Monday, May 30, 2011

L.A. Noire Shapes the Future of Rockstar Games

Team Bondi has proved themselves worthy to be published by Rockstar, and along the way has created a game that can be called a work of art. Nearly every scene in this game comes off as original, fascinating, and fun. But this work of art is not without it's flaws.

L.A. is recreated in full form. Nearly 90% of the landmarks are there to see.

The one thing you have to know about Cole Phelps, the main character you play in L.A. Noire, is this: he is human. He may seem like some sort of super detective, always out to fight crime and right wrongs, but even so, he has his faults. Discovering those faults is one of the main appeals of the story.

Cole starts his rise to fame working on the beat, after coming home from leading men into war.

You are not told much about Phelps personal life. Hell, you don't even know he has kids until about half way through the game. For a game so heavy in story, this is one of the major flaws. They don't dig enough into Phelps life, something I find quite odd considering Rockstars solid performance fleshing out their games main characters. You are given a lot of insight into him, but it's never enough. Things are tied together very well at the end of the game, but because you don't know as much as you would about the main character, the end falls a bit flat. That's not to say it's a bad ending, but it's just a tad underwhelming.

Cole notes every detail about the case at hand in his notebook.

That's why I'm glad that the main focus of the game isn't only on Phelps, but also on the cases themselves. Each and every case has unique aspects and points of clarity. Realizing the right clues for the right situation is as close as the average gamer could get to being a detective on the force. At first, getting used to how a character talks and how their face's react to certain lines of questioning can be a bit overwhelming, but a few cases in and you get a real good handle of it.

The Homicide cases are intense, gripping, horrifying, but perfect.

Just as fun and interesting as questioning suspects is investigating crime scenes. Each desk offers interesting takes on the crime scenes you will encounter. Traffic has you looking into cars, hit-and-run victims, and trunks by the trunk load. Homicide focuses on high priority murders, like that of serial killers, or their copy-cats. Vice has a lot to do with drugs, high class victims, and the seedy underbelly of Hollywood (or Hollywoodland). Finally Arson has you investigating suspicious house fires, in which whole families get caught up in flames.

The tech in use is some of the best seen in any modern game.

Each desk offers something new, exciting, original, and interesting. Watching Cole work his magic powers of deduction in each of these cases is almost the highlight of the game. What is the highlight of the game? The face animations at work, in-game. While I was excited coming into this game about the new technology at work, I never could have imagined how well they would have been able to pull it off. Nearly every single character in the game you see was scanned into the game (clocking in at around 400 characters), and each random person you see on the streets has a face that could belong to a main character. In fact, I found myself waiting around in a bar once because this NPC was pissed off at Cole, and I just kept looking at the characters face change from emotion to emotion. It is fantastic, and I can not wait to see how it is used in future games.

The interviews can get quite tense, and are almost scenes from movies.

L.A. Noire offers a good deal in terms of content as well. As you go from location to location in the game, you can be alerted to crimes occurring on the streets of L.A. You can choose to respond to these right away, or wait until later.There are a total of 40 street cases to solve. While that may seem like a lot, they are short and sweet crimes that usually have you chasing thugs on the street, or ramming them off the road in a car. In terms of thing to do besides bust bad guys and solve murders, there is the standard Rockstar practice of putting in a crap-ton of things to collect. 30 landmark to discover, 50 golden film reels to find, and a staggering 95 vehicles to nab if you want to reach 100% completion.

The slightest details can lead to breakthroughs in a case.

Don't let my first paragraphs confuse you. I love L.A. Noire. It is nearly everything I could have ever wanted in a detective game. The characters are interesting and dynamic. The crimes are tragic and troubling. The problem solving is top-notch, making me think about my clues and crime scenes. I just wish there was more to the main character's story. If there was a novel about Cole Phelps, I would by it in a second, because I want more. Because the cases are fun and interesting, I will be buying the games DLC, which are individual cases for you to solve. 

Even the menu screen oozes the genre it follows.

Team Bondi did not set out to make a GTA clone. They didn't want it to be seen as just an open world game in which you are in control. They set out to make one type of game. A detective story. And they have succeeded far more than they could have ever hoped to.

