Archive for April, 2011

When Crysis 2 came out, I often read it would look hardly better than Crysis 1 (or even worse), because C1 had DirectX 10, while Crysis 2 is a DirectX 9 game and once you would enable DirectX 10 in Crysis 1…!11!!111!!! For me, DirectX 10/11 never did more than run significantly slower, but still look about the same. Sure, this isn’t completely the fault of the later DX versions, because games are developed for consoles, which don’t have those and therefore few people take the time to properly optimize it on the PC, but… the result is what counts. Looking at Crysis 2, I’m really baffled by such remarks. The graphics have clearly improved (to me, it’s a nice example how graphics did evolve in the last few years, despite neglecting current DX standards). Duh! It’s as wrong, as saying Crysis 1 would still be slow on current hardware – it isn’t. And I haven’t even used “the latest and greatest” (far from it).
Graphics aside, I generally perceived Crysis 2 as the better game (action felt more intense/thought the urban setting was superior). True, the jungle environments of Crysis 1 offered bigger terrains (which is great) than the urban setting of 2, but it’s really just a shooter and there’s nothing to explore anyway. Great locales can become very important in role-playing games, where hidden treasures await or characters can bet met. As long as the levels aren’t so small, that they start feeling like a very cramped space, it can always work well for an action oriented shooter.
However, this whole text should just lead up to the screenshots and give some context as to why I “mix” them up like this. All screenshots are 1920×1080 with the max effect settings the games allowed/offered (“very high” in Crysis 1 and Crysis Warhead and “extreme” in Crysis 2), so they should be easy to compare/get an overview/allow a good impression.
Due to my laziness, the Crysis Warhead Screenshots are last, after Crysis 2 (which, as the newest game, should be last) but that shouldn’t be a problem, since it’s impossible to mistake them and the file names even say so.

Some perceive Bioshock 2 rather as a try to cash in once again on a successful game and setting, (okay, this is probably true too) but whoever can look beyond that (and isn’t turned off by the mere fact of a sequel), finds a very decent game. I even dare say, it’s indeed better than part one. Rapture is such a fantastic location for that kind of game, it would have been a waste to use it only once. Really. B2 probably couldn’t get more out of it than it does (and it’s available retail for ~8 bucks in the “Rapture Edition” [extra art book] – real no brainer…). People talk about atmospheric games all the time and almost every scene in Bioshock 2 is a statement of what that actually means. This shooter is immersive.
Although I have to admit, that adding this story (to the story of the original Bioshock), with 10 years later and so on, is a little bit of a stretch, it still holds up surprisingly well. Only the (re-) introduction of Brigid Tenenbaum (that made me believe she would continue to play a major role throughout the entire game), after which she suddenly disappears, without ever being mentioned again, is really strange. Maybe her story was planned differently but was changed at some point during development, which left it in that state – that’s just pure speculation on my part though (I haven’t played Minerva’s Den). And of course it has no further negative effect on the overall game.
The good ending however, was more to my liking than the good ending of B1 – I felt it somehow didn’t have much to do with the Rapture story I had just played for several hours. In B2 it’s a much more direct result of all the players actions during the whole adventure.

Bioshock Infinite can already be pre-ordered (now people can finally complain about re-using a title solely for brand recognition) and except for the title it has no longer anything to do with Rapture (and thus the first two Bioshock games). But guessing from the early footage of it, it’s gonna be kickass nonetheless. :)

Wie Mainstream das Internet inzwischen (endlich?) geworden ist, merkt man bestens daran, dass es nun (das sagen andere zwar schon seit Jahren, aber mir drängt es sich im Augenblick geradezu unübersehbar auf) kein reines Rückzugsgebiet für Geeks oder Andersdenkende/Freigeister mehr darstellt. Früher™ konnte man noch bei störenden, (aber trotzdem) dominierenden Ereignissen (“Promi”-Hochzeiten, Karneval, Fußball-Whatevers, “Musik”-Irgendwas…) in allen anderen Medien auf das Internet ausweichen, um davon verschont zu bleiben (das war auch einer der Faktoren der bei mir endgültig das Ende des TV-Zeitalters eingeläutet hatte). Davon kann inzwischen jedoch keine Rede mehr sein. Auch wenn Twitter vielleicht sogar schon systembedingt nicht das beste Beispiel dafür ist, so reicht es dort längst nicht mehr, sich nur seine eigene Bohème-Timeline zu bauen, sondern das Ausblenden der TT wird zur Pflicht. Vielleicht zeigt sich dadurch aber auch nur die Konsequenz der Einbindung von “Social”-Elementen in immer höherem Ausmaß in immer mehr Diensten, was dann selbstverständlich darin resultieren muss, dass dort der gleiche Bullshit angeschwemmt wird, wie er auch sonst für die meisten Gesellschaften definierend ist.

