Tag Archives: L.A. Noire

A tale of my most hated tailing missions in videogames

gd post worst tailing missions in videogames

Gather round, dear Grinding Down readers, and I’ll tell you a mighty fine tale…all about tailing. Whatever you do, don’t look up the urban dictionary definition for it.

For those that are lucky and have never played a game involving a tailing mission, you are basically tasked with following a non-player character to a designated area. This is either done on foot or in a vehicle. However, more often than not, your target cannot be alerted to your presence; if they are, that means your mission to be like a ninja failed, and you’ll have to start it all over. Like many, I do not enjoy these missions, despite being full of patience, and some are more loathsome than others, especially when silly things like artificial intelligence, geometry glitches, and randomness are actively working against each other. They are lengthy, generally due to the fact that you are often following someone moving at a leisurely pace, and checkpoints are usually non-existent.

Many bad tailing missions stick out in my mind after all these years of gaming, and below are a few that I’d like to highlight as particularly bad. In fact, I might even say I hated them.

“The Siege of Charles-Towne” from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

This is the one that got this nugget of an idea about a list of tailing missions started, way back when I was actively playing it. Sorry, I’m sometimes slow with these posts or lose interest only to come back to them much later with renewed vigor. I generally enjoyed my time with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag or, as my girlfriend calls it, “the turtle game.” See, one time she saw me playing it, and I was running around a beach area looking at the turtles scooting their way to the ocean, and thus the game will forever now be known as such. That’s fine, because this series is now 10+ games deep, and we need a better way to recognize them than just their generic subtitles. Honestly, I’m surprised it took us so long to use the word origins.

I know these games are pretty hit and miss with consumers, with ones like Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Unity definitely in the miss column, but I liked a lot of what Kenway could do and even patiently dealt with the handful of tailing missions thrown at the man throughout the game. Still, they all got rated one or two stars when completed, but they weren’t too bad, all in all. Not when you compare them with Sequence 6’s “The Siege of Charles-Towne”, which literally has you in a boat…stealthily following another boat. Ugh. I don’t really even know how that is possible, but I guess if you sail smoothly enough and don’t startle any dolphins, anything can happen.

To start, you are steering a large boat around a small swampy location, at night, with lots of things to smash into. It’s like threading the needle with the lights out. Also, not sure if any of you have every tried to quickly course correct and shift directions in a boat, but it’s not a fast affair. Throw in the fact that you must be cognizant of both red and yellow circles on the mini-map while trying to steer, and you’ve got the recipe for one bad tailing mission. On a related note, I’m currently playing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, at about 25% synchronization for those curious, and have not found too many troubling tailing missions…yet. I’m sure one will rear its ugly head soon enough.

“The Set Up” from L.A. Noire

la-noire-the-set-up

Ah, L.A. Noire, you big, gorgeous, empty-as-heck modern adventure game. About midway through “The Set Up” mission, Cole must remain incognito while tailing a woman named Candy Edwards. See, she might have information about why the professional boxer Albert Hammond won a fight that he was supposed to throw, which angered a lot of bookies and people betting on the event. For those that don’t know, incognito means things like, sitting on a park bench and pretending to read the newspaper, as well as avoiding getting spotted when she turns around to examine her surroundings.

As Phelps is tailing Candy on foot, he has to keep his distance and maintain good cover. If he gets too close, she’ll stop and turn around. Phelps will also comment if he is about to lose Candy’s. It’s pretty straightforward, but it’s a whole bag of boredom and constantly worrying about being too far or too near the target. There are invisible meters and vision cones at work here, and I still don’t know if seeing them would be better or not. There’s also an Achievement for tailing Candy without using any incognito or cover…which I’ve not popped.

In the end, it’s a tailing mission, where your movement is dictated by the target’s movement, and I’d rather spend my time closely examining matchbooks or pieces of fruit or interrogating suspects. Or even searching for those well-hidden golden film reel collectibles.

