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User Journal

Journal Journal: Holy Cow Apple are Total Fucks 6

So I'm playing with this antique iMac because whee shit and I'm trying to download the 1GB developer tools DMG and Apple sure makes it a gigantic pain in the arsehole, don't they? You can't just download the URL with wget without rigamarole which I haven't gone through yet. I can't actually load the site in Safari at all because of some kind of https error. And my download just failed somehow in the last seconds, which means I get to download it all over again. And then it may fail again. Other downloads are working fine, it's just Apple that's incompetent here somehow.

This is the kind of thing that convinces me that anyone who gives Apple money is either a moron or a masochist. Luckily, I got this machine for free, so all I'm wasting is time.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Games of the Year 2016

So, another year gone, and another opportunity to talk to myself about my favorite (and otherwise) games of the year. It's not been a particularly bad year, all told, with plenty of perfectly solid games and just enough surprises (pleasant and otherwise) to keep things interesting. I've missed a few of the year's big releases: Civilization VI (I've learned not to touch this series until the first few expansions are out) and Dishonoured 2 (the original is still on my backlog-of-shame) in particular. But I think I've still seen the bulk of the games worth talking about this year. So with no further ado, on with the top-10 list.

Top 10

10: Fire Emblem Fates: Awakening (3DS) - I'll get out of the way upfront that I don't much care for how this game was sold. The fact that all three campaigns are on a single cartridge but expensive further purchases are required to unlock two of them does not please me. However, despite that, there is still a very solid game here, with some fun character work, a decent enough storyline (Conquest in particular) and some strong strategy mechanics at the core of the gameplay.

9: Battlefleet Gothic: Armada (PC) - This one's a bit obscure, having been somewhat lost among the slew of Warhammer 40K games released this year. It is, however, definitely the best of the bunch. An adaptation of an old space-combat wargame, it's a smart, well presented tactics game, which reminded me more than anything of the old Starfleet Command games. That's probably no coincidence, as those were also based on a boardgame.

8: Overwatch (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - The shooter that got me to play online shooters again (for a while at least). Fast, fun and, for a while at least, refreshingly free of the usual angst and drama of online shooters. Sadly, the community soured from around October onwards, with even Quick Play becoming toxic, so I dropped out of playing. However, Blizzard deserve real credit for managing to blend so many gameplay innovations with such good gunplay.

7: Dark Souls 3 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - To my mind, the weakest game in the Dark Souls series, leaning too heavily on past glories and requiring too rigid a conformity to a particular dodge-roll-based playstyle. That said, even Dark Souls at its worst is better than most other franchises at their best, so this is still a very good game. Except for the first DLC, which was just plain rubbish.

6: Tokyo Mirage Sessions: FE (Wii-U) - I'd probably rank this as the best game on the Wii-U and it makes a fairly good swan-song for the system as it vanishes into (mostly deserved) obscurity. This isn't quite a full-fledged new Persona game, but it is a pretty good way of tiding things over until next year's Persona 5. As with Atlus's best games, it holds to a very distinctive tone and style. The battle system gets a bit repetitive towards the end, but the aesthetic keeps things from getting too tired.

5: Total War: Warhammer (PC) - I've always found the Total War system strangely inconsistent, capable of swinging from greatness (Shogun 2) to mediocrity (Rome 2) remarkably quickly. Warhammer is a pretty big departure for the series, but it works out very well indeed, with a pleasing blend of familiar elements and novel innovations. Now if only we could have a Horus Heresy-themed 40K version...

4: Final Fantasy XV (PS4, also XB1) - Despite being much-delayed, this came out remarkably well in the end (despite some technical issues - give us a PC version already!). It doesn't feel like Final Fantasy, but then, that's something that was said about all of the best Final Fantasy games when they first released. A couple of the sidequests could do with being a little bit less fetch-questy, but other than that, this is good fun, with a battle system that has a lot more depth than is initially apparent. The Americana-infused aesthetic is also glorious.

