S-Rank Blog Post #13 - Catch Up (MOAR!)


OK so there is a home open at the house I'm staying in at the moment, I've been forced to vacate the premises and have another 2 hours or so to fill before I can return. Lets see if I can tear through a bunch of the games I still haven't talked about yet and get closer to the parity I'm striving to reach. As to not leave everyone hanging I'll fill in some more info about this home open thing and where it leaves me. Obviously this home open will inevitably lead to an eventual sale, which inturn will result in a move to somewhere I'm not certain of at the moment. 
 
The plan is to find a rental somewhere with the missus, which I'm fairly excited about as this will be the first time truely being out on our own. Of course this also means an increase in expenses leaving less money to be wasted in the frivolous ways I use it up now. I guess this is called growing up, something I have been dreading for a while now. This eventual move will also result in moving/closing internet/phone plans and maybe setting up new ones resulting in a stretch of down time at some indeterminate future date. This is something I'm dreading due to a previous still semi-recent and sore series of events. If you've read my blogs you'll know what I'm talking about and I can only hope to not be offline for such a long stretch of time again. 
 
I guess it speaks to my priorities that this is the thing I'm most worried about, but I hear maturity is a ongoing process. I'll get there one day. Anyway onto some game details. 
 
Just Cause 2 
Open-world fatigue is something that I've heard a few people talk about. It's something that I'm yet to be aquainted with. Personally I feel every and any game can only stand to gain from an open-world setting.  
 
Maybe the open world has nothing in it eg. Mafia II, in this case it acts like window trimming, not really adding anything to the gameplay. It does serve to give you context and learn the layout of the world your character is in. In the recap I wrote for Mafia II I said "with nothing to do inbetween missions except drive to the next story mission boredom sets in. It actually ends up detracting from an otherwise good game." While this would seem to disagree with my previous sentiments I would argue that this has more to do with the game design than the open world. The reason for my negative sentiments were not acutally the open world but that they insisted in making you criss cross from one side of the city all they way over to the other side and back again for the next mission marker. It was the ten minutes of non-eventful driving inbetween each mission that detracted from the experience, something that could have easily been fixed just by moving the mission markers around a bit. 
 
Then you have cases where the open world is jam packed with stuff to find/destroy/earn/complete which is obviously a better way to utilise your open world. Games like the Assassins Creeds, GTAs and the aforementioned Just Cause 2. In this case it is undeniable that the open-world elevates these games to a level that they would never have been. Imagine Assassins Creed without the cities to mess about in and explore, it would be load screen, assassination mission, load screen, assassination mission. 
 
While all the examples I've given are 3rd person shooters, I stand by my assertion that any and all genres of games can benifit from some form of open world. Some examples straight from the top of my dome; Racers: Burnout Paradise, FPS: Far Cry 2, Borderlands, Bioshock RPG's: Oblivion, Mass Effect. The only caveat being that it's up to the developers to implement properly. From the looks of the lineup of upcoming games open world isn't going anywhere, and I love it. 
 
Anyway enough of my open world ranting, Just Cause 2 is a great game. It takes it's B grade action movie inspirations and thrives within them. You are special agent Rico Rodriguez and you have an infinite supply of parachutes and a blatant disregard for any and all laws of physics and self preservation. In this game at any time you can find yourself riding off a cliff on your motorcycle, deploy your parachute, admire the view for a bit before diconnecting from your chute into a 3 minute freefall. Nearing the bottom you'll then fire your grapple hook onto a passing bus and reel yourself in, then while bus-surfing use your grapple hook to connect a passing helicopter to some poor unsuspecting guys passing tuk tuk. After laughing at the mess you've caused hop from bus to car to truck, hang off it's bullbar while slinging grenades at the pursueing fleet of enemy humvees before using your grapple hook again to skyjack a passing fighter plane. 
 
