XBoned

Jun. 13th, 2013 09:56 am
theferrett: (Meazel)

I’m sort of astonished at how poorly Microsoft is handling all of this PR over its new console.  None of the choices they’ve made have been indefensible – they just need to make an argument for them.  Which they haven’t.

Take the “always-connected” issue.  Sure, it’s an inconvenience.  But if Microsoft had been aggressive, saying, “Look, the Internet is the way of the future, and being always-connected lets us do some really cool things for you.  [List the cool things.]  Smartphones are always connected to the Internet, and look how useful they are!  Truth is, at some point all devices will be connected 24/7 – we’re just ahead of the curve.”

Instead, they took the opportunity to insult their user base, implying that only cornpone hicks aren’t connected.  Which makes the argument be entirely about the inconveniences of continual connection.

(Which, don’t get me wrong, as someone who fucking hated it how he couldn’t play 9/10ths of his Rock Band song collection when the Internet crashed, I’m wildly against needing a constant connection.  But there are arguments to be made for it, and you’d think Microsoft wouldn’t have been so astonished that people didn’t like the idea that they had no plan for it.)

Likewise, the whole “not reselling games” thing could have been promoted as a new and bold ecosystems.  Talk about the publisher’s complaints of not making any money from three-quarters of the sales of their games, how reselling is secretly stifling innovation, how once this happens games can be cheaper and more piracy-free and this will be better for everybody.  But once again, Microsoft seemed to have their heads so far up their asses that they didn’t recognize that most people like lending games to buddies and getting money back.

Then the XBox One is $100 more than Sony.  It’s like, wow, has anyone been this far behind in the console wars this early?  I’m not counting them out, as it’s all going to come down to the games that are available – but how the hell did Microsoft not look at these as the liabilities they were?  What culture is going on inside Microsoft that they didn’t marshall their PR people to start spinning this from before the first announcement?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Years ago, I abandoned my beloved gaming PC and got an XBox 360 instead.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Oh, I do occasionally miss my roleplaying games, but the XBox was a static investment – I didn’t have to keep sinking money into new videocards and RAM upgrades and, eventually, whole new computers.  That switch literally saved me thousands of dollars, and the gaming’s been almost as good. (I do miss mouse + keyboard for first-person shooters, and I do miss my in-depth roleplaying games.)

But I don’t think I’ll be switching to XBox One.  And I should.  I mean, I have a history on XBox at this point – all of my hard-earned Achievements, all of my purchased downloads, my XBox membership.  But it’s a hard sell for me, and it’s not because of:

The Kinect.  I have a Kinect.  After all the hype faded, it’s been kinda shitty – the voice recognition isn’t integrated into anything useful, the gestures don’t work well from my distant couch, and aside from Dance Central the games have been these spastic, flailing, thoroughly nonfun events.  But the fact that it’s watching me 24/7 is something I already pretty much experience, and at least I didn’t pay extra for it this time.

The “always-on” Internet.  I’m fortunate enough to need good Internet as part of my job, so that’s a part of my household expenses as it is.  Not the greatest move for a lot of poorer families, though.

The disappointing quote-unquote “new features.”  I’ll let Gordon Ramsay say it for me.  But I never really socialized on my XBox; it’s all about the games, man, and if Fallout 4 is good then I won’t care.

No, it’s the way they’re distributing the games.  You don’t own the games; you merely license them from Microsoft.  And can you sell them to Gamestop… or, more importantly, from Gamestop?  Not without the publishers’ permission.  And given that most publishers hate Gamestop for making five times as much money off of their games than they do, I’m gonna say that’s prooooobably a “no.”

Look, I dig that as a games publisher, you want to lap up that stream of moolah, and you deserve to.  What Microsoft is clearly trying to do is to become Steam, Valve’s way-too-popular digital download system… and if they did that properly, that’d be awesome.  Steam reprices their games downwards rapidly, holds lots of sales, makes dynamic changes based on user demand, and has a ton of free games to boot.  There has been talk saying that the reason most videogames are so riotously expensive is because publishers can’t make money off of resales, and so have to charge a ton up-front to ensure they get their fair share (as Gamestop will then sell the game used for $50, and then $40, and then $30, and so forth).

If that works?  I’m in.  I could use $40 games and $10 sales.

But I don’t think it’ll work that way.  I remember the land grab of Compact Discs, which actually cost less to make than Cassettes, and the record industry promising “Oh, yeah, they’re just twice as expensive as tapes because we make so few of these – the price will come down.”  Then they shot themselves in the foot by purposely taking this opportunity to raise prices forever, at least until piracy started looking like a great goddamned alternative to paying $17 for that one song you liked.

If Microsoft lowers the overall price of games?  Awesome.  I’ll watch for a few months to see what the game economy is, and if it’s an even mix of cheap and expensive, I’m in.  But I suspect this will be their opportunity to artificially raise the prices, forcing us so the only way we can purchase it is at $60 – forget your friend giving it to you permanently, forget getting it on eBay, et cetera. This will be their CD moment, where the cost of gaming will rise across the board.

(Though to their credit, they have said up to 10 family members can share a game.  One suspects there will be a lot of impromptu families made at college.)

And if that’s the case? Fuck that.  I’ve gotten turned on to some of my greatest games by a buddy tossing me his disc and saying, “Try this shit!” or me taking a Gamestop chance at $20.  Remove that, and make it so my only option is full-price?  I won’t.  It’s just too valuable a deal to give up.

…unless Fallout 4 is really good.  I mean, like really good.  Then maybe we can talk, Microsoft.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

If you had asked me two days ago what a perfect sequel was, I would have told you “The Empire Strikes Back.”  Every time I see Empire, I’m utterly astounded at how sure-footed it is; how it literally reintroduces each of the main characters in a mini-sequence that’s just as exciting and interesting as the original Star Wars, then proceeds to turn each of those characters’ strengths into weaknesses.  Is Luke a starry-eyed dreamer?  Well, now that he’s a real Jedi, that’s a very bad thing.  Is Han a smartmouthed rogue?  Well, now his history is coming home to roost.  In every way, including the ending, Empire Strikes Back really was the best sequel there ever was.

Now, however, I’ll add “Bioshock Infinite” to that list.  Because it taught me how to do a different kind of sequel perfectly.

