00:14:32 IST - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 in
I’ve written quite crossly about BF3 before. The majority of design decisions, as fucking moronic as they are (I still don’t understand why you can’t quit on the endgame screen, but instead have to load the next game, select a squad, spawn, and then quit), were still intact last time I gave it a go.
But anyway, my main issue with BF3 wasn’t any of that – it was the SP. I assume its the first time the core BF team (they didn’t make BFBC did they?) have done a singleplayer campaign, but jesus, someone needed to teach them how before they tried it. There were several problems – bugs galore (random deaths, enemies shooting through cover, lots of stuff like that), AI that was a ridiculously good shot, but far and away the worst problem was the engine scripting. There has to be some disguising of loads, sure, but playing the first level, there are ten points where you’re to waiting on the AI to catch up and trigger a door/event. That’s totally ridiculous in a modern shooter – completely robs the player of autonomy – even Call of Duty isn’t as bad as it (I don’t think there’s points in it where I’m actively waiting for something).
The MP’s good for sure, different (I’m not quite sure if it’s better) to MW3, but fucking hell the SP sucked.
Modern Warfare 3
It’s odd these days, with Call of Duty games alternating between Treyarch and Infinity Ward. Originally, I (and presumably everyone else) perceived Treyarch as the B-team, with IW taking point. This switched after the (fairly disappointing) MW2 and the far superior Black Ops. With MW3, IW certainly got their groove back in SP (methinks MW2 was the narrative lowpoint of the entire series), but (I felt) stumbled with the MP.
I’m not quite sure what it is – I certainly got my money’s worth out of spec ops (probably 30-40hrs, yay 1000GS), but the competitive MP didn’t sit well with me at all – I’ve played under 10 hours of the competitive MP total (compared to over 30 for Blops). In my completely subjective view of things, I feel like Treyarch’s weapons and perks are more finely balanced, with there not being a dominant loadout or weapon combination, compared to IW, where particular loadouts dominate.
Or maybe I just suck at IW’s CoDs.
Forza’s a great game – the cars have a lot of character; the livery editor can throw up some awesome creations; this particular iteration is pretty stunning graphically.
Unfortunately, it was a design decision that brought 4 down for me – a new addition was that of brand loyalty: race in a particular car brand and you raise manufacturer loyalty. Loyalty leads to rewards (cheaper upgrades and free cars, best I can remember), so you’re incentivised to stick with one brand.
It actually means you’re over incentivised. Instead of experimenting with different cars/brands (like, the difference between a S-class Dodge Charger, Porsche 911 and Nissan GTR), you stick with one (I started out with Ford, whose cars suck, but moved to Ferrari, the GTO was great fun to drive).
For me at least, certainly, it meant I didn’t get to experience as wide range of cars as I should have. Part my fault, but a game design issue too, I felt.
My overriding memory of Gears 3 was playing after midnight on Live with three friends. On the last boss, on Harcore (Hard), we could not fucking beat her. Tried for 40m (no attempt lasting over 5m, if I recall). The core part involved focussing fire on an aerial (though usually static) enemy (aiming up, meaning you couldn’t watch your surrondings), then using the Hammer of Dawn once she was damaged enough. All while not getting killed by the infinitely respawning grunt enemies. Got to the point where we needed a break so’s not to go fucking insane, then came back and spend another 40m before finishing. Took a good 90m total, with a lot of swearing and controller
Think Gears’ structure is losing its appeal on me though – I’ve started to enjoy the quiet interludes, with the odd lever to pull, the odd bit of backstory. Constantly roll-dodging away from a centipede, while constantly shooting an armoured Kantus, and trying not to get shot in the face by other enemies isn’t terribly fun.
It’s a technically accomplished game, and still fun, but don’t enjoy it like it did.
Really odd this. The graphics were pretty; areas interesting/colourful; combat decent; script good to great; set pieces great; animation great. Yet it just didn’t pull me in. It’s really enjoyable to play, but for some reason I had to force myself to pick it up. It’s not like it wasn’t fun (it was, more than others), or there were boring parts (there weren’t, best I can remember). It was well paced – wasn’t looking forward to the end of combat the way I was in Gears 3.