I could continue but the amount of stupid stuff you can do with unlimited parachutes, a tonne of weaponry, and a grappling hook is incredible. At one stage I was surfing on a fighter plane as it plumitted towards the ground only to jump off last moment and grapple onto a passing speedboat. If you're looking for a serious story and believable action then look away, but if you want a huge island paradise to mess around in doing insane things while constantly blowing up everything around you then this is the game for you. If you are not looking for that, I say have a good hard look in the mirror and give yourself a stern talking to. 
 
Some of the achievements in this game are a bit of a pain however. There are a tonne of collection and completion based achievements, so to complete this will take you some time. 
 
Altered Beast 
Rise from your grave! Altered Beast is a stupid, stupid game. If Just Cause thrives in all it's B-grade action movie glory, Altered Beast lives in its 80s C-grade action movie glory. Nothing but heavily muscled men punching and kicking monsters in the face before transforming into dragons to be found in this retro "classic". I remember playing this on my Mega Drive years and years ago and even then I thought to myself how stupid it was. 
 
I only grabbed this because it was onsale for 200 points at one stage, and you can grab every achievement and be done with it in around an hour. Its a supremely simple side-scrolling beat 'em up that was simple even for it's time. 
 
Wolfenstein 
As my nostalgic love for Wolfenstein 3D knows no bounds I've played and enjoyed pretty much every game in the Wolfenstein franchise. This is game is no different. Returning to my open-world rant, Wolfenstein features an open-world hub city you can explore to find cash, fight enemies and buy upgrades at the various shops. When you're ready you can head off on your various missions, before returning for some more upgrading. The gameplay is fairly standard for a FPS these days, find various weapons, shoot nazis, earn upgrades and your character has some special powers seperating him from the rest (and in turn the game from it's legion of FPS competitors). 
 
In reality I can't really say much about the missions you go on except that it's a competent shooter that you'll probably enjoy. There's nothing extremely special about it, but there's nothing bad about it either. If you feel like playing a decent FPS then give it a go, but there are probably better ones out there for you to spend your time on. Especially if you care about achievements as grinding the multiplayer based ones takes quite a while. 
 
I feel bad writing such a short amount for this game but I guess that tells you what you need to know; it's nothing worth writing home about. Its decidedly middle of the road, definitively average. Not a AAA title, but not something you'll hate either. I want to tell you to give it a look, but I'd feel bad if you did so instead of a better game, especially on my advice. 
 
GripShift 
Here's a weird one. Gripshift is an arcade racer/platformer hybrid. Each world/track you visit has a time to beat, items to collect, hidden things to find and platforming sections to navigate through. This game is simple and elaborate, easy and difficult. It's one of the weirdest mish-mashes I've come across and was instantly drawn to it. I'd strongly recommend everyone to check out the demo. It was one of the first arcade games I ever purchased, it's not for everyone but it clicked with me. 
  
Hardly anyone I know has even heard of the game and it's a damn shame if you asked me. If I had to make a comparison to some games people knew I would say it's like if Trials HD, Mario Kart and Super Mario 64 all got together and had a baby. Wrap your head around that if you can. You race around crazy 3D tracks floating in the sky, there are loops and jumps, nitros, powerups, springs, moving platforms, conveyor belts, collectables, air-control, and more. The later levels are puzzling and difficult and to get all the achievements is a real challenge. If you have some spare time check it out and let me know what you thought. 
  
Viva Piñata                                                       
Viva Pinata is another game I feel some have overlooked. There is a decent amount of people out there that gave it a go and found something enjoyable and different, there are just as many people who saw a kiddy game with colourful graphics and a lack of headshots and went the other way. Only recently I recommended this game to a friend I had made through boosting (we did Wolfenstein actually) over in Canada and on my advice he got a copy cheaply and gave it a go. The game is quite different to pretty much everything else available on the Xbox. It's a slow laid back game, no time pressure, no real goals presented to you upfront, so it was understandable that he was a bit puzzled at first about what he should be doing. I guided him through a few things and game him a couple of hints. 
 
