January 27, 2010
I’m about seven hours deep in this game, and I can tell there’s a lot more for me to do. So much so that I’m going to break my discussion of the game into parts. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far that pisses me off.
- No more elevators. Some people consider this a good thing; those people are assholes. Now instead of hearing the galactic news and off-cuff dialog between characters I get to look at vector graphics. Load screens are plentiful, but now I don’t have a distraction to keep me occupied through it.
- It’s a little predictable at spots. Shepard and some of the key party members I’ve picked up so far are busted up from all of the crazy awesome things they’ve been up to since we last met. Even the scientist I recruited is secretly a bad ass ninja assassin with light sabers coming out of his nose. So far the most normal member of my crew is a former decorated soldier-com-terrorist. I guess I’m not going to see another rugged street cop or common field archeologist caught up in the chaos of a world they never made.
- Seth Green does not have enough lines.
- SCANNING! Good fucking god that’s boring. Look, I’m all for making my space opera as realistic as possible, but should it really take 10-30 minutes to check a planet for resources? Should doing that be integral to the upgrade system? Was there no way to bend the fiction a bit to at least point out where on the planet’s surface a mineral deposit might be?
- The “Spoiler Spoiler” Site. You know, the one where you put down that statue and look over the result of the opening cinematic? Yea, that better not be the pinnacle of the content offered by the Cerberus Network dlc, because if it is I don’t think they’ll sell a lot of it for $10. I realize it’s free to people who buy the game new, but let’s be honest here, that’s not everyone.
- The solution to the complaints about inventory management is one I did not see coming. They removed inventory all together. You select which guns you want to use before you leave the ship, all mods are equipped all the time, and only Shepard has different sets of armor. It works, but I feel like I’m giving something up.
I do want to clarify that I am having a great time with Mass Effect 2. I hope to be deeper into the game by Friday so I can elaborate on what I think the game is doing right without spoiling too much.
January 8, 2010
I wanted to talk about the MAG beta today, but I found it unplayable. Zipper isn’t known for their FPS prowess, so I’m not going to complain about it too much. I found the bullet clipping to be reminiscent of problems we had in PC games in 1997. Maybe they’ll add bullet penetration, fix the clipping planes, and move the position the bullets fire from to the position a person would expect. Maybe all of that can be patched. Maybe these aren’t the final builds of the maps. Or maybe MAG is a one trick pony and isn’t worth any further discussion.
Most of my gaming time has been spent in Modern Warfare 2. I’ve gotten to the point in my character’s progression where I got tired of CoD 4: Modern Warfare. The guns I like are unlocked with all the tweaks at the ready. In CoD 4 I had a clan going with me, keeping me engaged night after night. This time around I’m only keeping my skills sharp because of the LAN circuit.
The reason I’m writing this post now and not playing MW2 is quite simple. Infinity Ward fucked up. I hate to be that guy, but the hacking is far too common place. My praise for the game gets nullified every time some dillhole with too much free time one-shots my entire team in under a second. Infinity Ward will never be able to stop all the hacks. It hasn’t been done for any game in history. If only someone figured out a way to make players responsible for filtering out this kind of nonsense. Oh, that’s right, they did in 1996 when Quake offered dedicated servers.
The PC gaming industry evolved a specific way for a reason. We don’t rely on Punk Buster to keep out the riffraff. We rely on people who love the game enough to spend a lot of their time ensuring people have a good time with them.
After this LAN party I think I’ll be back in Counter-Strike for my FPS needs unless I’m playing with at least two friends.
December 28, 2009
Borderlands, a FPS by Gearbox, is the next game in secession to emulate Diablo 2. That may give an idea as to what kind of game it is, a pure shoot-em-up explode-orama mixed with a piles-of-loot dungeon crawler. Borderlands executes this quite well, well enough to earn several game of the year nominations (and awards, depending on where you look).
The idea behind Borderlands is as follows: circle strafe while killing dudes, who then drop better and more creative weapons to allow for more entertaining ways to kill the next mob of dudes. That’s the game. If it were played in any other way, the other way would be the wrong way to play it. That’s it’s highest peak, though there are quite a few problems with it.