“Act 3” from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

This one is still pretty fresh, seeing as I only just played Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the first time back in autumnal 2015. Earlier in the game, you had to track someone by their footprints out in the wild, and that was honestly fine. However, the streets of Eastern Europe are a whole different bag of messy worms, and Old Snake must tail a member of the resistance in hopes of him leading you to the hidden resistance HQ.

Now, if you follow him without being detected, he’ll lead you directly to the resistance HQ, which is where you can hopefully meet Big Momma. However, you need to keep a good distance away from him in order to avoid being detected, which means letting him get a decent head start and running into trouble. So, you not only have to follow this whistling fool without being spotted, but you also have to protect him from enemy soldiers piqued by all that whistling and various roadblocks. Frustratingly, he can’t witness you helping him either, otherwise he’ll get scared and run away.

I did not do well with this mission, and I felt like I stumbled the entire way through it, just barely surviving encounters and keeping the resistance man on track. It’s a major reason holding me back from ever revisiting the game.

“The Lost Pilgrimage” Korok trial from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Once you make your way through the Lost Woods and get to Hyrule Forest proper in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you can attempt to complete four Korok trials. One is given to you by a Korok named Tasho, who tells you about friend Oaki, who set off to find a shrine alone. Oaki really wants to make it all the way to the shrine by himself, but Tasho is worried and wants Link to follow along after him to ensure he makes it there safely. Alas, this is an instant-fail stealth tailing mission, which means the moment you are spotted it is over and you have to restart from the beginning. It’s a severely outdated design and a fun-sucking vacuum cleaner if I ever saw one.

Okay, so, some issues. One, Oaki is dressed mostly in bland, gray clothing, which makes him hard to see in the foggy Lost Woods. You have to rely on sound more than anything due to all the gear he is carrying. Two, this is still the Lost Woods, and so if you veer off the main path too far, the fog sucks you up. A kind soul might imagine this simply plopping you back on the beaten path to continue forward, but no, it just fails the mission outright. Gee, thanks. Okay, so these issues took a couple attempts to figure out and get used to, but then I lost all hope when, without warning, Oaki turns around and runs straight at Link, spotting him instantly.

Ugh. I attempted this mission three or four times, wasting a bunch of my stealth potions too, before giving up on it entirely to focus instead on rebuilding Tarrey Town. Y’know, an easier, less punishing task.

Well, those are the tailing missions that stand out in my mind as bee aye dee. That’s bad, if you couldn’t figure it out. What ones have you not enjoyed over the years? Or, if you are in the mood to play the devil’s advocate, tell us all about how much you love closely and quietly following someone around a limited environment without ever getting spotted.

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Some collectibles are better than others, but these stink

worst collectibles to collect rain gd post

There’s no shame in saying it, but I like collecting things. Both in real life and via my digital, interactive entertainment. That’s not to say I’m a hoarder, but if you give me a list of items existing somewhere out there, I’m most certainly going to try my darnedest to find them all and happily cross each one off. This most likely stems back to my younger days, on family vacations in Avalon, NJ. Besides playing a lot of Yahtzee by the swimming pool, I signed up for every scavenger hunt offered by our hotel that I could, and these often involved finding innocuous items like a specific type of seashell, a pair of sunglasses, and so on. I have fond if fuzzy memories of running around the hotel grounds like a maniac, looking for things and screaming with joy when they were found.

That said, as a player of videogames, sometimes finding items is not fun. Yeah, I know. What a hot take. Personally, I don’t need to be told specifically where each collectible is on the map, like in later Assassin’s Creed titles where you can just purchase these waypoint symbols from a shop. I prefer discovering them myself, but I also like knowing, generally, how many are in an area or which ones I’ve already found. Some record-keeping is vital, that way I don’t need to take mental notes as I pick up each shimmery doodad. The fear of leaving an area for good and suspecting I missed something is enough to lock my feet in the dirt.

