Monday, December 15, 2008

Emusic Q4 08 Recap

The last of the emusic interceptors (My latest emusic pull):

Electric Eel Shock - 'Go USA', 'Transworld Ultra Rock' & 'Beat Me'
NoMeansNo - 'The Peoples Choice'
The Black Angels - 'Directions to see a Ghost'
Thulsa Doom - 'And Then Take You A Place Where Jars Are Kept'
Descendents - 'All', 'Enjoy' & 'Two Things At Once'
Giant Brain - 'Plume'
Goatride - 'A Goat Among the Sheep'
Midnight Evils - 'Breakin It Down' & 'Straight Til Morning'
The Devil Rides Out - 'Volume III'
The Pennsylvania Dutch - 'Drones, Distortion & Repetition'
Ufomammut - 'Snailking'
Whiskey & Knives - 'S/T'
Yeti - 'S/T' (The 2 other Yeti albums are not the same Yeti)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

W2K, XP Games and You

Besides my first rig, I've always built my own. I got W2K and never went with XP once it was out since I never had any gaming issues. Now with W2K's support gone I'm starting to notice more and more games won't install or need missing/edited dlls to run. GRAW 2, Bioshock and Two Worlds were the first few I had issues with led to me to find out the dll tricks to get the games to run. My rig is a Barton 2500 oc'd to 3200, 2GB RAM and a 7600GT 256MB vc that isn't quite ready to give up the ghost since its got a decent backlog it can play and a few new games as well.

The basics are if the game gets installed, see what dll the error message asks for and then download it. Place the dll in the game's folder and run the game, though sometimes multiple dlls are needed. Another common occurance is a message about some function not being in the dll due to W2K and XP/Vista dll changes, such as xinput1_3.dll having a 'tracemessage' error, which is fixed by hex editing 'tracemessage' to 'getusernamea'. Newer game are starting to require even more complicated tricks.

I stumbled across how to fix these from random message boards. I just recently came across a good active board - win2kgaming - with a dll pack and posts about different games W2K users have got running along with how they did it. Its nice having all the information in just one place.

XP games requiring W2K tweaks that I've successfully run:

GRAW 2 - Download or grab from another install (I used Farcry) the file "dbghelp.dll" and put it in the GRAW2 folder that has GRAW2.exe. So far I've only tried the demo but don't see why retail would not work, unless you need to bypass an OS check.

Bioshock - (1) Like GRAW2 above, grab "dbghelp.dll" and place it in the same folder as the bioshock.exe. (2) Download or grab from the DX install files that came with the demo/game the dll file "xinput1_3.dll". Then hexedit this dll by changing "TraceMessage" to "GetUserNameA" (Some logging command for xbox360controller).

Two Worlds - Same as Bioshock but also need to grab dll file "x3daudio1_1.dll from either DX install zip files or online. A no_cd site also has a pack of files for TW but they used a different command for the xinput dll. I fixed a sound issue by having the latest DirectX installed and opening a video file in TW/Video folder with WMC to download the needed codec. You also have to copy xactengine2_7.dll, msvcrl.dll and register.bat (from nocd download site under TW files) to WINNT/System32 and run bat to register xactengine dll. I also placed x3daudio1_1.dll in System32 folder but seems to work fine in TW folder. Before fixing the audio issue to get the game to run without sound I disabled ShowIntro, ShowMainMenuCutscene, and ShowSlideShow using regedit in order to prevent the game from crashing. These were reenabled once I had the updated codec. The retail version did have a OS check that needs to be bypassed. I did it a really convoluted way that I really don't want to go into that involves using another games setup.ini.

Fallout 3 - I used the latest W2K dll pack from win2kgaming. The needed ones were: advapi32.dll, kernel32.dll, msidcrl40.dll, xinput1_3.dll, xlive.dll and the org dlls for advapi32 and kernel32. I then ran the exclude from known dll registry thing from the pack. Then I updated the Fallout3.ini's bBackground Mouse setting by changing it from 0 to 1. Otherwise the mouse keeps recentering in menu's making selections hard to impossible. So far after more than 4hrs of play I've only had 1 crash and it runs fine with medium settings, low water and no shadows at 1440x900. Runs comparable to Oblivion and looks fine as least to a low rig runner like me.

