Weird that I've done this two weeks in a row. The UK's total disregard for release dates is a pretty awesome thing.
So, I played through the campaign in one sitting, only taking a two minute break to eat a biscuit and drink some tea. I have liked all of the Halo games, a lot in some cases (ODST) but never loved one... Until now. Halo 4 has the best campaign in the series mostly due to its relentless pacing (one of the reasons I couldn't stop playing it) , its good story and amazing art.
I think the ending is a little flat considering what happens, but the story throughout the 7-8ish hours was consistently good. Well acted, well told and those character models/faces are superb, some of the best out there. It is definitely as reviews have said Cortana's story and it's nice to hear Master Chief with a lot more dialogue.
This game looks amazing, one of the best of this generation, there is a huge amount of variety in the environments and the lighting is great. The game started and I still thought it was in a cut scene, the hazy, moody lighting in the first mission doesn't come close to some of the amazing visuals later in this game.
The score is one of the best in a game this year. The sounds of the guns have all been redone, I found it a little strange that there isn't a single one of the old style plasma guns in the game, its been replaced with a plasma rifle thing that works exactly the same. All of the new effects for the guns make them sound like they do an insane amount of damage. The tank has this ridiculous, echoey boom that makes you feel godlike.
There's a good mix of on foot and vehicle sequences and the new enemies can be terrifying when they start teleporting towards you. The smaller ones are little fuckers that can be taken down easily if there is one or two, but in large numbers they will kill your shields in an instant.
Final thoughts. I think this game is easily one of the best of the year, it hasn't jumped to the top of my list, but I assume it will be right up there after messing around with the multiplayer. I think the final gameplay/story section is a bit weak and the epilogue is just setting up the next games. I'd like to have known more about the bad guy, although I have a feeling a lot of that backstory is hidden in some of the terminal stuff I unlocked. It is nuts to think a game that looks this good is running on such old hardware, I could gush endlessly about the games visuals. I think 343 have balanced honouring the past and making Halo their own pretty damn well. I can't wait to see what they do with the series next.
I managed to get my copy in the post earlier today and have played a pretty huge chunk of it. I'd say going by achievements that I'm coming up on the halfway point and I have been enjoying it, but not without more issues than I would have liked.
I have found the game to be full of some really messed up glitchiness, people disappearing, fights ending before all soldiers are dead, totally unresponsive guards whilst you murder all of their friends around them, some really bad framerate in some of the more action orientated set pieces. Just a really high volume of weirdness, nothing game breaking, but definitely immersion breaking.
I have found the games story so far to be enjoyable although it's nothing you haven't seen elsewhere in the series already. I have played as Desmond and I really enjoyed his first mission, I don't really think this is a spoiler for anyone.
I have a lot to say about the "extended prologue" (late title card) and can't wait to discuss the "Holy fuck!" moment that occurs at the end of it. There has been a sequence that is by far the weirdest thing in any of the games and I'm expecting far more of that.
I have done the first Naval battle, it was far more exciting than I thought it would be.
I don't really like what they've done with the shops, it seems needlessly complicated, I preferred the way it was handled in the last three games, but it's hardly an important part of the game. there's a lot of animals, and there's a lot of opportunities for animal murder. (I stealth killed a raccoon)
Overall it feels like more of the same so far, probably a little more ambitious in scope, there's some awful looking scenery in some of the woodland areas, something I really, really wasn't expecting and some of the British voices are so, so, so, so terrible. Connor's voice is great and so are a couple of other major characters, but some of the supporting cast sound like they're just reading it off of the page which is weird for such a high profile game.
I think the faces look great, there's been some exciting stuff happen, although I was really put off by the three or so missions at the start of the game that had instant fail states, but as soon as it opened up it felt a lot more balanced. I'm also not a fan of the way you can be attacked by up to four guards all at the same time, it feels like a cheap way to up the difficulty as most of the combat is pretty easy.
At the minute it feels like more of the same, I'm hoping for some truly mad/ great stuff to happen. I'd love another AC2 ending moment, but who knows how it'll end. It seems like a good game at the minute, nothing has elevated it to great yet, and the technical stuff is really bumming me out at times.
edit - It also features possibly the best instance of Nolan North swearing.