3: XCom 2 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - A really strong sequel to the modern reboot of the classic series. The strategic-game is slightly terrifying for the first few hours, with a bewildering array of options and very little guidance, but push past that point and this opens out into a really satisfying game. The best bit, of course, is what's teased after the final credits...

2: Forza Horizon 3 (PC, also XB1) - A glorious evolution of the open-world arcade-infused spin-off to the Forza series (a spin-off which has now arguably surpassed its progenitor). The availability of PC version is a welcome addition to the series. I was slightly annoyed by the over-focus on off-road racing (and particularly those bloody buggies), but this is still fantastic.

1: Doom (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - By far the best first person shooter I've played for years. It takes every hateful convention that Halo and Call of Duty slammed into the genre (2-weapon limits, regenerating health, linear levels) and throws them in the bin. Fast, gory, frequently ludicrous and insane amounts of fun. Somehow it manages to take the look and, more importantly, feel of the old Doom games and translate them successfully onto cutting-edge 2016 technology. I'm told it has a multiplayer mode, but I haven't bothered to check.

Good but not top-10 material - alphabetical order

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - I seem to be in a small minority for having quite liked this year's installment of Activision-flavoured spunkgargleweewee. The series seems to continue its "shite game, ok game" annual alternation. Don't get me wrong, it's not great (and the space combat bits are awful), but there is still some fun to be had in this ludicrously overblown sci-fi adventure. I also find something curiously endearing in the way it aims for Battlestar Galactica reboot-style gritty sci-fi but misses the mark and ends up as Space: Above & Beyond high camp.

Darkest Dungeon (PC) - I really enjoyed the opening few hours of this strange semi-roguelike RPG. It does get quite tired quite quickly, particularly due to the degree of randomness involved, but those opening hours basically justify the purchase price.

Far Cry Primal (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - A fun attempt to do something different with the Far Cry formula. The generic Ubisoft underpinnings still shine through a little too strongly, but full marks for effort certainly due here.

Gears of War 4 (PC, also XB1) - I enjoyed the campaign gameplay quite a lot here, as well as those bits of the plot that cast of the old games is present for. The new cast is a hateful bunch of millennial tosspots in need of a damned good lancer-chainsawing, but they don't quite manage to ruin the game.

Homefront: The Revolution (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Yes, you found the only person in the world who will admit to having quite enjoyed this. Admittedly, I picked it up dirt cheap in a Steam sale, after the worst of the technical issues had been patched. It wasn't great (and the setting, which felt just-about-plausible for the original game, has become ludicrous now), but it offered up a reasonable amount of entertainment.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (PC) - It's been a good year for strategy games, hasn't it? This only just missed out on my top 10. A well designed and well-presented spin-off from the Homeworld series, which manages to look and feel like a Homeworld game despite the shift to land-based combat. The aesthetic is fantastic.

I am Setsuna (PC, also PS4) - Interesting twist on the classic JRPG formula. Quite short and very story-focussed. Could have done with a bit more visual variety, but still an engaging little game.

Megadimension Neptunia V-II (PC, also PS4) - It's not fantastic, of course, but it is much better than Omega Quintet (Compile Heart's first attempt at leaving the PS3 behind). A perfectly good way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - I agree entirely with those who complain this lost a lot of what was distinctive about the original. But the moment-to-moment gameplay is still generally solid.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4, also Vita) - The best remake of the year and another game which only just missed my top 10. Very much a remake, rather than a remaster, this substantially improves on the original, by reducing the level grind and improving the flow of combat. The story and visuals remain as amazing as ever, many years after this game was first released.

Pokemon Sun and Moon (3DS) - The first Pokemon game I've stuck with for more than a couple of hours since Silver/Gold. Shakes up a rather stale formula just enough to keep things interesting without compromising the core (and iconic) gameplay. Now if only Nintendo could bring the series to a proper console, rather than handhelds.

Ratchet & Clank (PS4) - A fun remake of the very first Ratchet & Clank game. The weapons and gunplay are as fun as ever, although the decision to drop to 30fps was clearly the wrong one.

