cool. I guess it ties in with Claire Danes’ psychosis. The prince/consort subplot is boring to me, but we’ll see if it bears any fruit.

Prime Suspect – I like the main character, but I don’t love the procedural nature. I’m all about the season long investigations like The Wire. That show really has ruined cop shows for me…

Up All Night – After just watching Bridesmaids practically twice, I was a little tired of the female rivalry thing that Christina Applegate had going on in the class. Still a pretty good show, but this was the weakest episode I’d seen so far.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The writers on this show get so much mileage out of the title cards. So funny even if all of these people are terrible, horrible people. It makes me laugh when they call out Frank for being racist or a jerk, but they’re just as bad all the time.

Parka and Recreation – Not enough April this week! Ann being terrible at being a girl scout was awesome as was the Batman suit, but it wasn’t my favorite episode of this show.

Community – Super dark. Last week’s statement that the study group’s love was weird was right on the money. Seeing that Jeff, who brought them together is kind of bad for the group is really dark. I wonder if this has to do with Dan Harmon’s recent personal problems. This show is going some really heavy places this season.

Better Off Ted – “I think I need to get new breasts. These are covered in sad.” Finished S2 and, hence, the rest of the show. Not too bad. I can see why it was canceled, even though I liked it. Good light entertainment, but it’s not the greatest.

Dexter – This season has been bad so far. The story beats are obvious and too overbearing, even by Dexter standards. I don’t like following the “big bad” around, especially when they’re being annoyingly cryptic and awful. When they said this show would be really changing this season I didn’t think they meant that it would be getting awful. I really hope this season picks back up.

Music

Extra Hot Great – I love this show, but they made me think that maybe watching Footloose might be a good idea this week. Now to somehow suggest it to the girlfriend without letting on that I actually want to see it…

Books

Reamde – Finished the book. Very Stephenson. Brings to the foreground his love of guns, anarchy/distrust of government, MMOs, and his obsession with the way money/gold works. Good read, but not his best work. Anathem was more philosophically interesting and Crytonomicon had better characters.

(EDIT: You’ll note that there’s no talk of comics here. I might be starting a separate project to discuss them elsewhere.)

Video Games

The Binding of Isaac – Finally defeated the first form of Mom, but now I’ve got to get to her heart to slay her. I’m getting better at this game, but I’ve got a ways to go before I can beat the boss.

Mass Effect 2 – Kasumi’s loyalty mission is being annoyingly buggy, so I’m stuck on the final boss and I haven’t felt motivated to tackle it again after two nights of trying and either doing well and having it bug out on me or failing.

Team Fortress 2 – I painted Max’s Severed Head pink and it’s kind of awesome. Been getting a lot of Soldier and Demoman time in, two classes I really didn’t love before this. They’re not so bad, I guess…Had a killer round with Lee as a Heavy/Medic combo. We were unstoppable!

Gears of War 3 – So much Horde mode this weekend! I will unlock the Laugh Track! Just you wait!

EDIT: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – Forgot to mention that I started my replay of the Uncharted series to prepare for the third iteration’s release next month. Good game, but the visuals are starting to show their age after all these years. It’s still a pretty game, just not as pretty as Uncharted 2 or 3.

What I’ve Been Doing 10 October 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 11th, 2011 by Dan

New Camera Tests

Totally unrelated to everything else, but I got a new camera!

Movies

Everything Must Go – Rebecca Hall is superb. I first saw her in The Prestige and I instantly fell in love with her acting. She’s a good understated and expressive actor. Will Ferrell in a drama is pretty neat too. He really shows a lot of range on this and I’d like to see his career move in this direction.

Bridesmaids – Saw it 1.75 times this weekend. I love this movie. Super funny. That screaming match at the bridal shower is so excellent that I stayed at my brother’s house just to watch it last night.

TV

Parks and Recreation – Tammy 1 is scary. Aubrey Plaza is hilarious. Didn’t really love the B- or C-plots of the second episode. Having her in the background reacting to stuff was absolutely hilarious. I hope they continue to use her more. The C-story in the Pawnee Book episode about Ann, Ron, and April was great, but I didn’t love the A-plot of that episode.

2 Broke Girls – Bad sign. The first time I laughed in the first five minutes was when my feed got messed up and the same line looped for a minute straight. It’s just not good. I dunno. This week is its last chance! Tune in next week to read that I stopped watching this show.

Homeland – Claire Danes does a great job here of being obsessive, kind of crazy, and great in a way that’s not the prescient, über-confident employee that the bosses can’t understand. Super cool so far.

