Tag Archives: video games

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.

Clive Barker’s Jericho is not Clive Barker’s Undying

I have a lot of love for Clive Barker’s Undying. It oozed Clive Barker from beginning to end. It was a colorful, imaginative, and well-made first person shooter. Jericho is basically the polar opposite of Undying.

The premise of Jericho is that you play a member of a team of witches, warlocks, priests, and other occult figures sent to investigate an opening hole in the middle east. A bad guy is trying to open a breach to release The Firstborn, the thing the Christian god created before he created mankind. The team jumps back through times in which others have tried to unleash The Firstborn and so goes from modern times, to World War 2, to the crusades, to ancient Rome, to Sumeria.

So your guy dies early on, but he can possess the other members of the team, which gives the game its strongest hook. You can freely jump from team member to team member, each with unique weaponry and special abilities. The weapons all sound and perform really weakly. It takes a full magazine to kill the most basic enemies and it sounds you’re firing a rapid-fire BB gun. They all lack power. Of the special abilities, only a couple are worth using. There’s one that lets you shoot a guided sniper bullet, which will kill three enemies in one shot, and another that shoots a fire demon that automatically hits enemies and sets them on fire.

The design also suffers. No matter what time period you’re in, the game’s color palette has three colors: black, brown, and red. The enemies lack imagination in their design. Take a body, wrap it some straps, put a bag on its head, and color it brown and black. Ta da! And they all just run at you until you’ve put enough bullets in them to put them down.

The ending, like the rest of the game, is a complete disappoint. Spoiler alert, that childlike figure that has led you toward The Firstborn is The Firstborn. The Firstborn is a glowing green toddler. Like the previous bosses, it takes a little use of your special powers to beat The Firstborn, and then the game very suddenly ends. No epilogue, no resolution.

I don’t know what to say. I’ve tried really hard to like Jericho but it just doesn’t measure up to Undying. Supposedly a sequel is in the works. Hopefully it’ll fare a little better.

XUUU

I just finished XIII. It’s an old, cel-shaded first person shooter based on a Franco-Belgian comic book of the same name. It’s a spy game, more along the lines of Jason Bourne than James Bond and it was totally fucking awesome! This is a spy game done right. You plant bugs, blow stuff up, sneak around, stab people in the eye with bottles, and save the president. It has a grappling hook. If your spy game doesn’t have a grappling hook, it doesn’t count. Alpha Protocol fails on this account.

Speaking of stabbing people in the eye with bottles, improvised weapons are done fantastically well in this game. There’s a relatively limited number of items that can be used as weapons, but they’re available when they’re necessary, and usually hanging around somewhere when they’re not. It is exceptionally satisfying to throw a shard of glass into someone’s face for a stealth kill. Also used to great effect in this game, throwing knives. I guess if I had to choose one thing, XIII does stabbing people in the face the best.

My only complaints are that it’s a little short, and the cel-shading led to some interesting artifacts. The game moves along at a pretty fast pace, but the levels never feel too short or too long. The locales are varied and you spend enough time in each area to enjoy it without overstaying your welcome. The cel-shading is used very well in the game, but it resulted in some abnormally thick black lines in unusual places, like the corners of the nostrils, or around the rims of eyeglasses. The nose thing is a little distracting in in-game cutscenes, but the eyeglasses thing really sucks. Characters wearing eyeglasses look like they’re wearing some kind of sci-fi goggles. These effects, however, may be a result of eight years of hardware progress, or a variation in how my graphics card presents the game. I’ve seen screenshots of the game from other people who do not have the same weird artifacts.

I’m really glad I picked this up. I got it off of GOG for $6 and it was totally worth it.

Vidya games

I’m not really using this thing for anything and I can’t explain why. I’ve been playing a lot of games though, and no one on Facebook cares about that and Twitter isn’t exactly the platform for verbose opinions so here’s what I’ve been playing.