Stalker - Clear Sky - I had install issues due to Tages DRM but it just might have been my BIOS settings. Tages support team helped me troubleshoot my error code (13:10). I first updated my Tages driver from their website which then gave me error code (13:30). They had mentioned I might still get this. Then following their instructions I set my BIOS Write Protect settings from Enabled to Disabled and was able to activate and play the game. Once in game my mouse wouldn't work and after wasted time messing with mouse drivers I used "input_exclusive_mode 0" in the game's console and the mouse worked (Tried added it to user.ltx and marking it read only but it still gets reset and I have to reenter it in console). Found the tip on a Apple WINE forum but it works for W2K users too. They did note you have to change the mode back to 1 for map/pda functionality so I will probably bind 2 keys to switch between modes.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Divine Divinity (2002)

I finally went back and finished Divine Divinity (I at least played up to the final grind dungeon sequence when most of the quests were completed). One of the last great 2d RPGs. It really reminds me of the Ultima's and a mix of action RPGs with a great sense of it still being just a game. I liked the loading/saving screens saying some farmer wanted his pigs killed (probably to trick me into doing it) and warning about exploding computers if you pirated the game, along with actual useful tips.

So much about the game is excellent. The 2d looks a little off at first but I grew to love it. The GUI worked fine and I liked that it had an automap and the mini map, equipment, inventory, stats and other windows could be dragged and dropped wherever I wanted them on screen. The screens were so nice to look at with all the small details in the handcrafted environment. There is also some nice humor in the game both between the in game characters and metajokes poking fun at rpgs in general.

I liked how many items could be interacted with and moved around. Move cups, bowls, chairs, tables, flower pots, chairs, rocks, etc. around your local area. The inhabitants seemed keen on hiding their keys under nearby rocks or flower pots, except the few that left them on a counter. I also liked how even though a initial class was picked, you could then pick any skill as long as you had reached a certain level.

There were enough interesting side quests to extend gameplay and remove boring no goal grinding in order to be strong enough to continue the main quest. Just run around and solve a few quests then go back and hit the main once you went up a few levels. I spent a lot of time also checking all corners of each map to remove the fog of war, less so on the later maps though as I wanted to finish the game, but lots of exploring for folks that like that.

I do like how most creatures end up as meat after a fight. I gladly rid the countryside of wolfs and other evil beings so I could eat instead of use potions. Somehow I guess I wacked a cat or two to many and they all became my enemy. While it was sad to be on the wrong sad of their culture they were still just meat to this adventurer. I didn't have any issues with the cows, though I don't recall attacking them and actually solved one of their disappearing mysteries so maybe they respected me.

I never heard good things about the sequal Beyond Divinity but I do look forward to Divinity 2: Ego Draconis. Now to figure out of I want to finish up a FPS or RPG I've started but never completed or start something else.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mudhoney - The Lucky Ones (2008)

Somehow I stumbled across that Mudhoney had released a new album 'The Lucky Ones' (May 08). I sampled the songs on Amazon and like what I heard so ordered it. Sounds like the ol' Mudhoney I've always listened to, which means its good to my fuzz toned ears. Not sure if I like this album or their 2006 'Under a Billion Suns' more. These are the 2 main cds I grab for my daily work drive so I do listen to them alot even if lastfm doesn't show it.

I need to someday get a new mudhoney shirt to replace my old dying one. My Peace of Cake t is over 100 in dog years and it shows.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Emusic Q3 08 Recap

My latest emusic acquisitions:

The Black Angels - Passover
Brain Police - Brain Police
Farflung - A Wound In Eternity
The Glasspack - Bridgeburner & Dirty Women
The Hidden Hand - Divine Propaganda
The Hidden Hand & Wooly Mammoth - Night Letters
Iota - Tales
Mos Generator - The Late Great Planet Earth
Roachpowder - Viejo Diablo
Sheavy - Celestial Hi-Fi & Synchronized
Spiritu - Human Failures (Split album w/ Village of Dead Roads)
The Sword - Age of Winters
Thulsa Doom - The Seats Are Soft But The Helmet Is Way Too Tight
Torche - Torche