I still remember how stunning it was six years ago to say “Bioshock is a deconstruction of Ayn Rand’s philosophies”… but after descending into the capitalism-crazed, creator-worshipping undersea world of Rapture, you couldn’t deny it was the most popular bash of Objectivist thinking as you saw how Jack Ryan’s dream of creating his artistic refuge had fallen apart.  The gameplay was unique thanks to the miniboss Big Daddies, but what really sold Bioshock was following this tarnished 1920s dream of a philosophy through its inevitable unwinding.  I was far more thrilled at finding another audio log than I was at killing an enemy.

So when it came time to do the sequel, folks thought in Empire Strikes Back-style rehashes: how can we do more of the same, while making those elements seem new?  And so we went back to Rapture with a twist, to battle the Big Daddies with a twist, and had another semi-twist at pretty much the same place in the plot, and… it felt warmed-over.  Which is the failure mode of ESB sequels – you don’t manage to add enough new stuff, and it’s okay but it’s a faint echo.

Bioshock Infinite goes the more adventurous sequel route.  “Let’s throw out literally everything,” it says.  “No Big Daddies, no underwater city of Rapture, no Ayn Rand – what’s thematically like those, though?”   And so Bioshock Infinite took another, bolder route – exploring the concept of American exceptionalism.

Which is, frankly, tough to do.  The problem with a thematic sequel is that themes are nebulous, and often unsatisfying, and most “Let’s start again” sequels felt like different, less interesting films.  And so I’d never had a real success in this department to compare to.  But if Bioshock Infinite is a warm, sunny baseball park with happy white kids playing a pleasant afternoon game on a Sunday afternoon, then the game itself is one of Babe Ruth’s called shots.

For once again, you investigate a mysterious city – but this one is Columbia, floating above the clouds!  And whereas Rapture was dark, Art Deco, and in decay, Columbia is at the height of its powers, large, grassy, idyllic, populated by barbershop quartets and well-behaved ladies in hoop skirts, eating cotton candy.  The inhabitants literally worship the Founding Fathers, kneeling before large statues of Washington and his Sword, Franklin and his Key, and Jefferson and his Scrolls.  And, of course, they worship the Founder, the religious zealot who created this bold vision of America.

You’re here to erase some debts and find a girl.  And unlike the silent protagonist of Bioshock, you have a voice – you’re a hard-bitten ex-soldier who says things you may or may not agree with.  And eventually, you find the girl and have adventures.

I won’t get into the plot overmuch, but I will say that it’s incredibly ambitious, the kind of weirdness explained that outdoes Inception and makes Lost look like a tangle of strings.  By the time you’re done, you’ll be amazed at the audacity of the plot, which winds its way through time in a way that involves no less than four parallel plots coming together to mesh into something approaching an honest answer.  Not every bit of oddness is explained, but so much of it does make sense once you know the key that Bioshock Infinite outdoes any sci-fi television show I can think of to date in terms of neatly tying things together… and I’m a Babylon 5 fan.

Yet it feels coherent.  This is Bioshock.  It’s not the Bioshock you knew, but all the elements are in place.  It’s the same, but different.

As for the gameplay, it’s probably about 90% tuned.  The controls are slightly twitchy for what they’re trying to do. The end goal is to ride the overhead rails of Columbia, attaching yourself to a rollercoaster that winds its way through the complex levels and having a firefight along the way… But the controls aren’t tuned enough.  You speed along so fast that there’s literally not enough time to aim at the targets you want, and they’re annoyingly late in that you’re trying to dismount onto a villain for a power attack, and instead lamely land three feet in front of him, facing the wrong way.

Add that to the fact that this game loves its smoke effects – your gun actually fogs your vision, on top of fog – so it’s hard to tell where shots are coming from.  And then your companion throws you power-ups in mid-battle, which is helpful but the camera stops to turn at her so you know just who gave you that bottle of salts, and so it means that combat is often a struggle to stay facing the right direction.

That said, fighting is still good when you’re on the ground.  But the aerial sequences seemed closer to luck than to skill, and the tremendously frustrating last level (sadly) relies on so much aerial fighting I dropped the level to “Easy” and felt thoroughly justified.

But Bioshock Infinite doesn’t need the 100% tuned gameplay of, say, a Diablo III, where the enjoyment is all centered in the gameplay.  There’s one long sequence in Bioshock Infinite where all you do is walk up a long hill, press a button and wait for a minute, then do that two more times.  Then you go back down that exact same slope, except faster and without the button pressing.  And yet that sequence is one of the most thrilling moments in Bioshock Infinite, for the tale you’re walking through is so engrossing that you don’t even care that there is literally zero gameplay challenge in it.  It’s a testament to the power of story, which takes the mundane and makes it riveting.

So from now on, when asked what the best sequel ever is, I’ll ask, “Which kind of sequel are we talking here?”  Because Empire Strikes Back did the “more of the same” perfectly. Bioshock Infinite does the “raze the old stuff to the ground and build anew” perfectly.  And both, I think, will be landmarks of their media.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I’ve been playing a fair amount of Borderlands 2, and last night I finally thumped my head against the glass ceiling; level 50, babies.  As high as one can go.

It’s been fun, because Borderlands 2 is not, shall we say, a challenging game.  There’s some mild elements of dexterity involved, but basically it’s an auto-gunner; the game actually has an option to aim your gun for you, homing in on the closest enemy if you get within range.  (Which I use, because the X-Box controller sucks for fine reticule targeting.  I miss my mouse.)  There’s no penalty for dying except they scrape a bit of cash off your account.  It’s nothing like, say, the moderate complexity of Half-Life.

Mostly, Borderlands 2 is about optimizing your build.

It’s a spreadsheet game.  How good a gun can you get?  (As some wag noted, in Borderlands 2, you aren’t a character, you are your gun.)  What skill tree can you max out to support this fabulous gun?  Can you team up with a friend to get better weapon drops?  And from there, it’s all about maximizing damage per second and taking advantages of cooldown times. Occasionally you have to find cover, but if you feel like it you can just walk in guns a-blazing until someone drops you, then respawn and go back.

And that’s oddly relaxing, because I don’t have to work really hard to get ahead in this game, I just have to go here and shoot something and go there and fetch something, and it’s enough activity to keep the game-brain ticking without actually frustrating me.  I can just get into the groove for a few hours.

