JangoF-76 / Member

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JangoF-76 Blog

BioShock Infinite - My Opinion

Disclaimer: As my title states, this is my very biased opinion, not a balanced review.

First of all, to add a little perspective, BioShock 1 (and 2 to a lesser degree) is one of my favourite games of all time - which is especially noteworthy when you consider that i'm not generally a FPS fan.

My overall impressions of BioShock Infinite...underwhelming. The gameplay was fine - nothing new - but perfectly serviceable. The visuals and art design were nice, but I didn't enjoy Columbia half as much as Rapture. The voice acting was as exceptional as it has been in previous games, Booker and Elizabeth were both nicely realised as characters, but I found some of the secondary characters were not as fleshed out as they could've been (e.g. Lady Comstock, Chen Lin. Daisy Fitzroy), certainly when compared to peripheral characters in the previous games.

I found the story quite a let down. The game goes to great lengths to flout themes of racism and social injustice, but never takes those ideas anywhere interesting, making it feel as though they were there merely for shock value. I found the plot convoluted to the point of being almost nonsensical, especially the last 20 minutes or so.

Final thoughts: BioShock Infinite is a good (not amazing), solid game taken on it's own merits. However, when held up against it's predecessors, particularly BioShock 1, I found it somewhat lacklustre in almost all departments. For me, certainly the weakest of the series so far.

Deus Ex Final Thoughts

Finished Deus Ex Human Revolution last night, and I really liked it. The annoyances of the game that I mentioned in my last blog became less as the game went on until I really didn't notice them anymore. The gameplay itself was good - not great, but good. The boss fights were somewhat frustrating in places and somewhat incongruous, but there weren't many and they were all over pretty quick. I found it difficult at times to decide which augments to upgrade, but that's not a bad thing - it forced me to plan ahead and really think about how i wanted to play the game.

But what kept me going to the final credits was the story. Not as coherent or focussed in places as it could have been, and far too many ebooks/emails to read (I found myself not bothering wiith them much in the second half), but it all came together in the end. I was not prepared for the huge decision you have to make at the end of the game, one that really has no clear good vs bad choice. It actually made me pause and really think about what the best thing to do would be, and all the potential consequences that might follow. In most games containing moral choices it's usually not that big a deal which you choose. I really liked how Deus Ex made me hesitate. Throughout the game I found a great deal of moral grey area, which was both intriguing and refreshing.

Now back to Mirror's Edge...I'm determined to finish that bitch of a game this weekend.

UPDATE: I quit. Trial and error gameplay is not for me.

F*ck Mirror's Edge. Right in the ear.

Time Warping and Zombies

I finished Sly Cooper: Theives In Time last night. I found the title and main premise of the game (ie time travel) to be quite ironic, as it often felt as though I had travelled back to 2003. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I loved the original Sly games so much. It's a good job too, because Thieves In Time is pretty much a carbon copy of it's predecessors, from the visual style to the sound effects to the goofy story (silly this time round even for a Sly game) to the rigid gameplay structure.  

I almost can't decide if I enjoyed it or not. I think I did. By the end I was rushing through it to get it over with, but I seem to remember that being the case with previous games in the franchise. Aside from the first game (which was quite short) the novelty and charm of these games tends to wear off a few hours before the end, for me at least. But I always go back to them. In fact, I'm toying with the idea of giving Sly 3 another playthrough - can't remember if I ever made it all the way through that one.

On the other hand, I feel I should go back and finish Mirror's Edge and Deus Ex, both of which I abandoned due to some frustrating gameplay. I hate leaving a game unfinished.

On a different note, I finally got around to watching the first few episodes of 'The Walking Dead'. I originally passed over it because zombies don't particularly interest me, but after hearing lots of good things from lots of different people, I thought what the hell. Glad I did too. It's obvious even from the first episode that the zombie thing is almost incidental. The show seems to really be about how people react to extreme situations, the fallibity of human nature and the frailness of right vs wrong when a horde of mindless walking corpses is about to rip you to pieces and feed on your entrails.

Also, who knew Andrew Lincoln could do a convincing American accent?

