I try out a new kid carrier, do some data entry, and slay my first Elden Ring dragon.
... I mostly stick to video game and ETF reviews, but this baby backpack is worth a shout out. It's something we probably wouldn't own were it not for Connie, so I'm glad she's so outdoorsy. Here's why I like it more than the stroller:
The plan for this month to rave about Horizon: Forbidden West and Elden Ring. The Ukraine crisis was an ominous but interesting situation three weeks ago. Sadly, now people are fighting for their country and seeking refuge and having their lives destroyed by a pointless invasion.
The last two weeks have been... strange. Since the controversial stuff seems to have finally burned out, I'll do what I can to recap the lunacy and the memes. For posterity.
... Review-by-chat that (*warning*) spoils the premise:
A little starfighter chat and then my next iteration in trading. I passed pilot level 15 after maybe a dozen dogfights and fleet battles, that doesn't intrinsically mean much except in the context of unlockables. I have most of the mods I want, leaving a few to acquire for tuning and experimentation. And I've acquired some fun cosmetics like the Twi'lek skin and some neat fighter paint jobs. I'm pretty happy with the rate of unlocks, though it'd be neat to have more variety in cosmetics.
Saturday I put the remodeled media room to good use with some socially-responsible zombie killing. The Last of Us Pt II was released on Friday; the long-awaited follow up to a game that ranked third on J's all time list and fell just behind Metal Gear Solid on mine.
... I'm not sure how or why, but there's been an interesting internet response to this game, brought to my attention by Gage and Derrick. Apparently the plot was leaked and that might have primed the pump for scathing, anonymous reviews. This is more about the internet than the game, but I found it fascinating.
... We'll start off with someone who is reasonable. Even though Hello_There23 has 1 rating and 1 review to his name, he seems to capture that TLOU games are about the story. I haven't gotten there yet, but I think I'm in for a controversial ending.
... Now let's get to the fun stuff: 0s and 1s across the board from users with no history with single-sentence reviews that are deemed "helpful" by other users. I thought about writing a script to create a histogram of user histories, but I got too much going on to deal with if there's any js to get around.
Here's a little gallery/writeup on Shadow of the Colossus, the PS+ free update on the PS2 classic. In case anyone's considering a playthrough, I start with a short summary of the gameplay then - with callouts - progress to show each colossus (gameplay spoilers) and finally wrap up with the ending (plot spoilers).
I did some more Keras dabbling since there was cold weather and time off. I continued down the autoencoder thread that I'd explored a bit previously.
... I happened upon a poster and wanted to know more, Katherina Michael's Amazon review.
Taking a few weeks off for the mcl tear, I did a photo session at volleyball. I started with a post-mounted off-camera speedlight triggered by the on-camera flash. It had the best lighting (side lighting woo), but was hard to keep the flash out of the frame. Probably would have been better to use the 20mm rather than the 50.
... Me and J finished our TVHM playthrough, hit 50, and have done a few arenas and side quests. The Halloween event dropped to mixed reviews, we liked the variety and challenge it introduced.
I'm on MCL tear number... err too many. Still, that just means no vball or sball, I can still game and do GBES events. For Brian's expedition, we started with Tiger Tiger donuts and finished at Street Car for some unbelievably hot chicken.
Last month's journeys were followed by an early March trip out to the east coast, so suffice it to say I've been happy to spend some time in the man cave.
... As many real reviews will probably quickly say, it's L4D2 with swords. Like, pretty identical: 4up squads, swarms of baddies, surges, specials (duplicates of hunters and smokers and tanks). And it's a very good formula to start with...
The Brogue Squadron finished the Heroes of Eturi campaign, winning three victory points to one with one VP mission to spare. The final few scenarios included some cool variations like a space station and ground station.
Jon, Dan, Derrick, and I took a trip to Park City. After considerable research, it appeared Snowbird would have been the preferred resort (acreage, conditions) but has a small and expensive inventory of on-site accommodations. To add to that, many of the ski areas have insane rental tax rates. Who would have thought Park City would be the more reasonably-priced option (for a ski-in/ski-out trip plan).
Jes and I took Kaf down to the cove. Rain had washed part of the path away, so we had a difficult descent and even more challenging return.
... It does kind of feel like a hack and slash button masher where instead of mowing down squishies you're making no visible impact on a legendary monster. Even if the combat isn't a main selling point, it could be a great experience in its totality. We'll see what the reviews say. In any event, it's good to have an upcoming co-op title for the PSN sessions.
The Duc needs a new clutch, a valve adjustment, and maybe some troubleshooting of the cutch hydraulics. Between that, 50k+ miles, and having my eye on the ebike scene since I first saw them at Laguna, it seemed like a good time to go for it.