Also, while not required, I greatly enjoy when the collectibles contain something else to them other than being a thing you gnab, such as some bit of additional in-game lore. Like in Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you find a thing, say a rusty knife, and that’s a collectible for sure, but you also have to interact with it and discover a hidden symbol to bring out story details. The collectible becomes more than just an object to pocket. Heck, at least collecting all those miscellaneous gizmos in Tom Clancy’s The Division got me some sweet, colorful outfits.

Because of recent actions, I’ve decided to put my brain to the task of coming up with a bunch of collectibles that absolutely stink. These are either not fun to find, do nothing for the player in the end, or maybe cover both of these issues. Regardless, boo to them, and boo to me for attempting to collect (some of) ’em. It’s a skill in others that I greatly admire, the ability to walk by these shiny sprites and polygons and not even care. Teach me how.

Gears of War – COG tags

COG tags are a mainstay of the Gears of War series, but they only become easier to track and find starting in Gears of War 2, which introduced the war journal, a sort of in-game notebook for keeping tabs on a number of things. However, for the first Gears of War, all you get is an X out of Y line when you pause the game. That’s it. I beat the game back at the end of 2013, with something like one-third of the COG tags found.

Recently, I glanced at the Achievements list to see if there was anything I could potentially pop before deleting the game from my Xbox One for forever and saw that two were related to finding the rest of the hidden thingamajigs. Alas, I basically had to follow a video guide to find each one, level by level, because I had no memory of the ones I had already picked up. Also, barely nothing happens when you bend down to grab these COG tags save for a less-than-impression sound cue. Obviously, this was early on in both the franchise and console generation, and figuring out how to implement collectibles was still in a nascent stage.

L.A. Noire – golden film reels

I’d have to go back and confirm this, but for some reason I feel really strongly that I only ever came across one of these 50 gold film canisters scattered about L.A. Noire‘s sprawling Los Angeles. They all contain names of films from the 1940s and 1950s. That’s cool. However, the problem is that they are extremely well-hidden. Maybe too well. In my search for hopping into the driver’s seat of every car in the game, 95 in total, another stinker of a collectible of sorts, I thought I explored a good chunk of the map. I guess not. I have no idea if finding all 50 golden film reels does anything for Cole Phelps and his ultimate destiny. It’d be cool if you could take these reels back to the police station and watch a few scenes during your coffee breaks, but I’m sure the licensing around something like that would be nightmarish.

Rain – lost memories

This blog post’s origins began with Rain, a game I completed on the first day of 2016. The collectibles in Rain are in the form of lost memories that the player can find to learn more about the young boy’s past. That’s fine and dandy, and there are 24 in total to collect, but here’s the sick kicker–these only are available to find after beating the game. Also, these only appear once you are in the exact location, which means you can’t spy them off from a distance; you have to know exactly where they are to start.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned my lunch hour to collect them all of them in a single go, following an online guide and abusing the checkpoint system so that I did not, in fact, have to play through the entire game again. Sorry, Rain–you have some great things going for you, but you are not that amazing or varied of an experience to go through again simply to now be able to collect floating orbs that give you the slimmest of slim story details to a story fairly slim on details to begin with. Ugh.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blue Minikits

Speaking of ugh, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Here’s the thing. I’m totally and 100% completely used to collecting a number of things in all the LEGO videogames, from red bricks to gold bricks to characters to studs and so on. That’s just part of the flow, of going through levels and seeing what you can’t grab just yet, returning with the right characters/powers to pave the way. It’s been like this since day one. However, recently, Melanie and I worked our way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and it truly was like going back in time.

As part of our climb to hit 100% completion, we had to find 10 blue minikits in every single level. Sounds tedious, but not tough. Except it is because there is a time limit, and sometimes missing one blue minikit means replaying the whole thing over. You are also not able to use any cheats, which means having to deal with enemies while frantically scouring the scene for blue minikits. Most are hidden somewhat in the open, and others are dastardly wedged behind objects in the environment. The hardest level, without a doubt, was “Speeder Showdown,” where you kind of need luck on your side to progress swiftly and the extra five minutes was not enough. Took us multiple attempts, but the job is done, and, as far as I know, this type of gameplay hasn’t shown up in other LEGO titles.

