Thursday, December 22, 2011

GotY on hold . . .

I was going to start prepping my Game of the Year post and had my choices more of less worked out, but I just purchased Bastion on the 50% off 12 Days of Xmas sale and I definitely want to play it before I make any final decisions.  It is a title that always intrigued me and I have been meaning to play it all year.  I mean, it is not like I am playing 6 other games right now right?  Ugh!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Arkham City

It took almost 2 months, but I finally started playing (and beat actually) my most anticipated game of this year, Batman: Arkham City.  Arkham Asylum was my GotY when it came out 2 years ago so this game had a lot to live up to.  It does live up them.  It may no longer feel as fresh and unexpected as the original (how could it), but it is more of what made the first one great.  Just bigger.  A lot bigger. 


Maybe too big?  While the first game had a very focused narrative and you progressed through it in a pretty linear way, learning new abilities and unlocking gadgets along the way, Arkham City basically starts you off with most of your toys from the first game intact.  And while the main storyline will give you focus, it is very hard to keep that focus with all the side missions that pop up as you are making your way to your destination.  This introduces a problem with a lot of open world games in that you are often forced to break "character", but veering off the main story which oftentimes is time sensitive, to go off and do other things.  I won't spoil anything for those that haven't played it, but there is a pretty big incentive for Batman to hastily advance the main story for most of the game, yet the "gamer" in you wants to waste time collecting Riddler trophies or pursuing other side missions.


As far as game mechanics, the game plays just like Arkham City.  Meaning, very, very well.  Locomotion in this game is a total blast and traversing Arkham City with all your gadgets and abilities is just fantastic.  You feel like Batman as you zip around, chaining together moves into a graceful dance through the rooftops.


Combat remains the same as well, which is a good thing since the first game's unique combat  mechanic was one of its best features.  It may seem simple at first, one attack button and a counter, but it is actually extremely deep and complicated and practically overwhelming.  The number of moves you can unlock and techniques you can use is vast and certain enemies require different tactics.  Chaining together a perfect combo while surrounded by 10 enemies of various types requires an amazing amount of concentration, timing and precision.  Anyone that dismissing the combat as a "button masher" hasn't even scratched the surface of the nuances in the combat.


Now that I have beaten the main storyline, I am tying up all the side missions I am finding some annoyances.  Many of the side-missions do not let you advance them yourself.  You happen to come across a clue, investigate it, and need to find additional clues to continue the mission.  However, you do not know where that next clue will be.  You don't even get the general direction or area it may be located in.  You basically just have to keep exploring the entire city in hopes of getting close enough to the area to trigger the next part of the mission.  I find this poorly done and a bit annoying.  Traversing aimless through the city with no real direction hoping to trigger a mission is all kinds of "not fun".  Not sure what Rocksteady was going for here.  Encouraging exploration?  That is what the Riddler trophies are for, not side missions.


Speaking of Riddler trophies, some of them are very creative and fun to find.  However, I do think they went a little overboard and just put too many of them this time around.  400 trophies?  Ouch.  Sounds like fun on paper, but again, trying to find all these things can become pretty dull after a while.  But hey, your results may vary.


I don't want to end this post on a negative note, because the game really is great.  I haven't even mentioned the Catwoman sections (which I actually enjoyed quite a bit), or all the great bonus content and Challenge Rooms.  You definitely get your money's worth.  I only hope they release extra side-missions as DLC, instead of just these characters which can only be used in the Challenge Room stuff.  Being able to play as Robin in the main game on a few missions as a DLC pack is something I would definitely buy.  Or even just some more Batman side-missions.  Arkham City itself is too cool a place to not take advantage of.  Come on Rocksteady!!!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Rayman: Origins

Rayman: Origins is an odd game for me.  It is the first Rayman game I have ever played (I may have played demos of some of the other titles, or tried them out on an in-store kiosk), yet, I really want this game to do well and sell a ton of copies.


Unfortunately, Ubisoft seems hell bent on making sure this game fails miserably.  They released it in the middle of the fall game onslaught.  A death sentence for the majority of titles not currently tied to a AAA franchise.  Hell, they even release it on the very same day as another Ubisoft title, Assassin's Creed!  Talk about cannibalizing your own title! Throw in the fact that the title was originally planned as a downloadable, episodic game and it is now being released at full retail price with little fanfare or marketing and it seems they want it to fail.


Did I mention it is a cartoony 2D platformer?  Yeah, the cards didn't exactly line up for this one to succeed.


But this game is my biggest surprise of the year.


First of all, the most striking thing about it are the visuals.  Yes, the game is all hand drawn 2D art.  Sounds old school.  But it is the most visually impressive game I have played this year.  It is absolutely vibrant, colorful, with fantastic art design and the entire thing runs as a silky smooth 60 frames per second.  Not a single pixel in sight!  Watching this game running in high-definition is a real visual treat.  I cannot give enough accolades to the Ubisoft team.  I hope many, many titles are released using this game engine (UbiArt Framework I believe it is called), because the results are amazing and I wouldn't mind an explosion in 2D games.  Especially when they look, control, and run this good.


Not only does it look gorgeous, but once you begin to play it you realize that it plays fantastically as well.  The controls just feel right.  The character's momentum, jumping and "feel" is spot on, as is necessary in any great 2D platformer.


Gameplay follows by mixing things up occasionally and giving you enough variation to always be entertained.  You learn new moves and abilities and some levels have you traverse them different. There is plenty of variety here and it borrows gameplay elements from many of the great platformers from the past.


The music is also extremely well done and whimsical.  I dare you not to smile when the underwater music kicks in the first time you learn the ability to swim under the surface.


And that is my favorite aspect of the game.  It is extremely charming.  All the tiny details come together perfectly.  Tiny nuances in character animation, sounds effects, music, gameplay.  I find myself playing with a smile all the time.


The game can also be very challenging if you are a completionist.  Getting through the stages themselves is not too difficult.  But if you are trying to get all the collectables and unlockables in every stage prepare for a challenge!  The "chase-the-treasure-chest" stages are especially challenging, bordering on frustrating at times.  But they are very thrilling and encourage memorization and practice.


If you haven't tried this game out, at the very least download the demo.  But preferable, just go out and buy it!


Thursday, December 1, 2011


So instead of doing the smart thing and leaving Skyrim – a game that I know I will be playing for 100+ hours - as the last game I purchase this holiday season, I went ahead and picked it up on 11/11/11.  Because that is just how I roll.  Long list of must-have games be damned!


My experience with The Elder Scrolls series dates back only to Morrowind, a game which took me a long time to "get", but once hooked I was blown away.  I sunk in well over 100 hours into Oblivion and I never even completed the main quest.  After Fallout 3, which I also enjoyed for the most part but never completed, I began to get a little tired of the Bethesda "formula" (now that I think about it, looks like I have never completed a single Bethesda game).