In their circle strafing fun, Gearbox decided it needed more depth, so they added an incredibly useless story to tie the quest lines together. They just added some lady’s face in the top right corner of the screen, which is, of course, completely ignored while circle strafing and killing dudes. The story itself is hard to follow, and forgotten shortly after each dialogue.
The 87 bazillion guns was a selling point for most people, and rightfully so. The player was guaranteed to never receive a duplicate item, unless it was from a boss. The weapons could do anything from starting fires, bouncing off walls, shooting in certain formations, and all sorts of combinations. If this system was not implemented, there would be no motivation for anyone to play it. Borderlands would be just a husk of a standard fps, that did nothing for anything in gaming.
The problem with the weapon algorithm is after forty hours of play, the player figures out each gun is exactly the same as the next in terms of how it works, the only difference is how flashy it is. If the number of possible guns were forgotten, how creative would they really be? There’s a few elemental mods, a couple of interesting bullet spread formations, and not much else. It’s really just your standard weapon lineup of shotgun, pistol, sniper rifle, assault rifle, rocket launcher. Realizing this makes the game’s entertainment value drop immensely.
Despite the game’s many flaws and shortcomings, you’ll be happy to play it for a good fifty-sixty hours, especially if you can run co-op with friends. I might add, the PC copy of it is a broken console port, and if you were to buy it; definitely go for the 360 version. The PC SKU is still fun, but the bugs and Gamespy client are a bit overbearing.
December 17, 2009
This site could have been a shrine for Left 4 Dead. I was entranced with the game from the day it came out to the day I left for Brazil. I’d play nightly; I developed maps and tools to modify the game. I literally knew it inside and out. That love may have worked against the sequel.
For example, the hunter does not feel the same. In L4D he’s a little floaty, and he pounces in an arch. In L4D2 he feels like an unguided missile. His jumps seem faster, and there is less time to maneuver him. Part of that is because the new maps aren’t built to allow hunters maximum damage.
That may have been a concession for the survivor team. With three new special infected and the quirky uncommon infected to think about, survivors have their work cut out for them. In a single player or co-op campaign any difficulty above normal the situations to keep on top of may prove to be unwieldy. In versus, however, the uncommon and common infected are easy to ignore.
I enjoy the director panic events in L4D2. The beginning of the event and the end are typically not in the same place. This forces the survivors to run through a huge wave of zombies. In campaign mode this is a huge challenge; you can never be sure that you’ll make it through.
The new weapons aren’t everything I’d hoped for. In your secondary slot you can carry up to two regular pistols, a desert eagle, or a variety of melee weapons. The melee weapons have varying degrees of damage, effectiveness, and gore. The primary weapons basically break down to hunting rifles, machine pistols, shot guns and a variety of amped up versions of them. In my opinion the variations within those six groups is negligible. Some of the assault rifles fire in different spreads and bursts, but most of the time you’re shooting at enemies in close range so it doesn’t matter.
All of this changes the way a competitive game plays out. In L4D the infected team tried to keep the survivors off balance or separated while launching a continuous assault. In L4D2 before any assault can begin you must first force the survivors to stop or at least distract them at a bottleneck. The new method Valve employs for crescendos allows for a few minutes of the old gameplay. Thankfully these events happen frequently enough that at least once a map the infected get a chance to lay in to the survivors.
October 29, 2009
I played a few rounds of the coop L4D2 demo, once alone and once with three friends. On the solo run I played on normal, just to get a feel for the map.
This time around they seem committed to providing multiple paths through the environment. The longer path generally appears to be more dangerous, but there are usually better weapons available for the brave. For example you’re given an option to cut through a diner to get into a back alley. You’re given tons of cover to clear the horde, and the only real danger you’re in would be from a boomer or spitter willing to go kamikaze to do modest damage. Or you could go around the corner on the street, out in open under high pounce perches, ledges, and open windows. At the end of the street you’re treated to a desert eagle, a pistol that will one shot kill any common infected and is more accurate when incapacitated.
The other new weapons seem to be high-res models ripped from counter-strike. So far I found an automatic sniper rifle (rifle 6 for Counter-Terrorists I believe), a heavier auto-shotgun, and the much requested AK-47 (or possibly the Defender). I found the recoil on the AK-47 hinder the gun beyond being useful in hordes, but I imagine the range for two shot bursts will make it effective against special infected. It’s nice to have more options, but my initial impression is that the balance is off. In versus I think people will rely on the deagle and autoshotty.
