By GunstarRed 4 Comments
The share function on the PS4 is great for pointing out shockingly bad parts of otherwise great looking games.
This is a big week for sparkly new video games on magical new systems. I have Titanfall being all roboty on my PC and there's some military superheroes and grungey Troy Baker-ish douchebags coming later in the week, so how do I spend my time preparing for the nextest of next gen games? I spend it playing the video game equivalents of my top ten favourite movies. This came to me during one of my insomnia fueled nights watching T25 and Nutribullet infomercials. "Hey, why don't I play all of the video games based on those movies wot I like." It was actually a pretty good idea come to think of it and far more doable than I'd have ever imagined possible. Obviously I'm going to have to stretch here and there and there's only one film I'm struggling to find a definite game to play. In the event that I don't come up with something before the third (Possibly fourth.) part I have a handful of backups in my not-quite-top-ten-but-close list.
The first three movies in my list are Hard Boiled which naturally resulted in the official sequel to that movie and dumb shootathon Stranglehold. A game that I already own and haven't really played much of since its release in 2007. Jurassic Park which had plenty of games to choose from like the SNES and Mega Drive movie tie-in's which I had already played a ton of when I was younger, but don't have the means to do so now without an emulator. This is something I feel a little bit awkward about doing, so instead I have played the far more crazy dinosaur fighting game Warpath: Jurassic Park. And finally the only animated movie on my list which also happens to be jerky anime for jerks... Ghost in the Shell. So obviously I've set a certain kind of tone here. I like robots, dinosaurs and shooty guns which are all pretty well represented in video games. This also gives me an excuse to re-watch and maybe reevaluate my top ten list of movies along with a bunch of games I'd never considered playing, had avoided or even knew existed.
Stranglehold is a weird thing. It's a sequel to a much older Hong Kong action movie that plays like a game (Max Payne) that was trying to emulate John Woo's (Director) style. Which gets even weirder when you consider John Moore's wretched Max Payne movie is trying to emulate the action from the game based on the other action movies with the sequel game that plays like the other game. Got that???
Stranglehold is the continuing adventures of Inspector 'Tequila' Yuen from the movie Hard Boiled. Tequila, as he is only referred to in the game is a no nonsense cop that has no time for authority and knows when shit has to get done, it has to get done with dual pistols and a hundred dead bad guys. As unorthodox as this approach to police work is it gets the job done. It also helps that Tequila is invulnerable to bullets and has infinite ammo.
We start the story with a cop being murdered, shot right through the badge which is probably the ultimate insult to a cop. We then get the usual cop movie office arguing where the higher ups are all like "There's nothing we can do about this." But our hero voiced and modeled by the actor Chow Yun Fat isn't having any of it and sets out to mess up a large portion of Hong Kong. The weirdest part about the voice acting in the game is that some actors are not native English speakers (Like Chow Yun Fat.) and some of them just have an American accent. I find this Jarring at times. I would have liked an option to change all the dialogue into Cantonese, but Chow Yun Fat does a pretty decent job.
The game immediately drops you into a market place where someone has conveniently placed a clue for our hero and a couple of pistols. As soon as the game begins enemies keep popping out of doorways in the environment and start shooting at you. You can use the right stick to do the standard aiming and pull the right trigger a couple of times, but if you pull the left trigger something magical happens. Tequila jumps through the air, the screen turn sepia and everything slows down which is convenient for lining up your aiming reticule with the center of people's faces. Thankfully Stranglehold has some of the most generous aim assist I have ever seen in a game and you can pop a succession of bad guys heads before you have even hit the ground.
For as shallow as this game is there is something satisfying about constantly flopping into the scenery and dual pistoling twenty bad guys. Tequila's movement is designed around interacting with the environment, so if you hit a table you'l slide over it or land on a trolley and it will continue to roll as you shoot people. You can even steer its movement resulting in some strangely comical moments of silently rolling on your belly into an empty corridor. The environment plays a big part in the enjoyment with a large portion of the scenery completely destructible. The first level has you shotgunning melons in slo-mo along side bad guys heads and shooting down neon signs that crush enemies with a satisfying blood splash. After returning to this game after quite a while I have to say that I was having a bunch of fun, giggling to myself about the amount of absurdity happening on screen. The game is seven missions long with each chapter coming in at about an hour which is possibly a little longer than it should be, but at least they try to mix it up on occasion, like when the game pretends to be Desperado and gives you a couple of guitar cases full of guns and ammo, an on rails helicopter sequence, protecting a jazz band from stray bullets and a laser maze you need to navigate without triggering bombs.
Stranglehold has you destroying most of Hong Kong in the first few missions. Not content with destroying all of the drug labs at the docks our supercop decides he needs a change of scenery so he travels all the way to Chicago with the sole intention of shooting up a dinosaur exhibit just to piss Patrick off only to to return to H.K in the back end of the game because he had forgotten to mess up the slums and some triad dudes house. The game throws in a few bosses like a couple of helicopters, a fat man with dual shotguns and a supposedly intense face off with a dirty cop you thought was your friend. This boss fight is completely bonkers because he can do all of the same moves as you so you see him jumping through the air in slo-mo in real time and sliding on his chest with dual pistols. Unfortunately for him I can slow down time on top of his slo-mo time where I killed him by using my barrage mode in which the game grants me infinite SMG bullets for a few seconds. He had no chance while I lazily aimed at his face and pulled the trigger. Serves him right for having a nap at my feet.
You have a little meter at the bottom of the screen that lets you use screen clearing attacks called 'Tequila bombs' where Tequila spins around as doves fly about in proper John Woo fashion and you get a slow mo shot of everyone in the room dying. There's a couple of other uses like a heal and the barrage mentioned above, but there is also a precision aim mode where you follow a camera of the bullet flying into the aimed-at part of the body. There's some fun shots of people holding their necks as blood splurts out or dudes holding their crotches. It's juvenile, but I have a pretty childish sense of humour so I'm ok with it.
Stranglehold is a fun time if you don't think about it too much. It gets the spirit of the movie spot on. I watched Hard Boiled the other night and it is still full of some of the best action scenes John Woo has ever produced. As incredible as Face/Off is he was never able to recreate the mayhem from the movies he made at home. There's some fun references in here like a text message where an earlier Woo movie - Bullet in the Head is referenced, and the meter-filling paper cranes that Tony Leungs's character Alan makes that are for every person he kills amusingly enables even more death. It's full of flashbacks, dead girlfriends and some shockingly bad faces and hands. There's even a section where Triads in trenchcoats drive boats through doorways trying to kill you. Probably even sillier than the movie... John Woo even sells you unlocks at his bar. How cool is that!?I will probably never understand why Tequila lights cigarettes only to discard them seconds later, and it's weird when your daughter throws a bad guy over a balcony only to shriek in horror when she realises he fell to a bloody mess below, but that's not what this game is about. It's about endless enemy doorways and jumping on trolleys. Oh, and Chow Yun fat does a James Bond-y Turn, pose and shoot the screen thing at the end... Perfect.
I'm going to assume that when John Hammond said he would make the park run better by not relying so much on technology the second time around he didn't mean that he was going to turn it into some sort of illegal dino-fighting bloodsport arena.
It's a good idea though. Kids love dinosaurs, adults love dinosaurs, dinosaurs love to eat other dinosaurs, it's a win for everyone.
When you start up Warpath: Jurassic Park it seems promising. The atmospheric music evokes the movie and various menus have snarling Raptors in grass or T.Rexes hiding behind trees like the worst Cretaceous assassin ever. There's some nice animation on these dinosaurs and they look pretty good for an original Playstation game. Warpath is possibly one of the stranger Jurassic Park games. 3D fighters like Tekken were big on the PS1 and Primal Rage was the only other real attempt at trying to make a dinosaur fighting game previously. Warpath is pretty much the Raptor Vs T.Rex fanfic I wrote as a child. I'm sure if this game came out when I was a child I would have thought it was the best thing ever... I had already defended Primal Rage on the SNES far more passionately than anyone ever should. Even I should have known better back then. (Although to be fair dinosaurs and stop motion are two of the best things ever.)
There's the usual collection of modes - Arcade, Survival, Team etc, so I set out to complete the game with all of the available dinosaurs. Initially there is only eight dinosaurs to choose from, with another six to unlock. Luckily the favourites are there with their names shortened giving them all a nickname. It's funny to see the Vs screen with things Trike Vs Anky. As you beat the game there are a couple of unlocks along with the extra dinosaurs like a weird dino-history mode where a man tells me no expense has been spared and gives me sounds, a list of other dino's that lived at the same time and some height information. Funnily all of the dinosaurs contained within the game all fit into the Cretaceous period, a complaint I remember hearing when the first movie came out. It's a nice inclusion and it doesn't really need to be in here. It gives the game some educational value, but lets be honest what you're here for is dinosaurs murdering other dinosaurs and Warpath has all of your dino-murdering needs covered.
The fighting is pretty wonky featuring some terrible hit detection with your connecting attacks often resulting in you taking more damage than your opponent. There's like four different classes and all of the dinosaurs have their own trick, and by trick I mean that one spammable move that lets you win 90% of the time. The best thing about the fights is the crazily out of place announcer. To begin with I was mildly amused at the Mortal Kombat-esque shouts of Flawless when you bounce that Spinosaurus off of an electric fence over and over, but the more I played it the crazier some of the dialogue was. I ended up with about two pages of notes with announcer dialogue and I'd love to put all of it here, but I'm not entirely sure this game deserves that amount of writing.Some of the best are when you lose or continue with gems like "Your insurance is paid up right?" and "Clear the spectators, he's coming back!" Now, I'm not one to pick the big dumb holes in video game logic, but not only are they letting the public watch these violent fights to the death, they're exposing them to explosions, volcanoes that are about to go off and by the announcers own admission they haven't even put the containment fence on. I sure do hope that Pachycephalosaurus has paid his insurance though.
