Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

And once again with the blog silence…no wonder no-one comes visit me…

I will endeavour to improve (it can’t get much worse – here I am talking (or should that be typing) to myself)…

Ahem…

DRAGON’S DOGMA!

Wanted to try this for a while, demo didn’t overly grab me but read so many positive responses when it was first released and that pawn system definitely required a further probing.

I’m about 3 hours in now and, having mastered an understanding of 50-60% of the mechanics can honestly say I’m having a whale of a time. Cannot quite believe that a game threw a sodding big Chimera at me 10 min in! Cue a lot of thrashing around and button mashing as I tried to work out a) the controls and b) a strategy other than just falling about and shouting ‘Hello pawns, look I know I’ve just met you but GO KILL THAT BIG THING!’.

Appreciated the quiet time in Cassardis and have carried out the initial menial quests to level up and learn more about the system. For example, combat is surprisingly deep with a number of options becoming available as you accrue discipline points. Am really enjoying creating and cultivating a character whereas all too often in RPGs I start off with good intentions only for my man / women to become a mishmashed walking armour/weapon stand. Apparently there are options to jump vocations later on too.

Just about to venture beyond the starting area but wanted to mention that pawn system again. Basically, it’s the method by which this game gives you your NPC squad and ultimately leads you to building the classic RPG set up – Tank, Rogue (Strider in DD), Mage +1 other BUT the system definitely brings something new to the genre. You have one ‘permanent’ pawn who you can skill up and equip just like your own character plus up to two others (recommended, there are some big beasties in Gransys).

These secondary pawns can be picked up when met in the game or accessed via one of the Riftstones found in the gameworld. Activating these stones takes you to a mysterious otherworld (full of dry ice it would seem) where you can inspect and invite pawns into your team (and you can do this as many times as you like in case you come across a part in the game where more or less Mages or Fighters are needed). You can select from those offered or use a database to search for pawns that fit your requirements. Some are ‘free’, some can be bought using another form of in game pawn currency but ALL have been generated by other players – how cool is that? I know that my chubby but affable Fighter pawn, Indrid Stern, is being uploaded and offered for use to other gamers whilst I’m choosing from theirs. It’s not a perfect system yet but I’m sure Capcom will continue to develop it for the rumoured sequel.

Difficult to say too much more having only played a small percentage of the game but there are some negatives – the pawn comments can suffer from repetition fairly early on and you can almost hear the pop when the graphics and draw distance stutter at times (rolling on PS3 if you’re interested) but I can forgive these sorts of faults and they’re not game breakers. The roughness in places just confirms what type of diamond this game is.

The fact that I’ve gone out and bought a strat guide for a game I don’t technically own tells its own story. Will have to hand back soon but will have it on radar for the eventual price drop. Recommended!

 

Sit down, Mr Kane.  I’d just like to ask you some questions.

 

Am I being charged here?

 

Well, maybe you are, maybe you aren’t.  Up to you to fill us in best you can.  If you can justify what went on perhaps you’ll walk out of here a free man.

 

OK…let’s get started then, just means the sooner I get out of here.

 

So Mr Kane (flips through game manual), says here the first time we hear about you is in 2007?  Apparently there’s another fracas involving you in 2010 but, for today, let’s concentrate on 2007.

 

Fine by me…

 

Got yourself in a mite of trouble didn’t you, Mr Kane?

 

A little, made for a promising story being busted out of custody though…

 

Can you fill us in on what happened exactly?

 

Well…difficult to give you all the detail… things were a little hazy, people were speaking without moving their lips, everything seemed to flicker…

 

Says here you opened fire on the police department?

 

Hell yes, they were firing on me!  Didn’t hit that many though…

 

Were you concussed?

 

Yeah, I might have been.  Don’t know how else my aim could have been so clumsy.  Arm just felt like someone had nailed a long, stiff piece of wood to it – really unresponsive.  Felt sluggish, really difficult to set my aim…

 

Managed to shoot and injure some officers?

 

Think so, don’t what chickenshit gear I was packing though.  It said machine gun but I must have put half a dozen bullets into some of the uniforms and they still didn’t go down even though the recoil was massive.  It also sounded like I was using a BB gun rather than serious hardware.

 

Doesn’t sound very realistic, Mr Kane.

 

Well, like you said, I must have been concussed or something.

