I Am Therefore I Think.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been into video games. Following the discontented winter of 2008 which had the Dead Space/World at War/Prince of Persia fiasco; a triple bill that really made me wonder if I should be spending so much time and energy on this hobby, there was the Mass Effect 2/Alan Wake/Red Dead Redemption trifecta a few years later which affirmed that the answer is no; since then, all I’ve played are a few ill thought out Christmas presents, had a whale of a time knocking out Portal 2 when my roommate was at class and then immediately regretted my decision to try out some games again when we endured a marathon session of Borderlands. More like Boringlands. Pause for laughter.

I do still keep up. I’m trying to make myself not regret the decade-plus of regularly buying games. I’m capping it off with a shiny new Xbox to finish the franchises I’m invested in this coming winter and giving myself closure, but between now and then, I spent a lot of time watching games: Let’s Plays, Retsupuraes and Quick Looks, not feeling like I’m actually missing anything without a controller in my hand and only yesterday, talking to my friend about Modern Warfare 3 did I have the stark realisation that I don’t think I understand the mentality of video games.

Specifically, it was the line ‘You’re the only person I’ve know who gives a shit about what will happen to Makarov. I just want to shoot dickheads online again.’ Both clauses in there made me wonder about the mentality of the gamer itself. I got my N64 in 1998 and, like everyone, I played a load of GoldenEye. As Alec Trevelyn, I shot all kinds of MI5, Janus, SPECTRE agents alongside a poor facsimile of my personal fetish fuel Xenia Onatopp in the head with all kinds of pistols, shotguns and so forth. I played a few levels of single player too; I didn’t own the game and only borrowed it for a weekend or two so I didn’t progress too far - I was pretty young at the time - but I really enjoyed running from A to B in dank corridors shooting Russians in the head with all kinds of pistols, shotguns and so forth.

Like a lot of you, I got into games around the time of the 3D arrival and I could always look in my latest issue of Gamesmaster and see the upcoming releases and future generations, see the mark up in visual quality and think to myself that everything was getting better and better. The leap in fidelity between 16, 32, 64 and 128 bit was so startling every time that it caught my attention and it always kept me interested. Instead of being Mario running from left to right, I was Mario running laissez faire; instead of merking guys from overhead, I was merking them in full 3D and listening to the music from Scarface. But then around the time of the Xbox 360, I found myself thinking that I’ve already done this.

I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who have my same concern, but I turn to the Giantbomb forums, as I’ve been known to do, looking for an asp to make fun of, and I see people paraphrasing my friend who just wants to shoot dickheads and I can not fathom how you haven’t had enough. I shot guys in the head in GoldenEye, I did it in Halo, I did it in Snore-derlands; Three generations of going from A to B in dank corridors and shooting guys in the head. First person, third person; modern, future; online, offline. It’s all the same.

With everything else I like, there’s a timeline that I can trace. My purchase of Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water when I was 12 was the jump off point that got me to sitting here, typing this, and listening to Anjunabeats Volume 8. It’s a twisty and turny set of connections, but I can look back and appreciate that, as shitty as that album was, it got me interested in music to the point of where I am now. I can go from seeing Peter Pan aged 3 to seeing Les Petits Mouchoirs aged 22. I can even follow the ups and downs of pro wrestling eventually leading me to the Bell Centre in the coolest city in the world, cheering on GSP last december. I look at my video game collection and, in comparison, I’ve taken a baby step.

The reason I almost entirely gave up on games after I played Mass Effect 2, Alan Wake and Red Dead Redemption is that you have the stories of a Canadian on an intergalactic adventure, a depressed writer busting ghosts to rescue his wife and a cowboy tracking an old ally across the wicky-wicky-wild wild west to settle an old score and in order to do all these things, to settle every one of these conflicts, I shot people till there was no one left. Everything might look nicer, but nothing else has changed in about 15 years. How do you people do it? How is that not a sign that maybe you should give something else a shot instead? Are you that easily entertained? Look elsewhere you cry. To where I ask. If I don’t want to simulate a sport, I can’t see many options. This weeks new releases, that I can play, are going from A to B shooting stuff, going from A to B shooting stuff, going from A to B shooting/hacking at stuff, driving from A to B shooting stuff; each one described in their respective reviews and previews as being ridiculous but not having much of a fiction.

It’s easy enough to blame you guys. You’re the one coughing up $60 a go to ostensibly repeat the same process you just spent $60 to do but there’s another side to this equation. One that perplexes me just as much as wondering why you guys play this stuff; why do those guys make this stuff? It’s something I’d been thinking for a while, but it really came to a head when I sat there and watched the Hard Reset Quick Look. My first thought was ‘What kind of idiot actively wants to play this?’ but that eventually turned to ‘What kind of idiot actively wants to make this?’

I can sit here and lament the total lack of auteurism in video games all day long, but were this game developed by just one guy, I could understand but when it’s a team of people all coming together to spend thousands and thousands of euros on a project, how does a committee come together to agree on something as bland and second hand as yet another FPS with no character, personality or depth besides for looking a bit like Blade Runner and invoking something John Romero did literally decades ago? How do they think this is a good idea? And why didn't they want to do something unique to them instead of expensive hack work? I’ll never play it, never want to play it and you can tell me it’s a load of fun running around, shooting things with brightly coloured guns and I’ll quip something like ‘Yeah, I know. I played Halo’ or definitely something better but, even so, the total lack of ambition this displays is so pervasive that I cant help but feel like a sucker for ever giving money to this business.

The one that really sticks with me is Capcom and their treatment of Resident Evil. Sure, Resident Evil 5 was garbage and, yeah, Resident Evil 6 will appear by 2013 with a clone of Wesker and we’ll all shoot not-quite zombies as they run at you, then walk, giving you enough time to shoot them while you stand in place all over again. I can accept that because I can accept that video games, particularly of Japanese origin, are a business ran on enticing the lowest common denominator. I can even accept that I got sucked into a shitty mythos because, at the time, it was pretty much the only franchise that actually had one. What bothers me is the obvious fact that no one at Capcom gives any kind of shit about the quality of the material they produce.

Much like the progression I detailed earlier, the gap between each succeeding Resident Evil game was just large enough to convince by 8 to 15 year old self that each game was bigger and better than the last, but when the finale arrived, it was 2009 and not only was the game a piece of shit, it retroactively made the earlier games shit too - shitter than they actually are, which is really shit. MGS4 managed to at least make an effort at tying all the strings back together for a satisfying finale. After games upon games of Solid Snake and Revolver Ocelot revolving like a helix around the events of that franchise, giving them one last sunset was awesome. Conflict that with blowing up Wesker in a volcano after 50% more games with no real rhyme or reason and you’ve just failed an entire generation of people who played it. No one at Capcom knows how to tell a story and I payed hundreds of pounds to find that out.

Please, call me naive as much as you want. I am the idiot for trying to justify my money. I am the idiot for wanting some drama in my investments. I am the idiot who wants to be entertained on a higher level than just shooting zombies again. I am the idiot who thought that maybe there was a direction to the whole thing. I am the idiot who saw a good face/heel dynamic in the straight laced Chris Redfield and the theatrical Albert Wesker. I am the idiot who thought at least one person employed by Capcom’s creative department was actually creative. I am the idiot who thought at least one person in Capcom’s creative department could tell a simple story. I am the idiot who liked Resident Evil, but you’re the idiot who will buy Resident Evil 6 and say ‘Well, all I wanted to do was shoot zombies and that’s what it did. 10/10.’

