F.E.A.R 2 – Really frigging quick demo impressions

January 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

Niall here, with a quick filler article on the Effeeayarrtwo demo, while I try to get my thoughts straight on my 2000 word TFU article (not joking).

Not a whole lot has changed from the original, apart from the fact that it looks a lot better and runs a lot faster. The environments seem to be a lot more imaginative than they used to, with a lot more eye candy running amok in the background than before. As with the original, the slow-motion is only really there because it’s really bloody hard without it. The fights are a lot more exciting if you don’t bother using it, because you’re forced to go absolutely mental if you want to survive. I really like the new way you can tip over certain objects to create cover as well. It’s not incredibly useful, but it just feels awesome to yank a vending machine away from the wall and duck down behind it to avoid a volley of hot lead – as it does to upend a long table for protection when a squad of evil bastards kicks down the door in front of you. I think Effeeayarr could easily achieve what both Black and Painkiller had a really good go at – relentless gunplay and superfluid movement through hordes of enemies – basically living the action movie dream. All it needs to do is drop the fucking slow-motion and ramp up your movement speed. The only reason you need slowmo is to counter your painfully slow limp from cover to enemy. What really impresses me, though, just as it did in the last one, is the fantastic A.I. Why can’t all shooters be this cunning? I’m seeing bad guys smash through windows while their friends spray bullets from cover to keep me from kung-fuing the face off him before he gets up (a fun little touch, by the way), as well as some terrifying use of grenades the likes of which I haven’t seen since the old Half-Life (and which is conspicuously absent from HL2). Oh yeah, and the spooky bollocks from last time returns, and this time it’s really intimidating because it’s a lot more visually impressive, and it can seriously eat your health bar if you lose your nerve.
In short(er) – Play it on hard, don’t use the slow-motion and remember those grenades if you want to enjoy this one.

Resistance 2 Single Player Review: Never Trust a Pretty Face

January 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

When Resistance: Fall of Man graced the PS3 as a launch title, it was universally heralded as the best the infant system had to offer with large multiplayer matches and an interesting setting managing to give it an identity of its own, leading to a large following even a year after its release. Sadly however this accolade didn’t quite mean that FOM was a great game by any stretch of the imagination, generic missions and lacklustre graphics for such a supposedly powerful system held the game back from achieving anything above mediocrity. Well two years later and Insomniac are back with Resistance 2, complete with a bigger budget, bigger enemies and a bigger selection of modes. What the single player doesn’t provide however is anything new to call it’s own.

Picking up where FOM left off Nathan Hale finds himself amongst an elite squad of soldiers, each of them, like him, infected with the Chimeran virus yet immune to its more serious effects. You’re transported to a Chimeran infested America to fight off the attacking hordes, travelling the country to lend a hand wherever you’re needed. All of the story is presented this time with great looking cutscenes, which improves upon the presentation of the first game dramatically. This new means of story telling comes at a cost however, as although there was much in the way of subtle clues and uncertainty surrounding the origins of your foe in Fall of Man, R2 abandons this in favour of a more direct approach. It’s helpful sure, but demystifies completely what was otherwise quite an intriguing enemy. It’s one of many changes the game has had given to it thanks to an obviously much less rushed release and higher budget, unfortunately removing some of the unorthodox charm the original possessed.

Despite great leaps Insomniac’s origins as the developer of the Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet and Clank platformers still shows through. Without platforming to break up combat much of the game revolves around either running to, or fighting enemies in an enclosed space. This doesn’t make the game less enjoyable in short spurts, but played at length can make the experience feel a bit monotonous, even with the inclusion of many different distinct locations and a much wider roster of enemies to vary things up.

Most of them however feel neither fun nor original. Amongst the new additions comes floating sentries, annoying hovering enemies doled out generously during some encounters to ramp up the difficulty as well as “Chameleons” which will periodically appear in front of you initiating what is essentially a quick-time event of pressing the fire button before they slice you in two. Large shielded enemies are more fun, requiring a small but significant application of tactics with your weaponry to catch the with their guard down. Bosses appear in R2 with a much greater frequency but none of them are particularly memorable, consisting of fights you’ve probably played one hundred times before, but re-skinned and made pretty for your viewing pleasure.

