Resident Evil 7 (2017) review

Rated: 2.5-3 / 5 (depending on my mood)

Completely Tangent Intro

So I was playing through The Witcher 3, with all the DLC installed.  And after, I don’t know, between 50-60 hours of playing, as good as that game is, all I could think was, “Goddamnit, isn’t this fucking game over yet?  How fucking long is this thing?”  I feel bad saying that, because it is a really good 5/5 game I plan on reviewing some time down the line so I can say I reviewed the entire trilogy.  But I guess epically (I don’t give a fuck if that isn’t a real word) long games and me don’t always mix.  I’m the kind of guy who prefers game lengths (as in from beginning to end of one play, not including replays) to be between 8-20 hours, maybe 30 hours if it’s good enough.  And I knew what I was getting into, because I played it a long while back and I remember clocking in at just under 80 hours of playtime.  Throw in a couple DLCs that each add an additional 6-8 hours of playtime, and you see why it is that game is so goddamn long.  The Witcher 3 is one of those games that I just can’t power through like I normally do for most games, it’s too long for that.  It’s more like one of those games where you just do 1 quest (either a main quest or a secondary quest, maybe throw in a few treasure/monster hunts for the hell of it), savor it and the details, and then stop.  Rinse and repeat for another 50 sessions or so, and then there it is.  Otherwise someone like me gets burned out.  Granted, it didn’t start to happen until I was about 40 hours into it, but that’s 40 fucking hours!  I thought about holding off on reviewing that game until I play it through again on New Game+ mode, but fuck that.  That’s like doing a marathon of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extended cuts, and then saying you’re going to do it twice in a row.  Not me.

So what does this have to do with Resident Evil 7?  Well, for starters, it’s an easier to digest game that clocks in at an acceptable 9-10 hours on a first playthrough on Normal difficulty, which gave me a sigh of relief compared to the daunting task of finishing a Witcher game.  Snack time.

He chose foolishly.

 

The Actual Review

Ok, so first of all, I have played most of the previous Resident Evil games.

Ok, maybe not most.  Just Resident Evil 0 (GCN), 1 (GCN remake, which is the best way to play it, minus the dumb fucking decision to throw in the crimson heads), 2 (my personal favorite out of all the games, but that’s another story), 3 (arguably the best one next to 2), Code: Vernoica (the first Resident Evil game I didn’t really care for all that much next to RE:0, plus I hated them bringing back Wesker and making him and the protagonists come straight out of The Matrix), 4 (the main reason people like this game is because of the updated third-person gameplay which is done well, and the self-awareness at how ridiculous it is; I thought it was just ok, albeit an entertaining time regardless), 5 (played it co-op with another real human being too; otherwise the only memorable thing about it is finally seeing Wesker die, though he should’ve stayed fucking dead in the first fucking game), and a couple of the spinoff games which aren’t memorable enough for me to even remember the titles.  As for Resident Evil 6, I skipped out on that shit.  As far as I’m concerned, it got over-the-top enough with Code Veronica and 5; the franchise needed to die rather than keep coming back to life (which I guess makes the Umbrella Corporation a metaphor for Capcom).

Seriously, this is some of the Matrix shit they’ve been doing since Code Veronica.

And then this game comes along.  So it’s more or less a reboot for the franchise, moving away from the superhuman heroics (thank fucking Christ), and turning to a more immersive 1st-person horror-shooter (not on-the-rails like House of the Dead or those mediocre at best Wii games).  And it didn’t star any of the leads we’ve become accustomed to.  And I’ve heard positive reviews about the game.  So I decided to snatch it up off of Steam while it was on sale, but didn’t start playing it until about a week ago, when I found out that about a couple months after purchasing it they released a Gold Edition of the game.  Well fuck you too Capcom!  You see why I’m hesitant to purchase any brand-spankin’ new game within the first year it comes out (patches for bugs aside)?

So how was it?  Eh, it was ok.  I don’t know man, I don’t know if its because I’m getting too old for most games, or because I’ve played so many that it becomes very difficult to please me outside of nostalgia-baiting.  Or maybe it’s because the current state of the game industry makes me a little sick to my stomach, more so that all the gross-out moments this game shoved in my virtual face.

I will say that, by the end of it all, it did feel like a Resident Evil game.  But at the same time, it also felt like it took as many steps forward as it did backward, which frustrated me.  The main thing to discuss in that regard is the one thing I usually play games for nowadays, and that’s the story and/or characters.  Because games nowadays focus more on the look/feel/flash than they do on the gameplay.  And when it comes to first-person-shooters (FPS), that’s probably all that genre has left going for it.  Gone are the days where you could just play something like Doom I and II (the newer one from 2016 does not count) or Duke Nukem 3D, or Painkiller: Black, or Descent I-III.  You know, shooters with virtually no narrative or story outside the instruction manual (back when games came with those), where all you had to do was get weapons and blow shit up.  Those are a-dime-a-dozen, and it’s not exactly a high bar to meet when it comes to crafting an FPS game.  So we need to have story and characters to help stand out from the rest and get us gamers more easily immersed into the game.

So, story.  You play as some random dude who’s wife has disappeared, and you receive a message from her to stay away and forget about her.  So rather than forget about her and get another smoking hot wife to bang, he decides not to heed her advice and go out into the middle of “I buttfuck my daughter; redneck swamp land” nowhere, and decides to approach a house that looks like it’s been abandoned for a few years, if not a decade, crawls through swamp water and sewage and bugs and rotten food and other shit (maybe literally) until he finally finds a backdoor into the house where she is supposedly located.  You know, it might be because I’m not the heroic type, but I would’ve decided that she’s not worth this, and drove out of “I buttfuck my daughter” land back to “I buttfuck any hot chick who isn’t related to me” land (though with this franchise there would probably be a twist to that).  I mean, at least in the other Resident Evil games, the protagonists were thrust into these sorts of situations against their will, and usually due to extreme circumstances demanding extreme measures.  Either that or the protagonists were so muscular and heroic and martial arts masters that it just seemed by-the-numbers by their standards.

“Give grandma the hammer!”

But I digress.  Our protagonist eventually goes on to find his wife, who then goes berserk and kicks the crap out of you and saws your hand off, before you get captured by some redneck dad named Bubba who introduces you to the rest of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family (seriously, the parallels are impossible to ignore unless you haven’t seen that movie; the original Tobe Hooper movie from the 70s, none of the remakes you smart-asses).  Well, it got me a bit interested.

The thing is though, there’s something about these graphic styles for these games that put me off.  Something about the 3D modelling, the way they talk, the way they act, how they can never smile right.  And most important of all, how hard it tries to be realistic with the graphics.  It’s just something about that sort of emphasis on realism in a videogame that just doesn’t suit me.  I just can’t help but have the attitude of, “Who are you trying to fool?  You could have the effects as bad as Goldeneye on the N64 or as good as, I don’t know, whatever game exists now that people consider to be top of the line in terms of graphics, and it would all be the same to me.”  Bit of an exaggeration, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at.  It might just be a personal thing, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in thinking this.

