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    Call of Duty WWII (PS4)    by   jp       (May 21st, 2018 at 19:15:20)

    I'm 6 or 7 missions into the campaign and it's "ok". I've been struggling to articulate why I'm not enjoying the bombast as I usually do with CoD games. This one is obviously different - what with the setting and such, it looks amazing as usual BUT the gameplay doesn't quite work for me. The standout exception so far was the infiltration mission (where you play a female character from the resistance who is infiltrating - in disguise - a giant german-occupied building in's sort of a command center/officer club). I'm not sure if this is what's bugging me the most, but I'll try...

    a. I've run into multiple moments where I hit an invisible checkpoint at a really bad (low health and ammo) moment such that when I die later on, it's much harder to make progress because the checkpoint reloads with low health and ammo (and sometimes even under fire?) This has happened enough times that I've noticed.

    b. I've been able to "peek-behind-the-curtain" way too many times in ways that have been immersion breaking and disappointing. The standout one so far was a mission where you have to attack and take over a church. As I was about to exit on the opposite end - having fought soldiers and whatnot, I look left and see a staircase going up. I wonder if I can go up, but I can't because there's some furniture and stuff blocking the way. So, I continue (2 meters?) towards the door which triggers a cut-scene/dramatic moment with explosions and NPC instructions to head up the stairs to the belltower or something. I had JUST looked there and it was blocked, but when I turn to look now - it's magically cleared! I noticed this in a few other places which is a real drag...

    c. The level/fight design seems to favor rushing in and hoping for the best. If you stay back and cautiously move forward enemies just keep magically re-spawning. Agh. It's a drag - especially because the enemies respawn pretty much right there.

    d. I've run into many, many firefights where I just keep on dying and dying until I'm able to luckily make it through... these include firefights with internal checkpoints that are also a bit awkward.

    Overall, it seems like the pacing is often "off" for me?

    I have enjoyed the NPC characters - you can call on them for ammo and health!

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    Grand Theft Auto V (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 17th, 2018 at 16:21:44)

    I used GTA V in my learning community this semester to teach deviance. After a lecture covering basic theory and concepts, I had students play GTA V for half an hour and answer questions about labeling theory, think about how norms, sanctions, and deviance differ in Los Santos vs. the real world, violate in-game norms and identify sanctions, and try to get a bunch of fake achievements I made up to get labeled deviant in various ways in the game. It was a ton of fun, and effective!

    I played the bare minimum to prepare for bringing the game to class (though most of them had played before) because I had to spend most of my time trying to get the thing to run smoothly on my laptop and through a classroom projector. I eventually did it well enough, hooray, but I still havenít got it running perfectly. Itíll get choppy sometimes while driving and shooting. It could just be that this is where my computer begins to show its age. Sigh. But now that the semester's over, I can go back through games I began for the learning community. According to Steam, I've clocked 33 hours, but it's realistically in the low 20s.

    GTA V is the best GTA. I played some of the older ones (San Andreas, Vice City), never all the way through a story, and mostly just for causing mayhem. I played GTA IV for about 10 hours and spent most of that time on the fake internet and watching fake in-game TV. Iím pleased to report that the fake internet and TV are even better this time around and that I have resisted watching all of that content, which I bet runs upward of 20 hours if you count radio stations too.

    Why is GTA V the best GTA? For me, itís the characters, missions, and overall narrative. GTA V does this cool thing where there are three main characters whose lives intertwine. You start with Franklin, a sarcastic, dry-humored, practical black man living with his aunt in a poor neighborhood in Los Santos. Then you meet Michael, a wealthy ex-con in witness protection with an extremely dysfunctional family. Franklin starts to work for Michael. Finally, my favorite, Trevor enters the picture. Trevor is quite literally insane. Heís part meth head and drug and weapons dealer, with a low-rent operation out of a trailer in the desert. He has a history with Michael, and all three of them wind up having to do jobs together for the FIB (GTAís FBI). Thereís some larger story going on about a shady corporation or something called Merryweather and a super weapon. Not sure about all that yet, but certainly intrigued.

    Each character is fleshed out, and it makes this story more than about stealing cars and killing people. Serious themes exist underneath the GTA parody about family, trust, speeding up of social life, consumerism, drug culture, etc., etc., and I dare say that not only the game as a whole (obviously), but the characters in particular, are real pieces of art. Franklinís relationship with his aunt, who is into spiritual femininity and magic crystals, is fraught because they simply donít understand one anotherís lives. His relationship with his dog is adorable. Michaelís family, as mentioned, is insane. His wife is trying to be calm in a fast-moving world and is cheating on him with her yoga instructor. One of the best scenes in the game so far is when Michael and his wife get into an argument, and the yoga instructor comes around and makes them do a family session together, so you, as Michael, have to do yoga, which of course, does nothing to calm anyone down. His daughter is vapid and wants to be a reality TV star. His son smokes weed and plays video games all day. They are all entitled. Michael really does see himself as a good guy, but heís surrounded by crazy people and pressured into crime, which he does enjoy and is good at. Trevor assaults and kills people at will, is secretly from Canada (and becomes enraged if people point out his accent), hates it when people call him a motherfucker, and in one memorable scene, becomes enraged when Michael describes how Trevor is a hipster, or at least what hipsters aspire to become. Trevor is currently dating a woman whom he kidnapped and does not see a problem with it.