EDIT 2 -Finished it. Connor's story gets pretty exciting towards the end, but ultimately falls flat. Desmond's unfortunately falls even flatter, which is so depressing as his final gameplay sequence shows a hell of a lot of promise.
The end isn't Mass effect levels of bad, but it glosses over a lot and is pretty much a non-end point for the series (surprise) Very few answers despite the feeling that they were going to lay out all the space people stuff clearly. It's not a clever or thought provoking ending, just brief and a little insulting to people that have stuck with the series for five games.
I am left pretty disappointed overall. I expected more from the storytelling, but all I really got was uneven gameplay. I like the game for the most part, but it's pretty hard to recommend to anyone else over the better (Ezio) games in the series.
Totally got my Meat Boy figure in the post today, he is awesome. Totally got an extra Team Meat sticker and a phone charm thingy. (?) Man, I <3 Team Meat!
Finally got all the endings of The Binding of Isaac. I kept getting to Satan only to be murdered by his goat leg form. If I have a little complaint about the difficulty in that game it is definitely that boss. It's not the easiest thing to get to him and he has four forms, and learning his attacks the first few times you get to him will most likely get you murdered.
I had the luckiest run last night though, Rage, rainbow baby, little chad, rock, triple shot, blessed, big bullets, coal and Mom's pearl which meant I was constantly getting hearts in Sheol which is a rarity... in the final room a slot machine dropped The Tick and that drops bosses health by 15%. It is almost like the game knew to give me a break ( I highly doubt it was anything but luck) as I was one step away from giving up trying to beat Satan.
Beating Isaac in the cathedral was kinda easy, I did it first time.
I really, Really like the GRAW games and got heavily into the Co-Op portion of both one and two. GRAW was the second game I bought for my 360, and was the very first tactical shooter I ever played. I never really knew I liked sneaking around corners and sniping dudes until I played that game. So when they first announced a new Ghost Recon I got really excited, but it seems with all the Call of Duties and Army of Twosies etc my love for military dudes shooting other dudes in the face isn't as strong. I was going to play this game regardless of the reviews. I really enjoyed the story in the last game and watching red triangles turn to white triangles while ordering about my squad mates. This game has all of that, but isn't really what I was hoping for.
Some of the levels look really nice. There's a level set in the snow, some woodland areas and various parts of the world that look really good and when there is smoke billowing from things or masses of things on fire the game can look quite stunning.
Squad mates are useful and doing the mark and execute move works really well. When you pull it off and take down four targets whilst they move around civilians it is really satisfying.
The game for the first two thirds is quite challenging, you can only take two or three hits before you go down and playing the game like Call of Duty will get you murderified quite quickly.
Some of the music is quite pleasant I suppose.
The problem with all of the good things is that there is always something to counterbalance them, The art in some levels is nice, but the cut scenes really do look almost like PS2 quality. The faces of the soldiers are abysmal and you wouldn't believe they are in a game in the year 2012. The in game character models are mostly fine and some of the animation is nice, but everyone is faceless and looks exactly the same.
Squad mates cannot be controlled, and while they are very good at killing dudes they often rush forward into danger. In the early parts of the game this is fine, but when youre facing tanks and turrets and wubwubwub special forces, you start seeing them drop like flies because they are so twitchy to put as many people as possible down.
the wubwubspecial forces. Now there's challenging and cheap and the special forces, even on normal wubwubwub take you down in one hit about 90% of the time. It can get really tough when they start showing up and you know they're about to ambush you because wubwub wubbbbbbbb... the dubstep kicks in.
Frame rate is atrocious at times and the game required me to do a little install on the 360 AND I installed it fully to my drive.
Story is nonsensical and I have no idea who the dudes I killed at the end were. They try to make you care about the team, but they could be any grrr military stereotype and any of the stuff they do hint at with the half Russian dude you play as is said in a couple of lines. The ending is probably meant to mean something or set up a sequel, but it just seems out of place and kinda confusing.
