Monday, February 27, 2012

Syndicate Mini-Review

Things I like about it:
- The the cyberpunk setting. The game gives you tons of information (in the form of data, files, and propaganda) concerning the various syndicates, their agents, weapons, bio-upgrades, just tons of crap to read if you choose to do so. I have been because I like the setting of various syndicates rising to global dominance, overpowering even governments and forming corporate armies to wage war against one another.
- Nice art direction and music. Graphics overall look pretty great, the lighting is impressive and the framerate holds steadily at 30 FPS.
- The guns are fun to use and they all sound great. There were only a couple guns I genuinely didn't like.
- The breach abilities/dart overlay system are neat.
- In the single player campaign, you only have access to a small talent tree. In the co-op campaign, there's a large talent tree, rank ups, and weapons and abilities can be upgraded. Upgrading everything in the co-op campaign would take a while.
- Ability to select any level to play once you've cleared it. Shows your stats for the level and shows the info files/propaganda you've collected or that you're missing.
- A number of the guns have secondary firing modes, and they work great.
- The co-op campaign and single player campaigns are separate and completely different.
- The co-op levels are pretty well designed and a lot of fun with a competent group.
- Went through the single player twice (once on normal, once on hard). My hard run felt way easier; I didn't even notice much of an increase in difficulty outside of enemies hitting like trucks. I did the co-op campaign once on normal (the last level I did was basically just duoed with me and another guy), and I'm in the process oftrying to go through it solo on normal.
- On co-op, at least on the harder difficulties, situational awareness is really important, and you need to be ready to react at a given's notice. Be it for healing, activating an ability, breaching an enemy, etc. It's tense, but it feels great when it comes together.

Things I don't like:
- Single player campaign is absolutely too linear. You've got these great looking levels, but are shuffled along a one-way path the entire time. It sucks.
- Too much of a reliance on cinematic crap and not letting you be in control. Just kills the pacing.
- Single player campaign is fairly short. It took me around 10ish hours my first time, but I was going super slow, taking the time to explore the levels (not that there's much to explore) and read the stuff I mentioned above. About 5-7 hours when I went through it on hard.
- Enemies feel like bullet sponges at times. Bosses especially are. They take way too long to kill.
- The game should've had some sort of improved cover mechanic, probably. I was behind cover a fair bit (you can get ripped to shreds easily), and the way cover works in this game is wonky. And for some reason it's hard to tell at times when you're crouching or not. Might be a result of the awful FOV.
- Co-op isn't tuned to detect how many players are playing, and throws the same amount of enemies at you regardless of whether you're playing alone or with 4 people.
- Bosses/minibosses are terrible. Too many of the same general ones are repeated, too.
- Story was predictable, and the very last part of it felt really shoe-horned in. I doubt there's going to be a sequel, but there definitely could be one.
- You hear about all these different syndicates and locations, and you don't even get to visit many of them in the single player campaign. It's kind of a shame.
- Of course there's a sewer/underground level, and it lasts about 2 levels too long.
- A lot of the bloom lighting is used for stylistic effect, but it really is just annoying and blinding to look at most of the time.
- Checkpoints are too frequent. Very rarely do you ever feel like you lose any progress. I mean I like frequent checkpoints, and there have been two recent games that lacked them that pissed me off a number of times (Deus Ex and Rage), but these are really frequent. It's rare you'll lose more than 1-2 minutes of progress.
- Way, way too much "PRESS X REALLY FAST TO OPEN DOOR/VENT". Almost every door/vent you run across, you have to mash X to open. It's absolutely ridiculous.
- Lack of new game+ that carries over your talent tree in the single player campaign.
- I wish there were more abilities available to you in the single player campaign. The three you're given near the start (Suicide, Persuade and Backfire) are the same ones you use until the end.
- Only two guns can be used at any time + grenades, but the secondary fire modes offsets that a bit.
- Can't skip cutscenes.
- The health upgrade options available in the talent tree are near a requirement in both single player and co-op.
- The co-op campaign has 9ish levels that are unique to it. That pisses me off. Those levels should've been in the single player campaign, as well.
- Merit (a character) had some funny moments.