Side-tracked again; back to the story.  So let’s just say that as the game goes on, the main villain/monster turns out to be some Ring/Grudge/Ju-On/F.E.A.R. chick.  Alright, you know what?  If this game is going to pull cliches like that out of its ass, it really should do so with a more tongue-in-cheek attitude.  But it plays things straight.  That trait is endearing in the first 3 Resident Evil games, but that doesn’t appeal to me here.

The last thing I’ll mention about the story, kind of.  There’s this moment in the game where you have to “make a choice.”  Whoah, a choice?  Where your decision affects the events in the game as well as the ending?  Do tell!  There’s nothing to tell.  Like most games that do this, it’s not really a choice.  It doesn’t matter who you choose to save.  Sure the choice does give you a different ending in the long-run, but it’s really stupid how saving one kills them both, saving the other gives you a happy ending with one of them living.  Would’ve been more intriguing if saving one gets you that girl at the end, while saving the other gets you that girl.  Not going to work that way, so the game just kinda beats you up for making a choice that seems more ethically wrong, I guess.  So it ends up being a waste of time inserting this so half-assedly into the game.  But it could’ve worked well if it had that tongue-in-(butt)cheek attitude.  Hey, if this game is going to be immature about this shit, then so am I.  On that note, when the decision came up, I chose the non-wife (Zoe).  Why?  Well because Zoe kept helping me in her own way with getting out of the place through a good portion of the game, while the wife (Mia) did nothing but do spouse abuse so extreme I’m surprised she didn’t resort to slicing my dick off.

There is a problem with this game, and I’m pretty sure I heard about it well-before ever purchasing it, but I think I chose to forget about it thinking, “No, that just can’t be.”  But it’s definitely there (poor choice of words).  So here’s the problem.  There are no zombies.  There’s not one foot-stepping, undead-moaning, dick-sucking zombie in this entire game.  Nothing in this game qualifies as a zombie as far as I’m concerned (anyone who says otherwise is stretching the definition too far).  Sure there are people who aren’t normal people, but they’re not normal in the same sense that all the regular enemies in Resident Evil 4 aren’t normal.  You know, in Resident Evil 4, all those not-zombie people had a decent enough awareness, they could talk, they could run a bit, and they could weld weapons, and they could mutate and shoot black stuff out of their heads.  Pretty much the same thing here, except the not-zombies in this game can pass off as normal people (at least as far as isolated hillbillies in a swamp can go for normalcy) .  They walk and talk like normal people, but they’re just stronger than average and are almost impossible to kill by any regular means (but in a Resident Evil game, nothing is regular).  And there’s only like 3, maybe 4, of them.  The rest of the time you’ll either be against these black gooey man-alligator things, giant mosquitoes, fat blubbery fucks, and the lickers (when they show up).  So boss fights aside (which are just mutations of the not-zombie people), there’s only like 4 different enemy types.  And that’s it.  Even the first Resident Evil game had more variety than that: zombies, zombie dogs, zombie spiders, hunters, zombie birds, zombie snakes, zombie wasps; and those aren’t even the bosses.

And speaking of bosses, yes, this game has enough variety in bosses to satisfy me.  But Jesus Christ do they go over-the-top with these boss fights.  Granted, they’ve been over-the-top ever since Resident Evil 2 (and it’s hard enough to resist a jumping the shark joke with the first game), but this game was aiming for more gritty realism goddamnit!  The fights get more over-the-top as the game goes on, and so do the mutations and monster forms.

See what I mean?

There are some nice nods to the first Resident Evil game.  Once you get involved in this “game” section where you go through some traps and such, some old-school Resident Evil music plays, and some nostalgic sound effects will go off when you press some buttons.  I appreciated the nostalgia.  Also didn’t hurt that it was one of the more memorable parts of the game, going through these Saw-like sections.  And the game almost convinced me that it was tongue-in-cheek.  But only for that section, the rest of the game thinks it’s too good for satire apparently.

At a few points in the game you get to watch some VHS tapes, which treats you to some lost footage films done in the same vane as The Blair Witch Project.  Now, the first time this happened I was interested, and there’s one other time where it does serve a legitimate purpose.  But for the most part I found them to be irritating distractions.  These should be sections that are cutscenes, but instead the game has you play as the person shooting the video (which makes zero sense for the last “video”), which gets even more annoying when you realize you can still screw up and die and have to start over.

As the game went on though, once you’re finally able to grasp what exactly is going on and how things got to be the way they are (ie why there are monsters), the game actually wasn’t half bad.  Plus I also became sympathetic to the swamp family, noting how they were before and after the incident, and how they’re crying out for their souls to be freed.  A bit of a touching moment I wasn’t expecting from a game like this.

So, despite my gripes, I can say the game is fun enough to be worth a play.

 

Other Notes

Now, with that all being said, I’d like to take a moment to talk about gaming in general, my personal opinions on the matter.  As I said earlier in the review, I fear my tastes in gaming have changed.  I fear I may not really be all that much of a gamer anymore.  Honestly, I try to do board games more than video games simply because I prefer playing against other human players, face-to-face.  You know, for face-to-face social interaction, something I believe society is in dire need of, rather than isolating ourselves and using social media as an illusion for legitimate social interaction.

Gaming to me should be fun.  And fun games for me personally, from what I’ve determined when looking back over the years, come in 3 categories:

1.) Short and sweet.  Basically games from the Sega Genesis and SNES time period, where the games were short, the difficulty was high, and you had to play it multiple times to get good at it.  There are plenty of games that are that old that I would still play to this day, like Contra (practically any of them, especially Hard Corps), Castlevania I III and Bloodlines, Starfox 64 (or the SNES version), among others.

2.) Games with an engrossing story and good characters.  The first one to really pull this off for me, which I still maintain to be the best (even if this is predictable) is Final Fantasy VII.  Memorable characters in storyline so fucking good I was willing to bear through the typical issues plaguing J-RPGs (random battles, some grinding, repetitive combat).  I’m not sure how I’d feel about this one today, but Skies of Arcadia on the GCN wasn’t half-bad either.  Tales of Symphonia had decent enough characters and story, and a pretty solid real-time 2D combat system to go along with it.  Kane & Lynch (the first one) I consider to be underrated.  And Spec Ops: The Line, whew, that whole game is designed to be a huge gut-punch to those who play third-person shooters regularly and don’t think much about the people they kill (look at you Uncharted).  Silent Hill 2 is probably one of the best, if not the best, character study games of all time.  And, of course, Metal Gear Solid 1-4 and The Witcher 2Starcraft is arguably the best RTS game in terms of storylines (especially if you read the background story given in the game manual), though I do need to play Warcraft IIIMass Effect 1-3 (though less so for the first one just because the side missions make the game’s pacing suffer considerably).  So, in other words, games that you talk about like they were movies when you’re done with them.  But God help you if you play a game solely for this reason, and it ends on a cliffhanger with no sequel ever happening (fuck you Valve for not wrapping up Half Life 2).

