I recently joined Fitocracy, a social-networking site where you can log your workouts for your friends to see (and comment on and praise— the UI has it as “giving props”). It doesn’t keep track of calories for you (or have a nifty GPS app) like Endomondo, but it does have a motivation system based in video games. One aspect is that it awards you experience points, both for your activities (e.g.: an hour of vinyasa-flow yoga is worth 180 points), and for milestones (it gives you 20 points the first time you do much swimming, 50 points when you put in some distance, 200 points the first time you break 750m) it labels as “quests”. And, like all role-playing games, you level up when you get enough experience points. (There are also “achievements” corresponding to video game trophies, such as “I Seem to be Lost”, which is awarded when your lifetime running distance goes over 20 miles. I haven’t earned one yet, so I don’t know if they come with experience points.)

It’s still in beta— I can invite you, if you wish— and doesn’t have anything fancy to go with the leveling up. But it gives both the “I want to level up!” gamer motivation as well as the “I want to keep up with my friends” social one, which is a good start. If you’re already on there, I’m mithriltabby.

And forty minutes of sitting zazen is worth two points, so you can use it to keep track of how much meditation you do as well.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to the classic Deus Ex, set in a future 2027 where cybernetic augmentation technology is changing the world. Like the original, it’s both a first-person shooter and a role-playing game. The original Deus Ex was very much about the conspiracy theory, and the writers did a good job of researching real-world theories to work into the storyline. This game focuses more on the ramifications of human augmentation technologies and how it creates haves and have-nots, though there are still some Illuminati references. You can see some interesting adverts from inside the game at Deus Ex: Human Revolution Asks The Tough Questions.

The gameplay is very good: it supports lots of sneaking around and avoiding guards rather than fighting them, and in addition to a lethal sniper rifle, there’s a tranquilizer-dart rifle for people who prefer their body count to be unconscious instead of dead. (The game rewards this with extra experience points, quieter takedowns, and a “Pacifist” trophy. I wound up tranqing or tasering the head of security for Tai Yong Medical three different times and was wishing there was a way to tease him about it.) Like the original, they put a lot of work into the worldbuilding, and it’s worthwhile to talk to almost everyone you meet to get their individual take on the situation— some dialogue does repeat, but it’s rare. There’s also a completely unrealistic “hacking” minigame that lets you break into computers and security systems, which can get you passcodes for breaking into secure locations as well as lots of in-world detail as you eavesdrop on the e-mail between characters in the game. There are also several “social combat” scenes where you can try to talk people around to your point of view (sometimes getting them to avoid a suicidal choice), which can be aided by a very nifty bit of cyberware called a social enhancer that gives you information on what your target’s vital signs say about what they’re thinking.

The story also works well: the hero, Adam Jensen, is the head of security at Sarif Industries, which is attacked and several top scientists abducted. He is gravely wounded in the attack and given a set of cutting-edge military augmentations, and six months later is dragged back in to work from his post-surgical physical therapy when a second attack occurs and his skills are needed. He then starts peeling the layers away to find out who performed the original attack, and why. On the way, there are a lot of side missions that provide moral litmus, finding out who you’ll choose to help in a given conflict.

Spoilers ahead! )
mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (H1D20)
( Mar. 7th, 2010 11:56 pm)

Dragon Age: Origins is a fine epic fantasy role-playing game, available for the PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. It kept me interested all the way through; in addition to well-scripted interactions between the lead character and the stable of NPCs, there are lots of interactions between the NPCs that make it fun to just swap in different combinations of them as you go running around the world, just to see how they interact. You can see the various companions’ dialogue on the wiki, with examples on their own pages and links on those pages to collections of dialogue (e.g.: Alistair’s Dialogue). These are worth going over even if you’ve played the game, just to see things you might have missed.

The story is quite good, with options to play through as anything from noble and altruistic to entirely ruthless. There are definitely mature story elements (the game deserves its M rating), though I think if you edited scenes into a movie it would probably be PG, or maybe R if you have all the gore settings turned on. There are four possible romances in the storyline (for each gender, there’s one heterosexual companion and one bisexual companion); I played a female character on my first playthrough, and [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman enjoyed the romantic storyline with Alistair. This would be a reasonable game for a mature 14–15 year old, though they should have the opportunity to talk with a mature adult who is familiar with the game’s content.