Their games are huge.  Offer a great level of freedom.  A rich history.  Great ideas.  Plenty of bugs.  Weird design choices.  And are hit in miss with a lot of what is going on.  NPC characters can show intelligence by going about their day, having routines and giving off a real world feel.  Yet you can place a bucket over their heads and rob them blind, or walk into their homes at night and wake them up from their slumber to ask them what they have to sell and they behave as if that is a perfectly normal thing to do.  Like I said, it is a give and take.


But one thing I will give their games is that they are extremely addicting.  The type of game where once you complete a dungeon or quest, you tell yourself you will just check out that one landmark off in the horizon, or do one more thing before you stop playing, and next thing you know another 2 hours have passed.  You get addicted not so much to leveling or finding gear as you do in other RPGs, but in exploration and discovery.  I have my issues with some of the design and play mechanics, but they work well enough to keep me plowing ahead.


I am not sure how much time I have devoted to Skyrim, but I'd estimate about 15 - 20 hours or so.  Some random thoughts and observations:


- Textures can be pretty awful (360 version).  Yes, I did install it onto the HDD, but I tested it out without the install and they were still pretty bad in spots.


- That being said, when the visuals align at the right moment, they can be very effective and atmospheric.  Still not as big a leap as I was hoping from Oblivion, but massive open world games like these will always have to compromise in the visuals somehow.


- God I hate having to go through load screens whenever you are entering/leaving buildings.  Technical limitations of the hardware, I know, but still very annoying.


- I have discovered that I have a very distinct play-style that I gravitate towards in all Bethesda games.  The stealthy long-range fighter/magic user.  I just love sneak attacks with the bow and then going off to hide.  Sure, it probably takes me three times as long to complete dungeons this way, but I find the stealthy approach very satisfying.


- Bears should not be this difficult to take down!  A bear should not require 10 arrows to the face and 5 or 6 fireballs to take down!!  These things are monstrous!  WTF?!  It is a bear, not a furry tank!


- I do love the dragons.  I love how they show up randomly patrolling the skies and the audio cues you get when they are near.  It is really damn cool.  And scary if you are in a spot with no cover, because going toe-to-toe with a dragon (at least when you are a stealthy archer) without a place to hide is a death wish!


- I do love all the random events that seem to occur based on the game's rules, like coming across a bandit camp that just happens to be getting attack by a pack of wolves, or leading a dragon to a populated area and having guards come to defend the town (aiding you in the process).


- I really like that the "main" quest does not seem to be as urgent as in Oblivion, allowing me to veer off and explore and do side-quests without breaking character.  Seriously, it felt really odd ignoring the main quest in Oblivion to help someone deliver a message, giving the urgency of that storyline.  In an open world game like this, with so many options, you want to let the player feel like they can explore without breaking the immersion of the world and storyline.  Something that happened in Oblivion to me by me choosing to gather herbs instead of, you know, saving the world!  Felt guilty about that.


I'll continue to sink most of my free time into Skyrim.  Believe it or not, I still dabble in some Dark Souls every now and then.  I also caved and ordered Rayman: Originas and Batman: Arkham City from Amazon during the Black Friday deals, so I should have those in my possession very soon.  Yup, gaming overdose indeed.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No progress . . .

So many games out that I need to pay.  Yet I am stuck on Dark Souls.


Not stuck as in I cannot advance in the game.  I beat it this weekend.  65+ hours.


Stuck because as soon as I finished it I started a New Game+ and haven’t looked back.


What I should be doing is shelving the title for now and pick up Batman.  Or Uncharted.  Hell, I bought MW3 last night!  And do you know what I did?  I played one on-line match, turned the game off, and then played Dark Souls for about 4 hours.


I need help.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Battlefield . . .

Played some more single-player missions last night and I am starting to see what the majority of reviews pointed out.  The campaign is extremely limiting and there seems to be practically no freedom to improvise.  It wants you to head to that next waypoint, so you better follow that waypoint!  Most games suffer from this but it seems to be taken to another level with Battlefield for some reason.  As amazing as the visuals look, the world feels hollow and detached.  Just a pretty backdrop that you can’t and shouldn’t interact with outside of what the game is telling you to do.


Played a few more on-line matches too and the game fares much better there (as its supposed to).  Still not feeling 100% comfortable in my skin but I am getting there.  Been playing the Rush mode and I am getting the feeling that a lot of new players to the series are trying to play this like CoD, because there is very little coordination or teamwork at the moment.  In fact, nobody even talks on your team!  It can get frustrating when it seems like I am the only person trying to capture/protect an objective and everyone else is running around playing the game like team deathmatch.  There’s a playlist for that guys!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dark Souls, Battlefield, not enough time . . .

Dark Souls continues to consume pretty much all my free time.  I must be a masochist and didn’t even know it.  I am about 50 hours in and instead of getting tired of it, I am enjoying it more and more.  I’m currently addicted to forging weapons.


I only have one serious issue with the game and I am hoping it gets addressed soon with a future patch.  There seems to be an occasional “input lag” that occurs far more often than I want it to, usually involving me pressing the R1 button to attack and my character ignoring me and then deciding to attack 2 to 3 seconds later.  Except that with combat being how it is in this game (strategic, relying heavily on defense and counter attacking), a 2 to 3 second lag can kill you since you missed your window to attack and are now starting your animation to do so right when your enemy is stabbing you through the face with his weapon.  Very, very frustrating and it happens enough to be a problem.  Please fix this guys!!!


I have been enjoying Dark Souls so much that I have yet to pick up Arkham City, a game that I am DYING to play!  Probably my most anticipated game this year.  As a result, I refuse to start playing it until I can give it 100% of my attention.  So I am using all my willpower to hold off on it for now.


I did pick up Battlefield 3 last night for the 360.  As much as I love Dark Souls, having a second game to play along with it is a good thing, since DS just permeates dread and sorrow and darkness from its every pore, and mixing it up with something else is good for your psyche.


After installing the day 1 patch, the “HD content pack”, and installing both discs to my HDD, I was ready to play about 20 minutes and 15GB later.


I played through the first couple of missions and after having read some pretty abysmal things about the single-player campaign, I found them to be solid enough.  The visuals are excellent (as long as they are not compared to the PC version), the controls feel good and the sound is by far the best in the FPS genre.  Play this game with headphones (or a great surround set-up) if you can.


I played about 2 multiplayer matches as well and aside from feeling completely overwhelmed and lost (I am new to the Battlefield franchise) the game has potential to get me out of my “I only like CoD online” state of mind.  In fact, it already took some steps in that direction since I enjoyed the Rush play-mode a lot more than the Team Deathmatch one I played (the only mode I play in CoD).  I think once I get over the growing pains of learning how this multiplayer works, all the ins and outs and intricacies, I can see myself having a great time with it.


