Monthly Archives: April 2010


After a short and lighthearted cutscene, Borderlands is off and running, having you pick your character class. There’s four of ’em, and each relates to typical archetypes a la Diablo II such as the assassin and rogue and tank. I, however, decided to pick Roland, the Soldier class. This is rather surprising and I’ll tell you why: I’m always, hands-down, 100% of the time attracted to stealthy characters. In BioShock, I quickly fell in love and never let go of the plasmid that turns you invisible when standing still. Also, in Fallout 3, one of the first things I did on my very first playthrough was acquire the ninja assassin suit that, more or less, turns you completely invisible. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, I would literally hide in the grass for up to twenty minutes, making sure I got enemy movement patterns down and taking extreme caution in every move I made. The boss battle against The End was simply a bowl full of sushi with extra bliss sauce on top.

Case in point: I like taking my time in a gunfight and planning accordingly so as to not ever actually engage with the enemy, but simply take it down hard and fast from a distance. You’d think then that I’d have picked the Siren, a woman all about sniper rifles and phasing in and out the world. But no, I went for the Soldier. Wanted to try playing a game differently for once, and I’m really pleased so far with how it’s turned out.

So, the first chunk of missions are more or less a tutorial, but they do well to teach you the mechanics of the game, and pretty soon the fights begin to intensify, the loot becomes better and plentiful, and the quest log starts to fill up. I played for about two hours last night, got up to level 7, and finished off the first boss, Nine-Toes (also, he has had three balls).

I think the game looks amazing. Rarely has a cel-shaded game ever let me down, and the way the background blurs as you zoom in with your fire-starting pistol is a beautiful touch. The thick outlines and bright character colors contrasting with the drab Fallout 3-like setting make for an eye-grabbing mix. The draw distance isn’t terribly great though like in the newest Prince of Persia where you can see far and wide and it all looks rock solid. And the menu presentation is slick and easy to navigate, which is pretty crucial when it’s all about looting.

My only hesitation so far is in figuring out which weapon is better, and whether or not I should hold on to it or sell it for money. Here’s a helpful tweet tip from fellow Borderlander Greg Noe: It’s good to know about weapon rareness: white > green > blue > purple > orange

Other than that, I just got to the point where I’ve taken on multiple quests at once and have the freedom to explore them at will. Love the challenge log, too, which are like mini Achievements that give you tasks and reward you with experience points. Makes sense to me. Anyways, can’t wait to head back to Pandora tonight!


I find it kind of funny that I just recently reviewed XIII at The First Hour and then bought Borderlands a day or two later. Both are cel-shaded FPS all about style. One treats itself far more seriously than the other, but both are a pretty fun time. Unique, too, which is always a plus in my book. Just don’t get the game confused with, er, Final Fantasy XIII.

But yeah, honestly, if you see a copy of XIII for $1.99, just get it. The story is mission-driven and well presentated, and the multiplayer (well, I played against AI bots) is fun and varied. You can’t really go wrong for that kind of price. In fact, you can’t even buy breakfast for that kind of money. Well, maybe you can, if you ax the coffee. But only insane people would do that…

Okay, I’m meandering. Go read the review!

Purchase of the Month April 2010: Borderlands

I headed into GameStop after work today unsure of what I wanted to buy for my purchase of the month for April 2010. A Nintendo DS game? Some older PS2 titles? A lot of games have been bouncing around my head lately, and naturally I want to play them all, but price is also an issue with me. Generally, I don’t like throwing over $60+ for a new game (sorry, Final Fantasy XIII), and so after some looking around I saw that Borderlands was specially marked down thanks to tax season for only $39.99. Greg Noe seems to enjoy it, and I trust his judgment considering his favorite game of all time is my favorite game of all time(Suikoden II). OF ALL TIME. Plus, I’m a sucker for just about any cel-shaded game. Hopefully it’s not too fast-paced and overly shooty (not a word), but the RPG elements and tons of loot should keep me satisfied until the cows come home. Can’t wait to play later tonight…

Well met, Landsmeet

After finishing up my latest review for The First Hour last night, I switched on the ol’ Xbox 360 and to my better judgment…did not play Grand Theft Auto IV. C-c-c-combo breaker!