Glee – All the frequent jump cuts make it damn near impossible to actually watch the dancing. I see what they were going for in the Mike Chang thing, but it was quasi-clumsy in execution because we have never cared about him as a character before. He’s a junior though, so that’s why we’re seeing him get more screentime. I wish they hadn’t abandoned Bieste’s malapropism tendency

New Girl – Seriously upped their funny game. This week’s episode was quite good. The show gets a stay of execution!

Up All Night – Weaker episode, but still got some hilarious moments like the one where they thought the Native American guy turned into a hawk. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate have tons of chemistry and Maya Rudolph is much better at her supporting role than I thought she’d be.

Community – Not my favorite episode, but pretty good. I liked the revelation that they’re the “mean clique”. Their vitriol toward Todd was hilarious too. “Offense taken!”

Music

Losing the Sheen – Who knew Justin McElroy’s wife, Sydnee, was so funny? They’ve got great chemistry and this podcast about two people who hadn’t seen an episode of Two and a Half Men until Charlie Sheen left the show is my favorite new podcast.

Books

REAMDE – I just know that the MMO stuff is gonna get a lot more important soon. I’m super intrigued. Can’t wait until some of the principals start interacting again.

(Comic Books Ahoy!)

Casanova: Avarita – This is why I read comic books. Creative and surreal and interesting. Makes super-effective use of the medium.

X-23 – Another well-drawn and well-written book. I love this story. Maybe I’ll pick up the old trades…

Mystic – Still a pretty generic story, but the well-drawn, Disney aesthetic is pretty cool.

Chew – Man, this book is good. Just brilliant and subversive and sneaky. Super funny.

SI: Heroes for Hire – Meh

Batwing – Don’t think I’m gonna keep reading this. Didn’t really capture my attention this week. I want to support minority characters, but my budget isn’t unlimited

Swamp Thing – Continues to get more intriguing. I love that it’s tying in with Animal Man. Fantastic panel design and great art.

Animal Man – The humanoids all look terrible and weird, but the horror aspects of this book are super cool. I’m down

Moon Knight – I’m still in love with Alex Maleev’s work. The book’s pacing is slow, but I don’t care as long as the art team remains.

Action Comics – A good comic book. That’s kind of a knock. It’s about as good as a conventional book can get (minus the art. Didn’t dig the art) where Casanova…that’s art.

Video Games

The Binding of IsaacI wrote about it a little bit already, but this game is pretty awesome. Good for short bursts of random gameplay. I’ve still not managed to beat it once.

Team Fortress 2 – Still solid. Not a bad way to spend any evening.

Gears of War 3 – Min threw a curveball here and suggested we play on Insane. I thought it would go very poorly, but it didn’t until we got to Act III, which is awesome. Lots of fun.

The Old Republic – NDA-ed!

Mass Effect 2 – Watched Eric play a little and David also started playing too, so I thought I would start my game up again to get my Paragon playthrough fixed. I wish the cover stuff was as well-developed as Gears 3, but Gears is also two years newer.

What I’ve Been Doing 3 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 3rd, 2011 by Dan

Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles 8 May 2011

The MLB Playoffs continue. While most of my weekend was spent watching baseball, I also got tons of other stuff in.

Movies

Hesher – When I saw the trailer for this Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie I thought it would be a weird character study. I was pretty much right about that, but it’s simultaneously weirder and crasser than you’d think without really being comedic. Hesher is a truly bizarre character, the likes of which I’ve never seen in movies before, but he’s still very interesting. Not worth going out of your way to see, but it’s pretty good.

TV

Parks and Recreation – Haven’t gotten around to the most recent episode yet, but this is a show that is absolutely on its game. First episodes of comedies are typically kind of weak, but I didn’t mind it. This is a show that has matured and found its legs and you should be watching it, no excuses.

Community – I liked the first two episodes of this season a lot more than other people did. While I agree that the high-concept, gimmick episodes are usually pretty great on Community, there should absolutely be room for the low-concept episodes where the actors are relying on character development rather than gimmicks. The Cougerton Abbey and Inspector Spacetime jokes in the first episode were also ridiculously hilarious.

2 Broke Girls – Is it really ok to make jokes about female masturbation at 8:30 on CBS? I mean, the obfuscated one early in the episode was, well, obfuscated, but later on she full-on is all, “I was masturbating.” I don’t have a problem with going blue with jokes, it just doesn’t seem to fit the tone or the time slot. How about this one, “We’ve known each other two days and you’re already asking for backdoor.” I love Kat Dennings, but she mugs for the camera so hard every time she says something smug. This show is definitely not good, but it gets me to laugh at least a little. I’m giving it two more episodes per the “Eric Mesa Four Episode Rule” which states that you cannot truly understand a show without giving it four episodes to really lay itself out.