The Black Angel's album is some good psychadelic fuzz that I have on heavy rotation. Sheavy sounds like Ozzy era Sabbath which is a good thing. I already had The Electric Sleep so got the others too. I had to pick up the rest of Glasspacks stuff as I've overly listened to Powderkeg even if its still my fav from them. Same with Brain Police as Beyond The Wasteland has gotten a lot of play and emusic finally got some of their older stuff in. Roachpowder and Thulsa Doom offer up some good meaty tunes. The rest gets played to just not as much.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)

So after on and off playing of Oblivion I've finally finished the main quest. I still have lots of other quests to do and places to explore (I still need to get back to Morrowind's expansions too). Xfire and my save show about 47hrs for me to complete the main quest, though I did run around do sidequests and exploring until I decided to just focus on the main quest.

I liked the more visceral combat vs MW's diceroll feel but didn't like the setting as much. While it was pretty to look at it was less unique and less variety than in MW. I also didn't like the autobalancing of monsters but am happy the game is so moddable so just changed that and other parts I didn't quite like out. I got tired of the lockpick and persuasion minigames so I just auto used lockpicks and grabbed a persuasion mod but I never real try to persuade anyone so not sure if I needed to it. Since I finished the main quest I also grabbed a skeleton key to help in lockpicking though I rarely ran out of lockpicks since they are easy to find. It does help when I run out mid-quest though before a store restocking run.

RPGs are one of my favorite games (Used to mainly play those and sims on my C64). I don't like playing bad ones but I also don't expect each one to be the greatest one ever (Since I doubt they will make Autoduel 2). I like Bethesda, Piranha Bytes, Troika, Black Isle, etc. and even console RPGs. I don't get the teeth bashing over which is better and I just play the ones I like. Though good modding support will always make me lean more towards liking a game as user content and changes can add/improve the game.

I always seem to just use swords/bows and not much magic in these games. I used some mods to tweak the bow so that sneak attacks worked better. I also used a mod to speed up fireball type spells for the rare times i used them. I mostly just snuck up using the bow a bit and then pulled out the sword to finish the job.

I have grown more fond of the quest arrows and fast travel. I still like that you have to first travel somewhere to use fast travel to get back there so you at least have to adventure there once. Lately I fast travel to a nearby site and then finish the journey. I also like using the quest arrows to help navigating through towns so I don't have to go door to door to know which house I need. I still run around aimlessly too just to see what I can find.

I have but still need to install Shivering Isles. I didn't feel like installing it and then getting up to date mods for it so I'm still running older mods for just the Oblivion base. Here is a list and order of the mods I ran:

Unofficial Oblivion Patch.esp
Deadlier Traps.esp
Call Steed 2.5+Saddlebags 0.91.esp
attack and hide medium v2.0.esp
No psychic guards v1.2.esp
Axebane _Hunters20.esp
Shady Sam Enhanced.esp
Improved Lava.esp
Fatality Cam.exp
Darkgreen Glass Armour.esp
Mages Guild Quest Fixes.esp
Recharge Spell - Imbue Power.esp
Magistrate Eyes 3.1.esp
Magistrate Eyes 3.1 - NPC Edition.esp
DEJ Harvest - Flora LITE.esp
No More Annoying Messages.esp
Unlimited Weapon Recharge.esp
1437-1-Merchant Fence-TESSource.esp
Quest Award Leveller.esp
2367-1.0-Borderless Cyrodil-TESSource.esp
815-No persistant enchantment glow fix-TESSource.esp
848-Updated! Gem Price Fix-TESSource.sep
1140-Jump Adjustment-TESSource.esp
1298-Horse AI-TESSource.esp
Francesco's leveled creatures-items mod.esm
Francesco's optional new items add-on.esm
Francesco's optional files 1.esp
Francesco's optional files 2.esp
Francesco's Slower skills x1.5.exp
Francesco's 10 days respawn time- 1-16 day length rescale - Short Grass.esp
Francesco's MOBS Dark green glass weapons.esp
Francesco's Main file MOBS patch.esp
Francesco's Add-on patch.esp
Enchantment Reduction.esp
995-Specular Fix 1.1-TESSource.esp
Deadlier Sneaking.esp
Bag of Holding.esp
300_lore dialogue v1.15.esp
4139-1-Weightless Alchemy-TESSource.esp
7184-1.0-Weightless Arrows-TESSource.esp