It’s an over-arching theme with Resistance 2’s gameplay that it all feels as if it’s been done before and crucially, better. Platforming sections across un-enterable waters feel reminiscent of the Half Life series, and the iron sights aiming mode is even mapped to the same button as COD4’s. Even whilst fighting a two hundred foot tall Cloverfield-esque monster Shadow of the Colossus comes to mind, a game which didn’t force you along a linear path in order to defeat its gigantic foes.

Resistance 2’s single player portion makes one thing in particular clear. Throwing a large amount of money at a game may give it an impressive presentation, but it can’t make up for a serious lack of originality. It’s not a bad game to spend some time and money on but it never manages to make you sit up and take notice, even when you’re being thrown across Chicago in the game’s most cinematic moments.

Here’s why MGS4 Sucked Ass

January 5, 2009 § 3 Comments

I love Metal Gear Solid. Since I first popped Sons of Liberty into my shiny new PS2 I knew I’d found a series that would remain with me for much time to come. I’ve devoured every bit of Metal Gear-related literature I can get my hands on, searching it for details only hinted at in games. I’ve read ‘In the Darkness of Shadow Moses’ and the digital graphic novel by Ashley Wood, I’ve scoured the Metal Gear database, and even tried reading the atrocious novelization of MGS1. Metal Gear Solid 4 was made with me in mind, and with my insanely high expectations , I hated it.

You made it too linear

I’ll admit Metal Gear games have always been linear. Go to the comms tower, then to the underground base, you’re never given any real significant choice of where to go next or what to do. Having said that, you never leave the installation you first enter and so essentially it’s all open to you for most of the game. Miss a particular item back in B1? No problem, just make your way back across the minefield and you’ll be there, ready to mop up the interesting stuff you may have passed by.

Some might call this backtracking and dismiss it as a underhand trick to lengthen the game. Though this may be the case in Metal Gear this is handled in such a way that backtracking feels almost rewarding. First time through an area you may see countless doors requiring high levels of security card to access. Return later and all these doors are suddenly open to you. Enemy patterns around an area remain fixed no matter how many times you return and so your movement throughout the stage soon becomes second nature. With this, satisfaction falls at you from every angle of Metal Gear’s “backtracking.”

Yet in Guns of the Patriots every level has an entry and exit point, with your sole goal to get from one to the other. Tell me that’s more fun, go on, I dare you.

I don’t care why you cry/scream/laugh/rage!

Remember the the Boss and her Cobra unit? Remember how even though they served as mere bosses they felt connected to the story? Remember this in MGS4? Are you kidding?

The Cobra Unit in Guns of the Patriots was without a doubt the worst group of bosses in the Metal Gear Saga. Unlike previous units, their connection with the game’s plot was completely minimal. At no point do we learn of why they want us dead aside from simply following orders from an unnamed leader, and we likewise have no reason for wanting them six feet under aside from seeing them murder the same militiamen we’d seen being killed for hours of gameplay.

That’s not to mention that the fights themselves completely deviated from any classic Metal Gear gameplay. I’d love to have had a fight based around hide and seek considering that this is after all a stealth game, but instead I get a half-assed sniper battle in the snow complete with frustrating additional enemy soldiers, and a fight in which I run continuously around the top of a church, desperately hoping a grenade doesn’t by chance fall at my feet, exploding instantly.

When each of the beasts fell I was glad that the fight was over, and not because they were dead.

Saying nanomachines did it does NOT make it more plausible

Going into MGS4 it seems Kojima became far too focussed with explaining goddamn everything. Not just this, but he explained it badly, returning time and time again to his all time favourite scapegoat, ‘nanomachines.’

Surely explaining something to the audience means creating a plausible explanation for what happened? This would be the case in much fiction but in the Metal Gear universe it had been established in the past the magic, or miracles at the very least were indeed possible. Why then would you seek to try and explain some of this away with something else so unbelievable that it meres well be magic?