It wasn’t until the expansions came out, bringing with them special multiplayer-only “raid bosses,” that I realized what Borderlands 2 had done to me:

This was a MMORPG.

A single-player MMORPG.

Once I realized that, it all became clear: the obsession with equipment, the hunt for better drops, even the dudes hanging around with exclamation points over their head.  I’d never played a MMORPG because, well, a game with no end point is a one-way ticket to unemployment for addicted old me.  But here I was, several months of my life into this game, and they’d snuck a MMORPG in under the radar.

And just as predicted, it sucked out several months of my life.  These things are predicated on the Diablo model of advancement; I know Yahtzee hates the “drop and stop” method of playing, but it’s a way of constantly littering your path with just enough rewards to keep you hungry.  It may be another two hours until you level up, but is that gun better?  What about that shield?  Hey, it’s orange, it must be great!  And so you keep yanking that slot machine trigger, firing at things in the hopes of getting the massively great gun.

As it is, I’ll probably quit until they raise the level cap.  The Pirate expansion was quite good, but the Torgue expansion is drier, and as it is the Siren build I have stops dead one level before I get Blight Phoenix, the one skill I was working towards.  So unless they make it level 60, and let me have my gouts of acid, flame, and slag, then I’m not interested.

But I find it fascinating, the way that they basically ripped off much of what made World of Warcraft work and just quietly turned it into a first-person shooter.  Well done, Borderlands.  Well done.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I’d determined to beat the final quest in Borderlands 2 yesterday.  And I cheated.

I’m still proud.

See, the final boss involves going up against a huge dragon in a lava pit, who in the traditional of all final bosses has a zillion ways of killing you, a zillion hit points, and a zillion smaller minions to distract and whittle you down.  Plus, there’s an ugly one-hit kill where he can knock you into the lava and you die.

I died.

Then I went back, thinking I’d find a good place to snipe from and take him out from a distance – but of course, there was a big blue barrier to prevent such shenanigans.  You had to get into the pit with him and go head-to-gigantic-dragon-head.

Except as I watched, I noticed when he did a certain move, his horns stuck up over the barrier.  Hey, can I hit that?  Sure enough, I could pop it for 70 points of damage – not too much when he had 10,000 hit points, but it was a start.

So yes.  I sat there for forty-five minutes with a rifle, waiting for him to do that move, clipping the top of his horns, reloading.  My wife and daughter razzed me.  “Are you killing him or giving him a haircut?”

Eventually, the dragon stopped moving.  I figured, “Great, this is the developers’ finger in the face to me.  I’ve spammed this cheesy move as much as possible, which they foresaw, and now they’ll make me go into the pit and face an even angrier dragon.”

Except he wasn’t.  He was motionless.  After forty-five minutes of running amuck, he must have run out of moves.  So I just emptied my rocket launcher at him, and dead dragon.

The weird thing is, I feel proud.  I beat both the game and the developers with an exploit.  It was a stupid exploit, sure, but I figure I’m owed; for every time I died in Borderlands 2 because clipping errors got me stuck on a rock while I was retreating, I now paid in full thanks to their logic.  I was preening by the end of it.

Such are the silly ways of videogames.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My daughter Erin has mostly stopped playing Borderlands 2 with me, and it may be time for me to take a break.  This is because the mission design of Borderlands 2 is pretty damned dreadful, and the skill tree is a disappointment.

Now, the core run-n-gun gameplay is fun, which partially saves it.  But each mission you can take is long – I’d estimate at least an hour to two hours for each one, assuming you’re mildly incompetent, as we are.  And it’s long in the same way, in that most missions involve you fighting your way through a bunch of enemies to find the foozle.

There’s gotta be some study for “ideal mission length” that Diablo uses to entrap people’s souls, but Borderlands misses the mark.  See, when the missions get to be that long, you forget what the point of them is.  Sure, there’s a lot of clever writing about how you’re trying to hunt down a broadcast radio or rescue an innocent or deliver a fire cultist to the immolation pit… but when you’ve spent the last forty-five minutes repeatedly shooting and running and taking cover and hiding, you forget all that.  The flavor drains away, and you’re enmeshed in the same stupid gameplay mechanics, fighting your way to the blue rectangle on the map.  I can’t count the number of times I finally reached the goal and forgot why I was supposed to be there.

So what’s left is the mechanics.  “Oh, here I am, shooting again.  Just like I was an hour ago.”

Plus, the goals are often these absurdly padded multi-part extravaganzas: hey, don’t just kill one mutated vorkid in an annoying acid-melting fight, fight four of them!  Don’t just have one part to this tea party mission, have five of them!  And of course, you get no XP until you’ve eaten every last one of your vegetables.

It might help a little if the levelling up was more rewarding, but too many of the skills are passive (and thus easily forgotten), like “reloading faster after you kill an enemy.”  It doesn’t really seem like you’re reloading faster.  There’s no graphical doodad to remind you that this +15% speed boost is, in fact, a reward, so it just feels like you’re the same old guy.  And then half the skill tree things have multiple levels, so levelling up has zero excitement – what am I doing for the next five levels?  Well, I guess I’m maxing out this skill.

It’s a good game at the core, but it’s the little things that are fucking killing it.  If they’d had twenty-minute missions, then it would feel flavorful, like I’m making constant progress.  I’d be addicted.  As it is, I’m thinking of taking a break, and Erin already has.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I’ve been playing a fair amount of Borderlands 2 co-op with my daughter, which is an interesting experience.  Usually, I need some game about every three months to obsess over – it’s how I relax – but now that Erin’s here, we’re mowing through it together.

Playing co-op when you’re both moderately incompetent is amusing.  I’m sure there are players who coordinate strategies – “Oh, I’ll choose the skill tree that buffs warriors, and you’ll tilt towards AOE spells!” – but Erin and I just sort of run around in circles, asking, “WHERE ARE YOU?”  During one particularly intense battle, I cleared out and finished an entire quest subtree while Erin drove around in a car trying to find me.

The stuff of heroism, I tell you.