Loving Mirror's Edge...sort of

I love this game...and I f**king hate this game! When it works and you're speeding through this striking, sparse, sterile and yet somehow beautiful city, the sound of the wind rushing past and the sun gleaming off whitewashed rooftops and chrome ventilation shafts, it's a truly exhilirating experience.

When it doesn't work...when you miss that tricky jump you just can't seem to judge for the 5th time, when you're forced into clunky combat with only your bare hands against heavily armored SWAT teams with automatic weapons, when you're stuck in some pokey corridor and for the life of you just can't see the way forward, the game sucks big hairy donkey balls.

And yet, it somehow compels you to push on. I'm really looking forward to completing this game, and damn I'll be glad when it's over. 

Finally playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution

This is another one of those games that's been in my 'to play' pile for a very long time, and after a couple of false starts I've decided to finally knuckle down with it. After realising the hard way (ie, getting my ass handed to me repeatedly on the first level) that the easiest way to play this game is the stealth approach. Now I'm actually having fun with it.

 

What I like so far:

The stealth mechanics are very good, but also accessible. I'm not a huge stealth fan - I find games like the early Splinter Cells quite tedious - but Deus Ex seems to be quite forgiving. I like that I'm rewarded for being stealthy, but not punished too severely when stealth fails. It's also really satisfying to get through a section without being detected.

I really like how there are many routes to take to reach your objective - and that within the levels there is a lot of opportunity for exploration. I spent quite a bit of time after dispatching the guards in the Sarif Labs just wandering around, discovered rooms off the beaten path, mentally noting other possible routes I could've taken, hacking computers, etc.

I also love the whole look of the game, the strong black/brown/gold colour palette really appeals to me.

Adam Jensen looks and sounds super-cool and totally bad-ass.

 

What I don't like so far:

The RPG elements - specifically having to wander around talking to people to pick up side quests. Don't get me wrong, I love a good RPG as much as the next guy, but in this game it feels a bit jarring, like it's taking me away from the action for too long. I'd be tempted to just ignore most of the side quests if they weren't so necessary for that much-needed XP.

Switching between 1st and 3rd person is quite annoying, although I'm getting used to it. Still, I think I'd enjoy it more if I could just pick one and stick with it.

Canned animations for takedowns - this bugs me because it doesn't feel like I'm doing anything, and removes me from the visceral experience of performing a cool stealth takedown.

Character animations during conversations - The NPCs are all really twitchy and puppet-like, like Thunderbirds. It's quite off-putting during conversations. Thankfully they don't have Jensen jerking around like he's having a minor ceasure.

 

Well, this is the first Deus Ex game I've played, so I don't know if these aspects are common to the series or if it's just HR. Anyways, I like it enough so far to keep going...

 

Is it just me?

I've been having problems playing certain games recently. I have several that have been in my 'To play' pile for a few months. They are all games that appeal to me on some level, and yet every time I sit down to play them I end up getting either bored or frustrated and turning them off after an hour.

The first of these is BioShock Infinite. I loved to the previous two games, but I'm having trouble getting into this latest one. Maybe it's the setting. A huge reason I like the first two games was the world of Rapture. Something about it just pulled me in and made me want to explore every dark corner and nook. And even though I appreciate Columbia on an aesthetic level, it just doesn't seem to be working for me in the same way. Maybe over-exposure is part of the problem. Everyone has been hyping the game up so much recently, maybe I'm rebelling against that hype. Maybe I should leave it for a year and then go back to it?

The second game I've been struggling with is Mirror's Edge. Yeah, I know it's old news now, but when it came out I didn't give it a second glance for the simple reason that I hated anything 1st person back then. But tastes change over time and I'm over that now (thanks mainly to Portal which allowed me to see that 1st person didn't necessarily mean gung-ho military shooters like CoD, which I still loathe). So yeah, Mirror's Edge. Everything about the game appeals to me (now that I've actually checked it out properly). I love the art style especially. But there seems to be a lot of trial-and-error involved in the gameplay. Maybe I just suck at it, but I couldn't even get through the first level without having to repeat sections multiple times because I hadn't judged a jump correctly. I was left thinking, surely I shouldn't be falling to my death this much on the first level?!

Can anyone tell me if it's worth persevering with Mirror's Edge? Or will this level of frustrating trial-and-error continue? 

