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As part of my efforts to support Midlifegamer.net’s Pile of Win challenge (for charity), I’ve gone for Darkness II on PS3 (which also takes one title off my Pile of Shame before the Year of Shame officially begins end of the month).

Recently completed the first title after a year gap between playing the first and second halves and was looking forward to seeing how Digital Extremes brought the cel shaded comic style into the sequel.

So far, so good! Lots of bright vibrant colours, real contrast between light and shadow with only occasional tearing.  The opportunity to attack in one of four ways (and variations within two of those four with your demon arms) is great fun although a little confusing at times.  Very satisfying when it all works though and parts of your enemies fly in different directions.

What is most pleasing is the care and attention given to the Darkness lore and back story.  This isn’t a thrown together game using some comic characters but a continuation of tale spun in the first title.  The yearning for Jenny still shines through, lending a strong reason for Jackie re-embracing the Darkness to get the job done and the ‘Shining-like’ flashbacks to time spent with her provide welcome moments of quiet whilst being bittersweet.

Will carry on with this title during the Pile of Win week ahead, hopefully get near the end as campaign is pretty short apparently.  Mind you, wouldn’t mind a cheeky go on the Vendettas mode too..

Howdy pardners, done a little piece to reflect on my playthrough of Red Dead RedemptionAct 1.  Apologies for length and the bastardising of Stephen King’s writing style in the ‘Dark Tower’ series…

 

Some say the winds of change can chill you to the bone as they whistle their way up the main street of our town. Sure Armadillo, our little piece of dirt in the New Austin dustbowl, will have to buckle up its braces and face the new frontier but I’m here to tell you right now that don’t worry me two bits.

You’d think these new ideas would put the wind up an old timer like me but that’s the deal right there.  I’m old, don’t have too much left on the clock and got enough of my own wind (thanks to those beans Herbert sold me last week) so let change do what it wants and thinks is right with my town. S’long, when it’s time, I get my long stay abode up on that hill (with no bodily ‘early alarm call’ telling me my withered up bladder needs emptying, d’ya ken) then change can come right up to my front door and declare it’s moving in and taking the best room in the house.

No sir, what chills me are those stormy squalls from the past.  I’ve seen a lot of what’s come before in this town.  Some of it makes an Armadillo born and bred man proud but some of it will send you right to the saloon to lose it at the bottom of the nearest whisky glass.

One of them ill breezes picked up early last week.  Arrived one morning on the train from Blackwater.  Just a man, but one with a whole heap of baggage even though all he carried was the hat on his head and the piece at his side. He offered the name ‘John Marston’ to anyone who looked like they wanted it but I knew who he really was.  One of Van der Linde’s men.  A gunslinger.  An outlaw.

Some say that Van der Linde gave his men a love of nature, taught them how to hold a pen and read about the World.  Mebbe all that’s true but all I ever saw were his teachings of violence, how to look a man square in the eyes as you shot the life out of them.  At least that’s what Marston signed up to.  Right up to that train massacre when our John decided he needed a different direction in his wretched life.

Some say Marston isn’t here on his own steam, that he’s being pressed by the government to tie up some loose ends with regards to some old friends.  Working for Dutch? Or the Government? Different puppeteers, same puppet.  A dangerous one at that.

I’ve been told that if, like the times, the weather can change then so can a man.  Maybe that’s true too, I’m always learning new things even at my age (although that game of Liar’s dice don’t think much of my arthritic paws).  By many accounts, Marston has done a great deal of good up at McFarlane’s Ranch.  Helping with chores around the place, breaking in the horses, even saving some of old McFarlane’s best stock from a suspicious barn fire just the other night.  Other stories don’t paint quite the rosy picture.  It’s gone awfully quiet up at Pleasance House since John popped by with the firm offer of a land purchase.  P’raps it was a little overly firm.

My nickel’s worth?  I say you judge a man by the friends he keeps.  Sure our protector of the peace, Marshall Leigh Johnson, will count himself lucky that Marston turned up when he did to help with crooks like the Bollard Twins threatening to turn this town lawless.

