Archive for the ‘Computer Games’ Category

So there I was recently, playing Goat Simulator, as you do during boring phone calls. When I quit, I looked at my Steam library, and noticed this game, Scourge: Outbreak. I didn’t remember buying it, and turns out I didn’t.

A year or three back I got Scourge Project in some kind of Steam sale deal, and I played for five minutes and quit. Turns out that Scourge: Outbreak is a remake of that game, and they gave it free to everyone on Steam who owned the original.

I honestly couldn’t remember anything about that game, so I thought I might as well install it and give it a try.

Start it up. Unskippable ad videos telling me it uses the Unreal engine and other time-wasting crap. Ugh. Why?

Really, just why? A new player starts up your game, excited to try it, and you make them sit through a minute or so of ad videos.

Who, exactly, in the game companies thinks this is a good idea?

Starting a new game gives you a choice between four different characters, and some guff about what each one is best at, but who cares? I picked the girl, because it’s a third-person game, and I’m going to be staring at someone’s butt while playing, so it might as well be hers.

So, on to the cut-scenes. At least they’re skippable, unlike Mass Effect‘s half-hour streams of boredom. Then the optional tutorial, which demonstrates how your character walks miserably slowly on their way to shoot a few things. Which is where you first learn some of the game’s horrible flaws.

The first is that the graphics are pretty dismal, even by console standards. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much from a free game, but it delivered less. It looks as bad as Mass Effect on a bad day.

It’s another game with a ‘cover’ system requiring you to use special commands to hide behind cover, rather than just, you know, hiding behind cover. Any game that needs a cover system is just admitting that its user interface is horribly broken.

Oh, OK, it’s clearly a console game, so obviously its user interface is horribly broken.

You can only carry two weapons, because allowing you to carry more than two might be too much like fun, and that’s not allowed.

The space bar is used for jump, hide and run, and there’s no discernable way to tell which it’s going to do. The middle mouse button is used for magic shield and magic attack (they don’t call it that, but that’s basically what it is), and there’s no discernable way to tell what it’s going to do. The magic attack is powered by some magic goo that you have to collect, and about two attacks use up all your goo, so what’s the point?

Since it is a multiplayer game at heart, playing single player means you’re lumbered with three artificially stupid team-mates. The tutorial also demonstrates the really limited order system you can use to work around that artificial stupidity, but who wants to be forced to command bots in a shooter game?

There’s a lot of plot twaddle. And more plot twaddle. And something about a meteorite or something. I don’t know, because I was sick of cut-scenes and skipped it all. Not to mention that the horrible flickering in one of the cut-scenes threatened to give me an epilepsy attack. Then more cut-scenes. Then you get to walk slowly to some weird capsule thing. Then there are more cut-scenes.

So, you’re playing some super-elite soldier babe, and the tutorial has introduced you to a number of weapons that you can use, so what do you think it’s going to do now? Yes, you guessed it, it’s going to take all those weapons away from you and leave you with a pistol. Because having the weapons you want to use might be too much like fun.

Since it’s a third-person cover shooter, you spend a lot of time either being shot because you can’t go into cover behind things that are clearly quite suitable as cover, and being shot because you can’t get out of cover mode and move to where you want to move. It’s at least as bad as the awful Mass Effect games, and probably worse.

Oh, yeah, and since it’s a third person game, you also spend a lot of time shooting bullets into the wall right in front of you when you have to shoot around something the game won’t count as cover.

This is followed by walking into an area, being attacked by about a million identical, moronic bad guys, thanking the bad guys for leaving ammunition boxes randomly strewn around, but still running out and having to pick up some random weapon because you can only carry two. Then defend the area for five minutes while a thousand indistinguishable bots run toward you. Then hack a door (translation: hold ‘E’ for a few seconds) before moving onto the next area.

Then there’s a cut-scene where some guy spews some plot-twaddle, and you do the same thing again.

And crates. Did I mention crates? The one surprise in the game was walking into a few areas with crates and thinking ‘ha, there are crates, so clearly I’m going to get attacked and have to take cover’… only to not be attacked. Wow.

I should also mention that the reason you run out of ammunition is because the indistinguishable bad guys take about three thousand hits each to kill. You keep blasting away at them from close range with an assault rifle, and, after you kill half a dozen, no more bullets.

