What am I doing?

I haven’t updated for a while, right? I must not be playing any games, or I got lazy already and quit posting! No, I’m definitely playing games, but I’m trying to complete the Mass Effect trilogy and I’m not posting about games I’ve already beaten, so Mass Effect 1 and 2 don’t count. I finished Mass Effect 1 last weekend, and I’m halfway through 2. Mass Effect 3 will count, I haven’t played it yet. I’ve also never played the Mass Effect 2 DLC, but DLC doesn’t count.

I’m also trying out a couple games in the interim. Stealth Bastard Deluxe is a fun, stealthy platformer. It’s mostly a puzzle game. I got Miasmata because it got a lot of positive word of mouth. I’m a couple hours into and I’m fairly bad at it. I mean, I get the navigation principles, I just haven’t gotten used to the spotting landmarks. I backed Strike Suit Zero on Kickstarter, and it was released last week! I’m two missions in and it is remarkably a lot like Colony Wars. I haven’t gotten to the part where I get the sweet mech suit yet though.

#5 – Killzone 2 (PS3)

Rolling straight from Killzone HD to Killzone 2 really highlights how the game improved between iterations. The original Killzone had very little soundtrack, if any, while Killzone 2 has one of those high budget orchestral soundtracks. Colors in Killzone were muted while the sequel threw oranges and blues all over the place. Even today, the game looks pretty fantastic. It’s a first-person game with a cover system, but the cover system isn’t as sticky as most. You hold down L2, and if you’re near something, you’ll duck behind it. It doesn’t always work out, but you can just let go of the trigger and find cover somewhere else. Friendly AI is pretty dumb, but at least they keep their deaths to a minimum. The story is minimal, but you’re part of an invasion force sent to take control of a planet full of space nazis. It doesn’t get far, but things go to hell very nicely. One minute you feel like you’re actually winning, and then everything crashes down around you. It does a decent job of making you feel like you’re the bad guy.

Four out of five space fascists.

#4 – Killzone HD (PSN)

I got Killzone HD as part of the larger Killzone Trilogy bundle, but I’ve owned the original Killzone for quite a while. I never finished it on PS2 because I got stuck on a particularly difficult level, and the game wasn’t all that interesting enough to justify wasting a lot of time on it. But now that I have Killzone 2 and 3, I kind of wanted to go back and get through the first game. So what’s HD about Killzone HD? The resolution is higher, and the texturing on the character models is a bit more detailed, but that’s about it. The FMV between levels is particularly low resolution and full of artifacts from being highly compressed. It’s a competent if boring FPS.

Three out of five Rico’s

#3 – Unmechanical (PC)

I wasn’t expecting to finish Unmechanical tonight, but it was very, very short. Just over two hours short. The game is rather fun though. You play as a little robot with a helicopter on his head and a tractor beam. You carry stuff around and solve some physics-y puzzles. The game is beautiful, and the puzzles are mostly easy. I really enjoyed the game, so I wish it were twice as long.

Three out of five flying robot janitors

#2 – Orcs Must Die! 2 (PC)

OMD2 is a third person tower defense. You can play it solo or coop, with coop being the big new feature in OMD2. I didn’t play the first Orcs Must Die! but I got OMD2 so Katie and I could have a new coop game to play. It’s pretty enjoyable! It looks good and it has a fair amount of difficulty. It’s fun to try to figure out how to best combine traps for maximum orc destruction. This game does a great job of handling large amounts of enemies on screen at the same time. Whole hordes of orcs flood into the levels and blasting them while they clog up your traps is very satisfying.

Four out of five dwarven rocket launchers.

#1 – Papo & Yo (PSN)

This one probably shouldn’t count because I was in the process of playing it before New Year’s but oh well. The story and background behind the game may actually be more interesting than the game itself. The game is a third person platformer. You play as a kid, Quico, and you have to navigate through a world and solve puzzles while managing an enormous monster. The game is a metaphor for how a kid copes with his alcoholic, abusive father. The game world and music are beautiful, but the platforming a little sloppy, and the framerate outright sucks sometimes when the monster is raging. It’s a little on the short side, but considering the framerate problems and loose platforming, that’s probably a good thing.

Three stars out of five.

My 2013 resolution.

Time to make commitments I can’t hold up! So here’s the plan, I’m going to log every game I finish! This could be a challenge as I’ll be graduating and starting a new job and moving this year, among other obstacles to spending all of my free time playing video games. Here are my personal rules:

1. Log every game finished.
2. Every game I finish after January 1st counts, even games that I’m halfway done with because it still requires me to pick it back up.
3. Halo 4 doesn’t count. I’m very close to finishing it now. It wouldn’t be fair.

Mopping up.