I got through the game on Normal difficulty in just under 100 hours, though I had to downgrade it to Casual in order to deal with the final battle of the game without having to put in lots and lots of time figuring out the tactics. The artwork was quite impressive, clearly inspired by Earth history (the dwarven kingdom of Orzammar is Art Deco, and the Tevinter Imperium are very into Gothic architecture). The animation is pretty good, though the PS3 wound up creating a bit of a shimmer effect on complex scenes; they did a good work on the facial animations, but some of the ones involving bodily motion were quite awkward. I mostly relied on the Dragon Age wiki, though I also referred to the IGN walkthrough at times, and [livejournal.com profile] codruslessons learned.

The game has no required grinding, nor even (as far as I can tell) opportunities for grinding, if you wanted to get enough gold to buy up more goodies to prepare for the big battle at the end of the game. It’s clearly set up for a player to enjoy multiple versions of the story— there are even trophies available for the major choices you can make when choosing which faction to back in a conflict.

Bioware have a social networking site for their games— basically like Facebook— but the code that’s supposed to upload your character’s progress so your friends can see it is extremely unreliable, and there seems to be no way to force a sync. If you’re on there, I’m mithriltabby.

mithriltabby: Cthulhu silhouette in style of iPod adverts (iäPod)
( Feb. 7th, 2010 11:42 pm)

When I heard that Tim Schafer, who designed Full Throttle, was creating a fantasy adventure game set in the world of 1980’s heavy metal album covers, I was curious. My appreciation of heavy metal has mostly been limited to Spın̈al Tap; the closest I normally get to metal is Ozric Tentacles. But I had such fun with Full Throttle, I let [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman know that I was interested in Brütal Legend for Yule, and she made sure it was under the tree when the solstice rolled around... and I was pleasantly surprised to find that (at least while I’m playing the game) I’m actually enjoying heavy metal, and have some appreciation for the culture.

The creative team must have had a blast coming up with the game. The world is designed, right down to its mythology and biology, to create amazing vistas and badass beasts. If Pantheacon this year has people talking about the Metal Gods and the Great Beast Ormagöden and the four elements of blood, fire, noise, and metal, this is where they’re getting all that from. The game is worth a tour just to see all the artistic creativity that went into it; they even provide 32 in-game “landmark viewers” so you can appreciate all the spectacles.

The gameplay is decent; I’m not good enough at button-mashing combo moves to do well in toe-to-toe fights with the bigger opponents, but once the Druid Plow (the hero’s mystical all-terrain hot rod) gets outfitted with armor and offensive weaponry, you can go nearly anywhere in it, running over and shooting the opposition. (Everyone is immune to friendly fire. The spellcasting system uses Guitar Hero-type controls, and one of the best battle spells causes a flaming zeppelin to crash into your current location; it gives you enough time to get away, but you can’t hurt your allies by dropping it into a melee.) The tactical battle system can get frustrating, as there aren’t any opportunities to practice against the AI without it being an important plot point; it took me quite a number of tries to win the penultimate battle.

The game includes settings that allow you to have cuss words bleeped out, and to turn off gore, so you can crank down the shock value if you want to protect innocent young minds. The story is entirely linear, with some optional side quests, and promotes wholesome moral values like loyalty to your friends and rebellion against oppression; the protagonist is, first and foremost, a roadie, and deliberately avoids letting himself get cast as a hero. Two factions of villains are associated with hair metal and gothic metal, so aficionados of the styles being parodied might be offended.

One thing I would like to see in an online update would be a way to show people the mythology sequences and the landmarks; it takes a lot of time in-game to drive around between all those sites, which is inconvenient if you just want to show people the art.

The creative minds at Insomniac Games are keeping up the quality in the Rachet & Clank series with A Crack in Time. They have plenty of over-the-top ultra-tech action with a variety of weapons: the basic pistol/bomb/shotgun set are heavily customizable (and, like all the weapons, evolve with experience); the sniper rifle is very satisfying for my own play style; and, of course, there are utterly gonzo weapons like the Chimp-o-matic (like the original Morph-O-Ray, but turns opponents into chimpanzees), the psychopathic killbot Mr. Zurkon (“Ha-ha! Mr. Zurkon does not need nanotech to survive. Mr. Zurkon lives on fear!”), and my personal favorite, the Rift Inducer 5000 (which causes an interdimensional rift to open and green tentacles, belonging to an entity named “Fred”, to emerge looking for snacks). As always, they provide an over-the-top RYNO weapon; the RYNO V shows gratifying levels of overkill, shooting hundreds of rockets at the enemy while shooting off gratuitous fireworks and playing the 1812 Overture. The plot is entertaining, though straightforward— the big twist was apparent early on— but morally wholesome without being oppressive.

