By spilledmilkfactory 3 Comments
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Weekend Bender! This is my new weekly blog, where I'll cover every game released over the last week in short, digestible blurbs. Don't like short? Don't like digesting? I'll include links to full reviews of each of the games I deem worthy under their description. And trust me, when I say every game, I mean EVERY game. So won't you join me, dear reader, as I watch my precious sanity trickle through my fingers like so much sand in an hourglass, furiously attempting to bash my head through every game, on every platform, every week?
Note: This week's entry will cover last week's releases as well, since such a large volume of content dropped on September 6th, and it could prove helpful to have reviews of them all in one place.
Note 2: Usually, this blog will drop on a Friday or Saturday, so the whole weekend theme will... you know... make sense. This week I have papers to write, so I'll stick it up a day early.
Note 3: I'm going to try to make this into a video blog at some point in the future. I just need to scratch together the cash to get some new video capturing devices, which could prove difficult given that I just spent hundreds of dollars on all of the games featured in this EPIC FIRST ENTRY IN THE WEEKEND BENDER BLOG!
Wow, this has been one busy month so far. I'm about to cover a lot of ground in a little time, so let's get the ball rolling with a little bit of alien mayhem. I speak, of course, of
Damn, this game was cool. Say what you want about the first two (I liked both of them, personally) but they both pale in comparison to what Insomniac has done here. They added an extra year onto their normal two year dev cycle for this one, and it really shows. Gorgeous lighting, great particle effects, and wonderful sound design leave a good first impression, but in retrospect it's really the script that impressed me the most. No, not the scripting, but the actual script. As in, writing. I feel like gamers tend not to pay much attention to the writing in a lot of games, often justifiably so because the writing is shit. But in this game, the script works in conjunction with all of the fancy graphical effects to create an atmosphere thick with oppression, yet sprinkled with vague, impossible hope. The characters and situations feel more real than almost any I've seen thus far this year, despite the fact that there's fucking aliens jumping around everywhere. It's an impressive feat, for sure.
That's not to say that the gameplay is any slouch, either. The weapons are, as you'd expect from the series, hugely varied, and all of them come complete with secondary firing modes to liven up the action. These crazy, often overpowered alt fires, along with the series re-introduction of health packs instead of regenerating health, really help the balance of the game. Where previous Resistance games were about as balanced as a legless man on a tightrope, this one has a smooth, sensual difficulty curve that eventually ramps up to truly challenge you. Using all of the alt fires and managing health effectively is key to survival, and dare I say that's how it should be in an FPS.
Simply put, Insomniac has finally made the Resistance game they've always been trying to make. It's moving, atmospheric, smooth, fun... everything a great game should be. Check out my full review for more detailed impressions.
Now we continue our binge of extraterrestrial.. thing.. killing with a little
Warhammer 40K Space Marine
As I mention in the opening line of my review, this game really shouldn't be fun. The videos, previews, and hell, even the demo all seemed so repetitive I couldn't believe people were actually getting excited for this thing. But then it came out, and everyone around me was buzzing with excitement, and well, I just had to give it a try. I'll give it to my friends: this time, they were right. Space Marine is a pretty cool game. What really struck me the most about the game was the weight of the character, Titus, and all of his movements, and how the gameplay somehow managed to feel snappy and fast in spite of this weight. The other big selling point, the "aha!" moment, if you will, was the smoothness with which Titus transitions from ranged combat to melee combat. Going from gun to sword and back to gun again is fast, easy, and feels fantastic. It's a mechanic that is literally fun enough to carry the entire 8 hour game on its shoulders, even if it does start wearing thin by the time the end credits roll.
And speaking of end credits, that ending sucked. Despite all of the build-up towards an epic battle, it all gets resolved with a simple quick time event and then BAM! it's over. It's a little gross, really, since there weren't even any other QTEs in the game. The story follows the gameplay's lead, and together they pull an epic tandem shark-jump in the last five minutes. Look game companies, I get that everyone and his grandmother is trying to pitch their IP as the next big trilogy, but that doesn't mean you have to leave everyone unsatisfied at the end of the first game, waiting for a sequel that may never even come. But I digress. If you're holding out on Space Marine because of the generic name, or the generic premise, or... okay, well it's all pretty generic, really. But if you're holding out on the game because of that, don't. If you're worried that your lack of Warhammer knowledge will impede your enjoyment of the game, don't. I had the same reservations, and ended up having a fantastic time.