It’s not just constrained to Capcom and it’s murky schoolgirl-fucking tentacles that have spread to other parts of the world. It’s not even just Japan. It may be worse there than in American and European games development, but it seems like no company in video games has any higher aspiration than making something for a 14 year old boy. You can throw BioShock - a game that’s half a decade old - at me here but above it’s lethargic and totally average shooting mechanics is only a strawman response to Ayn Rand, an author you probably have never actually read, which probably explains the high praise. Then there’s maybe, what? I’m genuinely struggling to think of anything to actually counter my own argument. Persona, maybe, in its whole tragic underbelly of how making friends and talking to girls can give you some kind of believe-in-yourself magical power but that seems more for the lonely proto-Japanese than a normal, functioning human being.

John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy just got released as a movie. It’s fantastic. In the 70s, it was a TV show. It’s fantastic. It’s all based on the book. I haven’t read it yet but my granddad assured me it’s fantastic. You could probably turn it into a graphic novel; shit, you could probably turn it into a wrestling storyline along the lines of some kind of Corporate Ministry thing with the discovery of the higher power but you could not turn it into a video game. Imagine how good it would be to play as George Smiley, working your way through a seedy world of international political intrigue. Well, keep imagining because there’s neither an audience nor an auteur who would bring it together. Could you imagine playing a game on your Xbox 360 or PS3 that didn’t involve shooting anyone and has an actual sense of player agency? I can’t. There was a time when I was told video games were interactive entertainment but when the only form of said agency is a binary on/off, I’m more convinced that Schindler’s List is a colour film because of that girl in the red coat.

The two big whys are the main reason why I still knock about the site. The Bombcast is fun but the actual talk about games is secondary and I can bait people on other sites, not as easily but whatever, the crux of my posting and perusing is to find answers. There’s a real passion people have for games but it’s absolutely alien to me. Off the top of my head, I can pick a solid list of books, movies and TV shows from this year alone that have made me laugh, cry, just think and/or generally appreciate their respective medium; an emotional response. Outside of the single line ‘Snake had a hard life’, there is no video game that’s made me shed a tear, I can’t even think of a game that’s intentionally made me laugh, Modern Warfare and Gears are thrilling and dramatic at points but after that, I’m done. How do you get passionate about this banal hobby? How do they get so passionate about making such bland products? What is it I’m missing here?

P.S. Before you call me out, I'm intending on writing wrap up blogs for Gears of War, Modern Warfare and Mass Effect once all threequels are out. See you then.

204 Comments

Starring [REDACTED] as Alex Mason.

Maybe it's because he's the only thing that isn't utter dogshit in Terminator Salvation, or because of his involvement in Avatar or the fact he seems like a cool guy and is also the only Australian who can speak in his natural brogue and not make me want to throw up but I really like ol' Sam so don't turn this into a hate thread, please. I'm more concerned with if anyone knows when he was brought onto the Black Ops project. I remember a long while ago, Activision announced that Ed Harris and Gary Oldman were involved then a few weeks ago, I saw this this article from Kotaku which Brad Nicholson probably copy and pasted because I don't read Kotaku announcing the exact same thing, Ed Harris and Gary Oldman but no Sam Worthington. 
 
Doing a bit of internet flatfooting, I found this article from Yahoo! which features this awkward paragraph: 

In a recent demonstration of the game to The Associated Press, Mason sounded distinctly like "Avatar" actor Sam Worthington. Anthony declined to say if it was Worthington's voice. Another person with knowledge of the game, who spoke on condition of anonymity because that person wasn't authorized to release the information, said it was Worthington.  

  
Considering he's been in two successful (if not particularly good) action films as well as the lead in the highest grossing film of all time and is still being lead on to be the next big leading man in Hollywood, why was this information kept under wraps? It's not exactly Bill Murray in Zombieland.  It wasn't until the Quick Look that I even knew he was involved in the game and, OK, maybe I haven't been following every tiny snippet of news but it makes me wonder if he wasn't drafted in last minute to read the lines. On the Mel Gibson scale, his accent is very much in original Lethal Weapon territory and it makes me wonder if this was an end game pull by Activision to get a name actor as the leading man without realising a huge part of his success is his everyman good looks and commanding screen presence, not his nobody-really-speaks-like-this voice, and once he was done spitting game on the mic, someone realised this and kept it out of the press. I don't know. It all seems like a confusing attempt to beat Infinity Ward at their own game and coming out with something that isn't quite it.
6 Comments

Kane & Lynch: Day One

No, it’s not some Frank Miller inspired reboot of the franchise, it’s a quick blog of my thoughts on the game after a few hours play. I’d give a spoiler warning but I assume anyone who would actually be spoiled by anything here has already played the game or, wiser, watched some kind of YouTube playthrough. As I’m looking forward to the sequel, I’m trying to be as positive as I can about the whole experience and not succumb to the fanboy bias that still hangs round the soon-to-be-franchise’s neck. I also only paid £3, so I can’t really be too negative.

I was going to split this into bullet points about what I thought was good and what I thought was bad but the split is so clear and obvious that it can be summed into into I really like everything apart from the fact I have to play it. The opening where both Kane and Lynch are busted out of the prison van is done really well with the Kiefer Sutherland sound-a-like narration immediately setting the tone of the game. In fact, he sounds so much like Kiefer in that one scene and so unlike him everywhere else that it had me wondering if maybe he was first attached and then dropped out. As a tutorial level, it works well enough but already, things feel broken.

The second set piece resets the tone entirely. Between the start of the bank heist to the escape on the train, I went from wary and interested to interested and disappointed. Crushingly disappointed. You start storming a bank as Kane to steal a macguffin while Lynch guards the hostages then having him go mental, wipe everyone out and then, on top of that, going up against police until the getaway van arrives. The getaway is then chased by the police and you have to shoot out the back to keep them off your tail but in all the rumpus, the driver loses his way and in an attempt to get back, the van goes off the road and you have to guard it from police assault until it can be fixed. When back on the road, the police are in hot pursuit leaving the gang little option but to board a train and escape from the law, who now have both helicopters and SWAT on their side.

It sounds exciting and it’s drawn out well. While it is the Heat sequence before it became Three Leaf Clover in GTA IV, it’s still a cool sequence and a good way of explaining Lynch’s blackouts without the need for flat exposition. But as soon as you start playing, you’re fucking hindered. Having the A button do everything fails completely. I tried to CQC a pig and instead, picked up someone else’s gun giving him enough time to blow me away. Then you get to the scenes where there’s more than a handful of guys shooting and it turns into a hard R version of The A-Team: You can’t hit a fucking thing. The bullet spray is all over the place meaning you need to use short controlled bursts at all times and that, while awkward, works on stationary opponents but when someone is running, it’s a waste of time. Not even the AI can do it.