It is a nice bit of fanservice though. Every dinosaur has its own intro animation and some of the arenas are fun like the boat from Lost World where the T.Rex continually recreates that bit in the movie where he jumped onto a yellow explosive barrel. and there's the car stuck in the tree when the Carcharodontosaurus bends through some seemingly elastic trees. That's a pretty common thing that happens in this game. When the Triceratops breaks out of its cage it bends and distorts like something out of a Looney Toons cartoon. There's a good ten to twelve backgrounds and they're all pretty fun with a lot of environmental hazards and dudes, dogs and Compsognathus's for you to tail whip or munch on. This one time I ate a goat mid combo. It was pretty great.As I mentioned before the trick to winning is finding the one move that works best, most of the attacks are bites, tail whips, headbutts and horn charges. Some of the animation of the moves is cool. The way you bite into one dinosaurs neck and hurl it into the ground where you proceed to pounce on it and snack on its belly is fun to do despite the amount of glitching through each others body parts. The one other move the dinosaurs do that seems 100% accurate is that a bunch of them can do kung fu kicks. This is best displayed by the Velociraptor. Did I say Velociraptor... I meant MEGARAPTOR! This thing is fucking huge. Everyone knows the movie was full of lies despite claiming to be a documentary, and the Velociraptor was about the size of a dog, but this Raptor is MEGA! And it's like the Jet Li of the dinosaur world. It has swipey kicks and flying kicks and is generally the coolest being in all of Jurassic Park. Warpath has some weird shit going on with its dinosaurs. it tries to stay sort of grounded by having the dinosaurs do dinosaurey things, there's no silly hats or alternate costumes here, but some of the win animations are crazy like Pachy does a somersault upon victory and a couple of them seem to start breakdancing or crotch thrusting. These are some well trained dinosaurs, but I guess some of them had to die for the paying public. I'd like to think Hammond stuck to his word and this kind of entertainment is affordable to all.
Warpath isn't a good fighting game, but it has its heart in the right place. It's always funny to see Michael Giacchino (Star Trek, Incredibles, Lost etc) listed as the musician on a game like this, even If I knew he was responsible for a bunch of video game soundtracks in the past like the original Call of Duty and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. The instruction manual lists the 'Voice Talent' as the lead tester on the game which probably explains a lot of its weirdness, but it has its charm (" Get this thing out of here before it starts to stink!") I'm glad I played it though... I could have played countless other Jurassic Park games, but this seemed like the weirdest, not quite as weird as I was expecting, but silly enough to be entertained for a handful of hours. The reward for finishing the game with all of the dinosaurs is a live action video featuring a triceratops playing frisbee advertising an amusement ride in Florida. Was all that time worth it? I dunno. What I do know is that the Tricera-hop is a majestic thing.
I am a certified dinosaur expert* and after careful consideration I've decided not to endorse this game.
Ghost in the Shell is quite possibly the most late 90's game I have ever played. It's the kind of game they'd be playing in the movie Hackers if they weren't already playing that fake version of Wipeout in their fancy hacker club. This game has the anime, the robots, the cyperpunk and most importantly music with a thumping techno beat.
Ghost in the Shell has some impressive animation upfront, animated by Production I.G who were responsible for both the movies and the TV series. They have provided some flashy shots of spider tanks shooting up rooms, quick cuts of naked robot ladies and Kusanagi gasping in an overtly sexual manner while all wrapped up in wires. There were probably a bunch of 14 year old boys replaying that intro over and over because there's nothing like hot anime cyber-ladies and machine guns right? There's about ten minutes of really nice animation overall with about five of it tied to the story and another five tied to various win or lose conditions in the training mode. I'd have probably not seen a lot of those throwaway sequences if there wasn't a 100% complete save file cheat.
The game is a third person shooter where you control a little red walking tank that can talk called a Fuchikoma. (I know that the TV series had something similar called a Tachikoma which was blue, but this is essentially the same.) The game starts you off with a very basic mission where it throws you into a small city area and asks you to get four codes by blowing up mechs. You have machine guns on the square button and a limited number of screen clearing grenades on circle which can be replenished by collecting the ones scattered around the city. You can blow up the mechs by shooting at them or by holding down the fire button to lock on with up to six missiles Panzer Dragoon style. Ghost in the Shell's only real standout trick is that the Fuchikoma can stick to walls and ceilings and has a fancy sliding strafe move by hitting L1/R1. You have to learn to exploit this very early on as some enemies can't shoot up and are often completely oblivious to you pummeling them with rockets if you're just out of reach of them. It's good to know that if Judgment Day ever happens and Skynet ever becomes self aware all we have to do it take potshots at the Hunter Killers from long range. The human spirit will prevail by shooting those robots from really, really far away.
Being super cautious is the only real way to play this game. The really arcadey movement, which feels very good compared to a lot of early 3D PS1 games seems to be at odds with the highly accurate and deadly enemy fire. To lock on you have to get really, really close so you find yourself inching forward getting a few lock-ons, firing and then backing off, which is made even more deadly by the constantly respawning enemies if you travel too far back. Sliding from side to side sometimes works, but the homing missiles have a nasty habit of doing their intended job and flying directly into you. How dare they!
They mix up the game a little by giving you objectives like "Destroy all the bombs in the area!" within a time limit, and there are a couple of auto-scrolling levels, both on the water and a road where you have full movement and an insane amount of enemies to contend with. These sections are completely maddening in their difficulty as the health pickups fly by too fast requiring you to memorize the layout by dying over and over and over. There's even another mission where you have to fight off another cyborg that keeps on disappearing using the Thermoptic Camouflage seen in the movie. Ghost in the Shell is made all the more difficult by there not being any checkpoints. A lot of the missions had me making my way to the boss with a little challenge and then having the boss destroy me in about a minute. Most of the bosses are giant walking tanks with kill lasers, rockets and stompy shockwave moves. There's a couple of standouts like a couple of flying mech suits and a generator core where you need to destroy all of its fuel rod things. For the most part you will fight the bosses by holding down the slide buttons and strafing all over the walls and ceilings continuously holding down the rocket lock-on hoping to score a couple of hits. If you were the pilot in the Fuchikoma there would probably be a certain amount of motion sickness and the last place you want to be puking up is in a confined robot tank. If I was that tank I'd be pissed, although these tanks are pretty cheery. There's one cutscene where one of them is clapping its hands and being overexcited in Major Kusanagi's office. The talking tanks should stay in the garage, think of all that oily mess they'd make on the carpets, not to mention their little stubby gun arms. All it takes is for one of them to have a bad day and start shooting up computers. Offices are no place for walking, talking robot tanks.
There's two main types of level over the course of the twelve missions. There's the open city areas and then there's enclosed areas set in sewers, warehouses and super sci-fi complexes. The tight corridors where you don't have to worry about backing or sliding into respawning enemies actually work out a lot better because you get to use more surfaces for being tactical. These sections seem to be a lot more plentiful with grenades and health also making for a little less challenge which helps. The game is short, but took me quite a while to get to the last mission which I could not complete. I don't have the patience to make my way through the tower, it can be crushing to spend twenty minutes creeping through the level only to be killed by a collection of rockets from an enemy slightly off screen. Maybe one day, although I've seen the ending and I can tell you it's not worth seeing.
I'm really glad I played this game actually. This was one of the more expensive purchases for this dumb idea coming in at £17 which for a complete copy of the UK version was a very good deal. I've been curious about this game for a long time. It has an artstyle somewhere between the movie and the original manga, and the English voice cast sound like the same ones from the VHS I had years ago which is cool if you're into that stuff. (Dunno about the TV show, only seen about six episodes and they were in Japanese.) It's a fun game with possibly a little too much of a challenge in places, but the well animated videos and the good controls really help. It can look a little drab and grey in places, but it does have some nice, green wire-frame mission briefs that are very similar to the stuff in the movie that plays out with Kenji Kawai's haunting music before the final battle against the tank.So this turned out a lot longer than I was expecting. The fourteen year old me could have spent the last hour watching that opening video over and over on YouTube.
So, part two will maybe be next week. I have only played two other games on my list and it all depends on how much time the new games will take up. I was a little hesitant to have this be more than a couple of parts, but I know how people are with words and things... Reading is booooring! So I'm going to split it up and make it more manageable. Feel free to say something about your favourite movie/game combo or tell me how much my movies suck, which they don't because y'know it's my list... the best list ever! Until next time where there will most likely be a little fortune, glory and bad motion controls.
Thanks for reading. Be excellent to each other.
* Based on having a dinosaur book I owned as a child in close proximity at all times.
I'm not going to pretend I'm the biggest Castlevania fan in the world, but I've played enough of them in the past and spend a large enough amount of time whipping my bedroom walls looking for various pieces of meat to say that I really, really like Castlevania. Sure, I'm one of those dedicated few (Crazy people?) that kept on screaming at the internet that if you can make it past the first half of Lords of Shadow it really, really, really is an amazing game, but I'm also a big fan of Super Castlevania IV, Symphony of the Night and the DS games, two of which I played back to back for the first time last year.
For some reason I assumed that Lords of Shadow had done really poorly, when they announced the sequel I was overjoyed at the thought of seeing how the incredible twist ending of the first game would play out. Lords of Shadow 2 was quite possibly one of the top three games I was excited to play this year, and when I started seeing a few of the early review scores with a complaint here and a complaint there about the stealth sequences in the game a few little alarms went off in my head. I find myself often disagreeing with reviewers these days, and I'm far more forgiving of a games faults than most. I can usually see the best parts of even the worst games. I want to point out up front that this isn't some kind of Devil May Cry 2-esque ruiner of lives, but it is one more terrified family-lunch away from exploding into a big, bloody awful mess.
We start the journey strong. Count Begbie is just chilling with a nice cup of neck claret when some irritating intruders bust into his nicely decorated throne room and start trying to kill him. Dracula, The Prince of Darkness or not this is pretty rude. And while I think it's a little severe a punishment for trespassing, I feel like good old Drac has every right to drain these men of their blood. If that wasn't enough of an intrusion these men have brought a giant wooden robot to mess up Dracula's house. Dracula, as confused as I am about what is happening has a strange lapse in sanity and starts questioning himself about what it is to be a man. He doesn't search deep inside all that long for an answer, it's obvious... We are a miserable pile of secrets. I ignore that my eye just twitched and proceeded to watch Dracula blood-sick all over the giant's jewel, forcing a man in some shiny gold god armour (Not to be confused with the fantastic Jackie Chan movie Armour of God.) to start swinging his flamey swords around. The cheek! Not only is a large portion of Dracula's home rubble, now he has to deal with this aggressive, winged man trying to kill him in what is probably the remnants of a stylish banquet hall.
Dracula beats the intruder and as some kind of last attempt to drive him from his home starts chanting some Latin, but Dracula like an overly theatrical, Scottish Jerry Dandrige is all like "You've got to have faith." and starts a monologue about how he is vengeance, he is the night, he is the wind beneath your wings and most importantly that he is Batman. Dracula, like any sane person is all like "If I can't have this house, nobody can" so wipes out an entire army with some kind of bat-based nuclear bomb. Enter Alucard... DUN DUN DUUUN!
It would be easy to get sucked in with an opening as strong as that. Sure, it's a bunch of quick time events, tutorials and cutscenes, and thankfully there is an option to turn off all of the QTE's, but it is incredibly fun. The game immediately thrusts you into a pretty long story recap throwing you forwards into the future that was first seen in the epilogue to the first game. It's hard not having that interview with David Cox talking about wanting Mercury Steam to be the next Naughty Dog stuck in the back of my mind. You can see they have taken inspiration from the in-game world interaction from the mountain village in Uncharted 2, with you shuffling round a small section of the city streets with a homeless lady and a drug dealer only saying their scripted lines when you get within a certain radius of them. I'm a patient person a lot of the time, but I despise the slow, forced walk. I dunno if that's a concept page on the site, but it should be. It isn't enough to make me automatically sharpen my fangs and run to the internet, but it does make those alarms start ringing again.