3.) Games that are paced well and do something right with the overall design, especially level design; and maybe throw in some semblance of a story as a bonus.  Super Mario World could arguably be the best designed out of all the traditional Super Mario games in regards to level/game design.  Resident Evil 2 is the go-to horror game for me to this day, mainly because it absolutely nails the zombie sounds, both the moans and the footsteps; and how it gets under my skin during the portions where no music is playing; it’s paced pretty damn well too, and has tremendous replay with different bosses you can face; and it really knows how to time a couple of those jump-scares; plus I believe limiting the player’s view to fixed camera positions works to the game’s advantage when it comes to horror and creating tension with the player.  Doom I is the best Doom game in terms of pacing and progression, both in terms of level design, the weapons you acquire, and the types of enemies that appear.  Doom II isn’t half-bad either, especially with the level design, but the pacing isn’t quite as there, and exists more as a reason for you to just go insane with the shooting, to just unload all those bullets into all those hordes of enemies.  It’s one of the reasons why I believe level design is the most important aspect when it comes to crafting an FPS, the second-most important aspect being pacing (types of enemies that show up on each level, which weapons you have each level).  Usually the one genre I cut a bit of slack are RPG games, especially The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, mainly because of the mods.  Valkyria Chronicles I think is pretty damn good too in terms of gameplay (plus I think the story and characters are so unintentionally hilarious it should be a case study; they have practically every anime cliche/stereotype in the book thrown into that game).  And there’s the Dark Souls games; these are games that aren’t afraid to challenge you, and it’s the kind of challenge that I like.  And then there’s Master of Orion (the first one, from 1993), which I firmly believe is the best 4X-civ game ever designed to this day, despite the dated graphics (at least it’s not Atari graphics and older, my tolerance for dated graphics doesn’t really extend further back than the 90s).  Lastly, I’m terrified of getting into X-Com: UFO Defense again, not because it’s a scary game (though it is tense as hell), but because of how addicted it is; first time I played, I started at like 9am, and next thing I new it was dusk; that scares the shit out of me if a game can make me lose track of time like that.

But anyway, there are some game genres I’d rather not touch just out of personal preference, like sports games and racing games (Grand Theft Auto V I guess could be considered an exception).  Aside from those, I’ve become quite picky when it comes to games.  Probably because I’d rather use my free time doing something else now.  Then again, it could be because the people I used to converse with about gaming in general are no longer around, giving me no one to talk to about this stuff once I’m done with it.  And no, writing reviews about games and bitching about them and/or praising them isn’t enough.  Or it could just be I’m going through a phase.  But considering how much less frequently I’ve been playing videogames over the past couple years compared to how often I’ve played in the past, I doubt it.  I guess it’s possible to reach a stage in your life where you’re gamed out, and are only willing to game on things you know for certain are of high quality (ie suited to your preference).

As for Resident Evil 7, it’s just going to be another one of those games that isn’t really all that special to me.  Entertaining and fulfilling, sure, but so is a burger from Burger King or Jack in the Box or Carls Jr.; just because it’s fulfilling doesn’t mean it stands out compared to the other games/burgers that are out there.  And at this point in my life, I’d rather indulge myself in games that do stand out.  As far as I’m concerned, most of those games are in the past, not in the present or future (with some potential exceptions, like Cyberpunk 2077).

The Witcher (2007) review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

Note: I have only played this game with the Full Combat Rebalance (FCR) mod. Any input I provide based on the combat gameplay will be a reflection of this, as this mod does give the game a significant overhaul.

Yep, regressed from the 2nd game into the first one. Why? Because I recall from playing it years ago that it was decent so long as you were patient about it. Also because I wanted a refresher on some of the characters before getting back into The Witcher 3. And like in my previous review, I did a (modded) playthrough which I recorded, edited, and uploaded as videos in a movie-like format (currently ongoing). This proved to be more difficult than editing footage for the 2nd game because:

1.) I was nowhere near as familiar with this game as I was with the 2nd.

2.) It’s longer. Five chapters plus a prologue and epilogue vs. the 3 chapters and prologue/epilogue of the 2nd game. This game can easily run you 50 hours of playtime, and unfortunately not all of those 50 hours is fun (more on that later).

3.) Much of the stuff that I wished was a meaningless sidequest, uh, isn’t, exactly. Some of the minor stuff in some of the chapters ends up playing into the main quest of each chapter.  That may sound nice, but it isn’t, because most of these side quests just aren’t very interesting (something rectified to the extreme in the 3rd game).

 

Gameplay and Comparison to Witcher 2

So here’s the thing about this game vs. it’s sequel. Aside from this being graphically inferior (that’s expected), the gameplay is also considerably different. This isn’t an over-the-shoulder (sort of) run-around hack-and-slash like the 2nd game. It plays more like a top-down point-and-click hack-and-slash ala Diablo and Titan’s Quest and Torchwood. You click where you want to move to, your character moves to that spot. You click on an enemy to attack, Geralt will proceed to do a sword combo on it (a combo that increases in sword swings and damage the more you upgrade Geralt, assuming you spend time upgrading his swordsmanship). And there’s 3 different attack styles: fast, strong, and group. Strong attacks are effective against enemies who are unarmored, fast attacks are good against those that are armored, and group attacks are great for when you’re surrounded by foes (though it’s usually best not to get surrounded or flanked). Of course, there’s also magic spells to cast, but I used those rarely in my playthroughs. Granted, if I played on a higher difficulty, that would likely force me to adapt to using spells more often, but the game isn’t worth putting that much effort into in my personal opinion. Others may find it more to their liking.

In any case, I found that I had to think more tactically in combat in this game compared to the sequel.   In Witcher 2, I could mostly just hack-and-slash without much worry, especially on the later levels. In this game, I couldn’t do that, even when I was leveling up pretty high. The game succeeds at this partly by not increasing your vitality when you level-up, thus keeping things tense with each combat situation in each chapter. Plus it adds an extra level of interactivity by giving you a small window of opportunity to chain moves together by clicking on the enemy at the right time when the sword symbol changes to a certain shape/color.  Click at the right time, you land more seamless blows.  Miss it or click too soon, the enemy will likely get more decent hits in before you can start chaining sword blows again.

Leveling up is also different compared to the 2nd game. When you gain enough experience points to level-up, you don’t just gain “talents” to be spent on whatever, oh no. There are 3 types of talents, bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze talents you get on every level-up, silver talents occur less frequently, and gold talents less frequently than that. And these talents aren’t just spread across magic, swordsmanship, and alchemy like in the 2nd game, it’s more branched out than that. There’s a section for strength (increase damage), dexterity (increase dodging/parrying), stamina (increase resistance to poising/bleeding/etc.), and intelligence (making magic and alchemy stronger). That’s just one section. Then there’s a section for upgrading each spell type (Aard, Quen, Yrden, etc.). A section for upgrading silver sword attacks (good against monsters) in either fast, strong, or group style, and another section for doing the same with steel swords (good against humans). Don’t like it as much as the simplified leveling system in the 2nd game, but it’s decent enough. Did make for some somewhat difficult decision-making, which isn’t much of a bad thing, especially when you can see the results of your leveling choices and see where you may need improvement depending on your play-style. I don’t prefer use of magic, but others likely will.