New Girl – Schmidt slapping Spencer was hilarious in episode two, but I’m not sure I’m in it all the way yet. Zooey Deschanel is absolutely adorable, but the show leans on that a little too hard and it’s getting me kind of tired of her. We’ll see where I fall after two more episodes, but I’m not optimistic at this point.

Archer – The mini-series has been good, but not great. I got tired of the longer plot by the end. Archer is better in one-episode arcs or the more disconnected two- or three-episode arcs they do in the regular season. Still funny, but not my favorite. Now I’ve got to wait for January for more. Danger zone!

Childrens Hospital – Did I perhaps enjoy this episode more because Lake Bell spent most of it naked while Malin Åkerman lusted over her? Ok, I’ll cop to that. The episode was funny, but not to the show’s usual standards. I’m amazed that it got me laugh at some of the jokes they tossed out there this episode. Good stuff, guys.

Up All Night – I’ve seen all the new comedies that I’m interested in and this is the best one. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate have a real handle on their characters. I wasn’t expecting to like this at all, but it’s genuinely funny. It’s kind of weird that I love this show about young parents considering that I’m neither married nor do I have a child, but it’s funnier than you think. I like that it’s dealing with getting older and trying to remain hip/cool, haha. I can relate!

Prime Suspect – A remake of a supposedly awesome English show, this was another revelation. I was expecting to find Maria Bello too smug and annoying as a character, but she’s tough without being obnoxious (even though she likes wearing that stupid hat). The storylines/crimes are dark and kind of freaky, but I like that they’re not glamorizing crime. After The Wire I thought I’d never be able to appreciate a cop procedural again, but this one isn’t bad. Really makes me want to go back to The Wire, though.

Glee – “Who doesn’t love the Go-Gos?” “I prefer The Bangles”. I totally hated the first episode until “It’s Not Unusual”, “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, and the line above had all hit the screen. Last season was a disaster, in my eyes. The show totally got off the rails, focused too much on boring storylines and dull characters, but so far we’ve had nary a Rachel/Finn drama moment and I’m totally ok with that. Bringing back Idina Menzel was brilliant and I’m digging where this whole Quin/custody thing might be going, assuming it doesn’t get really stupid. Way to return to form, guys.

Dexter – Showtime aired this thing before Dexter where they were talking about the themes and such and I watched it and I hated that I did because they were talking about how much this season would be about faith, blah blah blah, and that was in my mind all episode where they really hammered home the faith thing way too hard. Your viewers are not stupid, guys. You can be a little more subtle. Decent start to the season, even if I already don’t care about Angel and his sister. Like I really don’t care.

BASEBALL – The Rays win over the Yankees in dramatic, walk-off fashion was part of the greatest baseball day in my life. As far as the playoffs go, the important series are going better than I’d hoped. Rays/Rangers, Phillies/Cardinals, and Yankees/Tigers all have them knotted at one game a piece. I’d like to see Tampa, St. Louis, and Detroit move on, but we’ll see what happens tonight. Milwaukee has really impressed me this postseason and they’ve become my favorite to take the pennant and go for the series. If St. Louis knocks out Philadelphia it’ll be that much easier.

Music

Not much of note to mention here this week as I’ve fallen behind on my music podcasts. I will say that if you like video games and you’re not listening to the Giant Bombcast you’re doing something wrong.

Books

REAMDE – Classic Neal Stephenson, but with a lot more restraint than what you’d expect. I can see so many threads from his older books coming together to form this guy, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s really captured my imagination. It’s funny to me how a lot of books would be done by the 300th page (I’m around 350) and it took to 250 to introduce the book’s main villain. EDIT: Forgot to mention that a lot of the action has been taking place in Iowa and Xiamen, the places where David lives and Min is from, respectively. Good times!

(COMIC BOOKS FOLLOW)

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man – I’m really digging the new Mile Morales character. Bendis and Pichelli are knocking this book out of the park. Can’t wait for next week’s issue.

The Ultimates – Hickman’s take on Ultimate Reed Richards and his villainous Children of Tomorrow is super neat. They took away Thor’s divinity! Crazy stuff.

Ultimate Comics X-Men – Nick Spencer is also blowing this book out of the water. Kitty Pryde as a mutant terrorist is brilliant. Johnny Storm on the X-Men is hilarious. This could be great.