I haven’t had a chance to figure out how to play as the special infected yet, but from what I observed in game roles have changed slightly. The jocky is a great hybrid between the smoker and the hunter, but the AI never attempted/landed a damage pounce; I have to wonder if they can. The spitter is a direct-damage boomer; she’s seems to be pretty straight forward to play. I think it’s interesting that the AI controlled charger behaves exactly as the AI controlled tank did in the last game. The tank is now smart enough to try to incapacitate multiple survivors instead of pounding one to death. The charger doesn’t seem capable of that kind of flexibility.
At this point the PC demo does still have some bugs in it, but I didn’t run in to anything game breaking.
I did get annoyed with the ad that plays every time I finished the campaign. I decided to do something about it.
This file will replace the long ad that reminds you to buy something you’ve already paid for with five seconds of the image you see here. I thought it was best to leave some ad in, as Valve obviously wants there to be one. Let’s call it a compromise.
Download the file and put it in \Steam\steamapps\common\left 4 dead 2 demo\left4dead2\media\. You may want to back up the original l4d2_upsell.bik just for posterity’s sake.
The file contains no audio in the interest of file size.
May 17, 2009
I haven’t seen an announcment on this, so I assume it’s leaked. Caleb gets credit for digging it up, but since he couldn’t be bothered to post it… here you go.
March 5, 2009
There are three demos up on Xbox Live right now that I thought would be worth checking out. I was right on two of them; and so filled with self-confidence I’ve decided to talk about them.
First up, The Watchmen: The End is Neigh. Good god this is a crappy game. Because of it I have to swallow the premise of a politically liberal vigalante. Come on, he’s against the death penalty but beating the gore out of people is ok? From the demo I’m going to guess the game plays like a half hearted brawler cashing in on a movie liceanse.
Next I tried Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Darth Athena. The game plays a lot like Escape from Butcher Bay, and I’m okay with that. If you’re trying the demo and you never played the the first game it’s important to know you can shoot out the lights. I’m excited that this game is apparently coming to pc as well as the 360, but I’m baffled about the trailer at the end of the demo. Apparently they want to stress that this game has multiplayer. I’m not sure anyone expects – or even wants multiplayer in this game. I’m hoping the “Capture Riddick” mode plays like a lethal game of hide-and-seek, but some how I doubt that will work out well. I’m anxious for more of Riddick’s story, and I’m pretty confident this game will be the optimal way to experience it.
Finally I played Halo Wars. I was skeptical going in. How can a RTS possibly control well on a console? Ensemble figured it out. To a RTS veteran this game will probably feel too simple – combat seems to consist of building a large force and smashing it against the enemy’s large force. This is good news for me, as I’ve been looking for a way to break into the genre. While playing a game like this won’t prime me for Sins of a Solar Empire, I may be ready to graduate to Star Craft 2 when it launches. It’s fun to learn new things.
March 1, 2009
This is the last scheduled post on No Hype Reviews. In a time where I’m thinking a lot about my past and my history with video games it seems serendipitous that Sega sent me a copy of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360. Quite a few games on this disc were among the first fifty or so that I ever played.
Technically the games work more-or-less as intended. I can play the first few stages of every16-bit Sonic game on muscle-memory alone, and I only noticed a few inconsistencies. On some other “ports” of older games the graphics seem to look either smudged or heavily pixelated, that wasn’t as much of an issue here. Everything looks roughly like it did in the 16-bit days, which I can appreciate.
Let’s talk about the selection of titles. You’ll be getting 40 Genesis, Masters, and arcade games including the unlockables. The games are all first party titles, which were not always my favorite back in the day. An “Ultimate” collection in my books would include titles from Acclaim and Electronic Arts among others, but considering the limitations of reality I’m content with the choices.
What this collection reminds me of is how brutal games were in the 90s. RPGs like Phantasy Star and Fatal Labrynth provide no explanation if what you’re doing – you’re not even outfitted with starting gear. Games like Comix Zone, Shinobi 3, and Streets of Rage are much more difficult (and thus beating them feels like a greater achievement) than their grandchildren (God of War, Devil May Cry, etc). The collection includes several platformers that were not Sonic. Vectorman, Alex Kidd, Kid Chameleon, Flicky (I can now say Flicky games have always sucked, even when it was a Joust clone) and a few others. If you’ve got a soft spot for 2d platformers this collection has you covered.