The mods I used were from reading lots of different forums. I didn't try all the variations of mods that have a low/med/high I just used the one that sounded good. I also didn't try moving all the mods around to find the perfect order. I just roughly put stuff I wanted to ensure wasn't overwritten at the bottom or where the mod writers or forum posters suggested, but lots of testing wasn't done. I was just happy to get it loaded without errors. It made the game enjoyable enough without wasting too much testing time.

TES-NEXUS - Mod site that has all the TESSource and other mods I used.
Planet Elder Scrolls - Oblivion Mods - Another mod site I used.
Living in Oblivion - Someone's attempt to play Oblivion as a regular NPC instead of the hero adventurer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Latest Artwork

Pyramid Robots Attack My City (27 Aug 08): We built of steel while they built of stone. Different technologies but master craftsman we both were. At some point in time we met, as all cultures must, and then it began. It is said that he who has the best tech laughs last, but all I hear are the cries of steel on stone and stone on steel in this sandstorm of bone.

Or maybe I just like pyramids and robots. I also threw in a pterodactyl or two for good measure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (2004)

I picked this up on release but never got that far before dropping it for some other shiny game. It wasn't the games fault just my short gaming attention span. I've now returned to it and finally finished it. I definitely agree with most people that the first 2/3rds is excellent and the last 1/3rd is horrible. To me, its not even about bugs (though official and fan patches fixed most of those for me) it was due to the change in type of game. The good portion still took me at least 20hrs so its still worth it to play up to a certain point.

I knew some of the downfalls of the game coming in so knew to focus some on melee and I still did firearms even if it was clunky. Some of the clunky was from FPS-RPG always being a bit clunky (Issues mixing user FPS skills with the in game character stats) and from a early source engine. Once I got the shotgun firearms worked fine as secondary to my sword or sledge. I really need to play through with the less physical skills and mess with the vampire magic (I mainly used trance and suicide) but like regular RPGs I go for using swords/bows over magic.

Since I did focus on combat there were only a few reloads here and there. I didn't really have trouble until the end game where it went from fighting a few or 1 strong enemy to fight hordes of unending enemies. It went from being an RPG to being a button masher combat game. It wasn't due to bugs or a early version of the source engine. It was the game design that changed. They took the time to build those levels and place the enemies so it wasn't just a rush job. They could have just closed the story another way or used simpler end level quests instead of running the gauntlet over and over.

I really enjoyed the more modern city environment of the game. I didn't even mind the sewer level that so many hated or the first few hong kong levels but I could feel the above mentioned change in the game. I do so it as the mark where the game quality/design changes but I was expected the hordes in the sewer not a few quests out from it. So I switched to god mode to finish it off so I could at least see some of the endings.

I do plan on replaying at least the first half of the game with different characters to see how it plays out. I also want to try one of the newer fan patches as mine is very old. Not sure if I want to use the patch that adds additional content or just the one that focuses on bug squashing.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Half Life 2: Episode 2 (2007)

Another good intro as EP2 flowed well from EP1, as EP1 flowed from the original HL2. It really was a nice gaming ride through the whole HL2 series. I do think I enjoyed the EPs more as they cut the fat out of the sections I didn't enjoy. Think I liked EP1 more than EP2 though. I would like to see more of the combine battles of EP1 with the more outdoor levels of EP2.

At first I was overjoyed that it appeared we finally got to play in some nice open outdoor areas. This was trampled as you have to go tunnel crawling for a very long stretch. While the ant lion bits weren't overly hard, it was sort of like a repeat of the tunnel/sewer of HL2. After finally seeing some open top ground I didn't like being forced back underground.