FF – Typically solid and really makes me anticipate each new issue. Good stuff.

Amazing Spider-Man – Not as good as I’d hoped it would be. Takes too much time recapping its tie-ins instead of progressing the plot.

SI: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu – Why did I buy this? Seriously…just kind of boring.

Venom – Excellent writing and story even if I think the resolution between alcoholic father and symbiote addict son was tacked on and forced.

Incorruptible – Weaker than I’d hoped it would be. Still good, but I was hoping for more. I really hope this isn’t becoming an afterthought for Waid because there are interesting stories to be told here.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – Apparently Morghan’s playing now. That’s pretty sweet.

Gears of War 3 – So much Horde mode! I still love this game. Epic at its finest.

What I’ve Been Doing 26 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 26th, 2011 by Dan

Moneyball Movie Poster

Doesn't get much better than being portrayed by Brad Pitt in a movie. (Photo courtesy nsusco)

It’s fitting that I watched a movie about baseball considering how much baseball I also watched this weekend. Had to watch to support the Rays. They’ve got three games to make up a one game deficit. You can do it, Tampa Bay!

Movies

Moneyball – Not too bad at all. We’re not talking “the best baseball movie ever” or anything, but it was enjoyable. It’s always nice to see a good baseball movie. I didn’t love the stylized baseball shots with the all black backdrops (looked kind of cheap), but it was still lots of fun. Seeing Chris Pratt (Andy from Parks and Recreation) play a more serious dramatic role (but still kind of comedic) was really neat. I liked it, but I’m glad I saw it with Ryan. Tiffany would have hated it.

TV

Up All Night – This show is actually pretty neat. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate make a good pairing for a show about an unplanned baby that they do genuinely love, even if they haven’t figured out how to integrate it into their lives yet. I’ve got another episode waiting on the DVR to get around to sometime this week. It’s not nailing it yet, but it’s good enough that I’ll give it a few more episodes.

Top Gear – Saw both last week and this week’s eps and the guys turned cars into trains to pull cars down the tracks. It was pretty hilarious. The demolitions competition at the end of this week’s was pretty cool too.

Talking Funny – I kind of wish they had a woman on the panel too. I mean, what’s that say when you’re advertising your special as a look at comedy from the who’s who of the biz, but you don’t have any women on the panel? Ricky Gervais was the most “intellectual” of the bunch (almost to pretension) and Seinfeld was the purest, most “elemental”. I wish Chris Rock said more and I thought Louie C.K. was among the funnier of the four.

How I Met Your Mother – The worst part of any episode remains any time Ted is on screen. I don’t know if the writers get that his pretentiousness is super off-putting, but it’s kind of terrible. There were definitely some funny moments in the first disc (I’m catching up on Season 5), but, while I like the show, I don’t love it. ESPECIALLY when Ted is on screen

2 Broke Girls – This was decent. I mean, it’s a totally safe sitcom being mostly carried by Kat Dennings, but I like Kat Dennings, so I’ll give it two or three more episodes. Wait, did I say safe? Definitely a decent amount of jokes about semen, orgasms, and exchanges like “You’re getting me wet.” “That’s the point.” It seems kind of edgy for 2130 on CBS, I guess, but definitely not that edgy compared to other stuff I watch. I like the gimmick with the money raised counter at the end. Reminds me of a reverse Battlestar Galactica.

Weeds – They totally had a Vonnegut reference in there (“So it goes.”), but there’s so much going on and unresolved with only one episode left that I’m at a loss to see how they end it effectively. It’s been a good season with the budding rivalry between her and Silas growing, but I worry about how it can have a satisfactory ending with only 30 mins to go.

Music

Extra Hot Great – One of my favorite podcasts, Extra Hot Great did a Fall TV preview this week that was funny and cool, per usual. Their mixing things up for Game Time for the next few episodes since Joe clinched the crown. This is definitely a great podcast to listen to if you’re into pop culture stuff (specifically TV and movies).

Books

Reamde – Neal Stephenson’s latest hit shelves this past week. So far so good. It’s got a lot of Stepehnson elements (obsession with guns/weapons), but hasn’t had any of his stereotypical nerdiness yet. Mentions of twitter/facebook/wikipedia kind of date the book, but, at the same time, I think that’s kind of what he’s going for.

(AHOY, THAR BE COMICS AHEAD!)

SI: Cloak and Dagger – Just gorgeous art and fantastic writing. Comic books like this remind me why it’s worth spending my money on them. Just beautiful.

Daredevil – Not as good as the first three, but still quite good. The cliffhanger panel is killer awesome.

