Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why do I do it?

Why do I feel the need to scare myself? I started playing FEAR again today, though I decided that since it's been so long since I've played, I should make a new profile and start a whole new game. So that's what I did, and I remembered why I stopped playing it - it scares me. That's not to say I don't enjoy it, it's just a little more "exciting" than the other FPS games I usually play (Max Payne, Half Life, etc). So I spent a good number of hours playing it today, and I'm almost to the part where I stopped playing if I remember right.

As of this past weekend I finished the elastic scattering problem I was given over the summer, which is a good thing. Also, the solution (at least the major steps) is now written up in Latex on my Linux partition, this way, if I ever need to know how to do it, I'll have it. Next week I'll be meeting with my advisor and get the next thing to do.

And finally, after a few years, I've finally beaten Neverwinter Nights 2, now I need to get the first expansion, Mask of the Betrayer. Read on for my review

I love RPGs, I really do. When the first Neverwinter Nights came out, however, I was a little iffy on it since I had heard that it was really geared for multiplayer games. So I waited. A few years later, I finally got a copy and played it, then played through the following 2 expansions. I really did enjoy them, they were quite entertaining.

Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) continues this entertainment, and builds on it. It has the expected improvements, graphics and sound, but also improves the gameplay and the camera. Even with the graphics improvements, it doesn't seem "pretty" enough to warrant the high system specs and poor performance, though this isn't too big of an issue as long as you have the minimum specs.

One thing that I can say is good even though I didn't care for it too much is the fact that you now control a party instead of just you and a henchman. It's usually you and 3 others (once you get that many companions) in the party, and while it does allow the devs to throw more enemies at you simultaneously, I feel that it would have been better with just you in the party, possibly a henchman. Then again, this is how I usually played the game anyways, leave my party somewhere and sneak off to assassinate anybody I came across.

The storyline is compelling, and even though it took me a while to get through it, it does hang on to you for the most part. The only reason it took me so long was that I put it on hiatus for a bit after coming to an encounter that I tried a couple times, failing each time. I think there was probably some other game that got in the way as well. And despite my feelings about the party, I feel they did a good job with the characters in the game, they seem relatively well thought out and their personalities are fun, even if they left out most of the romances they had planned.

The music is great, sound effects so so, and voice acting kinda varies, at some points it seemed good, but at others it sounded like they were rushing and just wanted to get it done (I'm looking at you end of game summary).

The effects were nice in general, as expected, and there were some spells that looked quite amazing. Naturally, since my computer isn't the greatest, these spells would usually slow the game down a bit, but this generally let me watch the pretties for longer, so I can forgive them.

All in all, NWN2 is a very fun game, highly recommended, and now I have to go out and get the expansion.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

School's in

It seems I just can't keep to a proper posting schedule. I know I've said it before, but I'm going to try to post more often, and since I now have Wednesdays free (or at least, I don't have to be anywhere on Wednesdays...yet) I think I'm going to try to devote an hour or so on Wednesday to update. With any luck, I'll be able to keep to a weekly posting schedule, which really won't affect much of anything, other than making me feel good.

Everything with my teaching schedule and paperwork got in on time and it's all worked out, I'm getting paid, I'm teaching only once a week (with a tutoring session once a week as well), and I have health insurance once more. As far as my work goes, I'm still working on the problem my advisor gave me for the summer, however, after speaking with him this past Monday, I think I should be able to finish things up, and then write the main steps down using Latex. Of course, I'll have to learn the basics of Latex in order to do that part, but I've been meaning to do that for the past year or so anyway, since any published Physics paper is written using Latex.

A week or two ago I started playing Max Payne again, so that I would have it fresher in my mind in order to compare when I see the movie set to be released on October 17th. Read on for my review of this great game.

Max Payne is a TPS (third person shooter), although I'm not sure if that abbreviation is actually used, probably due to the fact that most shooters are first person, and the third person perspective is usually left to RPG's, or platformers. The downside to this method is the camera, when the action is taking place in closed quarters, as many shooters tend to, the camera can get hung up on protrusions or blocked by walls or doors. Max Payne is no exception to this, and while most of the action sequences are in halls or relatively small rooms, it only happens rarely. Not only that, but it actually helps when you want to look around corners, you're able to move the camera so that you can see around the corner while staying out of sight.

The graphics aren't horrible, but they're not much to look at, which is understandable considering the game was released in 2001. In a few places, when you kill an enemy, you're treated to a slow-mo death animation, which is kind of cool, unless of course there are still some baddies hanging around, although this happened to me only once. The bullet time effects and explosions are pretty nice as well.

The cut scenes are one of the aspects of the series that I love. They have the usual scenes rendered in the game engine interspersed throughout which doesn't break the gameplay too much, which is always nice. Instead of having prerendered cut scenes between acts or chapters, however, it's more a graphic novel style, which is definitely different.

As far as the storyline goes, I prefer the second game to the first game. The first game's basic story is fairly common, the main character's family is killed so he goes out looking for revenge. The difference here, is that Max tries to do it somewhat legally at first, he's a cop, so he switches into the drug branch of the NYPD, since his family was killed by junkies. Eventually he gets in over his head and ends up going on a killing spree through New York.

The only music I really remember is in a few major gunfights when some rocking music starts up. Other than that, the sound is alright, nothing too great, although it does get old listening to the shouts of the baddies when they see you. Most of the time, it's either "Payne!" or "It's Payne, get him!" If you sneak up on enemies, however, sometimes you're able to overhear conversations, and these are usually enjoyable, like the one near the end of the game where the guys are talking about bullet time in movies, and how it would be cool to have that in real life.

All in all, Max Payne is a good game, which has aged fairly well, and is completely enjoyable even seven years after release. Look for a review of the sequel in a few weeks (hopefully).