Now, This is the part that is so annoying. INSTANT FAILURE for being spotted in stealth sections. I'm not bad at games, and I don't just rush about like an idiot, but this game has some of the most frustrating "YOU WERE DETECTED, TRY AGAIN?" moments. I have ever encountered in a game. I think all of the missions in the game have a section where you can fail just by killing the wrong dude/ set of dudes at the wrong time, and the A.I is really inconsistent. Sometimes it spots you, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes one of the four people in your synced up shots doesn't die and you fail etc. Most of the earlier parts like this are easy, but there are two missions where the vast majority of the level you are required to go through these long stretches taking out at least eight or so patrolling guards with seemingly random logic in which ones you should take out first. It is all very, very trial and error. I got stuck on one checkpoint for about an hour, partly because the game checkpointed me infront of a guard and it was 50/50 whether i'd get an instant detection or not, and because it made no sense in which guards I need to take out in order.
On top of this I had missions decide to not move on because one last guard in an area got stuck on some scenery, another section where it kept telling me over and over that the area was clear and then spawning another couple of soldiers, and a checkpoint kicked in with 20 seconds on a timer requiring me to start a mission from the beginning among other little issues here and there. Parts of the game really do feel a little unfinished.
So that's most of the things about the game, I'm really disappointed with it. As soon as you realize the game boils down to the exact same thing on a loop. Sync shot-alert-gunfight-stealth-big set piece at the end of a level rinse and repeat. It's also quite annoying that in any area where non-fail stealth can be used for taking out a handful of guards, you will ALWAYS set off an alert and have to shoot your way forwards taking out the reinforcements. It feels really gamey and happens all the way throughout the game.
So that's a bunch of my thoughts, this was longer than what I wanted to type, I can't help but feel like a lot of the game was designed around co-op. I'm really bummed out that the awesome co-op missions were dropped in favour of full campaign and what little multiplayer I have played seems to want you to play tactically, but rewards you for being a run & gunner with an smg, although that will probably balance itself out when more people are playing it. (or get worse) Oh well I guess, that's about it. I'm going to go make a cup of tea and think about what a big nightmarish insta-fail fest the last mission is.
Journey, I Am Alive, Street Fighter X Tekken, Asuras Wrath, Mass Effect 3, SSX, Saints Row DLC, Alan Wake challenges, Assassins Creed: Revelations, Free Trine 2/ Sly Cooper/ countless other games over the last few months on PSN, Ico, MGS Collection etc etc etc etc etc etc AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
It wouldn't be that bad if I didnt feel like I was missing games I should have played from last year (Rayman, Deus Ex, Ratchet) and some other, newer releases like The Darkness 2 and Syndicate. ANNNNND the upcoming releases of Kid Icarus and whatever fucking stupid name Rhythm Heaven has in Europe.
I don't really write blogs because I'm not really very good at writing. This is pretty infuriating because I often have lots and lots of things I want to say about Video Games as it is something I am hugely, hugely passionate about. I'm going to write this, a list of some dude on the internet you're never going to know's ten favourite games of 2011, and then scramble away quickly because my complete nobodyness + no Skyrim probably means I am a fucking idiot or something.
If you have read enough but want to whine about MY favourite games I have included a handy one sentence list underneath this spoiler tag...
Yeah, the songs are lovely and the art is pretty, but the least talked about part of the game seems to be the part where you play it, and what a cool little game it is. It reminded me a lot of the way Lara Croft Guardian of light plays in that getting everywhere speedily and efficiently meant abusing the fuck out of that roll button as much as possible. A brilliant approach to difficulty in the way it uses Idols like Halo uses skulls and a ton of little weapon challenges and perks to be gained that make all of the weapons viable from start to finish. I'm trying to find the right word to use when talking about Bastion, the one that pops up the most is special. A great game that turned out to be far more interesting than I ever expected it to be.
