Thursday, January 26, 2012

Its-a Comin'!

Alrighty then.  So, I've gotten off of my tuchas and started the Mass Effect review.  No word of a lie.  It is in progress.  I swear.  Next up will be another review coming...not sure if I'll give the treatment to Metal Gear Solid 4, Hunter The Recking: Wayward or if it will be something else entirely.  Maybe I'll do Darkstar One?  We'll see. 

Then after that I will - I promise - get onto finishing No More Heroes so that I can review it.

I swear on Buster's ashes.

Gem Number Next

So I finally had time to sit down with Bladestorm: The Hundred Years war.  I've had it since just after Christmas, but I haven't had the time due mostly in part to a) getting accustomed to my new job and b) buying it in the middle of Darkstar One (which I highly recommend, by the way). 

Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War is an original IP in a similar vein as Dynasty Warriors.  However, the similarities end at embellished history and melee combat.  You play the role of a mercenary who participates in real and fictional battles during the Hundred Years War (which, if I remember right, was 113 or 114 years long).  You'll meet real and fictional characters including The Black Prince (Prince Edward of England - not to be confused with Edward II, the son of Edward I, aka Longshanks) and St. Joan of Arc while kicking ass in the name of whatever currency is in fashion at the time. 

Combat is very different in that you control ranged, melee and cavalry support units.  However, you need to unlock different books which you'll find in battle or purchase to use these units.  Further, units are upgradable.  Or you can choose to go it alone, although that isn't recommended.  Hell, you'll get beaten like a baby fur seal in the off-season.

Each unit and equipment type also has special attacks associated with them, so it's worthwhile exploring the different units.  Plus, there's a balancing act between different equipment types and different units, and some of the unit special skills actually mitigate some of these deficiencies.

As far as I can tell, the game is a match of capturing control points, but there are "special requests" that you can complete.  These are usually a matter of beating certain officers or a fetch job of some sort.

So far, I'm finding the difficulty is starting to curve upwards somewhat steeply, so there's either something I'm missing or I'm rushing a little too hard.   Either way, the game is a lot deeper than the "professionals" laid it out to be.

I've also started to play through some of my PS2 games.  I finished Hunter The Reckoning Wayward.  So far, best game structure of the series, but the graphics and controls are utter garbage compared to the XBox games.  This seems more to do with the deficiencies of the PS2 controller, but it could also be that the devs dicked the controls to push the game out sooner.  That is a possibility. 

I've also played the PS2 port of No One Lives Forever.  So far, it's alright.  The dialogue is right out of Black Adder and Monty Python, though, so it adds a great touch of British Humour.

In truth, I've played a little bit of all of my PS2 games; Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII, NOLF, Taito Legends 2, Killzone, and HTR: Wayward.  Final Fantasy X, from what I've played, is same crap different day - cool cutscenes, humdrum combat reminiscent of the extremely overrated Final Fantasy VII.  Final Fantasy XII, however...that's looking to show some huge promise.  Taito Legends 2 is an awesome compilation with a terrible menu interface that's about as user-friendly as a beartrap closed on your ankle and Killzone really is pretty mediocre.  I can't believe Sony had the chutzpa to sell that dreck as a Halo-killer, especially since Halo was no longer the shooter to beat by that time.  Halo 2 was, and it's hardly a game that requires much talent to beat, at least insofar as the singleplayer campaign was concerned.

Next up, I want to find the PS2 port of Deus Ex as I hear that it's quite competent.

After Bladestorm, I'm probably going to get to work on my PS3 backlog.  I need to finish Little Big Planet and Resistance 1 and 2.  After that, I'll take on Killzone.  I know Killzone 2 is good; the first 5 minutes of that were infinitely better than the first 5 minutes of Killzone 1, and I'm not just referring to the visuals and horrid audio, but if one can, it's better to tackle a series in proper order.  Couldn't be helped with Hunter: The Reckoning.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Yeah. Right. About that.

Right, I just more or less ripped the design of Metal Gear Solid 4 a new one and haven't reviewed Mass Effect yet.