Instead, I loaded up Dragon Age: Origins, which I had previously taken a break from because the game itself seemed to be at a perfect spot for break-taking. That is, moments before the Landsmeet was to gather and discuss what Ferelden should do about the darkspawn threat, who should be king/queen, and whether or not Loghain is guilty of his purported crimes. Reviews said this was a crucial moment in Dragon Age: Origins, with the potential of game-changing results, meaning party members might up and leave (or worse) depending on what actions you, the Grey Warden, take. Not something you walk into lightly.

Spoilers to follow, readers.

So, with some trepidation, I started the Landsmeet. This was set up like a town hall meeting, with all the different delegates standing around, shouting their claims and strategies. Loghain very quickly enters to try to sway support his way, but the Grey Warden proves to be a thorn in his side. Your goal is to get more votes of support than Loghain. Depending on what sidequests you’ve done, different options come up. I first decided to rat out Loghain’s misuse of elves in the Alienage, upsetting the nobles tremendously. But then I mentioned Alistair and how, seeing that he’s Maric’s kid, should be the rightful king. This didn’t work out well. Eventually, support swayed my way, and Loghain rebeled. I fought him myself in a one-on-one duel, allowing Alistair to lop the turncoat’s head off. Alas, this moment was ruined by the fact that the sound effects of a sword swinging, blood gushing, and viewers gasping were off by three to five seconds. Way to go, beta testers.

But then I had to pick who should be Ferelden’s new ruler, and since Alistair would not stop whining about how he didn’t want it–despite getting both Anora and Alistair to agree to wed and rule in unison–I passed the torch along to her alone. It’s not like she’d want to marry her father’s murderer now. This isn’t the Lifetime channel after all.

So, other than Loghain’s demise, which was not a super shock considering his villainy persistance, the Landsmeet did not surprise me like I thought it would. Nothing terribly dramatic or party-shattering happened. I guess I just made the best decisions and did enough vote-swaying sidequests to make it easier to get Loghain tossed aside. Oh well. It’s done now, and the final battle approaches. Too bad I still have some sidequests to do before heading back to Redcliffe…

Also, I simply love the name and artwork for the Achievement unlocked after the Landsmeet is over:

Rabble-Rouser (20G): Completed “The Landsmeet”

BioWare obviously cares about Achievements. And not just having them, but giving them attention and detail. The Mass Effect series has Achievement artwork that looks like medals or badges earned from military service, and the ones for Dragon Age: Origins so far are like ancient relics forged by the Maker himself. Simply astounding. I don’t think there’s any other company out there currently that puts this much effort into e-peen things that ping. Kudos to them!

Super Mario Bros. Crossover is a dream come true

Do you like Super Mario Bros? How about The Legend of Zelda or Contra? Hmm…and Castlevania, Mega Man, and Metroid?

That’s good. I like ’em all, too.

And now, thanks to the Internet, you can play them all, more or less, at once. Introducing…Super Mario Bros. Crossover!

Yup, this little miracle allows you to basically play Super Mario Bros, but with the character of your choice. There’s Samus Aran from Metroid, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Link from The Legend of Zelda, Bill Rizer from Contra, and Mega Man from, er, Mega Man. And the greatest part is they all play as they should from their respective games, meaning Mega Man can charge up his blaster and Samus can roll into a ball and drop her classic bombs. All while goombas roam the ground and pipes wait to be explored.

It’s silly fun, but also pretty great. Believe the hype.

Admitting to videogame rage

I think it’s official: Grand Theft Auto IV makes me videogame rage. Not like this or this, mind you, but it seriously gets on my nerves and even has gotten me uttering phrases like “Oh come on!” and “Fuuuuck!” when alone in my apartment. That’s not a good sign. Just ask my neighbors.

Last night, I spent 40 minutes on a single mission–it’s called “Museum Piece” and it involves escaping a museum heavy with enemies and then avoiding further detection from them once outside in the public park–and then failed thanks to unclear directions. Inside the mansion, I meticulously took out every goon shooting a gun my way, a process which took some patience and a lot of crouching.  I’d already previously failed the mission for running blindly around a corner and was not going to let that happen yet again. But it was worth it because I had a full thing of body armor still and was ready to venture outside.

So I exited the park in hopes of hi-jacking a car for getaway purposes. My original ride got blown to bits from a tossed grenade. I don’t get three steps across the street before two black cars zoom by and run me over. As Niko slowly gets to his feet after this traumatic event two goons pump shotgun blasts into him. Body armor and health vanish instantly.

