I haven’t really blogged much this weekend because, well, I've been playing computer games.
Which is the whole point, after all.
Fable 2 is great. I completed it last weekend and have since been running around with my friends in co-op and working my way through some of the achievements. I talk about it a bit in this weeks (last weeks?) BSHAF podcast. I don’t know if its on iTunes yet but its up on Disgaeamads and Lies blogs. It was an editing nightmare, which is why it took so long to sort out, and consequently the sound levels are a bit screwed up but the important stuff all holds together fine. Go check it out.
I'm don’t want to repeat the stuff in said in the podcast but I'm really enjoying playing through the game as the neutrally grey "Han Solo" character. Because of the way the world responds to your actions its possible to call the shots as you see them instead of deliberately choosing good or evil. Games like Mass Effect required you to go all the way good or bad in order to unlock the most entertaining responses and decisions - a design which meant to unlock the games full potential you basically always went one way or the other and the element of choice was removed. Not so in Fable 2, which celebrates and aesthetically reflects every decision individually. Its a lot of fun, you guys should check it out.
I Pre-ordered copies of Gears Of War 2 and Left 4 Dead, I figured now was as good a time as any. In a way I’m lucky Street Fighter 4 doesn’t come out till after Xmas because otherwise I’m going to run up some serious debts.
However this week XBL has been busting out some completely amazing Demo's. Games which I had previously dismissed have now caught my attention in ways I had not considered possible. Here are my impre- OMG MY COMPUTER JUST CRASHED HERE BUT FIREFOX RESTORED MY PREVIOUS SESSION AND EVERYTHING IS STILL HERE?!?! I LOVE YOU FIREFOX!! -ssions from the ones which stood out;
Mirrors EdgeI had seen footage of Mirrors Edge before, and was already pretty interested. But for the actual flow of the game the only word that can represent how I felt was... Under-prepared.
This game is something special.
If any title is truly going to revolutionise the way we look at and play games this year, Mirrors Edge is that title. What initially seems like a complete mash-up of first-person-shooting, this game is what every matrix game wishes it could be. It's sleek, stylised and the controls and easy and fluent. The environments are breathtaking, and the colouring of certain objects to reveal a suitable path works amazingly well. On my first play through the demo I found I was instinctively finding my way through the environments without having to pause and scan ahead to find an appropriate route. Being chased by the police really creates a wonderful tension that pushes you to run faster and make more dangerous decisions - and you are rewarded with such a wonderful sense of smooth satisfaction at having bounced from one side of your vertical playground to the other.
That brings me to another point. Instead of simply giving you an entire city to explore, the game limits each scenario to a few rooftops - which indecently can be best described as playgrounds. The first level was fairly linear - get from A to B. But the game does an impressive job of disguising its own linearity, and in the rush of your escape you probably wont notice that you are running down such a straightforward path.
Lastly, the only part I found a little flustering was the combat - but this is perhaps largely due to the fact that you are thrown into the deep end and given little time to practice. After a short combat tutorial you are soon after pitted against several armed officers. You yourself do not carry a gun. You can disarm enemies by getting close enough and using the Y button at a specific time, usually from behind or when they try to pistol-whip you. The combat has been designed to only really work in a 1 vs 1 situation, which encourages you to run and isolate your persuers. It works well. Disarming them usually means taking their weapon and immobilising them - you can then either fire the rest of the bullets in their current mag or discard the gun. If you are in a rush (you probably will be) then you have to drop the gun to start climbing stuff again. It will be interesting to see how the gunplay actually works out, and if you will eventually be put in a situation where you are required to shoot people. I personally hope not. There are enough FPS games on the 360 as it is, I would prefer the game to continue on its alternative route of "flee don’t fight".
So yeah. I was very taken with this game. Which sucks because I cant afford it. It looks like I'm going to have to wait a couple of months for some Mirrors Edge time....