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus (PS4, also Vita) - A guilty pleasure. Despite the rather dubious trappings, this is actually a really good game. Tightly tuned, well paced brawler gameplay, with surprising depth and an impressive roster of characters with different playstyles. A story mode which wisely lowers the stakes from previous installments, focussing more on comedic escapades with less potential for mood-whiplash. And exploding clothes.

Thumper (PC, also PS4) - Strange, unsettling rhythm game. I've not got a VR headset yet, so I've been playing it on a regular monitor for now. It's a freaky enough experience that way - god only knows what it must be like on VR.

Titanfall 2 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Yet another that was a near-miss top 10 contender. The campaign is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it happened to release in the same year as Doom, which just did a lot of the same things better. Hope this gets a sequel, though. If it can ditch the 2-weapon limits and other Halo conventions and embrace the over-the-top lunacy that it often seems tempted by, it could be truly great.

Tyranny (PC) - The most uncomfortable game of the year - an RPG with no way to be "good", only different shades of evil. A decent game, which builds on the gameplay foundations laid by Pillars of Eternity with better writing and world-building. Still a bit heavy on the big-text-loredumps and maybe a bit short, but still very good.

World of Final Fantasy (PS4, also Vita) - AKA "Final Fantasy does Pokemon". A fun, albeit grindy, lightweight Final Fantasy game, which is a real nostalgia trip for series veterans.

Yomawari: Night Alone (PC, also PS4, Vita) - Incredibly creepy top-down survival horror game. Gets the prize for "best tutorial of the year" by a country mile. Seriously.


Battlefield 1 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Yes, I thought this was worse (significantly worse) than CoD: Infinite Warfare. The worst campaign I've played in a long time (oh my god that armoured train level) combined with a terrible attempt at WW1 storytelling, which combines Spielberg-saccharine aesthetics with ahistorical attempts to make WW1 look and feel like WW2. This could have been so much more.

Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS) - The original Bravely Default got a lot of goodwill for being "just like the old Final Fantasy games". That schtick has worn thin now and the sequel just comes over as dull and grindy (like like the old Final Fantasy games). The fact that half the sidequests were butchered to incomprehensibility for the Western release via the worst localisation effort in recent history did not help at all.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - A by-the-numbers follow-up to Mankind Divided. The main plot's a mess, the clunking, heavy-handed morality is a million miles from the subtlety of the very first game and the stealth mechanics are often dubious at best. Some well-written sidequests save it from outright disappointment, but it's still not what it should have been.

Mighty No. 9 (PC, also loads of other platforms) - Much hyped advert for the whole Kickstarter thing turns out to be a bit crap. Lifeless visuals, poor level design, cringe-worthy plot and bizarre technical issues. Not fantastic.

Nights of Azure (PS4) - This JRPG looked quite promising pre-release, with an interesting "dark" storyline. Sadly, very poor graphics and dull gameplay frustrate the game's ambitions. The occasional ray of potential shines through, but nothing like enough.

No Man's SKy (PC, also PS4) - One of the most hyped titles of the year, turned into a big pile of "meh". It's not awful and had it been a Steam early-access title for half the price, it would probably have been very well received. As it is, it ended up embarrassing for everybody.

Space Hulk: Deathwing (PC) - This one hurts a bit, because it has so much potential. However, when it slipped out the door just before Christmas, it was in an almost unplayably broken state. Singleplayer functions, but is dull. Multiplayer is effectively unworkable for the moment. Fingers crossed this gets fixed by patches, because the idea of Space Hulk meets Left 4 Dead is an appealing one.

The Division (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Concentrated mediocrity.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4) - So yeah, I'm out of line with the consensus on this one (though that's nothing to what's coming below). Uncharted 4 a boring, over-wrought story, told in a po-faced "look how grown up we are" style, with plodding narrative beats, and a few on-rails sequences of gameplay grundgingly hammered in between them. Also, Nathan Drake and his shite, unfunny "quips" need to be fired into the sun.

