So I boot up Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution — the new Borderlands expansion — and what’s the very first thing that happens? Hey, look, Dr. Wackypants herself, Patricia Tannis. Tannis was arguably the most annoying NPC in the original Borderlands, and the locus of the most insufferable bits of self-consciously zany Borderlands faux-humour, so I wouldn’t have been terribly sad if maybe I ran into anybody else first. Alas.
No, that’s a lie; the first thing that happens is the intro cutscene, which eschews the in-universe style of the Mad Moxxi / General Knoxx intro cutscenes in favour of the weird "storybook" style used in the original game and in Dr. Ned. I’m in favour of this; the odd narrative bookends kind of give the game a subtle surreality, like the whole thing’s just a wild tale Marcus made up. Which is more interesting than listening to Mad Moxxi’s face or watching the Michael Bay trailer they opened General Knoxx with.
I’ve only sunk a couple of hours into Claptrap so far, but to date, it appears to be Borderlands. So, if you figured that Gearbox was going to sneak Duke Nukem Forever in here somewhere, well hey, crisis averted. As far as I’ve played, this appears to be the "purest" of the four expansions in that it’s the most like the original game; it doesn’t have Dr. Ned’s melee-mob horror-movie focus, Mad Moxxi’s bizarre idea about how the arena encounters in the original game were fun, or General Knoxx’s incessant fucking driving levels. The new mobs are fun so far, and the plot (such as it is) appears to be thick enough to suit Borderlands. It also looks like it’ll be wrapping up some loose ends from the main game’s ending, so I’m guessing this is the last expansion they’ll put out. Borderlands is about two years old now anyhow, so I reckon Gearbox is about due for the sequel in any event.
Ken Burns’ original, dreadful, insufferable baseball documentary is like sixty fucking hours long. I’m serious — the thing is like unwatchably long, and, even if you were to try to watch it, you’ll be passed out from boredom and then dead. Why on earth did he make this boring thing so shitheadedly long? Why, so he wouldn’t have to make a sequel, of course! Ken Burns’ hubris is sufficient that he just assumed that he’d summarise all the baseballings of ever in one megalodocumentariacal heap, and then he’d move on, content that his reputation as a true artiste who never bows to crass commercialism and makes the dreaded sequel would be held intact.
So the sequel came out the other day, which is just great. And, let me tell you, it’s a mess; apparently it’s not just maudlin and sappy and mindbendingly dull like the original, but also it’s just plain old wrong about almost everything. Excelsior! Example: did you know that steroids were deregulated in the 90s, and that’s why baseball is completely broken and ruined now? Yeah, I didn’t know that either. And neither did Matt Welch, who absolutely tears Burns a new asshole for his po-faced attempt to exploit baseball to push his pet political agenda.
Everybody knows of my distaste for terrible sports journalism, I imagine. But you know who’s the fucking worst? Keith Olbermann, that’s who. Because when he’s not being an ignoramus about baseball, he’s being an ignoramus about politics, so I have him coming at me from two directions at once. Fuck off and die, Kieth Olbermann.
Have you heard about this? Apparently the Giants, annoyed that they’re locked in a tight playoff race with a AAA club and a team that didn’t start its season until the middle of August, have resorted to baselessly accusing the Rockies of cheating.
I mean, really. How fucking lame is that? "Look at all those runs they scored. Must have been doctored balls!" Yeah, or maybe they have two hitters who are insanely hot and like five more who get on base a lot so Tulo and fuck you I am not calling him CarGo can drive them in. I mean, this is a team that contains both Todd Helton and Jason Giambi, right? Both of whom are utterly legendary for their ability to get on base? They’re like the walks masters. And then you have Tulo hitting two homers a game — 61 XBH on the year, and he missed some time with injuries — and Gonzalez with 76 XBH. Team like that’s like to score some runs, fools.
