Control (PS4)

I just finished Control, the newest game from Remedy. I’ll always associate them with Max Payne, but Control is a much better game. I managed to Platinum this game, so it must be an open world action game. Almost all my Platinums fall into this category, even though I don’t usually list it among my favorite genres. The thing is that when they’re done right, they’re some of the best games out there. Done right, they combine characterization, world building, story telling with a combat/traversal system that sees you growing in power and ability while expanding the gamespace.

Dramatic Pose
Dramatic Pose

So how does Control stack up? Well, it kept reminding me of Spiderman and Horizon Zero: Dawn. Those are two of my top games for this console generation.  I think the key for success is engaging combat while making you feel more powerful as the game progresses without ever losing the sense of vulnerability.  The end game, as well as cleaning up some optional bosses, certainly reminded me how easy it is to die.

I don’t know if I love or hate the visual style in Control.  It’s like someone found an empty TARDIS and filled it with government office space.  I’ve worked in government office space.  It’s not inspired or inspiring.  However, the style does fit the theme and story Remedy is going for.  The extensive pneumatic tube system does add a touch of whimsy.  I understand they’re trying to contrast normality (or even banality) with the supernatural themes of the game.  When it works, it’s great.  Too often though, you’re just running through another generic hallway or office.

Control Command Center

Our protagonist, Jesse is searching for her brother. We join her as she has finally found the Bureau of Control who took him away years before. Somehow, in the first few minutes of the game, Jesse is hired as both the assistant janitor and as the new director of the Bureau. Since the whole building is under attack by some extra dimensional force, they need some leadership. Being a Remedy game, leadership comes in the form of shooting the bad guys until they’re dead. Preferably this is done with style and a few supernatural abilities.

I’m not really going to describe the powers or weapons since discovering and unlocking and combining them is a good part of the fun of the game. Those can be found in guides elsewhere if you’re interested. However, I’d suggest just playing the game like you were dropped into an episode of the X-Files. Proceed cautiously, talk to everyone, and investigate every room and document. It will help dissipate your confusion at all the bureau jargon and really draw you into the story. Also, if there’s any strange glowing lights (usually red, but not always) check those out. The sound design has some interesting clues if you’re using headphones or a surround system.


Control really encourages exploration and experimentation. Unfortunately, negative experimental results tend to yield death and a reload. That wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the long load times on the PS4. You might not be able to make a full dagwood sandwich, but you definitely have time for a quick snack. Once you get into the flow of the combat system, it’s a pretty fun dynamic. You have short bursts of offense where you have to prioritize the most dangerous targets. Defense tends to involve lots of movement while trying not to get cornered or completely away from cover. This is not a cover shooter. Most everything is movable or destructible. Enemies come from all directions including from above. Combat is mostly fair. I had a few cheap deaths from later enemy combinations and bosses.


Overall, Control rises above the sum of its parts. It’s a fun, polished game. It provides an interesting story married to deep, challenging combat. It doesn’t achieve the lofty peaks of Horizon or Spiderman, but it certainly aimed there. If you have any interest in the story or game genre, check it out for a fun ride. Highly recommended.

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Epic Games Give Away — Shadow Tactics

Shadow Tactics cover image

Even if you haven’t been checking daily for the Epic Games Store game giveaway, you should stop by today. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is the game. It is a hardcore tactics game set in feudal Japan. It’s hard. I haven’t finished it. However, it has the most amazing moments when a plan comes together. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. The developer deserves the support, and if it’s at all your type of game, you’ll love it.

Your Team
Gameplay, stealth is encouraged.

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Epic Games Store Six Free Batman Games

Batman Arkham Collection free from Epic Games Store

Batman’s 80th birthday was last weekend. There were many celebrations, but I think I liked Epic Games Store the best. Instead of giving away one or two games as they do most weeks, they loaded up their utility belts with six free Batman games. That would be impressive if they were just average games, but these are the three most recent Lego Batman games. The last two are more DC universe games. Then there are the three Rocksteady Arkham games. Those are some of the top rated superhero games of all time.

Rocksteady Arkham Trilogy

I enjoyed my time with the four of those games I’ve played (the first two of each series). It’s hard to beat the low, low price of free. Grab them before they’re gone on September 26th.