The Outright Bad

The Last Guardian (PS4) - If only it had never come out. Like Duke Nukem Forever, this was a game that was great to have hovering as a cloud of "might be great" unreleased vapourware. Once released, it quickly coalesced into an absolute turd, with poor controls, bland visuals, terrible performance, near non-existent gameplay, endless frustrations and a storyline whose "emotional" impact is cheap sentimentality based on children and animals. Kill it with fire.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Thoughts on leaving the computer industry. 3

I got my first job writing code right out of high school, working on games for a cable TV company at a startup called Pegasus Systems in Falls Church, Virginia. That was in 1982.

Since that time, every couple of years I've carefully considered what specialty I thought would be most interesting to work in for the near future. In 1982, it was computer graphics. In 1984, it was the Mac. In 1989, it was NeXTSTEP.

I'm a far better coder now than I ever expected to be, and that's due to what I've been able to learn from the incredibly smart people I've worked with in this industry. Seriously, some of those guys are scary smart.

I've worked in businesses ranging from three-man startups to the most valuable company in the world, I've had some great bosses (and smattering of idiots), and learned a lot about management from them.

In my first stint at Apple, I was an engineer in a marketing department, and from what I can see, Apple's marketing is the best in the world, and I'm grateful for what I learned there, too.

So now, I have an opportunity to get into an entirely different line of work, developing technologies that will make a major difference in the amount of energy we all use for heating and cooling. I'm a complete beginner in this field, but once again I've got some brilliant colleagues to show me the ropes. 2017 is going to be an exciting year for me, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Best simple SID to USB connection? 3

That may not be a good way to describe it but... I have a C64 I never use and I think I shall desolder its SID before consigning it to recycling since they are now officially hard to come by. What can I put it on that will let me use it efficiently?

User Journal

Journal Journal: The lameness filter is broken (again) 13

Your comments "spectacularly brain-damaged suggestion" and "drug-fueled" are why I consider your post troll like.

The above quote rendered one of my comments unpostable...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Best Foakleys? 5

Surely someone around here knows where's the best slightly-reputable site to buy some knockoffs of the Oakley M2 XLs. I want to try them out for a while and see how they feel on my head. The sites I've found so far are registered straight outta China. Oakley has successfully driven the fakes off eBay and Amazon... the problem is, I'm not going to drop two hundred bucks on some glasses that might give me a headache, like most glasses do.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Apple ID being used for harassment and ID theft 9

Apple is now actively, willingly, and deliberately aiding in online harassment and identity theft against me. They refuse to destroy an Apple ID which has been created with my email address, to which I do not have the answers to the "secret questions". They will not permit me to proceed any further without having an attorney.

What do I do now? Who do I call for relief? I can't afford a legal battle with Apple. I don't have an attorney on retainer.ï

User Journal

Journal Journal: Vroom.

Finally, I got my A8 Quattro up to the point where I could get it smogged. Registration and rubber to follow imminently. Crap, this thing is quick.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Games of the Year 2015

Another year, another journal post listing the best, the worst and the indifferent of the games I've played this year. I haven't actually done a count, but my sense is that I've not quite played so many games this year as I have in years past (despite my disposable income levels having rallied substantially from the low-point they hit in 2013). That's partly down to long hours at work and some home-life pressures leaving less time for gaming. It's also down to the fact that games seem to have grown a lot this year; gone are the days when you could blast through a campaign in 6-8 hours. Just as the corridor-shooter came to be the staple of games during the last console generation, this generation's flavour seems to be the 40+ hour open world game.

What this means is that there are a few big releases this year, such as Star Wars Battlefront, Until Dawn and Mad Max, which I just haven't gotten around to playing. I've also probably sampled a smaller portion of the minor releases than I would in the past and have largely skipped the indie-scene entirely (though I don't seem to have missed much). I didn't buy a single Wii-U game over the course of 2015; neither Splatoon nor Mario Maker appealed to me and while the new Fatal Frame looked interesting, poor reviews and the hoops Nintendo make you jump through to purchase it (a tiny, over-priced physical release and a download release which almost entirely fills the Wii-U's storage drive, plus the fact most external passport drives don't work on the Wii-U without supplementary power) meant that I skipped it.

