Tag Archives: The Saboteur

inFamous 2 is decent fun, but no shock to the system

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So far, inFamous 2 really makes me want to go back to free Nazi-controlled terrain in The Saboteur or stop kicking dirt around and finally pick up Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, y’know, the game I more or less got a PS3 for. Well, that and Ni no Kuni. That’s not to say that inFamous 2 is not worth playing, as it totally is…it’s just that the best elements within itself are the ones I’ve already cherished and loved in other videogames. But before I get to all that, I have a wee announcement.

I got a new TV. Now, now, hold on. I have to assume that, for many of you, the TV I got will be No Big Thang™, but you have to realize that all my teenage-into-adult life I’ve learned to live with or live without, and so I’ve been using a large, clunky television from 2005 that does not have all the fancy features one can get with stuff being made some eight years later. And because of this, many videogames I play on it suffer from tiny text syndrome, and unfortunately, that’s going to continue to happen. See, I didn’t get a replacement TV for the living room; instead, I got a wee 19 inch flatscreen for my art studio, which is set up next to where I draw and use my laptop. So now I can watch Netflix while I forever tone bad comics. However, since Tara and I don’t have cable, I needed to move the PS3 over to my new wee TV for all that hot action, which has a bonus effect in that I’m using it a lot more now. I mean, now it just sits there, looking at me, demanding I turn it on and play. Which is probably a good thing for my PlayStation Plus backlog.

Anyways, this is what my new wee TV looks like:

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I’m pleased to say that it does the job more than adequately, both for streaming movies/TV shows and playing games. Well, at least the handful of games I opened on it to see how they fared, which consisted of Joe Danger 2: The Movie, Ni no Kuni, and inFamous 2. At some point, I want to switch the PS3 and Xbox 360’s places, to see what Torchlight and Dragon Age: Origins look like, as they were the games I found to have the smallest text in my collection. No real rush on that though.

Right. So, inFamous 2. Never played the original, but it always looked neat, like a modern dark spin on being a superhero, with legit superhero powers. Lightning bolts a-way! The second game seemed to sum up a little from the previous adventure via some cool comic book cutscenes, but it’s not all really clear to me. Something about a Beast (or maybe it’s The Beast) hunting Cole down…I don’t know. I just like climbing buildings, collecting blast shards, and squirrel-gliding from roof to roof like a kid with no restrictions. And you can totally do that, for as long as you want, which is really nice. Morality-wise, I’m going down the righteous path, though I have–on accident, I swear–murdered a few civilians while trying to stop attacking monsters and such. Because it can get hard and chaotic and somewhat confusing once the lightning and bullets begin to fly. Basically, any time there are four or five enemies at once, Cole goes down fast, and I don’t know if it is my fault or not. I’d like to believe I have a decent handle on firing shock grenades and tossing cars, but maybe I don’t. At least the checkpointing is very forgiving.

But yeah, climbing up those towers reminds me of the clunky, but still satisfying climbing from The Saboteur. The way Cole just kind of magnet-like sticks to poles and ledges gets me all jittery for more Sly Cooper tales of thievery (old and new). I’ll probably burn through inFamous 2 rather fast over the next few nights–as I previously mentioned, now that the PlayStation 3 sits right next to my work desk, I’ll be more inclined to use it–but maybe then after I’ll dip back into some old favorites. We’ll see. Probably not. I guess I just like dreaming about this stuff openly.

Saints Row: The Third should not have all this fun power

Honestly, I never thought I’d write these words, but I’m having a blast with Saints Row: The Third. The duders over at GiantBomb are mostly to blame, as they would not shut up about the game on every podcast or game of the year debate, and so I finally decided to put my trust in word-of-mouth and got a new copy with some Christmas cash (as well as Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Rage, and Marvel VS Capcom 3 during GameStop’s end-of-the-month sale where you could buy two used games and get one for free). I put it into my Xbox 360 without a real idea of what was to come except maybe some driving and shooting in the vein of Grand Theft Auto IV, a game I loathe. I held my breath and went forward…

Well, I’m about 11 hours into Saints Row: The Third, with a completion percentage around 45%, and it’s been zany, crazy fun from the moment go. From creating your character, to jumping out of a plane, to jumping into a plane, to gimps pulling chariots, to said gimps exploding, to driving Miss Tiger around town, to befriending a huge naked man, to–y’know, I think I’ll stop there for now. Literally every mission is absolutely bonkers and pure joy to talk about, but a majority of it needs to be experienced, as Saints Row: The Third is always aiming to surprise and put a smile on your face. And if not a smile, well, maybe just to lower your jaw a couple inches. In short, it’s a videogame. It’s a videogame that loves being a videogame and only wants to be a videogame for you. It streamlines everything to keep momentum going forward; when you are driving to a mission start locale, you don’t have to get out of the car to begin it, you only need to be near it, and while that’s a small detail, it’s enough to keep things going. Unlike GTA IV, failing a mission is not punishing, as there are many checkpoints along the way, and you can simply reload from there. And hey, do you hate chasing down a car to hijack it? Simply run and press the right button to jump through the car’s windshield immediately. It’s that kind of game.