8. Mortal Kombat (360)
I like watching a man get ripped in half or a ninja star spin around inside a mans brain as he twitches on the ground dead and I'm not ashamed of that at all. Mortal Kombat loves to show horrible things happening to its characters and then add one final bit of extreme violence on top of it just to make sure the bloody mess of someone's corpse is as dead as possible. It is that creativity that shines throughout the game with brutal X-ray moves and fighters showing off how many bits of flesh they lost post round victory. There's just so much stuff in this game to mess around with, especially single player content. Mortal Kombat puts other fighting game stories to shame and while you could argue it's just some mystical, martial arts B-Movie it pulls off story-to-fight transitions perfectly and gets the level of silliness and seriousness spot on. The game looks gorgeous, has amazing versions of old MK tunes and some of the best Fatalities/Babalies in the series.
7. Sonic Generations (360)
Everyone hates sonic! I wouldn't be surprised if the two versions in this game spent all their free time bitching about each others spin physics and stupid friends on internet message boards. Nobody Likes Charmy the Bee... I know I don't, but whatevs he/she/it is so easily ignored that I'm willing to pretend they are not in the game. What is in the game is some brilliant level design, colourful and beautiful reinterpretations of old Sonic Levels and some amazing versions of old music tracks (CHEMICAL PLANT ZONE REMIX!!!!!!!!) The thing that surprises most about it is not how much love has gone into making that nostalgia part of the brain spin around uncontrollably, but how good the Modern Sonic stages are. They have finally got the balance of speed and minimal frustration right putting all of those terrifying nightmares about Unleashed's later daylight stages to rest. I'm sure that this isn't going to convert the masses, but as a huge fan of the Mega Drive games this is as perfect a Sonic game as you're going to get in 2011.
6. Portal 2 (PC)
Very few games this generation have left me feeling like the first Portal did, maybe 'Splosion Man or Metal Gear Solid 4. That is with complete satisfaction after completion. I had no idea how they'd top that over-quoted cake nonsense and Glados singing Still Alive. The answer was create an amazing new character that is essentially a metal eyeball, give it a ton of expression in its movement and let Stephen Merchant voice it. Wheatley is one of the funniest creations I have ever seen in a game, stupid and loveable even when trying to be evil and kill you.
The Narrative focus in Portal 2 is definitely the best decision they could have made, even if that is probably the reason why the game is far too easy for the most part. That forward momentum means that you definitely get to see all the wonderful and weird moments like when Glados becomes a potato, the easiest-hardest test chamber ever created or the ending IN SPACE! Surprisingly the "oh, I gave you a compliment, here is some sarcasm" tone of Glados is turned on its head quite early on and you actually feel some sympathy for her. Some of her lines are brilliant like when she talks about burning people in response to a passionate Cave Johnson rant about lemons.
As a puzzle game a lot of it is find the white wall and move on, but that's not what stuck with me about the game. It's the clever writing, The wonderfully bizarre ending and the best Nolan North voice/s in any game this year.
5. Dead Space 2 (360)
There is a moment relatively early on in the campaign where you are playing a slightly more interactive than the usual QTE where you run down a tunnel, get sucked out into space and then have to shoot at a huge monster hurtling towards your face. I was convinced at that moment this was one of the best things I had ever seen in a video game and while it's still an amazing stand out sequence amongst the far more blockbusterified (real word!) DS2, this year has been so strong that you could be forgiven for forgetting about its awesomeness.
I loved the first Dead Space, its atmosphere is amazing with some beautiful artwork/lighting and some nice fiction tying all of its weirdness together. DS2 removes a lot of the tense atmosphere from the first game and ups the action to eleven. This could have been a problem if the combat wasn't as satisfying as it is, with faster movement and more toys to murder space monsters with than your inventory can hold. That's not to say it is without a few moments similar to the first. The return to the Ishimura is brilliantly placed and creeping through the eerily silent abandoned spaceship with plastic covered walls like you're about to become Dexter Morgan's latest victim at any moment is wonderfully atmospheric. Obviously that doesn't last and the bloody, limb cutting gunfights resume. There's a lot of shooting in this game with the scares mainly left to cheap jumps and awesome, lunging Raptor-like enemies. Dead Space 2 very familiar if you played the first despite the increased focus on action, but this time around it has 100% more bizarre final boss inside your head (or something????) and needle-stabbing-in-the-eye minigames.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
I am not a fan of motion controls. I have been hugely against anything Kinecty, Movey or Wiiey for over five years, but something happened to my gaming tastes this year. I think we are about to burst from all of the guns and blood and explosions and greys and browns... I'm sick of it. I wanted something that was pure fun, something that reminded me of why I love video games, something full of colour and adventure like A Link to the Past. Is this game better than that or Ocarina? probably not, but an equal, definitely.