The Cooley Halloween party moved to the Tonkers' place due to special circumstances, but it still had costumes, pizzas, and beers. Jessica's Gamora costume won best of the night, (another) Chris's beekeeper won worst.
Of course more east coast trips. I can't be mad, I brought some Pot Belly peppers back this past time. And the one before that I got to ride the sweet Detroit airport tram that is overhead in the terminal.
Finished a few things this month, the first of which was a resurface job on the pool. It wasn't in bad shape, but since I'd drained it I figured I'd go ahead and apply a new layer of epoxy. The canopy made all of this considerably easier, although epoxy in an enclosed area has some disadvantages.
... Since the reviews have been rave, I thought I might give Persona 5 a go. Unfortunately they disable the ps4 screencap feature, because one of the most striking features of the game is the art style. The game is a series of cool ideas/features juxtaposed with tired ones:
Mark brought Civ into the office and we've played through it twice. It's pretty amazing - it captures the spirit of the franchise while making it tabletop-able and adding a few elements that don't exist in the computer game.
Last year some League of Sporters undertook an incredible journey, one that proved too strenuous for a single weekend. But like any semi-casual athlete, giving up just isn't in our nature. To celebrate Dave finishing his master's, we completed the second leg of the Camp'n'crawl.
I judged Monster Jam at the ballpark because a friend/parts dealer needed a last minute replacement.
... During my recent urge to do some city building I looked to find a new game worthy of the SC2K mantle. The updated reviews to the new SimCity seemed to indicate that it was worth maintaining the boycott. The Tropico franchise received high praise, but so did Cities: Skylines. Since CS was on sale for Steam's Black Friday event, I went for it.
... The lack of an all-encompassing challenge isn't necessarily bad; it makes for a chill, lego-like experience. And you can create your own challenges. My greatest enemy in life - simulated and otherwise - is traffic. I once spent a solid thirty minutes rehashing an offramp/main street layout to significantly reduce congestion. And it was cathartic. I beat traffic using design where my irl city just throws stoplights at things. Okay, yes, I can bulldoze houses at will, but it's not like I went to school for this.
Somewhere along the way the Duc's voltage regulator decided to crack and leak. The problem manifested as a dead (new) battery and may well have been the reason my led tails blew. The prescribed voltage/resistance tests indicated that the alternator was fine, to my relief. When I pulled and inspected the regulator it seemed pretty certain.
I finally stepped into the new gen of consoles with Destiny for ps4. No xbone for me. Microsoft angered me far too much with crappy hardware and paid-for internet on 360 followed by the kinect snafu, subsequent lies, and a too-high price point. I'm no Sony fanboy, but a few leaked credit card numbers and prosecuting people who put Linux on their consoles started to pale in comparison to Redmond's transgressions. Sadly, Sony began charging for internet play with ps4, but at least they try to add value with free downloadables.
+ Does not shy away from gory, mutilated undead.
+ Plenty of real estate. The protagonists aren't stuck in a mall or suburb.
+ More production value than I would expect from a high cable channel.
+ Replaced the non-zombie scenes (typically groping around in the darkness being scared) with character development.
- Character development is primarily people boiling over in anger and pistol whipping and/or drawing down on someone. You'd think these people would have been the first to go.
- Some tropes. E.g. 'That gun you pointed at me? You left the safety on.' or '-We can escape through the basement because this building is from the 1930s and therefore has sewer access -How do you know that piece of highly technical and useful information? -I used to work in zoning.'
- Every shot fired at a zombie from any range hits the melon. No center of mass. No misses.
- Zombies come and go based on what needs to drive the plot, they're not a constant threat.
- Stupid characters think they're the only ones alive in the world even though they constantly run into other survivors.
As expected, life and times got pretty exciting. The Cathcart breakdown:
... Halo Reach; feather in the cap
Did a Heroic coop playthrough with Ty. I'm glad they kept the set piece element of ODST and accompanying Forge mode. The space combat mission was unexpected but they kinda pulled it off. Jet packs introduce new tactics and skill. I'm sort of shocked the game didn't end with the requisite Warthog/Puma getaway, but it wouldn't have had quite the same effect.
I bought Starcraft on Friday, it's been awhile since I had any rts fun. The game's great, but I think I'm done with Blizzard, they pulled some serious Sony crap with this one. It all stems from the innocuous system requirement listed on the box, "Broadband Internet connection". Here's about how it went down:
Two weekends ago was a trip out east to the Commonwealth. J and I co-opped Army of Two, ODST, and New Mario, start to finish on consecutive days. Monday featured some epic Halo firefight scenarios. Of course we mixed it up with some MST, Always Sunny, and a trip to the Dulles air museum. Mandy was awesome throughout, and filled me in on some of the great new J-isms that I've missed.
