A game that needs a remake: inFamous 2

Oh, the PS3. A problematic console from the start, with its strange Cell processor and its status somewhere between home entertainment system and games console. I suspect it only succeeded because of Sony’s muscle at the time, having emerged from the last console wars as a winner.

Screenshot of inFamous 2 courtesy of Hooked Gamers

But this isn’t about the PS3, or only insofar as inFamous 2 is one of the titles that really, really taxes the system, and is a PS3 exclusive. Here’s inFamous 2 in a few paragraphs, maybe enough of them stick for you that you’ll give this game a chance:

The synopsis is this: You’re a freak who gets electricity-based superpowers, but now you can’t drive a car anymore and water kills you. Make sense so far? But you gotta save the world from the The Beast that approaches the Floridaesque or New Orleansy coastal city of New Marais.

Writing, characters, story

There is excellent writing (for an action game) with solid characterization and great voice work. The lead character, Cole, is interesting because the voice actor (Eric Ladin) does this gruff-sexy-action-hero type of gravely monotone, but he puts just the right amount of emotional nuance into it to make it interesting. The lines he gets are often surprisingly human. These people talk just like people! The game won’t bore you with ages of exposition, each dialog is just the minimal amount of information to move the story forward, delivered in short well-written bursts.

Graphics and sound

You’ll find breathtaking environments. Think Zelda: Breath of the Wild invented the scenic third-person game? Think again. inFamous 2 has beautiful vistas by the truckload. Particularly the skyboxes are astonishing — depending on the mood they want to create, they either look like something from a comic book or something from an apocalyptic classical painting.

This is one of the large non-boss enemies you’ll face

Lighting is carefully chosen in general, with the whole scene bathed in a bluish twilight here or a dark orange sunset glow there. The architecture also deserves to be mentioned. It’s as if the developers had worked with an architect and a city planner to lay out the areas. Wood shacks and half-collapsed brick houses in Flood Town, colonial redbrick and a huge cathedral in the main part of town, an industrial wasteland full of gas tanks, train tracks and repair warehouses in the, err, industrial part. It all looks believable and organic.

Textures deserve to be mentioned as well, as I haven’t seen many PS3 games with such varied and careful texture work. Bricks and rocks have a palpable rough feel to them, colors in the main part of town are chosen carefully to be muted so that the many neon signs and lights pop out. Scenes with water feel glistening and wet.

Gameplay

This sequel has much more accessible gameplay than inFamous 1. That alone sets it apart enough for me. You unlock superpowers at just the right rate, and you feel like a badass as you climb through the cityscape or grind on a powerline. There aren’t any of those annoying tutorial levels like in inFamous 1, so in case you’re worrying about that, worry not.

You’ll be facing hundreds of normal, smaller enemies that each use different tactics, and usually the AI is good enough to make things interesting. You rarely feel totally overpowered, so you can rarely just stop thinking. Sometimes the AI gets stuck in corners, especially if you are very far away, but that’s fine. Most of your powers don’t have enough range to hit then anyway, and when you move closer the AI wakes from its daze and joins the fight again.

The few battles with extremely large enemies are all the better for it. Usually you fight enemies roughly your size or twice that. But there are occasions where you need to take on much larger beasts. Those truly shine because they are the exception. You’ll remember these enemies and fights precisely because you didn’t get inundated with sixty bosses already.

The only major criticism I could lob at the game is the framerate. It’s uneven, staring at the sky might get you around 60 fps, but actually playing in the streets hovers around 25 to 30, and battles can go down to the low 20s. They did a fantastic job adapting the controls so that you can win the fights anyway, even when the framerate tanks. But it’s just not beautiful anymore in the age of rock-solid 60 fps like the Nintendo Switch delivers for many games. This game needs a remake. Anyone listening? Screw The Last of Us, inFamous 2 is a fantastic action romp and it needs to be 1080p60 for fuck’s sake.