And then there’s the potions and oils, which you make using an alchemy process.  Potions strengthen you in some way, while oils are put on sword blades to make them stronger against specific enemy types (humans, specters, insectoids, etc.).  Only 1 oil type can be applied to a sword at a time, while you can drink as many potions as you want (theoretically), but each potion you drink poisons you more, and if you go too far into the drinking, your health will start getting sapped, so you need to choose your consumption wisely.  The main potion I consumed throughout most of the game is the Swallow potion, which regenerates your health faster than normal.  So, yeah, you’ll be swallowing a lot.

Another thing about the gameplay is, like in Witcher 2 and 3, there’s a day/night cycle. Time moves, and NPCs will be in different locations depending on whether it’s day or night, or even dawn/afternoon/dusk/midnight. But unlike those games, this mechanic, while immersive, proves to be frustrating. It gets goddamn annoying when you realize time dictates when and where characters are that you need to interact with in order to complete quests, and you can’t fucking find them until you either wait or meditate to the right fucking time. This wouldn’t be so bad if this game had a tracking system as good as Witcher 2, where you see the destination/objective on the map which is tracked in real-time. Not so in this game. Each quest objective is always listed in the same static map position, regardless of the time of day, so you have to wait for that time of day to interact with so-and-so. This is why I liked Grand Theft Auto V, and least in that game, when you reach an objective and it’s no the right time of day, the game fast-forwards until it is the right time and lets you carry on from there. The day/night mechanic is more trouble than it’s worth, and it drags on the game length needlessly. The immersion is not worth this.

Another little annoyance is the running from one destination to another.  Really wish Geralt could run faster from place to place.

Lastly, a lot of the NPCs are recycled.  As in it won’t take long to notice that many of them look the same.  Get’s particularly frustrating when some of the npcs that play a role in the main plot are hard to distinguish from some anonymous merchant on the street.

 

The Story

So that’s the gameplay. Then there’s the story. Long story short, it’s not as good as The Witcher 2’s story. Mainly because it’s not as intriguing with the plot and characters and political intrigue (though this game does still provide that albeit in watered down doses), but also because it takes a while for things to click into high gear. The prologue is typical introductory fluff. Chapter 1 is more of the same, with most of the events proving to be insignificant to what would come later, and is more of a stand-alone chapter to get the player more acquainted with the gameplay and the “decisions have consequences” feel. Oh, right, you do get to make choices in this game that produce different outcomes, but unlike the sequel, there are no alternate endings. Only 1 endings, and how you get there can alter slightly, and almost no decision you make will alter how the sequel(s) play out; save for saving or killing Princess Adda (whom you get to bang, of course), but even then it’s just a minor afterthought brought up in Witcher 2, and hardly even noticeable in Witcher 3 without a mod if I remember correctly.

So like I was saying, the Prologue does get the story going, giving you a goal and motivation. Chapter 1 more-or-less just gets you acquainted with the gameplay and only 2 other significant characters (for about 5-8 hours). Then comes Chapter 2, which is easily the slowest fucking chapter in this entire fucking game. So many sidequests that, to this game’s credit, do link up to the main quest. But in hindsight nothing really significant happens in Chapter 2. Chapter 2 exists to get you familiar with the main city you’ll be spending most of the game in, and those who live within it, and some backstory.  The gangs, thugs, drug addicts, poor people, old people, the hospital, those infected by the plague, the knights of the Order, the town watch, the grave-digger, the humans and non-humans, some people from Geralt’s past, etc. It sounds nice and all, but not for 10 fucking hours with the plot progressing at a pace so slow even snails would be feeling sorry for you. Chapter 2 is a glorified detective/mystery, where solving it doesn’t really accomplish much or move the plot forward hardly at all. It’s just for atmosphere and getting you familiar with the world.

Thankfully, once you get past Chapter 2, it only gets better from there. The political intrigue picks up in Chapter 3, where you wonder about Triss’ intentions and ulterior motives, you get more involved with the conflict between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Scoia’tael, learn some interesting things about the criminal organization the Salamandra, and how they link into different sects high and low, and how they are used by those sects. And it only gets better from there. And I have to admit, by the time it got to the epilogue, a plot twist came up that, to this game’s credit, I honestly did not see coming, even if in hindsight I should have.

Chapter 4 slows things down a bit, but not to the extent of Chapter 2.  And, again, it slows things down so you can get familiar with a particular character who pops up off and on throughout the previous chapters (excluding the prologue).  Then when it gets to Chapter 5, full steam ahead all the way through to the prologue.  It becomes pretty damn difficult to stop playing the game once Chapter 5 hits.  And it all leads to a potential “end of the world” scenario.  You know, like just about every single fucking RPG game ever made because creators/writers/corporations think having the stakes set that high is the only way to have a rousing and intense finale.  I always roll my eyes at plots like this about as often as I roll my eyes at forced love interests in both games and film, because both usually come off as cheap and easy ways to get the player/viewer invested in the character(s) and/or plot.  If you want my appreciation, make the characters interesting via their interactions with one another, their motivations, their personal journey and character arc.  Which is why I have an appreciation for Witcher 2’s plot because it accomplished exactly that.  The plot isn’t about the end of the world so much as the fate of a nation (or several), and how the leaders have their own personal goals, how they each treat their own people, and how your character feels about that and if he will side with any of them, or none.  On top of that, there are also character well aware of his amnesia who may or may not be trying to take advantage of him because of that.  Is he being used?  Is he choosing to be used?  Does he (or anyone else for that matter) have free will?  What’s the price to pay for existence?  Did you do the right thing?

Now in this game, it does focus primarily on the purpose of Geralt, what’s his motivation, what’s his character.  They make this simple by starting the game off with him as an unknown prisoner who breaks free to make a name for himself and save the world.  Wait, I got that wrong, that’s like every Bethesda game ever made.  They make it simple by starting the game off with him running through the wilderness being chased by some ominous unseen figure calling his name (like the opening to the Witcher 2, but with worse graphics and camerawork), and he awakens at Kaer Morhen (home to a school of Witchers), with no memory.  Then the place gets attacked, and he is off on his own to find out about the attackers, get their Witcher shit back that was stolen from them, and learn about himself in the process.

Now, it’s the “learning about himself” that is key here, in an attempt to make the players become attached to Geralt.  The player is faced at several points in the game to make decisions that not only have consequences, but determine just what kind of a character Geralt is going to be now.  Will he be like his old self?  Will he follow the Witcher’s code?  Or will he choose a side in the ongoing conflict between the Order and the Scoiatel?  This may seem a bit more common in today’s RPGs, and I can’t say this is the first game to do this (the earliest in current memory is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), but 2007 seemed to be a big year for games like this where this sort of “choose your own adventure” RPGs became more prominent.  After all, this game was released in the same year as Mass Effect (though it doesn’t look as good from a graphic’s standpoint).

Now, while this “choose your own adventure” element seems nice and all, the game becomes a bit of a dick about the whole thing during the later chapters.  If you choose not to remain neutral during the events of Chapter 4, characters in Chapter 4 and 5 won’t let you hear the end of it.  Basically, the game is just straight up telling you, “How dare you play it your way!  How dare you not stay lore friendly and true to the Witcher’s code!  For shame!”  Basically made me flip them the bird before reloading to an earlier save prior to one of those “choices” and go for the more neutral path.  Yes, I’ll admit it, the game shamed me into doing it, and I was pissed about it.