The art in Skyward Sword is stunning and while it took me a little while to adjust my brain to SD its wonderful character designs and exaggerated animations make up for it's lack of sharp textures and all the other little things we expect from our game visuals in this day and age.
What did surprise me the most is how modern the game felt, not just in it's use of technology and interesting items like the gust bellows (not a boomerang in sight), but how it uses all of your inventory at all times. No piece of your equipment is forgotten about all the way up to the final dungeon. Even the climbing and platforming is pretty well designed. I never expected Nintendo to use a system like Assassins creeds for scrambling up walls and jumping over rocks and it works brilliantly here.
The biggest argument here is whether the controls add to the experience or not and I fall squarely into the camp that thinks this game is a ton better with them. There's something about getting a perfectly timed block, waiting for the ideal moment to strike or even soaring through the sky on a giant bird. Patience is often the key, but not always. There are a lot of enemies that can be beaten with excessive waggle, try that on many of the boss fights and you're going to quickly get taught a lesson, some of the later ones requiring exact horizontal or vertical slashes to be beaten.
I spent about 60 hours with the game and other than a few whines about the annoying Silent Realm trials (there is four and none of them are fun) and a boss that can be beaten in a way you're not supposed to during a first encounter making the second time you face it incredibly annoying when the hint is "yo, do what you did last time" Regardless I had tens of hours of fun exploring, chatting with amusing characters and often being a dick to my knight school classmates. There's so much to do and see and some really nice puzzles that are not the hardest in the world, but give you the right level of satisfaction once you have figured it out. Beautiful, clever, touching and some stunning orchestral music. This is easily the best action adventure game I have played since the best not-Zelda Zelda game Okami.
3. Ghost Trick (DS)
I can probably count the amount of times I have had that "ah-ha! that was a surprise" moment in a video game on one hand. Ghost Trick manages this not once, but twice in its incredibly focused yet very short story. Everything shines about the game whether it be the catchy soundtrack or the absolutely amazing visuals which are full of fluid, exaggerated movements and fun character quirks.
While there's a little bit of trial and error in the mousetrap-esque puzzles there's that moment where it just clicks or you nail the timing of something and the story moves a tiny bit forward. Ghost trick is full of twists and turns and scenarios that are glanced upon early in the game that seem like they're filled with throwaway supporting characters only to return to them later and find out they play a much bigger part in the story.
The game is very Japanese in its style and writing, but some of the character conversations are a joy. Sissel and the ever-murdered Lynne's little chats become increasingly more absurd and as soon as the brilliant and loyal Missile is introduced I fell instantly in love with him. Ghost Trick is packed with interesting and memorable characters and scenes sometimes play out completely different to how you would expect them to which made me always want to keep pushing the story forward.
I had the game at the top of my top ten list for a huge part of the year and it's nice to see that original games like this are still getting made. Ghost Trick is an awesome puzzle/point & click adventure, it would be nice if more people played it as it seems most that do enjoy it immensely.
2. Gears of War 3 (360)
Brothers to the end... The irony.
Gears of War 3 was very emotional for me, the series means a lot on a personal level, but i'm glad I didn't miss the game like I originally planned to as this is a fitting end to one of the best series of this generation.
Most people know if they like Gears at this point and as third person, cover based shooters go nothing even comes close. I sometimes see people talk of the clunky, chunky dudes and their limited, slow movement and wonder if they have ever played a Gears game. The speed and movement of combat has been increased considerably and the time it takes to down a Locust has been adjusted to keep things moving at a better pace. I can't think of many games where I feel as fully in control of my character as I do in the Gears games.