As in previous years, my main gaming platform has been the PC. The consoles are very much only used for exclusives this time around; my sense is that the PS4 had better releases in the first half of the year, while the XB1 had a better Christmas line-up. I've also played a few Vita games; that platform never really came to life, but nor does it show any signs of actually dying any time soon.

On the whole, I think this has been a fairly good year for games. That's not to say there haven't been disappointments, but we are clearly now at the point in a console cycle where the market matures and games get more polished and better developed, as the "shiny new hardware" thrill of the first year wears off. On which note, I both think and hope that this is the last year in which we see continued development for the last-gen consoles. Declining sales numbers for them would suggest that they are dying as serious commercial propositions for most developers and it would be good if games no longer had to be shackled to their obsolete technology. Of particular note this year has been an uptick in high quality Japanese games; Bloodborne and Metal Gear Solid 5 would appear to imply at least some level of recovery for a regional industry that has been some fairly ugly places in recent years.

And so, with no further ado, on with the top-10 countdown:

10) Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance - (PS4) - A return to form for the series after the disappointing Disgaea D2. The essence of the series isn't much changed, but this is slicker, better executed and simply more interesting than the last couple of installments in the series. A lot of previous niggles and frustration around the game's balance and interface have been worked out.

9) Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin - (PC, also PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and 360) - I was skeptical of this, expecting a quick and dirty cash grab. In reality, it is a significantly improved version of Dark Souls 2, which remedies many of the pacing and difficulty curve levels assosicated with the issue, as well as bundling in the well-crafted DLC areas. Definitely the best way to play the game, even before you consider the graphical facelift.

8) Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void - (PC) - A fitting conclusion to the Starcraft saga. The Protoss campaign delivers some very solid RTS action, even if the Protoss themselves are slightly too close to the "wise old space elves" stereotype to make for really engaging protagonists. Fortunately, Blizzard clearly understood the need to deliver a proper conclusion, shifting away from the Protoss for the final few missions. The difficulty curve can be a bit erratic, but this is still excellent.

7) Forza Motorsport 6 - (Xbox One) - A big improvement on its predecessor, which remains one of the biggest let-downs of the last few years. This is almost, but not quite, a true successor to the magnificent Forza Motorsport 4. My main gripe is the horribly broken Drivatar system, which remains markedly inferior to the old fashioned AI used until Forza 5. That said, this is still an extremely good game, with the inclusion of Formula 1 and Indycar adding a more distinctive end-game.

6) Rise of the Tomb Raider - (Xbox One) - A pretty darned good sequel to the recent franchise reboot, albeit one slightly hindered by awkward input lag (which hopefully will be fixed for next year's PC release). It doesn't quite have the gut-punch impact of the last game's opening sections but is, on average, better paced and balanced, with the focus shifting back towards problem-solving rather than shooting.

5) Pillars of Eternity - (PC) - A deliberate throwback to the days of the early Bioware/Black Isle RPGs, this is an attempt to provide a spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate games that almost succeeds. It doesn't quite manage to replicate the atmosphere of the classic series, striking a slightly too "grimdark" tone and missing Baldurs Gate's sense of humour which humanised its cast. But it works on every other level, with an excellent combat system, a decent class/skills system and a pleasant, clean interface and art style. A sequel with some slightly better writing talent on board could be something very special.

4) Tales from the Borderlands - (PC, also most other platforms) - Telltale's foray into the Borderlands universe does a substantially better job of capturing the mix of manic energy, madcap humour and sudden pathos that defined Borderlands 2 than last year's rather halting Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Pacey and well written, this is a really enjoyable little game (even if it does cling very close to the usual Telltale formula in gameplay terms).

