Why I loved Portal 2: First of all, it’s the tone – weird, dark humor pulled from a made-up-yet-plausible history of creepy scientific research funded by shadowy organizations – and then it’s the setting – a gorgeous, stunning, massive set of worlds that had me stopping to marvel at the epic industrial complexes built in the name of make-believe science and also left my head spinning as I flew across them like a tennis ball in a tumble dryer. The physics match the mood – lighthearted yet challenging – and the goofball characters, both AI and avatar, add to the wacky fun. The puzzles at times are so frustrating it can incite you to controller-throwing violence but the sweet rush of victory when the most obvious solution finally presents itself to you and a level is unlocked more than balance out the earlier vitriol with heady endorphins and sweaty-palmed desire for the next challenge. Played through on single player and co-op, one of the few games I’ve ever finished both ways because it was that engaging.
Good game, gets me in the mood to go ride for real, but it’s just 1) too realistic – tricks are not epic enough, air is not insane enough, speed is not ludicrous enough and 2) all the challenges are about doing specific tricks, there is no sense of creativity or personal style. Maybe it’s my fault, because I want so bad for this to be SSX Tricky and it just isn’t.
After 1 hour of Dirt 2, I logged into Gamefly and hit KEEP. I was literally cheering at the screen when I’d nail a 1st place win, and if there had been champagne handy I would have sprayed it all over. I love hearing Travis Pastrana address me by name, I love the driving dynamics, I love the music, I love the smooth transitions between racing, menus, and replays with no giant block of loading/wait time, and I love winning and hearing real drivers tell me I’m a badass behind the wheel. Dirt 2 is a genius game that’s really well put together and I’m going to love playing it through. I haven’t even touched MMO yet and I’m already convinced this game is a keeper.
I love so many things about this game – the gang-leader story arc, the cool add-ons to this genre (running a gang, territory management), the dark and comic nature – that it’s very disappointing how painful online play is. Online play is buggy, confusing, crashy, and frustrating. I was really looking forward to an awesome sandbox/co-op after playing solo and was left really, really disappointed. In solo mode, however, it’s an excellent diversion, especially if you’ve already finished GTA4 and are longing for more.
Uproariously fun to play through – I keep calling people into the room for “look, you gotta see this” moments. The music and visuals are kickass and the game’s just really clever. This is not just another Lara Croft-type adventure, it really has its own style, feel, depth and unique genius.
What I really wanted was SSX Tricky. Stoked is visually impressive but too “real” – I play a video game (especially a snowboarding one) for better-than-reality tricks, stunts, and visuals. The music and characters are funny but get repetitive, but none of that would register if the gameplay were as epic and outrageous as I had hoped. But it’s just not SSX and I can’t help but pine for my PS2 and Elise, Kaori, Mac, Moby, Psymon and Zoe.
No sense bothering with an intelligent introduction; let’s just jump right in. Gran Turismo 4 is super. After making it home yesterday, i took just a moment to switch cars (it was only appropriate to drive the Z to the mall to pick up the quintessential racing game – plus it was 60 degrees and i’m getting started on my tan early this season) and raced (not quite literally) to the mall to rescue my preordered copy from the confines of EB Games’ locked display case. In keeping with the theme of today’s blather, i took yet another second on the way out the door to stuff the GBA in my pocket – playing Mario Cart while waiting in line helped keep me in a driving state of mind.
Despite boring Danielle – she was over for the evening – i of course had to pop in the GT4 disc right away. Some small snafus finding enough space on a memory card for the new game save, but once that hassle was behind me, the ooh’s and aah’s could begin. The game is very pretty, and sounds very nice, and is just generally about as shiny and appealing as a Porsche showroom dipped in chocolate sauce. 700 cars, beautiful scenery, and so much realism to the tuning and tweaking of your cars that it makes my head spin.
Now although the online play feature didn’t make it into the release, there is a LAN play feature that would let you play against another PS2 in your home network. Neat, you say. But what if your home network were to, say, span the entire globe? Do tell. Sounds crazy but totally possible, thanks to XLink Kai, some crazy brits that are experts at network routing trickery and the foolery of console LAN games. Not to leave anyone out, their software will support XBox and GameCube networking, too – and even the PSP (for the true early adopters). It basically uses your computer as a software router and grants you access to an international group of, in this case, fellow GT4 release-day junkies. Def going to try that out. Oh, and as all good things to be found on the internet are either ridiculously expensive or free… this is free.
In between retina-burning marathons behind the wheel of my highly-modified green 89 virtual 300ZX 2+0, sometimes it’s good to work something out on paper. Like maybe an artisitic interpretation of 8-bit Super Mario created with post-it notes in honor of Engineering Week. Very cool, kudos to those kids at UCSC, and to 3M for making black post-its for just such an occasion. For my celebration, i’ll be giving my opponens pollicis a heavy workout.