Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow first impressions . . .

- Don't go in expecting a Castlevania game, because you will be disappointed.  Aside from a few similarities, this is a totally different experience.
- Voice acting is fantastic, although the pre-level narration sections with Patrick Stewart seem off.  You hear Stewart narrating and you see a book with the words.  You can read it yourself far faster than he narrates, the level loads by the 2nd sentence and prompts you to press the "start button" and it comes off as kinda bland and boring.  The narration itself is great (although the script can come off as heavy-handed at times), but this would have been much more effective if done over a cut-scene, or even those little hand-drawn animation parts you see when reviewing new moves in your handbook.
- Controls are mapped well and from what I've experience combat can be pretty deep and strategic if you want it to be.  Sure you can button-mash yourself through most fights if you want, wailing on the X button while mixing in the occasional Y (360 version), but it you actually mix up your moves and take full advantage of what you have in your offensive arsenal, combat can be very satisfying and elegant.
- However, the "feel" of the controls to me are a tab bit off.  It is not that they are unresponsive, but everything feels just a tad off from the "perfect" feel that some games manage to achieve.
- The visuals so far have been pretty damn impressive.  The environments are vibrant and alive, with excellent lighting and textures.  In fact, some sections have been just absolutely beautiful to behold.
- There is a negative to this though.  The game takes a page out of the God of War book and does not let you control the camera at all.  And for some reason, this feels far more restrictive here than it has in any of the GoW games.
- Another negative is that while the environments look very impressive visually, interaction with them are extremely limited and invisible walls are all over the place, really limiting your sense of exploration.  Levels do offer branching paths, but the invisible wall syndrome really stands out.
- I've finished the first chapter and that first boss is straight out of Shadow of the Colossus.  I had read this beforehand but I really wasn't expecting it to be SUCH a blatant rip-off of that game.
- So far the game is pretty enjoyable.  The slightly off feel of the controls (maybe I am alone here) and the pretty limited interaction with the environments and lack of exploration are my biggest negatives right now.  I'm only one chapter in, so still plenty left to go.  I hear the game is actually kinda long.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Halo: Reach final Campaign thoughts . . . (Spoilers!)

Having now played through the campaign twice, some final thoughts on the
overall experience.

From a gameplay standpoint, the game is extremely enjoyable. Bungie's
had plenty of previous instalments to polish Halo's "formula" and the
result is the best playing game in the series. The new abilities blend
in extremely well and add enough to mix things up, yet it still feels
very much like a Halo game.

I enjoyed my time playing the game and after finishing it I felt
satisfied. Yet as I've had time to think back on it as an overall
experience, and taking into account what this game is: 1) Bungie's final
Halo game 2) It depicting probably the darkest time in the
human/covenant war, I can't help but feel that it could have done more
from a story/emotional standpoint.

First of all, Bungie again stumbles in the story-telling department.
They do an absolutely terrible job establishing just how important Reach
(the planet) is. I never got a sense that this was a catastrophic loss
for the UNSC. There just isn't any real sense of desperation in
anyone's actions or voice, no sense of impending dread, no emotion,
nada. Maybe I can expect the stoic approach from all the Spartans,
these folks were basically raised for this type of scenario, but it
never really came across from anywhere.

You also do not get a very good idea of the full scale of the
invasion/war. The game has great scale in the sense that the
environments are huge and vast, but you never experience any epic battle
with a whole army of humans on one side and Covenant on the other. The
closest you get to that is in a cut-scene of a whole bunch of Warthogs
charging into battle, but the cinematic is over pretty quick and you
never see the huge clash. No desperate last stand, no sense of the
catastrophic loss of human life, etc.

I also wasn't a big fan of how the members of Noble team died.
Especially Kat, the female Spartan. Sniper shot to the head by an
unseen sniper? Really? What happened to her shields? I'm sure the
developers were going for "shock and awe", but I just found it kinda
pointless and not fitting with the Halo lore. I also thought it was
unnecessary for Noble One to go down the way he did. Sure, crashing the
Pelican into the Scarab was "dramatic", but he could have jumped out
prior to it colliding. I mean, your character just finished jumping out
of that same Pelican without a scratch. Hell, a few chapters before he
fell from SPACE and managed to survive (again, a Spartan can survive
entering a planet's atmosphere and crashing to the planet with nothing
but his armor to protect him, but one sniper shot goes right through
that armor). The only death I felt was effective and seemed to fit into
the story was Jorge's death. Pretty cool scene.

Even with those shortcomings the game is undoubtably fun and exciting.
It just could have been even more so. Oh well.

I just want to take this time to thank Bungie for the many, many hours
of entertainment they've provided me since Halo: Combat Evolved and I
look forward to their future projects. I am also very curious to see
what 343 Studios has in store for the Halo franchise and how they will
inject some much needed new blood and ideas to the series.