3) Bloodborne - (PS4) - It took me a long time to decide whether I loved or hated this game. In fact, I'm still not sure. Compared to the Dark Souls games, it feels narrow and restrictive, with an intolerance of different playstyles. It also suffers from some horrible technical issues, including jarring framerate drops at the worst possible moments. That said, it also has many magnificent features, including world-design that is fantastic in both aesthetic and gameplay senses and a combat system which, while narrow, is also fantastically tightly tuned. The Old Hunters expansion is spectacularly difficult (possibly excessively so even by From Software standards), but adds some fascinating lore and some good environment design.

2) Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain - (PC, also PS4 and XBox One) - There are two ways for a game to achieve greatness. The first way is to hurtle along perpetually on the edge of disaster, but somehow strike a balance and never quite fall off. Metal Gear Solid 5 exemplifies this path. In most respects it is a sublimely good game. Possibly the best stealth mechanics I've ever seen in a game, combined with well-implemented upgrade and base-building mechanics. The plot contains plenty of trademark Kojima lunacy, but wisely keeps it more tightly under control than other games in the series, never allowing it to overtake the gameplay. There are so many times the game could have gone badly wrong; it could have descended into heavy-handed moralising over its setting. It could have failed to subvert the sickly sentimentalism with which it introduces the child soldiers plotline. It could have allowed itself to be buried in the series backstory. But it doesn't and what emerges is magnificent. My only gripe - and it is a serious one - concerns the miserly checkpoint system.

1) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - (PC, also PS4 and Xbox One) - The second means for a game to achieve greatness is via icily-constructed perfection. That's the route The Witcher 3 takes. The game is flawless in almost every respect; gameplay, storytelling and technology. It took me almost 80 hours to finish the story (with a handful of sidequests still unresolved) and I didn't regret a moment of it. This is the first time we've really seen the "intimate" storytelling of classic RPGs transposed into an open-world context and it works amazingly well. It will be very hard to go back to clunky morality systems and good/evil mechanics after The Witcher 3's nuanced approach. Plus it actually manages to be both genuinely funny and genuinely scary at times along the way. The best game of the last several years.

And now for the games which were good, but not quite good enough to crack into my top 10, listed in alphabetical order rather than any kind of quality ranking.

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate - (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Not a fantastic game, but a solid installment in the series after the train-wreck that was Unity. Besides, I think I have a soft-spot for games with a London setting.

Cities: Skylines - (PC) - After Simcity fumbled badly with an underwhelming reboot, Cities: Skylines steps into the breach with a game that feels like a true spiritual successor to the classic series.

Cross Ange: Rondo of Dragon and Angel tr~ - (Vita) - One of the most divisive anime shows of the last few years, but my personal favorite since Madoka Magica. Fortunately, the spin-off game is much less than a rip-off than is usually the case, with some decent 3d shooting action (even if I could only understand maybe a third of the dialogue on this untranslated import). Those crappy Attack on Titan games could learn a lot from this. A Western release would be much appreciated.

Dirt Rally - (PC) - A proper, hardcore rally sim, the likes of which we haven't seen for many years. In some respects, a bit too hardcore for me (I would quite like a rewind button and some easier AI difficulty settings). But it's a game that both demands and earns your respect. The Dark Souls of driving games.

Dying Light - (PC, also PS4 and Xbox One) - Open world zombie games have been rather done to death (pun intended) of late, but this is one of the better examples. Solid visuals and world design make up for an occasionally cumbersome combat system.

Deception 4: The Nightmare Princess - (PS4) - A decent remaster/expansion of the PS3/Vita game, which not only adds new content but also fixes some of the technical issues that plagued the original release.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD - (PC, also PS4 and Xbox One) - An eccentric but solid entry in the Final Fantasy series, with a storyline that goes some interesting places and a neat combat system. Unfortunately, the game's roots on the PSP do occasionally show through. Note that the console versions have serious problems with motion blur levels and control sensitivity that are fixable in the PC version.

Halo 5: Guardians - (XB1) - I don't like Halo. I don't like the combat, the pacing, the floaty movement, the stupid ammo system or the writing. People who like Halo seem fairly united in disliking Halo 5, because it messes around with all of the aforementioned factors. Surprise surprise, while I wouldn't say I'm in love with it, I do quite like Halo 5.

