Game review: Fallout 4 for PS4 (with some PC comments thrown in)

Bethesda…Bethesda never changes. I truly believe they are the only company who could get away with the things they do and still receive so much love from the community. The games can crash or glitch and still have people clamoring “game of the year!” with so many more qualified candidates out there. This year’s most qualified, Witcher 3, comes from a smaller team that went out of their way to make a world feel truly alive. By comparison, Fallout 4 feels like a lot of lazy half assing in so many ways. The vast majority of the sound effects in this game have been used in every single other Bethesda game in recent memory. Even the music playlist for the radio station has been heard before in previous Fallout games. The recycled engine is given some new next gen spit and polish, but aside from the prettier outdoor environments and new more colorful locations, the character models are often but ugly and badly animated.

The problem here for me is that I’ve seen other companies raise the bar higher and higher for what to expect in terms of character design and animation with each release, but Bethesda…Bethesda never changes.

However, this is actually the first Bethesda game I’ve played all the way to the end, (Unless you count Fallout Shelter, which I don’t.) liking and loathing it in equal measure. There is nothing I can praise in the game that does not instantly lead to a big BUT, and for every time I was enjoying my game, there’s at least twice as many times where I was left groaning, “This is utter bullshit.” Or yelling it, or even growling it. And I want to note that it was rarely the challenge level of the game that was the reason for my anger. Sometimes it might be a glitch or a crash, but more often, it was just lazy writing or coding.

But let me start off at the beginning. Bethesda never changes. That’s why yet again, Fallout 4 starts with the same introductory sentence. However, this time the world is fleshed out in more detail before the character creation process begins, and I think it hurts the premise even more than the previous entries. In this version, the war did not take place in an alternate fifties era. Instead, the world went on with the same culture and technology until 2077. Try to think about that. If a person from 1950 were frozen and taken to our time, they would not recognize quite a lot of the progress we take for granted. But not only did technology freeze, but so did all culture and art. So for this period of supposed nuclear peacetime, no one ever did anything in any field. Ever. The game actually contradicts this idea many, many times, and yet…Bethesda never changes. Continue reading

Book review: Never Let Me Sleep by Jennifer Brozek

Never Let Me Sleep was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with quite a few things I enjoyed, but also quite a few others that rubbed me the wrong way. The blurb certainly sounded like a good YA horror, something I don’t have much experience with and wanted to get into. The main character Melissa is interesting because she’s both bipolar and schizophrenic, meaning that even as she’s fighting skittering horrors, she’s got to question whether any of this is really happening or not. It’s a good perspective for a horror story, and a nice change of pace from the almost constant stream of thirty-something alpha dude protagonists I typically read about in horror.

The premise itself is plenty scary. A girl on house arrest wakes up one morning to find everyone in her town is dead, and the company monitoring her advises her to check the news and discover that a much larger area has fallen victim to something insidious and lethal. Anyone attempting to enter the area quickly falls victim to the same malady, and so, being the only survivor in the quarantine zone, Melissa is tasked with finding the source of this attack and stopping it. Very quickly, she discovers she is being hunted by the monsters behind this plot, and she must fight for her life every few minutes. Sounds pretty intense, right? And it is, for the most part.

But, there is something that didn’t sit right with me early on, a throwaway comment about Mel liking transitional seasons. I have some mental issues myself which are aggravated during transitional seasons, and I’ve known both schizophrenics and bipolar folks who have the same issues. The rapid up and down shift in temperatures means that one can have problems even if medication is being used and is supposedly all balanced properly so these are often the most unpopular seasons for us. I’m willing to concede that this might not be a problem for others with similar issues, but both personal and anecdotal experience made this line rub me the wrong way.

I wish that was the only problem, but there is the matter of Melissa’s age versus her experience. The story says that she’s been a shut in for most of her life because of her mental condition, and yet, she’s also familiar with the layout of the local airport, a power substation, and the radio room of the local high school, a school I’m not sure she could have attended for more than a couple months based on her backstory. And I don’t mean she just knows what they look like. She knows enough to operate the substation, and she knows enough about the airport and radio station to recognize equipment that doesn’t belong. In an older character who was more outgoing and social, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at how she knows all this. But her expertise in a vast array of topics when she supposedly spends most of her time watching TV and is forbidden from using computers…it’s just not very believable to me.

I still enjoyed the book, and I’m sure I’ll be reading the next in the series, Never Let Me Leave. I give Never Let Me Sleep 3 stars, and recommend it to horror fans looking for something fast, tense, and only slightly gory.