Then that scene happens. I say that like you're bothered, but the second this game started getting bad reviews nobody seemed to care about its oh-so controversial family murder sequence. I will agree that it is at odds with the rest of the game which strives to make you feel like Dracula glassing a whole pubs worth of the English in the face with a big cheery smile. And it's maybe one of three or four moments in the game where Dracula is made out to be pure evil. For the most part he is filled with sadness and regret at the loss of his family and humanity. Honestly, It plays out exactly as you would imagine a hungry vampire trapped in a room with walking Capri Sun pouches should do. It wasn't a particularly fun sequence, but it's absolutely no different than many scenes from various films and TV, there were episodes of Angel (Another evil murderer you're supposed to root for when he heroically kills demons.) that dealt with similar themes/ideas far more graphically, and I never saw a single complaint about that.
It's hard not to love how committed Patrick Stewart sounds to the role of Zobek. This game isn't consistently good across the board from a voice acting perspective, but Stewart, Robert Carlyle and even Rob Stark along with a handful of other characters get the perfect tone for what I think Castlevania in the year 2014 should sound like. That overly theatrical reading of the lines really helps with some of the better story moments. I'm even willing to forgive how stupid it sounds when Stewart is all like "I've opened a portal for you." I'm not entirely sure why it sounds so off considering he has had to say far more absurd things in both Star Trek and X-Men in the past.
Zobek has a nice shiny suit and wants you to go kill some stuff. This is the set up for a large portion of the game. It wouldn't be so bad if the very first mission didn't want you to use the new stealth mechanics introduced in this game. Is it hard? No. Is it boring, oh god are these sections boring. I really can't see any reason for their inclusion. There is one type of enemy that Dracula is unable to defeat. Gabriel Belmont wasn't even an all powerful vampire lord before he whipped Satan back to hell. By the end of the game you have beaten the largest of Satan's minions, giant beasts with razor sharp claws, rocket launcher wielding mechs, even the deepest darkness within Count Duckula himself, but a single Golgoth guard is too much to handle. You're always reminded that Dracula isn't at full strength in these moments, but that time I juggled two shotgun toting demons in the air doing spins and dashes makes me think someone's telling a little porky pie.
The problem with the brief, but unsatisfying stealth moments is that there is only a singular way to complete them. It's just a case of trying all available options until you stumble across the correct one. That said, most of them are really straightforward and require you to turn into rats or bats. I'm a big fan of the rats in this game, it's a shame it isn't an ability you can use at any time. Although I assume that would have probably broken parts of the game elsewhere. I love the way being a rat has its own jaunty theme. If there was ever a bit of music that made you want to rummage about in other peoples bins, this is it. While I'm talking about the music, Lords of Shadow had the one of the best scores of any game in 2010 and Oscar Araujo continues his high standard of work in this game. There isn't as many memorable pieces, and this seems to have a couple of themes carried over from Mirror of Fate, but this is some damn fine orchestral music. Appropriately grand during action sequences and beautifully tender during the more thoughtful story moments. Although I would like the game far more if the entirety of it had Vampire Killer playing in the background.
There is Last of Us spoilers in the next section.
It's quite hard to talk about this game without sounding like I have a handful of really petty complaints, but the game wants to take away any fun you're having at every turn. Every so often I'd get into a succession of boss battles and arena fights that show off the games biggest strength... its combat. Only to have that fun halted immediately by making me throw daggers at targets with an erratic aiming system or hiding from a lady by dripping blood on the floor, only to whip her to death minutes later when the game deemed it appropriate for me to do so. The first game was full of interesting, throwaway ideas that kept the game fresh from start to finish, these seem designed to make you want to hate the game and ruin any kind of pacing it had built up previously. The biggest offender is the leaf maze guarded by the demon Agreus. (Pan's brother) He's a little upset that you killed his brother and towers over you ready to mess you up, but instead decides that he'd rather you try to hide from him in a maze with dead leaves on the ground. It seems like someone wanted to know what was happening elsewhere in the world of hot new video games and discovered that there's a stealth boss fight between Ellie and David in The Last of Us. Instead of there being a lot of broken plates and glass on the ground there will be dead leaves and if he hears you he's going to immediately find you and stab you to death. This point in the game is where many will just give up. It's frustrating when you're unsure about the best method to beat it, The one hint the game does give you makes the section harder (Although some people swear by using the distraction bells.) They never suggest you should dash and mist over the leaves, the way there are hand holds all over the scenery make that seem like the best way to beat it. After an hour and a half of messing with the bells and shimmying around the environment as the evil Russian skele-goat-man keeps on telling me he smells my fear. I started dashing and using my mist ability out of frustration and ended up finishing it within five minutes.
A minute later Dracula's fear is no longer a problem and you just whip Agreus to death.
It was hard to even have fun after this. I definitely did have some fun during a couple of boss fights, and getting jewels for upgrades was a nice distraction only hindered by the absolute mess of a map screen. Some sections of the map don't allow you to fast travel to certain places and none of the city or castle has a coherent layout. Sometimes mission markers tell you to go one way, but don't explain that you have to travel through time, run through a part of the castle and then jump back to the present to continue your journey. There was more than one occasion where I found myself faced with an arrow pointing one way only for me to enter another area and then have the arrow facing back towards the way I came. Not to mention the barrage of machine gun wielding enemies scattered all over the place in a melee focused game. It's ok when you're fighting one or two of them in an enclosed space, but when there's five of them and the camera is confused by the minuscule space you're in and they're all doing unblockable attacks it is the opposite of fun. Regarding the unblockable attacks, there were moments where I was facing three or more enemies and they were spamming those moves for thirty seconds at a time with no opening. It was a minor annoyance, but there were points where them spamming like that bordered on the ridiculous.
Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 is possibly one of the most disappointing games of the last few years. It has a lot of the same problems as Darksiders 2. Bigger in scope, but lacking the things that made the original special. There's a Train sequence that's (probably) full of quick time events. I can't help but think about that David Cox interview again. I get the feeling that someone had a checklist of things that Uncharted 2 excelled at which resulted in them trying to shoehorn a train sequence into the game without the excitement or the flair.It has its moments, the combat can at times be excellent and there's a late game twist M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of... it's so good that it doesn't deserve to be in a game of this quality. I'm sure this game will have its passionate supporters, but this time I'm not willing to hop aboard the crazy train. I spent more than enough time on the rubbish stealth train. For every moment that there's a fun boss throwing incredibly dramatic, antagonistic words at me as I whip it in the skull, there's a Jason Isaacs interpretation of Satan which comes across as if he was given a piece of paper in the studio instructing "Do the most video gamey Satan voice possible for a video game ever!" I want to love this game so much, so, so much, but it keeps coming back to that miserable leaf maze.
That leaf maze sucked some of the life out of me.
Thanks for reading. Be Excellent to each other.
Edit - I did try to link this to the LoS 2 page, but it didn't work, sorry.
The very first time I saw the Rambo video game I couldn't quite fathom what I was seeing. This weird plastic haired, digital version of Sylvester Stallone re-enacting those moments from a movie series I deeply love, no irony, just a pure love for the action movies my family would borrow off an uncle when I was a child. I knew I was going to play this game regardless of its wonky visual quality and seemingly shallow gameplay. A year or so has passed and this jewel of a game is finally out, It has indeed been a long road and I've brought a good supply of body bags to play Rambo: The Video Game.
I start up the game and we are met with Jerry Goldsmith's beautiful score on the title screen. Things are looking good. I then look at the words at the bottom of the screen asking me if I'd like to play it with a friend ("it's a long road" written next to it) it raises a smile, but I'm left confused as to who the friend Johnny would be bringing along on his journey. I start the game, select a loadout like some kind of Call of Duty clone and immediately greeted with the funeral of John Rambo. What the fuck? I've not even started and he's dead. His gravestone just says "May God forgive him." I don't see what he did that was so wrong, he killed a few comedy Russians and saved some Vietnam POW's, not to mention winning that weird dead sheep sport in Afghanistan... I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Right, here we go. Remember those short flashback, torture sequences from First Blood, well here they have been fleshed out to show us what went on after they escaped. It turns out Rambo won the Vietnam war with a bunch of his buddies fighting beside him. This was probably one of my favourite moments of the original trilogy (Is it a trilogy?) There's a lot of dudes firing guns beside me going FUCK YEAH! AMERICA! EAGLES AND FREEDOM! and whatnot. It's a magical moment with the score from the movies pumping out while I gun down various clones in a weird kind of Virtua Cop/Time Crisis-esque rail shooter. This comes to an abrupt end when the voice over reminds me that that something broke Rambo out there. I dunno, it looked like a party to me, shit was exploding and dudes were getting mowed down... it was kinda awesome.
After the bullet-party we are transported forward to the first scenes of First Blood. It's going ok despite some wonky character models, and then Brian Dennehy turns up and is all like get out out of my town you dirty vagrant, only that it's not Brian Dennehy and it's some fake Brian Dennehy seemingly recording his lines in a toilet, it doesn't even sound like him. To make things even more authentic it seems that Teyon the developer have used real sound clips from Sylvester Stallone, only that instead of some awesome remaster it seems they recorded the clips using a tape recorder sat next to a very loud TV playing a VHS of First Blood.
We are told that Rambo has done a bunch of bad things and then we get to the section where a young David Caruso and some nasty small town cops try to give our hero a shave, I get to beat them all up and storm through the police station beating up identical cops using well timed button prompts. I'm just about to get on a rad motorcycle when I'm greeted with an end of level screen that gives me a bunch of stats and a star rating. Oh, awesome I just finished this level that was about a minute long and I'm now a level 2 Rambo. I have some perks and some upgrades, the usual strength and damage kind of deals. I like that we get an image of Trautman for a skill point, that's the ultimate skill, to try and be as awesome as Richard Crenna.
Right, onto the hunt. There's no messing about, Rambo knocks the dude out of the helicopter, the one and only kill from the first movie and then I'm hunting down all of Jerkwater USA's finest by skipping from tree to tree hitting those timed button prompts. They give me a warning beforehand though, this is important information as if I want to get the best score/ perfect disarms I have to be dead on with my QTE-age. The penalty for hitting the buttons too early or too late is a gruesome stabby-slicey kill animation. I want to keep my playthrough as close to the movie as possible so I hit all of my prompts early and murder David Caruso and all of his mates in a variety of bloody ways. I then get to hold fake Brian Dennehy up against a tree and we get the whole "I'll give you a war you won't believe" and indeed I do. I'm immediately given an assault rifle and told that I can shoot the guns out of the cops hands to maintain movie authenticity, so I proceed to headshot all of the cops which gives me point totals and the words COP KILLER flashing all over the screen. I murder all of the cops and then I'm thrust forward to the end of the movie with Rambo driving a truck with a magically gained machine gun where I tear through the street killing the entirety of the United States police force and have to force out fake Brian Dennehy by filling up a bar by shooting at a police station. I do this and put about 20 or so bullets into the evil cop-man, COP KILLER MOTHERFUCKER!