Let's keep this game train a-rollin' with
Honestly, half of me expected this game to suck. While everyone else was fawning over the (admittedly totally awesome) now-infamous first trailer, I was waiting for the actual gameplay to emerge. And sure enough, when the first previews came out, it wasn't the emotional rollercoaster everyone was expecting. In fact it was kind of the opposite. A heavily loot-driven RPG with thin plot and poorly voiced characters, Dead Island couldn't get me to care about its story even if it wasn't atrociously written. Basically, this game has all of the Techland staples that the Call of Juarez series has trained us to expect: Wonky graphics that look really nice until you start moving, ear-gougingly bad voice acting, mind meltingly dumb writing, and physics that are all kinds of wrong (when you drive your truck into a sandcastle on the beach, it stops like it's hitting a wall.) But on the other side of the coin, the gameplay itself is actually pretty satisfying, especially when you dig into the options menu and switch on the analog controls, as Brad suggested in the Quick Look. The feeling of whacking blunt objects against a zombie's squishy skull is enough satisfaction to redeem many of the game's faults, and if you're in the mood for some co-op, and can actually coerce the game's matchmaking into working, you'll find that satisfaction multiplied with more players trekking alongside you. It's not a great game by any means, but it doesn't suck, either.
My full review of Dead Island is still forthcoming.
Driver San Francisco
Speaking of games that bucked expectations, Driver San Francisco is actually pretty awesome. I bet none of you were expecting that. It's okay, I wasn't either. When ace cop Tanner gets sent into a coma, he finds that he has the ability to leave his body and possess other drivers. He must put this ability to good use by hunting down escaped convict Jericho in the coma world, whose events parallel those of the real world. Like I said, I didn't expect this one to be any good. Color me pleasantly surprised that, not only is the game not shit, but as far as this week's open world games go, it's actually better than Dead Island. The developers knew how ridiculous their story was, and wisely channeled its insanity for some truly great sequences that I guarantee you won't see coming. It's really quite clever, in its own inane way.
That shift ability turns out to be the best thing about the game. No more driving across the city to pick up missions, no more struggling to lose the cops when you accidentally brush up against one at a stoplight, and no more waiting until the end of the game to get behind some powerful muscle. These are all very good things. Sadly, all is not perfect in the world of Driver, and oddly enough the one thing that suffers the most is the actual driving. Cars feel very prone to fishtailing, and this gives the drifting in particular a very imprecise and kind of random feel. The vehicles are a little too heavy, especially in the back, to feel arcadey, but too light and airy to feel realistic. It's a strange balance that doesn't necessarily work, but also doesn't really detract too much from the game as a whole. I ended up smashing and ramming my way through the entire game, and never had much trouble. In fact, some might argue that smashing through stuff is more fun than driving precisely, but it can still get frustrating at times, especially when the game expects you to race precisely. In times like these, I would resort to shifting into oncoming traffic and ramming my opponents until they died, leaving me to take the win. I guess it's cool that the game lets you improvise like that, but you shouldn't be forced into it by mediocre controls.
Driver San Francisco is a fun bit of fluff entertainment, but that's about all that can be said for it. Still, developer Reflections deserves some credit for taking such a madcap concept and running with it as far as it'll go.
Again, full review forthcoming
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
I usually like to beat my games before I comment on their quality, but for Disgaea 4 that is a sad impossibility. In fact, I doubt I'll ever finish the game. So far, however, it's reminding me a lot of Disgaea 3. Though the graphics still look like something a Playstation could spit out, only up-resed, the gameplay is still miles and miles deep. There are so many facets to this game, so many strategies and techniques to learn, it can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily the charming story and weirdo characters are still here to lighten the load. The Disgaea experience can come across as a bit grindy, but when battles have this much depth, it's hardly an issue. I'm still fairly early in the game, all things considered, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys Disgaea, or to anyone who likes a quirky story and a whole lot of gameplay depth.
