Backlog: Austin City Limits Edition

I'd love to spend some time talking about the variety of games Spencer and Doug are bringing to the discussion this week because there are some fascinating things afoot. I mean, a full-motion video game called Bear Stearns Bravo...? It sounds too good to be true.

Unfortunately, I'm heading off to my final ritual as an Austinite: the three-day Austin City Limits music festival. I'll be suffering through the Texas sun for one last weekend before hitting the road for Seattle, where sunlight is just the stuff of myths and legends.

Have a great weekend!  – Nick Cummings

Spencer

Bear Stearns Bravo

Bear Stearns Bravo

By the time you read this Backlog, I’ll be off spending the weekend in South Seattle for Emerald City LAN, so you can assume that I’ll be playing Payday 2 and Unreal Tournament ‘99 for most of that time. More importantly, let’s discuss the last week.

If you’re up on social media trends (oh god I just threw up in my mouth writing those words) then you may have caught the fallout of the Pronunciation Book / Horse_ebooks debacle. I won’t delve into a full explanation of it here - the linked article is a concise explanation. The main takeaway is that a number of people got mad about it.

I’m here to tell you to ignore those people, because the resulting project — Bear Stearns Bravo — is utterly brilliant.

Imagine the 1990s. Now, imagine the decade encapsulated in what might be the weirdest, '90s-est game format ever to exist — the full motion video adventure game. Add a pitch-perfect MIDI soundtrack. Round it out with a story loosely based on the 2007 financial crisis, run through a cyberpunk filter. You’re probably skeptical, and at first blush, that skepticism might be warranted. The writing is corny, the acting hammy, and the mechanics simplistic. Consider the source material, though — it’s a perfect, and completely deliberate, execution.

This is Synydyne’s first video game to my knowledge — they’ve previously been responsible for alternate reality games (ARGs) like the 2008 This Is My Milwaukee — and what shocks me most has to be the game’s depth. I’ve played BSB’s first episode at least ten times so far, and each time I’ve found new branches in the story, new dialog, and new areas to explore. There’s a level of writing here that could put contemporary RPGs to shame — the first episode alone has at least six different endings that I’ve seen (eat your heart out BioWare). To boot, BSB is full of laugh-out-loud humor — though your mileage may vary — callbacks to TIMM, and even moments that are actually quite creepy.

Perhaps the best overall description of Bear Stearns Bravo is that it is “sublimely weird.” The first episode is free, so, give it a shot.

The Battlefield 4 beta is out, shoot the mans with the guns and the guns mans guns mans america etc.

Doug

I’m still playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto V. There are some things about it that are annoying, and there are sometimes when Rockstar is hitting you over the head with it’s message far too obviously (I just saw one in a pre-mission cutscene that made me fall out of my chair), but those are minor complaints. It’d be like complaining about the traffic in Los Angeles -- it comes with the territory. You put up with it for the rest that comes along with it.

I was also afflicted with an almost-terminal 24-hour flu by the name of Diablo III. The console ports of the game are out, and I downloaded the demo for the PlayStation 3 version.

I’m going to commit some gaming heresy right here: I’d rather play a game like this with a controller. It’s just who I am — I’ve always been a console gamer, and I’ve only ever dabbled here and there with PC games. Ditto goes for shooters, too. But what do you expect? Somebody who has spent 99 percent of their gaming experience on consoles prefers console controls. This should hardly be a surprise.

But I have played a decent amount of Diablo in the past, and what is surprising is how naturally the controls felt on a DualShock 3. There are few minor niggles, and those are more to do with the nature of traversal with a controller versus using a mouse. You shouldn’t have to press a button to open a door into a building if you’re walking at the entrance, for example. But that’s the legacy of a game where everything is determined by mouse clicks. Mapping powers to the buttons works as elegantly as you’d expect, and character movement on the stick has been tuned well. The roll on the right stick (at least for the Barbarian) was really cool to play around with, too.

But I’m not sure I’m going to jump in on console. One, I don’t think I want to make Diablo III my time-sink of the moment. Plus, I still have Diablo III sitting on my computer’s hard drive, waiting to be updated and played. Maybe I’ll see if anyone’s implemented controller support on the PC. That would make me quite happy.

Lastly, I’m trying to decide what game to purchase. I’m stuck trying to choose between Pro Evo Soccer 2014 and F1 2013. If you’re rolling your eyes, that’s cool, but this is my choice and I know I will enjoy both of these games. I can guarantee I’ll have both by Christmas. I was leaning heavily towards PES, but then I saw that Codemasters released an F1 2013 Classic Mode trailer featuring “The Chain,” and then I turned into a pile of glee and sparkles. Excuse me while I go toss old turbo Formula 1 cars around Brands Hatch for a while.