There's some more voice over from fake non-Trautman dude and shots of Rambo's supposed death, but then straight into the second movie. I love First Blood Part 2 with all of my heart, it is easily one of my top five action movies of all time, featuring, some of the best action, stealthy moments and wonderful music of any movie I have ever seen. I see the whole "Yeah, but the first movie is a genuinely good action drama" thing all the time but the second Rambo movie is incredible. It's one of Stallone's finest and is the stereotypical image of what Rambo is, the pumped muscles, the bow and arrow and a million deaths. The body count isn't even that high, not even close to them making fun of the body count in Hot Shots Part Deux. Watch the final half hour of Schwarzenegger's Commando and you'll see he murders more people than Rambo does in the entirety of the first three movies.
Anyway, I've gotten off track again. We are met with the recreation of Trautman convincing John in prison to go for another tour of duty to rescue some newly discovered POW's and that he'd only going in for reconnaissance. This is probably one of the most iconic moments of the movie, or any 80's action movie in general... the tooling up. I've always been fond of this particular tooling up as it features him loading a camera with Ilford black & white film, having studied photography it brings a smile to my face. Unfortunately we skip all of that awesome stuff and have Rambo meeting Co, a lady spy who seems to have replaced all of her hair with evil spiderwebs and looks about twelve. I then have to kill people stealthily using my bow that has a circular charge on it like in the new Tomb Raider game. I missed my second kill which alerted a guard and then I was greeted to an animation of me being spotted and then having a bullet planted right in my forehead. So much for being the best of the best Rambo.
I get through the base, save a POW and then have to shoot at a million boats, just like in the movie. My favourite part is when a boat drove ahead of me and pumped out WW2 era mines for me to shoot. At this point I have murdered a million, trillion , billion dudes with a slight resemblance to John C Reilly. I dunno why the developers seem to hate him so much but I have been responsible for wiping out a nations worth of them this afternoon. We get off the boat and then me, Co and the prisoner have to avoid mortars which results in the evil powers that be back at homebase telling Trautman to abort. I get a nice closeup of his nightmarish face and then Rambo stands in a field looking like a gormless idiot. I was wondering if they'd play out the torture scene using QTE's, but they held off for the escape. So I hit fake Stephen Berkoff and his mate in the face, the model doesn't even look like him, at least the Brian Dennehy one had hints of him. What we get is your standard Call of Duty comedy Russian accent, also recorded in the same toilet as everyone else.
Me and Co escape killing everything, occasionally she wants me to share ammo, it doesn't seem to do anything at all and it's the only time in the entire game it ever happens, occasionally she shouts out "You so strong Rambo!" which is nice of her to say. Co is way into Rambo at this point which is important for a plot point coming up very soon. That plot point is pretty much Rambo being all about the feelings and then Co immediately getting gunned down. Sucks for him... and her I guess, but if you're gonna go make sure you're going to be the inspiration for shooting a hundred men in the face. The game then reenacts my favourite moment in any of the movies and that is Rambo taking out all of the Russians one by one caked in mud all stealthily. It recreates that stuff pretty well until it finally just decides fuck it and lets you gun everyone down.
Then the village... The village is a weird bit in the movie as Rambo pretty much destroys an entire village of innocent farmers in the pursuit of saving a handful of Americans, I mean it seems fair. What do those people need with crops and houses anyway? The Rambo music swells up as I burn through the village murdering people left and right, occasionally innocents get in my way, but I can't really help any collateral damage, I'm on a mission, not to mention I need to avenge my sort of-kinda love interest. And this is where I got stuck, just a ridiculous amount of enemies requiring me to replay an earlier section of the game to get some more Traut-skillz and upgrades. It turns out you can get an insane amount experience from that QTE filled police station level that takes about a minute. I'm a pro at that damn police station now. I return to the innocent murder as a level eleven Rambo and wipe that village off the map using explosive arrows. Serves them right for cheap difficulty spikes. The final level is just shooting at a helicopter and then faking it out, we don't even get to shoot up all of those computers and say "Mission accomplished" although that badly recorded sound clip does play at the end of every mission.
I'm feeling pretty exhausted by this point, and I'm onto the weakest of the original movies. I like Rambo 3, it definitely has its moments. The tank yard/prison breakout action scene and the bit in the cave are some really great moments in a film that at times can be boring. It takes a little bit of time to get going, but it's a fun ride and has more comedy Russians so that's always a plus.
The bad voiceover man tells me that Trautman has been captured, no messing about with bare knuckle fighting or Buddhist temples, just right into Afghanistan and talked at before getting into the Commie murder. I'm a little bummed out that we don't get a fake Clarence Boddicker and while I'm gunning down helicopters murdering everything in a village I notice that a lot of the soldiers look like WW2 Nazis which is a little weird.
We get another scene of Trautman getting beaten up by another comedy Russian that isn't Stephen Berkoff either, but looks surprisingly like the other dude. This time though it sounds like he was eating his dinner while trying to talk. And if there's something I...I mean Rambo can't stand is evil dudes with rude eating habits. So Rambo teaches him a lesson by gunning everyone down in his prison. There was an option at the start of the mission to do Stealth, but like before I wanted to stay true to the movie, so I just killed everyone dead. I did have to return by climbing up the side of a mountain, but this mission was almost the same as the other one, just during the day. It seems bizarre that there are all of these heavy gunners and flamethrower guards. I don't remember that bit in the movie, but it's been a couple of years and I'm getting a headache from all of the gunfire.
So, I'm at the final push, I get a really strange minute where I have to shoot snipers with a Dragunov and then into a cave. I have some renewed faith in the game that we are going to stealthily kill everyone in the cave like the hunt at the beginning, but no, dudes from Splinter Cell rope in from the ceiling and I have to shoot them all. sometimes I can shoot rocks to fall on them, but it's just more of the same. I get to the rope and expect a cool (and by cool I mean pretty boring) QTE fight against a big comedy Russian, but instead they choose not to have anything at all, just the end of the level. You'd have thought they would have planned the level around that fight considering their love of QTE's elsewhere... nope, just the end bit...
That fucking end bit. Sure, they went for the dumb sweary quote, and it does bring a smile to my face in the movie, but this final section should be the power fantasy moment. I should be able to breeze through it like Rambo's knife through peoples necks. Nope! This is one of the most frustrating sequences in anything I have played in years. Just ridiculous enemy spam requiring you to juggle staying in cover, when to use your health boost power and shooting a barrage of grenades out of the sky. I restarted one checkpoint over thirty times and only got through it due to luck. You blow up the helicopter using the tank and Rambo sits in a car with Trautman while I'm told they got married and lived happily ever after. I have a sigh of relief. My war is over.
So, yeah, Rambo: The Video Game. It's a thing... a thing that I bought with money and everything. I love those movies, and this erm... curiosity is a strange thing. Who really cares about Rambo these days? I don't even think of the newer movie as part of those older ones, it's so tonally different and no other movie has ever had me leave the cinema feeling slightly disturbed and offput by what I had just seen. It's definitely Rambo, just not the Rambo that I love. I'm glad I played it, I got a cool little figurine from preordering it (about a million times better than the game) I honestly can't think of a better game-type to fit this series. A dumb, mindless game to go with a couple of dumb, mindless movies. I'm saddened by the lack of real music from the movies, making the two or three moments where it is used stand out instead of their boooring action tune that plays over the vast majority of the gunfire. I dunno what to say, I spent my afternoon playing it and then proceeding to think more about it by writing up what I'd just witnessed. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to use that great blog title. Yeah, good job me.
It really was a long road.
Thanks for reading, Be excellent to each other.
Don't play Rambo: The Video Game. (Unless you love Rambo and want that cool figurine.)
This is the problem with being able to upload everything to the internet.
Next gen? Current gen? Weirdo fighting stance Street Fighter Gen. Whatever this is, we are in it, right now! You could probably argue we've been here for a while on the PC, and I'd possibly even agree having upgraded my own with magic, voodoo and the dark art of TressFX some time in the middle of last year, but for the lowly console owners this is the future. We are half a step away from Mattel hover boards, watching Jaws 19 and wearing two ties at the same time.
I wasn't planning to transition from the PS3 or the 360 so soon, with a lack of games and a whole bunch of disappointing launch releases. But the chance to get one of these new machines for less than the insane £400 (+game) pricetag was far too good to turn down. That coupled with inFamous Second Son and Ground Zeroes on the horizon I took a leap into buying a new home console in the first year of its life for the first time. (I did get a 3DS at launch, dunno if that counts.) Was it a poor decision? Here are some words that I wrote with my hands talking about my experience with the PlayStation 4 over the last couple of weeks. (ish)
I opened the box and took out the console which looks like a giant eraser. My first thought was how light the console is. It seems a lot lighter than both my previous consoles and it has pointy angles which automatically says future, like some kind of alien artifact. It was strange unboxing it, there was a distinct lack of excitement compared to my Saturn or even the 3DS (back in 2011). the same feeling I had when unboxing the Wii U. I picked up the controller, felt the sticks and the triggers then switched on the machine. I like the new controller, it has real weight to it, and the sticks have a good amount of tension on them. I do however think the triggers while better than the PS3's are still a little spongy and inferior to the 360's. I was greeted with the usual login and update stuff you get these days, but the most surprising thing was that the PS4 doesn't have a start-up chime. It seems like an odd omission. I love console start-up noises and Sony have had some of the best over the years, it's sad to see something like that go, but in its place Sony have added some sad piano music playing in the background to remind you of your own mortality or maybe it's there for you to mourn over the loss of the start-up chime. I wouldn't be surprised if it was filled with subliminal messages telling you to go buy the digital version of Knack on the PSN store for £53 (FIFTY THREE POUNDS FOR KNACK!!!) Whatever the reason it's plinky-plonky and makes me want to cry when browsing my games.