I downloaded Dragon Age since it's Bioware and got killer reviews. I have a long way to go, but it doesn't strike me as much of an improvement on Mass Effect. Of course, anytime EA's involved...
So Bungie finished their contribution to the Halo series and did the dreaded franchise handoff. This has led to the titles Halo Wars and Halo ODST. After Dan came down again I had a jones for more shooter action so I picked up the recent release. As expected, it plays pretty much the same as the last three with minor visual tweaks and new features.
This past Friday I was honored with my first piece of original art. My old boss came over with his family for some steaks and wings, his wife brought along an awesome Japanese-style painting. (And I did in fact straighten the frame after taking the photo.)
Wednesday was Settlers night. There was great anticipation as we finally cracked open Cities and Knights. The expansion adds considerable complexity to the game, it's a little intimidating at the outset, but is great for playability. The development capabilities in the expansion add quite a few options up front, but they also change as progress is made. I am simultaneously excited for- and fearful of the inevitable Settlers/Seafarers/Cities stratorgy.
Rides has finally been done right. The featured machines hail from many countries, decades, and backgrounds. Caymans, Camaros, Skylines, new Mustangs, M3s; the list is extensive because no car survives more than a fraction of the film.
... One of the main draws of Fast and Furious is that it reunites the core of the original cast. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and Michelle Rodriguez haven't risen to glorious Hollywood stardom in the last eight years, but their careers haven't languished either. It's great to see a cameo by Han, the most amiable character in the series. Walker is only distractingly bad on occasion and the female leads do a good job of portraying unsympathetic characters. I glanced at a review beforehand, it spoke disparagingly of Diesel's acting, claiming he comes across as tired and effortless. I actually saw this as understandable anguish that peaks at an excellent scene that is pointlessly destroyed by O'Connor's spontaneous make up sex with Mia. - CR
Ty and I just finished Gears 2 with some help from Kevin. It was a two-sitting playthough thanks to a midweek cold.
... The baddies in Gears do sometimes charge, and often flank - which is much different from having them pour in from every direction. This game presents a number of scenarios where the cover moves or disappears. The ars reviewer was all hyphy about this. It's okay but I'm glad they didn't overuse it.
Never has shark-jumping been more punctuated. The new Indiana Jones movie is impressive until you see Shia LeBeouf straddling moving jeeps whilst sword fighting - looking very much like he's on water skis. From this scene on Lucas and Spielberg work their hardest to wreck the film.
Smash Brothers Brawl is pretty good. At first the game appears to be little different from the previous installment. The controls and mechanics are the same, in fact you can play with a GameCube controller. The canon of characters, moves, and levels has been preserved but with quite a few additions.
I imagine the first thing people look for is motion control, as it is synonymous with the Wii. There is none. And that is as much a relief as it is a disappointment. I dreaded the possibility of a difficult control scheme (and I don't doubt the developers experimented with more than a few) simply to exploit the Wii's trademark feature. I expected something simplistic like shaking the controller to perform an attack, as in Mario Universe. But the controls are 100% old school and that adds some approachability to the game.
If it were 'Japanese Rides' the score would asymptotically approach a perfect ten, but as it stands, we are left with a lopsided field. The only American entry is a Corvette with a bad custom interior, and I really hoped our evil German would bring his Carrera to the streets of Hong Kong to test the rice, but no such luck.
Three more automotive blockbusters spanning three very different decades.
... The locale fairly depicts the outback and the bush-whacking rustics of decades past. The yellowish tones of neglected dried grass and rolling expanses of barren, desert land bears resemblance to remote Australia. - Guest reviewer (a real Aussie)
We finally got on the bandwagon. Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah. Apologies, sore tendons makes me giddy. Rock Band is basically Forza with instruments instead of a wheel. It takes practice, patience, and you really can't compete at a high level without knowing the track. Damn, pun counter is at two already. I'm on fire.
Today featured a long-anticipated Del Mar session followed by a screening of Streets of Legend. Unfortunately the movie did its Sundance award little justice. And there wasn't much in the way of racing. But I have high hopes for Driven.
At long last I got my hands on Colin McRae's DiRT (henceforth referred to as Dirt). After Polyphony introduced rallying in GT2, off road competition has been a necessary complement to racing sims. Since Forza is all tarmac, I had my eyes on Dirt since its release.
The flight out was excellent all around. No rush, no traffic, no waiting. Jon was happy to take me to the airport at 5:45 and I got into Portland on time. Getting through Portland was smooth, the trolly is adjacent to the baggage claim and will take you all the way to Beaverton for a mere $2.00. I got through a fair amount of I Am America (And So Can You!) on the way.