Festival of Blood: Electric Vampires

If you haven’t had enough of inFamous 2, there is a standalone side-game in the form of inFamous: Festival of Blood that uses the same locations but that lets you be an electrified vampire during a Mardi Gras-ish festival, hunting Bloody Mary, a vampire that terrorizes town. Yes, the cocktail was named after her in this universe, not the other way round.

The writing is once again spot-on, especially Bloody Mary’s diary segments. They’re delivered in her lofty English sing-song and written in the style of Gothic horror novels, always with a fun twist at the end.

You can mingle with townsfolk, but some of them might be hidden vampires you need to stake

Technically the game isn’t different from inFamous 2, but the colors are all changed (much more red) and the atmosphere in the street is very different with hundreds of festivalgoers wearing neon glow-in-the-dark bracelets.

Gameplay is changed from the base inFamous 2 by the addition of vampire powers (vampire sense lets you see into people and whether they are hidden vampires, bat flight turns you into a flock of bat, biting people and sucking their blood refills your bat flight energy, etc.).

The only criticism here is that environments are reused quite often, with one section of catacombs underneath the cathedral serving as location for at least three quests. But this is forgivable.

Final thoughts

Oh, the PS3. It’s getting old now. This is an advantage for you, in case no remake is coming. If you don’t have a PS3, you can get one now for 50 bucks of whatever currency, and inFamous 2 in a digital sale often dips below 10 and includes Festival of Blood. Physical, you might be able to score a used copy for 5.

Also, if you have a beefy PC, keep an eye out for RPCS3. This PS3 emulator has been making great strides, and you can rip games yourself quite easily. It doesn’t really run the inFamous games yet, though. Maybe if RPCS3 becomes optimized enough, we won’t need a remake anymore. A very, very fast PC can potentially play this game at a solid 30 or 60 fps, as there is no frame limiter in the engine.

Here’s a full playthrough with major spoilers if you want to see what the game is like:

Rating: Electric Wizard/10.

Something for the weekend: Week 47, 2017

These are some longer things I’ve read this week. I don’t guarantee that they’re new, just that I found them interesting:

  1. Android at 10 part one, part two. As Android turns ten, Google is moving away from Linux and towards their own Fuchsia kernel. What might the next ten years of Android look like?
  2. Super Mario Odyssey review by Digitiser2000’s Mr Biffo. It sums up pretty much what I think about the new mechanics, and also calls out Mario for being a sexist pig. Don’t take this as virtue signaling, but yes, Nintendo might need to work on this when the only game starring Princess Peach is basically a pre-menstrual mood swing simulator with a far too easy  jump’n’run wrapped around it. You know, for girls! Girls can’t play video games! lololol!
  3. Google tracks and sells your location even if you’ve disabled location services. The surprise is probably that anyone’s surprised. Now that the company was caught red-handed doing this, will they promise to stop? I don’t think so, since Silicon Valley believes in “self-regulation” — thus no regulation at all. That we may have to thank Oracle for revealing this doesn’t make it any less bizarre.
  4. Microsoft appears to have lost the source code for parts of Office. And this is the same company that some governments trust with their sensitive data. Why doesn’t Microsoft publish all their software under a FOSS license? It’s like Linus Torvalds is rumored to have said, “Backups are for wimps. Real men upload their data to an FTP site and have everyone else mirror it.”
  5. Ideas were not enough. Not the reformation alone brought religious freedom to western societies, but the fact that enforcing religious unity was becoming too expensive and politically cumbersome for the rulers.
  6. Stress can be good for you, but most toxic stress has measurable detrimental effects on your brain. The article explores the damage stress causes down to the physical level and gives some hints for post-stress recovery. Daily walks and meditation are mentioned. I’ve had episodes of stress and trauma leading to generalized anxiety (as the article also mentions) and I can say that meditation definitely can’t hurt.

I’d be delighted if some of that tickled your curiosity.