One of the first things I did was download all of the PS3 games I own like Sound Shapes, FlOw and Flower. And then onto the "free" PS+ games such as Resogun, Don't Starve and Contrast. later in the week I dabbled in a couple of the free to play offerings such as Warframe and Blacklight: Retribution. I played Blacklight for a couple of matches. I killed four or five people in a row and it told me I was a threat, mega threat? ultra threat? some kind of threat. It seemed highly accurate though because I obviously have the skills to take down the future terrorists (?) with my shooty-guns. I pressed the left trigger followed by the right one a bunch of times in some eerily empty maps with barely anyone playing, admired the kinda cool looking menus and deleted it from my 354GB HDD... What the fuck!? Where did all my memory go? This seems like a pretty big problem for the future. 500GB (which is a slight lie in the first place after all the updates) seems pretty small considering the sizes of some of these files. It wouldn't be so worrying if I hadn't used up over a fifth of the space in a handful of days. Six months to a year down the line it seems understandable, but so soon it's a little worrying. I guess this is an inevitable problem for the future, but one I know I'm going to come up against sooner than I'd like.
There's something really simplistic and empty looking about the XMB... is it an XMB? Infinite-line-media-app-bar? ILMAB? There's something a little unfinished about it. I love that I am immediately at the games I want to play as soon as I have signed in, but that bar is full of things cluttering up my games. Does the Playroom need to be there when I have no intention or the means to use it? same goes for the unlimited music and movies too. It's nice that I have the option to use that stuff (I won't ever) but let me remove it from that list. This has turned into a whine. I don't mean it to be that way, it moves snappily and it's easier to get to messages, the store and downloads because they are on another bar at the top. I'm not entirely sure what the Facebook-ish wall at the bottom is for but It's good to remind myself what games I have played and gotten trophies in minutes beforehand. I guess with all the information overload we have in our lives I have to be constantly reminded of that time I breezed about a digital field and murdered some space Nazi's in Killzone just to feel alive. Next gen feeling.
There's some other menu stuff. I like the little text boxes when you send multiple messages back and forth and the inclusion of a little noise when you get a message or something has started/stopped downloading is probably one of my favourite improvements (really) Maybe Sony could only pay for one sound clip and cut the start-up chime in favour of this. I still dunno how I feel about that, I'm still stuck on this damn thing. To be honest I don't really know why I keep bringing it up. There's still no option to set all games to have inverted camera just like the 360 in 2006, but hey, next gen and all that. Sony hate us dirty, inverted players. You can't pause downloads and the download speed seems similar-ish to the PS3 speeds at most times, although I DL Warframe during the middle of a weekday and it went surprisingly fast considering the filesize. I also like the way the light on the controller pulses in time with the beat during Sound Shapes.
My first thought was to try and be clever by creating an image of Resogun using lots of tiny Lego bricks. I have the right amount of Lego and I have the right amount of patience, but after about an hour of trying I just ended up with what looked like I'd dumped a pile of Lego onto my bedroom floor like the overgrown child that I am.
Resogun was the first game I played and it's a real stunner in the visual department, somewhere between Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD. The amount of things going on on screen is crazy. The first time I started it up it was like an overwhelming barrage or light and sound being stamped directly into my brain. That first time I heard the lady abrasively say "Save the last humans" through the speaker on the controller as the huge words rotate around the cylindrical level, my eyes lit up. Admittedly I didn't read how to play the game and just thrust myself directly into it, which resulted in the first few games turning into a mess of nonsensical noise.
After an hour or so I fully grasped that you had to fill the bar up at the bottom by killing enemies which would result in a strikingly beautiful, yet pretty simplistic boss at the end of the five levels. Occasionally you are told that keepers are detected that are a collection of glowing enemies in close proximity, that are usually on a kind of rail which have to be defeated before they disappear, which in turn shoots a spark off to somewhere else on the level freeing one of the ten humans in boxes around the level. I absolutely adore the way you have to manage all of the things at once, defeating waves, picking up little humans running about the level and boosting through tens of enemies at a time. The boost is one of those mechanics that has the right combination of sound effect, light trail and burst when you pop out of it to create this satisfying explosion of light. I think forcing 40 or 50 enemies into a clump and then boosting into them for a huge explosion is one of the most exciting things in any side scrolling shooter I have ever played. That along with the way the level just slo-mo explodes into thousands of particles at the end of a level make this the best and most visually pleasing game I have played on the system.
Resogun is super short and there's plenty of replayability with the harder modes being incredibly difficult. I'm really glad it's given away for free with PS+ If there was ever a game that could do with some dlc levels this is it. I'd probably buy more Resogun in a heartbeat.
I think this is probably my first time adventuring into free to play games. I put about four hours into it and it seems... ok? It's hard to judge something like this that's completely free. It seems fully featured with a pretty big selection of various mission types. The shooting reminds me of the guns in Mass Effect and the sword has no lock on making most melee fights some sort of ultimate test against the jittery camera more than any hunchbacked, alien-beetle-monster-man.
All of the missions saw me leveling up my sword and my guns at a pretty slow rate with the occasional loot drop out of an alien space locker. Most encounters early on seem doable with one or two players, but I had to stop at the first boss because I'd always reach him and the rest of the people I was playing with would drop out. He seems far too hard to beat without excessive (boooring) grinding or having a couple of other similarly leveled players, and I don't think the action or similarly boring environments are enough to put anymore time into. I'm sure there's a lot more to see and there's a whole crafting and mod system in confusing menus that are never explained to you. The tutorial pretty much explains how to shoot and slice things. I found myself utterly baffled about how to even get into a mission due to the badly designed menu.
If there is one thing I like about the game, it is that the character designs are pretty unique and alien.Some people have heads like hammerhead sharks and the default suit has a striking resemblance to something out of Evangelion. There's something very organic-looking about the character designs and I like that a lot. If the game played better I'd be tempted to put a little more time into it, but that slow grind and samey missions/environments don't seem all that much like a fun time.
There is also some crazily priced microtransactions in the store, one of them is about £80 and another couple are £110 just for some cosmetic shit, weapons and in-game currency.
I like the music, the setting and the atmosphere of this puzzle-platformer. Some of the dialogue is really good and other parts of it is horrendous. The characters have really striking designs, but the second they move they act like badly animated puppets, which is even more noticeable when all of the other characters are shadows. It seems ok, but I'd have been really disappointed if I'd paid for it. It has a really cool dash move. I'm pretty big on the dashes in video games.
My console was a Killzone bundle, so this came packed in the box. I have generally been a fan of these games. I liked the campaign in two a lot and adored the multiplayer in three. The campaign wasn't all that bad either for the entire fifteen minutes it took to complete.
Killzone Shadow Fall never rises above its opening mediocrity. After the first mission it just gradually slopes downwards until the messy, unexciting end. I came away from Killzone thinking more about the twenty or so times I died slamming my face into the side of falling buildings more than any of its beautifully crafted character designs or explosive setpieces. You can tell a lot of effort went into the story side of things, it's just that every single moment of it falls completely flat with you being talked at sternly by the dude that exploded in the second season of Homeland and an invincible Helghan lady that's good with a sniper rifle and some knives. Even Malcolm McDowell didn't reprise his character from 3 and that dude will do ANYTHING!
The first problem that rears its head is that you're always waiting for something in this game. I assume Guerrilla thought being talked at by angry, deadly serious non-characters and waiting in lines as people are processed was immersive. It's just boring a lot of the time. This game seems so pleased with making you wait for a crane you're riding to shift over or waiting for something to happen after you have inserted one of about 700 plugs into a socket two feet away. There is an odd stealth sequence that basically has you running from container to container in a well lit room to avoid nasty-space nazi guards you could probably kill easily with your bare hands. It's just a lot of waiting for someone to say "go!"
Killzone... more like Waitzone. So, yeah, you do kill stuff, and for the most part it's pretty good with some aggressive enemies and a selection of pretty satisfying weapons. The Shadow Marshall rifle, which is your standard gun that can double up as a sort or energy-sniper rifle is probably the best thing about the entire game. I tried my hardest to never part with it on the missions it was given to me. Unfortunately the combat becomes more about entering rooms with an almost endless supply of enemies that pop out the second you take two steps forward. One room in the final(ish) mission is absolutely insane. It must be a pretty awful job being one of the elite Helghan guard. 95% of the time you must be hiding, crouched behind a wall going "Is he here yet?" "Shhh I heard a noise... get ready... sorry, false alarm guys." There are also a couple of points with infinitely respawning enemies. One where you have to hold off wave after wave after wave after wave after wave of soldiers while SURPRISE! you wait for a slow moving thing to get to its destination. In another I somehow ended up in a weird stalemate fighting against 5 or 6 Helghast while trying to hack a computer console. (Also waiting for the Helghan lady to hack a computer or something.)
The combat elsewhere is against really aggressive spider-tank things that aren't very fun to fight and these giant mechanical turrets that require you to mess around with more energy plugs in yet more sockets while avoiding exploding spider drones. The back half of the game is the biggest chore. I'd much rather be shooting things in a first person shooter than doing a selection of disposable side activities... and I'd happily never have to blow up one of those turrets by shooting energy plugs again.
What to say really. I'm like the millionth person to talk about how miserable an experience Killzone SF is. (and months late) I played a couple hours of multiplayer but got tired of being blown up and sniped by invisible characters over and over again on poor, messily designed maps. All of the talk about more open ended missions is nonsense with them usually having a pretty set path to go. There's a mid-credits mission that requires you to do four objectives in a really set pattern. It's a forced stealth mission in a game that can largely be played without ever having to do stealth. It was incredibly frustrating having to trial and error my way to the end of the game for about an hour in what is a five minute long sequence. Killzone feels incredibly last gen (semi-current?) with these stunning environments and incredible lighting, but full of little things that pull you out of the world. Some stuff is completely destructible, but you can knife those bottles on that table all day long and they'll never break. I played Ghostbusters at the same time and I could destroy huge amounts of the environment in a game from 2009. Come on next gen Killzone... let me bust stuff... Bustin' makes me feel good.
So. this is some thoughts on my next gen console that's like current gen, but like old gen compared to PC's or something. I could describe some of the horrors I have seen spending a whole evening watching Twitch livestreams. I have seen the worst of humanity through a video game console. And I thought the voice chat in Call of Duty or Halo was the worst. I don't know why so many of the comments up the side of the screen want the girl to put the thing into the other thing... maybe theyre just trying to help her finish one of those plug sections in Killzone. The one thing I do know is that I am unable to stop watching. This is the future, we are in the future NOW! I'm off to go stop my future children from getting sent to jail.
Thanks for reading. Be excellent to each other.
This is something I have wanted to write about for quite a while now. I bought a Sega Saturn about a year ago and have wanted to talk about my newest-oldest console love affair. Immediately I hear distant chuckles and whispers of "The Saturn is a big pile of shit" but I'm here to tell you that the Sega Saturn is totally rad.
