Blog Archives

Completed Games – Mass Effect 2

DeveloperBioware

PublisherElectronic Arts

Release Date – 26 January 2010

I finished Mass Effect 2 earlier this year but for some reason never took the time to do a write up. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a great game, I didn’t like the direction the series has gone but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good game. While I would’ve liked if Bioware kept the RPG aspect intact instead of toning down the amount of weapons and items, the story & conversation systems is still something no other game does just as well.

I do like how Bioware try to forward the RPG genre by increasingly meshing it with a third person shooter, it makes sense to make it all seamless. The real strength of the game to me was the interesting characters which now you have a whole new crew you recruit and take side missions from. The conversations are as important to the experience as the game play and aren’t static since you have the option to make moral choices and choose the tone of direction. Action is fun enough with the variety of powers you have at your disposal but there is still something missing that doesn’t make it as fun as other shooters, maybe the shooting mechanic is just not refined enough than games that solely focus on this.

Bioware are making the best modern day RPG’s right now and with Mass Effect 3 coming up  early next year it’s a good time to play and finish ME2 if you haven’t already done so.

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Why I Bought Deus Ex: Human Revolution on Release Day

I rarely buy games the day they are released, in fact I don’t think I’ve bought a game made in 2011 this year (only Portal 2 had me tempted but I haven’t gotten around to buying it yet). But Deus Ex hooked me and after playing it for a couple hours it was well worth it.

In the many times the game was previewed in the past couple years, I was interested mainly due to the near future (2027) cyber punk setting but I didn’t think I would be compelled to pick it up immediately. There were mixed previews of the game, probably down to critics ready to pounce on any minor flaws due to the universal acclaim of the original, but any sort of open world games are hard to preview (which is why Rockstar is so selective with preview coverage of their games). It wasn’t until the critical praise of the game by critics a few days before release that I started to get excited.

What makes this games so great? The combination of a whole bunch of game genres (FPS, RPG, action, adventure, open world) but the main selling point for me was that it is very much a stealth game which rewards you for being creative and patient in the way you tackle the missions. You have freedom in the way you want to play and the levels are designed so well that you can do this without any compromise. It is a stealth game that doesn’t just filter you arbitrarily from room to room, you have an objective and you can approach it anyway you want.

The last game that tried to do something similar was The Darkness but it was no where near as polished or ambitious. Other stealth games like MGS4 and Splinter Cell Conviction where just expected upgrades of a very familiar game play ideas (I still love these games but Deus Ex actually evolves the genre). I’m still fairly early in the game (I haven’t got to any of the much maligned boss battles yet) but look forward to multiple post breaking down different aspects of the game in the coming weeks as I slowly play through it.

Completed Games – Bioshock 2

Developer – 2K Marin/Australia and Digital Extremes

Publisher – 2K Games

Release Date – February 9 2010

The first Bioshock was one of those classics that help defined the current generation of games. The fascinating story and design of the game made it unique and its open ended FPS gameplay got a lot of people interested. The original developers of Bioshock (Irrational Games) instead of making a direct sequel are now making the highly anticipated Bioshock Infinite which garnered plenty of positive buzz at this year’s E3. So instead 2K Games decided to get the project done with the help of a couple of different game studios. 2K Marin was the lead with help from 2K Australia and China while the multiplayer was developed by Digital Extremes (Unreal Tournament, Ps3 port of Bioshock and the upcoming Darkness 2).

Going into it I was expecting it too be more of the same with some minor improvements and that’s what Bioshock 2 turned out to be. I really enjoyed some aspects of the games, in particular the later levels, but there is a lot of repetition here that gets old quickly. It lacks the same sense of mystery that the first had which was expected but is does a decent job setting the story up even though it unfolds in a fairly predictable way. You play as the original Big Daddy, Delta, who awakens to the out of control world of Rapture and is out to find his daughter who is being held by Sofia Lamb.

Playing as a Big Daddy changes up the game a bit but doesn’t change up the core Bioshock gameplay as much as you would expect. Instead of a wrench you have your drill and your other offensive options are the usual weapons and plasmid powers. The big change in the game is the addition of trap weaponry such as deployable turrets and trap sensors which are there to help you deal with defending a position which you will need to do a lot in this game. Every time you pickup a little sister you escort them around to collect Adam (what you spend to upgrade and buy plasmids and gene tonics) and this causes splicers to attack you in waves. The game is still fun and unlike most FPS out there as the choices you have are varied with plasmids still enjoyable to use and the shooting still solid (although a tad dated now). Although the graphics of the game is unimpressive and doesn’t make much of a leap from the original.

The most interesting part of the game was learning more about the history of Rapture and how everything started. The best level of the game for me was Fontaine Futuristics, the company that created all this steam punk tech and the creator of it all Gil Alexander. Alexander created the Big Daddies and when we meet him he has been overload with too much Adam and through videos he instructs you to take him down. Up to this point in the game I wasn’t excited about anything story wise but this level was great. I also look forward to playing the DLC level Minerva’s Den which people have told me to be another great standalone level.

