I was very tempted to call this "Nothing in Common" but recently I've been playing two games that couldn't be more different. One is a third person shooter with chainsaw bayonets featuring Ice-T on the XBox and the other is a painfully straight faced JRPG with giant knights on the PS3.
Gears of War 3
If you don't know about Gears of War 3 and haven't made a decision on it by now, we have the technology to catch up. But I'll try not to spend a whole lot of time recounting everything on Epic's latest chainsaw romp through the amazingly fucked up world of Sera. The story is alright. The unlock system is crazy. The Digger is my favorite new weapon. But I will spend time talking about my new favorite addition.
Beast Mode, Terrorize
I love Beast Mode. One of the things I like the most in video games is when you can play as the villains in any capacity. Campaign mode is fine, but when you have a mode like this where you can take the Locust monsters for a spin, it's a great time. It does take a bit of time adjusting to the controls of the locust. A lot of them don't handle like the main game, but have the same concepts. The Bloodmount is especially weird as you control the mount while an AI locust guy sits on top of you with a Hammerburst firing away. The Kantus can't take cover but has re-spawning Ink Grenades and a team healing move. It's a lot of fun to rip through defenses and destroy everything in your pursuit to wipe out the COG.
Playing as a Berserker is the obvious highlight as it's just as indestructible as it was in the first Gears of War. You can tear through any barrier, turret, decoy and Silverback without so much as flinching. Even if your vision is limited, having that telltale sound of a Berserker charge while running is just fantastic. But I think my favorites include the Serapede and the Armored Kantus. I don't always get to the final tier (because there are some good people out there) but the Armored Kantus' spin ball move ala Sonic the Hedgehog had me laughing for a long time when I used it to kill an enemy. Not to mention, two of those Gorgon Pistols are mean. And if you're feeling especially helpful, you can heal the team.
The only problem with Beast Mode? It takes FOREVER to find a game. It's not nearly as popular as Horde or standard multiplayer modes... and I guess I can see why. But man, Beast Mode is so worth the wait.
Hail to the Bots
Online Versus mode in the Gears of War series has been kind of tragic in the way that so many awesomely ridiculous weapon designs like the chainsaw bayonet, the torque bow, the Mulcher, the Digger... have always been tossed aside for one weapon: the shotgun. All of the games I've played so far with people (a handful at the most) have been nothing but Dances-with-Shotguns. The way people play you'd think no one started with an assault rifle, never mind the other weapon pick ups. Which is why I felt compelled to mention the greatest thing in Versus is the option to play with bots. It's nice to have the computer to play around with and experience the various maps, guns, and modes.
The computer is cold, impersonal strings of code and that's probably the best part. Nothing is personal. It's pretty well rounded (even for AI) and make use of everything on the map. This is probably my mindset, but they play Gears in the way I imagined it. They snipe, chainsaw, mulch, dig- everything. And on Insane they're no slouch. Not to say they don't have their shortcomings, as they do exhibit some stupidity. But it's nothing you won't find online like teammates ignoring you when you're down and out only a foot away. But they keep things fresh with gunfights at a distance instead of rolling across the map to point blank range for a one-hit kill with the Gnasher or sawed off. I can just mess around, shoot guys, or chainsaw them when I have the chance. I hope this trend continues where games offer bots for the bulk of the multiplayer mode without stripping away features like Black Ops.
Probably my favorite moment so far is playing as Queen Myrrah and sticking Marcus Fenix with the Bayonet charge. Her follow up line was "That was oddly satisfying."
White Knight Chronicles II
White Knight Chronicles II is a weird game in a lot of respects. It's not exactly a straight sequel as it includes the first White Knight Chronicles packed in on the same disc. It seems kind of generous... except that the sequel part has zero tutorial and a long list of vaguely informative help topics. If you didn't play the first game, it doesn't throw you a bone in the least. The only real way to ease into it is start from square one and play through the first game where it takes the time to explain stuff to you. And that's what I ended up doing. Maybe I was drawn in from the idea of two games for the price of one (or the neat looking Knight designs) but I took on White Knight Chronicles I and II without really planning on it. My roommate seemed pretty excited about this game when it was first announced forever ago.
This game is... okay. Mediocre at best. But it has mad customization with armor, class and spells- and I love that stuff. The downside of White Knight Chronicles II is that it reuses every area from the first game, you just visit them in reverse. Yeah...
Standard Concept Fantasy
The most crippling part of this game is the story. It's rote fantasy that does absolutely nothing new. You can predict everything that happens from the word go. Prophecies, princesses, black knights, betrayal, fake betrayal, spunky kid heroes that never says die, yelling names, old mentors, and characters taking themselves way way WAY too seriously. The only thing I can say that was kind of interesting is that one of the characters is voiced by Charles Shaughnessy who played Sheffield from the American sitcom "The Nanny" starring Fran Drescher. It's just the stuff they're involved in is so boring. Guess what guys, there's good and evil, and they got beef. I can assure you those prophecies play out just fine, too.
The coolest thing this game's story does is present a giant city on top of an even larger monster that moves around a crater. They call it Greede, and it's pretty neat.
So one of the reasons I gave this game a try was the customization. You start by creating your own character (that has zero impact on the plot and hangs in the background during cut scenes) with some Mass Effect style options. I made mine look as pissed off as possible which payed off much later when my guy was loitering in the background looking disapproving of everything going on. While this avatar character won't do anything of value other than slaughter tons of monsters, it does give you the choice to use every character class. Other party members are restricted to certain skills. And they do have a nice range of choices. You got your sword master, mage, healer, archer, along with cool choices like axes, gigantic swords, lances. They all have their specific uses but you can get by with just about anything.
Go Go Knights of Legend!
The bright spots show up deep into the game. It's no instant gratification. I'm talking about the option for a few of your characters to transform into towering knights that can slaughter smaller monsters and take on giants with ease. They have a lot of systems in place (MP and Action Chips) that make it so you can't whip these Knights out every other fight, but it's fun to transform Power Rangers style and mess shit up. The first game only has two Knights, while the second adds a third. It never got old for me at least, and the Knights are perfect for bosses. I will say that White Knight is pretty good about making things huge. The downside is that they reuse a lot of enemy times or reskin the basic giant enemy frame. Hate wasps, spiders, wolves and golems? Because you'll kill a shit ton of them before the game is over. The Knights can help with that.
White Knight Chronicles won't set the world on fire. And if you aren't bothered by painfully predictable JRPG tropes, it's a decent game.