Despite all of those complaints, I still found it really fun, and that's what's most important to me. I want to give it a 7/10, but the flaws hold it back too much for that, so 6/10.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Year End Best of Music 2011 List

I don't think I could be anymore happy with this year after 2010's absolute failure to produce more than a few albums I really enjoyed. A number of great releases in a diverse range of genres, and a ton of good releases that would've received more attention from me if this year wasn't as busy as it turned out to be. The list is incredibly electronic heavy, which reflects just where my tastes have veered this year. I think general "indie" releases disappointed, though, with only a few standout albums. All right, let's do this:

General Great EPs (not ranked in any order):
Silkie - City Limits Volume 1.6 - 1.8
Pixelord - Puzzles EP
Pixelord - Iron and Cream
Lunice - One Hunned
DJ Spinn - Man I Do It
King Krule - King Krule

Entirely electronic dominated besides the King Krule release which recently came out. Pixelord/Lunice doing the hip hop beats bassy thing that's been getting pretty popular (Lunice in particular is insane), Man I Do It is the best juke release I've listened to this year and it's a shame it wasn't a full album, and I don't even know why I like King Krule so much, but I do, even if the EP is stupidly short. Silkie's City Limits Volume 1.6 - 1.8 sounds a fair bit like City Limits Volume 2 and almost works as an intro for the album (even though Vol. 1.6 - 1.8 were released a few months before Vol. 2).

General Great LPs (not ranked in any order):
Baths - Pop Music and False B-Sides
Geotic - Mend
The Weeknd - House of Balloons
Julian Lynch - Terra
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Lil B - I'm Gay
Zomby - Dedication
Panda Bear - Tomboy
Real Estate - Days

The general indie stuff, mostly. Panda Bear, Bon Iver, The Weeknd, Geotic, or Julian Lynch could probably arguably be in the top albums spots, as they're all excellent.

Top LPs (not ranked in any order):
Silkie - City Limits Volume 2
Araabmuzik - Electronic Dream
Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
Rustie - Glass Swords

Entirely electronic dominated. City Limits is unreal at times, Araabmuzik is a damn wizard, Replica is the most haunting thing I've heard this entire year, and I don't really have anything to say about Glass Swords.


And that's it for the year. I'm hoping 2012 can top 2011, but it'll be tough. I don't have a list of releases for next year, but all that matters is when the next Animal Collective will be out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dead Island Mini-Review

I wrote this up for no real reason, so here.

pros: graphics, excellent load times, interesting combat with the analog control scheme, sense of being overwhelmed by groups of zombies, lack of music but great environmental sounds, unique modification system for weapons, enemies sustain bodily damage from blows/lacerations which is really cool, only had a couple minor glitches, fairly lengthy game if you do the side quests probably more or less 10 hours if you just do the main quest, lots of random crap to collect if you're willing to explore everything, three fairly large distinct areas to explore, i've read reviews complaining about how weapons (not including guns) break too quickly and constantly require you to replace them or repair them but that isn't really the case as you get quite a few skill points that can be used to increase weapon durability and repairing weapons isn't too expensive so long as the weapon isn't past 50% broken and this is a super run-on sentence

cons: majority of the sidequests are dull, main quests are also dull, combat can be repetitive and isn't really improved or changed up much from the beginning to the end, lack of enemy variety, skill points and talent trees are boring and don't really reward you with new abilities or anything particularly cool, clunky controls, FOV needs to be farther out (possible to modify this on the PC version, but not consoles), clearly designed and balanced for co-op especially in Act II, meh writing and animation, awful gunplay, some creepy parts but overall not heavy on zombie apocalypse atmosphere, loot could be much better, Act II is awful in just about every way, lacking in quick travel options, lack of cars readily available after Act I, have not tried any character besides the guy that specializes in blunt weapons but i would imagine combat isn't very different between the four characters you can play as, really boring art direction and nothing really stands out, there's like a half hour or so escort mission that's required to do and absolutely sucks

Flawed, but enjoyable, probably much more so in co-op. An improved sequel would be nice at some point, as the framework is basically there for a great game.