Lego Batman Trilogy

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Homeworld 3 Under Development

Gearbox and Blackbird Interactive have announced that Homeworld 3 is now being developed. They have a development and investment campaign up now on Fig. You can pledge to get a copy of the game while providing input to developers. Or you can invest in the game to get a portion of the profits. Since this is just the start of the campaign, they’re still in preproduction looking at a 2022 release.

From the Fig campaign:

Homeworld returns with the next chapter of the story. Homeworld 3 is the true sequel to the legendary space-faring RTS. Blackbird Interactive, founded by original Homeworld Art Director Rob Cunningham takes the helm on development, returning the series to its roots with a gripping continuation of the story, fully 3D combat, and the classic RTS elements you expect. Further supported by the veterans of Homeworld Remastered Collection at Gearbox Publishing, Homeworld 3 is coming to life and the teams couldn’t be more ecstatic. With our partners at Fig, we can give fans both new and grizzled a chance to fuel and profit from Homeworld 3’s success.

This is your chance to tell us what you expect of Homeworld 3, including its features, priorities, and even what the collector’s edition will include. We’ll share the data we’ve received from you throughout the game’s development and show how its influenced the scope and priorities of Homeworld 3. It’s a unique experience that only Fig can offer and we’re excited for the most open development process in both Blackbird’s and Gearbox’s history. Of course, because it’s Fig, there’s the unique opportunity to invest in Homeworld 3’s success. You don’t just get the game. You get a chance to profit too. If you’re not into it, no worries. We’ll see you at launch later down the line.

With Homeworld 3, our first priority is to deliver a game that immediately looks, sounds, and feels like Homeworld. We aim to nail that incredible scale of space and conflict and deliver a powerful story that picks up just at the end of Homeworld 2. For music, Paul Ruskay reprises his role as composer to ensure we nail the iconic soundscape that fans remember. Of course, Homeworld 3 will deliver best-in-class fleet combat in fully-3D space. You can also expect multiplayer options, which is one of the features Fig supporters will have a chance to meaningfully influence.

Since I’m a Homeworld sucker staring at my Homeworld Remastered light up mothership model, I’m sure I’ll pledge. I probably won’t invest as I have no idea whether you can make money with a game like Homeworld today. I wish them success and look forward playing the game. The campaign ends on September 29th. Don’t wait too long if you’re interested.

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Site Updated

As part of the ongoing efforts to secure the site, I’ve updated the PHP version and moved to an updated database. Everything seems to be working. Please let me know if you find anything that I broke.

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Borderlands 2: Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary

I remember reading previews for the original Borderlands. I remember the change in art style that some claimed saved the game. That was over a decade ago. Borderlands 2 was released seven years ago. Borderland: The Pre-sequel was released five years ago. So how to get people excited for a new Borderlands game? Give them some free content to tie the games together.

Rainbow sparkly weapons

Borderlands 2 has been on sale very cheap numerous times. It’s been in bundles and giveaways. Heck, right now, you can get the whole Handsome bundle for $6 on the Steam Summer sale. If you find yourself with a copy in your Steam library (or digital library of your choice), you can grab this new DLC for free until July 8th.

Is it worth the minimal effort to download it. Well, I expected a short story with a few character cameos and some neat weapons. I ended up experiencing nearly a dozen hours of gameplay. There’s enough story to remind you of all the characters that survived the last game. You’re reminded of the pending quest sitting in front of them at the end of Borderlands 2. And you get a new taunting bad guy to chase after building to a final confrontation. It’s more of a mini campaign than a short side story.


I’m not even sure what platform I played Borderlands 2 on. I think it was the Xbox 360. Regardless, I didn’t have my save file to build on my character from my last run through. Gearbox helped me out with that by giving the option to start any character class at level 30 with ok gear. Just choose Change Character from the Main Menu.

Who are you again? Oh, right, Tales from the Borderlands.

It took me a short time to get back in the swing of things. I needed to find a good fire weapon to take on the plant based enemies. I had to get a decent shock weapon to take down shields. I also needed to improve my shields. Once I was properly equipped for my play style, it was the same fun and floaty run and gun game I remembered.

Hey, I think I played as you in the first game.

As a free add on, definitely worth it. I might even try some of the DLC I never completed before. Is the story essential? Probably not, but it reminds you where the enjoyment is in the series. So effective advertising and a fun time. It’s also hard to beat the price if you act before July 8th. Recommended.