Banjo: Nuts And BoltsI never played any of the original banjo games (I didn’t have an N64). Which is why any elements of nostalgia or fond familiarity will be completely lost on me. But Banjo:N&B is a lot of fun. The screen is constantly full of completely insane contraptions, characters, and environments. Its like Mario Galaxy on LSD. Well.... More LSD than it is already.
I messed about with the construction stuff a lot, and the potential is huge for every sort of vehicle you can imagine. What I particularly liked were the quests that asked you to make a vehicle that could perform a specific task - perhaps a car that can scoop up footballs, or a tank that can defend a giant robot from lots of little robots.
One thing I also noticed was that this game is no walk in the park. However this may have been because the vehicles I made tended to be a bit over-excessive as a result of me trying to fit on as many egg cannons, propellers, engines and ammo boxes as those little wheels could handle. Maybe i'm just out of touch with the current Gen of platfomer.
This game also looks very impressive, largely thanks to the draw distance of the camera which seems to go on FOREVER. You can climb to the top of the tower in the main city and see everything sprawled beneath you. Add to this the fact that every square inch of the game is covered in some sort of surreal contraption and the game is given such life and insanity you can't help but marvel.
Banjo: Nuts & Bolts is not for me. I might pick it up one day. It's certainly a lot of fun, and looks like great value for money. You can get lost in its huge levels... But at the moment I have more important fish to fry...
Tomb Raider: Underworld
Speaking of fish...Tomb Raider was a game I did play growing up. Well.... sort of. After Tomb Raider 2 it all got a bit rocky. Lara didn’t really leave her mark on the ps2. Or rather, she did - and then it was hastily removed. Probably using bleach.
So Underworld was approached with an open mind. And surprisingly, Lara manages to hold her own once more. The game starts you out on a boat in the sea in Thailand. The first thing that strikes you is the graphics. This game looks really pretty. The waves swell convincingly, Lara herself is toned and well proportioned, and the landscape is lush and bright. Jumping into the water gave me my first shock, seeing a convincing shark swimming not ten ft from my boat. I set to work with my pistols and finished him off fairly fast, then swam off and started climbing the cliff face.
The climbing is good. The animations look great, especially when Lara is swinging and climbing. The only thing which looks a bit weird is the games lack of momentum - Lara seems to go from stationary to full sprint without any sort of build up which makes her movements look a bit jerky. Anyway, the game allows you to negotiate the landscape without making it obvious as to how it is possible. Often i found myself wondering where the next step was. The game does a good job of entwining the landscape into the platfoming, so that instead of the puzzle looking like an obviously constructed platform section, it actually looks like Lara is having to negotiate a genuine environment.
The controls can be a little fiddly. There are some parts which require quite precise jumps, and while the game tends to guess where you are aiming, the camera can be a pain in the ass. Jumping forward will sometimes jump you forward to where the camera is facing, as oppose to where Lara is facing. This didn’t happen very often, but was amazingly frustrating when it did. Also there was one section where you have to Mario-jump back and forth between two pillars and the jump just becomes amazingly unresponsive, meaning I fell to my death fairly often. Lara cant seem to handle particularly high falls, so watch out for that. And her jumping has been made more realistic and fluent, as oppose to the Crackdown-like vaults she used to perform.
The checkpoint system works well, and the game will quicksave before every vertical puzzle you have to traverse - meaning if you fall and die (happens a lot) then you don’t have to replay too much. It works well with the slightly trial-and-error style of landscape navigation.
Its a good game. I don’t know how it will fare in the long run, as it seems fairly straightforward. As far as I can tell nothing has been done to revolutionise the Tomb Raider style of play, so veterans of the series should love this game.
So yeah. I’ve been a busy bunny.
I have a load of blogs that I have been meaning to write, they are taking up room inside my brain. Me and Oni have got something special which we want to try so watch out for that. Also, I missed my chance to keep things simple this week so that will probably come over the next few days. lastly if supermooseman ever sorts his life out then we might actually record this fucking podcast explaining why people should vote for us.
Right, I’m hung-over so I might just go back to bed.
See you later kids, thanks for reading.