The Last of Us – All of Them

Amazingly, there are four types of collectibles to hoard in The Last of Us. Specifically, 30 Firefly pendants, 14 comic books, 85 artifacts, and 12 training manuals that improve your crafting skills and such. I’m pretty sure only the last set has any impact on gameplay, and the remainder are just things for Joel to bend down, pick up, and pocket away for no other reason than to give you something to do in-between moving from a safe space to an area full of Cordyceps-inspired monsters. A few help flavor the world, for sure.

Okay, I just loaded up the game–evidently, I found 95 of 141 as of when I last played, which is way more than I initially assumed. Not sure why it felt so low in my mind, but maybe I was thinking of Trophies, which the game is stingy with. Oh well. Either way, these are pretty obscurely hidden throughout the game, and the artist in me really wanted to be able to open the comic books and read a few pages instead of just staring at the covers.

I know for a fact there are many more that I’m not touching on, like the flags from the original Assassin’s Creed, score pieces from Eternal Sonata, and kissing 50 women from The Saboteur.

That said, I’d like to know what collectibles gave you the most grief. Join the conversation below in the comments.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a crime, my punishment

sherlock holmes crimes and punishments black peter case gd post

I’ve seen one episode of the much lauded and Cumberbatch-starring Sherlock crime drama series, and even then I think I fell asleep towards the end of it. It wasn’t from total boredom, I swear. See, going into it, I wasn’t aware that every episode is basically a mini movie, clocking in at around 90 minutes. I was not prepared for this, thinking it would be much shorter, like a typical serialized drama (see Criminal Minds or Stranger Things), and starting the episode just before bed proved to be my undoing. One day, I’d like to watch more, but I haven’t reached that right one day yet.

In terms of videogames, I’ve never played one based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories, and there have been quite a few of them, especially from Frogwares. Well, I’m here to muse about Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the tenth entry in their series, which I and everyone else subscribing to a Gold membership on Xbox One got for free back in March 2016. Strange enough, a year earlier, I also got a free copy on my PlayStation 3 for PlayStation Plus, along with CounterSpy and Papo & Yo. Here’s an early spoiler: I’ve uninstalled both versions of the game.

Plot is actually a difficult thing to describe for this game. Mostly because there isn’t a main through-line. There’s an overarching story about group of terrorists called the Merry Men, who are attempting to overthrow the government and free the people of the United Kingdom from debt. It’s extremely minor in the grand scheme of things, showing up once early in the game and then at the very end where you are tasked to make a moral choice, one that probably seemed epic in the developers’ minds, but didn’t actually matter. Other than that, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is split into six separate cases, with some being direct adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, such as “The Fate of Black Peter.” Each case is self-contained, and they range from a train that mysteriously vanishes to a murdered archeologist in a bath house to the theft of exotic, poisonous plants from a botanical garden. I came away enjoying a few of these cases, but ultimately not caring too deeply about the characters involved or the actual outcome, so long as it netted me an Achievement in the end.

Gameplay is, more or less, a traditional point-and-click adventure game. Except you aren’t using a mouse to hover over items and click on them. Instead, you control Sherlock Holmes–and sometimes Watson or a dog!–and you can play in third person or first. I went with the latter, as I found it easier for examining areas and moving around with a solid camera angle. You look at items in the world, speak to witnesses and suspects, solve a mixed bag of puzzle types, and finally make enough deductions to pin the crime on someone. My favorite part was connecting clues to make deductions and see ways the crime could have happened, as well as analyzing witnesses to learn more about them and open up dialogue options. Sure, L.A. Noire did it better, but that’s okay.

