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Released: 28/05/2010
Developer: Obsidian
Publisher: Sega
Hours played: 4
Last played: 26/07/2012

I posted a review in progress of this game after two hours, now after four I think I’ve given up, at least for a long, long time. I reached one point where I was spotted by the same guy over and over again which led to a firefight which led to my death every time, and the checkpoint system that had, up to that point, been fine made me restart the level all over again. That would’ve been fine as it wasn’t too far in to the level, but every time I restarted I had to hack two computers, and the hacking part is the most frustrating thing I’ve ever played; it’s as if it’s trolling you because the mouse initially barely responds to your inputs, but then when you’ve lined up the codes and click mouse 1 to ‘hack’ it, the tiniest movement will send the code all over the place. It’s bizarre, it really is, and more to the point is absolutely sucks so after doing that about four times I said ‘fuck it, there’s better stuff to play’ and gave up.

Pretty much everything I said before still stands. I didn’t encounter any huge glitches in my second two hour stint, so that was ok, and I liked that after you leave the first area the game gives you a choice of where to head to next. The game never explained how to change the ammo type you have loaded, however, so even though I used my martial arts skill to knock most people out, I couldn’t work out how to load the pistol with tranquilisers so I could have a proper no-kill playthrough.

Also, the key assignments are bizarre, illogical, unintuitive and more or less the worst I’ve seen. You press ‘I’ to bring up your inventory, when you’re done with that you press ‘esc’ to step back one level to a menu that lets you choose your inventory, mission briefing and skills and such. Then if you press ‘esc’ to exit that menu, nothing happens… So what do you press? I mean logically, as a gamer, if escape doesn’t exit a menu, what do you try next? Maybe the key that brought the menu up in the first place? Nope, that doesn’t work. Err… Shit, what now? Press every key. Nothing happens. Has it crashed or something? No, it hasn’t; it turns out you have to press mouse 2 to resume the game. So that’s ‘I’ to bring up the inventory, ‘esc’ to close the inventory in favour of another menu that you didn’t ask for and then mouse 2 to close it and resume the game. Why? Dear god, who in the name of all that is holy came up with that?

Anyway, I think I’ll revisit it eventually but I’m done with it for now, it just didn’t grab me at all. I got it for less than £2 though so I can’t really complain.

TL, DR: Kind of fun but also pretty shoddy, there are definitely better games out there.

Just a quick post for now, I’ve spent two hours playing Alpha Protocol tonight and my impressions are… Mixed. I’d heard it had it’s share of bugs and glitches, but I didn’t find any at first. Some janky animations, weirdly huge crosshair (maybe it’s because my pistol skill isn’t high enough) which then develops it’s own crosshair if you aim at stuff for long enough, a bit like how the Xenomorphs in Aliens have a mouth inside a mouth, I suppose.

In my first mission after the tutorial, though, I got a pretty brief taste of what the game is apparently about. It’s kind of cool, really, a bit like Deus Ex: Human Revolution but also a lot like Mass Effect. The character I made pretty much was the Shepard I made in the first Mass Effect and as you level up your skills you unlock specific things for them, rather than just improve them generally as you do in, I don’t know, Deus Ex (the first one). For example, I levelled up my Stealth skill and gained the extremely useful ability to turn invisible (yeah, really) for a second if you’re about to be spotted at one level, and at the next level I gained a permanent version of something that was a one-use thing (with a cooldown) which I wish I could turn off now but never mind.

Balance seems like it could be a problem, mainly because the skill I just mentioned appears to show every enemy that’s near you in 3D. Think Battlefield 3-style spotting except it also shows which direction they’re facing, it’s on all the time and rather than being subtle little triangles, it’s needlessly over-designed large triangles. I’ll reconsider this when I come to write the review properly.

The hacking where you have to move lines of characters around is just horrible! Yeah, so bad I just used an exclamation mark in a review. You have two boxes with ‘passwords’ in them and then a huge grid of characters which are constantly changing underneath, except for the two passwords you have. You use WASD to move one password and the mouse to move the other, you line them up with the same password in the grid and then you press space or mouse 1 to confirm. WASD, fine, no problem. Mouse? Forget it, it’s just shit. It doesn’t respond when you move the mouse and then when it finally does respond and you get the password lined up, the slightest movement of the mouse will move the password to the wrong column, row or both, so if you move even slightly when clicking then you’ll probably set off an alarm. I’d like to find whoever came up with that idea and make them eat nails, and not the metal ones either because the other one would be so much worse. Urgh.

I also experienced quite a large glitch in the first mission which essentially went like this: Somehow glitched on top of a huge crate, checkpoint was awarded anyway, died, restarted at the checkpoint but it was somewhere I’d never been, went into a hangar whose interior hadn’t loaded (including the back doors), walked through where the back doors would’ve been, was clearly outside the map at this point, walked a bit further ‘for a laugh’, fell through the map. I managed to fix it, though, turns out using the crate glitch thing (which, by the way, I didn’t try to do, it just happened) to hop over the fence was a bad idea and I had to backtrack and open a door which triggered the loading of the hangar interior.

Anyway, I’m only two hours in and the game has barely gotten started.

Released: 22/10/2010
Developer: Obsidian
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Format played: PC
Hours played: 137
Last played: 18/06/2012

Right, so, might as well start with my most-played Steam game. Now, I don’t want to bore you by doing a traditional review for a game that’s almost two years old that you either already own or don’t want to own (if you do want to own it, where the hell were you when The Great Steam Sale of Summer 2012 was on? Outdoors you say? OK, fine). At the same time, I’m not exactly trying to break any conventions here, I’m not known for being a boundary-pusher when it comes to writing but that may be because I’m not known for writing, full stop. Er, yeah.