Book review: After by Anna Todd

Yet again, I find a new read based off of hate for a series. If this keeps producing positive results, I might just start asking people “tell me about a book you really hated” to get more recommendations. In the case of After, I didn’t post updates on Goodreads because guessing from the reviews I thought something would set me off and send me away without finishing. Not only did that not happen, but I ended up buying book two around 80% in because I was that certain I would want to keep reading.

Before I get into the plot and characters, I feel like I need to address the criticisms on this book, which can be summed up in two sentiments, “this isn’t a healthy relationship,” and “these people are making bad choices.” I’m not in disagreement with either of these sentiments, but I feel like asking why we need all our stories to be based on good relationships where everyone is making the right choices. In real life, most of us have made a lot of bad relationship choices, and we needed years or even decades to learn who we are well enough to understand who we need as a life partner. But in fiction, it seems like people demand that everyone be smarter and more “healthy,” as if merely reading about a couple who fights might somehow damage us.

Add to this the always infuriating comment, “Reading this might teach women to want the same kind of terrible relationship.” Oh please. Boys can play violent video games like Grand Theft Auto and most people recognize that this isn’t going to lead them into lives of crime. Guys can read the goriest horror and most rational people know it won’t lead to serial killing or Satanism. But time and again, this line about women being too stupid to understand the line between fantasy and reality gets trotted out whenever a book contains even a whiff of bad behavior. “We’re just worried for the stupid little women who will chase after bad boyfriends if they read this. You know how dumb and impressionable they are.” Uh-huh, and the fact that so many people using this talking point are women is doubly offensive to me. How about we give the little ladies some credit and stop trying to demand that they only read “healthy” fiction? Continue reading

Book review: Revival by Stephen King

My other Halloween horror reads fell through, (I lost interest partway through in both cases) so I bought Revival as soon as I’d found it in pocket paperback, and I was pretty excited to read this because the blurb on the front said, “This is vintage King.” Considering how long it’s been since I’ve read and enjoyed a King novel, “vintage King” sounded pretty damn good to me.

But that blurb is a bold-faced lie. It’s possibly the mother of all whoppers. I want to stress, this is not a bad story and it kept me up for several nights using the old faithful “one more chapter” mantra. But this is not vintage King. Vintage King scared me so bad that I would spend weeks after each of his books afraid of the dark. Vintage King could give me nightmares based on the description of a single body. Vintage King is what made me hide my little brother’s paper mache clown in the bottom drawer of my dresser and never take it out again. Vintage King is what made me want to write my first book.

This is NOT vintage King. It’s not even fucking close. It is old fart King reminiscing about the good old days, and this is not the least bit scary. As a horror novel it’s an abject failure. As an Anne Rice history novel, it’s a huge success. It certainly has the same qualities as my favorite Anne Rice novels, which is to say 350 pages of history lesson with almost nothing in the present day story actually happening. But I like that kind of book, which is how I made it through 12 Anne Rice books without complaints. Had King gone on to some sci-fi mad scientist ending after his history class, I might have even given this book 4 stars. Continue reading

Game review: Loot Heroes for PS Vita

There’s a very small part of me that wants to go easy on the makers of Loot Heroes on the grounds that I only spent 2.99 on it, and really, what did I expect? Well for starters, I expected a game that was fun and relatively glitch free. Given the videos and reviews I saw, I expected something like the NES version of Gauntlet. What I got was a lazy, shitty little turd that I wish I hadn’t wasted my money on. I can only think of one thing to compliment in this game, and that’s the music. The music is nice and catchy, but everything else is awful.

Where to begin? Well first, there’s the shitty graphics, with just the barest minimum of effort put into the design of the dungeons and the enemies. There’s the boss monsters, who have the ability to deal damage through walls because their “hit box” is ridiculously huge. There’s the recycled sound effects, meaning it’s damn near impossible to tell if that one sound was my rune spell, an approaching boss monster, or a trap just outside of my hazy area of view. There’s the cheap tactic of opening a dungeon with 20 fucking enemies and two boss monsters already in my ass so that I’m dead before I can even look for a way to escape. There’s the monsters stacked all on top of each other so that it’s impossible to tell if the monster around the corner has one friend with him or ten. There’s the fucking glitches, where I could walk down an empty hall with no enemies or traps and still take damage.

