GWJ Conference Call Episode 163

Conference Call

Assassin's Creed 2, Left 4 Dead 2, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Modern Warfare 2, Special Guest: Joystiq's Chris Grant, The Trouble With Emergence, Your Emails and more!

This week Chris Grant answers for his scathing Left 4 Dead 2 review. We also talk about the perils of emergent game design and how bad rabbit is at nearly everything. If you want to submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined. You can also submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"Anxious Tedium" - Ouranos OST (Tom Quinn) - http://thomashquinn.googlepages.com - 0:56:12
"The Way Your Journey Ends" (Tom Quinn) - http://thomashquinn.googlepages.com - 1:10:53

Comments

Gah! I just can't listen to him stop mid sentence and swallow anymore. Don't do interviews with gobstoppers in your mouth.

Seems like many game journalists are focusing almost exclusively on consoles nowadays. I don't have a problem with a preferred system or someone having a comfortzone, but when your job is a Gaming Journalist who is expected to know about, comment on, and review video games - you take a massive credibility hit when you have to "get used to" a keyboard and mouse, or if you reach the point where you're playing an FPS with a mighty mouse.

Switchbreak wrote:

I kinda wonder if his friends were handicapping him on purpose without telling. Like jumping off of ledges or shooting him in the back, and then blaming the director. Like a bunch of Xbox 360 versions of Prozac.

I seriously had the same thought--that perhaps there was a lot of Friendly Fire going on--but on EASY? Friendly fire does almost no damage on Normal, I can't imagine it was a big factor.

Arterus wrote:

Gah! I just can't listen to him stop mid sentence and swallow anymore. Don't do interviews with gobstoppers in your mouth.

Seems like many game journalists are focusing almost exclusively on consoles nowadays. I don't have a problem with a preferred system or someone having a comfortzone, but when your job is a Gaming Journalist who is expected to know about, comment on, and review video games - you take a massive credibility hit when you have to "get used to" a keyboard and mouse, or if you reach the point where you're playing an FPS with a mighty mouse.

This is exactly how I felt when I heard him on the podcast. When he explained that he loaded it on his Mac with his special-ed mouse it all became clear. He's really the pretentious Mac guy I see on TV!

I now know why I've never been a Joystiq fan, they're not PC fans so I hate them.

So against my better judgement I kept listening. Got to this part:

"Even the story. What story? I don't care... When Ellis is talking I just want to shut him up, go away, I don't care what you're saying. I would just as soon have it be user created characters..."

The characters and setting don't matter?

It's clear to me now that I simply can't agree with anything Chris has to say on this topic. There's just no way I can identify with any of the issues or concerns he brings up.

I'm completely baffled.

Poor guy, everyone's ganging up on him. To me, the common infected are definitely tougher. However, I can't compare the 360 versions of L4D1 and L4D2 because I played them the way God intended (on a PC).

Switchbreak wrote:

Wow, three minutes in and I'm already going nuts. I guess everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I have to respect Chris for honestly analyzing his own play experience rather than following the hype. But listening to him feels a little bit like going crazy from all the dissonance between his reality and mine.

Yeah, I respect his opinion but I don't think the game is really any harder than the first one in co-op. Versus is pretty brutal. I have trouble believing someone can actually fail it on easy unless they just stand next to a cliff and wait for the tank to come by.

The part that confuses me is how he couldn't have the same complaints about the first game. It really sounds like he's playing an entirely different game, and if he can do like 4 times better on a macbook and a broken mouse, maybe Certis's theory is correct.

I don't know if I'd say the witch is a "joke," as one of the players who likes to run ahead and make sure I get to kill the witch (even though I'm still only about 50/50 on that). The sitting witches are still every bit as dangerous as they used to be, and none of the new weapons make it all that much easier to kill her. However, the WANDERING witches are not only in a perfect position for a one-hit kill, but they don't really react to you so you have all the time you need to line up your shot.

