Medal of Honor had a long hard hill to climb pre-release, the game was fighting a behemoth of an enemy known as Call of Duty and I think few of us expected it to do well on that front. Not only was it fighting that battle, but it had a sort of side skirmish going on with one of its own brothers, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and to make matters even more twisted the multiplayer portion of the game was being built by Dice, the very people that built the Battlefield franchise.
As an unabashed and loyal fan to the Battlefield series, and as someone looking for an alternative to the juggernaut that is Call of Duty, I put my reserve down for Medal of Honor and was awaiting the day of its release.
That day finally came and I delved immediately into the campaign, all the footage I had glimpsed from preview coverage had me excited. Not only was the game taking on a war that is in the news daily, it seemed to be doing so with a little more authenticity than the usual first person shooter. Obviously you have to expect some blockbuster movie makeover, war is fought a lot differently than what is depicted in most movies and games.
The single player did not disappoint in so much as there were a lot of excellent moments; stealthy runs into enemy bases, ambushes and seemingly unending firefights with no chance of survival. Throw in a couple of nicely done set piece levels; a level taking place with two helicopters and a short but sweet sniper mission and the game felt not only well put together but there was a nice amount of fluidity to how each set of characters actions affected that of the others. Levels flowed together, almost, seamlessly at times.
Cut to four hours later when credits began rolling and my jaw involuntarily found itself hanging open. Four hours? Really? I am not asking for a forty hour epic, but this was one hell of a short game, even beating out the likes of Modern Warfare 2. which at best was perhaps added another fifty percent in length. Looking back, and having played through the campaign again, hard mode is the way to go for a play through of this game. It adds some challenge, but not enough to make the game terribly frustrating, it also adds some length to the game in so much as you have to better pace yourself in order to survive. The came could have done well by shifting the difficulty a bit and adding a very hard mode.
On the topic of multiplayer, after enjoying the brief campaign I had high hopes of spending the next few weeks wrapped up in for some time. Wow did I have my hopes in the wrong place. Perhaps it was still the bad taste left in my mouth from the campaign, but nothing about the multiplayer jived with me at all. I spent a few hours with it the first night and could not find myself doing anything except dying over and over again, usually immediately after spawning from a death only seconds ago.
Back in the case the game went, into my bag, and the next day was handed off to a friend at work with "Take your time and play it, I am in no hurry to get this back."
Cut to a week ago, Cyber Monday, Amazon had the game for $29.99 in a lightning deal. What possessed me at that moment to buy a second copy of the game (my original was on PS3, this time I bought it on 360) I could not honestly tell you. Maybe it was the fact that along with the discounted price I had a surplus of gaming credits from previous purchases, so all in all I ended up shelling out only around $10 for the game. At worst I told myself I could sell it off to a friend and make my money back, at best I could sell it off to someone at a small profit, what ever the reason I bought a game I had not really enjoyed a second time.
The game arrived a couple of days later (thanks Amazon Prime!) I reluctantly peeled off the cellophane and threw it in the 360, a short install later I booted the game up and went straight to the multiplayer, I knew what the campaign was, I wanted to find new life in this game and to my surprise I enjoyed the two rounds I played. Perhaps it was from the patch that had since been released for the game, or maybe it was having distanced myself from the campaign far enough at this point to not have a jaded perspective on something that is so far removed, outside of general setting and teams (Al Qa... er, OpFor is going down!) what ever the reason I found something extremely satisfying in the game. I backed out of the game after those two rounds and waited for the evening when a friend I knew had recently picked it up during Black Friday would show up and we could voice chat our way through some more.
Cut to day five of playing multiplayer (and having gone through the campaign once more, on hard this time) and loving nearly every minute of it. Do not get me wrong, the game has flaws, but for what ever reason I have found myself looking past them and enjoying what is a really nice game balanced between the multiplayer game play of Battlefield: Bad Company and Call of Duty; the former a game I love, the latter a game I can find nothing to even like about it. And what is more, I am finding myself saddened that the player base has dwindled to an almost death knell level of players even during peak gaming hours. Playing certain modes is nearly impossible during the morning hours as not enough people are out there playing them to even start a match proper. At most, I'll estimate, I have seen four or five thousand people playing the game spread across the six modes on 360.