Play The Saboteur instead of Wolfenstein II

If you enjoy Nazi-stomping you’ve probably heard of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. They did have a pretty funny marketing campaign, after all. Now according to the reviews I’ve seen so far, it’s a mixed bag. It’s the Doom engine meets the previous Wolfenstein’s setting. Something we’ve more or less seen before, just with better graphics. Not that terribly exciting on a conceptual level, is it?

This section of Paris will turn from black, white and red to color once you get rid of the Nazis

But there’s one game about taking out Nazis that is unique and was overlooked when it came out in 2009: The Saboteur. I’ll leave it to you to find in-depth reviews, but here are some of the things you can do:

Continue reading “Play The Saboteur instead of Wolfenstein II”

Outdoor Gaming Ep. 2

The sunlight was inviting, so I set out to gain a little altitude. Have a better view, better knowledge of where I am in this blasted valley and perhaps find out some details about the fish-frog people.

It did not take long for the first sign of their cult to appear beside the road. This time it was made out of iron and was much more intricately decorated than the wooden one I had last seen, so it was probably also more powerful:

Continue reading “Outdoor Gaming Ep. 2”

Outdoor Gaming Ep. 1

Gamers spend way too much time indoors. And why is that? Because our gaming systems have screens that can’t be viewed outside! Yes, sometimes you see a gamer hunched over their super-reflective mobile phone screen, squinting and trying to make out what the hell is going on, playing a game in the park. It might work if they’re sitting in the shade of a tree, but it’s a very bad gaming experience in broad sunlight.

There are (or were) a few systems that can be played just fine outdoors, though. That even prefer strong sunlight: the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance all have transflective or reflective screens. So did the Neo Geo Pocket and Neo Geo Pocket Color. There was also the WonderSwan, but you can’t play any of those because Kelsey bought all of them. I’m ignoring the backlit Game Boy SP AGS-001 and Game Boy Micro for the purpose of this article, since what would be the point taking those into the sun?

Owning all those Game Boy iterations, I tried thinking of an excuse to avoid being outdoors and couldn’t, so I decided to work this the other way and actually go somewhere. Just take the first road I find and walk until I’m bored, but at least for an hour, then play some Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.

Here’s the story, with pictures.

Continue reading “Outdoor Gaming Ep. 1”

Review the Reviewer: HexDSL

I know I’m late to this party and those of you who play their games on Linux surely already know this channel, but to me one bit is new: HexDSL has been doing hundreds of Linux gaming videos over the last two years. And that’s because he releases one Linux gaming video per day! That doesn’t mean the quality sucks, though.

I first encountered his channel when it was mostly about comics with a Linux game here and there, but nowadays it’s mostly about Linux games, which I can’t complain about. And what an array of games he’s covered! He looks at any genre, but he’s quick to tell you whether a review was sponsored and if he’d even normally buy or play this sort of game.

It also shows that he’s been playing long enough to know what to look for in a game and to spot the danger signs, always good if you’re on the fence about a title and need another solid opinion.

The level of polish in his videos has certainly increased a lot over the last few months as well, today he uses chroma keying/green screen, a proper microphone, a pop filter, I guess some encoder card — everything you could possibly ask for. Nothing to complain about in the quality department.

It may seem like he’s rambling sometimes, but I find I always get all the information I wanted about a title if I try to pay attention. And I think his voice work is entertaining, no monotone put-me-to-sleep stuff, so there’s no need for you to replace your ASMR videos with HexDSL.

He also covers bits of Linux hardware, games running through WINE and other stuff you’d figure a Linux gaming nerd might like to hear about. So it’s not all just games, but mostly, and the things that aren’t games are usually Linux-related in some way.

There doesn’t seem to be a channel trailer I could embed, so I’ll link you right to the main page. You can also support him on Patreon.

