What’s new in various games…

Paying a visit to Dr. Ned

By the way, when did WordPress decide to hide the damn Insert Into Post button?  Finally found it hiding on another tab, but I swear it used to be on the upload dialog.

Borderlands: It’s surprisingly fun to play through the game again with all the enemies upped 30 levels.  But the fun stops about halfway through when you hit the level 50 level cap as well as $10 million— so you’re no longer advancing in anything visible.

But, new DLC!  With zombies!  I found that I had to go back to a lower-level character and work her up to level 24 before finding the sweet spot of difficulty: the zombies are no fun if they’re too easy or too hard.  It’s atmospheric and big and has the usual Borderlands humor… the Claptrap robot with the split personality is a nice touch.  It’s not as intense as L4D2, but it has some original touches— e.g. Lance zombies that still know how to put up a turret.

More DLC is coming, but apparently it focusses on PvP which sounds like a snore.

Speaking of L4D2, not much to add except that I love the Sniper Rifle.  Well, in campaign mode, which few people want to play.  It’s devastating at long range, and fires quickly enough that it’s still useful against a nearby horde.

I hate Jockeys though.  They’re highly situational, and the situation rarely calls for them.  If you have a knot of Survivors, they’re nearly useless.  Boomer is not much better since the hordes are nerfed.  The others are all fun.

TF2 has updates for the Soldier and Demoman.  I love the Pickaxe— it’s hilarious to dash around like a Scout, and it’s nice when your health is low to get a kill or two instead of just dying.  Plus it opens up some interesting strategies, like fighting your way to the intel and rushing back with it at high speed.

The Direct Hit is better than I expected.  My aim is, let us say, variable, so I thought it’d be just frustrating.  But a) if I do hit it’s more likely to be a kill, and b) since it’s so fast, the enemy is more likely to be in the vicinity of where I fired.  I do miss the splash damage, so whichever rocket launcher I have equipped, I tend to wish I had the other one.

Gunboats: also a plus, worth the loss of the shotgun. It really points up the lack of something to make the Heavy lumber along faster.

Frigging Demomen are a curse now.  The sword  + shield makes them virtually griefers.  A good counter is either the pickaxe or the Axtinguisher, which motivated me to master fast weapon switching.  Sadly, I went for about a year wishing I could switch to any of my 3 weapons with a single keystroke.  (It’s in Options if you didn’t know either.)

Crafting: Valve still seems to be thrashing about finding a purpose for drops.  I suspect it was easy to put together and thus was thrown into the product, but I wish they’d figure out where they’re going with this.  (Want an idea, Valve?  Forget the damn drops and tie Hats to Achievements.)

The update made me realize, sadly, that I’m a much better Pyro than Soldier.  But there’s maps that just aren’t good for Pyros.

Last night I  finished Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.  It’s a really good game, a nice integration of combat and stealth… with a few heady moments of invincibility as you pilot mechawarriors around.

Some of the maps are confusing (there are some annoying dead ends… the problem with a big dead-end area is that it’s hard to believe the designers were just messing around, so you waste a lot of time going over it looking for buttons or doors you missed). I also had to repeat the whole mines section, after learning from a walkthrough that you really really want to buy a Tranq Gun from an inmate.  Unfortunately the first time through I’d wasted the guy.  Vinbert is like that.

There are also some really nastily difficult rooms— though fortunately enemies almost always follow a pattern, so you can at least anticipate where they’ll be.  One room nearly defeated me: there are guards, aliens, and rail-mounted turrets, all trying to kill you.  You have a great minigun but it stops firing in a pattern I can’t quite figure out.  (Sometimes it kicks out after a few seconds, sometimes it seems happy to fire for a long interval.  Hell with it, I got Vinbert out of there anyway.)

Enemies tend to be few, but high-powered compared to you, so the game teaches you not to spray ‘n pray, but to lurk and try for the single well-placed shot.

Butcher Bay definitely is better than Dark Athena, if nothing else because it’s far longer, and the character interactions are more interesting.  Plus you spend a longer time limited in your weaponry, and the paradox of gaming is that though we want to be invincible, the most addictive parts of a game are when you’re still struggling.