So anyway, the story does get good, it just takes a while to get there. And by a while, I mean 15+ hours. This is not a short game. Hell, I positive it takes longer to get through than Assassins of Kings does.  According to howlongtobeat.com, this game is anywhere from 10-15 hours longer than Witcher 2, and it feels that way during the early sections.  But, again, if you have the patience, and can withstand some mediocre voice-overs and some slow slogs, the game does manage to feel worth it in the end.

 

Comparison to Mass Effect

It’s worth comparing the two (briefly) because, despite the fact that both games play completely differently and occur in entirely different settings, both games share similar flaws, and were released in the same year (2007).  I’ll be the first to admit that Mass Effect is the better game compared to The Witcher.  That being said, I’d be hesitant to play either game again in the near future, especially Mass Effect.  Why?  Because the decisions you are forced to make in The Witcher are more thought-provoking and intriguing than in Mass Effect, in my opinion.  Plus, while the side quests aren’t THAT interesting in The Witcher, I’d take those over the monotonous side quests of Mass Effect.  In The Witcher, at least the side quests involve some preparation and learning, where you have to prep yourself for the monsters to go after, and fight differently for each one.  Some of the environments are similar (particularly the caves), but most of the time the encounters are in distinct areas to give them a different feel.  In Mass Effect, holy Christ!  The side quests sucked ass!  Similar levels/rooms/buildings (to the point where I’m positive they were clones of each other), the same fucking enemies making the same fucking comments (which they took comedic jabs at in Mass Effect 2), and it became a chore real fast.  But when it came to the main quest(s), I’d have to give the edge to Mass Effect.  The story was told better and paced better, if you discount the side quests.

And also like Mass Effect 2, Witcher 2 could be played by carrying over your save file from Witcher 1 and have some influence over the plot in that game.  However, it was much more significant in Mass Effect 2, just about everything you did in the first game had an impact in the 2nd game, a significant and noticeable impact too, even with those shitty side quests from the first game.  In Witcher 2, to be honest, it really doesn’t matter that much if you carry over the save or not (again, something heavily rectified in Witcher 3).  And that’s all the comparisons I’ll make for those 2 sequels.

In regards to the gameplay, Mass Effect is more involving, where you have to constantly aim and shoot (or aim and cast, depending on your preference), and had a greater variety of play-styles compared to that of The Witcher.  Granted, Witcher has variety too, where you can focus on spells or swords, or a combination of both, but the variety is greater and more noticeable in Mass Effect.  Plus Mass Effect had more tactics where you could direct squad members to attack other enemies in a certain way, or hang back, or use an item/ability, etc.  In The Witcher, it’s only your character Geralt, and his fighting styles, and that’s it.  But Mass Effect’s tactical play comes at the cost of pausing the gameplay so you can click on an ability, aim it at an enemy or ally, and then un-pause it.  Some people like this style of play, and to be honest it didn’t bother me all that much in Mass Effect.  But games like Dragon Age: Origins (released 2 years after Mass Effect and The Witcher) where you’re doing the same thing except from a top-down perspective just didn’t gel with me.  So I probably would’ve hated The Witcher if it incorporated this aspect so heavily.  Granted, you can pause mid-battle to get a better angle on things, but this didn’t happen very often with my playthrough.

I know that CD Project Red was a small-time indie company at this point, so they had less finances to work with when making this game, and it is admirable that it turned out as good as it did under the circumstances.  But it is what it is, and I can only judge it by how I feel now, and I’m not going to take it easy on it just because of the circumstances surrounding the making of them game, I’m just going to judge the game as-is.  Both games are good, both have faults, and Mass Effect is probably the better made one overall.  But neither one is something I would likely want to revisit while it’s still fresh in my memory, especially when the sequels to both games are so much better.

Mass Effect’s strongest point is its story and universe-building, getting into the races, their interactions, and how the main character can impact all of them. The central character(s) tend to be secondary to that. This does not mean the characters are weak, they each have their motivations and such. However, they seem too influenced by what you (acting as the protagonist) do and want to happen, being less independent in their own right. The game cuts a fine line between them acting on their own and acting based on how you want, and it works fine as is. It tends to be on the fan-service side in regards to characters.

While the Witcher has a world-building aspect to it in terms of Temeria and its occupants, it’s focus is less on that and more on the character of Geralt himself. How much is he influenced by others? Should he be influenced by them? The characters in The Witcher come off as more independent and self-motivated than those in Mass Effect. While Mass Effect has the aspect of, “Your leadership and influences those around you.”  In other words, the lives of most other major characters seems to revolve around the main character, and thus revolve around you.  The Witcher seems to be the reverse of this. It’s more like, “How much are you influenced by those around you?” Because the game continuously jabs at you for the decisions you make, making you wonder if you made the right decision, or if there ever was a right decision to make. In this case having the game end the same way no matter what, while changing the way it gets there, fits perfectly because of the whole fate/destiny theme being brought up. The free will theme being an extension of the player pulling the protagonist’s strings. Or is it the player having their strings pulled by others in the game?  Either way, the message is the same.  You may or may not choose to get caught up in a cause, or to stay neutral to them all; but no matter what you do, do not forget about yourself and what really matters to you, what your principles are, and if choosing or not choosing a cause runs the risk of you being forced to violate your principles.  The fact that Geralt is imperfect and is guaranteed to make mistakes (regardless of players trying to choose the lesser of evils, or not) is what makes him a fascinating character, and is what makes the game every bit as memorable as Mass Effect.  That, and he’s capable of banging more broads, and of different races too (speaking of similarities to Mass Effect).

Plus the last act of the game will have you questioning whether or not you’re doing the right thing, and I love games that provoke that thought.  Indicates it’s smart enough to make a lot of grey rather than keeping things black and white.  Mass Effect tends to be more on the black and white side of things.  If you make a decision that doesn’t involve saving/sparing lives, sometime down the road you will be punished for it.  In the case of the Witcher, sparing a life or killing someone doesn’t always result in a good or bad thing.  And even if it does result in a good thing, down the line it could lead to a bad thing, and vice versa.  It’s what makes the better moments of The Witcher stick with me.  That being said, the sequels took this element and did it better, especially in Witcher 3.

The Witcher is a more deep thought provoking philosophical and character study at its core, while Mass Effect is more of a fun sci-fi ride with plenty of story and lore and, dare I say, universe to keep it interesting. That being said, both games have a bit of both, I’m just mentioning the main narrative strengths of each.  Looking back on both, the main thing that stuck with me regarding the Witcher was Triss’ mysterious backdoor political dealings in Chapter 3 (which ultimately made her a fully realized 3-dimensional character), and the whole finale from Chapter 5 and onwards which provoked a sense of guilt and wonder.  With Mass Effect, I enjoyed getting introduced to the universe and all that lived within, how the races worked, what their personalities and traits are, the first appearance of Saren, the confrontation with Liara’s mother and the spider monster, and everything from when the original creators of the Citadel are revealed and all the way to the action-packed finale.  Both games know how to put on a finale.

