There's this game I've just discovered called Dead Space, and after playing the first level I have to say I'm quite excited about it.
I know I'm very late to board this dismemberment train, but here's a story and a visual style that really reaches out and grabs you (until you pound a button enough that it lets you go). The mechanics thus far are tight. In the game the best way to eliminate an enemy is to use your laser cutting tools to sever limbs. With fast moving monsters this could be tricky, so the story manages to justify you having a science-fiction magical hoo-ha gizmo that locally slows down time. Brilliant! You get jumped by a baddie, slow them down with stasis, then carefully use your very limited ammo to excise just the right parts.
The writers clearly get what makes for good science fiction, namely its about the people, perhaps like you and me, using the tools of the future to solve their futuristic problems. With a name like Isaac (Asimov - Arthur C.) Clarke, it's clear that someone at the Redwood Shores office is a fan of the genre. The aesthetic and even the story borrows from sci-fi themes you have seen before, but it just does it all so well.
Hell, I'm liking the setting so much that it makes me want to watch the movie "Event Horizon" again. Now that's saying something.
Combat is the primary focus of the new Fallout 3 DLC named "Operation: Anchorage". How much you enjoy the combat in the game will probably determine how much you like this content. Once you've paid your 800 Microsoft Clippy-bucks and return to the Wasteland you receive an emergency call from some members of the Outcast Brotherhood of Steel asking for backup. A new landmark is added on the southern end of the map, and you're on your way.
The Outcasts have discovered a hidden vault that they believe is full of precious pre-war technology. There is one catch: all this wonderful tech is locked behind an unbreakable door. The only way to access it is to successfully complete a pre-war virtual reality military simulation of the Liberation of Anchorage. It's a pivotal moment in the history of the Fallout universe where the United States successfully drives the Red Chinese out of Alaska. It's a great victory for the USA, but let's not mention that it contributed directly to the start of the nuclear war that followed. For reasons of plot, the only one who can access the simulation is you and your trusty Pipboy 3000. The Outcasts recruit you to help them out.
This Shakespearian simulation within a simulation looks nicely different from the bulk of Fallout 3. Society hasn't yet been destroyed by nuclear war, the sky is blue, the ground white with snow and ice. Like Oasis, it really feels like a refreshingly different place. There are four missions to complete, and each consists of getting to a particular destination and killing everything that stands in your way. You're aided by a squad of your choosing, either infantry, grenadier, sniper, missile launcher, or two brands of robot. They do help, by drawing fire if nothing else, and add some atmosphere to your character's more solitary existence outside in the Wasteland.
There are a few set pieces where you and several other heavily armed allies sweep through a large number of baddies. It moves quickly, and watching others in power armor while helicopters fly by and explosions shake the controller is fun. The one caveat here is that in all the excitement the thing crashed my Xbox. Just the one time, but it was a bummer, both in lost progress and in losing all the momentum of the action.
There's plenty of combat to be had in Operation: Anchorage, and if nothing else can greatly help you on your way to the "Doesn't Play Well With Others" achievement of killing three hundred people. It's a great way to rack up some XP. The top-notch loot gained at the end is a nice added bonus.
The new Prince of Persia is easy. That doesn't mean it's not fun, because it is, but it's pretty much always clear which way to go, and figuring that out in the Sands of Time games was what made it a puzzle. When it isn't clear which way to go -- say, at one of the nodes in the graph for this "open world" -- you can use your companion princess magic powers to directly show you the way. After clearing the corruption from a node on the graph, glowy light seeds, basically the flags from Assassins Creed, will appear all through the now pretty world. Unlike the Assassins Creed flags, however, you need to collect at least 540 of these seeds to unlock all areas of the map.
You have an amazingly detailed world, ugly and dark before you clear the corruption, pretty and fantastic afterward, but the light seed game design forces you to travel through it at least twice. It's a great way to see more of the world and solve some simple jumping puzzles to collect them, but it smacks of forced repetition in the game itself that strikes me as a bit of a cop out.