And what’s with Timmy Lincecum? Just because he sucks this year, it’s suddenly cool for him to accuse the other team of cheating, even when he throws a two-hitter? Cool out, Timson. You, like every other pitcher in baseball, have the right to request a new ball at any time, whether there’s anything wrong with the current ball or not. If it just "feels wrong" and you’d like a ball with better juju or whatever? No problem, they’ll do that. There’s really no need to complain about "fucking juiced balls," dumbshoes. And if you do, you could at least be a man and avoid weaseling out of it with the passive voice: "there’s speculation and I kind of verbalized it and that’s it?" Oh, there just is speculation? It’s just, like, a thing that exists, all by itself, in a vacuum? No, lamer, you speculated. Sack up and take some responsibility.
Oh, and you didn’t "kind of verbalise" a goddamn thing. You said "fucking juiced balls." That’s putting a pretty sharp point to it, don’t you think? You aren’t in high school anymore, stoney stones. Maybe you should start acting like a grown-up.
So as part of the Super Mario Bros. 25th anniversary celebration — which, no fooling, makes me feel really really old — Shigesato Itoi has interviewed Shigeru Miyamoto about what it’s like to make Mario games. In the process, they wander all over the map, but it all comes back to game design. The interview’s pretty long, and the translation is… interesting, but it’s a good read.
I’m serious. If you’re at a fair or some garbage like that and you have the opportunity to purchase some fried cheese curds, goddamn take it. The vendor at the cheese curds stand told me they were like mozzarella sticks but better, and he was 100% correct in his assessment. They’re awesome.
Chocolate-covered bacon ain’t too shabby, either, but that’s a story for another time.
Sorry, gang, but there’s going to be a one-week delay on the next chapter of my story. I’m too busy this week to dig up the time, but check in next Saturday and it’ll be there. In the interim, you can catch up on older material you may have missed; turns out there are 39k words of this stuff already. Who knew?
Holy shit, I just realised this stupid blog’s been running for three years. Who know somebody so useless could have this much pointless drivel to say?
I’m watching Rockies-Dodgers, and LAD’s camerawork is maddeningly amateurish. The frame keeps shaking like somebody’s hand-holding the camera. When they go to the extreme closeups it makes it look like there’s an earthquake, for Pete’s sake. There’s Troy Tulowitzki — whoops, there he goes! Eaten by the ground.
Seriously, Dodgers. I know you’re having money problems right now, but cutting corners on the camera tripods? Not a great plan. Maybe take out that one field mic this fratboy shitheel who keeps yelling "batter batter batter SWING" is sitting next to. I didn’t think people did that outside the movies.
Not a great video, but it’ll have to serve:
That’s Tyler Colvin getting hit in the chest with a broken bat head. Yeah, pointy-part first. He’s in the hospital with a bunch of sutures and a breathing tube, which is about as good an outcome as one could expect from a chest injury. The sportswriter covering this the most is Keith Olbermann, which is too bad; I’ll spare you any of his drivel.
I guess this is where I add "fuck maple bats," but the comedy reverse is that Wellington Castillo was swinging ash. So I guess I just have to settle on FUCK DA PO-LICE.
Edit: Whoops, nope, looks like that was a maple bat after all. Looked like ash to me. So here: fuck maple bats. And still da po-lice. If you have mlb.tv — and you know you do — pull up today’s Cubs game, jump to the second inning, and pick Castillo’s second PA from the selector gadget to see all the drama unfold. It looked pretty goddamn ferocious, let me tell you.
Hey, I promised a week ago that I’d whine about Lair of the Shadow Broker, and I never did. Whoops missus.
So, at this point, I’ve played it. It’s not very long — there are three missions, two boss fights, an Ace Attorney Investigations EXAMINEZ LES INDICES sequence, and one stupid goddamn minigame. The missions are pretty standard Mass Effect 2 stuff — walk down the hall, scan the resources, duck behind cover and then shoot mans. The only new twist is that the mobs have flash grenades now, which have a really interesting visual effect and are actually pretty fun. Other than that, it’s Mass Effect 2 as usual, which isn’t really a bad thing, since the game’s pretty good.
