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.