I can’t articulate why I left it for so long – I assume others felt like this, resulting in its general commercial failure. Like I haven’t gone back to finish it on Hard, despite me doing so for, among others, BF3, all CoDs, Halo 4.
It’s a great game, and certainly worth playing, its just missing something.
23:18:38 IST - Sunday, February 3, 2013 in
Bastion suffers from the curse of a bad demo – it begins as the full game does, gives you access to two weapons (a slow hammer and bow) and a teaser of the main game. It’s not great and despite the glowing early reviews, I held off on it until a sale came around.
It eventually did, and I decided to give it a spin.
What a wonderful game it is. It does start terribly, the first weapons are horrible and not fun at all – but it quickly opens up, giving you more choice (automatic pistols and a katana were my favourites) and allowing you to actually enjoy the game. Special respect to the atmosphere created – the combination of art, music, design and wonderful voiceover really created something special. Perfectly paced, affecting storyline, is excellent.
I don’t like platform games. I never have, really. Sonic, meh. Mario was alright, but certainly not one of my favourite. I’d played the original Rayman a few times, but, as ever, was a bit annoyed by levels of precision expected of the player. Enter Rayman Origins, the best game I played last year.
There’re a few games that have you return to places you’ve already completed in order to 100% them. There’re fewer that actually make the process fun. The last time I remember enjoying a level select this much was WarioLand 2 on Gameboy Color (a great game!).
Origins is a stellar, stellar game. As Bastion, it’s a masterclass in design and artwork (and animation too!). The first run through is relatively easy, apart from the bastarding last level (Land of the Livid Dead – the first 3 minutes took at least 90 when I played), the second run (collectables) is still relatively ok, the third run (speed run) is wonderfully difficult, with some of the later levels taking a hour to get a perfect run. Best of all, the controls are so perfect, when you fail it’s definitely your fault, not the games.
Certainly in my top five Xbox games, if not the top three.
Batman: Arkham City
Who’s the best Batman? Not Alan West. Not Christian Bale. Kevin mother fuckin’ Conroy (from Batman: The Animated Series). He’s easily enough reason to play the Arkham games.
Anyway, games are always a power fantasy. They start you off low-powered, you gain skills as you progress through the game, towards the end you actually feel like you can take care of yourself. While this is true in Batman (collecting items and skills), you feel like a fucking badass to start with, getting more skills just makes you feel like more of a badass.
Picking out some guy walking along the street, gliding down and knocking him out, that’s fuckin’ awesome.
The story is good, if a bit forgettable (I can’t remember much of it now), but the voice acting (Conroy, like I said, and Hamill), make it very enjoyable.
It becomes a little frustrating towards the end (as I remember being in Asylum), when, despite your ninja abilities, enemies are better equipped, so you often don’t feel as overpowered as you should. Still, there’s little to compare to the buzz of silently incapacitating a room full of enemies, one at a time.
I think I played Torchlight too late – by the time I played it on Xbox Live, it was over two years old.
It feels a bit like a cross between Diablo I (which I’m pretty sure only had one dungeon?) and Diablo II/III (3D, lots of weapons, pets, etc). You start off in a town and fight your way through mines. And (best I can remember) that’s it. No other towns, not many other quests (the odd randomly generated one). The core mechanics are quite fun – the combat is good – but in the face of Diablo III, there’s only one winner.
I’ve played a little bit of Torchlight II, and it definitely expands the formula to a more fully-fledged game, but Torchlight I is certainly a stopgap. Interesting to play for a little bit, but it’s not going to suck in all your time.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
I never actually finished the first Deus Ex – I’ve fond memories of playing it at a friends house for sure, and began the campaign several times myself, but I was always overwhelmed by the choices available.
Human Revolution though, is a great game. It’s not quite up to Dishonored’s level in terms of choice – enemies are quick to overwhelm you if you make a mistake (you can’t really play it as a run and gun), and while it is possible to kill everyone, it’d be quite time consuming (lots of cover required).
As with any stat/skill-based RPG game, early skill choices can affect the ease of your playthrough (tip: always go for the more stealthy stats/skills). There was one point in the penultimate mission where I was (or at least, I felt) forced to use a cloak to navigate an area without dying and without setting off an alarm – something that could prove problematic if you’d never added a point to the skill.