The platforming is very forgiving, giving you acres of time to hit the right button to make the next move. Getting into the rhythm of these moves can be fun, almost soothing. Unfortunately, for me at least, this same paced button pressing style carries over to the various boss fights and comes across as being simply unresponsive. I really want to hit the oily black bad dude with some magic, but it seems to take a dozen button presses before it happens. The game wants me to take my time with it, but in the heat of the fight I get a little anxious and start button mashing, expecting a more speedy response. The disconnect is between me and what the game expects, I know, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
There are many great moments in the game. The art direction is astounding. I really like the story, characters, and voice acting.
It's too easy for my tastes, but as an interactive story I think it does succeed. A rogue-like mercenary with a heart of gold meets a princess in a desperate struggle to save the known universe... someone should make that into a movie someday. Maybe throw in some spaceships. It could be big.
I'm about ten hours in to Fallout 3, and I'm loving it. I tend to play slowly, looking at every little thing, hacking every terminal, picking every lock, so I'm not all that far into the story, but what I have seen makes me want to explore every last nook and cranny of this large, fully realized world.
The combat is fun. Stacking up attacks in VATS mode gives a nice strategic feel, and then being able to do some real time shooting to finish them off is a nice touch. It feels quite a bit like a survival horror game in that things sneak up on you, your health is very seldom at max, and if it is, your radiation level is probably higher than you'd like. It's still an RPG through and through, however, especially with VATS allowing you to pause the action and think about the best way to handle the situation.
Taking out random raiders is always entertaining, but I also like that you can often talk your way out of certain situations. I was particularly impressed with the range of options you had in dealing with The Family in the quest Blood Ties.
I lived in D.C. for about two years, and that part amuses me as well. I've been in those Metro stations. I've walked over that bridge. When I lived there I was always amazed that all the buildings I've had on my money for years were gathered together right there, and now I get to shoot at (and run away from) Super-mutants in the same locations. I'll never look at the Metro Red Line the same again.
Add me to the long list of people that are loving this game. Very well done.
Now how on Earth am I going to finish it before Gears 2 comes out. Yikes.
I'm a little annoyed with physical distribution right now.
I pre-ordered Too Human a few months back on Amazon, because the game looked fun, it's got the kind of story I like, and Dyack is a funny guy. I've waited patiently for the release date to come, and it has, but my actual disk is only getting put in the mail now. I should get it tomorrow, while the game hit the street two days ago.
The game data exists in its final form. Why do I need to wait for it to arrive on a silicon platter? The point was driven home when Amazon mailed me a code to unlock special armor sets in the game as my "pre-order bonus". I entered the sixteen character code in on Xbox Marketplace, and the 80 kilobyte file that will tell game I can have the armor downloaded without a hitch. I can't actually *use* it or anything, as I need to wait for the game itself. Oy.
Steam does it right. You have an account. You have games you own. You can download them to any compatible computer you like and play them. If you assume that the Steam service will last, then it's demonstrably better than a shelf full of cardboard boxes and silicon wafers smeared with data. It takes a great deal of work to get these digital distribution and licensing systems functioning properly, as I'm sure Valve will attest, but Microsoft and Sony (and even Nintendo) could do it and do it right.
Seriously. Too many good games coming out in the next few months.
I understand the marketing reasons behind it, but I do wish they would space things out just a bit more. I've got limited time to feed my gaming addiction, and I want to make sure to give each game the time it deserves. Fallout 3 AND Fable 2 AND Mirror's Edge AND The Force Unleashed, each one or two weeks from the other. Let's not get started on Spore and Left 4 Dead. Too much awesome. I'd like to thank Too Human for coming out a bit earlier than the others. Thumbs up to Dyack for the assist.
I think the developers need to lay off the energy drinks. I can't keep up.
Oh crap. I forgot about Gears of War 2. That's it. I'm done. There's no hope.