I’m still trying to figure out how I am going to juggle Uncharted 3, MW3, and Skyrim next month.  Might be ugly.  On the wallet and my personal life.  Oh, and I gotta squeeze Forza 4 in there eventually.  Eventually.  One thing is certain, I am playing Arkham City before all those.


Well, maybe . . .


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dark Souls

I am descending a spiraling staircase; shield up and sword ready, which is the only way to explore uncharted territory in this hellish world.  The stone walls of the castle’s tower slowly illuminate in front of me with my every careful step.  I had just dispatched a dozen well-armed undead soldiers moments before, fairly easily too, so my confidence was high.  I was, after all, wielding my newly acquired Drake Sword which cut through my recent enemies like a hot knife through butter.  Yes, me and my Drake Sword can take on anything that awaits us in the darkness ahead.


I turn the final bend of the staircase and am confronted my an hulking beast of a knight, clad in white heavy armor and wielding a massive blade which dwarfs mine!  Panic strikes momentarily as I clumsily backpedal back up the staircase, monstrous knight advancing towards me with menacing confidence.  I backtrack to an open area where I have room to maneuver and await my foe, his footsteps creating ever louder metallic clanks, my pulse rising with each one.  I consider fleeing the tower completely.  Maybe I should head back to the safety of my previous battleground where the bodies of the undead soldiers still lay.  But it is the very thought of those fallen soldiers that keep me in place.  I have the Drake Sword after all!  Surely, this white knight knows not what awaits him.


He emerges and I am once again taken back by the size of his weapon, which must be as large as me yet he casually carries it on his shoulder as if but a twig.  Without hesitation he charges, swinging that tree trunk of a blade towards me!  I dodge the attack and see an opening to counter.  I swing my sword and connect cleanly!  The sword bounces off his armor, barely making a scratch!  I stare in horror as the white knight faces me again, readying his next attack.


That is when I realize my mistake.  I forgot what game I was playing.  This is Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls spiritual successor.  This game does not care that I have the Drake sword.  It does not care that I have been able to hold my own with the previous enemies.  It does not care about me at all.  It is here to teach me a lesson.  To remind me that it is in control and that I will never be able to rest in this world.  I will never be able to breeze through it.  That no matter how strong I get, or what weapon I find, there is always something out there, in the darkness, that can and will destroy me if I get overconfident and feel like I can take on the world.


So the white knight brings his massive blade down upon me and I raise my shield (which is about 1/3 the size of his weapon) in a feeble attempt to absorb the blow.  It cuts through my defenses and in one strike I am dead.


The words “You Died” appear on the screen but they very well may read “Welcome to Dark Souls, bitch!”


Touché Dark Souls.  Lesson learned.


God I love this game.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gears of War 3 impressions

I have a weird relationship with the Gears of War series.  I enjoyed the first two games.  At times even loved them.  Yet in hindsight or while revisiting the titles after a few  play-throughs, I find them particularly bland, restrictive, predictable and scripted.  I wasn’t too excited for part 3 despite enjoying the prior games.  Maybe because once the adrenaline rush and the chaos on screen subsides, I find the GoW formula pretty bland.  But this being the end of the trilogy I wasn’t going to pass it up.  So, I picked the game up upon release and finished the campaign.  Some single-player  impressions . . .


- Gears, like many other action titles (I’m looking at you Halo) has always done a pretty poor job of conveying the story to the player.  The developers tried to make this game more cinematic, since there are a ton of cut-scenes, but just adding cut-scenes is not the best way to tell a story.  Especially in an action game.  Much like Killzone 3, GoW 3 breaks up the action way too often for absolutely no reason.  50% of the cut-scenes could be removed and told through actual gameplay and the game would have been infinitely better for it.  C’mon developers, this is a game!  Whenever possible, keep the player in control and move the narrative forward that way.


Story-wise, for being the end of this trilogy, the game leaves several questions unanswered.  I’m guessing that was intentional to keep the series going, but I was hoping for a little more closure and answers.


- This game was built with co-op in mind, even more so than the other games.  And not just 2 player co-op, but 4.  This is fantastic when you are playing with your friends, but playing through the game solo I found it to be a bit of an annoyance at times.  Far more so than the previous games.  I was cursing at my team-mates for getting in the way of my crossfire or bumping me from cover, or most annoying of all, for blocking my path in narrow spaces and not letting me advance.  This happens enough to be an issue.


Your teammate A.I. is also hit and miss.  They actually do a great job at taking down enemies and are not just there to look pretty.  They will take guys out by themselves and toss plenty of grenades, making your job easier.  So much so that on a few occasions they began to engage a wave of enemies up ahead while I stayed back to collect ammo and look for collectibles and while I was making my way to them I received the objective complete/checkpoint message because they killed all the enemies themselves.  Way to go guys!


The downside to the A.I. is that they are a bit too gun-ho for my liking.  They charge into the heat of battle, often going toe-to-toe with a wave of enemies without taking cover.  Luckily there is no friendly fire because I would have killed many a teammate while firing from cover 20 feet away and them standing right next to the enemies.


- One if my biggest complaints about Gears is just how formulaic is comes off.  Especially after three games.  The gameplay is basically moving from one location to the next, getting “closed in” by the environment, and a wave of enemies appear/emerging out of nowhere.  When the final enemy is killed, you hear a distinct sound effect, the area is safe, and the next location opens up.  It feels far from organic.  This was my problem with Dead Space 2 as well.  And is the formula many games follow.  Maybe I am just becoming jaded again.


The battle “arenas” are a lot larger this time around, offering you plenty of opportunities to flank and take different approaches, but the game still comes off as very closed off and linear.


- Visually the game is a complete homerun.  Best looking 360 game in my opinion.  The Gears series has always been known for its visuals, but I have found flaws in each of the previous games.  Each provided some jaw dropping moments, but there were always plenty of sections, levels, or textures that looked pretty bland and half-assed.  Not the case with Gears 3.  The game is just gorgeous and a lot of it has to do with the MUCH improved lighting.  Gears 3 is vibrant, even colorful at times.  A lot of it takes place during the day and the sunlight is glorious.  It really adds a lot to the overall visuals.  In the prior two games I always found your character to have an almost  “paper cut-out” or bad blue screen effect to him, where his colors and the light reflected on him did not match the environment.  Always looked odd to me.  That is no longer the case thanks to the fantastic lighting effects.


There is one section towards to the end of the game, an on-rails shooting section which takes place underwater, and the visuals are simply breathtaking.  It looks like nothing else in the Gears series and caught me completely by surprise.  Very, very impressive stuff.  Looks like Epic has really mastered the Unreal 3 engine.  If other developers can get this performance out of the engine going forward, then I can easily wait for the next-gen consoles for another couple of years.


- Overall, I enjoyed the campaign, despite its predictability and slightly stale gameplay.  One note, the game is FAR easier on normal difficulty than I remember the previous games being.  I breezed through it and began playing a bit reckless as a result, since I didn’t really fear taking plenty of shots from enemy weapons.  I am sure if I would have started it on hardcore my overall experience with the title would have been better.