Higurashi: When they Cry (episodes 1 and 2) - (PC) - The classic visual novel, remastered with new artwork that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out. The pace of releases is slower than I would like, but this is worth sticking with.

HyperdimensioN Neptunia U: Action Unleashed - (Vita) - It's basically Senran Kagura with the cast of Hyperdimension Neptunia. And there's nothing at all wrong with that.

Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru - (PC) - Don't ask. In fairness, even though I've never seen the Grisaia anime/visual novel series this is a spin-off from, it made me laugh quite a lot. Bought it on Steam entirely on the basis of its name, but was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it is.

Just Cause 3 - (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - I've heard a lot of complaints about bugs in this game and one part of me feels I should be marking it down as a result. However, my own experiences with it have been pretty much bug-free, so I won't. It's a fun, but ultimately shallow fast-paced shooter which feels like a blast from the past in many ways. Grows boring if played in long sessions, but excellent as a "quick blast" action game.

Life is Strange - (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - I was wary about this to begin with, because of the comparisons people were making to Gone Home (to my mind, one of the worst "games" ever released). Fortunately, those comparisons are unfair. This is a decent and innovative title, which might have made the top 10 if it hadn't flubbed its ending a bit in the final episode.

Onechanbara Z2 Chaos - (PS4) - Another entry in the burgeoning "two strawberries and a banana gymnastics" genre. While not in the same tier as the likes of Devil May Cry or God of War, the brawler mechanics are pretty well developed and the controls are pleasantly responsive. Combined with a pacey and endearingly nonsensical plot that knows not to outstay its welcome, this gives a surprisingly good little game.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night - (Vita) - A fun little rhythm game that will raise smiles if you've played Persona 4. That said, this particular cast is feeling that they've worn a bit thin now. We desperately need Persona 5.

Prison Architect - (PC) - Spikey, uncomfortable, but fascinating. Not much more I can say about it.

Project Cars - (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Mixed feelings on this one. The driving physics are fantastic and the weather effects are among the best I've ever seen in a game. Unfortunately, they're coupled to a joyless career mode that gets very dull very fast.

Valkyria Chronicles - (PC) - Part of me would like to put this in the top-10, but given it is just a director's-cut rerelease of an old PS3 game, that doesn't feel quite right. At any rate, this is an excellent port of what was arguably the best game of the last console generation and certainly one of the best games ever made. I was shocked at how well the graphics scaled up from the console original; seen in 4K, this game really is something to behold, despite its age.

And now the disappointments. The games which, while perhaps not outright bad, nevertheless fell badly short of expectations. A slightly shorter list than in previous years; time constraints have meant I have been more active in avoiding games I think I won't like, on the basis of their predecessors or word-of-mouth.

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star - (Vita, also PS3) - Ok, slightly cheaty here; the PS3 release was in 2014 and I missed it. But the Vita release was in 2015 and that's the version I played. I was pretty excited to find out that there was a new game in the Ar Tonelico universe, but they've not made it easy for Westerners to get into. For starters, it is a continuation of a visual novel for mobile phones and the Vita that was only ever released in Japanese. There's a web translation that requires hours to read and is more or less a pre-requisite for this game. But even after getting over that hurdle, this falls slightly flat compared to the Ar Tonelico games. It spends too much time on techno-babble and too little on plot and characters. Plus the combat system is fairly awful. It's not an outright bad game, but it isn't what it should have been.

Batman: Arkham Knight - (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Even leaving aside the mess of the PC version's launch, I didn't like this much. It's distressing to chart the decline of this series since the phenomenally good Arkham Asylum, as its core strengths get diluted in favour of a generic open-world checklist of features. An over-emphasis on boring vehicle combat and fiddly item-hunt challenges are particular flaws with this game. I remain of the view that the series should have remained true to its Metroidvania roots.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - (PC, also PS3, PS4, 360 and XB1) - The world's premier spunkgargleweewee series has settled into a pattern over the last few years, with installments alternating between "competent" and "crap". Last year's Advanced Warfare was reasonably competent, so this year's Black Ops 3 is in the "a bit crap" camp. It's not as bad as Ghosts, which will likely set the benchmark for particularly vile spunkgargleweewee for years to come, but it still feels like a step back from Advanced Warfare, in terms of both gameplay and visuals.