Still, it’s fun to crack wise about the game as we play, and the company makes me feel not quite as reclusive.  Even if I feel like we should, you know, flank or coordinate strategies or do anything aside from have two guns in the room instead of one.  And the game is tilted towards co-op, mainly due to the awesome “Fight For Your Life!” mechanic, wherein when you die, you have thirty seconds in slow-mo to kill an enemy.  If you do, you get “Second Wind!” and re-enter the game with limited health and shields.  This means that when I’m down, Erin can help me out by accidentally killing the dude I was shooting at, thus dooming me to respawning.

And it’s also fun listening to others do the Equipment Romance, which has five steps:

1)  (Optional) ZOMG THIS GUN IS SO BADASS I’M NOT EVEN LEVELLED UP TO USE IT YET.  This is gonna be so awesome in two levels!

2)  This gun kills God.  In one shot.  I will never ever not use this gun.

3)  Whoo, these enemies are tough.

4)  Why am I dying so much?  It seems like I’m shooting a lot before I actually do damage.  But this weapon has so many extras, like fire and explosions!

5)  Christ, this gun sucks.  I gotta get a new one.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

These days, people play videogames to pretend to be a badass.  In my day, you had to be a badass.

I say this because I finished playing Prototype 2 this weekend, the epitome of the “Press X to kick ass” style of videogame that’s become increasingly prevalent.  You play a virus-infected shapeshifter who slurps up enemies, runs up buildings, and slices tanks in half.

Yet none of this is difficult.

To hijack a tank, you press B to grab it and then mash X to tear its gun off.  The military rains useless gunfire down on you while you mash Y to Hammerfist them into oblivion.  You can fall infinite distances and never get hurt, soaring over the landscape before slaughtering a crowd full of people by mistake as you land in a thunderclap.  Even the boss battles are rendered easy, as you destroy a cancerous giant one limb at a time, your targeting system telling you which leg is vulnerable.

You’re doing these incredibly difficult things, but it boils down to “mash these buttons.”  You feel like a God because hell, you’re destroying the city block, but none of it is difficult once you master the control scheme.  I got through the game in less than a week, playing part-time.  Which is pretty much the same as God of War, wherein you perpetrate legendary violence through a series of Simon Says events, and Mass Effect and Dragon Age wherein you can destroy entire caverns full of mooks right off the bat, or Grand Theft Auto.

Videogames have made power fantasies trivial.  Here!  Do this quicktime event to DESTROY THE UNIVERSE!  You pressed X, then Y, then A?  You, sir, are a badass.

Which is interesting, because the worlds of my old videogames were designed to kill you quickly, so the next quarter could be inserted.  Their whole profit margin involved shuffling you to that “GAME OVER” screen as soon as possible.

When I was a kid, the world was designed to show you how insignificant you were.  You weren’t the center of a universe that was waiting hand-and-foot for you to come along and rescue them; you were a small, pizza-shaped wedge beset by four ghosts, any of whom could kill you by touching you.  You were a spaceship at the bottom of a screen, harangued by hundreds of flying, shooting enemies.  You were a small spaceship struggling to survive in a deadly asteroid field.  You died easily, trivially, unfairly.

Your only way to survive was to become legend.

There was no easy way to do this, aside from applying hard-earned skill.  You plunked quarters into the damn machine until you figured out the patterns, honed your reflexes, slid into the game’s rhythm.  Bit by bit, you lasted longer: two minutes. Five.  Ten.  If you were exceptionally good you might last fifteen, at which point other pasty nerds would edge forward to watch you, knowing they were seeing something that few got to witness.  Sometimes you’d show them screens that had only existed in rumor before.

There was no in-game reward, and little out-of-game reward, as videogames weren’t particularly cool then.  But the right people would know that you had that high score, your three letters your call sign (“WTS” for me early on, “WZL” now), the unremarkable skill.

There were no faux-skills to be built up.  You had to learn a real skill – perhaps one that wasn’t usable anywhere anywhere else, but one that set you apart from other people.  You didn’t pretend to be a badass soldier – you became a badass player, and that in turn gave you a strange and ephemeral confidence.  You’d watch the novices play and realize how far you’d come.  You’d put the quarter in and feel invincible.

Thing is, I spent maybe fourteen hours devastating New York in Prototype 2.  I tore the heads of goliaths, I firebombed secret bunkers, I fought the US Army and the mercenary forces of watches to a standstill, then defeated Alex Mercer in an epic rooftop battle.

Yet none of that meant one-tenth as much to me as my legendary Ms. Pac-Man run, where I spent two agonizing hours racking up a personal best score with my Dad and wife at my side cheering me on.  Because in one game, all of my prowess was granted to me by a developer who wanted me to feel good about myself.  In another, I had painstakingly built up an arsenal of skills over the years, stealing prowess from a developer who wanted me to die, die, and die now.

The design has changed.  And I wonder how that affects people today.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As it turns out, I only play videogame RPGs to have sex with people.  But it’s not shallow, I swear.  I just like to talk.

See, in Bioware’s videogames like Mass Effect 3, there are invariably romances to be had – which can only be unlocked by talking repeatedly to your “friends” at every turn, unlocking new conversation trees, finding out new things about your pals (who invariably have interesting histories).  And if you’re open for a romance, you can keep talking to various people, having them fall more in love with you, until eventually you unlock the side-boob sex scene in Act III.

This is the juice of the game.  Without this lure of finding out more about your friends, all the BioWare games are reduced to “Let’s enter another dungeon and kill baddies!”  The romance is what turns a bunch of wandering monster encounters into a story.

Unfortunately, Mass Effect 3 cockblocked me.

See, I spent all of Mass Effect 2 romancing [NAME REDACTED], a long and arduous romance that was actually the most fulfilling videogame romance I’ve ever had.  I actually felt protective of her, such was the magnificent writing of Mass Effect – yes, it’s silly to fall for a fictional character, but damn if they didn’t get me to do it.

So when Mass Effect 3 told me that [NAME REDACTED] was a romance possibility, and we could continue dating if we’d dated in ME2, I was thrilled!  I’d have more conversations with my sweetie!  We’d spend more time together!  I’d find more about her history, what she was up to now!  It was like a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew….

So imagine my disappointment when the “romance” consisted of “I meet her in a club, say ‘I miss you,’ we dance together once, and she goes off to a place where I never see her again.”

Worse, this “romance” barred me from romancing anyone else.  I didn’t realize this dance was an iron-clad commitment, but suddenly all the other romantic possibilities had nothing to say to me.  I’d go into their room and click on them, and they’d say nothing.