And yeah, that’s my avatar in the screenshot above. He’s modeled somewhat after moi. You can use the in-game’s cell phone to take screenshots and upload them to a separate website, so expect some more National Geographic quality shots to pop up here and there. I like to dress kinda casual though I do put on a zany hat or kooky outfit when showing the game off to observers. And there was this one time I was wearing a wolf mask and a cheerleading outfit, but let’s just move on, okay…

Got some Achievements so far. This game looks like a fairly easy 1,000 Gamerscore, but it’ll take time, which is a-okay by me. For once, I’m having a blast in an open world with little fear of breaking it or losing all my hard-earned work through things getting too crazy and my dude getting shot to pieces, like in The Saboteur or Red Faction: Guerrilla. Here’s a few goodies:


Ow, My Balls! (10G): Did your first nutshot and testicle assault, sack tapping is bad news kids!


Gellin’ Like Magellan (20G): Explored every hood in Steelport, you’ve been around the world.


Gotta Break Em In (25G): Completed ‘The Ho Boat’ and decided the Hos fate, do you feel proud of yourself?

I do feel proud of myself, Volition/THQ. I saved those hoes from a life of hoeing and whoring under a wrestling masked jerk to work for me, the leader of the Saints, who, by all accounts, is a psychopath. Lucky them.

Right now, before I move on to the next story mission, I’m tracking down all the collectibles thanks to an upgrade bonus that highlights them all on my map. Saints Row: The Third doesn’t care about giving you everything right away, such as a map pinpointing all the hidden items or a VTOL jet early on or the ability to call an airstrike at any point; it just wants you to have a good time, and that’s exactly what I’m going to keep on doing.

Hi, my name is Paul, and I’m a spoiled sneaker

I’ve been spoiled when it comes to sneaking. My latest sleuthing through future Detroit in Deus Ex: Human Revolution has definitely proved this. Mostly because I keep getting spotted by enemy units.

In Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake had his Soliton radar at his disposal, right from the word hide. This showed enemy positions and vision cones, as well as outlines of boxes or trucks or barriers; it only became unusable during alert, evasion, and jamming phases, but otherwise, it was a great way to know who was where and how to get around them, either by crawling on the floor or making one’s way under a table.

In Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, we have a similar radar, now circular and in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, but serving the same purpose. Sometimes it can get cluttered with a hundred and five icon markers, but otherwise, it has enemies in red and shows them clearly coming after/looking for you. Oh look, a hiding spot there, there, and there. Sneaking made simple. Thanks, handy radar!

In Grinding Down fav The Saboteur, we have another circular radar, now in the lower left-hand corner, with red dots for Nazi soldiers. You couldn’t really assess their walking patterns, but you could see just how many threats were in a size-able area stretching several buildings and streets, and that was pretty vital when trying to breach an occupied location.

In Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, if you kept crouched and remained in the shadows, you could totally skirt detection. There were also some handy items like Stealth Boys and armor like the Chinese stealth armor, also known as the Hēi Guǐ, which basically guaranteed safety through patrolled sections. Increasing your Perception skill and having ED-E by your side would help detect enemies at greater distances, making it all the more easy to avoid ’em to begin with, especially Deathclaws and Cazadors.

However, in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, if Adam Jensen really wants to know where his enemies are and how far they can see and where they are looking and what their walking patterns are…well, we have too purchase it through an augmentation upgrade, and even then, it takes a few Praxis points to get things back to what I’ve come to know and expect in a radar. See, totally spoiled. Right now, I just unlocked the “cones of vision” augmentation, which helps a wee bit, but not enough to make me a true futuristic ninja. I am constantly getting spotted. All I have is a radar of dots, a handful of specks that do not make sense to me. To better hide, I need to fully upgrade three augmentations:

  • Radar System: Track enemy and friendly troops, turrets, cameras, and robots.
  • Infolink: Communicate discretely on the battlefield.
  • Stealth Enhancer: Provides stealth-related information and allows Jensen to mark and track enemies.