The Red Wing – A very interesting premise with the traveling across dimensions too. The way the pilots explode across time when they’re destroyed remains the most striking image in this book.

SI: Spider-Woman – Didn’t really do it for me. Not that interesting.

Ultimate Comics Hawkeye – Good, but not great. I still feel like Hawkeye as a character is almost non-existent

Wonder Woman – So popular this week that I had to buy it digitally (sold out in all other formats). It was a good book with neat art (I love how Chiang draws Diana as full-figured/muscular) and I hope they continue with the Greek mythology bit because that will lead to great horror comics. Greek gods and their mythology are among the most interesting, graphic, and crazy sources for stories out there.

Video Games

SO MUCH GEARS OF WAR 3 – Tons of it. Still so much fun. I can’t wait for Min to be done with his schoolwork.

Left 4 Dead 2 – Dave and I finally finished all of the main story campaigns in this. We might go back and do some other extras, but for now I think we’re done. Lots of fun.

Resident Evil 5 – Back playing this. I miss actually having to buy and upgrade weapons, but it’s still tons of fun. Glad I’m playing this again. It’s insane and super fun.

Gears of War 3 Campaign [GO]
Sep 23rd, 2011 by Dan

Gears of War 3 - "Ashes to Ashes" trailer screenshots

Dom's emo beard is the lynchpin the game revolves around (Picture courtesy GamingBits)

Yesterday I did two stupid things. When I started up my Public Arcade mode campaign I enabled “Scavenge Mode” (or whatever the mutator is called), which forces players to scavenge for ammo rather than find it littered about in ammo crates. Then, around midnight when I was hovering around Act IV Chapter 5 I thought, “Boy, there can’t be much more left to this game. I should just finish.”

Four hours later (ONE spent on the final boss alone (more on that later)) and I had beaten the Gears of War 3 campaign on Hardcore.

Some quick thoughts:

– Remember how your least favorite part of Uncharted was that part where the Nazi zombie monster things attacked you? Epic must have misinterpreted how almost everyone on earth hated that part and decided to put in a part in Act III/IV that’s just that, but more explode-y. Easily my least favorite part of the campaign.

– In fact, all the melee enemies are a pain in the ass. Lambent wretches especially. Holy shit do they deal a lot of damage when they explode.

– Hey, everyone, don’t play the campaign on Hardcore with the Scavenger mutator on. Seriously, you will regret it against the final boss. It’s a long fight and quite the slog, but it’s made worse by the complete lack of ammo drops that comes from playing on Scavenger. We fought Queen Myrrah for so long because we had to let each member of the team die to respawn with ammo again just to do damage to her. What should have been a 10 minute boss battle instead took us 60-90 mins. You don’t have to listen to me, but I’m right.

– Min and I just finished playing Gears of War 2 and the distinct lack of Maria in this game only makes it better. She still affects the game somewhat (see Dom’s beard), but the roster of players shifts so much and (apparently) Dom and Samantha are kind of an item now(?) so it’s a little better.

Emily vs Claudia

My deep love for Claudia Black's role as Chloe Frazer alongside Emily Rose in Uncharted 2 is what prompted this picture instead of just Black (Photo courtesy Yembles)

– Speaking of Sam: she’s not in the game enough. It’s sad. I mean, it’s not Nan McNamara’s fault that Anya is totally boring and lame, but I’d still prefer to have Sam around more often than I’d want Anya. Since Anya is kind of a legacy character I see why we get her for the last parts instead.

Gears of War 3 - "Ashes to Ashes" trailer screenshots

Anya, you are boring. Sorry. (Photo courtesy GamingBits)

– Speaking of boss battles two points before, the Lambent Berserker is stupid long. I know we’re far past the arcade days where enemies flashed red to indicate damage/proximity to death, but the Berserker, man…it just takes a licking FOREVER with almost little indication that you’re doing ANYTHING to it. It’s pretty frustrating. We fought that dude for an hour too.

– “Mad World”‘s return was pretty awesome.

– The context it returned was not. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but it was a cheap resolution to that character’s story/arc.

– I did enjoy that our principals each semi-got their own moment. I would have traded, I dunno, some of Cole’s ridiculous amount of exploration in this game for more about Samantha.

– Jeff Gerstmann was right, making mutators stupid-hard to unlock does nobody any favors. Why do this?

– The best sign that this is a great game is that I want to keep playing it more along with similar games. I want to get to Resident Evil 4 HD, Uncharted 3, and Resident Evil 5 (with David) as soon as I can.

– Stop having so much school work Min. We need to play through this campaign pronto!

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