How about those awful controls? This is supposedly a twin-stick shooter, but the aiming on the right stick is shit and will send 99% of your shots into a wall. When almost all of the game is tight corridors, that’s not the least bit helpful. One would think using the face buttons to fire in a straight line might help, but NO. Why? Because no matter which face button you press, it still only fires in an “auto aim” manner, usually at the wrong enemy. Additionally, auto-aim only works for a short distance, and then the face buttons fire in whatever direction the character is facing. Absolutely fucking useless.

“Zoe, maybe you didn’t play it long enough to give it a fair chance,” you say. Nope. I played long enough to unlock the barbarian by fighting my way through to dungeon 30, and I unlocked 61% of all the trophies. I played as every class multiple times, for all the good that did, and I played long enough to collect enough class specific items so that three of my classes started at levels 2 and 3 instead of 1. In all that time playing, I went from a merely apathetic verdict of “meh” to full on hate for this piece of shit. The longer I played, the more I wanted to ask for a refund.

I give Loot Heroes 2 stars. I WANT so badly to give it 1, but I reserve that score for something so broken it’s unplayable. This is playable, but I can’t think of a single reason why I’d want to. Can’t delete this fast enough from my Vita to make room for something better.

Game review: Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter for PSP/PS Vita

Wait, what? A review for a PSP game? What year is this?! Well Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter is part of Sony’s October sale, and even if it wasn’t 3 euros, I would have picked it up. I’ve been craving a Mega Man game that I can play on my Vita, and this is an updated remake of a game I played but never managed to beat. See, way back in the SNES days, I didn’t buy a whole lot of games. I had to rent them, and this is one that I rented a few times without ever making any progress against any of the robot masters. Eventually I moved on to other stuff, and this slid off my radar. But now I stand (well, sit really) before you a proud veteran of BOTH game modes, waving the mighty banner of victory. Yes, I’m still a lousy gamer, but now I’m a lousy gamer who finally beat Mega Man X. Huzzah!

And you know what? I really love this game. There’s only a few minor things to complain about, and for the most part this is 2D platforming fun at its finest. The graphics are a bit dated, sure, but they’re still colorful and pop bright and pretty on the Vita screen. The music is great, and the controls are absolutely perfect. I’m normally a huge klutz who dies over and over because “wrong button stupid” but this is a game that just feels right soon after I started playing it. I think part of that is being able to play with the analog stick or the D-pad, but another part is that I really only need the four face buttons. No complex combos to remember, just pure button mashing platforming joy.

In this game there’s no Dr. Light or Dr. Wily because X was sealed away in a chamber by Dr. Light for future generations to discover. The scientist who does so, Dr. Cain, develops a whole range of robots around X’s design, but none of them have quite the range of emotions that he does. As Dr. Cain believes his emotions are the key to robotic evolution, his underling Sigma takes it upon himself to push X into evolving by going maverick. It’s admittedly a pretty convoluted story premise, but you don’t really need any of it to play the game. Continue reading

Game Review: Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt for PS4

My time in Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt can be summed up as vast chunks of time spent skipping through the woods picking flowers and admiring the countryside and clouds, intermittently interrupted by occasional bouts of what-the-fuckery. Sometimes, these bouts were events one should expect in a fantasy game, such as accidentally kicking over a ghoul’s nest or tripping on a griffin, but I often came across glitches or outright crashes that gave me pause. Other times, I had troubles with the controls, or with the sometimes dumb rules of the crafting system. None of these are really deal breakers that make this a bad game, but they will be brought up in my review. So if you’re looking for a totally glowing review, this won’t be it. No, I’m here to get nitpicky and anal, even as I admit this here is a pretty game. Oh so very, very pretty.

Before I get started, I will admit this is sort of my first foray into the Witcher world. I say sort of because hubby has played the previous two games, and I sometimes watched over his shoulder. I can’t say much about those games because what little I saw didn’t pull me in and make me want to play them. But I do distinctly recall the moment that I saw one of the early game play trailers for Witcher 3 and watched a pack of wolves moving together to cut off Geralt’s escape, and I thought, “Well if that’s in the actual game, it’ll be brilliant.”

And it is, to a certain degree. (Even if that trailer completely lied and wolves never do what they did in the trailer.) Enemies of all types feel like they have actual intelligence, working together and planning attacks to flank and back stab in a way that makes every fight feel tense and challenging. So I rather like that, and I feel I should bring it up right away. It’s a shame this does not carry over to allies, but I’ll get to that later. This praise also doesn’t apply to enemies that suddenly glitch and become derpy, which happens frequently enough that it should be mentioned. The combat controls too will deserve their own separate rant. This is a long review, is what I’m saying. Continue reading


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