Yeah, too bad I didn’t understand this from the get-go, and I spent some points elsewhere, slowing true ninja progression to a crawl. Naturally, I’m trying to go through all of Deus Ex: Human Revolution in a kind and caring way, not killing a single soul (though from what I’ve read, boss battles have to end in death, mine or theirs), and so sneaking through enemy-infested buildings is my main path, but it’s hard when one has run out of tranq darts and keeps getting spotted by a guy halfway across the room, a dot that did not even pop up yet on Jensen’s radar. Hopefully things get easier with upgrades, but who knows if the game’s even sneakable for much longer.

If only I hadn’t been so coddled over the years…

Putting miles on the clock in L.A. Noire

I beat L.A. Noire a couple weeks ago, but I’m not going to be talking about the game as a whole or its ending just yet or all the things I loved slash hated. That will all have to wait until I get to it on my 2011 Completed Games list. In the meantime, I’ve dipped back into the game to play clean up for Achievements, as well as just drive around Los Angeles without the constant pressure of finding clues, undermining suspects, and closing cases. It’s been really nice.

Team Bondi and Rockstar’s 1940s Los Angeles is bland in terms of things to do other than driving from point A to point B, but brimming with beauty and buildings to look at, observe, eye hump, and be amazed with. Aesthetics is the name of the game here, and hoping into a car, tuning in to Billie Holiday, and driving down busy city streets is a little like time-traveling. It’s also quite relaxing because, unlike Grand Theft Auto IV, bumping into a car or accidentally swerving over to the sidewalk does not get the black and white chasing after you; in fact, you’re the black and white, and the game does quietly reprimand you for reckless driving, but never enough to put the fear in you to drive as straight and narrow as they come.

I do try to drive safe and civilian-like, but sometimes I get sleepy and veer into another car. Or some dinkhead begins to turn, but suddenly decides to stop in the middle of the road; that seems to happen a lot. No worries. Cole and his partner are always fine, never thrown from there car or anything, and the cars don’t ever explode like they would in Liberty City. Crash a car, find another, and so on. The developers have made it extremely easy to stay in the game, to keep exploring and listening to those snazzy, jazzy tunes, and that’s pretty amazing as most open-world games get boring real fast. Die a few times in The Saboteur or Grand Theft Auto IV, and seeing that I’d have to re-drive (or re-walk) all the way back to where I was is more frustration than I need, and off goes the system. However, with L.A. Noire, there’s none of that. The only pain, I guess, is having to switch out between three different discs to “free roam” certain crime desks.

Anyways, last night, as the heat and sleepiness wore me down, I found out that I’d been driving a whole lot so far, unlocking this fun Achievement:


Miles on the Clock (15G): Drive more than 194.7 miles.

Obviously, this took some considerable time, especially since I reveled in the fact that, during the game’s main missions, you could totally make your partner drive to the desired location without fear of ruining your car or losing your way or simply getting distracted. However, doing so did not count towards your total mileage for this Achievement. Post-game, finding hidden cars and completing more street crime cases definitely helped with this. I think I was mindlessly driving around near the Hollywood sign though when this nugget pinged. Vroom vroom.

I still have a few more somewhat attainable Achievements to go after, meaning I’ll be spending more time in the glitz and glamor of L.A. That sounds fine to me. Locations, newspapers, more street crimes, hidden cars, golden film reels–here I come!

The top five greatest things about L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is not Grand Theft Auto IV set in the 1940s, and for that I’m eternally happy. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted that open-world feel, but more guidance, more direction, and that seems to be the case here, pun intended. A linear game set in an open Los Angeles that, if you want, you can go explore and get lost in and attempt to run citizens over. But you’re a good-natured detective, and a detective like that moves slowly, meticulously, combing crime scenes for clues and interrogating suspects and musing with partners over possible plans of action. Sometimes action takes precendence, with Cole chasing suspects on foot or car, or trying to survive a shootout, or desperately trying to keep his hat on during a fistfight. But it’s the detective work and questioning of suspects and branching paths that make L.A. Noire its own game, and not just Grand Theft Los Angeles.