 

Why I revisited the game

I brought up earlier that one of the reasons I wanted to play through this again was to get familiar with the characters again. Because some characters who are in this game are not in the 2nd one, yet they make reprising roles in Witcher 3. Sure I could’ve just watched one of those 3-6 hour “movie version” videos online, and I was tempted, and that sure as shit would’ve been less time-consuming than this game, but I wanted to experience this game again, even if it’s for one last time. Plus I wanted to see if it’s still fun to play today. And I must admit, if you have the patience and are willing to invest into it and become immersed in the world, it is worth it. If you can get to Chapter 3, the rest of the game is a breeze in terms of pacing and progression. It becomes quite captivating at that point.  Plus it does have some unintentional hilarity with the dialogue.

So, the game is flawed, tests your patience, but is a decent enough experience. If you’re to play any version, makes sure it’s the Enhanced Edition (like how Witcher 2 got an enhanced edition, and how Witcher 3 got a Game of the Year edition). Despite the annoyances and frustrations, there’s enough here to make it worthwhile.  But it’s only worthwhile if you play all the way to the end.  That will run you around roughly 50 hours.

Pros:
* A good storyline with some intrigue and questions on morality and destiny, and will leave you pondering on some points.
* Some colorful characters.
* Combat on any difficulty above Easy can prove challenging in a fun way, encouraging tactics and positioning and timing, plus some prep-work that fits with the whole theme/lore of how witchers work.
* Great finale.
* Immersive and interesting world.

Cons:
* The plot pacing is spotty, and requires much patience before getting to the good stuff.
* Graphics are dated, even with the mods.
* Too many NPCs that look exactly the same.
* Voice-acting ranging from acceptable to laughable.
* Running from one objective to the next gets tiresome.
* Uninteresting side-quests.
* The dice-poker still sucked as much as it did in the 2nd game.
* The brawl mini-game is really not that good (gets better with the sequels, especially #3).
* The camera angles during some of the dialogue bits are terrible some of the time.

And should you choose to undertake the endeavor of playing this game, I know of some mods that will make it less painful. Which brings me to the other reason I’ve decided to go through this again. None of the videos are of the modded version, at least not in terms of graphics mods. Well, time to bring them up:

 

Mods

Rise of the White Wolf

Original on top, mod on bottom.

This is THE main graphics mod to get. Makes the game and characters look so much better. I mean, look at the comparisons between the vanilla game and modded game version of Geralt:
[Geralt image comparison]
And it not only makes the major characters look better, but also enhances the look of the UI. There’s one other mod next to this one that I consider mandatory. The only thing I don’t like is what they did with the druid chick and the water nymph.
[druid image comparison]

Full Combat Rebalance


Would not play this game without this mod. Makes combat more tactical and deep using a very simple method. It makes Geralt more susceptible to high damage when taking hits from the sides or the back (especially the latter). Something the developers liked so much they incorporated it into the second Witcher game. On top of that, enemies no longer just appear wherever just for the hell of it, they are more focused in areas they live in. Drowners stay near the water, swamp monsters stay near the swamp and/or islands in the swamp. In other words, enhances the immersion and lore, and gives a heavier dose of tactics to the combat.

Witcher High Res Character Models
Improves the looks of most other characters in the game that Rise of the White Wolf missed (though you will need to remove some files if you don’t want them overwriting that particular mod).

Witcher Overhaul Project
A mod that improves not only the textures, but also the sound.

-Dontforceminreqs Low Res Texture Fix
Unlocks the high textured graphic capability, so that you can see some detailed textures to take advantage of the mod(s) above.

Witcher Perfect Blood
Blood looks better, and so do the slashes on the characters. Worth noting that using this mod requires the Perfect Blood Fix

Permanent Bodies
Sick of not being able to teabag your enemies when they’re dead? Well now this makes it possible, at least when they get around to making a tea-bagging mod.

Perfect Rain Mod
Rain looks more natural.

Stop the Rain
If you think it rains too much, you’ll be given access to a scroll that, when read, gradually stops the rain. Immersion-breaking in the sense that Geralt has the ability to control the weather, plus I’ve never personally used it. But hey, for those who are interested.

The Witcher Alchemy Mod


Makes alchemy ingredients easier to see/identify in the inventory panel.

Plentiful Herbs
Increases the number of herbs you get for each time you pull from a plant. Good time-saver so that you’re not out picking every single bush and going out of your way to do so.

Leuvaarden Buys Salamandra Badges
Hey, now he actually does what he said he would do.

Missing Kalkstein and Leuvaarden Clues Fix
Makes Chapter 2 less of a hassle. And believe me, the less of a hassle Chapter 2 is and the faster you can get through it, the better.

Scabbard Mod
This mod is a bit buggy, so I’ve heard, and for that reason I haven’t tried it. But it is a bit popular, so I’m including it. Gives you actual sheaths for your swords.

Installation guide, if you’re interested:

1.) Create “Override” folder inside “Data” folder. Install everything into this with the (Override) indicator.

2.) Install (exe) Rise of the White Wolf https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/669/?
Don’t select the skyboxes option if you wish to use the skyboxes from Witcher Overhaul Project.

3.) Install (exe) FCR http://www.moddb.com/mods/full-combat-rebalance1/downloads/full-combat-rebalance-v16

(optional, buggy) 4.) Install (exe) Scabbard Mod http://www.moddb.com/mods/scabbard-mod/downloads/scabbard-mod-v104

5.) Install (Override) Witcher High Res Character Models http://www.moddb.com/mods/witchercharactermodels/downloads/the-witcher-hi-res-character-models
Delete the following files from the previous mod:
an_sheep_c1
an_sheep_c2
cr_adda1_g1
cr_assas1_c2
cr_beren1_c1
cr_beren1_g1
cr_bruxa1_c1
cr_bruxa1_g1
cr_deidre1_c1
cr_deidre1_g1
cr_drown1_c1
cr_drown1_c2
cr_elf5_c1
cr_elf5_g1
cr_eskel1_c1
cr_folt1_c1
cr_folt1_g1
cr_golem1_c1
cr_golem1_g1
cr_grav1_c1
cr_guard1_c1
cr_guard1_c3
cr_guard1_c4
cr_guard1_c5
cr_guard1_g3
cr_guard1_g4
cr_guard1_g5
cr_guard2_c1
cr_jaskr1_c1
cr_jaskr1_g1
cr_kalks2_c1
cr_knigh1_g1
cr_knigh3_c1
cr_knigh3_c2
cr_knigh3_g2
cr_lamb1_g1
cr_maggot_c1
cr_naked3_c1
cr_order2_c1
cr_order2_g1
cr_order5_c1
cr_order5_g1
cr_order5_g2
cr_order5_g3
cr_order5_g4
cr_order5_g5
cr_order6_c1
cr_order6_g1
cr_pries2_c2
cr_pries2_g2
cr_prof2_c1
cr_prof2_g1
cr_rayla1_g1
cr_scoia5_c1
cr_scoia10_g1
cr_toruv1_g1
cr_triss1_g1
cr_triss2_c1
cr_triss2_g1
cr_vanes2_c1
cr_vanes2_g1
cr_vesem1_c1
cr_were2_c1
cr_wicht1_c1
cr_wicht2_c1
cr_wicht2_g1

6.) Install (Override) Witcher Overhaul Project https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/703/?