The next time I talked to him, maybe 3 or 4 days later, he was hooked. He had bought the two other Viva Pinata games and was enjoying every moment. In Viva Pinata you build and maintain your garden. Everything you do affects something else, the plants you plant affect what types of pinata come to check out your garden. If an abundance of one type come and have a look, naturally a bigger pinata who preys on the others will become interested in what you are doing. It really is a fairly complex nature simulation disguised behind bright colours and pinatas. 
 
If you overlooked Viva Pinata when it was released you'll be able to find it super cheap now. It's a game that you can just put in and relax, there's no failure. Maybe you want to work on growing some chillis today, or breed an abundance of hippopotami. Whatever you fancy at the time, you'll be rewarded with XP, new seeds, tools, unlocks and new pinata becoming interested in your garden every step of the way. 
 
Alan Wake 
Back to a more classic game game, Alan Wake. It's a pretty great game at that. One of the better stories I've played through in a while now. Also it's one of a very few real thrillers available to gamers. There are some scary games out there, but few have a real thriller vibe to it. It's hard to define what I mean by that, I guess thriller to me isn't synonymous with scary but more a mixture of it and not knowing what is actually happening. Alan Wake has that in spades. 
 
Alan Wake has action, scares and confusion in equal doses and keeps you guessing the whole way through. There's an unsettling feel through out. No character in the game has a full picture of what is going on and as you and Alan work your way through the mystery you'll find yourself nearly as invested in it as Alan is. I don't want to say to much about it, because I didn't know much about it when I played and enjoyed the hell out of it. I feel that that was probably the best way to approach the game, so I'd feel bad if I spoiled it for others. If you haven't played this game just trust me and pretty much everyone else that has played it and play it! 
 
That'll be it for another edition of catch up. Home open is over and I'm heading back now to get online and hopefully finish The Fancy Pants Adventures. As always if you want to boost shoot a message my way.
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Posted by Phr4nk0

OK so there is a home open at the house I'm staying in at the moment, I've been forced to vacate the premises and have another 2 hours or so to fill before I can return. Lets see if I can tear through a bunch of the games I still haven't talked about yet and get closer to the parity I'm striving to reach. As to not leave everyone hanging I'll fill in some more info about this home open thing and where it leaves me. Obviously this home open will inevitably lead to an eventual sale, which inturn will result in a move to somewhere I'm not certain of at the moment. 
 
The plan is to find a rental somewhere with the missus, which I'm fairly excited about as this will be the first time truely being out on our own. Of course this also means an increase in expenses leaving less money to be wasted in the frivolous ways I use it up now. I guess this is called growing up, something I have been dreading for a while now. This eventual move will also result in moving/closing internet/phone plans and maybe setting up new ones resulting in a stretch of down time at some indeterminate future date. This is something I'm dreading due to a previous still semi-recent and sore series of events. If you've read my blogs you'll know what I'm talking about and I can only hope to not be offline for such a long stretch of time again. 
 
I guess it speaks to my priorities that this is the thing I'm most worried about, but I hear maturity is a ongoing process. I'll get there one day. Anyway onto some game details. 
 
Just Cause 2 
Open-world fatigue is something that I've heard a few people talk about. It's something that I'm yet to be aquainted with. Personally I feel every and any game can only stand to gain from an open-world setting.  
 
Maybe the open world has nothing in it eg. Mafia II, in this case it acts like window trimming, not really adding anything to the gameplay. It does serve to give you context and learn the layout of the world your character is in. In the recap I wrote for Mafia II I said "with nothing to do inbetween missions except drive to the next story mission boredom sets in. It actually ends up detracting from an otherwise good game." While this would seem to disagree with my previous sentiments I would argue that this has more to do with the game design than the open world. The reason for my negative sentiments were not acutally the open world but that they insisted in making you criss cross from one side of the city all they way over to the other side and back again for the next mission marker. It was the ten minutes of non-eventful driving inbetween each mission that detracted from the experience, something that could have easily been fixed just by moving the mission markers around a bit. 
 
