As one might have deduced from the title, I've been absent from the site for just over a week. Let's just say that some people like to actually play games, as opposed to just talk about them. :P Yes, I could visit and play, but I usually end up spending way longer on here than intended, so it was easier just to keep myself sat in front of the PS3 instead. I said before that I was going to keep gaming update blog posts to a minimum, but since gaming is the main reason for my absence, I figure I may as well write about what I was playing. Actually I'm just going to write about two of the games I had been playing. I'm also going to rant about them.
Before that though, here I have the BGM track of today's blog post: 'Saber Everything Is In Her Hands', also sometimes referred to as 'Saber Everything Is In Your Hands'. ^.^
***The YouTube comments section of the video features numerous unmarked spoilers. I advise against opening the video on YouTube unless you already know what there is to know about the main characters.***
This one's from Fate/Extra, a JRPG that serves as a 'sequel' of sorts to Fate/stay night, one of the most highly-praised visual novels of all time (feel free to go and check that if you want). At start of the game the player asked to choose a 'Servant'. Without wishing to go into the details of the plot, this Servant is powerful warrior who fights at the player character's side and does everything in their power to protect them from harm. Each of these Servants posses a highly-potent ability known as a 'Noble Phantasm', which in many ways could be said to define who they are. If you choose Saber, you'll get this BGM when activating her Noble Phantasm.
For those not in the know, Army of TWO is a cover-based, co-op-oriented TPS from EA. The title stems from the series' emphasis on teamwork between the two players to overcome contingents of enemy troops that almost always have some kind of advantage over the players (besides numbers), whether that's an advantage in terms of firepower or terrain etc. One of the series most distinguishing features was the Aggro system. Opening fire draws attention to yourself and draws the enemy's aggro. With the enemy's attention on you, your partner is free to move about with a lower chance of being noticed and shot at. That allows him to get on the enemy's flank and surprise them. This mechanic forms the bread and butter of the core gameplay. While it's often used in different contexts, it never fully changes. You might have to let your buddy draw the fire of a mounted machine gun in order for you to get behind it, or you might want to try catching a well-armoured enemy soldier in a pincer attack so as to force him to focus his fire on only one of you at once, but the core elements of what you're doing always remain the same.
There's a chance you may have heard of some of the criticisms players made over the tone of the first two games. The Devil's Cartel reels back that tone and replaces it with a more mundane one that feels a little too familiar. Tactical World Operations (TWO); a PMC that gets things done by deploying small squads of elite operatives who operate in pairs; is contracted to protect an election candidate for the upcoming election to determine the new mayor of a certain Mexican city. The said city has since been held firmly in the iron grip of one of the country's most feared drug cartels. TWO's client has promised to eradicate the cartel from the city if elected, and as such has drawn the ire of the cartel's leader, who sends his men to have the candidate assassinated.
The player characters; 'Alpha' and 'Bravo'; and the rest of the client's protection detail are ambushed by cartel members who attack their armoured convoy in the streets with shoulder-mounted weapons. In the ensuing battle, the candidate flees the scene. That's essentially where the real game starts. The story does go a little deeper, but for the most part it's just about two muscular guys wearing armour chasing their charge through an urban warzone, stopping every few steps to gun down some drug smugglers. There's a few twists and turns about half-way through, but those ultimately just lead to more of the same thing. The story is a bit better than what the previous games had to offer, but it's nothing to get too excited about.
The gameplay has been subjected to a few minor changes, for better and worse. For a start, both moving and aiming feel much smoother and responsive. Nothing ever feels sluggish. If you missed, it was probably because your target was in good cover, or you fired before you had a clear shot, not because the crosshairs swung around way off-course. The customization system is the most robust in the series, enabling you to equip and customize a lot more guns than what had previously been available, as well as determine the look of those guns. It's also possible to determine the appearance of your operative by changing their gear and armoured hockey mask. In the case of the latter, you can make your own, if you want. :P
With all that's been said above, the last thing that most people will expect to hear from me is that this is the worst game in the series. Why is that you ask? Simple. The gameplay is so fundamentally flawed it's impossible for me to consider this to be a good game. The move may be fine, but the cover system is not. You have to look directly at the cover you want to move behind until a blue arrow appears indicating your character is ready to take cover behind it. This means you potentially have to turn away from an enemy before you can run to safety. I've had some ridiculous instances in which the cover system has proven to be less concrete than I'd like, such as a case in which I was forced to look at the base of a pillar before being able to take cover behind it, not helped by the fact there was a smuggler on the other side firing in my general direction whom I had to take my eyes off in order to get behind cover. There's also plenty of places that look like good cover spots, but are anything but so, thanks to the fact that the cover system won't allow you use them as such. A burnt out car can easily serve as adequate temporary cover from small-arms fire (in the game, that is). The game allows you to use most of the destroyed cars as such, but also likes to tease with a few that can't be used, for whatever reason. Outside of issues with the cover system, there's also problems with hit indicators pointing in inaccurate directions when AoE weapons are involved, my AI partner suddenly dying after disappearing from view (possibly because he may be falling through the floor), the same AI partner failing to move when needed, thus preventing me from triggering certain scripted sequences, AI of questionable quality, and general stability issues such as weird audio bugs, in-game loading that takes longer than I feel it should and random crash that force me to reset the game.