7.) Install (Override) -Dontforceminreqs Low Res Texture Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/649/?

8a.) Install (Override) Witcher Perfect Blood http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-witcher-perfect-blood-mod/downloads/the-witcher-perfect-blood-full-dl

8b.) Install (Override) Perfect Blood Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/258/?

9.) Install (Override) Permanent Bodies https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/703/?

9a.) Install (Override) Perfect Rain Mod http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-witcher-perfect-rain-mod/downloads/the-witcher-perfect-rain-full-dl

(optional) 9b.) Install (Override) Stop the Rain https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/30/?

10.) Install The Witcher Alchemy Mod https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/197/?
Replace the RotWW files in “\ata\z_zrotww\items_optional”.

11.) Install (Override) Plentiful Herbs https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/31/?

12.) Install (Override) Leuvaarden Buys Salamandra Badges https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/659/?

13.) Install (Override) Missing Kalkstein and Leuvaarden Clues Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/657/?

 

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings review

Rated: 5/5

Yep, a game review.  And with that rating, you can rightfully expect that this will be a glowing review with praises and hugs and kisses.  And sex and violence.  And mods.  And modded sex and violence.  It’s going to be one of those reviews, so I’m putting up the warning signs.

I am not kidding.  This will also include sexually explicit content.  You’ve been warned.

Anyway, this game franchise is based on a series of novels (though they did start as short stories before growing into novels that linked together into a cohesive narrative).  It’s important to use the term “based,” because it doesn’t exactly follow the storyline of the books all that accurately.  Rather, it has its own story with some inspiration from the novels, but keeps the characters and their motivations fairly accurate.

This game has a moment where they tell this story, minus the her begging to have sex part.

Continue reading

Grand Theft Auto V review

Rated: 4/5*
* = with some caveats and warnings that must be brought up

So, first confession, I initially played this a few years ago on the PS3. At the time, I thought it was the best GTA game ever made. Granted, one could think that with any newly released GTA game, but I thought this was the definitive GTA game that does the title and theme justice. The first in the series to get it right, in my opinion, was GTA: San Andreas. Though I really hated how you had to button mash and do workouts and stuff to make your character stronger. GTA IV was, uh, not bad, the gameplay was solid enough, especially with the shootouts. But the storyline in that game was cliche and predictable. GTA V took the best elements of both games and removed all the shitty ones. The storyline and characters are fantastic, blending satire and legit emotion into it all, covering aspects of both gangster land, redneck country, and high class riches levels of society by having you play as one of three characters representing each. Thus you get to play as someone who represents a certain aspects of society, for better or worse. But since it’s a satire on society as a whole, not being afraid to show the cons of all three, and mostly reveling in the cons, that is what makes it so perfect. The crimes they will commit, all of which require hijacking vehicles as a bare minimum to get the job done. Not to mention it does away with all the BS workout minigames from San Andreas, improves on the storytelling aspects of GTA IV, and makes banging hookers fun again. But you still don’t get to see nudity when you’re doing that. The nudity is left strictly in the strip clubs, where you can be subject to private strip dances ala GTA IV, but no sex.

So, to rephrase that last part, there’s sex in the game, but no nudity while sex is going on. There’s nudity in the game, but not while having sex, and outside of strip clubs, the nudity is mostly relegated to man-ass. Rockstar is teasing us, aren’t they? Like how they showed the full monty with that one DLC story in GTA IV. Maybe in the next one they make we’ll be able to play as a female protagonist who isn’t shy about baring her assets. That would honestly be a bit refreshing, having a female lead in one of these games. She should be a biker. But if the sequel will turn out anything like this one, I’d expect there to be multiple characters to choose from. Well let’s see, they’ve done Russians, they’ve done black gangsters, they’ve done white gangsters, they’ve done rednecks (which deserve their own distinct classification)… Well I guess they could do a Mexican gangster, which up until now have pretty much been NPCs. They’ll also probably have some Middle Eastern guy or something, with some terrorism theme thrown in where some assholes yell “Alla Akubar!”, and one of the missions is just mowing down radical Islamic terrorists or something. But to counter-balance that, you also have a mission where you get to mow down a bunch of radical Christians, radical KKK members, radical neo-nazis, radical leftist liberals, radical right wingers, etc. Have them be done via those Rampage missions, like those ones done in this game with Trevor.

Oh yeah, the Rampage missions. Those are fun as hell. They’re mainly done via the redneck character Trevor, who has a very short temper, has some screws loose, and virtually anything can set him off. So at various points in the game some optional side missions can pop up where you can start killing off people who pissed Trevor off. For instance, he has a conversation with some rednecks at a bar, just out of the blue, he gets pissed at them and starts shooting them, and then you have to start shooting all these other rednecks which just start showing up trying to kill you. Rinse and repeat for black gangsters, Mexican gangsters, and the U.S. military. It’s a huge amount of politically incorrect fun.

So that’s Trevor’s unique character missions. As for the black gangster of the trio, Franklin, he has side missions that are all about assassinations. And about those assassination missions Franklin does. The first one that you get to do, the hotel assassination, I never was able to do the fucking thing. Both on the PS3, and PC version. There was some fucking bug in the game where the guy you are supposed to assassinate never goes outside the hotel, and you’re just waiting for-fucking-ever for it to happen. It pissed me off that I couldn’t do the mission, but thankfully the game seemed prepared for such a scenario and had countermeasures built in. If you fail a mission enough times, there is usually the option to skip it, which I did, because I didn’t have a choice. And by “skip”, I mean the game glosses over it and treats it as you you successfully pulled it off, without you actually having done anything. The game gives you the option to do that for all the side missions as far as I know. I’m positive the reason they implemented this is because they didn’t want gamers getting frustrated over a mission that is optional to do, but really this also serves as a way to bypass mission-breaking bugs in the game.

The 3 main characters are fantastic, and so are several of the side characters themselves. The dialogue is top-notch A+ class writing. I don’t think it could’ve been done any better. Trevor is one crazy psychotic sick sadistic motherfucker, whom the other characters are scared to meet, as they should be. On top of being less than rational, he has a very short temper. His special ability is all about ignoring damage for a limited time and shooting everything in slow-mo.

Michael seems to be the main central character, at least in my opinion, though the other two share as much screen time as him. But everything major tends to revolve around him. His actions usually keep the story progressing. A retired criminal who is having a hard time living the retired life and keeping away from the criminal life. Also doesn’t help that his family are spoiled rotten annoying pricks. I kept hoping he would leave them, but he doesn’t. Whatever. Special ability is shooting in slow-mo.

And then there’s Franklin, the true character living up to the GTA name, stealing cars for profit, and being a thug life gangster. But he desires more than where he’s at, and is thus willing to go along with Michael on more high-stakes heists. Special ability is driving in slow-mo for better vehicle maneuvers.