Then you have cases where the open world is jam packed with stuff to find/destroy/earn/complete which is obviously a better way to utilise your open world. Games like the Assassins Creeds, GTAs and the aforementioned Just Cause 2. In this case it is undeniable that the open-world elevates these games to a level that they would never have been. Imagine Assassins Creed without the cities to mess about in and explore, it would be load screen, assassination mission, load screen, assassination mission. 
 
While all the examples I've given are 3rd person shooters, I stand by my assertion that any and all genres of games can benifit from some form of open world. Some examples straight from the top of my dome; Racers: Burnout Paradise, FPS: Far Cry 2, Borderlands, Bioshock RPG's: Oblivion, Mass Effect. The only caveat being that it's up to the developers to implement properly. From the looks of the lineup of upcoming games open world isn't going anywhere, and I love it. 
 
Anyway enough of my open world ranting, Just Cause 2 is a great game. It takes it's B grade action movie inspirations and thrives within them. You are special agent Rico Rodriguez and you have an infinite supply of parachutes and a blatant disregard for any and all laws of physics and self preservation. In this game at any time you can find yourself riding off a cliff on your motorcycle, deploy your parachute, admire the view for a bit before diconnecting from your chute into a 3 minute freefall. Nearing the bottom you'll then fire your grapple hook onto a passing bus and reel yourself in, then while bus-surfing use your grapple hook to connect a passing helicopter to some poor unsuspecting guys passing tuk tuk. After laughing at the mess you've caused hop from bus to car to truck, hang off it's bullbar while slinging grenades at the pursueing fleet of enemy humvees before using your grapple hook again to skyjack a passing fighter plane. 
 
I could continue but the amount of stupid stuff you can do with unlimited parachutes, a tonne of weaponry, and a grappling hook is incredible. At one stage I was surfing on a fighter plane as it plumitted towards the ground only to jump off last moment and grapple onto a passing speedboat. If you're looking for a serious story and believable action then look away, but if you want a huge island paradise to mess around in doing insane things while constantly blowing up everything around you then this is the game for you. If you are not looking for that, I say have a good hard look in the mirror and give yourself a stern talking to. 
 
Some of the achievements in this game are a bit of a pain however. There are a tonne of collection and completion based achievements, so to complete this will take you some time. 
 
Altered Beast 
Rise from your grave! Altered Beast is a stupid, stupid game. If Just Cause thrives in all it's B-grade action movie glory, Altered Beast lives in its 80s C-grade action movie glory. Nothing but heavily muscled men punching and kicking monsters in the face before transforming into dragons to be found in this retro "classic". I remember playing this on my Mega Drive years and years ago and even then I thought to myself how stupid it was. 
 
I only grabbed this because it was onsale for 200 points at one stage, and you can grab every achievement and be done with it in around an hour. Its a supremely simple side-scrolling beat 'em up that was simple even for it's time. 
 
Wolfenstein 
As my nostalgic love for Wolfenstein 3D knows no bounds I've played and enjoyed pretty much every game in the Wolfenstein franchise. This is game is no different. Returning to my open-world rant, Wolfenstein features an open-world hub city you can explore to find cash, fight enemies and buy upgrades at the various shops. When you're ready you can head off on your various missions, before returning for some more upgrading. The gameplay is fairly standard for a FPS these days, find various weapons, shoot nazis, earn upgrades and your character has some special powers seperating him from the rest (and in turn the game from it's legion of FPS competitors). 
 
In reality I can't really say much about the missions you go on except that it's a competent shooter that you'll probably enjoy. There's nothing extremely special about it, but there's nothing bad about it either. If you feel like playing a decent FPS then give it a go, but there are probably better ones out there for you to spend your time on. Especially if you care about achievements as grinding the multiplayer based ones takes quite a while. 
 