If you have read this wall of text, congratulations you have witnessed the Sunday morning ramblings of Murtaug.
I have slowly come to the realization that the Mass Effect franchise is my personal favorite when it comes to the modern era of video games. I will fully admit to being a BioWare fan with some major bias, but I feel that lends me a unique perspective on their games. While I generally love everything they put out, there are games in their library that do not tickle my fancy as much as others. Jade Empire stands out as one of those titles, it is a great game with a loyal fan base, but something about it just did not gel with me. Shattered Steel is another game, again, good game but I was a much larger fan of Mech Warrior and my bias towards that series did not allow me to get the full experience for Shattered Steel, something I still have not quite managed.
Aside from those two examples, I am at a loss to name another title of theirs that I do not love.
Mass Effect turned that love into something else. I am a sci-fi junkie, good, bad, does not make a difference to me for the most part. I love Star Trek and I enjoy Star Wars. Warhammer 40,000 is a guilty pleasure I have spent far to much money not playing. I have over a hundred novels from that universe sitting on a shelf next to me as I write this.
Mass Effect grabbed my interest more than most anything that had come before it. I fell deep into the fiction and the story telling to me was excellent. I have spend probably two hundred hours delving into the two games currently in the series, three if you count the iPhone game but I have not access to that one.
I spent dozens of hours scouring planets for ore and listened with rapt attention to the sometimes ham fisted dialog that was fed to me. John Shepard had become mine. I spent my dull drum work days thinking about just how I would have Shepard go forward in his quest, what choices were most fitting to me, how I wanted him to continue forward into Mass Effect 2.
The day came that I had the chance to make that move and like any junkie I spent the better part of a week devouring everything I could why quietly setting aside the moments I wanted to revisit or maybe try to change in my second, third, perhaps fourth play through. My first completion of the game was perfect, I had achieved what I had hoped after I had found out about the decisions you had to make near the end. I was happy, but not quite ready to hop right back into the game, it needed to stew up there in my brain, I wanted to let the smaller moments to lapse so I could experience them anew once again.
Mafia II flew far below my radar during its development, even the slick trailers they were releasing these past few months did little do pique my interests. So I find it rather funny that I found myself almost chomping at the bit for the game in the week or so leading to its release. And to my dismay, after digging into the game for a few hours and deciding to check out some reviews on it, they are pretty much across the board calling it a mediocre title.
I make no bones about games I enjoy having issues, plenty of games I have found myself tossing away tens of hours with are some of the lowest reviewed titles on the market. Sometimes I can be a bit of a glutton for cheesy B or worse grade entertainment; hell, half of my thousand plus movie collection can attest to that.
Mafia II is not a game without problems, in my ten plus hours with the game so far I have come across a handful of glitches and some other just downright odd behavior in the game. Think back on the last, lets say dozen, major game releases; every single one of them had some minor and probably at least one major issue. With something as complicated as modern games, I feel it is just an expectation to find oddities that slipped through the cracks.
What I am really having issue with in regards to reviews on Mafia II is the overall feeling that most of the people who have reviewed the game seem to have brushed it off as 'just another open world game with guns and cars but nothing to do'. and yeah, this game offers you the ability to roam the streets stealing cars and shooting up the pedestrians. What seems clear to me though, I feel has been completely glossed over by most people giving their opinion about the game: this game is a story driven third person shooter. Yes, you drive a lot, I fully accept that as a fault in the overall design of the game. They could have cut the amount of driving back and forth between areas in half and maybe still had a bit too much in the game. I can not defend that, but stop in some of the earlier missions and go off the beaten path, by making the world much smaller than most other 'sandbox' titles, 2K Czech has breathed a lot of life into the world of Empire Bay. A woman arguing with her husband over a broken down car, a couple fighting in an alley way wife in window, husband drunk below.