When you die, you are revived back at the hospital and pay a small fee. Not only that, but all the ammo I used on the mission is gone, as well as that 40 minutes of my time. I can restart via a text message or reload to at least get my ammo back. Neither option sounds appetizing after all that worthless work.

Seeing as I’ve done several posts on GTA IV and my hating on it, some might be wondering why I keep playing. It’s simple. I’m a masochist. Also, I bought the game with hard-earned money (eh, it was $12.00 used)  so I might as well experience it.

Honestly, I’ve never griped about so much in a single game before. I could go on for days about GTA IV‘s faults. For instance, why did Rockstar design the Xbox 360 controls to be horrible? You press Y to steal a vehicle, but if you want to say take a tour or cab ride…you hold Y. But if you don’t press it down hard and fast enough, guess what? You just stole a helicopter and taxi cab when you were just trying to play the game. Fun, fun, fun dumb. Why not instead, just like when you want to buy a hot dog or soda, press the left bumper? WHY NOT?!

I enjoy Liberty City’s openess and the sandbox potential, but maybe I just have to take off the blinders and see GTA IV for what it is: not a game for me. The mission structure and harshness of lost time, money, and bullets for failure is just too punishing. Maybe Saint’s Row is more up my alley?

Red Faction to get the Syfy treatment sadly

Red Faction and Red Faction II are games I enjoyed yet never beat. Haven’t played Red Faction: Guerrilla save for the demo, which was fun, but I’m sure I’d have a great time not beating that game as well. Pew pew pew, explosion, explosion, save, accidentally forget to play again. That’s my process, at least. I enjoy them for the slow-paced shooters they are, and blowing holes in walls is always a party.

That said, I’m a little concerned about this news: THQ signed a deal with the Syfy channel that will allow them to produce a two-hour, direct-to-television movie based on Red Faction, the first game in the series which was about space mining and a rebel uprising.

And more so this news: In addition, Syfy will be involved with the next Red Faction game in some capacity.


As well all know, videogame-movie adaptions never work out well. Yes, I know, I own Street Fighter: The Movie on DVD, but hush. The adults are talking. And just because Red Faction has all the makings of a Saturday afternoon Syfy “film” (let’s use that word sparingly)–mining colonies, slaves, futuristic weapons, bad voice-acting–that doesn’t mean it should be made. Alas, I don’t get the Syfy Channel anymore so I won’t be able to tell you all how this monkey-made movie turns out…

Grand Theft Auto IV is so stingy with its Achievements

I’ve obviously not played a ton of Xbox 360 games, but the ones in my small collection certainly handed out Achievements much more…favorably than Grand Theft Auto IV at this point. The game is just simply stingy over them, and I’ve been playing for a decent amount of hours and have only unlocked14 of 65 Achievements. Three of these are story-based. That’s a pretty small number considering the many missions I’ve gone through already. The rest are a mix of mini-game skills, online multiplayer, and miscellaneous tasks done within Liberty City.

I guess I’m just surprised there’s not more random-based Achievements. I mean, it’s a sandbox game. The sky’s the limit. Here’s some I thought of that I’d have totally unlocked already:

Busybody (15G): Ignored 50 phone calls from your friends.

Bombs Away (20G): Blew yourself up with a grenade. Try throwing it next time.

Good Samaritan (50G): Obeyed all traffic laws for ten straight blocks. Red lights have nothing on you.

Bump That Ride (30G): Accidentally bump into 30 cop cars, wasting time losing your wanted level immediately after.

StairMaster (10G): Knock someone down a set of stairs and into someone else.

The Shocker (15G): Steal a car with a female driver and immediately switch the radio to ElectroShock.

Ha. Rockstar, if you’re reading, I’m available for freelancing!

Yeah, those kind of Achievements would be right up my alley. Silly, but doable. Most you wouldn’t even have to think about. One of the big reasons I’m not unlocking a lot of Achievements in GTA IV at the moment is because I’m actively going after Liberty City Minute (30G, Complete the story missions in less than 30 hours.), which is probably not going to happen since I’ve failed missions a lot and didn’t reload. Plus, I’m watching all the cutscenes. After that I’ll go after some of the, um, easier (?) Achievements. Like surviving a six-star wanted level for five minutes. Oh boy.

