Thursday, March 03, 2005

I'm an Action Star!

I know that
I blab on and on about RPGs.

But I also love the action titles.

My Half-Life 2 story demonstrates how deep this love goes. I received the game for my birthday last year. The special Collector's Edition. Mmmmm. Well, first off I open the box. Cool, a t-shirt, a mini strategy guide. Uh. No game.

Fuckin EB Games. Their policy of removing the games to from boxes to prevent thefts can be a pain in the ass. So my friend goes back to the store and gets the game disc.

I create my Steam Account. I load up the game. Everything is going smoothly. I input the authentication code.

Sorry, this code is in use by another account. FUCK!

I go to EB Games to explain the situation. The asshole behind the counter smugly tells me that it's impossible for someone to take my code. I think he expects some sort of clever ruse is at work here. I suspect that he's the fucker that took the code, considering it's right on the outside of the cd case that they remove from the box.

So still no game.

I go to Steam's site and try to get info. They are nice enough to tell me that even though it's up to them to authenticate the game, they can't help with the codes, since the codes are issued by the publisher.

The publisher politely informs me on their website that I will have to send them pictures of the cd case with the code and the receipt from the store. Then I have to wait a few weeks to get a new code. I try like crazy to find a digital camera to no avail (and no, I don't exactly have the cash to drop on something like that at the time). I take a few pictures with my wife's camera phone and they're incredibly low-res and prolly won't work, but I fire the e-mail off anyway. After three days and not even an automated response that my mail was received, I get pissed.

I call EB and ask them when the manager will be in.

Days pass as I wait for a time I can actually drive up to the store to coincide with the manager being there. I go in and speak to the manager and explain the situation.

He nods his head and replaces my dvd.

The funny part of this is that he tells me a story of some guy coming in claiming that his code was bad and that he was probably trying to pull some sort of scam. I grinned, the guy being me, and the "scam" I was pulling was me trying to play a fucking game that my friend paid for since the store dropped the ball on 1) not putting the game back in the friggin' box and 2) probably stealing the code.

Of course, it could've just been a bad code issued by the publisher. Supposedly they did that, too, when the lawsuits between VU and Valve were in progress.

Which basically meant that I feel that Valve is responsible for the absolute worst setup experience in the history of gaming (aided by VU's incompetence and EB Games' stupid policies).

The capstone to this touching drama is this: After all that misery and frustration, ten minutes playing Half-Life 2 completely redeemed the situation. Twenty minutes elicited repeated mumblings of 'totally worth it' like a mantra.

Thirty minutes was transcendental.

Single-player action experiences are where I go for a visceral gaming experience. I even enjoy tightly-scripted games like Medal of Honor. Far Cry was beautiful and expansive and one of the first games where I had to think tactically, outflanking enemies and sometimes skipping encounters entirely (which didn't diminish my enjoyment - in fact, I felt that my discretion was the better part of the valor).

Which brings me to the new Republic Commando. It has wonderful art direction. The levels are exquisitely detailed, and their comprehensive use of shaders reminds me of the work these guys do - beautiful rendering and lighting without killing framerate. The action is fast, so fast I often lose track of things - and I accept it all because it adds to the idea that you're on an ever-changing battlefield. Top notch. It's almost difficult to believe that this is a Star Wars game, but spending a little time in-game convinces me that this is exactly how the Clone Wars conflicts played out. This is the sort of chaos and mayhem that just came off as cartoony in Episode I (the Gungan battle).

God, why won't George Lucas learn from the good work that his licenses create?

And why did he have to fuck up Boba Fett's backstory? Tales of the Bounty Hunters did a great job of giving ol' Mr. Fett real personality and morality and sympathy. Episode II made him, y'know, a poor little clone orphan.


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