The tension goes as fast as the immersion and I’m just sitting there seething. The worst, up to that point, is the train station as you get pincered by SWAT with no cover, which is fine on one side as they run in a straight line allowing for shots to be lined up, but then you turn round and they’re too far away to hit. I died maybe 4 or 5 times on this one 30 second section and at no point did it ever feel like it was my fault.

The next part in Tokyo again starts off well but ends in disaster. Walking through the crowds of people in a busy nightclub gives this section the most interesting stealth mechanic I’ve seen in many, many years. It’s so loud in there and everyone is so busy having a good time that they don’t hear your neckbreaking or the gunshots from the security guards. It’s genius. But then, it all falls apart. When leaving, the security come to find you and it starts well enough by mimicking Collateral and having them come through the crowd to get you but as soon as they start shooting, it dissolves into the same broken shooting that the last level had only this time, Lynch can’t fire back as he’s carrying the hostage making it an escort mission as well. I died a good few times here simply because he’d wander into gunfire.

This is also the first part of the game where I realised what the problem is. Just like when I played Gun and saw the jump animation was the same as the Caveman move off Tony Hawk and realised they’d used the same engine to build the game, when I saw the neon lights of the nightclub, the pulsing sounds from Jesper Kyd and the masses of poorly cloned civilians, I realised this was an action game forced into the Hitman engine. The shooting in those games was bad because it’s meant to be a last resort, the lighting can go both pitch black and blindingly bright to give you places to hide. Both of those worked fine in Hitman but when you’re put in a game where you’re shooting all the time and then can’t see what you’re trying to hit because of the extreme shadows, it’s a game killer.

No clearer was this than on the stage after where you go to a meeting in a traditional Japanese garden during the dead of night. Sure, I can see the flashlights the goon squad have, but I can’t actually see the goon that I’m trying to kill. There’s a section where there’s a sniper up a flight of stairs and he killed me many times as the game has a gimmick where you can see the sniper’s scope in the corner. It lets you see them aiming for you and gives you time to hide and lets you know where they are to shoot back. During this one section, it was so dark that the circle was completely black and, yep, I got gunned down by him many, many times. I have no idea how this got released, or even beyond the stage where someone, somewhere, is meant to say that it doesn't work.

Having just got to the start of Revenge Part I, I ended up ragequitting because I got killed again, numerous times by the dump truck and I have a feeling this may be where I give up. Unless there’s something I’m missing, to kill the driver, I have to shoot into a small window while it’s moving. Kane doesn’t seem like he’d be able to hit the Hindenburg with the Hammer of Dawn so I don’t know how I’m going to pull this off and, like I said, it doesn’t annoy me, it just makes me disappointed.

IO are obviously a bunch of talented guys, as seen by the Hitman games and they took a huge chance with Kane and Lynch, story wise at least, and for me, it worked. I remember in the infamous review from Jeff that he said the game was ugly but that makes a real welcome change for how other games play out. From the start, it’s clear that neither Kane or Lynch are good guys and this gives IO more room to maneuver and make things interesting. Lynch killing all the hostages in the bank changes the dynamic of that section completely and, in a better game, would have given the game a far more violent and sinister tone, something you don’t get anywhere else. The same can be said with the nightclub scene: When Yoko doesn’t want to negotiate, Lynch punches her in the face, puts tape round her mouth and and carries her out as a hostage. It’s blunt, brutal and very refreshing.

Kane seems to be given some kind of redemptive through line with his family being the driving force behind his actions but this is just as sour as the rest of the game. His wife hates him, his daughter doesn’t even know he exists and his motivation is guilt and regret for fucking their lives up rather than because he wants to be a family again, he knows better than that. It’s grim but at least he’s not a bald space marine or an American soldier and as a motivation, it works. I was drawn into it far more than I was for John Marston in Red Dead Redemption, though that’s laid out very differently so it’s not really unfair to make comparisons. Marston ended up as a well rounded person while Kane almost definitely won't.

Talking about the characters has got my mood turned all around from when I started writing this and I’m glad I’ve given the game a try. And then I realise where I’m up to in the story and realise I have to play it. There may not be a Day Two.

9 Comments

Prince of Persia: The Worst Game Ever Made

All this Prince of Persia talk has got me thinking of way back towards the start of the 21st century when I used to like video games. I got my PS2, I was still fresh off the N64 and craving a new 3D platformer. Jak and Daxter was fucking terrible, Ratchet and Clank was fun but more action-adventure than I wanted and I don’t even remember anything else until late 2003 when not only was I over my interest in platformers thanks to Super Mario Sunshine being one of the most deflating experiences of my life, but I played Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and was blown away.

Sands of Time is one of the few games that gets nearly everything right, from the music to the characters to the general feel of the game, it oozes playability. If you fuck up on a puzzle, you tap R1 and you can give it another shot. If you go too far and can’t, it doesn’t matter, the Prince just says that’s not how it happens and you’re good to go.

Even the combat, which is by far the weakest part of the game is easy enough to run through. I don’t know why the game even needed swordplay but having the springboard ability that could cut near enough anything down to size in a hit so it never got in the way and also left you feeling at least slightly empowered even if the rest of your world is a nightmare.

Starting at such a lofty position, it was obvious that the franchise was always going to turn to shit. As soon as reports of low sales and poor combat rolled in, it was only a matter of time before any semblance of integrity and artistry were to disappear and be replaced by baditude and bullshit. Only a year later, in fact.

I was still naive in 2004. I had Warrior Within pre-ordered. I got it on Christmas Day. I traded it in before the New Year. Warrior Within must have been designed by someone who listens to metal because it’s fucking horrible from top to bottom. Gone is the aloof but funny and personable Prince, instead he’s grizzly, somehow American and swears too, just in case you didn’t know he was meant to be a badass. Gone is Farah, the sexy and smart sidekick. Instead you get two slags who look like they order their clothes from Kink.com and have approximately zero personality between them.

There’s 417 words in this blog so far and I’m still in the preamble but don’t worry, I am getting there.

I think I made the right decision to skip over Two Thrones. After hearing it carries on as a direct sequel to the last game to finish the trilogy, I realised I didn’t give a fuck. There’s only so much you can piss on me and call it rain, but enough about my sex life, this franchise was dead in my eyes. Thankfully. And that’s kind of sad. So, imagine my excitement when a reboot is announced that will take the franchise back to its roots: Mild.

As much as I’m willing to accept a reboot, so far the ratio of bad to good in the PoP scheme of things is 2:1 so I can’t be that hopeful and, Christ, even as a game I was only kind of looking forward to, I wasn’t willing to buy full price and got as a Christmas present meaning I never even had to pay anything for it, I was disappointed. No, worse. It’s definitely a disappointment but it’s the kind you see in the eyes of your mother when you’re now unemployed after going to a private school. It’s that kind of disappointment that means I can say, with a straight face, that Prince of Persia on the Xbox 360 is the worst game ever made.