L.A. Noire is one of the best stories of the year, and gets

Friday, May 27, 2011

Amnesia Comic

This comic is based off my experiences in Amnesia - The Dark Descent ; a wonderful horror game by the creators of Penumbra, Frictional Games. You can't defend yourself, only hide in the dark, but, if you're in the dark too long, you begin to lose sanity and the monsters will hear you. You have a lantern for convenient light, but, the monsters thank you for it too. They wouldn't have been able to find you in the dark. It's a hell of a challenge but is intense and worth it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

L.A. Noire Launch

Beatlemania with Darris #1


When I comes to music, I am a very simple man. Looking over the collection of CD's I own, and looking into all the albums I've bought off of iTunes, it's hard to think about a world without my favorite tunes to help me through each day.

And nothing helps me more than setting up an old Beatles album, and letting it play through.

Today I'm going to be analyzing one of my favorites, and perhaps later I will go over a few more of my favorite Beatles albums. But for now:

Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul was the sixth studio album by The Beatles, and they recorded it in only four weeks. Rubber Soul is not only my favorite Beatles Album, but it is also considered one of the best albums of all time, making numerous 'best-of' lists, and being a huge chart-topper.

Instead of getting into every little detail about the album, I'm just going to pin-point a few songs from the album that I find to be amazing. I guess about five.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Norwegian Wood, the second song on the album, was written by John Lennon, with backing vocals from Paul McCartney. This was one of the first song's they performed using the instrument the sitar, which is used by George Harrison. Harrison would later get much more into the sitar, and use it in quite a few Beatles songs.

The song is about an affair John was having behind the back of his current wife. He wrote it as a sort of way of saying he had the affair, without having to actually say it. I find it to be a very gripping and interesting tune, one that goes one in my head long after it's done playing.

Nowhere Man

Nowhere Man, the 4th song on the album, is simple and fantastic. The three-part harmony used in this song, like man other Beatles song before and after it, work on many different levels, with solid backing from Ringo Starr. While it was quite popular among the other songs in the album, it never got released as a single in the UK, causing it to be a bit swept under the rug of amazing tracks.

A quote from Lennon writing the song:  "I'd spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then 'Nowhere Man' came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down".


Michelle was written primarily by Paul McCartney. It's a love ballad, obviously, and a great one at that. The Beatles were already know for their love ballads, as a lot of their early albums consisted of them, but this one was a bit of a turning point for them. Rubber Soul marked the first time that the songs started progressing towards other meanings besides love or relationships. While 'Michelle' seems like just a regular type of love ballad, it has much deeper implications towards the person in the song, singing to a person who doesn't quite understand him because of the language barrier.

'Michelle' was also the winner of the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1966.

In My Life

In My Life was written by Lennon and McCartney, with Lennon setting the ground work for it. Lennon started writting the song after he was told by a reporter that he should try and write a song about his childhood. At first he tried to make it more specific, naming places he had lived or worked in, but he felt it acted as a sort of boring 'bus tour'. So instead he made it more broad and translucent, adding a much better atmosphere to the tune.

In My Life is considered one of The Beatles best songs, listing high in a variety of different magazines and sites. Rolling Stone listed it as 23rd on their "500 Greatest Song of All Time" list, and 5th on their "100 Greatest Beatles Songs" list as well.

This was one of the only songs that McCartney and Lennon dissagreed over who wrote and worked more on. McCartney said, "I find it very gratifying that out of everything we wrote, we only appear to disagree over two songs". The other song being Eleanor Rigby.

If I Needed Someone

If I Needed Someone is a song written by George Harrison. Harrison drew heavy influence for this song from the band The Byrds, after George had listened to a song by Roger McGuinn. The song, which is next to last on the album, if a small and fresh take on the sort of romantic Beatles songs that were made by Paul and John.

It's one of my favorite songs on the album, and one of my favorite Harrison songs in general.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Post with Darris Pratt

Sometimes productivity halts. I go through the day wondering why I don't do more. This week was a chore in particular. Training a new guy at work every night starting at 11pm. With L.A. Noire out, I made as much time as a could towards it, and now that I have beaten it, I find myself not very energized.

I turned to re-reading some of my manga. A few year back, any time I found myself with nothing to do, I would crack open my Azumanga Daioh omnibus. Azumanga Daioh is a series that could always put a smile on my face. It's always sharp with its humor, and fun and fresh every time I dive in to read.

This time I decided to go through one of my more off beat mangas.