Is it just me?

Plot holes and Spiders and Deserts, oh my!

So I was bored at work today with nothing much to do... Ok, there was stuff to do, but I didn't feel like doing that stuff, so I decided to write my opinion of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, having finished the game last night with mixed emotions.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!***

I loved Uncharted 2, it did pretty much everything right, and whilst Uncharted 3 has undoubtedly improved (albeit only marginally) upon its predecessor in some areas, I was surprised by how stubbornly it refused to progress in others. This adds up, for me at least, to an enjoyable but slightly disappointing experience.

First of all, the game looks better than ever. The series has always pushed the limits of what the PS3 can do, and Uncharted 3 is no exception. Environments are lush and highly detailed, landscapes are sweeping and photorealistic, and the characters have never looked so good. The motion capture animation plays a big part in bringing them to life, as does the same outstanding voice acting that we've come to expect. In short, graphically and artistically the game has no equal.

The platforming too seems to have been tightened up. In previous games I found these sections a little cumbersome and sloppy when compared to games like Assassin's Creed, Prince Of Persia or Tomb Raider. I noticed quite an improvement in Uncharted 3. The speed with which Drake climbs and jumps now feels more fluid, and traversable objects are a little more easily identifiable than before. The shooting and cover mechanics have also been tweaked for the better. I experienced fewer instances of Drake sticking to the wrong bit of cover or getting stuck behind AI allies.

The various set pieces are as breathtaking as ever, and even though many are obviously lifted from well-known movies (Indiana Jones, Poseidon Adventure, The Mummy…anyone?) they still bring a foolish grin to your face.

OK, so far so good. Now onto the negative…

My biggest gripe is with the story. The plots in this series have always been little more than a means to an end, a flimsy thread to tie together the various outstanding set pieces. And until now that has been entirely forgivable. The characters, acting and writing have always more than made up for tired storylines.

However, the story for Uncharted 3 is almost a carbon copy of the previous game. Only the locations and villains have changed. Drake, Sully, Elena, Chloe, etc. are out to find a lost city (in Uncharted 2 it was Shambhala, in Uncharted 3 it's Iram of the Pillars). Said lost city contains some forgotten artefact (Uncharted 2 – the Cintamani Stone, Uncharted 3 – the brass vessel containing imprisoned djinn) before some bad guys (Uncharted 2 – Lazarevic/Flynn, Uncharted 3 – Marlowe/Talbot) get there first and use said artefact to effectively take over/destroy the world. I thought this was really lazy storytelling, and it annoyed me more and more as the story unfolded and I realised how identical it was.

Another thing I found annoying was the circumstances of Drake and Elena's relationship. So apparently since the previous game they got married, and subsequently separated. Fine. But why? The reasons behind their apparent estrangement are never mentioned, almost as though it's inconsequential. What makes this omission even worse is that at the end of the game they are apparently back together, presumably having reconciled whatever differences drove them apart, without the need for even a conversation. I find this kind of thing really insulting, like the writers don't even credit their audience with enough intelligence to notice such gaping plot holes.

The third thing that let the game down for me was the desert sequence after the plane crash. After all the pulse-pounding action that had filled the game up to that point, the sudden slow-down is jarring as Drake spends no less than twenty minutes aimlessly wandering the wasteland. Of course, I realise there's not much else he can do in such a situation, but the whole thing could've been handled better with a cutscene, rather than forcing me to guide him around the featureless landscape with nothing to engage me.

And lastly, the spiders. Yes, really cool and scary (although very obviously inspired by the dreaded scarab beetles from the Mummy). I kept waiting for an explanation for these giant mutant spider swarms that popped up in France, Syria and Yemen. I thought to myself, there's going to be some really cool reason these things exist, and why they live in such random places. But no. Nothing. So, we're just supposed to accept the existence and random placement of these things are we? And without an explanation for them, it feels like a thoughtlessly tacked-on device that serves no purpose other than to thrill for the sake of it.