For many years I had it in my head that what I really, really, really wanted was a Sega Dreamcast. Everyone says the Dreamcast is awesome. It has that game with the fighty-fights and the shifty-colour spaceship game, and y'know the adventurey Sonicses. The Dreamcast had the internet and was like the future, but was cut down in its prime. Without the Dreamcast's online-ness my uncle would have never met his wife which was probably awesome for him, but I've not spoken to him in over a decade and maybe he stabbed her to death out of some Sega fanboy loyalty induced rage. Anyways. After I thought long and hard about this and a bunch of the best Dreamcast games have since come out on XBLA and PSN I decided that it wasn't worth getting a system to play a Treasure game and a couple of wonky 3D Sonics.
As a fan of the speedy blue mammal I have always been curious of the other Sonic Team games like Nights and Burning Rangers. (One day I'll get around to the Billy Hatcher game.) I remember being mesmerized by a video of Nights on a Saturday morning show that reviewed entertainment products, but beyond that my exposure to the Sega Saturn was pretty limited to me once staring at an unplayable version of Bug in an HMV and sitting watching the above mentioned uncle play the first level of the original Panzer Dragoon. I'm not going to say that I'm still bitter that he wouldn't let me touch his shiny new console, but he didn't so therefore he can die in a fire.
Early last year I was having a pretty bad day, so naturally all of my thoughts were on browsing Amazon and Ebay looking for things to cheer myself up. Somehow I ended up looking at Mega Drives, Mega CD's and Japanese versions of cartridges I'd never be able to play and then I saw it from the corner of my eye... it was like the internet was giving me a sign, my hand dragged the cursor over to the words that said PAL SEGA SATURN AND SEVEN GAMES. My eyes lit up, I felt a voice deep in my soul, my heart was in agreement. YOU.MUST.BUY.THIS! I looked at the listing and found myself unable to commit to this kind of relationship in such a short amount of time. So I closed the browser and went to bed.
I woke up the next day expecting my usual dose of self hatred, but the second my eyes opened there was only one thing on my mind. I jumped out of bed switched on the computer and hit the big old buy button without a single thought. I was met instantly with regret, but spending a year (ish) with the system I feel like I made one of the best gaming purchases of my entire life.
Yeah, so I bought a Sega Saturn.
The day I got the console was really fun. I had a bunch of flashbacks to opening up console boxes in my childhood. There was something really nice about opening up the old thing in its original box with all of the wires placed neatly into it. I wasn't expecting everything to be in such nice condition, and I really didn't expect the box and the manuals to be included. A couple of the games such as Wipeout and F1 Challenge didn't have boxes, but had manuals which was ok as I was never really interested in most of the games that came with the system and I had played the hell out of Wipeout on the PS1 when it launched. I really wish I'd have kept the PS1 version of the game to compare the two, but from my memory of that game it seems like pretty much the same thing although knowing how the Saturn wasn't so hot at 3D games I wouldn't be surprised if it was vastly inferior. The F1 game has Damon Hill in it and a wicked guitar solo on the title screen, but it's F1 so y'know...
All of the games I got with the system were pretty unremarkable. Virtua Fighter 2 is so common it seems that most places almost give it away for free and Clockwork Knight, a game which is one of the standout titles for the system according to crazy people on fanatical Sega forums. It is truly one of the most awful platformers I have ever played. No saves, awful visuals (but I assume great at the time) and unresponsive controls. It's apparently very short, but I couldn't make it that much further beyond the first boss as the music was driving me insane.
I got a couple of other games I messed with for fifteen to twenty minutes, but the new toy feeling had started to evaporate, maybe me and my new console weren't meant to be together, maybe I'd made a huge mistake. Over the next week I found myself devouring any information on the best games for the system. The same old names kept popping up, with many of them being imports or increasingly rare games with silly price tags. Luckily I had bought Burning Rangers at around the same time I bought the console and it came in the post a couple of days later. I braced myself for £50 worth of disappointment and put the disk into the drive... Within a minute of starting up the game I knew I had made a good decision.
I have a list here of the best games I have bought for the system over the last year. There are some other really good games like Radiant Silvergun, which is both insanely expensive (yet hardly rare) and available in an amazing version on XBLA, same for Treasure's other Saturn game Guardian Heroes.
The Burning Rangers are fucking awesome. I mean, they're a team of futuristic firefighters that save people by putting out fires on spaceships, defeating giant alien plants and riding through watery space-mazes on dolphins. How do the Burning Rangers put out fires? I hear you ask. They shoot them out with fucking laser guns. Space-fire explodes into jewels, and different kinds of jewels depending on how much laser you're shooting into its fiery face. It's real lucky as fire-jewels act as a form of health, the Burning Rangers are there to put out fires and save lives and unlike the vast majority of people you'll ever meet in your life they will never let you down, I know this because the nice rap-man in the song "We are Burning Rangers" says so. He also says something about nightmares and Wes Craves which is a bit weird, but the overall feeling is that you should want to be a Burning Ranger. If I was a child I'd want to be one and now realise this game features the role models I probably needed to craft me into a better person. There would also be a chance that I'd get a laser gun with a little picture of Sonic on it.
I have a lot of love for this game despite seeing all of the flaws that a lot of games from that era share. The camera is unfortunately controlled by the L and R shoulder buttons which is never fun and there are some issues with jumping to ledges in confined areas where the camera gets caught on stuff, but for the most part it moves really smoothly and works as intended. There's a nice focus on dodging fires and listening to orders and sounds in the environment to progress. There's no map, but the lady on the other end of your radio tells you to go left or right at the press of a button like you're in some messed up version of the Crystal Maze. The other thing I adore about the game is the whooshy backdraft noise before fire pops out of a wall or consumes a room. If you hit back as soon as you hear the noise start you can do a fancy dodge move that even Kurt Russell would be proud of.
Burning Rangers is a weird game, but one that shows that Sega were full of creativity once upon a time. Full of colour and strange bosses, It's a short game with an odd lack of music for the majority of most levels, and packed with a ton of optional people to save for extra lives and thankful emails after the mission ends. If you weren't told that it was made by Sega or Sonic Team you probably wouldn't know it was by the same people, but the way fire-jewels work like rings or the loading screen art are nice little giveaways. Burning Rangers is a flawed game and I don't know if it's enough to warrant the purchase of a Saturn, but I would LOVE an HD version. One of the most enjoyable games I played in 2013... who couldn't love a game with a character with a mohawk made of metal tubes called Big Landman?
Dragons are cool. People seem to be way into that Cucumberbatched up dragon in the film about the tiny people. What the Sherlock-dragon (With a name that's pronounced way differently to how I did as a kid.) sucks at is shooting lasers. Panzer Dragoon dragons have giant horns on their heads and shoot mutliple lasers out of their mouths. Fire-dragons suck, well maybe not that one in Dragonheart... or Dragonslayer... or that cool one in the boring film with Baldy Mathew McConoughey and Batman. Oh, whatever, Panzer Dragoon dragons shoot lasers and have riders that shoot their own lasers and sometimes walk and stuff. It is really rather wonderful.
For such short games that are mostly on rails the amount of personality in the world they created is amazing. Both the Saturn games have this very alien atmosphere with stunning music that alternates between energetic synth sounds and beautiful orchestral pieces. The way the dragons weave in and out of the scenery through the ruins of past generations or through alien forests full of giant acid spitting wildlife is fantastic. I really can't stress how much of a unique atmosphere these two games give off. The hints of old magic and futuristic weaponry mixed with dragons is so strange, yet fits perfectly.
I have the Xbox sequel which crashes on the third stage on European 360's unfortunately, and Panzer Dragoon Saga the RPG that some swear is better than the PS1 Final Fantasies is insanely expensive if you want to play it with English subtitles (Japanese version much, much cheaper.) The two Saturn rail shooters are among the best games I have played for the system, and while I really like that the second game (which is weirdly titled 2-2) has unique dragon leveling and incredible visuals, I think I like the simplicity of the first game. It's hard to explain, but it feels like it has more grace than the sequel.
Oh, and DRAGONS THAT SHOOT LASERS!
Ok, this was the most expensive game I bought. I know that it came out on the PS1 in the US, but the only way to get it here is to import it. If a lot of these games tell you anything about me, it's that I like lasers. Thunder Force V has THE laser. The CRAW laser which can be rotated 360 degrees in this side scrolling shooter is ridiculously powerful. If you know where to aim it, a bunch of the bosses in this game can be beaten in seconds.
There's not really a lot to say about this game other than it's probably one of the best side scrolling shooters I have ever played. It's full of incredible, fast paced music and brilliantly designed bosses like giant manta-ray-bird things and wire frame butterfly-robots. It is super fun despite its incredibly high difficulty. I like that it lets you play through the first three stages in any order you like so if you really struggle you can see more than just one level.
The Saturn is packed with 2D shooters and Thunder Force V is pretty special, even with it's slightly crude polygonal visuals. Normally I prefer the horizontally* scrolling games, but if you've read this far you know how partial I am to the laser beams, and this is one of the best laser beam parties I've ever been to.
* Edit - I think I mean vertically scrolling here. My mind is telling me that the horizontal screen scrolls up, but then I think about it and I'm probably wrong... I'm pretty stupid *shrug* I like the scrolly-uppy games more. I should have said that in the first place.
Do you know what would make Shinobi games better? Digitized actors and live action FMV. Obviously those things would never be better than fighting the deadly trio of Godzilla, Spiderman and Batman, and the idea of a Mortal Kombat-ified Shinobi sounds like the dumbest thing ever, but this game is 100% Shinobi.
The game in the US was known as Shinobi Legions and is generally thought of as weaker than the European version which has a unique soundtrack by Richard Jacques who went on to work on the synthy music for the first Mass Effect. This game is craaaazy hard and I have only seen the end of it due to cheating with Action Replay codes. (I can get to about the halfway point before I want to snap the controller in half)
I'm a huge fan of the Mega Drive games and this feels almost identical to them despite the graphical style. Gameplay revolves around throwing Kunai and slashing things with your sword. Every so often a giant statue pops out of the ground after collecting a certain amount of what look like giant blue Smarties. It just sort of floats around the screen killing things which is weird, but when placed next to some of the other stuff in this game it seems pretty normal. There's a mission in a lab where you have to fight off what seem like toy Brontosaurus heads that pop in from the side of the screen every so often.
But the one thing that makes this game special is the cheap, Power Rangers-y FMV cutscenes. These are some of the most wonderfully bad examples of this lost artform. Don't worry as I have included a video with all of them above!
So, this (mostly) side scrolling shooter is a strange movie tie in game that is pretty good. It's real easy and would make absolutely no sense if you haven't seen the movie ( I'm pretty certain it isn't easily available anywhere outside of Japan these days.) It follows the movie almost exactly and spans two disks despite only being a handful of hours long, probably due to all of the movie FMV between stages.
There's something really endearing about old, pixelated anime video at the start of games. It's something I'm hugely fond of along with early polygonal character models... but back to the game. Macross lets you control a mech/jet hybrid and you basically blow up everything on the screen with infinite missiles which require you to constantly keep holding the button down to lock onto everything. This will probably give you some pretty bad hand-cramp.
