Antisocial, tu perds ton sang froid

I know I keep going on about there being too many good games around at the moment, which as a hellish moral dilemma is right up there with having too many flavours of ice cream (“oh noes, after working through the mint choc chip and pistachio I’m so full I can’t manage any rum n’ raisin, whatever will I do!”), but then just as the copy of Grand Theft Auto IV I’d ordered a while back turns up in the post, City of Heroes goes and releases Issue 13 as well. It never rains but it pours (what’s that supposed to mean anyway, if it’s “pouring”, by definition isn’t it “raining”? And what about drizzle?)

First task, to install Grand Theft Auto IV. It’s rather a depressing business, as laid out in the Rock, Paper, Shotgun article on The Many Doormen of GTAIV. Not so much SecuROM, I’m something of a DRM agnostic, by which I mean it’s inherently impossible to know the ultimate nature of copy protection systems due to our natural inability to verify any experience except through another subjective experience. OK, maybe “agnostic” isn’t the best word; I don’t condone piracy, but I don’t think DRM works, it’s almost invariably cracked for anyone downloading games via torrents or whatever and just ends up inconveniencing people who actually bought the game. My moral convictions don’t extend any further than slightly grumbling about it every other Wednesday, though, I don’t boycott games and complain to the publishers over DRM. I like to think it’s pragmatism, but it might just be apathy. Anyway, online authentication, bit annoying typing out long strings of alphanumeric characters, then typing them in again trying various combinations of 1, I, O, 0, but I can live with it as a one-off. On top of SecuROM authentication, it needs Games for Windows Live. Huh. Still, at least the mad buggers have stopped trying to charge for it, so I signed on up, got myself one of those GamerTag whatsits, after all it’s used in Fallout 3 as well. I can see the point for multiplayer, friends lists and all that, it’d be nice if everyone could agree to use a common platform like Steam, but then much of the attraction of the PC is diversity. That’s not all, though, you also need the “Rockstar Social Club”. What in the name of buggery sod is the point of that? *Another* mandatory application that, so far as I can see, offers high score tables. Woo! And maybe some user-made videos. Double woo! Restrain me, lest the excitement cause me to literally explode. Dutifully signed up on the website, then went to launch the game, which has to be done through this “Social Club”, and it promptly failed to login. Thankfully you can still launch the game without being logged in to the social club (though the application still runs), otherwise I’d’ve been writing a stiff letter to my MP and no mistake. In green ink and all. Still! All hoops jumped through, the game fires up, go to set up the display; it’s on 800×600. That’ll be the default setting obviously, I’ll get it to auto-configure to determine the best settings. There we go, now we’re up to… 800×600. Huh. Auto-configure doesn’t seem to have worked to well, I’ll just pop it up to 1680×1050 manually, and… the slider gives a warning of poor performance at 1024×768, and refuses point blank to go higher? Yeesh, I know my PC isn’t right on the cutting edge, but it’s been running stuff like Crysis and Far Cry 2 quite happily. Playing through the first mission or two, it looks surprisingly decent, but still isn’t a smooth as it could be, and a quick browse of forums suggest I’m not the only one with performance problems (in GTAIV only, I hasten to add, unless you believe the spam). With a bit of luck some enterprising soul will come up with an array of tweaks to get it running nicely, or Rockstar will release a patch, either way it looks like another case where holding off for a few months could be beneficial, if for nothing else than a new PC.

Still, it’s not like there’s a lack of other games to be getting on with in the meantime. I managed a couple of games of Left 4 Dead, which continues to be splendid, though unfortunately I haven’t managed to hook up with any Soupy Twisters yet (about the only drawback with Left 4 Dead is that with only 4 or 8 on a server, the chances of a free spot in an existing game are pretty low, we should probably pick a specific time and sign up en masse, but that would need something approaching organisation). I’m up to the heady levels of Medium difficulty on the drums in Guitar Hero World Tour (the title of this post taken from a Trust song I was just playing and strangely apt for the GTAIV install), getting towards the latter tiers on Expert guitar, and wondering when we’re going to get new Wii DLC in the UK (no Raconteurs or Killers yet?) And then the small matter of those famed non-time consuming MMOG thingies.

In WAR, patch 1.0.6 is live/going live in the US, and shortly after the EU, bringing with it lots of career tweaks. From a cursory glance, it doesn’t seem like it’ll make a massive difference to my Bright Wizard, but they’re refunding talent points so I’ll see how things play out there. Scenarios continue to be a great way of popping in and getting a bit of PvP in the odd spare half hour here and there.

In City of Heroes, Issue 13 brings a bunch o’ stuff including a new shield powerset, so I whipped up a quick shield scrapper, but didn’t really have any character ideas so he ended up being Random Costume Man and I logged him out after waving the shield around a bit. There are also day jobs, offering bonuses for being logged out in certain spots, so I grabbed a few of my main characters and wandered them into PvP zones, graveyards and the distant past to start on the journey to badges and shiny stuff. Just shifting everyone into place made me remember what a splendid game it is, and I’m tempted to pick my Crab Spider back up at some point; the Rofflecopter Assault Force sound like they’re having a splendid old time, and I’m also tempted to restart my EU subscription, but I just can’t bring myself to leave my level 50 characters over on the US servers and their accumulated badges, veteran rewards and such, and subscribing to CoH in two continents as well as WAR seems a touch excessive. Even moreso as I’m half contemplating heading into Tabula Rasa for The End (of our elabourate plans, the end; of everything that stands, the end; no safety or surprise, the end; I’ll never look into your chaingun again, DAKKA DAKKA). I don’t really know why, I’d had a bit of fun in the beta but not enough to go ahead and actually subscribe to the full game, somehow the news of the forthcoming shutdown made me want to head in there and give the old girl a bit of a send-off. If I see a cheap box of it around somewhere I might try and squeeze it in, amongst everything else.