Fix crackling audio in some games in WINE

Some games happen to have wonderful audio (and music), like Wolfenstein: The New Order. Some games happen not to be available natively for Linux, like… err… also Wolfenstein: The New Order. So we play them with WINE, and sometimes there are slight audio issues.

But have no fear: If you get audio crackling in such games (especially if your audio device is not running at 44.1 KHz), the following environment variable might fix it for you like it did for me:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60

You can either start WINE in a terminal with this env var prepended:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 wine Steam.exe

or if you’re using PlayOnLinux:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 playonlinux

Or you can export it in your ~/.profile file if you want it to be set for all your applications (don’t forget to completely log out and back in, since .profile is read only once per session):

export PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60

Does this work for you? It works for me. I can’t remember where I found it first, but it’s a hint that’s been passed along, so pass it along I shall.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster extend its noodly appendage to guide the hands of Lennart Poettering so that such issues become a thing of the past (if indeed Pulseaudio is to blame, but we always blame Pulseaudio, so we shall blame it one more time).

Now to enjoy the screams of expiring Nazi cyborgs in ultimate smoothness.

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): Conclusion

About 9 months ago, I stopped buying games because I had a huge pile of unplayed ones already, like most gamers. I told myself I won’t be buying any more games for a year, to finish what I already have, and so I can decide what I don’t even want to play. 9 months in I broke my vow when prices for used Playstation 3 stuff hit their lowest point yet and something told me that missing this opportunity wouldn’t be wise, so I stopped my challenge and bought a PS3 with piles of games to last me years. You can read all the details month-by-month here.

In numbers, I’ve played somewhere around 40 games, finishing about a dozen and discarding or shelving the rest. But I also added 43 new games to my wishlist. In the old days, these 43 games would have been immediately purchased and added to my existing queue of 100-something titles. Horrible to think of that now. Instead, I have a physical pile of PS3 games that goes up to my hip to worry about. Much better!

I learned a lot, and I believe I can condense it into a few paragraphs of hints for those addicted to game purchases. And I’m saying game purchases, not necessarily playing. Some of these games sat for ages in my library until I finally stopped buying new ones and actually played them. Is it the same for you? Then read on.

Continue reading “Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): Conclusion”

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): September 2016

Last month I told you about my magical rediscovery of console gaming. I had been so focused on PC that I had completly ignored entire generations of console games. I got cut off at the early days of the Wii. Now what I discovered was:

  1. I really enjoy the Wii titles that have a childlike appearance but some tough core gameplay. All those colors! Super Mario Galaxy! It’s not just grey and brown and somber like the PC titles are sometimes.
  2. I don’t know even half the good titles that came out for the Game Cube, and there are some unique ones there.
  3. I’ve missed most of the good PS2 stuff, and all of the good PS3 stuff.
  4. Guitar Hero was real fun. Why did I stop playing Guitar Hero? Why did I never pick up Rock Band and the drum set?

All of these needed to be remedied. So in a very desperate move, I dug into the PS3 scene just as the PS3 is dying. Dying or dead consoles are the best for collecting, and I’d put this under the heading “collecting”. Once they’re no longer popular, you can get used games for single-digit prices. Some of them are even collections. I bought God of War 1 – 5 in a big set for USD 12, for example, and that’s the remastered HD edition for PS3.

Continue reading “Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): September 2016”

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): August 2016

It was a month with one or two strange revelations, but it started pretty mundanely.

Life is Strange’s first episode became available for free. I downloaded it but I don’t dare to play until next March, because if I like the first episode, I might want to buy the rest.

Other than that, my mind was reasonably calm, the game-buying urges seemed manageable as long as I didn’t look at online stores for games. I started to enjoy my home-built virtual pinball  machine without feeling anxious about getting good at each table in order to have “finished” it. I simply played and had fun.

All was serene. All was calm.

Until my phone beeped and told me there was a new Humble Indie Bundle. A new Humble Indie Bundle! I am a cunt for forgetting to turn off those notifications.

Continue reading “Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): August 2016”