Before you all start whining and calling out games like Rogue Warrior and Big Rigs, consider he development cycle of Prince of Persia. Ubisoft had a full studio to work with, a large budget and were in no rush to finish the game. Obviously there must have been deadlines but when you play this game, what you get feels complete. The problem is that it’s a complete layer of absolutely nothing and with the resources available, that’s a complete slap in the face to anyone who paid the full £40 or whatever it is in your part of the world to play this and here’s why:


The Awful Characterisation

I love Han Solo and I’ve come to like Nolan North but dropping an All-American rogue into a game like this is entering Richard Gere as Lancelot territory, especially when it’s laid on so thick. Everything he says is snarky backchat that is seldom earned and never funny. From the second you start playing as this guy, he’s a jerk. And not even a good jerk, you get the sense that the developers played Uncharted, liked Nathan Drake and just wanted that without even thinking if it fit their game or not.

Then you meet Elika who’s obviously set up as the hate-at-first-sight love interest but as the game progresses, you never get a reason to like her. One minute, she’ll be giving a sob story then next, she’ll be the feisty ‘strong woman’ archetype and it just reeks of lazy writing. Making you stand still and press the R Trigger to get exposition is bad enough but when it’s hack writing that can be accessed in any order, it really grates. Also, if I remember correctly, one time she told me about how her mother had died somehow and in the very next zone, either she cracked a joke about The Prince’s mother or vice versa and all it did was emphasize how disjointed and gamey the whole thing is.

I’m sure the heads at Ubisoft believed that the rat-a-tat dialogue was meant to generate chemistry but by the time I got to the ending, I thought The Prince was still a dickhead and Elika was a fool for putting up with him, but more about the ending at the end. Apt.

Besides that double act, you’ve got the stock evil father/king character and the final boss of the world, Ahriman, who’s evil. You know, because. Working for these guys are the four underbosses who, for characters that don’t have much personality, all have remarkably elaborate backstories. Much like The Beauty and The Beast Unit from MGS4, you hear a lot about what these monsters were and how they got this way in exposition scenes but in the battle themselves, it means nothing. The Warrior is a brick shithouse who you have to beat in the same way as you beat all powerhouse bosses, the fact he was once a king and took a deal with Ahriman has absolutely nothing to do with his level or his fight. It feels incredibly tacked on.


The Empty Sandbox

True story: When I first played Prince of Persia, I ran into the far right world and started going and going and going and going and going and then I came out the left side and felt incredibly confused. Turns out what I thought was the easy opening stage was actually the full game.

As trendy as it is to let the player go where they want, when they want, in a game like this all it does is keep everything even. You can’t spring late game stuff on the player if they’re not expecting it and it’s always possible the player could do the opening level at the end causing a flat finish. This leaves every area of the game being identical to the next in all but colour palette and magic runes, completely defeating point of an open world and almost making it feel even more arbitrarily segmented than the typical platformer.


The Fucking Orbs

As much as I didn’t enjoy Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, a different blog for a different time, the opening section where you ran in a straight line to collect pointless trinkets is the perfect parody of the arbitrary orb collection mechanic that Prince of Persia is based on. Aware that the game offered no challenge or interesting gameplay, it seems the designers went to the oldest trick in the book and filled the world in Light Seeds which you have to collect to progress. 

When I say filled, I probably should have said coated or smothered because for every step you take, there is an orb to find. If you stop and look out into the horizon of any level, it looks like Christmas has come early as the orbs defy draw distance and litter the landscape with no rhyme or reason. They are everywhere. If you need to make a jump. you’ll jump through one, if you need to wall run, you’ll run through a million of them, if Elika needs to fly somewhere, she’ll fly through a chain of them conveniently placed in a spiral in the sky.

A glance at the achievements points out there’s 1001 to pick up in a game which is divided into 4 modestly sized segments. Even in the collect ‘em up heyday of the late 90s, 100 was the limit so having two and a half times this amount bumbling around is fucking obscene.


The Tap X to Win Gameplay

For three full games, the combat in the Prince of Persia franchise was shit at worst and like a bad Devil May Cry at best so a reboot really should have either overhauled the mechanics completely or had the stones to take it out, after all, judging by the art style, they weren’t going for gnarly metal anymore and at least look like they were going for a more fairy tale experience which is bound to be a softer experience unless you're a Tim Burton apologist.

What we ended up with here is the bad parts of every previous game brewed into one horrific system. A huge combat system that went on 10 hits longer than an enemy health bar, that is assuming you didn’t accidentally knock them near the edge of the level where the tap X mingame kicks in. Whoever designed this needs to die. It works when revving a chainsaw but not when you’re getting ready to This is Sparta another one of the respawning enemies off a ledge. That’s right. You kill a guy and another appears, ready for you to ice in 20 seconds with a guaranteed kill animation.

Not shoehorned and unsatisfying enough for you? Just wait till the boss battles. Each one revolves around removal of one aspect of The Prince’s move set. Kind of like those guys at the end of BioShock that you couldn’t shock anymore because of something. The Concubine provides the best example of the boss battles where you spend a few minutes tapping Y to get to the arena where the battle begins and you’re locked into awkwardly sidling towards the boss with no fluidity waiting to trigger a QTE in order to do a bit of damage. After a while, she disappears and you have to do more Y and A tapping to reach the next arena. I’m sure this was meant to be for dramatic effect, but it feels so linear, drawn out and pointless that it perfectly matches the tone of the rest of the game.


The 'No Risk, No Reward' Mechanics

With a several indistinct cliches all wrapped into one excuse of a personality, it makes sense that Elika’s magic powers follow the same formula. She might be trying to convince you she’s a damsel in distress but she can fly all over the place and throw you over double jumps. Though, she conveniently can’t attack an enemy if she’s a pixel or two out of range. The one that’s the most gamey however occurs if The Prince is careless enough to jump into the abyss, which is far harder than it sounds, or die in battle, which is borderline impossible, Elika brings you back in an instant with no penalty to the player or herself. 

In Sands of Time, there’s at least a screen and a reload process to go through which is accompanied by some meta narration that at least makes it interesting. Here, it almost makes you a God. A God because you’re a fucking retard. The Lawnmower Man. If there’s no punishment for dying, where’s the incentive to get better? Being a game that’s accessible to everyone is great if you’re a mini game collection but in an adventure you play for 4+ hours, all this does is humour the lowballers and infuriate anyone who’s played a game before.

The removing of the corruption is probably the closest you get to some kind of real forward momentum but a level changing colour once you beat the boss doesn’t exactly get my on my feet. Especially knowing that once you’ve beaten said boss, there’s nothing else to do other than high tail it back to the hub world.


The Full Game's Worth of QTE

In a world where people are actively complaining about Heavy Rain not being a video game, it’s bizarre that no one said a word about Prince of Persia anti-gameplay mechanics. It seems that unless it expressly comes up on the screen every time to ‘Press B’, a lot of people can’t tell that they’re just doing QTE. Think about it. With the rings on the wall, all you had to do was press B and the game did it for you. You run to an edge, press A and the game will home in and take you to where you need to go. There’s less skill involved than a typical Wii game and Heavy Rain combined but because it’s tarted up, no one seems to mind.

This is all before you reach those coloured pads that have another embarrassingly convenient backstory. Any time there’s a tower or something interesting in the game’s Eastern Bloc bland architecture, these pads appear and with the tap of a button, you sometimes literally fly to the top. In the other sections, the QTE is hidden but here, it’s plain as day. Press the yellow Y button when you reach the yellow pad. How did anyone think that would be a good gameplay mechanic in a game where you’re essentially meant to be a gymnast?

