As you may or may not know, last week contained the second most sacred of American holidays, Thanksgiving (the first being Independence Day (both the movie and the actual holiday)). As such I went home for several days. And in between eating far too much food, discussing plots for Star Wars Episode 7 involving The Rock (both the actor and the "character" from wrestling), and making fun of License to Kill, I spent a lot of time playing video games. I beat three of them, actually. Admittedly I was already a good way into two of them, but whatever.
The first one I played was the final episode of The Walking Dead game. I wrote a blog (partially) about my thoughts on the first two episodes of it, and I have to say that I've only come to love it more since I've played the remaining episodes. I'm not even going to bother talking about how great the story/writing/voice acting is because by now you already know that, because you've played them and/or heard the GB crew talk about them at some point (unless you're some sort of strange person who uses GB but only uses the forums). I agree with all that stuff. The story is great, brutal, and dark. And I love that it goes to places (figuratively) that other games would never dream of going.
I don't quite think it's the masterpiece that some people say it is. I think the game part of it has a few too many issues (such as those bad shooting segments), and there's definitely quite a few moments where the writing gets a little too clunky and "game-y." Too many cases of someone pointing out what a previous decision you made did to them. Something like, "If you hadn't done this, then I wouldn't have done that" (though much more specific). Just felt a little silly.
But my biggest complaint is that most of the time I didn't really feel much tension. The problem with this (and really, most games) is that there's no real penalty for death. If you mess up and get killed by a zombie, the game just reloads the last checkpoint. I got to a point where I just stopped feeling any tension or dread because I knew that even if I slipped up, I could just retry it. That's not the case with the story stuff, but it definitely is with the game part of it.
Which is not to say that nothing bad ever happens to Lee. It's just that if/when anything does happen, it's all part of the story and going to happen anyway (either because it would happen no matter what, or because of a decision you made).
But those issues did not get in the way of my enjoying the game. It's definitely one of the best told stories of the year (in games at least), and I can't wait for the next season.
And after finishing The Walking Dead, I went back to Assassin's Creed III. I had already started the game before, and played over 24 hours of the game. And I managed to put in another 13-ish hours I think (I want to say my final play time was around 37 hours, but I didn't check). I did just about everything there was to do in the game. I found all of the collectibles, and aside from a hunting mission or two (which I didn't even get access to until after beating the game, for whatever reason), I think I did all the "missions" in the game. I even played those PS3 only Benedict Arnold missions (they aren't very good). But what I'm trying to say is that I played just about everything there is in this game, so I have a pretty good idea about its overall quality.
Which is why I'm so torn about the game. Let me cover the parts I like first. I love the game play. I always have loved it in this series. Even the first one, which had some really bad mission design. I just loved climbing stuff so much that it was easy for me to overlook the game's flaws. Then ACII and Brotherhood were genuinely great games in terms of story and mission design (well, usually good mission design). Revelations, not so much, but I still got some fun climbing stuff.
And if anything, I love the act of playing this game even more than I did the previous games. Some smart changes were made to the controls, and the "feel" of the game is just so good. I don't know how to put it into words, but there's just something about the way that Connor controls and runs that feels right. Something with the ease at which he can dodge around people and obstacles that feels great. And the new things like tree climbing are fantastic as well. Every once in a while Connor will go the wrong way, or run up a wall instead of doing the thing I wanted him to do, but it happens much less than it did in the previous games.
I love the setting too. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a history buff, but I do love me some American history. And as a person who lives in Massachusetts (and right next to a forest), I love that this is the setting of the game. Revolutionary America is a fantastic setting for a game, and I love that this is where they went with the game.
But, alas, this leads into my biggest complaint with the game. It does not use the setting well at all. There are a few missions that make good use of historical events. My favorite in the game is the Battle of Bunker Hill. It's a thrilling mission with some good dialog from a cigar chomping general, a good variety of objectives, and it has a large and majestic battle going on. It's everything that you want it to be, and it's great.
But the rest of it isn't. The other times when you're taking part in historical events are cheesy and not fun to play. Taking part in the Boston Tea Party could have been cool, but when that means switching between throwing boxes off a ship and protecting NPCs, it's not. Don't get me wrong, the combat is fun, but protecting NPCs isn't. The Paul Revere mission is similar in that it's kinda goofy (but not goofy enough to be funny), and not fun to play. Again, it's not tongue in cheek enough to be interesting in that way, and it just comes off and poorly conceived and borderline insulting to American history.