Fallout 4 - (PC, also PS4 and Xbox One) - I agonised over this one. It has a few startlingly effective moments. Unfortunately, it's also badly dated, borderline broken and usually not very much fun to play. Floaty combat, trash-mob enemies with immersion-breaking bullet sponge tendancies, dull NPCs, boring party members and a general lack of any kind of human interest all hold this game down. This would have been the best game of the year... in 2010 or so. Standards for open world games have moved on a lot since then and Bethesda don't seem to have kept up with the pack.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart - (Vita) - If Neptunia U was the decent spin-off from the series in 2015, this was the disappointing one. It tries to be a Disgaea-style tactics RPG, but its systems just aren't deep enough or sufficiently well-thought-out to sustain the game. As such, it becomes shallow and repetitive very quickly.

Omega Quintet - (PS4) - Compile Heart's first venture onto the PS4 is a let-down, given that they had becoming slowly more proficient with their releases for the PS3, Vita and PC. The cast and plot are entertaining enough, but the gameplay and technology feel like a step back. It's not as bad as the original Hyperdimension Neptunia, but it is nevertheless poor compared to the Vita/PC remakes.

Tales of Zestiria - (PC, also PS3 and PS4) - 2007 called; it wants its JRPG back.

The Order 1886 - (PS4) - A very curious game to see released in early-2015. With its 6-hour campaign, tightly linear levels, sloppy controls, poor checkpointing and halting storyline, it feels like a throwback to the poor quality Gears of War clones that defined the early sections of the 360/PS3 generation. Only a decent visual aesthetic saves it from the "outright bad" camp.

And finally the outright bad games. Or game. I only actually played one of these this year!

Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax - (PS3, also Vita) - A shockingly bad fighting game. The only reason to buy this is because of the cast of well-known anime/light novel characters. Unfortunately, the game isn't even proficient in using its cast properly; they do no more than repeat a handful of catchphrases. As for the game itself; this is an astoundingly lazy arcade port, which can't even be made to fit the screen properly on a normal TV. The controls are stiff and unresponsive, the movesets and characters are unbalanced and the less said about the production values the better. This would have been fairly embarrassing in the late 1990s. In 2015, it looks shocking.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Punitive Between-Comment delay? 4

I have Excellent karma, as usual, but I have a five minute delay between my posts. It seems to have appeared on my account again after the last time I said something mean about a Slashdot "editor". Is this something that Slashdot has done to everyone recently, or is it a punitive action against me specifically by one of the "editors"?

User Journal

Journal Journal: FizzBuzz in Swift

The following is my prepared answer for anyone who asks me this stupid fucking question in any interview in the future.

extension Int
  func modBool(modulus: Int) -> Bool
  return (self % modulus).boolValue
for x in 1...100
  print((x.modBool(3) ? "" : "Fuck ") +
    (x.modBool(5) ? "" : "You") +
    ((x.modBool(3) && x.modBool(5)) ? "\(x)" : ""))


User Journal

Journal Journal: Why libressl is stupid 2

I really want to like libressl. But it pretends to be openssl badly. They refused a patch that would have mitigated this whole RAND_egd problem by simply returning that it doesn't work when someone tries to use it, which means that you commonly need a patch to use it at all. If it's not going to work like openssl, then it shouldn't occupy the same space in the filesystem.

User Journal

Journal Journal: OMFG GNOME3 is asstacular

This is not news to most people, but I just tried it for the first time on my first-ever normal Debian Wheezy install (I've always done minimal, netinst etc. and built it up from there for a purpose) and wow, GNOME3 is amazingly horrible. It makes Unity look usable. If that was the idea, mission accomplished, I guess.

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