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30. It’s an older World War 2 FPS by Gearbox, who made Borderlands and are working on Duke Nukem Forever. I got it as part of pack of all 3 games in the series and this is the first one. I finished it this weekend and it was pretty good but it was short (just shy of 7 hours total) and a lot of my time was spent re-playing some particularly frustrating sections. In the game you’re given some limited control of up to two squads. You’re supposed to use one squad to pin down the Nazis and then flank them with the other.

The problem is that the friendly AI isn’t exactly brilliant and often stands around to be shot to pieces. I put a lot of effort early on to ensure that everyone in my squads survived until I determined that whether or not they live didn’t affect the next mission. Squad members who died in the previous mission are miraculously resurrected in the next. The only deaths that seemed to stick were scripted. But as far as World War 2 shooters go, it was pretty fun.

I immediately wanted to get started on the sequel but the games are not numbered and I ended up downloading the third game rather than the second. Once that was sorted I out I was disappointed to find that the second, Earned in Blood, is almost exactly the same as Road to Hill 30. The same type of gameplay, the same graphics, even the same characters. I’m really not in the mood to play the same game over again, so I’ve moved on.

I also played through and beat Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness – Episode 1. That’s a mouthful! Anyway, it was a fun, short RPG. The battle system has been pretty accurately compared to Chrono Trigger, except Precipice feels a lot faster, which made it appear rather difficult from the start. Once I got the timing of it down, the game got considerably easier. I got through it in just over 5 hours, and I’ve downloaded the next episode but, like Brothers in Arms, I know it’s the exact same type of game so I’m going to give it a little time.

So I decided it was time to get back into Borderlands to play through Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution. Surprise, it’s more Borderlands! But I love Borderlands, and this is more quests and new areas and enemies that have been Claptrap-ified. I just started this last night, so I’m still working on it.

Today I started Hydrophobia on XBLA. It’s a 3rd person action game that involves a lot of (surprise!) water. It not-to-recently received a huge update that changed a lot of the game since it was released, to include improved controls. I have to say, after spending a good couple hours with it, if these controls are improved, I’d hate to have seen them before. It’s totally playable but the movement feels really loose. When I’m trying to pick up small collectibles, I find myself having to slide around back and forth because I can’t get the character in the right position to pick it up. But I love a good 3rd person action game and this one is pretty interesting so I’ll stick with it.

And Dead Rising. This fucking game. Katie’s playing Dead Rising 2 and we get on private chat through xbox live while she’s playing it and all her talk about it made me put the first game back in. I haven’t touched it in three years. Tonight I was reminded why I haven’t touched in three years. This game is so goddamned frustrating. Every weapon is made out of stiff cardboard, aiming is AWFUL, and the save structure is conducive only to frustration. IT’S NOT FUN. Fuck this game.

I told myself last Friday that I was going to finish Silent Hill: Shattered Memories but I guess I got sidetracked. That’s a spooky fucking game. Jesus. I’ll get through it. Eventually.

I’ve also spent a little bit of time playing Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, Monday Night Combat, and Neverwinter Nights 2: Platinum. They’re all pretty enjoyable in their own way but I’ll come back to them later. And I played some of The Polynomial, which is ultra-bizarro but beautiful.

Video games.

Reach vs. ODST

SPOILER WARNING: The plot of ODST and some of Reach will be discussed in this post!

When ODST was released, I was totally hyped. It was a Halo game with a protagonist that did not have the gravitas or plot strings of Master Chief. No shields, no dual wield, a weaker melee, shorter jump, a darker setting, and more tactical options. The protagonist would explore the city of New Mombasa after the Covenant have wrecked it and would determine the details of his squads demise by examining the wreckage they’d left behind.

This is a premise that has promise that the game did not exactly fulfill. It is true that there’s no shields, but there’s stamina, which is like shields. No dual wield, two new weapons which were kind of useful. The silenced submachine gun wasn’t all that useful but the silenced pistol was. But the melee attack was still really lethal, and no one would ever notice if someone compared the jumping and running speeds of the Rookie and Master Chief unless they were demonstrated side by side. But to me, the most disappointing aspect of ODST was the story: everyone gets out alive! A little banged up, a little dirtier but breathing! These were humans, not super-soldiers, dropped from low orbit into a wrecked, Covenant occupied city, separated from each other, facing the same kind of enemies and odds as Master Chief and getting out of it alive.

