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one winged angel on theatrhythm like ten times as long as any of the other songs, and three times as hard lol

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Uncharted: Thoughts

so today I got the chance to spend a while playing the first two Uncharted games. I'd been looking forward to this for ages, because I'm a big fan of both the Indiana Jones films, and of Nolan North's voice acting.

So it's with some disappointment that I have to say that I'm left kind of cold by them so far. Mostly the first one, I actually like the second one a fair bit so far.

One half of the game is competent but not really super interesting puzzle platforming ala Sands of Time trilogy Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed. Actually, more than those games, it reminds me of the platforming in Enslaved, in that it feels very rigid, somehow. The game has a lot going on visually, similar to the Assassin's Creed games, I suppose, but unlike those games, this game is not open-world. There is only one path you can proceed down, and often you'll find yourself hunting around the beautifully detailed, and therefore visually cluttered, world for a while searching for what the game wants you to do. It's kind of similar to the problem I have with point and click adventure games like the Myst and Monkey Island games. I'm not good at point and click adventure games, and will spend way too long trying to work out puzzles. Some people may find this challenge fun. I find it boring, annoying, frustrating, and immersion-breaking. It makes me not want to finish the game. I never had this problem in the Prince of Persia or God of War games.

Not that the actual puzzles in Uncharted are hard, mind you. In fact, they're almost insultingly easy, even with hints turned off (if I want hints I'll look up a guide on gamefaqs thank you very much), once you've worked out what bits of the environment you need to look at.

The other half is combat, which isn't very interesting. You sit behind cover and fire guns at enemies. Now, granted, the enemies are pretty smart, and will attempt to outflank you. It actually gets fairly challenging. The problem is that, for the most part, you're facing the same waves of enemies under very similar circumstances over and over and over and over again. It's like playing Mass Effect 2 only not as fun, because Mass Effect 2 had a pretty cool story, and cool character interactions. (If we're going to compare it again to the Prince of Persia games, I will admit that the combat in this game is much better than that in the PoP games, though.)

Not that there's anything wrong with the characters of Uncharted. In fact, I think they're great, but the story takes a back seat to the platforming and combat, which are kind of boring and repetitive. You don't feel like Nathan Drake is a treasure hunter so much as he is some poor soul caught in some nightmare in which he has to fight the same three enemies over and over for all eternity. While playing, I found myself wondering if everyone at Naughty Dog has ADHD. Because this game is never not on. It's like Half Life 2 only not nearly as good.

Also, the controls for grenades in the first game are godawful and gimmicky. Grenades are rendered practically unusable Luckily, you never really need then. And the waterbike sequences aren't great. If I try to speed through them in an action-movie like fashion, I get killed. So I took them slow, killing every enemy, and blowing up the barrels.

It looks pretty enough, although not as good as Assassin's creed II, to my mind at least, and certainly not as good as Skyrim or LA Noire.

I don't hate the game by any means. It's just that it's kind of... boring. There's not enough variety.

The second game does a much better job of making the game interesting to play, although it could still do better, in my opinion. There are goals other than "traverse until you run into some guys you need to shoot, you'll know when to stop because a cutscene will show up." There are loads of cool action setpieces, and more character interaction, which is great. Grenade controls are much improved. Also the stealth system is kindasorta neat I guess. The aiming feels better too, and you're not necessarily having to dash out of cover quite so often to replenish your ammo from the corpses of your fallen enemies.

Unfortunately the environments are, if anything, even more cluttered. At least so far. You'll learn to recognize the sorts of things the game wants you to use for platforming fairly quickly, but it's still annoying.

Anyways, these games (or at least, the first one, I haven't really gotten far enough into the second to judge) need better pacing. The Indiana Jones movies are great because they actually have good pacing and memorable stories/character interactions.