Other than the screenshots in my first entry (DirectX 9 Renderer, no HighDef Textures), all of the following screenshots were made using the DirectX 11 Renderer and the “High Resolution Texture Pack” and all effects enabled/set to max. I always felt that the difference was close to zero (which isn’t even meant as a negative critique – I was happy with the graphics [if anything at all, I would have hoped for a better performance for something, that doesn’t exactly look like Crysis 2], I was just baffled by some remarks I read, that claimed using DX11/the DX11 Renderer would be an extreme advantage) and that at best the better textures were visible (which didn’t require the DX11 Renderer and looked just as good with the DX9 counterpart), if the player searched for it. Other than that, the ground/sky seemed to look more plastic/vivid in DX11 (and distant landscapes were more beautiful). That’s about it… However, now it can easily be compared. Because screenshots don’t lie and so on. :P

That doesn’t look like the big, all-explaining secret I hoped to uncover…

Important point: Portal 2 is as good as many people hoped it would be. All positive gameplay elements from 1 are present and were enhanced where it mattered and where it was beneficial to the puzzles. It’s all very solid and great. It’s a hit and no disappointment, is what I’m saying. At least I think so. Because of this, I won’t focus on discussing these parts (too).

In addition to the puzzles or test chambers, I also found the setting strangely appealing. I always wondered, how it might fit in with the Half-Life series (frequent mentions of Black Mesa), amongst other things. To me, it’s more than just surviving test after test. Portal 2, again, has elements of this story. There’s Wheatley (a name that sounds like a combination of Wil Wheaton and Wesley Crusher), Cave Johnson and, of course, GlaDOS. The parts of the game, that gripped me most, were when areas had to be crossed, that shed some light on Aperture’s past and origins. I really hoped to uncover something there. But the game ends without disclosing, what exactly became of Cave Johnson and how the whole complex subsequently turned into this seemingly pointless madhouse under GlaDOS’ sole control. I can’t really say, that, after playing Portal 2, I know anything more about these questions, than I did before. Even Chell, as the protagonist of both games, is still a complete mystery.
This gap in story (or lack thereof), was my sole disappointment in an otherwise excellent game. Therefore, once again, all hope rests with future releases, which still might follow up on that. Portal is a little “lostian” in that regard.

PS: Isn’t it weird, that, after fighting Wheatley, the player is dropped in a wheat field? Meaningless coincidence?

Sucks, that they present something, that might reveal an integral part of the story, in a handwriting I can only partially read…

I must be one of, apparently, two people (or an equally exclusive group) on this planet, who really liked Singularity. It probably wasn’t the best shooter ever, but not being a total hit, is still far from being a bad game. Duh! It was clearly derivative (woman guiding the silent player character through levels=Half-Life²; setting is a pseudo-scientific experiment gone wrong=Bioshock…), but pulling from the best isn’t necessarily negative when it’s done right and fresh/own ideas are also added to the mix. It was a little bit against the “current” trend of shooters (e.g. Gears of War, Bulletstorm, CoD: Black Ops…), who don’t display anything anymore – an actual health bar is often more helpful, than just guessing when the screen death hits (it’s also easier, to just wait for the red color to fade, instead of having to ration health packs). At least I think so. This impression, of having some classic traits, is strengthened by little “secrets” (exploring pays off) hidden in the levels, a gameplay mechanic, that is more and more replaced by using achievements instead. Where HL² introduced the gravity gun or Portal the… portal… gun, Singularity has the TMD (Time Manipulation Device). This plot device lets the player age or renew some objects almost instantly – usually shown in a nice animation not many games feature within their real time 3D engines. Although the use of the TMD is limited, I can see how more freedom would have put the developers before gigantic tasks. In the context of such a shooter I deem it even less important. There are adventure games after all, that don’t introduce more versatility and in such cases it would really be desirable.

Just when you think it’s done and over with. :D Best support EVER.

Unofficial English Patch 7.4a by Wesp5 (171 MB) / Changes / Planet-Vampire

Hotfix 7.4a fixes a bug in version 7.4 where Larry stays completely mute.
Unpack all files within the hotfix zipfile, overwriting the older ones. Or download the full patch 7.4a. The full patch is available only in english, hotfix can be applied to both english & german installed copies of patch 7.4.

