Monday, January 3, 2005


Well, break's over. Back to work... as soon as I post some thoughts on games I played over the break.

I spent 10 days visiting family in Toronto, so most of this was before I left, and a little bit after I got back:

Half Life 2:

Well, everyone else has said it, I'll say it too. It's a really fantastic piece of work. It's a *really* well executed FPS game. Blah blah blah fancy graphics, great audio, level design is pretty well done, etc. You've read this all before.

Some stuff I liked:

- I liked the wide variety of 'feel' between the different chapters. At GameTech, Jay Stelley talked about how different teams worked independently on the chapters with the input being a basic design, rules, and the main story line. It really shows here, in that the chapters are so different. It's like buying many FPS games in one (so go give Valve your $50).

- Gravity gun. I'm looking forward to see original ways in which people mod it. Golf interface anyone? Fishing interface?

Some stuff I didn't like:

- It crashed. A few times. And I'm playing on a state of the art >3Ghz machine with all the trimmings and a fairly clean windows install. Discouraging because the PC games biz needs to get this fixed, and if Valve can't do it then who can? Granted, part of it comes with ambition and pushing the envelope and all that. Still, it's discouraging. [For what it's worth, the crashes were limited to 2 particular ones, both of which happened 3-4 times during the entire time I played the game: (1) A video-got-botched problem that perhaps could be my ATI drivers, and (2) a resource loading problem that I'm guessing is some race condition with their file loading perhaps being on anohter thread or something? It finds the file next time around so... anyhoo. just guessing.]

- Characters only on one side. Valve put some great effort into the characters that fight on your side and that help the story along. Not sure they are at the "get the player emotionally attached" level yet, but it's miles beyond what anyone else in the genre is doing. However, the baddies are still drones of faceless minions. Aside from 2 characters that you only see on video now and again, everyone else is guy in a gas mask. Wolfenstein 3D had mini-bosses that struck some fear in you.

Those comments aside, it's a must-play. Valve has waited 5 long years for your money. Now go give it to them! [BTW, I'm still not finished the game yet. Not a lot of time for games these days!]


The good news: I have finally kicked my Jumpman Under Construction habit. Bad News: It was N that did it. It's best described as a flash-based, Lode-Runner-esque, Jumpman-esque (add a pinch of Major Havoc), platformer that incorporates physics to breathe some new life into the genre.

What I liked:

- The physics adds a really awesome 'feel' to the game. And games like this (for me anyway) have been about 'feel'. Remember jumpman almost not making a big jump and then just barely 'grabbing' the bottom of a climbing rope? Lots of that type of feel. Sorry for not having a better descriptive term. Just go play it.

- The parallel paths of progression. The game gets crazy-hard, crazy-fast. The learning curve is steep. NOrmally you'd get to a certain level, get stuck, and give up. They give you a number of different paths (think they call them episodes) along which to progress and unlock levels. Get stuck on one, give up, try anohter for a while. Works out nicely.

What I didn't like:

- Too hard! No time to play and get better at it! Argh!


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