This is terrible design.  But it actually made me cry.

Because in Mass Effect 3, the whole story is about terrible choices and how your character, Shepherd, is the only one who can make them.  It’s implied heavily that this is a suicide mission.  And here I am, with all of my friends refusing to talk to me, alone and horrendously isolated as I’m reduced to a mindless fighting machine with no friends….

…It wasn’t what they intended.  But somehow, this lack of conversational options made me feel like the world was ending.  Which is sort of a genius misfire, actually.

The thing about Mass Effect 3 is that the game is top-notch, but the story is lacking. I won’t give (major) spoilers (though if you’re spoiler-allergic on all fronts, then walk away now), but the ending is craptastic for three reasons:

1)  The ending is utterly not dependent on anything you’ve done before.  It comes out of nowhere, and you’re given some choices, but if you’ve played Paragon the whole time and decide to fuck the world with a Renegade ending, sure!  Go ahead!  The hundred or so hours of history you’ve poured into all three games don’t enter into it.

2)  You don’t find out what happens to your companions afterwards.  Dragon Age did this right – you got to hear the history of all your pals and know whether your choices helped or hindered them.  The last you see of your best friends, they’re entangled in the Huge-Ass War that ends the series.  Are they alive or dead?  Well, I guess you don’t need to know.  (I am vaguely lying about one part of this to preserve mystique.)

3)  To get the “good” ending, you must either a) play a shit-ton of multiplayer, or b) pay Bioware $7.99 for the iPhone application.  This is bullshit EA practice, because winning at multiplayer gets easier – surprise! – if you pay EA money for the upgrades.

It does not help that BioWare is lying their fucking ass off on this one.  When I posted about this on Twitter, several people pointed me towards BioWare’s PR person saying, “No, you can get the good ending if you just play all the quests.”  This is untrue.  You can get the good ending if you come in with a 100% Paragon/Renegade save from ME1 and ME2 and do every quest in ME3.  Stutter a little at any point in this segment, and you will come up short.  I did every quest I could find, and still wound up 400 points short of the “good” ending.  (It doesn’t help that to get the “perfect” game, you have to be Manual, Dangit perfect.)

In other words, the only way to get the good ending is to have been obsessive for all three games.  Otherwise, shell out money, or play a game that you really didn’t want to play.  (And the non-good endings are sufficiently downers that there are online petitions with 10,000 signatures asking for BioWare to put out a DLC to get a better ending.  People are willing to pay to have a satisfying ending, which should show you how dismal it is.)

This is unfortunate, because whenever Dragon Age 3 comes out, you bet your ass that I’m going to see whether EA fucks me over by forcing me to jump through their hoops.  If they do, I’m not buying.  I dig they need alternative revenue sources, and I appreciate the add of multiplayer, but if I wanted fucking multiplayer I’d play Call of Duty.  There are better ways to encourage me.

So.  Mass Effect 3 is like Return of the Jedi – a little disappointing, certainly lacking the momentum of the previous films, but pretty good.  I liked a lot of it.  Sadly, the ending is the major disappointment, and the thing I’m most likely to remember.  So it goes.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Here’s how dumb marrying is in Skyrim:

1)  You have to buy a magic necklace for 200 gold.  Once you do, you’re eligible.

2)  Find a stranger, who says all of the other identical things that strangers do.  Ask them to marry you.  They may require you to kill somebody first.

3)  A ceremony later, you’re married!  To someone with zero personality!  It’s like marrying a Kardashian.

My question: Who the fuck finds this satisfying?

I mean, okay, I adore the romance-trees in Bioware games, where after a lot of talking and conversation trees and exploring the personality of a well-written character, there’s an option to go to romance.  That’s fine, because I’m invested in that person, and am, if not attracted, at least understanding who this person is that I’m committing to.

But why even bother in Skyrim?  There’s nobody you talk to often enough to really know who they are.  I married my hireling, a fellow magic college student, and the only thing she ever did to me was to cast two botched spells on me.  Why would I want to commit to her in any way?  What do I know about her?

Likewise, in Fable, I can marry and have kids, but you know what I know about my wife?  She’s really amused by my amazing arm-farting skills.  As is every other fucking woman in town.  I can stand in the town square, farting and dancing, and I’ll have a flock of enamored women and men surrounding me like chickens.

So why even bother?  Why would you marry some personality-less entity, who looks like one of a thousand others like them?  Are these games trying to say that marriage really is about just getting service (since you can pay 500 gold to hire a sidekick, or just marry them) and pumping out indistinguishable children?  It’s not even like the Sims, where these people express at least people-specific quirks, it’s a set of completely interchangeable idiots you can marry, or not, and marrying doesn’t change a thing in your life.

Look.  I want to fall in love in games.  But it’s with people, not sprites.  I don’t even understand why they’re bothering to put in these options if they’re so poorly done, or who they really appeal to.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’ve been playing Skyrim for a while, as has the known universe, and along the way you pick up quests like stray dogs pick up ticks.  You can’t avoid getting a quest.  Talk to a stranger and they’ll hand you tasks by the armful, leaving Skyrim so helpless you wonder how they get anything done without relying on mute foreigners to do their work for them.

Thankfully, all of these quests are listed on your Quest menu, and when I’m between big quests I’ll try to fill out the smaller ones that I have, apparently, completed incidentally without even realizing I’ve helped somebody: “Collect the bounty from Raerek,” or “Return to Talen-Jai.”

Then I saw “Go kill the chief at Dragon Bridge Overlook.”

So I went off to slaughter him.  I didn’t know why.  I had no recollection of anyone even asking me to kill these people, nor did I have any particular motivation to do so.  It was just on my list.  And as I stood among the dead bodies, I finally realized:

"You're not a killer. That's why you're so good at it."

I had become Leonard Shelby.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I like naked people, and I like Rock Band.  And for years, I’ve been caught in this awful Scylla and Charybdis conundrum: Gee, I’m having fun being naked with these people, but I’d really like to be playing Rock Band. Or This Rock Band sure is entertaining, but all these clothes are too restrictive.

Hence, the need for official rules for Strip Rock Band.