Every so often the characters need you to know some pretty important story stuff so you have to guide missiles or avoid a boss without using weapons for some reason or other. Either way it's pretty story/talk heavy for this kind of game and probably only has any real value if you are a fan of the movie. I think it's a pretty lovely movie so I guess I'm pretty much the target audience. I knew there was a reason why I bought it!
It plays the song from the movie that means nothing to 99% of the people reading this (And if you got this far thanks!) over the final battle which is really rather wonderful.
This is a super fun, fast paced fighting game. This is probably the best 2D fighting game nobody has ever played. That's a fact which I made up with statistics and science and stuff. Apparently it plays like the Street Fighter Alpha games or something. This might be true or someone else might have made up facts about it so who knows. It's basically about an all girl school where the different classes beat each other up for fun times. It's like Rival Schools, the Capcom fighting game that isn't Darkstalkers or Street Fighter... only that that's a lie and it's absolutely nothing like Rival Schools and has 2D hand drawn sprites with massive hands.
I really wish the Saturn had online as this game is super fun and all of the girls have a ton of personality in their design. The girl from what I assume is science class throws a frog at you and another aggressively whacks flaming tennis balls nonstop at your face. There's a tiny cheerleader girl that is ridiculously hostile even when you knock the difficulty down to one star. In fact the way the super "120%" burning moves work is that they seem to be on a timer for most characters which means that you can do as many super moves as you want before the time runs out. (I think?) The A.I spams that shit nonstop. The fights are pretty flashy with a bunch of super moves being thrown out on both sides for a vast majority of most matches.
I looked up what Ganbare meant using the Googles. Apparently it means do your best. It's good to know what it means when it is being shouted after every other punch thrown. It's nice that all of your school friends are behind you when pummeling another girl in the face, maybe if I had a little more support like this I wouldn't have gotten the shit kicked out of me at school so often... or if I had a weaponized frog.
This is probably one of Sega's best and least known 2D platformers. If you look around the internet typing into the search "Wot is the bestest Saturn games to buy with money?" Astal is often one of the top answers. It was not released in Europe so I had to import it. Luckily Astal is super cheap in Japan and has fantastic box art. The story doesn't make any sense, but it's a short 2D platformer so who cares.
You play a little man that might have a hood or a cape that's probably his hair, and you can pick up trees and rocks, throw people, fistpound them in the air and blow real hard at like hot things all while hopping on platforms... y'know platformer things. You also have a little bird with you that can apparently be controlled by player two with a second controller. Also, during one boss fight where Astal is trapped you get to use your dashy beak attacks. I dunno what happens at that point in two player. I assume the second player fights the boss, I guess I'll never know so I'm not entirely sure why I'm typing this.
When not controlling the bird it will bring you health items that look like eggplants which is pretty nice. It's not the hardest game in the world and a lot of the challenge comes from cruelly placed enemy placement in the more precision based levels. It's pretty varied from start to finish, sometimes you ride a water dragon and other times you're protecting yourself from meteor showers or avoiding giant rock monster legs. Astal is a gorgeous looking game. The closest comparison would be the artwork from Vanillaware games with its big detailed sprites. It has this wonderful style to it that makes me sad that so few people have seen it.
Along with the beautiful visuals is maybe one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard in a game. Soft electric guitar solo's and floaty bass. It's super pretty and reaaally 90's, but sets the atmosphere perfectly. I adore this game and it was the first Saturn game I finished. It's such a shame Sega never got to do anything with this character. I love the Saturday morning cartoon-esque animated intro to the game. (Reminds me a little of the Sonic CD intro... kinda.) If you ever buy a Sega Saturn buy this game first.
So that's my blog. I had some thoughts about Nights, but realised very quickly that although I think that game is visually great and full of creativity, it's utter nonsense and not a lot of fun to play. Die Hard Arcade is full of all my favourite sequences from the movie like the part where Bruce Willis beat a man to death with a grandfather clock and fought a couple of mechs, but yet again not a lot of fun to play. Deep Fear is like Resident Evil with infinite ammo, a monkey and would give Naughty Dog a run for its money in the acting/storytelling department, Rayman still looks nice despite a lack of limbs and After Burner 2 will always be super fun.
I had a lot more things to say about my lovely Saturn, but this is probably far too long already. I want to blog more regularly and will hopefully stick to a semi regular schedule. For some odd reason I feel like I should apologize or something before I have even started. Maybe I'll get around to examining all of that hostility directed at family members I'm pretty indifferent towards and maybe next time I'll have things to say about shiny new games on shiny new consoles.
Thanks for reading. Be excellent to each other.
Is the Wii U a complete failure? No, No, No! I messed up my intro already. 2013 has been a pretty good year for games. There hasn't really been a Binary Domain type-thing that came out of nowhere for me to latch onto and a lot of the games in my top 10 are games that will appear on a bunch of other peoples lists.
There was a few games I probably should have tried, but a game like Fire Emblem doesn't seem like my kind of thing and a handful of games people absolutely adored felt like they had significant issues like Saints Row and Assassin's Creed.
There were a couple of games that were very nearly in my top ten including: DmC (beautiful/fun) Metal Gear Rising (incredibly flashy/stupid)Splinter Cell (well designed stealth) Tomb Raider (like Uncharted with good shooting/pretty)and Killer is Dead (gorgeous/ very, very gamey)I'm glad I purchased a Wii U even if it was after a hugely significant price cut and almost nothing on the new systems seems like it is worth spending £400-500 on. I regret buying Call of Duty after skipping a year,The mermaid song in Puppeteer is incredible, Luigi's Mansion is charming, but too long and I spent far more hours playing Payday 2 and RE: Revelations Raid mode than was probably good for my health.
Oh, and Beyond was probably the worst game I played all year.
Spoiler list for people that can't be bothered to read anything and need to know immediately what some random on the internet has to say about a bunch of games. (+ awesome bonus reason why!)
10 Animal Crossing: New leaf - I like this game.
09 Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons - I like this game.
08 Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus - I like this game.
07 The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - I like this game.
06 The Wonderful 101 - I like this game.
05 Bioshock Infinite - I like this game.
04 The Last of Us - I like this game.
03 Grand Theft Auto V - I like this game.
02 Super Mario 3D World - I like this game.
01 Rayman Legends - I like this game.
So here goes. I'm not so great at writing up my thoughts on things and I have edited, added, chopped things out and re-added them for nearly a week and I think I'm happy with it. It's probably completely nonsensical at this point. THERE IS A BUNCH OF SPOILERS IN THIS.
For the longest time the idea of playing an Animal Crossing game seemed like one of the least appealing things to do with my time. New Leaf just wants to let itself breezily wash over you, which is easy to do when my little town of Wonk is so laid back. Animal people give me presents for telling them they look pretty in a dress, and my home is full of bizarre furniture I have knocked out of trees and swapped with neighbours. Animal Crossing is the kind of thing that consumes a lot of your time without any stress or time pressure. It's one of the most relaxing things I have ever played. I never thought I'd enjoy virtual fishing in a game, but hunting for sharks, wandering my beach at night time for seashells and buying silly outfits was an incredibly soul refreshing experience. FEAR THE BEES IN THE TREES!
There are occasionally games that consume my brain for hours, even days where I find myself unable to think of anything else, and Brothers was one of the few that I managed to have bounce around the back of my head for a huge chunk of the year.
It isn't about all of the feely stuff, and yes, Brothers has its moment. A pretty powerful moment, and one that is only possible due to the controls, but this was not the moment that stuck out to me. The storybook adventures come to life gave this adventure a real sense of wonder, the kind you very rarely get in games. I helped a family of turtles, fought off hungry wolves, hid from an invisible monster in the snow, flew a glider through the rocky mountains and scrambled through the aftermath of battling giants. I could point out a dozen more moments that all felt natural in this beautiful world Starbreeze have created, but the one moment I fell head over heels in love with the game was when rowing a boat through an icy river, a beautiful whale-like creature jumped out of the water right in front of me. It was completely magical and unlike anything else in the other games I played this year. Brothers was very clearly crafted with a lot of love and care and it shows in every sequence and hidden moment, balancing the whimsical and the dark almost perfectly. Brothers is unlikely to be forgotten by me any time soon.
Oh, and you get to ride a goat up a hill.
I have had an incredibly Ratchet-y year. I have replayed through all the PS3 games, most of the HD collection and Deadlocked HD (In some cases multiple times.) and I have enjoyed almost every minute of doing so. Ratchet was probably my biggest love during the PS2 days and continues to be the one franchise that I always look forward to despite Insomniac seemingly wanting to take all of the fun out of everything these days.
Nexus is the perfect fan game, a nice epilogue to the Future series and a good reminder of why the Ratchet formula works so well. I would have been ok with A Crack in Time ending the series, but Nexus manages to streamline everything good about these games and give it to you in a shorter, tighter experience. Scaling down the gun leveling, returning to the mod system from Tools of Destruction and giving each world its own unique twist. There's a swamp for using your jet boots, a level designed for you to use a gun that creates hover streams and an opening level with an anti gravity sequence that is oddly reminiscent of the original Dead Space.
Sure, the humour isn't as present (Although there are a couple of the funniest jokes in the entire series in there.), but this is the nicest looking of the PS3 games, and Insomniac have some really wonderful and expressive animators that bring the characters to life. I miss this kind of platformer and I'm very happy this came along to erase their past mistakes, even if Sony sent it out into the woods ready to put a couple of bullets into the back of its head.
I really hope with the upcoming movie and the return to the more traditional Ratchet someone, somewhere is working on a new game for the PS4, even if it's another one of these smaller titles. I'm just happy that I got to see Ratchet and the adorable Clank leave this generation on a high.
And there's a gun that plays Jingle Bells as you murder things.
I have a lot of love for A Link to the Past. It was very probably the Zelda game that I have the best memories of. I spent a really long time during my childhood exploring that top down world, hunting for every item and secret while humming along to the splendid music.
A Link Between Worlds on the surface seems designed to prey on your nostalgia for the SNES game, but the longer you play it the more it seems to be its own thing entirely. Sure, the renting of the items changes the structure of the game meaning you have a variety of dungeons to complete or come back to at a later date when you've discovered what you needed to do. (You needed to merge into a wall was the answer.) But the way the dungeons are designed requiring you to shift between dimensions and use the verticality of the stage to drop off of ledges or fire yourself up to higher levels are yet another reason to praise Nintendo's decision for the 3D screen. The dungeons are the real stand out here, and while they're not the hardest things in the world they do give the appropriate amount of satisfaction to complete, often making you feel incredibly clever.