And the story itself is just straight up bad. The Connor story is nothing more than a simple revenge tale that just happens to involve the Revolutionary War (even though it skips over most of the war). And the Desmond story is even worse, but I wasn't really expecting anything out of that beyond Nolan North. But sadly Desmond is too normal a character to get a truly great Nolan North performance, like Steven Heck.
And I'm torn on the game. When I just go around exploring, and goofing off, I absolutely love the game. It's a complete blast to play. Yes, the frame-rate gets a little choppy every once in a while, but that never really got in the way. But the story was just so disappointing that I can't help but feel sad that they didn't do something better with it. So much potential just flushed down the drain.
And after finishing ACIII, I started playing Black Ops II. And let me say, Black Ops II is a completely different beast from ACIII! Over the weekend I got a decent bit of each of the three parts of the game. I played some multi-player, which is great. Running around with just a knife is really dumb and really awesome. Even more dumb is the knife camo you can get for your knife. I played some Zombies (with my cousins), and that was kinda fun (mostly because I was messing around and shooting rockets at them).
But the real meat of what I like about Blops II is the campaign. Now, if you don't know, I really loved the campaign in Blops I. I thought the story was great, I liked the characters, and I thought it was a fun game. At the time, it was easily my favorite Call of Duty game. But now, I have to say that Blops II has dethroned it, and is now my favorite Call of Duty game.
And unlike The Walking Dead and ACIII, I think every aspect of Blops II is great. It's a blast to play, and the story is pretty good too. There weren't any big twists in Blops II that got me like the big twist in Blops I, but it was still a well told story that kept me intrigued the whole way through. And I'm still intrigued now, actually. Because after I played it, I took a look through the Trophies through the game, and realized I messed up and didn't do several things that I didn't even realize were possible in the game. Story things, I mean.
Because, if you don't already know, Blops II has introduced a branching story. Admittedly, I've only played it once, and aside from the very last decision (which I replayed the last mission to see how making the other choice would alter the ending (which is a lot)), I don't know how much the game actually branches. But it's still really cool that they did that, and I definitely want to play through it again before the end of the year to get a better feel for how things can change if you do things differently.
And the game itself is rad too, and not without changes. If you've kept up with GB's coverage, you already know about stuff like picking your equipment before missions (pro tip, don't just go with the default, because you can have up to three "perks" and the default only gives you one). But what struck me is how open some of the missions gets. Now, don't get the wrong idea, this is still Call of Duty. You still always have a clearly defined objective in a specific place. But the game isn't all narrow corridors. It's mostly narrow corridors, but there's some wide open spots for good measure. There's one level that I refer to as the "horse level" where you have a large open area where you can ride around pretty much anywhere at any time. It's a thrilling and exciting mission that does everything you want Call of Duty to do, but in a different and very refreshing way. It's fantastic.
I also really like the look of the 2025 levels. I think most of the future tech there is far more advanced than what we will really have in 2025, but hey, who cares? It's a video game. I also like how the different time periods have different HUDs. The 80s missions have the same HUD from Blops I, but the 2025 missions have a new HUD that is contextualized as being displayed in your character's glasses. It's a nice touch.
The game does have some flaws though. While I think most of the music is great (featuring some fantastic original music from Jack Wall, who did the music for other games like Mass Effect 2), there's some really bad stuff in there too. I'm looking at you, multiplayer menu dub-step. And you, post credits Avenged Sevenfold cut-scene. Man, that part is DUMB. Almost dumb enough to be funny, but not quite. And no, this isn't a spoiler, if you haven't already heard about that scene. It has nothing to do with the official story of the game.
But I do think it gives an important lesson: Avenged Sevenfold plays in Hell. Think about it. If you've seen it, it makes sense.
Nolan North is also in Blops II, so you get a rare second Nolan North picture in this blog.
And that's about it for the games I've been playing. I still hope to play Borderlands 2, Dishonored, and Sleeping Dogs before the end of the year. Why? The Moosies, that's why! Don't know what The Moosies are? Fear not, explanations will come in the coming weeks. But for those who do, I say that I have big plans for The Moosies this year. BIG PLANS.
Also, I'm sorry that I haven't been blogging much lately. But when I'm at college and my video games are at home, I don't play them very often, and I don't have much to talk about. I could put in another plug for my book, but that hasn't been selling well, and also, advertisements are discouraged here on Giant Bomb (in the forums, at least (you know what I mean)). I am still working on the sequel, but it'll be a long time before that's ready for public consumption.
But with The Moosies in December, and the rapidly approaching winter break (from college), I will (hopefully) be blogging more often. Unless all I play is Blops II. It is a really good game.