Wandering witches really don't function like normal witches. Instead, they're something to catch you up if you recklessly spray a crowd. They could have been an entirely different Infected and I don't think anyone would have thought it nothing more than a mobile witch.

Arterus wrote:

So against my better judgement I kept listening. Got to this part:

"Even the story. What story? I don't care... When Ellis is talking I just want to shut him up, go away, I don't care what you're saying. I would just as soon have it be user created characters..."

The characters and setting don't matter?

It's clear to me now that I simply can't agree with anything Chris has to say on this topic. There's just no way I can identify with any of the issues or concerns he brings up.

I'm completely baffled.

I do agree with Chris on that one. The narrative in L4D2 has a different, lighter tone. Ellis's stories are funny but meaningless. We learn a little more about the infection but it's nothing that couldn't have just been scrawled on a wall in L4D1; in fact, most of it IS on the walls, along with little else. Even Crash Course had better graffiti.

That said, L4D is not about an epic story. It's about killing zombies.

Conspiracy Theory - The conference crew was jealous of all the posts Elysium was getting in his controversial threads, and decided to bring on their own wringer in his absence. They liquored Chris up and let him loose!!

Entertaining show guys. You all sold me on Assassin's Creed II.

No interest in L4D2 here. I liked L4D a lot, but I'm not much into the anonymous multiplayer gaming experience. It just always feels desperate and dirty. Sort of like calling a chat line or something.

Anyway, I will go out and grab AC2 for sure, I thought the first seemed under cooked and that there was a lot of great ideas in there so I'm excited to see that they are delivering on the promise.

I like Rob's reaction to Assassin's Creed 2. "There are too many [mysteries]." There's too much game! I want less game!

Truth be told, I've listened to Chris Grant on several different podcasts and I've never heard one where he wasn't just down on everything he talked about. That's not intended as an attack, it's just my personal experience.

That said, L4D2 is without a doubt harder than L4D1 and this is coming from a PC player. Whether or Normal or Advanced, a good party and I can easily blow through a level to the finale. On Normal we always barely make it and on Advanced we get thoroughly stomped on. The multiple special infected scenario is definitely real, though it is far more frequent in finales. I wish I captured a screen shot of the time during the Dead Center finale when there was a Tank, Spitter and Smoker on my screen all at once, all of which spawned at the same time. The greatly increased fall damage also makes scenarios like the swamp level finale unnecessarily complicated. It does tend to feel cheap and unbalanced at times because of things like this but I do believe this is something Valve can tweak.

I'm still loving the game but I'd never play it on 360 so I can't really comment on how different the experience is there. If Valve didn't tweak it for console controls as much as they should have I could certainly see those limitations being aggravating.

I would never touch an AC that worked like Mirror's Edge. I liked Mirror's Edge for what it was and mostly in spite of itself, but there's no way I want to go back to that hyper-technical style of platforming for a third person action game.

As far as setting ... I heard Feudal Japan and went, Ugh. C'mon Nerds; the 80s are over, being obsessed with Japanese culture is no longer cool. If you are going to go Asia -- India during the period of Muslim Rule, or China any time up until the Maoists Revolution.

I'd like them to stay in Enlightenment Europe honestly. There so much of the 1400s to the 1600s in Europe that is so interesting and rich but never gets mined for movies or games. Barring that pre-Revolution America. French-Indian War. Last of the Mohicans. Eh?

LobsterMobster wrote:

I like Rob's reaction to Assassin's Creed 2. "There are too many [mysteries]." There's too much game! I want less game! ;)

That's not at all what I said. There is too much side stuff, which has very little to do with the actual story and is only there to make the game feel bigger than it really is. They could have cut down on some of the side stuff like treasure, feathers, towers to climb, races, beat ups, courier missions, assassinations (which may or may not be endless) truth glyphs, codex pages, and whatever else I am forgetting, added a whole extra chapter to the game and I would have been much happier.

