I guess he's got nothing Toulouse...
I'll open as smoothly as I can -- I am more than a little bit disappointed with 2K's latest open world game. I wasn't very much impressed by it's predecessor, either, but I had somewhat high hopes for this one, given that it was being developed for the consoles alongside the PC version, instead of being a watered-down port. But alas, I am left with an empty feeling after playing through Mafia II's demo offering.
The demo is divided up into two distinct parts: open-world exploration and the missions, which makes it feel almost like two completely different games. I realize that the Mafia games aren't intended to be played like Grand Theft Auto, but in today's market, if you're going to be an open world game, then you're going to have to be ready for comparisons to be made whether you like it or not. But instead of just comparing, I'm going to go through each issue I had with the game.
I had very little idea of what to expect when going into Mafia II, other than it was an open-world mafia simulator. I had seen all of the story trailers showing the chunky, poorly animated characters walking through a contrived rip-off of every mafia story ever. However, I can make do with poor storytelling if the gameplay is engaging. Seeing clips of the combat in the game, it seemed like a competent cover-based third-person shooter. But that wasn't solid, either.
After a flashback cutscene, I was set loose in Vito's pad, which was full of pointless interactivities (it's a word now) such as toilet flushing, wardrobe changing, Playboy-reading, cola/beer drinking and sandwich eating. It felt like a glorified tech-demo just showing off all the little things they put in the game to make it feel "authentic". Great job guys, now let's see how the world looks from outside.
When I went outside, I first ran over to the garage, which magically holds three cars, even though there's only room for one. It's a regular vehicular vending machine. I took to the streets in my sleek maroon jalopy, immediately getting a sense of the driving physics by driving headlong into another car. This wasn't my fault, mind you, but rather the car coming towards me decided the best way to avoid me was to steer straight into my grill. In my frustration, I sped away, but not before splattering a civilian all over the pavement. It wasn't my fault, he was just standing in the middle of my lane. The police took notice, and said "Hey, stop that guy!", then turned around and left me alone with a wanted poster. I came to a traffic light behind another car, which stopped in the middle of the intersection for no reason and refused to budge. I got out of the car and shot him in the face. Then about five black men with guns swarmed me on the street, which freaked me out more than a little bit. What, the only civilians I need to worry about packing heat are black people (that look strangely modern)?! I had to get out of there. I eventually made my way to the marker on my map, and the screen inexplicably went black and initiated a cutscene.
The guy talking to me said he was from Sicily, but he sounded like the most American Italian I had ever heard. Therefore, I knew not to trust him, which luckily Vito did as well. There was a lot of dialogue, but through the visuals alone (panning across sketchy guys on the street below, looking up into our window, Vito mounting an MG 42 on the windowsill), I knew that amounted to little more than "blah blah blah kill people." So I shot up the cars, which exploded quite nicely, then proceeded down the stairs and across the street. It was then that I felt that this had turned into a completely different game, one that felt distinctly Gears of War-inspired (cliche but true), and poorly executed as well. Controls were clunky, and I couldn't get a handle on what I was supposed to be doing, other than shooting people. I died repeatedly at this segment, and grew quite frustrated. The targeting was distracting, with a big white cross in the middle of the screen that actually made me miss my targets more than I felt I should have. Clunky is the name of the game here.
It's also worth noting that although the game did look genuinely great in places, it was ruined by sloppy texturing and there was a lot of screen tear that hurt to look at some times. These graphical hiccups I found to be very distracting, and took away from the already largely mediocre experience I was having.
Mafia II feels like a game that is trying to appeal to too wide of an audience and stepping way out of its comfort zone. On the one hand, it's attempting to one-up the detail and authenticity of the original (which next-gen hardware allows them to do), which they largely succeed in, Playboy spreads notwithstanding. But they are also shooting themselves in the foot by putting so much emphasis on the shooting and action in the game, which feels sloppy and empty. And that's what the demo left me feeling: that this was a hollow shell of a game with good ideas but poor execution. Granted, I know this is an early demo, and I'm sure some of the graphical issues can be ironed out, but it's most definitely too little too late.Read the original post on my blog!