I'll probably do a top 3 or maybe 5 for games I've played this year. Not going to post that until probably sometime early next year, though, as there are still games from this year that I want to play that I haven't gotten around to.On the other hand, my year end music list is coming very soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Year End Best of Music 2010 List

I'm surprised I stuck through with even posting a list, and finishing it just a week later.

I don't feel up to making a top 5 for EPs. Laurel Halo's King Felix EP wins, though. It wins it all. Gatekeeper had a nice EP release with Giza near the end of the year, too, but I doubt I'd put it in my top 5. Looking forward to LPs from both of them.

Tristan Perich - 1-bit Orchestra
Salem - King Knight
Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit

I can't decide if I'd even want to include these in a top 10 list, so just consider them honorable mentions with no description. None of them were in my earlier posts, anyway. And yes, 1-bit Orchestra is true to its name. I wrote a bunch of shit about Salem (and a few other albums) when I was still in the mindset of doing a proper year-end list like last year's, but forget it. King Knight's cool, though, and the genre-blending on the album is staggering. Agalloch's Marrow of the Spirit kind of came out of nowhere. I've only listened to it once, but it's pretty good, and they still have the folk metal thing going on. I'd say it's on par with their older stuff.

Top 7:

7. Former Ghosts - New Love
6. Yellow Swans - Going Places
5. Twin Shadow - Forget
4. Avey Tare - Down There
3. Beach House - Teen Dream
2. Jeans Wilder - Nice Trash
1. Dinosaur Feathers - Fantasy Memorial

Dinosaur Feathers wins because it was a huge surprise in an otherwise terrible year. Plus I played the hell out of it, and it got me through the early part of the year. Jeans Wilder's Nice Trash came out a week into December, and it's a damn shame it wasn't just held back for a January release, but whatever. I'd rather include it in the 2011 list if I could, and it'd be an early front-runner for album of the year. The album's tremendous, though, and really has a sound that's unlike anything I've heard. I guess something like ghost dream-pop would be a sufficient enough description? It's nuts. Teen Dream still holds up a year later, although it really isn't much of a deviation from Devotion.

Avey Tare's Down There took a few listens to really set in, but it's a very strong album. There isn't a single bad track on it, but the first half really outshines the second. Twin Shadow was another great surprise, and was what I was listening to for the majority of the late summer into early fall. Yellow Swans I've talked about already, and Former Ghosts were in my top 10 last year, too.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year End 2010 List is Coming, I think

I've bitched about 2010 a lot, but I guess I'm still going to do a top 5 or 10 for albums. Mainly for myself (see: my 2008 year end list), as I'm not going to be writing much, if anything, nor posting links to songs/albums. Plus a semi-surprise album was released at the very, very end of 2010, and I wouldn't feel right without giving it credit. I'll need a week or so to re-listen to everything, but I have a pretty general idea as to what my top 5 will be, at least.

2011's off to a decent start with Cloud Nothings and Geotic. I think Toro y Moi's next album will be good, and that'll be out soon. No real surprises yet, but you never really know when those will hit in a year. I doubt there'll be another Dinosaur Feathers by the end of February like there was last year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pre-2010 End of Year List: Song of the Year 2010

I've never been a huge supporter of things like "favorite song of all time/X year" questions/lists, but this is an exception. The main reason being: the guy (as far as I know), just records random shit and posts accompanying videos to his YouTube account. Outer Limit Recordings (the recording moniker) did put out something this year, but I wasn't impressed with it. The guy in question, Sam Mehran, best known for his stint with Test.Icicles, but I wasn't aware of him until I came across his track "Julie". "Julie" came to my attention at the perfect time -- right around Halloween, and its whimsical, b-horror-esque lyrics and visuals depicted why I love the time so much. The playful, somewhat candid taping is what makes it so charming. Sam Mehran in a basement, playing some deranged romantic, holding a bouquet together with a knife, simultaneously glorifying and stabbing a foam mannequin face. Him and some other guy parading around, smoking, in what looks to be some sort of yard, garden, or park in an exaggerated manner, with the mannequin accompanying them as they have tea. It's a surreal, quirky video that's completely fit for the track.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010