My thoughts on Crysis 1

So with all the fuss around Crysis 2 I decided to finally play through the predecessor which was resting on my Steam pile of shame for about a year now. For some reason I never got to advance beyond the very first enemy encampment. 
Having sunken about 3-4 hours into the game today I am really torn between being fascinated and extremely frustrated by it. 
Yes, the visuals are stunning even by today's standards. Facial animations are lifelike, environments are diverse and believable - a jungle does feel like one and a mountain in the background looks extremely high and beautiful. It feels like you could go anywhere and do anything on the island the game takes place on. It is a perfect playground for shooting dudes in the face. 
Crysis also features a nice little story. You're a member of a US special unit armed with the nanosuit. You are in the middle of a military conflict with North Korea when strange things start to occur. Great setting which allows for various unique gameplay opportunities. And this is where the game began to lose me. 
Although it is fun to toy around with unsuspecting enemies cloaking Predator-style and disposing of them in creative fashion, everything else surrounding the suit mechanics feels very clunky. To me it begins and ends with the way Crysis refuses to hold your hand most of the time. Every time you recieve a new waypoint it is usually a couple of kilometers away. you can either drive or walk there. And while one could see it as a freedom of choice there is always a predetermined path you are supposed to be taking like a certain road and jungle areas around it and more often than not this path is not very obvious. On several occasions I took the wrong turn on some road fighting through numerous enemies and reaching a dead end somewhere on the wrong side of the map. During a different chapter of the game I was floating through some very well designed interior areas in low gravity. There were no waypoints at all and it was often tough to find the exit. 
And I agree that Call Of Duty's dumbed down "press x at the glowing objective" approach might be not the best solution but I feel that a tad bit of hand holding would make the game so much enjoyable. Just give me a "objective is the other way" notification If I'm driving in the wrong direction for 5 minutes or "you might want to look for explosives" if I'm desperately trying to fight a tank with normal weapons. 
I hope Crysis 2 did address some of these issues (it does look like a more linear shooter to me).


Service currently offline

The latest Xbox Live downtime made me wonder, how dependable we are progressively becoming on the various media hubs like XBL, PSN, Steam and the internet in general.

Sure, on demand media is very convenient and I am more than willing to switch to a stream-based service like OnLive completely, but what if your purchased media or your photo albums on flickr or Picasa become unavailable for some reason?
Imagine you are planning a party with games, movies, music and suddenly your internet connection drops leaving you in the stone age.
Or even worse, what if your account gets hacked and all your expensive stuff is gone forever?

Splinter Cell fatigue

I have been a fan of the series from the very first game on and have played every Sam Fisher game since. Recently I started playing Splinter Cell: Double Agent and noticed that I am really not having fun playing it anymore. I still enjoy the concept of the modern ninja but the gameplay just hasn't evolved over time and is beginnig to feel stale and boring to me. I also couldn't care less about Sam Fisher. Sure, the thing with his daughter is tragic but the SC games never were strong on the narrative side, so I never began caring about any of the characters or the particular story arc.

I wonder if the upcoming Splinter Cell: Conviction will be able to change this. It seemed to have recieved a lot of positive feedback at E3.

RPGs on wheels

I just got back to playing Forza Motorsport 2 again and realised that pretty much all games of this type are RPGs at their core.

You race, earn cash and experience, invest that into better tunung parts, tackle tougher challenges, earn more cash, get a new ride, repeat.
I guess I enjoy the concept a lot.
There's nothing like the feeling you get when you finally get used to the handling of your freshly fine-tuned car and are able to hit that curve apex closer and closer to perfection on each lap.

Numb fingers

So yesterday I recieved Guitar Hero: Metallica and me and my buddy StrongSchwartz spent several hours trying to deafen my neighbors.

I'm a casual Rock Band player and haven't tried a GH game since the original release on the PS2 and the first thing I notced was how tough GH:M is even on lower difficulty settings. While in Rock Band I can easily play guitar and drums on medium, Guitar Hero pushes me down to easy. One of the first songs we played (due to the alphabetical order of songs in band quick play) was Battery, which nearly killed me on medium drums.
But the strangest thing is that I really don't mind it being that much tougher than Rock Band. It is a more hardcore game of the genre and is more about scoring mega points and honing your skills rather than chilling with some buddies on the no fail mode in Rock Band. Or maybe the fact that my favourite band is finally in a RB/GH game (with some decent songs) makes me happy. 

Oh yeah, one more thing. I really like the fact that all of the Rock Band peripherals (except the mic for some reason), the original PS2 GH guitar with a PS3 adapter and even the wireless SingStar mics are compatible with the game!
Thumbs UP!

Achievements and gaming

A friend of mine wrote a blog recently and I would like to push the thought a bit further.

In my opinion, the intruduction of achievements AND unlockables just shows how lazy some game developers have become in their urge to make us play through their games several times and for longer stretches.
Back in the days it was done by good design and gripping story. you wouldn't want to put the game down and would play until dawn to experience every little aspect of it. I don't even remember how many times I finished Fallout 2 in totally different ways or stayed up late to get that one perfect kill in Hitman: Codename 47. No achievements involved.

Now you are artificially attached to the game collecting all those hidden packages, intels, pidgeons, orbs, skulls or whatever the developer put in to keep you going.
If the game world is interesting enough you don't need the carrot on a rope to go off the beaten path and explore the environment. A recent example here is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. It has some areas in the game that never are part of any mission but still are lovingly put together and well detailed. It makes the experience your own by challenging your imagination in the same way a good book or even a painting makes you wonder "what else is in there" other than the obvious main subject. 

But the developers are not the only ones to blame. We, the audience have so many games on so many platforms to choose from aside from our other hobbies, that we have slowly turned ourselves into a picky mob with ADD. Our attention span is so low, that we constantly need to be padded on the head and intensified by the current activity. Be it something that adds to your gamerscore, level in an RPG or any other form of a presentable score (=E-peen).

I myself am a part of it too. Often grinding through same tedious tasks in a game to get those 25p.

When did we start working in our games?


Damn you PopCap...

... for taking up most of my gaming time!

On my way to work it's Peggle on the iPhone. 

On the way back home it's Peggle again. The game is more addictive than cocaine!

When I'm at home on my Mac Plants vs. Zombies sits there on my launch bar so conveniently. And there's always stuff to do in this awesome timewaster.

So I try to escape to the PC and play something on Steam and while waiting on someone to connect, spend more time playing Peggle than the initial game I wanted to jump into.

I fire up the Xbox to hunt some achievements and guess what, my favourite drug Peggle is there as well lurking, ready to give me another fix...

Hi, I'm LocoRocker and I'm a PopCap addict.

my current pet peeve

I can't believe how there is still no patch for Dead Rising addressing the controls and gameplay issues!

Sure, I get it, a geme about the zombie apocalypse is supposed to be tough, but tough still can be fun it does not necessarily have to be frustrating!
I want some controls customisation (aiming with the left stick, really?) and some better friendly AI.
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