Monday, 15 February 2010

3 months later... Hello!

Its all been fairly quiet since November and with work and my personal (gaming) life taking up most of my time, I've not really had the motivation to put hand to keyboard in Open Office. Still, 3 months later here I am ready to share my opinions once again. Prepare to not care.

2009 – A Review
I've been trying to write an intro piece for this section, the “Best of '09” however everything seems to generic and forced. Therefore I have taken the decision to jump right in. Instead of your usual categorised (and generally rigged) awards I'm just going to summarise a few of the games I played in 2009 and why I feel they are worthy of some playtime.

Starting chronologically
Mirror's Edge
I completed this game in one sitting for two reasons:
The first, because this game is incredibly short. My first play-through took me around 5 and a half hours. Don't get me wrong, there is a fair bit to do but in a game where the player character is constantly running, you're going to get things done fairly quickly.
The second reason? Its bags of fun. I remember renting this as I was unsure of whether it was worth the price tag of £39.99. Given its length I'd have to say no, however when I picked it up 3 months after release for the sum of £10 I felt like I'd committed daylight robbery. The story is fairly decent (if not predictable) with the bland looking back drop brought to life through the simple use of colours. Add that to an extremely smooth game-play experience with well mapped controls and you have a game that seriously should have been given more praise than it was.

Killzone 2
The Playstation 3's Halo killer. I quite enjoy how Sony are still trying to murder a near 10 year old game... Still, this is the closest they've come.
Akin to an action film, explosions and death are just a part of the Killzone 2 roller-coaster. You're not going to find an epic story, character depth or emotional scenes worthy of Hollywood blockbusters but you will have fun. Yes the controls are weighty but once you get used to them you'll wonder why you ever complained (and I have to wonder why as Bad Company 2 doesn't seem to be getting a rap for it). Its also visually one of the best games the Playstation 3 has to offer and packs one of the few multi-player modes I've bothered trying out on the PS3. Its an almost complete package and although repetitive at times, does just enough to keep you going.

Demon's Souls
This is what games should be. Described as impossible by some, I'd choose to call Demon's Souls “Unforgiving” in that although everything is painfully hard, there is always a way forward. I spent the better part of 2 days trying to get past the first 2 levels, it recently took me 2 days to complete Bioshock 2.
Yes the learning curve is steep, yes the enemies are powerful but so are you. This game combines some of the best things about RPG games (stats, weapons, armour, magic) and brings them all together in a way that actually effects your play style. Being a jack of all trades ala Final Fantasy will not help you win easily whereas a more methodical approach to character building will reap rewards in the long term. Try this game, even if its just for 2 days.

Uncharted 2: Among Theives
My game of the year and the only game I've ever purchased at midnight. Taking features from great games such as Tomb Raider and Gears of War is one thing, but to combine them so well with cinematic influences from the Indiana Jones series makes this game stand out amongst the crowd. Yes its an obvious comparison but its all there and it doesn't try to hide it, instead it uses the general themes of treasure, girls, guns and betrayal to its advantage; building on the first game whilst making every new feature its own.
The multi-player's quite good too...

Left4Dead 2
Not an add-on, not an expansion but a bloody worthy sequel. I enjoyed Left4Dead, clocking up around 50-60 hours of overall playtime. Since release I've clocked up nearly 80 hours on this game and with the large variety in campaigns, new weapons and interesting game modes its not hard to see why.
Scavenge is probably my favourite addition, akin to versus mode in its team vs team approach the games are shorter and rage quits generally don't destroy any semblance of fun. It requires a great sense of teamwork in a shorter time and can inspire some hilarious moments. Jockey'ing people off roofs has never been so much fun.
One improvement? A ratings system so rage quitters can be punished for their sins.

Honourable mentions: Resident Evil 5, inFamous, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Demigod, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.

So rounds up my review. No doubt I'll get flamed for a) Only owning a pc and PS3 and b) For not buying Modern Warfare 2, though from my previous posts I'd say its fairly clear why I didn't...

As for the next post, hopefully it will appear sometime before April. Maybe I'll be venting about the colossal disappointment that was Bioshock 2 (for me at least anyway). Until next time.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Oh look, a Bandwagon, .. 3 .. 2 .. 1 .. Jump!

The Modern Warfare 2 Review

by Robinson09

plus a quick take

So here it is, the most highly anticipated game of all time. Causing controversy that makes GTA look like a sequel to viva pinata, and selling a truly astronomical amount of copies (1.23m units in its first day in the UK), this game has really taken the world by storm.

I have a unique angle to the game, in that I am one of the very few who never actually played the first. Admittedly, I had a quick bang at the multiplayer at a mates and also owned World at War on the PC, but i had yet to experience that much loved single player campaign so praised from COD 4.