Bloodrayne Betrayal might be the game that made me happiest on this list, even as it was certainly the one that made me the most frustrated. The old-school gameplay and punishing difficulty give tribute to a time in gaming that I'm barely old enough to have fond memories of. This is pure 2D sidescrolling action at its bloody best. The controls leave a little to be desired in terms of response time, but in general they're responsive enough to get the job done, although maybe after a few dozen deaths. Yeah, the game gets quite difficult, and yeah, there were times when it really tested my short patience. But even as rage was boiling inside me, I was soothed by the gorgeous high definition sprites, buttery smooth animations, and incredible old school faux-rock soundtrack. If you have even an ounce of oldschool gamer's blood pumping through your veins, you'll love Bloodrayne Betrayal.
Rise of Nightmares
Scratch that. Bloodrayne didn't make me happiest out of all the games on this list. Rise of Nightmares did. This game is so fucking stupid, and I'm in love with it. It's very rare for a game to hit that so-bad-it's-good mark, mostly because if the gameplay sucks, then the game is no fun. Rise of Nightmares utilizes the Kinect in an ingeniously dumb way, though, and had me grinning from ear to ear the whole way through, even when shit was clearly very broken. In this case, the dysfunctional gameplay is actually part of the appeal, as you'll be jumping and juking around like an idiot to perform even the most basic of actions. In a bizarre kind of synergy, not only is the content of the game so bad it's good, but the controls themselves reach the same level of ironic appeal. Whether it's putting up your dukes to engage in fisticuffs, swinging your arms to cut through enemies with a knife, or lashing out with your feet to kick open a door, Rise of Nightmares had me laughing along with it. Even the movement, which has you twisting your shoulders to move the camera and setting your foot forward to walk, and which is horribly, horribly broken, had me in stitches. Okay, there were a few sections where the controls crossed that delicate line and became straight-up intolerable, but these scenarios were surprisingly rare, in large part thanks to an "auto-walk" feature that's activated by raising your hand. Couple the crazy controls with a story so thick with cheese the box should have a heart health warning on its cover, and you've got B-grade gold.
Of course, this is a Kinect game, and like many Kinect games, it can be very finicky if not in the right circumstances. I spent the better part of an hour trying to get past one section that was impossible because the Kinect couldn't fully register my legs before resigning myself to finishing it later, in better play conditions. These issues aside, Rise of Nightmares manages to hit that razor thin line of so bad it's good. If you're the type of person who laughed at movies like Piranha 3D, and you don't mind some wacky controls, you'll enjoy this one thoroughly.
My full review should be up soon, but right now it's looking like a 3 star. It's an awful game, but also incredibly enjoyable for all the wrong reasons.
Crimson Alliance is a very odd entry into the dungeon crawling sub-genre. You don't really gain any levels, nor do you find a lot of loot, and there isn't even a map in the dungeons despite the fact that, as far as I'm aware, they were all hand-crafted and not randomly generated. It's a really straightforward experience, as epitomized by the fact that you do your level selecting through an overworld map screen instead of an open world styled hub, like in most of these types of games. I suppose what the game lacks in depth it makes up for in accessibility, but I don't necessarily know that anyone out there really wants a streamlined dungeon crawler like this. Co-op play can, as always, add a few hours of fun into the package, but the game itself isn't inherently entertaining. It just sort of... exists. Skip this one unless you're desperate for entertainment, and with a lineup like this, you really shouldn't be.
Star Fox 64 3D
This is Star Fox 64. It is in 3D. Here is a picture of it.
Whew, this is getting really tiring. I've got a paper to start and some studying to do, but rest assured I'll be back with the rest of the games, including The Gunstringer, White Knight Chronicles II, and much more, tomorrow. For now, I bid you goodnight and happy gaming.