So there it is. I know this may be a bit controversial, given how the gaming community as a whole seems to be virtually humping the game's leg. I DID enjoy Uncharted 3, but as a whole package I found it inferior to its predecessor, let down by poor storytelling, some bad pacing, and a complete lack of innovation. I would even go so far as to say that if you played Among Thieves and liked it, you wouldn't really be missing out on much if you gave Drake's Deception a miss.

(My Personal) History Of Racing Games

These are in my opinion some of the greatest arcade-style racing games of previous generations, and certainly the ones that most heavily influenced me and kept me coming back for more. Some are widely acknowledged c1assics, whilst others have had mixed receptions, but even the not-so-great ones could be appreciated for certain aspects. I want to acknowledge these games as a kind of thank you for providing me with countless hours of fun, excitement, and oh yes...severe frustration!

Pole Position (Atari 2600 - 1983)

PP1 PP2

Honestly, I don't remember much about this game except that it was the first racing game I had ever played, and I gather that it is now considered a c1assic. Well, I certainly spent many a happy hour playing it in my bedroom as a kid so it must have been doing something right.

Diddy Kong Racing (N64 - 1997)

DKR1

DKR3

So many sleepless nights. My introduction to the N64. It was like a cartoon that you could control, and it had a tiny cute dinosaur thing flying a tiny cute plane. 'Nuff said.

Porsche Challenge (Playstation - 1997)

PC1

PC2 PC3

OK, so Porsche Challenge wasn't really a great game. It was kind of repetitive and there wasn't a lot of depth. Why did I spend so much time playing it? The graphics were excellent (for the time) and I loved the landscapes and scenery of each track. It did a really good job of portraying different environments; you had night time racing in Japan, snow-covered Alpine tracks, dusty-looking US roads...it had a feel to it that I'd never experienced before.

Destruction Derby Raw (Playstation - 2000)

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DDR2 DDR3

One of the games I bought with my very first PSone. Also, the first time I'd experienced a racing game where wrecking cars was not only possible, but required. So cool.

Need For Speed Underground 2 (PS2 - 2004)

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NFSU21 NFSU22

For some reason, I completely lost interest in racing games for a few years. Then a friend gave me a copy of Burnout Revenge (we'll get to that in a minute), which effectively rekindled my lust for racing and ultimately led me to Underground 2. This was also my introduction to the Need For Speed series. The graphics were so pretty, and although a lot of people complained about the open world aspect, I loved it. It gave you such a sense of freedom. The level of customisation was mind-blowing and completely addictive. Still one of my most cherished games, and in my opinion still one of the best of the series.

Burnout Revenge (PS2 - 2005)

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BR2 BR3

It sat on my shelf for a few months. Then one night, I was a bit bored and had run out of other games. It was around 8pm. I decided to put it on, thinking I would play for ten minutes before losing interest. Needless to say, I was still glued to the screen at 2am. Undoubtedly, Revenge was the high point of the Burnout series. Combining insane speeds with the satisfaction of cool crashes - so addictive.

Midnight Club 3 - Dub Edition (PS2 - 2005)

MC3

MC31 MC32

Initially I felt a bit disappointed with this game. The graphics, when compared with Burnout or Need For Speed, were a bit below par. But I stuck with it and discovered a hugely addictive racing experience. A sense of speed to rival Burnout, a forgiving physics engine (well, because the driving really had nothing to do with physics), the open world aspect I'd come to love from NFS Underground 2. Plus, something I hadn't yet encountered - Motorbikes. All of that more than made up for slightly blocky car models and grainy textures.

Need For Speed Most Wanted (PS2 - 2006)

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NFSMW2 NFSMW3

And lastly we arrived at the creme de la creme. For me, Most Wanted had pretty much everything I could want from a racing game. Beautiful graphics, open world, varied races, cool cars, and hilariously over-the-top 'acting'. And of course, something again which I'd never experienced - police chases. And not just the tacked-on annoyance that the police in Midnight Club had been. These events were missions in themselves. The AI was shrewd, and the chases were edge-of-your-seat exciting. I think most people would agree that Most Wanted was the very pinnacle of the NFS series, one that EA have since failed to match, let alone top, despite repeated and progressively more disastrous efforts (*cough*Undercover!*cough*).

These are the games that have shaped my racing-related gaming experience. I'd like to hear which games have, either positively or negatively, influenced others in this way.