I wonder what direction this series will go.  I am hoping they try something completely different and explore other areas of the story with completely different play mechanics.  Should be interesting.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Deus Ex: HR

I completed Deus Ex: Human Revolution about a week ago.  Campaign took a good amount of time, around 20 – 25 hours.  Overall, great game.


It is no secret that I am a fan of First Person Shooters.  But not necessarily the “shooter” part of that title.  I just enjoy playing games from a first person perspective and find the experience extremely immersing and enjoyable, especially when played with headphones.  I don’t need the non-stop adrenaline filled action that is normally associates with that “perspective.”  In fact, I mostly long for games that use that perspective in other game types.  Which is why I really enjoy the Elder Scrolls games.


So while DE:HR gives you the option of leaning towards action if you want during its encounters (or stealth for those who prefer), a good chunk of the game consists of role-playing elements such as exploration and speaking with NPC’s.  It is definitely not a corridor shooter with “levels”.  You have an open world HUB in most cases which you can freely explore and which lead you to your story missions.


There is plenty of choice involved and often your actions will affect the story going forward in some way.  I also like that you can choose to play the game as a “good” or an “evil” character, but there is no silly meter keeping track of your choices, which also result in your character appearance changing or something silly like that.  If you decide to do immoral things in the game, you just have to either deal with the consequences of those actions (retaliation from authorities, eliminating a potential side mission) or just live with the guilt of what you did.


Overall, one of the better games I’ve played so far this year.  The game seems to be selling well and I am glad, because I definitely want to see more titles like this.


Now, let the onslaught begin.  Gears 3 next week (reviews so far have been great).  Bring it.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The onslaught begins . . .

Prior to last week, I can’t remember the last game I purchased (retail).  Portal 2?  Maybe?


Last week I picked up Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  Will post impressions soon.  Quick version: the game is pretty great.


And now, the onslaught begins.  Over the coming weeks we are about to get bombarded with new releases.  And I want to pick up a good number of them.  I definitely do not have the time to play all these.  Ideally I can purchase these slowly over the next 6 months and ensure I always have a steady stream of quality games in my future.  But I don’t function that way.  A lot of these I have on my “day 1 purchase” list and my compulsive nature will ensure I am there picking them up, although I know full well I will not be able to devote any time to them.  Great.  Here are the culprits:


Madden 2012

Gears of War 3

Ico/SotC HD

Dead Island


Dark Souls

Forza 4

Batman: Arkham City

Battlefield 3

Uncharted 3

TES: Skyrim

Halo: Anniversary

Modern Warfare 3


And I am sure I probably missed a few in there.  That is one stacked holiday season!!!  I’m glad Mass Effect 3 slipped to next year.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chiming in . . .

Wow, not a single post in the month of July?  I suck.


I’ve been doing sporadic gaming as of late: picking up old titles, trying a few smaller new ones, contemplating whether to purchase some Arcade games, and just waiting for the eventual influx of games later this year.


So what has graced my consoles in the last month?


- Black-Ops: Yes, I am still playing this game with more frequency than any other.  Say what you will about this franchise, but I sure do get my money’s worth with it.  I’ve picked up the last two map packs to keep things fresh (still haven’t picked up the first one) and I am still having a great time.  Got my k/d ration up to 2.12.  I’ve said it before, but I think this is the best, most balanced multiplayer of the series so far.


- Gran Turismo 5: For a span of about 3 days I got totally hooked on GT5 again, much to my surprise.  I have SOOO many problems with this title, but the cars and the actual racing still manages to draw me in, despite the MANY design and execution flaws.  But something happened the last time I played which infuriated me so much, I may not play this game again (waiting for Forza 4 anyway).  The crazy part is that despite all my issues with the game, this incident was not the game’s fault.


Against all reason I decided to do one of the endurance races.  An endurance race?!  Really?  It was a Saturday afternoon, I had nothing to do, and decided to do the very first one, which is only 60 laps.  So, for like an hour and a freakin’ half I am racing, actually enjoying myself, working on perfecting my racing lines and paying attention to tire wear (I know, doesn’t sound that fun come to think of it).  I am 58 laps into this 60 laps race when . . . the power goes out in my apartment!!!!!  Are you kidding me?  I actually took it pretty well.  I sat there looking at my screen for about 5 seconds, letting it register that I just wasted my afternoon driving around in circles with no payoff, and then I just started laughing.  I laughed as I ejected the disc, put it in its case, and put it away for probably the last time.  Maybe that was a sign that I should just wait for Forza.


- Dead Nation: Still hacking away at this one little by little.  Instead of doing one whole level at a time now I find myself doing a few check-points before I stop.  The game is getting pretty difficult and unmerciful.


- Contra 4 (DS): Speaking of difficult and unmerciful, after good word of mouth I decided to pick up Contra 4 for the DS, since I needed a new portable game and I was feeling old school.  I’ve been playing this one every night before going to bed.  Holy crap the game is brutally hard!!!  I’ve managed to beat it on easy (after several tries) but they don’t let you play all the levels on the easy setting, you have to play on normal to get an actual ending and see the last few levels.  I’m hacking away at it and I’ll get there.  It is a lot of fun.  It is one of those games that forces you to become a better player.  First few times I couldn’t even beat the first stage without losing all my lives and having to continue.  Now I can breeze through it without losing a life.  The one-hit-kills do stand out in this day and age and may feel a little cheap sometimes, but that is old school Contra for you.  The game also lets you unlock the original Contra and Super C, which I have done, by beating certain challenge stages (which are really fun).  So, plenty here to entertain (and torture) you.


- Monkey Island 2: After purchasing this one the day it was released (loved the first one) and playing it for about an hour before I stopped, I played it for the first time since then this weekend (over a year ago?).  Hope to get into it and finish it.  I have too many games left unfinished!


Speaking of unfinished games, maybe I will eventually finish L.A. Noire.  And Tomb Raider Collection.  And, oh, about 20 other games I have pending.


Last note, I have really wanted to pick up Bastion and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.  I really enjoyed the trials for both games, but with so many unfinished games I am reluctant to pick up new ones and having them suffer the same fate.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Chiming in . . .

