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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Black Day

So I get home from Atlanta last night, not late late by most standards, but feeling late enough when you've spent hours in the air that had been preceded by hours in an airport which had been preceded by wondering if the rental car was going to get a flat which was preceded by driving in Atlanta in general which really kinda sucks and ... well, you get the point.

So I wanted nothing more than to see The Girl, have a beer and play a little Fallout 3. A little Fallout 3 turned in a lot, and that finally panned out as I finally found that damn Museum of Technology. I was toying with the Mutant Army camped outside and ended up getting killed quite a bit.

One time, the PS3 didn't come back after trying to load the last save. So I restarted it. Then I died again - and it didn't restart at all. Just got nothing but a black screen.

It had been running hot, so I let it cool a bit and then tried again. I wasn't getting any screen. I thought maybe the OS had reset the video settings and the HDMI wasn't getting anything to show, so I spent a few hours toying with turning it on and off in a variety of ways to force the video to reset, but didn't get anywhere.

I decided to get to bed, in the morning it would boot up and then freeze. I tried taking the hard drive out, but even without the drive it just freezes up on the orchestra / boot screen.

While I'm sure this just karmic justice for all the comments I've made about the 360's Red Ring Of Death, but it appears to be completely beyond normal repair at this point. All snide remarks aside, finding decent information about this kind of thing is hard when it comes to the PS3. I think the fan died, though, the console had been running louder lately and now the fan doesn't seem to kick in when everything is starting up.

So I'm pretty bummed. I'll need to call Sony and get what is apparently called a coffin to see if I can get this refurbished. I'd love to be able to keep the hard drive intact, but I'll settle for at least getting a 40GB again.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More On Fallout 3

I think the short version is this: I am freaking loving this game.

If you've played either Bethesda's previous Elder Scroll offerings (especially, obviously, Morrowind or Oblivion), or if you're a fan of the Fallout franchise in general - this is an easy recommendation. People, particular the Fallout fans, complained early on that it would be "Oblivion with guns" and I secretly thought to my self - like that would be a bad thing. And I wasn't wrong. VATS works brilliantly and is one of those rare successful blends of turn and real times based systems that complements rather than annoys. The most complicated combat I've gotten into required several retries until I finally flanked the guys behind me, bludgeoned the scout before he could cause too much of a racket and then tossed fragged grenades into the house before the Super Mutes could do too much damage to the caravan.

In terms of a story, this game approaches Deus Ex levels of good for me and honestly blows Bethesda's previous attempts away. This doesn't feel like the story about gates or a story about some weird messiah - but it feels like your story, about you entering a wasteland of a world in search of your father. While the main character is mute, you do control the conversations with the other characters and feel like you have a part to play in the world.

You can wander off on side missions or continue on the main quest, although I'm not sure how much the game allows you to just plow through the main plot without leveling up a little first. That said, I don't feel like I've embarked on any "kill five rats" type of missions. They feel like solid role playing adventures. Not that there isn't plenty of emphasis on combat - the vast majority of the game is spent trying to blow some crazy thing's head off.

Sure, there's a few foibles. The graphics are mostly great, but the character models are not the best in the world, comparatively speaking, and occasionally the animations are a bit off. A couple of times my dog has been floating about. When I nuked a massive beast, it stay aloft a bit longer than it should. This is still the Gamebryo engine, after all, and if you played Oblivion, you know what I'm talking about.

Also, navigation around the ruined parts of downtown can be a massive pain in the ass. The city is walled off by rubble, forcing you to use the underground systems. This is sometimes fine, and does encourage exploration - but can get frustrating when you pop out in a completely unexpected location, sometimes far past your goal.

There's a few other things, like the fact that herding your dog can get a bit tiresome ... but c'mon, you get a freaking dog - so who really cares.

A big thumbs up from me, can't wait to play the game all the way through. Easily one of my favorite games of the year, if not my favorite game of quite some time.

Conversation on Dead Space

Matt of the Curmudgeon Gamer blog was playing Dead Space at about the same pace I was, so we got together a running dialogue of the gameplay (Matt is JVM, I'm JB):

JB: This is a beautiful game. I saw a couple of collision problems (one humorous one where the undefeatable deadite was sticking his head out of a crate) and occasional the physics on the bodies was odd. The HUD is design genius. The Girl kept telling me to turn the sound down, too, because I really liked playing this game in the dark with the volume cranked up. The Ishimura just breathes at times.

My real complaint visually is that we didn't get enough views of the scenery. When I first hit the bridge, I saved the game just to show The Girl the meteor storm. The inside of one Chapter begins to feel the same as the next by the end of the game, but the outside is usually interesting.

JVM: Dead Space communicates very effectively with sound. Obviously the scary noises are important, but the atmospheric sounds flesh out the world and enhance the sense of spatial relationships. What really blew me away was the effect of almost no sound when Isaac had to work in a vacuum. After the game trains you to know the sounds of your enemies, you suddenly find yourself in an environment with practically no sound at all. That contrast is one of the game's high points. Each time Isaac had to enter a vacuum after that, I shifted my play style to constantly scan the corners of the room for any movement, relying on vision almost exclusively.
-- Dead Space: A Conversation

We hit on the narrative, the graphics, the gameplay, etc. It was a pretty interesting kind of peer to peer gaming, not connected directly in any way - but through trophies and the like, we more or less knew where each other was in the title. He even noted our different play styles by the awards we had earned. Matt finished the game before I did and headed off to the land of BioShock, so it will be interesting to follow up later and compare notes on how the two titles match up.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Movie Watch: Quantum Of Solace

So I'm something of a Bond nut. Seen every movie at least once, can usually remember George Lazenby was that middle Bond guy, try to see the openings in the theater, etc.

One of the things that I love about the Bond franchise is that it has changed and mutated over the years. Craig's Bond is a far cry from the Roger Moore days, Dalton and Brosnan were different takes on the character than Connery, etc. Craig makes for an impressive bond and the whole "who was the best Bond" question gets more complicated with every outing.

Casino Royale introduced not just Craig, but a new angle on the franchse. Less gadgets, less over the top spy stuff and more upfront action movie action. Quantum Of Solace moves farther in the same direction with slightly less success, although it does still make for an entertaining film. Parts of the plot never quite connect with neither other parts of the plot nor the audience in general. It's not bad B-movie writing, but if the writers want to make a more realistic and gritty Bond, they'll need to make sure they have realistic and gritty stories to tell.

Part of me wonders why some of the people behind MI-6 (Spooks) haven't been previously tapped.

While Solace isn't great, it is still a lot of fun. I don't think it's as good as Casino Royale in general, it does keep a sharp character focus on Bond himself and the ties back to Royale (much of plot gravitates around Vesper) and there's enough artistry in the action scenes that we're still above the cheap jokes of say, The World Is Not Enough.

In short: a good, though not great, Bond flick which values action scenes over nearly everything other than Bond himself.