Later on you do get some top ground travelling done. Getting to the car to traverse the larger areas was OK, but I was burnt out on being indoors by then. It was cool to look back once you got to it and be able to see all the areas you had just walked through as you could make out the buildings you had just been in.

Outdoor bits were good in that there was a mix of houses and outdoors to run around in. There did seem to be a lack of traditional combine soldiers though. Guess I should replay EP1 for that though. The last battle was fun as it was more open, but the level was still just a few hallways disquised as valleys instead. The map appears open and is pretty, but its not as open as ArmA/OFP maps or even STALKER. Still, while the boss battles may have been harder than regular battles, it only took a couple reloads, if that, to do them so my boss battle hatred was quelled.

The ending was brutal. Not just the final boss level, but the actual ending. I was not expecting that. I cannot wait for EP3. Well, except for STALKER: Clear Sky, but I'm a post-apoc junkie and dug STALKERs open levels.

Done with my play/replay of the HL series so now on to something else. Think I might grab FEAR and play through that before I go back to some tac sims or RPGs. Though itching to replay SS2, Deus Ex and NOLF1 still.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Latest Artwork

Buckminsterfullerene (31 Jul 08): Buckminsterfullerene is a carbon molecule that looks like a soccer ball and is named after Buckminster Fuller who popularized the geodesic dome and the concept of 'Spaceship Earth'.

"Does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how?" What can one person "contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity?"

Friday, July 25, 2008

Half Life 2: Episode 1 (2006)

I liked how HL2: EP1 started off right where HL2 ended. It really added to the continuity of the game as opposed to HL1 expansions where you were replaying through the same events just from a different side (Which was still good just not the same). It was also better than the time difference between HL1 and HL2 since you not confused about what has occurred between the 2 games.

It really felt like they trimmed out the fat parts of HL2 and bumped up the action. No long boring sewer section or even vehicle sections (I didn't hate these parts in general in HL2 just the excessive length of them). Just lots of on foot action against the combine and some zombies.

Did find it funny that you start with just the gravity gun and one of the last weapons you get is the crowbar. So it sort of reverses the usual game gun sequence. They also gave me the longer underground subwayish scene I was craving. I also liked the burnt out city scenes you travel through.

Lots of nice action scenes and scripted events. I think I might like it more than HL2 though I wouldn't have wanted to miss HL2. Just combine them together and remove the slow/overly long sections into one more fun game. I still like the City 17 and outside sections more than in the Combine's tower though. Crumbling scifi cities feed my post-apoc love.

Now to finish off my playthrough of the HL series with EP2.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Half Life 2 (2004)

Finished my replay of HL2. The first time while I enjoyed the game, I was let down by the "on a rail" experience that it was. I was used to more open ended maps that some other games offered and was hoping HL2 was going in that general direction. Even if it was not a fully open world at least the illusion of freedom even if all roads led to the same map exit.

This time it was more enjoyable since I knew what to expect. Just think of it as a sci-fi action movie where your always on the run. The best parts to me were the beginning and other combat sections in City 17. I really want to see a RPG in this setting. It would have been also nice to be able to explore it more. Still had the most fun fighting the combine in the urban environments and I also liked the short underground tunnel zombie fight. I preferred that to Ravenholm and would have liked the tunnel to be a longer sequence.

While I liked the scenery and some of the bit pieces during the boat and car sections, those seemed to go way to long than they should have. Maybe it was because these came after a overly long sewer/pipe section. I didn't mind them in general just after a while they were too long as if it was just an excuse to show off vehicles and physics. The occasional stop, while enjoyable, didn't help since I knew I had to get back in a vehicle. I'm not against vehicles, just these sections were way to long for their own good. I didn't want to just drive past everything, I wanted to go check it out.

The atmosphere of the environments and attention to detail were top notch though. I loved slowly walking through the worn out urban decay. Its amazing the amount of stuff in each level compared to HL1. Maybe thats where my let down comes from as I wanted to take my time and explore these sections instead of being pushed through them. Maybe they tried that though and testers got lost and didn't like that since not everyone is into just wandering around the wastelands.