I didn’t spend enough time with each of the titles individually to say anything meaningful about them. I can tell you Sonic, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Shinobi, and Comix Zone have held up to the test of time. Those 12 games more than justify the $30 price tag to me.
I am disapointed that the Sonic and Knuckles title doesn’t couple with Sonic 3, let alone any other game. Some of the other collections have done it, and if you have not experienced those games in tandem you owe it your yourself to seek out that experience first.
February 15, 2009
The Maw is an Xbox Live Arcade title that feels a lot like the mascot-driven 3D platformers of the late ’90s. You play as an adorable alien locked in an E.T. zoo aboard a UFO. The UFO crashes on a strange planet where you befriend a fellow prisoner, the purple-jello-looking Maw.
Between the story, character design, and gameplay, I’m a bit confused about just who this game is for. For the hardcore, the game is too cute and easy. For children, the story is a little too cruel (the Maw eats fuzzy big-eyed animals). Maybe casual gamers who aren’t scared off by overly precious art design will find the game enjoyable.
Progressing through the levels is pretty straightforward. The only real challenge is consuming 100% of the maw-chow scattered throughout the level, and I doubt that will be much of a hurdle for most gamers. The puzzles never require more than a few moments thought, and are mostly solved by “eat x creature to perform y action.”
It should be mentioned that this game has no concept of death or damage, even though the enemies do attack you. While this consequence-free design works for a game like Kingdom for Keflings, the inclusion of conflict in The Maw implies a winner and a loser, but you simply cannot lose.
One thing to look out for is the camera. When the Maw eats he grows. Near the end of the game he’ll take up the center third of the screen. By that point he’s an unstoppable juggernaut and they more-or-less do away with jumping puzzles, so it’s not a huge issue.
The biggest issue is the play time. I completed the game in a single sitting, which I’d estimate at maybe three hours. For the price I’m not complaining too loudly, but it is something to be aware of when those Microsoft Space Bucks could be put toward Braid or even a couple of movie rentals.
Skip it: The game doesn’t feel like it is meant to be played by any particular demographic. If you’re old enough to read this site you’re probably too old for this game.
Demo it: The Maw might be a good time waster. This isn’t a bad game by any means.
Buy it: It might make for an alright “Family Game Night” game as long as your children are comfortable with the circle of life.
February 8, 2009
Beyond Good and Evil is a stealth adventure game. You play as Jade, a freelance photojournalist hired by an underground movement to expose the tyrannous nature of the ruling government.
It’s important to have realistic expectations for this game. It’s five years old, and the jaggy lines prove it. The game play can be frustrating for stealth newbies and too simple for Metal Gear vets. You can see the end coming a long ways off. Your primary partner in the game is annoying. You will be finished with it in under 15 hours. I did it in 10. The game was built for consoles, if you get it on PC you may get frustrated by the controls.
The art direction is fantastic. Hillys feels like a world that evolved. There are maybe half a dozen sentient species roaming around, each have their own cultures. The world is a collection of islands, so naturally you cruise around in hovercrafts. Jade looks like an athletic woman without crossing the line into Laura Croft territory.
The story is great. By the end I did have a (thin) emotional connection to every significant character presented to me. To be honest most of them annoyed me, some I hated (Francis!!), but I did enjoy some of them (Pey’j and Jade). At certain points the story started to tug on my heart strings.
After completing a mission a mob of citizens Hillys take to the street in protest of the Government. Each mission adds to the gaggle of protesters which is a small touch, but it really lends credence to the notion that you are changing the world.
As a freelance photographer you make extra money by cataloging the planet’s remaining animals. When broken down it’s simply a collect-fest, but as it’s presented it feels fresh to the adventure genre.
Those positive points are strong enough for me to mostly wash away the negative above. I think most of you will feel the same.
Skip it: I’m guessing you’ve been doing this for five years. You are wrong.
Rent it: If you can still find a place that rents this, go for it. The game is like $10 on Steam though, so the risk/reward ratio isn’t very favorable.
Buy it: It’s $10. We’re entering a bit of a dry spot in the calendar. The recommendation is obvious.