I guess, in the end, these Achievements really do earn their namesake, but I dunno…the game doesn’t need to be so stringent over ’em. Give a few more out for playing the game and less for being hardcore insane over it, I say.

Things I’ve yet to do in some videogames

Videogames, if we’re lucky, are full of things to do. Main missions, side quests, collecting items like coins or flags or severed heads, Easter eggs, mini-games, and so on. I realized the other day though that for some games from my collection–games I’ve played for many, many hours–there’s at least one thing I’ve yet to even try…or experience. For certain gamers, these missed elements are probably really big deals…

Fallout 3 – Find Dogmeat and use him/her as a companion

To be honest, I’ve never used a companion in Fallout 3 unless the quest required me to do so. Both of my playthroughs at this point have been very ninja-like, requiring me to slink around corners and slip through darkness with skill and silence. Bringing a dog with me would be like inviting a marching band along. I’ve yet to even go to the junkyard and get the chance to dismiss this puppy. Many tout the beast as a literal beast, a fighting tank at your side that, so long as you keep him alive, is just brutal and powerful and your BFF. I know I’d get him killed in a split so it’s best just not to even go after him. The only Dogmeat I’ve seen at this point is the kind I loot off fallen Super Mutants.

Grand Theft Auto IV – Purchase a hooker

I think I might have done this once in Grand Theft Auto 3: Vice City, just to see what it was like. I suspect I wasn’t terribly impressed, and then ran her over to get my money back. In GTA IV, I don’t even know where to look for hookers. They were much less subtle in previous iterations, and I’m always too busy trying to go from mission to mission to slow down and have some fun. Rather eat a hot dog than have my hot dog eaten, if y’know what I’m saying.

Pokemon HeartGold – Breed my very own pocket monster

Every message board/forum I come across for Pokemon talks fervently about breeding these little guys/gals into perfect babies. I don’t know what they’re talking about because I have yet to figure out how to do this. I guess it’s something that happens after you beat all the gyms? I’m on the eighth of the first set of gyms at the moment.

Having not done these things has certainly not taken away any enjoyment from the above games (well, not that I really enjoy GTA IV all that much). I’ve just not found time to fit them into my gaming schedule…

Niko Bellic, the jerkiest jerk that ever jerked

Niko Bellic: Life is complicated. I… I never thought I’d live like this.
Ileyna Faustin: No?
Niko Bellic: When the war came, I did bad things, but after the war I thought nothing of doing bad things. I killed people, smuggled people, sold people.
Ileyna Faustin: And you don’t worry about your soul?
Niko Bellic: After you walk into a village and you see 50 children, all sitting neatly in a row, against a church wall, each with their throats cut and their hands chopped off, you realize that the creature that could do this doesn’t have a soul.

I really do loathe him. How could someone not? The above passage–so far–is about as honest and human as Niko gets, and even then it’s not saying much. See, we’re supposed to feel bad for the 30-year-old mysterious ex-soldier pursuing “the American dream” in Liberty City, but with each subsequent mission it becomes harder and harder to take him for more than anything but a cartoony videogame avatar controlled by us to explore a city, shoot people in the face, and generally cause havoc. He is not real. He is that creature without a soul.

Some seem to think Niko’s a real charmer. Especially every girl he dates. Must be heroin in the soda. All I see is cynicism and a down-to-business attitude, which would not be the worst thing in the world…y’know, if said business was not extreme violence. He came to Liberty City to see his cousin Roman for a better life, and now he’s all tangled up in a dozen different plots, all full of murder and betrayal and heartbreak. Boo hoo. He could stop at any point. Really, there’s enough Internet cafes and TV shows to keep him busy 9 to 5. But he doesn’t because, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I need the money, and I’m good at what I do.”

That is, being Mr. Jerk.

It’s not like other protagonists for Grand Theft Auto haven’t been cruel and unkind. It’s just that this one is unwilling to be anything else. Even his chuckling is malevolent.

I suspect I’m halfway through Grand Theft Auto IV now. It’s kind of hard to tell, especially since I haven’t had a Roman-centric mission in awhile. I’m guessing those are more of the main storyline ilk while everything else I’ve been doing is like side missions and BS time. I’m trying to complete the game as straightforward as possible, saving all the silly exploration and stunt jumps for later. I’m even actively avoiding hanging out with friends in-game to keep the momentum going, but now that I think about it, we can just chalk that up to Niko continuing to be the jerkiest jerk that ever jerked.