My love affair with L.A. Noire has gone sour.  A few days after my positive impressions post, the "newness" veil was lifted and the game began to feel far more linear and formulaic.  The gameplay elements that were fun and unique, such as examining crime scenes and chasing down the occasional fleeing suspect, became redundant when it turns out poor detective skills don't really affect the outcome of a case (aside from a poor star rating) and every other "suspect" thinks it is a good idea to run from the law for seemingly no reason.
Since then I have taken plenty of time between play sessions (sometimes more than a week) and in small doses that game can still be enjoyable.  But it is not as impressive as I once thought it was.  The tech and atmosphere is still absolutely fantastic though, so the game has that going for it.
As part of Sony's "Welcome Back" program I picked up Dead Nation and Wipeout HD for the PS3 and Killzone and ModNation Racers for the PSP.  I've only dabbled slightly with Killzone (first time I have powered on my PSP in over a year) and the game is interesting, but I am sure it was far more impressive with it was released like four years ago. I'm only about three missions in, so I'll reserve judgment.
I haven't touched ModNation Racers or Wipeout yet, but I have spent a good amount of time with Dead Nation.  What can I say, I am a sucker for zombies.  The game is a lot of fun and it can be incredibly tense sometimes.  In fact, I find it is also good in small doses (one level at a time), but not because it begins to get old (like L.A. Noire) but because you are on edge so much while playing it that you need the break to relieve the tension.  I'm hoping for a sequel and I'm only halfway through this first one.
But the bulk of my time over the last week or so has been spent watching Arrested Development.  I've had this series on my Netflix queue for years it seems but I never got around to watching it.  Word of mouth (from the small minority that obviously watched this show) has always been fantastic, so I kept saying I would get to it.  Well I finally did (thank you instant watch) and I gotta say, the show is even better than I expected.  What a shame that this series could not find an audience, because it is absolutely hilarious and original.  The cast is fantastic and the writing is spectacular.  I find myself not being able to watch less than 3 episodes everytime I sit down to watch it.
Do yourself a favor.  Watch this show.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quick E3 thoughts

- PS Vita.  Won't comment on the name because I do not think there has been a single videogame device released where I have liked the name initially.  They all become second nature by the time they are released.  Anyway, its $249.99 price point is pretty amazing.  I am sure Sony is taking a loss at this price, but it is all win for the consumer.  $299.99 for the 3G version is also not a bad deal.
- While we're on the subject of names, I give you the "Wii U".  Just like with the Wii, the console itself is not the star, the controller is.  The Wii U controller is big.  Like, very big.  Looks like a tablet with analog sticks.  It promises to do many things, I just don't know if I want to do those things when I play my games.  I'll reserve final judgement until I try it myself.  I recall everyone thinking Nintendo was crazy when they showed off the Wiimote for the first time, but 5 years later they clearly got the last laugh.  Nintendo IS crazy.  But sometimes they are crazy smart.  We'll see.
- The new Tomb Raider reboot looks promising.  They may want to consider cutting back on Lara's grunts and groans during gameplay though.
- Halo: Anniversary.  I was actually hoping for a full-blown remake of Halo: Combat Evolved using the Reach engine and including many of the gameplay improvements the series has seen over the years.  Looks like this remake is running off the exact gameplay engine of the original, but is using two of the original's graphics engines simultaneously for the upgraded visuals.  One cool thing is that you can switch between the original and enhanced visuals on the fly with the press of a button, like with the Moneky Island remakes.  I'll probably pick this one up as long as it is not full-price.
- Halo 4 was announced.  I knew this series would continue, but since Halo 3 ended that "trilogy" and storyline, I assumed any new games would sport a new title.  I guess that was silly of me, considering the clout and recognition the name "Halo" has.  I wonder if Halo 4 will even have halos in it!
- The Resistance 3 demo they showed at the Sony press conference looked pretty weak to me.  The game seemed totally uninspired and uninteresting to me.  I've never been a fan of this series though, so your results may vary.
- Uncharted 3, on the other hand, looked phenominal.  Granted, gameplay-wise I am not expecting anything different, but I'll be damned if Naughty Dog does not know its way around the PS3 hardware.  Looks like they are trying to take back the "best graphics on a console" crown from Killzone 3.  The visuals were amazing and the processing power at play to generate the movement of the ship (which from what I understand is all real-time with actual physics at play, not some canned animation) is extremely impressive.
- Rayman Origins looks absolutely gorgeous.  One of the most vibrant games I have seen in recent memory.  I really hope this game is sucessful and brings forth a slew of 2D games using these powerful consoles to display truly breathtaking 2D visuals.  And good God can someone PLEASE release a remake of Out of this World and Flashback with enhanced visuals like this?  PLEASE!!!!
That's all for now.  I still have plenty of more media to see.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

L.A. Noire

Anyone going into L.A. Noire expecting Grand Theft Auto set in 1940's Los Angeles is going to come away disappointed.  Red Dead Redemption might have taken the GTA formula and masterfully transported it to a Wild West setting, but L.A. Noire tries to do no such thing.  Good thing too, because as much as I enjoyed RDR, L.A. Noire comes off as a truly unique experience.
The game's main hook is its new facial animation capture technology and in my opinion Team Bondi pulls it off beautifully.  It truly is impressive tech.  And it does not stop there, the entire visual package is top notch.  1940's L.A. has been recreated with a surprising level of detail.  The city is large and sprawling, the lighting engine is excellent and the animations (as has been the case with all recent Rockstar games) are incredibly life-like.  The game suffers from some pop-up, texture fill-in and the occasional frame-rate drop, but I don't know of an open world games that doesn't.
On the audio side the level of quality continues (if not surpasses the visuals).  Excellent voice-acting and some fantastic music transport you into the game world.  The entire audio/visual package is top notch.
Gameplay is much slower paced than prior Rockstar open world games, but also much more focused.  Similar to Mafia II, the game world is open for you to explore, however, the game is linear and story-driven with practically no incentive to go off the beaten path.  So while you can drive around aimlessly and explore, there is little incentive to do so aside from the occasional crime which will come through your police scanner.  The game is broken down into acts which are basically the different cases you'll be trying to solve.  The majority of your time will be spent driving to various crime scenes or to question P.O.I's (persons of interest) related to your case.  Thrown into the mix are car chases, on foot chases, fist fights and gun battles.  Unlike in GTA, you cannot un-holster your weapon at any time in L.A. Noire.  Gunplay only becomes an option when the game deems it appropriate.  Some may find this as restricting your freedom, but it doesn't bother me much.  You are a detective after all, no need to be capping civilians in this game.
The newest gameplay mechanic comes during the interrogation sections.  During these scenes you ask individuals a series of predetermined questions and then decide whether they are being truthful or lying based on their response.  This is where the facial animation really comes into play since you need to study how they respond not just by their words, but their mannerisms.  Shifty eyes or a nervous twitch are telltale signs that a subject may not be entirely truthful.  It is too early for me to tell how deep this system is, but it has been different and enjoyable so far.
L.A. Noire has been a refreshing change of pace.  Fantastic atmosphere and top notch production values, along with unique gameplay.  I applaud Team Bondi for trying something different with a such a high budget title.  I hope it pays off for them.  I'll give further impressions as I experience more of the game.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chiming in