The story is what it is, a little hokey, but that's always been a part of Gears appeal, the inclusion of zombie-like lambent humans is mercifully short and the setpieces are huge, but much more interesting than they were in the second. A pretty good length campaign (provided you play on hardcore mode) with some of the best graphics I have seen on the 360, even rivaling a game like Uncharted in places. Great new weapons, great new characters introduced and a lot of varied environments. I like that they stick to the desperate tone and even have a pretty big atmospheric sequence where you're mostly just walking through the remains of bodies that have turned to ash. It seems weird to say it but Gears 3 left me pretty emotional at points. Doms death can be seen a mile off, but when that music plays and and the slo-mo kicks in anyone with a little investment in these characters is going to get a little choked up... and that is absurd. The meaty-man "sup bitches", "shit yeah", "scratched one grub" "WHOOOOOO!" game made me feel something, not once, not twice but three times. and no other game has done that to me... ever.
Gears 3 is an amazing game, the competitive is the most friendly to people playing casually and Horde's improvements are truly amazing making it feel like an entirely different mode where teamwork is always encouraged. Probably the best third person shooter we are going to get this generation, packed with what feels like three entirely different games. If it wasn't for the late release of my number one entry this game would have been my best game of 2011 by a mile.
1. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
There was a moment where I moved this to the number one spot on my list and questioned whether it was just me being overly nostalgic about my favourite game Super Mario Bros 3. A few days later I beat Bowser (spoiler) at the end of world 8 and the game opened up a whole new version of the game featuring both harder levels and remixes that barely resemble their original state making them completely new stages. I realized right then that the amount of content and brilliant level design is amazing.
Sonic Generations is also a great game and appeals greatly to the mind of the child I once was, but the difference that separates one from being a great game and the other amazing is that Sonic is all "hey, check me out... this is what you loved, love me....please" and then inserts that into pretty, colourful levels that despite having a bunch of fancy camera tricks and blistering speed are essentially the same style of level we had in the 90's. Mario on the other hand feels like no other Mario game, sure theres a bit of 64 here and a bit of 3 there with a dash of World and a sprinkling of Galaxy, but 3D Land is most definately it's own thing... it just so happens to have that other thing you remembered from that other game you loved as a kid, and boy does this game love the Tanooki suit! Just look at possibly the cutest ever cartridge ever with a little Tanooki headed Mario peeking over the top, the mega-goombas or even Bowser with a tail. They take that one item you remembered that you might get once, twice from Mario Bros 3 and give it to you in the first ? block you decide to headbutt. While you could argue that the excessive use of it makes an already easy game even easier it will not help you with the really, really hard special stages.
I'm trying really hard to sum up my thoughts about the game without just resorting to "THIS GAME IS THE COOLEST GAME EVER!" I could touch upon its cute little moments like when you get stuck in a coin block or the way a little Tanooki'd toad screams as you continuously smack him with your tail or how the game benefits from its 3D and justifies the systems gimmick or the enemy design, or the brilliant art, or the levels or the way unlockable Luigi plays differently and has a fox suit or, or, or...
All my thoughts about the game can be summed up with this - Every single time I finish a little session with Mario 3D Land I am left with the hugest smile on my face. My favourite game of the year, one of the best Mario games ever made and the best reason to own a Nintendo 3DS.
Some things I didn't write about in my top 10 but wanted to make sure you knew how awesome I thought they were!
* Whenever Link needs his bird he's all like "fuck this shit, I'm outta here" and just jumps off of the side of the world hoping his bird catches him.
* "Game over man" is the best use of memorable movie quote when you get a game over in the knife trick minigame in Aliens: Infestation
* Charlie Cutter is one of the best new characters this year
* I LOVE the horse sequence in Uncharted 3, possibly one of my favourite moments in the series so far. They pulled off the Horse-Truck- Back onto horse stuff perfectly.
* The Jabba/Leia joke in Mortal Kombat when you lose to Shao Kahn is one of the funniest things in any game this year.
* Deckers Die is as good as the GB crew think it is (see day one recap video of theirs for proof)
* Arkham City does an amazing job of showing just how fucking nuts Bruce Wayne is.
* The Activity Log music on the 3DS is the best music on the system!
So here is my list, I'm sorry if you read it all and even sorry-er if you read the linked page. Thanks for reading it though, even if you just skimmed it to tell me how terrible my taste in games is.