Sands of Time wasn’t exactly Demon’s Souls but there was at least a part of playing where it felt like you were actually playing and got something out of it. Here, the game plays itself and at that point, why even play?


The Coldly Calculated Art Style

I could let this slide. After all, the game looks alright. Not great, not good, but alright. As with the rest of the game, it feels soulless through sheer tonal inconsistency. First off, the game is called Prince of Persia. We’ve already discovered that the guy isn’t exactly a Prince and now we’re in a land that looks nothing like Persia. Might sound petty but if you took this art style and put it in Batman: Arkham Asylum under the excuse that it’s a reboot so it doesn’t matter that it looks nothing like the grizzly streets of Gotham, it wouldn’t be OK.

So you tell me it’s a storybook. Great excuse. While the hand drawn effect looked great in Okami, here it makes levels look last gen. The levels are both completely empty and boxed into tedium. Where a normal game would have textures that give the levels life, here you’ve basically got bare geometry. I feel almost like I’m a tetragrammaton cleric giving this kind of analysis but in a game where there is nothing to do besides follow the trail from A to B, you notice. It feels like someone forgot this was meant to be interactive.

Also, if it’s a storybook, why is the story nothing like a fairytale? With Nolan North channeling Chandler Bing and Elika just being sad, I mean thoughtful, I mean heroic, I mean strong, I mean a love interest, I mean fractions of all these things wrapped in a story that literally goes round in a (semi-)circle, it’s a jarring juxtaposition but hey, it looks nice, right? People will pay money for that.

 

The Retard finish

I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you know what happened at the end of Prince of Persia but if not, here’s what happens. After hours of collecting orbs, tapping X, listening to exposition and collecting orbs, you finally get up to the big bad who’s been trying to destroy the world and, like the rest of the game, he’s a push over and everything is fine but whatever, Elika dies. Seems the Okami revitialisation ripoff she’s been doing through out the game has finally killed her. Notice how she wasn’t getting weaker in the zones or during play but in one fell swoop, R.I.P. Working on the assumption that he can even revive her, you now have to go and cut down those 4 lovely trees and then the one inside the temple to bring her back to life.

First and foremost, look at the balance of this. It’s literally Elika vs. The World. Elika’s life vs. millions and millions of people who are either going to die in a horrible fashion, get absorbed into the Persian nu-metal band The Corruption or live under the tyranny of Ahriman. Why would Nolan North do this? He’s known this girl for either 12 or so hours worth of arduous playthrough or, let’s be generous, a day or two of in-universe time.

For this amount of time, they’ve ran around, collected orbs, fought monsters, collected orbs and she’s saved him from dying numerous times. From this first date, how has The Prince decided she’s worth saving? Maybe he’s heard her tell him a few stories about her life before her world got shitsmeared but is that worth the universe? For a guy who’s meant to live like a loner, fight like a professional and love like there’s no tomorrow, he falls head over heels for this girl pretty quick and with absolutely no justification. He didn’t even get a handjob.

Balancing the inter-character relationships with the more genuine relationships of those characters and the player is something that has seldom been done right. The only time I can remember it working was in Metal Gear Solid 2 where Raiden felt he was unworthy and had as much desire to be Solid Snake as you did. With most gamers believing a 'subtext' to be what appears on the bottom of the screen when an NPC is talking, don’t be surprised if you didn’t get it and thought Raiden was gay.

I understand that I, as a rational non-Japanese shut in, am not going to fall in love with Elika but I’m at least meant to believe that The Prince did. I don’t give a shit about Alyx but I see why she gives a shit about Gordon and that’s why it works so well.

The worst part of all this is that once Elika is conscious, the game ends. We see Ahriman fly away ready to go wreck innocents somewhere else, The Prince just walks off with her in his arms and an achievement pops up saying ‘To Be Continued...’ which sounds a lot like code for ‘Play the sequel in 2011.’ While a lot of games end on cliffhangers, something which is never good, at least they’re actual cliffhangers. Here, I can’t see where the series could go. Ahriman terrorizes another sparsely populated desert, Elika is back awake with a new gimmick to use as a selling point and The Prince now treats her nicely all the time. Not exactly Empire Strikes Back.

Instead, some epilogue DLC came out and there’s another reboot going back to the days of Sands of Time which will tie in with the upcoming move. Thankfully, no actual sequel has been announced which I hope reflects poor sales but the Ubisoft’s track record, I wouldn’t be shocked if that meant Prince of Persia 2 is coming with a soundtrack from Mastodon.

47 Comments

Why I hate Resident Evil 5.

Having played Resident Evil for over a decade now, or at least sat back and watched my uncle played the first game on the PSone, and finding that Resident Evil 4 was one of the best games on the GameCube, 5 looked like it was going to be amazing. After all, it had actually had Wesker which, considering the times when Wesker actually appears in the games and with Jill supposedly being dead, something big had to happen in this installment. Not to mention that it had to build off the successful gameplay changes of RE4.

How wrong I was.

First, i'd like to say that not everything is bad about RE5. Everything looks great, most notably the characters who i'd say are comparable to MGS4's fantastically emotive characters. Also, from the moment he first appears to the bit where he gets syringed in the final fight, Albert Wesker is one of the most perfect character in any video game universe ever. A hulking combination of super powers and smugness, Wesker is not only infinitely hateable but completely formidable. For anyone who hasn't played CVX, this is the same guy who had a ton of steel girders dropped on his head and shook it off like it was nothing more than a slap in the face. As baddies go, Wesker is one of the best out there. Or, was.

The thing which annoyed me the most about RE5 is that as a (potentially) closing chapter to this part of the Resident Evil franchise, it felt as if it was being written and controlled by someone who had no real idea about the characters or the storyline so far. The equivalent of Jonathan Mostow taking over from James Cameron in Terminator 3. The final scene demonstrates this complete lack of character development perfectly. You've got Wesker, the big bad since 1996, dying in a volcano and who is it who kills him? Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar. Chris killing him makes sense, after all he was one of the intended victims of the Arklay Mountains outbreak but Sheva's involvement is insulting. She doesn't even know who Wesker is till halfway through the game. To make matters worse, Jill fucking Valentine, you know, the other main character from the first game as well as a main franchise player, is sitting right next to them in the helicopter willing to just let the man who she chased for years then was captured and experiment on by, be killed by someone else. Is there no desire for revenge in her heart? Not to bog this down too much with comparisons to other media, but it's the equivalent of Agent Smith being killed by some civilian at the end of Matrix Revolutions while Neo sits back and watches. And that complaint is without even going into detail on how pathetic that end is for Wesker. Getting hit by two rockets in the middle of a volcano seems incredibly impersonal considering the homoerotic rivalry between him and Chris.