Haven't posted in a while, mainly because I haven't been doing much gaming.  Except for Black-ops.  I can't seem to put that one away.
I was looking forward to Brink but the reviews and impressions have taken that game off my immediate must-buy list.  I will however be picking up L.A. Noire today after work.  Been looking forward to that one and early word is that it is a very unique experience.  Which I am more than willing to dive into.  And a much needed change of pace from all the fast-twitch fragfest I've been getting from Blops.
Of course, looking at my schedule for the rest of the week, I'm not sure I will have much time to put L.A. Noire through its paces.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Portal 2 impressions

The short version.  It's fantastic.
I've been playing Portal 2 for the last two nights and the game is an absolute joy to play.  It has a ton of polish and attention to detail.  It oozes charm.  The animation and voice-acting is so impressive that the game has an almost Pixar quality to it.  Not in visual fidelity mind you, but in general look, feel, and level of talent involved in making it.  All characters you interact with are robots, but their animation and voices are so well done they come across as more "human" than most characters in lengthy RPGs.
The game is also down right hilarious.  Even funnier than the first one.  I have not stopped smiling while playing and I have lost track of how many times I have actually laughed out loud.
The puzzles and level design is also fantastic.  Solving a particular clever/tricky puzzle is quite exhilarating.
I purchased the PS3 version since Valve seemed to favor that one (over the 360).  You get a free copy of the PC version through Steam with the PS3 copy.  You can also play co-op with PC users from the PS3.  And you get Steam cloud save support.  I applaud Valve for again seeming to treat their customers right.  The Orange Box was (still is) one of the best values out there and the PS3 version of Portal 2 seems to give a lot back.  Good job guys.
Not sure how long the single-player is (I'm by Chapter 5 I think) but I've already put more hours into it than the first game.  I'm in no hurry for it to end.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Crysis 2

I never added my thoughts on Crysis 2, which I picked up for the 360 the day it was released.  Since it has been a few weeks now, laziness has set in and I don't feel like writing up a detailed impressions post.  So just some quick thoughts.
- Game is plenty pretty, although Killzone 3 and Uncharted 2 are still holders of the best-console-graphics crown imo.
- The Nanosuit is a lot of fun to use and can make you feel like a bad-ass.  Me like.
- I found the sections that have you fighting against the human forces far less entertaining than when you were up against the Ceph.  Not sure why.  Maybe I just like killing squid-like aliens.
- Gameplay is solid.  The game controls and feels great and I didn't have any problem utilizing all of the nanosuit's powers and abilities, since they are all smartly mapped to the controller.
- While battles don't feel as dynamic and entertaining as those in the Halo series, the battlefields are large and offer you plenty of ways to approach them.  Enemy A.I. is smart at times, but can also be very glitchy with enemies walking in circles, getting stuck in the environment or sometimes being oblivious to what is going on around them.  And sometimes, the opposite is true, with enemies spotting you instantly from 50 yards away while you are hiding behind some foliage as if they were looking in your direction the whole time.
- The story was . . . well it was kinda weak and relayed to the player poorly.  I never played the first Crysis but I've read even if you did, it had little to do with this game.  You basically follow way points the entire game, not really knowing (or caring) what you had to do most of the time.  Or maybe I just wasn't paying attention since it was all pretty uninteresting.
- I've only tried a handful of multiplayer matches and the impression I got was that engagement usually just consistent of both players activating Maximum Armor and unloading on each other.  That may not be a fair assessment of the whole experience given my limited time with it.  Not sure if it interests me enough for me to devote much time to it to find out though.  Or I should say, not sure if I am willing to stop playing Black-Ops to find out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I've been interested in Torchlight since it was released on the PC in 2009, since many of the gaming blogs I read on a regular basis were giving it great praise.  Since I am not a big PC gamer however, I let it go.
It has now been released on Xbox Live.  I finally decided to try the trial version last night.
Oh wow.
First of all, the trial is pretty long.  It was getting kinda late and I actually began wondering when it was going to end because I had to go to bed (not because I wanted it to end mind you, since I was having a grand old time).
I do not think I have ever played a trial that has made me want to purchase the full game so much.  Not only because of how fun the game was, but because of something else.  It's what makes these type of games so addicting in the first place.  I did not want to lose all the great equipment and weapons I had already found and begun to customize to my liking!
I did not end up purchasing Torchlight last night.  I am actually using all my willpower to NOT purchase it.  I've been trying to spend less time gaming and do more productive things.  A few months back I was doing just that and very much enjoying getting things done and not feeling like my days were just being wasted away sitting on my couch.  Recently however, I've been back to my Black-Ops addiction and playing it every night (got my overall k/d ratio to 2.00, and I am very happy about that).  Before that I spent a solid two days playing through Killzone 3.  I've spent time with BG&E HD.  Basically, I am back to gaming every free moment I get and it pains me to say it, but I don't want to be.
And Torchlight, I am afraid, is a game that will push me overboard.  I can see myself playing that game for hours straight, thinking to myself, "I'll just go down one more dungeon level, get some more loot, and then go to town to sell stuff and that's it . . . just one more level".  Those types of games, while highly enjoyable for the most part, feed off some sort of weird addiction where you're playing the game not even so much for the enjoyment of the play mechanics, or story, but because of some internal need to continue level and collecting.  It's kinda like the MMO or RPG syndrome.  You get an almost high from leveling up and finding new items.  The gameplay itself is repetitive or sometimes not even very fun.  But you just cannot stop playing.
Yes, I definitely do not need a game like that right now, as much as I wanted to keep playing the game after the trial ended.  So my apologies to the developer, even though you made a fantastic port and a great title, I cannot give you my money (but most importantly, my time) right now.
Alright now that I got that off my chest anyone that knows me already knows that I will probably own this game before the end of the week.  :-(

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reminder . . .

Beyond Good & Evil HD was released on Xbox Live Arcade yesterday.  Buy it.
That is all.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Killzone 3 impressions