Army of TWO: The Devil's Cartel - could have been good, but ends up being merely 'above average' thanks to a bunch of fundamental flaws and a lack of innovation.
Chances are you've heard about how many bugs and glitches were present in the original Dead Island. You'll be sad to know that it's the same story here, only worse. There aren't many games I can think of that are quite as technically flawed as this one.
Dead Island: Riptide is set immediately after the events of Dead Island, literally a few minutes after the first game ends. A viral outbreak on the tropical island of Banoi lead to the island's inhabitants being overrun by a horde of flesh-eating zombies. Four individuals who were found to be immune to the virus escaped by helicopter and were picked up by an military vessel operating within the quarantine zone around the island. It's not long before it's discovered that the virus has also spread to ship's crew, and the four survivors of the incident on Banoi are forced to abandon ship before being stranded on the nearby island of Palanai, which; as one might have guessed; has also been infested with zombies.
The story primarily focuses on the nature of the virus and the reason as to why you're immune, as well as what this means for everyone else. It's not a very good story, but it could be worse. There's a character who appears at the beginning of the game who's never seen again. I think the developers forgot about them. The rest of the story isn't particularly exciting, but it's good enough to keep the game going, assuming you don't like the gameplay.
As for the aforementioned gameplay, this is where my main complaints lie. Think 'Dead Rising goes first person and gets a hint of Borerlands thrown into the mix.' That's essentially what you're dealing with here, only with a better story than Borderlands and much weaker combat in comparison to both games. Don't like shooting enemies with revolvers that fire rockets? Don't like whacking bad guys with an oversized teddy bear? That understandable. But if either of those are the case, you better stay far away from both Dead Island games. Until you get a good weapon, you'll frequently end up scavenging for new weapons which you can use against the enemy. Most of the stuff that you pick up will actually quite useless: early on you'll want to look for powerful items which you can upgrade and carry all the way to the end, later on you'll quickly realize that the weapons you really want are those cool upgraded weapons, not the random ones to find lying around. The combat is more engaging than Borderlands and Dead Rising, but ultimately fails to hold together thanks to some weird issues that cause zombies to clip through the player character model (usually seen after a zombie lunge for the player at point blank range and somehow misses), or ones that cause them to get stuck in the scenery (that dosen't seem to happen too regularly, but it's funny to watch when it does) and very clunky and sluggish player movement.
First person melee combat has never worked well. Dead Island: Riptide only serves to reinforce this. All to often it's too difficult to guage the distance between the player character and the enemy. You'll sometimes miss when it looks as if your weapon should have connected, or as already mentioned the zombies will try to grab you only to go straight past and end up standing inside your character model (maybe because they're even closer than I thought).
On the whole the game wasn't very good. There's a few nice additions such as sections where you'll have to work with the group survivors you're travelling with to defend an area from a horde of zombies which can be fun due to the sheer amount of undead you'll have to content with and the chaos that inevitably follows, but these sections are nit repeatable and still serve to highlight the many flaws with the combat system. Not a good choice of a game to pick up. Still, at least I've finished it, so that's one less title on my backlog. Excellent.
That's my gaming blog post for today. I'm going for another period of absence again very soon so I can continue finishing my games. I should apologize to those who commented on my last blog post for not actually finding your comments until today, given that I only just came back to the site today. :P I should also mention it's likely I'll not see any replies to this blog post until later this week or next week during my next visit, by which point I'll have made additional headway with my backlog.
Until then. ^.^
-P.S. Photobucket is gradually becoming more like GameSpot. Try uploading something there if you want to see what I mean.
-P.S.S. Rating games is a good way to show someone what you thought about a game. It's quick, and lets them know how good you thought the finished product was. However, it's also of little help to someone who is unfamiliar with you or the game you rated (there's more to that than you think, I could write a whole editorial on that subject and related topics if need be). In light of that I might start doing reviews again. If you look through most of my reviews published here, you'll find that they're mostly reviews of little-known, out-of-the-way games, or those which are only well-known within niche communities. That's because they were originally written for a certain forum run by a friend I met here (that forum is nearly dead though :P). One day I posted these on another website, and after speaking to the CEO of the site about a certain issue these reviews caught the attention of their writing team. The majority of reviews I have listed under my reviews tab were originally written for that site. Long story short, after I found out what the staff on that site were really like, I didn't want any part of it, so I quit. I didn't have any reason to continue writing them, so I quit reviewing too, it wasn't fun anyway. :P Thinking about these ratings gives me the urge to start again, so I might do that later this year. I have a review of Under Defeat HD which has been left half-finished for literally about two months minimum. >.>
-P.S.S.S. The embed feature is doing what I saw it doing to people a few weeks ago. If I come back here tomorrow and find the video isn't showing, I'll just add the link instead.