The game’s platformer aspects are challenging to my 38-year-old reflexes, particularly early in the game when Ratchet has neither Clank to provide gliding capability nor hoverboots to slow his descent. The hoverboot racecourses were frustrating, as they require both the timing of the grindrail and keeping the character on track with the joystick; the final combat in the game involves hoverboot segments and took me quite a while to get through.

We finished Sam & Max: Season One last night; we got the version for the Wii, though Windows users can get the episodes faster by downloading them as they come out. It has the same zany humor that infuses the rest of the Sam & Max line of comic books and computer games; because each episode is its own self-contained storyline, it doesn’t build up as impressively as the original Sam & Max Hit the Road game from LucasArts, which showed a twisted mirror of the entire nation through its roadside attractions. We were able to do two episodes a night on vacation; I expect that someone showing up to their day job could do one per night. The game is well worthwhile for people who are already fans of Sam & Max; if you want to get someone hooked on them, start them with the comics, and then see if you can get the LucasArts game to run on your modern system (possibly via ScummVM).

[livejournal.com profile] rhylar and Mimsy lent us Jade Empire, another Bioware game with Drew Karpyshyn writing. This one is Oriental fantasy, with plenty of inspiration from classic wuxia tales; one of the supporting characters, Black Whirlwind, is very faithful to Li Kui the Black Whirlwind from Outlaws of the Marsh, and has enough hilarious anecdotes that I’m certain that the shades of those teahouse storytellers from centuries ago were applauding when the game came out. John Cleese also does some fine voice acting as Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard, who shows up on one of the side quests.

The story is quite engaging, enough that [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman hardly found any time for reading books while it was on screen. The engine itself is clearly the same as that of KotOR, right down to the too-small palette of faces for NPCs and a continuous-spectrum alignment indicator (ranging from Open Hand— emphasizing harmony and understanding your place in the world— to Closed Fist— emphasizing ambition and discord). There are some definitely PG themes in there; the onscreen action is on a par with a high-fantasy Hong Kong action film, but one can talk with courtesans, including one who is in a rather unpleasant situation.

It took me 33 hours to play through (on Student difficulty, which made almost all the fights quite easy), following through on all the side quests. There are some minigames where you pilot a flying machine (kind of a glider with gunpowder-rocket assist) that are somewhat reminiscent of Galaga, but one can skip most of them if your videogame reflexes aren’t up to the task.

[livejournal.com profile] rhylar and Mimsy lent us their Xbox 360 and the game Mass Effect, whose lead writer Drew Karpyshyn also created the scenario and dialogue for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I’m impressed: the game has a good overall plot (with enough different choices you can take that there are at least two ways to experience the plot— as a Paragon or a Renegade— and three different love interests you can follow, depending on your choice of gender and supporting character to flirt with, so there’s plenty of replay value there), several interesting supporting characters, and a large number of side quests that aren’t crucial to the plot, but usually provide interesting exposition for the universe. Having played through all of the side quests, I got nearly 60 hours of enjoyment out of the game by the time I finished it. (Most of the time was while [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I were on vacation; we might have finished it, but we took a very pleasant side trip through Avatar: the Last Airbender.)

The gameplay is pretty good; I played on the default difficulty setting and didn’t have to spend lots of time learning the combat system in order to survive the combats. Based on the available character skills in-game, it could be possible to do combats through stealth and sniping like in Deus Ex, but I never figured out how one would go about doing it; there are sniper rifles in the game, but combat is usually pretty close to melee (though I never had to figure out how to get into hand-to-hand, either, for which there is also support).

I was quite impressed by the amount of work they did on the planetology. One of the things you can do as you race around the galaxy getting into or solving trouble is survey planets and asteroids that you pass, and every planet has both artwork and a matching description that goes into an impressive degree of detail, explaining such details as a gas giant’s color being related to the amount of sulfur or methane in its atmosphere. Someone with a side interest in astronomy would definitely enjoy that aspect of the game.