My biggest problem with Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments has to do with its loading screens. I’m not against loading screens and will never be against them, as I understand their purpose, even in this day and age of modern gaming, but you have to travel to and fro a whole bunch in this game, often returning to your apartment on Baker Street multiple times during a case, and these loading screens are drab and long, probably worse than the ones in Secret Agent Clank. Backtracking is the name of great detective work. Unfortunately, each time you travel to a different place, you are treated to a loading screen in the form of Sherlock riding inside a horse-drawn carriage to the actual place you are going. Sometimes he is alone, sometimes Watson is there with their knees awkwardly close, but regardless you are just watching Sherlock read a book or look out the window the entire time. You can open your notebook during the ride to review clues and such, but I began to use this downtime as great moments to play on my phone. Honestly, I would have rather watched a generic bar fill up. I’d estimate you see this screen roughly 15 to 20 times during any given case.

One of the more troubling parts of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments appears in every single case chapter. Well, I guess one could not see it, but when I’m roleplaying the titular Sherlock Holmes I’m being as observant and scrutinizing as possible, which means checking every corner and shelf and thing for clues. That includes the telescope his keeps in the main room on Baker Street. If you look through it, you’re treated to the fixed sight of this busty woman:

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments_20140928125417

Now, nothing happens. Sherlock makes no comment, the woman simply stands there and stares back, and about five seconds of silence passes before you are booted out of the telescope’s point-of-view. I examined the telescope at the start of every case, just as I did with Toby, to see if anything would happen or change. Nope, same sight, same seediness. I figured she would come into play at some point in the game, for some case or another, but that never happened, and I think all we got in terms of reference was a quickly dismissed line from Watson at the end of the game, implying that Holmes should stop doing that creepy thing with the telescope. Evidently, after doing some research outside the game, it turns out this character is from a previous entry in the series. Hmm.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments was a game I didn’t expect to frustrate and bore me as much as it did, but I’m the kind of person that not only likes to finish what I start, but sometimes needs to. So I persevered and finished, only to realize I missed two Achievements and had to go back and replay a couple cases. Thankfully, you can mash your way through most of the dialogue and cutscenes, as well as skip every puzzle if you wait a minute or two. Still couldn’t do anything about those cutscenes. If there’s one deduction I reached, it’s that this was not iceberg-like pacing and lackluster detective work equals enjoyable, and I don’t expect to try any more future–or previous–mystery adventures starring the eclectic Sherlock Holmes in 19th century London.

Grand Theft Auto V, crass comedy in a crazy world

GTA V final overall impressions just okay

Grand Theft Auto V is the first game in Rockstar’s entire hooker-killing franchise that I’ve actually completed, and by that I mean I successfully played all of its main story missions, picked my A, B, or C choice for the finale, and watched the lengthy end credits–over thirty-five minutes long–scroll by as I pondered my collective time and experience as three unsavory souls stuck in Los Santos. And…exhale. Considering I still can’t even get past the second mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, this is a real, genuine accomplishment, a feat worth featuring.

To be honest, I don’t think much overall about GTA V. Now, please be sure to read that sentence a second time before you blow a blood vessel; I did not say “I don’t think much overall of GTA V,” but rather about. It’s kind of everything I expected it to be based on past experiences with the franchise, and I feel like it went through all the motions, and I went with it, a mute player. If you must know, I enjoyed what I played of Grand Theft Auto III, really dug Vice City for its vibe and tunes, and never got too far in San Andreas. Also, Chinatown Wars is a surprisingly good time, but quite a different beast from its bigger siblings. Truthfully, Saints Row: The Third is more my kind of freedom.

