Nov 21, 2009

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Awesome!!  This game was so damn much fun! I remember the demo and being kind of unimpressed, it seemed shallow. That’s true, and it isn’t. The much self-lauded physics engines are okay, they are cool, certainly if you are going to be force’ing things around, they ought to move interestingly, but it’s not like it changed my life. The combat is deeper than I thought, there’s enough saber combos and combinations of force powers that actually give you a wide variety of things to do. Any significant enemy or boss ends with a quicktime event, which are pretty awesome. QTEs are always a pain cuz you are focusing on your stupid buttons instead of the cool action, but it’s still pretty damn cool. The graphics all around are pretty great. It helps that it’s a fundamentally cgi almost cartoony world, but it all looks really good. The character models are also great, though the facial animations leave something to be desired.  Especially on the monkey main character, the girlfriend with enough plastic surgery to look like that cat lady, and the mutated clone of jimmy smitz. Eyes tend to have a glassy clearly separate look to them as well. But besides that the game looks great. The environments are beautiful star wars imaginings. Everything looks good and right. The game is kind of buggy, mostly forgivable (in that we somehow accept a buggy game these days). Just dumb things like stuck on invisible walls, stupid save policy, and one hilarious moment where I pushed a boss through the ground to her death (I got the points). But each boss ends with a QTE, not death, so the game was stuck and I had to reload. Kind of annoying, but honestly only a handful of annoyances in a great game is okay. The highlight might be the story. It fills in a gap between the 3rd and 4th movies better than the 3rd movie filled in the gap between the 2nd and 4th! The corruption and redemption of a character is more believable here than in any of the 3 prequels. It was really enjoyable from top to bottom, the progression of powers is good, the fights are generally challenging but not frustrating. There was one fight where you had to fight like 4 of these ironman dudes that are really meant to be fought 1 on 1, but that was the only one I had to retry 80 times to win. I’d almost consider playing this game again on a harder difficulty or to collect more stuff, as I don’t have any other PS3 games to play. But then I realize I have 3 or 4 unplayed PC games sitting here. Plus replaying for collectables or achievements is freakin’ boring. Maybe if i was 14, not now. Anyway, off track! The point is, great game. Just the gameplay isn’t a new era of gaming, but it’s very fun. Add in the very good story, and you have a winner. Had much more fun than in 75% of MGS4! There is DLC, and believe it or not I considered it. But $10 bucks for a single effing chapter is pretty much the dumbest thing I ever heard. The game is going for $30 at retail now, why the hell would you charge another $20 in missions and $15 in character packs? Idiots. But let’s pretend I never logged onto PSN, and say great game.

Call of Juarez – Whooopsie! When I bought this for $2 on gogamer I thought it was the new one. Turns out there was an old CoJ from a couple years ago. Oh well, play it anyway. It’s an okay game. It brings some somewhat interesting (I guess) game play mechanics in, though they aren’t really that interesting, but at least they were trying. There’s some slow motion bow&arrow and gun aiming. There’s a quick draw high noon sort of mechanic that isn’t that much fun. It’s neat how the story alternates between characters, especially since they are at odds with each other to begin with. The story itself is fine, not bad. The voice acting is surprisingly decent for what is otherwise kind of a low production values game. I think maybe that’s why I feel meh about it, it just doesn’t feel that exciting. Everything is done fine, but not great. And since the gameplay is interesting in theory but not necessarily all that fun, you have to have more in the production department to keep me going. It’s a relatively short game, so I did push all the way through. But if it was twice as long I wouldn’t have made it, I imagine.

Prince of Persia – The newest of the PoP revival, though still a couple years old. But hey, I’m always behind the times on games. Playing this one on PC (another cheapo gogamer purchase). Sadly, that fact presented many of the issues. The first was controls. Playing this on keyboard and mouse is an absolute nightmare. There are four basic attacks (kind of like the four face buttons on a controller?), plus a block and movement. Trying to map all four attacks and a block to my mouse, though it does have the requisite number of buttons, is horribly janky. On top of that, my mouse only registered 1/5 of the “forward/back page” button clicks, making the “press the button repeatedly” moments literally impossible. Fortunately, the day was saved when I borrowed a 360 controller from JIHoR and that worked wonderfully. The game is quite fun to play with a reasonable control scheme. As the PoP games are known for, the fluidity of the motions is pretty good. Jumping from this to that and flipping and sliding works pretty well. Next comes the other big PC fault – my computer wasn’t totally up to task. In any sufficiently complicated scene or battle, the framerate slowed down pretty pathetically. This is presumably not a problem on a console and would have made the game more fun. It’s frustrating to lose because the game didn’t keep up with your button presses, or even worse, you get used to pressing multiple times so that it does, but then it registers multiple presses and you jump into oblivion for no good god damn reason. But getting past that, the game is pretty fun. It is not nearly Sands of Time. SoT was revolutionary, the entire time mechanic was so mind blowing, and so much more fun to use and to save yourself with. This game doesn’t have that, all it has is a chick who follows you and helps you jump around. And if you fall, slip, get stabbed, or swallow a grenade, she casts a spell and you’re back, presto. That is fine, certainly makes getting through the game a lot easier, but it’s not anything like the fun of playing with time. The platforming is still fun, though, the best part of the game. The fight mechanic isn’t great. There’s combos that are kind of neat, blocking that’s a little finicky, and most annoyingly there are repeated quick time events. Not really fancy QTEs, just things that you have to press the button fast to dodge or counter an attack. Trouble is it’s a big pain in the ass, especially with a bad framerate fucking up your response time. So the combat kind of sucks, but it’s tolerable. The art style is basically cell shaded, with a little more style. I don’t really like cell shaded most of the time. I guess it kind of works here in a storybook tale sort of way. But hey, if it was real graphics, my computer would have slipped a disk, so i should be happy I guess. The story is very simple for the most part, the voice acting is good. The script is mostly good, some of the humor is forced and falls flat, but the prince is mostly charming. The ending is pretty fantastic, as far as I’m concerned, with only a slight negativity due to natural expectation of a gamer these days that you can always choose between good and evil. But there’s no choice here, and the end is very effective. Over all, good game.

Vakyria Chronicles – Pretty great game! I played the demo forever ago, but not during a time I had gamefly, so I never got the real thing. Luckily JIHoR had it in, so I borrowed it! It’s a turned based, RPGish war game, set in sort of a fake WW II time. It’s pretty japanesey in visual style, but in an odd mix with european influence. The gameplay is the star of the show. It’s not really like anything else I can think of. It’s kind of a first person RPG combined with final fantasy tactics or something. You have different units (although I think there should have been more) with different specialties. You run around, shoot bad guys, save the world, etc. It sounds simple, and it kind of is. There’s not so much strategy to it. Mostly you sneak up behind with these guys, run at them with these guys, and in general: just use the tank. The story is…. kind of crappy. There are some sweet spots, a clumsy discussion of race, and an awkward importance placed on community over technological superiority, which is very japanesey too, and kind of silly. It’s funny, we had this discussion – why does the VC mindless babble seem more tolerable than the MGS4 babble? The conclusion was that in an action game you expect action and badassery. And in a jrpg you expect miles of text. Well, that’s what you get, but it doesn’t really make sense to me, babble is babble, and if I have to “sit through it” instead of enjoy it, you made a game with a shitty plot. But I’m being overly harsh, it’s not intolerable, and you can of course skip it if you don’t have my disease. And certainly in this case the gameplay is original and fun enough to justify it (where as MGS4 was pretty derivative of itself). So, really good game, not underrated, but underplayed.

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