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Red Dead Redemption II Impressions

I just finished Red Dead Redemption II (RDR2) on PS4. It’s another huge game where I have to clarify what the means. I’ve finished the main story and both epilogues. I don’t think the fact that there are two epilogues is much of a spoiler, but I’ll try to avoid spoiling anything story related.

The original Redemption was one of my favorite games of the last generation. Yes, there was convoluted story and lots of action, but I mostly loved the sense of place. You felt out there in the rugged west with beauty and danger over each ridge. The new version certainly lives up to that. It’s a beautiful game with huge vistas and scenic corners. When you’re riding across the map, it seems to go on forever.

Red Dead Redemption 2_scenic vista

There are some drawbacks. The controls are a mess. They cram too much in there and have ignored standards for third person action games. Personally, I couldn’t switch back and forth to any other game due to the complex controls. They work fine once you have them down. The game is more than long enough for anyone to master the controls, but there’s certainly too long of a period where I was fighting them.

It’s a Rockstar game, so you almost expect the over the top violence and language. The time period also allows for multiple encounters with racism. In combination, this can make parts of the story uncomfortable to play through. They managed to minimize a lot of the violence (including sexual violence) towards women. So it certainly seems like an editorial decision to focus on racism as much as they did. Of course, it’s never shown in a positive light, but the player should beware.

Red Dead Redemption 2_Balloon

I don’t mean to be too negative towards the game. It’s an amazing experience. It manages to combine adventure, exploration, base building, stealth, trade, ranged and melee combat with a sweeping story that carries you to all corners of a gargantuan map. You’re never at a loss for something to do. One trophy has you skin every animal in the game. It could take you as long as the rest of game to complete that hunting quest. The main quest includes over 100 missions plus there are optional honor missions and another 30 stranger mission. Did I mention that you’re never at a loss for something to do. A true tip of the cowboy hat to anyone who manages to 100% complete the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2_Fishing

It’s hard for me to understand how to write a game this huge. Maybe that’s why I give it a pass when there’s great writing right next to awful clichés. Most of it is well written and acted. There are few nice, pleasant or enjoyable characters in the game. I’ll be generous and presume that’s the atmosphere they wanted to create. It certainly gives the impression that Arthur is most at home when he on his own deep in the wilderness.

In one sense, it’s a hard game to recommend since so many of the details are dark, problematic or both. Really, things I look for in a game include challenge, vision, world building and, mostly, stories. RDR2 delivers on all of those. Overall, I’m left with the beautiful vistas and great stories. Some of those stories were set pieces, but many just happened out in the wild. It’s really an experience, one you shouldn’t miss. Note that the M rating is definitely earned, then go out and experience those stories for yourself.

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Windows 10 Creator’s Update

For some reason, I thought the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update was already out.  Perhaps it was because my laptop updated to it.  Anyway, I downloaded the Windows 10 upgrade assistant tool.  It took longer than expected but seem to finish without difficulty.

However, I noticed two unexpected problems.  First, my sound output default changed.  That was easily fixed by right clicking on the speaker in the hidden icons area.  Then I selected audio devices, clicked on my speakers and pushed the set as default button.

Second, my wireless gamepad wasn’t working.  It turns out the update recertified all the device drivers and disabled anything it didn’t 100% recognize.   It turns out that the update had disabled my Xbox 360 wireless game controller and my Bluetooth USB adapter.  That’s not too hard to fix either.  Right click on the start button and select device manager.  Look for any warning symbols.  Right click on the disabled device and select update driver.  For the Bluetooth, I was able to let it search for the correct driver.  Boom, fixed. For the game controller I had to select browse my computer for driver software, then select let me pick from a list of drivers on my computer.  There was the gaming adapter.  It did whine because my adapter is a knock off I picked up cheap after my official Microsoft one died.  The driver works just fine.

Anyway, it’s something to check if you notice any weirdness after installing the Fall Creator’s Update.  Happy creating.

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A Death at Chaos Manner

Jerry Pournelle is dead.  He died recently in his sleep according to his son as posted on his website.  I’d love to say I was a huge fan of his sci fi, but really, I think I’ve only read Lucifer’s Hammer.  That was pretty much because I was a Larry Niven fan at the time.  I’ve read some of his short stories.