But I’ve also heard that Marston has literally bin diggin’ up the past with that grave robber, Seth, up at Coot’s Chapel when he’s not emptying the pockets of gullible fools and fixing races with that shyster Nigel West Dickens. Not the first set of names I’d have come up with to ally against Bill Williamson and his band of merry men up at Fort Mercer.

Hell, mebbe Marston isn’t the past after all.  Perhaps he IS that wind of change,  made man.  If so, then that change cain’t be far away…and, from what my sore old eyes have seen these past few days, it’s going to be mighty messy.

‘Listen up gentlemen.  It’s a war out there.  We’ve got those Activision guys raining down annual s@!tstorms on us and it’s time we responded.’

‘What’ll we do, sir?’

‘Time to go back to DICE actual, unleash the Frostbite 2…’

OK, had a week with this title and I’m feeling…….decidely underwhelmed.  I’d like to start off by likening the whole EA vs Activision thing to the Haye / Klitschko fight a little while back.  In one corner you have the champion, plodding along consistently with nothing that exciting or new to declare and, in the other, you have the spunky challenger, full of  promises and expectation. Telling you what you’d been missing, how things were going to change….remember how that fight ended?  Pretty much the same here for me.

I put the blame at the door of reviewers who, due to the influx of games in this mad season, are going a little overboard in their praise of the triple A titles (UC3, I’m also looking at you but more about that next week).  With all the fanfare, Expo awards and initial reviews you’d have thought this was the second coming of FPS.

It isn’t.

Not to say that this is a bad package.  Single, multi and co-op players are all correct and present, dedicated servers are in place, the mighty Frostbite 2 engine is driving things along… but it all still seems a bit unfinished and broken in places.  Which is amazing when you think of how much EA has riding on this at least matching the CoD behemoth.

Okay, single player.  Nice opening sequences,  very gritty and packed with testosterone.  Hang on, questioning a soldier, levels are flash backs.  Am I playing CoDBlops again?  Into the action and we start with an on the rails QTE prologue.  So far, so meh.  Onto a night time level, I’m on my own trying to get back to an evacuation zone. It’s dark, gun shots and shouts break the silence, spotlights blind you as you turn a corner…this is much better.  Heart is racing, really enjoying this…oh it’s over.  OK though, as now I am climbing into a jet (must…try…hard…to avoid…Top Gun quotes).  Here we go and …. oh, I’m not flying. Just dropping bombs..when told to…hmm.  And now I’m running down a hillside towards a town in the dark (DICE are really proud of their lighting effects) playing a game of grown up ‘follow my leader’, nowhere near as much fun as when I was on my own a few levels back.

And this is typical of SP.  When the set pieces work right, it’s all very exciting but, for a game that prides itself on openess in MP, the SP is a claustophobic affair with a lot of handholding.  I know FPS games are well known for crappy SP but just imagine how much love would be given to a game that came out with a half decent SP story?

Co-op – haven’t played, can’t comment.

MP – I loved BF BC2. It’s probably the only FPS MP that I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed.  I am neither good at these games or able to spend 24 hours a day getting better at them so when I played BC2 and was able to kill the odd bad guy or hitch up with my squad in a tank to clear out a village I actually felt part of things. I felt everything was fairly balanced.  Shots hurt other players (not like CoD where, on the few occasions I’ve been able to sneak up behind an enemy,  I’ve shot them half a dozen times only for them to turn around and gun me down with one bullet).  There were no crazy killstreak awards.  You might get helicopters pinning you down but they could be blown up too.  The maps were big but felt populated.  All the things that made me prefer the title to CoDBlops.

I’ve played half a dozen games on BF3 and those feelings just aren’t there. Maps are huge and there are only 12 enemies in total.  This equals camping (those people who think ‘sod claiming a base, I’ll just sit here and get my levels up’).  It’s weird to get to the end of a game and see that most of the 24 playing have not managed to kill more than 6.

Not sure if the CoD crew are sharpening their nails on this until next Tues but squadplay seems non-existent.  Apart from using you to spawn on, I have yet to find any real team work.  Sure this is different if you have a few friends you can jump on at the same time but, due to my erratic game playing times,  I often don’t.