Throughout all of the Halo series up to ODST, Master Chief fights alongside regular marines and ODST troopers whom the Covenant cut through like wet paper bags. Master Chief survives and turns the tides because he is more than human. Bungie, in ODST, had the opportunity to tell a story that can connect to regular humans through loss and struggle, and everything ends up hunky dory.

When Halo: Reach was announced, I wasn’t excited. I knew Reach was glassed by the Covenant and it was a major loss for the UNSC, but after ODST I didn’t feel confident that Bungie would make use of that dramatic of a setting to do anything but give us another Master Chief Lite story. It wasn’t until the game was released, when other people were describing it as the best Halo story yet, that I actually got interested in playing it.

Thus far, it has delivered. Reach is taking a beating and the outlook is pretty hopeless. Jorge died blowing up a Covenant cap ship, just before a whole lot more pop into orbit. Kat takes a needle in the brain out of nowhere. Characters, heroes, potential Master Chiefs are dying.

Which is how things should be. Master Chief is so important and instrumental in the survival of the human race because he’s the last of the SPARTAN-II project. He’s the last super-soldier. If the rest of Noble team were to make it off of Reach alive, the question becomes “Where the hell were they during the first 3 Halo games?” In order to maintain that Master Chief mythology, no one can get out of Reach alive except him.

I’m on mission 9 out of 10. There are four more members of Noble team left. I’m sincerely looking forward to some grade-A heroics and an ending that preserves the legend of Master Chief.

Doom 3

Unlike a lot of people, I really enjoyed Doom 3. It’s a big departure from the first two in terms of atmosphere and gameplay, but it holds its own and looks good. I’m doing what feels like my yearly replay of it, except on Veteran (hard) difficulty and I feel like the increased difficulty is really exposing some of the less obvious flaws in the game. I may not even finish this playthrough.

Half of the enemies jump out of closets. It’s one of those obvious flaws that you learn about in the first 15 minutes of the game. On medium, it’s no big deal because you take a hit, turn around, pop them, and they die. On hard, you still take that first hit, and it’s always at least 15% of your health. So you can take two paths with it; you can keep rolling and slowly bleed out from repeated monster closets, or you can quick save after every fight and reload when you find a monster closet so you can better deal with it. It sucks.

Lost souls are the fucking worst. They were an annoyance in Doom 1/2 but never a real threat. In Doom 3, they’re tiny, they hit for at least 15%, they bounce out of the way if you hit them without killing them, and when they hit, your view moves. I died in the first encounter with lost souls. LOST SOULS. Flying, screaming skulls pecked me to death.

The shotgun, which sucks at any range beyond 1 meter in front of you, is the best weapon to kill them with because it’ll almost always kill them in one hit, except you have to wait until it’s charging at you and it’s right in front of your goddamned face before you can think about pulling the trigger. The shotgun only holds 8 rounds, and it takes forever to reload so you better not miss!

And let’s talk about how much the shotgun blows. The shotgun in Doom 1/2 is one of my favorite weapons. It is versatile and possesses a good amount of stopping power. The shotgun in Doom 3 is worthless beyond 1 meter ahead of you. If you are not jamming that shotgun into the bad guy’s face before you pull the trigger, you’re going to have to shoot them twice. That said, it will kill ims, soldiers, zombies, maggots, and those dumb teleporting things  in one shot, so what I’ve found myself doing is dancing around while they shoot at me, and then charging at them before I blast them in the face, then running backwards in case that first shot didn’t do the trick. It’s a huge letdown. It’s horrible. Thankfully the plasma rifle is even more awesome than it was in Doom 1/2.

Even playing on hard, Doom 3 is no more difficult. It is just more annoying. Playing it feels like work. I will probably abort this playthrough, and remind myself next time to play it on medium again, when the game is more fun.