I also played through the extra level Lost Coast. While it looked pretty and was nicely full of environmental stuff, it was quite short and you didn't get to go to the interesting looking places. While it was decent for a quick playthrough, I really wanted to get to the town or industrial area. I did explore a wreck behind where you start but wanted to explore the others too. Maybe I need to switch back to Morrowind or Oblivion to get my exploration fix.

Now off to play Episodes 1 & 2. I really need to try Garry's mod, for some world building fun and maybe see what other SP HL2 mods are out there.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Emusic Q2 08 Recap

Here is what I got from Emusic this quarter:

Asteroid - S/T
Killdozer - God Hears the Pleas of the Innocent
Mammoth Volume - Mammoth Volume & Noara Dance
Melvins - Bullhead
Mos Generator - Songs for Future Gods
Roachpowder - Atomic Church
Sheavy - The Electric Sleep
Truckfighters - Phi
Turn Me On Dead Man - Technicolour Mother
Valis - Champions of Magic & Head Full of Pills
Zebulon - Volume One & Troubled Ground

Some of these I haven't had time to fully digest but like Zebulon and Turn Me On Dead Man a lot so far. Valis and Roachpowder sound good so far but I need more time with more song and replays to see how they go.

I have been listening to the Brain Police - Beyond the Wasteland, Red Giant - Devil Child Blues, Sasquatch - Sasquatch and Throttlerod - Nail from my last emusic batch a lot.

I was thinking of cancelling emusic this month until more stuff I really want comes in but I found a few more things so I still have stuff saved for later.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

HL1: Opposing Force (1998)

In my replay of the Half Life series before tackling HL2 EP1/2, I also replayed Opposing Force. Like HL, I still remembered a lot of this expansion. I probably replayed both of them alot back when I had fewer games to play. OpFor was a real good expansion and even though it was not from Valve (It was from Gearbox) it expanded on the HL world well and was fun to play.

Like HL1, the intro lets you look around while you enter Black Mesa. On your journey you run across folks from the first game. This Barney-ish guard sure has let himself go. At least he helps you with some of the invaders, unlike the coward scientists.

A nice part of the expansion is having squad members that join you. While you have limited control, its good to have some extra firepower or help opening doors. I couldn't ever get the medics to heal me though they seemed to help the rest of the team.

Its fun and interesting to re-see parts of Black Mesa from another perspective. Running into old friends is always fun. While I never liked Zen, at least here its brief and just a few jumps as you get zapped back to the main world. Lots of those pesky Black Ops to take out, as they again don't like you.

For some reason I still have the skybox bug. Only other issue I had was I couldn't correctly start the game so I used the console to load the intro and then used the quicksave/load to play the game. Each time I started back up, I had to use the console to load the autosave and then loaded the quicksave to get back to where I was. Wasn't that big of an issue though.

I don't have the Blue Shift expansion so now I go on to HL2. Though guess I could have skipped OpFor since it isn't part of Gordon's tale, but I still find it a fun expansion to a good game.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Half Life 1 (1998)

So I've now finished my replay of HL1. I feel it holds up well and I still enjoyed it. It does feel like a mix of different FPS aspects that one now looks for - puzzle solving, action, story and exploration. Quake 2 was more full on action as the puzzles were just grab the key. Unreal was more exploration mixed with action, but did have more advanced puzzles than Q2. Both of those were light on story and only had simple puzzles. HL1 throws it all together quite well.

The graphics still look fine even if things are sparse compared to current games. It does help one realize how much more effort is put into making even a simple room these days with all the objects one must add instead of just a few walls, a table and chair, etc. Nice amount of color and different environments, though I think Unreal 1 beats it (Though that might be because I ran it through UT).

While playing I noticed how the game was sort of broken into sections. You would have part of the story told in-game instead of cutscenes, then a puzzle section and then some action for it then to repeat again. The in game cutscenes help keep the game flowing and the action was always good thanks to HL1's squad AI. I liked how mercs sort of work together though I think one on one fights still have Unreal's Skarj as the best for this era of games. Playing too many tactical games also makes them easier to take out with a few quick nade tosses.