There have been several times I have spawned only to be shot dead in one shot in under a second.  How did they know I was there?

Servers will come into their own in time but it took me 4 days to actually get a game and things are still not right.  Not sure if it was a game error or the server putting me out of my misery but I crashed out of a game last night and had to reset the game to continue.  On the forums, many gamers are mentioning being kicked out of matches on more than a few occasions.

So to the graphics…  this engine will produce marvellous things but, on the 360 at least, it is not happy. Fair bit of break up, there seems to be two layers of water when I swim (not a game breaker but hardly an immersing feature), a few judders here and there (but that could be the server).  It does look pretty in places (so did BC2) but also very grey and similar across many of the maps I have played.  I have yet to stop in my tracks and go ‘wow, that looks fantastic’.  Putting it simply, despite the HD pack being installed on your hard drive, the console cannot cope and things can often get messy.

To conclude, I appreciate that there are a lot of moans above (and there are still many positive things that stand out on this title) but it’s difficult to avoid the negative points when the developer and publisher have been carping on about this being the dog’s spherical ones for months. Bland SP and strangely unappealing and cold MP have been my initial impressions and the 99p trade in offer for Halo Nov 18 is looking v appealing.

No next gen feelings from me.  Activision just need a calm launch and steady servers and they’ll have this round won comfortably.

Just like Klitschko.

EDIT 11/11/11 – Played some more SP and am finding that you get a great level for every shite level.  The tank level is particularly good fun with a lot of tense moments.  It feels especially good after the rubbish level before it, full of QTE that don’t match what’s going on on-screen.  Still finding AI rubbish. In one room, I had to knife a soldier in front of me who was blocking a doorway.  Instead of pressing knife button I lobbed a grenade.  It went off in the small room and…guess what?… the soldier still stood looking the other way oblivious to my presence.  What a nonsense!!!

Gears of War 3 – a drunken view

Posted: October 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Sat on a bus in Newport at midnight on my own… A rare night out its TRUE but its meant a night with no gaming…Sat here slightly drunk I’ve got to thinking about GoW3 and the campaign I’ve ALMOST completed…
Not that I roll on a level that can be described as ‘challenging’, I must say that this Gears has been the easiest of the 3. It has meant that I could apportion more of my ageing mind to the storyline.
Not wanting to give away spoilers, I’ve had a Brill time nailing Lambents and Grubs but still feel Marcus could have been more heartfelt in the intimate moments, particularly involving his dad. Perhaps a montage or ‘Just the two of us’ duet would have helped but no, it’s just a case of ‘Hi Dad’ how you’ve been? Excuse me while I kill more bad guys’.

Now that the campaign is almost over I near the big decision – multiplayer or trade? I’d like to try multiplayer but tired of being a pin cushion for bullets. At least Skyrim is only a month away…

First rental from Boomerang has arrived and it’s the ‘adult themed’ RoN. So far, due to a lengthy train based scene to set up the story (what there is of one), it’ more of a ‘Going to the buffet car’ simulator.
Also finding myself doing the Status Quo shoulder dance a lot in order to turn left or right.
Hardly feels intuitive and I feel a bit of a pratt playing it but the Eli Roth Eastern bloc / Victorian gothic feel is quite interesting so I will persevere a little longer. Right, where we?
‘Cos I’m a wanderer, they call me the wanderer, I wander round and round and round and round…’

This is a blog.  Or, to be more accurate, a ramble or a rant of a 37 old year old gamer.

I’ve been there since the 16k powerhouses right up to the current console generation and I hope to be around a bit longer to enjoy the future developments (although I draw the line at having a gaming unit implanted into my brain….although now I think of it….)

Hope you enjoy your stay here, however brief, and please say hello.  You’ll find an increasing number of stories, biased reviews, unsubtantiated opinions and the odd bit of useful info on the blog.

Hokay, let’s roll up the sleeves and begin with a little piece I’ve written primarily for Midlifegamer.net ….Ladies and gentlemen….I give you…. Catherine!