The bosses were pretty bad, and I was still overwhelmed by the choices in some later levels, but it’s a great game regardless.
February 3rd, 2013 in
00:40:12 IST - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 in
Forgot to do this at the weekend…
Borderlands was one of those games on my (rather small, majority of the time, thanks to be able to buy my own games) list o’ games that look interesting but I never got round to playing. Picked it up for £10 with all DLC (got 65 hours out of it, the very definition of deal unreal).
It’s a great game – most of the issues with it (over reliance on one weapon; types of damage effective against all enemies; fast travel system slow to open up) were fixed in 2 (though I’m not wild about the rebalancing of weapons and types of ammo). The starting class choices aren’t really relevant (I chose a pistol/sniper expert, used a semi-auto shotgun most of the time) and the story was bollocks (something about a vault and something something something hunter), but the core gameplay loop (kill, get loot, kill more) was great fun, I probably got more from compared to 2.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
I never quite bought into the Halo hype. It’s a good game for sure, and it certainly helped define the first-person-shooter genre (two weapon limit, recharging health, few but massive levels), but I always felt the core combat just wasn’t that much fun (though it was best in CE).
Still, never being one to miss out on a replay of a classic game, I took to Anniversary.
Now, it’s not bad, but its faults are far easier to spot, despite the new lick of paint. Some of the levels are the best I’ve ever seen (The Silent Cartographer, Assault on the Control Room and The Maw are up there), but the others were just a slog (boarding a Covenant dropship in Truth & Reconciliation, and again in Keyes, the entire Library level). It probably doesn’t help, playing on Legendary (with some handy skulls to help me along), but some points I felt were unfair – spawning enemies to attack you in an enclosed area, three waves, no checkpoints.
It’s definitely worth it if you’ve not played the original, but if you have…nnnhhh.
Mass Effect 3
I’m not quite sure why I’m not totally into the Mass Effect franchise as a whole. They’re great games, well made, engaging story, fun gameplay and I’ll still give ‘em 5/5, but they just don’t resonate with me. It might be something to do with my hyper-concern of finishing A) as a paragon and B) with the best possible ending (side note: don’t have achievements which require certain decisions to be made by the player early in the game – do what The Walking Dead did instead and just reward the player for progression, regardless of outcome). This results in me often checking FAQs to see the best course of action – silly I know.
Another minor point is forgetting what happened between games – when there’s a story as involved as Mass Effect, and it was a good two years between installment, it’d be very nice to have a “previously on”, showing the decisions you made in previous games (I had to google a few characters to find out who they were).
There was a great moment in 3, which happened completely by accident – a former crew member said she was concerned there was a hit out on her, I told her she’d be grand, turned out a squad found her and killed her (the other option in the conversation was to tell her to change her name, but was a renegade choice). I felt bad about that.
Great game, fuck the haters.
I was only aware of Fez as it neared the end of development (an Edge preview sometime in 2011), but subsequently became very interested (attending a tech talk at GDC).
It’s kinda a game of two halves. The first is amazing, the best mechanic in a game since Braid – a 3d world, viewed from side-on, so it doesn’t have depth, that can be rotated – with wonderful art. It falls down in the odd area – the map isn’t great, some of the puzzles are obtuse (but don’t require completion on first pass) – but the way it keeps throwing new things at you (and teases you with new areas to go explore, which spiral off into huge other areas) spurs you forward.
Then the second half – you only need about half of the collectables to complete the game once – it all kinda falls apart. The remaining puzzles are ridiculously obtuse (one, to the best of my knowledge, was solved by brute forcing a button combination, without anyone knowing why it was that combo), often involving a language cipher, ridiciulous leaps of logic. I’m all for tricky puzzles, but I think players should be able to 100% a game without outside help. Don’t see how the end of Fez would’ve been possible without a massive community full dedicated to solving the puzzles.
For 800msp though? A steal.
RAGE is a game of two parts too. The first is its technical portion, which is really excellent. It looks better than the majority of 360 FPSs, but runs at 60fps the entire time. Slick as fuck, it’s a marvel.