Then there’s lack of a save system. It randomly saves at checkpoints, so, if you get bored and want to quit, be prepared to have to fight through the same mob of identical enemies again to get back to where you were.

I could go on, but I quit before finishing the first level. From the screenshots, it looks like things might get interesting later on, but I couldn’t find the enthusiasm to play through the boring parts to get there.

It’s not an awful game, it didn’t crash, it doesn’t expect you to pay to win, but it’s just mediocre. Everything it does has been done before, and done better.

Finally finished the main plotline of Saints Row 4 after about 35 hours played. It was good fun other than being forced to repeat a few of the side missions that just weren’t very interesting.

Now I have to save the world from Santa Clawz.

After several hours played, I can safely say that State of Decay would have been a good game if not saddled with some absolutely horrible design choices.

The most obvious is that it pretends it’s running when you’re not playing. So you log out as part of a group with maximum morale and stores full of resources, but, when you log back in, morale has collapsed, half your survivors are ‘missing’ (hint: they’ll almost certainly be in exactly the same bloody garage as all the other ‘missing’ survivors), and all your resources are gone.

I can’t believe anyone thought such a brain-dead design was a good idea. It’s supposed to be fun, or something, but really it just punishes you for playing; if I start the game for half an hour I have to clear up the previous night’s mess and then I’ll get another mess the next time I start. So why bother?

But Repetition should be the name of the game. Go and collect supplies… AGAIN. Go and kill hordes of zombies… AGAIN. Go and find the missing survivors… AGAIN. Go and clear out a horde of zombies that’s moved into a house… AGAIN. Go and protect another group of survivors in a house as they’re attacked by zombies… AGAIN. And so on. Most of the time spent in the game is spent doing things the game wants you to do, not the things you want to do.

The other huge problem with this game is that nothing is explained. For example, the game tells me to build more beds for the survivors. OK, so all I need is some wood and stuff. But I don’t have any. I’m living in a wooden house, surrounded by wooden houses, but I don’t have any wood.

There’s an option in the game to create barricades over the windows to keep zombies out. It shows me hammering wood over the windows. Why can I do that, when I don’t have enough wood to make more beds?

Where can I find wood if I can’t just go to another house and rip it off the walls, or, heck, dismantle their beds and move it over?

Eventually, after reading web pages for a while, I discovered there’s an option in the map of the building to select the radio and ask the radio person to send out a message to see if anyone knows where there’s a stash of wood.

Why is it there? Why is it hidden in the building map, when I’m standing right by the radio? Why I can’t I select it from the radio? Why I can’t I select it from the talk menu when I talk to the radio operator?

Why does nothing in this game make sense?

Characters get tired over time, but, if you switch to another character, they rest and recover. So I kept trying to switch to my other character, but the game kept telling me they were on a mission, so I couldn’t.

What mission? Where were they? How did I get them off the mission so I could rest, as the game kept telling me to do? Why couldn’t I just go to a bed and select ‘rest’ to rest?

Eventually I discovered she was standing on a tower with her gun, and her ‘mission’ was being sad. So I had to kill a few zombies with her so she’d stop being sad, so I could then switch and let this character rest. Very intuitive.

I think you can select rest from the building map screen, by selecting the area with beds. But why? Why not just go to the bed? Why is it completely non-interactive, when it’s the obvious place to put such an option?

On a mission soon after, I had to find a car to take one of the other characters back to the base. I found a car, and drove in, stopping about ten feet away. The character’s opinion of me dropped, because, apparently, I was ‘driving recklessly’.

One amazing aspect of the game is that it makes killing zombies boring. A small number of zombies are easy to kill and just requires clicking the mouse or pressing a button a few times. A large number of zombies requires running away or running them over with a car. So you either succeed with minimal cost or die.

So in another mission, I had to help defend a house from zombie attack. They all attacked, I killed about twenty, and thought it was over. But there were more.

And more.

And it was boring as heck. We barricade the windows, they run up, we shoot them, they die, we barricade any damage, more run up. The only effect was to reduce the amount of ammunition in the building’s stores.