The story is all about satire of the United States and its occupants. How the main characters themselves are terrible people, the people around them are terrible, and the supposed “good guys”, from the police to the government to corporations to shop owners and such, are all terrible people. But in this fucked up little world, somehow someway, amidst all the muck, there still manages to be small slivers of goodness within everything. But they come at a point where characters have fallen so far when it comes to stealing and drugs and (mass) murder, that the only good comes from killing off guys who end up being worse than they are. Michael’s family hates him for being an uncaring asshole of a father (though he seemed reasonable to me), and for bringing danger to them through his criminal activities, yet they have a hard time living without him because they don’t know of any other way, and are too fucked up to live any other way. And even though the pacing slows at a couple points with the main missions, it never gets bogged down for too long. And there are alternate endings (like GTA IV), but any decent person knows which one to choose.

The story is better than GTA IV. The graphics and gameplay are better than GTA: San Andreas (even if this game does take place in that location). And all 3 of those are better than any GTA game prior. If you were to play any of them, this would be the one, regardless of any bugs it may contain. The only real downside to this game is the whole buying/selling of stocks. I mean, I seriously doubt many would be into that sort of thing if they’re playing a game like this. But hey, it’s there. Also gets a bit irritating how messages can clog up your in-game cell phone.

* But the other con to this game, and this is a big fucking con that everyone should know about before purchasing this game, is with the Rockstar servers themselves. I purchased this game on Steam, and when you first play it (after spending a long-ass time downloading all 66+ GB of it), you need to register with the Rockstar Games Social Club, which is required to log in each time you play the game. A sort of DRM thing, more or less. Now, theoretically, you can do offline play even with this, but it still has to detect the Rockstar servers before it allows you to play the game, which means you still need an Internet connection, even if just for a moment, before it will allow you to play the game. It’s mainly because of GTA Online, which I do not and never want to be a part of because of all the bullshit I heard goes on with it (plus they’ll ban you if you play GTA Online with a modded game). Now, this may not sound so bad, at first.

But there came a day where my PC couldn’t connect to the servers for some reason. I assumed it was a problem on my end for a while, until this problem continued for 2 days straight. At which point I did some research to find out this is not a rare occurrence. Sometimes this happens to gamers. And when it happens, there’s no way for you to get into the game to play it, not even single-player mode. And the only way to fix it is to uninstall the game, delete your folder than contains data on your Rockstar Social account, then reinstall the game, all 66+ GB of it, which takes a long-ass time. This was fucking bullshit.

So while I did eventually get it up and running again, this issue should be a disclaimer put in front of the game whenever anyone wants to buy it. I’m going to be very skeptical of any future purchases (if any) I make from Rockstar after this little stint.

Mods
Oh, right, this is a PC game, so naturally I want to see how mods can improve the experience. And they’re definitely out there. The main site to go to for mods for this game is GTA5-Mods.com. To get started, there are 2 main mods to download in preparation for everything else.

Required Mods (in order for actual mods to work that affect gameplay):
1.) Script Hook V, which comes with Native Trainer, which allows you to do some cheating in the game if you wish to fool around with it.

2.) Community Script Hook V .NET

After installing those two, then you’re usually safe for everything else, though you should always read the instructions and requirements to be sure. Anyway, here’s the mods I ended up using for my playthrough:

Recommended Mods:
1.) World of Variety. Basically gives greater variety in the people you see, the clothes they wear, and in the cars and boats that are driven around. Variety is a good thing to break up monotony. That being said, every now and again, there’s a minor glitch of a vehicle disappearing. Happened to me once immediately when I tried to get into it while the cops were chasing me. But that’s a minor bug that doesn’t happen very often.

2.) Fine-Tuned Felony & Response. Makes the cops act more intelligent and realistically.

3.) Bullet Impact. It just felt unfair how you would get shot and nothing much happened, but if you shoot someone else they could fall over or stumble for a moment. This mod fixes that, making your character react like anyone else if they get shot. It encourages more use of cover. I thought it was great, but it may make missions a little too difficult at times. It’s clear that the game wasn’t built for your character to take a pounding like this in certain places (the Rampage missions in particular). However, with a couple struggles here and there, I made it through the game with this mod. Just be warned of the increase in difficulty.

4.) Safe Cracker. Hey, now you can break open safes and get a bunch of cash rather than only stealing from cash registers. Works for me.

5.) Rob People. You aim a gun at someone, they will stand with their hands up for a moment, then drop their wallet, then run off. You pick up the wallet and get money. Brings more immersion, but it can also cause some missions to get a little buggy with this feature. But again, I was able to play the game the whole way through with this mod.

Now, those are the 5 main mods I used for my playthrough, but there are some others worth checking out after you complete all the missions in the game. That’s required because these other mods don’t work to well when playing through the game normally.

Optional Mods to use at end of the game:
1.) Open All Interiors. Opens up a lot more buildings that were previously closed off in the game. That being said, don’t mistake this for something that opens up “any and all” interiors in every single building. It doesn’t do that. It just opens up many more interiors that were previously closed off. Makes for more interesting shootouts with the cops.

And honestly, those are all the mods I’ve tried that I can recommend. There are plenty of others to choose from which I’m sure will improve the game the way you see fit. One other one I have tried which I can’t fully recommend is the Tanks Spawn at Five Stars, which means the military and their tanks and choppers come after you when you have a 5 star warrant rating. It was fun at first, but there’s 2 reasons why I don’t prefer it. 1.) It’s not realistic. 2.) The tanks are way too overpowered and way too accurate. You won’t last 10 seconds after reaching 5 stars when the tanks show up. That’s no fun.

* One other thing to mention. Last I checked, Rockstar still releases occasional updates for this game, mainly just for GTA Online. Whenever they release an update, and you have mods installed using Script Hook V, you need to either wait until Script Hook V gets an updated release which you must also download and install in order to play with the mods, or play the game for a while without the mods.

Anyway, despite the caveats, I do recommend this game. The game itself is fantastic, it’s just that Rockstar borderline fucks it up with their corporate DRM bullshit.

Mass Effect 1 PC Review

Rated: 3/5

Don’t worry, PC doesn’t stand for politically correct.

Went back and gave this game a play.  Would’ve been a little more boring if I just played the same exact game from several years ago, so I mixed it up in the best way possible, modding.  Didn’t mod it extensively, just an HD mod.

Anyway, upon revisit, there are some things I still like, and some things that are worse than I remember.  So if you feel like going back and revisiting the original trilogy before the new Andromeda game comes out, and want my thought on the first game in the trilogy (don’t worry, reviews for the other 2 will come later), here’s what I thought.

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Wing Commander review

Rated: 2/5

So this PC version is from GOG.com, and uses DosBox.  Well, this is a game that certainly shows its age from 1990, coming out 3 years before Doom, that had 360 degree movement.  So in some respects, Doom is actually a step back in terms of gameplay compared to this game, but on the other hand Doom also had cooler weapons, monsters, and puzzle solving (although the puzzle solving aspect frustrated the hell out of me in that game, but that’s another story).

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