I’ve got entirely too many games in my Steam account that I haven’t finished, so I’ve dedicated the last couple weeks to cleaning them up by wrapping up a few that I’d started. Trying to clean up the easy ones means linear shooters, so here’s what I think of a few of them!

Homefront could have been called Call of Duty: Red Dawn, except instead of Soviets, it’s the Koreans (primarily North Koreans) that are invading. The game goes to some lengths to try to make you hate the Koreans, typically in the same manner used in Red Dawn. Americans have been round up and put in camps! They’re executing us in groups! Mass graves! But this is the game that sank Kaos Studios, because the guns all feel the same, and the single-player game is so short. Four hours short. And I guess the multiplayer community died quick, but I don’t particularly care about that. It’s okay. C+

Transformers: War for Cybertron is a good Transformers game. Wrap your brain around that. High Moon Studios clearly cares about the franchise, and went to some lengths to include a large number of popular Transformers, as well as lesser known ones. This game is not related to the Michael Bay movies. Even if the action is a little repetitive, it’s a bold move to make a three-player coop, no cover system, third person shooter nowadays. The voice acting is fantastic, and the last couple missions are really awesome. If you like Tranformers, It’s a solid A. For everyone else, it’s a decent action game.

A lot of people hate Brink. I guess they never played Quake Wars and were expecting a multiplayer Mirror’s Edge. I, however, loved Quake Wars, so I guess I was a little surprised at the smaller focus of Brink more than anything. The movement system, which looks cooler than is actually useful, doesn’t make up for the lack of vehicles and sprawling outdoor maps, but the persistent stats help. I played the whole game solo, despite that not being the game’s strength, and there were a couple of missions where I got exceptionally frustrated at the lack of AI support. At times, it felt like the enemy team had more players, or at least better focus. Regardless, it looks good and plays pretty well (considering the complexity), even if Splash Damage can’t live up to their previous games. C

If I had noticed that Inversion was developed by Saber Interactive, the same team that TimeShift, I probably would have passed on it. When I bought it, I think I might have confused it for Hybrid, which is another cover-based third-person shooter but it’s made by 5th Cell, who made Scribblenauts. I like Scribblenauts. I think TimeShift was a big letdown. Inversion is also a letdown! Here’s Inversion: take Gears of War (literally all of it, the bad guys coming out of the ground, the cover system, the two weapon and grenades limit, the “find my ” story, buddy of Hispanic descent, everything), and add in some goofy gravity tricks. You’ve got a gun that can lower gravity and raise gravity in small areas. You pass through some zero gravity areas by moving from one chunk of environment to another. Your gravity gun can also pick up and throw stuff, like cars, which only becomes useful when you’re forced to do it to defeat a boss. The story is just as quickly vomited out at the end as it is in Gears of War. This game is Gears of War, except not as good-looking, and not as fun. D+

I still have a pile of games, even good games like Skyrim, and Darksiders 2, and Saint’s Row: The Third, but Borderlands 2 is out soon.

Binary Domain

All of the descriptions of this being a Japanese Gears of War are completely accurate. It’s a third-person cover-based shooter, with a quirk in that you can influence how much your team likes you by speaking to them using your headset. You get prompted with yes/no questions pretty often, and they like/dislike you depending on your performance in combat. Shoot a bunch of robots, they think you’re great! Shoot them, and they complain. Something I didn’t necessarily realize is that the social system affects your ending!

The game looks great. It’s super-smooth, with only a bit of slowdown when I’d have like 10 robots exploding at the same time, and that was really rare. There are a ton of boss fights, but none of them are frustrating as they all subscribe to the “shoot the blinking parts” philosophy. The controls work great with mouse and keyboard. The voice acting isn’t perfect, but your team is composed of soldiers from different nations. Some of the accents are bad, and some are passable, but what thrilled me is that the Japanese police, who would have no business casually speaking English to each other, actually speak Japanese with subtitles! That tiny attention to detail means a lot to me. When Return to Castle Wolfenstein came out and all the Germans spoke English with German accents, I was totally disappointed.

The story is well written. It’s a nice sci-fi, what makes a man yarn. It has a pretty lighthearted tack to it, without being completely cartoonish. It’s more like a good action movie that occasionally asks serious questions. It sets up a sequel, which I’m looking forward to, but I don’t think we’ll see. I don’t think Binary Domain sold all that well, and it’s a serious departure for its creator who previously made all the Yakuza games. I never played any of them, but they have a rather dedicated following.

Next time Binary Domain goes on sale somewhere (I got it from Amazon, Steam-redeemable), you should get it. Don’t be completely turned off by the B grade cover art. It definitely exceeded my expectations.

Ne Cede Malis