 

OK, let’s move onto the bank heist…

 

I was trying to save my family!

 

Calm down, Mr Kane, we’re just filling in the blanks here.  Again, there’s clear evidence here that you used firearms on law enforcement.

 

I had no choice!  Although everyone was telling me to be careful there was no real stealth option.  I was pretty much forced to off every officer in the area just to go forward.  That time, trying to get into the vault, I even had to retrace my steps back out of the bank and shoot a uniform left standing outside before my colleague would open the bloody door!

 

Again, I have to say the whole thing doesn’t sound very realistic, Mr Kane.

 

You’re telling me, and I haven’t mentioned the van we escaped in yet, must have had the worst suspension in history the way everything seemed to jump up and down during my little chats with Lynch.

 

Ah yes, Mr Lynch, your associate. Helpful?

 

He was clearly insane as his actions in the bank showed but he behaved as well as any of my team when given an instruction.

 

Not very well then.

 

You’ve got the file, read it for yourself.

 

You showed remarkable resilience throughout your little adventure, Mr Kane.

 

There are reasons for that – I got shot a hell of a lot and my friends had a shitload of adrenaline shots to get me back on my feet.

 

Why not use cover?

 

Yeah, good question.  Walls around here must be funny or something but half the time I went for cover I just ended up running into them and, when I did find some environment that wanted to cover me, I still ended up getting hit by bullets.  You police using ammunition that goes around corners now?!

 

Sounds like you were up against it then?

 

I wish – like I said, the walls were pretty evasive. S’ok though because your officers were pretty dumb anyway.  I saw them dry humping walls that weren’t there and take cover behind features that were only knee high. Huh, huh. They looked pretty stupid.

 

We can’t all be born with such high levels of intelligence as yourself, Mr Kane.  I notice that a few of your friends apparently stood rather obligingly in the open to get shot at as well.

 

I can’t vouch for them, perhaps they had a death wish or something.  Sure made it easy just to send them ahead as bait, especially as your guys seemed to spawn from nowhere when those mugs crossed a certain point.

 

(Silence)

 

So, after our discussion and all the things that went wrong, are you sticking with your story, Mr Kane? Your whole adventure sounds like a very old fashioned experience, not the kind that this generation sees at all.

 

Yeah, I guess I am.  My story is an interesting one, just presented in an incredibly frustrating and rough round the edges way – I’m no storyteller.  The people pulling my strings in the background must have had other things on their mind, I’ve heard something about an agent 47?…

 

Oh, come now, Mr Kane, they say that Agent 47 is nothing but a myth…but who knows?  Let’s hope rumour of a second sequel for you is more unlikely…

 

(Game manual is slapped shut)

 

Time’s up, Mr Kane.  Nice try but we’re charging you anyway.

Broken promises, eh, copper?

After your two outings, you should know all about those, Mr Kane.

One of the games top of my ‘must get round to playing that one day but don’t really want to pay for it to lie on my pile of shame’ list.

Thanks to Boomerang Rentals (top service guys) I’ve had the chance to get a go sooner than I thought.

The thing that hits you straight away is the style of the game.  It’s definitely one of those titles that, on sight, you would argue could never be from the Brown-loving Unreal Engine but it is.  Quirky Victorian London soon gives way to the technicolour Wonderland but, in all cases, a real sense of unease awaits the player as things have definitely grown up from the original source material.

A couple of hours in and wanting to further explore the beautiful surroundings is still drawing me back but the faults outlined in many a professional review are definitely there.  Your path is decidedly linear and combat is already feeling like a bash button marathon.  Having said that, some interesting additions to Alice’s possible actions are coming into play.

So far, so okay – must confess to enjoying it even if it’s not tearing me away from the current batch of AAA titles out there.

Buy, Rent, Miss?  – At the moment, a definite rent.