The puzzles were good because they were part of the environment. It was not just find the key or button to press though there were occasional buttons. Most were about manipulating things in the environment to get around the obstacle. Unreal had a few good ones (shooting chains to make a board float, etc.) but HL1 had more. A few times you needed help and the AI was not bad in defending itself as long as it had a gun. Of course one should never dispose of the AI help after their job is over just to get some ammo.

I'm unsure how often I have played HL1, but know it was many many times. I used to play it, Fallout2 and Red Baron 3D with my voodoo 2's. I remembered more of HL1 than I did Unreal or Q2. Even knowing it well it was still fun to go back through it. My xfire log failed me on the time though and shows only 3hrs, when I think it was at least 10 or so. Decent length for a game especially one you know your way around (I still took my time to enjoy it as I'm not into speed runs and still like to look in every nook and cranny).

The game ran fine for the most part except I did lose my skybox on the outside scenes. Not sure if it was always gone but I noticed it towards the end especially the chopper and tank parts of the game. I did skip the Xen portions as I don't like those as they become too puzzle jumpy for my tastes. Though this playthrough I think its because its more obvious the section is a jumping puzzle as opposed to previous ones in the game and something about the alien environment pulls that feeling out to me more than the nonalien sections.

I'm not going to mention any mods for HL1 as their are untold amounts - just check Moddb or Planethalflife or just throw in some quick google-fu. I've played way to much Action Half Life, Counter Strike, Front Line Force and Science & Industry with just a bit of Natural Selection. Also think I played some SP They Hunger and maybe a few others. Now to replay the expansion Opposing Force.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Advent Rising (2005)

I picked up this ($6) along with HL2 Orange Box that I got on sale from gogamer. While I could easily feel Advent Rising's console roots I still had fun with it for most of the game. Its basically a sci-fi 3rd person jump/run/gun game. I did enjoy that there were multiple alien races, both good and bad, with traitors in between.

For what I played there was lots of different areas. From the human space station, to a brown planet, to running through a city as it falls apart and then to alien space stations and other planets. Besides on foot, it had some speed buggy action that was OK. Not great but not bad as it was mainly used to run down the enemy and jump a few gullies (if you failed there was a nearby checkpoint to respawn at). The gun and jedi-like powers were fun (I had too much fun blasting them off ledges or through glass tunnels to their doom! mwahhhaaaahhhaaaa!!)

One thing to watch though was if you hit a savepoint (where you would start at game restart) or a respawn (where you would start at respawn during the same game). During the same game progress wasn't hard as respawns were close, but respawn areas (checkpoints) did not equal savepoints (where the game starts on reload) so sometimes you had to replay some sections if you were starting the game the next day vs reloading during same play session.

I made it to the end of Chapter 6 but couldn't get to the Epilogue even with cheats. I was unable to defeat the giant monkey thing that reminds me of the scene in 'Return of the Jedi' with the Rancor. While the monkey could not beat me (godmode!) I was unable to beat him. I could not 'focus' on the rock to throw it back on him more than 1 lucky time. It really seemed like an odd boss fight too as the big monkey isn't anywhere in the game up until that point (A previous bounty hunter boss at least made sense). I had fun up until then, though I did start resorting to cheats during boss fights (I hate boss difficulty jumps). I got my $6 from this game, but I'm glad I didn't pay full price. I guess I could youtube or fully read the walkthroughs to see how it ends.

Glad I tried it, but I just don't have the will to finish it. After a few reloads I'd switch to God mode for most boss levels. But the monkey boss required a special kill (lift and drop the rock he is about to throw) which I only did once after running around forever. Its giving me to many Donkey Kong 1 flashbacks for me to continue (the rock looks just like one of DK's barrels to me....the trauma!).

So I can no longer continue to try and finish this game, which is sad considering God mode normally allows this, but even with that I still couldn't defeat the monkey. Maybe its a message...That we are still monkeys and unable to move past that stage of evolution. We are not as evolved as we thought we were. Of course thats stupid..but I think I'll go have another banana and toss some barrels around.