Multiplayer in this game is alright and would be better if the underlying shooting mechanics was better. But you can use plasmids which makes it interesting and the levels are pretty well adapted for multiplayer. It is neat but I don’t think I’m going to regularly play it. I picked this game up for cheap just a few months after release and now it must be around $20, a good price it you want more Bioshock.

E3 2011 Video Roundup

Nintendo Official Videos

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More Frequent Deals On the Steam Store

Valve has announced a daily deals initiative offering deep (usually 50-75%) discounts for one game in addition to their current schedule of weekend deals and frequent weeklong developer discount showcases. The deal for today is pretty decent, $5 for Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, the right sort of price for people interested in trying out a different sort of FPS. Everyone loves a discount and with Steam’s history of offering great deals this is a welcome move to highlight more games more often.

Looking at my steam list of games most of them were bought during a sale. Games such as Metro 2033, The Witcher, Crysis, Darksiders and Just Cause 2 were all great deals at some point and I’m looking forward to the deals in the future. The official Twitter feed is @steam_games if you want to be alerted to all the new deals and releases.

Completed Games – Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

Developer – Criterion Games

Publisher – Electronic Arts

Release Date – 16 November 2010

Not really completed but I’ve gone as far as I can go, which always happens with racing games. I hit a point where the races become too hard for me taking me 5-10 tries to place in a race. I’ve finished around 80% of the races and sometime in the future I might come back and finish the rest. Now on to what I think about the actual game.

I like the Need for Speed series but I don’t pick up every game in the series, especially now that NFS is more of a brand rather than an indicator of the style of racing gameplay. With NFS Hot Pursuit EA tasked one of their subsidiaries Criterion Games, known for their Burnout series of games, to bring their innovative take on the racing game genre to the NFS franchise. The end result is a game that predictably feels like a mix between the original cops and robbers style of NFS and Burnout.

If you don’t know how a Burnout game play all you need to know is that speed and crashes are emphasised with a very light weight drifty feel to the cars. Criterion Games also excel in integrating a social aspect to their games, this time they create a Facebook style wall and have leader boards for individual races. In terms of game modes it sticks mostly to the standard racing game race varieties with time trials, standard races and duels. My favourite race type is one Burnout fans will be familiar with where you have to takedown as many opponent vehicles as you can.

In NFS HP all vehicles have gadgets that can be used to slow down or take out other racers. As a cop you can call in a police roadblock, road spikes, a police helicopter which drops down road spikes, and an EMP. As a racer you also have spikes and EMP along with a radar jammer and nitrous boost. The gadgets are a great addition to game and takes your mind off how little finesse is needed to control the cars. The main tip you need to master when driving is the use of boosts and building up boost through drifting. You will want to boost uphill and boost out of corners. Also going into corners at full speed and ebreaking at the right point is also another thing you will need to master if you want to get gold in every race.

I really enjoyed the robust online modes and levelling system which were reminiscent of Burnout Paradise’s online races, another racing game I surprisingly played a lot online with. Criterion’s dedication to downloadable content also is evident here with plenty of new cars and races available in the time since it launched.

I didn’t need to buy the game at launch but I’m glad I did. I think I’ve spent close to 40 hours with the game not even finishing it and I will still enjoy periodically playing online. If you haven’t picked it up yet go ahead and pick it up for whatever discounted price it is at now.

 

Completed Games – Saints Row 2

Developer – Volition Inc.

Publisher – THQ

Release Date – October 14 2008

With the third game in the series being released later in the year, I wanted to give this game a go before it becomes outdated. Over the years I’ve heard so much praise for the Saints Row series as being the fun over the top version of GTA. And that is what Saint’s Row 2 is about, open world mayhem without the focus on characters and story of the GTA games.

I had fun initially with the variety of crazy things you can do but after around 10 hours, I had to power through the game disregarding all the side missions. There certainly is a lot to do if you want to but a lot of the time it is just driving around. The driving mechanics and physics could be better but it is fun as you can make 90 degree turns instantly at high speeds.

I give it a lot of credit of for being more streamlined and less frustrating that a lot of other open world games. As many cars as you want can be stored in a garage, along with access to any weapon you have picked up is available at your crib. You can also completely customise your look, cribs and cars which can lead to some hilarious combinations.

There are some cool scenes and missions now and then, but playing it now the actual combat, shooting and melee, is only average and doesn’t have the substance that makes it enjoyable all the way through. It can be pretty frustrating and monotonous as you get to the latter missions even though there are checkpoints. You have to make sure you are fully equipped with enough ammo or else it’s going to be tough taking down the stream of gangsters and cops coming at you.

If you like the idea of playing an over the top GTA 3 style open world game then give it a try but don’t expect too much. Other games like Volition’s own Red Faction Guerilla as they try something different with more enjoyable action and dynamic environments.

Dead Rising 2 Review (PC)

Developer – Blue Castle Games

Publisher – Capcom

Release Date – 28th September 2010

An improvement to the original in many ways but still not perfect.