Now, I have some friends in other locales who are famed for their strip Rock Band parties, but the local scuttlebutt is that the stripping proceeds asynchronously – some people have all of their clothes on, if they are not playing Rock Band.  This shall not do for me.  (And besides, it was more entertaining to try to devise them on my own.) Plus, there may be large numbers of people who’d want to attend a strip Rock Band party, and since the main goal of a strip game is to get everyone naked, doing it through the narrow gateway of one person every song seemed unduly laggardly.

In addition, some people wanted a punitive measure to allow the losers to catch up – if you were a great Rock Band player, you might never remove an item of clothing.  Some suggested that every winner should be forced to do a shot, but I’ve had bad experiences with drinking games – I turn into a real asshole if I don’t monitor my drinking carefully.  So I wanted to have an optional way where a) people who wanted to do it as a drinking game could, but b) those who chose not to drink would be forced to doff clothing.

Hence: The Official Beta-Rules Of Strip Rock Band.

1) Every person entering the house is assigned semi-randomly to one of four teams: tentatively called Paul, John, George, and Ringo.

2)  When you join a team, you must a) choose a difficulty setting (“Easy” to “Expert”), which you will play at all night, and b) decide whether you are in the “official drinkers” or not.

3) Each song must be manned by people from at least three different groups.  (So at least Paul, John, and Ringo must be playing on the song to count for strip purposes.)

4)  You “win” a song by achieving the highest percentage on the song.  If you “win,” all members of the team who are listed as “official drinkers” must do a shot.

5) You “lose” a song by achieving the lowest percentage on the song.  If you “lose,” all members of the team must remove an item of clothing.

6)  If two or more groups tie for a percentage, the wins or losses are spread across all groups.  (So if Paul and George both get 67% in a song, bottoming out, all members of Paul and George must lose an item of clothing.)

7)  You gotta at least try.  No bullshit dropping the controller to make everybody strip.  If I’m not allowing “NO FAIL” mode at my house, I’m not allowing auto-fail mode either.  :)

The only problem we have thus far is the problem of late arrivers.  I’m still not sure whether they should just be forced to strip down on arrival, which is potentially humiliating but fair, or whether we force them to play repeatedly until they doff one at a time.  Or perhaps some other mechanism.  Certainly we’ll have an good idea of which team is the most losing team, so it should be easy to slot them on.

Also, it feels like this system is gamed fairly easily. If y’all have any improvements, I’m listening.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The glory of Arkham Asylum was that whenever Batman died, you never felt like it was his fault.  Batman was a chained panther, so eager to beat up criminals that you had the feeling if you dropped the controller, Batman might keep punching Joker gang members because he had not dispensed SUFFICIENT JUSTICE.

The controls were so tight, and Batman so obviously competent, that any time you died, it felt like you had let Batman down.  You were insufficient.  Batman remained bad-ass.

Which is why it’s such a shame that Arkham City turns Batman into Rain Man.

I was a little worried about Arkham City because it was an open-ended game, a la Grand Theft Auto, as opposed to the “Walk through this level ’til you hit the cut scene” of Arkham Asylum. And I get lost going to the bathroom.  As a man with no sense of direction, in a city that’s designed for rooftop swings and alleyway scuffles, I was terrified that Arkham City would just leave me wandering in circles, desperately trying to find my way to the next mission.

And lo!  Guess what happened?  There’s a map, but no obvious way to set a waypoint marker – or at least it hasn’t come up on the tutorials yet, and the “instruction manual” is literally a two-page sheet of emptiness that warns you about extended playing time.  So I’m flailing about the city, not sure which direction I’m facing, bringing up the map and going fifty feet, bringing up the map and making sure I haven’t gotten turned around, bringing up the map and…

OH SHUT UP BATMAN.

Batman Is Annoying (Altered from a picture via Z3ldaFan)See, the problem with Arkham City is that when Batman’s on the case, because he can go anywhere, Batman helpfully reminds you of what you’re supposed to do next by muttering it to himself.  “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter,” he says.  And that’s great!  Thanks for the help, Bats!

Then, thirty seconds later, he says it again.  “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.”  Which is somewhat less helpful, because not very much time has passed, and Bats has not pointed towards the belltower, nor given any other indication in a possible direction where it might lie.

“I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.” “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.” “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.” Every thirty fucking seconds.  Eventually my wife was shouting, “SHUT UP BATMAN SHUT UP.”

Batman might as well be wandering around muttering, “Ten minutes to Wapner.  Ten minutes to Wapner.” It’s like Navi’s “Hey!  Listen!” only not quite as helpful – because despite all of Bats’ arsenal, a simple compass doesn’t seem to be one of them.

This makes Batman not a caged panther, but an annoying pal.  “You’re the great fucking detective,” you say.  “How about just grappling hooking your way to where you need to be so I can punch some more bad guys?”  But no.  “IhavetoscalethebelltowerIhavetoscalethebelltowerIhavetoscalethebelltowerGAH NOW I KNOW HOW THE JOKER FEELS.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun punching bad guys.  But the game seems woefully short on explaining the user experience – there was one level where three switches needed to be shut off to stop Batman from dying to steam.  (Yes, in my game, badass Batman died from walking into steam.)  And I spent ten minutes hitting each switch with a Batarang, as had been explained in a previous segment, but there wasn’t enough time – I’d fire one Batarang, and by the time the next one hit, the other switches had flipped back on again.  (Because they are, apparently, mysterious switches that flip back on by themselves.  Happen all the time.)

It wasn’t until I broke down and looked at a cheat guide, which told me, “Just tap the button three times quick.  You don’t even need to aim.  Batman will do that for you.”  GOOD TO FUCKING KNOW, ARKHAM CITY, THANKS FOR EXPLAINING THIS RAPID-FIRE BUTTON IN THE MANUAL – WAIT, THERE’S NO MANUAL – OR THE TUTORIAL THAT DOESN’T EXIST. THANKS FOR LETTING ME SPEND ALL THIS GODDAMNED TIME AIMING.

So it’s not a terrible game, but my opinion of it after two hours of play is that it’s a fairly unpolished addition to Arkham Asylum.  Fortunately, Arkham Asylum was so polished that I can beat up random bad guys all day and still feel pretty good about myself.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

…but damn if this 360-degree playspace for FPSes doesn’t look impressive as all hell.