Ya know, I'm being completely honest when I say that I was looking forward to playing the new and improved, yet cheaper version ofStreet Fighter IV. In hindsight, however, its going to take a hell of a lot to get Capcom on my good side again. It was very naive of me to think that "new and improved with ten new characters" and "we brought back the bonus modes and online tournaments" somehow translates into a less shitty experience.
I'll start at the beginning. The first Capcom fighter I ever played wasX-Men vs. Street Fighter, an arcade machine at the local skating rink; and yes, I was very, very young. Like, single digits in age. At the time, I loved the hell out of it, because it was easy for a little kid like me to pick up and start mashing buttons and somehow beat the computer. And being the youngster that I was, I was only drawn to theX-Men characters. Little did I know how far off that first impression was.
Over the years, I continued playing many 2D fighters in the arcades, like Marvel vs. Capcom, Darkstalkers, Capcom vs. SNK and so forth. I never really got to see much of the root of all this Capcom madness. That is, until I downloaded the trial version of Street Fighter II on XBox Live Arcade. At the time I was heavy into Guilty Gear and would always play it whenever I would visit friends' houses, and once I had my own version on my XBox, I was set. But when I downloaded the trial for SFII, I was just in awe of how awful it was. "What the fuck is this?" I asked myself, "Surely this can't be what everyone raves about all the time?" But, when I saw that a bunch of my friends had gotten it and were heckling me to join, I knew the truth: Capcom has somehow brainwashed the majority into thinking it's mediocre, backwards, broken slop was somehow amazing.
I could hardly believe it. Even the gaming press (mostly the mainstream) was falling all over themselves every time somethingStreet Fighter related was announced. I mean, sure guys, it was great during the 90's, but in this day and age, you need to bring a lot more to the table. That's why I remain loyal to the folks over at Arc System Works, as well as SNK (for the most part).
I still firmly believe that Street Fighter IV is the same basic, boring, broken-ass game as Street Fighter II. Sure, it's got flashy 3D graphics now (and by flashy I mean chunky and ugly...seriously, those character models are boring and look like they were molded out of clay by a 12-year-old in fine arts school), and they added cinematic finishing moves, but it still feels like the safe stiffness from over 15 years ago. New graphics ma scream "hip and modern", but that "classic gameplay" needs to go.
I think that is Capcom's biggest problem this generation. They are unable to keep up with the times in America, and assume that that just because it works in Japan, it will work anywhere. This closed-minded mentality can be seen in many of their releases this generation: Monster Hunter (still the exact same game as on PS2, now retro-fitted to the Wii and XBox 360), Mega Man (we're out of ideas so lets go back to the 8-bit days and call it a throwback), Resident Evil 5(aka RE4 but in the daytime with co-op), Lost Planet (aka Monster Hunter with guns), Bionic Commando and Dark Void (don't even get me started), and of course Street Fighter IV (SFII with 3D graphics). All of these games suffer from either outdated gameplay masquerading as modernized, or bad game design in an attempt to shed that problem. Sooner or later, Capcom is going to find itself in a difficult position (probably after they release Lost Planet 2 and Dead Rising 2). They can only rely on their Japanese audience for so long. Square Enix has a similar problem, but if this rant is any indication, I'm sure you can see what I'm getting at.
I guess the bigger picture I'm trying to paint here is this: as the gaming industry continues to grow and change, pushing forward with new technology and ideas, Japan is going to find itself at a loss. Their gaming market is perfectly content with getting the same old stuff, year after year. Some may say that that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I would argue that it defeats the purpose of a competitive market. From the looks of things, Capcom is struggling to maintain its image in the States, and if they don't do something about it soon (they are working with U.S. developers now, at least), it will all come crashing down on them.
Read the original post on my blog!
I know it's hard to try and make accurate comparisons between two games that haven't been released yet, but since the demos are both out for consumption now, and both titles being in direct competition with each other, I feel its more than reasonable to judge the two side by side.
Only two titles will be battling it out for racer supremacy this Summer. Both Split/Second (from Black Rock Studios and Disney Interactive) and Blur (from Bizarre Studios and Activision) are hitting store shelves at the end of May, and both games have been getting a lot of attention and a number of comparisons have been made, but only eyes-on.
Having spent time with the demos for each game, I think it is pretty clear which one is worth buying and which one is a solid rental. Here's a break down of each game's features.
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