Unfortunately, the core part, the gameplay, is just very average – a cross between a standard iD shooter (guns, lots of guns) and Fallout (post-apocalypse, lots of quests) with a load of vehicle combat thrown in. It kinda works – though I am a bit sick of the post-apocalypse setting – but it just isn’t very fun. There isn’t even a substantial part of it that’s especially weak (apart from the antiquated save system, which only saves at the entrance to areas), it just feels a bit stale. There are good parts – the animation of enemies is great, the lite mechanics (“sell junk”) are far better than sorting through an inventory, as one does in Fallout, it looks lovely the whole time.
January 30th, 2013 in
00:09:15 IST - Monday, January 21, 2013 in
Love Grid. Love Dirt 3. Thought I’d love Showdown. Nope.
It’s not a bad game, it’s not the perfection that 3 was. The gymkhana things (obstacle courses for cars) were some of my favourite bits in 3, so I thought an entire game based around them would be good.
The gymkhana bits were and still are excellent, but they comprise a small part of the game as a whole – the majority of events are destruction derby-like events. It may be I’m just not very good at them (I’m not, I know that), but they just weren’t fun. Being on lap 7/8 on a crossover track, only to be taken out by an AI simply isn’t fun. It’s the nature of the game, sure, but resulted in a lot of unnecessary frustration.
This reminds me of Modern Warfare 2 – few people played the original MW, but fucking everyone went out and bought the second one. Likewise, the first Borderlands didn’t seem to do too well in sales (though it had a very long tail), but the second iteration was built up to be the saviour to people tired current-gen modern-day war shooters (despite there actually being not that many of them).
It’s a great game, but just doesn’t give me the buzz the first one did – I think the first was so new and different, the loot was great fun picking up, it was easy to rely on a single weapon for 10 levels. Borderlands 2 has broadened it a bit, so now specific types of weapons (corrosive, fire, electric) only do increased damage to some enemies (instead of across the board). While this is great for getting the player to experiment, it does mean you’ve to carry round a large selection of weapons, for any scenario that might come up. Likewise the weapons have been balanced out. It’s great that sniper rifles and pistols are now legitimate choices, but having to carry around so many weapon variants is tiresome.
It doesn’t detract from the game as a whole though, which is fuckin’ awesome.
Mark of the Ninja
Best XBLA game I’ve played this year – better than Fez, better than Trials Evolution, prooobably better than Walking Dead.
Shadow Complex is probably the best comparison – a simple idea done really well. In Mark’s case, it’s a 2D stealth action game – it’s not as unforgiving as something like Metal Gear Solid (getting spotted can be frustrating, but rarely requires a reload) and empowers the player far more. You will feel fucking awesome when you’ve got the moves down and can assassinate levels worth of guards without raising an alarm.
Everything works well together, and is conveyed perfectly (enemy sight lines, your sight lines, sounds etc) to the player. Makes you wonder how totally fucking awesome if could’ve been had they had a DC Comics/Batman licence.
Final Fantasy XIII
Started this for the second time, telling myself I’d definitely finish it this time. Nope. Might be because I’m following a strategy guide, so it takes me ages. Might be because I like to clear out an area before I move on. Might be because the story is rubbish and I’ve no desire to return to it. Whatever the case, it seems to be serious sticking point for me.
I’ve put in nearly 40 hours, and (I think) about about 2/3s, 3/4s of the way through. I might get back to it, but it’ll certainly be summer before I do.
Max Payne 3
MP is probably a splitter of opinion. On one hand, I absolutely loved the over-the-top violence, the dark depressing story, the somber voice acting. Others though, found the story too depressing, the violence too much, and the unskippable cutscenes/long load times intolerable.
It’s also one of those games that get far better once you figure out how it wants to be played – for the first half, I would manually trigger bullettime while standing still. If I ran out of bullettime, that was it, I’d have to kill people without it. I realised at some point during the latter half that triggering shootdodge (diving during bullettime) would always slow down time, even if there was next to nothing remaining. With that, the game became far easier and entertaining.
It has it’s frustrating parts for sure, and the unskippable cutscenes grate (I’d prefer a skip cutscene to loading screen button), but it’s a stellar game.