Take a look at the little subtle things the world offers during those driving sequences, they can be more interesting than you may think.
This game has some pretty fine action too. Cover is very rarely annoying and I never felt stuck to anything. Shooting mechanics are solid, if nothing especially unique. The guns are fantastic, almost every one feels authentic (or I assume, I have only shot a few of them myself). The story draws from a lot of classic mafia movies, but I find it hard to fault it for that, and the characters are well voiced and pretty good looking overall.
The set piece locations! Come on reviewers, did you even look around these areas? Each one is very unique with a lot of attention to detail and with a lot of interesting things to find and see to the exploring type.
Aside from a couple of issues in the game, that are all really secondary to what this game is actually meant to be, I think the reviews have been a bit harsh. I can rarely ever, and perhaps even never, give a game a perfect score. In fact outside of the five point system I hate giving a score to anything. If I have to though, I feel the game is a solid four out of five. Looking at that score you might notice it is similar to what many people have score the game as, but I take issue more with their complaints rather than their scores, outside of a select few that seem to be intentionally low to cause a stir. Hell, I guess I fell into that trap myself now, didn't I?
I originally picked up ModNation as a rental and had a blast with the creation tools and online races, but after my week with the game was up I found myself a little tired of the loading screens that felt like they sometimes lasted for hours, and the career just felt incredibly punishing for a game that had a really light hearted look and feel. I absolutely adored the creation tools, making wacky 'Mods' and being able to put them up for the masses to find and download was a lot of fun, as was the track editor. Those two features alone have accounted for probably eighty percent of my time with the game.
To be fair, the loading times were not as terrible as they felt. Going from menu to race was well under a minute, but during certain events, mainly career races, that we a mere three laps and with total race times taking sometimes as little as a minute and a half, they felt bad. Patch 1.02 fixes that quite a bit, Sony says they are in a lot of cases decreased by fifty percent, that might be a little generous but they are much shorter and feel a lot more tolerable than I remember them from before.
Load times I can deal with, but my only other really big complaint with the game was the difficulty in career mode. The game was quite frankly unrelenting, I struggled to get a podium much less first place. I like a challenging game, but when the way you unlock additional creation objects for characters and karts is tied to the career and each tracks optional goals, it really grinds your nerves. Todays patch adds a 'casual' mode, and it helps the game drastically, I was still challenged but I managed to place first in four of the five races I attempted this evening. They were still at times close enough that it felt rewarding, but overall it puts a lot of those unlocks much more within arms reach than before.
Hopefully United Front continues to support this game well into the future, it is really a great game and I hope to find myself drawn into it even deeper still.
So, I will admit it straight up: I probably would not be using the blog system here were it not for the new quest system.
I am a lurker here, I have shied away from posting in forums and the like in recent years, mostly because I usually end up feeling like a voice lost in the crowd. I have been loyal to a few sites for years, some from nearly their inception. I have sat back and reveled in watching them grow and succeed, I have given money in order to help cover hosting costs so my favorite haunts would continue to be there for me to - well, haunt.
There were always a few people I really clicked with, but for the most part those wittier and usually the type of people we all have seen destroy forums in some need for a useless post count race drowned me out. Contribute to a discussion with something relevant and that you felt would inspire further discussion? Forget about it, the guy with six thousand posts in the last month said it slightly different three posts later and everyone hangs on their words because of that arbitrary number.
Gee, I really went off on a weird rant there. I do not have a post count complex. I do not have a post count complex. Sorry, I have no idea what happened there, but I guess doing a little free flow writing will sometimes bring out that sort of thing.
Long post not quite as long: I am a lurker, I will be a lurker here. I have been following the site since the whole "Gerst-gate" incident, fell in love with the friends doing what they love attitude and have not looked back. I love the Bombcast, been listening since the beginning and will be listening until it (hopefully never!) ends. I hope I can brush off some of my writing and gaming skills and contribute to the site, though I fully expect to find myself in the odd corners poking at things I probably should not (or want to).