Finished Star Wars: the Force Unleashed. I picked up the PS3 version after reading the review in Wired; I had originally planned to get the Wii one, but that would only have been worthwhile if they made the Wiimote control the lightsaber directly.

The story is almost entirely linear: it plays straight through from beginning to your choice of which boss to fight at the end to determine if you’re going to wind up on the Light Side or the Dark Side. Once you complete a level, all the FMVs are playable as extras, which makes it possible to show other people the vast majority of the story. The one thing I’d like to add is being able to replay some of the more extravagant scripted battle scenes (which, like God of War, kick in when you’ve done enough damage to a bad guy and then put an icon on screen of which controller button to push now to advance the sequence of impressive moves); that would make it possible to show the most impressive stuff, and for the player to be able to appreciate the scripting instead of waiting for the next button to show up on the screen.

The game play is pretty reasonable; I played on the default (difficulty level 2 out of 4) and was able to handle most of the boss fights without getting killed too many times. It’s a third person shooter with some occasional platformer aspects— not as much as Ratchet & Clank. It gives extra points for using button-mashing combos that you unlock as you gain experience, as well as for creative use of the default powers, and the carnage of the Dark Side does have a good deal of visceral fun as the awards go by: Crush bonus. Frenzy bonus. Long way down bonus. The Penny Arcade comic is pretty accurate (hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] cmccurry for pointing it out to me): telekinetic mayhem, Force Lightning mayhem, lightsaber-throwing mayhem, and blaster-bolt deflecting mayhem (which [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman particularly enjoys for its karmic-retribution qualities). I never managed to figure out half of the combos and was still able to play through the whole thing.

Picking up all the goodies can be quite tricky without a walkthrough telling you where they’re all hidden, but you can go back and replay any level you want as many times as you want to, with all of the powers you picked up playing at higher levels. Unlocking both endings requires playing through the final level twice. I’m looking forward to going back and playing through the game again when I finally get an HDTV.

A few Sundays ago, [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman encouraged me to camp out in the early morning to pick up a Wii Balance Board and Wii Fit. (Went to my local Best Buy with a good book, got their at 8:30 and there were already half a dozen people ahead of me in line. More people trickled in after a while, and the line was around the corner by the time the employees came out at 10:30 and handed us tickets. The store opened at 11:00 and people came in to ransack their entire supply of 28 Wiis and 27 Wii Fits.)

Wii Fit is a very different experience from yourself!fitness and Eyetoy: Kinetic. The other games give you an entire workout, with warmup, exercises, and cooldown; you can exercise a bit of control over what you’re getting at the beginning, but once you’ve started, you’re committed to it. Wii Fit is more the buffet style of exercise: it gives you a collection of four categories of exercise (yoga, strength training, aerobics, and balance), and exercises that last from 1–3 minutes (which you can gradually increase up to 10 minutes as you continue to play the game and unlock more exercises and extended play). It’s up to you to handle your own warmup and cooldown. I usually start with yoga until I feel like I’ve limbered up everything I’ll be using in the aerobics exercises.

The buffet style is very good at getting the “just one more turn” syndrome to make you apply your gaming addiction to exercise. Every exercise has a score, even the yoga (which is usually grading you on how well you kept your balance through a pose). Do you want to go back and try again to better your score? Or that of someone else who’s been using your Wii and has their name on the high score list?

The yoga and strength exercises are correlated, so if I do Warrior in yoga, it’ll suggest I do Lunges in strength to match. Doing workouts in one category will tend to open up new options in others; when you start Wii Fit, it only has about a dozen exercises, but over a couple of weeks it’s easy to get it to make most of them available. The aerobics have a good variety as well: a couple of hula hoop games, a couple of running games, a couple of stepping games, and a rhythm boxing one that uses the Wiimote and nunchuk.

The place where it really shines is the balance games, which put the most fun into the gameplay. They’re just minigames, but they’re still a good deal of fun, with things like a ski slalom, a “tilt the board to drop balls through a hole” game, and even a whimsical one where you tilt an iceberg to make a penguin slide around catching fish. There are plenty of Balance Board games in development, and We Ski is already available.

It also encourages you to weigh in every day and take a balance test to see how well you’re doing, and it calculates your “Wii Fit Age” based on how well you do in the balance tests. I recommend doing this after a few yoga exercises and a balance game, but before doing the aerobics; this gets your brain into the mode of controlling a Wii Balance Board, but your muscles haven’t gotten tired yet.

