Friday, May 27, 2011

Insert coin to continue

Whoops - it's been a while!

I'm nearing the end of a week's vacation.  I didn't go anywhere; I just needed a week away from the office and the alarm clock to regroup.  I had some ambitions for catching up on some key parts of my life that often don't get enough attention when my energies are caught up at work, but they haven't quite worked out.  Fortunately, a week's respite from the alarm clock and some quality relaxation have me in good spirits.  I'll tackle the to-do list in due time.

A good chunk of the week was devoted to LA Noire, the latest title from Rockstar.  It offers some nice improvements on the Rockstar open-world formula such as asking your partner for directions or to take the wheel.  It does many things well, including a strong finale and expressive facial animation that I'm pretty sure sets a new standard for games.  Unfortunately, the game fumbles often along the way, with uneven pacing, some pretty big narrative disappointments, and an awful lot of "oh no, not this again" game mechanics.

My current sense is that it's Rockstar's weakest open-world title to date (with the caveat that I haven't played either Red Dead game).  Of course, if this is Rockstar at their worst, it's still much better than many developers at their best.  If you're a fan of Rockstar, I can recommend it, and I'm sure most gamers will find a lot to like.  I just suspect that, when Grand Theft Auto 5 comes out, building no doubt on some of the clever work done for LA Noire, we'll probably look back on this title as a cunningly marketed tech demo.

I've also recently finished Portal 2 (single player and the wonderful co-op), which was delightful if not quite as brilliant as the original, and I've been having a lot of fun with the new Mortal Kombat game.  It has no business being anywhere near as excellent as it is (despite some unfortunate character design choices that make Dead or Alive look like a Finishing School by comparison) and I recommend it without hesitation to anybody who likes games about stuff getting kicked.

As soon as the weather becomes a little nicer, I'm sure I'll spend much more free time away from the couch and out on my bike.  I enjoyed my first ride of the season last weekend, which accidentally resulted in the worst sunburn I may ever have suffered, but nonetheless I can't wait to get out and enjoy the summer on two wheels.

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