    Gameplay wise, itís typical GTA, but missions are far more varied. This is exemplified by the heists, in which you put together a team (some combination of the three main characters and sometimes other NPCs) to do things like rob banks, rob trains, secure witnesses, or steal other huge items. These involve preparation missions where you observe a place, or acquire a getaway car, or do other tasks before the actual heist. For example, the last one I did was to rob a bank. I first scouted the bank and tested its alarm system to see how fast the police response was. It was very fast, and so I made the decision to shoot our way out. Then, I stole a military truck full of armor and weapons from a convoy to prepare for the shootout. Then, I stole a van for Franklin to use as the getaway vehicle. The other characters (Michael, Trevor, and one hired gun) hit the bank, stole the money, changed into full combat gear, and emerged guns blazing at a stunned police force. We shot our way through them, working our way toward Franklin in the getaway vehicle. I forget how or why this happened, but at some point someone stole a bulldozer to help clear the path of cops.

    Part of whatís so cool about heists is that you switch between characters to perform all their roles when they are doing things simultaneously (e.g., one character sniping from a rooftop, one causing a distraction, one stealing something). You do this during the game as well, switching between the three characters at will. They all have different jobs they can do, different contacts for missions, different properties they can purchase, different activities they can engage in, etc. And they so frequently weave together. Youíll go to do a mission as Franklin, and itíll turn out Michael orchestrated it. Or youíll go do something with Trevor, and the FIB agent in charge will want Franklin too.

    This plenty to write at the moment, but suffice it to say that there is so much more that GTA V offers. Tons of random events, side missions, activities (darts, races, Trevorís rampages, etc.) will keep a dedicated player busy for a really long time. This may be the last open world game you need for a long time. And I'm saying this almost 5 years after it came out. Oh, there's also GTA V Online. Will update again once I beat story mode with some good memories.

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    Killing Floor 2 (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 11th, 2018 at 17:36:11)

    I bought Killing Floor 2 during Extra Life 2016 and was really impressed with how wonderfully gory it was. It's a co-op FPS with lots of zombies and other hellish creatures. According to Steam, I've played 15 a year-and-a-half. I've recently been cleaning out multiplayer games and think I'll keep this one installed, because I played some more last night, and it really is fun, if a bit repetitive. There are a lot of character classes with different weapon specialties. I have been playing mostly with the Gunslinger, who uses pistols and a shotgun. General shooty class. Every 5 experience levels, you can access to a choice between two perks for the class (you can change the perks). I think there are like 20 or 25 levels, so there are a lot of perks, times however many classes, means a hefty amount of knowledge, skill, and time to master everything.

    So you choose your character, choose your difficulty (it can be a leisurely and gory romp or a ridiculously difficult infinite waves game, your choice), and go into a random match or lobby or whatever. Game starts. It's shorter, medium length, or longer (and I think there's an infinite mode now). I've only played short, which is four waves. After each wave, you go spend your money (earned for killing enemies? I'm not really sure. But I know you can "throw" money at other players and share) at the upgrade station to buy ammo, armor, and new weapons. At the end of the fourth wave (on short) there's a boss. I've seen really only one boss boss, and then other bosses that are variants of strong enemies that already exist. I wish there were more. They generally eat a ton of bullets and I usually die, but that's partly because I'm not very good at the game.

    I think the way to play this game is to focus on one or two character classes first to get pretty good at them and learn the ropes. I have...failed to play this way, having dabbled with most of the classes and not having played one enough to really understand it. I should follow my own advice!

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    Beholder (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 8th, 2018 at 00:12:40)

    This ended sooner than I thought! Orwell was longer and Beholder was shorter. Beholder is a game about Soviet style surveillance. You get put in the government job of landlord of an apartment block. You need to earn money and reputation. With reputation, you can buy security cameras, which you install in your tenants' homes. With money, you can buy repair kits to fix broken stuff and buy all sorts of goods. You can also spend these resources to pay/bribe/uncover info.

    The government gives you orders to spy on and evict people. You've always got to listen for the phone to ring so you can run to your apartment and answer it. The other citizens are needy little Sims. They need medicine, or a tie, or want you to buy them a gun for protection from an abusive ex-husband, or want you to sell cans of old fish they stole, or want to get a girlfriend, etc., etc. Your family is the most needy, with a wife and two kids. The wife always needs money for bills and groceries. Your college age son needs money for books or a date, or to avoid being sent to the mines. Your small daughter gets sick, and good luck affording $30,000 to save her life!

    Your task is to manage all the conflicting desires of all these NPCs while not getting yourself arrested, killed, exiled, and ideally keeping your family safe and healthy too. The gameplay loop got old fast. Run around from apartment to apartment collecting information on who has illegal goods, building dossiers on residents, and reporting all this info to the Ministry, or bribing residents for money. When residents are around, chat with them for info and take and complete tasks. Do your best to keep money and reputation rolling in so you can continue your spy work.