The story in GTA V revolves around three men: former bank robber Michael Townley, repo man Franklin Clinton, and uncontrollable psychopath Trevor Philips. They have their own personal stories to see unfold, but they also eventually all get mixed up in the same nefarious business, which involves running a bunch of heists and making some serious moolah. It’s clearly a videogame story, as things happen so that the player can take part in extravagant setups and scenarios and leap from tall buildings and blow up important locations and all that. A few missions feel like they just came up with some third part to play, spur of the moment, so all three protagonists could be there, even if there was absolutely no need to bring the greenhorn Franklin along. Of the three main characters, I was most disappointed in Franklin’s overall journey, as it seemed like the whole “other guy got the girl” subplot fizzled within the game’s first hour. Michael has heavy family stuff that gets resolved, but not in a way that fills me with confidence. And Trevor…well, he’s pure crazy, a lot of fun to watch, but just walking insanity, and GTA V would actually be a lesser game without him to keep everyone on their toes.

The open-world gameplay in GTA V is everything you’d come to expect from the company that certainly had a big hand in creating the genre. When you’re not accepting main story missions as either of the three gruff dudes, you can drive around the sprawling city and its outskirts, play a round of golf or tennis, do some yoga, get a haircut, shop for new clothes, invest in buildings, visit the strip club, surf the Internet, watch TV or a movie, take the dog for a walk, and so on and so on. There’s quite a lot of miscellaneous, nontrivial time-wasters for those wanting just a bite of action, as well as larger side missions in the forms of Strangers and Freaks. Random events like “Stop that purse snatcher!” occur from time to time, and you can also just stand still and watch the world go by or sit in your car listening to your favorite station. I found a lot of the side stuff more interesting than the main missions, as they are clearly trying to be big and bombastic, and there’s always an excuse for a gunfight, no matter what the scenario. Thankfully, thanks to a rather easy auto-aim feature, shooting down gang member after gang member is no big thing, and probably the biggest aid I had for completing this game next to Franklin’s bullet time mode when driving.

Let me talk briefly about the collectibles scattered around and outside of Los Santos, as I only stumbled across one during my entire criminal career. Which is very similar to my experience in finding those golden film reels in L.A. Noire. Either they are extremely well-hidden or I’m going blind, a likely case. According to the Internet, there’s a ton of things to find: Spaceship Parts, Stunt Jumps, Letter Scraps, Hidden Packages, and more. I found a single Letter Scrap, which ties into the Mystery of Leonora Johnson side quest–and that’s it. I started the missions that opened up the ability to find Spaceship Parts, but never came across them, and I felt like I did a lot of “off the path” exploring, mostly because I was trying to hide from cops, and changing elevation is a vital tactic.

A lot of material in GTA V is extremely off-putting, and for good reason. Rockstar’s treatment and regard of women is abysmal. If they aren’t there to either have sex with the main characters or sex with someone else to anger the main characters, then they are on their way. Take Michael’s family. He has a wife and a daughter. His wife is sleeping with her yoga instructor, and his daughter wants to get into porn. Take Trevor. Past the early intro scenes, you first truly meet him as he’s having sex with meth head Ashley, who never plays a further part in the game. Later, he kidnaps a man’s wife and begins to have a relationship with her. And lastly, take Franklin. He lives with his aunt, who self-describes herself as a “new age feminist,” and the two are constantly bickering. I don’t recall a single time that I returned home as Franklin that she wasn’t whining or complaining loudly from the other room. He has a childhood friend Tonya Wiggins, who is a crack addict. At first, it seems like he’s a man all about winning back his ex-girlfriend Tanisha Jackson, but that plot fizzles very quickly, so much that her sudden appearance near the game’s end was befuddling. Aside from these, there’s a few other women that stand out: Devin Weston’s lawyer Molly Schultz, the athletic MaryAnne Quinn, and celebrity-crazy old Mrs. Thornhill. In short, why couldn’t there have been a female gang leader or a woman working closely with Michael to keep his identity better hidden? Or some role more involved. Because to Rockstar, men do the ruling.

Early on, I actually watched some in-game TV, something I never even attempted before in Grand Theft Auto IV, despite a lot of people going gaga over the fact that such a large and completely skippable thing existed way back then. I ended up watching “Gordon Moorehead”, an animated detective drama radio show that looks innocent enough, that is until anyone starts speaking. I don’t recall the specifics of the episode’s story, just the constant degradation of Gordon Moorehead’s assistant Molly Malmstein, who Moorehead constantly treating her as a woman of little intelligence, often slapping her. I think the show is trying to to poke fun at sexism and misogyny, but actually just reinforces it all the way. It’s extremely disappointing; you literally can’t go anywhere in Los Santos without some knock against women.