'I'll Give It My All... Tomorrow' is more than it appears to be. It's about a man named Shizuo who is forty years old and has a stable life as a business man. Even though he's not depressed or sad, he feels like something is missing in his life. So he throws his job away, and sets out to create mangas. The problem with this is that he is quite lazy, and spends a lot of time at home playing video games while his daughter and older father support him. He gets a part-time job at a fast-food place, and restarts his life, looking for inspiration.

While the plot may seem a little silly, this is in no way a pure comedy. It is often dark and gritty, and to-the-gut realistic. Shizuo has lots of problems to deal with, and one of them has to do with getting to know his daughter, who he had never really connected with on a real emotional level. He finds out things about her he never knew before, and starts to view the world differently. He also has problems coming into terms with his own creativity, and doesn't know what kind of mangas he wants to create, or even how to go about making them. It's quite the emotional ride.

It's a story worth checking out. A good read.

"Weekend Post is a short, off-topic piece about whatever Darris is thinking about that day."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Portal 2 - Early Contender for Game of the Year

Portal 2 may be one of the best written games ever created. The follow-up to 2007's classic brings back the dark comedy, and extends it ten-fold.

The puzzles get quite interesting

Portal 2 was released for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Produced and Developed by Valve Software, this anticipated title follows the adventures of silent protagonist Chell, making her way once again through the bright halls and seedy underbelly of Aperture Laboratories. Along the way she meets Wheatley, a quirky little Companion Sphere that tries to find a way for the both of them to escape the ruined and deformed labs in one piece. At the same time, GLaDOS is back up and running, and is seeking revenge for Chells mistake of killing her.
Chell gets reimagined, but still uses the same face model as the first game

What made the first Portal stand-out from the crowd in 2007 was two things; the interesting and complex puzzle solving, and the charming and intelligent writing. You would only hear two voices in the entire game, and yet they were so full of character. GLaDOS in the first game started as a normal, monotone AI, then started to chastise and belittle the character, all the way up to the final confrontation of the first game. But these were not the only times that Portal set a back story. Small rooms off to the sides would give a glimpse into what was really going on in the labs, without giving anything solid away. (Other than 'the cake is a lie.')
GLaDOS is happy to see you, but is such that a good thing?

Portal 2 takes the reins of its former game, and goes at it again full force. Ellen McLain returns with her award winning performance as GLaDOS, the evil AI who only wants to test, and test with deadly neurotoxins. Wheatley is voiced by the talented Brit, Stephen Merchant, who is a stand-out, and holds his own while acting with Ellen. The two work well within the world of Portal, and the interactions between them are gut-busting to say the least. Cave Johnson, the former CEO of Aperture Laboratories, is voiced by J.K. Simmons, and plays the part perfectly. His character is like a cross between J.J. Jameson from Spider-Man and Stephen Colbert. Nolan North also voice acts in this game, playing malfunctioning turrets and a few other interesting characters, rounding off the cast quite well.
Just Say "Apple!"

Valve has always had a tradition in gaming, and that is no cutscenes. They want the story to be told while the player can still interact and move in-game, and this shines in Portal 2. From the very first scene, similar to the tram ride at the beginning of the very first Half-Life, the game has you hooked in the environment. Every step of the way characters will chime in with something either interesting or hilarious. The game is never boring.

One more thing I will say about the games ending. Jesus, that was awesome.

The co-op game play is better than I expected. The puzzles are more challenging than in the single-player mode, as there are two brains working together to solve them. The interaction tolls at work for the two characters are well implemented. Without using voice-chat, you can tell your partner exactly where to place a portal, or drop a cube. While at first it seems like the co-op mode is simple used as a sort of multiplayer add-on, Valve yet again sneaks some story in there, making it all the more worth it to give a try.
Trust is a hard thing to come by, even for robots...

Portal 2 comes close to being perfection. Some of the single-player puzzles are a little too easy, and there was only one puzzle I was nearly stumped on for a good 15 min. The back story and Rat Man locations are not as engaging as the first game, but there are a few Easter eggs that totally make them worth looking for. Also, while the ending song to the first game is now a classic among gamers, the ending song for Portal 2 is, in many ways, just as good, if not better.