Changes in 7.4:

  • +Made Danielle stay upon sending Patty to Vandal and removed safe node.
  • Moved many notable restorations from basic patch to be available in Plus Edition only.
  • Made skip intro always work on resolutions > 800×600 and fixed double pawnshop key.
  • Corrected prostitutes privacy, Ash switch and Giovanni name issues.
  • Included auto-moving and walk/run toggle, thanks to Dheu and Malkav.
  • Fixed parking garage gang war problem and Ming as Nines size issue.
  • Restored Larry’s locations in basic patch and removed his email.
  • Corrected facing Ming Obfuscated and readded claws inventory infos.
  • Fixed tutorial conditions for high stats and area discipline popups.
  • Repaired asking Strauss about dealt-with-gargoyle and text details.
  • Removed body bag models from Dane and added one into Giovanni crypt.
  • Restored Nines line, sister reconciliation and fixed Bertram issue.
  • Swapped Anarchs back into basic patch and fixed getting XPs at Zhao’s.
  • Tweaked Strength history to avoid making Bloodstar powerup useless.
  • Fixed camera cycle and Chuck being mute , thanks to burgermeister.

This title already sums it up. Kind of. Dead Space 2 is easily among the most fascinating single player experiences, games ever offered and although 2011 is still rather new, I dare to say it’s certainly one of the best games of this year. There is little else in this genre to compare it with, that is this satisfying. Dead Space 1 was already very good, the difference is, that 2 emphasizes the involvement of the player to a higher degree. Even scenes that could be fully automatic sequences, often expect the player to contribute (though there’s the slight problem that it’s not always immediately obvious).
DS2 is really a pure sequel at heart. Except for some definitive improvements and minor additions everything is the same (which, in this instance, is fantastic). They took DS and went ahead without changing anything that was good (I got even accustomed to stomping on the defeated enemies, because it made me more aware of my surroundings).
I disagree on some statements that the action would be rather nonstop – though it is intense at times (yay!), there are now even new scenes, in which nothing happens (really!) and there can be no thrill, when the player knows for sure no attack is coming (I therefore interpret these stages as a clear method to give the player some time to relax). The scenes I’m talking of are basically a Sci-Fi classic theme – I’m referring to the crawling through tight vents. Isaac can draw no weapon during these moments and having the player fend off attacks while unarmed, is something even Dead Space won’t do (I don’t count scenes which were designed to have Isaac run away for story purposes). Also, like Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age 2 […] – Dead Space 2 (:D) has now a CASUAL mode, where the game is (very) EASY, but it’s called different. I don’t know why they all do that nowadays, I think it’s quite silly. Actually I believe the DS2 guys played ME2 at some point, because even the new hacking game reminds me of some of the mini-games found in BioWare’s latest ME installment. This is not meant as a negative statement. Still concerning the difficulty, I would also describe another change, the stasis module now recharges on its own, although there are still stasis stations everywhere, like in the prequel. Gameplay was eased by removing the map and enhancing the beacon for all eventualities (now leads to mission goals/shops/upgrade benches).
The game has two plasmacutters now, which only differ in design. I therefore selected the one from DS and left the new model in the shop, I was still used to “the original”.
Part 2 introduces some new weapons, like the Javelin gun, it fires spikes, that can then electrify targets that were hit. Though the idea is good, I put the gun back in the store and stuck with the classics (cutter+pulse rifle). The upgrade options are limited as always and as they should be – therefore it makes sense to carefully select, which weapons are kept throughout the game. Still, they defused this situation a bit, because other than in DS, installed power nodes can be removed/are no longer permanent spent, so different weapons can be tested.
The chapters now just switch, it’s fluent, without a big bang, there are no loading screens anymore. Only a simple text tells this (and chapters don’t have names anymore) and vanishes fast.
The dynamic with text and audio logs was somewhat remixed. There are now less audio logs lying around (and less monsters jump expectably through windows!), but as a remedy, more things are interactive. Museums play audio and even some things are done in video (the explanation how to throw spikes at necromorphs with telekinesis).
btw: Who is still falling for seemingly dead Necromorphs, that just happen to lie in the players’ path? :D BOOM!
The suits are now more diverse, they look different and appear to be made for different purposes, they also grant certain feats (e.g. more firepower for pulse rifles while wearing security suit), so it’s a new suit with every upgrade, instead just the next level.

I LOVED the ending! Couldn’t have hit my taste more. It even rewards people who remember part 1 very well (or well enough). Nice twist and successful inside joke!

(Why does Nicole look different in 2? Different hair, different face… Compare 1 and 2, it’s not the same woman… It’s a weird decision at least, Isaac looks the same…)

PS: This draft was started originally 2011/02/01, I don’t know why I waited months to click “publish”. Undeserved, I hope.