Friday, 9 November 2007

With music in my ears

With an unusually free evening, I went on a bit of gaming rampage last night, kicking off with City of Heroes. After my careful and detailed planning of my blaster's new build, I had a shopping list for invention enhancements to turn the mild-mannered distributor of moderate amounts of flaming peril (causing moderate singing, unless facing opponents whose interior d├ęcor favoured older soft furnishings not compliant with recent stringent non-flammability standards) into a powerhouse inferno of blazing destruction. The only snag in my plan is that somehow everybody else is after those same enhancements (it's almost like they confer some benefit to the character, or something), so I'm left with a bunch of speculatively low bids on stuff in the hope that someone makes a typo when putting an item up for sale, and a few successfully purchased recipes that were doubtless as cheap as they were because they need particularly costly salvage (on which I have some speculatively low bids...)

While on the subject of CoH, I might as well make a brief mention of the news that NCSoft are acquiring Cryptic (plus some more links). You might have noticed I tend not to really bother with MMO News here, as there's at least nine hundred and seventy three other sites covering that stuff, and very roughly 62.432% of them are updated more often than once every when-I-can-be-arsed, but seeing as I'm actually playing CoH at the moment I thought I might be able to offer something slightly more than copy n' pasting a press release and adding such piercing analysis as "CoH is... a... game! And has... some... updates! So this news might affect that in some way." Except I can't, really; ever since it was announced that Cryptic was developing Marvel Universe Online something had to give. Splitting CoH off to NCSoft makes a lot of sense, the whole thing seems to be progressing very smoothly, the CoH team appear to be excited by the future yet slightly regretful at leaving, generally very little drama and thus not nearly as appealing to commentators as the whole Sony/Vanguard business. There's talk of staffing up and vacancy postings, and I get the impression that the second expansion mooted after City of Villains might well be back on the table, though it'll take a while for the dust to settle. Exciting times! The most immediate benefit is a few bonuses being chucked in either now, or shortly after Issue 11: free CoH or CoV access if you had one but not the other (City of Villains wasn't, strictly speaking, an expansion, as you could own either of the games and only play Heroes/Villains if you really wanted, but I believe the majority of the player base have both), a debt wipe, and bonus prestige for supergroups. Nothing to complain about there, right? Course not, unless of course you're one of the tiny, yet oh-so-vocal, minority who manage to display the unerring ability of grabbing the gift horse, prising its jaws open, sticking your head right inside to look at those teeth good n' close then complaining it bit you.

Anyway, the whole "game where the second two words are 'of heroes' and the first one begins with 'c'" business suddenly made me remember I still had Company of Heroes: Opposing Front on the go, I hadn't played it since all the excitement of the Orange Box, so I fired that up for a couple more missions in the Allied Caen campaign. When I left off, I'd just been handed the defence of a key hill. I really though it would be a repeat of Hill 314 from the original game, where you got a handful of infantry and a few crew served weapons against a couple of panzer divisions. I was expecting 25 pounders desperately firing over open sights, heroic attempts to get PIAT attacks in from flanks etc. As it turned out, it ended up with me having an armoured company including several Fireflies, lead by a command tank, charging around the map to wherever a couple of Panzer IVs turned up while the commanders yelled "LOL TANKRUSHZERG KEKEKEKEKEKEKEKE!", helped out by the fact that apparently a slit trench makes five blokes with a Bren gun utterly invulnerable to the attentions of a Panther, which was nice.

After all that calm, considered strategy (KEKEKEKEKE!), I felt the need for some hyperactive twitching, so fired up Team Fortress 2 for a couple of rounds. I haven't really settled on a favourite class yet, I'm flipping around all of them if for nothing else than the achievement of playing a full round as each class. I quite like Medics, apart from the huge frustration of latching on to a Heavy to form a fearsome duo, only for them to wander off (very slowly) to a bizarrely pointless bit of the map to admire the scenery. As an Engineer, I frequently manage to set my sentry gun up somewhere that might, in other times, be strategically vital, but it turns out none of the enemy team come within range of during that round. As a Spy or Sniper, I'll manage an occasional inspired round of dominance, then spend the next ten minutes getting killed without even seeing it coming. Still, it's a bit of twitchy fun. While in Steam, I carried on with a few more rooms of Portal, which continues to nicely balance challenging puzzles, but not to the point that they become mouse-beatingly frustrating. I'm particularly liking the conservation of momentum through portals, flinging yourself from a great height through a portal to emerge in a totally different plane at high speed is brilliant.

To round things off and really wind down into a nice, relaxed state, I finished off with a bit of Rayman Raving Rabbids. My wife and I (several games work quite well co-operatively, with one person pointing/waving the Wiimote while the other furiously waggles the nunchuck (that's not a euphemism, by the way)) completed the "Story Mode", playing through the mini-games sequentially, so they're all unlocked for "Score Mode" now (where the aim is, oddly enough, to get the highest possible score). I think my favourite of the lot is "Bunnies Have A Great Ear For Music", where you're presented with a choir of rabbids singing (in a manner of speaking) "Ode to Joy". One of them, though, is playing up and shouting "blah blah blah blah blah", so you have to point at a rabbid, press "A" on the Wiimote to zoom in, and if that's the one mucking about, slap him with the nunchuck. Once you've found the culprit, another one starts misbehaving, so repeat the process until time's up. To help out, if you zoom in on a tuneful bunny standing next to the miscreant, they'll surreptitiously point in that direction to give you a clue. I've no idea *why* I like it so much, on any rational level it's just bizarre, if any blogger had posted "I've got a brilliant idea for a game, it's all about slapping out-of-tune rabbid-creatures in a choir!", I'd've filed them away with the ones demanding a *realistic* magic system in a fantasy MMO, but somehow it works... La la la la laa la la la laaaa la la la laaaaaaa la la *slap*

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