Don't get me wrong, it's better than the first game, but some of that stuff still could use a trim. By the way I would be interested to hear if anyone managed to do all the assassinations, because I don't think there is an end to them. I also did not collect all the feathers, although I did collect 50 of them while doing all the other stuff.

The more you say, the more I realize you meant it when you said you prefer linear games these days. Between demands for a more Mirror's Edge style control system and fewer (or none, by the look of things) side missions, it sounds like you really just want Mirror's Edge 2 with a slightly more open level concept. Nothing wrong with that, but your criticism is essentially boiling down to the fact that they improved on their prior design rather than throw it out and make Uncharted Creed 2.

It sounds like you're souring on the open world genre as a whole, rather than finding a ton wrong with the game as they intended to deliver it.

I don't think the co-op in L4D2 is more difficult than the original but going in your expectations may be different. Personally I remember having much more difficulty with the original game because it required a completely new playstyle compared to any other game I played before it. A player who has played and mastered L4D1 will have a lower learning curve coming into the sequel but may think the game is harder due to the new changes, having forgotten the difficult learning curve of the original. Once a player adapts to the changes, the new specials and the gauntlet style events, the game is for the most part the same difficulty as the original. There are a few spots in the new campaigns that I feel are explicitly more difficult but they're very few. I think the event on Dark Carnival map 4 spawns hordes too frequently when you're trying to get into the safe room and in the Swamp Fever finale...

Spoiler:

...the double tank spawn is obviously more difficult than the traditional single tank.

Regarding the email about death rate in modern games: in modern warfare, the number of bullets fired to the number of hits is 1000s to 1. So much fire is used for suppression, soldiers in warzones use cover much better, weapon control and accuracy is much more difficult, and the typical distances are much further than in games.

Granted, games need to balance fun and reality, but the reality takes a back seat (actually, it gets chained to the back of the car and dragged) in most games. One of the few games in recent years that leans more toward the realistic is Tom Clancy's Raven Shield. At the end of the level, you and your team have killed 20 guys (if you were successful), but it IS a simulation of a terrorist situation. The special forces are much better equipped and trained compared to the enemy. And if you get shot more than once or twice, despite body armor, you're slowed or dead. Often finishing a level leads to one or more of your team dead or incapacitated. This is one of the most intense games I've played due to the realism. You are forced to be cautious, because run + gun = death. I actually had to unlearn this caution playing COD4, as I would find myself sneaking up to cover and peering around corners to take out enemies, which of course would simply respawn if I didn't move forward.

Dysplastic wrote:

The fact that Normal in Torchlight was too easy was dismissed in milliseconds with a response of "play on hard". Why can't we dismiss the fact that Normal in L4D2 is to hard just as easily with a response of "play on easy?" Is this an insult to our collective e-peens or something?

This is good.

+

Wasn't a complaint about the first game that it had a limited single player? And now, with increased number of campaigns and levels, increased length of maps (I believe), and increased difficulty it seems to me that Valve has partially responded to this criticism. I thought about this when I first tried it, it's not just another L4D fanboy responding-- to me it's not nec a negative.

Also, only 20 minutes in maybe and still haven't heard about any Versus play. For PC users, Vs is what gave the game legs and is what makes it so damned innovative. I'm hoping that even if it is touched on in the podcast (it's only been mentioned, and mentioned that several haven't tried it yet this far into the call) that some more space will be dedicated to talking about this on an upcoming call.

Also, Valve is a PC developer. They are weaker on other consoles. Most talk seemed to be that even the first L4D was weaker than on the PC. For most games multi-platform reviews may not be nec. But for this, it seems like a known factor that there may well be large differences.

Latrine wrote:

I don't think the co-op in L4D2 is more difficult than the original but going in your expectations may be different. Personally I remember having much more difficulty with the original game because it required a completely new playstyle compared to any other game I played before it. A player who has played and mastered L4D1 will have a lower learning curve coming into the sequel but may think the game is harder due to the new changes, having forgotten the difficult learning curve of the original. Once a player adapts to the changes, the new specials and the gauntlet style events, the game is for the most part the same difficulty as the original.