The boss fights are kind of lame. Not main-campaign-final-boss lame, but kind of lame. The first one has the frustrating habit of teleporting all over the fucking place, which really irritates infiltrators who are trying to line up their goddamn shots. Or so I hear. The second one is sort of a stupid gimmick fight where you fight the boss like sixteen times and each time the cutscene changes until eventually the game locates the "you win" cutscene. Both of them are structured in "phases," because I guess the designers play a lot of World of Warcraft in their down time and really got in to that idea.
The talky-man parts are sharply limited this time around, so if that’s a deal-breaker for you, you may want to save your $10.63. There’s very little dialogue, and most of it takes place as big speeches given to Commander Shepard and not actual sections of interactive dialogue. And when you do get to interact with the dialogue, mainly the mobs tell you to stop interrupting and let them rant. So there’s that.
Yeah, so, there’s a minigame. It’s fucking terrible. It’s a car chase, if you can believe that; basically you hold the "boost" button and wait a long time — the thing’s super easy (I don’t actually know if you can lose) and super boring, so mainly you listen to Shepard and Liara banter for a while while you drive the wrong way through traffic and crash straight into shit without getting hurt. Then it ends, which is the best part.
Once you’ve beaten the thing, you get like a new "hub" location with some neat features, including a spot to respec crew members, and a way to make arbitrary amounts of money (which is handy, since I was right — as shipped, Mass Effect 2 does not contain enough money to buy everything the vendors sell). It’s short, but it’s pretty fun overall, and it wraps up a loose end I was sure was going to be a major plot point in Mass Effect 3.
I’ve also been playing Metroid: Other M. The game itself is pretty fun, but holy shit is it hard to find. It’s buried under heaps and piles of cutscenes and like bizarro minigames. Apparently what the design wunderkinden at Team Ninja figured Metroid needed was to be more like an adventure game, because periodically the whole game stops while you go into first-person hunt-the-magic-pixel mode. When you find the magic pixel, your reward is a brooding mysterious cutscene, and then either you get to fight some mobs or else the game does that for you also.
When you’re not adventure-gaming, you’ll occasionally find yourself inside a survival horror game; normally Samus runs and jumps and shoots pretty much as you’d expect, but sometimes you’ll enter an extra spooky location, and the camera cuts in right behind you, and now you tiptoe around in turny-camera, Samus-blocks-40%-of-your-field-of-vision mode, which is a giant pain in the ass and doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose.
The game has this conceit that Samus already has all her weapons and upgrades and shit, and she just refuses to use them until she gets "authorisation" from the mission commander, which is really goddamn frustrating. Be nice if I didn’t have to fumble around with all of my gear in the bag because that jackass won’t allow me to equip any of it. Chronologically, we’re positioned between Metroids 3 and 4, making Other M the second-most-recent Metroid title, so Samus undoubtedly has eleven shitloads of gear she’s just not allowed to use, too.
So back to the cutscenes. There are basically two kinds. There’s the regular kind, where the intensely bad voice actors attempt to be dramatic at you while not necessarily pronouncing all of the words quite correctly, and then there’s the more-annoying "interactive" kind where it seems like you’re watching a cutscene, and then, all of a sudden, you have to hit a button really fast or you die. Those, in my experience, are just little "gotchas" from the designers so they can make you play through that section of the game twice, since I guess they thought it was really good. And when they invariably do kill you, you’re left listening to the commander on the radio saying "Samus? Samus? What’s going on? Respond!” and you’ll probably end up wishing he’d yell "SAAAAAAAMUUUUUUUUS!"
That said, there are some good moments here — the game builds up a decent creepy atmosphere periodically, and the parts where you’re actually running and jumping and shooting are fun. It’s just frustrating how it all grinds to a halt so you can watch movies and adventure-game instead.