As I travel around the map, the radio operator keeps giving me things to do. That’s OK, I understand you’re not supposed to be able to do everything in the game, so I don’t mind missing some. But they keep sending me places, and then keep telling me that I’m tired and should come back. That’s annoying.

They also send you to places to collect things, you get there, and it’s not there. You wander around, looking at everything, trying to get the elusive ‘Search’ icon to appear so you can collect it, but nothing triggers that. You’re right on the map icon, but the stuff just isn’t there. Is it a bug? Am I not looking in the right place? Does the game intentionally send you to places when the resources aren’t really there?

Who knows?

One of the main parts of the game is collecting crap. But the backpacks are tiny, only holding a handful of items before you have to run back and unload them. This basically just adds a time sink. You can reduce it by building outposts with storage areas, but there’s no reason why I should be limited to carrying a couple of weapons and a few rounds of ammunition and medical supplies before I have to run back.

To make it worse, there’s no distinction between your equipment and mission items. At one point in a mission, one of the characters tried to give me something, but… all I got was a ‘your inventory is full’ message. I couldn’t take it, and the game hadn’t checked whether I could. Fortunately it wasn’t essential, so I managed to complete the mission anyway.

I could go on. But, really, I can sum it up in one sentence: don’t buy this game.

Picked this up cheap in the Steam sale. On the one hand, it’s another zombie game, but, on the other, it does a lot of things right. It’s less about killing zombies (e.g. Left For Dead) than surviving the zombies, by collecting survivors, building a base and keeping them alive. It also has permadeath, where any of the characters in the game can die; that’s not as bad as it sounds, because you can switch to another character, but you’ve lost any progress you made before that point.

However, at the same time, it is horribly flawed. The most obvious is the control system, which is designed for people with tentacles. For example, by default the ‘execute’ key to kill a zombie on the ground is ‘Z’, and I would need triple-jointed fingers when my hands are already on WASD to move. There are just too many keys, and they’re counter-intuitive; for another example, you press Tab to open the inventory/status menus, but you have to press Escape to get back out, pressing Tab again switches to the next screen.

I’m only about an hour and half in so far. More as I have time to play it.

Now 71% of the way through; had to take a break from writing last night and cleared out a lot of the missions and activities I hadn’t yet done.

I have to say, some of them are much more difficult and annoying than others. I could happily never do the Rift racing activities ever again, and the Genki telekinesis activities are nowhere near as fun as the old Genki games in SR3.

The worst part, though, is that I suddenly ran into a limit on the number of save games. I have a 3TB disk with nearly 1TB free, yet the game won’t let me save more than about fifty times. It’s an insane limit that’s probably carried over from crappy consoles.

I noticed Steam has Fallout 3: New Vegas in its Halloween sale, so I booted up the Windows PC to buy it.

Then discovered I already own it.

What?

When did that happen?

I must have bought it in the last sale and completely forgotten to play it.

Five hours played and 19% through the game. It’s definitely more fun now I’m past the cut-scenes and collecting super powers.

Is here.

I’m about 5% of the way through the game, and so far it’s been fun but has a few too many cut-scenes and quick-time events for my liking. I’d hoped it would import the SR3 character directly, but had to do it by creating an account on the Saints Row site and uploading them there.

I like the idea, and I did like the 1950s Steelport, but I thought more could have been made of that. I also liked that it seems to be poking fun at a number of other games along the way.

Bought Rage in the Steam sale, mostly because I wanted to take a look at the graphics and for $5 or so it was worth a go.

After ‘Press Enter’ to start, I was subjected to a long and boring unskippable video which is apparently supposed to explain why I’m where I am at the start of the game.

I don’t care.

Really, honestly, I don’t give a damn.

I certainly don’t want to have to sit there for two or three minutes just because you’re determined to make me watch this video that you spent billions of dollars on.

All I need to know is, where the bad guys are. Story? If I wanted story, I’d read a book.

My first thought on entering the game was ‘hey, this is Borderlands, isn’t it?’ My second thought was ‘what the hell is this gibberish on the screen all the time? Press A to Accept? I pressed A, it does nothing?’

Ah, OK, when it says to press A, it means A on the gamepad if you were playing on a console. But, being a PC game and all, you’d almost think they’d know I’m going to be using a keyboard and mouse. I finally figure out that I can click on the things with the mouse and now I can get on with the actual game.