Now, while the whole “run around and shoot” thing looks awesome, I’m not sure how those teeny treadmills underneath are going to keep me in the frame when I start running in terror.  Plus, like the Kinect, we are slothful gamers who will collapse in a puddle.  It’s one thing to play Marines with your fingers, another to do it with your whole body.

Still, I wanna at least see.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Deus Ex is the first game where I’ve been disappointed due to the writing. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Portal was the first game where I loved it almost entirely because of the writing, but you have to remember: I’m an Atari 2600 kid, back when videogames were just blocks and bleeps and bloops.  It’s odd, to see how videogames have evolved to the point where the gameplay can be 80% satisfying and yet the experience falls critically flat because I just don’t care about the characters.

The problem with Deus Ex is that 90% of its story is told via hacked emails, which – as I’ve bitched about before – are in low-contrast fonts that are too small to read comfortably on my screen.  So I wound up skimming them, even though I’m usually the guy who reads everything.  And if you don’t do the homework, then the plot becomes a barrage of OMG PLOT TWISTS where characters you barely know interact with story arcs you really haven’t been introduced to.

The fatal flaw here is that you don’t really interact with the main characters – or, rather, you have one or two conversations, but they’re not characters so much as transparent mouthpieces for the three core philosophies of the game (ZOMG MECHANICAL AUGMENTATION IS BAD!!! vs TECHNOLOGY IS THE LULZ!!!! vs CHOICE! CHOICE! CHOICE!).  It’s like a live-action Matrix: Reloaded game where you don’t talk, you just exchange diatribes.

To make things worse, you never encounter the lead characters doing anything interesting: they’re always off on the side between missions, talking to you about what they didn’t do. It’s like if James Bond encountered Goldfinger in between action sequences and Goldfinger just stood there, helplessly, denying everything he did and never actually tying you up or killing all his competitors on-screen or even showing off his spiffy new chapeau-wielding henchman.

That’s not a cool villain.  It’s a shadowy manipulator, sure, but it’s not satisfying.

So I knew nothing about them except what they represented.  And the guys I was actually supposed to beat up, the boss villains?  I knew less than nothing about, so I didn’t care when I beat them.  A particularly egregious example: From Wikipedia, I learn that one of the main villains is supposedly paranoid, since “being one of few women in a male-dominated profession has strongly influenced her worldview, making her cautious of everything around her.”

That would have been interesting to see.  Too bad Deus Ex didn’t bother to tell me.

As such, I didn’t have any real stake in the plot.  This is a game where the cut-scenes annoyed me, because the characters were all like, “OH MY GOD, YOU REALIZE THIS MEANS – ” and I was all like “Yes, yes, can you just drop me in the next room of crates so I can kick some ass?”

This “Philosophy over action” applies to, sadly, the end credits.  You have four choices you can make at the end, and they all seem cool…. except you don’t actually find out what happened.  Instead, you get a big windy speech justifying why it was so great you pushed the RAH TECHNOLOGY button, and never see whether pushing humanity towards cyborgization had any effect, positive or negative.  Look, fuckers, I don’t care about proposing augmentation, I care about knowing whether I made a difference. Like, you know, happened in the first Deus Ex.

(Also, the speech makes a big deal about how you’re a moral man who cares about people.  That makes sense for me, since I spent much of the game going out of my way to knock people out and not kill anyone.  Those who went through the game as a buzz saw through guard-skulls, however, will find a monologue that is laughably and provably wrong.)

Furthermore, the philosophical choices are weighted so ridiculously that it’s imbalanced.  On the one hand, you have the anti-augmentation side, who wants to beat you up and steal your lunch money and kill anyone who has contact lenses.  On the pro-augmentation side, you have every power-up that ever existed, giving you all the cool features that allow you to super-soldier your way to goodness.  Why would anyone be anti-augmentation by the end of the game?  There’s absolutely zero attempt to show us any disadvantages to having these augs (aside from the vulnerabilities that the antis exploit, and that’s not what they’re concerned about).

It’s like having an entire faction in the game be anti-puppy.  IF WE RELY ON MERE CANINES TO PROVIDE US WITH LOVE, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HUMANITY?

It’s not all a wasteland – I did care about my pilot, and they were smart enough to put her in danger – but in the end, no matter what good choices or bad choices you make, you get the same damn ending. So why did I make choices, then, if it has no real consequence? Shoot the whores, man, save them, they’re all ultimately worthless.

The gameplay is pretty good, too, except that the augmentation tree is a distinct disappointment.  Some of the tech trees are flat-out useless.  I played a stealth player, and literally left the whole “stealth” tree behind because all it did was show cones of vision on tiny sub-screen I wasn’t watching.  Likewise, the invisibility cloak burned up so much energy that I never bought it.  I finished the game with five upgrade slots completely unused just because I didn’t want them. That’s the sign of one stunted tech-tree.

You want to know what breaks the game?  You put all your points into hacking.  That’s it.  Once you hack, you get bonus experience every twenty feet, you take over turrets, you shut down cameras. Hacking is so superior to everything else that there’s literally no reason not to master it, even if you’re a psycho killborg.

Part of the problem is that you have batteries that fuel your powers… But that battery, while it recharges slowly on its own, never recharges beyond one bar.  You can buy extra bars with augmentations, but if you want to fill those bars, you need to use power-up items.  Which is dumb.  It means that the items that use energy become a liability, unless you can get usage out of them with one bar – otherwise, you’re burning precious power-up items.  This nerfs the cloak, nerfs the special sight requirements, and everything else. Why spent slots on augmentations that are hard to use and consume resources when you can just HAXX0R?

Don’t get me wrong – Deus Ex is a fun game.  Near the end, you feel like a complete badass.  In terms of gameplay, it completely absorbed me.

But I shouldn’t be irritated by a cutscene.  I was.  STOP INTERRUPTING MY GUARD-CHOKINGS WITH YOUR STUPID STORY, DEUS EX.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I’m still winding my way through Deus Ex, but there’s an act of hilarity that absolutely kills me in the game.

For a game that wants you to save and reload a lot, Deus Ex is stunningly incompetent.  When you save a game, it churns for about twenty seconds, then provides you with a dialogue box (Hit “A” to continue!) that alerts you that boy howdy, that game’s done been saved.  Then you have to navigate all the way back out of the menu to the play screen.