Okay, here's why:  The rippage of MGS4 was a blitzkrieg on crappy story telling (and seemingly unfocused).  This is because I can't give the game a fair review due to my biases against the style of storytelling...and the unnecessary amount of it.  I do not care for soap operas.  No, this is not a disclaimer; I may write an actual review of MGS 4.  You can like it or not.  But I think it's about time I lay my biases bare, because I will call out stupid components/mechanics of games when I see them.

And, just so you all know, I was finally able to grab a PS2 with FF X and XII.  Not expecting to necessarily enjoy X a lot, but XII looks extremely promising (and is the first FF I've been looking forward to since VII...and that was quite a disappointment to me).  I alos got Hunter The Reckoning: Wayward, so the trilogy is now complete.  Plus a few other goodies, including NOLF.  Don't know how the gameplay will turn out, but the dialogue's right out of Black Adder and Fawlty Towers, so at least the humour looks promising.

Being that I'm finding a little more time to do things in, I will hopefully have the ME review up in the coming weeks.  Need to beat the game again...I've kind of forgotten most of it other than that the series rips off Alistair Reynolds' Revelation Space series (although the two sidestories have so far been better than the main trilogy).

Anyway, keep safe and see you all soon.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Under My Belt

Okay, now before I start, let me say this:  MGS fanatics, walk away.  Now.  What I have to say will make you very upset. 

I have played several of the Metal Gear games from the NES up until today.  Beaten most of the ones that I've played except for the original MGS.  It isn't that I don't care for the graphics so much as the gameplay is a little too overly convoluted and, like every game in the MGS series, far too much value on story.  And Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is no different.

Visually, it's stunning in many details, although I notice frequent framerate drops, and many of the stealth actions of the previous games are...dumbed down.  Not to mention that the whole sneak-through-a-base thing is more or less paid lip service and the key-anditem-hunting game that actually helped make the series enjoyable is gone (mind you, I haven't played Snake Eater yet), and instead feels more like a fratboy actioner with firepower on demand.

However, the game is a lot of fun, when you're playing it.  When you're not playing it, it's because you're watching a 20-30 minute cutscene depicting cool stuff that you aren't actually doing (well...for the mostpart...won't spoil the one cool thing you do actually get to do).  Many of the boss fights are by the numbers - mostly because it's little different than any other MGS game. 

Now, luckily, you can skip the cutscenes, but then you don't know what the hell is going on.  And if you don't have time to screw around, you miss the whole point of Kojima's alleged masterpiece (and yet I've read Tom Clancy books more complex).

The shooting is rock solid, although I found the stealth left much to be desired.  While the weapons on demand was a pretty cool feature, it felt unnecessary, especially when a lot of the guns essentially did the same thing and it was more or less a matter of picking your favourite model. 

I think that the idea of aging Snake was pointless.  I realise that it is supposed to add another dimension of depth, but it really didn't.  The stamina bar and how it was used, however, did.  It certainly helped increase the tension in a boss fight or two.

As far as level design goes, all of the stereotypical locales are there, plus a nod to past games.  This really did not impress me, although it may be because I've read and experienced too many modern-day techno-thrillers.  However, desert, jungle, kinda sounds like a Ghost Recon game.

In short, as a storytelling vehicle, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a great fan service, but a slap in the face to the average gamer.  It is artificially lengthened by way of semi-interactive cutscenes that rarely progress the story so much as try to make characters look cool and throw in what seem to be contrived emotional bonds (e.g. token romance side-storylines).  This adds a level of superficiality that really denegrates the game as a game.  I realise some people might view it as art...but if it is, it's little more than David with a dress and cockring.  As offensive as that sounds, the whole point is that it's dressed up for the sake of dressing it up; underneath, it's still the Statue of David, and it doesn't need those things - especially when they're gaudy and unnecessary.  i.e., the game underneath is excellent, you just have to remove the fluffy excrement piled on top by a misguided director.  At least he was kind enough to give you the tools to get around them.

So, I sincerely hope that the next Metal Gear game incorporates story that you can read instead of needing to extrapolate it from deliberately paced cutscenes.  It needs to be told more efficiently, or at the least, the resources need to be on hand in an efficient manner in the game.  Because if I play MGS4 again, I'll be skipping those cutscenes; they're just too long for people with lives.