The first comment I'd like to make was the price. One of the first (of a few) reasons this game became newsworthy fodder was the fact that its producer, Activision, had decided to market the game at a £54.99 price point, about a £15 mark up on most game releases. This raised the eyebrows of many, seeing Activision really milking the franchise for all its worth. In my opinion retailers were never going to sell at that price point, with most settling on a £44.99 position. Much was my surprise then when I can pick up this game (again, the most highly anticipated game of all time) for a measly £26 on launch day. In fact, due to some cheeky sainsburys staff discount cards being thrown around, my copy was £22.10! It was a truly incredible price drop, like I'd never seen before for video-games. I mean, if they'd dropped the price to just £35, a fair few people would have be delighted, but to take a full £30 from the RRP on release day is just crazy.

But anyway onto the game. I was as excited as this kid as the game loaded up, having heard so much about the original, and knew I was in for a treat as the introduction movie ran, with voice acting and a musical score worthy of a Hollywood movie. And then I'm thrown into the Afghan warzone, apparently teaching the local Afghans some soldier skills. The graphics are glorious, I just couldn't stop looking around and taking it all in. I move through the small 'training' section that signals what your difficulty should be (I chose hardened - more on that later) before suddenly (albeit predictably) all hell breaks loose. Within minutes I'm in the back of a military Jeep, shooting the crap out of pretty much anything as we flew down a street (think black hawk down); the game moves so fast at points, your literally getting shot at from all directions and it really does feel intense.

As I mentioned earlier, I chose the 'hardened' difficultly level. Many COD players will be familiar with the system, and the kudos that come from completing on veteran (a feat I dare not attempt), but even on hardened, this game is hard. You will die, and you will most likely die alot. Often, you won't even know where the shot came from before you're down on the floor, blood pouring down the screen. However, whilst in most games relentless death frustrates me, it seems different in MW2. When you die, there's a short blood screen and then a fast load straight back to the previous checkpoint. This is seamless and quick, and with generally well placed checkpoints, you never really have to redo too much.

The difficulty is also where my first gripe comes however. There seems to be a slight lack of balance between the levels. For example, I was breezing fairly swiftly through the first few levels, with a regular amount of failure, but then hit the 'favela' level, which really seemed to turn it up notch. I died so many times I lost count, and frustration really started to kick in. For a Brazilian shanty town, there seemed to be an almost ridiculous amount of resistance, akin to some kind of crappy tramps military base.

Anyway back to the positives. Almost every level comes with a breath-taking set piece with many showing real innovation from the designers. They really are totally awesome and really show how the game is a step up from your regular run and gun FPS. The levels are also well designed and varied, with locations including Afghanistan, an oil rig, suburban America, a snowy place and an airport.

Now would be a good time to talk about one of the other reasons this game has been so controversial. The third level of the game has the player actively taking part in a terrorist attack, with the four perpetrators (including the player) committing mass murder. There is truly a sense of horror during this scene and it is perhaps unjustified. Although you are warned multiple times about the intensity of this scene, it still just doesn't seem right in a video-game. 

All in all then, a solid FPS. I didn't really dabble with the online side of things though and I get the impression that's really where the party's at.

Alien's quick take:

I've played enough FPS games over the years to know when one comes along and does something differently and Infinity Ward's MW2 clearly doesn't do much new. It's essentially the same old game. This is CoD in every respect and I don't think I need to add much to what Robinson has said about this title. All I will say is that I simply loved the MP for the first few months. It then just got stale somehow. Unlike CoD 4, it wasn't a new experience and therefore the thrill didn't stick for as long as it did in 2007.

If I'm honest, I'd be lying if I said MW2 let me down though. It delivered the MW fix and that's really all we wanted isn't it? The MP is still up their with the best of them too. World at War was a non starter online for me due to the poorly designed maps and vehicles. If I want those I'll hit Battlefield

The main thing to discuss about MW2 MP is the plethora of new kill streak rewards. It's basically air-strike city. Call in the Pave Low buddy! I wasn't happy to see the spamming initially and felt the raw arcade skill of CoD 4 had been reduced to harrier whoring. It does grow on you though (although I still think the chopper gunner is a joke). Due to the map design and carefully designed anti-air perks, things aren't as chaotic as I feared at first. The reality is CoD 4 will probably seem lacking in this department now with its measly three pre-set support options.

Single player isn't the reason I play CoD. Not since CoD 2 have I cared. When I played CoD 4 back in '07 and realised its SP greatness I was shocked. I loved it like we all did. However, I wasn't expecting this again with MW2 and didn't receive it. It's workable and I kinda liked the whole "betrayed by the man" dynamic. I'll accept it was about as original as your average Seagal movie though. It's also just pretty short.  

I want to discuss this game more in a pending post I am putting together on the latest grim pattern that seems to be developing in the gaming industry. I think for now I'll just keep it at that. All in all though, MW2 certainly gets a thumbs up from me.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Still alive!

It's been a good while since anything new hit the blog. If you've been standing by, in hope for some great new post, then I apologise. I guess we've all been too bust binging on MW2. However, fear not! I intend to roll a few new posts out in the next few weeks covering some of the most pressing gaming developments.