Accessing all areas in Bristol…

Posted: October 3, 2011 in Review
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And so it came to pass that, during one of his rare forays into the land of Facebook, the ageing gamer didst apply for tickets in the hope of attending an intimate affair in yonder Bristol.  Yay, he was successful in smiting the filthy beast of fate and the treasure was his…

Meaning that I had a day pass from the kids to go along to one of the Playstation Access events in Bristol.  I cunningly applied for the Saturday afternoon session rather than Friday night or Saturday night thereby avoiding a performance from guest artiste Mr Lethal Bizzle. (‘Call that music?  It’s just noise, etc…’)

On arriving with my little gaming friend, we were slightly alarmed to find that we were the only ones over 16 and who didn’t look like skater boys…until we found out that the warehouse right next to the Access venue was an indoor skating park.  Phew!  Walking along a little further we were comforted by the site of other men who lacked the ability for a smooth shave but who offset it by wearing a themed t-shirt containing Star Wars or some mildy amusing pun or observation.  Now we felt we belonged!

There were even a couple of girls, one who had indulged in cosplay! (Which definitely affected the impact of those wearing the t-shirts with the mildly amusing puns and observations).

Following a brief and ‘before opening time’ crowd surge (can you call a gang of 5 lads a crowd?) we were allowed in.  The nightclub venue was pumping out some choice tunes (don’t know whose choice though, call that music, it’s just noise, etc) and mild panic initially set in.  On seeing collections of settees, flat screens and ps3 controllers everyone relaxed at the site of their natural habitats.  The only thing missing were the 2 litre bottles of coke and nibbles.

I am embarrassed to say that, despite some new games on offer, my friend and I started with the demo of FIFA 12.  I mean, not only has the demo been out for weeks but we both bought the full game the day before!  However, a match needed to be played and you try getting him online, the evasive beggar…

The darkness of the club hid my fury at leaking a 90th minute goal as we traversed the dance floor to indulge in a bit of Assassin’s Creed Revelations multiplayer.  5 PS3s were linked up and competitions were being run all afternoon with t-shirts offered to anyone who could kill more people than anyone else.  Again, this has been available on the network for a while now but actually playing back to back with 4 others in the same space, hearing the ‘oohs’, the ‘aahs’ and the ‘you bugger!’ always seems much more fun to me.  I like online gaming but it always feels more sterile sat in your home alone, bring back more local multiplayer!

Fresh from his football success my friend bagged a t-shirt and on he went again, rather foolishly, to Dark Souls.

‘This is where he comes unstuck, mwuh-hah hah’ I thought childishly as he was battered by a furious skeleton with a big stick.  Smirking privileges were quickly passed to him however as, minutes later, I became big, spiky pig food.  This game is seriously hard….but I am going to get it….that pig is sausages.

A much lighter game was needed next so, once our complimenatry drink tokens were exchanged for beers, we donned our metaphorical co-op hats and dived into Ratchet and Clank All 4 one.  Ahh, that’s better, bright lights, silly dialogue, kill lots of cute robots just by mashing the square button…yawn…….

‘Excuse me lads? Have you played Uncharted 3 multiplayer yet?’ came a bright, chirpy voice from behind.   Not yet, we replied, but we’d played the beta at home so….

‘Ah, but have you played it in OUR room?’

3 minutes later we were walking into a room containing lots of plastic foliage and an over eager smoke machine.

‘Has the…cough…game….started….splutter….yet?’  I asked.

‘Yeah but we’ve been playing in some of the empty slots so just go there and swap with my colleagues’

‘Uh…cough…where…exactly?’

By channelling our senses we used our enhanced powers of hearing to make our way around the cluster of TVs and take our positions.  ‘Well, at least we’re close enough to the telly so I can see what I’m doing in the game even if I can’t see who I’m playing with’ I thought…just before the sandstorm powerplay kicked in on the deathmatch we were playing and the screen was full of virtual dust and sand…. I’m sure everyone who wanted to has played this by now but, if you haven’t, I can happily announce that it’s a fab addition to what will be a fab campaign.

Back into the main room to try out Tekken Tag Prologue, Battlefield 3 and Goldeneye 007 single players and even a quick go on Resistance 3 with the full gun PS Move attachment.  Loved the lock and load feature on the peripheral but the whole Move / Kinect experience for me is still feeling too clunky.