No, Chaos Manner was the reason I loved Jerry Pournelle.  As a geeky kid reading Byte magazine, his Users Column took me away to a place of amazing computing power and gadgets.  If he said something worked well, it was gold.  Many of my early tech purchases and even recommendations came from info from Chaos Manner.

This was from a time when barriers to entering computing were high.  The costs were often geared towards businesses.  The technical knowledge required to get started was significant especially compared to today.  Many times compatible standards were a pipe dream that might happen in the future.

Jerry was our guide through this labyrinth of technology.  Through all the years he never lost his excitement and enthusiasm.  When the print edition of Byte died, it felt like I’d lost a friend.  Much of that feeling was due to Chaos Manner.

Here’s a little taste from an old issue of Byte (Sept 1992) that I found lying around:

“The first thing I did when I got things set up at the beach house was to install Windows 3.1, updating the previous Windows 3.0 installation that came with Moby Brick.  That worked just fine.  However, when I tried to convert the screen from 640 by 480 pixels to my usual 1024 by 768 pixels, I couldn’t do it.  I suspect I don’t have the right drivers for Windows 3.1.  I’m not compaining: on a 15-inch screen, 640 by 480 pixels is actually good enough.  It’s all I get on a laptop, and indeed about half the Windows-using computers in Chaos Manner are set to 640 by 480 pixels.”

That takes me back in so many ways.  The whole column was spread out over more than 10 pages. It included a list of items discussed that totaled over $25,000 for that month. Each item had a price, physical address of the company, phone (and usually fax) numbers and a number to circle on the inquiry card.

That card was like a Christmas list that would never see any purchases.  I never had the money.  Jerry, you gave me the dreams.  Thank you for that.  Rest in Peace, Dr. Pournelle.

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Final Fantasy XV

FINAL FANTASY XV_20170121013937

I just finished playing Final Fantasy XV.  By finished, I mean that I’m done.  I completed the main story a little while back and have been exploring the post game quests and dungeons.  I finished the legendary weapons quest line, but I only made it through three of the bonus ‘menace’ dungeons.  I’ll get into that later.

I don’t need to relate the story of the game’s long and somewhat troubled development.  At times it feels a bit disjointed in gameplay and storytelling.  You also have a story that’s broken up over a movie (Kingsglaive), a YouTube series (Brotherhood) and the game itself.  I have yet to see Kingsglaive, but I can see where it would help fill in the gaps.  The political situation and area names seem a bit murky at first, but by the end, the themes and motivations are about as clear as they ever are in a Final Fantasy game.

The gameplay is interesting since it changes based on where you are in the story.  Most of the time, it’s an open world party based RPG with occasional branching dungeons sprinkled in.  You’ve got story missions, side quests and hunts along with navigating the local wildlife.

FINAL FANTASY XV_20161229173525

Later on, it starts to feel like the successor to the Final Fantasy XIII series for better and for worse.  There are long slogs in the dark, in tunnels or abandoned buildings.  There’s even a wonderful section where you’re separated from your friends.  Thematically, I can see the need, but it still doesn’t make it any more fun to play.  Still, the story picks up its pace and gets quite a bit more interesting.

Content depth is a good thing but unfortunately the main characters run out of fresh banter and dialogue far too early.  That’s too bad since most of it is interesting and character or world revealing.  I’d imagine if you just raced through the story, it would be a very tough game, the story would hang together more, and you’d have a pretty good feel for the team.  You also would have missed most of the content the game has to offer.

FINAL FANTASY XV_20161231181605

I think Final Fantasy XII had my favorite combat system (and I am looking forward to the remaster).  This one comes in just behind it after you get over the initial learning curve.  Battles feel dynamic.  A well balanced fight is a sight to behold.  It’s a blend of teleporting attacks, special abilities, magic and the occasional summon.  The fact that you have limited control over some of these things makes the whole thing feel a little wild.  Of course, when it doesn’t work out that can be quite frustrating.

In fact, the beginning of the game feels a bit like managing frustrations. You literally start by pushing your car to the repair shop.  You have limited combat ability, resources and equipment.   Your car is also surprisingly slow.  Through the game you overcome all of these.  Along the way that feels either brilliant or stupid. Still, I never wanted to stop playing until the end. Highly Recommended.

FINAL FANTASY XV_20170121162102

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