My impressions on the single-player campaign.
First of all I have to emphasize one thing: This game is freakin' gorgeous!  It has retaken the crown of "best looking game this generation", which Killzone 2 lost to Uncharted 2.  The visuals are so impressive in fact, that they are distracting.  They were actually taking me out of the game to the point where instead of playing the game as I normally would, I was actually stopping to just look around, taking in the insane detail that could be found in the environments.  Sure I had squad mates screaming and dying around me, gunfire and explosions were everywhere, but I was standing still, staring in awe at the beautiful scenery.  One level in particular, a weird insect-like alien forest, is the most surreally beautiful thing I have seen in a videogame.  Several times while playing this game I actually made comments aloud to myself like, "No f'ing way", or, "Are you kidding me?", all in relation to me not believing what these programmers had managed to do.  One tip to players: look up often.  You can easily miss some pretty amazing vistas but just not looking up at the sky, or to see the top or roofs of structures.  So, look up folks!  Take in the sights.  Guerilla needs to license this game engine to other developers, because I want more PS3 games to look this good.  Seriously, Guerilla, once again I tip my hat to you.  You guys know how to squeeze every ounce of power from the PS3.
Visuals aside, the single-player game is enjoyable, but also flawed in execution.  Not sure if Guerilla felt they received too much criticism the last time about the story, but it looks like they really wanted to emphasize the story this time around and they decided to take a page out of the Metal Gear handbook and just toss in many, many cut scenes.  The game's flow is constantly being interrupted to show you a cut scene to the point where it becomes annoying.  Many times it was not needed, as what was occurring could have been relayed through in-game actions, or left out all together. 
Much like the Metal Gear games the cinematics themselves are done in-engine and look phenomenal from a technical standpoint.  But this is a game, I'd much rather be playing instead of watching whenever possible.  This one aspect is my biggest negative, since the game can get very intense at times and having it abruptly cut to a needless cut-scene is jarring and totally kills the flow of the game.
Another negative I found is that the game feels too scripted and linear.  Some of the battlefields are open enough to offer some good flanking options and to make the firefight feel a bit open, but there are many other sections that don't feel organic and feel like they were designed for very specific reasons.  One example which I felt was so obvious that it took me out of the moment was a stealth section in the previously mentioned alien forest level, in which you are supposed to be advancing quietly and moving between the shadows or hiding in the tall grass.  The scene tasks you with sneaking past many Helghast guards and it could be tense and nerve-raking, except your path is clearly and comically defined by one long strip of tall grass very conveniently leading the way.  It just seemed so obvious and out of place and kinda silly, that is killed the moment for me.
Controls have definitely been tightened and feel far more responsive than the last game.  As a result the weapons do lose some of the "heavy feel" they had in the previous title, but I'll take playability first.
Guerilla does try to mix up the gameplay as much as possible.  You have your standard levels, a stealth level, plenty of on-the-rail shooting segments, you pilot the mech from KZ2 again in one section, and you have the new jetpack (although if memory serves me correctly, only for one section).  All play styles are fun and exciting and keep things from getting stale.
One difference I noticed is that this time around you have many more ammo caches to restock on ammo.  In fact, I think there are too many of them.  They offer a limitless amount of re-supplying and they replenish ammo and grenades for all weapons.  Throw in the fact that you can now carry a third heavy weapon, and it actually takes away from the experience in my opinion.  In the last game since you only had one large weapon and your pistol, I was constantly having to scavenge weapons from fallen enemies.  In fact, I barely used the standard ISA Rifle in KZ2 since I would run out of ammo fairly early on and be forced to use Helghast weapons found in the battlefield.  It was annoying at first (I kinda liked the ISA Rifle), but overall it added to my enjoyment of the game since it made my situation feel more desperate (was kinda realistic too since you are fighting on the Helghan homeworld, there's not going to be ISA ammo just laying around).  It also almost forced me to try all the weapons since I couldn't stick with a favorite as ammo for it would eventually run out.  Maybe many people complained about that and Guerilla overcompensated in this area as well, like they did with the story, because it is impossible to run out of ammo and have to pick up a different weapon out of necessity.
I also have one final complaint about a new enemy type, those cool new Helghast soldiers seen in the trailers with a mounted blade on their arms.  They look bad-ass, are some sort of elite guards or something, yet all they do in the battlefield is run right at you.  No attempting to dodge attacks, no taking cover, no jumping around like you see in the cinematics, they just run right at you and let you unload an entire clip into them.  That's just stupid.  These guys could be a pretty cool enemy is they had half a brain.  Wasted opportunity.
All that being said, Killzone 3 was fun, if not particularly revolutionary.  I hope to dive a bit into the multiplayer and see how that goes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Two days ago I heard about Undead Labs for the first time, a developer working on a project which is right up my alley. So right up my alley that I've semi-created a similar game in my head for a while now.

They want to create a zombie game. Yes, who hasn't created a zombie game these days? But theirs is a little different. They want to create a zombie game about surviving the zombie apocalypse. Not a zombie shooting gallery, but one that focuses on the survival aspects of an outbreak. And not the just at-the-moment survival (not getting bitten!), but long-term survival (finding shelter, fortifying it, having a steady food source, etc.)

Hell. Yes.

Undead Labs is actually working on two games, both around the same concept. The first game, Class 3, will be an Xbox Live Arcade 3rd-person open world game that will serve almost as a test of the technology and to lay the ground work for the real game, Class 4, which will basically be a post-zombie apocalypse MMO.

I'm definitely going to be following Undead Labs' progress very carefully. They seem pretty passionate about the material and have a great relationship with the community through their website.

And then, as if that wasn't good enough zombie news for me, yesterday a trailer is released for yet another zombie game I have never heard: Dead Island. This game will be a 1st-person game, but will put a heavier emphasis on melee combat. It is supposed to also be fairly open-world and take place on an island.

Whatever it is, the trailer that was released yesterday is just phenomenal. Please check it out.

I'm a very happy zombie fan right now. Don't know how I lasted so long without hearing about these titles. Now the agonizing wait begins.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I'm a bit late with this news, but Sony finally made an official announcement on the PSP's successor, after countless leaks and rumors.  The NGP (Next Generation Portable).  I'm guessing the name will change.
Here are the highlights:
- 5" OLED capacitive touch screen (with 4x the resolution of the PSP's screen)
- Dual analog sticks
- Rear touchpad
- Front and rear cameras
- Sixaxis motion sensor (same as the Move)
- Three-axis electronic compass
- Built-in GPS
- Wifi
- Blutooth
- 3G
- Games now run off a proprietary flash storage format, instead of UMDs.
Oh, and thing is practically as powerful as a PS3.  Supposedly.  Developers have been able to port over PS3 titles fairly quickly, making only some graphical sacrifices in the process.
My inner tech-geek sees those stats and passes out.  That is one sexy package Sony is putting out.  Seems to have all the bases covered.  Way more powerful than a 3DS.  More connectivity options.  A little more of everything.
Of course, the PSP had more of everything too and it got crushed by Nintendo.
After my giddiness over the tech specs passed, my first thought was: This thing is going to cost a million dollars!
I'm real curious to see what the retail price is going to be, because anything over $299 will be too high, but even at $299, Sony has got to be taking a huge loss per unit.
Another thing, the NGP is huge!!  At least, it is in relation to other mobile gaming devices.  It definitely isn't portable in the sense that you can't put it in your pocket and go.
I have several concerns with this hand-held.  Size.  Cost.  Battery life and heat output (like I said, it is pretty damn powerful).  Cost of games is a concern too.  Thanks to the app store, the mobile gaming market has exploded, but with that boom, price expectations have also changed.  .99 cent iPhone games are the norm, with "premium" games costing no more than $9.99.  And those are looked at as pretty damn expensive.  Given the power of the NGP, the cost of game development has got to be pretty huge, so the games themselves have got to cost quite a bit as well.  Granted, there is still a definite market out there for this type of portable gaming, but it is much smaller than the market for $.99 iPhone games.
My other concern is that I see this thing going the same route the PSP took.  Basically, trying to emulate the console experience on a console.  But that is not what I am looking for in a portable game.  I want something accessible, fairly easy to pick up and play, and most importantly, a experience that I am able to jump into quickly, play for a short amount of time if needed, and get out of just as quickly.  If I want a deep RPG, or action shooter, or a game with an elaborate story line, then I actually prefer to experience that on my couch, on my console.  I am not one of those gamers (at least anymore) that will play a portable gaming machine while sitting at home.  My consoles offer that experience in a much better package.
We'll see how it goes for Sony.  Like I said, I absolutely love the technology, I just don't see me using this device on a daily or even weekly basis.  I'm definitely not going to be carrying it around with me wherever I go.  So if reserved for road trips and vacations, then I don't think I can justify the cost.
I'm not that interested in the 3DS either, so it looks like I'll continue to get my mobile gaming fix from my iPhone.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beyond Good and Evil HD