Being Slothman means being easily bored by repetition. This is an advantage for recognizing places to make software more efficient, but makes it challenging to find an exercise routine that captures my attention— and being lazy doesn’t burn many calories. Aikido is great when my schedule permits, but since [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman needs to get to bed early and get up early, being out until 8 in the evening doesn’t work well for having much time together during the week. I tried yourself!fitness for a while, which was pretty good, but a workout video that changes the routine daily is still just a workout video.

My latest routine has been EyeToy: Kinetic. This is a workout game for the Playstation 2 that uses the EyeToy, which is a USB-based camera that plugs into the PS2’s front panel. EyeToy games recognize motion and map it onto the screen, where you can interact with virtual objects. In the case of EyeToy: Kinetic, it has three kinds of games that give you a workout: cardio, combat, and “mind and body”. Cardio games last ten minutes and keep you moving around, dodging some objects and touching others. Combat games last three minutes and require more intense strikes and ducking, and can be exhausting. “Mind and body” games work more on balance and smooth motion, and are the only ones that don’t leave me drenched in sweat.

It also has some modes that put three windows on the screen, one showing the EyeToy view and two showing different angles on your virtual trainer demonstrating the exercises you should be doing; these are not interactive. The system always puts you through warmup and cooldown sequences from this repertoire, and it also has ones for working out your upper body, lower body, and abdominals, and some yoga, tai chi, and meditation sequences as well.

The nice thing about the workout is that live interaction is much more engaging than just trying to match up with a virtual trainer on screen. (It also grades you on your performance, A–F, as a source of motivation.) The EyeToy isn’t very smart about image motion recognition, though; it can’t distinguish between your own motion, that of your shadow, or of a ceiling fan in the background. It needs fairly high contrast, too; I changed my workout outfit to a white shirt and light grey sweatpants so I’ll stand out against most of the background of the living room, but wear a black biking glove on my right hand to stand out against the white wall. Direct sunlight will completely white it out; during early morning workouts, I need to put a black banner in front of the peaked window in my east wall. (That was a fairly cheap solution involving PVC pipe, a couple of yards of duckcloth, and a hot melt glue gun.)

Overall, I’d say it’s good value for $45 (including the game disc and the EyeToy camera). It runs just fine on the PS3 as well.

mithriltabby: Graffito depicting a penguin with logo "born to pop root" (Hack)
( May. 21st, 2006 11:44 am)
The Bodypad is a game controller that works by strapping sensors onto your elbows and knees to determine your body movement, and holding a pair of handles for hand movement. It’s mostly used for fighting, dance, and sport games. It just recognizes arm and leg movements and pulling triggers on the handles, and movements on each side can be mapped to the four action buttons on a standard game controller; this means you can hook up leg movements to “kick” and arm movements to “punch”, but you can’t make your left leg control the onscreen character delivering a left-legged kick unless that’s a separate button in the game. There’s a directional pad on the left handle for movement and L1-L2-R1-R2 on the right handle, but no equivalent of the analog sticks. It’s only around $70, including shipping.

Now, something that can recognize things like crouching, ducking, leaning, turning, and jumping would be really interesting, as that would let me play games like Ratchet & Clank using relevant body motions, but that’s probably a little ways off. Question for video gamers out there: do any fighting games for the Playstation 2 have an interesting storyline (more than just “I must defeat a bunch of enemies in a tournament so I get the prize I want to save my family/the world/etc.”) that would draw someone into a fighting game?

I’ve never played Half-Life or its sequel, and I still find Concerned: the Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman quite funny. I wonder what the folks at Valve Software are making of it? I’d hope their marketing department is happy for the free publicity.
Katamari Damacy 2 Found on [livejournal.com profile] boingboing_net that the sequel to Katamari Damacy is at screenshot stage already.
So while using responDESIGN’s yourself!fitness, it occurred to me that it would be entertaining to create a version of the game using characters, settings, and music from the Ratchet & Clank games. The main thing to add to get the Ratchet & Clank feel would be to have multiple characters on the mat doing the exercises, occasional banter between them, and the camera work to support it. (It’d be entertaining to see a Lombax do yoga... and even more entertaining to watch Captain Qwark collapse in a heap during the endurance parts.) Insomniac GamesFAQ says “For legal reasons we are not allowed to take ideas or suggestions from outside the company. (We can't even read them, actually.) As a developer, taking ideas isn't really what we do. A publisher is who you would want to talk to.” Anyone know the most effective way to suggest a Helga!fitness partnership without causing them to ignore the idea due to potential legal entanglements? All I want is the game... I couldn’t care less about any rights going with this (rather obvious) idea.
Just finished playing Stranger’s Wrath, the latest Oddworld game. Unlike the previous Oddworld titles, this is not a puzzle game; it’s more like Ratchet & Clank Go To Oddworld (though with a much shorter plot than you’d expect from a Ratchet & Clank game). This is a first-person shooter with an entertaining variety of ammunition types, each one a small creature that has a particular effect on its target when launched from our hero’s crossbow.