I feel bad writing such a short amount for this game but I guess that tells you what you need to know; it's nothing worth writing home about. Its decidedly middle of the road, definitively average. Not a AAA title, but not something you'll hate either. I want to tell you to give it a look, but I'd feel bad if you did so instead of a better game, especially on my advice. 
 
GripShift 
Here's a weird one. Gripshift is an arcade racer/platformer hybrid. Each world/track you visit has a time to beat, items to collect, hidden things to find and platforming sections to navigate through. This game is simple and elaborate, easy and difficult. It's one of the weirdest mish-mashes I've come across and was instantly drawn to it. I'd strongly recommend everyone to check out the demo. It was one of the first arcade games I ever purchased, it's not for everyone but it clicked with me. 
  
Hardly anyone I know has even heard of the game and it's a damn shame if you asked me. If I had to make a comparison to some games people knew I would say it's like if Trials HD, Mario Kart and Super Mario 64 all got together and had a baby. Wrap your head around that if you can. You race around crazy 3D tracks floating in the sky, there are loops and jumps, nitros, powerups, springs, moving platforms, conveyor belts, collectables, air-control, and more. The later levels are puzzling and difficult and to get all the achievements is a real challenge. If you have some spare time check it out and let me know what you thought. 
  
Viva Piñata                                                       
Viva Pinata is another game I feel some have overlooked. There is a decent amount of people out there that gave it a go and found something enjoyable and different, there are just as many people who saw a kiddy game with colourful graphics and a lack of headshots and went the other way. Only recently I recommended this game to a friend I had made through boosting (we did Wolfenstein actually) over in Canada and on my advice he got a copy cheaply and gave it a go. The game is quite different to pretty much everything else available on the Xbox. It's a slow laid back game, no time pressure, no real goals presented to you upfront, so it was understandable that he was a bit puzzled at first about what he should be doing. I guided him through a few things and game him a couple of hints. 
 
The next time I talked to him, maybe 3 or 4 days later, he was hooked. He had bought the two other Viva Pinata games and was enjoying every moment. In Viva Pinata you build and maintain your garden. Everything you do affects something else, the plants you plant affect what types of pinata come to check out your garden. If an abundance of one type come and have a look, naturally a bigger pinata who preys on the others will become interested in what you are doing. It really is a fairly complex nature simulation disguised behind bright colours and pinatas. 
 
If you overlooked Viva Pinata when it was released you'll be able to find it super cheap now. It's a game that you can just put in and relax, there's no failure. Maybe you want to work on growing some chillis today, or breed an abundance of hippopotami. Whatever you fancy at the time, you'll be rewarded with XP, new seeds, tools, unlocks and new pinata becoming interested in your garden every step of the way. 
 
Alan Wake 
Back to a more classic game game, Alan Wake. It's a pretty great game at that. One of the better stories I've played through in a while now. Also it's one of a very few real thrillers available to gamers. There are some scary games out there, but few have a real thriller vibe to it. It's hard to define what I mean by that, I guess thriller to me isn't synonymous with scary but more a mixture of it and not knowing what is actually happening. Alan Wake has that in spades. 
 
Alan Wake has action, scares and confusion in equal doses and keeps you guessing the whole way through. There's an unsettling feel through out. No character in the game has a full picture of what is going on and as you and Alan work your way through the mystery you'll find yourself nearly as invested in it as Alan is. I don't want to say to much about it, because I didn't know much about it when I played and enjoyed the hell out of it. I feel that that was probably the best way to approach the game, so I'd feel bad if I spoiled it for others. If you haven't played this game just trust me and pretty much everyone else that has played it and play it! 
 
That'll be it for another edition of catch up. Home open is over and I'm heading back now to get online and hopefully finish The Fancy Pants Adventures. As always if you want to boost shoot a message my way.