    You will get bad endings. You will fail residents. You will have to compromise your morals and allegiances. At least all this happens on the hard difficulty, which was quite hard. I got caught stealing a lot, I was shot and killed by two different residents, I was arrested for being in debt, I was fired from my job, I was reprimanded for evicting a tenant without tact. My daughter died, my son got kicked out of college and went to work in the mines. I couldn't afford to protect either of them. It was terrible. I felt like a bad father.

    And a bad neighbor. And I guess that's what Beholder is about. Being a bad neighbor and a bad father. And no one likes you.

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    Dead Island (PS3)    by   jp       (May 7th, 2018 at 17:54:34)

    I really, really enjoyed a lot of things about this game - it's sort of what I had hoped Dead Rising would be when I first played it: an open world zombie game where, for the most part, you're pretty safe. There's a ton of rpg-lite elements in tha tyou gain XP, level up, unlock perks but also have to manage equipment. Weapons break (really quickly), need repairing, and can be upgraded. There's tons of side missions where you find things, find people, deliver things, kill zombies, etc.

    There's also driving.

    And the game (still) looks pretty amazing. It's all set in a resort/holiday getaway island so pretty much all the zombies are in swimwear.

    I stopped playing mostly because I did not understand (or appreciate) the combat. It's mostly close combat and it feels really hard to gauge successful hits and such (it's in 1st person). When attacking two or more zombies the whole thing is a mess - most hits don't land. But sometimes they do. And you take hits all over the place. It wasn't really an issue in that I was dying all the time. Rather, it felt like it mas more of an exercise in frustration than fun.

    So, back on the shelf it goes!

    Oh, there was a game design/UI element I thought was really cool. There's a few missions where I had to get gas from a gas station or get some juice packs. It was recommended that I take a car (pickup truck) and when I found the items I had to carry them to the car and place them in an outline in the back of the truck. The truck has 4 spaces where you can place items that are carried around. It was nice touch I thought - much more interesting than simply adding stuff to an inventory, especially since carrying the things around meant that you could not wield a weapon and where thus temporarily vulnerable (so, parking close matters!).

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    Jewel Quest II (Web)    by   bloudnproud

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Saturday 9 February, 2008
    Gamelog entry #2

    After failing the second level, I realized that there was a time limit to the puzzle. The long tongue of the lion on the bottom turned out to be the timer, where the shorter it got, the more time was running out. So I tried the game again, now knowing that I cannot just take my time because I had to think fast. Since I was running out of time, I opted to use one of the special moves. I clicked on the one jewel that I had left, and it turned to gold.

    More of the story was revealed as I completed the levels. I also received another part of the map. The second level did not seem to be harder than the first. The board did change however. I made the game more challenging for myself by trying to obtain the gold coins. The length of the tongue seemed to be shorter in the third level. In the third level, buried jewels must be completely revealed before they can be moved. I had to uncover a buried jewel by lining up identical jewels next to it. It was hilarious how when I failed the level, there was a quote from Rupert saying, “I’ve lost my best girl and now this! Cripes! Can’t a guy catch a break around here!?!- It was like hearing a pirate talk.

    The scenery of the ship was nice because it matched the story of how Rupert was at sea. The background looked like the scenery from a children‚Äôs cartoon. The colors may not be as intricate as the ones used in ‚ÄúCastlevania‚ÄĚ, but with a puzzle game such as this, it did not need to be so complicating. The colors of the jewels were simple primary colors, which is beneficial because it does not make the game confusing. The level design was good because even the very little details of a ship in real-life were included. Not to mention how the gold coins had a picture on it as well. The levels vary by having the time-limit become shorter. In each level, the board was changed, and there were also more jewels included. Something new would be added to each level, like the gold coins and the buried jewels. By adding these challenges or new aspects, it makes the game interesting.

    One of the conflicts that the game provides is the time expiration. One must get rid of all the jewels before time runs out. It was interesting how the picture of the lion on the bottom, with its long tongue horizontally sticking out, turned out to be the timer. The shorter the tongue got, the less time I had. This was such a clever aspect of the game that I did not notice its purpose beforehand. This game simply has a 2D gameworld since it‚Äôs a puzzle. I chose a single player adventure, but there is also the choice of player against another person. So this would form social interaction, in the sense that both players will feel excited and nervous to complete the level before the other player does, or before time runs out. I wouldn‚Äôt change the game because I liked it the way it is. Actually, I would probably add different background music to that one jungle-like music that was being played. The only part that frustrated me was when time ran out before I managed to complete the level. The game gradually became harder with the time span becoming shorter and new elements like buried jewels were added. I was excited about the reward structure because I was able to use the ‚Äúspecial‚ÄĚ moves that I obtained on jewels that I had complications with. I also liked how high the points became, and that bonus points were awarded after each level was completed. The reward system includes lives, score, and the special moves.

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