I know after writing that, someone will bounce into the thread and give me the old 'It's just a video game. Have fun, dickhead' arguement, but coming right off MGS4 which tied up everyone's story so that every MGS game felt like it was part of one big, if messy, contrived and convoluted, story and actually rewarded me as a fan for sticking with it for years, I expected better from Resident Evil 5. Instead, what I got was a piss poor Resident Evil 4 remake made by people who loved MGS4 so much, that they couldn't tell the rhyme or reason behind the plot points, just that they needed to be copied:

  • A bleach blonde haired ninja in an advanced bodysuit which allows the user to do gravity defying kung-fu. I'm talking about Raiden, right? Nope: Jill Valentine.
  • Killing one of the bosses by sticking him with a needle full of a toxin that overpowers his system making him easily defeatable. I'm talking about Vamp, right? Nope: Albert Wesker.
  • Opening in a desert town with a monologue about how the world is currently in peril. I'm talking about MGS4's Middle Eastern battlefield opeing, right? Nope: RE5's African war torn village Kijuju opening.
  • Ending on a tanker in the middle of the sea full of the bad guy's troops before having a protracted fist fight with the bad guy himself. I'm talking about MGS4's final chapter, right? Nope: RE5's final chapter.

That may only be 4 plot points, but they're all so similar and so major that you can't help but note their point of origin. This is before you even consider the other multitude of other rip offs in there ranging from a complete recycling of some Resident Evil 4 set pieces and the Gears of War influenced reviving a downed player all the way to Ozwell E. Spencer being taken directly from Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi and Albert Wesker acting and looking like he belongs in The Matrix. Absolutely nothing in RE5 is original or even given its own original flavouring. It's just a mish-mash of other games and movies masquerading as a single cohesive unit. And, to be fair to it, it's not like the series has been particularly self-inspired so far so it just shows how unashamed RE5 is in its desire to plagiarise.

Getting back to stealing from Gears of War, it's no secret that since that game got popular, everything has featured cover mechanics and co-op so picking on Resident Evil 5 for taking them might seem like a cheap shot but at the same time, I can't think of another game which does them so badly and needlessly. Up to this point, Resident Evil has also been a solo affair working on the obvious human instincts of loneliness and isolation being two major factors in being scared. The implementation of Sheva in the game completely unbalances the tone that the series has used for years and feels completely unecessary. Granted, there was a second person with Leon in RE4 when you saved Ashley Graham but she had no idea how to use a gun and couldn't help you in anyway so it was down to you to keep her alive.

This is where I feel a lot of designers forget the disconnect between what's happening on screen and how i'm supposed to feel about it. The idea that having two people increases tension only works under the assumption that both people are completely overwhelmed by the enemy and that at least one of them is going to be scared. If you have two people taking everything on without breaking a sweat, then you've always got a confidence boost to keep you going. Just because Sheva keeps getting into trouble, it doesn't mean i'm afraid because all I have to do is fire a shot in her direction and she'll break out from the enemy's grab and then thank me for it, making me, as a player, feel like a badass. This does the complete opposite of making me feel scared and belongs more in a game like Gears, BotS or Army of Two where the ethos is that you're a team of motherfuckers laying the smackdown rather than two ill equipped BSAA agents surviving a zombie horde in a foreign country.

I think the worst part of that, however, is that I might be wrong in what I expected from RE5. Like, MGS4 before it which shirked the stealth in favour of more action, RE5 seems to just forget it's part of a horror franchise and do its best to give you a more action packed ride though again, while MGS4 knew its lineage and still gave you plenty of options to slink through the enemy lines, RE5 never gives you any scares thus losing its one definable trait in the middle of an over saturated action game market. The whole thing just feels dull, plays like a relic and most tragically of all, is regarded as a AAA game. The idea that a game as middling as this can be put out as a cornerstone of a franchise is tragic and really goes a long way to explain why videogames are still treated like a joke and the people who play them get little respect because as an industry, we have incredibly low standards.
36 Comments

A Watchmen review? I haven't seen one of these for a while.

With everyone else giving their two pence, I thought i'd chip in and knock this blog out while I wait for Rachel Getting Married to finish downloading.

Things I liked:

  • Everything in this film looked amazing and incredibly faithful to the comic book. Considering it was written a long time ago, it's amazing to see how characters like Rorschach and Comedian, two very simple designs, manage to still look as effortlessly stylish as they did back then without specifically looking like '80s throwbacks.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan was absolutely perfect as The Comedian. Up until I saw the film, the only place where i'd seen him before was in the trailers for the abysmally shit rom-com The Accidental Husband starring him, Uma Thurman and Colin Firth and so I had my doubts if he could play a character like The Comedian at all and if he'd just been picked because he looked similar. By the time he gets thrown out of the window, all my doubts had been quelled and then some. Without trying to sound like some kind of fanboy, if Ledger can get an Oscar win, JDM deserves at least a nomination.
  • Jackie Earle Haley came as another surprise. As a guy who i'd never ever heard of, I was again unsure of if he'd just been picked because he's an ugly motherfucker and so suited Rorschach that way too. Then, seeing him in the trailer where he does the famous '...and I will whisper 'no'...' line, I felt as if he'd been overdone. His snarl sounded a lot like the Batvoice everyone cringed over last year but in general, he was a perfect casting. Particularly in the scenes where he never had his face on as he didn't seem so forced then.
  • Malin Ackeman looks great naked.
  • Even though it was a tiny part, I was incredibly happy to see Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason. While most will know him as one of the elders from 300 or the guy who owns the gun company in Shoot 'Em Up, I remember him most as the phsychiatrist Elaine goes out with in Seinfeld and so it's always nice to see a character actor liek that get around. Particularly knowing he's going to be featured a lot in Under The Hood
  • Zack Snyder's used of slow-mo seems to have come under fire a lot and I really don't know why. He seems to use it in a similar way to how it's used in Tony Jaa's movies where it makes everything look a little bit more brutal than usual and in movies like this and 300, that works perfectly.
  • While some of the cuts felt a bit out of place, I am pleased they saved Tales of the Black Freighter for the extended version. While the pacing was a bit dodgy overall, I can see Tales of The Black Frieghter potentially killing it all together.
  • The new ending was great. Everything about removing the squid sounded like studio interference and while I don't know if it was or wasn't, the new idea of using Dr. Manhattan typve devices around the world seemed to fit so well that it could have easily been an idea Alan Moore thought of before turning to the alien invasion.

