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Mercs 2 = Too Human?

(This was originally written for my gaming ramblings blog)

Ok so I’ve played about halfway (well, in the menu it tells me I’m 50% done) through Mercenaries 2, and I’ve got to make the comparison to another game I played recently: Too Human.

If you have indeed read my opinions on Too Human, then you’d know that although I acknowledged that the game had a lot of significant flaws and shortcomings, overall the game play was just fun for me. Slashing through powerless enemies and then picking up their loot is just plain fun, and no matter how many shit cut scenes I watch, it still will be fun. As I have been making my way through Mercs 2, I’ve been having that feeling all over again. The core gameplay of Mercs 2 is super cool. Essentially, you’re an unkillable dude who runs around beating the shit of out dudes, and blowing shit up. Watching something blow into a huge ball of fire, or watching a building collapse after being decimated by a rocket launcher is just plain fun. Sure, the voice acting is bad, the graphics aren’t great, driving is somewhat clunky if you have recently played GTA IV, but I’d say that most of those flaws can be easily over looked once you sit on a recoilless rocket launcher, and blow up a few tanks and helicopters out of the sky.

Going back to the GTA IV reference, I think that is what happens when you get the game play right, along with all the other stuff. I mean, GTA IV in a way is a little of the opposite because most people will not finish it due to the repetitiveness of the game play. Mercs 2 and Too Human have the game play part down so solidly, that it is just a shame that they must be slammed in reviews due to their sometimes irrelevant flaws. Just like a typical gamer will greatly enjoy Too Human just for how fun it is, ignoring the rest, I think the same can be said for Mercs 2. If you go into it expecting just to blow shit up, you will have a great time. But, if you go into it expecting a open world game of the quality of GTA IV + explosions, you will be significantly disappointed.


My Take on Too Human

(This was originally written for my gaming ramblings blog)

Despite bad reviews I went out to pick up Too Human a few days ago, and have played through it in full. I’ve always been a fan of loot collection games, and I wanted to support Denis Dyack and the rest of Silicon Knights for finally releasing this game after 4 years of Xbox 360 development (it has been in development for a total of 10 years on other various older platforms and was actually playable on the PS1). Now the interesting thing about Too Human is that although reviews have been pretty negative, most people have found the game very fun to play, including myself.

I think the reason this has happened, is that looking at Too Human in terms of games in the year 2008, it has a lot of problems. I ran into many environmental glitches, the vast majority of the cut scenes were horribly written and animated, and the inventory is slow loading and clunky. However, the combat in this game and the loot makes it very fun just to play. In a review, the reviewer cannot ignore all the negatives I mentioned above because they are in fact major flaws, but at the end of the day most people find playing the game fun and addictive, and that is what matters to me.

Ignoring all criticisms of the major, ignorable problems with Too Human, I have actually disagreed with the criticisms of the gameplay and loot in these low scoring reviews on major gaming sites. Firstly, many reviewers have complained that the first basic enemy, the small bug-looking weak robot enemies, appear throughout the game, and that in general there isn’t a large diversity in the enemies you fight. My problem with this criticism is that the original enemy they are referring to is so fun to fight. They are probably my favorite enemy in the game, because they die quick which means your Baldur will be able to zoom back and forth taking out these guys, and it makes you feel badass, something that I didn’t get from a lot of the stronger enemies in the game. Of course these reviewers mention that this is a negative because in most games, lack of enemy diversity is a bad thing, but I think in Too Human that doesn’t apply. I in fact wish there was just a level where it threw that original basic enemy at you in huge waves over and over and over.

Secondly, reviewers have complained that the loot drops are too frequent, and too often better than what you already have, which makes getting a cool weapon or piece of armor trivial, as you will replace it within the next half hour. This criticism, after playing through the game twice with the same character and reaching level 45, is completely and utterly invalid in the later levels of the game. Sure, from the levels 1-20 a random drop has a good chance of being better than what you already have - which can be detrimental: this causes you to question putting runes into this gear as you might replace that item soon. However, from levels 20-50, I found myself keeping the same items for a pretty long period of time. As an example, I had a piece of chest armor from level 22 which I socketed with three armor percentage increase runes, and I kept that piece all the way up to level 38 or so. Now I’m not saying that upgrading rarely is a good thing either - just look at Champions of Norrath: most drops were crap and you would rarely upgrade, and it became one of the major criticisms of the game. Now, Too Human is doing the exact opposite through your first playthrough (which gets you to about level 25) and it being called out as a problem. What do people want?

In general, I feel that all the problems with the game are very apparent and very separate from the actual game play and loot system. That is what has kept me playing, and what makes me excited to play through the game over and over with friends in co-op. For most people those outer problems like environment glitches, dumb repetitive environments, and crappy cut scenes, are totally irrelevant. People buy Too Human to fly around the environment and cut shit up and get loot, not concentrate on how bad the writing and story is. Too Human is set up for a bad review, but if you wade through all the bullshit, as most people who are playing are doing, it is a very fun and addictive loot-driven action game, and I suggest you check it out.


What I'm Hoping for in Skate 2

One of the big surprise hits for me this generation has been Skate.  Back in the day Tony Hawk games were always an instant purchase until maybe last generation, where I had finally gotten bored of the franchise.  There wasn't enough innovation, and the games in the franchise began to blur together.  The last good thing to come from the Tony Hawk franchise in my opinion was the ability to get off the skateboard.  Skate however reinvigorated skateboarding in video games for me.  For us hardcore skate fans who had left Tony Hawk, Skate was perfect.  Just the mechanics of the gameplay themselves are what is appealing.  Before I bought the game, I played the demo over and over just in the small allotted area it offered.  Every four hours the demo would shut down, but I would restart it over and over.  Anyways, I was not surprised to hear of the announcement of Skate 2, but I wasn't sure what I would want from it.  The gameplay itself is what appeals to me, and I didn't know that spending another $60 was worth the '2' on the end of the game name.  After reminicing back onto the Tony Hawk days, I've come up with three things that I'd like improved for the new Skate.

Firstly, I think that Skate 2 must have off-and-on skateboard play.  I've heard stories that Skate originally planned to have walking gameplay but had to cut it due to their release date.  Skate 2 however must have it, and it must be functional and sufficient.  Tony Hawk did it last generation, Skate 2 can easily do it this generation.

Secondly, Skate 2 must fix the problem of pedestrians in the game.  In Skate they could be come very annoying because their "AI" was to just stand there and take the hit.  However, I am against eliminating pedestrians from the game entirely.  I think they are imperative to creating a true and lively city, but their AI must be improved.  They are worse than a tourist in Roller Coaster Tycoon.  Even if they would just jump out of the way of the incoming skateboarder would be sufficient.  Any way to keep them in the city, but make them less annoying is the way to go.

Thirdly, loading times need to be reduced.  The second most annoying thing behind pedestrians in Skate was the load times.  Skating around the city there were never any load times, but teleporting even a few blocks away validated a good 15 second load time.  This could get very annoying if you were attempting a challenge that took you far from your starting location, and had a significant load in between each attempt.  I don't know if it is possible, but I hope that Skate 2 can eliminate as much loading as possible.  I can understand a load when teleporting across the city, but load times for just a few blocks away need to be eliminated. 

I think Skate 2 will be just as big a success as the original if these simple demands are met.  Otherwise, I don't see the hardcore Skate player coughing up another $60 for the solid gameplay they can already enjoy in the original Skate, or even in the Skate 2 demo if they have one.