The biggest ‘exclusive’ of the session due to the lack of PSVita (shame!) was the appearance of the much mooted 3D headsets.  Set up to run a bit of a Spiderman film, attendees had the chance to don the headsets and feel like Geordi La Forge.  How was it?  Ok but I was far from overwhelmed.  3D works well but screen just feels like a small one that you’re closer to rather than giving the impression that you’d be playing your games on a cinema screen.  Front bit was heavy too so I imagine you’d get that annoying mark on your nose after prolonged play…

So in conclusion.  Not sure what Sony get out of this.  There can’t have been more than 40 guests there (all who were very aware of the games to start with), at least 20 ‘bright, young things’ running the session, the club can’t have come cheap and we even got a free beer, uncharted 3 t-shirt and chimera sackboy keyring!  Being one of the later Access dates, a lot of the games on offer had come out as betas, demos and even full releases by the start of October but it was, and always will be, great fun joining other gamers in a big room with lots of games to chill out to.  Despite what the Daily Mail will have you believe, gaming IS social. These events are not essential but they are a bit of fun and at no cost. Well worth going along to one and I’m sure if you go onto the Access page on facebook there are still events left to run this year.

Time was all too soon up.  We grabbed our goody bags, tore off our wristbands (causing the inevitable skin lacerations – what DO they make that adhesive out of?) and headed for the train back to Wales.  A short walk back to Temple Meads was just what was needed having been temporarily blinded by the sun after lurking around a dark nightclub for the best part of an afternoon.

‘Back? I can never go back; I have seen too much to go back to the beginning’

These words could have been uttered by Altair himself but instead came out of my mouth when I read that this month’s chosen game was the original Assassin’s Creed.  Surely, having sampled the substantial improvements of ACII and the subtle enhancements of Brotherhood, returning to the game that started it all would only bring
frustration and bad memories?

Well, yes… and no.
Returning to the Holy Lands was actually a refreshing experience.  Not sure if it was MLG’s aim to give us back-to-back retina-scorchingly bright games to chase away the soggy summer but I still cannot help being impressed by that first city flyby once the game boots up.

The graphical impact continues once the game begins (although I don’t count the grainy washed out ‘out of Animus’ sequences) with fluid character movement and a set of towns and cities that actually feel ‘alive’ with so many people that you can sort of forgive the fact that they are running the same pre-programmed routes and saying the same thing (‘I’ll have your hand for this!’).  It cannot be underestimated how impressive AC still looks and its environments still blow current day titles such as Dead Island and Deus Ex clean out of the water.

Ok, it still looks nice 4 years on but what about the story?  Could I remember how it all began having enjoyed Ezio’s more recent exploits?  For me, going back to the beginning actually clarified much of what has happened since.  Aspects of the story do have the tendency to tie themselves in knots but at least this WAS a story and one attempting to be a little bit different.

So far so good then, an intriguing story premise and fantastic graphics and sound.  So why did this game divide the opinions of so many?

Game play.  When all the trimmings are stripped away this is what brings gamers to the fight.  AC promised much but stopped considerably short of a clean kill.  Free running is fun, stealth attacks regularly satisfy BUT swordplay often results in a trial of button mashing and assassinations soon become an exercise in repetition.  Being forced to conduct simplistic and samey investigations to extract information is only slightly offset by carrying out equally simplistic and samey side missions (How on earth did the soldiers manage to control the cities when they seemed to spend most of their time beating up timid citizens?!).  Staking out and planning the main assassination once they unlock is enjoyable but once you embark on your plan it seems only a matter of time until the soldiers see you (and they nearly always see you) and all hell breaks loose.

Despite all of these failings, however, AC is still a game that can be enjoyed if for nothing else than being an opportunity to explore and interact in a world borne from our own history (rather than a faux warzone
or planet in meltdown).  Just as long as you don’t play it for too long at any one time.

Its history that’s shown us that Ubisoft listened and learnt, releasing two games since that have delivered a much deeper set of game mechanics, somehow further raising the graphical and audio bar and even added an interesting multiplayer feature.  Giving the developer time to reflect and respond has meant that we are the benefactors
of a growing series of games with powerful stories and enjoyable game play (although no more Ezio after this one, please Ubisoft!)

Looking around the game industry these days, all too often IPs have to succeed first time round or the idea (and very often the developing team) is canned. In one or two cases this year, success still doesn’t mean the
extension of a concept.

So, the sum really is greater than the parts – no Altair would have meant no Ezio.  Assassin’s Creed is a flawed game, fact. But it’s also an important game for the series (and an influence for many other games since) that no amount of criticism and complaints from the gaming press and us humble gamers is going to change.

I think the great assassin, Altair, said it best himself:

‘Be at peace now, their words can no longer do harm.’