January 21st, 2013 in
23:04:24 IST - Sunday, January 13, 2013 in
Gonna really try to get back into writing this time – gonna start with the game I’ve played recently (last two years?) in reverse chronological order, five at a time:
The Walking Dead
Just started this this evening, halfway through the second episode. It’s enjoyable, certainly the most enjoyable point n click game I’ve played in a long time. Can feel a little like it’s just a cutscene with the occasional QTE, but the characters are mostly well written, the story intriguing and the mechanics solid. Reasonably quick to power through so far (first episode took about 60-90m), so I’m optimistic it’ll be done soon.
Assassin’s Creed III
The AC series was never really my thing. I bought the first one on the developer’s previous work (Prince of Persia: Sand of Time series), it turned out to be a very average game wrapped in a wonderful engine. Next I played Brotherhood, while while substantially better, didn’t really suck me in (and, best I can remember, I felt quite confused by the Italian plotline).
AC III however, I’m a big fan of – some things can irritate – the controls are finicky with waist-high objects; some of the optional mission objectives can require a lot of restarts; the story tends to say things once, then not remind you of them again (leaving me confused if I’m distracted during a briefing).
These don’t come close to detracting from the game as a whole, thankfully – there’s so much to do all the time, you’re never short a distraction (I’ll come back to this in another post); the early characters and story are the best I’ve seen of any game in quite a while (it moves more generic about a third of the way in); the ship mechanics are interestingly and enjoyable; the world feels vibrant and alive, compared to Red Dead’s open but quite empty landscape; the setting (1700s America) is the most interesting I’ve experienced in a game in a long time.
There’s nearly too much to do, but even avoiding all the side missions, the campaign is great fun.
Trials is a hard game to love. The mechanics are great, there’s instant restart, the difficulty level for this version (compared to the first iteration on XBLA, Trials HD), has been smoothed out a lot, but even still, there’s something that doesn’t grab me about it. It might be because I’m just not all that good (I’ve beaten the first two Extreme tracks, decided to finish AC3 before trying the rest), or that it relies a lot on delicate throttle control (which it doesn’t really teach).
It’s a great package, there’s hours and hours of fun available, but there’s something missing. Just can’t put my finger on it.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Hot Pursuit was the best racing game I’d played since Grid, Criterion have yet to put a foot wrong (ignoring the meh Burnout Dominator), so HP was my choice between it and Forza Horizon (which, along with Halo 4, are next, once I clear my backlog).
It’s a different take on racing games, most similar to Burnout Paradise (and, without the Need for Speed branding, would most certainly be called Burnout Paradise 2) – you drive around the city, looking for cars, races, or collectables. I’m never really a fan of driving in order to start a race, but the joy I got from exploring the city, finding cars myself, was something I’ve not experienced in a racing game before, ever.
Each car is limited to five events (total), which I’m fond of – you have to try different cars – as it removed an issue I had with Forza 4 (ranking up car manufacturer meant you were more likely to stick with one manufacturer, not experiment).
Great game, the core racing mechanics are as good as ever. Maybe a little shorter than most racing games, but better slightly short than overly long.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
I look on Call of Duty the way I look on JASON STATHAM. Will JASON STATHAM’s films ever be recognised by any awards? No! Are JASON STATHAM’s films the BEST FILMS OF ALL TIME? Maybe! Are JASON STATHAM’s films a good laugh? Ya! But not Blitz, despite JASON STATHAM beating some guys up with a hurley, it was just a bad film.
CoD game aren’t exactly works of art, but they’re good at what they do and they’re a good laugh, so no harm.
Future settings have never really worked toooo well for videogames. Shooting at humanoid things are fine, but once you introduce weapons that don’t use bullets (plasma), or aliens with no discernible body parts, things start to go downhill. Black Ops 2 sticks to what it knows best though – things are a bit into the future, but only enough to be awesome. The campaign takes a while to find its legs (it starts to properly get going around the midway point), and the plot is as silly as ever, but there’s no denying the set pieces are great fun, definitely worth your time.
It’s a bit harder to tell with the multiplayer. I found a great balance after one prestige in Black Ops 1, my KDR rose to about 1.3, my SPM to around 250. While my SPM is even higher in Blops 2 (322), I still haven’t found a groove. Might be due to my insane leveling speed (I prestiged with a total of 11 hours during a double XP weekend), or my lack of time spent with the MP in general. Still great fun, probably just need to spend more time with it.
January 13th, 2013 in