I had been skeptical of Fallout: New Vegas, it was the big upcoming game when I first got into PC gaming and memories of the PS3 version of Fallout 3 were fresh in my mind; hours of exploration wasted because crashes, important NPCs dying even though I’m nowhere near them, other NPCs being stuck floating in mid-air… Plenty of game breaking glitches, basically. Then New Vegas came along, and I thought I was going to pass on it. I thought it would be a similar mess, but then I remembered that the PC version would allow you to fix such errors with the in-game console, and glitches aside, I did quite enjoy Fallout 3. So, bizarrely, I took the huge risk of buying it when it first came out. Yes, Fallout: New Vegas, a game I wasn’t sure about, was the first of very few games that I bought on Steam at full price.

The game, though, is fantastic and I promptly had to eat my words and hat. It takes what made Fallout 3 great, fixes the things that made me give up on it, simplifies the unnecessarily complicated parts (like the skills, now we have ‘Guns’ instead of ‘Big Guns’ and ‘Small Guns’ or whatever it is) and adds layers of complication of it’s own which initially do seem a little impenetrable, but they eventually click. That said I still don’t get what the different between damage reduction and damage threshold is. Anyway, new additions include:

  • Hardcore mode, which gives your character thirst, hunger and sleep gauges which need to be kept above a certain level or you’ll develop de-buffs and eventually die, kind of the same as the radiation or indeed life gauges.
  • Weapon attachments and modifications, which started life as a mod for Fallout 3 and was fleshed out in New Vegas. Things like silencers, scopes, larger magazines, lightweight frames, that sort of thing.
  • A faction system, which really should’ve replaced the karma system (which is, by and large, pointless in New Vegas). Basically if you help one faction they’ll like you and give you bonuses, other factions will hate you and want to kill you.
  • Traits, which are optional sort-of perks that give you a bonus but also balance it out by giving you an unbonus (seriously, what’s the opposite of a bonus?) at the same time, such as an increased rate of fire but with lower accuracy, or a +2 SPECIAL bonus in the day time but -2 at night, which by the way works quite well if you want to try hardcore mode.
  • An improved companion system, which uses a radial menu instead of the clunky interface in Fallout 3.
  • Challenges, such as ‘kill x amount of stuff with this weapon’

I think that’s all of the main ones. All in all, they massively improve on Fallout 3 and make the game that much better in my opinion. There are fewer glitches, to the point where I had one game-breaking glitch in New Vegas which was easily remedied with a little bit of reading and use of the in-game console, unlike Fallout 3 where I encountered many, oh so many glitches which would occasionally require me to re-play parts of the game from an old save.

One other thing, possibly the most important thing, I liked about New Vegas compared to Fallout 3 is that it let you play your character properly. In Fallout 3 you could decide to kill everyone you saw, yet the end of the game was always the same with one really minor difference which changed nothing, really. In New Vegas, although I must admit I’ve never done it, you can side with The Bad Guys and be A Bad Guy yourself, which is good because the kind of person who massacres an entire town for no reason wouldn’t exactly go and save a load of people just because he can, right?

However, the game isn’t perfect. I feel like the map isn’t quite as well-balanced as Fallout 3’s was, it seems like most of the settlements are in a sort of column down the centre of the map and there are maybe a handful outside of that group. I suspect this is to make the game appeal to more people who don’t have so much time to go walking around, it may also possibly be for pacing reasons, but whatever the reason I personally preferred Fallout 3’s world.

There are still glitches, no matter how fewer there are they do still exist. Many have been fixed but you do occasionally find one or two, which do completely shatter the immersion. One common one is to see insects, such as Radscorpions (not named for how cool they are) or Fire Ants, sort of walking vertically instead of on the ground. Not a huge deal, no, but still quite an odd thing to see in a 2010 game. I am kind of nitpicking here, in case you couldn’t tell.

Also it may be a little too easy to accumulate caps which can kind of break the game because then you stop surviving and start just, well, buying stuff you need. Towards the end, the game does get pretty easy; a high Guns skill player with an Anti-Materiel Rifle and the Hand Loader perk to make as many .50Cal Match rounds as they want can kill pretty much everything. Furthermore, certain companions are extremely overpowered to the point where you’ll tell them to stay at home so they stop stealing your kills but you still get the benefit of their perks. Minor balancing issues like that do happen but getting to the point where it becomes easy can be quite a struggle, and even when that does happen you can turn up the combat difficulty to compensate.

In closing, some say the game doesn’t do enough to improve on Fallout 3, but I can see why others say it’s a true Fallout game that builds on Fallout 3 just enough to oh-so-nearly perfect it. I was ‘new’ to the franchise with Fallout 3 (I had a shareware demo of Fallout 2 on an old beige Macintosh Performa, but I was so young that all I could think to do is shoot everyone, which is worrying) so I can’t comment on how good a Fallout game it is, not yet anyway, but it’s definitely something worth playing regardless of your history with the franchise.

TL, DR: New Vegas improves on Fallout 3 in many ways. You may not agree that the story is better and the map is probably not as good as before, but in almost every other way it’s an improvement.

Note: I have yet to play any of the DLC, expect a post detailing my thoughts on each at some point.