ALBW has some great design and some amazing versions of older tunes including the Lorule/Dark world theme and a breezy guitar and violin version of the overworld theme at the beginning of the game.I'm happy that the game has a bunch of little secrets with many items completely missable, it never really explains where you need to go or what to do beyond a few crosses on the map. I don't really want to call it one of the best games in the series, and it would be hard to say it was better than ALTTP. It clearly has some of the boldest moves Nintendo have ever made with these games, and it will be nice to see how/if they expand on the ideas in the Wii U game. Easily one of the most delightful 25 hours I have spent in any game world this year.
That baseball minigame that looks wonderful in 3D can eat a dick though... And I never found a single use for the boomerang.
I like Roger Craig Smith a bunch. It's hard not to seeing as the guy is the new Batman, but as well as being Bruce Redfield he gave us the wonderful Wonder Blue. A completely dickish superhero that would rather be cutting some evil alien fools than chatting about it. The interactions between the equally fantastic Wonder Green where they bicker about how things should get done is one of my favourite parts of this incredibly strange game.TW101 is essentially an isometric character action game with a lot more in common with Bayonetta than the people that claim it is like Pikmin (It isn't like Pikmin at all.) You can even use Witch-time later in the game and if you're crazy enough able to unlock the lady herself and her friends.
The thing I really liked about The Wonderful 101 is its insistence on always being at 11. It isn't content with throwing a boss at you at the end of a chapter, it's quite happy to throw two or three of them in a row. And the bosses in this game are easily the highlight, often requiring you to switch around your different weapon types in rapid succession.
I love how everything has this shiny look to it like you're playing with toys. It's like the most insane episode of Power Rangers with miniature plastic figures. TW101 just gets bigger and dumber as things go on. By the end of the game you're fighting giant, planet destroying alien robots using a mech named after the developers of the game. It is as big and silly as anything in Kamiya's previous game, while also being full of some genuinely good writing and humour. I know the game has some control issues and some of the platforming although very light can be incredibly frustrating, but the amount of fun compared to the frustrations I had in what is a pretty long action game balance a lot of that out. I'd love to see a slightly more refined version of the game(never happening) or at least some kind of return to these wonderful characters. Even if we don't I am incredibly glad a game that is as weird and fun as this ever got made.
I liked the shooting in Bioshock Infinite. Is it ok to say that? I have always been a fan of the gun/plasmid/vigor combo these games use, and I found the shooting to be the best it has ever been in the series (I never really had a problem with it in past games.) I adore the combat arenas where you get to fly around using the skyhook crashing down on top one enemy, firing off some powers or opening some tears and then zipping off to another part of the area to continue the chaos.
Columbia is beautiful and full of some of the best world building I have ever seen in a game, managing to be both vibrant and creepy at the same time. I love the way Elizabeth moves around and throws you coins and ammo while exploring or in combat, and the little scripted touches and conversations really bring her to life.
I have always liked this alternate take on history kind of sci-fi, and the ending blew me away. The moment it dumped me back into the opening areas of Rapture were both sudden and completely unexpected. I really liked the different timeline stuff with the Lutece twins, and they're easily two of the most memorable characters of the year. I thought I had forgotten a lot about the game when I sat down to write this, but the moment I remembered one thing, I'd remember another ten I wanted to ramble on about. There is a moment later in the game with an older Elizabeth standing over an alternate 1980's New York on fire. It was one of those "holy shit" moments in video games that I won't forget any time soon.
There was a point where The Last of Us could go fuck itself. My first eight hours of the game didn't save requiring me to start over from the beginning. It was a tough decision to make and there was a moment in time where I had no intention of returning to a game that had eaten all of my progress. You have no idea how glad I am that I just took a deep breath and started over the next day. It took a huge chunk of the game for me to fully appreciate it. Joel is initially quite unlikeable, Ellie doesn't really come into her own until about the time she starts stabbing dudes in the back and some of the A.I is quite laughable. (I ended up with quite a few body-pile moments) Unfortunately a lot of the predictable behavior made most of the sequences with the infected less frightening than I would have expected. I always felt like I could move around them with little danger. The moments where you're up against a lot of humans were when the game really shined. I loved sneaking around picking a few of the men off one by one until the inevitable moment where everything turns on it's head. The action in TLoU requires a lot of moving around the pretty large, open areas and firing off a couple of shots here and there. Every headshot counts in these gunfights and they're as well made as any of the story stuff. I think praising the game for its character building and acting without acknowledging how good the gameplay is sells a significant part of TLoU really short. None of the winter chapters would have the same impact without playing as Ellie, and the way the game takes away all of the things you have accumulated minus the knowledge you have gained from past encounters is truly great giving the player character development without the aid of a single cutscene. The game kicks into another gear from the end of the university onwards and never really lets up until the very last scene.
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson are truly magnificent, and without them at the core I doubt the storytelling would be half as good. Never before have such well drawn characters been portrayed in a game, and while it is riddled with some of the same old zombie movie clichés and a very simplistic story, the character interactions are the best the medium has ever given us. The final scene is probably the most interesting thing about the whole game, the way it manages to avoid the predictable and be neither good or bad. The Last of Us somehow manages to be a lot of different things. An action game, a survival game, a stealth game, but also one of the most human... The Walking Dead TV show would sacrifice a few newborns to be as good as this.
While TLoU wasn't the bleakest of bleak experiences known to man I was lead to believe it was, it did feature one of the most joyous moments in anything this year. The giraffe sequence is one of the most magical things to bring a smile to my face in 2013.
GTA V is a big dumb action movie. GTA V has as much in common with Michael Bay as any Call of Duty and I absolutely adore it. I have never been the biggest fan of Rockstar. Red Dead was the first game of theirs that I truly loved. I liked GTA IV, the world they created and the memorable characters were really special, but the way the missions were designed with the oddly clunky shooting still felt like the same old problems I had with the PS2 games.
Checkpoints changed everything. No longer did it feel like a chore to get through missions, in fact a lot of missions in the game are incredibly easy compared to previous games. Very rarely did I need to retry missions, but in the place of challenge the game had a real flow. Occasionally throwing two or three big set piece moments at you in a row that sometimes spawn out of these really basic missions. The most impressive thing about a lot of these missions is that they are all contained within the world. The mission where you shoot down the plane and chase it down the hill is a great example of this. Other games like Saints Row put you into self contained areas to give you those "big"moments, but GTA V gives you something on a far grander scale without a loading screen and an exhilarating chase down a steep hillside on a motorbike.
I don't come to these games for the exhaustive side activities, so any comparisons to the amount of content available to you in past games is meaningless to me, but I spent nearly seventy hours in Los Santos and loved almost every minute of it, getting all I possibly wanted out of that game and more. The heists are absolutely wonderful with the small raid on the bank that turns into all out war being a real stand out, and possibly the moment I went from liking to loving the game. That whole mission puts the entirety of Payday 2 to shame. It would have been nice to see a few more of them and it was the little moments like the tense lead up to the Italian Job-esque heist that made the payoff all the more sweeter. I could pick faults in the characters all day, and that the story really loses its focus in the back half, but the characters dialogue is well written and superbly acted, especially Michael and Trevor. And while I flip-flopped on my feelings about Trevor he's a character I will never forget with some of the funniest dialogue in any game released this year.
I guess I should mention GTA Online. I have put literally days of time into this mode and have enjoyed a lot of my time within that world. I have pretty much exhausted all there is to do in the game's current form from a structured point of view, but I will return to it when they add more content such as heists. Poor team death match and boring Horde modes are not what I want from the game, but the amount of self created fun and memorable, un-recreatable moments I have had online have made GTO a really flawed but unforgettable experience. (Seriously, that time I ran you over on your bike was an accident.)
Look. I'm just gonna come out and say it. I know it's gonna make me sound like a heartless piece of shit, and it explains why I hate about 90% of the internet, but I hate cats. I hate them, probably stemming from the time my sisters kitten ate some brand new headphones I had just bought. Whatever the reason for my irrational hatred I would probably place cats highly on a list of things I'd happily ban from the planet earth... The biggest and most confusing question I have had to ask myself recently is this - Why do I think Cat-Mario is so great?
Obviously Cat Mario could never compare to Tanooki Mario. I mean Raccoons are waaaaaay better than cats. Princess Peach looks awesome in a Tanooki suit, Toad too. (Yeah, and like Luigi whatever.) The unfortunate part about Tanooki suits in 3D World is that they're pretty few and far between. Cat suits on the other hand pretty much (and occasionally literally) grow on trees, and they're the most useful item in the game for Peach... and lets face it, if you're not using Peach you're playing the game wrong. Cat-peach is OP!
I have spent hours upon hours fighting against my hatred of cats, but am unable to not adore the little cat suited digital people that inhabit this insane world. I hope this isn't permanent and that Super Mario 3D world has not changed me forever. I could say a million things at this point about the visuals, stage variety and creativity contained within the game, and most of the reviews out there give a far more coherent version of what I could write here. In fact you could probably just scroll through my blog history to my top 10 of 2011, see what I said about 3D land and pretend it's about 3D World. Although back then I don't think I mentioned anything about how utterly weird the world Mario lives in is or furries...
Mario is (probably) a furry. Luigi is definitely one.
I never thought I'd be saying this. It almost feels like I'm about so say something dirty, like I should be punished for saying it, but here goes. RaymanLegendsisthebestgamerealeasedthisyearandisbetterthanMarioandIknowhowindrediblycrazythatsoundsbecausey'knowlikeRaymanfuckingRayman!?!?mywholeentireworldisbrokennowsoIwillshutup.
I don't really know where to start with this as a lot of the nice things I'd have to say about 3D World I could say about Rayman. Even games like the fun but flawed Puppeteer have things in common. This year saw a lot of traditional platformers with incredibly high production values. The visuals in Rayman are some of the most beautiful 2D artwork I have ever seen in a game. I never played Origins, but can tell from the videos and the demo that the shading they have done to the characters gives everything far more depth and detail making everything look incredibly sharp.
The music that swings between medieval themes, mariachi bands and James Bond-esque spy music is so varied and strange, but fits the game incredibly well. The musical levels that have some of the weirdest licensed songs (And bizarre compositions.) to ever grace a game of this kind are so wonderfully inventive it's hard to not look forward to the one at the end of every world.
All of the shiny visuals and sounds wouldn't matter if Rayman didn't play like a dream. Incredibly tight and responsive controls, level design bursting with so much variation and imagination and some of the best uses of the Wii U touch pad I have seen on the system. As I type this I find myself fighting against my decision to put this as my number one. It feels wrong to have anything made my Ubisoft topping any kind of end of year list, especially the limbless freak Rayman, but I know in my heart and countless hours of giggles and daily challenges that this was the game that gave me the most fun and the biggest smiles in 2013.
So that's my list. If you read it or skimmed it thanks a bunch. At the very least you got to see some pretty pictures.
Use your keyboard!
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