Oh, and here are five other great things about L.A. Noire:

5. Make a face, any face

This might surprise some to find my praise of the facial animation not number one of this insignificant list of mine, but that’s how I roll. I like the face work, I do. It’s very impressive, especially considering that both Tara and I immediately recognized Greg Grunberg as Hugo Moller just on his face alone. We were like, “Hey, it’s that guy!” And we were right. It was that guy. And we recognized him before he spoke, whereas it is often the opposite that confirms a suspicion about a voice actor in a videogame. And then Hugo began to talk, and it was like I wasn’t even in a videogame anymore, just a show on TV, where a guy was being questioned, and he was answering accordingly, twitching and looking away and furrowing his brow as we all do, and we had judgment calls to make.

4. All that jazz

In the late 1940s, after the horror of World War II, music reflected American enthusiasm tempered with European disillusionment. Jazz and solo singers breaking free from big band ensembles ate up the limelight, and Rockstar took it a step further for L.A. Noire‘s soundtrack, utilizing the remixing skills of some of today’s best DJs to create new versions of the old. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton are re-imagined in spectacular ways. Take a listen, I promise you that the songs are intoxicating and hypnotic. It’s a shame that I don’t drive around more to listen to them, but more on that in a bit.

3. That carrot is not irrelevant

When at a crime scene and searching for clues, Cole can pick up and inspect a number of items, many of which are either red herrings or simply inconsequential to the case. My favorite pick-ups are inside a suspect’s house, where Cole will meander into the kitchen, pick up a carrot, and stare at it for minutes before finally deciding that, yes, it’s most likely not the murder weapon. I’ve also noticed his love for picking up boxes of laundry detergent. Either way, it’s nice that they kept these items in, as it does give the feeling of truly examining a crime scene, no matter how silly they ultimately are. Always examine shoes, too.

2. Baby steps up the stairs

Y’all might think the facial motion capturing work in L.A. Noire is its greatest achievement, but you’d be wrong. Somehow, after seven years of programming and coding and researching, the people at Rockstar and Team Bondi were able to perfectly capture the way people climb stairs. If you don’t hold down the run button, Cole will climb a set of stairs in itty bitty steps, bobbing his head all the way up, like a jogger running in place. It’s hilarious and at the same time instantly recognizable; we’ve all gone up stairs like this at one time or another, placing both feet on each step all the way to the top, and it only helps to nail down immersion and authenticity.

1. You drive, I’m lazy

Most cop-work is done in pairs. Partners are not just a stereotype of the cop genre, but an integral aspect of working the streets and solving crimes. Plus, they can act as a personal chauffeur. At just about any point, you can hold down a button and have your partner drive to the next location. This is wonderful. You still get to listen to the interactive dialogue you’d hear if you yourself drove, but now you can listen without worrying about running into another car or careening off a cliff. If there’s no dialogue to be had, you simply warp to the desired location via a short loading screen. Again, this is wonderful.

One of my biggest gripes with Grand Theft Auto IV is how sadistic the mission structure was, often having you drive across two bridges and many miles to start a mission. Upon death or failure, you’d have to do all that again. It was even hard to stay on track in games like The Saboteur and Red Faction: Guerrilla. Here, in L.A. Noire, arrival at your destination is guaranteed. Occasionally, I do drive, but it’s always messy, and I rear-end a lot of cars, which gets my partner all huffy and puffy. Not needed. Hopefully this is something every open-world game can implement though how is not a quick answer to me. The fact that you are constantly paired up with a second person surely helps.

Don’t think I’m 100% sweet on the game though. There’s plenty I dislike, and if y’all are good and enjoy this post and share it with Reddit and Kotaku and StumpledUpon and the whole Interworld so that I can get rich and famous fast, then I’ll do a post on the five worst things in L.A. Noire.

Color versus black and white in L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is defaulted to play in color, which is a bit odd given its namesake and obvious admiration for film noir, low lighting, and unbalanced compositions. You do have the option to switch between playing in color and playing in black, white, and gray, but you can only select this option after starting the game and getting through its first chunk of cutscenes. That’s unfortunate because now you’ve already experienced the game in color, albeit just for a bit, and I guess it’s kind of like making a turkey sandwich, taking a bite, deciding that today isn’t turkey’s day, stripping the sandwich of its meat, and then replacing it with bologna. I mean, why didn’t you just make a bologna sandwich to begin with?

Okay, food analogies aside, after the opening narration and cutscenes, I switched over to black and white via the main menu options just as young, calm detective Cole Phelps and his partner began searching an alleyway for clues about a recent shooting. The change from color to black and white was phenomenal, striking even, especially with both detectives wielding flashlights, casting these sharp, bright cones of white on everything. It made searching for clues a little tougher due to the epic wash of white, but you truly felt like a bit part in a hardboiled police procedure.