I think you may be onto something. It would be easy to assume that if you kicked ass in 1 you would automatically kick ass in 2 but they've changed things up a bit and new strategies or, at least, new habits are required. I may be wrong but my impression is that there are more specials zombies, etc but there are also more pipe bombs, health packs, ammo refills, etc. The extra items seem to be a bit off the beaten track and the first couple of times I played the demo through I missed most of them which meant I was running out of ammo and health packs towards the end. The AI director may be assuming that players are taking advantage of all the available kit and ammo.

We should have Chris Grant play versus.

I don't want to say 'well he probably just sucks' but I've played the 360 version as well and ran through normal on Dead Center and Dark Carnival with 0 deaths and 2 bots. I also consider myself to be 'controller inept'.
Though it did seem like there was more piled on specials, mainly with jockeys.

I don't have much else to add to this conversation, but I do think it is funny to hear a console gamer complaining about a bad port of a game. As a PC gamer I've had to put up with bad ports for years now.

Having played some of L4D2 on both platforms, I think the biggest difference is that the more specific damage model for the Infected now makes aiming with a control stick much trickier. Not that there was aim assist in L4D1, but now you really, really have to aim to take down an infected, even one who is alarmingly close. And there are fewer chances to back up against a wall when a horde attacks.

Oh, and L4D2 asserts that reality is brown. I miss the old color palette.

This is David of 4 Player Podcast playing L4D2 on the 360 the other day, gives you a bit of an understanding of how damn annoying the aiming is if you haven't played it on 360.
http://www.justin.tv/clip/4bb8f7079a...
(NSFW, cursing)

Though you'll notice the weapon spread is much tighter.

This just in, Chris Grant is bad a video games. I need Nick Breckon Calling him a baby.

FedoraMcQuaid wrote:

This is David of 4 Player Podcast playing L4D2 on the 360 the other day, gives you a bit of an understanding of how damn annoying the aiming is if you haven't played it on 360.
http://www.justin.tv/clip/4bb8f7079a...
(NSFW, cursing)

Though you'll notice the weapon spread is much tighter.

I think David may be a perfect example of someone I never want to game with. I have no idea how well the aiming is, but he seems like a complete tool. I only made it through five minutes or so of the video.

He is, I hoping somebody would notice that so I could point out how the team still managed to do decently even with a person like that and the bad aiming.

Wait: Chris Grant bitch-slapped L4D2, but blew kisses at Fable 2? Am I the only one who thinks that bass-ackwards?

I actually remember reading that review when it was put up and disagreeing with most everything he said. Now mind you, I LOVED Fable 2. It was my console game of the year.

Hey, I loved both, so ...

Chris is completely off base with this one. The game is definitely harder but not because of a broken AI director but because of a repaired one. Infected will combo you, randomize spawns effectively, and use abilities at the best possible times. It's also more difficult because you can't game the system anymore; try holding up in a small area now and you'll get destroyed by a spitter or charger which is an effective way to amp up the tension. It seems like he's not very good at the game, got too frustrated, and quit before he could properly evaluate it.

So you guys know too, I have both the 360 and PC version. The 360 is definitely easier than the PC version of the game.

Oh, and referring to the complaints about Bayonetta, I don't know what anyone expects from this game. It's DMC amped up by 10 and is simply amazing which is why game sites like Edge and Eurogamer have been gushing over it.

L4D2 is harder than the original, but mostly because finales now ask you to do more than stick together in a corner until you reach a state of 'no more zombies left'.

That said, with even one person on Easy mode that halfway knows what they're doing, you should be finishing everything. Maybe not everyone is going to make it through, but you'll complete the scenario without breaking a sweat. And the casual players I've met have really not minded dying and sitting out for a few minutes -- it's actually a nice break to just watch the action for a few.

But the finales are more like boss battles now. That gives them a complexity the last game lacked, but I can see how it would make it tougher for your first play through.