Things I hated:
  • I've heard 'it's too faithful' a lot recently and up until the screening, I couldn't really see how that would be a problem but when watching, I can totally see where the problem lies. Watchmen isn't a whodunit, it's not about saving the world, it's a character piece which deconstructs the whole superhero genre and in the film, a lot of that is cut out. Doc Monhattan's soul searching on Mars, for example, is cut to an incredibly short amount of time and so appears to be more of a snap decision than it comes across in the book. This along with the other cuts to the more character driven scenes meant I was constantly explaining bits and pieces to my friend who had never read the graphic novel before.
  • Not only did the cut in the character story scenes ruin the emotional impact of a lot of the film but it made the plot more prominent and showed it to be the generic story that it is. Were this film not Watchmen, it would be deemed a joke to have a plot as basic as this and act as if it was something better.
  • Again, going back to the 'too faithful' comment, the fact it follows the book's alternating chapter progression means the film's pacing is completely fucked. At no point did it really feel like it was going anywhere and, i'll admit, that left me checking my watch at times to see how long was left. Cutting from action scenes to something more somber and back again just didn't work.
  • Malin Ackerman can't act to save her life. Considering how crucial Laurie is to the story, they should have got someone who can display emotions without being completely wooden. And knowing that Hilary Swank was at one point attached to the project, it makes her casting even worse.
  • Similarly, most of the people featured who weren't Watchmen were terrible. Nixon and Kissinger felt like parodies, with Nixon's nose looking like it was about to fall off at any moment. They totally ruined any kind of tension the film's political subplot was building to.
  • The music was fucking terrible from start to finish. I understand that they were using songs mentioned in the book as well as a few more thrown in to keep the period feeling flowing but it was just so in your face that it felt like a parody of a soundtrack. The Times They Are A-Changing over a montage of the times changing, The Sound of Silence over the funeral scene and Hallelujah over the sex scene were so devoid of subtlety that it ruined those scenes. Particularly the montage which was done amazingly well, showing clips that are mentioned in the novel but probably couldn't have been fit in the film properly, then they stick Bob Dylan over the top and suddenly, it becomes a joke. Also, not to hate on My Chemical Romance like a lot of people, personally, I don't mind that song, but if you're going to stick to '80s music, why have a modern band at the end? It sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • I read in a lot of reviews that the film was brutal, violent and all that good stuff but I couldn't help but feel like that aspect was restrained throughout. While it's fine having Nite Owl ii and Silk Spectre ii lay the smack down on a bunch of goons, I don't understand why Snyder chose not to have the start of Chapter 12 in there and show all of New York fucked. I'm assuming that's where the boohoo 9/11 brigade come in, but it didn't make Ozymandias' attack seem anywhere near as brutal as it did in the comic. Similarly, in the rape scene, I don't understand why they omitted the line where Silk Spectre gets told to cover herself up. That line showed there was no sympathy going her way and made the whole rape scene even more terrible, but instead, it completely changes the dynamic and makes The Comedian out to be the only misogynist at a time when women's rights were frowned upon. Again, I feel that was done to appease the ever powerful feminists.
  • As much as I hate to say it, the film felt utterly pointless. With previous comic book adaptations, characters and stories have been taken and meshed to make something different for the screen. Besides 300, which is essentially a fleshed out storyboard for a swords and sandals action movie anyway, every other adaptations has stuck to this rule and that is often what makes them stand out on their own. However, as Watchmen was essentially copy and pasted, I felt like I was just getting a watered down version of the book. This is particularly sad to know when David Hayter's original script had the story taking place in a modern day New York and I feel those differences would have helped make the film stand out and seem more relevant as a companion piece.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and am looking forward to the full DVD with all those bits and pieces but I feel like the film was a missed opportunity and would have been better under the helm of Paul Greengrass, Darren Aronofsky or one of the other considered directors. In the end, Alan Moore was right: Watchmen is unfilmable. Not for the reasons he thought but because there's no point in telling the story again.
11 Comments

Cammy's arse, thighs and calves.

So I don't come across as a sweaty, lecherous Otaku whose only contact with women is when his mother brings some microwave Ramen down to the basement, this blog was originally about how much I hated the Street Fighter IV art style, however, the more I wrote, the more I found it boiled down to how much I hated the design of Cammy, the character I mained back when I was a child on my cousin's SNES and throughout the versus games, so I deleted the stuff about Bison's goofy grin and Sakura's broken arms and got personal with the lady I love the most.

Now, in all those games, Cammy's character model was amazing. While wearing an outfit that made no sense seeing as she's a fucking spy (Read: fucking spy *high five*), her character model was slinky, sexy, spry and, most importantly here, female. Look:


Cammy in Super Street Fighter II.
Notice how, even in the typical anime way of overemphasising curves, she still looks like a girl. At least moreso than Chun-Li who has looked far too meaty from the beginning and thus been skipped over in this blog. Na-ow, look at Cammy in Street Fighter IV:


Notice how, in the brand new and totally ugly srt style, she looks like a post-op transexual who must have played a lot of rugby before he had the snip. To me, all the characters look pretty lame apart from the new guys who were obviously made with this style in mind but none of the old ones look anywhere near as butchered and yacky as Cammy.

So maybe, yes, i'm a little bitter: I paid £60 for a collector's edition that has about £5 worth of extra content in it. I feel like i'm playing more against the pad than I am against the AI. I've played against Ken a million times which is so boring. And then to top it off, they ruin my character. Resident Evil 5 had better be good, Capcom, or I am done with you. Professionally.
38 Comments

Five things I hate about you.

1. Grenades

Back with a vengeance from Call of Duty 4, the grenades are equally as annoying in this game as they were in the last. However, unlike last year's iteration, these appear everywhere in single player. While playing through, and getting to the bunker near the end but not quite finishing the game because of time constraints, on Hardened in Call of Duty 4, I don't remember once being killed by a grenade. Maybe a grenade launcher, yes, but not a normal grenade and if I did, it can't be anywhere near as many as have killed me on Normal difficulty on World at War. It seems that Tojo has been playing a lot of CoD 4's online mode because on several occasions, I have had multiple grenade indicators appear and on a lot of those occassions, I dfinitely didn't have the time to throw them all back and/or I was pinned down by heavy fire meaning to move away would have resulted in death anyway. While I have no qualms with a game trying to be intense, when it is this cheap, I get tired of it.

2. Not even subtle racism

As the Call of Duty games specialise in switching the nationality of the player to keep the storyline flowing, i'm surprised that this is the first game where I feel like I can really can see an obvious slant on a certain group and not even surprisingly, it's the Russians. Of course, for the first 3 Call of Duty games and this one, the burden of enemy has fallen onto the Germans but as they can be placed under the Nazi banner, it's OK. Everyone can justify that the Nazis = Evil while Allies = Good and Call of Duty 4's use of Russian Generals and Arab Militants like a plot to a good series of 24 but in World at War, the Russians are obviously not the good guys.

The thing that gets me is how while Sgt. Roebuck is always monologuing about keeping his boys alive and doing what's right, Reznov never takes a break from harping on about revenge, bloodshed, humiliation and terror against the Nazis. Of course, he has a personal vendetta but it's not as if Roebuck's men haven't been killed. Maybe it's a homesoil thing, but throughout the Russians are portrayed as bloodthirsty bastards with no remorse. This is most perfectly demonstrated whenever Reznov and his men come across any surrendering soldiers. Before any kind of surrender can be made, Reznov orders that all men be killed ASAP. In fact, he kicks off on Chernov (I think that's his name) when he refuses to kill some already beaten soldiers in Berlin. Compare this to Roebuck who orders his men to put down their arms and runs over to the enemy soldiers to bargain their surrender. Granted, this is the wrong thing to do as they are suicide bombers, but none the less, Roebuck has been America's hero throughout and his portrayal, particularly in the scenes i've mentioned, compared to the Ruskies just reeks of Cold War era jingoism, particularly now the Russians are back and seen as a threat to America in the real world.