And then a little later the game informed me that doors with golden yellow handles are open to Cole while doors without golden yellow handles cannot be opened. Great. In grayscale L.A. Noire, all door handles look exactly the same: a solid gray. There’s no way to tell the difference except to have Cole walk into every single door, making him look like a complete tool eight times out of ten. Strike one against black and white. The second strike came a tiny bit later as I was flipping through the game’s manual and noticed that, during gunfights and skirmishes, loss of health is indicated by the world’s color fading from color to black and white. The more muted it gets, the closer Cole is to his coffin. Perfect. In grayscale L.A. Noire, you can’t tell how much damage you’ve taken because the world around you is already muted and monochrome. The world doesn’t, for instance, revert back to color upon being wounded. It just stays the same. Strike two.

There’s no strike three. Two reasons were enough to convince me to switch back to color, and while it is not as aesthetically pleasing, at least I can be sure that playing the game will be easier. Certainly, I’ve found doors with golden yellow handles much quicker.

The Saboteur did not make a big splash on the gaming scene, but it’s a game that surprised me and took me for a wild ride across Paris; as the Nazis were destroyed and pushed back, color returned to France. It was a neat gimmick, but those early levels of the game where the only color you can see is red were so attractive and haunting. Same kind of goes for Fallout 3, wherein the Lone Wanderer is transported back to a simpler time before the bombs dropped, to Tranquility Lane, a virtual reality simulation housed in Vault 112. Here, the player will have to free his father from the same trap while dealing with a small neighborhood of 1950s-perfect people. Everything is seemingly pulled straight out of Pleasantville. Both games have a lasting impression on me, and both for the same reason: the excellent inclusion of effective noir stylings. It shouldn’t get in the way of gameplay, but it should definitely set a tone, pun intended.

Other than not being able to truly play in black and white and enjoy myself, I’m having a great time in L.A. Noire staring down suspects and searching for clues. As well as letting my partner drive me to and fro. Every open-world game needs chauffeurs. Yup, even you, LEGO City Stories. I just got up to the first case for Homicide called “The Red Lipstick Murder,” and I’m looking forward to solving some more mysteries this weekend. With Tara’s help, too. She’s like my very own personal assistant detective. “She’s lying! Look at her face!”

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and the honeydew list

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a perfect game for me. It allows me to do a bajillion things at once…or nothing at all. And along the way, I’m rewarded profusely, no matter which path I take. Progression is always building, and this progression is never lost as the game auto-saves like a nervous cokehead stuck fortuitously inside police headquarters. I love it. I can play it in quick chunks of 15 minutes or for hours at length.

Just like in The Saboteur, the overworld map is key to getting things done. Instead of just being bloated with countless white dots, Ezio has to stare at…countless icons. All of them different, all of them something to see, to do, to stab. Here’s just a small taste of everything I can do at this point in the game (DNA sequence 3):

  • Kill Borgia captains
  • Burn Borgia towers to the ground
  • Collect Borgia flags
  • Recruit assassins to the brotherhood
  • Train assassins by sending them on missions across Europe or having them take out Borgia soldiers
  • Buy famous locations
  • Do mini quests for arts merchants, tailors, and weapons dealers to unlock special items
  • Collect feathers
  • Remove posters to lower one’s notoriety
  • Take on assassin contracts
  • Do sidequest missions for locals
  • Start memory sequences to continue Ezio/Desmond’s story
  • Read emails
  • Replay memories for fuller synchronizations
  • Purchase stores to upgrade Rome
  • Buy paintings to fill out Ezio’s hideout
  • Hire prostitutes, thieves, or mercanaries to help with missions
  • Find and search the numerous hidden tombs of Romulus
  • Solve Subject 16’s puzzles
  • Collect from numerous treasure chests hidden throughout
  • Destroy Leonardo’s creations
  • Climb buildings and complete viewpoint synchs
  • Train and earn medals via virtual reality sessions

Honestly, I’m sure that’s not everything. And I’ve excluded online multiplayer from the list. Seriously…this game gives you a run for your money, especially considering that I got it on sale for $39.99. And as I mentioned before, you can do all the above, a few things, or none at all. Sometimes I just like to climb buildings and look out at the city; other times, I enjoy riding horseback through the countryside. On occasion, I will simply sit and people-watch. Everyone everywhere is fascinating. The game can be, all at once, the most peaceful and violent experience presented, and I can’t wait to chip away it more and more.