Or not. There’s a door, and I can’t open it until I wait for the computer to say stuff that doesn’t matter to me at all.

I started this game to play a game, not to be stuck in a room so you can force me to listen to pointless audio. Just tell me where the bad guys are so I know who to shoot, OK?

So finally the game lets me out the door. My first thought outside is ‘wow, look at those textures flickering as the game loads them in!’ I’d configured it with a large texture cache, I’m running the 64-bit version on a machine with 32GB of RAM and 2GB of VRAM, and it can’t even hold all the textures for a tiny little view of a small chunk of ground. I turn left, the textures on the left of the screen flicker in. I turn right, the textures I was just looking at on the right of the screen flicker in.

Damn, that’s ugly.

But still, if I keep looking in one direction it seems OK. So I walk down and, lo, I’m knocked down by a scripted cut-scene with no chance to avoid it. Now, I’m lying on the ground unable to do anything when all I want to do is shoot some bad guys.

Tedium continues as some NPC turns up and shoots them and tells me to get in his car.

I don’t want to get in his car.

I don’t care about the NPC, I don’t want to be carried around the game as a spectator.

I want to play it.

But, there’s no choice other than to get in the car. I wait as he drives around the scenery and eventually parks in a garage.

Can I walk out and find stuff to do?

Of course not. The garage door is closed and I have to follow him in. There’s a door out, but I’m magically unable to use it until I stand there and listen to him explain why I have to help the Happy Fluffy Bunny People collect rat tails for the Weasel Horde.

Or something. I really don’t care.

I wander off and see if there’s anything else in the building while he yatters on. I come back, expecting him to have finished so I can get on and maybe do something interesting.

Nope.

While I was away, he stopped talking. I literally have to stand there and listen to this claptrap, when, after a minute or two of rambling monologue, it all comes down to ‘Go here and kill bandits’.

Why is that so hard? Why can’t the game just say ‘Go here and kill bandits?’ Why is listening to a monologue instead? How is that supposed to be fun?

I won’t go on much longer. I’ll have to mention the incredibly annoying popups, which tell me useful things like ‘Press S to go backwards’, as though it’s not THE SAME AS ALMOST EVERY DAMN GAME I’VE PLAYED IN THE LAST DECADE. Do they think I’m a moron? Do they think I’ve forgotten?

Not only do these things pop up all over the place, but on occasions they actually stop the flow of the game, freezing it until I press a key to say ‘yes, I read that crap, but I really want to, you know, play a game, not be reading crap’. At times, they pop up half a dozen of them in a row, so when I just want to be shooting bad guys I’m having to repeatedly press keys to say ‘yeah, I did read that crap, but I couldn’t give a damn’.

Then there’s saving. One good thing is that the game does actually have a proper save system. You can actually save in most places, not have to wait for a retarded checkpoint. But it’s slower than Duke Nukem saving to a floppy disk. Most of the games I played in the 90s would save in a split second, now I have a computer that’s a hundred times faster and it takes more like five seconds to save.

Worse, get this: while saving it actually says ‘Please do not turn off your computer.’

Am I a retarded monkey? Am I going to press the power button and turn off my computer in the middle of playing a game? Is there anyone, anywhere on the planet who would ever actually do that and have to be warned not to?

id Software used to make good games. They used to understand that when I start up a game, I want to play it. Wolfenstein and Doom threw you straight into the action. Rage… does not.

Which is a shame, because the actual shooter parts aren’t bad, other than the AI continually shouting the same things and showing little intelligence other than running straight at you. If they’d dropped all the tedious story stuff and fixed the texture popping and horrible interface, it wouldn’t be bad. And, when the textures aren’t popping, it looks pretty good.

So there I was, I hadn’t played GTA4 in years because, frankly, Grand Theft Bowling got boring real fast. But with a new PC I thought I should give it a try to see what the game looked like.

I start it up. I have to click to say no, I really don’t want to log into Rockstar’s own stupid online system as well as Steam. I then have to click to say I really, really don’t want to log into Rockstar’s own stupid online system as well as Steam. Then the game goes into unskippable screens telling me about the delights of game ratings, followed by unskippable video logos, just in case I didn’t realise that it’s a Rockstar game.