I dunno. Looking back over this post, maybe I do think a lot about GTA V, just nothing too great. It’s got its problems, but it also felt very routine and predictable and crass for no good reason. The use of crude language, especially. I played a single post-credits mission, but haven’t really gone back to do any further exploring or money spending, and I just don’t really see myself getting back into the swing of things. I guess I’ve had my fill.

Remember to be a conscientious driver in Mafia II

It’s a nice afternoon. The sky is blue and clear of clouds, the radio is rocking a head-bopping tune of ol’, and Empire Bay is doing its post-WWII thing. Vito Scalleta and his best friend Joey Barbaro are out for a relaxing drive through the suburbs. Well, relaxing for them. In truth, they are heading to a house, and when they get there, they find a man outside watering his grass with a hose, looking all non-threatening. As quiet as can be, the two of them sneak up behind the man, toss out a cliche saying like, “Blah-blah-blah sends his regards!” and then shoot the life out of him.

The dynamic duo speeds away from the pursuing cops, and as they do, Vito runs a red light–at 70 or 80 mph, mind you. Joe, in all seriousness, berates him for this: “Did you not see that light was red?”

Sadly, Vito doesn’t come back with, “Did you not see we just obliterated a man’s body with bullets and now need to get away so we don’t get locked up or shot to death ourselves by the blue meanies and don’t really have time to obey traffic laws?” Instead, Joe’s line hung in the air, awkward and out-of-place, a piece of dialogue added to the game to instill realism, but working completely against that when context is not considered.

Also, this is going to be my last post about Mafia II. I swears it.

Open-world games thrive on minutiae. From idle chatter to signs in store windows to people carrying umbrellas when it starts to rain, it’s the little things that make the big thing whole. This is probably unfair, but I’m going to compare Mafia II to L.A. Noire, mostly because I view the games as quite similar, but far from each other’s levels. For most of the time, you go on missions with a partner in Mafia II, meaning you always have someone to talk to in the car. Conversely, someone’s always there to comment about your lackluster driving skills. This was the same way things went down in L.A. Noire, but when Cole Phelps would get yelled at for running a red light or hitting another car, it was never because it was Cole being an idiot. It had to do with reminding us that Cole was a man of the law and should set good standards for those watching from the sidewalks; it was there to remind us that we were occasionally driving someone else’s car, and he didn’t like to see it get dinged and danged up. It made sense there and then.

In Mafia II, you are a horrible human being. You kill for money, and that is all you see before your Italian face each and every new day you wake up. And so it just sounds bizarre to hear fellow murderers getting all up at arms over misconduct on the road. Especially during missions where you are trying to chase down another car. Of course you are going to run red lights then. That’s how you chase something, Joe. You can’t do both, commit murder and be a safe driver. This was just one of the more jarring moments in the game, coupled with the fact that the law will shoot first and ask questions later. Imagine a world where if you ran a red light you were popped in the face at close range by a trio of officers. Seems understandable, right?

Okay, that’s it for Mafia II. I’m out.

Back to blogging and videogame snogging

I did not plan to take two weeks off from blogging about videogames and giving Grinding Down love five days a week. Not one bit.

See, first things first, I was in a car accident. I was coming home from a work-hosted Christmas party, thinking about what gifts I still needed to buy for various family members when, without warning, a car slammed into my vehicle from behind at such a force that I screamed a sound I never knew existed within my being and bounced forward down the highway. I was doing around 65 mph; this person, who, with not much else to go on, I believe was drunk, had to be doing around 80 or 85 mph. They then drove off, leaving me on the side of Route 80, scared and uncertain. So I had to spend a few days dealing with that, as I was actually in a rental car at the time of impact and had to go to a police station, get an accident report, pick up my true car Bullet, and so on, so on, so on.