The first Dead Rising was released in August 2006, early in the XBOX360 lifecycle. It was a more comedic take on a zombie horror genre, popular for its freeform combat where you could pickup anything in the level to take out zombies. It was produced by Keiji Inafune, the legendary creator of the Megaman series, who returns for the sequel along with many of the original staff. However the main development team for the game was tasked to Vancouver based game development studio Blue Castle Games, who previously developed The Bigs line of baseball games for 2K games.

The first game had a lot of quirks in terms of controls and game play which for the most part have been fixed but there is still room for improvement. The game retains the ticking clock gameplay where you have a finite amount of time to complete missions and it is game over if you are late. And like the first there is no autosaving or checkpointing but this time there are multiple save slots and more locations to save. I have come to accept this game design choice as it makes for a different experience than other games, as there much more is at stake and sense of urgency. As long as you adapt the way you usually approach an action game and keep track of save spots it’s never too much of a problem.

What Blue Castle Games have brought to series are these small tweaks to make it more approachable but it still has the underlying feel of a Japanese developed game whether you like it or not. They have got the combat to a much more enjoyable level despite some awkwardness in the weapon system. You can combine weapons to make more powerful zombie killing contraptions but it is very specific in what can be combined. To combine two weapons you have to pick them up and bring them to a work bench, usually the items you can combine are nearby but it is still time-consuming (especially for a game where time is important).

The story and scenario of the game is more creative than the first, which was confined to the typical zombie movie locale of the shopping mall. This time it is set in a fictional Las Vegas with more to it than just shops with casinos, restaurants, open areas and hotels. You play as Chuck Greene a motocross champion who is in Vegas for an event when a zombie outbreak occurs and he is framed for causing it. You are out to find out who framed you while you make sure you have a constant supply of Zombrex for your infected daughter to keep her from turning. The setting and story make for an interesting set of characters which are more perverse and adult themed because of the location.

The main problem of the series, the tough boss enemies called psychopaths, is still here and still unapologetically hard. There is very fun in taking down these enemies and often comes down whether or not you are well prepared in terms of weapons and health recovery items. The main strategy for me was to get close wait for an attack, dodge and hit once or twice and then repeat. Projectile weapons are much more useful in this game and control better but still feel weightless and not as powerful as they should be.

I’ve said a lot of not so positive things about this game but ultimately I enjoyed it enough to play through it once having fun all the way through. The first game was great because of the novelty in the variety of ways you could kill zombies and this game continues it with improvements but doesn’t bring much innovation to the formula. In fact they took the picture-taking system of the first game out and didn’t really replace it with something as fun (combining weapons is useful but tedious). If you like challenging and deliberately inflexible games like I do (from time to time) I suggest picking it up for the PC as the loading times (which is frustrating for the console versions) is much more tolerable. If not try the standalone DLC Case West for just a taste of the game without most the frustrations.

My Top 10 Video Games of 2010

  1. Bayonetta
  2. Demon Souls (came out for EU and AUS this year)
  3. Super Meat Boy
  4. Pacman Championship Edition DX
  5. Starcraft 2
  6. Gran Turismo 5
  7. Splinter Cell Conviction
  8. Heavy Rain
  9. Need For Speed Hot Pursuit
  10. Final Fantasy 13

And a top 10 list of games I haven’t got to yet but pretty sure they would be on my list if I played them are –

  • Mass Effect 2
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Alan Wake
  • God of War 3
  • Halo Reach
  • Call of Duty Black Ops
  • Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
  • Enslaved
  • DJ Hero 2
  • Fallout New Vegas

Super Meat Boy Review

Developer – Team Meat

An amazing 2D platformer made by a small independent team who put in an enormous amount of effort in creating an indie masterpiece. Available on XBLA or PC.

This is a rare game that will hook you in despite being brutally hard. Usually these types of game have a high level of frustration that would turn off most gamers except for the extremely dedicated. But the frustration is dampened by zero downtime when you die, you just instantly start back at the beginning of the level. Also levels are very short where most can be completed in less than a minute. The other important feature of the game that keeps you playing, instead of abruptly shutting down your system, is that there the visual reward of seeing each attempt at completing the level played back all at once.

This is a game that embraces skill and perseverance. While it is a simple platformer there are little tricks you need to use to complete levels. The modification of your run speed and jumps, movement in the air or using the sliding on the walls to your advantages are just the basic techniques you need to master. The game is split up into levels but within each level there is a light and dark world. The dark world is optional and is a much harder modification of the light world levels. But even more challenging are hidden stages within the levels where the graphical styles changes to an old school 8 or 16 bit style.

Super Meat Boy has a certain charm that only an independent developer could get away with. The story scenes are low-budget flash animations but still manage to covey whatever emotion they are trying to invoke. Another thing that only an indie dev could do was include special playable characters from other popular indie games. Each of these characters have a unique ability that changes up the way you play the game.

It is easy to recommend this game because of its low cost but the enjoyment you get depends whether you are the type of gamer that enjoys a challenge in you games.