And finally I’m at the start screen. Except, oops, I have to log into Games For Windows Live, the wonderful Microsoft equivalent of Steam. And I set an account up years ago and have no damn idea what it was.

So, give up on a game I own and paid money for, thanks Microsoft.

A couple of months later I happened to come across the file where I wrote all that down. Success! I can go through all that rigmarole again and get back to the GFWL screen again and log in!

Except now, it has to download my profile, whatever that means. And, part-way through, it discovers there’s an update for GFWL and, horrors, I can’t play the game without updating it.

OK, let’s give that a try. Now I get a dialog box telling me that it’s updating, and it may restart my computer after the update is complete.

Now, think about that for a moment. I just want to play a damn game. I’ve already sat through the nonsense the game developers threw at me, and now Microsoft are going to reboot the computer to install crap that I don’t want in the first place. Retarded monkey doesn’t even begin to describe how stupid that is.

Fortunately a reboot isn’t required. But, lo, I must exit the game in order to complete the installation. Which means I have to sit through yet more unskippable videos to get to the point where I can actually exit.

Now there’s a minimised Windows installer hidden away which I have to run in order to finish the upgrade. I sit there and do it, and now I can finally go back through all the unskippable videos and yes, I really do not want to log into the damn Rockstar online service and I’m back to the GFWL login.

I told it to remember my login and password so I assume that when I tell it to log in, it will just log in. But no, that would be too easy. I get back to the login screen and it’s blank. I have to actually enter the login ID, which is some random collection of letters and numbers, at which point it tells me that, oh, it did remember the password after all.

Then there’s yet more waiting for my profile to download. Whatever that means. And finally I’m able to start the game.

Except there are no save games. What exactly was the point of waiting all that time for my profile to download when there’s nothing useful in it?

Welcome to the wonderful new world of PC gaming, where everyone wants to tie you to their online system and Microsoft believe that locking you out of your games and then making you wait more than ten minutes to start a game is perfectly acceptable behaviour.

This is why I’ll never buy another game that requires the glorious Games For Windows Live technology. It’s Microsoft through and through, where taking your time to download their updates is business as usual, and no-one is doing anything important on their computers, so randomly rebooting them is no big deal.

Looks like Carmageddon for Android is free today:

Carmageddon Promo

It seems a pretty accurate reimplementation of the original game, but the touch controls are about as bad as I’d expected. Still fun even if it is harder than the PC game as a result.

SR3 Car

Driving around in my little red car

I began this post last year after finishing the game, and just discovered it in my drafts folder.

Saints Row 2 was one of the most entertaining games of the last few years, a worthy successor to the Grand Theft Auto series after Rockstar threw out the fun in Grand Theft Auto 4: Bowlerama. While GTA tried to present a more realistic approach to gangster life and continually interrupted the player as they were driving around hijacking cars, running down pedestrians and blowing things up with phone calls from NPCs who wanted to… go bowling… Saints Row pushed the genre even more over the top.

SR3 Plane

There are planes

Saints Row The Third (aka Saints Row 3) takes that even further, and is the only game I’ve played where the answer to the question ‘what weapon would be best for this mission?’ sometimes turns out to be a three-foot purple dildo. One of the earliest missions includes NOLF-style shootouts in mid-air after falling out of a plane, then crashing back into the plane to shoot the bad guy before parachuting to the ground, and side-missions include a mascot-shooting game show and causing destruction and mayhem with a hundred-foot tall ball of yarn.

SR3 Zombie Fight

Yes, there are zombies

SR2 had many problems, most obviously a massive appetite for computing power and a remarkable ability to crash at the slightest provocation; it was poorly ported from consoles and odds are that on any given PC it would either run but require much better hardware than similar games, or it would not run at all. Workarounds have been developed for a number of those problems, but it’s still not guaranteed to run and unlikely to run more than a few hours without crashing. Worse, the cars drive like a 1970s cop show where all the actors are drunk.