3. Disorientating lack of colours

Up until playing World at War, Call of Duty 3 has so far been the only game to consistantly give me headaches and strain my eyes. At the time, I put it down to being one of the last games I played in standard definition and thought it was hurting my eyes as it was trying to squeeze 1080i into 14'' of 480p or something equally as implausible but those headaches and that eyestrain are back with a vengeance with World at War and I can't help thinking it's because of the games colour scheme. Looking for browny green soldiers in a muddy brown and green battlefield while brown clouds of dust billow everywhere is incredibly confusing for me and a lot of times, unless i'm looking directly at the enemy so I can see a muzzle flash, I have no idea where i'm getting attacked from.

I have no idea what it is, I mean, there's plenty of other games with a drab colour scheme and even things which are super bright like Katamari Damacy and the Speed Racer movie were fine but this messes with my head. Not only that, but I was perfectly fine with Call of Duty 4. Perhaps it's because the soldiers weren't wearing the same colour as the background an in the outside levels, the deserts were always well lit and the Russian wilderness wasn't just made of mud slabs. I suppose this is where someone will point out that it's a WW2 game and so the soldiers would be in camo, compared to the militants in CoD 4, but there's a difference between camo and being the fucking Predator. And yes, I do have glasses.

4. Red Ring of Death

Everything else i've mentioned here has been in one a few Call of Duty iterations, this has been in all and is really starting to show its age. I can imagine it's difficult to point a player in the direction of an attacker without making it too easy and ruining the intensity of the Call of Duty gameplay but when it reaches the point where getting shot from the right means your head bounces to the left and a good chunk of the right side of the screen gets covered in a red blur, it becomes a bit too difficult. If Half Life 2 and Gears of War can do it fine, why can't this? The worst is after sustained damage, at least 45% of the screen has the red hue on it. If there's a bro shooting you from anywhere besides exactly in your crosshair, you're kind of screwed and seeing a grenade indicator is basically an early death screen. Combine this with the point I made above about the disorientating landscape and there's been too many times where i've just been running around like a headless chicken with a screen of brown and red waiting to be picked off by the AI.

5. Zero impact

It's no secret that the Call of Duty games are short, particularly last years game which can be successfully beaten in one 5 hour play session. However, unlike the previous game where there were so many memorable moments that left the game feeling like a very concise and tightly produced package, World at War just feels like half a game. Granted, as I write this, I haven't quite finished, but unlcokg an achievement called The Last Stand, I daresay i'm only a chapter or two from the end and so far the only thing which I can even remember as being even slightly interesting has been Roebuck's death and that can apparently be stopped if the achievement are to be believed. By this point in CoD 4, there had been so many great moments and characters that i'd feel stupid listing them because everybody obviously remembers. I mean, remember the final scene when Captain Price was being airlifted away? From then on, both the internet and my IRL friends who have the game have had plenty of back and forths about if he's alive or not. In World at War, i'm struggling to think of anything that has resembled that or will resemble it either. This game is just an embarrassingly hollow experience and I really do miss Infinity Ward.
8 Comments

Iamsoexcited.

Look. Look!

  

Of course i'm not entering the contest itself but knowing that the new AFI record is on the way is just amazing. I can't wait. On a related note, I don't like Davey's new haircut but I still love 'im anyway.
6 Comments

HandsomeDead Space

Having just this minute finished Dead Space, I feel incredibly underwhelmed and disappointed. During the first chapter, the game does a great job of using a lot of cheap jump scares to get you into a panicked frame of mind but from as early as halfway through Chapter 2, I started to guess where the enemies were going to jump from and what was going to happen next, so here's a few of my ideas regarding what I think would have made Dead Space a much better game, so, obviously, spoilers ahead.

1. Less is more: From start to finish, the game completely bombards you with things to kill which is obviously what a third person shooter should be doing, but with the game aspiring to be survival horror, notably demonstrated in the semi-gimped controls and use of inventory, the killing eventually becomes tedious. Especially so during the later chapters where the game threw so many enemies at me that I had slow down. This just totally kills any mood the game tried to set because you're so busy chopping off limbs that it stops being scary, tense or anything besides a chore. Had the kill count been toned down, the enemies would have felt more like a threat rather than something stopping you from getting from A to B. To compare it to films, the game would have been better if it could be compared to the horror Alien rather than a action based Aliens.

2. Increase fluidity: Another thing made clear from the game after the opening sequence is how basic the mission structure is. Having Issac going from place to place just to get a key/switch/item and bring it back to activate the next area was something so stodgy and old that it harked so far back into Resident Evil that I may as well have been on the USG Sencer. This is made worse with every section clearly punctuated by the tram which felt like a meta version of the fetch and carry mission structure. Had the tram been something similar to the bathyspheres from BioShock and been in different places every time, then there would have been less of a backtracking feel to the game and more of an exploratory one.

3. Interesting NPCs: During the opening sequence when the Issac and the boys are crashing into the Ishimura, I was under the assumption that the game was going to be slightly squad based. Not to the point of Gears of War or something but I presumed I may have a wingman to guide me along but instead, the horror cliches come thick and fast and everyone gets separated. This could have been interesting in one way or another but instead, all you get are people barking orders at you down the holo-Codec. Why not at least have them give some exposition and interaction rather than 'Oh shit, X is broken! Issac go get Y to fix it.' What was worse was when you did encounter people who weren't infected, they were even worse. The survivors didn't seem to want saving and the Drs. and such that you do interact with as part of the plot just monologued on the other side of glass while inexplicably trotting around the ship unharmed. This killed the immersion and, again, made things feel incredibly basic.

4. Coherent plot: I'd heard from many sources that the game borrowed ideas from movies and games in order to make it some kind of ultimate sci-fi horror and sure, borrowing concepts from Event Horizon, Alien, Aliens, The Thing and more worked well, having a plot filled with moments from these is terrible and incredibly unsatisfying. Having cliche after cliche makes the game's already minimal tension disappear when you can tell from the opening video clip that Nicole was already dead. The most disappointing part of this particular story strand is how they try to make it a twist towards the end and that just makes me confused. If you haven't been keeping up with recent events, Nicole, Issac's girl, is pretty much confired as dead during the opening but throughout, she keeps appearing on screens telling you she loves you etc. Now, this is fine and could easily be addressed as hallucinations, but when she turns up in the flesh and starts opening doors and operating panels for you, that takes it into a whole different spectrum of fucked up and for a period of time, I thought this was incredibly clever. I thought she was like Newt in Aliens (Sorry to mention it again) and was hidding in the nooks and crannies of the ship, occasionally reaching a panel with enough time to contact you and reassure you she was still alive, but when it is finally confirmed she's dead, it just makes the game seems stupid and cheap. And that's not to mention Kendra's awful heel turn and Hammond just being totally pointless even though he's supposed to be the captain of the mission. And, finally, another stupid thing which annoys me every time is how whenever the Marines or trained forces arrive on the scene in these kind of things, they get absolutely destroyed, but the main character who has no combat training whatsoever can survive the whole thing. Just for once, i'd like to see the professionals being professional.

It's a shame that all these key points in the game ranged from just not right to completely broken because as it's the only new IP this year that looks worth a shit (Mirrors Edge looks to be playing the unique =/= good angle), I really wanted this to be my GOTY, but instead, I never really want to play it again.

8 Comments