Portal 2 has some of the best writing I have ever read in nearly any type of media, and Valve continues to release fantastic projects. That is is why I'm giving Portal 2:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

BRINK Comic/Review

BRINK has gotten a hell of a lot of mixed reviews. Some were in the teens, some were in the 90s. Personal preference I suppose, some praise its innovation, some scorn its bugs. Some say it's a clone, because it has classes and objectives, like TF2 and Battlefield, and because it has shooting and levels, like most FPS games. I for one love the game, I'm having a blast with it. What people don't understand is that just because it has similarities and concepts doesn't make it a clone. That's like saying Star Wars chronicles a man and his friend's adventures in space, so it must be a clone of Star Trek. No. As long as it brings its own ideas and concepts into the fray, it is not a clone.

Aww Hell Naw

Anyway. The idea of BRINK is that global warming happened but beforehand, we made this floating city resort off the coast of San Francisco. Things went south and, before you know it, the seas rose, covering the coasts. Refugees began coming in and the city meant to hold 5,000 now holds 50,000. So there are obviously some supply problems. It's been 20 years since last contact to the outside world so, presumably the Ark is the only thing left. The Security forces are trying to preserve what resources they have for the life they have left on the Ark, while the Resistance want to try and contact the outside world, for if there is one, the resource problem would cease. Things happen and one side gets angry at the other and boom, the Ark is now on the BRINK of civil war. Now, the only thing that bothered me with it was the story. It was a fine story, but depending if you play Security or Resistance, they story changes pretty drastically. Not in the way that the ending will be different depending on the faction, but some pretty major events in the story leading up to the endings! For instance, in the Security campaign, there is a mission where the Resistance gets a surface-to-surface missile and prepares to blow up the Founder's Tower, the main landmark of the game. Now that's some serious terrorism. Of course you go in there and tell them to cut the shit, and break their missile. There is another where they try and take a reactor with the statement that Security will lay down arms or they will overload it, killing EVERYONE. Terrorism. But, if you go through the Resistance campaign, these things never happen. It's COMPLETELY different. It's not, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." or "One man's oppressor is another man's savior." Its two different motives and sequence of events! In Security, there are terrorists. In Resistance, the Security's motto is "LET ME WIN YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS OR I WILL BURN YOUR GODDAMN TOWN TO THE GROUND!" Anyway, you fight off the resistance and save the Ark (that's the floating city-island your on, remember? A fitting name, no?) When you play through the Resistance, it has its own set of differences. One with a helicopter being shot down, and another in an airport (this is the last mission so this is forgivable). These missions can be played from the other perspective (I.E you get to play the Resistance, trying to seize the reactor)in the "What-If" missions, showing how it would've turned out, whether it be good or disastrous. There are also misunderstandings, there is a yearly flu going around but the Resistance leader plays it off as a plague the Security has a vaccine for but isn't giving up, just to feed the fire some.

Explaining the Situation, Also, Comic

The Founder's Tower

Gameplay wise it is very fluid. The main innovation point is the parkour mixed into the movement, you can climb ledges, run walls, vault rails, slide under doors, all the works. These movements can be performed two ways. You can hold down the SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) button (the sprint button as well) and look at way you want to traverse and it will automatically determine the best way to perform this, but will only do simple moves, it wont wall run or wall jump. You can also just hit the jump and crouch buttons, these take more coordination, but the actions perform quicker and you can string together more complicated movements. The kind of parkour you can do is determined by your body type. Heavy can take lots of damage, but is slow and can only mantle waist high objects, while light can do wallruns and quickly traverse terrain, and medium combines the best, and worst, of both worlds.

The Light Orange and Magenta Represent SMART's Ability

And while doing all that, you can shoot, so it all blends together very well. The thing is, unless its a long range fight, there isn't much point to use the sights on your gun. Hip fire is best, because it doesn't slow you down and you can still be fairly accurate. The main objective of the game is that there is a defending side and an attacking side, the defenders stop the attackers from stealing/hacking/fixing/blowing up/delivering/uploading objectives and vice versa. All of your objectives are chose from an "Objective Wheel" so you can be covered on all fronts. There is campaign mode, challenge mode, and freeplay, all of which support bots and drop-in/drop-out play. You can play a campaign mission as security with real people fighting bots, or other humans.

The Objective Wheel

This game, has a hell of a lot of customization. Lots. You have your character, you determine his face and race via archetypes, you choose his voice, and you're on your way! You choose their clothes, body type, tattoos, and scars (the last two being unchangeable, you can't get rid of those easy in real life either). Each character can be used for either faction, with each faction having unique clothes, face paints, hairstyles, etc. You unlock more items for your character by leveling up, a new set every level generally. You also get an ability point, which you can use to buy abilities to make yourself better and more combat efficient. You also get to customize your guns with things like sights, magazine types, muzzle breaks, silencers, grips, slings, the whole set.