The good stuff: the usual deranged Oddworld sensibilities are there, this time with an Old West theme (though the frontier has the occasional laptop and animated marquee). Our hero, Stranger, is a bounty hunter; in addition to a crossbow, he also has a device for vacuuming up disabled opponents (which is very satisfying). The opposition tend to have lots of explosives lying around, which makes for an amusing way to dispose of opposition that’s impractical to knock out and grab for bounty. Halfway through the game, you even get serious sniping capability (sadly, with a fairly small clip). The interaction with other characters in the game is pretty one-track for advancing the immediate plot goal; this is no Deus Ex where it’s worth talking to everyone you meet to hear what they say.

The not-so-good stuff: the game shifts between a first-person view (like Doom and Deus Ex) and a third-person view (like Ratchet & Clank), and it’s clumsy at times, as you can only engage in melee effectively in the third-person view and only shoot in the first-person view. This makes combats quite tricky when the opponents that are immune to gunfire show up and you need to punch them out. (The controls for melee in first person mode are different from the ones in third person mode, which just adds to the confusion.) The boss fights aren’t my cup of tea, as they don’t reward the sneaking and sniping I enjoy. The game is in the habit of using cut scenes that deposit you at a particular spot— often taking you from a position of tactical advantage to a position of tactical disadvantage, and at one point teleporting across a river (which made it really difficult to figure out how to get back!). And at a major turning point in the game, all the money and gear acquired in the first part of the game just goes away; there’s no more use for the money, as there’s no further visiting civilization and general stores, but it’s frustrating to suddenly lose the improved ammunition capacity. (The game makes up for this somewhat by using the bounty vacuum to turn targets into “ammo chow”, which makes it easier to reload without access to nests of the critters you use for ammunition— including the sniper wasps, who can only be bought in stores or found in crates.)

This portion of Oddworld only has a few creatures in common with the previous portions we’ve seen; you see plenty of fuzzles and one vykker, but there’s no followup on the overall story from the first three games.

If you’ve enjoyed the Oddworld series of games and have the reflexes for a first-person shooter, this is worth picking up as another fun view on Oddworld. In terms of overall entertainment value, you’ll get more bang for your buck from Ratchet & Clank; if you’re on a budget, you might want to wait until the game has been out for a while to pick it up.

mithriltabby: Detail from Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” (Time)
( Mar. 8th, 2005 04:24 pm)
Katamari da Vinci I discover the most deranged things on [livejournal.com profile] boingboing_net.
I finished playing Deus Ex: Invisible War, the sequel to Deus Ex. The game isn’t quite as good as Deus Ex— the story felt a bit rushed in how it revealed the conspiracies involved, as if there were a chapter or two cut from the script— but it was still my style of first person shooter. I don’t have the reflexes for Doom and its ilk, but a game where you can sneak around with a silenced sniper rifle and hack into the computers controlling security cameras and weapons turrets is more my style. The constraints of telling a story set 20 years after the previous game probably made it difficult to include as much real-world conspiracy theory as the original game; the sequel doesn’t have the same level of Fortean delight as the original.

The game allows play at varying levels of morality: you can choose to knock out (rather than kill) nearly every opponent you run into, except for the guys in powered armor, who explode when defeated. (This is what you get for putting a concentrated enough power source to run powered armor into one spot.) I was surprised at the lack of feedback for the choices one makes in doing so, though; the character never builds up a reputation for what kind of trail of bodies are left behind, nor is there even a summary at the end of the game.

Of course, I have Fable to look forward to for getting feedback on the good/evil meter. I hear the game keeps track of the greatest distance you’ve ever kicked a chicken. :-)

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