SR3 has none of them. The only major bug I noticed in over thirty hours of game play is that cars sometimes get stuck in scenery or the ground when they crash or something falls on them; not a big problem as you can usually just steal another car, but the last time it happened to me was on an island infested with zombies, where other cars were few and far between. One minor bug is that the car collection activity is impossible to complete after finishing the game missions, because one of the cars is only available in the second half of the game. It’s also hard to complete because some bridges are open at that point, and while they can be jumped in a fast vehicle, a slow one just goes into the sea.

SR3 Car Flying

There’s something wrong here

The missions are generally entertaining, but it does have consolized ‘checkpoint’ saves, and at one point there are a few missions that run into each other with cut-scenes between, so you can’t just finish one mission and do something else. Dialogue is often funny, particularly the mission with Bert Reynolds and another where the character is pretending to be someone else.

It does suffer from DLC-itis with numerous small addons available; fortunately now the game has been out a year or two the complete game packs with all important DLC are pretty cheap. The mission DLCs are good fun, and Dr Genki’s events are some of the best parts of the game.

I’d give it about 8 out of 10 solely because the game world feels less interactive than SR2. There are really no hidden areas like the SR2 mall, and few buildings you can enter. Otherwise it’s just jolly good fun and I’m waiting to see what SR4 will be like.

SR3 Pileup

Oddly enough, this wasn’t actually my fault. The AI cars try to jump the bridge and often fail

So I finally figured out the ‘Failed to generate fraud prevention signature’ error when trying to register for Tera Online:

http://blog.edwardmgrant.com/?p=1315

Turns out that you can only register from Internet Explorer, because no-one could possibly think of using any other web browser. To be honest, that may be a good thing, because my brief foray into the game didn’t give me a strong desire to spend much more time there… just another generic MMOG so far.

Apparently it’s gone free to play. But every time you try to sign up for a free account it says:

‘Failed to generate fraud prevention signature.’

I guess this is another stupid ‘Captcha’ thing that just makes life hell for legitimate users while spammers pay Chinese folks a cent a time to solve them.

Update: I did finally figure this out:

http://blog.edwardmgrant.com/?p=1335

Do game developers really not understand how stupid this message looks on a PC? We went through a couple of decades of PC gaming before anyone felt the need to tell us not go to the wall and turn off the power while the game is saving, yet now almost every game ported from a console is ported so badly that they can’t even take the time to remove this stupid message.

Finally a game designed to take advantage of the much greater power of current PCs over game consoles. It doesn’t look very scientifically accurate (using fans to collect hydrogen for ramjets in space), but it does look good:

Star Citizen

Finally finished the game after stopping several years ago; I got stuck on the final level and last night I happened to start it up to test it on my new PC and figured out what I’d missed.

Certainly one of the more interesting games of the last few years, but I found the difficulty varied wildly with the first fifteen or so levels being quite easy and then suddenly became much harder.

I’ll probably have to buy Portal 2 in the Steam Christmas sale.

I picked up Dead Island in the Steam sale; I’d seen a few videos and it looked interesting, but not enough to pay a high price for. I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t, because the basic idea of the game isn’t bad, but it has a number of horrible flaws.

1. Stuttering. The graphics aren’t hard for my PC to render, but any time I press a key it begins to stutter. What appears to be happening is that it’s unable to handle keyboard auto-repeat, so it turns as it sees they key down, then the key appears to go up, so it stops, and repeats until I release the key. Turning off auto-repeat resolves that… except it comes back any time I press two keys at once, for example when moving forward and strafing. It’s ugly enough to really make playing the game painful.

2. Controls. The controls in general are clunky, and the appearance of meaningless joystick icons demonstrate quite plainly that it’s a bad console port. A joystick icon, by the way, appears to mean ‘randomly wiggle the mouse around until something happens’.

3. Respawning. Zombies seem to reappear only a minute or so after you kill them. I can clear out an area, move on to the next, then when I back into the area I cleared out the zombies reappear. Sometimes I’ve been attacked out of nowhere in an area I just cleared, which I presume is a zombie respawning right on top of me.

4. Weapons. Apparently a weapon is only good for beating two or three zombies to death before it breaks. Now, I must admit, I’ve never beaten anyone to death with a metal pipe, but I can’t help but feel it would last longer than that before breaking.

Players have been complaining about the stutter for over a year, so I can only presume it will never be fixed.