Then came the holidays themselves. This is the year I learned that, well, I’m not going to love the holidays as much after losing my mother to cancer last December. Makes sense, really, and so my depression surfaced to a magically new high. I played a lot of videogames, as I’m wont to do when down in that ditch, but I couldn’t get myself to write about them. I just hid in them and used them for quick hugs and abused them for ways to avoid all things real, all things scary. But I’m back now. I think. Yeah, hopefully. Gotta make the best out of this manic phase before I swing back low, right?

So, the year of 2011 has come and gone, and it’s that time for those Game of the Year roundups. I offered my picks over at The First Hour, naming…L.A. Noire as my Game of the Year! Yeah, woo. Play that game, y’all, if you haven’t yet. I also call out Bastion, Fallout: New Vegas, and Monster Tale as pretty great experiences, which should be obvious to anyone that follows this little blog here. I write about those games lots. Go check it out, even if Greg still doesn’t love exploring the Mojave Wasteland.

Throughout all this quiet time, I’ve played many, many games. Seriously, dear readers. A ton of ’em. Here’s just a few to whet your collective whistles: Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, Saints Row: The Third, Rage, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Pushmo, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Again, to name a few. There’s more. And I have a lot of blog posts bouncing around my rabbity head, so stay tuned. Cause I’m back at this. I hope.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Achievements of the Week – The Gambling Rear Entry Escape Edition

Weed, soup, faux air hockey, and Zombine attacks. That about sums up my week on the Xbox 360, but for further clarification, let’s take a look at some Achievements that popped. I’m getting close to 30,000 Gamerscore, which is exciting to nobody but me, and that means I will have to try really hard to get it to land on 30,000 exactly for blogging purposes. You may all start waiting in anticipation starting…now!

Okay, let’s do this.

From L.A. Noire…

So, back duringthose tempting Black Friday sales, I purchased some Microsoft Points and downloaded the remaining two DLC cases I’ve yet to play so far for L.A. Noire. Namely, they are Reefer Madness and A Slip of the Tongue. As always, they were enjoyable and strongly plotted, but far too short again. I finished both in one sitting. I guess, ultimately, this is the type of game I just want more, more, and more of. Sigh…


Femme Imbécile (20G): Correctly branch every question in the interview with Jean Archer.

On my first try, too, without even knowing this Achievement existed! Love that.


Forcible Rear Entry (20G): Enter the Las Palmas stash house via the back door and kill Juan Garcia Cruz.

NO COMMENT.


Soup in the Pot (20G): Open both soup cans in Juan Garcia Cruz’s stash room.

My OCD to check everything lead to this popping. Mental sickness for the win!

From Beyond Good & Evil HD…


Gamble King 2 (15G): Win 3 times in the pellet game against Francis

I think I built this minigame in my mind to be tougher than it actually was. Haven’t played it in so long, and I do remember a lot of grumbling at one point. From me, that is. Francis was loving winning all of Jade’s money back then. But beating Francis three times in 2011 did not take long, just persistence and a keen awareness of where all the pellets are at any given time. Will need to play again later though to win his pearl, but that’s for later.

From Half-Life 2: Episode One…

After Half-Life 2 glitched out on me and ruined all my progress, I said “frak it” to no one in particular and moved on to the next game in the series, which is more of a bite-size experience, but still fun since the gravity gun mechanics remain pivotal to surviving.


Citizen Escort (15G): Don’t let any citizens die when escorting them to the escape train.

Only had to reload a few times due to this one silly citizen constantly getting stuck on a ladder and getting a chest full of bullets for it. Silly citizens.


Escape from City 17 (20G): Escape City 17 with Alyx.

On to Half-Life 2: Episode Two…soonish! I swears it.

How did y’all do this week? If you don’t tell me in the comments section below, I’ll never know.