Beyond Good and Evil is getting the HD treatment with an upcoming re-release on March 2nd (on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN).  If you never purchased this gem back when it was originally released on the PS2, Xbox and Gamecude, shame on you.  Now is your chance to make things right.
Buy.  This.  Game.
I still own my PS2 copy and I was actually going to re-play it on my PS3 just prior to this announcement.  Good thing I waited, because it looks like it is not just getting a simple resolution bumps.  A few of the highlights:
- The game now runs at a rock solid 60 fps (if I recall, the original was 30 fps)
- 80% of the game's textures have been redone
- All music is now uncompressed
- Character models have been improved
- Achievements, leader boards and all that jazz
I would have been happy with just a resolution boost, so all this love and care is icing on the cake.  BGaE is a great game, with a lot of heart, excellent story and characters, fantastic design and an overall unique experience that everyone should try.  It did awful in sales when originally released so I really hope that gamers embrace it this time, because it truly is a great fun title.
And the best part?  It will only cost you 800 MS points ($10).  That my friends, is a steal!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Killzone 3 Beta

The Killzone 3 open Beta has been available for a few days now.  And it is a total mess.  I've only been able to play about 2 trouble free matches.  The very first two I tried after downloading the Beta when it came out.  I then went about 3 days without being able to connect to any game and getting kicked out of the network.  Yesterday I was finally able to connect to two matches, but both were glicthy and not working properly.  10 seconds after the matches would start, we'd get a message saying we lost and the words "You Lost" would show up in the middle of screen.  Except the match just started, so we didn't really "lose".  So the match would continue, but the words would not leave the screen, obstruction your view, your targeting reticle would not show up, and there were no player names over the other players, making it hard to distinguish who was friend or foe.  Oh and your couldn't see the score. In other words, it was unplayable.
Because of the Beta and Killzone 3's upcoming release, I did get the urge to play Killzone 2 again, so over the past few days I played through it and beat it one more time.  I think I may have enjoyed it this time even more than my initial playthrough.  Lookinging forward to the third game, even though reviews have been average.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dead Space 2 . . .

I beat Dead Space 2 over the weekend and I am ½ way through my second play through (I love New Game + modes!  All games should have it as an option!).
Overall, very solid game, although I don't see it as a GotY candidate.  I did enjoy it, I just wasn't playing it with the same awe as I did the first one.  I'm probably just desensitized to the "experience" the first one provided.  The super-slick interface and HUDless gameplay of the original is no longer new and unique (although still totally awesome).  The visuals are fantastic and better than the first one for sure, yet I'm not as "wowed" this time.  The Necromorphs are still ferocious and scary, but not as terrifying and alien.  The heavier reliance on combat (and improved combat mechanics) actually make your frequent encounters with enemies not as intense, since they seem more frequent and dispatching enemies is easier now (aside from the super cheap "scorpion" necromorphs, which are just bastards).  The game also resorts to kinda cheap tactics (enemies spawning behind you 80% of the time) and predictable sections of you getting bombarded by waves of enemies while you wait for something to happen (a door to unlock, an elevator to arrive, etc.).  All these factors do dilute some of the great atmosphere the visuals and sound do such a good job of setting up.
The gameplay itself is pretty similar to the original and while they did eliminate backtracking, to me that actually gives the game a more linear feel.  I did not mind the backtracking in the first game, as it made the Ishimura feel like a real ship and not just "levels".  They also removed the cool 3D map from the first game and I am not sure why, because I used that map quite a bit before and I found myself wishing I had it back.
The one gameplay area that did receive a major upgrade (aside from combat) is in the zero-gravity sections.  Isaac can now freely move around these and they really are a lot of fun to navigate and experience.  And like in the first game, I absolutely love the way Visceral Games gets across the feeling of being in the vacuum of space.  The sound design in these sections is awesome and the free-flying gameplay only adds to the experience.
My one hope for any possible sequels is to change the formula a bit to make the game world feel more organic and not as scripted.  I'd say about 95% of the enemies you encounter in the game are scripted to jump out and "scare" you after you trigger some kind of event.  Whether it is just crossing an invisible line on the floor, pressing a switch, picking up an object, or some hidden timer while you wait for something to happen.  There are rarely just enemies roaming around the levels.  Maybe there is some story-related reason for this.  Maybe necromorphs by nature only hunt with the element of surprise and by hiding in vents.  That's cool, I don't mind that.  It wouldn't be very scary if every time you entered a room there were a few necromorphs just standing around.  If they like hiding in vents and walls, then by all means, let them be in the walls, but let them actually be in there when you enter a room, watching you, waiting.  Maybe you can hear them if you are an acute listener.  Maybe you can even pin-point their location and get the upper-hand with a pre-emptive attack.  Let them freely move around the ceiling and walls while they stalk you and wait for the best moment to attack, but that attack should not be scripted and the same each time.  Absolutely keep some of those scripted moments as they can be highly effective, I just think that removing the majority of the totally scripted attacks will do wonders not only to the general gameplay by making everything feel much more organic and random (which in turn will increase the game's replay value), but will make the actual scripted sections much more exciting.
Also, more sections that take place in the vacuum of space.  That is all.  Thanks.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Games of 2011

I was looking over a list of games expected to be released in 2011, and here are the ones I am looking forward to, in order from most anticipated.  Just because.
- The Last Guardian
- Batman: Arkham City
- Mass Effect 3
- Ico/Shadow of the Colossus Collection
- Portal 2
- Uncharted 3
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Brink
- Killzone 3
- Crysis 2
- Gears of War 3
- Deux Ex: Human Revolution
- MLB: The Show 2011
- L.A. Noire
That's 14 titles.  10 of which are sequels to existing franchises.  Another is just a remastered re-release.  Only 3 are new intellectual properties.  I'm sure there are a few additional games not on the list I'll become interested in along the way.  And probably a few on the list which I won't end up picking up.  But I really can't wait for those first three on the list!  Too bad none will be out until the 4th quarter.  And I am hoping The last Guardian doesn't slip into 2012!!!