Monthly Archives: July 2013

Barrett in Deus Ex Human Revolution is still an arsehole second time around

It's me, Barrett: I'm going to frustrate the hell out of you.

It’s me, Barrett: I’m going to frustrate the hell out of you.

I own two copies of Deus Ex Human Revolution.

One on Xbox 360, one of PC (I bought it during the recent Steam Sale for the princely sum of $US5.99).

I loved the game the first time I played it, and I’m loving it now, the second time, but Barrett, the augmented bulldozer who’s the first boss in the game, is still an arsehole to beat second time around. He’s an ARSE.

To be honest, the boss battles just seemed out-of-place in DX: Human Revolution, a game that let you sneak about through air ducts and over gantries if you wanted to, avoiding the guards and enemies. You could go in guns blazing if that was your cup of tea but if you wanted to stealth it, you could. And I liked that about Human Revolution. Even the game’s developer admitted that they should have “put more effort into the boss battles” and they didn’t realise they were a problem until the game had shipped.

In fact, as someone on Twitter pointed out, the boss battles were actually outsourced to another developer. No wonder they felt disconnected from the rest of the game.

In my first play through of the game, I was going in cold so tried to take him head on: Nope , that didn’t work.  I soon realised that if I got too close to the part human, part machine behemoth he’d grab me, punch me in the head then drop me to the floor. No problem: I’ll just hide in the corner of one of the two ammo rooms, confuse him. Nope, that didn’t work either. He’d eventually toss a grenade in to flush me out … generally causing me to run too close to him and get punched in the head.

Then I saw the explosive barrels dotted about the room, which were clearly good for throwing at Barrett, stunning him, allowing me to go in for the kill. Well, that’s what they’re supposed to be used for. Most of the time I fumbled to pick up the barrels and by the time I’d turned around to throw one at Barrett, he’d shot at it, causing it to explode (while I was still holding it, remember), depleting my health. Things were not going well.

In my first play through, I eventually defeated Barrett (I think I just wore him down due to my ineptitude and he died of boredom) but for my second play through, even though I’d defeated him before, I watched a few YouTube offering all kinds of strategies for defeating him (stun gun, concussive grenades, EMP grenades) I thought I had it sussed. Famous. Last. Words.

None of them worked for me: I still kept dying. Lots. None of my strategies seemed to work. Perhaps I’m rusty. Perhaps my skills need sharpening. I’ll try to get them sorted over the weekend.

I love you Deus Ex Human Revolution. You’re a great game but Barrett is still an arsehole.

Update: I’ve just been reading up about the Director’s Cut that’s in the works. It sounds as if there are a few tweaks that will make this the best version of the lot, featuring tweaked boss battles, AI and graphics, but it doesn’t seem as if it’ll be available as a download for those of us who already own Human Revolution. That’s disappointing.

Killzone Mercenary: Is that a Helghan in your pants?

Killzone Mercenary: Here Helghan, Helghan, Helghan ...

Killzone Mercenary: Here Helghan, Helghan, Helghan …

For a handheld title, Killzone: Mercenary on the PS Vita is pretty impressive.

And Lord knows, the Vita needs impressive titles to bolster its fortunes. It has few must-have titles (and some desperately don’t get titles like Resistance Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Declassified, anyone?). Mercenary could well be the first-person shooter that makes you proud to own a PS Vita.

Set between the events of Killzone 1 and Killzone 2, players take the role of a mercenary called Danner, who has contracted his services to the ISA in an effort to wipe out the Helghast on their home planet of Helghan. And being a mercenary is where this Killzone pops up its first difference to the console editions of the game: money.

Each kill earns Danner money – the more kills he makes, the more money he makes. Making a headshot will net more cash than just pumping a Helghast with lead. Even picking up dropped ammo earns cash. Earned money can used in-game to purchase better weapons using black market lockers (why they’d be dotted around a Helghast base, I’m not sure). You can also unlock a variety of other things but some of them cost huge amounts of cash.

Visually, the game looks superb, and while not on par with what the PlayStation 3 can generate, it shows that developer Guerilla Cambridge (formerly known as Sony Cambridge, the studio behind the Medievil series) are pushing Sony’s handheld to its limits, with dynamic shadows and volumetric lighting. It really is impressive.

The game opens with Danner and a colleague (he’s shot down mid-glide so he’s not even worth mentioning) gliding from an ISA dropship down to a looming Helghan base where you have to deactivate two radar dishes that control the giant cannons causing problems for the ISA ships orbiting Helghan. It’s up to you (Danner) to finish the job and turn the tide of war.

OK, so the premis isn’t very original at all and while I was a little disappointed that the opening sequence was on-rails (I wasn’t able to steer Danner at all) it’s a powerful way to start the game, with rockets and enemy fire flying around as Danner glides towards the base, finally landing on top of a cable car.

So far, so good, and Killzone Mercenary has a hell of a lot going for it, especially for a handheld title, but that said, it ticks all the boxes that a Killzone shooter should so if you’re not a fan of Killzone, chances are you’ll find little to like here.