But then, they took everything about me and put it into a computer where they created this model of my mind. Yes! Using that model they managed to generate every thought I could possibly have in the next, say, 10 years. Which they then filtered through a probability matrix of some kind to - to determine everything I was gonna do in that period. So you see, they knew I was gonna lead the Army of the Twelve Monkeys into the pages of history before it ever even occurred to me...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Quake 4 (2005)

Picked this one up for cheap when I nabbed Prey. For the most part it was a good game with a nice continuation from Quake 2 and a lot more colorful. Q4, Riddick and Prey all have a similar look to me and while I had fun with all of them I think I enjoyed Riddick more. Q4 also reminded me of Aliens in regards to the hallways and mercs you fight alongside.

The best change in Q4 from Q2 and the other games was having good squad AI in most levels. It added nicely to the atmosphere to have other mercs running with you. Both friendly and enemy AI used their surroundings well and would duck and then popup/out to shoot before taking cover again. The game really needed a lean key though.

Decent mix of indoor and outdoor combat. Most of the indoor was infantry though the enemy base. Lots of dark corridors to navigate while eliminating the enemy. While some outdoors was infantry a lot was in vehicles. To me, these sections were the worst part of the game. Getting in a mech one would think it could take some punishment, but then some super enemy launching tons of missiles would appear. Then I'd die while struggling to take out the missiles and still take out the enemy launching them. I much prefered being on foot as while it was sometimes difficult it normally didn't drastically jump from easy to hard like the vehicle sections did. It was also easier as infantry to use your surroundings for cover than in a vehicle out in the open.

At first the mouse control felt sluggish even with sensitivity all the way up, but I got used to it. In a way it made it feel like you had enertia in moving instead of super quick spinning reflexes like many games have. Though of course, the vehicles acted very sluggish, more so than as infantry. Think at the 1/2 way part I started feeling burnt out on it but trudged on a bit and it repicked the pace and interest. Think it was all the tunnel sections where you'd switch from infantry to vehicle and then rinse/repeat with another tunnel and switch again. The game was a decent length without these sections so guess they just liked trying to change up the combat, but again I didn't enjoy the vehicles so I just wanted these sections over.

Still not sure why all these aliens want to harvest people. Its got to be easier to acquire material from lower gravity wells than earthlike planets. They sure like cyborging us into their ships too. Though Q4 wasn't quite as organically weird as Prey.

I didn't try out any mods and probably won't for this game but there are bound to be a lot based on previous ID games moddability.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Portal (2007)

I played HL2 many moons ago, but never got around to getting EP1 & 2 and Portal. From what I've heard they are all relatively short so I couldn't justify the $50 Orange Box and buying them seperately cost even more (I don't care for MP much anymore so Team Fortress did not fit into the buy equation). Ran across a Gogamer 48HR special and got the Orange for $30 which is a good price since its $10 per game.

Portal took about 3.5hrs and I got stuck twice. Both were because it took me a while to get the timing right. Once I knew what to do but couldn't do it, another time I hadn't quite thought of the right thing though I was on the right track. It was a good game but I don't think it was GOTY as many said. I did like the focus on puzzle aspects instead of normal combat situations in FPS.

While I understand the levels are set up a certain way to teach you what to do next, the change in mission length seemed to jump drastically. The earlier missions were super short then at about 15 or so got a lot longer all of a sudden. The last mission was super long and the best part of the game. Up until then I thought it was decent but didn't get all the crazy reaction of how great it was from other players. While that last level pushed it up to a good game it didn't make it GOTY (I think STALKER holds that place but I dig post-apoc). If there had been more after that then maybe GOTY, but I guess thats what Portal 2 will be for.

I did like the atmosphere of game. The labs seemed nice and sterile. Then you slowly see some back office areas which are a little more cluttered. Squeezing out of the lab you get to see the dingy behind all the nice shine. I will say I wasn't expecting the ending (Had luckily stayed away from spoilers so had no context when reading the games quotes "The cake is a lie!"). I also enjoyed the tester's voice and the little speaches she gave.

Since it was short I do plan on replaying with the developer commentary, something I never do. I am also going to try out the advanced maps that came with the game. Now I just need to play EP1/2 but think I might replay HL1 and 2 first once I clear out some other games.