Why did we need to know that Vamp could regenerate himself because of nanomachines? Does this make it any more believable? Did we need the half-hour explanation of this after his death? Did it make the story more complete in any way?

Don’t bring back characters if it doesn’t affect the story at all.

We’re getting into major spoiler territory here so I suggest you stop reading soon if you haven’t yet finished the game.

The point at which the MG story and character development lost all meaning to me was seeing Psycho Mantis appear once more as the secret ringleader of the Cobras. Not only did it completely undermine his death scene in Metal Gear Solid 1 in which he made his peace with the world and by extension Snake himself, but it didn’t affect the story in any way shape or form. In fact it damn near broke it.

Maybe I suffer from memory loss because all I remember of the middle of Act 5 was Mantis reappearing and then suddenly disappearing after failing to read my memory card. Why was this even included aside from the obvious fan service? It seems to take the notion of breaking the fourth wall in the universe a step too far, not only can we overcome mind reading powers by changing our controller from port 1 to 2 but we can physically kill bosses by running a game on different hardware. Surely if this is to make any sense playing MGS1 on my PS3 must produce a similar effect?

If you’re going to break the fiction of the game at least do it for some worthwhile reason aside from a couple of minutes of “Hey I remember this guy.”

Why show us Shadow Moses and fill it with the most annoying enemy known to man?

Metat Gear Solid 1 is without a doubt the best game in the series in the minds of most hardcore fans, and whilst I won’t agree with them directly, I can see exactly where they’re coming from. The location, the enemies, the plot, all of these form the core of the experience. If fans want more MGS1 then Kojima is here to provide, in the form of Shadow Moses’ triumphant return in Act 4.

“But wait…this isn’t Shadow Moses. Sure it may look the same and is laid out the same way but…where are all the enemies? Oh so it’s deserted then, alright it might be nice to explore this ol- OH MY GOD NO!”

Let it be known right here and right now that I hate the mini geckos. Whoever thought it’s be fun to place them there, with no way of destroying them without setting of an alarm, which would then spawn an infinite amount of them at your location is a moron. I should have been having the time of my life in Act 4, instead I spent it shimmying from hiding place to hiding place, desperately trying to avoid those little bastards.

Here’s how I would have done Act 4: Have Snake fall from the helicopter, breaking his Ocotocamo. Then fill Shadow Moses with soldiers, preferably the same ones as before, and make up some excuse to explain this away. Say nanomachines did it or something, I don’t really care at this point. Then let the player engage in the same gameplay they fell in love with ten years ago sneaking through these classic locations. That right there would have made that one Act my favourite videogaming level of all time, instead of the frustrating mess that it was.

The Metal Gear fight though? Totally fucking awesome.

And just a couple more things

How did Major Zero go from a major to controlling the United States government? You talked for hours but said nothing.

Why didn’t Raiden die? Where did his lightening powers come from? When Snake says something does it suddenly become true? How was he not a complete mess during his hospital bed scene?

Why does EVA sacrifice herself for Solidus’s body?

Does death even mean anything in Metal Gear any more?

When did Twin Snakes become series canon?

Why was a hallway built full of microwave radiation? Wasn’t there any way of turning it off? How are normal staff supposed to access the server room?

If all Meryl ever wanted was a big fancy wedding why does she have it on an airstrip? Wouldn’t this have been more effort than having it in a church? Where did everyone’s fancy clothes come from, did they go home and then come back to the runway?

But really

Metal Gear Solid 4 was a great game. I mostly had fun whilst playing it, and some of the cinematic moments in it were simply sublime. Furthermore the graveyard scene, when it finally got around to ending made me quite emotional, so much so I now have that scene’s music on my mp3 player. Kojima got sucked too far into his fan’s desires for the game, and tried to deliver closure on every single storyline, often in cases where no one really cared.

Overall it deserves a B+.

Peace out

Jon

PS Updates should be more frequent from now on. Roll on 2009.

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