A Few Ideas

Visually, the game could be better but looks good. It has a unique artstyle, like TF2 mixed with Borderlands. The map design (of which there are 8) is very good and utilizes the SMART system well. From pristine white Mirror's Edge styled corridors to the rusted metal of the shanty towns made out of shipping containers, each has its own look. There is a problem though with load times. The models and everything are there off the bat, but the textures take a few seconds to fully load, which is odd for a game this fast paced. I suppose they thought you would be going too fast to notice, but if you stop, you'll notice them pop in. I don't know what kind of picture would go with this paragraph so;


Overall, I really enjoy the game, but it does have it's flaws. That's why I'm giving it an;

Until next time folks. See you in the shantytown.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Outland-ishly Good

Outland is a 2D platformer unlike most in the same pool. The game has you switching on-the-fly between light and dark to avoid dangers from both. Switch to light, and you can pass through light bullets, activate light platforms, or kill a dark enemy. Switch to dark, and you take damage from light bullets, cannot activate light platforms, and do no damage to dark enemies. So in a few ways, its a lot like Ikaruga, a bullet hell shooter very popular on the Live Arcade.

Switching from light to dark to avoid danger is a puzzle in itself

The first thing you notice about the game while playing it is the visuals, which are fantastic. The backgrounds are very well designed, and the characters movement are very detailed and interesting, reminding me a bit of the old Prince of Persia type games, but with much more speed. The game progresses at a steady pace, and you gain powers after mastering a power you got before. So in a way, its a lot like Metroid as well, as you can backtrack to gain more power-ups and extra content. The game also includes a co-op mode, allowing two players to solve select stages together. It works better than you would think at first, as the transitions from dark to light get harder to nail down, but I found it to be very rewarding when finished with a level.

The swordplay, while a bit repetitive, it fun to execute

So, the game is a lot like Ikaruga, Metroid, and Prince of Persia. While it would seem like these different game types would clash, it actually works really well. After a while you find yourself switching from light to dark mid-air, and mid-combat taking on more and more foes. The bosses in the game are also very challenging, but are visually pleasing and tons of fun. During the bosses, your ability to switch from light to dark gets tested, as bullets fly at you at increasing speeds.

The first of many bosses you will encounter

If the game has any real downfalls, its in the story. It's bland. I honestly didn't expect to be blown away by it, but the way this game presents its story and characters made me want to nod off. Also, while the combat is really fun in my opinion, I could see how it could be a bit repetitive to others. While saying that, I still find the swordplay and air combat to be lots of fun.

All in all, try the demo. The demo gives you a really good taste of what to expect. If you find yourself liking it, it's only $10, and trust me, I've paid more for worse games. I'd give Outland for the Xbox Live Arcade a 9.5 out of 10.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Raptor Inc. at Kawaii Kon 2011

Okay, so I got a chance to go to Kawaii Kon 2011 (if I had known what kawaii meant at the time I would now have gone) and despite all the weirdos and spandex it was a pretty decent time. Lots of art work shops, acting lessons, interesting panels, a wide variety of vendors, free video gaming, tournaments, all kinds of cool crap to fill up your weekend and destroy your pride.

Anyway here are "Greatest Hits" of the pictures I took over the weekend. My one regret: I forgot my RINC shirt.

My bad ass button collection I got for my messenger bag.

Check out the fat fifth element chick!

I don't know what is....

The green guy is a creeper, you can see his head on the table. I first saw him coming down the escalator with a stare locked on to me as if he would explode. The Deadpool is just awful.

One of the contenders for the silent auction.

Ezio isn't very sneaky.

I'm in the  middle. I know these guys from my old submaarine. Doesn't everyone looks so happy?!

Favorite picture.

Me wrecking my wife's shit on SF2

This is my scribble for one of the art contests. They give you a scribble and then you're supposed to draw something using it.

Here's my drawing! I lost.

That pikachu probably got laid that day.

This is the line for Otaku speed dating. Note that they are all dudes.

This guy sat in the audience at the speed dating and exposed himself for the men causing a big distraction. Genious.

The dude who everyone is cheering on in the blue hoodie is wearing hot pants.

My wife with pedobear.

So much fucking awesome in this shot I just came.

My souvenier, my very own potted fire plant.