Stabby, stabby: Yep, you can stab Helghan in the neck.

Stabby, stabby: Yep, you can stab Helghan in the neck.

While the preview code was only one level long, I was able to mix it up a little with both stealth and full-on frontal assault (the former thanks to Danner’s silenced pistol and knife) and the game throws in some hacking for good measure (using the touch screen to match on-screen icons while racing against a timer). Talking of touch screen controls, it’s used wisely throughout the campaign with the rear touch pad letting you zoom in and out with weapons and the main screen used to finish off silent kills of unwary Helghan using a quick time event after you’ve tapped the triangle button.

The Helghast showed some smarts at times during my  play through – after being spotted by one soldier while assaulting the barracks, he called for reinforcements – but other times, stupidity was evident, with more than one not noticing I was in the same room as them (just before I filled them full of lead). Perhaps that’ll be tidied up come September, when the full game’s out. The only time stealth didn’t work was during the what seems a mandatory element in shooters these days: the hold-this-position-until-ordered-where-to-go-next sequence.

So far, so Killzone, which will please fans of the series, and the closing moments of the preview mixed it up a little with Danner having to hold off a barrage of Helghast using a Porcupine missile system, which fire missiles at what ever you tap on-screen (assaulting Helghast, a hovering dropship). One thing I’m not certain about for Mercenary is the multiplayer, as the feature was disabled for the preview.

Killzone Mercenary is looking extremely solid for a handheld shooter and while I’ve no idea how the story holds up throughout the rest of the game or whether it turns all formulaic in the sea of brown-on-brown that the Killzone series is famed for, this handheld title has piqued my interest. Perhaps it is possible to have a decent FPS on the Vita and have a Helghan in your pocket.  Here’s hoping.

PlayStation New Zealand provided a download code for the preview version of Killzone Mercenary.

GTAV, you had me at hello

With this one video, Rockstar did enough to get me to sit up and take notice of GTAV, a game that I was interested in but now, woah, I’m seeing it as perhaps the best entrant in the series and one of the year’s best AAA titles.

Watch the video and you’ll see how Rockstar have taken what was good about San Andreas – in my opinion the best game in the series so far – and put it into a narrative involving three separate characters – Michael, Franklin and Trevor – that looks like it’ll be one helluva ride. My favourite Rockstar game is Red Dead Redemption (I’m still bummed that it’s not available on PC) but will GTAV be better than RDR? Time will tell, time will tell …

I’m sold, Rockstar. I’m sold. Take my money now.

Understanding Java: What have I let myself in for?

You know the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks”? Well, I hope it’s not true because in a fit of madness I’ve decided to try and learn programming language Java.

The only dummy in this whole process is me. I knew I should have paid more attention to maths in school.

Dummies: Aspirations of Android app development has meant a lot of reading.

Why? Because my teenage son thinks it’s a good idea to have a crack at Android app development. I sort of agree with him but I don’t think he realises how long the process will take from go to woah. A while, me thinks.

My lovely daughter – who we drove to Dunedin a couple of weekends ago to pick up and bring back to Christchurch – stopped into the University bookshop to try to exchange some books and while there I found a book on Android app development that I contemplated buying – Android App Development for Dummies – but didn’t (too tight to spend the money, if I’m honest). Daughter, though, had other ideas: She had a store credit from an earlier visit so bought the book for me as a way of payment for “all the money I had spent on her in the past”. The gesture was much appreciated (although, I’ve spent a helluva lot more than $40 on her over the years).

Later that night, after we got home, I sad down with a beverage and read through the opening pages of the book and it recommended knowledge of Java, which was something I didn’t have, before tackling the book. Cursing, I went to bed to watch season one of Chuck and today, I went to the local library and found a book called Java All-in-One for Dummies (there’s a theme emerging here) that promised to demystify Java.

Well, after the first few chapters of the Java book, I’m still none the wiser … so I gave up with the Java book and cracked straight into the Android App Development for Dummies. I might be a mistake but I made my first project last night, which displayed the words “Hello World” on a screen made up to look like an Android phone’s display.

It was actually fun in a hard work kind of waybut it’s slow progress and the code is almost a foreign language at the moment: I’m having to type things like this (which is supposed to add a button to the Android view:

<Button

android: id=”@/toggleButton”

android:layout_width=”wrap_content”

android:layout_height=”wrap_content”

android:layout_gravity=”center_horizontal”

android:text=”Toggle Silent Mode”

/>

See what I mean? Foreign language. It’s harder to learn than 3rd Form French. Or maybe it’s because I’m so old that my brain just hasn’t got the room anymore to absorb such foreign knowledge. Surely it’ll get easier the more I practice, right? Right?

I’m hoping to stick with it but truth be told, I’ll probably crack under the pressure and give up in a few weeks time, consigning the book to the Graveyard of Technical Books pile in the spare room. Already residing there is HTML 4 for Dummies, a printed out manual for TrueSpace 4 and numerous magazines with discs containing free graphics programs.

I hope not: I want to be able to use my knowledge of toggling silent mode somewhere.