Last Thought. You know what I would like to see? An Uncharted RPG. Have it made by Obsidian. It would probably end up playing and sounding like a sequel to Alpha Protocol, but I see no problem with that.

postscript: I'd like to say, I don't hate these games by any means. These are just my opinions after playing them for a while. Not necessarily expressed as clearly and succinctly as I'd like, but it's late, sorry. I'm not trying to pick a fight with Uncharted fans. You might love these games, and that's cool. These are just problems that I have with these games, based on what I think games should be like in order to be fun. Maybe these games just aren't for me. That's fine.


Fallout: A Retrospective

Fallout is an important game. An important game that, up until yesterday, I had never played. I thought it might be interesting to try playing it before I finally get the chance to dive into New Vegas (which, in case if you didn't know, is developed by Obsidian Entertainment, who include among their number some people who worked on the original Fallout)

Fallout came along at a time when the RPG was supposed by many to be a dying genre. The market was glutted with repetitive dungeon crawlers, and it didn't help matters that, at the time, first person shooters seemed to be the only kind of games people were interested in playing.

Fallout was the first game from the legendary Black Isle Studios, and it was revolutionary because, unlike most rpgs at the time, and even more than the Ultima games (arguably the most important pre-Fallout rpgs), it was a non-linear game (There are multiple ways to complete the main quest of the game, and you can potentially complete the game without playing through the vast majority of its content. You can even betray your allies and side with the enemy, if you want, though this results in a game over) and it had an incredible atmosphere to it, as a result of its visual design and writing. The visual design, created by Leonard Boyarski (currently working at Blizzard, I believe), is influenced a great deal by the media of the 1950s. Specifically, it draws on old advertisements, nuclear propaganda, and pulp serials (laser guns and super mutants, etc.), and fuses them with a sort of retro-futurism (ie. the vacuum-tube powered computers). It also owes a great debt to the Mad Max movies (the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you meet lots of people in leather jackets, and you get a pet attack dog, among other things). The interface itself looks like an ancient computer, which ties in with the manual's conceit that the entire game is some sort of grand simulation for training Vault Dwellers. Also, Fallout has great writing, and a subtle and pitch black sense of humour.

I feel like it should be noted again, that, at the time, good writing and non-linearity were not seen as being very important to rpgs. Which seems curious to me, in retrospect, because the entire genre is inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, and the word roleplaying implies playing a role, and playing a role, to me, implies the player choosing how they want their actions to affect the world around him/her. In fact, although games have advanced a great deal in terms of graphics, and, to some degree, in terms of writing, very few other mainstream games since 1997, if any, have offered the player such a pure roleplaying experience as Fallout does. Not even Planescape: Torment, my favourite game of all time, quite manages it.

Obviously, Fallout has what might kindly be referred to as "a few rough edges", mostly owing to it being an old game. It's fortunate that the manual is as well-written and interesting as it is (incidentally, you can number me among those who really miss the old encyclopaedic style of game manuals), because the interface and control scheme are somewhat complicated, compared to modern games, and the buttons don't have text pop up when you hover over them, to tell you what they do. This makes at least skimming the manual mandatory. Or, at least, I needed to do so. Fallout's graphics are, of course, somewhat primitive from a technical standpoint, though, as I pointed out earlier, they are still very cool to look at.

From a gameplay perspective, so to speak, I would argue that Fallout holds up reasonably well, even by the standards of a modern gamer. Or, at least, by my standards. Your AI teammates will often shoot each other, and you, in the back, and the game can be quite easy, and short, if the player chooses (Though, personally, I like short games. Games that have 100+ hours of content usually reach that figure as a result of having a lot of really boring content mixed in with the good, and the entire experience is worse for it.) Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun in some of the combat sequences I played, notably the first mission Decker gives you, and a mission where you clear out a farm taken over by bandits near the Hub. In particular, some of the text that pops up when you score critical hits was pretty fun to read. Apart from encountering radscorpions and cave rats all over the place, I felt like there was a good variety of enemies, all of whom posed their own unique challenges. As I said before, though, you can avoid combat in this game if you choose to do so. You can play this game pretty much however you want, and that makes it pretty much unique in the world of gaming.

I give Fallout, mm, 4 and a half dead ladyboys out of 5.