Why does Deus Ex simply not return you, transparently, to your play-screen, with an on-screen message in the HUD saying “Game Saved”?  MORTALS CANNOT KNOW.

The good news is that t exit out of the menu, you must mash the “B” button at least twice, and generally out of impatience you’ll do it more.  But once you’ve dropped back into gameworld, the “B” button mutates from “Exit Menu” to “Punch whoever’s standing next to you in the face.”

So if you’re saving next to, say, an old man eating noodles at a shop, you’ll just randomly deck him.  It’s like your character’s so frustrated by this stupid game that he decides to crack-a-lack random strangers right in the chops.

…of course, you then have to reload the game, because then every cop and gang member in the world decides you must be filled with lead-induced holes, necessitating a minute-long reload sequence… but it’s worth it.  Almost.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Usually, I go in guns blazing.  That’s because I don’t have the time to be stealthy.

“Stealthy” in videogames means “you creep everywhere at half-pace, waiting for guards to walk by, hoping their broken goddamned AI doesn’t spot you out of the corner of one visual cone and call every guard in the world in upon you.” Plus, I have a goldfish’s sense of direction, so no matter how many maps you throw at me, I get lost.  So what inevitably happens is that I wind up getting lost, then trying to find my way back in slow-motion, hoping no guards see me or the trail of bodies I’ve left behind.

Or I could just kill the guards, then kill any other guards who come at me, and never have to worry about them again.  This seems like a better option.  Break out the bullets.

(Plus, for some reason, designers have decided that “crouch” means “stealth.”  I’ve seen sneaky people.  They walk a lot whenever possible, and usually the guy hunch-lumping his way along the sidewalk draws more attention.  Plus, I keep getting cramps in my thighs imagining crouch-walking for, like, an entire day, as videogame characters seem to do.)

Except for Deus Ex, I started stealthy and have stayed stealthy, and for no apparent reason am very much enjoying it this time.  I don’t know why.  I’ve learned that there are a lot more ways that “stealth” can go wrong, because one impatient move sets off the whole damn alarm system.  You have to check every corner, monitor every footstep, hack every terminal.  Which means a lot more reloads, because I walked across a hallway and OH FUCK HE NOTICED, HERE’S SEVEN GUARDS, MISE WELL RELOAD.

I am like five levels in on Deus Ex, and with a straight-up shooty approach I’m pretty sure I’d be halfway to winning the game.  Instead, I’m repeatedly trying to get the near-perfect level.

Still, I think I am at least getting the thrill of the stealth player, which is that I am a different kind of God.  With the guns-out method, I am the Avatar of Arnie – they turn into blood fountains the moment I lay my eyes upon them.  But there is no fear; hell, there’s no time for fear.  In fact, they all charge at me, so confident that they can destroy me, that their brains are rapidly-expanding chunks of desegregated neurons before the Is this really a wise idea? thought begins to trickle through their neural networks.

With the stealth, it’s a trick; they never know I’m here, but their world is falling apart around them.  The only time they see me is when they stumble across a body, or notice that the turrets are now working for me – and then there’s that delightful moment of them going, “Hey!  What’s happening?” and I feast on their panic before hello, boys, did you miss me?  I’m the early-Rambo mode, the man who hides in bizarre places and drops down, the Batman.

Of course, I’m still notably terrible at stealth because I treat the guards like Pokemon.  I’m supposed to avoid the ones who aren’t bothering me, but I hunt every one down and knock them out.  I can’t leave if there’s a man standing; they all have to be heaped in the corner, made senseless puppets.  In this sense, I become John Wayne Cleaver’s wet dream.

Still, it’s fascinating.  And has the benefit of making the videogame take a lot longer to finish. So I may have to try this approach again in the future.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I picked up the new Deus Ex last night, which is a surprisingly punishing game. Get shot at for about three-quarters of a second, you’re dead.  Then, a long load screen. A better deal than most people getting shot at for three-quarters of a second, but still.

Then I encountered The Impossible Mission.On the third goddamned level.

See, you walk past two cops to infiltrate a base full of mean guys who have taken hostages.  Your goal: to gain control of the base.  And Deus Ex is famed for the flexibility of its missions, where you can go in guns blazing, sneak, or hacking. They even gave me a choice: do you want a real gun, or a tranquilizer dart?

Of course I chose the dart. I never like killing people if I can avoid it.

Except this mission offered me no choice.  I walked past the two cops, into a small hallway that made a right-hand turn – and there were three bad guys just standing there.  I tranqued the first one, who sagged like a sack of potatoes – but the second guy had full combat armor.  My darts bounced off his skull, and he shot me.  To death.

I tried tranq-darting him a couple of times, but no; his armor was invulnerable to my piddly darts. What kind of stupid fucking level design is this?  Give me a weapon that doesn’t work?

Maybe I’m supposed to sneak past. I investigated every corner of the run-up hallway for ducts to sneak through, hidden weapons to use.  Nothing.  My only option was to run into these three guys, all standing to face me, and get shot to fucking death.

Maybe if I ran past real fast… Nope.  Dead.  This reload screen sure is long.

After an hour, I pulled up a walkthrough. The walkthrough, stupidly, started after this trifecta death squad!  What the fuck?  I mean, the game’s only been out for two days, but you’d think someone would have provided hints as to how to get past these three beefcakes here. Who designed this fucking level?

Ninety minutes in, and a lot of screaming, I decided that maybe the invulnerable armored guys had a weak spot in back I was supposed to shoot – which seemed unfair on an early level, since they had their backs to the walls and were facing me, but still.  So I crouched to hide – well, as much as I could in full light – and crept, slowly, around the far wall to look at the guy’s backside.  Maybe there was a quick-kill option if you got within range.  But the AI on these guys was monstrously stupid – here I was, creeping past an unconscious dude seven feet away, and they don’t even look at me.

I get within arm’s reach, and…. a dialogue option appears. And light dawns over Marblehead:

These aren’t the bad guys.

They’re the second row of cops, there to escort me into the building.

Well, maybe they shouldn’t fucking shoot to kill the first time I tranquilize one of their guys. Or, you know, say “WHAT THE FUCK, CYBERPUNK” as they fire. Regardless, I realize the toughest mission in this game, the true unbeatable level, is the one where I decided to betray my covert organization on my first mission.

Well done, Steinmetz.  Well.  Done.

 

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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